« PreviousContinue »
goat. This may be seen in Del Rio's Disquisitions, and in a hundred other authors. The theologian Grillandus, a great promoter of the inquisition, quoted by Del Rio,* says that sorcerers call the goat Martinet. He assures us that a woman who was attached to Martinet, mounted on his back, and was carried in an instant through the air to a place called the Nut of Benevento.
There were books in which the mysteries of the sorcerers were written. I have seen one of them, at the head of which was a figure of a goat very badly drawn, with a woman on her knees behind him. In France these books were called “ grimoires ;" and in other countries “ the devil's alphabet.” That which I saw contained only four leaves in almost illegible characters, much like those of the Shepherd's Almanack.
Reasoning and better education would have sufficed in Europe for the extirpation of such an extravagance; but executions were employed instead of reasoning. The pretended sorcerers had their “grimoire,” and the judges had their sorcerer's code. In 1599, the jesuit Del Rio, a doctor of Louvain, published his Magical Disquisitions: he affirms that all heretics are magicians, and frequently recommends that they be put to the torture. He has no doubt that the devil transforms himself into a goat, and grants his favours to all women presented to him. He quotes various jurisconsults, called demonographers, who assert that Luther was the son of a woman and a goat. He assures us that at Brussels, in 1595, a woman was brought to bed of a child, of which the devil, disguised as a goat, was father; and that she was punished, but he does not inform us in what manner.
But the jurisprudence of witchcraft has been the most profoundly treated by one Boguet, “grand juge en dernier ressort” of an abbey of St. Claude in FrancheComté. He gives an account of all the executions to which he condemned wizards and witches, and the number is very considerable. Nearly all the witches are supposed to have had commerce with the goat.
* Del Rio, p. 190.
+ Page 180.
# Page 181.
It has already been said, that more than a hundred thousand pretended sorcerers have been executed in Europe. Philosophy alone has at length cured men of this abominable delusion, and has taught judges that they should not burn the insane.*
The reader cannot too carefully bear in mind that this Dictionary has not been written for the
of repeating what so many others have said.
The knowledge of a God is not impressed upon us by the hands of nature, for then men would all have the same idea; and no idea is born with us.t It does not come to us like the perception of light, of the ground, &c. which we receive as soon as our eyes and our understandings are opened. Is it a philosophical idea? No; men admitted the existence of gods before there were philosophers.
Whence, then, is this idea derived From feeling, and from that natural logic which unfolds itself with age, even in the rudest of mankind. Astonishing effects of nature were beheld-harvests and barrenness, fair weather and storms, benefits and scourges; and the hand of a master was felt. Chiefs were necessary to govern societies; and it was needful to admit sovereigns of these new sovereigns whom human weakness had given itself-beings before whose power
these men who could bear down their fellow-men might tremble. The first sovereigns in their time employed these notions to cement their
Such were the first steps; thus every little society had its god. These notions were rude because everything was rude. It is very natural to reason by analogy. One society under a chief did not deny that the neighbouring tribe should likewise have its judge, or its captain; consequently it could not deny that the other should also have its god. But as it was the interest of each tribe that its
* See BEKKER.
+ See IDEA...
captain should be the best, it was also interested in believing, and consequently it did believe, that its god was the mightiest. Hence those ancient fables which have so long been generally diffused, that the gods of one nation fought against the gods of another. Hence the numerous passages in the Hebrew books, which we find constantly disclosing the opinion entertained by the Jews, that the gods of their enemies existed, but that they were inferior to the God of the Jews.
Meanwhile, in the great states where the progress of society allowed to individuals the enjoyment of speculative leisure, there were priests, magi, and philosophers.
Some of these perfected their reason so far as to * acknowledge in secret one only and universal God.
So, although the ancient Egyptians adored Osiri, * Osiris, or rather Osireth (which signifies this land is
mine); though they also adored other superior beings, yet they admitted one Supreme, one only principal God, whom they called Knef, whose symbol was a sphere placed on the frontispiece of the temple.
After this model, the Greeks had their Zeus, their Jupiter, the master of the other gods, who were but
what the angels are with the Babylonians and the i Hebrews, and the saints with the christians of the Roman com zion.
It is a more thorny question than it has been considered, and one by no means profoundly examined, whether several gods, equal in power, can exist at the
We have no adequate idea of the Divinity; we creep on from conjecture to conjecture, from likelihood to probability. We have very few certainties. There is something; therefore there is something eternal; for nothing is produced from nothing. Here is a certain truth on which the mind reposes. Every work which shows us means and an end, announces a workman: then this universe, composed of springs, of means, each of which has its end, discovers a most mighty, a most intelligent workman. Here is a probability ap
proaching the greatest certainty. But is this Supreme Artificer infinite? Is he everywhere? Is he in one place? How are we, with our feeble intelligence and limited knowledge, to answer this question?
My reason alone proves to me a Being who has arranged the matter of this world; but my reason is unable to prove to me that he made this matter,that he brought it out of nothing. All the sages of antiquity, without exception, believed matter to be eternal, and subsisting by itself. All then that I can do, without the aid of superior light, is to believe that the God of this world is also eternal, and subsisting by himself. God and matter exist by the nature of things. May not other Gods exist, as well as other worlds ? Whole nations, and very enlightened schools, have clearly admitted two gods in this world—one the source of good, the other the source of evil. They admitted an eternal war between two equal powers. Assuredly, nature can more easily suffer the existence of several independent beings in the immensity of space, than that of limited and powerless gods in this world, of whom one can do no good, and the other no harm.
If God and matter exist from all eternity, as antiquity believed, here then are two necessary beings: now, if there be two necessary beings there may be thirty. These doubts alone, which are the germ of an infinity of reflections, serve at least to convince us of the feebleness of our understanding.
We must, with Cicero, confess our ignorance of the nature of the Divinity; we shall never know any more of it than he did.
In vain do the schools tell us, that God is infinite negatively and not privately—“formaliter et non materialiter," that he is the first act, the middle, and the last--that he is everywhere without beingsin any place: a hundred pages of commentaries on definitions like these cannot give us the smallest light. We have no steps whereby to arrive at such knowledge.
We feel that we are under the hand of an invisible being; this is all: we cannot advance one step farther. It is mad- temerity to seek to divine what this
being ism-whether he is extended or not, whether he is in one place or not, how he exists, or how he operates.
I am ever apprehensive of being mistaken ; but all monuments give me sufficient evidence that the polished nations of antiquity acknowledged a supreme God. There is not a book, not a medal, not a bas-relief, not an inscription, in which Juno, Minerva, Neptune, Mars, or any of the other deities, is spoken of as a forming being, the sovereign of all nature. On the contrary, the most ancient profane books that we have -Hesiod and Homer-represent their Zeus as the only thunderer, the only master of gods and men : he even punishes the other gods; he ties Juno with a chain, and drives Apollo out of heaven,
The ancient religion of the Brahmins—the first that admitted celestial creatures—the first which spoke of their rebellion-explains itself in a sublime manner concerning the unity and power of God; as we have seen in the article ANGEL.
The Chinese, ancient as they are, come after the Indians. They have acknowledged one only God from time immemorial; they have no subordinate Gods, no mediating demons, or genii between God and man; no oracles, no abstract dogmas, no theological disputes among the lettered; their emperor was always the first pontiff; their religion was always august and simple; thus it is, that this vast empire, though twice, subjugated, has constantly preserved its integrity, has made its conquerors receive its laws, and notwithstanding the crimes and miseries inseparable from the human race, is still the most flourishing state upon earth.
The magi of Chaldea, the Sabeans, acknowledged but one supreme God, whom they adored in the stars, which are his work. The Persians adored him in the sun. The sphere
* See CREATION INFINITY.