[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850.]
Many persons regard magic, magicians, witchcraft, and charms as fables and illusions, the effects of imagination in weak minds, who, foolishly persuaded of the excessive power possessed by the devil, attribute to him a thousand things which are purely natural, but the physical reasons for which are unknown to them, or which are the effects of the art of certain charlatans, who make a trade of imposing on the simple and ignorant. These opinions are supported by the authority of the principal parliaments of the kingdom, who acknowledge neither magicians nor sorcerers, and who never punish those accused of magic, or sorcery, unless they are convicted also of some other crimes. As, in short, the more they punish and seek out magicians and sorcerers, the more they abound in a country; and, on the contrary, experience proves that in places where nobody believes in them, none are to be found, the most efficacious means of uprooting this fancy is to despise and neglect it.
It is said that magicians and sorcerers themselves, when they fall into the hands of judges and inquisitors, are often the first to maintain that magic and sorcery are merely imaginary, and the effect of popular prejudices and errors. Upon that footing, Satan would destroy himself, and overthrow his own empire, if he were thus to decry magic, of which he is himself the author and support. If the magicians really, and of their own good will, independently of the demon, make this declaration, they betray themselves most lightly, and do not make their cause better; since the judges, notwithstanding their disavowal, prosecute them, and always punish them without mercy, being well persuaded that it is only the fear of execution and the hope of remaining unpunished which makes them say so.
But would it not rather be a stratagem of the evil spirit, who endeavors to render the reality of magic doubtful, to save from punishment those who are accused of it, and to impose on the judges, and make them believe that magicians are only madmen and hypochondriacs, worthy rather of compassion than chastisement? We must then return to the deep examination of the question, and prove that magic is not a chimera, neither has it aught to do with reason. We can neither rest on a sure foundation, nor derive any certain argument for or against the reality of magic, either from the opinion of pretended esprits forts, who deny because they think proper to do so, and because the proofs of the contrary do not appear to them sufficiently clear or demonstrative; nor from the declaration of the demon, of magicians and sorcerers, who maintain that magic and sorcery are only the effects of a disturbed imagination; nor from minds foolishly and vainly prejudiced on the subject, that these declarations are produced simply by the fear of punishment; nor by the subtlety of the malignant spirit, who wishes to mask his play, and cast dust in the eyes of the judges and witnesses, by making them believe that what they regard with so much horror, and what they so vigorously prosecute, is anything but a punishable crime, or at least a crime deserving of punishment.
We must then prove the reality of magic by the Holy Scriptures, by the authority of the Church, and by the testimony of the most grave and sensible writers; and, lastly, show that it is not true that the most famous parliaments acknowledge neither sorcerers nor magicians.
The teraphim which Rachael, the wife of Jacob, brought away secretly from the house of Laban, her father, were doubtless superstitious figures, to which Laban's family paid a worship, very like that which the Romans rendered to their household gods, Penates and Lares, and whom they consulted on future events. Joshua says very distinctly that Terah, the father of Abraham, adored strange gods in Mesopotamia. And in the prophets Hosea and Zechariah, the Seventy translate teraphim by the word oracles. Zechariah and Ezekiel show that the Chaldeans and the Hebrews consulted these teraphim to learn future events.
Others believe that they were talismans or preservatives; everybody agrees as to their being superstitious figures (or idols) which were consulted in order to find out things unknown, or that were to come to pass.
The patriarch Joseph, speaking to his own brethren according to the idea which they had of him in Egypt, says to them: "Know ye not that in all the land there is not a man who equals me in the art of divining and predicting things to come?" And the officer of the same Joseph, having found in Benjamin's sack Joseph's cup which he had purposely hidden in it, says to them: "It is the cup of which my master makes use to discover hidden things."
By the secret of their art, the magicians of Pharaoh imitated the true miracles of Moses; but not being able like him to produce gnats (English version lice), they were constrained to own that the finger of God was in what Moses had hitherto achieved.
After the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt, God expressly forbids his people to practice any sort of magic or divination. He condemns to death magicians, and those who make use of charms.
Balaam, the diviner, being invited by Balak, the king, to come and devote the Israelites to destruction, God put blessings into his mouth instead of curses; and this bad prophet, amongst the blessings which he bestows on Israel, says there is among them neither augury, nor divination, nor magic.
In the time of the Judges, the Idol of Micah was consulted as a kind of oracle. Gideon made, in his house and his city, an Ephod, accompanied by a superstitious image, which was for his family, and to all the people, the occasion of scandal and ruin.
The Israelites went sometimes to consult Beelzebub, god of Ekron, to know if they should recover from their sickness. The history of the evocation of Samuel by the witch of Endor is well known. I am aware that some difficulties are raised concerning this history. I shall deduce nothing from it here, except that this woman passed for a witch, that Saul esteemed her such, and that this prince had exterminated the magicians in his own states, or, at least, that he did not permit them to exercise their art.
Manasses, king of Judah, is blamed for having introduced idolatry into his kingdom, and particularly for having allowed there diviners, aruspices, and those who predicted things to come. King Josiah, on the contrary, destroyed all these superstitions.
The prophet Isaiah, who lived at the same time, says that they wished to persuade the Jews then in captivity at Babylon to address themselves, as did other nations, to diviners and magicians; but they ought to reject these pernicious counsels, and leave those abominations to the Gentiles, who knew not the Lord. Daniel speaks of the magicians, or workers of magic among the Chaldeans, and of those amongst them who interpreted dreams, and predicted things to come.
In the New Testament, the Jews accused Jesus Christ of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils; but he refutes them by saying, that being come to destroy the empire of Beelzebub, it was not to be believed that Beelzebub would work miracles to destroy his own power or kingdom. St. Luke speaks of Simon the sorcerer, who had for a long time bewitched the inhabitants of Samaria with his sorceries; and also of a certain Bar-Jesus of Paphos, who professed sorcery, and boasted he could predict future events. St. Paul, when at Ephesus, caused a number of books of magic to be burned. Lastly, the Psalmist, and the author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, speak of charms with which they enchanted serpents.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the young girl of the town of Philippi, who was a Pythoness, for several successive days rendered testimony to Paul and Silas, saying that they were "the servants of the Most High, and that they announced to men the way of salvation." Was it the devil who inspired her with these words, to destroy the fruit of the preaching of the Apostles, by making the people believe that they acted in concert with the spirit of evil? Or was it the Spirit of God which put these words into the mouth of this young girl, as he put into the mouth of Balaam prophecies concerning the Messiah? There is reason to believe that she spoke through the inspiration of the evil spirit, since St. Paul imposed silence on her, and expelled the spirit of Python, by which she had been possessed, and which had inspired the predictions she uttered, and the knowledge of hidden things. In what way soever we may explain it, it will always follow that magic is not a chimera, that this maiden was possessed by an evil spirit, and that she predicted and revealed things hidden and to come, and brought her masters considerable gain by soothsaying; for those who consulted her would, doubtless, not have been so foolish as to pay for these predictions, had they not experienced the truth of them by their success and by the event.
From all this united testimony, it results that magic, enchantments, sorcery, divination, the interpretation of dreams, auguries, oracles, and the magical figures which announced things to come, are very real, since they are so severely condemned by God, and that He wills that those who practice them should be punished with death.
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