THEOSOPHY, Vol. 57, No. 1, November, 1968
(Pages 17-23; Size: 19K)
(Number 13 of a 36-part series)



IN what countries have "divine miracles" flourished most, been most frequent and most stupendous? Catholic Spain, and Pontifical Italy, beyond question. And which more than these two, has had access to ancient literature? Spain was famous for her libraries; the Moors were celebrated for their profound learning in alchemy and other sciences. The Vatican is the storehouse of an immense number of ancient manuscripts. During the long interval of nearly 1,500 years they have been accumulating, from trial after trial, books and manuscripts confiscated from their sentenced victims, to their own profit. The Catholics may plead that the books were generally committed to the flames; that the treatises of famous sorcerers and enchanters perished with their accursed authors. But the Vatican, if it could speak, could tell a different story. It knows too well of the existence of certain closets and rooms, access to which is had but by the very few. It knows that the entrances to these secret hiding-places are so cleverly concealed from sight in the carved frame-work and under the profuse ornamentation of the library-walls, that there have even been Popes who lived and died within the precincts of the palace without ever suspecting their existence. When one has such treasures at hand -- original manuscripts, papyri, and books pillaged from the richest libraries; old treatises on magic and alchemy; and records of all the trials for witchcraft, and sentences for the same to rack, stake, and torture, it is mighty easy to write volumes of accusations against the Devil. We affirm on good grounds that there are hundreds of the most valuable works on the occult sciences, which are sentenced to eternal concealment from the public, but are attentively read and studied by the privileged who have access to the Vatican Library.

In no Pagan temple was black magic, in its real and true sense, more practiced than in the Vatican. While strongly supporting exorcism as an important source of revenue, they neglected magic as little as the ancient heathen. It is easy to prove that the sortilegium, or sorcery, was widely practiced among the clergy and monks so late as the last century, and is practiced occasionally even now.

Where, in the records of European Magic, can we find cleverer enchanters than in the mysterious solitudes of the cloister? Albert Magnus, the famous Bishop and conjurer of Ratisbon, was never surpassed in his art. Roger Bacon was a monk, and Thomas Aquinas one of the most learned pupils of Albertus. Trithemius, Abbot of the Spanheim Benedictines, was the teacher, friend, and confidant of Cornelius Agrippa; and while the confederations of the Theosophists were scattered broadcast about Germany, where they first originated, assisting one another, and struggling for years for the acquirement of esoteric knowledge, any person who knew how to become the favored pupil of certain monks, might very soon be proficient in all the important branches of occult learning.

This is all in history and cannot be easily denied. Magic, in all its aspects, was widely and nearly openly practiced by the clergy till the Reformation. And even he who was once called the "Father of the Reformation," the famous John Reuchlin, author of the Mirific Word and friend of Pico di Mirandola, the teacher and instructor of Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, was a kabalist and occultist.

The ancient Sortilegium, or divination by means of Sortes or lots -- an art and practice now decried by the clergy as an abomination, designated by Stat. 10 Jac. as felony, and by Stat. 12 Carolus II. excepted out of the general pardons, on the ground of being sorcery -- was widely practiced by the clergy and monks. Nay, it was sanctioned by St. Augustine himself, who does not "disapprove of this method of learning futurity, provided it be not used for worldly purposes." More than that, he confesses having practiced it himself.

Aye; but the clergy called it Sortes Sanctorum, when it was they who practiced it; while the Sortes Prúnestinú, succeeded by the Sortes Homericú and Sortes Virgilianú, were abominable heathenism, the worship of the Devil, when used by any one else.

We must not forget that the Christian Church owes its present canonical Gospels, and hence its whole religious dogmatism, to the Sortes Sanctorum. Unable to agree as to which were the most divinely-inspired of the numerous gospels extant in its time, the mysterious Council of Nicea concluded to leave the decision of the puzzling question to miraculous intervention. This Nicean Council may well be called mysterious. There was a mystery, first, in the mystical number of its 318 bishops, on which Barnabas (viii, 11, 12, 13) lays such a stress; added to this, there is no agreement among ancient writers as to the time and place of its assembly, nor even as to the bishop who presided. Notwithstanding the grandiloquent eulogium of Constantine, Sabinus, the Bishop of Heraclea, affirms that "except Constantine, the emperor, and Eusebius Pamphilus, these bishops were a set of illiterate, simple creatures, that understood nothing;" which is equivalent to saying that they were a set of fools. Such was apparently the opinion entertained of them by Pappus, who tells us of the bit of magic resorted to to decide which were the true gospels. In his Synodicon to that Council Pappus says, having "promiscuously put all the books that were referred to the Council for determination under a communion-table in a church, they (the bishops) besought the Lord that the inspired writings might get upon the table, while the spurious ones remained underneath, and it happened accordingly." But we are not told who kept the keys of the council chamber over night!

On the authority of ecclesiastical eye-witnesses, therefore, we are at liberty to say that the Christian world owes its "Word of God" to a method of divination, for resorting to which the Church subsequently condemned unfortunate victims as conjurers, enchanters, magicians, witches, and vaticinators, and burnt them by thousands! In treating of this truly divine phenomenon of the self-sorting manuscripts, the Fathers of the Church say that God himself presides over the Sortes. As we have shown elsewhere, Augustine confesses that he himself used this sort of divination. But opinions, like revealed religions, are liable to change. That which for nearly fifteen hundred years was imposed on Christendom as a book, of which every word was written under the direct supervision of the Holy Ghost; of which not a syllable, nor a comma could be changed without sacrilege, is now being retranslated, revised, corrected, and clipped of whole verses, in some cases of entire chapters. And yet, as soon as the new edition is out, its doctors would have us accept it as a new "Revelation" of the nineteenth century, with the alternative of being held as an infidel. Thus, we see that, no more within than without its precincts, is the infallible Church to be trusted more than would be reasonably convenient. The forefathers of our modern divines found authority for the Sortes in the verse (Prov. 16:33) where it is said: "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord,"(1) and now, their direct heirs hold that "the whole disposing thereof is of the Devil." Perhaps, they are unconsciously beginning to endorse the doctrine of the Syrian Bardesanes, that the actions of God, as well as of man, are subject to necessity?

The magical achievements of the Bishop of Ratisbon and those of the "angelic doctor," Thomas Aquinas, are too well known to need repetition; but we may explain farther how the "illusions" of the former were produced. If the Catholic bishop was so clever in making people believe on a bitter winter night that they were enjoying the delights of a splendid summer day, and cause the icicles hanging from the boughs of the trees in the garden to seem like so many tropical fruits, the Hindu magicians also practice such biological powers unto this very day, and claim the assistance of neither god nor devil. Such "miracles" are all produced by the same human power that is inherent in every man, if he only knew how to develop it.

About the time of the Reformation, the study of alchemy and magic had become so prevalent among the clergy as to produce great scandal. Cardinal Wolsey was openly accused before the court and the privy-council of confederacy with a man named Wood, a sorcerer, who said that "My Lord Cardinale had suche a rynge that whatsomevere he askyd of the Kynges grace that he hadd yt:" adding that "Master Cromwell, when he ... was servaunt in my lord cardynales housse ... rede many bokes and specyally the boke of Salamon ... and studied mettells and what vertues they had after the canon of Salamon." This case, with several others equally curious, is to be found among the Cromwell papers in the Record Office of the Rolls House.

A priest named William Stapleton was arrested as a conjurer, during the reign of Henry VIII, and an account of his adventures is still preserved in the Rolls House records. The Sicilian priest whom Benvenuto Cellini calls a necromancer, became famous through his successful conjurations, and was never molested. The remarkable adventure of Cellini with him in the Colosseum, where the priest conjured up a whole host of devils, is well known to the reading public. The subsequent meeting of Cellini with his mistress, as predicted and brought about by the conjurer, at the precise time fixed by him, is to be considered, as a matter of course, a "curious coincidence." In the latter part of the sixteenth century there was hardly a parish to be found in which the priests did not study magic and alchemy. The practice of exorcism to cast out devils "in imitation of Christ," who by the way never used exorcism at all, led the clergy to devote themselves openly to "sacred" magic in contradistinction to black art, of which latter crime were accused all those who were neither priests nor monks.

The occult knowledge gleaned by the Roman Church from the once fat fields of theurgy she sedulously guarded for her own use, and sent to the stake only those practitioners who "poached" on her lands of the Scientia Scientiarum, and those whose sins could not be concealed by the friar's frock. The proof of it lies in the records of history. "In the course only of fifteen years, between 1580 to 1595, and only in the single province of Lorraine, the President Remigius burned 900 witches," says Thomas Wright, in his Sorcery and Magic.

"Ecclesia non novit Sanguinem!" meekly repeated the scarlet-robed cardinals. And to avoid the spilling of blood which horrified them, they instituted the Holy Inquisition. If, as the occultists maintain, and science half confirms, our most trifling acts and thoughts are indelibly impressed upon the eternal mirror of the astral ether, there must be somewhere, in the boundless realm of the unseen universe, the imprint of a curious picture. It is that of a gorgeous standard waving in the heavenly breeze at the foot of the great "white throne" of the Almighty. On its crimson damask face a cross, symbol of "the Son God who died for mankind," with an olive branch on one side, and a sword, stained to the hilt with human gore, on the other. A legend selected from the Psalms emblazoned in golden letters, reading thus: "Exurge, Domine, et judica causam meam." For such appears the standard of the Inquisition, on a photograph in our possession, from an original procured at the Escurial of Madrid.

Under this Christian standard, in the brief space of fourteen years, Tomas de Torquemada, the confessor of Queen Isabella, burned over ten thousand persons, and sentenced to the torture eighty thousand more. Orobio, the well-known writer, who was detained so long in prison, and who hardly escaped the flames of the Inquisition, immortalized this institution in his works when once at liberty in Holland. He found no better argument against the Holy Church than to embrace the Judaic faith and submit even to circumcision. "In the cathedral of Saragossa," says a writer on the Inquisition, "is the tomb of a famous inquisitor. Six pillars surround the tomb; to each is chained a Moor, as preparatory to being burned." On this St. Foix ingenuously observes: "If ever the Jack Ketch of any country should be rich enough to have a splendid tomb, this might serve as an excellent model!" To make it complete, however, the builders of the tomb ought not to have omitted a bas-relief of the famous horse which was burnt for sorcery and witchcraft. Granger tells the story, describing it as having occurred in his time. The poor animal "had been taught to tell the spots upon cards, and the hour of the day by the watch. Horse and owner were both indicted by the sacred office for dealing with the Devil, and both were burned, with a great ceremony of auto-da-fé, at Lisbon, in 1601, as wizards!"

This immortal institution of Christianity did not remain without its Dante to sing its praise. "Macedo, a Portuguese Jesuit," says the author of Demonologia, "has discovered the origin of the Inquisition, in the terrestrial Paradise, and presumes to allege that God was the first who began the functions of an inquisitor over Cain and the workmen of Babel!"

The medieval as well as the modern phenomena, manifested through laymen, whether produced through occult knowledge or happening independently, upset the claims of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches to divine miracles. In the face of reiterated and unimpeachable evidence it became impossible for the former to maintain successfully the assertion that seemingly miraculous manifestations by the "good angels" and God's direct intervention could be produced exclusively by her chosen ministers and holy saints. Neither could the Protestant well maintain on the same ground that miracles had ended with the apostolic ages. For, whether of the same nature or not, the modern phenomena claimed close kinship with the biblical ones. The magnetists and healers of our century came into direct and open competition with the apostles. The Zouave Jacob, of France, had outrivalled the prophet Elijah in recalling to life persons who were seemingly dead; and Alexis, the somnambulist, mentioned by Mr. Wallace in his work, was, by his lucidity, putting to shame apostles, prophets, and the Sibyls of old. Since the burning of the last witch, the great Revolution of France, so elaborately prepared by the league of the secret societies and their clever emissaries, had blown over Europe and awakened terror in the bosom of the clergy. It had, like a destroying hurricane, swept away in its course those best allies of the Church, the Roman Catholic aristocracy. A sure foundation was now laid for the right of individual opinion. The world was freed from ecclesiastical tyranny by opening an unobstructed path to Napoleon the Great, who had given the deathblow to the Inquisition. This great slaughter-house of the Christian Church -- wherein she butchered, in the name of the Lamb, all the sheep arbitrarily declared scurvy -- was in ruins, and she found herself left to her own responsibility and resources.

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(2) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) In ancient Egypt and Greece, and among Israelites, small sticks and balls called the "sacred divining lots" were used for this kind of oracle in the temples. According to the figures which were formed by the accidental juxtaposition of the latter, the priest interpreted the will of the gods.
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