Meaning that there are four principles in man, and this is their destiny:—the flesh to earth; the ghost to the tomb; the soul to Hades; and the spirit to heaven. The queen of Carthage, confiding in this creed, threatens Æneas that her umbra will haunt him upon earth, while her manes will rejoice in his torments. The notions of other mystic scholars are thus recorded by old Burton, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy:” as those of Surius—“that there be certain monsters of hell and places appointed for the punishment of men’s souls, as at Hecla in Iceland, where the ghosts of dead men are familiarly seen, and sometimes talk with the living. Saint Gregory, Durand, and the rest of the schoolmen, derive as much from Ætna in Sicily, Lipara, Hiera—and those volcanoes in America, and that fearful mount Heckleberg in Norway, where lamentable screeches and howlings are continually heard, which strike a terror to the auditors: fiery chariots are continually seen to bring in the souls of men in the likeness of crows, and devils ordinarily goe in and out. And then, to bring this phantasy to a climax by a pandemonium of ghosts, listen to Bredenbachius, in his “Perigranions in the Holy Land,” where “once a yeare dead bodies arise about March, and walk, and after awhile hide themselves again: thousands of people come yearly to see them.” And this reminds me of the phantom of old Booty, who at the hour of his death in England was seen by the crew of a ship running into the crater of Stromboli in the remote Mediterranean,—a story which even in the present century was made the subject of discussion in a justice court. Now, you must know, the ancients believed that only those who died of the sword possessed this privilege. These are the words of Flavius Josephus: “What man of virtue is there that does not know that those souls which are severed from their fleshly bodies in battles by the sword are received by the ether, that purest of elements, and joined to that company which are placed among the stars:—that they become good demons and propitious heroes, and shew themselves as such to their posterity afterwards; while upon those souls that wear away in and with their distempered bodies, comes a subterranean night to dissolve them to nothing, and a deep oblivion to take away all the remembrance of them? And this, notwithstanding they be clean from all spots and defilements of this world; so that in this case the soul at the same time comes to the utmost bounds of its life, and of its body, and of its memorial also.” The mystery of the nature of these ghosts I may not presume to define; but there are many learned writers of antiquity who believed in their materiality, and broached the intricate question of their quality and formation. The alchymist Paracelsus writes of the astral element or spirit—one of the two bodies which compose our nature: being more ethereal, it survived some time after the death of the more substantial form, and sometimes became the familiar spirit of the magician. And what writes Lucretius the Epicurean to illustrate his credence in apparitions? That the surfaces of bodies are constantly thrown off by a sort of centrifugal force; that an exact image is often presented to us by this surface coming off as it were entire, like the cast skin of the rattle-snake or the shell of the chrysalis; and thus the ideas of our absent or departed friends strike on the mind. The olden chymists, in the age of Louis XIV. accounted for spectral forms by the saline atoms of a putrid corpse being set free, and combining again in their pristine form. Listen, I pray you, to this grave philosophy of an abstruse essay, writ in 1794.


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Philosophy of Mystery - W Cooper Dendy