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belief that they could be expelled by invoking a Good Spirit, or uttering a holy name. In all the ancient nations, people were in the constant habit of resorting to priests and sanctified men to cast out demons, by reciting sacred words. And they nearly all had traditions concerning Spirits who rebelled against the highest Deity, were expelled from Paradise, and kept chained in lower regions.
Concerning miracles, oracles, and prophecies, a very singular mass of evidence is presented in the history of ancient nations. One feature common to them all was, that unpremeditated speech was prophetic. Men were deemed inspired when they were unconscious what they uttered, being impelled thereto by a power beyond themselves. Even the sudden exclamations of insane people, or idiots, were in some places deemed prophetic. In all countries a certain degree of madness was considered a favourable preparation; and it was a common thing to excite such frenzy by music. The Grecian Pythoness, before she uttered oracles, inhaled a kind of vapour, which put her into a ner. vous and bewildered state. Records from various and very different sources speak of men who prophesied in trances; who could read the interior thoughts of others; whose souls occasionally left their bodies for a while, and at such times could give information concerning the most distant places. Of the celebrated Sibyls, little or nothing is known with certainty. Their oracles were very ancient, and the reverence they excited for so many centuries would seem to imply something more than ordinary in their character. Heraclitus, who wrote five hundred years before Christ, says: “Their unadorned, earnest words, spoken with inspired mouth, reached through a thousand years.”
It is worthy of note that the most exclusive of all nations admitted that miracles might be performed, and true predictions uttered, by worshippers of false gods. Balaam prophesied as truly as any prophet of Israel. Josephus declares that an Egyptian correctly foretold the birth and destiny of Moses. He also says that the sea retired for the
army of Alexander, a worshipper of Jupiter, as it did for Moses, a worshipper of Jehovah. The miracles said to have been performed by Egyptian Magi, in Pharaoh's presence, are nearly as wonderful, and quite as difficult of explanation, as those performed at the same time by Moses. Jews explained the difficulty, by saying that their own prophets and miracle-workers received power from Jehovah, while those of other nations received it from Evil Spirits; and believers in each and every religion solved the problem by a similar process. The Sacred Books of all nations abound with miracles, which are sincerely believed by the devout. Hindoo Pouranas declare that a crocodile swallowed Crishna, and cast him forth unhurt. Hebrew records affirm that a whale swallowed Jonah, and after retaining him three days, disgorged him safely on dry land. Hindoo Sacred Books tell of a fish that discoursed with Menu, and the Hebrew tell of a serpent that talked with Eve.
In the childhood of the world, men understood little, and believed much; the same as children do. The intermediate scientific causes of things were concealed from them, and therefore every unusual occurrence was regarded as a direct and marvellous intervention of the gods. If a hail storm dispersed their enemies, Hebrews said Jehovah "cast down great stones from heaven." If a man died from exposure to the sun, Greeks said, and verily believed, that Apollo had shot him with his golden arrow, in punishment for some offence. When any person was struck dead by lightning, Scandinavians believed that Thor, God of Thunder, was angry with him, and had hurled his hammer at his head.
De Wette remarks: “Miracles have their foundation partly in the narrowness of human knowledge, partly in the distance of time between the event itself and the written relation of it. Events, for a long time repeated orally, naturally become enlarged in the repetition.” It may be justly observed of all nations, that in proportion as intellectual cultivation advances, and they are brought nearer to the
light of cotemporary history, miracles diminish, oracles are hushed, and prophets disappear.
The classification of human souls was an ultimate mani. festation of the same religious ideas which formed a hierar. chy of Spirits, of various ranks and degrees of intelligence. There are in human nature strong propensities to become merely animal, and it was the theory of caste that these propensities were realised and perpetuated in certain races of men.
Human nature is also endowed with earnest aspi. rations to rise into fellowship with Divine Beings; and this superior tendency was likewise supposed to be manifested and transmitted by a peculiar race of men, who had received at creation a larger infusion of the Deity. It was a common and most devout belief, that the gods revealed their sublimer secrets only to the hereditary priesthood. Among this consecrated class were supposed to be some in. dividuals, who stood higher above the plane of humanity than others; men who had been "twice born," or "thrice born;" who had become wise through experience of manifold forms of existence, and by prolonged residence in various regions of Paradise. Such were inspired poets and prophets, who uttered oracles, interpreted dreams, performed miracles, and received sacred laws directly from heaven. Their natures raised them nearer to the gods, than other mortals; and standing thus elevated, like mountain-tops above the earth, they received and reflected the first rays of celestial light, while all beneath them lay in shadow.
We do great injustice to those men of olden time, whether priests or prophets, to whatever nation they might belong, if we suppose that they generally intended to deceive the people by fabulous legends, and miracles of their own invention. They had a much more positive and distinct faith in the perpetual presence and active agency of Spirits, than we have. They found themselves surrounded with mysteries, which they did not seek to analyze, as we do, but, with child-like reverence, ascribed them to the direct influence of the gods. Had they witnessed the process of taking a daguerreotype likeness, they would have believed that it was actually done by the Spirit of the Sun, and that he had illuminated the minds of men, so that they understood how to prepare the plate and concentrate the rays. Supposing that all knowledge was directly imparted to human souls by Superior Powers, when they conceived of laws wisely adapted to the condition of the people, they doubtless really and truly believed that some god inspired their thoughts. That such inspiration might flow into their minds undisturbed by outward obstructions, they retired to the solitude of a cave, as Numa did, or drew nearer to the Divine Presence, as they supposed, by ascending to the summit of mountains, as did Zoroaster and Moses. That which came to them in their hours of contemplation, they reverently regarded as a revelation from above. We may call it superstition, if we please; but did it not embody a great truth? In all that we think wisely, or do well, are we not guided and inspired ? Ideas which have been imparted to devotional souls in all ages, are they not true in their essence, however various the forms they take ?
We wake as from a sleep, and find ourselves on a suspended globe in the midst of the universe. Above and below, clouds enclose us. A magnificent phantasmagoria of ever-changing forms and colours circle round us. The tones of God's voice, by which the world was made, are echoed in the great mystery of music, forever suggesting what it never reveals. Perpetual whispers come to us from the unknown infinite. Processions march through our sleep in magic-lantern show, and we cannot understand what they are, or why they visit us. We are a miracle also to ourselves; not knowing whence we came, or whither we are travelling. But through all time, voices of invisible ones have been whispering to listening souls that we are of celestial origin, and shall return to a celestial home. Those who have given utterance to the aspirations thus kindled within them are called prophets, and men cherish their names with affectionate veneration. They are bright stars to illuminate and adorn the darkness around us. Loving and solemn is their glance from afar; but of them also, as of ourselves, we know not the whence and the how. Thus environed by wonders, which intellect is helpless to explain, which science carries only a very few steps farther back toward the Primal Cause, can we marvel that men in the childhood of the world verily believed all things miraculous? They were like infants, who think a piece of paper moved by the wind is a living thing. We have outgrown that delusion, and have learned that paper is not alive, that it is manufactured from rags, and destined for a temporary use. But do we in reality know much better than they did what life is ?
In the prophecies and miracles recorded in the preceding pages, observing readers will notice several indications of the presence of what we call animal magnetism. Some of the ancient devotees of Hindostan gained great celebrity by discerning the thoughts of those who came into their presence, and by bringing tidings from a great distance in an incredibly short time. Sir James Forbes, in his Oriental Memoirs, describes a Bramin in modern times, who was distinguished for the same faculty. He divined what an English lady, resident in India, was thinking of her son, whom she had left in his native land. He told her what the young man was doing, and predicted what he would do; and though it was quite different from her own anticipations, it proved as he had said. It is recorded of Egyptian priests that they cured the diseased by passing their hands over them. Balaam is said to have prophesied "in a trance, having his eyes open.” Hyrcanus, the Jewish Prince and High Priest, told of a distant victory gained by his son, at the very moment that it occurred. Magicians and wizards were accused of travelling through the air, of being in two places at once, of telling the past and the future, and reading the thoughts of others. The soul of Hermotimus, the Greek philosopher, frequently left his body apparently lifeless, and wandered all over the earth, bringing tidings from remote regions, and foretelling futurity. The priestess of the Delphic oracle perceived