Three Books of Occult Philosophy/Book 1/Chapter 60

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Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, translated by John French
Book 1, Chapter 60

Prophets, and Poets. The cause therefore of this madness, if it be any thing within the body, is a melancholy humor, not that which they call black choller, which is so obstinate, and terrible a thing, that the violence of it is said by Physitians, and Naturall Phylosophers, besides madness, which it doth induce, also to entice evill spirits to seize upon mens bodies. Therefore we understand a melancholy humor here, to be a naturall, and white choller. For this, when it is stirred up, burns, and stirs up a madness conducing to knowledge, and divination, especially if it be helped by any Celestiall influx, especially of Saturn, who seeing he is cold, and dry, as is a melancholy humor, hath his influence upon it, increaseth, and preserveth it. Besides, seeing he is the Author of secret contemplation, and estranged from all publike affairs, and the highest of all the planets, doth alwaies as with call his mind from outward businesses, so also makes it ascend higher, and bestows upon him the knowledge, and passages of future things. And this is Aristotles meaning in his book of Problemes. By Melancholy, saith he, some men are made as it were divine, foretelling things to come, and some men are made Poets. He saith also, that all men that were excellent in any Science, were for the most part melancholy. Democritus, and Plato attest the same, saying, that there were some melancholy men, that had such excellent wits, that they were thought, and seemed to be more divine then humane. So also there have been many melancholy men at first rude, ignorant, and untractable, as they say Hesiod, Ion, Tynnichus, Calcinenses, Homer, and Lucretius were, who on a suddain were taken with a madness, and became Poets, and prophecied wonderfull, and divine things, which they themselves scarce understood. Whence divine Plato in Ion saith, many Prophets, after the violence of their madness was abated, do not well understand what they wrote, yet treated acurately of each Art in their madness, as all Artists by reading of them judge. So great also they say the power of melancholy is of, that by its force, Celestiall spirits also are sometimes drawn into mens bodies, by whose presence, and instinct, antiquity testifies men have been made drunk, and spake most wonderful things. And that they think happens under a threefold difference, according to a threefold apprehension of the soul, viz. imaginative, rationall, and mentall. They say therefore, when the mind is forced with a melancholy humor, nothing moderating the power of the body, and passing beyond the bonds of the members, is wholly carried into imagination, and doth suddenly become a seat for inferior spirits, by whom it oftentimes receives wonderfull wayes, and forms of manuall Arts. So we see that any most ignorant man doth presently become an excellent painter, or contrivers of building, and to become a master in any such Art. But when these kinds of spirits portend to us future things, they shew those things which belong to the disturbing of the Elements, and changes of times, as rain, tempests, innundations, earthquakes, great mortality, famine, slaughter, and the like. As we read in Aulus Gelius, that Cornelius Patarus his Priest did at the time, when Cesar, and Pompey were to fight in Thessalia, being taken with a madness, foretell the time, order, and issue of the battell. But when the mind is turned wholly into reason, it becomes a receptacle for midle spirits. Hence it obtains the knowledge, and understanding of natural, and humane things. So we see that a man sometimes doth on a suddain become a Philosopher, Physitian, or an excellent Orator, and foretels mutations of Kingdomes, and restitutions of Ages, and such things as belong to them, as the Sybill did to the Romanes; but when the mind is wholly elevated into the understanding, then it becomes a receptacle of sublime spirits, and learns of them the secrets of divine things, such as the Law of God, the orders of Angels, and such things as belong to the knowledge of things eternall, and salvation of souls. It foresees things which are appointed by Gods speciall predestination, as future prodigies, or miracles, the prophet to come, and the changing of the law. So the Sybills Prophecyed of Christ a long time before his coming. So Virgil understanding that Christ was at hand, and remembring what the Sybill Cumaea had said, sang thus to Pollio.

Last times are come, Cumæa' s prophesie
Now from high heaven springs a new progenie,
And times great order now again is born,
The Maid returns,
Saturnian Realms return.

And a little after intimating that originall sin shall be of no effect, saith,

If any prints of our old vice remain'd
By thee they'r voyd, and fear shall leave the Land;
He a Gods life shall take, with Gods shall see
Heroes, and himself their object be,
Rule with paternall power th' appeased earth
He shall

Then he adds, that thence the fall of the Serpent, and the poison of the tree of death, or of the knowledge of good, and evill shall be nulled, saying,

---------- The Serpent shall
And the deceitfull hearb of venome fall.

Yet he intimates that some sparks of originall sin shall remain, when he saith,

Some steps of ancient fraud shall yet be found.

And at last with a most great hyperbole cryes out to his child, as the off-spring of God, adoring him in these words,

Dear race of Gods, great stock of Jupiter,
Behold! the world shakes on its ponderous axe,
See earth, and heavens immense, and th' Ocean tracts,
How all things at th' approaching Age rejoyce!
Oh! that my life would last so long, and voyce,
As would suffice thy actions to rehearse.

There are also some prognosticks, which are in the midle, betwixt naturall, and supernaturall divination, as in those who are neer to death, and being weakened with old Age, do sometimes foresee things to come, because as saith Plato, by how much the more men are less hindred by their sence, so much the more acurately they understand, and because they are neerer to the place whither they must go, and their bonds being as it were a little loosed, seeing they are no more subject to the body, easily perceive the light of divine revelation.

==Chapter lxi. Of the forming of Man, of the