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THE HISTORY AND REALITY
Of apparitions in general : the certainty and nature
Of all the arcana of the invisible world I know no one thing about which more has been said, and less understood, than this of apparition : it is divided so much between the appearance of good, and the apparition of bad spirits, that our thoughts are strangely confused about it.
First; we make a great deal of difficulty to resolve whether there are any such things as apparitions or no ; and some people are for reducing them all into fancy, whimsey, and the vapours; and so, shutting the door against apparitions in general, they resolve to receive no visits from the invisible world, nor to have any acquaintance with its inhabitants till they come there. Not satisfied with that, they resolve for us all, as well as for themselves, and will have it, that because they have no notion of it themselves, therefore there is really no such thing; and this they have advanced with great assurance, as well in print as in other discourses. I name nobody
I have, I believe, as true a notion of the power of imagination as I ought to have, and you shall hear further from me upon that head; I believe we form as many apparitions in our fancies, as we see really with our eyes, and a great many more; nay, our imaginations sometimes are very diligent to embark the eyes,
and the ears too, in the delusion, and persuade us to believe we see spectres and appearances, and hear noises and voices, when, indeed, neither the Devil or any other spirit, good or bad, has troubled themselves about us.
But it does not follow from thence that therefore there are no such things in nature; that there is no intercourse or communication between the world of spirits and the world we live in ; that the inhabitants of the invisible spaces, be those where you please, have no converse with us, and that they never take the liberty to step down upon this globe, or to visit their friends here; and, in short, that they have nothing to do with or say to us, or we with or to them. The inquiry, is not, as I take it, whether they do really come hither or no, but who they are that do come?
Spirit is certainly something that we do not fully understand, in our present confined circumstances ; and as we do not fully understand the thing, so neither can we distinguish of its operations. As we at present conceive of it, it is an unrestrained, unlimited being, except by such laws of the invisible state which at present we know little of; its
way versing we know nothing of, other than this, that we believe, and indeed see reason for it, that it can act in an invisible and imperceptible manner; it moves without being prescribed or limited by space, it can come and not be seen, go and not be perceived; it is not to be shut in by doors, or shut out by bolts and bars ; in a word, it is unconfined by all those methods which we confine our actions by, or
by which we understand ourselves to be limited and prescribed.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, it converses here, is with us, and among us ; corresponds, though unembodied, with our spirits, which are embodied ; and this conversing is by not only an invisible, but to us an inconceivable way; it is neither tied down to speech or to vision, but moving in a superior orb, conveys its meaning to our understandings, its measures to our conceptions ; deals with the imagination, and works it up to receive such impressions as serve for its purpose; and yet at the same time we are perfectly passive, and have no agency in, or knowledge of the matter.
By this silent converse all the kind notices of approaching evil or good are conveyed to us, which are sometimes so evident, and come with such an irresistible force upon the mind, that we must be more than stupid if we do not perceive them ; and if we are not extremely wanting to ourselves, we may take such due warning by them as to avoid the evils which we had notice of in that manner, and to embrace the good that is offered to us. Nor are there many people alive who can deny but they have had such notices, by which, if they had given due attention to them, they had been assisted to save themselves from the mischiefs which followed; or had, on the other hand, taken hold of such and such advantages as had been offered for their good; for it is certainly one of the grand and most important difficulties of human life to know whether such or such things, which present in our ordinary or extraordinary circumstances, are for our good, as they seem to be, and as may be pretended, or not, and whether it is proper for us to accept them or no ; and many unhappily stand in the way of their own prosperity for want of knowing what to accept of and what to refuse.
Now by what agency must it be that we have directions for good or foreboding thoughts of mischiefs which attend us, and which it is otherwise impossible we should know anything of, if some intelligent being who can see into futurity had not conveyed the apprehensions into the mind, and had not caused the emotion which alarms the soul?
And how should that intelligent being, whatever it is, convey these forebodings and sudden misgivings, as we rightly call them, into the mind, if there was not a certain correspondence between them, a way of talking perfectly unintelligible to us, uncommon, and without the help of sounds or any other perceptible way?
For spirits without the helps of voice converse.
As thus there is a converse of spirits, an intelligence, or call it what you please, between our spirits embodied and cased up in flesh and the spirits unembodied, who inhabit the unknown mazes of the invisible world, those coasts which our geography cannot describe, who between somewhere and nowhere dwell, none of us know where, and yet we are sure must have locality, and, for aught we know, are very near us; why should it be thought so strange a thing that those spirits should be able to take upon them an outside or case? why should they not be able, on occasion, or when they think fit, to dress themselves up as we do, à la masquerade, in a habit disguised like flesh and blood, to deceive human sight, so as to make themselves visible to us? As they are free spirits, why may they not be like what
in another case,
A spirit free to choose for their own share,
Roch. Sat. against Man.