« הקודםהמשך »
This question may be answered negatively, on the ground that no animal can reason or calculate beyond his own experience, or the experience of others that may be analogous to his own. He cannot predict beyond the probabilities with which that joint experience furnishes him. All beyond this is reverie, and it is reverie we have to encounter in prophetic pretensions. All else is the improper application of that reverie by individuals to the regulation of their acts and thoughts; this reverie and that application of the reverie being alike proofs of insanity.
There is a subject for consideration, and it is important, as to whether an individual may not fancy himself qualified and destined to do certain acts, and whether, by occupying himself solely in thought and action to the end in view, he may not accomplish that end. Such a design might commence in a reverie and end in a reality; and, if the writer be not deceived, all the great exploits performed by man have begun and ended in this way.
For instance, the writer got a notion into his head some years back, that there could be no fair reason shown why any book on politics or religion should be suppressed, and, with this notion, á determination to persevere to the suppression of the suppression. This, though much good was seen to arise from every part of the attempt, was considered by most observing persons as a wild and impracticable project. But what is the end of the attempt? Accomplishment of the object, or reverie, or whatever it may be called. - If the writer were inclined to tell tales of, and to raise a laugh against, himself, be could tell of other wild projects he has entertained; but, as they have not been pursued, they have not been accomplished, though they are by no means abandoned. It requires a man of projects, with a determination to pursue them, - to produce great moral and political effects.
In some instances, reveries of this kind are very injurious to the individuals who sustain them, where they arise from a diseased state of body, and where they want the necessary moral agency as a guidance. Women are very apt to indulge in mischievous reveries, where the powers of the fancy, brooding on gloomy subjects, distract the individual as much as real injuries of the kind can do. Thus, a mother has been known to brood over supposed misfortunes happening to an absent child, until she suffers all the pain that the reality would produce. The only remedy for this diseased state of body is that love of truth which sball resolve to feign nothing, and neither to act nor to think beyond knowledge acquired or accessible. Imagination or fancy may produce all the evils that the reality of the evil could produce; it may work itself into an union with the reality. Such was the case with Ann Cullen.
There is greater difficulty in associating the acts of an individual with a reverie, when those acts are moral and useful. The
apparent wisdom and good intent with which the affair is proses cuted, removes all idea of rashness or reverie in the project, and the individual derives credit for wisdom in planning, and courage in pursuing, the proposed end; whereas, if he had failed in the attempt, he would have been generally pronounced a cracked brain.
Brooding over imaginations of evil are the only part of those reveries that should be discouraged, and which the patient should strive to suppress. The reveries that intend good and that are sustained by moral agency should be encouraged, even if they fail and gain the agent the character of a cracked brain. Insane people merit our bighest sympathy, for their disease generally arises from too great an excitement of the brain in contemplating some particular object.
It is a disgrace to the British Legislature that some decisive measure is not used to spoil the trade of the strolling fortuneteller, and indeed of all such vagrants as they who live by imposing their tricks and quackeries upon the ignorant. Even the streets of London abound with such mischievous characters, which are so many proofs of the lingering ignorance and barbarism of the people. But so long as a priesthood and a religion be legislatively maintained, as the master trick, the minor ones will escape their merited punishment, and religious murders and fortune telling murders be the common report. The death of Ano Cullen will but serve to convince other ignorant folks of the predicting veracity of these gipsy fortune-tellers. They will not be able to see that it was a brooding over the sentence of death that produced the death of the girl, and as there will be no trial and punishment of the gipsy criminal, the affair to them will wear the appearance of divine interference. If the public good were consulted, prompt means should be used to find the gipsy woman; witnesses, if any, should be produced against her, and if she did really predict death to the young woman, let the act be deemed what it is an act of murder. The hanging of a gipsy for such an act of fortune telling would produce a salutary effect upon the whole tribe; and they are a class of thieves who deserve no sympathy: they are wild beasts, not social beings, who prey upon all, and for whose extermination the legislature should interfere. The gipsies of this country are in reality a civil and religious banditti; they are by no means a useful class of people; they do no kind of good, but much evil, and means should be used, as means could be used, to extinguish the vile race.
The reason for taking up this subject, at this time, is, that a friend has given me an interesting and explanatory paper abridged from an old work, as to the manner of divining the future by dipping into different celebrated books and taking the passage first touched to be a presage of future circumstances to the individual. Such acts were common with regard to the
Bible, during my boyhood in Devonshire; but they were generally confined to particular days, such as midsummer day, and generally, too, the acts of young girls, who wanted husbands, or who felt the passion of love without knowing what really caused that passion.
The folly is gradually wearing away and it behoves every one to help in the extinction. Religion has formed a horrid state of society, a vicious state of society, and it will be found in better days, that the mass of vice in past times was the offspring of religion.
Republicanism embraces all topics and makes its first princi. ple to be free discussion; I have, therefore, no apology to make for the introduction of this subject, a subject indeed which I have often touched upon, and in which I always felt that I had a duty to perform in exposing a vice which every other writer has passed with indifference.
The following article will be both interesting and instructive. It is well written and well authorised; and I hope that, preceded with the observations I have made ; it will not be lost on some present or future legislator.
SORTILEGES OF THE ANCIENTS,
Being an Historical Dissertation on the Sortes Homericæ, Sortes
Virgiliana, &c., and on those known" among Christians, by the name of Sortes Sanctorum,
Tuis manner of inquiring into futurity, unquestionably, took its rise from a general custom of the oracular priests, of delivering their answers. It subsisted a long time among the Greeks and Romans; and being from them adopted by the Christians, it was not till after a long succession of ages, that it became exploded among the Romans; it consisted in casually opening some celebrated poet, and among the Christians, the scriptures ; and dran* ing from the first passage which presented itself to the eye, a prognostic of what would befall the person, who thus made, the experiment, or as a guidance under some particular exigency. This definition the Greeks called σοίχειωμαντεία ραψωδομαντεία; among the Romans it went by the name of Sortes Homericæ Sortes Virgilianæ, Sortes Claudianæ, &c.; and among the Chris. tians by that of Sortes Sanctorum. Pagan antiquity is known to have considered eminent poets as men inspired, they represented themselves as such--they affirmed that they uttered the language
of the Gods, and their word was in general taken for it. The Iliad, Odyssey and Æneid, being more particularly full of such a number of religious and moral passages, containing such a prodigious variety of events, sentences, and maxims, applicable to all circumstances of life; it is not at all surprising, that they who accidentally or designedly looked into these poems, should imagine they had discovered certain predictions or admonitions. If the result happened sometimes to justify the curiosity of the persons, who in a case of perplexity, had recourse to them, this was sufficient gradually to beget a belief, that the writings of the poets were an oracle, always ready to give an answer. Nothing is so proverbial as the credulity of mankind, when under the influence of those strong passions, hope and fear, and this was no vulgar error : the superstition was indulged by the greatest men and philosophers. .Socrates, when in prison, bearing this line of Homer:
“ Within three days, I Phthia's shore shall see.”
He immediately said :-“ Within three days, I shall be out of the world;" gathering it from the double meaning of the word Phthia, which, in Greek, is both the name of a conotry, and signifies corruption or death. This prediction addressed to Æschimus, having actually been verified, was long remembered. 'Valerius Maximus also relates the prognostic, which Brútus encountered of his unhappy fate, at the battle of Phillippi, in the passage of the Iliad.
“ Fate and Latona's son demand my life.”
The explanation which that illustrious Roman applied to bimself was completely fulfilled in the event. If Lampridius may be credited, the Emperor Macrinus, desirous of knowing whether bis reign would be long and happy, first fixed his eyes on a verse which, with the next, formed a sentence to this effect:" Alas! old man, the violence of youthful warriors bears you down : your strength is brought low, and calamities await your declining years.” This emperor, being at an advanced age, when he ascended the throne, and reigning but fourteen months; and Heliogabalus being but fourteen years old, when he deprived him of his life and empire: the lines were considered a prediction of the tragical end of Macrinus. Homer was not the only poet among the Greeks, whose verses had the honour of passing for oracles.
The same regard was sometimes paid to Euripides; and from a passage in Herodotus, it appears that Musæus was also consulted. Anomacritus, whose profession was to interpret these predictions from Musæus, was banished from Athens, for falsifying the writings of that poet, and interpolating a verse
importing that the Islands near Lemnos would be overflowed. In time, not improbably from a spirit of emulation, the Romans began to attribute the same inspiration to Virgil's lines, and to consult them ia their difficulties, as declaratory of the will of heaven. Of this there are several instances in the history of the Roman emperors, especially since the reign of Trajan. The first was, that of Adrian, even before the death of Trajan, who, in order ; to know on what terms he stood with his adopted father, and whether he would appoint him his successor, took the Æneid, and opening it on a venture, read these lines of the sixth book :
" But what's the man, who from afar appears,
As we are seldom inclined to raise difficulties where our desires, are flattered, Adrian, howsoever trifling might be the analogy be." tween these lines, and his own peculiar circumstances, accepted them as a favourable omen, and was confirmed in his hopes of swaying the sceptre. Lampridius relates, that Alexander Severus, who, at the time, must have been very young; as he was only in his fourteenth year when called to the empire, addicting himself to music and philosophy, Mammea, bis mother, advised him to turn his applications to those sciences, which were of indispensable necessity to those who are born to government; and that he the more readily complied with the advice, from a certain presage of his elevation to the purple, which he concluded he had met with in these lines of Virgil, whom he had consulted on his destiny:
" Let others better mould the running mass
The Emperor Claudius, the Gothic, desirous of knowing the duration of his reign, concluded from the lines in Virgil,
« Till the sun Thrice thro' the signs his annual signs shall run, This is his time prefixed
that three years were the most he had to live ; for the loss of em