« ElőzőTovább »
or amuse this grain of enthusiasm, dealt into every composition.
But, if this plant has found a root in the fields of Empire, and of knowledge, it has fixed deeper, and spread yet farther upon holy ground. Wherein, though it hath passed under the general name of Enthusiasm, and perhaps arisen from the same original, yet hath it produced certain branches of a very different nature, however often mistaken for each other. The word in its universal acceptation, may be defined, A lifting up of the soul or its faculties above matter. This description will hold good in general; but I am only to understand it, as applied to Religion; wherein there are three general ways of ejaculating the soul, or transporting it beyond the sphere of matter. The first, is the immediate act of God, and is called Prophecy or Inspiration. The second, is the immediate act of the devil, and is termed Possession. The third, is the product of natural causes, the effect of strong imagination, spleen, violent anger, fear, grief, pain, and the like. These three have been abundantly treated on by authors, and therefore shall not employ my enquiry. But, the fourth method of Religious Enthusiasm, or launching out of the soul, as it is purely an effect of artifice and mechanick operation, has been sparingly handled, or not at all, by any writer; because tho' it is an art of great antiquity, yet having been confined to few persons, it long wanted those advancements and refinements, which it afterwards met with, since it has grown so epidemick, and fallen into so many cultivating hands.
It is therefore upon this mechanical operation of the Spirit, that I mean to treat, as it is at present performed by our British workmen. I shall deliver to the reader the result of many judicious observations upon the matter ; tracing, as near as I can, the whole course and method of this trade, producing parallel instances, and relating certain discoveries that have luckily fallen in my way
I have said that there is one branch of Religious Enthusiasm, which is purely an effect of nature; whereas, the part I mean to handle, is wholy an effect of art, which, however, is inclined to work upon certain natures and constitutions, more than others. Besides, there is many an operation, which in its original, was purely an artifice, but through a long succession of ages, hath grown to be natural. Hippocrates tells us, that among our ancestors, the Scythians, there was a nation called * Longheads, which at first began by a custom among midwives and nurses
of molding, and squeezing, and bracing up the heads of infants ; by which means, nature shut out at one passage, was forced to seek another, and finding room above, shot upwards, in the form of a sugar-loaf; and being diverted that way, for some generations, at last found it out of herself, needing no assistance from the nurse's hand. This was the original of the Scythian Longheads, and thus did custom, from being a second nature, proceed to be a first.
To all which, there is something very analogous. among us of this nation, who are the undoubted posterity of that refined people. For, in the age of our fathers, there arose a generation of men in this island, called Round-heads, whose race is now spread over three kingdoms, yet in its beginning, was meerly an operation of art, produced by a pair of scissars, a squeeze of the face, and a black cap. These heads, thus formed into a perfect sphere in all assemblies, were most exposed to the view of the female sort, which did influence their conceptions so effec
tually, that nature, at last, took the hint, and • did it of her self; so that a Round-head has
been ever since as familiar a sight among us, as.
a Longhead among the Scythians. • Upon these examples, and others easy to produce, I desire the curious reader to distinguish first between an effect grown from art into
nature, and one that is natural from its beginning; Secondly between an effect wholly natural, and one which has only a natural foundation, but where the superstructure is entirely artificial. For, the first and the last of these, I understand to come within the districts of my subject. And having obtained these allowances, they will serve to remove any objections that may be raised, hereafter against what I shall advance.
The practitioners of this famous art, proceed in general upon the following fundamental; that, the corruption of the senses is the generation of the spirit : because the senses in men are so many avenues to the fort of reason, which in this operation is wholly blocked up. All endeavours must be therefore used, either to divert, bind up, stupify, fluster, and amuse the senses, or else to justle them out of their stations; and while they are either absent, or otherwise employed or engaged in a civil war against each other, the spirit enters and performs its part.
Now, the usual methods of managing the senses upon such conjunctures, are what I shall be very particular in delivering, as far as it is lawful for me to do; but having had the honour to be initiated into the mysteries of every society, I desire to be excused from divulging any rites, wherein the profane must have no part.
But here, before I can proceed farther, a very dangerous objection must, if possible, be removed: for it is positively denied by certain criticks, that the spirit can by any means be introduced into an assembly of modern saints; the disparity being so great in many material circumstances, between the primitive way of inspiration, and that which is practised in the present age. This they pretend to prove from the second chapter of the Acts, where comparing both, it appears; First, that the Apostles were gathered together with one accord in one place; by which is meant, an universal agreement in opinion, and form of worship; a harmony (say they) so far from being found between any two conventicles among us, that it is in vain to expect it between any two heads in the same. Secondly, the Spirit instructed the apostles in the gift of speaking several languages; a knowledge so remote from our dealers in this art, that they neither understand propriety of words, or phrases in their own. Lastly, (say these objectors) the modern artists do utterly exclude all approaches of the Spirit, and bar up its antient way of entering, by covering themselves so close, and so industriously a-top. For, they will needs have it as a point clearly gained, that the cloven tongues never sat upon the apostles' heads, while their hats were on.
Now, the force of these objections, seems