EXTRACT FROM: “Occult Sciences” In: The British Mercury Or Annals of History, Politics, Manners, Literature, Arts etc. of the British Empire. Vol XI for 1789 By I. W. von Archenholtz, Hamburg, Nr 40, Oct 3, pp 1-4.
Books on the Occult Sciences, however vain and however useless, are still pleasing; and perhaps more universally so than any other species of Literature. To the superstitious, they suit with the romantick gloom of their minds, and give encouragement to their wish of knowing future events; to the philosophical they revive the soothing recollection of their childish ways, when with credulous attention they used to listen to the tales of witches and apparitions.
For this species of writing few persons have rendered themselves more distinguished than our own countryman, John Heydon; and it is somewhat peculiar that a man with a mathematical mind like him should give way to such superstitions. As a proof of this we give the following extract; and who could expect that such a rhapsody and a fiction could be made the Preface of a book? Yet such it is, and we select it for its curiosity. It may perhaps prove pleasing by its singularity; and superstitious as the author proves himself; or – as some persons may conceive – poor as appears his opinion of the understandings of his readers, no one will assert that the passage is not romantick.
The Preface in question is as follows:
“In Mr. Slade’s orchard at Sidmouth in Devon, about the dawning of day-break, being tired with a tedious solitude and those pensive thoughts which attend it, after much loss and labour, I suddenly fell asleep. Here then day was no sooner born than strangled: I was reduced to a night of more deep tincture than that which I had formerly spent. My fancy placed me in a region of inexpressible obscurity, and as I thought more than natural, but without any terrors; I was in a firm even temper, and though without encouragements, not only resolute but well pleased; I moved every way for discoveries, but was still entertained with darkness an silence; and I thought myself translated to the Land of Desolation. …
[After] we had done our holy things at the twentieth hour of the tenth day of June 1648, there appeared to us, after their usual manner, Seven men, clothed in silk garments, with cloaks after the English mode, with purple stockings and crimson velvet coats, red and shining on their breasts: nor were they all thus clad, but only two of them, who were the chief: on the ruddier and taller of these two, other two waited, but the less and paler had three attendants: So that they made up seven in all; they were about forty years of age, but looked as if they had not reached thirty; when they were asked who they were? They answered, that they were Homines Aerii, Aerial men, who are born and die as we; but that their life is much longer than ours, as reaching to three hundred years, and they raise each other from death to live. Being asked concerning the immortality of Daemons? They answered … that they were of a nearer affinity with the Divi than we, but yet infinitely different from them; and that their happiness or misery as much transcended ours as ours does [that] of beasts; that they knew all things, past, present, or to come, and what is hid, whether money or books; and that the lowest sort of them were the Genii of the best and noblest men amongst the Rosie Crucians, as the best men are the trainers up for the best sort of dogs; that the tennuity of their bodies was such that they can neither do us good nor hurt…
We asked what religion was best amongst us? They answered the Protestant; and Episcopacy was the best form of Church Government, and that they were both public Professors in an Academy and that he of the lesser stature had three hundred disciples, the other twenty. We asked further why they would not reveal such treasures as they knew onto me? They answered that there was a special law against it, upon a very grievous penalty.
These Aerial inhabitants stayed at least ten hours disputing and arguing of sundry things, amongst which was the Original of the World: the taller denying that God made the World, ab aeterno; The lesser affirmed that he so created it every moment, that if he should desist but one moment it would perish, whereupon the other cited something out of the disputations … in the Rosie Crucian Axiomata, the second book: which books, if this be acceptable, I shall shortly publish….
END OF EXTRACT
Since I am away from home at the moment, I shall publish some extracts from various e-books I have discovered, and few are more entertaining than this 1789 collection (just one of many volumes) which brings together a quite indiscriminate and bewildering variety of everyday newspaper accounts of 18th century life, thought and endeavour – extremely fascinating reading!
In this particular volume (available on google books), there is a vivid account of the immolation of widows in India’s Maharastra state, news accounts of Parliamentary proceedings and goings on at the House of Lords, followed by and an account of the general meeting of Publicans, Coffee House and Tavern Keepers to discuss licensing legislation, as well as the extract above, on occultism – a snapshot of random events and pursuits joined together by their contemporaneity.
The extract above is from the preface of a book by the English occultist John Heydon who, judging by the various symbols to which he alludes, seems to have dabbled in alchemy, witchcraft as well as the odd “experiments in medicines, admirable glorious tinctures… and the secrets of nature”. His Aerial men would of course find themselves perfectly at home at Hogwarts.
Heydon (1629-67) was an English attorney who took a keen interest in Rosicrucianism, Neoplatonism and astrology. As a young man he had served in the royalist army during the English Civil War, and later travelled as far as Egypt and Persia. After training in law upon his return, he opened a practice offering, symultaneously, assistance with legal and astrological concerns. On account of his occult interests he was imprisoned by Cromwell during the final years of the Commonwealth era, but the Restoration brought his release. Later, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for plotting against the Duke of Buckingham, but was eventually released when the powers that be decided this colourful, entertaining maverick was just a harmless mystic and a bit of a crank.