The ancients gave different names to these: larvae, lemures (empuses). They loved the vapour of shed blood, and fled from the blade of the sword.
Theurgy evoked them, and the Qabalah recognized them under the name of elementary spirits.
They were not spirits, however, for they were mortal.
They were fluidic coagulations which one could destroy by dividing them.
There were a sort of animated mirages, imperfect emanations of human life. The traditions of Black Magic say that they were born owing to the celibacy of Adam. Paracelsus says that the vapours of the blood of hysterical women people the air with phantoms; and these ideas are so ancient, that we find traces of them in Hesiod, who expressly forbids that linen, stained by a pollution of any sort, should be dried before a fire.
Persons who are obsessed by phantoms are usually exalted by too rigorous celibacy, or weakened by excesses.
Fluidic phantoms are the abortions of the vital light; they are plastic media without body and without spirit, born from the excesses of the spirit and the disorders of the body.
These wandering media may be attracted by certain degenerates who are fatally sympathetic to them, and who lend them at their own cost a factitious existence of a more or less durable kind. They then serve as supplementary instruments to the instinctive volitions of these degenerates: never to cure them, always to send them farther astray, and to hallucinate them more and more.
If corporeal embryos can take the forms which the imagination of their mothers gives them, the wandering fluidic embryos ought to be prodigiously variable, and to transform themselves with an astonishing facility. Their tendency to give themselves a body in order to attract a soul, makes them condense and assimilate naturally the corporeal molecules which float in the atmosphere.
Thus, by coagulating the vapour of blood, they remake blood, that blood which hallucinated maniacs see floating upon pictures or statues. But they are not the only ones to see it. Vintras and Rose Tamisier are neither impostors nor myopics; the blood really flows; doctors examine it, analyse it; it is blood, real human blood: whence comes it? Can it be formed spontaneously in the atmosphere? Can it naturally flow from a marble, from a painted canvas or a host? No, doubtless; this blood did once circulate in veins, then it has been shed, evaporated, dried, the serum has turned into vapour, the globules into impalpable dust, the whole has floated and whirled into the atmosphere, and has then been attracted into the current of a specified electromagnetism. The serum has again become liquid; it has taken up and imbibed anew the globules which the astral light has coloured, and the blood flows.
Photography proves to us sufficiently that images are real modifications of light. Now, there exists an accidental and fortuitous photography which makes durable impression of mirages wandering in the atmosphere, upon leaves of trees, in wood, and even in the heart of stones: thus are formed those natural figures to which Gaffarel has consecrated several pages in his book of Curiosités inouies, those stoned to which he attributes an occult virtue, which he calls gamahies; thus are traced those writings and drawings which so greatly astonish the observers of fluidic phenomena. They are astral photographs traced by the imagination of the mediums with or without the assistance of the fluidic larvae.
The existence of these larvae has been demonstrated to us in a preemptory manner by a rather curious experience. Several persons, in order to test the magic power of the American Home, asked him to summon up relations which they pretended they had lost, but, who, in reality, had never existed. The spectres did not fail to reply to this appeal, and the phenomena which habitually followed the evocations of the medium were fully manifested.
This experience is sufficient of itself to convict of tiresome credulity and of formal error those who believe that spirits intervene to produce these strange phenomena. That the dead may return, it is above all necessary that they should have existed, and demons would not so easily be the dupes of our mystifications.
Like all Catholics, we believe in the existence of spirits of darkness, but we know also that the divine power has given them the darkness for an eternal prison, and that the Redeemer saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. If the demons tempt us, it is by the voluntary complicity of our passions, and it is not permitted to them to make head against the empire of God, and by stupid and useless manifestations to disturb the eternal order of Nature.
The diabolical signatures and characters, which are produced without the knowledge of the medium, are evidently not proofs of a tacit or formal pact between these degenerates and intelligences of the abyss. These signs have served from the beginning to express astral vertigo, and remain in a state of mirage in the reflections of the divulged light. Nature also has its recollections, and sends to us the same signs to correspond to the same ideas. In all this, there is nothing either supernatural or infernal.
"How! do you want me to admit," said to us the Cure Charvoz, the first vicar of Vintras, "that Satan dares to impress his hideous stigmata upon consecrated materials, which have become the actual body of Jesus Christ?" We declared immediately, that it was equally impossible for us to pronounce in favour of such a blasphemy; and yet, as we demonstrated in our articles in the Estafette, the signs printed in bleeding characters upon the hosts of Vintras, regularly consecrated by Charvoz, were those which, in Black Magic, are absolutely recognized for the signatures of demons.
Astral writings are often ridiculous or obscene. The pretended spirits, when questioned on the greater mysteries of Nature, often reply by that coarse word which became, so they say, heroic on one occasion, in the military mouth of Cambronne. The drawings which pencils will trace if left to their own devices very often reproduce shapeless phalli, such as the anaemic hooligan, as one might picturesquely call him, sketches on the hoardings as he whistles, a further proof of our hypothesis, that wit in no way presides at those manifestations, and that it would be above all sovereignly absurd to recognize in them the intervention of spirits released from the bondage of matter.
The Jesuit, Paul Saufidius, who has written on the manners and customs of the Japanese, tells us a very remarkable story. A troop of Japanese pilgrims one day, as they were traversing a desert, saw coming toward them a band of spectres whose number was equal to that of the pilgrims, and which walked at the same pace. These spectres, at first without shape, and like larvae, took on as they approached all the appearance of the human body. Soon they met the pilgrims, and mingled with them, gliding silently between their ranks. Then the Japanese saw themselves double, each phantom having become the perfect image and, as it were, the mirage of each pilgrim. The Japanese were afraid, and prostrated themselves, and the bonze who was conducting them began to pray for them with great contortions and great cries. When the pilgrims rose up again, the phantoms had disappeared, and the troop of devotees was able to continue its path in peace. This phenomenon, whose truth we do not doubt, presents the double characters of a mirage, and of a sudden projection of astral larvae, occasioned by the heat of the atmosphere, and the fanatical exhaustion of the pilgrims.
Dr. Brierre de Boismont, in his curious treatise, Traite des hallucinations, tells us that a man, perfectly sane, who had never had visions, was tormented one morning by a terrible nightmare: he saw in his room a mysterious ape horrible to behold, who gnashed his teeth upon him, and gave himself over to the most hideous contortions. He woke with a start, it was already day; he jumped from his bed, and was frozen with terror on seeing, really present, the frightful object of his dream. The monkey was there, the exact image of the monkey of the nightmare, equally absurd, equally terrible, even making the same grimaces. He could not believe his eyes; he remained nearly half an hour motionless, observing this singular phenomenon, and asking himself whether he was delirious or mad. Ultimately, he approached the phantasm to touch it, and it vanished.
Cornelius Gemma, in his Histore critique universelle, says that in the year 454, in the island of Candia, the phantom of Moses appeared to some Jews on the sea-side; on his forehead he had luminous horns, in his hand was his blasting rod; and he invited them to follow him, showing them with his finger the horizon in the direction of the Holy Land. The news of this prodigy spread abroad, and the Israelites rushed towards the shore in a mob. All saw, or pretended to see, the marvellous apparition: they were, in number, twenty thousand, according to the chronicler, whom we suspect to be slightly exaggerating in this respect. Immediately heads grow hot, and imaginations wild; they believe in a miracle more startling than was of old the passage of the Red Sea. The Jews form in a close column, and run towards the sea; the rear ranks push the front ranks frantically: they think they see the pretended Mosses walk upon the water. A shocking disaster resulted: almost all that multitude was drowned, and the hallucination was only extinguished with the life of the greater number of those unhappy visionaries.
Human thought creates what it imagines; the phantoms of superstition project their deformities on the astral light, and live upon the same terrors which give them birth. That black giant which reaches its wings from east to west to hide the light from the world, that monster who devours souls, that frightful divinity of ignorance and fear — in a word, the devil, — is still, for a great multitude of children of all ages, a frightful reality. In our Dogme et rituel de la haute magie we represented him as the shadow of God, and in saying that, we still hid the half of our thought: God is light without shadow. The devil is only the shadow of the phantom of God!
The phantom of God! that last idol of the earth; that anthropomorphic spectre which maliciously makes himself invisible; that finite personification of the infinite; that invisible whom one cannot see without dying — without dying at least to intelligence and to reason, since in order to see the invisible, one must be mad; the phantom of Him who has no body; the confused form of Him who is without form and without limit; it is in that that, without knowing it, the greater number of believers believe. He who is essentially, purely, spiritually, without being either absolute being, or an abstract being, or the collection of beings, the intellectual infinite in a word, is so difficult to imagine! Besides, every imagination makes its creator an idolater; he is obliged to believe in it, and worship it. Our spirit should be silent before Him, and our heart alone has the right to give Him a name: Our Father!