No middle course is possible. Every man is either good or bad. The indifferent, the lukewarm are not good; they are consequently bad, and the worst of all the bad, for they are imbecile and cowardly. The battle of life is like a civil war; those who remain neutral betray both parties alike, and renounce the right to be numbered among the children of the fatherland.
We all of us breathe in the life of others, and we breathe upon them in some sort a part of our own existence. Good and intelligent men are, unknown to themselves, the doctors of humanity; foolish and wicked men are public poisoners.
There are people in whose company one feel refreshed. Look at that young society woman! She chatters, she laughs, she dresses like everybody else; why, then, is everything in her better and more perfect? Nothing is more natural than her manner, nothing franker and more nobly free than her conversation. Near her everything should be at its ease, except bad sentiments, but near her they are impossible. She does not seek hearts, but draws them to herself and lifts them up. She does not intoxicate, she enchants. Her whole personality preaches a perfection more amiable than virtue itself. She is more gracious than grace, her acts are easy and inimitable, like fine music and poetry. It is of her that a charming woman, too friendly to be her rival, said after a ball: "I thought I saw the Holy Bible frolicking."
Now look upon the other side of the sheet! See this other woman who affects the most rigid devotion, and would be scandalized if she heard the angels sing; but her talk is malevolent, her glance haughty and contemptuous; when she speaks of virtue she makes vice lovable. For her God is a jealous husband, and she makes a great merit of not deceiving him. Her maxims are desolating, her actions due to vanity more than to charity, and one might say after having met her at church: "I have seen the devil at prayer."
On leaving the first, one feels one's self full of love for all that is beautiful, good and generous. One is happy to have well said to her all the noble things with which she has inspired you, and to have been approved by her. One says to one's self that life is good, since God has bestowed it on such souls as hers; one is full of courage and of hope. The other leaves you weakened and baffled, or perhaps, what is worse, full of evil designs; she makes you doubt of honour, piety and duty; in her presence one only escapes from weariness by the door of evil desires. One has uttered slander to please her, humiliated one's self to flatter her pride, one remains discontented with her and with one's self.
The lively and certain sentiment of these diverse influences is proper to well-balanced spirits and delicate consciences, and it is precisely that which the old ascetic writers called the power of discerning spirits.
You are cruel consolers, said Job to his pretended friends. It is, in fact, the vicious that afflict rather than console. They have a prodigious tact for finding and choosing the most desperate banalities. Are you weeping for a broken affection? How simple you are! they were playing with you, they did not love you. You admit sorrowfully that your child limps; in friendly fashion, they bid you remark that he is a hunchback. If he coughs and that alarms you, they conjure you tenderly to take great care of him, perhaps he is consumptive. Has you wife been ill for a long time? Cheer up, she will die of it!
Hope and work is the message of Heaven to us by the voice of all good souls. Despair and die, Hell cries to us in every word and movement, even in all the friendly acts and caresses of imperfect or degraded beings.
Whatever the reputation of any one may be, and whatever may be the testimonies of friendship that that person may give you, if, on leaving him, you feel yourself less well disposed and weaker, he is pernicious for you: avoid him.
Our double magnetism produces in us two sorts of sympathies. We need to absorb and to radiate turn by turn. Our heart loves contrasts, and there are few women who have loved two men of genius in succession.
One finds peace through the protection which one's own weariness of admiration gives; it is the law of equilibrium; but sometimes even sublime natures are surprised in caprices of vulgarity. Man, said the Abbe Gerbert, is the shadow of a God in the body of a beast; there are in him the friends of the angel and the flatterers of the animal. The angel attracts us; but if we are not on our guard, it is the beast that carries us away: it will even drag us fatally with it when it is a question of beastliness; that is to say, of the satisfactions of that life the nourisher of death, which, in the language of beasts is called "real life." In religion, the Gospel is a sure guide; it is not so in business, and there are a great many people who, if they had to settle the temporal succession of Jesus Christ, would more willingly come to an agreement with Judas Iscariot than with St. Peter.
One admires probity, said Juvenal, and one leaves it to freeze to death. If such and such a celebrated man, for example, had not scandalously solicited wealth, would one ever have thought of endowing his old muse? Who would have left him legacies?
Virtue has our admiration, our purse owes it nothing, that great lady is rich enough without us. One would rather give to vice, it is so poor!
"I do not like beggars, and I only give to the poor who are ashamed to beg," said one day a man of wit. "But what do you give them since you do not know them?" "I give them my admiration and my esteem, and I have no need to know them to do that." "How is it that you need so much money?" they asked another, "you have no children and no calls on you." "I have my poor folk, and I cannot prevent myself from giving them a great deal of money." "Make me acquainted with the, perhaps I will give them something too." "Oh! you know some of them already, I have no doubt. I have seven who cost me an enormous amount, and an eighth who costs more than the seven others. The seven are the seven deadly sing; the eighth is gambling."
"Give me five francs, sir, I am dying of hunger." "Imbecile! you are dying of hunger, and you want me to encourage you in so evil a course? You are dying of hunger, and you have the impudence to admit it. You wish to make me the accomplice of your incapacity, the abetter of your suicide. You want to put a premium on wretchedness. For whom do you take me? Do you think I am a rascal like yourself? …"
"By the way, old fellow, could you lend me a thousand pounds? I want to seduce an honest woman." "Ah! that is bad, but I can never refuse anything to a friend. Here they are. When you have succeeded you might give me her address." That is what is called in England, and elsewhere, the manners of a gentleman.
"The man of honour who is out of work steals, and does not beg!" replied, one day, Cartouche to a passer-by who asked alms of him. It is as emphatic as the word which tradition associates with Cambronne, and perhaps the famous thief and the great general both really replied in the same manner.
It was that same Cartouche who offered, on another occasion, of his own accord and without it being asked of him, twenty thousand pounds to a bankrupt. One must act properly to one's brothers.
Mutual assistance is a law of nature. To aid those who are like ourselves is to aid ourselves. But above mutual assistance rises a holier and greater law: it is universal assistance, it is charity.
We all admire and love Saint Vincent de Paul, but we have also a secret weakness for the cleverness, the presence of mind, and, above all, the audacity of Cartouche.
The avowed accomplices of our passions may disgust us by humiliating us; at our own risk and peril our pride will teach us how to resist them. But what is more dangerous for us than our hypocritical and hidden accomplices? They follow us like sorrow, await us like the abyss, surround us like infatuation. We excuse them in order to excuse ourselves, defending them in order to defend ourselves, justifying them in order to justify ourselves, and we submit to them finally because we must, because we have not the strength to resist our inclinations, because we lack the will to do so.
They have possessed themselves of our ascendant, as Paracelsus says, and where they wish to lead us we shall go.
They are our bad angels. We know it in the depths of our consciousness; but we put up with them, we have made ourselves their servants that they also may be ours.
Our passions treated tenderly and flattered, have become slave-mistresses; and those who serve our passions our valets, and our masters.
We breathe out our thoughts and breathe in those of others imprinted in the astral light which has become their electro-magnetic atmosphere: and thus the companionship of the wicked is less fatal to the good than that of vulgar, cowardly, and tepid beings. Strong antipathy warns us easily, and saves us from the contact of gross vices; it is not thus with disguised vices vices to a certain extend diluted and become almost lovable. An honest woman will experience nothing but disgust in the society of a prostitute, but she has everything to fear from the seductions of a coquette.
One knows that madness is contagious, but the mad are more particularly dangerous when they are amiable and sympathetic. One enters little by little into their circle of ideas, one ends by understanding their exaggerations, while partaking their enthusiasm, one grows accustomed to their logic that has lost its way, one ends by finding that they are not as mad as one thought at first. Thence to believing that they alone are right there is but one step. One likes them, one approves of them, one is as mad as they are.
The affections are free and may be based on reason, but sympathies are of fatalism, and very frequently unreasonable. They depend on the more or less balanced attractions of the magnetic light, and act on men in the same way as upon animals. One will stupidly take pleasure in the society of a person in whom is nothing lovable, because one is mysteriously attracted and dominated by him. And often enough, these strange sympathies began by lively antipathies; the fluids repelled each other at first, and subsequently became balanced.
The equilibrating speciality of the plastic medium of every person is what Paracelsus calls his ascendant, and he gives the name of flagum to the particular reflection of the habitual ideas of each one in the universal light.
One arrives at the knowledge of the ascendant of a person by the sensitive divination of the flagum, and by a persistent direction of the will. One turns the active side of one's own ascendant towards the passive side of the ascendant of another when one wishes to take hold of that other and dominate him.
The astral ascendant has been divined by other magi, who gave it the name of tourbillon (vortex).
It is, say they, a current of specialized light, representing always the same circle of images, and consequently determined and determining impressions. These vortices exist for men as for stars. "The stars," said Paracelsus, "breathe out their luminous soul, and attract each other's radiation. The soul of the earth, prisoner of the fatal laws of gravitation, frees itself by specializing itself, and passes through the instinct of animals to arrive at the intelligence of man. The active portion of this will is dumb, but it preserves in writing the secrets of Nature. The free part can no longer read this fatal writing without instantaneously losing its liberty. One does not pass from dumb and vegetative contemplation to free vibrating thought without changing one's surroundings and one's organs. Thence comes the forgetfulness which accompanies birth, and the vague reminiscences of our sickly intuitions, always analogous to the visions of our ecstasies and of our dreams."
This revelation of that great master of occult medicine throws a fierce light on all the phenomena of somnambulism and of divination. There also, for whoever knows how to find it, is the true key of evocation, and of communication with the fluidic soul of the earth.
Those persons whose dangerous influence makes itself felt by a single touch are those who make part of a fluidic association, or who either voluntarily or involuntarily make use of a current of astral light which has gone astray. Those, for example, who live in isolation, deprived of all communication with humanity, and who are daily in fluidic sympathy with animals gathered together in great number, as is ordinarily the case with shepherds, are possessed of the demon whose name is legion; in their turn they reign despotically over the fluid souls of the flocks that are confided to their care: consequently their good-will or ill-will makes their cattle prosper or die; and this influence of animal sympathy can be exercised by them upon human plastic mediums which are ill defended, owing either to a weak will or a limited intelligence.
Thus are explained the bewitchments which are habitually made by shepherds, and the still quite recent phenomena of the Presbytery of Cideville.
Cideville is a little village of Normandy, where a few years ago were produced phenomena like those which have since occurred under the influence of Mr. Home. M. de Mirville has studied them carefully, and M. Gougenet Desmousseaux has reprinted all the details in a book, published in 1854, entitled Mœurs et pratiques des demons. The most remarkable thing in this latter author is that he seems to divine the existence of the plastic medium or the fluidic body. "We have certainly not two souls," said he, "but perhaps we have two bodies." Everything that he says, in fact, would seem to prove this hypothesis. He saw a shepherd whose fluidic form haunted a Presbytery, and who was wounded at a distance by blows inflicted on his astral larva.
We shall here ask of MM. de Mirville and Gougenet Desmousseaux if they take this shepherd for the devil, and if, far or near, the devil such as they conceive him can be scratched or wounded. At that time, in Normandy, the magnetic illnesses of mediums were hardly known, and this unhappy sleep- walker, who ought to have been cared for an cured, was roughly treated and even beaten, not even in his fludic appearance, but in his proper person, by the Vicar himself. That is, one must agree, a singular kind of exorcism! If those violences really took place, and if they may be imputed to a Churchman whom one considers, and who may be, for all we know, very good and very respectable, let us admit that such writers as MM. de Mirville and Gougenet Desmousseaux make themselves not a little his accomplices!
The laws of physical life are inexorable, and in his animal nature man is born a slave to fatality; it is by dint of struggles against his instincts that he may win moral freedom. Two different existences are then possible for us upon the earth; one fatal, the other free. The fatal being is the toy or instrument of a force which he does not direct. Now, when the instruments of fatality meet and collide, the stronger breaks or carries away the weaker; truly emancipated beings fear neither bewitchments nor mysterious influences.
You may reply that an encounter with Cain may be fatal for Abel. Doubtless; but such a fatality is an advantage to the pure and holy victim, it is only a misfortune for the assassin.
Just as among the righteous there is a great community of virtues and merits, there is among the wicked an absolute solidarity of fatal culpability and necessary chastisement. Crime resides in the tendencies of the heart. Circumstances which are almost always independent of the will are the only causes of the gravity of the acts. If fatality had made Nero a slave, he would have become an actor or a gladiator, and would not have burned Rome: would it be to him that one should be grateful for that?
Nero was the accomplice of the whole Roman people, and those who should have prevented them incurred the whole responsibility for the frenzies of this monster. Seneca, Burrhus, Thrasea, Corbulon, theirs is the real guilt of that fearful reign; great men who were either selfish or incapable! The only thing they knew was how to die.
If one of the bears of the Zoological Gardens escaped and devoured several people, would one blame him or his keepers?
Whoever frees himself from the common errors of mankind is obliged to pay a ransom proportional to the sum of these errors: Socrates pays for Aneitus, and Jesus was obliged to suffer a torment whose terror was equal to the whole treason of Judas.
Thus, by paying the debts of fatality, hard-won liberty purchases the empire of the world; it is hers to bind and to unbind. God has put in her hands the keys of Heaven and of Hell.
You men who abandon brutes to themselves wish them to devour you.
The rabble, slaves of fatality, can only enjoy liberty by absolute obedience to the will of free men; they ought to work for those who are responsible for them.
But when the brute governs brutes, when the blind leads the blind, when the leader is as subject to fatality as the masses, what must one expect? What but the most shocking catastrophes? In that we shall never be disappointed.
By admitting the anarchical dogmas of 1789, Louis XVI launched the State upon a fatal slope. From that moment all the crimes of the Revolution weighed upon him alone; he alone had failed in his duty. Robespierre and Marat only did what they had to do. Girondins and Montagnards killed each other in the workings of fatality, and their violent deaths were so many necessary catastrophes; at that epoch there was but one great and legitimate execution, really sacred, really expiatory: that of the King. The principle of royalty would have fallen if that too weak price had escaped. But a transaction between order and disorder was impossible. One does not inherit from those whom one murders; one robs them; and the Revolution rehabilitated Louis XVI by assassinating him. After so many concessions, so many weaknesses, so many unworthy abasements, that man, consecrated a second time by misfortune, was able at least to say, as he walked to the scaffold: "The Revolution is condemned, and I am always the King of France"!
To be just is to suffer for all those who are not just, but it is life: to be wicked is to suffer for one's self without winning life; it is to deceive one's self, to do evil, and to win eternal death.
To recapitulate: Fatal influences are those of death. Living influences are those of life. According as we are weaker or stronger in life, we attract or repel witchcraft. This occult power is only too real, but intelligence and virtue will always find the means to avoid its obsessions and its attacks.