Stanislas de Guaita – on the use and abuse of animal magnetism.
In the second volume of his Serpent of Genesis, Stanislas de Guaita reports the strange court case of a priest being sued by a magician for physically attacking him. It was heard at the beginning of 1851 before a magistrate at Yerville (Seine-Inférieure) in which a shepherd named Thorel sought damages from the curé of Cideville.
The origin of the dispute concerned a village sorcerer, referred to as G**, renowned for the practice of occult healing, but who liked to treat his clients in the cemetery of the local church. When the abbé Tirel, the curé, attempted to stop this practice G** threatened him with vengeance so violently that he was duly imprisoned.
The events described were sworn under oath by a score of witnesses, including the Marquis de Mirville, a recognised expert in these matters and author of Des Ésprits et de leurs manifestations fluidique, (Spirits and their fluidic manifestations).
Two young boys of twelve and fourteen, studying for the priesthood, were being brought up in the presbytery of Cideville by the curé. And it was upon these two that the vengeful fury of G** fell, through the action of one of his acolytes, the shepherd Thorel, who established a fluidic link with the younger boy by approaching him at a local sale. Thereafter, a storm of phenomena descended on the presbytery, which was shaken to its foundations by knocks within the walls, on many occasions lasting for hours, and attracting hundreds of curious visitors.
Then the mysterious agent began to show a form of intelligence by means of a dialogue of knocks: one knock for yes, two for no, and several knocks corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. Thanks to this procedure the Devil – for so Monsieur de Mirville chose to call it – replied with infallible correctness regarding the name, age, place of domicile, and social standing of a number of visitors who were unknown locally. Was ever a demon so obliging?
Then inert objects began to dance – tables to turn, chairs to walk through the rooms, and knives, brushes, and breviaries to fly out of one window and back through another. Windows flew open, heavy furniture rose up and remained suspended. A large desk covered in books threw itself at one distinguished visitor but abruptly stopped within a few millimetres of his forehead before dropping at his feet as lightly as a feather. All these things were witnessed and confirmed by a growing number of reliable witnesses.
Meanwhile the boy that Thorel had touched began to see an unknown shadow behind him dressed in a peasant’s smock. And some days later, on being shown Thorel, he cried without hesitation “That’s the man!”
One of the priests saw a column of grey vapour moving and undulating behind the obsessed child and several others also saw this serpent like vapour alternately condensing and dilating before disappearing, whistling, through cracks in the door.
The child was terrified into a state of nerves that developed into convulsions, causing great anxiety, and one day saw a black hairy hand come out of the fireplace – whilst all heard the sound of heavy breathing. The child cried out – and all were astonished to see the imprint of five fingers, perfectly marked, on his cheek. Meanwhile the child ran outside in the vain hope of seeing the hand, which had disappeared back up the chimney, come out of the smoke stack on the roof!
Then one of the ecclesiastics who lived at the presbytery put forward a daring proposal. He confessed to once having read a book on sorcery that said that invisible beings feared sword points. So why not try that?
No sooner said than done, and after several unsuccessful attempts (the magical agent was quite adept at hiding itself!) it produced an incident of great importance. They were on the point of giving up when a last thrust of a sword point brought a flash of crackling flame accompanied by a high pitched whistling. A white smoke spread everywhere, so thick and foetid that they had to open the windows to clear it.
This unexpected result gave them confidence in this duel with the invisible, and the experiment was repeated with good results. Suddenly a word resounded through the room, weakly, but distinctly articulated.
It said “Pardon”; clearly heard by all.
They lay down their swords to continue the dialogue. “Pardon?” they replied, “ yes certainly we will pardon you, and better than that: we will spend the night in prayer to ask God to pardon you as well...but on one condition, that tomorrow, whoever you are, you come to ask pardon from this child.”
“You will pardon us all?”
“How many are you?”
“Five, including the shepherd.”
“We pardon you all.”
As soon as this was said all phenomena ceased! They returned to the presbytery in silence, and prayed on their knees until dawn.
In the afternoon a man presented himself at the presbytery. It was Thorel, his eyes downcast, and in an apparently contrite attitude. His face, which he failed to conceal under his cap, was covered with scratches, bleeding in several places.
“That’s the man!” cried the child, beginning to tremble.
Asked by the curé why he had come Thorel replied that his master had sent him in order to find a little organ.
“No, Thorel, you came for something else....And how did you get all those scratches?”
The shepherd tried to evade the question.
The abbé Tinel continued “Be honest! You have come to ask pardon of this child. That is why you are here. On your knees, Thorel!”
“Oh well... Pardon! Yes...pardon!” the creature cried, falling on his knees before the child, on whom he put his hands, at which the state of the poor child became worse and doubled in intensity.
A second confrontation took place later, in the town hall, between the priest and the shepherd, who, before several witnesses, fell on his knees as before, saying “Pardon, I ask your pardon,” but this time it was towards the curé that he crawled.
“For what do you ask pardon, Thorel? Explain yourself!”
However, Thorel continued to advance, and reached out to grab the priest’s cassock.
“Do not touch me, or in Heaven’s name I will strike you!”
It was then that the curé of Cideville rushed forward and struck the sorcerer three times with a stick, which became the basis of the court case for physical assault.
The justice of the peace at Yerville was stupefied, never have come upon such allegations before. His summing up, although quite vague and obscure, at least acknowledged the unanimity of the witnesses. The case against the curé was dismissed and Thorel was ordered to pay costs.
For Stanislas de Guaita, a sorcerer could be defined as one who puts occult forces of nature to work for malevolent purposes, as demonstrated in such a graphic way in the above account, which has been considerably shortened in Stanislas de Guaita’s account, who in keeping with his high principles asks if any use of animal magnetism could fall under this definition?
For what is it but the subjection of a thinking being to the will of another – or the annihilation of their free will? That a state of magnetic subjection (which would include hypnosis) is nothing but the temporary alienation of a being originally free but now possessed. Such possession is more or less despotic and more or less durable, and in de Guaita’s view stems from the imposition of a vampiric and parasitic existence (or daimon) over the personality of the subject.
If the suggestion is limited to constraining the subject in a precise way to accomplish an isolated fact, the daimon remains potential until the required hour and perishes at a stroke when its power has passed into action. But if the suggestion is prolonged with a view to determining a series of similar acts, often at long intervals, the daimon that forms the living substratum of these acts stretches into the future, that is to say takes hold of the subject and forms the latent life of these actions, necessarily to come.
Is this, one wonders, a reason for Maïtre Philippe’s reluctance to endorse the normal run of magnetic healing – claiming his own to be of a superior kind? Divinely inspired rather than psychologically based. Even if the result sought seems beneficial – giving up smoking or some other addiction by these means for example?