The Phantom World
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The Phantom World; or, The Philosophy of Spirits, Apparitions, etc is a book by Augustin Calmet, a French Benedictine monk. First published in 1746, the book contains extensive studies of apparitions of angels, demons, and spirits, Magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and instances of vampires, and individuals returning from the grave. Chapters include Magic of the Egyptians and Chaldeans; The Appearance of Good Angels proved by the Books of the New Testament; Of the Pagan Oracles; Examples which prove the Reality of Magic; Spirits that keep Watch over Treasure; On Sorcerers and Sorceresses, or Witches; Return and Apparitions of Souls after the Death of the Body, proved from Scripture; Opinions of the Jews, Greeks, and Latins, concerning the Dead who are left unburied; Effects of Magic according to the Poets, and many more.
This book has 375 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1746. This translation was first published in 1850.
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Excerpt from 'The Phantom World'
The great number of authors who have written upon the apparitions of angels, demons, and disembodied souls is not unknown to me; and I do not presume sufficiently on my own capacity to believe that I shall succeed better in it than they have done, and that I shall enhance their knowledge and their discoveries. I am perfectly sensible that I expose myself to criticism, and perhaps to the mockery of many readers, who regard this matter as done with, and decried in the minds of philosophers, learned men, and many theologians. I must not reckon either on the approbation of the people, whose want of discernment prevents their being competent judges of this same. My aim is not to foment superstition, nor to feed the vain curiosity of visionaries, and those who believe without examination everything that is related to them as soon as they find therein anything marvelous and supernatural. I write only for reasonable and unprejudiced minds, which examine things seriously and coolly; I speak only for those who assent even to known truth but after mature reflection, who know how to doubt of what is uncertain, to suspend their judgment on what is doubtful, and to deny what is manifestly false.
As for pretended freethinkers, who reject everything to distinguish themselves, and to place themselves above the common herd, I leave them in their elevated sphere; they will think of this work as they may consider proper, and as it is not calculated for them, apparently they will not take the trouble to read it.
I undertook it for my own information, and to form to myself a just idea of all that is said on the apparitions of angels, of the demon, and of disembodied souls. I wished to see how far that matter was certain or uncertain, true or false, known or unknown, clear or obscure.
In this great number of facts which I have collected I have endeavored to make a choice, and not to heap together too great a multitude of them, for fear that in the too numerous examples the doubtful might not harm the certain, and in wishing to prove too much I might prove absolutely nothing. There will, even amongst those I have cited, be found some which will not easily be credited by many readers, and I allow them to regard them as not related.
I beg those readers, nevertheless, to discern justly amongst these facts and instances; after which they can with me form their opinion—affirm, deny, or remain in doubt.
From the respect which every man owes to truth, and the veneration which a Christian and a priest owes to religion, it appeared to me very important to undeceive people respecting the opinion which they have of apparitions, if they believe them all to be true; or to instruct them and show them the truth and reality of a great number, if they think them all false. It is always shameful to be deceived; and in regard to religion, to believe on light grounds, to remain wilfully in doubt, or to maintain oneself without any reason in superstition and illusion; it is already much to know how to doubt wisely, and not to form a decided opinion beyond what one really knows.
I never had any idea of treating profoundly the matter of apparitions; I have treated of it, as it were, by chance, and occasionally. My first and principal object was to discourse of the vampires of Hungary. In collecting my materials on that subject, I found many things concerning apparitions; the great number of these embarrassed this treatise on vampires. I detached some of them, and thus have composed this treatise on apparitions: there still remains a large number of them, which I might have separated for the better arrangement of this treatise. Many persons here have taken the accessory for the principal, and have paid more attention to the first part than to the second, which was, however, the first and the principal in my design. For I own I have always been much struck with what was related of the vampires or ghosts of Hungary, Moravia, and Poland; of the vroucolacas of Greece; and of the excommunicated, who are said not to rot. I thought I ought to bestow on it all the attention in my power; and I have deemed it right to treat on this subject in a particular dissertation. After having deeply studied it, and obtaining as much information as I was able, I found little solidity and certainty on the subject; which, joined to the opinion of some prudent and respectable persons whom I consulted, had induced me to give up my design entirely, and to renounce laboring on a subject which is so contradictory, and embraces so much uncertainty.
But looking at the matter in another point of view, I resumed my pen, decided upon undeceiving the public, if I found that what was said of it was absolutely false; showing that what is uttered on this subject is uncertain, and that one ought to be very reserved in pronouncing on these vampires, which have made so much noise in the world for a certain time, and still divide opinions at this day, even in the countries which are the scene of their pretended return, and where they appear; or to show that what has been said and written on this subject is not destitute of probability, and that the subject of the return of vampires is worthy the attention of the curious and the learned, and deserves to be seriously studied, to have the facts related of it examined, and the causes, circumstances, and means sounded deeply.
Production notes: This edition of The Phantom World was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 29th January 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Apparition' by James Tissot.