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vol. 3, p. 113
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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De la Demonialite, et da Animaux Incubes et Succubes. Par le R. P. L. M. Sinistrari d’Ameno. Ouvrage inedit, public d’aprfes le manuscrit original et traduit du Latin par Isidore Liseux. Paris: Liseux. London: Williams and Norgate.

La Coinference entre Luther et le Viable au svjet de la Mcsse. Traduction nouvelle en regard du texto Latin par Isidore Liseux. Paris: Liseux.

Few hunters after old books upon old bookstalls can promise themselves the good fortune of M. Isidore Liseux, who, in 1872, picked up, “chez M. Allen, respectable vieillard etabli dans J’Euston Road,” the MS., written under the author’s inspection, of Father Ludovico Maria Sinistrari’s suppressed and hitherto unknown treatise, ‘De Daemonialitate, et Incubis et Succubis.’ Of the suppression of the treatise we shall speak anon; meanwhile it seems needful before all things to enlighten the reader respecting the precise nature of “demoniality.” It denotes neither more nor less than illicit intercourse with an incubus or a succubus, i.e. a male or female imp. The offence, being wholly imaginary, was consistently esteemed by the Church as exceedingly grievous, and the original object of Father Sinistrari’s investigations was to determine its relative enormity in comparison with other sexual aberrations. To follow him through his ingenious reasonings on this topic would tend more to amusement than edification. We shall therefore leave his arguments and conclusions as we find them, and confine our attention to the hypothesis which, after mature investigation, he was led to promulgate respecting the nature of the incubi and succubae themselves. It is not a little startling to find these comprehended by him under the definition of angels. Father Sinistrari, however, bids us remark that his theory should not be rashly rejected, inasmuch as it affords the long-desiderated means of reconciling the otherwise contradictory decisions of two councils. The Second Council of Nice has distinctly pronounced angels to be corporeal and material; the Lateran Council has no less clearly defined them as immaterial and spiritual. Hence a perplexity and a scandal conveniently obviated by supposing the propositions of the councils to have been designed to apply to two different descriptions of angelic lbeings. Father Sinistrari next judiciously observes that the designation of angel, referring to a function and not to the nature of the individual discharging it, may with propriety be bestowed upon the devils or fallen angels themselves, much more upon mere incubi and succubae. Ho next proceeds to undertake the rehabilitation of these latter calumniated personages, and to prove that, though hitherto erroneously classed with fiends, they constitute a distinct and highly respectable order of creation, bearing a strong affinity to the elemental spirits of the Rosicrucians. An ounce of fact being worth a pound of theory, the Father clenches the matter by an accurate report of two remarkable cases, the first occurring in the spiritual practice of a friend, the latter in his own. A nun, long molested by the visits of a certain spirit, received relief from the prescription of an erudite theologian, who, observing the patient to be of a phlegmatic constitution, sagaciously inferred that the demon’s temperament must be cold and watery as well. He therefore exhibited fumigations and amulets of ginger, musk, benzoin, and similar calorific substances, which had the effect of so thoroughly disgusting the spirit with the object of his affections that he entirely renounced her acquaintance. Instructed, as he supposed, by this occurrence, Father Sinistrari himself, when called on to prescribe for a young deacon similarly afflicted, administered brandy and scented snuff, which the patient absorbed, nothing loth. It soon appeared, however, that the Father had made an enormous mistake, for the spirit appreciated the brandy and snuff as highly as the deacon himself, and actually had the impudence to assume the semblance of his victim, and thus disguised, present himself before the ecclesiastical authorities to claim the rations of the latter. Upon this hint Father Sinistrari changed his tactics, locked up the stimulants, and dosed his patient “with herbs of a frigid nature, such as hepatica, euphorbia, mandragora, and hyoscyamus,” until the discomfited demon took himself off, or rather, as sceptics may suggest, the deacon thought proper to get well.

The material constitution of the goblins being thus experimentally demonstrated, a series of the most interesting inquiries naturally suggest themselves. In what respect do they differ from mankind? How did they come into existence? What is their shape? Are there distinctions of sex among them? Are they subject to decay and death? Father Sinistrari opines that they are born and die, are male and female, are endowed with human perceptions and passions, and receive nourishment like mankind, only from finer and more subtle diet, more particularly the smell of roast meat. For the rest, he sees no reason why they may not associate in societies, acknowledge degrees of rank and precedence, build cities, raise armies, hold public offices, and cultivate the sciences and arts. If the Father had confined himself to this description of speculation, he might probably have escaped ecclesiastical censure; but he goes further, and in his zeal for the spiritual welfare of his incubuses, moots such ticklish questions as whether they have souls to be saved, and, if so, whether they are capable of redemption. He is inclined to resolve these problems in the affirmative, pointing out the extreme probability of their original progenitor having sinned, in which case his descendants must be afflicted with original sin of course, and reminding the incredulous that the prayers of St. Anthony were requested by a satyr, a circumstance attested by two saints. On the whole, Father Sinistrari raises so many awkward questions, and his well-intentioned prolusion wears so much of the appearance of a burlesque upon orthodoxy, that it is no wonder that only about five pages of this discussion, ‘De Daemonialitate’ should have been allowed to find their way into his more comprehensive treatise, “De Delictis et Poenis,” of which it was to have formed a part. Even this work, published at Venice in 1700, was placed in the Index Expurgatorius in 1709, and remained there until the appearance of a corrected edition at Rome in 1754. M. Liseux does not tell us in what respects these editions vary. We are exceedingly indebted to him for the recovery and preservation of Father Sinistrari’s speculations, which would have little significance if merely an instance of individual aberration, but which are in fact a perfectly legitimate development from the Church’s premisses regarding things invisible, and an example of the stage at which the European mind would have arrived if educated solely under the influence of the scholastic philosophy, without the antidotes of 'classical scholarship and experimental science.

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Editor's notes

  1. image by unknown author
  2. Demoniality by Wild, R.S., Examiner, The, No. 3,535, October 30, 1875, pp. 1224-25