Dissertations On The Apparitions Of Angels Dmons And Ghosts

Title page of the first tome.

AuthorAbbot R.P. Dom Augustin Calmet
CountryFrance
LanguageFrench with translations in German, Italian and English
Series2 Volumes (tomes)
GenreOccult, Religion, Theology, History, Dissertation

Publication date

1751
Media typePrint
Preceded byDissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits, et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie et de Silésie (1746)

Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, &c. (Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants of Hungary, Moravia, et al.) is one of the many works by an Abbot monk named Antoine Augustin Calmet, an exegete and an 18th century Lorraine scholar of the Benedictine Order; also known as Dom Calmet. The work was published in 2 volumes that dealt with the extensive investigation into occult matters regarding the apparitions of angels, demons and other spirits but also included dissertations on various topics of Magic, sorcery, witchcraft and instances of vampires, revenants and individuals returning from the grave. This study analyzed accounts of these various topics located in the Bible, mythology, cultural legends and famous accounts of historically documented cases or claims.

History[edit]

The work was first published in 1746 under the title Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits, et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie et de Silésie after a great deal of praise and response from his readers, the work was expanded and published with Privilege of the King of France in 1751 under the new title Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, &c. and included letters and dissertations by some of his readers and extra chapters as a response to refutations and various claims.

Publication history[edit]

  • 1746Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits, et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie et de Silésie
(Dissertations on the apparitions of angels, of demons, and spirits and on Revenants or vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia)
  • 1751Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, &c.
(Treatise on the apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants of Hungary, Moravia, et al.)

Structure[edit]

The total work consists of 115 chapters contained in two volumes. The dissertation itself is divided into four parts: In the first, Calmet speaks of good angels; in the second, of the appearance of bad angels; in the third, of the apparitions of souls of the dead; and in the fourth, of the appearance of living men to others living, absent, distant, and this unknown to those who appear; occasionally adding research on magic, wizards, and witches; on the Sabbath, oracles, and the obsession and possession by demons throughout the volumes.[1] He used a scientific approach when looking into pre-modern cases of witchcraft, vampires, superstitious beliefs and various other topics of the occult. He delved into the use of the scientific method, biology, psychology, chemistry, etymology and investigated the history of various legends of folklore to determine whether a claim of hauntings, apparitions or magic were truth or fraud.

Tome 1[edit]

The treatise as a whole consists of extensive research across a wide range of topics. The first tome contains 52 chapters and mostly deals with the apparitions of spirits, angels and demons while also covering the study of magic, sorcery and witchcraft. Topics also include:

  • Angelic and demonic intervention
  • The history, reality and mythology of magic; divination; curses
  • Understanding the difference between real accounts vs that of impostors
  • Examples and instances of real possessions caused by the devil
  • The power and authority which Satan and demons possess
  • False prophets and predictions of happenstance
  • The appearance and examinations of specters and pretended specters
  • Examinations on Specters that haunt houses
  • The dead who return to the earth
  • Explanations and objections on the instances of apparitions;
  • The studies on Familiars; Elves
  • The secrets of physics and chemistry or Alchemy taken as supernatural things

Tome 2[edit]

The second tome consists of 63 chapters and includes a series of letters thereafter. The study includes:

  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Instances of people returning from the grave
  • Examination to people being buried alive but thought to be dead
  • Historical accounts of revenants, ghosts and vampires
  • The study of vampires, ghosts in classical mythology and religions
  • Historically recorded accounts of vampires between the 17th and 18th centuries
  • Examinations on bodies that do not decay and corpses that show life after death
  • The power of demons to kill and restore life
  • On the return of the excommunicated
  • Instances of bodies that devour their own flesh
  • Instances on exhumed bodies and their examinations
  • Analysis on whether vampires or revenants are truly dead
  • Instances of people returning from the grave months after declared deceased.

Letters[edit]

Included in the printing of the second tome were many letters. Some were of approbation but also contained in this collection was a letter written by Marquis of Maffei that was of itself a selected dissertation on magical studies that was written in 16 chapters.

Themes[edit]

Demonic possession[edit]

Calmet, doubtful of the circumstances involved in the Loudun Possessions, made a detailed comparison to other cases he believed was more true to the principle symptoms of demonic possession.

Madomoiselle Elizabeth de Ranfaing[edit]

Calmet researched a judicial case that described the possession of Mademoiselle Elizabeth de Ranfaing, who having become a widow in 1617, was later sought in marriage by a physician (afterwards burned under judicial sentence for being a practicing magician). After being rejected, he gave her philters to make her love him which occasioned strange developments in her health and proceeded to continuously give her some other forms of medicament. The maladies which she suffered were incurable by the various physicians that attended her and eventually led to a recourse of exorcisms as prescribed by several physicians that examined her case. They began to exorcise her in September, 1619. During the exorcisms, the demon that possessed her made detailed and fluid responses in varying languages including French, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Italian and was reportedly able to know and recite the thoughts and sins of various individuals who examined her. She was further also able to describe in detail with the use of various languages the rites and secrets of the church to experts in the languages she spoke. There was even a mention of how the demon interrupted an exorcist, who after making a mistake in his recital of an exorcism rite in Latin, corrected his speech and mocked him.[B 1]

Vampirism[edit]

Calmet describes the vampire as a "revenant corpse" thus distinguishing the intangible ghosts such as phantoms or spirits. He conducted a synthesis of studies on the subject and considers that vampirism is the result of undernourished Balkan.[A 1] As Calmet amassed numerous reports on events of vampires, his attempt to refute false claims of vampirism proved difficult:[B 2]

[T]hey see, it is said, men who have been dead for several months, come back to earth, talk, walk, infest villages, ill use both men and beasts, suck the blood of their near relations, make them ill, and finally cause their death; so that people can only save themselves from their dangerous visits and their hauntings by exhuming them, impaling them, cutting off their heads, tearing out the heart, or burning them. These revenants are called by the name of oupires or vampires, that is to say, leeches; and such particulars are related of them, so singular, so detailed, and invested with such probable circumstances and such judicial information, that one can hardly refuse to credit the belief which is held in those countries, that these revenants come out of their tombs and produce those effects which are proclaimed of them.

Calmet anazlyzed many famous cases including Arnold Paole. Calmet also investigated the Lettres juives in which an account of a vampire had been recorded in 1732 Hungary, witnessed by officers of the tribunal of Belgrade and an officer to the emperor's troops at Graditz. Although the letters were published as an epistolary novel, it was widely believed to be accurate and true records by the populace at the time.

Also investigated were various judicial cases of dead persons reported to return from the grave attack and suck the blood of the living. One such case was in 1730 of a soldier lodged at the house of a peasant in Hungary. As the soldier sat with the homeowner and the rest of the company at the table for dinner, a person he did not know come into the home and quietly sat at the table with them. The homeowner appeared frightened and was discovered deceased the next day. After inquiry, the soldier learned that the father of the homeowner had died and was buried 10 years before and the family believed the man who came the previous night was the father's body. The soldier informed the regiment, giving notice to the general officers who commissioned the captain of the infantry to further investigate. The captain, accompanied by other officers, a surgeon and an auditor had recorded dispositions of the family who confirmed the soldier's report and also received dispositions of all the residents of the village. The corpse of father was ordered to be exhumed and was found to be in the likeness of a man recently deceased but with the blood-flow of a living man. The Count de Cabreras ordered the corpse's head to be cut off and to be re-entered in his tomb.[B 3] The count also received other information of another man dead for more than thirty years that was reported by family to have come back to his house on three separate occasions during meal time. On the first he had sucked the blood from the neck of his brother, the second time from one of his sons, and the third from one of the servants in the house; all three of which had died immediately after. Upon this disposition, the commissary took the suspected corpse from the grave finding it to be like the first corpse discovered with a living blood-flow and he ordered them to run a large nail through the temple then placed back into the grave.[B 4]

Reactions and scholarly criticism[edit]

Calmet's treatise was awarded numerous approbations and letters of criticism following his first publication in 1746, many of which were included in its republication and expanded 1751 version that included new chapters to answer his audience.

The treatise received 'Approbation of the King' to the 7th Register on the registry of The Chamber of Royal Booksellers and Printers to Paris on June 9, 1751.[B 5]

He is mentioned by Voltaire[2][E 1] who in his Dictionnaire philosophique explains:[3]

Calmet became their historian, and treated vampires as he treated the Old and New Testament, reporting faithfully all that had been said before him

Cultural impact[edit]

Calmet analyzed a report that was written from a priest who learned information of a town being tormented by a vampiric entity 3 years earlier. After having traveled to the town to investigate and collect information of the various inhabitants there, the priest learned that a vampire had tormented many of the inhabitants at night by coming out from the nearby cemetery to haunt many of the residents at their beds. An unknown Hungarian traveler came to the town during this time and helped the town by setting a trap at the cemetery which ultimately led to the decapitation of the vampire that resided there and curing the town of their torment. This story was retold by Sheridan Le Fanu and adapted into the thirteenth chapter of the novella Carmilla, a work that heavily inspired Bram Stoker's classic Dracula.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • Claude, LeCouteux. Historie des Vampires: Autopsie d'un mythe (History of Vampires: Anatomy of a Myth). p. 195. ISBN 978-2-911416-29-3. 
  • Marigny, Jean. Sang pour Sang, Le Reveil des Vampires (Blood for Blood, The Vampire Awakening). ISBN 0-8128-8511-2. 
  • Calmet, Augustin (1751). Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. The Complete Volumes I & II. 2015. ISBN 1-5331-4568-7. 

References[edit]

  • Ildefonso Cathelinot and Gilles Banderier (2008). Jérôme Millon, ed. Reflections on the Apparitions Treatise of Calmet. ISBN 9782841372232. 
  • Hoyt, Olga (1984). Lust for Blood:The Consuming Story of Vampires. Chelsea: Scarborough House. ISBN 0-8128-8511-2. 
  • Calmet, Augustine. Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. The Complete Volumes I & II. 2016. ISBN 978-1-5331-4568-0. 

External links[edit]

  1. ^Calmet, Augustin. Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. The Complete Volumes I & II. 2016. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-5331-4568-0. 
  2. ^Hoyt (1984). pp. 101–106. 
  3. ^"Article "Vampires"". Dictionnaire philosophique of Voltaire online. 
  1. ^p. 138-143.
  2. ^p. 303-304
  3. ^p. 329
  4. ^p. 330
  5. ^p. 579-580
Warning Christian Dogma and Biblical Exposition Ahead!

This is the beginning of a short series where we will look at various topics of the paranormal and Fortean variety and see if Christian Scripture has anything relevant to say about them.

First on our paranormal plate is Ghosts!

Since The Sci-Fi Channel’s hit TV series Ghost Hunters hit the airwaves a few years ago investigations into the paranormal has gained in popularity. Seems like people are paying attention and a week does not go by lately when you see a news report of a local haunting. Here is one from my Youtube page that I recently put up that features an apparition caught on a security camera from a :

As the popularity of Ghost hunting spreads it forces many people to take a hard look at their views of the afterlife and re-examine them in accordance with their long held traditions and religious faith. To many there is a conflict between the way they view subjects of the paranormal and what the teachers of dogma in their faith dictate.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a woman who felt conflicted with her beliefs in the paranormal and her church’s view on the supernatural:

Pastor Swope,

I have been struggling with my beliefs in the paranormal, ie.ghosts, spirits, demons, ufos, etc. My fascination with this subject has me questioning if God would or does approve? I truly believe that after death, we go somewhere, we are energy and energy cannot die, our souls evolve to a higher plain, albeit ,heaven or hell. I was raised catholic and consider myself Christian. Some Christian teachings forbid any affiliation or belief in ghosts, they insist all is demonic. I would like to know what your belief is on this subject. I am a huge fan of the show "Ghosthunters" and never miss an episode, am I sinning? Throughout my life strange things have happened to me that defied explanation, during my teenage years(I am 51),while babysitting is Levittown,PA, Red Rosa Gate to be exact, there was a spirit living in the house that played strange games, and scared me more often then not. My parents bought a home in shortly after I was married with children, and their house was haunted, my Mother insisted it was the former resident, an old woman. Could this indeed be demonic in nature and tricking us to believe they are friendly spirits? I I would be very thankful to get your opinion on this subject. I don't want to anger God with my beliefs!

Sincerely,

K.B.

I have known many Christians who struggle with their belief in the paranormal and church teachings. But what does the Bible say about Ghostly apparitions? What are they? Is it heresy to believe such things?

Many Evangelical and Fundamental Christian writers (I would call them Theologians but with many it is quite evident that they have not had training in Biblical Scholarship past Sunday morning ) claim that the popular concept of a ghost and spectral hauntings are unbiblical. Many Catholic Theologians would agree with this view. But in the whole of Christianity these beliefs vary quite broadly. I have many friends and associates that think all ghosts are actually demonic spirits mimicking the behavior of expired human beings in order to lead people astray from “pure” Christian faith. Others believe that Ghosts are merely residue of a past life and does not have anything to do with the actual person’s soul or spirit. And I have a few friends who are avid Ghost Hunters in their own right and can determine true hauntings from apparitions and discern wayward spirits from demonic entities.

It all comes down to what view the person has on the afterlife. Where do we go when we die? There are many references in the Bible that points to the destination of the person after death. Let’s first look at these.

2 Corinthians 5:1,6-8

“For we know that if our earthly house this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

“We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Many people who argue against Ghosts as unbiblical point to verses 6-8. When we are dead, we are with God in heaven. So according to this view, there can be no such thing as a real haunting because the soul and spirit are in heaven at the point of death.

However that would be taking the scripture out of context. The Apostle Paul is writing this in a Roman jail. He is about to die. Christianity is an illegal religion at this time and those who align themselves with the group face torture or even death. Paul talks to the church at to ease their troubled hearts. Our lives are but passing, but the afterlife is eternal. Our mortal body will die, but we will be given a new one that is immortal. The Apostle Paul desires to be in that new immortal body so he can physically be with the Lord. According to Systematic Christian Theology this new body is not given to us at death, but rather at the resurrection of the just or the ‘rapture’.

The rapture is the Christian theological belief that Jesus will descend from heaven at the end of days and resurrect all His followers just as He was resurrected after He died. The mortal body will be replaced with a supernatural immortal body. Two of the main Biblical passages that give details about this are 1 Corinthians -58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These passages are lengthy so I will not include them in total here, if you wish to read them in their entirety please click on the passage and you will be redirected to them.

But these passages are telling when it comes to what happens to the persona after death.

1 Corinthians reads

“Behold, I will tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep but we shall be changed.”

1 Thessalonians reads

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”

The term ‘sleep’ is a euphemism for death in Christian Scripture (John -14). The writer for all of these books is the Apostle Paul, so rather than supporting the idea that when we die we are with God in heaven he states that those who die ‘sleep’.What does this mean? It refers to the body, not the spirit or soul. The body sleeps at death until it is changed into a new supernatural one at the end of days.

So what happens to our invisible part, the spirit or soul after death? Can the spirit still roam the Earth after death?

The Bible does talk about Ghosts, and the spirit of the dead returning to the earth.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 28:7-25we see Saul King of visit a medium when God does not answer him when war approaches. The prophet Samuel has died and King Saul asks the medium to bring up Samuel from the dead. The Ghost of Samuel talks to the King and tells him his fate is sealed just as he told him while he was alive. Verses 11-15 talk about the appearance of the Ghost of Samuel:

Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!” And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

The Bible clearly states that this is the Ghost of the prophet Samuel. Nowhere in the text does it state that he is otherwise. The spirit is the disembodied essence of the man, and he is recognizable.He is ‘brought up’ from the earth by the witch of Endor, brought from the grave to their presence.

According to the Old Testament, the concept of a Ghost or disembodies spirit of a deceased person is not only real, it is Scriptural.

What about the New Testament? A lot of Theological concepts evolve between the Testaments, such as Grace, Forgiveness and a host of others. What about the concept of a Ghost? Does this evolve as well after the teachings of Jesus?

Almost everyone has heard the story of Jesus walking on water, and if you ever went to Sunday School as a kid I am sure you additionally heard about Peter attempting to do the same and failing. This tale of trust and faith has been used for millennia to teach and encourage Christians. But just before the text talks about Peter’s attempt to come to Jesus on the water the text tells us something unusual:

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”Matthew 14:25-27

The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. And they were afraid. Now if ghostly apparitions are all demonic presences as some Christians report, why were the disciples afraid? Just a few chapters earlier Jesus had demonstrated how to exorcise evil spirits and then commissioned the disciples to go all over the land and do so.(Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 10:1-4) Although not implicit in the text it would seem that they should have had some personal experience in exorcism by themselves. So why were they afraid? Because they believed in Ghosts-the disembodied spirits of the dead who still roam the earth. And not only that, Jesus did not rebuke them for thinking he was a Ghost, instead He just calmed them down and let them know it was Him. If the concept of a disembodied spirit is so unbiblical why did Jesus let his disciples believe such things exist without correction?

Christian Scripture itself attests to the validity of Ghosts, and supports the idea that they are the disembodied spirits of the dead. Later Bible readers and teachers have read into the text their preconceived notions instead of reading from the texts and basing their ideas from the Scripture itself. Cults do the same thing to make their religious claims seem legit.

But let no one fool you. Belief in Ghosts is Scriptural. And to turn a phrase that the Fundamentalists use against them I would say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

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