Saturday, October 15, 2011

Paracelsus 2: Palingenesis (The Jugglers)

John Gautz, Man Levitating, 1820

        "At Baroche,” says the estimable traveller Tavernier, [1] “there is a first-class English house, which I reached on a certain day with the English president, on my way from Agra to Surat.  There came also certain jugglers, asking leave to exhibit some of their professional skill, and the president was curious to see it.  In the first place they lighted a great fire, at which they heated iron chains, then wound them around their bodies and pretended that they were suffering in consequence, but no harm followed.   They next took a morsel of wood, set it in the ground and asked one of the spectators to choose what fruit he liked.  His choice fell upon mangoes, and thereupon one of the performers put a shroud about him and squatted on the ground five or six times.  I had the curiosity to ascend to an upper room, where I could see through a fold in the sheet what was being done by the man.  He was actually cutting the flesh under the armpits with a razor, and rubbing the wood with his blood.  Each time he rose up the wood grew visibly;  on the third occasion there were branches and buds thereon, on the fourth the tree was covered with leaves, and on the fifth it was bearing flowers.

Howard Thurston theatrical poster, early 20th century

        The English president had brought his chaplain Amadabat to baptise the child of the Dutch commander, the president acting as godfather.  The Dutch, it should be mentioned, do not have chaplains except where soldiers and merchants are gathered together.  The English clergyman began by protesting that he could not consent to Christians assisting at such spectacles, and when he saw how the performers brought from a bit of dry wood, in less than half an hour, a tree of four or five feet in height, having leaves and flowers as in springtime, he felt it his duty to put an end to the business.  He announced therefore that he would not administer communion to those who persisted in witnessing such occurrences.  The president was thus compelled to dismiss the jugglers."

Hindu Jugglers, 1822

      Dr.  Clever de Maldigny [2], to whom we owe this extract, regrets that the growth of the mangoes was thus stopped abruptly, but he does not explain the occurrence.  To our mind it was a case of fascination by the magnetism of the radiant light of blood, a phenomenon of magnetised electricity, identical with that termed palingenesis (παλιγγενεσια), by which a living plant is made to appear in a vessel containing ashes of the same plant long since perished.

Ramo Samee, the most famous Indian juggler, performing at the Royal Coburg Theater (later the Old Vic), London, 1822. ("Is it then a trifling power we see at work, or is it not something next to miraculous! It is the utmost stretch of human ingenuity." William Hazlitt on Ramo Samee: from The Indian Jugglers in Table Talk, 1828 (link))

[1]   From:  Les Six Voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, en Turque, en Perse et aux Indes, Paris, 1676.

[2]  Source not cited by E. Levi. However, the Baron de Maldigny, a surgeon in the Royal Guards of France, is known for  successfully performing a lithotomy on himself before a mirror, thus relieving himself of excruciating pain. This achievement is cited in Dr. Leonard J.T. Murphy's article Self-Performed Operations for Stone in the Bladder, British Journal of Urology, Vol. 41, October 1969,  pp. 515-29.

 Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in Oriental Costume, 1679

 Sparrows in a mango tree, Jaipur

Eliphas Levi, The History of Magic (Including A Clear And Precise Exposition Of Its Procedure, Its Rites And Its Mysteries), 1860 (translated by A.E. Waite, 1913)

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