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However, I have been perplexed for some time,
Now, Sir, to proceed after the method in present wear : (for, let me say what I will to the contrary, I am afraid you will publish this letter, as soon as ever it comes to your hand:) I desire you will be my witness to the world, how careless and sudden a scribble it has been; that it was but yesterday, when you and I began accidentally to fall into discourse on this matter; that I was not very well when we parted; that the post is in such hafte, I have had no manner of time to digest it into order, or correct the style; and if any other modern excuses, for haste and negligence, shall occur to you in reading, I beg you
to insert them, faithfully promising they shall be thankfully acknowledged.
Pray, Sir, in your next letter to the Iroquois virtuosi
, do me the favour to present my humble service to that illustrious body; and aflure them, I shall send an account of those phenomena, as soon as we can determine them at Gresham.
I have not had a line from the literati of Tobi nambou these three last ordinaries.
And now, Sir, having dispatched what I had to say, of forms, or of business, let me intreat, you will suffer me to proceed upon my subject; and to pardon me, if I make no further use of the epistolary style, till I come to conclude.
he was going to pay in Paradise, he had an offer of several vehicles to conduct him upwards ; as fiery chariots, winged horses, and celestial fedans : but he refused them all, and would be borne to heaven upon nothing but his ass. Now, this inclination of Mahomet, as singular as it seems, hath been fince taken up by a great number of devout Christians; and doubtless with very good reason. For since that Arabian is known to have borrowed a moiety of his religious system from the Christian faith, it is but just he Mhould pay reprisals to such as would challenge them; where
in the good people of England, to do them all right, have not been backward. For though there is not any other nation in the world so plentifully provided with carriages for that journey, either as to safety or ease, yet there are abundance of us, who will not be satisfied with any other machine, besides this of Mahomet. For my own part,
I must confess to bear a very fingular respect to this animal, by whom I take human nature to be most admirably held forth, in all its qualities, as well as operations : and, therefore, whatever in my small reading occurs, concerning this our fellow-creature, I do never fail to set it down by way of common-place; and, when I have occasion to write upon human reason, politics, eloquence, or knowledge, I lay my memorandums before me, and insert them with a wonderful facility of application. However, among all the qualifications ascribed to this diftinguished brute, by ancient or modern authors, I cannot remember this talent, of bearing his rider to heaven, has been recorded for a part of his character, except in the two examples mentioned already. Therefore, I conceive the methods of this art to be a point of useful knowledge in very few hands, and which the learned world would gladly be better informed in: this is what I have undertaken to perform in the following discourse. For towards the operation already mentioned, many peculiar properties are required, both
in the rider and the ass; which I shall. endeavour to set in as clear a light as I can.
But, because I am resolved, by all means, to avoid giving offence to any party whatever, I will leave off discoursing so closely to the letter as I have hitherto done, and go on for the future by way of allegory, though in such a manner, that the judicious reader may, without much straining, make his applications, as often as he shall think fit. Therefore, if you please, from henceforward, instead of the term ass, we shall make use of gifted, or enlightened teacher; and the word rider we will exchange for that of fanatic auditory, or any other denomination of the like import. Having settled this weighty point, the great subject of enquiry before us, is, to examine, by what methods this teacher arrives at his gifts, or spirit, or light; and by what intercourse between him and his afsembly it is cultivated and supported.
In all my writings, I have had constant regard to this great end, not to suit and apply them to particular occasions, and circumstances of time, of place, or of person; but to calculate them for universal nature, and mankind in general. And of such catholic use I efteem this present disqui. fition: for I do not remember
other temper of body, or quality of mind, wherein all nations and ages of the world have so unanimously agreed, as that of a fanatic strain, or tincture of enthusiasm; which, improved by certain persons or societies of men, and by them practised upon the
rest, rest, has been able to produce revolutions of the greatest figure in history; as will soon appear to those who know any thing of Arabia, Perfia, India, or China, of Morocco and Peru. Farther, it has poflefled as great a power in the kingdom of knowledge, where it is hard to affign one art or science, which has not annexed to it fome fanatic branch : fuch are the philosopher's stone, the grand elixir *, the planetary worlds, the Squaring of the circle, the fummum bonum, Utopian commonwealths, with some others of less or subordinate note; which all serve for nothing else, but to employ or amuse this grain of enthusiasm, dealt into every composition.
But if this plant has found a root in the fields of Empire and of Knowledge, it has fixed deeper, and spread yet farther upon holy ground: wherein, though it hath passed under the general name of enthusiasm, and perhaps arisen from the same original, yet hath it produced certain branches of a very different nature, however often mistaken for each other. The word, in its universal acceptation, may be defined, A lifting up of the Joul, or its faculties, above matter. This description will hold good in general: but I am only to understand it as applied to religion; wherein there are three general ways of ejaculating the soul, or transporting it beyond the sphere of matter. The first is the immediate act of God, and is called prophecy or inspiration. The fecond is the imme.
diate Some writers hold them for the same, others not.