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It is recorded of Mahomet, that, upon a visit 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 sedans; 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, has been since 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 should pay reprisals to such as would challenge them; wherein 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 beside this of Mahomet.

For my own part, I must confess to bear a very singular 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 distinguished 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 ex

amples 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 disFor, 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 inquiry 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 assembly, 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 esteem this present disquisition; for I do not remember any 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, has been able to produce revolutions of the greatest figure in history; as will soon appear to those who know anything of Arabia, Persia, India, or China, of Morocco and Peru. Farther, it has possessed as great a power in the kingdom of knowledge; where it is hard to assign one art or science which has not annexed to it some fanatic branch: such are, the philosopher's stone; the grand elixir; the planetary worlds; the squaring of the circle; the summum 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 has passed under the general name of enthusiasm, and perhaps arisen from the same original, yet has 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 soul, 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 second is the immediate act of the Devil, and is termed possession. The third is the product of natural causes, the effect of strong imagination, spleen, violent anger, fear, grief, pain, and the like. These three have been abundantly treated on by authors, and therefore shall not employ my inquiry.

* Some writers hold them for the same, others not.- Original.



But the fourth method of religious enthusiasm, or launching out of the soul, as it is purely an effect of artifice and mechanic operation, has been sparingly handled, or not at all, by any writer; because, though it is an art of great antiquity, yet, having been confined to few persons, it long wanted those advancements and refinements which it afterwards met with, since it has grown so epidemic, and fallen into so many cultivating hands.

It is, therefore, upon this mechanical operation of the spirit that I mean to treat, as it is at present performed by our British workmen. I shall deliver to the reader the result of many judicious observations upon the matter; tracing, as near as I can, the whole course and method of this trade, producing parallel instances, and relating certain discoveries, that have luckily fallen in my way.

I have said, that there is one branch of religious enthusiasm which is purely an effect of nature; whereas the part I mean to handle is wholly an effect of art, which, however, is inclined to work upon certain natures and constitutions more than others. Besides, there is many an operation which, in its original, was purely an artifice, but through a long succession of ages has grown to be natural. Hippocrates tells us, that among our ancestors, the Scythians, there was a nation called Long-heads; which at first began, by a custom among midwives and nurses, of moulding, and squeezing, and bracing up the heads of infants; by which means nature, shut out at one passage, was forced to seek another, and finding room above, shot upward in the form of a sugar-loaf; and, being diverted that way for some generations, at last found it out of herself, needing no assistance from the nurse's hand. This was the original of the Scythian Long-heads, and thus did custom, from being a second nature, proceed to be

a first. To all which there is something very analogous among us of this nation, who are the undoubted posterity of that refined people. For, in the age of our fathers, there arose a generation of men in this island, called Round-heads,* whose race is now spread over three kingdoms; yet, in its beginning, was merely an operation of art, produced by a pair of scissars, a squeeze of the face, and a black cap. These heads, thus formed into a perfect sphere in all assemblies, were most exposed to the view of the female sort, which did influence their conceptions so effectually, that nature at last took the hint and did it of herself; so that a round-head has been ever since as familiar a sight among us as a long-head among the Scythians.

Upon these examples, and others easy to produce, I desire the curious reader to distinguish, first, between an effect grown from art into nature, and one that is natural from its beginning: secondly, between an effect wholly natural, and one which has only a natural foundation, but where the superstructure is entirely artificial. For the first and the last of these I understand to come within the districts of my subject. And having obtained these allowances, they will serve to remove any objections that may be raised hereafter against what I shall advance.

The practitioners of this famous art proceed, in general, upon the following fundamental: that the corruption of the senses is the generation of the spirit; because the senses in men are so many avenues to the fort of reason, which, in this operation, is

*The fanatics in the time of Charles I., ignorantly applying the text, "Ye know that it is a shame for men to have long hair, cut theirs very short. It is said, that the queen once seeing Pym, a celebrated patriot, thus cropped, inquired who that roundheaded man was, and that from this incident the distinction became general, and the party were called round-heads.-H.

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