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Chapter XXXIV.—The Illusion of the Sealed Letters; Object in Detailing These Juggleries.

After, then,255255    In the margin of the ms. occur the words, “concerning the breaking of the seals.” we have succinctly explained the powers of the secret arts practised among these (magicians), and have shown their easy plan for the acquisition of knowledge,256256    Or, “exposed their method of proceeding in accordance with the system of Gnosticism.” Schneidewin, following C. Fr. Hermann, is of opinion that what follows is taken from Celsus’ work on magic, to which Origen alludes in the Contra Celsum, lib. i. p. 53 (Spencer’s edition). Lucian (the well-known satirist), in his Alexander, or Pseudomantis, gives an account of the jugglery of these magicians. See note, chap. xlii. of this book. neither are we disposed to be silent on the following point, 38which is a necessary one,—how that, loosing the seals, they restore the sealed letters, with the actual seals themselves. Melting pitch, resin, and sulphur, and moreover asphalt, in equal parts, (and) forming the ointment into a figure, they keep it by them. When, however, it is time to loose a small tablet, smearing with oil their tongue, next with the latter anointing the seal, (and) heating the drug with a moderate fire, (the sorcerers) place it upon the seal; and they leave it there until it has acquired complete consistence, and they use it in this condition as a seal. But they say, likewise, that wax itself with fir-wood gum possesses a similar potency, as well as two parts of mastich with one part of dry asphalt. But sulphur also by itself effects the purpose tolerably well, and flower of gypsum strained with water, and of gum. Now this (last mixture) certainly answers most admirably also for sealing molten lead. And that which is accomplished by the Tuscan wax, and refuse257257    Or, “ground”—φορυκτῆς, (al.) φορυτῆς, (al.) φρυκτῆς, (al.) φρικτῆς. of resin, and pitch, and asphalt, and mastich, and powdered spar, all being boiled together in equal parts, is superior to the rest of the drugs which I have mentioned, while that which is effected by the gum is not inferior. In this manner, then, also, they attempt to loose the seals, endeavouring to learn the letters written within.

These contrivances, however, I hesitated to narrate258258    Or, “insert.” in this book, perceiving the danger lest, perchance, any knavish person, taking occasion (from my account), should attempt (to practise these juggleries). Solicitude, however, for many young persons, who could be preserved from such practices, has persuaded me to teach and publish, for security’s sake, (the foregoing statements).  For although one person may make use of these for gaining instruction in evil, in this way somebody else will, by being instructed (in these practices), be preserved from them. And the magicians themselves, corrupters of life, will be ashamed in plying their art. And learning these points that have been previously elucidated259259    Or “taught,” or “adduced,” or “delivered.” by us, they will possibly be restrained from their folly. But that this seal may not be broken, let me seal it with hog’s lard and hair mixed with wax.260260    This sentence is obviously out of place, and should properly come in probably before the words, “These contrivances, however, I hesitated to narrate,” etc., a few lines above in this chapter. The Abbe Cruice conjectures that it may have been written on the margin by some reader acquainted with chemistry, and that afterwards it found its way into the text.

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