The learned Æolists maintain the original cause of all things to be wind, from which principle this whole universe was at first produced, and into which it must at last be resolved; that the same breath which had kindled and blew up the flame of nature, should one day blow it out: Quod procul a nobis flectat Fortuna gubernans.
Lucretius, Liber 5, 108'Controlling fate avert from us the day!'
This is what the adepti understand by their anima mundi; that is to say, the spirit, or breath, or wind of the world; for, examine the whole system by the particulars of nature, and you will find it not to be disputed. For whether you please to call the forma informans of man, by the name of spiritus, animus, afflatus, or anima; what are all these but several appellations for wind, which is the ruling element in every compound, and into which they all resolve upon their corruption? Farther, what is life itself, but, as it is commonly called, the breath of our nostrils? whence it is very justly observed by naturalists, that wind still continues of great emolument in certain mysteries not to be named, giving occasion for those happy epithets of turgidus and inflatus, applied either to the emittent or recipient organs.
By what I have gathered out of ancient records, I find the compass of their doctrine took in two and thirty points, wherein it would be tedious to be very particular. However, a few of their most important precepts, deducible from it, are by no means to be omitted; among which the following maxim was of much weight: that since wind had the master-share, as well as operation, in every compound, by consequence those beings must be of chief excellence wherein that primordium appears most prominently to abound; and therefore man is in highest perfection of all created things, as having by the great bounty of philosophers, been endued with three distinct animas or
p.80winds, to which the sage Æolists, with much liberality, have added a fourth, of equal necessity as well as ornament with the other three; by this quartum principium taking in the four corners of the world; which gave occasion to that renowned cabalist, Bumbastus,155 of placing the body of a man in due position to the four cardinal points.
In consequence of this, their next principle was, that man brings with him into the world a peculiar portion or grain of wind, which may be called a quinta essentia, extracted from the other four. This quintessence is of a catholic use upon all emergencies of life, is improveable into all arts and sciences, and may be wonderfully refined, as well as enlarged by certain methods in education. This, when blown up to its perfection, ought not to be covetously hoarded up, stifled, or hid under a bushel, but freely communicated to mankind. Upon these reasons, and others of equal weight, the wise Æolists affirm the gift of BELCHING to be the noblest act of a rational creature. To cultivate which art, and render it more serviceable to mankind, they made use of several methods. At certain seasons of the year, you might behold the priests amongst them in vast numbers, with their mouths gaping wide against a storm.156 At other times were to be seen several hundreds linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour's breech, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a tun; and for that reason, with great propriety of speech, did usually call their bodies their vessels. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue, for the public good, a plentiful share of their acquirements, into their disciples' chaps. For we must here observe, that all learning was esteemed among them to be compounded from the same principle. Because, first, it is generally affirmed, or confessed that learning puffeth men up: and, secondly, they proved it by the following syllogism: Words are but wind; and learning is nothing but words; ergo, learning is nothing but wind. For this reason, the philosophers among them did in their schools deliver to their pupils all their doctrines and opinions, by eructation, wherein they had acquired a wonderful eloquence, and of incredible variety. But the great characteristic by which their chief sages were best distinguished, was a certain position of countenance, which gave undoubted intelligence to what degree or proportion the spirit agitated the inward mass. For, after certain gripings, the wind and vapours issuing forth (having first by their turbulence and convulsions within) caused an earthquake in man's little world,) distorted the mouth, bloated the cheeks, and gave the eyes a terrible kind of relievo; at which junctures all their belches were received for sacred, the sourer the better, and swallowed with infinite consolation by their meagre devotees. And, to render these yet more complete, because the breath of man's life is in his nostrils, therefore the choicest, most edifying, and most enlivening belches, were very wisely conveyed through that vehicle, to give them a tincture as they passed.
Their gods were the four winds, whom they worshipped as the spirits that pervade and enliven the universe, and as those from whom alone all inspiration can properly be said to proceed. However, the chief of these, to whom they performed the adoration of latria, was the almighty North, an ancient deity, whom the inhabitants of Megalopolis, in Greece, had likewise in highest reverence: omnium deorum Boream maxime celebrant.
Pausanias, Liber 8.157 This god, though endued with ubiquity, was yet supposed by the profounder Æolists to possess one peculiar habitation, or (to speak in form) a coelum empyroeum, wherein he was more intimately present. This was situated in a certain region, well known to the ancient Greeks, by them called Skotia or the land of darkness. And although many controversies have arisen upon that matter; yet so much is undisputed; that from a region of the like denomination, the most refined Æolists have borrowed their original; from whence, in every age, the zealous among their priesthood have brought over their choicest inspiration, fetching it with their own hands from the fountain-head in certain bladders, and disploding it among the sectaries in all nations, who did, and do, and ever will, daily gasp and pant after it.
Now, their mysteries and rites were performed in this manner.158 It is well known among the learned, that the virtuosoes of former ages had a contrivance for carrying and preserving winds in casks or barrels, which was of great assistance upon long sea-voyages: and the loss of so useful an art at present is very much to be lamented; although, I know not how, with great negligence omitted by Pancirolus.159 It was an invention ascribed to Æolus himself, from whom this sect is denominated; who, in honour of their founder's memory, have to this day preserved great numbers of those barrels, whereof they fix one in each of their temples, first beating out
p.81the top; into this barrel, upon solemn days, the priest enters; where, having before duly prepared himself by the methods already described, a secret funnel is also conveyed from his posteriors to the bottom of the barrel, which admits new supplies of inspiration from a northern chink or cranny. Whereupon, you behold him swell immediately to the shape and size of his vessel. In this posture he disembogues whole tempests upon his auditory, as the spirit from beneath gives him utterance, which, issuing ex adytis and penetralibus is not performed without much pain and gripings. And the wind, in breaking forth, deals with his face as it does with that of the sea, first blackening, then wrinkling, and at last bursting it into a foam. It is in this guise the sacred Æolist delivers his oracular belches to his panting disciples; of whom some are greedily gaping after the sanctified breath; others are all the while hymning out the praises of the winds; and, gently wafted to and fro by their own humming, do thus represent the soft breezes of their deities appeased.160
It is from this custom of the priests, that some authors maintain these Æolists to have been very ancient in the world. Because the delivery of their mysteries, which I have just now mentioned, appears exactly the same with that of other ancient oracles, whose inspirations were owing to certain subterraneous effluviums of wind, delivered with the same pain to the priest, and much about the same influence on the people. It is true, indeed, that these were frequently managed and directed by female officers, whose organs were understood to be better disposed for the admission of those oracular gusts, as entering and passing up through a receptacle of greater capacity, and causing also a pruriency by the way, such as, with due management, hath been refined from a carnal into a spiritual ecstasy. And, to strengthen this profound conjecture, it is farther insisted, that this custom of female priests161 is kept up still in certain refined colleges of our modern Æolists, who are agreed to receive their inspiration, derived through the receptacle aforesaid, like their ancestors the sybils.
And whereas the mind of man, when he gives the spur and bridle to his thoughts, does never stop, but naturally sallies out into both extremes, of high and low, of good and evil; his first flight of fancy commonly transports him to ideas of what is most perfect, finished, and exalted; till having soared out of his own reach and sight, not well perceiving how near the frontiers of height and depth border upon each other;162 with the same course and wing he falls down plumb into the lowest bottom of things; like one who travels the east into the west, or like a straight line drawn by its own length into a circle. Whether a tincture of malice in our natures makes us fond of furnishing every bright idea with its reverse; or whether reason, reflecting upon the sum of things, can, like the sun, serve only to enlighten one half of the globe, leaving the other half by necessity under shade and darkness; or whether fancy, flying up to the imagination of what is highest and best, becomes overshot, and spent, and weary, and suddenly falls, like a dead bird of paradise, to the ground; or whether, after all these metaphysical conjectures, I have not entirely missed the true reason; the proposition, however, which has stood me in so much circumstance, is altogether true; that as the most uncivilised parts of mankind have some way or other climbed up into the conception of a god, or supreme power, so they have seldom forgot to provide their fears with certain ghastly notions, which, instead of better, have served them pretty tolerably for a devil. And this proceeding seems to be natural enough; for it is with men whose imaginations are lifted up very high, after the same rate as with those whose bodies are so; that, as they are delighted with the advantage of a nearer contemplation upwards, so they are equally terrified with the dismal prospect of the precipice below. Thus, in the choice of a devil, it has been the usual method of mankind, to single out some being, either in act or in vision, which was in most antipathy to the god they had framed. Thus also the sect of Æolists possessed themselves with a dread, and horror, and hatred, of two malignant natures, betwixt whom and the deities they adored, perpetual enmity was established. The first of these was the chameleon,163 sworn foe to inspiration, who in scorn devoured large influences of their god, without refunding the smallest blast by eructation. The other was a huge terrible monster, called Moulinavent, who, with four strong arms, waged eternal battle with all their divinities, dexterously turning to avoid their blows, and repay them with interest.164
Thus furnished, and set out with gods, as well as devils, was the renowned sect of Æolists, which makes at this day so illustrious a figure in the world, and whereof that polite nation of Laplanders are, beyond all doubt, a most authentic branch; of whom I therefore cannot, without injustice, here omit to make honourable mention, since they appear to be so closely allied in point of interest, as well as inclinations, with their brother Æolists among us, as not only to buy their winds by wholesale from the same merchants, but also to retail them after the same rate and method, and to customers much alike.
Now, whether this system here delivered was wholly compiled by Jack, or, as some writers believe, rather copied from the original at Delphos, with certain additions and emendations, suited to the times and circumstances, I shall not absolutely determine. This I may affirm, that Jack gave it at least a new turn, and formed it into the same dress and model as it lies deduced by me.
I have long sought after this opportunity of doing justice to a society of men for whom I have a peculiar honour, and whose opinions, as well as practices, have been extremely misrepresented and traduced by the malice or ignorance of their adversaries. For I think it one of the greatest and best of human actions to remove prejudices, and place things in their truest and fairest light: which I therefore boldly undertake, without any regards of my own, besides the conscience, the honour, and the thanks.