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and the immortal and incorporeal soul, that immediately returns to God that gave it; but also, that after death they all three exist separately, the soul in immortality, and the body in the earth, though soon consuming; and the astral spirit, that wanders in the air, and, without doubt, doth make those strange apparitions, motions, and bleedings."
Mr Webster now illustrates his case by a very striking account of a spectral impression, in which the astral spirit of a murdered man is supposed to have retained all the cogitations impressed upon the mind at the hour of death, along with the faculties of con.cupiscibility and irascibility, by which it was compelled to seek for its revenge.
“ About the year of our Lord 1623 or 24, one Fletcher of Rascal, a town in the North Riding of Yorkshire, near unto the forest of Gantress, a yeoman of good estate, did marry a young lusty woman from Thornton Brigs, who had been formerly kind with one Ralph Raynard, who kept an inn within half-amile from Rascal, in the high-road-way betwixt York and Thirske, his sister living with him. This Raynard continued in unlawful lust with the said Fletcher's wife, who, not content therewith, conspired the death of Fletcher, one Mark Dunn being made privy, and hired to assist in the murther. Which Raynard and Dunn accomplished upon the May-day, by drowning Fletcher, as they came all three together from a town called Huby; and acquainting the wife with the deed, she gave them a sack therein to convey the body, which they did, and buried it in Raynard's backside or croft, where an old oak-root had been
stubbed up, and sowed mustard-seed upon the place, · thereby to hide it. So they continued their wicked course of lust and drunkenness, and the neighbours did much wonder at Fletcher's'absence; but his wife did excuse it, and said, that he was but gone aside for fear of some writs being served upon him. And so it continued until about the 7th day of July, when Raynard going to Topcliffe fair, and setting up his horse in the stable, the spirit of Fletcher, in his usual shape and habit, did appear unto him, and said, — Oh, Ralph, repent, repent, for my revenge is at hand!' and ever after, until he was put in the gaol, it seemed to stand before him, whereby he became sad and restless; and his own sister, overhearing his confession and relation of it to another person, did, through fear of her own life, immediately reveal it to Sir William Sheffield, who lived in Rascal, and was a justice of peace. Whereupon they were all three apprehended and sent to the gaol at York, where they were all three condemned, and so executed accordingly, near to the place where Raynard lived, and where Fletcher was buried, the two men being hung up in irons, and the woman buried under the gallows. I have recited this story punctually as a thing that hath been very much fixed in my memory, being then but young ; and as a certain truth, I being (with many more) an earwitness of their confessions, and an eye-witness of their executions; and likewise saw Fletcher when he was taken up, where they had buried him in his cloaths, which were a green fustian doublet pinkt upon white, gray breeches, and his walking-boots, and brass spurrs without rowels.”
We may now attend to Dr Webster's explanation of the foregoing case, agreeably to his notion of astral spirits :- “ Some will say there was no extrinsic apparition to Raynard at all, but that all this did only arise from the guilt of his own conscience, which represented the shape of Fletcher in his fancy. But then, why was it precisely done at that time, and not at any others ? it being far from the place of the murther, or the place where they had buried Fletcher, and nothing there that might bring it to his remembrance more than at another time; and if arisen from within, and appeared so in his fancy, it had been more likely to have been moved when he was in, or near his croft, where the murthered body of Fletcher lay. But certain it is, that he affirmed that it was the shape and voice of Fletcher, as assuredly to his eyes and ears as ever he had seen or heard him in his life. And if it were granted that it was only intrinsic, yet that will not exclude the Divine Power, which doubtless at that time did labour to make him sensible of the cruel murther, and to remind him of the revenge approaching. And it could not be brought to pass either by the devil or Fletcher's soul, as we have proved before ; and therefore, in reason, we conclude that either it was wrought by the Divine Power, to shew his detestation of murther, or that it was the astral or sydereal spirit of Fletcher seeking revenge for the murther.” *
* Webster on Witchcraft, p. 297.
THE OPINIONS ENTERTAINED THAT GHOSTS WERE
ATTRIBUTABLE TO FANCY OR IMAGINATION.
“ Horatio says, 'tis but our Phantasy.”—HAMLET.
The early metaphysicians conceived, that the five Senses that brought to the Soul apprehensions of touch, vision, hearing, smelling, and taste, were under the intermediate control of a personified moderator, named COMMON SENSE, by the means of whom all differences of objects were discerned. The Soul, through the medium of this ministering principle, who dwelt in the fore-part of the brain, not only learned the forms of the outward things brought to “her” by the Senses, but was enabled to make still farther distinctions, in which she was greatly superior to Common Sense. Common Sense knew nothing but differences; the Soul knew essences; Common Sense knew nothing but circumstances; the Soul knew substances; Common Sense recognised differences of sound; the Soul resolved concords.
A second ministering principle to the Soul was MEMORY, who kept a storehouse in the back-part of the brain, where all the species, ideas, or images of objects, which the external Senses had industriously collected, were treasured up.
A third ministering principle to the Soul was
Phantasy, (FANCY), or Imagination, whose seat was the middle cell of the brain. Phantasy retained objects brought by the Senses, examined more fully such species or ideas of objects as were perceived by Common Sense, arranged them, recalled the ideas which Memory had stored up, and compounded all things which were different in their kind, black and white, great and small. When Phantasy, so the handmaid of the Soul," as this principle was called, had finished her compounds, she committed them to the care of Memory, in whose storehouse much was remembered, much forgotten.
Such was the office of Phantasy, whose influence, when it began to be acknowledged, entirely changed the views which had been entertained regarding ghosts. “'Tis but our Phantasy,” was the explanation given by Horatio of the ghost of Hamlet's father. It will be therefore interesting, to inquire in what manner Phantasy, (or, in more modern language, Fancy) was enabled to induce this illusion.
It was supposed, that while Common Sense and the five subordinate Senses were subject to laws of restraint, as in sleep, Fancy was always working day and night, as was evident from our dreams. But the labours of this industrious handmaid were always corrected by the overruling principle of the Souł. The Soul, by means of the faculty of Wit, looked into the result of Fancy's labours, and was then enabled to abstract shapes of things, to perceive the forms of individual objects, to anticipate, to compare, to know all universal essences or natures, as well as cause and effect. By the faculty of Reason, she moved from