April 19th, 2015

atheist teacher

More Wonders of the Invisible World, edited by Robert Calef

A while back, I mentioned that I had acquired this. As promised there, rather than risk destroying it with my eye tracks, I found an e-text, which comprises "More wonders of the invisible world / collected by Robert Calef ; and Wonders of the invisible world / by Cotton Mather ; together with notes and explanations by Samuel P. Fowler"

The e-text is quite a struggle at times, since the long s, and various ligatures didn't scan so well. It's also often hard to tell who is speaking, since some of the text is letters written back and forth, and since the e-text contains both Mather's original, and Calef's response (which itself often quotes Mather).

Calef's books is largely a direct attack on Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials. It's kind of interesting since Calef certainly does not suggest that witches don't exist. It's in the Bible, so it's real. And the death penalty is set out very plainly. But what the Bible doesn't do, really, is say what exactly a witch is. All this nonsense about signing names in the Devil's book, and flying on sticks, is just superstition that is not Bible based. If we knew what witches really were, then we'd have a chance to convict them on the evidence, but it's wrong to convict them on peasant superstitions of what witches are.

There is also rather a lot of how-many-angels-can-dance sort of theological argument about whether Satan can grant witches power of his own power. Or whether God allows him to grant these powers. Or whether all powers necessarily come directly from God.

But anyway, on to the blockquotes:Collapse )