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Chapter 14

Of the Manner of Satan’s acting and carrying on his Affairs in this World, and particularly of his ordinary Workings in the dark, by Possession and Agitation.

The Devil being thus reduc’d to act upon Mankind by Stratagem only, it remains to enquire how he performs, and which way he directs his Attacks; the Faculties of Man are a kind of a Garrison in a strong Castle, which as they defend it on the one hand under the Command of the reasoning Power of Man’s Soul, so they are prescribed on the other hand, and can’t sally out without Leave; for the Governor of a Fort does not permit his Soldiers to hold any Correspondence with the Enemy, without special Order and Direction. Now the great Enquiry before us is, How comes the Devil to a Parley with us? how does he converse with our Senses, and with the Understanding? How does he reach us, which way does he come at the Affections, and which way does he move the Passions? ’Tis a little difficult to discover this treasonable Correspondence, and that Difficulty is indeed the Devil’s Advantage, and, for ought I see, the chief Advantage he has over Mankind.

It is also a great Enquiry here, whether the Devil knows our Thoughts or no? If I may give my Opinion, I am with the negative; I deny that he knows any thing of our Thoughts, except of those Thoughts which he puts us upon thinking, for I will not doubt but he has the Art to inject Thoughts, and to revive dormant Thoughts in us: It is not so wild a Scheme as some take it to be, that Mr. Milton lays down, to represent the Devil injecting corrupt Desires and wandring Thoughts into the Head of Eve, by Dreams, and that he brought her to Dream whatever he put into her Thoughts, by whispering to her vocally when she was asleep; and to this End, he imagines the Devil laying himself close to her Ear, in the Shape of a Toad, when she was fall asleep; I say, this is not so wild a Scheme, seeing even now, if you can whisper any thing close to the Ear of a Person in a deep Sleep, so as to speak distinctly to the Person, and yet not awaken him, as has been frequently tried, the Person sleeping shall dream distinctly of what you say to him; nay, shall dream the very Words you say.

We have then no more to ask, but how the Devil can convey himself to the Ear of a sleeping Person, and it is granted then that he may have Power to make us dream what he pleases: But this is not all, for if he can so forcibly, by his invisible Application, cause us to dream, what he pleases, why can he not with the same Facility prompt our Thoughts, whether sleeping or waking? To dream, is nothing else but to think sleeping; and we have abundance of deep-headed Gentlemen among us, who give us ample Testimony that they dream waking.

But if the Devil can prompt us to dream, that is to say, to think, yet if he does not know our Thoughts, how then can he tell whether the Whisper had its Effect? The answer is plain, the Devil, like the Angler, baits the Hook, if the Fish bite he lies ready to take the Advantage, he whispers to the Imagination, and then waits to see how it works; as Naomi said to Ruth, Chap. iii. 5, 18. Sit still, my Daughter, until thou know how the Matter will fall, for the Man will not be at rest until he have finished the thing. Thus when the Devil had whisper’d to Eve in her Sleep, according to Milton, and suggested Mischief to her Imagination, he only sat still to see how the Matter would work, for he knew if it took with her, he should hear more of it; and then by finding her alone the next Day, without her ordinary Guard her Husband, he presently concluded she had swallowed the Bait, and so attack’d her afresh.

A small deal of Craft, and less by far than we have reason to believe the Devil is Master of, will serve to discover whether such and such Thoughts as he knows he has suggested, have taken Place or no; the Action of the Person presently discovers it, at least to him that lies always upon the Watch, and has every Word, every Gesture, every Step we take subsequent to his Operation, open to him; it may therefore, for ought we know, be a great Mistake, and what most of us are guilty of, to tell our Dreams to one another in the Morning, after we have been disturb’d with them in the Night; for if the Devil converses with us so insensibly as some are of the Opinion he does, that is to say, if he can hear as far as we can see, we may be telling our Story to him indeed, when we think we are only talking to one another.

This brings me most naturally to the important Enquiry, whether the Devil can walk about the World invisibly or no? The Truth is, this is no question to me; for as I have taken away his Visibility already, and have denied him all Prescience of Futurity too, and have prov’d he cannot know our Thoughts, nor put any Force upon Persons or Actions, if we should take away his Invisibility too, we should undevil him quite, to all Intents and Purposes, as to any Mischief he could do; nay, it would banish him the World, and he might e’en go and seek his Fortune some where else; for if he could neither be visible or invisible, neither act in publick or in private, he could neither have Business or Being in this Sphere, nor could we be any way concern’d with him.

The Devil therefore most certainly has a Power and Liberty of moving about in this World, after some manner or another; this is verify’d as well by way of Allegory, as by way of History, in the Scripture it self; and as the first strongly suggests and supposes it to be so, the last positively asserts it; and, not to croud this Work with Quotations from a Book which we have not much to do with in the Devil’s Story, at least not much to his Satisfaction, I only hint his personal Appearance to our Saviour in the Wilderness, where it is said, the Devil taketh him up to an exceeding high Mountain; and in another Place, the Devil departed from him. What Shape or Figure he appear’d in, we do not find mentioned, but I cannot doubt his appearing to him there, any more than I can his talking to our Saviour in the Mouths, and with the Voices of the several Persons who were under the terrible Affliction of an actual Possession.

These Things leave us no room to doubt of what is advanced above, namely, that he, (the Devil) has a certain Residence, or Liberty of residing in, and moving about upon the Surface of this Earth, as well as in the Compass of the Atmosphere, vulgarly call’d the Air, in some manner or other: That is the general.

It remains to enquire into the manner, which I resolve into two Kinds;

1. Ordinary, which I suppose to be his invisible Motions as a Spirit; under which Consideration I suppose him to have an unconfin’d, unlimited, unrestrain’d Liberty, as to the manner of acting; and this either in Persons, by Possession; or in Things, by Agitation.

2. Extraordinary; which I understand to be his Appearances in borrowed Shapes and Bodies, or Shadows rather of Bodies; assuming Speech, Figure, Posture, and Several Powers, of which we can give little or no Account; in which extraordinary manner of Appearances, he is either limited by a Superior Power, or limits himself politically, as being not the Way most for his Interest or Purpose, to act in his Business, which is more effectually done in his State of Obscurity.


Hence we must suppose the Devil has it very much in his own Choice, whether to act in one Capacity, or in the other, or in both; that is to say, of appearing, and not appearing, as he finds for his Purpose: In this State of Invisibility, and under the Operation of these Powers and Liberties, he performs all his Functions and Offices, as Devil, as Prince of Darkness, as God of this World, as Tempter, Accuser, Deceiver, and all whatsoever other Names of Office, or Titles of Honour he is known by.

Now taking him in this large unlimited, or little limited State of Action, he is well call’d, the God of this World, for he has very much of the Attribute of Omnipresence, and may be said, either by himself or his Agents, to be every where, and see every thing; that is to say, every thing that is visible; for I cannot allow him any Share of Omniscience at all.

That he ranges about every where, is with us, and sometimes in us, sees when he is not seen, hears when he is not heard, comes in without Leave, and goes out without Noise, is neither to be shut in or shut out, that when he runs from us we can’t catch him, and when he runs after us we can’t escape him, is seen when he is not known, and is known when he is not seen; all these things, and more, we have Knowledge enough about to convince us of the Truth of them; so that, as I have said above, he is certainly walking to and fro thro’ the Earth, &c. after some manner or other, and in some Figure or other, visible or invisible, as he finds Occasion. Now in order to make our History of him complete, the next Question before us is, how, and in what manner he acts with Mankind? how his Kingdom is carried on, and by what Methods he does his Business, for he certainly has a great deal of Business to do; he is not an idle Spectator, nor is he walking about incognito, and cloth’d in Mist and Darkness, purely in Kindness to us, that we should not be frighted at him; but ’tis in Policy, that he may act undiscover’d, that he may see and not be seen, may play his Game in the dark, and not be detected in his Roguery; that he may prompt Mischief, raise Tempests, blow up Coals, kindle Strife, embroil Nations, use Instruments, and not be known to have his Hand in any thing, when at the same time he really has a Hand in every thing.

Some are of Opinion, and I among the rest, that if the Devil was personally and visibly present among us, and we conversed with him Face to Face, we should be so familiar with him in a little time, that his ugly Figure would not affect us at all, that his Terrors would not fright us, or that we should any more trouble our selves about him, than we did with the last great Comet in 1678, which appear’d so long and so constantly without any particular known Event, that at last we took no more Notice of it than of the other ordinary Stars which had appear’d before we or our Ancestors were born.

Nor indeed should we have much Reason to be frighted at him, or at least none of those silly Things could be said of him which we now amuse our selves about, and by which we set him up like a Scare-Crow to fright Children and old Women, to fill up old Stories, make Songs and Ballads, and in a Word, carry on the low priz’d Buffoonery of the common People; we should either see him in his Angelic Form, as he was from the Original, or if he has any Deformities entail’d upon him by the supreme Sentence, and in Justice to the Deformity of his Crime, they would be of a superior Nature, and fitted more for our Contempt as well as Horror, than those weak fancied Trifles contrived by our antient Devil-raisers and Devil-makers, to feed the wayward Fancies of old Witches and Sorcerers, who cheated the ignorant World with a Devil of their own making, set forth, in terrorem, with Bat’s Wings, Horns, cloven Foot, long Tail, fork’d Tongue, and the like.

In the next Place, be his frightful Figure what it would, and his Legions as numerous as the Host of Heaven, we should see him still, as the Prince of Devils, tho’ monstrous as a Dragon, flaming as a Comet, tall as a Mountain, yet dragging his Chain after him equal to the utmost of his supposed Strength; always in Custody of his Jailors the Angels, his Power over-power’d, his Rage cow’d and abated, or at least aw’d and under Correction, limited and restrain’d; in a Word, we should see him a vanquish’d Slave, his Spirit broken, his Malice, tho’ not abated, yet Hand-cuff’d and overpower’d, and he not able to work any Thing against us by Force; so that he would be to us but like the Lions in the Tower, encag’d and lock’d up, unable to do the Hurt he wishes to do, and that we fear, or indeed any hurt at all.

From hence ’tis evident, that ’tis not his Business to be public, or to walk up and down in the World visibly, and in his own Shape; his Affairs require a quite different Management, as might be made apparent from the Nature of Things, and the Manner of our Actings, as Men, either with our selves or to one another.

Nor could he be serviceable in his Generation, as a public Person as now he is, or answer the End of his Party who employ him, and who, if he was to do their Business in public, as he does in private, would not be able to employ him at all.

As in our modern Meetings for the Propagation of Impudence and other Virtues, there would be no Entertainment and no Improvement for the Good of the Age, if the People did not all appear in Masque, and conceal’d from the common Observation; so neither could Satan (from whose Management those more happy Assemblies are taken as Copies of a glorious Original) perform the usual and necessary Business of his Profession, if he did not appear wholly in Covert and under needful Disguises; how, but for the Convenience of his Habit, could he call himself into so many Shapes, act on so many different Scenes, and turn so many Wheels of State in the World, as he has done? as a meer profess’d Devil he could do nothing.

Had he been oblig’d always to act the meer Devil in his own Clothes, and with his own Shape, appearing uppermost in all Cafes and Places, he could never have preach’d in so many Pulpits, presided in so many Councils, voted in so many Committees, sat in so many Courts, and influenc’d so many Parties and Factions in Church and State, as we have Reason to believe he has done in our Nation, and in our Memories too, as well as in other Nations and in more antient Times. The Share Satan has had in all the weighty Confusions of the Times, ever since the first Ages of Christianity in the World, has been carried on with so much Secresy, and so much with an Air of Cabal and Intrigue, that nothing can have been manag’d more subtilly and closely, and in the same Manner has he acted in our Times, in order to conceal his Interest, and conceal the Influence he has had in the Councils of the World.

Had it been possible for him to have raised the Flames of Rebellion and War so often in this Nation, as he certainly has done? Could he have agitated the Parties on both Sides, and inflam’d the Spirits of three Nations, if he had appears in his own Dress, a meer naked Devil? It is not the Devil as a Devil that does the Mischief, but the Devil in Masquerade, Satan in full Disguise, and acting at the Head of civil Confusion and Distraction.

If History may be credited, the French Court at the Time of our old Confusions was made the Scene of Satan’s Politicks, and prompted both Parties in England and in Scotland also to quarrel, and how was it done? Will any Man offer to scandalize the Devil so much as to say, or so much as to suggest that Satan had no Hand in it all? Did not the Devil, by the Agency of Cardinal Richlieu, send 400000 Crowns at one Time, and 600000 at another, to the Scots, to raise an Army and march boldly into England? and did not the same Devil at the same time, by other Agents, remit 800000 Crowns to the other Party, in order to raise an Army to fall upon the Scots? nay, did not the Devil with the same Subtilty send down the Archbishop’s Order to impose the Service-Book upon the People in Scotland, and at the same Time raise a Mob against it, in the great Church (at St. Giles’s)? Nay, did not he actually, in the Person of an old Woman (his favourite Instrument) throw the three-leg’d Stool at the Service-Book, and animate the zealous People to take up Arms for Religion, and turn Rebels for God Sake?

All these happy and successful Undertakings, tho’ ’tis no more to be doubted they were done by the Agency of Satan, and in a very surprizing Manner too, yet were all done in secret, by what I call Possession and Injection, and by the Agency and Contrivance of such Instruments, or by the Devil in the Disguise of such Servants as he found out fitted to be employ’d in his Work, and who he took a more effectual Care in concealing of.

But we shall have Occasion to touch all this Part over again, when we come to discourse of the particular Habits and Disguises which the Devil has made use of, all along in the World, the better to cover his Actions, and to conceal his being concern’d in them.

In the mean Time the Cunning or Artifice the Devil makes use of in all these Things is in it self very considerable; ’tis an old Practice of his using, and he has gone on in diverse Measures, for the better concealing himself in it; which Measures, tho’ he varies sometimes, as his extraordinary Affairs require, yet they are in all Ages much the same, and have the same Tendency; namely, that he may get all his Business carried on by the Instrumentality of Fools; that he may make Mankind Agents in their own Destruction, and that he may have all his Work done in such a Manner as that he may seem to have no Hand in it; nay he contrives so well, that the very Name Devil is put upon his opposite Party, and the Scandal of the black Agent lies all upon them.

In order then to look a little into his Conduct, let us enquire into the common Mistakes about him, see what Use is made of them to his Advantage, and how far Mankind is imposed upon in those Particulars, and to what Purpose.

Daniel Defoe

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