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The History of the Devil (1728)

The History of the Devil (1728)

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The history of the Devil by Daniel Defoe

The history of the Devil by Daniel Defoe

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Published by: draculavanhelsing on Jan 10, 2013
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brass vessel, or boiler, with a cover of the same metal

that is to say, in a kettle with a brass cover.
To affirm, therefore, that they were all cheats, a
man must encounter with antiquity, and set his pri-
vate judgment up against an established opinion ; but

it is no matter for that. If I do not see anything in

that received opinion capable of evidence, much less

of demonstration, I must be allowed still to think as 1
do ; others may believe as they list ; I see nothing hard

or difficult in the thing; the priests, who were always

historically informed of the circumstances of the in-

quirer, or at least something about them, might easily

find some ambiguous speech to make, and put some

dovble entendre upon them, which, upon the event,

solved the credit of the oracle, were it one way or

otherj and this they certainly did, or we have room to

think the Devil knows less of things now than he did

in former days.

It is true, that by these delusions the priests got in-

finite sums of money ; and this makes it still probable

that they would labor hard, and use the utmost of

their skill, to uphold the credit of their oracles ; and it

is a full discovery, as well of the subtlety of the

sacrists, as of the ignorance and stupidity of the peo-

ple, in those early days of Satan's witchcraft, to see
what merry work the Devil made with the world,
and what gross things he put upon mankind. Such
was the story of the Dodonian oracle in Epirus


namely, That two pigeons flew out of Thebes, (N. B.,

it was the Egyptian Thebes,) from the temple of Belns,

erected there by the ancient sacrists, and that one of

these fled eastward into Libya, and the deserts of

Africa, and the other into Greece, namely, to Dodona


and these communicated the divine mysteries to one

another, and afterwards gave mystical solutions to the
devout inquirers ; first the Dodonian pigeon, perching
upon an oak, spoke audibly to the people there, that

the gods commanded them to build an oracle or tem-

ple, to Jupiter, in that place: which was accord-

ingly done. The other pigeon did the like on the hill

in Africa, where it commanded them to build another

to Jupiter Ammon, or Hammon.
Wise Cicero contemned all this, and, as authors tell



us, ridiculed the answer, which, as I have hinted

above, the oracle gave to Croesus, proving that the

oracle, itself was a liar ; that it could not come from

Apotlo, for that Apollo never spoke Latin. In a word,

Cicero rejected them all. And Demosthenes also

mentions the cheats-of the oracles; when speaking of

the oracle of Apollo, he said, Pythia philippized


that is, that when the priests were bribed with money,

they always gave their answers in favor of Philip of

But that which is most strange to me is, that in this

dispute about the reality of oracles, the heathen, who
made use of them, are the people who expose them,
and who insist most positively upon their being cheats
and impostors, and in particular those mentioned above;

while the Christians, who reject them, yet believe they

did freally foretell things, answer questions, &c., only
with this difference, that the heathen authors, who
oppose them, insist that it is all delusion and cheat, and
charge it upon the priests ; and the Christian opposers

insist that it was real, but that the Devil, not the Gods,

gave the answers ; and that he was permitted to do it
by a superior power, to magnify that power in the total

silencing them at last.

But, as I said before, I am with the heathen here,

against .the Christian writers ; for I take it all to be a

cheat and delusion. I must give my reason for it, or

I do nothing; my reason is this: I insist Satan is as

blind in matters of futurity as we are, and can tell

nothing of what is to come. These oracles often pre-

tending to predict, could be nothing else therefore but
a cheat formed by the money-getting priests to amuse

the world, and bring grist to their mill. If I meet with
anything in my way to open my eyes to a better

opinion of them, I shall tell it you as I go on.
On the other hand, whether the Devil really spake

in those oracles, or set the cunning priests to speak for
him ; whether they predicted, or onlymade the people

believe they predicted; whether they gave answers
which came to pass, or prevailed upon the people to

believe that what was said did come to pass, it was
much at one, and fully answered the Devil's end


namely, to amuse and delude the world; and as to do,

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