The Conjuror’s Magazine
Vol 1 No 6 (January 1792) p.183
This is the first of Gilbert's proposals. Initially he is still the anonymous B. ("Secrecy is the very soul of Telesmes") and communication is to be made through the editor. He has hitherto appeared as an amateur, a "correspondent" of the Magazine, but here he is striking out as a would-be professional: "I therefore will be PAID, and paid HANDSOMELY". This looks like a new departure rather than evidence of an established practice - he has previously relied on generosity rather than charging a fee but has been disappointed. Also included below the article are a letter from a reader J.P. Astro. Phil. in want of further persuasion, and Gilbert's response.
THE doctrine of Talismans or Telesmes [E1], I know from experience to be one of the most enveloped in the whole circle of magic. The practice received more opposition from persons called divines, than perhaps any other in magic. On the other hand, it has stood its ground more firmly.—Mourning rings, miniature pictures, lockets, devices, armorial bearings, are all on this principle—And so far has feeling retained its hold on the actions and minds of the learned, that we often see quoted from Virgil:
Sunt lachrymae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt. [E2]
They feel, that pleasant sensations are produced by pleasant images; and not only this, but that indescribable sensations are often produced by an undefined combination of forms. They perceive, even in the least apparently animated bodies, what they call an air of grandeur, a something of solemnity, &c. which excites these respective emotions and sways the mind to them.
But to define the principle on which these cases act——to learn scientifically forms and times, which will produce proposed effects on given objects, even though the form may not even to an eye of taste betray its intention, nay, though it be concealed in an envelop, or buried in the earth, and farther, without the maker or the Talisman having ever been within a thousand leagues of the person intended to be affected——to accomplish this, I say, is a great art. And yet, it is an art, which has been more or less perfectly known to philosophers of all ages, and which I have completely mastered after many struggles and oppositions.
Will you exercise it for the good of mankind ? I will, and do for the good of myself and friends, and for the destruction of my enemies. And any person who may want my assistance, and will apply for it, will not meet a rebuff, but satisfaction as ample as he can conceive.
I know, there is nothing but which falls before me in either my will or my telesmes—for the second can issue from only the first. But I tell them fairly, that I treat mankind no more as free-men —I cannot trust to either their sense or their generosity—I therefore will be PAID, and paid HANDSOMELY. The matter is very short—if they want ME, and can get nobody else to atchieve what I can, they will do what is necessary—otherwise they will not.——A few choice friends I except.
Secrecy is the very soul of Telesmes. Any person may apply, through Mr LOCKE, by Letter to me. [E3]
HAVING in the last number of the Conjuror’s Magazine read a proposal of yours for making Talismans, and having but little faith in their pretended virtues, should be glad to have the opportunity of spending an hour in your company, when if you can then convince me by visible proof of their virtue and efficacy, shall be happy in being more intimately acquainted with you.
J. P. ASTRO. PHILO.
P. S. A line from you will be esteemed a favour.
February 7, 1792.
I Have been favoured with your’s this instant. The reasons why Talismans fail is, either because they have not been undertaken under a proper planetary position; or else, if this has been attended to, that the person’s own mind has not yet been ripe for (that is, has not been wholly given to) the intended effect. Next, external circumstances will throw obstacles in the way; but where the mind is intense, these must be overcome—for the mind, when brought into its principle, is, must be, omnipotent.—Its principle is its life—and its life must be eternal. Therefore the end of Talismans is, to clear away the circumstances, which impedes the body from enjoying what the mind wills.
To effect this, your life must be with your Talisman, for remember, that according to my definition of a Talisman (and it must be the true one, as the vital principle cannot be altered, but only regenerated) it is not to force the mind, but derives its force from the mind. It is, however, to reflect this power; as a person, who finds circumstances favouring his wishes, naturally grows bolder and more powerful, from this conjunction of body and mind. I apprehend, that a total misconception of this point, is the radical error of all in the theory of Talismans. But having ascertained the place and duty of Talismans, I will add, it is impossible for anything to be done for duration with only them, as they constitute the links, uniting spirit and matter.
I shall be happy to see you any day you appoint; and am,
Your sincere well-wisher,
N. B. In addition to the above answer, I shall observe to the public, that, as the COURSE OF LIFE must accompany the Talisman, which proceeds from its fountain, it will be necessary, in order to give it efficacy, for persons to attend to the most minute circumstances, which can operate on it; and as a thousand may so operate, wholly unknown to the unintelligent scholar or practitioner, but which yet bear point-blank by their principles, it is absolutely indispensible to receive and apply the rules, I, and only I, (having alone previously eviscerated the practice) can give.
And as thus enlightening the mind is stated to be the only means whereby Talismans can be effectual—namely, making the person intelligently master or mistress of every circumstance of their life—every idea of playing on credulity or blindness is excluded.
[E1] Telesm, a C17th synonym - used e.g. by Sir Thomas Browne Garden of Cyrus. From the Greek telesma, completion; telos goal; telein to complete or fulfil. (OED).
[E2] Aeneid I 462. The first part of this line is quoted and translated by Gilbert in B. To the Public (April 1792) “There are tears of things” – the rest of the line can be translated “and human affairs move the heart”.
[E3] W. Locke, 12,