Beaumont himself believed that he had experienced second sight, claiming that
for several months two spirits in the form of three-foot brown women lived with
him, and others would often come calling round for them. Furthermore, he once
asked a visiting spirit who came in the form of a young boy and rung a bell
in his ear for its name: Ariel, the spirit replied. Eventually his
visitors turned against him, threatening to kill him if he revealed their whereabouts
or slept. After four sleepless nights Beaumont eventually took a stand against
his visitors and slept soundly, ignoring their threats. It's interesting to
read these accounts of an obviously intelligent and well educated man having
relations with such spirits, features of which overlap significantly with some
of the accounts of ghosts, spirits and fairies presented by Emma
Wilby as possible evidence of genuine visionary experiences in accounts
of witchcraft from the 16th and 17th centuries, as indeed do many of the second-hand
anecdotes recounted by Beaumont which are rich in contemporary folk- and magical
Returning to the subject at hand, chapter seven of Beaumont's work deals with
the relation of the genii to the sense of hearing, to which he appends
the following curious magical-alchemical material from Paracelsus:
I shall conclude this Chapter, with a Relation somewhat in this kind from Paracelsus; tho' how far Spirits may be concern'd in the Matter, I shall not determine.
He begins the Sixth Book of his Archidoxes, thus. No Man can deny but Compositions of Metals, may Work wonderful things in Supernaturals, which may be made good by many Proofs, as I shall clearly shew beneath; for if you Compound all the Seven Metals in a due Order and fit time, and melt them together, as it were into one Mass, you will have such a Metal, in which all the Virtues of the Seven Planets are joyn'd together; you will find all these Virtues in that one Metal, which we call Electrum. And beneath he writes; you must know that our Electrum (which is Compounded of the Seven Metals) drives away all evil Spirits; for in our Electrum, the Operation of the Heav'ns, and Influences of the Seven Planets are stor'd up. Therefore the Ancient Persian Magi, and the Chaldaeans found out and perform'd many things by its means. I cannot here conceal a very great Miracle, which I saw wrought by a Spanish Necromancer, who had a Bell not exceeding two Pounds Weight, which, as often as he rung, he could cause to appear about him many Spirits and Spectres of various Kinds; for when he pleas'd, he drew some Words and Characters on the inward surface of the Bell, and afterwards, if he rung it, a Spirit presently appear'd in any Form he would have him: By the sound also of the said Bell he could draw to him also, or drive from him many other Visions and Spirits, and even Men and Beasts; as I saw with my Eyes many of these things done by him: But as often as he would undertake some New thing, so often he renewed his Words and Characters; but he would not reveal to me the Secret of these Words and Characters; though deeply considering the thing my self, I, at length, casually found it; which I shall not here disclose: but I plainly enough observ'd, there was more Importance in the Bell than in the Words, for the Bell was certainly made of our Electrum. So far Paracelsus.
I may here note, That some Persons have told my self, that they have seen a constellated Plate here in London, made of such Electrum, which, if put under a Man's Pillow at Night, will make him hear Heavenly Musick.
The description of the magical bell immediately made me think of something
I'd seen a few years back at the Henry
Moore Institute, which in 2005 showed and exhibition of bronze from the
collections of Emperor Rudolph II. Among the objets d'art on display
was a curious bell, supposed to have been cast in electrum magicum.
The exterior, shown here, was embellished with florid images of the celestial
powers, while - if my memory does not mislead me - there were magical sigils
on the interior.
Later I was to find similar bells of electrum magicum mentioned in
connection to Girardius parvi lucii libellus de mirabilibus naturae arcanis
(for necromantic experients) and discussed in some detail in L. von H.'s Magia
Divina (for angelic experiments), while one is employed in the Faustian
Magia Naturalis to coerce devils to reveal the whereabouts of buried treasure.
In one of the 'Solomonic' works (appearing in Sloane 3847), the bell replaces the trumpet
and is rung toward the east before the magician begins his invocations.
Personally the most interesting item above is Beamont's note about the 'constellated
plate'. Perhaps there is an element of 'suggestion' here, relating to the phenomenon
of auditory hallucinations that often occur when one is in the hypnagogic
state preceding sleep (for further anecdotes on this see Sacks' Musicophilia,
Zusne and Jones' Anomalistic
Psychology, and so on). The story of the constellated disc also reminds
me of the commonly recounted belief that Tibetan singing bowls are composed
of an alloy of seven metals. Whether there is truth in this notion, which is often
banded about in New Age circles, I am unsure, but it indicates that the fascination
with the notion of electrum magicum as having peculiar and magical resonant qualities continues to the present
day. Perhaps the connection between Tibet and the magical alloy can be traced
at least as far back as Crowley's Liber
860, an account of a 1908 Parisian magical retirement, which mentions
a Tibetan bell apparently cast in electrum magicum along with its striker
of human bone. This same bell is also mentioned in Liber
418 (17th Aethyr)
and described in detail in Book
Four, which sounds something like a description of a Ting-sha
This Bell summons and alarms; and it is also the Bell which sounds at the elevation of the Host
It is thus also the 'Astral Bell' of the Magician.
The Bell of which we speak is a disk of some two inches in diameter, very slightly bent into a shape not unlike that of a cymbal. A hole in the centre permits the passage of a short leather thong, by which it may be attached to the chain. At the other end of the chain is the striker; which in Tibet, is usually made of human bone.
The Bell itself is made of electrum magicum, an alloy of the 'seven metals' blended together in a special manner. [...] The sound of this Bell is indescribably commanding, solemn, and majestic. Without even the minutest jar, its single notes tinkle fainter and fainter into silence. At the sound of this Bell the Universe ceases for an indivisible moment of time, and attends to the Will of the Magician. Let him not interrupt the sound of this Bell. (II.14. The Bell, p.111, Symonds-Grant ed.)
[I]n experience no bell save His own Tibetan bell of Electrum Magicum has ever sounded satisfactory to the Master Therion. Most bells jar and repel. (III.9. Of Silence and Secrecy, p.199, Symonds-Grant ed.)