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Borri, Josephe-François (1627-1695)

Borri, Josephe-François (1627-1695)

An alchemical imposter of the seventeenth century who was born at Milan in 1627. In youth his conduct was so wayward that at last he was compelled to seek refuge in a church to escape the vengeance of those he had wronged. There he hid his delinquencies under the cloak of imposture and hypocrisy, and he pretended that God had chosen him to reform mankind and to reestablish God's reign below. He also claimed to be the champion of the papal power against all heretics and Protestants, and he wore a wondrous sword that he alleged had been given to him by Saint Michael.

Borri said that he had seen in heaven a luminous palm branch that was reserved for him. He uttered a number of heretical views, including that the Virgin was divine in nature, that she had conceived through inspiration, and that she was equal to her Son, with whom she was present in the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit was incarnate in her, and that the second and third Persons of the Trinity were inferior to the Father. All of these views are rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.

According to some writers, Borri later proclaimed himself to be the Holy Spirit incarnate. In any case, he was arrested after the death of Innocent X by order of the Inquisition, and on January 3, 1661, he was condemned to be burned as a heretic. He succeeded in escaping to Germany, where he received money from Queen Christina, to whom he asserted his mastery of alchemy and his ability to manufacture the Philosophers' stone. He afterward fled to Copenhagen and hoped to sail to Turkey, but he was tracked to a small village nearby and arrested, along with a conspirator.

Borri was sent back to Rome, where he died in prison August 10, 1695. It is claimed that he was the author of The Key of the Cabinet of the Chevalier Borri, which bore the imprint of Geneva in 1681, a volume chiefly concerned with elementary spirits. In the nineteenth century, Abbé de Villars seems to have drawn upon this book for his work Le Comte de Gabalis. However, some commentators suggested that the Borri book is merely a faulty translation and expansion of de Villars's volume, complete with a false publication date to support its claim to priori-ty.

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