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Sibley, Ebenezer (1751-1799)

Sibley, Ebenezer (1751-1799)

Ebenezer Sibley, British astrologer, magician, and practitioner of herbal medicine, was born on January 30, 1751. He had a conservative upbringing in a Calvinist Baptist church and later attended the Aberdeen Medical College. He studied orthodox medicine, but also had an interest to study animal magnetism under Franz Anton Mesmer; he joined Mesmer's Harmonic Philosophical School. Then Sibley also taught himself the basics of occultism. In 1784 he joined the Freemasons.

Sibley is best remembered for two books. In 1784 the first volume of his four-volume magnum opus, The Complete Illustration of the Celestial Art of Astrology. It summarized the work of the previous century of astrological writing and became a steady seller for the rest of Sibley's life in spite of the reviews. The Conjurer's Magazine, the only occult periodical in England at the time dismissed it as derivative. The final volume, concerning magic, that appeared in 1792, presented an interesting variation on Emanuel Swedenborg 's vision of the spiritual world. According to Sibley, spirits live in another world that is neither heaven nor hell. Magic can summon only the evil spirit. Good spirits watch over humans, but do not respond to any summoning. Sibley went on to highlight seven good spirits that watch over human affairs and noted seven corresponding wicked spirits. He noted that since God had removed his wrath through Christ, these seven spirits made but few appearances.

The same year that his fourth volume was purchased, Sibley also completed A Key to the Physic and the Occult Sciences, a systematic statement of his occult philosophy. Like Mesmer, he suggested that the world was animated by a universal spirit, the operative agent in both astrology and healing work. This spirit works on matter and can be used by the magician for his purposes. This understanding would become standard for magical thought through the century and anticipates the more heralded work of Éliphas Lévi. Also included in the Key, published a supplement to the famous work on herbal medicine by Nicolas Culpepper.

Ebenezer's brother Manoah Sibley became a prominent Swedenborgian minister.

Ebenezer Sibley styled himself an "astro-philosopher." He claimed to have cast the horoscope of the forger-poet Thomas Chatterton, and to have predicted his fatal end, such as "death by poison." Among various successful prognostications made through astrology, Sibley claimed to have foretold the American War of Independence in a symbolic picture in his book. Sibley was sufficiently enterprising to design a small notebook for astrologers, engraved from plates but with blank spaces for recording the positions of various planets and noting horoscopes.

Sources:

Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Sibley, Ebenezer. Celestial Science of Astrology. 1776. Revised as New and Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology. 2 vols. N.p., 1817.

Sibley, Ebenezer. A Key to Physic and the Occult Sciences. 1792. 5th ed. London W. Lewis and G. Jones, 1814.

. The Medical Mirror; or, A Treatise on the Impregnation of the Human Female. N.p., 1800.

. Uranoscopia; or, The Pure Language of the Stars Unfolded by the Motion of the Seven Erratics. N.p., 1780.

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