“Where, in the records of European Magic, can we find cleverer enchanters than in the mysterious solitudes of the cloister? Albert Magnus, the famous Bishop and conjurer of Ratisbon, was never surpassed in his art. Roger Bacon was a monk, and Thomas Aquinas one of the most learned pupils of Albertus. Trithemius, Abbott of the Spanheim Benedictines, was the teacher, friend, and confidant of Cornelius Agrippa; and while the confederations of the Theosophists were scattered broadcast about Germany, where they first originated, assisting one another, and struggling for years for the acquirement of esoteric knowledge, any person who knew how to become the favored pupil of certain monks, might very soon be proficient in all important branches of occult learning.
This is all in history and cannot be easily denied. Magic, in all its aspects, was widely and nearly openly practiced by the clergy till the Reformation. And even he who was once called the “Father of the Reformation”, the famous John Reuchlin, author of the Mirific Word and friend of Pico di Mirandola, the teacher and instructor of Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, was kabalist and occultist.
The ancient Sortilegium, or divination by means of Sortes or lots – an art and practice now decried by the clergy as an abomination, designated by Stat. 10, Jac., as felony, and by Stat 12., Carolus II excepted out of the general pardons, on the ground of being sorcery – was widely practiced by the clergy and monks. Nay, it was sanctioned by St. Augustine himself, who does not “disapprove of this method of learning futurity, provided it be not used for worldly purposes.” More than that, he confesses having practiced it himself.
Aye; but the clergy called it Sortes Sanctorum, when it was they who practiced it; while the Sortes Praenestinae, succeeded by the Sortes Homericae and Sortes Virgilianae, were abominable heathenism, the worship of the Devil, when used by any one else. Gregory de Tours informs us that when the clergy resorted to the Sortes their custom was to lay the Bible on the altar, and to pray the Lord that He would discover His will, and disclose to them futurity in one of the verses of the book. Gilbert de Nogent writes that in his days, (about the twelfth century), the custom was, at the consecration of bishops, to consult the Sortes Sanctorum, to thereby learn the success and fate of the episcopate.
On the other hand, we are told that the Sortes Sanctorum were condemned by the Council of Agda, in 506. In this case again we are left to inquire, in which instance has the infallibility of the Church failed? Was it when she prohibited that which was practiced by her greatest saint and patron, Augustine, or in the twelfth century, when it was openly and with the sanction of the same Church practiced by the clergy, for the benefit of the bishop’s elections? Or must we still believe that in both of these contradictory cases, the Vatican was inspired by the direct “spirit of God”?”
H. P. Blavatsky