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.
Booth, Gotthard Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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 priority.