Le Loyer, Pierre (1550–1634)
Sieur de la Brosse, royal councilor and demonographer. He
was born on November 24, 1550, at Huillé in Anjou, France,
and later became a magistrate at Angers. Le Loyer authored
Discours et histoires des spectres, visions, et apparitions des esprits,
anges, demons, et âmes se montrant aux hommes (Discourse and Histories
about Specters, Visions, and Apparitions of Spirits, Angels,
Demons, and Souls that Appeared Visibly to Men), published
at Paris in 1605 in one quatro volume. The work is
divided into eight books dealing with the marvelous visions and
prodigies of several centuries and the most celebrated authors,
sacred as well as profane, who have dealt with occult subjects.
It discusses the cause of apparitions; the nature of good and
evil spirits; demons; ecstasy; the essence, nature, and origin of
souls; magicians and sorcerers and the manner of their communication;
evil spirits; and imposters.
The first book deals with specters, apparitions, and spirits;
the second with the physics of Le Loyer’s time, the illusions to
which the senses are prone, wonders, and the elixirs and metamorphosis
of sorceries and of philters; the third book establishes
the degrees, grades, and honors of spirits, gives a résumé of
the history of Philinnion and of Polycrites, and recounts diverse
adventures with specters and demons; the fourth book gives
many examples of spectral appearances, of the speech of persons
possessed of demons, of the countries and dwelling-places
of these specters and demons, and of marvelous portents; the
fifth treats the science of the soul, of its origin, nature, its state
after death, and of haunting ghosts; the sixth division is entirely
taken up with the apparition of souls, and shows how the
happy do not return to earth, but only those whose souls are
burning in purgatory; in the seventh book the case of the Witch
of Endor and the evocation of the soul of Samuel are dealt with,
as is evocation in general and the methods practiced by wizards
and sorcerers in this science; and the last book gives some account
of exorcism, fumigations, prayers, and other methods
of casting out devils, and the usual means employed by exorcists
to destroy these.
The work, though disputatious, throws considerable light
upon the occult science of the times. Although often credulous,
Le Loyer was most skeptical about alchemy, of which he wrote
‘‘As to transmutation, I wonder how it can be reasonably defended.
Metals can be adulterated but not changed. . . . Blowing
[the bellows], they may exhaust their purses, they multiply
all into nothing. Yes, I do not believe, and may the philosophers
excuse me if they wish, that the alchemists can change
any metal into gold.’’
Le Loyer died on January 29, 1634.