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.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Sibley, Ebenezer
1405
———. Uranoscopia; or, The Pure Language of the Stars Unfolded
by the Motion of the Seven Erratics. N.p., 1780.

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