The core of this book is an anonymous English translation of a French 'novel of ideas' originally published in 1670. The Abbé de Villars, the author, was a French clergyman born in 1635 in Alet, near Toulouse in the south of France. He came to Paris in 1667, where he wrote a number of books, most of which other than this work which have been forgotten or lost. He was assassinated in 1673 or (by some accounts) 1675 while on the road from Lyons to his native Languedoc.
The book describes an encounter with a mysterious Comte de Gabalis, who is a master of the occult sciences. Gabalis initiates de Villars into the secrets of the elemental beings: the Sylphs of the Air, the Undines of the Water, the Gnomes of the Earth and the Salamanders of Fire. The Abbé is not sure whether the elementals are demons, while Gabalis encourages him to symbolically (?) marry one of the elementals.
Of course there is a lot more going on here than the dialog would indicate. There are profuse classical and esoteric references. This particular edition wraps the translation in a heavy cloak of parallel commentary, footnotes, endnotes and sub-footnotes. The additional material will be of much interest by itself, as a miscellany of esoteric topics including a whole section of prophecies. And even though there are hints, neither the original text nor the commentary ever discloses exactly who the Comte de Gabalis is...
Production Notes. The first portion of this edition, the 'Discourses' section, has commentary on facing pages; these were turned into footnotes instead of trying to reproduce the page layout. For a number of reasons, it was impossible to run a full spellcheck on this text, so there are undoubtedly more OCR errors left in this text than usual. As usual, I welcome any comments about typographical errors.Title Page and Front Matter
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