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Muggles, Madmen & Eyeball Operated Cameras

The Russian explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky gives a report of meeting a Mongolian prince who was fascinated by cameras, and very keen to get hold of one, despite sharing the widely held belief (according to Przhevalsky) that these cameras operated through the medium of fluid squeezed from children’s eyeballs.

It’s a strange belief, but you can kind of see the logic in it, unlike some of the ones held by the Muggletonians (move over, Harry Potter). They were a sect founded around 1651 by Ludowicke Muggleton and his cousin John Reeve, who claimed they were the two witnesses of Revelations 11: 3-6 who had power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. They declared that now they were here to prophesy, God would no longer be interfering with the world and so prayer and preaching were pointless. They also taught that the faculty of reason was a the creation of the devil, thereby condemning the entire span of human endeavour as a by-product of devilry, as indeed, by this logic, must be their own arguments and claims.

It’s so mad that it makes their other beliefs on Satan seem almost sane, in that not only did he seduce Eve in the Garden of Eden but then he died, springing back to life again in her womb, where he popped out nine months later as her son, Cain, going on to commit the first murder when he killed his brother Abel.

Oddly this goes rather well with rabbinic teaching on Cain and the puzzle of how he dies. They interpret a rather obscure passage about Lamech in Genesis 4: 23-4 like this: when Lamech was very old and almost blind, his son, Tubal-Cain, was leading him around in a field to get a bit of fresh air when Tubal-Cain saw a wild beast and shot it dead. On closer examination they found that this was no beast but a man, Cain himself, whose way of life had debased and degraded him almost to the form of a beast, particularly as he had grown a large horn upon his head. Which is a bit of a giveaway, and maybe why the devil is so often depicted with that particular cranial adornment.
So what do we learn from all this?

1. Don’t buy cameras that feature small children in their advertising campaigns;

2. Don’t shoot anything in a field unless you’ve checked first it’s not actually a person, although if it’s a person so morally devoid they’ve grown a big horn on their head then you’ll probably get away with it;

3. Don’t wear sackcloth. It will itch like the devil.

4. And don’t be a Muggle. No good can come of it. They might have been a small sect of madmen, but they managed to keep these beliefs alive for at least two hundred years, and may be with us still…

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