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Samuel Johnson's Definition of Enthusiasm

From Samuel Johnson, The Dictionary of the English Language (1755):

ENTHU'SIASM. n.s. ...

1. A vain belief of private revelation; a vain confidence of divine favour or communication.

Enthusiasm is founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rises from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain.

2. Heat of imagination; violence of passion; confidence of opinion.

3. Elevation of fancy; exaltation of ideas.

Imaging is, in itself, the very height and life of poetry, which, by a kind of enthusiasm, or extraordinary emotion of soul, makes it seem to us that we behold those things which the poet paints.
Dryden's Juv. Preface.
ENTHU'SIAST. n.s. ...

1. One who vainly imagines a private revelation; one who has a vain confidence of his intercourse with God.

Let an enthusiast be principled that he or his teacher is inspired, and acted by an immediate communication of the Divine Spirit, and you in vain bring the evidence of clear reasons against his doctrine.

2. One of a hot imagination, or violent passions.

Chapman seems to have been of an arrogant turn, and an enthusiast in poetry.
Pope's Pref. to the Iliads.

3. One of elevated fancy, or exalted ideas.

At last divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
Enlarg'd the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
With nature's mother-wit, and arts unknown before.


1. Persuaded of some communication with the Deity.

He pretended not to any seraphick enthusiastical raptures, or inimitable unaccountable transports of devotion.

2. Vehemently hot in any cause.

3. Elevated in fancy; exalted in ideas.

It commonly happens in an enthusiastick or prophetick style, that, by reason of the eagerness of the fancy, it doth not always follow the even thread of discourse.
At last, sublim'd
To rapture and enthusiastick heat,
We feel the present Deity.
Thomson's Spring, l. 895.