On the other hand, the genuine Orphics, a fraternity of religious ascetics, found unscrupulous imitators and impostors, who.
Wizards and impostors persuaded the multitude to follow them into the desert, and an Egyptian, claiming to be a prophet, led his followers to the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall at his command.
Van Helmont (1577-1644) was the last distinguished investigator who professed actually to have changed mercury into gold, though impostors and mystics of various kinds continued to claim knowledge of the art long after his time.
But the false prophets were by no means mere common impostors; they were the accredited exponents of the common orthodoxy of their day, for the prophets who opposed Jeremiah took their stand on the ground of the prophetic traditions of Isaiah, whose doctrine of the inviolability of Yahweh's seat on Zion was the starting-point of their opposition to Jeremiah's predictions of captivity.
No doubt there were many conscious hypocrites and impostors among the professional prophets, as there always will be among the professional representatives of a religious standpoint which is intrinsically untenable, and yet has on its side the prestige of tradition and popular acceptance.
To this period also belongs a set of " philosophers," with regard to whom it is impossible to say whether they are dupes or impostors - the " decepti deceptores " of whom Augustine speaks.
" The sophists," says Grote, " are spoken of as a new class of men, or sometimes in language which implies a new doctrinal sect or school, as if they then sprang up in Greece for the first time - ostentatious impostors, flattering and duping the rich youth for their own personal gain, undermining the morality of Athens, public and private, and encouraging their pupils to the unscrupulous prosecution of ambition and cupidity.
Meanwhile the " Popish Plot," the creation of a band of impostors encouraged by Shaftesbury and the most violent and unscrupulous of the extreme Protestant party in order to exclude James from the throne, had thrown the whole country into a panic. Charles's conduct in this conjuncture was highly characteristic and was marked by his usual cynical selfishness.
He had pursued the traditional policy of intermarriage with the royal families of Castile and Aragon, hoping to weld together the Spanish and Portuguese dominions into a single world-wide Sebastianism " became a religion; its' votaries were numbered by thousands, and four impostors arose in succession, each claiming to be the rei encuberto, or " hidden king," whose advent was so ardently desired (see Sebastian).
Yet leaderless seditions and the plots of obvious impostors sufficed to make his throne tremble, and a ruler less resolute, less wary, and less unscrupulous might have been overthrown.
Even this did not tame the impostors mercurial temperament.