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themselves were demoniac (daluovâv čon), and Alexander ascribed to the influence of offended Dionysos the ungovernable drunken fury in which he killed his friend Kleitos; raving madness was obsession or possession by an evil demon (κακοδαιμονία). So the Romans called madmen larvati,' 'larvarum pleni,' full of ghosts. Patients possessed by demons stared and foamed, and the spirits spoke from within them by their voices. The craft of the exorcist was well known. As for oracular possession, its theory and practice remained in fullest vigour through the classic world, scarce altered from the times of lowest barbarism. Could a South Sea Islander have gone to Delphi to watch the convulsive struggles of the Pythia, and listen to her raving, shrieking utterances, he would have needed no explanation whatever of a rite so absolutely in conformity with his own savage philosophy.
The Jewish doctrine of possession” at no time in its long course exercised a direct influence on the opinion of the civilized world comparable to that produced by the mentions of demoniacal possession in the New Testament. It is needless to quote here even a selection from the familiar passages of the Gospels and Acts which display the manner in which certain described symptoms were currently accounted for in public opinion. Regarding these documents from an ethnographic point of view, it need only be said that they prove, incidentally but absolutely, that Jews and Christians at that time held the doctrine which had prevailed for ages before, and continued to prevail for ages after, referring to possession and obsession by spirits the symptoms of mania, epilepsy, dumbness, delirious and oracular utterance, and other morbid conditions, mental and bodily. Modern missionary works, such as have been cited
Homer. Odyss. v. 396, x. 64; Plat. Phædr. Tim. &c.; Pausan. iv. 27, 2; Xen. Mem. I. i. 9; Plutarch. Vit. Alex.; De Orac. Def.; Lucian. Philopseudes ; Petron. Arbiter, Sat. ; &c., &c.
2 Joseph. Ant. Jud. viii. 2, 5. Eisenmenger, ‘Entdecktes Judenthum,' part ii. p. 454. See Maury, p. 290.
3 Matth. ix. 32, xi. 18, xii. 22, xvii. 15: Mark, i, 23, ix. 17; Luke, iv.
here, give the most striking evidence of the correspondence of these demoniac symptoms with such as may still be observed among uncivilized races. During the early centuries of Christianity, demoniacal possession indeed becomes peculiarly conspicuous, perhaps not from unusual prevalence of the animistic theory of disease, but simply because a period of intense religious excitement brought it more than usually into requisition. Ancient ecclesiastical records describe, under the well-known names of 'dæmoniacs' (darmonfóuevoi), possessed' (katexóevol), 'energumens' (évepyoúpevoi), the class of persons whose bodies are seized or possessed by an evil spirit; such attacks being frequently attended with great commotions and vexations and disturbances of the body, occasioning sometimes frenzy and madness, sometimes epileptic fits, and other violent tossings and contortions. These energumens formed a recognized part of an early Christian congregation, a standing-place apart being assigned to them in the church. The church indeed seems to have been the principal habitation of these afflicted creatures, they were occupied out of service-time in such work as sweeping, daily food was provided for them, and they were under the charge of a special order of clergy, the exorcists, whose religious function was to cast out devils by prayer and adjuration and laying on of hands. As to the usual symptoms of possession, Justin, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Cyril, Minucius, Cyprian, and other early Fathers, give copious descriptions of demons entering into the bodies of men, disordering their health and minds, driving them to wander among the tombs, forcing them to writhe and wallow and rave and foam, howling and declaring their own diabolical names by the patients' voices, but when overcome by conjuration or by blows administered to their victims, quitting the bodies they had entered, and acknowledging the pagan deities to be but devils.1
33, 39, vii. 33, viii. 27, ix. 39, xiii. 11; John, x. 20; Acts, xvi. 16, xix. 13; &c.
1 For general evidence see Bingham, 'Antiquities of Christian Church,'
On a subject so familiar to educated readers I may be excused from citing at length a vast mass of documents, barbaric in nature and only more or less civilized in circumstance, to illustrate the continuance of the doctrine of possession and the rite of exorcism through the middle ages and into modern times. A few salient examples will suffice. For a type of medical details, we may instance the recipes in the 'Early English Leechdoms': a cake of the 'thost' of a white hound baked with meal is to be taken against the attack by dwarves (i.e. convulsions); a drink of herbs worked up off clear ale with the aid of garlic, holy water, and singing of masses, is to be drunk by a fiend-sick patient out of a church-bell. Philosophical argument may be followed in the dissertations of the 'Malleus Maleficarum,' concerning demons substantially inhabiting men and causing illness in them, enquiries which may be pursued under the auspices of Glanvil in the Saducismus Triumphatus.' Historical anecdote bears record of the convulsive clairvoyant demon who possessed Nicola Aubry, and under the Bishop of Laon's exorcism testified in an edifying manner to the falsity of Calvinism; of Charles VI. of France, who was possessed, and whose demon a certain priest tried in vain to transfer into the bodies of twelve men who were chained up to receive it; of the German woman at Elbingerode who in a fit of toothache wished the devil might enter into her teeth, and who was possessed by six demons accordingly, which gave their names Schalk der Wahrheit, Wirk, Widerkraut, Myrrha, Knip, Stüp; of George Lukins of Yatton, whom seven devils threw into fits and talked and sang and barked out of, and who was delivered by a solemn exorcism by seven clergymen at the Temple Church at Bristol in the year 1788. A strong book iii. ch. iv. ; Calmet, ‘Dissertation sur les Esprits’; Maury, ‘Magie,' &c. ; Lecky, 'Hist. of Rationalism.' Among particular passages are Tertull. Apolog. 23 ; De Spectaculis, 26 ; Chrysostom. Homil. xxviii. in Matth. iv.; Cyril. Hierosol. Catech. xvi. 16 ; Minuc. Fel. Octavius. xxi. ; Concil. Carthag. iv. ; &c., &c.
1 Details in Cockayne, ‘Leechdoms, &c., of Early England,' vol. i. p. 365,
sense of the permanence of the ancient doctrine may be gained from accounts of the state of public opinion in Europe, from Greece and Italy to France, where within the last century derangement and hysteria were still popularly ascribed to possession and treated by exorcism, just as in the dark ages. In the year 1861, at Morzine, at the south of the Lake of Geneva, there might be seen in full fury an epidemic of diabolical possession worthy of a Red Indian settlement or a negro kingdom of West Africa, an outburst which the exorcisms of a superstitious priest had so aggravated that there were a hundred and ten raving demoniacs in that single village. The following is from a letter written in 1862 by Mgr. Anouilh, a French missionarybishop in China. “Le croiriez-vous ? dix villages se sont convertis. Le diable est furieux et fait les cent coups. Il y a eu, pendant les quinze jours que je viens de prêcher, cinq ou six possessions. Nos catéchumènes avec l'eau bénite chassent les diables, guérissent les malades. J'ai vu des choses merveilleuses. Le diable m'est d'un grand secours pour convertir les païens. Comme au temps de NotreSeigneur, quoique père du mensonge, il ne peut s'empêcher de dire la vérité. Voyez ce pauvre possédé faisant mille contorsions et disant à grands cris : ‘Pourquoi prêches-tu la vraie religion? Je ne puis souffrir que tu m'enlèves mes disciples.' — Comment t'appelles-tu ?' lui demande le catéchiste. Après quelques refus : 'Je suis l'envoyé de Lucifer'
- Combien êtes - vous ?'. 'Nous sommes vingt-deux.' ' L'eau bénite et le signe de la croix ont délivré ce possédé.'3 To conclude the series with a modern spiritualistic instance, vol. ii. p. 137, 355; Sprenger, 'Malleus Maleficarum,' part ii. ; Calmet, * Dissertation,' vol. i. ch. xxiv. ; Horst, "Zauber-Bibliothek ;' Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 557, &c. ; 'Psychologie,' p. 115, &c.; Voltaire, “Questions sur l'Encyclopédie,' art., 'Superstition'; 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' 5th ed. art. 'Possession.'
1 See Maury, ‘Magie,' &c., part ii. ch. ii.
2 A. Constans, 'Rel. sur une Epidémie d'Hystéro-Démonopathie, en 1861.' 2nd ed. Paris, 1863. For descriptions of such outbreaks, among the North American Indians, see Le Jeune in ‘Rel. des Jés. dans la Nouvelle France, 1639; Brinton, p. 275; and in Guinea, see J. L. Wilson, Western Africa,'p. 217.
3 Gaume, 'L'Eau Bénite au Dix-Neuvième Siècle,' 3rd ed. Paris, 1866, p. 353.
one of those where the mediums feel themselves entered and acted though by a spirit other than their own soul. The Rev. Mr. West of Philadelphia describes how a certain possessed medium went through the sword exercise, and fell down senseless; when he came to himself again, the spirit within him declared itself to be the soul of a deceased ancestor of the minister's, who had fought and died in the American War. We in England now hardly hear of demoniacal possession except as a historical doctrine of divines. We have discarded from religious services the solemn ceremony of casting out devils from the bodies of the possessed, a rite to this day officially retained in the Rituals of the Greek and Roman Churches. Cases of diabolical influence alleged from time to time among ourselves are little noticed except by newspaper paragraphs on superstition and imposture. If, however, we desire to understand the doctrine of possession, its origin and influence in the world, we must look beyond countries where public opinion has passed into this stage, and must study the demoniac theory as it still prevails in lower and lowest levels of culture.
It has to be thoroughly understood that the changed aspect of the subject in modern opinion is not due to disappearance of the actual manifestations which early philosophy attributed to demoniacal influence. Hysteria and epilepsy, delirium and mania, and such like bodily and mental derangement, still exist. Not only do they still exist, but among the lower races, and in superstitious districts among the higher, they are still explained and treated as of old. It is not too much to assert that the doctrine of demoniacal possession is kept up, substantially the same theory to account for substantially the same facts, by half the human race, who thus stand as consistent representatives of their forefathers back into primitive antiquity. It is in the civilized world, under the influence of the medical doctrines which have been developing since classic times, that the early animistic theory of these morbid phenomena has been
1 West, in ‘Spiritual Telegraph,'cited by Bastian.