VI.— DIABOLISM AND HYSTERIA.
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL.D., L.H.D.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
IN the foregoing chapter I have sketched the triumph of science in destroying the idea that individual lunatics are "possessed by devils," — in establishing the truth that insanity is physical disease, — and in substituting for superstitious cruelties toward the insane a treatment mild, kindly, and based upon ascertained facts.
The Satan who had so long troubled individual men and women thus became extinct; henceforth his fossil remains only were preserved; they may still be found in the sculptures and storied windows of mediæval churches, in sundry liturgies, and in popular forms of speech.
But another Satan still lived — a Satan who wrought on a larger scale — who took possession of multitudes. For, after this triumph of the scientific method, there still remained a class of mental disorders which could not be treated in asylums, which were not yet fully explained by science, and which therefore gave arguments of much apparent strength to the supporters of the old theological view: these were the epidemics of "diabolic possession" which for so many centuries afflicted various parts of the world.
When obliged, then, to retreat from their old position in regard to individual cases of insanity, the more conservative theologians promptly referred to these epidemics as beyond the domain of science — as clear evidences of the power of Satan; and, as the basis of this view, they cited from the Old Testament frequent references to witchcraft, and, from the New Testament, St.