Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/189

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175
PÖSSNECK—POST


were confined to the simple dramatic imitation of the voice of the dead king, whose soul was believed to give counsel in this manner to his successor.

b. Demoniacal possession is a widely spread explanation of such psychopathological conditions as epilepsy, somnambulism, hysteria, &c.; especially in the East Indian field lycanthropy (q.v.) and magical power (for evil) are commonly attributed to possession. Much of the evidence is that of native witnesses, and where European observers have succeeded in examining a case for themselves they have generally been guiltless of all knowledge of psychopathology and of the possibilities of suggestion; their statements are therefore to be accepted only with reserve. Demoniacal possession is familiar to us from the New Testament narratives; there seems to be no reason to suppose that the cases there recorded were due to anything but disease; but the view is still occasionally maintained by Christian apologists that real demon possession existed in Judaea. Demoniacs in the New Testament are stated to live among the tombs, to be deaf and dumb, or blind, to be possessed by a multitude of evil spirits or to suffer from high fever as a result of possession; the demons are said to pass into the bodies of animals or to reside in waterless places. No facts are recorded which are not explicable either as the ordinary symptoms of mental disease or as the result of suggestion (q.v.).

c. In the lower stages of culture all diseases are explained as due to the invasion of the body by disease spirits (see Animism), but the effects are supposed to be physiological, not psychical as in demoniacal possession. The infringement of a totemic tabu, the wrath of an ancestor or other dead person or the malice of a disease spirit, such as the Malay hantus, or of any non-human spirit, may set up pathological conditions, according to animistic philosophy. Such cases, as well as those of demoniacal possession, which may be distinguished from the inspirational form by their invariably involuntary character, are dealt with by a variety of means such as spells, purification, sacrifices to the possessing spirit, or coercion of various sorts (see Exorcism).

We have few data as to the distribution of the phenomena here classified. Cases of inspirational or demoniacal possession were known in classical times; but the demon of Socrates must rather be classed as a case of sensory automatism. In our own day they are reported from the greater part of Asia, Africa and Polynesia, and they seem to occur in America, though our information is scanty. On the other hand in New Guinea and Australia they are practically unknown, though automatisms are put down to the agency of the dead.

From the psychological point of view the classification is again threefold: (a) as noted above, the majority of cases of so-called possession are simply psychopathological; (b) another class, the existence of which has only been recognized within recent times are the cases of secondary or multiple personality; the apparent independence and occasional conflict of primary and secondary selves has been explained by the theory of possession; but it has been possible in one of the most severe cases on record to unify the two personalities and memories after what the patient described as a struggle between them for supremacy, which would inevitably have suggested possession as the explanation, had not the issue of the case been the amalgamation of the two streams of consciousness. (c) The problem of the third class of cases, which may be termed mediumistic, is still unsolved. The medium (q.v.) or sensitive appears to have at command in the trance state a store of memories connected with the lives of deceased friends of a sitter (i.e. a person present at the séance), such memories being dealt with from the standpoint of the deceased person (who is termed the communicator); sometimes the memories are connected with the friends of a person not actually present or with articles placed in the hands of the medium, the owners being absent or dead. Mediumistic cases have undergone elaborate investigation at the hands of the Society for Psychical Research, and no serious attempt has been made to invalidate the facts set forward by the investigators; but so far no satisfactory explanation has been suggested. On the one hand thought transference or telepathy (q.v.) appears to be insufficient, unless we assume that the powers of a medium far transcend anything demonstrable in ordinary telepathic experiments; for the facts stated by or through the medium about the communicator seem in many cases to be known in their entirety to no single living person. If thought transference is the explanation, we must admit that the medium can (1) ransack all living brains for facts, (2) select those which are pertinent (i.e. known to the communicator) and (3) combine them in such a way as to suggest that the source of the information is the dead person. On the other hand, although, as we have seen, the communications show knowledge homologous to that of the deceased, they demonstrably do not include the whole of his knowledge; more than one attempt has been made to obtain from communicators the contents of sealed letters written during their lifetime and kept from the knowledge of all other human beings till the seal was broken; but such attempts have so far failed, and the failure seems to form conclusive evidence both against possession and against other explanations based on the supposition that the dead are communicating.

Bibliography.—For anthropological data see Bastian, Der Mensch; Contemporary Review, xxvii. 369; Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples; Naevius, Demon Possession; Radloff, Das Schamanentum; Skeat, Malay Magic; Stoll, Suggestion und Hypnotismus; Tylor, Primitive Culture; Verdun, Le Diable dans les missions; Maury, La Magic, p. 258 seq.; Chamberlain, Things Japanese, s.v. “Fox.” For discussion of New Testament facts see W. M. Alexander, Demoniacal Possession in the New Testament; Conybeare, in Jewish Quarterly Review, viii. 576, ix. 59, 444, 581; Herzog's Realencyclopädie, s.v. “Dämonische.” For patristic literature see Bingham, Antiquities, iii. For mediumistic possession see Myers, Human Personality; and the same author on “Pseudopossession” in Proc. S.P.R. xv. 384; Proc. S.P.R. vi. 436-450, viii. 1-167, xiii. 284-582, xvi. 1-536, xvii. 61-244, &c. For medical and psychological observations see Griesinger, Mental Pathology; James, Principles of Psychology; Janet, Névroses et idées fixes; Kraft-Ebbing, Psychiatrie; Sidis and S. P. Goodhart, Multiple Personality. (N. W. T.)

PÖSSNECK, a town of Germany, in the duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, 21 m. by rail S. of Jena, on the Kotschau. Pop. (1905), 12,702. It has a Gothic Evangelical church built about 1390, and a Gothic town-hall erected during the succeeding century. Its chief industries are the making of flannel, porcelain, furniture, machines, musical instruments and chocolate. The town has also tanneries, breweries, dyeworks and brick works. Pössneck, which is of Slavonic origin, passed about 1300 to the landgrave of Thuringia. Later it belonged to Saxony and later still to the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, passing to Saxe-Meiningen in 1826.

See E. Koch, Aus Pössnecks Vergangenheit (Pössneck, 1894–1895); the same writer, Beiträge zur urkundlichen Geschichte der Stadt Pössneck (Pössneck, 1896–1900); and the Geschichte der Stadt Pössneck, published by the Pössnecker Zeitung (Pössneck, 1902).

POST. 1. (An adaptation in O. Eng. of the Lat. postis, from ponere, to place), a stock, stake or stump, particularly an upright timber used as a support in building, as part of the framework of a door, as a boundary mark, &c., and formerly as a convenient object to which to attach public notices, &c., whence the verb “to post,” to publish a notice, advertisement, &c., by affixing it in a conspicuous position, hence to make a statement with regard to an event or person, e.g. the “posting” of a defaulter, or of a ship as overdue or missing at Lloyd's.

2. (An adaptation of the Fr. poste, station, position, Ital. pasta or posto, formed from the past participle positus, of Lat. ponere, to place), position, station, a position occupied by a soldier or body of soldiers, especially one specifically allotted to a soldier, such as the round of a sentry, hence a place of employment, an office. The sense of station has developed into the particular application of the word and its various derivatives “postal,” “postage,” &c., to the service connected with the delivery of letters (see Post and Postal Service). From the earliest times as we see from the ἀγγαρεία of the Persian kings (Herod. viii. 98), the speedy despatch of messages, letters, &c., was attained by relays of men and horses stationed at regular intervals. This is paralleled by the dispositi equites of Roman times and by the elaborate system of the Great Khan which Marco Polo describes on the roads of China. The New English Dictionary finds the earliest use of the O. Fr. poeste and the Ital. pasta for these stations of men and horses in Marco Polo's account. The Medieval Latin expression for the couriers was caballarii postarum, riders of the posts. From the stations or relays of horses the word was early applied to the riders themselves, and later to the mail carried by means of the “posts,” and thence to the whole service. At the first establishment of