Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/462

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of gentleness and mercy, but which became significant of wild riot and brutality and confusion—Bethlehem Hospital became "Bedlam."

Modern art has also dwelt upon this theme, and perhaps the most touching of all its exhibitions is the picture by a great French master representing a tender woman bound to a column, and exposed to the jeers, insults, and missiles of street ruffians.[1]

Here and there, even in the worst of times, men arose who attempted to promote a more humane view, but with little effect. One expositor of St. Matthew, having ventured to recall the fact that some of the insane were spoken of in the New Testament as madmen, and to suggest that their madness might be caused by the moon, was answered that their madness was not caused by the moon, but by the devil, who avails himself of the moonlight for his work.[2]

One result of this idea was a mode of cure which especially aggravated and spread mental disease—the promotion of great religious processions. Troops of men and women, crying, howling, imploring saints, beating themselves with whips, visited various sacred shrines, images, and places, in the hope of driving off the powers of evil. The only result was an increase in the numbers of the diseased.

For hundreds of years this idea of diabolic possession was steadily developed. It was believed that devils entered into animals; and animals were accordingly exorcised, tried, tortured, convicted, and executed. The great St. Ambrose tells us that a priest, while saying mass, was troubled by the croaking of frogs in a neighboring marsh, and that he exorcised them, and so stopped their noise. St. Bernard, as the monkish chroniclers tell us, mounting the pulpit to preach in his abbey, was interrupted by a cloud of flies; straightway the saint uttered the sacred formula of excommunication, when the flies fell dead upon the pavement in heaps, and were cast out with shovels! A formula of exorcism attributed to a saint of the ninth century, and which remained in use down to a recent period, especially declares insects injurious to crops to be possessed of evil spirits, and names, among the animals to be excommunicated or exorcised, mice, moles, and serpents. The use of exorcism against caterpillars and grasshoppers was also common. In the thirteenth century the Bishop of Lausanne, finding that the eels in Lake Leman troubled the fishermen, attempted to remove the difficulty by exorcism.

  1. The typical picture representing a priest's struggle with the devil is in the city gallery of Rouen. The modern picture is Robert Fleury's painting in the Luxembourg Gallery at Paris.
  2. See Giraldus Cambrensis, cited by Tuke, as above, p. 79.