Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/October 1895/Recent Recrudescence of Superstition I
|RECENT RECRUDESCENCE OF SUPERSTITION.|
IN 1879 a Catholic professor of theology in the University of Bonn, Dr. Heinrich Reusch, published a little volume entitled Die deutschen Bischofe und der Aberglaube (The German Bishops and Superstition), in which he called attention to the vast increase of superstitious beliefs and observances within the Catholic Church since the middle of the present century, and to the official approval and promulgation of them by the highest ecclesiastical authorities. He animadverted severely on the extent to which this tendency had tainted the religious literature most widely diffused by the clergy among the masses of the people, and censured especially the pious pamphlets and periodicals issued by the Jesuits, such as Monat-Rosen zu Ehren der Unbefleckten Gottes-Mutter Maria, and Der Sendbote des götthichen Herzens Jesu, both of which are edited by disciples of Loyola at Innsbruck under the auspices of the Bishops of Salzburg, Brixen, and Trent, and with the benediction of Pope Pius IX. In these monthly sheets one would seek in vain for a moral maxim or practical precept inculcating kindness, truthfulness, and honesty in the common relations of life, but their pages are filled with records of miracles wrought and demons discomfited by consecrated medals, chrisms, holy waters, sacred scapularies, seraphic girdles, and relics of the saints.
During the fifteen years that have elapsed since Prof. Reusch uttered his earnest protest against this gross abuse of sacerdotal functions and spiritual power, the evils which he lamented and endeavored to correct have grown decidedly worse. In Germany the most important of the influences and events that have contributed to this deplorable result was the so-called Kulturkampf, or antagonism of the state to the Church in the interests of modern culture as opposed to the arrogant claims of a mediæval hierarchy. The inevitable effect of this conflict was to consolidate the forces of ultramontanism and to render them supreme in the papacy, to bind priests and people more firmly together, and to alienate the clergy from the cultivated classes of civil society. Universities have been superseded to a considerable extent by cloistral schools and special seminaries for the instruction of ecclesiastics, who, in consequence of such intellectual isolation, are as ignorant of the achievements of modern science and the chief currents of modern thought as though they lived in the ninth instead of the nineteenth century. Quite recently the German Imperial Government suggested the desirability and indicated the intention of establishing a Catholic faculty of theology in connection with the University of Strasburg; but the project was disapproved by the Alsatian bishop and met with general opposition on the part of the Catholic press in Germany, so great was the distrust of any intimate association with the centers of higher secular education. Also the convention of Catholics held at Cologne during the last week in August, 1894, expressed no word in favor of the afore-mentioned plan, but passed a resolution urging the immediate founding of a university at Fulda, which should be sanctioned by the Pope, controlled by the bishops, and wholly independent of the state. The kind of instruction which young men would receive in such an institution may be easily imagined. The hexahemera of the fathers and the works of Albertus Magnus would be the text-books in natural science, while theology and philosophy would be nothing but a rehash of the quiddities and quodlibets of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.
Two books recently published may be cited as fair specimens of the sort of researches to which the professors of the proposed Fulda University would probably devote their time and talents. The first of these volumes is entitled Wunder und göttliche Gnadenerweise bei der Ausstellung des heiligen Rockes zu Trier im Jahre 1891; aktenmässig dargestellt von Dr. Felix Korum, Bischof von Trier, of which a fourth edition has just been issued by the Paulinus printing office in Trier (Treves). When it was announced in 1890 that the "holy coat" of Trier would, after a lapse of forty-six years, be again exhibited for the adoration of the faithful, many sincere Catholics could hardly believe that, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, such an appeal to the crassest religious credulity would be made, or that it would meet with any general response. Nevertheless the exhibition took place in the following year and was crowned with immense success. Vast crowds of people flocked to the sacred shrine, and rumors went forth throughout the land of persons who had touched the garment and proved its miraculous virtue by being healed of their infirmities. This immense concourse of devotees presented to the eyes of the bishop a "glorious spectacle" and is characterized by him as in itself a "moral miracle"; a mind less blinded by bigotry, and therefore more capable of tracing the logical connection between cause and effect, would discover in this marvelous phenomenon only the natural result of the kind of religious instruction that has been systematically imparted by the Catholic clergy to the souls intrusted to their special care and spiritual cure during the last fifty years, and against which Prof. Reusch deemed it necessary to utter his solemn words of protest and of warning.
Dr. Korum seeks to give his brochure a quasi-scientific character by a so-called "documentary representation" of the miracles wrought by the "holy coat," consisting of certificates issued by obscure curates and country doctors and indorsed by an episcopal commission of theologians and physicians, who have very discreetly forgotten to sign their names to their reports and thus relieved themselves of all personal responsibility for their opinions. The Council of Trent decreed that no new miracles are to be accepted as authentic unless allowed and approved by the diocesan bishop, who, after taking the advice of theologians and other pious men, is to come to a decision which shall be consentaneous to truth and piety (veritati et pietati consentanea). Unfortunately, the interests of truth and piety are not always identical, and the demands of the former are apt to prove fatal to the claims of the latter. The diseases reported by our author as having been healed were nervous and hysterical affections, chorea or St. Vitus's dance, and a few cases of certain milder forms of lupus and tabes, which, as is well known, often disappear for months and even for years without the aid of medicine or miracles. It is also essential to a miracle that the afflicted person should be instantaneously relieved, or "cured from that very hour." The bishop, however, records no instance of this kind; as a rule, a very conconsiderable time elapsed, often weeks and months, before the contact with the "holy coat" began to produce any perceptible effects; meanwhile the patient had been subject to a variety of sanitary influences, such as change of scene and other diversions, any one of which might have brought about the desired result, and in some cases also underwent medical treatment. Under such circumstances it would be the height of absurdity even for those who admit the possibility of the miraculous healing of disease to claim that the recovery was due to supernatural causes. Indeed, of the thirty-eight cures said to have taken place during the exhibition of the "holy coat," Dr. Korum owns that twentyseven may have been 'effected by natural means, thus leaving only eleven in which he would fain discover the working of divine agencies.
One of the most eminent of modern neuropathologists, the late Prof. Charcot, published shortly before his death an interesting paper on faith-healing, in which he acknowledges the reality of the cures performed by this means, and states that his own practice furnishes many examples of the kind; but every therapeuticmiracle, he adds, has its explanation, and we are gradually becoming better acquainted with the laws which govern the origin and evolution of such phenomena, and better able to trace them to their natural causes. Two factors are absolutely essential to cures of this kind: first, a peculiar mental constitution of the patient, easily accessible to confidence, credulity, or, as it is now called, suggestibility; secondly, a certain definite form of disease confined to a very small province in the domain of therapeutics, and comprising only those affections which the influence exerted by the mind upon the body suffices to heal. To this class of ailments belong partial or complete paralysis, cramps, convulsions, and similar functional disorders, tumors and ulcers, muscular atrophy, defective vision and other troubles of a hysterical nature, which can be cured by hypnotic suggestion, or by impressing upon the mind of the patient the conviction of their nonexistence, or by appealing to the firm belief in some remedy which has no intrinsic virtue. Under such circumstances a cripple may recover the use of his limbs simply by being commanded to rise up and walk, or a person suffering from tabes dorsualis may be restored to health and strength by wearing a holy relic of high repute or by going on a pilgrimage to some wonder-working shrine. In both cases the cure is effected by the exercise of credulity under more or less morbid and abnormal conditions produced either by somnambulism or superstition; but in neither case is the result attributable to supernatural causes. The sole aim of the physician is to heal the sick, and he should be liberal-minded enough to make use of any remedy which experience has proved to be effective—it may be a pill or a pilgrimage, a dose of sulphur or devotion to a saint. In conclusion, Dr. Korum declares that "the Lord by these marvelous manifestations of his almighty power has in a special manner indorsed and confirmed the worship of relics," and adds that "the occurrence of so many miracles in our enlightened nineteenth century is annihilating to the haughtiness of scientific research." The good bishop does not seem to be aware that the events which he records, admitting the accuracy of his descriptions, are merely illustrations and confirmations of the most recent scientific researches and discoveries in the province of neuropathology.
Dr. Korum also endeavors to show that miracles involve no violation of the laws of Nature, but are only the temporary counteraction of their ordinary effects through the operation of higher laws. The following example may serve as a specimen of his reasoning on this point: A stone falls to the ground in obedience to the law of gravitation; the human arm or other agency may cause it to rise into the air; this upward movement is, however, no violation of the law of gravitation, but merely a counteraction of its usual workings through the intervention of a superior force; therefore, miracles are wrought without violating natural laws. We commend this palpable non sequitur to any writer who wishes to make a collection of peculiarly gross fallacies for a work on logic.
An admirable reply to Dr. Korum's book is a brochure of eighty-three pages written by Friedrich Jaskowski, and entitled Der Trierer Rock und seine Patienten vom Jahre 1891 (Saarbrücken: Carl Schmidtke, 1894). The author is a Catholic priest in the diocese of Trier, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the bishop, the absurdity of whose statements and the untenableness of whose arguments he so courageously exposes and so conclusively refutes. The holy coat, he says, has been in the custody of the cathedral since the twelfth century, and was exhibited and adored as a sacred relic probably a dozen times from 1512 to 1810, but during these three centuries no healing virtue or wonderworking power was ever ascribed to it. In 1810 some ignorant and superstitious devotees reported that miracles had been wrought by it, but these stories were not indorsed by the ecclesiastical authorities. Not until 1844 did the popular demand for miracles become so loud and persistent that Bishop Arnoldi finally yielded to it and announced officially that "bodily wonders" or miraculous cures had been performed. If the holy coat can restore the sick, Jaskowski thinks it rather odd that it should have no power of self-restoration; it gets moldy when shut up in a damp closet, wears out by use, and has to be cleaned, darned, and patched like any other garment. The miracles of healing cited by Dr. Korum are then subjected to a critical examination and shown to be utterly unworthy of credence. In several instances the persons said to have been cured died shortly afterward. Of the thirtyeight cases cited, thirteen were men and twenty-five women. "This predilection for the fair sex" is a rather suspicious circumstance, indicating that the maladies were mostly hysterical and nervous and might be easily ameliorated by any influence that would powerfully affect the imagination, without the aid of either medicine or miracles. Jaskowski quotes Prof. Charcot, Dr. Forel, and other neuropathologists to prove that hetero-suggestion emanating from a physician or priest, or auto-suggestion originating in the person's own mind, may often be the most effective remedy for disorders of this kind. In auto-suggestion the patient is possessed with the fixed idea that the doing of a certain thing, which may be in itself absolutely indifferent, will afford relief; as an example of this faith-cure Jaskowski refers to the woman who was diseased with an issue of blood, and approaching Jesus said within herself, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." This is precisely the position taken by Jesus himself, who turned to the woman and said: "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole." On another occasion it is expressly declared by the evangelist that in a certain place the unbelief of the people, or their lack of faith, prevented the doing of many wondrous works. Jaskowski does not deny that on this principle, which is now recognized by the most eminent physicians, some persons may have been restored to health by touching the holy coat of Trier; and there is no doubt that the popular belief in Bishop Korum's assertion that it is the same garment which Jesus wore and the woman touched, would greatly increase its healing efficacy through the force of auto-suggestion. In conclusion Jaskowski declares that the cases of healing, so far as they actually occurred, "were not due to a miracle or any direct interference of God with the established course of things, but happened in a purely natural manner."
The success, both devotional and pecuniary, which attended the exhibition of the holy coat of Trier in 1801 on German soil excited the religious and patriotic zeal of French Catholics, who resolved to try what healing virtue might still inhere in the "holy seamless coat" of Argenteuil. This rival relic, the gift of the Byzantine Empress Irene to Charlemagne, had not been officially exposed and had its therapeutic powers publicly tested since 1680, and it was decided that the "elevation" should take place from May 14 to June 10 in the year of grace 1894. No sooner was this announcement made than it greatly alarmed the jealousy of Trier, whose bishop published a pastoral letter denying the genuineness of the coat at Argenteuil, and inviting the faithful to pay their devotions only to that at Trier. This view was also taken by a French ecclesiastic, the Benedictine Abbé Vonel, who wrote a pamphlet declaring that the legend of the Argenteuil relic had no historical foundation, and that the whole thing was merely a "pious illusion," which the Church should have sufficient love of truth as well as sense of her own worthiness to repudiate. This conclusion filled the inhabitants of Argenteuil with consternation; especially the tradesmen and innkeepers of the little town on the Seine uttered loud and indignant protests against the attempt to tarnish the traditional glory of this sacred shrine and to diminish the prospect of putting money in their pockets, while the people of Trier rejoiced at the condemnation and probable extinction of a dangerous competitor. At this juncture Monseigneur Richard, Archbishop of Paris, intervened and induced the Abbé Vonel to withdraw his brochure from publication. In order to remove any lingering traces of skepticism from the public mind, the Bishop of Versailles submitted a small piece of the holy seamless coat to the chemists of the Gobelin manufactory, who reported that the web might possibly date from the time of Christ, and that the stains may have been produced by blood; whether it was really the vesture upon which the Roman soldiers cast lots they would not undertake to decide. This vague and utterly worthless document was eagerly seized upon by the bishop and printed in the newspapers as a confirmation of the truth of ancient tradition by modern science.
We may add that the ecclesiastical authorities of Argenteuil do not deny the genuineness of the relic at Trier, but only assert that it is an upper garment, one of those which Christ's crucifiers parted among them, whereas theirs is an under garment, worn next to the skin, and therefore endowed with greater healing virtue than could possibly be possessed by a mere overcoat. The masses, however, do not seem to have been seriously affected by the accusations and recriminations passed backward and forward between the guardians of the two shrines vying for public patronage. On May 14th, the first day of the "elevation," thirty-seven extra trains left Paris for Argenteuil, and forty-two thousand persons paid their devotions to the wonder-working coat; and when the exhibition closed on June 10th half a million pilgrims had visited the little town on the Seine where, nearly eight centuries ago, the youthful Héloïse took the veil after her separation from Abélard. That thousands were healed of otherwise incurable diseases, and the maimed, the halt, and the blind recovered the use of their limbs and had their sight restored, has undoubtedly been fully recorded, and will in due time be officially reported.
Meanwhile the Bonapartists made a bold attempt to take the tide of popular superstition at the flood, hoping it might lead on to political fortune. One of their agents, while kneeling in adoration before the holy seamless coat, claims to have received a divine revelation through the newly canonized tutelar saint of France, Joan of Arc, who, it seems, has already begun to take a hand in French politics and to utter prophecies concerning the future of the land of which she was once the divinely commissioned defender. According to this revelation from on high, which has been printed on a single sheet of four large octavo pages and distributed in thousands of copies among the rural population and in the provincial towns, Prince Victor Napoleon V is the predestined ruler of France, and will be elected to the presidency of the republic by popular suffrage, or attain to sovereignty after bloody civil contests. In either case, Alsace and Lorraine will, on his accession to power,-be reunited to France either through diplomatic negotiations or as the issue of a short but sanguinary foreign war. The recipient of this communication asserts that he is now seventy-two years of age, but that God had assured him, through the mouth of the Virgin, that his eyes shall see the salvation of France, and that he shall not die until these predictions have been fulfilled. That such crass superstition should be made the means of political propagandism in the last decade of the nineteenth century is certainly a strange phenomenon.
Another book indicating the rank growth of superstition in recent times is Dr. Theobald Bischofberger's Die Verwaltung des Exorcistats nach Massgabe des römischen Benediktionale, of which a new edition, revised and enlarged, was published by Roth at Stuttgart in 1893. The author evidently prides himself upon his powers as an exorcist, and relates with great unction and assurance his experiences in casting out devils by a hocus-pocus worthy of an American medicine-man or an African conjurer. In the section of his manual entitled Recognition of Demoniac Diseases he states that the signs of diabolical possession are quite conspicuous, but not altogether infallible, such as understanding foreign tongues without having learned them, and revealing the place where objects have been hidden, a peculiar faculty now known as mind-reading. Some persons thus affected are subject to fits of fainting; others shake and shiver as though they had the ague; others break out into profuse perspiration, or are seized with an irrepressible tendency to yawn, often developing into chronic oscitation. Sometimes the symptoms are imperceptible to the observer, as when the patient complains of internal heat, or suffers from constriction of the head, confusion of ideas, roaring in the ears, and similar troubles. Dr. Bischofberger admits that disorders produced by demons are difficult to distinguish from those due to natural causes. Thus the paroxysms of an epileptic who is diabolically possessed do not differ from those of an epileptic who has anæmia of the brain or other cerebral affection. The sensations of the aura epileptica and the convulsions that follow them are the same, whatever may be their origin. There is, however, one sure means of determining whether a disease is demoniac or not—namely, the use of the præceptum probativum or exorcismus probationis, by which the demon or demons, if there are several of them, are commanded in the name of Jesus to give a clear and manifest sign of their presence, and, if they have any power over this creature of God in his sickness, to agitate him and do the same things in the presence of the exorcist that they have been wont to do in his absence: Præcipio tibi dæmon, vel vobis dæmonibus, si plures sitis, in nomine Jesu, ut mihi aliquod signum evidens et manifestum faciatis vestriæ præsentiæ, si aliquam potestatem habeatis in hanc creaturem Dei in hac ejus in ægrotatione, agitando earn vel coram me aliquid ex iis faciendo, quod me absente in ea faciebatis—in nomine Paris, etc. While repeating this formula, which, is efficacious only in Latin, the priest is to lay his hand or, better still, some holy relic on the person possessed. "This conjuration" says our author, "may make the ungodly laugh, but the devil must obey and make his presence known, so great is the potency of these words." If the evil spirit were ordered to come out of the person, the command might not be obeyed, owing to some moral or physical obstacle to the demon's exit, which must first be removed; but if told to give a sign of his presence he must do so; otherwise (and mark the peculiar cogency of the priest's logic) there would be no truth in the apostle Paul's assertion that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. . . . The inhabitants of heaven," he adds, "bow the knee in rapturous devotion, the pious children of the Church in humble faith, and the spirits of hell with repugnance and gnashing of teeth, but they yield to compulsion and bow the knee."
Herr Bischofberger prudently leaves many a loophole of escape in case of failure: the demon may refuse to obey if the priest lacks faith, or utters the words in jest, or lives an evil life, or if the patient has little or no faith, or by the commission of a deadly sin has fallen into the toils of Satan, who has thus acquired an irreversible right to his soul. One would think that these exceptions would cover most instances of obstinacy on the part of the demon. Our author states that often, in his own experience, "the præceptum probativum did not produce any effect until the patient had made a general confession and received full absolution." He also notes that devils, like all evil-doers, are fond of going about in disguise, and if they perceive that they hold possession by a precarious tenure, and that their incognito is endangered, they will sometimes depart before the exorcist asks their names, or practice all sorts of equivocations and evasions, like a criminal under inquisition of the police.
If the demoniac infestation is connected with a physical malady of any sort, the case becomes exceedingly complicated, and the exorcism is attended with great difficulty, since the evil spirits obstinately resist all efforts to expel them by intrenching themselves in the ills that flesh is heir to. Diabolical possession, if permitted to continue for a long time, finally gets to be chronic and inveterate, and develops into an organic and incurable disease. Very often, too, it is quite impossible to determine whether the demon is the originary cause of the malady or merely takes occasion of it to get possession of the person through the breach made by illness, like an enemy lying in wait and ready to seize every opportunity to assault the temporary citadel of the soul. Women, however healthy, are, from the very nature of their sex, subject to various bodily indispositions from which men are wholly free, and are therefore more liable to demoniac affections; hence the vast number of unfortunate women who have suffered as witches in times past, not necessarily because they were wicked or morally corrupt, but because they were weak, the devil taking advantage of their physical infirmities to get possession of their persons and to make them the agents of his will.
The theory that "sin is the source of demoniac infestations" is accepted by Dr. Bischofberger only in its general application to the human race; if applied to individuals and families, he thinks it often works great injustice. He censures the conduct of many guardians of souls, who say to those afflicted by demons: "It serves you right; you ought to lead a different life; Satan has power only over bad people." Such remarks betray a lamentable ignorance of the devil's devious ways and cunning devices. Equally reprehensible is it to tell mothers who seek help from the Church for their suffering children: "Your child has been baptized and is in a state of saving and sanctifying grace and inaccessible to devils. You must consult a physician." The truth is, adds our author, little children are very frequently demoniacally possessed for the same reason that women are; on this account the old diocesan benedictionals contained a special exorcismus parvulorum a dæmone infestatorum, which has now been in a great measure superseded by the equally effective formula benedictio puerorum ægroiantium of the Romish benedictional.
In illustration of his views on this subject Dr. Bischofberger asserts that a place where a murder or other heinous crime has been committed, if the offense remains undetected and unexpiated, is sure to become the haunt of evil spirits and the scene of all sorts of diabolic orgies, such as are so frequently described in the annals of witchcraft. This state of things may continue for centuries, and a house or barn built upon such a spot will be demoniacally infested, to the great annoyance of the indwellers, whether men or cattle. The same is true of houses whose inhabitants have been guilty of gross iniquities, murder, brutality, blasphemy, caricature of sacred rites, mockery of holy things, necromancy, etc. Satan, having once got possession, is a tenacious tenant and can not be easily dislodged; and a subsequent proprietor, however pure and pious he may be, will have to suffer the consequences of these sins. Indeed, it is a noteworthy fact that, so long as such a dwelling is occupied by godless persons, the demons are comparatively quiet, the devil recognizing them as his allies and letting them alone; but no sooner does it pass into the possession of a good Christian than "the long-repressed flame of demoniac infestation bursts forth." It therefore behooves purchasers of real estate to ascertain not only that the deed to the property is valid and the conveyance firm in law, but that it is also unencumbered by devils as well as by debts since a Satanic lien may ultimately be the source of greater annoyance than a mortgage or mortmain, or any other sort of legal claim. On this principle, property that has been in the hands of pious people from time immemorial ought to have a higher market value than the dwelling places of the notoriously wicked. Our author thus emphasizes the truth of Holy Writ by showing that not only is "godliness profitable unto all things," but also, as mediæval writers were wont to say, unto some things besides, which the apostle Paul in his admonitions to his "son Timothy" never dreamed of.
Exorcism may be practiced by any regularly consecrated priest with the approval of the diocesan bishop. It is by no means necessary to be a saint in order to possess this power. "Such a demand would be absurd. Saints can not be stamped out of the ground at pleasure, although it would be an excellent thing if all priests were saints. . . . Priestly ordination and a pure life suffice to overcome demons, at least in most cases." But in addition to sacerdotal dignity and personal worthiness certain physical qualities are desirable. A priest who is infirm or prone to melancholy or of a timid disposition ought not to undertake such duties. Strong faith, robust health, moral courage, force of will, and a certain inventive genius in extemporizing expedients within permissible limits are essential to the highest success in coping with devils. "The instructions which precede the exorcismus ad liberandos obsessos, in the Roman ritual, leave much to the personal initiative and spontaneity of the exorcist, who, by making a proper use of this freedom, is often able to confuse and conquer the infernal adversary beyond the most sanguine expectation." Dr. Bischofberger gives an example of what can be accomplished by such ingenuity from his own experience. In order to expel the devils from a house in which a murder had been committed fifty years before and gone unpunished, he bored holes in the four corners of the doors, and after filling them with consecrated objects pegged them in. After a time, seeing that this measure had proved ineffectual, he investigated the matter, and found that the pegs had been pulled out and the contents of the holes removed. He then replaced the holy objects, scorched the pegs in the flame of a consecrated candle, dipped them in holy water, and drove them into the holes. This ingenious device threw the devils into the utmost confusion and compelled them to vacate the premises, from which repeated efforts had been made to expel them for more than three months.
Demons are said to watch with lively interest the progress of modern science and to build great hopes upon it. On one occasion, when the priest came with consecrated oil (oleum simplex) and holy water and began to utter the prescribed exorcism, the evil spirit cried out: "Woe is me! I thought that rubbish had long since gone out of vogue and been discarded as dead superstition." In the ages of faith it was customary to cast out devils in the presence of the whole congregation; but, owing to the growth of skepticism even among so-called believers, it is now deemed better to do it scorsum a multitudine (apart from the crowd), which would be attracted by idle curiosity rather than by the spirit of devotion. It is desirable, however, that the priest should select from the kinsmen and friends of the energumen a number of pious men who, after confessing and taking the communion, shall sustain him by prayer and fasting. Dr. Bischofberger firmly believes that our insane asylums contain many demoniacs who might be healed by the Church, but whom "science falsely so called" has condemned to the madhouse and the strait-jacket; he condemns the priests who would fain show their enlightenment by indorsing the decisions of the alienist, and exclaims: "O spirit of the age! How strongly hast thou infected even the clergy!" It may also be regarded as a concession to this spirit that it is now admissible to call in a physician in order to repair the damages done by the demon to the bodily organism, whereas in the middle ages, and indeed down to the seventeenth century, the Church positively forbade any such intervention, and maintained that the divine power which cast out the devil would also heal the breach. With the general decline of faith in miracles it is permitted to have recourse to medicine, which, however, must be blessed by a priest before being administered to the patient.
In Italy a priest is usually called in, not only to bless newly erected buildings but also to sprinkle with holy water and to fumigate with incense every house in the octaves of Easter. Dr. Bischof berger regrets that this "laudable custom" does not prevail in Germany, since the old maxim that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies with peculiar force to the treatment of demonical possession. We are also told that a very disagreeable "aura corrumpens" is apt to pervade all dwellings which have been infested for a long time, and that this taint remains many years after the demons have been expelled. A sensitive person can not enter such a house without being seized with dizziness, nausea, or strange nervous sensations which manifest themselves in palpitations of the heart, sudden paleness, and trembling of the limbs. The carnal mind, which is at enmity with all supernatural interpretations of natural phenomena, would suggest that these symptoms indicate inadequate ventilation and would seek relief in opening the windows and letting in fresh air rather than in aspersions and adjurations and benedictiones locorum.
Essentially the same method is to be pursued in freeing stables and cattle from demons, only other formulas of benediction are used, such as the benedictus stabuli, or pabuli, or jumentorum, or medicinæ pro animalibus, as the case may be. The first thing to be done is to bore holes in the four corners of the doorcase and to fill them with bits of Easter candles and other consecrated objects. Great efficacy is attributed to this procedure, "since doors have a symbolical significance, on account of which the Jews were commanded to smear the door-posts with the blood of the paschal lamb." Signs of the cross are also to be burned in the hair of the cattle between their horns and in the manes of horses while pronouncing in Latin the words "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Curiously complicated knots and intricate twists and tangles in the hair of animals "are always signs of demoniac infestation." Some eleven years ago the cattle of a peasant in Dr. Bischofberger's parish had their jaws so cramped and contracted that they could hardly eat. The demoniac attack, although severest at feeding time, extended more or less over the whole day and night. If the cows succeeded in getting a little fodder into their mouths, they would keep it there almost motionless for half an hour or more, and only swallow just enough to keep them alive, and after four or five weeks they were all reduced to the verge of starvation. Our learned doctor of divinity then went through with the prescribed benedictions of kine, fodder, stall, etc., as above mentioned, and standing before each animal in turn said, "I command you, demon, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that you desist from tormenting this creature of God and no longer disturb it in the exercise of its natural functions." Gradually they began to chew their food slowly, and no sooner was a cross burned in the tuft of hair between the horns than they fell to and ate with a ravenous appetite.
In another case with which he had to deal he found the devil more obstinate. A peasant woman had suffered from various ailments, and after giving birth to a child fell into a state of extreme nervous prostration. The præceptum probativum indicated demoniac infestation. By the use of consecrated oil and the proper benedictions the evil spirit was cast out of the woman, but went into the stable, where the cattle became strongly agitated. The bovine benedictions expelled it from the cattle, when it returned to the woman, from whom it passed into her husband and children, but, owing to their good health and bodily soundness, it could find no firm foothold there and was easily driven out, whereupon it went back to the woman and one of the cows. A veterinarian gave the animal some medicine, which the priest had blessed, and benedictions were pronounced upon the entire building with all its inmates, men and cattle. Shortly afterward it was found that the devil, instead of going back to hell as told to do, had taken up his abode in the well, which was about half a dozen yards from the house, for no sooner did the cows drink the water than their hair bristled and stood on end; also the woman had a relapse after taking a sip of it. Dr. Bischofberger expelled the devil from the well by throwing into it a little consecrated salt, and, after chasing him with the weapons of the Church from one nook and corner to another, finally succeeded in getting rid of him and purgating the whole premises. "We thus see," he concludes, "how the demon makes every effort to deceive, weary, and discourage the officiating priest."
Another important sacerdotal function is the cleansing of milk pails, churns, and other vessels used in the dairy from demoniac infection, which is frequently caused by women touching such vessels during menstruation. However excellent the cream may appear to be, no amount of churning can convert it into butter. In such cases the churn and all the other vessels connected with the dairy should be scalded with hot water and then sprinkled with holy water and dried in the sun, after which it would be well to ward off the possible return of the evil spirit by pronouncing over them the benedictio ad omnia. "The hot water removes the natural hindrances and the holy water the demoniac hindrances to the production of butter."
The secret and inexplicable abduction of milk and eggs is also the work of devils. "It is well known," says our author, "that angels, at least some choirs or orders of them, have the power of moving visible objects in an invisible manner from one place to another." Ecclesiastical history, especially in the province of hagiology, contains numerous instances of the exercise of this power. Thus, in 1867, when St. Francisca of the Five Wounds (or Stigmata) was canonized, her claims to sainthood were based in part upon a legend of this kind. It was seriously related on that occasion that while her pastor and confessor, Father Bianchi, was celebrating mass, after the transubstantiation in the eucharist had taken place, the cup suddenly disappeared for a moment and returned to the altar. "This happened repeatedly, and it was subsequently ascertained" (how, we are not informed) "that the archangel Raphael had meanwhile carried the cup to Saint Francisca at times when she would otherwise have had to go without the holy communion." (Leben der Heiligen (Francisca). Mainz: Kirchheim, 1880, pp. 193 sqq). It is easy enough to explain how a blear-eyed priest in a dark church might for a minute lose sight of a small object on the altar, such as a goblet or a pyx, without the intervention of an archangel. Indeed, almost everyone has had a similar experience in looking for something on a table or shelf in vain, and then finding it there a few moments later. The momentary oversight may be due to mental abstraction or to a transient visual blur. The angels, we are assured, did not lose by their fall this power of carrying off things invisibly, which therefore remains an attribute of devils, and enables them to indulge their propensity to steal without detection. They sometimes pilfer fruit and grain, but seem to have a special fondness for milk and eggs, a very simple diet, one would think, for infernal spirits. Many persons who keep fowls are often surprised that they do not get any eggs. The hen sits on the nest, lays or at least cackles, but the nest is empty. If such a hen be killed, plenty of eggs in a more or less advanced stage of development will be found in the ovary, and the oviduct will prove to be perfectly healthy and normal. From these facts a strictly logical mind, like that of our learned doctor, can come to only one conclusion: a demon stole the eggs. The same is true of cows, goats, and other lactiferous animals which grow lean and cease to give milk, although they are provided with the most nutritious fodder. "In such cases it is right to assume the workings of witchcraft, and to apply the formula contra maleficium invisibilis ablationis lactis, etc., of the Constance Benedictional." In the earlier centuries of the Christian era, before this ritual existed, simpler methods of exorcism were employed and are still effective, such as blessing the stalls, the fodder, and the cows, and washing the teats with holy water, which may be warmed if the animals are sensitive to cold. Snarled tufts of hair or tangles of hemp indicate demonism, and should be thrown into the fire with the words "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Dr. Bischofberger admits that "egg-stealing is more difficult to stop, because the priest has less power over hens." The best remedy is to surround the nests with consecrated things, so that the demon can not get through without coming in contact with them; he will then probably desist. Granaries and fruit lofts are to be protected in the same manner.
In conclusion, the author of this manual of exorcism says, "People fondly imagine that these cunning devices of the Prince of Darkness may have been practiced in former centuries, but that they have been dissipated by the light of the nineteenth century like the mist before the sun." His thirty-seven years' experience as a priest prove this optimistic assumption to be wholly unfounded.