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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/455

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lowing in the lines of the earlier fathers, St. Anselm, Abélard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Vincent de Beauvais, all the great doctors in the mediæval Church, some of them in spite of occasional misgivings, upheld the idea that insanity is largely or mainly demoniacal possession, basing their belief steadily on the sacred Scriptures; and this belief was followed up in every quarter by more and more constant citation of the text "Ye shall not suffer a witch to live." No other text of Scripture—save, perhaps, one—has caused the shedding of so much innocent blood.

As we look over the history of the middle ages, we do, indeed, see another development from which one might hope much; for there were two great streams of influence in the Church—and never were two powers more truly unlike each other.

On one side was the spirit of Christianity, as it proceeded from the heart and mind of its blessed Founder, immensely powerful in aiding the evolution of religious thought and effort, and especially of provision for the relief of suffering by religious asylums and tender care. Nothing better expresses this than the touching words inscribed upon a great mediaeval hospital, "Christo in pauperibus suis." But on the other side was the theological theory—proceeding, as we have seen, from the survival of ancient superstitions, and sustained by constant reference to the texts in our sacred books—that many, and probably most, of the insane were possessed by the devil or in league with him, and that the cruel treatment of lunatics was simply punishment of the devil and his minions. By this current of thought was gradually developed one of the greatest masses of superstitious cruelty that has ever disgraced humanity. At the same time the stream of Christian endeavor, so far as the insane were concerned, was almost entirely cut off. In all the beautiful provision during the middle ages for the alleviation of human suffering, there was for the insane almost no care. Some monasteries, indeed, gave them refuge. We hear of a charitable work done for them at the London Bethlehem Hospital in the thirteenth century, at Geneva in the fifteenth, at Marseilles in the sixteenth, by the Black Penitents in the south of France, by certain Franciscans in northern France, by the Alexian Brothers on the Rhine, and by various agencies in other parts of Europe.

Curiously enough, the only really important effort in the Christian Church was stimulated by the Mohammedans. Certain monks, who had much to do with them in redeeming Christian slaves, found in the fifteenth century what John Howard found in the eighteenth, that the Arabs and Turks made a large and merciful provision for lunatics, such as was not seen in Christian lands; and this example led to better establishments in Spain and Italy.