Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/14

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ple and cogent—the dart which, pierced the breast of Israel at that time was winged and pointed from its own sacred books: the Biblical argument was the same used in various ages to promote persecution, and this was that the wrath of the Almighty was stirred against those who tolerated his enemies, and that because of this toleration the same curse had now come upon Europe which the prophet Samuel had denounced against Saul for showing mercy to the enemies of Jehovah.

It is but just to say that various popes and kings exerted themselves to check these cruelties. Although the argument of Samuel to Saul was used with frightful effect two hundred years later by a most conscientious pope to spur on the rulers of France in extirpating the Huguenots, the papacy in the fourteenth century stood for mercy to the Jews. But even this intervention was long without effect; the tide of popular superstition had become too strong to be curbed even by the spiritual and temporal powers.[1]

Against this overwhelming current science for many generations could do nothing. Throughout the whole of the fifteenth century physicians appeared to shun the whole matter. Occasionally some more thoughtful man ventured to ascribe some phase of the disease to natural causes, but this was an unpopular doctrine, and evidently dangerous to those who developed it.

Yet, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, cases of "possession" on a large scale began to be brought within the scope of medical research; and the man who led in this evolution of medical science was Paracelsus. He it was who first made modern Europe listen for a moment to the idea that these diseases are inflicted neither by saints nor demons, and that the "dancing possession" is simply a form of disease, of which the cure may be effected by proper remedies and regimen.

Paracelsus appears to have escaped any serious interference it took some time, perhaps, for the theological leaders to understand that he had "let a new idea loose upon the planet"; but they soon understood it, and their course was simple. For about fifty years the new idea was well kept under, but in 1561 another physician, John Wier, of Cleves, having revived it, he was ruined and narrowly escaped with his life.

  1. See Wellhausen, article "Israel," in the "Encyclopædia Britannica," ninth edition; also the reprint of it in the "History of Israel," London, 1885, p. 546. On the general subject of the demoniacal epidemics, see Isensee, "Geschichte der Medicin," vol. i, pp. 260 et seq.; also Hecker's essay. As to the history of Saul, as a curious landmark in the general development of the subject, see "The Case of Saul, showing that his Disorder was a Real Spiritual Possession," by Granville Sharp, London, 1807, passim. As to the citation of Saul's case by the reigning pope to spur on the French kings against the Huguenots, I shall give a line of authorities in my chapter on "The Church and International Law." See also Maury, "La Magie et l'Astrologie dans l'Antiquite et au Moyen Age."