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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/287

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287
EDITOR'S TABLE.

pelled by a spirit to acts of incendiarism; . . . or that distressed chemist, of a naturally amiable character, who went to an asylum that he might be prevented from indulging in a propensity to kill some one; or that respectable old lady who endeavored to strangle her own daughter?" etc., etc.

But, if these are types of devil possession, what becomes of the theory recently advanced by Dr. Abbott that a devil "never becomes the possessor of a human soul except by its own gradual and voluntary subjection to his hateful despotism"? As an honest roan, the doctor will have to admit that the facts marshaled in his article of twenty years ago were destined to support a view the direct opposite of that which tee criticised—the view, namely, that diabolical agency may be most reasonably assumed when, the general character being sound, some morbid or criminal propensity for which no natural cause can be assigned is manifested in one particular direction. He says he holds the same views now; and yet, the other day, he took up the entirely irreconcilable position that, before the fiend could do anything with a human being, there had to be a "gradual, voluntary" yielding to his infernal suggestions. Dr. Abbott says that he does not "maintain the doctrine of demoniacal possession upon theological grounds"; but surely if he maintained it at all as a sincere, independent conviction, he could hardly put forward two so directly contradictory views without being aware of the contradiction. Will not the doctor say which of the two theories it is he really holds? Is the presence of the devil to be argued from the general excellence of character of those who, in some one respect, are urged by an inexplicable impulse to crime? Or is it the other way—does the fiend simply in the end claim, as it were, his due from those who have "gradually and voluntarily" surrendered themselves into his hands?

Leaving our respected opponent to make his election between the above two views, both of which he singularly professes to maintain, let us, from our own point of view, briefly inquire what light the devil-theory throws either upon the phenomenon of morbid impulses or upon that of hardened, habitual iniquity. If it is a devil who besets an amiable chemist or a respectable old lady, when one or the other wishes to commit some senseless act of violence, the only remedy would seem to be exorcism, which, however, there is reason to fear, is a lost art—outside, at least, of the Roman Catholic Church. But it is perfectly known to Dr. Abbott, as to every one else, that these morbid influences do, more or less, yield to various curative measures in which exorcism has no part whatever. If evidence on this point is wanting it is supplied in the further article we print in our present number from the pen of Dr. Andrew D. White. To know the cause of an evil ought to be a great help to the discovery of a cure, provided the cause is a natural one; but of what assistance would it be to any one to know that his friend or neighbor was afflicted with a devil, if there were no devil-chaser accessible? On the other hand, what mischief might not be wrought by the assumption of a supernatural cause, if the cause were really natural, and therefore, possibly, removable by natural means? We doubt very much whether Dr. Abbott has sufficiently reflected on the mischief he may be doing in encouraging people to believe in devils, instead of urging them to a patient, untiring search after the natural causes and appropriate remedies of all ills, bodily and mental. In this great controversy a man of Dr. Abbott's intelligence ought to be on our side. We would respectfully call upon him to probe his conscience, and ask whether he is really being just to himself, or doing the world a service, by inciting his readers and hearers to attribute to Satanic agency every manifestation of evil that they can not