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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/637

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THE VALUE OF WITNESS TO THE MIRACULOUS.

rarer thing than is often supposed), people whose mythopœic faculty is once stirred are capable of saying the thing that is not, and of acting as they should not, to an extent which is hardly imaginable by persons who are not so easily affected by the contagion of blind faith. There is no falsity so gross that honest men, and, still more, virtuous women, anxious to promote a good cause, will not lend themselves to it without any clear consciousness of the moral bearings of what they are doing.

The cases of miraculously effected cures of which Eginhard is ocular witness appear to belong to classes of disease in which malingering is possible or hysteria presumable. Without modern means of diagnosis, the names given to them are quite worthless. One "miracle," however, in which the patient was cured by the mere sight of the church in which the relics of the blessed martyrs lay, is an unmistakable case of dislocation of the lower jaw in a woman; and it is obvious that, as not unfrequently happens in such accidents to weakly subjects, the jaw slipped suddenly back into place, perhaps in consequence of a jolt, as the woman rode toward the church. (Cap. v, 53.)[1]

There is also a good deal said about a very questionable blind man—one Albricus (Alberich?)—who, having been cured, not of his blindness, but of another disease under which he labored, took up his quarters at Seligenstadt, and came out as a prophet, inspired by the archangel Gabriel. Eginhard intimates that his prophecies were fulfilled; but, as he does not state exactly what they were or how they were accomplished, the statement must be accepted with much caution. It is obvious that he was not the man to hesitate to "ease" a prophecy until it fitted, if the credit of the shrine of his favorite saints could be increased by such a procedure. There is no impeachment of his honor in the supposition. The logic of the matter is quite simple, if somewhat sophistical. The holiness of the church of the martyrs guarantees the reality of the appearance of the archangel Gabriel there, and what the archangel says must be true. Therefore, if anything seem to be wrong, that must be the mistake of the transmitter; and, in justice to the archangel, it must be suppressed or set right. This sort of "reconciliation" is not unknown in quite modern times, and among people who would be very much shocked to be compared with a "benighted papist" of the ninth century.

The readers of this review are, I imagine, very largely composed of people who would be shocked to be regarded as anything but enlightened Protestants. It is not unlikely that those of them

  1. Eginhard speaks with lofty contempt of the "vana ac superstitiosa præsumptio" of the poor woman's companions in trying to alleviate her sufferings with "herbs and frivolous incantations." Vain enough, no doubt, but the "mulierculæ" might have returned the epithet "superstitious" with interest.