Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/180

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

singular poverty of imagination, and would be rather monotonous and unedifying reading.

The principal signs of demoniacal possession, as given in ecclesiastical and most fully in monastic rituals, are the ability to speak or to understand foreign tongues unknown to the possessed, to tell where objects are hidden (like a mind-reader), the exhibition of supernatural bodily strength, intense aversion to holy places and to consecrated objects and persons, and the power of moving through space in defiance of the laws of gravitation.

A boy, who showed all these symptoms, was brought to Parson Kneipp, a Catholic priest, who has a much-frequented hydropathic establishment in Bavaria. Two priests had already declared the boy to be possessed, and had tried to exorcise him, but without effect. Parson Kneipp, who had learned to look upon phenomena with medical rather than with theological eyes, took a rational view of the case, and by a sytematic water-cure treatment healed the patient in six weeks.

It is true that the devil has been eliminated from the passion play at Oberammergau, in which he once took a prominent part, and amused the public by his clownish tricks. This change has been cited in proof of the progress of enlightenment among the peasants of the Bavarian highlands. No inference could be more incorrect. The devil disappeared from the stage, much against the will of the Oberammergauers, in 1810, by command of the Bavarian Government, which refused to permit a further representation of the play except on this condition. The text was then thoroughly revised and the performance remodeled by Dr. Ottmar Weiss, and Satan utterly banished from the scenes. The mass of the peasantry, nevertheless, believe in the devil and the reality of diabolic interference in human affairs as firmly as ever.

Modern science is doubtless doing a great work in diminishing the realm of superstition; but there are vast low-lying plains of humanity that have not yet felt its beneficent influence. "The schoolmaster is abroad"; but where he wears the cassock or the cowl, or is placed under strict clerical supervision, as the recent Prussian Education Bill proposed to do, the progress of intelligence in the direction indicated will be exceeding slow.

 


 
Mr. C. W. Kempton remarks, in Science, that on a study of Schiaparelli's chart of Mars the systems of "canals" resolve themselves, in many cases, into groups of six, making hexagons, and giving the idea that the planet may be solidified into a mass, with tendency to hexagonal crystallization—the canals, for instance, being fissures on the lines of the angles of crystallization. This would account for many of the peculiarities of their appearance, while in no way opposing the present existence of atmosphere, water, snow, ice, and vegetation on the planet.