Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/44

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to make the state of war persistent and almost universal." When not in conflict with their neighbors, the constant friction and strife within the individual states still prevented organization and natural development. "In such a state of society little thought could be bestowed on anything which did not directly relate to the fierce struggle for very life in which every state and every individual was engaged." There was no time for philanthropy, for the care of the suffering, for the relief of the poor, for comforting the sick in body or mind. Slowly the leaven of Christianity was at work, a silent force effecting slow but deep-rooted changes in the constitution of society, beginning about the eleventh century to gradually bring about the abolition of slavery and exerting an influence in instituting some sort of provision for those whose mental condition was thought to be the result of disease. The monks were also the physicians during the dark ages and the monasteries offered quiet retreat and seclusion for many insane, together with sympathy and protection which could not be found elsewhere. Spiritual agencies were everywhere popularly believed to be most efficacious in the cure of madness, and many and long were the pilgrimages made to the shrines of those saints who were believed to have special influence over the mentally afflicted, and many miraculous cures were said to have been brought about through exorcism and prayer. There were many wells through Europe and the British Isles, each with its particular saint, to which the insane were brought to bathe and to pray. At St. Nim's Pool in England, it was the custom to plunge the patients backwards into the water and drag them to and fro until their excitement was subdued. If they showed signs of recovery thanks were offered in a neighboring church, but if not, the treatment was continued until no hope remained. From the seventh century even to the present day lunatics have made pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Dymphna at Gheel, and here the first colony for the insane originated through a slow process of evolution, and stands to-day as the best representative of the community or family system of caring for the insane.

So great a part did superstition and religious bigotry play in the treatment of insanity that the estate of the lunatic grew ever worse. Any man who exhibited anything unusual in conduct or language was at once suspected by his neighbors of necromancy or commerce with the Devil and looked upon with suspicion. Any manifestation of peculiar genius, the display of inventive ability or promulgation of a new doctrine rendered a man liable to torture, imprisonment or death. The belief in demoniacal possession, and witchcraft, was distinctly recognized in the Bible and fostered by the church. All over Europe persons undoubtedly insane were burned or hanged as witches or were whipped in the public squares to drive out the evil spirits.