Molitor and Erasmus.
THE horrors of Devil worship, of the Inquisition, and of witch-prosecution were the natural consequences of a misconception of the nature of evil. They were the visitations that necessarily followed in the footsteps of a most abandoned ignorance. They oppressed mankind like a dreadful nightmare, like ghastly hallucinations of a feverish brain, and the disease passed away slowly, very slowly, only when the light of science, which is the divine revelation that is taking place now, gradually began to dispel the gloomy shadows of the night and revealed the superstitious character of the belief that had begotten the crimes of the dark ages.
The first protests against witch-prosecution were raised at the time when the two inquisitors Sprenger and Institutoris, fortified with the unequivocal authority of his Holiness the Pope, carried on their criminal profession in the boldest way. The outrages of the Inquisition were pointed out in a pamphlet entitled Dialogus de lamiis et pythonibus mulieribus, written in 1489 by Dr. Ulrich Molitoris, an attorney of Constance. Two other
prominent men of the juridical profession, Alciatus and Ponzinibius, expressed themselves in the same spirit; they declared bodily excursions of witches and similar things to be pure imagination. But their arguments
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APPARITIONS OF THE CROSS.
From Grünbeck's Eine neuve auszlegung der seltzamen wunderzaichen (1507)
were of no avail, for Bartholomæus de Spina, the master of the holy palace, declared that jurists could not understand the case of witchcraft.
The time was not yet ripe; the people still clung to the belief in visions and miracles, dreams, apparitions and sorcery. Most insane productions (such as, e. g., Grünbeck's New Interpretation of Strange Miracles, which appeared in the year 1507) attracted the attention of the world and passed for divine revelations. The more uncanny they were, the higher was the credit they received. 1
There is a remarkable instance on record that the hangman of Vienna refused to perform his office on Oct. 21, 1498. The execution had to be delayed until another hangman could be procured. 2 Another case is mentioned by Soldan. 3 Katharine Hensel of Feckelberg was sentenced to die in June, 1576, but when at the place of execution she pleaded her innocence, the hangman refused to execute her. The case was referred to the Palsgrave George John of Veldenz who after a careful examination of the trial ordered an acquittal and condemned the township Feckelberg to bear the costs. 4
The famous Erasmus of Rotterdam published a letter in the year 1500 in which be spoke of devil-contracts as an invention made by the witch-prosecutors; but his satire had no effect; for, in the meantime, fagots were constantly burning all over Europe.
Weier, Meyfart, and Loos.
The first successful attempt--successful only temporarily and in a limited degree--of stopping witch-prosecution came from a Protestant physician, Johannes Weier (Latin "Wierus" or "Piscinarius") . He was born in Grave, 1515, had studied medicine in Paris, and travelled in Africa, where, as he tells us, he had had a good opportunity of studying sorcery. Then he went to Crete, and on his return was elected body-physician to Duke William of Cleves. His work of six books, De prætigiis Dæmonum et incantationibus ac Veneficiis, appeared in 1563. He still believes in the Devil and in magic, but he rejects the possibility of witchcraft and compacts with the Devil. He boldly accuses monks and clergymen of being, under the pretext of serving religion, most zealous servants of Beelzebub. William, Duke of Cleves, Frederic, Count of Palatine, and the Count of Niurwenar followed Weier's advice and suppressed all witch-prosecution.
Twenty years after Weier another heroic man, a Protestant, named Meyfart, rector of the Latin school of Coburg, raised his voice of warning. His booklet was a sermon of "Admonitions to the powerful princes and the conscientious preachers," by which words he meant the Dominican fathers who were the official witch-prosecutors. He reminded them of the day of judgment, when they would be held to account for every torture and tear of their victims.
Weier and Meyfart made a deep impression. But a
reaction followed. How little, after all, Weier succeeded in conquering the belief in witchcraft, which he had temporarily shaken, can be learned from the fact that in the Protestant Electorate of Saxony a criminal ordinance was issued in the year 1572, which threatened all people making a compact with the Devil "to be brought from life to death on the fagot."
Cornelius Loos, a canonicus and professor at the University of Treves and a devout Catholic Christian, was unfortunate enough to be more clear-headed than his bishop, Peter Binsfeld. Recognising the baseness of judges in the cases of witchcraft, he wrote a book De vera et falsa magia. The book was never published; it was stopped in the press and its author sent to prison. In 1593 Loos was forced to recant on his knees before the assembled dignitaries of the Church. He died in 1595 of the plague, which probably saved him from an execution at the stake. Loos's manuscript was supposed to be lost but was recently discovered by Prof. George Lincoln Burr of Cornell University. 1
Three Noble Jesuits.
Adam Tanner 2 (1572-1632) and Paul Laymann (1575-1635), two Jesuits of South Germany, strongly advised the judges to be very careful in lawsuits against witches. When death overtook Tanner on a journey, in a little place called Unken, the parishioners refused to grant him a Christian burial, because a "hairy little
imp" on a glass plate was found among his things. It was an insect prepared for the microscope. 1 The curate of Unken, however, succeeded in convincing his congregation of the harmless nature of the "imp," and they at last consented to the interment in their cemetery.
Most touching is the narrative of another Jesuit, a noble-minded man, who takes a prominent place among the strugglers against the dreary superstition of burning witches. This man is Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld (1591-1635), a poet and the author of a collection of songs called Trutznachtigall (spite-nightingale), whose warnings remained unheeded, "as a voice crying in the wilderness." His Cautio criminalis (published anonymously 2 in 1631) was an appeal, much needed at the time, to the German authorities anent their legal proceedings against witches.
Spee was engaged in Franconia as pastor, and had prepared for their death at the stake not fewer than two hundred persons accused of witchcraft. Scarcely thirty years of age, he was asked one day by Philip of Schoenborn, Bishop of Würzburg, why his hair had turned gray. "Through grief," he said. "Of the many witches whom I have prepared for death, not one was guilty." The reply must have burnt into the soul of the questioner, for ever after Philip of Schoenborn remained under its influence. Spee confessed to the Bishop that he was the author of the Cautio criminalis, and the Bishop did not betray the confidence of the young Jesuit.
Says Spee in his Cautio criminalis:
"In these proceedings no one is allowed to have legal assistance or defence, however honestly it may be conducted. For it is claimed that the crime is a crimen exceptum, one not subject to the rules of ordinary legal proceedings. And even if an attorney were
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FRIEDRICH VON SPEE.
After a photograph of the oil picture in the Marzellen-Gymnasium at Cologne.
allowed to the prisoner, the former would from the outset be suspected himself, as a patron and protector of witches, so that all mouths are shut and all pens are blunted, and one can neither speak nor write. . . . I swear solemnly that of the many persons whom I accompanied to the stake, there was not one who could be
said to have been duly convicted; and two other pastors made me the same confession from their experience. Treat the heads of the Church, the judges, myself, in the same way as those unfortunate ones, make us undergo the same tortures, and you will convict us all as wizards."
Spee did not deny the possibility of witchcraft; he was a faithful believer in the dogmas held by the Church of his age. He merely objected to the abuses of witchcraft and recommended clemency.
Philip of Schoenborn became Archbishop of Mayence and to his honor be it said that under his government no fagots were lit.
Abatement of Witch-Prosecution.
Horst (in his Zauberbibliothek, Vi., 310) publishes a strange instance of the fanaticism of the seventeenth century which appeared anonymously under the title Druten-Zeitung, in 1627, praising in poor verses the great deeds of the Inquisition. According to Horst's authority, they are written by a Protestant who expresses his joy and gratitude to God that in the adjoining Catholic countries the extirpation of witchcraft was carried on with unabating vigor. Thus it is apparent that in spite of Weier and Spee the idea of witchcraft and of the necessity of witch-prosecution was still deeply rooted in the minds of many people. Still, the authorities began to lose faith in the necessity of witch-prosecution, and the champions of the lost cause deem it wiser to seek the shelter of anonymous publication.
In Holland witch-prosecution was abolished in 1610; in Geneva, Switzerland, it ceased in 1632.
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ILLUSTRATION FROM THE "DRUTENZEITUNG," 1627
Christina, Queen of Sweden., as the first act after her accession to the throne, issued a proclamation on February 16, 1649, which applied also to all the Swedish possessions on German soil, to stop all proceedings of witch-prosecution. Gabriel Naudé, a Frenchman (he died 1680) wrote against witch-prosecution, and, although the Parliament of France which convened at Rouen insisted on the existence of witchcraft and on the necessity of the capital punishment of witches, Louis XIV. decreed in 1672 that all cases of witchcraft be dismissed. He was obliged to re-introduce the law of capital punishment of witches in 1683, but did not fail to limit the power of the judges.
Matthias Hopkins, commonly called "witchfinder general," took advantage of the disorders of the English civil wars of the seventeenth century and made a special business of the discovery of witches. He was quite successful, until his own methods were tried on his own person, and as he did not sink in the water ordeal, the people declared him to be a wizard and slew him (1647). 1 Butler describes Hopkins's career in Hudibras as follows:
"Hath not this present Parliament
A lieger to the devil sent,
Fully empower'd to treat about
Finding revolted witches out?
And has he not within a year
Hang'd threescore of them in one shire?
Some only for not being drown'd,
And some for sitting above ground
Whole days and nights upon their breeches,
And feeling pain, were hang'd for witches.
And some for putting knavish tricks
Upon green geese or turkey chicks
Or pigs that suddenly deceased
Of griefs unnatural, as he guess'd,
Who proved himself at length a witch
And made a rod for his own breech."
Witch-prosecution was finally abolished in England in the year 1682. Glanville, a fanatic Englishman of Somerset, felt himself called upon to refute the writings of Gabriel Naudé and found many followers, but Dr. Webster, a physician, stood up against Glanville's superstitions propositions. Glanville thereupon proceeded to hunt witches, but the English government ordered Mr. Hunt, a justice of the peace of Somerset, to stop him.
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BALTHASAR BEKKER. 1
At the end of the seventeenth century the polemics against the belief in the Devil began to grow bolder and ever bolder. A Dutch physician, Anton van Dale, no longer attributes the pagan oracles to the influence of the Devil, but to priestly fraud (De oraculis Ethnicorum, Amsterdam, 1685), and set the people to thinking on witch-prosecution (see his work Dissertationes de origine ac progressu Idolalriæ, etc., 1696). He thus prepared
the way for the two great reformers Bekker and Thomasius, who openly and squarely denounced witchcraft as a superstition and at last succeeded in abolishing the official prosecutions of witches by the authorities of State and Church.
Balthasar Bekker, a Dutch clergyman of German
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Reproduced from his original handwriting in the first Dutch edition of De betoverde Weereld.
descent, published in 1691-1693 a work entitled "The Enchanted World" (De betoverde Weereld), which was a thorough and careful examination of the belief in devils, witches, and the legal suits conducted against witches. Bekker is a faithful Christian who undertakes to prove that the existence of a personal Devil is a superfluous assumption.
[paragraph continues] His book is a formidable attack upon the Inquisition and its habits of ensnaring its innocent victims.
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Reduced from a copper engraving by M. Bernigroth.
And the success of the book was as great as it was deserved. Within two months four thousand copies were
sold. And yet did Bekker fail to convince his contemporaries. A flood of refutations appeared, and the synod to whom he presented his work, a Protestant body, condemned his views and discharged him from the ministry.
The seeds sown by Bekker were reaped by Christian Thomasius (1656-1718), professor at the University of Halle, who waged a relentless war against witch-prosecution. In the year 1698 a case of witchcraft was submitted to him and against the advice of one of his colleagues he condemned a poor woman to death. However, when the judgment had been executed, the arguments of his opponent gained on him until he became convinced of his own error; and now he deemed it his duty to devote the
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SIGNATURE OF CHRISTIAN THOMASIUS.
whole influence of his authority to the abolition of witch-prosecution. He came out boldly and squarely in condemnation of the practice and denied the bodily corporeality of the Devil, which served him as an argument to disprove the possibility of making a compact with him. His main writings are Dissertatio de crimine magiæ and De origine et progressu processus inquisitoriii contra sagas.
Thomasius was more successful than his predecessors. All official witch-prosecutions ceased, and the Devil was no longer an object of universal awe.
The Last Traces.
The Inquisition was still in existence during the first quarter of the nineteenth century in Spain, a country distinguished
by its ultra-Roman conception of Christianity. When in 1808, after the battle of Ramosiera, the French troops under General La Salle conquered Toledo, they opened the dungeons of the Inquisition. The cells were dark and unclean holes, scarcely large enough to allow a man to stand upright, and most of the prisoners that were brought up to daylight had become stiff and crippled by the maltreatment of their torturers. Unhappily they and their liberators, a detached troop of lancers, were cut off by a furious mob of Spaniards from the main body of the French army. General La Salle hurried to their rescue but came too late; he found only the mangled bodies of the slaughtered.
In a subterranean vault General La Salle found a wooden statue of the holy virgin dressed in silk, her head surrounded with a golden halo, her right hand holding the standard of the Inquisition. She was fair to look at, but her breast was covered with spiked armor; and her arms and hands were movable by machinery concealed behind the statue. The servants of the Inquisition explained to General La Salle that it was used for bringing heretics to confession. The delinquent received the sacrament at the altar in the presence of the dimly illumined statue, and was once more requested to confess. Then two priests led him to the statue of the Madre dolorosa which miraculously seemed to welcome him by extending her arms. "She beckons you to her bosom," they said; "in her arms the most obdurate sinner will confess," whereupon the arms closed, pressing their victim upon the spikes and knives.
Napoleon I. suppressed the Inquisition (in Spain
December 4, 1808, and in Rome one year later), but it was revived by Ferdinand VII., King of Spain, June 21, 1813. Its last victims were a Jew who was burned, and a Quaker school-master who was hanged in 1826.
Descriptions of Hell.
The Jesuit Father, Caussin, the father confessor of King Louis XIII. writes on hell in his book, La Cour Sainte,--a work which attained considerable fame in his days, as follows:
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SCHOTTEL'S WHEEL OF HELL.
"What is hell? A silence for all that which is said of hell is less than hell itself. No just man can think of it without shedding thousands of tears. But do you want to know what hell is? Ask Tertullian. He will tell you that hell is a deep, dark pit of stench in which all the offal of the whole world flows together. Ask Hugo of St. Victor. He will answer: 'Hell is an abyss without a bottom, which opens the gates of despair, and where all hope is abandoned.' 'It is an eternal pool of fire,' says St. John the divine (Rev. xiv. 20); 'its air comes from glowing coals, its light from flickering flames. The nights of hell are darkness; the places of rest of the damned are serpents and vipers; their hope is despair. O, eternal death! O, life without life! O, misery without end!'"
Justus Georg Schottel, 1 whilom member of the Consistory of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and councillor to the
duke, doctor of jurisprudence, and a learned man who was not without merit in German poetry and literature, took special interest in the mysteries of the infernal regions, and published his views in a book of 328 pages, in which he explained the tortures of the iron wheel of eternal hell torture:
"Dear reader," he says, look at this wheel all round and read carefully what is written on it. How much time and suffering, how much anxiety and torture of despair, must be gone through in hell, must be endured, borne, experienced and realised, by hundreds, by thousands, by hundreds of thousands, by millions of years in burning pitch, in flaming sulphur, in red-hot iron, in poignant blow-pipe flames, with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth infinite; with hunger and thirst miraculous; in stench and darkness cruelly; before this wheel be turned around only once. But now this wheel of eternity is made of purely everlasting iron, and must turn round many hundred, yea million, and millions of millions of times, and can never wax old, never perish, never be worn out, and can never stand still in all eternity. Whereas you can conclude and find out by reflexion this all-discomforting, all-terrible, and all-cruelest infinity of hell-torture. One might grow mad and insane when considering this fiery eternity and these iron eternal years, etc., etc."
Dr. Schottel's Wheel of Life is of special interest as it reminds one of the Buddhist Wheel of Life which the Evil Spirit holds in his clutches. 1
Similar ideas as to the awfulness of the sufferings in hell are offered in the sermons of Abraham a Sancta-Clara who was the most influential preacher in Vienna in the beginning of the eighteenth century.
The eighteenth century is the age of an intellectual
dawn, but while the rays of light begin to spread the shadows of the night linger and their darkness seems rather more intense than before.
The Rev. Father Gilbert Baur, writes in the year 1785 as follows:
"You know what happens when meat is salted. The salt enters all parts, every nerve and every bone, and communicates to all parts its acrid qualities; and yet the meat is not dissolved nor annihilated by the salt, but on the contrary preserved from decay. In the same way the hellish fire will enter into the innermost marrow, and be distributed throughout the entrails. It will take hold of all the arteries and nerves and make the brain boil with furious pains, without causing death or annihilation."
Some theological geographers have placed hell in the sun, others in the moon, still others in the center of the earth. But the question as to which of the three opinions is right has not yet been decided.
A Slavonian folk song sings of hell as follows: 1
"Look at the terrible maw! How fiery and deep is the place of torture! No eye can discover its bottom.
"A spark alone causes immense pain, but against the fury of this fire it is but a dewdrop.
"Reason cannot comprehend and tongue cannot utter what it may be to be in the fires of Hell.
"Devils transform themselves into dogs, into wild animals, into snakes and dragons; they howl, and they bellow, and they bawl; what terrors they cause 1
"Every poor sinner must pay tribute here to the justice of God; and for every vicious deed he must suffer special pain."
After an enumeration of the sufferings for various sins and vices, the poem continues:
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THE CHRISTIAN HELL.
"Can there be worse misery? Indeed, there is not; for from this place of darkness the eye of the damned will never see the face of God.
"'Woe, woe!' thus they howl; Whither have we gone, we miserable creatures? Oh! that men would believe us; they would never fall into sin.'
"'Death, where art thou? O thunder-holts, slay us! O, God, we want to die, for we cannot endure these pains!'
"Alas! In vain you wish for death, ye souls lost in eternity. You are damned to live, eternally dying.
"Even a toothache you could not endure forever. How much more terrible must be the fire everlasting!
"Consider then. O sinner, the misery that awaits you. Who knows whether you may not reach your destiny to-morrow?
"To-night you go to bed in your sin, and to-morrow you may wake up burning in the fires of Hell."
These descriptions of hell are, in all their essential features, still current in "darkest Europe" and also in "darkest America." The picture of hell, here reproduced, surpasses in drastic beauty and graudeur of stage-effect the paintings of the famous Hell Breughel. It possesses the additional interest of being still in the market, being even now advertised and sold among other religious pictures.
No wonder that there are good Christians who would gladly change places with brute animals. A young Jesuit who afterwards turned Protestant said in his memoirs that he used to envy the watch dog in the courtyard to whom death meant annihilation without the terrors of hell.
There is a good deal of moral courage in the comfort which, as the story goes, an old infidel farmer gave to
his dying son, saying: "We do not go to church, and the parson hates us; now, when you die you will go to hell; but don't shame our family by howling and gnashing of teeth. What others can stand we can stand too." Must not the Lord have been better pleased with infidel grit than with the submissiveness of the slavish believer?
Schwenter and Kircher.
The Jesuit order carries the principle of Romanism and obedience to church-authorities to extremes. It was founded for the purpose of creating and sustaining a counter-reformation to Protestantism, and to Protestants therefore it is the most objectionable Roman Catholic order. But whatever may be said against the Jesuits, their methods and narrow principles, we must acknowledge that some of their members have been very prominent and scholarly men; and Athanasius Kircher is one of the greatest scientists they have produced. Born at Geisa, near Fulda, Germany, in 1601, he was professor of philosophy and mathematics at the University of Würzburg, which he left during the Thirty Years' War, for Avignon, in France. He journeyed with Cardinal Frederick of Saxony to Malta, and ended his life as professor of mathematics and Hebrew at Rome. His investigations have no direct, but only an indirect, bearing on witchcraft-prosecutions. He made some curious experiments with hens and pigeons, which remained a problem to psychologists, and are still repeated by them to-day. He placed a hen on the floor, and made a stroke of chalk along its bill, whereupon the hen lay quiet as if paralysed, remaining in this awkward position until she was
released by some motion of the hands of the experimenter.
We ought to add here that although Kircher is generally credited with the invention of this experiment because it became known mainly through him. 1 Professor Preyer has proved that he simply reproduced the experiment made by Daniel Schwenter, 2 who published his discovery
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SCHWENTER'S HEN EXPERIMENT, REPRODUCED BY FATHER ATHANASIUS KIRCHER.
ten years before the appearance of Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis et Umbræ.
The attitude of the hen, which Kircher ascribes to her imagination, was later, in the eighteenth century, called a phenomenon of magnetism or mesmerism, and in the nineteenth century, hypnotism. Whatever scientific
value this isolated fact may possess, its discovery marked the beginning of a scientific treatment of psychical phenomena which naturally tended to a better comprehension of the abnormal conditions of the human mind, and thus could not but exercise a wholesome influence.
Diabolism Developing Into Pathology.
In the middle of the eighteenth century Pater John Joseph Gassner, vicar of Klösterle in Chur, a Roman Catholic clergyman, acted on the theory that the majority of diseases arose from demoniacal possession and he cured himself and his parishioners by exorcism. The success of his cures made a great stir in the world and threatened a dangerous reaction. Some declared he was a charlatan, while others believed in him.
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Etching by Daniel Chodowiecki.
Mesmer, at the request of the Elector of Bavaria, made investigations and said that he explained his miracles as spiritualistic magnetic influences, while Lavater maintained that the curative element consisted solely in the glorious name of Jesus. Gassner lived some time in Constance, afterwards in Ratisbon, partly protected,
partly distrusted by his ecclesiastical superiors. In 1775 he went to Amberg, then to Sulzbach, where the halo of his miraculous cures waned. The Prince-Bishop of Ratisbon declared in his favor, but Emperor Joseph II. forbade his exorcisms in the whole Roman empire. The Archbishops of Prague and Salzburg rejected him, and even Pope Pius VI. disapproved of him.
Gassner's exorcisms renewed the interest taken in the problem of the existence of the Devil. The question was discussed in several publications, among which we mention "a humble petition for information to the great men who do no longer believe in a Devil," written anonymously from the orthodox standpoint by Professor Köster, of Giessen, editor of a religious periodical. It was answered in another pamphlet: "Humble reply of a country-clergyman," whose author claims that the biblical Satan is an allegory, idols are called "nothings" in Hebrew, and the Devil is one of these nothings. He offers rationalistic explanations of the Bible, representing, for instance, the tempter of Christ as "a sly messenger and spy of the synagogue," and declaring the theory of a Devil to be idolatry disguised in orthodoxy, and a sublimated Manicheeism. The author concludes: "I had rather that the people fear God than the Devil. The fear of God is the be, ginning of wisdom, but the fear of the Devil, whatever be its results, is no Christian adornment. "
The number of anti-diabolists increased rapidly, even among the clergy; yet the belief in a personal Devil remained the orthodox view, and if we are not mistaken it is still regarded as an essential dogma of the Christian
faith by many theologians, especially among those who display a contempt for worldly culture and secular science.
The worst superstitions had grown harmless, but the hankering after miracles had not yet ceased. Diabolism had lost its hold on mankind, but mysticism reappeared in new forms; and the contrasts that prevailed in the eighteenth century cannot be better characterised than by the visions of Swedenborg as against the refutation of the dreams of visionaries by Kant.
The belief in mysticism begets frauds; and the boldest, wiliest, and most successful imposter of the eighteenth century was Giuseppe Balsamo of Sicily, who travelled under the assumed name of Count Cagliostro, finding easy victims among the credulous of all descriptions, especially the Free Masons. His tricks, however, were exposed by Countess Elizabeth von der Recke, and being thereafter exiled from every country which he entered, he fell at last into the hands of the Inquisition, as whose prisoner he died in the year 1795.
Demonology of the Nineteenth Century.
The free-thought movement of the eighteenth century and a better scientific conception of nature relieved mankind of the unnecessary fear of the Devil, and the nineteenth century could begin to study the question impartially in its historical and philosophical foundations.
Kant found the principle of evil in the reversal of the moral world-order. "The Scriptures lay down," he says, "man's moral relation in the form of a history, representing the opposite principles in man as eternal facts, as heaven and hell. The significance of this popular
conception, dropping all mysticism, is that there is but one salvation for man, which lies in his embracing in his heart the moral maxims."
Following the example of Kant, theologians began to give a rational explanation of the Devil. Daub, a disciple of Schelling, attempted to construct a philosophical devil, in his book Judas Iscariot, or Evil in its Relation to Goodness, defining Satan, the Antichrist and enemy of God, as the hatred of all that is good.
Schenkel regards the Evil One as a manifestation that appears in the totality of things, and characterises him as that which is collectively bad. "Satan, accordingly, is a 'juridical person,'" and this explains his extraordinary and superindividual power; but he has not as yet succeeded in becoming a single, concrete personality, and let us hope that he probably never will. Hase does not deny the possibility of an influence of spiritual powers, good as well as evil, upon man, "but," says he, "the Devil appears only when he is believed to exist; and the effects of his influence being explicable only in the light of man's nature, the reality of such beings remains problematic."
Reinhard, although inclined to supernaturalism, doubts whether the Scriptural Devil is to be taken seriously; and De Wette speaks of the Devil as a popular conception (Volksvorstellung). Schleiermacher in his famous work The Christian Faith According to the Doctrines of the Evangelical Church (1821; fourth edition, 1842) declares the idea of the Devil, as historically developed, to be "untenable" and "unessential to a Christian's belief in God."
Martensen believes in the Devil not as an idea, but as an "historical person." He is in the beginning only the principle of temptation; as such he is a cosmical principle. He is not yet bad, but the potentiality of badness. He does not really become the Devil until man has allowed him to enter his consciousness. Man, accordingly, gives existence to the Devil. Lücke opposes Martensen: "The Devil as a symbol is absolutely bad, but as a fallen creature he cannot be absolutely bad. We have no other conception of the Devil than as the representative of sin." This is an attempt to reconcile the theological conception with the philosophy of his time.
David Friedrich Strauss did not consider it necessary to refute the doctrine of Satan's personality, which he regarded as utterly overthrown. Modern mysticism, on the other hand, shows an inclination to emphasise the importance of the traditional Satanology.
Dogmatic theologians in the ranks of English and American Protestants endeavor to preserve the traditional views of hell and the Devil, without, however, making much practical use of these doctrines. They no longer discuss the problem at length but still uphold the belief in the personality of the Evil One. For instance, Professor Schaff scarcely enters into a detailed exposition of the subject, and Dr. William G. T. Shedd, who devotes in his great work Dogmatic Theology one or several chapters to every Christian dogma, omits a particular discussion of Satan. Passages in the chapter on hell nevertheless prove that he believes in both a personal Satan and an eternal personal punishment on the ground of scriptural evidence.
The liberal theology of to-day urges that Jesus makes thirst for justice, love of God and man, the conditions for entering into the Kingdom of God. A belief in the Devil, it is claimed, is nowhere demanded and can, to say the least, not be regarded as essential; it is not so much Christian and Jewish, as pagan; it is a survival of polytheistic nature-worship and of pagan dualism, quite natural at a time when the sciences were still in their infancy, characterised by astrology and alchemy, and when the irrefragability of nature's laws was not as yet understood. The belief in a personal Devil, accordingly, and all the practices resulting therefrom, were rather due to ignorance than to religion.
There are still plenty of believers in a personal Devil among those who call themselves orthodox, but their influence has ceased to be of any consequence. Vilmar regards the belief in an individual devilish personality as an indispensable qualification of a real theologian, saying: "In order rightly to teach and take charge of souls, one must have seen the Devil gnashing his teeth, and I mean it bodily, not figuratively; he must have felt his power over poor souls, his blasphemy, especially his sneer." Similarly, another German theologian, Superintendent Sanders, shows great zeal in defence of the Biblical Devil in his pamphlet The Doctrine of the Scriptures Concerning the Devil (1858), and Dr. Sartorius, following Hengstenberg's orthodoxy, says that, "he who denies Satan cannot truly confess Christ." Twesten, however, although accepting the belief in a personal Devil, concedes that the necessity of his existence cannot be deduced from the contents of our religious consciousness.
[paragraph continues] Fr. Reiff (in Zeitfragen des christlichen Volkslebens, VI., 1, 1880) declares that there is a Kingdom of Evil as much as there is a Kingdom of God. The belief in a personal Prince of Darkness is the counterpart of a personal God. And Erhard wrote an apology of the Devil, not so much for the sake of the Devil as for the traditional idea that evil and sin are actualities.
The Roman Catholic Church of to-day still holds in theory the same views as in the Middle Ages; but the secular authorities will never again allow themselves to be influenced in their legal proceedings by the opinions of inquisitors.
Görres, 1 one of the ablest and most modern defenders of the Roman Church, complains about "the purely medical view" of historians who regard witch-prosecution as a mere epidemic. He finds the ultimate cause of witchcraft and sorcery in apostacy from the Church, which had become fashionable in those days. Dr. Haas, another Roman Catholic, takes the same view in his inquiry into witch-prosecution. 2 He concedes that witchcraft is a revival of pagan notions mixed with a false conception of Christianity (p. 68), but he still shares with the inquisitors of yore and with Pope Innocent III. the belief in the actuality of witchcraft. Like Görres, Haas regards "witchcraft as the product of heresy," and calls the former "a cousin" and "a daughter" of the latter. Both to him result from "unbelief, unclearness, pride,
eccentricity." Both are manias or illusions (Wahngeschöpfe); "they maltreat and are maltreated, and thus they increase until they are opposed with reason and vigor." The only trouble was that the remedy of inquisitorial "reason and vigor" was worse than the disease. Haas continues: "For the minds of many were not yet free from error (i. e., heresy), and when the house was swept and cleaned worse spirits entered, and matters were worse than ever."
The Inquisition, the natural result of a belief in the Devil, is now powerless; "still," says the Rev. G. W. Kitchin, in the Encyclopædia Britannica:
"Its voice is sometimes heard; in 1856 Pius IX. issued an encyclical against somnambulism and clairvoyance, calling on all bishops to inquire into and suppress the scandal, and in 1865 he uttered an anathema against freemasons, the secular foes of the Inquisition."
The Rev. Mr. Kitchin sums up the present state of things as follows:
"The occupation of Rome in 1870 drove the papacy and the Inquisition into the Vatican, and there at last John Bunyan's vision seems to have found fulfilment. Yet, though powerless, the institution is not hopeless; the Catholic writers on the subject, after long silence or uneasy apology, now acknowledge the facts and seek to justify them. In the early times of the 'Holy Office' its friends gave it high honor; Paramo, the inquisitor, declares that it began with Adam and Eve ere they left Paradise; Paul IV. announced that the Spanish Inquisition was founded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; Muzarelli calls it 'an indispensable substitute to the Church for the original gift of miracles exercised by the apostles.' And now again, from 1875 to this day, a crowd of defenders has risen up: Father Wieser and the Insbruck Jesuits in
their journal (1877) yearn for its re-establishment; Orti y Lara in Spain, the Benedictine Gams in Germany, and C. Poullet in Belgium take the same tone; it is a remarkable phenomenon, due partly to despair at the progress of society, partly to the fanaticism of the late pope, Plus IX. It is hardly credible that any one can really hope and expect to see in the future the irresponsible judgments of clerical intolerance again humbly carried out, even to the death, by the secular arm."
Roman Catholic authors are, as a rule, too worldly wise to precipitate or provoke a discussion of the history of either the Inquisition or the doctrine of the Devil, but whenever they cannot avoid a discussion of the subject they claim that the Inquisition was a secular institution (so Gains of Ratisbon and Bishop Hefele), or defend the measures taken by the Inquisition. They have not as yet acquired sufficient insight, or, if they have the insight, they do not possess the moral courage to condemn the whole institution, and with it the policy of the Popes Innocent III., Gregory IX., Urban IV., John XXII., and others whose names are compromised in matters of witch-prosecution.
Devil-exorcism is not yet extinct in Roman Catholic countries. The exorcism performed in Germany by Father Aurelian on Michael Zilk, the son of a Catholic Father and Protestant mother, with the especial permission of the Bishop Leopold von Eichstadt, is a sufficient evidence of the Egyptian darkness that still penetrates the minds of a great mass of our Christian brethren, among them members of the higher clergy. 1
Mr. E. P. Evans, who quotes the curious occurrence, 1 furnishes another interesting fact. He says:
Pope Leo XIII. is justly regarded as a man of more than ordinary intelligence and more thoroughly imbued with the modern spirit than any of his predecessors, yet he composed and issued, November 19, 1890, a formula of an 'Exorcismus in Satanam et Angelos Apostatas.' His Holiness never fails to repeat this exorcism in his daily prayers, and commends it to the bishops and other clergy as a potent means of warding off the attacks of Satan and casting out devils."
The holy coat of Treves is still exercising its power over the minds of many credulous people and works miracles that are seriously believed, while the dancing-procession of Echternach is not only not abolished but encouraged by the Church. Pope Leo XIII. has granted a six years' absolution to all those who take part in the performance. There are on an average about ten thousand persons who annually join in this stupid survival of the Middle Ages.
* * *
The personal Devil is dead in science, but he is still alive even in Protestant countries among the uneducated, and the number of those who belong to this category is legion. The Salvation Army is still in our midst singing:
"Come join our army, the foe must be driven;
To Jesus, our captain, the world shall be given.
If hell should surround us we'll press through the throng.
The Salvation Army is marching along."
The following vigorous verse reminds one of Parseeism:
"Christian, rouse thee, war is raging.
God and fiends are battle waging,
Every ransomed power engaging,
Break the Tempter's spell.
Dare ye still lie fondly dreaming,
Wrapt in ease and worldly scheming,
While the multitudes are streaming
Downwards into hell?"
A good illustration of their personal attitude towards the Evil One appears in these lines:
"The Devil and me, we can't agree,
I hate him and he hates me.
He had me once, but he let me go,
He wants me again, but I will not go."
The Devil of the Salvation Army proves that there is still a need of representing spiritual ideas in drastic allegories; but though Satan is still painted in glaring colors, he has become harmless and will inaugurate no more witch-prosecutions. He is curbed and caged, so that he can do no more mischief. We smile at him as we do at a tiger behind the bars in a zoölogical garden.
The Religious Import of Science.
The inquisitors and witch-prosecutors were by no means scoundrels pure and simple. Most assuredly there were scoundrels among them; but there is no doubt that the movement of the Inquisition and witch-prosecution took its origin from purer motives. It was to the popes and grand inquisitors and to many princes and other people who promoted the policy, a matter of conscience; they simply attended to it as a religious duty, sometimes even with a heavy heart and not without great pain.
Torquemada, the grand inquisitor of Spain, was in his private life one of the purest and most conscientious of men, and he was so tender-hearted that he was obliged to leave the inquisitorial tribunal and quit the room as soon as the torture of a heretic began. He would cry about the obstinacy of those who had given themselves over to Satan; but though his heart was bleeding, he condemned thousands and thousands to the cruelest tortures and the most dreadful death for the sake of salvation and the glory of God--of that monster-god in whom he believed, that abominable idol which was worse than the Moloch of ancient Phoenicia.
When complaints reached Pope Innocent III. about the cruelty of Conrad of Marburg, the first Inquisitor General of Germany, he said, "the Germans were always furious and therefore needed furious judges." Pope Leo X., referring to cases of witchcraft that happened in Brixen and Bergamo, grieves in a brief of 1521 at "the obstinacy of the culprits, who would rather die than confess their crimes." In the same document the Holy Father complains about the impiety of the Venetian Senate who prevented the inquisitors from performing their duties. And similar expressions are not infrequent in later papal bulls and briefs, all of which prove that the horrors of the Inquisition are ultimately due, not to ill will or even to the desire for power, but to error which had assumed the shape of a deep-seated religious conviction.
Among the Protestants, the Calvinists come nearest in zeal to the Roman Catholic inquisitors. In Geneva, Switzerland, the home of Calvin, five hundred persons were, within three months, executed for heresy and witchcraft.
[paragraph continues] The protocols of the city in the year 1545 declare that the labor of torture and execution exceeded the strength of the hangman; and the complaint is made that, "whatever torture be applied, the malefactors still refuse to confess."
The facts of witch-prosecution with its kindred superstitions are an object lesson. How mistaken are those who believe that religion has nothing to do with ethics, and that a religious conviction exercises no influence upon a man's conduct! There are ethicists, professors of ethics, and ethical preachers, who imagine that ethics may be taught without teaching religion, and that the morality of the people can be improved without an interference with their convictions as to the nature of the world and the import of life. But a wrong world-conception will beget a wrong morality; a false religion will unfailingly produce bad and injurious ethics; and the grossest errors will, if they have their way, find expression in the grossest abominations of misguided conduct. A radical cure on the other hand must go to the root of the evil. It is not sufficient to remove the symptoms of the disease, you must replace false religion by true religion.
It would not do to say with our agnostic friends that religion is concerned with matters unknowable; and that therefore we must leave it alone! Religion is the most important problem of life, and we can ignore it as little as a reckless storage of dynamite in crowded parts of great cities. We must investigate the religious problem and replace the old errors, with their dualistic superstitions by sound and scientifically correct views. At the
bottom of all the terrors of the Inquisition and witch-prosecution lies a serious endeavor to do what is right; and this power can be utilised as well for the progress and elevation of mankind as for the suppression of reason and sound judgment.
Religion is the strongest motive power in the world; nothing therefore is more injurious than false religious convictions, and nothing more desirable than truth.
Let us make the love of truth our religion. Beware of mysticism and endeavor to be clear and exact. There is as little truth in mysticism as there is light in fog. Nor should we rely on tradition, for tradition is uncertain, but the truth (i. e., generalised statements of facts or laws of nature) can be made unequivocally certain and will remain verifiable to every competent inquirer. It is man's duty, in all departments of life, to seek the truth with the best and most scientific methods at his disposal, and the adherence to this principle is "the Religion of Science."
It is a fact that the confidence in science has already become a religious conviction with most of us. The faith in scientifically provable truth has slowly, very slowly, and by almost imperceptible degrees, but steadily and surely, taken root in the hearts of men. To-day it is the most powerful factor of our civilisation, in spite of various church-dogmas which are declared to be above scientific critique and argument; for these dogmas are becoming a dead letter. There are several conservative and prominent churchmen who publicly confess that the dogmas of the Church must be regarded as historical documents and not as eternal verities.
Those who doubt the religious import of science need only consider what science has done for mankind by the radical abolition of witch-prosecution, and they will be convinced that science is not religiously indifferent, but that it is the most powerful factor in the purification of the religions of mankind.
The world-conception of our industrial and social life, of international intercourse, and all serious movements on the lines of human progress, has even now to a great extent practically become the Religion of Science, although the fact is not as Yet definitely and openly acknowledged; and any sectarian faith that endeavors to set forth its claim of recognition does it and can do it only on the ground that it is one with scientific truth. For there is nothing universally true, nothing catholic, nothing genuinely orthodox, except those truths that are positively demonstrated by science.
372:1 Crosses were seen everywhere; in the dress of the people and in the sky also crowns of thorns, nails, scourges, etc., which caused the Bishop of Liège to order special fasts and call the emperor's attention to the dangers that threatened the world.
372:2 Schlager, Wiener Skizzen aus dem Mittelalter, II., n. F., P 35; mentioned by Roskoff, II., p. 294; König and others.
372:3 Hexenprocesse, p. 255
372:4 Quoted in Neue Zusätze of the German translation of Weier's De præstigiis dæmonum
374:1 See The New York Evening Post, November 13. 1886.
374:2 Sometimes spelled "Thanner." See König, ib., II., p. 572, and Roskoff, II., p. 308.
375:1 König says it was a mosquito, and Roskoff a flea.
375:2 That Spee von Langenfeld was the author of the Cautio criminalis was discovered by Leibnitz.
379:1 For details see Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, by Walter Scott.
380:1 Reproduced from the portrait on the title page of Die bezauberte Welt (the first German translation of De betoverde Weereld).
385:1 This as well as the quotations following are taken from J. Scheible, Vol. I., pages 196 ff.
386:1 Compare the illustrations on pages 119, 121, and 123.
387:1 Quoted in a German translation by Scheible, Vol. I., p. 208 ff.
391:1 See the chapter "A Marvellous Experiment with the Imagination of a Hen (Experimentum Mirabile de Imaginatione Gallinæ), in Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis et Umbræ, Rome, 1646.
391:2 See Daniel Schwenter, Deliciæ Physico-Mathematicæ, etc. Nürnberg, 1636.
398:1 Die Hexenprocesse, ein culturhistorischer Versuch. Tübingen. 1865.
398:2 Quoted from Roskoff, p. 239, from Christliche Mystik, III., 66.
400:1 Die Teufelsaustreibung in Werndive. Nach den Berichten des P. Aurelian für das Volk critisch beleuchtet von Richard Treufels. Munich, Schuh & Co. 1892. This curious treatise can no longer be obtained in the book-market.
401:1 Popular Science Monthly, December, 1892, p. 161.