By H. C. Erik Midelfort
In the overdue eighteenth century, Catholic priest Johann Joseph Gassner (1727–1779) found that he had impressive powers of exorcism. determining that demons have been answerable for such a lot human diseases, he healed hundreds of thousands, wealthy and negative, Protestant and Catholic. during this publication H. C. Erik Midelfort delves deeply into documents of the time to discover Gassner’s awesome exorcising crusade, chronicle the legitimate efforts to scale back him, and reconstruct the sufferings of the afflicted.
Gassner’s actions brought on a Catholic spiritual revival in addition to a loud skeptical response. in line with those that doubted that he used to be quite casting out demons, Gassner marshaled 1000's of eyewitness reviews that appeared to turn out his exorcisms fairly labored. Midelfort describes the big public controversy that resulted, and he demonstrates that the Gassner episode yields very important insights into the German Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment, the restrictions of eighteenth-century debate, and the continued function of magic and trust in an age of clinical enlightenment.
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Additional resources for Exorcism and Enlightenment: Johann Joseph Gassner and the Demons of Eighteenth-Century Germany (The Terry Lectures Series)
Susan Neiman has recently pointed out that in the eighteenth century, following the challenge of Pierre Bayle, many European intellectuals had increasing trouble understanding how a gracious God could inflict massive misery on thousands or even millions of innocent sufferers. ’’∫ Some, like Voltaire, heaped ridicule upon the claim that the world always worked toward progress and human benefit. Others, like Rousseau, pointed to the human factors that contributed to natural disasters, such as poorly built houses and overcrowding.
All of Gassner’s talk about the devil as a cause of human ills seemed to Mesmer like nothing more than superstitious window 18 THE EXPERIENCE OF DEMONS dressing. Henri Ellenberger has pointed to this collision of religious and scientistic therapies as the dramatic hour when dynamic psychiatry was born. For Ellenberger this was when a psychiatric paradigm of healing through natural means was first substituted for the world of spirits and exorcism. ∞≥ I wish to call attention instead to several formal parallels between the cures of the exorcist Gassner and the therapeutic methods of the naturalizing, selfproclaimedly scientific Mesmer.
They were His to break, after all. But, logically enough, the proof of any supposed miracle now required a profound knowledge of nature and of experimental method. ≥≥ Do we in fact know all the rules of the natural order? How could we ever be sure that an event was thoroughly miraculous? Notice what had happened. As miracles became more amazing, more wondrous, ever more impossible to explain, they also became less common until they were virtually impossible. ’’ But the strongly empirical claims of Hume, Voltaire, and Diderot forced their Catholic opponents to become scrupulous scientists in order to defend essentially empirical claims for the survival of miracles.
Exorcism and Enlightenment: Johann Joseph Gassner and the Demons of Eighteenth-Century Germany (The Terry Lectures Series) by H. C. Erik Midelfort