The Devil And The Religious Controversies Of — страница 2

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God. Unsure of himself, the curate consulted a Dominican from the local priory, who immediately declared that the spirit was in fact an “Ange mauvais et Sathanique . . . un Diable.” Finally, under the constraint of conjuration, the spirit revealed himself as Beelzebub and said that, in believing him, Nicole had allowed him to enter her body. As the Dominican, holding the consecrated host in front of Nicole’s face, proceeded to exorcise this demon, she became “hideously horrible to see, frightful to hear [and] incredibly hard and stiff to the touch.” Nicole then became mute, blind and deaf for unspecified periods of time. When the demon spoke, it accused spectators of various vices, sins and secrets which they had failed to confess to their priest.4 The monk succeeded in

restoring Nicole’s sight, speech and hearing by touching the afflicted parts of her body with a portion of the true Cross . Finally, at the end of the day, Nicole “received the only victorious remedy that is our Creator, Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in the consecrated Host.” She at once became “holy of spirit and body, inflamed with devotion, and endowed with a gracious beauty that surpassed the natural.” Boulaese added that this was not accomplished by the efforts of the Protestant ministers, for whom the demon said that it would do nothing because they were his servants.6 The next day, 24 January 1566, Nicole was taken to Laon to see the bishop. The remainder of the case involves an escalation of publicity and manipulation by the Catholic authorities, a subject which

will be dealt with in more detail after an examination of some of the questions raised by the early stages of this particular case.In his analysis of Boulaese’s account, D. P. Walker dismissed Nicole rather uncharitably as a fraud. In studying other contemporary documents, he concluded that the origins of her “fits and delusions” could be found in her medical history, though, as he insisted, “nothing in her background can account for her really brilliant performances as a demoniac.” Walker believes that the beginnings of the story amount to “a frustrated attempt to have a good possession.”8Similar notions can be found in some of the literature written in France during this period. In the preface to the second edition (1605) of his work III Livres des Spectres, first

published in 1586, Pierre Le Loyer, an Angevin lawyer, remarked that, of all the common and familiar subjects of conversation that are entered upon in company of things remote from nature and cut off from the senses, there is none so ready to hand, none so usual as that of visions of spirits, and whether what is said of them is true. It is the topic which people most readily discuss and on which they linger the longest because of the abundance of examples. Allowing for some exaggeration on the part of this author, who perhaps overstated the importance of his subject, it is clear from these two examples that Nicole’s vision was not a mere aberration that can be passed off unquestionably as an attempt to defraud. In addition, it should be noted that both passages reveal that

these views permeated all levels of the social hierarchy and were not merely peasant superstitions.’Lavater’s purpose in writing his treatise was not simply to confirm the existence of visions and spirits, but primarily to prove that these apparitions were “not the souls of dead men, as some men have thought, but either good or evill Angels, or else some secrete and hid operations of God.”10 Le Loyer wrote his treatise in direct response to the challenge presented by Lavater’s work. “I have so well proved,” he insisted upon completion of his work, “by the Doctors of the Church, that whatever thing that Lavater and his may say to the contrary, nevertheless the truth is that there are Spectres of Souls as well as Spectres of Angels and Demons.”11 These two authors

are representative of the ghost controversy that raged during the second half of the sixteenth century. This controversy is merely one aspect of the polemical debates that arose out of the Protestant attack on the doctrine of Purgatory. Although not explicitly stated, it seems that it was implicit in the Catholic position, and evidently widely believed in European society, that departed souls could return to earth to solicit the help of their descendants. In an article on the subject of ghosts, Geoffrey Parrinder explains that, “in developing Christian doctrine theologians discussed the nature of angels, good spirits, bad spirits, the resurrection of the dead, heaven, hell and purgatory. But belief in ghosts and their possible return to earth was left indeterminate, neither