The Devil And The Religious Controversies Of — страница 5

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that “excessive credulity is a vice proceeding from an imbecility of the mind of man and often by the suggestion of an evil spirit.”34 He asserted that “faith is a sure and certain path to arrive at truth, salvation and wisdom: excessive credulity is a path that leads us precipitously toward falsehood, fraud, folly and superstition.”35 According to him, this difference between faith and credulity could best be demonstrated by the story of Marthe Brossier, a twenty-two-year-old woman who lived in Romorantin, a village in the province of Berry. Marescot referred to her as one who pretended to be possessed (”une pretendue inspiritee”). He related in his account how “several prelates, theologians and doctors, all recognizing by the Christian faith that evil spirits

enter into the bodies of humans, and that by the command and word of God they are exorcised, have discovered by a diligent observation of all the signs and actions the imposture and dissimulation of this woman.”36 He admitted, however, that there were other monks, theologians and doctors who, “either by credulity or in order to follow the opinion of the people”, insisted that Marthe was in fact possessed by a demon, “calumniating the others as infidels and atheists.” The Parlement, to which the case was submitted, “confirmed by a celebrated decree the judgment of the best and most prudent [meaning, of course, those who accused her of being a fraud] and ordered that such credulity and superstition should not proceed any further to the detriment of the Catholic

Religion.” Then Marescot went on to describe the case in detail, “so that the simplest minds would have no doubts.”37On 30 March 1599, having been summoned to l’aris, Marthe Brossier appeared before the bishop and his entourage and informed them that she was possessed by an evil spirit. Marescot, who was also present, addressed her in Latin in an attempt to obtain proof of her possession, but Marthe did not respond. Then she was taken to an absidial chapel, and, when they started to pray, Marthe began to turn somersaults, and her eyes rolled back into her head. Next some fragments of the true Cross were brought before her, but these seemed to have no noticeable effect. She did, however, question the bishop’s ability to interrogate her effectively because he was not

wearing his mitre. And when the cap of a theologian was presented to her, she rejected it wildly, “as if,” Marescot scoffed, “a theologian’s cap or bishop’s mitre had more power and more divinity than relics of the true Cross.” The verdict of all of those present was: “Rien du diable: plusieurs choses feintes: peu de la maladie.”38Several doctors from the University of Paris continued to claim, however, that Marthe had in fact been possessed . On 3 April 1599, they drafted a short tract entitled Rapport de Quelques Medecins de Paris sur le faict de Marthe Brossier, in which they testified that they had themselves witnessed, during the past two days, Marthe’s strange behavior. They reported that Marthe had been seized repeatedly by convulsions and had responded

to commands and interrogations in Greek, Latin and English.39 The doctors gave their medical reasons for refusing to believe that Marthe’s behavior was caused by any physical malady and concluded that the behavior could not have been fraudulent because she evinced no reaction at having pins stuck into her hands and neck. Even more convincing, they reasoned, was the fact that neither any blood issued forth nor was any visible mark left behind after the pins had been retracted.40 Although the doctors did not witness it themselves, a certain monsieur de Saincte Genevieve had also seen Marthe jump more than four feet in the air while five or six men were attempting to hold her down. In the final analysis, the doctors were forced “by all the laws of discourse and of sciences to

believe this girl, Demoniac, and the devil living within her.”41Even more interesting than the events of this case is the controversy among various members of the elite classes which it sparked. In the second half of the year 1599, Leon d’Alexis wrote a refutation of the doctor’s arguments.42 He insisted that Marthe’s failure to exhibit any sort of reaction upon being stuck with pins was inconclusive evidence of possession, for he had himself seen people “burned alive without giving any indication of pain.”43 Then, in a comment which betrays his disgust at the undue willingness of some men of authority to condemn all anomolous behavior as demonic, Alexis makes the following charge against the doctors: “Under an argument such as yours, we have seen unfortunate people