The Devil And The Religious Controversies Of — страница 7

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witches . . . One must be a Christian and hold Christian beliefs according to the Holy Scriptures and the doctrines of the Holy Fathers and confirm these apparitions, not from stories gathered from everywhere, but by visions of holy personages, by daily experience, and by the testimony and confessions of witches.54Pearl’s reading of the primary source material led him to conclude that “the opinion, widely maintained in the modern historical literature, that the demonologists represented a unified elite that was reacting violently against peasant folk religion and general religious ignorance, is seriously flawed because it ignores sharp divisions of opinion among the elite class. The demonological works were written to convince the learned classes, especially incredulous or

lukewarm clergy and judges, of the centrality of demonology to good Catholic theology.”55 While Pearl is correct to stress this division of opinion among the educated, it seems, on the basis of the evidence, difficult to deny that some members of the social and intellectual elite were in fact attempting to suppress the unorthodox views of the masses, mainly in order to establish a greater degree of uniformity of religious belief within their respective territories. Furthermore, the two positions are not mutually exclusive, as the passage from de Lancre’s work suggests.Although the subject of ‘magic’ as practiced by members of the elite classes has not been dealt with in this essay, it should be recognized that the meanings of such terms as ‘myth’, ‘magic’ and

’superstition’ and just what practices these words encompassed have varied significantly throughout history. William Monter has stated that “throughout much of Protestant and Catholic Europe, governments made defacto compromises with learned magic during the sixteenth century, while condemning popular or ’superstitious’ magic and executing witches for their maleficia.56 Such a comment reminds us that, in dealing with such topics, we inevitably run up against a great deal of subjectivity and biased preconceptions, from those writing in the early modern period as well as from historians of our own day. As demonstrated, however, a widespread belief in ghosts, demons, witches, and other phenomena often associated with occult magic permeated European society in the sixteenth

century. Many Catholics regarded the growth of Protestantism as an insidious development that attested to the rapid diffusion of evil forces in the world and provided proof that the final day of judgement was imminent. Most Protestants, on the other hand, as well as an emerging group of Catholic skeptics, regarded various diabolical practices and beliefs as a mortal threat which had to be eradicated at any cost. Thus, we should not dismiss the type of literature that has been examined in this essay as the product of fanciful delusion. As Stuart Clark has correctly pointed out,to attribute the belief in demonic witchcraft to some determining ’social dysfunction’ would not only beg philosophical questionsabout the way language gives such traumas the meaning they have but ignore

the extent to which contemporaries found reassurance in demonological (and millenarian) explanations, even of chaos.57These demonological tracts were at once attempts on the part of some contemporaries to suppress certain beliefs and attitudes which they considered superstitious and of others to contend that such views were indeed orthodox. For many, however, they were simply a means by which one could attempt to come to terms with aspects of his experience which he could not explain. 36c