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Title: Superstition in Medicine
Author: Magnus, Hugo
Language: English
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  _Late Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Jefferson Medical
  College; Physician to the Philadelphia General Hospital, etc._



  [_Printed in the United States of America_]
  Published, April, 1905


The history of medicine is closely interlinked with the development
of theology. The errors of one are for the most part reflected in
the mistakes of the other. No matter how obscure and dark the origin
of either, whether derived from ignorance and superstition or not,
the ultimate achievement alone must be taken into consideration. We
do not reject chemistry because it originated in alchemy, we do not
disregard astronomy because its roots are entwined with the teachings
of astrology, and so in theology and medicine we look to the final
issue. The statements set forth in this book should not be construed
as reflecting the development of theology or medicine at the time, but
as the belief of the people existing in these periods. Philosophy may
have been pure, but if the mind of man was faulty the responsibility
must not be laid at the door of science. It is the function of the
historian truthfully to depict the thought and spirit of the time of
which he writes. This has been attempted in the present work. It is not
a criticism of a system, but a criticism of man. There can be no doubt
that absurd superstitions are still existent for which the twentieth
century will be severely criticized in time to come. Thus the words of
our martyred President may well be used as a motto for this book: “With
malice towards none, with charity for all.”

The last chapter of this book has been added by the translator, as it
seemed necessary for the full discussion of the subject.




    I. WHAT IS MEDICAL SUPERSTITION?                          1




       SUPERSTITION                                         128

       SUPERSTITION BY MEDICINE ITSELF                      185


       BIBLIOGRAPHY                                         201


  CIRCLE OF PETOSIRIS                                       141

  CIRCLE OF PETOSIRIS                                       143

  THE TABLE OF DEMOCRITUS                                   145

  OF THE ZODIAC                                             159




Faith and superstition are twin brothers. Altho the former leads
humanity to its sublimest ideals and the latter only presents us with
a caricature of human knowledge, both are children of the same family.
Both originate in a sense of the inadequacy of human science in regard
to natural phenomena. The fact that the most important processes of
organic life can not be traced to their ultimate origin, but that their
investigation will soon lead to a point of irresistible opposition to
further analysis, has always called forth a feeling of impotency and
dependence in the human mind. This consciousness of being dependent
upon factors which are entirely beyond human understanding has thus
given rise to the metaphysical need of reflecting upon these mysterious
factors, and bringing them within reach of human comprehension.
Humanity, in attempting to satisfy such a metaphysical requirement
from an ethical standpoint, created faith, which subsequently found
expression in the various forms of religion. It is not within the
scope of this essay to consider how far Divine revelations have
been vouchsafed on this subject. Superstition undoubtedly entered
the scene when, simultaneously with these, endeavors were made to
consider and to explain physical processes from the standpoint of
such metaphysical requirements. It is true that this did not, at
first, lead to a marked contrast between faith and superstition;
for a period existed in which faith and superstition—_i.e._, the
metaphysical consideration of ethical values and the metaphysical
consideration of the entire phenomena of life—were not only equivalent,
but even merged into one conception. This occurred in an age in which
mankind considered all terrestrial processes, whether they were of
a psychical or of a material nature, as immediately caused by the
steady interference of supernatural powers—a period during which the
deity was held responsible for all terrestrial phenomena. During
this period faith became superstition, and superstition, faith. A
separation did not take place until some especially enlightened minds
began to evolve the idea that it would be more reasonable to explain
natural phenomena—temporal becoming, being, and passing away—by
natural rather than by supernatural causes. The reaction against
this better interpretation, the tenacious adherence to the original
association of terrestrial manifestations with metaphysical factors,
created the superstition of the natural sciences. The birth of
superstition in the Greek world must be placed about the seventh
century, B.C., the period during which Thales of Miletus came forward
with his endeavor to explain natural processes in a natural manner.
This attempt of the Milesian is the initiation of a rational scientific
conception of natural manifestations, and the ancient theistic
consideration of nature became superstition only in opposition to
such a view. It follows, then, that what holds good with regard to
the interpretation of natural manifestations in general holds good in
medicine especially. Here, also, superstition came into question only
when, besides the original theistic conception of the functions of the
body and besides the metaphysical treatment of the sick, a valuation
of the normal as well as of the morbid phenomena of the human organism
came into vogue which took into account terrestrial causes. Not until
this stage was reached did theism and theurgy lose their title and
become superstition; until then they could claim fullest acceptance in
medicine as thoroughly logical consequences of the prevailing theory
of life. This took place, so far as Greek medicine was concerned,
at about the end of the sixth century, B.C. The Corpus Hippocraticum
already shows us Greek medicine as being purified from all theistic
sophistications and only reckoning with natural causes. When this
separation must have taken place for pre-Greek, Indian, Assyrian, and
Egyptian culture can not be at present determined with certainty. For
the Egyptian and Babylonico-Assyrian manuscripts, so far known, show
an intimate admixture of true observation of nature with theistic
speculations—_i.e._, a treatment of medicine which, altho it took
account of physico-natural manifestations, was still deeply tinctured
with superstition.

According to what we have stated, medical superstition might be defined
as follows: “Belief that the normal as well as the pathological
manifestations of organic life may be explained and eventually
treated, without consideration of their physical nature, by means of
supernatural agencies.”

Medical superstition varies according to the kind and the origin of
these supernatural causes, and therefore appears in the greatest
variety of forms. If these causes were looked for in celestial regions,
medical superstition became vested with the religious garb, and its
source was in the religious cult; but if the belief prevailed that
God shared the domination of the world with other mysterious elements,
such as were embodied in different forms in accordance with the various
philosophical systems, medical superstition bore a philosophical and
mystical stamp whose origin is revealed in the history of philosophy.
But if certain mysterious powers hidden in the womb of nature or active
above the earth were considered to influence human life, medical
superstition assumed a physical character. However, it frequently
followed that the above three factors acted simultaneously or in
varying combinations, or certain other elements which were inherent
in human nature cooperated. For this reason it is sometimes not quite
easy to decide as to the source from which this or that form of
medical superstition principally derived its persistent currency. But,
nevertheless, it is our intention to divide our subject in accordance
with the sources from which the several forms of medical superstition
spring, as it is absolutely impossible to obtain a satisfactory view
of the extensive material without first attempting a systematic
arrangement of the data at hand.

But before attempting to inquire why the purest and most valuable
fountains of all human knowledge—religion, philosophy, and natural
science—have at the same time become sources of medical superstition,
it will be advisable to explain the character which medical science had
assumed under the exclusive domination of theism, and how conditions
shaped themselves when physico-mechanical philosophy appeared and began
to do battle with the theistic conception of life. These conditions
played such a special part in the development of medico-physical
superstition that it becomes necessary first to examine their power and
tendency before attempting to contemplate medical superstition proper.



As we explained in Chapter I., the development of all peoples has
passed through a period during which medico-physical knowledge found
expression exclusively in the teachings of religion. By theism we
mean the system which endeavors to explain natural phenomena by
supernatural causes. However, this view of nature, with its tinge
of religion, did not as yet show any trace of superstition. It was
rather the only justifiable conception of nature and thoroughly in
keeping with the power of comprehension of man, until it began to
dawn upon the mind that natural phenomena might be due to natural
causes. This was the period of which we stated, in the beginning of
this investigation, that faith became superstition and superstition
became faith. It was during this time that the powers above were held
accountable for all bodily ailments of mankind. It was their task most
carefully to observe the functional processes of the human body in
all its phases, and to protect their undisturbed continuance. But as
the inhabitants of heaven, like the inhabitants of the earth, were
subject to whims, it happened very often, unfortunately, that they
attended to their task of protecting the undisturbed development of
the vegetative as well as the animal functions of the body in a very
unsatisfactory manner, sometimes, in fact, even purposely neglecting
it. Thus disturbances occurred in the regular course of organic life,
and this brought diseases into the world. If, therefore, the gods were
directly responsible for the appearance of disease, it was palpably
their duty to effect its elimination. Thus it came about that pathology
and therapy were exclusively attended to by the gods. But in what light
they regarded these medical duties of theirs, and how they performed
them, were matters subject to very varying considerations, as expounded
by the different religions of antiquity. The Babylonian considered the
great god Marduk the expeller of all maladies, whereas Urugal, Namtor,
and Nergal were recognized gods of pestilence.

Similar ideas prevailed among the Egyptians. The cat-headed goddess
Bubastis was believed to deal out to mothers the blessings of
fertility. Ibis showed an especial interest in those human beings who
were troubled with disturbances of digestion, and this interest found
benevolent expression in the invention of the clyster.

With the Greeks also the gods rendered services to diseased humanity.
Thus Apollo invented the art of healing, and if his time permitted he
occasionally lent a hand when difficulties beset the entrance into this
world of a young mortal. But, as a rule, it was the duty of Aphrodite
to attend to such cases, just as, in fact, she was responsible for
everything that referred to love, no matter whether it was a question
of the esthetic or the pathological part of that passion. Athene was
the specialist in ophthalmology, and it seems that she did not fare
badly with this occupation. A temple was dedicated to her by Lycurgus,
whom, as it appears, she healed of a sympathetic affection of the
eyes; and, besides, she won by her ophthalmological activity various
ornamental epithets, such, for instance, as ὀφθαλμίτις, etc.

It was quite natural, in view of the exclusively theistic conception
which in those times preoccupied the human mind, that the priests were
the sole possessors of physico-medical knowledge; and naturally so.
For when we consider the theory of life that prevailed at that period,
who could have been better qualified to give information to men
regarding their own body as well as regarding nature in general, than
the priest, the mortal representative of immortal gods? And who better
qualified than the priest to invoke the aid of the heavenly powers
in all bodily ailments? Thus it was the unavoidable consequence of
the theistic theory of life that the priest was the physician as well
as the representative of physical knowledge and also the helper and
adviser in all mundane exigencies. Whether bodily or psychic troubles
afflicted individuals, whether an entire population groaned under
heavy chastisements like pestilence, aid and deliverance were always
sought in the sanctuary of the gods, from the infallible priest. And
the priests were always equal to the occasion; they have always, in a
masterly manner, known the art of satisfying the medico-physical needs
of their suppliants. For the religions of all civilized peoples—and
Christianity by no means occupies an exceptional position in this
respect—have always endeavored most strenuously to keep physical as
well as medical thought in strictest dependence upon their doctrines
and dogmas. To attain this end various ceremonies, customs, and dogmas
were relied upon to keep the priests in a position to secure the
assistance of the gods for humanity harassed by pain and affliction.
These sacred observances were strange, and varied with the various
religious systems. According to the primeval cult of Zoroaster, all
evils, consequently also all diseases, were derived from the principle
of darkness which was embodied in the person of Ahriman, and only the
sacerdotal caste of the magicians who sprung from a special Median
tribe was able to heal them. But it was by no means easy to become a
member of this caste and to acquire the magic powers pertaining to
it alone. It was necessary before gaining mastery over the powers
of nature to become initiated into the mysteries of Mitra. However,
after priestly consecration had once been bestowed, the individual
thus honored bore the proud title “Conqueror of Evil,” and was able to
practise medicine. As the most essential constituent of every medical
treatment, the divine word was applied in the form of mysterious
exorcisms, sacred hymns, and certain words which were considered
specially curative in effect, particularly the word “Ormuzd,” the name
of the highest god, in whose all-embracing power of healing great
confidence was placed.

The Sumerians, the precursors of Babylonico-Assyrian culture, ascribed
a considerable and important rôle to dreams. They were considered to
bring direct medical advice from the gods, and it became the office
of the sacerdotal physician to interpret the dream in such a way as to
alleviate the sufferings of the dreamer.

The ancient Greek culture also conceded a conspicuous medical
significance to dreams, and even arranged a system of its own, that of
the temple sleep, in order always to obtain prophesying dreams from
the gods. The patient, after the obligatory offering, was required to
remain a night in the temple, and his dream during this night was the
medical advice of the divinity in its most direct form. But only the
priest was able to interpret a dream obtained in such a manner, and to
extract medical efficacy from it. But as it occasionally happened that
a too prosaic and phlegmatic patient did not dream at all, the priest
was benevolent enough to intercede. He was always promptly favored by
the gods with a suggestive dream.

The medical function of the priests had reached a peculiar development
during the first centuries of Rome. This was manifest especially in
the time of public calamities, such as pestilence, war, etc. When
such events reached dimensions which threatened the existence of the
republic, attempts were made to gain the favor of the gods by most
curious ceremonies. The celestials were simply invited to take part
in an opulent banquet. The first divine feast of such a character
was celebrated in Rome in the sixth century, B.C., on account of a
great epidemic. Apollo, Latona, Diana, Hercules, Mercury, and Neptune
were most ceremoniously invited to take part in a religious banquet
which lasted for eight days. The images of the gods were placed upon
magnificently cushioned couches, and the tables were loaded with
dainties. Not only the gods, but the entire population, were invited;
every one kept open house, and whoever wished to do so could feast
at the richly prepared boards of the wealthy. Even the pronounced
enemies of the house were allowed to enter and to enjoy the dainties
without fear of hostile remarks; indeed, it was deemed advisable in the
interests of public hygiene to unchain the prisoners and to liberate
them. But if the gods, in spite of the most opulent entertainments,
did not have any consideration, and if pestilence, military disaster,
failure of crops, or whatever was the immediate cause of popular
anxiety, continued to persist with unabated fury, endeavors were made
by theatrical performances to provide as much as possible for the
amusement of the gods. Such plays, at first, consisted only in graceful
dances, with flute accompaniments, and from these simple beginnings,
according to Livy, Book 7, Chapter II., the drama is said to have
developed all those variations which characterized the scenic art of
antiquity. There can be no doubt that even the stage of modern times is
of religio-sanitary origin—a peculiar fact which modern patrons of the
theater scarcely ever dream of.

An attempt was eventually made to increase the delight of the gods in
such amusements by a number of novel devices. For instance, it was
stipulated that the performances instituted to ward off the invasion of
Hannibal were to cost 333,333⅓ copper asses. But if, nevertheless,
the gods were not sufficiently propitiated by banquets, dances, and
playing of the flute, and if they could not be prevailed upon by such
pastimes to remove the pestilence or other calamity, a dictator was
named who, if possible, on September 13th, drove a nail into the temple
of Jupiter to appease divine indignation. It appears that this was
a primeval custom of the Etruscans; at least, it is reported by the
Roman author, Cincius, that such nails could be seen in the temple of
the Etruscan goddess Nortia. This nail therapy was resorted to by the
Romans, for instance, during the terrible plague which raged in the
fifth century, B.C., and of which the celebrated Furius Camillus died.

Wonderful as all the described procedures seem to us, and closely
as they may conform to the modern conception of superstition, at the
time they originated they were considered as quite removed from that
superstition with which we so closely identify them to-day. For the
period which saw the above events was an era of exclusive theism, and
for that reason divine sleep, divine feasts, the sacred performances,
and all the other peculiar means which were employed to secure medical
aid of the gods, were well-established features of religious worship.
The stigma of superstition was not set upon them as yet. And this state
of things naturally persisted so long as the theistic theory of life
stood unchallenged.

This absolute reign of theistic theory dominating human life through
the above-described therapeutic ideas was followed by an epoch in which
theism was forced to divide its authority with a powerful rival—namely,
the physico-mechanical theory of life. The struggle between both these
systems was ushered in, for the Hellenic as well as for the Occidental
world of civilization, by the appearance of Ionian philosophy. Even in
our own day this struggle is still going on in many minds. This much,
at least, is certain: that superstition has always been especially
active in medicine in areas of civilization where the theistic idea
has gained the ascendency.

The deadly struggle between theistic and physico-mechanical theories of
life in the realm of medicine has found no place in the experience of
Hellenic and Roman antiquity. The change in opinion was rather wrought
by a gradual recession from the idea that the gods interfered with the
proper course of man’s bodily functions. This conviction resulted from
a progressive growth of his physico-mechanical knowledge, and became
established at least as far as the thoughts and the opinions of the
physicians were concerned. That the other classes, in particular the
representatives of religion, did not so peaceably acquiesce in this
mechanical conception of life we shall soon explain in Chapter III.
It was different, however, with the art of healing itself. Even the
Corpus Hippocraticum reveals to us a medicine which had been purified
from all theistic admixtures, and from the publication of this work
(_i.e._, from about the fifth century, B.C., up to the overthrow of the
ancient period—_i.e._, until about the fifth or sixth century, A.D.)
no further attempt to refer the cause of disease and the treatment of
disease to the gods of the ancient heavens is noticed in medical works.
On the contrary, that great efforts were made to look for the nature
of disease in the mechanical conditions of the body is proven by a
number of the most various medical doctrines. The extensive work of
Galen, that antique canon of medicine, which dates back to the second
century, A.D., disavows all theism and all theurgy, and relies solely
upon physico-mechanical methods: observation, experiment, dissection.
Antique religion and antique medicine had effected a reconciliation—a
reconciliation, however, in which neither party was to acknowledge
a complete defeat; but the result was an amicable settlement, in
which their just dues were given both to the theistic and to the
physico-mechanical theories of life. The point of agreement upon which
this settlement, or, to express it better, compromise, was made was

By teleology we understand the conception that all earthly existence
is created by a supreme power in accordance with a preconceived plan,
and that, accordingly, all organic life, in form and action, is most
perfectly adapted to the task prescribed for it by this power. This
conception was absolutely indispensable to antique medicine; for it
allowed the adherents of the theistic theory without hesitation to
consider man as a product of the creator, which was distinguished in
all directions and which bore witness of the wisdom of God, a position
which precluded the assumption, which was impossible according to the
antecedent medical observations, that disease came from God. For it
seemed quite plausible, according to the physico-mechanical theory of
life, that disease might be a product of a number of adverse, purely
earthly conditions, an assumption not involving the slightest doubt of
the wisdom and creative power of the gods. This teleological doctrine,
which runs like a red thread through all ancient philosophy, becomes
conspicuously prominent in Galen. Every section of the powerful work
of Galen—anatomy, as well as physiology, pathology, and therapy—bear
witness to the most confident teleological conception, a conception
which in the end culminates in the verdict (“Use of the Parts,” Book
11, Chapter XIV.): “The creator of nature has disclosed his benevolence
by wise care for all his creatures, in that he has bestowed upon each
one what is truly of service to it.”

This teleological idea of all earthly becoming, being, and passing away
was henceforth destined to be a permanent factor in human speculation.
Christianity received it as a possession from antique civilization, and
only the philosophy and natural science of modern times have been able
to threaten its permanence. Biology, as of modern creation, teaches
us that all natural phenomena owe their existence to natural causes,
that the natural world is subject to natural laws. And, accordingly,
teleology, as we encounter it in the works of the heathen Galen and
in the writings of the Christian Church Fathers, has turned out to
be superstition, which, however, must by no means be classed with
the vagaries of mere medico-physical superstition. In coming to this
decision, however, we must beware of rash generalization. In this
connection we refer only to that kind of teleology which dominated the
world previous to the teachings of Descartes and Spinoza, and previous
to the advent of modern natural science, with its biological methods.
Whether, after all, a theory of life might be possible which, while
avoiding the reproach of superstition, might be traced to teleological
prepossessions, is a question we can not here discuss. It is admittedly
true that the deeper we penetrate into the secrets of nature the more
energetically the existence of a marvelous, intelligent will manifests
itself as permeating all domains of nature. However, if this fact is
not denied on principle, as modern materialism denies it, and proper
allowance is made for it, a rehabilitation of teleology as a necessary
factor of our theory of life would be the logical consequence. Of
course, this teleology would bear a stamp entirely different from
that of antiquity and of the middle ages, which is recognized to be
superstition. It should not pretend to include the consideration of the
entire organic world, but confine its conclusions to the last links
in the chain of experience and argument which science has forged from
natural phenomena. Now this could be accomplished, in our opinion, even
without apprehension of interfering with the indispensable requirements
of modern naturalists: “The terrestrial world in its forms and
processes is governed solely by terrestrial laws.” What the appearance
of such a teleology should be is expressed by William Hartpole Lecky in
the following:

“This conception, which exhibits the universe rather as an organism
than a mechanism, and regards the complexities and adaptations it
displays rather as the results of gradual development from within
than of an interference from without, is so novel, and at first sight
so startling, that many are now shrinking from it in alarm, under
the impression that it destroys the argument from design, and almost
amounts to the negation of a Supreme Intelligence. But there can,
I think, be little doubt that such fears are, for the most part,
unfounded. That matter is governed by mind, that the contrivances
and elaborations of the universe are the products of intelligence,
are propositions which are quite unshaken, whether we regard these
contrivances as the result of a single momentary exercise of will,
or of a slow, consistent, and regulated evolution. The proofs of a
pervading and developing intelligence, and the proofs of a coordinating
and combining intelligence, are both untouched, nor can any conceivable
progress of science in this direction destroy them. If the famous
suggestion, that all animal and vegetable life results from a single
vital germ, and that all the different animals and plants now existent
were developed by a natural process of evolution from that germ, were
a demonstrated truth, we should still be able to point to the evidence
of intelligence displayed in the measured and progressive development,
in those exquisite forms so different from what blind chance could
produce, and in the manifest adaptation of surrounding circumstances
to the living creature, and of the living creature to surrounding
circumstances. The argument from design would indeed be changed; it
would require to be stated in a new form, but it would be fully as
cogent as before. Indeed, it is, perhaps, not too much to say that the
more fully this conception of universal evolution is grasped, the more
firmly a scientific doctrine of Providence will be established, and the
stronger will be the presumption of a future progress.”[1]

      [1] “History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of
      Rationalism in Europe,” Vol. I., Chapter III., pages 294-295.
      Compare also Magnus, “Medicine and Religion,” page 24, _sqq._

In such a manner, despite the fact that in teleology the point of
agreement between theistic and physico-mechanical medical thought has
been now found, theism, in the course of the history of our science,
continually attempted new attacks upon the physical tendency in
medicine; and with each assault superstition in medicine, as well as in
the natural sciences, was most palpably exposed.

After having satisfied ourselves in this second chapter regarding
theism and its attitude with reference to the physico-mechanical theory
of life, we shall now enter upon the consideration of the various
forms of medical superstition, and it is our intention, as stated in
the first chapter, so to arrange the enormous material at hand as to
discuss medical superstition according to the sources from which it has
sprung. We shall begin by pointing out the intimate relations which
have prevailed between the teachings of religion and superstition.



Religion undoubtedly plays the most conspicuous part in the history
of medical superstition. Religious teaching, of whatever character,
has fostered medical superstition more than any other factor of
civilization. Not only has religion called forth and nourished medical
superstition, but it has also defended it with all the influence at its
disposal. Indeed, it has not infrequently happened that those who were
reluctant to believe in the blessings of a medical theory ridiculously
perverted by religion were exposed to persecution by fire and sword.
And this not only from one or other religious denomination, for all
religious believers, without exception, had proved to be the most
assiduous promotors of medical superstition; so that we are probably
not wrong in designating priesthoods in general, whatever their creed,
as the most prominent embodiment of medical superstition during certain
periods of the world’s history. But the details will be learned from
the following paragraphs:

§ 1. =Priesthood the Support of Medical Superstition.=—The principal
reason for a not quite reputable activity in the chosen representative
of a deity is probably the fact that, with the appearance of a
physico-mechanical contemplation of the world, the theistic theory of
life, which until then had exclusive sway, was forced into a pitched
battle with a newly formulated definition of nature. This struggle was
carried on principally by the priesthood, who, as a matter of fact,
had most to lose from the ascendency of a new theory of life which
only reckoned with natural factors. They indeed had been the means,
until then, of procuring for the people the assistance of the gods
in all bodily ailments, as they had been the exclusive depositories
of physical knowledge. And it could scarcely be expected that the
priesthood would at once willingly relinquish the extensive supremacy
hitherto exercised by it as the oracle of divine guidance in all
medico-physical questions; for humanity has always considered the
possession of authority much more delightful than submission, and the
ruler has always objected most energetically to any attempt which
disputes his rule. This was precisely what was done by priests of all
creeds when the mechanico-physical theory of life began to supersede
the obsolete dreams of theistic medicine. Fair-minded persons will
surely allow that such action was natural. But they can not approve of
the methods resorted to, unless they belong to those who feel bound
always to discern nothing but what is sacred in every action of a
servant of heaven.

In order to wage war most effectively against the physico-mechanical
theory of life, the priesthood at once claimed for themselves the power
of completely controlling nature. They made the people believe that
the celestials had bestowed upon them the faculty of dominating nature
in the interests of the sick, and that all powers of the universe, the
obvious ones as well as those mysteriously hidden in the depths of
nature, were obedient to sacerdotal suggestions. The servant of heaven
professed that he could regulate the eternal processes of matter, with
its becoming, being, and passing away, quite as irresistibly as his eye
was able to survey the course of time in the past, present, and future.

Equipped with these extensive powers, a priest necessarily appeared
to the people not only as physician, but also as a miraculous being
crowned with the halo of the supernatural. And this was the rôle he
actually played in many ancient religions. With the peoples of Italy
the priest appeared—at a period, indeed, which was previous to the
beginning of Rome—as physician, prophet, interpreter of dreams,
raiser of tempests, etc. He held exactly the same offices among the
Celtic tribes in Gaul and Britain. His position was the same in the
Oriental world, and by the Medians and the Persians especially were
priests considered to be persons endowed with supernatural powers.
We may notice that members of a certain Median tribe formed the
sacerdotal caste, and bore the name of “Magi.” However, this name,
which originally was confined to the priestly order, obtained, in the
course of time, a distinctly secular meaning. Very soon many cunning
fellows arrived at the conclusion that the trade of a sacerdotal
physician and conjurer might bring a profitable livelihood to its
professor, even if this professor were not a priest but a layman. Thus
there arose a special profession of sorcerers, miracle workers, and
medicine-men, who protested with solemn emphasis that they were able
to cure all physical as well as psychical ailments of their fellow
men as thoroughly as the priests had done. But in order to bestow
the required consecration upon this art, these gentlemen usurped the
venerable name of the above-mentioned Median sacerdotal caste and
called themselves “Magi.” Thus it happened that the name “Magus”
(magician), which originally served to designate a distinct sacerdotal
caste, deteriorated into a designation of charlatans and swindlers.
This could never have occurred unless the priests had prostituted their
sublime profession and degraded it to various kinds of discreditable
medico-physical deceptions. This alone is why priesthood is responsible
for the rise of the magicians, of these worthless fakirs. But if Pliny
(Book 30, Chapter I., § 2) attempts to rank magic as an offshoot of
medicine, he is justified in doing so only in so far as the priest,
during the theistic period, was also the physician, as is well known.
Only from this point of view is it possible to trace a genetic relation
between medicine and magic. But medicine in itself has not taken
the slightest part in the promotion of magic and the success of its
unsavory reputation. Indeed, our science has suffered too much through
the practise of magic to burden itself with the paternity of this
disreputable child of civilization.

It appears that the name of the Celtic priests (“druids”) had become
subject to the same abuse as the name of the Median priests of
sacerdotal caste. Thus we learn of female fortune-tellers of the
third century, A.D., who call themselves “druidesses.” But it seems
that this application of the word “druid” has remained a local
one and strictly limited, whereas the expression “magician,” quite
generally employed, became, in the course of time, the designation of
charlatans and medical impostors. For these swindlers, who carried on
medico-physical hocuspocus, and who claimed to exercise supernatural
powers, were called “magicians” during the entire period of classic
antiquity, and we find the same use of the word in the middle ages, and
sometimes also in more modern times.

But this profession of magician, which sprang from priesthood, has
largely promoted superstition in medicine, and was particularly
instrumental in bringing it into extraordinary repute. It is our
intention to concern ourselves a little more minutely with magicians
and magic.

§2. =The Spread of the Word “Magic.”=—How and when magic was
transplanted from its Oriental home to the Occident can not be
determined with certainty; for the Greeks, as well as all antique
peoples, probably all nations, had a belief in ghosts and demons, in
fortune-telling, and in sorcery. But it appears, nevertheless, that
the ancient civilized peoples of the Orient, and particularly the
Persians, cultivated the magic arts with especial devotion, and it
is more than probable that it was from the East that the prevailing
cult of magic had been imported into the West. Pliny, for one, tells
us (Book 30, Chapter I., § 8) that magic was brought to Europe by
a certain Osthanes, who accompanied King Xerxes on his military
expedition against Greece. This man Osthanes, as Pliny reports further,
is said to have disseminated the seeds of this supernatural art (_velut
semina artis portentosæ insparsit_) wherever he went, and with such
success that the Hellenic peoples were actually mad after it, and
prominent men traveled through parts of the Orient, there to acquire
personally and thoroughly these magic arts, thus, as was the case with
Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato. In fact, it is said of
Democritus that he opened the tomb of a celebrated magician—Dardanus of
Phœnicia—that he might restore to publicity the mysterious writings of
the latter. It appears, moreover, that Alexander the Great entertained
an implicit belief in magic—at least, Pliny reports that during his
wars he was always accompanied by a celebrated magician.

Magic arts were likewise in favor among the Romans. Even Nero attempted
to master the secrets of magic, altho unsuccessfully (Pliny, Book 30,
Chapter II., § 5). A particular impetus was given to magic toward the
end of the last century before Christ and during the first century
of the Christian era, when the rise of many fantastic philosophical
systems greatly promoted and supported the belief in the supernatural
powers of magic. Subsequently, in the middle ages, magic experienced an
accepted and systematic development. These conditions, however, will be
more explicitly referred to later on.

The treatment of the sick through supernatural agencies assumed
quite astonishing dimensions under the Roman emperors. The belief
in magicians was so generally disseminated that even the emperors
themselves and the imperial authorities were almost completely devoted
to it. Thus, for instance, the emperor Hadrian (117-138, A.D.) caused
himself to be treated by physicians who claimed miraculous powers,
and he is said to have written a book on theurgy. In fact, Suidas (62
Julianus) reports that Hadrian, on account of a severe outbreak of
pestilence in Rome, sent for the son of the Chaldean, Julian, who,
simply by the power of his miracles, arrested the progress of the
disease. Under Antoninus Pius official proclamations were made in the
forum, directing the attention of the people to the importance of
magicians (Philostratus, 43), and the emperor Marcus Aurelius even
relates that, when in Caieta, the gods in a dream prescribed a remedy
for the hemorrhagic cough and vertigo from which he was suffering
(“Marcus Aurelius,” Chapter I., § 17, page 11).

But it appears that the magicians finally went too far with their
tricks, and endangered human life by their treatment; so that several
emperors decided upon adopting more rigorous measures against their
knaveries. The emperor Septimius Severus (193-211), altho himself
originally devoted to magic, prohibited, when on a visit in Egypt,
all books which taught curious arts (Aelius Spartianus, “Hadrianus,”
Chapter XV., § 5, page 146). Later the emperor Diocletian took
energetic steps toward abating the mischief done by magical treatment
of the sick, and the magicians were permitted to carry on such arts
only so far as would not be detrimental to the health of the people.
However, this order did not check the magicians any more than it
benefited those who were still tortured and brought to the point
of death by magic quackery. Neither did medical science derive any
advantage whatever from this well-meant but completely abortive effort
of the emperor, for the magic physicians persisted in carrying on
their hocuspocus, and unconcernedly debased the pharmacopœia by the
introduction of nonsensical and loathsome substances. Let us examine
more in detail this department of medical practise among the magicians.

§ 3. =The Medical Practise of the Magicians.=—The magicians adopted
various modes of procedure in the treatment of the sick: they either
attempted, as do our modern quacks, to create the impression, by
administering medicine, that they were actually able to direct the
treatment of the ailing in a rational manner, or they restricted
themselves to various kinds of magical observances.

The drug therapy of the magicians actually utilized everything under
the sun as a remedy. The more out of the way and the less suitable
for a remedy a substance seemed to be, the more likely it was to be
chosen by the magician intent upon healing. For it was always the
main object of these practising quacks to make their treatment as
sensational as possible. In this they succeeded best by employing
the most extraordinary substances as remedies. Thus they made use of
gold, silver, precious stones and pearls, just because these, owing to
their value, were held in great esteem, and their medical application,
therefore, was bound to create a sensation. But the most loathsome
substances were quite as readily employed, for here, too, the most
general attention was bound to be attracted by their application.
Human feces, urine, and menstrual blood were introduced into the
materia medica in such a manner. The awe with which parts of corpses
usually inspired the non-medical part of the public was relied upon by
the magicians to advertise their cures. Thus these quacks administered
powders of human bones to the ailing.

But inasmuch as what is conspicuous and unusual has always enjoyed
an especial esteem with humanity, the incredible remedies of the
magicians naturally found everywhere an abundance of believers; and
as particularly the most nonsensical theory is most tenacious of
life, provided it has been presented in apparent combination with the
miraculous, the medical armamentarium rapidly took on a very peculiar
aspect. Until the present more modern times medicine was condemned
to the encumbrance of this rubbish, this list of odd and loathsome
remedies, whose admission to the pharmacopœia was only due to the whim
of a human mind that constantly hankers after the extraordinary and the

Finally the magic observances to which the magicians resorted in the
treatment of the sick, have shown a remarkable vitality, for they
are in vogue even in modern times, and many sections of our people
even to-day swear unconditionally by the curative efficacy of various
agencies which demonstratively have been derived from the medicine of
the magicians. But now such agencies are no longer ascribed to magic or
sorcery, but they are called “cures by means of sympathy.” And as many
modern people believe that various incomprehensible mystic performances
cause certain mysterious powers, otherwise absolutely unknown, to
exert a curative influence upon certain diseases, so did the ancients
believe exactly the same. This was the origin of exorcism as a remedy
for disease. Exorcism played a conspicuous part in the middle ages as
a means of stopping hemorrhages, and even in these modern times, as is
well-known, this method of cure finds many adherents.

This magic treatment was believed to be especially efficacious if the
exorcisms had been written or engraved upon paper, gold, precious
stones, etc., in which case they were suspended around the neck of
the patient. Countless talismans (from the Arabic _tilsam_, magic
image) and amulets (from the Arabic _hamalet_, trinket) were thus
manufactured, and even to our own time there are survivals of this
medical superstition. Altho these mystic observances are performed in
various ways, and their modifications are practically innumerable, yet
certain radical resemblances are continually appearing among the magic
rites of the most diverse races, and some of these practises have even
persisted up to the present time. Thus the rope of the hung criminal
plays a conspicuous part in antique magic as well as in modern sympathy
treatment; the same importance is attributed to shooting-stars, to
the moon, to crossroads, to certain numerals, such as 3, 7, 9, etc.
It is a highly interesting fact that such conceptions, as remarkable
for their therapeutical associations as for their crass superstition,
are possessed of a vitality which persists for centuries. Peoples,
religions, philosophical systems, political revolutions have risen
and vanished, but the belief in the curative action of the rope of a
hung criminal or the therapeutic significance of the crossroad has
survived. The mystic influence which is exerted by the numerals 3, 7,
9, and still more so by the dreadful 13, upon the life and health of
man, haunts the minds of the multitude in this century of physical
enlightenment exactly as it did in remote antiquity. But we can not
here enter into the reason for these interesting facts, and we must
refer those who desire more detailed information on this subject to the
voluminous literature of superstition.

Furthermore, the belief in magic cures was not more prevalent among
the ancient professors of medicine than among the laity, and even the
most prominent practitioners were not able to emancipate themselves
from this belief. Galen, for instance, who, as is well-known, mastered
the entire literature of antique medicine as none before or after him
has ever done, openly avows his belief in the efficacy of magic cures,
and, what is more remarkable, Galen in this respect has changed from a
Saul to a Paul. He ruefully recalled, later, the condemnatory decree
which he had originally promulgated regarding the magic treatment of
the sick. Let us call to mind how he expresses himself in his essay
on medical treatment in Homer: “Many, as I have done for a long time,
believe that conjurations resemble the fairy tales of old women. But
gradually, and from the observation of obvious facts, I have come to
the conclusion that power is exercised by them; for I have learned
to know their advantages in stings of scorpions, and also in bones
which became lodged in the throat, and which were at once coughed
up as a result of conjuration. Many remedies are excellent in every
respect, and magic formulæ answer their purpose” (“Alexander of
Tralles,” Book 11, Chapter I., Vol. II., page 477). One of the most
prominent post-Galenian physicians also, Alexander of Tralles, openly
avows, with reference to this utterance of Galen, that he himself is
a believer in magic cures, and he says: “If the great Galen, as well
as many other physicians of ancient times, bear witness to this fact
(the efficacy of magic treatment of the sick), why shall we not impart
to you what we have learned from our own experience and what we have
heard from trustworthy friends?” (“Alexander of Tralles,” _ibid._).
Accordingly, his Βιβλία Ἰατρικά was filled with enumerations of the
most various magical cures. But, now, if the classics of antique
medicine have proven themselves to be so friendly to the medical
science of magicians, what was the condition of the mind, then, of
the average physician of ancient times? Is it astonishing if young
and old, high and low, without distinction, were blind adherents of
magical medicine? Thus medical literature of the last century, B.C.,
and especially that of the centuries from the Christian era until
late in the middle ages, was an actual treasury of conjuration and
other mummeries. This description applies specifically to the “Materia
Medica” of Quintus Serenus Samonicus, written in hexameters. It is
true, the magical sequel to this book entailed painful consequences on
the writer, for the emperor Caracalla had the poor author executed
(Ael. Spartian., “Caracalla,” Chapter IV., § 4) merely, as it is
reported, because he dared to advise in his works as a remedy against
intermittent fever the wearing of amulets, a medical expedient which
had been prohibited by the emperor himself.

The work of Sextus Placitus Papyriensis, who lived in the fourth
century, which treats of remedies derived from the animal kingdom,
teems with magic nonsense.

But an actually inexhaustible stock of medical conjurations was
contained in the work of a layman, Marcellus Empiricus. This gentleman,
who had been foreign minister under the emperors Theodosius the first
and the second, had written a thick folio volume on medicaments.
This literary performance, which, according to our ideas, appears to
be very odd for a minister of state, was by no means remarkable in
the fifth century, for the study of medical subjects was, so to say,
fashionable among the laity of that period; in fact, even prelates and
bishops did not think it beneath their dignity to busy themselves with
various medical questions and to write medico-physical books. Thus the
laurels of medical renown haunted our good Marcellus and would not
let him sleep, so that he abridged his hours of official duty to such
an extent that he was able to compile a Materia Medica of thirty-six
apparently never-ending chapters. But if the statesmanship of Marcellus
was on a par with his medical book-making, the two Theodosii could not
have missed the time their cabinet minister stole from them, for his
medical scribbling is an utterly worthless compilation. Not only did
Marcellus copy from medical authors of the most discordant opinion,
but he particularly busied himself in collecting indiscriminately all
the magical nonsense of the ancient times; in fact, it seems that he
was very eager to obtain all this magical rigmarole direct from the
mouth of the people, for he says that he collected his remedies “_ab
agrestibus et plebeiis_.” Accordingly his book is as worthless and
insipid to the physician as it is valuable to the historian, especially
the historian of civilization. Here are a few examples of this medicine
of the magicians:

_Remedy against warts and corns_ (Pliny, Book 28, Chapter IV., § 12,
page 268): “Lie on your back along a boundary line on the twentieth
day of the moon, and extend the hands over the head. With whatever
thing you grasp when so doing, rub the warts, and they will disappear

“Whoever, when he sees a shooting-star, soon afterward pours a little
vinegar upon the hinge of a door, is sure to be rid of his corns.”

_Remedy against headache_ (Pliny, _ibid._): “Tie the rope of a hung
criminal around the forehead.”

_Remedy against bellyache_ (Priscian, physician of the fourth century,
Book 1, Chapter XIV., and Sprengel, Vol. II., page 248): “If any
one suffer from colicky pains he may sit down on a chair and say to
himself: ‘_Per te diacholon, diacholon, diacholon_.’”

“A person who has an attack of colic may take the feces of a wolf,
which, if possible, should contain small particles of bone, enclose
them in a small tube, and wear this amulet on the right arm, thigh, or
hip.”—_Alexander of Tralles_, Book 8, Chapter II., page 374.

“Take the heart from the living lark and wear it as an amulet at the
left thigh.”—_Alexander of Tralles, ibid._

_Remedy against epilepsy_ (advised by the physician, Moschion
Diorthotes. “Alexander of Tralles,” Book 1, Chapter XV., page 570):
“The forehead of an ass is tied to the skin of the patient and worn.”

“Gather iris, peonies, and nightshade when the moon is on the wane,
pack them into linen and wear as an amulet.” Advised by the magician
Osthanes.—_Alexander of Tralles_, Book 1, Chapter XV., page 566.

“Take a nail from a cross and suspend it from an arm of the patient.”
Given by a physician of the second century, A.D., by the name of
Archigenes.—_Alexander of Tralles_, Book 1, Chapter XV., page 566.

“Wear on the finger a jasper of bluish-gray luster.”—Advised by
_Dioscorides_, Book 5, 159.

_Remedy against podagra_ [gout] (“Alexander of Tralles,” Book 12, page
582): “Take a gold leaf and write upon it when the moon is on the
wane: mei, threu, mor, for, teux, za, zon, the, lu, chri, ge, ze, on.
As the sun becomes firm in this name and daily renews itself, so does
this formation also make firm as conditions were previously. Quickly,
quickly, rapidly, rapidly. For behold! I call the great name in which
becomes firm again what was destined to die: Jas, azyf, zyon, threux,
dain, chook. Make this formation firm as it has been, quickly, quickly,
rapidly, rapidly. This document must be covered with the tendon of a
crane, enclosed in a capsule, and worn by the patient at his heel.”

_Remedy against diseases of the eye_ (advised by Sextus Placitus
Papyriensis. Magnus, “Ophthalmology of the Ancients,” page 597): “If
the right eye becomes afflicted with glaucoma, rub it with the right
eye of the wolf, and, similarly, the left eye with the left eye of the

In photophobia (fear of light) “Wear as an amulet an eye which
was taken from a live crab.”—_Quintus Serenus Samonicus._ Magnus,
“Ophthalmology of the Ancients,” page 595.

With pains of the eye the patient must, with a copper needle, put out
the eyes of a green lizard caught on a Jupiter day, during a moon that
is on the wane, in the month of September. The eyes must be worn in a
golden capsule, as an amulet around the neck (_Marcellus Empiricus_.
Magnus, “Ophthalmology of the Ancients,” page 602.)

The above illustrations are surely sufficient to give the reader an
idea of the medicine of the magicians. At the same time they show the
great similarity which exists between these ancient magic cures and the
sympathetic cures of our people at the present day.

§ 4. =Ancient Medicine and Magic.=—But how is it possible that the
ancient physicians, and even the most enlightened minds among them,
should not only have tolerated such a crass medical superstition as the
above examples have shown us, but should even have incorporated them in
their works? Incomprehensible, however, as this fact may appear to the
modern practitioner, it becomes conceivable if the condition of antique
medicine and of the medical profession of ancient times is considered.

In the first place, ancient medical science adopted an entirely
different mode of diagnostico-theoretical method than that employed
by professors of medicine in modern times. Ancient natural science
(compare also Chapter V. of this work), as well as ancient medicine,
obtained their scientific views exclusively by deduction—_i.e._, they
deduced individual results from general presumptions, or, rather, they
construed, by reason of some general presumption, the physico-medical
consequences which were to follow from such a general supposition. If
this attempt to obtain an insight into physical processes is extremely
hazardous, it becomes still more precarious when the manner and means
in which these general presumptions were arrived at were primarily of
an entirely hypothetical nature. It is true, no fundamental objection
can be raised to this method, as even modern natural science and
medicine, despite the fact that their methods of investigation in a
diagnostico-theoretical respect scarcely admit of material objections,
can not do without hypothesis. But hypothesis is not always mere
hypothesis. It is well known that there are hypotheses which, even in
the minds of the most conscientious investigators, are not inferior to
that knowledge which is obtained by experiment and observation, whereas
other hypotheses again present the distinct stamp of insufficiency and
makeshift. The trustworthiness and the heuristic value of an hypothesis
depend upon the quality of the diagnostico-theoretical process by means
of which it was obtained. If this process has been such as physical
investigation is bound to insist upon, the hypothesis thus arrived
at is fully justified to supply the still absent data with regard
to the phenomena in question. This, however, can be accomplished by
hypothesis only when the latter is not set forth until it plainly
appears that, in spite of a conscientious and orderly arrangement of
observation after observation, of experiment upon experiment, without
the admission of logical loopholes, full data in regard to the nature
of the phenomena is not forthcoming. In such a case we may consider
as actually proven by hypothesis what observation and systematic
experiment, continuous and logical, were intended to prove, and
failed. However, this inductive hypothesis is alone entitled to be
considered in medicine. Naturally, such an inductive hypothesis was not
thought of by the ancients, as the inductive method of investigation
was generally quite unknown to them. The process by which ancient
medicine usually attempted to find its hypothesis was by an argument
from analogy. Each and every point of resemblance, however superficial,
between two phenomena was considered sufficient by the ancient
naturalists to warrant the assumption that analogous phenomena in the
most various domains were most certainly proven to possess similar
points of resemblance. And upon the basis of such an insecure method
of deduction—which, moreover, was selected entirely at the option of
the observer—the ancient investigator erected the boldest hypotheses.
Thus, for instance, the atomic theory of Leucippus and Democritus is
an hypothesis which rests upon the basis of a conclusion from analogy.
The motes which appear in the rays of the sun led these two ancient
investigators to the conception that, like the particles of dust
sporting in the air, the primary component parts of everything that
exists in the entire universe consisted of similar particles.[2]

      [2] Lucretius, Book 2, Verse 113, _sqq._

It appears that Epicurus arrived at his theory of light (according to
which, as is well known, images of things were brought to the senses by
delicate but absolutely objective small pictures which were detached
from the surface of things in a continuous current) by the fact
that many animals—for instance, snakes—shed their skins. The theory
of humoral pathology, one of the most important advances in medical
science, was based on a conclusion from analogy and arrived at by the
deductive method.

The diagnostico-theoretical lines in which antique medicine moved
were bound—and this is the point of importance in this case—to exert
a determining influence upon medical criticism. For medico-physical
criticism can only appear in closest connection with the prevailing
condition of the respective sciences, being really nothing else but
a precipitate from them. Thus the ancient physicians were compelled
to take an entirely different position toward magical medicine than
we moderns, educated in the school of inductive methods, have always
taken. The probable and similar, the supposable and possible, in which
deductive medicine found its data, working on the lines of argument
from analogy, were necessarily bound to find expression also in the
character of medical critique, and it was impossible, therefore,
for the ancient physician to detect anything absurd or contrary to
experience in hypotheses which the practitioner of to-day at once
brands as nonsensical and superstitious.

We are not in the least justified, therefore, in speaking disparagingly
of Galen and Alexander of Tralles because they believed in magical
medicine and applied it in their practise. As no human being can
jump out of his skin, so is he unable to get beyond the intellectual
advancement of his time. As the ancient physicians were also unable to
do this, accordingly they were believers in the magical medicine.

But there is still a second point which explains the remarkable
position taken by ancient physicians in relation to magical
medicine—namely, the fact that the conception of miracle and magic
were essentially different in the ancient world from what they are at
present. The belief in the interference of spirits and supernatural
beings in terrestrial matters, and the manifestations of their
influence exerted in manifold ways—sometimes for good, sometimes
for evil—had been widely disseminated from the earliest times, and
we encounter them in all periods of classic antiquity. This belief
in demons had become incorporated in the systems of many leading
philosophers of antiquity. Now if the world were filled with demons the
natural consequence was that their activity would manifest itself in
various ways. It was necessary, therefore, that man should always be
prepared to experience manifestations which more or less violated the
customary order of terrestrial happenings, and for this reason nothing
that could be styled a miracle really existed for him. A miracle could
not be conceived in its full modern sense until it was realized that
the course of all natural phenomena was nothing but the expression of
eternal and changeless laws. However, it was not until comparatively
late that this conception became generally disseminated; thus, for
instance, it was considered as self-evident, even in the latest periods
of the middle ages and during the first beginnings of modern times,
that divine influence could always, and actually did always, cause an
alteration in the course of the functions of the body. In fact, there
is an amazingly large number of people even in our time who believe
this, and for whom, therefore, the conception of miracles, especially
of miraculous healing, is to-day on about the same level as that on
which it stood in the time of Galen and Alexander of Tralles.

Thus we must admit that the ancient physicians were by no means below
the standard of civilization and culture attained during their period
if they believed in the possibility of extraordinary cures effected
by means extraneous and unscientific in their treatment of the sick,
and, accordingly, they supported such methods. However, this belief
in miraculous medicines on the part of the ancient physician was
always restricted to certain limits. It is true, the conception was
always adhered to that this or that magical agency, or this or that
magical action, might exert an influence upon the disease; but such
a belief never led them to omit any strictly medical measures of a
surgical or gynecological nature. On the contrary, the intelligent
physicians of antiquity firmly insisted that the actions of the surgeon
and of the gynecologist were not to be hampered by any metaphysical
considerations; thus, for instance, Soranus demanded most energetically
that the midwife should be “ἀδεισιδαίμων” (without fear of any
demon)—_i.e._, she was not to be superstitious, but free from any
imputation which would render her curative interposition objectionable.

The profession of the magicians, due to the persecutions to which they
became subject under the Christian emperors Valens, Valentinian, and
Theodosius, became considerably less prominent during the predominance
of Christianity, but the ideas upon which it had been erected in
ancient times still survived; in fact, these ideas were even to a
certain extent systematically elaborated during the middle ages, and at
this time a distinction was made between higher and lower, or white
and black, magic. The white magic busied itself with good spirits, the
black magic with the bad ones. Magicians, therefore, who operated by
the aid of the devil, and even in medicine called in the assistance of
the devil, were called “necromancers.” For the first time magic became
amalgamated with certain philosophical speculations and also with
Christian-dogmatic constituents. The methods adopted by magic medicine
under these conditions are so peculiar and are so close to the boundary
lines between philosophy and religion that we are really not quite
certain whether to relegate it to the domain of one or of the other.
But as the fundamental parts of these methods were actually supplied by
philosophy, we propose to defer this discussion for the present, and
to take up here another form of medical superstition which was derived
exclusively from religion—namely, “sleep in the temple.”

§ 5. =Sleep in the Temple.=—One of the generally practised methods
of medical science during the period of Hellenic civilization which
was still fully under the influence of theism—_i.e._, for at least
two or three centuries before the Hippocratic era—was what was known
as “temple sleep.” In fact, this method must be considered a sign
of a faith distinctly deep and sincere, a faith naive and childlike
indeed; but as a sign of such a faith this method is actually pathetic.
No taint of superstition could be found in it at the early period
referred to. It was still the pure and unadulterated expression of the
generally prevailing conception that human art is to no purpose in any
case of disease, and aid must be found with the gods—with those gods
who regulate and personally execute all terrestrial phenomena down to
the minutest details. Temple sleep was not degraded into superstition
until medicine had come to the conclusion that the phenomena of disease
were not evidence of an interference by supernatural power in the
functions of the body, but disturbances of the function of the body
caused exclusively by natural causes. In accordance with this view,
which first found its fullest and clearest exposition in the _corpus
hippocraticum_, it would seem absolutely necessary for temple sleep to
lose all recognition from the art of healing. However, this not being
the case, it was bound to deteriorate into an act of superstitious
mummery, and the principal blame for this sad decadence is to be laid
primarily upon the priests. It was their duty especially to lead into
the path of truth the patients who persisted in crowding into the
temples in the spirit of naive and childlike piety. They sealed their
own condemnation as fosterers of superstition when they failed to
do this duty, and endeavored rather, by every means in their power,
to confirm the multitude in their ancient belief that the gods were
practising medicine. Non-Christian as well as Christian priests played
this rôle for many centuries with equal ability and equal perseverance,
as will be seen from the following brief history of temple sleep.

The belief in the efficacy of temple sleep had already been thoroughly
shaken during the time of the great Hippocrates; therefore, in
the sixth century, B.C., the laughing philosopher of Hellenism,
Aristophanes, the satirical contemporary of Hippocrates, in Act II.,
verses 654 to 750, of his comedy Πλοῦτος, severely criticizes the
manner and method in which temple sleep was employed. Let us listen
to the words in which the poet describes what happened in the temple
during the observance of this rite.

The god Æsculapius, accompanied by his daughter Panakeia, appears in
the temple to examine in person the patients gathered there. The first
one he meets is a poor wretch, Neokleides, who, being blear-eyed,
expects cure from the god. The medically skilled Æsculapius smears
upon the inverted lids of this patient a salve which causes such pain
that the poor fellow will probably never seek his help again. The
second patient met by the god is the blind god, Πλοῦτος (_i.e._,
Wealth Personified). Here the conduct of Æsculapius is entirely
different from that which he adopted when treating poor Neokleides.
Now he carefully strokes the head of the patient, then produces a
linen cloth and carefully touches the lids with it. He then calls
his daughter Panakeia, who winds a red cloth round the head of blind
Wealth. Now Æsculapius whistles, and two mighty serpents appear, glide
under the purple cloth, and lick the eyes of the patient. Shortly
afterward the god regains his sight.

This passage is a cutting satire on practises which undoubtedly
prevailed in the Greek temples as early as the sixth century, B.C.
But, nevertheless, it took a long time before the patients lost
their belief in the miraculous efficacy of temple sleep, and the
priesthood continually strove to revive, by the mysterious stories
of various kinds they recounted to doubters, the belief in temple
sleep. The sixth of the marble votive tablets which were found in
the temple of Æsculapius at Epidaurus shows the kind of miraculous
reports invented by the priests. The latter were in the habit of
inscribing upon these tablets reports of cures that had occurred in
their sanctuary, for the benefit of the visitors of the temple and for
the still greater benefit of the medical historians; but it is quite
probable that the priesthood, intent upon curing, were encouraged in
their medico-literary attempts only by the silent hope of creating
an abundant supply of patients by such miraculous reports. The above
tablet, No. 6—which probably dates from the third century, B.C.—tells
us that a blind man by the name of Hermon, a native of Thasos, had
recovered his sight by sleeping in the Epidaurean temple of Æsculapius.
However, it appears that this man Hermon had been a miserable wretch,
for he disappeared without having expressed his thanks in hard cash.
Naturally such ingratitude provoked the god, and summarily he blinded
the thankless individual again. It required a second temple sleep
before the god condescended to become helpful once more. But our tablet
does not mention anything about the amount of the remuneration paid by
our friend Hermon who had been twice cured of blindness; neither is
this at all necessary. The miraculous tablet, even without stating the
price, doubtless made sufficient impression upon the minds even of the
most parsimonious of future patients.

Altho, therefore, the more enlightened among the Greeks recognized,
as early as in the sixth century, B.C., the futility of temple sleep
as a means of healing, the ancient world never relinquished it
entirely. We encounter it again in the later periods of antiquity.
Thus, for instance, Suetonius and other ancient authors tell us that
two patients, one blind, the other lame, one day approached the
emperor Vespasian, who happened to be in Alexandria, asking him to
spit into the eyes of the one and to stroke the paralyzed limbs of
the other; for they had been notified in temple sleep that they would
be restored to health if only the emperor would deign to perform the
above-mentioned manipulations. But Vespasian was an enlightened ruler
who, in spite of his imperial dignity, did not have much confidence in
the medical qualities of his saliva and of his hands, and accordingly
unceremoniously dismissed both supplicants. This caused great terror
among the priests of Serapis and among the courtiers, for obviously
they had interpreted this affair solely as intended _in majorem
Vespasiani gloriam_. The emperor was importuned, therefore, kindly to
aid the unfortunate, but he persisted in his refusal. Probably he was
right in fearing the loss of his prestige should the imperial medical
powers prove unequal to the task of curing disease. Not until the
priests solemnly vouched for the truthfulness of the dream-sending god
Serapis, and declared a failure of the imperial cure to be impossible,
did Vespasian’s stubbornness relent. Now he spat, and rubbed the
paralyzed limbs, and the blind saw, and the paralytic arose and walked.

§6. =Church Sleep.=—When, subsequently, the ancient religions died out,
and had left the world as an heritage to Christianity, temple sleep had
by no means died out also. On the contrary, after the lapse of three
centuries, it again came into favor with the Christian priests. And the
use of it now was scarcely less in favor than it had been a thousand
years previous in the world of the ancient Greeks. Let us mention a few
examples. The first four stories are taken from the works of Gregory of

Mummolus, who came to the court of Justinian (527 to 565) as the
ambassador of King Theudebert, suffered greatly from calculi of the
urinary bladder, and during this journey he became subject to an attack
of renal colic. Things went badly with poor Mummolus, and he was in
a great hurry to make his will. Whereupon he was advised to pass one
night sleeping in St. Andrew’s Church, at Pateras, for St. Andrew had
performed many miraculous cures in this place. No sooner said than
done. Mummolus, greatly tormented by pain and fever, and despairing
of life, had himself placed upon the stone flags of the sanctuary,
and waited there for the things that were to happen. Suddenly, toward
midnight, the patient awoke with a violent desire to urinate, and
discharged in a natural manner a calculus which, as St. Gregory assures
us, was so enormous that it fell with a loud clatter into the vessel.
From that hour Mummolus was hale and hearty, and joyfully started on
his journey homeward.

In Brioude, the capital of the present department Haute-Loire, there
was a woman named Fedamia, who had been paralyzed for years. In
addition to this, she was penniless, and her relatives, therefore,
brought her to the Church of St. Julian, who enjoyed a great reputation
in Brioude, in order that, even if she did not become cured, she might
at least make some money by begging at the church door. For eighteen
years she had lived thus when, one Sunday night, while she slept in
the colonnade adjoining the church, a man appeared who took her by the
hand and led her toward the grave of St. Julian. On arriving there she
uttered a fervent prayer, and in a moment felt as if a load of actual
chains fell from her limbs. All this, it is true, happened in a dream,
but when the patient awoke she was hale and hearty, and was able, to
the amazement of the assembled multitude, to walk, with loud prayers,
to the grave of the saint.

A certain man, deaf, dumb, and blind, known by the name of Amagildus,
also tried the sleep in the Church of St. Julian, at Brioude. But it
appears that this saint was not always quite accessible to the wishes
of the sick. It is true, Amagildus was not obliged, like Fedamia of
the previous narrative, to pass eighteen years in the basilica, but,
nevertheless, he had to sleep for a full year in the colonnade of the
church before the curative power of the holy martyr delivered him from
his ailment.

Veranus, the slave of one of the clergy under Gregory, was so violently
attacked by gout that he was absolutely unable to move for an entire
year. Thereupon his master pledged himself to advance the afflicted
slave to the priesthood if St. Martin would be willing to cure him. To
accomplish this cure the slave was carried to the church, and there
placed at the feet of the saint. The poor wretch had to remain there
for five long days, and it seemed as tho St. Martin had forgotten all
about him. Finally, on the sixth day, the patient was visited by a man
who seized his foot and drew it out straight. The slave rose to his
feet in terror, and perceived that he was cured. For many years he
served St. Martin as a priest.

But the most wonderful cure was that of the German emperor Henry II.,
called “The Saint” (1002 to 1024). This emperor, who was of Bavarian
stock, suffered greatly from the stone, and had retired to the Italian
cloister Monte Cassino, inasmuch as this cloister during that period
justly enjoyed an extraordinary medical reputation. But whether the
monks of Monte Cassino, altho well versed in medical art, did not have
sufficient confidence in their ability to treat an emperor, or whether
they were induced by some other reason, is not known; however, instead
of submitting the imperial patient to the operations of terrestrial
medicine, they surrendered him to the providence of heaven, and
more particularly to the sympathy of St. Benedict. This saint fully
justified the confidence that was placed in him, for, during an acute
period in the patient’s sufferings, he appeared in his own holy person,
and with his own holy hands he performed the necessary operation, and,
after having pressed the stone that he had removed from the bladder
into the hand of the sleeping emperor, he retired heavenward. But he
took care from his heavenly residence to attend to the prompt healing
of the operation wound, and this was surely very good of St. Benedict.
In fact, his entire behavior during this case was extremely proper and
laudable; for is it not much more fitting that the imperial bladder
should be delivered from its disagreeable visitor, the stone, at the
hands of a saint than by those of mortal beings, even if those mortal
beings were the pious and medically skilled monks of Monte Cassino?[3]

The form in which we encounter the Christian temple sleep in the above
stories is as like as two peas to that practised in the Hellenic
temples. They are distinguished merely by the fact that the Greek gods
generally hastened to the assistance of the patients after the latter
had spent one night in the temple, whereas the Christian saints often
allowed years to pass before the patient, who was crying for aid,
secured relief.

      [3] Compare Leibnitz, Script. Brunsvic, Vol. I., page 525.
      Sprengel, Vol. II., page 91.

Christianity has, however, created one variation of the temple sleep,
and this is the sleep which is taken, altho outside of the church, at
any place whatever, but with invocation of the saints. This sleep was
said to be exactly as efficacious as that taken in the church itself,
provided the patient had fervently prayed before falling asleep, and
had particularly remembered the saint whose assistance he required.
The two following narratives, which are also taken from the works of
Gregory of Tours, may serve as significant examples of this variety of
temple sleep.

Alpinus, Count of Tours, was so tormented for years by a pain in his
foot that life had no further joys for him, so that, sleepless and
without appetite, he took to his bed. Again and again had he, in
secret prayer, appealed to St. Martin for relief. So one day the Count
suddenly falls into a deep sleep, during which St. Martin appears to
him, making the sign of the cross over the diseased foot. Thereupon the
pain suddenly left him, and Alpinus was able to leave his couch, fully
cured. In this case the saint showed himself extremely considerate
toward the sick count, in that he was attired in a smart uniform when
paying his visit. It was his intention, obviously, in choosing this
costume to gratify the martial tastes of the nobleman; for St. Martin,
when visiting patients, by no means always affected this warlike array,
as will be seen from the following story.

A certain woman was so severely afflicted with campsis of the fingers
that she completely lost the use of her hands. Even a visit to the
church which was consecrated to St. Martin in Tours had brought her no
relief. The patient was obliged to leave the sanctuary with her fingers
still diseased. But it seems that this patient was actually of a very
contented disposition; for when, upon her return, away from Tours, she
lay down to her first night’s rest, she thanked God that at least her
life was spared, and that she had been permitted to see the grave of
St. Martin. Affected by so much modesty, St. Martin appeared to her in
her sleep, and, like to St. Benedict in the case of the emperor Henry,
with his own holy hands he performed somewhat of an operation upon the
patient, in that he stretched her bent fingers in such a manner that
the tense tendons were evidently torn; for Gregory tells us that, under
the treatment described, blood flowed from the straightened fingers of
the woman. But St. Martin had entirely discarded his martial attire
upon this visit. Evidently such a garb did not seem to him appropriate
when visiting a female patient; he therefore appeared before the
patient in a purple cloak with a cross in his hand.

However, the medical activity of the saints was by no means restricted
to cases of church slumber, but was manifested in the most various

§ 7. =Medical Saints.=—Some saints had a decided predilection for
medical specialties, and for that reason paid a particular attention to
certain varieties of disease. Thus, St. Anna espoused ophthalmology;
St. Jude cured coughs; St. Valentine, epilepsy; St. Catherine of Siena,
the plague. Not even our domestic animals were forgotten by the saints.
Thus, St. Roch of Montpellier distinguished himself especially by his
skill as a veterinarian.

Various were the ways of obtaining the medical aid of this or that
saint. The most simple was probably that the patient attended mass in
the church of his town, and, at the same time, made an offering to
the saints. More difficult was it to undertake a pilgrimage to one
or the other of the saints who enjoyed a medical reputation; this
was generally done on the birthday of the celestial physician. It
seems that the saint was especially inclined on this day to practise
medicine; at least, the chroniclers report that great numbers of the
most difficult cases were successfully treated on such days.

A very efficacious method of securing medical treatment from saints was
considered to be the placing of the patient in the church during the
day in the space between the altar and the grave of the saint. The bed
of the mortally sick, fever-racked patient was placed there, and for
days was compelled to remain here wrestling with death. This was done,
for instance, with the dying Countess Eborin. In case severe epidemics
were prevalent, it is likely that the churches very often resembled
actual hospitals. Then dozens of beds with their patients were set up
in the churches, and many a one who was in good health when he entered
the church to say his prayers probably returned home with the germ of a
pestilence acquired in the sanctuary.

But the saints, as we have seen, were by no means always so anxious
or in such a hurry to manifest their medical skill. They often made
the patient wait for years for their aid. The church, therefore, made
practical arrangements to meet every requirement. Larger buildings were
erected close to the church intended for the reception of patients.
Here those who were hoping to find help could obtain shelter and food,
and were, therefore, able to rest quietly, and to await the moment when
heavenly aid might appear. This arrangement proved to be extremely
practical, especially because a good many individuals felt themselves
cured only so long as they remained in the proximity of the saint, but
became reafflicted as before when they returned to their homes.

But as the slumber and the protracted sojourn in the ecclesiastical
hostelries was, nevertheless, rather uncomfortable, especially in
consideration of the difficulties and dangers which were involved in
traveling during the middle ages, it was absolutely necessary to invent
a means of administering the medical aid of the saints in such a way as
was always accessible to the patient. This was managed by the use of

§8. =Cult of Relics.=—It was believed that God had endowed the bodies
of martyrs who died for the Christian faith, or of saints distinguished
by extraordinary piety, with a miraculous power of extraordinary
efficacy, and not only the mortal relics of the martyrs and saints were
wonder-working, but actually all objects which had come in contact with
the persons of saints during their life as well as after their death.
All such objects were possessed of curative power. Let us listen to
what Gregory of Tours says under this head: “The miracles which our
Lord God deigned to bring about through St. Martin, his servant, once a
pilgrim in the flesh, he causes to be repeated daily, to strengthen the
confidence of the faithful; for now he endows his tomb with precisely
the same wonder-working power as was exhibited by the saint himself
while still among us. Who will now persist in doubting the former
miracles when he observes their continuation in the present day, when
he sees the lame walk, the blind receive their sight, devils cast
out, and every variety of disease cured by the help of the saint?”
(“Bernoulli,” page 287).

The statement of such a luminary of the Church as Gregory of Tours has
undoubtedly gained ecclestiastical credence for the medical efficacy
not only of the tomb of St. Martin, but of all the relics relating to
that saint. It remained only to distribute the superior medical power
which was contained in the holy tombs and relics in such a form as
would enable all patients, wherever they happened to be, to make use of
them. This task, apparently most difficult, was settled very easily.
It was discovered that everything which came in contact with a relic
actually absorbed a sacred and miraculous power contained in the same,
and what had been absorbed was by no means imponderable. Quite the
contrary. Something of material substance, and, therefore, physically
demonstrable, passed from the relic into the objects surrounding it.
It was indeed a celestial fluid, but, nevertheless, of so terrestrial
a nature that the priests were able to demonstrate its transference
by means of a common pair of scales. Thus it was customary that the
silk shreds which were deposited by the pilgrims upon the tomb of the
apostle Peter were weighed before they were placed there and weighed
again after their removal. This weighing always and without exception
indicated a considerable increase in their weight. The pilgrim then
could travel homeward and be thoroughly consoled, as the scale had
demonstrated to him the amount of miraculous power contained in his
silk rag. It was really astonishing, under some circumstances, what
an enormous amount of curative fluid could flow from such a holy tomb
into a single terrestrial object. This was what happened to a king of
the Suavians. He had a sick son, for whose cure every remedy had proved
unavailing. He at last sent an embassy to Tours to obtain a relic of
St. Martin, but this relic was destined to be manufactured with the
assistance of the embassy. The priests were quite willing to comply
with the desire of their royal petitioner, and thus a piece of silk,
duly weighed beforehand, was placed upon the tomb of St. Martin. After
this silk had remained for one night upon the holy sepulchre, and the
embassy had knelt beside praying fervently, the silk absorbed so much
curative power that the register of the scale was raised to its highest
possible notch.

Knowing, then, that any desired object could be saturated with the
miraculous power contained in a relic, they used to apply this
celestial power through medicaments, and to accomplish this a number
of methods were in use. The most popular was to scrape the tombstones
on the graves of the saints as thoroughly as possible. The powder
thus obtained was then put into water or wine, and thus a medicine
was acquired which possessed an astonishing curative power. It was
efficacious even in the severest ailments of the body. Let us listen to
what Gregory of Tours has reported concerning the medicinal virtues of
such tombstone potions.

He says: “Oh, indescribable mixture, incomparable elixir, antidote
beyond all praise! Celestial purgative (if I may be permitted to
use the expression), which throws into the shade every medical
prescription, which surpasses in fragrance every earthly aroma, and
is more powerful than all essences; which purges the body like the
juice of scammony, clears the lungs like hyssop, and the head like
sneezewort; which not only cures the ailing limbs, but also, and this
is much more valuable, washes off the stains from the conscience!”

According to this extensive power of the tombstone powder, it is by no
means astonishing that Gregory of Tours, when traveling, always carried
a box of this miraculous powder with him, so that he was able at once
to heal the patients that surrounded him. I was not able to obtain
from the literary sources at my disposal any data as to whether the
direct licking off of the tombstones might not have been still more
efficacious than the all-healing extract. Gregory does, however, report
that he was cured of a tumor of the tongue and lips by merely licking
the railing of the tomb of St. Martin and kissing the curtain of the

Another very efficacious remedy was the charred wick of the wax candles
which had burned in the church. This wick was pulverized, and in this
manner a very powerful curative powder was obtained which, when taken,
acted in a manner similar to that of the watery or vinous tombstone

The wax which dripped from candles that were placed near the holy
sepulchre was also credited with many medicinal virtues, but it seems
that it was employed more as an external than an internal remedy.

The water which had been used before Easter to clean the altar of
the saints was also considered to be a famous remedy. If such water
was employed in washing a patient he recovered at once, and this was
the happy experience of Countess Eborin. This exhalted patient was
suffering so severely that she believed her hour had come. She was then
quickly removed to the church of St. Martin, and thoroughly washed
with the water that had been used in washing the altar. And, behold!
the disease disappeared, and let us hope that the overjoyed countess
afterward enjoyed many years of life.

Oil from lamps hung in holy places was also a favorite remedy, but it
appears that it was principally used for anointing. However, when mixed
with holy water, it furnished a remedy which could be administered to
diseased cattle with a prospect of positive cure.

Water which was obtained by boiling the covers in which the relics were
wrapped also yielded a very efficacious medicine. Thus, for instance,
Gregory of Tours caused a silk cover, in which a piece of the cross
of Christ had been wrapped, to be thoroughly boiled, and he then
administered this decoction to patients; the curtains which were used
as ornaments over holy graves also displayed an extremely beneficent
effect upon the sick. If an individual suffering from headache touched,
for instance, the carpet which was placed over the resting-place of St.
Julian, the pain ceased. But if a patient was afflicted with abdominal
pains, all that was necessary to relieve him at once was to pull a
thread from this, the above-named carpet, and to apply it to his
rebellious digestive apparatus.

However, it was not necessary for the priests, under some
circumstances, personally to take the trouble of manufacturing
miraculous medicines from relics. There existed some holy graves which
were so accommodating that they furnished, of their own accord, the
holy material that was required for the treatment of the sick. Thus
the chronicler records that the grave of the evangelist John exuded a
sort of white manna, which, owing to its wonder-working curative power,
was distributed all over the world. A similar product was yielded by
the grave of the Apostle Andrew on the festival day of that saint. A
precious oil scented like nectar also sprang from the resting-place of
this man of God.

We see, therefore, that the sacred pharmacopœia teemed with remedies,
and that they were quite extensively employed is shown sufficiently by
the history of the saints and, above all, by the works of Gregory of
Tours. The latter, in particular, offer an actually inexhaustible mine
of information concerning the medical activity of Christian saints.

It does not, however, appear that this medical activity enjoyed the
confidence of priests or of laymen to such an extent that the services
of a professional physician were entirely discarded. It is true,
Gregory of Tours expresses himself in reference to the terrestrial
physicians in a manner which is by no means complimentary, for he says:

“What are they (the physicians) able to accomplish with their
instruments? Their office is rather to cause pain than to alleviate
it; if they open the eye and cut into it with pointed lancets, they
surely cause the agony of death to come in sight before assisting in
the recovery of vision, and if all precautionary measures are not
thoroughly carried out the power of sight is lost forever. Our beloved
saint, however, has only one instrument of steel, and that is his will,
and only one salve, and that is his curative power.”

But in spite of this want of confidence in physicians, Gregory of Tours
did not hesitate eventually to interfere quite extensively with the
practise of the saints by the employment of ordinary medicine.

At least, he frequently did so when he felt sick himself. Thus, one
day, when he was afflicted with severe bellyache, he employed warm
poultices and baths, and only when the refractory abdomen gave him no
rest, after a continuance of this treatment for six days, did Gregory
apply to St. Martin. When, at another time, Gregory was affected
with so severe an attack that his death was believed to be imminent,
he caused himself at first to be treated according to all the rules
of medical science, and not until improvement failed to appear, did
he think of the aid of the saints. Then he spoke to his physician as
follows: “Well, you have exhausted all remedies of your art, you have
used up all your powers and juices, but the remedies of this world do
not help him who is destined to die. Only one thing remains for me to
do. I shall tell you the great remedy: take some stone powder from the
grave of St. Martin and prepare it for me.”

The healing of the sick by the power of the saints and through relics
was in favor throughout the middle ages, and even in the sixteenth
century it was so generally in vogue that a physician by the name
of Wyer (1515 to 1588) considered it expedient to demonstrate the
incredibility of such heavenly interference.

It is by no means my intention to hold solely dogmatic Christendom of
the middle ages and the Christian priest responsible for the monstrous
superstition into which, according to the above description, Christian
religion had degenerated in the domain of medicine. This superstition
resulted from the cooperation of quite incongruous factors; but we
can by no means exempt the Christian priest entirely from blame, in
that he assisted very materially in furthering it. For we must bear in
mind that the Christian cloister of the middle ages was not only the
last refuge of humanistic culture, but the science of medicine found
an asylum of preeminent importance within its precincts. Medicine had
taken refuge in the cloister from the storms and tribulations which
followed the political collapse of antiquity and from the excitement of
national migrations, and had here attained a high degree of perfection.
In fact, we may contend, without exaggeration, that at certain periods
of the middle ages the Christian monastery had the importance as a
medical school which was later on claimed by the university; for the
Christian monks not only nursed the sick and practised medicine,
but also took an interest in its scientific development. They were
well acquainted with the medical classics of ancient times, such as
Hippocrates, Herophilus, Dioscorides, Galen, Paul of Ægina, and others,
as well as with the ancient medical celebrities of second and third
rank. Briefly, medical knowledge in its entirety was contained in
the cloisters of the middle ages; the cloisters, indeed, furnished a
considerably larger quota of the medical profession than the laity. In
such a state of affairs it might have been expected that the monks and
priests should have applied their extensive medical knowledge to combat
the terrible abuses which had invaded medicine in connection with the
names and the bones of the saints. But this they never did, neither
during the middle ages or later on. Priesthood has never seriously
attempted to promote medical enlightenment. On the contrary, plenty of
writings exist in which the crassest superstition in medico-physical
affairs was defended by the clergy, who quite frequently exhibit the
same spirit while practising medicine. Medical relief obtained by
entirely terrestrial remedies they speedily placed to the credit of the
saints, as was done, for instance, by the monks of Monte Cassino, when
(as we have seen above) they persuaded the emperor Henry II. that not
the temporal hands of the friar physicians had performed an operation
for stone upon him, but that St. Benedict in person had, with his own
holy hands, extracted the stone from the imperial bladder.

By leading the laity, in numerous cases and against their better
knowledge and conscience, to believe that the aid of the saints, and
of the relics originating from them, was far superior to medical
services, the Christian priests of the middle ages have on their part
contributed quite a considerable share to the horrors of medical
superstition. It is true, we must not overlook the fact that monks
and priests of the middle ages were the product of their time, in the
same manner as we of modern times are the product of our period. And
as the middle ages formed an era of miracles, of demons, devils, and
witches, numerous members of the clergy, as children of their time,
surely had an essentially different opinion of the belief in miracles
and demons from that which we have. The conception of miracles was
entirely different during the middle ages from what it is in modern
times; for the sincere and firm belief in the omnipotence of the one
God, which with Christianity had taken possession of the world, had
firmly fixed in the Christian mind of that period the idea that God
was able at any moment to manifest his omnipotence by changing the
course of terrestrial phenomena, and actually did manifest it. Thus to
a Christian of the middle ages it did not appear miraculous that an
alteration in the course of natural law should occur. It was considered
quite conceivable that the same natural phenomena should spring from
one cause to-day and from a different one to-morrow, according to
the pleasure of God; it would have been just as inconceivable to the
early Christians, and to their later coreligionists of the middle
ages, that all natural processes are carried into effect according to
eternally unalterable laws, beyond the interference of divinity, as
it is incomprehensible to us to conceive that God would at any time
change a law of nature in favor of one or the other mortal being.
The conception of miracle during the first sixteen centuries of the
Christian era was entirely different from that of the subsequent era.
We must not, therefore, gauge the ideas of priests and laymen of those
centuries who believed in medical miracles by the same standard as
that by which we judge those who to-day still persist in admitting the
existence of medico-physical wonder or miracle. It is highly probable
that, under conditions as described above, many Christian monks and
priests vacillated between the requirements of faith and the results of
their own medical knowledge. The medieval scholar’s feeling drew him to
one side, his intelligence to the other, and thus he became destitute
of a firm hold—the intellectual sport of his period and of his
environment. That prominent lights of the Church could become subject
to such vacillations we learn from Gregory of Tours, who attempted to
cure bodily ailments at one time with the medicaments of professional
medicine, at other times with the saving means of the celestial
drug-store; who at one time deprecated the art of temporal physicians
in favor of medically skilled saints, at other times fled to human
medicine for refuge.

Finally the position of the medically learned monk and priest with
reference to the general public, during the middle ages, was by no
means an easy or an agreeable one. The people clung with invincible
tenacity to the belief in demons and miracles. Ancient as well as
Christian philosophy was firmly pledged to a belief in demons, whose
existence was supported by the sacred testimony of the Gospel. It is
not astonishing, therefore, that the people should cling to their
belief in various forms of supernatural interference with the functions
of organic beings, and thus it may frequently have happened that a
medically enlightened priest, fearing the opposition of a people eager
after celestial medicine, sacrificed his scientific convictions to the
caprices of a mistaken faith. Unfortunately, only a few had in them the
making of a scientific martyr, and the history of Christianity teaches
us that it is much easier to be a martyr of faith than a martyr of

But what has been stated thus far will by no means acquit the Christian
priest of blame which he incurred by favoring medical superstition;
such acquittal would be radically futile. But we mean to show that the
conduct of the servants of our faith, altho not pardonable, is quite
explicable. The historian, in order to present to his readers the
relation which had gradually formed between Christianity and medical
superstition, must show himself prosecutor and defendant at the same

Equally with dogma and priesthood, theistic belief also has been a
powerful instrument in the furthering of medical superstition, and this
point we shall next consider.

§9. =Theistic Thought as the Fosterer of Medical Superstition.=—Altho
the theist, by accepting a physico-mechanical interpretation of natural
phenomena, abandoned his main position, yet the theistic belief by no
means became obsolete—_i.e._, the belief that God, unrestricted by
natural laws, personally directed terrestrial manifestations still
held its ground. This belief remained dominant in many minds, in spite
of all that philosophers and naturalists said in regard to the forms
and life of organic structures. The vitality which this belief has
shown during the development of our race is actually astonishing. In
spite of the wide acceptance of the physico-mechanical theory of life,
the belief that God, without regard to natural laws, unceasingly
interfered with the course of natural events, and, consequently,
also with the conditions of the human body, has not only remained
active, but has even succeeded in recovering an extensive part of its
lost ground. We shall soon see that this is a repetition of what has
occurred during all periods of human development. Even to-day, when the
mechanical theory of life has won its greatest triumphs, and more than
twenty centuries have passed since the great Hippocrates preached a
theory of medicine, purified from all theistic and theurgic accretions,
individuals are still met with who presuppose the therapeutic activity
of God in all cases of disease as a self-evident fact. Such a condition
of opinion, history teaches us, always prevails at periods, during
which a craving for religious excitement becomes excessively acute.
It is either a new form of religion which so preoccupies the public
mind and the intelligence that all phenomena are conceived of as in
closest relationship with God, or else some individual appears who,
carried away by religious enthusiasm, teaches that the existence of
nature independent of God is not admissible, and succeeds in enlisting
numerous followers under his banner. Under similar conditions theistic
belief had occasionally succeeded in regaining its supremacy in
the domain of medicine. In taking up the consideration of some such
instances we can only treat them briefly, as an exhaustive handling of
this most interesting material would carry us too far away from our
present subject.

The belief that God was the best physician, not only of the soul but
of the body also, was deepened by the dissemination of Christianity.
The sincerity of faith among the Christians of the first century was so
intense that a great number of them believed that their bodily welfare
could not be watched over more carefully than when it was commended
exclusively to the care of God in all cases of sickness. Accordingly,
they entirely neglected medical aid and treated all diseases only
by prayers, by anointing, and by laying on of hands. This mode of
treatment corresponds to what is contained in the epistle of James
v : 14-16—

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and
let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise
him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that
ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
availeth much.”

The extent of this treatment by prayer is shown by the fact that even
prominent fathers of the Church—for instance, St. Benedict (died
543)—were addicted to it.

Moreover, an attempt was made to increase the therapeutic value of
prayer by various accessories and aids. Thus the Gospel was placed upon
the affected part of the body, or clothing of a particularly pious man
was spread over the patient. It appears that the sudarium and the coat
of the apostle Paul were held to possess such healing power, and were,
therefore, frequently employed as instruments of healing. Thus we read
in the Act of the Apostles xix : 12—“So that from his body were brought
unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from
them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”

In fact, medical superstition went so far that it divined a potent
curative virtue even in the shadow of the apostle Peter. Thus, Acts
v : 15—“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets,
and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter
passing by might overshadow some of them.”

Probably we shall not be wrong in regarding this procedure as the
origin of that relic cult which was destined to attain such astonishing
dimensions in medical practise.

The mode of treatment by means of prayer was, perhaps, intimately
connected with the idea that bodily ailments were divinely ordained to
make the wrath of God distinctly perceptible by man. This conception of
pathological processes was a very ancient one. We meet with it among
the Egyptians, and we read in the book of Exodus that God visited upon
Pharaoh and his people various bodily afflictions, such as pestilence,
black smallpox, death, as in the case of the first-born. Afterward
Christianity adopted this view of sickness as providential, and the
belief assumed very peculiar forms and dimensions in the middle
ages. In those times any disease occurring epidemically was actually
considered to be an act of retribution on the part of the divine
being, a scourge with which God punished sinful Christians. Thus,
for instance, syphilis, which originated in Naples in 1495, during
the struggle between the reigning house of Aragon and the French,
was instantly declared to be the chastisement of God. The emperor
Maximilian declares, in an edict issued August 7, 1495, at Worms:
“_Quod novus ille et gravissimus hominum morbus nostris diebus exortus,
quem vulgo malum Francicum vocant, post hominum memoriam inauditus
sæpe grassetur, quæ nos justissimæ Dei iræ merita debent admonere_”
(Gregorovius VII., 386, foot-note 1).

But it is very astonishing to observe the causes which aroused the
wrath of God so mightily that countless numbers of men were swept
away. Thus, for instance, the pious Bishop of Zeeland, Peter Paladius,
assures us that miliary fever, that terrible disease which devastated
Europe five times from 1486 to 1551, was sent by God, who was angry at
the excessive passion for finery which prevailed at that time. Medical
science, as founded on theism, assumed menacing forms, where, in the
middle ages, it associated itself with magic, but as we shall more
exhaustively enlarge upon this point in Chapter IV. we need merely
refer here to that part of our work.

It is indeed surprising that the above-mentioned manifestations all
occurred in periods in which medicine had already acknowledged the
physico-mechanical interpretation of all organic processes; but the
strangeness of this fact is enhanced by the consideration that, even
in recent times, and even at the present moment, there have been, and
are, individuals who not only preach the doctrine that medicine is
bound to be subordinate to Christian faith, but also find adherents to
their dogmas, and find them in surprising numbers. Recently we have
learned from two exceedingly instructive examples to what extremes the
sentiment of fanatical religion may lead men so soon as they shake off
the steadying influence of physico-mechanical ideas in their theory of
life. Then Theocracy strives for an exclusive ascendancy in the domain
of medicine, as is distinctly shown by the position taken by Mrs. Eddy,
with her “Christian Science,” and Rev. John Alexander Dowie, with his
“Christian Catholic Church of Zion.”

If we first of all examine the system of Mrs. Eddy, we find it an
absurd farrago of undigested philosophical odds and ends, illogical
medical aphorisms, and shallow investigation, which reaches its pitch
of folly in the belief that disease has no real foundation in the
material tissues of the body, but should be explained as arising
exclusively from certain conditions of the mind. In accordance with
this conception, which has been borrowed from a natural philosophy long
since relegated to oblivion, the services both of physician and physic
are to be rejected, and the treatment of the sick is to be carried on
in such a manner that the patient, under supervision of an individual
expert in such affairs, is merely to fix his mind on the spiritual, or
divine, principle inherent in himself.

We are by no means astonished that a person to whom the laws of
thought are entirely unfamiliar, and who is not very much burdened
with knowledge of any other kind, should advance such confused and
preposterous theories as those of Mrs. Eddy. History teaches us that
human beings have arisen at all periods, in all ranks of life, and in
cold blood have given currency to the wildest of theories. But the most
interesting point is that at this day when, as we might believe, the
advances in physical science have enlightened to some extent even the
most unintellectual, Mrs. Eddy is able to find adherents, especially
among the best classes of society, and to find them in such numbers
that the authorities have been compelled to interfere in repressing the
practises of this medical superstition. I purposely say interesting,
and not “astonishing” or “wonderful,” because the historian, whatever
domain he undertakes to investigate, will always discover that
stupidity has at all times been a power superior to all the influences
of culture and learning. Mrs. Eddy, with her Christian Science, proves
to us that even in this era of scientific enlightenment, this truth
remains incontrovertible.

Rev. John Alexander Dowie, with his Christian Catholic Church of Zion,
must be judged from an entirely different view-point than Mrs. Eddy.
It is true, this latter-day saint arrives at exactly the same end as
Mrs. Eddy—namely, at the absolute rejection of professional treatment,
medical as well as surgical. But he arrives at this theory, which
so closely concerns both his own health and that of his adherents,
by an entirely different way from that taken by the Eddy woman. An
unquestioning belief, which in its naïveté is almost touching, leads
him to hold that all utterances of the Old as well as of the New
Testament are direct revelations of God. The further consequence
of this constancy of faith is the desire to believe and to follow
everything that is contained in the Bible, to the widest extent and
with the closest adherence to the wording of the book. And as the book
of Exodus, xv : 26, states, “I am the Lord that healeth thee,” and in
the Epistle to James, v : 14-16, prayer is recommended as the best
remedy in diseases, Dowie concludes that prayer must be resorted to as
the sole means of treating and curing all forms of disease. Prayer is
declared by him to be much more efficacious, in surgical cases, than
the skill of the most experienced operator.

Dowie, therefore, occupies exactly the same standpoint as the
Christians of the first centuries after Christ, who also believed
that prayer would render the best assistance in all ailments of the
body. Twenty centuries, therefore, with all their immense advance in
the training of thought and in the recognition of nature, have not
been able to rid humanity of the conception that the omnipotence of
God, among many other manifestations, is to busy itself in the daily
regulation of the human body with all its numerous functions. Wherever
this conception obtains a firm foothold superstition, with its acts of
miraculous healing, never fails to follow. Accordingly, all historic
periods of our cultural development, in which the theocratic belief has
been on the ascendant, are characterized by an excessive development of
medical superstition.



The idea that philosophy has exerted any material influence upon
superstition in medicine may appear strange to many. For how can
it be possible that the science which teaches the laws of thought,
which regulates our entire mental activity and guides it in the right
direction, which points out to us the intricate path of medical
theory and diagnosis—how is it possible that just this science should
either take or have taken part in misleading or obscuring our medical
perception? We do not by any means intend to impute any such effect to
philosophy. Quite the contrary! We are thoroughly aware of the great
influence which philosophy is entitled to claim in all sciences without
exception, and for this reason we believe that modern representatives
of medical science would be much better off if they were a little less
at variance with philosophy than they actually are.

In the wide realm of philosophy there are only certain points where
we can detect a tendency to promote the development of medical
superstition. This tendency appears in all endeavors which are made to
explain natural phenomena solely in a speculative manner, or to build a
theory of life upon a base of pure assumptions. Whenever such attempts
were made manifest, and impressed philosophy into their service under
the name of natural philosophy, it resulted in the wide predominance of
medical superstition.

It is well known that all prae-Socratic philosophy aimed at the
discovery of a single principle as underlying and explaining all the
phenomena of nature. But in spite of this very apparent tendency,
it can scarcely be accused of promoting medical superstition; for
prae-Socratic philosophy busied itself in speculations concerning
terrestrial phenomena. Earth and air, fire and water, cold and heat,
coming into being and passing away, are the things in which it
endeavored to find the elemental basis of nature with its multiform
phenomena. But upon the study of medicine these endeavors exercised,
for the time being, a liberalizing influence. They emancipated it
from the repressive grasp of theism, and opened up the way for an
exclusively natural explanation of all processes of the body, in
health as well as in sickness. Unfortunately the apparatus, or organon,
which philosophy furnished to science in its terrestrial phenomena was
a very questionable one, investigation of the conclusion from analogy
and the deductive method being of extremely little value, either in
medical diagnosis or the pursuit of natural science. For this reason
medicine was bound to be encumbered with countless badly founded
hypotheses. But other monstrous guesses at truth could not fail to
become current. Let us consider, for instance, the absurd theory which
Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 B.C.) has propounded as to the relations
between wine and the human soul. As the soul, according to this
philosopher, naturally was a fiery vapor, and the drier and the more
fiery it remained the better, the excessive use of alcohol would not
be advisable, in that the abundant infusion of fluids causes the soul
to become wet, which would be harmful to its fiery nature, as fire and
moisture are always incompatible. Who will venture to deny that it was
from his opinion regarding the use of wine that Heraclitus acquired his
sobriquet of “Whining Philosopher”?

But curious as were all the hypotheses with which Hellenic natural
philosophy foisted upon medicine, they should by no means be confounded
with superstition, for even a baseless hypothesis is far removed
from superstition. Otherwise, medicine and superstition would be
almost identical conceptions, for baseless hypotheses have at no time
been wanting in our science. Superstition, so far as its sources are
found in philosophy, did not enter medical science until philosophy
sought for an explanation of the various processes of life not only
in material but also in immaterial forces. And as Indian as well as
Persian philosophy, in the earliest period of its existence known to
us, had already found in demons the immaterial elements which to a
great extent control the processes of life in man, it will be seen that
the relations between philosophy and medical superstition are quite
old. The Hellenic poets and philosophers, Homer, Hesiod, Empedocles,
Democritus, and Plato, elaborated this immemorial doctrine of demons
and introduced it into Greece. But the recognition of immaterial,
supernatural curative factors did not attain any considerable and
determining influence in ancient medicine until the year 150 B.C.,
when, under the eager advocacy of Alexandrian Jews, Oriental and
Occidental doctrines became amalgamated to a coherent system of
theosophic and medical mysticism. Medicine suffered greatly for
centuries from this mysticism, which prevailed late in the middle
ages and even up to more recent times. The center of all the various
forms under which speculations in the philosophical and theosophical
domain made their appearance was Alexandria, the great central point
of culture in which the civilization of the Orient and the Occident
were united in the evolution of a new theory of life. But that the
birthplace of developments so momentous for the future of medicine
should be Alexandria almost suggests the thought that the writers of
history were indulging in a satire upon medical science; for it is well
known that Alexandria was the very place where medical enlightenment
and the progress of ancient medicine won their greatest triumphs under
the renowned anatomists, Herophilus and Erasistratus.

Such speculations in theosophical and medical domains at first were
most eagerly entered upon by the Jewish sects of the Essenians, or
Essenes, and Therapeutæ. According to the description which Josephus
(Book 2, Chapter II., page 13) has left us of these two sects,
they were theosophical communists. We, as physicians, however, are
principally interested in the position they took with regard to our
profession, and that was one of indifference. They believed that they
should not obtain their knowledge of the body, either in health or in
disease, by observation, on which physicians relied. They believed
they could actually learn the art of healing from a study of their old
Sacred Scriptures. For that reason they especially applied themselves
to make a diligent examination of these Holy Scriptures. They believed
that they were able, by various allegorical interpretations of
different letters and words, as well as by subtle explanations of this
or that sentence, to acquire the knowledge necessary for the treatment
of their patients. Those, however, who had become imbued with this
wisdom of dotage in an especial degree, claimed the possession of
numerous miraculous powers—for instance, that of prediction. But as
they also believed in the existence of beings who, while they were
lower than God, at the same time were higher than man, they had, ready
at hand, the rarest resources to draw upon for the practise of their
juggling feats of miraculous medicine. The belief in these mystical
doctrines took the most extravagant forms. Thus, for instance, it was
believed that a man by the evacuation of feces offered an insult to
divinity (τὰς αὐγὰς ὑβρίζειν τοῦ θεοῦ, says Josephus, lib. 2,
Chapter VIII., No. 9, § 15). For that reason nobody might dare, on the
Sabbath, to comply with such demands of nature. But whether the call of
nature always yielded to these rather far-reaching requirements of the
law, or how the believer helped himself when the extremely disagreeable
dissension between nature and faith caused too much uneasiness, is not
reported either by Josephus or by Porphyrius. Besides, the Essenians
had their troubles even on week-days in attending to final phases of
the digestive process, in that it was incumbent upon them to conceal
the termination of the act of digestion from the view of the Supreme
Being by covering themselves with a cloak.

Subsequently, during the first century of the Christian era, appeared
Neo-Pythagorism, an attempt to combine monotheism with the ancient
fantastic cult of subordinate gods and demons. Then followed a period
of momentous importance for medicine; for the attempt to displace the
physico-mechanical conception of corporeal phenomena by various ideas
of theosophic caprice, and to bring therapeutics once more under the
domination of the metaphysic methods, prevalent in the days when the
theistic theory of life held undisputed sway in medicine and natural
sciences, became more and more apparent. The Neo-Pythagoreans acted
upon the principle that the practise of medicine was absolutely
indispensable to the true philosopher, and that every one, therefore,
provided he had attained the required fitness by his intercourse with
demons, was able to act as a physician. It is quite obvious that such
ideas were bound to pave the way for the most abominable abuse and
superstitions, and, naturally, what the Neo-Pythagoreans offered as the
art of healing to the patients was nothing but a mixture of mysterious
customs, conjurations, and witchcraft. On the other hand, the followers
of this school of philosophy did much to promote the bodily welfare of
their fellow men, in that they urged them to lead a pure and temperate
life, while they themselves appear to have adhered strictly to this

The chief representative of Neo-Pythagorism was Apollonius, of
Tyana, in Cappodocia, probably one of the most fantastic personages
of all Greek and Roman antiquity. Venerated as a god by some of his
contemporaries, such as Damis and Philostratus, his biographers, on
account of his wisdom and of his extraordinary works, he is considered
by others, on the other hand, as a magician engaged, like a common
charlatan, in conjuring tricks. The opinions which posterity, down to
modern times, has passed on Apollonius are of a similar nature. There
are some who consider the Tyanian to be a crafty magician, whereas
others declare that he is an important personality in the history of
religion. Among these latter is Baur, who attempts to explain the life
and the deeds of the wonder-working Neo-Pythagorean by citing as a
parallel the impression created by Christianity upon some enlightened

Personally, I consider this high estimate of a trickster to be
perfectly absurd. Apollonius, as we meet him in the celebrated
description of Philostratus, is a purely poetical idealization,
prompted by a desire to delay the downfall of ancient religion,
pointing to the reform which has been instituted in its moral
tendencies (Gregorovius, page 413).

Apollonius flourished in the first Christian century, during the
reigns of Nero and of the succeeding emperors up to Nerva, who
appears to have been in very close relations with him. The accounts
of Philostratus regarding the adventures of our hero, based as they
are upon the early authorities accessible to him, absolutely create
the impression that heathen antiquity meant in Apollonius to set a
counterpart of Christ. According to ancient reports, a supernatural
apparition visited his mother, apprizing her that she would bear a god,
and after his death Apollonius appeared to his disciples to announce
to them the immortality of the soul. The time between the birth and
death of the Tyanian was spent by him in restless wanderings over
the then known world. Wherever he went he conversed on the deepest
subjects with priests and cultured laymen, and upon request he also
performed miracles of various kinds. Naturally, we are only interested
in the medical performances of the wandering philosopher, and of these
he is credited with a considerable number. He cured the lame simply
by stroking the affected limbs; with equal facility he gave sight to
the blind—in fact, he even attended to obstetrical cases without fear
and trepidation. For instance, when the husband of a woman who had
borne seven children, but always with the greatest difficulty, came
to Apollonius, sadly telling him that his wife was again in labor and
nobody was able to help her, the man of miracles told him to be of good
cheer. Without even examining the woman for a possible narrow pelvis,
or for some other obstacle to birth, he simply advised the husband to
procure, as soon as possible, a living hare, and, with this hare in his
arms, to walk round and round the woman in labor, and then allow the
hare to run away. This one sample of his medical activity is sufficient
to characterize Apollonius as a charlatan of the most contemptible
class. When we learn, further, that he raised the dead without any
difficulty, nobody will probably accuse us of an unjust opinion if we
pronounce this philosopher, who was revered as a god by the heathen, a
magician of the worst kind.

In order duly to enhance his authority Apollonius arrogated to himself
certain mysterious powers. Thus, he pretended that he was able to
speak all languages without having ever learned them; in fact, this
philological talent even extended to the languages of the animals,
which he undertook to master. We are scarcely surprised to learn, when
we consider the powers bestowed upon him, that he knew the future, and
was thoroughly aware of what happened at the same time at the most
distant parts of the world. He also endeavored to bear witness to his
vocation as a man of God by his manner of living and of dressing. Thus
he was always attired in white linen garments, and walked about with
long, flowing hair, followed by his disciples. He never ate meat, never
partook of wine, and disdained love. It would seem, however, that in
the last particular he was not quite consistent—at least, various
erotic adventures are related of him.

The manner in which Apollonius cast out a demon in India is extremely
amusing. A woman came, lamenting and crying, to the medical miracle
worker, and asked him to deliver her sixteen-year-old son from an evil
spirit. Apollonius at once gave her a letter directed to the evil
spirit which contained, as Philostratus emphasizes particularly, the
most terrible threats against the good-for-nothing tormentor. But the
biographer does not tell us whether the reading of this letter caused
the demon to desist from his improper behavior.

But as even in a man of miracles the hour-glass of life finally is
emptied, so also a time came when Apollonius realized that he must pay
his last debt to nature. But the Tyanian knew how to surround even the
act of dying with a halo of the extraordinary. As a matter or fact,
he did not die; but one day—if it is permissible to employ a trivial
expression in speaking of a demi-god—he evaporated without anybody
knowing what had become of him. This evaporation occurred in the
following manner. There was in Crete a temple of Dictynna so securely
guarded by vicious dogs that no one dared to approach. This temple was
entered by Apollonius, whom the furious dogs left unmolested; but,
after the doors of the sanctuary had closed behind the Pythagorean,
suddenly there resounded female voices singing from the depth of the
temple: “Leave the earth! Go heavenward!” With these sounds and
words Apollonius disappeared forever. Thus his last medical act was a
sleight-of-hand performance, in that he even snapped his fingers at

The grateful heathen world of antiquity rendered divine honors to
Apollonius. In his birth-place, Tyana, a temple was erected in his
honor at imperial expense, and the priests everywhere erected statues
to a philosopher who had left this world without dying; in fact, even
the Emperor Alexander Severus set up an image of Apollonius in his
_lararium_, or domestic chapel. And thus to medical superstition was
accorded a triumph which no legitimate practitioner of any age has ever

These theosophic vagaries reached their climax in Neo-Platonism, which
was founded toward the end of the second century of the Christian era
by the Alexandrian porter, Ammonius (175 to 242), and was further
elaborated by Plotinus (204 to 269). This religious, philosophical
system is of very particular interest in the history of medicine
in that, in the first place, it stands in direct opposition to the
physico-mechanical conception of disease, and, explaining sickness from
a theistic standpoint as a logical consequence, rejects the treatment
of disease by professional physicians.

Now this theistic conception of disease was based primarily upon the
assumption that the universe is filled with countless demons, spirits
which, altho essentially superior to man, are inferior to God. Such
a demon was supposed to be the “spiritus rector” of all terrestrial
occurrences, especially all evil events were attributed to him. ὂτι
αὐτοὶ αἳτιοι γιγνόμενοι τῶν Περὶ τὴν γῆν καθημάτων, οἷον λοιμῶν,
ἀΦοριῶν, σεισμῶν, αὐχμῶν Καἳ τῶν ὁμοίων (Porphyrius de Abst., lib.
2, 40). As the demons played havoc with the condition of the human
body, protection against them could not be expected from a professional
physician, but only from some one well versed in all their tricks and
devices, and, therefore, alone able to punish them thoroughly for their
mischievous behavior. This taming of the demon could be accomplished
in various ways. Porphyrius enumerates three methods of gaining an
influence over the host of demons.

The first and principal method (theosophy) attempted to attain the
most intimate union with God. Prayer, abstraction of all thought from
things earthly, and absorption in God were supposed to be the means of
participation in certain divine powers. An individual thus favored was
enabled in a trice to restore health to incurable patients, such as the
blind, the deaf, and the lame, and even the power of raising the dead
was conferred upon him. However, the acquisition of such extraordinary
powers demanded certain qualifications of a rather exacting and
terrestrial character. It was incumbent upon such an applicant for
these special gifts to abstain from the use of meat, and, above all,
from the society of women. How many were deterred by these fastidious
requirements from choosing the career of a famous man of miracles we
do not know. Nothing is reported on this subject by the pillars of
Neo-Platonism (as, Plotinus, Porphyrius, Damascius, Jamblichus), nor do
they state whether they themselves absolutely abstained from meat and
from the society of women.

Theurgy was the second method of counteracting the evil influence of
demons. In this way good demons were urged by prayer and offerings to
ward off disease or other misfortune.

By the third method (goety) attempts were made to dispel the evil
demons by conjurations and various kinds of mystical mummery. These
mysterious accessories consisted mostly in muttering any number of
words as meaningless as possible. The more meaningless and the more
unintelligible were these words the more efficacious—according to the
assurance of Jamblichus—they would prove, especially when they were
taken from Oriental languages. For, as Jamblichus says, the Oriental
languages are the most ancient—therefore, the most agreeable to the
gods. In such a manner words utterly nonsensical were drawled out at
the bedside, and, for greater security, written on tablets to be hung
round the neck of the patient. The magic word “abracadabra” enjoyed
especial respect. To render its power certain it was written as many
times as it has letters, omitting the last letter each time until only
one remained, and placing the words in such a succession as to form
an equilateral triangle. A tablet thus inscribed was worn around the
neck of the sufferer as an amulet. It may be that this wonder-working
word has arisen from the word “abraxas,” with which the gnostic
Basilides meant to designate the aggregate of the three hundred and
sixty-five forms of revelation of divinity which he assumed to exist.
Numerous other explanations are in vogue, however, with regard to
this medical, magic term (compare Häser, Vol. I., page 433). Very
ancient magic words which had originated in the earliest periods of
Hellenism were revived. Thus, to banish disease, certain words were
employed which were said to be derived from the temple of Artemis
in Ephesus, and which read: ασχι, Κατάσχι, λίε, τετράε, δαμναμενεύς,
αἲσσον. The meaning of these words, according to the explanation of the
Pythagorean, Androcydes, was: darkness, light, earth, air, sun, truth.
Besides, the attempt was made to obtain directly from the demons such
magic words as were endowed with curative power. For such purposes
small children were employed, in whom it was supposed that the demons
preferred to be present, and expressed themselves through their mouths.
Such children, therefore, played a similar part as does a medium with
modern spiritualists. The senseless stuff babbled by such a child was
considered the immediate manifestation of a demon, and was accordingly
utilized to banish the demons which brought on disease. Moreover,
the nonsensical practise which was carried on by the Neo-Platonists
by letter and word was to a certain extent accepted by professional
physicians. It had become a very common custom with physicians to
apply various kinds of bombastic names to all their various plasters
and ointments, powders, and pills. It is necessary only to cast a
glance upon the ancient pharmacopœia to find the most curious names.
Galen mentions disapprovingly the fact that Egyptian and Babylonian
expressions were preferred in the nomenclature of medicine (De Simpl.
Medicamentorum Facult. Lib. Sic. Preface).

Such were the methods with which the Neo-Platonists did not hesitate
to treat the sick; and not only minor practitioners, but even the
leaders of the entire movement, preferred banishing disease by means
of various kinds of magic formulæ to all other specially medical
methods of treatment. Thus, for instance, Eunapius of Sardis (about
400) recounts how Plotinus, one of the most gifted of the Neo-Platonic
school, repeatedly proved himself to be a medical miracle-worker, most
conspicuously during the sickness of Porphyrius. When the latter, a
favorite disciple of Plotinus, was traveling through Sicily he became
dangerously ill—in fact, according to the description of Eunapius,
he was actually breathing his last. Then Plotinus appeared, and by
magic words cured the dying man instantly. It appears, moreover,
that Plotinus did not only operate with wonder-working words, but he
employed still other agencies—as, for instance, mysterious figures
(ὁχήματα. Villoison, Anecd. græca, Vol. II., page 231). Plotinus was
even said to possess his own demon, who was at his disposal alone, and
by the aid of whom he performed other wonders—as, for instance, that of

Porphyrius, probably the most notable disciple of the Neo-Platonic
school after Plotinus, claimed even that the demons personally taught
him to expel, with certainty and despatch, those pathogenic demons.
It was claimed by him that Chaldean and Hebrew words and songs were
the promptest means of turning out all these evil spirits; in fact,
the philosopher, Alexander of Abonoteichos, in Paphlagonia, was of the
opinion that a pestilence, which was devastating Italy, could not be
checked by any better means than that of affixing to the doors of the
infected towns and villages the sentence: “Phœbus, the hair unshorn,
dispels the clouds of disease.”

Thus the last great system into which the ancient philosophy developed
was attended by the unfortunate result of a very material increase
of superstition in the healing art. This recrudescence of medical
superstition was by no means a transitory one, but proved exceedingly
persistent; in fact, we may unhesitatingly maintain that from that
time superstition never again disappeared from our science. This is
principally the fault of the position which Christianity took with
regard to demonology and the other fantastic ideas of Neo-Platonism.

Early Christianity, from the outset, was subjected to the influence
of ancient false ideas on the subject of demons. Without making any
modifications whatever, it had appropriated this false doctrine, and
had deduced from it the same medical notions as paganism had done.
The New Testament exhibits numerous examples of a prevailing belief
that supernatural beings—_i.e._, demons—were frequently the cause of
bodily ailments; and as Christ and His disciples had often cured such
patients, it follows that the belief in demons and their relations to
pathology must have been widely disseminated among the Christians of
that period. The Church Fathers also bear witness to this fact, as
they, in their writings, acknowledge, in plain terms, the belief in
demons as causes of disease. Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian, Origen,
Augustin, all mention demons and their power over the human body
(compare Harnack, Chapter V., page 68, etc., where these conditions
are most lucidly depicted). Thus, for instance, St. Augustine says:
“_Accipiunt (scilicet dæmones) enim sæpe potestatem et morbos immittere
et ipsum aerem vitiando morbidum reddere._”

And, indeed, early Christianity not only accepted pagan demonology
unchanged, it even increased the therapeutic aspect of this delusion in
a most regrettable manner. This belief in demons, under the influence
of Christian doctrines, developed into an epidemic of insanity which
prevailed unrestrictedly for two or three centuries, and which was
again awakened in the late middle ages, to grow at last into one of the
most terrible aberrations of the human mind—into the belief in witches.

This epidemic derangement of the mind, to which the belief in demons
tended, under the influence of Christian doctrines, culminated in the
patient’s manifest idea that he was possessed of a demon. The mental
disturbance set in with wild, spasmodic attacks of excitement, and, as
it occurred not only in individual cases, but was also contagious, we
must not hesitate to designate this belief of the first three centuries
in demoniac possession an epidemic disease. It was an affection,
the mental substratum of which consisted in a mixture of overheated
religious sentiment and unrestrained medical superstition. The extent
to which this belief in demoniac possession was disseminated during the
first centuries of the Christian era is shown by the fact that a number
of persons busied themselves with the cure of this affection. In the
first place, most Christian communities owned an exorcist, or official
caster-out of demons. It seems that this profession of exorcists formed
a clerical order of its own; for, as all pagans, according to the
Christian conception, were in the power of evil spirits, these demons
were to be thoroughly driven out before each baptism, and thus the
institution of a special church officer, whose duty it was to drive out
demons, became absolutely necessary, especially after exorcism had also
been introduced, during the fourth century, in the baptism of children.
It may be stated, incidentally, that Catholic clergy of the third minor
order are even to-day called “exorcists.”

The Christian exorcists, in conjuring, only made use of prayer and of
the name of Christ; these two factors were considered sufficient to
cure the patient of his delusions, and they actually did so. Why they
accomplished a cure has been explained very strikingly by Harnack. He
says: “It is not the prayer that cures, but the praying person; not the
formula, but the spirit; not exorcism, but the exorcist. Only in those
cases in which the disease, as in numerous cases of the second century,
had become epidemic and almost common, did ordinary and conventional
means avail. The exorcist became a mesmerizer, possibly a deceived
deceiver. But when strong individuality is deceived concerning its own
personality by the demon of terror, and the soul is actually shaken by
the power of darkness which possesses it, and from which it purposes to
escape, a powerful and holy will alone can interfere from the outside
world to deliver the shackled will. In some cases we find traces of a
phenomenon which in modern times, for want of some better name, has
been called ‘suggestion’; but the prophet suggests in a different
manner than does the professional exorcist.”

Besides these official Christian exorcists, a great multitude of other
persons carried on the trade of conjurer of demons. The sorcerers and
magicians who plied their nefarious trade for the cure of the possessed
and for those suffering from other diseases, worked with various kinds
of mystic signs and ceremonies, and they certainly did an excellent
business, for he who humors the superstition and the stupidity of man
always prospers. Modern quackery illustrates this most strikingly.
But, besides these healers, there existed numerous other conjurers of
demons and medical wonder-workers who plied their trade not for the
sake of contemptible mammon, but solely for ethical reasons. These were
the members of the various theosophico-philosophical sects, who were
active during the first Christian centuries and have been exhaustively
described on the previous pages.

Altho Christians were eager to exalt their exorcists, who worked only
with prayer and the invocation of Christ, above all practises of
sorcery, they were not able, in the long run, to prevent Christian
dogmas from being confounded with and corrupted by those of philosophy.
Under the influence of Saturninus, Basilides, and Carpocrates, the
various philosophical vagaries concerning accessory, intermediary, and
inferior gods, and their influences upon the fate of man, corrupted
the pure and simple teachings of Christ. That error against which Paul
had so impressively cautioned the early Christian communities in his
Epistle to the Colossians, Chapter II., verse 8 (“Beware lest any man
spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of
men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”), had,
nevertheless, made its appearance at last, and the adulteration of
pure Gospel by philosophical speculations and fantastic views began to
grow more complete from the third century on. This was the foundation
of the religio-mystic system which, during the middle ages, and even
beyond the period of the Renaissance, oppressed humanity like a
suffocating nightmare, and not only checked progress, but also filled
each branch of human knowledge with the most frightful superstition and
the crassest mysticism. This was the case also in medicine; in fact,
this branch of science has probably suffered most from the alliance of
Christianity with the fantastic doctrines of philosophical schools.

The ancient doctrine of demons passed under the influence of Christian
mysticism through certain changes and transitions, especially in its
relation to the bodily condition of individuals. The variations in this
doctrine were naturally most plainly evidenced in the medical views of
the day. It was believed that every human being from birth was allotted
a good and an evil demon. The good spirit held his hand protectingly
over his human charge, whereas the evil demon only waited his chance to
inflict injury upon man, forming especially the determining principle
in the etiology of disease. It is true, the evil spirits apparently
were no longer allowed to have such full sway over the health of
humanity as they formerly had. God now utilized them principally as
executors of punishments which he intended for mankind as a retribution
for various forms of delinquency. Thus the Church Father, Anastasius
(Sprengel, Vol. II., page 210), tells us that the reason why so many
lepers and cripples were found among Christians was that God, enraged
at the luxury of the members of the community, had sent the evil demon
of disease among them. The wrath of God from that time until late in
modern times has been considered a fully efficacious principle of
pathology; in fact, there are numbers of people even to-day who believe
that not natural, but supernatural and unearthly, factors are active in
the bodily ailments of mankind.

The idea of good and evil demons, however, now assumed a specifically
Christian character which, it is true, greatly resembled the ancient
Babylonian notion, excepting that the good demons were replaced by
angels and saints, whereas the evil spirits were embodied in the devil.
Both, saints as well as devils, were thenceforth destined to play a
part in the domain of medicine. It is true, the general recognition
which they enjoyed during the middle ages and a considerable period
of modern times has probably now passed away, but there still exist
numerous classes of our people in whom the medical rôle of saints as
well as devils is most willingly acknowledged.

We have referred elsewhere to the therapeutic accomplishments of
the saints during the middle ages. We will here only dwell upon the
influence which the devil, the Christian successor of the ancient
evil spirit, has exerted upon the medical views of all classes of the
people. This influence was very great. The devil and his subordinate
infernal spirits were considered the “disturbers of peace” in the
health of humanity. Disease in its various forms was their work;
they resolved to inflict it either from inherent villainy or as
incited by various magical arts of evil men. It was especially the
latter form of diabolical activity that, during the entire middle
ages and during a considerable part of modern times, was accepted
as uncontestedly authentic, and the imagination of mankind at that
period was inexhaustible in inventing the greatest variety of infamous
actions which the devil was able to perform either of his own accord
or as summoned by incantations. Any one desiring to acquaint himself
thoroughly with these delusive ideas should read the work of the Friar
Cæsarius, who lived about 1225, in the Rhenish-Cistercian monastery
of Heisterbach. Naturally, we are only interested in the medical acts
which the devil was always ready to perform. According to the history
of medical superstition, the devil, who was invoked by various spells
or appeared of his own volition, was able to influence each individual
bodily organ in a manner most disagreeable to the possessor of the
same. Neither were the Prince of Hell and his hosts always satisfied
to tease and to plague an individual being, but very frequently they
carried on this business wholesale. They threw themselves upon the
entire population of a country, and caused sickness in all who crossed
their path. The great epidemic of St. Vitus’s dance of the fourteenth
century, for instance, was considered to be the work of the devil, and
the clergy busied themselves in driving out this devil’s pest by means
of sprinkling holy water and by the utterance of conjuring formulas.

The sexual life of men as well as of women offered an especially
fruitful field for the activity of the devil and of his infernal
companions. Thus, it was a favorite trick of the ruler of hell and of
his subordinate demons to assume the shape of the husband or lover
of this or that female, and, under this mask, to assume rights which
should be permitted only to the husband. The infernal spirit that
played this rôle was called Incubus. Thus, for instance, Hinkmer tells
us of a nun who was mischievously claimed by such an infernal paramour,
and who could be relieved of him only by priestly aid. But hell also
contained female constituents who played the same rôle for the male
as did Incubus for women. Such a wanton woman of hell was called
Striga or Lamia (compare Hansen, pages 14 and 72). These amorous female
friends of hell did not even stop when they met eminent saints. In the
convent of St. Benedetto, near the Italian town of Subiaco, a rose-bush
is shown even to-day into which the naked St. Benedict threw himself in
order to resist the unholy temptation. And every one is sufficiently
acquainted with the troubles which St. Anthony of Padua had with these
infernal women. However, we physicians know well enough the cause
of these temptations. They may surely and actually have approached
the nun of whom Hinkmer reports, also St. Benedict and St. Anthony;
however, they were not the devil’s prostitutes, but the expressions of
suppressed and disregarded impulses of nature which, in the form of
voluptuous imaginations, appeared before the eyes of persons removed
from terrestrial gratifications; for nature does not even exempt a
saint, and the ancient saying, “_Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque
recurret_,” applies to them as well as to any other mortal.

Finally these liberties which the devil and his infernal host were said
to take as regards matters pertaining to love, assumed general and
quite serious forms; in fact, they gave rise to delicately contrived
legal questions. Namely, the idea had suggested itself that the
devil was able not only to call forth promiscuous love between men
and women, but that sometimes he derived a particular enjoyment if he
could manage to prevent a marriage that had already been consummated
by rendering the husband impotent. _Maleficium_ was the technical term
for such an event, equally saddening to husband as to wife, and the
theologians, philosophers, and jurists of the middle ages have written
the most learned commentaries regarding the legal consequences of this
_impotentia ex maleficio_. It was disputed whether or not this form of
impotence would constitute a legal cause for dissolution of marriage
which, after all, was a divine institution; the reasons also why God
permitted the devil to play such a reprehensible game were investigated
in a most serious and profound manner. Any one interested in this
question of _impotentia ex maleficio_ may read the most excellent
description of this subject by Hansen (Chapter III.).

This _impotentia ex maleficio_—_i.e._, one of the most extravagant
outgrowths of medical superstition—occasionally also gave rise to
scandalous lawsuits. This was the case in the disgraceful divorce suit
which took place about the year 860 between King Lothaire II. and his
spouse Teutberga. Lothaire was said to have lost his procreative power
completely, owing to infernal artifices of his concubine, Waldrada. The
reason why a concubine should undertake such a step, which, after all,
was bound to discredit her title and office in the eyes of her lover,
is not quite evident. However, at that period it was not difficult to
find an explanation for this remarkable fact. It was stated, _e.g._,
that Waldrada was instigated to this act solely by jealousy and
selfishness, in order to divorce the king from his consort. This first
step once taken, the courtesan, by removing the spells cast by her,
would take good care that the king should soon be delivered from the
odious condition of impotence. However, Waldrada had reckoned without
her host—_i.e._, in this case, without Hinkmar, Archbishop of Rheims;
for this latter gentleman, exceedingly well versed in all matters
ecclesiastic, politic, and diabolic, a genuine clerical fighting-cock,
very soon closely investigated the impotence of his royal master. In
an extensive memorial he considered the royal impotence according to
its legal, theologic, philosophic, moral, and various other aspects.
Medical superstition, accordingly, had acquired such power that the
sovereign of the holy Roman and German empires had to submit his
_potestas in venere_ to the test of public discussion.

But conditions were to become much worse. When, about the thirteenth
century, scholasticism had usurped full control of human reason,
and all sciences were permitted to be pursued only in a scholastic
sense, medicine was entirely divorced from the actual conditions of
life. It was completely detached from nature, its great teacher, and
irretrievably entangled in the subtleties of an uncertain philosophy.
Its activity now depended exclusively upon the study of the ancients—by
no means, however, upon that study in which an attempt was made to
master the intellectual spirit of ancient medicine, but which consisted
in a slavish adherence to the letter. Every decision of the ancients,
without any regard to nature, was made a dogma, and he was the best
physician who was most familiar with these dogmas, who understood
best how to interpret them most keenly. Mankind had entirely lost the
conception that the ancients had attained worth and importance only
in that they measured things by the standard of unbiased experience,
and tested their conclusions according to the phenomena of nature as
described from accurate observation of the sick.

It is quite obvious that superstition met with a well-prepared soil in
a system of medicine that was overburdened with dogmas and degraded
into utter subserviency to a vainglorious philosophy. The natural
result was that the medical art of a period of the middle ages, steeped
in scholasticism, was nothing but a chaos of the most despicable
superstition and folly. The most shocking result of these conditions
was the belief in witches, and, with this, medical superstition entered
upon a new stage. Whereas until then it had possessed a restricted,
mere local vitality, and entailed danger only upon those who, from
thoughtlessness, lent a willing ear to it, now it degenerated into a
mental epidemic which threatened equally all classes of the people.
The unspeakable misery which this variety of medical superstition has
brought to the Western world is well known, so that we may refrain from
entering into details, referring our readers to the excellent work of
Hansen on this subject.

Physico-medical thought was so thoroughly destroyed by the
above-described conditions that, even when humanity commenced to
shake off the scholastic yoke, during the period of Renaissance,
medicine was only able, in part, to follow this lead. Altho, under the
inspiration of the ancients, it returned to nature, it was not able to
rid itself of the superstitious idea of the continuous interference of
supernatural powers with the performance of the most common functions
of the body. The Church still persisted in the implicit belief in such
views, and still dominated men’s minds so thoroughly that even many
physicians, who in other respects were entirely unbiased, remained on
this point dutiful children of the Church; in fact, even those who were
fully aware of the shortcomings of the Christian Church unhesitatingly
adhered to the belief in demons as developed from antique conceptions
by the Church Fathers. Thus, for instance, Dr. Martin Luther was a
strict believer in the doctrine which taught men to hold the devil
responsible for the origin of all diseases. He thus expressed himself,
for instance: “No disease comes from God, who is good and does good to
everybody; but it is brought on by the devil, who causes and performs
all mischief, who interferes with all play and all arts, who brings
into existence pestilence, Frenchmen, fever, etc.” He accordingly
believed that he himself was compelled to scuffle with the devil when
his physical condition was out of order. Thus, when suffering from
violent headache, he wrote to the Elector, John of Saxony: “My head
is still slightly subject to him who is the enemy of health and of
all that is good; he sometimes rides through my brain, so that I am
not able to read or to write,” and upon another occasion he said, in
regard to his health: “I believe that my diseases are by no means due
to natural causes, but that ‘Younker Satan’ plays his pranks with me by

The devil was also held responsible for the appearance of monsters; it
was believed that the ruler of hell helped young girls against their
will to enjoy the delights of motherhood. However, these delights were
said to be of a peculiar kind, in that intercourse with the devil
was always bound to be followed by the birth of the most frightful
monsters. The devil then unloaded these most remarkable monsters into
respectable people’s houses. Even Luther was not able to free himself
from this most astonishing delusion. On the contrary, he was devoted
to it with such conviction that, when once in Dessau, he heard of a
monster (according to medical opinion, it was a question of a rhachitic
child) that had grown to be twelve years of age, he advised, in all
seriousness, that this sinful product of devilish intercourse be thrown
into the river Mulde (compare Möhsen, Vol. II., page 506, etc., on “The
Relations of Luther to the Devil”).

If it was very improper of the devil to visit even clerical gentlemen,
he crowned his wickedness, in that he very unceremoniously honored even
ministers in the pulpit with his visit. Such an occurrence took place
in Friedeberg, Neumark, in 1593, in which otherwise harmless town the
devil commenced suddenly to create an unheard-of commotion. He harassed
about one hundred and fifty people, and even in church he gave so
little rest to those he possessed, that they raised various kinds of
mischief in this holy place. When, thereupon, the preacher, Heinrich
Lemrich, thundered against these deviltries from the pulpit, the devil
became so incensed that immediately he promenaded into the Reverend
Lemrich himself, so that the good minister raged in the pulpit exactly
as did the members of his congregation down below in the nave.

However, this variety of medical superstition finally spread to such an
extent that, as medical aid was powerless against the devil, the aid of
God, by order of the consistory, was invoked from all pulpits of the
Margravate against the above-described misdeeds of hell’s ruler.

But the clergy adopted still another plan to checkmate the devil. In
various publications they enumerated the villainies which Satan might
visit on mankind, so that each and every one would be enabled to
protect himself against the aggressions of the devil, in whatever form
he might make his appearance. The first publication of this character
was issued in 1555 by the General Superintendent of the Electorate of
Brandenburg, Professor of the University of Frankfort, Herr Musculus;
it bore the very appropriate title, _The Pantaloon Devil_. In fact, as
early as 1575 a compilation was published in Frankfort-on-the-Main,
in which twenty-four different forms, which the devil might assume
in visiting humanity, were discussed most conscientiously and with
becoming diffuseness of style (compare Möhsen, Vol. II., page 426,

From that time it was impossible for mankind to shake off the belief in
devil and demons. The thought of being possessed played a conspicuous
part even in the first half of the nineteenth century, thanks to the
activity of Justinus Kerner, and even medicine felt called upon to busy
itself more thoroughly with this newly resurrected belief. This was
done, for instance, by Dr. Klencke, who, in 1840, published a little
book exclusively for the purpose of disproving the existence of spirits.

We have so far shown the potent influence exerted upon medical
superstition by antique as well as by medieval philosophy. But the
newer philosophy greatly influenced the destiny of medicine, even
at the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth
centuries. The natural philosophy based upon the doctrines of
Schelling once more submerged the art of healing in mysticism, and thus
necessarily abetted superstition. The physician no longer conceived
disease as the effect of disturbances in the life of the bodily
organs, but held various forms of inconceivable powers responsible
for the incidence of a malady. The soul wrapped in sin had power
to lead the life of the body from the normal into the pathological
condition, and, accordingly, prayer and the belief in Christian
dogmas again became active as curative factors. It was especially
the Munich clinician, Nepomuk von Ringseis, who placed such theories
before his pupils, and who, in his “System of Medicine,” published in
1840, made them generally known. Ringseis states in this book: “As
disease is originally the consequence of sin, it is, altho not always
indispensable, yet according to experience, incomparably more safe
that physician as well as patient should obtain absolution before any
attempt at healing be made.” Another passage reads: “Christ is the
all-restorer, and as such He cooperates in every corporeal cure.” In
this sense Ringseis calls the sacraments “the talismans coming from the
Physician of all physicians, and, therefore, the most excellent of all
physical, stimulating, and alterative remedies.”

Thus, after almost three thousand years, medicine had returned to the
stage at which it originated—namely, to the view that incorporeal,
supernatural factors were to play a determining part in pathology
and therapy. However, that there are plenty of individuals even in
our time who are at any moment ready again to sacrifice wantonly
all enlightenment and all progress to this varied superstition,
is demonstrated by the cases of Mrs. Eddy and the Reverend Dowie,
those modern representatives of medical superstition. There is only
one protection against these relapses, against these atavistic
tendencies, and that is education in natural science. The more it
becomes disseminated among the people the less danger there will be
that the heresies of a false philosophy, or of an overheated religious
sentiment, may again conjure up medical superstition to the detriment
of humanity.



The point of view from which man has regarded nature for thousands of
years up to modern times has been such as to promote most effectually
the development of superstition; for the idea that a satisfactory
insight into the character of natural phenomena can be obtained only
by means of adequate experiments, and of observation perfected by the
employment of the inductive reasoning and ingenious instruments, is
comparatively recent. Natural science applying such means is scarcely
two hundred years old. Fit instruments for the observation of nature
existed only to a limited extent up to the eighteenth century, and,
besides, their complete efficiency left much to be desired. The
attempts to wrest from Nature her secrets by means of experiment were
but feeble and unsuccessful. Altho the ancients, as is shown by the
writings of Hippocrates, Galen, and others, had some knowledge of
vivisection, they had practised it to a most limited extent. During
the middle ages and the period of the Renaissance comparatively few
physical experiments were made. Whatever researches in natural science
were then undertaken were intended much less for the investigation of
nature than for fantastic and superstitious purposes—as, for instance,
the investigations of alchemy and astrology.

It is quite obvious that, under such circumstances, a number of
superficial, imperfect, and distorted observations crept into the
theoretic system of natural science.

However, this was not all; the diagnostico-theoretical method, by
means of which antiquity, the middle ages, and even the greatest part
of more modern times, had seen the natural sciences treated, was
radically wrong. Man did not feel his way carefully from experiment
to experiment, from observation to observation, until the general
principle was found which inductively comprised a number of phenomena
under one uniform principle of law, but the principle which was at
the bottom of phenomena was fixed upon a speculative basis, and in
accordance with this principle the phenomena were interpreted—as was
done, for instance, in medicine in the case of humoral pathology. And
as this speculatively constructed principle was obtained exclusively by
a method dangerous to the cognition of natural sciences, by conclusion
from analogy, naturally the most fantastic and adventurous conceptions
soon became accepted in the realm of natural philosophy. But natural
philosophy once lost in such a labyrinth, an aberration of the
perceptive powers can not fail to follow—at least, in certain domains
of nature. As a matter of fact, this fallacious perception promptly
made its appearance, and has proved the stumbling-block of science
from its earliest days up to the present times. Occultism, mysticism,
or whatever the names may be of the various forms of superstition,
have sprung from these erroneous conceptions of natural science. It
may even be contended that no variety of superstition exists which is
not somehow connected with a distorted observation or explanation of
nature. However interesting these considerations may be, we can not
here pursue them any further.

Such investigations belong to the history of superstition in general,
and any one who desires more detailed information is referred to the
enormous literature of the subject. We can here consider only those
relations which prevail, or have prevailed, between superstition and
natural science, and principally the influence which was thus exerted
upon the art of healing by astronomy.

Astronomy and medicine became most intimately connected during the
earliest periods of human civilization. The literature of cuneiform
inscriptions shows us that the attempt to bring the stars into
connection with human destinies is primeval, and reaches back to the
ancient Babylonian age, even to the Sumero-Accadic period (Sudhoff,
_Med. Woche._ 1901, No. 41). How primeval peoples came to connect
their destinies with the heavenly bodies and their orbits is explained
so lucidly by Troels-Lund (page 28, etc.) that we shall cite his
descriptions, even if they are rather long for quotation. He says: “The
Chaldean history of creation is inscribed upon seven clay tablets. On
the fifth tablet we read: ‘The seventh day He instituted as a holy day,
and ordained that man should rest from all labor.’ Why just seven?
Because the holy number seven of the planets imperceptibly shone
through the work of creation, and was imperceptibly impressed upon the
entire order of thought. We are here at the decisive epoch at which
the planets for the first time gave an impetus to human conception,
the effects of which were to persist for thousands of years. This was
repeated a second time when Copernicus, in dealing especially with the
orbit of the planets, founded the still-prevailing conception of the

“For the theory of creation could be reconciled with the phenomenon of
sun and moon moving in their regular courses. They were in this case
no longer, as had been assumed until then, individual living beings
and divinities, but lights kindled by a mighty God, and intended to
move day and night, in an established order, under the dome of heaven.
But the other five planets! It was unnecessary to be a Chaldean on the
Babylonian Tower in order to feel amazement at these. Every one who
had ever followed with his eye their courses for a few nights during a
caravan journey, every one who, lying awake, had occasionally attempted
to read the time from the only clock of the night—the star-covered
canopy of heaven—was bound to have noticed their peculiarities as
to light and course. They did not shine uniformly, but sometimes
intensely, at other times faintly, and entirely different was their
radiance from that of other stars—reddish, greenish, bluish. And their
course was at one time rapid, at other times slow; then backward or
oblique; sometimes they disappeared entirely. Necessarily they appeared
inexplicable not only to the inexperienced observer, but to a still
higher grade of intellect—that of the most experienced Chaldean;
for, altho their periods could possibly be calculated, their courses
beggared all geometrical figures. These confused paths could be
explained only in one manner—namely, as the expression of an arbitrary
will, the manifestations of an independent life. The courses of the
planets furnished the astronomic proof that the heavenly bodies were
animated. The universe was more than created, it was godhead itself in
living activity.

“How this point of view broadened and cleared everything! The world
assumed the shape of an enormous hall upon which divine power, divine
will, continuously acted from above. Farthest down was the world of
the elements. In boundless distances above it moved the moon and the
six other planets, each one in its transparent heaven. In the highest
height, finally, revolved the canopy of impervious heaven, into which
constellations were ranged in shapes that resembled animals (Tablet
V., verse 2). Apparently these rotations did not have anything in
common with each other; a power which passed through them from above
moved these elemental worlds. Did not daily experience of their rising
determine winter, storm, drought, etc.? Thus the processes on earth
only reflected and repeated the course of these divine and heavenly
bodies; yea, divine will itself. But their order of movement varied.
Sun and moon with their regular courses spin, as it were, the firm
warps and woofs; the other five are instrumental in producing what is
changeable and apparently accidental. Unitedly in their course through
heaven the seven weave the threads of fate. Silently they weave the
design of terrestrial life. Upon them depend not only summer and
winter, rain and drought, but also the life and death of every living
being; as determined by the constellation of their birth, such is each
man, so will he live. Never do the heavenly bodies repeat precisely the
same relative positions, and, therefore, never are two years, two days,
two human beings, two leaves, completely identical.”

So far Troels-Lund.

Much as we agree with what Troels-Lund says, yet we believe that the
decisive motive which led humanity to bring their bodily welfare into
closest connection with the starry canopy of heaven was suggested by
the powerful influence which the sun exerts upon the bodily welfare
of all life. As this life-giving power of the sun had a conspicuous
share in the origin of primeval sabianism, so also it exerted a similar
influence upon the development of astrology; for it must have been
obvious to even the most stupid observer that his well-being depended
to a great extent upon the action of the sun. From this perception
to the idea that other heavenly bodies were also intended to exert a
decisive influence upon things terrestrial was only a short step for
the ancient civilized peoples; for here the conclusion from analogy was
actually so closely and so enticingly under every one’s nose that all
he had to do was but to pitch upon the powers which rule all earthly
life and neatly box them up in a well-constructed system. But as the
conclusion from analogy was always considered in the ancient world
as the most certain, never-failing path to knowledge, it was readily
followed in this connection also. And thus astrology, like the greater
part of medico-physical knowledge, was based, we think, upon the
treacherous ground of a conclusion _per analogiam_.

Besides, our opinion that the warming and vitalizing power of the sun
formed one of the most important factors in the origin of astrology
is confirmed by the utterances of astrologists themselves. Thus, for
instance, Ptolemy points to the sun and moon as the sources of life to
mankind, and Hermes and Almansor repeat the dictum. This is furthermore
proved by the unparalleled popularity which astrology has enjoyed in
all phases of civilization. There is no civilized people, either
of ancient or of modern times, which has not adhered to astrologic
doctrines with the fullest confidence and most unswerving faith.
Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Romanians—in short,
all nations—have professed their belief in astrology. Such a conformity
of opinion would, however, be inexplicable amid such a dissimilarity of
religious and cultural ideas as characterized the different peoples,
unless a common principle had decisively influenced all nations in the
same manner. This principle was acknowledged in the influence of the
sun. Every human being was bound to observe the animating power of the
sun on his own bodily sense and from his own observation, and would be
at once led to the conclusion that a similar power resided also in the
other celestial bodies.

This conception, which to a great extent was brought about by
conclusions from analogy, provided a method of inference concerning
various other phenomena. Man meditated, speculated, concluded, until
the required sidereal relation of each organ and each function of the
human body was determined. Thus astrology may serve as one of the
most telling examples of scientific delusions to which the ancient
diagnostico-theoretical methods were bound to lead, with their
conclusions from analogy and their deductive modes of procedure.

The above survey indicates, altho only in very general outlines,
the origin of astrology. We shall now consider more in detail the
acquisition for which the art of medicine is especially indebted to

Babylonico-Assyrian civilization possessed in its earliest ages a
well-developed system of astrologic medicine, as is evident from
writings bequeathed to us from antiquity. Campbell-Thompson has
recently published, from the great stock of cuneiform tablets in the
collection of the British Museum, 276 inscriptions of an astrological
nature belonging to the so-called Kouyunjik collection. Sudhoff has
compiled them, so far as they refer to medicine, and has subjected them
to critical analysis. We take the liberty of repeating certain extracts
from these cuneiform tablets, which appear to be the reports which
Assyrian and Babylonian court astrologists made to the king.

Tablet 69_a_ says: “If the wind comes from the west upon appearance of
the moon, disease will prevail during this month.”

Tablet 207: “If Venus approaches the constellation of Cancer, obedience
and prosperity will be in the land ... the sick of the land will
recover. Pregnant women will carry their confinements to a favorable

Tablet 163: “If Mercury rises on the fifteenth day of the month, there
will be many deaths. If the constellation of Cancer becomes obscured, a
fatal demon will possess the land and many deaths will occur.”

Tablet 232: “If Mercury comes in conjunction with Mars, there will
follow fatalities among horses.”

Tablet 175: “If a planet becomes pale in opposition to the moon, or if
it enters into conjunction with it, many lions will die.”

Tablet 195: “If Mars and Jupiter come in conjunction, many cattle will

Tablet 117: “If the greater halo surrounds the moon, ruin will be
visited upon mankind.”

Tablet 269: “If an eclipse of the sun occurs on the twenty-ninth day of
the month of Jypar, there will be many deaths on the first day.”

Tablet 271: “An eclipse at the morning watch causes disease.... If an
eclipse takes place during the morning watch, and lasts throughout the
watch, while the wind blows from the north, the sick in Akkad will

Tablet 79: “If a halo surrounds the moon and if Regulus stands within,
women will bear male children.”

Tablet 94: “If sun and moon ... on the fifteenth day ‘answer my prayer’
shall he say ... Let him nestle close to his wife, she shall conceive a

These few extracts show us the close relations into which
Assyrico-Babylonian culture brought the becoming and passing away of
all animal life with the stellar movement; in fact, as we note from
Tablet 94, the astrologists of this period did not hesitate to intrude
into the most intimate occurrences of married life. It is quite obvious
that, under such circumstances, the Babylonian physician was compelled
to consider very carefully the utterances of the astrologists in
carrying on his practise. It may be possible that we shall obtain still
further information regarding the quality of sidereal therapy from the
numerously discovered cuneiform tablets. We know positively that a
physician was forbidden to perform any surgical operations on certain
days of each month. Thus, for instance, the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and
28th of the month Schall-Elul were unfavorable days for such operations
(Oefele). These directions were especially stringent in regard to
venesection, to which act we shall again refer in greater detail.

When civilization, later on, continued to thrive upon the shores of
the Nile, astrology still found a fertile soil there, and it appears
that here also the name Ἰατρομαθηματικοί has originated, which,
subsequently, was a favorite designation of adherents to the sidereal
art of healing. The astrological prognoses made by the professional
astrologist, Petosiris, for the king Nechepso of Sais are well known.
However, it appears, according to the latest investigations (compare
the excellent work of Sudhoff, page 4, etc.), that these prognoses have
nothing at all to do with that king Nechepso who reigned in the seventh
century, B.C. It seems more probable that some cunning Alexandrian
astrologist of the second century, B.C., fraudulently used the name
of the king as a cover for his work. But however this may be, these
prognoses of Petosiris have considerable value, in that they give us an
insight into the manufacture of such medical prophesies.

The object of these prognoses was primarily to discover the termination
of a disease, whether the patient would die or recover, either soon
or only after the lapse of a certain time—for instance, after seven
days. This was all that Petosiris undertook to predict. All details
regarding treatment, complications, and diagnosis of a case are still
entirely wanting. Petosiris, in making such a prognosis, by no means
relied solely upon the conjunction of certain celestial bodies, but he
employed a rather intricate method, in which mystic numbers, onomancy,
and astrology were important elements. To prognosticate medically
according to this system a circle of numerals was required in the first
place. There existed two different kinds of such circles—one simple,
the other more complicated. Berthelot has furnished us with examples of
both as used by Petosiris.


(After Bouché-Leclercq, p. 539)]

The more simple formula (Fig. 1) consisted of two concentric circles,
the smaller of which was divided into four quadrants. Between both
concentric circles and within the horizontal diameters were inscribed
the words: μέον ζωή; to the right of this: ἡ μικρὰ ζωή; to the left
of the vertical line: ἡ μεναλη ζωή. Under the vertical line was
inscribed: μέσος θάνατος; to the right of this: μικρὸς θάνατος;
and to the left of the vertical line: ὁ μένας θάνατος. Only words
which point to the longer or shorter duration of life, or to the
death-struggle, were therefore employed. The four quadrants of the
enclosed circle, as well as the vertical diameter, contained the
numerals from 1 to 29 in a mystical order, representing the duration of
the moon’s phases. The above (Fig. 1) shows us this astrological circle
of Petosiris.

The second—essentially more complicated—formula consists of three
concentric circles. Various words are inscribed between the first and
second circles, as in Fig. 1. Between the second and third circles, and
in the verticals, the numerals from 1 to 30 are disposed in a mystical
arrangement. Furthermore, these circles are not, as in Fig. 1, divided
into four quadrants, but into eight equal sections. At these points
in which the radii forming the sectors intersect the periphery of the
outermost of the three concentric circles, arched enclosures are raised
which also contain various words.


(After Bouché-Leclercq, p. 540)]

When it was sought, by means of the above-described figures, to
determine the medical future or the life and death of an individual,
this could be accomplished with the aid of the diagram represented in
Fig. 1 in such a manner that the duration of the disease in days, the
numerical value of the name of the patient, and the phases of the moon
were added, and the sum divided by 29. The result thus obtained was
interpreted by referring to the diagram. If this figure happened to be,
for instance, in the right upper quadrant, the patient, altho he would
recover from his illness, would live only for a very short period;
if this number was found in the vertical line, below the horizontal
diameter, the patient was destined to die after a short struggle.

Much more intricate was the use of the astrological apparatus
illustrated in Fig 2. Here the number of the moon’s day, and the
numerical values of the name of the patient were not added, but each
of these figures was separately looked for in the diagram. If the moon
figure was found in the lower, the figure for the name in the upper,
ends of the verticals—_i.e._, where δυσις ὑπόγειος, setting, and
ἀνατολὴ ὑπέργειος, rising, stand—the individual concerned, altho in
danger, finally recovered. If, on the other hand, the moon figure was
discovered in the upper, and the figure for the name in the lower, ends
of the verticals, nothing but evil was in store for the questioner, but
the misfortune appeared under the guise of fortune. If both numbers,
however, were at the upper ends of the verticals, the prospects were
favorable, but bad if both figures occurred below the horizontal line.

A method which is similar to the simple apparatus of Petosiris is
revealed to us in the so-called οφαῖρα Δημοκρίτου. It is contained in
the _Papyrus Magica Musei Lugdunensis Batavia_, published by Dietrich.
Fig. 3 shows the illustration belonging to this method, and also
the Greek directions for use, as given in the papyrus. It will be
noticed that in the method of Democritus recourse is made to a table
of numerals divided by a cross-line into the upper and larger, and a
lower and smaller, section. The upper part contains in three vertical
columns 18, in the lower, 12 figures. To use the table, the day when
the disease began, the numerical value of the name, and the days of the
moon were added, and the sum thus obtained divided by 30. This quotient
was then looked for in the table of numbers. If it was found above the
cross-line, the patient recovered; if below, he succumbed.


There existed a great many other methods besides those described above;
for instance, the system of the 12 places, the circle of Manilius, the
method of the mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, the circle of Ptolemy,
etc. However, we can not here enter into a more detailed description of
these forms, and refer those that wish more exhaustive information to
Berthelot, and, above all, to Bouché-Leclercq. Astrology, and, with it,
sidereal medicine, subsequently traveled from its Oriental home into
all civilized countries of the then known world.

As regards Greek and Roman antiquity, astrology in all its forms won a
high reputation both in Greece and Italy. Even the most eminent ancient
physicians, altho they did not unreservedly adopt sidereal medicine,
refrained from disavowing it. Thus we find in the Corpus Hippocraticum,
the chief work of early Greek medicine, passages which betray more
than a friendly feeling toward the astral art of healing. It is true,
expressions are not wanting which sound like a direct disowning of

Let us consider for a few moments the attitude of Hippocratic medicine
toward astrology.

As to the rejection of astrologic medicine by the followers of
Hippocrates, we read (“Ancient Medicine,” Chapter I.; in the
translation of Fuchs, Vol. I., page 19): “For this reason I believe
that it [medical art] requires no basis of vain presumption, such as
the existence of invisible and doubtful factors, the discussion of
which, if it should be attempted, necessitates a hypothetic science
of supernatural or of subterrestrial nature; for, if any one should
contend that he knew anything about such a matter, neither he, the
lecturer, nor his hearers would clearly understand whether his
statements were true or not, because nothing exists to which reference
could be had for purposes of verification.”

This surely is a refutation as definite as can be desired of a medicine
which depends upon witchcraft or astrologic vagaries. However, various
other passages of the Corpus Hippocraticum take an exactly contrary
position. For example, we find the following statement (on “Air,
Water, and Locality,” Chapter XVII., in the translation of Fuchs,
Vol. I., page 390): “Attention must be paid to the rise of the stars,
especially to that of Sirius,[4] as well as to the rise of Arcturus,
and, further, to the setting of the Pleiades, for most diseases reach a
crisis during such periods, some of them abating in these days, others
ceasing entirely, or developing into other symptoms and different
conditions.” These words indicate a distinct intention of bringing
prognosis and course of diseases into the closest relations with the
motions of the celestial bodies. In the second chapter of the same book
similar expressions occur: “He who knows how the change of seasons and
the rising and setting of stars take place will also be able to foresee
how the year is going to be. Therefore, any one who investigates these
subjects and predicts coming events will be thoroughly informed as to
each detail of the future; he will enjoy the best of health, and take
as much as possible the right road in art. However, if any one should
be of the opinion that these questions belong solely in the realm of
astronomy, he will soon change his opinion as he learns that astronomy
is not of slight, but of a very essential, importance in medical art.”
Stars and diseases are also brought into mutual relations in the letter
to King Ptolemy (Emerins, page 293).

      [4] This star, in particular, played a rôle in the astrologic
      prognosis of the Egyptians; in fact, in various systems it was
      made the starting-point of medical predictions; for instance,
      in the method of Hermes Trismegistus.

The above quotations refer exclusively to the course of diseases in
relation to the stars, but we find in other passages also distinct
references are made to therapeutic methods; for instance, in
“Aphorisms,” § 4, paragraph 5, we read: “Purging is very difficult
during or before the dog-days.”

It would, indeed, be most remarkable if no astrologic remarks of any
kind were found in the Corpus Hippocraticum, as the idea of close
relation between the celestial bodies and matters terrestrial had
common currency during the Hippocratic period. The songs of Stesichorus
and of Pindar show, for instance (as is also stated by Pliny, Book 3,
Chapter XII., Vol. I., page 118), that eclipses of certain stars were
considered to be pregnant with mischief. This superstitious conception
has, in some cases, actually caused severe general calamities. Thus,
for instance, the Sicilian campaign ended unfortunately for the
Athenians only because their general, Nicias, under a superstitious
apprehension concerning an eclipse, failed to put to sea. And as this
campaign was the cause to Athens of a partial loss of Greek hegemony,
we may safely say that astrology had a decisive share in the fall of
Athens (Pliny, Book 2, Chapter XXIII.).

The appearance of comets, like eclipses of the sun and the moon, were
also reputed to be ominous among the ancients. Comets were considered
heavenly mischief-makers of the worst kind, and almost every sort
of calamity was ascribed to them. A calamity was supposed to assume
various aspects, according to the position and form of the comet.
Under some circumstances, however, they were said to prognosticate
many events advantageous to mankind (Pliny, Book 2, Chapter XXIV.).
Thus Augustus considered a comet, which was seen for an entire week at
the northern quarter of the heavens at the onset of his rule, during
performances which were given in honor of Venus genetrix, to be his
lucky star.

However, not only such extraordinary appearances in the sky as comets,
eclipses of the sun and the moon, played a conspicuous part in medical
superstitions of the ancients. Even those celestial phenomena which
occur with a regularity fixed by natural law, such as the revolution
of the sun and the moon, were considered highly important events in
therapeutic art. Thus, affections of the eye in man and beast were said
to increase and to decrease with the moon (Pliny, Book 2, Chapter XLI.).

All acute diseases were believed to be controlled by the moon, whereas
chronic affections were thought to be under the influence of the sun.
In fact, everything that happened to man was brought in immediate
relationship with appearances in the canopy of heaven. Thus, for
instance, it is stated by Marcus Manilius, the well-known author of an
astronomical didactic poem dedicated to the Emperor Augustus:

    “Omnis cum coelo fortunæ pendeat ordo.”

In the thirteenth chapter of the second book the poet maintains that
each part of the human body is subordinate to a distinct sign of the
zodiac. Thus, for instance, the head to Aries, etc.

Altho the further development of Occidental as well as Oriental
astrology drew its resources from the primeval Assyrian, Babylonian,
and Egyptian doctrines, yet from the second century, A.D., the
astronomic work of Ptolemy and the exhaustive description of antique
medicine by Galen derive their inspiration from _Medicina Astrologica_.
Whatever these two great masters were able to report of the dependence
of the functions of the body upon celestial bodies was from then on,
without further inspection and examination, acknowledged to be true
by the great majority of physicians. Only occasionally this or that
practitioner is bold enough to oppose the intrusion of astrologic
vagaries into the art of healing; among these radicals was the
philosophically trained physician, Sextus Empiricus, who lived about
the year 193, A.D. However, this protest of brave Sextus, as well as
all subsequent ones, scarcely had any influence upon the astrological
development of medicine. Astrology could not be arrested on its road
to the domination of the world, and until the seventeenth century it
controlled the thought of physicians with the same invincible sway that
it exercised over the mental life of all other professions and classes.
Medico-astrological superstition had become legalized, and this in
spite of the fact that Galen himself at last expressed his distrust of
the _Medicina Astrologica_, and at least endeavored to extenuate his
part in its dissemination.

Let us now scrutinize more minutely the condition of _Medicina
Astrologica_ in the second century, A.D. The works of Ptolemy, the
“Iatromathematica” of the mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, and the third
book of Galen’s writing on the “critical days” furnish sufficient
material for outlining the medico-astrological system of that period.

In the first place, the method by which the authors of that
period instilled their astrologic dotage into the minds of their
contemporaries varied considerably. Either astrological remarks were
here and there interspersed in a work on medical or on astronomical
subjects, as was the case, for instance, in the “Opus Quadripartitum”
of Ptolemy and also in Galen’s book on the “critical days,” or
astrology was treated as a special science in the form of a connected
system, as is done, for instance, in the “Iatromathematica” of Hermes
Trismegistus. Such textbooks of astrology obtained publicity in large
numbers from about the fourteenth century on. Whoever may be inclined
to cast a glance into the learned work of Sudhoff will be astonished to
observe the extent to which iathromathematics flourished in the second
half of the middle ages and at the turning-point of the Renaissance.
Still another form was to impart to the public their astrological
doctrines in the form of short sentences. We find nothing in such works
regarding the intricate calculations and methods by which endeavors
were made to fathom the language of the stars, but astrological results
were communicated in concise, aphoristic sentences. This was done in
the “Centiloquium” of Ptolemy, a work which in a hundred brief sayings
brings an epitome of astrological wisdom to market. The work enjoyed
the highest esteem in the middle ages. Such a book, therefore, would
correspond to that form of modern literary production, which, under
the title “Method of acquiring this or that accomplishment within a
short period,” is advertised to us modern people in the daily press.
Moreover, the “Centiloquium” of Ptolemy had many imitators. Such
a work is found, for instance, in Arabic literature, and contains
astrologic wisdom condensed into 150 brief sentences by the astrologer
Almansor, who furnished the handbook upon request of his ruler; the
Arabian, Bethem, has produced a similar work. We find analogous works
appearing later in the middle ages. Eventually, the doctrines of
astrology were put into neat rhymes; thus, for instance, Heinrich von
Rantzau, who departed this life 1598 as governor of Schleswig-Holstein,
celebrates in 100 well-turned verses the significance of the planets
in relation to the physical and mental welfare of humanity. We shall
again refer to this subject when considering astrology of the middle
ages. The iatromathematic passages in the above-mentioned writings
of Ptolemy, Hermes, and Galen furnished the foundation for all later
astrologico-medical theories. For what the middle ages believed
regarding the medical importance of the sidereal world, especially of
the planets and the zodiac, was nothing but the immediate continuation,
or elaboration, of the astrologic teachings of Ptolemy and other
authors of the first Christian centuries.

In the first place, every portion of the human frame was placed under
the influence of a certain celestial body.

The five planets already known to the ancients, as well as sun and
moon, governed, according to Hermes, the following parts of the body:

    The sun, the right eye.
    The moon, the left eye.
    Saturn, hearing.
    Jupiter, the brain.
    Mars, the blood.
    Venus, taste and smell.
    Mercury, tongue and gullet.

However, the influence which sun, moon, and the planets exercised
upon the human body gradually became more intricate. It was no longer
satisfactory to enumerate relations between the bodies of heaven and
the human organs of such a general nature as given by the above table
of Hermes. All parts and functions of the body were to be brought
into the closest relations with the planets. Thus, for instance, the
celebrated humanist, Marsilius Ficinus, the friend of the Medici (1433
to 1499), depicts most minutely in a book “On Life,” which was much
read in its time, the relations between the body and the planets. This
was also done by Heinrich von Rantzau, in his “Tractus Astrologicus,”
which in its time was very celebrated. There we read regarding these
conditions as follows:

  SATURN governs the spleen, the bladder, the bones, the teeth, and,
    in part, the circulating juices of the body; causes the color of
    the skin of man to be dark yellowish; impedes or promotes growth;
    causes the eyes to be small, and prevents the growth of the beard.

  JUPITER governs the lungs, the ribs, cartilages, the liver,
    arteries, the pulse, and the development of human semen; causes
    the white color of the skin, and gives a good figure.

  MARS governs the bile, kidneys, veins, and sexual organs, and of
    these especially the testicles; makes hair red and the temper
    irascible, and inclined to outrages of various kinds.

  VENUS governs the uterus, the breasts, the sexual organs, the
    spermatic tubes, the loins, and the buttocks; endows man with
    physical beauty, furnishes him with long hair, round eyes, and a
    well-formed face; but it is inexcusable on the part of this star
    that it presented mankind with gonorrhea.

  MERCURY governs all mental processes—memory, imagination, the brain
    with its nerves, the hands, feet, and legs, the bones and the
    bile; causes man to be light-fingered.

  THE SUN governs the brain, nerves, urine, the right eye of the male
    and the left one of the female, the optic nerves, and the entire
    right half of the body; gives a good complexion to man.

  THE MOON governs the brain, mouth, belly, intestines, bladder,
    taste, the organs of reproduction, the left eye of the male, the
    right eye of the female, and the feminine liver, and the entire
    left half of the body.

The signs of the zodiac, like the planets, exert full control over
the various parts of the body. Honest Bartisch, of Königsbrück (1535
to 1606), has given us in his “Eye-Service” an illustration of these
relations. Fig. 4 is a reproduction of this plate of Bartisch.

The sun, moon, planets, and zodiac regulated not only the life of the
various limbs of living man placed under their special care, but their
activity commenced at that moment when the foundation was just about
to be laid for the future bodily existence of a mortal—_i.e._, at the
moment of conception. If, during this critical process, the respective
bodies of the heavens were in an unfortunate conjunction, the members
of the future being, the most primitive forms of which had just been
founded, were bound to suffer. Naturally, however, only those parts of
the body were affected by this destiny which were in the care of stars
that happened to be in unpropitious conjunction at the time.

If the act of conception had passed without evil influence on those
that were actively and passively participating in it, the product of
that hour could by no means be sure that this or that planet would not
maliciously thwart the ease and tranquillity of its embryonic and fetal
life. For sun, moon, and the seven planets each governed one month of
intra-uterine life, as is explained by Jacobus Forliviensis. Saturn
reigns during the first month of pregnancy, Jupiter in the second,
Mars in the third, the sun in the fourth, Venus in the fifth, Mercury
in the sixth, the moon in the seventh; the eighth month is ruled again
by Saturn, and this latter planet now shows itself to be so malicious
that it immediately destroys all life born in the eighth month. Jupiter
again takes control during the ninth month, and, as this star is fond
of warmth and humidity, and, therefore, a friend of life in any form,
no danger is to be feared for a fetus entering the world during this
month. However, after the nine months of pregnancy have passed without
evil interference by the planets, Mars once more is in command, and his
influence helps in accomplishing a normal birth.

After the fetus had successfully passed all dangers which the planets
could cause during the nine months of intra-uterine life, and after
it had successfully matured, the hour of birth might, after all, be
accompanied with other quite severe sidereal complications. For if
any planet was in an unfavorable sign, or if the relations between
the signs of the zodiac and the sun or the moon were not quite in
their regular order, those members which were presided over by the
respective stars were made to suffer. The correct casting of the
medical horoscope, therefore, required the most accurate knowledge
of the minute of birth, with simultaneous occurrences in the canopy
of heaven. Provident fathers, accordingly, were mindful of having
an astrologer, during the hour of birth, in the room in which the
confinement was to take place, so that he might be able to ascertain as
accurately as possible the celestial occurrences which would determine
the bodily welfare of the new-born, and to arrange them for the


After the young mortal had safely arrived, and if a fortunate destiny
had placed in his cradle a favorable medical horoscope, both for the
hour during which the first material foundation had been laid for
his life and also for the hour of his birth, he had overcome only a
small part of the troubles which the starry world might be able to
inflict on his bodily welfare. If the various signs of heaven appeared
in unfavorable conjunction, or if the moon entered into any fatal
relations with the signs of the zodiac, members of the body which were
under the influence of the respective celestial bodies were still
imperiled. These dangers might threaten not only one individual, but
they were capable, eventually, even of calling down epidemics and
pestilence upon all humanity. After any form of disease had taken hold
of a person its course, treatment, and termination could be clearly
read in the stars of heaven. It was necessary, above all, to ascertain
the day, hour, and minute when the disease appeared. Unfortunately,
this must have been quite difficult at times; for many diseases begin
so insidiously that the moment of the attack is completely beyond
precise definition. In such a case one did the best that could be done,
and probably took as the moment of attack the first complaints of the
patient regarding his disorder. After the appearance of the disease was
dated in such a manner, the heavenly body, in the ascendant at this
period, was then ascertained; thus, the position and the course and the
phases of the moon, the relations of sun and moon to the twelve signs
of the zodiac, and the planets would be noted. It was necessary to
observe whether the moon was in opposition, quadrature, or conjunction
to the planets while she stood in the sign of this or that figure of
the zodiac. From these observations clear conclusions were first drawn
regarding the general condition, the character, the duration, and the
prognosis of the affection. These conclusions, however, were by no
means satisfactory as yet. An attempt was therefore made to obtain a
much more detailed insight into the causes, complications, and therapy
of the case in question by means of astrology, and such information was
abundantly provided in the _Medicina Astrologica_.

In the first place, the fact that sun, moon, planets, and the signs
of the zodiac shared the rule over the various organs of the body,
and furnished positive intimations regarding the cause of the disease
in question, made it unnecessary for the physician to trouble himself
at all with an examination of the patient in order to ascertain cause
and localization of the affection. One glance at the conjunctions of
the stars was sufficient to show which organ of the patient happened
to be endangered by the celestial constellation. If an individual
complained, for instance, of disturbed digestion, and if the heavenly
body that presided over the liver presented any remarkable phenomena,
naturally only the liver was responsible for the case in question,
and the diagnosis was made. Complications were to be expected if the
stars which controlled the circulation of blood and mucus showed
unfavorable signs. It was even possible for the physician well versed
in astrology to determine in advance the period of time at which the
occurrence of such humoral complications might be expected, as he had
learned that the various hours of the day and of the night were to
exert a powerful influence upon the juices of the body. For instance,
Almanzor explains that the first three hours of day and of night are
in closest relation to the blood, whereas the second quarters of day
and of night hold sway over the yellow, the third over the black
(bile), and the last quarters, finally, over the mucus. However, not
only were the various hours of great importance to the course of the
disease, but certain days of the disease—so-called critical days—were
of still greater significance. It is true, the doctrine of these
critical days was by no means the property of _Medicina Astrologica_,
but the Corpus Hippocraticum already contained a book Περὶ
χρίησὶμων. But the followers of Hippocrates had developed this
theory only from humoro-pathological premises, and Galen, in his work
χρήἱσιμαι ἡμέραι, had only included astrology in order to explain
and to prove the entire doctrine of crises (compare also Sudhoff). He
calculated in accordance with moon weeks and months, and in such a
manner that a week counted six days and seventeen and one-half hours,
and the month of the moon only twenty-six days and twenty-two hours.
The seventh, fourteenth, twentieth, and twenty-seventh days were to
be considered critical days of the first order. “Contemplate,” says
Galen, “the critical days in the course of the moon in the angles of
a geometrical figure of sixteen sides; if you find these angles in a
favorable constellation, the patient will fare well; badly, however,
if evil signs prevail.” But not only were certain hours and certain
days of the week said to exert an important astrological influence upon
the human body, such an influence was ascribed also to certain years.
Such years were called “_Anni Scansiles_”—that is, “climacteric.” The
expression “_Anni Climacterici_” was also used, but this designation
has nothing in common with the modern conception of the climacteric.
It was believed that the condition of the body underwent a thorough
revolution during these climacteric years, and that a new stage, as it
were, of organic life was reached. Heinrich von Rantzau, the astronomic
aristocrat and statesman, accordingly defines the climacteric years
as “_anni, in quibus ad sequentis temporis constitutionem sese vertat
ætas et inflectat_.” Therefore, such years should in themselves harbor
dangers for corporeal existence, and offer no favorable prospect for
the course of diseases.

Two kinds of such climacteric years were distinguished. One kind was
brought about by multiplication with the figure 7, and they were
called _anni hebdomatici_, or _climacterici (stricte sic dicta)_.
Accordingly, these were the years 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63.
These nine years formed the _climactericus parvus_, whereas the years
77, 84, 91, 98, 105, 112, 119, 126 were called the _climactericus
magnus_. A multiplication which extended further, to 171, reached
the _climactericus maximus_. The other kind of climacteric years was
obtained by multiplication with 9, and such years were called _anni
enneatici_, or _decretorii_. These were the years 9, 18, 27, 36, 45,
54, 63, 72, 81, 90, 99, 108, etc.

However, these climacteric years did not all present the same dangers,
but the peril inherent in them varied considerably. It was determined
by the multiplicator, and here especially the 3 and the 7 played a
very fatal rôle. The 21st year of life (3 × 7), and the 27th (3 × 9),
were one grade higher in the scale of dangers than those obtained by
other multiplicators. Still more dangerous were those years arrived at
by ascending in spaces of three hebdomads; therefore, the 21st year
of life—_i.e._, the period of three hebdomads—namely, 3 × 7; the 42d
year, as a period of 2 × 3 hebdomads—_i.e._, 2 × 21; the 63d year of
life, as a period of 3 hebdomads—_i.e._, 3 × 21; 84 = to 4 × 21; 105
= 5 × 21, etc. The 49th year of life and the 56th year of life were
said to be still more dangerous than these years obtained from the
period of three hebdomads. It is true, the cause of the danger is quite
obvious in the case of the 49th year; it was the ominous 7 × 7 which
here gave rise to forebodings. And it was not quite comprehensible what
caused the bad reputation of innocent 56; Rantzau fails to give us a
sufficient explanation.

But the most dangerous climacteric year was the 63d, for this was made
up of 7 × 9. It was, therefore, an _annus hebdomaticus_ and, at the
same time, also an _annus enneaticus_, for it belonged both to the
class of those climacteric years which were formed by the multiplier 7,
as also to that which were obtained by the multiplier 9. It was most
natural, therefore, that a period of life which from two sides was
fraught with danger, like the unfortunate 63d year of life, was bound
to appear equally suspicious to the healthy and to the sick. It is
probable that this year was, therefore, called _androdas_, because, as
Rantzau believes, it debilitates and breaks vitality.

It would appear, moreover, that the climacteric years enjoyed general
consideration in ancient times as well as in the middle ages, for
Rantzau names a number of celebrated men who were said to have
expressed themselves regarding the significance of these years, such as
Plato, Censorinus, Gellius, Philo Judæus, Macrobius, Cicero, Boëtius,
St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Bede, Georgius Valla, and others. Not
satisfied with this statement, Rantzau also mentions in his catalog
a multitude of prominent men who all departed this life in their 63d
year, and thus, as he believes, had established the dangerousness of
this year by their death.

It is probable, therefore, that the 63d birthday was celebrated with
great apprehension during the entire middle ages, and the respective
individual did not draw an easy breath until after the ominous year had
been successfully passed.

However, the stars knew not only how to tell particulars regarding
the probable course and possible complications of diseases, but they
also gave information regarding very special forms of affections. It
was possible, thus, to learn from them at what time diseases of the
eye were to be feared, when mental diseases were threatening, when
hemorrhages were to be expected, etc. The astrologically trained
physician was able to obtain prompt information from the stars
regarding contingent surgical accidents; for there existed various
conjunctions of the celestial bodies, according to Ptolemy, which
surely pointed to wounds, fractures of bones, burns, concussions, and
other lesions. In fact, it was possible to see in advance, from the
celestial phenomena, what limbs would be exposed to forcible injury;
thus, certain conjunctions of the planets were said to prognosticate
with certainty wounds of the head; others, of the face; others, again,
of the hands and feet, of the fingers and toes, of the arms and legs,
of the trunk and neck. Astrology, moreover, was not satisfied with the
prognostic and diagnostic activity which we have just mentioned, but it
also interfered in therapy, internal as well as external.

Regarding, in the first place, internal medicinal treatment, the
astrologer knew how to give positive information about the same; for
all terrestrial beings, of an organic as well as of an inorganic
nature, were under the influence of the sun, the moon, of the planets,
and of the signs of the zodiac. The stars imparted certain powers to
the planets, to animals, and to all structures of the inorganic world.
If, therefore, it were known what stars happened to appear in the
vault of heaven at the beginning of the disease or of its treatment,
it was only necessary seriously to consider the organic and inorganic
structures under their supervision, and the remedies required for a
successful control of the disease were presently at hand. But if the
healer wished to be absolutely certain what medicaments to choose, the
phases of the moon and the condition of the sun were also to be taken
into consideration. Some remedies could be administered only when the
moon was in a particular relation to certain planets or stars of the
zodiac. These remedies were principally emetics and purges.

Similarly to the internal clinician, so also in surgery, the healer
was entirely dependent upon the conjunction of the stars. The primeval
Babylonian directed that the body must not be touched with iron during
certain conjunctions of the stars, and this was also prescribed in
all cases of _Astrologica Medica_. It appears, however, that this
direction obtained less general surgical recognition, but referred
principally to blood-letting. Even to this limited extent it implied
a high-handed interference with the art of the ancient as well as of
the medieval physician; for venesection occupied an entirely different
position among therapeutic measures during that period than it does
to-day. Whereas modern medicine does not consider blood-letting
necessary, except in the rarest cases, ancient as well as medieval
professors of medicine believed that they could under no circumstances
dispense with it; in fact, it is probable that until the seventeenth
century there was scarcely any form of disease the treatment of which
would have been possible without withdrawal of blood. An actual
system of blood-letting had been elaborated under the influence of
humoro-pathological opinions. Every vein that could be reached with
the lancet was acted upon, and the school of medicine of the period
was punctiliously careful in teaching which vessel presented the most
suitable point of attack for the hand of the physician in this or that
form of disease. The therapeutic subtleties which were thus brought to
light are beyond description. Thus, a withdrawal of blood from veins on
the right side of the body was said to yield an essentially different
effect from left-sided venesection, and each individual vein of the
body promised a special advantage which was peculiar to this one vein.
The physician of that period surely had enough to do to bear in mind
all the numerous therapeutic effects which he was to achieve by the
opening of the various veins. To facilitate this difficult art to a
certain degree special figures were designed—so-called venesection
manikins, in which the numerous points for bleeding were most carefully
annotated. Fig. 5 (page 175) shows such a picture. It indicates no less
than 53 different localities for venesection, and as each and every
one of them again implied four or five, or possibly even more, methods
of blood-letting, we may consider that there were many hundreds of
different possibilities for phlebotomy. If it was easy to become lost
in the labyrinth of this blood-thirsty therapy, the difficulty of a
methodical application of venesection was very materially increased by
astrology; for astrology differentiated between, first, favorable, then
doubtful, and, finally, unfavorable days for venesection, basing this
opinion upon certain positions between sun, moon, and planets. Then the
various ages of life had also different days for venesection; days, for
instance, which promised to be exceptionally successful for venesection
in the young, offered very unfavorable prospects to the aged. Thus,
for instance, the period from the first quadrature of the moon to
the opposition was said to be excellent for bleeding in adolescence,
whereas this period was by no means inviting for phlebotomy in those
who had reached the senile period. The chances for venesection became
rather intricate in their different aspects. Thus, for instance,
Stöffler taught:

                  {the sun prohibits venesection two
                  {days before and one day after.
  Conjunction of  {
  the moon with   {        }prohibits venesection one
                  {Saturn  }day before and one day
                  {Mars    }after.

  Quadrature of   {Sun     }prohibits venesection
  the moon with   {Saturn  }twelve hours before and
                  {Mars    }twelve hours after.

  Opposition of   {Sun     }prohibits venesection one
  the moon with   {Saturn  }day before and one day
                  {Mars    }after.

We see, therefore, that the physician of that time was compelled to
be well-versed in astronomy unless he meant to commit grave mistakes
against the doctrines of _Medicina Astrologica_. Such sins could
eventually become rather dangerous to the physician, for the code of
Hammurabi (about 2200, B.C., ruler of Babylon) threatens the operator,
for not quite unobjectionable surgical procedures, with the loss of his
hands (Winckler, page 33, § 218).

In order to satisfy the astrological requirement of the physician most
thoroughly, there arose in the middle ages a very peculiar literature.
Under the name of an almanac or calendarium, thick folio volumes
appeared, which enumerated, in long tables, the various positions of
the planets and of the signs of the zodiac, so that the astrologer was
enabled to note the fate of mankind rapidly and easily. The contents
of such calendaria are beyond description. Apart from remarks which
referred to all occurrences of civil life, was stated the exact period
when to have the hair cut, when venesection was to be performed, when
to draw teeth, when to take a bath, etc. Even the proper time for
prayer was indicated by such a calendarium. According to the experience
of Peter of Abano, the conjunction of the moon with Jupiter in the
Dragon was sure to effect an answer to prayer. Hieronymus Cardanus
had discovered, with the aid of astrology, that a request was sure to
be complied with if a prayer was offered to the Virgin Mary on the
first day of April, at 8 A.M. (Möhsen, Vol. II., page 423). Physicians
excelled in the compilation of such calendaria, especially during the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Professors, forensic physicians,
surgeons—in fact, all representatives of medical art—were equally
intent upon instructing the public by calendaria in regard to the most
various branches of _Medicina Astrologica_; thus, for instance, David
Herliz, physician at Prenzlau, supplied Pomerania, Mecklenburg, and
the Margravate of Brandenburg with calendars for fifty years, from the
year 1584. The Marburg professor of medicine, Victorinus Schönfelder,
played a similar rôle during the same period for western Germany. The
physician, as almanac-maker, is probably one of the most wonderful
results of medical superstition, and this aberration of medicine clung
so firmly to the people that, even in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, certain days of the year were considered as especially
favorable for venesection, and the calendars took particular pains to
call the attention of the public most emphatically to good days for


=Explanation of Fig. 5=

  _A._ The astronomic signs which are noted on the different parts
  of the body indicate the signs of the zodiac, under the special
  influence of which the respective members of the body are said to

  _B._ The numerals which are found at the most varied parts of the
  body refer to indications for venesection, as stated below. In
  these localities, which are characterized by figures, blood was
  drawn for the most various affections, namely in:

   1. Pains of the eyes and head; affections of the face,
        including eruptions.

   2. Affections of the head; mental disturbances.

   3. Affections of the eye of various kinds.

   4 and 5. Pains in the ears; lachrymation.

   6 and 7. Tinnitus aurium; tremor of the head.

   8. Disturbances of hearing.

   9. Heaviness of the head; flow from the eyes. Venesection here
        also renders memory more acute, as well as the activity of
        the brain in general.

  10. Heaviness of the head.

  11. Ulcers of the lips and of the gums.

  12. The veins of the palate are to be opened in eruptions in
        the face, in toothache, in affections of the palate and of
        the mouth, heaviness of the head.

  13. Neuralgia and toothache.

  14. Headaches, mental disturbances.

  15. To render the memory more acute.

  16. In all affections of the mouth or of the chest.

  17. Fetid breath.

  18. Pains in the jaws; fœtor e naso; eruptions of the face.

   19. Neuralgia of the head; eruptions.

  20. Disturbances in the chest of various kinds.

  21. Flow from the eyes; headache; epilepsy.

  22. Diseases of the chest of various kinds, including dyspnea;
        headache; stitches in the side.

  23. Diseases of the liver, injuries to the right side of the
        body; nosebleed.

  24. Affections of the head and the eyes; pains in the
        shoulder-blades; coryza.

  25. Pains in the heart, in the sides, and in the mouth.

  26. Spasms in the fingers; pains in the spleen and in the
        limbs; epistaxis; stitches in the liver.

  27. Pains of the central parts of the body.

  28. Affections of the lower portions of the body.

  29. Heart-disease.

  30. To render vision more acute, and to strengthen the
        dexterity of the body.

  31. Headache, fever, various kinds of cataract, glaucoma, etc.;
        cloudiness of the sclera; inflammations of the tongue and
        of the pharynx.

  32. Pains of the head, lungs, spleen.

  33. Diseases of the blood; chlorosis; jaundice; affections of
        the head; stitches in the right side. Blood-letting in this
        locality purifies liver, spleen, breast.

  34. Same as 32.

  36. Affections of the spleen, meningeal inflammation;
        hemorrhoids; stitches in the left side; renal affections;

  37. Affections of the spleen and of the bladder.

  38. Dropsy; disturbances of digestion; ulcers of long standing.

  39. Melancholia; venesection in this locality strengthens
        the kidneys.

  40. Hemorrhoids; strangury; disturbances of digestion;
        affections of the bladder and of the sexual organs.

  41. Venesection here acts upon the proper condition of the body
        in general.

  42. Diseases of the kidney, bladder, stone, testicles.

  43. Venesection here strengthens the gait.

  44. All kinds of pains of the lower extremities, such as
        arthritis, gout; also in dysmenorrhea.

  45. Affections of the sexual organs; diseases of the kidney and

  46. Diseases of the testicles.

  47. Disturbances of menstruation; sterility of women;
        affections of the bladder and spleen.

  48. Various kinds of diseases of the feet.

  49. Dysmenorrhea; eruptions in the face and on the legs.

  50. Apoplexy; paralysis.

  51. Ophthalmia; skin diseases; cough; oppression of the chest.

  52. Dysmenorrhea; affections of the testicles; costal pains.

  53. Ophthalmia; dysmenorrhea; amenorrhea; skin eruptions.

Such therapy, detached entirely from the actual requirements of the
case and based only upon observation of the sky, was bound to be
attended with the most unfortunate results. The suffering public was
frequently but little cheered by the assistance of its physicians, and
often felt the desire to find out what another physician could do. It
appears that such a condition occurred quite frequently, for Ptolemy,
in number 57 of his “Centiloquium,” gives special directions under
what astral conditions such a change of physician could take place. He
says: “_Cum septimum locum atque ejus dominum in ægritudine afflictum
videris, medicum mutato._” It appears certain, accordingly, that a
general change of physicians was inaugurated by the public so soon as
the above conjunction was noted in the sky.

Those who desired to be very careful in the choice of their physician
did not change only when the conjunction of the stars recommended it as
advisable, but they also attempted to ascertain the horoscope of the
newly chosen medical adviser, for medical wisdom was found in greatest
abundance in a man whose aspects showed a certain form. “_Perfectus
medicus erit, cui Mars et Venus fuerint in sexta_,” says Almansor.

This condition of _Astrologia Medica_ was such as to weigh like
an oppressive nightmare upon mankind, not only for centuries but
for thousands of years, and in this way medical superstition has
slaughtered more human beings than the most bloody wars ever did.

However, astrology has not always ruled our kind with equal strength.
There were periods during which belief in the fate-determining power of
the stars was more dominant, and others in which it was feebler. The
ancient world, which was blindly devoted to all kinds of superstition,
had also cherished and fostered astrology. But when the ancient theory
of life was demolished later on, and the Christian God of love had
taken possession of the world, the belief in the fate-determining power
of the stars was shaken, and centuries, followed during which _Medicina
Astrologica_, altho it did not by any means disappear entirely, was
forced more or less to the rear. Astrology did not become resurrected
until scholasticism and dogmatism had held back the activity of
the mind from independent investigation, thus bringing about the
intellectual darkness which for centuries prevailed. This use of
astrology truly forms one of the most wonderful pages in the history of
the development of our race, for an actual _furor astrologicus_ seized
upon the world in the course of the thirteenth century. The movement
originated at the court of Emperor Frederick II. The great Ghibelline
was so positive and so enthusiastic an adherent of all astrologic
doctrines that he did not decide upon any undertaking until he had
first learned the opinion of the stars regarding his enterprise. It was
his firm belief that the stars prophesied for him a political rôle
which was to shake the entire world, and of his astrological prediction
he apprised his adversary, the pope, in the following words:

    Fata volunt, stellaeque docent, animumque volatus,
    Quod Fridericus ego malleus orbis ero.

But if a ruler of high mental gifts is always destined to exert a
powerful influence upon his epoch, how much more telling is this
influence when the contemporaries of such a monarch lead a mental
life, fettered by so many religious, philosophical, and physical
prejudices as undeniably dominated mankind during the reign of
the great Hohenstaufen. If these conditions were of the greatest
advantage to astrology in general, circumstances shaped themselves
most favorably for _Medicina Astrologica_ in particular. Very soon
after the death of the star-learned Hohenstaufen emperor, two highly
talented physicians bound themselves body and soul to astrology—namely,
Arnald Bachuone, called also, after his birthplace, Villanueva,
Arnaldus Villanovanus or Arnald of Villanova (1235-1312), and Petrus,
called also, after his birthplace, Abano near Padua, Petrus de Apono
or Petrus Aponensis (1250-1315). From that time until the seventeenth
century the most eminent representatives of all the sciences and
professions devoted themselves to the doctrines of astrology. In the
excellent work of Sudhoff is cited a notable number of physicians—by
no means the most unskilful of their day—who confessed themselves to
be iatromathematicians (_i.e._, _medici astrologici_). Astrology,
and with it _Medicina Astrologica_, reigned supreme at most of the
princely courts from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries. The
Hohenstaufen, Frederick II., was, as we have seen, an implicit adherent
to astrologic doctrines; likewise the Visconti in Milan. The royal
court of Aragon in Palermo offered a sheltering asylum to astronomy
and to astrology. Alfonso X. of Castile was so enthusiastic a friend
of scientific astronomy that he ordered the planet-tables of Ptolemy
to be restored, with an outlay of enormous costs, by fifty astronomers
called by him to Toledo. German princes, such as Elector Joachim of
Brandenburg, Albrecht, Elector of Mayence, Landgrave William of Hesse,
Duke Albrecht of Prussia, not only adhered to the predictions of the
stars, but they also subscribed to the statements of astrological
medicine. Thus, for instance, Thomas Erastus (died 1583) the well-known
opponent of Paracelsus, tells us that, as body-physician to the
reigning count of Henneberg, he was not permitted to begin a course
of treatment until he had consulted the stars. The German emperor,
Charles V., was quite as constant a friend of the astrologists; he
was instructed in astrology by his teacher, the subsequent pope,
Hadrian VI. The court of Denmark was the center of astrological
teachings under Frederick II., as no less a personage than Tycho de
Brahe was active there. But not only rulers favored astrology, it met
with implicit belief from highly enlightened scholars, statesmen, and
naturalists. Thus, Melanchthon was so convinced an adherent of all
astrological doctrines that he was incessantly active in their favor by
mouth and by pen. And when fatal disease had finally seized upon him,
he was soon satisfied as to the issue, in that Mars and Saturn happened
to be in conjunction (Möhsen, Vol. II., page 416).

However, men were not wanting who courageously took up the battle
against astrological delusions. Thus, for instance, the friend of
Lorenzo of Medici, the learned Count Pico of Mirandola (1463-1494);
also Girolamo Fracastori (1483-1553), who is known by his didactic poem
on syphilis, opposed astrology.

If we now ask how it was possible that a superstition like astrology
could for centuries dominate Occidental medicine, and was even able
to influence the best minds in its favor, an answer to this question
will not be as difficult as might appear at first glance. The very
best and the most enlightened minds are always particularly affected
by what is enigmatical and mysterious in the phenomena of life. They
perceive the narrow limits set to our cognition of nature much more
acutely and deeply than the average mind. This consciousness of the
insufficiency of our own knowledge, joined with an ardent desire after
a broadening of our understanding, tends to turn the mind in strange
directions. The result of clearer self-knowledge in this modern epoch
of ours is an adverseness to any form of romantic fancy, and is likely
to end in a sad resignation that may result in pessimism. But the
middle ages, with their exuberant confidence and faith, their belief in
wonders, and their romantic ideas, did not suffer to any great extent
from scientific apathy. A sharply defined, mystic tendency helped to
overcome what was inadequate in the cognition of nature. And for this
reason do we find this mystic tendency prominent, especially in those
representatives of that period who, owing to their mental capacity,
were bound to perceive their defective insight into the manifestations
of life much more intensely than this was felt by the average persons
of narrower intellect.

The conditions thus described, as well as the diagnostico-theoretical
principles on which medicine and natural sciences were based in
antiquity and in the middle ages, until late in the eighteenth century
led many mentally gifted men to consider astrology rather a refuge from
the current defective conception of natural phenomena than a false



As ancient, medieval, and some more modern theories of medicine have
traveled over the same diagnostico-theoretical roads as did the natural
science of those periods, they were naturally subject to the same
errors and aberrations. But the consequences of their errors differed
materially. Whereas natural science, in the early and middle ages,
with its faulty diagnostico-theoretical method, too frequently had
recourse to supernatural factors to explain terrestrial phenomena, and
thus created superstition instead of elucidation, the pathology of
ancient as well as of medieval medicine avoided as much as possible
any recourse to miraculous agencies in explaining the pathological
phenomena of the body. This it was forced to do for the sake of
self-preservation. For what would have become of the physicians with
their art, which was of a purely material kind, working as it did with
drug and knife, if they themselves had traced disease to supernatural
causes? No one, under such conditions, would have had any dealings
with mundane medical science. It is true, there have been times when
such a state of things actually existed. The physician, with his
earthly appliances, was always led astray as soon as metaphysical ideas
had victoriously entered pathology. History affords numerous examples
of this. The cult of relics, the belief in astrology during half of the
middle ages, show plainly to what a degrading position the physician
was reduced as soon as a pathology reckoning with earthly factors was
replaced by a metaphysical theory of disease. Then the physician was
either completely thrust aside—ἀλλ’ ὠθεῖται μὲν ἒξω νοσοῦντος ὁ
ἰατρός, as says Plutarch (“Superstition,” Vol. I., page 412)—or he
was forced to submit to a disgraceful interference. All schools of
medicine, therefore, from the humoral pathology of the followers of
Hippocrates to the so-called parasitism of the nineteenth century,
have avoided as much as possible the acknowledgment that supernatural
influences were active as pathological factors. Various as the
principles of the countless medical schools may have been, they were
all united in assuming as the starting-point of their speculations some
material process of the body itself, in accordance with which they
applied their therapeutic agencies.

Sometimes, it is true, it would seem as tho medicine, under some
circumstances, had recourse to supernatural factors in explaining
various phenomena of physiological as well as pathological conditions;
as, for instance, in the primeval pneuma-doctrine, or in those
conceptions which attribute to a mental or psychical principle a
far-reaching influence upon the performance of all bodily functions.
Upon closer investigation, however, we shall find that the pneuma,
or spirit, the soul, or whatever else the mysterious mainspring
of all phenomena of life may be called, was by no means conceived
of by medicine as immaterial or supernatural. On the contrary!
Medicine, as often as it required a spiritual something to explain
the manifestations of the body, has always regarded this unknown
quantity as thoroughly substantial. It has not, indeed, been possible
to determine more precisely the material nature of this great unknown,
altho such attempts are by no means wanting in Democritus, Galen, and
others; still it was always considered a corporeal thing. Supernatural
qualities were ascribed to it only after death, but so long as the soul
animated the body, united with the latter, it was a terrestrial being,
and as such obeyed the laws of terrestrial substance. It was possible
for medical science, therefore, to reckon with it in the explanation
of pathological processes without necessarily expecting a reproach that
supernatural agencies were called in for assistance.

Medicine, therefore, altho it has traveled the same
diagnostico-theoretical road as natural science, has not, like the
latter, directly produced superstition. It is true, it has called
forth innumerable erroneous hypotheses. But a wrong hypothesis, altho
it may be nonsensical to the utmost and give rise to the most serious
practical consequences, is by no means superstition; for both error
and superstition—so far as it is a question of medical matters—are two
radically different conceptions, because the former concerns itself
only with natural, the latter with supernatural factors.

Yet it is quite conceivable that the dissemination of an intellectual
principle can be furthered and promoted without overt advocacy of the
principle itself, and this was the relation that existed for thousands
of years between medicine and superstition; for we learn from this
investigation that the representatives of medicine were too often ready
to admit all kinds of superstitious views into medicine. Whenever
religion, philosophy, and natural science have seriously attempted to
influence medicine in a manner promoting superstition, medical science
yielded to these attempts, and this is the only reproach which can be
justly laid at the door of our science.

However, this reproach is mitigated if we consider that medicine did
not accord a home to superstition of its own free will, or even from
a predilection for the heresies of other disciples, but it did so
under compulsion; for the religious, the philosophical, the physical
views which forced the entrance of superstition into medical science
were almost always the views of a formidable party. It is a fact
sufficiently demonstrated by history that powerful and far-reaching
predilections of the popular mind resistlessly hurry along whatever is
in their path. Such mental currents are the products of their period;
they are the immediate result of the general sentiment and feeling
of their time, and for this very reason they successfully overcome
resistance. The opinion of a single individual may raise a protest
against the spirit of the age, but this resistance is always bound to
be in vain. The opinion of a single individual, even if it actually
represents the truth, is absolutely powerless to resist the spirit of
the age which, with elemental force, compels obedience. Therefore, the
courageous, truth-seeking resistance which was offered to the heresies
of _Medicina Astrologica_ by Pico of Mirandola and Girolamo Fracastori
was bound to be futile, because astrology was a genuine child of its
time, and therefore held irresistible sway over thought and sentiment.

If religion and philosophy so often interfered with the development of
medicine, this was only possible because the general tendency of the
contemporary mind was thoroughly absorbed in this or that religious or
philosophical idea. For each domain of human activity must needs be a
mere reflection of the tendency which guides the mind of its period.
This is a law which, with iron force, dominates the development of
culture. Superstition in medicine, therefore, was bound to flourish and
thrive whenever it harmonized with the spirit of the age.

This law, tho it may have checked the development of our science,
nevertheless holds out the certain promise of a period, the
intellectual power of which will thoroughly clear away all relics of
superstition, which, still persisting in the minds of the many, drives
them to the faith-curist and to the quack.



The history of medicine is conjoined with the evolution of theology
to an extent which makes them almost inseparable, and this may
best be seen from a study of the management of the insane, which
is a continuous record of cruelty based upon medico-theological
superstition. Perhaps the most heartrending chapter of unphilosophical
theology teems with the narration of thousands of unfortunate
beings murdered, tortured, and mishandled by the finesse in the
interpretation of Biblical texts. The greatest triumph of modern
medicine has consisted in unfettering the views of effete centuries,
born of superstition and misconception, and in placing the treatment
of the insane upon a humane, often even a curative, plane. As other
afflictions of humanity were attributed to the agency of evil spirits,
this was particularly the case with insanity; for if the evil one found
it an easy task to control the corporeal acts of humanity, his power
over the mental functions of the person afflicted was even greater.
Hence, it was not the person who acted, but the evil spirit in him.
Thus, the devil and his minions were the specific pathogenic agents.

This conception was not universal, for history shows us that clear
thinkers, far in advance of their times, had an almost correct view
of the nature of insanity—namely, that it was due to an affection of
the mind. Among such men were Hippocrates, Aretæus, Soranus, Galen,
Aurelianus, etc., and some of the Mohammedan physicians. These apostles
of science taught that insanity was a disease of the brain, and the
most efficient remedy, mild, palliative treatment.

The belief which had flourished in most of the Oriental religions from
remote antiquity, that the power of evil demons was the active cause
of disease, particularly that lunacy was due to diabolic possession,
became rooted in the early Christian Church and flourished for eighteen
centuries, each leaf of this malignant plant representing countless
unfortunates sacrificed to superstition. Later it was thought that the
moon had a direct influence upon perturbation of the mind; hence, the
term “lunacy” developed.

These doctrines gained special credence in the first centuries after
Christ by the dissemination under the Church Fathers of the story
of the miracles which they claimed had been performed by Jesus of
Nazareth. Did not the Savior cast out devils? Did He not cure madness?
The very word “epilepsy” shows by its derivation, ἐπίληψις (to seize
upon), that possession was the presumable nature of the malady.

The noble work accomplished by the “pagan” pioneer alienists was
discredited or forgotten, and the Church originated a process by which
the possessed were to be treated. This method of treatment was derived
purely from theologic sources, tempered with sufficient dogma. At first
the treatment was gentle, in accordance with the spirit of the great
physicians of antiquity, and if the afflicted one was not violent he
was permitted to attend public worship. Sacred salves and holy water,
the breath or the spittle of the officiating priest, the touching of
relics, or a visit to holy places, were the principal therapeutic
agents employed. These methods, even if they did no good (sometimes
merely the consolation of a kind word from the priest had a beneficial
effect), certainly did no harm, even tho such practises were factors in
the spread of superstition.

This mild form of treatment did not, however, long continue. Soon
measures were directed toward driving out the evil spirit from the
possessed. This was attempted in various ways; first, by exorcism, in
the period of Justin Martyr, and continued up to almost recent times
(see Lecky, “History of European Morals”). “From the time of Justin
Martyr for about two centuries, there is, I believe, not a single
Christian writer who does not solemnly and explicitly assert the
reality and frequent employment of this power.”

One of the chief attributes of the devil was pride, therefore attempts
were made by exorcism to pierce this vulnerable point in the armor of
the evil one, and the foulest, vilest epithets were used to attain this
end. It is impossible to-day to print these expressions, even in a work
of scientific character, and it is better, perhaps, to refer such as
are especially interested in them to the _Manuale Benedictionum_, by
the Bishop of Passau, published in 1849, and similar works. Adjuvants
to this form of treatment consisted in “frightening” the devil by
long words, difficult to pronounce, commonly derived from Oriental
languages, by the administration of malodorous and filthy “drugs,” and
similar practises.

It was claimed that many devils were thus driven out, and the annals of
the Church contain numerous records of persons cured in this manner.
“The Jesuit Fathers at Vienna, in 1583, glorified in the fact that
in such a contest they had cast out twelve thousand, six hundred and
fifty-two living devils” (White). The prevalence of these ideas to
such a degree in the minds of the people may be noted from the fact
that, in the churches themselves, such scenes are carved in stone and
depicted on canvas. Medieval drama teemed with similar conceptions,
and this condition of affairs prevailed for over one thousand years,
unfortunately not in this harmless manner, but supplemented by great
cruelty, which forms, perhaps, the most terrible chapter in the history
of medical superstition.

The subtleties of theologic interpretation soon evolved a more
comprehensive method of dealing with the “possessor” and the possessed.
As an appeal to pride was ineffectual and noxious drugs unavailing,
it was found necessary to whip the devil out, or the unfortunate
individuals were imprisoned, and as a refinement of this treatment they
were even tortured. Thus the jailer for a long time played the part
of a specialist in lunacy, with the clergy in consultation. Places in
which the insane were confined were known as “fool towers” and “witch

This state of things was not altered with the dawn of the Reformation.
The writings of Luther conclusively show his ideas in regard to
possession and witchcraft, and these views under Calvin reached
enormous development. Even Cotton Mather, in many respects far in
advance of his times, and who himself had known persecution, was not
emancipated from these delusions, and Salem has many a story to tell of
possession and witch-baiting. It is true we may quite properly consider
these views as the thought of the times, but, in many other respects,
Luther, Calvin, and Mather were in advance of their period, and,
therefore, a justification for their actions is not quite apparent.
Marcus Aurelius also was much superior to his age, yet was grateful to
his teachers that they taught him to disregard superstition in all its
various forms.

It is not unlikely that conditions of this kind frequently led to
epidemics—if not of actual insanity, at least to hysteria—which not
rarely developed in cities, nunneries, and monasteries; thus the
epidemics in Erfurt in 1237, in the Rhine countries in 1374, and many
others (see Hirsch).

It is rather remarkable that while such views and practises prevailed
in the Christian Church, the followers of Mohammed not only held
different views, but adopted a mode of treatment of the insane which
laid the foundation of modern therapeutics in diseases of the mind.
In the twelfth century, in Bagdad, a palace called the “Home of Mercy”
was built, in which the insane were confined, examined every month, and
released as soon as they had recovered. An asylum in Cairo was founded
in 1304, while the first Christian asylum expressly for the mad is
noted in 1409 (Lecky).

But science fought its way through the barriers of ignorance,
misdirected zeal, and superstition. Altho there were physicians and
“magicians,” who conformed to the views of the Church, the seed sown by
the earlier schools of medicine slowly but surely began to put forth
shoots, and the result was a tree of knowledge, the fruit of which
may be observed in every modern insane asylum of the world, where
the unfortunate sufferer is treated with kindness and skill, which,
fortunately, often results in cure.

Scientific reason frequently rebelled against the “insane
superstition,” at first mildly, but constantly increasing in strength,
until an effectual protest was finally raised by John Weir, of Cleves,
who was soon followed by Michel de Montaigne. And now a battle royal
was waged between the adherents of theology and the disciples of the
“resurrected” truth, and once more in the history of the world was
demonstrated the correctness of the saying, that “truth crushed to
earth shall rise again.” All over the world the warfare was carried,
and at the end of the eighteenth century new champions arose—Jean
Baptiste Pinel in France, and William Tuke in England. Their followers
are legion, and in the book of life, in letters of gold, many a name
has been written of those who trod in the footsteps of these pioneers.
Theology no longer interferes in the treatment of the insane; in fact,
it would be manifestly unjust not to mention that many Christian
theologians subsequently joined in the noble work of lunacy reform, and
aided progress greatly.

How great this progress in the treatment of the insane can best be
appreciated by some of the older physicians in practise to-day. Who
does not remember the chains, the strait-jacket, the dark locked cells
of the insane asylum? These conditions existed not very many years ago,
and altho the novels of Charles Reade are no doubt greatly exaggerated
in regard to the conditions he portrayed in insane asylums, yet _more
than a grain of truth_ is probably contained in them. The books did
much to bring about reforms in England and elsewhere.

Modern alienists have wrought wonders; their successful operations
are not published in the daily press, but any visitor who knows what
an insane asylum was fifty years ago, and who spends a few hours in
a modern hospital for the treatment of lunatics, will observe what
appears but little short of the miraculous. Imagine two thousand
or more insane persons dining in a large hall, upon the table a
tablecloth, and the insane using knife and fork in a decorous manner,
and when the visitor is told that the “violent ward” is also present,
and is asked to single these out from among the many, and fails (as
he invariably does), the results attained by science, above all other
measures, are strikingly apparent.


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Transcriber’s note

Words in italics were surrounded with _underscores_ and words in small
capitals with all capitals.

The following corrections were made, on page

   18 “conspiculously” changed to “conspicuously” (becomes
      conspicuously prominent)
   30 “explicity” changed to “explicitly” (will be more explicitly
      referred to)
   57 “Julien” changed to “Julian” (led her toward the grave of
      St. Julian)
   77 “guage” changed to “gauge” (gauge the ideas of priests)
   91 “Ephesus(500” changed to “Ephesus (500” (the absurd theory which
      Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 B.C.) has propounded)
  116 “invidual” changed to “individual” (to plague an individual
  192 “person the” changed to “the person” (it was not the person who
  196 “manasteries” changed to “monasteries” (nunneries, and
  203 “autorisirte” changed to “autorisierte” (Deutsche autorisierte

Otherwise the original was preserved, including inconsistent
hyphenation and possible errors in languages other than English,
for example the capitalisation in Greek sentences.

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