Politics Magazine

Belief Matters

Posted on the 14 March 2018 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

What you believe matters. This is shown clearly in the case of exorcism. Brian P. Levack admits to personal reasons for interest in this dark subject. His The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West is a masterful treatment of a topic that it considers from many angles. As a form of Christian practice it goes all the way back to the beginning—Jesus’ initial fame was as an exorcist of sorts. He didn’t require any ritual or authority to expel demons, but he became a public figure largely because of his ability to do so. Levack’s study focuses mainly on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. The latter was the high-water mark of possessions until the resurgent interest of the post-Exorcist twentieth century.

An aspect of exorcism that had raised my curiosity more than once was its Catholic disposition. Many Protestants believe in demons, but only the Roman Church has the grand ritual to drive them out. There are Protestant exorcisms, but they have a different goal—they’re intended to eliminate sin. This leads Levack to a strong contrast between Catholicism and that most extreme of Protestant traditions, Calvinism. Few Calvinists suffered from possession. Those who did were not held blameless, as in Catholicism (if you were being controlled by a demon you could hardly be held responsible for your actions). Calvinists believed only the sinful could be possessed and since their God is Republican you can hardly count on any mercy. In fact, if you were possessed, chances were you would become a witch. And everyone in early modernity knew what the cure for that would be.

We tend to think that the Enlightenment drove such beliefs extinct. In fact, the height of both witch hunts and demonic possession came after the scientific paradigm took hold. Levack makes the point that this is a kind of theater—performance undeniably plays a part in exorcisms. Both science and Calvinism, taken neat, can leave a body feeling cold and in need of some emotion. As the book notes, you could generally find a Catholic priest who’d be glad to drive out your demons. It seems that the great forces of good and evil play themselves out not only in the spiritual realm, but in the varieties of religious experiences in the all-too-political world of the church. The Devil Within is a fascinating book with a plausible thesis written by an author who understands that ideas have consequences that aren’t always easy to expel.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • My Umbrella and I

    Umbrella

    I bet each one of you has an umbrella story (or several) to tell. My first memory of an umbrella is probably from the time I was five-or younger-huddling under ... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Vidyasury
    DIARIES
  • Downward Causation

    Downward Causation

    I've argued for the idea that social phenomena are generated by the actions, thoughts, and mental frameworks of myriad actors (link). This expresses the idea... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Dlittle30
    SOCIETY
  • Ikk Panjab Rajouri Garden Food and Restaurant Review #FoodReview

    Ikk Panjab is a synonym of the blissful dining experience. Nothing falls short of expectation here. A place to rediscover lost recipes. There are many factors t... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Jaideep Khanduja
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • A Food-Lover’s Guide to Greece

    Food-Lover’s Guide Greece

    Ah, Greek food! Just the thought of a warm filo pastry with a mizithra cheese stuffing and a cup of dark Greek coffee brings back near-perfectly preserved... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Niviya Vas
    LIFESTYLE
  • 2018 Monsoon Must Haves

    The monsoons have arrived and along with its relief, have come a few of monsoon’s undesired experiences. We tend to not put on our best clothes during the... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Meet Rv
  • SAAM Arcade: Game Spaces

    What does "Game Spaces" mean to me? When we began discussing our plans for this year's Independent Developer Showcase, we knew that we wanted to focus on... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Americanart
    ART & DESIGN, CULTURE
  • “There Was No Significant Association Between Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular...

    Does eating saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease? Or is something else the culprit? And which risk markers should we look at when investigating whic... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE