Abstracts for 2013 symposium: Mental Health, Spirituality, and Religion

Mental Health, Spirituality, and Religion in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Time

11th International Symposium on the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

The University of Arizona, May 2-5, 2013

Program/Concept

Sat. afternoon will be reserved for several workshops offered by local colleagues in the fields of psychiatry, mental health, and medicine.

-- Bo Anderson, Uppsala University, Sweden: Order in Insanity. Eva Margaretha Frölich and her National Swedish Eschatology

 

Eva Margaretha Frölich (?-1692) was the daughter of an Austrian officer who entered Swedish military service during the Thirty Year’s War. In the early 1680s, Eva Margaretha Frölich had visions about the Swedish king Charles XI. According to these visions, the Swedish monarch would form an alliance with Lutheran rulers in Europe, conquer the French king Louis XIV in a great battle at the Baltic See, and finally march towards Jerusalem, where he would establish his millennial kingdom, rebuild the temple, convert 144 000 Jews, and rule the world from David’s throne. Eva Margaretha Frölich was accused of heresy. She just barely escaped the death penalty, and her manuscripts were publicly burned by the Stockholm executioner in 1684. She was condemned to exile. After a short sojourn in Saxony, she went to Amsterdam, where she published a number of tracts in German and Dutch about Charles XI of Sweden and his leading role in the imminent apocalyptic drama.
Many of Eva Margaretha Frölich’s contemporaries claimed that a person who propagated national eschatological ideas of this kind must be insane. In my paper, I will explore Eva Margaretha Frölich’s thinking in its contemporary context. It will become very clear that her national Swedish eschatology has a certain ideological logic when seen against the background of the critical political situation in the Sweden of the 1680s.
 

-- Jean Baruch, Tucson, AZ: Alleviating the Experience of Suffering Through Narrative Medicine
 

-- Thomas G. Benedeck, University of Pittsburgh, PA:           Psychological insight: the Concepts of Petrarch versus Weyer

                                           
The Florentine poet Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) completed his largest work, in English entitled Physic against Fortune aswell Prosperous as Adverse, in 1366. The Dutch physician, Johann Weyer, published his largest work, The Deception of Demons, in 1563.
The latter has been lauded as a seminal work in the history of psychiatry, while the psychological insights of the former appear not to have been recognized at all. The purpose of the two works differed: Petrarch sought to give encouragement to readers beset by the anxieties of a plague ridden world. Weyer was attempting to extricate the prevailing culture as well as himself from beliefs in demonic explanations of aberrant behavior and the juridical consequences of such beliefs. For Weyer melancholia developed “when the melancholic humor seizes the brain and alters the mind” and persons who are suspected of being bewitched really suffer from distortions of their imagination. Although fear is “mental trepidation because of future peril” all such manifestations nevertheless can be induced by the devil. Weyer described unmistakable cases of schizophrenia, but does not comment on ranges of normalcy.
I have analyzed eleven chapters of Petrarch’s text. According to my interpretation they pertain to depression, including suicide, hypochondriasis, anxiety, hallucinations, dreaming and disorders of sleep, mental retardation, and senile memory loss. He never invokes a demonic etiology and ridicules hagiographic beliefs. The less is understood about a symptom the more difficult it is to cure. If no competent physician is available, take care of yourself by avoiding all excesses.
Both authors cite sources: Most prominent for Petrarch is Cicero; most prominent for Weyer is St. Augustine. The focus of Weyer’s argumentation is the legal innocence of demented individuals, while this seems self-evident to Petrarch. The more competent a physician is the more disease manifestations can he identify to be physiologic and in his realm of therapeutic competence, and the fewer he must relinquish to clerical care.
Conclusion. Both authors were believing Christians, but in ignoring demonology Petrarch formulated psychologic insights that are more modern and more widely relevant than those of Weyer.
 

-- Eliza Buhrer, Seton Hall University, NJ: “But what is to be said of a fool?”: Evolving Understandings of Intellectual Impairment in Late Medieval England

 

In contrast to other forms of mental disorder, when we think about intellectual disability we often imagine it as a natural, trans-historical constant, resistant to cultural analysis. Yet, medieval ideas about intellectual impairment differed greatly from our own. For most of the Middle Ages, no disorder resembling the modern concept of intellectual disability existed in medical discourse. Medieval medical writers excluded congenital cognitive impairments from their taxonomies of mental disorder, believing that incurable disorders lay outside the scope of medicine. This left the task of understanding human intellectual variance to theologians interested in what the existence of people born with seemingly less rational souls than others could reveal about the nature of God’s grace and providence. In other words, intellectual disability was a topic of theological inquiry rather than a medical category, and was, as a result, ill-defined at best.
     This began to change however with the rediscovery of Roman law. Roman law had granted the state the right to take mentally incompetent individuals into its protection, and distinguished between the rights of people suffering from temporary and permanent mental disorders. Jurists in England readily incorporated these precepts into the common law, and by the late thirteenth century the English Crown had begun to take the lands of people referred to as idiota and natural fools into its custody. Through a series of case studies drawn from the earliest English “idiocy” inquisitions, I examine how legal and cultural understandings of intellectual impairment evolved between the late thirteenth century when so-called idiota first began to appear in court, and the end of the fourteenth century when idiocy inquisitions had become commonplace. Through these cases, I trace idiocy’s transition from a vague subset of insanity, defined in reference to categories developed by Roman jurists, to an independent disorder characterized by specific functional and cognitive deficits. In doing so, I highlight ways in which social and cultural forces informed medieval ideas about intelligence and its absence before a concept of congenital intellectual disability emerged in medical thought.
 

-- Albrecht Classen, (The University of Arizona): Mourning Narratives as a Basis of Spiritual Healing
 

The difference between secular and religous/mystical literature in the Middle Ages was not as large as we commonly assume. In many cases secular texts, such as Hartmann von Aue's "Der arme Heinrich" or Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival are predicated on similar strategies and ideas as mystical literature, such as Mechthild von Magdeburg's Flowing Light of the Godhead or Margery Kempe's Book. Literature, in fact, can often be identified as a medium to achieve epiphany or to describe such an experience by way of exploring the aspect of love. Medieval poets were at the forefront of the exploration of the spiritual and mental especially with regard the discussion of the theme of love.

 

- Rosemarie Danziger (Tel-Aviv University): St. Ignatius's Epistle to the Romans as a Model for Hagiographic Literature in the 11th Century
 

As an art-history graduate student, working under the supervision of Professor Assaf Pinkus at Tel-Aviv University and with a research team at the Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Culture Médiévale, at the University of Poitiers, I have studied the crypt murals of the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur Gartempe.
The martyrdom legend of the brothers Ss. Savin and Cyprien, on which the mural illustrations are based, had been analyzed and deconstructed by the Bollandist Baudouin de Gaiffier, who concluded, that the legend was a fictitious construct. However, rather than discarding the legend entirely, I have chosen to examine it from a theological vantage point. Taken together, the legend and its pictorial interpretation in the crypt's murals, work perfectly as a summation of the entire scale of torture, matching the afflictions yearned for by St. Ignatius in his Epistle to the Romans, dubbed by J.B. Lightfoot "the martyr's handbook". In the presentation I will show how the early Christian Eucharist transubstantiation theology of martyrdom, emanating as a mental state in the Epistle to the Romans, changes in the 11th century and becomes eschatological with martyrs receiving their reward and serving as mediators between heaven and earth. I will also show how later on the hagiographic narrative becomes an exemplum for monastic self-flagellation, and thus returns to the transubstantiation mentality. I will demonstrate how these shifts in thought that took place over time are reflected in the hagiographic literature and its pictorial interpretations.  
 

 

- Kyle DiRoberto (University of Arizona, South): “Oh teach me how I should forget to think” Love, Madness, and Remediation in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

By examining the distrust of the illusion that accompanies love in Romeo and Juliet, which I argue applies to both Christian and erotic love, I examine early modern attitudes of fear toward faith that as Shakespeare suggests—anticipating Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy—could be seen as a kind of madness. However, although in Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare suggests a tragic attitude of fear and sadness toward the self-delusion and violence which accompanies faith, erotic or otherwise, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he refashions and, I would argue corrects, this tragic attitude toward faith by introducing the possibility of a meta perception capable of seeing the comedic in the tragedy of mankind’s dependence upon illusion to transcend the given. In other words, through the course of these two plays, Shakespeare not only reveals the dependence of transcendent religious, social, and private truths upon illusion, he also dispels the early modern fear of madness toward the acceptance or rejection of that illusion. Finally, examining the spirit of remediation in these works in general, I look at current adaptations of these two plays (Sassy Gay Friend and Romeo + Juliet) that reveal Shakespeare continues to refashion and reflect even modern attitudes toward the role of illusion in social and private truths.    
 

Sarah Gordon (Utah State University, Logan): “What is Good for Ye Brayne, What is Evylle for Ye Brayne:” Mental Illness and Wellness in Fifteenth-Century Medical Manuscripts

 
Disability theory, when applied to the humanities, as Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (2002) and others have shown, provides a framework for scholars and readers to look at texts from a different perspective, and not confine readings or performances to a so-called normal perspective.  Looking at disability and difference is essential in mapping medieval conceptions of the continuum of mental illness and wellness and considering to what extent medieval conceptions include elements of the modern functional definition. Disability theory allows readers to have a better understanding of representations of difference. Differences from societal “norms” based on disability or illness often became a person’s primary identifying feature in literary texts. Paradoxically, madness (like blindness, deafness, or other physical differences) was at the same time perceived with intolerance, revered as prophetic, seen as punishment for sin, and employed as social satire. This study shows that wellness implied not only personal well-being or bodily ability, but also social health.

Concepts of wellness in Huntington Library manuscripts HM 1336 and HM 19079 concur for the most part when they describe certain aspects of what is considered “good for ye brayne,” for example: drinking wine measurably, washing hand and feet often, eating sage, maintaining balanced waking and sleeping time, looking at the color green, drinking clean water, eating mustard and pepper, song, the singing of children, etc.  On the other hand, what is “evylle for ye brayne” includes for instance: eating too much meat and especially too much meat fried in grease, looking at the color white, gluttony, drunkenness, eating a late supper, sleeping just after eating meat, anger, heaviness, too much heat, drinking too much cold milk, drinking green water, being hungry, lack of sleep, much stirring of the head, too much strong-smelling garlic, onion, leek, etc. All of the senses appear to be engaged in overall mental well-being, with a rather holistic conception of the notion. Such varied medical advice is echoed by—then either followed or eschewed by—roughly contemporary literary texts and the study provides an overview of such analogues in fifteenth-century English and French romance traditions. Finally, the study offers close comparative readings of specific medical and literary texts then opens up to wider issues of the intellectual history of notions of wellness and mental well-being.
 

-- Jean Jost, Bradley University, Peoria, IL: Affective Piety in the "Pricke of Conscience"

                       
                                            
Influenced by the highly emotional consequences of the Black Death (1348-49), religious devotion of the late Middle Ages centered itself on the humanity of Christ, and in particular, the graphic, and even gothic visual representation of His body. Images of death and dying of the common man drive home the seriousness of sanctity. Stark imagery and chillingly realistic details permeate this devotional literature. "Female readers in particular, who had been excluded from the Latin-based, textual tradition of theology, discovered fertile ground in this tradition of so-called ‘affective’ or emotional piety" (356 Norton Anthology). Visual, imagistic, highly emotional expressions of death evoking passionate, fervent sentiment coincided with the death experience of the masses.
The anonymous Southern Recension of The Pricke of Conscience aptly displays the poignant feelings so commonly experienced at the time. In this sermon, emphasis on bodily functions and reactions are common, and provide a tableau of rhetorically stimulating encouragements to virtue, as Howell Chickering so well points out. Of its seven-part structure, six purport to reveal the difficult state of living and dying in the fourteenth century: 1) Man’s Wretchedness; 2) Instability of the World; 3) Death; 4) Purgatory; 5) Ten Signs of Doomsday; 6) The Pains of Hell.
The overall strategy of this more than 7,000-line injunction is to threaten, frighten, and intimidate the layman into proper conduct and sanctified behavior. The author does so systematically, and unrelentingly, with a series of visual delineations which paint an often terrifying reality indicative of the affective piety so often portrayed elsewhere in this century.
 

-- Tünde Beatrix Karnitscher und Florian Westhagen, Ludwig-Maximilian-Universitaet Muenchen: Melancholie als Wegbereiter von Erkenntnis in Jakob Böhmes Aurora

It is no new insight that there might be a certain link between inspiration and desperation, between creativity and suffering. Defining melancholy as an essential factor in a model of epistemology, however, may be rather exceptional. And it might have rarely been done in such a unique manner as in Jakob Boehme's Aurora, whose whole theme circles around the topic of the gaining of knowledge.
The following presentation aims at providing an analysis of Boehme’s specific model of epistemology, as it is shown in the Aurora in general and in the portrayal of the mystical epiphany, which Boehme claims to have experienced in 1600, in particular. Crucial elements of this model, which is presented as being opposed to a traditional institutionalised and empirical understanding, incorporate not only the inclusion of nature and divinity, but also - and primarily - of melancholy. For Boehme, the epistemic process is not only a thing of the mind but rather a sensational as well as a sensual experience and therefore all “wise” scientific efforts that try to acquire mere insight without being driven by an inner need to recognise god (which is identified as a form of melancholy) are destined to fail from the beginning.
Melancholy, as it is presented in the Aurora, turns out to be a condition of (or for) knowledge in more than one way: It not only is a state that comes with obtained “false” knowledge (i.e. one that’s not directed towards god) and one which kindles the hunger for it in the first instance, but also and especially as a prerequesite – as a state one has to be in to even achieve any kind of insight at all.
 

-- Liliana Leopardi, Hobart and William Smith Colleges: Camillo Leonardi and Renaissance Lithoterapy

 
This paper proposes to discuss the magical thaumaturgical virtues of engraved gems as discussed in Camillo Leonardi’s sixteenth-century manual, the Speculum Lapidum.  Precious and semi-precious stones have been thought to have the power to heal the body, mind, and spirit since antiquity; and Leonardi’s description of more than two hundred-fifty healing stones and one hundred and ninety images engraved upon them represents the culmination of this tradition.   The goal of a close analysis of the text will be twofold: 1. to consider the historical mis-translations and mis-understandings that lead, for example, to the belief that such stones as emeralds could cure eye illnesses and pearls indigestions; and 2. to examine the historical terms used to describe physical and psychological illnesses.  The latter will allow us to have a clearer sense of the boundaries between body and psyche, as well as the manner in which various illnesses could be cured. This analysis will also evidence the period’s concerns and fears that body and mind could be transformed by images as matter was transformed by the divine energies it absorbed.  Furthermore, it will conceptualize the use of such magic objects as engraved rings – a category often dismissed in the art historical literature as a mere curiosity - as an early modern’s attempt to provide a path to psychological integrity for a Self that was understood not as an autonomous and self-contained entity but as porous and fragmented.

 

An Dr Maedhbh M. Nic Dhonnchadha (National University of Ireland, Galway): Constructing the Early Irish Cult of Brigit

My paper will deal with medieval Irish Spirituality in the context of Irish hagiographical sources, in particular the Brigidine corpus.  No other Irish saint is comparable to Saint Bridget in terms of the sheer volume of Medieval sources and references which exist today.  The Brigidine dossier contains vitae, vernacular lives, hymns, poems, prophecies, martyrologies, litanies, short verses, glosses, genealogy and anecdota not to mention the many references of Bridget in the lives of other saints.  These documents allow us to construct a picture of the cult of Saint Bridget when Christainity in Ireland was just in its infancy.  With this in mind, I will examine this material in an attempt to identify the prevalent issues and attitudes of the day as well as to determine the role Spirituality and Religion played in fostering and developing an ethos and an understanding in the hearts and minds of people of medieval Ireland.

 

-- Matthew McCabe, University of Calgary: Therapeutic Reading, Meditation, and Connectedness in the Middle English Court of Sapience

The medieval English dream vision, insofar as it is undergirded by a Boethian consolatory substructure, has often been seen as a therapeutic mode of writing directed towards the rehabilitation of the self. The present paper attempts to complicate and further this idea by bringing what we might call “dream poem therapy” into dialogue with Brian Stock’s interpretation of premodern Western reading practice as a species of mind-body medicine. Further, my paper considers a group of encyclopedic allegories, in particular the anonymous fifteenth-century Court of Sapience, in relation to the notion of “connectedness” that makes frequent appearance in discussions of spirituality in the health literature of the present day.
Focusing on the Court of Sapience, my paper begins by noting several features that establish the centrality of the poem’s therapeutic and medical interests, including its opening gesture toward personified Wisdom’s “moost notable cure” (Harvey 4), other aspects of the opening passages’ diction, and the Dreamer’s self-characterization as one defeated by the cares of the world. Next, my paper notes the enigma of the poem’s surprisingly uninformative didacticism. While didactic poetry itself has a long and august pedigree, scholars have sometimes decried the lack of actual instructive value in the group of didactic visions that includes the anonymous fifteenth-century Mirror of the World and Court of Sapience, as well as Stephen Hawes’ Pastime of Pleasure (Wakelin 61; cf. Pearsall 144). My paper suggests that by reexamining such works in light of the meditative habits known to have been central to premodern reading habits, we can not only give a better account of these works but also gain insights into premodern mind-body medicine. As far as the Court is concerned, a chief strategy of soliciting readerly pleasure involves—perhaps counterintuitively—scholarly citation merely, that is, the cheerful redirection of the reader to trustworthy compendia where fuller scientific information may be found. My paper argues that the characteristic exuberance of this citation impulse suggests that the poet intends to instill in his reader a sense of the knowability and knownness of the created universe, to evoke a sense of community, and to allow the reader to derive from this a spiritual and holistic wholeness comparable to the “connectedness” discussed in contemporary health literature (Camp; Chiu; Chiu et al.; Horst; Sherwood).

 

Susanna Niiranen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland: Cure and Maintenance of Mental Health in Late Medieval Vernacular Medicine

This study sets out to compare two late-medieval remedy collections and their approaches toward mental health.  It investigates vernacular, Occitan and Swedish, texts which reflect both learned and lay conceptions of illness and health, deviancy and normality. It seeks to reveal not only mere diseases and cures but practices, beliefs, and attitudes toward mental disorders such as melancholy, lunacy, insomnia, excessive emotionality, drunkenness, and varying moods. The study comprises the scrutiny of mental disorders in recipes and enables the comparison between two different cultures, or at least, between two textual communities. One community was situated near the leading medical centre of Montpellier and the other was the remote, Bridgetine monastery in Naantali, on the Southwestern coast of Finland, part of the Swedish realm at that time. Through the comparison of the textual communities at the fringes of Europe, Southern France, and Eastern Sweden, it is possible to examine center-periphery dynamics in transmission of medieval medical knowledge. There are many unsolved questions regarding the intended audience, ranging from the sex and social standing of the compilers, owners, and readers to the distinctions between the categories of healers. The examination of mental disorders in these anonymous texts will possibly shed new light on these issues. Based on my preliminary studies, it seems that vernacular medicine sought to include rather than exclude or marginalize mental disorders, e.g., there is no evidence for stigmatization or any other negative labels to identify a person suffering from mental ailments in either of these two recipe collections.

 

Feargal Ó Béarra, Department of Irish, National University of Ireland, Galway:
Mental Illness in Twelfth-Century Ireland: The Case of Suibhne Geilt

The medieval Irish text Buile Shuibhne (The Frenzy of Suibhne) relates how a fictitious seventh-century king Suibhne Geilt (Suibhne the madman), having lost his reason in the historical battle of Mag Rath (AD 637), is doomed to spend the remainder of his life wandering throughout Ireland and Scotland. Having been cursed by the holy man Rónán, he is transformed into a bird-like creature whose sole refuge from the various protagonists pursuing him becomes the tree-tops and the Valley of the Mad. Although the text is of importance for the reflexes it contains of the motifs of the wild man, and the saintly fool, this paper will focus on the use of mental illness as the mark of the regal figure deemed no longer fit to rule.
 

-- Martha Peacock, The Inner Cause and the Better Choice: Women Artists and the Attraction of the Labadist Religion
 

While there has been a degree of recent research on the famous female followers of the Protestant reformer Jean de Labadie, no one has as yet adequately explained why two internationally celebrated artists of the Dutch Republic, Anna Maria van Schurman and Maria Sibylla Merian, were attracted to the Labadist religion and community.  More specifically, what was there about Labadie’s theology that could have compelled these women of renown to sacrifice their reputations and join the difficult life of the persecuted Labadist community?  There are some significant aspects of Jean de Labadie's teachings in relation to these women's lives that appear to have stimulated this attraction.  Jean de Labadie, who had earlier been a Roman Catholic and a Jesuit, developed a radical form of Protestantism that emphasized social righteousness and practical discipleship.  He conducted house meetings where all believers were considered priests and allowed to speak as they studied the Bible together.  In addition, true adherents to the faith were eventually expected to eschew all worldly vanities and live in the Labadist community with all things in common.  Therefore, the equalizing of all adherents of the faith and allowing all to speak and participate in meetings must have been one factor that would have drawn women, and particularly talented and independent women, to the Labadist community.  
Furthermore, Labadie’s emphasis on personal prayer and personal mystical devotion allowed women greater power over their own worship without the need of patriarchal interference.  This was particularly crucial for a single woman, van Schurman, and a woman separated from her husband, Merian.  Both before and after joining the Labadist sect, these women were writing about such personal meditations and spiritual insights, which were instigated in part by their artistic observations of the natural world.  Examples are found throughout van Schurman’s important defense of Labadism, Eukleria or Choosing the Better Part (1684).  In this text she attempts to negotiate a theological position for herself separate from the views of Voetius and Descartes, by arguing a correlation between physical phenomena and God—or the “inner cause” as she defines Him.  And Merian advises observation and study of the world as a way of overcoming spiritual blindness.  In her Flower Book (1680) she emphasizes that nature is a glorification of God.  Thus, for both of these independent artist/scientist women, Labadism was the perfect religious complement to their own pursuit of understanding the world via personal spiritual meditation and logic.
 

-- Daniel F. Pigg, Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages, The University of Tennessee at Martin: Motors of the Mind: The Healing of Discourses in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess
 

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess may indeed be an artistic piece written for a commemorative service for Blanche of Lancaster, the wife of John of Gaunt, but its complexities run deeply into the formative practices of mental health. Much attention has been given to the tripartite structures of the poem, with its frames of the dreamer and his sleep-deprived state, the story of Seys and Alcyone as his reading material, and the discourse between the dreamer-poet and the knight clothed in black. Without question, the interlocking and subjective concerns of each part of the frame are significant to the elegiac experience that Chaucer wishes to create for this remembrance of Blanch. What seems most apparent, however, is the way in which the healing of the mind is achieved through the various levels of discourse in the poem. References to the “oon phisicien” for the poet-speaker and the dreamer-poet’s desire to “make yow hool” as he says to the knight clothed in black seem directly related to the discursive practices of the poem, even to the genres that each employs. The discourse of romance with its introspective concerns and its symbolic dimensions is intended to function as a motor within the mind to bring about the speakers’ own healing. Such is the case for the poet-dreamer and the knight clothed in black. Healing comes to the poet and the knight clothed in black through their recourse to discourse which both encloses and discloses reality at the precise moment that benefits the speakers.
Being made “hool” in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess occurs through a discourse itself—an emblem or a way of thinking, hence a product of the mind. There is little historical evidence that John of Gaunt mourned in any irresponsible way for Blanche. Through the process of direction and indirection, through avoidance behaviors and guiding symbolism, and through the romance genre and its ability to enclose and disclose reality, the making “hool” occurs. That is precisely the moment of recognition that once achieved will allow the poet quickly to end the poem. By the fourteenth century, a good deal of dream lore related to healing was known. Chaucer also seems aware of some of the current debates in realist and nominalist philosophy about the nature of representation and the formation of reality.
Chaucer’s poem addresses some of the most fundamental question about the representation of the mind. How does it process experiences? How do external stimuli such literary texts and linguistic representations of reality shape memory and healing? To what extent is healing through discourse self-directed? Being restored to sound mental health is the goal of Chaucerian discourse, even as the poet plays a game with the possibility of healing itself.  This paper asserts that The Book of the Duchess is Chaucer’s reflection on the power of the mind through discourse to shape and reshape itself.  
 

--Lia Ross, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque:

Body and Spirit: Martial Practices among Monastic Orders

In discussing the low esteem enjoyed by monastic warrior in Japan, Mikael S. Adolphson states that “[w]here the military exploits and martial prowess of secular warriors are seen as valuable topics worthy of scholarly inquiry, monastic forces have been all but ignored, and where they have been treated, they have frequently been looked down upon.”  This statement could as well apply to studies on Western monasticism.  Military-religious orders have been the subject of a few general studies compared with other monastic orders, and these focused almost exclusively on their communal organization and historical experience (with only the Templars achieving mass appeal thanks to works of fiction).  While the much more numerous academic works on other aspects of monasticism only mention in passing the practice of martial arts or even simply of competitive sports.  And yet this topic was not as objectionable to medieval writers as to modern ones; in fact it could even be openly treated in one of the better known moralizing novels of the fifteenth century, Jehan de Saintré by Antoine de La Sale.  It may be argued, then, that an inquiry on such practices is appropriate, as it potentially could disclose meaningful aspects of medieval spirituality and religious discipline.
 

-- Marilyn Sandidge, Westfield State University, MA: Thomas Campion’s The Lords’ Masque: Madness Tamed by Music

Written to celebrate the marriage of King James’s daughter Princess Elizabeth to Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on February 14, 1613, The Lords’ Masque by Thomas Campion  begins with an antimasque of madness, a display of those who Mania, the goddess of madness, keeps hidden in her cave. Orpheus says that Jove wants her to let out Entheus, “poetic fury,” the only one whose savage rage is exempt from vulgar censure.  The descriptions of her and the twelve “frantics” who leave the cave with Entheus show a mixture of classical and early modern types of madness, from the paranoid usurer and the scholar overcome with fantasy, to the lover and  the melancholic. Although chiefly known for creating lyrical poems and musical airs, Campion also took a medical degree, which might account for his familiarity with types of insanity.         
     Although the conventional script of the masque at this time in England did give the king incredible powers to put right wrongs and contain mayhem, only in this masque, as far as I know, is King James said to be able to control the insane.  As Orpheus tells Mania, “for Jove into our music will inspire / The power of passion, that their thoughts shall bend / To any form or motion we intend.”   He says music once tamed wild beasts and “now let Frantics bow.” And that’s what happens as the maniacs toss Entheus up and down until the maniacs fall into a “mad measure.” Both Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences had seen many types of creatures dance across the stage in masques and antimasques—satyrs, murderers, classical monsters, and the like—but here the danger to society that James must control is insanity.  The method Campion has Jove/James use is, not surprisingly, to play music to tame the “Frantics,” one of the more humane treatments recommended for insanity for centuries.
     Interestingly enough, even though the performance was intended to celebrate a wedding, the maniac called the Lover is sent back into the cave with the other madmen. The Shakespearean sense of love as an irrational state of mind is rejected here.  Instead the flames of fire brought forth by Prometheus are purified into stars, and gold statues of the bride and groom stand on either side of a tall obelisk made by Sibyl (with the help of Inigo Jones). King James should have approved of the message.     
 

-- Xenia Sosnowski (Bonn, Germany): A Prince Under the Spell of the Devil? An Examination of the Rebellion of Charles the Fat in 873

 

In 873 the son of Louis the German, Charles the Fat, revolted against his father. According to the sources this revolt ended in a quiet dramatic way. At a conference in Frankfurt he got possessed by the Evil and ten men were necessary to hold him down. He screamed in different voices and tried to bite the men surrounding him. Only when the bishops prayed for him and his father forgave his attempt to topple him, the “attack of the Devil” ended. Afterwards Charles told the present audience that all his revolts against his father were motivated by the power of the evil.
The attack of Charles marks a very interesting episode in the Carolingian history. The contemporaries ascribed all the rebellions and Charles behavior to the Devil, who wanted to bring down Louis the German by forcing his sons to revolt against their father.
The general opinion of the modern research was for a long time that Charles had an epileptic fit. This view was forced by the description of Charles while he was “possessed”, screaming, lying on the ground, trying to bite “with open mouth” the people around him. The fact that he later died of an unknown disease, like his father and many other Carolingians, confirmed the general view that the Carolingian dynasty was burdened with an hereditary disease. Because of all these reasons Charles behavior in 873 was long time regarded as an epileptic fit, which was abused by the chronicler to warn the future kings about the power of evil.
Nowadays some researchers are rethinking this interpretation of the sources. They try to explain the episode in 873 not from a medical but from a political viewpoint by regarding it as a ritual of penance, whose outcome was known from the start to Louis and Charles and which should help Louis as well as Charles to save face in front of their entourage at the end of their conflict.
Still this question is not settled and in my paper I will attempt to disentangle the different points of view to find out whether the behavior of Charles was motivated by religious, political or medical reasons.   
 

--SCOTT L. TAYLOR (PCC, Tucson): “Affectus secundam scientiam: Cognitio experimentalis and Jean Gerson’s Psychology of the Whole Person”

 

This paper examines the psychological aspects and pastoral implications of Gerson’s efforts to reconcile nominalism and realism, mysticism and speculative philosophy.  Toward such end, Gerson’s anthropology insisted upon the simplex animae substantia of the soul, rejecting the Scotistic formal distinction, yet maintaining nominal distinction of offices and operations of the powers of the soul, identifying in De mystica theologia three cognitive and three affective powers, which operate in a correlative, reciprocal fashion.  While the intellective powers have been adversely effected by the fall, those incapacitating effects are less on the affective powers, suggesting that the greater purity and soteriological possibilities of those latter powers bear significance for the reformation and salutary fulfillment of the intellective powers.  In short, it is possible to interject cognitive content into the unio mystica, albeit in in experiential mode, to achieve a cognition experimentalis.  As a consequence, Gerson’s position can be seen as located between Dionysius and Scotus.  In a sense, speculative essentialisms are existentialized, and insofar as tranformation takes place, it is the homogenization of the faithful man in his esse realis, through anthropological resources, humiliational activity and sacramental grade, to the esse idealis, in the manner of prelapsarian Adam.  Unification is achieved in this similitude, preserving the ontological gulf threatened by notions of substantive union.
     These same considerations play in Gerson’s use of classical allusions, largely eliminating that pernicious medieval tendency to resort to spiritual meaning of pagan authors, in favor of locating within their literal text a universal psychological moment.  This intertextuality arguably preserves the original context and transcends the widespread medieval habit of uncritical classical allusion, even when it provides a rather inconsistent pagan tone to the orations, reflective of Gerson’s predilection to achieve a unifying synthesis furthering the church’s sacramental mission with due deference for the pathos inherent in the human condition.
     Indeed, this last observation provides a key to Gerson’s thought – his identification of a vestigial synderesis which, though perilous when left to its own devices, is capable of manipulation and growth if properly understood.  It is the function of the Church both to comprehend and channel that prelapsarian spark, whether through pulpit or practical mysticism.  In a sense, Gerson developed a late-medieval psychology of the whole man, designed to conform his esse realis to his esse idealis, similar to his view of the church as possessed of a semen guaranteeing its perfection as a totality for its spiritual function, as it has never and can never, fall away, though its nonessential temporal form require reformation.  In either case, creaturely status demands comprehension of the functional totality; and in this sense, Gerson may be regarded not merely as the apostle of unity, as one writer has dubbed him, but of a holistic theology.
 

-- David Tomicek, Univerisity of Jan
Evangelista Purkyně in Ustí nad Labem Czech Republic, Prague, CZ: Mental health in the medieval regimina sanitatis

Teaching about health and mainly about maintaining good health occupied
a significant position in medieval medical discourse, while the strategy
of preserving patient s satisfactory health for as long as possible can
be viewed as a natural response to the therapeutic limitations of the
contemporary medicine. Health was perceived as a consequence of the
harmonious balance of bodily humors, i.e. as a condition primarily
related to the body instead of the soul. In spite of that, mental
conditions and mental processes have traditionally been ranked among sex
res non naturales as a factor capable of either positively or negatively
influencing health. Advice provided by physicians in this context was
mainly directed at temperate and balanced treatment of emotions. This
paper aims at presenting the way how medieval dietetics understood
mental health on the basis of analysing selected texts from the genre
regimina sanitis.

--Viswanathan Rajesh, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona: Workshop on: Self Awareness - Limitations of Design or Limited Edition in Current Times

The basic premise of all systems, individual or collective, is the answer to the fundamental question; 'Who am I'. It is a question of Identity and a function of Awareness. Over a course of Time, the answers have brought about Shifts in Awareness, manifesting changes that encompass all aspects of our Being and Living - Intellectual, Mental, Biological and Sociocultural. The sublime yet integrative force underlying all manifestations is Spiritual.
    With the aid of some analogies drawn from Historical Time Track and from Modern perspectives of Life, this workshop will implore the Design of the Self System and its functional aspect called Awareness. The outcome of this exercise could be reformative or transformative. Time would tell !

 

-- Andrew Weeks, Illinois State University, “The Invisible Diseases” of Paracelsus.  

In his important work of 1531, Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus (1493/94-1541), delineated a theory that encompasses several psychic disturbances or mental illnesses.  He assigns his approach to them a capstone role in his new medical philosophy, emphasizing the key significance of the “invisible diseases” and relating them to the controversies of religion.  Mental illness coincides with the apex of medicine and metaphysics by pointing the way from the visible to the invisible and from the elemental to the spiritual.  The Invisible Diseases is a puzzling document.  Because of its position in the emergence of his writings, it offers an access to the developing system of Paracelsian medical philosophy.  It symptomizes a paradigm shift from humoral to iatrochemical medicine, as well as a reaction against the anatomical in favor of the speculative.  The work also reflects the pathology of collective agitations such as religious self-martyrdom and St. Vitus’s dance.  Evaluated as a composition, unique in his corpus yet dependent upon his other writings, The Invisible Diseases allows us to re-assess an author who has been credited with anticipating modern psychiatry, yet was very much a creature of his age.   

 

-- Tom Willard, University of Arizona: Healthy and Diseased Imaginings: The Paracelsian Perspective

For the man who called himself Paracelsus (Philipus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493/94-1541), there were two varieties of imagination. On the lower level, as the image-making function, it coordinated data from the five senses to created the unified sensory experience known as reality. On the higher level, as the cosmic connection, it put the individual in touch with heavenly influences. It was not only “the star in man,” but “the celestial or supercelestial body,” which gave the individual a sense of identity beyond the mortal body.

Imagination could work for better or worse. Corrupted, it could lead to everything from birth defect to mental illness and fatal disease. Properly cultivated, however, it could promote physical and mental health. It could be promoted through physical practice, such as diet and exercise as well as medicines, and by environmental conditions like music and art as well as magical formulas. It could also be conditioned through study, especially of philosophy and theology.

Finally, imagination could serve as a mode of analysis for the physician, a means of viewing the little world of an individual patient in comparison to the great world of nature and performing an “anatomy” of the whole patient. This approach to medicine, based on intuition as well as observation, had parallels in older approaches such as that of Marsilio Ficino. At the same time, it developed a distinctive approach to diagnosis through “signatures” and “correspondences” that produced a language influencing later writers from Böhme to Goethe.

Paracelsus wrote relatively little about imagination, except as part of what he termed “astronomy.” Scholarship on his perspective has not gone far beyond that of Jung (on his understanding of the unconscious) and Foucault (on correspondences as treated by one of his followers). Focusing on a manuscript fragment, this paper will suggest how his perspective on imagination helped shape the natural philosophy of early modern Europe.