TREATMENT OF INSANE IN MIDDLE AGES
In the course of an article in the Lin acre Quarterly, Dr. James J. Walsh, the wellknown student of the Middle Ages, carries on his great work of "recovery." He has already shown that the "Thirteenth was the greatest of centuries " in many fields. In this article he reveals the surprising
"modernity of the treatment of the insane in those "dark " ages.
"Ordinarily it is presumed that the insane were frightfully abused in the Middle Ages and were considered to be possessed by the devil or some evil spirit, and therefore most of them were chained up or shackled, and some of them had been in this sort of prison in so-called asylums for years," writes Dr. Walsh.
Possession: A Protestant Idea " As a matter of fact, all this aspersion of the treatment of the insane in the Middle Ages is entirely wrong.
" The psychiatrists of the time well deserve that name, studied their cases of insanity and its causes and conditions very carefully, and anticipated our best discoveries in the modern time.
" The idea of possession by evil spirits was not at all common in those days but it was almost universally accepted in Protestant countries particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when literally many, many thousands of supposed possessed individuals were put to death during the witchcraft delusion time, and many other thousands imprisoned for a long time because of the Protestant literal interpretation of Scriptures in this matter.
Bartholomew the Englishman
"The best possible demonstration of this newer knowledge of the attitude of mind of physicians toward insanity in the Middle Ages has come from Bartholomew the Englishman. Bartholomew was a Franciscan who just before the middle of the thirteenth century wrote a small encyclopedia. He wrote it so as to apply materials for answers to questions that might be asked of parish priests or confessors. He has a wonderful paragraph with regard to the causes and the treatment of insanity which fairly takes one's breath away when we consider what are the usual notions with regard to the knowledge of insanity possessed by physicians and the laity at that time.
" He begins by stating the causes of insanity, first the internal and then the external causes. He says: Madness comes sometimes from deep emotion. from being over-worked, afflicted with sorrow, or because of over study and dread.' Those are the internal causes. Now for the external. He says: ' Madness comes sometimes from the biting of a mad dog, or some other venomous beast, and sometimes it comes from melancholy meats (that is, from beef that has been rendered hard to digest by salting it away), and finally from the drinking of strong wine.' You see, they knew all about alcoholic insanity.
"Next Bartholomew gives the forms of insanity: 'Some cry and leap and hurt and wound themselves and other men (that is, suffer from what we call mania) and others darken and hide themselves in privy and secret places.' This is melancholia or depressive insanity.
Treatment of Insane
" Now then comes the treatment:
"' They must be bound (not manacled but with cloths wrapped around them) so that they hurt not themselves and other men.' And then comes that marvellous anticipation of our most modern development in the treatment of the insane: ' They must be refreshed and comforted and withdrawn from dread and busy thoughts (you must get them out of the environment that helped to bring on the affliction), they must be gladded with instruments of nuaic and some deal be occupied.' Here. explicity stated, is the entertainment and occupation treatment of the insane as we are so proud to phone ourselves on having ordered it for the present time."