A Broad Perspective on Mental Healing

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ii               MAGIC HEALING IN THE PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA            71
(prophets and priests). Saul, the first king, found it advisable to issue a decree expelling witches and wizards from the country, but unfortunately he himself became one of the most flagrant law breakers. Under disguise he consulted a witch at En Dor. Later, the belief in spirits became more prevalent, largely, no doubt, because of the influence of Apocalyptic literature (cf. Enoch xv). At the time of Christianity's advent the belief in demons was fairly widely spread and, according to Josephus, to their machinations were ascribed leprosy, rabies, asthma, cardiac diseases and, what were a particular speciality of demons, nervous diseases, of which epilepsy was the favourite. But it is a most striking and important fact that the Talmud seems to diverge from this conception. Nor is there any suggestion of disease being due to ' possession by devils \ and to this mental disorders are no exception. Whenever insanity or epilepsy are mentioned they are spoken of as ordinary diseases, no different in kind from any other, from which, under correct treatment, recovery is possible. In fact, epilepsy is referred to as an hereditary disease, and marriage into an epileptic family was discouraged. Epileptic dementia is recognized under the name Sheteh, and those suffering from it were classed with mental defectives, and were therefore regarded as not being legally responsible for their actions, and not liable to punishment for law-breaking.209
The only kind of magic healing which is traceable was the whispering of a verse as a charm to heal wounds. An example of this is the following : 'If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments and keep His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have