A Broad Perspective on Mental Healing

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iv               THE ECCLESIA AND PNEUMATIC THERAPY            153
Reformation churches led first to the restriction of the use of exorcism and ultimately to its almost complete cessation. Perhaps the finest pronouncement on the subject was that made by the wise and far-seeing Vincent de Paul (1576-1660), who, surrounded as he was by bitter opposition, did not hesitate to declare thatl Mental disease is no different from bodily disease and Christianity demands of the humane and powerful that they should protect, and of the skilful that they should relieve, the one as well as the other \
There are still some sections of the Church, even to-day, however, where the old ideas of possession prevail. I myself have come into close contact with them in Abyssinia. In Shoa insanity, epilepsy, delirium and hysteria are all attributed to the machinations of devils and exorcism is still practised. Charms and amulets are used both for protection and cure. As Examining Chaplain to the Archbishop of Ethiopia at Addis Ababa, I used to collect charms written on parchment from the necks of the young men who came to be ordained for the deaconry and priesthood. These I cut to pieces, and burnt with their leather cases. The owners, viewing the scene, almost trembling with fear and gazing at me with wide-open mouths, would expect the spirits to take their revenge by striking me with horrible diseases. Although this little drama used to be enacted frequently I enjoyed the very best of health during the whole of the three years I spent in Abyssinia!
In the West, too, the practice of exorcism has not entirely disappeared, and many ' spiritual healers ' are convinced of its value, in spite of the fact that the Church at large does not regard such people with favour. They claim for themselves the distinction that they are the mediums of beings in the spirit world who were physicians during their earthly life and are still interested in their