Witchcraft, Religious Fanaticism and SchizophreniaWitchcraft, Religious Fanaticism and Schizophrenia: Salem Revisited By Thurman Sawyer and George Bundren In the summer of 1692, Giles Corey was pressed to death because he refused to answer an indictment. Furthermore, some nineteen more souls perished because of the refusal to admit to alleged crimes they committed. Even two dogs were sentenced to death in the middle of the hysteria that broke out in Salem, Massachusetts. The crime they refused to admit to participating in, (or in the case of Corey not answering to) was the crime of witchcraft. These men and women died upon the sketchy and unreliable evidence brought before them in court. But what caused these Puritan people of Salem to execute their fellow friends and neighbors in the name of witchcraft? We have discovered that the lost lives of the accused witches were the direct result of the Puritan religious fanaticism of the day. Fanaticism in religion occurs when one goes beyond strict adherence to his or her faith. It occurred in Salem when death resulted from closed minded adherence to religious teaching. The Puritans were fanatical only when they took the lives of people around them, whom they had known and interacted with for years, because of accusations of witchcraft. In order for us to conclude our study of this event, we must consider several factors. The first section of this paper discusses the way in which Puritan life was totally dominated by religion, takes a look at the Puritan idea of the Devil, considers the behavior of the accused witches of Salem, and analyzes why the accused were sentenced to death. The second section of the paper will examine the possibility of schizophrenia, or mental illness, as playing a role in the Salem witchcraft episode. Let us begin.
SECTION 1Puritan religious fanaticism was evident in Massachusetts a few years before 1692. In 1688, Goody Glover fell victim to the Puritan religious fanatics and lost her life. Consider the following: Following an argument with laundress Goody Glover, Martha Goodwin, 13, begins exhibiting bizarre behavior. Days later her younger brother and two sisters exhibit similar behavior. Glover is arrested and tried for bewitching the Goodwin children....Glover is hanged (after refusing to confess to the sin of witchcraft).[i] Any scholar of American history, upon undertaking the study of Puritans, need not be extraordinarily perspicacious to understand that religion was the central focus of the Puritan way of life in the 1690s. "Religion was not a department or phase of social life; it was the end and aim of all life; and to it, consequently, all institutions were subordinate."[ii] Puritans were entirely dependent on their religion to make sense of their seventeenth century, New England lives. Instead of reading about it (life) in the Sunday papers, as we do today, the old Puritans had a quaint custom of making history six days a week and, on the seventh, going to meeting to hear the minister explain it.[iii] One could argue that such religious fanaticism, or dependence on one's religion, could lead to a town's vulnerability to strange events. Indeed strange events were to strike the town of Salem, in a harsh manner, at the close of the seventeenth century. The cause of the aforementioned strange events was in great part due to the responsibility of Puritan religious leaders. Such leaders were upheld by the community as knowing the will of God and therefore, responsible for manifesting it, no matter the consequences. What was sheer fantasy in England appeared to be a practical and literal reality in New England, for here the clergy were, as a matter of fact, the first citizens and leading spirits; here the social and political life centered about the various settlements and these settlements were organized into congregations.[iv] To fully understand the reason for the Puritans' adherence to their faith is to understand their elementary, or fundamental, beliefs surrounding their religion. Let us consider some of the basic tenets of Puritan religion (Puritanism) in the 1690s. Puritans believed that life was the story of man's constant struggle with evil and natural elements. John Davenport's sermon "The Saints' Anchor Hold In All Storms and Tempests" demonstrates this. As the whole creation hath groaned ever since its original subjection unto vanity, earnestly expecting the manifestation of the Sons of God: so more especially in these latter days the traveling pains thereof have increased.[v] The Devil presented the greatest enemy, and obstacle, to the Puritan belief. The Devil could prevent the Puritan from being closer to God, and therefore they eliminated any and all ties to the Devil. He (Puritan) wanted no more connection with the Devil than he was born with; conscious of his sinfulness, he wanted to repent, to exorcize the Devil, to be prepared for the gift of grace if and when it came.[vi] A second basic tenet of Puritanism was obedience to the word of God. A significant means of ensuring that children would grow up in the faith of Puritanism was to install within them a great fear of God. Two popular biblical verses were utilized by the Puritans to strengthen the faith of the upcoming generation. These verses were favorites of James Fitch, a Puritan minister, in the 1670s. In 1679, John Foster captured two familiar passages from the Bible that were used extensively by Fitch: Come ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Philipians 32, 11 Hold fast the form of sound works which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.[vii] Second Timothy 1, 13 John Foster was able to publish several of the fundamental beliefs of Puritanism, during his time. An especially renowned teaching was the damnation of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. Foster recorded the sermon "The Sting of Death," by Dr. Leonard Hoard in 1680. Within Hoard's sermon we can see two more basic Puritan teachings. Like sheep they are laid in the grave, death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling....Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.[viii] Indeed, such teachings penetrated the psyche of seventeenth century Puritans and enforced cooperative behavior from the religious minded. As for the fundamental issue of witchcraft, there can be no doubt that the Puritans believed in witchcraft and its powers. "Toward the end of the seventeenth century, belief in the reality of witchcraft was virtually universal."[ix] In the Bible, there are references to witchcraft, such as the Witch of Endore: Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar Spirit at En-dor. . .And the woman said unto(King Saul) him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits , and the wizards,out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? First Samuel 28, 7-9 According to the first Mosaic laws, in dealing with witches, the law stated that:Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22, 18 The Puritans, therefore, were complying to Mosaic law when they sentenced suspected witches to be hanged. A final fundamental doctrine of Puritanism we must consider before moving on in our discussion on the cause of the deaths of the accused in Salem, was the tenet of church unity. We have seen that Salem was divided into two main factions: Pro-Parris and Anti-Parris. There was great disagreement in the town as to whether or not Samuel Parris should be the pastor of Salem village.[x] This disagreement placed the town in a position vulnerable to internal strife. What was the doctrine of church unity? According to the written publication of the elders and messengers of the Puritan churches in New England, church unity was the result of the understanding of, and adherence to, the following: The setting forth of the public confession of the faith of churches hath a double end,and both tending to public edification: First, the maintenance of the faith...Secondly, the holding forth of unity and harmony both amongst and with other churches.... especially we desire not to vary from the doctrine of faith and truth held forth by the churches of our native country.[xi] The aforementioned fundamental tenets of Puritanism were upheld by all Puritans. To insure continued congruence with the faith, powerful pastors and ministers reiterated these beliefs exorbitantly. Two such ministers were Cotton Mather and the already mentioned, Samuel Parris. Both men contributed to the events in Salem and played an important role in the effects of the Salem witchcraft episode in American history, through their powerful teachings.[xii] Cotton Mather was a proponent of the belief in witchcraft and the existence of the Devil. Mather, a third generation Puritan minister and a self-proclaimed authority on witchcraft, believed extensively in the attack of the Devil upon Salem. [xiii] In his "Memorable Providences" he wrote: By the special disposal and providence of the Almighty God, there now comes abroad into the world a little history of several very astonishing witchcrafts and possessions...The Devils themselves arey compulsion come to confute the Atheism and Sadducism, and to reprove the madness of ungodly men.[xiv] We can easily determine, upon perusal of the above quotation, that Mather was a fervent believer in witchcraft and the Devil. Mather, in 1692, further demonstrated his belief in the supposed attack upon Salem in "The Wonders of the Invisible World." Mather, according to this passage, discussed the motive for Satan's attack on Salem: The New-Englanders are a People of God settled in those which were once the Devil's Territories; and it may easily be supposed that the Devil was extremely disturbed when he perceived such a People here accomplishing the Promise of old made unto our Blessed Jesus,That He should have the Utmost Parts of Earth for his Possession.[xv] Mather, in further defense of the witchcraft trials, tells of the end results if the Devil and the witches are not stopped from further attacks upon the Puritan people: . .then give Notice of An Horrible Plot against the Country by Witchcraft, and a Foundation of Witchcraft,then laid, which if it were not seasonably discovered would probably Blow up, and pull down all the Churches in the Country. And we have now with Horror seen the Discovery of such a Witchcraft![xvi] Parris, like Mather, was a proponent of the belief in the existence of the Devil and his disciples. Consider the following from one of his many sermons as pastor of Salem. Angel or Spirit....One of you is a Devil. xvii] Our Lord Jesus Christ knows how many Devils there are in his church, and who they are. There are Devils as well as Saints in Christ's church. Christ knows how many of these Devils there are. Christ knows who these Devils are. Now that we have established the idea that religion was the primary motivation in a Puritan's life, thus the dominant force in his/her existence, have considered some of the basic tenants of Puritanism, and two of its major proponents, Cotton Mather and Samuel Parris, let us now endeavor to discuss another point, crucial to the answering of the question of why lives were lost during the Salem witchcraft episode. That is, we must discuss the idea of the Puritan Devil. According to the American historian, Shirley Jackson: Everyone (all Puritans of the 1690s)believed that there actually was a devil, a created being whose efforts were directed toward the working of evil. It was important to know precisely how effective the devil could be, and, of course, how best to fight against him. The devil was believed to carry on his war against heaven through the use of human beings. Every person won to his service was a blow against heaven and the strength of the church. It was commonly believed that the devil worked in person against mankind, using all his weapons to urge humanity to his side.[xviii] Francis Winwar, another historian of the Salem witchcraft episode, offers the following description of what the Puritans fervently believed was the enemy of God, Satan. No, the Devil was no imaginary evil to the people of New England. He was a real, physical being whom the bewitched described in minute detail, from his blackened skin to his cloven hoof and forked tail. For the Devil had crossed the ocean with the Puritans in remembered witch trials in Old England.
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Conco Ia} 11. Sept. 1692. After ye condemnation of 6. Witches at a Court at Salem, one of the Witches viz. Martha Kory in full communion with our Church.
17. Rev. 14.
These shall make War with the Lamb, & the Lamb shall overcome them: For he is the Lord of Lords, & King of Kings; And they that are with him, are Called, & Chosen, & Faithful.
In these words 2. things are observable.
1. A War prophesyed of.
2. The Victory that this was shall issue in.
1. Here is mention made of a War. These shall make War &c
Now in all wars are two parties. And so here
1. Here is the Offending Party. Namely These, viz: Anti-christ (the spiritual whole) & all her Assistants, instruments of Satan, & instigated by that Dragon to this War. 13. Rev. 1.2. Namely By Sorceries & witchcrafts (plentiful among the Papacy) doing lying Wonders whereby multitudes were deluded
2. Here is the Offended Party viz. the Lamb and his followers. Text. With these they make War.
3. Here is the Victory, & the Reason of the Victory.page: 153
The Devil & his Instruments will be
1. The Victory. Devils, & Idolaters will make War with the Lamb, & his followers. But wo shall have the Victory? Why the Lamb (i.c. Christ) & his followers. Text
2. Here is the Reason of it, & that is twofold
1. And main Reason is taken from the Lamb (Christ) For he is Lord, of Lords &c
2. Reason is taken from the Saints
3. Victorial Properties
1. They are Chosen
2. They are called.
3. Last: They are Faithfull: of which hereafter.
1. Doctr. The Devil & his Instruments will be making war with the Lamb & his Followers as long as they can.
2. Doctr. The Lamb & his Followers
When do men make
shall overcome the Devil & his Instruments in this War against them.
1. Doctr. The Devil, & his Instruments , will be making War, as long as they can, with the Lamb & his Followers.
Here are. 2. things in this Doctrine. Namely.
1. The Devil & his Instruments will be warring against Christ & his followers.
2. This War will be as long as they can. It will not be for ever. There will be a time wn they shall war no longer.
1. The Devil and his Instruments will be warring against Christ & his followers. Text. These shall make War with the Lamb. 11. Chap. 2. The Beast shall make War against them. 12. Ch. 7. 17. War in heaven: The Dragon fought and his Angels. 13. Chap. 7. It was given to him to make war with the Saints. &c. 19. Ch. 19.
We may father confirm this point by Instances & Reasons
1. For Instances. We find the Devil Assaulting the Lamb as soon as he was borne to the end of his dayes. As we see in his instrument Herod. 2. Matth. 7&c. And afterwards by his Manifold Temptations of Christ in the Wilderness 4. Matt. And afterwards by his stirring up the chief of the Jewes to kill Christ. 26. Matth. 3. 4. And to help forward that murder the Devil puts it into the heart of one of Christs Disciples to betray him. 13. Joh. 2. And after all tho the Lamb be killed, but yet liveth for ever, & no advantage got by the Devil by the Murder of Christ, why now he seeks to destroy his Church: And for this end influenceth bloodypage: 154
Warning ag'st.Christ & his Followers
Saul to lay all waste. 8. Acts. 3. 9. Ch. 1. 2. But now when the Lamb had conquered this bloody Instrument, & of a Saul, made him Paul, a Preacher of Righteousness why now the Devil as much opposeth Paul. 13. Acts. 4. &c. Yea the scripture is full of such instances. Church History abounds also with evidences of this truth. Yea & in our dayes, How industrious & vigorous is the Bloody French Monarch, & his Confederates against Christ & his Interest? Yea, & in our Land (in this, & some neighboring Places) how many, what Multitudes, of Witches & Wizards has the Devil instigated with utmost violence to attempt the overthrow of Religion?
2. The Reason, that in a word is from the enmity of the Devil & his Instruments to Religion. 13. Acts. 10. Thou Child of the Devil, thou enemy of all Righteousness. Now the seed of the Devil will do the works of the Devil. 8. Joh. 44. Ye are of your Father the Devil, & the lusts of your Father ye will do &c. Satan (sais one. Trapp in loco) is called the God of this world, because as God at first did but speak the word & it was done: So if the Devil do but hold up his finger, give the least hint of his Mind, his Servants & Slaves will obey.
2. This War shall be as long as they can. It shall not be for ever, & alwayes. Here
1. Sometimes the Devil looseth his Volunteers in War. The Lawful Captive, the Captives of the Mighty, are sometimes delivered. 49. Isa. 24. 25. We have an instance in bloody Saul. 9. Acts. 3. &c.
2. Sometimes the Devil is chained up; s that he cannot head & forme an Army, as otherwise he would against the Saints. 20. Rev. 1. 2. 3.
3. Last: After this life the Saints shall no more be troubled with War from Devils and their Instruments. The City of Heaven, provided for the Saints, is well-walled, & well-Gated, & Well-Guarded, so that no Devils nor their Instruments shall enter therein. 21. Rev. 10. &c.
1. Use. It may serve to Reprove such as seem to be amazed at the War the Devil has raised amongst us by Wizards, & Witches against the Lamb and his Followers that they altogether deny it. If ever there were Wirches, Men & Women in Covenant with the Devil, here are Multitudes in New-England. Nor is it so strangepage: 155
The Devil & his Instruments will be
a thing there should be such: no nor that some Church Members should be such. The Jews after the Returne of their captivity, wofully degenerated even unto the horrible sin of Sorcerie & Witchcraft. 3. Mal. 5. Pious Bishop Hall saith, The Devils prevalency in this Age is most clear in the Marvailous number of Witches abounding in all places. Now hundreds (sais he) are discovered in one Shire; & if Fame deceive us not, in a Village of 14. Houses in the North, are found so many of this Damned brood. Heretofore only Barbarous Desarts had them, but now the Civilest & Religious Parts are frequently pestered with them: Heretofore some silly ignorant old Woman, &c. & but now we have known those of both Sexes, who professed much Knowledge, Holiness, & Devotion, drawn into this damnable practise. Baxters Apparitions & Witches. pag. 122.
Also the same Mr. Baxter speaks of a Woman who pretended to have the holy Ghost, & had a Gift of Prayer, & did many wonders, proved to be a witch. p. 123.
2. Use. We may see here who they are that War against the Lamb, & his Followers. Why they are Devils, or Devils instruments. Here are but 2 parties in the World, the Lamb & his Followers, & the Dragon & his Followers: & these are contrary one to to the other. Well now they that are against the Lamb, against the Peace & Prosperity of Zion, the interest of Christ: They are for the Devil. Here are no Newters. Every one is on one side or the other.
3. Use. It calls us all (especially those that would be accounted Followers of the Lamb) to mourn that the Devil has had so many assistants from amongst us, especially that he should find, or make such in our Churches. If so be Churches are deeply to mourn the dishonor done to Christ & Religion, by Fornicators among them. 1. Cor. 5. 1. &c. how much more, when Witches & Wizards are amongst them.
4. Use. It may show us the vileness of our natures, & that we should be ever praying that we be not left to our own lusts: for then we shall by & by fall in with Devils, & with the Dragon make war with the Lamb & his followers.page: 156
Waring against Christ & his Followers
Conco.2a} 11. Setpr. 1692
17. Rev. 14.
These shall make war with the Lamb, & the Lamb shall overcome them. (1 Doctr.) The Devil & his Instruments will be making War as long as they can, with the Lamb & his Followers (1. U) No marvail then that the Devil & his Instruments are making this War at this day in our Plantations by Witchcrafts (2. U) See here wo they are that war against Christ (3. U) It calls us all to mourn that the Devil has had so many Assistants from amongst us (4. U) Last: It teacheth us the vileness of mans nature, that if left to himself will give help & assistance to the Devil against Christ. To Proceed
5. Use. Caution, & admonition to all & every one of us to beware of making War with the Lamb.
1. Consider so to do, is to fight for the Devil. Tis to fight for an Enemy. Tis to fight for him, who will pay you no other wages, than of being your Eternal Torturer. 1. Pet. 5.8.
2. Consider it is to take the weakest side. The Lamb shall most certainly overcome. Text. 19. Rev. 17 18. &c.
3. Consider this will aggravate thy sin above the sin of Devils. To fight against the Lamb, is to fight against thy Saviour: which the Damned Devils never had an offer of. 2. Heb. 16. He took not on him the Nature of Angels.
4. Last: It is the way to utter ruine. I say it is the way, the high-way to utter ruine. It is true Christ may conquer thee when thou are hot in the Battle, as he did Saul, & make thee throw away thy Weapons of Rebellion. But wo can tell that he will do so? This is not ordinary; & if thou shouldst dye a Rebel in the fight then thou art damned for ever. Therefore be we cautioned agst. making war with the Lamb.
Obj. But you may say, what is it to make war wth the Lamb? And when do man make war wth the Lamb?
1. An. in generall all Disobedience to Christ is a making War against him. As
1. Disobedience to his Laws. You know those that do not obey the Kings Laws are justly called Rebels. 1. Reg. 12. 19. So here, not to do what Christ comands is to Rebell against him, & to make war with him. 9. Deut. 22. 23. 24. 1. Isa. 19. 20.page: 157
When do men make
2. Disobedience to Christs Ordinances is Rebellion against Christ, & making war with him. As warring agst. Magistrates, opposing them in their duties. In this sense Korah & his company are called Rebels. 17. Num. 10. & the Mutinous & murmuring Israelites are called Rebels. 20. Num. 10. Hince Resisters of Authority are Resisters of God, because they Resist the Ordinance of God. 13. Rom. 1 &c. But.
3. Answ: More especially to fight against the Lamb, & so to side with the Devil is.
1. To fight against the Gosple, or to war against the Gosple. When men will not receive the Gosple, & do what they can to hinder the course of the Gosple, this is to make war with the Lamb.
1. When men will not receive the Gosple themselves, then they fight agst. the Lamb: as the Jews. 13. Acts. 46. Not to accept of terms of Peace, is to proclaim war &c.
2. When they will not suffer others to receive it, as those Jews. 13. Acts. 44. &c. & the Sorcerer. 8. V. & those 2. Tim. 3. 8. And they that forbid preaching 5. Acts. 28
2. They make War against the Lamb, who oppose the holy Spirit. 7. Acts. 51. Ye do alwayes Resist ye holy Ghost.
3. Last: They make war against the Lamb, who do oppose the doctrine of Christ. As
1. Either the Person of Christ his Deity, or his Humanity. He must be man that he might dye for us: He must be God, that he might conquer Death for us. Now to deny either of these is to deny the Lamb, & so to make war wth the Lamb.
2. Or the offices of Christ as a saviour both Prophetical Sacerdotal, or Regal. His office of Prophet to teach; of Priest to Attone for us; of King to Governe us; as might in particular be shown.page: 158
War with the Lamb?
6. viz. Last: may be of encouragement to all Christians in the words of the Apostle to endure hardness, as good Souldiers of Christ. 2. Tim. 2. 3. For encouragement hereto Devils and instruments shall not war against us alwayes. 2. Rev. 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; & ye shall have Tribulation. 10. dayes: be thou Faithful unto Death, & will give thee a Crown of life.