Monday, January 24, 2011

Who Does This Sound Like?

I've been reading a wonderful biography by Robert Richardson of UNC of the great Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James, and I ran across this quote from a series of lectures he gave in Boston in 1896 on the topic of 'abnormal psychology'. It concerned witchcraft, and more specifically, medieval witch-hunters [friars of the Inquisition]:
"Incapable of simply saying 'lunacy,' as so many others had, James struggled to grasp the mentality of witch-hunters. He imagined a small mind 'guiding a will that stuck at nothing in the way of cruelty, and a conscience raised to fever heat by the idea that the battle was directly waged with God's enemy Satan, there in the very room.'  The torture session in the Malleus [Maleficarum] gave him, James said, 'the most curious gruesome rathole feeling.'"

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