Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure of Enthusiasm
(Enthusiasmus triumphatus)
Henry More
1656 AD

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Introduction:

  1. In 1656 AD, Henry More described those who hear voices as self deluded with their own conceited imaginations. If alive today, he would never attribute the cause of such schizophrenia to a malfunctioning brain with some mythical chemical imbalance. Instead more correctly understood that the spirit and its imaginations were the etiology of delusion, not the body! Hearing the voice of God or an angel was known right up to the 19th century as "Enthusiasm" "For Enthusiasm is nothing else but a misconceit of being inspired ... The Origin of such peremptory delusions as mankind are obnoxious to, is the enormous strength and vigour of the Imagination". More believed in the inspiration of the Bible and that God, angels and the devil talk to men, but he was able to easily know the difference between the real thing and self delusion. Notice the key words he uses over again: conceit (narcissism and selfishness), fooled, deceived, imagination, believing a lie, carnal reasoning, delusions. "And a further instance may be in mad or Melancholy men, who have confidently affirmed that they have met with the Devil, or conversed with Angels, when it has been nothing but an encounter with their own fancy. Wherefore it is the enormous strength of Imagination . . . that thus peremptorily engages a man to believe a lie." More correctly understood that schizophrenics were in their own created fantasy world that blurred with the real world. Even dreams while sleeping became reality. "for he takes his dreams for true Histories and real Transactions ... We shall now enquire into the Causes of this Distemper, how it comes to passe that man should be thus be fooled in his own conceit ... she has quite lost her own judgement and freedom, and can neither keep out nor distinguish betwixt her own fancies and real truths." More understood that these self deluded people, prided their own judgement to be superior to all outside rational thinking. "as in the case immediately before named, does naturally bear down the Soul into a belief of the truth and existence of what she thus vigorously apprehend; and being so wholly and entirely immersed in this conceit, and so vehemently touched therewith, she has either not the patience to consider any thing alledged against it, or if she do consider and find her self intangled, she will look upon it as a piece of humane sophistry, and prefer her own infallibility or the infallibility of the Spirit before all carnall reasonings whatsoever". More viewed these people as self deluded in their spirits not physically sick in their bodies. (Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure, of Enthusiasm (Enthusiasmus triumphatus), Henry More, 1656 AD)
  2. "Some observations obtained in the course of recent neuroimaging studies of schizophrenics support the interpretations I am suggesting. Let us recall that Julian Jaynes claimed that the experience of hearing voices (auditory hallucination) is "just like hearing actual sound." (The Origin of Consciousness, Julian Jaynes, chapter 4) If that were so, the cerebral-physiological processes accompanying the hallucinating person's experience would be similar to those accompanying normal hearing; which is exactly what researchers using neuroimaging technics to study brain activation in hallucinating patients expected to find. Instead, they found changes in the region of the brain activated during speaking. "Broca's area is a surprise," commented Jerome Engel, a neurologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, "since that's where you make sounds, not where you hear them. I would have expected more activity in Wernicke's area, which is where you hear." (Scientists trace voices in schizophrenia, D. Goleman quoting J. Engel, New York Times, Sept 22, 1993 p C2) ... This suggestion is supported not only by the neuroimaging evidence cited, but also by the familiar clinical observation that when a (hearing) person who has auditory hallucinations is engaged in oral activity, such as eating or speaking, his imaginary voices become less noticeable or stop altogether." (The Meaning of the Mind, Thomas Szasz, 1996 AD, p 126, 127)
  3. "In this, after Casaubon's the second treatise on enthusiasm, More made three points which when later developed had great influence in psychiatry. First he suggested that mental illness arose from 'the enormous strength of the Imagination' so that 'the Soul . . . can neither keep out nor distinguish betwixt her own fancies and reall truths' hence the similarity between insanity and dreams. This clash between the 'inward sense' and the 'outward Senses' became in Freudian terminology the conflict between unconscious fantasies and wishes and reality; and the capacity for 'reality testing' as it is now called is still considered, rightly or wrongly, the dividing line between neurosis in which only part of the personality is involved and psychosis involving the whole personality. Secondly, More used Hobbes's notion of a `Trayn of Thoughts unguided', that is unconscious mentation, to explain the development of mental illness and why 'men become mad and fanaticall whether they will or no'. Thirdly, his suggestion that there may be a 'healing and sanative Contagion as well as morbid and venemous' was demonstrated in practice in asylums in the nineteenth century when the salutory influence on the insane of the healthy minds of attendants was discovered and developed." (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p151)

Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure, of Enthusiasm (Enthusiasmus triumphatus), Henry More, 1656 AD

Henry More (1614-1687)

MA Cantab., Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, theologian and philosopher

Enthusiasmus triumphatus, or, a discourse of the nature, causes, kinds, and cure, of enthusiasme; written by Philophilus Parresiastes, 1656 London & Cambridge, Morden pp. 2, 4-6, 27-8, 56-7

IMAGINATION VERSUS REASON

The Etymologie, and varietie of the signisications of this word Enthusiasme I leave to Criticks and Grammarians, but what we mean by it here, you shall fully understand after we have desined what Inspiration is : For Enthusiasme is nothing else but a misconceit of being inspired ...

We shall now enquire into the Causes of this Distemper, how it comes to passe that man should be thus befooled in his own conceit: And truly unlesse we should offer lesse satisfaction then the thing is capable of, we must not onely treat here of Melancholy, but of the Faculties of the Soul of man, whereby it may the better be understood how she may become obnoxious to such disturbances of Melancholy, in which she has quite lost her own judgement and freedome, and can neither keep out nor distinguish betwixt her own fancies and real truths . . . If . . . the inward sense... were so strong as to bear it self against all the occursions and impulses of outward objects, so as not to be broken, but to keep it self entire and in equall splendour and vigour with what is represented from without, and this not arbitrariously but necessarily and unavoydably . . . the Party thus affected would not fail to take his own imagination for a real object of sense: as it fell out in one that Cartesius mentions, (and there are several other examples of that kind) that had his arm cut off, who being hoodwinkt, complained of a pain in this and the other finger, when he had lost his whole arm. And a further instance may be in mad or Melancholy men, who have confidently affirmed that they have met with the Devil, or conversed with Angels, when it has been nothing but an encounter with their own fancy. Wherefore it is the enormous strength of Imagination . . . that thus peremptorily engages a man to believe a lie. And if it be so strong as to assure us of the presence of some external object which yet is not there, why may it not be as effectual in the begetting of the belief of some more internal apprehensions, such as have been reported of mad and fanatical men, who have so firmly and immutably fancied themselves to be God the Father, the Messias, the Holy Ghost, the Angel Gabriel, the last and chiefest Prophet that God would send in to the world, and the like? For their conceptions are not so pure or immaterial, nor solid or rational, but that these words to them are alwayes accompanied with some strong Phantasme or full imagination; the fulnesse and clearnesse whereof, as in the case immediately before named, does naturally bear down the Soul into a belief of the truth and existence of what she thus vigorously apprehend; and being so wholly and entirely immersed in this conceit, and so vehemently touched therewith, she has either not the patience to consider any thing alledged against it, or if she do consider and find her self intangled, she will look upon it as a piece of humane sophistry, and prefer her own infallibility or the infallibility of the Spirit before all carnall reasonings whatsoever . . . Now what Custome and Education doth by degrees, distempered Fancy may do in a shorter time. But the case in both is much like that in dreams, where that which is represented is necessarily taken for true, because nothing stronger enervates the perception .. .

The Origin of such peremptory delusions as mankind are obnoxious to, is the enormous strength and vigour of the Imagination; which Faculty though it be in some sort in our power, as Respiration is, yet it will also work without our leave, as I have already demonstrated, and hence men become mad and fanatical whether they will or no .. .

The mention of Dreams puts me in mind of another Melancholy Symptome, which Physitians call Extasie, which is nothing else but Somnus prceter naturam profundus, the causes whereof are none other then those of natural sleep, but more intense and excessive; the effect is the deliration of the party after he awakes; for he takes his dreams for true Histories and real Transactions. The reason whereof, I conceive, is the extraordinary clearness and fulness of the representations in his sleep, arising from a more perfect privation of all communion with this outward world, and so there being no interfareings or cross-strokes of motion from his body so deeply overwhelmed and bedeaded with sleep, what the imagination then puts forth of her self, is as clear as broad day, and the perception of the soul is at least as strong and vigorous as it is at any time in beholding things awake and therefore Memory as thoroughly sealed therewith, as from the sense of any external Object .. .

Whether it be in any mans power to fall into these Epilepsies, Apoplexies, or Ecstasies when he pleases, is neither an useless nor a desperate question : For we may find a probable solution from what has been already intimated; for the Enthusiast in one of his Melancholy intoxications (which he may accelerate by solemn silence and intense and earnest meditation) finding himself therein so much beyond himselfe, conceits it a sensible presence of God, and a supernatural manifestation of the Divinity, which must needs raise that passion of Veneration, and most powerful Devotion, which consists of Love, Fear, and Joy . . . how can they then . . . fail to cast him into Tremblings, Convulsions, Apoplexies, Extasies, and what not; Melancholy being so easily changeable into these symptomes ? .. .

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