Contemplation, Possession, & Sexual Misconduct

in Believe Not Every Spirit

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226762821
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226762951 | DOI:
Contemplation, Possession, & Sexual Misconduct

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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The new mystical trends and contemplative techniques that were observed in the early years of the sixteenth century became associated by the 1640s with demonism in general and diabolic possession in particular. But opponents of the new forms of mental prayer and of passivity were not the only people to express such anxieties. Contemplative people themselves were equally uneasy. They, too, perceived the spiritual route they were pursuing as perilous, and they, too, articulated an inherent affinity between some forms of acquired contemplation and diabolic possession. Demons have always prowled after members of religious orders. Thus, the early history of the Dominican order was portrayed by its first chroniclers as a continuous struggle against the devil's relentless attempts to destroy the young order. This chapter first looks at the dangers of contemplation as they were portrayed by practitioners of passive forms of contemplation. It then examines four cases of pre-Quietist scandals in seventeenth-century Europe, in which the connection among the new forms of spirituality, sexual misconduct, and demonic possession was made explicit.

Keywords: demonic possession; contemplation; sexual misconduct; spirituality; Europe; scandals; demons; passivity; mental prayer

Chapter.  13011 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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