Anatomy of the Soul

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:
Anatomy of the Soul

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Starting in the fifteenth century, diabolic possession was no longer a term that designated mostly physiological affliction with undetermined etiology or any affliction that resisted natural cure. It could now, more than ever before, take place within the soul. This wider definition of possession necessitated a system of diagnostic tools to discern how the soul operated or what was operating within a soul. The growing popularity of new forms of spiritual pursuit in early modern Europe further dramatized the need for a clear and standardized method of discernment. It is therefore not surprising that the very same theologians who were engaged in the debate for and against pre-Quietist and Quietist interiorized spirituality were also on the forefront of the effort to systematize a new theology of the anatomy of the soul. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) created a set of abstract rules that were to shape most future attempts to develop a method of discernment of visions, impulses, and possessing spirits.

Keywords: diabolic possession; soul; Europe; discernment; spirituality; Thomas Aquinas; visions; impulses; spirits

Chapter.  16369 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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