Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I have always been fascinated by the various cult-like charismatic groups that have set up churches all over the US. I've spent a lot of time with these people in college, going to the their churches, revivals, and other events. One feature always stands out in my eyes: the way stories of miracles are told and accepted without question, again and again. I can't even count how many times I've heard of the woman with cancer who prayed and made a miracle recovery, or, the man who prayed for the salvation of his family only to have happen in a flash one day.

It remains me of some things Michel de Montaigne wrote in his book of essays in a section entitled On the Power of the Imagination:

Although it be no new thing to see horns grown in a night on the forehead of one that had none when he went to bed, notwithstanding, what befell Cippus, king of Italy, is memorable; who having one day been a very delighted spectator of a bull-fight, and having all the night dreamed that he had horns on his head, did, by the force of imagination, really cause them to grow there....

Myself passing by Vitry le Francois, saw a man the bishop of Soissons had, in confirmation, called Germain, whom all the inhabitants of the place had known to be a girl till two-and-twenty years of age, called Mary. He was, at the time of my being there, very full of beard, old, and not married. He told us, that by straining himself in a leap his male instruments came out; and the girls of that place have, to this day, a song, wherein they advise one another not to take too great strides, for fear of being turned into men, as Mary Germain was. It is no wonder if this sort of accident frequently happen; for if imagination have any power in such things, it is so continually and vigorously bent upon this subject, that to the end it may not so often relapse into the same thought and violence of desire, it were better, once for all, to give these young wenches the things they long for.


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