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Schroeder, T. (1925). A Contribution to the Psychology of Theism the French Prophets and John Lacy. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(1):16-29.

(1925). Psychoanalytic Review, 12(1):16-29

A Contribution to the Psychology of Theism the French Prophets and John Lacy

Theodore Schroeder

At the village of Dieu-le-fit in Dauphine there began, in the 17th century, a very extraordinary and wild movement of religious enthusiasm. Although itself now generally forgotten, it has produced far-reaching and still discernible results. Our lingering Shaker societies are one direct outgrowth. In June of 1668, William du Serre first laid claim to extraordinary gifts and divine inspiration, finding in his mystical ecstasies conclusive proof of his divine mission. Before the end of February following, there arose in Dauphine and Vivarez some six hundred protestants of both sexes, each of whom was announced to be inspired (probably possessed) by the Holy Ghost. The enthusiasm was so contagious that, in the course of three or four months, the inspired ones had become so numerous that in the Cevennes and the lower Languedoc alone, they were estimated at 8,000. These “at their first appearance were commonly young boys and girls.” It is of their followers in England that I wish later to give some detailed account with the suggestions of some psychologic explanation.

Four years after their rise, these zealots were a source of great trouble to the Pope, and to the King and government of France. Even the women fought the soldiers, by throwing stones, while yet singing psalms. After being subdued by soldiers, many of the enthusiasts became fugitives. This whole procedure tends to suggest a strong sadomasochist conflict, and should be studied as a problem in that phase of abnormal psychology. The rebellion against the King was according to “inspiration.” That the psychogenetic contribution to this negativism had its source in morbid sexuality is suggested by the fact that polygamy became the rule of life.

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