Merry Christmas everyone! I recently had the pleasure of reading Lucian’s Lover of Lies, which is reputed to have inspired The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Like his other work True History, he starts off lamenting how people prefer lies to truth … and as in Alexander the Oracle Monger, the description of ancient Pagan quackery reminded me of contemporary Evangelical quackery. Apparently these types of spectacle were quite popular during the first and second century. Here is the portion on exorcism:
I shall be glad, now, to hear your views on the subject of those who cure demoniacal possession; the effect of their exorcisms is clear enough, and they have spirits to deal with.
I need not enlarge on the subject: look at that Syrian adept from Palestine: every one knows how time after time he has found a man thrown down on the ground in a lunatic fit, foaming at the mouth and rolling his eyes; and how he has got him on to his feet again and sent him away in his right mind; and a handsome fee he takes for freeing men from such horrors.
He stands over them as they lie, and asks the spirit whence it is. The patient says not a word, but the spirit in him makes answer, in Greek or in some foreign tongue as the case may be, stating where it comes from, and how it entered into him. Then with adjurations, and if need be with threats, the Syrian constrains it to come out of the man. I myself once saw one coming out: it was of a dark, smoky complexion.’
‘Ah, that is nothing for you,’ I replied; ‘your eyes can discern those ideas which are set forth in the works of Plato, the founder of your school: now they make a very faint impression on the dull optics of us ordinary men.’
Lucian, in Lover of Lies