We have attempted in the previous lectures to obtain some idea of the way in which insanity was regarded, and the manner in which the insane were treated up to the beginning of the eighteenth century. We have found that a large number of those who would now be regarded as insane had been, up to this time, either disregarded altogether, or looked upon as exercising supernatural powers of evil, or as inspired with beliefs which were dangerous to the State. Three circumstances seem to have been the chief influences that tended to prevent persons labouring under mental disease from being treated with the consideration due to that affliction, or often with any feeling that they were worthy of sympathy or requiring to be cared for. These were pointed out to be (1) the character of the social system in ancient times—powerfully affected as it was in every detail by the existence of slavery; (2) the political exigencies of communities both in ancient and mediaeval times—so seldom in prolonged possession either of the external peace, or of the internal tranquility necessary for the development of philanthropy in a government or a sense of social duty in a people; and (3) the superstitious ideas arising from ignorance—under which abnormalities of mental condition were attributed to self-induced possession by the devil or to other criminal conduct or supernatural association. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, these conditions had either been abolished or had perceptibly diminished in power and importance. Slavery no longer existed in Western Europe; civil administration appeared to have developed into stronger and more stable forms; and owing to the diffusion of knowledge that followed the invention of printing, the grosser kinds of superstition were rapidly dying out.
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