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October 9, 1909


JAMA. 1909;LIII(15):1192-1193. doi:10.1001/jama.1909.02550150048007

Professor Sumner1 recently conjectured that the civilized world might some day drift back to demonism. The date need not have been left indefinite, so far as at least some portion of civilization is concerned. In the present day there are aberrations quite as peculiar as those which surprise us in reading the history of the middle ages. We may well agree with Lecky that one generation differs from another less in the amount of credulity it evinces than in the direction such credulity takes. Belief in marvelous cures, faith in magic—these things are not dead to-day; at best they but slumber, to be aroused to lusty and malignant activity by the next unscrupulous or fanatical leader. Nor is it any more difficult in this twentieth century, it would seem, to excite emotional epidemics than it was in witchcraft days, or when there were processions of flagellants and dancing manias.