Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the Depressed Luther

It's no secret that Luther had many bouts with depression. A Catholic apologist concludes Luther "probably" suffered from "biochemically produced" "serious psychological maladies." Well, I can't prove that is completely wrong about "biochemically produced" "serious psychological maladies," nor can someone prove such charges are completely right. Luther's not here to do tests on.

I will say this: anyone who has ever read a biography of Luther knows what the man's life was like. I have never thought of fear or depression from those going through high waters anything less than normal. Luther lived a continuing difficult life in a volatile time. One can speculate on "biochemically produced" "serious psychological maladies." I, on the other hand, don't venture into seriously using pyschohistory as history.

Here are some interesting links:

The Revolt of Martin Luther by Robert Herndon Fife

Luther and the Reformation vol.III by James Mackinnnon

I have used both of these books in the past for research. Mackinnon's set is an expensive purchase. It is criticized often for being a tedious set and too long, but it does provide some valuable material (Dave might enjoy looking up Mackinnon's treatment of his hero, Hartmann Grisar in some of the other volumes).

I've seen Mackinnon cited saying Luther had, "...fits of dejection to which he was temperamentally subject." The context though, is quite revealing. Luther was secluded at the Wartburg, struggling with loneliness: "For the honour of the Word, and for the confirmation of myself and others, I would rather burn on live coals than, half living and not able to die, rot away here alone. . . ." Mackinnon then states:

"His infirmity was, however, more serious than he cared to let be generally known. He had suffered at Worms from an attack of indigestion. The strain had told on his emaciated body and the malady increased with the change to the Wartburg. The lack of exercise and the rich diet which his host insisted on providing resulted in persistent constipation, with bleeding from the bowels and sleeplessness the worst he had hitherto experienced. It was accompanied by fits of dejection to which he was temperamentally subject."

Yep, just another "biochemically produced" "serious psychological malady"! Any normal person would've just shaken off the pain and loneliness, seized the day, and sang like the guy in Monty Python's Holy Grail "I feel like....singing!"

Update 7/7/07 Here's some comments from someone who disagrees with me:
"The usual obsessive, puerile inanities are occurring at James Swan's blog. First (if you have the patience for it) see his ridiculous post, in "reply" to mine:http://beggarsallreformation.blo...sed- luther.html He starts out by agreeing with my simple, innocent claim:"It's no secret that Luther had many bouts with depression."That is sufficient to completely nullify his entire ensuing post (since we have no disagreement on this!). But nevertheless, he insists on proceeding to play the petty, obnoxious fool, by desperately looking for something in my post that he can mock (primarily some of my phrases that he repeats over and over as if they are self-evidently absurd and laughable). This guy needs to get a life (and a serious "writing life").