To the left: Luther hurling an inkwell at the Devil.
There was a lot of interest over my recent entries on “Luther Myths”. I saw a lot of cut-and-pastes, and links to the entries. It has been interesting reading blog feedback and discussions generated from these aomin articles. There were too many discussions for me to join in and defend every charge made (I did though get in a few). However, I was forwarded a recent criticism:
“Your 15 myths on Luther are nice, however, on the first of the five more myths- "Luther had a mental disorder" you do not dispel the myth. You tell us from where the story comes, that is was third hand from some evil Catholic who wants to destroy Luther, but do not actually say whether or not the story is true. So you have proven that the story is third hand, and perhaps comes from a very biased source, but that in and or itself does not prove or disprove the statement, all it does is cast doubt on its authenticity, but does nothing to prove or disprove it. Your goal is to dispel the myth, and you did not reach that goal, you simply demonstrated why the story MIGHT not be true.”
The myth is that Luther had a mental disorder, and the spuriousness of Erik Erikson using an unverified story to conclude he did. In other words, Erikson began with a conclusion and sought for any information, verified or not, to make his case.
It was Cochlaeus who popularized the story of Luther in the choir loft, and he did not verify it, and comes down to us as myth. Place yourself as judge hearing a witness testify against someone. The prosecution brings forth a witness with information, and this witness says a friend, told by a friend, told by a friend, told this witness that this person did something wrong. You, as a judge (or jury), should be highly suspect of such a testimony. Roland Bainton points out,
“The story is poorly authenticated. It received distribution through Cochlaeus, whose virulent misrepresentations of Luther have poisoned the Catholic attitude toward him until recently refuted by the Catholic scholar Adolf Herte. Cochlaeus wrote later than, and presumably was dependent on, Dungersheim, who took the tale from Nathin, who appears to have derived it from the Bishop of Mansfield. Thus we get it forth hand.” (Roger Johnson, ed, Psychohistory and Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p.42)
Cochlaeus was the first Catholic apologist to critique Luther: Luther was a child of the devil, the fruit of a union between Satan and Luther's mother (who later regretted not having murdered him in the cradle). Luther lusts after wine and women, is without conscience, and approves any means to gain his end. Luther is a liar and a hypocrite, cowardly and quarrelsome. Demonic monstrosities boiled out of Luther’s powerful perverted mind. At Luther's death, Satan came to drag him off to hell.
For more information on Cochlaeus, see my paper, The Roman Catholic Perspective of Luther (Part One).