Old Age a Cause

Old Age a Cause

SECONDARY peculiar causes efficient, so called in respect of the other precedent, are either congenitæ, internæ, innatæ, as they term them, inward, innate, inbred; or else outward and adventitious, which happen to us after we are born: congenite or born with us, are either natural, as old age, or præter naturam (as Fernelius calls it) that distemperature, which we have from our parents' seed, it being an hereditary disease. The first of these, which is natural to all, and which no man living can avoid, is old age, which being cold and dry, and of the same quality as melancholy is, must needs cause it, by diminution of spirits and substance, and increasing of adust humours; therefore Melancthon avers out of Aristotle, as an undoubted truth, Senes plerunque delirasse in senecta, that old men familiarly dote, ob atram bilam, for black choler, which is then superabundant in them: and Rhasis, that Arabian physician, in his Cont. lib. 1, cap. 9, calls it "a necessary and inseparable accident," to all old and decrepit persons. After seventy years (as the Psalmist saith) "all is trouble and sorrow;" and common experience confirms the truth of it in weak and old persons, especially such as have lived in action all their lives, had great employment, much business, much command, and many servants to oversee, and leave off ex abrupto; as Charles the Fifth did to King Philip, resign up all on a sudden; they are overcome with melancholy in an instant: or if they do continue in such courses, they dote at last (senex bis puer), and are not able to manage their estates through common infirmities incident in their age; full of ache, sorrow and grief; children again, dizzards, they carle many times as they sit, and talk to themselves, they are angry, waspish, displeased with everything, "suspicious of all, wayward, covetous, hard (saith Tully), self-willed, superstitious, self-conceited, braggers and admirers of themselves," as Balthasar Castalio hath truly noted of them. This natural infirmity is most eminent in old women, and such as are poor, solitary, live in most base esteem and beggary, or such as are witches; insomuch that Wierus, Baptista Porta, Ulricus Molitor, Edwicus, do refer all that witches are said to do, to imagination alone, and this humour of melancholy. And whereas it is controverted, whether they can bewitch cattle to death, ride in the air upon a coulstaff out of a chimney-top, transform themselves into cats, dogs, &c., translate bodies from place to place, meet in companies, and dance, as they do, or have carnal copulation with the devil, they ascribe all to this redundant melancholy, which domineers in them, to somniferous potions, and natural causes, the devil's policy. Non lædunt omnino (saith Wierus) aut quid mirum faciunt (de Lamiis, lib. 3, cap. 36), ut putatur, solam vitiatam habent phantasiam; they do no such wonders at all, only their brains are crazed. "They think they are witches, and can do hurt, but do not." But this opinion Bodine, Erastus, Danæus, Scribanius, Sebastian Michaelis, Campanella de sensu rerum, lib. 4, cap. 9, Dandinus the Jesuit, lib. 2, de Anima, explode; Cicogna confutes at large. That witches are melancholy, they deny not, but not out of corrupt phantasy alone, so to delude themselves and others, or to produce such effects.

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