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From illusion to disenchantment

Feijoo versus the ‘falsely possessed’ in eighteenth-century Spain

María Tausiet

Presenting himself as an exposer of false beliefs, for whom Spanish society at the time was crying out, Benedictine Father Benito Feijoo warned his contemporaries about the great number of falsely possessed wandering around the country. From his perspective, the proliferation of fake possessed people constituted one of the most serious deceptions, and also one of the most widely accepted by the masses. When Feijoo wrote his treatise on the falsely possessed, a significant work was being disseminated with the express approval of the Benedictine: El mundo engañado por los falsos médicos The world deceived by false doctors. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Feijoo's worth did not stem from his scientific knowledge or his cogent arguments, nor even his unstinting fight against what he considered to be superstition, but in his open and experimental approach to new kinds of understanding.