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Les Corps Démoniaques dans La Démonomanie des Sorciers : Un Examen Ontologique et Épistémologique

The numerous ontological and epistemological paradoxes found within La Démonomanie des sorciers, a demonological treaty of the 16th century, are studied within the context of demonic corporality: exploiting a rich philosophical and theological intertextuality as well as, more generally, a confessional model of logic, La Démonomanie (1580) constructs a linguistic world of demonic bodies capable of copulation, transformation, and imbuing humans with the power to practice magic. Following in the footsteps of the demonologists who precede him, Bodin constructs a system of the real and of knowledge which is as much dependent upon the authoritative ethos of his intellectual forefathers as upon the increasingly abundant demonological confessions of his own time. Despite the certainty of Jean Bodin’s tone and his fastidious deployment of internal logic, the problematics of such demonic corporality, both with regards to its theological justification as well as to its lack of direct, observable evidence, lead ultimately to an anxious appeal to the political in the text in an attempt to mitigate these aforementioned demonological contradictions and appease those who seek material reassurance. To this end, this orientation from the theological towards the political in the text, which provides a physical anchoring of Bodin’s demonological vision in a protective realm of harmonious, yet divinely necessary opposites to counter the inherent abstraction of its subject matter, certainly provides us with an insight into the divisive and anxiety-laced intellectual landscape of the late French Renaissance, insofar as it illuminates the increasingly prominent naturalist objections to established spiritual orthodoxy. However ultimately efficient this shifting orientation may be in its capacity to mitigate direct concerns, the immediate resolution of the demonic paradox in the text fails to find its complete realization, given that the specter of its own weight is not only a theoretical concern to reasoned away, but also an impossibly elusive, spiritual one—as La Démonomanie becomes as much an apparent political praxis as a demonstration of faith, its ostensibly resolved struggle with demonic corporality still betrays, even at its close, a man’s journey of faith to rid the demonic shadows from an ambiguous reality that even prescribed fire may not be capable of exorcising.
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