Martin luther was insane.

That is the verdict of some, at least, who would practice psychoanalysis. There is much available for the probing mind doing a case study in retrospect concerning Luther’s strange and abnormal personality. His own writings, as well as anecdotes and legends that surround him, bear testimony to the complexities of the Reformer’s psychological profile.

First of all, consider Luther’s intemperate speech patterns. Though he wrote in an age accustomed to a polemical style, Luther exceeds his own contemporaries in acerbic rhetoric. When his opponents spoke against him, he said, “The dogs are beginning to bark.” He said to Erasmus, “Your book struck me as so worthless and poor that my heart went out to you for having defiled your lovely, brilliant flow of language with such vile stuff. I thought it outrageous to convey material of so low a quality in the trappings of such rare eloquence; it is like using gold or silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung.” One pundit remarked of Luther that he didn’t call a spade a spade, but a manure shovel!

But salty speech is hardly enough to convict a man of lunacy, even when the expletives are left undeleted. The apostle Paul occasionally was given to biting criticism, and Jesus himself likened some persons to members of the animal kingdom—Herod, for example, as “fox,” and the Syrophoenician woman as a dog (certainly by implication).

Luther’s phobias qualify him at least for classification as neurotic. How many times did he predict his own imminent demise from various maladies only to be proven wrong by Providence? His own obituaries were as exaggerated as those reported about the still vibrant Mark Twain. But Luther was clearly phobic about disease and death. His alleged ...

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