From Zwingli to the Neurobeyond. #1

Reading, Writing and Concentrating:

(I intend to learn a lot about Zwingli. )

Below, I will copy out some of the chapter on the history of psychiatry in Switzerland. Before I do that, here is a link to an interesting book.. ‘Outpatient psychiatry : progress, treatment, prevention’ [1985]

‘Modified versions of papers presented at the 17th and 18th annual meetings of the Association of Psychiatric Outpatient Centers of America, 1979 and 1980

Includes bibliographical references’

(I intend to go back to that book in the not so distant future. The preface alone is full of interesting information which has distracted my mind away from Switzerland for at least an hour this morning. )


From ‘World History of Psychiatry’ (1974) Edited by John G. Howells



Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry

Cornell University Medical College,

New York, New York, U.S.A.


‘The essential features which have affected the development of psychiatry in Switzerland during the past centuries are still important today.

The present constitution of the country, based on the concept of confederacy of independent cantons of the Renaissance period, was written in the 19th century. Earlier efforts to develop a viable centralistic government through the Helvetic Republic 1797-1815) were not acceptable to the Swiss people. Many important liberal contributions that came out of this period were retained, but the power to deal with them was returned to the cantons. These included education, health, welfare, and fundamental economic decisions. Persistent efforts of the liberal party led to some further reforms, but they were increasingly rejected by the conservative party which dominated the seven Catholic cantons, resulting in a brief revolutionary conflict—Sonderbundkrieg, 1847. The religious factor was less important here than was the effort to protect the sovereignty of the small and sparsely populated cantons.

In 1847 a constitution was accepted which made the country a confederacy with a bicameral parliament. The rights and obligations of citizenship remained founded in the community, be it village or  city. It was the community’s responsibility to confer citizenship to outsiders and to take care of the needs of the inhabitants, including that of health. The communities expressed their will through the parliament of their canton. It became increasingly clear that more power had to be given to the federal government, but even at the beginning of the 20th century marked differences still existed in the civil and criminal laws of various cantons.

With the Helvetic Republic full political rights were given to all regions of Switzerland, and new cantons were formed in the French-speaking West, German -speaking North and East, and Italian-speaking South of the country.

In the 16th century, 13 independent cantons had formed a loose organization for mutual defense. With the Reformation their religious and cultural ties brought the country together, although the Catholic cantons formed a minority and disagreed on some political points.

In the medieval period and in the Renaissance, the cities of Basel, Bern, Zurich, and Geneva flourished through commerce and industry. Agricultural cultivation increased when laws against mercenaries in the 16th century prevented the struggling peasants from escaping into a life of adventure and gilded promises. The industrial development of the 17th and 18th centuries and the strong emphasis on agriculture in the middle of the 18th century increased prosperity where earlier, through the devastating epidemics of the 16th and 17th centuries, there had been great suffering and hardship.

Starting with the humanism of the late 15th century, the Swiss cities became a haven for persecuted emigrants from neighboring countries. This custom has continued throughout the centuries. Such emigrants from Italy and France helped stimulate the silk and wool industry in Basel, Geneva and Zurich. Other newcomers aided in building the country’s political and cultural strength.



In the early 16th century humanism exerted a vast influence. Basel, Zurich, Geneva and Bern became educational and religious centers. Through Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) a religious reform was established in which a social-ethical radicalism attacked taxation by the Church, the sale of letters of indulgence, the adoration of saints, the celibacy of priests, dogmatic religious teaching, and the power of the Pope. An independent evangelical church was established in Zurich (1525) and its theological and cultural teaching was soon accepted in the cantons of the northern and western part of Switzerland, but the people of the mountainous central region retained their Catholicism (the religious separation in Catholic and Protestant cantons became less significant in the 19th century). In Lausanne and Geneva, independent influential reformers were preaching the theology of Calvin even before he came to live in Geneva, in 1536. Through the conciliatory attitude of the leaders of the Geneva and Zurich churches a formula was found (1541) which permitted the establishment of one evangelical church in Switzerland. However, efforts to find a solution for the theological differences between the Swiss and the Lutheran churches failed. For a historical understanding of the development of psychiatry in  Switzerland, the spread of Calvinism into Holland, France, and Scotland is interesting because it offered cultural connections with these countries and their universities. 

The aggressive leadership of Zwingli led to social reforms which became significant in his lifetime but more so in the succeeding years. Through his efforts the mercenary system of the 15th and early 16th centuries was abolished and political and military leaders were forbidden to accept pensions from foreign governments. He stressed the need for public education and founded a seminary for the education of preachers, which soon became an important school of higher education. Alcoholism, loose sexual morals, prostitution, and idleness were attacked. Pamphlets on marriage attempted to strengthen the life of the family. Support of the poor, i.e., those unable to work, became an obligation of the community. The great influence of Erasmus, whom Zwingli admired and had studied intensely, is readily evident. The son of a well-established family of a small village in Eastern Switzerland, Zwingli never lost contact with the farming population. He always stressed that a healthy society needs a healthy church….’

I will leave it there.. I am finding this very interesting….

I’ll definitely be finding out a lot more about Zwingli soon… Switzerland is nowadays a very important world  player in psychiatry, drugs etc..   As I continue to study Belgium.. It is only natural that France, (Netherlands) Holland, Scotland and Germany are important, add to that Italy.. My study of Amish history will probably tie in to all of this.. And I am planning to read a fair amount about the ‘Red Star Line’ which will connect a lot of which I learn to North America. .. I am also slowly learning about Russia (mainly the Soviet Union actually, via books such as Lenin’s Tomb).. I have a lot to learn about Poland and quite a few other European countries.. This obsession I seem to have regarding psychiatry and drugs is actually helping me learn about the general history of Europe and beyond… And the importance of Christianity can never be underestimated by me.   I will have to dig out a book I copied from, probably a few years ago now.. “Kingship of Christ’ by George Bell.  .. An interesting book in a lot of ways, it has a very short and easy to understand glossary at the back on the different churches (Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian  etc.. )






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