Nicolas Malebranche looks at the phenomena of imaginative contagion up to the point of madness, as in the case of the visions of sorcerers and werewolves. Although Malebranche relies on a psycho-physiological description, it becomes obvious that the responsibility for such contagions is not to be attributed to those who were expected to be the cause, that is would-be sorcerers, but to those who picked up on their deeds and gave them some importance. It is therefore the material conditions of these stories and the use made by them of the social and intellectual authorities that should be underlined. In the final analysis, the Malebranchian reflexion on imaginative contagion is a critique of the writers of such stories and of the anxiety they may produce in their readers’ minds. At this point, the general explanatory schema according to which a contagion is due to the action of a strong imagination upon a weaker one is no longer relevant. For as regards the writer, given that he is impressed by the visionary’s tales and has himself a strong imagination, this makes him all the more responsible for what he writes.
Keywords: Malebranche, imaginative contagion, sorcerers, visions, werewolves, demonographers, writers