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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

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Rome laws were at times enacted against magicians, they were only
occasionally enforced with rigour, and finally, toward the end of
the pagan empire, the feeling against them seemed dying out
altogether. As to its more kindly phases, men like Marcus
Aurelius and Julian did not hesitate to consult those who claimed
to foretell the future. As to black magic, it seemed hardly
worth while to enact severe laws, when charms, amulets, and even
gestures could thwart its worst machinations.

Moreover, under the old empire a real science was coming in, and
thought was progressing. Both the theory and practice of magic
were more and more held up to ridicule. Even as early a writer
as Ennius ridiculed the idea that magicians, who were generally
poor and hungry themselves, could bestow wealth on others; Pliny,
in his Natural Philosophy, showed at great length their
absurdities and cheatery; others followed in the same line of
thought, and the whole theory, except among the very lowest
classes, seemed dying out.

But with the development of Christian theology came a change.
The idea of the active interference of Satan in magic, which had
come into the Hebrew mind with especial force from Persia during
the captivity of Israel, had passed from the Hebrew Scriptures
into Christianity, and had been made still stronger by various
statements in the New Testament. Theologians laid stress
especially upon the famous utterances of the Psalmist that "all
the gods of the heathen are devils," and of St. Paul that "the
things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils";
and it was widely held that these devils were naturally indignant
at their dethronement and anxious to wreak vengeance upon
Christianity. Magicians were held to be active agents of these
dethroned gods, and this persuasion was strengthened by sundry
old practitioners in the art of magic--impostors who pretended to
supernatural powers, and who made use of old rites and phrases
inherited from paganism.

Hence it was that as soon as Christianity came into power it more
than renewed the old severities against the forbidden art, and
one of the first acts of the Emperor Constantine after his
conversion was to enact a most severe law against magic and
magicians, under which the main offender might be burned alive.
But here, too, it should be noted that a distinction between the
two sorts of magic was recognised, for Constantine shortly
afterward found it necessary to issue a proclamation stating that
his intention was only to prohibit deadly and malignant magic;
that he had no intention of prohibiting magic used to cure
diseases and to protect the crops from hail and tempests. But as
new emperors came to the throne who had not in them that old
leaven of paganism which to the last influenced Constantine, and
as theology obtained a firmer hold, severity against magic
increased. Toleration of it, even in its milder forms, was more
and more denied. Black magic and white were classed together.

This severity went on increasing and threatened the simplest
efforts in physics and chemistry; even the science of
mathematics was looked upon with dread. By the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, the older theology having arrived at the
climax of its development in Europe, terror of magic and
witchcraft took complete possession of the popular mind. In
sculpture, painting, and literature it appeared in forms ever
more and more striking. The lives of saints were filled with it.
The cathedral sculpture embodied it in every part. The storied
windows made it all the more impressive. The missal painters
wrought it not only into prayer books, but, despite the fact that
hardly a trace of the belief appears in the Psalms, they
illustrated it in the great illuminated psalters from which the
noblest part of the service was sung before the high altar. The
service books showed every form of agonizing petition for
delivery from this dire influence, and every form of exorcism for
thwarting it.

All the great theologians of the Church entered into this belief
and aided to develop it. The fathers of the early Church were
full and explicit, and the medieval doctors became more and more
minute in describing the operations of the black art and in
denouncing them. It was argued that, as the devil afflicted Job,
so he and his minions continue to cause diseases; that, as Satan
is the Prince of the power of the air, he and his minions cause
tempests; that the cases of Nebuchadnezzar and Lot's wife prove
that sorcerers can transform human beings into animals or even
lifeless matter; that, as the devils of Gadara were cast into
swine, all animals could be afflicted in the same manner; and
that, as Christ himself had been transported through the air by
the power of Satan, so any human being might be thus transported
to "an exceeding high mountain."

Thus the horror of magic and witchcraft increased on every hand,
and in 1317 Pope John XXII issued his bull Spondent pariter,
levelled at the alchemists, but really dealing a terrible blow at
the beginnings of chemical science. That many alchemists were
knavish is no doubt true, but no infallibility in separating the
evil from the good was shown by the papacy in this matter. In
this and in sundry other bulls and briefs we find Pope John, by
virtue of his infallibility as the world's instructor in all that
pertains to faith and morals, condemning real science and
pseudo-science alike. In two of these documents, supposed to be
inspired by wisdom from on high, he complains that both he and
his flock are in danger of their lives by the arts of the
sorcerers; he declares that such sorcerers can send devils into
mirrors and finger rings, and kill men and women by a magic word;
that they had tried to kill him by piercing a waxen image of him
with needles in the name of the devil. He therefore called on
all rulers, secular and ecclesiastical, to hunt down the
miscreants who thus afflicted the faithful, and he especially
increased the powers of inquisitors in various parts of Europe
for this purpose.

The impulse thus given to childish fear and hatred against the
investigation of nature was felt for centuries; more and more
chemistry came to be known as one of the "seven devilish arts."

Thus began a long series of demonstrations against magic from the
centre of Christendom. In 1437, and again in 1445, Pope Eugene
IV issued bulls exhorting inquisitors to be more diligent in
searching out and delivering over to punishment magicians and
witches who produced bad weather, the result being that
persecution received a fearful impulse. But the worst came forty
years later still, when, in 1484, there came the yet more
terrible bull of Pope Innocent VIII, known as Summis
Desiderantes, which let inquisitors loose upon Germany, with
Sprenger at their head, armed with the Witch-Hammer, the fearful
manual Malleus Maleficarum, to torture and destroy men and women
by tens of thousands for sorcery and magic. Similar bulls were
issued in 1504 by Julius II, and in 1523 by Adrian VI.

The system of repression thus begun lasted for hundreds of years.
The Reformation did little to change it, and in Germany, where
Catholics and Protestants vied with each other in proving their
orthodoxy, it was at its worst. On German soil more than one
hundred thousand victims are believed to have been sacrificed to
it between the middle of the fifteenth and the middle of the
sixteenth centuries.

Thus it was that from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas, from
Aquinas to Luther, and from Luther to Wesley, theologians of both
branches of the Church, with hardly an exception, enforced the
belief in magic and witchcraft, and, as far as they had power,
carried out the injunction, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to

How this was ended by the progress of scientific modes of thought
I shall endeavour to show elsewhere: here we are only concerned
with the effect of this widespread terrorism on the germs and
early growth of the physical sciences.

Of course, the atmosphere created by this persecution of
magicians was deadly to any open beginnings of experimental
science. The conscience of the time, acting in obedience to the
highest authorities of the Church, and, as was supposed, in
defence of religion, now brought out a missile which it hurled
against scientific investigators with deadly effect. The
mediaeval battlefields of thought were strewn with various forms
of it. This missile was the charge of unlawful compact with
Satan, and it was most effective. We find it used against every
great investigator of nature in those times and for ages after.
The list of great men in those centuries charged with magic, as
given by Naude, is astounding; it includes every man of real
mark, and in the midst of them stands one of the most thoughtful
popes, Sylvester II (Gerbert), and the foremost of mediaeval
thinkers on natural science, Albert the Great. It came to be the
accepted idea that, as soon as a man conceived a wish to study
the works of God, his first step must be a league with the devil.

It was entirely natural, then, that in 1163 Pope Alexander III,
in connection with the Council of Tours, forbade the study of
physics to all ecclesiastics, which, of course, in that age meant
prohibition of all such scientific studies to the only persons
likely to make them. What the Pope then expressly forbade was,
in the words of the papal bull, "the study of physics or the laws
of the world," and it was added that any person violating this
rule "shall be avoided by all and excommunicated."[274]

[274] For the charge of magic against scholars and others, see
Naude, Apologie pour les Grands Hommes soupconnes de Magie,
passim; also Maury, Hist. de la Magie, troisieme edition, pp.
214, 215; also Cuvier, Hist. des Sciences Naturelles, vol. i, p.
396. For the prohibition by the Council of Tours and Alexander
III, see the Acta Conciliorum (ed. Harduin), tom. vi, pars ii, p.
1598, Canon viii.

The first great thinker who, in spite of some stumbling into
theologic pitfalls, persevered in a truly scientific path, was
Roger Bacon. His life and works seem until recently to have been
generally misunderstood: he was formerly ranked as a
superstitious alchemist who happened upon some inventions, but
more recent investigation has shown him to be one of the great
masters in the evolution of human thought. The advance of sound
historical judgment seems likely to bring the fame of the two who
bear the name of Bacon nearly to equality. Bacon of the
chancellorship and of the Novum Organum may not wane, but Bacon
of the prison cell and the Opus Majus steadily approaches him in

More than three centuries before Francis Bacon advocated the
experimental method, Roger Bacon practised it, and the results as
now revealed are wonderful. He wrought with power in many
sciences, and his knowledge was sound and exact. By him, more
than by any other man of the Middle Ages, was the world brought
into the more fruitful paths of scientific thought--the paths
which have led to the most precious inventions; and among these
are clocks, lenses, and burning specula, which were given by him
to the world, directly or indirectly. In his writings are found
formulae for extracting phosphorus, manganese, and bismuth. It
is even claimed, with much appearance of justice, that he
investigated the power of steam, and he seems to have very nearly
reached some of the principal doctrines of modern chemistry. But
it should be borne in mind that his METHOD of investigation was
even greater than its RESULTS. In an age when theological
subtilizing was alone thought to give the title of scholar, he
insisted on REAL reasoning and the aid of natural science by
mathematics; in an age when experimenting was sure to cost a man
his reputation, and was likely to cost him his life, he insisted
on experimenting, and braved all its risks. Few greater men have
lived. As we follow Bacon's process of reasoning regarding the
refraction of light, we see that he was divinely inspired.

On this man came the brunt of the battle. The most conscientious
men of his time thought it their duty to fight him, and they
fought him steadily and bitterly. His sin was not disbelief in
Christianity, not want of fidelity to the Church, not even
dissent from the main lines of orthodoxy; on the contrary, he
showed in all his writings a desire to strengthen Christianity,
to build up the Church, and to develop orthodoxy. He was
attacked and condemned mainly because he did not believe that
philosophy had become complete, and that nothing more was to be
learned; he was condemned, as his opponents expressly declared,
"on account of certain suspicious novelties"--"propter quasdam
novitates suspectas."

Upon his return to Oxford, about 1250, the forces of unreason
beset him on all sides. Greatest of all his enemies was
Bonaventura. This enemy was the theologic idol of the period:
the learned world knew him as the "seraphic Doctor"; Dante gave
him an honoured place in the great poem of the Middle Ages; the
Church finally enrolled him among the saints. By force of great
ability in theology he had become, in the middle of the
thirteenth century, general of the Franciscan order: thus, as
Bacon's master, his hands were laid heavily on the new teaching,
so that in 1257 the troublesome monk was forbidden to lecture;
all men were solemnly warned not to listen to his teaching, and
he was ordered to Paris, to be kept under surveillance by the
monastic authorities. Herein was exhibited another of the myriad
examples showing the care exercised over scientific teaching by
the Church. The reasons for thus dealing with Bacon were
evident: First, he had dared attempt scientific explanations of
natural phenomena, which under the mystic theology of the Middle
Ages had been referred simply to supernatural causes. Typical
was his explanation of the causes and character of the rainbow.
It was clear, cogent, a great step in the right direction as
regards physical science: but there, in the book of Genesis,
stood the legend regarding the origin of the rainbow, supposed to
have been dictated immediately by the Holy Spirit; and, according
to that, the "bow in the cloud" was not the result of natural
laws, but a "sign" arbitrarily placed in the heavens for the
simple purpose of assuring mankind that there was not to be
another universal deluge.

But this was not the worst: another theological idea was arrayed
against him--the idea of Satanic intervention in science; hence
he was attacked with that goodly missile which with the epithets
"infidel" and "atheist" has decided the fate of so many
battles--the charge of magic and compact with Satan.

He defended himself with a most unfortunate weapon--a weapon
which exploded in his hands and injured him more than the enemy;
for he argued against the idea of compacts with Satan, and showed
that much which is ascribed to demons results from natural means.
This added fuel to the flame. To limit the power of Satan was
deemed hardly less impious than to limit the power of God.

The most powerful protectors availed him little. His friend Guy
of Foulques, having in 1265 been made Pope under the name of
Clement IV, shielded him for a time; but the fury of the enemy
was too strong, and when he made ready to perform a few
experiments before a small audience, we are told that all Oxford
was in an uproar. It was believed that Satan was about to be let
loose. Everywhere priests, monks, fellows, and students rushed
about, their garments streaming in the wind, and everywhere rose
the cry, "Down with the magician!" and this cry, "Down with the
magician!" resounded from cell to cell and from hall to hall.

Another weapon was also used upon the battlefields of science in
that time with much effect. The Arabs had made many noble
discoveries in science, and Averroes had, in the opinion of many,
divided the honours with St. Thomas Aquinas; these facts gave
the new missile--it was the epithet "Mohammedan"; this, too, was
flung with effect at Bacon.

The attack now began to take its final shape. The two great
religious orders, Franciscan and Dominican, then in all the
vigour of their youth, vied with each other in fighting the new
thought in chemistry and physics. St. Dominic solemnly
condemned research by experiment and observation; the general of
the Franciscan order took similar ground. In 1243 the Dominicans
interdicted every member of their order from the study of
medicine and natural philosophy, and in 1287 this interdiction
was extended to the study of chemistry.

In 1278 the authorities of the Franciscan order assembled at
Paris, solemnly condemned Bacon's teaching, and the general of
the Franciscans, Jerome of Ascoli, afterward Pope, threw him into
prison, where he remained for fourteen years, Though Pope Clement
IV had protected him, Popes Nicholas III and IV, by virtue of
their infallibility, decided that he was too dangerous to be at
large, and he was only released at the age of eighty--but a year
or two before death placed him beyond the reach of his enemies.
How deeply the struggle had racked his mind may be gathered from
that last affecting declaration of his, "Would that I had not
given myself so much trouble for the love of science!"

The attempt has been made by sundry champions of the Church to
show that some of Bacon's utterances against ecclesiastical and
other corruptions in his time were the main cause of the severity
which the Church authorities exercised against him. This helps
the Church but little, even if it be well based; but it is not
well based. That some of his utterances of this sort made him
enemies is doubtless true, but the charges on which St.
Bonaventura silenced him, and Jerome of Ascoli imprisoned him,
and successive popes kept him in prison for fourteen years, were
"dangerous novelties" and suspected sorcery.

Sad is it to think of what this great man might have given to the
world had ecclesiasticism allowed the gift. He held the key of
treasures which would have freed mankind from ages of error and
misery. With his discoveries as a basis, with his method as a
guide, what might not the world have gained! Nor was the wrong
done to that age alone; it was done to this age also. The
nineteenth century was robbed at the same time with the
thirteenth. But for that interference with science the
nineteenth century would be enjoying discoveries which will not
be reached before the twentieth century, and even later.
Thousands of precious lives shall be lost, tens of thousands
shall suffer discomfort, privation, sickness, poverty, ignorance,
for lack of discoveries and methods which, but for this mistaken
dealing with Roger Bacon and his compeers, would now be blessing
the earth.

In two recent years sixty thousand children died in England and
in Wales of scarlet fever; probably quite as many died in the
United States. Had not Bacon been hindered, we should have had
in our hands, by this time, the means to save two thirds of these
victims; and the same is true of typhoid, typhus, cholera, and
that great class of diseases of whose physical causes science is
just beginning to get an inkling. Put together all the efforts
of all the atheists who have ever lived, and they have not done
so much harm to Christianity and the world as has been done by
the narrow-minded, conscientious men who persecuted Roger Bacon,
and closed the path which he gave his life to open.

But despite the persecution of Bacon and the defection of those
who ought to have followed him, champions of the experimental
method rose from time to time during the succeeding centuries.
We know little of them personally; our main knowledge of their
efforts is derived from the endeavours of their persecutors.

Under such guidance the secular rulers were naturally vigorous.
In France Charles V forbade, in 1380, the possession of furnaces
and apparatus necessary for chemical processes; under this law
the chemist John Barrillon was thrown into prison, and it was
only by the greatest effort that his life was saved. In England
Henry IV, in 1404, issued a similar decree. In Italy the
Republic of Venice, in 1418, followed these examples. The
judicial torture and murder of Antonio de Dominis were not simply
for heresy his investigations in the phenomena of light were an
additional crime. In Spain everything like scientific research
was crushed out among Christians. Some earnest efforts were
afterward made by Jews and Moors, but these were finally ended by
persecution; and to this hour the Spanish race, in some respects
the most gifted in Europe, which began its career with everything
in its favour and with every form of noble achievement, remains
in intellectual development behind every other in Christendom.

To question the theological view of physical science was, even
long after the close of the Middle Ages, exceedingly perilous.
We have seen how one of Roger Bacon's unpardonable offences was
his argument against the efficacy of magic, and how, centuries
afterward, Cornelius Agrippa, Weyer, Flade, Loos, Bekker, and a
multitude of other investigators and thinkers, suffered
confiscation of property, loss of position, and even torture and
death, for similar views.[275]

[275] For an account of Bacon's treatise, De Nullitate Magiae,
see Hoefer. For the uproar caused by Bacon's teaching at Oxford,
see Kopp, Geschichte der Chemie, Braunschweig, 1869, vol. i, p.
63; and for a somewhat reactionary discussion of Bacon's relation
to the progress of chemistry, see a recent work by the same
author, Ansichten uber die Aufgabe der Chemie, Braunschweig,
1874, pp. 85 et seq.; also, for an excellent summary, see Hoefer,
Hist. de la Chimie, vol. i, pp. 368 et seq. For probably the
most thorough study of Bacon's general works in science, and for
his views of the universe, see Prof. Werner, Die Kosmologie und
allgemeine Naturlehre des Roger Baco, Wein, 1879. For summaries
of his work in other fields, see Whewell, vol. i, pp. 367, 368;
Draper, p. 438; Saisset, Descartes et ses Precurseurs, deuxieme
edition, pp. 397 et seq.; Nourrisson, Progres de la Pensee
humaine, pp. 271, 272; Sprengel, Histoire de la Medecine, Paris,
1865, vol. ii, p. 397; Cuvier, Histoire des Sciences Naturelles,
vol. i, p. 417. As to Bacon's orthodoxy, see Saisset, pp. 53,
55. For special examination of causes of Bacon's condemnation,
see Waddington, cited by Saisset, p. 14. For a brief but
admirable statement of Roger Bacon's realtion to the world in his
time, and of what he might have done had he not been thwarted by
theology, see Dollinger, Studies in European History, English
translation, London, 1890, pp. 178, 179. For a good example of
the danger of denying the full power of Satan, even in much more
recent times and in a Protestant country, see account of
treatment in Bekker's Monde Enchante by the theologians of
Holland, in Nisard, Histoire des Livres Populaires, vol. i, pp.
172, 173. Kopp, in his Ansichten, pushes criticism even to some
scepticism as to Roger Bacon being the DISCOVERER of many of the
things generally attributed to him; but, after all deductions are
carefully made, enough remains to make Bacon the greatest
benefactor to humanity during the Middle Ages. For Roger Bacon's
deep devotion to religion and the Church, see citation and
remarks in Schneider, Roger Bacon, Augsburg, 1873, p. 112; also,
citation from the Opus Majus, in Eicken, chap. vi. On Bacon as a
"Mohammedan," see Saisset, p. 17. For the interdiction of
studies in physical science by the Dominicans and Franciscans,
see Henri Martin, Histoire de France, vol. iv, p. 283. For
suppression of chemical teaching by the Parliament of Paris, see
ibid., vol. xii, pp. 14, 15. For proofs that the world is
steadily working toward great discoveries as to the cause and
prevention of zymotic diseases and their propogation, see Beale's
Disease Germs, Baldwin Latham's Sanitary Engineering, Michel
Levy's Traite a Hygiene Publique et Privee. For a summary of the
bull Spondent pariter, and for an example of injury done by it,
see Schneider, Geschichte der Alchemie, p. 160; and for a
studiously moderate statement, Milman, Latin Christianity, book
xii, chap. vi. For character and general efforts of John XXII,
see Lea, Inquisition, vol. iii, p. 436, also pp. 452 et seq. For
the character of the two papal briefs, see Rydberg, p. 177. For
the bull Summis Desiderantes, see previous chapters of this work.
For Antonio de Dominis, see Montucla, Hist. des Mathematiques,
vol. i, p. 705; Humboldt, Cosmos; Libri, vol. iv, pp. 145 et seq.
For Weyer, Flade, Bekker, Loos, and others, see the chapters of
this work on Meteorology, Demoniacal Possession and Insanity, and
Diabolism and Hysteria.

The theological atmosphere, which in consequence settled down
about the great universities and colleges, seemed likely to
stifle all scientific effort in every part of Europe, and it is
one of the great wonders in human history that in spite of this
deadly atmosphere a considerable body of thinking men, under such
protection as they could secure, still persisted in devoting
themselves to the physical sciences.

In Italy, in the latter half of the sixteenth century, came a
striking example of the difficulties which science still
encountered even after the Renaissance had undermined the old
beliefs. At that time John Baptist Porta was conducting his
investigations, and, despite a considerable mixture of
pseudo-science, they were fruitful. His was not "black magic,"
claiming the aid of Satan, but "white magic," bringing into
service the laws of nature--the precursor of applied science.
His book on meteorology was the first in which sound ideas were
broached on this subject; his researches in optics gave the
world the camera obscura, and possibly the telescope; in
chemistry he seems to have been the first to show how to reduce
the metallic oxides, and thus to have laid the foundation of
several important industries. He did much to change natural
philosophy from a black art to a vigorous open science. He
encountered the old ecclesiastical policy. The society founded
by him for physical research, "I Secreti," was broken up, and he
was summoned to Rome by Pope Paul III and forbidden to continue
his investigations.

So, too, in France. In 1624, some young chemists at Paris having
taught the experimental method and cut loose from Aristotle, the
faculty of theology beset the Parliament of Paris, and the
Parliament prohibited these new chemical researches under the
severest penalties.

The same war continued in Italy. Even after the belief in magic
had been seriously weakened, the old theological fear and dislike
of physical science continued. In 1657 occurred the first
sitting of the Accademia del Cimento at Florence, under the
presidency of Prince Leopold de' Medici This academy promised
great things for science; it was open to all talent; its only
fundamental law was "the repudiation of any favourite system or
sect of philosophy, and the obligation to investigate Nature by
the pure light of experiment"; it entered into scientific
investigations with energy. Borelli in mathematics, Redi in
natural history, and many others, enlarged the boundaries of
knowledge. Heat, light, magnetism, electricity, projectiles,
digestion, and the incompressibility of water were studied by the
right method and with results that enriched the world.

The academy was a fortress of science, and siege was soon laid to
it. The votaries of scholastic learning denounced it as
irreligious, quarrels were fomented, Leopold was bribed with a
cardinal's hat and drawn away to Rome, and, after ten years of
beleaguering, the fortress fell: Borelli was left a beggar;
Oliva killed himself in despair.

So, too, the noted Academy of the Lincei at times incurred the
ill will of the papacy by the very fact that it included
thoughtful investigators. It was "patronized" by Pope Urban VIII
in such manner as to paralyze it, and it was afterward vexed by
Pope Gregory XVI. Even in our own time sessions of scientific
associations were discouraged and thwarted by as kindly a pontiff
as Pius IX.[276]

[276] For Porta, see the English translation of his main summary,
Natural Magick, London, 1658. The first chapters are especially
interesting, as showing what the word "magic" had come to mean in
the mind of a man in whom mediaeval and modern ideas were
curiously mixed; see also Hoefer, Histoire de la Chimie, vol. ii,
pp. 102-106; also Kopp; also Sprengel, Histoire de la Medecine,
vol. iii, p. 239; also Musset-Pathay. For the Accademia del
Cimento, see Napier, Florentine History, vol. v, p. 485;
Tiraboschi, Storia della Litteratura; Henri Martin, Histoire de
France; Jevons, Principles of Science, vol. ii, pp. 36-40. For
value attached to Borelli's investigations by Newton and Huygens,
see Brewster's Life of Sir Isaac Newton, London, 1875, pp. 128,
129. Libri, in his first Essai sur Galilee, p. 37, says that
Oliva was summoned to Rome and so tortured by the Inquisition
that, to escape further cruelty, he ended his life by throwing
himself from a window. For interference by Pope Gregory XVI with
the Academy of the Lincei, and with public instruction generally,
see Carutti, Storia della Accademia dei Lincei, p. 126. Pius IX,
with all his geniality, seems to have allowed his hostility to
voluntary associations to carry him very far at times. For his
answer to an application made through Lord Odo Russell regarding
a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals and his answer
that "such an association could not be sanctioned by the Holy
See, being founded on a theological error, to wit, that
Christians owed any duties to animals," see Frances Power Cobbe,
Hopes of the Human Race, p. 207.

A hostility similar in kind, though less in degree, was shown in
Protestant countries.

Even after Thomasius in Germany and Voltaire in France and
Beccaria in Italy had given final blows to the belief in magic
and witchcraft throughout Christendom, the traditional orthodox
distrust of the physical sciences continued for a long time.

In England a marked dislike was shown among various leading
ecclesiastics and theologians towards the Royal Society, and
later toward the Association for the Advancement of Science; and
this dislike, as will hereafter be seen, sometimes took shape in
serious opposition.

As a rule, both in Protestant and Catholic countries instruction
in chemistry and physics was for a long time discouraged by
Church authorities; and, when its suppression was no longer
possible, great pains were taken to subordinate it to instruction
supposed to be more fully in accordance with the older methods of
theological reasoning.

I have now presented in outline the more direct and open struggle
of the physical sciences with theology, mainly as an exterior
foe. We will next consider their warfare with the same foe in
its more subtle form, mainly as a vitiating and sterilizing
principle in science itself.

We have seen thus far, first, how such men as Eusebius,
Lactantius, and their compeers, opposed scientific investigation
as futile; next, how such men as Albert the Great, St. Thomas
Aquinas, and the multitude who followed them, turned the main
current of medieval thought from science to theology; and,
finally, how a long line of Church authorities from Popes John
XXII and Innocent VIII, and the heads of the great religious
orders, down to various theologians and ecclesiastics, Catholic
and Protestant, of a very recent period, endeavoured first to
crush and afterward to discourage scientific research as

Yet, injurious as all this was to the evolution of science, there
was developed something in many respects more destructive; and
this was the influence of mystic theology, penetrating,
permeating, vitiating, sterilizing nearly every branch of science
for hundreds of years. Among the forms taken by this development
in the earlier Middle Ages we find a mixture of physical science
with a pseudo-science obtained from texts of Scripture. In
compounding this mixture, Jews and Christians vied with each
other. In this process the sacred books were used as a fetich;
every word, every letter, being considered to have a divine and
hidden meaning. By combining various scriptural letters in
various abstruse ways, new words of prodigious significance in
magic were obtained, and among them the great word embracing the
seventy-two mystical names of God--the mighty word
"Schemhamphoras." Why should men seek knowledge by observation
and experiment in the book of Nature, when the book of
Revelation, interpreted by the Kabbalah, opened such treasures to
the ingenious believer?

So, too, we have ancient mystical theories of number which the
theological spirit had made Christian, usurping an enormous place
in medieval science. The sacred power of the number three was
seen in the Trinity; in the three main divisions of the
universe--the empyrean, the heavens, and the earth; in the three
angelic hierarchies; in the three choirs of seraphim, cherubim,
and thrones; in the three of dominions, virtues, and powers; in
the three of principalities, archangels, and angels; in the
three orders in the Church--bishops, priests, and deacons; in the
three classes--the baptized, the communicants, and the monks; in
the three degrees of attainment--light, purity, and knowledge; in
the three theological virtues--faith, hope, and charity--and in
much else. All this was brought into a theologico-scientific
relation, then and afterward, with the three dimensions of space;
with the three divisions of time--past, present, and future; with
the three realms of the visible world--sky, earth, and sea; with
the three constituents of man--body, soul, and spirit; with the
threefold enemies of man--the world, the flesh, and the devil;
with the three kingdoms in nature--mineral, vegetable, and
animal; with "the three colours"--red, yellow, and blue; with
"the three eyes of the honey-bee"--and with a multitude of other
analogues equally precious. The sacred power of the number seven
was seen in the seven golden candlesticks and the seven churches
in the Apocalypse; in the seven cardinal virtues and the seven
deadly sins; in the seven liberal arts and the seven devilish
arts, and, above all, in the seven sacraments. And as this
proved in astrology that there could be only seven planets, so it
proved in alchemy that there must be exactly seven metals. The
twelve apostles were connected with the twelve signs in the
zodiac, and with much in physical science. The seventy-two
disciples, the seventy-two interpreters of the Old Testament, the
seventy-two mystical names of God, were connected with the
alleged fact in anatomy that there were seventy-two joints in the
human frame.

Then, also, there were revived such theologic and metaphysical
substitutes for scientific thought as the declaration that the
perfect line is a circle, and hence that the planets must move in
absolute circles--a statement which led astronomy astray even
when the great truths of the Copernican theory were well in
sight; also, the declaration that nature abhors a vacuum--a
statement which led physics astray until Torricelli made his
experiments; also, the declaration that we see the lightning
before we hear the thunder because "sight is nobler than

In chemistry we have the same theologic tendency to magic, and,
as a result, a muddle of science and theology, which from one
point of view seems blasphemous and from another idiotic, but
which none the less sterilized physical investigation for ages.
That debased Platonism which had been such an important factor in
the evolution of Christian theology from the earliest days of the
Church continued its work. As everything in inorganic nature was
supposed to have spiritual significance, the doctrines of the
Trinity and Incarnation were turned into an argument in behalf of
the philosopher's stone; arguments for the scheme of redemption
and for transubstantiation suggested others of similar
construction to prove the transmutation of metals; the doctrine
of the resurrection of the human body was by similar mystic
jugglery connected with the processes of distillation and
sublimation. Even after the Middle Ages were past, strong men
seemed unable to break away from such reasoning as this--among
them such leaders as Basil Valentine in the fifteenth century,
Agricola in the sixteenth, and Van Helmont in the seventeenth.

The greatest theologians contributed to the welter of unreason
from which this pseudo-science was developed. One question
largely discussed was, whether at the Redemption it was necessary
for God to take the human form. Thomas Aquinas answered that it
was necessary, but William Occam and Duns Scotus answered that it
was not; that God might have taken the form of a stone, or of a
log, or of a beast. The possibilities opened to wild substitutes
for science by this sort of reasoning were infinite. Men have
often asked how it was that the Arabians accomplished so much in
scientific discovery as compared with Christian investigators;
but the answer is easy: the Arabians were comparatively free
from these theologic allurements which in Christian Europe
flickered in the air on all sides, luring men into paths which
led no-whither.

Strong investigators, like Arnold of Villanova, Raymond Lully,
Basil Valentine, Paracelsus, and their compeers, were thus drawn
far out of the only paths which led to fruitful truths. In a
work generally ascribed to the first of these, the student is
told that in mixing his chemicals he must repeat the psalm
Exsurge Domine, and that on certain chemical vessels must be
placed the last words of Jesus on the cross. Vincent of Beauvais
insisted that, as the Bible declares that Noah, when five hundred
years old, had children born to him, he must have possessed
alchemical means of preserving life; and much later Dickinson
insisted that the patriarchs generally must have owed their long
lives to such means. It was loudly declared that the reality of
the philosopher's stone was proved by the words of St. John in
the Revelation. "To him that overcometh I will give a white
stone." The reasonableness of seeking to develop gold out of the
baser metals was for many generations based upon the doctrine of
the resurrection of the physical body, which, though explicitly
denied by St. Paul, had become a part of the creed of the Church.
Martin Luther was especially drawn to believe in the alchemistic
doctrine of transmutation by this analogy. The Bible was
everywhere used, both among Protestants and Catholics, in support
of these mystic adulterations of science, and one writer, as late
as 1751, based his alchemistic arguments on more than a hundred
passages of Scripture. As an example of this sort of reasoning,
we have a proof that the elect will preserve the philosopher's
stone until the last judgment, drawn from a passage in St.
Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, "We have this treasure in
earthen vessels."

The greatest thinkers devoted themselves to adding new
ingredients to this strange mixture of scientific and theologic
thought. The Catholic philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the
Protestant mysticism of Jacob Boehme, and the alchemistic
reveries of Basil Valentine were all cast into this seething

And when alchemy in its old form had been discredited, we find
scriptural arguments no less perverse, and even comical, used on
the other side. As an example of this, just before the great
discoveries by Stahl, we find the valuable scientific efforts of
Becher opposed with the following syllogism: "King Solomon,
according to the Scriptures, possessed the united wisdom of
heaven and earth; but King Solomon knew nothing about alchemy
[or chemistry in the form it then took], and sent his vessels to
Ophir to seek gold, and levied taxes upon his subjects; ergo
alchemy [or chemistry] has no reality or truth." And we find
that Becher is absolutely turned away from his labours, and
obliged to devote himself to proving that Solomon used more money
than he possibly could have obtained from Ophir or his subjects,
and therefore that he must have possessed a knowledge of chemical
methods and the philosopher's stone as the result of them.[277]

[277] For an extract from Agrippa's Occulta Philosophia, giving
examples of the way in which mystical names were obtained from
the Bible, see Rydberg, Magic of the Middle Ages, pp. 143 et seq.
For the germs of many mystic beliefs regarding number and the
like, which were incorporated into mediaeval theology, see
Zeller, Plato and the Older Academy, English translation, pp. 254
and 572, and elsewhere. As to the connection of spiritual things
with inorganic nature in relation to chemistry, see Eicken, p.
634. On the injury to science wrought by Platonism acting
through mediaeval theology, see Hoefer, Histoire de la Chimie,
vol. i, p. 90. As to the influence of mysticism upon strong men
in science, see Hoefer; also Kopp, Geschichte der Alchemie, vol.
i, p. 211. For a very curious Catholic treatise on sacred
numbers, see the Abbe Auber, Symbolisme Religieux, Paris, 1870;
also Detzel, Christliche Ikonographie, pp. 44 et seq.; and for an
equally important Protestant work, see Samuell, Seven the Sacred
number, London 1887. It is interesting to note that the latter
writer, having been forced to give up the seven planets, consoles
himself with the statement that "the earth is the seventh planet,
counting from Neptune and calling the asteroids one" (see p.
426). For the electrum magicum, the seven metals composing it,
and its wonderful qualities, see extracts from Paracelsus's
writings in Hartmann's Life of Paracelsus, London, 1887, pp. 168
et seq. As to the more rapid transition of light than sound, the
following expresses the scholastic method well: "What is the
cause why we see sooner the lightning than we heare the thunder
clappe? That is because our sight is both nobler and sooner
perceptive of its object than our eare; as being the more active
part, and priore to our hearing: besides, the visible species are
more subtile and less corporeal than the audible species."--
Person's Varieties, Meteors, p. 82. For Basil Valentine's view,
see Hoefer, vol. i, pp. 453-465; Schmieder, Geschichte der
Alchemie, pp. 197-209; Allgemeine deutsche Biographies, article
Basilius. For the discussions referred to on possibilities of
God assuming forms of stone, or log, or beast, see Lippert,
Christenthum, Volksglaube, und Volksbrauch, pp. 372, 373, where
citations are given, etc. For the syllogism regarding Solomon,
see Figuier, L'Alchimie et les Alchimistes, pp. 106, 107. For
careful appreciation of Becher's position in the history of
chemistry, see Kopp, Ansichten uber die Aufgabe der Chemie, etc.,
von Geber bis Stahl, Braunschweig, 1875, pp. 201 et seq. For the
text proving the existence of the philosopher's stone from the
book of Revelation, see Figuier, p. 22.

Of the general reasoning enforced by theology regarding physical
science, every age has shown examples; yet out of them all I
will select but two, and these are given because they show how
this mixture of theological with scientific ideas took hold upon
the strongest supporters of better reasoning even after the power
of medieval theology seemed broken.

The first of these examples is Melanchthon. He was the scholar
of the Reformation, and justly won the title "Preceptor of
Germany." His mind was singularly open, his sympathies broad, and
his usual freedom from bigotry drew down upon him that wrath of
Protestant heresy-hunters which embittered the last years of his
life and tortured him upon his deathbed. During his career at
the University of Wittenberg he gave a course of lectures on
physics, and in these he dwelt upon scriptural texts as affording
scientific proofs, accepted the interference of the devil in
physical phenomena as in other things, and applied the medieval
method throughout his whole work.[278]

[278] For Melanchthon's ideas on physics, see his Initia
Doctrinae Physicae, Wittenberg, 1557, especially pp. 243 and 274;
also in vol. xiii of Bretschneider's edition of the collected
works, and especially pp. 339-343.

Yet far more remarkable was the example, a century later, of the
man who more than any other led the world out of the path opened
by Aquinas, and into that through which modern thought has
advanced to its greatest conquests. Strange as it may at first
seem, Francis Bacon, whose keenness of sight revealed the
delusions of the old path and the promises of the new, and whose
boldness did so much to turn the world from the old path into the
new, presents in his own writings one of the most striking
examples of the evil he did so much to destroy.

The Novum Organon, considering the time when it came from his
pen, is doubtless one of the greatest exhibitions of genius in
the history of human thought. It showed the modern world the way
out of the scholastic method and reverence for dogma into the
experimental method and reverence for fact. In it occur many
passages which show that the great philosopher was fully alive to
the danger both to religion and to science arising from their
mixture. He declares that the "corruption of philosophy from
superstition and theology introduced the greatest amount of evil
both into whole systems of philosophy and into their parts." He
denounces those who "have endeavoured to found a natural
philosophy on the books of Genesis and Job and other sacred
Scriptures, so `seeking the dead among the living.'" He speaks
of the result as "an unwholesome mixture of things human and
divine; not merely fantastic philosophy, but heretical religion."

He refers to the opposition of the fathers to the doctrine of the
rotundity of the earth, and says that, "thanks to some of them,
you may find the approach to any kind of philosophy, however
improved, entirely closed up." He charges that some of these
divines are "afraid lest perhaps a deeper inquiry into nature
should, penetrate beyond the allowed limits of sobriety"; and
finally speaks of theologians as sometimes craftily conjecturing
that, if science be little understood, "each single thing can be
referred more easily to the hand and rod of God," and says, "THIS

No man who has reflected much upon the annals of his race can,
without a feeling of awe, come into the presence of such
clearness of insight and boldness of utterance, and the first
thought of the reader is that, of all men, Francis Bacon is the
most free from the unfortunate bias he condemns; that he,
certainly, can not be deluded into the old path. But as we go on
through his main work we are surprised to find that the strong
arm of Aquinas has been stretched over the intervening ages, and
has laid hold upon this master-thinker of the seventeenth
century; for only a few chapters beyond those containing the
citations already made we find Bacon alluding to the recent
voyage of Columbus, and speaking of the prophecy of Daniel
regarding the latter days, that "many shall run to and fro, and
knowledge be increased," as clearly signifying "that...the
circumnavigation of the world and the increase of science should
happen in the same age."[279]

[279] See the Novum Organon, translated by the Rev. G. W.
Kitchin, Oxford, 1855, chaps. lxv and lxxxix.

In his great work on the Advancement of Learning the firm grasp
which the methods he condemned held upon him is shown yet more
clearly. In the first book of it he asserts that "that excellent
book of Job, if it be revolved with diligence, will be found
pregnant and swelling with natural philosophy," and he endeavours
to show that in it the "roundness of the earth," the "fixing of
the stars, ever standing at equal distances," the "depression of
the southern pole," the "matter of generation," and "matter of
minerals" are "with great elegancy noted." But, curiously
enough, he uses to support some of these truths the very texts
which the fathers of the Church used to destroy them, and those
for which he finds Scripture warrant most clearly are such as
science has since disproved. So, too, he says that Solomon was
enabled in his Proverbs, "by donation of God, to compile a
natural history of all verdure."[280]

[280] See Bacon, Advancement of Learning, edited by W. Aldis
Wright, London, 1873, pp. 47, 48. Certainly no more striking
examples of the strength of the evil which he had all along been
denouncing could be exhibited that these in his own writings.
Nothing better illustrates the sway of the mediaeval theology, or
better explains his blindness to the discoveries of Copernicus
and to the experiments of Gilbert. For a very contemptuous
statement of Lord Bacon's claim to his position as a philosopher,
see Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, Leipsic, 1872, vol.i, p.
219. For a more just statement, see Brewster, Life of Sir Isaac
Newton, London, 1874, vol. ii, p. 298.

Such was the struggle of the physical sciences in general. Let
us now look briefly at one special example out of many, which
reveals, as well as any, one of the main theories which prompted
theological interference with them.

It will doubtless seem amazing to many that for ages the weight
of theological thought in Christendom was thrown against the idea
of the suffocating properties of certain gases, and especially of
carbonic acid. Although in antiquity we see men forming a right
theory of gases in mines, we find that, early in the history of
the Church, St. Clement of Alexandria put forth the theory that
these gases are manifestations of diabolic action, and that,
throughout Christendom, suffocation in caverns, wells, and
cellars was attributed to the direct action of evil spirits.
Evidences of this view abound through the medieval period, and
during the Reformation period a great authority, Agricola, one of
the most earnest and truthful of investigators, still adhered to
the belief that these gases in mines were manifestations of
devils, and he specified two classes--one of malignant imps, who
blow out the miners' lamps, and the other of friendly imps, who
simply tease the workmen in various ways. He went so far as to
say that one of these spirits in the Saxon mine of Annaberg
destroyed twelve workmen at once by the power of his breath.

At the end of the sixteenth century we find a writer on
mineralogy complaining that the mines in France and Germany had
been in large part abandoned on account of the "evil spirits of
metals which had taken possession of them."

Even as late as the seventeenth century, Van Helmont, after he
had broken away from alchemy and opened one of the great paths to
chemistry--even after he had announced to the world the existence
of various gases and the mode of their generation--was not strong
enough to free himself from theologic bias; he still inclined to
believe that the gases he had discovered, were in some sense
living spirits, beneficent or diabolical.

But at various. periods glimpses of the truth had been gained.
The ancient view had not been entirely forgotten; and as far
back as the first part of the thirteenth century Albert the Great
suggested a natural cause in the possibility of exhalations from
minerals causing a "corruption of the air"; but he, as we have
seen, was driven or dragged off into, theological studies, and
the world relapsed into the theological view.

Toward the end of the fifteenth century there had come a great
genius laden with important truths in chemistry, but for whom the
world was not ready--Basil Valentine. His discoveries
anticipated much that has brought fame and fortune to chemists
since, yet so fearful of danger was he that his work was
carefully concealed. Not until after his death was his treatise
on alchemy found, and even then it was for a long time not known
where and when he lived. The papal bull, Spondent pariter, and
the various prohibitions it bred, forcing other alchemists to
conceal their laboratories, led him to let himself be known
during his life at Erfurt simply as an apothecary, and to wait
until after his death to make a revelation of truth which during
his lifetime might have cost him dear. Among the legacies of
this greatest of the alchemists was the doctrine that the air
which asphyxiates workers in mines is similar to that which is
produced by fermentation of malt, and a recommendation that, in
order to drive away the evil and to prevent serious accidents,
fires be lighted and jets of steam used to ventilate the
mines--stress being especially laid upon the idea that the danger
in the mines is produced by "exhalations of metals."

Thanks to men like Valentine, this idea of the interference of
Satan and his minions with the mining industry was gradually
weakened, and the working of the deserted mines was resumed; yet
even at a comparatively recent period we find it still lingering,
and among leading divines in the very heart of Protestant
Germany. In 1715 a cellar-digger having been stifled at Jena,
the medical faculty of the university decided that the cause was
not the direct action of the devil, but a deadly gas. Thereupon
Prof. Loescher, of the University of Wittenberg, entered a solemn
protest, declaring that the decision of the medical faculty was
"only a proof of the lamentable license which has so taken
possession of us, and which, if we are not earnestly on our
guard, will finally turn away from us the blessing of God."[281]
But denunciations of this kind could not hold back the little
army of science; in spite of adverse influences, the evolution
of physics and chemistry went on. More and more there rose men
bold enough to break away from theological methods and strong
enough to resist ecclesiastical bribes and threats. As alchemy
in its first form, seeking for the philosopher's stone and the
transmutation of metals, had given way to alchemy in its second
form, seeking for the elixir of life and remedies more or less
magical for disease, so now the latter yielded to the search for
truth as truth. More and more the "solemnly constituted
impostors" were resisted in every field. A great line of
physicists and chemists began to appear.[282]

[281] For Loescher's protest, see Julian Schmidt, Geschichte des
geistigen Lebens, etc., vol. i, p. 319.

[282] For the general view of noxious gases as imps of Satan, see
Hoefer, Histoire de la Chimie, vol. i, p. 350; vol. ii, p. 48.
For the work of Black, Priestley, Bergmann, and others, see main
authorities already cited, and especially the admirable paper of
Dr. R. G. Eccles on The Evolution of Chemistry, New York, D.
Appleton & Co., 1891. For the treatment of Priesley, see
Spence's Essays, London, 1892; also Rutt, Life and Correspondence
of Priestley, vol. ii, pp. 115 et seq.


Just at the middle of the seventeenth century, and at the very
centre of opposition to physical science, Robert Boyle began the
new epoch in chemistry. Strongly influenced by the writings of
Bacon and the discoveries of Galileo, he devoted himself to
scientific research, establishing at Oxford a laboratory and
putting into it a chemist from Strasburg. For this he was at
once bitterly attacked. In spite of his high position, his
blameless life, his liberal gifts to charity and learning, the
Oxford pulpit was especially severe against him, declaring that
his researches were destroying religion and his experiments
undermining the university. Public orators denounced him, the
wits ridiculed him, and his associates in the peerage were
indignant that he should condescend to pursuits so unworthy. But
Boyle pressed on. His discoveries opened new paths in various
directions and gave an impulse to a succession of vigorous
investigators. Thus began the long series of discoveries
culminating those of Black, Bergmann, Cavendish, Priestley, and
Lavoisier, who ushered in the chemical science of the nineteenth

Yet not even then without a sore struggle against unreason. And
it must here be noticed that this unreason was not all
theological. The unreasoning heterodox when intrusted with
irresponsible power can be as short-sighted and cruel as the
unreasoning orthodox. Lavoisier, one of the best of our race,
not only a great chemist but a true man, was sent to the scaffold
by the Parisian mob, led by bigoted "liberals" and atheists, with
the sneer that the republic had no need of savants. As to
Priestley, who had devoted his life to science and to every good
work among his fellow-men, the Birmingham mob, favoured by the
Anglican clergymen who harangued them as "fellow-churchmen,"
wrecked his house, destroyed his library, philosophical
instruments, and papers containing the results of long years of
scientific research, drove him into exile, and would have
murdered him if they could have laid their hands upon him. Nor
was it entirely his devotion to rational liberty, nor even his
disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity, which brought on this
catastrophe. That there was a deep distrust of his scientific
pursuits, was evident when the leaders of the mob took pains to
use his electrical apparatus to set fire to his papers.

Still, though theological modes of thought continued to sterilize
much effort in chemistry, the old influence was more and more
thrown off, and truth sought more and more for truth's sake.
"Black magic" with its Satanic machinery vanished, only
reappearing occasionally among marvel-mongers and belated
theologians. "White magic" became legerdemain.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, physical research,
though it went on with ever-increasing vigour, felt in various
ways the reaction which followed the French Revolution. It was
not merely under the Bourbons and Hapsburgs that resistance was
offered; even in England the old spirit lingered long. As late
as 1832, when the British Association for the Advancement of
Science first visited Oxford, no less amiable a man than John
Keble--at that time a power in the university--condemned
indignantly the conferring of honorary degrees upon the leading
men thus brought together. In a letter of that date to Dr. Pusey
he complained bitterly, to use his own words, that "the Oxford
doctors have truckled sadly to the spirit of the times in
receiving the hotchpotch of philosophers as they did." It is
interesting to know that among the men thus contemptuously
characterized were Brewster, Faraday, and Dalton.

Nor was this a mere isolated exhibition of feeling; it lasted
many years, and was especially shown on both sides of the
Atlantic in all higher institutions of learning where theology
was dominant. Down to a period within the memory of men still in
active life, students in the sciences, not only at Oxford and
Cambridge but at Harvard and Yale, were considered a doubtful if
not a distinctly inferior class, intellectually and socially--to
be relegated to different instructors and buildings, and to
receive their degrees on a different occasion and with different
ceremonies from those appointed for students in literature. To
the State University of Michigan, among the greater American
institutions of learning which have never possessed or been
possessed by a theological seminary, belongs the honour of first
breaking down this wall of separation.

But from the middle years of the century chemical science
progressed with ever-accelerating force, and the work of Bunsen,
Kirchhoff, Dalton, and Faraday has, in the last years of the
century, led up to the establishment of Mendeleef's law, by which
chemistry has become predictive, as astronomy had become
predictive by the calculations of Newton, and biology by the
discoveries of Darwin.

While one succession of strong men were thus developing chemistry
out of one form of magic, another succession were developing
physics out of another form.

First in this latter succession may be mentioned that line of
thinkers who divined and reasoned out great physical laws--a line
extending from Galileo and Kepler and Newton to Ohm and Faraday
and Joule and Helmholtz. These, by revealing more and more
clearly the reign of law, steadily undermined the older
theological view of arbitrary influence in nature. Next should
be mentioned the line of profound observers, from Galileo and
Torricelli to Kelvin. These have as thoroughly undermined the
old theologic substitution of phrases for facts. When Galileo
dropped the differing weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he
began the end of Aristotelian authority in physics. When
Torricelli balanced a column of mercury against a column of water
and each of these against a column of air, he ended the theologic
phrase that "nature abhors a vacuum." When Newton approximately
determined the velocity of sound, he ended the theologic argument
that we see the flash before we hear the roar because "sight is
nobler than hearing." When Franklin showed that lightning is
caused by electricity, and Ohm and Faraday proved that
electricity obeys ascertained laws, they ended the theological
idea of a divinity seated above the clouds and casting

Resulting from the labour of both these branches of physical
science, we have the establishment of the great laws of the
indestructibility of matter, the correlation of forces, and
chemical affinity. Thereby is ended, with various other sacred
traditions, the theological theory of a visible universe created
out of nothing, so firmly imbedded in the theological thought of
the Middle Ages and in the Westminster Catechism.[283]

[283] For a reappearance of the fundamental doctrines of black
magic among theologians, see Rev. Dr. Jewett, Professor of
Pastoral Theology in the Prot. Episc. Gen. Theolog. Seminary of
New York, Diabolology: The Person and the Kingdom of Satan, New
York, 1889. For their appearance among theosophists, see Eliphas
Levi, Histoire de la Magie, especially the final chapters. For
opposition to Boyle and chemistry studies at Oxford in the latter
half of the seventeenth century, see the address of Prof. Dixon,
F. R. S., before the British Association, 1894. For the recent
progress of chemistry, and opposition to its earlier development
at Oxford, see Lord Salisbury's address as President of the
British Association, in 1894. For the Protestant survival of the
mediaeval assertion that the universe was created out of nothing,
see the Westminster Catechism, question 15.

In our own time some attempt has been made to renew this war
against the physical sciences. Joseph de Maistre, uttering his
hatred of them, declaring that mankind has paid too dearly for
them, asserting that they must be subjected to theology, likening
them to fire--good when confined and dangerous when scattered
about--has been one of the main leaders among those who can not
relinquish the idea that our body of sacred literature should be
kept a controlling text-book of science. The only effect of such
teachings has been to weaken the legitimate hold of religion upon

In Catholic countries exertion has of late years been mainly
confined to excluding science or diluting it in university
teachings. Early in the present century a great effort was made
by Ferdinand VII of Spain. He simply dismissed the scientific
professors from the University of Salamanca, and until a recent
period there has been general exclusion from Spanish universities
of professors holding to the Newtonian physics. So, too, the
contemporary Emperor of Austria attempted indirectly something of
the same sort; and at a still later period Popes Gregory XVI and
Pius IX discouraged, if they did not forbid, the meetings of
scientific associations in Italy. In France, war between
theology and science, which had long been smouldering, came in
the years 1867 and 1868 to an outbreak. Toward the end of the
last century, after the Church had held possession of advanced
instruction for more than a thousand years, and had, so far as it
was able, kept experimental science in servitude--after it had
humiliated Buffon in natural science, thrown its weight against
Newton in the physical sciences, and wrecked Turgot's noble plans
for a system of public instruction--the French nation decreed the
establishment of the most thorough and complete system of higher
instruction in science ever known. It was kept under lay control
and became one of the glories of France; but, emboldened by the
restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, the Church began to
undermine this hated system, and in 1868 had made such progress
that all was ready for the final assault.

Foremost among the leaders of the besieging party was the Bishop
of Orleans, Dupanloup, a man of many winning characteristics and
of great oratorical power. In various ways, and especially in an
open letter, he had fought the "materialism" of science at Paris,
and especially were his attacks levelled at Profs. Vulpian and
See and the Minister of Public instruction, Duruy, a man of great
merit, whose only crime was devotion to the improvement of
education and to the promotion of the highest research in

[284] For the exertions of the restored Bourbons to crush the
universities of Spain, see Hubbard, Hist. Contemporaine de
l'Espagne, Paris, 1878, chaps. i and ii. For Dupanloup, Lettre a
un Cardinal, see the Revue de Therapeutique of 1868, p. 221.

The main attack was made rather upon biological science than upon
physics and chemistry, yet it was clear that all were involved

The first onslaught was made in the French Senate, and the
storming party in that body was led by a venerable and
conscientious prelate, Cardinal de Bonnechose, Archbishop of
Rouen. It was charged by him and his party that the tendencies
of the higher scientific teaching at Paris were fatal to religion
and morality. Heavy missiles were hurled--such phrases as
"sapping the foundations," "breaking down the bulwarks," and the
like; and, withal, a new missile was used with much effect--the
epithet "materialist."

The results can be easily guessed: crowds came to the
lecture-rooms of the attacked professors, and the lecture-room of
Prof. See, the chief offender, was crowded to suffocation.

A siege was begun in due form. A young physician was sent by the
cardinal's party into the heterodox camp as a spy. Having heard
one lecture of Prof. See, he returned with information that
seemed to promise easy victory to the besieging party: he
brought a terrible statement--one that seemed enough to overwhelm
See, Vulpian, Duruy, and the whole hated system of public
instruction in France--the statement that See had denied the
existence of the human soul.

Cardinal Bonnechose seized the tremendous weapon at once. Rising
in his place in the Senate, he launched a most eloquent invective
against the Minister of State who could protect such a fortress
of impiety as the College of Medicine; and, as a climax, he
asserted, on the evidence of his spy fresh from Prof. See's
lecture-room, that the professor had declared, in his lecture of
the day before, that so long as he had the honour to hold his
professorship he would combat the false idea of the existence of
the soul. The weapon seemed resistless and the wound fatal, but
M. Duruy rose and asked to be heard.

His statement was simply that he held in his hand documentary
proofs that Prof. See never made such a declaration. He held
the notes used by Prof. See in his lecture. Prof. See, it
appeared, belonged to a school in medical science which combated
certain ideas regarding medicine as an ART. The inflamed
imagination of the cardinal's heresy-hunting emissary had, as the
lecture-notes proved, led him to mistake the word "art" for
"ame," and to exhibit Prof. See as treating a theological when he
was discussing a purely scientific question. Of the existence of
the soul the professor had said nothing.

The forces of the enemy were immediately turned; they retreated
in confusion, amid the laughter of all France; and a quiet,
dignified statement as to the rights of scientific instructors by
Wurtz, dean of the faculty, completed their discomfiture. Thus a
well-meant attempt to check science simply ended in bringing
ridicule on religion, and in thrusting still deeper into the
minds of thousands of men that most mistaken of all mistaken
ideas: the conviction that religion and science are

[285] For a general account of the Vulpian and See matter, see
Revue des Deux Mondes, 31 mai, 1868, "Chronique de la Quinzaine,"
pp. 763-765. As to the result on popular thought, may be noted
the following comment on the affair by the Revue, which is as
free as possible from anything like rabid anti-ecclesiastical
ideas: "Elle a ete vraiment curieuse, instructive, assez triste
et meme un peu amusante." For Wurtz's statement, see Revue de
Therapeutique for 1868, p. 303.

But justice forbids raising an outcry against Roman Catholicism
for this. In 1864 a number of excellent men in England drew up a
declaration to be signed by students in the natural sciences,
expressing "sincere regret that researches into scientific truth
are perverted by some in our time into occasion for casting doubt
upon the truth and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures." Nine
tenths of the leading scientific men of England refused to sign
it; nor was this all: Sir John Herschel, Sir John Bowring, and
Sir W. R. Hamilton administered, through the press,
castigations which roused general indignation against the
proposers of the circular, and Prof. De Morgan, by a parody,
covered memorial and memorialists with ridicule. It was the old
mistake, and the old result followed in the minds of multitudes
of thoughtful young men.[286]

[286] De Morgan, Paradoxes, pp. 421-428; also Daubeny's Essays.

And in yet another Protestant country this same mistake was made.
In 1868 several excellent churchmen in Prussia thought it their
duty to meet for the denunciation of "science falsely so called."
Two results followed: upon the great majority of these really
self-sacrificing men--whose first utterances showed complete
ignorance of the theories they attacked--there came quiet and
widespread contempt; upon Pastor Knak, who stood forth and
proclaimed views of the universe which he thought scriptural, but
which most schoolboys knew to be childish, came a burst of
good-natured derision from every quarter of the German

[287] See the Berlin newspapers for the summer of 1868,
especially Kladderdatsch.

But in all the greater modern nations warfare of this kind, after
the first quarter of the nineteenth century, became more and more
futile. While conscientious Roman bishops, and no less
conscientious Protestant clergymen in Europe and America
continued to insist that advanced education, not only in
literature but in science, should be kept under careful control
in their own sectarian universities and colleges, wretchedly
one-sided in organization and inadequate in equipment; while
Catholic clerical authorities in Spain were rejecting all
professors holding the Newtonian theory, and in Austria and Italy
all holding unsafe views regarding the Immaculate Conception, and
while Protestant clerical authorities in Great Britain and
America were keeping out of professorships men holding
unsatisfactory views regarding the Incarnation, or Infant
Baptism, or the Apostolic Succession, or Ordination by Elders, or
the Perseverance of the Saints; and while both Catholic and
Protestant ecclesiastics were openly or secretly weeding out of
university faculties all who showed willingness to consider
fairly the ideas of Darwin, a movement was quietly in progress
destined to take instruction, and especially instruction in the
physical and natural sciences, out of its old subordination to
theology and ecclesiasticism.[288]

[288] Whatever may be thought of the system of philosophy
advocated by President McCosh at Princeton, every thinking man
must honor him for the large way in which he, at least, broke
away from the traditions of that centre of thought; prevented, so
far as he was able, persecution of scholars for holding to the
Darwinian view; and paved the way for the highest researches in
physical science in that university. For a most eloquent
statement of the opposition of modern physical science to
mediaeval theological views, as shown in the case of Sir Isaac
Newton, see Dr. Thomas Chalmers, cited in Gore, Art of Scientific
Discovery, London, 1878, p. 247.

The most striking beginnings of this movement had been seen when,
in the darkest period of the French Revolution, there was founded
at Paris the great Conservatory of Arts and Trades, and when, in
the early years of the nineteenth century, scientific and
technical education spread quietly upon the Continent. By the
middle of the century France and Germany were dotted with
well-equipped technical and scientific schools, each having
chemical and physical laboratories.

The English-speaking lands lagged behind. In England, Oxford and
Cambridge showed few if any signs of this movement, and in the
United States, down to 1850, evidences of it were few and feeble.
Very significant is it that, at that period, while Yale College
had in its faculty Silliman and Olmsted--the professor of
chemistry and the professor of physics most widely known in the
United States--it had no physical or chemical laboratory in the
modern sense, and confined its instruction in these subjects to
examinations upon a text-book and the presentation of a few
lectures. At the State University of Michigan, which had even
then taken a foremost place in the higher education west of the
Great Lakes, there was very meagre instruction in chemistry and
virtually none in physics. This being the state of things in the
middle of the century in institutions remarkably free from
clerical control, it can be imagined what was the position of
scientific instruction in smaller colleges and universities where
theological considerations were entirely dominant.

But in 1851, with the International Exhibition at London, began
in Great Britain and America a movement in favour of scientific
education; men of wealth and public spirit began making
contributions to them, and thus came the growth of a new system
of instruction in which Chemistry and Physics took just rank.

By far the most marked feature in this movement was seen in
America, when, in 1857, Justin S. Morrill, a young member of
Congress from Vermont, presented the project of a law endowing
from the public lands a broad national system of colleges in
which scientific and technical studies should be placed on an
equality with studies in classical literature, one such college
to be established in every State of the Union. The bill, though
opposed mainly by representatives from the Southern States, where
doctrinaire politics and orthodox theology were in strong
alliance with negro slavery, was passed by both Houses of
Congress, but vetoed by President Buchanan, in whom the
doctrinaire and orthodox spirit was incarnate. But Morrill
persisted and again presented his bill, which was again carried
in spite of the opposition of the Southern members, and again
vetoed in 1859 by President Buchanan. Then came the civil war;
but Morrill and his associates did not despair of the republic.
In the midst of all the measures for putting vast armies into the
field and for saving the Union from foreign interference as well
as from domestic anarchy, they again passed the bill, and in
1862, in the darkest hour of the struggle for national existence,
it became a law by the signature of President Lincoln.

And here it should not be unrecorded, that, while the vast
majority of the supporters of the measure were laymen, most
efficient service was rendered by a clergyman, the Rev. Dr.
Amos Brown, born in New Hampshire, but at that time an instructor
in a little village of New York. His ideas were embodied in the
bill, and his efforts did much for its passage.

Thus was established, in every State of the American Union, at
least one institution in which scientific and technical studies
were given equal rank with classical, and promoted by
laboratories for research in physical and natural science. Of
these institutions there are now nearly fifty: all have proved
valuable, and some of them, by the addition of splendid gifts
from individuals and from the States in which they are situated,
have been developed into great universities.

Nor was this all. Many of the older universities and colleges
thus received a powerful stimulus in the new direction. The
great physical and chemical laboratories founded by gifts from
public-spirited individuals, as at Harvard, Yale, and Chicago, or
by enlightened State legislators, as in Michigan, Wisconsin,
Minnesota, California, Kansas, and Nebraska, have also become
centres from which radiate influences favouring the unfettered
search for truth as truth.

This system has been long enough in operation to enable us to
note in some degree its effects on religion, and these are
certainly such as to relieve those who have feared that religion
was necessarily bound up with the older instruction controlled by
theology. While in Europe, by a natural reaction, the colleges
under strict ecclesiastical control have sent forth the most
powerful foes the Christian Church has ever known, of whom
Voltaire and Diderot and Volney and Sainte-Beuve and Renan are
types, no such effects have been noted in these newer
institutions. While the theological way of looking at the
universe has steadily yielded, there has been no sign of any
tendency toward irreligion. On the contrary, it is the testimony
of those best acquainted with the American colleges and
universities during the last forty-five years that there has been
in them a great gain, not only as regards morals, but as regards
religion in its highest and best sense. The reason is not far to
seek. Under the old American system the whole body of students
at a university were confined to a single course, for which the
majority cared little and very many cared nothing, and, as a
result, widespread idleness and dissipation were inevitable.
Under the new system, presenting various courses, and especially
courses in various sciences, appealing to different tastes and
aims, the great majority of students are interested, and
consequently indolence and dissipation have steadily diminished.
Moreover, in the majority of American institutions of learning
down to the middle of the century, the main reliance for the
religious culture of students was in the perfunctory presentation
of sectarian theology, and the occasional stirring up of what
were called "revivals," which, after a period of unhealthy
stimulus, inevitably left the main body of students in a state of
religious and moral reaction and collapse. This method is now
discredited, and in the more important American universities it
has become impossible. Religious truth, to secure the attention
of the modern race of students in the better American
institutions, is presented, not by "sensation preachers," but by
thoughtful, sober-minded scholars. Less and less avail sectarian
arguments; more and more impressive becomes the presentation of
fundamental religious truths. The result is, that while young
men care less and less for the great mass of petty, cut-and-dried
sectarian formulas, they approach the deeper questions of
religion with increasing reverence.

While striking differences exist between the European
universities and those of the United States, this at least may be
said, that on both sides of the Atlantic the great majority of
the leading institutions of learning are under the sway of
enlightened public opinion as voiced mainly by laymen, and that,
this being the case, the physical and natural sciences are
henceforth likely to be developed normally, and without fear of
being sterilized by theology or oppressed by ecclesiasticism.




Nothing in the evolution of human thought appears more inevitable
than the idea of supernatural intervention in producing and
curing disease. The causes of disease are so intricate that they
are reached only after ages of scientific labour. In those
periods when man sees everywhere miracle and nowhere law,--when
he attributes all things which he can not understand to a will
like his own,--he naturally ascribes his diseases either to the
wrath of a good being or to the malice of an evil being.

This idea underlies the connection of the priestly class with the
healing art: a connection of which we have survivals among rude
tribes in all parts of the world, and which is seen in nearly
every ancient civilization--especially in the powers over disease
claimed in Egypt by the priests of Osiris and Isis, in Assyria by
the priests of Gibil, in Greece by the priests of Aesculapius,
and in Judea by the priests and prophets of Jahveh.

In Egypt there is evidence, reaching back to a very early period,
that the sick were often regarded as afflicted or possessed by
demons; the same belief comes constantly before us in the great
religions of India and China; and, as regards Chaldea, the
Assyrian tablets recovered in recent years, while revealing the
source of so many myths and legends transmitted to the modern
world through the book of Genesis, show especially this idea of
the healing of diseases by the casting out of devils. A similar
theory was elaborated in Persia. Naturally, then, the Old
Testament, so precious in showing the evolution of religious and
moral truth among men, attributes such diseases as the leprosy of
Miriam and Uzziah, the boils of Job, the dysentery of Jehoram,
the withered hand of Jeroboam, the fatal illness of Asa, and many
other ills, to the wrath of God or the malice of Satan; while,
in the New Testament, such examples as the woman "bound by
Satan," the rebuke of the fever, the casting out of the devil
which was dumb, the healing of the person whom "the devil
ofttimes casteth into the fire"--of which case one of the
greatest modern physicians remarks that never was there a truer
description of epilepsy--and various other episodes, show this
same inevitable mode of thought as a refracting medium through
which the teachings and doings of the Great Physician were
revealed to future generations.

In Greece, though this idea of an occult evil agency in producing
bodily ills appeared at an early period, there also came the
first beginnings, so far as we know, of a really scientific
theory of medicine. Five hundred years before Christ, in the
bloom period of thought--the period of Aeschylus, Phidias,
Pericles, Socrates, and Plato--appeared Hippocrates, one of the
greatest names in history. Quietly but thoroughly he broke away
from the old tradition, developed scientific thought, and laid
the foundations of medical science upon experience, observation,
and reason so deeply and broadly that his teaching remains to
this hour among the most precious possessions of our race.

His thought was passed on to the School of Alexandria, and there
medical science was developed yet further, especially by such men
as Herophilus and Erasistratus. Under their lead studies in
human anatomy began by dissection; the old prejudice which had
weighed so long upon science, preventing that method of
anatomical investigation without which there can be no real
results, was cast aside apparently forever.[289]

[289] For extended statements regarding medicine in Egypt, Judea,
and Eastern nations generally, see Sprengel, Histoire de la
Medecine, and Haeser; and for more succinct accounts, Baas,
Geschichte der Medicin, pp. 15-29; also Isensee; also Fredault,
Histoire de la Medecine, chap. i. For the effort in Egyptian
medicine to deal with demons and witches, see Heinrich Brugsch,
Die Aegyptologie, Leipsic, 1891, p. 77; and for references to the
Papyrus Ebers, etc., pp. 155, 407, and following. For fear of
dissection and prejudices against it in Egypt, like those in
mediaeval Europe, see Maspero and Sayce, Dawn of Civilization, p.
216. For the derivation of priestly medicine in Egypt, see Baas,
pp. 16, 22. For the fame of Egyptian medicine at Rome, see
Sharpe, History of Egypt, vol. ii, pp. 151, 184. For Assyria,
see especially George Smith in Delitzsch's German translation, p.
34, and F. Delitzsch's appendix, p. 27. On the cheapness and
commonness of miracles of healing in antiquity, see Sharpe,
quoting St. Jerome, vol. ii, pp. 276, 277. As to the influence
of Chaldean ideas of magic and disease, see Lecky, History of
European Morals, vol. i, p. 404 and note. But, on the other
hand, see reference in Homer to diseases caused by a "demon."
For the evolution of medicine before and after Hippocrates, see
Sprengel. For a good summing up of the work of Hippocrates, see
Baas, p. 201. For the necessary passage of medicine in its early
stages under priestly control, see Cabanis, The Revolution of
Medical Science, London, 1806, chap. ii. On Jewish ideas
regarding demons, and their relation to sickness, see Toy,
Judaism and Christianity, Boston, 1891, pp. 168 et seq. For
avoidance of dissections of human subjects even by Galen and his
disciples, see Maurice Albert, Les Medecins Grecs a Rome, Paris,
1894, chap. xi. For Herophilus, Erasistratus, and the School of
Alexandria, see Sprengel, vol. i, pp. 433, 434 et seq.

But with the coming in of Christianity a great new chain of
events was set in motion which modified this development most
profoundly. The influence of Christianity on the healing art was
twofold: there was first a blessed impulse--the thought,
aspiration, example, ideals, and spirit of Jesus of Nazareth.
This spirit, then poured into the world, flowed down through the
ages, promoting self-sacrifice for the sick and wretched.
Through all those succeeding centuries, even through the rudest,
hospitals and infirmaries sprang up along this blessed stream.
Of these were the Eastern establishments for the cure of the sick
at the earliest Christian periods, the Infirmary of Monte Cassino
and the Hotel-Dieu at Lyons in the sixth century, the Hotel-Dieu
at Paris in the seventh, and the myriad refuges for the sick and
suffering which sprang up in every part of Europe during the
following centuries. Vitalized by this stream, all medieval
growths of mercy bloomed luxuriantly. To say nothing of those at
an earlier period, we have in the time of the Crusades great
charitable organizations like the Order of St. John of
Jerusalem, and thenceforward every means of bringing the spirit
of Jesus to help afflicted humanity. So, too, through all those
ages we have a succession of men and women devoting themselves to
works of mercy, culminating during modern times in saints like
Vincent de Paul, Francke, Howard, Elizabeth Fry, Florence
Nightingale, and Muhlenberg.

But while this vast influence, poured forth from the heart of the
Founder of Christianity, streamed through century after century,
inspiring every development of mercy, there came from those who
organized the Church which bears his name, and from those who
afterward developed and directed it, another stream of
influence--a theology drawn partly from prehistoric conceptions
of unseen powers, partly from ideas developed in the earliest
historic nations, but especially from the letter of the Hebrew
and Christian sacred books.

The theology deveLoped out of our sacred literature in relation
to the cure of disease was mainly twofold: first, there was a
new and strong evolution of the old idea that physical disease is
produced by the wrath of God or the malice of Satan, or by a
combination of both, which theology was especially called in to
explain; secondly, there were evolved theories of miraculous
methods of cure, based upon modes of appeasing the Divine anger,
or of thwarting Satanic malice.

Along both these streams of influence, one arising in the life of
Jesus, and the other in the reasonings of theologians, legends of
miracles grew luxuriantly. It would be utterly unphilosophical
to attribute these as a whole to conscious fraud. Whatever part
priestcraft may have taken afterward in sundry discreditable
developments of them, the mass of miraculous legends, Century
after century, grew up mainly in good faith, and as naturally as
elms along water-courses or flowers upon the prairie.


Legends of miracles have thus grown about the lives of all great
benefactors of humanity in early ages, and about saints and
devotees. Throughout human history the lives of such personages,
almost without exception, have been accompanied or followed by a
literature in which legends of miraculous powers form a very
important part--a part constantly increasing until a different
mode of looking at nature and of weighing testimony causes
miracles to disappear. While modern thought holds the testimony
to the vast mass of such legends in all ages as worthless, it is
very widely acknowledged that great and gifted beings who endow
the earth with higher religious ideas, gaining the deepest hold
upon the hearts and minds of multitudes, may at times exercise
such influence upon those about them that the sick in mind or
body are helped or healed.

We have within the modern period very many examples which enable
us to study the evolution of legendary miracles. Out of these I
will select but one, which is chosen because it is the life of
one of the most noble and devoted men in the history of humanity,
one whose biography is before the world with its most minute
details--in his own letters, in the letters of his associates, in
contemporary histories, and in a multitude of biographies: this
man is St. Francis Xavier. From these sources I draw the facts
now to be given, but none of them are of Protestant origin;
every source from which I shall draw is Catholic and Roman, and
published under the sanction of the Church.

Born a Spanish noble, Xavier at an early age cast aside all
ordinary aims, devoted himself to study, was rapidly advanced to
a professorship at Paris, and in this position was rapidly
winning a commanding influence, when he came under the sway of
another Spaniard even greater, though less brilliantly endowed,
than himself--Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.
The result was that the young professor sacrificed the brilliant
career on which he had entered at the French capital, went to the
far East as a simple missionary, and there devoted his remaining
years to redeeming the lowest and most wretched of our race.

Among the various tribes, first in lower India and afterward in
Japan, he wrought untiringly--toiling through village after
village, collecting the natives by the sound of a hand-bell,
trying to teach them the simplest Christian formulas; and thus
he brought myriads of them to a nominal Confession of the
Christian faith. After twelve years of such efforts, seeking new
conquests for religion, he sacrificed his life on the desert
island of San Chan.

During his career as a missionary he wrote great numbers of
letters, which were preserved and have since been published; and
these, with the letters of his contemporaries, exhibit clearly
all the features of his life. His own writings are very minute,
and enable us to follow him fully. No account of a miracle
wrought by him appears either in his own letters or in any
contemporary document.[290] At the outside, but two or three
things occurred in his whole life, as exhibited so fully by
himself and his contemporaries, for which the most earnest
devotee could claim anything like Divine interposition; and
these are such as may be read in the letters of very many fervent
missionaries, Protestant as well as Catholic. For example, in
the beginning of his career, during a journey in Europe with an
ambassador, one of the servants in fording a stream got into deep
water and was in danger of drowning. Xavier tells us that the
ambassador prayed very earnestly, and that the man finally
struggled out of the stream. But within sixty years after his
death, at his canonization, and by various biographers, this had
been magnified into a miracle, and appears in the various
histories dressed out in glowing colours. Xavier tells us that
the ambassador prayed for the safety of the young man; but his
biographers tell us that it was Xavier who prayed, and finally,
by the later writers, Xavier is represented as lifting horse and
rider out of the stream by a clearly supernatural act.

[290] This statement was denied with much explosive emphasis by a
writer in the Catholic World for September and October, 1891, but
he brought no FACT to support this denial. I may perhaps be
allowed to remind the reverend writer that since the days of
Pascal, whose eminence in the Church he will hardly dispute, the
bare assertion even of a Jesuit father against established facts
needs some support other than mere scurrility.

Still another claim to miracle is based upon his arriving at
Lisbon and finding his great colleague, Simon Rodriguez, ill of
fever. Xavier informs us in a very simple way that Rodriguez was
so overjoyed to see him that the fever did not return. This is
entirely similar to the cure which Martin Luther wrought upon
Melanchthon. Melanchthon had broken down and was supposed to be
dying, when his joy at the long-delayed visit of Luther brought
him to his feet again, after which he lived for many years.

Again, it is related that Xavier, finding a poor native woman
very ill, baptized her, saying over her the prayers of the
Church, and she recovered.

Two or three occurrences like these form the whole basis for the
miraculous account, so far as Xavier's own writings are

Of miracles in the ordinary sense of the word there is in these
letters of his no mention. Though he writes of his doings with
especial detail, taking evident pains to note everything which he
thought a sign of Divine encouragement, he says nothing of his
performing miracles, and evidently knows nothing of them. This
is clearly not due to his unwillingness to make known any token
of Divine favour. As we have seen, he is very prompt to report
anything which may be considered an answer to prayer or an
evidence of the power of religious means to improve the bodily or
spiritual health of those to whom he was sent.

Nor do the letters of his associates show knowledge of any
miracles wrought by him. His brother missionaries, who were in
constant and loyal fellowship with him, make no allusions to them
in their communications with each other or with their brethren in

Of this fact we have many striking evidences. Various
collections of letters from the Jesuit missionaries in India and
the East generally, during the years of Xavier's activity, were
published, and in not one of these letters written during
Xavier's lifetime appears any account of a miracle wrought by
him. As typical of these collections we may take perhaps the
most noted of all, that which was published about twenty years
after Xavier's death by a Jesuit father, Emanuel Acosta.

The letters given in it were written by Xavier and his associates
not only from Goa, which was the focus of all missionary effort
and the centre of all knowledge regarding their work in the East,
but from all other important points in the great field. The
first of them were written during the saint's lifetime, but,
though filled with every sort of detail regarding missionary life
and work, they say nothing regarding any miracles by Xavier.

The same is true of various other similar collections published
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In not one of
them does any mention of a miracle by Xavier appear in a letter
from India or the East contemporary with him.

This silence regarding his miracles was clearly not due to any
"evil heart of unbelief." On the contrary, these good missionary
fathers were prompt to record the slightest occurrence which they
thought evidence of the Divine favour: it is indeed touching to
see how eagerly they grasp at the most trivial things which could
be thus construed.

Their ample faith was fully shown. One of them, in Acosta's
collection, sends a report that an illuminated cross had been
recently seen in the heavens; another, that devils had been cast
out of the natives by the use of holy water; another, that
various cases of disease had been helped and even healed by
baptism; and sundry others sent reports that the blind and dumb
had been restored, and that even lepers had been cleansed by the
proper use of the rites of the Church; but to Xavier no miracles
are imputed by his associates during his life or during several
years after his death.

On the contrary, we find his own statements as to his personal
limitations, and the difficulties arising from them, fully
confirmed by his brother workers. It is interesting, for
example, in view of the claim afterward made that the saint was
divinely endowed for his mission with the "gift of tongues," to
note in these letters confirmation of Xavier's own statement
utterly disproving the existence of any such Divine gift, and
detailing the difficulties which he encountered from his want of
knowing various languages, and the hard labour which he underwent
in learning the elements of the Japanese tongue.

Until about ten years after Xavier's death, then, as Emanuel
Acosta's publication shows, the letters of the missionaries
continued without any indication of miracles performed by the
saint. Though, as we shall see presently, abundant legends had
already begun to grow elsewhere, not one word regarding these
miracles came as yet from the country which, according to later
accounts accepted and sanctioned by the Church, was at this very
period filled with miracles; not the slightest indication of
them from the men who were supposed to be in the very thick of
these miraculous manifestations.

But this negative evidence is by no means all. There is also
positive evidence--direct testimony from the Jesuit order
itself--that Xavier wrought no miracles.

For not only did neither Xavier nor his co-workers know anything
of the mighty works afterward attributed to him, but the highest
contemporary authority on the whole subject, a man in the closest
correspondence with those who knew most about the saint, a member
of the Society of Jesus in the highest standing and one of its
accepted historians, not only expressly tells us that Xavier
wrought no miracles, but gives the reasons why he wrought none.

This man was Joseph Acosta, a provincial of the Jesuit order, its
visitor in Aragon, superior at Valladolid, and finally rector of
the University of Salamanca. In 1571, nineteen years after
Xavier's death, Acosta devoted himself to writing a work mainly
concerning the conversion of the Indies, and in this he refers
especially and with the greatest reverence to Xavier, holding him
up as an ideal and his work as an example.

But on the same page with this tribute to the great missionary
Acosta goes on to discuss the reasons why progress in the world's
conversion is not so rapid as in the early apostolic times, and
says that an especial cause why apostolic preaching could no
longer produce apostolic results "lies in the missionaries
themselves, because there is now no power of working miracles."
He then asks, "Why should our age be so completely destitute of
them?" This question he answers at great length, and one of his
main contentions is that in early apostolic times illiterate men
had to convert the learned of the world, whereas in modern times
the case is reversed, learned men being sent to convert the
illiterate; and hence that "in the early times miracles were
necessary, but in our time they are not."

This statement and argument refer, as we have seen, directly to
Xavier by name, and to the period covered by his activity and
that of the other great missionaries of his time. That the
Jesuit order and the Church at large thought this work of Acosta
trustworthy is proved by the fact that it was published at
Salamanca a few years after it was written, and republished
afterward with ecclesiastical sanction in France.[291] Nothing
shows better than the sequel how completely the evolution of
miraculous accounts depends upon the intellectual atmosphere of
any land and time, and how independent it is of fact.

[291]The work of Joseph Acosta is in the Cornell University
Library, its title being as follows: De Natura Novi Orbis libri
duo et De Promulgatione Evangelii apud Barbaros, sive De
Procuranda Indorum Salute, libri sex, autore Jesepho Acosta,
presbytero Societis Jesu. I. H. S. Salmanticas, apud Guillelmum
Foquel, MDLXXXIX. For the passages cited directly contradicting
the working of miracles by Xavier and his associates, see lib.
ii, cap. ix, of which the title runs, Cur Miracula in Conversione
gentium non fiant nunc, ut olim, a Christi praedicatoribus,
especially pp. 242-245; also lib. ii, cap. viii, pp. 237 et seq.
For a passage which shows that Xavier was not then at all
credited with "the miraculous gift of tongues," see lib. i, cap.
vii, p. 173. Since writing the above, my attention has been
called to the alleged miraculous preservation of Xavier's body
claimed in sundry letters contemporary with its disinterment at
San Chan and reinterment at Goa. There is no reason why this
preservation in itself need be doubted, and no reason why it
should be counted miraculous. Such exceptional preservation of
bodies has been common enough in all ages, and, alas for the
claims of the Church, quite as common of pagans or Protestants as
of good Catholics. One of the most famous cases is that of the
fair Roman maiden, Julia, daughter of Claudius, over whose
exhumation at Rome, in 1485, such ado was made by the sceptical
scholars of the Renaissance. Contemporary observers tell us
enthusiastically that she was very beautiful, perfectly
preserved, "the bloom of youth still upom her cheeks," and
exhaling a "sweet odour"; but this enthusiasm was so little to
the taste of Pope Innocent VIII that he had her reburied secretly
by night. Only the other day, in June of the year 1895, there
was unearthed at Stade, in Hanover, the "perfectly preserved"
body of a soldier of the eighth century. So, too, I might
mention the bodies preserved at the church of St. Thomas at
Strasburg, beneath the Cathedral of Bremen, and elsewhere during
hundreds of years past; also the cases of "adiposeration" in
various American cemeteries, which never grow less wonderful by
repetition from mouth to mouth and in the public prints. But,
while such preservation is not incredible or even strange, there
is much reason why precisely in the case of a saint like St.
Francis Xavier the evidence for it should be received with
especial caution. What the touching fidelity of disciples may
lead them to believe and proclaim regarding an adored leader in a
time when faith is thought more meritorious than careful
statement, and miracle more probable than the natural course of
things, is seen, for example, in similar pious accounts regarding
the bodies of many other saints, especially that of St. Carlo
Borromeo, so justly venerated by the Church for his beautiful and
charitable life. And yet any one looking at the relics of
various saints, especially those of St. Carlo, preserved with
such tender care in the crypt of Milan Cathedral, will see that
they have shared the common fate, being either mummified or
reduced to skeletons; and this is true in all cases, as far as my
observation has extended. What even a great theologian can be
induced to believe and testify in a somewhat similar matter, is
seen in St. Augustine's declaration that the flesh of the
peacock, which in antiquity and in the early Church was
considered a bird somewhat supernaturally endowed, is
incorruptible. The saint declares that he tested it and found it
so (see the De Civitate dei, xxi, c. 4, under the passage
beginning Quis enim Deus). With this we may compare the
testimony of the pious author of Sir John Mandeville's Travels,
that iron floats upon the Dead Sea while feathers sink in it, and
that he would not have believed this had he not seen it. So,
too, testimony to the "sweet odour" diffused by the exhumed
remains of the saint seem to indicate feeling rather than
fact--those highly wrought feelings of disciples standing by--the
same feeling which led those who visited St. Simon Stylites on
his heap of ordure, and other hermits unwashed and living in
filth, to dwell upon the delicious "odour of sanctity' pervading
the air. In point, perhaps, is Louis Veuillot's idealization of
the "parfum de Rome," in face of the fact, to which the present
writer and thousands of others can testify, that under Papal rule
Rome was materially one of the most filthy cities in Christendom.
For the case of Julia, see the contemporary letter printed by
Janitschek, Gesellschaft der Renaissance in Italien, p. 120, note
167; also Infessura, Diarium Rom. Urbis, in Muratori, tom. iii,
pt. 2, col. 1192, 1193, and elsewhere; also Symonds, Renaissance
in Italy: Age of Despots, p. 22. For the case at Stade, see
press dispatch from Berlin in newspapers of June 24, 25, 1895.
The copy of Emanuel Acosta I have mainly used is that in the
Royal Library at Munich, De Japonicus rebus epistolarum libri
iii, item recogniti; et in Latinum ex Hispanico sermone conversi,
Dilingae, MDLXXI. I have since obtained and used the work now in
the library of Cornell University, being the letters and
commentary published by Emanuel Acosta and attached to Maffei's
book on the History of the Indies, published at Antwerp in 1685.
For the first beginnings of miracles wrought by Xavier, as given
in the letters of the missionaries, see that of Almeida, lib. ii,
p. 183. Of other collections, or selections from collections, of
letters which fail to give any indication of miracles wrought by
Xavier during his life, see Wytfliet and Magin, Histoire
Universelle des Indes Occidentales et Orientales, et de la
Conversion des Indiens, Douay, 1611. Though several letters of
Xavier and his fellow-missionaries are given, dated at the very
period of his alleged miracles, not a trace of miracles appears
in these. Also Epistolae Japonicae de multorum in variis Insulis
Gentilium ad Christi fidem Conversione, Lovanii, 1570. These
letters were written by Xavier and his companions from the East
Indies and Japan, and cover the years from 1549 to 1564. Though
these refer frequently to Xavier, there is no mention of a
miracle wrought by him in any of them written during his

For, shortly after Xavier's heroic and beautiful death in 1552,
stories of miracles wrought by him began to appear. At first
they were few and feeble; and two years later Melchior Nunez,
Provincial of the Jesuits in the Portuguese dominions, with all
the means at his command, and a correspondence extending
throughout Eastern Asia, had been able to hear of but three.
These were entirely from hearsay. First, John Deyro said he knew
that Xavier had the gift of prophecy; but, unfortunately, Xavier
himself had reprimanded and cast off Deyro for untruthfulness and
cheatery. Secondly, it was reported vaguely that at Cape Comorin
many persons affirmed that Xavier had raised a man from the dead.
Thirdly, Father Pablo de Santa Fe had heard that in Japan Xavier
had restored sight to a blind man. This seems a feeble
beginning, but little by little the stories grew, and in 1555 De
Quadros, Provincial of the Jesuits in Ethiopia, had heard of nine
miracles, and asserted that Xavier had healed the sick and cast
out devils. The next year, being four years after Xavier's
death, King John III of Portugal, a very devout man, directed his
viceroy Barreto to draw up and transmit to him an authentic
account of Xavier's miracles, urging him especially to do the
work "with zeal and speedily." We can well imagine what
treasures of grace an obsequious viceroy, only too anxious to
please a devout king, could bring together by means of the
hearsay of ignorant, compliant natives through all the little
towns of Portuguese India.

But the letters of the missionaries who had been co-workers or
immediate successors of Xavier in his Eastern field were still
silent as regards any miracles by him, and they remained silent
for nearly ten years. In the collection of letters published by
Emanuel Acosta and others no hint at any miracles by him is
given, until at last, in 1562, fully ten years after Xavier's
death, the first faint beginnings of these legends appear in

At that time the Jesuit Almeida, writing at great length to the
brethren, stated that he had found a pious woman who believed
that a book left behind by Xavier had healed sick folk when it
was laid upon them, and that he had met an old man who preserved
a whip left by the saint which, when properly applied to the
sick, had been found good both for their bodies and their souls.
From these and other small beginnings grew, always luxuriant and
sometimes beautiful, the vast mass of legends which we shall see

This growth was affectionately garnered by the more zealous and
less critical brethren in Europe until it had become enormous;
but it appears to have been thought of little value by those best
able to judge.

For when, in 1562, Julius Gabriel Eugubinus delivered a solemn
oration on the condition and glory of the Church, before the
papal legates and other fathers assembled at the Council of
Trent, while he alluded to a multitude of things showing the
Divine favour, there was not the remotest allusion to the vast
multitude of miracles which, according to the legends, had been
so profusely lavished on the faithful during many years, and
which, if they had actually occurred, formed an argument of
prodigious value in behalf of the special claims of the Church.

The same complete absence of knowledge of any such favours
vouchsafed to the Church, or at least of any belief in them,
appears in that great Council of Trent among the fathers
themselves. Certainly there, if anywhere, one might on the Roman
theory expect Divine illumination in a matter of this kind. The

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