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History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper

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ARABIAN ASTRONOMY. In astronomy, they not only made catalogues,
but maps of the stars visible in their skies, giving to those of
the larger magnitudes the Arabic names they still bear on our
celestial globes. They ascertained, as we have seen, the size of
the earth by the measurement of a degree on her surface,
determined the obliquity of the ecliptic, published corrected
tables of the sun and moon fixed the length of the year, verified
the precession of the equinoxes. The treatise of Albategnius on
"The Science of the Stars" is spoken of by Laplace with respect;
he also draws attention to an important fragment of Ibn-Junis,
the astronomer of Hakem, the Khalif of Egypt, A.D. 1000, as
containing a long series of observations from the time of
Almansor, of eclipses, equinoxes, solstices, conjunctions of
planets, occultations of stars--observations which have cast much
light on the great variations of the system of the world. The
Arabian astronomers also devoted themselves to the construction
and perfection of astronomical instruments, to the measurement of
time by clocks of various kinds, by clepsydras and sun-dials.
They were the first to introduce, for this purpose, the use of
the pendulum.

In the experimental sciences, they originated chemistry; they
discovered some of its most important reagents-- sulphuric acid,
nitric acid, alcohol. They applied that science in the practice
of medicine, being the first to publish pharmacopoeias or
dispensatories, and to include in them mineral preparations. In
mechanics, they had determined the laws of falling bodies, had
ideas, by no means indistinct, of the nature of gravity; they
were familiar with the theory of the mechanical powers. In
hydrostatics they constructed the first tables of the specific
gravities of bodies, and wrote treatises on the flotation and
sinking of bodies in water. In optics, they corrected the Greek
misconception, that a ray proceeds from the eye, and touches the
object seen, introducing the hypothesis that the ray passes from
the object to the eye. They understood the phenomena of the
reflection and refraction of light. Alhazen made the great
discovery of the curvilinear path of a ray of light through the
atmosphere, and proved that we see the sun and moon before they
have risen, and after they have set.

AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURE. The effects of this scientific
activity are plainly perceived in the great improvements that
took place in many of the industrial arts. Agriculture shows it
in better methods of irrigation, the skillful employment of
manures, the raising of improved breeds of cattle, the enactment
of wise codes of rural laws, the introduction of the culture of
rice, and that of sugar and coffee. The manufactures show it in
the great extension of the industries of silk, cotton, wool; in
the fabrication of cordova and morocco leather, and paper; in
mining, casting, and various metallurgic operations; in the
making of Toledo blades.

Passionate lovers of poetry and music, they dedicated much of
their leisure time to those elegant pursuits. They taught Europe
the game of chess; they gave it its taste for works of
fiction--romances and novels. In the graver domains of literature
they took delight: they had many admirable compositions on such
subjects as the instability of human greatness; the consequences
of irreligion; the reverses of fortune; the origin, duration, and
end of the world. Sometimes, not without surprise, we meet with
ideas which we flatter ourselves have originated in our own
times. Thus our modern doctrines of evolution and development
were taught in their schools. In fact, they carried them much
farther than we are disposed to do, extending them even to
inorganic or mineral things. The fundamental principle of alchemy
was the natural process of development of metalline bodies. "When
common people," says Al- Khazini, writing in the twelfth century,
"hear from natural philosophers that gold is a body which has
attained to perfection of maturity, to the goal of completeness,
they firmly believe that it is something which has gradually come
to that perfection by passing through the forms of all other
metallic bodies, so that its gold nature was originally lead,
afterward it became tin, then brass, then silver, and finally
reached the development of gold; not knowing that the natural
philosophers mean, in saying this, only something like what they
mean when they speak of man, and attribute to him a completeness
and equilibrium in nature and constitution--not that man was once
a bull, and was changed into an ass, and afterward into a horse,
and after that into an ape, and finally became a man."



European ideas respecting the soul.--It resembles the form of the

Philosophical views of the Orientals.--The Vedic theology and
Buddhism assert the doctrine of emanation and absorption.--It is
advocated by Aristotle, who is followed by the Alexandrian
school, and subsequently by the Jews and Arabians.--It is found
in the writings of Erigena.

Connection of this doctrine with the theory of conservation and
correlation of force.--Parallel between the origin and destiny of
the body and the soul.--The necessity of founding human on
comparative psychology.

Averroism, which is based on these facts, is brought into
Christendom through Spain and Sicily.

History of the repression of Averroism.--Revolt of Islam against
it.--Antagonism of the Jewish synagogues.--Its destruction
undertaken by the papacy.--Institution of the Inquisition in
Spain.--Frightful persecutions and their results.--Expulsion of
the Jews and Moors.--Overthrow of Averroism in Europe.--Decisive
action of the late Vatican Council.

THE pagan Greeks and Romans believed that the spirit of man
resembles his bodily form, varying its appearance with his
variations, and growing with his growth. Heroes, to whom it had
been permitted to descend into Hades, had therefore without
difficulty recognized their former friends. Not only had the
corporeal aspect been retained, but even the customary raiment.

THE SOUL. The primitive Christians, whose conceptions of a future
life and of heaven and hell, the abodes of the blessed and the
sinful, were far more vivid than those of their pagan
predecessors, accepted and intensified these ancient ideas. They
did not doubt that in the world to come they should meet their
friends, and hold converse with them, as they had done here upon
earth --an expectation that gives consolation to the human heart,
reconciling it to the most sorrowful bereavements, and restoring
to it its dead.

In the uncertainty as to what becomes of the soul in the interval
between its separation from the body and the judgment-day, many
different opinions were held. Some thought that it hovered over
the grave, some that it wandered disconsolate through the air. In
the popular belief, St. Peter sat as a door-keeper at the gate of
heaven. To him it had been given to bind or to loose. He admitted
or excluded the Spirits of men at his pleasure. Many persons,
however, were disposed to deny him this power, since his
decisions would be anticipatory of the judgment-day, which would
thus be rendered needless. After the time of Gregory the Great,
the doctrine of purgatory met with general acceptance. A
resting-place was provided for departed spirits.

That the spirits of the dead occasionally revisit the living, or
haunt their former abodes, has been in all ages, in all European
countries, a fixed belief, not confined to rustics, but
participated in by the intelligent. A pleasing terror gathers
round the winter's-evening fireside at the stories of
apparitions, goblins, ghosts. In the old times the Romans had
their lares, or spirits of those who had led virtuous lives;
their larvae or lemures, the spirits of the wicked; their manes,
the spirits of those of whom the merits were doubtful. If human
testimony on such subjects can be of any value, there is a body
of evidence reaching from the remotest ages to the present time,
as extensive and unimpeachable as is to be found in support of
any thing whatever, that these shades of the dead congregate near
tombstones, or take up their secret abode in the gloomy chambers
of dilapidated castles, or walk by moonlight in moody solitude.

ASIATIC PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEWS. While these opinions have
universally found popular acceptance in Europe, others of a very
different nature have prevailed extensively in Asia, and indeed
very generally in the higher regions of thought. Ecclesiastical
authority succeeded in repressing them in the sixteenth century,
but they never altogether disappeared. In our own times so
silently and extensively have they been diffused in Europe, that
it was found expedient in the papal Syllabus to draw them in a
very conspicuous manner into the open light; and the Vatican
Council, agreeing in that view of their obnoxious tendency and
secret spread, has in an equally prominent and signal manner
among its first canons anathematized all persons who hold them.
"Let him be anathema who says that spiritual things are
emanations of the divine substance, or that the divine essence by
manifestation or development becomes all things." In view of this
authoritative action, it is necessary now to consider the
character and history of these opinions.

Ideas respecting the nature of God necessarily influence ideas
respecting the nature of the soul. The eastern Asiatics had
adopted the conception of an impersonal God, and, as regards the
soul, its necessary consequence, the doctrine of emanation and

EMANATION AND ABSORPTION. Thus the Vedic theology is based on the
acknowledgment of a universal spirit pervading all things. "There
is in truth but one Deity, the supreme Spirit; he is of the same
nature as the soul of man." Both the Vedas and the Institutes of
Menu affirm that the soul is an emanation of the all-pervading
Intellect, and that it is necessarily destined to be reabsorbed.
They consider it to be without form, and that visible Nature,
with all its beauties and harmonies, is only the shadow of God.

Vedaism developed itself into Buddhism, which has become the
faith of a majority of the human race. This system acknowledges
that there is a supreme Power, but denies that there is a supreme
Being. It contemplates the existence of Force, giving rise as its
manifestation to matter. It adopts the theory of emanation and
absorption. In a burning taper it sees an effigy of man--an
embodiment of matter, and an evolution of force. If we
interrogate it respecting the destiny of the soul, it demands of
us what has become of the flame when it is blown out, and in what
condition it was before the taper was lighted. Was it a
nonentity? Has it been annihilated? It admits that the idea of
personality which has deluded us through life may not be
instantaneously extinguished at death, but may be lost by slow
degrees. On this is founded the doctrine of transmigration. But
at length reunion with the universal Intellect takes place,
Nirwana is reached, oblivion is attained, a state that has no
relation to matter, space, or time, the state into which the
departed flame of the extinguished taper has gone, the state in
which we were before we were born. This is the end that we ought
to hope for; it is reabsorption in the universal Force-- supreme
bliss, eternal rest.

Through Aristotle these doctrines were first introduced into
Eastern Europe; indeed, eventually, as we shall see, he was
regarded as the author of them. They exerted a dominating
influence in the later period of the Alexandrian school. Philo,
the Jew, who lived in the time of Caligula, based his philosophy
on the theory of emanation. Plotinus not only accepted that
theory as applicable to the soul of man, but as affording an
illustration of the nature of the Trinity. For, as a beam of
light emanates from the sun, and as warmth emanates from the beam
when it touches material bodies, so from the Father the Son
emanates, and thence the Holy Ghost. From these views Plotinus
derived a practical religious system, teaching the devout how to
pass into a condition of ecstasy, a foretaste of absorption into
the universal mundane soul. In that condition the soul loses its
individual consciousness. In like manner Porphyry sought
absorption in or union with God. He was a Tyrian by birth,
established a school at Rome, and wrote against Christianity; his
treatise on that subject was answered by Eusebius and St. Jerome,
but the Emperor Theodosius silenced it more effectually by
causing all the copies to be burnt. Porphyry bewails his own
unworthiness, saying that he had been united to God in ecstasy
but once in eighty-six years, whereas his master Plotinus had
been so united six times in sixty years. A complete system of
theology, based on the theory of emanation, was constructed by
Proclus, who speculated on the manner in which absorption takes
place: whether the soul is instantly reabsorbed and reunited in
the moment of death, or whether it retains the sentiment of
personality for a time, and subsides into complete reunion by
successive steps.

ARABIC PSYCHOLOGY. From the Alexandrian Greeks these ideas passed
to the Saracen philosophers, who very soon after the capture of
the great Egyptian city abandoned to the lower orders their
anthropomorphic notions of the nature of God and the simulachral
form of the spirit of man. As Arabism developed itself into a
distinct scientific system, the theories of emanation and
absorption were among its characteristic features. In this
abandonment of vulgar Mohammedanism, the example of the Jews
greatly assisted. They, too, had given up the anthropomorphism of
their ancestors; they had exchanged the God who of old lived
behind the veil of the temple for an infinite Intelligence
pervading the universe, and, avowing their inability to conceive
that any thing which had on a sudden been called into existence
should be capable of immortality, they affirmed that the soul of
man is connected with a past of which there was no beginning,,
and with a future to which there is no end.

In the intellectual history of Arabism the Jew and the Saracen
are continually seen together. It was the same in their political
history, whether we consider it in Syria, in Egypt, or in Spain.
From them conjointly Western Europe derived its philosophical
ideas, which in the course of time culminated in Averroism;
Averroism is philosophical Islamism. Europeans generally regarded
Averroes as the author of these heresies, and the orthodox
branded him accordingly, but he was nothing more than their
collector and commentator. His works invaded Christendom by two
routes: from Spain through Southern France they reached Upper
Italy, engendering numerous heresies on their way; from Sicily
they passed to Naples and South Italy, under the auspices of
Frederick II.

But, long before Europe suffered this great intellectual
invasion, there were what might, perhaps, be termed sporadic
instances of Orientalism. As an example I may quote the views of
John Erigena (A.D. 800) He had adopted and taught the philosophy
of Aristotle had made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of that
philosopher, and indulged a hope of uniting philosophy and
religion in the manner proposed by the Christian ecclesiastics
who were then studying in the Mohammedan universities of Spain.
He was a native of Britain.

In a letter to Charles the Bald, Anastasius expresses his
astonishment "how such a barbarian man, coming from the very ends
of the earth, and remote from human conversation, could
comprehend things so clearly, and transfer them into another
language so well." The general intention of his writings was, as
we have said, to unite philosophy with religion, but his
treatment of these subjects brought him under ecclesiastical
censure, and some of his works were adjudged to the flames. His
most important book is entitled "De Divisione Nature."

Erigena's philosophy rests upon the observed and admitted fact
that every living thing comes from something that had previously
lived. The visible world, being a world of life, has therefore
emanated necessarily from some primordial existence, and that
existence is God, who is thus the originator and conservator of
all. Whatever we see maintains itself as a visible thing through
force derived from him, and, were that force withdrawn, it must
necessarily disappear. Erigena thus conceives of the Deity as an
unceasing participator in Nature, being its preserver,
maintainer, upholder, and in that respect answering to the soul
of the world of the Greeks. The particular life of individuals is
therefore a part of general existence, that is, of the mundane

If ever there were a withdrawal of the maintaining power, all
things must return to the source from which they issued--that is,
they must return to God, and be absorbed in him. All visible
Nature must thus pass back into "the Intellect" at last. "The
death of the flesh is the auspices of the restitution of things,
and of a return to their ancient conservation. So sounds revert
back to the air in which they were born, and by which they were
maintained, and they are heard no more; no man knows what has
become of them. In that final absorption which, after a lapse of
time, must necessarily come, God will be all in all, and nothing
exist but him alone." "I contemplate him as the beginning and
cause of all things; all things that are and those that have
been, but now are not, were created from him, and by him, and in
him. I also view him as the end and intransgressible term of all
things. . . . There is a fourfold conception of universal
Nature--two views of divine Nature, as origin and end; two also
of framed Nature, causes and effects. There is nothing eternal
but God."

The return of the soul to the universal Intellect is designated
by Erigena as Theosis, or Deification. In that final absorption
all remembrance of its past experiences is lost. The soul reverts
to the condition in which it was before it animated the body.
Necessarily, therefore, Erigena fell under the displeasure of the

It was in India that men first recognized the fact that force is
indestructible and eternal. This implies ideas more or less
distinct of that which we now term its "correlation and
conservation." Considerations connected with the stability of the
universe give strength to this view, since it is clear that, were
there either an increase or a diminution, the order of the world
must cease. The definite and invariable amount of energy in the
universe must therefore be accepted as a scientific fact. The
changes we witness are in its distribution.

But, since the soul must be regarded as an active principle, to
call a new one into existence out of nothing is necessarily to
add to the force previously in the world. And, if this has been
done in the case of every individual who has been born, and is to
be repeated for every individual hereafter, the totality of force
must be continually increasing.

Moreover, to many devout persons there is something very
revolting in the suggestion that the Almighty is a servitor to
the caprices and lusts of man, and that, at a certain term after
its origin, it is necessary for him to create for the embryo a

Considering man as composed of two portions, a soul and a body,
the obvious relations of the latter may cast much light on the
mysterious, the obscure relations of the former. Now, the
substance of which the body consists is obtained from the general
mass of matter around us, and after death to that general mass it
is restored. Has Nature, then, displayed before our eyes in the
origin, mutations, and destiny of the material part, the body, a
revelation that may guide us to a knowledge of the origin and
destiny of the companion, the spiritual part, the soul?

Let us listen for a moment to one of the most powerful of
Mohammedan writers:

"God has created the spirit of man out of a drop of his own
light; its destiny is to return to him. Do not deceive yourself
with the vain imagination that it will die when the body dies.
The form you had on your entrance into this world, and your
present form, are not the same; hence there is no necessity of
your perishing, on account of the perishing of your body. Your
spirit came into this world a stranger, it is only sojourning, in
a temporary home. From the trials and tempests of this
troublesome life, our refuge is in God. In reunion with him we
shall find eternal rest--a rest without sorrow, a joy without
pain, a strength without infirmity, a knowledge without doubt, a
tranquil and yet an ecstatic vision of the source of life and
light and glory, the source from which we came." So says the
Saracen philosopher, Al-Gazzali (A.D. 1010).

In a stone the material particles are in a state of stable
equilibrium; it may, therefore, endure forever. An animal is in
reality only a form through which a stream of matter is
incessantly flowing. It receives its supplies, and dismisses its
wastes. In this it resembles a cataract, a river, a flame. The
particles that compose it at one instant have departed from it
the next. It depends for its continuance on exterior supplies. It
has a definite duration in time, and an inevitable moment comes
in which it must die.

In the great problem of psychology we cannot expect to reach a
scientific result, if we persist in restricting ourselves to the
contemplation of one fact. We must avail ourselves of all
accessible facts. Human psychology can never be completely
resolved except through comparative psychology. With Descartes,
we must inquire whether the souls of animals be relations of the
human soul, less perfect members in the same series of
development. We must take account of what we discover in the
intelligent principle of the ant, as well as what we discern in
the intelligent principle of man. Where would human physiology
be, if it were not illuminated by the bright irradiations of
comparative physiology?

Brodie, after an exhaustive consideration of the facts, affirms
that the mind of animals is essentially the same as that of man.
Every one familiar with the dog will admit that that creature
knows right from wrong, and is conscious when he has committed a
fault. Many domestic animals have reasoning powers, and employ
proper means for the attainment of ends. How numerous are the
anecdotes related of the intentional actions of the elephant and
the ape! Nor is this apparent intelligence due to imitation, to
their association with man, for wild animals that have no such
relation exhibit similar properties. In different species, the
capacity and character greatly vary. Thus the dog is not only
more intelligent, but has social and moral qualities that the cat
does not possess; the former loves his master, the latter her

Du Bois-Reymond makes this striking remark: "With awe and wonder
must the student of Nature regard that microscopic molecule of
nervous substance which is the seat of the laborious,
constructive, orderly, loyal, dauntless soul of the ant. It has
developed itself to its present state through a countless series
of generations." What an impressive inference we may draw from
the statement of Huber, who has written so well on this subject:
"If you will watch a single ant at work, you can tell what he
will next do!" He is considering the matter, and reasoning as you
are doing. Listen to one of the many anecdotes which Huber, at
once truthful and artless, relates: "On the visit of an overseer
ant to the works, when the laborers had begun the roof too soon,
he examined it and had it taken down, the wall raised to the
proper height, and a new ceiling constructed with the fragments
of the old one." Surely these insects are not automata, they show
intention. They recognize their old companions, who have been
shut up from them for many months, and exhibit sentiments of joy
at their return. Their antennal language is capable of manifold
expression; it suits the interior of the nest, where all is dark.

While solitary insects do not live to raise their young, social
insects have a longer term, they exhibit moral affections and
educate their offspring. Patterns of patience and industry, some
of these insignificant creatures will work sixteen or eighteen
hours a day. Few men are capable of sustained mental application
more than four or five hours.

Similarity of effects indicates similarity of causes; similarity
of actions demands similarity of organs. I would ask the reader
of these paragraphs, who is familiar with the habits of animals,
and especially with the social relations of that wonderful insect
to which reference has been made, to turn to the nineteenth
chapter of my work on the "Intellectual Development of Europe,"
in which he will find a description of the social system of the
Incas of Peru. Perhaps, then, in view of the similarity of the
social institutions and personal conduct of the insect, and the
social institutions and personal conduct of the civilized
Indian--the one an insignificant speck, the other a man--he will
not be disposed to disagree with me in the opinion that "from
bees, and wasps, and ants, and birds, from all that low animal
life on which he looks with supercilious contempt, man is
destined one day to learn what in truth he really is."

The views of Descartes, who regarded all insects as automata, can
scarcely be accepted without modification. Insects are automata
only so far as the action of their ventral cord, and that portion
of their cephalic ganglia which deals with contemporaneous
impressions, is concerned.

It is one of the functions of vesicular-nervous material to
retain traces or relics of impressions brought to it by the
organs of sense; hence, nervous ganglia, being composed of that
material, may be considered as registering apparatus. They also
introduce the element of time into the action of the nervous
mechanism. An impression, which without them might have forthwith
ended in reflex action, is delayed, and with this duration come
all those important effects arising through the interaction of
many impressions, old and new, upon each other.

There is no such thing as a spontaneous, or self- originated,
thought. Every intellectual act is the consequence of some
preceding act. It comes into existence in virtue of something
that has gone before. Two minds constituted precisely alike, and
placed under the influence of precisely the same environment,
must give rise to precisely the same thought. To such sameness of
action we allude in the popular expression "common- sense"--a
term full of meaning. In the origination of a thought there are
two distinct conditions: the state of the organism as dependent
on antecedent impressions, and on the existing physical

In the cephalic ganglia of insects are stored up the relics of
impressions that have been made upon the common peripheral
nerves, and in them are kept those which are brought in by the
organs of special sense-- the visual, olfactive, auditory. The
interaction of these raises insects above mere mechanical
automata, in which the reaction instantly follows the impression.

In all cases the action of every nerve-centre, no matter what its
stage of development may be, high or low, depends upon an
essential chemical condition--oxidation. Even in man, if the
supply of arterial blood be stopped but for a moment, the
nerve-mechanism loses its power; if diminished, it
correspondingly declines; if, on the contrary, it be
increased--as when nitrogen monoxide is breathed--there is more
energetic action. Hence there arises a need of repair, a
necessity for rest and sleep.

Two fundamental ideas are essentially attached to all our
perceptions of external things: they are SPACE and TIME, and for
these provision is made in the nervous mechanism while it is yet
in an almost rudimentary state. The eye is the organ of space,
the ear of time; the perceptions of which by the elaborate
mechanism of these structures become infinitely more precise than
would be possible if the sense of touch alone were resorted to.

There are some simple experiments which illustrate the vestiges
of ganglionic impressions. If on a cold, polished metal, as a new
razor, any object, such as a wafer, be laid, and the metal be
then breathed upon, and, when the moisture has had time to
disappear, the wafer be thrown off, though now the most critical
inspection of the polished surface can discover no trace of any
form, if we breathe once more upon it, a spectral image of the
wafer comes plainly into view; and this may be done again and
again. Nay, more, if the polished metal be carefully put aside
where nothing can deteriorate its surface, and be so kept for
many months, on breathing again upon it the shadowy form emerges.

Such an illustration shows how trivial an impression may be thus
registered and preserved. But, if, on such an inorganic surface,
an impression may thus be indelibly marked, how much more likely
in the purposely- constructed ganglion! A shadow never falls upon
a wall without leaving thereupon a permanent trace, a trace which
might be made visible by resorting to proper processes.
Photographic operations are cases in point. The portraits of our
friends, or landscape views, may be hidden on the sensitive.
surface from the eye, but they are ready to make their appearance
as soon as proper developers are resorted to. A spectre is
concealed on a silver or glassy surface until, by our necromancy,
we make it come forth into the visible world. Upon the walls of
our most private apartments, where we think the eye of intrusion
is altogether shut out and our retirement can never be profaned,
there exist the vestiges of all our acts, silhouettes of whatever
we have done.

If, after the eyelids have been closed for some time, as when we
first awake in the morning, we suddenly and steadfastly gaze at a
brightly-illuminated object and then quickly close the lids
again, a phantom image is perceived in the indefinite darkness
beyond us. We may satisfy ourselves that this is not a fiction,
but a reality, for many details that we had not time to identify
in the momentary glance may be contemplated at our leisure in the
phantom. We may thus make out the pattern of such an object as a
lace curtain hanging in the window, or the branches of a tree
beyond. By degrees the image becomes less and less distinct; in a
minute or two it has disappeared. It seems to have a tendency to
float away in the vacancy before us. If we attempt to follow it
by moving the eyeball, it suddenly vanishes.

Such a duration of impressions on the retina proves that the
effect of external influences on nerve-vesicles is not
necessarily transitory. In this there is a correspondence to the
duration, the emergence, the extinction, of impressions on
photographic preparations. Thus, I have seen landscapes and
architectural views taken in Mexico developed, as artists say,
months subsequently in New York--the images coming out, after the
long voyage, in all their proper forms and in all their proper
contrast of light and shade. The photograph had forgotten
nothing. It had equally preserved the contour of the everlasting
mountains and the passing smoke of a bandit-fire.

Are there, then, contained in the brain more permanently, as in
the retina more transiently, the vestiges of impressions that
have been gathered by the sensory organs? Is this the explanation
of memory--the Mind contemplating such pictures of past things
and events as have been committed to her custody. In her silent
galleries are there hung micrographs of the living and the dead,
of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have
borne a part? Are these abiding impressions mere signal-marks,
like the letters of a book, which impart ideas to the mind? or
are they actual picture-images, inconceivably smaller than those
made for us by artists, in which, by the aid of a microscope, we
can see, in a space not bigger than a pinhole, a whole family
group at a glance?

The phantom images of the retina are not perceptible in the light
of the day. Those that exist in the sensorium in like manner do
not attract our attention so long as the sensory organs are in
vigorous operation, and occupied in bringing new impressions in.
But, when those organs become weary or dull, or when we
experience hours of great anxiety, or are in twilight reveries,
or are asleep, the latent apparitions have their vividness
increased by the contrast, and obtrude themselves on the mind.
For the same reason they occupy us in the delirium of fevers, and
doubtless also in the solemn moments of death. During a third
part of our life, in sleep, we are withdrawn from external
influences; hearing and sight and the other senses are
inactive,but the never-sleeping Mind, that pensive, that veiled
enchantress, in her mysterious retirement, looks over the
ambrotypes she has collected--ambrotypes, for they are truly
unfading impressions--and, combining them together, as they
chance to occur, constructs from them the panorama of a dream.

Nature has thus implanted in the organization of every man means
which impressively suggest to him the immortality of the soul and
a future life. Even the benighted savage thus sees in his visions
the fading forms of landscapes, which are, perhaps, connected
with some of his most pleasant recollections; and what other
conclusion can be possibly extract from those unreal pictures
than that they are the foreshadowings of another land beyond that
in which his lot is cast? At intervals he is visited in his
dreams by the resemblances of those whom he has loved or hated
while they were alive; and these manifestations are to him
incontrovertible proofs of the existence and immortality of the
soul. In our most refined social conditions we are never able to
shake off the impressions of these occurrences, and are
perpetually drawing from them the same conclusions that our
uncivilized ancestors did. Our more elevated condition of life in
no respect relieves us from the inevitable operation of our own
organization, any more than it relieves us from infirmities and
disease. In these respects, all over the globe men are on an
equality. Savage or civilized, we carry within us a mechanism
which presents us with mementoes of the most solemn facts with
which we can be concerned. It wants only moments of repose or
sickness, when the influence of external things is diminished, to
come into full play, and these are precisely the moments when we
are best prepared for the truths it is going to suggest. That
mechanism is no respecter of persons. It neither permits the
haughtiest to be free from the monitions, nor leaves the humblest
without the consolation of a knowledge of another life. Open to
no opportunities of being tampered with by the designing or
interested, requiring no extraneous human agency for its effect,
out always present with every man wherever he may go, it
marvelously extracts from vestiges of the impressions of the past
overwhelming proofs of the realities of the future, and,
gathering its power from what would seem to be a most unlikely
source, it insensibly leads us, no matter who or where we may be,
to a profound belief in the immortal and imperishable, from
phantoms which have scarcely made their appearance before they
are ready to vanish away.

The insect differs from a mere automaton in this, that it is
influenced by old, by registered impressions. In the higher forms
of animated life that registration becomes more and more
complete, memory becomes more perfect. There is not any necessary
resemblance between an external form and its ganglionic
impression, any more than there is between the words of a message
delivered in a telegraphic office and the signals which the
telegraph may give to the distant station; any more than there is
between the letters of a printed page and the acts or scenes they
describe, but the letters call up with clearness to the mind of
the reader the events and scenes.

An animal without any apparatus for the retention of impressions
must be a pure automaton--it cannot have memory. From
insignificant and uncertain beginnings, such an apparatus is
gradually evolved, and, as its development advances, the
intellectual capacity increases. In man, this retention or
registration reaches perfection; he guides, himself by past as
well as by present impressions; be is influenced by experience;
his conduct is determined by reason.

A most important advance is made when the capability is acquired
by any animal of imparting a knowledge of the impressions stored
up in its own nerve-centres to another of the same kind. This
marks the extension of individual into social life, and indeed is
essential thereto. In the higher insects it is accomplished by
antennal contacts, in man by speech. Humanity, in its earlier,
its savage stages, was limited to this: the knowledge of one
person could be transmitted to another by conversation. The acts
and thoughts of one generation could be imparted to another, and
influence its acts and thoughts.

But tradition has its limit. The faculty of speech makes society
possible--nothing more.

Not without interest do we remark the progress of development of
this function. The invention of the art of writing gave extension
and durability to the registration or record of impressions.
These, which had hitherto been stored up in the brain of one man,
might now be imparted to the whole human race, and be made to
endure forever. Civilization became possible--for civilization
cannot exist without writing, or the means of record in some

From this psychological point of view we perceive the real
significance of the invention of printing--a development of
writing which, by increasing the rapidity of the diffusion of
ideas, and insuring their permanence, tends to promote
civilization and to unify the human race.

In the foregoing paragraphs, relating to nervous impressions,
their registry, and the consequences, that spring from them, I
have given an abstract of views presented in my work on "Human
Physiology," published in 1856, and may, therefore, refer the
reader to the chapter on "Inverse Vision, or Cerebral Sight;" to
Chapter XIV., Book I.; and to Chapter VIII., Book II.; of that
work, for other particulars.

The only path to scientific human psychology is through
comparative psychology. It is a long and wearisome path, but it
leads to truth.

Is there, then, a vast spiritual existence pervading the
universe, even as there is a vast existence of matter pervading
it--a spirit which, as a great German author tells us, "sleeps in
the stone, dreams in the animal, awakes in man?" Does the soul
arise from the one as the body arises from the other? Do they in
like manner return, each to the source from which it has come? If
so, we can interpret human existence, and our ideas may still be
in unison with scientific truth, and in accord with our
conception of the stability, the unchangeability of the universe.

To this spiritual existence the Saracens, following Eastern
nations, gave the designation "the Active Intellect." They
believed that the soul of man emanated from it, as a rain-drop
comes from the sea, and, after a season, returns. So arose among
them the imposing doctrines of emanation and absorption. The
active intellect is God.

In one of its forms, as we have seen, this idea was developed by
Chakia Mouni, in India, in a most masterly manner, and embodied
in the vast practical system of Buddhism; in another, it was with
less power presented among the Saracens by Averroes.

But, perhaps we ought rather to say that Europeans hold Averroes
as the author of this doctrine, because they saw him isolated
from his antecedents. But Mohammedans gave him little credit for
originality. He stood to them in the light of a commentator on
Aristotle, and as presenting the opinions of the Alexandrian and
other philosophical schools up to his time. The following
excerpts from the "Historical Essay on Averroism," by M. Renan,
will show how closely the Sarscenic ideas approached those
presented above:

This system supposes that, at the death of an individual, his
intelligent principle or soul no longer possesses a separate
existence, but returns to or is absorbed in the universal mind,
the active intelligence, the mundane soul, which is God; from
whom, indeed, it had originally emanated or issued forth.

The universal, or active, or objective intellect, is uncreated,
impassible, incorruptible, has neither beginning nor end; nor
does it increase as the number of individual souls increases. It
is altogether separate from matter. It is, as it were, a cosmic
principle. This oneness of the active intellect, or reason, is
the essential principle of the Averroistic theory, and is in
harmony with the cardinal doctrine of Mohammedanism--the unity of

The individual, or passive, or subjective intellect, is an
emanation from the universal, and constitutes what is termed the
soul of man. In one sense it is perishable and ends with the
body, but in a higher sense it endures; for, after death, it
returns to or is absorbed in the universal soul, and thus of all
human souls there remains at last but one--the aggregate of them
all, life is not the property of the individual, it belongs to
Nature. The end of, man is to enter into union more and more
complete with the active intellect--reason. In that the happiness
of the soul consists. Our destiny is quietude. It was the opinion
of Averroes that the transition from the individual to the
universal is instantaneous at death, but the Buddhists maintain
that human personality continues in a declining manner for a
certain term before nonentity, or Nirwana, is attained.

Philosophy has never proposed but two hypotheses to explain the
system of the world: first, a personal God existing apart, and a
human soul called into existence or created, and thenceforth
immortal; second, an impersonal intelligence, or indeterminate
God, and a soul emerging from and returning to him. As to the
origin of beings, there are two opposite opinions: first, that
they are created from nothing; second, that they come by
development from pre-existing forms. The theory of creation
belongs to the first of the above hypotheses, that of evolution
to the last.

Philosophy among the Arabs thus took the same direction that it
had taken in China, in India, and indeed throughout the East. Its
whole spirit depended on the admission of the indestructibility
of matter and force. It saw an analogy between the gathering of
the material of which the body of man consists from the vast
store of matter in Nature, and its final restoration to that
store, and the emanation of the spirit of man from the universal
Intellect, the Divinity, and its final reabsorption.

Having thus indicated in sufficient detail the philosophical
characteristics of the doctrine of emanation and absorption, I
have in the next place to relate its history. It was introduced
into Europe by the Spanish Arabs. Spain was the focal point from
which, issuing forth, it affected the ranks of intelligence and
fashion all over Europe, and in Spain it had a melancholy end.

The Spanish khalifs had surrounded themselves with all the
luxuries of Oriental life. They had magnificent palaces,
enchanting gardens, seraglios filled with beautiful women. Europe
at the present day does not offer more taste, more refinement,
more elegance, than might have been seen, at the epoch of which
we are speaking, in the capitals of the Spanish Arabs. Their
streets were lighted and solidly paved. The houses were frescoed
and carpeted; they were warmed in winter by furnaces, and cooled
in summer with perfumed air brought by underground pipes from
flower-beds. They had baths, and libraries, and dining-halls,
fountains of quicksilver and water. City and country were full of
conviviality, and of dancing to the lute and mandolin. Instead of
the drunken and gluttonous wassail orgies of their Northern
neighbors, the feasts of the Saracens were marked by sobriety.
Wine was prohibited. The enchanting moonlight evenings of
Andalusia were spent by the Moors in sequestered, fairy-like
gardens or in orange-groves, listening to the romances of the
story-teller, or engaged in philosophical discourse; consoling
themselves for the disappointments of this life by such
reflections as that, if virtue were rewarded in this world, we
should be without expectations in the life to come; and
reconciling themselves to their daily toil by the expectation
that rest will be found after death--a rest never to be succeeded
by labor.

In the tenth century the Khalif Hakein II. had made beautiful
Andalusia the paradise of the world. Christians, Mussulmen, Jews,
mixed together without restraint. There, among many celebrated
names that have descended to our times, was Gerbert, destined
subsequently to become pope. There, too, was Peter the Venerable,
and many Christian ecclesiastics. Peter says that he found
learned men even from Britain pursuing astronomy. All learned
men, no matter from what country they came, or what their
religious views, were welcomed. The khalif had in his palace a
manufactory of books, and copyists, binders, illuminators. He
kept book-buyers in all the great cities of Asia and Africa. His
library contained four hundred thousand volumes, superbly bound
and illuminated.

Throughout the Mohammedan dominions in Asia, in Africa, and in
Spain, the lower order of Mussulmen entertained a fanatical
hatred against learning. Among the more devout--those who claimed
to be orthodox-- there were painful doubts as to the salvation of
the great Khalif Al-Mamun--the wicked khalif, as they called
him--for he had not only disturbed the people by introducing the
writings of Aristotle and other Greek heathens, but had even
struck at the existence of heaven and hell by saying that the
earth is a globe, and pretending that he could measure its size.
These persons, from their numbers, constituted a political power.

Almansor, who usurped the khalifate to the prejudice of Hakem's
son, thought that his usurpation would be sustained if he put
himself at the head of the orthodox party. He therefore had the
library of Hakem searched, and all works of a scientific or
philosophical nature carried into the public places and burnt, or
thrown into the cisterns of the palace. By a similar court
revolution Averroes, in his old age--he died A.D. 1193--was
expelled from Spain; the religious party had triumphed over the
philosophical. He was denounced as a traitor to religion. An
opposition to philosophy had been organized all over the
Mussulman world. There was hardly a philosopher who was not
punished. Some were put to death, and the consequence was, that
Islam was full of hypocrites.

Into Italy, Germany, England, Averroism had silently made its
way. It found favor in the eyes of the Franciscans, and a focus
in the University of Paris. By very many of the leading minds it
had been accepted. But at length the Dominicans, the rivals of
the Franciscans, sounded an alarm. They said it destroys all
personality, conducts to fatalism, and renders inexplicable the
difference and progress of individual intelligences. The
declaration that there is but one intellect is an error
subversive of the merits of the saints, it is an assertion that
there is no difference among men. What! is there no difference
between the holy soul of Peter and the damned soul of Judas? are
they identical? Averroes in this his blasphemous doctrine denies
creation, providence, revelation, the Trinity, the efficacy of
prayers, of alms, and of litanies; he disbelieves in the
resurrection and immortality; he places the summum bonum in mere

So, too, among the Jews who were then the leading intellects of
the world, Averroism had been largely propagated. Their great
writer Maimonides had thoroughly accepted it; his school was
spreading it in all directions. A furious persecution arose on
the part of the orthodox Jews. Of Maimonides it had been formerly
their delight to declare that he was "the Eagle of the Doctors,
the Great Sage, the Glory of the West, the Light of the East,
second only to Moses." Now, they proclaimed that he had abandoned
the faith of Abraham; had denied the possibility of creation,
believed in the eternity of the world; had given himself up to
the manufacture of atheists; had deprived God of his attributes;
made a vacuum of him; had declared him inaccessible to prayer,
and a stranger to the government of the world. The works of
Maimonides were committed to the flames by the synagogues of
Montpellier, Barcelona, and Toledo.

Scarcely had the conquering arms of Ferdinand and Isabella
overthrown the Arabian dominion in Spain, when measures were
taken by the papacy to extinguish these opinions, which, it was
believed, were undermining European Christianity.

Until Innocent IV. (1243), there was no special tribunal against
heretics, distinct from those of the bishops. The Inquisition,
then introduced, in accordance with the centralization of the
times, was a general and papal tribunal, which displaced the old
local ones. The bishops, therefore, viewed the innovation with
great dislike, considering it as an intrusion on their rights. It
was established in Italy, Spain, Germany, and the southern
provinces of France.

The temporal sovereigns were only too desirous to make use of
this powerful engine for their own political purposes. Against
this the popes strongly protested. They were not willing that its
use should pass out of the ecclesiastical hand.

The Inquisition, having already been tried in the south of
France, had there proved to be very effective for the suppression
of heresy. It had been introduced into Aragon. Now was assigned
to it the duty of dealing with the Jews.

In the old times under Visigothic rule these people had greatly
prospered, but the leniency that had been shown to them was
succeeded by atrocious persecution, when the Visigoths abandoned
their Arianism and became orthodox. The most inhuman ordinances
were issued against them--a law was enacted condemning them all
to be slaves. It was not to be wondered at that, when the Saracen
invasion took place, the Jews did whatever they could to promote
its success. They, like the Arabs, were an Oriental people, both
traced their lineage to Abraham, their common ancestor; both were
believers in the unity of God. It was their defense of that
doctrine that had brought upon them the hatred of their
Visigothic masters.

Under the Saracen rule they were treated with the highest
consideration. They became distinguished for their wealth and
their learning. For the most part they were Aristotelians. They
founded many schools and colleges. Their mercantile interests led
them to travel all over the world. They particularly studied the
science of medicine. Throughout the middle ages they were the
physicians and bankers of Europe. Of all men they saw the course
of human affairs from the most elevated point of view. Among the
special sciences they became proficient in mathematics and
astronomy; they composed the tables of Alfonso, and were the
cause of the voyage of De Gama. They distinguished themselves
greatly in light literature. From the tenth to the fourteenth
century their literature was the first in Europe. They were to be
found in the courts of princes as physicians, or as treasurers
managing the public finances.

The orthodox clergy in Navarre had excited popular prejudices
against them. To escape the persecutions that arose, many of them
feigned to turn Christians, and of these many apostatized to
their former faith. The papal nuncio at the court of Castile
raised a cry for the establishment of the Inquisition. The poorer
Jews were accused of sacrificing Christian children at the
Passover, in mockery of the crucifixion; the richer were
denounced as Averroists. Under the influence of Torquemada, a

Dominican monk, the confessor of Queen Isabella, that princess
solicited a bull from the pope for the establishment of the Holy
Office. A bull was accordingly issued in November, 1478, for the
detection and suppression of heresy. In the first year of the
operation of the Inquisition, 1481, two thousand victims were
burnt in Andalusia; besides these, many thousands were dug up
from their graves and burnt; seventeen thousand were fined or
imprisoned for life. Whoever of the persecuted race could flee,
escaped for his life. Torquemada, now appointed
inquisitor-general for Castile and Leon, illustrated his office
by his ferocity. Anonymous accusations were received, the accused
was not confronted by witnesses, torture was relied upon for
conviction; it was inflicted in vaults where no one could hear
the cries of the tormented. As, in pretended mercy, it was
forbidden to inflict torture a second time, with horrible
duplicity it was affirmed that the torment had not been completed
at first, but had only been suspended out of charity until the
following day! The families of the convicted were plunged into
irretrievable ruin. Llorente, the historian of the Inquisition,
computes that Torquemada and his collaborators, in the course of
eighteen years, burnt at the stake ten thousand two hundred and
twenty persons, six thousand eight hundred and sixty in effigy,
and otherwise punished ninety-seven thousand three hundred and
twenty-one. This frantic priest destroyed Hebrew Bibles wherever
be could find them, And burnt six thousand volumes of Oriental
literature at Salamanca, under an imputation that they inculcated
Judaism. With unutterable disgust and indignation, we learn that
the papal government realized much money by selling to the rich
dispensations to secure them from the Inquisition.

But all these frightful atrocities proved failures. The
conversions were few. Torquemada, therefore, insisted on the
immediate banishment of every unbaptized Jew. On March 30, 1492,
the edict of expulsion was signed. All unbaptized Jews, of
whatever age, sex, or condition, were ordered to leave the realm
by the end of the following July. If they revisited it, they
should suffer death. They might sell their effects and take the
proceeds in merchandise or bills of exchange, but not in gold or
silver. Exiled thus suddenly from the land of their birth, the
land of their ancestors for hundreds of years, they could not in
the glutted market that arose sell what they possessed. Nobody
would purchase what could be got for nothing after July. The
Spanish clergy occupied themselves by preaching in the public
squares sermons filled with denunciations against their victims,
who, when the time for expatriation came, swarmed in the roads
and filled the air with their cries of despair. Even the Spanish
onlookers wept at the scene of agony. Torquemada, however,
enforced the ordinance that no one should afford them any help.

Of the banished persons some made their way into Africa, some
into Italy; the latter carried with them to Naples ship-fever,
which destroyed not fewer than twenty thousand in that city, and
devastated that peninsula; some reached Turkey, a few England.
Thousands, especially mothers with nursing children, infants, and
old people, died by the way; many of them in the agonies of

This action against the Jews was soon followed by one against the
Moors. A pragmatica was issued at Seville, February, 1502,
setting forth the obligations of the Castilians to drive the
enemies of God from the land, and ordering that all unbaptized
Moors in the kingdoms of Castile and Leon above the age of
infancy should leave the country by the end of April. They might
sell their property, but not take away any gold or silver; they
were forbidden to emigrate to the Mohammedan dominions; the
penalty of disobedience was death. Their condition was thus worse
than that of the Jews, who had been permitted to go where they
chose. Such was the fiendish intolerance of the Spaniards, that
they asserted the government would be justified in taking the
lives of all the Moors for their shameless infidelity.

What an ungrateful return for the toleration that the Moors in
their day of power had given to the Christians! No faith was kept
with the victims. Granada had surrendered under the solemn
guarantee of the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty.
At the instigation of Cardinal Ximenes that pledge was broken,
and, after a residence of eight centuries, the Mohammedans were
driven out of the land.

The coexistence of three religions in Andalusia--the Christian,
the Mohammedan, the Mosaic--had given opportunity for the
development of Averroism or philosophical Arabism. This was a
repetition of what had occurred at Rome, when the gods of all the
conquered countries were confronted in that capital, and
universal disbelief in them all ensued. Averroes himself was
accused of having been first a Mussulman, then a Christian, then
a Jew, and finally a misbeliever. It was affirmed that he was the
author of the mysterious book "De Tribus Impostoribus."

In the middle ages there were two celebrated heretical books,
"The Everlasting Gospel," and the "De Tribus Impostoribus." The
latter was variously imputed to Pope Gerbert, to Frederick II.,
and to Averroes. In their unrelenting hatred the Dominicans
fastened all the blasphemies current in those times on Averroes;
they never tired of recalling the celebrated and outrageous one
respecting the eucharist. His writings had first been generally
made known to Christian Europe by the translation of Michael Scot
in the beginning of the thirteenth century, but long before his
time the literature of the West, like that of Asia, was full of
these ideas. We have seen how broadly they were set forth by
Erigena. The Arabians, from their first cultivation of
philosophy, had been infected by them; they were current in all
the colleges of the three khalifates. Considered not as a mode of
thought, that will spontaneously occur to all men at a certain
stage of intellectual development, but as having originated with
Aristotle, they continually found favor with men of the highest
culture. We see them in Robert Grostete, in Roger Bacon, and
eventually in Spinoza. Averroes was not their inventor, be merely
gave them clearness and expression. Among the Jews of the
thirteenth century, he had completely supplanted his imputed
master. Aristotle had passed away from their eyes; his great
commentator, Averroes, stood in his place. So numerous were the
converts to the doctrine of emanation in Christendom, that Pope
Alexander IV. (1255) found it necessary to interfere. By his
order, Albertus Magnus composed a work against the "Unity of the
Intellect." Treating of the origin and nature of the soul, he
attempted to prove that the theory of "a separate intellect,
enlightening man by irradiation anterior to the individual and
surviving the individual, is a detestable error." But the most
illustrious antagonist of the great com- mentator was St. Thomas
Aquinas, the destroyer of all such heresies as the unity of the
intellect, the denial of Providence, the impossibility of
creation; the victories of "the Angelic Doctor" were celebrated
not only in the disputations of the Dominicans, but also in the
works of art of the painters of Florence and Pisa. The
indignation of that saint knew no bounds when Christians became
the disciples of an infidel, who was worse than a Mohammedan. The
wrath of the Dominicans, the order to which St. Thomas belonged,
was sharpened by the fact that their rivals, the Franciscans,
inclined to Averroistic views; and Dante, who leaned to the
Dominicans, denounced Averroes as the author of a most dangerous
system. The theological odium of all three dominant religions was
put upon him; he was pointed out as the originator of the
atrocious maxim that "all religions are false, although all are
probably useful." An attempt was made at the Council of Vienne to
have his writings absolutely suppressed, and to forbid all
Christians reading them. The Dominicans, armed with the weapons
of the Inquisition, terrified Christian Europe with their
unrelenting persecutions. They imputed all the infidelity of the
times to the Arabian philosopher. But he was not without support.
In Paris and in the cities of Northern Italy the Franciscans
sustained his views, and all Christendom was agitated with these

Under the inspiration of the Dominicans, Averroes oceanic to the
Italian painters the emblem of unbelief. Many of the Italian
towns had pictures or frescoes of the Day of Judgment and of
Hell. In these Averroes not unfrequently appears. Thus, in one at
Pisa, he figures with Arius, Mohammed, and Antichrist. In another
he is represented as overthrown by St. Thomas. He had become an
essential element in the triumphs of the great Dominican doctor.
He continued thus to be familiar to the Italian painters until
the sixteenth century. His doctrines were maintained in the
University of Padua until the seventeenth.

Such is, in brief, the history of Averroism as it invaded Europe
from Spain. Under the auspices of Frederick II., it, in a less
imposing manner, issued from Sicily. That sovereign bad adopted
it fully. In his "Sicilian Questions" he had demanded light on
the eternity of the world, and on the nature of the soul, and
supposed he had found it in the replies of Ibn Sabin, an upholder
of these doctrines. But in his conflict with the papacy be was
overthrown, and with him these heresies were destroyed.

In Upper Italy, Averroism long maintained its ground. It was so
fashionable in high Venetian society that every gentleman felt
constrained to profess it. At length the Church took decisive
action against it. The Lateran Council, A.D. 1512, condemned the
abettors of these detestable doctrines to be held as heretics and
infidels. As we have seen, the late Vatican Council has
anathematized them. Notwithstanding that stigma, it is to be
borne in mind that these opinions are held to be true by a
majority of the human race.



Scriptural view of the world: the earth a flat surface; location
of heaven and hell.

Scientific view: the earth a globe; its size determined; its
position in and relations to the solar system.--The three great
voyages.--Columbus, De Gama, Magellan.--Circumnavigation of the
earth.--Determination of its curvature by the measurement of a
degree and by the pendulum.

The discoveries of Copernicus.--Invention of the
telescope.--Galileo brought before the Inquisition.--His
punishment.--Victory over the Church.

Attempts to ascertain the dimensions of the solar
system.--Determination of the sun's parallax by the transits of
Venus.--Insignificance, of the earth and man.

Ideas respecting the dimensions of the universe.--Parallax of the
stars.-- The plurality of worlds asserted by Bruno.--He is seized
and murdered by the Inquisition.

I HAVE now to present the discussions that arose respecting the
third great philosophical problem--the nature of the world.

An uncritical observation of the aspect of Nature persuades us
that the earth is an extended level surface which sustains the
dome of the sky, a firmament dividing the waters above from the
waters beneath; that the heavenly bodies--the sun, the moon, the
stars--pursue their way, moving from east to west, their
insignificant size and motion round the motionless earth
proclaiming their inferiority. Of the various organic forms
surrounding man none rival him in dignity, and hence he seems
justified in concluding that every thing has been created for his
use--the sun for the purpose of giving him light by day, the moon
and stars by night.

Comparative theology shows us that this is the conception of
Nature universally adopted in the early phase of intellectual
life. It is the belief of all nations in all parts of the world
in the beginning of their civilization: geocentric, for it makes
the earth the centre of the universe; anthropocentric, for it
makes man the central object of the earth. And not only is this
the conclusion spontaneously come to from inconsiderate glimpses
of the world, it is also the philosophical basis of various
religious revelations, vouchsafed to man from time to time. These
revelations, moreover, declare to him that above the crystalline
dome of the sky is a region of eternal light and
happiness--heaven--the abode of God and the angelic hosts,
perhaps also his own abode after death; and beneath the earth a
region of eternal darkness and misery, the habitation of those
that are evil. In the visible world is thus seen a picture of the

On the basis of this view of the structure of the world great
religious systems have been founded, and hence powerful material
interests have been engaged in its support. These have resisted,
sometimes by resorting to bloodshed, attempts that have been made
to correct its incontestable errors--a resistance grounded on the
suspicion that the localization of heaven and hell and the
supreme value of man in the universe might be affected.

That such attempts would be made was inevitable. As soon as men
began to reason on the subject at all, they could not fail to
discredit the assertion that the earth is an indefinite plane. No
one can doubt that the sun we see to-day is the self-same sun
that we saw yesterday. His reappearance each morning irresistibly
suggests that he has passed on the underside of the earth. But
this is incompatible with the reign of night in those regions. It
presents more or less distinctly the idea of the globular form of
the earth.

The earth cannot extend indefinitely downward; for the sun cannot
go through it, nor through any crevice or passage in it, Since he
rises and sets in different positions at different seasons of the
year. The stars also move under it in countless courses. There
must, therefore, be a clear way beneath.

To reconcile revelation with these innovating facts, schemes,
such as that of Cosmas Indicopleustes in his Christian
Topography, were doubtless often adopted. To this in particular
we have had occasion on a former page to refer. It asserted that
in the northern parts of the flat earth there is an immense
mountain, behind which the sun passes, and thus produces night.

At a very remote historical period the mechanism of eclipses had
been discovered. Those of the moon demonstrated that the shadow
of the earth is always circular. The form of the earth must
therefore be globular. A body which in all positions casts a
circular shadow must itself be spherical. Other considerations,
with which every one is now familiar, could not fail to establish
that such is her figure.

But the determination of the shape of the earth by no means
deposed her from her position of superiority. Apparently vastly
larger than all other things, it was fitting that she should be
considered not merely as the centre of the world, but, in truth,
as--the world. All other objects in their aggregate seemed
utterly unimportant in comparison with her.

Though the consequences flowing from an admission of the globular
figure of the earth affected very profoundly existing theological
ideas, they were of much less moment than those depending on a
determination of her size. It needed but an elementary knowledge
of geometry to perceive that correct ideas on this point could be
readily obtained by measuring a degree on her surface. Probably
there were early attempts to accomplish this object, the results
of which have been lost. But Eratosthenes executed one between
Syene and Alexandria, in Egypt, Syene being supposed to be
exactly under the tropic of Cancer. The two places are, however,
not on the same meridian, and the distance between them was
estimated, not measured. Two centuries later, Posidonius made
another attempt between Alexandria and Rhodes; the bright star
Canopus just grazed the horizon at the latter place, at
Alexandria it rose 7 1/2 degrees. In this instance, also, since
the direction lay across the sea, the distance was estimated, not
measured. Finally, as we have already related, the Khalif
Al-Mamun made two sets of measures, one on the shore of the Red
Sea, the other near Cufa, in Mesopotamia. The general result of
these various observations gave for the earth's diameter between
seven and eight thousand miles.

This approximate determination of the size of the earth tended to
depose her from her dominating position, and gave rise to very
serious theological results. In this the ancient investigations
of Aristarchus of Samos, one of the Alexandrian school, 280 B.C.,
powerfully aided. In his treatise on the magnitudes and distances
of the sun and moon, he explains the ingenious though imperfect
method to which he had resorted for the solution of that problem.
Many ages previously a speculation had been brought from India to
Europe by Pythagoras. It presented the sun as the centre of the
system. Around him the planets revolved in circular orbits, their
order of position being Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter,
Saturn, each of them being supposed to rotate on its axis as it
revolved round the sun. According to Cicero, Nicetas suggested
that, if it were admitted that the earth revolves on her axis,
the difficulty presented by the inconceivable velocity of the
heavens would be avoided.

There is reason to believe that the works of Aristarchus, in the
Alexandrian Library, were burnt at the time of the fire of
Caesar. The only treatise of his that has come down to us is that
above mentioned, on the size and distance of the sun and moon.

Aristarchus adopted the Pythagorean system as representing the
actual facts. This was the result of a recognition of the sun's
amazing distance, and therefore of his enormous size. The
heliocentric system, thus regarding the sun as the central orb,
degraded the earth to a very subordinate rank, making her only
one of a company of six revolving bodies.

But this is not the only contribution conferred on astronomy by
Aristarchus, for, considering that the movement of the earth does
not sensibly affect the apparent position of the stars, he
inferred that they are incomparably more distant from us than the
sun. He, therefore, of all the ancients, as Laplace remarks, had
the most correct ideas of the grandeur of the universe. He saw
that the earth is of absolutely insignificant size, when compared
with the stellar distances. He saw, too, that there is nothing
above us but space and stars.

But the views of Aristarchus, as respects the emplacement of the
planetary bodies, were not accepted by antiquity; the system
proposed by Ptolemy, and incorporated in his "Syntaxis," was
universally preferred. The physical philosophy of those times was
very imperfect--one of Ptolemy's objections to the Pythagorean
system being that, if the earth were in motion, it would leave
the air and other light bodies behind it. He therefore placed the
earth in the central position, and in succession revolved round
her the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn;
beyond the orbit of Saturn came the firmament of the fixed stars.
As to the solid crystalline spheres, one moving from east to
west, the other from north to south, these were a fancy of
Eudoxus, to which Ptolemy does not allude.

The Ptolemaic system is, therefore, essentially a geocentric
system. It left the earth in her position of superiority, and
hence gave no cause of umbrage to religious opinions, Christian
or Mohammedan. The immense reputation of its author, the signal
ability of his great work on the mechanism of the heavens,
sustained it for almost fourteen hundred years--that is, from the
second to the sixteenth century.

In Christendom, the greater part of this long period was consumed
in disputes respecting the nature of God, and in struggles for
ecclesiastical power. The authority of the Fathers, and the
prevailing belief that the Scriptures contain the sum, of all
knowledge, discouraged any investigation of Nature. If by chance
a passing interest was taken in some astronomical question, it
was at once settled by a reference to such authorities as the
writings of Augustine or Lactantius, not by an appeal to the
phenomena of the heavens. So great was the preference given to
sacred over profane learning that Christianity had been in
existence fifteen hundred years, and had not produced a single

The Mohammedan nations did much better. Their cultivation of
science dates from the capture of Alexandria, A.D. 638. This was
only six years after the death of the Prophet. In less than two
centuries they had not only become acquainted with, but correctly
appreciated, the Greek scientific writers. As we have already
mentioned, by his treaty with Michael III., the khalif Al-Mamun
had obtained a copy of the "Syntaxis" of Ptolemy. He had it
forthwith translated into Arabic. It became at once the great
authority of Saracen astronomy. From this basis the Saracens had
advanced to the solution of some of the most important scientific
problems. They had ascertained the dimensions of the earth; they
had registered or catalogued all the stars visible in their
heavens, giving to those of the larger magnitudes the names they
still bear on our maps and globes; they determined the true
length of the year, discovered astronomical refraction, invented
the pendulum-clock, improved the photometry of the stars,
ascertained the curvilinear path of a ray of light through the
air, explained the phenomena of the horizontal sun and moon, and
why we see those bodies before they have risen and after they
have set; measured the height of the atmosphere, determining it
to be fifty-eight miles; given the true theory of the twilight,
and of the twinkling of the stars. They had built the first
observatory in Europe. So accurate were they in their
observations, that the ablest modern mathematicians have made use
of their results. Thus Laplace, in his "Systeme du Monde,"
adduces the observations of Al-Batagni as affording incontestable
proof of the diminution of the eccentricity of the earth's orbit.
He uses those of Ibn-Junis in his discussion of the obliquity of
the ecliptic, and also in the case of the problems of the greater
inequalities of Jupiter and Saturn.

These represent but a part, and indeed but a small part, of the
services rendered by the Arabian astronomers, in the solution of
the problem of the nature of the world. Meanwhile, such was the
benighted condition of Christendom, such its deplorable
ignorance, that it cared nothing about the matter. Its attention
was engrossed by image-worship, transubstantiation, the merits of
the saints, miracles, shrine-cures.

This indifference continued until the close of the fifteenth
century. Even then there was no scientific inducement. The
inciting motives were altogether of a different kind. They
originated in commercial rivalries, and the question of the shape
of the earth was finally settled by three sailors, Columbus, De
Gama, and, above all, by Ferdinand Magellan.

The trade of Eastern Asia has always been a source of immense
wealth to the Western nations who in succession have obtained it.
In the middle ages it had centred in Upper Italy. It was
conducted along two lines--a northern, by way of the Black and
Caspian Seas, and camel-caravans beyond--the headquarters of this
were at Genoa; and a southern, through the Syrian and Egyptian
ports, and by the Arabian Sea, the headquarters of this being at
Venice. The merchants engaged in the latter traffic had also made
great gains in the transport service of the Crusade-wars.

The Venetians had managed to maintain amicable relations with the
Mohammedan powers of Syria and Egypt; they were permitted to have
consulates at Alexandria and Damascus, and, notwithstanding the
military commotions of which those countries had been the scene,
the trade was still maintained in a comparatively flourishing
condition. But the northern or Genoese line had been completely
broken up by the irruptions of the Tartars and the Turks, and the
military and political disturbances of the countries through
which it passed. The Eastern trade of Genoa was not merely in a
precarious condition--it was on the brink of destruction.

The circular visible horizon and its dip at sea, the gradual
appearance and disappearance of ships in the offing, cannot fail
to incline intelligent sailors to a belief in the globular figure
of the earth. The writings of the Mohammedan astronomers and
philosophers had given currency to that doctrine throughout
Western Europe, but, as might be expected, it was received with
disfavor by theologians. When Genoa was thus on the very brink of
ruin, it occurred to some of her mariners that, if this view were
correct, her affairs might be re- established. A ship sailing
through the straits of Gibraltar westward, across the Atlantic,
would not fail to reach the East Indies. There were apparently
other great advantages. Heavy cargoes might be transported
without tedious and expensive land-carriage, and without breaking

Among the Genoese sailors who entertained these views was
Christopher Columbus.

He tells us that his attention was drawn to this subject by the
writings of Averroes, but among his friends he numbered
Toscanelli, a Florentine, who had turned his attention to
astronomy, and had become a strong advocate of the globular form.
In Genoa itself Columbus met with but little encouragement. He
then spent many years in trying to interest different princes in
his proposed attempt. Its irreligious tendency was pointed out by
the Spanish ecclesiastics, and condemned by the Council of
Salamanca; its orthodoxy was confuted from the Pentateuch, the
Psalms, the Prophecies, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the
writings of the Fathers--St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St.
Jerome, St. Gregory, St. Basil, St Ambrose.

At length, however, encouraged by the Spanish Queen Isabella, and
substantially aided by a wealthy seafaring family, the Pinzons of
Palos, some of whom joined him personally, he sailed on August 3,
1492, with three small ships, from Palos, carrying with him a
letter from King Ferdinand to the Grand-Khan of Tartary, and also
a chart, or map, constructed on the basis of that of Toscanelli.
A little before midnight, October 11, 1492, he saw from the
forecastle of his ship a moving light at a distance. Two hours
subsequently a signal- gun from another of the ships announced
that they had descried land. At sunrise Columbus landed in the
New World.

On his return to Europe it was universally supposed that he had
reached the eastern parts of Asia, and that therefore his voyage
bad been theoretically successful. Columbus himself died in that
belief. But numerous voyages which were soon undertaken made
known the general contour of the American coast-line, and the
discovery of the Great South Sea by Balboa revealed at length the
true facts of the case, and the mistake into which both
Toscanelli and Columbus had fallen, that in a voyage to the West
the distance from Europe to Asia could not exceed the distance
passed over in a voyage from Italy to the Gulf of Guinea--a
voyage that Columbus had repeatedly made.

In his first voyage, at nightfall on September 13, 1492, being
then two and a half degrees east of Corvo, one of the Azores,
Columbus observed that the compass needles of the ships no longer
pointed a little to the east of north, but were varying to the
west. The deviation became more and more marked as the expedition
advanced. He was not the first to detect the fact of variation,
but he was incontestably the first to discover the line of no
variation. On the return-voyage the reverse was observed; the
variation westward diminished until the meridian in question was
reached, when the needles again pointed due north. Thence, as the
coast of Europe was approached, the variation was to the east.
Columbus, therefore, came to the conclusion that the line of no
variation was a fixed geographical line, or boundary, between the
Eastern and Western Hemispheres. In the bull of May, 1493, Pope
Alexander VI. accordingly adopted this line as the perpetual
boundary between the possessions of Spain and Portugal, in his
settlement of the disputes of those nations. Subsequently,
however, it was discovered that the line was moving eastward. It
coincided with the meridian of London in 1662.

By the papal bull the Portuguese possessions were limited to the
east of the line of no variation. Information derived from
certain Egyptian Jews had reached that government, that it was
possible to sail round the continent of Africa, there being at
its extreme south a cape which could be easily doubled. An
expedition of three ships under Vasco de Gama set sail, July 9,
1497; it doubled the cape on November 20th, and reached Calicut,
on the coast of India, May 19, 1498. Under the bull, this voyage
to the East gave to the Portuguese the right to the India trade.

Until the cape was doubled, the course of De Gama's ships was in
a general manner southward. Very soon, it was noticed that the
elevation of the pole-star above the horizon was diminishing,
and, soon after the equator was reached, that star had ceased to
be visible. Meantime other stars, some of them forming
magnificent constellations, had come into view--the stars of the
Southern Hemisphere. All this was in conformity to theoretical
expectations founded on the admission of the globular form of the

The political consequences that at once ensued placed the Papal
Government in a position of great embarrassment. Its traditions
and policy forbade it to admit any other than the flat figure of
the earth, as revealed in the Scriptures. Concealment of the
facts was impossible, sophistry was unavailing. Commercial
prosperity now left Venice as well as Genoa. The front of Europe
was changed. Maritime power had departed from the Mediterranean
countries, and passed to those upon the Atlantic coast.

But the Spanish Government did not submit to the advantage thus
gained by its commercial rival without an effort. It listened to
the representations of one Ferdinand Magellan, that India and the
Spice Islands could be reached by sailing to the west, if only a
strait or passage through what had now been recognized as "the
American Continent" could be discovered; and, if this should be
accomplished, Spain, under the papal bull, would have as good a
right to the India trade as Portugal. Under the command of
Magellan, an expedition of five ships, carrying two hundred and
thirty- seven men, was dispatched from Seville, August 10, 1519.

Magellan at once struck boldly for the South American coast,
hoping to find some cleft or passage through the continent by
which he might reach the great South Sea. For seventy days he was
becalmed on the line; his sailors were appalled by the
apprehension that they had drifted into a region where the winds
never blew, and that it was impossible for them to escape. Calms,
tempests, mutiny, desertion, could not shake his resolution.
After more than a year he discovered the strait which now bears
his name, and, as Pigafetti, an Italian, who was with him,
relates, he shed fears of joy when he found that it had pleased
God at length to bring him where he might grapple with the
unknown dangers of the South Sea, "the Great and Pacific Ocean."

Driven by famine to eat scraps of skin and leather with which his
rigging was here and there bound, to drink water that had gone
putrid, his crew dying of hunger and scurvy, this man, firm in
his belief of the globular figure of the earth, steered steadily
to the northwest, and for nearly four months never saw inhabited
land. He estimated that he had sailed over the Pacific not less
than twelve thousand miles. He crossed the equator, saw once more
the pole-star, and at length made land--the Ladrones. Here he met
with adventurers from Sumatra. Among these islands he was killed,
either by the savages or by his own men. His lieutenant,
Sebastian d'Elcano, now took command of the ship, directing her
course for the Cape of Good Hope, and encountering frightful
hardships. He doubled the cape at last, and then for the fourth
time crossed the equator. On September 7, 1522, after a voyage of
more than three years, he brought his ship, the San Vittoria, to
anchor in the port of St. Lucar, near Seville. She had
accomplished the greatest achievement in the history of the human
race. She had circumnavigated the earth.

The San Vittoria, sailing westward, had come back to her
starting-point. Henceforth the theological doctrine of the
flatness of the earth was irretrievably overthrown.

Five years after the completion of the voyage of Magellan, was
made the first attempt in Christendom to ascertain the size of
the earth. This was by Fernel, a French physician, who, having
observed the height of the pole at Paris, went thence northward
until be came to a place where the height of the pole was exactly
one degree more than at that city. He measured the distance
between the two stations by the number of revolutions of one of
the wheels of his carriage, to which a proper indicator bad been
attached, and came to the conclusion that the earth's
circumference is about twenty-four thousand four hundred and
eighty Italian miles.

Measures executed more and more carefully were made in many
countries: by Snell in Holland; by Norwood between London and
York in England; by Picard, under the auspices of the French
Academy of Sciences, in France. Picard's plan was to connect two
points by a series of triangles, and, thus ascertaining the
length of the arc of a meridian intercepted between them, to
compare it with the difference of latitudes found from celestial
observations. The stations were Malvoisine in the vicinity of
Paris, and Sourdon near Amiens. The difference of latitudes was
determined by observing the zenith-distances, of delta
Cassiopeia. There are two points of interest connected with
Picard's operation: it was the first in which instruments
furnished with telescopes were employed; and its result, as we
shall shortly see, was to Newton the first confirmation of the
theory of universal gravitation.

At this time it had become clear from mechanical considerations,
more especially such as had been deduced by Newton, that, since
the earth is a rotating body, her form cannot be that of a
perfect sphere, but must be that of a spheroid, oblate or
flattened at the poles. It would follow, from this, that the
length of a degree must be greater near the poles than at the

The French Academy resolved to extend Picard's operation, by
prolonging the measures in each direction, and making the result
the basis of a more accurate map of France. Delays, however, took
place, and it was not until 1718 that the measures, from Dunkirk
on the north to the southern extremity of France, were completed.
A discussion arose as to the interpretation of these measures,
some affirming that they indicated a prolate, others an oblate
spheroid; the former figure may be popularly represented by a
lemon, the latter by an orange. To settle this, the French
Government, aided by the Academy, sent out two expeditions to
measure degrees of the meridian--one under the equator, the other
as far north as possible; the former went to Peru, the latter to
Swedish Lapland. Very great difficulties were encountered by both
parties. The Lapland commission, however, completed its
observations long before the Peruvian, which consumed not less
than nine years. The results of the measures thus obtained
confirmed the theoretical expectation of the oblate form. Since
that time many extensive and exact repetitions of the observation
have been made, among which may be mentioned those of the English
in England and in India, and particularly that of the French on
the occasion of the introduction of the metric system of weights
and measures. It was begun by Delambre and Mechain, from Dunkirk
to Barcelona, and thence extended, by Biot and Arago, to the
island of Formentera near Minorea. Its length was nearly twelve
and a half degrees.

Besides this method of direct measurement, the figure of the
earth may be determined from the observed number of oscillations
made by a pendulum of invariable length in different latitudes.
These, though they confirm the foregoing results, give a somewhat
greater ellipticity to the earth than that found by the
measurement of degrees. Pendulums vibrate more slowly the nearer
they are to the equator. It follows, therefore, that they are
there farther from the centre of the earth.

From the most reliable measures that have been made, the
dimensions of the earth may be thus stated:

Greater or equatorial diameter ............. 7,925 miles.
Less or polar diameter ......................7,899 "
Difference or polar compression ............. 26 "

Such was the result of the discussion respecting the figure and
size of the earth. While it was yet undetermined, another
controversy arose, fraught with even more serious consequences.
This was the conflict respecting the earth's position with regard
to the sun and the planetary bodies.

Copernicus, a Prussian, about the year 1507, had completed a book
"On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies." He had journeyed to
Italy in his youth, had devoted his attention to astronomy, and
had taught mathematics at Rome. From a profound study of the
Ptolemaic and Pythagorean systems, he had come to a conclusion in
favor of the latter, the object of his book being to sustain it.
Aware that his doctrines were totally opposed to revealed truth,
and foreseeing that they would bring upon him the punishments of
the Church, be expressed himself in a cautious and apologetic
manner, saying that he had only taken the liberty of trying
whether, on the supposition of the earth's motion, it was
possible to find better explanations than the ancient ones of the
revolutions of the celestial orbs; that in doing this he had only
taken the privilege that had been allowed to others, of feigning
what hypothesis they chose. The preface was addressed to Pope
Paul III.

Full of misgivings as to what might be the result, he refrained
from publishing his book for thirty-six years, thinking that
"perhaps it might be better to follow the examples of the
Pythagoreans and others, who delivered their doctrine only by
tradition and to friends." At the entreaty of Cardinal Schomberg
he at length published it in 1543. A copy of it was brought to
him on his death-bed. Its fate was such as he had anticipated.
The Inquisition condemned it as heretical. In their decree,
prohibiting it, the Congregation of the Index denounced his
system as "that false Pythagorean doctrine utterly contrary to
the Holy Scriptures."

Astronomers justly affirm that the book of Copernicus, "De
Revolutionibus," changed the face of their science. It
incontestably established the heliocentric theory. It showed that
the distance of the fixed stars is infinitely great, and that the
earth is a mere point in the heavens. Anticipating Newton,
Copernicus imputed gravity to the sun, the moon, and heavenly
bodies, but he was led astray by assuming that the celestial
motions must be circular. Observations on the orbit of Mars, and
his different diameters at different times, had led Copernicus to
his theory.

In thus denouncing the Copernican system as being in
contradiction to revelation, the ecclesiastical authorities were
doubtless deeply moved by inferential considerations. To dethrone
the earth from her central dominating position, to give her many
equals and not a few superiors, seemed to diminish her claims
upon the Divine regard. If each of the countless myriads of stars
was a sun, surrounded by revolving globes, peopled with
responsible beings like ourselves, if we had fallen so easily and
had been redeemed at so stupendous a price as the death of the
Son of God, how was it with them? Of them were there none who had
fallen or might fall like us? Where, then, for them could a
Savior be found?

During the year 1608 one Lippershey, a Hollander, discovered
that, by looking through two glass lenses, combined in a certain
manner together, distant objects were magnified and rendered very
plain. He had invented the telescope. In the following year
Galileo, a Florentine, greatly distinguished by his mathematical
and scientific writings, hearing of the circumstance, but without
knowing the particulars of the construction, invented a form of
the instrument for himself. Improving it gradually, he succeeded
in making one that. could magnify thirty times. Examining the
moon, he found that she had valleys like those of the earth, and
mountains casting shadows. It had been said in the old times that
in the Pleiades there were formerly seven stars, but a legend
related that one of them had mysteriously disappeared. On turning
his telescope toward them, Galileo found that he could easily
count not fewer than forty. In whatever direction he looked, be
discovered stars that were totally invisible to the naked eye.

On the night of January 7, 1610, he perceived three small stars
in a straight line, adjacent to the planet Jupiter, and, a few
evenings later, a fourth. He found that these were revolving in
orbits round the body of the planet, and, with transport,
recognized that they presented a miniature representation of the
Copernican system.

The announcement of these wonders at once attracted universal
attention. The spiritual authorities were not slow to detect
their tendency, as endangering the doctrine that the universe was
made for man. In the creation of myriads of stars, hitherto
invisible, there must surely have been some other motive than
that of illuminating the nights for him.

It had been objected to the Copernican theory that, if the
planets Mercury and Venus move round the sun in orbits interior
to that of the earth, they ought to show phases like those of the
moon; and that in the case of Venus, which is so brilliant and
conspicuous, these phases should be very obvious. Copernicus
himself had admitted the force of the objection, and had vainly
tried to find an explanation. Galileo, on turning his telescope
to the planet, discovered that the expected phases actually
exist; now she was a crescent, then half-moon, then gibbous, then
full. Previously to Copernicus, it was supposed that the planets
shine by their own light, but the phases of Venus and Mars proved
that their light is reflected. The Aristotelian notion, that
celestial differ from terrestrial bodies in being incorruptible,
received a rude shock from the discoveries of Galileo, that there
are mountains and valleys in the moon like those of the earth,
that the sun is not perfect, but has spots on his face, and that
he turns on his axis instead of being in a state of majestic
rest. The apparition of new stars had already thrown serious
doubts on this theory of incorruptibility.

These and many other beautiful telescopic discoveries tended to
the establishment of the truth of the Copernican theory and gave
unbounded alarm to the Church. By the low and ignorant
ecclesiastics they were denounced as deceptions or frauds. Some
affirmed that the telescope might be relied on well enough for
terrestrial objects, but with the heavenly bodies it was
altogether a different affair. Others declared that its invention
was a mere application of Aristotle's remark that stars could be
seen in the daytime from the bottom of a deep well. Galileo was
accused of imposture, heresy, blasphemy, atheism. With a view of
defending himself, he addressed a letter to the Abbe Castelli,
suggesting that the Scriptures were never intended to be a
scientific authority, but only a moral guide. This made matters
worse. He was summoned before the Holy Inquisition, under an
accusation of having taught that the earth moves round the sun, a
doctrine "utterly contrary to the Scriptures." He was ordered to
renounce that heresy, on pain of being imprisoned. He was
directed to desist from teaching and advocating the Copernican
theory, and pledge himself that he would neither publish nor
defend it for the future. Knowing well that Truth has no need of
martyrs, be assented to the required recantation, and gave the
promise demanded.

For sixteen years the Church had rest. But in 1632 Galileo
ventured on the publication of his work entitled "The System of
the World," its object being the vindication of the Copernican
doctrine. He was again summoned before the Inquisition at Rome,
accused of having asserted that the earth moves round the sun. He
was declared to have brought upon himself the penalties of
heresy. On his knees, with his hand on the Bible, he was
compelled to abjure and curse the doctrine of the movement of the
earth. What a spectacle! This venerable man, the most illustrious
of his age, forced by the threat of death to deny facts which his
judges as well as himself knew to be true! He was then committed
to prison, treated with remorseless severity during the remaining
ten years of his life, and was denied burial in consecrated
ground. Must not that be false which requires for its support so
much imposture, so much barbarity? The opinions thus defended by
the Inquisition are now objects of derision to the whole
civilized world.

One of the greatest of modern mathematicians, referring to this
subject, says that the point here contested was one which is for
mankind of the highest interest, because of the rank it assigns
to the globe that we inhabit. If the earth be immovable in the
midst of the universe, man has a right to regard himself as the
principal object of the care of Nature. But if the earth be only
one of the planets revolving round the sun, an insignificant body
in the solar system, she will disappear entirely in the immensity
of the heavens, in which this system, vast as it may appear to
us, is nothing but an insensible point.

The triumphant establishment of the Copernican doctrine dates
from the invention of the telescope. Soon there was not to be
found in all Europe an astronomer who had not accepted the
heliocentric theory with its essential postulate, the double
motion of the earth-- movement of rotation on her axis, and a
movement of revolution round the sun. If additional proof of the
latter were needed, it was furnished by Bradley's great discovery
of the aberration of the fixed stars, an aberration depending
partly on the progressive motion of light, and partly on the
revolution of the earth. Bradley's discovery ranked in importance
with that of the precession of the equinoxes. Roemer's discovery
of the progressive motion of light, though denounced by
Fontenelle as a seductive error, and not admitted by Cassini, at
length forced its way to universal acceptance.

Next it was necessary to obtain correct ideas of the dimensions
of the solar system, or, putting the problem under a more limited
form, to determine the distance of the earth from the sun.

In the time of Copernicus it was supposed that the sun's distance
could not exceed five million miles, and indeed there were many
who thought that estimate very extravagant. From a review of the
observations of Tycho Brahe, Kepler, however, concluded that the
error was actually in the opposite direction, and that the
estimate must be raised to at least thirteen million. In 1670
Cassini showed that these numbers were altogether inconsistent
with the facts, and gave as his conclusion eighty-five million.

The transit of Venus over the face of the sun, June 3, 1769, had
been foreseen, and its great value in the solution of this
fundamental problem in astronomy appreciated. With commendable
alacrity various governments contributed their assistance in
making observations, so that in Europe there were fifty stations,
in Asia six, in America seventeen. It was for this purpose that
the English Government dispatched Captain Cook on his celebrated
first voyage. He went to Otaheite. His voyage was crowned with
success. The sun rose without a cloud, and the sky continued
equally clear throughout the day. The transit at Cook's station
lasted from about half-past nine in the morning until about
half-past three in the afternoon, and all the observations were
made in a satisfactory manner.

But, on the discussion of the observations made at the different
stations, it was found that there was not the accordance that
could have been desired--the result varying from eighty-eight to
one hundred and nine million. The celebrated mathematician,
Encke, therefore reviewed them in 1822-'24, and came to the
conclusion that the sun's horizontal parallax, that is, the angle
under which the semi-diameter of the earth is seen from the sun,
is 8 576/1000 seconds; this gave as the distance 95,274,000
miles. Subsequently the observations were reconsidered by Hansen,
who gave as their result 91,659,000 miles. Still later, Leverrier
made it 91,759,000. Airy and Stone, by another method, made it
91,400,000; Stone alone, by a revision of the old observations,
91,730,000; and finally, Foucault and Fizeau, from physical
experiments, determining the velocity of light, and therefore in
their nature altogether differing from transit observations,
91,400,000. Until the results of the transit of next year (1874)
are ascertained, it must therefore be admitted that the distance
of the earth from the sun is somewhat less than ninety-two
million miles.

This distance once determined, the dimensions of the solar system
may be ascertained with ease and precision. It is enough to
mention that the distance of Neptune from the sun, the most
remote of the planets at present known, is about thirty times
that of the earth.

By the aid of these numbers we may begin to gain a just
appreciation of the doctrine of the human destiny of the
universe--the doctrine that all things were made for man. Seen
from the sun, the earth dwindles away to a mere speck, a mere
dust-mote glistening in his beams. If the reader wishes a more
precise valuation, let him hold a page of this book a couple of
feet from his eye; then let him consider one of its dots or full
stops; that dot is several hundred times larger in surface than
is the earth as seen from the sun!

Of what consequence, then, can such an almost imperceptible
particle be? One might think that it could be removed or even
annihilated, and yet never be missed. Of what consequence is one
of those human monads, of whom more than a thousand millions
swarm on the surface of this all but invisible speck, and of a
million of whom scarcely one will leave a trace that he has ever
existed? Of what consequence is man, his pleasures or his pains?

Among the arguments brought forward against the Copernican system
at the time of its promulgation, was one by the great Danish
astronomer, Tycho Brahe, originally urged by Aristarchus against
the Pythagorean system, to the effect that, if, as was alleged,
the earth moves round the sun, there ought to be a change of the
direction in which the fixed stars appear. At one time we are
nearer to a particular region of the heavens by a distance equal
to the whole diameter of the earth's orbit than we were six
months previously, and hence there ought to be a change in the
relative position of the stars; they should seem to separate as
we approach them, and to close together as we recede from them;
or, to use the astronomical expression, these stars should have a
yearly parallax.

The parallax of a star is the angle contained between two lines
drawn from it--one to the sun, the other to the earth.

At that time, the earth's distance from the sun was greatly
under-estimated. Had it been known, as it is now, that that
distance exceeds ninety million miles, or that the diameter of
the orbit is more than one hundred and eighty million, that
argument would doubtless have had very great weight.

In reply to Tycho, it was said that, since the parallax of a
body diminishes as its distance increases, a star may be so far
off that its parallax may be imperceptible. This answer proved to
be correct. The detection of the parallax of the stars depended
on the improvement of instruments for the measurement of angles.

The parallax of alpha Centauri, a fine double star of the
Southern Hemisphere, at present considered to be the nearest of
the fixed stars, was first determined by Henderson and Maclear at
the Cape of Good Hope in 1832-'33. It is about nine-tenths of a
second. Hence this star is almost two hundred and thirty thousand
times as far from us as the sun. Seen from it, if the sun were
even large enough to fill the whole orbit of the earth, or one
hundred and eighty million miles in diameter, he would be a mere
point. With its companion, it revolves round their common centre
of gravity in eighty-one years, and hence it would seem that
their conjoint mass is less than that of the sun.

The star 61 Cygni is of the sixth magnitude. Its parallax was
first found by Bessel in 1838, and is about one-third of a
second. The distance from us is, therefore, much more than five
hundred thousand times that of the sun. With its companion, it
revolves round their common centre of gravity in five hundred and
twenty years. Their conjoint weight is about one-third that of
the sun.

There is reason to believe that the great star Sirius, the
brightest in the heavens, is about six times as far off as alpha
Centauri. His probable diameter is twelve million miles, and the
light he emits two hundred times more brilliant than that of the
sun. Yet, even through the telescope, he has no measurable
diameter; be looks merely like a very bright spark.

The stars, then, differ not merely in visible magnitude, but also
in actual size. As the spectroscope shows, they differ greatly in
chemical and physical constitution. That instrument is also
revealing to us the duration of the life of a star, through
changes in the refrangibility of the emitted light. Though, as we
have seen, the nearest to us is at an enormous and all but
immeasurable distance, this is but the first step--there are
others the rays of which have taken thousands, perhaps millions,
of years to reach us! The limits of our own system are far beyond
the range of our greatest telescopes; what, then, shall we say of
other systems beyond? Worlds are scattered like dust in the
abysses in space.

Have these gigantic bodies--myriads of which are placed at so
vast a distance that our unassisted eyes cannot perceive
them--have these no other purpose than that assigned by
theologians, to give light to us? Does not their enormous size
demonstrate that, as they are centres of force, so they must be
centres of motion-- suns for other systems of worlds?

While yet these facts were very imperfectly known--indeed, were
rather speculations than facts--Giordano Bruno, an Italian, born
seven years after the death of Copernicus, published a work on
the "Infinity of the Universe and of Worlds;" he was also the
author of "Evening Conversations on Ash-Wednesday," an apology
for the Copernican system, and of "The One Sole Cause of Things."
To these may be added an allegory published in 1584, "The
Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast." He had also collected, for
the use of future astronomers, all the observations he could find
respecting the new star that suddenly appeared in Cassiopeia,
A.D. 1572, and increased in brilliancy, until it surpassed all
the other stars. It could be plainly seen in the daytime. On a
sudden, November 11th, it was as bright as Venus at her
brightest. In the following March it was of the first magnitude.
It exhibited various hues of color in a few months, and
disappeared in March, 1574.

The star that suddenly appeared in Serpentarius, in Kepler's time
(1604), was at first brighter than Venus. It lasted more than a
year, and, passing through various tints of purple, yellow, red,
became extinguished.

Originally, Bruno was intended for the Church. He had become a
Dominican, but was led into doubt by his meditations on the
subjects of transubstantiation and the immaculate conception. Not
caring to conceal his opinions, he soon fell under the censure of
the spiritual authorities, and found it necessary to seek refuge
successively in Switzerland, France, England, Germany. The
cold-scented sleuth-hounds of the Inquisition followed his track
remorselessly, and eventually hunted him back to Italy. He was
arrested in Venice, and confined in the Piombi for six years,
without books, or paper, or friends.

In England he had given lectures on the plurality of worlds, and
in that country had written, in Italian, his most important
works. It added not a little to the exasperation against him,
that he was perpetually declaiming against the insincerity; the
impostures, of his persecutors--that wherever he went he found
skepticism varnished over and concealed by hypocrisy; and that it
was not against the belief of men, but against their pretended
belief, that he was fighting; that he was struggling with an
orthodoxy that had neither morality nor faith.

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