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

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Church, and to whom Dante gave special honour in paradise, set
upon this belief his high authority. The lives of the saints,
and the chronicles of the Middle Ages, were filled with it.
Poetry and painting accepted the idea and developed it. Dante
wedded it to verse, and at Venice this thought may still be seen
embodied in one of the grand pictures of Bordone: a shipload of
demons is seen approaching Venice in a storm, threatening
destruction to the city, but St. Mark, St. George, and St.
Nicholas attack the vessel, and disperse the hellish crew.[219]

[219] For Bede, see the Hist. Eccles., vol. i, p. 17; Vita
Cuthberti, c. 17 (Migne, tome xliv). For Thomas Aquinas, see the
Summa, pars I, qu. lxxx, art. 2. The second citation I owe to
Rydberg, Magic of the Middle Ages, p. 73, where the whole
interesting passage is given at length. For Albertus Magnus, see
the De Potentia Daemonum (cited by Maury, Legendes Pieuses). For
Bonaventura, see the Comp. Theol. Veritat., ii, 26. For Dante,
see Purgatorio, c. 5. On Bordone's picture, see Maury, Legendes
Pieuses, p. 18, note.

The popes again and again sanctioned this doctrine, and it was
amalgamated with various local superstitions, pious imaginations,
and interesting arguments, to strike the fancy of the people at
large. A strong argument in favour of a diabolical origin of the
thunderbolt was afforded by the eccentricities of its operation.
These attracted especial attention in the Middle Ages, and the
popular love of marvel generalized isolated phenomena into rules.
Thus it was said that the lightning strikes the sword in the
sheath, gold in the purse, the foot in the shoe, leaving sheath
and purse and shoe unharmed; that it consumes a human being
internally without injuring the skin; that it destroys nets in
the water, but not on the land; that it kills one man, and
leaves untouched another standing beside him; that it can tear
through a house and enter the earth without moving a stone from
its place; that it injures the heart of a tree, but not the bark;
that wine is poisoned by it, while poisons struck by it lose
their venom; that a man's hair may be consumed by it and the man
be unhurt.[220]

[220] See, for lists of such admiranda, any of the early
writers--e. g., Vincent of Beauvais, Reisch's Margarita, or Eck's

These peculiar phenomena, made much of by the allegorizing
sermonizers of the day, were used in moral lessons from every
pulpit. Thus the Carmelite, Matthias Farinator, of Vienna, who
at the Pope's own instance compiled early in the fifteenth
century that curious handbook of illustrative examples for
preachers, the Lumen Animae, finds a spiritual analogue for each
of these anomalies.[221]

[221] See the Lumen animae, Eichstadt, 1479.

This doctrine grew, robust and noxious, until, in the fifteenth,
sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, we find its bloom in a
multitude of treatises by the most learned of the Catholic and
Protestant divines, and its fruitage in the torture chambers and
on the scaffolds throughout Christendom. At the Reformation
period, and for nearly two hundred years afterward, Catholics and
Protestants vied with each other in promoting this growth. John
Eck, the great opponent of Luther, gave to the world an annotated
edition of Aristotle's Physics, which was long authoritative in
the German universities; and, though the text is free from this
doctrine, the woodcut illustrating the earth's atmosphere shows
most vividly, among the clouds of mid-air, the devils who there
reign supreme.[222]

[222] See Eck, Aristotelis Meteorologica, Augsburg, 1519.

Luther, in the other religious camp, supported the superstition
even more zealously, asserting at times his belief that the winds
themselves are only good or evil spirits, and declaring that a
stone thrown into a certain pond in his native region would cause
a dreadful storm because of the devils, kept prisoners

[223] For Luther, see the Table Talk; also Michelet, Life of
Luther (translated by Hazlitt, p. 321).

Just at the close of the same century, Catholics and Protestants
welcomed alike the great work of Delrio. In this, the power of
devils over the elements is proved first from the Holy
Scriptures, since, he declares, "they show that Satan brought
fire down from heaven to consume the servants and flocks of Job,
and that he stirred up a violent wind, which overwhelmed in ruin
the sons and daughters of Job at their feasting." Next, Delrio
insists on the agreement of all the orthodox fathers, that it was
the devil himself who did this, and attention is called to the
fact that the hail with which the Egyptians were punished is
expressly declared in Holy Scripture to have been brought by the
evil angels. Citing from the Apocalypse, he points to the four
angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back
the winds and preventing their doing great damage to mortals;
and he dwells especially upon the fact that the devil is called
by the apostle a "prince of the power of the air." He then goes
on to cite the great fathers of the Church--Clement, Jerome,
Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas.[224]

[224] For Delrio, see his Disquisitiones Magicae, first printed
at Liege in 1599-1600, but reprinted again and again throughout
the seventeenth century. His interpretation of Psalm lxxviii,
47-49, was apparently shared by the translators of our own
authorized edition. For citations by him, see Revelation vii,
1,; Ephesians ii, 2. Even according to modern commentators
(e.g., Alford), the word here translated "power" denotes not
MIGHT, but GOVERNMENT, COURT, HIERARCHY; and in this sense it was
always used by the ecclesiastical writers, whose conception is
best rendered by our plural--"powers." See Delrio,
Disquisitiones Magicae, lib. ii, c. 11.

This doctrine was spread not only in ponderous treatises, but in
light literature and by popular illustrations. In the Compendium
Maleficarum of the Italian monk Guacci, perhaps the most amusing
book in the whole literature of witchcraft, we may see the witch,
in propria persona, riding the diabolic goat through the clouds
while the storm rages around and beneath her; and we may read a
rich collection of anecdotes, largely contemporary, which
establish the required doctrine beyond question.

The first and most natural means taken against this work of Satan
in the air was prayer; and various petitions are to be found
scattered through the Christian liturgies--some very beautiful
and touching. This means of escape has been relied upon, with
greater or less faith, from those days to these. Various
medieval saints and reformers, and devoted men in all centuries,
from St. Giles to John Wesley, have used it with results claimed
to be miraculous. Whatever theory any thinking man may hold in
the matter, he will certainly not venture a reproachful word:
such prayers have been in all ages a natural outcome of the mind
of man in trouble.[225]

[225] For Guacci, see his Compendium Maleficarum (Milan, 1608).
For the cases of St. Giles, John Wesley, and others stilling the
tempests, see Brewer, Dictionary of Miracles, s. v. Prayer.

But against the "power of the air" were used other means of a
very different character and tendency, and foremost among these
was exorcism. In an exorcism widely used and ascribed to Pope
Gregory XIII, the formula is given: "I, a priest of Christ,...
do command ye, most foul spirits, who do stir up these clouds,...
that ye depart from them, and disperse yourselves into wild and
untilled places, that ye may be no longer able to harm men or
animals or fruits or herbs, or whatsoever is designed for human
use." But this is mild, indeed, compared to some later
exorcisms, as when the ritual runs: "All the people shall rise,
and the priest, turning toward the clouds, shall pronounce these
words: `I exorcise ye, accursed demons, who have dared to use,
for the accomplishment of your iniquity, those powers of Nature
by which God in divers ways worketh good to mortals; who stir up
winds, gather vapours, form clouds, and condense them into
hail....I exorcise ye,...that ye relinquish the work ye have
begun, dissolve the hail, scatter the clouds, disperse the
vapours, and restrain the winds.'" The rubric goes on to order
that then there shall be a great fire kindled in an open place,
and that over it the sign of the cross shall be made, and the one
hundred and fourteenth Psalm chanted, while malodorous
substances, among them sulphur and asafoetida, shall be cast into
the flames. The purpose seems to have been literally to "smoke
out" Satan.[226]

[226] See Polidorus Valerius, Practica exorcistarum; also the
Thesaurus exorcismorum (Cologne, 1626), pp. 158-162.

Manuals of exorcisms became important--some bulky quartos, others
handbooks. Noteworthy among the latter is one by the Italian
priest Locatelli, entitled Exorcisms most Powerful and
Efficacious for the Dispelling of Aerial Tempests, whether raised
by Demons at their own Instance or at the Beck of some Servant of
the Devil.[227]

[227] That is, Exorcismi, etc. A "corrected" second edition was
printed at Laybach, 1680, in 24mo, to which is appended another
manual of Preces et conjurationes contra aereas tempestates,
omnibus sacerdotibus utiles et necessaria, printed at the
monastery of Kempten (in Bavaria) in 1667. The latter bears as
epigraph the passage from the gospels describing Christ's
stilling of the winds.

The Jesuit Gretser, in his famous book on Benedictions and
Maledictions, devotes a chapter to this subject, dismissing
summarily the scepticism that questions the power of devils over
the elements, and adducing the story of Job as conclusive.[228]

[228] See Gretser, De benedictionibus et maledictionibus, lib.
ii, c. 48.

Nor was this theory of exorcism by any means confined to the
elder Church. Luther vehemently upheld it, and prescribed
especially the first chapter of St. John's gospel as of
unfailing efficacy against thunder and lightning, declaring that
he had often found the mere sign of the cross, with the text,
"The word was made flesh," sufficient to put storms to

[229] So, at least, says Gretser (in his De ben. et aml., as

From the beginning of the Middle Ages until long after the
Reformation the chronicles give ample illustration of the
successful use of such exorcisms. So strong was the belief in
them that it forced itself into minds comparatively rational, and
found utterance in treatises of much importance.

But, since exorcisms were found at times ineffectual, other means
were sought, and especially fetiches of various sorts. One of
the earliest of these appeared when Pope Alexander I, according
to tradition, ordained that holy water should be kept in churches
and bedchambers to drive away devils.[230] Another safeguard was
found in relics, and of similar efficacy were the so-called
"conception billets" sold by the Carmelite monks. They contained
a formula upon consecrated paper, at which the devil might well
turn pale. Buried in the corner of a field, one of these was
thought to give protection against bad weather and destructive

[230] "Instituit ut aqua quam sanctum appellamus sale admixta
interpositus sacris orationibus et in templis et in cubiculis ad
fugandos daemones retineretur." Platina, Vitae Pontif. But the
story is from the False Decretals.

[231] See Rydberg, The Magic of the Middle Ages, translated by
Edgren, pp. 63-66.

But highest in repute during centuries was the Agnus Dei--a
piece of wax blessed by the Pope's own hand, and stamped with the
well-known device representing the "Lamb of God." Its powers
were so marvellous that Pope Urban V thought three of these cakes
a fitting gift from himself to the Greek Emperor. In the Latin
doggerel recounting their virtues, their meteorological efficacy
stands first, for especial stress is laid on their power of
dispelling the thunder. The stress thus laid by Pope Urban, as
the infallible guide of Christendom, on the efficacy of this
fetich, gave it great value throughout Europe, and the doggerel
verses reciting its virtues sank deep into the popular mind. It
was considered a most potent means of dispelling hail,
pestilence, storms, conflagrations, and enchantments; and this
feeling was deepened by the rules and rites for its consecration.
So solemn was the matter, that the manufacture and sale of this
particular fetich was, by a papal bull of 1471, reserved for the
Pope himself, and he only performed the required ceremony in the
first and seventh years of his pontificate. Standing unmitred,
he prayed: "O God,...we humbly beseech thee that thou wilt bless
these waxen forms, figured with the image of an innocent lamb,...
that, at the touch and sight of them, the faithful may break
forth into praises, and that the crash of hailstorms, the blast
of hurricanes, the violence of tempests, the fury of winds, and
the malice of thunderbolts may be tempered, and evil spirits flee
and tremble before the standard of thy holy cross, which is
graven upon them."[232]

[232] These pious charms are still in use in the Church, and may
be found described in any ecclesiastical cyclopaedia. The
doggerel verses run as follows:

"Tonitrua magna terret, Inimicos nostras domat
Et peccata nostra delet; Praegnantem cum partu salvat,
Ab incendio praeservat, Dona dignis multa confert,
A subersione servat, Utque malis mala defert.
A morte cita liberat, Portio, quamvis parva sit,
Et Cacodaemones fugat, Ut magna tamen proficit."

See these verses cited in full faith, so late as 1743, in Father
Vincent of Berg's Enchiridium, pp. 23, 24, where is an ample
statement of the virtues of the Agnus Dei, and istructions for
its use. A full account of the rites used in consecrating this
fetich, with the prayers and benedictions which gave colour to
this theory of the powers of the Agnus Dei, may be found in the
ritual of the Church. I have used the edition entitled Sacrarum
ceremoniarum sive rituum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae libri tres,
Rome, 1560, in folio. The form of the papal prayer is as follows:
"Deus . . . te supplicater deprecamur, ut . . . has cereas
formas, innocentissimi agni imagine figuritas, benedicere . . .
digneris, ut per ejus tactum et visum fideles invitentur as
laudes, fragor grandinum, procella turbinum, impetus tempestatum,
ventorum rabies, infesta tonitrua temperentur, fugiant atque
tremiscant maligni spiritus ante Sanctae Crucis vexillum, quod in
illis exculptum est. . . ."(Sacr. Cer. Rom. Eccl., as above). If
any are curious as to the extent to which this consecrated wax
was a specific for all spiritual and most temporal ills during
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, let them consult the
Jesuit Litterae annuae, passim.

Another favourite means with the clergy of the older Church for
bringing to naught the "power of the air," was found in great
processions bearing statues, relics, and holy emblems through the
streets. Yet even these were not always immediately effective.
One at Liege, in the thirteenth century, thrice proved
unsuccessful in bringing rain, when at last it was found that the
image of the Virgin had been forgotten! A new procession was at
once formed, the Salve Regina sung, and the rain came down in
such torrents as to drive the devotees to shelter.[233]

[233] John of Winterthur describes many such processions in
Switzerland in the thirteenth century, and all the monkish
chronicles speak of them. See also Rydberg, Magic of the Middle
Ages, p. 74.

In Catholic lands this custom remains to this day, and very
important features in these processions are the statues and the
reliquaries of patron saints. Some of these excel in bringing
sunshine, others in bringing rain. The Cathedral of Chartres is
so fortunate as to possess sundry relics of St. Taurin,
especially potent against dry weather, and some of St. Piat,
very nearly as infallible against wet weather. In certain
regions a single saint gives protection alternately against wet
and dry weather--as, for example, St. Godeberte at Noyon.
Against storms St. Barbara is very generally considered the most
powerful protectress; but, in the French diocese of Limoges,
Notre Dame de Crocq has proved a most powerful rival, for when, a
few years since, all the neighbouring parishes were ravaged by
storms, not a hailstone fell in the canton which she protected.
In the diocese of Tarbes, St. Exupere is especially invoked
against hail, peasants flocking from all the surrounding country
to his shrine.[234]

[234] As to protection by special saints as stated, see the Guide
du touriste et du pelerin a Chartes, 1867 (cited by "Paul
Parfait," in his Dossier des Pelerinages); also pp. 139-145 of
the Dossier.

But the means of baffling the powers of the air which came to be
most widely used was the ringing of consecrated church bells.

This usage had begun in the time of Charlemagne, and there is
extant a prohibition of his against the custom of baptizing bells
and of hanging certain tags[235] on their tongues as a
protection against hailstorms; but even Charlemagne was
powerless against this current of medieval superstition.
Theological reasons were soon poured into it, and in the year 968
Pope John XIII gave it the highest ecclesiastical sanction by
himself baptizing the great bell of his cathedral church, the
Lateran, and christening it with his own name.[236]

[235] Perticae. See Montanus, Hist. Nachricht van den Glocken
(Chenmitz, 1726), p. 121; and Meyer, Der Aberglaube des
Mittelalters, p. 186.

[236] For statements regarding Pope John and bell superstitions,
see Higgins's Anacalypsis, vol. ii, p. 70. See also Platina,
Vitae Pontif., s. v. John XIII, and Baronius, Annales
Ecclesiastici, sub anno 968. The conjecture of Baronius that the
bell was named after St. John the Baptist, is even more startling
than the accepted tradition of the Pope's sponsorship.

This idea was rapidly developed, and we soon find it supported in
ponderous treatises, spread widely in sermons, and popularized in
multitudes of inscriptions cast upon the bells themselves. This
branch of theological literature may still be studied in
multitudes of church towers throughout Europe. A bell at Basel
bears the inscription, "Ad fugandos demones." Another, in
Lugano, declares "The sound of this bell vanquishes tempests,
repels demons, and summons men." Another, at the Cathedral of
Erfurt, declares that it can "ward off lightning and malignant
demons." A peal in the Jesuit church at the university town of
Pont-a-Mousson bore the words, "They praise God, put to flight
the clouds, affright the demons, and call the people." This is
dated 1634. Another bell in that part of France declares, "It is
I who dissipate the thunders"(Ego sum qui dissipo

[237] For these illustrations, with others equally striking, see
Meyer, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters, pp. 185, 186. For the
later examples, see Germain, Anciennes cloches lorraines (Nancy,
1885), pp. 23, 27.

Another, in one of the forest cantons of Switzerland, bears a
doggerel couplet, which may be thus translated:

"On the devil my spite I'll vent,
And, God helping, bad weather prevent."[238]

[238] "An dem Tufel will cih mich rachen,
Mit der hilf gotz alle bosen wetter erbrechen."
(See Meyer, as above.)

Very common were inscriptions embodying this doctrine in sonorous

Naturally, then, there grew up a ritual for the consecration of
bells. Knollys, in his quaint translation of the old chronicler
Sleidan, gives us the usage in the simple English of the middle
of the sixteenth century:

"In lyke sorte [as churches] are the belles used. And first,
forsouth, they must hange so, as the Byshop may goe round about
them. Whiche after he hath sayde certen Psalmes, he consecrateth
water and salte, and mingleth them together, wherwith he washeth
the belle diligently both within and without, after wypeth it
drie, and with holy oyle draweth in it the signe of the crosse,
and prayeth God, that whan they shall rynge or sounde that bell,
all the disceiptes of the devyll may vanyshe away, hayle,
thondryng, lightening, wyndes, and tempestes, and all untemperate
weathers may be aswaged. Whan he hath wipte out the crosse of
oyle wyth a linen cloth, he maketh seven other crosses in the
same, and within one only. After saying certen Psalmes, he
taketh a payre of sensours and senseth the bel within, and
prayeth God to sende it good lucke. In many places they make a
great dyner, and kepe a feast as it were at a solemne

[239] Sleiden's Commentaries, English translation, as above, fol.
334 (lib. xxi, sub anno 1549).

These bell baptisms became matters of great importance. Popes,
kings, and prelates were proud to stand as sponsors. Four of the
bells at the Cathedral of Versailles having been destroyed during
the French Revolution, four new ones were baptized, on the 6th of
January, 1824, the Voltairean King, Louis XVIII, and the pious
Duchess d'Angouleme standing as sponsors.

In some of these ceremonies zeal appears to have outrun
knowledge, and one of Luther's stories, at the expense of the
older Church, was that certain authorities thus christened a bell
"Hosanna," supposing that to be the name of a woman.

To add to the efficacy of such baptisms, water was sometimes
brought from the river Jordan.[240]

[240] See Montanus, as above, who cites Beck, Lutherthum vor
Luthero, p. 294, for the statement that many bells were carried
to the Jordan by pilgrims for this purpose.

The prayers used at bell baptisms fully recognise this doctrine.
The ritual of Paris embraces the petition that, "whensoever this
bell shall sound, it shall drive away the malign influences of
the assailing spirits, the horror of their apparitions, the rush
of whirlwinds, the stroke of lightning, the harm of thunder, the
disasters of storms, and all the spirits of the tempest."
Another prayer begs that "the sound of this bell may put to
flight the fiery darts of the enemy of men"; and others vary the
form but not the substance of this petition. The great Jesuit
theologian, Bellarmin, did indeed try to deny the reality of this
baptism; but this can only be regarded as a piece of casuistry
suited to Protestant hardness of heart, or as strategy in the
warfare against heretics.[241]

[241] For prayers at bell baptisms, see Arago, Oeuvres, Paris,
1854, vol. iv, p. 322.

Forms of baptism were laid down in various manuals sanctioned
directly by papal authority, and sacramental efficacy was
everywhere taken for granted.[242] The development of this idea
in the older Church was too strong to be resisted;[243] but, as
a rule, the Protestant theologians of the Reformation, while
admitting that storms were caused by Satan and his legions,
opposed the baptism of bells, and denied the theory of their
influence in dispersing storms. Luther, while never doubting
that troublesome meteorological phenomena were caused by devils,
regarded with contempt the idea that the demons were so childish
as to be scared by the clang of bells; his theory made them
altogether too powerful to be affected by means so trivial. The
great English Reformers, while also accepting very generally the
theory of diabolic interference in storms, reproved strongly the
baptizing of bells, as the perversion of a sacrament and
involving blasphemy. Bishop Hooper declared reliance upon bells
to drive away tempests, futile. Bishop Pilkington, while arguing
that tempests are direct instruments of God's wrath, is very
severe against using "unlawful means," and among these he names
"the hallowed bell"; and these opinions were very generally
shared by the leading English clergy.[244]

[242] As has often been pointed out, the ceremony was in all its
details--even to the sponsors, the wrapping a garment about the
baptised, the baptismal fee, the feast--precisely the same as
when a child was baptised. Magius, who is no sceptic, relates
from his own experience an instant of this sort, where a certain
bishop stood sponsor for two bells, giving them both his own
name--William. (See his De Tintinnabulis, vol. xiv.)

[243] And no wonder, when the oracle of the Church, Thomas
Aquinas, expressly pronounced church bells, "provided they have
been duly consecrated and baptised," the foremost means of
"frustrating the atmospheric mischiefs of the devil," and likened
steeples in which bells are ringing to a hen brooding her
chickens, "for the tones of the consecrated metal repel the
demons and avert storm and lightning"; when pre-Reformation
preachers of such universal currency as Johannes Herolt declared,
"Bells, as all agree, are baptised with the result that they are
secure from the power of Satan, terrify the demons, compel the
powers"; when Geiler of Kaiserberg especially commended bell-
ringing as a means of beating off the devil in storms; and when a
canonist like Durandus explained the purpose of the rite to be,
that "the demons hearing the trumpets of the Eternal King, to
wit, the bells, may flee in terror, and may cease from the
stirring up of tempests." See Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, vol.
xvii, and Durandus, De ritibus ecclesiae, vol. ii, p. 12. I owe
the first of these citations to Rydberg, and the others to
Montanus. For Geiler, see Dacheux, Geiler de Kaiserberg, pp. 280,

[244] The baptism of bells was indeed, one of the express
complaints of the German Protestant princes at the Reformation.
See their Gravam. Cent. German. Grav., p. 51. For Hooper, see
his Early Writings, p. 197 (in Parker Society Publications). For
Pilkington, see his Works, p. 177 (in same). Among others
sharing these opinions were Tyndale, Bishop Ridley, Archbishop
Sandys, Becon, Calfhill, and Rogers. It is to be noted that all
of these speak of the rite as "baptism."

Toward the end of the sixteenth century the Elector of Saxony
strictly forbade the ringing of bells against storms, urging
penance and prayer instead; but the custom was not so easily
driven out of the Protestant Church, and in some quarters was
developed a Protestant theory of a rationalistic sort, ascribing
the good effects of bell-ringing in storms to the calling
together of the devout for prayer or to the suggestion of prayers
during storms at night. As late as the end of the seventeenth
century we find the bells of Protestant churches in northern
Germany rung for the dispelling of tempests. In Catholic Austria
this bell-ringing seems to have become a nuisance in the last
century, for the Emperor Joseph II found it necessary to issue an
edict against it; but this doctrine had gained too large headway
to be arrested by argument or edict, and the bells may be heard
ringing during storms to this day in various remote districts in
Europe.[245] For this was no mere superficial view. It was
really part of a deep theological current steadily developed
through the Middle Ages, the fundamental idea of the whole being
the direct influence of the bells upon the "Power of the Air";
and it is perhaps worth our while to go back a little and glance
over the coming of this current into the modern world. Having
grown steadily through the Middle Ages, it appeared in full
strength at the Reformation period; and in the sixteenth century
Olaus Magnus, Archbishop of Upsala and Primate of Sweden, in his
great work on the northern nations, declares it a
well-established fact that cities and harvests may be saved from
lightning by the ringing of bells and the burning of consecrated
incense, accompanied by prayers; and he cautions his readers
that the workings of the thunderbolt are rather to be marvelled
at than inquired into. Even as late as 1673 the Franciscan
professor Lealus, in Italy, in a schoolbook which was received
with great applause in his region, taught unhesitatingly the
agency of demons in storms, and the power of bells over them, as
well as the portentousness of comets and the movement of the
heavens by angels. He dwells especially, too, upon the perfect
protection afforded by the waxen Agnus Dei. How strong this
current was, and how difficult even for philosophical minds to
oppose, is shown by the fact that both Descartes and Francis
Bacon speak of it with respect, admitting the fact, and
suggesting very mildly that the bells may accomplish this purpose
by the concussion of the air.[246]

[245] For Elector of Saxony, see Peuchen, Disp. circa
tempestates, Jena, 1697. For the Protestant theory of bells,
see, e. g., the Ciciones Selectae of Superintendent Conrad
Dieterich (cited by Peuchen, Disp. circa tempestates). For
Protestant ringing of bells to dispel tempests, see Schwimmer,
Physicalische Luftfragen, 1692 (cited by Peuchen, as above). He
pictures the whole population of a Thuringinian district flocking
to the churches on the approach of a storm.

[246] For Olaus Magnus, see the De gentibus septentrionalibus
(Rome, 1555), lib. i, c. 12, 13. For Descartes, see his De
meteor., cent. 2, 127. In his Historia Ventorum he again alludes
to the belief, and without comment.

But no such moderate doctrine sufficed, and the renowned Bishop
Binsfeld, of Treves, in his noted treatise on the credibility of
the confessions of witches, gave an entire chapter to the effect
of bells in calming atmospheric disturbances. Basing his general
doctrine upon the first chapter of Job and the second chapter of
Ephesians, he insisted on the reality of diabolic agency in
storms; and then, by theological reasoning, corroborated by the
statements extorted in the torture chamber, he showed the
efficacy of bells in putting the hellish legions to flight.[247]
This continued, therefore, an accepted tenet, developed in every
nation, and coming to its climax near the end of the seventeenth
century. At that period--the period of Isaac Newton--Father
Augustine de Angelis, rector of the Clementine College at Rome,
published under the highest Church authority his lectures upon
meteorology. Coming from the centre of Catholic Christendom, at
so late a period, they are very important as indicating what had
been developed under the influence of theology during nearly
seventeen hundred years. This learned head of a great college at
the heart of Christendom taught that "the surest remedy against
thunder is that which our Holy Mother the Church practises,
namely, the ringing of bells when a thunderbolt impends: thence
follows a twofold effect, physical and moral--a physical, because
the sound variously disturbs and agitates the air, and by
agitation disperses the hot exhalations and dispels the thunder;
but the moral effect is the more certain, because by the sound
the faithful are stirred to pour forth their prayers, by which
they win from God the turning away of the thunderbolt." Here we
see in this branch of thought, as in so many others, at the close
of the seventeenth century, the dawn of rationalism. Father De
Angelis now keeps demoniacal influence in the background.
Little, indeed, is said of the efficiency of bells in putting to
flight the legions of Satan: the wise professor is evidently
preparing for that inevitable compromise which we see in the
history of every science when it is clear that it can no longer
be suppressed by ecclesiastical fulminations.[248]

[247] See Binsfeld, De Confessionbus Malef., pp. 308-314, edition
of 1623.

[248] For De Angelis, see his Lectiones Meteorol., p. 75.


But, while this comparatively harmless doctrine of thwarting the
powers of the air by fetiches and bell-ringing was developed,
there were evolved another theory, and a series of practices
sanctioned by the Church, which must forever be considered as
among the most fearful calamities in human history. Indeed, few
errors have ever cost so much shedding of innocent blood over
such wide territory and during so many generations. Out of the
old doctrine--pagan and Christian--of evil agency in atmospheric
phenomena was evolved the belief that certain men, women, and
children may secure infernal aid to produce whirlwinds, hail,
frosts, floods, and the like.

As early as the ninth century one great churchman, Agobard,
Archbishop of Lyons, struck a heavy blow at this superstition.
His work, Against the Absurd Opinion of the Vulgar touching Hail
and Thunder, shows him to have been one of the most devoted
apostles of right reason whom human history has known. By
argument and ridicule, and at times by a lofty eloquence, he
attempted to breast this tide. One passage is of historical
significance. He declares: "The wretched world lies now under
the tyranny of foolishness; things are believed by Christians of
such absurdity as no one ever could aforetime induce the heathen
to believe."[249]

[249] For a very interesting statement of Agobard's position and
work, with citations from his Liber contra insulsam vulgi
opinionem de grandine et tonitruis, see Poole, Illustrations of
the History of Mediaeval Thought, pp. 40 et seq. The works of
Agobard are in vol. civ of Migne's Patrol. Lat.

All in vain; the tide of superstition continued to roll on;
great theologians developed it and ecclesiastics favoured it;
until as we near the end of the medieval period the infallible
voice of Rome is heard accepting it, and clinching this belief
into the mind of Christianity. For, in 1437, Pope Eugene IV, by
virtue of the teaching power conferred on him by the Almighty,
and under the divine guarantee against any possible error in the
exercise of it, issued a bull exhorting the inquisitors of heresy
and witchcraft to use greater diligence against the human agents
of the Prince of Darkness, and especially against those who have
the power to produce bad weather. In 1445 Pope Eugene returned
again to the charge, and again issued instructions and commands
infallibly committing the Church to the doctrine. But a greater
than Eugene followed, and stamped the idea yet more deeply into
the mind of the Church. On the 7th of December, 1484, Pope
Innocent VIII sent forth his bull Summis Desiderantes. Of all
documents ever issued from Rome, imperial or papal, this has
doubtless, first and last, cost the greatest shedding of innocent
blood. Yet no document was ever more clearly dictated by
conscience. Inspired by the scriptural command, "Thou shalt not
suffer a witch to live," Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of
Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers, and
especially those who by evil weather destroy vineyards, gardens,
meadows, and growing crops. These precepts were based upon
various texts of Scripture, especially upon the famous statement
in the book of Job; and, to carry them out, witch-finding
inquisitors were authorized by the Pope to scour Europe,
especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use--the
Witch-Hammer, Malleus Maleficarum. In this manual, which was
revered for centuries, both in Catholic and Protestant countries,
as almost divinely inspired, the doctrine of Satanic agency in
atmospheric phenomena was further developed, and various means of
detecting and punishing it were dwelt upon.[250]

[250] For the bull of Pope Eugene, see Raynaldus, Annales Eccl.,
pp. 1437, 1445. The Latin text of the bull Summis Desiderantes
may now be found in the Malleus Maleficarum, in Binsfeld's De
Confessionibus cited below, or in Roskoff's Geschichte des
Teufles (Leipsic, 1869), vol. i, pp. 222-225. There is, so far
as I know, no good analysis, in any English book, of the contents
of the Witch-Hammer; but such may be found in Roskoff's
Geschichte des Teufels, or in Soldan's Geschichte der
Hexenprozesse. Its first dated edition is that of 1489; but
Prof. Burr has shown that it was printed as early as 1486. It
was, happily, never translated into any modern tongue.

With the application of torture to thousands of women, in
accordance with the precepts laid down in the Malleus, it was
not difficult to extract masses of proof for this sacred theory
of meteorology. The poor creatures, writhing on the rack, held
in horror by those who had been nearest and dearest to them,
anxious only for death to relieve their sufferings, confessed to
anything and everything that would satisfy the inquisitors and
judges. All that was needed was that the inquisitors should ask
leading questions[251] and suggest satisfactory answers: the
prisoners, to shorten the torture, were sure sooner or later to
give the answer required, even though they knew that this would
send them to the stake or scaffold. Under the doctrine of
"excepted cases," there was no limit to torture for persons
accused of heresy or witchcraft; even the safeguards which the
old pagan world had imposed upon torture were thus thrown down,
and the prisoner MUST confess.

[251] For still extant lists of such questions, see the
Zeitschrift fur deutsche Culturgeschichte for 1858, pp. 522-528,
or Diefenbach, Der Hexenwahn in Deutschland, pp. 15-17. Father
Vincent of Berg (in his Enchiridium) gives a similar list for use
by priests in the confession of the accused. Manuscript lists of
this sort which have actually done service in the courts of Baden
and Bavaria may be seen in the library of Cornell University.

The theological literature of the Middle Ages was thus enriched
with numberless statements regarding modes of Satanic influence
on the weather. Pathetic, indeed, are the records; and none
more so than the confessions of these poor creatures, chiefly
women and children, during hundreds of years, as to their manner
of raising hailstorms and tempests. Such confessions, by tens of
thousands, are still to be found in the judicial records of
Germany, and indeed of all Europe. Typical among these is one on
which great stress was laid during ages, and for which the world
was first indebted to one of these poor women. Crazed by the
agony of torture, she declared that, returning with a demon
through the air from the witches' sabbath, she was dropped upon
the earth in the confusion which resulted among the hellish
legions when they heard the bells sounding the Ave Maria. It is
sad to note that, after a contribution so valuable to sacred
science, the poor woman was condemned to the flames. This
revelation speedily ripened the belief that, whatever might be
going on at the witches' sabbath--no matter how triumphant Satan
might be--at the moment of sounding the consecrated bells the
Satanic power was paralyzed. This theory once started, proofs
came in to support it, during a hundred years, from the torture
chambers in all parts of Europe.

Throughout the later Middle Ages the Dominicans had been the main
agents in extorting and promulgating these revelations, but in
the centuries following the Reformation the Jesuits devoted
themselves with even more keenness and vigour to the same task.
Some curious questions incidentally arose. It was mooted among
the orthodox authorities whether the damage done by storms should
or should not be assessed upon the property of convicted witches.
The theologians inclined decidedly to the affirmative; the
jurists, on the whole, to the negative.[252]

[252] For proofs of the vigour of the Jesuits in this
persecution, see not only the histories of witchcraft, but also
the Annuae litterae of the Jesuits themselves, passim.

In spite of these tortures, lightning and tempests continued, and
great men arose in the Church throughout Europe in every
generation to point out new cruelties for the discovery of
"weather-makers," and new methods for bringing their machinations
to naught.

But here and there, as early as the sixteenth century, we begin
to see thinkers endeavouring to modify or oppose these methods.
At that time Paracelsus called attention to the reverberation of
cannon as explaining the rolling of thunder, but he was
confronted by one of his greatest contemporaries. Jean Bodin, as
superstitious in natural as he was rational in political science,
made sport of the scientific theory, and declared thunder to be
"a flaming exhalation set in motion by evil spirits, and hurled
downward with a great crash and a horrible smell of sulphur." In
support of this view, he dwelt upon the confessions of tortured
witches, upon the acknowledged agency of demons in the
Will-o'-the-wisp, and specially upon the passage in the one
hundred and fourth Psalm, "Who maketh his angels spirits, his
ministers a flaming fire."

To resist such powerful arguments by such powerful men was
dangerous indeed. In 1513, Pomponatius, professor at Padua,
published a volume of Doubts as to the Fourth Book of Aristotle's
Meteorologica, and also dared to question this power of devils;
but he soon found it advisable to explain that, while as a
PHILOSOPHER he might doubt, yet as a CHRISTIAN he of course
believed everything taught by Mother Church--devils and all--and
so escaped the fate of several others who dared to question the
agency of witches in atmospheric and other disturbances.

A few years later Agrippa of Nettesheim made a somewhat similar
effort to breast this theological tide in northern Europe. He
had won a great reputation in various fields, but especially in
natural science, as science was then understood. Seeing the
folly and cruelty of the prevailing theory, he attempted to
modify it, and in 1518, as Syndic of Metz, endeavoured to save a
poor woman on trial for witchcraft. But the chief inquisitor,
backed by the sacred Scriptures, the papal bulls, the theological
faculties, and the monks, was too strong for him; he was not only
forced to give up his office, but for this and other offences of
a similar sort was imprisoned, driven from city to city and from
country to country, and after his death his clerical enemies,
especially the Dominicans, pursued his memory with calumny, and
placed over his grave probably the most malignant epitaph ever

As to argument, these efforts were met especially by Jean Bodin
in his famous book, the Demonomanie des Sorciers, published in
1580. It was a work of great power by a man justly considered
the leading thinker in France, and perhaps in Europe. All the
learning of the time, divine and human, he marshalled in support
of the prevailing theory. With inexorable logic he showed that
both the veracity of sacred Scripture and the infallibility of a
long line of popes and councils of the Church were pledged to it,
and in an eloquent passage this great publicist warned rulers and
judges against any mercy to witches--citing the example of King
Ahab condemned by the prophet to die for having pardoned a man
worthy of death, and pointing significantly to King Charles IX of
France, who, having pardoned a sorcerer, died soon

[253] To the argument cited above, Bodin adds: "Id certissimam
daemonis praesentiam significat; nam ubicunque daemones cum
hominibus nefaria societatis fide copulantur, foedissimum semper
relinquunt sulphuris odorem, quod sortilegi saepissime
experiuntur et confitentur." See Bodin's Universae Naturae
Theatrum, Frankfort, 1597, pp. 208-211. The first edition of the
book by Pomponatius, which was the earliest of his writings, is
excessively rare, but it was reprinted at Venice just a half-
century later. It is in his De incantationibus, however, that he
speaks especially of devils. As to Pomponatius, see, besides
these, Creighton's History of the Papacy during the Reformation,
and an excellent essay in Franck's Moralistes et Philosophes.
For Agrippa, see his biography by Prof. Henry Morley, London,
1856. For Bodin, see a statement of his general line of argument
in Lecky, Rationalism in Europe, vol. i, chap. 1.

In the last years of the sixteenth century the persecutions for
witchcraft and magic were therefore especially cruel; and in the
western districts of Germany the main instrument in them was
Binsfeld, Suffragan Bishop of Treves.

At that time Cornelius Loos was a professor at the university of
that city. He was a devoted churchman, and one of the most
brilliant opponents of Protestantism, but he finally saw through
the prevailing belief regarding occult powers, and in an evil
hour for himself embodied his idea in a book entitled True and
False Magic. The book, though earnest, was temperate, but this
helped him and his cause not at all. The texts of Scripture
clearly sanctioning belief in sorcery and magic stood against
him, and these had been confirmed by the infallible teachings of
the Church and the popes from time immemorial; the book was
stopped in the press, the manuscript confiscated, and Loos thrown
into a dungeon.

The inquisitors having wrought their will upon him, in the spring
of 1593 he was brought out of prison, forced to recant on his
knees before the assembled dignitaries of the Church, and
thenceforward kept constantly under surveillance and at times in
prison. Even this was considered too light a punishment, and his
arch-enemy, the Jesuit Delrio, declared that, but for his death
by the plague, he would have been finally sent to the stake.[254]

[254] What remains of the manuscript of Loos, which until
recently was supposed to be lost, was found, hidden away on the
shelves of the old Jesuit library at Treves, by Mr. George
Lincoln Burr, now a professor at Cornell University; and Prof.
Burr's copy of the manuscript is now in the library of that
institution. For a full account of the discovery and its
significance, see the New York Nation for November 11, 1886. The
facts regarding the after-life of Loos were discovered by Prof.
Burr in manuscript records at Brussels.

That this threat was not unmeaning had been seen a few years
earlier in a case even more noted, and in the same city. During
the last decades of the sixteenth century, Dietrich Flade, an
eminent jurist, was rector of the University of Treves, and chief
judge of the Electoral Court, and in the latter capacity he had
to pass judgment upon persons tried on the capital charge of
magic and witchcraft. For a time he yielded to the long line of
authorities, ecclesiastical and judicial, supporting the reality
of this crime; but he at last seems to have realized that it was
unreal, and that the confessions in his torture chamber, of
compacts with Satan, riding on broomsticks to the witch-sabbath,
raising tempests, producing diseases, and the like, were either
the results of madness or of willingness to confess anything and
everything, and even to die, in order to shorten the fearful
tortures to which the accused were in all cases subjected until a
satisfactory confession was obtained.

On this conviction of the unreality of many at least of the
charges Flade seems to have acted, and he at once received his
reward. He was arrested by the authority of the archbishop and
charged with having sold himself to Satan--the fact of his
hesitation in the persecution being perhaps what suggested his
guilt. He was now, in his turn, brought into the torture chamber
over which he had once presided, was racked until he confessed
everything which his torturers suggested, and finally, in 1589,
was strangled and burnt.

Of that trial a record exists in the library of Cornell
University in the shape of the original minutes of the case, and
among them the depositions of Flade when under torture, taken
down from his own lips in the torture chamber. In these
depositions this revered and venerable scholar and jurist
acknowledged the truth of every absurd charge brought against
him--anything, everything, which would end the fearful torture:
compared with that, death was nothing.[255]

[255] For the case of Flade, see the careful study by Prof. Burr,
The Fate of Dietrich Flade, in the Papers of the American
Historical Association, 1891.

Nor was even a priest secure who ventured to reveal the unreality
of magic. When Friedrich Spee, the Jesuit poet of western
Germany, found, in taking the confessions of those about to be
executed for magic, that without exception, just when about to
enter eternity and utterly beyond hope of pardon, they all
retracted their confessions made under torture, his sympathies as
a man rose above his loyalty to his order, and he published his
Cautio Criminalis as a warning, stating with entire moderation
the facts he had observed and the necessity of care. But he did
not dare publish it under his own name, nor did he even dare
publish it in a Catholic town; he gave it to the world
anonymously, and, in order to prevent any tracing of the work to
him through the confessional, he secretly caused it to be
published in the Protestant town of Rinteln.

Nor was this all. Nothing shows so thoroughly the hold that this
belief in magic had obtained as the conduct of Spee's powerful
friend and contemporary, John Philip von Schonborn, later the
Elector and Prince Archbishop of Mayence.

As a youth, Schonborn had loved and admired Spee, and had
especially noted his persistent melancholy and his hair whitened
even in his young manhood. On Schonborn's pressing him for the
cause, Spee at last confessed that his sadness, whitened hair,
and premature old age were due to his recollections of the scores
of men and women and children whom he had been obliged to see
tortured and sent to the scaffold and stake for magic and
witchcraft, when he as their father confessor positively knew
them to be innocent. The result was that, when Schonborn became
Elector and Archbishop of Mayence, he stopped the witch
persecutions in that province, and prevented them as long as he
lived. But here was shown the strength of theological and
ecclesiastical traditions and precedents. Even a man so strong
by family connections, and enjoying such great temporal and
spiritual power as Schonborn, dared not openly give his reasons
for this change of policy. So far as is known, he never uttered
a word publicly against the reality of magic, and under his
successor in the electorate witch trials were resumed.

The great upholders of the orthodox view retained full possession
of the field. The victorious Bishop Binsfeld, of Treves, wrote a
book to prove that everything confessed by the witches under
torture, especially the raising of storms and the general
controlling of the weather, was worthy of belief; and this book
became throughout Europe a standard authority, both among
Catholics and Protestants. Even more inflexible was Remigius,
criminal judge in Lorraine. On the title-page of his manual he
boasts that within fifteen years he had sent nine hundred persons
to death for this imaginary crime.[256]

[256] For Spee and Schonborn, see Soldan and other German
authorities. There are copies of the first editions of the
Cautio Criminalis in the library of Cornell University.
Binsfeld's book bore the title of Tractatus de confessionibus
maleficorum et sagarum. First published at Treves in 1589, it
appeared subsequently four times in the original Latin, as well
as in two distinct German translations, and in a French one.
Remigius's manual was entitled Daemonolatreia, and was first
printed at Lyons in 1595.

Protestantism fell into the superstition as fully as Catholicism.
In the same century John Wier, a disciple of Agrippa, tried to
frame a pious theory which, while satisfying orthodoxy, should do
something to check the frightful cruelties around him. In his
book De Praestigiis Daemonum, published in 1563, he proclaimed
his belief in witchcraft, but suggested that the compacts with
Satan, journeys through the air on broomsticks, bearing children
to Satan, raising storms and producing diseases--to which so many
women and children confessed under torture--were delusions
suggested and propagated by Satan himself, and that the persons
charged with witchcraft were therefore to be considered "as
possessed"--that is, rather as sinned against than sinning.[257]

[257] For Wier, or Weyer,s ee, besides his own works, the
excellent biography by Prof. Binz, of Bonn.

But neither Catholics nor Protestants would listen for a moment
to any such suggestion. Wier was bitterly denounced and
persecuted. Nor did Bekker, a Protestant divine in Holland, fare
any better in the following century. For his World Bewitched,
in which he ventured not only to question the devil's power over
the weather, but to deny his bodily existence altogether, he was
solemnly tried by the synod of his Church and expelled from his
pulpit, while his views were condemned as heresy, and overwhelmed
with a flood of refutations whose mere catalogue would fill
pages; and these cases were typical of many.

The Reformation had, indeed, at first deepened the superstition;
the new Church being anxious to show itself equally orthodox and
zealous with the old. During the century following the first
great movement, the eminent Lutheran jurist and theologian
Benedict Carpzov, whose boast was that he had read the Bible
fifty-three times, especially distinguished himself by his skill
in demonstrating the reality of witchcraft, and by his cruelty in
detecting and punishing it. The torture chambers were set at
work more vigorously than ever, and a long line of theological
jurists followed to maintain the system and to extend it.

To argue against it, or even doubt it, was exceedingly dangerous.
Even as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century, when
Christian Thomasius, the greatest and bravest German between
Luther and Lessing, began the efforts which put an end to it in
Protestant Germany, he did not dare at first, bold as he was, to
attack it in his own name, but presented his views as the
university thesis of an irresponsible student.[258]

[258] For Thomasius, see his various bigraphies by Luden and
others; also the treatises on witchcraft by Soldan and others.
Manuscript notes of his lectures, and copies of his earliest
books on witchcraft as well as on other forms of folly, are to be
found in the library of Cornell University.

The same stubborn resistance to the gradual encroachment of the
scientific spirit upon the orthodox doctrine of witchcraft was
seen in Great Britain. Typical as to the attitude both of Scotch
and English Protestants were the theory and practice of King
James I, himself the author of a book on Demonology, and nothing
if not a theologian. As to theory, his treatise on Demonology
supported the worst features of the superstition; as to
practice, he ordered the learned and acute work of Reginald Scot,
The Discoverie of Witchcraft, one of the best treatises ever
written on the subject, to be burned by the hangman, and he
applied his own knowledge to investigating the causes of the
tempests which beset his bride on her voyage from Denmark.
Skilful use of unlimited torture soon brought these causes to
light. A Dr. Fian, while his legs were crushed in the "boots"
and wedges were driven under his finger nails, confessed that
several hundred witches had gone to sea in a sieve from the port
of Leith, and had raised storms and tempests to drive back the

With the coming in of the Puritans the persecution was even more
largely, systematically, and cruelly developed. The great
witch-finder, Matthew Hopkins, having gone through the county of
Suffolk and tested multitudes of poor old women by piercing them
with pins and needles, declared that county to be infested with
witches. Thereupon Parliament issued a commission, and sent two
eminent Presbyterian divines to accompany it, with the result
that in that county alone sixty persons were hanged for
witchcraft in a single year. In Scotland matters were even
worse. The auto da fe of Spain was celebrated in Scotland under
another name, and with Presbyterian ministers instead of Roman
Catholic priests as the main attendants. At Leith, in 1664, nine
women were burned together. Condemnations and punishments of
women in batches were not uncommon. Torture was used far more
freely than in England, both in detecting witches and in
punishing them. The natural argument developed in hundreds of
pulpits was this: If the Allwise God punishes his creatures with
tortures infinite in cruelty and duration, why should not his
ministers, as far as they can, imitate him?

The strongest minds in both branches of the Protestant Church in
Great Britain devoted themselves to maintaining the superstition.
The newer scientific modes of thought, and especially the new
ideas regarding the heavens, revealed first by Copernicus and
Galileo and later by Newton, Huygens, and Halley, were gradually
dissipating the whole domain of the Prince of the Power of the
Air; but from first to last a long line of eminent divines,
Anglican and Calvinistic, strove to resist the new thought. On
the Anglican side, in the seventeenth century, Meric Casaubon,
Doctor of Divinity and a high dignitary of Canterbury,--Henry
More, in many respects the most eminent scholar in the
Church,--Cudworth, by far the most eminent philosopher, and Dr.
Joseph Glanvil, the most cogent of all writers in favour of
witchcraft, supported the orthodox superstition in treatises of
great power; and Sir Matthew Hale, the greatest jurist of the
period, condemning two women to be burned for witchcraft,
declared that he based his judgment on the direct testimony of
Holy Scripture. On the Calvinistic side were the great names of
Richard Baxter, who applauded some of the worst cruelties in
England, and of Increase and Cotton Mather, who stimulated the
worst in America; and these marshalled in behalf of this cruel
superstition a long line of eminent divines, the most earnest of
all, perhaps, being John Wesley.

Nor was the Lutheran Church in Sweden and the other Scandinavian
countries behind its sister churches, either in persecuting
witchcraft or in repressing doubts regarding the doctrine which
supported it.

But in spite of all these great authorities in every land, in
spite of such summary punishments as those of Flade, Loos, and
Bekker, and in spite of the virtual exclusion from church
preferment of all who doubted the old doctrine, the new
scientific view of the heavens was developed more and more; the
physical sciences were more and more cultivated; the new
scientific atmosphere in general more and more prevailed; and at
the end of the seventeenth century this vast growth of
superstition began to wither and droop. Montaigne, Bayle, and
Voltaire in France, Thomasius in Germany, Calef in New England,
and Beccaria in Italy, did much also to create an intellectual
and moral atmosphere fatal to it.

And here it should be stated, to the honour of the Church of
England, that several of her divines showed great courage in
opposing the dominant doctrine. Such men as Harsnet, Archbishop
of York, and Morton, Bishop of Lichfield, who threw all their
influence against witch-finding cruelties even early in the
seventeenth century, deserve lasting gratitude. But especially
should honour be paid to the younger men in the Church, who wrote
at length against the whole system: such men as Wagstaffe and
Webster and Hutchinson, who in the humbler ranks of the clergy
stood manfully for truth, with the certainty that by so doing
they were making their own promotion impossible.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century the doctrine was
evidently dying out. Where torture had been abolished, or even
made milder, "weather-makers" no longer confessed, and the
fundamental proofs in which the system was rooted were evidently
slipping away. Even the great theologian Fromundus, at the
University of Louvain, the oracle of his age, who had
demonstrated the futility of the Copernican theory, had foreseen
this and made the inevitable attempt at compromise, declaring
that devils, though OFTEN, are not ALWAYS or even for the most
part the causes of thunder. The learned Jesuit Caspar Schott,
whose Physica Curiosa was one of the most popular books of the
seventeenth century, also ventured to make the same mild
statement. But even such concessions by such great champions of
orthodoxy did not prevent frantic efforts in various quarters to
bring the world back under the old dogma: as late as 1743 there
was published in Catholic Germany a manual by Father Vincent of
Berg, in which the superstition was taught to its fullest extent,
with the declaration that it was issued for the use of priests
under the express sanction of the theological professors of the
University of Cologne; and twenty-five years later, in 1768, we
find in Protestant England John Wesley standing firmly for
witchcraft, and uttering his famous declaration, "The giving up
of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible." The
latest notable demonstration in Scotland was made as late as
1773, when "the divines of the Associated Presbytery" passed a
resolution declaring their belief in witchcraft, and deploring
the general scepticism regarding it.[259]

[259] For Carpzov and his successors, see authorities already
given. The best account of James's share in the extortion of
confessions may be found in the collection of Curious Tracts
published at Edinburgh in 1820. See also King James's own
Demonologie, and Pitcairn's Criminal Trials of Scotland, vol. i,
part ii, pp. 213-223. For Casaubon, see his Credulity and
Incredulity in Things Natural, pp. 66, 67. For Glanvil, More,
Casaubon, Baxter, Wesley, and others named, see Lecky, as above.
As to Increase Mather, in his sermons, already cited, on The
Voice of God in Stormy Winds, Boston, 1704, he says: "when there
are great tempests, the Angels oftentimes have a Hand therein. .
. . Yea, and sometimes, by Divine Permission, Evil Angels have a
Hand in such Storms and Tempests as are very hurtful to Men on
the Earth." Yet "for the most part, such Storms are sent by the
Providence of God as a Sign of His Displeasure for the Sins of
Men," and sometimes "as Prognosticks and terrible Warnings of
Great Judgements not far off." From the height of his erudition
Mather thus rebukes the timid voice of scientific scepticism:
"There are some who would be esteemed the Wits of the World, that
ridicule those as Superstitious and Weak Persons, which look upon
Dreadful Tempests as Prodromous of other Judgements.
Nevertheless, the most Learned and Judicious Writers, not only of
the Gentiles, but amongst Christians, have Embraced such a
Persuasion; their Sentiments therein being Confirmed by the
Experience of many Ages." For another curious turn given to this
theory, with reference to sanitary science, see Deodat Lawson's
famous sermon at Salem, in 1692, on Christ's Fidelity a Shield
against Satan's Malignity, p. 21 of the second edition. For
Cotton Mather, see his biography by Barrett Wendell, pp. 91, 92;
also the chapter on Diabolism and Hysteria in this work. For
Fromundus, see his Meteorologica (London, 1656), lib. iii, c. 9,
and lib. ii, c. 3. For Schott, see his Physica Curiosa (edition
of Wurzburg, 1667), p. 1249. For Father Vincent of Berg, see his
Enchiridium quadripartitum (Cologne, 1743). Besides benedictions
and exorcisms for all emergencies, it contains full directions
for the manufacture of Agnes Dei, and of another sacred panacea
called "Heiligthum," not less effective against evil powers,--
gives formulae to be worn for protection against the devil,--
suggests a list of signs by which diabolical possession may be
recognised, and prescribes the question to be asked by priests in
the examination of witches. For Wesley, see his Journal for
1768. The whole citation is given in Lecky.


But in the midst of these efforts by Catholics like Father
Vincent and by Protestants like John Wesley to save the old
sacred theory, it received its death-blow. In 1752 Franklin made
his experiments with the kite on the banks of the Schuylkill;
and, at the moment when he drew the electric spark from the
cloud, the whole tremendous fabric of theological meteorology
reared by the fathers, the popes, the medieval doctors, and the
long line of great theologians, Catholic and Protestant,
collapsed; the "Prince of the Power of the Air" tumbled from his
seat; the great doctrine which had so long afflicted the earth
was prostrated forever.

The experiment of Franklin was repeated in various parts of
Europe, but, at first, the Church seemed careful to take no
notice of it. The old church formulas against the Prince of the
Power of the Air were still used, but the theological theory,
especially in the Protestant Church, began to grow milder. Four
years after Franklin's discovery Pastor Karl Koken, member of the
Consistory and official preacher to the City Council of
Hildesheim, was moved by a great hailstorm to preach and publish
a sermon on The Revelation of God in Weather. Of "the Prince of
the Power of the Air" he says nothing; the theory of diabolical
agency he throws overboard altogether; his whole attempt is to
save the older and more harmless theory, that the storm is the
voice of God. He insists that, since Christ told Nicodemus that
men "know not whence the wind cometh," it can not be of mere
natural origin, but is sent directly by God himself, as David
intimates in the Psalm, "out of His secret places." As to the
hailstorm, he lays great stress upon the plague of hail sent by
the Almighty upon Egypt, and clinches all by insisting that God
showed at Mount Sinai his purpose to startle the body before
impressing the conscience.

While the theory of diabolical agency in storms was thus drooping
and dying, very shrewd efforts were made at compromise. The
first of these attempts we have already noted, in the effort to
explain the efficacy of bells in storms by their simple use in
stirring the faithful to prayer, and in the concession made by
sundry theologians, and even by the great Lord Bacon himself,
that church bells might, under the sanction of Providence,
disperse storms by agitating the air. This gained ground
somewhat, though it was resisted by one eminent Church authority,
who answered shrewdly that, in that case, cannon would be even
more pious instruments. Still another argument used in trying to
save this part of the theological theory was that the bells were
consecrated instruments for this purpose, "like the horns at
whose blowing the walls of Jericho fell."[260]

[260] For Koken, see his Offenbarung Gottes in Wetter,
Hildesheim, c1756; and for the answer to Bacon, see Gretser's De
Benedictionibus, lib. ii, cap. 46.

But these compromises were of little avail. In 1766 Father
Sterzinger attacked the very groundwork of the whole diabolic
theory. He was, of course, bitterly assailed, insulted, and
hated; but the Church thought it best not to condemn him. More
and more the "Prince of the Power of the Air" retreated before
the lightning-rod of Franklin. The older Church, while clinging
to the old theory, was finally obliged to confess the supremacy
of Franklin's theory practically; for his lightning-rod did what
exorcisms, and holy water, and processions, and the Agnus Dei,
and the ringing of church bells, and the rack, and the burning of
witches, had failed to do. This was clearly seen, even by the
poorest peasants in eastern France, when they observed that the
grand spire of Strasburg Cathedral, which neither the sacredness
of the place, nor the bells within it, nor the holy water and
relics beneath it, could protect from frequent injuries by
lightning, was once and for all protected by Franklin's rod.
Then came into the minds of multitudes the answer to the question
which had so long exercised the leading theologians of Europe and
America, namely, "Why should the Almighty strike his own
consecrated temples, or suffer Satan to strike them? "

Yet even this practical solution of the question was not received
without opposition.

In America the earthquake of 1755 was widely ascribed, especially
in Massachusetts, to Franklin's rod. The Rev. Thomas Prince,
pastor of the Old South Church, published a sermon on the
subject, and in the appendix expressed the opinion that the
frequency of earthquakes may be due to the erection of "iron
points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin." He goes on to
argue that "in Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New
England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh!
there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God."

Three years later, John Adams, speaking of a conversation with
Arbuthnot, a Boston physician, says: "He began to prate upon the
presumption of philosophy in erecting iron rods to draw the
lightning from the clouds. He railed and foamed against the
points and the presumption that erected them. He talked of
presuming upon God, as Peter attempted to walk upon the water,
and of attempting to control the artillery of heaven."

As late as 1770 religious scruples regarding lightning-rods were
still felt, the theory being that, as thunder and lightning were
tokens of the Divine displeasure, it was impiety to prevent their
doing their full work. Fortunately, Prof. John Winthrop, of
Harvard, showed himself wise in this, as in so many other things:
in a lecture on earthquakes he opposed the dominant theology;
and as to arguments against Franklin's rods, he declared, "It is
as much our duty to secure ourselves against the effects of
lightning as against those of rain, snow, and wind by the means
God has put into our hands."

Still, for some years theological sentiment had to be regarded
carefully. In Philadelphia, a popular lecturer on science for
some time after Franklin's discovery thought it best in
advertising his lectures to explain that "the erection of
lightning-rods is not chargeable with presumption nor
inconsistent with any of the principles either of natural or
revealed religion."[261]

[261] Regarding opposition to Franklin's rods in America, see
Prince's sermon, especially p. 23; also Quincy, History of
Harvard University, vol. ii, p. 219; also Works of John Adams,
vol. ii, pp. 51, 52; also Parton's Life of Franklin, vol. i, p.

In England, the first lightning conductor upon a church was not
put up until 1762, ten years after Franklin's discovery. The
spire of St. Bride's Church in London was greatly injured by
lightning in 1750, and in 1764 a storm so wrecked its masonry
that it had to be mainly rebuilt; yet for years after this the
authorities refused to attach a lightning-rod. The Protestant
Cathedral of St. Paul's, in London, was not protected until
sixteen years after Franklin's discovery, and the tower of the
great Protestant church at Hamburg not until a year later still.
As late as 1783 it was declared in Germany, on excellent
authority, that within a space of thirty-three years nearly four
hundred towers had been damaged and one hundred and twenty
bell-ringers killed.

In Roman Catholic countries a similar prejudice was shown, and
its cost at times was heavy. In Austria, the church of
Rosenberg, in the mountains of Carinthia, was struck so
frequently and with such loss of life that the peasants feared at
last to attend service. Three times was the spire rebuilt, and
it was not until 1778--twenty-six years after Franklin's
discovery--that the authorities permitted a rod to be attached.
Then all trouble ceased.

A typical case in Italy was that of the tower of St. Mark's, at
Venice. In spite of the angel at its summit and the bells
consecrated to ward off the powers of the air, and the relics in
the cathedral hard by, and the processions in the adjacent
square, the tower was frequently injured and even ruined by
lightning. In 1388 it was badly shattered; in 1417, and again
in 1489, the wooden spire surmounting it was utterly consumed; it
was again greatly injured in 1548, 1565, 1653, and in 1745 was
struck so powerfully that the whole tower, which had been rebuilt
of stone and brick, was shattered in thirty-seven places.
Although the invention of Franklin had been introduced into Italy
by the physicist Beccaria, the tower of St. Mark's still went
unprotected, and was again badly struck in 1761 and 1762; and
not until 1766--fourteen years after Franklin's discovery--was a
lightning-rod placed upon it; and it has never been struck

[262] For reluctance in England to protect churches with
Franklin's rods, see Priestley, History of Electricity, London,
1775, vol. i, pp. 407, 465 et seq.

So, too, though the beautiful tower of the Cathedral of Siena,
protected by all possible theological means, had been struck
again and again, much opposition was shown to placing upon it
what was generally known as "the heretical rod," but the tower
was at last protected by Franklin's invention, and in 1777,
though a very heavy bolt passed down the rod, the church received
not the slightest injury. This served to reconcile theology and
science, so far as that city was concerned; but the case which
did most to convert the Italian theologians to the scientific
view was that of the church of San Nazaro, at Brescia. The
Republic of Venice had stored in the vaults of this church over
two hundred thousand pounds of powder. In 1767, seventeen years
after Franklin's discovery, no rod having been placed upon it, it
was struck by lightning, the powder in the vaults was exploded,
one sixth of the entire city destroyed, and over three thousand
lives were lost.[263]

[263] See article on Lightning in the Edinburgh Review for
October, 1844.

Such examples as these, in all parts of Europe, had their effect.
The formulas for conjuring off storms, for consecrating bells to
ward off lightning and tempests, and for putting to flight the
powers of the air, were still allowed to stand in the liturgies;
but the lightning-rod, the barometer, and the thermometer,
carried the day. A vigorous line of investigators succeeding
Franklin completed his victory, The traveller in remote districts
of Europe still hears the church bells ringing during tempests;
the Polish or Italian peasant is still persuaded to pay fees for
sounding bells to keep off hailstorms; but the universal
tendency favours more and more the use of the lightning-rod, and
of the insurance offices where men can be relieved of the ruinous
results of meteorological disturbances in accordance with the
scientific laws of average, based upon the ascertained recurrence
of storms. So, too, though many a poor seaman trusts to his
charm that has been bathed in holy water, or that has touched
some relic, the tendency among mariners is to value more and more
those warnings which are sent far and wide each day over the
earth and under the sea by the electric wires in accordance with
laws ascertained by observation.

Yet, even in our own time, attempts to revive the old theological
doctrine of meteorology have not been wanting. Two of these, one
in a Roman Catholic and another in a Protestant country, will
serve as types of many, to show how completely scientific truth
has saturated and permeated minds supposed to be entirely
surrendered to the theological view.

The Island of St. Honorat, just off the southern coast of
France, is deservedly one of the places most venerated in
Christendom. The monastery of Lerins, founded there in the fourth
century, became a mother of similar institutions in western
Europe, and a centre of religious teaching for the Christian
world. In its atmosphere, legends and myths grew in beauty and
luxuriance. Here, as the chroniclers tell us, at the touch of St.
Honorat, burst forth a stream of living water, which a recent
historian of the monastery declares a greater miracle than that
of Moses; here he destroyed, with a touch of his staff, the
reptiles which infested the island, and then forced the sea to
wash away their foul remains. Here, to please his sister,
Sainte-Marguerite, a cherry tree burst into full bloom every
month; here he threw his cloak upon the waters and it became a
raft, which bore him safely to visit the neighbouring island;
here St. Patrick received from St. Just the staff with which he
imitated St. Honorat by driving all reptiles from Ireland.
Pillaged by Saracens and pirates, the island was made all the
more precious by the blood of Christian martyrs. Popes and kings
made pilgrimages to it; saints, confessors, and bishops went
forth from it into all Europe; in one of its cells St. Vincent
of Lerins wrote that famous definition of pure religion which,
for nearly fifteen hundred years, has virtually superseded that
of St. James. Naturally the monastery became most illustrious,
and its seat "the Mediterranean Isle of Saints."

But toward the close of the last century, its inmates having
become slothful and corrupt, it was dismantled, all save a small
portion torn down, and the island became the property first of
impiety, embodied in a French actress, and finally of heresy,
embodied in an English clergyman.

Bought back for the Church by the Bishop of Frejus in 1859, there
was little revival of life for twelve years. Then came the
reaction, religious and political, after the humiliation of
France and the Vatican by Germany; and of this reaction the
monastery of St. Honorat was made one of the most striking
outward and visible signs. Pius IX interested himself directly
in it, called into it a body of Cistercian monks, and it became
the chief seat of their order in France. To restore its
sacredness the strict system of La Trappe was
established--labour, silence, meditation on death. The word thus
given from Rome was seconded in France by cardinals, archbishops,
and all churchmen especially anxious for promotion in this world
or salvation in the next. Worn-out dukes and duchesses of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain united in this enterprise of pious
reaction with the frivolous youngsters, the petits creves, who
haunt the purlieus of Notre Dame de Lorette. The great church of
the monastery was handsomely rebuilt and a multitude of altars
erected; and beautiful frescoes and stained windows came from the
leaders of the reaction. The whole effect was, perhaps, somewhat
theatrical and thin, but it showed none the less earnestness in
making the old "Isle of Saints" a protest against the hated
modern world.

As if to bid defiance still further to modern liberalism, great
store of relics was sent in; among these, pieces of the true
cross, of the white and purple robes, of the crown of thorns,
sponge, lance, and winding-sheet of Christ,--the hair, robe,
veil, and girdle of the Blessed Virgin; relics of St. John the
Baptist, St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, St.
Barnabas, the four evangelists, and a multitude of other saints:
so many that the bare mention of these treasures requires
twenty-four distinct heads in the official catalogue recently
published at the monastery. Besides all this--what was
considered even more powerful in warding off harm from the
revived monastery--the bones of Christian martyrs were brought
from the Roman catacombs and laid beneath the altars.[264]

[264] See the Guide des Visiteurs a Lerins, published at the
Monastery in 1880, p. 204; also the Histoire de Lerins, mentioned

All was thus conformed to the medieval view; nothing was to be
left which could remind one of the nineteenth century; the "ages
of faith" were to be restored in their simplicity. Pope Leo XIII
commended to the brethren the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas as
their one great object of study, and works published at the
monastery dwelt upon the miracles of St. Honorat as the most
precious refutation of modern science.

High in the cupola, above the altars and relics, were placed the
bells. Sent by pious donors, they were solemnly baptized and
consecrated in 1871, four bishops officiating, a multitude of the
faithful being present from all parts of Europe, and the sponsors
of the great tenor bell being the Bourbon claimant to the ducal
throne of Parma and his duchess. The good bishop who baptized
the bells consecrated them with a formula announcing their
efficacy in driving away the "Prince of the Power of the Air" and
the lightning and tempests he provokes.

And then, above all, at the summit of the central spire, high
above relics, altars, and bells, was placed--A

[265] See Guide, as above, p. 84. Les Isles de Lerins, by the
Abbe Alliez (Paris, 1860), and the Histoire de Lerins, by the
same author, are the authorities for the general history of the
abbey, and are especially strong in presenting the miracles of
St. Honorat, etc. The Cartulaire of the monastery, recently
published, is also valuable. But these do not cover the recent
revival, for an account of which recourse must be had to the very
interesting and naive Guide already cited.

The account of the monastery, published under the direction of
the present worthy abbot, more than hints at the saving, by its
bells, of a ship which was wrecked a few years since on that
coast; and yet, to protect the bells and church and monks and
relics from the very foe whom, in the medieval faith, all these
were thought most powerful to drive away, recourse was had to the
scientific discovery of that "arch-infidel," Benjamin Franklin!

Perhaps the most striking recent example in Protestant lands of
this change from the old to the new occurred not long since in
one of the great Pacific dependencies of the British crown. At a
time of severe drought an appeal was made to the bishop, Dr.
Moorhouse, to order public prayers for rain. The bishop refused,
advising the petitioners for the future to take better care of
their water supply, virtually telling them, "Heaven helps those
who help themselves." But most noteworthy in this matter was it
that the English Government, not long after, scanning the horizon
to find some man to take up the good work laid down by the
lamented Bishop Fraser, of Manchester, chose Dr. Moorhouse; and
his utterance upon meteorology, which a few generations since
would have been regarded by the whole Church as blasphemy, was
universally alluded to as an example of strong good sense,
proving him especially fit for one of the most important
bishoprics in England.

Throughout Christendom, the prevalence of the conviction that
meteorology is obedient to laws is more and more evident. In
cities especially, where men are accustomed each day to see
posted in public places charts which show the storms moving over
various parts of the country, and to read in the morning papers
scientific prophecies as to the weather, the old view can hardly
be very influential.

Significant of this was the feeling of the American people during
the fearful droughts a few years since in the States west of the
Missouri. No days were appointed for fasting and prayer to bring
rain; there was no attribution of the calamity to the wrath of
God or the malice of Satan; but much was said regarding the
folly of our people in allowing the upper regions of their vast
rivers to be denuded of forests, thus subjecting the States below
to alternations of drought and deluge. Partly as a result of
this, a beginning has been made of teaching forest culture in
many schools, tree-planting societies have been formed, and
"Arbor Day" is recognised in several of the States. A true and
noble theology can hardly fail to recognise, in the love of
Nature and care for our fellow-men thus promoted, something far
better, both from a religious and a moral point of view, than any
efforts to win the Divine favour by flattery, or to avert Satanic
malice by fetichism.




In all the earliest developments of human thought we find a
strong tendency to ascribe mysterious powers over Nature to men
and women especially gifted or skilled. Survivals of this view
are found to this day among savages and barbarians left behind in
the evolution of civilization, and especially is this the case
among the tribes of Australia, Africa, and the Pacific coast of
America. Even in the most enlightened nations still appear
popular beliefs, observances, or sayings, drawn from this earlier
phase of thought.

Between the prehistoric savage developing this theory, and
therefore endeavouring to deal with the powers of Nature by
magic, and the modern man who has outgrown it, appears a long
line of nations struggling upward through it. As the
hieroglyphs, cuneiform inscriptions, and various other records of
antiquity are read, the development of this belief can be studied
in Egypt, India, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, and Phoenicia. From
these civilizations it came into the early thought of Greece and
Rome, but especially into the Jewish and Christian sacred books.
Both in the Old Testament and in the New we find magic,
witchcraft, and soothsaying constantly referred to as

[266] For magic in prehistoric times and survivals of it since,
with abundant citation of authorities, see Tylor, Primitive
Culture, chap. iv; also The Early History of Mankind, by the same
author, third edition, pp. 115 et seq., also p. 380.; also Andrew
Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i, chap iv. For magic in
Egypt, see Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, chaps. vi-viii; also
Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient; also Maspero
and Sayce, The Dawn of Civilization, p. 282, and for the threat
of magicians to wreck heaven, see ibid, p. 17, note, and
especially the citations from Chabas, Le Papyrus Magique Harris,
in chap. vii; also Maury, La Magie et l'Astrologie dans
l'Antiquite et au Moyen Age. For magic in Chaldea, see Lenormant
as above; also Maspero and Sayce, pp. 780 et seq. For examples
of magical powers in India, see Max Muller's Sacred Books of the
East, vol. xvi, pp. 121 et seq. For a legendary view of magic in
Media, see the Zend Avesta, part i, p. 14, translated by
Darmsteter; and for a more highly developed view, see the Zend
Avesta, part iii, p. 239, translated by Mill. For magic in
Greece and Rome, and especially in the Neoplatonic school, as
well as in the Middle Ages, see especially Maury, La Magie et
l'Astrologie, chaps. iii-v. For various sorts of magic
recognised and condemned in our sacred books, see Deuteronomy
xviii, 10, 11; and for the burning of magical books at Ephesus
under the influence of St. Paul, see Acts xix, 14. See also
Ewald, History of Israel, Martineau's translation, fourth
edition, vol. iii, pp. 45-51. For a very elaborate summing up of
the passages in our sacred books recognizing magic as a fact, see
De Haen, De Magia, Leipsic, 1775, chaps. i, ii, and iii, of the
first part. For the general subject of magic, see Ennemoser,
History of Magic, translated by Howitt, which, however,
constantly mixes sorcery with magic proper.

The first distinct impulse toward a higher view of research into
natural laws was given by the philosophers of Greece. It is true
that philosophical opposition to physical research was at times
strong, and that even a great thinker like Socrates considered
certain physical investigations as an impious intrusion into the
work of the gods. It is also true that Plato and Aristotle,
while bringing their thoughts to bear upon the world with great
beauty and force, did much to draw mankind away from those
methods which in modern times have produced the best results.

Plato developed a world in which the physical sciences had little
if any real reason for existing; Aristotle, a world in which the
same sciences were developed largely indeed by observation of
what is, but still more by speculation on what ought to be. From
the former of these two great men came into Christian theology
many germs of medieval magic, and from the latter sundry modes of
reasoning which aided in the evolution of these; yet the impulse
to human thought given by these great masters was of inestimable
value to our race, and one legacy from them was especially
precious--the idea that a science of Nature is possible, and that
the highest occupation of man is the discovery of its laws.
Still another gift from them was greatest of all, for they gave
scientific freedom. They laid no interdict upon new paths; they
interposed no barriers to the extension of knowledge; they
threatened no doom in this life or in the next against
investigators on new lines; they left the world free to seek any
new methods and to follow any new paths which thinking men could

This legacy of belief in science, of respect for scientific
pursuits, and of freedom in scientific research, was especially
received by the school of Alexandria, and above all by
Archimedes, who began, just before the Christian era, to open new
paths through the great field of the inductive sciences by
observation, comparison, and experiment.[267]

[267] As to the beginnings of physical science in Greece, and of
the theological opposition to physical science, also Socrates's
view regarding certain branches as interdicted to human study,
see Grote's History of Greece, vol. i, pp. 495 and 504, 505; also
Jowett's introduction to his translation of the Timaeus, and
Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences. For examples
showing the incompatibility of Plato's methods in physical
science with that pursued in modern times, see Zeller, Plato and
the Older Academy, English translation by Alleyne and Goodwin,
pp. 375 et. seq. The supposed opposition to freedom of opinion
in the Laws of Plato, toward the end of his life, can hardly make
against the whole spirit of Greek thought.

The establishment of Christianity, beginning a new evolution of
theology, arrested the normal development of the physical
sciences for over fifteen hundred years. The cause of this
arrest was twofold: First, there was created an atmosphere in
which the germs of physical science could hardly grow--an
atmosphere in which all seeking in Nature for truth as truth was
regarded as futile. The general belief derived from the New
Testament Scriptures was, that the end of the world was at hand;
that the last judgment was approaching; that all existing
physical nature was soon to be destroyed: hence, the greatest
thinkers in the Church generally poured contempt upon all
investigators into a science of Nature, and insisted that
everything except the saving of souls was folly.

This belief appears frequently through the entire period of the
Middle Ages; but during the first thousand years it is clearly
dominant. From Lactantius and Eusebius, in the third century,
pouring contempt, as we have seen, over studies in astronomy, to
Peter Damian, the noted chancellor of Pope Gregory VII, in the
eleventh century, declaring all worldly sciences to be
"absurdities" and "fooleries," it becomes a very important
element in the atmosphere of thought.[268]

[268] For the view of Peter Damian and others through the Middle
Ages as to the futility of scientific investigation, see
citations in Eicken, Geschichte und System der mittelalterlichen
Weltanschauung, chap. vi.

Then, too, there was established a standard to which all science
which did struggle up through this atmosphere must be made to
conform--a standard which favoured magic rather than science, for
it was a standard of rigid dogmatism obtained from literal
readings in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. The most
careful inductions from ascertained facts were regarded as
wretchedly fallible when compared with any view of nature
whatever given or even hinted at in any poem, chronicle, code,
apologue, myth, legend, allegory, letter, or discourse of any
sort which had happened to be preserved in the literature which
had come to be held as sacred.

For twelve centuries, then, the physical sciences were thus
discouraged or perverted by the dominant orthodoxy. Whoever
studied nature studied it either openly to find illustrations of
the sacred text, useful in the "saving of souls," or secretly to
gain the aid of occult powers, useful in securing personal
advantage. Great men like Bede, Isidore of Seville, and Rabanus
Maurus, accepted the scriptural standard of science and used it
as a means of Christian edification. The views of Bede and
Isidore on kindred subjects have been shown in former chapters;
and typical of the view taken by Rabanus is the fact that in his
great work on the Universe there are only two chapters which
seem directly or indirectly to recognise even the beginnings of a
real philosophy of nature. A multitude of less-known men found
warrant in Scripture for magic applied to less worthy

[269] As typical examples, see utterances of Eusibius and
Lactantius regarding astronomers given in the chapter on
Astronomy. For a summary of Rabanus Maurus's doctrine of
physics, see Heller, Geschichte der Physik, vol. i, pp. 172 et
seq. For Bede and Isidore, see the earlier chapters of this
work. For an excellent statement regarding the application of
scriptural standards to scientific research in the Middle Ages,
see Kretschemr, Die physische Erdkunde im christlichen
Mittelalter, pp. 5 et seq. For the distinctions in magic
recognised in the mediaeval Church, see the long catalogue of
various sorts given in the Abbe Migne's Encyclopedie Theologique,
third series, article Magic.

But after the thousand years had passed to which various thinkers
in the Church, upon supposed scriptural warrant, had lengthened
out the term of the earth's existence, "the end of all things"
seemed further off than ever; and in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, owing to causes which need not be dwelt upon here,
came a great revival of thought, so that the forces of theology
and of science seemed arrayed for a contest. On one side came a
revival of religious fervour, and to this day the works of the
cathedral builders mark its depth and strength; on the other
side came a new spirit of inquiry incarnate in a line of powerful

First among these was Albert of Bollstadt, better known as Albert
the Great, the most renowned scholar of his time. Fettered
though he was by the methods sanctioned in the Church, dark as
was all about him, he had conceived better methods and aims; his
eye pierced the mists of scholasticism. he saw the light, and
sought to draw the world toward it. He stands among the great
pioneers of physical and natural science; he aided in giving
foundations to botany and chemistry; he rose above his time, and
struck a heavy blow at those who opposed the possibility of human
life on opposite sides of the earth; he noted the influence of
mountains, seas, and forests upon races and products, so that
Humboldt justly finds in his works the germs of physical
geography as a comprehensive science.

But the old system of deducing scientific truth from scriptural
texts was renewed in the development of scholastic theology, and
ecclesiastical power, acting through thousands of subtle
channels, was made to aid this development. The old idea of the
futility of physical science and of the vast superiority of
theology was revived. Though Albert's main effort was to
Christianize science, he was dealt with by the authorities of the
Dominican order, subjected to suspicion and indignity, and only
escaped persecution for sorcery by yielding to the ecclesiastical
spirit of the time, and working finally in theological channels
by, scholastic methods.

It was a vast loss to the earth; and certainly, of all
organizations that have reason to lament the pressure of
ecclesiasticism which turned Albert the Great from natural
philosophy to theology, foremost of all in regret should be the
Christian Church, and especially the Roman branch of it. Had
there been evolved in the Church during the thirteenth century a
faith strong enough to accept the truths in natural science which
Albert and his compeers could have given, and to have encouraged
their growth, this faith and this encouragement would to this day
have formed the greatest argument for proving the Church directly
under Divine guidance; they would have been among the brightest
jewels in her crown. The loss to the Church by this want of
faith and courage has proved in the long run even greater than
the loss to science.[270]

[270] For a very careful discussion of Albert's strength in
investigation and weakness in yielding to scholastic authority,
see Kopp, Ansichten uber die Aufgabe der Chemie von Geber bis
Stahl, Braunschweig, 1875, pp. 64 et seq. For a very extended
and enthusiastic biographical sketch, see Pouchet. For
comparison of his work with that of Thomas Aquinas, see Milman,
History of Latin Christianity, vol. vi, p. 461. "Il etat aussi
tres-habile dans les arts mecaniques, ce que le fit soupconner
d'etre sorcier" (Sprengel, Histoire de la Medecine, vol. ii, p.
389). For Albert's biography treated strictly in accordance with
ecclesiastical methods, see Albert the Great, by Joachim Sighart,
translated by the Rev. T. A. Dickson, of the Order of Preachers,
published under the sanction of the Dominican censor and of the
Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, London, 1876. How an
Englishman like Cardinal Manning could tolerate among Englishmen
such glossing over of historical truth is one of the wonders of
contemporary history. For choice specimens, see chapters ii, and
iv. For one of the best and most recent summaries, see Heller,
Geschichte der Physik, Stuttgart, 1882, vol. i, pp. 179 et seq.

The next great man of that age whom the theological and
ecclesiastical forces of the time turned from the right path was
Vincent of Beauvais. During the first half of the twelfth
century he devoted himself to the study of Nature in several of
her most interesting fields. To astronomy, botany, and zoology
he gave special attention, but in a larger way he made a general
study of the universe, and in a series of treatises undertook to
reveal the whole field of science. But his work simply became a
vast commentary on the account of creation given in the book of
Genesis. Beginning with the work of the Trinity at the creation,
he goes on to detail the work of angels in all their fields, and
makes excursions into every part of creation, visible and
invisible, but always with the most complete subordination of his
thought to the literal statements of Scripture. Could he have
taken the path of experimental research, the world would have
been enriched with most precious discoveries; but the force
which had given wrong direction to Albert of Bollstadt, backed as
it was by the whole ecclesiastical power of his time, was too
strong, and in all the life labour of Vincent nothing appears of
any permanent value. He reared a structure which the adaptation
of facts to literal interpretations of Scripture and the
application of theological subtleties to nature combine to make
one of the most striking monuments of human error.[271]

[271] For Vincent de Beauvais, see Etudes sur Vincent de
Beauvais, par l'Abbe Bourgeat, chaps. xii, xiii, and xiv; also
Pouchet, Histoire des Sciences Naturelles au Moyen Age, Paris,
1853, pp. 470 et seq; also other histories cited hereafter.

But the theological spirit of the thirteenth century gained its
greatest victory in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. In him was
the theological spirit of his age incarnate. Although he yielded
somewhat at one period to love of natural science, it was he who
finally made that great treaty or compromise which for ages
subjected science entirely to theology. He it was who reared the
most enduring barrier against those who in that age and in
succeeding ages laboured to open for science the path by its own
methods toward its own ends.

He had been the pupil of Albert the Great, and had gained much
from him. Through the earlier systems of philosophy, as they
were then known, and through the earlier theologic thought, he
had gone with great labour and vigour; and all his mighty powers,
thus disciplined and cultured, he brought to bear in making a
truce which was to give theology permanent supremacy over

The experimental method had already been practically initiated:
Albert of Bollstadt and Roger Bacon had begun their work in
accordance with its methods; but St. Thomas gave all his
thoughts to bringing science again under the sway of theological
methods and ecclesiastical control. In his commentary on
Aristotle's treatise upon Heaven and Earth he gave to the world a
striking example of what his method could produce, illustrating
all the evils which arise in combining theological reasoning and
literal interpretation of Scripture with scientific facts; and
this work remains to this day a monument of scientific genius
perverted by theology.[272]

[272] For citations showing this subordination of science to
theology, see Eicken, chap. vi.

The ecclesiastical power of the time hailed him as a deliverer,
it was claimed that miracles were vouchsafed, proving that the
blessing of Heaven rested upon his labours, and among the legends
embodying this claim is that given by the Bollandists and
immortalized by a renowned painter. The great philosopher and
saint is represented in the habit of his order, with book and pen
in hand, kneeling before the image of Christ crucified, and as he
kneels the image thus addresses him: "Thomas, thou hast written
well concerning me; what price wilt thou receive for thy
labour?" The myth-making faculty of the people at large was
also brought into play. According to a widespread and
circumstantial legend, Albert, by magical means, created an
android--an artificial man, living, speaking, and answering all
questions with such subtlety that St. Thomas, unable to answer
its reasoning, broke it to pieces with his staff.

Historians of the Roman Church like Rohrbacher, and historians of
science like Pouchet, have found it convenient to propitiate the
Church by dilating upon the glories of St. Thomas Aquinas in
thus making an alliance between religious and scientific thought,
and laying the foundations for a "sanctified science"; but the
unprejudiced historian can not indulge in this enthusiastic view:
the results both for the Church and for science have been most
unfortunate. It was a wretched delay in the evolution of
fruitful thought, for the first result of this great man's great
compromise was to close for ages that path in science which above
all others leads to discoveries of value--the experimental
method--and to reopen that old path of mixed theology and science
which, as Hallam declares, "after three or four hundred years had
not untied a single knot or added one unequivocal truth to the
domain of philosophy"--the path which, as all modern history
proves, has ever since led only to delusion and evil.[273]

[273] For the work of Aquinas, see his Liber de Caelo et Mundo,
section xx; also Life and Labours of St. Thomas of Aquin, by
Archbishop Vaughn, pp. 459 et seq. For his labours in natural
science, see Hoefer, Histoire de la Chimie, Paris, 1843, vol. i,
p. 381. For theological views of science in the Middle Ages, and
rejoicing thereat, see Pouchet, Hist. des Sci. Nat. au Moyen Age,
ubi supra. Pouchet says: " En general au milieu du moyen age les
sciences sont essentiellement chretiennes, leur but est tout-a-
fait religieux, et elles sembent beaucoup moins s'inquieter de
l'avancement intellectuel de l'homme que de son salut eternel."
Pouchet calls this "conciliation" into a "harmonieux ensemble"
"la plus glorieuse des conquetes intellectuelles du moyen age."
Pouchet belongs to Rouen, and the shadow of the Rouen Cathedral
seems thrown over all his history. See, also, l'Abbe Rohrbacher,
Hist. de l'Eglise Catholique, Paris, 1858, vol. xviii, pp. 421 et
seq. The abbe dilates upon the fact that "the Church organizes
the agreement of all the sciences by the labours of St. Thomas of
Aquin and his contemporaries." For the complete subordination of
science to theology by St. Thomas, see Eicken, chap. vi. For the
theological character of science in the Middle Ages, recognised
by a Protestant philosophic historian, see the well-known passage
in Guizot, History of Civilization in Europe; and by a noted
Protestant ecclesiatic, see Bishop Hampden's Life of Thomas
Aquinas, chaps. xxxvi, xxxvii; see also Hallam, Middle Ages,
chap. ix. For dealings of Pope John XXII, of the Kings of France
and England, and of the Republic of Venice, see Figuier,
L'Alchimie et la Alchimistes, pp. 140, 141, where, in a note, the
text of the bull Spondet paritur is given. For popular legends
regarding Albert and St. Thomas, see Eliphas Levi, Hist. de la
Magie, liv. iv, chap. iv.

The theological path thus opened by these strong men became the
main path for science during ages, and it led the world ever
further and further from any fruitful fact or useful method.
Roger Bacon's investigations already begun were discredited:
worthless mixtures of scriptural legends with imperfectly
authenticated physical facts took their place. Thus it was that
for twelve hundred years the minds in control of Europe regarded
all real science as FUTILE, and diverted the great current of
earnest thought into theology.

The next stage in this evolution was the development of an idea
which acted with great force throughout the Middle Ages--the idea
that science is DANGEROUS. This belief was also of very ancient
origin. From the time when the Egyptian magicians made their
tremendous threat that unless their demands were granted they
would reach out to the four corners of the earth, pull down the
pillars of heaven, wreck the abodes of the gods above and crush
those of men below, fear of these representatives of science is
evident in the ancient world.

But differences in the character of magic were recognised, some
sorts being considered useful and some baleful. Of the former
was magic used in curing diseases, in determining times
auspicious for enterprises, and even in contributing to
amusement; of the latter was magic used to bring disease and
death on men and animals or tempests upon the growing crops.
Hence gradually arose a general distinction between white magic,
which dealt openly with the more beneficent means of nature, and
black magic, which dealt secretly with occult, malignant powers.

Down to the Christian era the fear of magic rarely led to any
persecution very systematic or very cruel. While in Greece and

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