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Title: A Short History of Freethought Ancient and Modern, Volume 1 of 2 - Third edition, Revised and Expanded, in two volumes
Author: Robertson, John M.
Language: English
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                            A SHORT HISTORY
                                   OF
                              FREETHOUGHT

                           ANCIENT AND MODERN



                                   BY
                           JOHN M. ROBERTSON



                  THIRD EDITION, REVISED AND EXPANDED

                             IN TWO VOLUMES

                                 Vol. I

        (ISSUED FOR THE RATIONALIST PRESS ASSOCIATION, LIMITED)

                                London:
                              WATTS & CO.,
                  JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET, E.C.

                                  1915



                                   TO
                          SYDNEY ANSELL GIMSON



CONTENTS


VOLUME I

                                                            PAGE

    Preface                                                   xi

    Chap. I--Introductory

        § 1. Origin and Meaning of the word Freethought        1
        § 2. Previous histories                               10
        § 3. The Psychology of Freethinking                   15

    Chap. II--Primitive Freethinking                          22

    Chap. III--Progress under Ancient Religions

        § 1. Early Association and Competition of Cults       44
        § 2. The Process in India                             48
        § 3. Mesopotamia                                      61
        § 4. Ancient Persia                                   65
        § 5. Egypt                                            69
        § 6. Phoenicia                                        78
        § 7. Ancient China                                    82
        § 8. Mexico and Peru                                  88
        § 9. The Common Forces of Degeneration                91

    Chap. IV--Relative Freethought in Israel

        § 1. The Early Hebrews                                97
        § 2. The manipulated prophetic literature            104
        § 3. The Post-Exilic Literature                      109

    Chap. V--Freethought in Greece                           120

        § 1. Beginnings of Ionic Culture                     123
        § 2. Homer, Stesichoros, Pindar, and Æschylus        126
        § 3. The Culture-Conditions                          134
        § 4. From Thales to the Eleatic School               136
        § 5. Pythagoras and Magna Graecia                    148
        § 6. Anaxagoras, Perikles, and Aspasia               152
        § 7. From Demokritos to Euripides                    157
        § 8. Sokrates, Plato, and Aristotle                  168
        § 9. Post-Alexandrian Greece: Ephoros, Pyrrho,
             Zeno, Epicurus, Theodorus, Diagoras, Stilpo,
             Bion, Strato, Evêmeros, Carneades, Clitomachos;
             The Sciences; Advance and Decline of Astronomy;
             Lucian, Sextus Empiricus, Polybius, Strabo;
             Summary                                         180

    Chap. VI--Freethought in ancient Rome

        § 1. Culture Beginnings, to Ennius and the Greeks    194
        § 2. Lucretius, Cicero, Cæsar                        201
        § 3. Decline under the Empire                        207
        § 4. The higher Pagan ethics                         215

    Chap. VII--Ancient Christianity and its Opponents

        § 1. Freethought in the Gospels: contradictory
             forces                                          218
        § 2. The Epistles: their anti-rationalism            224
        § 3. Anti-pagan rationalism. The Gnostics            224
        § 4. Rationalistic heresy. Arius. Pelagius.
             Jovinian. Aerius. Vigilantius. The religious
             wars                                            229
        § 5. Anti-Christian thought: its decline. Celsus.
             Last lights of critical thought. Macrobius.
             Theodore. Photinus. The expulsion of science.
             The appropriation of pagan endowments           235
        § 6. The intellectual and moral decadence. Boethius  243

    Chap. VIII--Freethought under Islam

        § 1. Mohammed and his contemporaries.
             Early "Zendekism"                               248
        § 2. The Influence of the Koran                      252
        § 3. Saracen freethought in the East. The
             Motazilites. The Spread of Culture.
             Intellectual Collapse                           253
        § 4. Al-Ma'arri and Omar Khayyám. Sufîism            261
        § 5. Arab Philosophy and Moorish freethought.
             Avempace. Abubacer. Averroës. Ibn Khaldun       266
        § 6. Rationalism in later Islam. Sufîism. Bâbism in
             contemporary Persia. Freethinking in Mohammedan
             India and Africa                                272

    Chap. IX--Christendom in the Middle Ages                 277

        § 1. Heresy in Byzantium. Iconoclasm. Leo. Photius.
             Michael. The early Paulicians                   277
        § 2. Critical Heresy in the West. Vergilius.
             Claudius. Agobard. John Scotus. The case of
             Gottschalk. Berengar. Roscelin. Nominalism and
             Realism. Heresy in Florence and in France       282
        § 3. Popular Anti-Clerical Heresy. The Paulicians
             (Cathari) in Western Europe: their anticipation
             of Protestantism. Abuses of the Church and
             papacy. Vogue of anti-clerical heresy. Peter
             de Brueys. Eudo. Paterini. Waldenses            291
        § 4. Heresy in Southern France. The crusade against
             Albigensian heresy. Arrest of Provençal
             civilization: Rise and character of the
             Inquisition                                     299
        § 5. Freethought in the Schools. The problem set to
             Anselm. Roscelin. Nominalism and Realism.
             Testimony of Giraldus Cambrensis: Simon of
             Tournay. William of Conches. Abailard. John of
             Salisbury                                       307
        § 6. Saracen and Jewish Influences. Maimonides. Ibn
             Ezra. Averroïsts. Amalrich. David of Dinant.
             Thomas Aquinas. Unbelief at Paris University.
             Suppressive action of the Church. Judicial
             torture                                         315
        § 7. Freethought in Italy. Anti-clericalism in
             Florence. Frederick II. Michael Scotus. Dante's
             views. Pietro of Abano. Brunetto Latini. Cecco
             Stabili. Boccaccio. Petrarch. Averroïsm         322
        § 8. Sects and Orders. Italian developments. The
             Brethren of the Free Spirit. Beghards, etc.
             Franciscans. Humiliati. Abbot Joachim.
             Segarelli and Dolcino                           331
        § 9. Thought in Spain. Arab influences. Heresy under
             Alfonso X. The first Inquisition. Arnaldo of
             Villanueva. Enrique IV. Pedro do Osma. The New
             Inquisition. The causes of Spanish evolution    337
       § 10. Thought in England. Roger Bacon. Chaucer.
             Items in Piers Ploughman. Lollardry. Wiclif     342
       § 11. Thought in France. François de Rues. Jean de
             Meung. Reynard the Fox. Paris university. The
             sects. The Templars. William of Occam. Marsiglio.
             Pierre Aureol. Nominalism and Realism. "Double
             truth." Unbelief in the Paris schools           351
       § 12. Thought in the Teutonic Countries. The
             Minnesingers. Walter der Vogelweide. Master
             Eckhart. Sects. The Imitatio Christi            361

    Chap. X--Freethought in the Renaissance

        § 1. The Italian Evolution. Saracen Sources.
             Anti-clericalism. Discredit of the Church.
             Lorenzo Valla. Masuccio. Pulci. Executions
             for blasphemy. Averroïsm. Nifo. Unbelief at
             Rome. Leonardo da Vinci. Platonism. Pico della
             Mirandola. Machiavelli. Guicciardini. Belief
             in witchcraft. Pomponazzi. Pomponio Leto. The
             survival of Averroïsm. Jewish freethought       365
        § 2. The French Evolution. Desperiers. Rabelais.
             Dolet. The Vaudois massacres. Unbelieving
             Churchmen. Marguerite of Navarre. Ronsard.
             Bodin. Vallée. Estienne. Pleas for tolerance.
             Revival of Stoicism                             379
        § 3. The English Evolution. Reginald Pecock. Duke
             Humphrey. Unbelief in immortality               393
        § 4. The Remaining European Countries. Nicolaus of
             Cusa. Hermann van Ryswyck. Astrology and
             science. Summary                                398

    Chap. XI--The Reformation Politically Considered

        § 1. The German Conditions. The New Learning.
             Economic Causation                              403
        § 2. The Problem in Italy, Spain, and the
             Netherlands. Savonarola. Catholic reaction.
             The New Inquisition. Heresy in Italy. Its
             suppression. The Index Expurgatorius. Italian
             and northern "character"                        407
        § 3. The Hussite Failure in Bohemia. Early
             anti-clericalism. Militz and his school. Huss
             and Jerome. The Taborite wars. Helchitsky       415
        § 4. Anti-Papalism in Hungary. Early
             anti-clericalism. Rapid success of the
             Reformation. Its decline. New heresy.
             Socinianism. Biandrata. Davides. Recovery
             of the Church                                   419
        § 5. Protestantism in Poland. Early anti-clericalism.
             Inroad of Protestantism. Growth of Unitarianism.
             Goniondzki. Pauli. Catholic reaction            422
        § 6. The Struggle in France. Attitude of King
             Francis. Economic issues. Pre-Lutheran
             Protestantism. Persecution. Berquin. Protestant
             violences. Fortunes of the cause in France      427
        § 7. The Political Process in Britain. England not
             specially anti-papal. The causation. Henry's
             divorce. Spoliation                             431

    Chap. XII--The Reformation and Freethought

        § 1. Germany and Switzerland. Mutianus. Crotus.
             Bebel. Rise of Unitarianism. Luther and
             Melanchthon. Their anti-democratic politics.
             Their dogmatism. Zwingli. Calvin and his
             victims. Gruet. The Libertini. Servetus.
             Gripaldi. Calvin's polity. Ochino. Anthoine.
             Moral failure of Protestantism                  434
        § 2. England. Henry and Wolsey. Advanced heresy.
             Persecution. Sir Thomas More                    458
        § 3. The Netherlands. Calvinism and Arminianism.
             Reaction towards Catholicism. Barneveldt.
             Grotius                                         461
        § 4. Conclusion. The intellectual failure. Indirect
             gains to freedom                                464

    Chap. XIII.--The Rise of Modern Freethought

        § 1. The Italian Influence. Deism. Unitarianism.
             Latitudinarianism. Aconzio. Nizolio. Pereira    466
        § 2. Spain. Huarte                                   470
        § 3. France. Treatises against atheism: De Mornay.
             New skepticism: Sanchez. Montaigne. Charron.
             The Satyre-Menippée. Garasse on the Beaux
             Esprits. Mersenne's attack                      473



PREFACE


This, the third edition, represents a considerable expansion of the
second (1906), which in its turn was a considerable expansion of the
first (1899). The book now somewhat approximates, in point of fullness,
to the modest ideal aimed at. Anything much fuller would cease to be a
"Short History."

The process of revision, carried on since the last issue, has,
I hope, meant some further advance towards correctness, and some
improvement in arrangement--a particularly difficult matter in such
a book. As before, the many critical excursus have been so printed
that they may be recognized and skipped by those readers who care
to follow only the narrative. The chapter on the nineteenth century,
though much expanded, like those on the eighteenth, remains, I fear,
open to objection on the score of scantiness. I can only plead that
the ample and excellent work of Mr. A. W. Benn has now substantially
met the need for a fuller survey of that period.

It is fitting that I should acknowledge the generous critical
reception given by most reviewers to the previous editions of a
book which, breaking as it did new ground, lacked the gain from
previous example that accrues to most historical writing. My many
debts to historians of culture are, I trust, indicated in the notes;
but I have to repeat my former acknowledgments as to the Biographical
Dictionary of Freethinkers of my dead friend, J. M. Wheeler, inasmuch
as the aid I have had from his manifold research does not thus appear
on the surface.

It remains to add my thanks to a number of friendly correspondents
who have assisted me by pointing out shortcomings and errors. Further
assistance of the same kind will be gratefully welcomed. It is still
my hope that the book may help some more leisured student in the
construction of a more massive record of the development of rational
thought on the side of human life with which it deals.

An apology is perhaps due to the purchasers of the second edition,
which is now superseded by a fuller record. I can but plead that I
have been unable otherwise to serve their need; and express a hope
that the low price of the present edition will be a compensation.


    J. M. R.

        September, 1914.



A SHORT HISTORY OF FREETHOUGHT


CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY


§ 1. ORIGIN AND MEANING OF THE WORD

The words "freethinking" and "freethinker" first appear in English
literature about the end of the seventeenth century, and seem to
have originated there and then, as we do not find them earlier in
French or in Italian, [1] the only other modern literatures wherein
the phenomena for which the words stand had previously arisen.


The title of "atheist" had been from time immemorial applied to every
shade of serious heresy by the orthodox, as when the early Christians
were so described by the image-adoring polytheists around them; and
in Latin Christendom the term infidelis, translating the apistos
of the New Testament, which primarily applied to Jews and pagans,
[2] was easily extensible, as in the writings of Augustine, to all
who challenged or doubted articles of ordinary Christian belief,
all alike being regarded as consigned to perdition. [3] It is by
this line of descent that the term "infidelity," applied to doubt
on such doctrines as that of the future state, comes up in England
in the fifteenth century. [4] It implied no systematic or critical
thinking. The label of "deist," presumably self-applied by the bearers,
begins to come into use in French about the middle of the sixteenth
century; [5] and that of "naturalist," also presumably chosen by
those who bore it, came into currency about the same time. Lechler
traces the latter term in the Latin form as far back as the MS. of
the Heptaplomeres of Bodin, dated 1588; but it was common before that
date, as De Mornay in the preface to his De la Vérité de la religion
chrétienne (1581) declaims "against the false naturalists (that is
to say, professors of the knowledge of nature and natural things)";
and Montaigne in one of his later essays (1588) has the phrase "nous
autres naturalistes." [6] Apart from these terms, those commonly
used in French in the seventeenth century were bel esprit (sometimes,
though not necessarily, connoting unbelief), esprit fort and libertin,
the latter being used in the sense of a religious doubter by Corneille,
Molière, and Bayle. [7]

It seems to have first come into use as one of the hostile names
for the "Brethren of the Free Spirit," a pantheistic and generally
heretical sect which became prominent in the thirteenth century,
and flourished widely, despite destructive persecution, till the
fifteenth. Their doctrine being antinomian, and their practice
often extravagant, they were accused by Churchmen of licentiousness,
so that in their case the name Libertini had its full latitude of
application. In the sixteenth century the name of Libertines is found
borne, voluntarily or otherwise, by a similar sect, probably springing
from some remnant of the first, but calling themselves Spirituales,
who came into notice in Flanders, were favoured in France by Marguerite
of Navarre, sister of Francis I, and became to some extent associated
with sections of the Reformed Church. They were attacked by Calvin
in the treatise Contre la sects fanatique et furieuse des Libertins
(1544 and 1545). [8] The name of Libertini was not in the sixteenth
century applied by any Genevese writer to any political party; [9]
but by later historians it was in time either fastened on or adopted
by the main body of Calvin's opponents in Geneva, who probably included
some members of the sect or movement in question. They were accused by
him of general depravity, a judgment not at all to be acquiesced in,
in view of the controversial habits of the age; though they probably
included antinomian Christians and libertines in the modern sense,
as well as orthodox lovers of freedom and orderly non-Christians. As
the first Brethren of the Free Spirit, so-called, seem to have
appeared in Italy (where they are supposed to have derived, like
the Waldenses, from the immigrant Paulicians of the Eastern Church),
the name Libertini presumably originated there. But in Renaissance
Italy an unbeliever seems usually to have been called simply ateo,
or infedele, or pagano. "The standing phrase was non aver fede." [10]

In England, before and at the Reformation, both "infidel" and
"faithless" usually had the theological force of "non-Christian." Thus
Tyndale says of the Turks that though they "knowledge one God," yet
they "have erred and been faithless these eight hundred years"; adding
the same of the Jews. [11] Throughout Elizabeth's reign, "infidel"
seems thus to have commonly signified only a "heathen" or Jew or
Mohammedan. Bishop Jewel, for instance, writes that the Anglo-Saxon
invaders of Britain "then were infidels"; [12] and the word appears to
be normally used in that sense, or with a playful force derived from
that, by the divines, poets, and dramatists, including Shakespeare,
as by Milton in his verse. [13] Ben Jonson has the phrase:


                                I did not expect
        To meet an infidel, much less an atheist,
        Here in Love's list. [14]


One or two earlier writers, [15] indeed, use "infidel" in the modern
sense; and it was at times so used by early Elizabethans. [16]
But Foxe brackets together "Jews, Turks, or infidels"; [17] and
Hooper, writing in 1547, speaks, like Jewel, of the heathen as
"the infidels." [18] Hooker (1553-1600), in his Fifth Sermon, § 9,
[19] uses the word somewhat indefinitely, but in his margin makes
"Pagans and Infidels" equivalent to "Pagans and Turks." So also,
in the Ecclesiastical Polity, [20] "infidels" means men of another
religion. On the title-page of Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft
(1574), on the other hand, we have "the infidelitie of atheists";
but so late as 1600 we find "J. H." [John Healy], the translator of
Augustine's City of God, rendering infideles and homines infideles by
"unbelievers." [21] "Infidelity," in the modern sense, occurs in Sir
T. Browne. [22]


In England, as in the rest of Europe, however, the phenomenon of
freethought had existed, in specific form, long before it could express
itself in propagandist writings, or find any generic name save those of
atheism and infidelity; and the process of naming was as fortuitous
as it generally is in matters of intellectual evolution. Phrases
approximating to "free thought" occur soon after the Restoration. Thus
Glanvill repeatedly writes sympathetically of "free philosophers"
[23] and "free philosophy." [24] In 1667 we find Sprat, the historian
of the Royal Society, describing the activity of that body as having
arisen or taken its special direction through the conviction that in
science, as in warfare, better results had been obtained by a "free
way" than by methods not so describable. [25] As Sprat is careful to
insist, the members of the Royal Society, though looked at askance
by most of the clergy [26] and other pietists, were not as such to be
classed as unbelievers, the leading members being strictly orthodox;
but a certain number seem to have shown scant concern for religion;
[27] and while it was one of the Society's first rules not to debate
any theological question whatever, [28] the intellectual atmosphere of
the time was such that some among those who followed the "free way"
in matters of natural science would be extremely likely to apply it
to more familiar problems. [29] At the same period we find Spinoza
devoting his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) to the advocacy of
libertas philosophandi; and such a work was bound to have a general
European influence. It was probably, then, a result of such express
assertion of the need and value of freedom in the mental life that
the name "freethinker" came into English use in the last quarter of
the century.


    Before "deism" came into English vogue, the names for unbelief,
    even deistic, were simply "infidelity" and "atheism"--e.g.,
    Bishop Fotherby's Atheomastix (1622), Baxter's Unreasonableness
    of Infidelity (1655) and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1667),
    passim. Bishop Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist (1677) appears to
    be the first published attack on deism by name. His Origines Sacræ
    (1662) deals chiefly with deistic views, but calls unbelievers
    in general "atheists." Cudworth, in his True Intellectual System
    of the Universe (written 1671, published 1678), does not speak
    of deism, attacking only atheism, and was himself suspected of
    Socinianism. W. Sherlock, in his Practical Discourse of Religious
    Assemblies (2nd ed., 1682), attacks "atheists and infidels," but
    says nothing of "deists." That term, first coined, as we have
    seen, in French, seems first to have found common currency in
    France--e.g., on the title-pages of the apologetic works of Marin
    Mersenne, 1623 and 1624. The term "atheist" was often applied at
    random at this period; but atheism did exist.


When the orthodox Boyle pushed criticism in physical science under
such a title as The Sceptical Chemist, the principle could not well be
withheld from application to religion; and it lay in the nature of the
case that the name "freethinker," like that of "skeptic," should come
to attach itself specially to those who doubted where doubt was most
resented and most resisted. At length the former term became specific.

In the meantime the word "rationalist," which in English has latterly
tended to become the prevailing name for freethinkers, had made its
appearance, without securing much currency. In a London news-letter
dated October 14, 1646, it is stated, concerning the Presbyterians
and Independents, that "there is a new sect sprung up among them,
and these are the rationalists; and what their reason dictates to
them in Church or State stands for good until they be convinced
with better." [30] On the Continent, the equivalent Latin term
(rationalista) had been applied about the beginning of the century to
the Aristotelian humanists of the Helmstadt school by their opponents,
[31] apparently in the same sense as that in which Bacon used the
term rationales in his Redargutio Philosophiarum--"Rationales autem,
aranearum more, telas ex se conficiunt." Under this title he contrasts
(as spiders spinning webs out of themselves) the mere Aristotelean
speculators, who framed à priori schemes of Nature, with empiricists,
who, "like ants, collect something and use it," preferring to both the
"bees" who should follow the ideal method prescribed by himself. [32]
There is here no allusion to heterodox opinion on religion. [Bishop
Hurst, who (perhaps following the Apophthegms) puts a translation
of Bacon's words, with "rationalists" for rationales, as one of the
mottoes of his History of Rationalism, is thus misleading his readers
as to Bacon's meaning.] In 1661 John Amos Comenius, in his Theologia
Naturalis, applies the name rationalista to the Socinians and deists;
without, however, leading to its general use in that sense. Later
we shall meet with the term in English discussions between 1680 and
1715, applied usually to rationalizing Christians; but as a name
for opponents of orthodox religion it was for the time superseded,
in English, by "freethinker."

In the course of the eighteenth century the term was adopted in other
languages. The first French translation (1714) of Collins's Discourse
of Freethinking is entitled Discours sur la liberté de penser; and the
term "freethinkers" is translated on the title-page by esprit fort,
and in the text by a periphrasis of liberté de penser. Later in the
century, however, we find Voltaire in his correspondence frequently
using the substantive franc-pensant, a translation of the English term
which subsequently gave way to libre penseur. The modern German term
Freigeist, found as early as 1702 in the allusion to "Alten Quäcker
und neuen Frey-Geister" on the title-page of the folio Anabaptisticum
et Enthusiasticum Pantheon, probably derives from the old "Brethren
of the Free Spirit"; while Schöngeist arose as a translation of bel
esprit. In the middle of the eighteenth century Freidenker came into
German use as a translation of the English term.


    In a general sense "free thoughts" was a natural expression,
    and we have it in Ben Jonson: "Being free master of mine own free
    thoughts." [33] But not till about the year 1700 did the phrase
    begin to have a special application to religious matters. The
    first certain instance thus far noted of the use of the term
    "freethinker" is in a letter of Molyneux to Locke, dated April 6,
    1697, [34] where Toland is spoken of as a "candid freethinker." In
    an earlier letter, dated December 24, 1695, Molyneux speaks of
    a certain book on religion as somewhat lacking in "freedom of
    thought"; [35] and in Burnet's Letters [36] occurs still earlier
    the expression "men ... of freer thoughts." In the New English
    Dictionary a citation is given from the title-page of S. Smith's
    brochure, The Religious Impostor ... dedicated to Doctor S-l-m-n
    and the rest of the new Religious Fraternity of Freethinkers,
    near Leather-Sellers' Hall. Printed ... in the first year of
    Grace and Freethinking, conjecturally dated 1692. It is thought to
    refer to the sect of "Freeseekers" mentioned in Luttrell's Brief
    Historical Relation (iii, 56) under date 1693. In that case it is
    not unbelievers that are in question. So in Shaftesbury's Inquiry
    Concerning Virtue (first ed. 1699) the expression "freethought"
    has a general and not a particular sense; [37] and in Baker's
    Reflections upon Learning, also published in 1699, in the remark:
    "After the way of freethinking had been lai'd open by my Lord
    Bacon, it was soon after greedily followed"; [38] the reference
    is, of course, to scientific and not to religious thought.

    But in Shaftesbury's Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour
    (1709) the phrases "free-writers" and "a freethought" [39]
    have reference to "advanced" opinions, though in his letters to
    Ainsworth (May 10, 1707) he had written, "I am glad to find your
    love of reason and freethought. Your piety and virtue I know you
    will always keep." [40] Compare the Miscellaneous Reflections
    (v, 3) in the Characteristics [41] (1711), where the tendency to
    force the sense from the general to the special is incidentally
    illustrated. Shaftesbury, however, includes the term "free liver"
    among the "naturally honest appellations" that have become
    opprobrious.

    In Swift's Sentiments of a Church of England Man (1708) the
    specialized word is found definitely and abusively connoting
    religious unbelief: "The atheists, libertines, despisers
    of religion--that is to say, all those who usually pass under
    the name of freethinkers"; Steele and Addison so use it in the
    Tatler in 1709; [42] and Leslie so uses the term in his Truth of
    Christianity Demonstrated (1711). The anonymous essay, Réflexions
    sur les grands hommes qui sont morts en plaisantant, by Deslandes
    (Amsterdam, 1712), is translated in English (1713) as Reflections
    on the Death of Free-thinkers, and the translator uses the term
    in his prefatory Letter to the Author, beside putting it in the
    text (pp. 50, 85, 97, 102, 106, etc.), where the original had
    esprit fort.


It was not till 1713, however, that Anthony Collins's Discourse
of Freethinking, occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect called
Freethinkers, gave the word a universal notoriety, and brought it into
established currency in controversy, with the normal significance of
"deist," Collins having entirely repudiated atheism. Even after this
date, and indeed in full conformity with the definition in Collins's
opening sentence, Ambrose Philips took The Freethinker as the title
of a weekly journal (begun in 1718) on the lines of the Spectator,
with no heterodox leaning, [43] the contributors including Boulter,
afterwards Archbishop of Dublin, and the son of Bishop Burnet. But
despite this attempt to keep the word "freethinking" as a name for
simple freedom from prejudice in secular affairs, the tendency to
specialize it as aforesaid was irresistible. As names go, it was on
the whole a good one; and the bitterness with which it was generally
handled on the orthodox side showed that its implicit claim was felt
to be disturbing, though some antagonists of course claimed from the
first that they were as "free" under the law of right reason as any
skeptic. [44] At this time of day the word may be allowed prescriptive
standing, as having no more drawbacks than most other names for schools
of thought or attitudes of mind, and as having been admitted into most
European languages. The question-begging element is not greater in this
than in many other terms of similar intention, such as "rationalism";
and it incurs no such charge of absurdity as lies against the invidious
religious term, "infidelity." The term "infidel" invites "fidel."

A plausible objection may, indeed, arise on the score that such a term
as "freethought" should not be set up by thinkers who almost invariably
reject the term "freewill"--the rationalistic succession having for two
hundred and fifty years been carried on mainly by determinists. But
the issues raised by the two terms are on wholly different planes;
and while in both cases the imperfection of the instrument of language
is apparent, it is not in the present case a cause of psychological
confusion, as it is in the discussion of the nature of will. The
freewill fallacy consists in applying universally to the process
of judgment and preference (which is a process of natural causation
like another) a conception relevant only to human or animal action,
as interfered with or unaffected by extraneous compulsion. To the
processes of nature, organic or inorganic, the concepts "free" and
"bond" are equally irrelevant: a tiger is no more "free" to crave
for grass and recoil from flesh than is water to flow uphill; while,
on the other hand, such "appetites" are not rationally to be described
as forms of bondage. Only as a mode distinguishable from its contrary
can "freedom" be predicated of any procedure, and it is so predicated
of actions; whereas the whole category of volitions is alleged and
denied by the verbal disputants to be "free." Some attempt to save the
case by distinguishing between free and alleged "unfree" volitions;
but the latter are found to be simply cases of choices dictated
by intense need, as in the case of deadly thirst. The difference,
therefore, is only one of degree of impulse, not in the fact of choice.

The term "freewill," therefore, is irrational, as being wholly
irrelevant to the conception of volition. But "freethought," on the
other hand, points to an actual difference in degree of employment of
the faculty of criticism. The proposition is that some men think more
"freely" than others in that they are (a) not terrorized by any veto
on criticism, and (b) not hampered, or less hampered, by ignorant
pre-suppositions. In both cases there is a real discrimination. There
is no allegation that, absolutely speaking, "thought is free" in
the sense of the orthodox formula; on the contrary, it is asserted
that the rationalist's critical course is specifically determined
by his intellectual structure and his preparation, and that it is
sometimes different structure, but more often different preparation,
that determines the anti-critical or counter-critical attitude of the
believer. Change in the preparation, it is contended, will put the
latter in fuller use of his potential resources; his inculcated fear
of doubt and docility of assent being simply acquiescences in vetoes
on his attention to certain matters for reflection--that is to say,
in arbitrary limitations of his action. It is further implied that the
instructed man, other things being equal, is "freer" to think than
the uninstructed, as being less obstructed; but for the purpose of
our history it is sufficient to posit the discriminations above noted.

The essential thing to be realized is the fact that from its earliest
stages humanity has suffered from conventional or traditionary
hindrances to the use of judgment. This holds good even as to the early
play of the simple inventive faculty, all innovations in implements
being met by the inertia of habit; and when men reached the stages
of ritual practice, social construction, and religious doctrine,
the forces of repression became powerful in proportion to the
seriousness of the problem. It is only in modern times that freedom
in these relations has come to be generally regarded as permissible;
and it has always been over questions of religion that the strife
has been keenest.

For practical purposes, then, freethought may be defined as a conscious
reaction against some phase or phases of conventional or traditional
doctrine in religion--on the one hand, a claim to think freely, in
the sense not of disregard for logic, but of special loyalty to it,
on problems to which the past course of things has given a great
intellectual and practical importance; on the other hand, the actual
practice of such thinking. This sense, which is substantially agreed
on, will on one or other side sufficiently cover those phenomena of
early or rudimentary freethinking which wear the guise of simple
concrete opposition to given doctrines or systems, whether by way
of special demur or of the obtrusion of a new cult or doctrine. In
either case, the claim to think in a measure freely is implicit in
the criticism or the new affirmation; and such primary movements
of the mind cannot well be separated, in psychology or in history,
from the fully conscious practice of criticism in the spirit of
pure truth-seeking, or from the claim that such free examination
is profoundly important to moral and intellectual health. Modern
freethought, specially so-called, is only one of the developments of
the slight primary capacity of man to doubt, to reason, to improve on
past thinking, to assert his personality as against sacrosanct and
menacing authority. Concretely considered, it has proceeded by the
support and stimulus of successive accretions of actual knowledge;
and the modern consciousness of its own abstract importance emerged
by way of an impression or inference from certain social phenomena, as
well as in terms of self-asserting instinct. There is no break in its
evolution from primitive mental states, any more than in the evolution
of the natural sciences from primitive observation. What particularly
accrues to the state of conscious and systematic discrimination, in
the one case as in the other, is just the immense gain in security
of possession.



§ 2. PREVIOUS HISTORIES

It is somewhat remarkable that in England this phenomenon has thus
far [45] had no general historic treatment save at the hands of
ecclesiastical writers, who, in most cases, have regarded it solely
as a form of more or less perverse hostility to their own creed. The
modern scientific study of religions, which has yielded so many
instructive surveys, almost of necessity excludes from view the
specific play of freethought, which in the religion-making periods
is to be traced rather by its religious results than by any record
of its expression. All histories of philosophy, indeed, in some
degree necessarily recognize it; and such a work as Lange's History
of Materialism may be regarded as part--whether or not sound in its
historical treatment--of a complete history of freethought, dealing
specially with general philosophic problems. But of freethought as a
reasoned revision or rejection of current religious doctrines by more
or less practical people, we have no regular history by a professed
freethinker, though there are many monographs and surveys of periods.


    The latest and freshest sketch of the kind is Professor
    J. B. Bury's brief History of Freedom of Thought (1913), notable
    for the force of its championship of the law of liberty. The useful
    compilation of the late Mr. Charles Watts, entitled Freethought:
    Its Rise, Progress, and Triumph (n. d.), deals with freethought
    in relation only to Christianity. Apart from treatises which
    broadly sketch the development of knowledge and of opinion,
    the nearest approaches to a general historic treatment are the
    Dictionnaire des Athées of Sylvain Maréchal (1800: 3e édit.,
    par J. B. L. Germond, 1853) and the Biographical Dictionary
    of Freethinkers by the late Joseph Mazzini Wheeler. The quaint
    work of Maréchal, expanded by his friend Lalande, exhibits much
    learning, but is made partly fantastic by its sardonic plan of
    including a number of typical religionists (including Job, John,
    and Jesus Christ!), some of whose utterances are held to lead
    logically to atheism. Mr. Wheeler's book is in every respect the
    more trustworthy.

    In excuse of Maréchal's method, it may be noted that the prevailing
    practice of Christian apologists had been to impute atheism to
    heterodox theistic thinkers of all ages. The Historia universalis
    Atheismi et Atheorum falso et merito suspectorum of J. F. Reimmann
    (Hildesiæ, 1725) exhibits this habit both in its criticism and
    in its practice, as do the Theses de Atheismo et Superstitione
    of Buddeus (Trajecti ad Rhenum, 1716). These were the standard
    treatises of their kind for the eighteenth century, and seem to
    be the earliest systematic treatises in the nature of a history
    of freethought, excepting a Historia Naturalismi by A. Tribbechov
    (Jenæ, 1700) and a Historia Atheismi breviter delineata by Jenkinus
    Thomasius (Altdorf, 1692; Basileæ, 1709; London, 1716). In the same
    year with Reimmann's Historia appeared J. A. Fabricius's Delectus
    Argumentorum et Syllabus scriptorum qui veritatem religionis
    Christianæ adversus Atheos, Epicureos, Deistas, seu Naturalistas
    ... asseruerunt (Hamburghi), in which it is contended (cap. viii)
    that many philosophers have been falsely described as atheists;
    but in the Freydenker Lexicon of J. A. Trinius (Leipzig, 1759),
    planned as a supplement to the work of Fabricius, are included
    such writers as Sir Thomas Browne and Dryden.

    The works of the late Rev. John Owen, Evenings with the Skeptics,
    Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance, and Skeptics of the French
    Renaissance, which, though not constituting a literary whole,
    collectively cover a great deal of historical ground, must be
    expressly excepted from the above characterization of clerical
    histories of freethought, in respect of their liberality of
    view. They deal largely, however, with general or philosophical
    skepticism, which is a special development of freethought, often by
    way of reasonings in which many freethinkers do not acquiesce. (All
    strict skeptics, that is to say--as distinguished from religionists
    who profess skepticism up to a certain point by way of making
    a surrender to orthodox dogmatism [46]--are freethinkers;
    but most freethinkers are not strictly skeptics.) The history
    of philosophic skepticism, again, is properly and methodically
    treated in the old work of Carl Friedrich Stäudlin, Geschichte
    und Geist des Skepticismus (2 Bde., Leipzig, 1794), the historic
    survey being divided into six periods: 1, Before Pyrrho; 2, from
    Pyrrho to Sextus; 3, from Sextus to Montaigne; 4, from Montaigne
    to La Mothe le Vayer; 5, from La Mothe le Vayer to Hume; 6, from
    Hume to Kant and Platner. The posthumous work of Émile Saisset,
    Le Scepticisme: Ænésidème--Pascal--Kant (1865), is a fragment of
    a projected complete history of philosophic skepticism.

    Stäudlin's later work, the Geschichte des Rationalismus und
    Supernaturalismus (1826), is a shorter but more general history
    of the strife between general freethought and supernaturalism
    in the Christian world and era. It deals cursorily with the
    intellectual attitude of the early Fathers, the early heretics,
    and the Scholastics; proceeding to a fuller survey of the
    developments since the Reformation, and covering Unitarianism,
    Latitudinarianism, English and French Deism, and German Rationalism
    of different shades down to the date of writing. Stäudlin may be
    described as a rationalizing supernaturalist.

    Like most works on religious and intellectual history written
    from a religious standpoint, those of Stäudlin treat the
    phenomena as it were in vacuo, with little regard to the
    conditioning circumstances, economic and political; critical
    thought being regarded purely as a force proceeding through
    its own proclivities. Saisset is at very much the same point of
    view. Needless to say, valuable work may be done up to a certain
    point on this method, which is seen in full play in Hegel; and
    high praise is due to the learned and thoughtful treatise of
    R. W. Mackay, The Progress of the Intellect as Exemplified in the
    Religious Development of the Greeks and Hebrews (2 vols. 1850),
    where it is partially but ably supplemented by the method of
    inductive science. That method, again, is freshly and forcibly
    applied to a restricted problem in W. A. Schmidt's Geschichte
    der Denk- und Glaubensfreiheit im ersten Jahrhundert der
    Kaiserherrschaft und des Christenthums (1847).

    Later come the Vorgeschichte des Rationalismus (1853-62) and
    Geschichte des Rationalismus (1865) of the theologian Tholuck. Of
    these the latter is unfinished, coming down only to the middle
    of the eighteenth century; while the former does not exactly
    fulfil its title, being composed of a volume (2 Abth. 1853, 1854)
    on Das akademische Leben des 17ten Jahrhunderts, and of one on
    Das kirchliche Leben des 17ten Jahrhunderts (2 Abth. 1861, 1862),
    both being restricted to German developments. They thus give much
    matter extraneous to the subject, and are not exhaustive as to
    rationalism even in Germany. Hagenbach's Die Kirchengeschichte
    des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (2 Th. 1848, 1849), a series of
    lectures, translated in English, abridged, under the title German
    Rationalism in its Rise, Progress, and Decline (1865), conforms
    fairly to the latter title, save as regards the last clause.

    Of much greater scholarly merit is the Geschichte der religiösen
    Aufklärung im Mittelalter, vom Ende des achten Jahrhunderts bis
    zum Anfange des vierzehnten, by Hermann Reuter (1875, 1877). This
    is at once learned, judicious, and impartial. Its definition of
    "Aufklärung" is substantially in agreement with the working
    definition of Freethought given above.

    Among other surveys of periods of innovating thought, as
    distinguished from histories of ecclesiastical heresy, or
    histories of "religious" or theological thought which only
    incidentally deal with heterodox opinion, should be noted the
    careful Geschichte des englischen Deismus of G. F. Lechler
    (1841); the slighter sketch of E. Sayous, Les déistes anglais
    et le Christianisme (1882); the somewhat diffuse work of
    Cesare Cantù, Gli eretici d'Italia (3 tom. 1865-67); the very
    intelligent study of Felice Tocco, L'Eresia nel medio evo (1884);
    Schmidt's Histoire des Cathares (2 tom. 1849); Chr. U. Hahn's
    learned Geschichte der Ketzer im Mittelalter (3 Bde. 1845-50);
    and the valuable research of F. T. Perrens, Les Libertins en
    France au xviie siècle (1896). A similar scholarly research for
    the eighteenth century in France is still lacking, and the many
    monographs on the more famous freethinkers leave a good deal
    of literary history in obscurity. Such a research has been very
    painstakingly made for England in the late Sir Leslie Stephen's
    History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (2 vols.,
    2nd ed., 1881), which, however, ignores scientific thought. One
    of the best monographs of the kind is La Critique des traditions
    religieuses chez les Grecs, des origines au temps de Plutarque,
    by Professor Paul Decharme (1904), a survey at once scholarly
    and attractive. The brilliant treatise of Mr. F. M. Cornford,
    From Religion to Philosophy (1912), sketches on more speculative
    lines the beginnings of Greek rationalism in Ionia. The Geschichte
    des Monismus im Altertum of Prof. Dr. A. Drews (1913) is a wide
    survey, of great synthetic value.

    Contributions to the general history of freethought, further,
    have been made in the works of J. W. Draper (A History of the
    Intellectual Development of Europe, 2 vols, 1861, many reprints;
    and History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, 1873,
    many reprints), both full of suggestion and stimulus, but requiring
    thorough revision as to detail; in the famous Introduction
    to the History of Civilization in England of H. T. Buckle (2
    vols. 1857-61; new ed. in 1 vol. with annotations by the present
    writer, 1904); in the History of the Rise and Influence of the
    Spirit of Rationalism in Europe of W. E. H. Lecky (2 vols. 1865;
    R. P. A. rep. 1910), who was of Buckle's school, but fell below
    him in point of coherence; in the comprehensive History of the
    Warfare of Science with Theology of Professor Andrew D. White (2
    vols. 1896--a great expansion of his earlier essay, The Warfare of
    Science, 2nd ed. 1877); and in the essay of Mr. E. S. P. Haynes,
    Religious Persecution: A Study in Political Psychology (1904;
    R. P. A. rep. 1906), as well as in many histories of philosophy
    and of sciences.

    The so-called History of Rationalism of the American Bishop
    J. F. Hurst, first published in 1865, and "revised" in 1901,
    is in the main a work of odium theologicum, dealing chiefly
    with the evolution of theology and criticism in Germany since
    the Reformation. Even to that purpose it is very inadequate. Its
    preface alleges that "happily the vital body of evangelical truth
    has received only comparatively weak and timorous attacks from the
    more modern representatives of the rank and rabid rationalism which
    reached its climax near the close of the eighteenth, and has had
    a continuous decline through the nineteenth, century." It urges,
    however, as a reason for defensive activity, the consideration that
    "the work of Satan is never planless"; and further pronounces that
    the work of rationalism "must determine its character. This work
    has been most injurious to the faith and life of the Church, and
    its deeds must therefore be its condemnation" (Introd. p. 3). Thus
    the latest approximation to a history of theological rationalism
    by a clerical writer is the most negligible.


In English, apart from studies of given periods and of the progress
of science and culture, the only other approaches to a history of
freethought are those of Bishop Van Mildert, the Rev. J. E. Riddle,
and the Rev. Adam Storey Farrar. Van Mildert's Historical View of the
Rise and Progress of Infidelity [47] constituted the Boyle Lectures for
1802-05; Mr. Riddle's Natural History of Infidelity and Superstition
in Contrast with Christian Faith formed part of his Bampton Lectures
for 1852; and Mr. Farrar produced his Critical History of Freethought
in reference to the Christian Religion as the Bampton Lectures for
1862. All three were men of considerable reading, and their works
give useful bibliographical clues; but the virulence of Van Mildert
deprives his treatise of rational weight; Mr. Riddle, who in any case
professes to give merely a "Natural History" or abstract argument, and
not a history proper, is only somewhat more constrainedly hostile to
"infidelity"; and even Mr. Farrar, the most judicial as well as the
most comprehensive of the three, proceeds on the old assumption that
"unbelief" (from which he charitably distinguishes "doubt") generally
arises from "antagonism of feeling, which wishes revelation untrue"--a
thesis maintained with vehemence by the others. [48]

Writers so placed, indeed, could not well be expected to contemplate
freethought scientifically as an aspect of mental evolution common
to all civilizations, any more than to look with sympathy on the
freethought which is specifically anti-Christian. The annotations to
all three works, certainly, show some consciousness of the need for
another temper and method than that of their text, [49] which is too
obviously, perhaps inevitably, composed for the satisfaction of the
ordinary orthodox animus of their respective periods; but even the best
remains not so much a history as an indictment. In the present sketch,
framed though it be from the rationalistic standpoint, it is proposed
to draw up not a counter indictment, but a more or less dispassionate
account of the main historical phases of freethought, viewed on the
one hand as expressions of the rational or critical spirit, playing on
the subject-matter of religion, and on the other hand as sociological
phenomena conditioned by social forces, in particular the economic
and political. The lack of any previous general survey of a scientific
character will, it is hoped, be taken into account in passing judgment
on its schematic defects as well as its inevitable flaws of detail.



§ 3. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FREETHINKING

Though it is no part of our business here to elaborate the psychology
of doubt and belief, it may be well to anticipate a possible criticism
on the lines of recent psychological speculation, and to indicate
at the outset the practical conception on which the present survey
broadly proceeds. To begin with, the conception of freethinking
implies that of hindrance, resistance, coercion, difficulty;
and as regards objective obstacles the type of all hindrance is
restraint upon freedom of speech or publication. In other words,
all such restraint is a check upon thinking. On reflection it soon
becomes clear that where men dare not say or write what they think,
the very power of thinking is at length impaired in the ablest, while
the natural stimulus to new thought is withdrawn from the rest. No
man can properly develop his mind without contact with other minds,
suggestion and criticism being alike factors in every fruitful mental
evolution; and though for some the atmosphere of personal intercourse
is but slightly necessary to the process of mental construction, even
for these the prospect of promulgation is probably essential to the
undertaking of the task; and the study of other writers is a condition
of useful ratiocination. In any case, it is certain that the exercise
of argument is a condition of intellectual growth. Not one man in
a million will or can argue closely with himself on issues on which
he knows he can say nothing and can never overtly act; and for the
average man all reasoning on great problems is a matter of prompting
from without. The simple fact that the conversation of uneducated
people runs so largely to citation of what "he says" makes clear this
dependence. Each brings something to the common store, and progress
is set up by "pooling" the mass of small intellectual variations or
originalities. Thus in the long run freedom of speech is the measure
of a generation's intellectual capacity; [50] and the promoters of
such freedom are typically the truest servants of progress.

On the other hand, there is still a common disposition to ascribe
to a species of intellectual malice the disturbance that criticism
causes to the holders of established beliefs. Recent writers have
pressed far the theorem that "will" enters as an element into every
mental act, thus giving a momentary appearance of support to the
old formula that unbelief is the result of an arbitrary or sinister
perversity of individual choice. Needless to say, however, the new
theorem--which inverts without refuting Spinoza's denial of the entity
of volition--applies equally to acts of belief; and it is a matter of
the simplest concrete observation that, in so far as will or wilfulness
in the ordinary sense operates in the sphere of religion, it is at
least as obvious and as active on the side of belief [51] as on the
other. A moment's reflection on the historic phenomena of orthodox
resistance to criticism will satisfy any student that, whatever may
have been the stimulus on the side of heresy, the antagonism it arouses
is largely the index of primary passion--the spontaneous resentment
of the believer whose habits are disturbed. His will normally decides
his action, without any process of judicial deliberation.

It is another way of stating the same fact to point out the fallacy
of the familiar assumption that freethinking represents a bias to
"negation." In the nature of the case, the believer has to do at least
as much negation as his opponents; and if again we scan history in
this connection, we shall see cause to conclude that the temperamental
tendency to negation--which is a form of variation like another--is
abundantly common on the side of religious conservatism. Nowhere
is there more habitual opposition to new ideas as such. At best the
believer, so-called, rejects a given proposition or suggestion because
it clashes with something he already believes. The new proposition,
however, has often been reached by way not of preliminary negation of
the belief in question, but of constructive explanation, undertaken to
bring observed facts into theoretic harmony. Thus the innovator has
only contingently put aside the old belief because it clashes with
something he believes in a more vital way; and he has done this with
circumspection, whereas his opponent too often repels him without a
second thought. The phenomena of the rise of the Copernican astronomy,
modern geology, and modern biology, all bear out this generalization.

Nor is the charge of negativeness any more generally valid against
such freethinking as directly assails current doctrines. There may
be, of course, negative-minded people on that side as on the other;
and such may fortuitously do something to promote freethought,
or may damage it in their neighbourhood by their atmosphere. But
everything goes to show that freethinking normally proceeds by way of
intellectual construction--that is, by way of effort to harmonize one
position with another; to modify a special dogma to the general run of
one's thinking. Rationalism stands not for "skepticism" in the strict
philosophic sense, but for a critical effort to reach certainties. The
attitude of pure skepticism on a wide scale is really very rare--much
rarer even than the philosophic effort. So far from freethinkers
being given to "destroying without building up," they are, as a rule,
unable to destroy a dogma either for themselves or for others without
setting a constructive belief in its place--a form of explanation,
that is; such being much more truly a process of construction than
would be the imposition of a new scheme of dogma. In point of fact,
they are often accused, and by the same critics, of an undue tendency
to speculative construction; and the early atheists of Greece and
of the modern period did so err. But that is only a proof the more
that their freethinking was not a matter of arbitrary volition or an
undue negativeness.

The only explanation which ostensibly countervails this is the old
one above glanced at--that the unbeliever finds the given doctrine
troublesome as a restraint, and so determines to reject it. It is
to be feared that this view has survived Mr. A. S. Farrar. Yet it
is very clear that no man need throw aside any faith, and least of
all Christianity, on the ground of its hampering his conduct. To say
nothing of the fact that in every age, under every religion, at every
stage of culture from that of the savage to that of the supersubtle
decadent or mystic, men have practised every kind of misconduct without
abandoning their supernatural credences--there is the special fact that
the whole Christian system rests on the doctrine of forgiveness of sins
to the believer. The theory of "wilful" disbelief on the part of the
reprobate is thus entirely unplausible. Such disbelief in the terms
of the case would be uneasy, as involving an element of incertitude;
and his fear of retribution could never be laid. On the other hand,
he has but inwardly to avow himself a sinner and a believer, and he
has the assurance that repentance at the last moment will outweigh
all his sins.

It is not, of course, suggested that such is the normal or frequent
course of believing Christians; but it has been so often enough to make
the "libertine" theory of unbelief untenable. Indeed, the singular
diversity between profession and practice among Christians has in
all periods called out declarations by the more fervid believers
that their average fellow-Christians are "practical atheists." More
judicial minds may be set asking instead how far men really "believe"
who do not act on their opinions. As one high authority has put it,
in the Middle Ages the normal opposition of theory and practice
"was peculiarly abrupt. Men's impulses were more violent, and their
conduct more reckless, than is often witnessed in modern society;
while the absence of a criticizing and measuring spirit made them
surrender their minds more unreservedly than they would do now to a
complete and imposing theory.... Resistance to God's Vicar might be,
and indeed was admitted to be, a deadly sin, but it was one which
nobody hesitated to commit." [52] And so with other sins, the sinner
having somewhere in the rear of his consciousness the reflection that
his sins could be absolved.

And, apart from such half-purposive forms of licence among Christians,
there have been countless cases of purposive licence. In all ages
there have been antinomian Christians, [53] whether of the sort that
simply rest on the "seventy times seven" of the Gospel, or of the more
articulately logical kind who dwell on the doctrine of faith versus
works. For the rest, as the considerate theologian will readily see,
insistence on the possibility of a sinister motive for the unbeliever
brings up the equal possibility of a sinister motive on the part of the
convert to Christianity, ancient or modern. At every turn, then, the
charge of perversity of the will recoils on the advocate of belief;
so that it would be the course of common prudence to abandon it,
even were it not in itself, as a rule, so plainly an expression of
irritated bias.

On the other hand, it need not be disputed that unbelief has been
often enough associated with some species of libertinism to give
a passing colour for the pretence of causal connection. The fact,
however, leads us to a less superficial explanation, worth keeping in
view here. Freethinking being taken to be normally a "variation" of
intellectual type in the direction of a critical demand for consistency
and credibility in beliefs, its social assertion will be a matter
on the one side of force of character or degree of recklessness,
and on the other hand of force of circumstances. The intellectual
potentiality and the propagandist purpose will be variously developed
in different men and in different surroundings. If we ask ourselves
how, in general, the critical tendency is to arise or to come into
play, we are almost compelled to suppose a special stimulus as
well as a special faculty. Critical doubt is made possible, broadly
speaking, by the accumulation of ideas or habits of certain kinds
which insensibly undo a previous state of homogeneity of thought. For
instance, a community subsiding into peace and order from a state of
warfare and plunder will at length find the ethic of its daily life
at variance with the conserved ethic of its early religion of human
sacrifice and special family or tribal sanctions; or a community
which has accumulated a certain amount of accurate knowledge of
astronomy will gradually find such knowledge irreconcilable with its
primitive cosmology. A specially gifted person will anticipate the
general movement of thought; but even for him some standing-ground
must be supposed; and for the majority the advance in moral practice
or scientific knowledge is the condition of any effective freethinking.

Between top and bottom, however, there are all grades of vivacity,
earnestness, and courage; and on the side of the normal resistance
there are all varieties of political and economic circumstance. It
follows, then, that the avowed freethinker may be so in virtue either
of special courage or of antecedent circumstances which make the
attitude on his part less courageous. And it may even be granted
to the quietist that the courage is at times that of ill-balanced
judgment or heady temperament; just as it may be conceded to the
conservative that it is at times that which goes with or follows on
disregard of wise ways of life. It is well that the full force of
this position be realized at the outset. When we find, as we shall,
some historic freethinkers displaying either extreme imprudence
or personal indiscipline, we shall be prepared, in terms of this
preliminary questioning, to realize anew that humanity has owed
a great deal to some of its "unbalanced" types; and that, though
discipline is nearly the last word of wisdom, indiscipline may at
times be the morbid accompaniment or excess of a certain openness of
view and spontaneity of action which are more favourable to moral and
intellectual advance than a cold prudence or a safe insusceptibility.

But cold or calm prudence in turn is not a vice; and it is hardly
possible to doubt that there have been in all ages varying numbers of
unbelievers who shrugged their shoulders over the follies of faith,
and declined to tilt against the windmills of fanaticism. There is much
reason for surmising that Shakespeare was a case in point. It is not
to be supposed, then, because some freethinkers who came out into the
open were unbalanced types, that their psychology is the psychology of
freethought, any more than that of General Gordon or Francis of Assisi
is to be reckoned typical on the side of belief. There must have been
myriads of quiet unbelievers, rational all round, whose unbelief was a
strictly intellectual process, undisturbed by temperament. In our own
day such types abound, and it is rather in them than in the abnormal
types of past freethought--the Brunos and the Voltaires--that the
average psychology of freethought is to be looked for and understood.

As for the case of the man who, already at odds with his fellows
in the matter of his conduct, may in some phases of society feel it
the easier to brave them in the matter of his avowed creed, we have
already seen that even this does not convict him of intellectual
dishonesty. And were such cases relatively as numerous as they are
scarce--were the debauched deists even commoner than the vinous Steeles
and Fieldings--the use of the fact as an argument would still be an
oblique course on the side of a religion which claims to have found
its first and readiest hearing among publicans and sinners. For the
rest, the harm done in the world's history by unbalanced freethinkers
is as dust in the balance against the immeasurable evil deliberately
wrought on serious religious motives, to say nothing of the constant
deviation of the mass of believers from their own professed code.

It may, finally, help a religious reader to a judicial view of the
phenomenon of freethought if he is reminded that every step forward in
the alleged historic evolution of his own creed would depend, in the
case put, on the existence of persons capable of rejecting a current
and prevailing code in favour of one either denounced as impious or
marked off by circumstances as dangerous. The Israelites in Egypt,
the prophets and their supporters, the Gospel Jesus and his adherents,
all ostensibly stand in some degree for positions of "negation,"
of hardy innovation, of disregard to things and persons popularly
venerated; wherefore Collins, in the Discourse above mentioned,
smilingly claimed at least the prophets as great freethinkers. On
that head it may suffice to say that some of the temperamental
qualifications would probably be very much the same for those who
of old brought about religious innovation in terms of supernatural
beliefs, and for those who in later times innovate by way of minimizing
or repudiating such beliefs, though the intellectual qualifications
might be different. Bruno and Dolet and Vanini and Voltaire, faulty
men all four, could at least be more readily conceived as prophets
in early Jewry, or reformers under Herod, than as Pharisees, or even
Sadducees, under either regimen.

Be that as it may, however, the issues between freethought and creed
are ultimately to be settled only in respect of their argumentative
bases, as appreciable by men in society at any given time. It is with
the notion of making the process of judicial appreciation a little
easier, by historically exhibiting the varying conditions under which
it has been undertaken in the past, that these pages are written.



CHAPTER II

PRIMITIVE FREETHINKING


To consider the normal aspects of primitive life, as we see them
in savage communities and trace them in early literature, is to
realize the enormous hindrance offered to critical thinking in the
primary stages of culture by the mere force of habit. "The savage,"
says our leading anthropologist, "by no means goes through life
with the intention of gathering more knowledge and framing better
laws than his fathers. On the contrary, his tendency is to consider
his ancestors as having handed down to him the perfection of wisdom,
which it would be impiety to make the least alteration in. Hence among
the lower races there is obstinate resistance to the most desirable
reforms, and progress can only force its way with a slowness and
difficulty which we of this century can hardly imagine." [54] Among
the Bantu of South Africa, before the spread of European rule, "any
person in advance of his fellows was specially liable to suspicion
[of sorcery], so that progress of any kind towards what we should
term higher civilization was made exceedingly difficult by this
belief." [55] The real or would-be sorcerer could thus secure the
elimination of the honest inventor; fear of sorcery being most potent
as against the supposed irregular practitioner. The relative obstinacy
of conservatism in periods and places of narrow knowledge is again
illustrated in Lane's account of the modern Egyptians in the first
half of the nineteenth century: "Some Egyptians who had studied for
a few years in France declared to me that they could not instil any
of the notions which they had there acquired even into the minds
of their most intimate friends." [56] So in modern Japan there were
many assassinations of reformers, and some civil war, before Western
ideas could gain a footing. [57] The less the knowledge, in short,
the harder to add to it.

It is hardly possible to estimate with any confidence the relative
rates of progress; but, though all are extremely slow, it would
seem that reason could sooner play correctively on errors of secular
practice [58] than on any species of proposition in religion--taking
that word to connote at once mythology, early cosmology, and ritual
ethic. Mere disbelief in a particular medicine-man or rain-maker
who failed would not lead to any reflective disbelief in all; any
more than the beating or renunciation of his fetish by a savage or
barbarian means rejection of his fetishism, or than the renunciation
of a particular saint by a modern Catholic [59] means abandonment of
prayer to saints for intercession.


    The question as to whether savages do beat their idols is a matter
    in some dispute. Sir A. B. Ellis, a high authority, offers a
    notable denial to the current belief that negroes "beat their
    Gods if their prayers are unanswered." "After an experience
    of the Gold Coast extending over thirteen years," he writes,
    "I have never heard of, much less witnessed, anything of the
    kind, although I have made inquiries in every direction" (The
    Tshi-speaking Peoples, 1887, p. 194). Other anthropologists have
    collected many instances in other races--e.g., Fr. Schultze, Der
    Fetischismus, 1871, p. 130. In one case, a priest beats a fetish
    in advance, to secure his careful attention. (Id. pp. 90-91,
    citing the personal narrative of Bastian.) It seems to be a
    matter of psychic stage. The more primitive negro is as it were
    too religious, too much afraid of his Gods, who are not for him
    "idols," but spirits residing in images or objects. Where the
    state of fear is only chronic another temper may arise. Among the
    Bataks of Sumatra disappointed worshippers often scold a God;
    and their legends tell of men who declared war on a deity and
    shot at him from a mountain. (Warneck, Die Religion des Batak,
    1909, p. 7. Cp. Gen. ii, 4-9.) A temper of defiance towards
    deity has been noted in an Aryan Kafir of the Hindu-Kush. (Sir
    G. S. Robertson, The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush, 1899, p. 182.) Some
    peoples go much further. Among the Polynesians, when a God failed
    to cure a sick chief or notable, he "was regarded as inexorable,
    and was usually banished from the temple and his image destroyed"
    (W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, 2nd ed. 1831, i, 350). So among
    the Chinese, "if the God does not give rain they will threaten
    and beat him; sometimes they publicly depose him from the rank
    of deity" (Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of Kingship,
    1905, pp. 98-101. Cp. Ross, Pansebeia, 4th ed., 1672, p. 80).

    There are many analogous phenomena. In old Samoa, in the ritual
    of mourning for the dead, the family God was first implored to
    restore the deceased, and then fiercely abused and menaced. [60]
    See, too, the story of the people of Niue or Savage Island
    in the South Pacific, who in the time of a great pestilence,
    thinking the sickness was caused by a certain idol, broke it in
    pieces and threw it away (Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884,
    p. 306). See further the cases cited by Constant, De la religion,
    1824, vol. i, ptie. ii, pp. 32-34; and by Peschel, The Races of
    Man, Eng. tr. 1876, pp. 247-8, in particular that of Rastus,
    the last pagan Lapp in Europe, who quarrelled with his fetish
    stone for killing his reindeer in revenge for the withholding
    of its customary offering of brandy, and "immediately embraced
    Christianity." (Compare E. Rae, The White Sea Peninsula, 1881,
    p. 276.) See again the testimony of Herman Melville in his Typee,
    ch. xxiv; and that of T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1858,
    i, 236: "Sometimes the natives get angry with their deities, and
    abuse and even challenge them to fight." Herodotos has similar
    stories of barbarians who defy their own and other deities
    (iv, 172, 183, 184). Compare the case of King Rum Bahadur of
    Nepaul, who cannonaded his Gods. Spencer, Study of Sociology,
    pp. 301-2. Also the anecdote cited by Spencer (Id. p. 160)
    from Sir R. Burton's Goa, p. 167. Here there is no disbelief, no
    reflection, but simple resentment. Compare, too, the amusing story
    of a blasphemy by Rossini, told by Louis Viardot, Libre Examen,
    6e éd. pp. 166-67, note. That threats against the Gods are possible
    at a semi-civilized stage is proved by various passages in medieval
    literature. Thus in Caxton's Charles the Grete, a translation from
    an older French original, Charles is made to say: "O lord God,
    if ye suffre that Olyver be overcome and that my ryght at thys
    tyme be loste and defyled, I make a vowe that al Crystyante shal be
    destroyed. I shal not leve in Fraunce chirche ne monasterye, ymage
    ne aulter," etc. (Early Eng. Text Soc. rep. 1881, pp. 70-71.) Such
    language was probably used by not a few medieval kings in moments
    of fury; and there is even record that at the battle of Dunbar
    certain of the Scots Presbyterian clergy intimated to their deity
    that he would not be their God if he failed them on that day.

    If such flights be reckoned possible for Christian kings
    and clerics in the Christian era, there would seem to be no
    unlikelihood about the many stories of God-beating and God-defying
    among contemporary savages, though so good an observer as Sir
    A. B. Ellis may not have witnessed them in the part of Africa best
    known to him. The conclusion reached by Sir A. B. Ellis is that
    the negroes of the Gold Coast are not properly to be described
    as fetishists. Fetishism, on his view, is a worship of objects as
    in themselves endowed with magical power; whereas the Gold Coast
    negro ascribes no virtue to the object commonly called his fetish,
    regarding it simply as inhabited by a supernatural power. This
    writer sees "true fetishism" in the attitude of Italian peasants
    and fishermen who beat and ill-treat their images when prayers
    are not answered, and in that of Spaniards who cover the faces of
    their images or turn them to the wall when about to do anything
    which they think the saint or deity would disapprove of. On this
    view, fetishism is a later yet lower stage of religious evolution
    than that of the negro. On the other hand, Miss Kingsley takes
    fetishism to be the proper name of the attitude of the negro
    towards particular objects as divinely inhabited, and represents
    it as a kind of pantheism (West African Studies, 2nd ed. 1901,
    ch. v). And since, by her definition, "Gods of fetish" do not
    necessarily "require a material object to manifest themselves in"
    (p. 96), the term "fetish" is thus detached from all of its former
    meanings. It seems expedient, as a matter of terminology, to let
    fetishism mean both object- or image-worship and the belief in the
    special inhabiting of objects by deities, with a recognition that
    the beliefs may be different stages in an evolution, though, on the
    other hand, they are obviously likely to coalesce or concur. In
    the "Obeah" system of the negroes of the West Indies the former
    belief in the indwelling spirit has become, or has coalesced with,
    belief in the magical powers of the object (Keane, Man, Past and
    Present, 1900, p. 57).

    As to defiance or contumely towards the Gods, finally, we have the
    testimony of the Swiss missionary Junod that the South African
    Thonga, whom he studied very closely, have in their ritual "a
    regular insulting of the Gods." (Life of a South African Tribe,
    ii, 1912, p. 384.) Why not? "Prayers to the ancestors ... are
    ... absolutely devoid of awe" (p. 385), though "the ancestor-Gods
    are certainly the most powerful spiritual agency acting on man's
    life" (p. 361); and "the spirits of the ancestors are the main
    objects of religious worship" (p. 344). The Thonga, again, use
    "neither idolatry nor fetishism," having no "idols" (p. 388),
    though they recognize "hidden virtues" in plants, animals, and
    stones (p. 345). They simply regard their ancestor-Gods very
    much as they do their aged people, whom they generally treat with
    little consideration. But the dead can do harm, and must therefore
    be propitiated--as savages propitiate, with fear or malice or
    derision in their hearts, as the case may be. (Cp. p. 379.) On the
    other hand, despite the denial of their "fetishism," they believe
    that ancestor-Gods may come in the shape of animals; and they so
    venerate a kind of palladium (made up like a medicine-man's amulet)
    as to raise the question whether this kind of belief is not just
    that which Miss Kingsley called "fetish." (Junod, pp. 358, 373-74.)


Whatever may be the essence, or the varieties, of fetishism, it
is clear that the beating of idols or threatening of Gods does not
amount to rational doubt concerning the supernatural. Some general
approach to that attitude may perhaps be inferred in the case of an
economic revolt against the burdens of a highly specialized religious
system, which may often have occurred in unwritten history. We shall
note a recorded instance of the kind in connection with the question
whether there are any savage tribes without religion. But it occurs
in the somewhat highly evolved barbarism of pre-Christian Hawaii;
and it can set up no inference as to any development of critical
unbelief at lower levels. In the long stage of lower savagery, then,
the only approach to freethinking that would seriously affect general
belief would presumably be that very credulity which gave foothold
to religious beliefs to begin with. That is to say, without anything
in the nature of general criticism of any story or doctrine, one such
might to some extent supersede another, in virtue of the relative gift
of persuasion or personal weight of the propounders. Up to a certain
point persons with a turn for myth or ritual-making would compete,
and might even call in question each other's honesty, as well as each
other's inspiration.

Since the rise of scientific hierology there has been a disposition
among students to take for granted the good faith of all early
religion-makers, and to dismiss entirely that assumption of fraud
which was so long made by Christian writers concerning the greater
part of every non-Christian system. The assumption had been passed
on from the freethinkers of antiquity who formulated the view that
all religious doctrine had been invented by politicians in order to
control the people. [61] Christian polemists, of course, applied it to
all systems but their own. When, however, all systems are seen to be
alike natural in origin, such charges are felt to recoil on the system
which makes them; and latterly [62] Christian writers, seeing as much,
have been fain to abandon the conception of "priestcraft," adroitly
representing it as an extravagance of rationalism. It certainly
served rationalistic purposes, and the title of the supposititious
medieval work on "The Three Impostors" points to its currency among
unbelievers long ago; but when we first find it popularly current in
the seventeenth century, it is in a Christian atmosphere. [63] Some
of the early deists and others have probably in turn exaggerated the
amount of deliberate deceit involved in the formation of religious
systems; but nevertheless "priestcraft" is a demonstrable factor in
the process. What is called the psychology of religion has been much
obscured in response to the demand of religious persons to have it so
presented as to flatter them in that capacity. [64] Such a claim cannot
be permitted to overrule the fair inductions of comparative science.

Anthropological evidence suggests that, while religion clearly
begins in primordial fear and fancy, wilful fraud must to some
extent have entered into all religious systems alike, even in the
period of primeval credulity, were it only because the credulity
was so great. One of the most judicial and sympathetic of the
Christian scholars who have written the history of Greece treats
as unquestionable the view that alike in pagan and Christian cults
"priestcraft" has been "fertile in profitable devices, in the invention
of legends, the fabrication of relics, and other modes of imposture";
[65] and the leading hierologist of the last generation pronounces
decisively as to an element of intentional deceit in the Koran-making
of Mohammed [66]--a judgment which, if upheld, can hardly fail to be
extended to some portions of all other sacred books. However that
may be, we have positive evidence that wilful and systematic fraud
enters into the doctrine of contemporary savages, and that among some
"primitives" known myths are deliberately propounded to the boys
and women by the male adults. [67] Indeed, the majority of modern
travellers among primitives seem to have regarded their priests
and sorcerers in the mass as conscious deceivers. [68] If, then, we
can point to deliberate imposture alike in the charm-mongering and
myth-mongering of contemporary savages and in the sacred-book-making
of the higher historical systems, it seems reasonable to hold that
conscious deceit, as distinguished from childlike fabrication, would
chronically enter into the tale-making of primitive men, as into their
simpler relations with each other. It is indeed impossible to conceive
how a copious mythology could ever arise without the play of a kind
of imaginativeness that is hardly compatible with veracity; and it is
probably only the exigencies of ecclesiastical life that cause modern
critics still to treat the most deliberate fabrications and forgeries
in the Hebrew sacred books as somehow produced in a spirit of the
deepest concern for truth. An all-round concern for truth is, in fact,
a late intellectual development, the product of much criticism and much
doubt; hence, perhaps, the lenity of the verdicts under notice. Certain
wild tribes here and there, living in a state of great simplicity, are
in our own day described as remarkably truthful; [69] but they are not
remarkable for range of supernatural belief; and their truthfulness is
to be regarded as a product of their special stability and simplicity
of life. The trickery of a primitive medicine-man, of course, is a
much more childlike thing than the frauds of educated priesthoods;
and it is compatible with so much of spontaneous pietism as is implied
in the common passing of the operator into the state of convulsion
and trance--a transition which comes easily to many savages. [70]
But even at that stage of psychosis, and in a community where simple
secular lying is very rare, the professional wizard-priest becomes
an adept in playing upon credulity. [71]

It belongs, in short, to the very nature of the priestly function,
in its earlier forms, to develop in a special degree the normal bias
of the undisciplined mind to intellectual fraud. Granting that there
are all degrees of self-consciousness in the process, we are bound to
recognize that in all of us there is "the sophist within," who stands
between us and candour in every problem either of self-criticism
or of self-defence. And, if the instructed man recognizes this
clearly and the uninstructed does not, none the less is the latter
an exemplification of the fact. His mental obliquities are not any
less real because of his indifference to them than are the acts of
the hereditary thief because he does them without shame. And if we
consider how the fetish-priest is at every turn tempted to invent
and prevaricate, simply because his pretensions are fundamentally
preposterous; and how in turn the priest of a higher grade, even
when he sincerely "believes" in his deity, is bound to put forward
as matters of knowledge or revelation the hypotheses he frames to
account for either the acts or the abstentions of the God, we shall
see that the priestly office is really as incompatible with a high
sincerity in the primitive stages as in those in which it is held
by men who consciously propound falsities, whether for their mere
gain or in the hope of doing good. It may be true that the priestly
claim of supernatural sanction for an ethical command is at times
motived by an intense conviction of the rightness of the course of
conduct prescribed; but none the less is such a habit of mind fatal
to intellectual sincerity. Either there is sheer hallucination or
there is pious fraud.

Given, however, the tendency to deceit among primitive folk, distrust
and detection in a certain number of cases would presumably follow,
constituting a measure of simple skepticism. By force partly of this
and partly of sheer instability of thought, early belief would be apt
to subsist for ages like that of contemporary African tribes, [72]
in a state of flux. [73] Comparative fixity would presumably arise
with the approach to stability of life, of industry, and of political
institutions, whether with or without a special priesthood. The
usages of early family worship would seem to have been no less rigid
than those of the tribal and public cults. For primitive man as for
the moderns definite organization and ritual custom must have been a
great establishing force as regards every phase of religious belief;
[74] and it may well have been that there was thus less intellectual
liberty of a kind in the long ages of what we regard as primitive
civilization than in those of savagery and barbarism which preceded
them. On that view, systems which are supposed to represent in the
fullest degree the primeval spontaneity of religion may have been in
part priestly reactions against habits of freedom accompanied by a
certain amount of skepticism. A modern inquirer [75] has in some such
sense advanced the theory that in ancient India, in even the earlier
period of collection of the Rig-Veda, which itself undermined the
monarchic character of the pre-Vedic religion, there was a decay of
belief, which the final redaction served to accelerate. Such a theory
can hardly pass beyond the stage of hypothesis in view of the entire
absence of history proper in early Indian literature; but we seem
at least to have the evidence of the Veda itself that while it was
being collected there were deniers of the existence of its Gods. [76]

The latter testimony alone may serve as ground for raising afresh
an old question which recent anthropology has somewhat inexactly
decided--that, namely, as to whether there are any savages without
religious beliefs.


    [For old discussions on the subject see Cicero, De natura
    deorum, i, 23; Cumberland, Disquisitio de legibus naturæ, 1672,
    introd. (rejecting negative view as resting on inadequate
    testimony); Locke, Essay on the Human Understanding, Bk. I,
    ch. iii, § 9; ch. iv, § 8 (accepting negative view); protests
    against it by Vico (Scienza Nuova, 1725, as cited above, p. 26);
    by Shaftesbury (Letters to a Student, 1716, rep. in Letters, 1746,
    pp. 32-33); by Rev. John Milne, An Account of Mr. Lock's Religion
    (anon.), 1700, pp. 5-8; and by Sir W. Anstruther, Essays Moral
    and Divine, Edinburgh, 1701, p. 24; further protests by Lafitau
    (Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains comparées aux moeurs des premiers
    temps, 1724, i, 5), following Boyle, to the effect that the very
    travellers and missionaries who denied all religion to savages
    avow facts which confute them; and general view by Fabricius,
    Delectus argumentorum et Syllabus scriptorum, Hamburghi, 1725,
    ch. viii. Cp. also Swift, Discourse Concerning the Mechanical
    Operation of the Spirit, § 2.

    Büchner (Force and Matter, ch. on "The Idea of God"); Lord Avebury
    = Sir John Lubbock (Prehistoric Times, 5th ed., pp. 574-80;
    Origin of Civilization, 5th ed., pp. 213-17); and Mr. Spencer
    (Principles of Sociology, iii, § 583) have collected modern
    travellers' testimonies as to the absence of religious ideas in
    certain tribes. Cp. also J. A. St. John's (Bohn) ed. of Locke,
    notes on passages above cited, and on Bk. IV, ch. x, § 6. As Lord
    Avebury points out, the word "religion" is by some loosely or
    narrowly used to signify only a higher theology as distinct from
    lower supernaturalist beliefs. He himself, however, excludes from
    the field of "religion" a belief in evil spirits and in magic--here
    coinciding with the later anthropologists who represented magic
    and religion as fundamentally "opposed"--a view rejected even by
    some religionists. Cp. Avebury, Marriage, Totemism, and Religion,
    (1911), p. 116 sq.; Rev. E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, 1902, p. 3;
    Prof. T. Witten Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology, 1898,
    pp. 18-24. The proved erroneousness of many of the negative
    testimonies has been insisted on by Benjamin Constant (De la
    Religion, 1824, i, 3-4); Theodore Parker (Discourse of Matters
    Pertaining to Religion, 1842 and 1855, ed. 1877, p. 16); G. Roskoff
    (Das Religionswesen der rohesten Naturvölker, 1880, Abschn. I
    and II); Dr. Tylor (Primitive Culture, 3rd ed., i, pp. 417-25);
    and Dr. Max Müller (Introd. to the Science of Religion, ed. 1882,
    p. 42 sq.; Hibbert Lectures, p. 91 sq.; Natural Religion, 1889,
    pp. 81-89; Anthropological Religion, 1892, pp. 428-35.)

    The Rev. H. A. Junod (Life of a South African Tribe, vol. ii,
    1913, p. 346) shows how easily misconception on the subject may
    arise. Galton (Narrative of an Explorer, ch. viii, ed. 1891,
    p. 138) writes: "I have no conception to this day whether or
    no the Ovampo have any religion, for Click was frightened and
    angry if the subject of death was alluded to." The context shows
    that the native regarded all questions on religious matters with
    suspicion. Schweinfurth, again, contradicts himself twice within
    three pages as to the beliefs of the Bongo in a "Supreme Being"
    and in a future state; and thus leaves us doubting his statement
    that the neighbouring race, the Dyoor, "put no faith at all in
    any witchcraft" (The Heart of Africa, 3rd ed. i, 143-45). Much
    of the confusion turns on the fact that savages who practise no
    worship have religious beliefs (cp. Max Müller, Hibbert Lectures,
    ed. 1878, p. 17, citing Monsignor Salvado; and Carl Lumholtz, Among
    Cannibals, 1889, p. 284). The dispute, as it now stands, mainly
    turns on the definition of religion (cp. Chantepie de la Saussaye,
    Manual of the Science of Religion, Eng. tr. 1891, pp. 16-18,
    where Lubbock's position is partly misunderstood). Dr. Tylor,
    while deciding that no tribes known to us are religionless,
    leaves open the question of their existence in the past.

    A notable example of the prolongation of error on this subject
    through orthodox assumptions is seen in Dr. A. W. Howitt's
    otherwise valuable work on The Native Tribes of South Australia
    (1904). Dr. Howitt produces (pp. 488-508) abundant evidence to show
    that a number of tribes believe in a "supernatural anthropomorphic
    being," variously named Nurrundere, Nurelli, Bunjil, Mungan-ngaua,
    Daramalun, and Baiame ("the same being under different names,"
    writes Dr. Howitt, p. 499). This being he describes as "the
    tribal All-Father," "a venerable kindly Headman of a tribe,
    full of knowledge and tribal wisdom, and all-powerful in magic,
    of which he is the source, with virtues, failings, and passions
    such as the aborigines regard them" (pp. 500-1). But he insists
    (p. 506) that "in this being, though supernatural, there is
    no trace of a divine nature," and, again, that "the Australian
    aborigines do not recognize any divinity, good or evil" (p. 756),
    though (p. 501) "it is most difficult for one of us to divest
    himself of the tendency to endow such a supernatural being [as
    the All-Father] with a nature quasi-divine, if not altogether
    so." Dr. Howitt does not name any European deity who satisfies
    him on the point of divinity! Obviously the Australian deities
    have evolved in exactly the same way as those of other peoples,
    Yahweh included. Dr. Howitt, indeed, admits (p. 507) that the
    Australian notions "may have been at the root of monotheistic
    beliefs." They certainly were; and when he adds that, "although
    it cannot be alleged that these aborigines have consciously any
    form of religion, it may be said that their beliefs are such that,
    under favourable conditions, they might have developed into an
    actual religion," he indicates afresh the confusion possible from
    unscientific definitions. The sole content of his thesis is,
    finally, that a "supernatural" being is not "divine" till the
    priests have somewhat trimmed him, and that a religion is not
    "actual" till it has been sacerdotally formulated. Dr. Howitt's
    negations are as untenable as Mr. Andrew Lang's magnification of
    the Australian All-Father into a perfect Supreme Being.

    The really important part of Dr. Howitt's survey of the problem
    is his conclusion that the kind of belief he has described exists
    only in a specified area of Australia, and that this area is "the
    habitat of tribes ... where there has been the advance from group
    marriage to individual marriage, from descent in the female line
    to that in the male line" (p. 500). Messrs. Spencer and Gillen's
    denial of the existence of any belief in a personal deity among
    the tribes of Central Australia (Northern Tribes, 1904, p. 491)
    appears to stand for actual fact.

    As to the "divinity" of the ancestor-gods of the primitives,
    see Pagan Christs, 2nd ed. p. 41 sq.]


The problem has been unduly narrowed to the question whether there are
any whole tribes so developed. It is obviously pertinent to ask whether
there may not be diversity of opinion within a given tribe. Such
testimonies as those collected by Sir John Lubbock [Lord Avebury]
and others, as to the existence of religionless savages, are held to
be disposed of by further proof that tribes of savages who had been
set down as religionless on the evidence of some of themselves had in
reality a number of religious beliefs. Travellers' questions had been
falsely answered, either on the principle that non-initiates must not
be told the mysteries, or from that sudden perception of the oddity
of their beliefs which comes even to some civilized people when they
try to state them to an unbelieving outsider. Questions, again, could
easily be misunderstood, and answers likewise. We find, for instance,
that savages who scout the idea that the dead can "rise again" do
believe in the continued disembodied existence of all their dead,
and even at times conceive of them as marrying and procreating! On
the whole, they conceive of a continuity of spirit-life on earth in
human shape. To speak of such people as having no idea of "a life
beyond the grave" would obviously be misleading, though they have no
notion of a judgment day or of future rewards or punishments. [77]

Undoubtedly, then, the negative view of savage religion had in a number
of cases been hastily taken; but there remains the question, as a
rule surprisingly ignored, whether some of the savages who disavowed
all belief in things supernatural may not have been telling the
simple truth about themselves, or even about their families and their
comrades. As one sympathetic traveller notes of the Samoyedes: "There
can be no such thing as strict accuracy of grammar or expression among
an illiterate people; nor can there be among these simple creatures
any consistent or fixed appreciation even of their own forms of
... belief.... Having no object in arriving at a common view of such
matters, each Samoyede, if questioned separately, will give more or
less his own disconnected impression of his faith." [78] And this holds
of unfaith. A savage asked by a traveller, "Do you believe" so-and-so,
might very well give a true negative answer for himself; [79] and the
traveller's resulting misconception would be due to his own arbitrary
assumption that all members of any tribe must think alike.


    A good witness expressly testifies: "In the tribe [of Australians]
    with which I was best acquainted, while the blacks had a term
    for ghost and believed that there were departed spirits who were
    sometimes to be seen among the foliage, individual men would tell
    you upon inquiry that they believed that death was the last of
    them" (Eaglehawk and Crow: A Study of the Australian Aborigines,
    by John Mathew, M.A., B.D., 1899, p. 146). As to the risk of
    wrong negative inferences, on the other hand, see pp. 145, 147.

    One of the best of our missionary witnesses, H. A. Junod, in his
    valuable study of the South African Thonga, testifies both to
    the commonness of individual variation in the way of religious
    fancy and the occurrence of sporadic unbelief, usually ended by
    fear. Individuals freely indulge in concrete speculations--e.g.,
    as to the existence of animal souls--which do not win vogue
    (Life of a South African Tribe, vol. ii, 1913, p. 342 sq.),
    though the reporter seems to overlook the possibility that
    such ideas may be adopted by a tribe. Freethinking ideas have,
    of course, by far the least chance of currency. "The young
    folks of Libombo used to blaspheme in their hearts, saying,
    'There are no Gods.' But," added the witness, "we very soon saw
    that there were some, when they killed one of us," who trod on
    a snake (work cited, pp. 354-55). That testimony illustrates
    well the difficulties of rational progress in a primitive
    community. But at times the process may be encouraged by the
    environment. The early missionary Ellis gives an instance of a
    community in Hawaii that had abandoned all religious practices:
    "We asked them who was their God. They said they had no God;
    formerly they had many: but now they had cast them all away. We
    asked them if they had done well in abolishing them. They said
    'Yes,' for tabu had occasioned much labour and inconvenience,
    and drained off the best of their property. We asked them if it
    was a good thing to have no God.... They said perhaps it was;
    for they had nothing to provide for the great sacrifices, and were
    under no fear of punishment for breaking tabu; that now one fire
    cooked their food, and men and women ate together the same kind
    of provisions." (W. Ellis, Tour Through Hawaii or Owhyhee, 1827,
    p. 100.) The community in question had in their own way reached
    the Lucretian verdict, Tantum relligio potuit suadere malorum.


Unless, again, such witnesses as Moffat be unfaithful reporters as
well as mistaken in their inferences, some of the natives with whom
they dealt were all but devoid of the ordinary religious notions [80]
which in the case of other natives have enabled the missionaries to
plant their doctrines. Nor is there anything hard of belief in the idea
that, just as special religious movements spread credence in certain
periods, a lack of active teachers in certain tribes may for a time
have let previously common beliefs pass almost out of knowledge. If
it be true that the Black Death wrought a great decline in the
ecclesiastical life of England in the fourteenth century, [81] a long
period of life-destroying conditions might eliminate from the life of
a savage tribe all lore save that of primary self-preservation. Moffat
incidentally notes the significant fact that rain-makers in his time
were usually foreigners to the tribes in which they operated. [82]

The explanation is partly that given by him later, that "a rain-maker
seldom dies a natural death," [83] most being executed as impostors
for their failures. To this effect there are many testimonies. [84]
Among the Bushmen, says Lichtenstein, when a magician "happens to
have predicted falsely several times in succession, he is thrust out
of the kraal, and very likely burned or put to death in some other
way." [85] "A celebrated magician," says Burton again, "rarely if
ever dies a natural death." [86] And it is told of the people of
Niue, or Savage Island, in the South Pacific, that "of old they had
kings; but as they were the high priests as well, and were supposed
to cause the food to grow, the people got angry with them in times
of scarcity, and killed them; and as one after the other was killed,
the end of it was that no one wished to be king." [87] So, in Uganda,
if a chief and his medicine-men cannot make rain, "his whole existence
is at stake in times of distress." One chief was actually driven out;
and the rain-doctors always live on sufferance. [88] In such a state
of things religion might well lose vogue.

Among some peoples of the Slave Coast, it appears, the regular
priests, despite their power and prestige, are always under suspicion
by reason of their frequent miscarriages; and they are--or were--not
unfrequently put to death. [89] Here there is disbelief in the priest
without disbelief in the God. But a disbelief in the priest which
tended to exterminate him might well diminish religion.

On the other hand, a relative indifference to religion in a given
tribe might result from the influence of one or more leading men who
spontaneously doubted the religious doctrine offered to them, as many
in Israel, on the face of the priestly records, disbelieved in the
whole theocratic polity. In modern times preachers are constantly
found charging "unbelief" on their own flocks, in respect not of
any criticism of religious narrative or dogma, but of simple lack
of ostensible faith in doctrines of prayer and Providence nominally
accepted. [90] Among peasants who have never seen a freethinking book
or heard a professed freethinker's arguments may be heard expressions
of spontaneous unfaith in current doctrines of Providence.

This is but a type of variations possible in primitive
societies. Despite the social potency of primitive custom, variation
may be surmised to occur in the mental as in the physical life at all
stages; and what normally happens in savagery and low civilization
appears to be a cancelment of the skeptical variation by the total
circumstances--the strength of the general lead to supernaturalism,
the plausibility of such beliefs to the average intelligence, and
the impossibility of setting up skeptical institutions to oppose
the others. In civilized ages skeptical movements are repeatedly
seen to dwindle for simple lack of institutions; which, however,
are spontaneously set up by and serve as sustainers of religious
systems. On the simpler level of savagery, skeptical personalities
would in the long run fail to affirm themselves as against the
institutions of ordinary savage religion--the seasonal feasts,
the ceremonies attending birth and death, the use of rituals,
images, charms, sorcery, all tending to stimulate and conserve
supernatural beliefs in general. Only the abnormally courageous would
dare outspokenly to doubt or deny at all; and their daring would put
them in special jeopardy. [91] The ancient maxim, Primus in orbe deos
fecit timor, is verified by all modern study of primitive life. [92]
It is a recent traveller who gives the definition: "Fetishism is the
result of the efforts of the savage intelligence seeking after a theory
which will account for the apparent hostility of nature to man." [93]
And this incalculable force of fear is constantly exploited by the
religious bias from the earliest stages of sorcery. [94]

The check to intellectual evolution would here be on all fours with
some of the checks inferribly at work in early moral evolution,
where the types with the higher ideals would seem often to be
positively endangered by their peculiarity, and would thus be the
less likely to multiply. And what happened as between man and man
would further tend to happen at times as between communities. Given
the possible case of a tribe so well placed as to be unusually little
affected by fear of enemies and the natural forces, the influence
of rationalistic chiefs or of respected tribesmen might set up for
a time a considerable anti-religious variation, involving at least
a minimizing of religious doctrine and practices. Such a case is
actually seen among the prosperous peoples of the Upper Congo, some of
whom, like the poorer tribes known to Moffat, have no "medicine-men"
of their own, and very vague notions of deity. [95] But when such a
tribe did chance to come into conflict with others more religious, it
would be peculiarly obnoxious to them; and, being in the terms of the
case unwarlike, its chance of survival on the old lines would be small.


    Such a possibility is suggested with some vividness by the familiar
    contrast between the modern communities of Fiji and Samoa--the
    former cruel, cannibalistic, and religious, the latter much less
    austerely religious and much more humane. The ferocious Fijians
    "looked upon the Samoans with horror, because they had no religion,
    no belief in any such deities [as the Fijians'], nor any of the
    sanguinary rites which prevailed in other islands" (Spencer,
    Study of Sociology, pp. 293-94, following J. Williams, Narrative
    of Missionary Enterprise in the South Sea Islands, ed. 1837,
    pp. 540-41; cp. the Rev. A. W. Murray, Forty Years' Mission Work,
    1876, p. 171). The "no religion" is, of course, only relatively
    true. Mr. Lang has noticed the error of the phrase "the godless
    Samoans" (cp. Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 16-17);
    but, while suggesting that the facts are the other way, he admits
    that in their creed "the religious sentiment has already become
    more or less self-conscious, and has begun to reason on its own
    practices" (Myth, Ritual, and Religion, ii, 34; 2nd ed., ii, 58).


Taking the phenomena all along the line of evolution, we are led to the
generalization that the rationalistic tendency, early or late, like
the religious tendency, is a variation which prospers at different
times in different degrees relatively to the favourableness of the
environment. This view will be set forth in some detail in the course
of our history.

It is not, finally, a mere surmise that individual savages
and semi-savages in our own time vary towards disbelief in the
supernaturalism of their fellows. To say nothing of the rational
skepticism exhibited by the Zulu converts of Bishop Colenso, which was
the means of opening his eyes to the incredibility of the Pentateuch,
[96] or of the rationalism of the African chief who debated with
Sir Samuel Baker the possibility of a future state, [97] we have the
express missionary record that the forcible suppression of idolatry and
tabu and the priesthood by King Rihoriho in the island of Hawaii, in
1819, was accomplished not only "before the arrival of any missionary,"
but on purely common-sense grounds, and with no thought of furthering
Christianity, though he had heard of the substitution of Christianity
for the native religion by Pomare in Tahiti. Rihoriho simply desired
to save his wives and other women from the cruel pressure of the tabu
system, and to divert the priests' revenues to secular purposes;
and he actually had some strong priestly support. [98] Had not the
missionary system soon followed, however, the old worship, which
had been desperately defended in battle at the instigation of the
conservative priests, would in all probability have grown up afresh,
though perhaps with modifications. The savage and semi-savage social
conditions, taken as a whole, are fatally unpropitious to rationalism.

A parallel case to that of Rihoriho is that of King Finow of the Tonga
Islands, described by Mariner, who was his intimate. Finow was noted
for his want of religion. "He used to say that the Gods would always
favour that party in war in which there were the greatest chiefs and
warriors"--the European mot strictly adapted to Fiji conditions. "He
did not believe that the Gods paid much attention in other respects
to the affairs of mankind; nor did he think that they could have any
reason for doing so--no more than men could have any reason or interest
in attending to the affairs of the Gods." For the rest, "it is certain
that he disbelieved most of the oracles delivered by the priests,"
though he carefully used them for political and military purposes;
and he acquiesced in the usage of human sacrifices--particularly on
his own account--while professing to deplore the taste of the Gods
in these matters. His own death seems to have been the result of
poisoning by a priest, whom the king had planned to strangle. The
king's daughter was sick, and the priest, instead of bringing about
her recovery by his prayers, hardily explained that the illness was
the act of the Gods in punishment of the king's frequent disrespect
to them. Daughter and father were alternately ill, till the former
died; and then it was that the king, by disclosing his resolve to
strangle the priest, brought on his own death (1810). A few warriors
were disposed to take revenge on the priest; but the majority, on
learning the facts, shuddered at the impious design of the late king,
and regarded his death as the natural vengeance of the Gods. But,
though such "impiety" as his was very rare, his son after him decided
to abolish the priestly office of "divine chieftain," on the score
that it was seen to avail for nothing, while it cost a good deal;
and the chiefs and common people were soon brought to acquiesce in
the policy. [99]

Such cases appear to occur in many barbarous communities. It is
recorded of the Kaffir chief Go that he was perfectly aware of the
hollowness of the pretensions of the magicians and rain-makers of his
tribe, though he held it impolitic to break with them, and called them
in and followed their prescriptions, as did his subjects. [100] Of the
Galeka chief Segidi it is similarly told that, while his medicine-men
went into trances for occult knowledge preparatory to a military
expedition, he carefully obtained real information through spies,
and, while liberally rewarding his wizards, sent his sons to school
at Blythswood. [101] Yet again, in Bede's Ecclesiastical History,
we have the story of King Edwin's priest, Coifi, naïvely avowing that
he saw no virtue in his religion, [102] inasmuch as many men received
more royal favours than he, who had been most diligent in serving the
Gods. [103] Such a declaration might very well have been arranged
for by the Christian Bishop Paulinus, who was converting the king,
and would naturally provide for Coifi; but on any view a process of
skepticism had taken place in the barbarian's mind. [104]

Other illustrations come from the history of ancient Scandinavia. Grimm
notes in several Norse sagas and songs expressions of contempt
for various Gods, which appear to be independent of Christian
influence; [105] and many warriors continued alike the Christian
and the Pagan deities. In the saga of King Olaf Tryggvason, who
enforced Christianity on Norway, it is declared by one chief that
he relied much more on his own arm than on Thor and Odin; while
another announced that he was neither Christian nor Pagan, adding:
"My companions and I have no other religion than the confidence of
our own strength and in the good success which always attends us in
war." Similar sentiments are recorded to have been uttered by Rolf
Krake, a legendary king of Denmark (circa 500); [106] and we have in
the Æneid the classic type--doubtless drawn from barbaric life--of
Mezentius, divum contemptor, who calls his right arm his God, and in
dying declares that he appeals to no deity. [107] Such utterances,
indeed, do not amount to rational freethinking; but, where some
could be thus capable of anti-theism, it is reasonable to surmise
that among the more reflective there were some capable of simple
atheism or non-belief, and of the prudence of keeping the fact to
themselves. Partial skepticism, of course, would be much more common,
as among the Aryan Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush, with whom, before their
conquest by the Ameer of Afghanistan, a British agent found among
the younger men an inclination to be skeptical about some sacred
ceremonies, while very sincere in their worship of their favourite
deity, the God of war. [108]

It is thus seen to be inaccurate to say, as has been said by
an accomplished antagonist of apriorism, that "under the yoke of
tribal custom skepticism can hardly arise: there is no place for the
half-hearted: as all men feel alike, so all think alike: skepticism
arises when beliefs are put into formal propositions." [109] It is
broadly true that "there is no place for" the doubter as such in
the tribal society; but doubters do exist. Skepticism--in the sense
in which the term is here used, that of rational disbelief--may
even be commoner in some stages of the life of tribal customs than
in some stages of backward civilization loaded with formulated
creeds. What is true is that in the primitive life the rationalism
necessarily fails, for lack of culture and institutions, to diffuse
and establish itself, whereas superstition succeeds, being naturally
institution-making. Under such conditions skepticism is but a recurrent
variation. [110]

It is significant, further, that in the foregoing cases of unbelief
at the lower levels of civilization it is only the high rank of the
doubter that secures publication for the fact of the doubt. In Hawaii,
or Tonga, only a king's unbelief could make itself historically
heard. So in the familiar story of the doubting Inca of Peru, who
in public religious assembly is said to have avowed his conclusion
that the deified Sun was not really a living thing, it is the
status of the speaker that gives his words a record. The doubt had
in all likelihood been long current among the wise men of Peru;
it is indeed ascribed to two or three different Incas; [111] but,
save for the Incas' promulgation of it, history would bear no trace
of Peruvian skepticism. So again in the Acolhuan State of Tezcuco,
the most civilized in the New World before the Spanish conquest,
the great King Netzahualcoyotl is found opposing the cults of human
sacrifice and worshipping an "unknown God," without an image and with
only incense for offering. [112] Only the king in such an environment
could put on record such a conception. There is, in fact, reason to
believe that all ancient ameliorations of bloody rites were the work
of humane kings or chiefs, [113] as they are known to have been among
semi-savages in our own day. [114] In bare justice we are bound to
surmise that similar developments of rationalism have been fairly
frequent in unwritten history, and that there must have been much of
it among the common folk; though, on the other hand, the very position
of a savage king, and the special energy of character which usually
goes to secure it, may count for much in giving him the courage to
think in defiance of custom. In modern as in early Christian times,
it is always to the chief or king of a savage or barbarous tribe
that the missionary looks for permission to proceed against the
force of popular conservatism. [115] Apart from kings and chiefs,
the priesthood itself would be the likeliest soil for skepticism,
though, of course, not for the open avowal of it.

There are to be noted, finally, the facts collected as to marked
skeptical variation among children; [116] and the express evidence
that "it has not been found in a single instance that an uneducated
deaf-mute has had any conception of the existence of a Supreme
Being as the Creator and Ruler of the Universe." [117] These latter
phenomena do not, of course, entitle us to accept Professor Gruppe's
sweeping theorem that it is the religious variation that is abnormal,
and that religion can have spread only by way of the hereditary
imposition of the original insanity of one or two on the imagination
of the many. [118] Deaf-mutes are not normal organisms. But all
the facts together entitle us to decide that religion, broadly
speaking, is but the variation that has chiefly flourished, by
reason of its adaptation to the prevailing environment thus far;
and to reject as unscientific the formulas which, even in the face
of the rapidly-spreading rationalism of the more civilized nations,
still affirm supernaturalist beliefs to be a universal necessity of
the human mind.

On the same grounds, we must reject the claim--arbitrarily set up by
one historian in the very act of showing how religion historically
oppugns science--that all sacred books as such "are true because they
have been developed in accordance with the laws governing the evolution
of truth in human history; and because in poem, chronicle, code,
legend, myth, apologue, or parable, they reflect this development
of what is best in the onward march of humanity." [119] In this
proposition the opening words, "are true because" are strictly
meaningless. All literature whatever has been developed under the
same general laws. But if it be meant that sacred books were specially
likely to garner truth as such, the claim must be negated. In terms of
the whole demonstration of the bias of theology against new truth in
modern times, the irresistible presumption is that in earlier times
also the theological and theocratic spirit was in general hostile
to every process by which truth is normally attained. And if the
thesis be limited to moral truth, it is still less credible. It is,
in fact, inconceivable that literature so near the popular level as
to suit whole priesthoods should be morally the best of which even
the age producing it is capable; and nothing is more certain than
that enlightened ethic has always had to impeach or explain away the
barbarisms of some sacred books. The true summary is that in all cases
the accepted sacred books have of necessity fallen short not only of
scientific truth and of pure ethic, but even of the best speculation
and the best ethic of the time of their acceptance, inasmuch as they
excluded the criticism of the freethinking few on the sacred books
themselves. There is sociological as well as physical science, and
the former is flouted when the whole freethinking of the human race in
the period of Bible-making is either ignored or treated as worthless.

It is probable, for instance, that in all stages of primitive religion
there have been disbelievers in the value of sacrifice, who might or
might not dare to denounce the practice. The demurrers to it in the
Hebrew prophetic literature are probably late; but they were in all
likelihood anticipated in early times. Among the Fijians, for whom
cannibalism was an essentially religious act, and the privilege of
the males of the aristocracy, there were a number of the latter who,
before and apart from the entrance of Christianity, abominated and
denounced the practice, reasoning against it also on utilitarian
grounds, while the orthodox made it out to be a social duty. There
were even whole towns which revolted against it and made it tabu;
and it was by force mainly of this rationalistic reaction that the
missionaries succeeded so readily in putting down the usage. [120]
It is impossible to estimate how often in the past such a revolt of
reason against religious insanity has been overborne by the forces
of pious habit.



CHAPTER III

PROGRESS UNDER ANCIENT RELIGIONS


§ 1. EARLY ASSOCIATION AND COMPETITION OF CULTS

When religion has entered on the stage of quasi-civilized organization,
with fixed legends or documents, temples, and the rudiments of
hierarchies, the increased forces of terrorism and conservatism
are in nearly all cases seen to be in part countervailed by the
simple interaction of the systems of different communities. There
is no more ubiquitous force in the whole history of the subject,
operating as it does in ancient Assyria, in the life of Vedic India
and Confucian China, and in the diverse histories of progressive
Greece and relatively stationary Egypt, down through the Christian
Middle Ages to our own period of comparative studies.

In ages when any dispassionate comparative study was impossible,
religious systems appear to have been considerably modified by the
influence of those of conquered peoples on those of their conquerors,
and vice versâ. Peoples who while at arm's length would insult and
affect to despise each other's Gods, and would deride each other's
myths, [121] appear frequently to have altered their attitude when
one had conquered the other; and this not because of any special
growth of sympathy, but by force of the old motive of fear. In the
stage of natural polytheism no nation really doubted the existence
of the Gods of another; at most, like the Hebrews of the early
historic period, it would set its own God above the others, calling
him "Lord of Lords." But, every community having its own God, he
remained a local power even when his own worshippers were conquered,
and his cult and lore were respected accordingly. This procedure,
which has been sometimes attributed to the Romans in particular as
a stroke of political sagacity, was the normal and natural course
of polytheism. Thus in the Hebrew books the Assyrian conqueror is
represented as admitting that it is necessary to leave a priest who
knows "the manner of the God of the land" among the new inhabitants
he has planted there.


    See 2 Kings xvii, 26. Cp. Ruth i, 16, and Judges xvii, 13. The
    account by Herodotos (ii, 171) of the preservation of the
    Pelasgic rites of Dêmêtêr by the women of Arcadia points to the
    same principle. See also hereinafter, ch. vi, § 1; K. O. Müller,
    Introd. to a Sci. Study of Mythol., Eng. trans., p. 193; Adolf
    Bastian, Der Mensch in der Geschichte, 1860, i, 189; Rhys,
    Celtic Britain, 2nd ed., p. 69; Max Müller, Anthropological
    Religion, p. 164; Gibbon, ch. xxxiv--Bohn ed., iii, 554, note;
    Tylor, Primitive Culture, i, 113-15; and Dr. F. B. Jevons's
    Introd. to the Hist. of Relig., 1896, pp. 36-40, where the fear
    felt by conquering races for the occult powers of the conquered is
    limited to the sphere of "magic." But when Dr. Jevons so defines
    magic as to admit of his proposition (p. 38) that "the hostility
    from the beginning between religion and magic is universally
    admitted," he throws into confusion the whole phenomena of the
    early official-religious practice of magic, of which sacrifice
    and prayer are the type-forms that have best survived. And in
    the end he upsets his definition by noting (p. 40) how magic,
    "even where its relation to religion is one of avowed hostility,"
    will imitate religion. Obviously magic is a function or aspect or
    element of primitive religion (cp. Roskoff, Das Religionswesen der
    rohesten Naturvölker, 1880, p. 144; Sayce, pp. 315, 319, 327, and
    passim; and Tiele, Egyptian Rel., pp. 22, 32); and any "hostility,"
    far from being universal, is either a social or a philosophical
    differentiation. On the whole question compare the author's Pagan
    Christs, 2nd ed., pp. 11-38. In the opinion of Weber (Hist. of
    Ind. Lit., p. 264) the magic arts "found a more and more fruitful
    soil as the religious development of the Hindus progressed";
    "so that they now, in fact, reign almost supreme." See again
    Dr. Jevons's own later admission, p. 395, where the exception of
    Christianity is somewhat arbitrary. On this compare Kant, Religion
    innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, B. iv, Th. ii, § 3.


Similar cases have been noted in primitive cults still surviving. Fear
of the magic powers of "lower" or conquered races is in fact normal
wherever belief in wizardry survives; and to the general tendency may
be conjecturally ascribed such phenomena as that of the Saturnalia,
in which masters and slaves changed places, and the institution of the
Levites among the Hebrews, otherwise only mythically explained. But if
conquerors and conquered thus tended to amalgamate or associate their
cults, equally would allied tribes tend to do so; and, when particular
Gods of different groups were seen to correspond in respect of special
attributes, a further analysis would be encouraged. Hence, with every
extension of every State, every advance in intercourse made in peace
or through war, there would be a further comparison of credences,
a further challenge to the reasoning powers of thoughtful men.


    On the normal tendency to defer to local deities, compare Tylor,
    Primitive Culture, as last cited; B. Thomson, The Fijians,
    1908, p. 112; A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-Speaking Peoples of the Gold
    Coast, 1887, p. 147, and The Ewe-Speaking Peoples, 1890, p. 55;
    P. Wurm, Handbuch der Religionsgeschichte, 2te Aufl., p. 43 (as to
    Madagascar); Sir H. Johnston, The Uganda Protectorate, 1902, ii,
    589; Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, iii, 186; P. Kropotkin,
    Memoirs of a Revolutionist, ed. 1908, p. 191; W. W. Skeat, Malay
    Magic, 1900, pp. 56, 84; Thurston, Castes and Tribes of Southern
    India, 1909, i, 86-87, 94, 100; iii, 188; iv, 170; v, 467-68;
    W. H. R. Rivers, The Todas, 1906, p. 263; Rae, The White Sea
    Peninsula, 1881, p. 262; Élie Reclus, Primitive Folk, pp. 254-56;
    Grant Allen, Evolution of the Idea of God, 1897, pp. 289, 301-302;
    Castrén, Vorlesungen über die Finnische Mythologie, 1853, p. 281;
    Gummere, Germanic Origins, 1892, p. 140, citing Weinhold, Deutsche
    Frauen, i, 105; Gobineau, Les religions et les philosophies dans
    l'Asie centrale, 2e éd. p. 67; E. Higgins, Hebrew Idolatry and
    Superstition, 1893, pp. 20, 24; Robertson Smith, Religion of
    the Semites, 1889, p. 77; Wellhausen, Heidenthum, pp. 129, 183,
    cited by Smith, p. 79; Lang, Making of Religion, p. 65; Frazer,
    Golden Bough, 2nd ed. ii, 72. Above all, see the record in Old New
    Zealand, "by a Pakeha Maori" (2nd ed. Auckland, 1863, p. 154),
    of the believing resort of some white men to native wizards in
    New Zealand.

    Stevenson, again, is evidently proceeding upon observation
    when he makes his trader in The Beach of Falesà say: "We
    laugh at the natives and their superstitions; but see how many
    traders take them up, splendidly educated white men that have
    been bookkeepers (some of them) and clerks in the old country"
    (Island Nights' Entertainments, 1893, pp. 104-105). In Abyssinia,
    "Galla sorceresses are frequently called in by the Christians of
    Shoa to transfer sickness or to rid the house of evil spirits"
    (Major W. Cornwallis Harris, The Highlands of Aethiopia, 1844,
    iii, 50). On the other hand, some Sudanese tribes "believe in the
    virtue both of Christian and Moslem amulets, but have hitherto lent
    a deaf ear to the preachers of both these religions" (A. H. Keane,
    Man, Past and Present, 1900, p. 50).

    This tendency did not exclude, but would in certain cases
    conflict with, the strong primitive tendency to associate every
    God permanently with his supposed original locality. Tiele writes
    (Hist. of the Egypt. Relig., Eng. trans. introd. p. xvii) that in
    no case was a place given to the Gods of one nation in another's
    pantheon "if they did not wholly alter their form, character,
    appearance, and not seldom their very name." This seems an
    over-statement, and is inconsistent with Tiele's own statement
    (Hist. comparée des anc. relig. égyptiennes et sémitiques,
    French trans., 1882, pp. 174-80) as to the adoption of Sumerian
    and Akkadian Gods and creeds by the Semites. What is clear is
    that local cults resisted the removal of their Gods' images;
    and the attempt to deport such images to Babylon, thus affecting
    the monopoly of the God of Babylon himself, was a main cause of
    the fall of Nabonidos, who was driven out by Cyrus. (E. Meyer,
    Geschichte des Alterthums, i (1884), 599.) But the Assyrians
    invoked Bel Merodach of Babylon, after they had conquered Babylon,
    in terms of his own ritual; even as Israelites often invoked
    the Gods of Canaan (cp. Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, Relig. of the
    Anc. Babylonians, p. 123). And King Mardouk-nadinakhe of Babylon,
    in the twelfth century B.C., carried off statues of the Assyrian
    Gods from the town of Hekali to Babylon, where they were kept
    captive for 418 years (Maspero, Hist. anc. des peuples de l'orient,
    4e éd. p. 300). A God could migrate with his worshippers from city
    to city (Meyer, iii, 169; Sayce, p. 124); and the Assyrian scribe
    class maintained the worship of their special God Nebo wherever
    they went, though he was a local God to start with (Sayce, pp. 117,
    119, 121). And as to the recognition of the Gods of different
    Egyptian cities by politic kings, see Tiele's own statement,
    p. 36. Cp. his Outlines, pp. 73, 84, 207.


A concrete knowledge of the multiplicity of cults, then, was
obtruded on the leisured and travelled men of the early empires and
of such a civilization as that of Hellas; [122] and when to such
knowledge there was added a scientific astronomy (the earliest to be
constituted of the concrete sciences), a revision of beliefs by such
men was inevitable. [123] It might take the form either of a guarded
skepticism or of a monarchic theology, answering to the organization
of the actual earthly empire; and the latter view, in the nature of
the case, would much the more easily gain ground. The freethought of
early civilization, then, would be practically limited for a long time
to movements in the direction of co-ordinating polytheism, to the end
of setting up a supreme though not a sole deity; the chief God in any
given case being apt to be the God specially affected by the reigning
monarch. Allocation of spheres of influence to the principal deities
would be the working minimum of plausible adjustment, since only
in some such way could the established principle of the regularity
of the heavens be formally accommodated to the current worship; and
wherever there was monarchy, even if the monarch were polytheistic,
there was a lead to gradation among the Gods. [124] A pantheistic
conception would be the highest stretch of rationalism that could
have any vogue even among the educated class. All the while every
advance was liable to the ill-fortune of overthrow or arrest at the
hands of an invading barbarism, which even in adopting the system of an
established priesthood would be more likely to stiffen than to develop
it. Early rationalism, in short, would share in the fluctuations of
early civilization; and achievements of thought would repeatedly be
swept away, even as were the achievements of the constructive arts.



§ 2. THE PROCESS IN INDIA

The process thus deducible from the main conditions is found actually
happening in more than one of the ancient cultures, as their history
is now sketched. In the Rig-Veda, which if not the oldest is the least
altered of the Eastern Sacred Books, the main line of change is obvious
enough. It remains so far matter of conjecture to what extent the early
Vedic cults contain matter adopted from non-Aryan Asiatic peoples; but
no other hypothesis seems to account for the special development of the
cult of Agni in India as compared with the content and development of
the other early Aryan systems, in which, though there are developments
of fire worship, the God Agni does not appear. [125] The specially
priestly character of the Agni worship, and the precedence it takes
in the Vedas over the solar cult of Mitra, which among the kindred
Aryans of Iran receives in turn a special development, suggest some
such grafting, though the relations between Aryans and the Hindu
aborigines, as indicated in the Veda, seem to exclude the possibility
of their adopting the fire-cult from the conquered inhabitants, [126]
who, besides, are often spoken of in the Vedas as "non-sacrificers,"
[127] and at times as "without Gods." [128] But this is sometimes
asserted even of hostile Aryans. [129] In any case the carrying
on of the two main cults of Agni and Indra side by side points to
an original and marked heterogeneity of racial elements; while the
varying combination with them of the worship of other deities, the
old Aryan Varuna, the three forms of the Sun-God Aditya, the Goddess
Aditi and the eight Adityas, the solar Mitra, Vishnu, Rudra, and
the Maruts, imply the adaptation of further varieties of hereditary
creed. The outcome is a sufficiently chaotic medley, in which the
attributes and status of the various Gods are reducible to no code,
[130] the same feats being assigned to several, and the attributes
of all claimed for almost any one. Here, then, were the conditions
provocative of doubt among the critical; and while it is only in the
later books of the Rig-Veda that such doubt finds priestly expression,
it must be inferred that it was current in some degree among laymen
before the hymn-makers avowed that they shared it. The God Soma,
the personification of wine, identified with the Moon-God Chandra,
[131] "hurls the irreligious into the abyss." [132] This may mean that
his cult, like that of his congener Dionysos in Greece, was at first
forcibly resisted, and forcibly triumphed. At an earlier period doubt
is directed against the most popular God, Indra, perhaps on behalf of a
rival cult. [133] Later it seems to take the shape of a half-skeptical,
half-mystical questioning as to which, if any, God is real.


    From the Catholic standpoint, Dr. E. L. Fischer has argued that
    "Varuna is in the ontological, physical, and ethical relation
    the highest, indeed the unique, God of ancient India"; and that
    the Nature-Gods of the Veda can belong only to a later period in
    the religious consciousness (Heidenthum und Offenbarung, 1878,
    pp. 36-37). Such a development, had it really occurred, might
    be said to represent a movement of primitive freethought from
    an unsatisfying monotheism to a polytheism that seemed better
    to explain natural facts. A more plausible view of the process,
    however, is that of von Bradke, to the effect that "the old
    Indo-Germanic polytheism, with its pronounced monarchic apex, which
    ... constituted the religion of the pre-Vedic [Aryan] Hindus, lost
    its monarchic apex shortly before and during the Rig-Veda period,
    and set up for itself the so-called Henotheism [worship of deities
    severally as if each were the only one], which thus represented
    in India a time of religious decline; a decline that, at the end
    of the period to which the Rig-Veda hymns belong, led to an almost
    complete dissolution of the old beliefs. The earlier collection of
    the hymns must have promoted the decline; and the final redaction
    must have completed it. The collected hymns show only too plainly
    how the very deity before whom in one song all the remaining
    Gods bow themselves, in the next sinks almost in the dust before
    another. Then there sounds from the Rig-Veda (x, 121) the wistful
    question: Who is the God whom we should worship?" (Dyâus Asura,
    Ahuramazda, und die Asuras, Halle, 1885, p. 115; cp. note, supra,
    p. 30). On this view the growth of monotheism went on alongside
    of a growth of critical unbelief, but, instead of expressing that,
    provoked it by way of reaction. Dr. Muir more specifically argues
    (Sanskrit Texts, v, 116) that in the Vedic hymns Varuna is a God
    in a state of decadence; and, despite the dissent of M. Barth
    (Religions of India, p. 18), this seems true. But the recession
    of Varuna is only in the normal way of the eclipse of the old
    Supreme God by a nearer deity, and does not suffice to prove a
    growth of agnosticism. M. Fontane (Inde Védique, 1881, p. 305)
    asserts on other grounds a popular movement of negation in the
    Vedic period, but offers rather slender evidence. There is better
    ground for his account of the system as one in which different
    cults had the upper hand at different times, the devotees of
    Indra rejecting Agni, and so on (pp. 310-11).


To meet such a doubt, a pantheistic view of things would naturally
arise, and in the Vedas it often emerges. [134] Thus "Agni is all
the Gods"; and "the Gods are only a single being under different
names." [135] For ancient as for more civilized peoples such a doctrine
had the attraction of nominally reconciling the popular cult with the
skepticism it had aroused. Rising thus as freethought, the pantheistic
doctrine in itself ultimately became in India a dogmatic system, the
monopoly of a priestly caste, whose training in mystical dialectic
made them able to repel or baffle amateur criticism. Such fortifying
of a sophisticated creed by institutions--of which the Brahmanic caste
system is perhaps the strongest type--is one of the main conditions
of relative permanence for any set of opinions; yet even within
the Brahmanic system, by reason, presumably, of the principle that
the higher truth was for the adept and need not interfere with the
popular cult, there were again successive critical revisions of the
pantheistic idea.


    Prof. Garbe (Philosophy of Anc. India, sect. on Hindu Monism)
    argues that all monistic, and indeed all progressive, thinking in
    ancient India arose not among the Brahmans, who were conscienceless
    oppressors, but among the warrior caste; citing stories in the
    Upanishads in which Brahmans are represented as receiving such
    ideas from warriors. The thesis is much weakened by the Professor's
    acceptance of Krishna as primarily a historic character, of the
    warrior class. But there is ground for his general thesis, which
    recognizes (p. 78) that the Brahmans at length assimilated the
    higher thought of laymen. Max Müller puts it that "No nation was
    ever so completely priestridden as the Hindus were under the sway
    of the Brahmanic law. Yet, on the other side, the same people were
    allowed to indulge in the most unrestrained freedom of thought,
    and in the schools of their philosophy the very names of their
    Gods were never mentioned. Their existence was neither denied
    nor asserted...." (Selected Essays, 1881, ii, 244). "Sankhya
    philosophy" [on which Buddhism is supposed to be based], "in
    its original form, claims the name of an-îsvara, 'lordless' or
    'atheistic,' as its distinctive title" (ibid. p. 283).

    Of the nature of a freethinking departure, among the early
    Brahmanists as in other societies, was the substitution of
    non-human for human sacrifices--a development of peaceful
    life-conditions which, though not primitive, must have ante-dated
    Buddhism. See Tiele, Outlines, pp. 126-27 and refs.; Barth,
    Religions of India, pp. 57-59; and Müller, Physical Religion,
    p. 101. Prof. Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, p. 346)
    appears to hold that animal sacrifice was never a substitute
    for human; but his ingenious argument, on analysis, is found to
    prove only that in certain cases the idea of such a substitution
    having taken place may have been unhistorical. If it be granted
    that human sacrifices ever occurred--and all the evidence goes
    to show that they were once universal--substitution would be an
    obvious way of abolishing them. Historical analogy is in favour
    of the view that the change was forced on the priesthood from the
    outside, and only after a time accepted by the Brahmans. Thus
    we find the Khârvâkas, a school of freethinkers, rising in the
    Alexandrian period, making it part of their business to denounce
    the Brahmanic doctrine and practice of sacrifice, and to argue
    against all blood sacrifices; but they had no practical success
    (Tiele, p. 126) until Buddhism triumphed (Mitchell, Hinduism, 1885,
    p. 106; Rhys Davids, tr. of Dialogues of the Buddha, 1899, p. 165).


In the earliest Upanishads the World-Being seems to have been figured
as the totality of matter, [136] an atheistic view associated in
particular with the teaching of Kapila, [137] who himself, however, was
at length raised to divine status, [138] though his system continues
to pass as substantially atheistic. [139] This view being open to all
manner of anti-religious criticism, which it incurred even within the
Brahmanic pale, [140] there was evolved an ideal formula in which
the source of all things is "the invisible, intangible, unrelated,
colourless one, who has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet,
eternal, all-pervading, subtile, and undecaying." [141] At the same
time, the Upanishads exhibit a stringent reaction against the whole
content of the Vedas. Their ostensible object is "to show the utter
uselessness--nay, the mischievousness--of all ritual performances;
to condemn every sacrificial act which has for its motive a desire or
hope of reward; to deny, if not the existence, at least the exceptional
and exalted character of the Devas; and to teach that there is no hope
of salvation and deliverance except by the individual self recognizing
the true and universal self and finding rest there, where alone rest
can be found." [142]

And the critical development does not end there. "In the old
Upanishads, in which the hymns and sacrifices of the Veda are looked
upon as useless, and as superseded by the higher knowledge taught by
the forest-sages, they are not yet attacked as mere impositions. That
opposition, however, sets in very decidedly in the Sutra period. In
the Nirukta (i, 15) Yâska quotes the opinion of Kautsa, that the hymns
of the Veda have no meaning at all." [143] In short, every form of
critical revolt against incredible doctrine that has arisen in later
Europe had taken place in ancient India long before the Alexandrian
conquest. [144] And the same attitude continued to be common within the
post-Alexandrian period; for Panini, who must apparently be dated then,
[145] "was acquainted with infidels and nihilists"; [146] and the
teaching of Brihaspati, [147] on which was founded the system of the
Khârvâkas--apparently one of several sections of a freethinking school
called the Lokâyatas [148] or Lokâyatikas--is extremely destructive of
Vedic pretensions. "The Veda is tainted by the three faults of untruth,
self-contradiction, and tautology.... The impostors who call themselves
Vedic pandits are mutually destructive.... The three authors of the
Vedas were buffoons, knaves, and demons: All the well-known formulas
of the pandits, and all the horrid rites for the queen commanded
in the Asvamedha--these were invented by buffoons, and so all the
various kinds of presents to the priests; while the eating of flesh
was similarly commanded by night-prowling demons." [149]

To what extent such aggressive rationalism ever spread it is now
quite impossible to ascertain. It seems probable that the word
Lokâyata, defined by Sanskrit scholars as signifying "directed
to the world of sense," [150] originally, or about 500 B.C.,
signified "Nature-lore," and that this passed as a branch of Brahman
learning. [151] Significantly enough, while the lore was not extensive,
it came to be regarded as disposing men to unbelief, though it does
not seem to have suggested any thorough training. At length, in the
eighth century of our era, it is found applied as a term of abuse,
in the sense of "infidel," by Kumârila in controversy with opponents
as orthodox as himself; and about the same period Sankara connects
with it a denial of the existence of a separate and immortal soul;
[152] though that opinion had been debated, and not called Lokâyata,
long before, when the word was current in the broader sense. [153]
Latterly, in the fourteenth century, on the strength of some doggerel
verses which cannot have belonged to the early Brahmanic Lokâyata,
it stands for extreme atheism and a materialism not professed by any
known school speaking for itself. [154] The evidence, such as it is,
is preserved only in Sarva-darsana-samgraha, a compendium of all
philosophical systems, compiled in the fourteenth century by the
Vedantic teacher Mâdhavâchâra. [155] One source speaks of an early
text-book of materialism, the Sutras of Brihaspati; [156] but this has
not been preserved. Thus in Hindu as in later European freethought for
a long period we have had to rely for our knowledge of freethinkers'
ideas upon the replies made by their opponents. It is reasonable to
conclude that, save insofar as the arguments of Brihaspati were common
to the Khârvâkas and the Buddhists, [157] such doctrine as his or that
of the later Lokâyatikas cannot conceivably have been more than the
revolt of a thoughtful minority against official as well as popular
religion; and to speak of a time when "the Aryan settlers in India
had arrived at the conviction that all their Devas or Gods were mere
names" [158] is to suggest a general evolution of rational thought
which can no more have taken place in ancient India than it has done
to-day in Europe. The old creeds would always have defenders; and
every revolt was sure to incur a reaction. In the Hitopadesa or "Book
of Good Counsel" (an undated recension of the earlier Panchatantra,
"The Five Books," which in its first form may be placed about the fifth
century of our era) there occur both passages disparaging mere study
of the Sacred Books [159] and passages insisting upon it as a virtue
in itself [160] and otherwise insisting on ritual observances. [161]
They seem to come from different hands.


    The phenomenon of the schism represented by the two divisions
    of the Yazur Veda, the "White" and the "Black," is plausibly
    accounted for as the outcome of the tendencies of a new and an
    old school, who selected from their Brahmanas, or treatises of
    ritual and theology, the portions which respectively suited
    them. The implied critical movement would tend to affect
    official thought in general. This schism is held by Weber to
    have arisen only in the period of ferment set up by Buddhism;
    but other disputes seem to have taken place in abundance in the
    Brahmanical schools before that time. (Cp. Tiele, Outlines,
    p. 123; Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., pp. 10, 27, 232; Max Müller,
    Anthropol. Relig., 1892, pp. 36-37; and Rhys Davids, Buddhism,
    p. 34.) Again, the ascetic and penance-bearing hermits, who were
    encouraged by the veneration paid them to exalt themselves above
    all save the highest Gods, would by their utterances of necessity
    affect the course of doctrine. Compare the same tendency as seen
    in Buddhism and Jainism (Tiele, pp. 135, 140).


But in the later form of the Vedânta, "the end of the Veda," a monistic
and pantheistic teaching holds its ground in our own day, after all
the ups and downs of Brahmanism, alongside of the aboriginal cults
which Brahmanism adopted in its battle with Buddhism; alongside,
too, of the worship of the Veda itself as an eternal and miraculous
document. "The leading tenets [of the Vedânta] are known to some
extent in every village." [162] Yet the Vedântists, again, treat
the Upanishads in turn as a miraculous and inspired system, [163]
and repeat in their case the process of the Vedas: so sure is the law
of fixation in religious thought, while the habit of worship subsists.

The highest activity of rationalistic speculation within the Brahmanic
fold is seen to have followed intelligibly on the most powerful
reaction against the Brahmans' authority. This took place when their
sphere had been extended from the region of the Punjaub, of which alone
the Rig-Veda shows knowledge, to the great kingdoms of Southern India,
pointed to in the Sutras, [164] or short digests of ritual and law
designed for general official use. In the new environment "there was a
well-marked lay-feeling, a widespread antagonism to the priests, a real
sense of humour, a strong fund of common sense. Above all there was
the most complete and unquestioned freedom of thought and expression
in religious matters that the world had yet witnessed." [165]

The most popular basis for rejection of a given system--belief in
another--made ultimately possible there the rise of a practically
atheistic system capable, wherever embraced, of annulling the
burdensome and exclusive system of the Brahmans, which had been
obtruded in its worst form, [166] though not dominantly, in the new
environment. Buddhism, though it cannot have arisen on one man's
initiative in the manner claimed in the legends, even as stripped of
their supernaturalist element, [167] was in its origin essentially
a movement of freethought, such as could have arisen only in the
atmosphere of a much mixed society [168] where the extreme Brahmanical
claims were on various grounds discredited, perhaps even within their
own newly-adjusted body. It was stigmatized as "the science of reason,"
a term equivalent to "heresy" in the Christian sphere; [169] and its
definite rejection of the Vedas made it anti-sacerdotal even while
it retained the modes of speech of polytheism. The tradition which
makes the Buddha [170] a prince suggests an upper-class origin for
the reaction; and there are traces of a chronic resistance to the
Brahmans' rule among their fellow-Aryans before the Buddhist period.


    "The royal families, the warriors, who, it may be supposed,
    strenuously supported the priesthood so long as it was a question
    of robbing the people of their rights, now that this was effected
    turned against their former allies, and sought to throw off the
    yoke that was likewise laid upon them. These efforts were, however,
    unavailing: the colossus was too firmly established. Obscure
    legends and isolated allusions are the only records left to us
    in the later writings of the sacrilegious hands which ventured
    to attack the sacred and divinely consecrated majesty of the
    Brahmans; and these are careful to note at the same time the
    terrible punishments which befel those impious offenders" (Weber,
    Hist. Ind. Lit., p. 19).


The circumstances, however, that the Buddhist writings were from the
first in vernacular dialects, not in Sanskrit, [171] and that the
mythical matter which accumulated round the story of the Buddha is
in the main aboriginal, and largely common to the myth of Krishna,
[172] go to prove that Buddhism spread specially in the non-Aryan
sphere. [173] Its practical (not theoretic) [174] atheism seems to
have rested fundamentally on the conception of Karma, the transition
of the soul, or rather of the personality, through many stages up to
that in which, by self-discipline, it attains the impersonal peace
of Nirvana; and of this conception there is no trace in the Vedas,
[175] though it became a leading tenet of Brahmanism.


    To the dissolvent influence of Greek culture may possibly be
    due some part of the success of Buddhism before our era, and
    even later. Hindu astronomy in the Vedic period was but slightly
    developed (Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., pp. 246, 249, 250); and "it
    was Greek influence that first infused a real life into Indian
    astronomy" (Id. p. 251; cp. Letronne, Mélanges d'Érudition, 1860
    (?), p. 40; Narrien, Histor. Acc. of Orig. and Prog. of Astron.,
    p. 33, and Lib. Use. Kn. Hist. of Astron., c. ii). This implies
    other interactions. It is presumably to Greek stimulus that we must
    trace the knowledge by Aryabhata (Colebrooke's Essays, ed. 1873,
    ii, 404; cp. Weber, p. 257) of the doctrine of the earth's
    diurnal revolution on its axis; and the fact that in India as in
    the Mediterranean world the truth was later lost from men's hands
    may be taken as one of the proofs that the two civilizations alike
    retrograded owing to evil political conditions. In the progressive
    period (from about 320 B.C. onwards for perhaps some centuries)
    Greek ideas might well help to discredit traditionalism; and their
    acceptance at royal courts would be favourable to toleration
    of the new teaching. At the same time, Buddhism must have been
    favoured by the native mental climate in which it arose.


The main differentiation of Buddhism from Brahmanism, again, is its
ethical spirit, which sets aside formalism and seeks salvation in an
inward reverie and discipline; and this element in turn can hardly
be conceived as arising save in an old society, far removed from the
warlike stage represented by the Vedas. Whatever may have been its
early association with Brahmanism [176] then, it must be regarded
as essentially a reaction against Brahmanical doctrine and ideals;
a circumstance which would account for its early acceptance in the
Punjaub, where Brahmanism had never attained absolute power and was
jealously resisted by the free population. [177] And the fact that
Jainism, so closely akin to Buddhism, has its sacred books in a dialect
belonging to the region in which Buddhism arose, further supports the
view that the reaction grew out of the thought of a type of society
differing widely from that in which Brahmanism arose. Jainism, like
Buddhism, is substantially atheistic, [178] and like it has an ancient
monkish organization to which women were early admitted. The original
crypto-atheism or agnosticism of the Buddhist movement thus appears as
a product of a relatively high, because complex, moral and intellectual
evolution. It certainly never impugned the belief in the Gods; on
the contrary, the Buddha is often represented as speaking of their
existence, [179] and at times as approving of their customary worship;
[180] but he is never said to counsel his own order to pray to them;
he makes light of sacrifice; and above all he is made quite negative
as to a future life, preaching the doctrine of Karma in a sense which
excludes individual immortality. [181] "It cannot be denied that
if we call the old Gods of the Veda--Indra and Agni and Yama--Gods,
Buddha was an atheist. He does not believe in the divinity of these
deities. What is noteworthy is that he does not by any means deny
their bare existence.... The founder of Buddhism treats the old Gods
as superhuman beings." [182] Thus it is permissible to say both that
Buddhism recognizes Gods and that it is practically atheistic.


    "The fact cannot be disputed away that the religion of Buddha
    was from the beginning purely atheistic. The idea of the Godhead
    ... was for a time at least expelled from the sanctuary of the
    human mind, [183] and the highest morality that was ever taught
    before the rise of Christianity was taught by men with whom the
    Gods had become mere phantoms, without any altars, not even an
    altar to the unknown God" (Max Müller, Introd. to the Science of
    Religion, ed. 1882, p. 81. Cp. the same author's Selected Essays,
    1881, ii, 300.)

    "He [Buddha] ignores God in so complete a way that he does not even
    seek to deny him; he does not suppress him, but he does not speak
    of him either to explain the origin and anterior existence of man
    or to explain the present life, or to conjecture his future life
    and definitive deliverance. The Buddha knows God in no fashion
    whatever" (Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, Le Bouddha et sa Religion,
    1866, p. v).

    "Buddhism and Christianity are indeed the two opposite poles with
    regard to the most essential points of religion: Buddhism ignoring
    all feeling of dependence on a higher power, and therefore denying
    the very existence of a supreme deity" (Müller, Introd. to Sc. of
    Rel., p. 171).

    "Lastly, the Buddha declared that he had arrived at [his]
    conclusions, not by study of the Vedas, nor from the teachings
    of others, but by the light of reason and intuition alone"
    (Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 48). "The most ancient Buddhism
    despises dreams and visions" (Id., p. 177). "Agnostic atheism
    ... is the characteristic of his [Buddha's] system of philosophy"
    (Id., p. 207).

    "Belief in a Supreme Being, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe,
    is unquestionably a modern graft upon the unqualified atheism of
    Sákya Muni: it is still of very limited recognition. In none of
    the standard authorities ... is there the slightest allusion to
    such a First Cause, the existence of which is incompatible with
    the fundamental Buddhist dogma of the eternity of all existence"
    (H. H. Wilson, Buddha and Buddhism, in Essays and Lectures,
    ed. by Dr. R. Rost, 1862, ii, 361. Cp. p. 363).


On the other hand, the gradual colouring of Buddhism with popular
mythology, the reversion (if, indeed, this were not early) to
adoration and worship of the Buddha himself, and the final collapse
of the system in India before the pressure of Brahmanized Hinduism,
all prove the potency of the sociological conditions of success and
failure for creeds and criticisms. Buddhism took the monastic form
for its institutions, thus incurring ultimate petrifaction alike
morally and intellectually; and in any case the normal Indian social
conditions of abundant population, cheap food, and general ignorance
involved an overwhelming vitality for the popular cults. These the
orthodox Brahmans naturally took under their protection as a means
of maintaining their hold over the multitude; [184] and though their
own highest philosophy has been poetically grafted on that basis,
as in the epic of the Mahâbhârata and in the Bhagavat Gita, [185]
the ordinary worship of the deities of these poems is perforce
utterly unphilosophical, varying between a primitive sensualism
and an emotionalism closely akin to that of popular forms of
Christianity. Buddhism itself, where it still prevails, exhibits
similar tendencies. [186]


    It is disputed whether the Brahman influence drove Buddhism
    out of India by physical force, or whether the latter decayed
    because of maladaptation to its environment. Its vogue for some
    seven hundred years, from about 300 B.C. to about 400 A.C.,
    seems to have been largely due to its protection and final
    acceptance as a State religion by the dynasty of Chandragupta
    (the Sandracottos of the Greek historians), whose grandson
    Asoka showed it special favour. His rock-inscribed edicts (for
    which see Max Müller, Introd. to Science of Rel., pp. 5-6, 23;
    Anthrop. Relig., pp. 40-43; Rhys Davids, Buddhism, pp. 220-28;
    Wheeler's Hist. of India, vol. iii, app. 1; Asiatic Society's
    Journals, vols. viii and xii; Indian Antiquary, 1877, vol. vi)
    show a general concern for natural ethics, and especially for
    tolerance; but his mention of "The Terrors of the Future" among
    the religious works he specially honours shows (if genuine) that
    normal superstition, if ever widely repudiated (which is doubtful),
    had interpenetrated the system. The king, too, called himself
    "the delight of the Gods," as did his contemporary the Buddhist
    king of Ceylon (Davids, Buddhism, p. 84). Under Asoka, however,
    Buddhism was powerful enough to react somewhat on the West, then
    in contact with India as a result of the Alexandrian conquest
    (cp. Mahaffy, Greek World under Roman Sway, ch. ii; Weber's
    lecture on Ancient India, Eng. tr., pp. 25-26; Indische Skizzen,
    p. 28 [cited in the present writer's Christianity and Mythology,
    p. 165]; and Weber's Hist of Ind. Lit., p. 255 and p. 309, note);
    and the fact that after his time it entered on a long conflict
    with Brahmanism proves that it remained practically dangerous to
    that system. In the fifth and sixth centuries of our era Buddhism
    in India "rapidly declined"--a circumstance hardly intelligible
    save as a result of violence. Tiele, after expressly asserting the
    "rapid decline" (Outlines, p. 139), in the next breath asserts that
    there are no satisfactory proofs of such violence, and that, "on
    the contrary, Buddhism appears to have pined away slowly" (p. 140:
    contrast his Egypt. Rel., p. xxi). Rhys Davids, in his Buddhism,
    p. 246 (so also Max Müller, Anthrop. Rel., p. 43), argues for a
    process of violent extinction; but in his later work, Buddhist
    India, he retracts this view and decides for a gradual decline
    in the face of a Brahmanic revival. The evidences for violence
    and persecution are, however, pretty strong. (See H. H. Wilson,
    Essays, as cited, ii, 365-67.) Internal decay certainly appears
    to have occurred. Already in Gautama's own life, according to the
    legends, there were doctrinal disputes within his party (Müller,
    Anthrop. Rel., p. 38); and soon heresies and censures abounded
    (Introd. to Sc. of Rel., p. 23), till schisms arose and no fewer
    than eighteen sects took shape (Davids, Buddhism, pp. 213-18).


Thus early in our inquiry we may gather, from a fairly complete
historical case, the primary laws of causation as regards alike the
progress and the decadence of movements of rationalistic thought. The
fundamental economic dilemma, seen already in the life of the savage,
presses at all stages of civilization. The credent multitude, save
in the very lowest stages of savage destitution, always feeds and
houses those who furnish it with its appropriate mental food; and
so long as there remains the individual struggle for existence,
there will always be teachers ready. If the higher minds in any
priesthood, awaking to the character of their traditional teaching,
withdraw from it, lower minds, howbeit "sincere," will always take
their place. The innovating teacher, in turn, is only at the beginning
of his troubles when he contrives, on whatever bases, to set up a new
organized movement. The very process of organization, on the one hand,
sets up the call for special economic sustenance--a constant motive
to compromise with popular ignorance--and, on the other hand, tends to
establish merely a new traditionalism, devoid of the critical impulse
in which it arose. [187] And without organization the innovating
thought cannot communicate itself, cannot hold its own against the
huge social pressures of tradition.

In ancient society, in short, there could be no continuous progress
in freethinking: at best, there could but be periods or lines of
relative progress, the result of special conjunctures of social and
political circumstance. So much will appear, further, from the varying
instances of still more ancient civilizations, the evolution of which
may be the better understood from our survey of that of India.



§ 3. MESOPOTAMIA

The nature of the remains we possess of the ancient Babylonian and
Assyrian religions is not such as to yield a direct record of their
development; but they suffice to show that there, as elsewhere,
a measure of rationalistic evolution occurred. Were there no other
ground for the inference, it might not unreasonably be drawn from
the post-exilic monotheism of the Hebrews, who, drawing so much of
their cosmology and temple ritual from Babylon, may be presumed to
have been influenced by the higher Semitic civilizations in other
ways also. [188] But there is concrete evidence. What appears to
have happened in Babylonia and Assyria, whose religious systems were
grafted on that of the more ancient Sumer-Akkadian civilization,
is a gradual subordination of the numerous local Gods (at least in
the thought of the more philosophic, including some of the priests)
to the conception of one all-pervading power. This process would be
assisted by that of imperialism; and in the recently-recovered code of
Hammurabi we actually find references to Ilu "God" (as in the European
legal phrase, "the act of God") without any further God-name. [189]
On the other hand, the unifying tendency would be resisted by the
strength of the traditions of the Babylonian cities, all of which
had ancient cults before the later empires were built up. [190]
Yet, again, peoples who failed in war would be in some measure led
to renounce their God as weak; while those who clung to their faith
would be led, as in Jewry, to recast its ethic. The result was a
set of compromises in which the provincial and foreign deities were
either treated genealogically or grouped in family or other relations
with the chief God or Gods of the time being. [191] Certain cults,
again, were either kept always at a higher ethical level than the
popular one, or were treated by the more refined and more critical
worshippers in an elevated spirit; [192] and this tendency seems to
have led to conceptions of purified deities who underlay or transcended
the popular types, the names of the latter being held to point to one
who was misconceived under their grosser aspects. [193] Astronomical
knowledge, again, gave rise to cosmological theories which pointed to
a ruling and creating God, [194] who as such would have a specially
ethical character. In some such way was reached a conception of a
Creator-God as the unity represented by the fifty names of the Great
Gods, who lost their personality when their names were liturgically
given to him [195]--a conception which in some statements even had
a pantheistic aspect [196] among a "group of priestly thinkers," and
in others took the form of an ideal theocracy. [197] There is record
that the Babylonian schools were divided into different sects, [198]
and their science was likely to make some of these rationalistic. [199]
Professor Sayce even goes so far as to say that in the later cosmogony,
"under a thin disguise of theological nomenclature, the Babylonian
theory of the universe has become a philosophical materialism." [200]


    It might be taken for granted, further, that disbelief would
    be set up by such a primitive fraud as the alleged pretence of
    the priests of Bel Merodach that the God cohabited nightly with
    the concubine set apart for him (Herodotos, i, 181-82), as was
    similarly pretended by the priests of Amun at Thebes. Herodotos
    could not believe the story, which, indeed, is probably a late
    Greek fable; but there must have been some skeptics within the
    sphere of the Semitic cult of sacred prostitution.

    As regards freethinking in general, much would depend on the
    development of the Chaldæan astronomy. That science, growing out of
    primitive astrology (cp. Whewell, Hist. of the Induct. Sciences,
    3rd ed. i, 108), would tend to discredit, among its experts,
    much of the prevailing religious thought; and they seem to have
    carried it so far as to frame a scientific theory of comets
    (Seneca, citing Apollonius Myndius, Quaest. Nat., vii, 3;
    cp. Lib. Use. Kn. Hist. of Astron., c. 3; E. Meyer, Gesch. des
    Alterthums, i, 186; and Weber, Ind. Lit., p. 248). Such knowledge
    would greatly favour skepticism, as well as monotheism and
    pantheism. It was sought to be astrologically applied; but, as
    the horoscopes varied, this was again a source of unbelief (Meyer,
    p. 179). Medicine, again, made little progress (Herod., i, 197).

    It can hardly be doubted, finally, that in Babylonia and Assyria
    there were idealists who, like the Hebrew prophets, repudiated
    alike image-worship and the religion of sacrifices. The latter
    repudiation occurs frequently in later Greece and Rome. There,
    as in Jerusalem, it could make itself heard in virtue of the
    restrictedness of the power of the priests, who in imperial
    Babylonia and Assyria, on the other hand, might be trusted to
    suppress or override any such propaganda, as we have seen was
    done in Brahmanical India.

    Concerning image-worship, apart from the proved fact of pantheistic
    doctrine, and the parallels in Egypt and India, it is to be noted
    that Isaiah actually puts in the mouth of the Assyrian king
    a tirade against the "kingdoms of the idols" or "false gods,"
    including in these Jerusalem and Samaria (Isa. x, 10, 11). The
    passage is dramatic, but it points to the possibility that in
    Assyria just as in Israel a disbelief in idols could arise from
    reflection on the spectacle of their multitude.


The chequered political history of Babylon and Assyria, however, made
impossible any long-continued development of critical and philosophical
thought. Their amalgamations of creeds and races had in a measure
favoured such development; [201] and it was probably the setting up
of a single rule over large populations formerly at chronic war that
reduced to a minimum, if it did not wholly abolish, human sacrifice
in the later pre-Persian empires; [202] but the inevitably subject
state of the mass of the people, and the chronic military upset
of the government, were conditions fatally favourable to ordinary
superstition. The new universalist conceptions, instead of dissolving
the special cults in pantheism, led only to a fresh competition of
cults on cosmopolitan lines, all making the same pretensions, and
stressing their most artificial peculiarities as all-important. Thus,
when old tribal or local religions went proselytizing in the enlarged
imperial field, they made their most worthless stipulations--as Jewish
circumcision and abstinence from pork, and the self-mutilation of
the followers of Cybelê--the very grounds of salvation. [203] Culture
remained wholly in the hands of the priestly and official class, [204]
who, like the priesthoods of Egypt, were held to conservatism by their
vast wealth. [205] Accordingly we find the early religion of sorcery
maintaining itself in the literature of the advanced empires. [206]
The attitude of the Semitic priests and scribes towards the old Akkadic
as a sacred language was in itself, like the use of sacred books in
general, long a check upon new thought; [207] and though the Assyrian
life seems to have set this check aside, by reason of the lack of a
culture class in Assyria, the later Babylonian kingdom which rose on
the fall of Assyria was too short-lived to profit much by the gain,
being in turn overthrown in the second generation by Cyrus. It is
significant that the conqueror was welcomed by the Babylonian priests
as against their last king, the inquiring and innovating Nabonidos
[208] (Nabu-nahid), who had aimed at a monarchic polytheism or
quasi-monotheism. He is described as having turned away from Mardouk
(Merodach), the great Babylonian God, who accordingly accepted Cyrus
in his stead. It is thus clear that Cyrus, who restored the old
state of things, was no strict monotheist of the later Persian type,
but a schemer who relied everywhere on popular religious interests,
and conciliated the polytheists and henotheists of Babylon as he did
the Yahweh-worshipping Jews. [209] The Persian quasi-monotheism and
anti-idolatry, however, already existed, and it is conceivable that
they may have been intensified among the more cultured through the
peculiar juxtaposition of cults set up by the Persian conquest.


    Mr. Sayce's dictum (Hib. Lect., p. 314), that the later ethical
    element in the Akkado-Babylonian system is "necessarily" due
    to Semitic race elements, is seen to be fallacious in the light
    of his own subsequent admission (p. 353) as to the lateness of
    the development among the Semites. The difference between early
    Akkadian and later Babylonian was simply one of culture-stage. See
    Mr. Sayce's own remarks on p. 300; and compare E. Meyer (Gesch. des
    Alt., i, 178, 182, 183), who entirely rejects the claim made for
    Semitic ethics. See, again, Tiele, Outlines, p. 78, and Mr. Sayce's
    own account (Anc. Em. of the East, p. 202) of the Phoenician
    religion as "impure and cruel." Other writers take the line of
    arguing that the Phoenicians were "not Semites," and that they
    differed in all things from the true Semites (cp. Dr. Marcus
    Dods, Israel's Iron Age, 1874, p. 10, and Farrar, as there
    cited). The explanation of such arbitrary judgments seems to be
    that the Semites are assumed to have had a primordial religious
    gift as compared with "Turanians," and that the Hebrews in turn
    are assumed to have been so gifted above other Semites. We shall
    best guard against à priori injustice to the Semites themselves,
    in the conjunctures in which they really advanced civilization,
    by entirely discarding the unscientific method of explaining the
    history of races in terms of hereditary character (see below, §
    6, end).



§ 4. ANCIENT PERSIA

The Mazdean system, or worship of Ahura Mazda (Ormazd), of which we
find in Herodotos positive historical record as an anti-idolatrous
and nominally monotheistic creed [210] in the fifth century B.C., is
the first to which these aspects can be ascribed with certainty. As
the Jews are found represented in the Book of Jeremiah [211] (assumed
to have been written in the sixth century B.C.) worshipping numerous
Gods with images: and as polytheistic and idolatrous practices are
still described in the Book of Ezekiel [212] (assumed to have been
written during or after the Babylonian Captivity), it is inadmissible
to accept the unauthenticated writings of ostensibly earlier prophets
as proving even a propaganda of monotheism on their part, the so-called
Mosaic law being known to be in large part of late invention and of
Babylonian derivation. [213] In any case, the mass of the people were
clearly image-worshippers. The Persians, on the other hand, can be
taken with certainty to have had in the sixth century an imageless
worship (though images existed for other purposes), with a supreme
God set above all others. The Magian or Mazdean creed, as we have
seen, was not very devoutly held by Cyrus; but Dareios a generation
later is found holding it with zeal; and it cannot have grown in a
generation to the form it then bore. It must therefore be regarded as
a development of the religion of some section of the "Iranian" race,
centering as it does round some deities common to the Vedic Aryans.

The Mazdean system, as we first trace it in history, was the religion
of the Medes, a people joined with the Persians proper under Cyrus;
and the Magi or priests were one of the seven tribes of the Medes,
[214] as the Levites were one of the tribes of Israel. It may then be
conjectured that the Magi were the priests of a people who previously
conquered or were conquered by the Medes, who had then adopted their
religion, as did the Persians after their conquest by or union with
the Medes. Cyrus, a semi-Persian, may well have regarded the Medes
with some racial distrust, and, while using them as the national
priests, would naturally not be devout in his adherence at a time
when the two peoples were still mutually jealous. When, later,
after the assassination of his son Smerdis (Bardes or Bardija) by
the elder son, King Cambyses, and the death of the latter, the Median
and Magian interest set up the "false Smerdis," Persian conspirators
overthrew the pretender and crowned the Persian Dareios Hystaspis,
marking their sense of hostility to the Median and Magian element
by a general massacre of Magi. [215] Those Magi who survived would
naturally cultivate the more their priestly influence, the political
being thus for the time destroyed; though they seem to have stirred up
a Median insurrection in the next century against Dareios II. [216]
However that may be, Dareios I became a zealous devotee of their
creed, [217] doubtless finding that a useful means of conciliating
the Medes in general, who at the outset of his reign seem to have
given him much trouble. [218] The richest part of his dominions [219]
was East-Iran, which appears to have been the original home of the
worship of Ahura-Mazda. [220]


    Such is the view of the case derivable from Herodotos, who
    remains the main authority; but recent critics have raised some
    difficulties. That the Magians were originally a non-Median tribe
    seems clear; Dr. Tiele (Outlines, pp. 163, 165) even decides that
    they were certainly non-Aryan. Compare Ed. Meyer (Gesch. des Alt.,
    i, 530, note, 531, §§ 439, 440), who holds that the Mazdean system
    was in its nature not national but abstract, and could therefore
    take in any race. Several modern writers, however (Canon Rawlinson,
    ed. of Herodotos, i, 426-31; Five Great Monarchies, 2nd ed. ii,
    345-55, iii, 402-404; Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, Eng. tr. pp. 197,
    218-39; Sayce, Anc. Emp. of the East, p. 248), represent the
    Magians as not only anti-Aryan (= anti-Persian), but opposed to the
    very worship of Ormazd, which is specially associated with their
    name. It seems difficult to reconcile this view with the facts; at
    least it involves the assumption of two opposed sets of Magi. The
    main basis for the theory seems to be the allusion in the Behistun
    inscription of Dareios to some acts of temple-destruction by the
    usurping Magian Gomates, brother and controller of the pretender
    Smerdis. (See the inscription translated in Records of the Past,
    i, 111-15.) This Meyer sets aside as an unsettled problem, without
    inferring that the Magians were anti-Mazdean (cp. § 449 and §
    511, note). As to the massacre, however, Meyer decides (i, 613)
    that Herodotos blundered, magnifying the killing of "the Magus"
    into a slaughter of "the Magi." But this is one of the few points
    at which Herodotos is corroborated by Ktesias (cp. Grote, iii, 440,
    note). A clue to a solution may perhaps be found in the facts that,
    while the priestly system remained opposed to all image-worship,
    Dareios made emblematic images of the Supreme God (Meyer, i,
    213, 617) and of Mithra; and that Artaxerxes Mnemon later put an
    image of Mithra in the royal temple of Susa, besides erecting many
    images to Anaitis. (Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies, iii, 320-21,
    360-61.) There may have been opposing tendencies; the conquest of
    Babylon being likely to have introduced new elements. The Persian
    art now arising shows the most marked Assyrian influences.


The religion thus imposed on the Persians seems to have been imageless
by reason of the simple defect of art among its cultivators; [221]
and to have been monotheistic only in the sense that its chief deity
was supreme over all others, including even the great Evil Power,
Ahriman (Angra Mainyu). Its God-group included Mithra, once the
equal of Ahura-Mazda, [222] and later more prominent than he; [223]
as well as a Goddess, Anahita, apparently of Akkadian origin. Before
the period of Cyrus, the eastern part of Persia seems to have been but
little civilized; [224] and it was probably there that its original
lack of images became an essential element in the doctrine of its
priests. As we find it in history, and still more in its sacred book,
the Zendavesta, which as we have it represents a late liturgical
compilation, [225] Mazdeism is a priest-made religion rather than
the work of one Zarathustra or any one reformer; and its rejection
of images, however originated, is to be counted to the credit of its
priests, like the pantheism or nominal monotheism of the Mesopotamian,
Brahmanic, and Egyptian religions. The original popular faith had
clearly been a normal polytheism. [226] For the rest, the Mazdean ethic
has the usual priestly character as regards the virtue it assigns to
sacrifice; [227] but otherwise compares favourably with Brahmanism.


    As to this cult being priest-made, see Meyer, i, 523, 540,
    541. Tiele (Outlines, pp. 167, 178) assumes a special reformation
    such as is traditionally associated with Zarathustra, holding
    that either a remarkable man or a sect must have established
    the monotheistic idea. Meyer (i, 537) holds with M. Darmesteter
    that Zarathustra is a purely mythical personage, made out of a
    Storm-God. Dr. Menzies (Hist. of Relig. p. 384) holds strongly
    by his historic actuality. The problem is analogous to those
    concerning Moses and Buddha; but though the historic case of
    Mohammed bars a confident decision in the negative, the balance
    of presumption is strongly against the traditional view. See the
    author's Pagan Christs, pp. 286-88.


There is no reason to believe, however, that among the Persian peoples
the higher view of things fared any better than elsewhere. [228] The
priesthood, however enlightened it may have been in its inner culture,
never slackened the practice of sacrifice and ceremonial; and the
worship of subordinate spirits and the propitiation of demons figured
as largely in their beliefs as in any other. In time the cult of the
Saviour-God Mithra came to the front very much as did that of Jesus
later; and in the one case as in the other, despite ethical elements,
superstition was furthered. When, still later, the recognition of
Ahriman was found to endanger the monotheistic principle, an attempt
seems to have been made under the Sassanian dynasty, in our own era,
to save it by positing a deity who was father of both Ahura-Mazda
and Angra-mainyu; [229] but this last slight effort of freethinking
speculation came to nothing. Social and political obstacles determined
the fate of Magian as of other ancient rationalism.


    According to Rawlinson, Zoroastrianism under the Parthian
    (Arsacide) empire was gradually converted into a complex system
    of idolatry, involving a worship of ancestors and dead kings
    (Sixth Orient. Mon. p. 399; Seventh Mon. pp. 8-9, 56). Gutschmid,
    however, following Justin (xli, 3, 5-6), pronounces the Parthians
    zealous followers of Zoroastrianism, dutifully obeying it in
    the treatment of their dead (Geschichte Irans von Alexander bis
    zum Untergang der Arsakiden, 1888, pp. 57-58)--a law not fully
    obeyed even by Dareios and his dynasty (Heeren, Asiatic Nations,
    Eng. tr. i, 127). Rawlinson, on the contrary, says the Parthians
    burned their dead--an abomination to Zoroastrians. Certainly
    the name of the Parthian King Mithradates implies acceptance of
    Mazdeism. At the same time Rawlinson admits that in Persia itself,
    under the Parthian dynasty, Zoroastrianism remained pure (Seventh
    Mon. pp. 9-10), and that, even when ultimately it became mixed
    up with normal polytheism, the dualistic faith and the supremacy
    of Ormazd were maintained (Five Monarchies, 2nd ed. iii, 362-63;
    cp. Darmesteter, Zendavesta, i, lxvi, 2nd ed.).



§ 5. EGYPT

The relatively rich store of memorials left by the Egyptian religions
yields us hardly any more direct light on the growth of religious
rationalism than do those of Mesopotamia, though it supplies much
fuller proof that such a growth took place. All that is clear is that
the comparison and competition of henotheistic cults there as elsewhere
led to a measure of relative skepticism, which took doctrinal shape in
a loose monism or pantheism. The language is often monotheistic, but
never, in the early period, is polytheism excluded; on the contrary,
it is affirmed in the same breath. [230] The alternate ascendancy
of different dynasties, with different Gods, forced on the process,
which included, as in Babylon, a priestly grouping of deities in
families and triads [231]--the latter arrangement, indeed, being only
a return to a primitive African conception. [232] It involved further
a syncretism or a combining of various Gods into one, [233] and also
an esoteric explanation of the God-myths as symbolical of natural
processes, or else of mystical ideas. [234] There are even evidences
of quasi-atheism in the shape of materialistic hymns on Lucretian
lines. [235] At the beginning of the New Kingdom (1500 B.C.) it had
been fully established for all the priesthoods that the Sun-God was
the one real God, and that it was he who was worshipped in all the
others. [236] He in turn was conceived as a pervading spiritual force,
of anthropomorphic character and strong moral bias. [237] This seems to
have been by way of a purification of one pre-eminent compound deity,
Amen-Ra, to begin with, whose model was followed in other cults. [238]
"Theocracies of this kind could not have been formed unconsciously. Men
knew perfectly well that they were taking a great step in advance of
their fathers." [239] There had occurred, in short, among the educated
and priestly class a considerable development, going on through
many centuries, alike in philosophical and in ethical thought; the
ethics of the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" being quite as altruistic
as those of any portion of the much later Christian Gospels. [240]
Such a development could arise only in long periods of peace and
law-abiding life; though it is found to be accelerated after the
Persian conquest, which would force upon the Egyptian priesthood
new comparisons and accommodations. [241] And yet all this was done
"without ever sacrificing the least particle of the beliefs of the
past." [242] The popular polytheism, resting on absolute ignorance,
was indestructible; and the most philosophic priests seem never to have
dreamt of unsettling it, though, as we shall see, a masterful king did.

An eminent Egyptologist has written that, "whatever literary treasures
may be brought to light in the future as the result of excavations
in Egypt, it is most improbable that we shall ever receive from
that country any ancient Egyptian work which can properly be classed
among the literature of atheism or freethought; the Egyptian might be
more or less religious according to his nature and temperament, but,
judging from the writings of his priests and teachers which are now
in our hands, the man who was without religion and God in some form
or other was most rare, if not unknown." [243] It is not clear what
significance the writer attaches to this statement. Unquestionably the
mass of the Egyptians were always naïf believers in all that was given
them as religion; and among the common people even the minds which,
as elsewhere, varied from the norm of credulity would be too much
cowed by the universal parade of religion to impugn it; while their
ignorance and general crudity of life would preclude coherent critical
thought on the subject. But to conclude that among the priesthood and
the upper classes there was never any "freethinking" in the sense
of disbelief in the popular and official religion, even up to the
point of pantheism or atheism, is to ignore the general lesson of
culture history elsewhere. Necessarily there was no "literature of
atheism or freethought." Such literature could have no public, and,
as a menace to the wealth and status of the priesthood, would have
brought death on the writer. But in such a multitudinous priesthood
there must have been, at some stages, many who realized the mummery
of the routine religion, and some who transcended the commonplaces
of theistic thought. From the former, if not from the latter, would
come esoteric explanations for the benefit of the more intelligent
of the laity of the official class, who could read; and it is idle
to decide that deeper unbelief was privately "unknown."

It is contended, as against the notion of an esoteric and an exoteric
doctrine, that the scribes "did not, as is generally supposed, keep
their new ideas carefully concealed, so as to leave to the multitude
nothing but coarse superstitions. The contrary is evident from a
number of inscriptions which can be read by anybody, and from books
which anyone can buy." [244] But the assumption that "anyone" could
read or buy books in ancient Egypt is a serious misconception. Even in
our own civilization, where "anyone" can presumably buy freethought
journals or works on anthropology and the history of religions,
the mass of the people are so placed that only by chance does such
knowledge reach them; and multitudes are so little cultured that they
would pass it by with uncomprehending indifference were it put before
them. In ancient Egypt, however, the great mass of the people could
not even read; and no man thought of teaching them.


    This fact alone goes far to harmonize the ancient Greek testimonies
    as to the existence of an esoteric teaching in Egypt with Tiele's
    contention to the contrary. See the pros and cons set forth and
    confusedly pronounced upon by Professor Chantepie de la Saussaye,
    Manual of the Science of Religion, Eng. tr. pp. 400-401. We
    know from Diodorus (i, 81), what we could deduce from our other
    knowledge of Egyptian conditions, that, apart from the priests
    and the official class, no one received any literary culture save
    in some degree the higher grades of artificers, who needed some
    little knowledge of letters for their work in connection with
    monuments, sepulchres, mummy-cases, and so forth. Cp. Maspero,
    Hist. anc. des peuples de l'orient, p. 285. Even the images of
    the higher Gods were shown to the people only on festival-days
    (Meyer Gesch. des Alterthums, i, 82).


The Egyptian civilization was thus, through all its stages, obviously
conditioned by its material basis, which in turn ultimately determined
its polity, there being no higher contemporary civilization to
lead it otherwise. An abundant, cheap, and regular food supply
maintained in perpetuity a dense and easily-exploited population,
whose lot through thousands of years was toil, ignorance, political
subjection, and a primitive mental life. [245] For such a population
general ideas had no light and no comfort; for them was the simple
human worship of the local natural Gods or the presiding Gods of the
kingdom, alike confusedly conceived as great powers, figured often
as some animal, which for the primeval mind signified indefinite
capacity and unknown possibility of power and knowledge. [246] Myths
and not theories, magic and not ethics, were their spiritual food,
albeit their peaceful animal lives conformed sufficiently to their
code. And the life-conditions of the mass determined the policy of
priest and king. The enormous priestly revenue came from the people,
and the king's power rested on both orders.


    As to this revenue see Diodorus Siculus, i, 73; and Erman, Handbook
    of Egyptian Religion, Eng. tr. 1907, p. 71. According to Diodorus,
    a third of the whole land of the kingdom was allotted to the
    priesthoods. About a sixth of the whole land seems to have been
    given to the Gods by Ramessu III alone, besides 113,000 slaves,
    490,000 cattle, and immense wealth of other kinds (Flinders
    Petrie, Hist. of Egypt, iii (1905), 154-55). The bulk of the
    possessions here enumerated seems to have gone to the temple
    of Amen at Thebes and that of the Sun-God at Heliopolis (Erman,
    as cited). It is to be noted, however, that the priestly order
    included all the physicians, lawyers, clerks, schoolmasters,
    sculptors, painters, land measurers, drug sellers, conjurers,
    diviners, and undertakers. Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians,
    ed. Birch, 1878, i, 157-58; Sharpe, Egypt. Mythol. p. 26;
    Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. i, § 68. "The sacred domains included
    herds of cattle, birds, fishermen, serfs, and temple servants"
    (Flinders Petrie, as cited, iii, 42). When the revenues assigned
    for a temple of Seti I were found to be misappropriated, and the
    building stopped, his son, Ramessu II, assigned a double revenue
    for the completion of the work and the worship (id.). Like the
    later priesthood of Christendom, that of Egypt forged documents
    to establish claims to revenue (id. p. 69). Captured cattle in
    great quantities were bestowed on temples of Amen (id. p. 149),
    whose priests were especially grasping (id. p. 153). Thus in the
    one reign of Ramessu III they received fifty-six towns of Egypt
    and nine of Syria and 62,000 serfs (id. p. 155).


This was fully seen when King Akhunaton (otherwise Echnaton, or
Icheniton, or Akhunaton, or Akhunaten, or Chuenaten, or Khu-en-aten, or
Kku-n-aten, or Khouniatonou, or Khounaton!) = Amen-hetep or Amun-hotep
(or Amenophis) IV, moved by monotheistic zeal, departed so far from the
customary royal policy as to put under the ban all deities save that he
had chosen for himself, repudiating the God-name Amen in his own name,
and making one from that of his chosen Sun-God, Aten ("the sun's disk")
or Aton or Atonou [247] or Iton [248] (latterly held to be = the Syrian
Adon, "the Lord," symbolized by the sun's disk). There is reason to
think that his was not a mere Sun-worship, but the cult of a deity,
"Lord of the Disk," who looked through the sun's disk as through a
window. [249] In any interpretation, however, the doctrine was wholly
inacceptable to a priesthood whose multitudinous shrines its success
would have emptied. Of all the host of God-names, by one account only
that of the old Sun-God Ra-Harmachis was spared, [250] as being held
identical with that of Aten; and by one account [251] the disaffection
of priests and people rose to the point of open rebellion. At length
Akhunaton, "Glory of the Disk," as he elected to name himself, built
for himself and his God a new capital city in Middle Egypt, Akhet-Aten
(or Khut-Aten), the modern Tell-el-Amarna, where he assembled around
him a society after his own heart, and carried on his Aten-worship,
while his foreign empire was crumbling. The "Tell-el-Amarna tablets"
were found in the ruins of his city, which was deserted a generation
after his death. Though the king enforced his will while he lived,
his movement "bore no fruit whatever," his policy being reversed
after his family had died out, and his own monuments and capital city
razed to the ground by orthodox successors. [252] In the same way the
earlier attempt of the alien Hyksos to suppress the native polytheism
and image-worship had come to nothing. [253]


    The history of Akhunaton is established by the later
    Egyptology. Sharpe makes no mention of it, though the point had
    been discussed from 1839 onwards. Cp. Lepsius, Letters from Egypt,
    etc., Bohn trans. 1853, p. 27; and Nott and Gliddon's Types
    of Mankind, 1854, p. 147, and Indigenous Races of the Earth,
    1857, pp. 116-17, in both of which places will be found the
    king's portrait. See last reference for the idle theory that he
    had been emasculated, as to which the confutation by Wiedemann
    (Aegyptische Geschichte, p. 397, cited by Budge, Hist. of Egypt,
    1902, iv, 128) is sufficient. In point of fact, he figures in
    the monuments as father of three or seven children (Wiedemann,
    Rel. of Anc. Eg. p. 37; Erman, p. 69; Budge, iv, 123, 127).

    Dispute still reigns as to the origin of the cult to which
    he devoted himself. A theory of its nature and derivation,
    based on that of Mr. J. H. Breasted (History of Egypt, 1906,
    p. 396), is set forth in an article by Mr. A. E. P. Weigall
    on "Religion and Empire in Ancient Egypt" in the Quarterly
    Review, Jan. 1909. On this view Aten or Aton is simply Adon =
    "the Lord"--a name ultimately identified with Adonis, the Syrian
    Sun-God and Vegetation-God. The king's grandfather was apparently
    a Syrian, presumably of royal lineage; and Queen Tii or Thiy, the
    king's mother, who with her following had wrought a revolution
    against the priesthood of Amen, brought him up as a devotee of
    her own faith. On her death he became more and more fanatical,
    getting out of touch with people and priesthood, so that "his
    empire fell to pieces rapidly." Letters still exist (among the
    Tell-el-Amarna tablets) which were sent by his generals in Asia,
    vainly imploring help. He died at the age of twenty-eight; and
    if the body lately found, and supposed to be his, is really so,
    his malady was water on the brain.

    Mr. Breasted, finding that Akhunaton's God is described by him in
    inscriptions as "the father and the mother of all that he made,"
    ranks the cult very high in the scale of theism. Mr. Weigall
    (art. cited, p. 60; so also Budge, Hist. iv, 125) compares a hymn
    of the king's with Ps. civ, 24 sq., and praises it accordingly. The
    parallel is certainly close, but the document is not thereby
    certificated as philosophic. On the strength of the fact that
    Akhunaton "had dreamed that the Aton religion would bind the
    nations together," Mr. Weigall credits him with harbouring "an
    illusive ideal towards which, thirty-two centuries later, mankind
    is still struggling in vain" (p. 66). The ideal of subjugating
    the nations to one God, cherished later by Jews, and still later
    by Moslems, is hardly to be thus identified with the modern ideal
    of international peace. Brugsch, in turn, credits the king with
    having "willingly received the teaching about the one God of
    Light," while admitting that Aten simply meant the sun's disk
    (Hist. of Egypt, 1-vol. ed. p. 216).

    Maspero, again, declares Tii to have been an Egyptian of old
    stock, and the God "Atonou" to have been the deity of her
    tribe (Hist. anc., as cited, p. 249); and he pronounces the
    cult probably the most ancient variant of the religions of Ra
    (p. 250). Messrs. King and Hall, who also do not accept the theory
    of a Syrian derivation, coincide with Messrs. Breasted and Weigall
    in extolling Akhunaton's creed. In a somewhat summary fashion
    they pronounce (work cited, p. 383) that, "given an ignorance of
    the true astronomical character of the sun, we see how eminently
    rational a religion" was this. The conception of a moving window
    in the heavens, which appears to be the core of it, seems rather
    a darkening than a development of the "philosophical speculations
    of the priests of the Sun at Heliopolis," from which it is held by
    Messrs. King and Hall to have been derived. Similarly ill-warranted
    is the decision (id. p. 384) that in Akhunaton's heresy "we see
    ... the highest attitude [? altitude] to which religious ideas had
    attained before the days of the Hebrew prophets." Alike in India
    and in Egypt, pantheistic ideas of a larger scope than his or those
    of the Hebrew prophets had been attained before Akhunaton's time.

    Dr. E. A. Wallis Budge, on the other hand, points out that the cult
    of the Aten is really an ancient one in Egypt, and was carried
    on by Thothmes III, father of Amen-hetep II, a century before
    Akhunaton (Amen-hetep IV), its "original home" being Heliopolis
    (History of Egypt, 1902, iv, 48, 119). So also von Bissing,
    Gesch. Aeg. in Umriss, p. 52 (reading "Iton"). Rejecting the view
    that "Aten" is only a form of "Adon," Dr. Budge pronounces that
    "as far as can be seen now the worship of Aten was something
    like a glorified materialism"--whatever that may be--"which had
    to be expounded by priests who performed ceremonies similar
    to those which belonged to the old Heliopolitan sun-worship,
    without any connection whatsoever with the worship of Yahweh;
    and a being of the character of the Semitic God Adôn had no place
    in it anywhere." Further, he considers that it "contained no
    doctrines on the unity or oneness of Aten similar to those which
    are found in the hymns to Ra, and none of the beautiful ideas
    on the future life with which we are familiar from the hymns and
    other compositions in the Book of the Dead" (Ib. pp. 120-21).

    By Prof. Flinders Petrie Queen Tii or Thiy is surmised to have
    been of Armenian origin (see Budge, iv, 96-98, as to her being
    "Mesopotamian"); and Prof. Petrie, like Mr. Breasted, has
    inferred that she brought with her the cult of which her son
    became the devotee. (So also Brugsch, p. 214.) Messrs. King and
    Hall recognize that the cult had made some headway before Akhunaton
    took it up; but deny that there is any reason for supposing Queen
    Tii to have been of foreign origin; adding: "It seems undoubted
    that the Aten cult was a development of pure Egyptian religious
    thought." Certainty on such an issue seems hardly possible; but
    it may be said, as against the theory of a foreign importation,
    that there is no evidence whatever of any high theistic cult of
    Adonis in Syria at the period in question. Adonis was primarily
    a Vegetation-God; and the older view that Aten simply means
    "the sun's disk" is hardly disposed of. It is noteworthy that
    under Akhunaton's patronage Egyptian sculpture enjoyed a term
    of freedom from the paralyzing convention which reigned before
    and after (King and Hall, as cited, pp. 383-84). This seems to
    have been the result of the innovating taste of the king (Budge,
    Hist. iv, 124-26).


As the centuries lapsed the course of popular religion was rather
downward than upward, if it can be measured by the multiplication of
superstitions. [254] When under the Ramesside dynasty the high-priests
of Amen became by marriage with the royal family the virtual rulers,
sacerdotalism went from bad to worse. [255] The priests, who held the
allegorical key to mythology, seem to have been the main multipliers of
magic and fable, mummery, ceremonial, and symbol; and they jealously
guarded their specialty against lay competition. [256] Esoteric and
exoteric doctrine flourished in their degrees side by side, [257] the
instructed few apparently often accepting or acting upon both; and
primitive rites all the while flourished on the level of the lowest
savagery, [258] though the higher ethical teaching even improves,
as in India.

Conflicts, conquests, and changes of dynasties seem to have made
little difference in the life of the common people. [259] Religion was
the thread by which any ruler could lead them; and after the brief
destructive outbreak of Cambyses, [260] himself at first tolerant,
the Persian conquerors allowed the old faiths to subsist, caring only,
like their predecessors, to prevent strife between the cults which
would not tolerate each other. [261] The Ptolemies are found adopting
and using the native cults as the native kings had done ages before
them; [262] and in the learned Greek-speaking society created by their
dynasty at Alexandria there can have been at least as little concrete
belief as prevailed in the priesthood of the older civilization. It
developed a pantheistic philosophy which ultimately, in the hands
of Plotinus, compares very well with that of the Upanishads and of
later European systems. But this was a hot-house flower; and in the
open world outside, where Roman rule had broken the power of the
ancient priesthood and Greek immigration had overlaid the native
element, Christianity found an easy entrance, and in a declining
society flourished at its lowest level. [263] The ancient ferment,
indeed, produced many stirrings of relative freethought in the
form of Christian heresies to be noted hereafter; one of the most
notable being that of Arius, who, like his antagonist Athanasius,
was an Alexandrian. But the cast of mind which elaborated the dogma
of the Trinity is as directly an outcome of Egyptian culture-history
as that which sought to rationalize the dogma by making the popular
deity a created person; [264] and the long and manifold internecine
struggles of the sects were the due duplication of the older strifes
between the worshippers of the various sacred animals in the several
cities. [265] In the end the entire population was but so much clay
to take the impress of the Arab conquerors, with their new fanatic
monotheism standing for the minimum of rational thought.

For the rest, the higher forms of the ancient religion had been
able to hold their own till they were absolutely suppressed, with
the philosophic schools, by the Byzantine government, which at the
same time marked the end of the ancient civilization by destroying
or scattering the vast collection of books in the Serapeion,
annihilating at once the last pagan cult and the stored treasure
of pagan culture. With that culture too, however, there had been
associated to the last the boundless credulity which had so long kept
it company. In the second century of our era, under the Antonines,
we have Apuleius telling of Isis worshipped as "Nature, parent of
things, mistress of all elements, the primordial birth of the ages,
highest of divinities, queen of departed spirits, first of the heavenly
ones, the single manifestation of all Gods and Goddesses," who rules
all things in earth and heaven, and who stands for the sole deity
worshipped throughout the world under many names; [266] the while
her worshipper cherishes all manner of the wildest superstitions,
which even the subtle philosophy of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonic
school did not discard. All alike, with the machinery of exorcism,
were passed on to the worship of the Christian Queen of Heaven, leaving
out only the pantheism; and when that worship in turn was overthrown,
the One God of Islam enrolled in his train the same host of ancient
hallucinations. [267] The fatality of circumstance was supreme.



§ 6. PHOENICIA

Of the inner workings of thought in the Phoenician religion we know
even less, directly, than can be gathered as to any other ancient
system of similar notoriety, [268] so completely did the Roman conquest
of Carthage, and the Macedonian conquest of Tyre and Sidon, blot out
the literary remains of their peoples. Yet there are some indirect
clues of a remarkable sort.

It is hardly to be doubted, in the first place, that Punic speculation
took the same main lines as the early thought of Egypt and Mesopotamia,
whose cultures, mixing in Syria as early as the fifteenth century
B.C., had laid the basis of the later Phoenician civilization. [269]
The simple fact that among the Syro-Phoenicians was elaborated the
alphabet adopted by all the later civilizations of the West almost
implies a special measure of intellectual progress. We can indeed
trace the normal movement of syncretism in the cults, and the normal
tendency to improve their ethics. The theory of an original pure
monotheism [270] is no more tenable here than anywhere else; we
can see that the general designation of the chief God of any city,
usually recognizable as a Sun-God, by a title rather than a name,
[271] though it pointed to a general worship of a pre-eminent power,
in no sense excluded a belief in minor powers, ranking even as
deities. It did not do so in the admittedly polytheistic period;
and it cannot therefore be supposed to have done so previously.


    The chief Phoenician Gods, it is admitted, were everywhere called
    by one or several of the titles Baal (Lord), Ram or Rimmon
    (High), Melech or Molech (King), Melkarth (King of the City),
    Eliun (Supreme), Adonai (Lord), Bel-Samin (Lord of Heaven),
    etc. (Cp. Rawlinson, History of Phoenicia, p. 231; Tiele,
    Hist. comp. des anc. relig., etc., Fr. tr. 1882, ch. iii,
    pp. 281-87; Outlines, p. 82; Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. i, 246,
    and art. "Phoenicia" in Encyc. Biblica, iii, 3742-5; Sayce,
    Ancient Empires, p. 200.) The just inference is that the Sun-God
    was generally worshipped, the sun being for the Semitic peoples
    the pre-eminent Nature-power. "He alone of all the Gods is by
    Philo explained not as a deified man, but as the sun, who had
    been invoked from the earliest times" (Meyer, last cit.). (All
    Gods were not Baals: the division between them and lesser powers
    corresponded somewhat, as Tiele notes, to that between Theoi
    and Daimones with the Greeks, and Ases and Vanes with the old
    Scandinavians. So in Babylonia and India the Bels and Asuras
    were marked off from lesser deities.) The fact that the Western
    Semites thus carried with them the worship of their chief deities
    in all their colonies would seem to make an end of the assumption
    (Gomme, Ethnology of Folklore, p. 68; Menzies, History of Religion,
    pp. 284, 250) that there is something specially "Aryan" in the
    "conception of Gods who could and did accompany the tribes
    wheresoever they travelled." Cp. Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. iii, 169.

    The worship of the Baal, however, being that of a special
    Nature-power, cannot in early any more than in later times have
    been monotheistic. What happened was a preponderance of the
    double cult of the God and Goddess, Baal and Ashtoreth, as in
    the unquestionably polytheistic period (Rawlinson, p. 323; Tiele,
    Hist. Comp., as cited, p. 319).


Apart from this normal tendency to identify Gods called by the same
title (a state of things which, however, in ancient as in modern
Catholic countries, tended at the same time to set up special adoration
of a given image), there is seen in the later religion of Phoenicia
a spirit of syncretism which operated in a manner the reverse of that
seen in later Jewry. In the latter case the national God was ultimately
conceived, however fanatically, as universal, all others being negated:
in commercial Phoenicia, many foreign Gods were adopted, [272] the
tendency being finally to conceive them as all manifestations of one
Power. [273] And there is reason to suppose that in the cosmopolitan
world of the Phoenician cities the higher intelligence reached a yet
more subversive, though still fallacious, theory of religion. The
pretended ancient Phoenician cosmogony of Sanchoniathon, preserved
by Eusebius, [274] while worthless as a record of the most ancient
beliefs, [275] may be taken as representing views current not only in
the time and society of Philo of Byblos (100 C.E.), who had pretended
to translate it, but in a period considerably earlier. This cosmogony
is, as Eusebius complains, deliberately atheistic; and it further
systematically explains away all God stories as being originally true
of remarkable men.

Where this primitive form of atheistic rationalism originated we
cannot now tell. But it was in some form current before the time of
the Greek Evêmeros, who systematically developed it about 300 B.C.;
for in a monotheistic application it more or less clearly underlies
the redaction of much of the Hebrew Bible, where both patriarchal and
regal names of the early period are found to be old God-names; and
where the Sun-God Samson is made a "judge" [276]--having originally
been the Judge-God. In the Byblian writer, however, the purpose
is not monotheistic, but atheistic; and the problem is whether
this or that was the earlier development of the method. The natural
presumption seems to be that the Hebrew adaptors of the old mythology
used an already applied method, as the Christian Fathers later used
the work of Evêmeros; and the citation from Thallos by Lactantius
[277] suggests that the method had been applied in Chaldea, as it
was spontaneously applied by the Greek epic poets who made memorable
mortals out of the ancient deities Odysseus and Æneas, [278] Helen,
Castor and Pollux, Achilles, and many more. [279] It is in any case
credible enough that among the much-travelling Phoenicians, with their
open pantheon, an atheistic Evêmerism was thought out by the skeptical
types before Evêmeros; and that the latter really drew his principles
from Phoenicia. [280] At any rate, they were there received, doubtless
by a select few, as a means of answering the customary demand for
"something in place of" the rejected Gods. Concerning the tradition
that an ancient Phoenician, Moschus, had sketched an atomic theory,
we may again say that, though there is no valid evidence for the
statement, it counts for something as proof that the Phoenicians had
an old repute for rationalism.


    The Byblian cosmogony may be conceived as an atheistic refinement
    on those of Babylon, adopted by the Jews. It connects with
    the theogony ascribed to Hesiod (which has Asiatic aspects),
    in that both begin with Chaos, and the Gods of Hesiod are born
    later. But whereas in Hesiod Chaos brings forth Erebos and
    Night (Eros being causal force), and Night bears Æther and Day
    to Erebos, while Earth virginally brings forth Heaven (Uranos)
    and the Sea, and then bears the first Gods in union with Heaven,
    the Phoenician fragment proceeds from black chaos and wind, after
    long ages, through Eros or Desire, to a kind of primeval slime,
    from which arise first animals without intelligence, who in
    turn produce some with intelligence. The effort to expel Deity
    must have been considerable, for sun and moon and stars seem
    to arise uncreated, and the sun's action spontaneously produces
    further developments. The first man and his wife are created by
    male and female principles of wind, and their offspring proceed
    to worship the Sun, calling him Beel Samin. The other Gods are
    explained as eminent mortals deified after their death. See the
    details in Cory's Ancient Fragments, Hodges' ed. pp. 1-22. As to
    Moschus, cp. Renouvier, Manuel de philos. ancienne, 1844, i, 238;
    and Mosheim's ed. of Cudworth's Intellectual System, Harrison's
    tr. i, 20; also Cudworth's Eternal and Immutable Morality, same
    ed. iii, 548. On the general question of Phoenician rationalism,
    compare Pausanias's account (vii, 23) of his discussion with a
    Sidonian, who explained that Apollo was simply the sun, and his
    son Æsculapius simply the healing art.


At the same time there are signs even in Phoenician worship of an
effort after an ethical as well as an intellectual purification of the
common religion. To call "the" Phoenician religion "impure and cruel"
[281] is to obscure the fact that in all civilizations certain types
and cults vary from the norm. In Phoenicia as in Israel there were
humane anti-sensualists who either avoided or impugned the sensual
and the cruel cults around them; as well as ascetics who stood by
human sacrifice while resisting sexual licence. That the better types
remained the minority is to be understood in terms of the balance
of the social and cultural forces of their civilization, not of any
racial bias or defect, intellectual or moral.


    The remark of E. Meyer (Gesch. des Alt. i, 211, § 175), that
    an ethical or mystical conception of the God was "entirely
    alien" to "the Semite," reproduces the old fallacy of definite
    race-characters; and Mr. Sayce, in remarking that "the immorality
    performed in the name of religion was the invention of the Semitic
    race itself" (Anc. Emp. p. 203; contrast Tiele, Outlines, p. 83),
    after crediting the Semitic race with an ethical faculty alien to
    the Akkadian (above, p. 66), suggests another phase of the same
    error. There is nothing special to the Semites in the case save
    degree of development, similar phenomena being found in many savage
    religions, in Mexico, and in India. (Meyer in later passages and
    in his article on Ba'al in Boscher's Lexikon modifies his position
    as to Semitic versus other religions.) On the other hand, there
    was a chaste as well as an unchaste worship of the Phoenician
    Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth Karnaim, or Tanit, the Virgin, as opposed to
    Atergates and Annit, the Mother-Goddesses, had the characteristics
    of Artemis. Cp. Tiele, Religion comparée, as cited, pp. 318-19;
    Menzies, History of Religion, pp. 159, 168-71; Kuenen, Religion of
    Israel, i, 91; Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 292, 458. [In
    Rome, Venus Cloacina, sometimes ignorantly described as a Goddess
    of Vice, was anciently "the Goddess of chaste and holy matrimony"
    (Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Roman History, Eng. tr. 1906,
    p. 199)]. For the rest, the cruelty of the Phoenician cults,
    in the matter of human sacrifice, was fully paralleled among
    the early Teutons. See Tiele, Outlines, p. 199; and the author's
    Pagan Christs, Pt. ii, ch. i, § 4.



§ 7. ANCIENT CHINA

Of all the ancient Asiatic systems that of China yields us the
first clear biographical trace of a practical rationalist, albeit
a rationalist stamped somewhat by Chinese conservatism. Confucius
(Kung-fu-tse = Kung the Master) is a tangible person, despite some
mythic accretions, whereas Zarathustra and Buddha are at best but
doubtful possibilities, and even Lao-Tsze (said to have been born
604 B.C.) is somewhat elusive.

Before Confucius (551-478 B.C.), it is evident, there had been a
slackening in religious belief among the governing classes. It is
claimed for the Chinese, as for so many other races, that they had
anciently a "pure" monotheism; [282] but the ascription, as usual,
is misleading. They saw in the expanse of heaven the "Supreme"
Power, not as a result of reflection on the claims of other deities
among other races, but simply as expressing their primordial tribal
recognition of that special God, before contact with the God-ideas
of other peoples. Monotheistic in the modern sense they could not
be. Concerning them as concerning the Semites we may say that the
claim of a primary monotheism for them "is also true of all primitive
totemistic or clannish communities. A man is born into a community
with such a divine head, and the worship of that God is the only one
possible to him." [283] Beside the belief in the Heaven-God, there
stood beliefs in heavenly and earthly spirits, and in ancestors,
who were worshipped with altars. [284]


    The remark of Professor Legge (Religions of China, p. 11), that
    the relation of the names Shang-Ti = Supreme Ruler, and T'ien =
    the sky, "has kept the monotheistic element prominent in the
    religion proper of China down to the present time," may serve
    to avert disputation. It may be agreed that the Chinese were
    anciently "monotheists" in the way in which they are at present,
    when they worship spirits innumerable. When, however, Professor
    Legge further says (p. 16) that the ancient monotheism five
    thousand years ago was "in danger of being corrupted" by nature
    worship and divination, he puts in doubt the meaning of the other
    expression above cited. He states several times (pp. 46, 51, 52)
    that the old monotheism remains; but speaks (p. 84) of the mass of
    the people as "cut off from the worship of God for themselves." And
    see p. 91 as to ancestor-worship by the Emperor. Tiele (Outlines,
    p. 27) in comparison somewhat overstresses the polytheistic aspect
    of the Chinese religion in his opening definition; but he adds the
    essential facts. Dr. Legge's remark that "the idea of revelation
    did not shock" the ancient Chinese (p. 13) is obscure. He is
    dealing with the ordinary Akkado-Babylonian astrology. Pauthier,
    on the contrary (Chine Moderne, 1853, p. 250), asserts that in
    China "no doctrine has ever been put forth as revealed."


As regards ancestral worship, we have record of a display of disregard
for it by the lords of Lû in Confucius's time; [285] and the general
attitude of Confucius himself, religious only in his adherence to
old ceremonies, is incompatible with a devout environment. It has
been disputed whether he makes a "skeptic denial of any relation
between man and a living God"; [286] but an authority who disputes
this complains that his "avoiding the personal name of Tî, or God,
and only using the more indefinite term Heaven," suggests "a coldness
of temperament and intellect in the matter of religion." [287] He was,
indeed, above all things a moralist; and concerning the spirits in
general he taught that "To give one's self to the duties due to men,
and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be
called wisdom." [288] He would never express an opinion concerning the
fate of souls, [289] or encourage prayer; [290] and in his redaction of
the old records he seems deliberately to have eliminated mythological
expressions. [291] "I would say," writes Dr. Legge (who never forgets
to be a missionary), "that he was unreligious rather than irreligious;
yet, by the coldness of his temperament and intellect in this matter,
his influence is unfavourable to the development of true religious
feeling among the Chinese people generally, and he prepared the way
for the speculations of the literati of medieval and modern times,
which have exposed them to the charge of atheism." [292]


    The view that there was a very early "arrest of growth" in
    the Chinese religion (Menzies, History of Religion, p. 108),
    "before the ordinary developments of mythology and doctrine,
    priesthood," etc., had "time to take place," is untenable as to
    the mythology. The same writer had previously spoken (p. 107) of
    the Chinese system before Confucius as having "already parted with
    all savage and irrational elements." That Confucius would seek
    to eliminate these seems likely enough, though the documentary
    fact is disputed.


In the elder contemporary of Confucius, Lao-Tsze ("Old Philosopher"),
the founder of Taouism, may be recognized another and more remarkable
early freethinker of a different stamp, in some essential respects
much less conservative, and in intellectual cast markedly more
original. Where Confucius was an admirer and student of antiquity,
Lao-Tsze expressly put such concern aside, [293] seeking a law of
life within himself, in a manner suggestive of much Indian and other
Oriental thought. So far as our records go, he is the first known
philosopher who denied that men could form an idea of deity, that
being the infinite; and he avowedly evolved, by way of makeshift,
the idea of a primordial and governing Reason (Tau), closely analogous
to the Logos of later Platonism. Since the same idea is traceable in
more primitive forms alike in the Babylonian and Brahmanic systems,
[294] it is arguable that he may have derived it from one of these
sources; but the problem is very obscure. In any case, his system is
one of rationalistic pantheism. [295]

His personal relation to Confucius was that of a self-poised sage,
impatient of the other's formalism and regard to prescription and
precedent. Where they compare is in their avoidance of supernaturalism,
and in the sometimes singular rationality of their views of social
science; in which latter respect, however, they were the recipients
and transmitters of an already classic tradition. [296] Thus both had
a strong bias to conservatism; and in Lao-Tsze it went the length of
prescribing that the people should not be instructed. [297] Despite
this, it is not going too far to say that no ancient people appears
to have produced sane thinkers and scientific moralists earlier than
the Chinese. The Golden Rule, repeatedly formulated by Confucius,
seems to be but a condensation on his part of doctrine he found in the
older classics; [298] and as against Lao-Tsze he is seen maintaining
the practical form of the principle of reciprocity. The older man,
like some later teachers, preached the rule of returning kindness for
evil, [299] without leaving any biographical trace of such practice on
his own part. Confucius, dealing with human nature as it actually is,
argued that evil should be met by justice, and kindness with kindness,
else the evil were as much fostered as the good. [300]


    It is to be regretted that Christian writers should keep up the
    form of condemning Confucius (so Legge, Religions of China,
    p. 144; Life and Teachings of Confucius, 4th ed. p. 111 sq.;
    Douglas, p. 144) for a teaching the practice of which is normally
    possible, and is never transcended in their own Church, where the
    profession of returning good for evil merely constitutes one of
    the great hypocrisies of civilization. Dr. Legge does not scruple
    to resort to a bad sophism in this connection. "If," he says,
    "we only do good to them that do good to us, what reward have
    we?" He thus insinuates that Confucius vetoed any spontaneous act
    of benevolence. The question is not of such acts, but of kind acts
    to those who seek to injure us. On the other hand, Mr. Chalmers,
    who dedicates his translation of Lao-Tsze to Dr. Legge,
    actually taunts Lao-Tsze (p. 38) with absurdity in respect of
    his doctrine. Such is the sincerity of orthodox polemic. How
    little effect the self-abnegating teaching of Lao-Tsze, in turn,
    has had on his followers may be gathered from their very legends
    concerning him (Douglas, p. 182). There is a fallacy, further,
    in the Christian claim that Confucius (Analects, v, 11; xv, 23)
    put the Golden Rule in a lower form than that of the Gospels, in
    that he gave it the negative form, "Do not that which ye would not
    have done unto you." This is really the rational and valid form of
    the Rule. The positive form, unless construed in the restrictive
    sense, would merely prescribe a non-moral doing of favours in
    the hope of receiving favours in return. It appears, further,
    from the passage in the Analects, v, 11, that the doctrine in
    this form was familiar before Confucius.


Lao-Tsze, on his part, had reduced religion to a minimum. "There is
not a word in the Tâo Têh King [by Lao-Tsze] of the sixth century
B.C. that savours either of superstition or religion." [301] But the
quietist and mystical philosophy of Lao-Tsze and the practicality
of Confucius alike failed to check the growth of superstition among
the ever-increasing ignorant Chinese population. Says our Christian
authority: "In the works of Lieh-Tsze and Chwang-Tsze, followers of
Lao-Tsze, two or three centuries later, we find abundance of grotesque
superstition, though we are never sure how far those writers really
believed the things they relate." In point of fact, Lieh-Tsze is now
commonly held by scholars to be an imaginary personage, whose name is
given to a miscellaneous collection of teachings and moral tales, much
interpolated and added to long after the date assigned to him--circa
400 B.C. [302] It contains a purely pantheistic statement of the cosmic
problem, [303] and among the apologues is one in which a boy of twelve
years is made tersely and cogently to rebut the teleological view of
things. [304] The writers of such sections are not likely to have held
the superstitions set forth in others. But that superstition should
supervene upon light where the means of light were dwindling was a
matter of course. It was but the old fatality, seen in Brahmanism,
in Buddhism, in Egypt, in Islam, and in Christianity.

Confucius himself was soon worshipped. [305] A reaction against him
set in after a century or two, doctrines of pessimism on the one hand,
and of universal love on the other, finding a hearing; [306] but the
influence of the great Confucian teacher Mencius (Meng-Tse) carried
his school through the struggle. "In his teaching, the religious
element retires still further into the background" [307] than in that
of Confucius; and he is memorable for his insistence on the remarkable
principle of Confucius, that "the people are born good"; that they are
the main part of the State; and that it is the ruler's fault if they
go astray. [308] Some rulers seem to have fully risen to this view
of things, for we have an account of a rationalistic duke, who lived
earlier than 250 B.C., refusing to permit the sacrifice of a man as
a scapegoat on his behalf; and in the year 166 B.C. such sacrifices
were permanently abolished by the Han Emperor Wen. [309] But Mencius,
who, as a sociologist, excels not only Lao-Tsze but Confucius, put his
finger on the central force in Chinese history when he taught that "it
is only men of education who, without a certain livelihood, are able to
maintain a fixed heart. As to the people, if they have not a certain
livelihood, it follows that they will not have a fixed heart." [310]
So clearly was the truth seen in China over two thousand years ago. But
whether under feudalism or under imperialism, under anarchy or under
peace--and the teachings of Lao-Tsze and Mencius combined to discredit
militarism [311]--the Chinese mass always pullulated on cheap food,
at a low standard of comfort, and in a state of utter ignorance. Hence
the cult of Confucius was maintained among them only by recognizing
their normal superstition; but on that basis it has remained secure,
despite competition, and even a term of early persecution. One
iconoclastic emperor, the founder of the Ch'in or Ts'in dynasty
(221 or 212 B.C.), sought to extirpate Confucianism as a means to a
revolution in the government; but the effort came to nothing. [312]

In the same way Lao-Tsze came to be worshipped as a God [313] under
the religion called Taouism, a title sometimes mistranslated as
rationalism, "a name admirably calculated to lead the mind astray as
to what the religion is." [314] It would seem as if the older notion
of the Tau, philosophically purified by Lao-Tsze, remained a popular
basis for his school, and so wrought its degradation. The Taoists or
Tao-sse "do their utmost to be as unreasonable as possible." [315]
They soon reverted from the philosophic mysticism of Lao-Tsze,
after a stage of indifferentism, [316] to a popular supernaturalism,
[317] which "the cultivated Chinese now regard with unmixed contempt";
[318] the crystallized common-sense of Confucius, on the other hand,
allied as it is with official ceremonialism, retaining its hold as
an esoteric code for the learned. The evolution has thus closely
resembled that which took place in India.

Nowhere, perhaps, is our sociological lesson more clearly to be
read than in China. Centuries before our era it had a rationalistic
literature, an ethic no less earnest and far more sane that that of
the Hebrews, and a line of known teachers as remarkable in their way
as those of ancient Greece who flourished about the same period. But
where even Greece, wrought upon by all the other cultures of antiquity,
ultimately retrograded, till under Christianity it stayed at a Chinese
level of unprogressiveness for a thousand years, isolated China,
helped by no neighbouring culture adequate to the need, has stagnated
as regards the main mass of its life, despite some political and other
fluctuations, till our own day. Its social problem, like that of India,
is now more or less dependent, unfortunately, on the solutions that
may be reached in Europe, where the problem is only relatively more
mature, not fundamentally different.



§ 8. MEXICO AND PERU

In the religions of pre-Christian Mexico and Peru we have peculiarly
interesting examples of "early" religious systems, flourishing at
some such culture-level as the ancient Akkadian, in full play at
the time of the European Renaissance. In Mexico a partly "high"
ethical code, as the phrase goes, went concurrently with the most
frightful indulgence in human sacrifice, sustained by the continuous
practice of indecisive war for the securing of captives, and by the
interest of a vast priesthood. In this system had been developed all
the leading features of those of the Old World--the identification
of all the Gods with the Sun; the worship of fire, and the annual
renewal of it by special means; the conception of God-sacrifice and of
communion with the God by the act of eating his slain representative;
the belief in a Virgin-Mother-Goddess; the connection of humanitarian
ethic with the divine command; the opinion that celibacy, as a state
of superior virtue, is incumbent on most priests and on all would-be
saints; the substitution of a sacramental bread for the "body and
blood" of the God-Man; the idea of an interceding Mother-Goddess;
the hope of a coming Saviour; the regular practice of prayer;
exorcism, special indulgences, confession, absolution, fasting, and
so on. [319] In Peru, also, many of those conceptions were in force;
but the limitation of the power and numbers of the priesthood by the
imperial system of the Incas, and the state of peace normal in their
dominions, prevented the Mexican development of human sacrifice.

It seems probable that the Toltecs, who either fled before or were
for the most part subdued or destroyed by the barbarian Chichimecs
(in turn subdued by the Aztecs) a few centuries before Cortes, were
on the whole a less warlike and more civilized people, with a less
bloody worship. [320] Their God, Quetzalcoatl, retained through fear
by the Aztecs, [321] was a comparatively benign deity opposed to
human sacrifice, apparently rather a late purification or partial
rationalization of an earlier God-type than a primitively harmless
conception. [322] Insofar as they were sundered by quarrels between
the sectaries of the God Quetzalcoatl and the God Votan, though
their religious wars seem to have been as cruel as those of the
early Christians of North Africa, there appears to have been at work
among them a movement towards unbloody religion. In any case their
overthrow seems to stand for the military inferiority of the higher
and more rational civilization [323] to the lower and more religious,
which in turn, however, was latterly being destroyed by its enormously
burdensome military and priestly system, and may even be held to have
been ruined by its own superstitious fears. [324]

Among the recognizable signs of normal progress in the ordinary Aztec
religion were (1) the general recognition of the Sun as the God really
worshipped in all the temples of the deities with special names;
[325] (2) the substitution in some cults of baked bread-images for a
crucified human victim. The question arises whether the Aztecs, but
for their overwhelming priesthood, might conceivably have risen above
their system of human sacrifices, as the Aryan Hindus had done in an
earlier age. Their material civilization, which carried on that of
the kindred Toltecs, was at several points superior to that which the
Spaniards put in its place; and their priesthood, being a leisured
and wealthy class, might have developed intellectually as did the
Brahmans, [326] if its economic basis had been changed. But only a
conquest or other great political convulsion could conceivably have
overturned the vast cultus of human sacrifice, which overran all life,
and cherished war as a means of procuring victims.

In the kindred State of Tezcuco, civilization seems to have gone
further than in Aztec Anahuac; and about the middle of the fifteenth
century one Tezcucan king, the conqueror Netzahualcoyotl, who has
left writings in both prose and verse, is seen attaining to something
like a philosophic creed, of a monotheistic stamp. [327] He is said
to have rejected all idol-worship, and erected, as aforesaid, an
altar "to the Unknown God," [328] forbidding all sacrifices of blood
in that worship. But among the Tezcucans these never ceased; three
hundred slaves were sacrificed at the obsequies of the conqueror's son,
Netzahualpilli; and the Aztec influence over the superior civilization
was finally complete.

In Peru, again, we find civilization advancing in respect of the
innovation of substituting statuettes for wives and slaves in the
tombs of the rich; and we have already noted [329] the remarkable
records of the avowed unbelief of several Incas in the divinity of
the nationally worshipped Sun. For the rest, there was the dubious
quasi-monotheistic cult of the Creator-God, Pachacamac, concerning
whom every fresh discussion raises fresh doubt. [330]


    Mr. Lang, as usual, leans to the view that Pachacamac
    stands for a primordial and "elevated" monotheism (Making of
    Religion, pp. 263-70), while admitting the slightness of the
    evidence. Garcilasso, the most eminent authority, who, however,
    is contradicted by others, represents that the conception
    of Pachacamac as Creator, needing no temple or sacrifice, was
    "philosophically" reached by the Incas and their wise men (Lang,
    p. 262). The historical fact seems to be that a race subdued
    by the Incas, the Yuncas, had one temple to this deity; and
    that the Incas adopted the cult. Garcilasso says the Yuncas had
    human sacrifices and idols, which the Incas abolished, setting up
    their monotheistic cult in that one temple. This is sufficiently
    unlikely; and it may very well have been the fact that the Yuncas
    had offered no sacrifices. But if they did not, it was because
    their material conditions, like those of the Australians and
    Fuegians, had not facilitated the practice; and in that case
    their "monotheism" likewise would merely represent the ignorant
    simplicity of a clan-cult. (Compare Tylor, Primitive Culture,
    ii, 335 sq.; Brinton, Myths of the New World, p. 52.) On the
    other hand, if the Incas had set up a cult without sacrifices
    to a so-called One God, their idea would be philosophical, as
    taking into account the multitude of clan-cults as well as their
    own national worships, and transcending these.


But the outstanding sociological fact in Incarial Peru was the
absolute subjection of the mass of the people; and though its material
development and political organization were comparable to those of
ancient Persia under the Akhamenidæ, so that the Spanish Conquest
stood here for mere destruction, there is no reason to think that at
the best its intellectual life could have risen higher than that of
pre-Alexandrian Egypt, to which it offers so many resemblances. The
Incas' schools were for the nobility only. [331] Rationalistic Incas
and high priests might have ruled over a docile, unlettered multitude,
gradually softening their moral code, in connection with their rather
highly-developed doctrine (resembling the Egyptian) of a future
state. But these seem the natural limits, in the absence of contact
with another civilization not too disparate for a fruitful union.

In Mexico, on the other hand, an interaction of native cultures had
already occurred to some purpose; and the strange humanitarianism of
the man-slaying priests, who made free public hospitals of part of
their blood-stained temples, [332] suggests a possibility of esoteric
mental culture among them. They had certainly gone relatively far in
their moral code, as apart from their atrocious creed of sacrifice,
even if we discount the testimony of the benevolent priest Sahagun;
[333] and they had the beginnings of a system of education for the
middle classes. [334] But unless one of the States which habitually
warred for captives should have conquered the others--in which case
a strong ruler might have put an end to the wholesale religious
slaughter of his own subjects, as appears to have been done anciently
in Mesopotamia--the priests in all likelihood would never have
transcended their hideous hallucination of sacrifice. Their murdered
civilization is thus the "great perhaps" of sociology; organized
religion being the most sinister factor in the problem.



§ 9. THE COMMON FORCES OF DEGENERATION

It is implied more or less in all the foregoing summaries that there
is an inherent tendency in all systematized and instituted religion to
degenerate intellectually and morally, save for the constant corrective
activity of freethought. It may be well, however, to note specifically
the forms or phases of the tendency.

1. Dogmatic and ritual religion being, to begin with, a more or
less general veto on fresh thinking, it lies in its nature that the
religious person is as such less intelligently alive to all problems of
thought and conduct than he otherwise might be--a fact which at least
outweighs, in a whole society, the gain from imposing a terrorized
conformity on the less well-biassed types. Wherever conduct is a matter
of sheer obedience to a superhuman code, it is ipso facto uncritical
and unprogressive. Thus the history of most religions is a record of
declines and reformations, each new affirmation of moral freethought
ad hoc being in turn erected into a set of sheer commands. To set
up the necessary ferment of corrective thought even for a time,
there seems to be needed (a) a provocation to the intelligence, as
in the spectacle of conflict of cults; and (b) a provocation to the
moral sense and to self-interest through a burdensome pressure of
rites or priestly exactions. An exceptional personality, of course,
may count for much in the making of a movement; though the accident
of the possession of kingly power by a reformer seems to count for
much more than does genius.

2. The fortunes of such reactions are determined by socio-economic or
political conditions. They are seen to be at a minimum, as to energy
and social effect, in the conditions of greatest social invariability,
as in ancient Egypt, where progress in thought, slow at best, was
confined to the priestly and official class, and never affected
popular culture.

3. In the absence of social conditions fitted to raise popular
levels of life and thought, every religious system tends to
worsen intellectually in the sense of adding to its range of
superstition--that is, of ignorant and unreasoning belief. Credulity
has its own momentum. Even the possession of limitary sacred books
cannot check this tendency--e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, Mohammedanism,
Mazdeism, Christianity up till the age of doubt and science, and the
systems of ancient Egypt, Babylon, and post-Confucian China. This
worsening can take place alongside of a theoretic purification of
belief within the sphere of the educated theological class.


    Christian writers have undertaken to show that such deterioration
    went on continuously in India from the beginning of the Vedic
    period, popular religion sinking from Varuna to Indra, from Indra
    to the deities of the Atharva Veda, and from these to the Puranas
    (cp. Dr. J. Murray Mitchell, Hinduism Past and Present, 1885,
    pp. 22, 25, 26, 54). The argument, being hostile in bias from the
    beginning, ignores or denies the element of intellectual advance in
    the Upanishads and other later literature; but it holds good of the
    general phenomena. It holds good equally, however, of the history
    of Christianity in the period of the supremacy of ignorant faith
    and absence of doubt and science; and is relatively applicable
    to the religion of the uneducated mass at any time and place.

    On the other hand, it is not at all true that religious
    history is from the beginning, in any case, a process of
    mere degeneration from a pure ideal. Simple statements as to
    primitive ideas are found to be misleading because of their
    simplicity. They can connote only the ethic of the life conditions
    of the worshipper. Now, we have seen (p. 28) that small primitive
    peoples living at peace and in communism, or in some respects well
    placed, may be on that account in certain moral respects superior
    to the average or mass of more civilized and more intelligent
    peoples. [As to the kindliness and unselfishness of some savages,
    living an almost communal life, and as to the scrupulous honesty
    of others, there is plenty of evidence--e.g., as to Andaman
    islanders, Max Müller, Anthrop. Relig., citing Colonel Cadell,
    p. 177; as to Malays and Papuans, Dr. Russel Wallace, Malay
    Archipelago, p. 595 (but cp. pp. 585, 587, 589); as to Esquimaux,
    Keane, Man, p. 374; Reclus, Primitive Folk, pp. 15, 37, 115 (but
    cp. pp. 41-42). In these and other cases unselfishness within the
    tribe is the concomitant of the communal life, and represents no
    conscious ethical volition, being concurrent with phases of the
    grossest tribal egoism, in some cases with cannibalism, and with
    the perpetual oppression of women. In the case of the preaching
    of unselfishness to the young by the old among the Australians,
    where Lubbock and his authorities see "the tyranny of the old"
    (Origin of Civilization, 5th ed. pp. 451-52) Mr. Lang sees a pure
    primeval ethic. Obviously the other is the true explanation. The
    closest and best qualified observers testify, as regards a number
    of tribes: "So far as anything like moral precepts are concerned
    in these tribes ... it appears to us to be most probable that
    they have originated in the first instance in association with
    the purely selfish ideas of the older men to keep all the best
    things for themselves, and in no case whatever are they supposed
    to have the sanction of a superior being" (Spencer and Gillen,
    North. Tribes of Cent. Australia, 1904, p. 504).]

    The transition from that state to one of war and individualism
    would be in a sense degeneration; but on the other hand
    the entirely communistic societies are unprogressive. Broadly
    speaking, it is by the path of social individuation that progress
    in civilization has been made, the early city States and the later
    large military States ultimately securing within themselves some
    of the conditions for special development of thought, arts, and
    knowledge. The residual truth is that the simple religion of the
    harmless tribe is pro tanto superior to the instituted religion
    of the more civilized nation with greater heights and lower depths
    of life, the popular religion in the latter case standing for the
    worse conditions. But the simple religion did not spring from any
    higher stage of knowledge. The old theorem revived by Mr. Lang
    (Making of Religion), as to religion having originally been a
    pure and highly ethical monotheism, from which it degenerated
    into animism and non-moral polytheism, is at best a misreading of
    the facts just stated. Mr. Lang never asks what "Supreme Being"
    and "monotheism" mean for savages who know nothing of other men's
    religions: he virtually takes all the connotations for granted. And
    as regards the most closely studied of contemporary savages
    our authorities come to an emphatic conclusion that they have
    no notion whatever of anything like a Supreme Being (Spencer and
    Gillen, North. Tribes of Cent. Austr. pp. 491-92. Cp. A. H. Keane,
    Man, p. 395, as to the "Great Spirit" of the Redskins). For the
    rest, Mr. Lang's theory is demonstrably wrong in its ethical
    interpretation of many anthropological facts, and as it stands
    is quite irreconcilable with the law of evolution, since it
    assumes an abstract monotheism as primordial. In general it
    approximates scientifically to the eighteenth-century doctrine of
    the superiority of savagery to civilization. (See it criticized
    in the author's Studies in Religious Fallacy, and Christianity
    and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 37-43, 46 sq.)


4. Even primary conditions of material well-being, if not reacted upon
by social science or a movement of freethought, may in a comparatively
advanced civilization promote religious degeneration. Thus abundance
of food is favourable to multiplication of sacrifice, and so to
priestly predominance. [335] The possession of domesticated animals,
so important to civilization, lends itself to sacrifice in a specially
demoralizing degree. But abundant cereal food-supply, making abundant
population, may greatly promote human sacrifice--e.g., Mexico.


    The error of Mr. Lang's method is seen in the use he makes
    (work cited, pp. 286-289, 292) of the fact that certain "low"
    races--as the Australians, Andamanese, Bushmen, and Fuegians--offer
    no animal sacrifice. He misses the obvious significance of the
    facts that these unwarlike races have as a rule no domesticated
    animals and no agriculture, and that their food supply is thus
    in general precarious. The Andamanese, sometimes described
    (Malthus, Essay on Population, ch. iii, and refs.; G. W. Earl,
    Papuans, 1853, pp. 150-51) as very ill-fed, are sometimes said
    to be well supplied with fish and game (Peschel, Races of Man,
    Eng. tr. 1876, p. 147; Max Müller, Anthrop. Rel. citing Cadell,
    p. 177); but in any case they have had no agriculture, and seem
    to have only occasional animal food in the shape of a wild hog
    (Colebrooke in Asiatic Researches, iv, 390). The Australians and
    Fuegians, again, have often great difficulty in feeding themselves
    (Peschel, pp. 148, 159, 334; Darwin, Voyage, ch. 10). It is argued
    concerning the Australian aborigines that "as a rule they have an
    abundance" (A. F. Calvert, The Aborigines of Western Australia,
    1894, p. 24); but this abundance is made out by cataloguing the
    whole edible fauna and flora of the coasts and the interior,
    and ignores the fact that for all hunting peoples food supply
    is precarious. For the Australian, "the difficulty of capturing
    game with his primitive methods compels him to give his whole
    time to the quest of food" (Keane, Man, p. 148). In the contrary
    case of the primitive Vedic Aryans, well supplied with animals,
    sacrifices were abundant, and tended to become more so (Müller,
    Nat. Relig. pp. 136, 185; Physical Relig. p. 105; but cp. pp. 98,
    101; Mitchell, Hinduism, p. 43; Lefmann, Geschichte des alten
    Indiens, in Oncken's series, 1890, pp. 49, 430-31). Of these
    sacrifices that of the horse seems to have been in Aryan use
    in a most remote period (cp. M. Müller, Nat. Rel. pp. 524-25;
    H. Böttger, Sonnencult der Indogermanen, Breslau, 1891, pp. 41-44;
    Preller, Römische Mythologie, ed. Köhler, pp. 102, 299, 323;
    Griechische Mythologie, 2te Aufg. i, 462; Frazer, Golden Bough,
    ii, 315). Max Müller's remark (Physical Religion, p. 106), that
    "the idea of sacrifice did not exist at a very early period,"
    because there is no common Aryan term for it, counts for nothing,
    as he admits (p. 107) that the Sanskrit word cannot be traced
    back to any more general root; and he concedes the antiquity
    of the practice. On this cp. Mitchell, Hinduism, pp. 37-38; and
    the author's Pagan Christs, 2nd ed. p. 122. The reform in Hindu
    sacrifice, consummated by Buddhism, has been noted above.


5. Even scientific knowledge, while enabling the thoughtful to correct
their religious conceptions, in some forms lends itself easily to
the promotion of popular superstition. Thus the astronomy of the
Babylonians, while developing some skepticism, served in general to
encourage divination and fortune-telling; and seems to have had the
same effect when communicated to the Chinese, the Hindus, and the
Hebrews, all of whom, however, practised divination previously on
other bases.

6. Finally, the development of the arts of sculpture and painting,
unaccompanied by due intellectual culture, tends to keep religion at
a low anthropomorphic level, and worsens its psychology by inviting
image-worship. [336] It is not that the earlier and non-artistic
religions are not anthropomorphic, but that they give more play
for intellectual imagination than does a cult of images. But where
the arts have been developed, idolatry has always arisen save when
resisted by a special activity or revival of freethought to that end;
and even in Protestant Christendom, where image-worship is tabooed,
religious pictures now promote popular credulity and ritualism as they
did in the Italian Renaissance. [337] So manifold are the forces of
intellectual degeneration--degeneration, that is, from an attained
ideal or stage of development, not from any primordial knowledge.



CHAPTER IV

RELATIVE FREETHOUGHT IN ISRAEL


The modern critical analysis of the Hebrew Sacred Books has made it
sufficiently clear that in Jewish as in all other ancient history
progress in religion was by way of evolving an ethical and sole deity
out of normal primitive polytheism. [338] What was special to the
Hebrews was the set of social conditions under which the evolution took
place. Through these conditions it was that the relative freethought
which rejected normal polytheism was so far favoured as to lead to a
pronounced monotheistic cultus, though not to a philosophic monotheism.



§ 1

As seen in their earliest historical documents (especially portions
of the Book of Judges), the Hebrews are a group of agricultural and
pastoral but warlike tribes of Semitic speech, with household Gods
and local deities, [339] living among communities at the same or a
higher culture stage. Their ancestral legends show similar religious
practice. [340] Of the Hebrew tribes some may have sojourned for
a time in Egypt; but this is uncertain, the written record being a
late and in large part deliberately fictitious construction. [341]
At one time twelve such tribes may have confederated, in conformity
with a common ancient superstition, seen in Arab and Greek history
as well as in the Jewish, as to the number twelve. As they advanced
in civilization, on a basis of city life existing among a population
settled in Canaan before them, parts of which they conquered, one
of their public cults, that of Yahu or Yahweh, finally fixed at
Jerusalem, became politically important. The special worshippers of
this God (supposed to have been at first a Thunder-God or Nature-God)
[342] were in that sense monotheists; but not otherwise than kindred
neighbouring communities such as the Ammonites and Moabites and
Edomites, each of which had its special God, like the cities of
Babylonia and Egypt. But that the earlier conceptions of the people
had assumed a multiplicity of Gods is clear from the fact that even
in the later literary efforts to impose the sole cult of Yahweh on the
people, the plural name Elohim, "Powers" or "Gods" (in general, things
to be feared), [343] is retained, either alone or with that of Yahweh
prefixed, though cosmology had previously been written in Yahweh's
name. The Yahwists did not scruple to combine an Elohistic narrative,
varying from theirs in cosmology and otherwise, with their own. [344]


    As to the original similarity of Hebraic and other Canaanite
    religions cp. E. Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. §§ 309-11 (i, 372-76);
    Kuenen, i, 223; Wellhausen, Israel, p. 440; Winckler,
    Gesch. Israels, passim; Réville, Prolég. de l'hist. des
    relig. 1881, p. 85. "Before being monotheistic, Israel was
    simply monolatrous, and even that only in its religious élite"
    (Réville). "Their [the Canaanites'] worship was the same in
    principle as that of Israel, but it had a higher organization"
    (Menzies, Hist. of Rel. p. 179; cp. Tiele, Outlines, pp. 85-89). On
    the side of the traditional view, Mr. Lang, while sharply
    challenging most of the propositions of the higher critics,
    affirms that "we know that Israel had, in an early age, the
    conception of the moral Eternal; we know that, at an early age,
    the conception was contaminated and anthropomorphized; and we
    know that it was rescued, in a great degree, from this corruption,
    while always retaining its original ethical aspect and sanction"
    (Making of Religion, p. 295). If "we know" this, the discussion
    is at an end. But Mr. Lang's sole documentary basis for the
    assertion is just the fabricated record, reluctantly abandoned
    by theological scholars as such. When this is challenged,
    Mr. Lang falls back on the position that such low races as
    the Australians and Fuegians have a "moral Supreme Being,"
    and that therefore Israel "must" have had one (p. 309). It will
    be found, however, that the ethic of these races is perfectly
    primitive, on Mr. Lang's own showing, and that his estimate is a
    misinterpretation. As to their Supreme Beings, it might suffice
    to compare Mr. Lang's Making of Religion, chs. ix, xii, with his
    earlier Myth, Ritual, and Religion, i, 168, 335; ii, 6, etc.;
    but, as we have seen (above, p. 93), the Supreme Being of the
    Australians eludes the closest search in a number of tribes; and
    the "moral" factor is equally intangible. Mr. Lang in his later
    reasoning has merely added the ambiguous and misleading epithet
    "Supreme," stressing it indefinitely, to the ordinary God-idea
    of the lower races. (Cp. Cox, Mythol. of Aryan Races, ed. 1882,
    p. 155; and K. O. Müller, Introd. to Sci. Mythol. Eng. tr. p. 184.)

    There being thus no highly imagined "moral Eternal" in the
    religion of primitive man, the Hebrews were originally in the
    ordinary position. Their early practice of human sacrifice is
    implied in the legend of Abraham and Isaac, and in the story of
    Jephthah. (Cp. Micah vi, 7, and Kuenen on the passage, i, 237.) In
    their reputed earliest prophetic books we find them addicted to
    divination (Hosea iv, 12; Micah v, 12. Cp. the prohibition in
    Lev. xx, 6; also 2 Kings xxiii, 24, and Isa. iii, 2; as to the
    use of the ephod, teraphim, and urim and thummim, see Kuenen,
    Relig. of Israel, Eng. tr. i, 97-100) and to polytheism. (Amos v,
    26, viii, 14; Hosea i, 13, 17, etc. Cp. Jud. viii, 27; 1 Sam. vii,
    3.) These things Mr. Lang seems to admit (p. 309, note), despite
    his previous claim; but he builds (p. 332) on the fact that
    the Hebrews showed little concern about a future state--that
    "early Israel, having, so far as we know, a singular lack of
    interest in the future of the soul, was born to give himself up
    to developing, undisturbed, the theistic conception, the belief
    in a righteous Eternal"--whereas later Greeks and Romans, like
    Egyptians, were much concerned about life after death. Mr. Lang's
    own general theory would really require that all peoples at a
    certain stage should act like the Israelites; but he suspends it
    in the interest of the orthodox view as to the early Hebrews. At
    the same time he omits to explain why the Hebrews failed to
    adopt the future-state creed when they were "contaminated"--a
    proposition hardly reconcilable, on any view, with the sentence
    just quoted. The solution, however, is simple. Israel was not
    at all "singular" in the matter. The early (Homeric) Greeks
    and Romans (cp. as to Hades the Iliad, passim; Odyssey, bk. xi,
    passim; Tiele, Outlines, p. 209, as to the myth of Persephone;
    and Preller, Römische Mythologie, ed. Köhler, 1865, pp. 452-55,
    as to the early Romans), like the early Vedic Aryans (Tiele,
    Outlines, p. 117; Müller, Anthropol. Relig. p. 269), and the
    early Babylonians and Assyrians (Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. i, 181-82;
    Sayce, Hib. Lect. p. 364) took little thought of a future state.

    "Homer knows no influence of the Psyche on the realm of the
    visible, and also no cult implying it.... A later poet, who made
    the last addition to the Odyssey, first introduced Hermes the
    'leader of souls' [perhaps taken from a popular belief in some part
    of Hellas].... Underneath, in the gloomy shades, the souls waver,
    unconscious or at the best in a glimmering half-consciousness,
    endowed with faint voices, feeble, indifferent.... To speak,
    as do many old and recent scholars, of the 'immortal life' of
    such souls, is erroneous. They live rather as the spectre of the
    living in a mirror.... If the Psyche outlives her visible mate (the
    body), she is powerless without him.... Thus is the Homeric world
    free from ghosts (for after the burning of the body the Psyche
    appears no more even in dream).... The living has peace from the
    dead.... No dæmonic power is at work apart from or against the
    Gods; and the night gives to the disembodied spirits no freedom"
    (Rohde, Psyche, 4te Aufl. 1907, pp. 9-11).

    This minimization of the normal primitive belief in spirits is
    one of the reasons for seeing in the Homeric poems the outcome
    of a period of loosened belief. It is not to be supposed that the
    pre-Homeric Greeks, like the easterns with whom the Greeks met in
    Ionia, had not the usual ghost-lore of savages and barbarians;
    and it may be that for all the early civilizations under notice
    the explanation is that primitive ghost-cults were abandoned by
    migrating and conquering races, who rejected the ghost-cults of
    the races whom they conquered, though they ostensibly accepted
    their Gods. In any case they made little religious account of a
    future state for themselves.

    This attitude has again been erroneously regarded (e.g.,
    Dickinson, The Greek View of Life, p. 35) as peculiar to the
    Greeks. Mr. Lang's assumption may, in fact, be overthrown by the
    single case of the Phoenicians, who showed no more concern about
    a future life than did the Hebrews (see Canon Rawlinson's History
    of Phoenicia, 1889, pp. 351-52), but who are not pretended to have
    given themselves up much to "developing, undisturbed, the belief
    in a righteous Eternal." The truth seems to be that in all the
    early progressive and combative civilizations the main concern
    was as to the continuance of this life. On that head the Hebrews
    were as solicitous as any (cp. Kuenen, i, 65); and they habitually
    practised divination on that score. Further, they attached the
    very highest importance to the continuance of the individual in
    his offspring. The idea of a future state is first found highly
    developed in the long-lived cults of the long-civilized but
    unprogressive Egyptians; and the Babylonians were developing in
    the same direction. Yet the Hebrews took it up (see the evidence
    in Schürer, Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, Eng. tr. Div. II,
    vol. ii, p. 179) just when, according to Mr. Lang, their cult was
    "rescued, in a great degree, from corruption"; and, generally
    speaking, it was in the stage of maximum monotheism that they
    reached the maximum of irrationality. For the rest, belief in
    "immortality" is found highly developed in a sociologically
    "degenerate" and unprogressive people such as the Tasmanians
    (Müller, Anthrop. Rel. p. 433), who are yet primitively pure on
    Mr. Lang's hypothesis; and is normal among negroes and Australian
    blackfellows.


This primary polytheism is seen to the full in that constant resort
of Israelites to neighbouring cults, against which so much of the
Hebrew doctrine is directed. To understand their practice the modern
reader has to get rid of the hallucination imposed on Christendom by
its idea of revelation. The cult of Yahweh was no primordial Hebrew
creed, deserted by backsliding idolaters, but a finally successful
tyranny of one local cult over others. It is probable that it was
originally not Palestinian, but Sinaitic, and that Yahweh became the
God of Caleb-Judah only under David. [345] Therefore, without begging
the question as to the moral sincerity of the prophets and others
who identified Yahwism with morality, we must always remember that
they were on their own showing devotees of a special local worship,
and so far fighting for their own influence. Similar prophesying may
conceivably have been carried on in connection with the same or other
God-names in other localities, and the extant prophets freely testify
that they had Yahwistic opponents; but the circumstance that Yahweh
was worshipped at Jerusalem without any image might be an important
cause of differentiation in the case of that cult. In any case it must
have been through simple "exclusivism" that they reached any form of
"monotheism." [346]

The inveterate usage, in the Bible-making period, of forging and
interpolating ancient or pretended writings, makes it impossible
to construct any detailed history of the rise of Yahwism. We can
but proceed upon data which do not appear to lend themselves to the
purposes of the later adaptors. In that way we see cause to believe
that at one early centre the so-called ark of Yahweh contained
various objects held to have supernatural virtue. [347] In the older
historic documents it has, however, no such sacredness as accrues
to it later, [348] and no great traditional prestige. This ark,
previously moved from place to place as a fetish, [349] is said to
have been transferred to Jerusalem by the early king David, [350]
whose story, like that of his predecessors Saul and his son Solomon,
is in part blended with myth.


    As to David, compare 1 Sam. xvi, 18, with xvii, 33, 42. Daoud
    (= Dodo = Dumzi = Tammuz = Adonis) was a Semitic deity (Sayce,
    Hib. Lec. pp. 52-57, and art. "The Names of the First Three Kings
    of Israel," in Modern Review, Jan. 1884), whom David resembles as
    an inventor of the lyre (Amos, vi, 5; cp. Hitzig, Die Psalmen,
    2 Theil, 1836, p. 3). But Saul and Solomon also were God-names
    (Sayce, as cited), as was Samuel (id. pp. 54, 181; cp. Lenormant,
    Chaldean Magic, Eng. tr. p. 120); and when we note these data,
    and further the plain fact that Samson is a solar myth, being a
    personage Evemerized from Samas, the Sun-God, we are prepared
    to find further traces of Evemeristic redaction in the Hebrew
    books. To say nothing of other figures in the Book of Judges,
    we find that Jacob and Joseph were old Canaanitish deities
    (Sayce, Lectures, p. 51; Records of the Past, New Series, v,
    48; Hugo Winckler, Geschichte Israels, ii, 57-77); and that
    Moses, as might be expected, was a name for more than one
    Semitic God (Sayce, pp. 46-47), and in particular stood for a
    Sun-God. Abraham and Isaac in turn appear to be ancient deities
    (Meyer, Gesch. des Alt. i, 374, § 309; Winckler, Gesch. Israels,
    ii, 20-49). Miriam was probably in similar case (cp. Pagan Christs,
    2nd ed. pp. 165-66). On an analysis of the Joshua myth as redacted,
    further, we may surmise another reduction of an ancient cult to
    the form of history, perhaps obscuring the true original of the
    worship of Mary and Jesus.

    It seems probable, finally, that such figures as Elijah, who
    ascends to heaven in a fiery chariot, and Elisha, the "bald head"
    and miracle-worker, are similar constructions of personages out
    of Sun-God lore. In such material lies part of the refutation of
    the thesis of Renan (Hist, des langues sémit. 2e édit. pp. 7,
    485) that the Semites were natural monotheists, devoid of
    mythology. [Renan is followed in whole or in part by Nöldeke,
    Sketches from Eastern Hist. Eng. tr. p. 6; Soury, Relig. of
    Israel, Eng. tr. pp. 2, 10; Spiegel, Erânische Alterthumskunde, i,
    389; also Roscher, Draper, Peschel, and Bluntschli, as cited by
    Goldziher, Mythology Among the Hebrews, Eng. tr. p. 4, note. On
    the other side compare Goldziher, ch. i; Steinthal's Prometheus
    and Samson, Eng. tr. (with Goldziher), pp. 391, 428, etc., and his
    Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bei den Griechen und den Römern,
    1863, pp. 15-17; Kuenen, Rel. of Israel, i, 225; Smith, Rel. of the
    Semites, p. 49; Ewald, Hist. of Israel, Eng. tr. 4th ed. i, 38-40;
    Müller, Chips, i, 345 sq.; Selected Essays, 1881, ii, 402 sq.;
    Nat. Rel. p. 314.] Renan's view seems to be generally connected
    with the assumption that life in a "desert" makes a race for ever
    unimaginative or unitary in its thought. The Arabian Nights might
    be supposed a sufficient proof to the contrary. The historic truth
    seems to be that, stage for stage, the ancient Semites were as
    mythological as any other race; but that (to say nothing of the
    Babylonians and Assyrians) the mythologies of the Hebrews and
    of the Arabs were alike suppressed as far as possible in their
    monotheistic stage. Compare Renan's own admissions, pp. 27, 110,
    475, and Hist. du peuple d'Israël, i, 49-50.


At other places, however, Yahweh was symbolized and worshipped in the
image of a young bull, [351] a usage associated with the neighbouring
Semitic cult of Molech, but probably indigenous, or at least early,
in the case of Yahweh also. A God, for such worshippers, needed to be
represented by something, if he were to be individualized as against
others; and where there was not an ark or a sacred stone or special
temple or idol there could be no cult at all. "The practices of ancient
religion require a fixed meeting-place between the worshippers and
their God." [352] The pre-Exilic history of Yahweh-worship seems
to be in large part that of a struggle between the devotees of the
imageless worship fixed to the temple at Jerusalem, and other worships,
with or without images, at other and less influential shrines.

So far as can be gathered from the documents, it was long before
monotheistic pretensions were made in connection with Yahwism. They
must in the first instance have seemed not only tyrannical but
blasphemous to the devotees of the old local shrines, who in
the earlier Hebrew writings figure as perfectly good Yahwists;
and they clearly had no durable success before the period of the
Exile. Some three hundred years after the supposed period of David,
[353] and again eighty years later, we meet with ostensible traces
[354] of a movement for the special aggrandizement of the Yahweh
cult and the suppression of the others which competed with it, as
well as of certain licentious and vicious practices carried on in
connection with Yahweh worship. Concerning these, it could be claimed
by those who had adhered to the simpler tradition of one of the early
worships that they were foreign importations. They were, in fact,
specialties of a rich ancient society, and were either native to
Canaanite cities which the Hebrews had captured, or copied by them
from such cities. But the fact that they were thus, on the showing of
the later Yahwistic records, long associated with Yahwist practice,
proves that there was no special elevation about Yahwism originally.


    Even the epithet translated "Holy" (Kadosh) had originally no high
    moral significance. It simply meant "set apart," "not common"
    (cp. Kuenen, Religion of Israel, i, 43; Wellhausen, Israel, in
    Prolegomena vol. p. 499); and the special substantive (Kadesh and
    Kedeshah) was actually the name for the most degraded ministrants
    of both sexes in the licentious worship (see Deut. xxiii, 17,
    18, and marg. Rev. Vers. Cp. 1 Kings xiv, 25; xv, 12; 2 Kings
    xxiii, 7). On the question of early Hebrew ethics it is somewhat
    misleading to cite Wellhausen (so Lang, Making of Religion,
    p. 304) as saying (Israel, p. 437) that religion inspired law
    and morals in Israel with exceptional purity. In the context
    Wellhausen has said that the starting-point of Israel was normal;
    and he writes in the Prolegomena (p. 302) that "good and evil
    in Hebrew mean primarily nothing more than salutary and hurtful:
    the application of the words to virtue and sin is a secondary one,
    these being regarded as serviceable or hurtful in their effects."



§ 2

Given the co-existence of a multitude of local cults, and of
various local Yahweh-worships, it is conceivable that the Yahwists
of Jerusalem, backed by a priest-ridden king, should seek to limit
all worship to their own temple, whose revenues would thereby be
much increased. But insoluble perplexities are set up as to the
alleged movement by the incongruities in the documents. Passing over
for the moment the prophets Amos and Hosea and others who ostensibly
belong to the eighth century B.C., we find the second priestly reform,
[355] consequent on a finding or framing of "the law," represented as
occurring early in the reign of Josiah (641-610 B.C.). But later in
the same reign are placed the writings of Jeremiah, who constantly
contemns the scribes, prophets, and priests in mass, and makes
light of the ark, [356] besides declaring that in Judah [357] there
are as many Gods as towns, and in Jerusalem as many Baal-altars as
streets. The difficulty is reduced by recognizing the quasi-historical
narrative as a later fabrication; but other difficulties remain as to
the prophetic writings; and for our present purpose it is necessary
briefly to consider these.

1. The "higher criticism," seeking solid standing-ground at the
beginning of the tangible historic period, the eighth century,
singles out [358] the books of Amos and Hosea, setting aside,
as dubious in date, Nahum and Joel; and recognizing in Isaiah a
composite of different periods. If Amos, the "herdsman of Tekoa,"
could be thus regarded as an indubitable historical person, he would
be a remarkable figure in the history of freethought, as would his
nominal contemporary Hosea. Amos is a monotheist, worshipping not a
God of Israel but a Yahweh or Elohim of Hosts, called also by the name
Adon or Adonai, "the Lord," who rules all the nations and created the
universe. Further, the prophet makes Yahweh "hate and despise" the
feasts and burnt-offerings and solemn assemblies of his worshippers;
[359] and he meddles impartially with the affairs of the kingdoms
of Judah and Israel. In the same spirit Hosea menaces the solemn
assemblies, and makes Yahweh desire "mercy and not sacrifice." [360]
Similar doctrine occurs in the reputedly genuine or ancient parts of
Isaiah, [361] and in Micah. [362] Isaiah, too, disparages the Sabbath
and solemn meetings, staking all upon righteousness.

2. These utterances, so subversive of the priestly system, are yet held
to have been preserved through the ages--through the Assyrian conquest,
through the Babylonian Captivity, through the later period of priestly
reconstruction--by the priestly system itself. In the state of things
pictured under Ezra and Nehemiah, only the zealous adherents of the
priestly law can at the outset have had any letters, any literature;
it must have been they, then, who treasured the anti-priestly and
anti-ritual writings of the prophets--unless, indeed, the latter were
preserved by the Jews remaining at Babylon.

3. The perplexity thus set up is greatly deepened when we remember
that the period assigned to the earlier prophets is near the beginning
of the known age of alphabetic writing, [363] and before the known
age of writing on scrolls. A herdsman of Judea, with a classic and
flowing style, is held to have written out his hortatory addresses at
a time when such writing is not certainly known to have been practised
anywhere else; [364] and the pre-eminent style of Isaiah is held to
belong to the same period.


    "His [Amos's] language, with three or four insignificant
    exceptions, is pure, his style classical and refined. His
    literary power is shown in the regularity of structure which often
    characterizes his periods ... as well as in the ease with which
    he evidently writes.... Anything of the nature of roughness or
    rusticity is wholly absent from his writings" (Driver, Introd. to
    Lit. of Old Test. ch. vi, § 3, p. 297, ed. 1891). Isaiah, again,
    is in his own narrow field one of the most gifted and skilful
    writers of all antiquity. The difficulty is thus nearly as great
    as that of the proposition that the Hebrew of the Pentateuch is a
    thousand years older than that of the latest prophetical books,
    whose language is substantially the same. (Cp. Andrews Norton,
    The Pentateuch, ed. 1863, pp. 47-48; Renan, Hist. des langues
    sémit. 2e édit. p. 118.)


4. The specialist critics, all trained as clergymen, and mostly
loth to yield more than is absolutely necessary to skepticism,
have surrendered the antiquity claimed for Joel, recognizing that
the arguments for that are "equally consistent with a date after
the Captivity." [365] One of the conclusions here involved is that
"Egypt is probably mentioned only as the typical instance of a Power
hostile to Judah." Thus, when we remember the later Jewish practice of
speaking of Rome as "Babylon," or "Edom," allusions by Amos and Hosea
to "Assyria" have no evidential force. The same reasoning applies to
the supposed ancient portions of Isaiah.

5. Even on the clerical side, among the less conservative critics, it
is already conceded that there are late "insertions" in Amos. Some of
these insertions are among, or analogous to, the very passages relied
on by Kuenen to prove the lofty monotheism of Amos. If these passages,
however, suggest a late date, no less do the others disparaging
sacrifices. The same critics find interpolations and additions in
Hosea. But they offer no proof of the antiquity of what they retain.


    The principal passages in Amos given up as insertions by
    Dr. Cheyne, the most perspicacious of the English Hebraists, are:
    iv, 13; v, 8-9; ix, 5-6; and ix, 8-15. See his introduction to 1895
    ed. of Prof. Robertson Smith's Prophets of Israel, p. xv; and his
    art. on Amos in the Encyclopædia Biblica. Compare Kuenen, i, 46,
    48. Dr. Cheyne regards as insertions in Hosea the following: i,
    10-ii, 1; "and David their King" in iii, 5; viii, 14; and xiv,
    1-9 (as cited, pp. xviii-xix). Obviously these admissions entail
    others.


6. The same school of criticism, while adhering to the traditional
dating of Amos and Hosea, has surrendered the claim for the Psalms,
placing most of these in the same age with the books of Job,
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiasticus. [366] Now, the sentiment
of opposition to burnt-offerings is found in some of the Psalms in
language identical with that of the supposed early prophets. [367]
Instead of taking the former for late echoes of the latter, we may
reasonably suspect that they belong to the same culture-stage.


    The principle is in effect recognized by Dr. Cheyne when he writes:
    "Just as we infer from the reference to Cyrus in xliv, 28; xlv,
    1, that the prophecy containing it proceeds from the age of the
    conqueror, so we may infer from the fraternal feeling towards
    Egypt and Assyria (Syria) in xix, 23-25, that the epilogue was
    written when hopes of the union and fusion of Israelitish and
    non-Israelitish elements first became natural for the Jews--i.e.,
    in the early Jewish period" (Introd. to the Book of Isaiah, 1895,
    pp. 109-10).


7. From the scientific point of view, finally, the element of
historical prediction in the prophets is one of the strongest grounds
for presuming that they are in reality late documents. In regard
to similar predictions in the gospels (Mt. xxiv, 15; Mk. xiii, 2;
Lk. xxi, 20), rational criticism decides that they were written after
the event. No other course can consistently be taken as to early
Hebrew predictions of captivity and restoration; and the adherence
of many Biblical scholars at this point to the traditional view
is psychologically on a par with their former refusal to accept a
rational estimate of the Pentateuchal narrative.


    On some points, such as the flagrant pseudo-prediction in
    Isaiah xix, 18, all reasonable critics surrender. Thus "König
    sees rightly that xix, 18, can refer only to Jewish colonies in
    Egypt, and refrains from the arbitrary supposition that Isaiah
    was supernaturally informed of the future establishment of
    such colonies" (Cheyne, Introd. to Smith's Prophets of Israel,
    p. xxxiii). But in other cases Dr. Cheyne's own earlier positions
    appear to involve such an "arbitrary supposition," as do Kuenen's;
    and Smith explicitly posited it as to the prophets in general. And
    even as to Isaiah xix, 18, whereas Hitzig, as Havet later,
    rightly brings the date down to the actual historic time of the
    establishment of the temple at Heliopolis by Onias (Josephus,
    Ant. xiii, 3, 1; Wars, vii, 10, 2), about 160 B.C., Dr. Cheyne
    (Introd. to Isaiah, p. 108) compromises by dating it about 275 B.C.

    The lateness of the bulk of the prophetical writings has been
    ably argued by Ernest Havet (Le Christianisme et ses Origines,
    vol. iv, 1878, ch. vi; and in the posthumous vol., La Modernité
    des Prophètes, 1891), who supports his case by many cogent
    reasonings. For instance, besides the argument as to Isaiah xix,
    18, above noted: (1) The frequent prediction of the ruin of Tyre
    by Nebuchadnezzar (Isa. ch. xxiii; Jer. xxv, 22; Ezek. xxvi, 7;
    ch. xxvii), false as to him (a fact which might be construed as
    a proof of the fallibility of the prophets and the candour of
    their transcribers), is to be understood in the light of other
    post-predictions as referring to the actual capture of the city
    by Alexander. (2) Hosea's prediction of the fall of Judah as well
    as of Israel, and of their being united, places the passage after
    the Exile, and may even be held to bring it down to the period
    of the Asmoneans. So with many other details: the whole argument
    deserves careful study. M. Havet's views were, of course, scouted
    by the conservative specialists, as their predecessors scouted the
    entire hypothesis of Graf, now taken in its essentials as the basis
    of sound Biblical criticism. M. Scherer somewhat unintelligently
    objected to him (Études sur la litt. contemp. vii, 268) that he was
    not a Hebraist. There is no question of philology involved. It was
    non-Hebraists who first pointed out the practical incredibility
    of the central Pentateuchal narrative, on the truth of which
    Kuenen himself long stood with other Hebraists. (Cp. Wellhausen,
    Proleg. pp. 39, 347; also his (4th) ed. of Bleek's Einleit. in das
    alte Test. 1878, p. 154; and Kuenen, Hexateuch, Eng. tr. pp. xv,
    43.) Colenso's argument, in the gist of which he was long preceded
    by lay freethinkers, was one of simple common sense. The weak side
    of M. Havet's case is his undertaking to bring the prophets bodily
    down to the Maccabean period. This is claiming too much. But his
    negative argument is not affected by the reply (Darmesteter, Les
    Prophètes d'Israël, 1895, pp. 128-31) to his constructive theory.

    [Since the above was written, two French critics, MM. Dujardin
    and Maurice Vernes, have sought vigorously to reconstruct the
    history of the prophetic books upon new lines. I have been unable
    to acquiesce in their views at essential points, but would refer
    the reader to the lucid and interesting survey of the problem in
    Mr. T. Whittaker's Priests, Philosophers, and Prophets (Black,
    1911), ch. vi.]


It is true that where hardly any documentary datum is intrinsically
sure, it is difficult to prove a negative for one more than for
another. The historical narratives being systematically tampered with
by one writer after another, and even presumptively late writings being
interpolated by still later scribes, we can never have demonstrative
proof as to the original date of any one prophet. Thus it is arguable
that fragments of utterance from eighth-century prophets may have
survived orally and been made the nucleus of later documents. This
view would be reconcilable with the fact that the prophets Isaiah,
Hosea, Amos, and Micah are all introduced with some modification of
the formula that they prophesied "in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz,
and Hezekiah, kings of Judah," Jeroboam's name being added in the cases
of Hosea and Amos. But that detail is also reconcilable with absolute
fabrication. To say nothing of sheer bad faith in a community whose
moral code said nothing against fraud save in the form of judicial
perjury, the Hebrew literature is profoundly compromised by the simple
fact that the religious development of the people made the prestige
of antiquity more essential there for the purposes of propaganda
than in almost any other society known to us. Hence an all-pervading
principle of literary dissimulation; and what freethinking there was
had in general to wear the guise of the very force of unreasoning
traditionalism to which it was inwardly most opposed. Only thus could
new thought find a hearing and secure its preservation at the hands
of the tribe of formalists. Even the pessimist Koheleth, wearied with
groping science, yet believing nothing of the doctrine of immortality,
must needs follow precedent and pose as the fabulous King Solomon,
son of the half-mythic David.



§ 3

We are forced, then, to regard with distrust all passages in the
"early" prophets which express either a disregard of sacrifice
and ritual, or a universalism incongruous with all that we know
of the native culture of their period. The strongest ground for
surmising a really "high" development of monotheism in Judah before
the Captivity is the stability of the life there as compared with
northern Israel. [368] In this respect the conditions might indeed be
considered favourable to priestly or other culture; but, on the other
hand, the records themselves exhibit a predominant polytheism. The
presumption, then, is strong that the "advanced" passages in the
prophets concerning sacrifice belong to an age when such ideas had
been reached in more civilized nations, with whose thought travelled
Jews could come in contact.


    It is true that some such ideas were current in Egypt many
    centuries before the period under notice--a fact which alone
    discounts the ethical originality claimed for the Hebrew
    prophets. E.g., the following passage from the papyrus of Ani,
    belonging to the Nineteenth Dynasty, not later than 1288 B.C.:
    "That which is detestable in the sanctuary of God is noisy feasts;
    if thou implore him with a loving heart of which all the words
    are mysterious, he will do thy matters, he hears thy words, he
    accepts thine offerings" (Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt,
    by Flinders Petrie, 1898, p. 160). The word rendered "mysterious"
    here may mean "magical" or "liturgical," or may merely prescribe
    privacy or silence; and this last is the construction put
    upon it by Renouf (Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. p. 102) and Erman
    (Handbook of Eg. Relig. Eng. tr. p. 84). The same doctrine is put
    in a hymn to Thoth (id.). But in any case we must look for later
    culture-contacts as the source of the later Hebrew radicalism under
    notice, though Egyptian sources are not to be wholly set aside. See
    Kuenen, i, 395; and Brugsch, as there cited; but cp. Wellhausen,
    Israel, p. 440.


It is clear that not only did they accept a cosmogony from the
Babylonians, but they were influenced by the lore of the Zoroastrian
Persians, with whom, as with the monotheists or pantheists of Babylon,
they would have grounds of sympathy. It is an open question whether
their special hostility to images does not date from the time of
Persian contact. [369] Concerning the restoration, it has been argued
that only a few Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem "both under Cyrus
and under Dareios"; and that, though the temple was rebuilt under
Dareios Hystaspis, the builders were not the Gola or returned exiles,
but that part of the Judahite population which had not been deported
to Babylon. [370] The problem is obscure; [371] but, at least, the
separatist spirit of the redacted narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah
(which in any case tell of an opposite spirit) is not to be taken as
a decisive clue to the character of the new religion. For the rest,
the many Jews who remained in Babylon or spread elsewhere in the
Persian Empire, and who developed their creed on a non-local basis,
were bound to be in some way affected by the surrounding theology. And
it is tolerably certain that not only was the notion of angels derived
by the Jews from either the Babylonians or the Persians, but their
rigid Sabbath and their weekly synagogue meetings came from one or
both of these sources.


    That the Sabbath was an Akkado-Babylonian and Assyrian institution
    is now well established (G. Smith, Assyrian Eponym Canon, 1875,
    p. 20; Jastrow, Relig. of Bab. and Assyria, p. 377; Sayce,
    Hib. Lect. p. 76, and in Variorum Teacher's Bible, ed. 1885,
    Aids, p. 71). It was before the fact was ascertained that Kuenen
    wrote of the Sabbath (i, 245) as peculiar to Israel. The Hebrews
    may have had it before the Exile; but it was clearly not then a
    great institution; and the mention of Sabbaths in Amos (viii,
    5) and Isaiah (i, 13) is one of the reasons for doubting the
    antiquity of those books. The custom of synagogue meetings on
    the Sabbath is post-exilic, and may have arisen either in Babylon
    itself (so Wellhausen, Israel, p. 492) or in imitation of Parsee
    practice (so Tiele, cited by Kuenen, iii, 35). Compare E. Meyer,
    Gesch. des Alt. iii (1901), § 131. The same alternative arises
    with regard to the belief in angels, usually regarded as certainly
    Persian in origin (cp. Kuenen, iii, 37; Tiele, Outlines, p. 90;
    and Sack, Die altjüdische Religion, 1889, p. 133). This also could
    have been Babylonian (Sayce, in Var. Bible, as cited, p. 71); even
    the demon Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit, usually taken as Persian,
    being of Babylonian derivation (id.). Cp. Darmesteter's introd. to
    Zendavesta, 2nd ed. ch. v. On the other hand, the conception of
    Satan, the Adversary, as seen in 1 Chr. xxi, 1; Zech. iii, 1,
    2, seems to come from the Persian Ahriman, though the Satan of
    Job has not Ahriman's status. Such a modification would come of
    the wish to insist on the supremacy of the good God. And this
    quasi-monotheistic view, again, we are led to regard, in the
    case of the prophets, as a possible Babylonian derivation, or
    at least as a result of the contact of Yahwists with Babylonian
    culture. To a foreign influence, finally, must be definitely
    attributed the later Priestly Code, over-ruling Deuteronomy,
    lowering the Levites, setting up a high priest, calling the
    dues into the sanctuary, resting on the Torah the cultus which
    before was rested on the patriarchs, and providing cities and
    land for the Aaronidae and the Levites (Wellhausen, Prolegomena,
    pp. 123, 127, 147, 149, 347; Israel, pp. 495, 497)--the latter
    an arrangement impossible in mountainous Palestine, as regards
    the land-measurements (id. Proleg. p. 159, following Gramberg and
    Graf), and clearly deriving from some such country as Babylonia
    or Persia. As to the high-priest principle in Babylon and Assyria,
    see Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 59-61; Jastrow, as cited, p. 658.


Of the general effect of such contacts we have clear traces in two
of the most remarkable of the later books of the Old Testament, Job
and Ecclesiastes, both of which clearly belong to a late period in
religious development. The majority of the critics still confidently
describe Job as an original Hebrew work, mainly on the ground,
apparently, that it shows no clear marks of translation, though
its names and its local colour are all non-Jewish. In any case it
represents, for its time, a cosmopolitan culture, and contains the
work of more than one hand, the prologue and epilogue being probably
older than the rest; while much of the dialogue is obviously late
interpolation.


    Compare Cheyne, Job and Solomon, 1887, p. 72; Bradley,
    Lectures on Job, p. 171; Bleek-Wellhausen, Einleitung, § 268
    (291), ed. 1878, p. 542; Driver, Introd. pp. 405-8; Cornill,
    Einleit. in das alte Test. 2te. Aufl. 1892, §§ 38, 42; Sharpe,
    Hist. of the Hebrew Nation, 4th ed. p. 282 sq.; Dillon, Skeptics
    of the Old Test. 1895, pp. 36-39. Renan's dating of the book six
    or seven centuries before Ecclesiastes (L'Ecclésiaste, p. 26;
    Job, pp. xv-xliii) is oddly uncritical. It must clearly be dated
    after Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Dillon, as cited); and Cornill even
    ascribes it to the fourth or third century B.C. Dr. Cheyne notes
    that in the skeptical passages the name Yahweh is very seldom used
    (only once or twice, as in xii, 9; xxviii, 28); and Dr. Driver
    admits that the whole book not only abounds in Aramaic words,
    but has a good many "explicable only from the Arabic." Other
    details in the book suggest the possible culture-influence of
    the Himyarite Arabs, who had reached a high civilization before
    500 B.C. Dr. Driver's remark that "the thoughts are thoroughly
    Hebraic" burkes the entire problem as to the manifest innovation
    the book makes in Hebrew thought and literary method alike. Sharpe
    (p. 287) is equally arbitrary. Cp. Renan, Job, 1859, pp. xxv,
    where the newness of the whole treatment is admitted.

    Dr. Dillon (pp. 43-59), following Bickell, has pointed out more or
    less convincingly the many interpolations made in the book after,
    and even before, the making of the Septuagint translation, which
    originally lacked 400 lines of the matter in the present Hebrew
    version. The discovery of the Saidic version of the LXX text of
    Job decides the main fact. (See Professor Bickell's Das Buch Job,
    1894.) "It is quite possible even now to point out, by the help
    of a few disjointed fragments still preserved, the position, and
    to divine the sense, of certain spiteful and defiant passages,
    which, in the interest of 'religion and morals,' were remorselessly
    suppressed; to indicate others which were split up and transposed;
    and to distinguish many prolix discourses, feeble or powerful
    word-pictures, and trite commonplaces, which were deliberately
    inserted later on, for the sole purpose of toning down the most
    audacious piece of rationalistic philosophy which has ever yet
    been clothed in the music of sublime verse" (Dillon, pp. 45-46).

    "Besides the four hundred verses which must be excluded on the
    ground that they are wanting in the Septuagint version, and were
    therefore added to the text at a comparatively recent period, the
    long-winded discourse of Elihu must be struck out, most [? much]
    of which was composed before the book was first translated into
    Greek.... In the prologue in prose ... Elihu is not once alluded
    to; and in the epilogue, where all the [other] debaters are named
    and censured, he ... is absolutely ignored.... Elihu's style is
    toto coelo different from that of the other parts of the poem;
    ... while his doctrinal peculiarities, particularly his mention
    of interceding angels, while they coincide with those of the New
    Testament, are absolutely unknown to Job and his friends.... The
    confusion introduced into the text by this insertion is bewildering
    in the extreme; and yet the result is but a typical specimen of
    the ... tangle which was produced by the systematic endeavour of
    later and pious editors to reduce the poem to the proper level
    of orthodoxy" (id. pp. 55-57). Again: "Ch. xxiv, 5-8, 10-24,
    and ch. xxx, 3-7, take the place of Job's blasphemous complaint
    about the unjust government of the world."

    It need hardly be added here that not only the Authorized but
    the Revised Version is false in the text "I know that my redeemer
    liveth," etc. (xix, 25-27), that being a perversion dating from
    Jerome. The probable meaning is given in Dr. Dillon's version:--


        But I know that my avenger liveth;
        Though it be at the end upon my dust,
        My witness will avenge these things,
        And a curse alight upon mine enemies.


    The original expressed a complete disbelief in a future life
    (ch. xiv). Compare Dr. Dillon's rhythmic version of the restored
    text.


What marks off the book of Job from all other Hebrew literature
is its dramatic and reflective handling of the ethical problem of
theism, which the prophets either evade or dismiss by declamation
against Jewish sins. Not that it is solved in Job, where the rôle of
Satan is an inconclusive resort to the Persian dualistic solution,
and where the deity is finally made to answer Job's freethinking
by sheer literary thunder, much less ratiocinative though far more
artistic than the theistic speeches of the friends. But at least the
writer or writers of Job's speeches consciously grasped the issue;
and the writer of the epilogue evidently felt that the least Yahweh
could do was to compensate a man whom he had allowed to be wantonly
persecuted. The various efforts of ancient thought to solve the same
problem will be found to constitute the motive power in many later
heterodox systems, theistic and atheistic.

Broadly speaking, it is solved in practice in terms of the fortunes
of priests and worshippers. At all stages of religious evolution
extreme ill-fortune tends to detach men from the cults that have
failed to bring them succour. Be it in the case of African indigenes
slaying their unsuccessful rain-doctor, Anglo-Saxon priests welcoming
Christianity as a surer source of income than their old worship,
pagans turning Christian at the fall of Julian, or Christians going
over to Islam at the sight of its triumph--the simple primary motive
of self-interest is always potent on this as on other sides; and at
all stages of Jewish history, it is evident, there were many who held
by Yahweh because they thought he prospered them, or renounced him
because he did not. And the very vicissitude of things would breed
a general skepticism. [372] In Zephaniah (i, 12) there is a specific
allusion to those "that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good,
neither will he do evil."

Judaism is thus historically a series of socio-political selections
rather than a sequence of hereditary transmission. The first definite
and exclusive Yahwistic cult was an outcome of special political
conditions; and its priests would adhere to it in adversity insofar
as they had no other economic resort. Every return of sunshine, on the
other hand, would minister to faith; and while many Jews in the time of
Assyro-Babylonian ascendancy decided that Yahweh could not save, those
Yahwists who in the actual Captivity prospered commercially in the new
life would see in such prosperity a fresh proof of Yahweh's support,
[373] and would magnify his name and endow his priests accordingly. For
similar reasons, the most intense development of Judaism occurs after
the Maccabean revolt, when the military triumph of the racial remnant
over its oppressors inspired a new and enduring enthusiasm.

On the other hand, foreign influences would chronically tend to promote
doubt, especially where the foreigner was not a mere successful
votary exalting his own God, but a sympathetic thinker questioning
all the Godisms alike. This consideration is a reason the more for
surmising a partly foreign source for the book of Job, where, as in
the passage cited from Zephaniah, there is no thought of one deity
being less potent than another, but rather an impeachment of divine
rule in terms of a conceptual monotheism. In any case, the book stands
for more than Jewish reverie; and where it is finally turned to an
irrelevant and commonplace reaffirmation of the goodness of deity, a
certain number of sincerer thinkers in all likelihood fell back on an
"agnostic" solution of the eternal problem.

In certain aspects the book of Job speaks for a further reach of
early freethinking than is seen in Ecclesiastes (Koheleth), which,
however, at its lower level of conviction, tells of an unbelief that
could not be overborne by any rhetoric. It unquestionably derives
from late foreign influences. It is true that even in the book of
Malachi, which is commonly dated about 400 B.C., there is angry
mention of some who ask, "Where is the God of judgment?" and say,
"It is vain to serve God"; [374] even as others had said it in the
days of Assyrian oppression; [375] but in Malachi these sentiments
are actually associated with foreign influences, and in Koheleth such
influences are implicit. By an increasing number of students, though
not yet by common critical consent, the book is dated about 200 B.C.,
when Greek influence was stronger in Jewry than at any previous time.


    Grätz even puts it as late as the time of Herod the Great. But
    compare Dillon, p. 129; Tyler, Ecclesiastes, 1874, p. 31;
    Plumptre's Ecclesiastes, 1881, introd. p. 34; Renan, L'Ecclésiaste,
    1882, pp. 54-59; Kuenen, Religion of Israel, iii, 82; Driver,
    Introduction, pp. 446-47; Bleek-Wellhausen, Einleitung,
    p. 527. Dr. Cheyne and some others still put the date before
    332 B.C. Here again we are dealing with a confused and corrupted
    text. The German Prof. Bickell has framed an ingenious and highly
    plausible theory to the effect that the present incoherence of
    the text is mainly due to a misplacing of the leaves of the copy
    from which the current transcript was made. See it set forth by
    Dillon, pp. 92-97; cp. Cheyne, Job and Solomon, p. 273 sq. There
    has, further, been some tampering. The epilogue, in particular,
    is clearly the addition of a later hand--"one of the most timid
    and shuffling apologies ever penned" (Dillon, p. 118, note).


But the thought of the book is, as Renan says, profoundly fatigued;
and the sombre avowals of the absence of divine moral government
are ill-balanced by sayings, probably interpolated by other hands,
averring an ultimate rectification even on earth. What remains
unqualified is the deliberate rejection of the belief in a future
life, couched in terms that imply the currency of the doctrine; [376]
and the deliberate caution against enthusiasm in religion. Belief
in a powerful but remote deity, with a minimum of worship and vows,
is the outstanding lesson. [377]


    "To me, Koheleth is not a theist in any vital sense in
    his philosophic meditations" (Cheyne, Job and Solomon,
    p. 250). "Koheleth's pessimistic theory, which has its roots
    in secularism, is utterly incompatible with the spirit of
    Judaism.... It is grounded upon the rejection of the Messianic
    expectations, and absolute disbelief in the solemn promises of
    Jahveh himself.... It would be idle to deny that he had far more
    in common with the 'impious' than with the orthodox" (Dillon,
    pp. 119-20).


That there was a good deal of this species of tired or stoical
semi-rationalism among the Jews of the Hellenistic period may be
inferred from various traces. The opening verses of the thirtieth
chapter of the book of Proverbs, attributed to Agur, son of Jakeh,
are admittedly the expression of a skeptic's conviction that God
cannot be known, [378] the countervailing passages being plainly the
additions of a believer. Agur's utterances probably belong to the close
of the third century B.C. Here, as in Job, there are signs of Arab
influence; [379] but at a later period the main source of skepticism
for Israel was probably the Hellenistic civilization. It is told in the
Talmud that in the Maccabean period there came into use the formula,
"Cursed be the man that cherisheth swine; and cursed be the man that
teacheth his son the wisdom of the Greeks"; and there is preserved
the saying of Rabbi Simeon, son of Gamaliel, that in his father's
school five hundred learnt the law, and five hundred the wisdom of
the Greeks. [380] Before Gamaliel, the Greek influence had affected
Jewish philosophic thought; and it is very probable that among the
Sadducees who resisted the doctrine of resurrection there were some
thinkers of the Epicurean school. To that school may have belonged
the unbelievers who are struck at in several Rabbinical passages
which account for the sin of Adam as beginning in a denial of the
omnipresence of God, and describe Cain as having said: "There is
no judgment; there is no world to come, and there is no reward for
the just, and no punishment for the wicked." [381] But of Greek or
other atheism there is no direct trace in the Hebrew literature;
[382] and the rationalism of the Sadducees, who were substantially
the priestly party, [383] was like the rationalism of the Brahmans
and the Egyptian priests--something esoteric and withheld from the
multitude. In the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, which belongs to
the first century A.C., the denial of immortality, so explicit in
Ecclesiastes, is treated as a proof of utter immorality, though the
deniers are not represented as atheists. [384] They thus seem to have
been still numerous, and the imputation of wholesale immorality to
them is of course not to be credited; [385] but there is no trace of
any constructive teaching on their part.

So far as the literature shows, save for the confused Judaic-Platonism
of Philo of Alexandria, there is practically no rational progress in
Jewish thought after Koheleth till the time of contact with revived
Greek thought in Saracen Spain. The mass of the people, in the usual
way, are found gravitating to the fanatical and the superstitious
levels of the current creed. The book of Ruth, written to resist
the separatism of the post-Exilic theocracy, [386] never altered
the Jewish practice, though allowed into the canon. The remarkable
Levitical legislation providing for the periodical restoration of
the land to the poor never came into operation, [387] any more than
the very different provision giving land and cities to the children
of Aaron and the Levites. None of the more rationalistic writings
in the canon seems ever to have counted for much in the national
life. To conceive of "Israel," in the fashion still prevalent, as
being typified in the monotheistic prophets, whatever their date,
is as complete a misconception as it would be to see in Mr. Ruskin
the expression of the everyday ethic of commercial England. The
anti-sacrificial and universalist teachings in the prophets and in the
Psalms never affected, for the people at large, the sacrificial and
localized worship at Jerusalem; though they may have been esoterically
received by some of the priestly or learned class there, and though
they may have promoted a continual exodus of the less fanatical
types, who turned to other civilizations. Despite the resistance of
the Sadducees and the teaching of Job and Ecclesiastes, the belief
in a resurrection rapidly gained ground [388] in the two or three
centuries before the rise of Jesuism, and furnished a basis for
the new creed; as did the Messianic hope and the belief in a speedy
ending of the world, with both of which Jewish fanaticism sustained
itself under the long frustration of nationalistic faith before the
Maccabean interlude and after the Roman conquest. It was in vain that
the great teacher Hillel declared, "There is no Messiah for Israel";
the rest of the race persisted in cherishing the dream. [389] With the
major hallucination thus in full possession, the subordinate species of
superstition flourished as in Egypt and India; so that at the beginning
of our era the Jews were among the most superstitious peoples in the
world. [390] When their monotheism was fully established, and placed
on an abstract footing by the destruction of the temple, it seems
to have had no bettering influence on the practical ethics of the
Gentiles, though it may have furthered the theistic tendency of the
Stoic philosophy. Juvenal exhibits to us the Jew proselyte at Rome as
refusing to show an unbeliever the way, or guide him to a spring. [391]
Sectarian monotheism was thus in part on a rather lower ethical and
intellectual [392] plane than the polytheism, to say nothing of the
Epicureanism or the Stoicism, of the society of the Roman Empire.

It cannot even be said that the learned Rabbinical class carried on a
philosophic tradition, while the indigent multitude thus discredited
their creed. In the period after the fall of Jerusalem, the narrow
nationalism which had always ruled there seems to have been even
intensified. In the Talmud "the most general representation of the
Divine Being is as the chief Rabbi of Heaven; the angelic host being
his assessors. The heavenly Sanhedrim takes the opinion of living
sages in cases of dispute. Of the twelve hours of the day three are
spent by God in study, three in the government of the world (or rather
in the exercise of mercy), three in providing food for the world,
and three in playing with Leviathan. But since the destruction of
Jerusalem all amusements were banished from the courts of heaven,
and three hours were employed in the instruction of those who had
died in infancy." [393] So little can a nominal monotheism avail,
on the basis of a completed Sacred Book, to keep thought sane when
freethought is lacking.

Finally, Judaism played in the world's thought the great reactionary
and obscurantist part by erecting into a dogma the irrational
conception that its deity made the universe "out of nothing." At
the time of the redaction of the book of Genesis this dogma had not
been glimpsed: the Hebrew conception was the Babylonian--that of a
pre-existent Chaos put into shape. But gradually, in the interests of
monotheism, the anti-scientific doctrine was evolved [394] by way of
negative to that of the Gentiles; and where the great line of Ionian
thinkers passed on to the modern world the developed conception of
an eternal universe, [395] Judaism passed on through Christianity,
as well as in its own "philosophy," the contrary dogma, to bar the
way of later science.



CHAPTER V

FREETHOUGHT IN GREECE


The highest of all the ancient civilizations, that of Greece,
was naturally the product of the greatest possible complex of
culture-forces; [396] and its rise to pre-eminence begins after
the contact of the Greek settlers in Æolia and Ionia with the higher
civilizations of Asia Minor. [397] The great Homeric epos itself stands
for the special conditions of Æolic and Ionic life in those colonies;
[398] even Greek religion, spontaneous as were its earlier growths, was
soon influenced by those of the East; [399] and Greek philosophy and
art alike draw their first inspirations from Eastern contact. [400]
Whatever reactions we may make against the tradition of Oriental
origins, [401] it is clear that the higher civilization of antiquity
had Oriental (including in that term Egyptian) roots. [402] At no point
do we find a "pure" Greek civilization. Alike the "Mycenæan" and the
"Minoan" civilizations, as recovered for us by modern excavators,
show a composite basis, in which the East is implicated. [403] And
in the historic period the connection remains obvious. It matters
not whether we hold the Phrygians and Karians of history to have
been originally an Aryan stock, related to the Hellenes, and thus
to have acted as intermediaries between Aryans and Semites, or to
have been originally Semites, with whom Greeks intermingled. [404]
On either view, the intermediaries represented Semitic influences,
which they passed on to the Greek-speaking races, though they in turn
developed their deities in large part on psychological lines common
to them and the Semites. [405]


    As to the obvious Asiatic influences on historic Greek
    civilization, compare Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, 1872,
    p. 64; Von Ihering, Vorgeschichte der Indo-Europäer, Eng. tr. ("The
    Evolution of the Aryan"), p. 73; Schömann, Griech. Alterthümer,
    2te Aufl. 1861, i, 10; E. Meyer, Gesch. des Alterth. ii, 155;
    A. Bertrand, Études de mythol. et d'archéol. grecques, 1858,
    pp. 40-41; Bury, introd. p. 3. It seems clear that the Egyptian
    influence is greatly overstated by Herodotos (ii. 49-52, etc.),
    who indeed avows that he is but repeating what the Egyptians
    affirm. The Egyptian priests made their claim in the spirit
    in which the Jews later made theirs. Herodotos, besides, would
    prefer an Egyptian to an Asiatic derivation, and so would his
    audience. But it must not be overlooked that there was an Egyptian
    influence in the "Minoan" period.


A Hellenistic enthusiasm has led a series of eminent scholars to carry
so far their resistance to the tradition of Oriental beginnings [406]
as to take up the position that Greek thought is "autochthonous." [407]
If it were, it could not conceivably have progressed as it did. Only
the tenacious psychological prejudice as to race-characters and racial
"genius" could thus long detain so many students at a point of view so
much more nearly related to supernaturalism than to science. It is safe
to say that if any people is ever seen to progress in thought, art, and
life, with measurable rapidity, its progress is due to the reactions of
foreign intercourse. The primary civilizations, or what pass for such,
as those of Akkad and Egypt, are immeasurably slow in accumulating
culture-material; the relatively rapid developments always involve
the stimulus of old cultures upon a new and vigorous civilization,
well-placed for social evolution for the time being. There is no
point in early Greek evolution, so far as we have documentary trace
of it, at which foreign impact or stimulus is not either patent or
inferrible. [408] In the very dawn of history the Greeks are found
to be a composite stock, [409] growing still more composite; and the
very beginnings of its higher culture are traced to the non-Grecian
people of Thrace, [410] who worshipped the Muses. As seen by Herodotos
and Thucydides, "the original Hellenes were a particular conquering
tribe of great prestige, which attracted the surrounding tribes to
follow it, imitate it, and call themselves by its name. The Spartans
were, to Herodotos, Hellenic; the Athenians, on the other hand,
were not. They were Pelasgian, but by a certain time 'changed into
Hellenes and learnt their language.' In historical times we cannot
really find any tribe of pure Hellenes in existence." [411] The later
supremacy of the Greek culture is thus to be explained in terms not
of an abnormal "Greek genius," [412] but of the special evolution of
intelligence in the Greek-speaking stock, firstly through constant
crossing with others, and secondarily through its furtherance by the
special social conditions of the more progressive Greek city-states,
of which conditions the most important were their geographical
dividedness and their own consequent competition and interaction. [413]


    The whole problem of Oriental "influence" has been obscured, and
    the solution retarded, by the old academic habit of discussing
    questions of mental evolution in vacuo. Even the reaction against
    idolatrous Hellenism proceeded without due regard to historical
    sequence; and the return reaction against that is still somewhat
    lacking in breadth of inference. There has been too much on
    one side of assumption as to early Oriental achievement; and
    too much tendency on the other to assume that the positing of
    an "influence" on the Greeks is a disparagement of the "Greek
    mind." The superiority of that in its later evolution seems too
    obvious to need affirming. But that hardly justifies so able a
    writer as Professor Burnet in concluding (Early Greek Philosophy,
    2nd ed. introd. pp. 22-23) that "the" Egyptians knew no more
    arithmetic than was learned by their children in the schools;
    or in saying (id. p. 26) that "the" Babylonians "studied and
    recorded celestial phenomena for what we call astrological
    purposes, not from any scientific interest." How can we have
    the right to say that no Babylonians had a scientific interest
    in the data? Such interest would in the nature of the case miss
    the popular reproduction given to astrological lore. But it might
    very well subsist.

    Professor Burnet, albeit a really original investigator, has
    not here had due regard to the early usage of collegiate or
    corporate culture, in which arcane knowledge was reserved for the
    few. Thus he writes (p. 26) concerning the Greeks that "it was not
    till the time of Plato that even the names of the planets were
    known." Surely they must have been "known" to some adepts long
    before: how else came they to be accepted? As Professor Burnet
    himself notes (p. 34), "in almost every department of life we find
    that the corporation at first is everything and the individual
    nothing. The peoples of the East hardly got beyond this stage at
    all: their science, such as it is, is anonymous, the inherited
    property of a caste or guild, and we still see clearly in some
    cases that it was once the same among the Hellenes." Is it not then
    probable that astronomical knowledge was so ordered by Easterns,
    and passed on to Hellenes?

    There still attaches to the investigation of early Greek philosophy
    the drawback that the philosophical scholars do not properly posit
    the question: What was the early Ionic Greek society like? How did
    the Hellenes relate to the older polities and cultures which they
    found there? Professor Burnet makes justifiable fun (p. 21, note)
    of Dr. Gomperz's theory of the influence of "native brides"; but he
    himself seems to argue that the Greeks could learn nothing from the
    men they conquered, though he admits (p. 20) their derivation of
    "their art and many of their religious ideas from the East." If
    religion, why not religious speculation, leading to philosophy
    and science? This would be a more fruitful line of inquiry than
    one based on the assumption that "the" Babylonians went one way
    and "the" Greeks another. After all, only a few in each race
    carried on the work of thought and discovery. We do not say that
    "the English" wrote Shakespeare. Why affirm always that "the"
    Greeks did whatever great Greeks achieved?

    On the immediate issue Professor Burnet incidentally concedes what
    is required. After arguing that the East perhaps borrowed more
    from the West than did the West from the East, he admits (p. 21):
    "It would, however, be quite another thing to say that Greek
    philosophy originated quite independently of Oriental influence."



§ 1

By the tacit admission of one of the ablest opponents of the theory
of foreign influence, Hellenic religion as fixed by Homer for the
Hellenic world was partly determined by Asiatic influences. Ottfried
Müller decided not only that Homer the man (in whose personality he
believed) was probably a Smyrnean, whether of Æolic or Ionic stock,
[414] but that Homer's religion must have represented a special
selection from the manifold Greek mythology, necessarily representing
his local bias. [415] Now, the Greek cults at Smyrna, as in the other
Æolic and Ionic cities of Asia Minor, would be very likely to reflect
in some degree the influence of the Karian or other Asiatic cults
around them. [416] The early Attic conquerors of Miletos allowed
the worship of the Karian Sun-God there to be carried on by the old
priests; and the Attic settlers of Ephesos in the same way adopted the
neighbouring worship of the Lydian Goddess (who became the Artemis
or "Great Diana" of the Ephesians), and retained the ministry of
the attendant priests and eunuchs. [417] Smyrna was apparently not
like these a mixed community, but one founded by Achaians from the
Peloponnesos; but the genera] Ionic and Æolic religious atmosphere,
set up by common sacrifices, [418] must have been represented in an
epic brought forth in that region. The Karian civilization had at
one time spread over a great part of the Ægean, including Delos and
Cyprus. [419] Such a civilization must have affected that of the Greek
conquerors, who only on that basis became civilized traders. [420]

It is not necessary to ask how far exactly the influence may have
gone in the Iliad: the main point is that even at that stage of
comparatively simple Hellenism the Asiatic environment, Karian
or Phoenician, counted for something, whether in cosmogony or in
furthering the process of God-grouping, or in conveying the cult of
Cyprian Aphrodite, [421] or haply in lending some characteristics to
Zeus and Apollo and Athênê, [422] an influence none the less real
because the genius of the poet or poets of the Iliad has given to
the whole Olympian group the artistic stamp of individuality which
thenceforth distinguishes the Gods of Greece from all others. Indeed,
the very creation of a graded hierarchy out of the independent local
deities of Greece, the marrying of the once isolated Pelasgic Hêrê
to Zeus, the subordination to him of the once isolated Athênê and
Apollo--all this tells of the influence of a Semitic world in which
each Baal had his wife, and in which the monarchic system developed on
earth had been set up in heaven. [423] But soon the Asiatic influence
becomes still more clearly recognizable. There is reason to hold
with Schrader that the belief in a mildly blissful future state,
as seen even in the Odyssey [424] and in the Theogony ascribed to
Hesiod, [425] is "a new belief which is only to be understood in
view of oriental tales and teaching." [426] In the Theogony, again,
the Semitic element increases, [427] Kronos being a Semitic figure;
[428] while Semelê, if not Dionysos, appears to be no less so. [429]
But we may further surmise that in Homer, to begin with, the conception
of Okeanos, the earth-surrounding Ocean-stream, as the origin of all
things, [430] comes from some Semitic source; and that Hesiod's more
complicated scheme of origins from Chaos is a further borrowing of
oriental thought--both notions being found in ancient Babylonian lore,
whence the Hebrews derived their combination of Chaos and Ocean in
the first verses of Genesis. [431] It thus appears that the earlier
oriental [432] influence upon Greek thought was in the direction
of developing religion, [433] with only the germ of rationalism
conveyed in the idea of an existence of matter before the Gods, [434]
which we shall later find scientifically developed. But the case is
obscure. Insofar as the Theogony, for instance, partly moralizes the
more primitively savage myths, [435] it may be that it represents
the spontaneous need of the more highly evolved race to give an
acceptable meaning to divine tales which, coming from another race,
have not a quite sacrosanct prescription, though the tendency is to
accept them. On the other hand, it may have been a further foreign
influence that gave the critical impulse.


    "It is plain enough that Homer and Hesiod represent, both
    theologically and socially, the close of a long epoch, and
    not the youth of the Greek world, as some have supposed. The
    real signification of many myths is lost to them, and so is
    the import of most of the names and titles of the elder Gods,
    which are archaic and strange, while the subordinate personages
    generally have purely Greek names" (Professor Mahaffy, History
    of Classical Greek Literature, 1880, i, 17).



§ 2

Whatever be the determining conditions, it is clear that the Homeric
epos stands for a new growth of secular song, distinct from the earlier
poetry, which by tradition was "either lyrical or oracular." The
poems ascribed to the pre-Homeric bards "were all short, and they
were all strictly religious. In these features they contrasted
broadly with the epic school of Homer. Even the hexameter metre
seems not to have been used in these old hymns, and was called a new
invention of the Delphic priests. [436] Still further, the majority
of these hymns are connected with mysteries apparently ignored by
Homer, or with the worship of Dionysos, which he hardly knew." [437]
Intermediate between the earlier religious poetry and the Homeric
epic, then, was a hexametric verse, used by the Delphic priesthood;
and to this order of poetry belongs the Theogony which goes under
the name of Hesiod, and which is a sample of other and older works,
[438] probably composed by priests. And the distinctive mark of the
Homeric epos is that, framed as it was to entertain feudal chiefs and
their courts, it turned completely away from the sacerdotal norm and
purpose. "Thus epic poetry, from having been purely religious, became
purely secular. After having treated men and heroes in subordination
to the Gods, it came to treat the Gods in relation to men. Indeed,
it may be said of Homer that in the image of man created he God." [439]


    As to the non-religiousness of the Homeric epics, there is a
    division of critical opinion. Meyer insists (Gesch. des Alt. ii,
    395) that, as contrasted with the earlier religious poetry, "the
    epic poetry is throughout secular (profan); it aims at charming
    its hearers, not at propitiating the Gods"; and he further sees in
    the whole Ionian mood a certain cynical disillusionment (id. ii,
    723). Cp. Benn, Philos. of Greece, p. 40, citing Hegel. E. Curtius
    (G. G. i, 126) goes so far as to ascribe a certain irony to the
    portraiture of the Gods (Ionian Apollo excepted) in Homer, and to
    trace this to Ionian levity. To the same cause he assigns the lack
    of any expression of a sense of stigma attaching to murder. This
    sense he holds the Greek people had, though Homer does not
    hint it. (Cp. Grote, i, 24, whose inference Curtius implicitly
    impugns.) Girard (Le Sentiment religieux en Grèce, 1869), on the
    contrary, appears to have no suspicion of any problem to solve,
    treating Homer as unaffectedly religious. The same view is taken
    by Prof. Paul Decharme. "On chercherait vainement dans l'Iliade et
    dans l'Odyssée les premières traces du scepticisme grec à l'égard
    des fables des dieux. C'est avec une foi entière en la réalité
    des événements mythiques que les poètes chantent les légendes ...;
    c'est en toute simplicité d'âme aussi que les auditeurs de l'épopée
    écoutent...." (La critique des traditions religieuses chez les
    grecs, 1904, p. 1.) Thus we have a kind of balance of contrary
    opinions, German against French. Any verdict on the problem must
    recognize on the one hand the possibilities of naïve credulity in
    an unlettered age, and on the other the probability of critical
    perception on the part of a great poet. I have seen both among
    Boers in South Africa. On the general question of the mood of
    the Homeric poems compare Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek
    Religion, 1912, p. 77, and Hist. of Anc. Greek Lit. pp. 34, 35;
    and A. Benn, The Philosophy of Greece in Relation to the Character
    of its People, 1898, pp. 29-30.


Still, it cannot be said that in the Iliad there is any clear hint of
religious skepticism, though the Gods are so wholly in the likeness of
men that the lower deities fight with heroes and are worsted, while
Zeus and Hêrê quarrel like any earthly couple. In the Odyssey there
is a bare hint of possible speculation in the use of the word atheos;
but it is applied only in the phrase ouk atheei, "not without a
God," [440] in the sense of similar expressions in other passages
and in the Iliad. [441] The idea was that sometimes the Gods directly
meddled. When Odysseus accuses the suitors of not dreading the Gods,
[442] he has no thought of accusing them of unbelief. [443] Homer
has indeed been supposed to have exercised a measure of relative
freethought in excluding from his song the more offensive myths about
the Gods, [444] but such exclusion may be sufficiently explained on
the score that the epopees were chanted in aristocratic dwellings,
in the presence of womenkind, without surmising any process of doubt
on the poet's part.

On the other hand, it was inevitable that such a free treatment of
things hitherto sacred should not only affect the attitude of the
lay listener towards the current religion, but should react on the
religious consciousness. God-legends so fully thrust on secular
attention were bound to be discussed; and in the adaptations of
myth for liturgical purposes by Stesichoros (fl. circa 600 B.C.) we
appear to have the first open trace of a critical revolt in the
Greek world against immoral or undignified myths. [445] In his
work, it is fair to say, we see "the beginning of rationalism":
"the decisive step is taken: once the understanding criticizes the
sanctified tradition, it raises itself to be the judge thereof;
no longer the common tradition but the individual conviction is the
ground of religious belief." [446] Religious, indeed, the process
still substantially is. It is to preserve the credit of Helena as
a Goddess that Stesichoros repudiates the Homeric account of her,
[447] somewhat in the spirit in which the framers of the Hesiodic
theogony manipulated the myths without rejecting them, or the Hebrew
redactors tampered with their text. But in Stesichoros there is a new
tendency to reject the myth altogether; [448] so that at this stage
freethought is still part of a process in which religious feeling,
pressed by an advancing ethical consciousness, instinctively clears
its standing ground.

It is in Pindar, however (518-442 B.C.), that we first find such a
mental process plainly avowed by a believer. In his first Olympic
Ode he expressly declares the need for bringing afterthought to bear
on poetic lore, that so men may speak nought unfitting of the Gods;
and he protests that he will never tell the tale of the blessed ones
banqueting on human flesh. [449] In the ninth Ode he again protests
that his lips must not speak blasphemously of such a thing as strife
among the immortals. [450] Here the critical motive is ethical, though,
while repudiating one kind of scandal about the Gods, Pindar placidly
accepts others no less startling to the modern sense. His critical
revolt, in fact, is far from thoroughgoing, and suggests rather a
religious man's partial response to pressure from others than any
independent process of reflection. [451]


    "He [Pindar] was honestly attached to the national religion and to
    its varieties in old local cults. He lived a somewhat sacerdotal
    life, labouring in honour of the Gods, and seeking to spread a
    reverence for old traditional beliefs. He, moreover, shows an
    acquaintance with Orphic rites and Pythagorean mysteries, which
    led him to preach the doctrine of immortality, and of rewards
    and punishments in the life hereafter. [Note.--The most explicit
    fragment (thrênoi, 3), is, however, not considered genuine by
    recent critics.]... He is indeed more affected by the advance of
    freethinking than he imagines; he borrows from the neologians the
    habit of rationalizing myths, and explaining away immoral acts
    and motives in the Gods; but these things are isolated attempts
    with him, and have no deep effect upon his general thinking"
    (Mahaffy, Hist. of Greek Lit. i, 213-14).


For such a development we are not, of course, forced to assume a
foreign influence: mere progress in refinement and in mental activity
could bring it about; yet none the less it is probable that foreign
influence did quicken the process. It is true that from the beginnings
of the literary period Greek thought played with a certain freedom on
myth, partly perhaps because the traditions visibly came from various
races, and there was no strong priesthood to ossify them. After Homer
and Hesiod, men looked back to those poets as shaping theology to
their own minds. [452] But all custom is conservative, and Pindar's
mind had that general cast. On the other hand, external influence was
forthcoming. The period of Pindar and Æschylus [525-455 B.C.] follows
on one in which Greek thought, stimulated on all sides, had taken
the first great stride in its advance beyond all antiquity. Egypt
had been fully thrown open to the Greeks in the reign of Psammetichos
[453] (650 B.C.); and a great historian, who contends that the "sheer
inherent and expansive force" of "the" Greek intellect, "aided but
by no means either impressed or provoked from without," was the true
cause, yet concedes that intercourse with Egypt "enlarged the range
of their thoughts and observations, while it also imparted to them
that vein of mysticism which overgrew the primitive simplicity of the
Homeric religion," and that from Asia Minor in turn they had derived
"musical instruments and new laws of rhythm and melody," as well as
"violent and maddening religious rites." [454] And others making
similar à priori claims for the Greek intelligence are forced likewise
to admit that the mental transition between Homer and Herodotos cannot
be explained save in terms of "the influence of other creeds, and the
necessary operation of altered circumstances and relations." [455]
In the Persae of Æschylus we even catch a glimpse of direct contact
with foreign skepticism; [456] and again in the Agamemnon there is
a reference to some impious one who denied that the Gods deigned
to have care of mortals. [457] It seems unwarrantable to read as
"ridicule of popular polytheism" the passage in the same tragedy:
[458] "Zeus, whosoever he be; if this name be well-pleasing to
himself in invocation, by this do I name him." It may more fitly be
read [459] as an echo of the saying of Herakleitos that "the Wise
[= the Logos?] is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of
Zeus." [460] But in the poet's thought, as revealed in the Prometheus,
and in the Agamemnon on the theme of the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, there
has occurred an ethical judgment of the older creeds, an approach to
pantheism, a rejection of anthropomorphism, and a growth of pessimism
that tells of their final insufficiency.


    The leaning to pantheism is established by the discovery that
    the disputed lines, "Zeus is sky, earth, and heaven: Zeus is all
    things, yea, greater than all things" (Frag. 443), belonged to the
    lost tragedy of the Heliades (Haigh, Tragic Drama of the Greeks,
    1896, p. 88). For the pessimism see the Prometheus, 247-51. The
    anti-anthropomorphism is further to be made out from the lines
    ascribed to Æschylus by Justin Martyr (De Monarchia, c. 2)
    and Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata, v, 14). They are expressly
    pantheistic; but their genuineness is doubtful. The story that
    Æschylus was nearly killed by a theatre audience on the score
    that he had divulged part of the mysteries in a tragedy (Haigh,
    The Attic Theatre, 1889, p. 316; Tragic Drama, pp. 49-50)
    does not seem to have suggested to Aristotle, who tells it
    (Nicomachean Ethics, iii, 2), any heterodox intention on the
    tragedian's part; but it is hard to see an orthodox believer
    in the author either of the Prometheus, wherein Zeus is posed
    as brutal might crucifying innocence and beneficence, or of
    the Agamemnon, where the father, perplexed in the extreme, can
    but fall back helplessly on formulas about the all-sufficiency
    of Zeus when called upon to sacrifice his daughter. Cp. Haigh,
    Tragic Drama, p. 86 sq. "Some critics," says Mr. Haigh (p. 88),
    "have been led to imagine that there is in Æschylus a double
    Zeus--the ordinary God of the polytheistic religion and the one
    omnipotent deity in whom he really believed. They suppose that he
    had no genuine faith in the credibility of the popular legends,
    but merely used them as a setting for his tragedies; and that his
    own convictions were of a more philosophical type," as seen in
    the pantheistic lines concerning Zeus. To this Mr. Haigh replies
    that it is "most improbable that there was any clear distinction
    in the mind of Æschylus" between the two conceptions of Zeus;
    going on, however, to admit that "much, no doubt, he regarded
    as uncertain, much as false. Even the name 'Zeus' was to him a
    mere convention." Mr. Haigh in this discussion does not attempt
    to deal with the problem of the Prometheus.

    The hesitations of the critics on this head are noteworthy. Karl
    Ottfried Müller, who is least himself in dealing with fundamental
    issues of creed, evades the problem (Lit. of Anc. Greece, 1847,
    p. 329) with the bald suggestion that "Æschylus, in his own
    mind, must have felt how this severity [of Zeus], a necessary
    accompaniment of the transition from the Titanic period to the
    government of the Gods of Olympus, was to be reconciled with the
    mild wisdom which he makes an attribute of Zeus in the subsequent
    ages of the world. Consequently, the deviation from right ... would
    all lie on the side of Prometheus." This nugatory plea--which is
    rightly rejected by Burckhardt (Griech. Culturgesch. ii, 25)--is
    ineffectually backed by the argument that the friendly Oceanides
    recur to the thought, "Those only are wise who humbly reverence
    Adrasteia (Fate)"--as if the positing of a supreme Fate were not
    a further belittlement of Zeus.

    Other critics are similarly evasive. Patin (Eschyle, éd. 1877,
    p. 250 sq.), noting the vagaries of past criticism, hostile and
    other, avowedly leaves the play an unsolved enigma, affirming only
    the commonly asserted "piety" of Æschylus. Girard (Le sentiment
    religieux en Grèce, pp. 425-29) does no better, while dogmatically
    asserting that the poet is "the Greek faithful to the faith of his
    fathers, which he interprets with an intelligent and emotional
    (émue) veneration." Meyer (iii, §§ 257-58) draws an elaborate
    parallel between Æschylus and Pindar, affirming in turn the "tiefe
    Frömmigkeit" of the former--and in turn leaves the enigma of the
    Prometheus unsolved. Professor Decharme, rightly rejecting the
    fanciful interpretations of Quinet and others who allegorize
    Prometheus into humanity revolting against superstition,
    offers a very unsatisfying explanation of his own (p. 107),
    which practically denies that there is any problem to solve.

    Prof. Mahaffy, with his more vivacious habit of thought, comes
    to the evaded issue. "How," he asks, "did the Athenian audience,
    who vehemently attacked the poet for divulging the mysteries,
    tolerate such a drama? And still more, how did Æschylus, a pious
    and serious thinker, venture to bring such a subject on the
    stage with a moral purpose?" The answers suggested are: (1) that
    in all old religions there are tolerated anomalous survivals;
    (2) that "a very extreme distortion of their Gods will not
    offend many who would feel outraged at any open denial of them";
    (3) that all Greeks longed for despotic power for themselves,
    and that "no Athenian, however he sympathized with Prometheus,
    would think of blaming Zeus for ... crushing all resistance to his
    will." But even if these answers--of which the last is the most
    questionable--be accepted, "the question of the poet's intention
    is far more difficult, and will probably never be satisfactorily
    answered." Finally, we have this summing-up: "Æschylus was, indeed,
    essentially a theologian ... but, what is more honourable and
    exceptional, he was so candid and honest a theologian that he did
    not approach men's difficulties for the purpose of refuting them
    or showing them weak and groundless. On the contrary, though an
    orthodox and pious man, though clearly convinced of the goodness
    of Providence, and of the profound truth of the religion of
    his fathers, he was ever stating boldly the contradictions and
    anomalies in morals and in myths, and thus naturally incurring
    the odium and suspicion of the professional advocates of religion
    and their followers. He felt, perhaps instinctively, that a vivid
    dramatic statement of these problems in his tragedies was better
    moral education than vapid platitudes about our ignorance, and
    about our difficulties being only caused by the shortness of our
    sight" (Hist. of Greek Lit. i, 260-61, 273-74).

    Here, despite the intelligent handling, the enigma is merely
    transferred from the great tragedian's work to his character: it is
    not solved. No solution is offered of the problem of the pantheism
    of the fragment above cited, which is quite irreconcilable with
    any orthodox belief in Greek religion, though such sayings are
    at times repeated by unthinking believers, without recognition
    of their bearing. That the pantheism is a philosophical element
    imported into the Greek world from the Babylonian through the early
    Ionian thinkers seems to be the historical fact (cp. Whittaker,
    as last cited): that the importation meant the dissolution of
    the national faith for many thinking men seems to be no less
    true. It seems finally permissible, then, to suggest that the
    "piety" of Æschylus was either discontinuous or a matter of
    artistic rhetoric and public spirit, and that the Prometheus is
    a work of profound and terrible irony, unburdening his mind of
    reveries that religion could not conjure away. The discussion
    on the play has unduly ignored the question of its date. It is,
    in all probability, one of the latest of the works of Æschylus
    (K. O. Müller, Lit. of Anc. Greece, p. 327; Haigh, Tragic Drama,
    p. 109). Müller points to the employment of the third actor--a
    late development--and Haigh to the overshadowing of the choruses
    by the dialogue; also to the mention (ll. 366-72) of the eruption
    of Etna, which occurred in 475 B.C. This one circumstance goes
    far to solve the dispute. Written near the end of the poet's life
    the play belongs to the latest stages of his thinking; and if it
    departs widely in its tone from the earlier plays, the reasonable
    inference is that his ideas had undergone a change. The Agamemnon,
    with its desolating problem, seems to be also one of his later
    works. Rationalism, indeed, does not usually emerge in old age,
    though Voltaire was deeply shaken in his theism by the earthquake
    of Lisbon; but Æschylus is unique even among men of genius; and
    the highest flight of Greek drama may well stand for an abnormal
    intellectual experience.


In this primary entrance of critical doubt into drama we have one of
the sociological clues to the whole evolution of Greek thought. It
has been truly said that the constant action of the tragic stage, the
dramatic putting of arguments and rejoinders, pros and cons--which
in turn was a fruit of the actual daily pleadings in the Athenian
dikastery--was a manifold stimulus alike to ethical feeling and
to intellectual effort, such as no other ancient civilization ever
knew. "The appropriate subject-matter of tragedy is pregnant not only
with ethical sympathy, but also with ethical debate and speculation,"
to an extent unapproached in the earlier lyric and gnomic poetry
and the literature of aphorism and precept. "In place of unexpanded
results, or the mere communication of single-minded sentiment, we
have even in Æschylus, the earliest of the great tragedians, a large
latitude of dissent and debate--a shifting point of view--a case
better or worse--and a divination of the future advent of sovereign
and instructed reason. It was through the intermediate stage of
tragedy that Grecian literature passed into the Rhetoric, Dialectics,
and Ethical speculation which marked the fifth century B.C." [461]

This development was indeed autochthonous, save insofar as the
germ of the tragic drama may have come from the East in the cult
of Dionysos, with its vinous dithyramb: the "Greek intellect"
assuredly did wonderful things at Athens, being placed, for a time,
in civic conditions peculiarly fitted for the economic evocation of
certain forms of genius. But the above-noted developments in Pindar
and in Æschylus had been preceded by the great florescence of early
Ionian philosophy in the sixth century, a growth which constrains
us to look once more to Asia Minor for a vital fructification of the
Greek inner life, of a kind that Athenian institutions could not in
themselves evoke. For while drama flourished supremely at Athens,
science and philosophy grew up elsewhere, centuries before Athens
had a philosopher of note; and all the notable beginnings of Hellenic
freethought occurred outside of Hellas proper.



§ 3

The Greeks varied from the general type of culture-evolution seen
in India, Persia, Egypt, and Babylon, and approximated somewhat to
that of ancient China, in that their higher thinking was done not by
an order of priests pledged to cults, but by independent laymen. In
Greece, as in China, this line of development is to be understood as a
result of early political conditions--in China, those of a multiplicity
of independent feudal States; in Greece, those of a multiplicity of
City States, set up first by the geographical structure of Hellas,
and reproduced in the colonies of Asia Minor and Magna Graecia by
reason of the acquired ideal and the normal state of commercial
competition. To the last, many Greek cults exhibited their original
character as the sacra of private families. Such conditions prevented
the growth of a priestly caste or organization. [462] Neither China
nor Pagan Greece was imperialized till there had arisen enough of
rationalism to prevent the rise of a powerful priesthood; and the
later growth of a priestly system in Greece in the Christian period
is to be explained in terms first of a positive social degeneration,
accompanying a complete transmutation of political life, and secondly
of the imposition of a new cult, on the popular plane, specially
organized on the model of the political system that adopted it. Under
imperialism, however, the two civilizations ultimately presented a
singular parallel of unprogressiveness.

In the great progressive period, the possible gains from the absence of
a priesthood are seen in course of realization. For the Greek-speaking
world in general there was no dogmatic body of teaching, no written
code of theology and moral law, no Sacred Book. [463] Each local
cult had its own ancient ritual, often ministered by priestesses,
with myths, often of late invention, to explain it; [464] only
Homer and Hesiod, with perhaps some of the now lost epics, serving
as a general treasury of myth-lore. The two great epopees ascribed
to Homer, indeed, had a certain Biblical status; and the Homerids
or other bards who recited them did what in them lay to make the
old poetry the standard of theological opinion; but they too lacked
organized influence, and could not hinder higher thinking. [465] The
special priesthood of Delphi, wielding the oracle, could maintain
their political influence only by holding their function above all
apparent self-seeking or effort at domination. [466] It only needed,
then, such civic conditions as should evolve a leisured class, with
a bent towards study, to make possible a growth of lay philosophy.

Those conditions first arose in the Ionian cities; because there first
did Greek citizens attain commercial wealth, [467] as a result of
adopting the older commercial civilization whose independent cities
they conquered, and of the greater rapidity of development which
belongs to colonies in general. [468] There it was that, in matters
of religion and philosophy, the comparison of their own cults with
those of their foreign neighbours first provoked their critical
reflection, as the age of primitive warfare passed away. And there
it was, accordingly, that on a basis of primitive Babylonian science
there originated with Thales of Miletos (fl. 586 B.C.), a Phoenician by
descent, [469] the higher science and philosophy of the Greek-speaking
race. [470]


    It is historically certain that Lydia had an ancient and close
    historical connection with Babylonian and Assyrian civilization,
    whether through the "Hittites" or otherwise (Sayce, Anc. Emp. of
    the East, 1884, pp. 217-19; Curtius, Griech. Gesch. i, 63, 207;
    Meyer, Gesch. des Alterth. i, 166, 277, 299, 305-10; Soury,
    Bréviaire de l'hist. du matérialisme, 1881, pp. 30, 37 sq. Cp. as
    to Armenia, Edwards, The Witness of Assyria, 1893, p. 144); and in
    the seventh century the commercial connection between Lydia and
    Ionia, long close, was presumably friendly up to the time of the
    first attacks of the Lydian Kings, and even afterwards (Herodotos
    i, 20-23), Alyattes having made a treaty of peace with Miletos,
    which thereafter had peace during his long reign. This brings us
    to the time of Thales (640-548 B.C.). At the same time, the Ionian
    settlers of Miletos had from the first a close connection with the
    Karians (Herod. i, 146, and above pp. 120-21), whose near affinity
    with the Semites, at least in religion, is seen in their practice
    of cutting their foreheads at festivals (id. ii, 61; cp. Grote,
    ed. 1888, i, 27, note; E. Curtius, i, 36, 42; Busolt, i, 33;
    and Spiegel, Eranische Alterthumskunde, i, 228). Thales was thus
    in the direct sphere of Babylonian culture before the conquest
    of Cyrus; and his Milesian pupils or successors, Anaximandros
    and Anaximenes, stand for the same influences. Herakleitos in
    turn was of Ephesus, an Ionian city in the same culture-sphere;
    Anaxagoras was of Klazomenai, another Ionian city, as had been
    Hermotimos, of the same philosophic school; the Eleatic school,
    founded by Xenophanes and carried on by Parmenides and the elder
    Zeno, come from the same matrix, Elea having been founded by
    exiles from Ionian Phokaia on its conquest by the Persians; and
    Pythagoras, in turn, was of the Ionian city of Samos, in the same
    sixth century. Finally, Protagoras and Demokritos were of Abdera,
    an Ionian colony in Thrace; Leukippos, the teacher of Demokritos,
    was either an Abderite, a Milesian, or an Elean; and Archelaos,
    the pupil of Anaxagoras and a teacher of Sokrates, is said to
    have been a Milesian. Wellhausen (Israel, p. 473 of vol. of
    Prolegomena, Eng. tr.) has spoken of the rise of philosophy
    on the "threatened and actual political annihilation of Ionia"
    as corresponding to the rise of Hebrew prophecy on the menace
    and the consummation of the Assyrian conquest. As regards Ionia,
    this may hold in the sense that the stoppage of political freedom
    threw men back on philosophy, as happened later at Athens. But
    Thales philosophized before the Persian conquest.



§ 4

Thales, like Homer, starts from the Babylonian conception of a
beginning of all things in water; but in Thales the immediate motive
and the sequel are strictly cosmological and neither theological
nor poetical, though we cannot tell whether the worship of a God
of the Waters may not have been the origin of a water-theory of the
cosmos. The phrase attributed to him, "that all things are full of
Gods," [471] clearly meant that in his opinion the forces of things
inhered in the cosmos, and not in personal powers who spasmodically
interfered with it. [472] It is probable that, as was surmised by
Plutarch, a pantheistic conception of Zeus existed for the Ionian
Greeks before Thales. [473] To the later doxographists he "seems to
have lost belief in the Gods." [474] From the mere second-hand and
often unintelligent statements which are all we have in his case,
it is hard to make sure of his system; but that it was pantheistic
[475] and physicist seems clear. He conceived that matter not only
came from but was resolvable into water; that all phenomena were
ruled by law or "necessity"; and that the sun and planets (commonly
regarded as deities) were bodies analogous to the earth, which he
held to be spherical but "resting on water." [476] For the rest, he
speculated in meteorology and in astronomy, and is credited with having
predicted a solar eclipse  [477]--a fairly good proof of his knowledge
of Chaldean science [478]--and with having introduced geometry into
Greece from Egypt. [479] To him, too, is ascribed a wise counsel to
the Ionians in the matter of political federation, [480] which, had
it been followed, might have saved them from the Persian conquest;
and he is one of the many early moralists who laid down the Golden
Rule as the essence of the moral law. [481] With his maxim, "Know
thyself," he seems to mark a broadly new departure in ancient thought:
the balance of energy is shifted from myth and theosophy, prophecy
and poesy, to analysis of consciousness and the cosmic process.

From this point Greek rationalism is continuous, despite reactions,
till the Roman conquest, Miletos figuring long as a general source
of skepticism. Anaximandros (610-547 B.C.), pupil and companion
of Thales, was like him an astronomer, geographer, and physicist,
seeking for a first principle (for which he may or may not have
invented the name [482]); rejecting the idea of a single primordial
element such as water; affirming an infinite material cause, without
beginning and indestructible, [483] with an infinite number of worlds;
and--still showing the Chaldean impulse--speculating remarkably on
the descent of man from something aquatic, as well as on the form and
motion of the earth (figured by him as a cylinder [484]), the nature
and motions of the solar system, and thunder and lightning. [485]
It seems doubtful whether, as affirmed by Eudemus, he taught the
doctrine of the earth's motion; but that this doctrine was derived
from the Babylonian schools of astronomy is so probable that it may
have been accepted in Miletos in his day. Only by inferring a prior
scientific development of remarkable energy can we explain the striking
force of the sayings of Anaximandros which have come down to us. His
doctrine of evolution stands out for us to-day like the fragment of a
great ruin, hinting obscurely of a line of active thinkers. The thesis
that man must have descended from a different species because, "while
other animals quickly found food for themselves, man alone requires
a long period of suckling: had he been originally such as he is now,
he could never have survived," is a quite masterly anticipation of
modern evolutionary science. We are left asking, how came an early
Ionian Greek to think thus, outgoing the assimilative power of the
later age of Aristotle? Only a long scientific evolution can readily
account for it; and only in the Mesopotamian world could such an
evolution have taken place. [486]

Anaximenes (fl. 548 B.C.), yet another Milesian, pupil or at least
follower in turn of Anaximandros, speculates similarly, making his
infinite and first principle the air, in which he conceives the earth
to be suspended; theorizes on the rainbow, earthquakes, the nature
and the revolution of the heavenly bodies (which, with the earth, he
supposed to be broad and flat); and affirms the eternity of motion and
the perishableness of the earth. [487] The Ionian thought of the time
seems thus to have been thoroughly absorbed in problems of natural
origins, and only in that connection to have been concerned with the
problems of religion. No dogma of divine creation blocked the way:
the trouble was levity of hypothesis or assent. Thales, following a
Semitic lead, places the source of all things in water. Anaximandros,
perhaps following another, but seeking a more abstract idea, posited
an infinite, the source of all things; and Anaximenes in turn reduces
that infinite to the air, as being the least material of things. He
cannot have anticipated the chemical conception of the reduction
of all solids to gases: the thesis was framed either à priori or in
adaptation of priestly claims for the deities of the elements; and
others were to follow with the guesses of earth and fire and heat and
cold. Still, the speculation is that of bold and far-grasping thinkers,
and for these there can have been no validity in the ordinary God-ideas
of polytheism.

There is reason to think that these early "schools" of thought
were really constituted by men in some way banded together, [488]
thus supporting each other against the conservatism of religious
ignorance. The physicians were so organized; the disciples of
Pythagoras followed the same course; and in later Greece we shall
find the different philosophic sects formed into societies or
corporations. The first model was probably that of the priestly
corporation; and in a world in which many cults were chronically
disendowed it may well have been that the leisured old priesthoods,
philosophizing as we have seen those of India and Egypt and Mesopotamia
doing, played a primary part in initiating the work of rational
secular thought.


    The recent work of Mr. F. M. Cornford, From Philosophy to Religion
    (1912), puts forth an interesting and ingenious theory to the
    effect that early Greek philosophy is a reduction to abstract
    terms of the practice of totemistic tribes. On this view, when
    the Gods are figured in Homer as subject to Moira (Destiny),
    there has taken place an impersonation of Nomos, or Law; and just
    as the divine cosmos or polity is a reflection of the earthly,
    so the established conception of the absolute compulsoriness of
    tribal law is translated into one of a Fate which overrules the
    Gods (p. 40 sq.). So, when Anaximandros posits the doctrine of
    four elements [he did not use the word, by the way; that comes
    later; see Burnet, ch. i, p. 56, citing Diels], "we observe that
    this type of cosmic structure corresponds to that of a totemic
    tribe containing four clans" (p. 62). On the other hand, the
    totemistic stage had long before been broken down. The "notion
    of the group-soul" had given rise to the notion of God (p. 90);
    and the primitive "magical group" had dissolved into a system of
    families (p. 93), with individual souls. On this prior accumulation
    of religious material early philosophy works (p. 138).

    It does not appear why, thus recognizing that totemism was at
    least a long way behind in Thales's day, Mr. Cornford should
    trace the Ionian four elements straight back to the problematic
    four clans of the totemistic tribe. Dr. Frazer gives him no data
    whatever for Aryan totemism; and the Ionian cities, like those
    of Mesopotamia and Egypt, belong to the age of commerce and of
    monarchies. It would seem more plausible, on Mr. Cornford's own
    premises, to trace the rival theories of the four elements to
    religious philosophies set up by the priests of four Gods of water,
    earth, air, and fire. If the early philosophers "had nothing but
    theology behind them" (p. 138), why not infer theologies for the
    old-established deities of Mesopotamia? Mr. Cornford adds to the
    traditional factors that of "the temperaments of the individual
    philosophers, which made one or other of those schemes the more
    congenial to them." Following Dr. F. H. Bradley, he pronounces
    that "almost all philosophic arguments are invented afterwards, to
    recommend, or defend from attack, conclusions which the philosopher
    was from the outset bent on believing before he could think of
    any arguments at all. That is why philosophical reasonings are
    so bad, so artificial, so unconvincing."

    Upon this very principle it is much more likely that the
    philosophic cults of water, earth, air, and fire originated in
    the worships of Gods of those elements, whose priests would tend
    to magnify their office. It is hard to see how "temperament"
    could determine a man's bias to an air-theory in preference to a
    water-theory. But if the priests of Ea the Water-God and those
    of Bel the God of Air had framed theories of the kind, it is
    conceivable that family or tribal ties and traditions might set
    men upon developing the theory quasi-philosophically when the
    alien Gods came to be recognized by thinking men as mere names
    for the elements. [489] (Compare Flaubert's Salammbô as to the
    probable rivalry of priests of the Sun and Moon.) A pantheistic
    view, again, arose as we saw among various priesthoods in the
    monarchies where syncretism arose out of political aggregations.


What is clear is that the religious or theistic basis had ceased to
exist for many educated Greeks in that environment. The old God-ideas
have disappeared, and a quasi-scientific attitude has been taken
up. It is apparently conditioned, perhaps fatally, by prior modes of
thought; but it operates in disregard of so-called religious needs,
and negates the normal religious conception of earthly government
or providence. Nevertheless, it was not destined to lead to the
rationalization of popular thought; and only in a small number of
cases did the scientific thinkers deeply concern themselves with the
enlightenment of the mass.

In another Ionian thinker of that age, indeed, we find alongside of
physical and philosophical speculation on the universe the most direct
and explicit assault upon popular religion that ancient history
preserves. Xenophanes of Kolophon (? 570-470), a contemporary
of Anaximandros, was forced by a Persian invasion or by some
revolution to leave his native city at the age of twenty-five; and
by his own account his doctrines, and inferribly his life, had gone
"up and down Greece"--in which we are to include Magna Graecia--for
sixty-seven years at the date of writing of one of his poems. [490]
This was presumably composed at Elea (Hyela or Velia), founded
about 536 B.C., on the western Italian coast, south of Paestum, by
unsubduable Phokaians seeking a new home after the Persian conquest,
and after they had been further defeated in the attempt to live as
pirates in Corsica. [491] Thither came the aged Xenophanes, perhaps
also seeking freedom. He seems to have lived hitherto as a rhapsode,
chanting his poems at the courts of tyrants as the Homerids did the
Iliad. It is hard indeed to conceive that his recitations included the
anti-religious passages which have come down to us; but his resort in
old age to the new community of Elea is itself a proof of a craving
and a need for free conditions of life. [492]

Setting out on his travels, doubtless, with the Ionian predilection for
a unitary philosophy, he had somewhere and somehow attained a pantheism
which transcended the concern for a "first principle"--if, indeed,
it was essentially distinct from the doctrine of Anaximandros. [493]
"Looking wistfully upon the whole heavens," says Aristotle, [494]
"he affirms that unity is God." From the scattered quotations which
are all that remain of his lost poem, On Nature (or Natural Things),
[495] it is hard to deduce any full conception of his philosophy;
but it is clear that it was monistic; and though most of his later
interpreters have acclaimed him as the herald of monotheism, it is only
in terms of pantheism that his various utterances can be reconciled. It
is clearly in that sense that Aristotle and Plato [496] commemorate
him as the first of the Eleatic monists. Repeatedly he speaks of
"the Gods" as well as of "God"; and he even inculcates the respectful
worship of them. [497] The solution seems to be that he thinks of the
forces and phenomena of Nature in the early way as Gods or Powers, but
resolves them in turn into a whole which includes all forms of power
and intelligence, but is not to be conceived as either physically or
mentally anthropomorphic. "His contemporaries would have been more
likely to call Xenophanes an atheist than anything else." [498]


    The common verdict of the historians of philosophy, who find
    in Xenophanes an early and elevated doctrine of "Monotheism,"
    is closely tested by J. Freudenthal, Ueber die Theologie des
    Xenophanes, 1886. As he shows, the bulk of them (cited by him,
    pp. 2-7) do violence to Xenophanes's language in making him
    out the proclaimer of a monotheistic doctrine to a polytheistic
    world. That he was essentially a pantheist is now recognized by
    a number of writers. Cp. Windelband, as cited, p. 48; Decharme,
    as cited, p. 46 sq. Bréton, Poésie philos. en Grèce, pp. 47,
    64 sq., had maintained the point, against Cousin, in 1882,
    before Freudenthal. But Freudenthal in turn glosses part of the
    problem in ascribing to Xenophanes an acceptance of polytheism
    (cp. Burnet, p. 142), which kept him from molestation throughout
    his life; whereas Anaxagoras, who had never attacked popular
    belief with the directness of Xenophanes, was prosecuted for
    atheism. Anaxagoras was of a later age, dwelling in an Athens in
    which popular prejudice took readily to persecution, and political
    malice resorted readily to religious pretences. Xenophanes
    could hardly have published with impunity in Periklean Athens
    his stinging impeachments of current God-ideas; and it remains
    problematic whether he ever proclaimed them in face of the
    multitude. It is only from long subsequent students that we get
    them as quotations from his poetry; there is no record of their
    effect on his contemporaries. That his God-idea was pantheistic
    is sufficiently established by his attacks on anthropomorphism,
    taken in connection with his doctrine of the All.


Whether as teaching meant for public currency or as a philosophic
message for the few, the pantheism of Xenophanes expressed itself in
an attack on anthropomorphic religion, no less direct and much more
ratiocinative than that of any Hebrew prophet upon idolatry. "Mortals,"
he wrote, in a famous passage, "suppose that the Gods are born, and
wear man's clothing, [499] and have voice and body. But if cattle
or lions had hands, so as to paint with their hands and make works
of art as men do, they would paint their Gods and give them bodies
like their own--horses like horses, cattle like cattle." And again:
"Ethiopians make their Gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say
theirs have reddish hair and blue eyes; so also they conceive the
spirits of the Gods to be like themselves." [500] On Homer and Hesiod,
the myth-singers, his attack is no less stringent: "They attributed
to the Gods all things that with men are of ill-fame and blame;
they told of them countless nefarious things--thefts, adulteries,
and deception of each other." [501] It is recorded of him further
that, like Epicurus, he absolutely rejected all divination. [502]
And when the Eleans, perhaps somewhat shaken by such criticism, asked
him whether they should sacrifice and sing a dirge to Leukothea,
the child-bereft Sea-Goddess, he bade them not to sing a dirge if
they thought her divine, and not to sacrifice if she were human. [503]

Beside this ringing radicalism, not yet out of date, the physics of
the Eleatic freethinker is less noticeable. His resort to earth as a
material first principle was but another guess or disguised theosophy
added to those of his predecessors, and has no philosophic congruity
with his pantheism. It is interesting to find him reasoning from
fossil-marks that what was now land had once been sea-covered, and
been left mud; and that the moon is probably inhabited. [504] Yet,
with all this alertness of speculation, Xenophanes sounds the note
of merely negative skepticism which, for lack of fruitful scientific
research, was to become more and more common in Greek thought: [505]
"no man," he avows in one verse, "knows truly anything, and no man
ever will." [506] More fruitful was his pantheism or pankosmism. "The
All (oulos)" he declared, "sees, thinks, and hears." [507]
"It was thus from Xenophanes that the doctrine of Pankosmism first
obtained introduction into Greek philosophy, recognizing nothing real
except the universe as an indivisible and unchangeable whole." [508]
His negative skepticism might have guarded later Hellenes against
baseless cosmogony-making if they had been capable of a systematic
intellectual development. His sagacity, too, appears in his protest
[509] against that extravagant worship of the athlete which from
first to last kept popular Greek life-philosophy unprogressive. But
here least of all was he listened to.

It is after a generation of such persistent questioning of Nature
and custom by pioneer Greeks that we find in Herakleitos of Ephesus
(fl. 500 B.C.)--still in the Ionian culture-sphere--a positive and
unsparing criticism of the prevailing beliefs. No sage among the
Ionians (who had already produced a series of powerful thinkers) left
a deeper impression than he of massive force and piercing intensity:
above all of the gnomic utterances of his age, his have the ring of
character and the edge of personality; and the gossiping Diogenes,
after setting out by calling him the most arrogant of men, concedes
that the brevity and weight of his expression are not to be matched. It
was due rather to this, probably, than to his metaphysic--though that
has an arresting quality--that there grew up a school of Herakliteans
calling themselves by his name. And though doubt attaches to some of
his sayings, and even to his date, there can be small question that
he was mordantly freethinking, though a man of royal descent. He has
stern sayings about "bringing forth untrustworthy witnesses to confirm
disputed points," and about eyes and ears being "bad witnesses for
men, when their souls lack understanding." [510] "What can be seen,
heard, and learned, this I prize," is one of his declarations; and
he is credited with contemning book-learning as having failed to
give wisdom to Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Hekataios. [511]
The belief in progress, he roundly insists, stops progress. [512] From
his cryptic utterances it maybe gathered that he too was a pantheist;
[513] and from his insistence on the immanence of strife in all things,
[514] as from others of his sayings, that he was of the Stoic mood. It
was doubtless in resentment of immoral religion that he said [515]
Homer and Archilochos deserved flogging; as he is severe on the
phallic worship of Dionysos, [516] on the absurdity of prayer to
images, and on popular pietism in general. [517] One of his sayings,
êthos anthrôpô daimôn, [518] "character is a man's dæmon," seems
to be the definite assertion of rationalism in affairs as against
the creed of special providences.


    A confusion of tradition has arisen between the early Herakleitos,
    "the Obscure," and the similarly-named writer of the first century
    of our era, who was either one Herakleides or one using the
    name of Herakleitos. As the later writer certainly allegorized
    Homer--reducing Apollo to the Sun, Athenê to Thought, and so
    on--and claimed thus to free him from the charge of impiety,
    it seems highly probable that it is from him that the scholiast
    on the Iliad, xv, 18, cites the passage scolding the atheists
    who attacked the Homeric myths. The theme and the tone do not
    belong to 500 B.C., when only the boldest--as Herakleitos--would
    be likely to attack Homer, and when there is no other literary
    trace of atheism. Grote, however (i, 374, note), cites the
    passages without comment as referring to the early philosopher,
    who is much more probably credited, as above, with denouncing
    Homer himself. Concerning the later Herakleitos or Herakleides,
    see Dr. Hatch's Hibbert Lectures on The Influence of Greek Ideas
    and Usages upon the Christian Church, 1890, pp. 61, 62.

    But even apart from the confusion with the late Herakleides,
    there is difficulty in settling the period of the Ephesian
    thinker. Diogenes Laërtius states that he flourished about
    the 69th Olympiad (504-500 B.C.). Another account, preserved by
    Eusebius, places him in the 80th or 81st Olympiad, in the infancy
    of Sokrates, and for this date there are other grounds (Ueberweg,
    i, 40); but yet other evidences carry us back to the earlier. As
    Diogenes notes five writers of the name--two being poets, one a
    historian, and one a "serio-comic" personage--and there is record
    of many other men named Herakleitos and several Herakleides,
    there is considerable room for false attributions. The statement
    of Diogenes that the Ephesian was "wont to call opinion the
    sacred disease" (i, 6, § 7) is commonly relegated to the spurious
    sayings of Herakleitos, and it suggests the last mentioned of his
    namesakes. But see Max Müller, Hibbert Lectures on Indian Religion,
    p. 6, for the opinion that it is genuine, and that by "opinion"
    was meant "religion." The saying, says Dr. Müller, "seems to me
    to have the massive, full, and noble ring of Herakleitos." It is
    hardly for rationalists to demur.


Much discussion has been set up by the common attribution
to Herakleitos in antiquity of the doctrine of the ultimate
conflagration of all things. But for this there is no ground in any
actual passage preserved from his works; and it appears to have
been a mere misconception of his doctrine in regard to Fire. His
monistic doctrine was, in brief, that all the opposing and contrasted
things in the universe, heat and cold, day and night, evil and good,
imply each other, and exist only in the relation of contrast; and he
conceived fire as something in which opposites were solved. [519]
Upon this stroke of mysticism was concentrated the discussion
which might usefully have been turned on his criticism of popular
religion; his negative wisdom was substantially ignored, and his
obscure speculation, treated as his main contribution to thought,
was misunderstood and perverted.

A limit was doubtless soon set to free speech even in Elea; and the
Eleatic school after Xenophanes, in the hands of his pupil Parmenides
(fl. 500 B.C.), Zeno (fl. 464), Melissos of Samos (fl. 444), and
their successors, is found turning first to deep metaphysic and
then to verbal dialectic, to discussion on being and not being,
the impossibility of motion, and the trick-problem of Achilles and
the tortoise. It is conceivable that thought took these lines because
others were socially closed. Parmenides, a notably philosophic spirit
(whom Plato, meeting him in youth, felt to have "an exceptionally
wonderful depth of mind," but regarded as a man to be feared as well
as reverenced), [520] made short work of the counter-sense of not
being, but does not seem to have dealt at close quarters with popular
creeds. Melissos, a man of action, who led a successful sally to
capture the Athenian fleet, [521] was apparently the most pronounced
freethinker of the three named, [522] in that he said of the Gods
"there was no need to define them, since there was no knowledge of
them." [523] Such utterance could not be carried far in any Greek
community; and there lacked the spirit of patient research which
might have fruitfully developed the notable hypothesis of Parmenides
that the earth is spherical in form. [524] But he too was a loose
guesser, adding categories of fire and earth and heat and cold to the
formative and material "principles" of his predecessors; and where he
divagated weaker minds could not but lose themselves. From Melissos
and Parmenides there is accordingly a rapid descent in philosophy
to professional verbalism, popular life the while proceeding on the
old levels.

It was in this epoch of declining energy and declining freedom that
there grew up the nugatory doctrine, associated with the Eleatic
school, [525] that the only realities are mental, [526] a formula
which eluded at once the problems of Nature and the crudities
of religion, and so made its fortune with the idle educated
class. Meant to support the cause of reason, it was soon turned,
as every slackly-held doctrine must be, to a different account. In
the hands of Plato it developed into the doctrine of ideas, which in
the later Christian world was to play so large a part, as "Realism,"
in checking scientific thought; and in Greece it fatally fostered
the indolent evasion of research in physics. [527] Ultimately this
made for supernaturalism, which had never been discarded by the main
body even of rationalizing thinkers. [528] Thus the geographer and
historian Hekataios of Miletos (fl. 500 B.C.), living at the great
centre of rationalism, while rejecting the mass of Greek fables as
"ridiculous," and proceeding in a fashion long popular to translate
them into historical facts, yet affected, in the poetic Greek fashion,
to be of divine descent. [529] At the same time he held by such fables
as that of the floating island in the Nile and that of the supernormal
Hyperboreans. This blending of old and new habits of mind is indeed
perhaps the strongest ground for affirming the genuineness of his
fragments, which has been disputed. [530] But from his time forward
there are many signs of a broad movement of criticism, doubt, inquiry,
and reconstruction, involving an extensive discussion of historical
as well as religious tradition. [531] There had begun, in short,
for the rapidly-developing Greeks, a "discovery of man" such as is
ascribed in later times to the age of the Italian Renaissance. In the
next generation came the father of humanists, Herodotos, who implicitly
carries the process of discrimination still further than did Hekataios;
while Sophocles [496-405 B.C.], without ever challenging popular faith,
whether implicitly as did Æschylus, or explicitly as did Euripides,
"brought down the drama from the skies to the earth; and the drama
still follows the course which Sophocles first marked out for it. It
was on the Gods, the struggles of the Gods, and on destiny that
Æschylus dwelt; it is with man that Sophocles is concerned." [532]

Still, there was only to be a partial enlightenment of the race,
such as we have seen occurring, perhaps about the same period, in
India. Sophocles, even while dramatizing the cruel consequences of
Greek religion, never made any sign of being delivered from the
ordinary Greek conceptions of deity, or gave any help to wiser
thought. The social difference between Greece and the monarchic
civilizations was after all only one of degree: there, as elsewhere,
the social problem was finally unsolved; and the limits to Greek
progress were soon approached. But the evolution went far in many
places, and it is profoundly interesting to trace it.



§ 5

Compared with the early Milesians and with Xenophanes, the elusive
Pythagoras (fl. 540-510 B.C.) is not so much a rationalistic as a
theosophic freethinker; but to freethought his name belongs insofar
as the system connected with it did rationalize, and discarded
mythology. If the biographic data be in any degree trustworthy,
it starts like Milesian speculation from oriental precedents. [533]
Pythagoras was of Samos in the Ægean; and the traditions have it that
he was a pupil of Pherekydes the Syrian, and that before settling at
Krôton, in Italy, he travelled in Egypt, and had intercourse with the
Chaldean Magi. Some parts of the Pythagorean code of life, at least,
point to an eastern derivation.


    The striking resemblance between the doctrine and practice of the
    Pythagoreans and those of the Jewish Essenes has led Zeller to
    argue (Philos. der Griechen, Th. iii, Abth. 2) that the latter were
    a branch of the former. Bishop Lightfoot, on the other hand, noting
    that the Essenes did not hold the specially prominent Pythagorean
    doctrines of numbers and of the transmigration of souls, traces
    Essenism to Zoroastrian influence (Ed. of Colossians, App. on
    the Essenes, pp. 150-51; rep. in Dissertations on the Apostolic
    Age, 1892, pp. 369-72). This raises the issue whether both
    Pythagoreanism and Essenism were not of Persian derivation; and
    Dr. Schürer (Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, Eng. tr. Div. II,
    vol. ii, p. 218) pronounces in favour of an oriental origin for
    both. The new connection between Persia and Ionia just at or before
    the time of Pythagoras (fl. 530 B.C.) squares with this view;
    but it is further to be noted that the phenomenon of monasticism,
    common to Pythagoreans and Essenes, arises in Buddhism about the
    Pythagorean period; and as it is hardly likely that Buddhism
    in the sixth century B.C. reached Asia Minor, there remains
    the possibility of some special diffusion of the new ideal
    from the Babylonian sphere after the conquest by Cyrus, there
    being no trace of a Persian monastic system. The resemblances
    to Orphicism likewise suggest a Babylonian source, as does the
    doctrine of numbers, which is not Zoroastrian. As to Buddhism,
    the argument for a Buddhist origin of Essenism shortly before our
    era (cp. A. Lillie, Buddhism in Christendom and The Influence of
    Buddhism on Primitive Christianity; E. Bunsen, The Angel-Messiah;
    or, Buddhists, Essenes, and Christians--all three to be read
    with much caution) does not meet the case of the Pythagorean
    precedents for Essenism. Prof. Burnet (Early Greek Philos. 2nd
    ed. p. 102) notes close Indian parallels to Pythagoreanism,
    but overlooks the intermediate Persian parallels, and falls back
    very unnecessarily on the bald notion that "the two systems were
    independently evolved from the same primitive systems."


As regards the mystic doctrine that numbers are, as it were, the moving
principle in the cosmos--another thesis not unlikely to arise in that
Babylonian world whence came the whole system of numbers for the later
ancients [534]--we can but pronounce it a development of thought in
vacuo, and look further for the source of Pythagorean influence in
the moral and social code of the movement, in its science, in its
pantheism, [535] its contradictory dualism, [536] and perhaps in its
doctrine of transmigration of souls. On the side of natural science,
its absurdities [537] point to the fatal lack of observation which
so soon stopped progress in Greek physics and biology. [538] Yet in
the fields of astronomy, mathematics, and the science of sound the
school seems to have done good scientific work; being indeed praised
by the critical Aristotle for doing special service in that way. [539]
It is recorded that Philolaos, the successor of Pythagoras, was the
first to teach openly (about 460 B.C.) the doctrine of the motion
of the earth [540]--which, however, as above noted, was also said
to have been previously taught by Anaximandros [541] (from whom some
incline to derive the Pythagorean theory of numbers in general [542])
and by Hiketas or Iketas (or Niketas) of Syracuse. [543] Ekphantos,
of that city, is also credited with asserting the revolution of
the earth on its axis; and he too is grouped with the Pythagoreans,
though he seems to have had a pantheism of his own. [544] Philolaos
in particular is said to have been prosecuted for his teaching, [545]
which for many was a blasphemy; and it may be that this was the reason
of its being specially ascribed to him, though current in the East
long before his day. In the fragments ascribed to him is affirmed,
in divergence from other Pythagoreans, the eternity of the earth; and
in other ways he seems to have been an innovator. [546] In any case,
the Pythagorean conception of the earth's motion was a speculative
one, wide of the facts, and not identical with the modern doctrine,
save insofar as Pythagoras--or Philolaos--had rightly conceived the
earth as a sphere. [547]


    It is noteworthy, however, that in conjecturing that the whole
    solar system moves round a "central fire," Pythagoras carried his
    thought nearly as far as the moderns. The fanciful side of his
    system is seen in his hypothesis of a counter-earth (Anti-chthon)
    invented to bring up the number of celestial bodies in our system
    to ten, the "complete" number. (Berry, as cited.) Narrien (p. 163)
    misses this simple explanation of the idea.


As to politics, finally, it seems hard to solve the anomaly that
Pythagoras is pronounced the first teacher of the principle of
community of goods, [548] and that his adherents at Krôton formed an
aristocratic league, so detested by the people for its anti-democratism
that its members were finally massacred in their meeting-place,
their leader, according to one tradition, being slain with them,
while according to a better grounded account he had withdrawn
and died at Metapontion. The solution seems to be that the early
movement was in no way monastic or communistic; that it was, however,
a secret society; that it set up a kind of puritanism or "methodism"
which repelled conservative people; and that, whatever its doctrines,
its members were mostly of the upper class. [549] If they held by the
general rejection of popular religion attributed to Pythagoras, they
would so much the more exasperate the demos; for though at Krôton,
as in the other Grecian colonial cities, there was considerable
freedom of thought and speech, the populace can nowhere have been
freethinking. [550] In any case, it was after its political overthrow,
and still more in the Italian revival of the second century B.C.,
that the mystic and superstitious features of Pythagoreanism were
most multiplied; and doubtless the master's teachings were often much
perverted by his devotees. It was only too easy. He had laid down, as
so many another moralist, that justice consisted in reciprocity; but
he taught of virtue in terms of his theory of numbers [551]--a sure way
of putting conduct out of touch with reality. Thus we find some of the
later Pythagoreans laying it down as a canon that no story once fully
current concerning the Gods was to be disbelieved [552]--the complete
negation of philosophical freethought and a sharp contradiction of the
other view which represented the shade of Pythagoras as saying that he
had seen in Tartaros the shade of Homer hanged to a tree, and that of
Hesiod chained to a pillar of brass, for the monstrous things they had
ascribed to the Gods. [553] It must have taken a good deal of decadence
to bring an innovating sect to that pass; and even about 200 B.C. we
find the freethinking Ennius at Rome calling himself a Pythagorean;
[554] but the course of things in Magna Graecia was mostly downward
after the sixth century; the ferocious destruction of Sybaris by the
Krotoniates helping to promote the decline. [555] Intellectual life,
in Magna Graecia as in Ionia, obeyed the general tendency.


    An opposite view of the Pythagorean evolution is taken by
    Professor Burnet. He is satisfied that the long list of the
    Pythagorean taboos, which he rightly pronounces to be "of a
    thoroughly primitive type" (p. 105), and not at all the subtle
    "symbols" which they were latterly represented to be, were
    really the lore of Pythagoras. It is not easy thus to conceive a
    thinker of the great Ionian age as holding by thoroughly primitive
    superstitions. Perhaps the solution lies in Aristotle's statement
    that Pythagoras was first a mathematician, and only in later
    life a Pherekydean miracle-monger (Burnet, p. 107, note 3). He
    may actually have started the symbolic view of the taboos which
    he imposed.


Before the decadence comes, however, the phenomenon of rationalism
occurs on all sides in the colonial cities, older and younger alike;
and direct criticism of creed kept pace with the indirect. About
520 B.C. Theagenes of Rhegion, in Southern Italy, had begun for
the Greeks the process of reducing the unacceptable God-stories in
Homer and Hesiod--notably the battle of the Gods in the Iliad--to
mere allegories of the cosmic elements [556]--a device natural to
and practised by liberal conservatives in all religious systems
under stress of skeptical attack, and afterwards much employed in
the Hellenic world. [557] Soon the attack became more stringent. At
Syracuse we find the great comic dramatist Epicharmos, about 470
B.C., treating the deities on the stage in a spirit of such audacious
burlesque [558] as must be held to imply unbelief. Aristophanes, at
Athens, indeed, shows a measure of the same spirit while posing as
a conservative in religion; but Epicharmos was professedly something
of a Pythagorean and philosopher, [559] and was doubtless protected by
Hiero, at whose court he lived, against any religious resentment he may
have aroused. The story of Simonides's answer to Hiero's question as
to the nature of the Gods--first asking a day to think, then two days,
then four, then avowing that meditation only made the problem harder
[560]--points to the prevalent tone among the cultured.



§ 6

At last the critical spirit finds utterance, in the great Periklean
period, at Athens, but first by way of importation from Ionia,
where Miletos had fallen in the year 494. Anaxagoras of Klazomenai
(fl. 480-450 B.C.; d. 428) is the first freethinker historically
known to have been legally prosecuted and condemned [561] for his
freethought; and it was in the Athens of Perikles, despite Perikles's
protection, that the attack was made. Coming of the Ionian line
of thinkers, and himself a pupil of Anaximenes of Miletos, he held
firmly by the scientific view of the cosmos, and taught that the sun,
instead of being animated and a deity as the Athenians believed, was
"a red-hot mass many times larger than the Peloponnesos" [562]--and
the moon a fiery (or earthy) solid body having in it plains and
mountains and valleys--this while asserting that infinite mind was
the source and introducer of all the motion in the infinite universe;
[563] infinite in extent and infinitely divisible. This "materialistic"
doctrine as to the heavenly bodies was propounded, as Sokrates tells in
his defence, in books that in his day anyone could buy for a drachma;
and Anaxagoras further taught, like Theagenes, that the mythical
personages of the poets were mere abstractions invested with name
and gender. [564] Withal he was no brawler; and even in pious Athens,
where he taught in peace for many years, he might have died in peace
but for his intimacy with the most renowned of his pupils, Perikles.


    The question of the deity of the sun raised an interesting
    sociological question. Athenians saw no blasphemy in saying that
    Gê (Gaia) or Dêmêter was the earth: they had always understood as
    much; and the earth was simply for them a Goddess; a vast living
    thing containing the principle of life. They might similarly have
    tolerated the description of the sun as a kind of red-hot earth,
    provided that its divinity were not challenged. The trouble lay
    rather in the negative than in the positive assertion, though
    the latter must for many have been shocking, inasmuch as they had
    never been wont to think about the sun as they did about the earth.


It is told of Perikles (499-429 B.C.) by the pious Plutarch,
himself something of a believer in portents, that he greatly admired
Anaxagoras, from whom he "seems to have learned to despise those
superstitious fears which the common phenomena of the heavens produce
in those who, ignorant of their cause, and knowing nothing about
them, refer them all to the immediate action of the Gods." [565]
And even the stately eloquence and imperturbable bearing of the great
statesman are said to have been learned from the Ionian master, whom he
followed in "adorning his oratory with apt illustrations from physical
science." [566] The old philosopher, however, whom men called "Nous"
or Intelligence because of the part the name played in his teaching,
left his property to go to ruin in his devotion to ideas; and it is
told, with small probability, that at one time, old and indigent,
he covered his head with his robe and decided to starve to death;
till Perikles, hearing of it, hastened to beseech him to live to give
his pupil counsel. [567]

At length it occurred to the statesman's enemies to strike at him
through his guide, philosopher, and friend. They had already procured
the banishment of another of his teachers, Damon, as "an intriguer and
a friend of despotism"; [568] and one of their fanatics, Diopeithes,
a priest and a violent demagogue, [569] laid the way for an attack
on Anaxagoras by obtaining the enactment of a law that "prosecutions
should be laid against all who disbelieved in religion and held
theories of their own about things on high." [570] Anaxagoras was
thus open to indictment on the score alike of his physics and of his
mythology; though, seeing that his contemporary Diogenes of Apollonia
(who before Demokritos taught "nothing out of nothing: nothing
into nothing," and affirmed the sphericity of the earth) was also
in some danger of his life at Athens, [571] it is probable that the
prosecution was grounded on his physicist teaching. Saved by Perikles
from the death punishment, but by one account fined five talents,
[572] he either was exiled or chose to leave the intolerant city;
and he made his home at Lampsakos, where, as the story runs, he won
from the municipality the favour that every year the children should
have a holiday in the month in which he died. [573] It is significant
of his general originality that he was reputed the first Greek who
wrote a book in prose. [574]

Philosophically, however, he counted for less than he did as an
innovating rationalist. His doctrine of Nous amounted in effect to a
reaffirmation of deity; and he has been not unjustly described [575]
as the philosophic father of the dualistic deism or theism which,
whether from within or from without the Christian system, has been the
prevailing form of religious philosophy in the modern world. It was, in
fact, the only form of theistic philosophy capable of winning any wide
assent among religiously biassed minds; and it is the more remarkable
that such a theist should have been prosecuted because his notion of
deity was mental, and excluded the divinization of the heavenly bodies.

In the memorable episode of his expulsion from Athens we have a
finger-post to the road travelled later by Greek civilization. At
Athens itself the bulk of the free population was ignorant and bigoted
enough to allow of the law being used by any fanatic or malignant
partisan against any professed rationalist; and there is no sign
that Perikles dreamt of applying the one cure for the evil--the
systematic bestowal of rationalistic instruction on all. The fatal
maxim of ancient skepticism, that religion is a necessary restraint
upon the multitude, brought it about that everywhere, in the last
resort, the unenlightened multitude became a restraint upon reason and
freethought. [576] In the more aristocratically ruled colonial cities,
as we have seen, philosophic speech was comparatively free: it was
the ignorant Athenian democracy that brought religious intolerance
into Greek life, playing towards science, in form of law, the part
that the fanatics of Egypt and Palestine had played towards the
worshippers of other Gods than their own.

With a baseness of which the motive may be divided between the
instincts of faction and of faith, the anti-Periklean party carried
their attack yet further; and on their behalf a comic playwright,
Hermippos, brought a charge of impiety against the statesman's unwedded
wife, Aspasia. [577] There can be no doubt that that famous woman
cordially shared the opinions and ideals of her husband, joining as
she habitually did in the philosophic talk of his home circle. As a
Milesian she was likely enough to be a freethinker; and all that was
most rational in Athens acknowledged her culture and her charm. [578]
Perikles, who had not taken the risk of letting Anaxagoras come to
trial, himself defended Aspasia before the dikastery, his indignation
breaking through his habitual restraint in a passion of tears, which,
according to the jealous Æschines, [579] won an acquittal.

Placed as he was, Perikles could but guard his own head and heart,
leaving the evil instrument of a religious inquisition to subsist. How
far he held with Anaxagoras we can but divine. [580] There is probably
no truth in Plutarch's tale that "whenever he ascended the tribune
to speak he used first to pray to the Gods that nothing unfitted for
the occasion might fall from his lips." [581] But as a party leader
he, as a matter of course, observed the conventions; and he may have
reasoned that the prosecutions of Anaxagoras and Aspasia, like that
directed against Pheidias, stood merely for contemporary political
malice, and not for any lasting danger to mental freedom. However
that might be, Athens continued to remain the most aggressively
intolerant and tradition-mongering of Hellenic cities. So marked
is this tendency among the Athenians that for modern students
Herodotos, whose history was published in 445 B.C., is relatively
a rationalist in his treatment of fable, [582] bringing as he did
the spirit of Ionia into things traditional and religious. But even
Herodotos remains wedded to the belief in oracles or prophecies,
claiming fulfilment for those said to have been uttered by Bakis;
[583] and his small measure of spontaneous skepticism could avail
little for critical thought. To no man, apparently, did it occur to
resist the religious spirit by systematic propaganda: that, like the
principle of representative government, was to be hit upon only in a
later age. [584] Not by a purely literary culture, relating life merely
to poetry and myth, tradition and superstition, were men to be made
fit to conduct a stable society. And the spirit of pious persecution,
once generated, went from bad to worse, crowning itself with crime,
till at length the overthrow of Athenian self-government wrought a
forlorn liberty of scientific speech at the cost of the liberty of
political action which is the basis of all sound life.

Whatever may have been the private vogue of freethinking at Athens
in the Periklean period, it was always a popular thing to attack
it. Some years before or after the death of Perikles there came
to Athens the alien Hippo, the first specifically named atheist
[585] of Greek antiquity. The dubious tradition runs that his tomb
bore the epitaph: "This is the grave of Hippo, whom destiny, in
destroying him, has made the equal of the immortal Gods." [586] If,
as seems likely, he was the Hippo of Rhegion mentioned by Hippolytos,
[587] he speculated as to physical origins in the manner of Thales,
making water generate fire, and that in turn produce the world. [588]
But this is uncertain. Upon him the comic muse of Athens turned its
attacks very much as it did upon Socrates. The old comic poet Kratinos,
a notorious wine-bibber, produced a comedy called The Panoptai (the
"all-seers" or "all eyes"), in which it would appear that the chorus
were made to represent the disciples of Hippo, and to wear a mask
covered with eyes. [589] Drunkenness was a venial fault in comparison
with the presumption to speculate on physics and to doubt the sacred
lore of the populace. The end of the rule of ignorance was that a
theistic philosopher who himself discouraged scientific inquiry was
to pay a heavier penalty than did the atheist Hippo.



§ 7

While Athens was gaining power and glory and beauty without popular
wisdom, the colonial city of Abdera, in Thrace, founded by Ionians,
had like others carried on the great impulse of Ionian philosophy,
and had produced in the fifth century some of the great thinkers of
the race. Concerning the greatest of these, Demokritos, and the next
in importance, Protagoras, we have no sure dates; [590] but it is
probable that the second, whether older or younger, was influenced
by the first, who indeed has influenced all scientific philosophy
down to our own day. How much he learned from his master Leukippos
cannot now be ascertained. [591] The writings which went under
his name appear to have been the productions of the whole Abderite
school; [592] and Epicurus declared that Leukippos was an imaginary
person. [593] What passes for his teaching was constructive science
of cardinal importance; for it is the first clear statement of the
atomic theory; the substitution of a real for an abstract foundation of
things. Whoever were the originator of the theory, there is no doubt as
to the assimilation of the principle by Demokritos, who thus logically
continued the non-theistic line of thought, and developed one of the
most fruitful of all scientific principles. That this idea again is a
direct development from Babylonian science is not impossible; at least
there seems to be no doubt that Demokritos had travelled far and wide,
[594] whether or not he had been brought up, as the tradition goes,
by Persian magi; [595] and that he told how the cosmic views of
Anaxagoras, which scandalized the Athenians, were current in the
East. [596] But he stands out as one of the most original minds in
the whole history of thought. No Greek thinker, not Aristotle himself,
has struck so deep as he into fundamental problems; though the absurd
label of "the laughing philosopher," bestowed on him by some peculiarly
unphilosophic mind, has delayed the later recognition of his greatness,
clear as it was to Bacon. [597] The vital maxim, "Nothing from nothing:
nothing into nothing," derives substantially from him. [598]

His atomic theory, held in conjunction with a conception of
"mind-stuff" similar to that of Anaxagoras, may be termed the
high-water mark of ancient scientific thought; and it is noteworthy
that somewhat earlier in the same age Empedokles of Agrigentum,
another product of the freer colonial life, threw out a certain
glimmer of the Darwinian conception--perhaps more clearly attained
by Anaximandros--that adaptations prevail in nature just because the
adaptations fit organisms to survive, and the non-adapted perish. [599]
In his teaching, too, the doctrine of the indestructibility of
matter is clear and firm; [600] and the denial of anthropomorphic
deity is explicit. [601] But Empedokles wrought out no solid system:
"half-mystic and half-rationalist, he made no attempt to reconcile the
two inconsistent sides of his intellectual character"; [602] and his
explicit teaching of metempsychosis [603] and other Pythagoreanisms
gave foothold for more delusion than he ever dispelled. [604] On the
whole, he is one of the most remarkable personalities of antiquity,
moving among men with a pomp and gravity which made them think of
him as a God, denouncing their sacrifices, and no less their eating
of flesh; and checking his notable self-exaltation by recalling the
general littleness of men. But he did little to enlighten them; and
Aristotle passed on to the world a fatal misconception of his thought
by ascribing to him the notion of automatism where he was asserting a
"necessity" in terms of laws which he avowedly could not explain. [605]
Against such misconception he should have provided. Demokritos,
however, shunned dialectic and discussion, and founded no school;
[606] and although his atomism was later adopted by Epicurus, it was
no more developed on a basis of investigation and experiment than was
the biology of Empedokles. His ethic, though wholly rationalistic,
leant rather to quietism and resignation than to reconstruction,
[607] and found its application only in the later static message of
Epicurus. Greek society failed to set up the conditions needed for
progress beyond the point gained by its unguided forces.

Thus when Protagoras ventured to read, at the house of the freethinking
Euripides, a treatise of his own, beginning with the avowal that he
offered no opinion as to the existence of the Gods, life being too
short for the inquiry, [608] the remark got wind, and he had to fly
for his life, though Euripides and perhaps most of the guests were
very much of the same way of thinking. [609] In the course of his
flight, the tradition goes, the philosopher was drowned; [610] and
his book was publicly burned, all who possessed copies being ordered
by public proclamation to give them up--the earliest known instance
of "censorship of the press." [611] Partisan malice was doubtless
at work in his case as in that of Anaxagoras; for the philosophic
doctrine of Protagoras became common enough. It is not impossible,
though the date is doubtful, that the attack on him was one of the
results of the great excitement in Athens in the year 415 B.C. over
the sacrilegious mutilation of the figures of Hermes, the familial or
boundary-God, in the streets by night. It was about that time that the
poet Diagoras of Melos was proscribed for atheism, he having declared
that the non-punishment of a certain act of iniquity proved that
there were no Gods. [612] It has been surmised, with some reason,
that the iniquity in question was the slaughter of the Melians by
the Athenians in 416 B.C., [613] and the Athenian resentment in
that case was personal and political rather than religious. [614]
For some time after 415 the Athenian courts made strenuous efforts
to punish every discoverable case of impiety; and parodies of the
Eleusinian mysteries (resembling the mock Masses of Catholic Europe)
were alleged against Alkibiades and others. [615] Diagoras, who was
further charged with divulging the Eleusinian and other mysteries,
and with making firewood of an image of Herakles, telling the God thus
to perform his thirteenth labour by cooking turnips, [616] became
thenceforth one of the proverbial atheists of the ancient world,
[617] and a reward of a silver talent was offered for killing him,
and of two talents for his capture alive; [618] despite which he seems
to have escaped. But no antidote to the bane of fanaticism was found
or sought; and the most famous publicist in Athens was the next victim.

The fatality of the Athenian development is seen not only in
the direct hostility of the people to rational thought, but in
their loss of their hold even on their public polity. For lack
of political judgment, moved always by the passions which their
literary culture cherished, they so mishandled their affairs in the
long and demoralizing Peloponnesian war that they were at one time
cowed by their own aristocracy, on essentially absurd pretexts,
into abandoning the democratic constitution. Its restoration was
followed at the final crisis by another tyranny, also short-lived,
but abnormally bloody and iniquitous; and though the people at its
overthrow showed a moderation in remarkable contrast to the cruelty and
rapacity of the aristocrats, the effect of such extreme vicissitude
was to increase the total disposition towards civic violence and
coercion. And while the people menaced freethinking in religion,
the aristocracies opposed freethinking in politics. Thus under the
Thirty Tyrants all intellectual teaching was forbidden; and Kritias,
himself accused of having helped Alkibiades to parody the mysteries,
sharply interdicted the political rationalism of Sokrates, [619]
who according to tradition had been one of his own instructors.

It was a result of the general movement of mind throughout the
rest of the Hellenic world that freethinkers of culture were still
numerous. Archelaos of Miletos, the most important disciple of
Anaxagoras; according to a late tradition, the master of Sokrates;
and the first systematic teacher of Ionic physical science in Athens,
taught the infinity of the universe, grasped the explanation of
the nature of sound, and set forth on purely rationalistic lines
the social origin and basis of morals, thus giving Sokrates his
practical lead. [620] Another disciple of Anaxagoras, Metrodoros of
Lampsakos (not to be confounded with Metrodoros of Chios, and the
other Metrodoros of Lampsakos who was the friend of Epicurus, both
also freethinkers), carried out zealously his master's teaching as to
the deities and heroes of Homer, resolving them into mere elemental
combinations and physical agencies, and making Zeus stand for mind,
and Athenê for art. [621] And in the belles lettres of Athens itself,
in the dramas of Euripides [480-406 B.C.], who is said to have been
the ardent disciple of Anaxagoras, [622] to have studied Herakleitos,
[623] and to have been the friend of Sokrates and Protagoras, there
emerge traces enough of a rationalism not to be reconciled with the
old belief in the Gods. If Euripides has nowhere ventured on such
a terrific paradox as the Prometheus, he has in a score of passages
revealed a stress of skepticism which, inasmuch as he too uses all the
forms of Hellenic faith, [624] deepens our doubt as to the beliefs of
Æschylus. Euripides even gave overt proof of his unbelief, beginning
his Melanippe with the line: "Zeus, whoever Zeus be, for I know not,
save by report," an audacity which evoked a great uproar. In a later
production the passage was prudently altered; [625] but he never put
much check on his native tendency to analyse and criticize on all
issues--a tendency fostered, as we have seen, [626] by the constant
example of real and poignant dialectic in the Athenian dikastery, and
the whole drift of the Athenian stage. In his case the tendency even
overbalances the artistic process; [627] but it has the advantage of
involving a very bold handling of vital problems. Not satisfied with
a merely dramatic presentment of lawless Gods, Euripides makes his
characters impeach them as such, [628] or, again, declare that there
can be no truth in the "miserable tales of poets" which so represent
them. [629] Not content with putting aside as idle such a fable as
that of the sun's swerving from his course in horror at the crime of
Atreus, [630] and that of the Judgment of Paris, [631] he attacks
with a stringent scorn the whole apparatus of oracles, divination,
and soothsaying. [632] And if the Athenian populace cried out at
the hardy opening of the Melanippe, he nonetheless gave them again
and again his opinion that no man knew anything of the Gods. [633]
Of orthodox protests against freethinking inquiry he gives a plainly
ironical handling. [634] As regards his constructive opinions, we
have from him many expressions of the pantheism which had by his time
permeated the thought of perhaps most of the educated Greeks. [635]

Here again, as in the case of Æschylus, there arises the problem of
contradiction; for Euripides, too, puts often in the mouths of his
characters emphatic expressions of customary piety. The conclusion in
the two cases must be broadly the same--that whereas an unbelieving
dramatist may well make his characters talk in the ordinary way of
deity and of religion, it is unintelligible that a believing one should
either go beyond the artistic bounds of his task to make them utter an
unbelief which must have struck the average listener as strange and
noxious, or construct a drama of which the whole effect is to insist
on the odiousness of the action of the Supreme God. And the real
drift of Euripides is so plain that one modern and Christian scholar
has denounced him as an obnoxious and unbelieving sophist who abused
his opportunity as a producer of dramas under religious auspices to
"shake the ground-works of religion" [636] and at the same time of
morals; [637] while another and a greater scholar, less vehement in his
orthodoxy, more restrainedly condemns the dramatist for employing myths
in which he did not believe, instead of inventing fresh plots. [638]
Christian scholars are thus duly unready to give him credit for his
many-sided humanity, nobly illustrated in his pleas for the slave and
his sympathy with suffering barbarians. [639] Latterly the recognition
of Euripides's freethinking has led to the description of him as
"Euripides the Rationalist," in a treatise which represents him as a
systematic assailant of the religion of his day. Abating somewhat of
that thesis, which imputes more of system to the Euripidean drama than
it possesses, we may sum up that the last of the great tragedians of
Athens, and the most human and lovable of the three, was assuredly
a rationalist in matters of religion. It is noteworthy that he used
more frequently than any other ancient dramatist the device of a
deus ex machina to end a play. [640] It was probably because for him
the conception had no serious significance. [641] In the Alkestis its
[non-mechanical] use is one of the most striking instances of dramatic
irony in all literature. The dead Alkestis, who has died to save the
life of her husband, is brought back from the Shades by Herakles,
who figures as a brawling bully. Only the thinkers of the time could
realize the thought that underlay such a tragi-comedy.


    Dr. Verrall's Euripides the Rationalist, 1897, is fairly summed up
    by Mr. Haigh (Tragic Drama of the Greeks, pp. 262, 265, notes):
    "He considers that Euripides was a skeptic of the aggressive
    type, whose principal object in writing tragedy was to attack the
    State religion, but who, perceiving that it would be dangerous
    to pose as an open enemy, endeavoured to accomplish his ends by
    covert ridicule.... His plays ... contain in reality two separate
    plots--the ostensible and superficial plot, which was intended
    to satisfy the orthodox, and the rationalized modification which
    lay half concealed beneath it, and which the intelligent skeptic
    would easily detect." For objections to this thesis see Haigh, as
    cited; Jevons, Hist. of Greek Lit. p. 222, note; and Dr. Mozley's
    article in the Classical Review, Nov. 1895, pp. 407-13. As to the
    rationalism of Euripides in general see many of the passages cited
    by Bishop Westcott in his Essays in the Hist. of Relig. Thought
    in the West, 1891, pp. 102-27. And cp. Dickinson, The Greek View
    of Life, pp. 46-49; Grote, Hist. i, 346-48; Zeller, Socrates and
    the Socratic Schools, Eng. tr. 3rd ed. p. 231; Murray, Anc. Greek
    Lit. pp. 256, 264-66.

    Over the latest play of Euripides, the Bacchæ, as over one
    of the last plays of Æschylus, the Prometheus, there has been
    special debate. It was probably written in Macedonia (cp. ll.,
    408, 565), whither the poet had gone on the invitation of King
    Archelaos, when, according to the ancient sketch of his life,
    "he had to leave Athens because of the malicious exultation over
    him of nearly all the city." The trouble, it is conjectured, "may
    have been something connected with his prosecution for impiety,
    the charge on which Socrates was put to death a few years after"
    (Murray, Euripides translated into English Rhyming Verse, 1902,
    introd. essay, p. lii). Inasmuch as the play glorifies Dionysos,
    and the "atheist" Pentheus (l. 995) who resists him is slain by the
    maddened Bacchantes, led by his own mother, it is seriously argued
    that the drama "may be regarded as in some sort an apologia and
    an eirenicon, or as a confession on the part of the poet that
    he was fully conscious that in some of the simple legends of
    the popular faith there was an element of sound sense (!) which
    thoughtful men must treat with forbearance, resolved on using it,
    if possible, as an instrument for inculcating a truer morality,
    instead of assailing it with a presumptuous denial" (J. E. Sandys,
    The Bacchæ of Euripides, 1880, introd. pp. lxxv-vi). Here we have
    the conformist ethic of the average English academic brought to
    bear on, and ascribed to, the personality of the Greek dramatist.

    An academic of the same order, Prof. Mahaffy, similarly
    suggests that "among the half-educated Macedonian youth, with
    whom literature was coming into fashion, the poet may have
    met with a good deal of that insolent second-hand skepticism
    which is so offensive to a deep and serious thinker, and he
    may have wished to show them that he was not, as they doubtless
    hailed him, the apostle of this random speculative arrogance"
    (Euripides in Class. Writ. Ser. 1879, p. 85). As against the
    eminently "random" and "speculative arrogance" of this particular
    passage--a characteristic product of the obscurantist functions
    of some British university professors in matters of religion,
    and one which may fitly be pronounced offensive to honest men--it
    may be suggested on the other hand that, if Euripides got into
    trouble in Athens by his skepticism, he would be likely in
    Macedonia to encounter rather a greater stress of bigotry than
    a freethinking welcome, and that a non-critical presentment of
    the savage religious legend was forced on him by his environment.

    Much of the academic discussion on the subject betrays a singular
    slowness to accept the dramatic standpoint. Even Prof. Murray,
    the finest interpreter of Euripides, dogmatically pronounces
    (introd. cited p. lvii) that "there is in the Bacchæ real
    and heartfelt glorification of Dionysus," simply because of
    the lyrical exaltation of the Bacchic choruses. But lyrical
    exaltation was in character here above all other cases; and it
    was the dramatist's business to present it. To say that "again
    and again in the lyrics you feel that the Mænads are no longer
    merely observed and analysed: the poet has entered into them
    and they into him," is nothing to the purpose. That the words
    which fall from the Chorus or its Leader are at times "not the
    words of a raving Bacchante, but of a gentle and deeply musing
    philosopher," is still nothing to the purpose. The same could
    be said of Shakespeare's handling of Macbeth. What, in sooth,
    would the real words of a raving Bacchante be like? If Milton lent
    dignity to Satan in Puritan England, was Euripides to do less for
    Dionysos in Macedonia? That he should make Pentheus unsympathetic
    belongs to the plot. If he had made a noble martyr of the victim
    as well as an impassive destroyer of the God, he might have had
    to leave Macedonia more precipitately than he left Athens.

    Prof. Murray recognizes all the while that "Euripides never
    palliates things. He leaves this savage story as savage as he
    found it"; that he presents a "triumphant and hateful Dionysus,"
    who gives "a helpless fatalistic answer, abandoning the moral
    standpoint," when challenged by the stricken Agavê, whom the
    God has moved to dismember her own son; and that, in short,
    "Euripides is, as usual, critical or even hostile to the myth that
    he celebrates" (as cited, pp. liv-lvi). To set against these solid
    facts, as does Mr. Sandys (as cited, pp. lxxiii-iv), some passages
    in the choruses (ll. 395, 388, 427, 1002), and in a speech of
    Dionysos (1002), enouncing normal platitudes about the wisdom of
    thinking like other people and living a quiet life, is to strain
    very uncritically the elastic dramatic material. So far from being
    "not entirely in keeping" with the likely sentiments of a chorus of
    Asiatic women, the first-cited passages--telling that cleverness
    is not wisdom, and that true wisdom acquiesces in the opinions
    of ordinary people--are just the kind of mock-modest ineptitudes
    always current among the complacent ignorant; and the sage language
    ascribed to the heartless God is simply a presentment of deity
    in the fashion in which all Greeks expected to have it presented.

    The fact remains that the story of the Bacchæ, in which the
    frenzied mother helps to tear to pieces her own son, and the God
    can but say it is all fated, is as revolting to the rational moral
    sense as the story of the Prometheus. If this be an eirenicon,
    it is surely the most ironical in literary history. To see
    in the impassive delineation of such a myth an acceptance
    by the poet of popular "sound sense," and "a desire to put
    himself right with the public in matters on which he had been
    misunderstood," seems possible only to academics trained to a
    particular handling of the popular creed of their own day. This
    view, first put forward by Tyrwhitt (Conjecturæ in Æschylum,
    etc. 1822), was adopted by Schoone (p. 20 of his ed. cited
    by Sandys). Lobeck, greatly daring wherever rationalism was
    concerned, suggested that Euripides actually wrote against the
    rationalists of his time, in commendation of the Bacchic cult,
    and to justify the popular view in religious matters as against
    that of the cultured (Aglaophamus--passages quoted by Sandys,
    p. lxxvi). Musgrave, following Tyrwhitt, makes the play out
    to be an attack on Kritias, Alkibiades, and other freethinkers,
    including even Sokrates! K. O. Müller, always ineptly conventional
    in such matters, finds Euripides in this play "converted into a
    positive believer, or, in other words, convinced that religion
    should not be exposed to the subtilties of reasoning; that the
    understanding of man cannot subvert ancestral traditions which
    are as old as time," and so on; and in the Polonius-platitudes
    of Tiresias and the worldly-wise counsels of Cadmus he finds
    "great impressiveness" (Hist. Lit. Anc. Greece, p. 379).

    The bulk of the literature of the subject, in short, suggests
    sombre reflections on the moral value of much academic
    thinking. There are, however, academic suffrages on the side of
    common sense. Mr. Haigh (Tragic Drama of the Greeks, pp. 313-14)
    gently dismisses the "recantation" theory; Hartung points out
    (Euripides restitutus, 1844, ii, 542, cited by Sandys) that
    Euripides really treats the legend of Pentheus very much as
    he treats the myth of Hippolytos thirty years earlier, showing
    no change of moral attitude. E. Pfander (cited by Sandys) took
    a similar view; as did Mr. Tyrrell in his edition of the play
    (1871), though the latter persisted in taking the commonplaces
    of the chorus about true wisdom (395) for the judgments of
    the dramatist. Euripides could hardly have been called "the
    philosopher of the stage" (Athenæus, iv, 48) on the strength
    of sentiments which are common to the village wiseacres of all
    ages. The critical method which ascribes to Euripides a final
    hostility to rationalism would impute to Shakespeare the religion
    of Isabella in Measure for Measure, when the talk of the Duke as a
    friar counselling a condemned man is wholly "pagan" or unbelieving.

    In his admirable little book, Euripides and his Age (1913),
    Prof. Murray repeats his account of the Bacchæ with some additions
    and modifications. He adheres to the "heartfelt glorification
    of Dionysus," but adds (p. 188): "No doubt it is Dionysus
    in some private sense of the poet's own ... some spirit of
    ... inspiration and untrammelled life. The presentation is not
    consistent, however magical the poetry." As to the theory that
    "the veteran free-lance of thought ... now saw the error of his
    ways and was returning to orthodoxy," he pronounces that "Such
    a view strikes us now as almost childish in its incompetence"
    (p. 190). He also reminds us that "the whole scheme of the play
    is given by the ancient ritual.... All kinds of small details
    which seemed like ... rather fantastic invention on the part
    of Euripides are taken straight from Æschylus or the ritual,
    or both.... The Bacchæ is not free invention; it is tradition"
    (pp. 182-84). And in sum: "It is well to remember that, for all
    his lucidity of language, Euripides is not lucid about religion"
    (p. 190).

    In conclusion we may ask, How could he be? He wrote plays for the
    Greek stage, which had its very roots in religious tradition, and
    was run for the edification of a crudely believing populace. It is
    much that in so doing Euripides could a hundred times challenge
    the evil religious ethic given him for his subject-matter; and
    his lasting vogue in antiquity showed that he had a hold on the
    higher Greek conscience which no other dramatist ever possessed.


But while Euripides must thus have made a special appeal to the
reflecting minority even in his own day, it is clear that he was not
at first popular with the many; and his efforts, whatever he may have
hoped to achieve, could not suffice to enlighten the democracy. The
ribald blasphemies of his enemy, the believing Aristophanes,
[642] could avail more to keep vulgar religion in credit than the
tragedian's serious indictment could effect against it; and they served
at the same time to belittle Euripides for the multitude in his own
day. Aristophanes is the typical Tory in religion; non-religious
himself, like Swift, he hates the honestly anti-religious man; and
he has the crowd with him. The Athenian faith, as a Catholic scholar
remarks, [643] "was more disposed to suffer the buffooneries of a
comedian than the serious negation of a philosopher." The average
Greek seemed to think that the grossest comic impiety did no harm,
where serious negation might cause divine wrath. [644] And so there
came no intellectual salvation for Athens from the drama which was
her unique achievement. The balance of ignorance and culture was
not changed. Evidently there was much rationalism among the studious
few. Plato in the Laws [645] speaks both of the man-about-town type of
freethinker and of those who, while they believe in no Gods, live well
and wisely and are in good repute. But with Plato playing the superior
mind and encouraging his fellow-townsmen to believe in the personality
of the sun, moon, and planets, credulity could easily keep the upper
hand. [646] The people remained politically unwise and religiously
superstitious, the social struggle perpetuating the division between
leisure and toil, even apart from the life of the mass of slaves;
while the eternal pre-occupation of militarism left even the majority
of the upper class at the intellectual level natural to military life
in all ages. There came, however, a generation of great intellectual
splendour following on that of the supreme development of drama just
before the fall of Greek freedom. Athens had at last come into the
heritage of Greek philosophic thought; and to the utterance of that
crowning generation the human retrospect has turned ever since. This
much of renown remains inalienable from the most renowned democracy
of the ancient world.



§ 8

The wide subject of the teaching of Sokrates, Plato, and Aristotle must
here be noticed briefly, with a view only to our special inquiry. All
three must be inscribed in any list of ancient freethinkers; and
yet all three furthered freethought only indirectly, the two former
being in different degrees supernaturalists, while the last touched
on religious questions only as a philosopher, avoiding all question
of practical innovation.


    The same account holds good of the best of the so-called Sophists,
    as Gorgias the Sicilian (? 485-380), who was a nihilistic skeptic;
    Hippias of Elis, who, setting up an emphatic distinction between
    Nature and Convention, impugned the political laws and prejudices
    which estranged men of thought and culture; and Prodikos of Kos
    (fl. 435), author of the fable of Herakles at the Parting of
    the Ways, who seems to have privately criticized the current
    Gods as mere deifications of useful things and forces, and
    was later misconceived as teaching that the things and forces
    were Gods. Cp. Cicero, De nat. Deorum, i, 42; Sextus Empiricus,
    Adv. Mathematicos, ix, 52; Ueberweg, vol. i, p. 78; Renouvier, i,
    291-93. Cicero saw very well that if men came to see in Dêmêtêr
    merely a deification of corn or bread, in Dionysos wine, in
    Hephaistos fire, and in Poseidon only water, there was not much
    left in religion. On the score of their systematic skepticism,
    that is, their insistence on the subjectivity of all opinion,
    Prof. Drews pronounces the Sophists at once the "Aufklärer"
    and the Pragmatists of ancient Greece (Gesch. des Monismus,
    p. 209). But their thought was scarcely homogeneous.


1. Sokrates [468-399] was fundamentally and practically a freethinker,
insofar as in most things he thought for himself, definitely turning
away from the old ideal of mere transmitted authority in morals. [647]
Starting in all inquiries from a position of professed ignorance, he
at least repudiated all dogmatics. [648] Being, however, preoccupied
with public life and conduct, he did not carry his critical thinking
far beyond that sphere. In regard to the extension of solid science,
one of the prime necessities of Greek intellectual life, he was quite
reactionary, drawing a line between the phenomena which he thought
intelligible and traceable and those which he thought past finding
out. "Physics and astronomy, in his opinion, belonged to the divine
class of phenomena in which human research was insane, fruitless,
and impious." [649] Yet at the same time he formulated, apparently
of his own motion, the ordinary design argument. [650] The sound
scientific view led up to by so many previous thinkers was set forth,
even in religious phraseology, by his great contemporary Hippokrates,
[651] and he opposed it. While partially separating himself in practice
from the popular worships, he held by the belief in omens, though not
in all the ordinary ones; and in one of the Platonic dialogues he is
made to say he holds by the ordinary versions of all the myths, on
the ground that it is a hopeless task to find rational explanations
for them. [652] He hoped, in short, to rationalize conduct without
seeking to rationalize creed--the dream of Plato and of a thousand
religionists since.

He had indeed the excuse that the myth-rationalizers of the time
after Hekataios, following the line of least psychic resistance, like
those of England and Germany in the eighteenth century, explained
away myths by reducing them to hypothetical history, thus asking
credence for something no better verified than the myth itself. But
the rationalizers were on a path by which men might conceivably have
journeyed to a truer science; and Sokrates, by refusing to undertake
any such exploration, [653] left his countrymen to that darkening
belief in tradition which made possible his own execution. There
was in his cast of mind, indeed--if we can at all accept Plato's
presentment of him--something unfavourable to steady conviction. He
cannot have had any real faith in the current religion; yet he never
explicitly dissented. In the Republic he accepts the new festival
to the Thracian Goddess Bendis; and there he is made by Plato to
inculcate a quite orthodox acceptance of the Delphic oracle as the
source of all religious practice. But it is impossible to say how much
of the teaching of the Platonic Sokrates is Sokratic. And as to Plato
there remains the problem of how far his conformities were prudential,
after the execution of Sokrates for blasphemy.


    The long-debated issue as to the real personality of Sokrates
    is still open. It is energetically and systematically handled
    by Prof. August Döring in Die Lehre des Sokrates als sociales
    Reformsystem (1895), and by Dr. Hubert Röck in Der unverfälschte
    Sokrates (1903). See, in particular, Döring, pp. 51-79, and
    Röck, pp. 357-96. From all attempts to arrive at a conception
    of a consistent Sokrates there emerges the impression that the
    real Sokrates, despite a strong critical bent of mind, had no
    clearly established body of opinions, but was swayed in different
    directions by the itch for contradiction which was the driving
    power of his dialectic. For the so-called Sokratic "method" is
    much less a method for attaining truth than one for disturbing
    prejudice. And if in Plato's hands Sokrates seldom reaches a
    conclusion that his own method might not overthrow, we are not
    entitled to refuse to believe that this was characteristic of
    the man.


Concerning Sokrates we have Xenophon's circumstantial account [654]
of how he reasoned with Aristodemos, "surnamed the Little," who
"neither prayed nor sacrificed to the Gods, nor consulted any oracle,
and ridiculed those who did." Aristodemos was a theist, believing in
a "Great Architect" or "Artist," or a number of such powers--on this
he is as vague as the ancient theists in general--but does not think
the heavenly powers need his devotions. Sokrates, equally vague as
to the unity or plurality of the divine, puts the design argument in
the manner familiar throughout the ages, [655] and follows it up with
the plea, among others, that the States most renowned for wisdom and
antiquity have always been the most given to pious practices, and that
probably the Gods will be kind to those who show them respect. The
whole philosopheme is pure empiricism, on the ordinary plane of
polytheistic thought, and may almost be said to exhibit incapacity
for the handling of philosophic questions, evading as it does even
the elementary challenge of Aristodemos, against whom Sokrates parades
pious platitudes without a hint of "Sokratic" analysis. Unless such a
performance were regarded as make-believe, it is difficult to conceive
how Athenian pietists could honestly arraign Sokrates for irreligion
while Aristodemos and others of his way of thinking went unmolested.

Taken as illustrating the state of thought in the Athenian community,
the trial and execution of Sokrates for "blasphemy" and "corrupting
the minds of the young" go far to prove that there prevailed among the
upper class in Athens nearly as much hypocrisy in religious matters
as exists in the England of to-day. Doubtless he was liable to death
from the traditionally orthodox Greek point of view, [656] having
practically turned aside from the old civic creed and ideals; but
then most educated Athenians had in some degree done the same. [657]
Euripides, as we have seen, is so frequently critical of the old
theology and mythology in his plays that he too could easily have been
indicted; and Aristophanes, who attacked Euripides in his comedies
as scurrilously as he did Sokrates, would no doubt have been glad to
see him prosecuted. [658] The psychology of Aristophanes, who freely
ridiculed and blasphemed the Gods in his own comedies while reviling
all men who did not believe in them, is hardly intelligible save
in the light of parts of the English history of our own time, when
unbelieving indifferentists on the Conservative side have been seen
ready to join in turning the law against a freethinking publicist
for purely party ends. In the case of Sokrates the hostility was
ostensibly democratic, for, according to Æschines, Sokrates was
condemned because he had once given lessons to Kritias, [659] one
of the most savage and unscrupulous of the Thirty Tyrants. Inasmuch
as Kritias had become entirely alienated from Sokrates, and had even
put him to silence, such a ground of hostility would only be a fresh
illustration of that collective predilection of men to a gregarious
iniquity which is no less noteworthy in the psychology of groups
than their profession of high moral standards. And such proclivities
are always to be reckoned with in such episodes. Anytos, the leading
prosecutor, seems to have been a typical bigot, brainless, spiteful,
and thoroughly self-satisfied. Not only party malice, however, but
the individual dislikes which Sokrates so industriously set up,
[660] must have counted for much in securing the small majority
of the dikastery that pronounced him guilty--281 to 276; and his
own clear preference for death over any sort of compromise did the
rest. [661] He was old, and little hopeful of social betterment;
and the temperamental obstinacy which underlay his perpetual and
pertinacious debating helped him to choose a death that he could easily
have avoided. But the fact remains that he was not popular; that the
mass of the voters as well as of the upper class disliked his constant
cross-examination of popular opinion, [662] which must often have led
logical listeners to carry on criticism where he left off; and that
after all his ratiocination he left Athens substantially irrational, as
well as incapable of justice, on some essential issues. His dialectic
method has done more to educate the later world than it did for Greece.


    Upon the debate as to the legal punishability of Sokrates turns
    another as to the moral character of the Athenians who forced
    him to drink the hemlock. Professor Mahaffy, bent on proving
    the superiority of Athenian culture and civilization to those
    of Christendom, effectively contrasts the calm scene in the
    prison-chamber of Sokrates with the hideous atrocities of the
    death penalty for treason in the modern world and the "gauntness
    and horror of our modern executions" (Social Life in Greece,
    3rd. ed. pp. 262-69); and Mr. Bleeckly (Socrates and the Athenians,
    1884, pp. 55-63) similarly sets against the pagan case that of the
    burning of heretics by the Christian Church, and in particular the
    auto da fé at Valladolid in 1559, when fifteen men and women--the
    former including the conscientious priests who had proposed to
    meet the hostility of Protestant dissent in the Netherlands by
    reforms in the Church: the latter including delicately-nurtured
    ladies of high family--were burned to death before the eyes of
    the Princess Regent of Spain and the aristocracy of Castile. It
    is certainly true that this transaction has no parallel in the
    criminal proceedings of pagan Athens. Christian cruelty has been as
    much viler than pagan, culture for culture, as the modern Christian
    environment is uglier than the Athenian. Before such a test the
    special pleaders for the civilizing power of Christianity can
    but fall back upon alternative theses which are the negation of
    their main case. First we are told that "Christianity humanizes
    men"; next that where it does not do so it is because they are
    too inhuman to be made Christians.

    But while the orthodoxy of pagan Athens thus comes very well off
    as against the frightful crime-roll of organized Christianity,
    the dispassionate historian must nonetheless note the dehumanizing
    power of religion in Athens as in Christendom. The pietists of
    Athens, in their less brutish way, were as hopelessly denaturalized
    as those of Christian Europe by the dominion of a traditional
    creed, held as above reason. It matters not whether or not we
    say with Bishop Thirlwall (Hist. of Greece, 2nd ed. iv, 556) that
    "there never was a case in which murder was more clearly committed
    under the forms of legal procedure than in the trial of Socrates,"
    or press on the other side the same writer's admission that in
    religious matters in Athens "there was no canon, no book by which
    a doctrine could be tried; no living authority to which appeal
    could be made for the decision of religious controversies." The
    fact that Christendom had "authorities" who ruled which of two
    sets of insane dogmas brought death upon its propounder, does
    not make less abominable the slaying of Bruno and Servetus,
    or the immeasurable massacre of less eminent heretics. But the
    less formalized homicides sanctioned by the piety of Periklean
    Athens remain part of the proof that unreasoning faith worsens
    men past calculation. If we slur over such deeds by generalities
    about human frailty, we are but asserting the impossibility
    of rationally respecting human nature. If, putting aside all
    moral censure, we are simply concerned to trace and comprehend
    causation in human affairs, we have no choice but to note how
    upon occasion religion on one hand, like strong drink on another,
    can turn commonplace men into murderers.


In view of the limitations of Sokrates, and the mental measure of
those who voted for putting him to death, it is not surprising that
through all Greek history educated men (including Aristotle) continued
to believe firmly in the deluge of Deukalion [663] and the invasion of
the Amazons [664] as solid historical facts. Such beliefs, of course,
are on all fours with those current in the modern religious world
down till the present century: we shall, in fact, best appraise the
rationality of Greece by making such comparisons. The residual lesson
is that where Greek reason ended, modern social science had better
be regarded as only beginning. Thukydides, the greatest of all the
ancient historians, and one of the great of all time, treated human
affairs in a spirit so strictly rationalistic that he might reasonably
be termed an atheist on that score even if he had not earned the name
as a pupil of Anaxagoras. [665] But his task was to chronicle a war
which proved that the Greeks were to the last children of instinct for
the main purposes of life, and that the rule of reason which they are
credited with establishing [666] was only an intermittent pastime. In
the days of Demosthenes we still find them politically consulting the
Pythian oracle, despite the consciousness among educated men that the
oracle is a piece of political machinery. We can best realize the stage
of their evolution by first comparing their public religious practice
with that of contemporary England. No one now regards the daily prayers
of the House of Commons as more than a reverent formality. But Nikias
at Syracuse staked the fortunes of war on the creed of omens. We can
perhaps finally conceive with fair accuracy the subordination of Greek
culture and politics to superstition by likening the thought-levels
of pre-Alexandrian Athens to those of England under Cromwell.

2. The decisive measure of Greek accomplishment is found in the career
of Plato [429-347]. One of the great prose writers of the world, he
has won by his literary genius--that is, by his power of continuous
presentation as well as by his style--no less than by his service to
supernaturalist philosophy in general, a repute above his deserts as a
thinker. In Christian history he is the typical philosopher of Dualism,
[667] his prevailing conception of the universe being that of an
inert Matter acted on or even created by a craftsman-God, the "Divine
Artificer," sometimes conceived as a Logos or divine Reason, separately
personalized. Thus he came to be par excellence the philosopher of
theism, as against Aristotle and those of the Pythagoreans who affirmed
the eternity of the universe. [668] In the history of freethought
he figures as a man of genius formed by Sokrates and reflecting
his limitations, developing the Sokratic dialectic on the one hand
and finally emphasizing the Sokratic dogmatism to the point of utter
bigotry. If the Athenians are to be condemned for putting Sokrates to
death, it must not be forgotten that the spirit, if not the letter, of
the Laws drawn up by Plato in his old age fully justified them. [669]
That code, could it ever have been put in force, would have wrought
the death of every honest freethinker as well as most of the ignorant
believers within its sphere. Alone among the great serious writers of
Greece does he implicate Greek thought in the gospel of intolerance
passed on to modern Europe from antiquity. It is recorded of him [670]
that he wished to burn all the writings of Demokritos that he could
collect, and was dissuaded only on the score of the number of copies.

What was best in Plato, considered as a freethinker, was his early love
of ratiocination, of "the rendering and receiving of reasons." Even
in his earlier dialogues, however, there are signs enough of an
arbitrary temper, as well as of an inability to put science in place
of religious prejudice. The obscurantist doctrine which he put in
the mouth of Sokrates in the Phædrus was also his own, as we gather
from the exposition in the Republic. In that brilliant performance he
objects, as so many believers and freethinkers had done before him,
to the scandalous tales in the poets concerning the Gods and the sons
of Gods; but he does not object to them as being untrue. His position
is that they are unedifying. [671] For his own part he proposes that
his ideal rulers frame new myths which shall edify the young: in his
Utopia it is part of the business of the legislator to choose the right
fictions; [672] and the systematic imposition of an edifying body of
pious fable on the general intelligence is part of his scheme for the
regeneration of society. [673] Honesty is to be built up by fraud,
and reason by delusion. What the Hebrew Bible-makers actually did,
Plato proposed to do. The one thing to be said in his favour is that
by thus telling how the net is to be spread in the sight of the bird
he put the decisive obstacle--if any were needed--in the way of his
plan. It is, indeed, inconceivable that the author of the Republic
and the Laws dreamt that either polity as a whole would ever come
into existence. His plans of suppressing all undesirable poetry,
arranging community of women, and enabling children to see battles,
are the fancy-sketches of a dilettant. He had failed completely as a
statesman in practice; as a schemer he does not even posit the first
conditions of success.


    As to his practical failure see the story of his and his pupils'
    attempts at Syracuse (Grote, History, ix, 37-123). The younger
    Dionysios, whom they had vainly attempted to make a model ruler,
    seems to have been an audacious unbeliever to the extent of
    plundering the temple of Persephone at Lokris, one of Jupiter in
    the Peloponnesos, and one of Æsculapius at Epidaurus. Clement of
    Alexandria (Protrept. c. 4) states that he plundered "the statue
    of Jupiter in Sicily." Cicero (De nat. Deorum, iii, 33, 34) and
    Valerius Maximus (i, 1) tell the story of the elder Dionysios;
    but of him it cannot be true. In his day the plunder of the
    temples of Dêmêtêr and Persephone in Sicily by the Carthaginians
    was counted a deadly sin. See Freeman, History of Sicily, iv,
    125-47, and Story of Sicily, pp. 176-80. In Cicero's dialogue it
    is noted that after all his impieties Dionysios [the elder, of
    whom the stories are mistakenly told] died in his bed. Athenæus,
    however, citing the biographer Klearchos, tells that the younger
    Dionysios, after being reduced to the rôle of a begging priest
    of Kybelê, ended his life very miserably (xii, 60).


Nonetheless, the prescription of intolerance in the Laws [674] classes
Plato finally on the side of fanaticism, and, indeed, ranks him with
the most sinister figures on that side, since his earlier writing
shows that he would be willing to punish men alike for repeating
stories which they believed, and for rejecting what he knew to be
untruths. [675] By his own late doctrine he vindicated the slayers of
his own friend. His psychology is as strange as that of Aristophanes,
but strange with a difference. He seems to have practised "the will
to believe" till he grew to be a fanatic on the plane of the most
ignorant of orthodox Athenians; and after all that science had done
to enlighten men on that natural order the misconceiving of which had
been the foundation of their creeds, he inveighs furiously in his old
age against the impiety of those who dared to doubt that the sun and
moon and stars were deities, as every nurse taught her charges. [676]
And when all is said, his Gods satisfy no need of the intelligence;
for he insists that they only partially rule the world, sending the few
good things, but not the many evil [677]--save insofar as evil may be
a beneficent penalty and discipline. At the same time, while advising
the imprisonment or execution of heretics who did not believe in the
Gods, Plato regarded with even greater detestation the man who taught
that they could be persuaded or propitiated by individual prayer and
sacrifice. [678] Thus he would have struck alike at the freethinking
few and at the multitude who held by the general religious beliefs of
Greece, dealing damnation on all save his own clique, in a way that
would have made Torquemada blench. [679] In the face of such teaching
as this, it may well be said that "Greek philosophy made incomparably
greater advances in the earlier polemic period [of the Ionians]
than after its friendly return to the poetry of Homer and Hesiod"
[680]--that is, to their polytheistic basis. It is to be said for
Plato, finally, that his embitterment at the downward course of things
in Athens is a quite intelligible source for his own intellectual
decadence: a very similar spectacle being seen in the case of our own
great modern Utopist, Sir Thomas More. But Plato's own writing bears
witness that among the unbelievers against whom he declaimed there
were wise and blameless citizens; [681] while in the act of seeking to
lay a religious basis for a good society he admitted the fundamental
immorality of the religious basis of the whole of past Greek life.

3. Aristotle [384-322], like Sokrates, albeit in a very different way,
rendered rather an indirect than a direct service to Freethought. Where
Sokrates gave the critical or dialectic method or habit, "a process of
eternal value and of universal application," [682] Aristotle supplied
the great inspiration of system, partly correcting the Sokratic
dogmatism on the possibilities of science by endless observation and
speculation, though himself falling into scientific dogmatism only too
often. That he was an unbeliever in the popular and Platonic religion
is clear. Apart from the general rationalistic tenor of his works,
[683] there was a current understanding that the Peripatetic school
denied the utility of prayer and sacrifice; [684] and though the
essentially partisan attempt of the anti-Macedonian party to impeach
him for impiety may have turned largely on his hyperbolic hymn to his
dead friend Hermeias (who was a eunuch, and as such held peculiarly
unworthy of being addressed as on a level with semi-divine heroes),
[685] it could hardly have been undertaken at all unless he had given
solider pretexts. The threatened prosecution he avoided by leaving the
city, dying shortly afterwards. Siding as he did with the Macedonian
faction, he had put himself out of touch with the democratic instincts
of the Athenians, and so doubly failed to affect their thinking. But
nonetheless the attack upon him by the democrats was a political
stratagem. The prosecution for blasphemy had now become a recognized
weapon in politics for all who had more piety than principle, and
perhaps for some who had neither. And Aristotle, well aware of the
temper of the population around him, had on the whole been so guarded
in his utterance that a fantastic pretext had to be fastened on for
his undoing.


    Prof. Bain (Practical Essays, p. 273), citing Grote's remark on the
    "cautious prose compositions of Aristotle," comments thus: "That is
    to say, the execution of Sokrates was always before his eyes; he
    had to pare his expressions so as not to give offence to Athenian
    orthodoxy. We can never know the full bearings of such a disturbing
    force. The editors of Aristotle complain of the corruption of
    his text: a far worse corruption lies behind. In Greece Sokrates
    alone had the courage of his opinions. While his views as to a
    future life, for example, are plain and frank, the real opinion
    of Aristotle on the question is an insoluble problem." (See,
    however, the passage in the Metaphysics cited below.)

    The opinion of Grote and Bain as to Aristotle's caution is fully
    coincided in by Lange, who writes (Gesch. des Mater. i, 63):
    "More conservative than Plato and Sokrates, Aristotle everywhere
    seeks to attach himself as closely as possible to tradition, to
    popular notions, to the ideas embodied in common speech, and his
    ethical postulates diverge as little as may be from the customary
    morals and laws of Greek States. He has therefore been at all times
    the favourite philosopher of conservative schools and movements."


It is clear, nevertheless, if we can be sure of his writings,
that he was a monotheist, but a monotheist with no practical
religion. "Excluding such a thing as divine interference with Nature,
his theology, of course, excludes the possibility of revelation,
inspiration, miracles, and grace." [686] In a passage in the
Metaphysics, after elaborating his monistic conception of Nature,
he dismisses in one or two terse sentences the whole current religion
as a mass of myth framed to persuade the multitude, in the interest of
law and order. [687] His influence must thus have been to some extent,
at least, favourable to rational science, though unhappily his own
science is too often a blundering reaction against the surmises of
earlier thinkers with a greater gift of intuition than he, who was
rather a methodizer than a discoverer. [688] What was worst in his
thinking was its tendency to apriorism, which made it in a later age
so adaptable to the purposes of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus his
doctrines of the absolute levity of fire and of nature's abhorrence
of a vacuum set up a hypnotizing verbalism, and his dictum that the
earth is the centre of the universe was fatally helpful to Christian
obscurantism. For the rest, while guiltless of Plato's fanaticism,
he had no scheme of reform whatever, and was as far as any other
Greek from the thought of raising the mass by instruction. His own
science, indeed, was not progressive, save as regards his collation of
facts in biology; and his political ideals were rather reactionary;
his clear perception of the nature of the population problem leaving
him in the earlier attitude of Malthus, and his lack of sympathetic
energy making him a defender of slavery when other men had condemned
it. [689] He was in some aspects the greatest brain of the ancient
world; and he left it, at the close of the great Grecian period,
without much faith in man, while positing for the modern world its
vaguest conception of Deity. Plato and Aristotle between them had
reduced the ancient God-idea to a thin abstraction. Plato would not
have it that God was the author of evil, thus leaving evil unaccounted
for save by sorcery. Aristotle's God does nothing at all, existing
merely as a potentiality of thought. And yet upon those positions were
to be founded the theisms of the later world. Plato had not striven,
and Aristotle had failed, to create an adequate basis for thought in
real science; and the world gravitated back to religion.


    [In previous editions I remarked that "the lack of fresh science,
    which was the proximate cause of the stagnation of Greek thought,
    has been explained like other things as a result of race qualities:
    'the Athenians,' says Mr. Benn (The Greek Philosophers, i, 42),
    'had no genius for natural science: none of them were ever
    distinguished as savans.... It was, they thought, a miserable
    trifling [and] waste of time.... Pericles, indeed, thought
    differently....' On the other hand, Lange decides (i, 6) "that
    with the freedom and boldness of the Hellenic spirit was combined
    ... the talent for scientific deduction. These contrary views,"
    I observed, "seem alike arbitrary. If Mr. Benn means that other
    Hellenes had what the Athenians lacked, the answer is that only
    special social conditions could have set up such a difference,
    and that it could not be innate, but must be a mere matter of
    usage." Mr. Benn has explained to me that he does not dissent from
    this view, and that I had not rightly gathered his from the passage
    I quoted. In his later work, The Philosophy of Greece considered
    in relation to the character and history of its people (1898),
    he has pointed out how, in the period of Hippias and Prodikos,
    "at Athens in particular young men threw themselves with ardour
    into the investigation of" problems of cosmography, astronomy,
    meteorology, and comparative anatomy (p. 138). The hindering
    forces were Athenian bigotry (pp. 113-14, 171) and the mischievous
    influence of Sokrates (pp. 165, 173).

    Speaking broadly, we may say that the Chaldeans were forward in
    astronomy because their climate favoured it to begin with, and
    religion and their superstitions did so later. Hippokrates of Kos
    became a great physician because, with natural capacity, he had
    the opportunity to compare many practices. The Athenians failed
    to carry on the sciences, not because the faculty or the taste
    was lacking among them, but because their political and artistic
    interests, for one thing, preoccupied them--e.g., Sokrates and
    Plato; and because, for another, their popular religion, popularly
    supported, menaced the students of physics. But the Ionians,
    who had savans, failed equally to progress after the Alexandrian
    period; the explanation being again not stoppage of faculty, but
    the advent of conditions unfavourable to the old intellectual
    life, which in any case, as we saw, had been first set up by
    Babylonian contacts. (Compare, on the ethnological theorem of
    Cousin, G. Bréton, Essai sur la poésie philos. en Grèce, p. 10.) On
    the other hand, Lange's theory of gifts "innate" in the Hellenic
    mind in general is the old racial fallacy. Potentialities are
    "innate" in all populations, according to their culture stage,
    and it was their total environment that specialized the Greeks
    as a community.]



§ 9

The overthrow of the "free" political life of Athens was followed by
a certain increase in intellectual activity, the result of throwing
back the remaining store of energy on the life of the mind. By this
time an almost open unbelief as to the current tales concerning the
Gods would seem to have become general among educated people, the
withdrawal of the old risk of impeachment by political factions being
so far favourable to outspokenness. It is on record that the historian
Ephoros (of Cumæ in Æolia: fl. 350 B.C.), who was a pupil of Isocrates,
openly hinted in his work at his disbelief in the oracle of Apollo, and
in fabulous traditions generally. [690] In other directions there were
similar signs of freethought. The new schools of philosophy founded
by Zeno the Stoic (fl. 280: d. 263 or 259) and Epicurus (341-270),
whatever their defects, compare not ill with those of Plato and
Aristotle, exhibiting greater ethical sanity and sincerity if less
metaphysical subtlety. Of metaphysics there had been enough for the
age: what it needed was a rational philosophy of life. But the loss
of political freedom, although thus for a time turned to account,
was fatal to continuous progress. The first great thinkers had all
been free men in a politically free environment: the atmosphere of
cowed subjection, especially after the advent of the Romans, could
not breed their like; and originative energy of the higher order
soon disappeared. Sane as was the moral philosophy of Epicurus, and
austere as was that of Zeno, they are alike static or quietist, [691]
the codes of a society seeking a regulating and sustaining principle
rather than hopeful of new achievement or new truth. And the universal
skepticism of Pyrrho has the same effect of suggesting that what is
wanted is not progress, but balance. It is significant that he, who
carried the Sokratic profession of Nescience to the typical extreme of
doctrinal Nihilism, was made high-priest of his native town of Elis,
and had statues erected in his honour. [692]

Considered as freethinkers, all three men tell at once of the critical
and of the reactionary work done by the previous age. Pyrrho, the
universal doubter, appears to have taken for granted, with the whole
of his followers, such propositions as that some animals (not insects)
are produced by parthenogenesis, that some live in the fire, and that
the legend of the Phoenix is true. [693] Such credences stood for
the arrest of biological science in the Sokratic age, with Aristotle,
so often mistakenly, at work; while, on the other hand, the Sokratic
skepticism visibly motives the play of systematic doubt on the
dogmas men had learned to question. Zeno, again, was substantially a
monotheist; Epicurus, adopting but not greatly developing the science
of Demokritos, [694] turned the Gods into a far-off band of glorious
spectres, untroubled by human needs, dwelling for ever in immortal
calm, neither ruling nor caring to rule the world of men. [695] In
coming to this surprising compromise, Epicurus, indeed, probably did
not carry with him the whole intelligence even of his own school. His
friend, the second Metrodoros of Lampsakos, seems to have been the most
stringent of all the censors of Homer, wholly ignoring his namesake's
attempts to clear the bard of impiety. "He even advised men not to be
ashamed to confess their utter ignorance of Homer, to the extent of not
knowing whether Hector was a Greek or a Trojan." [696] Such austerity
towards myths can hardly have been compatible with the acceptance of
the residuum of Epicurus. That, however, became the standing creed of
the sect, and a fruitful theme of derision to its opponents. Doubtless
the comfort of avoiding direct conflict with the popular beliefs had
a good deal to do with the acceptance of the doctrine.

This strange retention of the theorem of the existence of
anthropomorphic Gods, with a flat denial that they did anything in the
universe, might be termed the great peculiarity of average ancient
rationalism, were it not that what makes it at all intelligible for
us is just the similar practice of modern non-Christian theists. The
Gods of antiquity were non-creative, but strivers and meddlers and
answerers of prayer; and ancient rationalism relieved them of their
striving and meddling, leaving them no active or governing function
whatever, but for the most part cherishing their phantasms. The God of
modern Christendom had been at once a creator and a governor, ruling,
meddling, punishing, rewarding, and hearing prayer; and modern theism,
unable to take the atheistic or agnostic plunge, relieves him of all
interference in things human or cosmic, but retains him as a creative
abstraction who somehow set up "law," whether or not he made all things
out of nothing. The psychological process in the two cases seems to
be the same--an erection of æsthetic habit into a philosophic dogma,
and an accommodation of phrase to popular prejudice.

Whatever may have been the logical and psychological crudities
of Epicureanism, however, it counted for much as a deliverance of
men from superstitious fears; and nothing is more remarkable in the
history of ancient philosophy than the affectionate reverence paid to
the founder's memory [697] on this score through whole centuries. The
powerful Lucretius sounds his highest note of praise in telling how
this Greek had first of all men freed human life from the crashing
load of religion, daring to pass the flaming ramparts of the world,
and by his victory putting men on an equality with heaven. [698]
The laughter-loving Lucian two hundred years later grows gravely
eloquent on the same theme. [699] And for generations the effect of the
Epicurean check on orthodoxy is seen in the whole intellectual life of
the Greek world, already predisposed in that direction. [700] The new
schools of the Cynics and the Cyrenaics had alike shown the influence
in their perfect freedom from all religious preoccupation, when they
were not flatly dissenting from the popular beliefs. Antisthenes,
the founder of the former school (fl. 400 B.C.), though a pupil of
Sokrates, had been explicitly anti-polytheistic, and an opponent of
anthropomorphism. [701] Aristippos of Cyrene, also a pupil of Socrates,
who a little later founded the Hedonic or Cyrenaic sect, seems to have
put theology entirely aside. One of the later adherents of the school,
Theodoros, was like Diagoras labelled "the Atheist" [702] by reason
of the directness of his opposition to religion; and in the Rome of
Cicero he and Diagoras are the notorious atheists of history. [703]
To Theodoros, who had a large following, is attributed an influence
over the thought of Epicurus, [704] who, however, took the safer
position of a verbal theism. The atheist is said to have been menaced
by Athenian law in the time of Demetrius Phalereus, who protected him;
and there is even a story that he was condemned to drink hemlock; [705]
but he was not of the type that meets martyrdom, though he might go
far to provoke it. [706] Roaming from court to court, he seems never
to have stooped to flatter any of his entertainers. "You seem to me,"
said the steward of Lysimachos of Thrace to him on one occasion,
"to be the only man who ignores both Gods and kings." [707]

In the same age the same freethinking temper is seen in Stilpo of
Megara (fl. 307), of the school of Euclides, who is said to have
been brought before the Areopagus for the offence of saying that
the Pheidian statue of Athênê was "not a God," and to have met
the charge with the jest that she was in reality not a God but a
Goddess; whereupon he was exiled. [708] The stories told of him make
it clear that he was an unbeliever, usually careful not to betray
himself. Euclides, too, with his optimistic pantheism, was clearly a
heretic; though his doctrine that evil is non-ens [709] later became
the creed of some Christians. Yet another professed atheist was the
witty Bion of Borysthenes, pupil of Theodoros, of whom it is told,
in a fashion familiar to our own time, that in sickness he grew pious
through fear. [710] Among his positions was a protest or rather satire
against the doctrine that the Gods punished children for the crimes of
their fathers. [711] In the other schools, Speusippos (fl. 343), the
nephew of Plato, leant to monotheism; [712] Strato of Lampsakos, the
Peripatetic (fl. 290), called "the Naturalist," taught sheer pantheism,
anticipating Laplace in declaring that he had no need of the action
of the Gods to account for the making of the world; [713] Dikaiarchos
(fl. 326-287), another disciple of Aristotle, denied the existence
of separate souls, and the possibility of foretelling the future;
[714] and Aristo and Cleanthes, disciples of Zeno, varied likewise in
the direction of pantheism; the latter's monotheism, as expressed in
his famous hymn, being one of several doctrines ascribed to him. [715]

Contemporary with Epicurus and Zeno and Pyrrho, too, was Evêmeros
(Euhemerus), whose peculiar propaganda against Godism seems to imply
theoretic atheism. As an atheist he was vilified in a manner familiar
to modern ears, the Alexandrian poet Callimachus labelling him an
"arrogant old man vomiting impious books." [716] His lost work, of
which only a few extracts remain, undertook to prove that all the
Gods had been simply famous men, deified after death; the proof,
however, being by way of a fiction about old inscriptions found in
an imaginary island. [717] As above noted, [718] the idea may have
been borrowed from skeptical Phoenicians, the principle having already
been monotheistically applied by the Bible-making Jews, [719] though,
on the other hand, it had been artistically and to all appearance
uncritically acted on in the Homeric epopees. It may or may not then
have been by way of deliberate or reasoning Evêmerism that certain
early Greek and Roman deities were transformed, as we have seen, into
heroes or hetairai. [720] In any case, the principle seems to have had
considerable vogue in the later Hellenistic world; but with the effect
rather of paving the way for new cults than of setting up scientific
rationalism in place of the old ones. Quite a number of writers like
Palaiphatos, without going so far as Evêmeros, sought to reduce myths
to natural possibilities and events, by way of mediating between the
credulous and the incredulous. [721] Their method is mostly the naïf
one revived by the Abbé Banier in the eighteenth century of reducing
marvels to verbal misconceptions. Thus for Palaiphatos the myth of
Kerberos came from the facts that the city Trikarenos was commonly
spoken of as a beautiful and great dog; and that Geryon, who lived
there, had great dogs called Kerberoi; Actæon was "devoured by his
dogs" in the sense that he neglected his affairs and wasted his time
in hunting; the Amazons were shaved men, clad as were the women in
Thrace, and so on. [722] Palaiphatos and the Herakleitos who also
wrote De Incredibilibus agree that Pasiphae's bull was a man named
Tauros; and the latter writer similarly explains that Scylla was a
beautiful hetaira with avaricious hangers-on, and that the harpies
were ladies of the same profession. If the method seems childish, it
is to be remembered that as regards the explanation of supernatural
events it was adhered to by German theologians of a century ago;
and that its credulity in incredulity is still to be seen in the
current view that every narrative in the sacred books is to be taken
as necessarily standing for a fact of some kind.

One of the inferrible effects of the Evêmerist method was to facilitate
for the time the adoption of the Egyptian and eastern usage of deifying
kings. It has been plausibly argued that this practice stands not
so much for superstition as for skepticism, its opponents being
precisely the orthodox believers, and its promoters those who had
learned to doubt the actuality of the traditional Gods. Evêmerism
would clinch such a tendency; and it is noteworthy that Evêmeros
lived at the court of Kassander (319-296 B.C.) in a period in which
every remaining member of the family of the deified Alexander had
perished, mostly by violence; while the contemporary Ptolemy I of
Egypt received the title of Sotêr, "Saviour," from the people of
Rhodes. [723] It is to be observed, however, that while in the next
generation Antiochus I of Syria received the same title, and his
successor Antiochus II that of Theos, "God," the usage passes away;
Ptolemy III being named merely Evergetês, "the Benefactor" (of the
priests), and even Antiochus III only "the Great." Superstition was
not to be ousted by a political exploitation of its machinery. [724]

In Athens the democracy, restored in a subordinate form by Kassander's
opponent, Demetrius Poliorkêtes (307 B.C.), actually tried to put
down the philosophic schools, all of which, but the Aristotelian in
particular, were anti-democratic, and doubtless also comparatively
irreligious. Epicurus and some of his antagonists were exiled within a
year of his opening his school (306 B.C.); but the law was repealed in
the following year. [725] Theophrastos, the head of the Aristotelian
school, was indicted in the old fashion for impiety, which seems to
have consisted in denouncing animal sacrifice. [726] These repressive
attempts, however, failed; and no others followed at Athens in that
era; though in the next century the Epicureans seem to have been
expelled from Lythos in Crete and from Messenê in the Peloponnesos,
nominally for their atheism, in reality probably on political
grounds. [727] Thus Zeno was free to publish a treatise in which,
besides far out-going Plato in schemes for dragooning the citizens into
an ideal life, he proposed a State without temples or statues of the
Gods or law courts or gymnasia. [728] In the same age there is trace of
"an interesting case of rationalism even in the Delphic oracle." [729]
The people of the island of Astypalaia, plagued by hares or rabbits,
solemnly consulted the oracle, which briefly advised them to keep
dogs and take to hunting. About the same time we find Lachares,
temporarily despot at Athens, plundering the shrine of Pallas of its
gold. [730] Even in the general public there must have been a strain of
surviving rationalism; for among the fragments of Menander (fl. 300),
who, in general, seems to have leant to a well-bred orthodoxy, [731]
there are some speeches savouring of skepticism and pantheism. [732]

It was in keeping with this general but mostly placid and non-polemic
latitudinarianism that the New Academy, the second birth, or rather
transformation, of the Platonic school, in the hands of Arkesilaos
and the great Carneades (213-129), and later of the Carthaginian
Clitomachos, should be marked by that species of skepticism thence
called Academic--a skepticism which exposed the doubtfulness of current
religious beliefs without going the Pyrrhonian length of denying that
any beliefs could be proved, or even denying the existence of the Gods.


    For the arguments of Carneades against the Stoic doctrine of
    immortality see Cicero, De natura Deorum, iii, 12, 17; and for
    his argument against theism see Sextus Empiricus, Adv. Math. ix,
    172, 183. Mr. Benn pronounces this criticism of theology "the most
    destructive that has ever appeared, the armoury whence religious
    skepticism ever since has been supplied" (The Philosophy of
    Greece, etc., p. 258). This seems an over-statement. But it is
    just to say, as does Mr. Whittaker (Priests, Philosophers, and
    Prophets, 1911, p. 60; cp. p. 86), that "there has never been
    a more drastic attack than that of Carneades, which furnished
    Cicero with the materials for his second book, On Divination";
    and, as does Prof. Martha (Études Morales sur l'antiquité, 1889,
    p. 77), that no philosophic or religious school has been able to
    ignore the problems which Carneades raised.


As against the essentially uncritical Stoics, the criticism of
Carneades is sane and sound; and he has been termed by judicious
moderns "the greatest skeptical mind of antiquity" [733] and "the Bayle
of Antiquity"; [734] though he seems to have written nothing. [735]
There is such a concurrence of testimony as to the victorious power
of his oratory and the invincible skill of his dialectic [736] that
he must be reckoned one of the great intellectual and rationalizing
forces of his day, triumphing as he did in the two diverse arenas
of Greece and Rome. His disciple and successor Clitomachos said of
him, with Cicero's assent, that he had achieved a labour of Hercules
"in liberating our souls as it were of a fierce monster, credulity,
conjecture, rash belief." [737] He was, in short, a mighty antagonist
of thoughtless beliefs, clearing the ground for a rational life;
and the fact that he was chosen with Diogenes the Peripatetic and
Critolaos the Stoic to go to Rome to plead the cause of ruined
Athens, mulcted in an enormous fine, proved that he was held
in high honour at home. Athens, in short, was not at this stage
"too superstitious." Unreasoning faith was largely discredited by
philosophy.

On this basis, in a healthy environment, science and energy might
have reared a constructive rationalism; and for a time astronomy, in
the hands of Aristarchos of Samos (third century B.C.), Eratosthenes
of Cyrene, the second keeper of the great Alexandrian library (2nd
cent. B.C.), and above all of Hipparchos of Nikaia, who did most of
his work in the island of Rhodes, was carried to a height of mastery
which could not be maintained, and was re-attained only in modern
times. [738] Thus much could be accomplished by "endowment of research"
as practised by the Ptolemies at Alexandria; and after science had
declined with the decline of their polity, and still further under
Roman rule, the new cosmopolitanism of the second century of the
empire reverted to the principle of intelligent evocation, producing
under the Antonines the "Second" School of Alexandria.

But the social conditions remained fundamentally bad; and the earlier
greatness was never recovered. "History records not one astronomer
of note in the three centuries between Hipparchos and Ptolemy"; and
Ptolemy (fl. 140 C.E.) not only retrograded into astronomical error,
but elaborated on oriental lines a baseless fabric of astrology. [739]
Other science mostly decayed likewise. The Greek world, already led
to lower intellectual levels by the sudden ease and wealth opened
up to it through the conquests of Alexander and the rule of his
successors, was cast still lower by the Roman conquest. Pliny,
extolling Hipparchos with little comprehension of his work, must
needs pronounce him to have "dared a thing displeasing to God" in
numbering the stars for posterity. [740] In the air of imperialism,
stirred by no other, original thought could not arise; and the mass
of the Greek-speaking populations, rich and poor, gravitated to the
level of the intellectual [741] and emotional life of more or less
well-fed slaves. In this society there rapidly multiplied private
religious associations--thiasoi, eranoi, orgeones--in which men and
women, denied political life, found new bonds of union and grounds of
division in cultivating worships, mostly oriental, which stimulated
the religious sense and sentiment. [742]

Such was the soil in which Christianity took root and flourished;
while philosophy, after the freethinking epoch following on the
fall of Athenian power, gradually reverted to one or other form
of mystical theism or theosophy, of which the most successful was
the Neo-Platonism of Alexandria. [743] When the theosophic Julian
rejoiced that Epicureanism had disappeared, [744] he was exulting in
a symptom of the intellectual decline that made possible the triumph
of the faith he most opposed. Christianity furthered a decadence
thus begun under the auspices of pagan imperialism; and "the fifth
century of the Christian era witnessed an almost total extinction of
the sciences in Alexandria" [745]--an admission which disposes of the
dispute as to the guilt of the Arabs in destroying the great library.

Here and there, through the centuries, the old intellectual flame burns
whitely enough: the noble figure of Epictetus in the first century of
the new era, and that of the brilliant Lucian in the second, in their
widely different ways remind us that the evolved faculty was still
there if the circumstances had been such as to evoke it. Menippos in
the first century B.C. had played a similar part to that of Lucian,
in whose freethinking dialogues he so often figures; but with less
of subtlety and intellectuality. Lucian's was indeed a mind of the
rarest lucidity; and the argumentation of his dialogue Zeus Tragædos
covers every one of the main aspects of the theistic problem. There
is no dubiety as to his atheistic conclusion, which is smilingly
implicit in the reminder he puts in the mouth of Hermes, that,
though a few men may adopt the atheistic view, "there will always be
plenty of others who think the contrary--the majority of the Greeks,
the ignorant many, the populace, and all the barbarians." But the
moral doctrine of Epictetus is one of endurance and resignation;
and the almost unvarying raillery of Lucian, making mere perpetual
sport of the now moribund Olympian Gods, was hardly better fitted
than the all-round skepticism of the school of Sextus Empiricus to
inspire positive and progressive thinking.

This latter school, described by Cicero as dispersed and extinct
in his day, [746] appears to have been revived in the first century
by Ænesidemos, who taught at Alexandria. [747] It seems to have been
through him in particular that the Pyrrhonic system took the clear-cut
form in which it is presented at the close of the second century by
the accomplished Sextus "Empiricus"--that is, the empirical (i.e.,
experiential) physician, [748] who lived at Alexandria and Athens
(fl. 175-205 C.E.). As a whole, the school continued to discredit
dogmatism without promoting knowledge. Sextus, it is true, strikes
acutely and systematically at ill-founded beliefs, and so makes for
reason; [749] but, like the whole Pyrrhonian school, he has no idea
of a method which shall reach sounder conclusions. As the Stoics
had inculcated the control of the passions as such, so the skeptics
undertook to make men rise above the prejudices and presuppositions
which swayed them no less blindly than ever did their passions. But
Sextus follows a purely skeptical method, never rising from the
destruction of false beliefs to the establishment of true. His aim is
ataraxia, a philosophic calm of non-belief in any dogmatic affirmation
beyond the positing of phenomena as such; and while such an attitude
is beneficently exclusive of all fanaticism, it unfortunately never
makes any impression on the more intolerant fanatic, who is shaken only
by giving him a measure of critical truth in place of his error. And
as Sextus addressed himself to the students of philosophy, not to
the simple believers in the Gods, he had no wide influence. [750]
Avowedly accepting the normal view of moral obligations while rejecting
dogmatic theories of their basis, the doctrine of the strict skeptics
had the effect, from Pyrrho onwards, of giving the same acceptance
to the common religion, merely rejecting the philosophic pretence
of justifying it. Taken by themselves, the arguments against current
theism in the third book of the Hypotyposes [751] are unanswerable;
but, when bracketed with other arguments against the ordinary belief
in causation, they had the effect of leaving theism on a par with
that belief. Against religious beliefs in particular, therefore,
they had no wide destructive effect.

Lucian, again, thought soundly and sincerely on life; his praise
of the men whose memories he respected, as Epicurus and Demonax (if
the Life of Demonax attributed to him be really his), is grave and
heartfelt; and his ridicule of the discredited Gods was perfectly
right so far as it went. It is certain that the unbelievers and the
skeptics alike held their own with the believers in the matter of
right living. [752] In the period of declining pagan belief, the maxim
that superstition was a good thing for the people must have wrought
a quantity and a kind of corruption that no amount of ridicule of
religion could ever approach. Polybius (fl. 150 B.C.) agrees with
his complacent Roman masters that their greatness is largely due
to the carefully cultivated superstition of their populace, and
charges with rashness and folly those who would uproot the growth;
[753] and Strabo, writing under Tiberius--unless it be a later
interpolator of his work--confidently lays down the same principle
of governmental deceit, [754] though in an apparently quite genuine
passage he vehemently protests the incredibility of the traditional
tales about Apollo. [755] So far had the doctrine evolved since Plato
preached it. But to countervail it there needed more than a ridicule
which after all reached only the class who had already cast off the
beliefs derided, leaving the multitude unenlightened. The lack of the
needed machinery of enlightenment was, of course, part of the general
failure of the Græco-Roman civilization; and no one man's efforts could
have availed, even if any man of the age could have grasped the whole
situation. Rather the principle of esoteric enlightenment, the ideal
of secret knowledge, took stronger hold as the mass grew more and more
comprehensively superstitious. Even at the beginning of the Christian
era the view that Homer's deities were allegorical beings was freshly
propounded in the writings of Herakleides and Cornutus (Phornutus);
but it served only as a kind of mystical Gnosis, on all fours with
Christian Gnosticism, and was finally taken up by Neo-Platonists,
who were no nearer rationalism for adopting it. [756]

So with the rationalism to which we have so many uneasy or hostile
allusions in Plutarch. We find him resenting the scoffs of Epicureans
at the doctrine of Providence, and recoiling from the "abyss of
impiety" [757] opened up by those who say that "Aphrodite is simply
desire, and Hermes eloquence, and the Muses the arts and sciences,
and Athênê wisdom, and Dionysos merely wine, Hephaistos fire, and
Dêmêtêr corn"; [758] and in his essay On Superstition he regretfully
recognizes the existence of many rational atheists, confessing that
their state of mind is better than that of the superstitious who abound
around him, with their "impure purifications and unclean cleansings,"
their barbaric rites, and their evil Gods. But the unbelievers, with
their keen contempt for popular folly, availed as little against it as
Plutarch himself, with his doctrine of a just mean. The one effectual
cure would have been widened knowledge; and of such an evolution the
social conditions did not permit.

To return to a state of admiration for the total outcome of Greek
thought, then, it is necessary to pass from the standpoint of
simple analysis to that of comparison. It is in contrast with the
relatively slight achievement of the other ancient civilizations
that the Greek, at its height, still stands out for posterity as a
wonderful growth. That which, tried by the test of ideals, is as a
whole only one more tragic chapter in the record of human frustration,
yet contains within it light and leading as well as warning; and
for long ages it was as a lost Paradise to a darkened world. It has
been not untruly said that "the Greek spirit is immortal, because
it was free": [759] free not as science can now conceive freedom,
but in contrast with the spiritual bondage of Jewry and Egypt, the
half-barbaric tradition of imperial Babylon, and the short flight
of mental life in Rome. Above all, it was ever in virtue of the
freedom that the high things were accomplished; and it was ever the
falling away from freedom, the tyranny either of common ignorance
or of mindless power, that wrought decadence. There is a danger,
too, of injustice in comparing Athens with later States. When a high
authority pronounces that "the religious views of the Demos were of
the narrowest kind," [760] he is not to be gainsaid; but the further
verdict that "hardly any people has sinned more heavily against the
liberty of science" is unduly lenient to Christian civilization. The
heaviest sins of that against science, indeed, lie at the door of
the Catholic Church; but to make that an exoneration of the modern
"peoples" as against the ancient would be to load the scales. And
even apart from the Catholic Church, which practically suppressed
all science for a thousand years, the attitude of Protestant leaders
and Protestant peoples, from Luther down to the second half of the
nineteenth century, has been one of hatred and persecution towards
all science that clashed with the sacred books. [761] In the Greek
world there was more scientific discussion in the three hundred
years down to Epicurus than took place in the whole of Christian
Europe in thirteen hundred; and the amount of actual violence used
towards innovators in the pagan period, though lamentable enough,
was trifling in comparison with that recorded in Christian history,
to say nothing of the frightful annals of witch-burning, to which
there is no parallel in civilized heathen history. The critic, too,
goes on to admit that, while "Sokrates, Anaxagoras, and Aristotle
fell victims in different degrees to the bigotry of the populace,"
"of course their offence was political rather than religious. They
were condemned not as heretics, but as innovators in the state
religion." And, as we have seen, all three of the men named taught in
freedom for many years till political faction turned popular bigotry
against them. The true measure of Athenian narrowness is not to be
reached, therefore, without keeping in view the long series of modern
outrages and maledictions against the makers and introducers of new
machinery, and the multitude of such episodes as the treatment of
Priestley in Christian Birmingham, little more than a century ago. On
a full comparison the Greeks come out not ill.

It was, in fact, impossible that the Greeks should either stifle
or persecute science or freethought as it was either stifled or
persecuted by ancient Jews (who had almost no science by reason of
their theology) or by modern Christians, simply because the Greeks
had no anti-scientific hieratic literature. It remains profoundly
significant for science that the ancient civilization which on the
smallest area evolved the most admirable life, which most completely
transcended all the sources from which it originally drew, and left a
record by which men are still charmed and taught, was a civilization
as nearly as might be without Sacred Books, without an organized
priesthood, and with the largest measure of democratic freedom that
the ancient world ever saw.



CHAPTER VI

FREETHOUGHT IN ANCIENT ROME


§ 1

The Romans, so much later than the Greeks in their intellectual
development, were in some respects peculiarly apt--in the case of
their upper class--to accept freethinking ideas when Greek rationalism
at length reached them. After receiving from their Greek neighbours
in Southern Italy, in the pre-historic period, the germs of higher
culture, in particular the alphabet, they rather retrograded than
progressed for centuries, the very alphabet degenerating for lack
of literary activity [762] in the absence of any culture class, and
under the one-idea'd rule of the landowning aristocracy, whose bent
to military aggression was correlative to the smallness of the Roman
facilities for commerce. In the earlier ages nearly everything in
the nature of written lore was a specialty of a few priests, and was
limited to their purposes, which included some keeping of annals. [763]
The use of writing for purposes of family records seems to have been
the first literary development among the patrician laity. [764]
In the early republican period, however, the same conditions of
relative poverty, militarism, and aristocratic emulation prevented
any development even of the priesthood beyond the rudimentary stage
of a primitive civic function; and the whole of these conditions in
combination kept the Roman Pantheon peculiarly shadowy, and the Roman
mythology abnormally undeveloped.


    The character of the religion of the Romans has been usually
    explained in the old manner, in terms of their particular "genius"
    and lack of genius. On this view the Romans primordially tended
    to do whatever they did--to be slightly religious in one period,
    and highly so in another. Teuffel quite unconsciously reduces
    the theorem to absurdity in two phrases: "As long as the peculiar
    character of the Roman nation remained unaltered" ... (Hist. of
    Roman Lit. ed. Schwabe, Eng. tr. 1900, i, 2): "the peculiar Roman
    character had now come to an end, and for ever" (id. p. 123). By
    no writer has the subject been more unphilosophically treated than
    by Mommsen, whose chapter on Roman religion (vol. i, ch. xii) is
    an insoluble series of contradictions. (See the present writer's
    Christianity and Mythology, pp. 115-17.) M. Boissier contradicts
    himself hardly less strangely, alternately pronouncing the Latin
    religion timid and confident, prostrate and dignified (La religion
    romaine d'Auguste aux Antonins, 4e édit. i, 7, 8, 26, 28). Both
    writers ascribe every characteristic of Roman religion to the
    character of "the Romans" in the lump--a method which excludes
    any orderly conception. It must be abandoned if there is to be
    any true comprehension of the subject.

    Other verdicts of this kind by Ihne, Jevons, and others, will no
    better bear examination. (See Christianity and Mythology, pt. i,
    ch. iii, § 3.) Dr. Warde Fowler, the latest English specialist
    to handle the question, confidently supports the strange thesis
    (dating from Schwartz) that the multitude of deities and daimons
    of the early Latins were never thought of as personal, or as
    possessing sex, until Greek mythology and sculpture set the
    fashion of such conceptions, whereupon "this later and foreign
    notion of divinity so completely took possession of the minds of
    the Romans of the cosmopolitan city that Varro is the only writer
    who has preserved the tradition of the older way of thinking"
    (The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911, p. 147). That
    is to say, the conception of the Gods in the imageless period was
    an "older way of thinking," in which deities called by male and
    female names, and often addressed as Pater and Mater, were not
    really thought of as anthropomorphic at all! How the early Romans
    conceived their non-imaged deities Dr. Fowler naturally does not
    attempt to suggest. We get merely the unreasoned and unexplained
    negative formula that "we may take it as certain that even the
    greater deities of the calendar, Janus, Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus,
    and Vesta, were not thought of as existing in any sense in human
    form, nor as personal beings having any human characteristics. The
    early Romans were destitute of mythological fancy...."

    Either, then, the early Romans were psychologically alien to
    every other primitive or barbaric people, as known to modern
    anthropology, or, by parity of reasoning, all anthropomorphism
    is the spontaneous creation of sculptors, who had no ground
    whatever in previous psychosis for making images of Gods. The
    Greeks, on this view, had no anthropomorphic notion of their
    deities until suddenly sculptors began to make images of them,
    whereupon everybody promptly and obediently anthropomorphized!

    The way out of this hopeless theorem is indicated for Dr. Fowler
    by his own repeated observation that the Roman jus divinum, in
    which he finds so little sign of normal "mythological fancy,"
    represented the deliberately restrictive action of an official
    priesthood for whom all religio was a kind of State magic or
    "medicine." He expressly insists (p. 24) on "the wonderful work
    done by the early authorities from the State in eliminating from
    their rule of worship (jus divinum) almost all that was magical,
    barbarous, or, as later Romans would have called it, superstitious"
    (Lect. ii, p. 24; cp. Lect. iii.). He even inclines to the view
    that the patrician religion "was really the religion of an
    invading race, like that of the Achæans in Greece, engrafted
    on the religion of a primitive and less civilized population"
    (pp. viii, 23). This thesis is not necessary to the rebuttal of
    his previous negation; but it obviously resists it, unless we are
    to make the word "Roman" apply only to patricians. An invading
    tribe might, in the case of Rome as in that of the Homeric Greeks,
    abandon ordinary and localized primitive beliefs which it had held
    in its previous home, and thereafter be officially reluctant to
    recognize the local superstitions of its conquered plebs.

    But the Roman case can be understood without assuming any
    continuity of racial divergence. Livy shows us that the Latin
    peasantry were, if possible, more given to superstitious fears and
    panics than any other, constantly reporting portents and prodigia
    which called for State ritual, and embarrassing military policy by
    their apprehensions. A patrician priesthood, concerned above all
    things for public polity, would in such circumstances naturally
    seek to minimize the personal side of the popular mythology,
    treating all orders of divinity as mere classes of powers to be
    appeased. The fact (id. p. 29) that among the early Romans, as
    among other primitives, women were rigidly excluded from certain
    sacra points to a further ground for keeping out of official
    sight the sex life of the Gods. But the very ritual formula of
    the Fratres Arvales, Sive deus sive dea (p. 149), proves that the
    deities were habitually thought of as personal, and male or female.

    Dr. Fowler alternately and inconsistently argues that the
    "vulgar mind was ready to think of God-couples" (p. 152), and
    that the conjunctions of masculine and feminine names in the
    Roman Pantheon "do not represent popular ideas of the deities,
    but ritualistic forms of invocation" (p. 153). The answer is that
    the popular mind is the matrix of mythology, and that if a State
    ritual given to minimizing mythology recognized a given habit
    of myth-making it was presumably abundant outside. In short,
    the whole academic process of reducing early Roman religion to
    something unparalleled in anthropology is as ill-founded in the
    data as it is repugnant to scientific thought.

    The differentiation of Greek and Roman religion is to be explained
    by the culture-history of the two peoples; and that, in turn,
    was determined by their geographical situation and their special
    contacts. Roman life was made systematically agricultural and
    militarist by its initial circumstances, where Greek life in
    civilized Asia Minor became industrial, artistic, and literary. The
    special "genius" of Homer, or of various members of an order of
    bards developed by early colonial-feudal Grecian conditions, would
    indeed count for much by giving permanent artistic definiteness
    of form to the Greek Gods, where the early Romans, leaving all
    the vocal arts mainly to the conservative care of their women
    and children as something beneath adult male notice, missed the
    utilization of poetic genius among them till they were long past
    the period of romantic simplicity (cp. Mommsen, bk. i, ch. 15;
    Eng. tr. 1894, vol. i, pp. 285-300). Hence the comparative
    abstractness of their unsung Gods (cp. Schwegler, Römische
    Geschichte, i, 225-28, and refs.; Boissier, La religion romaine,
    as cited, i, 8), and the absence of such a literary mythology as
    was evolved and preserved in Greece by local patriotisms under
    the stimulus of the great epopees and tragedies. The doctrine that
    "the Italian is deficient in the passion of the heart," and that
    therefore "Italian" literature has "never produced a true epos
    or a genuine drama" (Mommsen, ch. 15, vol. i, p. 284), is one of
    a thousand samples of the fallacy of explaining a phenomenon in
    terms of itself. Teuffel with equal futility affirms the contrary:
    "Of the various kinds of poetry, dramatic poetry seems after all
    to be most in conformity with the character of the Roman people"
    (as cited, p. 3; cp. p. 28 as to the epos). On the same verbalist
    method, Mommsen decides as to the Etruscan religion that "the
    mysticism and barbarism of their worship had their foundation
    in the essential character of the Etruscan people" (ch. 12,
    p. 232). Schwegler gives a more objective view of the facts, but,
    like other German writers whom he cites, errs in speaking of early
    deities like Picus as "only aspects of Mars," not realizing that
    Mars is merely the surviving or developed deity of that type. He
    also commits the conventional error of supposing that the early
    Roman religion is fundamentally monotheistic or pantheistic,
    because the multitudinous "abstract" deities are "only" aspects
    of the general force of Nature. The notion that the Romans did
    not anthropomorphize their deities like all other peoples is a
    surprising fallacy.


Thus when Rome, advancing in the career of conquest, had developed
a large aristocratic class, living a city life, with leisure for
intellectual interests, and had come in continuous contact with
the conquered Grecian cities of Southern Italy, its educated men
underwent a literary and a rationalistic influence at the same time,
and were the more ready to give up all practical belief in their
own slightly-defined Gods when they found Greeks explaining away
theirs. Here we see once more the primary historic process by which
men are led to realize the ill-founded character of their hereditary
creeds: the perception is indirectly set up by the reflective
recognition of the creeds of others, and all the more readily when the
others give a critical lead. Indeed, Greek rationalism was already old
when the Romans began to develop a written and artistic literature: it
had even taken on the popular form given to it by Evêmeros a century
before the Romans took it up. Doubtless there was skepticism among
the latter before Ennius: such a piece of religious procedure as the
invention of a God of Silver (Argentinus), son of the God of Copper
(Æsculanus), on the introduction of a silver currency, 269 B.C.,
must have been smiled at by the more intelligent. [765]


    Mommsen states (ii, 70) that at this epoch the Romans kept
    "equally aloof from superstition and unbelief," but this is
    inaccurate on both sides. The narrative of Livy exhibits among
    the people a boundless and habitual superstition. The records
    of absurd prodigies of every sort so throng his pages that he
    himself repeatedly ventures to make light of them. Talking oxen,
    skies on fire, showers of flesh, crows and mice eating gold, rivers
    flowing blood, showers of milk--such were the reports chronically
    made to the Roman government by its pious subjects, and followed
    by anxious religious ceremonies at Rome (cp. Livy, iii, 5, 10; x,
    27; xi, 28-35; xxiv, 44; xxvii, 4, 11, 23, etc., etc. In the index
    to Drakenborch's Livy there are over five columns of references
    to prodigia). On the other hand, though superstition was certainly
    the rule, there are traces of rationalism. On the next page after
    that cited, Mommsen himself admits that the faith of the people had
    already been shaken by the interference allowed to the priestly
    colleges in political matters; and in another chapter (bk. ii,
    ch. 13; vol. ii, 112) he recalls that a consul of the Claudian
    gens had jested openly at the auspices in the first Punic war,
    249 B.C. The story is told by Cicero, De natura Deorum, ii, 3,
    and Suetonius, Tiberius, c. 2. The sacred poultry, on being let
    out of their coop on board ship, would not feed, so that the
    auspices could not be taken; whereupon the consul caused them to
    be thrown into the water, etiam per jocum Deos inridens, saying
    they might drink if they would not eat. His colleague Junius in
    the same war also disregarded the auspices; and in both cases,
    according to Balbus the Stoic in Cicero's treatise, the Roman
    fleets were duly defeated; whereupon Claudius was condemned by
    the people, and Junius committed suicide. Cp. Valerius Maximus,
    l. i, c. iv, § 3.

    Such stories would fortify the age-long superstition as to auspices
    and omens, which was in full force among Greek commanders as late
    as Xenophon, when many cultured Greeks were rationalists. But it
    was mainly a matter of routine, in a sphere where freethought
    is slow to penetrate. There was probably no thought of jesting
    when, in the year 193 B.C., after men had grown weary alike of
    earthquakes and of the religious services prescribed on account
    of them; and after the consuls had been worn out by sacrifices and
    expiations, it was decreed that "if on any day a service had been
    arranged for a reported earthquake, no one should report another
    on that day" (Livy, xxxiv, 55). Cato, who would never have dreamt
    of departing from a Roman custom, was the author of the saying
    (Cicero, De Div. ii, 24) that haruspices might well laugh in each
    other's faces. He had in view the Etruscan practice, being able to
    see the folly of that, though not of his own. Cp. Mommsen, iii,
    116. As to the Etruscan origin of the haruspices, in distinction
    from the augurs, see Schwegler, i, 276, 277; Ihne, Eng. ed. i,
    82-83, note; and O. Müller as there cited.


But it is with the translation of the Sacred History of Evêmeros
by Ennius, about 200 B.C., that the literary history of Roman
freethought begins. In view of the position of Ennius as a teacher
of Greek and belles lettres (he being of Greek descent, and born
in Calabria), it cannot be supposed that he would openly translate
an anti-religious treatise without the general acquiescence of his
aristocratic patrons. Cicero says of him that he "followed" as well
as translated Evêmeros; [766] and his favourite Greek dramatists
were the freethinking Euripides and Epicharmos, from both of whom
he translated. [767] The popular superstitions, in particular those
of soothsaying and divination, he sharply attacked. [768] If his
patrons all the while stood obstinately to the traditional usages
of official augury and ritual, it was in the spirit of political
conservatism that belonged to their class and their civic ideal,
and on the principle that religion was necessary for the control of
the multitude. In Etruria, where the old culture had run largely
to mysticism and soothsaying on quasi-oriental lines, the Roman
government took care to encourage it, by securing the theological
monopoly of the upper-class families, [769] and thus set up a standing
hot-bed of superstition. In the same spirit they adopted from time
to time popular cults from Greece, that of the Phrygian Mother of the
Gods being introduced in the year 204 B.C. The attempt (186 B.C.) to
suppress the Bacchic mysteries, of which a distorted and extravagant
account [770] is given by Livy, was made on grounds of policy and
not of religion; and even if the majority of the senate had not been
disposed to encourage the popular appetite for emotional foreign
worships, the multitude of their own accord would have introduced
the latter, in resentment of the exclusiveness of the patricians in
keeping the old domestic and national cults in their own hands. [771]
As now eastern conquests multiplied the number of foreign slaves
and residents in Rome, the foreign worships multiplied with them;
and with the worships came such forms of freethought as then existed
in Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. In resistance to these, as to the
orgiastic worships, political and religious conservatism for a time
combined. In 173 B.C. the Greek Epicurean philosophers Alkaios and
Philiskos were banished from the city, [772] a step which was sure to
increase the interest in Epicureanism. Twelve years later the Catonic
party carried a curt decree in the Senate against the Greek rhetors,
[773] uti Romae ne essent; and in 155 the interest aroused by Carneades
and the other Athenian ambassadors led to their being suddenly
sent home, on Cato's urging. [774] It seems certain that Carneades
made converts to skepticism, among them being the illustrious Scipio
Æmilianus. [775] In the sequel the Greeks multiplied, especially after
the fall of Macedonia, [776] and in the year 92 we find the censors
vetoing the practices of the Latin rhetors as an unpleasing novelty,
[777] thus leaving the Greeks in possession of the field. [778] But,
the general social tendency being downwards, it was only a question of
time when the rationalism should be overgrown by the superstition. In
137 there had been another vain edict against the foreign soothsayers
and the worshippers of Sabazius; [779] but it was such cults that
were to persist, while the old Roman religion passed away, [780]
save insofar as it had a non-literary survival among the peasantry.



§ 2

While self-government lasted, rationalism among the cultured classes
was fairly common. The great poem of Lucretius, On the Nature of
Things, with its enthusiastic exposition of the doctrine of Epicurus,
remains to show to what a height of sincerity and ardour a Roman
freethinker could rise. No Greek utterance that has come down to us
makes so direct and forceful an attack as his on religion as a social
institution. He is practically the first systematic freethinking
propagandist; so full is he of his purpose that after his stately
prologue to alma Venus, who is for him but a personification of the
genetic forces of Nature, he plunges straight into his impeachment of
religion as a foul tyranny from which thinking men were first freed
by Epicurus. The sonorous verse vibrates with an indignation such as
Shelley's in Queen Mab: religion is figured as horribili super aspectu
mortalibus instans; a little further on its deeds are denounced as
scelerosa atque impia, "wicked and impious," the religious term being
thus turned against itself; and a moving picture of the sacrifice of
Iphigeneia justifies the whole. "To so much of evil could religion
persuade." It is with a bitter consciousness of the fatal hold of the
hated thing on most men's ignorant imagination that he goes on to speak
of the fears [781] so assiduously wrought upon by the vates, and to
set up with strenuous speed the vividly-imagined system of Epicurean
science by which he seeks to fortify his friend against them. That
no thing comes from nothing, or lapses into nothing; that matter is
eternal; that all things proceed "without the Gods" by unchanging law,
are his insistent themes; and for nigh two thousand years a religious
world has listened with a reluctant respect. His influence is admitted
to have been higher and nobler than that of the religion he assailed.


    "Lucretius was the first not only to reveal a new power, beauty,
    and mystery in the world, but also to communicate to poetry a
    speculative impulse, opening up, with a more impassioned appeal
    than philosophy can do, the great questions underlying human
    life--such as the truth of all religious tradition, the position
    of man in the universe, and the attitude of mind and course of
    conduct demanded by that position." (Sellar, Roman Poets of the
    Republic: Virgil, 1877, p. 199.)

    "In the eyes of Lucretius all worship seemed prompted by fear
    and based on ignorance of natural law.... But it is nevertheless
    true that Lucretius was a great religious poet. He was a prophet,
    in deadly earnest, calling men to renounce their errors both of
    thought and conduct.... We may be certain that he was absolutely
    convinced of the truth of all that he wrote." (W. Warde Fowler,
    Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero, 1909, pp. 327-28.)


And yet throughout the whole powerful poem we have testimony to the
pupillary character of Roman thought in relation to Grecian. However
much the earnest student may outgo his masters in emphasis and zeal of
utterance, he never transcends the original irrationality of asserting
that "the Gods" exist; albeit it is their glory to do nothing. It is
in picturing their ineffable peace that he reaches some of his finest
strains of song, [782] though in the next breath he repudiates every
idea of their control of things cosmic or human. He swears by their
sacred breasts, proh sancta deum pectora, and their life of tranquil
joy, when he would express most vehemently his scorn of the thought
that it can be they who hurl the lightnings which haply destroy their
own temples and strike down alike the just and the unjust. It is a
survival of a quite primitive conception of deity, [783] alongside
of an advanced anti-religious criticism.

The explanation of the anomaly seems to be twofold. In the first
place, Roman thought had not lived long enough--it never did live
long enough--to stand confidently on its own feet and criticize
its Greek teachers. In Cicero's treatise On the Nature of the Gods,
the Epicurean and the Stoic in turn retail their doctrine as they
had it from their school, the Epicurean affirming the existence
and the inaction of the Gods with equal confidence, and repeating
without a misgiving the formula about the Gods having not bodies
but quasi-bodies, with not blood but quasi-blood; the Stoic, who
stands by most of the old superstitions, professing to have his
philosophical reasons for them. Each sectarian derides the beliefs
of the other; neither can criticize his own creed. It would seem
as if in the habitually militarist society, even when it turns to
philosophy, there must prevail a militarist ethic and psychosis in the
intellectual life, each man choosing a flag or a leader and fighting
through thick and thin on that side henceforth. On the other hand,
the argumentation of the high-priest Cotta in the dialogue turns to
similar purpose the kindred principle of civic tradition. He argues
in turn against the Epicurean's science and the Stoic's superstition,
contesting alike the claim that the Gods are indifferent and the
claim that they govern; and in the end he brazenly affirms that,
while he sees no sound philosophic argument for religious beliefs and
practices, he thinks it is justifiable to maintain them on the score
of prescription or ancestral example. Here we have the senatorial
or conservative principle, [784] availing itself of the skeptical
dialectic of Carneades. In terms of that ideal, which prevailed alike
with believers and indifferentists, [785] and mediated between such
rival schools as the Epicurean and Stoic, we may partly explain the
Epicurean theorem itself. For the rest, it is to be understood as an
outcome partly of surviving sentiment and partly of forced compromise
in the case of its Greek framers, and of the habit of partizan loyalty
in the case of its Roman adherents.

In the arguments of Cotta, the unbelieving high-priest, we presumably
have the doctrine of Cicero himself, [786] who in the Academica avows
his admiration of Carneades's reasoning, and in the De Divinatione
follows it, but was anchored by officialism to State usage. With
his vacillating character, his forensic habit, and his genius for
mere speech, he could not but betray his own lack of intellectual
conviction; and such weakness as his found its natural support in
the principle of use and wont, the practice and tradition of the
commonwealth. On that footing he had it in him to boast like any
pedigreed patrician of the historic religiousness of Rome, he himself
the while being devoid of all confident religious belief. His rhetoric
on the subject can hardly be otherwise estimated than as sheer hustings
hypocrisy. Doubtless he gave philosophic colour to his practice by
noting the hopeless conflict of the creeds of the positive sects,
very much as in our own day conservative dialectic finds a ground for
religious conformity in the miscarriages of the men of science. [787]
But Cicero does not seem even to have had a religious sentiment to
cover the nakedness of his political opportunism. Not only does he in
the Tusculan Disputations put aside in the Platonic fashion all the
Homeric tales which anthropomorphize and discredit the Gods; [788]
but in his treatise On Divination he shows an absolute disbelief in
all the recognized practices, including the augury which he himself
officially practised; and his sole excuse is that they are to be
retained "on account of popular opinion and of their great public
utility." [789] As to prodigies, he puts in germ the argument later
made famous by Hume: either the thing could happen (in the course of
nature) or it could not; if it could not, the story is false; if it
could, non esse mirandum--there is no miracle. [790] In his countless
private letters, again, he shows not a trace of religious feeling,
[791] or even of interest in the questions which in his treatises
he declares to be of the first importance. [792] Even the doctrine
of immortality, to which he repeatedly returns, seems to have been
for him, as for so many Christians since, only a forensic theme,
never a source of the private consolation he ascribed to it. [793]
In Cicero's case, in fine, we reach the conclusion that either the
noted inconstancy of his character pervaded all his thinking, or
that his gift for mere utterance, and his demoralizing career as an
advocate, overbore in him all sincere reflection. But, indeed, the
practical subversion of all rational ethic in the public life of late
republican Rome, wherein men claimed to be free and self-governing,
yet lived by oppressing the rest of the world, was on all hands fatal
to the moral rectitude which inspires a critical philosophy.


    Modern scholarship still clings to the long-established view that
    Cicero was practically right, and that Lucretius was practically
    wrong. Augustus, says Dr. Warde Fowler, was fortunate in finding
    in Virgil "one who was in some sense a prophet as well as a poet,
    who could urge the Roman by an imaginative example to return
    to a living pietas--not merely to the old religious forms,
    but to the intelligent sense of duty to God and man which
    had built up his character and his empire. In Cicero's day
    there was also a great poet, he too in some sense a prophet;
    but Lucretius could only appeal to the Roman to shake off the
    slough of his old religion, and such an appeal was at the time
    both futile and dangerous. Looking at the matter historically,
    and not theologically, we ought to sympathize with the attitude
    of Cicero and Scaevola towards the religion of the State. It was
    based on a statesmanlike instinct; and had it been possible for
    that instinct to express itself practically in a positive policy
    like that of Augustus, it is quite possible that much mischief
    might have been averted" (Social Life at Rome, pp. 325-26).

    It is necessary to point out (1) that the early Roman's "sense of
    duty to God and man" was never of a kind that could fitly be termed
    "intelligent"; and (2) that it was his character that made his
    creed, and not his creed his character, though creed once formed
    reacts on conduct. Further, it may be permitted to suggest that
    we might consider historical problems morally, and to deprecate
    the academic view that "statesmanship" is something necessarily
    divorced from veracity. The imperfect appeal of Lucretius to the
    spirit of truth in an ignorant and piratical community, living
    an increasingly parasitic life, was certainly "futile"; but it is
    a strange sociology that sees in it something "dangerous," while
    regarding the life of perpetual conquest and plunder as a matter
    of course, and the practice of systematic deceit as wholesome.

    The summary of the situation is that Cicero's policy of religious
    make-believe could no more have "saved" Rome than Plato's could
    have saved Athens, or than that of Augustus did save the empire. It
    went downhill about as steadily after as before him; and it
    continued to do so under Christianity as under paganism. The
    decline was absolutely involved in the policy of universal
    conquest; and neither creeds nor criticism of creeds could have
    "averted" the result while the cause subsisted. But there is
    something gratuitously anti-rational in the thesis that such
    a decay might have been prevented by a politic manipulation
    of beliefs known to be false, and that some regeneration
    was really worked in Rome by the tale of pious Æneas. In his
    Religious Experience of the Roman People (1911) Dr. Fowler is
    more circumspect.


In the upper-class Rome of Cicero's day his type seems to have been
predominant, [794] the women alone being in the mass orthodox, [795]
and in their case the tendency was to add new superstitions to the
old. Among public men there subsisted a clear understanding that public
religion should continue for reasons of State. When we find an eminent
politician like the elder M. Æmilius Scaurus prosecuted in the year 103
B.C. on a charge of neglecting certain religious ceremonies connected
with his offices, we know that there had been neither conscientious
abstention on his part nor sincere religious resentment on the other
side, but merely a resort by political enemies, after Greek precedent,
to a popular means of blackening an antagonist; for the same Scaurus,
who was a member of the college of augurs, had actually rebuilt or
restored the temple of Fides, said to have been founded by Numa, and
that of Mens (Prudence), which had been set up after the great defeat
of the Romans at the Trasimene lake; [796] the early and the late
procedure alike illustrating the political and pragmatic character
of the State religion. [797] In the supreme figure of Julius Cæsar
we see the Roman brain at its strongest; and neither his avowed
unbelief in the already popular doctrine of immortality, [798] nor
his repeatedly expressed contempt for the auspices, [799] withheld
him from holding and fulfilling the function of high pontiff. The
process of skepticism had been rapid among the men of action. The
illiterate Marius carried about with him a Syrian prophetess; of
Sulla, who unhesitatingly plundered the temple of Delphi, it was
said that he carried a small figure of Apollo as an amulet; [800]
of Cæsar, unless insofar as it may be true that in his last years,
like Napoleon, he grew to believe in omens as his powers failed,
under the stress of perpetual conflict, [801] it cannot be pretended
that he was aught but a convinced freethinker. [802] The greatest and
most intellectual man of action in the ancient world had no part in
the faith which was supposed to have determined the success of the
most powerful of all the ancient nations.


    Dean Merivale, noting that Cæsar "professed without reserve
    the principles of the unbelievers," observes that, "freethinker
    as he was, he could not escape from the universal thraldom of
    superstition in which his contemporaries were held" (Hist. of
    the Romans under the Empire, ed. 1865, ii, 424). The reproach,
    from a priest, is piquant, but misleading. All the stories
    on which it is founded apply to the last two or three years
    of Cæsar's life; and supposing them to be all true, which is
    very doubtful, they would but prove what has been suggested
    above--that the overstrained soldier, rising to the dizzy height
    of a tremendous career, partly lost his mental balance, like so
    many another. (Cp. Mackail, Latin Literature, 1895, p. 80.) Such
    is the bearing of the doubtful story (Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxviii,
    2) that after the breaking down of a chariot (presumably the
    casualty which took place in his fourfold triumph; see Dio
    Cassius, xlviii, 21) he never mounted another without muttering
    a charm. M. Boissier (i, 70) makes the statement of Pliny apply
    to Cæsar's whole life; but although Pliny gives no particulars,
    even Dean Merivale (p. 372) connects it with the accident in the
    triumph. To the same time belongs the less challengeable record
    (Dio Cassius, lx, 23) of his climbing on his knees up the steps of
    the Capitol to propitiate Nemesis. The very questionable legend,
    applied so often to other captains, of his saying, I have thee,
    Africa, when he stumbled on landing (Sueton. Jul. 59), is a
    proof not of superstition but of presence of mind in checking
    the superstitious fears of the troops, and was so understood by
    Suetonius; as was the rather flimsy story of his taking with him
    in Africa a man nicknamed Salutio (Sueton. ibid.) to neutralize the
    luck of the opposing Cornelii. The whole turn given to the details
    by the clerical historian is arbitrary and unjudicial. Nor is he
    accurate in saying that Cæsar "denied the Gods" in the Senate. He
    actually swore by them, per Deos immortales, in the next sentence
    to that in which he denied a future state. The assertion of
    the historian (p. 423), that in denying the immortality of the
    soul Cæsar denied "the recognized foundation of all religion,"
    is a no less surprising error. The doctrine never had been so
    recognized in ancient Rome. A Christian ecclesiastic might have
    been expected to remember that the Jewish religion, believed by
    him to be divine, was devoid of the "recognized foundation" in
    question, and that the canonical book of Ecclesiastes expressly
    discards it. Of course Cæsar offered sacrifices to Gods in whom
    he did not believe. That was the habitual procedure of his age.



§ 3

It is significant that the decay of rationalism in Rome begins and
proceeds with the Empire. Augustus, whose chosen name was sacerdotal
in its character, [803] made it part of his policy to restore as far
as possible the ancient cults, many of which had fallen into extreme
neglect, between the indifference of the aristocratic class [804]
and the devotion of the populace, itself so largely alien, to the
more attractive worships introduced from Egypt and the East. That
he was himself a habitually superstitious man seems certain; [805]
but even had he not been, his policy would have been natural from the
Roman point of view. A historian of two centuries later puts in the
mouth of Mæcenas an imagined counsel to the young emperor to venerate
and enforce the national religion, to exclude and persecute foreign
cults, to put down alike atheism and magic, to control divination
officially, and to keep an eye on the philosophers. [806] What
the empire sought above all things was stability; and a regimen of
religion, under imperial control, seemed one of the likeliest ways
to keep the people docile. Julius himself had seemed to plan such a
policy, [807] though he also planned to establish public libraries,
[808] which would hardly have promoted faith among the educated.

Augustus, however, aimed at encouraging public religion of every
description, repairing or rebuilding eighty-two temples at Rome
alone, giving them rich gifts, restoring old festivals and ceremonies,
reinstituting priestly colleges, encouraging special foreign worships,
and setting up new civic cults; himself playing high pontiff and
joining each new priesthood, to the end of making his power and
prestige so far identical with theirs; [809] in brief, anticipating
the later ruling principle of the Church of Rome. The natural upshot
of the whole process was the imperial apotheosis, or raising of each
emperor to Godhead at death. The usage of deifying living rulers was
long before common in Egypt and the east, [810] and had been adopted
by the conquering Spartan Lysander in Asia Minor as readily as by the
conquering Alexander. Julius Cæsar seems to have put it aside as a
nauseous flattery; [811] but Augustus wrought it into his policy. It
was the consummation at once of the old political conception of
religion and of the new autocracy.

In a society so managed, all hope of return to self-government having
ceased, the level of thought sank accordingly. There was practically
no more active freethought. Livy, indeed, speaks so often of the
contempt shown in his own day for tales of prodigies, and of what
he calls contempt for the Gods, [812] that there can be no question
of the lack of religion among the upper classes at the beginning
of the empire. But even in Livy's day unbelief had ceased to go
beyond a shrugging of the shoulders. Horace, with his credat Judæus
Apella, and his frank rejection of the fear of the Deos tristes,
[813] was no believer, but he was not one to cross the emperor,
[814] and he was ready to lend himself to the official policy of
religion. [815] Ovid could satirize [816] the dishonest merchant who
prayed to the Gods to absolve his frauds; but he hailed Augustus as
the sacred founder and restorer of temples, [817] prayed for him as
such, busied himself with the archæology of the cults, and made it,
not quite without irony, a maxim to "spare an accepted belief." [818]
Virgil, at heart a pantheist with rationalistic leanings, [819] but
sadly divided between Lucretius and Augustus, his poetical and his
political masters, [820] tells all the transition from the would-be
scientific to the newly-credulous age in the two wistful lines:--


      Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas ...
      Fortunatus et ille, Deos qui novit agrestes [821]


--"happy he who has been able to learn the causes of things;
fortunate also he who has known the rural Gods." The Gods, rural
and other, entered on their due heritage in a world of decadence;
Virgil's epic is a religious celebration of antiquity; and Livy's
history is written in the credulous spirit, or at least in the tone,
of an older time, with a few concessions to recent common sense. [822]
In the next generation Seneca's monotheistic aversion to the popular
superstitions is the high-water mark of the period, and represents
the elevating power of the higher Greek Stoicism. On this score he
belongs to the freethinking age, while his theistic apriorism belongs
to the next. [823] All the while his principle of conformity to all
legal observances [824] leaves him powerless to modify the environment.

As the empire proceeds, the echoes of the old freethought become
fewer and fewer. It is an entire misconception to suppose that
Christianity came into the Roman world as a saving counter-force to
licentious unbelief. Unbelief had in large part disappeared before
Christianity made any headway; and that creed came as one of many
popular cults, succeeding in terms of its various adaptations to
the special conditions, moral and economic. It was easy for the
populace of the empire to deify a ruler: as easy as for those of
the East to deify Jesus; or for the early Romans to deify Romulus;
at Rome it was the people, now so largely of alien stock, who had
most insisted on deifying Cæsar. [825] But the upper class soon kept
pace with them in the zest for religion. In the first century, the
elder Pliny recalls the spirit of Lucretius by the indignant eloquence
with which he protests against the burdensome belief in immortality;
[826] and the emphasis with which he scouts alike the polytheism of
the multitude, the universal worship of Fortune, and the idea that
man can know the infinite divinity which is the universe; [827]
but, though Seneca and others reject the fear of future torment,
Pliny is the last writer to repudiate with energy the idea of a
future state. [828] A number of epitaphs still chime with his view;
but already the majority are on the other side; [829] and the fear of
hell was normally as active as the hope of heaven; while the belief
in an approaching end of the world was proportionally as common as it
was later under Christianity. [830] And though Pliny, discussing the
bases of magic, of which he recognized the fraudulence, ranks among
them the influences of religion, as to which he declared mankind
to be still in extreme darkness, [831] we have seen how he in turn,
on theistic grounds, frowned upon Hipparchos for daring to number the
stars. [832] Thus, whatever may be the truth as to the persecutions of
the Christians in the first two centuries of the empire, the motive
was in all cases certainly political or moral, as in the earlier
case of the Bacchic mysteries, not rationalistic hostility to its
doctrines as apart from Christian attacks on the established worships.

Some unbelievers there doubtless were after Petronius, whose perdurable
maxim that "Fear first made Gods in the world," [833] adopted in
the next generation by Statius, [834] was too pregnant with truth
to miss all acceptance among thinking men. The fact that Statius in
his verse ranked Domitian with the Gods made its truth none the less
pointed. The Alexandrian rationalist Chaeremon, who had been appointed
one of the tutors of Nero, had explained the Egyptian religion as
a mere allegorizing of the physical order of the universe. [835]
It has been remarked too that in the next century the appointment of
the freethinking Greek Lucian by Marcus Aurelius to a post of high
authority in Egypt showed that his writings gave no great offence
at court, [836] where, indeed, save under the two great Antonines,
religious seriousness was rare. These, however, were the exceptions:
the whole cast of mind developed under the autocracy, whether in the
good or in the bad, made for belief and acquiescence or superstition
rather than for searching doubt and sustained reasoning.


    The statement of Mosheim or of his commentators (Eccles. Hist. 1
    Cent. Pt. I, ch. i, § 21, note; Murdock's trans. Reid's ed.) that
    Juvenal (Sat. xiii, 86) "complains of the many atheists at Rome" is
    a perversion of the passage cited. Juvenal's allusion to those who
    put all things down to fortune and deny a moral government of the
    world begins with the phrase "sunt qui," "there are (those) who";
    he makes far more account of the many superstitious, and never
    suggests that the atheists are numerous in his day. Neither does he
    "complain"; on the contrary, his allusion to the atheists as such
    is non-condemnatory as compared with his attacks on pious rogues,
    and is thus part of the ground for holding that he was himself
    something of a freethinker--one of the last among the literary
    men. In the tenth Satire (346 sqq.) he puts the slightly theistic
    doctrine, sometimes highly praised (ed. Ruperti, 1817, in loc.),
    that men should not pray for anything, but leave the decision to
    the Gods, to whom man is dearer than to himself. There too occurs
    the famous doctrine (356) that if anything is to be prayed for it
    should be the mens sana in corpore sano, and the strong soul void
    of the fear of death. The accompanying phrase about offering "the
    intestines and the sacred sausages of a whitish pig" is flatly
    contemptuous of religious ceremonial; and the closing lines,
    placing the source of virtue and happiness within, are strictly
    naturalistic. In the two last:--


        Nullum numen habes, si sit prudentia; nos [or sed] te
        Nos facimus, Fortuna, Deam, coeloque locamus,


    the frequent reading abest for habes seems to make the better
    sense: "No divinity is wanting, if there be prudence; but it
    is we, O fortune, who make thee a Goddess, and throne thee in
    heaven." In any case, the insistence is on man's lordship of
    himself. (The phrase occurs again in Sat. xiv, 315.) But the
    worship of Fortune--which Pliny declares to be the prevailing
    faith of his day (Hist. Nat. II, v (vii), 7)--was itself a cult
    like another, with temples and ritual; and the astrology which, he
    adds, is beginning to supersede Fortune-worship among the learned
    and the ignorant alike, was but a reversion to an older Eastern
    religion. His own preference is for sun-worship, if any; but he
    falls back on the conviction that the power of God is limited,
    and that God is thus seen to be simply Nature (id. 8).

    The erroneous notion that the Roman aristocracy ran mainly to
    atheism was widely propagated by Voltaire, who made it part
    of his argument against the atheism of his own day (Jenni;
    art. Athéisme, in the Dict. Philos., etc.). It will not bear
    examination. As regards the general tone of Roman literature
    from the first century onwards, the summing-up of Renan is
    substantially just: "The freethinkers ... diminish little by
    little, and disappear.... Juvenal alone continues in Roman
    society, down to the time of Hadrian, the expression of a frank
    incredulity.... Science dies out from day to day. From the death
    of Seneca, it may be said that there is no longer a thoroughly
    rationalistic scholar. Pliny the Elder is inquisitive, but
    uncritical. Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, avoid commenting
    on the inanity of the most ridiculous inventions. Pliny the Younger
    (Ep. vii, 27) believes in puerile stories of ghosts; Epictetus
    (xxxi, 5) would have all practise the established worship. Even
    a writer so frivolous as Apuleius feels himself bound to take
    the tone of a rigid conservative about the Gods (Florida, i,
    1; De Magia, 41, 55, 56, 63). A single man, about the middle of
    this century, seems entirely exempt from supernatural beliefs;
    that is Lucian. The scientific spirit, which is the negation of
    the supernatural, exists only in a few; superstition invades all,
    enfeebling all reason" (Les Évangiles, ed. 1877, pp. 406-407).


That the mental paralysis connects causally with the political
conditions will perhaps not now be denied. A censorship of
the written word belongs congenitally to autocracy; and only the
personal magnanimity of Cæsar and the prudence of Augustus delayed its
development in Rome. Soon it became an irresistible terrorism. Even
Cæsar, indeed, so far forgot one of the great rules of his life as
to impeach before the Senate the tribunes who had quite justifiably
prosecuted some of the people who had hailed him as king; [837]
and the fact that the Senate was already slavish enough to eject
them gives the forecast of the future. Augustus long showed a notable
forbearance to all manner of verbal opposition, and even disparagement;
but at length he also began to prosecute for private aspersions,
[838] and even to suppress histories of a too critical stamp. Tiberius
began his reign with the high-pitched sentiment that "in a free State
tongue and mind should be free"; [839] and for a time he bore himself
with an exemplary restraint; but he too, in turn, took the colour
of his place, and became murderously resentful of any semblance of
aspersion on himself. [840] The famous sentiment ascribed to him in
the Annals of Tacitus, Deorum injuriae diis curae [841]--"the Gods'
wrongs are the Gods' business"--is not noted by Suetonius, and has
an un-Roman sound. What Suetonius tells is [842] that he was "very
negligent concerning the Gods and religions," yet addicted to the
astrologers, and a believer in fate. The fact remains that while,
as aforesaid, there must have been still a number of unbelievers,
there is no sign after Lucretius of any Roman propaganda against
religion; and the presumption is that the Augustan policy of promoting
the old cults was extended to the maintenance of the ordinary Roman
view that disrespect to the Gods was a danger to the State. In the
reign of Nero we find trace of a treatise De religionis erroribus
by Fabricius Vejento, [843] wherein was ridiculed the zeal of the
priests to proclaim mysteries which they did not understand; but,
whether or not its author was exiled and the book burnt on their
protest, such literature was not further produced. [844]

There was, in fact, no spirit left for a Lucretian polemic against
false beliefs. Everything in the nature of a searching criticism
of life was menaced by the autocracy; Nero decreeing that no man
should philosophize at Rome, [845] after slaying or banishing
a series of philosophers; [846] Domitian crucifying the very
scribes who copied the work of Hermogenes of Tarsus, in which he was
obliquely criticized. [847] When men in the mass crouched before such
tyranny, helplessly beholding emperor after emperor overtaken by the
madness that accrues to absolute power, they were disabled for any
disinterested warfare on behalf of truth. All serious impeachment of
religion proceeds upon an ethical motive; and in imperial Rome there
was no room for any nobility of ethic save such as upbore the Stoics
in their austere pursuit of self-control, in a world too full of evil
to be delighted in.

Thus it came about that the Cæsars, who would doubtless have protected
their co-operating priesthoods from any serious attack on the official
religion, [848] had practically no occasion to do so. Lucian's jests
were cast at the Gods of Greece, not at those of the Roman official
cults; hence his immunity. What the Cæsars were concerned to do was
rather to menace any alien religion that seemed to undermine the
solidarity of the State; and of such religions, first the Jewish,
and later the Christian, were obvious examples. Thus we have it
that Tiberius "put down foreign religions" (externas ceremonias),
in particular the Egyptian and Judaic rites; pulling down the temple
of Isis, crucifying her priests, expelling from Rome all Jews and
proselytes, and forcing the Jewish youth to undergo military service
in unhealthy climates. [849] Even the astrologers, in whose lore he
believed, he expelled until they promised to renounce their art--a
precedent partly set up by Augustus, [850] and followed with varying
severity by all the emperors, pagan and Christian alike.

And still the old Italian religion waned, as it must. On the one
hand, the Italic population was almost wholly replaced or diluted by
alien stocks, slave or free, with alien cults and customs; on the
other, the utter insincerity of the official cults, punctiliously
conserved by well-paid, unbelieving priests, invited indifference. In
the nature of things, an unchanging creed is moribund; life means
adaptation to change; and it was only the alien cults that in Rome
adapted themselves to the psychic mutation. Among the educated,
who had read their Lucretius, the spectacle of the innumerable cults
of the empire conduced either to entire but tacit unbelief, or to a
species of vaguely rationalistic [851] yet sentimental monotheism,
in which Reason sometimes figured as universal Deity. [852] Among the
uneducated the progression was constant towards one or other of the
emotional and ritualistic oriental faiths, so much better adapted to
their down-trodden life.



§ 4

One element of betterment there was in the life of declining Rome,
until the Roman ideals were superseded by oriental. Even the Augustan
poets, Horace and Ovid, had protested like the Hebrew prophets, and
like Plato and like Cicero, against the idea that rich sacrifices
availed with the Gods above a pure heart; and such doctrine, while
paganism lasted, prevailed more and more. [853] At the same time,
Horace rejects the Judæo-Stoic doctrine, adopted in the gospels,
that all sins are equal, and lays down the rational moral test of
utility--Utilitas justi propè mater et aequi. [854] The better and
more thoughtful men who grew up under the autocracy, though inevitably
feebler and more credulous in their thinking than those of the later
commonwealth, developed at length a concern for conduct, public and
private, which lends dignity to the later philosophic literature,
and lustre to the imperial rule of the Antonines. This concern it
was that, linking Greek theory to Roman practice, produced a code
of rational law which could serve Europe for a thousand years. This
concern too it was, joined with the relatively high moral quality of
their theism, that ennobled the writing of Seneca [855] and Epictetus
and Maximus of Tyre; and irradiates the words as well as the rule
of Marcus Aurelius. In them was anticipated all that was good [856]
in the later Christian ethic, even as the popular faiths anticipated
the Christian dogmas; and they cherished a temper of serenity that
the Fathers fell far short of. To compare their pages with those
of the subsequent Christian Fathers--Seneca with Lactantius, "the
Christian Cicero"; Maximus with Arnobius; Epictetus with Tertullian;
the admirable Marcus, and his ideal of the "dear city of Zeus,"
with the shrill polemic of Augustine's City of God and the hysteria
of the Confessions--is to prove a rapid descent in magnanimity,
sanity, self-command, sweetness of spirit, and tolerance. What
figures as religious intolerance in the Cæsars was, as we have seen,
always a political, never a religious, animosity. Any prosecution of
Christians under the Antonines was certainly on the score of breach
of law, turbulence, or real or supposed malpractices, not on that of
heresy--a crime created only by the Christians themselves, in their
own conflicts.

The scientific account of the repellent characteristics of the Fathers,
of course, is not that their faith made them what they were, but that
the ever-worsening social and intellectual conditions assorted such
types into their ecclesiastical places, and secured for them their
influence over the types now prevailing among the people. They too
stand for the intellectual dissolution wrought by imperialism. When
all the higher forms of intellectual efficiency were at an end, it
was impossible that on any religious impulse whatever there should
be generated either a higher code of life or a saner body of thought
than those of the higher paganism of the past. Their very arguments
against paganism are largely drawn from old "pagan" sources. Those
who still speak of the rise of Christianity in the ancient world as
a process of "regeneration" are merely turning historical science
out of doors. The Christian Fathers had all the opportunity that
a life of quasi-intellectual specialism could supply; and their
liberty of criticism as regarded the moribund pagan creeds was a
further gymnastic; but nothing could countervail the insanity of
their intellectual presuppositions, which they could not transcend.

Inheriting the Judaic hypnotism of the Sacred Book, they could reason
only as do railers; and the moral readjustment which put them in revolt
against the erotic element in pagan mythology was a mere substitution
of an ascetic neurosis for the old disease of imagination. Strictly
speaking, their asceticism, being never rationalized, never rose
to the level of ethic as distinguished from mere taboo or sacrosanct
custom. As we shall see, they could not wholly escape the insurgence of
the spirit of reason; but they collectively scouted it with a success
attained by no other ostensibly educated priesthood of antiquity. They
intellectually represent, in fact, the consummation of the general
Mediterranean decadence.

For the rest, the "triumph" of the new faith was simply the
survival of the forms of thought, and, above all, of the form of
religious community, best fitted to the political and intellectual
environment. The new Church organization was above all things a
great economic endowment for a class of preachers, polemists, and
propagandists; and between the closing of the old spheres of public
life and the opening of the new, [857] the new faith was established
as much by political and economic conditions as by its intellectual
adaptation to an age of mental twilight.

Of the religion of the educated pagans in its last forms, then,
it is finally to be said that it was markedly rationalistic as
compared with the Christianity which followed, and has been on that
ground stigmatized by Christian orthodoxy down till our own day. The
religion of Marcus Aurelius is self-reverence, self-study, self-rule,
plus faith in Deity; and it is not to be gainsaid that, next to his
adoptive father Antoninus Pius, he remains the noblest monarch in
ancient history; the nearest parallel being the more superstitious but
still noble Julian, the last of the great pagan rulers. In such rulers
the antique philosophy was in a measure justified of its children;
and if it never taught them to grapple with the vast sociological
problem set up by the Empire, and so failed to preserve the antique
civilization, it at least did as much for them in that regard as the
new faith did for its followers.



CHAPTER VII

ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY AND ITS OPPONENTS


§ 1

The Christian gospels, broadly considered, stand for a certain
measure of freethinking reaction against the Jewish religion, and are
accordingly to be reckoned with in the present inquiry; albeit their
practical outcome was only an addition to the world's supernaturalism
and traditional dogma. To estimate aright their share of freethought,
we have but to consider the kind and degree of demand they made on the
reason of the ancient listener, as apart, that is, from the demand made
on their basis for the recognition of a new Deity. When this is done it
will be found that they express in parts a process of reflection which
outwent even critical common sense in a kind of ecstatic Stoicism,
an oriental repudiation of the tyranny of passions and appetites; in
other parts a mysticism that proceeds as far beyond the credulity of
ordinary faith. Socially considered, they embody a similar opposition
between an anarchistic and a partly orthodox or regulative ideal. The
plain inference is that they stand for many independent movements
of thought in the Græco-Roman world. It is actually on record that
the reduction of the whole law to love of one's neighbour [858] was
taught before the Christian era by the famous Rabbi Hillel; [859]
and the gospel itself [860] shows that this view was current. In
another passage [861] the reduction of the ten commandments to five
again indicates a not uncommon disregard for the ecclesiastical side
of the law. But the difference between the two passages points of
itself to various forces of relative freethought.

Any attentive study of the gospels discloses not merely much glossing
and piecing and interpolating of documents, but a plain medley
of doctrines, of ideals, of principles; and to accept the mass of
disconnected utterances ascribed to "the Lord," many of them associated
with miracles, as the oral teaching of any one man, is a proceeding
so uncritical that in no other study could it now be followed. The
simple fact that the Pauline Epistles (by whomsoever written) show
no knowledge of any Jesuine miracles or teachings whatever, except
as regards the Last Supper (1 Cor. xi, 24-25--a passage obviously
interpolated), admits of only three possible interpretations: (1)
the Jesus then believed in had not figured as a teacher at all; or
(2) the writer or writers gave no credit or attached no importance to
reports of his teachings. Either of these views (of which the first is
plainly the more plausible) admits of (3) the further conclusion that
the Pauline Jesus was not the Gospel Jesus, but an earlier one--a fair
enough hypothesis; but on that view the mass of Dominical utterances in
the gospels is only so much the less certificated. When, then, it is
admitted by all open-minded students that the events in the narrative
are in many cases fictitious, even when they are not miraculous,
it is wholly inadmissible that the sayings should be trustworthy,
as one man's teachings.

Analysing them in collation, we find even in the Synoptics, and without
taking into account the Fourth Gospel, such wide discrepancies as
the following:--


    1. The doctrine: "the Kingdom of God is among you" (Lk. xvii,
    21), side by side with promises of the speedy arrival of the Son
    of Man, whose coming = the Kingdom of God (cp. Mt. iii, 2, 3;
    iv, 17; Mk. i, 15).

    2. The frequent profession to supersede the Law (Mt. v, 21, 33,
    38, 43, etc.); and the express declaration that not one jot or
    tittle thereof is to be superseded (Mt. v, 17-20).

    3. Proclamation of a gospel for the poor and the enslaved (Lk. iv,
    18); with the tacit acceptance of slavery (Lk. xvii, 7, 9, 10;
    where the word translated "servant" in the A.V., and let pass
    by McClellan, Blackader, and other reforming English critics,
    certainly means "slave").

    4. Stipulation for the simple fulfilment of the Law as a passport
    to eternal life, with or without further self-denial (Mt. xix,
    16-21; Lk. x, 28; xviii, 22); on the other hand a stipulation
    for simple benevolence, as in the Egyptian ritual (Mt. xxv;
    cp. Lk. ix, 48); and yet again stipulations for blind faith
    (Mt. x, 15) and for blood redemption (Mt. xxvi, 28).

    5. Alternate promise (Mt. vi, 33; xix, 29) and denial (Mt. x,
    34-39) of temporal blessings.

    6. Alternate commands to secrecy (Mt. xii, 16; viii, 4; ix, 30;
    Mk. iii, 12; v, 43; vii, 36) and to publicity (Mt. vii, 7-8;
    Mk. v, 19) concerning miracles, with a frequent record of their
    public performance.

    7. Specific restriction of salvation to Israelites (Mt. x, 5, 6;
    xv, 24; xix, 28); equally specific declaration that the Kingdom of
    God shall be to another nation (Mt. xxii, 43); no less specific
    assurance that the Son of Man (not the Twelve as in Mt. xix,
    28) shall judge all nations, not merely Israel (Mt. xxv, 32;
    cp. viii, 11).

    8. Profession to teach all, especially the simple and the childlike
    (Mt. xviii, 3; xi, 25, 28-30; Mk. x, 15); on the contrary, a flat
    declaration (Mt. xiii, 10-16; Mk. iv, 11; Lk. viii, 10; cp. Mk. iv,
    34) that the saving teaching is only for the special disciples;
    yet again (Mt. xv, 16; Mk. vi, 52; viii, 17, 18) imputations of
    lack of understanding to them.

    9. Companionship of the Teacher with "publicans and sinners"
    (Mt. ix, 10); and, on the other hand, a reference to the publicans
    as falling far short of the needed measure of loving-kindness
    (Mt. v, 46).

    10. Explicit contrarieties of phrase, not in context (Mt. xii,
    30; Lk. xi, 50).

    11. Flat contradictions of narrative as to the Teacher's local
    success (Mt. xiii, 54-58; Lk. iv, 23).

    12. Insistence that the Messiah is of the Davidic line (Mt. i;
    xxi, 15; Lk. i, 27; ii, 4), and that he is not (Mt. xxii, 43-45;
    Mk. xii, 35-37; Lk. xx).

    13. Contradictory precepts as to limitation and non-limitation
    of forgiveness (Mt. xviii, 17, 22).


Such variously serious discrepancies count for more than even the
chronological and other divergences of the records concerning the
Birth, the Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, as proofs
of diversity of source; and they may be multiplied indefinitely. The
only course for criticism is to admit that they stand for the ideas of
a variety of sects or movements, or else for an unlimited manipulation
of the documents by individual hands. Many of them may very well have
come from various so-called "Lords" and "Messiahs"; but they cannot
be from a single teacher.

There remains open the fascinating problem as to whether some if
not all of the more notable teachings may not be the utterances of
one teacher of commanding originality, whose sectaries were either
unable to appreciate or unable to keep separate his doctrine. [862]
Undoubtedly some of the better teachings came first from men of
superior capacity and relatively deep ethical experience. The veto
on revenge, and the inculcation of love to enemies, could not come
from commonplace minds; and the saying preserved from the Gospel
According to the Hebrews, "Unless ye cease from sacrificing the
wrath shall not cease from you," has a remarkable ring. [863] But
when we compare the precept of forgiveness with similar teachings in
the Hebrew books and the Talmud, [864] we realize that the capacity
for such thought had been shown by a number of Jewish teachers,
and that it was a specific result of the long sequence of wrong
and oppression undergone by the Jewish people at the hands of their
conquerors. The unbearable, consuming pain of an impotent hate, and
the spectacle of it in others--this experience among thoughtful men,
and not an unconditioned genius for ethic in one, is the source of a
teaching which, categorically put as it is in the gospels, misses its
meaning with most who profess to admire it; the proof being the entire
failure of most Christians in all ages to act on it. To say nothing of
similar teaching in Old Testament books and in the Talmud, we have it
in the most emphatic form in the pre-Christian "Slavonic Enoch." [865]

A superior ethic, then, stands not for one man's supernormal insight,
but for the acquired wisdom of a number of wise men. And it is now
utterly impossible to name the individual framers of the gospel
teachings, good or bad. The central biography dissolves at every
point before critical tests; it is a mythical construction. [866]
Of the ideas in the Sermon on the Mount, many are ancient; of the
parabolic and other teachings, some of the most striking occur only
in the third gospel, and are unquestionably late. And when we are
asked to recognize a unique personality behind any one doctrine, such
as the condemnation of sacrifice in the uncanonical Hebrew Gospel,
we can but answer (1) that on the face of the case this doctrine
appears to come from a separate circle; (2) that the renunciation
of sacrifice was made by many Greek and Roman writers, [867] and by
earlier teachers among the Hebrews; [868] and (3) that in the Talmud,
and in such a pre-Christian document as the "Slavonic Enoch," there
are teachings which, had they occurred in the gospels, would have been
confidently cited as unparalleled in ancient literature. The Talmudic
teachings, so vitally necessary in Jewry, that "it is better to be
persecuted than persecutor," and that, "were the persecutor a just
man and the persecuted an impious, God would still be on the side of
the persecuted," [869] are not equalled for practical purposes by any
in the Christian sacred books; and the Enochic beatitude, "Blessed
is he who looks to raise his own hand for labour," [870] is no less
remarkable. But it is impossible to associate these teachings with
any outstanding personality, or any specific movements; and to posit
a movement-making personality in the sole case of certain scattered
sayings in the gospels is critically inadmissible.

There is positively no ground for supposing that any selected set
of teachings constituted the basis or the original propaganda of
any single Christian sect, primary or secondary; and the whole known
history of the cult tells against the hypothesis that it ever centred
round those teachings which to-day specially appeal to the ethical
rationalist. Such teachings are more likely to be adventitious than
fundamental, in a cult of sacrificial salvation. When an essentially
rationalistic note is struck in the gospels, as in the insistence
[871] that a notable public catastrophe is not to be regarded in the
old Jewish manner as a punishment for sin, it is cancelled in the
next sentence by an interpolation which unintelligently reaffirms
the very doctrine denied. [872] So with the teaching [873] that the
coming worship is to be neither Judaic nor Samaritan: the next sentence
reaffirms Jewish particularism in the crudest way. The main movement,
then, was clearly superstitious.

It remains to note the so-far rationalistic character of such
teachings as the protests against ceremonialism and sabbatarianism,
the favouring of the poor and the outcast, the extension of the
future life to non-Israelites, and the express limitation of prayer
(Mt. vi, 9; Lk. xi, 2) to a simple expression of religious feeling--a
prescription which has been absolutely ignored through the whole
history of the Church, despite the constant use of the one prayer
prescribed--itself a compilation of current Jewish phrases.


    The expression in the Dominical prayer translated "Give us this
    day [or day by day] our daily bread" (Mt. vi, 11; Lk. xi, 3) is
    pointless and tautological as it stands in the English and other
    Protestant versions. In verse 8 is the assurance that the Father
    knows beforehand what is needed; the prayer is, therefore, to be a
    simple process of communion or advocation, free of all verbiage;
    then, to make it specially ask for the necessary subsistence,
    without which life would cease, and further to make the demand
    each day, when in the majority of cases there would be no need
    to offer such a request, is to stultify the whole. If the most
    obvious necessity is to be urged, why not all the less obvious? The
    Vulgate translation, "Give us to-day our super-substantial bread,"
    though it has the air of providing for the Mass, is presumptively
    the original sense; and is virtually supported by McClellan
    (N. T. 1875, ii, 645-47), who notes that the repeated use of the
    article, ton arton hêmôn ton epiousion, implies a special meaning,
    and remarks that of all the suggested translations "daily" is "the
    very one which is mostly manifestly and utterly condemned." Compare
    the bearing of the verses Mt. vi, 25-26, 31-34, which expressly
    exclude the idea of prayer for bread, and Lk. xi, 13. The idea of
    a super-substantial bread seems already established in Philo, De
    Legum Allegor. iii, 55-57, 59-61. Naturally the average theologian
    (e.g., Bishop Lightfoot, cited by McClellan) clings to the
    conception of a daily appeal to the God for physical sustenance;
    but in so doing he is utterly obscuring the original doctrine.

    Properly interpreted, the prayer forms a curious parallel to
    the close of the tenth satire of Juvenal, above cited, where all
    praying for concrete boons is condemned, on the ground that the
    Gods know best, and that man is dearer to them than to himself;
    but where there is permitted (of course, illogically) an appeal
    for soundness of mind and spiritual serenity. The documents would
    be nearly contemporary, and, though independent, would represent
    kindred processes of ethical and rational improvement on current
    religious practice. On the other hand, the prayer, "lead us not
    into temptation, but deliver us from evil"--which again rings alien
    to the context--would have been scouted by Juvenal as representing
    a bad survival of the religion of fear. Several early citations
    and early MSS., it should be noted, give a briefer version of the
    prayer, beginning, "Father, hallowed be thy name," and dropping the
    "Thy will be done" clause, as well as the "deliver us from evil,"
    though including the "lead us not into temptation."


It may or may not have been that this rationalization of religion
was originally preached by the same sect or school as gave the
exalted counsel to resist not evil and to love enemies--a line of
thought found alike in India and in China, and, in the moderate
form of a veto on retaliation, in Greece and Rome. [874] But it is
inconceivable that the same sect originally laid down the doctrines
of the blood sacrifice and the final damnation of those who did
not accept the Messiah (Mt. x). The latter dogmas, with the myths,
naturally became the practical creed of the later Church, for which
the counsel of non-solicitous prayer and the love of enemies were
unimaginable ideals. [875] Equally incapable of realization by a
State Church was the anti-Pharisaical and "Bohemian" attitude ascribed
to the founder, and the spirit of independence towards the reigning
powers. For the rest, the occult doctrine that a little faith might
suffice to move mountains--a development from the mysticisms of the
Hebrew prophets--could count for nothing save as an incitement to
prayer in general. The freethinking elements in the gospels, in short,
were precisely those which historic Christianity inevitably cast aside.



§ 2

Already in the Epistles the incompatibility of the original critical
spirit with sectarian policy has become clear. Paul--if the first
epistle to the Thessalonians be his--exhorts his converts to "prove
all things, hold fast what is good"; [876] and by way of making out
the Christist case against unpliable Jews he argues copiously in his
own way; but as soon as there is a question of "another Jesus" [877]
being set up, he is the sectarian fanatic pure and simple, and he no
more thinks of applying the counsel of criticism to his dogma [878]
than of acting on his prescription of love in controversy. "Reasonings"
(logismous) are specially stigmatized: they must be "cast down." [879]
The attitude towards slavery now becomes a positive fiat in its
support; [880] and all political freethinking is superseded by a
counsel of conformity. [881] The slight touch of rationalism in the
Judaic epistle of James, where the principle of works is opposed
to that of faith, is itself quashed by an anti-rational conception
of works. [882] From a sect so taught, freethinking would tend
to disappear. It certainly obtruded itself early, for we have the
Pauline complaint [883] that "some among you say there is no rising
from the dead"; but men of that way of thinking had no clear ground
for belonging to the community, and would soon be preached out of it,
leaving only so much of the spirit of criticism as produced heresies
within the sphere of supernaturalism.



§ 3

When the new creed, spreading through the Empire, comes actively in
contact with paganism, the rationalistic principle of anti-idolatry,
still preserved by the Jewish impulse, comes into prominence; and
insofar as they criticized pagan myths and pagan image-worship,
the early Christians may be said to have rationalized. [884]
Polytheists applied the term "atheistical" alike to them [885]
and the Jews. [886] As soon as the cult was joined by lettered men,
the primitive rationalism of Evêmeros was turned by them to account;
and a series of Fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, Arnobius,
Lactantius, and Augustine, pressed the case against the pagan creeds
with an unflagging malice which, if exhibited by later rationalists
towards their own creed, Christians would characterize in strong
terms. But the practice of criticism towards other creeds was,
with the religious as with the philosophical sects, no help to
self-criticism. The attitude of the Christian mass towards pagan
idols and the worship of the Emperor was rather one of frenzy [887]
than of intellectual superiority; [888] and the Fathers never seem
to have found a rationalistic discipline in their polemic against
pagan beliefs. Where the unbelieving Lucian brightly banters, they
taunt and asperse, in the temper of barbarians deriding the Gods
of the enemy. None of them seems to realize the bearing against his
own creed of the pagan argument that to die and to suffer is to give
proof of non-deity. [889] In the end, the very image-worship which
had been the main ground of their rational attack on paganism became
the universal usage of their own Church; and its worship of saints
and angels, of Father, Son, and Virgin Mother, made it more truly
a polytheism than the creed of the later pagans had been. [890]
It is therefore rather to the heresies within the Church than to
its attacks on the old polytheism that we are to look for early
Christian survivals of ancient rationalism; and for the most part,
after the practically rationalistic refusal of the early Ebionites
to accept the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, [891] these heresies were
but combinations of other theosophies with the Christian.

Already in the spurious Epistles to Timothy we have allusion to the
"antitheses of the gnosis" [892] or pretended occult knowledge; and
to early Gnostic influences may be attributed those passages in the
gospel, above cited, which affirm that the Messiah's teaching is not
for the multitude but for the adepts. [893] All along, Gnosticism
[894] stood for the influence of older systems on the new faith;
an influence which among Gentiles, untrained to the cult of sacred
books, must have seemed absolutely natural. In the third century
Ammonios Saccas, of Alexandria, said to have been born of Christian
parents, set up a school which sought to blend the Christian and the
pagan systems of religion and philosophy into a pantheistic whole,
in which the old Gods figured as subordinate dæmons or as allegorical
figures, and Christ as a reformer. [895] The special leaning of the
school to Plato, whose system, already in vogue among the scholars
of Alexandria, had more affinity than any of its rivals [896] to
Christianity, secured for it adherents of many religious shades,
[897] and enabled it to develop an influence which permanently
affected Christian theology; this being the channel through which the
doctrine of the Trinity entered. According to Mosheim, almost no other
philosophy was taught at Alexandria down to the sixth century. [898]
Only when the regulative zeal of the Church had begun to draw the
lines of creed definitely [899] on anti-philosophic lines did the
syncretic school, as represented by Plotinus, Porphyry, and Hierocles,
[900] declare itself against Christianity.

Among the Church sects, as distinguished from the philosophic, the
syncretic tendency was hardly less the vogue. Some of the leading
Fathers of the second century, in particular Clement of Alexandria
and Origen, show the Platonic influence strongly, [901] and are
given, the latter in particular, to a remarkably free treatment of
the sacred books, seeing allegory wherever credence had been made
difficult by previous science, [902] or inconvenient by accepted
dogma. But in the multiplicity of Gnostic sects is to be seen the
main proof of the effort of Christians, before the complete collapse
of the ancient civilization, to think with some freedom on their
religious problems. [903] In the terms of the case--apart from the
Judaizing of the Elcesaites and Clemens Romanus--the thought is an
adaptation of pagan speculation, chiefly oriental and Egyptian; and
the commonest characteristics are: (1) in theology, an explanation of
the moral confusion of the world by assuming two opposed Powers, [904]
or by setting a variety of good and bad subordinate powers between the
world and the Supreme Being; and (2) in ethics, an insistence either
on the inherent corruptness of matter or on the incompatibility of
holiness with physical pleasure. [905] The sects influenced chiefly
from Asia teach, as a rule, a doctrine of two great opposing Powers;
those influenced from Egypt seek rather the solution of gradation
of power under one chief God. All alike showed some hostility to the
pretensions of the Jews. Thus:--


    1. Saturninus of Antioch (second century) taught of a Good and
    an Evil Power, and that the world and man were made by the seven
    planetary spirits, without the knowledge or consent of either
    Power; both of whom, however, sought to take control, the Good God
    giving men rational souls, and subjecting them to seven Creators,
    one of whom was the God of the Jews. Christ was a spirit sent to
    bring men back to the Good God; but only their asceticism could
    avail to consummate the scheme. (Irenæus, Against Heresies, i,
    24; Epiphanius, Hæreses, xxiii.)

    2. Similarly, Marcion (son of a bishop of Pontus) placed between
    the good and bad Powers the Creator of the lower world, who was the
    God and Lawgiver of the Jews, a mixed nature, but just: the other
    nations being subjects of the Evil Power. Jesus, a divine spirit
    sent by the Supreme God to save men, was opposed by both the God of
    the Jews and the Evil Power; and asceticism is the way to carry out
    his saving purpose. Of the same cast were the sects of Bardesanes
    and Tatian. (Irenæus, Against Heresies, i, 27, 28; Epiphanius,
    Hæreses, c. 56; Eusebius, Eccles. Hist. iv, 30. Mosheim, E. H. 2
    Cent. pt. ii, ch. v, §§ 7-9. As to Marcion, see Harnack, Outlines,
    ch. v; Mackay, Rise and Progress of Christianity, pt. iii, §§ 7,
    12, 13; Irenæus, iv, 29, 30; Tertullian, Against Marcion.)

    3. The Manichean creed (attributed to the Persian Mani or
    Manichæus, third century) proceeded on the same dualistic
    lines. In this the human race had been created by the Power
    of Evil or Darkness, who is the God of the Jews, and hence the
    body and its appetites are primordially evil, the good element
    being the rational soul, which is part of the Power of Light. By
    way of combining Christism and Mithraism, Christ is virtually
    identified with Mithra, and Manichæus claims to be the promised
    Paraclete. Ultimately the Evil Power is to be overcome, and
    kept in eternal darkness, with the few lost human souls. Here
    again the ethic is extremely ascetic, and there is a doctrine of
    purgatory. (Milman, Hist. of Christianity, bk. iii, ch. i; Mosheim,
    E. H. 3 Cent. pt. ii, ch. v, §§ 2-11; Beausobre, Hist. Critique de
    Manichée et du Manichéisme, 1734; Lardner, Cred. of the Gospels,
    pt. ii, ch. lxiii.)

    4. Among the Egyptian Gnostics, again, Basilides taught that
    the one Supreme God produced seven perfect secondary Powers,
    called Æons (Ages), two of whom, Dynamis and Sophia (Power and
    Wisdom), procreated superior angels, who built a heaven, and in
    turn produced lower grades of angels, which produced others, till
    there were 365 grades, all ruled by a Prince named Abraxas (whose
    name yields the number 365). The lowest grades of angels, being
    close to eternal matter (which was evil by nature), made thereof
    the world and men. The Supreme God then intervened, like the Good
    Power in the oriental system, to give men rational souls, but left
    them to be ruled by the lower angels, of whom the Prince became God
    of the Jews. All deteriorated, the God of the Jews becoming the
    worst. Then the Supreme God sent the Prince of the Æons, Christ,
    to save men's souls. Taking the form of the man Jesus, he was
    slain by the God of the Jews. Despite charges to the contrary,
    this system too was ascetic, though lenient to paganism. Similar
    tenets were held by the sects of Carpocrates and Valentinus, all
    rising in the second century; Valentinus setting up Thirty Æons,
    male and female, in pairs, with four unmarried males, guardians
    of the Pleroma or Heaven--namely, Horus, Christ, the Holy Spirit,
    and Jesus. The youngest Æon, Sophia, brought forth a daughter,
    Achamoth (Scientia), who made the world out of rude matter,
    and produced Demiourgos, the Artificer, who further manipulated
    matter. (Irenæus, bk. i, chs. 24, 25; bk. ii.)

    These sects in turn split into others, with endless peculiarities.


Such was the relative freethought of credulous theosophic fantasy,
[906] turning fictitious data to fresh purpose by way of solving
the riddle of the painful earth. The problem was to account for evil
consistently with a Good God; and the orientals, inheriting a dualistic
religion, adapted that; while the Egyptians, inheriting a syncretic
monotheism, set up grades of Powers between the All-Ruler and men,
on the model of the grades between the Autocrat, ancient or modern,
and his subjects. The Manichæans, the most thoroughly organized of
all the outside sects, appear to have absorbed many of the adherents
of the great Mithraic religion, and held together for centuries,
despite fierce persecution and hostile propaganda, their influence
subsisting till the Middle Ages. [907] The other Gnosticisms fared
much worse. Lacking sacred books, often setting up a severe ethic
as against the frequently loose practice of the churches, [908] and
offering a creed unsuited to the general populace, all alike passed
away before the competition of the organized Church, which founded
on the Canon [909] and the concrete dogmas, with many pagan rites
and beliefs [910] and a few great pagan abracadabras added.



§ 4

More persistently dangerous to the ancient Church were the successive
efforts of the struggling spirit of reason within to rectify in some
small measure its most arbitrary dogmas. Of these efforts the most
prominent were the quasi-Unitarian doctrine of Arius (fourth century),
and the opposition by Pelagius and his pupil Cælestius (early in fifth
century) to the doctrine of hereditary sin and predestinate salvation
or damnation--a Judaic conception dating in the Church from Tertullian,
and unknown to the Greeks. [911]

The former was the central and one of the most intelligible conflicts
in the vast medley of early discussion over the nature of the Person
of the Founder--a theme susceptible of any conceivable formula, when
once the principle of deification was adopted. Between the Gnosticism
of Athenagoras, which made the Logos the direct manifestation of
Deity, and the Judaic view that Jesus was "a mere man," for stating
which the Byzantine currier Theodotos was excommunicated at Rome
by Bishop Victor [912] in the third century, there were a hundred
possible fantasies of discrimination; [913] and the record of them
is a standing revelation of the intellectual delirium in the ancient
Church. Theodotos the currier is said to have made disciples [914]
who induced one Natalius to become "a bishop of this heresy"; and
his doctrine was repeatedly revived, notably by Artemon. According
to a trinitarian opponent, they were much given to science, in
particular to geometry and medicine. [915] But such an approach to
rationalism could not prosper in the atmosphere in which Christianity
arose. Arianism itself, when put on its defence, pronounced Jesus to
be God, after beginning by declaring him to be merely the noblest of
created beings, and thus became merely a modified mysticism, fighting
for the conception homoiousios (of similar nature) as against that of
homoousios (of the same nature). [916] Even at that, the sect split up,
its chief dissenters ranking as semi-Arians, and many of the latter
at length drifting back to Nicene orthodoxy. [917] At first strong in
the east, where it persecuted when it could, it was finally suppressed,
after endless strifes, by Theodosius at the end of the fourth century;
only to reappear in the west as the creed of the invading Goths and
Lombards. In the east it had stood for ancient monotheism; in the
west it prospered by early missionary and military chance till the
Papal organization triumphed. [918] Its suppression meant the final
repudiation of rationalism; though it had for the most part subsisted
as a fanaticism, no less than did the Nicene creed.

More philosophical, and therefore less widespread, was the doctrine
associated in the second century with the name of Praxeas, in
the third with those of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata, and in the
fourth with that of Photinus. Of this the essence was the conception
of the triune deity as being not three persons but three modes or
aspects of one person--a theorem welcomed in the later world by such
different types of believer as Servetus, Hegel, and Coleridge. Far
too reasonable for the average believer, and far too unpropitious to
ritual and sacraments for the average priest, it was always condemned
by the majority, though it had many adherents in the east, until the
establishment of the Church made Christian persecution a far more
effective process than pagan persecution had ever been.

Pelagianism, which unlike Arianism was not an ecclesiastical but a
purely theological division, [919] fared better, the problem at issue
involving the permanent crux of religious ethics. Augustine, whose
supreme talent was for the getting up of a play of dialectic against
every troublesome movement in turn, without regard to his previous
positions, [920] undertook to confute Pelagius and Cælestius as he
did every other innovator; and his influence was such that, after
they had been acquitted of heresy by a church council in Palestine
and by the Roman pontiff, the latter was induced to change his ground
and condemn them, whereupon many councils followed suit, eighteen
Pelagian bishops being deposed in Italy. At that period Christendom,
faced by the portent of the barbarian conquest of the Empire, was
well adjusted to a fatalistic theology, and too uncritical in its
mood to realize the bearing of such doctrine either on conduct or on
sacerdotal pretensions. But though the movement in its first form was
thus crushed, and though in later forms it fell considerably short of
the measure of ethical rationalism seen in the first, it soon took
fresh shape in the form of so-called semi-Pelagianism, and so held
its ground while any culture subsisted; [921] while Pelagianism on the
theme of the needlessness of "prevenient grace," and the power of man
to secure salvation of his own will, has been chronic in the Church.


    For a concise view of the Pelagian tenets see Murdock's note
    on Mosheim, following Walch and Schlegel (Reid's edition,
    pp. 208-209). They included (1) denial that Adam's sin was
    inherited; (2) assertion that death is strictly natural, and not
    a mere punishment for Adam's sin; (3) denial that children and
    virtuous adults dying unbaptized are damned, a middle state being
    provided for them; (4) assertion that good acts come of a good
    will, and that the will is free; grace being an enlightenment of
    the understanding, and not indispensable to all men. The relative
    rationalism of these views is presumptively to be traced to
    the facts that Pelagius was a Briton and Cælestius an Irishman,
    and that both were Greek scholars. (When tried in Palestine they
    spoke Greek, like the council, but the accuser could speak only
    Latin.) They were thus bred in an atmosphere not yet laden with
    Latin dogma. In "confuting" them Augustine developed the doctrine
    (intelligible as that of an elderly polemist in a decadent society)
    that all men are predestined to salvation or damnation by God's
    "mere good pleasure"--a demoralizing formula which he at times
    hedged with illogical qualifications. (Cp. Murdock's note on
    Mosheim, as cited, p. 210; Gieseler, § 87.) But an orthodox
    champion of Augustine describes him as putting the doctrine without
    limitations (Rev. W. R. Clarke, St. Augustine, in "The Fathers
    for English Readers" series, p. 132). It was never adopted in the
    east (Gieseler, p. 387), but became part of Christian theology,
    especially under Protestantism. On the other hand, the Council of
    Trent erected several Pelagian doctrines into articles of faith;
    and the Protestant churches have in part since followed. See Sir
    W. Hamilton's Discussions on Philosophy and Literature, 1852,
    pp. 493-94, note; and Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, i,
    142, 149.


The Latin Church thus finally maintained in religion the tradition
of sworn adherence to sectarian formulas which has been already noted
in the Roman philosophic sects, and in so doing reduced to a minimum
the exercise of the reason, alike in ethics and in philosophy. Its
dogmatic code was shaped under the influence of (1) Irenæus and
Tertullian, who set scripture above reason and, when pressed by
heretics, tradition above even scripture, [922] and (2) Augustine,
who had the same tendencies, and whose incessant energy secured him
a large influence. That influence was used not only to dogmatize
every possible item of the faith, but to enforce in religion another
Roman tradition, formerly confined to politics--that of systematic
coercion of heretics. Before and around Augustine there had indeed been
abundant mutual persecution of the bitterest kind between the parties
of the Church as well as against pagans; the Donatists, in particular,
with their organization of armed fanatics, the Circumcelliones, had
inflicted and suffered at intervals all the worst horrors of civil
war in Africa during a hundred years; Arians and Athanasians came
again and again to mutual bloodshed; and the slaying of the pagan
girl-philosopher, Hypatia, [923] by the Christian monks of Alexandria
is one of the vilest episodes in the whole history of religion. On
the whole, it is past question that the amount of homicide wrought by
all the pagan persecution of the earlier Christians was not a tithe of
that wrought by their successors in their own quarrels. But the spirit
which had so operated, and which had been repudiated even by the bitter
Tertullian, was raised by Augustine to the status of a Christian dogma,
[924] which, of course, had sufficient support in the sacred books,
Judaic and Jesuist, and which henceforth inspired such an amount of
murderous persecution in Christendom as the ancient world had never
seen. When, the temple revenues having been already confiscated, the
pagan worships were finally overthrown and the temples appropriated
by the edict of Honorius in the year 408, Augustine, "though not
entirely consistent, disapproved of the forcible demolition of
the temples." [925] But he had nothing to say against the forcible
suppression of their worship, and of the festivals. Ambrose went
as far; [926] and such men as Firmicus Maternus would have had the
emperors go much further. [927]

Economic interest had now visibly become at least as potent in the
shaping of the Christian course as it had ever been in building up a
pagan cult. For the humble conditions in which the earlier priests
and preachers had gained a livelihood by ministering to scattered
groups of poor proselytes, there had been substituted those of a State
Church, adopted as such because its acquired range of organization
had made it a force fit for the autocrat's purposes when others had
failed. The sequent situation was more and more unfavourable to both
sincerity of thought and freedom of speech. Not only did thousands
of wealth-seekers promptly enter the priesthood to profit by the
new endowments allotted by Constantine to the great metropolitan
churches. Almost as promptly the ideal of toleration was renounced;
and the Christians began against the pagans a species of persecution
that proceeded on no higher motive than greed of gain. Not only were
the revenues of the temples confiscated as we have seen, but a number
of Christians took to the business of plundering pagans in the name
of the laws of Constantius forbidding sacrifice, and confiscating the
property of the temples. Libanius, in his Oration for the Temples [928]
(390), addressed to Theodosius, circumstantially avers that the bands
of monks and others who went about demolishing and plundering temples
were also wont to rob the peasants, adding:--


    They also seize the lands of some, saying "it is sacred"; and
    many are deprived of their paternal inheritance upon a false
    pretence. Thus those men thrive upon other people's ruin who say
    "they worship God with fasting." And if they who are wronged
    come to the pastor in the city ... he commends (the robbers)
    and rejects the others.... Moreover, if they hear of any land
    which has anything that can be plundered, they cry presently,
    "Such an one sacrificeth, and does abominable things, and
    a troop ought to be sent against him." And presently the
    self-styled reformers (sôphronistai) are there.... Some of these
    ... deny their proceedings.... Others glory and boast and tell
    their exploits.... But they say, "We have only punished those
    who sacrifice and thereby transgress the law which forbids
    sacrifice." O emperor, when they say this, they lie.... Can
    it be thought that they who are not able to bear the sight of a
    collector's cloak should despise the power of your government?... I
    appeal to the guardians of the law [to confirm the denial]. [929]


The whole testimony is explicit and weighty, [930] and, being
corroborated by Ammianus Marcellinus, is accepted by clerical
historians. [931] Ammianus declares that some of the courtiers of
the Christian emperors before Julian were "glutted with the spoils
of the temples." [932]

The official creed, with its principle of rigid uniformity and
compulsion, is now recognizable as the only expedient by which
the Church could be held together for its economic ends. Under the
Eastern Empire, accordingly, when once a balance of creed was attained
in the Church, the same coercive ideal was enforced, with whatever
differences in the creed insisted on. Whichever phase of dogma was in
power, persecution of opponents went on as a matter of course. [933]
Athanasians and Arians, Nestorians and Monophysites, used the same
weapons to the utmost of their scope; Cyril of Alexandria led his
fanatics to the pillage and expulsion of the Jews, as his underling
Peter led them to the murder of Hypatia; other bishops wrought the
destruction of temples throughout Egypt; [934] Theodosius, Marcian,
St. Leo, Zeno, Justinian, all used coercion against every heresy
without a scruple, affirming every verbal fantasy of dogma at the
point of the sword. It was due to no survival of the love of reason
that some of the more stubborn heresies, driven into communion with
the new civilization of the Arabs, were the means of carrying some
of the seeds of ancient thought down the ages, to fructify ultimately
in the mental soil of modern Europe.



§ 5

Against the orthodox creed, apart from social and official hostility,
there had early arisen critics who reasoned in terms of Jewish and
pagan beliefs, and in terms of such rationalism as survived. Of the two
former sorts some remains have been preserved, despite the tendency of
the Church to destroy their works. Of the latter, apart from Lucian,
we have traces in the Fathers and in the Neo-Platonists.

Thus Tertullian and Lactantius tell of the many who believe in a
non-active and passionless God, [935] and disdain those who turn
Christian out of fear of a hereafter; and again [936] of Stoics
who deride the belief in demons. A third-century author quoted by
Eusebius [937] speaks of apistoi who deny the divine authorship
of the holy scriptures, in such a fashion as to imply that this was
done by some who were not merely pagan non-Christians but deniers of
inspiration. Jamblichos, too, [938] speaks of opponents of the worship
of the Gods in his day (early in the fourth century). [939] In the
fifth century, again, Augustine complains bitterly of those impious
and reckless persons who dare to say that the evangelists differ among
themselves. [940] He argues no less bitterly against the increduli and
infideles who would not believe in immortality and the possibility of
eternal torment; [941] and he meets them in a fashion which constantly
recurs in Christian apologetics, pointing to natural anomalies, real
or alleged, and concluding that since we cannot understand all we see
we should believe all we hear--from the Church. Those who derided the
story of Jonah and the whale he meets by accusing them of believing
the story of Arion and the dolphin. [942] In the same way he meets
[943] their protest against the iniquity of eternal punishment by a
juggle over the ostensible anomaly of long punishments by human law
for short misdeeds. Whatever may have been his indirect value of his
habit of dialectic, he again and again declares for prone faith and
against the resort to reason; and to this effect may be cited a long
series of Fathers and ecclesiastics, all eager to show that only in
a blind faith could there be any moral merit. [944]

Such arguments were doubtless potent to stupefy what remained of
critical faculty in the Roman world. In the same period Salvian makes
a polemic against those who in Christian Gaul denied that God exercised
any government on earth. [945] They seem, however, to have been normal
Christians, driven to this view by the barbarian invasions. Fronto,
the tutor of Marcus Aurelius, again, seems to have attacked the
Christians partly as rationalist, partly as conservative. [946]

In general, the orthodox polemic is interesting only insofar as
it preserves that of the opposition. The Dialogue with Trypho by
Justin Martyr (about 150) is a mere documental discussion between a
Christian and a Jew, each founding on the Hebrew Scriptures, and the
Christian doing nearly all of the argument. There is not a scintilla
of independent rationalism in the whole tedious work. [947] Justin
was a type of the would-be "philosopher" who confessedly would take
no trouble to study science or philosophize, but who found his sphere
in an endless manipulation of the texts of sacred books. But the work
of the learned Origen Against Celsus preserves for us a large part of
the True Discourse of Celsus, a critical and extremely well-informed
argument against Christianity by a pagan of the Platonic [948] school
in the time of Marcus Aurelius, [949] on grounds to a considerable
extent rationalistic. [950] The line of rejoinder followed by Origen,
one of the most cultured of the Christian Fathers, is for the most
part otherwise. When Celsus argues that it makes no difference by what
name the Deity is called, Origen answers [951] that on the contrary
certain God-names have a miraculous or magical virtue for the casting
out of evil spirits; that this mystery is known and practised by
the Egyptians and Persians; and that the mere name of Jesus has been
proved potent to cast out many such demons. When, on the other hand,
Celsus makes a Jew argue against the Christist creed on the basis
of the Jewish story that the founder's birth was illegitimate, [952]
the Father's answer begins in sheer amiable ineptitude, [953] which
soon passes into shocked outcry. [954] In other passages he is more
successful, as when he convicts Celsus's Jew of arguing alternately
that the disciples were deceived, and that they were deceivers. [955]
This part of the discussion is interesting chiefly as showing how
educated Jews combated the gospels in detail, at a level of criticism
not always above that of the believers. Sometimes the Jew's case is
shrewdly put, as when he asks, [956] "Did Jesus come into the world
for this purpose, that we should not believe him?"--a challenge not to
be met by Origen's theology. One of the acutest of Celsus's thrusts
is the remark that Jesus himself declared that miracles would be
wrought after him by followers of Satan, and that the argument from
miracles is thus worthless. [957] To this the rejoinder of Origen
is suicidal; but at times the assailant, himself a believer in all
manner of miracles, gives away his advantage completely enough.

Of a deeper interest are the sections in which Celsus (himself a
believer in a Supreme Deity and a future state, and in a multitude of
lower Powers, open to invocation) rests his case on grounds of general
reason, arguing that the true Son of God must needs have brought home
his mission to all mankind; [958] and sweeps aside as foolish the
whole dispute between Jews and Christians, [959] of which he had given
a sample. Most interesting of all are the chapters [960] in which
the Christian cites the pagan's argument against the homo-centric
theory of things. Celsus insists on the large impartiality of Nature,
and repudiates the fantasy that the whole scheme is adjusted to the
well-being and the salvation of man. Here the Christian, standing for
his faith, may be said to carry on, though in the spirit of a new
fanaticism, the anti-scientific humanism first set up by Sokrates;
while the pagan, though touched by religious apriorism, and prone to
lapse from logic to mysticism in his turn, approaches the scientific
standpoint of the elder thinkers who had set religion aside. [961]
Not for thirteen hundred years was his standpoint to be regained among
men. His protest against the Christian cultivation of blind faith,
[962] which Origen tries to meet on rationalistic lines, would in
a later age be regarded as conveying no imputation. Even the simple
defensive subtleties of Origen are too rationalistic for the succeeding
generations of the orthodox. The least embittered of the Fathers,
he is in his way the most reasonable; and in his unhesitating resort
to the principle of allegory, wherever his documents are too hard
for belief, we see the last traces of the spirit of reason as it
had been in Plato, not yet paralysed by faith. Henceforth, till a
new intellectual life is set up from without, Christian thought is
more and more a mere disputation over the unintelligible, in terms
of documents open always to opposing constructions.

Against such minds the strictest reason would be powerless; and it
was fitting enough that Lucian, the last of the great freethinkers of
the Hellenistic world, should merely turn on popular Christianity
some of his serene satire [963]--more, perhaps, than has come
down to us; though, on the other hand, his authorship of the De
Morte Peregrini, which speaks of the "crucified sophist," has been
called in question. [964] The forcible-feeble dialogue Philopatris,
falsely attributed to Lucian, and clearly belonging to the reign of
Julian, is the last expression of general skepticism in the ancient
literature. The writer, a bad imitator of Lucian, avows disbelief
alike in the old Gods and in the new, and professes to respect,
if any, the "Unknown God" of the Athenians; but he makes no great
impression of intellectual sincerity. Apart from this, and the lost
anti-Christian work [965] of Hierocles, Governor of Bithynia under
Diocletian, the last direct literary opponents of ancient Christianity
were Porphyry and Julian. As both were believers in many Gods, and
opposed Christianity because it opposed these, neither can well
rank on that score as a freethinker, even in the sense in which
the speculative Gnostics were so. The bias of both, like that of
Plutarch, seems to have been to the utmost latitude of religious
belief; and, apart from personal provocations and the ordinary temper
of religious conservatism, it was the exiguity of the Christian creed
that repelled them. Porphyry's treatise, indeed, was answered by four
Fathers, [966] all of whose replies have disappeared, doubtless in
fulfilment of the imperial edict for the destruction of Porphyry's
book--a dramatic testimony to the state of mental freedom under
Theodosius II. [967] What is known of his argument is preserved in the
incidental replies of Jerome, Augustine, Eusebius, and others. [968]
The answer of Cyril to Julian has survived, probably in virtue of
Julian's status. His argumentations against the unworthy elements, the
exclusiveness, and the absurdities of the Jewish and Christian faith
are often reasonable enough, as doubtless were those of Porphyry;
[969] but his own theosophic positions are hardly less vulnerable;
and Porphyry's were probably no better, to judge from his preserved
works. Yet it is to be said that the habitual tone and temper of the
two men compares favourably with that of the polemists on the other
side. They had inherited something of the elder philosophic spirit,
which is so far to seek in patristic literature, outside of Origen.

The latest expressions of rationalism among churchmen were to the
full as angrily met by the champions of orthodoxy as the attacks of
enemies; and, indeed, there was naturally something of bitterness
in the resistance of the last few critical spirits in the Church to
the fast-multiplying insanities of faith. Thus, at the end of the
fourth century, the Italian monk Jovinian fought against the creed
of celibacy and asceticism, and was duly denounced, vituperated,
ecclesiastically condemned, and banished, penal laws being at the
same time passed against those who adhered to him. [970] Contemporary
with him was the Eastern Aerius, who advocated priestly equality as
against episcopacy, and objected to prayers for the dead, to fasts,
and to the too significant practice of slaying a lamb at the Easter
festival. [971] In this case matters went the length of schism. With
less of practical effect, in the next century, Vigilantius of Aquitaine
made a more general resistance to a more manifold superstition,
condemning and ridiculing the veneration of tombs and bones of martyrs,
pilgrimages to shrines, the miracle stories therewith connected, and
the practices of fasting, celibacy, and the monastic life. He too
was promptly put down, largely by the efforts of his former friend
Jerome, the most voluble and the most scurrilous pietist of his age,
who had also denounced the doctrine of Jovinian. [972] For centuries
no such appeal was heard in the western Church.

The spirit of reason, however, is well marked at the beginning of
the fifth century in a pagan writer who belongs more truly to the
history of freethought than either Julian or Porphyry. Macrobius, a
Roman patrician of the days of Honorius, works out in his Saturnalia,
with an amount of knowledge and intelligence which for the time is
remarkable, the principle that all the Gods are but personifications
of aspects or functions of the Sun. But such doctrine must have been
confined, among pagans, to the cultured few; and the monotheism of
the same writer's treatise On the Dream of Scipio was probably not
general even among the remaining pagans of the upper class. [973]

After Julian, open rationalism being already extinct, anti-Christian
thought was simply tabooed; and though the leading historians for
centuries were pagans, they only incidentally venture to betray the
fact. It is told, indeed, that in the days of Valens and Valentinian
an eminent physician named Posidonius, son of a great physician and
brother of another, was wont to say, "that men do not grow fanatic by
the agency of evil spirits, but merely by the superfluity of certain
evil humours; and that there is no power in evil spirits to assail the
human race"; [974] but though that opinion may be presumed to have
been held by some other physicians, the special ascription of it to
Posidonius is a proof that it was rarely avowed. With public lecturing
forbidden, with the philosophic schools at Athens closed and plundered
by imperial force, [975] with heresy ostracized, with pagan worship,
including the strong rival cult of Mithraism, outwardly suppressed by
the same power, [976] unbelief was naturally little heard of after the
fifth century. About its beginning we find Chrysostom boasting [977]
that the works of the anti-Christian writers had persuaded nobody,
and had almost disappeared. As regarded open teaching, it was only too
true, though the statement clashes with Chrysostom's own complaint that
Porphyry had led many away from the faith. [978] Proclus was still to
come (410-485), with his eighteen Arguments against the Christians,
proceeding on the principle, still cherished from the old science,
that the world was eternal. But such teaching could not reach even
the majority of the more educated; and the Jewish dogma of creation
ex nihilo became sacrosanct truth for the darkening world. In the
east Eusebius, [979] and in the west Lactantius, [980] expressed for
the whole Church a boundless contempt of everything in the nature of
scientific research or discussion; and it was in fact at an end for
the Christian world for well-nigh a thousand years. For Lactantius,
the doctrine of a round earth and an antipodes was mere nonsense;
he discusses the thesis with the horse-laughter of a self-satisfied
savage. [981] Under the feet of arrogant and blatant ignorance we
see trampled the first form of the doctrine of gravitation, not to be
recovered for an æon. Proclus himself cherished some of the grossest
pagan superstitions; and the few Christians who had in them something
of the spirit of reason, as Cosmas "Indicopleustes," "the Indian
navigator," who belongs to the sixth century, were turned away from
what light they had by their sacred books. Cosmas was a Nestorian,
denying the divinity of Mary, and a rational critic as regards the
orthodox fashion of applying Old Testament prophecies to Jesus. [982]
But whereas pagan science had inferred that the earth is a sphere,
his Bible taught him that it is an oblong plain; and the great aim
of his Topographia Christiana, sive Christianorum opinio de mundo,
was to prove this against those who still cultivated science.

Such pleadings were not necessary for the general Christian public,
who knew nothing save what their priests taught them. In Chrysostom's
day this was already the case. There remained but a few rational
heresies. One of the most notable was that of Theodore of Mopsuestia,
the head of the school of Antioch and the teacher of Nestorius, who
taught that many of the Old Testament prophecies commonly applied
to Jesus had reference to pre-Christian events, and discriminated
critically among the sacred books. That of Job he pronounced to be
merely a poem derived from a pagan source, and the Song of Songs he
held to be a mere epithalamium of no religious significance. In his
opinion Solomon had the logos gnôseôs the love of knowledge, but not
the logos sophias the love of wisdom. [983] No less remarkable was
the heresy of Photinus, who taught that the Trinity was a matter not of
persons, but of modes of deity. [984] Such thinking must be pronounced
the high-water mark of rational criticism in the ancient Church; and
its occurrence in an age of rapid decay is memorable enough. But in
the nature of things it could meet with only the scantiest support;
and the only critical heresy which bulked at all largely was that of
the Unitarian Anomoeans or Eunomians, [985] who condemned the worship
of relics, [986] and made light of scriptural inspiration when texts,
especially from the Old Testament, were quoted against them. [987]
Naturally Chrysostom himself denounced them as unbelievers. Save
for these manifestations, the spirit of sane criticism had gone from
the Christian world, with science, with art, with philosophy, with
culture. But the verdict of time is given in the persistent recoil
of the modern spirit from the literature of the age of faith to that
of the elder age of nascent reason; and the historical outcome of the
state of things in which Chrysostom rejoiced was the re-establishment
of universal idolatry and practical polytheism in the name of the
creed he had preached. Every species of superstition known to paganism
subsisted, slightly transformed. While the emperors savagely punished
the pagan soothsayers, the Christians held by the same fundamental
delusion; and against the devices of pagan magic, in the reality
of which they unquestioningly believed, they professed triumphantly
to practise their own sorceries of holy water, relics, prayer, and
exorcism, no man daring to impugn the insanities of faith. [988]
On the face of religious life, critical reason was extinct.



§ 6

It might safely have been inferred, but it is a matter of proved fact,
that while the higher intellectual life was thus being paralysed,
the primary intellectual virtues were attained. As formerly in Jewry,
so now in Christendom, the practice of pious fraud became normal: all
early Christian literature, and most of the ecclesiastical history of
many succeeding centuries, is profoundly compromised by the habitual
resort to fiction, forgery, and interpolation. The mystical poetry
of the pagans, the Jewish history of Josephus, the gospels, the
Epistles, all were interpolated in the same spirit as had inspired
the production of new Gospels, new Epistles, new books of Acts, new
Sibylline verses. And even where to this tendency there was opposed
the growing demand of the organized Church for a faithful text, when
the documents had become comparatively ancient, the disposition to
invent and suppress, to reason crookedly, to delude and mislead, was
normal among churchmen. This is the verdict of orthodox ecclesiastical
history, a dozen times repeated. [989] It of course carries no surprise
for those who have noted the religious doctrine of Plato, of Polybius,
of Cicero, of Varro, of Strabo, of Dio Cassius.

While intelligence thus retrograded under the reign of faith, it
is impossible to maintain, in the name of historical science, the
conventional claim that the faith wrought a countervailing good. What
moral betterment there was in the decaying Roman world was a matter
of the transformed social conditions, and belongs at least as much
to paganism as to Christianity: even the asceticism of the latter,
which in reality had no reformative virtue for society at large,
was a pre-Christian as well as an anti-Christian phenomenon. It
is indeed probable that in the times of persecution the Christian
community would be limited to the more serious and devoted types
[990]--that is to say, to those who would tend to live worthily under
any creed. But that the normal Christian community was superior in
point of morals is a poetic hallucination, set up by the legends
concerning the martyrs and by the vauntings of the Fathers, which
are demonstrably untrustworthy. The assertion, still at times made
by professed Positivists, that the discredit of the marriage tie in
Roman life necessitated a new religion, and that the new religion
was regenerative, is only a quasi-scientific variation of the legend.


    The evidence as to the failure of the faith to reform its adherents
    is continuous from the first generation onwards. "Paul" complains
    bitterly of the sexual licence among his first Corinthian converts
    (1 Cor. v, 1, 2), and seeks to check it by vehement commands, some
    mystical (id. v. 5), some prescribing ostracism (vv. 9-13)--a
    plain confession of failure, and a complete reversal of the
    prescription in the gospel (Mt. xviii, 22). If that could be
    set aside, the command as to divorce could be likewise. Justin
    Martyr (Dial. with Trypho, ch. 141) describes the orthodox Jews
    of his day as of all men the most given to polygamy and arbitrary
    divorce. (Cp. Deut. xxiv, 1; Edersheim, History, p. 294.) Then
    the Christian assumption as to Roman degeneration and Eastern
    virtue cannot be sustained.

    At the beginning of the third century we have the decisive
    evidence of Tertullian that many of the charges of immorality
    made by serious pagans against Christians were in large part
    true. First he affirms (Ad Nationes, l. i, c. 5) that the pagan
    charges are not true of all, "not even of the greatest part
    of us." In regard to the charge of incest (c. 16), instead of
    denying it as the earlier apologist Minucius Felix had done in
    the age of persecution, he merely argues that the same offence
    occurs through ignorance among the pagans. The chapter concludes
    by virtually admitting the charge with regard to misconduct in
    "the mysteries." Still later, when he has turned Montanist,
    Tertullian explicitly charges his former associates with sexual
    licence (De Jejuniis, cc. 1, 17: De Virginibus Velandis, c. 14),
    pointing now to the heathen as showing more regard for monogamy
    than do the Christians (De Exhort. Castitatis, c. 13).

    From the fourth century onward the history of the Church reveals
    at every step a conformity on the part of its members to average
    pagan practice. The third canon of the Nicene Council forbids
    clerics of all ranks from keeping as companions or housekeepers
    women who are not their close blood relations. In the fifth
    century Salvian denounces the Christians alike of Gaul and Africa
    as being boundlessly licentious in comparison with the Arian
    barbarians (De Gubernatione Dei, lib. 5, 6, 7). They do not even,
    he declares, deny the charge, contenting themselves with claiming
    superior orthodoxy. (Cp. Bury, Hist. of the Later Roman Empire,
    i, 198-99, and Finlay, ii, 219, for another point of view.) On
    all hands heresy was reckoned the one deadly sin (Gieseler, § 74,
    p. 295, and refs.), and all real misdeeds came to seem venial by
    comparison. As to sexual vice and crime among the Christianized
    Germans, see Gieseler, § 125, vol. ii, 158-60.

    In the East the conditions were the same. The story of the
    indecent performances of Theodora on the stage (Gibbon, ch. xl),
    probably untrue of her, implies that such practices openly
    occurred. Milman (Hist. of Chr. bk. iv, ch. ii. ed. cited, ii,
    327) recognizes general indecency, and notes that Zosimus charged
    it on Christian rule. Salvian speaks of unlimited obscenity in the
    theatres of Christian Gaul (De Gub. Dei, l. 6). Cp. Gibbon as to
    the character of the devout Justinian's minister Trebonian; who,
    however, was called an atheist. (Suidas, s.v.) On the collapse
    of the iconoclastic movement, licence became general (Finlay,
    Hist. of Greece, ed. Tozer, ii, 162). But even in the fourth
    century Chrysostom's writings testify to the normality of all the
    vices, as well as the superstitions, that Christianity is supposed
    to have banished; the churches figuring, like the ancient temples,
    as places of assignation. (Cp. the extracts of Lavollée, Les
    Moeurs Byzantines, in Essais de littérature et d'histoire, 1891,
    pp. 48-62, 89; the S.P.C.K.'s St. Chrysostom's Picture of his Age,
    1875, pp. 6, 94, 96, 98, 100, 102-104, 108, 194; Chrysostom's
    Homilies, Eng. tr. 1839, Hom. xii on 1st Cor. pp. 159-64;
    Jerome, Adv. Vigilantium, cited by Gieseler, ii, 66, note 19,
    and in Gilly's Vigilantius and his Times, 1844, pp. 406-407.) The
    clergy were among the most licentious of all, and Chrysostom had
    repeatedly to preach against them (Lavollée, ch. iv; Mosheim, as
    last cited; Gibbon, ch. xlvii, Bohn ed. iv, 232). The position of
    women was practically what it had been in post-Alexandrian Greece
    and Asia-Minor (Lavollée, ch. v; cp. St. Chrysostom's Picture of
    his Age, pp. 180-82); and the practice corresponded. In short,
    the supposition that the population of Constantinople as we see
    it under Justinian, or that of Alexandria in the same age, could
    have been morally austere, is fantastic.


It would indeed be unintelligible that intellectual decline without
change of social system should put morals on a sound footing. The
very asceticism which seeks to mortify the body is an avowal of the
vice from which it recoils, and insofar as this has prevailed under
Christianity it has specifically hindered general temperance, [991]
inasmuch as the types capable of self-rule thus leave no offspring.

On the other hand, with the single exception of the case of the
gladiatorial combats (which had been denounced in the first century
by the pagan Seneca, [992] and in the fourth by the pagan Libanius,
but lasted in Rome long after Christianity had become the State
religion; [993] while the no less cruel combats of men with wild
beasts were suppressed only when the finances of the falling Empire
could no longer maintain them), [994] the vice of cruelty seems to
have been in no serious degree cast out. [995] Cruelty to slaves was
certainly not less than in the Rome of the Antonines; and Chrysostom
[996] denounces just such atrocities by cruel mistresses as had been
described by Horace and Juvenal. The story of the slaying of Hypatia,
indeed, is decisive as to Christian ferocity. [997]

In fine, the entire history of Christian Egypt, Asia, and Africa,
progressively decadent till their easy conquest by the Saracens,
and the entire history of the Christian Byzantine empire, at best
stagnant in mental and material life during the thousand years of its
existence, serve conclusively to establish the principle that in the
absence of freethought no civilization can progress. More completely
than any of the ancient civilizations to which they succeeded, they
cast out or were denuded of the spirit of free reason. The result was
strictly congruous. The process, of course, was one of socio-political
causation throughout; and the rule of dogma was a symptom or effect of
the process, not the extraneous cause. But that is only the clinching
of the sociological lesson.

Of a deep significance, in view of the total historical movement,
is the philosophical teaching of the last member of the ancient Roman
world who exhibited philosophical capacity--the long famous Boethius,
minister of the conqueror Theodoric, who put him to death in the
year 525. Ostensibly from the same hand we have the De Consolatione
Philosophiae, which is substantially non-Christian, and a number
of treatises expounding orthodox Christian dogma. In the former
"we find him in strenuous opposition ... to the Christian theory of
creation; and his Dualism is at least as apparent as Plato's. We find
him coquetting with the anti-Christian doctrine of the immortality
of the world, and assuming a position with regard to sin which is
ultra-Pelagian and utterly untenable by a Christian theologian. We
find him, with death before his eyes, deriving consolation not from
any hopes of a resurrection ... but from the present contempt of all
earthly pain and ill which his divine mistress, 'the perfect solace
of wearied souls,' has taught him." [998] Seeing that Theodoric,
though a professed admirer of the ancient life, had absolutely put
down, on pain of death, [999] every remaining religious practice of
paganism, it is certain that Boethius must have officially professed
Christianity; but his book seems to make it certain that he was
not a believer. The only theory on which the expounder of such an
essentially pagan philosophy can be conceived as really the author
of the Christian tractates ascribed to Boethius is that, under the
stroke of undeserved ruin and unjust doom, the thinker turned away
from the creed of his official life and sought healing in the wisdom
of the older world. [1000] Whether we accept this solution or, in
despite of the specific testimony, reject the theological tractates as
falsely ascribed--either by their writer or by others--to Boethius,
[1001] the significant fact remains that it was not the Christian
tracts but the pagan Consolation that passed down to the western
nations of the Middle Ages as the last great intellectual legacy from
the ancient world. It had its virtue for an age of mental bondage,
because it preserved some pulse of the spirit of free thought.



CHAPTER VIII

FREETHOUGHT UNDER ISLAM [1002]


§ 1

The freethinking of Mohammed may be justly said to begin and end with
his rejection of popular polytheism and his acceptance of the idea of
a single God. That idea he ostensibly held as a kind of revelation,
not as a result of any traceable process of reasoning; and he affirmed
it from first to last as a fanatic. One of the noblest of fanatics
he may be, but hardly more. Denouncing all idolatry, he anchored
his creed to the Ka'aba, the sacred black stone of the remote past,
which is to this day its most revered object.

That the monotheistic idea, in its most vivid form, reached him in
middle age by way of a vision is part of the creed of his followers;
and that it derived in some way from Jews, or Persians, or Christians,
as the early unbelievers declared, [1003] is probable enough. But
there is evidence that among his fellow-Arabs the idea had taken some
slight root before his time, even in a rationalistic form, and it is
clear that there were before his day many believers, though also many
unbelievers, in a future state. [1004] There is no good ground for the
oft-repeated formula about the special monotheistic and other religious
proclivities of "the Semite"; [1005] Semites being subject to religious
influences like other peoples, in terms of culture and environment. The
Moslems themselves preserved a tradition that one Zaid, who died
five years before the Prophet received his first inspiration, had
of his own accord renounced idolatry without becoming either Jew or
Christian; but on being told by a Jew to become a Hanyf, [1006] that
is to say, of the religion of Abraham, who worshipped nothing but God,
he at once agreed. [1007] In the oldest extant biography of Mohammed
an address of Zaid's has been preserved, of which six passages are
reproduced in the Koran; [1008] and there are other proofs [1009]
that the way had been partly made for Mohammedanism before Mohammed,
especially at Medina, to which he withdrew (the Hej'ra) with his
early followers when his fellow-tribesmen would not accept his
message. He uses the term Hanyf repeatedly as standing for his own
doctrine. [1010] In some of the Arab poetry of the generation before
Mohammed, again, there is "a deep conviction of the unity of God,
and of his elevation over all other beings," as well as a clearly
developed sense of moral responsibility. [1011] The doctrine of a
Supreme God was indeed general; [1012] and Mohammed's insistence on
the rejection of the lesser deities or "companions of God" was but
a preaching of unitarianism to half-professed monotheists who yet
practised polytheism and idolatry. The Arabs at his time, in short,
were on the same religious plane as the Christians, but with a good
deal of unbelief; "Zendekism" or rationalistic deism (or atheism)
being charged in particular on Mohammed's tribe, the Koreish;
[1013] and the Prophet used traditional ideas to bring them to
his unitary creed. In one case he even temporarily accepted their
polytheism. [1014] The several tribes were further to some extent
monolatrous, [1015] somewhat as were the Semitic tribes of Palestine;
and before Mohammed's time a special worshipper of the star Sirius
sought to persuade the Koreish to give up their idols and adore
that star alone. Thus between their partially developed monotheism,
their partial familiarity with Hanyf monotheism, and their common
intercourse with the nominally monotheistic Jews and Christians, many
Arabs were in a measure prepared for the Prophet's doctrine; which,
for the rest, embodied many of their own traditions and superstitions
as well as many orally received from Christians and Jews.


    "The Koran itself," says Palmer, "is, indeed, less the invention
    or conception of Mohammed than a collection of legends and moral
    axioms borrowed from desert lore and couched in the language
    and rhythm of desert eloquence, but adorned with the additional
    charm of enthusiasm. Had it been merely Mohammed's own invented
    discourses, bearing only the impress of his personal style, the
    Koran could never have appealed with so much success to every
    Arab-speaking race as a miracle of eloquence." [1016]

    Kuenen challenges Sprenger's conclusions and sums up: "We need
    not deny that Mohammed had predecessors; but we must deny that
    tradition gives us a faithful representation of them, or is correct
    in calling them hanyfs. [1017] On the other hand, he concedes that
    "Mohammed made Islam out of elements which were supplied to him
    very largely from outside, and which had a whole history behind
    them already, so that he could take them up as they were without
    further elaboration." [1018]

    "During the first century of Islam the forging of Traditions
    became a recognized political and religious weapon, of which
    all parties availed themselves. Even men of the strictest piety
    practised this species of fraud, and maintained that the end
    justified the means." [1019]


The final triumph of the religion, however, was due neither to the
elements of its Sacred Book nor to the moral or magnetic power of
the Prophet. This power it was that won his first adherents, who were
mostly his friends and relatives, or slaves to whom his religion was a
species of enfranchisement. [1020] From that point forward his success
was military--thanks, that is, to the valour of his followers--his
fellow citizens never having been won in mass to his teaching. [1021]
Such success as his might conceivably be gained by a mere military
chief. Nor could the spread of Islam after his death have taken place
save in virtue of the special opportunities for conquest lying before
its adherents--opportunities already seen by Mohammed, either with the
eye of statesmanship or with that of his great general, Omar. [1022]
It is an error to assume, as is still commonly done, that it was the
unifying and inspiring power of the religion that wrought the Saracen
conquests. Warlike northern barbarians had overrun the Western Empire
without any such stimulus; the prospect of booty and racial kinship
sufficed them for the conquest of a decadent community; and the same
conditions existed for the equally warlike Saracens, [1023] who also,
before Mohammed, had learned something of the military art from the
Græco-Romans. [1024] Their religious ardour would have availed them
little against the pagan legions of the unbelieving Cæsar; and as
a matter of fact they could never conquer, though they curtailed,
the comparatively weak Byzantine Empire; its moderate economic
resources and traditional organization sufficing to sustain it, despite
intellectual decadence, till the age of Saracen greatness was over. Nor
did their faith ever unify them save ostensibly for purposes of common
warfare against the racial foe--a kind of union attained in all ages
and with all varieties of religion. Fierce domestic strifes broke out
as soon as the Prophet was dead. It would be as true to say that the
common racial and military interest against the Græco-Roman and Persian
States unified the Moslem parties, as that Islam unified the Arab
tribes and factions. Apart from the inner circle of converts, indeed,
the first conquerors were in mass not at all deeply devout, and many of
them maintained to the end of their generation, and after his death,
the unbelief which from the first met the Prophet at Mecca. [1025]
Against the creed of Mohammed "the conservative and material instincts
of the people of the desert rose in revolt; and although they became
Moslems en masse, the majority of them neither believed in Islam nor
knew what it meant. Often their motives were frankly utilitarian:
they expected that Islam would bring them luck.... If things went ill,
they blamed Islam and turned their backs on it." [1026] It is told of
a Moslem chief of the early days that he said: "If there were a God,
I would swear by his name that I did not believe in him." [1027]
A general fanaticism grew up later. But had there been no Islam,
enterprising Arabs would probably have overrun Syria and Persia and
Africa and Spain all the same. [1028] Attila went further, and he is
not known to have been a monotheist or a believer in Paradise. Nor
were Jenghiz Khan and Tamerlane indebted to religious faith for
their conquests.

On the other hand, when a Khalifate was anywhere established
by military force, the faith would indeed serve as a nucleus of
administration, and further as a means of resisting the insidious
propaganda of the rival faith, which might have been a source of
political danger. It was their Sacred Book and Prophet that saved
the Arabs from accepting the religion of the states they conquered
as did the Goths and Franks. The faith thus so far preserved their
military polity when that was once set up; but it was not the faith
that made the polity possible, or gave the power of conquest, as is
conventionally held. At most, it partly facilitated their conquests
by detaching a certain amount of purely superstitious support from
the other side. And it never availed to unify the race, or the Islamic
peoples. On the fall of Othman "the ensuing civil wars rent the unity
of Islam from top to bottom, and the wound has never healed." [1029]
The feud between Northern and Southern Arabs "rapidly developed and
extended into a permanent racial enmity." [1030] And when, after
the Ommayade dynasty had totally failed to unify Semite and Aryan in
Persia, the task was partially accomplished by the Abassides, it was
not through any greater stress of piety, but by way of accepting the
inevitable, after generations of division and revolt. [1031]



§ 2

It may perhaps be more truly claimed for the Koran that it was the
basis of Arab scholarship; since it was in order to elucidate its
text that the first Arab grammars and dictionaries and literary
collections were made. [1032] Here again, however, the reflection
arises that some such development would have occurred in any case, on
the basis of the abundant pre-Islamic poetry, given but the material
conquests. The first conquerors were illiterate, and had to resort
to the services and the organization of the conquered [1033] for
all purposes of administrative writings, using for a time even the
Greek and Persian languages. There was nothing in the Koran itself
to encourage literature; and the first conquerors either despised or
feared that of the conquered. [1034]

When the facts are inductively considered, it appears that the Koran
was from the first rather a force of intellectual fixation than one
of stimulus. As we have seen, there was a measure of rationalism as
well as of monotheism among the Arabs before Mohammed; and the Prophet
set his face violently against all unbelief. The word "unbeliever"
or "infidel" in the Koran normally signifies merely "rejector of
Mohammed"; but a number of passages [1035] show that there were
specific unbelievers in the doctrine of a future state as well as in
miracles; and his opponents put to him challenges which showed that
they rationally disbelieved his claim to inspiration. [1036] Hence,
clearly, the scarcity of miracles in his early legend, on the Arab
side. On a people thus partly "refined, skeptical, incredulous,"
[1037] much of whose poetry showed no trace of religion, [1038]
the triumph of Islam gradually imposed a tyrannous dogma, entailing
abundance of primitive superstition under the ægis of monotheistic
doctrine. Some moral service it did compass, and for this the credit
seems to be substantially due to Mohammed; though here again he
was not an innovator. Like previous reformers, [1039] he vehemently
denounced the horrible practice of burying alive girl children; and
when the Koran became law his command took effect. His limitation of
polygamy too may have counted for something, despite the unlimited
practice of his latter years. For the rest, he prescribes, in the
traditional eastern fashion, liberal almsgiving; this, with normal
integrity and patience, and belief in "God and the Last Day, and the
Angels, and the Scriptures, and the Prophets," [1040] is the gist
of his ethical and religious code, with much stress on hell-fire
and the joys of Paradise, and at the same time on predestination,
and with no reasoning on any issue.



§ 3

The history of Saracen culture is the history of the attainment
of saner ideas and a higher plane of thought. Within a century of
the Hej'ra [1041] there had arisen some rational skepticism in the
Moslem schools, as apart from the chronic schisms and strifes of the
faithful. A school of theology had been founded by Hasan-al-Basri at
Bassorah; and one of his disciples, Wasil ibn Attâ, following some
previous heretics--Mabad al Jhoni, Ghailan of Damascus, and Jonas al
Aswari [1042]--rejected the predestination doctrine of the Koran as
inconsistent with the future judgment; arguing for freewill and at the
same time for the humane provision of a purgatory. From this beginning
dates the Motazileh or class of Motazilites (or Mu`tazilites), [1043]
the philosophic reformers and moderate freethinkers of Islam. Other
sects of a semi-political character had arisen even during the last
illness of the Prophet, and others soon after his death. [1044] One
party sought to impose on the faithful the "Sunna" or "traditions,"
which really represented the old Arabian ideas of law, but were
pretended to be unwritten sayings of Mohammed. [1045] To this the
party of Ali (the Prophet's cousin) objected; whence began the long
dispute between the Shiah or Shîites (the anti-traditionists), and
the Sunnites; the conquered and oppressed Persians tending to stand
with the former, and generally, in virtue of their own thought,
to supply the heterodox element under the later Khalifates. [1046]
Thus Shîites were apt to be Motazilites. [1047] On Ali's side, again,
there broke away a great body of Kharejites or Separatists, who claimed
that the Imaum or head of the Faith should be chosen by election,
while the Shîites stood for succession by divine right. [1048] All
this had occurred before any schools of theology existed.

The Motazilites, once started, divided gradually into a score of
sects, [1049] all more or less given to rationalizing within the
limits of monotheism. [1050] The first stock were named Kadarites,
because insisting on man's power (kadar) over his acts. [1051]
Against them were promptly ranged the Jabarites, who affirmed that
man's will was wholly under divine constraint (jabar). [1052] Yet
another sect, the Sifatites, opposed both of the others, some of them
[1053] standing for a literal interpretation of the Koran, which is
in part predestinationist, and in parts assumes freewill; while the
main body of orthodox, following the text, professed to respect as
insoluble mystery the contradictions they found in it. [1054] The
history of Islam in this matter is strikingly analogous to that of
Christianity from the rise of the Pelagian heresy.

It is to be noted that, while the heretics in time came under Greek
and other foreign influences, their criticism of the Koran was
at the outset their own. [1055] The Shîites, becoming broadly the
party of the Persians, admitted in time Persian, Jewish, Gnostic,
Manichæan, and other dualistic doctrines, and generally tended
to interpret the Koran allegorically. [1056] A particular school
of allegorists, the Bathenians, even tended to purify the idea of
deity in an agnostic direction. [1057] All of these would appear
to have ranked genetically as Motazilites; and the manifold play
of heretical thought gradually forced a certain habit of reasoning
on the orthodox, [1058] who as usual found their advantage in the
dissidences of the dissenters. On the other hand, the Motazilites
found new resources in the study and translation of Greek works,
scientific and philosophical. [1059] They were thus the prime factors,
on the Arab side, in the culture-evolution which went on under the
earlier of the Abasside Khalifs (750-1258). Greek literature reached
them mainly through the Syrian Christians, in whose hands it had been
put by the Nestorians, driven out of their scientific school at Edessa
and exiled by Leo the Isaurian (716-741); [1060] possibly also in part
through the philosophers who, on being exiled from Athens by Justinian,
settled for a time in Persia. [1061] The total result was that already
in the ninth century, within two hundred years of the beginning of
Mohammed's preaching, the Saracens in Persia had reached not only a
remarkable height of material civilization, their wealth exceeding
that of Byzantium, but a considerable though quasi-secret measure of
scientific knowledge and rational thought, [1062] including even some
measure of pure atheism. All forms of rationalism alike were called
zendekism by the orthodox, the name having the epithetic force of
the Christian terms "infidelity" and "atheism". [1063]

Secrecy was long imposed on the Motazilites by the orthodoxy
of the Khalifs, [1064] who as a rule atoned for many crimes and
abundant breaches of the law of the Koran by a devout profession
of faith. Freethinking, however, had its periods of political
prosperity. Even under the Ommayade dynasty, the Khalif Al Walid Ibn
Yazid (the eleventh of the race) was reputed to be of no religion,
but seems to have been rather a ruffian than a rationalist. [1065]
Under the Abassides culture made much more progress. The Khalif
Al Mansour, though he played a very orthodox part, [1066] favoured
the Motazilites (754-775), being generally a patron of the sciences;
and under him were made the first translations from the Greek. [1067]
Despite his orthodoxy he encouraged science; and it was as insurgents
and not as unbelievers that he destroyed the sect of Rewandites (a
branch of the anti-Moslem Ismailites), who are said to have believed
in metempsychosis. [1068] Partly on political but partly also on
religious grounds his successor Al Mahdi made war on the Ismailites,
whom he regarded as atheists, and who appear to have been connected
with the Motazilite "Brethren of Purity," [1069] destroying their
books and causing others to be written against them. [1070] They were
anti-Koranites; hardly atheists; but a kind of informal rationalism
approaching to atheism, and involving unbelief in the Koran and the
Prophet, seems to have spread considerably, despite the slaughter
of many unbelievers by Al Mahdi. Its source seems to have been
Persian aversion to the alien creed. [1071] The great philosophic
influence, again, was that of Aristotle; and though his abstract
God-idea was nominally adhered to, the scientific movement promoted
above all things the conception of a reign of law. [1072] Al Hadi,
the successor of Al Mahdi, persecuted much and killed many heretics;
and Haroun Al Raschid (Aaron the Orthodox) menaced with death those
who held the moderately rational tenet that "the Koran was created,"
[1073] as against the orthodox dogma (on all fours with the Brahmanic
doctrine concerning the Veda) that it was eternal in the heavens and
uncreated. One of the rationalists, Al Mozdar, accused the orthodox
party of infidelity, as asserting two eternal things; and there was
current among the Motazilites of his day the saying that, "had God
left men to their natural liberty, the Arabians could have composed
something not only equal but superior to the Koran in eloquence,
method, and purity of language." [1074]

Haroun's crimes, however, consisted little in acts of persecution. The
Persian Barmekides (the family of his first Vizier, surnamed Barmek)
were regarded as protectors of Motazilites; [1075] and one of the
sons, Jaafer, was even suspected of atheism, all three indeed being
charged with it. [1076] Their destruction, on other grounds, does not
seem to have altered the conditions for the thinkers; but Haroun's
incompetent son Emin was a devotee and persecutor. His abler brother
and conqueror Al Mamoun (813-833), on the other hand, directly favoured
the Motazilites, partly on political grounds, to strengthen himself
with the Persian party, but also on the ground of conviction. [1077]
He even imprisoned some of the orthodox theologians who maintained that
the Koran was not a created thing, though, like certain persecutors of
other faiths, he had expressly declared himself in favour of persuasion
as against coercion. [1078] In one case, following usage, he inflicted
a cruel torture. "His fatal error," says a recent scholar, "was that
he invoked the authority of the State in matters of the intellectual
and religious life." [1079] Compared with others, certainly, he did
not carry his coercion far, though, on being once publicly addressed
as "Ameer of the Unbelievers," he caused the fanatic who said it to
be put to death. [1080] In private he was wont to conduct meetings
for discussion, attended by believers and unbelievers of every shade,
at which the only restriction was that the appeal must be to reason,
and never to the Koran. [1081] Concerning his personal bias, it
is related that he had received from Kabul a book in old Persian,
The Eternal Reason, which taught that reason is the only basis for
religion, and that revelation cannot serve as a standing ground. [1082]
The story is interesting, but enigmatic, the origin of the book being
untraceable. Whatever were his views, his coercive policy against the
orthodox extremists had the usual effect of stimulating reaction on
that side, and preparing the ultimate triumph of orthodoxy. [1083]
The fact remains, however, that Mamoun was of all the Khalifs the
greatest promoter of science [1084] and culture; the chief encourager
of the study and translation of Greek literature; [1085] and, despite
his coercion of the theologians on the dogma of the eternity of the
Koran, tolerant enough to put a Christian at the head of a college
at Damascus, declaring that he chose him not for his religion but for
his science. In the same spirit he permitted the free circulation of
the apologetic treatise of the Armenian Christian Al Kindy, in which
Islam and the Koran are freely criticized. As a ruler, too, he ranks
among the best of his race for clemency, justice, and decency of life,
although orthodox imputations were cast on his subordinates. His
successors Motasim and Wathek were of the same cast of opinion, the
latter being, however, fanatical on behalf of his rationalistic view
of the Koran as a created thing. [1086]

A violent orthodox reaction set in under the worthless and Turk-ruled
Khalif Motawakkel [1087] (847-861), by whose time the Khalifate
was in a state of political decadence, partly from the economic
exhaustion following on its tyrannous and extortionate rule; partly
from the divisive tendencies of its heterogeneous sections; partly
from the corrupting tendency of all despotic power. [1088] Despite
the official restoration of orthodoxy, the private cultivation
of science and philosophy proceeded for a time; the study and
translation of Greek books continued; [1089] and rationalism of a
kind seems to have subsisted more or less secretly to the end. In
the tenth century it is said to have reached even the unlearned; and
though the Motazilites gradually drifted into a scholastic orthodoxy,
downright unbelief came up alongside, [1090] albeit secretly. Faith
in Mohammed's mission and law began again to shake; and the learned
disregarded its prescriptions. Mystics professed to find the way
to God without the Koran. Many decided that religion was useful for
regulating the people, but was not for the wise. On the other side,
however, the orthodox condemned all science as leading to unbelief,
[1091] and developed an elaborate and quasi-systematic theology. It
was while the scientific encyclopedists of Bassorah were amassing the
knowledge which, through the Moors, renewed thought in the West, that
Al Ashari built up the Kalâm or scholastic theology which thenceforth
reigned in the Mohammedan East; [1092] and the philosopher Al Gazzali
(or Gazel), on his part, employed the ancient and modern device of
turning a profession of philosophical scepticism to the account of
orthodoxy. [1093]

In the struggle between science and religion, in a politically
decadent State, the latter inevitably secured the administrative
power. [1094] Under the Khalifs Motamid (d. 892) and Motadhed (d. 902)
all science and philosophy were proscribed, and booksellers were put
upon their oath not to sell any but orthodox books. [1095] Thus, though
philosophy and science had secretly survived, when the political end
came the popular faith was in much the same state as it had been under
Haroun Al Raschid. Under Islam as under all the faiths of the world,
in the east as in the west, the mass of the people remained ignorant
as well as poor; and the learning and skill of the scholars served
only to pass on the saved treasure of Greek thought and science to
the new civilization of Europe. The fact that the age of military and
political decadence was that of the widest diffusion of rationalism
is naturally fastened on as giving the explanation of the decline;
but the inference is pure fallacy. The Bagdad Khalifate declined as
the Christianized Roman Empire declined, from political and external
causes; and the Turks who overthrew it proceeded to overthrow Christian
Byzantium, where rationalism never reared its head.


    The conventional view is thus set forth in a popular work (The
    Saracens, by Arthur Gilman, 1887, p. 385): "Unconsciously Mamun
    began a process by which that implicit faith which had been
    at once the foundation and the inspiration of Islam, which had
    nerved its warriors in their terrible warfare, and had brought
    the nation out of its former obscurity to the foremost position
    among the peoples of the world, was to be taken from them." We
    have seen that this view is entirely erroneous as regards the
    rise of the Saracen power; and it is no less so as regards
    the decline. At the outset there had been no "implicit faith"
    among the conquerors. The Eastern Saracens, further, had been
    decisively defeated by the Byzantines in the very first flush of
    their fanaticism and success; and the Western had been routed by
    Charles Martel long before they had any philosophy. There was
    no overthrow of faith among the warriors of the Khalifate. The
    enlistment of Turkish mercenaries by Mamoun and Motasim, by way of
    being independent of the Persian and Arab factions in the army and
    the State, introduced an element which, at first purely barbaric,
    became as orthodox as the men of Haroun's day had been. Yet the
    decadence, instead of being checked, was furthered.

    Nor were the strifes set up by the rationalistic view of the Koran
    nearly so destructive as the mere faction-fights and sectarian
    insurrections which began with Motawakkel. The falling-away
    of cities and provinces under the feeble Moktader (908-932)
    had nothing whatever to do with opinions, but was strictly
    analogous to the dissolution of the kingdom of Charlemagne under
    his successors, through the rise of new provincial energies;
    and the tyranny of the Turkish mercenaries was on all fours with
    that of the Pretorians of the Roman Empire, and with that of the
    Janissaries in later Turkey. The writer under notice has actually
    recorded (p. 408) that the warlike sect of Ismailitic Karmathians,
    who did more than any other enemy to dismember the Khalifate, were
    unbelievers in the Koran, deniers of revelation, and disregarders
    of prayer. The later Khalifs, puppets in the hands of the Turks,
    were one and all devout believers.

    On the other hand, fresh Moslem and non-Moslem dynasties arose
    alternately as the conditions and opportunities determined. Jenghiz
    Khan, who overran Asia, was no Moslem; neither was Tamerlane;
    but new Moslem conquerors did overrun India, as pagan Alexander
    had done in his day. Theological ideas counted for as little in
    one case as in the other. Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni (997-1030), who
    reared a new empire on the basis of the province of Khorassan and
    the kingdom of Bokhara, and who twelve times successfully invaded
    India, happened to be of Turkish stock; but he is also recorded
    to have been in his youth a doubter of a future state, as well as
    of his personal legitimacy. His later parade of piety (as to which
    see Baron De Slane's tr. of Ibn Khallikan's Biog. Dict. iii, 334)
    is thus a trifle suspect (British India, in Edin. Cab. Lib. 3rd
    ed. i, 189, following Ferishta); and his avarice seems to have
    animated him to the full as much as his faith, which was certainly
    not more devout than that of the Brahmans of Somnauth, whose
    hold he captured. (Cp. Prof. E. G. Browne, A Literary History
    of Persia, ii (1906), 119.) During his reign, besides, unbelief
    was rife in his despite (Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, iii, 72),
    though he burned the books of the Motazilites, besides crucifying
    many Ismaïlian heretics (Browne, p. 160). The conventional theorem
    as to the political importance of faith, in short, will not bear
    investigation. Even Freeman here sets it aside (Hist. and Conq. of
    the Saracens, p. 124).



§ 4

It is in the later and nominally decadent ages of the Bagdad Khalifate,
when science and culture and even industry relatively prospered by
reason of the personal impotence of the Khalifs, that we meet with
the most pronounced and the most perspicacious of the Freethinkers of
Islam. In the years 973-1057 there dwelt in the little Syrian town
of Marratun-Numan the blind poet Abu'l-ala-al-Ma'arri, who wrote a
parody of the Koran, [1096] and in his verse derided all religions as
alike absurd, and yet was for some reason never persecuted. He has
been pronounced "incomparably greater" than Omar Khayyám "both as
a poet and as an agnostic." [1097] One of his sayings was that "The
world holds two classes of men--intelligent men without religion, and
religious men without intelligence." [1098] He may have escaped on the
strength of a character for general eccentricity, for he was an ardent
vegetarian and an opponent of all parentage, declaring that to bring
a child into the world was to add to the sum of suffering. [1099]
The fact that he was latterly a man of wealth, yet in person an
ascetic and a generous giver, may be the true explanation. Whatever
be the explanation of his immunity, the frankness of his heterodoxy
is memorable. Nourished perhaps by a temper of protest set up in him
by the blindness which fell upon him in childhood after smallpox, the
spirit of reason seems to have been effectually developed in him by a
stay of a year and a-half at Bagdad, where, in the days of Al Mansour,
"Christians and Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, Sabians and Sufis,
materialists and rationalists," met and communed. [1100] Before his
visit, his poems are substantially orthodox; later, their burden
changes. He denies a resurrection, and is "wholly incredulous of any
divine revelation. Religion, as he conceives it, is a product of the
human mind, in which men believe through force of habit and education,
never stopping to consider whether it is true." "His belief in God
amounted, as it would seem, to little beyond a conviction that all
things are governed by inexorable Fate." Concerning creeds he sings
in one stave:--


        Now this religion happens to prevail
          Until by that one it is overthrown;
          Because men will not live with men alone,
        But always with another fairy-tale [1101]--


a summing-up not to be improved upon here.

A century later still, and in another region, we come upon the (now)
most famous of all Eastern freethinkers, Omar Khayyám. He belonged to
Naishápúr in Khorassan, a province which had long been known for its
rationalism, [1102] and which had been part of the nucleus of the great
Asiatic kingdom created by Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni at the beginning
of the eleventh century, soon after the rise of the Fatimite dynasty
in Egypt. Under that Sultan flourished Ferdusi (Firdausi), one of
the chief glories of Persian verse. After Mahmoud's death, his realm
and parts of the Khalifate in turn were overrun by the Seljuk Turks
under Togrul Beg; under whose grandson Malik it was that Omar Khayyám,
astronomer and poet, studied and sang in Khorassan. The Turk-descended
Shah favoured science as strongly as any of the Abassides; and when he
decided to reform the calendar, Omar was one of the eight experts he
employed to do it. Thus was set up for the East the Jaláli calendar,
which, as Gibbon has noted, [1103] "surpasses the Julian and approaches
the accuracy of the Gregorian style." Omar was, in fact, one of the
ablest mathematicians of his age. [1104]

His name, Omar ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyámi, seems to point to Arab
descent. "Al-Khayyámmi" means "the tent-maker"; but in no biographic
account of him is there the slightest proof that he or his father ever
belonged to that or any other handicraft. [1105] Always he figures
as a scholar and a man of science. Since, therefore, the patronymic
al-Khayyámi is fairly common now among Arabs, and also among the still
nomadic tribes of Khuzistan and Luristan, the reasonable presumption
is that it was in his case a patronymic also. [1106] His father being
a man of some substance, he had a good schooling, and is even described
in literary tradition as having become an expert Koran scholar, by the
admission of the orthodox Al Gazzali, who, however, is represented
in another record as looking with aversion on Omar's scientific
lore. [1107] The poet may have had his lead to freethought during his
travels after graduating at Naishapur, when he visited Samarkhand,
Bokhara, Ispahan, and Balk. [1108] He seems to have practised astrology
for a living, even as did Kepler in Europe five hundred years later;
and he perhaps dabbled somewhat in medicine. [1109] A hostile orthodox
account of him, written in the thirteenth century, represents him as
"versed in all the wisdom of the Greeks," and as wont to insist on
the necessity of studying science on Greek lines. [1110] Of his prose
works, two, which were of standard authority, dealt respectively with
precious stones and climatology. [1111]

Beyond question the poet-astronomer was undevout; and his astronomy
doubtless helped to make him so. One contemporary writes: "I did not
observe that he had any great belief in astrological predictions;
nor have I seen or heard of any of the great (scientists) who had such
belief." [1112] The biographical sketch by Ibn al Kifti, before cited,
declares that he "performed pilgrimages not from piety but from fear,"
having reason to dread the hostility of contemporaries who knew or
divined his unbelief; and there is a story of a treacherous pupil
who sought to bring him into public odium. [1113] In point of fact he
was not, any more than Abu' l-Ala, a convinced atheist, but he had no
sympathy with popular religion. "He gave his adherence to no religious
sect. Agnosticism, not faith, is the keynote of his works." [1114]
Among the sects he saw everywhere strife and hatred in which he could
have no part. His earlier English translators, reflecting the tone
of the first half of the last century, have thought fit to moralize
censoriously over his attitude to life; and the first, Prof. Cowell,
has austerely decided that Omar's gaiety is "but a risus sardonicus
of despair." [1115] Even the subtler Fitzgerald, who has so admirably
rendered some of the audacities which Cowell thought "better left in
the original Persian," has the air of apologizing for them when he
partly concurs in the same estimate. But despair is not the name for
the humorous melancholy which Omar, like Abu' l-Ala, weaves around
his thoughts on the riddle of the universe. Like Abu' l-Ala, again,
he talks at times of God, but with small signs of faith. In epigrams
which have seldom been surpassed for their echoing depth, he disposes
of the theistic solution and the lure of immortality; whereafter,
instead of offering another shibboleth, he sings of wine and roses,
of the joys of life and of their speedy passage; not forgetting
to add a stipulation for beneficence. [1116] It was his way of
turning into music the undertone of all mortality; and that it is
now preferable, for any refined intelligence, to the affectation of
zest for a "hereafter" on which no one wants to enter, would seem to
be proved by the remarkable vogue he has secured in modern England,
chiefly through the incomparable version of Fitzgerald. Much of the
attraction, certainly, is due to the canorous cadence and felicitous
phrasing of those singularly fortunate stanzas; and a similar handling
might have won as high a repute among us for Abu' l-Ala, whom, as we
have seen, some of our Orientalists set higher, and whose verse as
recently rendered into English has an indubitable charm. Fitzgerald,
on the other hand, has added much to Omar. But the thoughts of Omar
remain the kernels of Fitzgerald's verses; and whereas the counsel,
"Gather ye roses while ye may," is common enough, it must be the
weightier bearing of his deeper and more daring ideas that gives
the quatrains their main hold to-day. In the more exact rendering of
those translators who closely reproduce the original he remains beyond
question a freethinker, [1117] placing ethic above creed, though much
given to the praise of wine. Never popular in the Moslem world, [1118]
he has had in ours an unparalleled welcome; and it must be because
from his scientific vantage ground in the East, in the period of the
Norman Conquest, he had attained in some degree the vision and chimed
with the mood of a later and larger age.

That Omar in his day and place was not alone in his mood lies on
the face of his verse. Many quatrains ascribed to him, indeed,
are admittedly assignable to other Persian poets; and one of his
English editors notes that "the poetry of rebellion and revolt from
orthodox opinion, which is supposed to be peculiar to him, may be
traced in the works of his predecessor Avicenna, as well as in those
of Afdal-i-Káshí, and others of his successors." [1119] The allusions
to the tavern, a thing suspect and illicit for Islam, show that he
was in a society more Persian than Arab, one in which was to be found
nearly all of the free intellectual life possible in the Moslem East;
[1120] and doubtless Persian thought, always leaning to heresy, and
charged with germs of scientific speculation from immemorial antiquity,
prepared his rationalism; though his monism excludes alike dualism
and theism. "One for two I never did misread" is his summing up of
his philosophy. [1121]

But the same formula might serve for the philosophy of the sect of
Sufis, [1122] who in all ages seem to have included unbelievers as
well as devoutly mystical pantheists. Founded, it is said, by a woman,
Rabia, in the first century of the Hej'ra, [1123] the sect really
carries on a pre-Mohammedan mysticism, and may as well derive from
Greece [1124] as from Asia. Its original doctrine of divine love, as a
reaction against Moslem austerity, gave it a fixed hold in Persia, and
became the starting point of innumerable heterodox doctrines. [1125]
Under the Khalif Moktader, a Persian Sufi is recorded to have been
tortured and executed for teaching that every man is God. [1126] In
later ages, Sufiism became loosely associated with every species of
independent thinking; and there is reason to suspect that the later
poets Sadi (fl. thirteenth century) and Hafiz [1127] (fl. fourteenth
century), as well as hundreds of lesser status, held under the name of
Sufiism views of life not far removed from those of Omar Khayyám; who,
however, had bantered the Sufis so unmercifully that they are said to
have dreaded and hated him. [1128] In any case, Sufiism has included
such divergent types as Al Gazzali, [1129] the skeptical defender of
the faith; devout pantheistic poets such as Jâmi; [1130] and singers
of love and wine such as Hafiz, whose extremely concrete imagery is
certainly not as often allegorical as serious Sufis assert, though no
doubt it is sometimes so. [1131] It even became nominally associated
with the destructive Ismaïlitism of the sect of the Assassins, whose
founder, Hassan, had been the schoolfellow of Omar Khayyám. [1132]

Of Sufiism as a whole it may be said that whether as inculcating
quietism, or as widening the narrow theism of Islam into pantheism,
or as sheltering an unaggressive rationalism, it has made for freedom
and humanity in the Mohammedan world, lessening the evils of ignorance
where it could not inspire progress. [1133] It long anticipated
the semi-rationalism of those Christians who declare heaven and
hell to be names for bodily or mental states in this life. [1134]
On its more philosophic side too it connects with the long movement
of speculation which, passing into European life through the Western
Saracens, revived Greek philosophic thought in Christendom after the
night of the Middle Ages, at the same time that Saracen science passed
on the more precious seeds of real knowledge to the new civilization.



§ 5

There is the less need to deal at any length in these pages with the
professed philosophy of the eastern Arabs, seeing that it was from
first to last but little associated with any direct or practical
repudiation of dogma and superstition. [1135] What freethought there
was had only an unwritten currency, and is to be traced, as so often
happens in later European history, through the protests of orthodox
apologists. Thus the Persian Al Gazzali, in the preface to his work,
The Destruction of the Philosophers, declares of the subjects of
his attack that "the source of all their errors is the trust they
have in the names of Sokrates, Hippokrates, Plato, and Aristotle; the
admiration they profess for their genius and subtlety; and the belief,
finally, that those great masters have been led by the profundity of
their faculty to reject all religion, and to regard its precepts as
the product of artifice and imposture." [1136] This implies an abundant
rationalism, [1137] but, as always, the unwritten unbelief lost ground,
its non-publication being the proof that orthodoxy prevailed against
it. Movements which were originally liberal, such as that of the
Motecallemîn, ran at length to mere dialectic defence of the faith
against the philosophers. Fighting the Aristotelian doctrine of the
eternity of matter, they sought to found a new theistic creationism
on the atoms of Demokritos, making God the creator of the atoms, and
negating the idea of natural law. [1138] Eastern Moslem philosophy
in general followed some such line of reaction and petrifaction. The
rationalistic Al Kindi (fl. 850) seems to have been led to philosophize
by the Motazilite problems; but his successors mostly set them
aside, developing an abstract logic and philosophy on Greek bases,
or studying science for its own sake, though as a rule professing a
devout acceptance of the Koran. [1139] Such was Avicenna (Ibn Sina:
d. 1037), who taught that men should revere the faith in which they
were educated; though in comparison with his predecessor Al Farabi,
who leant to Platonic mysticism, he is a rationalistic Aristotelian,
[1140] with a strong leaning to pantheism. Of him an Arabic historian
writes that in his old age he attached himself to the court of the
heretical Ala-ud-Dawla at Ispahan, in order that he might freely
write his own heretical works. [1141] After Al Gazzali (d. 1111),
who attacked both Avicenna [1142] and Al Farabi somewhat in the spirit
of Cicero's skeptical Cotta attacking the Stoics and the Epicureans,
[1143] there seems to have been a further development of skepticism,
the skeptical defence of the faith having the same unsettling tendency
in his as in later hands. Ibn Khaldun seems to denounce in the name
of faith his mixture of pietism and philosophy; and Makrisi speaks
of his doctrines as working great harm to religion [1144] among the
Moslems. But the socio-political conditions were too unpropitious
to permit of any continuous advance on rational lines. Ere long an
uncritical orthodoxy prevailed in the Eastern schools, and it is
in Moorish Spain that we are to look for the last efforts of Arab
philosophy.

The course of culture-evolution there broadly corresponds with that
of the Saracen civilization in the East. In Spain the Moors came into
contact with the Roman imperial polity, and at the same time with the
different culture elements of Judaism and Christianity. To both of
these faiths they gave complete toleration, thus strengthening their
own in a way that no other policy could have availed to do. Whatever
was left of Græco-Roman art, handicraft, and science, saving the
arts of portraiture, they encouraged; and whatever of agricultural
science remained from Carthaginian times they zealously adopted and
improved. Like their fellow-Moslems in the East, they further learned
all the science that the preserved literature of Greece could give
them. The result was that under energetic and enlightened khalifs
the Moorish civilization became the centre of light and knowledge
as well as of material prosperity for medieval Europe. Whatever of
science the world possessed was to be found in their schools; and
thither in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries flocked students
from the Christian States of western and northern Europe. It was in
whole or in part from Saracen hands that the modern world received
astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, botany, jurisprudence,
and philosophy. They were, in fact, the revivers of civilization after
the age of barbarian Christianity. [1145] And while the preservation
of Greek science, lost from the hands of Christendom, would have been
a notable service enough, the Arabs did much more. Alhazen (d. 1038)
is said to have done the most original work in optics before Newton,
[1146] and in the same century Arab medicine and chemistry made
original advances. [1147]

While the progressive period lasted, there was of course an abundance
of practical freethought. But after a marvellously rapid rise, the
Moorish civilization was arrested and paralysed by the internal and the
external forces of anti-civilization--religious fanaticism within and
Christian hostility without. Everywhere we have seen culture-progress
depending more or less clearly on the failure to find solutions for
political problems. The most fatal defect of all Arab civilization--a
defect involved in its first departure by way of conquest, and in
its fixedly hostile relation to the Christian States, which kept it
constantly on a military basis--was the total failure to substitute any
measure of constitutional rule for despotism. It was thus politically
unprogressive, even while advancing in other respects. But in other
respects also it soon reached the limits set by the conditions.

Whereas in Persia the Arabs overran an ancient civilization,
containing many elements of rationalism which acted upon their own
creed, the Moors in Spain found a population only slightly civilized,
and predisposed by its recent culture, as well as by its natural
conditions, [1148] to fanatical piety. Thus when, under their tolerant
rule, Jews and Christians in large numbers embraced Islam, the new
converts became the most fanatical of all. [1149] All rationalism
existed in their despite, and, abounding as they did, they tended to
gain power whenever the Khalif was weak, and to rebel furiously when
he was hostile. When, accordingly, the growing pressure of the feudal
Christian power in Northern Spain at length became a menacing danger
to the Moorish States, weakened by endless intestine strife, the one
resource was to call in a new force of Moslem fanaticism in the shape
of the Almoravide [1150] Berbers, who, to the utmost of their power,
put down everything scientific and rationalistic, and established
a rigid Koranolatry. After a time they in turn, growing degenerate
while remaining orthodox, were overrun by a new influx of conquering
fanatics from Africa, the Almohades, who, failing to add political
science to their faith, went down in the thirteenth century before
the Christians in Spain, in a great battle in which their prince sat
in their sight with the Koran in his hand. [1151] Here there could
be no pretence that "unbelief" wrought the downfall. The Jonah of
freethought, so to speak, had been thrown overboard; and the ship
went down with the flag of faith flying at every masthead. [1152]

It was in the last centuries of Moorish rule that there lived the
philosophers whose names connect it with the history of European
thought, retaining thus a somewhat factitious distinction as compared
with the men of science, many of them nameless, who developed and
transmitted the sciences. The pantheistic Avempace (Ibn Badja:
d. 1138), who defended the reason against the theistic skepticism
of Al Gazzali, [1153] was physician, astronomer, and mathematician,
as well as metaphysician; as was Abubacer (Abu Bekr, also known as
Ibn Tophail: d. 1185), who regarded religious systems as "only a
necessary means of discipline for the multitude," [1154] and as being
merely symbols of the higher truth reached by the philosopher. Both
men, however, tended rather to mysticism than to exact thought;
and Abubacer's treatise, The Self-taught Philosopher, which has
been translated into Latin (by Pococke in 1671), English, Dutch,
and German, has had the singular fortune of being adopted by the
Quakers as a work of edification. [1155]

Very different was the part played by Averroës (Ibn Roshd), the
most famous of all Moslem thinkers, because the most far-reaching
in his influence on European thought. For the Middle Ages he was
pre-eminently the expounder of Aristotle, and it is as setting forth,
in that capacity, the pantheistic doctrine which affirms the eternity
of the material universe and makes the individual soul emanate from
and return to the soul of all, that he becomes important alike in
Moslem and Christian thought. Diverging from the asceticism and
mysticism of Avempace and Abubacer, and strenuously opposing the
anti-rationalism of Al Gazzali, against whose chief treatise he penned
his own Destruction of the Destruction of the Philosophers, Averroës is
the least mystical and the most rational of the Arab thinkers. [1156]
At nearly all vital points he oppugns the religious view of things,
denying bodily resurrection, which he treats (here following all his
predecessors in heretical Arab philosophy) as a vulgar fable; [1157]
and making some approach to a scientific treatment of the problem of
"Freewill" as against, on the one hand, the ethic-destroying doctrine
of the Motecallemîn, who made God's will the sole standard of right,
and affirmed predestination (Jabarism); and against, on the other hand,
the anti-determinism of the Kadarites. [1158] Even in his politics
he was original; and in his paraphrase of Plato's Republic he has
said a notable word for women, pointing out how small an opening is
offered for their faculties in Moslem society. [1159] Of all tyrannies,
he boldly declared, the worst is that of priests.

In time, however, a consciousness of the vital hostility of his
doctrine to current creeds, and of the danger he consequently ran,
made him, like so many of his later disciples, anxious to preserve
priestly favour. As regards religion he was more complaisant than
Abubacer, pronouncing Mohammedanism the most perfect of all popular
systems, [1160] and preaching a patriotic conformity on that score
to philosophic students.

From him derives the formula of a two-fold truth--one truth for
science or philosophy, and another for religion--which played so
large a part in the academic life of Christendom for centuries. [1161]
In two of his treatises, On the harmony of religion with philosophy
and On the demonstration of religious dogmas, he even takes up a
conservative attitude, proclaiming that the wise man never utters a
word against the established creed, and going so far as to say that
the freethinker who attacks it, inasmuch as he undermines popular
virtue, deserves death. [1162] Even in rebutting, as entirely absurd,
the doctrine of the creation of the world, and ascribing its currency
to the stupefying power of habit, he takes occasion to remark piously
that those whose religion has no better basis than faith are frequently
seen, on taking up scientific studies, to become utter zendeks. [1163]
But he lived in an age of declining culture and reviving fanaticism;
and all his conformities could not save him from proscription, at
the hands of a Khalif who had long favoured him, for the offence
of cultivating Greek antiquity to the prejudice of Islam. All study
of Greek philosophy was proscribed at the same time, and all books
found on the subject were destroyed. [1164] Disgraced and banished
from court, Averroës died at Morocco in 1198; other philosophers were
similarly persecuted; [1165] and soon afterwards the Moorish rule in
Spain came to an end in the odour of sanctity. [1166]

So complete was now the defeat of the intellectual life in Western
Islam that the ablest writer produced by the Arab race in the period
of the Renaissance, Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (1332-1406), writes as a
bigoted believer in revelation, though his writings on the science of
history were the most philosophic since the classic period, being out
of all comparison superior to those of the Christian chroniclers of
his age. [1167] So rationalistic, indeed, is his method, relatively
to his time, that it is permissible to suspect him of seeking to
propitiate the bigots. [1168] But neither they nor his race in general
could learn the sociological lessons he had it in him to teach. Their
development was arrested for that period.



§ 6

Of later freethought under Islam there is little to record as regards
literary output, but the phenomenon has never disappeared. Buckle,
in his haste, declared that he could write the history of Turkish
civilization on the back of his hand; [1169] but even in Turkey,
at a time of minimum friendly contact with other European life,
there have been traces of a spirit of freethinking nearly as active
as that astir in Christendom at the same period. Thus at the end of
the seventeenth century we have circumstantial testimony to the vogue
of a doctrine of atheistic Naturalism at Constantinople. The holders
of this doctrine were called Muserin, a term said to mean "The true
secret is with us." They affirmed a creative and all-sustaining
Nature, in which Man has his place like the plants and like the
planets; and they were said to form a very large number, including
Cadis and other learned as well as some renegade persons. [1170] But
Turkish culture-conditions in the eighteenth century were not such as
to permit of intellectual progress on native lines; and to this day
rationalism in that as in other Moslem countries is mainly a matter of
reflex action set up by the impact of European scientific knowledge,
or social contact. There is no modern rationalistic literature.

Motazilism, so-called, is still heard of in Arabia itself. [1171]
In the Ottoman Empire, indeed, it is little in evidence, standing
now as it does for a species of broad-church liberalism, analogous
to Christian Unitarianism; [1172] but in Persia the ancient leaning
to rationalism is still common. The old-world pantheism which we
have seen conserved in Omar Khayyám gave rise in later centuries to
similar developments among the Parsees both in Persia and in India;
and from the sixteenth century onwards there are clear traces among
them of a number of rationalizing heresies, varying from pantheism
and simple deism to atheism and materialism. [1173] In Persia to-day
there are many thinkers of these casts of thought. [1174] About 1830 a
British traveller estimated that, assuming there were between 200,000
and 300,000 Sufis in the country, those figures probably fell greatly
short of the number "secretly inclined to infidelity." [1175] Whatever
be the value of the figures, the statement is substantially confirmed
by later observers; [1176] missionaries reporting independently that
in Persia "most of the higher class, of the nobility, and of the
learned professions ... are at heart infidels or sceptics." [1177]
Persian freethought is of course, in large part, the freethought of
ignorance, and seems to co-exist with astrological superstition;
[1178] but there is obviously needed only science, culture, and
material development to produce, on such a basis, a renascence as
remarkable as that of modern Japan.

The verdict of Vambéry is noteworthy: "In all Asia, with the exception
of China, there is no land and no people wherein there is so little
of religious enthusiasm as in Persia; where freethinkers are so
little persecuted, and can express their opinions with so little
disturbance; and where, finally, as a natural consequence, the old
religious structure can be so easily shattered by the outbreak of new
enthusiasts. Whoever has read Khayyám's blasphemies against God and
the prophet, his jesting verses against the holiest ceremonies and
commandments of Islam; and whoever knows the vogue of this book and
other works directed against the current religion, will not wonder
that Bâb with the weapon of the Word won so many hearts in so short
a time." [1179]

The view that Bâbism affiliates to rationalism is to be understood in
the sense that the atmosphere of the latter made possible the growth of
the former, its adherents being apparently drawn rather from the former
orthodox. [1180] The young founder of the sect, Mirza-Ali-Mohammed,
declared himself "The Bâb," i.e. "the Gate" (to the knowledge of God),
as against the orthodox Moslem teachers who taught that "since the
twelve Imâms, the Gate of Knowledge is closed." Hence the name of
the sect. Mirza-Ali, who showed a strong tendency to intolerance,
quickly created an aggressive movement, which was for a time put down
by the killing of himself and many of his followers.

Since his execution the sect has greatly multiplied and its doctrines
have much widened. For a time the founder's intolerant teachings
were upheld by Ezél, the founder of one of the two divisions into
which the party speedily fell; while his rival Béha, who gave himself
out as the true Prophet, of whom the Bâb was merely the precursor,
developed a notably cosmopolitan and equalitarian doctrine, including a
vague belief in immortality, without heaven, hell, or purgatory. Ezél
eventually abandoned his claims, and his followers now number less
than two thousand; while the Béhaïtes number nearly three millions
out of the seven millions of the Persian population, and some two
millions in the adjacent countries. The son of Béha, Abbas Effendi,
who bears the title of "The Great Branch," now rules the cult, which
promises to be the future religion of Persia. [1181] One of the most
notable phenomena of the earlier movement was the entrance of a young
woman, daughter of a leading ulema, who for the first time in Moslem
history threw off the regulation veil and preached the equality of
the sexes. [1182] She was one of those first executed. Persecution,
however, has long ceased, and as a result of her lead the position
of woman in the cult is exceptionally good. Thus the last century
has witnessed within the sphere of Islam, so commonly supposed to
be impervious to change, one of the most rapid and radical religious
changes recorded in history. There is therefore no ground for holding
that in other Moslem countries progress is at an end.

Everything depends, broadly speaking, on the possibilities of
culture-contact. The changes in Persia are traceable to the element
of heretical habit which has persisted from pre-Moslem times; future
and more scientific development will depend upon the assimilation
of European knowledge. In Egypt, before the period of European
intervention, freethinking was at a minimum; and though toleration
was well developed as regarded Christians and Jews, freethinking
Moslems dared not avow themselves. [1183] Latterly rationalism tends to
spread in Egypt as in other Moslem countries; even under Mohammed Ali
the ruling Turks had begun to exhibit a "remarkable indifference to
religion," and had "begun to undermine the foundations of El-Islam";
and so shrewd and dispassionate an observer as Lane expected that
the common people would "soon assist in the work," and that "the
overthrow of the whole fabric may reasonably be expected to ensue at
a period not very remote." [1184] To evolve such a change there will
be required a diffusion of culture which is not at all likely to be
rapid under any Government; but in any case the ground that is being
lost by Islam in Egypt is not being retaken by Christianity.

In the other British dominions, Mohammedans, though less ready than
educated Hindus to accept new ideas, cannot escape the rationalizing
influence of European culture. Nor was it left to the British to
introduce the rationalistic spirit in Moslem India. At the end of
the sixteenth century the eclectic Emperor Akbar, [1185] himself a
devout worshipper of the Sun, [1186] is found tolerantly comparing
all religions, [1187] depreciating Islam, [1188] and arriving at
such general views on the equivalence of all creeds, and on the
improbability of eternal punishment, [1189] as pass for liberal
among Christians in our own day. If such views could be generated
by a comparison of the creeds of pre-British India they must needs
be encouraged now. The Mohammedan mass is of course still deeply
fanatical, and habitually superstitious; but not any more immovably so
than the early Saracens. In the eighteenth century arose the fanatical
Wahabi sect, which aims at a puritanic restoration of primeval Islam,
freed from the accretions of later belief, such as saint-worship; but
the movement, though variously estimated, has had small success, and
seems destined to extinction. [1190] Of the traditional seventy-three
sects in Islam only four to-day count as orthodox. [1191]

It may be worth while, in conclusion, to note that the comparative
prosperity or progressiveness of Islam as a proselytizing and
civilizing force in Africa--a phenomenon regarded even by some
Christians with satisfaction, and by some with alarm [1192]--is not
strictly or purely a religious phenomenon. Moslem civilization suits
with negro life in Africa in virtue not of the teaching of the Koran,
but of the comparative nearness of the Arab to the barbaric life. He
interbreeds with the natives, fraternizes with them (when not engaged
in kidnapping them), and so stimulates their civilization; where
the European colonist, looking down on them as an inferior species,
isolates, depresses, and degrades them. It is thus conceivable that
there is a future for Islam at the level of a low culture-stage; but
the Arab and Turkish races out of Africa are rather the more likely
to concur in the rationalistic movement of the higher civilization.

Even in Africa, however, a systematic observer notes, and predicts the
extension of, "a strong tendency on the part of the Mohammedans towards
an easy-going rationalism, such as is fast making way in Algeria, where
the townspeople and the cultivators in the more settled districts,
constantly coming in contact with Europeans, are becoming indifferent
to the more inconvenient among their Mohammedan observances, and
are content to live with little more religion than an observance of
the laws, and a desire to get on well with their neighbours." [1193]
Thus at every culture-level we see the persistence of that force of
intellectual variation which is the subject of our inquiry.



CHAPTER IX

CHRISTENDOM IN THE MIDDLE AGES


It would be an error, in view of the biological generalization
proceeded on and the facts noted in this inquiry, to suppose that
even in the Dark Ages, so called, [1194] the spirit of critical
reason was wholly absent from the life of Christendom. It had simply
grown very rare, and was the more discountenanced where it strove
to speak. But the most systematic suppression of heresies could
not secure that no private heresy should remain. As Voltaire has
remarked, there was "nearly always a small flock separated from the
great." [1195] Apart too from such quasi-rationalism as was involved
in semi-Pelagianism, [1196] critical heresy chronically arose even
in the Byzantine provinces, which by the curtailment of the Empire
had been left the most homogeneous and therefore the most manageable
of the Christian States. It is necessary to note those survivals of
partial freethinking, when we would trace the rise of modern thought.



§ 1. HERESY IN BYZANTIUM

It was probably from some indirect influence of the new anti-idolatrous
religion of Islam that in the eighth century the soldier-emperor,
Leo the Isaurian, known as the Iconoclast, derived his aversion
to the image-worship [1197] which had long been as general in
the Christian world as ever under polytheism. So gross had the
superstition become that particular images were frequently selected
as god-parents; of others the paint was partly scratched off to be
mixed with the sacramental wine; and the bread was solemnly put in
contact with them. [1198] Leo began (726) by an edict simply causing
the images to be placed so high that they could not be kissed, but
on being met with resistance and rebellion he ordered their total
removal (730). One view is that he saw image-worship to be the
main hindrance to the spread of the faith among Jews and Moslems,
and took his measures accordingly. [1199] Save on this one point he
was an orthodox Christian and Trinitarian, and his long effort to
put down images and pictures was in itself rather fanatical [1200]
than rationalistic, though a measure of freethinking was developed
among the religious party he created. [1201] Of this spirit, as
well as of the aversion to image-worship, [1202] something must
have survived the official restoration of idolatry; but the traces
are few. The most zealous iconoclasts seem never to have risen above
the flat inconsistency of treating the cross and the written gospels
with exactly the same adoration that their opponents paid to images;
[1203] and their appeal to the scriptures--which was their first and
last argument--was accordingly met by the retort that they themselves
accepted the authority of tradition, as did the image-worshippers. The
remarkable hostility of the army to the latter is to be explained,
apparently, by the local bias of the eastern regions from which the
soldiers were mainly recruited.

In the ninth century, when Saracen rivalry had stung the Byzantines
into some partial revival of culture and science, [1204] the
all-learned Patriarch Photius (c. 820-891), who reluctantly accepted
ecclesiastical office, earned a dangerous repute for freethinking
by declaring from the pulpit that earthquakes were produced by
earthly causes and not by divine wrath. [1205] But this was an
almost solitary gleam of reason in a generation wholly given up to
furious strife over the worship of images, and Photius was one of
the image-worshippers. The battle swung from extreme to extreme. The
emperor Michael II, "the Stammerer" (820-828), held a medium position,
and accordingly acquired the repute of a freethinker. A general under
Leo V, "the Armenian," he had conspired against him, and when on the
verge of execution had been raised to the throne in place of Leo, who
was assassinated at the altar. The new emperor aimed above all things
at peace and quietness; but his methods were thoroughly Byzantine,
and included the castration of the four sons of Leo. Michael himself
is said to have doubted the future resurrection of men, to have
maintained that Judas was saved, and to have doubted the existence
of Satan because he is not named in the Pentateuch [1206]--a species
of freethinking not far removed from that of the Iconoclasts, whose
grounds were merely Biblical. A generation later came Michael IV, "the
Sot," bred a wastrel under the guardianship of his mother, Theodora
(who in 842 restored image-worship and persecuted the Paulicians),
and her brother Bardas, who ultimately put her in a convent. Michael,
repeatedly defeated by the Saracens, long held his own at home. Taking
into favour Basil, who married his (Michael's) mistress, he murdered
Bardas, and a year later (867) was about to murder Basil in turn,
when the latter anticipated him, murdered the emperor, and assumed the
purple. It was under Basil, who put down the Iconoclasts, that Photius,
after formally deposing and being deposed by the Pope of Rome (864-66)
was really deposed and banished (868), to be restored to favour and
office ten years later. In 886, on the death of Basil, he was again
deposed, dying about 891. In that kaleidoscope of plot and faction,
fanaticism and crime, there is small trace of sane thinking. Michael
IV, in his disreputable way, was something of a freethinker, and
could even with impunity burlesque the religious processions of
the clergy, [1207] the orthodox populace joining in the laugh;
but there was no such culture at Constantinople as could develop
a sober rationalism, or sustain it against the clergy if it showed
its head. Intelligence in general could not rise above the plane of
the wrangle over images. While the struggle lasted, it was marked by
all the ferocity that belonged from the outset to Christian strifes;
and in the end, as usual, the more irrational bias triumphed.

It was in a sect whose doctrine at one point coincided with iconoclasm
that there were preserved such rude seeds of oriental rationalism
as could survive the rule of the Byzantine emperors, and carry the
stimulus of heresy to the west. The rise of the Paulicians in Armenia
dates from the seventh century, and was nominally by way of setting
up a creed on the lines of Paul as against the paganized system of the
Church. Rising as they did on the borders of Persia, they were probably
affected from the first by Mazdean influences, as the dualistic
principle was always affirmed by their virtual founder, Constantine,
afterwards known as Sylvanus. [1208] Their original tenets seem to have
been anti-Manichean, anti-Gnostic (though partly Marcionite), opposed
to the worship of images and relics, to sacraments, to the adoration
of the Virgin, of saints, and of angels, and to the acceptance of the
Old Testament; and in an age in which the reading of the Sacred Books
had already come to be regarded as a privilege of monks and priests,
they insisted on reading the New Testament for themselves. [1209]
In this they were virtually founding on the old pagan conception
of religion, under which all heads of families could offer worship
and sacrifice without the intervention of a priest, as against the
Judæo-Christian sacerdotalism, which vetoed anything like a private
cultus. In the teaching of Sylvanus, further, there were distinct
Manichean and Gnostic characteristics--notably, hostility to Judaism;
the denial that Christ had a real human body, capable of suffering; and
the doctrine that baptism and the communion were properly spiritual and
not physical rites. [1210] In the ninth century, when they had become
a powerful and militant sect, often at war with the empire, they were
still marked by their refusal to make any difference between priests
and laymen. Anti-ecclesiasticism was thus a main feature of the whole
movement; and the Byzantine Government, recognizing in its doctrine
a particularly dangerous heresy, had at once bloodily attacked it,
causing Sylvanus to be stoned to death. [1211] Still it grew, even
to the length of exhibiting the usual phenomena of schism within
itself. One section obtained the protection of the first iconoclastic
emperor, who agreed with them on the subject of images; and a later
leader, Sergius or Tychicus, won similar favour from Nicephorus I;
but Leo the Armenian (suc. 813), fearing the stigma of their other
heresies, and having already trouble enough from his iconoclasm,
set up against them, as against the image-worshippers, a new and
cruel persecution. [1212] They were thus driven over to the Saracens,
whose advance-guard they became as against the Christian State; but the
iconoclast Constantine Copronymus sympathetically [1213] transplanted
many of them to Constantinople and Thrace, thus introducing their
doctrine into Europe. The Empress Theodora (841-855), who restored
image-worship, [1214] sought to exterminate those left in Armenia,
slaying, it is said, a hundred thousand. [1215] Many of the remnant
were thus forced into the arms of the Saracens; and the sect did the
empire desperate mischief during many generations. [1216]

Meantime those planted in Thrace, in concert with the main body,
carried propaganda into Bulgaria, and these again were further
reinforced by refugees from Armenia in the ninth century, and in the
tenth by a fresh colony transplanted from Armenia by the emperor
John Zimisces, who valued them as a bulwark against the barbarous
Slavs. [1217] Fresh persecution under Alexius I at the end of the
eleventh century failed to suppress them; and imperial extortion
constantly drove to their side numbers of fresh adherents, [1218]
while the Bulgarians for similar reasons tended in mass to adopt
their creed as against that of Constantinople. So greatly did the
cult flourish that at its height it had a regular hierarchy, notably
recalling that of the early Manicheans--with a pope, twelve magistri,
and seventy-two bishops, each of whom had a filius major and filius
minor as his assistants. Withal the democratic element remained strong,
the laying on of the hands of communicants on the heads of newcomers
being part of the rite of reception into full membership. Thus it
came about that from Bulgaria there passed into western Europe, [1219]
partly through the Slavonic sect called Bogomiles or Bogomilians [1220]
(=  Theophiloi, "lovers of God"), who were akin to the Paulicians,
partly by more general influences, [1221] a contagion of democratic
and anti-ecclesiastical heresy; so that the very name Bulgar became
the French bougre = heretic--and worse. [1222] It specified the most
obvious source of the new anti-Romanist heresies of the Albigenses,
if not of the Vaudois (Waldenses).



§ 2. CRITICAL HERESY IN THE WEST

In the west, meanwhile, where the variety of social elements was
favourable to new life, heresy of a rationalistic kind was not wholly
lacking. About the middle of the eighth century we find one Feargal
or Vergilius, an Irish priest in Bavaria, accused by St. Boniface,
his enemy, of affirming, "in defiance of God and his own soul,"
the doctrine of the antipodes, [1223] which must have reached him
through the ancient Greek lore carried to Ireland in the primary
period of Christianization of that province. Of that influence we
have already seen a trace in Pelagius and Coelestius; and we shall
see more later in John the Scot. After being deposed by the Pope,
Vergilius was reinstated; was made Bishop of Salzburg, and held the
post till his death; and was even sainted afterwards; but the doctrine
disappeared for centuries from the Christian world.

Other heresies, however, asserted themselves. Though image-worship
finally triumphed there as in the east, it had strong opponents,
notably Claudius, bishop of Turin (fl. 830) under the emperor Louis
the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and his contemporary Agobard, bishop
of Lyons. [1224] It is a significant fact that both men were born
in Spain; and either to Saracen or to Jewish influence--the latter
being then strong in the Moorish and even in the Christian [1225]
world--may fairly be in part attributed their marked bias against
image-worship. Claudius was slightly and Agobard well educated in
Latin letters, so that an early impression [1226] would seem to have
been at work in both cases. However that may be, they stood out as
singularly rationalistic theologians in an age of general ignorance
and superstition. Claudius vehemently resisted alike image-worship,
saint-worship, and the Papal claims, and is recorded to have termed a
council of bishops which condemned him "an assembly of asses." [1227]
Agobard, in turn, is quite extraordinary in the thoroughness of his
rejection of popular superstition, being not only an iconoclast but an
enemy to prayer for change in the weather, to belief in incantations
and the power of evil spirits, to the ordeal by fire, to the wager
of battle, [1228] and to the belief in the verbal inspiration of the
Sacred Books. In an age of enormous superstition and deep ignorance,
he maintained within the Church that Reason was the noble gift of
God. [1229] He was a rationalist born out of due time. [1230]

A grain of rationalism, as apart from professional self-interest,
may also have entered into the outcry made at this period by the
clergy against the rigidly predestinarian doctrine of the monk
Gottschalk. [1231] His enemy, Rabanus or Hrabanus (called "the
Moor"), seems again to represent some Saracen influence, inasmuch
as he reproduced the scientific lore of Isidore of Seville. [1232]
But the philosophic semi-rationalism of John Scotus (d. 875), later
known as Erigena (John the Scot = of Ireland--the original "Scots"
being Irish), seems to be traceable to the Greek studies which had
been cherished in Christianized Ireland while the rest of western
Europe lost them, and represents at once the imperfect beginning
of the relatively rationalistic philosophy of Nominalism [1233] and
the first western revival of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle,
howbeit by way of accommodation to the doctrine of the Church. [1234]


    That John the Scot was an Irishman remains practically certain,
    even if we give up the term "Erigena," which, as has been shown by
    Floss, the most careful editor of his works, is not found in the
    oldest MSS. The reading there is Ierugena, which later shades into
    Erugena and Eriugena. (Cp. Ueberweg, i, 359; Poole, pp. 55-56,
    note; Dr. Th. Christlieb, Leben und Lehre des Johannes Scotus
    Erigena, 1860, p. 14 sq.; and Huber, Johannes Scotus Erigena:
    ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie im
    Mittelalter, 1861, pp. 38-40.) From this elusive cognomen no
    certain inference can be drawn, too many being open; though the
    fact that John had himself coined the term Graiugena for a late
    Greek writer makes it likely that he called himself Ierugena in
    the sense of "born in the holy (island)" = Ireland. But the name
    Scotus, occurring without the Ierugena, is common in old MSS.;
    and it is almost impossible that any save a Scot of Ireland should
    have possessed the scholarship of John in the ninth century. In
    the west, Greek scholarship and philosophy had been special to
    Ireland from the time of Pelagius; and it is from Greek sources
    that John draws his inspiration and cast of thought. M. Taillandier
    not unjustly calls the Ireland of that era "l'île des saints,
    mais aussi l'île des libres penseurs." (Scot Érigène et la
    philosophie scolastique, 1843, p. 64.) To the same effect Huber,
    pp. 40-41. In writing that Johannes "was of Scottish nationality,
    but was probably born and brought up in Ireland," Ueberweg (i,
    358) obscures the fact that the people of Ireland were the Scoti
    of that period. All the testimony goes to show "that Ireland
    was called Scotia, and its ruling people Scoti, from the first
    appearance of these names down to the eleventh century. But that
    [the] present Scotland was called Scotia, or its people Scoti,
    before the eleventh century, not so much as one single authority
    can be produced" (Pinkerton, Enquiry into the History of Scotland,
    1789, ii, 237). Irish Scots gave their name to Scotland, and it
    was adopted by the Teutonic settlers.

    While the land of John the Scot's birth is thus fairly certain, the
    place of his death remains a mystery. Out of a statement by Asser
    that King Alfred made one John, a priest, Abbot of Athelney, and
    that the said Abbot was murdered at the altar by hired assassins,
    there grew a later story that Alfred made John the Scot Abbot of
    Malmesbury, and that he was slain with the styli of two of his
    pupils. It is clear that the John of Asser was an "Old Saxon,"
    and not the philosopher; and it is difficult to doubt that the
    second story, which arises in the twelfth century, is a hearsay
    distortion of the first. Cp. Christlieb, who argues (p. 42 sq.) for
    two Johns, one of them Scotus, and both assassinated, with Huber,
    who sets forth (p. 108 sq.) the view here followed. There is really
    no adequate ground for believing that John the Scot was ever a
    priest. We know not where or when he died; but the presumption
    is that it was in France, and not long after the death of his
    patron Charles--877. (Huber, p. 121.)


Called in by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, himself a normally
superstitious believer, [1235] to answer Gottschalk, John Scotus in
turn was accused of heresy, as he well might be on many points of his
treatise, De Praedestinatione [1236] (851). He fiercely and not very
fairly condemned Gottschalk as a heretic, charging him with denying
both divine grace and freewill, but without disposing of Gottschalk's
positive grounds; and arguing that God could not be the cause of sin,
as if Gottschalk had not said the same thing. His superior speculative
power comes out in his undertaking to show that for the Divine Being
sin is non-ens; and that therefore that Being cannot properly be said
either to foreknow or to predestinate, or to punish. But the argument
becomes inconsistent inasmuch as it further affirms Deity to have
so constituted the order of things that sin punishes itself. [1237]
It is evident that in assimilating his pantheistic conceptions he
had failed to think out their incompatibility with any theistic
dogma whatever; his reasoning, on the whole, being no more coherent
than Gottschalk's. He had in fact set out from an arbitrary theistic
position that was at once Judaic, Christian, and Platonic, and went
back on one line to the Gnostics; while on another his argument
that sin has no real existence is a variant from an old thesis--made
current, as we saw, by Euclides of Megara--with which orthodoxy had
met the Manicheans. [1238] But to the abstract doctrine he gave a new
practical point by declaring that the doctrine of hell-fire was a mere
allegory; that heaven and hell alike were states of consciousness,
not places. [1239] And if such concrete freethinking were not enough
to infuriate the orthodox, they had from him the most explicit
declarations that authority is derivable solely from reason. [1240]

In philosophy proper he must be credited, despite his inconsistency,
with deep and original thought. [1241] Like every theologian of
philosophic capacity before and since, he passes into pantheism
as soon as he grapples closely with the difficulties of theism,
and "the expressions which he uses are identical with those which
were afterwards employed by Spinoza.... It was a tradition of the
fourth or fifth century transferred to the ninth, an echo from
Alexandria." [1242] Condemned by Pope Nicholas I and by two Church
Councils, [1243] his writings none the less availed to keep that echo
audible to later centuries.

The range and vigour of his practical rationalism may be gathered from
his attitude in the controversy begun by the abbot Paschasius Radbert
(831) on the nature of the Eucharist. Paschasius taught that there was
a real transformation of the bread and wine into the divine body and
blood; and the doctrine, thus nakedly put, startled the freer scholars
of the time, who were not yet habituated to Latin orthodoxy. Another
learned monk, Ratramnus, who had written a treatise on predestination
at the request of the rationalizing emperor, Charles the Bald
(discussing the problem in Gottschalk's sense [1244] without naming
him), produced on the same monarch's invitation a treatise in which
transubstantiation was denied, and the "real presence" was declared
to be spiritual [1245]--a view already known to Paschasius as being
held by some. [1246] John Scotus, also asked by the emperor to write
on the subject, went so far as to argue that the bread and wine were
merely symbols and memorials. [1247] As usual, the irrational doctrine
became that of the Church; [1248] but the other must have wrought for
reason in secret. For the rest, he set forth the old "modal" view of
the Trinity, resolving it into the different conceptual aspects of
the universe, and thus propounding one more vital heresy. [1249]

Nothing but a succession of rationalizing emperors could have secured
continuance for such teaching as that of Ratramnus and John the
Scot. For a time, the cruelty meted out to Gottschalk kept up feeling
in favour of his views; Bishop Remigius of Lyons condemned Hincmar's
treatment of him; and others sought to maintain his positions, with
modifications, though Hincmar carried resolutions condemning them at
the second Synod of Chiersy. On the other hand, Archbishop Wenilo of
Sens, Bishop Prudentius of Troyes, and Florus, a deacon of Lyons,
all wrote against the doctrines of John the Scot; and the second
Synod of Valence (855), while opposing Hincmar and affirming duplex
predestination, denounced with fury the reasonings of John the Scot,
ascribing them to his nation as a whole. [1250] The pope taking the
same line, the fortunes of the rationalistic view of the eucharist and
of hell-fire were soon determined for the Middle Ages, though in the
year 950 we find the Archbishop of Canterbury confronted by English
ecclesiastics who asserted that there was no transubstantiation, the
elements being merely a figure of the body and blood of Christ. [1251]

The economic explanation clearly holds alike as regards the attack
on John and the condemnation of Gottschalk for a doctrine which had
actually been established for centuries, on the authority of Augustine,
as strict orthodoxy. In Augustine's time, the determining pressures
were not economic: a bankrupt world was seeking to explain its fate;
and Augustine had merely carried a majority with him against Pelagius,
partly by his personal influence, partly by force of the fatalist
mood of the time. But in the renascent world of Gottschalk's day the
economic exploitation of fear had been carried several stages forward
by the Church; and the question of predestination had a very direct
financial bearing. The northern peoples, accustomed to compound for
crimes by money payments, had so readily played into the hands of
the priesthood by their eagerness to buy surcease of purgatorial
pain that masses for the dead and "penitential certificates" were
main sources of ecclesiastical revenue. Therefore the condemnations
of such abuses passed by the Councils, on the urging of the more
thoughtful clergy, were constantly frustrated by the plain pecuniary
interest of the priests. [1252] It even appears that the eucharist
was popularly regarded not as a process of religious "communion,"
but as a magical rite objectively efficacious for bodily preservation
in this life and the next. Thus it came about that often "priests
presented the offering of the mass alone and by themselves, without
any participation of the congregation." [1253]

If then it were to be seriously understood that the future lot of
all was foreordained, all expenditure on masses for the dead, or to
secure in advance a lightening of purgatorial penance, or even to buy
off penance on earth, was so much waste; and the Teutons were still
as ready as other barbarians to make their transactions with Church,
God, and the saints a matter of explicit bargain. [1254] Gottschalk,
accordingly, had to be put down, in the general interests of the
Church. It could not truthfully be pretended that he deviated from
Augustine, for he actually held by the "semi-Pelagian" inconsistency
that God predestinates good, but merely foreknows evil. [1255]
There was in fact no clear opposition between his affirmations and
those of Rabanus Maurus, who also professed to be an Augustinian;
but the latter laid forensic stress on the "desire" of God that all
men should be saved, and on the formula that Christ died for all;
while Gottschalk, more honestly, insisted that predestination is
predestination, and applied the principle not merely, as had been
customary, to the future state of the good, but to that of the bad,
[1256] insisting on a prædestinatio duplex. His own fate was thus
economically predestinate; and he was actually tortured by the scourge
till he cast into the fire his written defence, "a document which
contained nothing but a compilation of testimonies from Scripture,
and from the older church-teachers." [1257]


    Gottschalk later challenged a fourfold ordeal of "boiling water,
    oil, and pitch." His primary doctrine had been the immutability
    of the divine will; but he brought himself to the belief that
    God would work a miracle in his favour. His conception of
    "foreordination" was thus framed solely with regard to the
    conception of a future state. The ordeal was not granted, the
    orthodox party fearing to try conclusions, and he died without
    the sacraments, rather than recant. Then began the second reaction
    of feeling against his chief persecutor, Hincmar. Neander, vi, 190.

    A recent writer, who handles very intelligently and temperately
    the problem of persecution, urges that in that connection "one
    ought not to lay great stress on the old argument of the Hallam
    and Macaulay school as to the strength of vested interests, though
    it has a certain historical importance, because the priest must
    subsist somehow" (Religious Persecution: a Study in Psychology,
    by E. S. P. Haynes, 1904, p. 4). If the "certain importance" be in
    the ratio of the certainty of the last adduced fact, the legitimate
    "stress" on the argument in question would seem sufficient for most
    purposes. The writer adds the note: "It is not unfair, however,
    to quote the case of Dr. Middleton, who, writing to Lord Radnor
    in 1750 in respect of his famous work on Miracles, admits frankly
    enough that he would never have given the clergy any trouble, had
    he received some good appointment in the church." If the essayist
    has met with no other historic fact illustrative of the play of
    vested interests in ecclesiastical history, it is extremely candid
    of him to mention that one. Later on, however, he commits himself
    to the proposition that "the history of medieval persecution leads
    one to infer that the clergy as a whole were roused to much greater
    activity by menaces to their material comforts in this world than
    by an altruistic anxiety for the fate of lay souls in the next"
    (id. p. 60. Cp. p. 63). This amount of "stress" on vested interests
    will probably satisfy most members of the Hallam and Macaulay
    school; and is ample for the purposes of the present contention.


From this point onward, the slow movement of new ideas may for
a time be conveniently traced on two general lines--one that of
the philosophic discussion in the schools, reinforced by Saracen
influences, the other that of partially rationalistic and democratic
heresy among the common people, by way first of contagion from
the East. The latter was on the whole as influential for sane
thought as the former, apart from such ecclesiastical freethinking
as that of Berengar of Tours and Roscelin (Rousselin), Canon of
Compiègne. Berengar (c. 1050) was led by moral reflection [1258]
to doubt the priestly miracle of the Eucharist, and thenceforth he
entered into a stormy controversy on the subject, in the course of
which he twice recanted under bodily fear, but passionately returned
to his original positions. Fundamentally sincere, and indignantly
resentful of the gross superstition prevailing in the Church, he
struck fiercely in his writings at Popes Leo IX and Nicholas II and
Archbishop Lanfranc, [1259] all of whom had opposed him. At length,
after much strife, he threw up the contest, spending the latter part
of his long life in seclusion; Pope Gregory VII, who was personally
friendly to him, having finally shielded him from persecution. It
seems clear that, though accused, with others of his school, of
rejecting certain of the gospel miracles, [1260] he never became a
disbeliever; his very polemic testifying to the warmth of his belief
on his own lines. His teaching, however, which went far by reason of
the vividness of his style, doubtless had the effect of promoting not
only the rationalistic-Christian view of the Eucharist, [1261] but a
criticism which went further, inasmuch as his opponents forced on the
bystanders the question as to what reality there was in the Christian
creed if his view were true. [1262] All such influences, however, were
but slight in total mass compared with the overwhelming weight of the
economic interest of the priesthood; and not till the Reformation was
Berengar's doctrine accepted by a single organized sect. The orthodox
doctrine, in fact, was all-essential to the Catholic Church. Given the
daily miracle of the "real presence," the Church had a vital hold on
the Christian world, and the priest was above all lay rivalry. Seeing
as much, the Council of the Lateran (1059) met the new criticism by
establishing the technical doctrine of the real presence for the
first time as an article of faith; and as such it will doubtless
stand while there is a Catholic priesthood. Berengar's original view
must have been shared by thousands; but no Catholic carried on his
propaganda. The question had become one of life and death.


    Berengar's forced prevarications, which are unsympathetically
    set forth by Mosheim (11 Cent., pt. ii, ch. iii, §§ 13-18), are
    made much more intelligible in the sympathetic survey of Neander
    (vi, 225-60). See also the careful inquiry of Reuter, Gesch. der
    religiösen Aufklärung im Mittelalter, i, 91 sq. As to Berengar's
    writings, see further Murdock's note to Mosheim, last cit.,
    § 18. The formal compromise forced on him by Pope Hildebrand,
    who was personally friendly to him, consisted in adding to his
    denial of the change of the bread and wine into "body and blood"
    the doctrine that the body and blood were "superadded to the bread
    and wine in and by their consecration." This formula, of course,
    did not represent the spirit of Berengar's polemic. As to the
    disputes on the subject, which ran to the most unseemly length
    of physiological detail, see Voltaire, Essai sur les Moeurs,
    ch. xlv. It is noteworthy that Augustine had very expressly
    set forth a metaphorical interpretation of the Eucharist--De
    doctrina christiana, l. iii, c. 16. But just as the Church later
    set aside the verdict of Thomas Aquinas that the Virgin Mary was
    "born in sin," so did it reverse Augustine's judgment on the
    Eucharist. Always the more irrational view carried the day,
    as being more propitious to sacerdotal claims.


So far as the Church by her keenly self-regarding organization
could attain it, all opinion was kept within the strict bounds of her
official dogma, in which life in the Middle Ages so long stagnated. For
centuries, despite the turmoil of many wars--which, indeed, helped
to arrest thought--the life of the mind presented a uniformity hardly
now conceivable. The common expectation of the ending of the world, in
the year 1000, in particular had an immense prepotency of paralysing
men's spirits; and the grooves of habit thus fixed were hard to
alter. For most men, the notion of possible innovation in thought did
not exist: the usual was the sacred: the very ideal of an improvement
or reformation, when it arose, was one of reaching back to a far-away
perfection of the past, never of remoulding things on lines laid
down by reason. Yet even into this half-stifled world there entered,
by eastern ways, and first in the guise of rude demotic departures
from priestly prescription, the indestructible spirit of change.



§ 3. POPULAR ANTI-CLERICAL HERESY

The first Western traces of the imported Paulician heresy are about the
year 1000, [1263] when a rustic of Châlons is heard of as destroying a
cross and a religious picture, and asserting that the prophets are not
wholly to be believed. [1264] From this time forward, the world having
begun to breathe again after the passing of the year 1000 without any
sign of the Day of Judgment, heresy begins to multiply, the chief
movers being "distinguished by a tendency to rationalism." [1265]
In 1010 there is a trace of it in Aquitaine. [1266] In the year
1022 (or, as the date is sometimes put, in 1017) we hear of the
unveiling of a secret society of rationalizing mystics at Orleans,
ten canons of one church being members. [1267] An Italian woman
was said to be the founder, and thirteen were burned alive on their
refusal to recant. According to the records, they denied all miracles,
including the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection; rejected baptism and
the miracle of the Eucharist; took the old "Docetic" view of Jesus,
denying his actual humanity; and affirmed the eternity of matter and
the non-creation of the world. They were also accused, like the first
Christians, of promiscuous nocturnal orgies and of eating sacrificed
infants; but unless such charges are to be held valid in the other
case, they cannot be here. [1268] The stories told of the Manichean
community who lived in the castle of Monforte, near Asti in Lombardy,
in the years 1025-1040, and who at length were likewise burned alive,
are similarly mixed with fable. [1269] On this case it is recorded
that, while the Archbishop of Milan investigated the heresy, the
burning of the victims was the work of the fanatical populace of Milan,
and was done against his will.

A less savage treatment may have made possible the alleged success
of Gerhard, bishop of Cambray and Arras, in reconciling to the
Church at Arras, in 1025 or 1030, a number of laymen--also said to
have been taught by an Italian--who as a body rejected all external
worship, setting aside priestly baptism and the sacraments, penance
and images, funeral rites, holy oil, church bells, cross-worship,
altars, and even churches, and denied the necessity of an order
of priests. [1270] Few of the Protestants of a later age were so
thorough-going; but the fact that many of the sect stood to the old
Marcionite veto on marriage and the sexual instinct gives to their
propaganda its own cast of fanaticism. This last tenet it seemingly
was that gave the Paulicians their common Greek name of cathari,
[1271] "the pure," corrupted or assimilated in Italian to gazzari,
whence presumably the German word for heretic, Ketzer. [1272] Such
a doctrine had the double misfortune that if acted on it left the
sect without the normal recruitment of members' children, while if
departed from it brought on them the stigma of wanton hypocrisy; and
as a matter of fact every movement of the kind, ancient and modern,
seems to have contained within it the two extremes of asceticism and
licence, the former generating the latter.

It could hardly, however, have been the ascetic doctrine that won for
the new heresy its vogue in medieval Europe; nor is it likely that the
majority of the heretics even professed it. If, on the other hand, we
ask how it was that in an age of dense superstition so many uneducated
people were found to reject so promptly the most sacrosanct doctrines
of the Church, it seems hardly less difficult to account for the
phenomenon on the bare ground of their common sense. Critical common
sense there must have been, to allow of it at all; but it is reasonable
to suppose that then, as clearly happened later at the Reformation,
common sense had a powerful stimulus in pecuniary interest.

With the evidence as to Christian practice in the fourth century
on the one hand, and the later evidence as to clerical life on the
other, we are certain of a common play of financial motive throughout
the Middle Ages. And whereas it is intelligible that such rapacity
as we have seen described by Libanius should evoke a heresy which
rejected alike religious ceremonial and the claims of the priest,
it is further reasonable to surmise that resentment of priestly
rapacity and luxury helped men to similar heresy in Western Europe
when the doctrine reached them. If any centuries are to be singled
out as those of maximum profligacy and extortion among the clergy,
they are the ninth and the three following. [1273] It had been part of
the policy of Charlemagne everywhere to strengthen the hands of the
clergy by way of checking the power of the nobles; [1274] and in the
disorder after his death the conflicting forces were in semi-anarchic
competition. The feudal habit of appointing younger sons and underlings
to livings wherever possible; the disorders and strifes of the papacy;
and the frequent practice of dispossessing priests to reward retainers,
thereby driving the dispossessed to plunder on their own account, must
together have created a state of things almost past exaggeration. It
was a matter of course that the clergy on their part should make the
utmost possible use of their influence over men's superstitious fears
in order to acquire bequests of lands; [1275] and such bequests in
turn exasperated the heirs thus disinherited.

Thus orthodoxy and heterodoxy alike had strong economic motives;
and in these may be placed a main part of the explanation of the
gross savagery of persecution now normal in the Church. Such a heresy
as that of Gottschalk, we saw, by denying to the priest all power
of affecting the predestined course of things here or hereafter,
logically imperilled the very existence of the whole hierarchy, and
was by many resented accordingly. The same principle entered into
the controversies over the Eucharist. Still more would the clergy
resent the new Manichean heresy, of which every element, from the
Euchite tenet of the necessity of personal prayer and mortification,
as against the innate demon, to the rejection of all the rites of
normal worship and all the pretensions of priests, was radically
hostile to the entire organization of the Church. When the heretics
in due course developed a priestly system of their own, [1276] the
hostility was only the more embittered.

The crisis was the more acute, finally, because in the latter part of
the tenth century the common expectation that the world would end with
the year 1000 had inspired enormous donations to the Church, [1277]
with a proportionally oppressive effect on the general population,
moving them to economic self-defence. It is in fact clear that
an anti-clerical element entered largely into the beginnings of
the communal movement in France in the eleventh century. In 1024
we find the citizens of Cambrai forming a league to drive out the
canons; [1278] and though that beginning of revolt was crushed out
by massacre, the same spirit expressed itself in heresy. The result
was that religious persecution ere long eclipsed political. Bishop
Wazon of Lüttich (d. 1048) in vain protested against the universal
practice of putting the heretics to death. [1279] Manicheans who
were detected in 1052 at Goslar, in Germany, were hanged, [1280]
a precedent being thus established in the day of small things.

All this went on while the course of the papacy was so scandalous
to the least exacting moral sense that only the ignorance of the
era could sustain any measure of reverence for the Church as an
institution. In the year 963 the ablest of the emperors of that
age, Otto the Great, had the consent of the people of Rome to his
deposition of Pope John XII, a disorderly youth of twenty-five,
"the most profligate if not the most guilty of all who have worn
the tiara," [1281] and to his appointing the Pope in future; but
Teutonic administration soon drove the populace to repeated revolt,
quenched by massacre, till at length John returned, speedily to
be slain by a wronged husband. Economic interest entered largely
into the subsequent attempts of the Romans to choose their own
Pope and rule their own city, and into the contrary claim of the
emperors to do both; and in the nature of things the usually absent
emperors could only spasmodically carry their point. The result was
an epoch of riotous disorder in the papacy. Between John and Leo IX
(955-1048) six popes were deposed, two murdered, and one mutilated;
[1282] and the Church was a mere battle-ground of the factions of the
Roman and Italian nobility. [1283] At last, in 1047, "a disgraceful
contest between three claimants of the papal chair shocked even the
reckless apathy of Italy"; [1284] and the emperor Henry III deposed
them all and appointed a pope of his own choosing, the clergy again
consenting. Soon, however, as before, the local claim was revived;
and in the papacy of the powerful Gregory VII, known as Hildebrand,
the head of the Church determinedly asserted its autonomy and his own
autocracy. Then came the long "war of the investitures" between the
popes and the emperors, in which the former were substantially the
gainers. The result was, in addition to the endless miseries set up
by war, a systematic development of that financial corruption which
already had been scandalous enough. The cathedral chapters and the
nobles traded in bishoprics; the popes sold their ratifications for
great sums; the money was normally borrowed by the bishops from the
papal usurers; and there was witnessed throughout Europe the spectacle
of the Church denouncing all usury as sin, while its own usurers were
scrupulously protected, the bishops paying to them their interest
from the revenues they were able to extort. [1285] Satirical comment
naturally abounded wherever men had any knowledge of the facts; and
what current literature there was reflected the feeling on all sides.

The occurrence of the first and second crusades, the work
respectively of Peter the Hermit and St. Bernard, created a period
of new fanaticism, somewhat unfavourable to heresy; but even in that
period the new sects were at work, [1286] and in the twelfth century,
when crusading had become a mere feudal conspiracy of conquest and
plunder, [1287] heresy reappeared, to be duly met by slaughter. A
perfect ferment of anti-clerical heresy had arisen in Italy, France,
and Flanders. [1288] At Orvieto, in Italy, the heretics for a time
actually had the mastery, and were put down only after a bloody
struggle. [1289] In France, for a period of twenty years from 1106,
Peter de Brueys opposed infant baptism, the use of churches, holy
crosses, prayers for the dead (the great source of clerical income),
and the doctrine of the Real Presence in the eucharist (the main
source of their power), and so set up the highly heretical sect of
Petrobrussians. [1290] Driven from his native district of Vallonise,
he long maintained himself in Gascony, till at length he was seized
and burned (1126 or 1130). The monk Henry (died in prison 1148)
took a similar line, directly denouncing the clergy in Switzerland
and France; as did Tanquelin in Flanders (killed by a priest, 1125);
though in his case there seems to have been as much of religious
hallucination as of the contrary. [1291] A peasant, Eudo of Stella
(who died in prison), is said to have half-revolutionized Brittany
with his anti-ecclesiastical preaching. [1292] The more famous monk
Arnold of Brescia (strangled and burned in 1155), a pupil of Abailard,
but orthodox in his theology and austere in his life, simplified his
plan of reform (about 1139) into a proposal that the whole wealth of
the clergy, from the pope to the monks, should be transferred to the
civil power, leaving churchmen to lead a spiritual life on voluntary
offerings. [1293] For fifteen years the stir of his movement lasted
in Lombardy, till at length his formation of a republic at Rome forced
the papacy to combine with the Emperor Frederick II, who gave Arnold up
to death. But though his movement perished, anti-clericalism did not;
and heretical sects of some kind persisted here and there, in despite
of the Church, till the age of the Reformation. In Italy, during
the age of the Renaissance, all alike were commonly called paterini
or patarini--a nickname which seems to come from pataria, a Milanese
word meaning "popular faction" or "rowdies." [1294] Thus in the whole
movement of fresh popular thought there is a manifest connection with
the democratic movement in politics, though in the schools the spirit
of discussion and dialectic had no similar relationship.

During the first half of the century its warfare with the emperors,
and the frequent appointment of anti-popes, prevented any systematic
policy on the part of the Holy See, [1295] repression being mostly
left to the local ecclesiastical authorities. It was in 1139 that
Innocent II issued the first papal decree against Cathari, expelling
them from the Church and calling on the temporal power to give full
effect to their excommunication. [1296] In 1163 Pope Alexander III,
being exiled from Rome by Frederick I and the anti-pope Victor, called
a great council at Tours, where again a policy of excommunication was
decided on, the secular authorities being commanded to imprison the
excommunicated and confiscate their property, but not to slay them. In
the same year some Cathari arrested at Cologne had been sentenced to
be burned; but the Council did not go so far. As a result the decree
had little or no effect. [1297]

So powerless was the Church at this stage that in 1167 the Cathari held
a council of their own near Toulouse; a bishop of their order, Nicetas,
coming from Constantinople to preside; and a whole system of French
sees was set on foot. [1298] So numerous had the Cathari now become
that their highest grade, the perfecti, alone was reckoned to number
4,000; [1299] and from this time it is of Cathari that we read in the
rolls of persecution. About 1170 four more of them, from Flanders, were
burned at Cologne; and others, of the higher grade called bos homes
(= boni homines, "good men"), at Toulouse. In 1179, the heresy still
gaining ground, an oecumenical council (the Third Lateran) was held at
Rome under Pope Alexander III, decreeing afresh their excommunication,
and setting up a new machinery of extirpation by proclaiming a
crusade at once against the orderly heretics of southern France and
the companies of openly irreligious freebooters who had arisen as a
result of many wars and much misgovernment. To all who joined in the
crusade was offered an indulgence of two years. In the following year
Henry of Clairvaux, Cardinal of Albano, took the matter in hand as
papal plenipotentiary; and in 1181 he raised a force of horse and foot
and fell upon the ill-defended territory of the Viscount of Beziers,
where many heretics, including the daughter of Raymond of Toulouse,
had taken refuge. The chief stronghold was captured, with two Catharist
bishops, who renounced their heresy, and were promptly given prebends
in Toulouse. Many others submitted; but as soon as the terms for which
the crusaders had enlisted were over and the army disbanded, they
returned to their heretical practices. [1300] Two years later an army
collected in central France made a campaign against the freebooters,
slaying thousands in one battle, hanging fifteen hundred after another,
and blinding eighty more. But freebooting also continued. [1301]

The first crusade against heresy having failed, it was left by the
papacy for a number of years to itself; though anti-pope Lucius III in
1184 sought to set up an Inquisition; and in 1195 a papal legate held a
council at Montpellier, seeking to create another crusade. The zeal of
the faithful was mainly absorbed in Palestine; while the nobles at home
were generally at war with each other. Heresy accordingly continued to
flourish, though there was never any suspension of local persecution
outside of Provence, where the heretics were now in a majority,
having more theological schools and scholars than the Church. [1302]
In France in particular, in the early years of the reign of Philip
Augustus (suc. 1180), many paterini were put to death by burning;
[1303] and the clergy at length persuaded the king to expel the Jews,
the work being done almost as cruelly as it was two centuries later
in Spain. In England, where there was thus far little heresy, it
was repressed by Henry II. Some thirty rustics came from Flanders
in 1166, fleeing persecution, and vainly sought to propagate their
creed. Zealous to prove his orthodoxy in the period of his quarrel
with Becket, Henry presided over a council of bishops called by him
at Oxford to discuss the case; and the heretics were condemned to
be scourged, branded in the face, and driven forth--to perish in the
winter wilds. "England was not hospitable to heresy;" and practically
her orthodoxy was "unsullied until the rise of Wiclif." [1304]

In southern Europe and northern Italy in the last quarter of
the century a foremost place began to be taken by the sect of the
Waldenses, or Vaudois (otherwise the Poor Men of Lyons), which--whether
deriving from ancient dissent surviving in the Vaux or Valleys of
Piedmont, [1305] or taking its name and character from the teaching
of the Lyons merchant, Peter Waldus, or an earlier Peter of Vaux
or Valdis [1306]--conforms substantially to the general heretical
tendencies of that age, in that it rejected the papal authority,
contended for the reading of the Bible by the laity, condemned tithes,
disparaged fasting, stipulated for poverty on the part of priests
and denied their special status, opposed prayers for the dead,
and preached peace and non-resistance. In 1199, at Metz, they were
found in possession of a French translation of the New Testament,
the Psalms, and the book of Job--a new and startling invasion of the
priestly power in the west. Above all, their men and women alike went
about preaching in the towns, in the houses, and in the churches,
and administered the eucharist without priests. [1307] Thus Cathari,
Paterini, Manicheans, and non-Manichean Albigenses and Waldenses were
on all fours for the Church, as opponents of its economic claims;
and when at length, under Celestine III and Innocent III, the Holy
See began to be consolidated after a long period of incessant change,
[1308] desperate measures began to be contemplated. Organized heresy
was seen to be indestructible save by general extirpation; and on
economic grounds it was not to be tolerated. At Orvieto the heresy
stamped out with blood in 1125 was found alive again in 1150; was
again put down in 1163 by burning, hanging, and expulsion; and yet
was again found active at the close of the century. [1309] In 1198
Innocent III is found beginning a new Inquisition among the Albigenses;
and in 1199, while threatening them with exile and confiscation, [1310]
he made a last diplomatic attempt to force the obstinately heretical
people of Orvieto to take an oath of fidelity in the year 1199. It
ended in the killing of his representative by the people. [1311]
The papacy accordingly laid plans to destroy the enemy at its centre
of propagation.



§ 4. HERESY IN SOUTHERN FRANCE

In Provence and Languedoc, the scene of the first great papal crusade
against anti-clerical heresy, there were represented all the then
existing forces of popular freethought; and the motives of the crusade
were equally typical of the cause of authority.

1. In addition to the Paulician and other movements of religious
rationalism above noted, the Languedoc region was a centre of
semi-popular literary culture, which was to no small extent
anti-clerical, and by consequence somewhat anti-religious. The
Latin-speaking jongleurs or minstrels, known as Goliards, [1312]
possessing as they did a clerical culture, were by their way of
life committed to a joyous rather than an ascetic philosophy;
and though given to blending the language of devotion with that of
the drinking-table, very much after the fashion of Hafiz, they were
capable of burlesquing the mass, the creed, hymns to the Virgin, the
Lord's Prayer, confessions, and parts of the gospels, as well as of
keenly satirizing the endless abuses of the Church. [1313] "One is
astonished to meet, in the Middle Ages, in a time always represented
as crushed under the yoke of authority, such incredible audacities on
the papacy, the episcopacy, chivalry, on the most revered dogmas of
religion, such as paradise, hell, etc." [1314] The rhymers escaped
simply because there was no police that could catch them. Denounced
by some of the stricter clergy, they were protected by others. They
were, in fact, the minstrels of the free-living churchmen. [1315]

Of this type is Guiot of Provence, a Black Friar, the author of La
Bible Guiot, written between 1187 and 1206. He is a lover of good
living, a champion of aristocrats, a foe of popular movements, [1316]
and withal a little of a buffoon. But it is to be counted to him for
righteousness that he thought the wealth devoured by the clergy might
be more usefully spent on roads, bridges, and hospitals. [1317] He has
also a good word for the old pagans who lived "according to reason";
and as to his own time, he is sharply censorious alike of princes,
pope, and prelates. The princes are rascals who "do not believe in
God," and depress their nobility; and the breed of the latter has sadly
degenerated. The pope is to be prayed for; but he is ill counselled
by his cardinals, who conform to the ancient tendency of Rome to
everything evil; many of the archbishops and bishops are no better;
and the clergy in general are eaten up by greed and simony. [1318]
This is in fact the common note. [1319]

A kindred spirit is seen in much of the verse alike of the northern
Trouvères and the southern Troubadours. A modern Catholic historian
of medieval literature complains that their compositions "abound with
the severest ridicule of such persons and of such things as, in the
temper of the age, were highly estimated and most generally revered,"
and notes that in consequence they were ranked by the devout as
"lewd and impious libertines." [1320] In particular they satirized
the practice of excommunication and the use made by the Church of
hell and purgatory as sources of revenue. [1321] Their anti-clerical
poetry having been as far as possible destroyed by the Inquisition, its
character has to be partly inferred from the remains of the northern
trouvères--e.g., Ruteboeuf and Raoul de Houdan, of whom the former
wrote a Voya de Paradis, in which Sloth is a canon and Pride a bishop,
both on their way to heaven; while Raoul has a Songe d'enfer in which
hell is treated in a spirit of the most audacious burlesque. [1322]
In a striking passage of the old tale Aucassin et Nicolette there is
naïvely revealed the spontaneous revolt against pietism which underlay
all these flings of irreverence. "Into paradise," cries Aucassin,
"go none but ... those aged priests, and those old cripples, and
the maimed, who all day long and all night cough before the altars,
and in the crypts beneath the churches; those ... who are naked and
barefoot and full of sores.... Such as these enter in paradise, and
with them have I nought to do. But in hell will I go. For to hell
go the fair clerks and the fair knights who are slain in the tourney
and the great wars, and the stout archer and the loyal man. With them
will I go. And there go the fair and courteous ladies [of many loves];
and there pass the gold and the silver, the ermine and all rich furs,
harpers and minstrels, and the happy of the world. With these will I
go...." [1323] It was such a temper, rather than reasoned unbelief,
that inspired the blasphemous parodies in Reynard the Fox and other
popular works of the Middle Ages.

The Provençal literature, further, was from the first influenced by
the culture of the Saracens, [1324] who held Sicily and Calabria in
the ninth and tenth centuries, and had held part of Languedoc itself
for a few years in the eighth. On the passing of the duchy of Provence
to Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona, at the end of the eleventh
century, not only were the half-Saracenized Catalans mixed with the
Provençals, but Raymond and his successors freely introduced the arts
and science of the Saracens into their dominion. [1325] In the Norman
kingdom of Sicily too the Saracen influence was great even before
the time of Frederick II; and thence it reached afresh through Italy
to Provence, [1326] carrying with it everywhere, by way of poetry, an
element of anti-clerical and even of anti-Christian rationalism. [1327]
Though this spirit was not that of the Cathari and Waldenses, yet the
fact that the latter strongly condemned the Crusades [1328] was a point
in common between them and the sympathizers with Saracen culture. And
as the tolerant Saracen schools of Spain or the Christian schools
of the same region, which copied their curriculum, [1329] were in
that age resorted to by youth from each of the countries of western
Europe for scientific teaching [1330]--all the latest medical and
most other scientific knowledge being in their hands--the influence
of such culture must have been peculiarly strong in Provence. [1331]

The medieval mystery-plays and moralities, already common in Provence,
mixed at times with the normal irreverence of illiterate faith [1332]
a vein of surprisingly pronounced skeptical criticism, [1333] which
at the least was a stimulus to critical thought among the auditors,
even if they were supposed to take it as merely dramatic. Inasmuch as
the drama was hereditarily pagan, and had been continually denounced
and ostracized by Fathers and Councils, [1334] it would be natural
that its practitioners, even when in the service of the Church,
should be unbelievers.

The philosophy and science of both the Arabs and the Spanish Jews
were specially cultivated in the Provence territory. The college of
Montpellier practised on Arab lines medicine, botany, and mathematics;
and the Jews, who had been driven from Spain by the Almohades, had
flourishing schools at Narbonne, Beziers, Nîmes, and Carcassonne,
as well as Montpellier, and spread alike the philosophy of Averroës
and the semi-rational theology of the Jewish thinker Maimonides,
[1335] whose school held broadly by Averroïsm.

For the rest, every one of the new literary influences that were
assailing the Church would tend to flourish in such a civilization as
that of Languedoc, which had been peaceful and prosperous for over two
hundred years. Unable to lay hold of the popular poets and minstrels
who propagated anti-clericalism, the papacy could hope to put down
by brute force the social system in which they flourished, crushing
the pious and more hated heretic with the scoffer. And Languedoc
was a peculiarly tempting field for such operations. Its relative
lack of military strength, as well as its pre-eminence in heresy,
led Innocent III, a peculiarly zealous assertor of the papal power,
[1336] to attack it in preference to other and remoter centres of
enmity. In the first year of his pontificate, 1198, he commenced a new
and zealous Inquisition [1337] in the doomed region; and in the year
1207, when as much persecution had been accomplished as the lax faith
of the nobility and many of the bishops would consent to--an appeal
to the King of France to interfere being disregarded--the scheme
of a crusade against the dominions of Raymond Count of Toulouse was
conceived and gradually matured. The alternate weakness and obstinacy
of Raymond, and the fresh provocation given by the murder, in 1208,
of the arrogant papal legate, Pierre de Castelnau, [1338] permitted
the success of the scheme in such hands. The crusade was planned
exactly on the conditions of those against the Saracens--the heretics
at home being declared far worse than they. [1339] The crusaders
were freed from payment of interest on their debts, exempted from
the jurisdiction of all law courts, and absolved from all their
sins past or future. [1340] To earn this reward they were to give
only forty days' service [1341]--a trifle in comparison with the
hardships of the crusades to Palestine. "Never therefore had the
cross been taken up with a more unanimous consent." [1342] Bishops
and nobles in Burgundy and France, the English Simon de Montfort,
the Abbot of Citeaux, and the Bernardine monks throughout Europe,
combined in the cause; and recruits came from Austria and Saxony, from
Bremen, even from Slavonia, as well as from northern France. [1343]
The result was such a campaign of crime and massacre as European
history cannot match. [1344] Despite the abject submission of the
Count of Toulouse, who was publicly stripped and scourged, and
despite the efforts of his nephew the Count of Albi to make terms,
village after village was fired, all heretics caught were burned, and
on the capture of the city and castle of Beziers (1209), every man,
woman, and child within the walls was slaughtered, many of them in the
churches, whither they had run for refuge. The legate, Arnold abbot
of Citeaux, being asked at an early stage how the heretics were to be
distinguished from the faithful, gave the never-to-be-forgotten answer,
"Kill all; God will know his own." [1345] Seven thousand dead bodies
were counted in the great church of St. Mary Magdalene. The legate
in writing estimated the total quarry at 15,000; others put the
number at sixty thousand. [1346] When all in the place were slain,
and all the plunder removed, the town was burned to the ground,
not one house being left standing. Warned by the fate of Beziers,
the people of Carcassonne, after defending themselves for many days,
secretly evacuated their town; but the legate contrived to capture
a number of the fugitives, of whom he burned alive four hundred, and
hanged fifty. [1347] Systematic treachery, authorized and prescribed
by the Pope, [1348] completed the success of the undertaking. The
Church had succeeded, in the name of religion, in bringing half of
Europe to the attainment of the ideal height of wickedness, in that
it had learned to make evil its good; and the papacy had on the whole
come nearer to destroying the moral sense of all Christendom [1349]
than any conceivable combination of other causes could ever have done
in any age.


    According to a long current fiction, it was the Pope who first
    faltered when "the whole of Christendom demanded the renewal of
    those scenes of massacre" (Sismondi, Crusades, p. 95); but this is
    disproved by the discovery of two letters in which, shortly before
    his death, he excitedly takes on himself the responsibility for
    all the bloodshed (Michelet, Hist. de France, vii, introd. note
    to § iv). Michelet had previously accepted the legend which
    he here rejects. The bishops assembled in council at Lavaur,
    in 1213, demanded the extermination of the entire population of
    Toulouse. Finally, the papal policy is expressly decreed in the
    third canon of the Fourth General Council of Lateran, 1215. On that
    canon see The Statutes of the Fourth General Council of Lateran,
    by the Rev. John Evans, 1843. On the crusade in general, cp. Lea,
    History of the Inquisition, bk. i, ch. iv; Gieseler, Per. III,
    Div. iii, § 89.


The first crusade was followed by others, in which Simon de Montfort
reached the maximum of massacre, varying his procedure by tearing
out eyes and cutting off noses when he was not hanging victims
by dozens or burning them by scores or putting them to the sword
by hundreds [1350] (all being done "with the utmost joy") [1351];
though the "White Company" organized by the Bishop of Toulouse [1352]
maintained a close rivalry. The Church's great difficulty was that
as soon as an army had bought its plenary indulgence for all possible
sin by forty days' service, it disbanded. Nevertheless, "the greater
part of the population of the countries where heresy had prevailed
was exterminated." [1353] Organized Christianity had contrived to
murder the civilization of Provence and Languedoc [1354] while the
fanatics of Islam in their comparatively bloodless manner were doing
as much for that of Moorish Spain. Heresy indeed was not rooted out:
throughout the whole of the thirteenth century the Inquisition met with
resistance in Languedoc [1355]; but the preponderance of numbers which
alone could sustain freethinking had been destroyed, and in course
of time it was eliminated by the sleepless engines of the Church.

It was owing to no lack of the principle of evil in the Christian
system, but simply to the much greater and more uncontrollable
diversity of the political elements of Christendom, that the whole
culture and intelligence of Europe did not undergo the same fate. The
dissensions and mutual injuries of the crusaders ultimately defeated
their ideal [1356]; after Simon de Montfort had died in the odour of
sanctity [1357] the crusade of Louis VIII of France in 1226 seems to
have been essentially one of conquest, there being practically no
heretics left; and the disasters of the expedition, crowned by the
king's death, took away the old prestige of the movement. Meanwhile,
the heresy of the Albigenses, and kindred ideas, had been effectually
driven into other parts of Europe [1358]; and about 1231 we find
Gregory IX burning a multitude of them at the gates of the church of
Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome [1359] and compassing their slaughter
in France and Germany. [1360] In Italy the murderous pertinacity of
the Dominicans gradually destroyed organized heresy despite frequent
and desperate resistance. About 1230 we hear of one eloquent zealot,
chosen podestà by the people of Verona, using his power to burn in one
day sixty heretics, male and female. [1361] The political heterogeneity
of Europe, happily, made variation inevitable; though the papacy,
by making the detection and persecution of heresy a means of gain to
a whole order of its servants, had set on foot a machinery for the
destruction of rational thought such as had never before existed.


    It is still common to speak of the personnel of the Inquisition as
    disinterested, and to class its crimes as "conscientious." Buckle
    set up such a thesis, without due circumspection, as a support
    to one of his generalizations. (See the present writer's ed. of
    his Introduction to the History of Civilization in England,
    pp. 105-108, notes, and the passages in McCrie and Llorente
    there cited.) Dr. Lea, whose History of the Inquisition is
    the greatest storehouse of learning on the subject, takes up a
    similar position, arguing (i, 239): "That the men who conducted
    the Inquisition, and who toiled sedulously in its arduous,
    repulsive, and often dangerous labour, were thoroughly convinced
    that they were furthering the kingdom of God, is shown by the
    habitual practice of encouraging them with the remission of sins,
    similar to that offered for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land"--a
    somewhat surprising theorem. Parallel reasoning would prove that
    soldiers never plunder and are always Godly; that the crusaders
    were all conscientious men; and that policemen never take bribes
    or commit perjury. The interpretation of history calls for a
    less simple-minded psychology. That there were devoted fanatics
    in the Inquisition as in the Church is not to be disputed; that
    both organizations had economic bases is certain; and that the
    majority of office-bearers in both, in the ages of faith, had
    regard to gain, is demonstrated by all ecclesiastical history.

    Dr. Lea's own History shows clearly enough (i, 471-533) that the
    Inquisition, from the first generation of its existence, lived
    upon its fines and confiscations. "Persecution, as a steady and
    continuous policy, rested, after all, upon confiscation.... When
    it was lacking, the business of defending the faith lagged
    lamentably" (i, 529). "But for the gains to be made out of fines
    and confiscations its [the Inquisition's] work would have been
    much less thorough, and it would have sunk into comparative
    insignificance as soon as the first frantic zeal of bigotry
    had exhausted itself" (pp. 532-33). Why, in the face of these
    avowals, "it would be unjust to say that greed and thirst for
    plunder were the impelling motives of the Inquisition" (p. 532)
    is not very clear. See below, ch. x, § 3, as to the causation
    in Spain. Cp. Mocatta, The Jews and the Inquisition, pp. 37,
    44, 52. On the Inquisition in Portugal, in turn, Professor
    W. E. Collins sums up that "it was founded for reasons ostensibly
    religious but actually fiscal" (in the "Cambridge Modern History,"
    vol. ii, The Reformation, ch. xii, p. 415). Every charge of
    economic motive that Catholicism can bring against Protestantism is
    thus balanced by the equivalent charge against its own Inquisition.



§ 5. FREETHOUGHT IN THE SCHOOLS

The indestructibility of freethought, meanwhile, was being proved
even in the philosophic schools, under all their conformities to
faith. Already in the ninth century we have seen Scotus Erigena putting
the faith in jeopardy by his philosophic defence of it. Another
thinker, Roscelin (or Roussellin: fl. 1090), is interesting as
having made a critical approach to freethought in religion by way
of abstract philosophy. With him definitely begins the long academic
debate between the Nominalists and Realists so called. In an undefined
way, it had existed as early as the ninth century, [1362] the ground
being the Christian adoption of Plato's doctrine of ideas--that
individual objects are instances or images of an ideal universal,
which is a real existence, and prior to the individual thing:
"universalia ante rem." To that proposition Aristotle had opposed the
doctrine that the universal is immanent in the thing--"universalia
in re"--the latter alone being matter of knowledge; [1363] and in the
Middle Ages those who called Aristotle master carried his negation of
Plato to the extent of insisting that the "universal" or "abstract,"
or the "form" or "species," is a mere subjective creation, a name,
having no real existence. This, the Nominalist position--mistakenly
ascribed to Aristotle [1364]--was ultimately expressed in the formula,
"universalia post rem."

Such reasonings obviously tend to implicate theology; and Roscelin
was either led or helped by his Nominalist training to deny either
explicitly or implicitly the unity of the Trinity, arguing in effect
that, as only individuals are real existences, the actuality of the
persons of the Trinity involves their disunity. [1365] The thesis,
of course, evoked a storm, the English Archbishop Anselm and others
producing indignant answers. Of Roscelin's writing only one letter
is extant; and even Anselm, in criticizing his alleged doctrine,
admits having gathered it only from his opponents, whose language
suggests perversion. [1366] But if the testimony of his pupil Abailard
be truthful, [1367] he was at best a confused reasoner; and in his
theology he got no further than tritheism, then called ditheism. [1368]
Thus, though "Nominalism, by denying any objective reality to general
notions, led the way directly to the testimony of the senses and
the conclusions of experience," [1369] it did so on lines fatally
subordinate to the theology it sought to correct. Roscelin's thesis
logically led to the denial not only of trinity-in-unity but of the
Incarnation and transubstantiation; yet neither he nor his opponents
seem to have thought even of the last consequence, he having in fact
no consciously heretical intention. Commanded to recant by the Council
of Soissons in 1092, he did so, and resumed his teaching as before;
whereafter he was ordered to leave France. Coming to England, he showed
himself so little of a rebel to the papacy as to contend strongly for
priestly celibacy, arguing that all sons of priests and all born out of
wedlock should alike be excluded from clerical office. Expelled from
England in turn for these views, by a clergy still anti-celibate,
he returned to Paris, to revive the old philosophic issue, until
general hostility drove him to Aquitaine, where he spent his closing
years in peace. [1370]

Such handling of the cause of Nominalism gave an obvious advantage
to Realism. That has been justly described by one clerical scholar
as "Philosophy held in subordination to Church-Authority"; [1371]
and another has avowed that "the spirit of Realism was essentially
the spirit of dogmatism, the disposition to pronounce that truth
was already known," while "Nominalism was essentially the spirit
of progress, of inquiry, of criticism." [1372] But even a critical
philosophy may be made to capitulate to authority, as even à priori
metaphysic may be to a certain extent turned against it. Realism had
been markedly heretical in the hands of John Scotus; and in a later
age the Realist John Huss was condemned to death--perhaps on political
grounds, but not without signs of sectarian hate--by a majority of
Nominalists at the Council of Constance. Everything depended on the
force of the individual thinker and the degree of restraint put
upon him by the authoritarian environment. [1373] The world has
even seen the spectacle of a professed indifferentist justifying
the massacre of St. Bartholomew; and the Platonist Marsilio Ficino
vilified Savonarola, basely enough, after his execution, adjusting
a pantheistic Christianity to the needs of the political situation
in Medicean Florence. Valid freethinking is a matter of thoroughness
and rectitude, not of mere theoretic assents.

Tried by that test, the Nominalism of the medieval schools was no
very potent emancipator of the human spirit, no very clear herald of
freedom or new concrete truth. A doctrine which was so far adjusted
to authority as to affirm the unquestionable existence of three
deities, Father, Son, and Spirit, and merely disputed the not more
supra-rational theorem of their unity, yielded to the rival philosophy
a superiority in the kind of credit it sought for itself. Nominalism
was thus "driven to the shade of the schools," where it was "regarded
entirely in a logical point of view, and by no means in its actual
philosophic importance as a speculation concerning the grounds of
human knowledge." [1374] For Roscelin himself the question was one of
dialectics, not of faith, and he made no practical rationalists. The
popular heresies bit rather deeper into life. [1375]


    It is doubtless true of the Paulicians that "there was no principle
    of development in their creed: it reflected no genuine freedom
    of thought" (Poole, Illustrations, p. 95); but the same thing,
    as we have seen, is clearly true of scholasticism itself. It may
    indeed be urged that "the contest between Ratramn and Paschase on
    the doctrine of the Eucharist; of Lanfranc with Berengar on the
    same subject; of Anselm with Roscelin on the nature of Universals;
    the complaints of Bernard against the dialectical theology of
    Abelard; are all illustrations of the collision between Reason
    and Authority ... varied forms of rationalism--the pure exertions
    of the mind within itself ... against the constringent force
    of the Spiritual government" (Hampden, Bampton Lectures on The
    Scholastic Philosophy, 3rd ed. p. 37; cp. Hardwick, Church History:
    Middle Age, p. 203); but none of the scholastics ever professed
    to set Authority aside. None dared. John Scotus indeed affirmed
    the identity of true religion with true philosophy, without
    professing to subordinate the latter; but the most eminent of the
    later scholastics affirmed such a subordination. "The vassalage of
    philosophy consisted in the fact that an impassable limit was fixed
    for the freedom of philosophizing in the dogmas of the Church"
    (Ueberweg, i, 357); and some of the chief dogmas were not allowed
    to be philosophically discussed; though, "with its territory thus
    limited, philosophy was indeed allowed by theology a freedom which
    was rarely and only by exception infringed upon" (ib. Cp. Milman,
    Latin Christianity, 4th ed. ix, 151). "The suspicion of originality
    was fatal to the reputation of the scholastic divine" (Hampden,
    pp. 46-47). The popular heresy, indeed, lacked the intellectual
    stimulus that came to the schools from the philosophy of Averroës;
    but it was the hardier movement of the two.


Already in the eleventh century, however, the simple fact of the
production of a new argument for the existence of God by Anselm,
Archbishop of Canterbury, is a proof that, apart from the published
disputes, a measure of doubt on the fundamental issue had arisen in
the schools. It is urged [1376] that, though the argumentation of
Anselm seems alien to the thought of his time, there is no proof that
the idea of proving the existence of God was in any way pressed on him
from the outside. It is, however, inconceivable that such an argument
should be framed if no one had raised a doubt. And as a matter of fact
the question was discussed in the schools, Anselm's treatise being
a reproduction of his teaching. The monks of Bec, where he taught,
urged him to write a treatise wherein nothing should be proved by mere
authority, but all by necessity of reason or evidence of truth, and
with an eye to objections of all sorts. [1377] In the preface to his
Cur Deus Homo, again, he says that his first book is an answer to the
objections of infidels who reject Christianity as irrational. [1378]
Further, the nature of part of Anselm's theistic argument and the
very able but friendly reply of Gaunilo (a Count of Montigni, who
entered a convent near Tours, 1044-1083) show that the subject was
within the range of private discussion. Anselm substantially follows
St. Augustine; [1379] and men cannot have read the ancient books
which so often spoke of atheism without confronting the atheistic
idea. It is not to be supposed that Gaunilo was an unbeliever; but
his argumentation is that of a man who had pondered the problem. [1380]

Despite the ostensibly rationalistic nature of his argument, however,
Anselm stipulated for absolute submission of the intellect to the
creed of the Church; [1381] so that the original subtitle of his
Proslogium, Fides quaerens intellectum, in no way admits rational
tests. In the next century we meet with new evidence of sporadic
unbelief, and new attempts to deal with it on the philosophic
side. John of Salisbury (1120-1180) tells of having heard many
discourse on physics "otherwise than faith may hold"; [1382] and the
same vivacious scholar put in his list of "things about which a wise
man may doubt, so ... that the doubt extend not to the multitude," some
"things which are reverently to be inquired about God himself." [1383]
Giraldus Cambrensis (1147-1223), whose abundant and credulous gossip
throws so much light on the inner life of the Church and the laity in
his age, tells that the learned Simon of Tournay "thought not soundly
on the articles of the faith," saying privately, to his intimates,
things that he dared not utter publicly, till one day, in a passion,
he cried out, "Almighty God! how long shall this superstitious sect
of Christians and this upstart invention endure?"; whereupon during
the night he lost the power of speech, and remained helpless till
his death. [1384] Other ecclesiastical chroniclers represent Simon
as deriding alike Jesus, Moses, and Mahomet--an ascription to him
of the "three impostors" formula. [1385] Again, Giraldus tells how
an unnamed priest, reproved by another for careless celebration
of the mass, angrily asked whether his rebuker really believed in
transubstantiation, in the incarnation, in the Virgin Birth, and
in resurrection; adding that it was all carried on by hypocrites,
and assuredly invented by cunning ancients to hold men in terror and
restraint. And Giraldus comments that inter nos there are many who
so think in secret. [1386] As his own picture of the Church exhibits
a gross and almost universal rapacity pervading it from the highest
clergy to the lowest, the statement is entirely credible. [1387]
Yet again, in the Romance of the Holy Grail, mention is twice made
of clerical doubters on the doctrine of the Trinity; [1388] and on
that side, in the crusading period, both the monotheistic doctrine
of Islam and the Arab philosophy of Averroës were likely to set up a
certain amount of skepticism. In the twelfth century, accordingly,
we have Nicolas of Amiens producing his tractate De articulis (or
arte) catholicæ fidei in the hope of convincing by his arguments men
"who disdain to believe the prophecies and the gospel." [1389]

To meet such skepticism too was one of the undertakings of the
renowned Abailard (1079-1142), himself persecuted as a heretic for
the arguments with which he sought to guard against unbelief. Of the
details of his early life it concerns us here to note only that he
studied under Roscelin, and swerved somewhat in philosophy from his
master's theoretic Nominalism, which he partly modified on Aristotelian
lines, though knowing little of Aristotle. [1390] After his retirement
from the world to the cloister, he was induced to resume philosophic
teaching; and his pupils, like those of Anselm, begged their master to
give them rational arguments on the main points of the faith. [1391]
He accordingly rashly prepared a treatise, De Unitate et Trinitate
divina, in which he proceeded "by analogies of human reason," avowing
that the difficulties were great. [1392] Thereupon envious rivals,
of whom he had made many by his arrogance as well as by his fame, set
up against him a heresy hunt; and for the rest of his life he figured
as a dangerous person. While, however, he took up the relatively
advanced position that reason must prepare the way for faith, since
otherwise faith has no certitude, [1393] he was in the main dependent
on the authority either of second-hand Aristotle [1394] or of the
Scriptures, though he partly set aside that of the Fathers. [1395]
When St. Bernard accused him of Arianism and of heathenism he was
expressing personal ill-will rather than criticizing. Abailard himself
complained that many heresies were current in his time [1396]; and
as a matter of fact "more intrepid views than his were promulgated
without risk by a multitude of less conspicuous masters." [1397]
For instance, Bernard Sylvester (of Chartres), in his cosmology,
treated theological considerations with open disrespect [1398];
and William of Conches, who held a similar tone on physics, [1399]
taught, until threatened with punishment, that the Holy Ghost and
the Universal Soul were convertible terms. [1400] This remarkably
rational theologian further rejected the literal interpretation of
the creation of Eve; in science he adopted the Demokritean doctrine of
atoms; and in New Testament matters he revived the old rationalistic
heresy that the three Persons of the Trinity are simply three aspects
of the divine personality--power, wisdom, and will--which doctrine he
was duly forced to retract. It is clear from his works that he lived
in an atmosphere of controversy, and had to fight all along with the
pious irrationalists who, "because they know not the forces of nature,
in order that they may have all men comrades in their ignorance,
suffer not that others should search out anything, and would have us
believe like rustics and ask no reason." "If they perceive any man
to be making search, they at once cry out that he is a heretic." The
history of a thousand years of struggle between reason and religion
is told in those sentences.


    As to William's doctrines and writings see Poole, pp. 124-30,
    346-59. His authorship of one treatise is only latterly cleared
    up. In the work which under the title of Elementa Philosophiae
    is falsely ascribed to Bede, and under the title De Philosophia
    Mundi to Honorius of Autun (see Poole, pp. 340-42, 347 sq.), but
    which is really the production of William of Conches, there occurs
    the passage: "What is more pitiable than to say that a thing is,
    because God is able to do it, and not to show any reason why it
    is so; just as if God did everything that he is able to do! You
    talk like one who says that God is able to make a calf out of
    a log. But did he ever do it? Either, then, show a reason why a
    thing is so, or a purpose wherefore it is so, or else cease to
    declare it so." Migne, Patrolog. Latin. xc, 1139. It is thus an
    exaggeration to say of Abailard, as does Cousin, that "il mit
    de côté la vieille école d'Anselme de Laon, qui exposait sans
    expliquer, et fonda ce qu'on appelle aujourd'hui le rationalisme"
    (Ouvr. inédits d'Abélard, 1836, intr. p. ii).


Abailard was not more explicit on concrete issues than this
contemporary--who survived him, and studied his writings. If, indeed,
as is said, he wrote that "a doctrine is believed not because God has
said it, but because we are convinced by reason that it is so," [1401]
he went as far on one line as any theologian of his time; but his
main service to freethought seems to have lain in the great stimulus
he gave to the practice of reasoning on all topics. [1402] His enemy,
St. Bernard, on the contrary, gave an "immense impulse to the growth
of a genuinely superstitious spirit among the Latin clergy." [1403]


    Dr. Rashdall pronounces Abailard "incomparably the greatest
    intellect of the Middle Ages; one of the great minds which mark
    a period in the world's intellectual history"; and adds that
    "Abailard (a Christian thinker to the very heart's core, however
    irredeemable (sic) the selfishness and overweening vanity of his
    youth) was at the same time the representative of the principle of
    free though reverent inquiry in matters of religion and individual
    loyalty to truth." (The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages,
    1895, i, 56-57.) If the praise given be intended to exalt Abailard
    above John Scotus, it seems excessive.


On a survey of Abailard's theological teachings, a modern reader is
apt to see the spirit of moral reason most clearly in one set forth
in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, to the effect that
Jesus was not incarnate to redeem men from damnation, but solely to
instruct them by precept and example, and that he suffered and died
only to show his charity towards men. The thesis was implicit if not
explicit in the teaching of Pelagius; and for both men it meant the
effort to purify their creed from the barbaric taint of the principle
of sacrifice. In our own day, revived by such theologians as the
English Maurice, it seems likely to gain ground, as an accommodation
to the embarrassed moral sense of educated believers. But it is heresy
if heresy ever was, besides being a blow at the heart of Catholic
sacerdotalism; and Abailard on condemnation retracted it as he did
his other Pelagian errors. Retractation, however, is publication;
and to have been sentenced to retract such teaching in the twelfth
century is to leave on posterity an impression of moral originality
perhaps as important as the fame of a metaphysician. In any case,
it is a careful judge who thus finally estimates him: "When he is
often designated as the rationalist among the schoolmen, he deserves
the title not only on account of the doctrine of the Trinity, which
approaches Sabellianism in spite of all his polemics against it, and
not only on account of his critical attempts, but also on account of
his ethics, in which he actually completely agrees in the principal
point with many modern rationalists." [1404] And it is latterly his
singular fate to be valued at once by many sympathetic Catholics,
who hold him finally vindicated alike in life and doctrine, and by
many freethinkers.

How far the stir set up in Europe by his personal magnetism and his
personal record may have made for rational culture, it is impossible
to estimate; but some consequence there must have been. John of
Salisbury was one of Abailard's disciples and admirers; and, as
we saw, he not only noted skepticism in others but indicated an
infusion of it in his own mind--enough to earn for him from a modern
historian the praise of being a sincere skeptic, as against those
false skeptics who put forward universal doubt as a stalking horse for
their mysticism. [1405] But he was certainly not a universal skeptic
[1406]; and his denunciation of doubt as to the goodness and power
of God [1407] sounds orthodox enough. What he gained from Abailard
was a concern for earnest dialectic.

The worst side of scholasticism at all times was that it was more
often than not a mere logical expatiation in vacuo; this partly
for sheer lack of real knowledge. John of Salisbury probably did
not do injustice to the habit of verbiage it developed [1408]; and
the pupils of Abailard seem to have expressed themselves strongly to
him concerning the wordy emptiness of most of what passed current as
philosophic discourse; speaking of the teachers as blind leaders of
the blind. [1409] One version of the legend against Simon of Tournay is
to the effect that, after demonstrating by the most skilful arguments
the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity, he went on to say, when
enraptured listeners besought him to dictate his address so that
it might be preserved, that if he had been evilly minded he could
refute the doctrine by yet better arguments. [1410] Heresy apart,
this species of dialectical insincerity infected the whole life of
the schools, even the higher spirits going about their work with a
certain amount of mere logical ceremony.



§ 6. SARACEN AND JEWISH INFLUENCES

Even in the schools, however, over and above the influence of the more
original teachers, there rises at the close of the twelfth century and
the beginning of the thirteenth some measure of a new life, introduced
into philosophy through the communication of Aristotle to the western
world by the Saracens, largely by the mediation of the Jews. [1411]
The latter, in their free life under the earlier Moorish toleration,
had developed something in the nature of a school of philosophy,
in which the Judaic Platonism set up by Philo of Alexandria in the
first century was blended with the Aristotelianism of the Arabs. As
early as the eighth and ninth centuries, anti-Talmudic (the Karaïtes)
and pro-Talmudic parties professed alike to appeal to reason [1412];
and in the twelfth century the mere production of the Guide of the
Perplexed by the celebrated Moses Maimonides (1130-1205) [1413]
tells of a good deal of practical rationalism (of the kind that
reduced miracle stories to allegories), of which, however, there
is little direct literary result save of a theosophic kind. [1414]
Levi ben Gershom (1286-1344), commonly regarded as the greatest
successor of Maimonides, is like him guardedly rationalistic in his
commentaries on the Scriptures. [1415] But the doctrine which makes
Aristotle a practical support to rationalism, and which was adopted
not only by Averroës but by the Motazilites of Islam--the eternity
of matter--was rejected by Maimonides (as by nearly all other Jewish
teachers, with the partial exception of Levi ben Gershom), [1416]
on Biblical grounds; though his attempts to rationalize Biblical
doctrine and minimize miracles made him odious to the orthodox Jews,
some of whom, in France, did not scruple to call in the aid of the
Christian inquisition against his partisans. [1417] The long struggle
between the Maimonists and the orthodox is described as ending in the
"triumph of peripatetism" or Averroïsm in the synagogue [1418]; but
Averroïsm as modified by Maimonides is only a partial accommodation
of scripture to common sense. It would appear, in fact, that Jewish
thought in the Saracen world retrograded as did that of the Saracens
themselves; for we find Maimonides exclaiming over the apparent
disbelief in creatio ex nihilo in the "Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer the
Great," believed by him to be ancient, but now known to be a product
of the eighth century. [1419] The pantheistic teaching of Solomon
ben Gebirol or Ibn Gebirol, better known as Avicebron, [1420] who
in point of time preceded the Arab Avempace, and who later acquired
much Christian authority, was orthodox on the side of the creation
dogma even when many Jews were on that head rationalistic. [1421]
The high-water mark, among the Jews, of the critical rationalism of
the time, is the perception by Aben or Ibn Ezra (1119-1174) that the
Pentateuch was not written by Moses--a discovery which gave Spinoza
his cue five hundred years later; but Ibn Ezra, liberioris ingenii vir,
as Spinoza pronounced him, had to express himself darkly. [1422]

Thus the Jewish influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages was
chiefly metaphysical, carrying on Greek and Arab impulses; and to call
the Jewish people, as does Renan, "the principal representative of
rationalism during the second half of the Middle Age" is to make too
much of the academic aspects of freethinking. On the side of popular
theology it is difficult to believe that they had much Unitarian
influence; though Joinville in his Life of Saint Louis tells how,
in a debate between Churchmen and Jews at the monastery of Cluny,
a certain knight saw fit to break the head of one of the Jews with
his staff for denying the divinity of Jesus, giving as his reason
that many good Christians, listening to the Jewish arguments, were
in a fair way to go home unbelievers. It was in this case that the
sainted king laid down the principle that when a layman heard anyone
blaspheme the Christian creed his proper course was not to argue,
but to run the blasphemer through with his sword. [1423] Such admitted
inability on the part of the laity to reason on their faith, however,
was more likely to accompany a double degree of orthodoxy than to
make for doubt; and the clerical debating at the Abbey of Cluny,
despite the honourable attitude of the Abbot, who condemned the
knight's outrage, was probably a muster of foregone conclusions.

For a time, indeed, in the energetic intellectual life of northern
France the spirit of freethought went far and deep. After the great
stimulus given in Abailard's day to all discussion, we find another
Breton teacher, Amaury or Amalrich of Bène or Bena (end of twelfth
century) and his pupil David of Dinant, partly under the earlier
Arab influence, [1424] partly under that of John the Scot, [1425]
teaching a pronounced pantheism, akin to that noted as flourishing
later among the Brethren of the Free Spirit [1426] and some of the
Franciscan Fraticelli. Such a movement, involving disregard for
the sacraments and ceremonies of the Church, was soon recognized as
a dangerous heresy, and dealt with accordingly. The Church caused
Amaury to abjure his teachings; and after his death, finding his party
still growing, dug up and burned his bones. At the same time (1209)
a number of his followers were burned alive; David of Dinant had to
fly for his life; [1427] and inasmuch as the new heresy had begun
to make much of Aristotle, presumably as interpreted by Averroës,
a Council held at Paris vetoed for the university the study alike of
the pagan master and his commentators, interdicting first the Physics
and soon after the Metaphysics. [1428] This veto held until 1237,
when the school which adapted the lore of Aristotle to Christian
purposes began to carry the day.

The heretical Aristotelianism and the orthodox system which was
to overpower it were alike radiated from the south, where the Arab
influence spread early and widely. There, as we shall see, the long
duel between the Emperor Frederick II and the papacy made a special
opportunity for speculative freethought; and though this was far
from meaning at all times practical enmity to Christian doctrine,
[1429] that was not absent. It is clear that before Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274) a Naturalist and Averroïst view of the universe had
been much discussed, since he makes the remark that "God is by some
called Natura naturans" [1430]--Nature at work--an idea fundamental
alike to pantheism and to scientific naturalism. And throughout his
great work--a marvel of mental gymnastic which better than almost
any other writing redeems medieval orthodoxy from the charge of
mere ineptitude--Thomas indicates his acquaintance with unorthodox
thought. In particular he seems to owe the form of his work as well
as the subject-matter of much of his argument to Averroës. [1431]
Born within the sphere of the Saracen-Sicilian influence, and of
high rank, he must have met with what rationalism there was, and he
always presupposes it. [1432] "He is nearly as consummate a skeptic,
almost atheist, as he is a divine and theologian," says one modern
ecclesiastical dignitary; [1433] and an orthodox apologist [1434]
more severely complains that "Aquinas presented ... so many doubts
on the deepest points ... so many plausible reasons for unbelief
... that his works have probably suggested most of the skeptical
opinions which were adopted by others who were trained in the study
of them.... He has done more than most men to put the faith of his
fellow-Christians in peril." Of course he rejects Averroïsm. Yet he,
like his antagonist Duns Scotus, inevitably gravitates to pantheism
when he would rigorously philosophize. [1435]

What he did for his church was to combine so ingeniously the semblance
of Aristotelian method with constant recurrence to the sacred books
as to impose their authority on the life of the schools no less
completely than it dominated the minds of the unlearned. Meeting
method with method, and showing himself well aware of the lore he
circumvented, he built up a system quite as well fitted to be a
mere gymnastic of the mind; and he thereby effected the arrest for
some three centuries of the method of experimental science which
Aristotle had inculcated. He came just in time. Roger Bacon, trained
at Paris, was eagerly preaching the scientific gospel; and while he
was suffering imprisonment at the hands of his Franciscan superiors
for his eminently secular devotion to science, the freer scholars of
the university were developing a heresy that outwent his.

Now, however, began to be seen once for all the impossibility
of rational freedom in or under a church which depended for its
revenue on the dogmatic exploitation of popular credulity. For a
time the Aristotelian influence, as had been seen by the churchmen
who had first sought to destroy it, [1436] tended to be Averroïst
and rationalist. [1437] In 1269, however, there begins a determined
campaign, led by the bishop of Paris, against the current Averroïst
doctrines, notably the propositions "that the world is eternal";
"that there never was a first man"; "that the intellect of man
is one"; "that the mind, which is the form of man, constituting
him such, perishes with the body"; "that the acts of men are not
governed by divine providence"; "that God cannot give immortality or
incorruptibility to a corruptible or mortal thing." [1438] On such
doctrines the bishop and his coadjutors naturally passed an anathema
(1270); and at this period it was that Albertus Magnus and Thomas
Aquinas wrote their treatises against Averroïsm. [1439]

Still the freethinkers held out, and though in 1271 official commands
were given that the discussion of such matters in the university should
cease, another process of condemnation was carried out in 1277. This
time the list of propositions denounced includes the following:
"that the natural philosopher as such must deny the creation of
the world, because he proceeds upon natural causes and reasons;
while the believer (fidelis) may deny the eternity of the world,
because he argues from supernatural causes"; "that creation is not
possible, although the contrary is to be held according to faith";
"that a future resurrection is not to be believed by the philosopher,
because it cannot be investigated by reason"; "that the teachings of
the theologians are founded on fables"; "that there are fables and
falsities in the Christian religion as in others"; "that nothing more
can be known, on account of theology"; "that the Christian law prevents
from learning"; [1440] "that God is not triune and one, for trinity
is incompatible with perfect simplicity"; "that ecstatic states and
visions take place naturally, and only so." Such vital unbelief could
have only one fate; it was reduced to silence by a papal Bull, [1441]
administered by the orthodox majority; and the memory of the massacres
of the year 1209, and of the awful crusade against the Albigenses,
served to cow the thinkers of the schools into an outward conformity.

Henceforward orthodox Aristotelianism, placed on a canonical footing
in the theological system of Thomas Aquinas, ruled the universities;
and scholasticism counts for little in the liberation of European
life from either dogma or superstition. [1442] The practically
progressive forces are to be looked for outside. In the thirteenth
century in England we find the Franciscan friars in the school of
Robert Grosstête at Oxford discussing the question "Whether there
be a God?" [1443] but such a dispute was an academic exercise like
another; and in any case the authorities could be trusted to see
that it came to nothing. The work of Thomas himself serves to show
how a really great power of comprehensive and orderly thought can be
turned to the subversion of judgment by accepting the prior dominion
of a fixed body of dogma and an arbitrary rule over opinion. And yet,
so strong is the principle of ratiocination in his large performance,
and so much does it embody of the critical forces of antiquity and of
its own day, that while it served the Church as a code of orthodoxy
its influence can be seen in the skeptical philosophy of Europe
as late as Spinoza and Kant. It appears to have been as a result
of his argumentation that there became established in the later
procedure of the Church the doctrine that, while heretics who have
once received the faith and lapsed are to be coerced and punished,
other unbelievers (as Moslems and Jews) are not. This principle also,
it would appear, he derived from the Moslems, as he did their rule
that those of the true faith must avoid intimacy with the unbelievers,
though believers firm in the faith may dispute with them "when there
is greater expectation of the conversion of the infidels than of the
subversion of the fidels." And to the rule of non-inquisition into
the faith of Jews and Moslems the Church professed to adhere while the
Inquisition lasted, after having trampled it under foot in spirit by
causing the expulsion of the Jews and the Moriscoes from Spain. [1444]

We shall perhaps best understand the inner life of the schools in
the Middle Ages by likening it to that of the universities of our own
time, where there is unquestionably much unbelief among teachers and
taught, but where the economic and other pressures of the institution
suffice to preserve an outward acquiescence. In the Middle Ages it
was immeasurably less possible than in our day for the unbeliever to
strike out a free course of life and doctrine for himself. If, then,
to-day the scholarly class is in large measure tied to institutions
and conformities, much more so was it then. The cloister was almost
the sole haven of refuge for studious spirits, and to attain the haven
they had to accept the discipline and the profession of faith. We
may conclude, accordingly, that such works as Abailard's Sic et Non,
setting forth opposed views of so many doctrines and problems,
stood for and made for a great deal of quiet skepticism; [1445]
that the remarkable request of the monks of Bec for a ratiocinative
teaching which should meet even extravagant objections, covered a
good deal of resigned unfaith; and that in the Franciscan schools at
Oxford the disputants were not all at heart believers. Indeed, the
very existence of the doctrine of a "twofold truth"--one truth for
religion and another for philosophy--was from the outset a witness
for unbelief. But the unwritten word died, the litera scripta being
solely those of faith, and liberation had to come, ages later, from
without. Even when a bold saying won general currency--as that latterly
ascribed, no doubt falsely, to King Alfonso the Wise of Castile, that
"if he had been of God's council when he made the world he could have
advised him better"--it did but crystallize skepticism in a jest,
and supply the enemy with a text against impiety.

All the while, the Church was forging new and more murderous weapons
against reason. It is one of her infamies to have revived the use
in Christendom of the ancient practice of judicial torture, and this
expressly for the suppression of heresy. The later European practice
dates from the Bull of Innocent IV, Ad extirpanda, dated 1252. At
first a veto was put on its administration by clerical hands; but in
1256 Alexander IV authorized the inquisitors and their associates to
absolve one another for such acts. By the beginning of the fourteenth
century torture was in use not only in the tribunals of the Inquisition
but in the ordinary ecclesiastical courts, whence it gradually entered
into the courts of lay justice. [1446] It is impossible to estimate
the injury thus wrought at once to culture and to civilization, at
the hands of the power which claimed specially to promote both. [1447]



§ 7. FREETHOUGHT IN ITALY

Apart from the schools, there was a notable amount of hardy
freethinking among the imperialist nobles of northern Italy, in
the time of the emperors Henry IV and V, the attitude of enmity to
the Holy See having the effect of encouraging a rude rationalism. In
1115, while Henry V was vigorously carrying on the war of investitures
begun by his father, and formerly condemned by himself, the Countess
Matilda of Tuscany bequeathed her extensive fiefs to the papacy;
and in the following year Henry took forcible possession of them. At
this period the strife between the papal and the imperial factions in
the Tuscan cities was at its fiercest; and the Florentine chronicler
Giovanni Villani alleges that among many other heretics in 1115 and
1117 were some "of the sect of the Epicureans," who "with armed
hand defended the said heresy" against the orthodox. [1448] But
it is doubtful whether the heresy involved was anything more than
imperialist anti-papalism. Another chronicler speaks of the heretics
as Paterini; and even this is dubious. The title of Epicurean in the
time of Villani and Dante stood for an unbeliever in a future state;
[1449] but there was an avowed tendency to call all Ghibellines
Paterini; and other heretical aspersions were likely to be applied in
the same way. [1450] As the Averroïst philosophy had not yet risen,
and rationalistic opinions were not yet current among the western
Saracens, any bold heresy among the anti-papalists of Florence must
be assigned either to a spontaneous growth of unbelief or to the
obscure influence of the great poem of Lucretius, never wholly lost
from Italian hands. But the Lucretian view of things among men of
the world naturally remained a matter of private discussion, not of
propaganda; and it was on the less rationalistic but more organized
anti-clericalism that there came the doom of martyrdom. So with the
simple deism of which we find traces in the polemic of Guibert de
Nogent (d. 1124), who avowedly wrote his tract De Incarnatione adversus
Judæos rather as an apology against unbelievers among the Christians;
[1451] and again among the pilgrim community founded later in France
in commemoration of Thomas à Becket. [1452] Such doubters said little,
leaving it to more zealous reformers to challenge creed with creed.

Freethought in south-western Europe, however, had a measure of
countenance in very high places. In the thirteenth century the Emperor
Frederick II had the repute of being an infidel in the double sense of
being semi-Moslem [1453] and semi-atheist. By Pope Gregory IX he was
openly charged, in a furious afterthought, [1454] with saying that
the world had been deceived by three impostors (baratores)--Moses,
Jesus, and Mohammed; also with putting Jesus much below the other two,
and with delighting to call himself the forerunner of Antichrist.


    The Pope's letter, dated July 1, 1239, is given by Matthew Paris
    (extracts in Gieseler, vol. iii, § 55), and in Labbe's Concilia,
    t. xiii, col. 1157. Cp. the other references given by Renan,
    Averroès, 3e édit. pp. 296-97. As Voltaire remarks (Essai sur
    les Moeurs, ch. lii), the Pope's statement is the basis for the
    old belief that Frederick had written a treatise dealing with
    Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed as The Three Impostors. The story
    is certainly a myth; and probably no such book existed in his
    century. Cp. Maclaine's note to Mosheim, 13 Cent. pt. i, end;
    Renan, Averroès, pp. 280-81, 295. The authorship of such a book
    has nevertheless been ascribed by Catholic writers successively
    to Averroës, Simon of Tournay, Frederick, his Minister, Pierre
    des Vignes, Arnaldo de Villanueva, Boccaccio, Poggio, Pietro
    Aretino, Machiavelli, Symphorien, Champier, Pomponazzi, Cardan,
    Erasmus, Rabelais, Ochinus, Servetus, Postel, Campanella, Muret,
    Geoffroi Vallée, Giordano Bruno, Dolet, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Vanini
    (cp. Sentimens sur le traité des trois imposteurs in the French
    ed. of 1793; and Lea, Hist. of the Inquis. iii, 560); and the
    seventeenth-century apologist Mersenne professed to have seen it
    in Arabic (Lea, iii, 297). These references may be dismissed as
    worthless. In 1654 the French physician and mathematician Morin
    wrote an Epistola de tribus impostoribus under the name of Panurge,
    but this attacked the three contemporary writers Gassendi, Neure,
    and Bernier; and in 1680 Kortholt of Kiel published under the title
    De tribus impostoribus magnis an attack on Herbert, Hobbes, and
    Spinoza. The Three Impostors current later, dealing with Moses,
    Jesus, and Mohammed, may have been written about the same time,
    but, as we shall see later, is identical with L'Esprit de Spinoza,
    first published in 1719. A Latin treatise purporting to be written
    de tribus famosissimis deceptoribus, and addressed to an Otho
    illustrissimus (conceivably Otho Duke of Bavaria, 13th c.), came
    to light in MS. in 1706, and was described in 1716, but was not
    printed. The treatise current later in French cannot have been
    the same. On the whole subject see the note of R. C. Christie
    (reprinted from Notes and Queries) in his Selected Essays and
    Papers, 1902, pp. 309, 315; and the full discussion in Reuter's
    Geschichte der religiösen Aufklärung, ii, 251-96. The book De
    tribus impostoribus, bearing the date 1598, of which several copies
    exist, seems to have been really published, with its false date,
    at Vienna in 1753.


Frederick was in reality superstitious enough; he worshipped relics;
and he was nearly as merciless as the popes to rebellious heretics and
Manicheans; [1455] his cruelty proceeding, seemingly, on the belief
that insubordination to the emperor was sure to follow intellectual
as distinguished from political revolt against the Church. He was
absolutely tolerant to Jews and Moslems, [1456] and had trusted Moslem
counsellors, thereby specially evoking the wrath of the Church. Greatly
concerned to acquire the lore of the Arabs, [1457] he gave his favour
and protection to Michael Scotus, the first translator of portions
of Averroës into Latin, [1458] and presumptively himself a heretic
of the Averroïst stamp; whence the legend of his wizardry, adopted
by Dante. [1459] Thus the doubting and persecuting emperor assisted
at the birth of the philosophic movement which for centuries was
most closely associated with unbelief in Christendom. For the rest,
he is recorded to have ridiculed the doctrine of the Virgin Birth,
the viaticum, and other dogmas, "as being repugnant to reason and to
nature"; [1460] and his general hostility to the Pope would tend to
make him a bad Churchman. Indeed the testimonies, both Christian and
Moslem, as to his freethinking are too clear to be set aside. [1461]
Certainly no monarch of that or any age was more eagerly interested
in every form of culture, or did more, on tyrannous lines, to promote
it; [1462] and to him rather than to Simon de Montfort Europe owes
the admission of representatives of cities to Parliaments. [1463]
Of his son Manfred it is recorded that he was a thorough Epicurean,
believing neither in God nor in the saints. [1464] But positive
unbelief in a future state, mockery of the Christian religion, and
even denial of deity--usually in private, and never in writing--are
frequently complained of by the clerical writers of the time in France
and Italy; [1465] while in Spain Alfonso the Wise, about 1260, speaks
of a common unbelief in immortality, alike as to heaven and hell;
and the Council of Tarragona in 1291 decrees punishments against such
unbelievers. [1466] In Italy, not unnaturally, they were most commonly
found among the Ghibelline or imperial party, the opponents of the
papacy, despite imperial orthodoxy. "Incredulity, affected or real,
was for the oppressed Ghibellines a way among others of distinguishing
themselves from the Guelph oppressors." [1467]

The commonest form of rationalistic heresy seems to have been unbelief
in immortality. Thus Dante in the Inferno estimates that among
the heretics there are more than a thousand followers of Epicurus,
"who make the soul die with the body," [1468] specifying among them
the Emperor Frederick II, a cardinal, [1469] the Ghibelline noble
Farinata degli Uberti, and the Guelph Cavalcante Cavalcanti. [1470]
He was thinking, as usual, of the men of his own age; but, as we
have seen, this particular heresy had existed in previous centuries,
having indeed probably never disappeared from Italy. Other passages in
Dante's works [1471] show, in any case, that it was much discussed in
his time; [1472] and it is noteworthy that, so far as open avowal went,
Italian freethought had got no further two hundred years later. In the
period before the papacy had thoroughly established the Inquisition,
and diplomacy supervened on the tempestuous strifes of the great
factions, there was a certain hardihood of speech on all subjects,
which tended to disappear alongside of even a more searching unbelief.


    "Le 16e siècle n'a eu aucune mauvaise pensée que le 13e n'ait
    eue avant lui" (Renan, Averroès, p. 231). Renan, however,
    seems astray in stating that "Le Poème de la Descente de Saint
    Paul aux enfers parle avec terreur d'une société secrète qui
    avait juré la destruction de Christianisme" (id. p. 284). The
    poem simply describes the various tortures of sinners in hell,
    and mentions in their turn those who "en terre, à sainte Iglise
    firent guerre," and in death "Verbe Deu refusouent"; also those
    "Ki ne croient que Deu fust nez (né), ne que Sainte Marie l'eust
    portez, ne que por le peuple vousist (voulait) mourir, ne que
    peine deignast soffrir." See the text as given by Ozanam, Dante,
    ed. 6ième, Ptie. iv--the version cited by Renan.


So, with regard to the belief in magic, there was no general advance
in the later Renaissance on the skepticism of Pietro of Abano, a
famous Paduan physician and Averroïst, who died, at the age of 80,
in 1305. He appears to have denied alike magic and miracles, though
he held fast by astrology, and ascribed the rise and progress of all
religions to the influence of the stars. Himself accused of magic, he
escaped violent death by dying naturally before his trial was ended;
and the Inquisition burned either his body or his image. [1473] After
him, superstition seems to have gone step for step with skepticism.

Dante's own poetic genius, indeed, did much to arrest intellectual
evolution in Italy. Before his time, as we have seen, the trouvères
of northern France and the Goliards of the south had handled hell
in a spirit of burlesque; and his own teacher, Brunetto Latini, had
framed a poetic allegory, Il Tesoretto, in which Nature figures as
the universal power, behind which the God-idea disappeared. [1474] But
Dante's tremendous vision ultimately effaced all others of the kind;
and his intellectual predominance in virtue of mere imaginative art is
at once the great characteristic and the great anomaly of the early
Renaissance. Happily the inseparable malignity of his pietism was in
large part superseded by a sunnier spirit; [1475] but his personality
and his poetry helped to hold the balance of authority on the side
of faith. [1476] Within a few years of his death there was burned at
Florence (1327) one of the most daring heretics of the later Middle
Ages, Cecco Stabili d'Ascoli, a professor of philosophy and astrology
at Bologna, who is recorded to have had some intimacy with Dante, and
to have been one of his detractors. [1477] Cecco has been described as
"representing natural science, against the Christian science of Dante";
[1478] and though his science was primitive, the summing-up is not
unwarranted. Combining strong anti-Christian feeling with the universal
belief in astrology, he had declared that Jesus lived as a sluggard
(come un poltrone) with his disciples, and died on the cross, under
the compulsion of his star. [1479] In view of the blasphemer's fate,
such audacity was not often repeated.

As against Dante, the great literary influence for tolerance and
liberalism if not rationalism of thought was Boccaccio (1313-1375),
whose Decameron [1480] anticipates every lighter aspect of the
Renaissance--its levity, its licence, its humour, its anti-clericalism,
its incipient tolerance, its irreverence, its partial freethinking,
as well as its exuberance in the joy of living. On the side of
anti-clericalism, the key-note is struck so strongly and so defiantly
in some of the opening tales that the toleration of the book by the
papal authorities can be accounted for only by their appreciation of
the humour of the stories therein told against them, as that [1481] of
the Jew who, after seeing the utter corruption of the clergy at Rome,
turned Christian on the score that only by divine support could such
a system survive. No Protestant ever passed a more scathing aspersion
on the whole body of the curia than is thus set in the forefront of
the Decameron. Still more deeply significant of innovating thought,
however, is the famous story of The Three Rings, [1482] embodied later
by Lessing in his Nathan the Wise as an apologue of tolerance. Such a
story, introduced with whatever parade of orthodox faith, could not but
make for rational skepticism, summarizing as it does the whole effect
of the inevitable comparison of the rival creeds made by the men of
Italy and those of the east in their intercourse. The story itself,
centring on Saladin, is of eastern origin, [1483] and so tells of even
more freethinking than meets the eye in the history of Islam. [1484]
It is noteworthy that the Rabbi Simeon Duran (1360-1444), who follows
on this period, appears to be the first Jewish teacher to plead for
mutual toleration among the conflicting schools of his race. [1485]

Current in Italy before Boccaccio, the tale had been improved from
one Italian hand to another; [1486] and the main credit for its full
development is Boccaccio's. [1487] Though the Church never officially
attempted to suppress the book--leaving it to Savonarola to destroy as
far as possible the first edition--the more serious clergy naturally
resented its hostility, first denouncing it, then seeking to expurgate
all the anti-clerical passages; [1488] and the personal pressure
brought to bear upon Boccaccio had the effect of dispiriting and
puritanizing him; so that the Decameron finally wrought its effect
in its author's despite. [1489] So far as we can divine the deeper
influence of such a work on medieval thought, it may reasonably be
supposed to have tended, like that of Averroïsm, towards Unitarianism
or deism, inasmuch as a simple belief in deity is all that is normally
implied in its language on religious matters. On that view it bore
its full intellectual fruit only in the two succeeding centuries,
when deism and Unitarianism alike grew up in Italy, apparently from
non-scholastic roots.

It is an interesting problem how far the vast calamity of the Black
Death (1348-49) told either for skepticism or for superstition in this
age. In Boccaccio's immortal book we see a few refined Florentines who
flee the pest giving themselves up to literary amusement; but there
is also mention of many who had taken to wild debauchery, and there
are many evidences as to wild outbreaks of desperate licence all over
Europe. [1490] On the other hand, many were driven by fear to religious
practices; [1491] and in the immense destruction of life the Church
acquired much new wealth. At the same time the multitudes of priests
who died [1492] had as a rule to be replaced by ill-trained persons,
where the problem was not solved by creating pluralities, the result
being a general falling-off in the culture and the authority of the
clergy. [1493] But there seems to have been little or no growth of
such questioning as came later from the previously optimistic Voltaire
after the earthquake of Lisbon; and the total effect of the immense
reduction of population all over Europe seems to have been a lowering
of the whole of the activities of life. Certainly the students of
Paris in 1376 were surprisingly freethinking on scriptural points;
[1494] but there is nothing to show that the great pestilence had set
up any new movement of ethical thought. In some ways it grievously
deepened bigotry, as in regard to the Jews, who were in many regions
madly impeached as having caused the plague by poisoning the wells,
and were then massacred in large numbers.

Side by side with Boccaccio, his friend Petrarch (1304-1374), who
with him completes the great literary trio of the late Middle Ages,
belongs to freethought in that he too, with less aggressiveness but
also without recoil, stood for independent culture and a rational habit
of mind as against the dogmatics and tyrannies of the Church. [1495]
He was in the main a practical humanist, not in accord with the
verbalizing scholastic philosophy of his time, and disposed to
find his intellectual guide in the skeptical yet conservative
Cicero. The scholastics had become as fanatical for Aristotle or
Averroës as the churchmen were for their dogmas; [1496] and Petrarch
made for mental freedom by resisting all dogmatisms alike. [1497]
The general liberality of his attitude has earned him the titles of
"the first modern man" [1498] and "the founder of modern criticism"
[1499]--both somewhat high-pitched. [1500] He represented in reality
the sobering and clarifying influence of the revived classic culture
on the fanaticisms developed in the Middle Ages; and when he argued
for the rule of reason in all things [1501] it was not that he
was a deeply searching rationalist, but that he was spontaneously
averse to all the extremes of thought around him, and was concerned
to discredit them. For himself, having little speculative power, he
was disposed to fall back on a simple and tolerant Christianity. Thus
he is quite unsympathetic in his references to those scholars of his
day who privately indicated their unbelief. Knowing nothing of the
teaching of Averroës, he speaks of him, on the strength of Christian
fictions, as "that mad dog who, moved by an execrable rage, barks
against his Lord Christ and the Catholic faith." [1502] Apart from
such conventional odium theologicum, his judgment, like his literary
art, was clear and restrained; opening no new vistas, but bringing
a steady and placid light to bear on its chosen sphere.

Between such humanistic influences and that of more systematic and
scholastic thought, Italy in that age was the chief source of practical
criticism of Christian dogmas; and the extent to which a unitarian
theism was now connected with the acceptance of the philosophy of
Averroës brought it about, despite the respectful attitude of Dante,
who gave him a tranquil place in hell, [1503] that he came to figure
as Antichrist for the faithful. [1504] Petrarch in his letters speaks
of much downright hostility to the Christian system on the part of
Averroïsts; [1505] and the association of Averroïsm with the great
medical school of Padua [1506] must have promoted practical skepticism
among physicians. Being formally restricted to the schools, however,
it tended there to undergo the usual scholastic petrifaction; and
the common-sense deism it encouraged outside had to subsist without
literary discipline. In this form it probably reached many lands,
without openly affecting culture or life; since Averroïsm itself
was professed generally in the Carmelite order, who claimed for it
orthodoxy. [1507]

Alongside, however, of intellectual solvents, there were at work others
of a more widely effective kind, set up by the long and sinister
historic episode of the Great Papal Schism. The Church, already
profoundly discredited in the eleventh century by the gross disorders
of the papacy, continued frequently throughout the twelfth to exhibit
the old spectacle of rival popes; and late in the fourteenth (1378)
there broke out the greatest schism of all. Ostensibly beginning in
a riotous coercion of the electing cardinals by the Roman populace,
it was maintained on the one side by the standing interest of the
clergy in Italy, which called for an Italian head of the Church,
and on the other hand by the French interest, which had already
enforced the residence of the popes at Avignon from 1305 to 1376. It
was natural that, just after the papal chair had been replaced in
Italy by Gregory IX, the Romans should threaten violence to the
cardinals if they chose any but an Italian; and no less natural that
the French court should determine to restore a state of things in
which it controlled the papacy in all save its corruption. During
the seventy years of "the Captivity," Rome had sunk to the condition
of a poor country town; and to the Italian clergy the struggle for a
restoration was a matter of economic life and death. For thirty-nine
years did the schism last, being ended only by the prolonged action
of the great Council of Constance in deposing the rivals of the moment
and appointing Martin V (1417); and this was achieved only after there
had slipped into the chair of Peter "the most worthless and infamous
man to be found." [1508] During the schism every species of scandal had
flourished. Indulgences had been sold and distributed at random; [1509]
simony and venality abounded more than ever; [1510] the courts of Rome
and Avignon were mere rivals in avarice, indecorum, and reciprocal
execration; and in addition to the moral occasion for skepticism there
was the intellectual, since no one could show conclusively that the
administration of sacraments was valid under either pope. [1511]



§ 8. SECTS AND ORDERS

Despite, therefore, the premium put by the Church on devotion
to its cause and doctrine, and despite its success in strangling
specific forms of heresy, hostility to its own pretensions germinated
everywhere, [1512] especially in the countries most alien to Italy
in language and civilization. An accomplished Catholic scholar [1513]
sums up that "from about the middle of the twelfth century the whole
secular and religious literature of Europe grew more and more hostile
to the papacy and the curia." The Church's own economic conditions,
constantly turning its priesthood, despite all precautions, into a
money-making and shamelessly avaricious class, ensured it a perpetuity
of ill-will and denunciation. The popular literature which now began
to grow throughout Christendom with the spread of political order was
everywhere turned to the account of anti-clerical satire; [1514] and
only the defect of real knowledge secured by the Church's own policy
prevented such hostility from developing into rational unbelief. As
it was, a tendency to criticize at once the socio-economic code and
practice and the details of creed and worship is seen in a series
of movements from the thirteenth century onwards; and some of the
most popular literature of that age is deeply tinged with the new
spirit. After the overthrow of the well-organized anti-clericalism
of the Cathari and other heretics in Languedoc, however, no movement
equally systematic and equally heretical flourished on any large scale;
and as even those heresies on their popular side were essentially
supernaturalist, and tended to set up one hierarchy in place of
another, it would be vain to look for anything like a consistent or
searching rationalism among the people in the period broadly termed
medieval, including the Renaissance.

It would be a bad misconception to infer from the abundant signs of
popular disrespect for the clergy that the mass of the laity even
in Italy, for instance, were unbelievers. [1515] They never were
anything of the kind. At all times they were deeply superstitious,
easily swayed by religious emotion, credulous as to relics, miracles,
visions, prophecies, responsive to pulpit eloquence, readily passing
from derision of worldly priests to worship of austere ones. [1516]
When Machiavelli said that religion was gone from Italy, he was
thinking of the upper classes, among whom theism was normal, [1517] and
the upper clergy, who were often at once superstitious and corrupt. As
for the common people, it was impossible that they should be grounded
rationalists as regarded the great problems of life. They were merely
the raw material on which knowledge might work if it could reach them,
which it never did. And the common people everywhere else stood at
or below the culture level of those of Italy.

For lack of other culture than Biblical, then, even the popular heresy
tended to run into mysticisms which were only so far more rational than
the dogmas and rites of the Church that they stood for some actual
reflection. A partial exception, indeed, may be made in the case of
the Brethren of the Free Spirit, a sect set up in Germany in the early
years of the thirteenth century, by one Ortlieb, on the basis of the
pantheistic teachings of Amaury of Bène and David of Dinant. [1518]
Their doctrines were set forth in a special treatise or sacred book,
called The Nine Rocks. The Fratres liberi spiritus seem to have been
identical with the sect of the "Holy Spirit"; [1519] but their tenets
were heretical in a high degree, including as they did a denial of
personal immortality, and consequently of the notions of heaven,
hell, and purgatory. Even the sect's doctrine of the Holy Spirit was
heretical in another way, inasmuch as it ran, if its opponents can be
believed, to the old antinomian assertion that anyone filled with the
Spirit was sinless, whatever deeds he might do. [1520] As always, such
antinomianism strengthened the hands of the clergy against the heresy,
though the Brethren seem to have been originally very ascetic; and
inasmuch as their pantheism involved the idea that Satan also had in
him the divine essence, they were duly accused of devil-worship. [1521]
On general principles they were furiously persecuted; but all through
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and even in the fifteenth,
they are found in various parts of central and western Europe, [1522]
often in close alliance with the originally orthodox communities
known in France and Holland by the names of Turlupins and Beguins or
Beguines, and in Germany and Belgium as Beguttæ or Beghards, [1523]
akin to the Lollards.

These in turn are to be understood in connection with developments
which took place in the thirteenth century within the Church--notably
the rise of the great orders of Mendicant Friars, of which the
two chief were founded about 1216 by Francis of Assisi and the
Spanish Dominic, the latter a fierce persecutor in the Albigensian
crusade. Nothing availed more to preserve or restore for a time the
Church's prestige. The old criticism of priestly and monastic avarice
and worldliness was disarmed by the sudden appearance and rapid spread
of a priesthood and brotherhood of poverty; and the obvious devotion of
thousands of the earlier adherents went to the general credit of the
Church. Yet the descent of the new orders to the moral and economic
levels of the old was only a question of time; and no process could
more clearly illustrate the futility of all schemes of regenerating the
world on non-rational principles. Apart from the vast encouragement
given to sheer mendicancy among the poor, the orders themselves
substantially apostatized from their own rules within a generation.

The history of the Franciscans in particular is like that of the
Church in general--one of rapid lapse into furious schism, with a
general reversion to gross self-seeking on the part of the majority,
originally vowed to utter poverty. Elias, the first successor of
Francis, appointed by the Saint himself, proved an intolerable tyrant;
and in his day began the ferocious strife between the "Spirituals,"
who insisted on the founder's ideal of poverty, and the majority, who
insisted on accepting the wealth which the world either bestowed or
could be cajoled into bestowing on the order. The majority, of course,
ultimately overbore the Spirituals, the papacy supporting them. [1524]
They followed the practically universal law of monastic life. The
Humiliati, founded before the thirteenth century, had to be suppressed
by the Pope in the sixteenth, for sheer corruption of morals; and the
Franciscans and Dominicans, who speedily became bitterly hostile to
each other, were in large measure little better. Even in the middle
of the thirteenth century they were attacked by the Sorbonne doctor,
William of St. Amour, in a book on The Perils of the Latter Times;
[1525] and in England in the fourteenth century we find Wiclif
assailing the begging friars as the earlier satirists had assailed
the abbots and monks. That all this reciprocal invective was not
mere partizan calumny, but broadly true as against both sides, is
the conclusion forced upon a reader of the Philobiblon ascribed to
Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham and Treasurer and Chancellor under
Edward III. In that book, written either by the bishop or by one
of his chaplains, Robert Holkot, [1526] the demerits of all orders
of the clergy from the points of view of letters and morals are set
forth with impartial emphasis; [1527] and the character of the bishop
in turn is no less effectively disposed of after his death by Adam
Murimuth, a distinguished lawyer and canon of St. Paul's. [1528]

The worst of the trouble for the Church was that the mendicants were
detested by bishops and the beneficed priests, whose credit they
undermined, and whose revenues they intercepted. That the Franciscans
and Dominicans remained socially powerful till the Reformation was
due to the energy developed by their corporate organization and the
measure of education they soon secured on their own behalf; not
to any general superiority on their part to the "secular" clergy
so-called. [1529] Indeed it was to the latter, within the Church,
that most pre-Reformation reformers looked for sympathy. At the outset,
however, the movement of the Mendicant Friars gave a great impulsion to
the lay communities of the type of the Beguines and Beghards who had
originated in the Netherlands, and who practised at once mendicancy
and charity very much on the early Franciscan lines; [1530] and the
spirit of innovation led in both cases to forms of heresy. That of the
Beguines and Beghards arose mainly through their association with the
Brethren of the Free Spirit; and they suffered persecution as did the
latter; while among the "Spiritual" Franciscans, who were despisers of
learning, there arose a species of new religion. At the beginning of
the century, Abbot Joachim, of Flora or Flores in Calabria (d. 1202),
who "may be regarded as the founder of modern mysticism," [1531]
had earned a great reputation by devout austerities, and a greater by
his vaticinations, [1532] which he declared to be divine. One of his
writings was condemned as heretical, thirteen years after his death,
by the Council of Lateran; but his apocalyptic writings, and others put
out in his name, had a great vogue among the rebellious Franciscans.

At length, in 1254, there was produced in Paris a book called The
Everlasting Gospel, consisting of three of his genuine works, with a
long and audacious Introduction by an anonymous hand, which expressed
a spirit of innovation and revolt, mystical rather than rational, that
seemed to promise the utter disruption of the Church. It declared
that, as the dispensation of the Son had followed on that of the
Father, so Christ's evangel in turn was to be superseded by that of
the "Holy Spirit." [1533] Adopted by the "Spiritual" section of the
Franciscans, it brought heresy within the organization itself, the
Introduction being by many ascribed--probably in error--to the head
of the order, John of Parma, a devotee of Joachim. On other grounds,
he was ultimately deposed; [1534] but the ferment of heresy was
great. And while the Franciscans are commonly reputed to have been led
by small-minded generals, [1535] their order, as Renan notes, [1536]
not only never lost the stamp of its popular and irregular origin,
but was always less orthodox in general than the Dominican. But its
deviations were rather ultra-religious than rational; and some of its
heresies have become orthodoxy. Thus it was the Franciscans, notably
Duns Scotus, who carried the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception
of the Virgin against the Dominicans, who held by the teaching of
Thomas Aquinas that she was conceived "in sin." [1537] Mary was thus
deified on a popular impulse, dating from paganism, at the expense
of Christism; and, considering that both Thomas and St. Bernard had
flatly rejected the Immaculate Conception, its ultimate adoption as
dogma is highly significant. [1538]

In the year 1260, when, according to the "Eternal Gospel," the new
dispensation of the Holy Spirit was to begin, there was an immense
excitement in northern Italy, marked by the outbreak of the order
of Flagellants, self-scourgers, whose hysteria spread to other
lands. Gherardo Segarelli, a youth of Parma, came forward as a new
Christ, had himself circumcised, swaddled, cradled, and suckled;
[1539] and proceeded to found a new order of "Apostolicals," after
the manner of a sect of the previous century, known by the same name,
who professed to return to primitive simplicity and to chastity, and
reproduced what they supposed to be the morals of the early Church,
including the profession of ascetic cohabitation. [1540] Some of
their missionaries got as far as Germany; but Segarelli was caught,
imprisoned, reduced to the status of a bishop's jester, and at length,
after saving his life for a time by abjuration, burned at Parma,
in the year 1300.

Despite much persecution of the order, one of its adherents,
Fra Dolcino, immediately began to exploit Segarelli's martyrdom,
and renewed the movement by an adaptation of the "Eternal Gospel,"
announcing that Segarelli had begun a new era, to last till the Day
of Judgment. Predicting the formation of native states, as well as
the forcible purification of the papacy, he ultimately set up an
armed movement, which held out in the southern Alps for two years,
till the Apostolicals were reduced to cannibalism. At length (1307)
they were overpowered and massacred, and Dolcino was captured, with
his beautiful and devoted companion, Margherita di Trank. She was
slowly burned to death before his eyes, refusing to abjure; and he
in turn was gradually tortured to death, uttering no cry. [1541]

The order subsisted for a time in secret, numbers cherishing Dolcino's
memory, and practising a priestless and riteless religion, prohibiting
oaths, and wholly repudiating every claim of the Church. [1542] Yet
another sect, called by the name of "The Spirit of Liberty"--probably
the origin of the name libertini, later applied to freethinkers in
France--was linked on the one hand to the Apostolicals and on the
other to the German Brethren of the Free Spirit, as well as to the
Franciscan Fraticelli. This sect is heard of as late as 1344, when
one of its members was burned. [1543] And there were yet others;
till it seemed as if the Latin Church were to be resolved into an
endless series of schisms. But organization, as of old, prevailed;
the cohesive and aggressive force of the central system, with the
natural strifes of the new movements, whether within or without
[1544] the Church, sufficed to bring about their absorption or their
destruction. It needed a special concurrence of economic, political,
and culture forces to disrupt the fabric of the papacy.



§ 9. THOUGHT IN SPAIN

Of all the chapters in the history of the Inquisition, the most
tragical is the record of its work in Spain, for there a whole
nation's faculty of freethought was by its ministry strangled for a
whole era. There is a prevalent notion that in Spain fanaticism had
mastered the national life from the period of the overthrow of Arianism
under the later Visigothic kings; and that there the extirpation of
heresy was the spontaneous and congenial work of the bulk of the
nation, giving vent to the spirit of intolerance ingrained in it
in the long war with the Moors. "Spain," says Michelet, "has always
felt herself more Catholic than Rome." [1545] But this is a serious
misconception. Wars associated with a religious cause are usually
followed rather by indifference than by increased faith; and the long
wars of the Moors and the Christians in Spain had some such sequel,
[1546] as had the Crusades, and the later wars of religion in France
and Germany. It is true that for a century after the (political)
conversion of the Visigothic king Recared (587) from Arianism to
Catholicism--an age of complete decadence--the policy of the Spanish
Church was extremely intolerant, as might have been expected. The
Jews, in particular, were repeatedly and murderously persecuted;
[1547] but after the fall of the Visigoths before the invading
Moors, the treatment of all forms of heresy in the Christian parts
of the Peninsula, down to the establishment of the second or New
Inquisition under Torquemada, was in general rather less severe than
elsewhere. [1548]

An exception is to be noted in the case of the edicts of 1194 and 1197,
by Alfonso II and Pedro II ("the Catholic") of Aragon, against the
Waldenses. [1549] The policy in the first case was that of wholesale
expulsion of the heretics anathematized by the Church; and, as this
laid the victims open to plunder all round, there is a presumption
that cupidity was a main part of the motive. Peter the Catholic, in
turn, who decreed the stake for the heretics that remained, made a
signally complete capitulation to the Holy See; but the nation did not
support him; and the tribute he promised to pay to the Pope was never
paid. [1550] In the thirteenth century, when the Moors had been driven
out of Castile, rationalistic heresy seems to have been as common
in Spain as in Italy. Already Arab culture had spread, Archbishop
Raymond of Toledo (1130-50) having caused many books to be translated
from Arabic into Latin; [1551] and inasmuch as racial warfare had
always involved some intercourse between Christians and Moors, [1552]
the Averroïst influence which so speedily reached Sicily from Toledo
through Michael Scot must have counted for something in Spain. About
1260 Alfonso X, "the Wise" king of Castile, describes the heresies of
his kingdom under two main divisions, of which the worse is the denial
of a future state of rewards and punishments. [1553] This heresy,
further, is proceeded against by the Council of Tarragona in 1291. And
though Alfonso was orthodox, and in his legislation a persecutor,
[1554] his own astronomic and mathematical science, so famous in the
after times, came to him from the Arabs and the Jews whom he actually
called in to assist him in preparing his astronomic tables. [1555]
Such science was itself a species of heresy in that age; and to it
the orthodox king owes his Catholic reputation as a blasphemer,
as Antichrist, [1556] and as one of the countless authors of the
fabulous treatise on the "Three Impostors." He would further rank
as a bad Churchman, inasmuch as his very laws against heresy took no
account of the Roman Inquisition (though it was nominally established
by a papal rescript in 1235), [1557] but provided independently for
the treatment of offenders. Needless to say, they had due regard to
finance, non-believers who listened to heresy being fined ten pounds
weight of gold, with the alternative of fifty lashes in public; while
the property of lay heretics without kin went to the fisc. [1558]
The law condemning to the stake those Christians who apostatized to
Islam or Judaism [1559] had also a financial motive.

Such laws, however, left to unsystematic application, were but slightly
operative; and the people fiercely resisted what attempts were made
to enforce them. [1560] At the end of the thirteenth century the
heresies of the French Beguines and the Franciscan "Spirituals" spread
in Aragon, both by way of books and of preaching, and even entered
Portugal. Against these, in the years 1314-1335, the Inquisitors
maintained a persecution. [1561] But it has been put on record by
the famous Arnaldo of Villanueva--astronomer, scholar, alchemist,
reformer, and occultist [1562] (d. 1314)--whose books were at that
period condemned by a council of friars because of his championship of
the Spirituals, that King Frederick II of Aragon had confessed to him
his doubts as to the truth of the Christian religion--doubts set up by
the misconduct of priests, abbots, and bishops; the malignities of the
heads of the friar orders; and the worldliness and political intrigues
of the Holy See. [1563] Such a king was not likely to be a zealous
inquisitor; and the famous Joachite Franciscan Juan de Pera-Tallada
(Jean de la Rochetaillade), imprisoned at Avignon for his apocalyptic
teachings about 1349, seems to have died in peace in Spain long
afterwards. [1564] It cannot even be said that the ordinary motive of
rapacity worked strongly against heresy in Spain in the Middle Ages,
since there the Templars, condemned and plundered everywhere else,
were acquitted; and their final spoliation was the work of the papacy,
the Spanish authorities resisting. [1565] We shall find, further, the
orthodox Spanish king of Naples in the fifteenth century protecting
anti-papal scholarship. And though Dominic, the primary type of the
Inquisitor, had been a Castilian, no Spaniard was Pope from the fourth
to the fourteenth century, and very few were cardinals. [1566]

As late as the latter half of the fifteenth century, within a
generation of the setting-up of the murderous New Inquisition,
Spain seems to have been on the whole as much given to freethinking
as France, and much more so than England. On the one hand, Averroïsm
tinged somewhat the intellectual life through the Moorish environment,
so that in 1464 we find revolted nobles complaining that King Enrique
IV is suspected of being unsound in the faith because he has about
him both enemies of Catholicism and nominal Christians who avow their
disbelief in a future state. [1567] On the other hand, it had been
noted that many were beginning to deny the need or efficacy of priestly
confession; and about 1478 a Professor at Salamanca, Pedro de Osma,
actually printed an argument to that effect, further challenging the
power of the Pope. So slight was then the machinery of inquisition
that he had to be publicly tried by a council, which merely ordered
him to recant in public; and he died peacefully in 1480. [1568]

It was immediately after this, in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella,
that the Inquisition was newly and effectively established in Spain;
and the determining motive was the avarice of the king and queen,
not the Catholic zeal of the people. The Inquisitor-General of
Messina came to Madrid in 1477 in order to obtain confirmation of a
forged privilege, pretended to have been granted to the Dominicans
in Sicily by Frederick II in 1233--that of receiving one-third of
the property of every heretic they condemned. To such a ruler as
Ferdinand, such a system readily appealed; and as soon as possible a
new Inquisition was established in Spain, Isabella consenting. [1569]
From the first it was a system of plunder. "Men long dead, if they
were represented by rich descendants, were cited before the tribunal,
judged, and condemned; and the lands and goods that had descended to
their heirs passed into the coffers of the Catholic kings." [1570]
The solemn assertion by Queen Isabella, that she had never applied
such money to the purposes of the crown, has been proved from State
papers to be "a most deliberate and daring falsehood." [1571] The
revenue thus iniquitously obtained was enormous; and it is inferrible
that the pecuniary motive underlay the later expulsion of the Jews
and the Moriscoes as well as the average practice of the Inquisition.


    The error as to the original or anciently ingrained fanaticism of
    the Spanish people, first made current by Ticknor (Hist. Spanish
    Lit., 6th ed. i, 505), has been to some extent diffused by Buckle,
    who at this point of his inquiry reasoned à priori instead of
    inductively as his own principles prescribed. See the notes to the
    present writer's edition of his Introduction (Routledge, 1904),
    pp. 107, 534-50. The special atrocity of the Inquisition in Spain
    was not even due directly to the papacy (cp. Burke, ii, 78): it was
    the result first of the rapacity of Ferdinand, utilizing a papal
    institution; and later of the political fanaticisms of Charles V
    and Philip II, both of Teutonic as well as Spanish descent. Philip
    alleged that the Inquisition in the Netherlands was more severe
    than in Spain (ed. of Buckle cited, p. 107, note). In the words
    of Bishop Stubbs: "To a German race of sovereigns Spain finally
    owed the subversion of her national system and ancient freedom"
    (id. p. 550, note).


Such a process, however, would not have been possible in any country,
at any stage of the world's history, without the initiative and the
support of some such sacrosanct organization as the Catholic Church,
wielding a spell over the minds even of those who, in terror and
despair, fought against it. As in the thirteenth century, so at the end
of the fifteenth, [1572] the Inquisition in Spain was spasmodically
resisted in Aragon and Castile, in Catalonia, and in Valencia;
the first Inquisitor-General in Aragon being actually slain in the
cathedral of Saragossa in 1487, despite his precaution of wearing a
steel cap and coat of mail. [1573] Vigorous protests from the Cortès
even forced some restraint upon the entire machine; but such occasional
resistance could not long countervail the steady pressure of regal and
official avarice and the systematic fanaticism of the Dominican order.

It was thus the fate of Spain to illustrate once for all the power of
a dogmatic religious system to extirpate the spirit of reason from an
entire nation for a whole era. There and there only, save for a time
in Italy, did the Inquisition become all-powerful; and it wrought for
the evisceration of the intellectual and material life of Spain with
a demented zeal to which there is no parallel in later history. In
the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, after several random massacres
and much persecution of the "New Christians" or doubtful converts from
Judaism, [1574] the unconverted Jews of Spain were in 1489 penned into
Ghettos, and were in 1492 expelled bodily from the country, with every
circumstance of cruelty, so far as Church and State could compass their
plans. By this measure at least 160,000 subjects [1575] of more than
average value were lost to the State. Portugal and other Christian
countries took the same cruel step a few years later; but Spain
carried the policy much further. From the year of its establishment,
the Inquisition was hotly at work destroying heresy of every kind;
and the renowned Torquemada, the confessor of Isabella, is credited
with having burned over ten thousand persons in his eighteen years of
office as Grand Inquisitor, besides torturing many thousands. Close
upon a hundred thousand more were terrified into submission; and
a further six thousand burned in effigy in their absence or after
death. [1576] The destruction of books was proportionally thorough;
[1577] and when Lutheran Protestantism arose it was persistently killed
out; thousands leaving the country in view of the hopelessness of
the cause. [1578] At this rate, every vestige of independent thought
must soon have disappeared from any nation in the world. If she is
to be judged by the number of her slain and exiled heretics, Spain
must once have been nearly as fecund in reformative and innovating
thought as any State in northern Europe; but the fatal conjunction
of the royal and the clerical authority sufficed for a whole era to
denude her of every variety of the freethinking species. [1579]



§ 10. THOUGHT IN ENGLAND

Lying on the outskirts of the world of culture, England in the
later Middle Ages and the period of the Italian Renaissance lived
intellectually, even where ministered to by the genius of Chaucer, for
the most part in dependence on Continental impulses; yet not without
notable outcrops of native energy. There is indeed no more remarkable
figure in the Middle Ages than Roger Bacon (? 1214-1294), the English
Franciscan friar, schooled at Paris. His career remains still in parts
obscure. Born at or near Ilchester, in Somersetshire, he studied at
Oxford under Edmund Rich, Richard Fitzacre, Robert Grosstête, and Adam
de Marisco; and later, for a number of years, at Paris, where he is
supposed to have held a chair. On his return he was lionized; but a few
years afterwards, in 1257, we find him again in Paris, banished thither
by his Order. [1580] He was not absolutely imprisoned, but ordered to
live under official surveillance in a dwelling where he was forbidden
to write, to speak to novices, or observe the stars--rules which, it
is pretty clear, he broke, one and all. [1581] After some eight years
of this durance, Cardinal Guido Falcodi (otherwise Guy Foucaud or De
Foulques), who while acting as papal legate in England at the time
of the rising of Simon de Montfort may have known or heard of Bacon,
became interested in him through his chaplain, Raymond of Laon, who
spoke (in error) of the imprisoned friar as having written much on
science. The cardinal accordingly wrote asking to see the writings in
question. Bacon sent by a friend an explanation to the effect that he
had written little, and that he could not devote himself to composition
without a written mandate and a papal dispensation. About this time
the Cardinal was elevated to the papacy as Clement IV; and in that
capacity, a year later (1266), he wrote to Bacon authorizing him to
disobey his superior, but exhorting him to do it secretly. Bacon,
by his own account, had already spent in forty years of study 2,000
libri [1582] in addition to purchases of books and instruments and
teacher's fees; and it is not known whether the Pope furnished the
supplies he declared he needed. [1583] To work, however, he went with
an astonishing industry, and in the course of less than eighteen months
[1584] he had produced his chief treatise, the Opus Majus; the Opus
Minus, designed as a summary or sample of the former; and the later
Opus Tertium, planned to serve as a preamble to the two others. [1585]

Through all three documents there runs the same inspiration, the Opus
Tertium and the Majus constituting a complete treatise, which gives
at once the most vivid idea of the state of culture at the time,
and the most intimate presentment of a student's mind, that survive
from the thirteenth century. It was nothing less than a demand, such
as was made by Francis Bacon three hundred and fifty years later,
and by Auguste Comte in the nineteenth century, for a reconstruction
of all studies and all tuition. Neither pope nor emperor could have
met it; but Clement gave Roger his freedom, and he returned to Oxford,
papally protected, at the end of 1267. Four years later Clement died,
and was succeeded by Gregory X, a Franciscan.

At this stage of his life Bacon revealed that, whatever were his
wrongs, he was inclined to go halfway to meet them. In a new writing of
similar purport with the others, the Compendium Philosophiæ, written
in 1271, [1586] he not only attacked in detail the ecclesiastical
system, [1587] but argued that the Christians were incomparably
inferior to pagans in morals, and therefore in science; [1588] that
there was more truth in Aristotle's few chapters on laws than in the
whole corpus juris; [1589] that the Christian religion, as commonly
taught, was not free of errors; and that philosophy truly taught,
and not as in the schools, was perhaps the surer way to attain both
truth and salvation. [1590]

Again he was prosecuted; and this time, after much delay, it was
decided that the entire Order should deal with the case. Not till
1277 did the trial come off, under the presidency of the chief of the
Order, Jerome of Ascoli. Bacon was bracketed with another insubordinate
brother, Jean d'Olive; and both were condemned. In Bacon's case his
doctrine was specified as continentem aliquas novitates suspectas,
propter quas fuit idem Rogerius carceri condempnatus. [1591] This
time Bacon seems to have undergone a real imprisonment, which lasted
fourteen years. During that time four more popes held office, the
last of them being the said Jerome, elevated to the papal chair as
Nicholas IV. Not till his death in 1292 was Bacon released--to die
two years later.

He was in fact, with all his dogmatic orthodoxy, too essentially
in advance of his age to be otherwise than suspect to the typical
ecclesiastics of any time. The marvel is that with his radical
skepticism as to all forms of human knowledge; his intense perception
of the fatality of alternate credulity and indifference which kept
most men in a state of positive or negative error on every theme;
his insatiable thirst for knowledge; his invincible repugnance to all
acknowledgment of authority, [1592] and his insistence on an ethical
end, he should have been able to rest as he did in the assumption of
a divine infallibility vested in what he knew to be a corruptible
text. It was doubtless defect of strictly philosophic thought, as
distinguished from practical critical faculty, that enabled him to
remain orthodox in theology while anti-authoritarian in everything
else. As it was, his recalcitrance to authority in such an age sufficed
to make his life a warfare upon earth. And it is not surprising that,
even as his Franciscan predecessor Robert Grosstête, bishop of Lincoln,
came to be reputed a sorcerer on the strength of having written many
treatises on scientific questions--as well as on witchcraft--Roger
Bacon became a wizard in popular legend, and a scandal in the eyes
of his immediate superiors, for a zest of secular curiosity no less
uncommon and unpriestlike. [1593] "It is sometimes impossible to
avoid smiling," says one philosophic historian of him, "when one
sees how artfully this personified thirst for knowledge seeks to
persuade himself, or his readers, that knowledge interests him only for
ecclesiastical ends. No one has believed it: neither posterity ... nor
his contemporaries, who distrusted him as worldly-minded." [1594]

Worldly-minded he was in a noble sense, as seeking to know the
world of Nature; and perhaps the most remarkable proof of his
originality on this side is his acceptance of the theory of the
earth's sphericity. Peter de Alliaco, whose Imago Mundi was compiled
in 1410, transcribed from Roger Bacon's Opus Majus almost literally,
but without acknowledgment, a passage containing quotations from
Aristotle, Pliny, and Seneca, all arguing for the possibility of
reaching India by sailing westward. Columbus, it is known, was familiar
with the Imago Mundi; and this passage seems greatly to have inspired
him in his task. [1595] This alone was sufficient practical heresy
to put Bacon in danger; and yet his real orthodoxy can hardly be
doubted. [1596] He always protested against the scholastic doctrine
of a "twofold truth," insisting that revelation and philosophy were
at one, but that the latter also was divine. [1597] It probably
mattered little to his superiors, however, what view he took of the
abstract question: it was his zeal for concrete knowledge that they
detested. His works remain to show the scientific reach of which his
age was capable, when helped by the lore of the Arabs; for he seems
to have drawn from Averroës some of his inspiration to research;
[1598] but in the England of that day his ideals of research were as
unattainable as his wrath against clerical obstruction was powerless;
[1599] and Averroïsm in England made little for innovation. [1600]
The English Renaissance properly sets-in in the latter half of the
sixteenth century, when the glory of that of Italy is passing away.

In the fourteenth century, indeed, a remarkable new life is seen
arising in England in the poetry and prose of Chaucer, from contact
with the literature of Italy and France; but while Chaucer reflects
the spontaneous medieval hostility to the self-seeking and fraudulent
clergy, and writes of deity with quite medieval irreverence, [1601] he
tells little of the Renaissance spirit of critical unbelief, save when
he notes the proverbial irreligion of the physicians, [1602] or smiles
significantly over the problem of the potency of clerical cursing
and absolution, [1603] or shrugs his shoulders over the question of
a future state. [1604] In such matters he is noticeably undevout;
and though it is impossible to found on such passages a confident
assertion that Chaucer had no belief in immortality, it is equally
impossible in view of them to claim that he was a warm believer.


    Prof. Lounsbury, who has gone closely and critically into the
    whole question of Chaucer's religious opinions, asks concerning
    the lines in the Knight's Tale on the passing of Arcite:
    "Can modern agnosticism point to a denial more emphatic than
    that made in the fourteenth century of the belief that there
    exists for us any assurance of the life that is lived beyond
    the grave?" (Studies in Chaucer, 1892, ii, 514-15). Prof. Skeat,
    again, affirms (Notes to the Tales, Clar. Press Compl. Chaucer,
    v, 92) that "the real reason why Chaucer could not here describe
    the passage of Arcite's soul to heaven is because he had already
    copied Boccaccio's description, and had used it with respect
    to the death of Troilus" (see Troil. v, 1807-27; stanzas 7,
    8, 9 from the end). This evades the question as to the poet's
    faith. In point of fact, the passage in Troilus and Criseyde is
    purely pagan, and tells of no Christian belief, though that poem,
    written before the Tales, seems to parade a Christian contempt
    for pagan lore. (Cp. Lounsbury, as cited, p. 512.)

    The ascription of unbelief seems a straining of the evidence;
    but it would be difficult to gainsay the critic's summing-up:
    "The general view of all his [Chaucer's] production leaves upon
    the mind the impression that his personal religious history was
    marked by the dwindling devoutness which makes up the experience
    of so many lives--the fallings from us, the vanishings, we know
    not how or when, of beliefs in which we have been bred. One
    characteristic which not unusually accompanies the decline of
    faith in the individual is in him very conspicuous. This is
    the prominence given to the falsity and fraud of those who have
    professedly devoted themselves to the advancement of the cause of
    Christianity.... Much of Chaucer's late work, so far as we know
    it to be late, is distinctly hostile to the Church.... It is,
    moreover, hostile in a way that implies an utter disbelief in
    certain of its tenets, and even a disposition to regard them
    as full of menace to the future of civilization" (Lounsbury,
    vol. cited, pp. 519-20).

    Against this general view is to be set that which proceeds on
    an unquestioning acceptance of the "Retractation" or confession
    at the close of the Canterbury Tales, as to the vexed question
    of the genuineness of which see the same critic, work cited, i,
    412-15; iii, 40. The fact that the document is appended to the
    concluding "Parson's Tale" (also challenged as to authenticity),
    which is not a tale at all, and to which the confession refers
    as "this little treatise or rede," suggests strongly a clerical
    influence brought to bear upon the aging poet.


To infer real devotion on his part from his sympathetic account of the
good parson, or from the dubious Retractation appended to the Tales,
is as unwarrantable as is the notion, dating from the Reformation
period, that he was a Wicliffite. [1605] Even if the Retractation be
of his writing, under pressure in old age, it points to a previous
indifferentism; and from the great mass of his work there can be
drawn only the inference that he is essentially non-religious in
temper and habit of mind. But he is no disputant, no propagandist,
whether on ecclesiastical or on intellectual grounds; and after his
day there is social retrogression and literary relapse in England
for two centuries. That there was some practical rationalism in his
day, however, we gather from the Vision of Piers Ploughman, by the
contemporary poet Langland (fl. 1360-90), where there is a vivid
account of the habit among anti-clerical laymen of arguing against
the doctrine of original sin and the entailment of Adam's offence
on the whole human race. [1606] To this way of thinking Chaucer
probably gave a stimulus by his translation of the De Consolatione
Philosophiae of Boethius, where is cited the "not unskilful" dilemma:
"If God is, whence come wicked things? And if God is not, whence come
good things?" [1607] The stress of the problem is hard upon theism;
and to ponder it was to resent the doctrine of inherited guilt. The
Church had, in fact, visibly turned this dogma to its own ends,
insisting on the universal need of ghostly help even as it repelled
the doctrine of unalterable predestination. In both cases, of course,
the matter was settled by Scripture and authority; and Langland's
reply to the heretics is mere angry dogmatism.

There flourished, further, a remarkable amount of heresy of the
species seen in Provence and Northern Italy in the eleventh and twelfth
centuries, such sectaries being known in England under the generic name
of "Lollards," derived from the Flemish, in which it seems to have
signified singers of hymns. [1608] Lollards or "Beghards," starting
from the southern point of propagation, spread all over civilized
Northern Europe, meeting everywhere persecution alike from the parish
priests and the mendicant monks; and in England as elsewhere their
anti-clericalism and their heresy were correlative. In the formal
Lollard petition to Parliament in 1395, however, there is evident an
amount of innovating opinion which implies more than the mere stimulus
of financial pressure. Not only the papal authority, monasteries,
clerical celibacy, nuns' vows, transubstantiation, exorcisms, bought
blessings, pilgrimages, prayers for the dead, offerings to images,
confessions and absolutions, but war and capital punishment and
"unnecessary trades," such as those of goldsmiths and armourers,
are condemned by those early Utopists. [1609] In what proportion they
really thought out the issues they dealt with we can hardly ascertain;
but a chronicler of Wiclif's time, living at Leicester, testifies that
you could not meet two men in the street but one was a Lollard. [1610]
The movement substantially came to nothing, suffering murderous
persecution in the person of Oldcastle (Lord Cobham) and others,
and disappearing in the fifteenth century in the demoralization of
conquest and the ruin of the civil wars; but apart from Chaucer's
poetry it is more significant of foreign influences in England than
almost any other phenomenon down to the reign of Henry VIII.

It is still doubtful, indeed, whence the powerful Wiclif derived his
marked Protestantism as to some Catholic dogmas; but it would seem
that he too may have been reached by the older Paulician or other
southern heresy. [1611] As early as 1286 a form of heresy approaching
the Albigensian and the Waldensian is found in the province of
Canterbury, certain persons there maintaining that Christians
were not bound by the authority of the Pope and the Fathers, but
solely by that of the Bible and "necessary reason." [1612] It is
true that Wiclif never refers to the Waldenses or Albigenses, or
any of the continental reformers of his day, though he often cites
his English predecessor, Bishop Grosstête; [1613] but this may have
been on grounds of policy. To cite heretics could do no good; to
cite a bishop was helpful. The main reason for doubting a foreign
influence in his case is that to the last he held by purgatory and
absolute predestination. [1614] In any case, Wiclif's practical and
moral resentment of ecclesiastical abuses was the mainspring of his
doctrine; and his heresies as to transubstantiation and other articles
of faith can be seen to connect with his anti-priestly attitude. He,
however, was morally disinterested as compared with the would-be
plunderers who formed the bulk of the anti-Church party of John of
Gaunt; and his failure to effect any reformation was due to the fact
that on one hand there was not intelligence enough in the nation to
respond to his doctrinal common sense, while on the other he could
not so separate ecclesiastical from feudal tyranny and extortion as
to set up a political movement which should strike at clerical evils
without inciting some to impeach the nobility who held the balance of
political power. Charged with setting vassals against tyrant lords,
he was forced to plead that he taught the reverse, though he justified
the withholding of tithes from bad curates. [1615] The revolt led by
John Ball in 1381, which was in no way promoted by Wiclif, [1616]
showed that the country people suffered as much from lay as from
clerical oppression.

The time, in short, was one of common ferment, and not only were
there other reformers who went much farther than Wiclif in the matter
of social reconstruction, [1617] but we know from his writings
that there were heretics who carried their criticism as far as to
challenge the authority and credibility of the Scriptures. Against
these accusatores and inimici Scripturae he repeatedly speaks in
his treatise De veritate Scripturae Sacrae, [1618] which is thus one
of the very earliest works in defence of Christianity against modern
criticism. [1619] His position, however, is almost wholly medieval. One
qualification should perhaps be made, in respect of his occasional
resort to reason where it was least to be expected, as on the question
of restrictions on marriage. [1620] But on such points he wavered;
and otherwise he is merely scripturalist. The infinite superiority
of Christ to all other men, and Christ's virtual authorship of the
entire Scriptures, are his premisses--a way of begging the question so
simple-minded that it is clear the other side was not heard in reply,
though these arguments had formed part of his theological lectures,
[1621] and so pre-supposed a real opposition. Wiclif was in short a
typical Protestant in his unquestioning acceptance of the Bible as a
supernatural authority; and when his demand for the publication of
the Bible in English was met by "worldly clerks" with the cry that
it would "set Christians in debate, and subjects to rebel against
their sovereigns," he could only protest that they "openly slander
God, the author of peace, and his holy law." Later English history
proved that the worldly clerks were perfectly right, and Wiclif the
erring optimist of faith. For the rest, his essentially dogmatic
view of religion did nothing to counteract the spirit of persecution;
and the passing of the Statute for the Burning of Heretics in 1401,
with the ready consent of both Houses of Parliament, constituted the
due dogmatic answer to dogmatic criticism. Yet within a few years the
Commons were proposing to confiscate the revenues of the higher clergy:
[1622] so far was anti-clericalism from implying heterodoxy.



§ 11. THOUGHT IN FRANCE

As regards France, the record of intellectual history between the
thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries is hardly less scanty than
as regards England. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the
intellectual life of the French philosophic schools, as we saw,
was more vigorous and expansive than that of any other country;
so that, looking further to the Provençal literature and to the
French beginnings of Gothic architecture, France might even be said
to prepare the Renaissance. [1623] Outside of the schools, too, there
was in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries a notable dissemination
of partially philosophical thought among the middle-class laity. At
that period the anti-clerical tendency was strongest in France, where
in the thirteenth century lay scholarship stood highest. In the reign
of Philippe le Bel (end of thirteenth century) was composed the poem
Fauvel, by François de Rues, which is a direct attack on pope and
clergy; [1624] and in the famous Roman de la Rose, as developed by
Jean le Clopinel (= the Limper) of Meung-sur-Loire, there enters,
without any criticism of the Christian creed, an element of all-round
Naturalism which indirectly must have made for reason. Begun by
Guillaume de Lorris in the time of St. Louis in a key of sentiment and
lyricism, the poem is carried on by Jean de Meung under Philippe le Bel
in a spirit of criticism, cynicism, science, and satire, which tells
of many developments in forty years. The continuation can hardly have
been written, as some literary historians assume, about its author's
twenty-fifth year; but it may be dated with some certainty between
1270 and 1285. To the work of his predecessor, amounting to less than
5,000 lines, he added 18,000, pouring forth a medley of scholarship,
pedantry, philosophic reflection, speculation on the process of nature
and the structure and ills of society, on property, morals, marriage,
witchcraft, the characters of women, monks, friars, aristocrats--the
whole pageant of medieval knowledge and fancy.

The literary power of the whole is great, and may be recommended to the
general reader as comparing often with that shown in the satirical and
social-didactic poems of Burns, though without much of the breath of
poetry. Particularly noteworthy, in the historic retrospect, is the
assimilization of the ancient Stoic philosophy of "living according
to Nature," set forth in the name of a "Reason" who is notably free
from theological prepossessions. It is from this standpoint that
Jean de Meung assails the mendicant friars and the monks in general:
he would have men recognize the natural laws of life; and he carries
the principle to the length of insisting on the artificial nature of
aristocracy and monarchy, which are justifiable only as far as they
subserve the common good. Thus he rises above the medieval literary
prejudice against the common people, whose merit he recognizes as
Montaigne did later. On the side of science, he expressly denies
[1625] that comets carry any such message as was commonly ascribed
to them alike by popular superstition and by theology--a stretch of
freethinking perhaps traceable to Seneca, but nonetheless centuries in
advance of the Christendom of the time. [1626] On the side of religion,
again, he is one of the first to vindicate the lay conception of
Christian excellence as against the ecclesiastical. His Naturalism,
so far, worked consistently in making him at once anti-ascetic and
anti-supernaturalist.

It is not to be inferred, however, that Jean de Meung had learned
to doubt the validity of the Christian creed. His long poem, one of
the most popular books in Europe for two hundred years, could never
have had its vogue if its readers could have suspected it to be even
indirectly anti-Christian. He can hardly have held, as some historians
believe, [1627] the status of a preaching friar; but he claims that he
neither blames nor defames religion, [1628] respecting it in all forms,
provided it be "humble and loyal." He was in fact a man of some wealth,
much culture, and orderly in life, thus standing out from the earlier
"Goliard" type. When, then, he pronounces Nature "the minister of
this earthly state," "vicar and constable of the eternal emperor,"
he has no thought of dethroning Deity, or even of setting aside the
Christian faith. In his rhymed Testament he expresses himself quite
piously, and lectures monks and women in an edifying fashion.


    To say therefore that Jean de Meung's part of the Roman de la Rose
    is a "popular satire on the beliefs of Romanism" (Owen, Skeptics
    of Ital. Renais. p. 44) is to misstate the case. His doctrine is
    rather an intellectual expression of the literary reaction against
    asceticism (cp. Bartoli, Storia della letteratura italiana, i, 319,
    quoting Lenient) which had been spontaneously begun by the Goliards
    and Troubadours. At the same time the poem does stand for the new
    secular spirit alike in "its ingrained religion and its nascent
    freethought" (Saintsbury, p. 87); and with the Reynard epic it
    may be taken as representing the beginning of "a whole revolution,
    the resurgence and affirmation of the laity, the new force which is
    to transform the world, against the Church" (Bartoli, Storia, i,
    308; cp. Demogeot, Hist. de la litt. fr. 5e éd. pp. 130-31, 157;
    Lanson, pp. 132-36). The frequent flings at the clergy (cp. the
    partly Chaucerian English version, Skeat's ed. of Chaucer's Works,
    i, 234; Bell's ed. iv, 230) were sufficient to draw upon this
    as upon other medieval poems of much secular vogue the anger of
    "the Church" (Sismondi, Lit. of South. Europe, i, 216); but they
    were none the less relished by believing readers. "The Church"
    was in fact not an entity of one mind; and some of its sections
    enjoyed satire directed against the others.

    When, then, we speak of the anti-clerical character of much
    medieval poetry, we must guard against exaggerated implications. It
    is somewhat of a straining of the facts, for instance, to say of
    the humorous tale of Reynard the Fox, so widely popular in the
    thirteenth century, that it is essentially anti-clerical to the
    extent that "Reynard is laic: Isengrim [the wolf] is clerical"
    (Bartoli, Storia della letteratura italiana, i, 307; cp. Owen,
    Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance, p. 44). The Reynard epic,
    in origin a simple humorous animal-story, had various later
    forms. Some of these, as the Latin poem, and especially the version
    attributed to Peter of St. Cloud, were markedly anti-clerical, the
    latter exhibiting a spirit of all-round profanity hardly compatible
    with belief (cp. Gervinus, Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung, 5te
    Ausg. i, 227-28; Gebhart, Les Origines de la Renais. en Italie,
    1874, p. 39); but the version current in the Netherlands, which
    was later rendered into English prose by Caxton, is of a very
    different character (Gervinus, p. 229 sq.). In Caxton's version it
    is impossible to regard Reynard as laic and Isengrim as clerical;
    though in the Latin and other versions the wolf figures as monk or
    abbot. (See also the various shorter satires published by Grimm
    in his Reinhart Fuchs, 1834.) Often the authorship is itself
    clerical, one party or order satirizing another; sometimes the
    spirit is religious, sometimes markedly irreverent. (Gervinus,
    pp. 214-21). "La plupart de ces satires sont l'oeuvre des moines
    et des abbés" (Lenient, La Satire en France au moyen âge, 1859,
    préf. p. 4); and to say that these men were often irreligious is
    not to say that they were rationalists. It is to be remembered
    that nascent Protestantism in England under Henry VIII resorted
    to the weapons of obscene parody (Blunt, Ref. of Ch. of England,
    ed. 1892, i, 273, note).


"In fine," we may say with a judicious French historian, "one
cannot get out of his time, and the time was not come to be
non-Christian. Jean de Meung did not perceive that his thought put
him outside the Church, and upset her foundations. He is believing
and pious, like Rutebeuf.... The Gospel is his rule: he holds it; he
defends it; he disputes with those who seem to him to depart from it;
he makes himself the champion of the old faith against the novelties
of the Eternal Gospel.... His situation is that of the first reformers
of the sixteenth century, who believed themselves to serve Jesus Christ
in using their reason, and who very sincerely, very piously, hoped for
the reform of the Church through the progress of philosophy." [1629]
"Nevertheless," adds the same historian, "one cannot exaggerate the
real weight of the work. By his philosophy, which consists essentially
in the identity, the sovereignty, of Nature and Reason, he is the
first link in the chain which connects Rabelais, Montaigne, Molière;
to which Voltaire also links himself, and even in certain regards
Boileau." [1630]

Men could not then see whither the principle of "Nature" and Reason
was to lead, yet even in the age of Jean de Meung the philosophic
heads went far, and he can hardly have missed knowing as much, if,
as is supposed, he studied at Paris, as he certainly lived and died
there. In the latter part of the thirteenth century, as before noted,
rationalism at the Paris university was frequently carried in private
to a rejection of all the dogmas peculiar to Christianity. At that
great school Roger Bacon seems to have acquired his encyclopædic
learning and his critical habit; and there it was that in the
first half of the fourteenth century William of Occam nourished his
remarkable philosophic faculty. From about the middle of the fourteenth
century, however, there is a relative arrest of French progress for
some two centuries. [1631] Three main conditions served to check
intellectual advance: the civil wars which involved the loss of the
communal liberties which had been established in France between the
eleventh and thirteenth centuries; [1632] the exhaustion of the nation
by the English invasion under Edward III; the repressive power of the
Church; and the general devotion of the national energies to war. After
the partial recovery from the ruinous English invasion under Edward
III, civil strifes and feudal tyranny wrought new impoverishment,
making possible the still more destructive invasion under Henry V;
so that in the first half of the fifteenth century France was hardly
more civilized than England. [1633] It is from the French invasion
of Italy under Charles VIII that the enduring renascence in France
broadly dates. Earlier impulses had likewise come from Italy: Lanfranc,
Anselm, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, and others of lesser note,
[1634] had gone from Italy to teach in France or England; but it
needed the full contact of Italian civilization to raise monarchic
France to the stage of general and independent intellectual life.


    During the period in question, there had been established
    the following universities: Paris, 1200; Toulouse, 1220;
    Montpellier, 1289; Avignon, 1303; Orléans, 1312; Cahors, 1332;
    Angers, 1337; Orange, 1367; Dôle, 1422; Poitiers, 1431; Caen,
    1436; Valence, 1454; Nantes, 1460; Bourges, 1463; Bordeaux, 1472
    (Desmaze, L'Université de Paris, 1876, p. 2. Other dates for
    some of these are given on p. 31). But the militarist conditions
    prevented any sufficient development of such opportunities. In
    the fourteenth century, says Littré (Études sur les barbares,
    p. 419), "the university of Paris ... was more powerful than
    at any other epoch.... Never did she exercise such a power over
    men's minds." But he also decides that in that epoch the first
    florescence of French literature withered away (p. 387). The
    long location of the anti-papacy at Avignon (1305-1376)
    doubtless counted for something in French culture (V. Le
    Clerc, Hist. Litt. de la France au XIVe siècle, i, 37; Gebhart,
    pp. 221-26); but the devastation wrought by the English invasion
    was sufficient to countervail that and more. See the account of
    it by Petrarch (letter of the year 1360) cited by Littré, Études,
    pp. 416-17; and by Hallam, Middle Ages, i, 59, note. Cp. Michelet,
    Hist. de France, vi, ch. iii; Dunton, England in the Fifteenth
    Century, 1888, pp. 79-84. As to the consequences of the English
    invasion of the fifteenth century see Martin, Hist. de France,
    4e édit. vi, 132-33; Sismondi, Hist. des Français, 1831, xii,
    582; Hallam, Middle Ages, i, 83-87.


In northern France of the fourteenth century, as in Provence and Italy
and England, there was a manifold stir of innovation and heresy: there
as elsewhere the insubordinate Franciscans, with their Eternal Gospel,
the Paterini, the Beghards, fought their way against the Dominican
Inquisition. But the Inquisitors burned books as well as men; and much
anti-ecclesiastical poetry, some dating even from the Carlovingian
era, shared the fate of many copies of the Talmud, translations of
the Bible, and, à fortiori, every species of heretical writing. In
effect, the Inquisition for the time "extinguished freethought"
[1635] in France. As in England, the ferment of heresy was mixed
with one of democracy; and in the French popular poetry of the time
there are direct parallels to the contemporary English couplet,
"When Adam delved and Eve span, Where was then the gentleman?" [1636]
Such a spirit could no more prosper in feudal France than in feudal
England; and when France emerged from her mortal struggle with the
English, to be effectively solidified by Louis XI, there was left in
her life little of the spirit of free inquiry. It has been noted that
whereas the chronicler Joinville, in the thirteenth century, is full
of religious feeling, Froissart, in the fourteenth, priest as he is,
exhibits hardly any; and again Comines, in the fifteenth, reverts to
the orthodoxy of the twelfth and thirteenth. [1637] The middle period
was one of indifference, following on the killing out of heresy:
[1638] the fifteenth century is a resumption of the Middle Ages, and
Comines has the medieval cast of mind, [1639] although of a superior
order. There seems to be no community of thought between him and his
younger Italian contemporaries, Machiavelli and Guicciardini; though,
"even while Comines was writing, there were unequivocal symptoms of
a great and decisive change." [1640]

The special development in France of the spirit of "chivalry" had
joined the normal uncivilizing influence of militarism with that
of clericalism; the various knightly orders, as well as knighthood
pure and simple, being all under ecclesiastical sanctions, and
more or less strictly vowed to "defend the church," [1641] while
supremely incompetent to form an intelligent opinion. It is the more
remarkable that in the case of one of the crusading orders heresy
of the most blasphemous kind was finally charged against the entire
organization, and that it was on that ground annihilated (1311). It
remains incredible, however, that the order of the Templars can have
systematically practised the extravagances or held the tenets laid to
their charge. They had of course abused their power and departed from
their principles like every other religious order enabled to amass
wealth; and the hostility theirs aroused is perfectly intelligible
from what is known of the arrogance of its members and the general
ruffianism of the Crusaders. Their wealth alone goes far to explain
the success of their enemies against them; for, though the numbers of
the order were much smaller than tradition gives out, its possessions
were considerable. These were the true ground of the French king's
attack. [1642] But that its members were as a rule either Cathari
or anti-Christians, either disguised Moslems or deists, or that they
practised obscenity by rule, there is no reason to believe. What seems
to have happened was a resort by some unbelieving members to more or
less gross burlesque of the mysteries of initiation--a phenomenon
paralleled in ancient Greece and in the modern Catholic world, and
implying rather hardy irreligion than any reasoned heresy whatever.


    The long-continued dispute as to the guilt of the Knights Templars
    is still chronically re-opened. Hallam, after long hesitation,
    came finally to believe them guilty, partly on the strength of
    the admissions made by Michelet in defending them (Europe in
    the Middle Ages, 11th ed. i, 138-42--note of 1848). He attaches,
    however, a surprising weight to the obviously weak "architectural
    evidence" cited by Hammer-Purgstall. Heeren (Essai sur l'influence
    des croisades, 1808, pp. 221-22) takes a more judicial view. The
    excellent summing-up of Lea (Hist. of the Inquis. bk. iii,
    ch. v, pp. 263-76) perhaps gives too little weight to the mass
    of curious confirmatory evidence cited by writers on the other
    side (e.g., F. Nicolai, Versuch über die Beschuldigungen welche
    dem Tempelherrenorden gemacht worden, 1782); but his conclusion
    as to the falsity of the charges against the order as a whole
    seems irresistible.

    The solution that offensive practices occurred irregularly (Lea,
    pp. 276-77) is pointed to even by the earlier hostile writers
    (Nicolai, p. 17). It seems to be certain that the initiatory rites
    included the act of spitting on the crucifix--presumptively a
    symbolic display of absolute obedience to the orders of those in
    command (Jolly, Philippe le Bel, pp. 264-68). That there was no
    Catharism in the order seems certain (Lea, p. 249). The suggestion
    that the offensive and burlesque practices were due to the lower
    grade of "serving brethren," who were contemned by the higher,
    seems, however, without firm foundation. The courage for such
    freaks, and the disposition to commit them, were rather more likely
    to arise among the crusaders of the upper class, who could come
    in contact with Moslem-Christian unbelief through those of Sicily.

    For the further theory that the "Freemasons" (at that period really
    cosmopolitan guilds of masons) were already given to freethinking,
    there is again no evidence. That they at times deliberately
    introduced obscene symbols into church architecture is no proof
    that they were collectively unbelievers in the Church's doctrines;
    though it is likely enough that some of them were. Obscenity
    is the expression not of an intellectual but of a physical and
    unreasoning bias, and can perfectly well concur with religious
    feeling. The fact that the medieval masons did not confine
    obscene symbols to the churches they built for the Templars
    (Hallam, as cited, pp. 140-41) should serve to discredit alike
    the theory that the Templars were systematically anti-Christian,
    and the theory that the Freemasons were so. That for centuries
    the builders of the Christian churches throughout Europe formed
    an anti-Christian organization is a grotesque hypothesis. At
    most they indulged in freaks of artistic satire on the lines of
    contemporary satirical literature, expressing an anti-clerical
    bias, with perhaps occasional elements of blasphemy. (See Menzel,
    Gesch. der Deutschen, Cap. 252, note.) It could well be that
    there survived among the Freemasons various Gnostic ideas;
    since the architectural art itself came in a direct line from
    antiquity. Such heresy, too, might conceivably be winked at by the
    Church, which depended so much on the heretics' services. But their
    obscenities were the mere expression of the animal imagination and
    normal salacity of all ages. Only in modern times, and that only in
    Catholic countries, has the derivative organization of Freemasonry
    been identified with freethought propaganda. In England in the
    seventeenth century the Freemasonic clubs--no longer connected
    with any trade--were thoroughly royalist and orthodox (Nicolai,
    pp. 196-98), as they have always remained.


Some remarkable intellectual phenomena, however, do connect with
the French university life of the first half of the fourteenth
century. William of Occam (d. 1347), the English Franciscan, who
taught at Paris, is on the whole the most rationalistic of medieval
philosophers. Though a pupil of the Realist Duns Scotus, he became
the renewer of Nominalism, which is the specifically rationalistic
as opposed to the religious mode of metaphysic; and his anti-clerical
bias was such that he had to fly from France to Bavaria for protection
from the priesthood. His Disputatio super potestate ecclesiastica,
and his Defensorium directed against Pope John XXII (or XXI), were
so uncompromising that in 1323 the Pope gave directions for his
prosecution. What came of the step is not known; but in 1328 we find
him actually imprisoned with two Italian comrades in the papal palace
at Avignon. Thence they made their escape to Bavaria. [1643] To the
same refuge fled Marsiglio of Padua, author (with John of Jandun) of
the Defensor Pacis (1324), "the greatest and most original political
treatise of the Middle Ages," [1644] in which it is taught that,
though monarchy may be expedient, the sovereignty of the State rests
with the people, and the hereditary principle is flatly rejected; while
it is insisted that the Church properly consists of all Christians,
and that the clergy's authority is restricted to spiritual affairs
and moral suasion. [1645] Of all medieval writers on politics before
Machiavelli he is the most modern.

Only less original is Occam, who at Paris came much under Marsiglio's
influence. His philosophic doctrines apparently derive from Pierre
Aureol (Petrus Aureolus, d. 1321), who with remarkable clearness and
emphasis rejected both Realism and the doctrine that what the mind
perceives are not realities, but formæ speculares. Pierre it was who
first enounced the Law of Parsimony in philosophy and science--that
causes are not to be multiplied beyond mental necessity--which is
specially associated with the name of Occam. [1646] Both anticipated
modern criticism [1647] alike of the Platonic and the Aristotelian
philosophy; and Occam in particular drew so decided a line between
the province of reason and that of faith that there can be little
doubt on which side his allegiance lay. [1648] His dialectic is for
its time as remarkable as is that of Hume, four centuries later. The
most eminent orthodox thinker of the preceding century had been the
Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1265 or 1274-1308), who, after teaching
great crowds of students at Oxford, was transferred in 1304 to Paris,
and in 1308 to Cologne, where he died. A Realist in his philosophy,
Duns Scotus opposed the Aristotelian scholasticism, and in particular
criticized Thomas Aquinas as having unduly subordinated faith and
practice to speculation and theory. The number of matters of faith
which Thomas had held to be demonstrable by reason, accordingly, was by
Duns Scotus much reduced; and, applying his anti-rationalism to current
belief, he fought zealously for the dogma that Mary, like Jesus, was
immaculately conceived. [1649] But Occam, turning his predecessor's
tactic to a contrary purpose, denied that any matter of faith was
demonstrable by reason at all. He granted that on rational grounds
the existence of a God was probable, but denied that it was strictly
demonstrable, and rejected the ontological argument of Anselm. As to
matters of faith, he significantly observed that the will to believe
the indemonstrable is meritorious. [1650]

It is difficult now to recover a living sense of the issues at stake
in the battle between Nominalism and Realism, and of the social
atmosphere in which the battle was carried on. Broadly speaking, the
Nominalists were the more enlightened school, the Realists standing
for tradition and authority; and it has been alleged that "the books
of the Nominalists, though the art of printing tended strongly to
preserve them, were suppressed and destroyed to such a degree that
it is now exceedingly difficult to collect them, and not easy to
obtain copies even of the most remarkable." [1651] On the other hand,
while we have seen Occam a fugitive before clerical enmity, we shall
see Nominalists agreeing to persecute a Realist to the death in the
person of Huss in the following century. So little was there to choose
between the camps in the matter of sound civics; and so easily could
the hierarchy wear the colours of any philosophical system.

Contemporary with Occam was Durand de St. Pourçain, who became a bishop
(d. 1332), and, after ranking as of the school of Thomas Aquinas,
rejected and opposed its doctrine. With all this heresy in the air,
the principle of "double truth," originally put in currency by
Averroïsm, came to be held in France as in Italy, in a sense which
implied the consciousness that theological truth is not truth at
all. [1652] Occam's pupil, Buridan, rector of the University of
Paris (fl. 1340), substantially avoided theology, and dealt with
moral and intellectual problems on their own merits. [1653] It is
recorded by Albert of Saxony, who studied at Paris in the first half
of the century, that one of his teachers held by the theory of the
motion of the earth. [1654] Even a defender of Church doctrines,
Pierre d'Ailly, accepted Occam's view of theism, [1655] and it
appears to be broadly true that Occam had at Paris an unbroken line
of successors down to the Reformation. [1656] In a world in which the
doctrine of a two-fold truth provided a safety-valve for heresy, such
a philosophical doctrine as his could not greatly affect lay thought;
but at Paris University in the year 1376 there was a startling display
of freethinking by the philosophical students, not a little suggestive
of a parody of the Averroïst propositions denounced by the Bishop
of Paris exactly a century before. Under cover of the doctrine of
two-fold truth they propounded a list of 219 theses, in which they (1)
denied the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, and the
immortality of the soul; (2) affirmed the eternity of matter and the
uselessness of prayer, but also posited the principles of astrology;
(3) argued that the higher powers of the soul are incapable of sin,
and that voluntary sexual intercourse between the unmarried is not
sinful; and (4) suggested that there are fables and falsehoods in the
gospels as in other books. [1657] The element of youthful gasconnade
in the performance is obvious, and the Archbishop sharply scolded the
students; but there must have been much free discussion before such a
manifesto could have been produced. Nevertheless, untoward political
conditions prevented any dissemination of the freethinking spirit
in France; and not for some two centuries was there such another
growth of it. The remarkable case of Nicolaus of Autricuria, who in
1348 was forced to recant his teaching of the atomistic doctrine,
[1658] illustrates at once the persistence of the spirit of reason
in times of darkness, and the impossibility of its triumphing in the
wrong conditions.



§ 12. THOUGHT IN THE TEUTONIC COUNTRIES

The life of the rest of Europe in the later medieval period has little
special significance in the history of freethought. France and Italy,
by German admission, were the lands of the medieval Aufklärung. [1659]
The poetry of the German Minnesingers, a growth from that of the
Troubadours, presented the same anti-clerical features; [1660] and the
story of Reynard the Fox was turned to anti-ecclesiastical purpose
in Germany as in France. The relative freethinking set up by the
crusaders' contact with the Saracens seems to be the source of doubt of
the Minnesinger Freidank concerning the doom of hell-fire on heretics
and heathens, the opinion of Walter der Vogelweide that Christians,
Jews, and Moslems all serve the same God, [1661] and still more
mordant heresy. But such bold freethinking did not spread. Material
prosperity rather than culture was the main feature of German
progress in the Middle Ages; architecture being the only art greatly
developed. Heresy of the anti-ecclesiastical order indeed abounded,
and was duly persecuted; but the higher freethinking developments were
in the theosophic rather than the rationalistic direction. Albert the
Great (fl. 1260), "the universal Doctor," the chief German teacher
of the Middle Ages, was of unimpeached orthodoxy. [1662]

The principal German figure of the period is Master Eckhart (d. 1329),
who, finding religious beliefs excluded from the sphere of reason by
the freer philosophy of his day, undertook to show that they were all
matters of reason. He was, in fact, a mystically reasoning preacher,
and he taught in the interests of popular religion. Naturally,
as he philosophized on old bases, he did not really subject his
beliefs to any skeptical scrutiny, but took them for granted and
proceeded speculatively upon them. This sufficed to bring him before
the Inquisition at Cologne, where he recanted conditionally on an
appeal to the Pope. Dying soon after, he escaped the papal bull
condemning twenty-eight of his doctrines. His school later divided
into a heretical and a Church party, of which the former, called the
"false free spirits," seems to have either joined or resembled the
antinomian Brethren of the Free Spirit, then numerous in Germany. The
other section became known as the "Friends of God," a species
of mystics who were "faithful to the whole medieval imaginative
creed, Transubstantiation, worship of the Virgin and Saints,
Purgatory." [1663] Through Tauler and others, Eckhart's pietistic
doctrine gave a lead to later Protestant evangelicalism; but the
system as a whole can never have been held by any popular body. [1664]


    Dr. Lasson pronounces (Ueberweg, i, 483) that the type of Eckhart's
    character and teaching "was derived from the innermost essence
    of the German national character." At the same time he admits
    that all the offshoots of the school departed more or less widely
    from Eckhart's type--that is, from the innermost essence of their
    own national character. It would be as plausible to say that the
    later mysticism of Fénelon derived from the innermost essence
    of the French character. The Imitatio Christi has been similarly
    described as expressing the German character, on the assumption
    that it was written by Thomas à Kempis. Many have held that the
    author was the Frenchman Gerson (Hallam, Lit. of Europe, ed. 1872,
    i, 139-40). It was in all probability, as was held by Suarez,
    the work of several hands, one a monk of the twelfth century,
    another a monk of the thirteenth, and the third a theologian of
    the fifteenth; neither Gerson nor Thomas à Kempis being concerned
    (Le Clerc, Hist. Litt. du XIVe Siècle, 2e édit. pp. 384-85;
    cp. Neale's Hist. of the so-called Jansenist Church of Holland,
    1858, pp. 97-98).


The Imitatio Christi (1471), the most popular Christian work
of devotion ever published, [1665] tells all the while of the
obscure persistence of the search for knowledge and for rational
satisfactions. Whatever be the truth as to its authorship, it belongs
to all Christendom in respect of its querulous strain of protest
against all manner of intellectual curiosity. After the first note of
world-renunciation, the call to absorption in the inner religious life,
there comes the sharp protest against the "desire to know." "Surely an
humble husbandman that serveth God is better than a proud philosopher
who, neglecting himself, laboureth to understand the course of the
heavens.... Cease from an inordinate desire of knowing." [1666]
No sooner is the reader warned to consider himself the frailest of
all men than he is encouraged to look down on all reasoners. "What
availeth it to cavil and dispute much about dark and hidden things,
when for being ignorant of them we shall not be so much as reproved
at the day of judgment? It is a great folly to neglect the things
that are profitable and necessary, and give our minds to that which
is curious and hurtful.... And what have we to do with genus and
species, the dry notions of logicians?" [1667] The homily swings
to and fro between occasional admissions that "learning is not to
be blamed," perhaps interpolated by one who feared to have religion
figure as opposed to knowledge, and recurrent flings--perhaps also
interpolated--at all who seek book-lore or physical science; but the
note of distrust of reason prevails. "Where are all those Doctors and
Masters whom thou didst well know whilst they lived and flourished
in learning? Now others have their livings, and perchance scarce ever
think of them. While they lived they seemed something, but now they are
not spoken of." [1668] It belongs to the whole conception of retreat
and aloofness that the devout man should "meddle not with curiosities,
but read such things as may rather yield compunction to his heart than
occupation to his head"; and the last chapter of the last book closes
on the note of the abnegation of reason. "Human reason is feeble and
may be deceived, but true faith cannot be deceived. All reason and
natural search ought to follow faith, not to go before it, nor to
break in upon it.... If the works of God were such that they might be
easily comprehended by human reason, they could not be justly called
marvellous or unspeakable." Thus the very inculcation of humility,
by its constant direction against all intellectual exercise, becomes
an incitement to a spiritual arrogance; and all manner of science
finds in the current ideal of piety its pre-ordained antagonist.



CHAPTER X

FREETHOUGHT IN THE RENAISSANCE


§ 1. THE ITALIAN EVOLUTION

What is called the Renaissance was, broadly speaking, an evolution
of the culture forces seen at work in the later "Middle Ages,"
newly fertilized by the recovery of classic literature; and we shall
have to revert at several points of our survey to what we have been
considering as "medieval" in order to perceive the "new birth." The
term is inconveniently vague, and is made to cover different periods,
sometimes extending from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century,
sometimes signifying only the fifteenth. It seems reasonable to apply
it, as regards Italy, to the period in which southern culture began to
outgo that of France, and kept its lead--that is, from the end of the
fourteenth century [1669] to the time of the Counter-Reformation. That
is a comparatively distinct sociological era.

Renascent Italy is, after ancient Greece, the great historical
illustration of the sociological law that the higher civilizations
arise through the passing-on of seeds of culture from older to newer
societies, under conditions that specially foster them and give them
freer growth. The straitened and archaic pictorial art of Byzantium,
unprogressive in the hidebound life of the Eastern Empire, developed
in the free and striving Italian communities till it paralleled the
sculpture of ancient Greece; and it is to be said for the Church
that, however she might stifle rational thought, she economically
elicited the arts of painting and architecture (statuary being
tabooed as too much associated with pagan worships), even as Greek
religion had promoted architecture and sculpture. By force, however,
of the tendency of the arts to keep religion anthropomorphic where
deeper culture is lacking, popular belief in Renaissance Italy was
substantially on a par with that of polytheistic Greece.

Before the general recovery of ancient literature, the main motives to
rationalism, apart from the tendency of the Aristotelian philosophy
to set up doubts about creation and Providence and a future state,
were (1) the spectacle of the competing creed of Islam, [1670]
made known to the Italians first by intercourse with the Moors,
later by the Crusades; and further and more fully by the Saracenized
culture of Sicily and commercial intercourse with the east; (2) the
spectacle of the strife of creeds within Christendom; [1671] and (3)
the spectacle of the worldliness and moral insincerity of the bulk
of the clergy. It is in that atmosphere that the Renaissance begins;
and it may be said that freethought stood veiled beside its cradle.

In such an atmosphere, even on the ecclesiastical side, demand for
"reforms" naturally made headway; and the Council of Constance
(1414-1418) was convened to enact many besides the ending of the
schism. [1672] But the Council itself was followed by seven hundred
prostitutes; [1673] and its relation to the intellectual life was
defined by its bringing about, on a charge of heresy, the burning
of John Huss, who had come under a letter of safe-conduct from the
emperor. The baseness of the act was an enduring blot on the Church;
and a hundred years later, in a Germany with small goodwill to Bohemia,
Luther made it one of his foremost indictments of the hierarchy. But
in the interim the spirit of reform had come to nothing. Cut off from
much of the force that was needed to effect any great moral revolution
in the Church, the reforming movement soon fell away, [1674] and the
Church was left to ripen for later and more drastic treatment.

How far, nevertheless, anti-clericalism could go among the scholarly
class even in Italy is seen in the career of one of the leading
humanists of the Renaissance, Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457). In the
work of his youth, De Voluptate et Vero Bono, a hardy vindication
of aggressive Epicureanism--at a time when the title of Epicurean
stood for freethinker [1675]--he plainly sets up a rationalist
standard, affirming that science is founded on reason and Nature,
and that Nature is God. Not content with a theoretic defiance of
the faith, he violently attacked the Church. It was probably to the
protection of Alfonso of Aragon, king of Naples, who though pious
was not pro-clerical, [1676] that Valla was able to do what he did,
above all to write his famous treatise, De falso credita et ementita
Constantini donatione, wherein he definitely proved once for all that
the "donation" in question was a fiction. [1677] Such an opinion had
been earlier maintained at the Council of Basle by Æneas Sylvius,
afterwards Pope Pius II, and before him by the remarkable Nicolaus of
Cusa; [1678] but when the existence of Valla's work was known he had
to fly from Rome afresh (1443) to Naples, where he had previously been
protected for seven years. Applying the same critical spirit to more
sacrosanct literature, he impugned the authenticity of the Apostles'
Creed, and of the letter of Abgarus to Jesus Christ, given by Eusebius;
proceeding further to challenge many of the mistranslations in the
Vulgate. [1679] For his untiring propaganda he was summoned before
the Inquisition at Naples, but as usual was protected by the king,
whom he satisfied by professing faith in the dogmas of the Church,
as distinguished from ecclesiastical history and philology.

It was characteristic of the life of Italy, hopelessly committed on
economic grounds to the Church, that Valla finally sought and found
reconciliation with the papacy. He knew that his safety at Naples
depended on the continued anti-papalism of the throne; he yearned for
the society of Rome; and his heart was all the while with the cause of
Latin scholarship rather than with that of a visionary reformation. In
his as in so many cases, accordingly, intellectual rectitude gave
way to lower interests; and he made unblushing offers of retractation
to cardinals and pope. In view of the extreme violence of his former
attacks, [1680] it is not surprising that the reigning Pope, Eugenius
IV, refused to be appeased; but on the election of Nicholas V (1447)
he was sent for; and he died secretary to the Curia and Canon of
St. John Lateran. [1681]

Where so much of anti-clericalism could find harbourage within the
Church, there was naturally no lack of it without; and from the period
of Boccaccio till the Catholic reaction after the Reformation a large
measure of anti-clerical feeling is a constant feature in Italian
life. It was so ingrained that the Church had on the whole to leave
it alone. From pope to monk the mass of the clergy had forfeited
respect; and gibes at their expense were household words, [1682]
and the basis of popular songs. Tommaso Guardati of Salerno, better
known as Masuccio, attacks all orders of clergy in his collection of
tales with such fury that only the protection of the court of Naples
could well have saved him; and yet he was a good Catholic. [1683]
The popular poetic literature, with certain precautions, carried
the anti-clerical spirit as far as to parade a humorous non-literary
skepticism, putting in the mouths of the questionable characters in
its romances all manner of anti-religious opinions which it would
be unsafe to print as one's own, but which in this way reached
appreciative readers who were more or less in sympathy with the
author's sentiments and stratagems. The Morgante Maggiore of Pulci
(1488) is the great type of such early Voltairean humour: [1684]
it revives the spirit of the Goliards, and passes unscathed in the
new Renaissance world, where the earlier Provençal impiety had gone
the way of the Inquisition bonfire, books and men alike. Beneath
its mockery there is a constant play of rational thought, and every
phase of contemporary culture is glanced at in the spirit of always
unembittered humour which makes Pulci "the most lovable among the
great poets of the Renaissance." [1685] It is noteworthy that Pulci is
found affirming the doctrine of an Antipodes with absolute openness,
and with impunity, over a hundred years before Galileo. This survival
of ancient pagan science seems to have been obscurely preserved all
through the Middle Ages. In the eighth century, as we have seen,
the priest Feargal or Vergilius, of Bavaria, was deposed from his
office by the Pope, on the urging of St. Boniface, for maintaining it;
but he was reinstated, died a bishop, and became a saint; and not
only that doctrine, but that of the two-fold motion of the earth,
was affirmed with impunity before Pulci by Nicolaus of Cusa [1686]
(d. 1464); though in the fourteenth century Nicolaus of Autricuria
had to recant his teaching of the atomistic theory. [1687] As Pulci
had specially satirized the clergy and ecclesiastical miracles,
his body was refused burial in consecrated ground; but the general
temper was such as to save him from clerical enmity up to that point.

The Inquisition too was now greatly enfeebled throughout central
and northern as well as southern Italy. In 1440 the materialist,
mathematician, and astrologer Amadeo de' Landi, of Milan, was
accused of heresy by the orthodox Franciscans. Not only was he
acquitted, but his chief accuser was condemned in turn to make public
retractation, which he however declined to do. [1688] Fifty years
later the Inquisition was still nearly powerless. In 1497 we find
a freethinking physician at Bologna, Gabriele de Salò, protected
by his patrons against its wrath, although he "was in the habit of
maintaining that Christ was not God, but the son of Joseph and Mary
...; that by his cunning he had deceived the world; that he may have
died on the cross on account of crimes which he had committed," [1689]
and so forth. Nineteen years before, Galeotto Marcio had come near
being burned for writing that any man who lived uprightly according
to his own conscience would go to heaven, whatever his faith; and it
needed the Pope, Sixtus IV, his former pupil, to save him from the
Inquisition. [1690] Others, who went further, ran similar risks; and
in 1500 Giorgio da Novara was burned at Bologna, presumptively for
denying the divinity of Jesus. [1691] A bishop of Aranda, however,
is said to have done the same with impunity, in the same year, [1692]
besides rejecting hell and purgatory, and denouncing indulgences as
a device of the popes to fill their pockets.

During this period too the philosophy of Averroës, as set forth in his
"Great Commentary" on Aristotle, was taught in North Italy with an
outspokenness not before known. Gaetano of Siena began to lecture on
the Commentary at Padua in 1436; it was in part printed there in 1472;
and from 1471 to 1499 Nicoletto Vernias seems to have taught, in the
Paduan chair of philosophy, the Averroïst doctrine of the world-soul,
thus virtually denying the Christian doctrine of immortality. Violent
opposition was raised when his pupil Niphus (Nifo) printed similar
doctrine in a treatise De Intellectu et Dæmonibus (1492); but the
professors when necessary disclaimed the more dangerous tenets of
Averroïsm. [1693] Nifo it was who put into print the maxim of his
tribe: Loquendum est ut plures, sententiendum ut pauci--"think with
the few; speak with the majority." [1694]

As in ancient Greece, humorous blasphemy seems to have fared better
than serious unbelief. [1695] As is remarked by Hallam, the number of
vindications of Christianity produced in Italy in the fifteenth century
proves the existence of much unbelief; [1696] and it is clear that,
apart from academic doubt, there was abundant freethinking among men
of the world. [1697] Erasmus was astonished at the unbelief he found
in high quarters in Rome. One ecclesiastic undertook to prove to him
from Pliny that there is no future state; others openly derided Christ
and the apostles; and many avowed to him that they had heard eminent
papal functionaries blaspheming the Mass. [1698] The biographer of Pope
Paul II has recorded how that pontiff found in his own court, among
certain young men, the opinion that faith rested rather on trickeries
of the saints (sanctorum astutiis) than on evidence; which opinion the
Pope eradicated. [1699] But in the career of Perugino (1446-1524),
who from being a sincerely religious painter became a skeptic in
his wrath against the Church which slew Savonarola, [1700] we have
evidence of a movement of things which no papal fiat could arrest.

As to the beliefs of the great artists in general we have little
information. Employed as they so often were in painting religious
subjects for the churches, they must as a rule have conformed
outwardly; and the artistic temper is more commonly credent than
skeptical. But in the case of one of the greatest, Leonardo da Vinci
(1452-1519), we have evidence of a continual play of critical scrutiny
on the world, and a continual revolt against mere authority, which
seem incompatible with any acceptance of Christian dogma. In his many
notes, unpublished till modern times, his universal genius plays
so freely upon so many problems that he cannot be supposed to have
ignored those of religion. His stern appraisement of the mass of men
[1701] carries with it no evangelical qualifications; his passion for
knowledge is not Christian; [1702] and his reiterated rejection of
the principle of authority in science [1703] and in literature [1704]
tells of a spirit which, howsoever it might practise reticence, cannot
have been inwardly docile to either priesthood or tradition. In all
his reflections upon philosophic and scientific themes he is, in
the scientific sense, materialistic--that is, inductive, studious
of experiment, insistent upon tangible data. [1705] "Wisdom is
daughter of experience"; [1706] "truth is the daughter of time";
[1707] "there is no effect in Nature without a reason"; [1708] "all
our knowledge originates in sensations" [1709]--such are the dicta he
accumulates in an age of superstition heightened by the mutability
of life, of ecclesiastical tyranny tempered only by indifferentism,
of faith in astrology and amulets, of benumbing tradition in science
and philosophy. On the problem of the phenomena of fossil shells
he pronounces with a searching sagacity of inference [1710] that
seems to reveal at once the extent to which the advance of science
has been blocked by pious obscurantism. [1711] In all directions we
see the great artist, a century before Bacon, anticipating Bacon's
protests and questionings, and this with no such primary bias to
religion as Bacon had acquired at his mother's knee. When he turns
to the problems of body and spirit he is as dispassionate, as keenly
speculative, as over those of external nature. [1712] Of magic he is
entirely contemptuous, not in the least on religious grounds, though
he glances at these, but simply for the folly of it. [1713] All that
tells of religious feeling in him is summed up in a few utterances
expressive of a vague theism; [1714] while he has straight thrusts at
religious fraud and absurdity. [1715] It is indeed improbable that a
mind so necessitated to discourse of its thought, however gifted for
prudent silence, can have subsisted without private sympathy from
kindred souls. Skepticism was admittedly abundant; and Leonardo of
all men can least have failed to reckon with its motives.

Perhaps the most fashionable form of quasi-freethinking in the Italy of
the fifteenth century was that which prevailed in the Platonic Academy
of Florence in the period, though the chief founder of the Academy,
Marsilio Ficino, wrote a defence of Christianity, and his most famous
adherent, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, planned another. Renaissance
Platonism began with the Greek Georgios Gemistos, surnamed Plethon
because of his devotion to Plato, which was such as to scandalize
common Christians and exasperate Aristotelians. The former had the
real grievance that his system ostensibly embodied polytheism and
logically involved pantheism; [1716] and one of his antagonists,
Gennadios Georgios Scolarios, who became patriarch of Constantinople,
caused his book On Laws to be burned; [1717] but the allegation of
his Aristotelian enemy and countryman, Georgios Trapezuntios, that
he prayed to the sun as creator of the world, [1718] is only one of
the polemical amenities of the period. Ostensibly he was a believing
Christian, stretching Christian love to accommodate the beliefs of
Plato; but it was not zeal for orthodoxy that moved Cosimo dei Medici,
at Florence, to embrace the new Platonism, and train up Marsilio
Ficino to be its prophet. The furor allegoricus which inspired the
whole school [1719] was much more akin to ancient Gnosticism than to
orthodox Christianity, and constantly points to pantheism [1720] as
the one philosophic solution of its ostensible polytheism. When, too,
Ficino undertakes to vindicate Christianity against the unbelievers in
his Della Religione Cristiana, "the most solid arguments that he can
find in its favour are the answers of the Sibyls, and the prophecies
of the coming of Jesus Christ to be found in Virgil, Plato, Plotinus,
and Porphyry." [1721]

How far such a spirit of expatiation and speculation, however visionary
and confused, tended to foster heresy is seen in the brief career
of the once famous young Pico della Mirandola, Ficino's wealthy
pupil. Parading a portentous knowledge of tongues [1722] and topics
at the age of twenty-four, he undertook (1486) to maintain a list of
nine hundred Conclusiones or propositions at Rome against all comers,
and to pay their expenses. Though he had obtained the permission of
the Pope, Innocent VIII, the challenge speedily elicited angry charges
of heresy against certain of the theses, and the Pope had to stop the
proceedings and issue an ecclesiastical commission of inquiry. Some
of the propositions were certainly ill adjusted to Catholic ideas,
in particular the sayings that "neither the cross of Christ nor
any image is to be adored adoratione latriæ"--with worship; that no
one believes what he believes merely because he wishes to; and that
Jesus did not physically descend into hell. [1723] Pico, retiring
to Florence, defended himself in an Apologia, which provoked fresh
outcry; whereupon he was summoned to proceed to Rome; and though the
powerful friendship of Lorenzo dei Medici procured a countermand of
the order, it was not till 1496 that he received, from Alexander VI,
a full papal remission.

Among the unachieved projects of his later life, which ended at the
age of thirty-one, was that of a treatise Adversus Hostes Ecclesiæ,
to be divided into seven sections, the first dealing with "The avowed
and open enemies of Christianity," and the second with "Atheists and
those who reject every religious system upon their own reasoning"; and
the others with Jews, Moslems, idolaters, heretics, and unrighteous
believers. [1724] The vogue of unbelief thus signified was probably
increased by the whole speculative habit of Pico's own school, [1725]
which tended only less than Averroïsm to a pantheism subversive of
the Christian creed. It is noteworthy that, while Ficino believed
devoutly in astrology, [1726] Pico rejected it, and left among his
confused papers a treatise against it which his nephew contrived to
transcribe and publish; [1727] but it does not appear that this served
either the cause of religion or that of science. The educated Italian
world, while political independence lasted, remained in various degrees
freethinking, pantheistic, and given to astrology, no school or teacher
combining rationalism in philosophy with sound scientific methods.

One of the great literary figures of the later Renaissance, Niccolò
Machiavelli (1469-1527), is the standing proof of the divorce of
the higher intelligence of Italy from the faith as well as the cause
of the Church before the Reformation. With this divorce he expressly
charges the Church itself, giving as the first proof of its malfeasance
that the peoples nearest Rome were the least religious. [1728] To
him the Church was the supreme evil in Italian politics, [1729] the
"stone in the wound." In a famous passage he gives his opinion that
"our religion, having shown us the truth and the true way, makes us
esteem less political honour (l'onore del mondo)"; and that whereas
the pagan religion canonized only men crowned with public honour,
as generals and statesmen, "our religion has glorified rather the
humble and contemplative men than the active," placing the highest
good in humility and abjection, teaching rather to suffer than
to do, and so making the world debile and ready to be a prey to
scoundrels. [1730] The passage which follows, putting the blame on
men for thus misreading their religion, is a fair sample of the grave
mockery with which the men of that age veiled their unfaith. [1731]
Machiavelli was reputed in his own world an atheist; [1732] and
he certainly was no religionist. He indeed never avows atheism, but
neither did any other writer of the epoch; [1733] and the whole tenour
of his writings is that of a man who had at least put aside the belief
in a prayer-answering deity; [1734] though, with the intellectual
arbitrariness which still affected all the thought of his age, he avows
a belief that all great political changes are heralded by prodigies,
celestial signs, prophecies, or revelations [1735]--here conforming
to the ordinary superstition of his troublous time.

It belongs, further, to the manifold self-contradiction of the
Renaissance that, holding none of the orthodox religious beliefs,
he argues insistently and at length for the value and importance of
religion, however untrue, as a means to political strength. Through
five successive chapters of his Discourses on Livy he presses and
illustrates his thesis, praising Numa as a sagacious framer of useful
fictions, and as setting up new and false beliefs which made for the
unification and control of the Roman people. The argument evolved
with such strange candour is, of course, of the nature of so much
Renaissance science, an à priori error: there was no lack of religious
faith and fear in primitive Rome before the age of Numa; and the legend
concerning him is a product of the very primordial mythopoiesis which
Machiavelli supposes him to have set on foot. It is in the spirit of
that fallacious theory of a special superinduced religiosity in Romans
[1736] that the great Florentine proceeds to charge the Church with
having made the Italians religionless and vicious (senza religione
e cattivi). Had he lived a century or two later he might have seen
in the case of zealously believing Spain a completer political and
social prostration than had fallen in his day on Italy, and this
alongside of regeneration in an unbelieving France. But indeed it
was the bitterness of spirit of a suffering patriot looking back
yearningly to an idealized Rome, rather than the insight of the author
of The Prince, [1737] that inspired his reasoning on the political
uses of religion; for at the height of his exposition he notes,
with his keen eye for fact, how the most strenuous use of religious
motive had failed to support the Samnites against the cool courage
of Romans led by a rationalizing general; [1738] and he notes, too,
with a sardonic touch of hopefulness, how Savonarola had contrived to
persuade the people of contemporary Florence that he had intercourse
with deity. [1739] Italy then had faith enough and to spare.

Such argument, in any case, even if untouched by the irony which tinges
Machiavelli's, could never avail to restore faith; men cannot become
believers on the motive of mere belief in the value of belief; and the
total effect of Machiavelli's manifold reasoning on human affairs,
with its startling lucidity, its constant insistence on causation,
its tacit negation of every notion of Providence, must have been, in
Italy as elsewhere, rather to prepare the way for inductive science
than to rehabilitate supernaturalism, even among those who assented to
his theory of Roman development. In his hands the method of science
begins to emerge, turned to the most difficult of its tasks, before
Copernicus had applied it to the simpler problem of the motion of the
solar system. After centuries in which the name of Aristotle had been
constantly invoked to small scientific purpose, this man of the world,
who knew little or nothing of Aristotle's Politics, [1740] exhibits
the spirit of the true Aristotle for the first time in the history of
Christendom; and it is in his land after two centuries of his influence
that modern sociology begins its next great stride in the work of Vico.

He is to be understood, of course, as the product of the moral
and intellectual experience of the Renaissance, which prepared his
audience for him. Guicciardini, his contemporary, who in comparison was
unblamed for irreligion, though an even warmer hater of the papacy,
has left in writing the most explicit avowals of incredulity as to
the current conceptions of the supernatural, and declares concerning
miracles that as they occur in every religion they prove none. [1741]
At the same time he professes firm faith in Christianity; [1742] and
others who would not have joined him there were often as inconsistent
in the ready belief they gave to magic and astrology. The time was,
after all, one of artistic splendour and scientific and critical
ignorance; [1743] and its freethought had the inevitable defects that
ignorance entails. Thus the belief in the reality of witchcraft,
sometimes discarded by churchmen, [1744] is sometimes maintained
by heretics. Rejected by John of Salisbury in the twelfth century,
and by the freethinking Pietro of Abano in 1303, it was affirmed
and established by Thomas Aquinas, asserted by Gregory IX, and
made a motive for uncounted slaughters by the Inquisition. In 1460
a theologian had been forced to retract, and still punished, for
expressing doubt on the subject; and in 1471 Pope Sixtus VI reserved
to the papacy the privilege of making and selling the waxen models
of limbs used as preservatives against enchantments. In the sixteenth
century a whole series of books directed against the belief were put
on the Index, and a Jesuit handbook codified the creed. Yet a Minorite
friar, Alfonso Spina, pronounced it a heretical delusion, and taught
that those burned suffered not for witchcraft but for heresy, [1745]
and on the other hand some men of a freethinking turn held it. Thus
the progress of rational thought was utterly precarious.

Of the literary freethinking of the later Renaissance the most famous
representative is Pomponazzi, or Pomponatius (1462-1525), for whom
it has been claimed that he "really initiated the philosophy of
the Italian Renaissance." [1746] The Italian Renaissance, however,
was in reality near its turning-point when Pomponazzi's treatise on
the Immortality of the Soul appeared (1516); and that topic was the
commonest in the schools and controversies of that day. [1747] He has
been at times spoken of as an Averroïst, on the ground that he denied
immortality; but he did so in reality as a disciple of Alexander of
Aphrodisias, a rival commentator to Averroës. What is remarkable in
his case is not the denial of immortality, which we have seen to be
frequent in Dante's time, and more or less implicit in Averroïsm,
but his contention that ethics could do very well without the belief
[1748]--a thing that it still took some courage to affirm, though
the spectacle of the life of the faithful might have been supposed
sufficient to win it a ready hearing. Presumably his rationalism, which
made him challenge the then canonical authority of the scholasticized
Aristotle, went further than his avowed doubts as to a future state;
since his profession of obedience to the Church's teaching, and his
reiteration of the old academic doctrine of two-fold truth--one truth
for science and philosophy, and another for theology [1749]--are as
dubious as any in philosophic history. [1750] Of him, or of Lorenzo
Valla, more justly than of Petrarch, might it be said that he is the
father of modern criticism, since Valla sets on foot at once historical
and textual analysis, while Pomponazzi anticipates the treatment given
to Biblical miracles by the rationalizing German theologians of the
end of the eighteenth century. [1751] He too was a fixed enemy of the
clergy; and it was not for lack of will that they failed to destroy
him. He happened to be a personal favourite of Leo X, who saw to
it that the storm of opposition to Pomponazzi--a storm as much of
anger on behalf of Aristotle, who had been shown by him to doubt
the immortality of the soul, as on behalf of Christianity--should
end in an official farce of reconciliation. [1752] He was however
not free to publish his treatises, De Incantationibus and De Fato,
Libero Arbitrio, et Prædestinatione. These, completed in 1520, were
not printed till after his death, in 1556 and 1557; [1753] and by
reason of their greater simplicity, as well as of their less dangerous
form of heresy, were much more widely read than the earlier treatise,
thus contributing much to the spread of sane thought on the subjects
of witchcraft, miracles, and special providences.

Whether his metaphysic on the subject of the immortality of the
soul had much effect on popular thought may be doubted. What the
Renaissance most needed in both its philosophic and its practical
thought was a scientific foundation; and science, from first to last,
was more hindered than helped by the environment. In the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, charges of necromancy against physicians and
experimenters were frequently joined with imputations of heresy, and
on such charges not a few were burned. [1754] The economic conditions
too were all unfavourable to solid research.


    When Galileo in 1589 was made Professor of Mathematics at Pisa,
    his salary was only 60 scudi (= dollars), while the Professor
    of Medicine got 2,000. (Karl von Gebler, Galileo Galilei,
    Eng. tr. 1879, p. 9.) At Padua, later, Galileo had 520 florins,
    with a prospect of rising to as many scudi. (Letter given
    in The Private Life of Galileo, Boston, 1870, p. 61.) The
    Grand Duke finally gave him a pension of 1,000 scudi at
    Florence. (Id. p. 64.) This squares with Bacon's complaint
    (Advancement of Learning, bk. ii; De Augmentis, bk. ii,
    ch. i--Works, Routledge ed. pp. 76, 422-23) that, especially
    in England, the salaries of lecturers in arts and professions
    were injuriously small, and that, further, "among so many noble
    foundations of colleges in Europe ... they are all dedicated
    to professions, and none left free to the study of arts and
    sciences at large." In Italy, however, philosophy was fairly well
    endowed. Pomponazzi received a salary of 900 Bolognese lire when
    he obtained the chair of Philosophy at Bologna in 1509. (Christie,
    essay cited, p. 138.)


Medicine was nearly as dogmatic as theology. Even philosophy was in
large part shouldered aside by the financial motives which led men
to study law in preference; [1755] and when the revival of ancient
literature gained ground it absorbed energy to the detriment of
scientific study, [1756] the wealthy amateurs being ready to pay
high prices for manuscripts of classics, and for classical teaching;
but not for patient investigation of natural fact. The humanists,
so-called, were often forces of enlightenment and reform; witness
such a type as the high-minded Pomponio Leto (Pomponius Laetus),
pupil and successor of Lorenzo Valla, and one of the many "pagan"
scholars of the later Renaissance; [1757] but the discipline of mere
classical culture was insufficient to make them, as a body, qualified
leaders either of thought or action, [1758] in such a society as
that of decaying Italy. Only after the fall of Italian liberties,
the decay of the Church's wealth and power, the loss of commerce, and
the consequent decline of the arts, did men turn to truly scientific
pursuits. From Italy, indeed, long after the Reformation, came a new
stimulus to freethought which affected all the higher civilization
of northern Europe. But the failure to solve the political problem,
a failure which led to the Spanish tyranny, meant the establishment
of bad conditions for the intellectual as for the social life; and
an arrest of freethought in Italy was a necessary accompaniment of
the arrest of the higher literature. What remained was the afterglow
of a great and energetic period rather than a spirit of inquiry; and
we find the old Averroïst scholasticism, in its most pedantic form,
lasting at the university of Padua till far into the seventeenth
century. "A philosophy," remarks in this connection an esteemed
historian, "a mode of thought, a habit of mind, may live on in the
lecture-rooms of Professors for a century after it has been abandoned
by the thinkers, the men of letters, and the men of the world." [1759]
The avowal has its bearings nearer home than Padua.

While it lasted, the light of Italy had shone upon all the thought of
Europe. Not only the other nations but the scholars of the Jewish race
reflected it; for to the first half of the sixteenth century belongs
the Jew Menahem Asariah de Rossi, whose work, Meor Enayim, "Light of
the Eyes," is "the first attempt by a Jew to submit the statements
of the Talmud to a critical examination, and to question the value
of tradition in its historical records." And he did not stand alone
among the Jews of Italy; for, while Elijah Delmedigo, at the end of
the fifteenth century, was in a didactic Maimonist fashion doubtful of
literary tradition, his grandson, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, flourishing
early in the seventeenth century, "wrote various pamphlets of a deeply
skeptical character." [1760] That this movement of Jewish rationalism
should be mainly limited to the south was inevitable, since there only
were Jewish scholars in an intellectual environment. There could be
no better testimony to the higher influence of the Italian Renaissance.



§ 2. THE FRENCH EVOLUTION

In the other countries influenced by Italian culture in the sixteenth
century the rationalist spirit had various fortune. France, as we saw,
had substantially retrograded at the time of the Italian new-birth, her
revived militarism no less than her depression by the English conquests
having deeply impaired her intellectual life in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. Thus the true renascence of letters in France
began late, and went on during the Reformation period; and all along
it showed a tincture of freethought. From the midst of the group who
laid the foundations of French Protestantism by translations of the
Bible there comes forth the most articulate freethinker of that age,
Bonaventure Desperiers, author of the Cymbalum Mundi (1537). Early
associated with Calvin and Olivetan in revising the translation of the
Bible by Lefèvre d'Etaples (rev. 1535), Desperiers turned away from
the Protestant movement, as did Rabelais and Étienne Dolet, caring as
little for the new presbyter as for the old priest; and all three were
duly accused by the Protestants of atheism and libertinage. [1761] In
the same year Desperiers aided Dolet, scholar and printer, to produce
his much-praised Commentarii linguæ latinæ; and within two years he
had printed his own satire, Cymbalum Mundi, [1762] wherein, by way of
pagan dialogues, are allegorically ridiculed the Christian scheme,
its miracles, Bible contradictions, and the spirit of persecution,
then in full fire in France against the Protestants. In the first
dialogue Mercury is sent to Athens by Zeus the Father to have the
"Book of the Destinies" rebound--an adaptation of an ancient sarcasm
against the Christians by Celsus. [1763] He, robbing others, is
robbed of the book, and another (= the New Testament) is put in
its place. In the second dialogue figure Rhetulus (= Lutherus) and
Cubercus (= Bucerus?), who suppose they have found the main pieces
of the philosopher's stone, which Mercury had broken and scattered
in the sand of the theatre arena. Protestants and Catholics are thus
alike ridiculed. The allegory is not always clear to modern eyes; but
there was no question then about its general bearing; and Desperiers,
though groom of the chamber (after Clement Marot) to Marguerite of
France (later of Navarre), had to fly for his life, as Marot did
before him. The first edition of his book, secretly printed at Paris,
was seized and destroyed; and the second (1538), printed for him at
Lyons, whither he had taken his flight, seems to have had a similar
fate. From that time he disappears, probably dying, whether or not
by suicide is doubtful, [1764] before 1544, when his miscellaneous
works were published. They include his OEuvres Diverses--many of them
graceful poems addressed to his royal mistress, Marguerite--which,
with his verse translation of the Andria of Terence and his Discours
non plus Melancoliques que Divers, make up his small body of work. In
the Discours may be seen applied to matters of history and scholarship
the same critical spirit that utters itself in the Cymbalum, and the
same literary gift; but for orthodoxy his name became a hissing and
a byword, and it is only in modern times that French scholarship has
recognized in Desperiers the true literary comrade and potential equal
of Rabelais and Marot. [1765] The age of Francis was too inclement
for such literature as his Cymbalum; and it was much that it spared
Gringoire (d. 1544), who, without touching doctrine, satirized in
his verse both priests and Protestants.

It is something of a marvel, further, that it spared Rabelais
(? 1493-1553), whose enormous raillery so nearly fills up the
literary vista of the age for modern retrospect. It has been said
by a careful student that "the free and universal inquiry, the
philosophic doubt, which were later to work the glory of Descartes,
proceed from Rabelais"; [1766] and it is indeed an impression of
boundless intellectual curiosity and wholly unfettered thinking that
is set up by his entire career. Sent first to the convent school of
La Baumette, near Angers, he had there as a schoolfellow Geoffroy
d'Estissac, afterwards his patron as Bishop of Maillezais. Sent later
to the convent school of Fontenay-le-Comte, he had the luck to have for
schoolfellows there the four famous brothers Du Bellay, so well able
to protect him in later life; and, forced to spend fifteen years of
his young life (1509-24) at Fontenay as a Franciscan monk, he turned
the time to account by acquiring an immense erudition, including a
knowledge of Greek, then rare. [1767] Naturally the book-lover was
not popular among his fellow-monks; and his Greek books were actually
confiscated by the chapter, who found in his cell certain writings
of Erasmus, [1768] to whom as a scholar he afterwards expressed the
deepest intellectual obligations. Thereafter, by the help of his
friend d'Estissac, now bishop of the diocese, Rabelais received papal
permission to join the order of the Benedictines and to enter the Abbey
of Maillezais as a canon regular (1524); but soon after, though he was
thus a fully-ordained priest, we find him broken loose, and living
for some six years a life of wandering freedom as a secular priest,
sometimes with his friend the bishop, winning friends in high places by
his learning and his gaiety, everywhere studying and observing. At the
bishop's priory of Ligugé he seems to have studied hard and widely. In
1530 he is found at Montpellier, extending his studies in medicine,
in which he speedily won distinction, becoming B.M. on December 1,
and a lecturer in the following year. He was later esteemed one of
the chief anatomists of his day, being one of the first to dissect the
human body and to insist on the need of such training for physicians;
[1769] and in 1532 [1770] we find him characterized as the "true great
universal spirit of this time." [1771] In the same year he published
at Lyons, where he was appointed physician to the chief hospital,
an edition of the Latin letters of the Ferrarese physician Manardi;
and his own commentaries on Galen and Hippocrates, which had a very
poor sale. [1772] At Lyons he made the acquaintance of Dolet, Marot,
and Desperiers; and his letter (of the same year) to Erasmus (printed
as addressed to Bernard de Salignac [1773]) showed afresh how his
intellectual sympathies went.

About 1532 he produced his Gargantua and Pantagruel, the first
two books of his great humoristic romance; and in 1533 began his
series of almanacks, continued till 1550, presumably as printer's
hack-work. From the fragments which have been preserved, they appear
to have been entirely serious in tone, one containing a grave theistic
protest against all astrological prediction. Along with the almanack of
1533, however, he produced a Pantagruelian Prognostication; and this,
which alone has been preserved entire, [1774] passes hardy ridicule on
astrology, [1775] one of the most popular superstitions of the day,
among high and low alike. Almost immediately the Sorbonne was on
his track, condemning his Pantagruel in 1533. [1776] A journey soon
afterwards to Rome, in the company of his friend Bishop Jean du Bellay,
the French ambassador, may have saved him some personal experience
of persecution. Two years later, when the Bishop went to Rome to
be made cardinal, Rabelais again accompanied him; and he appears to
have been a favourite alike with Pope Clement VII and Paul III. At
the end of 1535 we find him, in a letter to his patron, the bishop
of Maillezais, scoffing at the astrological leanings of the new Pope,
Paul III. [1777] Nonetheless, upon a formal Supplicatio pro apostasia,
he obtained from the Pope in 1536 an absolution for his breach of his
monastic vows, with permission to practise medicine in a Benedictine
monastery. Shortly before, his little son Théodule had died; [1778]
and it may have been grief that inspired such a desire: in any case,
the papal permission to turn monk again was never used, [1779] though
the pardon was doubtless serviceable. Taking his degree as doctor
at Montpellier in May, 1537, he there lectured for about a year on
anatomy; and in the middle of 1538 he recommenced a wandering life,
[1780] practising in turn at Narbonne, Castres, and Lyons. Then,
after becoming a Benedictine canon of St. Maur in 1540, we find him
in Piedmont from 1540 to 1543, under the protection of the viceroy,
Guillaume de Bellay. [1781]

During this period the frequent reprints of the first two books of
his main work, though never bearing his name, brought upon him the
denunciations alike of priests and Protestants. Ramus, perhaps in
revenge for being caricatured as Raminagrobis, pronounced him an
atheist. [1782] Calvin, who had once been his friend, had in his
book De Scandalis angrily accused him of libertinage, profanity, and
atheism; and henceforth, like Desperiers, he was about as little in
sympathy with Protestantism as with the zealots of Rome.

Thus assailed, Rabelais had seen cause, in an edition of 1542, to
modify a number of the hardier utterances in the original issues of the
first two books of his Pantagruel, notably his many epithets aimed at
the Sorbonne. [1783] In the reprints there are substituted for Biblical
names some drawn from heathen mythology; expressions too strongly
savouring of Calvinism are withdrawn; and disrespectful allusions
to the kings of France are elided. In his concern to keep himself
safe with the Sorbonne he even made a rather unworthy attack [1784]
(1542) on his former friend Étienne Dolet for the mere oversight of
reprinting one of his books without deleting passages which Rabelais
had expunged; [1785] but no expurgation could make his évangile,
as he called it, [1786] a Christian treatise, or keep for him an
orthodox reputation; and it was with much elation that he obtained in
1545 from King Francis--whose private reader was his friend Duchâtel,
Bishop of Tulle--a privilege to print the third book of Pantagruel,
which he issued in 1546, signed for the first time with his name, and
prefaced by a cry of jovial defiance to the "petticoated devils" of the
Sorbonne. They at once sought to convict him of fresh blasphemies; but
even the thrice-repeated substitution of an n for an m in âme, making
"ass" out of "soul," was carried off, by help of Bishop Duchâtel, as
a printer's error; and the king, having laughed like other readers,
maintained the imprimatur. But although it gave Rabelais formal leave
to reprint the first and second books, he was careful for the time
not to do so, leaving the increasing risk to be run by whoso would.

It was on the death of Francis in 1547 that Rabelais ran his greatest
danger, having to fly to Metz, where for a time he acted as salaried
physician of the city. About this time he seems to have written
the fourth and fifth books of Pantagruel; and to the treatment he
had suffered at Catholic hands has been ascribed the reversion
to Calvinistic ideas noted in the fifth book. [1787] In 1549,
however, on the birth of a son to Henri II, his friend Cardinal
Bellay returned to power, and Rabelais to court favour with him. The
derider of astrology did not scruple to cast a prosperous horoscope
for the infant prince--justifying by strictly false predictions his
own estimate of the art, since the child died in the cradle. There
was now effected the dramatic scandal of the appointment of Rabelais
in 1550 to two parish cures, one of which, Meudon, has given him his
most familiar sobriquet. He seems to have left both to be served by
vicars; [1788] but the wrath of the Church was so great that early
in 1552 he resigned them; [1789] proceeding immediately afterwards to
publish the fourth book of Pantagruel, for which he had duly obtained
official privilege. As usual, the Sorbonne rushed to the pursuit;
and the Parlement of Paris forbade the sale of the book despite
the royal permission. That permission, however, was reaffirmed; and
this, the most audacious of all the writings of Rabelais, went forth
freely throughout France, carrying the war into the enemies' camp,
and assailing alike Protestants and churchmen. In the following year,
his work done, he died.

It is difficult to estimate the intellectual effect of his performance,
which was probably much greater at the end of the century than
during his life. Patericke, the English translator of Gentillet's
famous Discours against Machiavelli (1576), points to Rabelais among
the French and Agrippa (an odd parallel) among the Germans as the
standard-bearers of the whole train of atheists and scoffers. "Little
by little, that which was taken in the beginning for jests turned to
earnest, and words into deeds." [1790] Rabelais's vast innuendoes by
way of jests about the people of Ruach (the Spirit) who lived solely on
wind; [1791] his quips about the "reverend fathers in devil," of the
"diabological faculty"; [1792] his narratives about the Papefigues
and Papimanes; [1793] and his gibes at the Decretals, [1794] were
doubtless enjoyed by many good Catholics otherwise placated by his
attacks on the "demoniacal Calvins, impostors of Geneva"; [1795] and
so careful was he on matters of dogma that it remains impossible to
say with confidence whether or not he finally believed in a future
state. [1796] That he was a deist or Unitarian seems the reasonable
inference as to his general creed; [1797] but there also he throws
out no negations--even indicates a genial contempt for the philosophe
ephectique et pyrrhonien [1798] who opposes a halting doubt to two
contrary doctrines. In any case, he was anathema to the heresy-hunters
of the Sorbonne, and only powerful protection could have saved him.

Dolet (1508-1546) was certainly much less of an unbeliever [1799]
than Rabelais; [1800] but where Rabelais could with ultimate impunity
ridicule the whole machinery of the Church, [1801] Dolet, after
several iniquitous prosecutions, in which his jealous rivals in the
printing business took part, was finally done to death in priestly
revenge [1802] for his youthful attack on the religion of inquisitorial
Toulouse, where gross pagan superstition and gross orthodoxy went hand
in hand. [1803] He certainly "lived a life of sturt and strife." Born
at Orléans, he studied in his boyhood at Paris; later at Padua, under
Simon Villanovanus, whom he heard converse with Sir Thomas More; then,
at 21, for a year at Venice, where he was secretary to Langeac, the
French Bishop of Limoges. It was at Toulouse, where he went in 1532 to
study law, that he began his quarrels and his troubles. In that year,
and in that town, the young Jean de Caturce, a lecturer in the school
of law, was burned alive on a trivial charge of heresy; and Dolet
witnessed the tragedy. [1804] Previously there had been a wholesale
arrest of suspected Lutherans--"advocates, procureurs, ecclesiastics
of all sorts, monks, friars, and curés." [1805] Thirty-two saved
themselves by flight; but among those arrested was Jean de Boysonne,
the most learned and the ablest professor in the university, much
admired by Rabelais, [1806] and afterwards the most intimate friend
of Dolet. It was his sheer love of letters that brought upon him the
charge of heresy; [1807] but he was forced publicly to abjure ten
Lutheran heresies charged upon him. The students of the time were
divided in the old fashion into "nations," and formed societies as
such; and Dolet, chosen in 1534 as "orator" of the "French" group,
as distinct from the Gascons and the Tolosans, in the course of
a quarrel of the societies delivered two Latin orations, in one
of which he vilipended alike the cruelty and the superstitions of
Toulouse. A number of the leading bigots of the place were attacked;
and Dolet was after an interval of some months thrown into prison,
charged with exciting a riot and with contempt of the Parlement of
Toulouse. His incarceration did not last long; but never thereafter
was he safe; and in the remaining thirteen years of his life he was
five more times in prison, for nearly five years in all. [1808]

After he had settled at Lyons, and produced his Commentaries, he had
the bad fortune to kill an enemy who drew sword upon him; and the
pardon he obtained from the king through the influence of Marguerite
of Navarre remained technically unratified for six years, during which
time he was only provisionally at liberty, being actually in prison
for a short time in 1537. Apart from this episode he showed himself
both quarrelsome and vainglorious, alienating friends who had done
much for him; but his enemies were worse spirits than he. The power
of the man drove him to perpetual production no less than to strife;
and his mere activity as a printer went far to destroy him.


    "No calling was more hateful to the friends of bigotry and
    superstition than that of a printer" (Christie, as cited,
    p. 387). Nearly all the leading printers of France and Germany
    were either avowedly in sympathy with Protestant heresy or
    suspected of being so (id. p. 388); and the issue of an edict
    by King Francis in 1535 for the suppression of printing was at
    the instance of the Sorbonne. We shall see that in Germany the
    support of the printers, and their hostility to the priests and
    monks, contributed greatly to the success of Lutheranism.


In 1542 he was indicted as a heretic, but really for publishing
Protestant books of devotion and French translations of the
Bible. Among the formal offences charged were: (1) his having in his
Cato Christianus cited as the second commandment the condemnation
of all images; (2) his use of the term "fate" in the sense of
predestination; (3) his substitution of habeo fidem for credo; (4) the
eating of flesh in Lent; and (5) the act of taking a walk during the
performance of mass. [1809] On this indictment the two inquisitors Orry
and Faye delivered him over to the secular arm for execution. Again
he secured the King's pardon (1543), through the mediation of Pierre
Duchâtel, the good Bishop of Tulle; but the ecclesiastical resistance
was such that, despite Dolet's formal recantation, it required a more
plenary pardon, the express orders of the King, and three official
letters to secure his release after a year's detention. [1810]

That was, however, swiftly followed by a final and successful
prosecution. By a base device two parcels were made of prohibited
books printed by Dolet and of Protestant books issued at Geneva;
and these, bearing his name in large, were forwarded to Paris. The
parcels were seized, and he was again arrested, early in January,
1544. He contrived to escape to Piedmont; but, returning secretly
after six months to print documents of defence, he was discovered
and sent to prison in Paris. The last pardon having covered all
previous writings, the prosecutors sought in his translation of the
pseudo-Platonic dialogues Axiochus and Hipparchus, printed with his
last vindication; and, finding a slight over-emphasis of Sokrates's
phrase describing the death of the body ("thou shalt no longer be,"
rendered by "thou shalt no longer be anything at all"), pronounced
this a wilful propounding of a heresy, though in fact there had
been no denial of the doctrine of immortality. [1811] This time the
prey was held. After Dolet had been in prison for twenty months the
Parlement of Paris ratified the sentence of death; and he was burned
alive on August 3, 1546. The utter wickedness of the whole process
[1812] at least serves to relieve by neighbourhood the darkness of
the stains cast on Protestantism by the crimes of Calvin.

The whole of the clerical opposition to the new learning at this
period is not unjustly to be characterized as a malignant cabal of
ignorance against knowledge. In Germany as in France real learning was
substantially on the side of the persecuted writers. When, in March
of 1537, Dolet was entertained at a banquet to celebrate the pardon
granted to him by the king for his homicide at Lyons on the last
day of the previous year, there came to it, by Dolet's own account,
the chief lights of learning in France--Budé, the chief Greek scholar
of his time; Berauld, his nearest compeer; Danès and Toussain, both
pupils of Budé and the first royal professors of Greek at Paris; Marot,
"the French Maro"; Rabelais, then regarded as a great new light in
medicine; Voulté, [1813] and others. The men of enlightenment at first
instinctively drew together, recognizing that on all hands they were
surrounded by rabid enemies, who were the enemies of knowledge. But
soon the stresses of the time drove them asunder. Voulté, who in this
year was praising Rabelais in Latin epigrams, was attacking him in
the next as an impious disciple of Lucian; [1814] and, after having
warmly befriended Dolet, was impeaching him, not without cause, as
an ingrate. It was an age of passion and violence; and Voulté was
himself assassinated in 1542 "by a man who had been unsuccessful in
a law-suit against him." [1815]

Infamous as was the cruelty with which Dolet was persecuted to
the death, his execution was but a drop in the sea of blood then
being shed in France by the Church. The king, sinking under his
maladies, had become the creature of the priests, who in defiance
of the Chancellor obtained his signature (1545) to a decree for a
renewed persecution of the heretics of the Vaudois; and an army,
followed by a Catholic mob and accompanied by the papal vice-legate
of Avignon, burst upon the doomed territory and commenced to burn and
slay. Women captured were violated and then thrown over precipices;
and twice over, when a multitude of fugitives in a fortified place
surrendered on the assurance that their lives and property would be
spared, the commander ordered that all should be put to death. When
old soldiers refused to enact such an infamy, others joyfully obeyed,
the mob aiding; and among the women were committed, as usual, "all
the crimes of which hell could dream." Three towns were destroyed,
3,000 persons massacred, 256 executed, six or seven hundred more
sent to the galleys, and many children sold as slaves. [1816] Thus
was the faith vindicated and safeguarded.

Of the freethought of such an age there could be no adequate
record. Its tempestuous energy, however, implies not a little of
private unbelief; and at a time when in England, two generations behind
France in point of literary evolution, there was, as we shall see,
a measure of rationalism among religionists, there must have been
at least as much in the land of Rabelais and Desperiers. The work
of Guillaume Postell, De causis seu principiis et originibus Naturæ
contra Atheos, published in 1552, testifies to kinds of unbelief that
outwent the doubt of Rabelais; though Postell's general extravagance
discounts all of his utterances. It is said of Guillaume Pellicier
(1527-1568), Bishop of Montpellier, who first turned Protestant and
afterwards, according to Gui Patin, atheist, that he would have been
burned but for the fact of his consecration. [1817] And the English
chroniclers preserve a scandal concerning an anonymous atheist, worded
as follows: "1539. This yeare, in October, died in the Universitie
of Parris, in France, a great doctor, which said their was no God,
and had bene of that opinion synce he was twentie yeares old, and was
above fouerscore yeares olde when he died. And all that tyme had kept
his error secrett, and was esteamed for one of the greatest clarkes
in all the Universitie of Parris, and his sentence was taken and
holden among the said studentes as firme as scripture, which shewed,
when he was asked why he had not shewed his opinion till his death,
he answered that for feare of death he durst not, but when he knew
that he should die he said their was no lief to come after this lief,
and so died miserably to his great damnation." [1818]

Among the eminent ones then surmised to lean somewhat to unbelief
was the sister of King Francis, Marguerite of Navarre, whom we have
noted as a protectress of the pantheistic Libertini, denounced by
Calvin. She is held to have been substantially skeptical until her
forty-fifth year; [1819] though her final religiousness seems also
beyond doubt. [1820] In her youth she bravely protected the Protestants
from the first persecution of 1523 onwards; and the strongly Protestant
drift of her Miroir de l'âme pécheresse exasperated the Catholic
theologians; but after the Protestant violences of 1546 she seems to
have sided with her brother against the Reform. [1821] The strange
taste of the Heptaméron, of which again her part-authorship seems
certain, [1822] constitutes a moral paradox not to be solved save by
recognizing in her a woman of genius, whose alternate mysticism and
bohemianism expressed a very ancient duality in human nature.

A similar mixture will explain the intellectual life of the poet
Ronsard. A persecutor of the Huguenots, [1823] he was denounced as an
atheist by two of their ministers; [1824] and the pagan fashion in
which he handled Christian things scandalized his own side, albeit
he was hostile to Rabelais. But though the spirit of the French
Renaissance, so eagerly expressed in the Défense et Illustration de
la langue françoise of Joachim du Bellay (1549), is at its outset
as emancipated as that of the Italian, we find Ronsard in his latter
years edifying the pious. [1825] Any ripe and consistent rationalism,
indeed, was then impossible. One of the most powerful minds of the age
was Bodin (1530-1596), whose République is one of the most scientific
treatises on government between Aristotle and our own age, and whose
Colloquium Heptaplomeres [1826] is no less original an outline of a
naturalist [1827] philosophy. It consists of six dialogues, in which
seven men take part, setting forth the different religious standpoints
of Jew, Christian, pagan, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Catholic, the whole
leading up to a doctrine of tolerance and universalism. Bodin was
repeatedly and emphatically accused of unbelief by friends and foes;
[1828] and his rationalism on some heads is beyond doubt; yet he not
only held by the belief in witchcraft, but wrote a furious treatise
in support of it; [1829] and he dismissed the system of Copernicus
as too absurd for discussion. [1830] He also formally vetoes all
discussion on faith, declaring it to be dangerous to religion;
[1831] and by these conformities he probably saved himself from
ecclesiastical attack. [1832] Nonetheless, he essentially stood for
religious toleration: the new principle that was to change the face
of intellectual life. A few liberal Catholics shared it with him to
some extent [1833] long before St. Bartholomew's Day; eminent among
them being L'Hopital, [1834] whose humanity, tolerance, and concern
for practical morality and the reform of the Church brought upon him
the charge of atheism. He was, however, a believing Catholic. [1835]
Deprived of power, his edict of tolerance repealed, he saw the long
and ferocious struggle of Catholics and Huguenots renewed, and crowned
by the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day (1572). Broken-hearted,
and haunted by that monstrous memory, he died within six months.

Two years later there was put to death at Paris, by hanging
and burning, on the charge of atheism, Geoffroi Vallée, a man of
good family in Orléans. Long before, at the age of sixteen, he had
written a freethinking treatise entitled La Béatitude des Chrétiens,
ou le fléau de la foy--a discussion between a Huguenot, a Catholic,
a libertin, an Anabaptist and an atheist. He had been the associate
of Ronsard, who renounced him, and helped, it is said, to bring him
to execution. [1836] It is not unlikely that a similar fate would
have overtaken the famous Protestant scholar and lexicographer, Henri
Estienne (1532-1598), had he not died unexpectedly. His false repute of
being "the prince of atheists" [1837] and the "Pantagruel of Geneva"
was probably due in large part to his sufficiently audacious Apologie
pour Hérodote [1838] (1566) and to his having translated into Latin
(1562) the Hypotyposes of Sextus Empiricus, a work which must have made
for freethinking. But he was rather a Protestant than a rationalist. In
the former book he had spoken, either sincerely or ironically, of the
"detestable book" of Bonaventure Desperiers, calling him a mocker of
God; and impeached Rabelais as a modern Lucian, believing neither in
God nor immortality; [1839] yet his own performance was fully as well
fitted as theirs to cause scandal. It is in fact one of the richest
repertories ever formed of scandalous stories against priests, monks,
nuns, and popes. [1840]

One literary movement towards better things had begun before the
crowning infamy of the Massacre appalled men into questioning the
creed of intolerance. Castalio, whom we shall see driven from Geneva
by Calvin in 1544 for repugning to the doctrine of predestination,
published pseudonymously, in 1554, in reply to Calvin's vindication
of the slaying of Servetus, a tract, De Haereticis quomodo cum iis
agendum sit variorum Sententiæ, in which he contrived to collect
some passage from the Fathers and from modern writers in favour of
toleration. To these he prefaced, by way of a letter to the Duke
of Wirtemberg, an argument of his own, the starting-point of much
subsequent propaganda. [1841] Aconzio, another Italian, followed
in his steps; and later came Mino Celso of Siena, with his "long
and elaborate argument against persecution," De Haereticis capitali
supplicio non afficiendis (1584). [1842] Withal, Castalio died in
beggary, ostracized alike by Protestants and Catholics, and befriended
only by the Sozzini, whose sect was the first to earn collectively the
praise of condemning persecution. [1843] But in the next generation
there came to reinforce the cause of humanity a more puissant pen
than any of these; while at the same time the recoil from religious
cruelty was setting many men secretly at utter variance with faith.

In France in particular a generation of insane civil war for religion's
sake must have gone far to build up unbelief. Even among many who did
not renounce the faith, there went on an open evolution of stoicism,
generated through resort to the teaching of Epictetus. The atrocities
of Christian civil war and Christian savagery were such that Christian
faith could give small sustenance to the more thoughtful and sensitive
men who had to face them and carry on the tasks of public life the
while. The needed strength was given by the masculine discipline which
pagan thought had provided for an age of oppression and decadence,
and which had carried so much of healing even for the Christians
who saw decadence carried yet further, that in the fifth century
the Enchiridion of Epictetus had been turned by St. Nilus into a
monastic manual, even as Ambrose manipulated the borrowed Stoicism
of Cicero. [1844] With its devout theism, the book had appealed to
those northern scholars who had mastered Greek in the early years of
the sixteenth century, when the refugees of Constantinople had set
up Platonic studies in Italy. After 1520, Italian Hellenism rapidly
decayed; [1845] but in the north it never passed away; and from the
stronger men of the new learning in Germany the taste for Epictetus
passed into France. In 1558 the semi-Protestant legist Coras--later
slain in the massacre of St. Bartholomew--published at Toulouse a
translation of the apocryphal dialogue of Epictetus and Hadrian;
in 1566 the Protestant poet Rivaudeau translated the Enchiridion,
which thenceforth became a culture force in France. [1846]

The influence appears in Montaigne, in whose essays it is pervasive;
but more directly and formally in the book of Justus Lipsius,
De Constantia (1584), and the same scholar's posthumous dialogues
entitled Manducatio ad philosophiam stoïcam and Physiologia stoïcorum
(1604), which influenced all scholarly Europe. Thus far the Stoic
ethic had been handled with Christian bias and application; and
Guillaume Du Vair, who embodied it in his work La Sainte Philosophie
(1588), was not known as a heretic; but in his hands it receives no
Christian colouring, and might pass for the work of a deist. [1847]
And its popularity is to be inferred from his further production of a
fresh translation of the Enchiridion and a Traité de la philosophie
morale des stoïques. Under Henri IV he rose to high power; and his
public credit recommended his doctrine.

Such were the more visible fruits of the late spread of the Renaissance
ferment in France while, torn by the frantic passions of her pious
Catholics, she passed from the plane of the Renaissance to that of
the new Europe, in which the intellectual centre of gravity was to
be shifted from the south to the north, albeit Italy was still to
lead the way, in Galileo, for the science of the modern world.



§ 3. THE ENGLISH EVOLUTION

In England as in France the intellectual life undergoes visible
retrogression in the fifteenth century, while in Italy, with
the political problem rapidly developing towards catastrophe,
it flourished almost riotously. From the age of Chaucer, considered
on its intellectual side and as represented mainly by him, there is
a steep fall to almost the time of Sir Thomas More, around whom we
see as it were the sudden inrush of the Renaissance upon England. The
conquest of France by Henry V and the Wars of the Roses, between them,
brought England to the nadir of mental and moral life. But in the long
and ruinous storm the Middle Ages, of which Wiclif is the last powerful
representative, were left behind, and a new age begins to be prepared.

Of a very different type from Wiclif is the remarkable personality of
the Welshman Reginald (or Reynold) Pecock (1395?-1460?), who seems
divided from Wiclif by a whole era of intellectual development,
though born within about ten years of his death. It is a singular
fact that one of the most rationalistic minds among the serious
writers of the fifteenth century should be an English bishop,
[1848] and an Ultramontane at that. Pecock was an opponent at once
of popular Bibliolatry and of priestly persecution, declaring that
"the clergy would be condemned at the last day if they did not
draw men into consent to the true faith otherwise than by fire and
sword and hanging." [1849] It was as the rational and temperate
defender of the Church against the attacks of the Lollards in
general that he formulated the principle of natural reason as
against scripturalism. This attitude it is that makes his treatise,
the Repressor of Overmuch Blaming of the Clergy, the most modern of
theoretic books before More and Hooker and Bacon. That he was led to
this measure of rationalism rather by the exigencies of his papalism
than by a spontaneous skepticism is suggested by the fact that he
stands for the acceptance of miraculous images, shrines, and relics,
when the Lollards are attacking them. [1850] On the other hand, it
is hard to be certain that his belief in the shrines was genuine,
so ill does it consist with his attitude to Bibliolatry. In a series
of serenely argued points he urges his thesis that the Bible is not
the basis of the moral law, but merely an illustration thereof,
and that the natural reason is obviously presupposed in the bulk
of its teaching. He starts from the formulas of Thomas Aquinas, but
reaches a higher ground. It is the position of Hooker, anticipated by
a hundred years; and this in an age of such intellectual backwardness
and literary decadence that the earlier man must be pronounced by
far the more remarkable figure. In such a case the full influence of
the Renaissance seems to be at work; though in the obscurity of the
records we can do no more than conjecture that the new contacts with
French culture between the invasion of France by Henry V in 1415 and
the expulsion of the English in 1451 may have introduced forces of
thought unknown or little known before. If indeed there were English
opponents of scripture in Wiclif's day, the idea must have ripened
somewhat in Pecock's. Whether, however, the victories of Jeanne D'Arc
made some unbelievers as well as many dastards among the English is
a problem that does not seem to have been investigated.

Pecock's reply to the Lollards creates the curious situation of a
churchman rebutting heretics by being more profoundly heretical than
they. In his system, the Scriptures "reveal" only supernatural truths
not otherwise attainable, a way of safeguarding dogma not likely to
reassure believers. There is reason, indeed, to suspect that Pecock
held no dogma with much zeal; and when in his well-named treatise
(now lost), The Provoker, he denied the authenticity of the Apostles'
Creed, "he alienated every section of theological opinion in England."


    See Miss A. M. Cooke's art. Reginald Pecock in Dict. of
    Nat. Biog. This valuable notice is the best short account of
    Pecock; though the nature of his case is most fully made out by
    Hook, as cited below. It is characteristic of the restricted
    fashion in which history is still treated that neither in
    the Student's History of Professor Gardiner nor in the Short
    History of Green is Pecock mentioned. Earlier ideas concerning
    him were far astray. The notion of Foxe, the martyrologist,
    that Pecock was an early Protestant, is a gross error. He held
    not a single Protestant tenet, being a rationalizing papist. A
    German ecclesiastical historian of the eighteenth century (Werner,
    Kirchengeschichte des 18ten Jahrhunderts, 1756, cited by Lechler)
    calls Pecock the first English deist. See a general view of
    his opinions in Lewis's Life of Dr. Reynold Pecock (rep. 1820),
    ch. v. The heresies charged on him are given on p. 160; also in
    the R. T. S. Writings and Examinations, 1831, pp. 200-201. While
    rejecting Bibliolatry, he yet argued that Popes and Councils
    could make no change in the current creed; and he thus offended
    the High Churchmen. Cp. Massingberd, The English Reformation,
    4th ed. pp. 206-209.


The main causes of the hostility he met from the English hierarchy
and Government appear to have been, on the one hand, his change of
political party, which put him in opposition to Archbishop Bourchier,
and on the other his zealous championship of the authority of the
papacy as against that of the Councils of the Church. It was expressly
on the score of his denunciation of the Councils that he was tried
and condemned. [1851] Thus the reward of his effort to reason down the
menacing Lollards and rebut Wiclif [1852] was his formal disgrace and
virtual imprisonment. Had he not recanted, he would have been burned:
as it was, his books were; and it is on record that they consisted
of eleven quartos and three folios of manuscript. Either because of
his papalism or as a result of official intrigue, Church and lords
and commons were of one mind against him; and the mob would fain have
burned him with his books. [1853] In that age of brutal strife, when
"neither the Church nor the opponents of the Church had any longer a
sway over men's hearts," [1854] he figures beside the mindless prelates
and their lay peers somewhat as does More later beside Henry VIII,
as Reason versus the Beast; and it was illustrative of his entire
lack of fanaticism that he made the demanded retractations--avowing
his sin in "trusting to natural reason" rather than to Scripture and
the authority of the Church--and went his way in silence to solitude
and death. The ruling powers disposed of Lollardism in their own way;
and in the Wars of the Roses every species of heretical thought seems
to disappear. The bribe held out to the nation by the invasion of
France had been fatally effectual to corrupt the spirit of moral
criticism which inspired the Lollard movement at its best; and the
subsequent period of rapine and strife reduced thought and culture
to the levels of the Middle Ages.

A hint of what was possible in the direction of freethought in
the England of Henry V and Henry VI emerges in some of the records
concerning Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, the youngest son of Henry
IV. Gifted but ill-balanced, Humphrey was the chief patron of learning
in England in his day; and he drank deeply of the spirit of Renaissance
scholarship. [1855] Sir Thomas More preserves the story--reproduced
also in the old play, The First Part of the Contention of the two
Famous Houses of York and Lancaster--of how he exposed the fraud of
a begging impostor who pretended to have recovered his sight through
the virtue of a saint's relics; and a modern pietistic historian
decides that the Duke "had long ceased to believe in miracles and
relics." [1856] But if this be true, it is the whole truth as to
Humphrey's freethinking. It was the highest flight of rationalism
permissible in his day and sphere.


    On the view that Humphrey was a freethinker, the pious Pauli,
    who says (as cited, p. 337) of the Renaissance of letters, "The
    weak and evil side of this revived form of literature is that
    its disciples should have elevated the morality, or rather the
    immorality, of classical antiquity above Christian discipline and
    virtue," sees fit further to pronounce that the bad account of
    Gloucester's condition of body drawn up eleven years before his
    death by the physician Kymer is a proof of the "wild unbridled
    passions by which the duke was swayed," and throws a lurid light
    upon "the tendencies and disposition of his mind." Humphrey lived
    till 55, and died suddenly, under circumstances highly suggestive
    of poisoning by his enemies. His brothers Henry and John died
    much younger than he; but in their case the religious historian
    sees no ground for imputation. But the historian's inference is
    overstrained. In reality Humphrey never indicated any lack of
    theological faith. The poet Lydgate, no unbeliever, described
    him as "Chose of God to be his owne knyghte," and so rigorous
    "that heretike dar not comen in his sihte" (verses transcribed in
    Furnivall's Early English Meals and Manners, 1868, pp. lxxxv-vi).

    His most comprehensive biographer decides that he was "essentially
    orthodox," despite his uncanonical marriage with his second wife
    and his general reputation for sexual laxity. "He was punctilious
    in the performance of his religious duties" and "a stern opponent
    of the Lollards"; he "countenanced the extinction of heresy
    by being present at the burning at Smithfield of an old priest
    who denied the validity of the sacraments of the Church"; and an
    Archbishop of Milan pronounced him to be "known everywhere as the
    chiefest friend and preserver of Holy Church" (K. H. Vickers,
    Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: A Biography, 1907, pp. 223,
    321-23). Of such a personage no exegesis can make a rationalist.


Of other traces of critical thinking in England in that age there is
little to be said, so little literature is there to convey them. But
there are signs of the influence of the "pagan" thought of the
Renaissance in religious books. The old Revelation of the Monk of
Evesham, ostensibly dating from 1196, was first printed about 1482,
[1857] with a "prologe" explaining that it "was not shewed to hym only
for hym butte also for the confort and profetyng of all cristyn pepulle
that none man shuld dowte or mystruste of anothir life and world";
"and as for the trowthe of this reuelacyon no man nother woman ought
to dowte in any wise," seeing it is thus miraculously provided that
"alle resons and mocyons of infydelite the which risith often tymes of
man's sensualite shall utwardly be excluded and quenched." Evidently
the old problem of immortality had been agitated.



§ 4. THE REMAINING EUROPEAN COUNTRIES

Not till late in the fifteenth century is the intellectual side of
the Renaissance influence to be seen bearing fruit in Germany, of
which the turbulent and semi-barbaric life in the medieval period
was little favourable to mental progress. Of political hostility
to the Church there was indeed an abundance, long before Luther;
[1858] but amid the many traces of "irreligion" there is practically
none of rational freethinking. What reasoned thought there was, as
we have seen, turned to Christian mysticism of a pantheistic cast,
as in the teaching of Tauler and Eckhart. [1859]

Another and a deeper current of thought is seen in the remarkable
philosophic work of Bishop Nicolaus of Kues or Cusa (1401-1464), who,
professedly by an independent movement of reflection, but really as
a result of study of Greek philosophy, reached a larger pantheism
than had been formulated by any Churchman since the time of John the
Scot. [1860] There is little or no trace, however, of any influence
attained by his teaching, which indeed could appeal only to a very few
minds of that day. Less remarkable than the metaphysic of Nicolaus,
though also noteworthy in its way, is his Dialogue "On Peace, or
Concordance of Faith," in which, somewhat in the spirit of Boccaccio's
tale of the Three Kings, he aims at a reconciliation of all religions,
albeit by way of proving the Christian creed to be the true one.

In the Netherlands and other parts of western Europe the popular
anti-ecclesiastical heresy of the thirteenth century spread in various
degrees; but there is only exceptional trace of literate or properly
rationalistic freethinking. Among the most notable developments
was the movement in Holland early in the fourteenth century, which
compares closely with that of the higher Paulicians and mystics
of the two previous centuries, its chief traits being a general
pantheism, a denial of the efficacy of the sacrament of the altar, an
insistence that all men are sons of God, and a general declaration for
"natural light." [1861] But this did not progressively develop. Lack
of leisured culture in the Low Countries, and the terrorism of the
Inquisition, would sufficiently account for the absence of avowed
unbelief, though everywhere, probably, some was set up by the contact
of travellers with the culture of Italy. It is fairly to be inferred
that in a number of cases the murderous crusade against witchcraft
which was carried on in the fifteenth century served as a means of
suppressing heresy, rationalistic or other. At Arras, for instance,
in 1460, the execution of a number of leading citizens on a charge of
sorcery seems to have been a blow at free discussion in the "chambers
of rhetoric." [1862] And that rationalism, despite such frightful
catastrophes, obscurely persisted, is to be gathered from the long
vogue of the work of the Spanish physician Raymund of Sebonde, [1863]
who, having taught philosophy at Toulouse, undertook (about 1435)
to establish Christianity on a rational foundation [1864] in his
Theologia Naturalis, made famous later by Montaigne.

To what length the suppressed rationalism of the age could on occasion
go is dramatically revealed in the case of Hermann van Ryswyck, a
Dutch priest, burned for heresy at the Hague in 1512. He was not only
a priest in holy orders, but one of the order of Inquisitors; and he
put forth the most impassioned denial and defiance of the Christian
creed of which there is any record down to modern times. Tried before
the inquisitors in 1502, he declared "with his own mouth and with
sane mind" that the world is eternal, and was not created as was
alleged by "the fool Moses" that there is no hell, and no future
life; that Christ, whose whole career was flatly contrary to human
welfare and reason, was not the son of Omnipotent God, but a fool,
a dreamer, and a seducer of ignorant men, of whom untold numbers had
been slain on account of him and his absurd evangel; that Moses had
not physically received the law from God; and that "our" faith was
shown to be fabulous by its fatuous Scripture, fictitious Bible,
and crazy Gospel. And to this exasperated testimony he added:
"I was born a Christian, but am no longer one: they are the chief
fools." Sentenced in 1502 to perpetual imprisonment, he was again
brought forward ten years later, and, being found unbroken by that
long durance, was as an unrepentant heretic sentenced to be burned on
December 14, 1512, the doom being carried out on the same day. The
source of his conviction can be gathered from his declaration that
"the most learned Aristotle and his commentator Averroës were nearest
the truth"; but his wild sincerity and unyielding courage were all
his own. "Nimis infelix quidam" is the estimate of an inquisitor of
that day. [1865] Not so, unless they are most unhappy who die in
battle, fighting for the truth they prize. But it has always been
the Christian way to contemn all save Christian martyrs.


    There is a tolerably full account of Ryswyck's case in a nearly
    contemporary document, which evidently copies the official
    record. Ryswyck is described as "sacre theologie professorem
    ordinis predicatorum et inquisitorum"; and his declaration runs:
    "Quod mundum fuit ab eterna et non incipit per creationem
    fabricatum a stulto Mose, ut dicit Biblia indistincta.... Nec
    est infernus, ut nostri estimant. Item post hanc vitam nulla
    erit vita particularis.... Item doctissimus Aristoteles et
    ejus commentator Auerrois fuerunt veritati propinquissimi. Item
    Christum fuit stultus et simplex fantasticus et seductor simplicium
    hominum.... Quot enim homines interfecti sunt propter ipsum et suum
    Euangelium fatuum! Item quod omnia que Christus gessit, humano
    generi et rationi recte sunt contraria. Item Christum filium Dei
    omnipotentem aperte nego. Et Mosen legem a Deo visibiliter et
    facialiter suscepisse recuso. Item fides nostra fabulosa est,
    ut probat nostra fatua Scriptura et ficta Biblia et Euangelium
    delirum.... Omnes istos articulos et consimilos confessus est
    proprio ore et sana mente coram inquisitore et notario et testibus,
    addens: Ego Christianus natus, sed iam non sum Christianus,
    quoniam illi stultissimi sunt." Paul Frédéricq, Corpus documentorum
    Inquisitionis haereticae pravitatis Neerlandicae, Gent, 1889, i,
    494, 501-502.


Thus the Renaissance passed on to the age of the Reformation the
seeds of a rationalism which struck far deeper than the doctrine
of Luther, but at the same time left a social soil in which such
seeds could ill grow. Its own defeat, social and intellectual, may
be best realized in terms of its failure to reach either political or
physical science. Lack of the former meant political retrogression and
bondage; and lack of the latter a renewed dominion of superstition
and Bibliolatry--two sets of conditions of which each facilitated
the other.

Nothing is more significant of the intellectual climate of the
Renaissance than the persistence at all its stages of the belief
in astrology, of which we find some dregs even in Bacon. That
pseudo-science indeed stands, after all, for the spirit of science,
and is not to be diagnosed as mere superstition; being really
an à priori fallacy fallen into in the deliberate search for some
principle of coördination in human affairs. Though adhered to by many
prominent Catholics, including Charles V, and by many Protestants,
including Melanchthon, it is logically anti-Christian, inasmuch as it
presupposes in the moral world a reign of natural law, independent of
the will or caprice of any personal power. Herein it differs deeply
from magic; [1866] though in the Renaissance the return to the lore
of antiquity often involved an indiscriminate acceptance and blending
of both sorts of occult pagan lore. [1867] Magic subordinates Nature
to Will: astrology, as apart from angelology, subordinates Will
to Cosmic Law. For many perplexed and thoughtful men, accordingly,
it was a substitute, more or less satisfying, for the theory, grown
to them untenable, of a moral government of the universe. It was in
fact a primary form of sociology proper, as it had been the primary
form of astronomy; to which latter science, even in the Renaissance,
it was still for many the introduction.

It flourished, above all things, on the insecurity inseparable
from the turbulent Italian life of the Renaissance, even as it had
flourished on the appalling vicissitude of the drama of imperial
Rome; and it is conceivable that the inclination to true science
which is seen in such men as Galileo, after the period of Italian
independence, was nourished by the greater stability attained for a
time under absolutist rule. And though Protestantism, on the other
hand, adhered in the main unreasoningly to the theory of a moral
control, that dogma at least served to countervail the dominion of
astrology, which was only a dogmatism with a difference, and as such
inevitably hindered true science. [1868] On the whole, Protestantism
tended to make more effectual that veto on pagan occultism which had
been ineffectually passed from time to time by the Catholic Church;
albeit the motive was stress of Christian superstition, and the
veto was aimed almost as readily at inductive and true science as
at the deductive and false. We shall find the craze of witchcraft,
in turn, dominating Protestant countries at a time when freethinkers
and liberal Catholics elsewhere were setting it at naught.

There can be little doubt that, broadly speaking, the new interest
in Scripture study and ecclesiastical history told against the free
play of thought on scientific and scholarly problems; we shall find
Bacon realizing the fact a hundred years after Luther's start; and
the influence has operated down to our own day. In this resistance
Catholics played their part. The famous Cornelius Agrippa [1869]
(1486-1535) never ceased to profess himself a Catholic, and had small
sympathy with the Reformers, though always at odds with the monks;
and his long popular treatise De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum
et artium, atque excellentia verbi Dei declamatio (1531) is a mere
polemic for scripturalism against alike false science and true,
monkish superstition and reason. Vilified as a magician by the monks,
and as an atheist and a scoffer by angry humanists, [1870] he did
but set error against error, being himself a believer in witchcraft,
a hater of anatomy, and as confident in his contempt of astronomy as
of astrology. And his was a common frame of mind for centuries.

Still, the new order contained certain elements of help for a new life,
as against its own inclement principles of authority and dogma; and
the political heterogeneity of Europe, seconded by economic pressures
and by new geographic discovery, sufficed further to prevent any
far-reaching organization of tyranny. Under these conditions,
new knowledge could incubate new criticism. But it would be an
error-breeding oversight to forget that in the many-coloured world
before the Reformation there was not only a certain artistic and
imaginative sunlight which the Reformation long darkened, but even,
athwart the mortal rigours of papal rule, a certain fitful play of
intellectual insight to which the peoples of the Reformation became
for a time estranged.



CHAPTER XI

THE REFORMATION, POLITICALLY CONSIDERED


§ 1. THE GERMAN CONDITIONS

In a vague and general sense the ecclesiastical revolution known as
the Reformation was a phenomenon of freethought. To be so understood,
indeed, it must be regarded in contrast to the dominion of the Catholic
Church, not to the movement which we call the Renaissance. That
movement it was that made the Reformation possible; and if we have
regard to the reign of Bibliolatry which Protestantism set up, we seem
to be contemplating rather a superimposing of Semitic darkness upon
Hellenic light than an intellectual emancipation. Emancipation of
another kind the Reformation doubtless brought about. In particular
it involved, to an extent not generally realized, a secularization
of life, through the sheer curtailment, in most Protestant countries,
of the personnel and apparatus of clericalism, and the new disrepute
into which, for a time, these fell. Alike in Germany and in England
there was a breaking-up of habits of reverence and of self-prostration
before creed and dogma and ritual. But this liberation was rather
social than intellectual, and the product was rather licence and
irreverence than ordered freethought. On the other hand, when the
first unsettlement was over, the new growth of Bibliolatry tended
rather to deepen the religious way of feeling and make more definite
the religious attitude. Tolerance did not emerge until after a whole
era of embittered strife. The Reformation, in fact, was much more
akin to a revolt against a hereditary king than to the process of
self-examination and logical scrutiny by which men pass from belief
to disbelief in a theory of things, a dogma, or a document.

The beginning of such a process had indeed taken place in Germany
before Luther, insofar as the New Learning represented by such
humanists as Erasmus, such scholars as Reuchlin, [1871] and such
satirists as Ulrich von Hutten, set up a current of educated hostility
to the ignorance and the grosser superstitions of the churchmen. For
Germany, as for England, this movement was a contagion from the new
scholarship and Platonism of Italy; [1872] and the better minds in the
four universities founded in the pre-Lutheran generation (Tübingen,
1477; Mayence, 1482; Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1506; Wittemberg, 1502)
necessarily owed much to Italian impulses, which they carried on,
though the universities as a whole were bitterly hostile to the
new learning. [1873] The Dutch freethinker Ryswyck, as we saw, was
fundamentally an Averroïst; and Italy was the stronghold of Averroïsm,
of which the monistic bias probably fostered the Unitarianism of
the sixteenth century. But it was not this literary and scholarly
movement that effected the Reformation so-called, which was rather
an economic and political than a mental revolution.


    The persistence of Protestant writers in discussing the early
    history of the Reformation without a glance at the economic
    causation is one of the great hindrances to historic science. From
    such popular works as those of D'Aubigné and Häusser it is
    practically impossible to learn what socially took place in
    Germany; and the general Protestant reader can learn it only--and
    imperfectly--from the works on the Catholic side, as Audin's
    Histoire de la vie de Luther (Eng. tr. 1853) and Döllinger's Die
    Reformation, and the more scientific Protestant studies, such as
    those of Ranke and Bezold (even there not at any great length),
    to neither of which classes of history will he resort. In England
    the facts are partially realized, in the light of an ecclesiastical
    predilection, through High Church histories such as that of Blunt,
    which proceed upon a Catholic leaning. Cobbett's intemperate
    exposure of the economic causation has found an audience chiefly
    among Catholics.

    Bezold admits that "with perfect justice have recent historians
    commented on the former underrating of an economic force which
    certainly played its part in the spread and establishment of the
    Reformation" (Gesch. der deutschen Reformation, 1890, p. 563). The
    broad fact is that in not a single country could the Reformation
    have been accomplished without enlisting the powerful classes
    or corporations, or alternatively the de facto governments, by
    proffering the plunder of the Church. Only in a few Swiss cantons,
    and in Holland, does the confiscation seem to have been made to
    the common good (cp. the present writer's Evolution of States,
    pp. 311, 343). But even in Holland needy nobles had finally turned
    Protestant in the hope of getting Church lands. (See Motley, Rise
    of the Dutch Republic, ed. 1863, p. 131.) Elsewhere appropriation
    of Church lands by princes and nobles was the general rule.

    Even as to Germany, it is impossible to accept Michelet's
    indulgent statement that most of the confiscated Church property
    "returned to its true destination, to the schools, the hospitals,
    the communes; to its true proprietors, the aged, the child, the
    toiling family" (Hist. de France, x, 333; see the same assertion
    in Henderson, Short History of Germany, 1902, i, 344). Plans
    to that effect were drawn up; but, as the princes were left to
    carry out the arrangement, they took the lion's share. Ranke
    (Hist. of the Ref. bk. iv, ch. v; Eng. tr. 1-vol. ed. 1905,
    pp. 466-67) admits much grabbing of Church lands as early as 1526;
    merely contending, with Luther, that papist nobles had begun the
    spoliation. (Cp. Bezold, pp. 564-65; Menzel, Gesch. der Deutschen,
    cap. 393.) In Saxony, when monks broke away from their monasteries,
    the nobles at once appropriated the lands and buildings (Ranke,
    p. 467). Luther made a warm appeal to the Elector against the
    nobles in general (Ranke, p. 467; Luther's letter, Nov. 22, 1526,
    in Werke, ed. De Wette, iii, 137; letter to Spalatin, Jan. 1, 1527,
    id. p. 147; also p. 153). See too his indignant protests against
    the rapine of the princes and nobles and the starvation of the
    ministers in the Table Talk, chs. 22, 60. Even Philip of Hesse did
    not adhere to his early and disinterested plans of appropriation
    (Ranke, pp. 468-69, 711-12). All that Ranke can claim is that "some
    great institutions were really founded"--to wit, two homes for
    "young ladies of noble birth," four hospitals, and the theological
    school of Marburg. And this was in the most hopeful region.

    There is positive evidence, further, that not only ecclesiastical
    but purely charitable foundations were plundered by the Protestants
    (Witzel, cited by Döllinger, Die Reformation, ihre innere
    Entwickelung und ihre Wirkungen, 1846, i, 46, 47, 51, 62); and,
    as school foundations were confiscated equally with ecclesiastical
    in England, there is no reason to doubt the statement. Practically
    the same process took place in Scotland, where the share of Church
    property proposed to be allotted to the Protestant ministers
    was never given, and their protests were treated with contempt
    (Burton, History of Scotland, iv, 37-41). Knox's comments were
    similar to Luther's (Works, Laing's ed. ii, 310-12).

    Dr. Gardiner, a fairly impartial historian, sums up that, after
    the German settlement of 1552, "The princes claimed the right of
    continuing to secularize Church lands within their territories as
    inseparable from their general right of providing for the religion
    of their subjects.... About a hundred monasteries are said to have
    fallen victims in the Palatinate alone; and an almost equal number,
    the gleanings of a richer harvest which had been reaped before the
    Convention of Passau, were taken possession of in Northern Germany"
    (The Thirty Years' War, 8th ed. p. 11).


The credit of bringing the various forces to a head, doubtless,
remains with Luther, though ground was further prepared by literary
predecessors such as John of Wesel and John Wessel, Erasmus, Reuchlin,
and Ulrich von Hutten. But even the signal courage of Luther could
not have availed to fire an effectual train of action unless a
certain number of nobles had been ready to support him for economic
reasons. Even the shameless sale of indulgences by Tetzel was resented
most keenly on the score that it was draining Germany of money; [1874]
and nothing is more certain than that Luther began his battle not as
a heretic but as an orthodox Catholic Reformer, desiring to propitiate
and not to defy the papacy. Economic forces were the determinants. This
becomes the more clear when we note that the Reformation was only the
culmination or explosion of certain intellectual, social, and political
forces seen at work throughout Christendom for centuries before. In
point of mere doctrine, the Protestants of the sixteenth century
had been preceded and even distanced by heretics of the eleventh,
and by teachers of the ninth. The absurdity of relic-worship, the
folly of pilgrimages and fastings, the falsehood of the doctrine
of transubstantiation, the heresy of prayers to the saints, the
unscripturalness of the hierarchy--these and a dozen other points of
protest had been raised by Paulicians, by Paterini, by Beghards, by
Apostolicals, by Lollards, long before the time of Luther. As regards
his nearer predecessors, indeed, this is now a matter of accepted
Protestant history. [1875] What is not properly realized is that the
conditions which wrought political success where before there had
been political failure were special political conditions; and that
to these, and not to supposed differences in national character,
is due the geographical course of the Reformation.



§ 2. THE PROBLEM IN ITALY, SPAIN, AND THE NETHERLANDS

We have seen that the spirit of reform was strong in Italy
three hundred years before Luther; and that some of the strongest
movements within the Church were strictly reformatory, and originally
disinterested in a high degree. In less religious forms the same
spirit abounded throughout the Renaissance; and at the end of
the fifteenth century Savonarola was preaching reform religiously
enough at Florence. His death, however, was substantially due to
the perception that ecclesiastical reform, as conducted by him,
was a socio-political process, [1876] whence the reformer was a
socio-political disturber. Intellectually he was no innovator; on
the contrary, he was a hater of literary enlightenment, and he was
as ready to burn astrologers as were his enemies to burn him. [1877]
His claim, in his Triumph of the Cross, to combat unbelievers by
means of sheer natural reason, indicates only his inability to
realize any rationalist position--a failure to be expected in his
age, when rationalism was denied argumentative utterance, and when
the problems of Christian evidences were only being broached. The
very form of the book is declamatory rather than ratiocinative,
and every question raised is begged. [1878] That he failed in his
crusade of Church reform, and that Luther succeeded in his, was due
to no difference between Italian and German character, but to the vast
difference in the political potentialities of the two cases. The fall
of public liberty in Florence, which must have been preceded as it
was accompanied by a relative decline in popular culture, [1879] and
which led to the failure of Savonarola, may be in a sense attributed
to Italian character; but that character was itself the product of
peculiar social and political conditions, and was not inferior to
that of any northern population. [1880]


    The Savonarolan movement had all the main features of the
    Puritanism of the northern "Reform." Savonarola sent organized
    bodies of boys, latterly accompanied by bodies of adults, to
    force their way into private houses and confiscate things thought
    suitable for the reformatory bonfire. Burckhardt, p. 477; Perrens,
    Jérome Savonarole, 2e édit. pp. 140-41. The things burned included
    pictures and busts of inestimable artistic value, and manuscripts
    of exquisite beauty. Perrens, p. 229. Compare Villari, as cited;
    George Eliot's Romola, bk. iii, ch. xlix; and Merejkowski's The
    Forerunner (Eng. tr.), bk. vii. Previous reformers had set up
    "bonfires of false hair and books against the faith" (Armstrong, as
    cited, p. 167); and Savonarola's bands of urchins were developments
    from previous organizations, bent chiefly on blackmail. (Id.) But
    he carried the tyranny furthest, and actually proposed to put
    obstinate gamblers to the torture. Perrens, p. 132. Villari in
    his sentimental commemoration lecture on Savonarola (Studies
    Historical and Critical, Eng. tr. 1907) ignores these facts.


When, a generation later, the propaganda of the Lutheran movement
reached Italy, it was more eagerly welcomed than in any of the
Teutonic countries outside of the first Lutheran circle, though
a vigilant system was at once set on foot for the destruction of
the imported books. [1881] It had made much headway at Milan and
Florence in 1525; [1882] and we have the testimony of Pope Clement
VII himself that before 1530 the Lutheran heresy was widely spread
not only among the laity but among priests and friars, both mendicant
and non-mendicant, many of whom propagated it by their sermons. [1883]
The ruffianism and buffoonery of the German Lutheran soldiers in the
army of Charles V at the sack of Rome in 1529 was hardly likely to
win adherents to their sect; [1884] yet the number increased all over
Italy. In 1541-45 they were numerous and audacious at Bologna, [1885]
where in 1537 a commission of cardinals and prelates, appointed by
Pope Paul III, had reported strongly on the need for reformation in
the Church. In 1542 they were so strong at Venice as to contemplate
holding public assemblies; in the neighbouring towns of Vicentino,
Vicenza, and Trevisano they seem to have been still more numerous;
[1886] and Cardinal Caraffa reported to the Pope that all Italy was
infected with the heresy. [1887]

Now began the check. Among the Protestants themselves there had
gone on the inevitable strifes over the questions of the Trinity
and the Eucharist; the more rational views of Zwingli and Servetus
were in notable favour; [1888] and the Catholic reaction, fanned
by Caraffa, was the more facile. Measures were first taken against
heretical priests and monks; Ochino and Peter Martyr had to fly;
and many monks in the monastery of the latter were imprisoned. At
Rome was founded, in 1543, the Congregation of the Holy Office, a new
Inquisition, on the deadly model of that of Spain; and thenceforth
the history of Protestantism in Italy is but one of suppression. The
hostile force was all-pervading, organized, and usually armed with
the whole secular power; and though in Naples the old detestation
of the Inquisition broke out anew so strongly that even the Spanish
tyranny could not establish it, [1889] the papacy elsewhere carried
its point by explaining how much more lenient was the Italian than
the Spanish Inquisition. Such a pressure, kept up by the strongest
economic interest in Italy, no movement could resist; and it would
have suppressed the Reformation in any country or any race, as a
similar pressure did in Spain.


    Prof. Gebhart (Orig. de la Renais. en Italie, p. 68) writes that
    "Italy has known no great national heresies: one sees there no
    uprising of minds which resembles the profound popular movements
    provoked by Waldo, Wiclif, John Huss, or Luther." The decisive
    answer to this is soon given by the author himself (p. 74): "If
    the Order of Franciscans has had in the peninsula an astonishing
    popularity; if it has, so to speak, formed a Church within the
    Church, it is that it responded to the profound aspirations of
    an entire people." (Cp. p. 77.) Yet again, after telling how
    the Franciscan heresy of the Eternal Gospel so long prevailed,
    M. Gebhart speaks (p. 78) of the Italians as a people whom
    "formal heresy has never seduced." These inconsistencies derive
    from the old fallacy of attributing the course of the Reformation
    to national character. (See it discussed in the present writer's
    Evolution of States, pp. 237-38, 302-307, 341-44.) Burckhardt,
    while recognizing--as against the theory of "something lacking in
    the Italian mind"--that the Italian movements of Church reformation
    "failed to achieve success only because circumstances were
    against them," goes on to object that the course of "mighty
    events like the Reformation ... eludes the deductions of the
    philosophers," and falls back on "mystery." (Renaissance in
    Italy, Eng. tr. p. 457.) There is really much less "mystery"
    about such movements than about small ones; and the causes of the
    Reformation are in large part obvious and simple. Baur, even in
    the act of claiming special credit for the personality of Luther
    as the great factor in the Reformation, admits that only in the
    peculiar political conditions in which he found himself could he
    have succeeded. (Kirchengeschichte der neueren Zeit, 1863, p. 23.)

    The broad explanation of the Italian failure is that in Italy
    reform could not for a moment be dreamt of save as within the
    Church, where there was no economic leverage such as effected the
    Reformation from the outside elsewhere. It was a relatively easy
    matter in Germany and England to renounce the Pope's control
    and make the Churches national or autonomous. To attempt
    that in Italy would have meant creating a state of universal
    and insoluble strife. (Symonds, Renaissance in Italy, vol. i,
    ed. 1897, p. 369. Symonds, however, omits to note the financial
    dependence of Italian society on the papal system; and his verdict
    that Luther and the nations of the north saw clearly "what the
    Italians could not see" is simply the racial fallacy over again.)

    Apart from that, the Italians, as we have seen, were as much
    bent on reformation as any other people in mass; and the earlier
    Franciscan movement was obviously more disinterested than either
    the later German or the English, in both of which plunder was
    the inducement to the leading adherents, as it was also in
    Switzerland. There the wholesale bestowal of Church livings on
    Italians was the strongest motive to ecclesiastical revolution;
    and in Zürich, the first canton which adopted the Reformation,
    the process was made easy by the State guaranteeing posts
    and pensions for life to the whole twenty-four canons of the
    chapter. (Vieusseux, History of Switzerland, 1840, pp. 120,
    128; cp. Zschokke, Schweizerland's Geschichte, 9te Ausg. ch. 32,
    and Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, 1901, pp. 222-25, 295-96.) The
    Protestants had further the support of the unbelieving soldiery,
    made anti-religious in the Italian wars, who rejoiced in the
    process of priest-baiting and plunder (Vieusseux, p. 130).


The process of suppression in Italy was prolonged through sixty
years. In 1543 numbers of Protestants began to fly; hundreds more
were cast into prison; and, save in a few places, public profession of
the heresy was suppressed. In 1546 the papacy persuaded the Venetian
senate to put down the Protestant communities in their dominions, and
in 1548 there began in Venice a persecution in which many were sent to
the galleys. To reach secret Protestantism, the papacy dispersed spies
throughout Italy, Ferrara being particularly attended to, as a known
hotbed. [1890] After the death of the comparatively merciful Paul III
(1550), Julius III authorized new severities. A Ferrarese preacher was
put to death; and the Duchess Renée, the daughter of Louis XII, who
had notoriously favoured the heretics, was made virtually a prisoner
in her own palace, secluded from her children. At Faenza, a nobleman
died under torture at the hands of the inquisitors, and a mob in turn
killed some of these; [1891] but the main process went on throughout
the country. An old Waldensian community in Calabria having reverted
to its former opinions under the new stimulus, it was warred upon by
the inquisitors, who employed for the purpose outlaws; and multitudes
of victims, including sixty women, were put to the torture. [1892] At
Montalto, in 1560, another Waldensian community were taken captive;
eighty-eight men were slaughtered, their throats being cut one by
one; many more were tortured; the majority of the men were sent
to the Spanish galleys; and the women and children were sold into
slavery. [1893] In Venice many were put to death by drowning. [1894]

Of individual executions there were many. In a documented list of
seventy-eight persons burned alive or hanged and burned at Rome from
1553 to 1600, [1895] only a minority are known to have been Lutherans,
the official records being kept on such varying principles that it is
impossible to tell how many of the victims were Catholic criminals;
[1896] while some heretics are represented--it would seem falsely--as
having died in the communion of the Church. But probably more than half
were Lutherans or Calvinists. The first in the list (1553) are Giovanni
Mollio, [1897] a Minorite friar of Montalcino, who had been a professor
at Brescia and Bologna, and Giovanni Teodori [1898] of Perugia; and
the former is stated in the official record to have recommended his
soul to God, the Virgin Mary, St. Francis, and St. Anthony of Padua,
though he had been condemned as an obstinate Lutheran. The next victims
(1556) are the Milanese friar Ambrogio de Cavoli, who dies "firm in his
false opinion," and Pomponio Angerio or Algieri of Nola, a student aged
twenty-four, who, "as being obstinate, was burned alive." [1899] These
were the first victims of Caraffa after his elevation to the papal
chair as Paul IV. Under Pius IV three were burned in 1560; under Pius
V two in 1566, six in 1567, six in 1568, and so on. Francesco Cellario,
an ex-Franciscan friar, living as a refugee and Protestant preacher in
the Grisons, was kidnapped, taken to Rome, and burned [1900] (1569). A
Neapolitan nobleman, Pompeo de Monti, caught in Rome, was officially
declared to have "renounced head by head all the errors he had held,"
and accordingly was benignantly beheaded. [1901] Quite a number,
including the learned protonotary Carnesecchi (1567), are alleged
to have died "in the bosom of the Church." [1902] On the other hand,
some of the inquisitors themselves came under the charge of heresy,
two cardinals and a bishop being actually prosecuted [1903]--whether
for Lutheranism or for other forms of private judgment does not appear.

Simple Lutheranism, however, seems to have been the usual limit of
heresy among those burned. Aonio Paleario (originally Antonio della
Paglia or de' Pagliaricci) of Veroli [1904]--poet and professor of
rhetoric at Milan, hanged in 1570 (in his seventieth year) either for
denouncing the Inquisition or for Lutheranism--was an extreme heretic
from the Catholic point of view. His Actio in Romanos Pontificos et
eorum asseclas is still denounced by the Church. [1905] If, however,
he was the author of the Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Giesu
Crocifisso verso I Christiani, he was simply an evangelical of the
school of Luther, exalting faith and making light of works; and its
"remedies against the temptation of doubt" deal solely with theological
difficulties, not with critical unbelief. [1906] This treatise,
immensely popular in the sixteenth century, was so zealously destroyed
by the Church that when Ranke wrote no copy was known to exist. [1907]
The Trattato was placed on the first papal Index Expurgatorius in
1549; and the nearly complete extinction of the book is an important
illustration of the Church's faculty of suppressing literature.

The Index, anticipated by Charles V in the Netherlands several years
earlier, was established especially to resist the Reformation; and its
third class contained a prohibition of all anonymous books published
since 1519. The destruction of books in Italy in the first twenty years
of the work of the Congregation of the Index was enormous, nearly
every library being decimated, and many annihilated. All editions
of the classics, and even of the Fathers, annotated by Protestants,
or by Erasmus, were destroyed; the library of the Medicean College at
Florence, despite the appeals of Duke Cosmo, was denuded of many works
of past generations, now pronounced heretical; and many dead writers
who had passed for good Catholics were put on the Index. Booksellers,
plundered of their stocks, were fain to seek another calling; and
printers, seeing that any one of them who printed a condemned work
had every book printed by him put on the Index, were driven to refuse
all save works officially accredited. It was considered a merciful
relaxation of the procedure when, after the death of Paul IV (1555),
certain books, such as Erasmus's editions of the Fathers, were allowed
to be merely mutilated. [1908] The effect of the whole machinery
in making Italy in the seventeenth century relatively unlearned and
illiterate cannot easily be overstated.

In fine, the Reformation failed in Italy because of the economic and
political conditions, as it failed in Spain; as it failed in a large
part of Germany; as it would have failed in Holland had Philip II made
his capital there (in which case Spain might very well have become
Protestant); and as it would have failed in England had Elizabeth been
a Catholic, like her sister. During the sixty years from 1520 to 1580,
thousands of Italian Protestants left Italy, as thousands of Spanish
Protestants fled from Spain, and thousands of English Protestants from
England in the reign of Mary. [1909] To make the outcome in Italy and
Spain a basis for a theory of racial tendency in religion, or racial
defect of "public spirit," is to explain history in a fashion which, in
physical science, has long been discredited as an argument in a circle.


    McCrie, at the old standpoint, says of the Inquisition that "this
    iniquitous and bloody tribunal could never obtain a footing either
    in France or in Germany"; that "the attempt to introduce it in
    the Netherlands was resisted by the adherents of the old as well
    as the disciples of the new religion; and it kindled a civil war
    which ... issued in establishing civil and religious liberty";
    and that "the ease with which it was introduced into Italy showed
    that, whatever illumination there was among the Italians ... they
    were destitute of that public spirit and energy of principle which
    were requisite to shake off the degrading yoke by which they were
    oppressed." The ethical attitude of the Christian historian is
    noteworthy; but we are here concerned with his historiography. A
    little reflection will make it clear that the non-establishment
    of the Inquisition in France and Germany was due precisely to the
    fact that the papacy was not in these countries as it was in Italy,
    and that the native Governments resented external influence.

    As to the Netherlands, the statement is misleading in the
    extreme. The Inquisition set up by Charles V was long and fully
    established in the Low Countries; and Motley recognizes that it
    was there more severe even than in Spain. It was Charles V who,
    in 1546, gave orders for the establishment of the Inquisition
    in Naples, when the people so effectually resisted. The view,
    finally, that the attempt to suppress heresy caused the Dutch
    revolt is merely part of the mythology of the Reformation. Charles
    V, at the outset of his reign, stood to Spain in the relation
    of a foreign king who, with his Flemish courtiers, exploited
    Spanish revenues. Only by making Madrid his capital and turning
    semi-Spanish did he at all reverse that relation between the two
    parts of his dominions. So late as 1550 he set up an exceptionally
    merciless form of the Inquisition in the Low Countries, and this
    without losing any of the loyalty of the middle and upper classes,
    Protestantism having made its converts only among the poor. In
    1546 too he had set up an Index Expurgatorius with the assistance
    of the theological faculty at Louvain; and there was actually
    a Flemish Index in print before the papal one (McCrie, Ref. in
    Italy, p. 184; Ticknor, Hist. of Spanish Lit. 6th ed. i, 493).

    What set up the breach between the Netherlands and Spain was
    the failure of Philip II to adjust himself to Dutch interests
    as his father had adjusted himself to Spanish. The sunderance
    was on lines of economic interest and racial jealousy; and
    Dutch Protestantism was not the cause but the effect. In the
    war, indeed, multitudes of Dutch Catholics held persistently
    with their Protestant fellow-countrymen against Spain, as many
    English Catholics fought against the Armada. As late as 1600
    the majority of the people of Groningen were still Catholics,
    as the great majority are now in North Brabant and Limburg; and
    in 1900 the Catholics in the Netherlands were nearly a third of
    the whole. From first to last too the Dutch Protestant creed and
    polity were those set up by Calvin, a Frenchman.


To those accustomed to the conventional view, the case may become
clearer on a survey of the course of anti-papalism in other countries
than those mentioned. The political determination of the process in
the sixteenth century, indeed, cannot be properly realized save in
the light of kindred movements of earlier date, when the "Teutonic
conscience" made, not for reform, but for fixation.



§ 3. THE HUSSITE FAILURE IN BOHEMIA

That the causal forces in the Reformation were neither racial religious
bias nor special gift on the part of any religious teachers is made
tolerably clear by the pre-Lutheran episode of the Hussites in Bohemia
a century before the German movement. In Bohemia as elsewhere clerical
avarice, worldliness, and misconduct had long kept up anti-clerical
feeling; and the adoption of Wiclif's teaching by Huss [1910] at
the end of the fourteenth century was the result, and not the cause,
of Bohemian anti-papalism. [1911] The Waldensians, whose doctrines
were closely akin to those of Huss, were represented in Bohemia as
early as the twelfth century; and so late as 1330 their community
was a teaching centre, able to send money help to the Waldensians of
Italy. So apparent was the heredity that Æneas Sylvius, afterwards
Pope Pius II, maintained that the Hussites were a branch of the
Waldenses. [1912]

Before Huss too a whole series of native reformers, beginning
with the Moravian Militz, Archdeacon of Prague, had set up a partly
anti-clerical propaganda. Militz, who gave up his emoluments (1363) to
become a wandering preacher, actually wrote a Libellus de Anti-christo,
affirming that the Church was already in Anti-christ's power, or nearly
so. [1913] It was written while he was imprisoned by the Inquisition
at Rome at the instance of the mendicant orders, whom he censured. As,
however, the later hostility he incurred, up to his death, was on the
score of his influence with the people, the treatise cannot well have
been current in his lifetime. A contemporary, Conrad of Waldhausen,
holding similar views, joined Militz in opposing the mendicant friars
as Wiclif was doing at the same period; and the King of Bohemia (the
emperor Charles IV) gave zealous countenance to both. A follower of
Militz, Matthias of Janow, a prebendary of Prague, holding the same
views as to Anti-christ, wrote a book on The Abomination of Desolation
of Priests and Monks, and yet another to similar effect.

There was thus a considerable movement in the direction of Church
reform before either Huss or Wiclif was heard in Bohemia; and a
Bohemian king had shown a reforming zeal, apparently not on financial
motives, before any other European potentate. And whereas racial
jealousy of the dominant Italians was a main factor in the movement of
Luther, the much more strongly motived jealousy of the Czechs against
the Germans who exploited Bohemia was a main element in the salient
movement of the Hussites. [1914] Called in to work the silver mines,
and led further by the increasing field for commerce and industry,
[1915] the more civilized Germans secured control of the Czech church
and monasteries, appropriating most of the best livings. As they
greatly predominated also at the University of Prague, Huss, whose
inspiration was largely racial patriotism, wrought with his colleague
Jerome to have the university made strictly national. [1916] When,
accordingly, the German heads of the university still (1403 and 1408)
condemned the doctrines of Wiclif as preached by Huss, the motives
of the censors were as much racial and economic as theological; that
is to say, the "Teutonic conscience" operated in its own interest to
the exaltation of papal rule against the Czech conscience.

The first crisis in the racial struggle ended in Huss's obtaining a
royal decree (1409) giving three votes in university affairs (wherein,
according to medieval custom, the voting was by nations) to the
Bohemians, and only one to the Germans, though the latter were the
majority. Thereupon a multitude of the German students marched back to
Germany, where there was founded for them the university of Leipzig;
[1917] and the racial quarrel was more envenomed than ever.

At the same time the ecclesiastical authorities, closely allied
with the German interest, took up the cause of the Church against
heresy; and Archbishop Sbinko of Prague, having procured a papal bull,
caused a number of Wiclifian and other manuscripts to be burned [1918]
(1410), soon after excommunicating Huss. The now nationalist university
protested, and the king sequestrated the estates of the archbishop
on his refusal to indemnify the owners of the manuscripts. In 1411,
further, Huss denounced the proposed papal crusade against Naples,
and in 1412 the sale of indulgences by permission of Pope John XXIII,
exactly as Luther denounced those of Leo X a century later, calling the
Pope Antichrist in the Lutheran manner, while his partizans burned the
papal bulls. [1919] For the rest, he preached against image-worship,
auricular confession, ceremonialism, and clerical endowments. [1920]
At the Council of Constance (1415), accordingly, there was arrayed
against him a solid mass of German churchmen, including the ex-rector
of Prague University, now bishop of Misnia. Further, the Germans
were scholastically, as a rule, Nominalists, and Huss a Realist;
and as Gerson, the most powerful of the French prelates, was zealous
for the former school, he threw his influence on the German side,
[1921] as did the Bishop of London on the part of England. [1922] The
forty-five Wiclifian heresies, therefore, were re-condemned; Huss was
sentenced to imprisonment, though he had gone to the Council under a
letter of safe-conduct from the emperor; [1923] and on his refusal to
retract he was burned alive (July 6, 1415). Jerome, taking flight,
was caught, and, being imprisoned, recanted; but later revoked the
recantation and was burned likewise (May 30, 1416).

The subsequent fortunes of the Hussite party were determined as usual
by the political and economic forces. The King of Bohemia had joyfully
accepted Huss's doctrine that the tithes were not the property of the
churchmen; and had locally protected him as his "fowl with the golden
eggs," proceeding to plunder the Church as did the German princes
in the next age. [1924] When, later, the revolutionary Hussites
began plundering churches and monasteries, the Bohemian nobles in
their turn profited, [1925] and became good Hussites accordingly;
while yet another aristocracy was formed in Prague by the citizens
who managed the confiscations there. [1926] As happened earlier in
Hungary and later in Germany, again, there followed a revolt of the
peasants against their extortionate masters; [1927] and there resulted
a period of ferocious civil war and exacerbated fanaticism. Ziska,
the Hussite leader, had been a strong anti-German; [1928] and when
the emperor entered into the struggle the racial hatred grew more
intense than ever. On the Hussite side the claim for "the cup" (that
is, the administration of the eucharist with wine as well as bread,
in the original manner, departed from by the Church in the eleventh
century) indicated the nature of the religious feeling involved. More
memorable was the communistic zeal of the advanced section of the
Taborites (so called from the town of Tabor, their headquarters),
who anticipated the German movement of the Anabaptists, [1929] a small
minority of them seeking to set up community of women. For the rest,
all the other main features of later Protestantism came up at the
same time--the zealous establishment of schools for the young; [1930]
the insistence on the Bible as the sole standard of knowledge and
practice; inflexible courage in warfare and good military organization,
with determined denial of sacerdotal claims. [1931]

The ideal collapsed as similar ideals did before and afterwards. First
the main body of the Hussites, led by Ziska, though at war with the
Catholics in general and the Germans in particular, warred murderously
also on the extremer communists, called the Adamites, and destroyed
them (1421). Then, as the country became more and more exhausted
by the civil war, the common people gradually fell away from the
Taborites, who were the prime fanatics of the period. The zeal of
the communist section, too, itself fell away; and at length, in 1434,
the Taborites, betrayed by one of their generals, were defeated with
great slaughter by the nobles in the battle of Lipan. Meanwhile, the
upper aristocracy had reaped the economic fruits of the revolution at
the expense of townsmen, small proprietors, and peasants; [1932] and,
just as the lot of the German peasants in Luther's day was worse after
their vain revolt than before, so the Bohemian peasantry at the close
of the fifteenth century had sunk back to the condition of serfdom
from which they had almost completely emerged at the beginning. It is
doubtful, indeed, whether the material lot of the poor was bettered
in any degree at any stage of the Protestant revolution, in any
country. So little efficacy for social betterment has a movement
guided by a light set above reason.

That there was in the period some Christian freethinking of a finer
sort than the general Taborite doctrine is proved by the recovery
of the unprinted work of the Czech Peter Helchitsky (Chelcicky),
The Net of Faith, which impeached the current orthodoxy and the
ecclesiastico-political system on the lines of the more exalted
of the Paulicians and the Lollards, very much to the same effect
as the modern gospel of Tolstoy. In the midst of a party of warlike
fanatics Helchitsky denounced war as mere wholesale murder, taught the
sinfulness of wealth, declaimed against cities as the great corrupters
of life, and preached a peaceful and non-resistant anarchism, ignoring
the State. But his party in turn developed into that of the Bohemian
Brethren, an intensely Puritan sect, opposed to learning, and ashamed
of the memory of the communism in which their order began. [1933]
Of permanent gain to culture there is hardly a trace in the entire
evolution.



§ 4. ANTI-PAPALISM IN HUNGARY

As in Bohemia, so in Hungary, there was a ready popular inclination
to religious independence of Rome before the Lutheran period. The
limited sway of the Hungarian monarchy left the nobles abnormally
powerful, and their normal jealousy of the wealth of the Church
made them in the thirteenth century favourable to the Waldenses and
recalcitrant to the Inquisition. [1934] In the period of the Hussite
wars a similar protection was long given to the thousands of refugees
led by Ziska from Bohemia into Hungary in 1424. [1935] The famous
king Matthias Corvinus, who put severe checks on clerical revenue,
had as his favourite court poet the anti-papal bishop of Wardein,
John, surnamed Pannonicus, who openly derided the Papal Jubilee as a
financial contrivance. [1936] Under Matthias's successor, the ill-fated
Uladislaus II, began a persecution, pushed on by his priest-ruled queen
(1440), which drove many Hussites into Wallachia; and at the date
of Luther's movement the superior clergy of Hungary were a powerful
body of feudal nobles, living mainly as such, wielding secular power,
and impoverishing the State. [1937] As the crusade got up by the
papacy against the Turks (1514) drew away many serfs, and ended in a
peasant war against the nobility, put down with immense slaughter, and
followed by oppression both of peasants and small landholders, there
was a ready hearing for the Lutheran doctrines in Hungary. Nowhere,
probably, did so many join the Reformation movement in so short
a time. [1938] As elsewhere, a number of the clergy came forward;
and the resistance of the rest was proportionally severe, though
Queen Mary, the wife of King Louis II, was pro-Lutheran. [1939] Books
were burned by cartloads; and the diet was induced to pass a general
decree for the burning of all Lutherans. [1940] The great Turkish
invasion under Soliman (1526) could not draw the priests from their
heresy-hunt; but the subsequent division of sovereignty between John
Zapoyla and Ferdinand I, and above all the disdainful tolerance of the
Turkish Sultan in the parts under his authority, [1941] permitted of a
continuous spread of the anti-papal doctrine. About 1546 four bishops
joined the Lutheran side, one getting married; and in Transylvania
in particular the whole Church property was ere long confiscated to
"the State"; so that in 1556, when only two monasteries remained,
the Bishop withdrew. Of the tithes, it is said, the Protestant clergy
held three-fourths, and retained them till 1848. [1942] In 1559,
according to the same authority, only three families of magnates still
adhered to the pope; the lesser nobility were nearly all Protestant;
and the Lutherans among the common people were as thirty to one. [1943]

As a matter of course, Church property had been confiscated on
all hands by the nobles, Ferdinand having been unable to hinder
them. Soon after the battle of Mohäcs (1526) the nobles in diet
decided not to fill up the places of deceased prelates, but to make
over the emoluments of the bishoprics to "such men as deserved well
of their country." Within a short time seven great territories were
so accorded to as many magnates and generals, "nearly all of whom
separated from the Church of Rome, and became steady supporters
of the Reformation." [1944] The Hungarian "Reformation" was thus
remarkably complete.

Its subsequent decadence is one of the proofs that, even as the
Reformation movement had succeeded by secular force, so it was only to
be maintained on the same footing by excluding Catholic propaganda. In
Hungary, as elsewhere, strife speedily arose among Reformers on
the two issues on which reason could play within the limits of
Scripturalism--the doctrine of the eucharist and the divinity of
Jesus. On the former question the majority took the semi-rationalist
view of Zwingli, making the eucharist a simple commemoration;
and a strong minority in Transylvania became Socinian. The Italian
Unitarian Giorgio B