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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/72

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

selves, a hierarchy, a caste, a class that had undertaken the intellectual as well as much other schooling of Europe. They ruled in and throughout every sphere. They fixed everything in thought, religious doctrine, general philosophy, science, art, poetry—all. In a great measure they formed and controlled public opinion. They fashioned after their own views the minds of youth.

All this was well enough for a time. Europe needed it, and the gain was greater than the loss; better almost any education than no education; not but that their education was the best, but there comes a time when formal education by human teachers must cease—when "school is out"; and when this time arrived in Europe, and here and there men were in thought beginning to go without their teachers and beyond their teachers, then the Church, instead of, like a wise father, letting them go, tried to hold them.

The Church had become lifted up with the idea that theirs alone was the wisdom which could train, and theirs alone was the right to train; that it was their legitimate business. And so they tried to regulate thought—all the thought of the world so far as they could reach that world.

Learning was oppressed, original speculation in philosophy, original research in science, were prevented. Human reason was bound, for woe to him who claimed to find in metaphysics, mathematics, or the physical sciences that which contradicted what was stated! "The habit of doubt, the impartiality of suspended judgment, the desire to hear both sides of a disputed question, the going beyond what was taught," the making discoveries, all were condemned. Freedom, the condition of true inquiry, was cursed. Blind, unquestioning acceptance was blessed. The people were allowed a literature of imagination, but the effort was made to strictly keep them out of any moral and physical truth other than Rome had provided.

We now come to the change of the tide, to the beginning of better days for inquiry, to the dawn of the day of liberty. While liberty of thought was always more or less asserting itself, still, after a while, such assertion increased in emphasis and force. Several facts were favorable. It seems that, after all, the Church admitted the principle of freedom, for she advocated free thinking for herself. She maintained that religious belief and practice should not be brought under the absolute control of the civil government, and, by this assertion of the independence of the spiritual and therefore of the intellectual world, she prepared the way for the independence of the individual in these worlds. The language she held for herself as a whole, for herself in matters of religion and conscience, and for herself in the intellectual sphere, led the way for similar language by each person for himself.

Another great gain for freedom of thought was when secular government began to think for itself in its executive, legislative, and judi-