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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/74

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

treated the popular religious teachers with unbounded ridicule. The Minnesingers of Germany expressed freely their hatred of the tyranny of the Church; and the Provençal bards of France were unsparing in their attacks upon the hierarchy, until they were silenced by the fatal Albigensian crusade. The rising popular national literature. of England indignantly censured the monks and higher clergy, and spoke out boldly against the whole hierarchical system. The famous "Vision of Piers Ploughman," by William Langlande (a. d. 1362), one of the earliest pieces of English literature, is from the pen of an earnest reformer, "who values reason and conscience as the guides of the soul, and attributes the world's sorrows and calamities to the wealth and worldliness of the clergy, and especially of the mendicant orders"; while, also, Chaucer, in his "Canterbury Tales," shows himself in full accord with Wycliffe in hostility to the mendicant orders.

In many of these early writings, reverence for the Church and religion is blended with bitter, censures of the arrogance and wealth of the ecclesiastics. The spiritual power of the Pope is distinguished from his temporal power. The one is revered, the other denounced.

Again, we have the beginning of free thought in criticism in the idea of the comparative study of religion, as seen in the work "De Tribus Impostoribus."

Further, we have the beginning of free thought in philosophy, to wit: in the Mohammedan philosophy of the great infidel Averroes, introduced into Christendom from the Mohammedan universities of Spain; and there was also a struggle of the Church with Averroism, the subject of conflict being the nature of the soul, and the doctrines of emanation and absorption.

Furthermore, we have an effort at free thought in science. There were the leaders of science, Raymond Lully and Roger Bacon; there were also the Platonists—Barbaras, Curanus, Ticinus, Patricius, Picus, Agrippa, Paracelsus, Fludd, etc.; and again the theoretical reformers of science—Telesius, Campanella, Bruno, Ramus, and Melanchthon.

Moreover, there were discoveries which tended to diffuse knowledge, and so to awaken the mind of Europe—the art of making paper, the invention of gunpowder, and the discovery of the magnetic needle. There were, also, the universities. Instead of the Church being exclusively the only tribunal of opinion, the universities became now also centers of thought, with opinions and power of their own. Thus a certain new supremacy sprang up in the world of thought—a supremacy generally in accord with that of the Church, but sometimes antagonistic, and always more or less separate from it in the sphere of philosophy, science, and letters, here claiming to have an opinion of its own, and the claim being to some extent allowed.

Again, free thought found help in the jurists. They hated the Papal tyranny. Their study of the scattered remains of Roman law