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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/75

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LIBERTY OF THOUGHT.

and civilization tended to generate mental freedom from prejudice and from authority.

We also have help to free thought in the revival of classical learning. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, among the many complicated causes which it would be difficult to trace, a general revival of Latin literature took place, which greatly modified the mental state of Europe. For the first time in centuries we find, feeble though it be, an uprising against the universal credulity and against the universal passion for theology. There was a strong desire for secular learning beginning to stir the mind of Europe. A taste was developed for philosophy, science, letters, and classical learning, an intellectual life which, while more or less suppressed in one land or another, one generation or another, by civil or ecclesiastical despotism, was destined to increase all over Europe and to continue until the present. Men thronged the universities to study not only theology, but also philosophy, law, medicine, science, belles-lettres, and the old literature of Greece and Rome. A desire arose among men to think for themselves in every sphere of thought. At this revival there was introduced into literature that principle of freedom to think which the Reformation brought into religion, and which principle Cartesianism brought next into philosophy; and, next, the French Revolution, four centuries from the beginning of the general movement, brought into politics.

Again, we have the rise of free thought in religion. Church tyranny was encountered by a resistance within the Church itself, which resistance could not be overcome. Many could not be restrained, confined, and controlled by the Church. Nowhere, in fact, did individual reason more boldly assert itself than in heresies and sects in the Church—in their denial of the infallibility of creeds, councils, and popes. The long rule of orthodoxy was broken through by many heresies, which, though often repressed, broke out again as often, and with new force and consistency. The minds of the learned were perplexed by sudden doubts concerning the leading doctrines of faith.

Every sort of new opinion in religion was entertained, notwithstanding ecclesiastical authority. An impartial philosophy was proclaimed by Abélard. A stern and uncompromising infidelity was taught in Seville and in Cordova, which infidelity began to overshadow the mind of Christendom. A passion for astrology and for the fatalism it implies revived, though there was, as yet, no general disposition to rise above the traditional teachings and fixed systems of the Church.

The Reformation was, among other things, an assertion of liberty of thought; was a partial emancipation of the mind of Western Christendom from bondage; was a teaching man to think for himself in the specific instance of the claims of the Romish Church to control all in religion; was, if not a complete emancipation, at least a great increase of liberty. This, in Germany, Denmark and Holland, England and