Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/164

This page has been validated.

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

The next stage in this evolution was the development of an idea which acted with great force throughout the middle ages—the idea that science is dangerous. As we have seen in other chapters, there was evolved more and more a vivid sense of the interference of Satan with human affairs, and especially of the interference of the ancient gods whom St. Paul had explicitly declared to be devils, and who were naturally indignant at their dethronement. More and more suspicion attached to all men who attempted anything in the development of science. The old scriptural warrrant for the existence of sorcery and magic was brought in as a powerful argument against such men. The conscience of the time, therefore, acting in obedience to the highest authorities in the Church, and, as was supposed, in defense of religion, brought out a missile which it hurled against scientific investigators with deadly effect; the mediæval battlefields of thought were strewn with such; it was the charge of sorcery and magic—of unlawful compact with the devil. This missile was effective. We find it used against every great investigator of Nature in those times and for ages after. The list of great men in those centuries charged with magic, as given by Naudé, is astounding; it includes every man of real mark, and in the midst of them stands one of the most thoughtful popes, Sylvester II (Gerbert), and the foremost of mediæval thinkers on natural science, Albert the Great. It came to be the accepted idea that as soon as a man conceived a wish to study the works of God his first step must be a league with the devil.[1]

The first great thinker who, in spite of some stumbling into theologic pitfalls, persevered in a truly scientific path, was Roger Bacon. His life and works seem until recently to have been generally misunderstood: he was formerly ranked as a superstitious

    the text of the bull Spondent Pariter is given. For popular legends regarding Albert and St. Thomas, see Elephas Levi, Hist. de la Magie, chap. v.

  1. For the charge of magic against scholars and others, see Naudé, Apologie pour les grands hommes soupçonnés de Magie, passim; also, Maury, Hist, de la Magie, troisième édit., pp. 214, 215; also, Cuvier, Hist, des Sciences Naturelles, vol. i, p. 396. For a circumstantial account of this charge of magic against Pope Boniface VIII, see Milman, Latin Christianity, Book XII, chap. iii.