Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/307

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which none the less sterilized the field of physical investigation for ages. That debased Platonism which had been such an important factor in the evolution of Christian theology from the earliest days of the Church continued its work. As everything in inorganic Nature was supposed to have spiritual significance, the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation were turned into an argument in behalf of the philosopher's stone: arguments for the scheme of redemption and for transubstantiation suggested others of similar construction to prove the transmutation of metals; the doctrine of the resurrection of the human body was by similar mystic jugglery connected with the processes of distillation and sublimation. Even after the middle ages were past strong men seem unable to break away from such reasoning as this;—among them such leaders as Basil Valentine in the fifteenth century, Agricola in the sixteenth, and Van Helmont in the seventeenth.

The greatest theologians aided in developing the fetichism in which much of this pseudo-science was grounded. One question largely discussed was, whether at the redemption it was necessary for God to take the human form. Thomas Aquinas answered that it was necessary, but William Occam and Duns Scotus answered that it was not; that God might have taken the form of a stone, or of a log, or of a beast. The possibilities opened to wild substitutes for science by this sort of reasoning were infinite. Men have often wondered how it was that the Arabians accomplished so much in scientific discovery as compared with Christian investigators: the reason is not far to seek; the Arabians were comparatively free from these mystic allurements, these theologic modes of thought which in Christian Europe flickered in the air on all sides, luring men into paths which led no-whither.

Strong investigators like Arnold de Villanova, Raimond Lully, Basil Valentine, Paracelsus, and their compeers, were thus drawn far out of the only paths which led to fruitful truths. In a work generally ascribed to Arnold of Villanova, the student is told that in mixing his chemicals he must repeat the psalm Exsurge Domine, and that on certain chemical vessels must be placed the last words of Jesus on the cross. Vincent de Beauvais insists that as the Bible declares that Noah, when five hundred years old, had children born to him, he must have possessed alchemical means of preserving life; and much later Dickinson insists that the patriarchs generally must have owed their long lives to such means. It was loudly declared that the reality of the philosopher's stone was proved by the words of St. John in the Revelation, "To the victor I will give a white stone." The reasonableness of seeking to develop gold out of the baser metals was for many generations based upon the doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body, which, though explicitly denied by St. Paul,