dishonors the entire Court of the Papacy. * * * And the prelates! consider how eager they are for riches, how indifferent to the care of souls, * * * The religious (of the orders) are no better, and I except no Order whatsoever. * * * This people of clerks are a prey to pride, luxury and avarice. Everywhere, as at Paris and Oxford, they scandalize the laïcs * * * by their vices."
What remedy for this horrible state of things? What examples of holy living and dying does Bacon put forth for imitation? Why, the ancients like Zeno and Seneca, pagans all, and infidels like Avicenna, Alfarabius and the rest! We seem to hear the murmurs of the Renaissance in the words of this monk of the thirteenth century. If the church will not purge herself of evil he predicts the coming of the Tartars or the Saracens. In reality he was foretelling the Reformation. Terrible words like these led to his own imprisonment, again at Paris, in the year 1278. This time his punishment was strict. He was not released until a liberal general of his Order sent him home in 1293, an old man of some eighty years, to die in peace at Oxford.
The story of his life is told. Henceforward we are concerned only with the debt which modern science owes to him. But there are two errors into which we must not fall. In the first place those dark ages were not without illumination. Consider the group of great and liberal men who were Bacon's companions at Oxford in his early years, and that other group of free spirits at Paris. Consider the patience with which a pope tries for years to lighten his lot and the generosity with which he sets him free at last. Consider that the same history is almost exactly repeated by the enlightened general of his order who releases him in 1292.
And, again, let us see what were, in all likelihood, the suspect novelties for which he was punished. Like all the great and small of his time Bacon believed in astrology—in the influence of the stars upon the destinies of men. Was not Christianity itself ushered in by the portent of the Star of Bethlehem? An idea adopted from the Arab Albumazar, that the advent and continuance of religions depend upon the conjunctions of the planets, was his ruin. Christianity came in, he said, with a conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury, and all religions were to disappear at a future conjunction of Jupiter and the moon. This is the suspect novelty for which he was condemned by a chapter of his order; and who shall say that he was not justly condemned? If it were allowable in a superstitious age to cast horoscopes and to reckon up the influence of stars upon the fate of individuals, it would have been monstrous and suicidal for the church to agree that religions were subject to purely natural laws and conjunctions. No church could fail to strike home when threatened with