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THE THRONE OF THE WORLD

The middle years of this century were everywhere restless and turbulent. It is difficult to say whether new teachings were bringing to light a new attitude toward life, or whether on the other hand a new trend toward the secular, toward the independence of secular culture, created its own new dicta. As is always the case in periods of transition, doubtless both things happened, for they have a common root and the hour was ripe for this to send up shoots. The intimate relationship between thought and deed was no secret to men of that time; and the passion with which they warred against heresy which after this would never cease to exact the energies of the Popes is explained by their realization that false teachings or erroneous tenden- cies of thought are immeasurably more seriously evil than all the sins of concupiscence. For they distort life, nature and society at their roots. From the beginning until now the Catholic Church has con- sistently termed freedom of the intellect, when interpreted to mean freedom to have any opinion one wishes, the sin above all sins. In times when the Church had full authority over men, she punished destructive teaching by destroying the teacher. Augustine's heritage had not been forgotten either in the philosophy dominant in those times or in Church discipline. When the ideas and the moods which during the course of a human life he had seen strike at the heart of the Church appeared once again in the Middle Ages (the ideas and moods are not numerous, they are constantly the same) the Papacy under- took in the name of the Church the defense of its endangered being.

But it was not the Curia, it was the real Pope of this troubled rime who led the struggle against Abelard. This time also he would not heed the opinion of those who thought his policy mistaken. Saints, they said, existed for the purpose of influencing souls and of receiving honours after their death; they were ill-advised when they attempted to counsel the world. Now the man for whom Christianity was not a garment but the blood of life, and for whom earthly things were merely iron which the fire of God could transfix, stood opposed to a dialectician and a moralist, who seems to have anticipated the rimes of Pierre Bayle, and Rousseau who admired him. To this antagonist of Bernard, God and truth were eternally beyond the "earthly pole." Man seemed to him the only object with which one could deal directly. The divine, which to the mystic Bernard was alone real and near,


ABELARD