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ARNOLD DE VILLA NOVA. 421.
century would serve the purpose of illustrating the watchfulness of the Church, the unsound condition of the universities, the indirect patronage extended to heretics by eminent men, and the manner in which the rival powers, ecclesiasticism and philosophy, were preparing for their final conflict. As an example of the kind, I may present briefly that of Arnold de Villa Nova, born about A.D. 1250. He enjoyed a great reputation for his knowledge of medicine and alchemy. For some years he was physician to the King of Aragon. Under an accusation of defective orthodoxy he lost his position at court, his punishment being rendered more effective by excommunication. Hoping to find in Paris more liberality than he had met with in Spain, he fled to that city, but was pursued by an adverse ecclesiastical influence with a charge of having sold his soul to the Devil, and of having changed a plate of copper into gold. In Montpellier, to which he was obliged to retire, he found a more congenial intellectual atmosphere, and was for long one of the regents of the faculty of medicine. In succession, he subsequently resided in Florence, Naples, Palermo, patronized and honored by the Emperor Frederick II.-at that time engaged in the attempt to unite Italy into one kingdom and give it a single language-on account of his extraordinary reputation as a physician. Even the pope, Clement V., notwithstanding the unfortunate attitude in which Arnold stood toward the Church, besought a visit from him in hopes of relief from the stone. On his voyage for the purpose of performing the necessary operation, Arnold suffered shipwreck and was drowned. His body was interred at Genoa. The pope issued an encyclic letter, entreating those who owed him obedience to reveal where Arnold’s Treatise on the Practice of Medicine might be found, it having been lost or concealed. It appears that the chief offenses committed by Arnold against the Church were that he had predicted that the world would come to an end A.D. 1335; that he had said the bulls of the pope were only the work of a man, and that the practice of charity is better than prayer, or even than the mass. If he was the author of the celebrated book ” De Tribus Impostoribus,” as was suspected by some, it is not remarkable that he was so closely watched and disciplined. Like many of his contemporaries, he mingled a great deal of mysticism with his work, recommending, during his alchemical operations, the recitation of psalms, to give force to the agents used. Among other such things, he describes a seal, decorated with scriptural phrases, of excellent use in preserving one from sudden death. It appears, however, to have failed of its effect on the night when Arnold’s ship was drifting on an Italian lee-shore, and he had most need of it. The two antagonistic principles-ecclesiastical and intellectual-were thus brought in presence of each other. On other occasions they had been already in partial collision, as at the.
422 THE TWO IMPULSES AGAINST THE CHURCH.
iconoclastic dispute which originated in the accusations of the Mohammedans, and ended in the tearing asunder of Christendom. Again there was a collision, a few centuries later, when the Spanish Moors and Jews began to influence the higher European classes. Among the bishops, sovereigns, and even popes thus affected, there were many men of elevated views, who saw distinctly the position of Europe, and understood thoroughly the difficulties of the Church. It had already become obvious to them that it would be impossible to restrain the impulse arising from the vigorous movements of the Saracens, and that it was absolutely necessary so to order things that the actual condition of faith in Europe might be accommodated to or even harmonized with these philosophical conceptions, which it was quite clear would, soon or late, pervade the whole Continent. This, as we have seen, is the explanation of the introduction of Scholasticism from the Arabian schools, and its accommodation to the Christian code, on which authority looked with so much favor at first. But hardly had this attempt been entered upon before it became manifest that the risks to be incurred through the remedy itself were as evil as the anticipated dangers. There was then no other course than for the Church to retrace her steps, ostensibly maintaining her consistency by permitting scholastic literature, though declining scholastic theology. She thus allured the active intellect, arising in all directions in the universities, to fruitless and visionary pursuits. This policy, therefore, threw her back upon a system of repression; it was the only course possible; yet there can be no doubt that it was entered upon with reluctance. We do injustice to the great men who guided ecclesiastical policy in those times when we represent them as recklessly committing themselves to measures at once violent and indefensible. They did make the attempt to institute an opposite policy; it proved not only a failure, but mischievous. They were then driven to check the spread of knowledge-driven by the necessities of their position. The fault was none of theirs; it dated back to the time of Constantine the Great; and the impossibility of either correcting or neutralizing it is only an example, as has been said, of the manner in which a general principle, once introduced, will overbear the best exertions of those attempting to struggle against it. We can appreciate the false position into which those statesmen were thrown when we compare their personal with their public relations. Often the most eminent persons lived in intimacy and friendship with Jewish physicians, who, in the eye of the law, were enemies of society; often those who were foremost in the cultivation of knowledge-who, indeed, suffered excommunication for its sake-maintained amicable relations of a private kind with those who in public were the leaders of their persecutors. The systems were in antagonism, not the men. Arnold de Villa Nova, though excommuni-
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