« AnteriorContinuar »
friendly relations one with another, and to make agreements by which each supplied what they possessed, and what was wanting to the others. We are ready to give you a pledge of our affection,' writes Durandus, abbot of La Chaise Dieu, to St. Anselm, 'and in return we will ask one of you. Choose what you will that we possess; as to us, our choice is the Epistles of St. Paul. Anselm was not content with collecting books; he spared no pains to correct them, and spent a good part of his nights in this employment. The multifa. rious duties which fell on him devoured so large a portion of his day that he could only supply the requisite time for his literary labors by defrauding him. self of sleep; and he would have resigned his office in order more exclusively to give himself up to meditation and study, had he not been withheld by the prohibition of Maurillus.
The subject which most frequently engaged his thoughts was the Being and Attributes of God. The first work which he wrote was bis Monologion, in which he endeavored to state the metaphysical arguments by which the existence of God might be proved even according to mere natural reason. The work was written at the request of some of the monks, but before publishing it he sent it to Lanfranc, desiring him to correct, and even to suppress, whatever he judged proper. After producing some other philosophical treatises, the thought occurred to him to try and discover whether it were possible, by fol. lowing any single course of reasoning, to prove that which in his Monologion he had supported by a variety of arguments. The idea took possession of his mind; sometimes he thought he had found what he was seeking for, and then again it escaped him. So utterly was he absorbed by the subject, that he lost sleep and appetite, and even his attention at the Divine office became distracted. Dreading lest it should be some dark temptation, he tried to banish the whole matter from his mind, but it was in vain ; the more he fled from his own thoughts the more constantly did they pursue him. At last one night every link in the chain being complete, he seized some waxen tablets, and wrote the argument as it stood clear and distinct in his mind. A copy was made on parchment by his monks, and this new work formed his Proslogion, which, at the desire of the legate Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, was published with his name attached.* Many were found both in his own and later times who took alarm at reasoning so bold and original, but Anselm defended his arguments in an Apology, which established his fame as the greatest metaphysician who had appeared in the Latin Church since the days of St. Augustine.
* The argument of this celebrated book is thus analyzed by M. Rémusnt, in his life of the saint. He who believes in God believes that there is something so grent that a greater can not be conceived. Dues such a nature really exist? The infidel who denies it, nevertheless understands what is meant by the idea, and this idea exists in his understanding, if it exist nowhere else. The mere idea of an object does not necessarily imply the belief in its existence. A puinter has an idea of a picture which he knows does not as yet exist. But this Something which is better and grenter than any thing of which we can conceive can not exist merely in our minds, for if it did exist only in our minds, we should be able to imagine it as existing in reality, that is to say, we should be able to conceive of it as being yet greater, a thing which according to our original supposition, was not to be allowed as possible. Therefore, that which is so great that nothing can be greater, must exist, not only in the mind, but in fact. Were the Being which is supposed to be above all that can be imagined, to be regarded as having no real existence, He would no longer be grenter than we could conceive. To make Him so, He must have existence. The contradiction is evident. There is then, really and truly, a Being above Whom nothing can be conceived, and Who therefore can not be thought of as though it were possible that he should not exist. And this Being, it is Thou, O my God! Et hoc es tu, Domine Deus noster !"
It is pleasant to trace in the system of education followed by so profound a thinker, the same paternal sweetness which characterized the older monastic teachers. Intellectual depths is often enough deficient in tenderness, and it would scarcely have been matter of surprise had we found the metaphysical mind of Anselm incapable of adapting itself to the simplicity and waywardness of childhood. But the problems which intellect alone is powerless to resolve, are quickly unlocked by the key of charity. Anselm would have been no saint had not his heart been far larger than his intellect; and his heart it was that communicated to him tliose three graces which one of our own poets has so beautifully described as bearing up the little world of education-Love, Hope, and Patience.* One day he was visited by the abbot of a neighboring monastery, who came to consult him on the proper manner of bringing up the children committed to his care. Those whom he had hitherto trained were, he said, most perverse and incorrigiblo. "We do our best to correct them,' he added; 'we beat them from morning till night, but I own I can see no improvement.' 'And how do they grow up ? inquired Anselm. 'Just as dull and stupid as so many beasts,' was the reply. “A famous system of education truly,' observed the abbot of Bec, 'which changes men into beasts. Now tell me, what would be the result, if, after having planted a tree in your garden, you were to compress it so tightly that it should have no room to extend its branches? These poor children were given to you that you might help them to grow, and be fruitful in good thoughts; but if you allow them no liberty, their minds will grow crooked. Finding no kindness on your part, they will give you no confidence, and never having been brought up to know the meaning of love and charity, they will see every thing around them in a distorted aspect. You beat them, you tell me? But is a beautiful statue of gold or silver formed only by blows? The weak must be treated with gentleness, and won with love; you must invite a soul to virtue with cheerfulness, and char. itably bear with its defects.' He then explained his own method of education, till at last the other cast himself at his feet, owning his imprudence, and promising in future to abandon his excessive severity.
The names of Lanfranc and St. Anselm have, of course, a special interest to English readers, although it is rather as abbots of Bec, than as archbishops of Canterbury that they find a place in these pages. The Norman Conquest, which placed Lanfranc on the episcopal throne of St. Augustine, must, however, be regarded as an important era in the scholastic history of England, from the total revolution which it effected in the ecclesiastical administration of that country.
• O'er wayward childhood wouldst thou hold firm rule,
And sun thee in the light of happy faces ?
Love, Hope, and Patience, these must be thy graces,
For, as old Atlas on his broad neck places
of education,-Patience, Love, and Hope.-COLERIDOE.
WILLIAM OF CHAMPEAUX AND PIERRE ABELARD. It was at the end of the eleventh century that William of Champeaux founded the celebrated Abbey of St. Victor under the shadow of St. Geneviève, and by the dialectic methods which be introduced into his teaching, has a claim to have commenced the work of forming the University out of the schools of Paris. For one at least, out of the two characteristics of a University, he prepared the way; for, though the schools were not public till after his day, so as to admit laymen as well as clerks, and foreigners as well as natives of the place, yet the logical principle of constructing all sciences into one sygtem, implied of course a recognition of all the sciences that are comprehended in it. Of this William of Champeaux, or de Campellis, Pierre Abelard (a native of Palais, near Nantz, in Britanny, where he was born in 1079,) was the pupil; he had studied the dialectic art elsewhere, before he offered himself for his instructions; and, in the course of two years, when as yet he had only reached the age of twenty-two, he made such progress, as to be capable of quarreling with his master, and setting up a school for himself.
This school of Abelard was first situated in the royal castle of Melun; then at Corbeil, which was nearer to Paris, and where he attracted to himself a considerable number of bearers. His labors had an injurious effect upon his health; and at length he withdrew for two years to his native Britanny. Whether other causes coöperated in this withdrawal, I think, is not known; but, at the end of the two years, we find him returning to Paris, and renewing his attendance on the lectures of William, who was by this time a monk. Rhetoric was the subject of the lectures he now heard; and after awhile the pupil repeated with greater force and success his former treatment of his teacher. He held a public disputation with him, got the victory, and reduced him to silence. The school of William was deserted, and its master himself became an instance of the vicissitudes incident to that gladiatorial wisdom (as I may style it) which was then eclipsing the old Benedictine method of the Seven Arts. After a time, Abelard found his reputation sufficient to warrant him in setting up a school himself on Mount St. Geneviève; whence he waged incessant war against the unwearied logician, who by this time had rallied his forces to repel the young and ungrateful adventurer who had raised his hand against him.
Great things are done by devotion to one idea; there is one class of geniuses, who would never be what they are, could they grasp a second. The calm philosophical mind, which contemplates parts without denying the whole, and the whole without confusing the parts, is notoriously indisposed to action; whereas single and simple views arrest the mind, and hurry it on to carry them out. Thus, men of one idea and nothing more, whatever their merit, must be to a certain extent narrow-minded ; and it is not wonderful that Abelard's devotion to the new pbilosophy made him undervalue the Seven Arts ont of which it had grown. He felt it impossible so to honor what was now to be added, as not to dishonor what existed before. He would not suffer the arts to have their own use, since he had found a new instrument for a new purpose. So he opposed the reading of the Classics. The monks had opposed them before him; but this is little to our present purpose ; it was the duty of men, who abjured the gifts of this world on the principle of mortification, to deny them. selves literature just as they would deny themselves particular friendships or figured music. The doctrine which Abelard introduced and represents was founded on a different basis. He did not recognize in the poets of autiquity any other merit than that of furuishing an assemblage of elegant phrases and figures; and accordingly he asks why they should not be banished from the city of God, since Plato banished them from his own commonwealth. The animus of this language is clear, when we turn to the pages of John of Salisbury and Peter of Blois, who were champions of the ancient learning. We find them complaining that the careful " getting up," as we now call it, "of books," was growing out of fashion. You.bs once studied critically the text of poets or philosophers; they got them by heart; they analyzed their arguments; they noted down their fallacies; they were closely examined in the matters which had been brought before them in lecture; they composed. But now, another teaching was coming in; students were promised truth in a nutshell; they intended to get possession of the sum-total of philosophy in less than two or three years; and facts were apprehended, not in their substance and details, by means of living aud, as it were, personal documents, but in dead abstracts and tables. Such were the reclamations to which the new Logic gave occasion. the beginning of a fire, he says, a “Universitas iniquitatis;" and alas! such did it become in the mouth of the gifted Abelard. His eloquence was wonderful; he dazzled his contemporaries, says Fulco,“ by the brilliancy of liis genius, the sweetness of his eloquence, the ready flow of his language, and the subtlety of his knowledge.” People came to him from all quarters;—from Rome, in spite of mountains and robbers; from England in spite of the sea; from Flanders and Germany; from Normandy, and the remote districts of France; from Angers and Poitiers; from Navarre by the Pyrenees, and from Spain, besides the students of Paris itself; and among those, who sought his instructious now or afterwards, were the great luminaries of the schools in the next generation. Such were Peter of Poitiers, Peter Lombard, John of Salisbury, Arnold of Brescia, Ivo, and Geoffrey of Auxerre. It was too much for a weak head and heart, weak in spite of intellectual power; for vanity will possess the head, and worldliness the heart, of the man, however gifted, whose wisdom is not an effluence of the Eternal Light.
These, however, are lesser matters; we have a graver quarrel with Abelard than that of his undervaluing the Classics. As I have said, my main object here is not what be taught, but why and how, and how he lived. Now it is certain, his activity was stimulated by nothing very high, but something very earthly and sordid. I grant there is nothing morally wrong in the mere desire to rise in the world, though Ambition and it are twin sisters. I should not blame Abelard merely for wishing to distinguish himself at the University; but when he makes the ecclesiastical state the instrument of his ambition, mixes up spiritual matters with temporal, and aims at a bishopric through the medium of his logic, he joins together things incompatible, and can not complain of being censured. It is he himself, who tells us, unless my memory plays me false, that the circumstance of William of Champeaux being promoted to the see of Clralons, was an incentive to him to pursue the same path with an eye to the same reward. Accordingly, we next hear of his attending the theological lectures of a certain master of William's, named Anselm, an old man, whose school was situated at Laon. This person had a great reputation in his day; John of Salisbury, speaking of him in the next generation, calls him the doctor of doctors; he had been attended by students from Italy and Germany; but the age had advauced since he was in his prime, and Abelard was disappointed in a teacher, who had been good enough for William. He left Anselm, and began to lecture on the prophet Ezekiel on his own resources.
Now came the time of his great popularity, which was more than his head could bear; wbich dizzied him, took him off his legs, and whirled him to his destruction. I spoke in my foregoing chapter of those three qualities of true wisdom, which a University, absolutely and nakedly considered, apart from the safeguards which constitute its integrity, is sure to compromise. Wisdom, says the inspired writer, is desur: um, is pudica, is pacifica, “from above, chaste, peaceable.” We have already seen enough of Abelard's career to understand that his wisdom, instead of being "pacifica," was ambitious and contentious. An Apostle speaks of the tongue both as a blessing and as a curse. It may be
True wisdom is not only " pacifica," it is “pudica ;" chaste as well as peaceable. Alas for Abelard! a second disgrace, deeper than ambition, is his portion now. The strong man,-the Samson of the schools in the wildness of his course, the Solomon in the fascination of his genius,-shivers and falls before the temptation which overcame that mighty pair, the most excelling in body and in mind.
Desire of wine, and all delicious drinks,
In a time when Colleges were unknown, and the young scholar was commouly thrown upon the dubious hospitality of a great city, Abelard might even be thought careful of his honor, that he went to lodge with an old ecclesiastic, had not his host's niece Eloisa lived with him. A more subtle snare was laid for him than beset the heroic champion or the all-accomplished monarch of Israel; for sensuality came upon him under the guise of intellect, and it was the high mental endowments of Eloisa, who became his pupil, speaking in her eyes, and thrilling on her tongue, which were the intoxication and the delirium of Abelard. ...
He is judged, he is punished;—but he is not reclaimed. True wisdom is not only “pacifica," not only “pudica;" it is “desursum” too. It is a revelation from above; it knows heresy as little as it knows strife or licence. But Abelard, who had run the career of earthly wisdom in two of its phases, now is destined to represent its third.
It is at the famous Abbey of St. Denis that we find him languidly rising from his dream of sin, and the suffering that followed. The bad dream is cleared away; clerks come to him, and the Abbot,-begging him to lecture still, for love now, as for gain before. Once more his school is thronged by the