Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/8

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8

MODERN RATIONALISM.

freely modifying and combating the most fundamental points of tradition. At Rome there was less originality, but equal liberty and scepticism, when the great military nation found time at length for culture and reflection; all educated Romans were Stoics or Neo-Academic sceptics. In Judæa the Rationalistic spirit found emphatic expression in the Sadducees, who denied the most essential points of traditional belief—even the immortality of the soul.

And from the very commencement of the Christian era the spirit manifests itself in revolt. The Gnostics attempted a curious blending of Oriental mysticism and Platonic philosophy applied to Christianity. The great Trinitarian struggles of the fourth and fifth centuries were due to its operation. Even within the Church, at Alexandria, the then centre of the intellectual world, a semi-Rationalism was evolved, which culminated in the περι αρχων of Origen. A continuous series of heresiarchs illustrate it until the twelfth century, some of whom, as John Scotus Erigena, the celebrated Irish scholar of the tenth century, professed scepticism on the most fundamental points, such as the fire of hell and even the personal existence of the Deity. In the twelfth century the fierce renewal of intellectual life developed much Rationalism. Abelard seems to have been a typical, though a timid, free thinker, and made a strenuous effort to disentangle philosophy from theology. At the same time, Rationalism of a profound character was brought to bear upon the theological world from the Arab schools in Spain. So powerful was their influence, indeed, that Averroes came to be identified with Antichrist. Even among the pious schoolmen there were Rationalists. Joannes Paulus de Oliva cowardly retracted his teaching. Scotus was a semi-Rationalist; his English pupil, Occam, a thorough Rationalist, who boldly rejected the authority of the Church. In the fifteenth century the immigration of the Greeks to Italy after the fall of Constantinople led to a splendid revival of Greek art