Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/March 1892/New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Astronomy I
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
THE next great series of battles was fought regarding the relations of the earth to the heavenly bodies. In the early Church, astronomy like other branches of science, was very generally looked upon as futile, in view of the doctrine, so prominent in the New Testament, that the earth was in its last days. At best, the heavenly bodies were only objects of pious speculation. Some theologians, remembering the beautiful poetic vision of the morning stars singing together, revived an old theory that the heavenly lights have immortal souls. Tertullian's view of the solar system is seen in his theory that an eclipse of the sun was simply a sign of the wrath of God against unbelief. St. Augustine gave forth as final truth in sacred science a statement, based upon the Psalms, that "the heavens are like a curtain"; but his view of any scientific study is shown by his ejaculation, "What concern is it to me whether the heavens as a sphere inclose the earth in the middle of the world, or overhang it on either side?"
The prevailing view in the Church was based upon the declarations in Genesis that a solid vault—a "firmament"—was extended above the earth, and that the heavenly bodies were simply lights hung within it. This view plays a great part in the sacred theory established so firmly by the monk Cosmas in the sixth century. Having based his plan of the universe upon various texts in the Old and New Testaments, and having made it a vast oblong box, covered by the solid "firmament," he brings in an additional view from Scripture to account for the planetary movements, and develops at length the theory that the sun and planets are moved and the "windows of heaven" opened and shut by angels appointed for that purpose.
How intensely real this way of looking at the universe was, we find in the writings of St. Isidore, the greatest leader of orthodox thought in the seventh century. He affirms that since the fall of man, and on account of it, the sun and moon shine with a feebler light; but he proves from a text in Isaiah that when the world shall be fully redeemed these "great lights" will shine again in all their early splendor. But despite these authorities and their theological finalities, the evolution of scientific thought continued, its main germ being the geocentric doctrine—the doctrine that the earth is the center, and that the sun and planets revolve about it.
This doctrine was of the highest respectability: it had been developed at a very early period, and had been elaborated until it accounted well for the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies; its final name—"Ptolemaic theory"—carried weight; and, having thus come from antiquity into the Christian world, it was finally acquiesced in and universally held to agree with the letter and spirit of Scripture.
Wrought into this foundation, and based upon it, there was developed in the middle ages, by means of Scriptural texts and theological reasonings, a new sacred system of astronomy, which became one of the great treasures of the universal Church—the last word of revelation.
Three great men mainly reared this structure. First was the unknown who gave to the world the treatises ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite. It was unhesitatingly believed that these were the work of St. Paul's Athenian convert, and therefore virtually by St. Paul himself. Though now known to be spurious, they were then considered a treasure of inspiration, and an Emperor of the East sent them to an Emperor of the West as the most worthy of gifts. In the ninth century they were widely made known in western Europe, and became a fruitful source of thought, especially on the whole celestial hierarchy; thus the old ideas of astronomy were vastly developed; and the heavenly hosts were classed and named in accordance with indications scattered through the sacred Scriptures.
The next of these three great theologians was Peter Lombard, professor at the University of Paris. About the middle of the twelfth century he gave forth his collection of "Sentences," or Statements by the Fathers, and this remained until the end of the middle ages the universal manual of theology. In it was especially developed the theological view of man's relation to the universe. The author tells the world: "Just as man is made for the sake of God—that is, that he may serve Him,—so the universe is made for the sake of man,—that is, that it may serve him; therefore is man placed at the middle point of the universe, that he may both serve and be served."
The vast significance of this view, and its power in resisting any real astronomical science, we shall see, especially in the time of Galileo.
The great triad of thinkers culminated in St. Thomas Aquinas, the sainted theologian, the glory of the mediæval Church, the "Angelic Doctor," the most marvelous intellect between Aristotle and Newton; he to whom it was believed that an image of the Crucified had spoken words praising his writings. Large of mind, strong, acute, yet just—even more than just—to his opponents, he gave forth, in the latter half of the thirteenth century, his Cyclopædia of Theology, the "Summa." In this he carried the sacred theory of the universe to its full development. With great power and clearness he brought the whole vast system, material and spiritual, into its relations to God and man.
Such was the vast system developed by these three leaders of mediæval thought; and now came the man who wrought it yet more deeply into European belief, the poet divinely inspired who made the system part of the world's life. Under the touch of Dante the empyrean and the concentric heavens, paradise, purgatory, and hell, were seen of all men; the God Triune seated on his throne upon the circle of the heavens as real as the Pope seated in the chair of St. Peter; the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, surrounding the Almighty, as real as the cardinals surrounding the Pope; the three great orders of angels in heaven as real as the three great orders, bishops, priests, and deacons, on earth; and the whole system of spheres each revolving within the one above it and all moving about the earth, subject to the primum mobile, as real as the feudal system of western Europe, subject to the emperor.
Let us look into this vast creation—the highest achievement of theology—somewhat more closely.
Its first feature shows an evolution: the earth is no longer the flat plain inclosed by four walls and solidly vaulted above, as theologians of previous centuries had believed it, under the inspiration of the monk Cosmas; it is no longer a mere flat disk with sun, moon, and stars hung up to give it light, as the earlier cathedral sculptors had figured it; it has become a globe at the center of the universe. Encompassing it are ten successive, transparent spheres, nine of them rotated by angels about the earth, and each carrying one of the heavenly bodies with it: that nearest the earth carrying the moon; the next. Mercury; the next, Venus; the next, the sun; the next three. Mars, Jupiter, and, Saturn. The tenth heaven, inclosing all these, was the empyrean This was immovable,—the boundary between creation and the great outer void; and here, in a light which no one can enter, the Triune God sat enthroned—the "music of the spheres" rising to him as they move.
In attendance upon the Divine Majesty, thus enthroned are vast hosts of angels, and these are divided into three hierarchies, one serving in the empyrean, one in the heaven between the empyrean and the earth, and one on the earth.
Each of these hierarchies is divided into three choirs or orders; the first, into the orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; and the main occupation of these is to chant incessantly, to "continually cry" the divine praises.
The order of thrones conveys God's will to the second hierarchy—which serves in the movable heavens. This second hierarchy is also made up of three orders. The first of these, the order of Dominions, receives the divine commands; the second, the order of Powers, moves the heavens, sun, moon, planets, and stars, opens and shuts the "windows of heaven," and brings to pass all other celestial ; the third, the order of Empire, guards the others.
The third and lowest hierarchy is also made up of three orders. First of these are the Principalities—the guardian spirits of nations and kingdoms: next come Archangels; these protect religion, and bear the prayers of the saints to the foot of God's throne: finally, come Angels; these care for earthly affairs in general—one being appointed to each mortal, and others taking charge of the qualities of plants, metals, stones, and the like. Throughout the whole system, from the great Triune God to the lowest group of angels, we see at work the mystic power attached to the triangle and sacred number three—the same which gave the triune idea to ancient Hindoo theology, which developed the triune deities in Egypt, and which transmitted this theological gift to the Christian world, especially through the Egyptian monk Athanasius.
Below the earth is hell. This is tenanted by the angels who rebelled under the lead of Luciferprince of the seraphim—the former favorite of the Trinity; but of these rebellious angels, some still rove among the planetary spheres, and give trouble to the good angels; others pervade the atmosphere about the earth—carrying lightning, storm, drought, and hail. Others infest earthly society, tempting men to sin; but Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas take pains to show that the work of these devils is, after all, but to discipline man or to mete out deserved punishment.
All this vast scheme had been so knit into the Ptolemaic view and interwoven with it by the use of biblical texts and theological reasonings that the resultant system of the universe was considered impregnable and final. To attack it was blasphemy.
This system stood for centuries. Great theological scientists in following ages, like Vincent de Beauvais and Cardinal d'Ailly, devoted themselves to showing not only that it was supported by Scripture, but that it supported Scripture. Thus was the geocentric theory imbedded in the beliefs and aspirations, in the hopes and fears, of Christendom down to the middle of the sixteenth century.
But, on the other hand, there had been planted, long before, the germs of the heliocentric theory. In the sixth century before our era, Pythagoras, and after him Philolaus, had suggested the movement of the earth and planets about a central fire; and three centuries later, Aristarchus had restated the main truth with striking precision. Here comes in a proof that the antagonism between theological and scientific methods is not confined to Christianity; for this statement brought upon Aristarchus the charge of blasphemy, and drew after it a cloud of prejudice which hid the truth for six hundred years:—not until the fifth century of our era does it timidly appear in the thoughts of Martianus Capella: then it is again lost to sight for a thousand years, until in the fifteenth century, distorted and imperfect, it appears in the writings of Cardinal Nicholas de Cusa.
But in the shade cast by the vast system which had grown from the mind of the great theologians and from the heart of the great poet there had come to this truth neither bloom nor fruitage.
Quietly, however, the soil was receiving enrichment and the air warmth. The processes of mathematics were constantly improved, the heavenly bodies were steadily observed, and at length appeared, far off from the centers of thought, on the borders of Poland, a plain, simple-minded scholar, who first fairly uttered to the modern world the truth—now so commonplace, then so astounding,—that the sun and planets do not revolve about the earth, but that the earth and planets revolve about the sun; and this man was Nicholas Copernicus.
Copernicus had been a professor at Rome, and even as early as 1500 had announced his doctrine there, but more in the way of a scientific curiosity or paradox, as it had been previously held by Cardinal de Cusa, than as the statement of a system representing a great fact in nature. About thirty years later one of his disciples, Widmanstadt, had explained it to Clement VII; but it still remained a mere hypothesis, and soon, like so many others, disappeared from the public view. But to Copernicus, steadily studying the subject, it became more and more a reality, and as the truth grew within him he seemed to feel that
at Rome he was no longer safe. To announce his discovery there as a theory or a paradox might amuse the papal court, but to announce it as a truth—as the truth—was a far different matter. He therefore returned to his little town in Poland.
To publish his thought as it had now developed was evidently dangerous even there, and for more than thirty years it lay slumbering in the mind of Copernicus and of the friends to whom he had privately intrusted it.
At last he prepares his great work on the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, and dedicates it to the Pope himself. He next seeks a place of publication: he dares not send it to Rome, for there are the rulers of the older Church ready to seize it; he dares not send it to Wittenberg, for there are the leaders of Protestantism no less hostile; it is therefore intrusted to Osiander, at Nuremberg.
But Osiander's courage fails him: he dares not launch the new thought boldly. He writes a groveling preface, endeavoring to excuse Copernicus for his novel idea, and in this he inserts the apologetic lie that Copernicus propounds the doctrine of the earth's movement not as a fact, but as a hypothesis; he declares that it is lawful for an astronomer to indulge his imagination, and that this is what Copernicus has done.
Thus was the greatest and most ennobling, perhaps, of scientific truths—a truth not less ennobling to religion than to science—forced in coming before the world to sneak and crawl.
On the 24th of May, 1543, the newly printed book arrived at the house of Copernicus. It was put into his hands; but he was on his death-bed. A few hours later he was beyond the reach of the conscientious men who would have blotted his reputation, and perhaps have destroyed his life.
Yet not wholly beyond their reach. Even death could not be trusted to shield him. There seems to have been fear of vengeance upon his corpse, for on his tombstone was placed no record of his life-long labors, no mention of his great discovery; but there was graven upon it simply a prayer: "I ask not the grace accorded to Paul; not that given to Peter; give me only the favor
which Thou didst show to the thief on the cross." Not till thirty years after did a friend dare write on his tombstone a memorial of his discovery.
The preface of Osiander, pretending that the book of Copernicus suggested a hypothesis instead of announcing a truth, served its purpose well as regards the book itself. During nearly seventy years the Church authorities evidently thought it best not to stir the matter, and in some cases professors like Calganini were allowed to present the new view purely as a hypothesis. There were, indeed, mutterings from time to time on the theological side, but there was no great demonstration against the system until 1616. Then, when the Copernican doctrine was upheld by Galileo as a truth, and proved to be a truth by his telescope, the book was taken in hand by the Roman curia. The statements of Copernicus were condemned "until they should be corrected," and the corrections required were simply such as would substitute for his conclusions the old Ptolemaic theory.
That this was their purpose was seen in that year when Galileo was forbidden to teach or discuss the Copernican theory, and when were forbidden "all books which affirm the motion of the earth." Henceforth to read the work of Copernicus was to risk damnation, and the world accepted the decree.
There was, indeed, in Europe one man who might have done much to check this current of unreason which was to sweep away so many thoughtful men on the one hand from scientific knowledge, and so many on the other from Christianity. This was Peter Apian. He was one of the great mathematical and astronomical scholars of the time. His brilliant abilities had made him the astronomical teacher of the Emperor Charles V; his work on geography had brought him a world-wide reputation; his work on astronomy brought him a patent of nobility; his improvements in mathematical processes and astronomical instruments brought him the praise of Kepler and a place in the history of science: never had a true man a better opportunity to do a great deed. When Copernicus's work appeared, Apian was at the height of his reputation and power: a quiet, earnest plea from him, even if it had been only for ordinary fairness and a suspension of judgment, must have carried much weight. His devoted pupil, Charles V, who sat on the thrones of Germany and Spain, must at least have given a hearing to such a plea. But, unfortunately, Apian was a professor in an institution of learning under the strictest Church control—the University of Ingolstadt. His foremost duty was to teach safe science—to keep science within the line of scriptural truth as interpreted by theological professors. His great opportunity was lost. Apian continued to maunder over the Ptolemaic theory and astrology in his lecture room. As to the attacks on the Copernican theory, he neither supported nor opposed them; he was silent; and the cause of his silence should never be forgotten so long as any church asserts its title to control university instruction.
Doubtless, many will exclaim against the Roman Catholic Church for this; but the simple truth is that Protestantism was no less zealous against the new scientific doctrine. All branches of the Protestant Church—Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican—vied with each other in denouncing the Copernican doctrine as contrary to Scripture; and, at a later period, the Puritans showed the same tendency.
Said Martin Luther: "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth." Melanchthon, mild as he was, was not behind Luther in condemning Copernicus. In his treatise on the Elements of Physics, published six years after Copernicus's death, he says: "The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun revolves. . . . Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it." Melanchthon then cites passages from the Psalms and from Ecclesiastes, which he declares assert positively and clearly that the earth stands fast, and that the sun moves around it, and adds eight other proofs of his proposition that "the earth can be nowhere if not in the center of the universe," So earnest does this mildest of the Reformers become, that he suggests severe measures to restrain such impious teachings as those of Copernicus.
While Lutheranism was thus condemning the theory of the earth's movement, other branches of the Protestant Church did not remain behind. Calvin himself took the lead, in his Commentary on Genesis, by condemning all who asserted that the earth is not at the center of the universe. "Who," he said, "will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?" Turretin, Calvin's famous successor, even after Kepler and Newton had virtually completed the theory of Copernicus and Galileo, put forth his compendium of theology, in which he proved, from a multitude of scriptural texts, that the heavens, sun, and moon move about the earth, which stands still in the center. In England we see similar theological efforts, even after they had become evidently hopeless. Hutchison's Moses' Principia, Dr. Samuel Pikes's Sacred Philosophy, the writings of Bishop Home, Bishop Horsely, and President Forbes contain most earnest attacks upon the ideas of Newton; such attacks being based upon Scripture. Dr. John Owen, so famous in the annals of Puritanism, declared the Copernican system a "delusive and arbitrary hypothesis, contrary to Scripture"; and even John Wesley declared the new ideas to tend toward "infidelity."
And Protestant peoples were not a whit behind Catholic in following out such teachings. The people of Elbing made themselves merry over a farce in which Copernicus was the main object of ridicule. The people of Nuremberg, a Protestant stronghold, caused a medal to be struck with inscriptions ridiculing the philosopher and his theory.
Why the people at large took this view is easily understood when we note the attitude of the guardians of learning, both Catholic and Protestant, in that age. It throws great light upon sundry claims by modern theologians to take charge of public instruction and of the evolution of science. So important was it thought to have "sound learning" guarded, and "safe science" taught, that in many of the universities, as late as the end of the seventeenth century, professors were forced to take an oath not to hold the "Pythagorean"—that is, the Copernican idea—as to the movement of the heavenly bodies. As the contest went on, professors were forbidden to make known to students the facts revealed by the telescope. Special orders to this effect were issued by the ecclesiastical authorities to the universities and colleges of Pisa,, Louvain, Douay, Salamanca, and others; during generations we find the authorities of these universities boasting that these godless doctrines were kept away from their students. It is touching to hear such boasts made then, just as it is touching now to hear sundry excellent university authorities boast that they discourage the reading of Mill, Spencer, and Darwin. Nor were such attempts to keep the truth from students confined to the Roman Catholic institutions of learning. Strange as it may seem, nowhere were the facts confirming the Copernican theory more carefully kept out of sight than at Wittenberg; the university of Luther and Melanchthon. About the middle of the sixteenth century there were at that center of Protestant instruction two astronomers of a very high order, Rheticus and Reinhold: both of these, after thorough study, had convinced themselves that the Copernican system was true, but neither of them was allowed to tell this truth to his students. Neither in his lecture announcements nor in his published works did Rheticus venture to make the new system known, and he at last gave up his professorship and left Wittenberg, that he might have freedom to seek and tell the truth. Reinhold was even more wretchedly humiliated. Convinced of the truth of the new theory, he was obliged to advocate the old; if he mentioned the Copernican ideas, he was compelled to overlay them with the Ptolemaic. Even this was not thought safe enough, and in 1571 the subject was intrusted to Peucer. He was eminently "sound," and denounced the Copernican theory in his lectures as "absurd and unfit to be introduced into the schools."
To clinch anti-scientific ideas more firmly into German Protestant teaching. Rector Hensel wrote a text-book for schools entitled "The Restored Mosaic System of the World" which showed the Copernican astronomy to be unscriptural.
Doubtless this has a far-off sound; yet its echo comes very near modern Protestantism in the expulsion of Dr. Woodrow by the Presbyterian authorities in South Carolina; the expulsion of Prof. Winchell by the Methodist Episcopal authorities of; the expulsion of Prof. Toy by the authorities of another Protestant sect in Kentucky; the expulsion of the professors at Beyrout under authority of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions—all for holding the doctrines of modern science, and in the last years of the nineteenth century.
When Protestants talk of the "bigotry" of the Roman Catholic Church, they will do well to remember that it is impossible to imagine such Catholic authorities as Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishops Ireland and Kenrick, and Bishops Keane and Spalding, sanctioning such suicidal folly as this. The Mother Church has learned something.
But the new truth could not be concealed; it could neither be laughed down nor frowned down. Many minds had received it, but within the hearing of the papacy only one tongue appears to have dared to utter it clearly. This new warrior was that strange mortal, Giordano Bruno, He was hunted from land to land, until at last he turned on his pursuers with fearful invectives. For this he was imprisoned during six years, then burned alive, and his ashes scattered to the winds. Still, the new truth lived on. Ten years after the martydom of Bruno the truth of Copernicus's doctrine was established by the telescope of Galileo.
Herein was fulfilled one of the most touching of prophecies. Years before, the opponents of Copernicus had said to him, "If your doctrines were true, Venus would show phases like the moon" Copernicus answered: "You are right; I know not what to say; but God is good, and will in time find an answer to this objection." The God-given answer came when in 1611 the rude telescope of Galileo showed the phases of Venus.
On this new champion, Galileo, the whole war was at last concentrated. His discoveries had clearly taken the Copernican theory out of the list of hypotheses, and had placed it before the world as a truth. Against him, then, the war was long and bitter. The supporters of what was called "sound learning" declared his discoveries deceptions and his announcements blasphemy. Semi-scientific professors, endeavoring to curry favor with the Church, attacked him with sham science; earnest preachers attacked him with perverted Scripture; theologians, inquisitors, congregations of cardinals, and at last two popes dealt with him, and, as was supposed, silenced his impious doctrine forever.
I shall present this warfare at some length because, so far as I can find, no careful summary of it has been given in our language, since the whole history was placed in a new light by the revelations of the trial documents in the Vatican Library, honestly published for the first time by M. L'Epinois, in 1867, and since that by Gebler, Berti, Favaro, and others.
The first important attack on Galileo began in 1610, when he announced that his telescope had revealed the moons of the planet Jupiter. The enemy saw that this took the Copernican theory out of the realm of hypothesis, and they gave battle immediately. They denounced both his method and its results as absurd and impious. As to his method, professors bred in the "safe science" favored by the Church argued that the only way of studying the universe was by comparing texts of Scripture; and, as to his results, they insisted, first, that Aristotle knew nothing of these new revelations; and, next, that the Bible showed by all applicable types that there could be only seven planets; that this was proven by the seven golden candlesticks of the Apocalypse, by the seven branched candlestick of the tabernacle, and by the seven churches of Asia; that from Galileo's doctrine consequences must logically result destructive to Christian truth: bishops and priests therefore warned their flocks, and multitudes of the faithful besought the Inquisition to deal speedily and sharply with the heretic.
In vain did Galileo try to prove the existence of satellites by showing them to the doubters through his telescope: they either declared it impious to look, or, if they did look, denounced the satellites as illusions from the devil. Good Father Clavius declared that "to see satellites of Jupiter, men had to make an instrument which would create them." In vain did Galileo try to save the great truths he had discovered by his letters to the Benedictine Castelli and the Grand Duchess Christine, in which he argued that literal biblical interpretation should not be applied to science; it was answered that such an argument only made his heresy more detestable; that he was "worse than Luther or Calvin."
The war on the Copernican theory, which up to that time had been carried on quietly, now flamed forth. It was declared that the doctrine was proved false by the standing still of the sun for Joshua, by the declarations that "the foundations of the earth are fixed so firm that they can not be moved," and that the sun "runneth about from one end of the heavens to the other."
But the little telescope of Galileo still swept the heavens, and another revelation was announced—the mountains and valleys in the moon. This brought on another attack. It was declared that this, and the statement that the moon shines by light reflected from the sun, directly contradict the statement in Genesis that the moon is "a great light." To make the matter worse, a painter, placing the moon in a religious picture in its usual position beneath the feet of the Blessed Virgin, outlined on its surface mountains and valleys; this was' denounced as a sacrilege logically resulting from the astronomer's heresy.
Still another struggle was aroused when the hated telescope revealed spots upon the sun, and their motion indicating the sun's rotation. Monsignor Elci, head of the University of Pisa, forbade the astronomer Castelli to mention these spots to his students. Father Busaeus, at the University of Innspruck, forbade
the astronomer Scheiner, who had also discovered the spots and proposed a safe explanation of them, to allow the new discovery to be known there. At the College of Douay and the University of Louvain this discovery was expressly placed under the ban, and this became the general rule among the Catholic universities and colleges of Europe. The Spanish universities were especially intolerant of this and similar ideas, and up to a recent period they were strictly forbidden in the most imx3ortant university of all—that of Salamanca.
Such are the consequences of placing the instruction of men's minds in the hands of those mainly absorbed in saving men's souls. Nothing could be more in accordance with the idea recently put forth by sundry ecclesiastics, Catholic and Protestant, that the Church alone is empowered to promulgate scientific truth or direct university instruction. But science gained the victory here also. Observations of the solar spots were reported not only from Galileo, in Italy, but from Fabricius, in Holland. Father Scheiner then endeavored to make the usual compromise between theology and science. He promulgated a pseudo-scientific theory, which only provoked derision.
The war became more and more bitter. The Dominican father, Caccini, preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" and this wretched pun upon the great astronomer's name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before Caccini ends, he insists that "geometry is of the devil," and that "mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies." The church, authorities gave Caccini promotion.
Father Lorini proved that Galileo's doctrine was not only heretical but "atheistic," and besought the Inquisition to intervene. The Bishop of Fiesole screamed in rage against the Copernican system, publicly insulted Galileo, and denounced him to the grand duke. The Archbishop of Pisa secretly sought to entrap Galileo and deliver him to the Inquisition at Rome. The Archbishop of Florence solemnly condemned the new doctrines as unscriptural; and Paul V, while petting Galileo, and inviting him as the greatest astronomer of the world to visit Rome, was secretly moving the Archbishop of Pisa to pick up evidence against the astronomer.
But by far the most terrible champion who appeared against the new astronomy was Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the greatest theologians the world has known. He was earnest, sincere, and learned, but insisted on making science conform to Scripture. The weapons which men of Bellarmin's stamp used were purely theological. They held up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous engine against Galileo was the statement that "his pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation." Father Lecazre declared that "it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation." Others declared that it "upsets the whole basis of theology; that if the earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it can not be that any such great things have been done specially for it as the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets, since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how can these inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace back their origin to Noah's ark? How can they have been redeemed by the Saviour?" Nor was this argument confined to the theologians of the Roman Church; Melanchthon, Protestant as he was, had already used it in his attacks on Copernicus and his school.
In addition to this prodigious theological engine of war there was kept up a fire of smaller artillery in the shape of texts and scriptural extracts.
But the war grew still more bitter, and some weapons used in it are worth examining. They are very easily examined, for they are to be found on all the battle-fields of science; but on that field they were used with more effect than on almost any othsr. These weapons are the epithets "infidel" and "atheist." The battle-fields of science are thickly strewn with these. They have been used against almost every man who has ever done anything new for his fellow-men. The list of those who have been denounced as "infidel" and "atheist" includes almost all great men of science, general scholars, inventors, and philanthropists. The purest Christian life, the noblest Christian character, have not availed to shield combatants. Christians like Isaac Newton, Pascal, Locke, Milton, and even Fénelon and Howard, have had this weapon hurled against them. Of all proofs of the existence of a God, those of Descartes have been wrought most thoroughly into the minds of modern men; yet the Protestant theologians of Holland sought to bring him to torture and to death by the charge of atheism, and the Roman Catholic theologians of France prevented any due honors to him at his burial.
These epithets can hardly be classed with civilized weapons. They are burning arrows; they set fire to masses of popular prejudice, always obscuring the real question, sometimes destroying the attacking party. They are poisoned weapons. They pierce the hearts of loving women; they alienate dear children; they injure man after life is ended, for they leave poisoned wounds in the hearts of those who loved him best—fears for his eternal salvation, dread of the divine wrath upon him. Of course, in these days these weapons, though often effective in vexing good men and in scaring good women, are somewhat blunted; indeed, they not infrequently injure the assailants more than the assailed. So it was not in the days of Galileo; they were then in all their sharpness and venom. Yet worse even than these weapons was the attack by the Archbishop of Pisa.
This man, whose cathedral derives its most enduring fame from Galileo's deduction of a great natural law from the swinging lamp before its altar, was not an archbishop after the noble mold of Borromeo and Fénelon and Cheverus. He was, sadly enough for the Church and humanity, simply a zealot and intriguer: he perfected the plan for entrapping the great astronomer.
Galileo, after his discoveries had been denounced, had written to his friend Castelli and to the Grand Duchess Christine two letters to show that his discoveries might be reconciled to Scripture. On a hint from the Inquisition at Rome, the archbishop sought to get hold of these letters and exhibit them as proofs that Galileo had uttered heretical views of theology and of Scripture, and thus to bring him into the clutch of the Inquisition. The archbishop begs Castelli, therefore, to let him see the original letter in the handwriting of Galileo. Castelli declines; the archbishop then, while, as is now revealed, writing constantly and bitterly to the Inquisition against Galileo, professes to Castelli the greatest admiration of Galileo's genius and a sincere desire to know more of his discoveries. This not succeeding, the archbishop at last throws off the mask and resorts to open attack.
The whole struggle to crush Galileo and to save him would be amusing were it not so fraught with evil. There were intrigues and counter-intrigues, plots and counter-plots, lying and spying; and, in the thickest of this seething, squabbling, screaming mass of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, strove two popes, Paul V and Urban VIII. It is most suggestive to see in this crisis of the Church, at the tomb of the prince of the apostles, on the eve of the greatest errors in church policy the world has known, in all the intrigues and deliberations of these consecrated leaders of the Church, no more evidence of the guidance or presence of the Holy Spirit than in a caucus of New York politicians at Tammany Hall.
But the opposing powers were too strong: in 1615 Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition at Rome, and the mine which had been so long preparing was sprung. Sundry theologians of the Inquisition having been ordered to examine two propositions which had been extracted from Galileo's letters on the solar spots, solemnly considered these points during about a month and rendered their unanimous decision as follows: "The first proposition, that the sun is the center and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures; and "the second proposition, that the earth is not the center but revolves about the sun, is absurd, false in philosophy, and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith."
The Pope himself, Paul V, now intervened again: he ordered that Galileo be brought before the Inquisition. Then the greatest man of science in that age was brought face to face with the greatest theologian—Galileo was confronted by Bellarmin. Bellarmin shows Galileo the error of his opinion and orders him to renounce it. De Lauda, fortified by a letter from the Pope, gives orders that the astronomer be placed in the dungeons of the Inquisition should he refuse to yield. Bellarmin now commands Galileo, "in the name of his Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing." This injunction Galileo acquiesces in and promises to obey.
This was on the 26th of February, 1616, About a fortnight later the Congregation of the Index, moved thereto, as the letters and documents now brought to light show, by Pope Paul V, solemnly rendered a decree that "the doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture"; and that this opinion must neither be taught nor advocated. The same decree condemned all writings of Copernicus and "all writings which affirm the motion of the earth." The great work of Copernicus was interdicted until corrected in accordance with the views of the Inquisition; and the works of Galileo and Kepler, though not mentioned by name at that time, were included among those implicitly condemned as "affirming the motion of the earth."
The condemnations were inscribed upon the Index; and, finally, the papacy committed itself as a judge and teacher to the world by prefixing to the Index the usual papal bull giving its monitions the most solemn papal sanction. To teach or even read the works denounced or passages condemned was to risk persecution in this world and damnation in the next. Science had apparently lost the decisive battle.
For a time after this judgment Galileo remained in Rome, apparently hoping to find some way out of this difficulty; but he soon discovered the hollowness of the protestations made to him by ecclesiastics, and, being recalled to Florence, remained in his hermitage near the city in silence, working steadily, indeed, but not publishing anything save by private letters to friends in various parts of Europe.
But at last a better vista seemed to open before him. Cardinal Barberini, who had seemed liberal and friendly, became pope under the name of Urban VIII. Galileo at this conceived new hopes, and allowed his continued allegiance to the Copernican system to be known. New troubles ensued. Galileo was induced to visit Rome again, and Pope Urban tried to cajole him mto silence, personally taking the trouble to show him his errors by argument. Other opponents were less considerate, for works appeared attacking his ideas-works all the more unmanly, smce their authors knew that Galileo was restrained by force from defending himself. Then, too, as if to accumulate proofs of the unfitness of the Church to take charge of advanced mstruction, his salary as a professor at the University of Pisa was taken from him, and sapping and mining began. Just as the Archbishop of Pisa some years before had tried to betray him with honeyed words to the Inquisition, so now Father Grassi tried it, and, after various attempts to draw him out by flattery, suddenly denounced his scientific ideas as "leading to a denial of the real presence in the eucharist."
For the final assault upon him a park of heavy artillery was at last wheeled into place. It may be seen on all the scientific battle-fields. It consists of general denunciation; and in 1631 Father Melchior Inchofer, of the Jesuits, brought his artillery to bear upon Galileo with this declaration: "The opinion of the earth's motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated sooner than an argument to prove that the earth moves."
From the other end of Europe came a powerful echo. From the shadow of the Cathedral of Antwerp, the noted theologian, Fromundus, gave forth his famous treatise, the Anti-Aristarchus. Its very title-page was a contemptuous insult to the memory of Copernicus, since it paraded the assumption that the new truth was only an exploded theory of a pagan astronomer. Fromundus declares that "sacred Scripture fights against the Copernicans." To prove that the sun revolves about the earth he cites the passage in the Psalms which speaks of the sun "which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber." To prove that the earth stands still, he quotes a passage from Ecclesiastes, "The earth standeth fast forever." To show the utter futility of the Copernican theory, he declares that if it were true, "the wind would constantly blow from the east"; and that "buildings and the earth itself would fly off with such a rapid motion that men would have to be provided with claws like cats to enable them to hold fast to the earth's surface." Greatest weapon of all, he works up, by the use of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, a demonstration from theology and science combined, that the earth must stand in the center, and that the sun must revolve about it.