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The Philosophy and Psychology of Pietro Pomponazzi/Chapter XI

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CHAPTER XI[edit]


POMPONAZZI had formed a distinct idea of an order of nature of nature as a system, governed by pervading and uniform principles. His work De Incantationibus is a deliberate attempt to extend the conception of that order to all phenomena without exception, by bringing all the marvellous events and powers observed in experience or recorded in history within the scope of principles common to all nature. He seeks to trace analogies between the extraordinary and the familiar, and to interpret what is most exceptional in terms of nature's common operations. Hypothetically at least he includes all things within the natural order as he understands it, and what we should call the reign of law; and he endeavours also as far as possible to discover the actual causation of each event.

His avowed design is salvare experiment^ to account for facts. Those marvellous phenomena, in nature and history, for whose actual occurrence there appears to be sufficient evidence, he includes among experimenta. And for these exceptional parts of experience, as for its most usual elements, he desires to find the simplest explanation, and an explanation infra limites naturales. It is expressly on this ground that he rejects the attempt to account for omens, portents, and wonders gene rally, through the agency of angels and demons 1 . If a natural

"In rebus difficilibus et occultis, responsiones magis ab inconvenientibus re- motae ac magis sensatis et rationibus consonae, sunt magis recipiendae quam oppositae rationes....His modo sic suppositis, tentandum est sine daemonibus et angelis ad objecta respondere." De Nat. E/. p. 131. Similarly in the De Immortalitate: " Evident! ratione naturali hoc (i.e. the agency of spirits) videre meo monstrari non potest; quare non stabimus infra limites naturales quod tamen polliciti sumus a prin- cipio." De Imm. xiv. p. 128.


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explanation can be found, he says, we are exempted from the necessity of seeking a supernatural one 1 . His intention to discover a natural explanation of everything, even of that which is most exceptional in experience, is sufficiently obvious.

His point of view is clearly illustrated by the title of the book usually called the De Incantationibus. This is only a secondary title; the full title of the book is De Naturalium Effectuum Admirandorum Causis, sive de Incantationibus. The book certainly deals with magic, as it deals with all exceptional and surprising effects in nature: with dreams, apparitions, omens, portents; spells, and charms; necromancy, chiromancy; miracles (so-called) both within and outside of Scripture History; miraculous answers to prayer and the like; in short, de rebus difficilibus et occultis. But the point is that the enquiry about these things is de naturalium effectuum causis\ and that such are the contents of a book bearing this title.

Of course, in the case of Pomponazzi, his idea of nature's order and his attempts at natural explanation were governed by his astrological presuppositions. It is impossible here to trace the influences through which the conception of the spheres and the celestial powers came so to pervade the mediaeval mind as it did. In this respect Pomponazzi shared the ideas of his time; in proportion as he was deeply read in the Arabians and in Albert, must this whole side of things have bulked more largely in his thoughts and occupied his imagination; while in Aristotle, as he read Aristotle, he would find nothing to correct him, since it was from certain passages of Aristotle that the whole astrological scheme took its rise. In all natural and historical events, at any rate, it was supposed that astral influences were at work not superseding ordinary physical and psychical causes, but operating in and through all their sequences. Practically, although not theoretically, this superior system of causes stood for what we might call the universal complex of causes. Just as we know that, along with a particular cause which we may single out in its connection with a particular effect, there is

1 "Si sine ilia multiplicatione daemonum et geniorum salvare possumus, super vacuum videtur ilia ponere." Op. cit. xiv. p. 130.


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working an infinite number of other factors, making in their combination a universal system; so for Pomponazzi there stood behind each particular cause the general causation of the celestial powers; or rather, behind each " sequence " of events (for this was his notion of causality) stood those powers deter mining that this should follow that, and events fall out so and not otherwise: standing thus behind, and working through, every particular instance of sequence or causality. The two ideas are very different, and indeed not strictly comparable, expressing as they do two entirely different notions of nature; but they may be compared in so far that when Pomponazzi, besides pointing out a particular sequence of events in nature, referred the effect at the same time to the heavenly powers, he meant much the same as we do when we refer a fact to the order of nature: he meant to establish the fact in a connected system, to place it under an order uniformly working.

All events, all phenomena, were included within the sway of the astral influences. The astral order was the other side of nature.

It was therefore, to say the least, nothing inconsistent with his astrology, if Pomponazzi sought to bring all events, even the most exceptional, within the order of nature. But we may go further and say that, for him, to refer wonders and miracles to the astral powers was precisely to include them in the natural order and refer them to the analogy of nature. This was what the reference meant, to his own thought; this was the very motive and significance of the astrological explanation, from his point of view.

He expressly brings forward the astrological as a natural explanation, contrasting it in this respect with the theory of spiritual agency 1 . He brackets "nature and the heavenly powers " together as the " efficient cause " of phenomena 2 , or, by

1 " Infra limites naturales stabimus," he says; and again, " Si sine ilia multipli- catione daemonum et geniorum salvare possumus, supervacuum videtur ilia ponere... corpora ergo coelestia secundum suas virtutes haec miranda producunt." De Imm. xiv. p. 130.

2 " Dicimus talia (scilicet omina et auguria) esse effectus coelorum et naturae in genere causae efficientis." De Nat. Eff. p. 169.


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a variation of the thought, combines with the celestial causation a physical "disposing cause 1 ."

The great reason why Pomponazzi brings wonders and magic within the scope of the astral influences is just that universal nature is subject to those influences. Thus the whole motive and implication of this reference in the case of the marvellous is that those exceptional phenomena are to be viewed according to the analogy of nature generally. If, his argument is, the celestial powers uphold and direct the whole frame of nature, why should they not likewise be supposed to govern these particular events? Unusual these events may be; it may lie beyond our power to trace their causes in detail; but why remove them from the scope of those powers that govern all other sublunary things, many of them also mysterious and inexplicable, though in a less degree? Considering the great and innumerable concerns included in the realm of nature and governed by the heavenly powers, why should we place beyond their capability " effects " which are few in number after all, and intrinsically small and unimportant, when compared with the vastness and variety of universal nature 2?

His attribution of marvels to the celestial powers, then, did not mean that he made them exceptions to the order of nature,

" Dictum est vates, prophetas, et qui demoniaci vocantur et reliqua hujusmodi generis pro causa effectiva habere corpora coelestia et pro materiali causa dispo- sitiones ex parte suorum corporum." Op. cit. p. 210. (The " final cause" is "the good of mankind." Op. cit. p. 169: De Imm. xiv. p. 130.)

2 Videtur valde derisibile quod corpora coelestia cum suis intelligentiis universum gubernent et conservent, tantam rerum molem moveant, tot homines, tot diversa animalia, tot plantas, tot metalla, tot lapides generent et transmutent; tarn futiles autem et inanes effectus facere non possint, cum rarissimi sint nulliusque fere momenti: imo nihil sunt in comparatione ad ipsum universum: et pro his quasi nullius ponderis rebus oporteat novos inducere deos et nova figmenta. Sic itaque introducens daemones, videat subversiones tot regnorum, tot sublevationes imperiorum ex infinitis praecipitiis, diluvia, incendia: et quum tot mirabilia respiciat in universe (quae fieri a corporibus coelestibus nemo sanae mentis unquam negabit) et ipse non dicat hoc fieri posse ab ipsis coelis; certe hoc insaniam videtur arguere et nullam perspicaciam." (De Nat. Eff. p. 303.) " Quid enim potest facere daemon vel angelus alterando vel localiter movendo talia corpora generabilia, quod intelligentiae mediantibus corporibus coelestibus facere non possint, cum universum ab ipsis gubernari conspiciamus? " (Op. cit. p. 306.) " Concludimus, quod si quis mirabilia et occulta naturae opera consideraverit, virtutes corporum coelestium, Deum et intelligentias, humana et omnia inferiora curantes, nihil opus esse daemonibus neque aliis intelligentiis videbit." Op. cit. p. 198.


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but the very contrary. It was his way of affirming that they were included in that order. The conception of an all-embracing order was indeed the fundamental postulate of astrology.

Meanwhile Pomponazzi makes a laborious attempt to find, for all the marvels which are to be accepted as worthy of belief, parallels and analogies in nature which, if they do not explain them, at least suggest conceivable explanations.

The sequences and conjunctions which seem magical and supernatural are after all on the same footing as other observed sequences and conjunctions in nature. We are not able to explain, says Pomponazzi, why one phenomenon in nature follows or accompanies another; we simply observe the fact that it is so. He thus compares the supposed sequence of an omen and its fulfilment with any other observed sequence in nature; in particular with a case in which one event is the recognised and authentic sign of another without being its cause, as the rainbow for example is a sign of the end of rain. Or if, again, we are to believe that one day is lucky, another unlucky, it is a strange conjunction, an inexplicable repugnancy; but not more inexplicable, intrinsically, he suggests, than the attractions or repulsions observed by the chemist. The trans formations and metamorphoses ascribed to magic or to super natural power are similarly parallel with the more remarkable and surprising natural alterations, such as the formation of fossils, the petrifaction of wood and other objects in mineral springs, or the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly.

The miracles that attend the beginnings of new religions, the gifts of prophets and diviners, and the like, are brought in the same way within the normal operations of nature and the heavenly powers; or it is suggested that they could be so brought. The answers to prayer, seemingly miraculous, are traced (in so far as they cannot be physically explained) to the operation of a law, according to which acceptable prayers precede the accomplishment of Divine purposes; and thus even the prayers themselves, and the religions out of which they arise, are subject to a Divine government, and form parts and stages of a cosmic purpose.


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We have here, then, the outline of a philosophy of nature and of religion.

This whole mode of explanation of the marvellous in nature and history is constantly pitted against the orthodox theory which attributed magic and miracles to the agency of angels or demons 1 . The book De Naturalium Effcctuum Causis is a uniform polemic against that theory, as essentially a vulgar superstition. It is the tendency of the vulgar mind, he says, always to ascribe to diabolic or angelic agency events whose causes it does not understand 2 .

While he thus seeks to refer all things to "natural" causes, Pomponazzi is fully prepared to recognise many strange effects in nature. His point of view is that there are many surprising and even to us inexplicable things in nature, but all doubtless capable of a natural explanation, had we sufficient knowledge of nature and the heavenly powers. On the one hand he insists that the ordinary sequences of nature are ulti-

1 "Peripatetic! ponunt haec fieri ah intelligentiis moventibus corpora coelestia, et mediantibus ipsis corporibus coelestibus; leges vero ponunt haec fieri ab angelis vel daemonibus immediate et sine corporibus coelestibus." Op. cit. p. 306 and passim.

2 Thus with regard to the fluctuation of the prophetic afflatus, of which he had been suggesting the astral and the physical conditions: " Et vulgares attribuebant hoc numinibus iratis, cum veram causam ignorarent. Sed haec est consuetudo vulgi, ascribere daemonibus vel angelis quorum causas non cognoscunt." Op, cit. p. 230. Or in the case of answers to prayer: "Cum ignavum vulgus ista ignoraret, cum succedunt vota, dicunt Deos vel Sanctos fuisse sibi propitios, et orationes sibi fuisse gratas: cum vero non succedunt, Deos et Sanctos esse iratos: quandoquidem haec talia habeant causam quam diximus." Op. cit. p. 240. In the case of magic, the superstitious belief may be imposed upon the credulous by interested pretenders; or again the stigma of diabolic agency may be placed upon the magic to guard against its abuse; just as in the case of miracles and omens the vulgar are indulged in a favourite superstition by those who know better than to believe it themselves: " Fortassis quoniam harum scientiarum magis est abusus quam usus, hinc forte dictae sunt esse daemoniacae, et ab eis daemonibus inventae, ut non desiderentur, et abominabiles fiant: velut legitur de Mahumeto in Alcorano, qui dum vino et maxime rubeo vellet gentibus suis interdicere, finxit in quolibet uvae rubeae grano habitare unum diabolum. Potuit et hoc fingi, ut habentes eas artes essent in majori pretio, et haberentur ut dii. Fortassis et isti daemones sive angeli introducti sunt, quoniam cum talia quae retulimus multotiens visa sunt, veluti de oraculis, de omnibus in acre apparentibus, et de reliquis recitatis, et rude vulgus veras causas non potest capere; nam homines isti non philosophi, qui revera sunt veluti bestiae, non possunt capere Deum, Coelos, et Naturam haec posse operari, creduntque ita esse de intelligentiis, veluti de hominibus (non enim nisi corporalia capere possunt); ideo propter vulgares introducti sunt angeli et daemones, quanquam introducentes minime posse esse illos sciebant." Op. cit. pp. 200, 201.


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mately inexplicable; they are simply given, imposed upon experience, and are intrinsically incapable, or all but incapable, of explanation; there is an analogy of nature, a proportion and a propriety in it; but we are hardly able to discover what it is 1 . On the other hand he holds to the belief that a process of causation and an intelligible sequence (of a " sign," as he says, and a " thing signified ") are to be found even in the case of that which is most exceptional and therefore most surprising to us 2 .

His idea of what is possible in nature was of course in some directions too wide, just as in other directions it would be found too narrow; because it was inexact. The astrological view, in particular, of the order of nature was in a very high degree vague and indefinite. It left room, no doubt, for marvellous and unexplained phenomena, because it left room for the absurd and the impossible. It is possible to know much more of the analogy of nature than Pomponazzi thought possible; much more than he knew. Had he known more, he would at once have dismissed much that he accepted as at least possible. Of many things which he supposed to be vouched for by experience, he would have been suspicious to the point of incredulity; and a sterner examination of the evidence would have disproved them. But the things which we are now apt to feel instinctively to be outside of the possibilities of nature and beyond the analogy of nature altogether, he did not feel to be so. For him, not only miracles, both within and without Christianity, but magic as well, came within at least the conceivable and credible possibilities of nature.

We are perhaps learning even at the present moment to extend our view of the possibilities of nature. It is quite certain that these can never be arbitrarily limited, and that the sixteenth century astrologer attained more nearly to the scientific spirit than many a professed scientist of a later day, hidebound by prejudice and dogmatism. In its two essentials, in short, he

1 " Proprietatem et proportionem...nobis intelligere aut difficillimum aut impossi ble est....Sed stamus experimentis." De Nat. Eff. p. 171.

2 " Non sunt miracula quia sint totaliter contra naturam et praeter ordinem corporum coelestium; sed pro tanto dicuntur miracula (i.e. things marvellous or surprising), quia insueta et rarissime facta, et non secundum communem naturae cursum, sed in longissimis periodis. " Op. cit. p. 294.


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possessed the scientific spirit in an open mind, that is, to the boundless and often unexpected possibilities of nature, and in a dependence on experience ("stamus experimentis ").

I should not like to imply, however, that Pomponazzi was altogether unsuspicious in the matter of evidence. On the contrary, he was, for his time, noticeably cautious and sceptical. While accepting too much, he rejects many fables; and much that he seems to treat too seriously he has only accepted hypothetically, for a non-committal and provisional examination.

This spirit is illustrated in many details.

Pomponazzi for example constantly distinguishes, among the marvellous stories that are current, those that are true from those that are false. We must discriminate, he insists, among the various marvels that are reported the wonders alleged by priests or others and the miraculous events related in Scripture or by the poets. Some of these events and phenomena, though strange, are doubtless real; and of those that are so, he endeavours to find or to imagine a possible natural explanation. But many of the stories that are told are as indubitably false, and are the product either of fraud or of delusion; and he is prepared to call in this explanation in the case of alleged events altogether beyond the possibility of natural explanation.

Those who accept all such stories without examination and those who will believe in nothing that seems strange or mysterious are, he says, equally in the wrong; and indeed fall into the same error, of a refusal to discriminate.

In the first place he cannot agree with those who dismiss all such stories as fraudulent inventions. They are, he says, in many cases too well authenticated, and by too good authorities. We must endeavour rather to separate the true from the false; and in the case of facts which appear to be well established, we must attempt to find the most feasible and the most natural explanation 1 .

1 " Mihi autem non videtur tutum neque sine verecundia dictum, quod a plerisque dici solet haec experimenta negantibus, haec scilicet esse ab hominibus conficta, velut Aesopi apologi, ad plebis instructionem: vel quod sunt sacerdotum aucupia ad subripiendas pecunias, et ut in honorem habeantur, quod si aliquid in his operibus apparet perfecte, sunt praestigiationes et illusiones, veluti continue videmus in istis


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In many cases, however, he is prepared to accept the hypothesis of fraudulent or well-intentioned fiction. Thus many alleged miracles are the inventions of priests for purposes of gain 1 . Other marvellous narratives are of the nature of instructive fables, invented by lawgivers or philosophers for an ignorant and sensuous multitude only capable of learning by sensible images and concrete representations; and are imposed on them for their moral benefit 2 . The anthropomorphic narratives of the Old Testament are expressly brought within the scope of this explanation.

In the same way the fancies of the poets are explained e.g. the "metamorphoses" either as imaginative representations of natural facts (e.g., the " birds of Diomede ") or as consciously intended to set forth moral truth in symbolic form (the transformation of men into animals, e.g., representing a moral condition or a moral change) 3 .

In the case of Scripture narratives, this admission of a method of accommodation and figurative representation has the consequence of a spiritual and secret sense in Scripture 4 .

percursoribus et praestigiatoribus, qui videntur miracula facere, cum re vera nihil faciant nisi pecuniarum subreptionem a credulis et simplicibus hominibus: ego inquam hanc sententiam non approbo, quandoquidem viri gravissimi, doctrina eminentissimi, et novi et veteres, tarn Graeci quam Latini, ac barbari moribus, haec verissima esse affirmant: quare sic dicentes, omnino audiendi non sunt. Verum hi decipiuntur, cum aliquando haec fabulosa comperta sint, et aliquando visae sunt illusiones, ex particular! universale intulerunt: quod ex Dialecticae imperitia provenire manifestum est: neque enim si aliqua istorum talia sunt, falsa sunt omnia: neque si aliqua eorum quae referuntur, vera comperiantur, existimandum est omnia esse vera. Utrumvis horum ex eadem deceptione procedit. Supposito igitur haec fore vera in aliquibus, et maxime ea quae a fide dignis authoribus referuntur, temptandum est addere absolutionem istorum." Op. cit. pp. 113 115.

1 See e.g. De Imm. xiv. p. 126; De Nat. Eff. p. 146.

2 See op. cit. pp. 114; 201, 202; 269, etc,

3 Op. cit. pp. 268 270.

4 " In veteri lege multa feruntur quae vere non possunt intelligi ut litera sonat... sed sunt sensus mystici et dicti propter ignavum vulgus quod incorporalia capere non potest. Sermo enim legum, ut inquit Averroes in sua poesi, est similis sermoni poetarum, nam quanquam poetae fmgunt quae ut verba sonant non sunt possibiles, intus tamen veritatem continent. ..nam ilia fmgunt ut in veritatem veniamus, et rude vulgus instruamus quod inducere oportet ad bonum et a malo retrahere, ut pueri inducuntur et retrahuntur, scilicet, spe praemii et timore poenae; et per haec corporalia ducere in cognitionem incorporalium, veluti de cibo teneriori in cibum solidiorem ducimus infantes." Op. cit. pp. 201, 202.


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We are not, however, entitled, merely because an alleged occurrence is strange and inexplicable, to dismiss it as impossible and fictitious. For, as Pomponazzi constantly repeats, there are many things in nature which are marvellous and surprising, and which are exceptions to ordinary rules.

Where we have reason to believe that the unusual event did take place, our aim must be to find the simplest explanation of it, and that which is most in accordance with the other operations of nature. The question that presents itself is how to account for the facts (salvare experimented) 1 .

It is characteristic of his sceptical and dialectical manner of thought, and perhaps also of the vacillation and uncertainty in his mind, that in very many cases Pomponazzi offers alternative explanations: and suggests that either the marvellous story or magical doctrine is untrue, or else, if it be true, that analogies can be discovered in nature which make it not altogether inconceivable, and bring it within the compass of the regular powers of nature and the astral influences 2 .

Thus, for example, he proposes to trace the natural history of apparitions 3 . He begins by setting aside many popular fables and priestly inventions. Next, he speaks of cases in which the apparition is a matter of pure illusion due to physical causes: the air, in places where there are many graves, is supposed to be thick and cloudy 4 , and the appearances it presents are mistaken by the ignorant and superstitious for ghostly apparitions the delusion being aided by imagination, and terror, and accepted belief 5 . But certain facts remain as at least probably authentic, when these causes are allowed for 6 . Of this residuum of fact Pomponazzi offers his characteristic explanation. Refusing to admit a real apparition of departed spirits, declining also to refer the appearances to angelic or

1 "Supposito igitur haec fore vera in aliquibus, et maxime ea quae a fide dignis authoribus referuntur, temptandum est addere absolutionem istorum." Op. cit. p. 115.

2 E.g. op. cit. pp. 146, 174, 191, 273278.

3 Cf. a parallel passage in the De Immortalitate, xiv. p. 125.

4 " In locis sepulchrorum, ut in pluribus, aer est valde crassus, turn ex evaporatione cadaverum, turn ex frigiditate lapidum, ex multisque aliis, quae ae ris spissitudinem inducunt." Ibid. "Bless me! what damps are here! how stiff an air!" (Henry Vaughan: The Charnel House).

5 " Adjuvat etiam ad haec imaginatio et universalis fama," etc. Op. cit. xiv. p. 126.

6 Op. cit. xiv. p. 128; De Nat. Eff. p. 159.


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diabolic agency, he puts them down to certain powers in nature, exercised of course by the astral agencies. As has already been pointed out, for him the astral is the " natural " explanation. In the De Naturalium Effectuum Causis he analyses somewhat more minutely than in the De Immortalitate the manner in which, on occasion of an apparition, the human mind is affected. In the first place he refers to the analogy of dreams: if the higher powers work on the mind in sleep (as was then universally believed), why not in the waking state also 1? Coming to the waking state, he names first the condition most akin to sleep, that namely of trance or ecstasy 2 , in which men believe that they converse with spirits or with the dead, and through which, he doubts not, divination may be given. Of apparitions in the ordinary sense three explanations may be supposed. There may in the first place be a purely subjective illusion: or, secondly, there may be an objectively real operation of astral origin; and, in the latter case, either an abnormal affection of the organ of sense or an effect upon the external air. In the first place what he supposes to happen is that the .thoughts and fancies of the mind affect the senses, producing an illusory impression there; which is the reverse of the normal process 3 . But he also admits the possibility of the physical senses being directly affected by the secret agency of the heavenly powers 4: the most interesting point in the development of this idea is his illustration of it by natural analogies, and by comparison of the mystic intuitions of prophets with the presentiments of animals 5 and the weather-wisdom of sailors and husbandmen 6 . Finally, he

1 De Nat. Ef. pp. 157, 159 ff.

2 " Primo enim in raptu et dum extasim patiuntur." Op. cit. p. 163.

3 " Aliis autem haec simulachra a Diis ipsis non solum immittuntur in quiete sive in somno, sed etiam in vigilia, et firmiter credunt ea vel videre vel audire. Quanquam non tarn hoc fieri contingit ex simulachris habitis ab extra, verum etiam ab intra per spiritus transmissos a virtutibus interioribus ad sensus exteriores, ut omnes Peripatetici concorditer posuerunt." Op. cit. p. 158. " Possibile est etiam hoc accidens fieri in vigilia, si contingat virtutes interiores reddere species et spiritum transmittere ad sensus exteriores." Op. cit. p. 163.

4 " Tertio, idem potest contingere in vigilia (et hoc raro) per simulachra genita in sensibus exterioribus a corporibus coelestibus." Ibid.

D " Ut gallus dicit mutationes temporum delphin tempestates." Op. cit. p. 164.

6 " Nautae et agricolae periti certius...judicant quam astrologi scientifici." Ibid.


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supposes that a secret power may act directly on the air, causing in it an unusual perturbation and producing an unusual appearance 1 . Such are the four causes of apparitions 2 .

All this may doubtless appear to us fantastic and absurd in the highest degree an attempt to explain by imaginary causes supposed facts which have no existence: yet it represents a real movement, in an essentially mediaeval mind, towards a consistent view of the universe, and an attempt to bring all known or imagined facts within the scope of the powers of Nature in a wide sense of the words.

That there are any real apparitions of the dead, Pomponazzi altogether denies. We have in his theory a curiosity of the history of superstition, namely, the belief in ghosts without a belief in an existence after death. Necromancy in the strict sense he declares impossible 3 , while allowing that, if we could believe in the immortality of the soul, there would be no absolute reason to deny the possibility of raising the dead. But real apparitions of the sorts above described he holds to be possible; nor is there conclusive reason to doubt the possibility of their being produced by human ingenuity, by those who should gain sufficient knowledge of the conditions which regulate their occurrence 4 .

Towards the belief in portents and omens the attitude of Pomponazzi is much the same. Allowing for a large element of invention in the stories that are told, he is yet not able to

1 " Quod si in sensibus tales imagines sive in quiete sive in vigilia generari possunt...nihil est quod vetet quin et corpora coelestia talibus figuris possent aerem figurare, ubi passum fuerit dispositum, neque hoc est extra experimenta." Op. cit. p. 158. "Quarto potest et hoc contingere secundum modum quae diximus, videlicet, quoniam a corporibus coelestibtts aer exterior sic fuerit in convenienti dispositione, et agens fuerit etiam secundum convenientem dispositionem figurandi tales imagines, veluti quando acies militum in acre apparent, vel aliquae aliae figurae, quae sint futurorum praenunciae, ut ex historiis scimus." Op. (it. p. 164.

2 Enumerated in op. cit. pp. 163, 164.

3 Op. cit. pp. 161, 200.

" Si necromantia intelligatur per similitudinem, scilicet aliquid simile mortno... apud Aristotelem est concedenda, et hoc fieri vi superum; et fortassis quod ex arti- ficio, sive hominum ingenio, fieri potest per virtutes herbarum, lapidum, vel harum consimilium: hoc tamen non afftrmo, multa enim sunt possibilia, quae quoniam nobis nota non sunt ea negamus; talia enim non mihi impossibilia videntur." Op. cit. pp. 161, 162.


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disbelieve them altogether 1; while at the same time he labours to bring marvels of this kind also within the regular working of nature and the heavenly powers. With regard to portents in nature, and indeed to oracles, prophecies, and marvellous events generally, he remarks that their occurrence is recorded in connection with great events in history, such as the rise and fall of nations or dynasties, the changes of religions, the birth and death of remarkable personages, and the like appropriate occasions, he suggests, for the special activity of the heavenly influences; he quotes, for example, the wonders which are said to have accompanied the birth of Augustus, of Alexander, of the Saviour of the world 2 . For the belief in omens and auguries also he considers that there is a probable foundation, and he invokes for it the respectable authority of Plato 3 . He is chiefly concerned, however, to bring the connection of omens with their fulfilment into analogy with the ordinary sequences of events in nature. Omens are signs; but so also are all events signs of those that follow them; and all natural objects signs of the properties which are observed to belong to them. Even in the most ordinary instances we cannot understand why one thing should thus be linked to another: we can only observe that it is so. The sequence of omens with their fulfilments is simply another case of the same kind established, as Pomponazzi supposes, by experience, but in itself neither more nor less comprehensible than any other established sequence 4 .

He goes so far in this interpretation of nature as a language of signs as to compare nature's sequences with the arbitrary symbolism of human invention, as, for example, when a red flag is taken to mean war and a white flag peace. There is no doubt a certain natural appropriateness in all such emblems (the red flag, e.g., being of the colour of blood, and the white suggesting spotlessness and quiet), but this would not of itself be sufficient

1 De Nat. Eff. pp. 146, 147; 167 169.

2 Op. cit. pp. 146, 147; 169; 291 293.

3 " Quod plus est, Plato scientiis adnumeravit, voluitque respublicas bene ordinatas procurare has artes esse in suis civitatibus." Op. cit. p. 168.

4 "Cur autem corvus malum signified, turtur aut grus bonum, hoc per iutellectum humanum non est inquisibile; sed hoc scimus ex multis experimentis: sicut ignoramus per quam naturam scammonium purget bilem." Op. cit. p. 170.


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to declare their meaning. We gather their meaning by experience. Now herein, he says, "art follows nature" ( "ars imitatur naturam" ). In nature, as in the case of an artificial emblem, we learn by experience to infer from the sign the thing signified 1 . If then, as he holds to be established by experience, a certain omen is constantly followed by a certain event, happy or unfortunate, the connection between the two is the same as between any other two related events in nature.

This is not to say that the one is the cause of the other. And here he adds the just and the relevant distinction that two events may be constantly connected in experience, and consequently suggest or " signify " each other, neither of which is either cause or effect of the other, but which are both effects of the same cause; and so, when that cause comes into play, both appear together 2 . He takes the example of the connection which we see to exist between a rainbow and fair weather: we do not say that the rainbow is the cause of the fair weather, but the rainbow appears because the cloud grows thin, and the clearing of the cloud causes the rain to cease. There is here, he remarks, a double process of inference from effect to cause and from cause again to another effect: from the rainbow we may infer the thinning of the cloud, and from that the cessation of the rain. Of this sort, he says, must be the connection between an omen and its fulfilment 3 .

1 "Existimandum est talis proprietatis signa ad signata habere quandam proprie- tatem et proportionem eorum ad invicem, quas nobis intelligere aut difficillimum aut impossibile est Sed stamus experimentis, veluti in multis naturalibus; quia hoc non dissonat operibus naturae." Op. cit. pp. 170, 171.

2 "Scire tamen oportet, quod stat, per aliquid cognosci aliud, utpote per A cognosci B, et tamen neque A est causa B, neque idem A est effectus ejusdem B; verum quoniam tarn A quam B ab eadem causa procedunt, ideo ex utriusque cognitione utrumque cognosci potest." Op. cit. p. 171.

3 "Utpote quoniam iris et serenitas ae ris ab eadem causa procedunt, ideo per irim judicamus serenitatem futuram, sunt enim ibi quasi duo processus: primus est ab effectu ad causam, cum ab iride procedamus supra nubis victoriam. Et quoniam victoria super nubem est causa serenitatis ae ris ideo ex tali nubis victoria procedimus ad ae ris serenitatem, tamquam ex causa super efFectum: quod autem ex iride inferatur victoria super nubem, et ex victoria super nubem inferatur serenitas, sumitur nunc tamquam notum quomodocunque illud fuerit notum. Quare in proposito dici potest, per garritum corvi cognoscitur malum futurum, quoniam utrumque ab eadem causa procedit: quo fit, ut per unum, alterum cognosci possit." Op. cit. pp. 171, 172.


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The application of this to the omen is less interesting to us than its application to the rainbow; the argument than the illustration. The point to which I wish to call attention is Pomponazzi's way of approaching the subject. He is wrong in his facts, but right in his mode of reasoning. What he supposed to be established in experience, we know to be a fancy altogether remote from experience and fact. But the appeal to experience is the main thing. " Stamus experimentis " said Pomponazzi, and "hoc scimus ex multis experimentis."

He was right also in his view of the way in which nature's " signs " are to be interpreted. We cannot learn nature's sequences, which constitute her language of signs, by an a priori perception of their necessity, but by an observation of them a posteriori 1 . True, for us the action of a medicine has a previous probability, which does not belong to the connection between a crow and a calamity. But this anticipation of a probability rests altogether on our larger acquaintance with nature's language. A priori, or previous to all observation, one sequence is as likely as another. And Pomponazzi's position was that of one who, from a standpoint of most imperfect observation, suggested the true canon for the interpretation of nature.

Palmistry (cliiromantia) he accepts only in so far as it is possible to set it on a rational basis. He treats it as a branch of physiognomy 2 .

If it is to be taken as a fact that there are lucky and unlucky days, it is a conjunction of which we do not know the cause; but there are other repugnances and concurrences in nature which we have to observe and accept as facts without being able to trace the reason of them. The rule is thus once more appealed to, that we must accept the data of experience, many of which will be to us strange and inexplicable 3 .

1 " Proprietatem et proportionem (scilicet signorum et signatorum ad invicem)... nobis intelligere aut difficillimum aut impossibile est....Sed stamus experimentis." Op. cit. p. 171. " Cur autem corvus malum significet, turturaut grus bonum, hoc per intellectual humanum non est inquisibile; sed hoc scimus ex multis experimentis: sicut ignoramus per quam naturam scammonium purget bilem." Op. cit. p. 170.

2 Op. cit. pp. 172, 173.

3 Thus for example in chemistry, " medici ponunt...aliqua simplicia esse invicem componibilia, et aliqua non, quorum causas ignoramus: sed tantum in eis dicirr.us


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Love-philtres and charms he is more than inclined to doubt altogether 1 , although he remarks, with probably unconscious humour, that they are not more unreasonable or improbable than the causes which actually do produce the amorous passion 2 . And if the question be whether "words" can conjure up love " verba," a charm in this sense " words " do so 3 . If, at any rate, magic of this sort is to be admitted, it must be explained, says Pomponazzi, "insequendo viam naturae, et absque daemonibus 4 ." He accordingly goes on to suggest possible analogies, and physical modes of explanation, for the action of spells and charms 8 .

Pomponazzi occupies himself a good deal with the legendary transformations or " metamorphoses " of men into beasts the turning of the companions of Diomede into birds, of the companions of Ulysses into swine or of certain Arcadians into wolves, as related by the poets. If these are not to be considered as mere fiction, he first suggests explanations which are in the technical sense "rationalistic." Thus he quotes Pliny's story about the gulls or water-fowl called the birds of Diomede, which cared for the shrine of Diomede on the island off Apulia, and were alleged to be friendly towards Greeks and hostile to men of other nations: improving upon it by an anecdote about the dogs of Rhodes which fawn upon natives of the island but bite strangers, and adducing the case of his own little dog which could not abide rustic and poorly clad persons 6 . Similarly he supposes the stories about the swine and wolves to have arisen from metaphorical descriptions of a moral change and deterioration: men might become like wolves or swine in nature; and, he adds, by a characteristic refinement, a physical change might also attend the moral, and the men become wolfish or swinish in

quoniam talia: quare etiam sic existimo de talibus diebus esse dicendum, aliqua enim dies convenit uni, quae alteri disconvenit." Op. fit. p. 174.

1 Op. cit. pp. 178, 191.

2 " Concedendum tamen est secundum veritatem, formositatem et dulcia hominis verba ligare et in sui amorem inducere, ut omnes sciunt." Op. cit. pp. 189, 190.

3 " Isto enim modo verba ligant et verba solvunt." Op. cit. p. 191.

4 Ibid.

5 Op. cit. pp. 192 198; cf. 234 236.

6 Op. cit. p. 272.


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countenance 1 . He brings the case of Nebuchadnezzar under this rationalising explanation.

It is probable that even these suggestions are not more than half serious, and that he was quite aware that he was dealing here with fables. It was characteristic of his intellectual Curiosity and dialectical habits, that he still could not resist the temptation to bring forward natural analogies to these metamorphoses. There are transformations in nature, he says, little less marvellous. Plants and trees are turned into stone; for this, he says, is undoubtedly the origin of the stone called " coral "; and he quotes a story from Albert and Avicenna of a tree which fell into the water and was metamorphosed, even a nest in it being turned to stone, birds and all! He instances the power of mineral springs to petrify objects laid in them, and goes the length of saying that drops of the water itself become small stones. Again, petrified animals are found (fossils). A caterpillar becomes a butterfly by a change than which hardly any could be imagined greater a worm becoming a flying thing 2 .

Coming now to phenomena more properly connected with religion, we find Pomponazzi maintaining the same attitude of mind. The miraculous pretensions of priests of his own day he places on a level of incredibility with such frauds in every

1 "Aliqui autem dixerunt haec intelligenda secundum mores: utpote Arcades versos esse in lupos, non quod revera essent lupi, neque haberent vere figuram luporum, sed vivebant more luporum; et quod in effigie assimilarentur lupis: ut homines voraces et immanes crudis vescentes carnibus, et fortassis humanis, non tantum dicuntur lupi ratione morum, imo eis multum in facie horrenda assimilantur. Et de sociis Ulyssis aliqui facti sunt porci, vel equi, vel quomodocunque fuerunt, secundum mores et effigiem. Nam veluti effigies inclinat ad mores, sic non minus et mores variant effigies, nos enim videmus aliquos prius fuisse mansuetos, et cum facie agnina, et ipsos mutatos in crudeles, facies habere leoninas vel lupinas secundum diversitatem morum. Imo unus et idem homo in pauca temporis mora sic in effigie diversificari videtur. Unde quando sunt laeti, honestam et pulchram videntur habere effigiem: et aliquando ex ira, vel aliqua alia perturbatione, adeo verti videntur et mutari, ut vix illi primi crederentur. Tanta enim est morum vis et animi passionum." Op. cit. pp. 270, 271.

2 " Haec autem pro tanto adducta sunt, ut videas contra communem cursum aliquid in aliud transmutari." "Hoc autem," he adds in his cynical way, "quod nunc dictum est, ad ingenia exercenda dictum sit." Op. cil. pp. 275, 278. The passage nevertheless illustrates the bent of his mind.


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age 1 . The miracles related in Scripture he brings within the scope of the same explanations by which he proposes to account for similar portents in various times and lands 2 .

Let us take for example his enquiry into the nature of prophecy, in the sense of the power of divination and miraculous prediction.

This gift was actually ascribed to the action of a good or evil spirit 3 . The argument of St Thomas was this. All men have not the gift of prophecy: therefore a special cause must be assigned for the gift where it occurs. From the same causes arise only the same effects; and of each specific effect a new and specific cause must be found, in this case the demoniacal possession. Again, the gift of prophecy was supposed to fluctuate, and now to be in exercise and again not; the variation had to be accounted for, and was attributed to the arbitrary power of the demon, giving or withholding the gift according as he was pleased or displeased.

Pomponazzi met the demand for a causal explanation of these phenomena, but proposed to refer them to natural causes. A " natural " explanation for him meant an explanation partly physical and partly astrological, or rather one that was both simultaneously, in different aspects. Certain persons, he suggested, possess a disposition towards prophecy a disposition of course created by the universal powers of nature which he called the " heavenly powers," and dependent for its exercise upon these influences. Upon these lines he gave a natural history of the prophetic gift 4 . The gift thus implanted is at first only potential 5 . Besides that original and potential disposition, there must also be an " immediate disposition," before the gift comes into actual exercise. Of this actual exercise of the gift he names two causes one is that universal causality of nature which was

1 De hum. xiv. p. 126; De Nat. Eff. p. 146, etc.

2 Op. cit. pp. 169; 276, 277; and esp. 293.

3 True oracles were assigned to angelic aid; the false oracles of the heathen were the work of devils; ",In oraculis homines non loquuntur neque aliquid faciunt, verum daemones talia operantur ex idololatria commissa a cupientibus scire quod petunt." Op. cit. p. 232.

4 " Dicitur primo tales homines... ex sua genitura esse taliter dispositos." Op. cit. p- 225.

5 " Satis remote et quasi in potentia." Ibid.


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conceived by him as the "heavenly powers," and to refer any matter to which meant (as we should say) to refer it to natural causes. The other is some immediate incitement calling the innate power into exercise: such, for example, as the influence of music upon Elisha, who, although endowed with the prophetic gift, could not prophesy until the minstrel played 1 . Thus instead of the accepted theory of demoniacal possession Pomponazzi offers at once a natural and an astrological explanation 2 . For he held that a gift could come into play only on occasion of a certain celestial conjunction 3 .

It is true that all men have not the gift, and that, in those who possess it, it is of variable exercise: human oracles, for example, are not always true. But these variations are to be accounted for, without reference to the agency of spirits, by the variable operation of the causes named that is, on the one hand, of the proximate cause which is the particular incitement (acting on the original endowment or dispositio in potentia and producing the dispositio propinqua or ultima, the actual exercise of the gift); and, on the other hand, of the remote or ultimate causality of the heavenly powers 4 . He dwells particularly on the former, which we should call the " natural " causation of the prophetic state 5 .

1 " Rogatus a rege vaticinari non potuit nisi prius manu imposita super psalterium, ut deveniret ad ultimam dispositionem; quamvis enim Elisaeus ex natura esset vates, non deducebatur tamen ad actum ilium nisi ex ilia immediata dispositione." Op. cit. p. 226.

2 "Cum quaeritur per quam dispositionem hujusmodi vaticinia operentur, in genere causae materialis, dicendum est illam remotam et illam propinquam esse (i.e. the original endowment and the particular incitement), de quibus diximus; quantum vero ad formalem et effectivam, est cognitio et similitudo rerum habita a corporibus coelestibus." Op. cit. pp. 226, 227.

3 " Diversitas namque situum, utpote conjunctionum vel oppositionum in ejusmodi effectibus, multum diversificat effectus." Op. cit. p. 226.

4 Thus, he says, we read of the Sibyl in Virgil that she could not give her oracle without the divine afflatus: "Hoc autem erat ex ilia dispositione propinqua per quam habilitantur ad suscipiendum divines afflatus. ..et inde provenit ut non semper tales vates vaticinentur, cum non semper sint dispositi, et aliquando magis, aliquando minus, secundum meliorem passi dispositionem, vel corporum coelestium: diversitas namque situum, utpote conjunctionum vel oppositionum in ejusmodi effectibus, multum diversificat effectus." Op. cit. pp. 225, 226.

" Cumque ulterius quaerebatur, an sit in sic vaticinantium potestate sic disponi et vaticinari, huic dicitur quod non simpliciter: est enim deorum munus et corporum coelestium. Dico tamen. ..sicut natura adjuvat artem, sic et ars naturam; quare multa consuetude et horum solicitudo et reliqua hujusmodi generis multum adjuvant


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There is thus no question, as St Thomas had implied, of the same causes producing different effects of the natural causes, as he supposed, remaining unchanged while the new facts of the prophetic state occur or its manifestations vary. On this ground St Thomas had invoked spiritual agency. But, says Pomponazzi, the natural causes do not remain unchanged: on the contrary it is their variation which accounts for the facts 1 . He accordingly dismisses the spirit theory as a vulgar superstition 2 . Combined, then, with an astrological explanation, we have a natural history of the prophetic afflatus. Its first condition is an original endowment of nature. The gift may take different forms, but it has its basis in a certain temperament common to all who possess it 3 . The melancholic was the poetic temperament; and we notice that Pomponazzi treats the endowment of the diviner as practically identical with that of the poet. Each was to him equally natural or equally supernatural 4 . Pomponazzi specifies the varieties of the prophetic gift: some seers, he says, have uttered oracles without understanding them, even like birds and beasts that give omens; others have had the power of interpreting their own dreams and oracles; others again, like Joseph and Daniel, without themselves seeing visions or pronouncing

se: quare ambo simul conjuncta perficiuntur, ubi reperiantur cetera paria." Op. cit. pp. 229, 230. And so he continues: " Quod autem dictum est, non omnino esse in potestate vaticinantis sic vaticinari, manifestum est: cum multotiens volunt et non possunt, sive sit ex indispositione ipsorum, sive ex diversitate situs corporum coelestium. Unde fit, ut ilia oracula non semper reperiantur vera." Op. cit. p. 230.

1 "Deus enim non tantum unius est causa verum omnium, quare et omnium vaticiniorum causa est: secundum tamen alteram et alteram dispositionem coelorum et dispositionem passi dat unum vaticinium et secundum alteram alterum Diversi situs corporum coelestium continue variantur. Passi quoque dispositio, cum fluvibilis sit, etiam in continua variatione Modo quis est tarn philosophiae expers qui nesciat secundum dispositionum (conditions) varietatem et efifectus variari?" Op. cit. pp. 230, 231.

2 " Vulgares autem hoc attribuunt Deo irato vel propitio. Existimant enim cum non possunt vaticinari, tune daemonem esse iratum: cum abunde vaticinantur, tune daemonem esse laetum: veluti essent homines ipsi spiritus, modo laeti, modo tristes. " Op. cit. p. 226. "Vulgares attribuebant hoc ( ut oracula non semper reperiantur vera ) numinibus iratis, cum veram causam ignorarent. Sed haec est consuetudo vulgi; ascribere daemonibus vel angelis quorum causas non cognoscunt." Op. cit, p. 230.

3 " Isti vates valde similes in dispositionibus sunt; fere enim omnes sunt melan- cholici." Op. cit. p. 227.

4 Op. cit. p. 228.


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oracles, have interpreted those of others 1 . Next, the gift is capable of being stirred up and the power brought into exercise by an external excitement, as Elisha's was by music. And, speaking generally, the gift, although of Divine communication, and not under the control of him who receives it, admits nevertheless of cultivation by art and practice 2 . He does not enter into detailed illustration of this fact, he says, but leaves that to the enquirer; he lays down clearly, however, a general law 3 .

A gift of nature, to Pomponazzi, does not necessarily mean a congenital gift. Some poets and prophets display their power from their birth. Others give evidence at least of its possession only after a time, and in some sense seem to acquire it: here Pomponazzi perhaps contradicts himself a little, having previously spoken of an original, though only "potential," disposition. Now he says, " multi efficiuntur vates post ortum, ubi prius erant ad hoc valde indispositi," and instances some who had learned to be poets. He goes the length of saying that such persons change their nature, and from sanguinei become melancholici. It is interesting to note that this extension of the conception of " gift of nature " largely relieves it of its artificial and misleading character. For Pomponazzi the poetic or prophetic endowment still remained a gift of nature, not to be voluntarily controlled or acquired by study.

For, finally, it is to him the outstanding characteristic of the prophetic gift that it is not under the control of its possessor. As a gift of nature, it is not to be acquired. It is likewise largely incalculable in its action, a fact which Pomponazzi explains at once by its own nature and by its dependence on celestial combinations; and probably in Pomponazzi's mind these were not thought of as two different explanations 4 .

In the same place Pomponazzi discusses the subject of

1 Op. cit. pp. 227, 228.

2 " Ars adjuvat naturam;... consuetude, et horum solicitude et reliqua hujusmodi generis, multum adjuvant se." Op. cit. pp. 229, 230.

3 " Multis et fere infinitis modis hoc contingere potest secundum diversitatem situum corporum coelestium, et diversitatem dispositionis passi. Quod si sigillatim narrare vellemus, neque utile esset, neque possemus: verum diligens inquisitor secundum quod sibi fuerit conveniens et expediens indagabit, et secundum proprium modum adaptabit." Op. cit. p. 229.

4 Op. cit. pp. 225, 229, 230,


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relics of the saints possessed (as was believed) of healing power. In this case St Thomas had used the same argument for angelic intervention as in the case of the gift of prophecy the argument namely from the necessity of finding a sufficient cause of the varying effects produced through this means. If virtue resided, said St Thomas, in the bones, etc., themselves, then all such objects would possess the healing power; and they would exercise it upon all persons alike: neither of which consequences is in fact true. Therefore, he concluded, an angelic visitation is the cause of each act of healing. Pomponazzi denied the inference and offered a natural explanation of the facts. His explanation is twofold. First, he says, much may be assigned to the power of imagination and belief 1; and this will explain why some are healed and not others 2 . Secondly, he accounts for the variation observed in phenomena of this class by a purely physiological explanation: persons differ in physical constitution; and so, he suggests, their bodies may have different effects, in relation, say, to various diseases, or to the diseases of various persons. This he says is a sufficient explanation, without resort to angelic agency, of the supposed fact of the relics of some persons and not of others possessing a healing property; and of their healing one person and not another 3 .

Pomponazzi next devotes a considerable space to the subject of answers to prayer, and endeavours to discover a possible explanation of the fact, which he is not prepared to dispute, that prayers are answered.

The instance he selects is one recorded by Valerius Maximus, of the inhabitants of Aquila whose prayers against long-continued rain were followed by the cessation of the rain, and also by an apparition of their patron saint, Celestinus. He also compares with this case that of the Bolognesi to whom appeared their patron saint, Petronius. He thus examines simultaneously

1 " Ex imaginatione credentis." Op. cit. p. 232.

2 " Visum estenim superius, et medici ac philosophi hoc sciunt, quantum operentur fides et imaginatio sanandi et non sanandi. Unde si essent ossa canis, et tanta et tails de eis haberetur imaginatio, non minus subsequeretur sanitas. Imo multa corpora venerantur in terris, quorum animae patiuntur in inferno, juxta Augustini sententiam." Ibid.

3 Op. cit. pp. 232, 233.


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the question of the efficacy of prayer and that of visions of the saints.

A direct causality in the act of prayer is of course out of the question 1 . He also considers and dismisses the hypothesis of chance coincidence 2 . He then suggests two possible explanations of the phenomena, the second in two slightly different forms.

The first natural explanation suggested is a highly strained theory of the power of the human mind over matter ascribed to Avicenna 3 .

Although he does not himself accept this theory, Pomponazzi develops it in his usual impartial way. In nature, he says, there are material objects, such as certain herbs, trees, stones, etc., which have an influence upon the weather: then why not also the " animal spirits " in men, especially in a large number of men gathered together and desiring the same thing 4? Thus the human thought and wish should produce their own objects, not by way of mere illusion, but in physical reality 5 . The effects thus produced by the mind in nature will be proportionate to

1 " Si ex orationibus et precibus Aquilanorum remoti sive fugati sunt imbres, non videtur in quo genere causae preces Aquilanorum hoc fecerint: nam non est dicere orationes effective hoc fecisse, veluti sol fugat nebulas, hoc enim videtur purum esse figmentum: nam non movenclo localiter neque alterando, utpote exsiccando: quoniam istud nullam verisimilituclinem habet, veluti manifestum est." Op. cit. p. 214. Cf. p. 243: "Neque propulsaverunt imbres."

2 Op. cit. pp. 236, 243, 245.

3 " Sustinendo itaque preces operatas fuisse, dicitur quod si via Avicennae teneretur, manifesta est responsio: cum namque hominis animae voluntas et maxime imaginativa fuerint vehementes, elementa, venti, et reliqua materialia sunt nata obedire eis. Quo fit, cum Aquilanorum animae fuerint valde intentae, nihil est mirum si imbres fugati sunt." Op. cit. p. 237.

4 "Etiam aliter et peripatetice dicendum est secundum ea quae in superioribus adducta sunt: dictum est herbas, arbores, lapides, et multa alia reperiri, quorum aliqua imbres inducunt, aliqua vero fugant, aliqua grandines, aliqua tonitrua et fulgura, ut manifestum est. Una herba enim fugat epilepsiam,et altera promovit. Laurus adversatur fulminibus et nux arbor dicitur eis convenire. Quare, nihil prohibet vapores tantos et tales sic affectos (sunt enim taliter affecti qualiter spiritus infirmi) in tanta multitudine fuisse potentes, ut imbres expellerent, nam repugnantiam habent ad imbres: si enim possunt inducere sanitatem et languorem, nihil videtur obstare, quin et imbres possint expellere: sunt enim veluti quaedam aegritudo: et tempore siccitatis velut sanitas. " Op. cit. pp. 237, 238.

5 " Species siccitatis realiter causat siccitatem, et humiditas humiditatem." Op. cit. p. 238.


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the force and intensity of the mind's desires, and this will be the reason why the most earnest and heartfelt prayers are said to be the most effectual 1 .

St Thomas had pressed the question why St Celestinus should appear in the abbey dedicated to his name and St Petronius in Bologna; and he had argued from this discrimination the really supernatural (i.e. angelic) character of the apparitions. But Pomponazzi shows how this can be accounted for on the physical theory; since, if the appearances in the air were due to physical influences proceeding from the onlookers, the result would naturally be in the case of those who looked to St Celestinus a vision of that saint, but a vision of St Petronius to those who held him as their patron 2 . Accordingly Pomponazzi contrasts such a natural mode of explanation, just as he had done in the case of the gift of prophecy, with the theory of spiritual agencies; and he stigmatises the latter as a vulgar superstition 3 .

Pomponazzi suggests further that this notion of the real connection between prayers and their fulfilment can be sup ported on astrological grounds. The bells, for example, rung by the Aquilani, if made of certain metals or under certain constellations, might have the same power over the weather which through the same influences resided in certain natural

1 " Hujusmodi autem effectus non semper succedunt, quoniam vel agens non est aeque potens, vel natura est magis rebellis, et multo validiora sunt promoventia ad unam partem quam ad contrarium. Unde si preces Aquilanorum non fuissent aeque potentes ut tune fuerunt, et si non provenissent ab imo corde, fortassis tarn cito imbres non fuissent expulsi. Quare dici consuevit, ut preces valeant, ab imo corde debent provenire, et esse ferventes: quoniam sic spiritus melius afficiuntur, et supra materiam fiunt valid iores; non ut flectant intelligentias (quoniam omnino sunt immutabiles) sed ut magis afficiantur." Op. cit. pp. 238, 239.

" Ex hoc ulterius patet quomodo potuit apparere Aquilae et in abbatia vel in proximo abbatiae divo Coelestino dicatae imago eius; nam illi vapores erant figurati specie divi Coelestini, qui taliter affecti poterant eadem similitudine aerem figurare et realiter et spiritualiter." Op. cit. p. 239. " Patet etiam ulterius, quare Aquilae non apparuerit divus Petronius, et Bononiae divus Coelestinus, quoniam vapores et spiritus Aquilanorum erant affecti similitudine Coelestini, et Bononiensium similitudine Petronii." Op. cit. p. 240.

J " Cum ignavum vulgus ista ignoraret, cum succedunt vota, dicunt Deos vel Sanctos fuisse sibi propitios et orationes sibi fuisse gratas; cum vero non succedunt Deos et Sanctos esse iratos; quandoquidem haec talia habeant causam quam diximus." Ibid.

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objects. And similar power might reside in men (" ex dono coeli "), just as certain men have the power of healing those that are possessed 1 . This is offered as an enlargement or modification of Avicenna's physical theory.

Eventually, however, he dismisses this whole explanation as far-fetched and inapplicable to the facts in question 2 .

His own theory of the connection between prayers and their fulfilment is a different one. It is that the prayers are included with the fulfilment in one Divine purpose, as a stage in it or incident of it not indeed, in one sense, necessary to its accomplishment, but ordained in the course of its execution " for the good of men." It is not correct to say that prayers change God's purpose ("preces nihil novi induxerunt in Deum "), still less that the prayers cause their fulfilment (" neque preces in duxerunt serenitatem "). It would be equally untrue to say that the prayers are worthless, seeing they are part of the Divine ordinance 3 . Media they are, but not causes of the fulfilment; an appointed step towards the execution of the Divine purpose 4 .

He lays stress on the idea that, while our prayers are media, they are not necessary to the fulfilment of the Divine purpose.

1 "Juxta quoque hanc imaginationem non est incredibile aliquem hominern sub tali constellatione natum, nt" imperet mari, ventibus, et tempestatibus. Si enim aliqua herba vel lapis possunt hoc facere per virtutes a coelis impressas, ut concedunt philosophi, et piscis tarn parvus retinere navim CC. pedum undique remis et ventis agitatam, quare non et homo? non sicut Avicennae ascribitur, sed alterando. Considerentur virtutes occultae rerum, et apparebit haec esse possibilia. Item contingit aliquem esse hominem ex dono coeli, qui sanet demoniacos; nam et multae herbae et lapides dicuntur tales ex coelorum munere." Op. cit. pp. 241, 242.

2 " Quod enim spiritus sive vapores affecti simulacro divi Coelestini talia operati fuerint, videtur satis remotum et maxime quod sic in unum convenerint ut in tali aeris parte et non in alia apparuerint. " Op. cit. pp. 253, 254.

3 "Nee tamen dicemus preces fuisse vanas neque non ordinatas ad finem... quoniam sunt media a Deo ordinata ut serenitatem consequantur." Op. cit. p. 244.

4 " Preces nihil novi induxerunt in Deum, ut manifestum est: neque preces induxe runt serenitatem, quando ex supposito solus Deus operatus est, cui cuncta ad nutum parent. Nee tamen dicemus preces fuisse vanas neque non ordinatas ad finem. Hoc igitur in hoc casu dicendum est, quod si quis recte consideraverit, videbit tamen preces operatas fuisse, id scilicet, quoniam sunt media a Deo ordinata ut serenitatem consequantur, nihil inducendo in Deo neque aliquid in acre, sive movendo localiter, sive alterando, neque realiter neque spiritualiter. Aquilani itaque tantum executi sunt voluntatem et ordinem Dei, qui vult talem effectum producere ipsis Aquilanis sic precantibus: et tune dicitur Aquilanos fuisse exauditos, quoniam quod petebant habuerunt, cum tamen nihil in Deo causarint neque effective concurrerint ad talem effectum." Op. cit. pp. 244, 245.


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This determines his whole view of prayer, to which I shall refer presently 1 . In this way he answers an objection which he imagines might reasonably be brought forward namely, that the fulfilment of the prayer, as for example a change in the weather, is a matter of necessity and due to necessary causes; whereas the offering of the prayer is contingent on the human will. The answer is that the appointed connection, in the Divine will, between the prayers and their fulfilment is not a causal connection. The result is not produced by our prayers and may be without our prayers; as, on the other hand, the prayers may be offered without being followed by a fulfilment. For indeed, he goes so far as to say, the prayers do not exist, are not offered, for the sake of the fulfilment. The true end and object of prayer, his point is to affirm, is not the fulfilment, but something else a .

This brings us to the very interesting theory which Pomponazzi develops, of the nature and use of prayer. Prayer does not secure its fulfilment by a necessary causation; conversely the obtaining of the fulfilment is not necessary to the utility and benefit of prayer, for, as Pomponazzi puts it, the prayer does not exist for the sake of that result. Prayers often go unfulfilled; yet they are not therefore useless (vanae). He distinguishes two ends (fines) of prayer: a " separable " and an " inseparable " end. The former is " ad obtinendum votum, utpote sanitatem "; " et hie finis est secundarius, et multotiens frustratur." The latter is " pietas et in Deum religio "; and " nunquam frustrari potest, si ardenti menti sit." Whether therefore we obtain the things we ask or not, we ought still to pray; for indeed it may be better for us to be refused than to be heard. This may be so in two ways. In the first place, the refusal may exalt our piety to a higher level; and in an argument that reminds us of the De Immortalitate, Pomponazzi claims that it is a higher virtue to

1 "Posset etiam sine ipsis (Aquilanis) Deus illos effectus producere: verum cum cuncta ordinet et disponat secunclum modum convenientissimum ideo pro hominum bono ordinavit tale medium." Op. cit. p. 245.

2 "Pro hominum bono ordinavit tale medium." Cf. op. cit. p. 248, " Imbres possunt fugari absque precibus nostris; et nostrae preces possunt esse non sequentibus propulsionibus imbrium, ut manifestum est; neque sequitur preces ordinari ad talia, esseque causales."


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pray disinterestedly than to insist upon our desires. Again, it may be better for us that our prayers should remain unanswered, when we have asked for something that would do us harm. It is in this sense that Plato and other philosophers have commanded us to pray; we are not, according to Plato, to say, "O God, give us this," but in the words of the poet cited by him we are to say "Give, O God, both to those who pray and to all men all that is good; and avert all evil from them that seek of Thee 1 ."

In this sense prayers are a good thing 2 and never useless or vain 3 . They always fulfil their end where they are sincere (" si ardenti mente sint "). But they are in a sense an end to them selves as constituting in men piety and virtue 4 .

Pomponazzi takes the opportunity of vindicating the philoso phers from the charge of impiety. On this view of prayer, he

1 " Imo scire debes saltern apud philosophos nunquam preces esse vanas. Unde orationes et quasi omnes virtutes duos habent fines, unum scilicet per se, et insepara- bilem; alterum vero fere per accidens et separabilem. Exempli gratia, preces diis factae duos habent fines, unum ad obtinendum votum, utpote sanitatem, et hie finis est secundarius, et multotiens frustratur: alter vero est pietas et in Deum religio: et hie finis est inseparabilis, ut nunquam frustrari possit, si ardenti mente fit. Quare sive votum succedat, sive non succedat, nunquam debemus vacare ab orationibus. Imo fortassis melius est ut vota non succedant quam ut succedant. Primo quidem quoniam sic perfectior videtur esse virtus: ut amans sine spe praemii studiosior est amante spe praemii, et persistens in amore, non consequente aliquo praemio, verius amat persistente in amore ex consecutione praemii. Quare, cum apud physicos felicitas consistat in actu virtutis, quanto major est virtus, tanto major est felicitas. Cum itaque amor et reverentia sine praemio extrinseco sint majores quam cum tali praemio, ergo sic perstans efficitur felicior. Secundo quoniam quae optamus, multo tiens nobis non expediunt: quae natnque profutura credimus, multotiens obsunt, et e converse: veluti saepissime experti sumus: cognovimusque ubi res non successit, quod nobis magis conduxit, quam si successisset: et si successisset, fuisset in perniciem. Quare preces apud philosophum nunquam sunt vanae, sed recte factae. Unde Plato in 2 Alcibiade docet nos quomodo debemus orare. Non enim dicere debemus, Deus da nobis hoc: quoniam fortassis illud non convenit nobis. Verum secundum poetam ab eo citatum, talis esse debet: Jupiter, sive Deus, optima quidem et voventibus et non voventibus tribue, mala autem, poscentibus quoque, abesse, jube. Quod et concordat dicto Salvatoris nostri: scilicet, Nescitis quid petatis." Op. cit. pp. 248 250.

2 "Optimae." Op. cit. p. 236.

3 "Nee tamen dicemus preces fuisse vanas neque non ordinatas in finem." Op. cit. p. 244.

4 "Cum cuncta ordinet et disponat secundum mod urn convenientissimum, ideo pro hominum bono ordinavit tale medium." Op. cit. p. 245.


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says, true prayer is never in vain. It is the common view, on the other hand, which makes all those prayers vain that do not obtain their request. As always, Pomponazzi is concerned to claim the highest ethical worth and sanction for the view which he believes to be the more scientific. And he finds in the tendency to measure prayer by its visible results and identify the efficacy of prayer with material fulfilments, only a fresh instance of the earthly and materialistic habit of the vulgar mind, which sees worth only in bodily satisfactions. It deems that the inward and spiritual exist for the sake of the material, while the truth is the exact contrary of this 1 .

Pomponazzi adds 2 a further explanation of fulfilled prayers, which he introduces as a third theory but treats as practically a modification (which it is) of the theory just described. It is that a certain state of mind, represented by devout prayer, constitutes a condition or " disposition " upon which God can give his gifts in answer. In this sense the prayer has a real part in its own fulfilment.

This idea of prayer, and of religiousness in general, as a dispositio which, without changing God or the heavenly powers, yet introduces a condition on which an intended gift can be given, brings religion itself more expressly within the operation of the Divine purposes 3 .

This turn of his thought accordingly gives Pomponazzi the first opportunity of introducing his characteristic conception of the several religions as Divinely ordained and favoured by the celestial influences. Each of them in its time and place might constitute such a " recta et ordinata dispositio " as might afford the occasion for a Divine response to prayers duly offered. He

1 "Ex his sequitur, falso philosophos criminari de impietate, et quod secundum philosophos non debent Dii orari, quandoquidem non sint flexibiles, neque nostras audiant preces: patet autem secundum philosophos Deos esse orandos, neque unquam preces esse vanas, quandoquidem finis per se est inseparabilis qui longe praestantior est fine per accidens. Verum, secundum vulgares, preces videntur esse vanae, si quod petitur non impetratur. Existimant enim felicitatem consistere in bonis corporalibus: creduntque virtutes et spiritualia ordinari in corporalia, quoniam tantum ilia percipiunt. Non vera religio tenet hoc sed vulgus prophanum: et revera qui de philosophia non participat, bestia est." Op. cit. pp. 250, 25 r.

2 Op. cit. p. 251.

3 " Intendens namque finem, intendit ea quae sunt ad finem." Ibid.


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instances marvellous events occurring under the Christian, the Hebrew, the Roman religions 1 .

In this connection (leaving the line of thought he had just been following with regard to prayers unfulfilled, and returning to the topic of portents and other recognised answers to prayer) he reverts to the combined astrological and natural explanations which we have already examined. In dreams, he says, the form of Divine communication, the subject of the vision, differs according to the particular religious belief of the time and country: why not also in other communications? These differences of peoples and religions are of course referred to astral influences. Simultaneously he relapses into the thoroughly sceptical and rationalising supposition that the phenomena witnessed by the Aquilani and the Bolognesi might be physically identical, although those affected by them interpreted them according to their respective religious prepossessions 2 .

This last explanation, then, by the place each religion occupies in the designs of the heavenly powers " recta et ordinata dispositio " has the advantage of explaining not answers to prayer only, but all the (so-called) supernatural or abnormal phenomena connected with the religions 3 .

The view thus suggested, of the various religions of history, was further developed by Pomponazzi in answer to another question.

The question was asked Why did the heathen oracles cease at the coming of the Saviour? And this raised the previous question By what power were the oracles and miracles of pre- Christian religion produced? The accepted answer was that heathen oracles and wonders were the work of demons, and that at Christ's coming the devil was deprived of his power "cast out" and "bound 4 ."

1 " Nam corpora coelestia faventia tali legi in hoc tempore, et durante tali influxu pro tali lege, ordinant hoc medium ad consequendum talem effectum." Op. cit. p. 251.

2 " Possibile tamen est, ut effigies visa Aquilae vere non fuerit similis Coelestino: sed Aquilani videntes tale simulachrum dixerunt illud fuisse Coelestini, et si Bononienses tale interea vidissent, dixissent illud fuisse divi Petronii." Op. cit. p. 253.

3 " Uterque tamen modus stare potest; et iste secundus modus dictus, est multum conformis his quae visa sunt in aere...et reliquis quae facta fuerunt non intercedemibus precibus." Ibid.

4 Op. cit. p. 218.


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This view of the matter naturally did not commend itself to Pomponazzi. He sought instead to bring the history of religions, with all other facts in experience, under the general laws of nature. Ultimately of course for him this meant to refer the facts in question to the Divine Will, working through the celestial powers; and, incidentally, he states with unusual clear ness that the " celestial " agencies were really the instruments of the Divine causality 1 . But besides this general assertion of the Divine causality in them, he brings the whole phenomena of religious history the changes of religious belief, and the phases of thaumaturgic power under certain universal laws of nature. Of these facts as of all others, he suggests, there is a natural and a rational explanation; in them the powers that are at work in all nature are still operative; and they are subject to the laws and conditions that govern nature generally the laws of change, of development, of growth and decay, and transformation in decay.

Accordingly, in undertaking to explain the cessation of the heathen oracles, he sets out from some highly general considerations about the law of change in mortal things. Whatever has begun, he says, must cease to be: its duration is limited, and it has its appointed stages of growth and decay. Once more, every mortal thing, when it passes away, generates in its decline some thing different from itself 2 .

1 "Quod igitur ex aliquibus verbis vel signis factisque in alicuius Dei existimati reverentia aliquando prosint, aliquando vero non prosint, non ex toto est extra rationem. Secundum enim communiter mine opinantes hoc provenit ex arte daemonum vel angelorum: verum verisimilius videntur haec fieri ex corporum coelestium dispositione, in virtute tamen principali Dei et intelligentiarum moventium talia corpora coelestia. " (Op. cit. pp. 288, 289.) "Cum continua et aeterna sit talis vicissitude, habet causam aeternam per se. In nullam autem aliam causam reduci potest, nisi in corpora coelestia, Deum, et intelligentias. Ergo ista naturaliter sunt a corporibus coelestibus." Op. cit. pp. 290, 291.

2 " Unumquodque quod incipit, sive sit animatum, sive sit inanimatum, sive substantia, sive accidens, sive unum per se sive unum per alligationem, sive sit natura, sive ad placitum, habet et ilia tempora superius annumerata, videlicet, augmentum, statum, et declinationem, licet in multis ipsorum non sit bene perceptibile, ut sunt ea quae per longum tempus durant, quales sunt res inanimatae, ut flumina, maria, urbes, leges et sic de reliquis hujusmodi." Op. cit. pp. 280, 281.


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With great deliberation he applies the law of origin, growth, and decline to religions 1 .

Changes, then, in religion are appointed by the heavenly powers, and accomplished according to the universal law of natural mutation. We see the Divine Hand in the rise and fall of empires, for instance Rome and Persia: why not then in the succession of religious systems, which are both greater and more enduring than earthly kingdoms 2?

It is a consequence of this conception that the thaumaturgic powers, which according to Pomponazzi depend upon certain natural causes and certain astral influences, are transferred at each epoch of change to that system of religious belief and practice which holds the pre-eminence.

Here, also, as we have previously seen, we find the explanation of accepted and successful prayer. That prayer has power with God which is offered according to the forms and in the spirit of the religion which is in the ascendant at any particular period of time of the religion, I think we may say, interpreting the spirit and intention of Pomponazzi's thought, although per haps going beyond the letter, which is the highest that the world has reached at each stage of its history 3 .

The same principle accounts for the validity of charms and

1 "Ex his suppositis respondetur ad dubitationem, quod cum oracula incoeperint et oracula debebant finem capere: veluti et omne individuum generabile et corrupti- bile. Si quod autem corrumpitur, alterum ex eo generatur, quod corrupto contraria- tur." (Op. cit. p. 282.) "Lex habet augmentum et statum, veluti et caetera generabilia et corruptibilia." Op. cit. p. 284.

2 "Videat aliquis quomodo Romulus ex pastore tarn cito ad tantum gloriae culmen pervenerit. quomodo Roma tarn breviter mundi caput facta fuerit: si quis enim moclum viderit, illud videbit factum fuisse deorum procuratione, modo pro ipsis Romanis bellando, modo in somnis monendo, modo secundum diversas figuras apparendo et per reliqua hujusmodi ingenia. Sic quoque licet inspicere de aliis regnis. Videant, quaeso, quid de Cyro in primo libro, quae de Hierone in 23, quae de Habide in 44 libro Justinus historicus scribit. Quare, cum magis Deus et corpora coelestia habeant procurare de legibus et religionibus quam de ipsis regibus et regnis: sunt enim diuturniores et longe nobiliores: quandoquidem et a regibus colantur et instruantur." Op. cit. pp. 292, 293.

3 "Nam veluti mine orationes factae valent ad multa, sic tempore illorum deorum hymni dicti in eorum laudem proficiebant tune: proficiebant autem quoniam tune sidera illis favebant diis; mine vero non favent, quoniam pro-pitia sunt istis qui mine sunt." Op. cit. p. -288.


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exorcisms, and for the invalidity of the same things at other times 1 . He applies this idea of a relative and temporary efficacy to the crucifix of the Christian, as well as to the sacred symbols of other faiths 2 .

It is a leading idea with Pomponazzi that the thaumaturgic powers resident (under celestial influence) in man and in nature have their most marked activity on occasion of the initiation of a new religion. At such times men present themselves gifted with unusual powers. And in this he sees a peculiar fitness and Divine intention, seeing that the change from one religion to another is so momentous in itself and so difficult to effect 3 .

He describes the powers possessed by such men, whom, he says, we may justly call " sons of God." They reveal mysteries, they predict the future; they heal the sick, and have power even over the winds and seas, and the elements of nature. Without these powers, the great task of planting a new religion could not be accomplished 4 . At the same time he sees in such powers only what is natural only a particular manifestation of forces and potentialities permanently resident in different degrees in various beings in nature 5 .

He lays stress on the vocation of the founders of religions. But through the operation of the same powers by which they exercise their office, such persons are predicted beforehand, and followed afterwards by others who share their peculiar endowment. These successors, at least for a time, wield the same

1 See note i, p. 299.

2 " Crux ipsa ex se nihil potest nisi quatenus est signum Legiferi, quern tantum curant nunc sidera; et non solum ipsum sed omnia etiam consequentia tantum extollunt." Op. cit. p. 290. "Nam tempore idolorum nihil niagis vilipendio ipsa cruce erat; tempore autem succedentis legis nihil magis in honore ipsa cruce: tempore idolorum nihil honorabilius nomine Jovis; tempore succedentis legis, nil detestabilius. Quo fit, nihil inconvenire, si nunc nomini Jesu et signo crucis languores expellantur, tune vero minime; quoniam nondum venerat ejus hora." Op. cit. pp. 285, 286.

3 " Cum autem legum mutatio sit maxima mutatio, et difficile sit a consuetis ad maxime inconsueta transire, ideo oportet pro secunda lege succedenda inconsueta mirabilia et stupenda fieri. Quare a corporibus coelestibus in adventu novae legis debent prodi homines miracula facientes." Op. cit. p. 283.

4 "Aliter enim non possunt novos usus et novos mores ita dissimiles inducere." Ibid.

5 " Quod sparsum est in herbis, lapidibus, et animalibus rationalibus et irrationalibus unitum videtur esse in eis, ex Dei et intelligentiarum munere." Ibid,


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Divine power (deitatem) either deriving it from their founder as iron touched by a magnet becomes a magnet itself, or obtaining it directly from the same source as the founder 1 .

Exceptional powers of this sort are not, in the belief of Pomponazzi, confined to one religion; but the like miracles as are recorded of the beginning of the Christian religion attended the foundation of the Mosaic and Pagan and Mohammedan religions 2 . And it is in this connection that Pomponazzi explains that what he means by a miracle is not anything contrary to nature or to the orderly working of the heavenly powers, but only an operation very rare and infrequent, and out of the usual course of nature.

Besides a natural origin and growth, religions have also their decay. The time comes to each to decline and give way to another 3 . Religious systems may stand so long that this truth has become obscured: the law of change seems not to apply to them, and it looks as if they had always been and were to endure for ever. But it is not really so 4 .

Finally, Pomponazzi applies this law of change and necessity of decline to Christianity itself. It had its origin with signs and portents, and marvellous powers persisting for a time; but now, he says, it is evident that these powers have declined, and a chill and lethargy as of death are falling once more upon a religion

1 "Non solum unus talis primus est sed sunt etiam multi qui vel eandem deitatem ab eodem primo recipiunt vel earn recipiunt a consimili influxu intendente dictam legem perficere Unde videmus tales legum conditores per multa vaticinia et multos prophetas certitudinaliter praedici per niulta secula ante: videmus in eorum ortu magna prodigia, in eorum vita stupendiora: et si lex ilia debet multum propagari, ille legifer multos habet sequaces, qui vel deitatem ab illo recipiunt, sicut aliquod ferrum, ex virtute quam recipit a magnete, ferrum aliud potest trahere, vel ab eadem influentia, quae est pro illo legifero. " Op. cit. p. 284.

3 " Videat aliquis legem Moysi, legem gentilium, legem Mahumeti: in unaquaque lege fieri miracula, qualia leguntur et memorantur in lege Christi: hoc autem videtur consonum; quoniam impossibile est tantam fieri transmutationem sine magnis prodigiis et miraculis." Op. cit. pp. 293, 294.

3 " Cumque talis ambitus et coelorum influxus cessabit et declinabit, sic et lex labefactari incipiet, donee in nihil convertatur; veluti contingit et de caeteris genera- bilibus et corruptibilibus." Op. cit. p. 285. Cf. p. 294: "Ilia oracula debebant deficere quoniam et incoeperant."

4 " Propter brevitatem temporis in aliquibus non latet (sell, quod corruptibiles sint leges), sed ob temporis longinquitatem latet in aliis; quare existimatur sic semper fuisse, et in aeternum duratura." Op. cit. p. 285.


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that has passed its prime and is moving towards the end of its appointed period 1 .

A further idea, more obscurely indicated, is that of a returning cycle of religious forms. Albert 2 had spoken of a periodicity in the gifts of heaven: Aristotle 3 had remarked how philosophy repeats itself and the same ideas recur. So the forms of religion, while perpetually succeeding one another, and, as individuals, of a possibly infinite number, are not infinite " secundum species." They come " per circulum et vicissitudines." With regard to religious forms it holds true that " nihil est quod simile non fuerit, et consimile non erit: nihil erit quod non fuit, nihil fuit quod non erit 4 ." Although he does not illustrate these remarks by examples, they show that Pomponazzi had observed the common features and parallelisms of different religions. But it is true at the same time that no individual perishable thing can either last for ever or return identically the same a second time; no earthly existence or institution can escape the law of change 5 . Thus, he says, it is proved by reason as well as by history, that religions are subject to a natural law of growth and decline.

1 " Signum autem hujus est, scilicet quod ita sit in legibus veluti in generabilibus et corruptibilibus, videmus enim ista et sua miracula in principio esse debiliora, postea augeri, deinde esse in culmine, deinde labefactari, donee in nihil revertantur. Quare et nunc in fide nostra omnia frigescunt, miracula desinunt, nisi conficta et simulata: nam propinquus videtur esse finis." Op. cit. p. 286.

2 Op. cit. p. 287.

3 Op. cit. p. 295.

4 Op. cit. p. 290.

5 " Quod autem haec, et si non vere, tamen consequenter ad dicta philosophorum dicta sint, ratione et ex historiis probatur. Ratione quidem, quoniam secundum philosophos, maxime secundum Platonem et Aristotelem, mundus est aeternus, neque infinita secundum speciem esse possunt, neque unquam fuerunt, neque erunt unquam: quandoquidem de istis corruptibilibus nihil secundum individuum potest perpetuari. Unde ritus qui nunc sunt, infinities fuerunt secundum speciem, et infinities erunt, nihilque est quod simile fuerit, et consimile non erit: nihil erit quod non fuit, nihil fuit quod non erit. Quare, cum continua et aeterna sit talis vicissitude, habet causam aeternam per se; in nullam autem aliam causam reduci potest, nisi in corpora coelestia, Deum, et intelligentias; ergo ista naturaliter sunt a corporibus caelestibus. Huic autem consonat quod dicitur a Plutarcho in principio vitae Sertorii, sic enim scribit: Non est fortasse mirandum per infinitum tempus, alibi aliter fortuna influente, res humanas in eundem saepius casum deferri." Op. cit. pp. 290, 291.