Literature: Works. — edd. Strassburg, 1482; Nürnberg 1499, 4 vols.; Rome, 1588-1596, 8 vols. Lyons, 1668, 7 vols. Venice, 1751, 13 vols.; Paris, A. C. Peltier, ed., 1864-1871, 15 vols., and Quaracchi, 1882-1902, prepared by the Franciscans. — B. Bonelli: Prodromus ad omnia opp. S. Bon., Bassani, 1767. — W. A. Hollenberg: Studien zum Bon., Berlin, 1862. — A. M. da Vicenza: D. heil. Bon., Germ. trans. from the Italian, Paderborn, 1874. — J. Richard: Etude sur le mysticisme speculatif de S. Bon., Heidelberg, 1869. — A trans. of the Meditations of Bon. on the Life of Christ by W. H. Hutchings, London, 1881. — A. Margerie: Essai sur la Phil. de S. Bon., Paris, 1855. — J. Krause: Lehre d. heil. Bon. über die Natur der geistl. und körperl. Wesen, Paderborn, 1888. — L. de Chérancé: S. Bonaventure, Paris, 1899. — Stöckl, II. 880-915. — The Doctrinal Histories of Schwane, etc. — Preger: Deutsche Mystik, I. 51-43. For other Lit. see Potthast, II. 1216.
Contemporary with Thomas Aquinas, even to dying the same year, was John Bonaventura. Thomas we think of only as theologian. Bonaventura was both a theologian and a distinguished administrator of the affairs of his order, the Franciscans. The one we think of as precise in his statements, the other as poetical in his imagery. Bonaventura 1221-1274, called the Seraphic doctor, — doctor seraphicus, — was born in Tuscany. The change from his original name, John Fidanza, was due to his recovery from a sickness at the age of four, in answer to the intercession of Francis d’Assisi. When the child began to show signs of recovery, his mother exclaimed, O buon ventura, good fortune! This is the saint’s own story.
The boy entered the Franciscan order, 1238. After having spent three years in Paris under Alexander of Hales, the teacher is reported to have said, “in brother Bonaventura Adam seems not to have sinned.” He taught in Paris, following John of Parma, on John’s promotion to the office of general of the order of the Franciscans, 1247. He lived through the conflict between the university and the mendicant orders, and in answer to William de St. Amour’s tract, de periculis novissimorum temporum, attacking the principle of mendicancy, Bonaventura wrote his tract on the Poverty of Christ.
In 1257, he was chosen head of the Franciscan order in succession to John of Parma. He took a middle position between the two parties which were contending in the Franciscan body and has been called the second founder of the order. By the instruction of the first Franciscan general council at Narbonne, 1260, he wrote the Legenda S. Francisi, the authoritative Franciscan Life of the saint. It abounds in miracles, great and small. In his Quaestiones circa regulam and in letters he presents a picture of the decay of the Franciscans from the ideal of their founders. He narrowly escaped being closely identified with English Church history, by declining the see of York, 1265. In 1273 he was made cardinal-bishop of Albano. To him was committed a share in the preparations for the council of Lyons, but he died soon after the opening of the council, July 14, 1274. The sacrament of extreme unction was administered by the pope and the funeral took place in the presence of the solemn assembly of dignitaries gathered from all parts of Christendom. He was buried at Lyons. He was canonized in 1482 and declared a “doctor of the church,” 1587.
Gerson wrote a special panegyric of Bonaventura and said that he was the most profitable of the doctors, safe and reliable in teaching, pious and devout. He did not minister to curiosity nor mix up secular dialectics and physics with theological discussion. Dante places him at the side of Thomas Aquinas,
“who with pure interest
Preferred each heavenly to each earthly aim.”
These two distinguished men will always be brought into companionship. Stöckl, the historian of medieval theology, calls them the illuminating stars on the horizon of the thirteenth century. Neither of them rose so high above his contemporaries as did Bernard a hundred years before. But both cast lustre upon their age and are the most illustrious names of their respective orders, after Francis and Dominic themselves. Thomas had the keener mind, excelling in power of analysis. Bonaventura indulged the habit of elaboration. The ethical element was conspicuous in Thomas, the mystical in Bonaventura. Thomas was the more authoritative teacher, Bonaventura the more versatile writer. Both were equally champions of the theology and organization of the medieval Church.
Bonaventura enjoyed a wide fame as a preacher. He was also a poet, and has left the most glowing panegyric of Mary in the form of psalms as well as in prose.
Of his theological writings the most notable is his Commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard. His Breviloquium and Centiloquium are next in importance. The Breviloquium, which Funk calls the best medieval compend of theology, takes up the seven chief questions: the Trinity, creation, sin, the incarnation, the grace of the Holy Spirit, the sacramental medium, and the final state. The Preface gives a panegyric of the Scriptures and states the author’s views of Scriptural interpretation. Like all the Schoolmen, Bonaventura had a wide acquaintance with Scripture and shows an equipoise of judgment which usually keeps him from extravagance in doctrinal statement. However, he did not rise above his age and he revelled in interrogations about the angels, good and evil, which seem to us to be utterly trivial and have no bearing on practical religion. He set himself to answer more than one hundred of these, and in Peltier’s edition, his angelology and demonology occupy more than two hundred pages of two columns each. The questions discussed are such as these: Could God have made a better world? could He have made it sooner than He did? can an angel be in several places at the same time? can several angels be at the same time in the same place? was Lucifer at the moment of his creation corrupt of will? did he belong to the order of angels? is there a hierarchy among the fallen angels? have demons a foreknowledge of contingent events? Descending to man, Bonaventura discusses whether sexual intercourse took place before the fall, whether the multiplication of men and women was intended to be equal, which of the two sinned the more grievously, the man or the woman.
Bonaventura differs from Thomas in giving proof that the world is not eternal. The mark of a foot, which represents created matter, is not of the same duration as the foot itself, for the mark was made at some time by the foot. And, following Plato as against Aristotle, he declared that matter not only in its present form but also in its essence is not eternal. The world is not thinkable without man, for it has all the marks of a habitation fitted up for a human being. Christ would not have become incarnate without sin.
In the doctrine of the immaculate conception, Bonaventura agreed with Thomas in denying to Mary freedom from original sin and disagreed with his fellow Franciscan, Duns Scotus, whose teaching has become dogma in the Roman Catholic communion.
It is as a mystic and as the author of the life of St. Francis, rather than as a dogmatician that Bonaventura has a characteristic place among the Schoolmen. He evidently drew from the mystics of St. Victor, used their terminology and did not advance beyond them. His mysticism has its finest statement in his Journey of the Mind to God. Upon this pilgrimage of the soul to the highest divine mysteries, no one can enter without grace from above. Nor can the journey be continued without earnest prayer, pure meditation, and a holy life. Devout prayer is the mother and beginning of the upward movement towards God. Contemplation leads us first outside ourselves to behold the works of God in the visible world. It then brings us back to consider God’s image in ourselves arid at last we rise above ourselves to behold the divine being as He is in Himself. Each of these activities is twofold, so that there are six steps in the progress of the soul. In the final step, the soul contemplates the Trinity and God’s absolute goodness.
Beyond these six steps is the state of rapture, the ecstatic vision, as the Sabbath day of rest followed the six days of labor. The doorway to this mystical life is Christ. The experience, which the soul shall have hereafter, is an ocean of beatific ecstasy. No one can know it but the one who receives it; he only receive it who desires it; be only desire it who is inflamed by the baptizing fire of the Holy Spirit. It is a grace not a doctrine, a desire not a concept, a habit of prayer not a studious task, a bride not a teacher. It is of God not of man, a flame of ardent love, transferring us into the presence and being of God. As in the case of Bernard, so also in the case of Bonaventura, this mystical tendency found expression in devout hymns.
110. Duns Scotus
Literature: Works. — Complete ed. by Luke Wadding, 12 vols., Lyons, 1639, with a Life by Wadding, and the glosses of Hugh MacCaghwell (Hugo Cavellus, d. 1626), abp. of Armagh, Maurice O’Fihely, abp. of Tuam, etc. *New ed., 26 vols., Paris, 1891-1895, with some changes. — The Opus Oxoniense, Vienna, 1481, ed. by MacCaghwell together with the Reportata Parisiensia and Quaestiones Quodlibetales and a Life, Antwerp, 1620. — The Quaestiones Quodlibet., Venice, 1474, 1505, Paris, 1513. — The Logical Treatises were publ. at Barcelona, 1475, Venice, 1491-1493, and ed. by O’Fihely, 1504. — Duns’ system was expounded by Angelo Vulpi in Sacr. theol. Summa Joan. Scoti, 12 vols., Naples, 1622-1640.
For biogr. and analytic works publ. before 1800, see Rigg in Dict. Of Natl. Biog. XVI. 216 sqq. — Baumgarten-Crusius: De theol. Scoti, Jena, 1826. — Schneid: D. Körperlehre des J. Duns Sc. und ihr Verhältniss zum Thomismus und Atomismus, Mainz, 1879. — *C. Werner: J. Duns Sc., Vienna, 1881, also S. Thomas von Aquino, III, 3-101. — Kahl: D. Primat des Willens bei Augustinus, Duns Sc. und Des Cartes, Strassb., 1886. — *R. Seeberg: D. Theologie des J. Duns Sc., Leip., 1900; also his art. in Herzog, 3d ed. and his Dogmengesch., II. 129 sqq. — Renan: art. Scotus, in Hist. Lit. de France, vol. XXV. — *Döllinger: art. in Wetzer-Welte, X. 2123-2133. — J. M. Rigg: in Dict. Natl. Biog., XVI. 216-220. — *Schwane: Dogmengesch., pp. 74-76, etc. — Harnack: Dogmengesch., III. 459 sqq. — *A. Ritschl: Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, I. 58-86; Gesch. des Pietismus, I. 470. — P. Minges: Ist Duns Scotus Indeterminist? Münster, 1905, p. 139. — The Histt. of Philos.
The last of the scholastic thinkers of the first rank and the most daring of medieval logicians is John Duns Scotus. With his death the disintegration of scholastic theology begins. This remarkable man, one of the intellectual prodigies of the race, may have been under forty years of age when death overtook him. His dialectic genius and ingenuity won for him the title of the Subtle doctor, doctor subtilis. His intellectual independence is shown in the freedom with which he subjected his predecessors to his searching and often sophistical criticisms. Anselm, the St. Victors, Albert the Great, Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, and other Schoolmen he does not hesitate to mention by name and to assail their views. The discussions of Thomas Aquinas are frequently made the subject of his attack. Duns became the chief theological ornament of the Franciscan order and his theology was defended by a distinct school, which took his name, the Scotists. This school and the Thomists, who followed the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, are the leading schools of theology produced in the Middle Ages and came into violent controversy.
Duns’ mind was critical rather than constructive. The abstruseness of his style offers difficulties almost insuperable to the comprehension of the modern student. He developed no complete system. It was his characteristic to disturb faith and to open again questions to which Thomas Aquinas and other Schoolmen were supposed to have given final statements. The sharp distinction he made between faith and knowledge, dogma and reason, and his use of the arguments from silence and probability, undermined confidence in the infallibility of the Church and opened the way for the disrepute into which scholasticism fell. Duns denied that the being of God and other dogmas can be proved by the reason, and he based their acceptance solely upon the authority of the Church. The analytic precision, as well as lucid statement of Thomas and Peter the Lombard, are wanting in the Subtle doctor, and the mystical element, so perceptible in the writings of Anselm, Thomas, and Bonaventura, gives way to a purely speculative interest.
What a contrast Duns presents to the founder of his order, Francis d’Assisi, the man of simple faith and creed, and popular speech and ministries! Of all the Schoolmen, Duns wandered most in the labyrinth of metaphysical subtleties, and none of them is so much responsible as he for the current opinion that medieval theology and fanciful speculation are interchangeable terms. His reputation for specious ratiocination has given to the language the term, “dunce.”
Of his personal history scarcely anything is known, and his extensive writings furnish not a single clew. Even the time and place of his entering the Franciscan order cannot be made out with certainty. The only fixed date in his career is the date which brought it to a close. He died at Cologne, Nov. 8, 1308. The date of his birth is placed between 1265-1274.
England, Scotland, and Ireland have contended for the honor of being the Schoolman’s native land, with the probability in favor of England. Irishmen since the fifteenth century have argued for Dun, or Down, in Ulster. Scotchmen plead for Dunse in Berwickshire, while writers, unaffected by patriotic considerations, for the most part agree upon Dunstane in Northumberland. The uncertain tradition runs that he studied at Merton College, Oxford, and became teacher there on the transfer of William of Ware to Paris. In 1304, he was in the French capital, where he won the doctor’s degree. In 1308, he was transferred by the general of his order to Cologne, where he died soon after. The story ran that he was buried alive. In 1707, the Franciscans tried in vain to secure his canonization. A monument, reared to Duns in the Franciscan church at Cologne, 1513, bore this inscription: —
Scotia gave me birth, England nursed me,
Gaul educated me, Cologne holds my ashes.
Among the stories told of Duns Scotus is the following, behind which more wisdom hides than is found in whole chapters of his labored discussions. On one occasion he stopped to speak to an English farmer on the subject of religion. The farmer, who was engaged in sowing, turned and said: “Why do you speak to me? If God has foreknowledge that I will be saved, I will be saved whether I do good or ill.” Duns replied: “Then, if God has foreknowledge that grain will grow out of this soil, it will grow whether you sow or withhold your hand. You may as well save yourself the labor you are at.”
The works of Duns Scotus include commentaries on Aristotle, an extended commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard, called the Opus oxoniense, his theological lectures delivered at Paris, known as the Reportata parisiensia and his Quaestiones quodlibetales, being sundry discussions on theological and philosophical problems. A commentary on Genesis and one on the Gospels, sermons and other writings of doubtful or denied authenticity are ascribed to Duns.
In philosophy Duns was a moderate realist. The universals are not intellectual fictions, fictiones intellectus. Our ideas presuppose their reality. The universal is gotten by abstraction and by noting points of agreement in individuals, and in a certain sense it is a creation of the mind. The individual has its individuality, or haecceitas, not by reason of its differentiation from something else but by its own real essence, or quidditas. A stone is an individual by reason of something positive, intrinsic within itself. The individual is the final form of being, ultima realitas entis.
Theology is a practical science and its chief value is in furnishing to the will the materials of faith to lighten it on the path of virtuous action.
The Scriptures contain what is to be believed, but the authority of the Church establishes what these truths are. Articles of faith are to be accepted, not because they are demonstrable by reason. Reason is unreliable or, at best, obscure and many truths it cannot prove, such as the soul’s immortality, the unity of God, and transubstantiation. A doctrine such as the descent into hell, which is not found in the Scriptures is, nevertheless, to be accepted because it is found in the Apostles’ Creed. Other truths the Church possesses which are not found in the Scriptures. Our belief in the Scriptures rests ultimately on the authority of the Church. The doctrines in which Duns differed most from his predecessors were the doctrines of God and transubstantiation. In his treatment of God, Duns shows himself to be the most positive of determinists. The controlling element in the divine nature is the will of God, and to submit to the will of God is the highest goal the human will can reach. Here he differs widely from Thomas Aquinas, who places God’s intelligence above His will. The sufficient explanation of God’s action is His absolute will. God is good because God wills to be so. The will of God might have made what is now bad good, had God so chosen. He can do all things except what is logically absurd. He could have saved Judas after he was condemned, but He cannot make a stone holy or change an event which has already happened.
The will of God determines the salvation of men. The predestination of the elect is an act purely of God’s determination. The non-elect are reprobated in view of their foreseen demerit. On the other hand, Duns seems to hold fast to the doctrine that the elect merit the eternal reward by good works. Without attempting to exhaust the apparent contradiction between divine foreordination and human responsibility, he confesses the mystery attaching to the subject.
Sin is not infinite, for it is connected with finite beings. Original righteousness was a superadded gift, forfeited through the first sin. Eve’s sin was greater than Adam’s, for Adam shrank from offending Eve — Eve sought to be equal with God. Man’s freedom consists in his ability to choose the contrary. Original sin consists in the loss of original righteousness which Adam owed to God. Sin does not pass down to Adam’s descendants by way of infection. Duns separated from Augustine in denying the doctrine of moral inability, the servum arbitrium. It belongs to the very nature of the will to be free. This freedom, however, the will can lose by repeated volitions. Sin is inherent in the will alone, and concupiscence is only an inclination of the will to desire objects of pleasure immoderately.
The ultimate questions why God permitted evil, and how He could foreknow evil would occur without also predetermining it, find their solution only in God’s absolute will. God willed, and that must suffice for the reason.
The infinite value of the atonement likewise finds its explanation in the absolute will of God. Christ died as a man, and for that reason his merit of itself was not infinite. An angel, or a man, free from original sin, might have made efficient atonement if God had so willed. Nothing in the guilt of sin made it necessary for the Son of God to die. God determined to accept Christ’s obedience and, in view of it, to impart grace to the sinner. Duns follows closely Anselm’s theory, whose principles he carefully states.
In his treatment of transubstantiation, Duns vigorously attacked the view of Thomas Aquinas as a transition of the body of Christ into the bread. He argued that if there were such transition, then at celebrations of the eucharist during the three days of Christ’s burial the elements would have been changed into his dead body. To avoid this difficulty he enunciated the theory that the body of Christ, as of every man, has more than one form, that is, in addition to the rational soul, a forma mixti sive corporeitatis, which is joined to matter and constitutes it a human body. Into this corporal form of Christ, corporeitas, the elements are transmuted and this form remained with Christ’s corpse in the grave. Duns declared that the doctrine of transubstantiation cannot be proved with certainty from the Scriptures, nor at all by the reason. He then argued that it is more probable than any other theory because the Church has accepted it, and the dogma is most in keeping with God’s omnipotence. The dogma must be accepted on the authority of the Church.
The doctrine upon whose development the Subtle doctor had altogether the most influence is the doctrine of the immaculate conception, which he taught in the form in which it was proclaimed a dogma, by Pius IX., 1854. Departing from the statements of Anselm, Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura, Duns taught that Mary was conceived without sin. His theory is presented at length in the chapter on the Virgin Mary. The story ran that, in championing this theory, at a public disputation at Paris, he controverted Thomas’ position with no less than two hundred arguments. Duns’ frequent attacks upon Thomas’ statements were the sufficient cause of controversy between the followers of the two teachers, and this controversy belongs to the number of the more bitter controversies that have been carried on within the Roman Catholic communion. It was a contest, however, not between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, but between two eminent teachers equally in good standing, and between the two orders they represented.
Döllinger expressed the opinion that the controversy was turned into a blessing for theology by keeping it from “stagnation and petrifaction,” and into a blessing for the Church, which took under its protection both systems and kept each from arrogating to itself the right of final authority.
The common view in regard to the place of Duns Scotus in the history of doctrine is that he was a disturber of the peace. Without adding any element of permanent value to theological thought, he shook to its base the scholastic structure upon which Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and other theologians had wrought for nearly two centuries. The opinion will, no doubt, continue to prevail that Duns was a master in intellectual ingenuity, but that his judgment was unsound. It is fair to say that Seeberg of Berlin, in his recent elaborate and thorough monograph on the theology of Duns Scotus, takes an entirely different view. To him Duns was not a disturber of theological thought, but the head of a new period of development and worthy of equal honor with Thomas Aquinas. Yea, he ascribes to him a more profound and extensive influence upon theology than Thomas exerted. He broke a new path, and “was a historical figure of epoch-making importance.”
By his speculative piquancy, on the one hand, Duns strengthened the desire of certain groups in Europe for a saner method of theological discussion; and on the other hand stimulated pious minds along the Rhine to search along a better way after personal piety, as did Tauler and the German mystics. The succeeding generation of Schoolmen was brought by him as their leader into a disputatious attitude. What else could be expected when Duns, contrary to the fundamental principles of Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, and other divines, did not shrink from declaring a thing might at the same time be true in philosophy and false in theology?
Ockam, who shared Duns’ determinism, called him “the doctor of our order.” In the dispute over the immaculate conception in the fifteenth century no divine was more quoted than he. A century later Archbishop MacCaghwell and other Irish theologians warmly expatiated upon his powers, wrote his biography, and edited his works.
One of the works of the Reformation was to dethrone Duns Scotus from his seat of authority as a teacher. Richard Layton wrote to Cromwell, 1535, “We have set Dunce in Bocardo and banished him from Oxford forever, and he is now made a common servant to every man fast nailed up upon posts in all houses of common easement.” Luther called him the “most arrant of sophists,” and he made him responsible for a revival of Pelagianism and exalting the consequent value of good works by emphasizing the freedom of the will and the natural powers. Duns had no presentiment of any other order than the papal and said nothing looking toward a reformation in doctrine.
Among the contemporaries with whom Duns had theological affinity were Henry of Ghent and the Englishman, Richard Middleton. Henry of Ghent, named doctor solemnis, a celebrated teacher in Paris, was born at Ghent and died, 1293, in Paris or Tournay. His Quodlibeta and Summa were published in Paris, 1518 and 1520. At points Henry combated Thomas Aquinas and prepared the way for Duns Scotus, who adopts some of Henry’s views. Henry’s discussions run far into the region of abstruse metaphysics. He leaned to Platonism and was a realist.
Richard Middleton was supposedly a predecessor of Duns at Oxford. Little is known of his life. He was a Franciscan, a scholar at Paris, and was appointed by the general of his order to examine into the doctrines of Peter Olivi, 1278-1288. He died about 1307. His commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard survived him. Middleton was known at Paris as doctor solidus. At the council of Constance he was cited as an authority against Wyclif. His name is inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus at Cologne, and the tradition runs that Duns was his pupil. In his teachings regarding the will, which he defined as the noblest of the soul’s faculties, he may have influenced Duns, as Seeberg attempts to prove. Middleton compared the mind to a servant who carries a light in front of his master and does nothing more than to show his master the way, while his master commands and directs as he pleases.
111. Roger Bacon
Literature: Works. — Among the early publications were Speculum alchymiae, Nurnb., 1541, Engl. trans. London, 1597; De mirabili potestate artis et naturae, Paris, 1542, Engl. trans. 1659; De retardandis senectutis accidentibus, Oxford, 1590, Engl. trans.; The Cure of Old Age and Preservation of Youth, by the great mathematician and physician, Roger Bacon, ed. by R. Browne, London, 1683; Opus majus (six books only), by Samuel Jebb, London, 1733, reprinted Venice, 1750; Opus minus and Opus tertium, with valuable Preface by J. S. Brewer, London, 1859, Rolls Series; Opus majus, with valuable Preface, by J. H. Bridges, all the seven books, 3 vols., London, 1900.
Biographical: Emile Charles: B. Bacon, sa vie, ses ouvrages, ses doctrines, Paris, 1861. — L. Schneider; R. Bacon, etc., Augsb., 1873-the Prefaces of BREWER and BRIDGES as above. — Professor R. Adamson, in “Ency. Britt.” III. 218-222, and Dict. of Natl. Biog., II. 374-378. White: Warfare of Science and Theol. I. 386-393.
Duns Scotus was a Schoolman and nothing more. Roger Bacon, his contemporary, belongs to a different order of men, though one of the greatest theological thinkers of his age. He did not take up the great questions of theology and seek to justify them by dialectical processes. The most he did was to lay down principles for the study of theology; but it is as the pioneer of modern science and the scientific method of experiment that he has his distinguished place in the medieval galaxy of great minds. The fact that he had to suffer for his boldness of speech by imprisonment and enforced silence increases the interest felt in his teachings. His method of thought was out of accord with the prevailing method of his times. He was far ahead of his age, a seer of another era when the study of nature was to be assigned its proper place of dignity, and theology ceased to be treated as a field for dialectical ingenuity.
Born in Somersetshire, England, Roger Bacon, called the Wonderful doctor, mirabilis doctor, 1214(?)-1294, studied in Oxford, where he came into close contact with Robert Grosseteste and Adam Marsh, whom he often mentions with admiration. He went to Paris about 1240, continued his studies, and entered the Franciscan order. He speaks in his Opus tertium of having been engaged more than twenty years in the study of the languages and science, and spending £2000 in these studies and the purchase of books and instruments, or £600 or £700 present value. He went back to Oxford, but was recalled to Paris by his order, at the head of which Bonaventura then stood, and placed in more or less strict confinement, 1257. At first he was denied the privilege of writing, but was allowed to give instruction to young students in the languages.
Clement IV. who, before his elevation to the papal chair and as legate in England, had been his friend, requested copies of his writings. In about eighteen months, 1264-1266, Bacon prepared the Opus majus and then its two appendages, the Opus minus and the Opus tertium, and sent them to the pope. In 1268, he was again in Oxford. In 1278, he was relegated to closer confinement on account of “certain suspected” about which we are not more particularly informed, adduced by the Franciscan general, Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards Nicolas IV. He was set free again in 1292, as we know. His body lies buried in the Franciscan church of Oxford. It was said that his books were nailed to the walls of the library at Oxford and left to perish. The story may be dismissed as untrue, but it indicates the estimate put upon the scholar’s writings.
If we were to depend upon the influence he had upon his age, Roger Bacon would have no place here. At best he was thought of as a dabbler in the dark arts and a necromancer. He had no place of authority among his contemporaries, and the rarest notice of him is found for several centuries. D’Ailly, without quoting his name, copied a large paragraph from him about the propinquity of Spain and India which Columbus used in his letter to Ferdinand, 1498. It was not till the Renaissance that his name began to be used. Since the publication of his writings by Samuel Jebb, 1733, he has risen more and more into repute as one who set aside the fantastical subtleties of scholasticism for a rational treatment of the things we see and know, and as the scientific precursor of the modern laboratory and modern invention. Prophetic foresight of certain modern inventions is ascribed to him, but unjustly. He, however, expounded the theory of the rays of light, proved the universe to be spherical, and pronounced the smallest stars larger than the earth. With Anaxagoras, he ascribed the Nile to the melting of the snows in Ethiopia. He was not the inventor of gunpowder of which the Arabs knew.
Bacon’s works, so far as they are published, combine the study of theology, philosophy, and what may be called the physical sciences. His Opus majus in seven books, the Opus minus, and Opus tertium are measurably complete. Of his Scriptum principale or Compendium studii philosophiae, often referred to in the writings just mentioned, only fragments were written, and of these only portions are left. The work was intended to be in four volumes and to include a treatment of grammar and logic, mathematics, physics, and last metaphysics and morals. The Communio naturalium and other treatises are still in manuscript.
The Opus majus in its list of subjects is the most encyclopedic work of the Middle Ages. It takes up as separate departments the connection of philosophy and theology, astronomy including geography, astrology, barology, alchemy, agriculture, optics or perspective, and moral philosophy, medicine and experimental science, scientia experimentalis.
By agriculture, he meant the study of the vegetable and animal worlds, and such questions as the adaptation of soil to different classes of plants. In the treatment of optics he presents the construction of the eye and the laws of vision. Mathematics are the foundation of all science and of great value for the Church. Alchemy deals with liquids, gases, and solids, and their generation. A child of his age, Bacon held that metals were compound bodies whose elements can be separated. In the department of astrology, in accordance with the opinions prevailing in his day, he held that the stars and planets have an influence upon all terrestrial conditions and objects, including man. Climate, temperament, motion, all are more or less dependent upon their potency. As the moon affects the tides, so the stars implant dispositions good and evil. This potency influences but does not coerce man’s free will. The comet of 1264, due to Mars, was related to the wars of England, Spain, and Italy. In the department of optics and the teachings in regard to force, he was far ahead of his age and taught that all objects were emitting force in all directions. Experimental science governs all the preceding sciences. Knowledge comes by reasoning and experience. Doubts left by reasoning are tried by experience, which is the ultimate test of truth.
The practical tendency of Bacon’s mind is everywhere apparent. He was an apostle of common sense. Speaking of Peter of Maricourt of Paris, otherwise unknown, he praises him for his achievements in the science of experimental research and said: “Of discourses and battles of words he takes no heed. Through experiment he gains knowledge of natural things, medical, chemical, indeed of everything in the heavens and the earth. He is ashamed that things should be known to laymen, old women, soldiers, and ploughmen, of which he is himself ignorant.” He also confessed he had learned incomparably more from men unlettered and unknown to the learned than he had learned from his most famous teachers.
Bacon attacked the pedantry of the scholastic method, the frivolous and unprofitable logomachy over questions which were above reason and untaught by revelation. Again and again he rebuked the conceit and metaphysical abstruseness of the theological writers of his century, especially Alexander of Hales and also Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. He used, at length, Alfarabius, Avicenna, Algazel, and other Arabic philosophers, as well as Aristotle. Against the pride and avarice and ignorance of the clergy he spoke with unmeasured severity and declared that the morals of Seneca and his age were far higher than the morals of the thirteenth century except that the ancient Romans did not know the virtues of love, faith, and hope which were revealed by Christ. He quoted Seneca at great length. Such criticism sufficiently explains the treatment which the English Franciscan received.
This thirteenth-century philosopher pronounced the discussion over universals and individuals foolish and meaningless. One individual is of more value than all the universals in the world. A universal is nothing but the agreement between several objects, convenientia plurium individuorum convenientia individui respectu alterius. That which is common between two men and which an ass or a pig does not possess, is their universal.
In the department of philology, and in the interest of a correction of the Vulgate and a new translation of Aristotle is works, he urged the study of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek. He carried down the history of the translations of the Bible to Jerome.
He recommended the study of comparative religions which he arranges in six classes, — Pagan, Idolater, Tartar (Buddhist), Saracen, Jew, and Christian, — and concludes that there can be only one revelation and one Church because there is only one God. He finds in miracles especially the power to forgive sins, the chief proof of Christ’s divinity, and gives six reasons for accepting the testimony of the Christian writers; namely, sanctity, wisdom, miraculous powers, firmness under persecution, uniformity of faith, and their success in spite of humble origin. It is characteristic of this philosopher that in this treatment he avails himself of the information brought to Europe by William Rubruquis whom he quotes.
He regarded philosophy as having been revealed to the Jewish patriarchs, and the Greek philosophy as having been under the guidance of providence, nay, as having been a divine gift, as Augustine said of Socrates. Aristotle is the great phiIosopher, and philosophy leads to the threshold of revealed truth, and it is the duty of Christians to avail themselves of it. As Solomon, a type of Christ, employed Hiram and other outside workers at the temple, so the Church should utilize heathen philosophers. He gives five reasons why the early Church did not make use of Greek philosophy except for the regulation of the calendar and its music, a proposition which would seem very crude to the present advocates of the theory of the dependence of the Apostolic writers upon Hellenic modes of thought. Bacon magnified the supreme authority of the Scriptures in which all truth strikes its roots and which laymen should read. All sciences and knowledge are to be subordinated to the Catholic Church, which is the appointed guardian of human interests. Theology is the science which rules over all the others. It seems almost incongruous that Bacon should have brought his Opus majus to a close by arguing for the “sacrament of the altar” as containing in itself the highest good, that is, the union of God with man. In the host the whole of the Deity is contained.
The admirable editor of Bacon’s Opus majus, Dr. Bridges, has compared Bacon’s procedure to a traveller in a new world, who brings back specimens of produce with the view of persuading the authorities of his country to undertake a more systematic exploration. Without entering into the discussion of those great themes which the other Schoolmen so much delighted in, Bacon asserted the right principle of theological study which excludes from prolonged discussion subjects which have no immediate bearing upon the interests of daily life or personal faith, and pronounced as useless the weary systems which were more the product of human ingenuity in combining words than of a clear, spiritual purpose. To him Abaelard is not to be compared. Abaelard was chiefly a scholastic metaphysician; Bacon an observer of nature. Abaelard gives the appearance of being a vain aspirant after scholastic honors; Bacon of being a patient and conscientious investigator.
Professor Adamson and Dr. Bridges, two eminent Baconian scholars, have placed Roger Bacon at the side of such thinkers as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. A close student of the Middle Ages, Coulton, has recently gone so far as to pronounce him a greater intellect than Thomas Aquinas. The honor accorded to him in these recent days in circles of scientific research is as genuine as the honor given to the Angelic doctor in the Catholic communion. There is, however, danger of ascribing to him too much. Nevertheless, this forerunner of modern investigation may by common verdict, though unhonored in his own age, come to be placed higher as a benefactor of mankind than the master of metaphysical subtlety, Duns Scotus, who spoke to his age and its immediate successors with authority.