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  • by: by O'Rourke, P. J
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  • Publisher by: Atlantic Monthly Pr
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  • Add date: 02.07.2016
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This pious spirit not only pervaded science; it bloomed out in art, and especially in the cathedrals. In the gargoyles overhanging the walls, in the grotesques clambering about the towers or perched upon pinnacles, in the dragons prowling under archways or lurking in bosses of foliage, in the apocalyptic beasts carved upon the stalls of the choir, stained into the windows, wrought into the tapestries, illuminated in the letters and borders of psalters and missals, these marvels of creation suggested everywhere morals from the Physiologus, the Bestiaries, and the Exempla.

[36] Here and there among men who were free from church control we have work of a better sort. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Abd Allatif made observations upon the natural history of Egypt which showed a truly scientific spirit, and the Emperor Frederick II attempted to promote a more fruitful study of Nature; but one of these men was abhorred as a Mussulman and the other as an infidel.

Far more in accordance with the spirit of the time was the ecclesiastic Giraldus Cambrensis, whose book on the topography of Ireland bestows much attention upon the animals of the island, and rarely fails to make each contribute an appropriate moral. For example, he says that in Ireland "eagles live for so many ages that they seem to contend with eternity itself; so also the saints, having put off the old man and put on the new, obtain the blessed fruit of everlasting life.

" Again, he tells us: "Eagles often fly so high that their wings are scorched by the sun; so those who in the Holy Scriptures strive to unravel the deep and hidden secrets of the heavenly mysteries, beyond what is allowed, fall below, as if the wings of the presumptuous imaginations on which they are borne were scorched. " In one of the great men of the following century appeared a gleam of healthful criticism: Albert the Great, in his work on the animals, dissents from the widespread belief that certain birds spring from trees and are nourished by the sap, and also from the theory that some are generated in the sea from decaying wood.

But it required many generations for such scepticism to produce much effect, and we find among the illustrations in an edition of Mandeville published just before the Reformation not only careful accounts but pictured representations both of birds and of beasts produced in the fruit of trees. [37] This general employment of natural science for pious purposes went on after the Reformation.

Luther frequently made this use of it, and his example controlled his followers. In 1612, Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Luther's university, gave to the world his sacred history of animals, which went through many editions.

It contained a very ingenious classification, describing "natural dragons," which have three rows of Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government to each jaw, and he piously adds, "the principal Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S.

Government is the Devil. " Near the end of the same century, Father Kircher, the great Jesuit professor at Rome, holds back the sceptical current, insists upon the orthodox view, and represents among the animals entering the ark sirens and griffins. Yet even among theologians we note here and there a sceptical spirit in natural science.

Early in the same seventeenth century Eugene Roger published his _Travels in Palestine_. As regards the utterances of Scripture he is soundly orthodox: he prefaces his work with a map showing, among other important points referred to in biblical history, the place where Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, the cavern which Adam and Eve inhabited after their expulsion from paradise, the spot where Balaam's ass spoke, the place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, the steep place down which the swine possessed of devils plunged into the sea, the position of the salt statue which was once Lot's wife, the place at sea where Jonah was swallowed by the whale, and "the exact spot where St.

Peter caught one hundred and fifty-three fishes. " As to natural history, he describes and discusses with great theological acuteness the basilisk. He tells us that the animal is about a foot and a half long, is shaped like a crocodile, and kills people with a single glance. The one which he saw was dead, fortunately for him, since in the time of Pope Leo IV--as he tells us--one appeared in Rome and killed many people Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S.

Government merely looking at them; but the Pope destroyed it with his prayers and the sign of the cross. He informs us that Providence has wisely and mercifully protected man by requiring the monster to cry aloud two or three times whenever it leaves its den, and that the divine wisdom in creation is also shown by the fact that the Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S.

Government is obliged to look its victim in the eye, and at a certain fixed distance, before its glance can penetrate the victim's brain and so pass to his heart. He also gives a reason for supposing that the same divine mercy has provided that the crowing of a cock will kill the basilisk. Yet even in this good and credulous missionary we see the influence of Bacon and the dawn of experimental science; for, having been told many stories regarding the salamander, he secured one, placed it alive upon the burning coals, and reports to us that the legends concerning its power to live in the fire are untrue.

He also tried experiments with the chameleon, and found that the stories told of it were to be received with much allowance: while, then, he locks up his judgment whenever he discusses the letter of Scripture, he uses his mind in other things much after the modern method.

In the second half of the same century Hottinger, in his _Theological Examination of the History of Creation_, breaks from the belief in the phoenix; but his scepticism is carefully kept within the limits imposed by Scripture. He avows his doubts, first, "because God created the animals in couples, while the phoenix is represented as a single, unmated creature"; secondly, "because Noah, when he entered the ark, brought the animals in by sevens, while there were never so many individuals of the phoenix species" thirdly, because "no man is known who dares assert that he has ever seen this bird"; fourthly, because "those who assert there is a phoenix differ among themselves.

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