- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- CHAPTER I - AN ECCLESIASTICAL WORLD-POWER
- CHAPTER II - THE VISIGOTHS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- CHAPTER III - THE SUEVI IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- CHAPTER IV - THE FRANKS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- CHAPTER V - THE ALEMANNI IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- CHAPTER VI - THE BURGUNDIANS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- CHAPTER VIII - PAGAN PHILOSOPHY THE STRENGTH OF THE PAPACY
- CHAPTER IX - THEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY—COUNCIL OF EPHESUS
- CHAPTER X - THEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY—SECOND COUNCIL OF EPHESUS
- CHAPTER XII - THE PAPAL TEMPORAL POWER ESTABLISHED
- CHAPTER XIII - RESTORATION OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE
- CHAPTER XIV - THE PAPACY AND THE BARBARIANS
- CHAPTER XV - THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
- CHAPTER XVI - THE PAPAL SUPREMACY—GREGORY VII TO CALIXTUS II
- CHAPTER XVII - THE PAPAL SUPREMACY—INNOCENT III TO BONIFACE VIII
- CHAPTER XVIII - THE PAPAL EMPIRE
- CHAPTER XIX - “THAT WOMAN JEZEBEL”
- CHAPTER XX - THE ANARCHY OF THE PAPACY
- CHAPTER XXI - THE SPIRIT OF THE PAPACY
- CHAPTER XXII - THE REFORMATION—ENGLAND
- CHAPTER XXIII - THE REFORMATION—BOHEMIA
- CHAPTER XXIV - THE REFORMATION—GERMANY
- CHAPTER XXVI - THE CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE TRIUMPHANT
- Weighted Relevancy
- Content Sequence
- Earliest First
- Latest First
CHAPTER VIII - PAGAN PHILOSOPHY THE STRENGTH OF THE PAPACY
AS, out of the political difficulties of the days of Constantine and the failing empire of Rome, the Catholic Church—the apostasy—rose to power in the State, in the formation of the papacy; so, out of the ruin of the Roman Empire, she, in her Ecclesiastical Empire, rose to supremacy over kings and nations. She had speedily wrought the ruin of one empire; and now for more than a thousand years she would prove a living curse to all the other states and empires that should succeed it. However, in order to a clear understanding and appreciation of the standing of the papacy at the moment when the Roman Empire vanished, and she found herself alone in the midst of that vast scene of destruction and anarchy, it is essential to know the source of her strength, by which she was able to survive. And, in order to know this, it is essential that we sketch a certain portion of her preceding history.ECE 95.1
2. In that dismal mixture of downright heathenism, and the profession and forms of Christianity in the philosophical schools of Ammonius Saccas, Clement, and Origen, in Alexandria, there was given birth to the element which, above all other things, has ever been the mainstay of the papacy—monkery, or monasticism: from the Greek word “movachos” signifying “living alone, solitary; a man who retired from the world for religious meditation and the practice of religious duties in solitude; a religious hermit.”ECE 95.2
3. It will be remembered 1[Page 95] “Great Empires of Prophecy,” chap 26, pars. 33-44. that in the philosophy of Ammonius, Clement, and Origen, all Scripture contains at least two meanings,—the literal and the hidden: that the literal is the baser sense of the Scripture, and is therefore a hindrance to the proper understanding of the hidden meaning with its train of further hidden meanings, and, accordingly, was to be despised and separated as far as possible from the hidden sense, and counted as of the least possible worth: that “the source of many evils lies in adhering to the carnal or external part of Scripture;” that “those who do so will not attain to the kingdom of God;” and that, therefore, “the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.”ECE 95.3
4. Now, the basis of that whole scheme was their conception of man himself. It was because that, in their philosophy, the body is the baser part of man, that the literal was counted the baser sense of Scripture. It was because that the body often betrays good men into sin, that, in their philosophy, the literal sense of Scripture was held to often lead men into error. In their system of philosophy, the body of man was but a clog to the soul, and hindered it in its heavenly aspirations; and therefore was to be despised, and, by neglect, punishment, and starvation, was to be separated as far as possible from the soul. And from this it followed that the literal sense of Scripture—which corresponded to man’s body,—was, likewise, a hindrance to the proper understanding of the hidden meanings of the Scripture, and was, therefore, to be despised, neglected, and separated as far as possible from the hidden sense or soul of the Scripture.ECE 96.1
5. Whence, then, came to them this philosophy of the nature of man? It was the adoption entire of the heathen conception of the nature of man: it was the direct continuation, under the Christian profession, of the heathen philosophy of the immortality of the soul. For, about the close of the second century, “a new philosophic body suddenly started up, which in a short time prevailed over a large part of the Roman Empire, and not only nearly swallowed up the other sects, but likewise did immense injury to Christianity. Egypt was its birthplace, and particularly Alexandria, which for a long time had been the seat of literature and every science. Its followers chose to be called Platonics [or Platonists]. Yet they did not follow Plato implicitly, but collected from all systems whatever seemed to coincide with their own views. And the ground of this preference for the name of Platonics [or Platonists] was, that they conceived Plato to have understood more correctly than any one besides, that most important branch of philosophy, which treats of God, and things remote from sensible apprehension.... Notwithstanding these philosophers were the partisans of no sect, yet it appears from a variety of testimonies that they much preferred Plato, and embraced the most of his dogmas concerning God, the human soul, and the universe.” This, because they regarded “Plato as wiser than all the rest, and as especially remarkable for treating the deity, the soul, and things remote from sense, so as to suit the Christian scheme.”—Mosheim. 2[Page 96] “Ecclesiastical History,” cent. ii, part ii, chap 1, pars. 4-6.ECE 96.2
6. This new philosophy “permitted the common people to live according to the laws of their country, and the dictates of nature; but directed the wise, by means of contemplation, to raise their souls, which sprang from God himself, above all earthly things, at the same time weakening and emaciating the body, which is hostile to the spirit’s liberty, by means of hunger, thirst, labor, and other austerities. Thus they might, even in the present life, attain to communion with the Supreme Being, and ascend, after death, active and unimcumbered, to the universal Parent, and be forever united with him ....ECE 97.1
7. “This new species of philosophy, imprudently adopted by Origen and other Christians, did immense harm to Christianity. For it led the teachers of it to involve in philosophic obscurity many parts of our religion, which were in themselves plain and easy to be understood; and to add to the precepts of the Saviour no few things, of which not a word can be found in the Holy Scriptures. It also produced for us that gloomy set of men called mystics, whose system, if divested of its Platonic notions respecting the origin and nature of the soul, will be a lifeless and senseless corpse. It laid a foundation, too, for that indolent mode of life which was afterward adopted by many, and particularly by numerous tribes of monks; and it recommended to Christians various foolish and useless rites, suited only to nourish superstition, no small part of which we see religiously observed by many even to the present day. And finally it alienated the minds of many, in the following centuries, from Christianity itself, and produced a heterogeneous species of religion, consisting of Christian and Platonic principles combined.”—Mosheim. 3[Page 96] Id., pars. 10, 12.ECE 97.2
8. “Plato had taught that the souls of heroes, of illustrious men, and eminent philosophers, alone, ascended after death into the mansions of light and felicity, while those of the generality, weighed down by their lusts and passions, sunk into the infernal regions, whence they were not permitted to emerge before they were purified from their turpitude and corruption. This doctrine was seized with avidity by the Platonic Christians, and applied as a commentary upon that of Jesus. Hence a notion prevailed that only the martyrs entered upon a state of happiness immediately after death; and that, for the rest, a certain obscure region was assigned, in which they were to be imprisoned until the second coming of Christ, or, at least, until they were purified from their various pollutions. 4[Page 98] This is the origin of the Catholic Purgatory. ...ECE 97.3
9. “Jesus Christ prescribed to all His disciples one and the same rule of life and manners. But certain Christian doctors, either through a desire of imitating the nations among whom they lived, or in consequence of a natural propensity to a life of austerity (which is a disease not uncommon in Syria, Egypt, and other Eastern provinces), were induced to maintain that Christ had established a double rule of sanctity and virtue, for two different orders of Christians. Of these rules, one was ordinary, the other extraordinary; one of a lower dignity, the other more sublime; one for persons in the active scenes of life, the other for those who, in a sacred retreat, aspired to the glory of a celestial state. In consequence of this wild system, they divided into two parts all those moral doctrines and instructions which they had received, either by writing or tradition. One of these divisions they called precepts, and the other counsels. They gave the name of precepts to those laws which were obligatory upon all orders of men; and that of counsels to such as related to Christians of a more sublime rank, who proposed to themselves great and glorious ends, and aspired to an intimate communion with the Supreme Being.ECE 98.1
10. “This double doctrine suddenly produced a new set of men, who made profession of uncommon degrees of sanctity and virtue, and declared their resolution of obeying all the counsels of Christ, that they might enjoy communion with God here; and also, that, after the dissolution of their mortal bodies, they might ascend to Him with greater facility, and find nothing to retard their approach to the supreme center of happiness and perfection. They looked upon themselves as prohibited from the use of things which it was lawful for other Christians to enjoy, such as wine, flesh, matrimony, and trade [or worldly business]. They thought it their indispensable duty to extenuate the body by watchings, abstinence, labor, and hunger. They looked for felicity in solitary retreats, in desert places, where, by severe and assiduous efforts of sublime meditation, they raised the soul above all external objects and all sensual pleasures. Both men and women imposed upon themselves the most severe tasks, the most austere discipline, all of which, however, the fruit of pious intention, was, in the issue, extremely detrimental to Christianity. These persons were called ascetics, “epovdioi”, “echlektoi” philosophers and even she-philosophers; not were they only distinguished by their title from other Christians, but also by their garb.”—Mosheim. 5[Page 99] Id., cent. ii, part ii, chap 3, par. 12.ECE 98.2
11. “Egypt, the fruitful parent of superstition, afforded the first example of the monastic life.”—Gibbon. 6[Page 99] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 37, par. 3. “From Egypt, this sour and unsocial discipline passed into Syria, and the neighboring countries, which also abounded with persons of the same dismal constitution with that of the Egyptians; and thence, in process of time its infection reached the European nations. Hence arose that train of austere and superstitious vows and rites, that still, in many places, throw a veil over the beauty and simplicity of the Christian religion. Hence the celibacy of the priestly order, the rigor of unprofitable penances and mortifications, the innumerable swarms of monks, who, in the senseless pursuit of a visionary sort of perfection, refused their talents and labors to society. Hence also that distinction between the theoretical and mystical life, and many other fancies of a like nature. 7[Page 99] Id., cent. ii, part ii, chap 3, pars. 13. 14.ECE 99.1
12. Soon there arose certain orders amongst the monks themselves: Coenobites, Eremites or Hermits, Anchorites, and Sarabaites or Vagrants. The Coenobites “lived and ate together in the same house, and were associated under a leader and head, whom they called Father, or in the Egyptian tongue, Abbot.” “The nuns [or female monks] also had their presidents, who were called Mothers.” “The Eremites led a cheerless, solitary life in certain parts of the country, dwelling in hovels among the wild beasts.” The Anchorites were “still more austere than the Eremites: these lived in desert places, with no kind of shelter; fed on roots and plants, and had no fixed residence, but lodged wherever night overtook them, so that visitors might not know where to find them.” The Sarabaites, or Vagrants, “roamed about the provinces, and from city to city, and got their living without labor, by pretended miracles, by trafficking in relics, and by other impositions.”—Mosheim. 8[Page 100] Id., cent. iv. part ii, chap 3, par. 15 and notes.ECE 99.2
13. The Eremites “sunk under the painful weight of crosses and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron. All superfluous incumbrance of dress they contemptuously cast away; and some savage saints of both sexes have been admired, whose naked bodies were covered only by their long hair. They aspired to reduce themselves to the rude and miserable state in which the human brute is scarcely distinguished above his kindred animals: and a numerous sect of Anchorets derived their name [“Boskoi”, or Grazing-monks] from their humble practice of grazing in the fields of Mesopotamia with the common herd. They often usurped the den of some wild beast whom they affected to resemble; they buried themselves in some gloomy cavern, which art or nature had scooped out of the rock; and the marble quarries of Thebais are still inscribed with the monuments of their penance. The most perfect hermits are supposed to have passed many days without food, many nights without sleep, and many years without speaking; and glorious was the man (I abuse the name) who contrived any cell, or seat, of a peculiar construction, which might expose him, in the most inconvenient posture, to the inclemency of the seasons.”ECE 100.1
14. “In this comfortless state, superstition still pursued and tormented her wretched votaries. The repose which they had sought in the cloister was disturbed by a tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty desires; and, while they considered each natural impulse an unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the edge of a flaming and bottomless abyss. From the painful struggles of disease and despair, these unhappy victims were sometimes relieved by madness or death, and, in the sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion of the austere penitents, who were deprived of their senses. Their visions before they attained this extreme and acknowledged term of frenzy, have afforded ample materials of supernatural history. It was their firm persuasion that the air which they breathed was peopled with invisible enemies; with innumerable demons, who watched every occasion, and assumed every form, to terrify, and above all, to tempt, their unguarded virtue. The imagination, and even the senses, were deceived by the illusions of distempered fanaticism; and the hermit whose midnight prayer was oppressed by involuntary slumber might easily confound the phantoms of horror or delight which had occupied his sleeping and his waking dreams.”ECE 100.2
15. “The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts were determined by an inflexible rule, or a capricious superior: the slightest offenses were corrected by disgrace or confinement, extraordinary fasts or bloody flagellations; and disobedience, murmur, or delay was ranked in the catalogue of the most heinous sins. A blind submission to the commands of the abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock; assiduously to water a barren staff that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of three years, it should vegetate and blossom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace; or to cast their infant into a deep pond: and several saints, or madmen, have been immortalized in monastic story, by their thoughtless and fearless obedience. The freedom of the mind, the source of every generous and rational sentiment, was destroyed by the habits of credulity and submission; and the monk, contracting the vices of a slave, devoutly followed the faith and passions of his ecclesiastical tyrant. The peace of the Eastern Church was invaded by a swarm of fanatics, insensible of fear, of reason, or humanity; and the Imperial troops acknowledged without shame that they were much less apprehensive of an encounter with the fiercest barbarians.”—Gibbon. 9[Page 101] “Decline and Fall,” chap 37, pars. 13, 12, 6.ECE 101.1
16. As we have seen, to be a monk, was, in itself, to be holier than any could be who were not monks. But there arose degrees of holiness even amongst the monks themselves: and the chief of these were the Mystics. These were a sect composed of extremes of the Eremites and Anchorites. They “argued from that known doctrine of the Platonic school, which also was adopted by Origen and his disciples, that the divine nature was diffused through all human souls; or, in other words, that the faculty of reason, from which the health and vigor of the mind proceed, was an emanation from God himself, and comprehended in it the principles and elements of all truth, human and divine. They denied that men could, by labor or study, excite this celestial flame in their breasts; and, therefore, they highly disapproved the attempts of those who, by definitions, abstract theorems, and profound speculations, endeavored to form distinct notions of truth, and to discover its hidden nature. On the contrary, they maintained that silence, tranquillity, repose, and solitude accompanied with such acts of mortification as might tend to extenuate and exhaust the body, were the means by which the internal word [λόγος, or reason] was excited to produce its latent virtues, and to instruct men in the knowledge of divine things.ECE 101.2
17. “For thus they reasoned: ‘They who behold with a noble contempt all human affairs, they who turn away their eyes from terrestial vanities, and shut all the avenues of the outward senses against the contagious influences of a material world, must necessarily return to God, when the spirit is thus disengaged from the impediments that prevented that happy union; and in this blessed frame, they not only enjoy inexpressible raptures from their communion with the Supreme Being, but are also invested with the inestimable privilege of contemplating truth, undisguised and uncorrupted, in its native purity, while others behold it in a vitiated and delusive form.” “An incredible number of proselytes joined those chimerical sectaries, who maintained that communion with God was to be sought by mortifying the senses, by withdrawing the mind from all external objects, by macerating the body with hunger and labor, and by a holy sort of indolence, which confined all the activity of the soul to a lazy contemplation of things spiritual and eternal. The progress of this sect appears evidently from the prodigious number of solitary monks and sequestered virgins, which had overrun the whole Christian world with an amazing rapidity.” 10[Page 102] Id., cent. iii, part ii, chap 3, par. 2; cent. iv. part ii, chap 3, par. 12.ECE 102.1
18. No one would readily think to what an extent these persons really did go in their endeavors to make manifest their contempt of the body, and to separate it from the soul. It was not alone that they separated themselves from all people except their own kind, and starved the body by fastings and insufficient quantities of food, but it was manifested in every possible way what a wild and fanciful imagination could invent. “Every sensation that is offensive to man, was thought acceptable to God.” Neither the body nor the clothes were ever washed—not even feet or hands, except by an indulgence; so that filthiness actually became the measure of the degree of holiness.ECE 102.2
19. Antony, if not the first, was the chief, the great exemplar, and the master of the monks in Egypt. In A. D. 305 he began the work of organizing such of them as would admit of it, into a regular body. He “engaged them to live in society with each other, and prescribed rules for the direction of their conduct.” In 341, Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria, the great champion of Catholic orthodoxy, “introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was opened by the disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage appearance of these Egyptians excited, at first, horror and contempt, and, at length, applause and zealous imitation. The senators, and more especially the matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houses, and the narrow institution of six Vestals was eclipsed by the frequent monasteries, which were seated on the ruins of ancient temples and in the midst of the Roman forum.ECE 103.1
20. “Inflamed by the example of Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was Hilarion, fixed his dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and a morass, about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance in which he persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm; and the holy man was followed by a train of two or three thousand anchorets, whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of Palestine. The fame of Basil is immortal in the monastic history of the East. With a mind that had tasted the learning and eloquence of Athens, with an ambition scarcely to be satisfied by the archbishopric of Caesarea, Basil retired to a savage solitude in Pontus, and deigned for a while to give laws to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along the coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours, a soldier, a hermit, a bishop, and a saint, established the monasteries of Gaul; two thousand of his disciples followed him to the grave; and his eloquent historian challenges the deserts of Thebais to produce, in a more favorable climate, a champion of equal virtue.ECE 103.2
21. “Every province, and at last every city, of the empire, was filled with their increasing multitudes; and the bleak and barren isles from Lerins to Lipari, that arise out of the Tuscan Sea, were chosen by the anchorets for the place of their voluntary exile .... The pilgrims who visited Jerusalem eagerly copied, in the most distant parts of the earth, the faithful model of the monastic life. The disciples of Antony spread themselves beyond the tropic, over the Christian empire of Ethiopia. The monastery of Banchor, in Flintshire, which contained above two thousand brethren dispersed a numerous colony among the barbarians of Ireland; and Iona, one of the Hebrides, which was planted by the Irish monks, diffused over the northern regions a doubtful ray of science and superstition.”—Gibbon. 11[Page 104] “Decline and Fall,” chap 37, par. 4. Thus Christendom was “filled with a lazy set of mortals, who, abandoning all human connections, advantages, pleasures, and concerns, wore out a languishing and miserable life, amidst the hardships of want and various kinds of suffering, in order to arrive at a more close and rapturous communion with God and angels.”—Mosheim. 12[Page 104] Cent. iv, part ii, chap 3, par. 13.ECE 104.1
22. “It is incredible what rigorous and severe laws they imposed on themselves, in order to appease God, and deliver the celestial spirit from the body’s bondage. To live among wild beasts—nay, in the manner of these beasts; to roam about like madmen, in desert places, and without garments; to feed their emaciated bodies with hay and grass; to shun the converse and even the sight of men; to stand motionless in certain places, for many years, exposed to the weather; to shut themselves up in confined cabins, till life ended;—this was accounted piety: this the true method of eliciting the [spark of] Deity from the secret recesses of the soul!ECE 104.2
23. “Among these examples of religious fatuity none acquired greater veneration and applause than those who were called Pillar-Saints (Sancti Columnares), or in Greek, Stylites: persons of a singular spirit and genius, who stood motionless on the top of lofty columns during many years, even to the end, in fact, of life, to the great astonishment of the ignorant multitude. This scheme originated in the present [the fifth] century [395-451] with Simeon of Sysan, a Syrian; at first a shepherd, then a monk; who, in order to be nearer heaven, spent thirty-seven years in the most uncomfortable manner, on the tops of five different pillars, of six, twelve, twenty-two, thirty-six, and forty cubits’ elevation; and in this way procured for himself immense fame and veneration. His example was afterward followed, though not equaled, by many persons in Syria and Palestine, either from ignorance of true religion, or from love of fame.”ECE 104.3
24. The top of Simeon’s last pillar “was three feet in diameter, and surrounded with a balustrade. Here he stood, day and night, and in all weathers. Through the night, and till nine A. M. he was constantly in prayer, often spreading forth his hands, and bowing so low that his forehead touched his toes. A bystander once attempted to count the number of these successive prostrations,” and, “after numbering twelve hundred and forty-four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account.” “At nine o’clock A. M., he began to address the admiring crowd below, to hear and answer their questions, to send messages and write letters, etc.; for he took concern in the welfare of all the churches, and corresponded with bishops, and even with emperors.” “Successive crowds of pilgrims from Gaul and India saluted the divine pillar of Simeon: the tribes of Saracens disputed in arms the honor of his benediction; the queens of Arabia and Persia gratefully confessed his supernatural virtue; and the angelic hermit was consulted by the younger Theodosius, in the most important concerns of the Church and State.” “Toward evening he suspended his intercourse with this world, and betook himself again to converse with God till the following day. He generally ate but once a week; never slept; wore a long sheepskin robe, and cap of the same. His beard was very long, and his frame extremely emaciated.ECE 105.1
25. “In this manner he is reported to have spent thirty-seven years; and at last, in his sixty-ninth year, to have expired unobserved, in a praying attitude, in which no one ventured to disturb him till after three days, when Antony, his disciple and biographer, mounting the pillar, found that his spirit was departed, and his holy body was emitting a delightful odor.” “His remains were transported from the mountain of Telenissa, by a solemn procession of the patriarch, the master-general of the East, six bishops, twenty-one counts or tribunes, and six thousand soldiers; and Antioch revered his bones, as her glorious ornament and impregnable defense.” “His pillar also was so venerated that it was literally inclosed with chapels and monasteries for some ages. Simeon was so averse from women, that he never allowed one to come within the sacred precincts of his pillar. Even his own mother was debarred this privilege, till after her death, when her corpse was brought to him. Pagan India still supplies gloomy fanatics resembling Simeon, and admirers like his contemporaries; a plain proof that his austerities were a graft from gentilism, the great religious evil of his day, and still at work upon the Christian Church.” 13[Page 106] Murdock’s “Mosheim,” cent. v. part ii, chap. iii par. 12, note; Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” chap 37, pars. 14, 15.ECE 105.2
26. “The Christian Church would never have been disgraced by this cruel and unsocial enthusiasm, nor would any have been subjected to those keen torments of mind and body to which it gave rise, had not many Christians been unwarily caught by the specious appearance and the pompous sound of that maxim of ancient philosophy, ‘That in order to the attainment of true felicity and communion with God, it was necessary that the soul should be separated from the body, even here below, and that the body was to be macerated and mortified for this purpose.’” And how exactly according to the ancient philosophy this new Platonic, or monkish, philosophy was, and how certainly all this was the logical fruit of the Platonic philosophy, is easily seen by reference to Plato himself. And, that this may fairly be seen, Plato shall be quite fully quoted. Thus he says:—ECE 106.1
“True philosophers ...will speak to one another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought ....ECE 106.2
“Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth; and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom; not while we live, but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body the soul can not have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow—either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be in herself alone and without the body.ECE 106.3
“In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure ....ECE 107.1
“And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone as in another life, so also in this, as far as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?ECE 107.2
“The lovers of knowledge are conscious that their souls, when philosophy receives them, are simply fastened and glued to their bodies: the soul is only able to view existence through the bars of a prison, and not in her own nature; she is wallowing in the mire of all ignorance; and philosophy, seeing the terrible nature of her confinement, and that the captive through desire is led to conspire in her own captivity ...philosophy shows her that this is visible and tangible, but that what she sees in her own nature is intellectual and invisible. And the soul of the true philosopher thinks that she ought not to resist this deliverance, and therefore abstains from pleasures and desires and pains and fears, as far as she is able ....ECE 107.3
“Each pleasure and pain is a sort of nail which nails and rivets the soul to the body, and engrosses her and makes her believe that to be true which the body affirms to be true; and from agreeing with the body and having the same delights she is obliged to have the same habits and ways, and is not likely ever to be pure at her departure to the world below, but is always saturated with the body; so that she soon sinks into another body and there germinates and grows, and has therefore no part in the communion of the divine and pure and simple....ECE 107.4
“When the dead arrive at the place to which the genius of each severally conveys them, first of all they have sentence passed upon them, as they have lived well and piously or not. And those who appear to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the river Acheron, and mount such conveyances as they can get, and are carried in them to the lake, and there they dwell and are purified of their evil deeds, and suffer the penalty of the wrongs which they have done to others, and are absolved, and receive the rewards of their good deeds according to their deserts. But those who appear to be incurable by reason of the greatness of their crimes,—who have committed many and terrible deeds of sacrilege, murders foul and violent, or the like,—such are hurled into Tartarus, which is their suitable destiny, and they never come out. Those again who have committed crimes, which, although great, are not unpardonable,—who in a moment of anger, for example, have done violence to a father or a mother, and have repented for the remainder of their lives, or who have taken the life of another under the like extenuating circumstances,—these are plunged into Tartarus, the pains of which they are compelled to undergo for a year, but at the end of the year the wave casts them forth,—mere homicides by way of Cocytus, parricides and matricides by Pyriphlegethon,—and they are borne to the Acherusian Lake, and there they lift up their voices and call upon the victims whom they have slain or wronged, to have pity on them, and to receive them, and to let them come out of the river into the lake. And if they prevail, then they come forth and cease from their troubles; but if not, they are carried back again into Tartarus and from thence into the rivers unceasingly, until they obtain mercy from those whom they have wronged; for that is the sentence inflicted upon them by their judges. Those also who are remarkable for having led holy lives are released from this earthly prison, and go to their pure home which is above, and dwell in the purer earth; and those who have duly purified themselves with philosophy live henceforth altogether without the body, in mansions fairer far than these, which may not be described, and of which the time would fail me to tell.ECE 107.5
“I do not mean to affirm that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true—a man of sense ought hardly to say that. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true.” 14[Page 108] “Plato’s Dialogues,” Phaedo.ECE 108.1
27. From this it is evident that the whole monkish system, with all its extravagances and torments in life, and its torments in purgatory afterward, was and is but the logical extension, under the name of Christianity, of the Platonic philosophy as propounded by Plato himself. This monkery of the Catholic Church was not peculiar, even in its extravagances, unless perhaps, in those of the pillar-saints; for paganism, long before this, had the like, and even yet has it: and, wherever it is found, it is all the strict logic of the philosophy of the immortality of the soul Of the inquiries of the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome with regard to the immortality of the soul, it has been well observed that “their reason had been often guided by their imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental powers, when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations, or the most important labors, and when they reflected on the desire of fame, which transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of the grave, they were unwilling to ...suppose that a being, for whose dignity they entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of earth, and to a few years of duration.”—Gibbon. 15[Page 109] “Decline and Fall,” chap 15, par. 18.ECE 108.2
28. Thus it is plain that vanity, self-love, self-exaltation—selfishness—is the root of the philosophy of the immortality of the soul. It was this that led them to consider themselves, in their souls, “immortal and imperishable” (for so Plato definitely puts it), 16[Page 109] That this may be seen exactly as it is; and also that it may be seen how self-conceited and altogether vain and inconclusive really is the “reasoning” upon which the immortality of the soul is founded; the argument is here set down from Plato himself:—
What is that the inherence of which will render the body alive?
And is this always the case?
Yes, of course.
Then whatever the soul possesses, to that she comes bearing life?
Yes, certainly. [This can be so only on the assumption that the soul has life in itself, that it is self-existent, and therefore equal with God.—A. T. J.
And is there any opposite to life?
And what is that?
And what do we call that principle which does not admit of death?
And does the soul admit of death?
Then the soul is immortal?
And may we say that this is proved?
Yes, abundantly proved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If the immortal is also imperishable, then the soul will be imperishable as well as immortal; but if not, some other proof of her imperishableness will have to be given.
No other proof is needed; for if the immortal, being eternal, is liable to perish, then nothing is imperishable.
Yes, all men will agree that God, and the essential forms of life, and the immortal in general, will never perish.
Yes, all men—that is true; and what is more, gods, if I am not mistaken, as well as men.
Seeing then that the immortal is indestructible, must not the soul, if she is immortal, be also imperishable?
Then when death attacks a man, the mortal portion of him may be supposed to die, but the immortal goes out of the way of death and is preserved safe and sound?
Then, beyond question the soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world?
I am convinced, and have nothing more to object. and so, essentially a part of the Deity. And this is confirmed by revelation. For, when God had said to the man whom He had formed and placed in dominion over all the earth and over every moving thing upon it: “Of all the trees of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree which is in the midst of the garden thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Satan came with the words: “Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that, on the day ye eat thereof, your eyes will be opened and ye will be as God.” 17[Page 110] . R. V. The Jews’ translation, and the Hebrew. The woman believed this Satanic word. So believing, she saw what was not true—that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise,” a philosopher; and “she took of the fruit thereof and did eat and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”ECE 109.1
29. This is the origin of the philosophy of the immortality of the soul, in this world. And the only reason why that man did not die that day, even in the very hour when he sinned, is that there, at that moment, Jesus Christ offered himself in behalf of man, and took upon himself the death that would then have fallen upon the man; and thus gave to man another chance, a probation, a breathing-space, that he might choose life. This is why God could immediately say to the deceiver: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” 18[Page 110] ; ; ; . And so it is written: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” 19[Page 110] . He came that they might first have life; and, without His then offering himself, man never would have had life after he sinned. And, having come that the man might first have life, this life to the man was and is solely for the purpose that he might use it in securing life more abundantly, even eternal life, the life of God. Thus it is only by the gift of Christ that any man in this world ever has opportunity to breathe at all. And, the sole object of man’s having an opportunity to breathe, is that he may choose life, that he may live and escape the death that is due to sin, and that is certain to fall, when Christ shall step away from between, and shall resume His place upon the throne of the universe.ECE 110.1
30. And so it is written: “What is your life?—It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” 20[Page 111] . And, what is death—the death which men die in this world?—It is even a sleep, 21[Page 111] ; ; ; . from which there is waking only in the resurrection of the dead. So the entering of Christ—Christ’s gift of himself when man had sinned—gave to man this life which is but a vapor, and which ends in this death which is but a sleep, between that life which is life indeed, and that death which is death indeed. Therefore, to all mankind it is spoken forever: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” 23[Page 111]. “He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”ECE 111.1
31. Accordingly, “he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life;” for “this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” 24[Page 111] . And this life which is life indeed, beyond this life which is a vapor and this death which is a sleep, is assured only in Christ, through the resurrection of the dead: as it is written, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” 25[Page 111] . “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 26[Page 112] . And, without the resurrection of the dead, there is no hereafter; for “if the dead rise not ...your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins; then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” And “if after the men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” 27[Page 112] .ECE 111.2
32. This is the true course, and the only true course, to immortality: not merely immortality of the soul, but the immortality of both soul and body. For Christ has bought, and will redeem, the body equally with the soul; He cares, and would have men care, for the body equally as for the soul; as it is written, “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 28[Page 112] . God only hath immortality. 29[Page 112] . Christ “hath brought life and immortality to the light through the gospel.” 31[Page 112] . Thus immortality is the gift of God, and is obtained only by believers of the gospel. And to these it is given only at the resurrection of the dead; as it is written: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”ECE 112.1
33. This is the truth as to immortality. This is the true way of mankind from mortality to immortality. But, it is directly antagonistic to the Platonic or pagan idea of immortality, and of that way to it. This is evident on its face; but it is aptly confirmed by an incident that occurred at the very seat of the original Platonic philosophy—in Athens itself. Paul, in one of his journeys, came to Athens, where he remained several days, and talked “in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” And, in all his speech, he preached the gospel—Christ and Him crucified: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God: Christ and the resurrection of the dead: and life and immortality only through Christ and the resurrection of the dead. “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods.” And this “because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.” This was altogether a new doctrine, something which they never had heard. Therefore, “they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.” And when, standing on Mars’ Hill, he preached to them the gospel, and called upon all “to repent: because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead—when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.”ECE 112.2
34. This account demonstrates even by inspiration that the Christian conception of immortality is not in any sense that of Plato and the other philosophers. If Paul had preached in Athens the immortality of the soul, no one in Athens would ever have counted him “a setter forth of strange gods.” Such preaching would never there have been called “new doctrine.” Nothing of that sort would ever have been “strange things to their ears.” But Christianity knows no such thing as the immortality of the soul. Therefore Paul preached immortality as the gift of God through Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead: immortality to be sought for and obtained only through the faith of Christ, by believers in Jesus—immortality only through Christ and the resurrection of the dead. He preached that, without the gospel, all men are lost, and subject to death. For, to the Greeks he wrote: “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 32[Page 114] . He preached the Word,—not that the soul is “immortal and imperishable,” but—“the soul that sinneth, it shall die;” 33[Page 114] . that “the wicked shall perish:” 35[Page 114] . that “they shall be as nothing:” that “yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be:” that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?”ECE 113.1
35. Selfishness, then, selfishness in pride and self-exaltation, being the root of the philosophy of the immortality of the soul, in the nature of things selfishness could be the only root of this sanctification and glorification of the soul by all these starvings, punishments, or exercises of whatever sort that were employed to depress the body and exalt the soul so as to accomplish the separation of the soul from the body and enable her to reach the high destiny prescribed in the philosophy. Consequently, the analysis of the monastic life is clearly only self-righteousness: “exorbitant selfishness made the rule of life.”—Draper. 38[Page 114] “Intellectual Development of Europe,” Vol. i. chap 14, par. 7 from end. The goal of the soul was to be reached solely by their own efforts. The rules for their guidance to this goal were of their own making. They themselves prescribed for themselves rules by which they were to deliver themselves from themselves. And, a law without a penalty being of no force, it was perfectly logical that, for the violation of the rules which they themselves had prescribed to themselves, they should lay upon themselves penalties in penances and dreadful punishments to whatever degree would most likely prevent any further violation of the rules, or any recurrence of the proscribed action or thought. But, all their rules were prohibitions of what it was inherently in them to do; all their proscriptions were of things which were essentially of themselves; and, it is impossible for a man by any law, penalty, or proscription upon himself, to prevent himself from desiring to do that which is in him to do. In other words, it is impossible for any finite being to deliver himself from himself. And, when, in his own proud estimation, any such one concludes that he has delivered himself from himself, in the very pride and self-glorification of that which he decides that he has accomplished, self is magnified more than ever before. And this is exactly the round which was traveled in the self-involved system of the philosophy of the immortality of the soul and of its logical manifestation in monkery.ECE 114.1
36. There is a way of deliverance from self. It is the way of Christ, and of the faith of Christ who is “the Way.” And so it is written: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery [a thing to be seized upon and held fast, as a robber his prey] to be equal with God: but emptied himself.” 39[Page 115] , R. V. He, being divine, and in all perfections complete, could empty Himself and still retain His divine humility. He could successfully empty Himself without any taint of self-exaltation. And, that having been accomplished in Himself, in order that the like might be accomplished in all mankind; having emptied Himself, in order that every man might be emptied of himself;—now to every man comes the word: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who ...emptied Himself.” Do not think that you are equal with God: do not think that you are immortal: do not think that equality with God is a thing to be seized upon and held fast. But, “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who ...emptied Himself.” And that mind which was in Christ will accomplish in you precisely what it accomplished in Him: it will empty yourself. Do you also become “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” by which the world shall be crucified unto you, and you unto the world; and so shall you be delivered “from this present evil world, according to the will of God and Jesus Christ our Lord.” 40[Page 115] . And all this without any rules, penances, or punishments; but by the divine power of the righteousness of God, which, from faith to faith, is revealed in the gospel of Christ. 41[Page 115] .ECE 115.1
37. The frenzy of the fanaticism to which the devotees of monkery attained, was only the measure of the popularity which the philosophy of monkery had acquired. And thus the profession of monkery became the standard of all virtue—with the clerical order, with kings and emperors, and with the multitude. Those who were not of the monastic order, in order to have any recognized standing anywhere, were obliged to imitate, or at least, to make a show of imitating, the course of the monks, so far as it was practicable without their actually becoming monks. And one thing in particular that was thus demanded, and with a force that would accept of no refusal, was the celibacy of the clergy.ECE 115.2
38. “Marriage was allowed to all the clergy, from the highest rank to the lowest. Yet those were accounted more holy and excellent who lived in celibacy. For it was the general persuasion that those who lived in wedlock were much more exposed to the assaults of the evil spirits than others: and it was of immense importance that no impure or malignant spirit should assail the mind or the body of one who was to instruct and govern others. Such persons, therefore, wished, if possible, to have nothing to do with conjugal life. And this, many of the clergy, especially in Africa, endeavored to accomplish with the least violence to their inclinations; for they received into their houses, and even to their beds, some of those females who had vowed perpetual chastity, affirming, however, most religiously, that they had no disgraceful intercourse with them. Such connections they considered as a marriage of soul, without the marriage of the body. These concubines were by the Greeks called “suneisaktoi” [plural of “suneisaktos” introduced together; a priest’s housekeeper—Liddell and Scott], and by the Latins mulieres subintroductae [women secretly brought in].”—Mosheim. 42[Page 116] Cent. iii, part ii, par. 7.ECE 116.1
39. At first, all orders of monks were composed of the laity. But, when they attained to such heights of popularity, and therefore, of saintliness, many of them, by the voice of the populace, or even by the command of the emperors, were chosen to the clerical office, and even to bishoprics. At first, also, when they were of the laity, they, as others of the laity, were subject to the episcopal jurisdiction of the diocese in which they were. But, by reason of their great popularity and their immense numbers, they became so powerful, and by their self-exaltation they became so arrogant, that, on occasion, they would defy the authority of the bishops; and not only of the bishops, but even of the emperors; and, by the violent and virulent tide of their passions would carry everything before them.ECE 116.2
40. This disregard of their authority the bishops resented; which resentment, in turn, the monks resented. Thus, gradually, there developed a condition of continual variance between the bishopric and the monastic orders. In their contentions with the bishops, the monks would invariably appeal to the bishop of Rome; and thus, by degrees, through one minor exemption after another, the point was at last reached at which, by the authority of the pope, the monks were wholly exempt from all episcopal jurisdiction, and were made directly responsible to the bishop of Rome himself. This greatly magnified the self-importance of the monks, and brought to the pope a vast army permeating all Christendom—an army of fanatics, who, by their very philosophy, were inured to the most savage hardships; and who thus were prepared to go through fire or flood, and to face death in any shape without flinching, in the service of their head, and for the propagation of the form of religion which they themselves were largely instrumental in creating.ECE 116.3
41. This also gave to the bishop of Rome an army of devotees who were of a disposition to employ any means whatever, even to the most savage, to secure the recognition of his authority, and conformity to his religion. For their own “voluntary martyrdom must have gradually destroyed the sensibility both of the mind and body; nor can it be presumed that the fanatics, who torment themselves, are susceptible of any lively affection for the rest of mankind. A cruel, unfeeling temper has distinguished the monks of every age and country: their stern indifference, which is seldom mollified by personal friendship, is inflamed by religious hatred; and their merciless zeal has strenuously administered the holy office of the Inquisition.”—Gibbon. 43[Page 117] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 37, par. 14.ECE 117.1