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DIGRESSION ON THE PASSAGE OF THE ARABIANS
TO THEIR AGE OF REASON.
INFLUENCE OF MEDICAL IDEAS THROUGH THE NESTORIANS AND JEWS.
The intellectual Development of the Arabians is guided by the Nestorians
and the Jews, and is in the Medical Direction.—The Basis of this
Alliance is theological. Antagonism of the Byzantine System to Scientific Medicine.-Suppres
sion of the Asclepions.—Their Replacement" by Miracle-cure.—The resulting Superstition and Ignorance. Affiliation of the Arabians with the Nestorians and Jews. lšt. The Nestorians, their Persecutions, and the Diffusion of their Sec
tarian Ideas.-They inherit the old Greek Medicine, Sub-digression on Greek Medicine.—The Asclepions. -- Philosophical
Importance of Hippocrates, who separates Medicine from Religion.
The School of Cnidos.-Its Suppression by Constantine. Sub-digression on Egyptian Medicine. It is founded on Anatomy and Physiology.--Dissections and Vivisections. -The Great Alexandrian
Physicians. 2nd. The Jewish Physicians.—Their Emancipation from Superstition.
They found Colleges and promote Science and Letters. The contemporary Tendency to Magic, Necromancy, the Black Art.-The
Philosopher's Stone, Elixir of Life, etc. The Arabs originate scientific Chemistry.—Discover the strong Acids,
Phosphorus, etc. Their geological Ideas.--Apply Chemistry to the Practice of Medicine.-Approach of the Conflict between the Saracenic
material and the European supernatural System. THE military operations of the Arabians, described in Chapter XI., overthrew the Byzantine political system, prematurely closing the Age of Faith Importance of in the East; their intellectual procedure gave of the rise to an equally important result, being destined, in the end, to close the Age of Faith in the West. .
Theirteachers were the Nestorians and Jews.
The Saracens not only destroyed the Italian offshoot, they also impressed characteristic lineaments on the Age of Reason in Europe.
Events so important make it necessary for me to turn aside from the special description of European intellectual advancement, and offer a digression on the passage of the Arabians to their Age of Reason. It is impossible for us to understand their action in the great drama about to be performed unless we understand the character they had assumed.
In a few centuries the fanatics of Mohammed had Their intellec- altogether changed their appearance. Great tual progress. philosophers, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers, alchemists, grammarians, had arisen among them. Letters and science, in all their various departments, were cultivated.
A nation stirred to its profoundest depths by warlike emigration, and therefore ready to make, as soon as it
reaches a period of repose, a rapid intellectual advance, may owe the path in which it is about to pass to those who are in the position of
pointing it out, or of officiating as teachers. The teachers of the Saracens were the Nestorians and the Jews.
It has been remarked that Arabian science emerged out of medicine, and that in its cultivation physicians took the lead, its beginnings being in the pursuit of alchemy.
In this chapter I have to describe the origin of
these facts, and therefore must consider the was through state of Greek and Egyptian medicine, and
relate how, wherever the Byzantine system could reach, true medical philosophy was displaced by relic and shrine-curing; and how it was, that while European ideas were in all directions reposing on the unsubstantial basis of the supernatural, those of the Saracens were resting on the solid foundation of a material support.
When the Arabs conquered Egypt, their conduct was that of bigoted fanatics ; it justified the accusation made by some against them, that they burned the Alexandrian library for the purpose of heating the baths. But scarcely were they settled in their new dominion when they
Their scientific progress
exhibited an extraordinary change. At once they became lovers and zealous cultivators of learning.
The Arab power had extended in two directions, and had been submitted to two influences. In Asia it had been exposed to the Nestorians, in Africa to the Jews, both of whom had suffered persecution at the Causes of hands of the Byzantine government, apparently their union for the same opinion as that which had now torians and established itself by the sword of Mohammed. Jews. The doctrine of the unity of God was their common point of contact. On this they could readily affiliate, and hold in common detestation the trinitarian power at Constantinople. He who is suffering the penalties of the law as a heretic, or who is pursued by judicial persecution as a misbeliever, will readily consort with others reputed to cherish similar infidelities. Brought into unison in Asia with the Nestorians, and in Africa with the Alexandrian Jews, the Arabians became enthusiastic admirers of learning
Not that there was between the three parties thus coalescing a complete harmony of sentiment in the theological direction ; for, though the Nestorians and the Jews were willing to accept one-half of the Arabian dogma, that there is but one God, they could becomes their not altogether commit themselves to the other, neutral that Mohammed is his Prophet. Perhaps estrangement on this point might have arisen, but fortunately a remarkable circumstance opened the way for a complete understanding between them. Almost from the beginning the Nestorians had devoted themselves to the study of medicine, and had paid much attention to the structure and diseases of the body of man; the Jews had long produced distinguished physicians. These medical studies presented, therefore, a neutral ground on which the three parties could intellectually unite in harmony; and so thoroughly did the Arabians affiliate with these their teachers, that they acquired from them a characteristic mental physiognomy. Their physicians were their great philosophers; their medical colleges were their foci of learning. While the Byzantines obliterated science in theology, the Saracens illuminated it by medicine.
When Constantine the Great and his successors, under ecclesiastical influence, had declared themselves the enemies Byzantine
of worldly learning, it became necessary for the suppression of clergy to assume the duty of seeing to the
physical as well as the religious condition of the people. It was unsuited to the state of things that physicians, whose philosophical tendencies inclined them to the pagan party, should be any longer endured. Their education in the Asclepions imparted to them ideas in opposition to the new policy. An edict of Constantine suppressed those establishments, ample provision being, however, made for replacing them by others more agreeable to the genius of Christianity. Hospitals and benevolent organizations were founded in the chief cities,
and richly endowed with money and lands. of public
In these merciful undertakings the empress
mother, Helena, was distinguished, her example being followed by many high-born ladies. The heart of women, which is naturally open to the desolate and afflicted, soon gives active expression to its sympathies when it is sanctified by Christian faith. In this, its legitimate direction, Christianity could display its matchless benevolence and charities. Organizations were introduced upon the most extensive and varied scale; one had charge of foundlings, another of orphans, another of the poor. We have already alluded to the parabolani or visitors, and of the manner in which they were diverted from their original intent.
But, noble as were these charities, they laboured under an essential defect in having substituted for educated physicians well-meaning but unskilful ecclesiastics. The destruction of the Asclepions was not attended by any suitably extensive measures for insuring professional educa
tion. The sick who were placed in the beneinto miracle- volent institutions were, at the best, rather
under the care of kind nurses than under the advice of physicians; and the consequences are seen in the gradually increasing credulity and imposture of succeeding ages, until, at length, there was an almost universal reliance on miraculous interventions. Fetiches, said to be the relics of saints, but no better than those of tropical
Africa, were believed to cure every disorder. To the shrines of saints crowds repaired as they had at one time to the temples of Æsculapius. The worshippers remained, though the name of the divinity was changed.
Scarcely were the Asclepions closed, the schools of philosophy prohibited, the libraries dispersed or destroyed, learning branded as magic or schools of
Closing of the punished as treason, philosophers driven into medicine and
philosophy. exile and as a class exterminated, when it became apparent that a void had been created which it was incumbent on the victors to fill. Among the great prelates, who was there to stand in the place of those men whose achievements had glorified the human race? Who was to succeed to Archimedes, Hipparchus, Euclid, Herophilus, Eratosthenes ? who to Plato and Aristotle? The quackeries of miracle-cure, shrine-cure, relic-cure, were destined to eclipse the genius of Hippocrates, and nearly two thousand years to intervene between Archimedes and Newton, nearly seventeen hundred between Hipparchus and Kepler. A dismal interval of almost twenty centuries parts Hero, whose first steam-engine revolved in the Serapion, from James Watt, who has revolutionized the industry of the world. What a fearful blank! Yet not a blank, for it had its products-hundreds of patristic folios filled with obsolete speculation, oppressing the shelves of antique libraries, enveloped in dust, and awaiting the worm.
Never was a more disastrous policy adopted than the Byzantine suppression of profane learning. It Its deplorable is scarcely possible now to realize the mental results. degradation produced when that system was at its height. Many of the noblest philosophical and scientific works of antiquity disappeared from the language in which they had been written, and were only recovered, for the use of later and better ages, from translations which the Saracens had made into Arabic. The insolent assumption of wisdom by those who held the sword crushed every intellectual aspiration. Yet, though triumphant for a time, this policy necessarily contained the seeds of its own ignominious destruction. A day must inevitably come when so grievous a wrong to the human race must be exposed, and execrated, and punished-a day, in which the poems of Homer