Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. II / by Ralph McInerny

Part III: The Twelfth Century

Chapter V

Monastic Thought

If Abelard and the school of Chartres are indications of things to come, heralding as they do the age of the university, we must not think that the monastic centers were in decline. Abelard's experiences as monk and as abbot were not unique, but the twelfth century saw a great resurgence and reformation of the monastery. The Monastery of St. Victor in Paris was part and parcel of the intellectual life out of which the University of Paris would grow. However, at the very time when feudalism was breaking down and giving way to the rise of cities and communes, there was a flight to monasteries with the founding of hundreds of new monasteries and the sound of voices warning against some of the newer dialectical tendencies. In this chapter we want to look briefly at some men associated with this remarkable resurgence of the monastic ideal, men who were not simply criers in the wilderness but who made their presence known in the cities and, indeed, throughout Christendom.

A. Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141)

Hugh, already a canon regular of St. Augustine, came to the monastery of St. Victor in Paris in 1115, and it was there that he lived out his life. He was elected head of the school of St. Victor in 1133. Among his works are the Didascalicon, an introduction to the arts; a work on grammar; a work on the sacraments of the Christian faith; commentaries on Scripture and on Denis the Areopagite. His mystical writings include a work on contemplation and its kinds as well as a work on the vanity of this world.

The Didascalicon presents a survey of all the areas of knowledge and attempts to show that they are parts of a whole that is necessary for a man if he would achieve his natural perfection and his heavenly destiny. The work was written for students who came to the school of St. Victor, and its purpose was to provide them with a synoptic view of the object of their study. With the shift of the schools to urban centers there had come about both a specialization and secularization of knowledge, and Hugh, in the Didascalicon, may be regarded as combating such tendencies. Knowledge is a whole, and it must be understood both with reference to man's fall in Adam and to the ultimate calling of mankind. Professor Jerome Taylor, in a magisterial introduction to his translation of the Didascalicon, shows how Hugh's insistence on the need for learning, in its totality and with reference to both temporal and eternal life, contrasts with a number of other tendencies. Various cathedral schools were becoming centers of specialization in law or medicine or the poetic arts; many influential authors advocated a more or less literary humanism; there was the Platonism of Chartres, on the one hand, and, on the other, the emphasis on dialectic by Abelard and others; finally, there was the retreat from secular learning -- indeed, an impassioned opposition to it -- in many monastic centers. By depicting the map of learning the Didascalicon provides a way to avoid both exaggerating and narrowing tendencies by retaining an ultimately religious telos in study.

The definition of philosophy which is the guiding principle of the Didascalicon is taken from tradition. "Philosophia est disciplina omnium rerum humanarum atque divinarum rationes plene investigans." Philosophy is a thorough investigation into the nature of all things, both human and divine. Hugh takes this definition quite seriously and includes the mechanical arts within the scope of philosophy; on the other side, the study of Sacred Scripture is also a component of philosophy. This novelty conveys the flavor of Hugh's synopsis. He considers another definition of philosophy, this one taken from Boethius, according to which philosophy is the love, pursuit of, and friendship with wisdom. Boethius goes on, it would seem, to distinguish the knowledge that would be included in this definition from the arts of making. Hugh insists that such an exclusion is not intended. He adds that something can be included within philosophy in the sense that knowledge of it is included, even though its use or practice is excluded. For example, knowledge of agriculture is necessary to the philosopher, but the actual tilling of ground is the work of the farmer. Furthermore, artifacts may not be natural objects, but since they imitate nature, knowledge of them falls within the scope of philosophy.

Philosophy is divided into four basic kinds of science which include all others. First, there is the theoretical part of philosophy, which speculates on truth; second, there is practical philosophy, which considers moral discipline; third, there is the mechanical, which governs the action of this life and repairs part of the damage due to original sin; finally there is logic, the science of correct speech and disputation. Hugh proceeds to subdivide each of these.

The division of the theoretical part of philosophy is taken from Boethius. There is theology (theologia, intellectibilis, divinalis), mathematics (mathematica, intelligibilis, doctrinalis), and physics (physica, physiologia, naturalis). The theoretical sciences, far more than logic and the practical and mechanical sciences, deserve the name of wisdom because they contemplate the truth of things.

There is a threefold division of the practical as well. Actually Hugh gives a number of alternative expressions of this division, perhaps to achieve symmetry with the data on the theoretical sciences which he took from the De trinitate of Boethius. The division may be said to be a division into the solitary, the private, and the public; into ethics, economics, and politics; or into moral, dispensative, and civil. The various options are combined in the manner suggested by the parentheses in the foregoing paragraph on the division of speculative or theoretical science.

Hugh gives a list of seven mechanical arts which is deliberately parallel to the traditional seven liberal arts. The mechanical arts are spinning, armor-making, navigation, agriculture, hunting, medicine, and the theatrical arts.

Logic, the fourth part of philosophy, is first divided into two parts: grammar and the art of discourse. The latter is subdivided into probable and sophistic, with rhetoric and dialectic falling under probable discourse. These are divisive or subjective parts of logic; the integral or constitutive parts of logic are discovery and judgment. Hugh raises the question whether discovery and judgment could be divisive as well as integral parts of logic and, in giving a negative reply, enunciates a general principle. Any science which is an art or discipline can be said to be a part or subdivision of philosophy, but not every instance of cognition is an art or discipline. In order to be a subdivision of philosophy, in order, that is, to be considered an art or discipline, an instance of cognition must have its own end and be complete in itself. Discovery and judgment do not satisfy these criteria: neither is complete in itself. Thus, they are elements of discourse and not special parts of philosophy. This discussion is reminiscent, of course, of Boethius' discussion, with which Hugh would have been familiar, of Ammonius' resolution of the dispute between Stoics and Peripatetics on the question of whether logic is a part of philosophy or merely its instrument. The devices used to solve that far broader question are applied by Hugh to the narrower question just mentioned.

Has Hugh accounted for the traditional liberal arts? He speaks of the quadrivium when he discusses mathematics, and notes that the four arts of the quadrivium are the divisions of mathematics. Moreover, he compares the seven liberal arts with the seven mechanical arts he lists. Three of the mechanical arts pertain to the extrinsic cloaking of nature (weaving, armament, and, presumably, theater), while four are concerned with sustaining inner nature (navigation, agriculture, hunting, and medicine). So too with the liberal arts. Three are extrinsic, being concerned with speech, while four are concerned with thought conceived within. The mechanical arts are concerned with repairing the damage done to man's bodily nature by original sin, whereas the liberal arts are concerned with repairing the damage done to reasoning and its expression in speech. Hugh returns to the liberal arts when he has enumerated the various parts of philosophy, noting that of all the sciences listed, the ancients singled out certain ones for special attention because of their peculiar utility. One who was well-versed in these was well-disposed to acquire the others. These then are the rudiments as well as instruments whereby the soul is prepared for the full knowledge of philosophical truth. That is why they are called the trivium and quadrivium, respectively, being three and four ways whereby the soul is introduced into the secrets of wisdom. Thus, no one is thought to deserve the title "master" unless he is proficient in the knowledge of these seven. But men have lost sight of the appropriate way to concern themselves with these arts; that is why, while they spend much time on them, they come away with little wisdom.

With respect to the terms "art" and "science," Hugh recounts earlier efforts to explain their different meanings and adds something of his own. If philosophy is, as Isadore writes, the art of arts and science of sciences (ars artium et disciplina disciplinarum), we can say that an art can be called a science since art consists of precepts and rules. Hugh's own explanation is this. An art can be said to be anything which has a subject matter and is explicated by an operation, like architecture, whereas a discipline or science consists of speculation explicated through reason alone, like logic. Thus he succeeds in distinguishing mechanical art and science, but does not illuminate why logic is called a liberal "art." Later, Hugh distinguishes mechanical and liberal arts, but not as arts. Mechanical arts are those which alter the form of nature. The liberal arts are so called either because they require a liberated soul or because in antiquity free men and not slaves engaged in them.

Hugh's original breakdown of philosophy into four parts is not intended to replace the traditional emphasis on the liberal arts, as his eulogy of these arts adequately shows. The liberal arts are ways to, the mode of entry to, the other parts of philosophy. Indeed, he writes, in the seven liberal arts we find the foundation of all learning. These above all must be acquired, since without them no one can explain or defend any other philosophical discipline.

It is difficult in this rather bloodless résumé to convey the impact of Hugh's Didascalicon, which, besides the careful divisions we have recounted, devotes a great deal of time to the moral virtues required for the intellectual life. Despite the fact that Hugh relies throughout his work on the doctrine of his predecessors, bringing to bear the whole testimony of the tradition, there is something peculiarly his own in every part of his book. Of particular interest is his insistence on the broadest possible scope for philosophy, which does not lead him to depreciate the importance of the traditional liberal arts. Those arts are fundamental and propaedeutic to the other parts of philosophy. Why then does he list logic last? When he is setting down the four parts of philosophy, Hugh is not attending to the pedagogical order; in that order, as has been made clear, logic, or rather the liberal arts, would occupy pride of place.

In order to understand the broadening of philosophy that Hugh has effected, we must realize that for him the term "philosophy," the love of wisdom, has as its ultimate telos Wisdom in the sense of the Second Person of the Trinity. The learning Hugh is commending in the Didascalicon is part and parcel of the Christian vocation; he is recommending to the neophytes to whom the Didascalicon is addressed that they set out with their supernatural destiny firmly in mind and that they continue to assess and understand the pursuit of any science in the light of their calling to union with God. What philosophy seeks to do, the whole point of Christianity, is to restore man and to remedy the effects of sin. That is the basic reason for including the mechanical arts within the scope of philosophy; this is simply to show their importance for achieving our goal as Christians. Man must make his way in this world, he must heal the wound sin has opened between man and nature, and this is the task of the mechanical arts Hugh mentions. That task is, of course, a subservient one. All human tasks must work together for the attainment of man's ultimate good.

This orientation of Hugh's treatment of philosophy must be kept in mind when we compare him with his contemporaries. He is not irenic, as are certain Chartrians, regarding the compatibility of the Timaeus and Genesis. Hugh's mentor is Augustine; he will bring everything to the measure of the truth that has come down from above. Hugh has no interest in, indeed he is fundamentally suspicious of, any effort to update revelation by accommodating it to what is currently regarded as the last word of science. With respect to the dialecticians he would seem to be very dubious of efforts which seem to lose sight of the whole theological enterprise. Dispute for its own sake is a perversion, and any interpretation of Scripture which seems to explain it away or needlessly obscure it, or, perhaps worse, to treat it as if its function were to provide grist for dialectical mills, is repugnant to Hugh. For all that, he is no obscurantist. The various arts and sciences which men have discovered are viewed by Hugh as part of the divine economy of salvation. They are not to be condemned because of the abuses to which they are subject; rather, they are to be taken over by the Christian as his rightful possessions and put to the purpose for which they are intended. The attitude of the Didascalicon, if we may risk yet another generality, would seem to be a balanced one. Hugh counters the excesses of those who are overwhelmed by pagan knowledge to a point where their adherence to it jeopardizes their faith; at the same time, he seems to be providing a corrective to excessive repudiations of the pagan sources of philosophy. To both extremes Hugh issues one fundamental reminder. Philosophy is the way to wisdom, and we know that Wisdom is the Second Person of the Trinity. The salutary consequence of this reminder is that the Christian cannot regard his interest in and study of pagan documents as a recess from or an alternative to his ultimate vocation. Hugh is a mystic, not in the sense that he depreciates secular learning, but in the sense that he insists on the ultimate ordering of every human effort to man's restoration in Christ.

Bibliographical Note

The works of Hugh can be found in Migne's Patrologia latina, 175-177. The Didascalicon is in a critical edition by Brother C. H. Buttimer (Washington, 1939). Jerome Taylor's The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor (New York, 1961) is a translation of the Buttimer text; Taylor's introduction and notes make his volume a valuable sourcebook for the twelfth century. See Roger Baron, Science et sagesse chez Hugues de Saint-Victor (Paris, 1957). Baron has edited Hugh's Epitome dindimi in philosophiam (Traditio, XI, 1955, pp. 91-148) and his Practica geometriae (Osiris, XII, 1956, pp. 176-224). There is an English translation of On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith (Cambridge, Mass., 1951) by Roy J. Deferrari. For further secondary literature consult the works of Taylor and Baron.

B. Other Victorines

Although Hugh of St. Victor is far and away the most important figure of this Parisian monastery in the twelfth century, there were, of course, other teachers associated with the school of St. Victor in this century. Richard of St. Victor, a Scot by birth, came to Paris around 1139. In 1162 he became master of theology at St. Victor. He died in 1173. His writings, which are to be found in Migne (PL, 196), include a De trinitate, the Benjamin minor, and Benjamin maior. The last two works deal expressly with the contemplative life and, as such, with man s ultimate concern. Like Hugh before him, Richard sees both reason and faith as necessary if we are to arrive at contemplation, at the gaudium de veritate in Augustine's phrase. Reason has a natural ordination to contemplation, and this natural ordination is aided and enhanced by grace. Man's effort is viewed as a drive toward understanding, toward vision. In speaking of the need to go beyond authority to seeing, Richard is not denying the limits of reason nor is he suggesting that faith is something which can be surpassed in this life. Like Hugh, Richard both recognizes a distinction between nature and grace, reason and faith, and insists on a continuity between them in our drive toward contemplation, a drive which has to be sustained by love or charity. There is, consequently, a subordination of all knowledge to the experimental or loving, mystical knowledge of Wisdom, but this subordination is not a suppression. The Victorine impulse is to make all knowledge a component of man's effort to arrive at his true goal. Contemplation, of course, is not something man can achieve by his own power. In his works on contemplation Richard dwells on the various degrees or stages of the interior life whereby the soul is brought to spiritual perfection. In his work on the Trinity Richard proposes to proceed by reason alone, and he offers a number of proofs of the existence of God. There is also an effort to show by reason that there are three Persons in God.

Godfrey of St. Victor was born around 1130, entered the monastery of St. Victor shortly after the midpoint of the century, and died in 1194. His works can be found in Migne, PL, 196; the Microcosmos has been edited critically by Philippe Delhaye (Lille, 1951). In the Fons Philosophiae (The Font of Philosophy), having recorded the vagaries of his contemporaries, particularly on the nature of universals, Godfrey suggests that the best sources of philosophizing are ancient: Plato, Aristotle, Martianus Capella, and Macrobius. Godfrey seems to have had to combat obscurantist tendencies within his own monastery, but he himself remained faithful to the Victorine ideal as it had been set down by Hugh.

C. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Bernard, one of the dominant figures of the twelfth century, was born in Burgundy in 1090. At the age of twenty-two he entered the monastery of Citeaux, which had been founded by a group of monks intent on adhering to the letter of the Rule of St. Benedict. Bernard, a nobleman, turned away from worldly possibilities of power and pleasure. His birth would have assured him of power, his looks of the latter. According to the Roman Breviary, in a second nocturne lesson for his feast, Bernard as a youth was so handsome the ladies lost their heads over him, but he never reciprocated this emotional decapitation. (Bernardus, Fontanis in Burgundia honesto loco natus, adolescens propter egregiam formam vehementer sollicitatus a mulieribus, numquam de sententia colendae castitatis, dimoveri potuit.) Scott Fitzgerald once compared himself with Hemingway by saying that Ernest speaks with the authority of success, I with the authority of failure. We could adopt the phrase, make it refer to the flesh, and have Abelard play Fitzgerald to Bernard's Hemingway. Characteristically, Bernard did not seek the solitude of the monastery alone. He brought with him thirty-two other nobles whom he had convinced to leave the world. At the time of their arrival the reform of Citeaux seemed doomed, the house dying out. Its fortunes changed dramatically with the arrival of Bernard. At twenty-five, Bernard became abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux, and it was in this post that he became a leading spokesman for the monastic ideal, a leader of the Cistercian reform, and an influence as well on the abbeys of Cluny. If Bernard entered the monastery to leave the world, for much of his life he was nonetheless drawn into the disputes of the outside world, both ecclesiastical and secular. He preached the Second Crusade; he was consulted by kings and popes; he intervened in the disputes of the schools. He was, by any account, a fantastic man and one whose stature cannot be explained on a purely natural level. Bernard of Clairvaux was a saint. He died in 1153 and was canonized in 1174. He is known as the Mellifluous Doctor, as much for what he said as for the way he said it.

The writings of Bernard are for the most part sermons and letters, but there are also a number of treatises, written at the request of others. These exhibit his principal interest, which, of course, he did not see as a narrow or exclusive one. He wrote on the degrees of humility, on loving God, on conversion, on meditation, and on the errors of Abelard.

While it is risky to attempt a general definition, there may be some point in trying to say what is meant when Bernard is classified as a mystic. Bernard does not differ from Abelard in seeing that man's ultimate end is a supernatural one; the two do not differ because Bernard held that everything must be subordinated to man's religious calling. Where perhaps the difference lies, what leads us to call Bernard a mystical thinker but not Abelard, is the organic unity Bernard saw between the life of prayer, the spiritual life, and the intellectual life. For a thinker like Abelard there is a connection between studying the logical works of Aristotle and being a Christian, but it is an adventitious, almost extrinsic, connection. For Bernard it is not so. Everything the Christian does must be intimately and essentially ordered to his final end. This need not lead, and in Bernard seldom led, to pietistic excursions away from the topic at hand. But one is struck in Bernard by the living unity of everything he did and wrote, its subordination to his drive for spiritual perfection. We see this in all his activities, whether he is counseling popes, chiding kings, criticizing other religious, refuting Abelard, preaching, or building monasteries. It is all one; everything must be subjected to a single criterion if it is to be justified and considered important. Man is made to know and love God. It is that simple. The loving knowledge of God in contemplation, the experiential knowledge of God, is the central thing -- not merely abstract arguments, not dialectical finesse, but loving union with the source of truth who is Truth, the source of knowledge who is Wisdom. Bernard, who had been granted that mystical union with God, could not take seriously the suggestion that a bloodless and neutral logic must preside over our talk of that infinite reality.

Now this indicates that there is a vantage point from which all human activity can be assessed. Bernard has much to say about the route that takes us to that vantage point. Let us consider what he has to say about the triad opinion, faith, and intelligence. Human knowledge bears first of all on created things, the things of this world. The visible world is a book in which divine truth can be read, but the script is smudged, the knowledge thus gained imperfect. Beyond such knowledge or opinion is faith. Faith marks an advance because of its certitude -- Bernard is therefore extremely critical of what he takes to he the import of Abelard's description of faith as existimatio -- but faith is a dark knowledge: the truth is hidden for it behind a veil. Beyond opinion and faith there is intelligence or understanding. Here not only is truth had, but knowledge that it is the truth. Here there is a similarity between knower and known. Understanding is had, if it is had, because of the presence of the Word in the soul. Understanding is beyond images, a gift; it is the purity and perfection of love where one is concerned only with the good of the other. How far this love is beyond love as we first know it! There is, first in time, a carnal love, selfish love. The direction in which we must go is from self-love to love of God. The perfection of love is the perfection of knowledge because love unites us with Wisdom itself. The progression here is a progression in freedom as well. Bernard will distinguish between various kinds of freedom. There is a natural freedom, one that belongs to us essentially because we are men. But there are two kinds of freedom which are added to us, which are not ours because of our nature. These are the freedoms of grace and glory.

Bibliographical Note

Thomas Merton's The Last of the Fathers (New York, 1954) is a brief and interesting introduction to St. Bernard; Watkin Williams' Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (Manchester, 1935) is useful if one can survive the style and format. Étienne Gilson's The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard (New York, 1940) is the eminent medieval scholar at his best.

D. Other Figures

1. Peter the Venerable (1092-1147). We have encountered Peter the Venerable in our discussion of Abelard. The Abbot of Cluny gave Abelard asylum in the last year of the latter's life and was instrumental in effecting a reconciliation between Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux. Peter the Venerable was a defender of the Cluniac interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict and an advocate of an adaptation of the monastic ideal to the changing times in opposition to St. Bernard's call for the strict and literal Cistercian interpretation.

Peter visited Toledo, where he became acquainted with the translations being made there and was instrumental in getting the Koran translated into Latin. Lest this be seen as indicating sympathy on his part, we must add that he then wrote a refutation of the Islamic religion and tried to interest St. Bernard in doing the same. Peter also wrote against the Jews and various heretics. An important figure in the history of monasticism as well as in the history of spirituality, Peter the Venerable is of interest for us insofar as his conception of the monastic life did not preclude the kind of scholarly work which had long been associated with the monastery schools. His works can be found in Migne, PL, 189.

2. William of St. Thierry. William was born in Liège around 1080, studied at Reims or perhaps Laon, where he might have come into contact with Abelard. He became a monk at St. Thierry in 1113 and was elected abbot in 1119. In 1135 he resigned and became a Cistercian. He died in 1148.

William had little more than disdain for secular learning, both in itself and in its application to the faith. A man is called to love God, and this is not aided by study of Ovid or dialectics. The school of divine love is the cloister. In his various writings William attempts to set down the itinerary of man's wiil. His works, which are found in Migne, PL, 180 and 184, include Epistola ad fratres de monte dei, speculum fidei, Aenigma fidei, De contemplando deo, De natura et dignitate amoris, De natura corporis et animae.

In William the stress is on love rather than knowledge, but ultimately there is a knowledge which issues from love. Speaking of man's nature, of body and soul, William distinguishes the life of the body, the life of the soul, and the life of spirit. This distinction between kinds of life provides him with the structure of the spiritual life. That life consists of three stages or moments. First, man finds himself bound by the senses and passions; he is as it were outside himself, and if he responds to the promptings of spirit, he does so with a sense of being constrained or forced. Second, there is the life of virtue. Virtue is a voluntary consent to the good. The contrast here is between the voluntary and the constrained; the spiritual life is a movement toward greater and greater freedom. The good may be known by natural knowledge and it may be desired, but there is not yet the fullness of love. Monastic asceticism is the school of charity which turns desire to love. Third is the spiritual life properly so called, which is marked by spontaneity and freedom. The perfect are prompted and led by the Holy Ghost. Such perfect inwardness cannot be learned from the masters of the schools; it comes only from complete docility to the movement of the Holy Ghost. The spiritual life is a condition of union with God: cum fit homo unus cum Deo. This is a unity of grace, not of nature; it means to will what God wills, so that there is no longer any difference between our will and God's. William will speak of the progression of the spiritual life in various ways, but always with the emphasis on will and love. Sometimes the progression is expressed as voluntas, amor, caritas, sapientia (will, love, charity, wisdom); sometimes as amor, dilectio, caritas, unitas, spiritus (love, affection, charity, unity, spirit). But more often than not, William stresses that love is the vehicle of knowledge or, better, of wisdom. Amor crescit in caritatem, caritas in sapientiam (love grows into charity and charity into wisdom). The knowledge given man by the Holy Ghost, not the knowledge of the schools, is what life is all about. We do not know God by disputation, by dialectics, by endless wrangling. Charity is the eye with which we see God (ipsa caritas est oculus quo videtur Deus).

One can see here the difference between a mystic like William of St. Thierry and one like Hugh of St. Victor. For the latter there is no need to choose between secular learning and the interior life. All things work together for good; secular learning responds to something real in man, something which remains in him as Christian, and he can turn it into an instrument for arriving at his supernatural goal. William, on the other hand, convinced of the vanity of this world, is more struck by the way in which secular learning can be an impediment to the one thing needful, and he warns against it. What we are called to, what will perfect us, is not something we can achieve by our own efforts; it is not something within the grasp of the naturally talented but withheld from the unlearned and simple. William, we may be sure, would not understand the charge that his position is an obscurantist one. He would no doubt reply that to devote oneself to spiritual perfection, to be responsive to the promptings of grace and the Holy Ghost, to live the life of charity -- that is to come into possession of the fullness of wisdom. What could be lacking in one who has the fullness of wisdom? If the cautiously inclusive attitude of Hugh of St. Victor seems preferable, we must nonetheless keep in mind that what William was confronted by was not dialectics in the abstract but singular dialecticians, men like Abelard. Abelard may not in the long run and in his writings have been so distant from the emphasis William made, but on the hoof, so to speak, Abelard must have appeared a dangerous and disruptive force, an almost demonic presence. The remedy, at least as far as William of St. Thierry was concerned, was to eschew what Abelard engaged in, retire from the world, and let God work his marvels in the soul.

3. Isaac of Stella. An Englishman by birth, Isaac became a Cistercian and, in 1167, was elected abbot of the abbey of Stella near Poitiers. He was an unusual Cistercian in that he employed dialectics in his writings effectively and unapologetically. But the dialectics is at the service of a constant theme of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: the vanity of the world, the nothingness of creatures. Isaac makes this point by engaging in the discussion over the status of universals. He begins by distinguishing substance and accident. The being of accidents is to inhere in substance; accidents enjoy no autonomous existence. But how is it with substance? Well, we must distinguish between first or primary substance, for example, this man, and second substance, for example, Man. The individual man would not exist if there were not Man, or human nature, and human nature exists only if there are individual men. Thus, not only accidents are imperfect beings but also substance, whether considered as universal or singular. From this Isaac draws the surprising conclusion that creatures are nothing, certainly nothing in themselves, since creatures are either substances or accidents and these have been shown to have at best a precarious hold on existence. God alone exists of himself: God is both autonomous in existence and immutable. Thus, God is distinguished from accidents and from both first and second substance. God's existence is discoverable by reflecting on the "nothingness" of creatures; their being, because it is so precarious that it deserves to be called nothing, demands the being God is. Can we speak of God? Isaac distinguishes levels of theology: divine theology consists of negations, claiming that we can affirm nothing literally of God; symbolic theology is metaphorical and speaks of God as a lion and so forth. Between these two is another kind of theology which speaks of God neither literally, for that can produce only negations, nor metaphorically. God is said to be wise and just, not metaphorically, as he may be called a lion, and not literally either, since to say God is just is not to say the same thing as to say that a man is just.

In speaking of the soul and its faculties, Isaac, like Aleher of Clairvaux, is interested in relating the powers of the soul to the stages of the spiritual life. Through sensation the soul is in touch with the corporeal world; through its highest faculty, intelligence, the soul attains to the Holy Ghost and then, thanks to the influence of the Holy Ghost within it, the soul comes to knowledge of the Word and then of the Father. Isaac defines soul as similitudo omnium, the likeness of all things; the plurality of faculties of the soul is taken to be an image of the Trinity.

The works of Isaac of Stella are to be found in Migne, PL, 194.

4. Alcher of Clairvaux. Alcher is noteworthy for a work on the soul, the De spiritu et anima (PL, 40, 779-832). Aquinas had a low opinion of it and dismissed the suggestion that it was a work of Augustine. "This book, Concerning Spirit and Soul," he wrote, "is not by Augustine; it is said to have been written by some Cistercian. As for its contents, they are not worth bothering about." (Q.D. de anima, a. 12, ad 1) The work is a compilation of texts taken from Augustine, Boethius, Cassiodorus, Alcuin, Hugh of St. Victor, and Bernard of Clairvaux. The definition of soul (animus) Alcher gives became famous: the soul is a substance which participates in reason and is so fashioned as to rule the body (animus est substantia quaedam rationis particeps, regendo corpori accomodata). But the De spiritu et anima is not simply concerned with the nature of soul and its faculties. It goes on to discuss the spiritual life. The route of perfection is Augustinian. The soul must turn upon itself if it would go to God, for the soul is the image of God.

5. Alan of Lille. Poet, theologian, apologist, philosopher, Alan of Lille (Alanus de Insulis) was born about 1128. He is noteworthy for his contributions to theological method, which indicate a profound influence of Boethius. In his De hebdomadibus Boethius proposed to proceed by first setting down a set of propositions or maxims and then subjecting them to analysis in such a way that he seems to be elaborating an axiomatic system. As there are echoes of the Proclus of the Elements of Theology in this work of Boethius, so there are echoes of Boethius in Alan's Rules of Sacred Theology. What Alan thought he was doing is clear; his method is an application to theology of something common to the other sciences. Each science proceeds from maxims or axioms: in rhetoric these are commonplaces (loci communes); and in dialectic, ethics, geometry, and music there are analogous common principles. Theology must also begin from rules or axioms, although these are very obscure and subtle and may be called paradoxes or enigmas. Given the character of the starting points of theology, they should not be given over to discussion by the uninstructed or those whose thoughts are completely bound to sensed objects. Many of the rules Alan set down, pithy axiomatic statements, became the common currency of theological discussion, though, of course, not all of them were original with him. Thus, he takes from Boethius the identity of essence and existence in God: omne simplex esse suum et id quod est unum habet. A Neoplatonic influence is apparent in the very first maxim Alan sets down: Monas est qua quaelibet res est una (the Monad is that whereby anything is one). The influence of Pseudo-Dionysius is apparent in another. Only negations can be truly and properly predicated of God since by them we remove from God what cannot inhere in him (negationes vero de Deo dictae et verae et propriae sunt, secundum quas removetur a Deo quod ei per inhaerentiam non convenit). Alan's work is also influenced by the so-called Hermetic writings.

Taking his cue from Boethius as well as from Chalcidius, Alan develops a remarkable doctrine on the nature of matter. This aspect of his teaching links him with the school of Chartres. In discussing the various meanings of the word "nature," Alan singles out a meaning according to which nature is an intermediary between God and the world, something reminiscent of Erigena's natura quae creatur et creat.

Alan's apologetic work not only is directed against the Albigensians but also takes into account the Jewish and Islamic religions. His apologetic effort is guided by a very intense feeling for the unity of Christianity, and his trump card against heretics is that they threaten that unity; as for non-Christians, their failure to take sufficiently into account the unity of mankind's religious experience is taken as a mark against them.

The poetic work of Alan includes the Anticlaudianus, in which he argues for the unity of nature and virtue, and The Plaint of Nature. The latter, a mixture of prose and poetry, also has as its theme the relation between nature and virtue. His poetry has earned Alan the title of Christian humanist. He resigned his chair of theology and retired to the monastery at Citeaux, where he died in 1202.

Bibliographical Note

The works of Alan can be found in Migne, PL, 120. These include Ars predicatoria, De fide catholica contra haereticos sui temporis praesertim Albigenses, Regula de sacra theologia, Anticlaudianus, De planctu naturae. There are English translations of the Anticlaudianus, by W. H. Cornog (Philadelphia, 1935), and of the De planctu naturae, by D. M. Moffat (New York, 1908).

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