Sustaining The World

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The Creator's work is not deemed by philosophers or by Christian theologians to be finished when he has made the world. He sustains it in being. Divine work here is discussed on two levels in both traditions. The

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES first is that of the divine plan for the world, with all the concomitant questions about providence, divine omnipotence, and the problem of evil, together with the issues of divine foreknowledge, predestination, grace and the free will of rational creatures. Here we must get ahead of ourselves a little and consider the problem of free will before we come to the philosophy and theology of 'man' (see p. 90ff.). The second level is that of what today we might call natural science, that is, the considerations which affect the mechanical running of things.

Divine omnipotence

Are there things God cannot do? In the late thirteenth-century crisis, questions challenging the power of God at particular points were popular among 'philosophers', and they presented theologians with substantial difficulties. Some were already familiar: Can God restore lost virginity?18 Can God cause a body to be present in two places? (This last had special urgency because of the implications of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Giles of Rome makes a familiar distinction, that the body of Christ is localiter in heaven, sacramentaliter present on innumerable altars.)19 Some were designed to place the theologian in a position where he must either deny a truth he wishes to predicate of God or deny his omnipotence. Can God sin if he wishes? Can God cause two contradictories to be simultaneously true? (The condemnation of the 219 Articles in 1277 said not.)20

The problem of evil

Such games-playing with paradoxes had a more serious aspect. These questions struck at fundamentals of the whole Christian system. The root difficulties all came back in the end to the problem that it is not easy to understand how a God who is perfectly good and all-powerful can possess both these attributes when there is evil in the world. If he can be shown to be a being of modified power or assailable goodness, the problem is soluble; but then we are left with a God who is less than all that both the Platonic and the Christian traditions had claimed for him. The attempt to avoid having to regard God as the author of evil had generated the Gnostic and Manichee dualist traditions. These continued in the Middle Ages among Cathars, Bogomils and Albigensians, heresies of great popularity from the twelfth century in certain parts of Europe.21

Almost all Christian authors of the mediaeval period followed the common philosophical view of the ancient world that evil is nothing, an absence of the good. It was worked out fully in the Latin tradition by Augustine, and no mediaeval author made a serious attempt to produce an alternative hypothesis. There were, however, mediaeval refinements. Anselm asks, as Augustine had done, how 'nothing' can be so devastating in its effect. He explores the notion that the absence of what ought to be has a certain positive force, because the 'ought' imposes an imperative. He also takes up and develops considerably further the problem addressed by Augustine in the DeMagistro, and later by the Carolingian scholar Fredegisus, that (since every word signifies something) the word 'evil', like the word 'nothing', signifies something, or it would not be a word at all. Anselm suggests that the word 'evil', like the word 'nothing', signifies the removal of a something which must itself be signified together with the concept of its absence. It signifies not (in the usual way) by establishing the something, but by removing it. He points out that there are many examples of the use of words in similar ways, where the form of the expression does not coincide with the fact. To say that someone is blind is not really to say that he has blindness, but that he lacks sight. When we say 'Evil caused this', we are speaking as though evil were a something, or, as Anselm prefers to put it, a 'sort-of-something' ('quasi-aliquid'). Here we see even the relatively elementary language-theory of Anselm's period, which depends upon the logica vetus and the Roman grammarians, being put to philosophically sophisticated use (De Casu Diaboli, 11). The 'defect' theory of evil was also used by mediaeval authors (in a manner pioneered by Anselm) to explain how there can be things an omnipotent God cannot do. Aquinas, for example, says that if God cannot do what is repugnant to his being, there is no defect of divine power (Quod. III.q.a.1).

Some aspects of the problem of evil overlap with the question of providence. Augustine again gave a lead here, especially in The City of God, where he confronts the problem of explaining why God should allow the fall of a Christian Roman Empire if he is indeed omnipotent. He presents a case for the view that God's providential plan is so far beyond our grasp in its immensity and benevolence that we have simply got the matter out of scale. Boethius added substantially to the literature in the De Consolatione Philosophiae, which had a great influence in the Middle Ages. There he investigates not only providence, but chance, fate and fortune, in connection with the question of divine foreknowledge, predestination and the role of

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES human free will. To the man who does not understand God's providential plan, fortune seems fickle and malevolent, ingratiating herself, and just when she is trusted, deserting the unfortunate (Cons. II, pr.1). To the believer it becomes clear that all fortune, good or bad, is under God's control, and rewards or punishes. It is therefore profitable, and in that sense a good, even if it is in another sense bad fortune (IV, pr.vii). Divine providence, says Boethius, is the very reason of God; it disposes all created things and brings them to their due end. Providence places all individual created things a disposition to act in a certain way which we call fate. But that is within providence and under its control (IV, This line of argument satisfied Peter Abelard, who is prepared to go so far as to say that if there is evil in the universe, it must be there within God's divine providential plan. It must therefore be good that there is evil (Thomas, pp. 162-3). That can be allowed only with many provisos, as earlier authors had realised. The Carolingian debate about the theory of double predestination turned on precisely this point, for if God predestines some to hell, it seems he must be the author of hell. The late eleventh and twelfth centuries saw considerable discussion on questions of God's 'permission' of evil.

A further paradox familiar to ancient philosophy troubled the mediaeval world. If all falling away from the good is evil, and all created things depart in their natures in varying degrees from the Creator, must we conclude that the created world is evil? The Gnostic tradition was inclined to think so, at least in so far as it is the case that the created world is also in large measure the material world. Again, it would seem either that a creator God must be the author of evil, or that he must be less than omnipotent, if we save him from that consequence by postulating the independent existence ab eterno of the matter which taints his world.

The framework in which philosophers and Christians alike were inclined to set all this was that of a universe which not only streams out of God but is also perpetually trying to return to him. Returning to God, his creatures enter into his likeness. Falling away from God they enter the 'region of unlikeness' (Plato, Politics 273d). Genesis 1.26 seemed to confirm this for Christians with its reference to man's being made in God's image and likeness. Augustine speaks of the regio dissimilitudinis in his Confessions and seems to refer to it elsewhere. Bernard of Clairvaux took the image up in the twelfth century, probably drawing on Augustine, but perhaps also upon Plato and Athanasius and others who make use of it in various forms. There is a possibility of some borrowing from Plotinus too.22


Future contingents and divine foreknowledge

Propositions about the future present a difficulty which does not occur in the case of statements about the present or the past, as Aristotle pointed out in the De Interpretatione (IX). Propositions are either true or false. Therefore every predicate must belong to its subject or not. If someone says that a particular event will happen and another says that it will not, only one can be speaking the truth. Otherwise two incompatible predicates would both belong to one subject. But if it is true now either that something will take place or that it will not, it would seem that nothing can be contingent, that all events must come about of necessity (18a-b).

Aristotle's problem does not directly involve the notion of foreknowledge. It is about the puzzle of the truth or falsehood of statements made in the present about a future which is hidden from the speaker. Nor does he introduce an omniscient and foreseeing divine eye, with all the concomitant complications of having to allow for the fact that such a being can never be in error about the future, if he is also omnipotent. Boethius, whose work on the De Interpretatione was of the first importance in bringing the problem of future contingents before early mediaeval minds, extended the question in these directions in his Consolidation of Philosophy. If it is true that someone is sitting, we understand that he is not 'sitting because it is true that he is sitting'; on the contrary, it is true that he is sitting only because he is in fact sitting. Boethius reasons that the same must apply to future events. They do not happen because they are foreseen. On the other hand, it cannot be the case that God's prescience is at the mercy of what-is-going-to-happen, so that the happening governs the operation of his providence (V, pr.3). There is the further problem of the manner in which God can foreknow things which may occur but will not necessarily occur. If he foreknows them and they do not occur, he will be mistaken, and it is impious to think that even possible. But if he foreknows that they 'either will or will not happen', that cannot be called foreknowledge at all, for he would be 'knowing' an uncertainty (ibid.).

Building on these texts, Anselm of Canterbury was able to take things a little further. He realised that questions not only of formal predication but also of usage were involved in framing propositions about necessity. We often say something 'must be' when no compelling force is involved. ('God must be immortal.') 'It is necessary that you will choose to sin' is a statement of this sort. We need not postulate compulsion. To say 'If God foreknows

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES this, it will therefore necessarily happen' is to say more than 'If this thing will happen, it will necessarily happen.' It is a tautology, not a statement about cause and effect (De Concordia I.2).23 Alan of Lille did not think the problem about causation could be avoided in this way.24 He tried to answer the question 'whether the foreknowledge of God is the cause of what is to happen'. Since whatever God foreknows must come about, it would seem that in the case of God prescience implies necessity and is actually the cause of the future. Conversely, if something was not to happen, God would know that it was not to happen. On the other hand, he recognises that if divine foreknowledge is seen as causative in a perfectly straightforward way, there is no escaping the conclusion that God is the author of evil. A century later, Giles of Rome confronts questions raised in the sometimes half mischievous spirit of the late thirteenth-century debates with the philosophi of the Arts Faculties. Do angels know future contingents? (The wicked angels present interesting difficulties here, and the case of Merlin is cited, for he is said to have been born with a demon's aid, and he knew the future, as it were, standing on its head.) Giles's view is that angels can have nothing in their minds but what really exists; future contingents have an indeterminant existence; therefore angels cannot have certain knowledge of them (Quodlibet X, p. 21). Nevertheless, since angelic knowledge is not limited by time in the manner of human knowledge, the question is wickedly clever, and raises new difficulties. For Bradwardine in the fourteenth century the crux of the matter is the paradox that whatever God does must be perfectly free, and yet everything God does could not be done in any other way because it is done in the best possible way; and so it would seem that whatever God does is necessary.25

Free will, predestination and grace

The question of future contingents and divine foreknowledge cannot be discussed for long by Christian theologians without its becoming entangled with that of free will, predestination and the operation of grace. The philosophical heritage here was mixed. The Stoics tended to think all actions determined, though some stress that it is an exercise of freedom to accept the inevitable willingly. Thinkers who regarded the stars as indicators and predictors of future events were also determinists. But Carneades led a Platonist revolt against a hard determinist line by arguing that if men are but puppets, there can be no ground for praise or blame and no justice in reward or punishment.

Augustine described the way in which one topic leads into the other in his City of God. In Cicero's De Divinatione, he says, it is denied that there can be any knowledge of future things in God or man. On the other hand, in writing On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero seems to Augustine to be covertly defending the opposite view. He puts Cicero's difficulty down to an unwillingness to deny the existence of free will, on the grounds that once one allows that the future can be known, one must concede the existence of fate, and Cicero was afraid of the implications that doctrine must have for freedom of choice (De Div. Dei V.9). The same consequence was apparent to Boethius, who also traces the link between divine foreknowledge and the destruction of free will in man (Cons, V, pr.3), and points out that men will then be condemned for acts to which they have been driven by necessity; prayer will be pointless, for it cannot avert anything which is to come (ibid.).

Augustine wrestled with the relationship of divine foreknowledge; human free will; predestination; and the peculiarly Christian concept of a divine grace (which is personal, merciful and enabling in a way that the pagan 'fate' was not) throughout the decades in which he was writing against the Pelagians.26 Towards the end of his life he became more and more convinced that God predestines those he will save and that human free will was maimed by the Fall in such a way that while we can of ourselves continue to will evil, we cannot will good without the direct intervention of God in the form of the action of grace.

The issue was taken up again controversially in the ninth century by Godescalc of Orbais. He contended that if God foreordains some to good, be must also determine the destiny of those who are to go to hell. Augustine had stopped short of this doctrine of double predestination, because it seemed to him that it would make God the author of evil. By teaching that our wrong actions are our own fault, while our good actions are made possible only by grace, Augustine left the fault of the wicked with themselves. Godescalc's position was attacked by Eriugena in his De Divina Praedestinatione21 on the grounds that neither divine prescience nor predestination by God compels. Our sins are our own fault. Free choice is a good gift of God, even though it can be misused (V-VII). He gives a good deal of space at the end of his treatise to the texts of Scripture which seem to suggest that God foreknows or predestines sin or death. Eriugena draws on the rhetorical tradition - in a way Augustine encouraged in the De Doctrina Christiana - to show that statements can sometimes be intended to

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES be understood to say the opposite of what they seem to say (IX-X ff.). Eriugena is left with the tasks of explaining how man can bring about his own downfall for himself without that implying a defect of divine omnipotence; and how we are to account for the existence of hell if God is not responsible for it.

In dealing with the first, he depends on Augustine's view that sin and evil are negations. When the sinner does wrong he casts himself upon nothing. God is not the author of nothing. In exploring the notion of hell he owes a conspicuous debt to cosmic notions drawn from the philosophical tradition. There was already a movement afoot to try to locate a place of punishment in the universe. Eriugena prefers a Miltonic theory that the mind is its own place and creates in itself its place of torment. Both the blessed and the damned dwell in the life to come in the high places of the cosmos where the element of fire is to be found. But whereas for the blessed that life is a place of brightness and beauty, for the wicked it is a region of infinite pain (PL 122.436ff.). There is undoubtedly an Augustinian influence here too, from the De Ordine perhaps, where the beauty of order is seen as involving some chiaroscuro.

When we come to Anselm, we find a different complexion put upon the philosophical considerations. Anselm starts from Augustine's assumptions that sin and evil are nothing, but he achieves a more subtle balance than any of his predecessors in trying to account for the coexistence of the freedom of choice of rational beings with divine foreknowledge, predestination and grace. He wrote on freedom of choice in the series of little treatises which he put together for the monks of Bec soon after writing the Monologion. It seems to him that the crux of the matter is the meaning of 'freedom'. Neither God himself nor the good angels are able to sin, and yet we must call them free. Freedom must be the same for man, too. Therefore 'to be able to sin' cannot be a part of freedom (De Lib. Arb. 1). His pupil in the dialogue objects that he cannot see why a being which has the power both to sin and not to sin is not more free than one who cannot sin. Anselm encourages him to take the view that the being which cannot sin actually possesses what is beneficial and appropriate (that is, the freedom to do good) in a higher degree than one who can lose what he possesses (ibid.). Anselm goes on to show that freedom of choice is best defined as the ability to keep rectitudo or rightness of will purely for its own sake. God has this freedom of himself; rational creatures who are among God's elect have it of him.

Much later, near the end of his life, Anselm returned to the theme, and wrote a De Concordia in which he set out to demonstrate the harmony of freedom of choice with divine foreknowledge, predestination and grace. He begins by contrasting the necessary futurity of things foreknown by God with the contingent futurity of what is done by free choice. If these are incompatible, then freedom of choice cannot coexist with divine foreknowledge. He shows that, on the contrary, there is no clear-cut opposition between the two. It is possible to distinguish between what must necessarily occur in the future (the sun will rise tomorrow) and what will in fact occur, although it is possible that it will not (tomorrow there will be rebellion among the people) (I.3). Moreover, not all that will necessarily occur involves an element of compulsion. It is necessary for God to be immortal, but he is not under compulsion so to be (I.2). For a thing to be future is not the same as for a future thing to be future (I.2). In these and other ways he opens up the Boethius-Aristotle discussion of future contingents. He argues that although all the actions of the will are themselves caused by God, for actions have being and God is the source of all being, the willing of good men and good angels is perfectly free because it is the supreme beauty of their freedom that they will to choose the good; their wills must therefore be in harmony with what God wills, and so his actions are freely theirs. Similarly, the evil wills of the fallen freely turn away from God's will, and it is that which makes their actions evil; the actions themselves are not evil, because God is their author (I.7). Thus we may say that divine foreknowledge of what is to be is compatible with human and angelic freedom of choice.

But arguments from absence of compulsion in necessity cannot so easily meet the case of the relationship between predestination and freedom of choice. And certainly God's foreknowledge must coincide with his predestination. But this gives Anselm a means of getting round the difficulty. God foreknows only what will occur, either freely or necessarily. And so he predestines only what will occur in the same way. He meets Godescalc's point about the apparent inevitability of double predestination (and encompasses the Scriptural passages which seem to imply it) by explaining that an improper usage is involved when God is said to cause evils (II.2, 3). Grace is seen as aiding the free choice of the good in many ways (III.1). It is only ever withheld when the will by free choice abandons the rightness (rectitudo) it has been given, and wills something it should not. So grace is

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES available to all but those who reject it. God can thus justly condemn those who do not have his grace.

In the Anselmian account the Augustinian parameters are respected. Anselm, like Augustine, accepts predestination of the elect. But he achieves a philosophically more sophisticated and in many ways original statement of the relationship of freedom of choice to the foresight and predestination which must be attributed to an omniscient and omnipotent God.

With the arrival of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle in the West in the century after Anselm there was a substantial addition to the available philosophical literature on free will. Aristotle's view is that human will tends towards what is for human good. Right choice is the result of making a judgement about what is for one's good in particular circumstances. The right choice will therefore differ from one individual to another and from circumstance to circumstance (Ethics 1112a). This notion that free choice-making is at the disposal of reason acting upon the evidence had its influence on Christian theologies. William of Auxerre, for example, stresses the practicality and rationality of good choices; and a number of other thirteenth-century authors, Hugh of St Cher and Richard Fishacre, for instance, reflected upon the role of reason in relation to the will.28 This stress on the rational will needed reconciling with Augustine's teaching that human will is damaged by the Fall so that it can no longer do good without the aid of grace, and reason is likewise damaged so that it cannot reason aright.

The classic issues were still current. Aquinas finds himself discussing in a Quodlibet whether predestination imposes a necessity (Quod. XI.q.3.a.1). He distinguishes necessary (divine) and contingent (human voluntary) causation in predestination, in ways earlier authors were able to do, but it comes naturally to his mind to speak of predestination in an Aristotelian and teleological way as directio in finem. He was well aware of the complexity of the problems this 'most famous question' raises, and his own thinking altered during the course of his career. In the De Veritate he describes free choice as an act of judgement by reason; he tries in this way to establish the superiority of reason in determining the actions of the will. John Quidort, Godfrey of Fontaines and others supported his theory that the will must concur with what reason tells it is for the best. But among the Franciscans some (for example, Alexander of Hales) held that freedom of choice directed both will and reason; others (as Bonaventure) preferred to see freedom of choice as a habitus, not a power or faculty of the soul. John of La Rochelle rolled all three together into a single faculty of reason and will and choice-making.29

This debate bore controversial fruit in the fourteenth century in the outbreak of a new 'Pelagian' controversy. The advocates of the 'Pelagian' view argued that it must either be the case that God looks away so that human actions may be freely entered into without his foreseeing them (which places a restriction on his omnipotence), or it must happen that he foresees but permits what he knows to be contingent, not necessary. This last possibility would allow for the eventuality that God's plan for the world, providence itself, even the scheme of revelation, might have been or might be different. In response Bradwardine wrote his De Causa Dei, an ambitious work designed to fit the whole debate into the scheme of a full systematic theology of divine being and creation. God, says Bradwardine, knows everything specifically, and his knowledge is complete. It is also eternal and immutable, and he knows past, present and future alike. Everything which God knows is actively moved by him. His knowledge is therefore an active force. Nothing can happen unless God wills it. Even what he 'permits' is his act. To the question, how then can God not be held responsible for sin, Bradwardine replies that sin comes from the wills of men and evil angels alone, but that God must be regarded as in some sense its 'negative cause'. He uses it as a means of punishing where punishment is deserved and as a source of pattern and order in the universe (for the good is more beautiful when we can see its opposite).

All this rests upon an Ockhamist doctrine of divine absolute power. For Ockham nothing was impossible to God; God can in principle do even that which seems to go against his very nature. Hispotentia absoluta can even override his potentia ordinata, that is, the power by which he enacts particular things in the created world. Aquinas, too, had argued the point. In a Quodlibet on whether God can make something return to nothing, he distinguishes between God's absolute power (by which he can certainly do so), and his power acting within the order prescribed by his wisdom and foreknowledge (by which he does not do so) (Quod. IV.q.3.a.1). This distinction has a long mediaeval history. It was already clear to Anselm. The key question was whether a God who is as Christians believe him to be will ever do that which goes against his nature, and whether, as Anselm would put it, to do what ought not to be done is in fact an act of impotence rather than one of power.


Ancient philosophical thought sought to explain how the natural world runs, in terms of causes both physical and metaphysical. Interference could be postulated, from ill-disposed or well-intentioned spiritual powers, but that brought the question into the realms of the magical arts. These lay on the fringes of the intellectually respectable in philosophy, as they lay on the edge of the orthodox in Christian thought of the Middle Ages. The overall purpose of the philosophers was to account for nature and its phenomena in terms of a co-ordinated system of forces and tendencies, moving matter according to regulating principles derived from a higher power. Christian thought introduced a new element into the equation in the form of grace. Grace is the free act of a merciful God. It can alter the course of otherwise predictable events for good.

Grace's primary action is in connection with the will of man; that is to say, it is able to move human wills or (as some thinkers prefer to see it, to co-operate with them), so that the individuals concerned are rescued from their sinfulness and enabled to 'grow in grace' and become what God designed them to be. The alteration by grace of the rules which normally govern the running of the natural world is always associated with the divine purpose of perfecting fallen mankind. Thus miracles are seen as designed to capture human attention and win men to faith. They are, as Gregory the Great explains at length in his Dialogues, a teaching aid to illuminate human understanding. There can be miraculous consequences of the life of a human being in whom grace is freely at work. Such saints 'perform miracles' throughout mediaeval tradition, and the miracles are taken as signs that they are indeed exceptionally good men and women in whom God has wrought his will. There are healings and the instantaneous multiplication of fishes and other such apparent interferences with the course of nature.

This differs from magic in its wholly edifying purpose and in taking place strictly as God wills, and not at the caprice of a demon. But it is still the case that a miracle appears to break the rules. If it did not do so, it would scarcely capture attention at all. Augustine took the view that we must see such exceptional events not as lying outside the natural rules, but as falling under a higher rule which is itself, ultimately, a rule of nature. Grace can thus be seen not as overriding nature, but as perfecting it: 'gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit'. That seemed right to Anselm too, and it allows the philosophical contrivance of presenting miracle as in some sense 'natural', so that God does not have to break his own laws to work it.

But even if miracle and the intervention of grace are left out of account, the study of the created world in its mechanical functioning presented Christian thinkers with a number of problems inherited from the philosophers. Much ancient philosophy includes in the attempt to give an account of natural phenomena both questions about the first principles and causes and questions about purpose and ultimate end. On this definition, all sorts of aspects of the dealings of God or the gods with the world are relevant to physics.

But Platonists disagreed with Stoics about the reality-status of things which cannot be perceived by the senses; the Stoics generally taking the view that reality always has some sort of material embodiment. Yet there was broad agreement in dividing the perceptible from the 'intelligible' orders. That passed into the Christian tradition (and was also accepted by Philo).

A difficulty remained about where the line was to be drawn between the science of the perceptible world, whose mechanisms could be studied by means of the senses, and that concerned with the realm of ingelligibilia, things which could be known only by the intellect. Platonists tended to distinguish 'God' from 'all created things'. But the higher science might be deemed to include not only God himself but his dealings with the world he had made (that is, such questions as providence, fate, free will). Or it could be thought to cover God himself, and angels, and human souls (except the corrupt). Christian tradition came on the whole to include the area 'above' physics, God and his spiritual creatures, the angels and the souls of men, making the remainder the province of natural science, orphysica. But there was always overlap, indeed constant interchange, between the two areas of study.

Boethius was important for the Middle Ages as an authority for the definition of physics. Natural science (physica) is distinguished from mathematica and theologia, with the explanation that the province of physics is the forms of bodies taken together with the matter of which they are made, and the motion of such bodies (De Trinitate, II). By 'motion' (motus) he means the nature which makes them behave as they do. Earth tends downwards; fire tends upwards (ibid.), for example.

Physics came into play for theologians in the mediaeval West in the discussion of the created world as it is sustained in being by the Creator. Principles of order and harmony and of hierarchy are crucial here. Eriugena develops them in ways which include many other elements from the

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES philosophical systems on which he draws, but in which we can see the natural 'world in motion' in relation to its Creator.30 Bede gives us a more pedestrian treatment. God governs the world, which he has made from nothing. The world is the universitas omnis, made up of heaven and earth, which is the four elements held in a sphere (globata). He describes the structure of the cosmos, planetary motion, the signs of the zodiac, comets, winds, weather, tides, and such other topics as Pliny and Seneca assisted with (De Natura Rerum, PL 90.187ff.). The number and arrangement of the heavens gave Carolingians matter for further discussion, and we find arguments about the location of hell, too, in which there is a particular debt to Macrobius.31

But we have to wait for the twelfth century before a substantial body of fresh philosophical difficulties became urgent. Peter Lombard deals with the natural world and the structure of the cosmos in his Sentences (II, Dist. 14). In his Cosmographia (i.4), Bernardus Silvestris describes the running of the universe in terms which owe a good deal both to Stoicism and to Neoplatonism. Heat and light, he says, are the moving force of all processes of generation. The light which is God's wisdom radiates from him upon the world, and the laws the Creator has given to nature govern the behaviour of fire and motion. Here, fire is both an element and a force, as for the Stoics. Bernardus follows the Asclepius in taking ??sia to be a synonym for ???, with the result that there is some uncertainty as to whether creation can be said to be the working together of the One and matter, or the One and being. But the elision of the two makes it possible to view divine creativity, and matter, and order, in perpetual interaction, so that the act of creation is repeated again and again throughout the universe and through time. The passage of time itself is regulated by order, and in its turn time regulates the processes of the cosmos. God is the animating presence in Bernardus' Cosmos, making the world sentient.

With the advent of Ptolemy's Almagest, Aristotle's De Caelo and Averroes' commentary on the De Caelo, matters became more complicated. Ptolemy describes epicycles and eccentric orbits. Aristotle has homocentric spheres, because it seems to him that self-evident first principles require them in the structure of the universe. Aquinas makes the telling comment that even if Ptolemy's account fits the experimentally verifiable facts better, that does not mean that he is right. Aristotle's first principles are more compelling.32 The Timaeus suggests an analogy between the structure and working of the cosmos and the nature and behaviour of man. The notion of a macrocosm with which a microcosm has parallels is also to be found in the Asclepius (48, ed. P. Thomas (Leipzig, 1908), pp. 39-43). Although it occurs in Eriugena, and one or two of the Carolingians after him, the image was not much taken up in the early Middle Ages. It became popular in the twelfth century, when its links with ideas of harmony in the universe, its implications for the existence of a hierarchy in all things, and above all, its suggestion that man is the centre and purpose of the universe were ingeniously exploited. There was some input from Arabic scholarship here. Al-Kindi's De Radiis speaks of man as a minor mundus, a 'lesser world', in its Latin version, and Bonaventure picks up the phrase in his Itinerarium Mentis ad DeumP The study of the natural world could readily be seen on this basis as a necessity for the study of man, and man the centre of the universe and its reason for existing.

The microcosm which man discovers in himself by observation and comparison is seen in the mediaeval period as having an educational purpose. He is to learn from it what the universe is like, and that is to lead him on to a better understanding of the universe's Creator. Bonaventure says that a man has five senses which are like five gates. Through these there enters into his soul a knowledge of things in the sensible world.34 By reflection on what he learns he sees underlying laws. All things are beautiful and delightful in their own way. Beauty and delightfulness are impossible without proportion. Proportion is fundamentally a matter of number. So everything must be 'full of number' (numerosa). Number is therefore an exemplar of the Creator.35 In similar ways divine power, wisdom, goodness, greatness, beauty, fullness and order can be perceived.36 There was of course nothing new in this line of thinking, but in the wake of twelfth-century exploration of the microcosm theme, thirteenth-century authors came to it afresh. Robert Kilwardby, for example, discusses the 'image' and 'vestige' of the Trinity to be found in creation in a different way from Augustine in his De Trinitate. He asks first about the cognoscibilitas of such vestiges. Can a creature know them all? What is it in a creature which could arrive at a knowledge of the divine, and how might it do so? He points to analogy as the basis on which that may be possible, for analogy is the basis of the notion of microcosm and macrocosm.

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