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THE NONCONFORMIST. No. XXVI.
Mahometan Influence on Christian Literature and Opinions.
In the earliest period of Mahometan
submitted on a former occasion.
I then briefly noticed the brilliant selves by the purity of their practice,
successors, and to the circumstances
With the Jews the same feelings
which seemed to mark that influence seem to have early operated to pro-
the part of the professors of Christian- tivation of common pursuits, and an
thed a much more cordial feeling, on reception, a zealous union in the cul
unrestrained freedom of speculative inquiry, on a variety of subjects equally interesting to both classes of believers. But without dwelling on points necessarily involved in great obscurity, it is sufficient here to observe, that at the period when the literary greatness of Moorish Spain was in its zenith, when it was exercising its widest influence on Europe, the genius of Arabian cultivation was strikingly, and to an extent never since equalled, tolerant and conciliatory towards the yotaries of faiths, apparently most widely and irreconcileably opposed and Christian, Jew and Islamite united in one harmonious effort for the promotion of what was thought science and philosophical inquiry.
From this union resulted a mutual agreement to declare, as neutral ground (open to all, and considered by none as constituting the essentials of their respective faiths) a vast field of speculative inquiry into the deepest theological questions. The European Universities did not consider it inconsistent with their religious faith to unite zealously with them in the same pursuit, and the schoolmen followed it up to the most subtle refinements, subject, however, to the continual protest of the more orthodox supporters of the church. The latter soon saw that these freedoms could not be permitted without danger to the system of absolute ecclesiastical authority, and, in the end, they were justified in their predictions by the excitement to inquiry and resistance which these speculations created.
The external influence of the energetic spirit of Arabian literature and refinement on the neighbouring European courts, need hardly be dwelt upon. Strangers flocked from all sides to the Saracen Universities for instruction. The Arabian geographers, naturalists and philosophers, were in all the Southern courts; and when the Gothic monarchies began to cultivate the sciences for themselves, their teachers and professors were almost all drawn from the Infidels, whom, as yet, they had not grown wise enough to despise and butcher. Those who inspect the scanty evidences which the literary remains of these early ages will afford of the state of political and religious feeling, prior to the Crusades, will be surprised to find how
little is to be found of that anti-infidel
ear upon and even d within ch it was t at defif this deroubadour ger satire
ces of the f the speArabians in their com perse. ful soil for eat princisocial culn influence
were from the first associated with with Manichæan and other Oriental
It is singular that the earliest hereties of Europe should be the earliest poets; and if it be (as almost all the writers on the subject contend) clear that the poetry of the South of Europe owed its form and character to the Moorish school, that circumstance alone would lead us to suspect some considerable influence of the same school on the character of their theological speculations. The literature of the Vaudois, which certainly belongs to the 11th century, will not, perhaps, at first view, be admitted to be very closely connected with that of Provence. Yet the identity of the language, the vagueness But in the midst of all the fury of with which the terms of Vaudois, the Inquisition, which commenced its Albigeois, &c., were obscurity applied, and the reign of horrors in the native soil of histories and opinions which their respective poetry and romance, we still see the are involved, strongest traces yet uneffaced of the would lead me to suspect a much peculiar literary spirit which had been greater affinity, and antiquity of these impressed upon society. We actually sectaries, than is usually allowed. find a mock tribunal, not like the old which has lately been published by M. knotty points in amatorial casuistry, The religious poetry of the Vaudois, parliaments of love for the decision of
But the free spirit of the Troubadour school, and indeed almost every Arabian relation, soon became the object of vehement attack from the church. It will not be necessary for me to dwell here on the details of the blind and bigoted warfare in which the Christian world was engaged, especially during the 12th century, or to point out how effectually the church accomplished its object. The Crusades were the first result of its policy, and the same zeal was soon directed to uprooting the freedom of opinion which the Mahometan spirit had encouraged in the countries immediately subject to its operation. Domestic crusading against free inquiry among Christians, was the proper companion of intolerance towards unbelievers. The gay and smiling plains of Provence and Languedoc were soon deluged with blood; and the gay creations of chivalry and poetry fled from the scene of horror.
but one of the same external form,
Raynouard, would form in itself an
have Izarn, the Dominican Inquisitor,
During the violent persecutions of bringing forth a refractory heretic, to the Paulicians in the 9th century, it is wrestle with him on points of faith, between them and the Mahometan burning with more material flames, certain that a strict alliance existed and forcing him, under the pain of government; that they afterwards fol- to confess before the court the blaslowed its armies; that in various ways phemy of his creed, and the superior they directed their course into Europe, power of persuasion of his fiery antaand, apparently, chiefly by way of gonist. I do not mean, however, to Spain, through which they followed place the poetry of these heresy hunthe Moorish course to the South of ters on a footing with that of the obFrance, and were there patronized by jects of their wrath, and that I may the Troubadour courts, and especially not be mistaken, will give a specimen by the Counts of Toulouse. Here of the holy Inquisitor's style, in which the undefined title of Albigeois, and depress the flight of his muse. After their followers afterwards acquired I have attempted neither to elevate nor were supposed to be deeply tainted a long argument, which had hitherto
been attended with little success, the orthodox champion throws in the following powerful motive for choice:
As you declare you wont believe,
Which ne'er was found within your brave and generous warriors, and un
doubtedly those qualities were more
But whatever zeal was displayed in
We shall have occasion to notice hereafter the graver speculations which were borrowed by the labouring learned of the European schools: at present we have only to advert to an acknowledged fact, that all which was in those days dignified by the name of science, whether experimental or occult, took its rise in the speculations of the Arabian Universities. Peter Maurice, the venerable Doctor, the friend of Abeillard, who went to study in Spain in the 12th century, bears testimony to the number of men of learning from England and other countries, whom he there found sedulously applying themselves to the study of such sciences as astrology. In such pursuits the Jew, the Christian and the Islamite, were at all times found cordially united, and that not only in the Mahometan states, but even the courts of Christian monarchs, of
Nor passed your lips at all-
And ready is the stake,
This extraordinary piece is particularly worthy of notice, as containing view of the opinions then generally attributed to the proscribed religionists, and among these the most prominent are those in which Orientalism prevails, and in which a Mahometan and a Christian schoolman would have found little difficulty in agreeing, at any rate, to consider as fair matter of innocent discussion. These chiefly relate to speculations on the principle of evil, the nature of angels, demons, &c., and, what is more extraordinary, a transinigration of the soul.
stigma of favouring the Mahometan
One peculiar instance, both of the inclination among many Christians to favour the liberal spirit and speculative freedom of the Mahometans, and of the zeal of the church in controuling this spirit, and rendering religious discord as vehement as possible, may be found, I think, in the strange and other wise almost inexplicable persecution of the Templars. Amongst the mass of absurd charges which were brought forward on the trials of the members of this devoted order, it is impossible not to suspect that there must have been some very urgent ground for alarm on the part of their prosecutors, and a great degree of favourable inclination towards their Mahometan opponents, who had, perhaps, in many respects, really a good title to their respect and esteem. For the same reasons, the history of these times records several instances of the most distinguished sovereigns of Europe, (who lead the Christian armies either froin political motives, or from deference to the enthusiasm of the age,) at constant variance with the church, and as constantly under the singular