". . . the deeds of those
Who know and who are known;"
"When I raised my eyes a little higher
I saw the master of those who know,
Sitting with his philosophic family
Who look his way and pay him honor.
There nearest him and before the rest
I saw Socrates and Plato . . .
I saw Dioscordes the good taxonomist
of plants and I saw Orpheus
Tully and Linus, and Seneca the moralist;
Euclid the geometer and Ptolemy
Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna,
And Averroes who made the Great Commentary."
Dante, Inferno, IV
"The commentary of
Aristotle's works by the Islamic philosopher Averroes had
given rise to a school of philosophers known as the
Averroists who had
restored confidence in the autonomy of empirical knowledge. However, this was
with Saint Augustine's legacy of revelation which had been dominant.
This threatened the supremacy of the Roman
Catholic Church and filled orthodox
thinkers with alarm."
"Averroes died in the year which found the four-year old Frederick crowned King
of Naples in Palermo, though legend relates that he lived at the court of
- Frederick II
by Ernst Kantorowicz
"Since the beginning of the thirteenth century an Arabian author of the first
rank had become the object of much curiosity in Europe. This was the famous
Averroes of Cordova, whose history might fill a volume, so full was it of
romantic adventure and literary interest.
His philosophy was understood to embody the strangest and most daring
speculations regarding the origin of the universe and the nature of the soul.
For these he had suffered severely at the hands of the Moslem orthodox. They
had proscribed his works and compelled him to leave his employment and pass the
most precious years of his life in exile."
- Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot
by Rev. J. Wood Brown
"Many of his works in logic and metaphysics had been consigned to the flames,
so that he left no school, and the end of the dominion of the Moors in Spain,
which occurred shortly afterwards, turned the current of Averoism completely
into Hebrew and Latin channels, through which it influenced the thought of
Christian Europe down to the dawn of the modern era."
"One of his messages was this: Science and religion are two valid
gaining insight into the nature of things. They have different methods, neither
one should interfere with
the other, and an educated person will deny neither
form of understanding. He placed spirit and intellect on
equal footing. This
was enlightened stuff, for a practicing monotheist!
After his time, Muslim clerics pretty much erased his teaching from Islamic
culture. They saw to it that faith ruled
the mind without challenge. In
theocratic Islam, there would be no more cracks."
"Averroes was a rationalist who scoffed at all religions
that spirit of irreverence which Abelard too had shown, and which had
apprehension as to the dangerous influence of even the logic and
metaphysics of Aristotle. His
two most pernicious doctrines were that a thing
could at the same time be true theologically and
false philosophically, and
the assertion of the commonality of one intellectual soul among all
When these heterodox doctrines reached the West through Spain and through the
Frederick II, who, attracted by Aristotle's scientific writings,
supported two of the sons of
Averroes, the authorities were alarmed."
"Averrhoism quickly penetrated into the University of
Paris and was adopted
by some of the foremost thinkers of the day. The Emperor Frederick II
espoused it and was excommunicated from the Church as a result. Roger Bacon
and approved of it. It formed the favorite theme of discussion
among the later Italian painters,
Leonardo da Vinci accepting it without
question, while others used Averrhoes in their paintings
as the type of
anti-Christ. In 1512 the Church anathematized Averrhoes and his doctrines and
branded all who studied them as infidels."
Plato's spawn cold ivyed eyes
Snare truth in
bone and globe.
Because they believed that only union with God could
lead to knowledge,
Medieval neo-Platonists insisted that study of the
natural world was useless.
As the song,
In the Wake of Poseidon
appears to be primarily about this problem, it is not unlikely that
Sinfield also made reference to neo-Platonism in the first album. The
about snaring the truth "with bone and globe," refers to divinatory
which are not guided by scientific reasoning. Divination is
throwing bones and with a crystal ball, a globe.
"Chesterton 'notes that the Catholic Church "...began by
being Platonist; by
being rather too Platonist. St. Thomas Aquinas sought to reaffirm
the Word made Flesh, by means of his synthesis with
counter-balance the "Oriental elements" of the Greek Fathers.
simply meant that the study of the humblest fact will lead to
the study of the
St. Thomas laid down principles that, if
followed by succeeding generations,
would have averted the "...clumsy
collision" of science and religion."
Of course the Church did not strictly follow the principles laid down by St.
Thomas, as demonstrated by the persecution of Roger Bacon, Galileo, Giordano
Bruno and other untold thousands. But Aquinas did manage to open the door to
Reason, if only a crack, and he did this by rendering acceptable to the clergy
some of the elements of Averroism which were then being promoted by the Court
of Frederick II.
"The christianizing of Aristotle would at once solve the problem of the moment
and effect a
reconciliation between philosophy and theology, between reason
and faith, by providing that
scientific system which theology had been
seeking since the early ages of the Church. To do this
it was necessary to get
back to the primitive text, then to purge the authentic thought of
of its pagan errors, and expound it in a manner compatible with Christian
this last task the Arab commentators could be utilized. Indeed
Thomas -- acting upon advice of
St. Augustine which he quotes with approval
(ST, I. Q.84, a5), "If those who are called
philosophers said by chance
anything that was true and consistent with our faith, we must claim
them as unjust possessors" -- molded his own commentary upon that of Averroes,
frequently cites with respect despite the hard words already
"Although Aquinas's great work of Aristotelian synthesis, the Summa Theologica,
seems the height of orthodoxy from our safe distance, it was not always judged
so. In places, it flirted perilously with heterodoxy . . .Thomas was treading
on dangerous ground, as were a number of his counterparts, Maimonides and
Averroes prominent among them. But Aquinas had certain advantages. Before he
arrived on the Parisian scene, he had the benefit of an education shaped by
Frederick II's Andalusian-like culture in Southern Italy, where he had been
able to read a Latin translation of Maimonides'
Guide for the Perplexed
, reportedly a favorite of Frederick's. At Frederick's court Michael Scot had
been a key member of the group that translated it from Hebrew into Latin."
- The Ornament of the World
by Maria Rosa Menocal'
from southern Italy himself, even as Frederick II was patronizing
ideas and Islamic learning, St. Thomas took the doctrines of
by Islamic and Jewish philosophy and made them acceptable as
theology. This achievement continues to ground Catholic
The impact of Averroes upon the Church (by way of Frederick II and St. Thomas
Aquinas) also extended into the legal realm.
"Roman law was
undergoing a revival at the University of Bologna; this
involved a rigorous
analysis of the natural law and provided the jurists of
Frederick II with a
weapon against ecclesiastical theocracy. The traditional
presentations of the
role and duties of princes, in which biblical symbolism
was used to outline
beautiful pious images, were replaced by treatises that
and rational attempts at government. Thomas had
composed such a treatise--
("On the Government of Princes")--for the King of Cyprus in
1266. In the
administration of justice, juridical investigations and
fanatical recourse to ordeals and to judgments of God."
And thus the purple piper, St. Thomas Aquinas, who was to
lead the Catholic
world to reason, can play his tune while Frederick's
choir sings three
lullabies (Three Impostors) and it can be done harmoniously.
In summary, the first verse is about
the rising sun. Frederick is just
starting out and telling the world, "This is
what I'm about." By
philosophically aligning himself with St. Thomas he is
stating his position
regarding Science and the Church.
Thanks to the influence of Averroes, Frederick II and St. Thomas Aquinas, the
Medieval Catholic Church was forced to liberalize, an occurence that may have
saved the Church and profoundly altered the course of European history.
"While Aquinas' thought was hugely influential, his confidence in the synthesis
of reason and revelation was not
shared by all philosophers of his time. Many
philosophers, still under the influence of Averroes, did not see the
using Christian faith in their scientific endeavours. A schism grew between the
two opposing camps,
which deepened greatly following Aquinas death. The church
could do nothing to stop the secularistic
philosophers who continued their
work. However, the church's authority still persisted throughout the
Ages, and Aquinas was canonised as a saint some 50 years after his
"His influence in Europe persisted, developed, and expanded. His Catholic
students, many of them, believed
him, and carried his modernist message to
Paris and Oxford and other nascent Christian universities. Aristotle's
for natural explanations for nature and his ideas concerning inductive and
deductive reasoning had a
profound influence on generations of Catholic
scholars. Because of Averroes, a Muslim Arab, Christian
to think for themselves. The capacity of Christendom to accept Classical
its religious culture, while Islam shut it out, explains why
airplanes exist today, and also why all commercial pilots
have to learn
English instead of Arabic. By listening to this Arab genius, Europe began to
surge ahead of Africa