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Astrology, Astral Influences, and Occult Properties in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

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The notion of natural “occult” is usually viewed by modern scholars as a tautological way of dealing with phenomena for which there was no current explanation. Consider how Molière mocks scholastic medicine in the “Intermède” ofLe malade imaginairewhen he gives the Bachelierus a silly answer to the question of why opium makes one sleep: “quia est in eo virtus dormitiva / Cujus est natura / Sensus assoupire.” Opium makes one sleep because it has a sleep-inducing power; its nature is to make “the senses drowsy.” The words of Molière's Bachelierus are strikingly similar to what Augustine writes in theCity of God(21, 7) concerning natural things that are endowed with extraordinary properties: “So for the other cases, irksome to rehearse, in which an unusual power seems to be present contrary to nature, yet no other explanation is given except to say such is their nature. No doubt their explanation is short, and still it answers enough.” Obviously, however, the very meaning of Augustine's statement is just the opposite of Molière's. In Augustine's view, the answer is “short,” because the real and only cause is God himself; nature is only an illusory cause. For Molière, the Bachelierus's answer is inane, because it seems to give a scientific explanation but in fact says nothing and certainly does not look for the true natural causes. But between Augustine and Molière there was scholastic science, in which thevirtus occultawas not a mere tautological statement but a real explanation based on a coherent conception of nature.
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Title: Astrology, Astral Influences, and Occult Properties in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
Description:
The notion of natural “occult” is usually viewed by modern scholars as a tautological way of dealing with phenomena for which there was no current explanation.
Consider how Molière mocks scholastic medicine in the “Intermède” ofLe malade imaginairewhen he gives the Bachelierus a silly answer to the question of why opium makes one sleep: “quia est in eo virtus dormitiva / Cujus est natura / Sensus assoupire.
” Opium makes one sleep because it has a sleep-inducing power; its nature is to make “the senses drowsy.
” The words of Molière's Bachelierus are strikingly similar to what Augustine writes in theCity of God(21, 7) concerning natural things that are endowed with extraordinary properties: “So for the other cases, irksome to rehearse, in which an unusual power seems to be present contrary to nature, yet no other explanation is given except to say such is their nature.
No doubt their explanation is short, and still it answers enough.
” Obviously, however, the very meaning of Augustine's statement is just the opposite of Molière's.
In Augustine's view, the answer is “short,” because the real and only cause is God himself; nature is only an illusory cause.
For Molière, the Bachelierus's answer is inane, because it seems to give a scientific explanation but in fact says nothing and certainly does not look for the true natural causes.
But between Augustine and Molière there was scholastic science, in which thevirtus occultawas not a mere tautological statement but a real explanation based on a coherent conception of nature.

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