THE BEGINNINGS OF MEDIÆVAL PSYCHOLOGY
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THE BEGINNINGS OF MEDIÆVAL PSYCHOLOGY book
The greatest speculative mind of the ninth century was John Scotus Eriugena, another of those who were drawn from the western islands to the mainland of Europe. His birth, parentage, character and career are all alike involved in obscurity ; but the little that is known about him reveals a man well fitted for the times. There is a strong likeness between this man and that other wandering spirit of the next renascence, Giordano Bruno. Eriugena was not, strictty speaking,, an ecclesiastic, though the distinction between the philosophers and the divines cannot have been great at this time. Eriugena seems more like a rhapsodist who has specialized in philosophic traditions : he comes as the man of wisdom, to supplement the man of destiny, a point neatly expressed in the statement that Eriugena was the Charlemagne of philosophy. In his method and in his matter Eriugena carries us back to the - days of primitive m yth : in him is born again the tendency to pure romance which was the beginning of speculative
thought. But this rebirth is no longer a purely spon taneous beginning : it has its background and its inherited dispositions: while it draws inspiration from the most primitive sources of thought and feeling, it veils its impulses in the stiff garb of traditional phrases. f
A wise man must justify his existence by being useful. This primitive notion had not yet disappeared from Western Europe, and the metaphysician had not yet become merely a thinker. If the goal of life is the return to God, there must be a w ay b y which men return : the practical use of the wise man is to show that way. He does not do this by example only, for it would be absurd to suppose that the way is the same for a l l : he does it rather by theory, the theory of the nature of man and of the kind of action by which the human may become divine. Here then the myth conceals a science of life as practice: the theology is the shell that contains the religion and the ethics, while the ethics is the approach to psychology.