JF Ptak Science Books Post 2747
Grazing through old scholarly journals is never a completed task—the more you have to bring to the adventure, the more you will take away from it. This is probably a general truth, though it is particularly so with journals that cut a broad path in the communication of ideas, and this is certainly the story with the late-17th century journal/magazine, Bibliotheque Universelle. It ran from 1672 to 1726, and the intellectually-thirsty editors ran a kind of review/abstract service for their readers—they found (mostly) newly published books in a wide variety of areas, and wrote summaries and statements on them, with background history, and the occasional editorial comment. Some of the articles were on significant works by John Locke and Antoine van Leeuwenhoek, but many and probably most were on obscure topics in nitty theological history and mostly-invisible philosophical issues, or at at least that is how the latter seems to me today. The Bibliotheque brought new ideas to the continent, and brought them in the Lingua Franca, which also happened to be French.
This is the background as I thumbed my way through volume seven, one of several volumes for this year, finding few things that fired any nodule of memory or investigation in my head. 1687 is a big year in the history of science, seeing the publication in July of that year of what may one of them most important books ever published, Isaac Newton's Pricnipa Mathematica.
And then, suddenly, it was there. I knew from a previous experience that an interesting and uncommon review of the Principia by John Locke (of all people) in the next volume (8), which was the third statement on the book outside of Britain. But I hadn't know about this appearance, which would have been published just a couple of months after the Principia appeared.
There were just a few lines announcing the book in the table of contents, but no page reference. I consulted an online version of the journal and did a search on Newton, with no results. That of course made me go through the book—twice--page by page to make sure that the article wasn't there. It wasn't. I imagine that the mention of one of the world's greatest books was, well, a mistake.
The Principia was quiet.
The funny thing was that there was another article on exactly that—quiet. And this was a dangerous quiet, at least for the originator of the theological movement, who would be cast into the flames of the Inquisition and die in prison for the temerity of quietude.
In the next page of the table there was this fine find: “Le Quietiste, ou les Illusions de l'oration de Quietude”, (p 550-554) and “Receuil de diverse pieces concernant le quietisme et les quietistes”(pp 554-559).
These two articles are statements/reviews of two books addressing the Quietism and Quiesiste movement as embodied by its founder, Miguel de Molino (1626-1696). Very long story short, Molino was seen as a threat to the pope and to the Jesuits, preaching a Christianity that seems quite personal and benevolent from where I sit, but at the time was seen as heretical, and for which Molino would be tried by the Holy Offices and condemned to life in prison, and as a matter of fact, Molino died in the (outwardly) beautiful Castel St. Angelo serving out his sentence.
It seems to have a bit forward and backwards for Molino. Charges were brought against him chiefly through the work of pieces like the first presented above, by the Jesuit Paolo Segneri (1624-1697), whose first efforts were unsuccessful in dislodging Molino, with his own work finding its way to the Index. However, by 1685 he was again sent to the Inquisition, and just months before this book was published, he was already tried and imprisoned.
William James (in his The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902) found Molino to be a “spiritual genius” (p. 130) and his Quietism to be a ”transcendental idealism”, with “a healthy-minded opinion of repentance” (p. 130). He seems to have found nothing threatening in the man, and his imprisonment an “abomination”. The issues were longer and deeper than this, with 250+ points brought up before the Inquisition, including “moral deformity”), but on the whole Quietisme seems as destructive as George Fox's Quakerism, which seems to have shared many spiritual practices with Quietism.
So it seems that the established order in Rome found the message of the Quietists too loud, and the voice of the Principia was to be found in the next volume.