The Historical Roots of Our Ecolgic
Crisis Lynn White Jr.
Science 155 10 Mar 67 1203.
The White Thesis revisited. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Nearly twenty years have passed since the publication of the Lynn White's "Historical roots of our ecologic crisis." The White Thesis (as I will call the article's argument) argues that the origins of the West's twentieth-century ecological problems lie in the Middle Ages. Modern science and technology were created by late medieval Europeans, who imported into these new enterprises the Biblically-inspired and -defended idea that the natural world was created by God for use by humans in any way they saw fit.
The Historical Roots of Our Ecolgic Crisis
A conversation with Aldous Huxley not infrequently put one at the receiving end of an unforgettable monologue. About a year before his lamented death he was discoursing on a favorite topic: Man's -unnatural treatment of nature and its sad results. To illustrate bis point he told how, during -the previous summer, he had retumed to a little valley in England where he had spent many happy months as a child. Once it had been composed of delightful grassy glades; now it was becoming overgrown with unsightly brush because the rabbits that formerly kept such growth under control had largely succumbed to a disease, myxomatosis, that was deliberately introduced by the local farmers to reduce the rabbits' destruction of crops. Being something of a Philistine, I could be silent no longer, even in the interests of great rhetoric. I interrupted to point out that the rabbit itself had been brought as a domestic animal to England in 1176, presumably to improve the protein diet of the peasantry. All forms of life modify -their contexts. The most spectacular and benign instance is doubtless the ooral polyp. By serving its own ends, it has created a vast undersea world favorable to thousands of other, kinds of animals and plants. Ever since man became a numerous species he has affected his environment notably. The hypothesis that his fire-drive method of hunting created the world's great grasslands and helped to exterminate the monster mammals of the Pleistocene from much of the globe is plausible, if not proved. For 6 millennia at least, the banks of the lower Nile have been a human artifact rather than the swampy African jungle which nature, apart from man, would have made it. The Aswan Dam, flooding 5000 square miles, is only the latest stage in a long process. In many regions terracing or irrigation, overgrazing, the cutting of forests by Romans to build ships to fight Carthaginians or by Crusaders to solve the logistics problems of their expeditions, have profoundly changed some ecologies. Observation that the French landscape falls into two basic types, the open :flelds of the north and the bocage of the south and west, inspired Marc Bloch to undertake his classic study of medieval agricultural methods. Quite unintentionally, changes in human ways often affect nonhuman nature. It has been noted, for example, that the advent of the automobile eliminated huge flocks of sparrows that once fed on the horse manure littering every street. The history of ecologic change is still so rudimentary that we know little about what really happened, or what the results were. The extinction of the European aurochs as late as 1627 would seem to have been a simple case of overenthusiastic hunting. On more intricate matters it often is impossible to find solid information. For a thousand years or more the Frisians and Hollanders have been pushing back the North Sea, and the process is culminating in our own time in the reclamation of the Zuider Zee. What, if any, species of animals, birds, fish, shore life, or plants have died out in the process? In their epic combat with Neptune have the Netherlanders'bverlooked ecological values in such a way that the quality of'human life in the Netherlands has suffered? I cannot discover that the questions have ever been asked, much less answered. People, then, have often been a dynamic element in their own environment, but in the present state of historical scholarship we usually do not know exactly when, where, or with what effects man-induced changes came. As we enter the last third of the 20th century, however, concern for the problem of ecologic backlash is mounting feverishly. Natural science, conceived as the effort to understand the nature of things, had flourished in several eras and among several peoples. Similarly there had been an age-old accumulation of technological skills, sometimes growing rapidly, sometimes slowly. But it was not until about four generations ago that Western Europe and North America arranged a marriage between science and technology, a union of the theoretical and the empirical approaches to our natural environment. The emergence in widespread practice of the Baconian creed that scientific knowledge means technological power over nature can scarcely be dated before about 1850, save in the chemical industries, where it is anticipated in the 18th century. Its acceptance ias a normal pattemof action may mark the greatest event in human history since the invention of agriculture, and perhaps in nonhuman terrestrial history as well. Almost at once the new situation forced the crystallization of the novel concept of ecology; indeed, the word ecology first appeared in the English language in 1873. Today, less than a century later, the impact of our race upon the environment has so increased in force that it has changed in essence. When the first cannons were fired, in the early 14th century, they affected ecology by sending workers scrambling to the forests and mountains for more potash, sulfur, iron ore, and charcoal, with some resulting erosion and deforestation. Hydrogen bombs are of a different order: a war fought with them might alter the genetics of all life on this planet. By 1285 London had a smog problem arising from the burning of soft coal, but our present combustion of fossil fuels threatens to change the chemistry of the globe's atmosphere as a whole, with consequences which we are only beginning to guess. With the population explosion, the carcinoma of planless urbanism, the now geological deposits of sewage and garbage, surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such short order. There are many calls to action, but specific proposals, however worthy as individual items, seem too partial, palliative, negative: ban the bomb, tear down the billboards, give the Hinduscontraceptives and tell them to eat their sacred cows. The simplest solution to any suspect change is, of course, to stop it, or, better yet, to revert to a romanticized past: make those ugly gasoline stations look like Anne Hathaway's cottage or (in the Far West) like ghost-town saloons. The "wilderness area" mentality invariably advocates deep-freezing an ecology, whether San Gimignano or the High Sierra, as it was before the first Kleenex was dropped. But neither atavism nor prettification will cope with the ecologic crisis of our time. What shall we do? No one yet knows. Unless we think about fundamentals, our specific -measures may produce new backlashes more serious than those they are designed to remedy. As a beginning we should try to clarify our thinking by looking, in some historical depth, at the presuppositions that underlie modern technology and science. Science was traditionally aristocratic, speculative, intellectual in intent; technology was lowerclass, empirical, action-oriented. The quite sudden fusion of these two, towards the middle of the 19th century, is surely related to the slightly prior and contemporary democratic revolutions which, by reducing social barriers, tended to assert a functional unity of brain and hand. Our ecologic crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications. Presumably we cannot unless we rethink our axioms.
The Western Traditions of Technology and Science
One thing is so certain that it seems stupid to verbalize it: both modern technology and modern science are distinctively Occidental. Our technology has absorbed elements from all over the world, notably from China; yet everywhere today, whether in Japan or in Nigeria, successful technology is Western. Our science is the heir. to all the sciences of the past, especially perhaps to the work of the great Islamic scientists of the Middle Ages, who so often outdid the ancient Greeks in skill and perspicacity: al-Riizi in medicine, for example; or ibnal-Haytham in optics; or Omar Khayyim in mathematics. Indeed, not a few works of such geniuses seem to have vanished in the original Arabic and to survive only in medieval Latin translations that helped to lay the foundations for later Western developments. Today, around the globe, all significant science is Western in style and method, whatever the pigmentation or language of the scientists. A second pair of facts is less well recognized because they result from quite recent historical scholarship. The leadership of the West, both in technology and in science, is far older than the so-called Scientific Revolution of the 17th century or the so-called Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. These terms are in fact outmoded and obscure the true nature of what they try to describe-significant stages in two long a nd separate developments. By A.D. 1000 at the latest -and perhaps, feebly, as much as 200 years earlier-the West began to apply water power to industrial processes other than milling grain. This was followed in the late 12th century by the harnessing of wind power. From simple beginnings, but with remarkable consistency of style, the West rapidly expanded its skills in the development of power machinery, labor-saving devices, and automation. Those who doubt should contemplate that most monumental achievement in the history of automation: the weight-driven mechanical clock, which appeared in two forms in the early 14th century. Not in craftsmanship but in basic technological capacity, the Latin West of the later Middle. Ages far outstripped its elaborate, sophisticated, and esthetically magnificent sister cultures, Byzantium and Islam. -In 1444 a great Greek ecclesiastic, Bessarion, who had gone to Italy, wrote a letter to a prince in Greece. He is amazed by the superiority of Western ships, arms, textiles, glass. But above all he is astonished by the spectacle of waterwheels sawing timbers and pumping the bellows of blast furnaces. Clearly, he had seen nothing of the sort in the Near East. By the end of the 15th century the technological superiority of Europe was such that its small, mutually hostile nations could spill out over all the rest of the world, conquering, looting, and colonizing. The symbol of this technological superiority is the fact that Portugal, one of the weakest states of the Occident, was able to become, and to remain for a century, mistress of the East Indies. And we must remem. ber that the technology of Vasco da Gama and Albuquerque was built by pure empiricism, drawing remarkably little support.or inspiration from science. In the present-day vernacular understanding, modern science is supposed to have begun in 1543, when both Copernicus and Vesalius published their great works. It is no derogation of their accomplishments, however, to point out that such structures as the Fabrica and the De revolutionibus do not appear overnight. The distinctive Western tradition of science, in fact, began in the late Ilth century with a massive movement of translation of Arabic and Greek scientific works into Latin. A few notable books-Theo. phrastus, for example-escaped the West's avid new appetite for science, but within less than 200 years effectively the entire corpus of Greek and Muslim science was available in Latin, and was being eagerly read and criticized in the new European universities. Out of criticism arose new observation, speculation, and mcreasing distrust of ancient authorities. By the late 13th century Europe had seized global scientific leadership from the faltering hands of Islam. It would be as absurd to deny the profound originality of Newton, Galilee or Copernicus as to deny that of the 14th century scholastic scientists like Buridan or Oresme on whose work they built. Before the Ilth century, science scarcely existed in the Latin West, even in Roman times. From the Ilth century onward, the scientific sector of Occidental culture has increased in a steady crescendo.
Since both our technological and our scientific movements got their start, acquired their character, and achieved world dominance in the Middle Ages, it would seem that we cannot understand their nature or their present impact upon ecology without examining fundamental medieval assumptions and developiments.
Medieval View of Man and Nature
Until recently, agriculture has been the chief occupation even in "advanced" societies; hence, any change in methods of tillage has much importance. Early plows, drawn by two oxen, did not normally tum the sod but,merely scratched it. Thus, crossplowing was needed and fields tended to be squarish. In the fairly light soils and semiarid climates of the Near East and Mediterranean, this worked well. But such a plow was inappropriate to the wet climate and often sticky soils of northern Europe. By the latter part of the 7th century after Christ, however, following obscure beginnings, certain northern peasants were using an entirely new kind of plow, equipped with a vertical knife to cut the line of the furrow, a horizontal share to slice under the sod, and a moldboard to turn it over. The friction of this plow with the soil was so great that it normally required not two but eight oxen. It attacked the land with such violence that cross-plowing was not needed, and fields tended to be shaped in long strips. In the days of the scratch-plow, fields were distributed generally in units capable of supporting a single family. Subsistence farming was the presupposition. But no peasant owned eight oxen: to use the new and more efficient plow, peasants pooled their oxen to form large plow-teams, originally receiving (it would appear) plowed strips in proportion to their contribution. Thus, distribution of land was based no longer oii the n6eds of a family but, rather, on the capacity of a power machine to till the earth. Man's relation to the soil was profoundly changed. Formerly man had been part of nature; now he was the exploiter of nature. Nowhere else in the world did farmers develop any analogous agricultural implement. Is it coincidence that modem technology, with its ruthlessness toward nature, has so largely been produced by descendants of these peasants of northern Europe? This same exploitive attitude appears slightly before A.D. 830 in Western illustrated calendars. In older calendars the months were shown as passive personifications. The new Frankish calendars, which set the style for the Middle Ages, are very different: they show men coercing the world around them-plowing, harvesting, chopping trees, butchering pigs. Man and nature are two things, and man is master. These novelties seem to be in harmony witlh larger intellectual pattems. What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny-that is, by religion. To Western eyes this is very evident in, say, India or Ceylon. It is equally true of ourselves and of our medieval ancestors. The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. It has become fashionable today to say that, for better or worse, we live in "the post-Christian age." Certainly the forms of our thinking and language have largely ceased to be Christian, but to my eye the substance often remains amazingly akin to that of the past. Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to GrecoRoman antiquity or to the Orient. It is rooted in, and is indefensible apart from, Judeo-Christian teleology. The_ fact that Communists share it merely helps to show what can be demonstrated on many other grounds: that Marxism, like Islam, is a Judeo-Christian heresy. We continue today to live, as we have lived for about 1700 years, very largely in a context of Christian axioms. What did Christianity tell people about their relations with the environment? While many of the world's mythologies provide stories of creation, GrecoRoman mythology was singularly incoherent in this respect. Like Aristotle, the inte]Iectuals of the ancient West denied that the visible world had had a beginning. Indeed, the idea of a beginning was impossible in the framework of their cyclical notion of time. In sharp contrast, Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of time as nonrepetitive and linear but also a striking story of creation. By gradual stages a loving and all-powerful God had created light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes. Finally, God had created Adam and, as an 'Afterthought, Eve to keep man from being lonely. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man's benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man's purposes. And, although man's body is made of clay, be is not simply part of nature: he is made in God's image. Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the. world has seen. As early as the 2nd century both Tertullian and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons were insisting that when God shaped Adam he was foreshadowing the image of the ,incarnate Christ, the Second Adam. Man shares, in great measure, God's transcendence of nature. Christianity, in absolute cont rast to ancient paganism and Asia's religions (except, perhaps, Zoroastrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends. At the level of the common people this worked out in an interesting way. In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. It is often said that for animism the Church substituted the cult of saints. True; but the cult of saints is functionally quite different from animism. The saint is not in natural objects; he may have special shrines, but his citizenship is in beaven. Moreover, a saint is entirely a man; he can be approached in human terms. In addition to saints, Christianity of course also had angels and demons inherited from Judaism and perhaps, at one remove, from Zoroastrianism. But these were all as mobile as the saints themselves. The spirits in natural objects, which formerly had protected nature from man, evaporated. Man's effective monopoly on spirit in this world was confirmed, and the old inhibitions to the exploitation of nature crumbled. When one speaks in such sweeping terms, a note of caution is in order.
Christianity is a complex faith, and its consequences differ in differing contexts. What I have said may well apply to the medieval West, where in fact technology made spectacular advances. But the Greek East, a highly civilized realm of equal Christian devotion, seems to have produced no marked technological innovation after the late 7th century, when Greek fire was invented. The key to the contrast may perhaps be found in a difference in the tonality of piety and thought which students of comparative theology find between the Greek and the Latin Churches. The Greeks believed that sin was intellectual blindness, and that salvation was found in illumination, orthodoxy-that is, clear thinking. The Latins, on the other hand, felt that sin was moral evil, and that salvation was to be found in right conduct. Eastern theology has been intellectualist. Western theology has been voluntarist. The Greek saint contemplates; the Western saint acts. The implications of Christianity for the conquest of nature would emerge more easily in the Western atmosphere. The Christian dogma of creation, which is found in the first clause of all the Creeds, has another meaning for our comprehension of today's ecologic crisis. By revelation, God had given man the Bible, the Book of Scripture. But since God had made nature, nature also must reveal the divine mentality. The religious study of nature for the better understanding of God was known as natural theology. In the early Church, and always in the Greek East, nature was conceived primarily as a symbolic system through which God speaks to men: the ant is a sermon to sluggards; rising flames are the symbol of the soul's aspiration. This view of nature was essentially artistic rather than scientific. While Byzantium preserved and copied great numbers of ancient Greek scientific texts, science as we conceive it could scarcely flourish in such an ambience. However, in the Latin West by the early 13th century natural theology was following a very different bent. It was ceasing to be the decoding of the physical symbols of God's communica I tion with man and was becoming the effort to understand God's mind by discovering how his creation. operates. c The rainbow was no longer simply a s symbol of hope first sent to Noah after r the Deluge: Robert Grosseteste, Friar ( Roger Bacon, and Theodoric of Freiberg produced startlingly sophisticated work on the optics of the rainbow, but they did it as a venture in religious understanding. From the 13th century onward, up to and including Leibnitz and Newton, every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms. Indeed, if Galileo had not been so expert an amateur theologian he would have got into far less trouble: the professionals resented his intrusion. And Newton seems to have regarded himself more as a theologian than as a scientist. It was not until the late 18th century that the hypothesis of God became unnecessary to many scientists. It is often hard for the historian to judge, when men explain why they are doing what they want to do, whether they are offering real reasons or merely culturally acceptable reasons. The consistency with which scientists during the long formative centuries of Western science said that the task and the reward of the scientist was "to think God's thoughts after him" leads one to believe that this was their real motivation. If so, then modern Western science was cast.in a matrix of Christian theology. The dynamism of religious devotion, shaped by the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation, gave it impetus.
An Alternative Christian View
We would seem to be headed toward conclusions unpalatable to many Christians. Since both science and technolOgY are blessed words in our contemporary vocabulary, sbme may be happy at the notions, first, that, viewed historically, modern science is an extrapolation of natural theology and, second, that modern technology is at least partly to be explained as an Occidental, voluntarist realization of the Christian dogma of man's transcendence of, and rightful mastery over, nature. But, as we now recognize, somewhat over a century ago science and technology-hitherto quite separate activities-joined to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.
I personally doubt that disastrous ecologic backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology. Our science and technology have grown out of Christian attitudes toward man's relation to nature ' which are almost universally held not only by Christians and neo-Christians but also by those who fondly regard themselves as postChristians., Despite Copernicus, all the cosmos rotates around our little globe. Despite Darwin, we are not, in our hearts, part of the natural process. We are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim. The newly elected Governor of California, like myself a churchman but less troubled than I, spoke for the Christian tradition when he said (as is alleged), "when you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen them all." To a Christian a tree can be no more than a physical fact. The whole concept of the sacred grove is alien to Christianity and to the ethos of the West. For nearly 2 millennia Christian nussionaries have been chopping down sacred groves, which are idolatrous because they assume spirit in nature. What we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one. The beatniks, who are the basic revolutionaries of our time, show a sound instinct in their affinity for Zen Buddhism, which conceives of the mannature relationship as very nearly the mirror image of the Christian view. Zen, however, is as deeply conditioned by Asian history as Christianity is by the experience of the West, and I am dubious of its viability among us. Possibly we should ponder the great. est radical in Christian history since Christ: Saint Francis of Assisi. The prime miracle of Saint Francis is the fact that he did not end at the stake, as many of his left-wing followers did. He was so clearly heretical that a General of the Franciscan Order, Saint Bonaventura, a great and perceptive Christian, tried to suppress the early accounts of Franciscanism. The key to i an understanding of Francis is his be. fief in the virtue of humility-not merely for the individual but for man as a species. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God's creatures. With bim the ant is no longer simply a homily for the lazy, flames a sign of the thrust of the soul toward union with God; now they are Brother Ant and Sister Fire, praising the Creator in their own ways as Brother Man does in his.
Later commentators have said that Francis preached to the birds as a rebuke to men who would not listen. The records do not read so: he urged the little birds to praise God, and in spiritual ecstasy they flapped their wings and chirped rejoicing. Legends of saints, especially the Irish saints, had long told of their dealings with animals but always, I believe, to show their human dominance over creatures. With Francis it is different. The land around Gubbio in the Apennines was being ravaged by a terce wolf. Saint Francis, says the legend, talked to the wolf and persuaded him of the error of his ways. The wolf repented, died in the odor of sanctity, and was buried in consecrated ground. What Sir Steven Ruciman calls "the Franciscan doctrine of the animal soul" was quickly stamped out. Quite possibly it was in part inspired, oonsciously or unconsciously, by the belief in reincarnation held by the Cathar heretics who at that time teemed in Italy and southern France, and who presumably had got it originally from India. It is signiflcant that at just the same moment, about 1200, traces of metempsychosis are found also in western Judaism, in the Provengal Cabbala. But. Francis held neither to transmigration of souls nor to pantheism. His view of nature and of man rested on a unique sort of pan-psychism of all things animate and inanimate, designed for the glorification of their transceldent Creator, who, in the ultimate gesture of cosmic humility, assumed flesh, lay helpless in a manger, and hung dying on a scaffold. I am not suggesting that many contemporary Americans who are concerned about our ecologic crisis will be either able or willing to counsel with wolves or exhort birds. However,, the present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which were originating in the Western mediev,al world against which Saint Francis was rebelling in so original a way. Their growth cannot be understood historically apart from distinctive attitudes toward nature which are deeply grounded in Christian dogma. The fact that most people do not think of these attitudes as Christian is irrelevant. No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. The greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history, Saint Francis, proposed what he thought was an altemative Christian view of nature and man's relation to it: he tried to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man's limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists.
The White Thesis revisited. (ctd) Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
However the work of some historians shows that Christian attitudes and behavior towards nature was a complex thing. The Bible contains not one but several different declarations about the relationship between God, humans and nature, and even those could be interpreted in many different ways. Further, early Christians didn't behave as if nature was either hostile or evil: rather, the desert, the forest, and islands were seen as sites especially suitable to monastic withdrawl and contemplation, which had to be defended against the predations of hunters and woodsmen. Finally, early Christian nature attitudes didn't come just from theology: they were as deeply influenced by local culture as by the Bible.
Other scholars have taken off from White in new directions. Perhaps the most audacious and controversial example is David Noble's A world without women, which combines White's thesis with feminist critiques of the masculine character of scientific discourse and the practice of science. (To put it simply, this critique argues that scientists imagine the relationship between themselves and nature in terms very much like those between men and women-- as one of domination, control, and exploitation-- and that this is one reason why the majority of scientists are men.) According to Noble, science and technology were created not just by medieval thinkers, but by a "homosocial brotherhood" of clerics, living in monasteries, intensely (even insanely) hostile towards wowen. Science and technology therefore, express not only the sense of separation from and superiority towards nature that White described, but their creators' desire to live in "a world without women."
* Lynn White, "Continuing the conversation," in Ian Barbour, ed., Western man and environmental ethics: Attitudes toward nature and technology (Menlo Park: Addison-Wesley, 1973), 55-64.-- Further thoughts by White on the subject of the relationship between science, technology, theology, and ecological attitudes. He stands by his original claim.
A World Without Women:
The Christian Clerical Culture of Western Science
David F Noble Oxford University Press, NY ISBN 0-19-508435-7
In the Resurrection, sex will
be abolished and nature made one ...
there will then be only man, as if he had never sinned.
Johannes Scotus Erigena.
In this groundbreaking work, David F. Noble provides the first full-scale investigation of the origins and implications of the masculine culture of Western science and technology. Correcting the notion that the culture of Teaming in the West has always excluded women, Noble shows that the advent of ascetic culture among Christian clerics from the late medieval period has led to male dominance over the practices and institutions of higher Teaming. He further demonstrates that women have not merely been marginalized but anathematized in the science-based civilization spawned by this ascetic culture, and shows how these attitudes remained intact through the Reformation and continue to exert a subtle influence today. Pointing to the dread of women at the core of modem scientific and technological enterprise, Noble makes plain the hypocrisy of a community that can honor a female scientist with a bronze bust, as England's Royal Society did for Mary Somerville in the mid-nineteenth century, yet deny her entry to the very meeting hall in which it was placed. An important and often disturbing book, A World Without Women is essential reading for anyone concemed not only about the world of science, but about the world that science has made.
"A careful and startling account .... This is an important and exciting contribution to feminist studies of the West and its central intellectual and social institutions." Sandra Harding
"Noble who is to be congratulated for his exceptionally fine command of a huge body of historical literature, offers many persuasive arguments for this radically new look at the development of Westem science." Science
David F. Noble is Professor of History at York University in Toronto His previous books include America by Design: Science Technology and the 4ise of Corporate Capitalism, and Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation.
WESTERN SCIENCE EVOLVED only half human, in a world without women. As philosopher Sandra Harding has noted, "women have been more systematically excluded from doing serious science than from performing any other social activity except, perhaps, frontline warfare." Heralded time and again as a heroic break from a more primitive past, the scientific enterprise nevertheless bore within it the enduring and deforming scars of a more ancient rupture, in the relations between the sexes. The scars are visible still.' "I recall very vividly my first day in class," mathematician Marian Boyken Pour-El told a 1973 New York Academy of Sciences conference on women in science. "Three seats in front of me, three seats in back of me, and two seats on either side were left vacant. I was a complete pariah in that social setting [the graduate school of Harvard University]. . . . The men were positively unable to interact with me." Physicist Betsy Acker-Johnson recalled that she was viewed as a "weirdo because I was a woman studying, of all things, experimental physics." Joanne Simpson remembered that her professor, "the greatest living meteorologist, was a model to me whose creativity, expansiveness, and ability to . . . inspire people I am still seeking to emulate. He had no use for women in meteorology, however."I "I was not prepared for the discovery that women were not welcome in science," that their presence would be viewed as "an outrageous violation of the social order and against all the laws of nature," experimental psychologist Naomi Weisstein explained in a later forum. "We were shut out . . . we were shown we didn't belong. . . . I was completely isolated. I did not have access to the normal channels of communication, debate, and exchange in the profession-those informal networks where you get the news, the comment, the criticism, the latest reports of what is going on. . . . I had been exiled [from] the 'inner reaches' of the profession." Mathematical biologist Evelyn Fox Keller likewise recounted her initial estrangement from the culture of science and the classroom "sea of seats" which surrounded her. "Perhaps the most curious, undoubtedly the most painful, part of my experience was the total isolation in which I found myself. . . . I was clearly a serious threat to my fellow students' conception of physics as not only a male stronghold but a male retreat."3 This book examines the evolution of this anthropologically "curious" culture of science, which has somehow come to appear so normal. Though there have been notable recent efforts to recruit women into so-called traditionally masculine scientific fields, there has been noticeably little reflection about how these fields became "masculine" in the first place-and with what significance. In recent years, there have been important pioneering attempts to understand the nature and origins of this "masculine" scientific tradition, such as in the work of Carolyn Merchant, Brian Easlea, Evelyn Fox Keller, Sandra Harding, and Londa Schiebinger, but for the most part the exclusive identification of science with men has been taken as a given, something to be overcome, perhaps, but never really explained. Yet any genuine concern about the implications of such a culturally distorted science-based civilization, or about the role of women within it, demands an explanation. For the male identity of science is no mere artifact of sexist history; throughout most of its evolution, the culture of science has not simply excluded women, it has been defined in defiance of women and in their absence. Thus, predictably, the world of science has remained an alien world for women, and a hostile one, a world where women are not merely marginalized but anathematized, where they face not just discrimination but dread. How did so strange a scientific culture emerge, one that proclaimed so boldly the power of the species while at the same time shrinking in such horror from half that species? This is the question before US.
THIS BOOK is an effort to explain historically how, when, and why the culture of Western science evolved in the strange way it did. To pose these historical questions serves not only to acknowledge the peculiarity of that culture but also to imagine things b6ing otherwise. The chief obstacle to such historical imagining is the belief that there has been something natural, or at least inevitable, about the world without women, because it presumably has always been this way. There is a widespread assumption that the culture of learning in the West, out of which Western science emerged, has always excluded women, an assumption that rests upon the allegedly enduring legacy of ancient Greece, with its homosocial Platonic academies and Aristotelian misogyny. But facile interpretive leaps, say, from Aristotle to Aquinas, leave out too much history, including history in which women came to play a far more prominent part in the culture of learning than they did in either ancient Greece or the High Middle Ages. Part one is meant to provide a corrective to this common ahistorical assumption of continuity, and the fatalism it engenders, by fleshing out in some detail the very different situation for women that existed during the first millennium of the Christian era, a period when priests were married, an androgynous Christian ideal was taken seriously, aristocratic women gained significant control over property, and, not incidentally, Aristotle's writings were all but lost to the West. (It should be emphasized at the outset that, with its focus upon the culture of learning, this study concentrates almost exclusively upon the relatively privileged members of society, those with the means, and the associated expectations, to devote themselves to study.) The experience of these centuries, as well as the recurring episodic revivals of this experience in later centuries, constituted the historical reality out of which, and against which, the world without women was constructed. And it was constructed. Part two challenges the assumption that the Western masculine culture of learning evolved automatically and inevitably as a mere extension of ancient patriarchy. It traces in detail the historical development of this culture from the early centuries of the Christian era to the scholasticism of the High Middle Ages. The focus here is upon the evolution of the Latin Church and, in particular, of the clerical ascetic culture of its male hierarchy. As historian Henry Lea long ago pointed out, "the Latin Church is the great fact which dominates the history of modern civilization. . . . All other agencies which moulded the destinies of Europe were comparatively isolated or sporadic in their manifestations. Nowhere do we see combined effort, nowhere can we detect a pervading impulse, irrespective of locality or of circumstance, save in the imposing machinery of the church establishment. This meets us at every point, and in every age, and in every sphere of action." It is here, in the struggle of the Latin clergy to impose itself between God and the rest of humanity, that the curious culture which spawned Western science took shape. For it is here, as orthodoxy invented heresy and then identified it with women, that a world without women emerged: a society composed exclusively of men, forged in flight from women, and intent upon remaking the world in its own half-human image.' Rooted in the male monasticism of the fourth century and distinguished above all by its emphasis upon total clerical celibacy, the clerical ascetic culture of the Latin Church hierarchy had become by the High Middle Ages the culture of the entire priesthood, as well as of the culture of learning. But the consolidation of this clerical ascetic culture required a millennium of struggle and even after that the struggle never really ceased. Once entrenched, the defenders of orthodoxy had perpetually to deal with periodic revivals of anticierical religious heterodoxy, which time and again reopened spaces for women. The fate of women in the Western world of learning was thus tied to the recurring tension between orthodoxy and revival which marked the entire history of the Christian West. In secular retrospect, Western science has been portrayed as the opposite of, and in opposition to, religion, a dramatic departure from Christian, and clerical, tradition. Part three challenges this fundamentally ahistorical view of Western science, placing it instead squarely within the Christian, and clerical, culture ftom which it emerged. It suggests that, especially with regard to women, the history of Western science must be understood in the context of the history of Latin Christendom, with its enduring tension between orthodoxy and revival. As an essentially sacred activity, science took shape in an epic social struggle over access to divine knowledge. Chapter eight traces the link between science and anticierical revival in the wake of the Reformation, which created new but temporary openings for women in the Western culture of learning. Chapter nine describes the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century as an aspect of the restoration of clerical authority. Finally, chapter ten describes the (perhaps) permanent entry of women into Western centers of learning in the nineteenth century, especially with the advent of coeducation, as the result of yet another anticierical revival, this time combined with a sustained political-economic challenge to clerical culture from outside religion. Women at last gained entry into the world without women, however, only to be confronted by another clerical restoration, in the form of a male scientific professionalism that betrayed the same misogynistic and, indeed, monastic habits of the clerical culture it superseded.
THIS STUDY draws more upon the work of other scholars than upon primary sources, for sound scholarly reasons. As every historian knows, primary materials can be properly interpreted only through a full appreciation of the context in which they are embedded, and the wrenching of details here and there from original sources does havoc to historical accuracy. Thus, daunted by the prospect of adequately mastering two thousand years of history, I decided early on in this study to lean heavily upon the authority of scholars who have mastered the history of particular periods. The text is therefore replete with quotations from such scholars. What I have written, however, is not merely derivative. Although it builds upon the work of many specialists, this study asks of old material questions rarely posed, much less answered. Indeed, given the wealth of knowledge readily available and the seeming obviousness of the questions, it is rather disconcerting that such an inquiry had to await someone as unprepared for it as I. As a trespasser on the turf of so many scholars, I offer the present work less as a definitive history than as a plausible framework for further investigation.
1: Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives
THE HISTORY OF IDEAS is not the same as the history of people. Western philosophy, and by extension Western science, might well be a mere footnote to Plato, but the masculine culture of Western science is not simply a legacy of Plato's Academy. In search of the historical origins of modern scientific culture, we might begin by tracing the evolution of the institutions that are today associated with science, the scientific professional societies and academies and the universities. If we go back to the creation of the professional societies in the nineteenth century or of the academies in the seventeenth, we find that at their inception both already bore the stamp of a world without women. Similarly, if we return to the beginnings of the Western universities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, we see that the familiar patterns were already established here too. And the same is true for the cathedral schools, seedbeds of the universities, during their intellectual pre-eminence in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Beyond the cathedral schools, we come to the monasteries, the chief centers of learning in the West during the so-called Dark Ages, between the fall of Rome and the highmedieval period. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, we again find a world without women, but if we go back a bit further, a quite different world suddenly confronts us. Ely Cathedral, north of Cambridge, England is a former abbey dating from the seventh century. The front row of pews today bear embroidered cushions which silently recount the illustrious and long history of this monastic center. Each cushion bears the name of an abbot, beginning with the founding of the abbey. One is immediately struck by a startling fact: the earliest abbots were all abbesses, starting with the foundress of the abbey, Ethelreda. The next cushion bears the name of Etheireda's sister Sexburga, and that is followed by cushions embroidered with the names of Sexburga's daughter Ermenhilda, and her daughter Werburga. Then there is a huge pillar, tacitly symbolizing a historic interruption in gender relations (although tradition has it that there were several additional abbesses after Werburga). Chronologically, the pillar coincides roughly with the period of Viking invasions in the ninth century, during which time, in 870, the abbey was destroyed. On the far side of the pillar, the embroidered cushions continue, but now they bear the names exclusively of abbots. The first is that of Brithnoth, who became head of the abbey in 970, after it was restored as part of the monastic reform movement of the tenth century. Here at Ely, then, we have a clue about the origin of a world without women, which was apparently much more recent than the alleged ancient Greek antecedents of Western scientific culture. ''In the great period of monastic foundation from the early tenth to the early twelfth centuries," medievalist and church historian R. W. Southern has observed, "the position of women in the monastic life suffered a sharp decline." But before this juncture-and long after the demise of the ancient academies-something quite different seems to have existed, raising doubts about simple continuity. For Ely was no convent of cloistered women. It was a double monastery, inhabited by both men and women, headed by a woman. Nor was it unique in either regard. Double monasteries dotted the early-medieval landscape throughout Anglo-Saxon England and elsewhere, and were quite commonly headed by an abbess. Bede, in his history of the church in England, refers not only to Ethelreda of Ely but also to other powerful abbesses of the time. Such institutions, Bede records, were important centers of education and learning, as well as political affairs. In marked contrast with the institutions that arose later, here men and women worked together in their common pursuit of knowledge and salvation.' Proponents of the concept of patriarchy emphasize continuity in history rather than change, to demonstrate the persistent power of men over women. Certainly female subordination is a recurring fact of human history, and the presence of women in these centers of learning reflected neither a reversal of such gender domination nor an end to it. But it is important to remember that, within this overarching patriarchal pattern of gender relations, there have been significant variations of experience, variations that have shaped particular cultures and lives. Although it is possible to recount recurring misogynist themes in apostolic and patristic writings, for example, which echo classical disdain for women, it would be a serious mistake to regard the experience from late antiquity to the High Middle Ages as merely a realization of them. Clearly, woman's fate was not ordination but subordination; however, women remained present, and indeed prominent, within both church and society. For, as the cushions of Ely attest, these misogynist voices, while no doubt influential, were not the whole of reality. Indeed, as calls for a world without women, these voices themselves remind us that such a world did not yet exist. What did exist was something quite different. At the dawn of the Christian era, a world without women existed in embryo, but it was dwarfed by an elite Christian world of both sexes. In 70 A. D., the year the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and a few years after the death of St. Paul, Pliny the Elder described a small community of male ascetics, the Essenes, living on the west side of the Dead Sea; they are "a solitary race," he observed, "and strange above all others in the entire world. They live without women, renouncing all sexual love." The very strangeness of the lives of these radical Jewish militants, with whom Jesus himself was perhaps briefly associated, highlights the quite different social milieu in which the new religion emerged. First, it was in the Jewish and Roman household that early Christianity took root. From this familial foundation arose two lasting legacies which would endure for a millennium: a married priesthood and the presence (and at times prominence) of pious women as clerical and lay wives and widows. Second, alongside this material or institutional foundation stood an ideological one, the androgynous ideal of Christian piety inspired by Paul's preaching to the Galatians that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This pronouncement sanctioned and encouraged female participation in Christian leadership, both within the household congregations and especially among the communities of celibate ascetics who increasingly abandoned the household in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. If the household institution guaranteed the presence of both sexes within the elite circles of the emerging church, the androgynous ideal promised an unprecedented equality between the sexes, and indeed, in the view of many Christian ascetics, a transcendence of the sexes altogether. Thus, from the outset of Christianity, both the married household and its opposite, celibate asceticism, fostered a noticeable female presence.' Jesus led a celibate life as an aspect of his prophetic calling but, true to his Hebrew heritage, upheld for his flock the sanctity of marriage and the commandment to multiply. In addition, he welcomed women among his disciples, most of them either married or widowed.
Although the apostles had become celibates in order better to fulfill their function as roving missionaries, they had been married themselves and rejected calls for a celibate church. The general practice of the emergent church "judged the married state as the normal way of life for all Christians," including the leadership. This view adhered not only to biblical precept but also to contemporary Roman laws enacted by Emperor Augustus that, in a period of population decline, penalized celibates and rewarded families for having children. Thus, even as the numbers of nomadic celibate Christian preachers continued to swell, the "silent majority" of Christians, as Peter Brown reminds us, remained unswayed by their call; these were "careworn and decent householders . . . secure in their moral horizons . . . and in no position to allow the painfully assembled fabric of their social person-their wives, their children, their kinfolk, and the few ancestral fields that they would inherit when they buried their father-to evaporate at the call of the wandering few."3 St. Paul had himself abandoned marriage for the celibate apostolic calling but rejected celibacy as the basis for building the church, believing that it would lead only to cultic isolation. Intent upon enlarging the church through the conversion of gentiles and Jews alike, he upheld the centrality of marriage and relied upon the authority and resources of the household to spread the gospel. The result was a household church and a married church leadership. "During the first generation," as historian JoAnn McNamara has explained, "certain persons were evident to whom the administrative and liturgical leadership of the newly established Christian communities had been entrusted. These were married persons whose households served not only as gathering places for Christian worship but as hospices for itinerant and fugitive Christians."4 This pattern persisted in both the East and the West, despite a growing ascetic challenge to the settled world of the household, to clerical marriage, and to marriage itself. In the urban centers where Christianity flourished, clerical marriage became the norm; the Christian clergyman "continued to earn his living, to care for his family . . . and was not distinguished by his style of life from his fellow Christians." At the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria defended the value of marriage not only for laymen but for deacons, priests, and bishops as well, and the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions "recommended that the fitness of the clergyman to govern his church be judged by his success in governing his household and his family." In short, as Henry Lea noted in his pioneering history of sacerdotal celibacy, in the early church "marriage was freely permitted to the ministers of Christ." This assessment has been confirmed in a more recent study by Anne Barstow, who concludes that "it is now gencrally agreed that the majority of the clergy in the early church were married." The fathers of the church, while increasingly extolling virginity as the epitome of Christian virtue in the wake of the monastic movement, nevertheless avoided denying the sanctity of marriage. The First Ecumenical Council of the church, held in Nicaea in 325, rejected an earlier call for clerical continence by the Spanish bishops at Elvira and defended marriage as an "honorable state," for clergy as well as laity; forty years later, the Council of Gangra condemned those who refused the sacraments of a married priest. As Lea observed, according to "the doctrines accepted at this period . . . there was no authority admitted for imposing restrictions of any kind on the married clergy."5 In the East, although it was the original locus of the monastic movement, no sustained, much less successful, challenge to clerical marriage ever emerged-tor reasons that will be discussed in the next chapter. Thus the Eastern Church, in Lea's words, "preserved the traditions of earlier times." To this day, Orthodox canon requires celibacy of bishops only and leaves the secular clergy free to marry. In the West, clerical marriage persisted-albeit increasingly on the defensive-for a millennium. A serious challenge to it emerged only in the fourth century, with the development of monasticism. Thereafter, papal and conciliar demands for clerical continence and celibacy intensified but, it appears, with little effect. At the close of the sixth century, St. Columban observed the clergy in Merovingian Gaul living "either openly or clandestinely with their wives," and the letters of Gregory the Great "leave no doubt that ecclesiastical sanctions were defied by both clerks and their wives." Gregory of Tours testified that "even wives of bishops were reluctant to leave their husbands and that some openly rebelled against their husbands' abstinence."6 "Most authorities agree," one church historian has pointed out, "that the great majority of clergymen in the West from Gregory the Great to the tenth century were married men." To explain this, Barstow refers to Friedrich Kempf's speculation that the "unsettled conditions" of late antiquity and the early-medieval period "made family life all the more necessary for parish priests." But whatever the reason, clerical marriage persisted. Indeed, as Lea pointed out, the perpetual legislation against it "betrays the fact that it was not only practically impossible to maintain separation between the clergy and their wives, but that at times marriage was not uncommon even within the prohibited orders." Thus, Barstow notes, "the tenth century is claimed to be the high point of clerical marriage in the Latin communion. . . . It is generally agreed that most rural priests were married, and that many urban clergy and bishops had wives and children. . . . Clerical marriage was so widespread as to be the usual condition of the parish clergy; it was frequently found in every level and branch of the church, even on occasion in monasteries. Despite six hundred years of decrees, canons, and increasingly harsh penalties, the Latin clergy still did, more or less illegally, what their Greek counterparts were encouraged to do by law-they lived with their wives and raised families." It was only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, in the wake of the Gregorian reforms, that clerical marriage was decisively discouraged in the West.7 just as the household origins and familial foundations of Christianity left an enduring legacy of clerical marriage, so they also offered an array of openings to pious women. At first, the church and the household were essentially one and the same, and women influential in the household were influential in the church. Later, when the church became a separate institution, and as males monopolized clerical positions, women played several roles, as clerical wives within the clerical household and, most important, as influential wives and widows within the lay household. Among the first generation of urban Christians, as Wayne Meeks has explained:
there were women who headed households, who ran businesses and had independent wealth, who traveled with their own slaves and helpers. Some who are married have become converts to this exclusive religious cult without the consent of their husbands, and they may ... initiate divorce. Moreover, women have taken on some of the same roles as men's within the sect itself. Some exercise charismatic functions like prayer and prophecy in the congregation; others ... are Paul's fellow workers as evangelists and teachers. Both in terms of their position in the larger society and in terms of their participation in the Christian communities, then, a number of women broke through the normal expectations of female roles.
Such possibilities stemmed from a gradual but steady breakdown of the Roman family during the late-Hellenistic period, which had yielded a greater independence for respectable women and upset traditional gender roles. The predictable tensions which resulted aroused the anxieties reflected in the satire of juvenal and some of the more notoriously misogynist Pauline letters such as those to the Corinthian congregation.8 At a time before any strict division had emerged between clergy and laity, the leadership of the church fell to those who oversaw the household, including women. Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila, for example, a married couple who apparently presided over house churches and perhaps catechetical schools in Ephesus, Corinth, and, Rome; judging by the fact that Paul consistently mentions Priscilla's name before that of her husband, Meeks speculates that "certainly Prisca is at least her husband's poer in this activity." In Corinth, Meeks points out, there was apparently "an equivalence of role and a mutuality of relationship between the sexes in matters of marriages, divorce, and charismatic leadership of the church to a degree that is virtually unparalleled in Jewish or pagan society of the time." As Peter Brown has noted, moreover, "Some women were heads of households in their own right and effective protectresses of the new churches."9 As the church separated from the household and men increasingly monopolized clerical status, some women continued to play a leading role in church affairs because of their position as clerical wives. Although the precise role of clerical wives in the early church is a matter of some controversy among historians, Joann McNamara has concluded that
there is some fragile evidence that the priest's wife may have been vested with some ecclesiastical functions. A long persistent tradition has connected the priests' wives with the office of deaconess, which appears in early Church literature, though there is no clear text to prove the argument.... In any case, it seems safe to assume that many of the subsidiary and nonsacramental administrative functions may have fallen on the marital partners of clergymen.
whatever their paraclerical role, however, the presence within the clerical world of the wives of clergy is indisputable, and this presence would persist, along with clerical marriage, for a millennium. lo Wives, moreover, whether clerical or lay, often became widows, and, given the growing ascetic tendency within the church, they were increasingly discouraged from remarrying. These permanent "post marital celibates," as Peter Brown refers to them, including growing numbers of women who had abandoned their husbands, became early and influential participants in church leadership. Their influence stemmed not from their relationship to clergymen but from their lay families' wealth, social status, and political power. The prominent and visible role of such women in the early church made Christianity, especially in the eyes of its pagan critics, "notorious for close association with women." Again, it was the household, now the lay household, that afforded women such access. Even as pressures mounted for the creation of an ascetic priesthood, in part to insulate it from undue lay influence, the lay household remained unchallenged as the crucial material foundation of the church. For it was "the loyal support of . . . well-to-do, married householders," conscientiously cultivated by church leaders, that "provided the wealth and the children." The centrality of ihe wealthy lay household to the fate of the church offered many opportunities for the women of these households, especially when, as widows, they came into control over its resources. By remaining unmarried, moreover', they retained such control while at the same time fulfilling growing ascetic expectations. Thus, as Brown observes, "the Christian clergy of late antiquity found that, in their community, influential women were there to stay." The clergy therefore "welcomed women as patrons and even offered women roles in which they could act as collaborators," and, because of their postmarital continence, some women even "edged closer to the clergy." "By 200 A.D., the role of women in the Christian churches was quite unmistakable."" Peter Brown offers a telling composite portrait of such women. "She was a woman who had been the head of a Christian household and the mother of Christian children. She frequently controlled property. Her wealth enabled her to impinge on the local church as a benefactress. . . . She was no demure creature"; by the time she embraced continence, she was "mature, financially independent, and already influential." She was able to enjoy "the enviable mobility associated with the apostolic calling" and also to exercise "paracierical roles," offering advice, instruction, prayer, and prophecy. In the role of prophetess especially she "could sometimes overpower clergy," despite her lack of ordination." Most important for the present study, with regard to "the intellectual life of the churches," "in any Christian community that boasted upper-class members and well-wishers, women were prominent." As Sarah Pomeroy has indicated, the intellectual, educational, and professional opportunities for aristocratic women had expanded steadily throughout the Hellenistic period, leaving the pederastic Platonic academies in the distant past. The literary-minded "high born Roman matrons" satirized by Juvenal "were following a pattern established by Hellenistic ladies." The well-to-do lay Christian woman profited from this legacy in that, as Brown notes, "the world of the great Christian teachers was close to that of the upper-class study circles of pagan philosophers. Like the philosophers, Christian teachers assumed that women might be present at their gatherings, that they would raise questions, and that they were entitled to receive careful answers." The participation of women in the circle around Origen in the third century, for example, and their prominence within that of Jerome in the fourth, bear this out. "Altogether," Brown concludes, "the Christian intelligentsia of the age took the presence of women, as disciples and patronesses, absolutely for granted."13 For the "silcnt majority" of Christians and the early church leadership alike, the household, and its correlates marriage and the family, defined the life of the church. But this was not the case for all Christians. During the same first three centuries of the Christian era, a quite different and, indeed, opposite Christian tendency emerged which would eventually come to dominate the culture of the Western Church: celibate asceticism. Christian asceticism entailed a thoroughgoing renunciation of settled society, whether pagan, Jewish, or Christian, and, as such, it too offered unprecedented possibilities for women. If the household provided a material, institutional foundation for female participation and influence, the androgynous ideal of celibate Christian asceticism which arose in opposition to the household provided an ideological one. The Christian ideal of asceticism grew out of the militant apostolic energies of the first Christian generation, who set out to live life anew in the spirit of Christ. In keeping with Christ's teaching, they believed that the Kingdom of God was already in their midst and that by their example the world could be reborn. As Peter Brown has suggested, the physical symbol of such social renewal was the transformation of the body: renunciation of the flesh, especially sexuality (and hence reproduction), constituted at once a rejection of the existing society and the realization in the present of the new Kingdom. "Sexual renunciation might lead the Christian to break the discreet discipline of the ancient city," with its hierarchy of social relations and expectations. "Only by dissolving the household was it possible to achieve the priceless transparency associated with a new creation." The family household would thus be replaced by a community of celibates, who would literally embody a spiritual and social revolution. "Through the drastic gesture of perpetual chastity," Brown writes, they "used their bodies to mock continuity" of the established order, and thereby "announced the imminent approach of a 'new creation.' " In the words of Wayne Meeks, their existence thus symbolized at once "metaphysical rebellion" and "realized eschatology. " And their example gave rise to "the great hope which, in all future centuries, would continue to flicker disquietingly along the edges of the Christian church."14 If celibacy challenged the household and the perpetuation of the family, it also profoundly challenged the gender categories of late antiquity. As Meeks observed, "in late Hellenism, especially in the period immediately following the consolidation of Rome's imperial power"-which saw the emergence of Christianity-"there were many pressures exerted on the traditional roles of men and women . . . ; the identification of what was properly masculine and properly feminine could no longer be taken for granted, but became the object of controversy. The differentiation of male and female could therefore become an important symbol for the fundamental order of the world, while any modification of the role differences could become a potent symbol of social criticism." The androgynous ideal of Christian asceticism was just such a symbol.'5
In renouncing their sexual lives, the Christian celibates renounced as well their sexual identities. They thus became an altogether new type of being-a "third race," according to pagan critics. The celibates themselves believed that, in Christ, following Paul's pronouncement to the Galatians, "man is no longer divided-not even by the most fundamental division of all, male and female"; through baptism, 11 the believers were considered to have recaptured a primal, undifferentiated unity." In their ascetic renunciation, they sought to embody this new unity, "a new genus of mankind," or "the restored original mankind." To this end, they aimed to overcome the demands not only of propriety but of procreation, to become neutered souls beyond both the conventions of gender and the compulsions of sexuality. This quest was reflected in the words of Clement of Alexandria. The Greek philosophers taught continence as a means of rendering instincts subservient to reason, he pointed out, but for Christians, our ideal is not to experience desire at all." Early ascetic Christians were convinced that, by transforming their bodies through rigorous renunciation of the flesh, they could hope in their lifetime to transcend sexual attraction and achieve the Kingdom of God. They could thus live, men and women together, like the angels, in innocent spiritual communion. 16 The Christian apologists of the second century, though divided over the relative merits of marriage and celibacy, heralded Christian asceticism, with its emphasis upon sexual renunciation, as the single most distinctive characteristic of the new religion, a powerful symbol of cultic identity. Justin Martyr viewed total chastity as a form of heroism equivalent to martyrdom, and Athenagoras maintained that 4 4remaining in virginity and in the state of a eunuch brings one closer to God." Brown suggests that, since sexual desire defined "a common human condition," sexual renunciation offered a means whereby Christianity could achieve universality. It also had an "elemental simplicity" about it, making it in essence accessible to all, male and female alike. "As Christians, women . . . could achieve reputations for sexual abstinence as stunning as those achieved by any cultivated male." The androgynous ascetic ideal thus held a powerful attraction for women, promising them an unprecedented independence from patriarchal bonds and an equality in the image of God. Some have even suggested that the celibate ideal originated with women, who used it to create for themselves a new social space beyond the confines of the family and marriage. But whether or not women invented it, the androgynous ascetic ideal certainly enabled women as never before to join in community with men outside the family. As with the Christianity of the household, therefore, early ascetic Christianity too was a world with women, a spiritual mingling of the sexes. 17 The androgynous cast of early-Christian asceticism was apparent already in the apostolic generation. Portrayed in the Gospels as an eschatological family, those who gathered around the apostles included both men and women; though some were married, others were postmarital ascetics and chaste married couples. Among the latter, Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila, junia and Andronicus, and Claudia and Linus. In addition, there were women who lacked any apparent attachment to either men or families. judging from the Pauline letters and the Acts of the Apostles, the new phenomenon of permanently unmarried women had already made its appearance. As JoAnn McNamara suggests, "there were virgins before there were patristic proponents of virginity. . . . The virginal life was only fully sanctioned by orthodox writers after women had made it a practical reality." The 4 4popular piety" of early mixed ascetic communities is reflected in the so-called Apocryphal Gospels, which were written in Syria and Egypt during the second century. The Acts of Paul, Peter, Thomas, Andrew, John, and Xanthippe recount the heroic conversions of women to Christianity, and virginity, in rebellion against family and society. Their experiences emboldened later Christian martyrs, men and women alike, for whom chastity had become emblematic of the new faith. Also portrayed in the Apocryphal Gospels were such chaste couples as Paul and Thecla, Maximilia and Andrew, Thomas and Mygdonia, and Andronicus and Drusiana, who exemplified at once a radical rejection of society and a new type of bond between the sexes.'8 The Apocryphal Gospels describe a Christian world quite different from that of the household, a "grass-roots movement" which began in the East between Greece and Mesopotamia and spread west to Rome and beyond. "From the second century onward, and almost certainly from an earlier, less well-documented period," Peter Brown has written, "little groups of men and women scattered among the Christian communities throughout the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East." There was considerable diversity in the beliefs and practices of these groups, the Montanists, Marcionites, Encratites, and Gnostics. But they all preached renunciation of the flesh as a means, and a sign, of redemption, and they all embraced men and women together in joint spiritual pursuit. For them all, "renunciation and baptism into the Church declared the power of sex null and void."19 The Montanists, "one of the first grass-roots movements in the history of the Church," originated in Phrygia in Anatolia. "Women sat in the highest ranks of the movement"; they taught and prophesied in public and also baptized and conducted the Mass. Among the members of Montanus' immediate circle were Priscilla and Maximilla, who apparently had an influence on the church father Tertullian. In stark contrast to the "household-based core of the Church," Marcian and Encratite leader Tatian "both demanded full sexual abstinence from all baptized Christians," a celibate or at least continent church. The Marcionites, who began their mission in Pontus beside the Black Sea and moved west to Rome, believed that through such renunciation they "attained the world beyond and the resurrection" and became 11 already equal to the angels." Such views, Brown points out, were not merely idiosyncratic but, rather, "circulated in many churches of Palestine, Syria, and in parts of Asia Minor, as ... variants of a wellestablished 'radical consensus.' " The Marcionites included female priests, prophetesses, and teachers, and their prominence within the movement prompted an attack by Tertullian. "These heretical women-how bold they are! They have no modesty; they are audacious enough to teach, to engage in argument, to perform exorcism, to undertake cures, and maybe even to baptize." Tertullian was equally vigorous in denouncing a movement of young women in Carthage who defiantly stood unveiled in the church, firm in the belief that, in their virginity, they had eclipsed the stigma of womanhood. "I am not veiled because the veil of corruption is taken from me," read the Acts of Thomas." The Encratites likewise brought continent men and women together in common cause, and their vision was thus a "binocular vision," "an attempt to join male and female perceptions." The followers of Tatian were "quiet little groups of men and women" for whom "baptism had brought an ability to live at ease with each other." Because the power of sexuality had been thereby "disconnected," these proponents of "group celibacy" were able to live and even travel together without fear of temptation. Hence they "could once again stand together as couples, linked in a chaste communion that astonished and appalled observers in this and in all future centuries. . . . By the end of the third century, little groups of continent men and women, called 'the Sons and Daughters of the Covenant,' stood at the core of the married Christian communities in the Syriac-speaking regions of the Near East." Firm in their belief that in their continence they had already transcended the present age, they were not bands of "wild ascetics" but ever-widening "pools of quiet confidence."Il The Gnostic Valentinians in Rome and Alexandria also believed that the transcendence of all divisions, including that between the sexes, "was the surest sign that the redemption offered by Christ had come," and, in the sexual terms of their mythological imagery, strove to make the two one by absorbing the inferior female into the superior male. The Apocryphal Gospels similarly speak of celibate women as having become men, a notion later echoed in the church fathers' paeans to virile virgins. But, as Elizabeth Clark has suggested, the experience of women in early ascetic, and even later patristic, circles, belies such misogynist mystification and might rather be labeled "androgynous"; if the ideal of "unisexuality," the symbolic reunification of male and female, was often expressed as a reduction of the female to the male, the practical expression was a close spiritual companionship between men and women in which sexual identity had all but lost its significance. The experience of the "coed" study circles or didaskaleion, which formed the core of the Gnostic and other ascetic communities of late antiquity, bears this out. According to Brown, such "small study circles were the powerhouses of the Christian culture of the second and third centuries. The extraordinary intellectual ferment of the period is unthinkable without them." "By claiming that the redeemed had overcome sexual desire," Brown noted, the Gnostics, like other groups, "were able to accept women as equal partners in the intense group-life of a Christian intelligentsia." The mythology of realized eschatology, however it was articulated, made possible an unprecedented "spiritual friendship" between men and women, and upon this basis they together undertook a common intellectual and spiritual, rather than physical, rejuvenation of society .22 In addition to the didaskakion, which left a lasting legacy of malefemale intellectual companionship, the androgynous ideal gave rise also to another enduring institution: syneiactism or spiritual marriage. Derek Bailey has described it as "the cohabitation of the sexes under the condition of strict continence, a couple sharing the same house, often the same room, and sometimes even the same bed, yet conducting themselves as brother and sister." Such couples apparently believed that "God had already given them the impassibility of the angels," enabling them to cohabit without sin .23 The earliest evidence of such arrangements comes from the latesecond-century Similitudes of Hermas, and subsequent accounts, mostly in the form of attacks, continue into the early Middle Ages. The women in these chaste unions were known as agapetae or vignes subintroductae, and they were likewise the subject of sustained critical attention. Despite the condemnation of syneiactism by such early bishops as Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Chrysostom, as well as by church councils beginning in the fourth century, the practice continued throughout Christendom. Onc possible indication of its popular acceptance is the notable omission of canonical strictures against it in penitentials, which otherwise reflected canonical concerns. As Hans Achelis noted in his pioneering study of viges subintroductae, "of one thing we can be sure, there was hardly a church province in ancient Christianity in which spiritual marriages were unknown." One student of the practice in the Celtic Church similarly maintains that the Irish experience "was the continuation of a Christian practice which dates from the origins of Christianity and which was spread throughout the early Church, both in the East and the West." Such chaste unions were common not only among the more radical celibate groups but also among the orthodox, including the clergy in the West, up until the eighth century. Spiritual marriages probably survived thereafter under the cover of double monasteries or under the more disparaging name of "concubinage." The mutual benefits of such arrangements for the couple were both practical and spiritual and varied from place to place and from couple to couple. But, whatever practical advantages had made these unions attractive, the androgynous ideal of sexual transcendence had made them possible. Without it, such intimate heterosexual companionship outside the bounds of normal marriage would have been unthinkable. In the third century, the perhaps quintessential expression of this ideal was formulated by one of the greatest early-Christian philosophers, Origen.14 The son of an Alexandrian Christian martyr, Origen grew up under the protection of Christian ladies, in particular a wealthy woman who had also patronized a famous Gnostic teacher. He later secured the patronage of a former Valentinian, Ambrosius, who lived in continence with his wife, his "pious companion," Marcella, and his sister, Tatiana. With such support, Origen at an early age became the spiritual guide of a "coed" study circle in Alexandria. His work reflected the influence of Plato as well as the myriad movements of early Christianity. Central to his outlook was a compelling belief in the merely transitory nature of the human body, which made it possible for people to overcome their physical "bondage," through ascetic renunciation, and become one with God. "Look now at how you have progressed from being a tiny little human creature on the face of this earth," Origen wrote. "You have progressed to become a Temple of God, and you who were flesh and blood have reached so far that you are a limb of Christ's body. 1125 Inherent in this teaching was the conviction that underlay the androgynous ideal, that sexuality itself could be transcended once and for all. As Peter Brown has explained,
Origen bequeathed to his successors a view of the human person that continued to inspire, to fascinate, and to dismay all later genera tions. He conveyed above all a profound sense of the fluidity of the body. Basic aspects of human beings, such as sexuality, sexual differences, and other seemingly indestructible attributes of the physical body, struck Origen as no more than provisional.... Origen was prepared to look at sexuality in the human person as if it were a mere passing phase. It was a dispensable adjunct of the personality that played no role in defining the essence of the human spirit. Men and women could do without it even in this present existence. Human life, lived in a body endowed with sexual characteristics, was but the last dark hour of a long night that would vanish with the dawn. The body was poised on the edge of a transformation so enormous as to make all present notions of identity tied to sexual differences, and all social roles based upon marriage, procreation, and childbirth, seem as fragile as dust dancing in a sunbeam.'6
Origen apparently practiced what he preached; at age twenty he had himself castrated. Contemporaries believed that he did this to avoid charges of promiscuity between him and his female disciples, but Peter Brown suggests another interpretation consistent with his teaching. Just as celibate women, in their "boycott of the womb," had given up those reproductive capabilities which ancient society used to define womanhood, so Origen determined to give up that which made him a man. Although celibate women were categorized by men as spiritual males, they themselves believed they were, rather, becoming a new type of androgynous being, at once both male and female and neither male nor female. Origen sought to join the ranks of this "third race." "The eunuch was notorious," Brown points out, "because he had dared to shift the massive boundary between the sexes. He had opted out of being male. He was a human being 'exiled from either gender.' " In having himself castrated, Origen became "a walking lesson in the indeterminacy of the body."17 For Origen, sexual renunciation was not just a negative act, the repression of sexual drives; it was a positive act, an act of freedom. Virginity stood for the "pre-existing purity of the soul"; it "preserved an identity already formed in a former, more splendid existence and destined for yet further glory." Sexual renunciation, therefore, 11 meant the assertion of a basic freedom so intense, a sense of identity so deeply rooted, as to cause to evaporate the normal social and physical constraints that tied the Christian to his or her gender." In the work of Origen, then, the androgynous ascetic ideal which arose among the celibate communities of early Christianity had gained an articulate champion. And in the wake of his influence, the notion gained ever wider acceptance, not only at the fringes of the church but within its orthodox core as well.28
As Brown noted, the androgynous ascetic ideal of early Christianity gave rise to a "great hope which, in all future centuries, would continue to flicker disquietingly along the edges of the Christian church." At the close of the fourth century, the height of the patristic age, when the church fathers were busy drawing their trenchant distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, the Priscillian movement in Spain and southern Gaul attracted anxious attention. In 38o, "little groups of men and women" withdrew from the city on the eve of great festivals "to hold 'retreats' in mountain villas, under the guidance of inspired, self-styled 'teachers' of the Scriptures." Priscillian himself, ascetic bishop of Avila, settled outside Bordeaux in the household of the widow Delphidius. "Doubtless influenced by the Apocryphal gospels and acts," he preached virginityand continence. For Priscillian, as for earlier ascetics, all division denied the unity of God. "As the most obvious and far-reaching division is that between the sexes, Priscillian tended to deny that there was any significant difference between men and women" and hence stressed their equality in access to instruction and perhaps even ordination.19 The movement inspired by Priscillian prompted a violent reaction, which resulted in the executions of both him and his patron on charges of sorcery and immorality. It also led to an intensification of official condemnation of "spiritual friendship" among ascetic men and women. But such strictures were hardly sufficient to snuff out all hope of "realized eschatology." The Manichean Elect, for example, both men and women, took their heroes and heroines from the epics of the Apocryphal Acts and, like the apostles, "walked the roads of Syria together." Moreover, "they brought a touch of the terrible, high freedom, associated with the radical Christianity of Syria, out of its distant homeland and into the streets of Antioch, Carthage, and Alexandria."30 As late as the twelfth century, in northern France, the hope continued to flicker. Georges Duby describes a movement of "heretics" in the I I 20S in Champagne, Orl6ans, and Arras who "regarded the clergy as superfluous" and condemned marriage and sex. "As they were preparing for the return of Christ, their ambition was to abolish sex altogether. So they allowed women to join them, treating them as equals and claiming that everyone in their communities lived together as brothers and sisters, in perfect purity and in the caritas that reigned among the angels in heaven." Although it received support from priests still living in concubinage, the movement was condemned as heretical. Critics focused their attention on the prominence of its women; "it was seen by its contemporaries, and represented to them by its enemies, as a kind of feminist movement." But, "above all, the detractors of heresy branded as hypocrisy the heretics' claim to reject sex while living in mixed communities." Finally, at the end of the twelfth century, the sexually mixed Catharist community of Languedoc still reflected the spirit of androgynous asceticism, perhaps because of its possible Manichean origins. Catharist perfectae enjoyed great esteem and performed functions similar to those of their male counterparts. "The Catharist faith, by denying the 'reality' of the sexes-as it denied the reality of all life in the flesh-was at least implying an equality between men and women." Thus, as R. 1. Moore has shown, an ideal which originated among the earliest Christians persisted at the margins of the church for a millennium, despite centuries of condemnation and persecution.
Within the core of the church also, the ideal took root; conjoined with the household legacy of postmarital celibate female patronage, it fostered a millennium of mixed monastic communities. By the beginning of the fourth century, despite protestations by the marriagebased local leadership of the church, sexual renunciation had become 11 a widely acclaimed feature of Christian life. "@ Thus, as Peter Brown has observed, "Antony and the monks of the fourth century inherited a revolution, they did not initiate one." Nevertheless, the example of the desert hermits and monastics, heralded in Athanasius' immensely popular Life of Antony, had a profound influence upon the lives of Christians in both East and West. At the same time, the legalization of Christianity by the Edict of Milan and Constantine's abrogation of the Augustan laws against celibacy encouraged aristocratic urban Christians as never before to adopt [email protected] ascetic spirit.31 Foremost among these new ascetics were well-to-do Christian women, both widows and young virgins. "Women with ascetic vocations emerged in upper-class circles, where they had the wealth and prestige needed to make a permanent impact on the Church." These female "household ascetics" formed intense friendships with one another and "coagulated into small groups" for support and study. At the same time, because of their vows of celibacy and especially their wealth and social status, such "ascetic women were free to seek the protection and spiritual guidance from males of any kind-from relatives, from ascetic soul mates, and from men of exceptional insight and learning." Such men became, as Brown suggests, "Origens of a new age" who "gained no small part of their public reputation by giving spiritual guidance to devoted women.... It was in such circles that the cultural and spiritual ideals of the didaskaleion of the Early Church survived into a harsher age." Thus, at the dawn of monasticism, "an intense sense of spiritual companionship drew male and female ascetics together."33 Spiritual companionship between men and women marked the earliest moments of Eastern monasticism, and reflected to some extent the "radical expectations" of the earlier Encratite movement. Hierakas, for example, following Origen, sought to establish within the settled community a federation of cells of continent men and women. Those who opted to abandon the settled society did so also in mixed company. Pachomius, founder of cenobitic (or communal) monasticism, established monastic communities along the Nile for both men and women (including his sister). In a similar fashion, in Cappadocia-where "groups of consecrated, upper-class spinsters were a force to be reckoned with"-Basil of Caesarea and his sister, Macrina, created monastic communities for men and women along the Iris River. For Basil, as for his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote her biography, the virgin Macrina was the supreme symbol of Christian purity, "the root that had blossomed," an "uncut meadow." From her sheltered piety, moreover, whether in her widowed mother's household or her convent at Annesi, she passed on the culture of the Scriptures. In time, the example of Basil and his sister prompted other groups of men and women to set out together upon the monastic life. 34 Olympias and Melania the Elder were two other aristocratic ascetic women, from Constantinople, who had a powerful influence on the emergent monastic movement. Both were "great heiresses" and early widows, which gave them the independence and the in ent means to become patronesses of monasticism. Melania, granddaughter of a consul, was widowed at twenty-two and went into self-imposed exile, first to Rome and then to Alexandria. She had taken all her portable wealth with her and used it to support monastic settlements outside Alexandria. She then moved on to Jerusalem, where she established and oversaw a monastic community for men and women on the Mount of Olives. "Bishops, monks, and pilgrims from all over the Roman world were supponed by her when in Palestine," Brown notes. "By this means, Melania was able to live at the center of the Christian imagination of her age." In this capacity, she became the friend and patron of Jerome's teamed companion Rufinus of Aquileia, whose unwavering dedication to Origenist ideals outstripped even that of his colleague. Olympias was the granddaughter of a major politician at the court of Constantine who was raised by a sister of one of Basil's episcopal colleagues. Widowed at twenty with an enormous fortune, she became a deaconess of the Church of Constantinople and used her wealth in suppose of the church. Renowned for her ascetic piety as well as her money, she founded perhaps the first monastery in Constantinople and, most important for the present subject, became the patroness and "soul mate" of John Chrysostom.35 In the West, the prominence of women in the ascetic and monastic movements was even greater than in the East, as Melanie the Elder's experience in Rome demonstrated. The fourth-century Italian aristocracy was marked by "a new and assertive alliance between noble women and the Christian clergy." Here was "an ascetic movement whose principal exponents and patrons were noble women," both widows and their virgin daughters. And because of their substantial means, their influence upon the Latin Church was "far out of proportion to their numbers." Moreover, "as distributors of wealth and patrons of individual writers, aristocratic Latin women acted as arbiters of intellectual life to a degree unparalleled in the Greek East." This enabled them also to mix freely and intimately with their chaste male spiritual and intellectual companions, such as the scholar Jerome.31 The arrival of Athanasius in Rome following his exile from Alexandria stimulated tremendous interest in monasticism, especially among noble women. One of these women was Marcella, who, together with other senatorial women-Albina and Marcellina, sister of Ambrose of Milan-had established a salon devoted to the study and practice of ascetic Christianity. Jerome came to Rome in 382 after having studied in Antioch and Constantinople and having spent two years in a hermit's ccil in Syria. He used his monastic and intellectual reputation to advantage and soon became the spiritual guide for Marcella's circle, which eventually included also the widow Paula and her daughters, Eustochium and Blesilla, as well as several other widows and virgins, Furia, Fabiola, and Aselia. They all met together at Marcella's house on the Aventine, which had become a retreat for ascetics. For these women, as Peter Brown suggests, "Jerome adopted the persona of Origen," having translated for them Origen's Homilies on the Song of Songs.37 In the persona of Origen, Jerome "took for granted the profound identity of the minds of men and women." Moreover, like Origen he had come to believe that "bodies endowed with the sexual characteristics of men and women were ephemeral things ... that it was possible for 'spiritual' persons to live as if the restraints and perils of the body did not affect them." Hence "they could form companionships based on the meeting of like minds." According to Brown, Jerome adopted this Origenist model of the person "because it enabled him to live at ease with gifted and influential women such as Marcella . . . and . . . Paula." This androgynous ideal also enabled these aristocratic women to take part in the most exciting intellectual enterprise of their day. just as Melania had mastered Greek and had studied Origen as well as other Christian authors, so Paula and some of the other women had learned Hebrew the better to appreciate the Old Testament. As Elizabeth Clark observed, "when we consider how rare was the knowledge of Hebrew among male churchmen of the fourth century, their accomplishment is truly astounding." According to Brown's assessment, Marcella's Greek was "probably as good as that of Ambrose, and her library as well stocked in up-to-date Greek books, . . . a rarity in fourth-century Rome." Jerome considered Marcella the foremost student of Scripture in Rome, after himself.38 Three years after his arrival in Rome, Jerome was driven into exile by men opposed not only to his growing influence but, perhaps more important, to the independence of the ascetic women he served. The spiritual and intellectual bonds established in Rome were not so easily broken, however. Jerome settled in Bethlehem and was soon followed there by Paula and her daughter Eustochium. In Bethlehem, they established a monastic community for men and women and resumed their intellectual labors. A fifth of Jerome's letters are addressed to his female colleagues, in response to their detailed, erudite questions. Moreover, "the constant literary preoccupation with female companionship showed that such practices were common among the privileged expatriates of the Holy Land." "The unbelieving reader may perhaps laugh at me for dwelling so long on the praises of mere women ' " wrote Jerome. "He had better look on himself as conceited than on me as a fool; I judge merit by mind, not by sex."39 The author of the famous Augustinian Rule for monastics similarly corresponded with pious and learned women and, indeed, wrote his Rule for a community of women at Hippo. Recounting the difficulty of his conversion to celibacy after living thirteen years with the woman who bore his son, Jerome's near contemporary Augustine described sexual renunciation, in androgynous terms, as but the formation of a new and more sublime bond between men and women. In his tortured imaginings, celibacy itself came forth as female, to relieve him of his torment.
On the side to which I turned my face, and which I feared to pass, the chaste majesty of continence disclosed herself ... She stretched out to receive and embrace me, her hands full of good examples; children, young girls, youth in abundance, all ages, venerable widows, women grown old in virginity, and continence was not barren in these holy souls: she produced generations of celestial joys, which she owed 0 Lord to thy conjugal love. And she seemed to say to me, with a sweet and encouraging irony: What! Canst not thou do a thing which is possible to these children, these women?
Augustine's identification of Christian asceticism with women was more than mere sexual sublimation. Like other patristic writings which exalted female virginity as the height of Christian perfectionthose of Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Jerome-Augustine's reverie reflected not only the androgynous spirit of early monasticism but also the profound presence of women as patrons and paragons of ascetic culture. It was a presence that would leave its mark upon the monastic movement for centuries to come.40
From: Saints: The Ascent of Clerical Asceticism
Moreover, in order to demarcate the boundaries between "us and them," the church fathers singled out for attack various features of the sects' allegedly misguided teaching and practice, such as the leadership roles of Gnostic women. Over against the blasphemies and permissiveness of the sects, no orthodox Catholic woman should teach, preach, baptize, exorcise, offer the Eucharist, or prophesy. Thus the main stream church's limitation of women's roles can be understood in part as an aspect of its quest for self-definition-that is, for an identity that clearly distinguished it from rival movements.9
"In the light of the emergency caused by the persecutions," JoAnn McNamara noted, "Clement of Alexandria viewed the independent Christian women of his city with dismay," fearing that the women might be the "weak link in the chain of resistance to the persecutors." He attacked the heretical preachers, prophets, and sects and sought "to bring women back under the . . . instruction of approved representatives of the church." Bishop Irenaeus likewise thought it seriously divisive "that women especially [were] attracted to heretical groups" which "accorded to their women members respect and participation increasingly denied to women" in the patriarchal-householdbased orthodox churches." Tertullian of Carthage also attacked Marcion for allowing women to become priests and even bishops within his church, and railed out against the women themselves as well. "These heretical womenhow audacious they are! They have no modesty; they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize!" To contrast orthodox practice with such heretical habits, Tertullian prescribed what he regarded as "the precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning women," according to which "it is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, nor is it permitted for her to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer [the eucharist], nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function-not to mention any priestly office."Il The hierarchy's condemnation of female independence, and its corollary ascetic rigorism, continued unabated. But in its struggle with "heresy" for a durable Christian identity and survival in a pagan society, and for political and doctrinal leadership within the church, the orthodox clergy itself gradually came to reflect some of the very tendencies it denounced. Slowly and subtly, the church appropriated and transformed the ideals of its rivals. "A younger generation of leaders were simply not interested in rethinking the issue of the sanctification of the married, as Clement plainly felt himself obliged to do," Peter Brown observed. "Their slogan was 'virginity.' The rise to prominence of the Christian Church in Roman society in the course of the third century was a process that . . . was accompanied by the emergence of what can best be called a 'sensibility,' almost an 'aesthetic,' of virginity. The ideal of the untouched human body came to the fore."'I "In this acceptance of the ideology of virginity," JoAnn McNamara pointed out, "thc church was moving dangerously close to the heresies of the second century which their foremost theologians had expended so much effort to suppress." Several scholars have tried to account for this striking reversal. Anthropologist Mary Douglas drew a connection between "purity" and "danger" in the formation of cultic identity, and suggested that the church's belated adoption of asceticism was a response to persecution. In her view, "the idea that virginity had a special positive value was bound to fall on good soil in a small persecuted minority group. For [such] social condition@ lend themselves to beliefs which symbolize the body as an imperfect container which will only be perfect if it can be made impermeable." McNamara suggested that the orthodox adoption of the celibate ideal reflected another concern, the necd of the clergy, during a time of crisis, to reintegrate within the church independent women whose alienation rendered the church more vulnerable and whose wealth and influence were considered invaluable to its survival. In the process of co-opting such women, the clergy was compelled to honor their code of celibacy, came to recognize its ideological power, and ultimately appropriated this power for themselves. 13 Brown argues that the advent of orthodox clerical asceticism reflected the clergy's need "to define their own position against the principal benefactors of the Christian community." On the one hand, the clergy had to defend the sanctity of marriage to ensure the piety and, hence, benevolence of the married laity. On the other, the clergy had to distinguish themselves as somehow superior to the laity to safeguard their leadership positions and prevent any usurpation of clerical power by wealthy and powerful lay benefactors. To this end, the clergy early on monopolized the celebration of the Eucharist, the central Christian rite, and subsequently adopted the ideal of clerical continence and celibacy as evidence not only of their ritual purity but also of their "charismatic calling." Unlike some of the heretical sects, which called for a totally celibate Christian community, the clergy resolved the "eminently practical issue" of both providing for the continued material and biological reproduction of the church and protecting their privileged place within it by upholding the sanctity of marriage for the laity and adopting the ideal of celibacy for themselves. The second and third centuries thus witnessed what Brown calls a "silent revolution"-"the creation of a strict division between the clergy and the laity in the Christian church."14 Whatever the proximate reason for the rise of orthodox asceticism, it can hardly be disputed that the orthodox clergy were belatedly coming to recognize the value of sexual renunciation, for purposes of both Christian and clerical identity, to guarantee clerical discipline and loyalty, and perhaps also to prevent the alienation . of church property through clerical inheritance. But in their exaltation of virginity the clergy had come to resemble the very heretics they continued to condemn. Thus, whereas before they had pitted the sanctity of marriage and the patriarchal dignity of the household against ascetic rigorism to distance themselves from heresy, they now pitted their own ideal of asceticism against another, an orthodox clerical asceticism against the androgynous asceticism of the heretical sects. If the latter was an ideal shared by both men and women alike in their common pursuit of Christian salvation, the former was to be an ideal, like orthodox clerical status itself, for men only. And if sexual temptation posed a threat to androgynous asceticism, the greatest danger to clerical asceticism was more narrowly defined: the presence of women. Whereas the androgynous ideal had fostered a chaste mingling of men and women, the clerical ideal instead drove men into frightened flight from women. As never before, then, the struggle against the heretical groups identified the threat of heresy with the proximity of women. At this early stage in the formation of the church, the contrast of orthodoxy from heresy already implied a world without women. The inherited patriarchal assumptions of the householdbased clergy had subordinated women; the new ideals of the ascetic clergy eliminated them. In the first two Christian centuries, although male asceticism certainly existed, celibacy was associated with women in Christian writing. But, as McNamara points out, in the early third century, "male writers began to address themselves to questions of male celibacy."
Along the same lines, whereas in the first two centuries the threat to virginity was identified with the ardor and violence of the male sex, in the third century, "with the promulgation of male virginity. . . . a note of misogyny" emerges in the literature. It is already there in the work of Tertullian, the first-one might say premature-orthodox champion of clerical celibacy (he ultimately abandoned orthodoxy for Montanism rather than give up his opposition to digamy). In his Exhortation to Chastity, addressed to a widower, Tertullian issued the "first consequential statement, written for educated Christians and destined to enjoy a long future in the Latin world," and offered the earliest indication of "those in the clerical state opting for the celibate life in great numbers."15 For Tertullian, women were not merely disqualified for the priesthood by their sex; they were indelibly and irrevocably identified with temptation and were thus the "devil's gateway," in Brown's words, "a breach in the defenses of the Church, by which the world might gain an entry into the somber assemblies of the male saints." In attacking the Carthaginian women who dared stand unveiled in church, claiming that in their asceticism they had transcended their sex, Tertullian derided their claims as heresy and thereby identified such heresy with women. Moreover, he viewed their nakedness as a threat not to their own virtue but, more important, to that of the men who looked upon them; he insisted upon female modesty, yes, but for the sake of male chastity. Tertullian's hostile reaction to the bold women of Carthage stemmed from his firm belief that sexual desire was a permanent human affliction and that women were naturally and dangerously seductive, views that "clearly foreshadowed the future development of the Latin church." Two third-century treatises on virginity mistakenly attributed to Clement of Rome, written to denounce the practice of spiritual marriage, cautioned, "with maidens we do not dwell, nor have we anything in common with them. With maidens we do not eat, nor drink; and where a maiden sleeps, we do not sleep. . . . With us may no female, whether young maiden or married woman, be there at [the time of prayer]; nor she that is aged, nor she that hath taken the vow; nor even a maid-servant, whether Christian or heathen, but there shall only be men with men."16 "As orthodox Christianity came more and more to embrace the ideal of celibacy and to clamp down on the heresies where women were most involved," Averil Cameron observed, "it excluded women more completely from the organization of the church." By the time Cyprian had become bishop of Carthage, this transformation was already well under way. Cyprian was bishop for a decade in the middle of the third century, during the persecutions of Emperor Decius. Like the other powerful ascetic bishops of Rome and Antioch, Cyprian believed that only those who had demonstrated "virginal continence" could be entrusted with such power. His career "shows very clearly the extent to which . . . virginity was harnessed to the needs of the Catholic clergy," and the dire implications for women in the church. In the face of imperial persecution, Cyprian emphasized above all the need for a military discipline. To his mind, the Christian communities of Rome and Carthage were "in the fighting line against pagan authority," and the church was a "bond of brotherhood" braced against persecution. He thus praised virgin women only to exhort them to discipline, took pains to ensure that their personal wealth would not be used to influence the clergy, and issued stern warnings against "the polluting waters of heresy" and any "effeminate weakening of the hard resolve of the Christian." Clearly, as Brown points out, he "was the last person who would have treated continent women as partners."17 "By the year 3oo," Brown observes, "Christian asceticism, invariably associated with some form or other of perpetual sexual renunciation, was a well-established feature of most regions of the Christian world." In the Latin West, he adds, it "tended to gravitate around the clergy of the Catholic Church," giving rise to a "holy priesthood." For the fourth-century church historian Eusebius, "the victory of Christianity in the Roman world implied, also, the victory of an elite within the Christian church," the rise of an ascetic corps of apostolic heirs charged with the salvation of humbler lay souls. They are "above nature, and beyond common human living," wrote Eusebius. "Like some celestial beings, [they] gaze down upon human life, performing the duty of a priesthood to Almighty God for the whole race." Over the next centuries, this cadre of clerical ascetics would undermine all of the foundations of women's presence, participation, and prominence in the Christian community. By successively demolishing their heretical androgynous rivals, displacing the married clergy, and diminishing lay influence over the church, they steadily paved the way toward a world without women. 18 The "victory" announced by Eusebius was more potential than actual. The majority of clergy were still married, including many bishops, and there remained a heavy clerical dependence upon female lay patronage. ...
THE WORD SCIENTIST" first appeared in a review of a scien tific book written by a woman. William Whewell, master of Trinity College, coined the new word in i834 in his glowing, albeit anonymous, review of Mary Somerville's On The Connection of the Physical Sciences. Somerville tried to establish some underlying unifying principles and hence a common identity for practitioners in the various fields of natural philosophy. Whewell proposed the term "scientist" in the same spirit, to fulfill what he believed to be a pressing need; he noted that the members of the recently established British Association for the Advancement of Science had felt them selves handicapped "by the want of any name by which we can designate the students of knowledge of the material world collec tively. . . . There was no general term by which these gentlemen could describe themselves with reference to their pursuits." As Whewell assumed, and Somerville understood all too well, this new collective identity, like the word invented to name it, had a decidedly masculine aspect.' Mary Somerville was a self-taught master of mathematics and natu ral science who became "the premier scientific lady of the ages," her long life (1780-1872) Spanning the great European epoch of political and industrial revolution. Although well born, she received little in the way of formal education and, despite her private intellectual ambi tions, was early destined for the domestic life of wife and mother. But the death of her first husband left her the means and some leisure to advance her avid self-education, and the elite connections made available through her second marriage brought her into intimate associ ation with the leading figures of nineteenth-century science. "Science was not yet professionalized," her biographer Elizabeth Patterson pointed out. "At that date no formal course of training had yet been designed or prescribed, and scientific men-safe from economic or professional threat from women-were cordially welcoming to serious students be they male or female." At the same time, there was a growing interest among scientific circles in the widest possible dissemination of the so-called useful knowledge needed by industry.' Somerville conducted her own scientific investigations and wrote widely on scientific matters. A commission from Henry Brougham, founder of the Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge, led to her greatest triumph; with her book Celestial Mechanism of the Heavens she rendered the mathematics and astronomy of the French philosopher Laplace accessible to the English and thereby helped to bring the then lagging British mathematics up to the more advanced French standards. In recognition of this achievement, Somerville was awarded a civil-list pension; her book was made a standard text for advanced students at Cambridge University-"the highest honour I ever received," Somerville wrote in her memoirs; and a bust of her was commissioned and put on prominent display by the Royal Society (still the only bust of a woman ever owned by the society). She became an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and thcre was also mounted on her behalf an ultimately unsuccessful effort to make her a member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. Somerville continued her scientific labors up to the time of her death at the age of ninety-two, producing works of distinction and immense popularity. Throughout her career, she received many awards and honors, among them the coveted Victoria gold medal of the Royal Geological Society. Upon her death, the Morning Post, in its lengthy obituary, dubbed her the "queen of science." When colleges for women were finally established at Oxford, one bore her name.3 But, like so many women before and after her, Somerville understood all too well the gendered boundaries of science. Her book was used as a required text in a university in which she could not teach nor have her daughters study. Her bronze likeness was placed in the Royal Society's Great Hall, from which she herself was barred. (Although her nonscientist husband early became a fellow of the Royal Society, no such honor was ever even contemplated for her.) The mother of two talented daughters (as well as a son), and acutely conscious of the obstacles that had early blocked her own path because of her sex, Mary Somerville was a staunch advocate of women's rights and, especially, of higher education for women. Hers was the first signature on the parliamentary petition drawn up in i868 by John Stuart Mill to demand voting rights for women, and in i862 she unsuccessfully petitioned the University of London to offer examinations and grant diplomas to women. "Age has not abated my zeal," she wrote late in life, "for the emancipation of my sex from the unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary and scientific education for women. "4 Mary Somerville lived to see women educated in science at the University of London and elsewhere. But she continued to fear that the world of science would nevertheless remain in its essence a world without women. For she had herself internalized, albeit in a mirrored female form, the prejudices of this strange clerical culture now a thousand years in the making. In the second draft of her memoirs, written in the final years of her life, this celebrated "queen of science" poignantly betrayed her despair about what she believed were the true prospects of women among the heavenly host of Western science. "I have perseverance and intelligence, but no genius," she wrote. "That spark from heaven is not granted to the sex, we are of the earth, earthy, whether higher powers may be allotted to us in another existence God knows, original genius in science at least is hopeless in this." Her despair haunts us still.5 With the grace of God, and in the absence of women, the selfanointed apostles of science continue to extend their heavenly rule over earth. Despite its utilitarian rhetoric, and abundantly apparent consequences, science has carried forth what has been essentially a transcendent enterprise. For, in the eyes of its exclusively male inhabitants, the clerical culture always existed above and apart from society. It was a spiritual redoubt from within which the clergy could judge and guide the rest of humanity-as it were, from outside. In such a rarefied realm, masculinity readily came to be associated with separation and transcendence, manifested in the seemingly unambiguous authority of artifice and abstraction. The more "earthy" feminine, meanwhile, was disdained as disorder, dreaded as the embodiment of worldly corruption. As an extension of clerical culture, Western science inherited and perpetuated such associations, which continue to mark the scientific mission and milieu. In what specific ways these associations have actually shaped scientific thought is now a matter of serious speculation, and the present study can offer only some suggestions. Several habits and characteristics of modern science have often been noted: the strict separation of subject and object, the priority of the objective over the subjective, the depersonalized and seemingly disembodied discourse, the elevation of the abstract over the concrete, the asocial self-identity of the scientist, the total commitment to the calling, the fundamental incompatibility between scientific career and family life, and, of course, the alienation from and dread of women with which this study opened. To what extent do these contemporary characteristics and habits of science betray its clerical legacy? To what extent might the overriding scientific obsession with infallible universal knowledge and artificial instrumentality reflect a long-standing clerical effort to subdue the feminine in society and nature, in order to effect man's recovery from the Fall-"as if he had never sinned"? Such a bold quest was depicted, as yet without equal, by Mary Shelley in her science-fiction novel, Frankenstein; she aptly rooted its passion and excitement in male loneliness, desperation, and horror. Shelley understood also that the scientist's fear of female disorder and corruption fucled the effort not only to subdue the feminine but to substitute for it something more reliable, and hence more reliably masculine. Ironically, this effort, which entailed an appropriation by the male of female functions, produced for the scientist an even more ambiguous gender identity. Whereas in the early years of Christianity devout women "became" men, in later years, in the absence of women and in an effort to replicate their essential productive and reproductive functions, men "became" women. In this process of appropriation, moreover, they gradually but indelibly transformed beyond recognition these heretofore female functions of production and reproduction. In the Middle Ages, productive labor was generally associated with women, identified with the distaff and viewed with disdain. Women were the mainstay of the "inner economy" of the household and performed much of the labor essential to survival: food preparation, baking, brewing, animal husbandry, water portage, home repairs, horticulture, and, of course, spinning, sewing, and weaving, and other tasks involved in the production of clothing. In addition, women managed the property and worked the fields alongside their husbands (or alone, in their absence). Women were thus central to medieval economic life. What was true of the family economy of the laity was true also of that of the married clergy. Not only did the married clergy seek economically advantageous liaisons with propertied women, they depended upon the routine labor of their wives for their very survival. If in their preaching they rhetorically cxtollcd the virtues of manual labor, in their own households they lived by the hands of their women. Thus, as David Herlihy noted, in clcrical families too "women had assumed economic functions of central importance.&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; It is no wonder, then, that the ecclesiastical campaign for clerical celibacy was so vigorously resisted: it posed a fundamental threat to the economic life of the clergy. At Vercelli, Ravenna, and Verona in the tenth century, as the campaign for celibacy intensified, married priests ordered to give up their wives insisted repeatedly that "unless they were maintained by the hands of their women they would succumb to hunger and nakedness." The medieval monasticization of the church, which swelled the ranks of the celibate regular orders and at the same time divorced the secular clergy from their traditional labor supply, compelled multitudes of men to do the work of women. Confronted with this dire prospect, they began almost at once to devise mechanical substitutes for human labor, giving rise to what has been called the "industrial revolution of the Middle Ages." In their abbeys, these celibate men pioneered in the mechanization of the inner economy, replacing woman power with water power. By the twelfth century, the Cistercians, who forbade women to cross the threshold of their monasteries, were running "the most modern factories in Europe. . . . Every monastery had a model factory . . . and waterpower drove the machinery of the various industries located on its floor." Surely this medieval industrial advance reflected the Benedictine elevation (and associated masculinization) of manual labor, the shonage of available labor given the press of priestly office, as well as the manorial pursuit of profit. But perhaps it also had something to do with the exclusion of women from clerical society, the crucial first step in what would become a familiar pattern of male appropriation and transformation of women's work. "The natural movement of our industry," Auguste Comte observed in i843, in the wake of the next industrial revolution, "tends gradually to pass to men the professions long exercised by women."8 The celibate clerical effort to find substitutes for the productive labor of wives was matched by the effort to find substitutes for the reproductive labor of mothers. The barrenness of the monastery prompted a prolonged and pathetic quest for maternal surrogates. As Caroline Bynum has shown, in the Middle Ages "the males who popularized maternal and feminine imagery were those who had renounced the family and the company of women." The Cistercians especially, who emphasized "the renunciation of all family ties," metaphorically replicated the family and motherhood within their allmale communities. The Cistercians, who played a key role in fostering Mariolatry, used maternal images in describing God, Christ, and the church, as well as their bishops and abbots. In their writings, "many male figures are referred to as mother, or described as nursing, conceiving, and giving birth." Again, whereas early Christian women, like Perpetua, sometimes referred to themselves as men, here "monks sometimes call themselves women." "I will show myself a mother by love and anxious care," wrote Guerric, abbot of Igny. "You too are mothers," he assured his brothers, "of the child who has been born for you and in you, that is, since you conceived from the fear of the Lord and gave birth to the spirit of salvation." "Gentle nurse, gentle mother," Anselm of Canterbury wrote of Jesus, "who are these sons to whom you give. birth and nurture if not those whom you bear and educate in the faith of Christ by your teaching?" Bernard of Clairvaux was the monk whose "use of maternal imagery for male figures is more extensive . . . than that of any other twelfth century figure." He urged his fellow abbots to 4 4show affection as a mother would. . . . Be Gentle, let your bosoms expand with milk not swell with passion." To a departed brother he lamented, "you too were tom from my breast, cut from my womb." Like Bernard, Francis of Assisi encouraged his associates to be as mothers to their friars and, according to David Knowles, "encouraged those nearest him to address him thus."10 Among the clerical ascetics, maternal metaphor was matched by maternal mimicry, an ersatz procreative effort to simulate life. In the tenth century, the learned monk Gerbert, Pope Sylvester 11, is said to have constructed the first of the "oracular heads," brazen devices which appeared to speak. In the early thirteenth century, the Dominican Albertus Magnus apparently spent thirty years in the construction of a "mobile robot" which could answer questions and solve problems. Albertus' contemporary the Franciscan Roger Bacon is also reputed to have constructed a speaking head and was preoccupied with the possibilities of artificial instrumentality. Bacon's mentor Bishop Grosseteste is likewise said to have spent many years making a brazen head. In the fifteenth century, Regiomontanus constructed a muchcelebrated artificial eagle. " This medieval enchantment with the artificial simulation of life was carried to ingenious lengths by early-modern clockmakers. In the seventeenth century, Athanasius Kircher declared that "it was possible to make a figure endowed with the power of moving its eyes, lips, and tongue and which, by emitting sounds, would give all the signs of life." Valentine Merbitz, rector of a college at Desde, "was said to have made such a 'creature' which, according to contemporary reports, could reply to questions in several languages." The clockwork contrivances apparently aroused more than mere curiosity and amusement. At the end of the seventeenth century, they were the subject of papers before the Royal Society, and a century later the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg offered a prize for a speaking head that could pronounce the five vowels." Certainly among the greatest of the would-be mothers of mechanism was Jacques de Vaucanson. A century after Descartes pondered the difference between the living and the mechanical, Vaucanson aimed at their seeming resolution. His celebrated mechanical duck could simulate not only a duck's movement but also the acts of drinking, digesting, and eliminating. Vaucanson also masterfully devised a mandolin player which sang and tapped its foot in time, and a piano player which moved its head to the music and appeared to be breathing. According to one student of the history of automata, Vaucanson "is said to have cherished a secret ambition to make an artificial man"; he apparently began to make a model, with heart, veins, and arteries, but died before its completion. Though Vaucanson was only one of many makers of automata, there is no evidence that any of them was a woman. Nor are there noticeably many women among their equally earnest descendants, the robot-engineers of the age of automation, whose extravagant "pseudo-maternal" efforts, as James Lighthill has described them, blindly play out the mechanized couvade ritual of industrial society. Typically portrayed as men playing God, they might perhaps more appropriately be described as men playing women. 13 The male mothers of the Western past "were not all content with logical machines or heads of brass," or even remarkably refined mechanical androids, for that matter. As John Cohen suggested, "they dreamt of making a creature of flesh and blood." There are numerous medieval accounts of the magical conception of living creatures by men, perhaps the best known being the legend of the golem created of clay by Rabbi Low of Prague. In the sixteenth century, such fantasy took a seemingly more scientific turn in the work of Low's contemporary Paracelsus. Paracelsus argued that it was possible and not at all unnatural "that a man may be born without the natural mother." In his De Generatione Rerum, Paracelsus actually offered a recipe-which entailed incubating semen in horse dung-for generating the homunculus, a motherless child. This new being was "a true and living infant, having all the members of a child that is born from a woman, but much smaller."'
The idea of the homunculus, based upon spermist theory of conception, continued for some time to hold great attraction for men of science. As James Hiliman has pointed out,
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centudies] reasonable scien tific men (Delpatius, Hartsocker, Gardin, Bourget, Leeuwenhoek, Andry), while empirically studying the problems of fertility, concep tion, and embryology, asserted that they had seen exceedingly mi nute forms of men, with arms, heads and legs complete, inside the spermatozoa under the microscope.... We encounter a long and incredible history of theoretical misadventures and observational errors in male science regarding the physiology of reproduction. These fantastic theories and fantastic observations are not mere apprehensions, the usual and necessary mistakes on the road of scientific progress; they are recurrent deprecations of the feminine phrased in the unimpeachable, objective language of the science of the period.
The new technologies of reproduction and genetics have brought us closer to this ancient dream than many of us care to think about. Already, as the diligent disciples of the monk Gregor Mendel continue methodically, if not magically, to bring their bold imaginings into being, the very word "mother" has become a scientific anachronism. "The definition of mother doesn't work with these new technologies, " one practitioner recently explained; "we need to develop a new definition of the word." He might well have added: a masculine definition. In vitro fertilization and embryo transplant are, after all, only steps toward the artificial womb-a womb for men. After a thousand years, the obsessive scientific pursuit of a motherless child remains the telltale preoccupation of a womanless world."
According to Lynn White, Jr. in The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, the Judea-Christian root is responsible for our ecological crisis. How?
Both modern technology and science mark theirs beginning during the middle ages in western cultures. Is it safe to assume then that the origin of our ecologic crisis also arose from western cultures. Lynn White, Jr. claimed that the beginning of our ecological crisis started when humankind discovered how to conquer the natural world. In the middle ages, the invention of the cross plow dramatically altered the age. Its effect was so profound that it changed our culture, our paradigms and even the human nature. With the brutal upheaving of soil, man was able to overcome the constraint placed on his manipulation of the land by nature. Humankind asserted superiority over the natural world and by that developed a certain perspective of his destiny and role in the ecology of life. Because of this new paradigm, human relation was altered. Feudalism emerged in western culture as a solution to managed the economy.
Whether it was nature that was eliminated from the community of life or did man deliberately separated himself from the law of nature is indeterminable. Many will argue that the distinction of man and nature was because of both factors stated above. The question is, what in our culture gives us the justification to this distinction? According to White, it is our religion that shapes our paradigm and distinguish our role as stewards to the natural world. White clearly stated that, the victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in history of our culture. (White, 1205) And our deep-rooted schism and theism from the Judea-Christian teleology shape our value system. We live - according to White - in the context of Christian axioms. Christianity clearly defined and explained the creation of life and by thus doing made man the divine ruler in nature.
Our omnipotent God created nature, and as an afterthought, created man to managed and oversee nature. Man is made in the image of God and in accordance to God's plan, he must have dominance over the natural world, God planned all of this explicitly for man's benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man's purposes. (White, 1205)
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