Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Strange Stories of Scotus's Death

Here's a few weird quotes I ran across online. Apologies to Michael, probably my only reader, as they are repeats from my myspace blog that probably more people read. But this is a more suitable venue.
"... The first evidence Of any concerns in England over the signs of death and the risk of premature burial appears in Sir Francis Bacon's Historia vitae et mortis. He knew that the famous philosopher John Duns Scotus had been liable to some obscure kind of fits, during which he became surprisingly deathlike. When he was staying in Cologne, he was declared dead and buried after a fit, but his servant came up and said that the wretched man had probably been buried alive. He, the servant, had been instructed to prevent this at all costs, but he had taken a detour and arrived too late. When Duns Scotus's coffin had been exhumed, it was seen that the corpse's hands were torn and the fingers gnawed, from which it was concluded that the servant's apprehensions had been only too valid. For many years, Duns Scotus's tomb had a plaque with a Latin inscription, which was translated as follows:

Mark this man's demise, O traveler,
For here lies John Scot, once interr'd
But twice dead; we are now wiser
And still alive, who then so err'd."
and:

" The grammarian and metaphysician, Johannes Duns Scotus died in Cologne in 1308. When the vault his corpse resided in was opened later he was found lying outside the coffin. "

The first is from a history of the mania over being buried alive in the 19th century. I need to check and see the reference there, if there's anything more than Bacon. The second is a random internet quote. I was also once told a similar story by an ancient franciscan at the Franciscan Monastery in DC, late at night after mass or a concert. The lights were half off, it was very eerie. But a even a franciscan believed it. Where did this 'lore' come from? Well, like the modern term 'dunce' I believe we have pious order of preachers to thank, the Dominicans, ever jealous for the glory of their "Common Doctor (Christ? oh wait, no, its Aquinas)"

In reading a rather odd book entitled "They gave me an answer: Bl. Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure and P. Pio", written, oddly enough, by a franciscan who teaches at holy apostles seminary in Conn. (my former landlords), the roots of the mystery can be found. He quotes B. Hechich who wrote an article somewhere on this saying that around 1400 a priest of worms, Herman Pil, wrote a Collectanea Spiritualia in which he repeated a conversation somehow dating back to 1384-1386 between Henry of Hesse and Conrad of Geinhausen, who were trying to use scotus as an edifying example. Henry says that Scotus was often caught up in contemplation that he would become completely insensible, and finally would pass from this life in one of these ecstasies: "ecce quam dulciter et amabiliter homo iste transivit de vita ista: de requie ad requiem de dulcedine ad dulcedinem, de consolatione spirituali ad iucunditatem aeternam. quod et nobis procurare digneutur qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum."
a Dominican maculist, Abraham Bzovius (d. 1637) mistakenly dates Scotus's death to 1294, and describes Scotus a bit scornfully, but does not give the tale. Another Dominican, (or is he, its unclear here, crucially, in fact) John Frederick Matenesius wrote a history based on Bzovius' annals and includes the following grisly tale..."1294: hoc anno, volens nolens, ex hac vita migravit Ioannes Duacius Cotus, subtilis quidem ordinis fratrum minorum doctor; sed adeo tenebrosus ut "skoteinos" passim diceretur. et cum omnia in dubium vocaret, mors quoque eius in dubium vocata est. apoplexia enim correptum, exanimen putantes, nimis festinato funere ad sepulchrum in choro sui ordinis deferunt; qui dein morbi violentia cessante, ad se reversus, pulsato frustra sepulchro et miserabili mugitu edito, elisoque tandem capite, periit coloniae" that's right, he cut off his own head.
That quote was apparently taken from Mattew Frce(1583-1669) who wrote an apologia against all these stories.
apparently, paul giovio, historian and bishop, also spread various slanderous lies as well.

still a bit needs sorting out.

7 comments:

Michael said...

Your readership may be small, but at least it's 100% supercool.

Lee Faber said...

In order for the above to be a truth bearing sentence, I believe we should change 100 to 1 and super to sorta

Michael said...

No deal, loser.

Anonymous said...

See bibliographical details in the article "John Duns Scot" in the French Wikipedia :
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Duns_Scot

Lee Faber said...

Interesting. I was unaware of those articles. The wiki is inaccurate; though their list of scotus's works at the end is fairly good, they use the de rerum principio in the body, known for the past 80 years to be by vital du four. And the bit about skepticism is silly too; one would think skepticism refers to knowledge of reality, not the faith-reason discussion. But it's true, Scotus doesn't think that given the canons of knowledge in the posterior analytics, stuff like divine omnipotence, imortality of the soul can be proved by reason alone. But thomas himself sometimes punts on some of these issues, such as numerical identity of the body of christ before and after death which can't be maintained with a unicity of substantial form.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Perhaps you can correct the Wikipedia article, or discuss on the talk page.
Here is another link about the legend :
http://nostredame.chez-alice.fr/ndel1.html

Lee Faber said...

wow. nostradamus. pretty eerie. but cool.