Saturday, February 02, 2008

Abelard (1079-1143 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

Wow!!! The actual story of Heloise and Abelard is one for the romantic novelist. Abelard and Heloise is adult material that dwarfs the story of Romeo and Juliet to a cutesy type children’s story.
Abelard is a famous philosopher and teacher. He was born in 1079 and died in 1143. He was a cleric and eventually became the Canon of Notre Dame. He was hired by a dude named Fulbert to teach his niece, Heloise, philosophy. Heloise was both pretty and smart. Though Abelard was concerned mostly with “universals” in his philosophy, he was very much concerned with Heloise and her various “particulars” in his everyday life. She readily took to philosophy ... and Abelard. It was only a matter of time before Abelard and Heloise were heavy-breathing in just about every unoccupied room in the castle.
Soon their sex-ploits were common talk all over Paris. Finally Uncle Fulbert became embarrassed and gave Abelard the boot from the castle. But old Abelard was still very much hot to trot. He tried to talk a maid at the Fulbert mansion into sneaking Heloise over to the rectory for a little romp behind the sacristy. But the poor brown skinned, shapely maid was having quite a time of it herself and she said that she would only be willing to produce Heloise for a little heaven if Abelard would park his truck in her garage for a little hell on a weekend or two.
Abelard felt that such a suggestion was “universally” unacceptable. I guess he was too “particular”.
In any case, Abelard dismissed the poor maid. She in turn went to Uncle Fulbert and told him all about Abelard’s proposition. Uncle Fulbert was, to say the least, totally incensed. He decided to nip this little romantic adventure in the bud. He then bribed a servant of Abelard to sneak into Abelard’s bedroom while Abelard was sleeping and cut his “universals” off with a razor. Which he did!
After that, Abelard’s life was religiously correct if not exactly personally “upright”. Abelard then went to an abbey and Heloise to a nunnery. From these outposts they communicated their passions to one another in a series of letters over the years until they died and were buried in a grave next to one another.
My God, what a story!!!
What is interesting to me is that most of my philosophy books give very slight mention to this story. Frederick Copleston S.J., for example, has this to say: “As a result of the episode with Heloise, Abelard had to withdraw to the Abbey at St. Denis.”
That’s it.
In the next paragraph, Copleston S.J. goes on to say, “Abelard was a man of combative disposition, and unsparing of his adversaries. He ridiculed his masters in philosophy and theology; he was difficult to get along with; and was unable to live in peace with the other monks.”
Well, golly gee S.J., do you think that his irritable disposition might have something to do with the fact that HE JUST HAD HIS “YOU KNOW WHATS” CUT OFF? No big thing to you, I suppose, S.J., but I could imagine myself being a little “out of sorts” for a week or two if I were in old Abelard’s shoes. This “episode” would be a little difficult for me to generalize, even if I was a philosopher, but I suppose that this “particular” opinion of mine might not be “universally” acceptable.