Letter to Christine of Lorraine

Galileo Galilei
- 1615 -

Few years ago I discovered, as Your Serene Highness knows, many details in the sky which were invisible until this age; both for their novelty and for some consequences which depend on them and contrast to some natural propositions commonly accepted by the schools of the philosophers, they excited a great number of such teachers against me, as if it was me who put those things in the sky, in order to trouble nature and science. And forgotten that many truths help the investigation, the growth and the establishment of the disciplines, and not their diminution or destruction, and showing themselves more affectionate to their own opinions that to the true, they tried to deny and to annul those novelties, whose sense, if they had wanted to consider them with attention, could make them persuaded; and therefore they produced several things, and published some writings full of vain discourses, and, that it was the most serious error, strewn with attestations taken from the Holy Writings, but from places not well intended by them and away from any purpose.

The motive, therefore, that they produce to condemn the opinion of the mobility of the Earth and stability of the Sun, is that, because they read in many places of the Holy Writings that the Sun move and the Earth is still, and the Writings can never lie or err, it follows that the opinion, which affirms the Sun is motionless and the Earth mobile, is wrong and damned.

About this reason, first of all I think it was very saintly said and very prudently established that the Holy Writings is never able to lie, when its meaning is well understood; but I think that its meaning is often recondite and very different from the pure sense of the words. It follows that whenever someone wanted to confine himself to the literal sound, he could make the Writings to say not only contradictions and false propositions, but also serious heresies and swearwords: in fact it would be necessary to give to God feet and hands and eyes, and besides bodily and human affections, just like anger, repentance, hate, and sometimes the forgetfulness of the past and the ignorance of the future too. These propositions, dictated by the Holy Spirit, were so written by the holy writers in order to conform them to the ability of the rough vulgar herd; therefore, for those who distinguish themselves from the common people it is necessary that the wise men say the true senses and show the particular reasons which justify such words: and this doctrine is so shared among the theologians, that is would be superfluous to produce some attestation.

Hence I think that the Holy Writing itself, whenever it pronounced some natural conclusions, and in particular the most difficult to understand, it didn't want to add confusion in the minds of people. In fact, if the Holy Writings, in order to conform themselves to the popular ability, attributed to God some conditions contrary to His essence, who wants to sustain that they, incidentally speaking about Earth, water, Sun or other creatures, didn't respect such popular ability and confined themselves to the pure meaning of the words? and especially saying some things which are out of their aim, i.e. the divine cult and the health of the souls, and are greatly remote from the apprehension of the common people.

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