A slip into insanity. And out again.

A devout monk undergoing a rather intense and all-enveloping crisis.


5. De omnibus dubitandum!

   At this point of our tale, we must leave Brother Sorin of the Dominican Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas, devout Catholic and doubt-ridden monk, to the frenzied and confused thoughts of his own mind for a short time. This is partly because any effort to convey the series of frantic and jumbled thoughts that passed through his poor brain over this period would be doomed to hopeless inadequacy, and partly because during this time, there were certain occurences taking place in other circles that would indeed have a great effect on the story of Brother Sorin Vanvittig...

   The Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas was a pleasant enough establishment. It boasted, in addition to its ancient, prestigious buildings, some 10 acres of land, which was quite impressive for a monastery the size of Saint Thomas Aquinas'. 9 of these acres were used for agricultural purposes, the monastery's primary source of income. The remaining acre was left wild.

   It had not always been so. There had been a time when all the land was used to full agricultural advantage, and every field worked to maximum profit. Why, then, was this no longer the case? The answer can be summed up quite neatly in two words: Brother Tantum.

   Brother Tantum had been a brother of the monastery from the time he was 16, many many years ago. He had joined because he loved philosophy, and couldn't afford an education. So he became a monk and settled for theology and philosophy of religion instead.

   His life at the monastery had been fairly uneventful. His delight was always to spend time in the library with the great philosophers of history, or introducing new philosophical ideas to fellow monks and debating ruthlessly with them. He was never known to lose a logical argument. His sceptical and analytical blade of logic made short work of any arguments presented against him, and he was known for his cool, clear, rational thought process which rested firm in the assurance of the reliability of logical reasoning.

   And then one day, he went too far. Too far for himself and too far for the monastery. His scepticism reached new depths, too deep for the humble man of faith - or indeed, any man of sanity - to dive to. Because one day, Brother Tantum flatly declared his disbelief in the existence of anything outside of his own mind.

   "You are mere phantoms of my imagination," he would say, with the same cool, calm and collected expression of trust in the supremacy of logic as he had always possessed. "And you can never prove yourselves to me to be anything more. There is no evidence that you possess any real existence outside of my own consciousness. To assume something for which there is no evidence is the foundation of folly and the epitome of irrational thinking. To accept that you actually exist outside of my own mind would be, quite frankly, illogical."

   It was quite clear to most that Brother Tantum was mad. Yet there was one problem - he was not just plain old Brother Tantum anymore. He was Father Abbot, with a long and distinguished history of contribution to the monastery and the intellectual life of the Church in general. His essays were well-known by all respectable Catholic theologians, he had even published a few full-length, many-volumed works on Catholic philosophy and theology. To excommunicate him was bad enough (for, sadly, such a fate was inevitable) but to simply turn him out on the streets to beg when all he had known was monastic life since his teenage years would be an outrage. So, instead, they gave him an acre. One acre, that was all. He had his own cave, like a beast, above the entrance to which he had scratched his own personal motto: 'De omnibus dubitandum!' 'Doubt everything!' And since this intellectual philosophical genius knew absolutely nothing of practical living off the land, he was provided by the monastery with regular food and water from the monastery kitchens, brought up by one monk chosen by the Abbot. This was all the interaction he was allowed to have the monastery (that was how the monastery would phrase it; more likely it was all the interaction he allowed the monastery to have with him).

   It is likely, my dear reader, that thoughts are beginning to stir within your mind regarding what exactly all this has to do with the tale of Brother Sorin. Well, it just so happened, that on the ill-fated day of which an accounting has already been given, in which Sorin's mouth betrayed him and refused to utter the false words of the Profession of his Faith, there was another, besides Brother Matthew, who noticed his silence. This other was none less than the Prior himself. The Very Reverend Father Prior of the Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas was a stern man, as most Priors are. He was strict with himself and with others, an ascetic and austere man who took what small pleasure he allowed himself from maintaining strict order in the monastery. However, he was not unkind, and beneath a stony and icy exterior, he hid a soft heart for the monks he cared for, and harboured genuine concern for their well-being. Thus, when he observed how the words of the Creed caught in Sorin's throat and refused to be spoken, he was immediately concerned - deeply concerned. He made enquiries over the next few days with Brother Matthew, who essentially reported everything Sorin confided in him to the Prior, who in turn gathered the information and one day, when he felt he had all the information he needed, took it to the Abbot.

   "So....our young Brother is riding the turbulent waves of doubt?" muttered the Abbot. "I have always found that the best cure for a tempest is a cool, calm breeze and the faint glow of sunshine. Such are to be found in abundance on the path to Brother Tantum's cave. Have Brother Sorin take Brother Tantum his meals each day; release whoever used to do it before. Perhaps then, he will see the inevitable fruits of an overly sceptic mind."



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