I was in the sixth standard. Sunil and I had a common enemy, Manoj. To smuggle a live lizard into the class and put it in Manoj’s bag was a bright idea. It was mine. Sunil executed it to perfection. Manoj had a most satisfactory attack of hysterics. But he found out that we were behind it all. He had corroborative evidence.
We cornered him in the corridor. Sunil was big and ugly. Manoj cowered.
“If you tell anyone, we will break your balls. Then you will have a feminine voice throughout life, and in the future, you wont have children.”
Though I was the sceptical one, this move proved enormously effective. Manoj told no one. It was so easy to silence somebody.
Brutal, I know. But I was eleven. Fortunately I grew out of these tactics to settle interpersonal issues. I hope you will forgive me.
Now it is in fashion to open secret files. There were many secret files. The Vatican has a very secure set of secret files. Like the one about the trial against Galileo in the 17th century.
It was Copernicus who had a hunch that the Earth and planets rotated around the Sun and not vice versa. But it was against doctrine. But he waited till he was in his death bed. There, he took out the book he had kept hidden and gave it for publication. Then he promptly died, to the great chagrin of the establishment. It could do nothing to a dead man, however divine and holy it considered itself. But his ideas were declared heresy.
Noone dared utter a word till Galileo. He was from Florence, Italy, right in the Pope’s courtyard. He improved upon a toy telescope and made it thirty times more effective and turned it to the heavens. He was astonished. Thousands upon thousands of new stars. Still more surprising, more Planetary bodies- the moons of Jupiter. They appeared and disappeared with time. They were rotating Jupiter.
It dawned upon Galileo that the Ptolemiacal view that the earth was the centre of the Universe was pure crap. He turned and discussed this with his friend, a progressive cardinl, maffeo barberinii, who later became Pope Urban VIII. He seemed slightly sympathetic.
On the strength of this understanding Galileo wrote the book-‘Dialogue on the Great World Systems.’ It somehow escaped the censors and became an instant best seller.
Galileo was swiftly hauled before the Great inquisition. Galileo was an old man. He was shown all the routine torture devices at the judge’s disposal, including the infamous ‘rack’.
Galileo promptly wrote and signed the statement. His world view was wrong. Ptolemy was correct after all. And I am sorry. He was later kept in house arrest.
It was so easy to silence Galileo. The merest threat of torture was enough.
That was the end of the progress of human understanding in Italy- for the time being.
But the truth was impossible to throttle. Almost at the same time, in protestant Prague, Johannes Kepler was working out the laws of planetary motion, as they revolved around the Sun.
Galileo died on a Christmas day. That same day when the whole of Europe celebrated Christ’s arrival, in protestant England, Isaac Newton was born.
By the time he grew up, Galileo was a hero.
It is really difficult to speak for God. He has his own plans.
God is honest. He doesn’t let truths die. They bubble to the surface with irrepressible persistence. They pour out of crevices and when suppressed at some places, reappear at others.
They are the yeast that matures the dough of human progress. If they are distorted, or suppressed, stagnation is the result.
We know all this history due to genuine historians who, despite pressures and personal beliefs, thought that intellectual honesty was sacrosanct, and dogma had only second place. A hopefully progressive Pope who is mostly respected by many is not a product of religion and dogma. Leaders are a product of a modern society that pitilessly records, analyzes and reflects on its own history.