When will the geocentrists insist we must all believe in the four humours?
“But when the Council of Trent stated that we are to follow the consensus of the Fathers, it didn’t say we had to do so only if the Fathers based their arguments on Scripture. If the Fathers had a consensus, it became a matter of faith, regardless what mixture there was between natural philosophy and Scripture in the consensus” (Robert Sungenis, Debunking David Palm, Phase 5; my emphasis).
“The popes and councils were resolute in teaching that regardless of how the Fathers arrived at their consensus, they HAD a consensus, and thus the information they held in consensus was part of the deposit of faith” (Robert Sungenis, How Do We Regard the Fathers’ Consensus on Geocentrism?; emphasis mine.)
“According to Lumen Gentium 12, this consensus makes the belief in geocentrism “infallible” by virtue of the fact that the Holy Spirit led all these people, century after century, to believe in this very doctrine. If that is the case, then any departure from it is not another movement of the Holy Spirit (for we cannot make the Holy Spirit tell a falsehood in one era and tell the truth in another) but a movement of the devil seeking to bring the Church into apostasy, which Scripture, the saints and our 1994 Catechism affirm (see paras. 676-677)” (Robert Sungenis, Letter from Patron 12/18/2010; emphasis mine.)
The new geocentrists want to convince Catholics that if the Fathers of the Church held something, anything at all, as a consensus view, then it automatically becomes a matter of faith and therefore Catholics need to believe it. In It’s Elementary My Dear Geocentrist, I demonstrated that the early Church Fathers and the medieval Doctors held the view that the entire material universe is made up for four elements: fire, air, water, and earth. According to the standards of the new geocentrists, this means that Catholics are bound to hold to four and only four material elements as a matter of faith.
The Church does not propose belief in the four elements as a matter of faith. Therefore the geocentrists have to hold that she has been utterly derelict in her duty to uphold the faith in the face of the onslaught of modern science and that there is a grand conspiracy of faith and science to hide this truth from the world. ( Are you starting to see a pattern?)
And just to up this ante, there is yet another example that highlights this pattern. Jayson Franklin recently wrote to me to point out,
It is the clear and unbroken belief of the Early Church Fathers that inside the human body were four different “humours”. These fluids were the cause of health or disease. Removing bad humours, or balancing them were the cure to a plethora of diseases that plagued mankind.
Jayson is correct, and a little more research shows that this is yet one more area in which the Fathers and medieval Doctors (and even an ecumenical council!) witness to this ancient understanding. There’s a good summary of this view on Wikipedia:
Humorism, or humoralism, is a system of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person – known as humors or humours – directly influences their temperament and health. . . . Essentially, this theory holds that the human body is filled with four basic substances, called humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy. All diseases and disabilities supposedly resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. These deficits were thought to be caused by vapors inhaled or absorbed by the body. The four humors are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Greeks and Romans, and the later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy, believed that each of these humors would wax and wane in the body, depending on diet and activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one of these four fluids, then said patients’ personality and or physical health could be negatively affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air; earth predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, and all four elements present in the blood (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humorism).
As I document below, it is clear that the Fathers and medieval Doctors of the Church held this view in consensus. Notice that these witnesses appear from the earliest times and span at least a millennium and a half. They span geographically from East to West. The patristic witness is extremely solid—after a fairly casual search, I have been able to find no fewer than thirty patristic witnesses and I would not be surprised if there are others. The medieval theologians are no less consistent. All told, I have so far discovered a total of twenty Doctors of the Church holding this view. And an additional weighty witness is the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215). And it is also clearly advanced by St. Hildegrad of Brigen, upon whom Sungenis himself relies so heavily for support in regard to geocentrism. He has also followed her views in regard to the four elements.
Now how does he try to get out of this? Sungenis has elsewhere claimed that it’s only in connection with Scripture that a consensus of the Fathers binds:
David [NB: not Palm]: Secondly, the unanimous opinions of the Church Fathers does indeed grant validity to anything you believe; however, it is also most likely that they believed in bodily health consisting of a balance of the humours, which is patently untrue.
R. Sungenis: True, but Scripture does not teach that the body is made of balanced humours. We are only interested in the interpretations of Scripture that the Fathers insist must be interpreted in the normal literal sense. (http://galileowaswrong.com/why-was-galileo-condemned/)
Notice that Sungenis readily admits (he answers “True,”) that the Church Fathers really did believe in the four humours in consensus. So that point is established. But he tries to wiggle out of it by claiming that Scripture doesn’t teach the four humours and therefore he doesn’t need to follow the Fathers.
The problem is that this is in direct contradiction to what he has stated elsewhere. We have already seen at the start of this article that in at least three other places (indeed, as recently as six months ago), Sungenis has insisted that any consensus of the Fathers is automatically binding, stating that “regardless of how the Fathers arrived at their consensus . . . the information they held in consensus was part of the deposit of faith,” that “If the Fathers had a consensus, it became a matter of faith, regardless what mixture there was between natural philosophy and Scripture in the consensus,” and that if the Christian people all believe something together for centuries then this must be a leading of the Holy Spirit and any departure from it must be, “a movement of the devil seeking to bring the Church into apostasy.”
What’s more, others, including even some of the Fathers (see e.g. below, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Cassiodorus) and more modern commentators (link and link), do see evidence of the humours in sacred Scripture. Certainly the same is true of the four elements (see e.g. Sts. Methodius, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa, and Cyril of Jerusalem; also here, here, and here). And there is at least as much Scriptural evidence for the four elements and the four humours as there is for another view that Sungenis has confidently asserted, namely that, “the future Antichrist, who, according to the Fathers, is supposed to have his ancestry in the tribe of Dan” (link). This is the scant (and highly oblique) Scriptural evidence that Sungenis found sufficiently compelling to invoke the Fathers in regard to this particular belief:
The Scriptural evidence for the Antichrist emerging from the tribe of Dan is apparently based upon three verses, primarily: 1) Jeremiah 8:16, which certainly seems a bit creative . . . 2) Revelation 7:57, which merely omits the tribe of Dan from the list the 144,000 Israelites marked with the seal of the servants of God and 3) Genesis 49:16-17 which says that Dan will be like a snake in the way that bites the horse’s heels that his rider may fall (link).
So, now the question is on the table: Are the new geocentrists going to be consistent and insist that Catholics believe that the four humours have been officially taught by the Catholic Church as a matter of faith? Is Sungenis, in particular, going to shilly-shally around and concoct yet another compromise with modern science, as he did on the four elements (but then, inconsistently, refuses to do with geocentrism)? Or is he going to hold firm to his own principles and come out swinging against the heresy of the modern germ theory of disease and uphold the “True Faith”, that our health and emotions are controlled by the balance of the four humours in our bodies? And is he going to concoct a whole new slew of conspiracy theories to explain why the “truth” of the four humours has been hidden from those in the Church and the world?
The reader needs to understand where this is all leading – at least if the new geocentrists are to remain consistent. It’s leading to an outright rupture with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. On point after point, the new geocentrists must insist that the Magisterium has for centuries been completely derelict in her duty to uphold the true faith. To cite but one example:
I intend to help quell that silence by showing the Church that she needs to reinvestigate this issue; and when she does she will find that the Church of Tradition was right all along, and that it is the modern Church’s responsibility to support and defend her, not cower in obeisance to popular science (link).
Time and again the new geocentrists advance a hermeneutic of magisterial discontinuity. They must hold, according to their own principles, that one cannot trust the Magisterium to teach the fullness of the Catholic faith.
If you’ve been swayed by the arguments of the new geocentrists to this point, you need to ask yourself: Are you willing to ride this train all the way with them to its final destination? Because the tracks that they’re laying lead right out of the Catholic Church.
The Fathers and Doctors on the Four Humours
[The following citations are by no means exhaustive, but represent a good sampling of the patristic and medieval witness on the four humours. These were located via simple Internet searches and I am fairly certain that additional witnesses could be added – if anybody locates any additional witnesses, please e-mail (geocentrismdebunked at gmail dot com) with the citation(s) and they can be added to this article.]
Epistle of Barnabas: “But why was the wool and hyssop put together? To signify that in the kingdom of Christ there shall be evil and filthy days, in which however we shall be saved; and because he that has any disease in the flesh by some filthy humours is cured by hyssop” (Epistle of Barnabas VIII).
Origen: It is therefore by the sentence of God that he is abandoned who deserves to be so, while over some sinners God exercises forbearance; not, however, without a definite principle of action. Nay, the very fact that He is long-suffering conduces to the advantage of those very persons, since the soul over which He exercises this providential care is immortal; and, as being immortal and everlasting, it is not, although not immediately cared for, excluded from salvation, which is postponed to a more convenient time. For perhaps it is expedient for those who have been more deeply imbued with the poison of wickedness to obtain this salvation at a later period. For as medical men sometimes, although they could quickly cover over the scars of wounds, keep back and delay the cure for the present, in the expectation of a better and more perfect recovery, knowing that it is more salutary to retard the treatment in the cases of swellings caused by wounds, and to allow the malignant humours to flow off for a while, rather than to hasten a superficial cure, by shutting up in the veins the poison of a morbid humour, which, excluded from its customary outlets, will undoubtedly creep into the inner parts of the limbs, and penetrate to the very vitals of the viscera, producing no longer mere disease in the body, but causing destruction to life; so, in like manner, God also, who knows the secret things of the heart, and foreknows the future, in much forbearance allows certain events to happen, which, coming from without upon men, cause to come forth into the light the passions and vices which are concealed within, that by their means those may be cleansed and cured who, through great negligence and carelessness, have admitted within themselves the roots and seeds of sins, so that, when driven outwards and brought to the surface, they may in a certain degree be cast forth and dispersed. (De Principiis III:12).
Origen: First, let us see what this means that follows, “For he is lunatic, and sore vexed.” Let the physicians talk as they list; for they think it no unclean spirit, but some bodily disorder, and say, that the humours in the head are governed in their motions by sympathy with the phases of the moon, whose light is of the nature of humours. But we who believe the Gospel say that it is an unclean spirit that works such disorders in men. The spirit observes the moon’s changes, that it may cheat men into the belief that the moon is the cause of their sufferings, and so prove God’s creation to be evil; as other daemons lay wait for men following the times and courses of the stars, that they may speak wickedness in high places, calling some stars malignant, others benign; whereas no star was made by God that it should produce evil. (Catena Aurea on Matt 17:14-21)
Clementine Homilies: “Theory of Disease: Whence many, not knowing how they are influenced, consent to the evil thoughts suggested by the demons, as if they were the reasoning of their own souls. Wherefore they become less active to come to those who are able to save them, and do not know that they themselves are held captive by the deceiving demons. Therefore the demons who lurk in their souls induce them to think that it is not a demon that is distressing them, but a bodily disease, such as some acrid matter, or bile, or phlegm, or excess of blood, or inflammation of a membrane, or something else. But even if this were so, the case would not be altered of its being a kind of demon. For the universal and earthly soul, which enters on account of all kinds of food, being taken to excess by over-much food, is itself united to the spirit, as being cognate, which is the soul of man; and the material part of the food being united to the body, is left as a dreadful poison to it. Wherefore in all respects moderation is excellent” (Clementine Homily 9).
Lactantius: “Then famous physicians were brought in from all quarters; but no human means had any success. Apollo and Æsculapius were besought importunately for remedies: Apollo did prescribe, and the distemper augmented. Already approaching to its deadly crisis, it had occupied the lower regions of his body: his bowels came out, and his whole seat putrefied. The luckless physicians, although without hope of overcoming the malady, ceased not to apply fomentations and administer medicines. The humours having been repelled, the distemper attacked his intestines, and worms were generated in his body. The stench was so foul as to pervade not only the palace, but even the whole city; and no wonder, for by that time the passages from his bladder and bowels, having been devoured by the worms, became indiscriminate, and his body, with intolerable anguish, was dissolved into one mass of corruption.” (On the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died 33)
Minucius Felix: “that my body might have a soothing and appropriate remedy for drying its humours from the marine bathing” (The Octavius of Minucius Felix)
St. Hippolytus: “Now, just as, in consequence of an irregular mode of living, a deadly bilious humour may be formed in the inwards, which the physician by his art may bring on to be a sick-vomiting, without being himself chargeable with producing the sick humour in the man’s body; for excess in diet was what produced it, while the physician’s science only made it show itself” (On Psalm LXXVII).
St. Hippolytus: “The darkness, however, is not devoid of intelligence, but altogether reflective, and is conscious that, where the light has been abstracted from the darkness, the darkness remains isolated, invisible, obscure, impotent, inoperative, (and) feeble. Wherefore it is constrained, by all its reflection and understanding, to collect into itself the lustre and scintillation of light with the fragrance of the spirit. And it is possible to behold an image of the nature of these in the human countenance; for instance, the pupil of the eye, dark from the subjacent humours, (but) illuminated with spirit. As, then, the darkness seeks after the splendour, that it may keep in bondage the spark, and may have perceptive power, so the light and spirit seek after the power that belongs to themselves, and strive to uprear, and towards each other to carry up their intermingled powers into the dark and formidable water lying underneath” (Refutation of All Heresies XIV).
Tertullian: “Seeing then that the reflecting mind of man, even in spite of the opposing interest of pleasure, judgeth that such persons ought to be condemned to a sort of rack of infamy, with the forfeiture of the advantages of worldly honours, how much more doth the justice of God punish the workers of such things! Shall that charioteer please God, the disquieter of so many souls, the minister to so many evil passions, to so many humours” (Of Public Shows XXIII).
Methodius: “But what need is there to protract the argument by using such examples? for nature could not thus, in a little time, accomplish so great a work without divine help. For who gave to the bones their fixed nature? and who bound the yielding members with nerves, to be extended and relaxed at the joints? or who prepared channels for the blood, and a soft windpipe for the breath? or what god caused the humours to ferment, mixing them with blood and forming the soft flesh out of the earth, but only the Supreme Artist making us to be man, the rational and living image of Himself, and forming it like wax, in the womb, from moist slight seed?” (Banquet of the Ten Virgins 2).
Methodius: “For as the putrid humours and matter of flesh, and all those things which corrupt it, are driven out by salt, in the same manner all the irrational appetites of a virgin are banished from the body by divine teaching. For it must needs be that the soul which is not sprinkled with the words of Christ, as with salt, should stink and breed worms, as King David, openly confessing with tears in the mountains, cried out, My wounds stink and are corrupt, because he had not salted himself with the exercises of self-control, and so subdued his carnal appetites, but self-indulgently had yielded to them, and became corrupted in adultery. And hence, in Leviticus, Leviticus 2:13; Mark 9:40 every gift, unless it be seasoned with salt, is forbidden to be offered as an oblation to the Lord God. Now the whole spiritual meditation of the Scriptures is given to us as salt which stings in order to benefit, and which disinfects, without which it is impossible for a soul, by means of reason, to be brought to the Almighty; for you are the salt of the earth, Matthew 5:13 said the Lord to the apostles.” (Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Chapt 1)
St. Cyprian: “If you will not lose your share in the trophies you have gained,” says he, “lay aside all perverseness of temper, pursue those courses which lead you directly to the way of salvation, weed out of your heart those thorns and briers which would choke it, and receive into it the seeds of righteousness which may spring up, and bring forth fruit abundantly; disgorge the gall and venom of malignant contentious humours, cleanse your mind of all its filth, and sweeten the bitterness and rancour of your soul, with a truly Christian and healing medicine. The cross of Christ, by proper applications, will do that for you which the tree did for the Israelites at the waters of Mara. All the bitterness of your soul will be sweetened, if the cross of Christ be applied to it in a proper manner. You will then want no cure nor medicine for any of its distempers; but may derive your remedy, from what originally impaired your health” (On Jealousy and Envy, cited in Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principle Saints, vol. 9, p. 211)
Athenagoras: “This nourishment, no one can doubt, becomes incorporated with the body that is nourished, interwoven and blended with all the members and parts of members; but that which is different and contrary to nature is speedily corrupted if brought into contact with a stronger power, but easily destroys that which is overcome by it, and is converted into hurtful humours and poisonous qualities, because producing nothing akin or friendly to the body which is to be nourished” (On the Resurrection of the Dead, Chapter 6).
“Nay, suppose we were to grant that the nourishment coming from these things (let it be so called, as more accordant with the common way of speaking), although against nature, is yet separated and changed into some one of the moist or dry, or warm or cold, matters which the body contains, our opponents would gain nothing by the concession: for the bodies that rise again are reconstituted from the parts which properly belong to them, whereas no one of the things mentioned is such a part, nor has it the form or place of a part; nay, it does not remain always with the parts of the body which are nourished, or rise again with the parts that rise, since no longer does blood, or phlegm, or bile, or breath, contribute anything to the life” (On the Resurrection of the Dead, Chapter 7).
St. Clement of Alexandria: ““Use a little wine,” says the apostle to Timothy, who drank water, “for thy stomach’s sake;” most properly applying its aid as a strengthening tonic suitable to a sickly body enfeebled with watery humours; and specifying “a little,” lest the remedy should, on account of its quantity, unobserved, create the necessity of other treatment. . . . One Artorius, in his book On Long Life (for so I remember), thinks that drink should be taken only till the food be moistened, that we may attain to a longer life. It is fitting, then, that some apply wine by way of physic, for the sake of health alone, and others for purposes of relaxation and enjoyment. For first wine makes the man who has drunk it more benignant than before, more agreeable to his boon companions, kinder to his domestics, and more pleasant to his friends. But when intoxicated, he becomes violent instead. For wine being warm, and having sweet juices when duly mixed, dissolves the foul excrementitious matters by its warmth, and mixes the acrid and base humours with the agreeable scents” (The Instructor, Book II, Chapter II).
“Honey, being very sweet, generates bile, as goodness begets contempt, which is the cause of sinning. But mustard lessens bile, that is, anger, and stops inflammation, that is, pride. From which Word springs the true health of the soul, and its eternal happy temperament (εὐκρασία)” (The Paedagogus, Book I:11).
St. Anthony the Great: “When the soul is in the body it is at once darkened and ravaged by pain and pleasure. Pain and pleasure are like the humours of the body. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God, counterattacking, gives pain to the body and saves the soul, like a physician who cuts and cauterizes bodies” (Philokalia, On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life).
Evagrius Ponticus: “Κρᾶσις is used in a biological sense in Greek medical texts and by Aristotle to refer to the mental or physical temperament of human beings: that is, to the physiological state created by the ‘mixture’ or blending of the four humors.367 Evagrius uses κρᾶσις in this physiological sense in De oratione 69 . . . Used in this sense it is found in ancient medical texts, often with the Ionic spelling, ἀκρησίη, referring to physiological (literally ‘somatic’) ‘disharmony’ or ‘imbalance’. This refers to the physiological and psychological state which results from an imbalanced mixture of the four humors or from the failure to completely digest (internally ‘mix’ and assimilate) food.371 Evagrius’ phrase ἀκρασία τοῦ σώματος is found three times in Hippocratic texts in the sense of ‘somatic disharmony’ or humoral imbalance” (Psalmody and Prayers in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus).
Eusebius: “The sufferings which this blessed youth then endured, seems to me to exceed all power of description. The fire, after consuming his flesh, penetrated to the bones, so that the humours of the body, liquefied like wax, fell in drops ; but as he did not yield even to this, his antagonists being defeated, and now only at a loss to account for his more than human perseverance, he was again committed to prison” (Ecclesiastical History, Book VIII, Chapter 4).
Sozomen: “But I cannot omit mentioning the case of Aquilinus, who is even at the present time residing with us, and who is an advocate in the same court of justice as that to which we belong. I shall relate what I heard from him concerning this occurrence and what I saw. Being attacked with a severe fever, arising from a yellowish bile, the physicians gave him some foreign drug to drink. This he vomited, and, by the effort of vomiting, diffused the bile, which tinged his countenance with a yellow color. Hence he had to vomit all his food and drink” (Ecclesiastical History, Book II:3).
St. Jerome: “We have read that some who suffered with disease of the joints and with gouty humours recovered their health by proscribing delicacies, and coming down to a simple board and mean food. For they were then free from the worry of managing a house and from unlimited feasting. Horace makes fun of the longing for food which when eaten leaves nothing but regret….The humours of the body which arise from sedentary habits were dried up by reducing their diet to an extreme point” (Against Jovinianus 12, 13).
“Contrariwise they tell us that warm food and old wine are good for the old who suffer from humours and from chilliness. Hence it is that the Saviour says “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life.” So too speaks the apostle: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” No wonder that the potter spoke thus of the vessel which He had made when even the comic poet whose only object is to know and to describe the ways of men tells us that “Where Ceres fails and Liber, Venus droops.” (Letter 56 to Furia)
“If you take precautions against biliousness, the phlegm increases. If you dry up the humours too quickly, the blood becomes heated and vitiated with bile, and a sallow hue spreads over the countenance. Without question, however much we may exercise all the care of the physician, and regulate our diet, and be free from indigestion and whatever fosters disease, the causes of which are in some cases hidden from us and known to God alone, we shiver with cold, or burn with fever, or howl with colic, and implore the help of the true physician, our Saviour, and say with the Apostles, Master, save us, we perish” (Against the Pelagians, Book 3:11)
St. Augustine: “Your conscience had gathered up evil humours, with boil it had swollen, it was torturing you, it suffered you not to rest: the Physician applies the fomentations of words, and sometimes He lances it, He applies the surgeon’s knife by the chastisement of tribulation: do thou acknowledge the Physician’s hand, confess thou, let every evil humour go forth and flow away in confession: now exult, now rejoice, that which remains will be easy to be made whole…” (Exposition on Psalm 67)
“here is a something for us to see; what prevents us so that we see it not? Is it not iniquity? From beholding this light your eye is prevented perhaps by some humour penetrating into it; perhaps by smoke, or dust, or by something else that has been thrown into it: and you have not been able to raise your wounded eye to contemplate this light of day” (Exposition on Psalm 40).
“We have a somewhat parallel instance in the fact that we do not perceive how it is that superfluity of bile impels us to more frequent outbursts of passionate feeling; and yet it does produce this effect, while this superfluity of bile is itself an effect of our yielding to such passionate feelings” (Letter 9:3).
St. Theodoret: “If then you had scientifically learned how to cure the body, and round you stood many men asking you to cure them, and showing their various ailments, such as arise from running at the eyes, injury to the ears, tooth-ache, contraction of the joints, palsy, bile, or phlegm, what would you have done? Tell me; would you have applied the same treatment to all, or to each that which was appropriate?
- — I should certainly have given to each the appropriate remedy.
- — So by applying cold treatment to the hot, and heating the cold, and loosing the strained, and giving tension to the loose, and drying the moist, and moistening the dry, you would have driven out the diseases and restored the health which they had expelled (Dialogue 2).
St. Gregory of Nyssa: “But, as for his intervening argument, if such low scurrility, and such tasteless buffoonery, can be called argument, by which he thinks he impugns our cause, I pass it all over, for I deem it an abominable and ungracious thing to soil our treatise with such pollutions; and I loathe them as men loathe some swollen and noisome ulcer, or turn from the spectacle presented by those whose skin is bloated by excess of humours, and disfigured with tuberous warts. And for a while our argument shall be allowed to expand itself freely, without having to turn to defend itself against men who are ready to scoff at and to tear to pieces everything that is said” (Answer to Eunomius).
“The visual eye, purged from its blinding humour, can clearly discern objects even on the distant sky ; so to the soul by virtue of her innocence there comes the power of taking in that Light; and the real Virginity, the real zeal for chastity, ends in no other goal than this, viz. the power thereby of seeing God” (On Virginity, Chapter 11).
“He, on the contrary, like one beside himself with fury, resists his doctor; he fights and struggles; he regards as a bitter foe one who only put forth his strength to drag him from the abyss of misbelief; and he does not indulge in this foolish anger only before chance hearers now and then; he has raised against himself a literary monument to record this blackness of his bile” (Against Eunomius, Book I:1).
Cassiodorus: “This psalm has offered wonderful instruction on both forms of confession, teaching us both to sing eagerly with jubilation to the Lord, and to lament the wounds of our sins without interruption. Both are necessary in this world, so that the person who is God’s servant should neither despair through melancholy nor become puffed up in mind through prosperity. Just as man’s health depends on the serenity of the humours, so the perfect Christian is he who remains immovably steady amongst the changing affairs of this world. So let us accept with eager mind what has been said. (commentary on Psalm 99 from Cassiodorus: Psalms 51-100, Volume 2; Volume 52)
St. John Chrysostom: “Today, I wish to dwell a little more on this subject. Arouse yourselves, however, and give earnest heed unto us! And that the wonder may appear more clearly, I will draw the lesson concerning these things from our own bodies. This body of ours, so short, and small, consists of four elements; viz. of what is warm, that is, of blood; of what is dry, that is, of yellow bile; of what is moist, that is, of phlegm; of what is cold, that is, of black bile” (Homily 10, On Statues, 4).
“But the marvellous thing is not this only, that He hath made a great and admirable world; and that He hath compacted it in a way above the usual course of nature; but that He hath also constituted it out of opposite things; such as hot and cold, dry and moist, fire and water, earth and air, and that these contrary elements, of which this whole universe consists, though continually at strife one with another, are not consumed of one another. The fire hath not overrun and burnt up all things; the water hath not overflowed and drowned the whole earth. With respect to our bodies, however, these effects really take place; and upon the increase of the bile, fever is generated; and the whole animal frame sustains an injury; and when there is a superabundance of phlegm, many diseases are produced which destroy the animal.” (9th Homily Against Statues)
“For it is a habit with physicians to destroy the originating cause of the malady before they remove the malady itself. Often for example when the eyes are distressed by some evil humour and corrupt discharge, the physician, abandoning any treatment of the disordered vision, turns his attention to the head, where the root and origin of the infirmity is” (Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof).
St. Athanasius: “A certain virgin from Busiris, in the region of Tripolis, had a very terrible and loathsome complaint, for the humours falling from her eyes and nose and ears became instantly worms, and her body was paralytic, and her eyes contorted. Her parents, hearing of the monks who went to Antony, believing in the Lord who had healed the woman with the issue of blood, besought the monks to let them accompany them with their daughter” (Life of St. Anthony, cited in The Monastic Life From the Fathers of the Desert to Charlemagne, p. 33).
St. Athanasius: “Such were the former Jews, who rejected the Lord, and the present Manichees who blaspheme the Law ; yet are not the Scriptures the cause to them, but their own evil humours” (De Synodis, Part 3, 33).
St. Gregory Naziazen: “I know not whether to praise more highly the grace which called him, or his own purpose. However, he so purged the eye of his mind from the humours which obscured it, and ran towards the truth with such speed that he endured the loss of his mother and his property for a while, for the sake of his heavenly Father and the true inheritance: and submitted more readily to this dishonour, than others to the greatest honours, and, most wonderful as this is, I wonder at it but little” (Oration 18).
St. Ambrose: “But if the wise men of old believed that a crop of armed men sprang up in the district of Thebes from the sowing of the hydra’s teeth, whereas it is certainly established that seeds of one kind cannot be changed into another kind of plant, nor bring forth produce differing from its own seeds, so that men should spring from serpents and flesh from teeth; how much more, indeed, is it to be believed that whatever has been sown rises again in its own nature, and that crops do not differ from their seed, that soft things do not spring from hard, nor hard from soft, nor is poison changed into blood; but that flesh is restored from flesh, bone from bone, blood from blood, the humours of the body from humours. Can ye then, ye heathen, who are able to assert a change, deny a restoration of the nature? Can you refuse to believe the oracles of God, the Gospel, and the prophets, who believe empty fables?” (On the Death of Satyrus, Book II).
St. John Cassian: “since He had of His own free gift conferred that purity of spirit which is a still greater thing, and which cannot be acquired by human efforts and exertions. And when with unceasing supplications and tears he was applying himself unweariedly to the petition he had commenced, there came to him an angel in a vision by night, and seemed to open his belly, and to remove from his bowels a sort of fiery fleshly humour, and to cast it away” (Conference 7).
Anthimus of Byzantium: “Being Byzantine and a classical physical, he subscribed to the Greek theory of the four humours governing health (see Dietetics section of “Food in Ancient Greece” page.) Thus, he counselled ginger a great deal, because despite its heat, it had moisture (in the “Dietetics” world view.)” (http://www.cooksinfo.com/anthimus)
Nemesius Of Emesa: “Every body is a mingling together of the four elements, and was evolved from them. Immediately, however, the bodies of living creatures which have blood consist of the four humours, blood, phlegm, choler, and black bile.” (On the Nature of Man)
St. Gregory the Great: “But the blear-eyed is he whose native wit flashes out for cognition of the truth, and yet carnal works obscure it. For in the blear-eyed the pupils are sound; but the eyelids, weakened by defluxion of humours, become gross; and even the brightness of the pupils is impaired, because they are worn continually by the flux upon them. The blear-eyed, then, is one whose sense nature has made keen, but whom a depraved habit of life confuses. To him it is well said through the angel, Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see (Apoc. iii. 18).” (Pastoral Rule I, Chapter 11)
St. Gregory the Great: “But in this same illusion discrimination is very necessary, since it ought to be nicely considered from what cause it occurs to the mind of the sleeper. For sometimes it happens from surfeit, sometimes from superfluity or infirmity of nature, sometimes from cogitation. And indeed when it has come to pass from superfluity or infirmity of nature, it is by no means to be viewed with alarm, since the mind is to be commiserated as having endured it unwittingly rather than as having done it. But when the appetite of gluttony in taking food is carried beyond measure, and consequently the receptacles of the humours are loaded, the mind has therefore some guilt, yet not to the extent of prohibition from receiving the sacred mystery, or celebrating the solemnities of mass, when perchance a festival day demands it, or necessity itself requires the mystery to be exhibited by reason of there being no other priest in the place” (Book XI, Letter 64).
“And the sweetness of honey is added to the bitter cup of medicine, lest the bitterness which is to be of profit for health be felt harsh in the act of tasting; but, while the taste is deceived by sweetness, the deadly humour is expelled by bitterness” (Pastoral Rule, Book III, Chapter 17).
Venerable Bede: “Bede himself in two of his works dealt directly with medical matters. A part of ch. 30 (‘De aequinoctiis et solstitiis’) of his De temporum ratione is concerned with the physical and physiological fours, the relation between the four winds, four seasons and four elements of the physical world and the four ages and four humours of man” (M. L. Cameron, Anglo-Saxon Medicine, p. 28).
St. Isidore of Seville:”Isidore explains meteorological no less than medical phenomena in terms of the four elements: the upper air, like the fire above it, is calm and cloudless; the lower air is cloudy and disturbed from association with the element water. Clouds are composed of condensed water which may further condense to form rain. With regard to the seasons of the year, spring is hot and moist; summer hot and dry; autumn dry and cold; winter cold and moist. The points of the compass are related to the seasons and to the elements, the winds to the elements and through them, to the four humors of the body and their varying domination not only at different ages of life but at different seasons of the year. This explains, in part, ancient medical concern with the influence of winds, geographic location and seasons on the human body” (W. D. Sharpe, Isidore of Seville: The Medical Writings, p. 24).
St. Basil the Great: “Captivity is one thing, battle is another. Captivity signifies a violent abduction, while battle indicates a contest between equally matched adversaries. For precisely this reason the Apostle says that the devil attacks with fiery arrows those who carry Christ in their souls. For someone who is not at close grips with his enemy uses arrows against him, attacking him from a distance. In the same way, when, because of the presence of grace, Satan can lurk no longer in the intellect of those pursuing a spiritual way, he lurks in the body and exploits its humours, so that through its proclivities he may seduce the soul. We should therefore weaken the body to some extent, so that the intellect does not slide down the smooth path of sensual pleasure because of the body’s humours. We should believe the Apostle when he says that the intellect of those pursuing the spiritual way is energized by divine light, and therefore obeys and rejoices in the law of God (cf. Rom. 7:22). But the flesh, because of its proclivities, readily admits evil spirits, and so is sometimes enticed into serving their wickedness.” (Address to Young Men on the Right use of Greek Literature)
St. John Damascene: “Further, body is that which has three dimensions, that is to say, it has length and breadth and depth, or thickness. And every body is composed of the four elements; the bodies of living creatures, moreover, are composed of the four humours.
Now there are, it should be known, four elements: earth which is dry and cold: water which is cold and wet: air which is wet and warm: fire which is warm and dry. In like manner there are also four humours, analogous to the four elements: black bile, which bears an analogy to earth, for it is dry and cold: phlegm, analogous to water, for it is cold and wet: blood, analogous to air, for it is wet and warm: yellow bile, the analogue to fire, for it is warm and dry. Now, fruits are composed of the elements, and the humours are composed of the fruits, and the bodies of living creatures consist of the humours and dissolve back into them. For every thing that is compound dissolves back into its elements” (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chapter 12).
St. Gregory of Sinai: “Man is created incorruptible, without bodily humours, and thus he will be when resurrected. Yet he is not created either immutable or mutable, since he possesses the power to choose at will whether to be subject to change or not. But the will cannot confer total immutability of nature upon him. Such immutability is bestowed only when he has attained the state of changeless deification” (On Commandments and Doctrines 8.)
St. Maximus the Confessor: This saint is said to say in his Ambiguum 10 the same as St. Gregory of Sinai in the quote above. I have not yet had the occasion to obtain this work. If somebody beats me to it, please let me know.
Fourth Lateran Council (ecumenical): “The number four agrees well with the prohibition concerning bodily union about which the Apostle says, that the husband does not rule over his body, but the wife does; and the wife does not rule over her body, but the husband does; for there are four humors in the body, which is composed of the four elements. ” (§50. On the Restriction of Prohibitions to Matrimony)
St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “”A good understanding to all that do it,” i.e., to all who have the good will to guide themselves by its prescriptions. As for the others, let them attend to the words of St. James, ” To him who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin.” To express the same truth metaphorically, to him who takes food and does not digest it, to him it is harmful. For food which is badly prepared or ill-digested generates noxious humours and thus injures instead of promoting bodily health. In just the same way, extensive knowledge stored up in the memory — which is, as it were, the stomach of the soul — unless it has been cooked over the fire of charity and so distributed and disposed amongst our spiritual members — which are our habits and our acts — so that the soul herself derives a goodness, as our lives and morals testify, from the goodness of the things she knows — unless this be the case, our knowledge shall be imputed to us as sin, and shall be likened to the undigested meat which gives rise to bad and unwholesome humours. Or does it not seem to you that sin is an unwholesome humour ? Are not loose morals unwholesome humours? Does not such a one, viz., ” he who knoweth to do good and doth it not,” sutler in his conscience the torments and inflammations of spiritual indigestion? And does he not hear within himself the doom of death and damnation as often as he calls to mind those words spoken by Christ, ” The servant who knew the will of his Lord, and did not according to His will, =shall be punished with many stripes.” (The Acquisition of Knowledge)
St. Albert the Great: “In De Animalibus Albert defines ‘humour’ as the substance from which nutriment is transformed in the digestion of the liver (these humours are blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm” (Medicine and Natural Philosophy in Albert the Great, p. 283).
St. Thomas Aquinas: “Reply to Objection 2. As Augustine says in the same book: “Perchance by reason of the blood some keener critic will press us and say; If the blood was” in the body of Christ when He rose, “why not the rheum?” that is, the phlegm; “why not also the yellow gall?” that is, the gall proper; “and why not the black gall?” that is, the bile, “with which four humors the body is tempered, as medical science bears witness. But whatever anyone may add, let him take heed not to add corruption, lest he corrupt the health and purity of his own faith; because Divine power is equal to taking away such qualities as it wills from the visible and tractable body, while allowing others to remain, so that there be no defilement,” i.e. of corruption, “though the features be there; motion without weariness, the power to eat, without need of food.” (link)
St. Hildegard of Bigen: “Her views were derived from the ancient Greek cosmology of the four elements–fire, air, water, and earth–with their complementary qualities of heat, dryness, moisture, and cold, and the corresponding four humours in the body–choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). Human constitution was based on the preponderance of one or two of the humours. Indeed, we still use words ‘choleric’, ‘sanguine’, ‘phlegmatic’ and ‘melancholy’ to describe personalities. Sickness upset the delicate balance of the humours, and only consuming the right plant or animal which had that quality you were missing, could restore the healthy balance to the body. That is why in giving descriptions of plants, trees, birds, animals, stones, Hildegard is mostly concerned in describing that object’s quality and giving its medicinal use. Thus, ‘Reyan (tansy) is hot and a little damp and is good against all superfluous flowing humours and whoever suffers from catarrh and has a cough, let him eat tansy. It will bind humors so that they do not overflow, and thus will lessen’” (“The Life and Works of Hildegard”).