There he taught openly but was also given as a private pupil the young Heloise, niece of one of the clergy of the cathedral of Paris, Canon Fulbert. Abelard and Heloise fell in love and had a son whom they called Astralabe. They then married secretly. To escape her uncle’s wrath Heloise withdrew into the convent of Argenteuil outside Paris. Abelard suffered castration at Fulbert’s instigation.
In shame he embraced the monastic life at the royal abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris and made the unwilling Heloise become a nun at Argenteuil. At Saint-Denis Abelard extended his reading in theology and tirelessly criticized the way of life followed by his fellow monks. His reading of the Bible and of the Fathers of the Church led him to make a collection of quotations that seemed to represent inconsistencies of teaching by the Christian Church.
He arranged his findings in a compilation entitled Sic et Non (“Yes and No”); and for it be wrote a preface in which, as a logician and as a keen student of language, he formulated basic rules with which students might reconcile apparent contradictions of meaning and distinguish the various senses in which words had been used over the course of many centuries. He also wrote the first version of his book called Theologia, which was formally condemned as heretical and burned by a council held at Soissons in 1121.
Abelard’s dialectical analysis of the mystery of God and the Trinity was held to be erroneous, and he himself was placed for a while in the abbey of Saint-Medard under house arrest. When he returned to Saint-Denis he applied his Sic et Non methods to the subject of the abbey’s patron saint; he argued that St. Denis of Paris, the martyred apostle of Gaul, was not identical with Denis of Athens (also known as Dionysius the Areopagile), the convert of St. Paul. – (D.E.L)