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 Dark ages bridge to the renaissance

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Tue 18 Oct 2016, 22:30

I think I did already research on the old BBC messageboard, but it is difficult to search for my posts overthere now. So I will first add my references on the French messageboards to later translate the key items in English...
http://www.empereurperdu.com/tribunehistoire/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=9&sid=a78e723594e525481717c568c2821d9b&start=15
http://passion-histoire.net/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=21164&start=45


As to understand that the grains of the renaissance were already laid in the middle ages, one has to understand first what the renaissance was...and therefore is this article in wiki relevant, but I don't find an equivalent in the English one:
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_%28historiographie%29


An equivalent in English, although I find it too glorifying the renaissance in comparaison with the so called dark ages, can be perhaps this one:
http://history-world.org/renaissance.htm

In my message from 17 August 2009 I said in the thread:
http://passion-histoire.net/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=21164&start=45

"Dans mon paragraphe, et je pense que ça vient pour la plus grande part de Jacques Le Goff: "Les intellectuels au Moyen Âge", je dis:
"Et la Scolastique était pratiqée par des gens qui étaient grandis dans les nouveaux centres urbains, des "intellectuelles" indépendants qui vendaient les connaissances comme des vendeurs de marchandises, mes des marchandises de la connaissance. Et dans des "universités". Et pourtant qu'ils étaient des Catholiques croyants, ils n'avaient pas peur de chercher le comment et le pourquoi. On avait le "qaestio" et à la fin le "determinatio", mais pour comprendre le "qaestio" on avait le "disputatio", qui mène au bout du temps une vie à elle seule""

In my paragraphe, and I think that it comes mostly from Jacques Le Goff: The intellectuals of the Middle Ages, I said:
"And the Scholastic was practisized by people who were grown up in the new urban centres, independent "intellectuals, who sold their knowledge, as sellers of goods, but goods of knowledge. And in the "universities". And although they were catholic believers, tthey had nevertheless no fear (tiens: the French "peur" against the Englsih "fear") to search the how and the why. One had the "qaestio" and on the end the "determinatio", but to understand the "qaestio" one had the "disputatio", which led at the end to lead a life on its own"

Tomorrow I will try to show the trend of pointing to the human as central figurehead of the thinking, foreboding already in the midlle ages the humanism and the renaissance periods.

Kind regards, Paul.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Tue 18 Oct 2016, 22:36

Is the "Dark Ages" really a valid description? I really doubt it.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 07:54

This expression "Dark Ages" has confused me rather. I believe Petrarch is usually credited with the term when he deplored the "lack of Roman literature"  available. I was taught (many years ago) that the loss of classical texts was the reason for the darkness. Yet Latin texts were surely available - but within the Church which controlled what, and by whom, anything was read? However - or so I believe, perhaps wrongly - hardly anyone, even the educated élite, knew Greek. The study of Greek, which had declined (had almost been stamped out, in fact?) as Christianity took hold, was only revived and became fashionable in the 16th century.

So do we have a paradox here: on the one hand, learning and the study of ancient Latin texts survived because of the Church; but the study of Greek and of the great philosophers of that civilisation was ruthlessly repressed - to the point that it almost died out - also because of that same organisation? Was the long period after the collapse of the western Roman Empire "dark" only in the sense that free learning and free thought were not allowed - both were directed and controlled? Or is this too simplistic a statement? Worse, is it quite wrong?

I became further confused yesterday when I read about "saeculum obscurum" - "the Dark Age". But this is something quite different and refers to the rule of corrupt Popes?

Paul wrote:

In my paragraphe, and I think that it comes mostly from Jacques Le Goff: The intellectuals of the Middle Ages, I said:
"And the Scholastic was practisized by people who were grown up in the new urban centres, independent "intellectuals, who sold their knowledge, as sellers of goods, but goods of knowledge. And in the "universities". And although they were catholic believers, tthey had nevertheless no fear (tiens: the French "peur" against the Englsih "fear") to search the how and the why. One had the "qaestio" and on the end the "determinatio", but to understand the "qaestio" one had the "disputatio", which led at the end to lead a life on its own".


I mentioned Ronald G. Witt yesterday evening over on the Art thread: he is an authority on the beginnings of Renaissance humanism. Here is an excellent review of his book.

The Two Latin Cultures and the Foundation of Renaissance Humanism in Medieval Italy
Ronald G. Witt
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012.


The extract (sorry it's long, but it struck me as relevant) seems to echo what you have posted, Paul.

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1485


Witt’s study of ‘medieval Italy’ focuses on the northern and central Italian peninsula, the area of the original Carolingian conquest or regnum; this area developed a distinct urban society, tied to yet separate from transalpine princes and emperors. The ‘two Latin cultures’ of the title refer to what Witt calls, first of all, the ‘traditional book culture’ (p. 3) of grammar study with the aid of ancient authors and, in the second instance, the legal-documentary culture fostered by notaries. If the first culture, that of the traditional book, initially flourished in cathedral schools and monasteries, an arena of clerical otium, the second, that of the legal document, came forth under the urgent deadlines of practical affairs, in the urban sweat-shops of litigation, run primarily by the laity. The first Latin culture prioritized grammar and then dialectic; the second Latin culture emphasized rhetoric, indeed a simplified rhetoric, one sensitive to the demands of the moment. Clergy and laity assumed then, to a large degree, diverse spheres of influence, united by Latinity while devoted to different tasks. What occurred over the course of four centuries, in Witt’s analysis, was a melding of interests and influence, a cross-pollination between grammatical and legal study that created the conditions for Renaissance humanism: in other words, for reviving the reading and writing of classical Latin in response to the ethos of 13th-century northern Italian communes.


In haste.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 08:29

Greek, and the study of texts written in the language by people who spoke it, never abated much among those who (surprise surprise) understood it and used it every day anyway - namely the Byzantine territories and even those which later were being subsumed into Islamic rule. It is true to say that Greek as a second language in what had been Western Roman Europe took a dive, and it is also true to say that the opportunity to study classical texts (in any language) diminished in that area for a very long period commensurate with the "Dark Ages", but then one can immediately see how parochial one is becoming if one then infers that the philosophical concept of "humanism" (to name but one) disappeared from the face of the earth, at least as a relevant concept, during the period too.

I agree that "Dark Ages" (like "Big Bang") is a phrase that when coined was probably regretted almost immediately by those who coined and popularised it, especially so if they could have predicted how misused it would come to be thereafter. If, as Temp has rightly said above, it relates to the paucity of written records (though in one particular geographical area - not the entire "civilised" world as many seemingly assume), then such an assertion should always be followed up with the equally correct assertion that writing and recording did not in fact disappear, even in this geographical area, and that what an historian must do is examine the philological record which actually does exist and not dismiss any such record that does not conform to older Roman protocols as "irrelevant" or even "non-existent" simply because their physical volume has proportionately decreased, or because they require an extra layer of intelligently applied interpolation to understand.

The so-called "Dark Ages" thus reveal themselves not to be a "bridge" to any later period at all, but very much part of the continuous stream of human progress of which they, and the Renaissance, and we in our modern world, all belong.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 10:44

Isn't a large part of the "classical" literature we have now derived from Byzantine (specifically Alexandrian) sources filtered through the Moorish occupation of Spain? Anyway, the earliest known university in Europe - Bologna - was founded in 1088, a couple of centuries after the Islamic university of Fez. I suspect they  must mean there was some underlying continuing tradition of scholarship.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 10:54

Yes. Spain acted as a huge interface for the purpose of accessing archaic literature. But it is generally underestimated also how much cross-Mediterranean traffic persisted throughout the same period and was equally as effective a catalyst. In more recent years a few surprising avenues of such traffic have been investigated and found to be worth further investigation along the vast network of river-based trade routes between Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as those extending into the Balkan territories, and which were to a huge extent secured for a long period by the expanding Norse/Rus.

The bottom line is that continuity rather than re-introduction seems more and more to be the default assumption regarding dissemination of ancient wisdom via texts during the so-called "dark" ages, and that which has been interpreted traditionally as a paucity of texts was actually a paucity of institutions in which to assemble and study them. especially in the highly unstable Italian peninsula.

I'll get on to the Irish monks later ... Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 12:40

Just to clarify what is, upon second reading, a very vague criticism by me above of the "Dark Ages Bridge" theory, I'll present one example of what I mean when I say that I prefer to think of it all as a stream (here come the monks);

Taking the by now much traduced "humanism" meme, and allowing for varying interpretations of what this philosophical concept historically has comprised and that in modern times it has come to mean a very specific ideological principle, but simply taking it as a philosophical expression of a human ability to promote innate reason over intuitive acceptance in approaching and defining the nature of truth, then lets just take a series of snapshots of historical events with this common thread in their background:

The series jumps and starts and probably leaves out much by way of direct causative links etc, but it is still a valid series purely in the sense that each later entry is indebted in some way to the preceding ones, and that at least in some small way this was even recognised by a lot of the participants:

Circa 600-500 BCE: Ionian philosophers such as Thales and Xenophanes question anthropomorphic deity incorporating human characteristics and argue for the notion of transcendental divinity. This is recognised as one of the earliest attempts to separate nature from the divine as concepts which had to be approached and understood using very different criteria.

Circa 300-200 BCE: Epicurus refines the above and proposes "eudaimonia" - the notion that human advance in every respect is down to human endeavour and not directed by deities. His notion becomes universally accepted as reasonable within Hellenic culture (so from here on I’ll refer to Aristotelean, Socratic offshoots etc as “Epicurean”). This is in sharp contrast to Judaean belief which places human advance as subordinate to ultimate human salvation through faith in a deity, not that Epicurus would have cared much about that, but it was to prove a pivotal discrepancy later.

Circa 200-50 BCE: A rapidly expanding Roman hegemony incorporates most of the Hellenic world, absorbing readily along the way most of its philosophical constructs.

Circa 50 BCE-70 CE: A still expanding Roman hegemony brings Romano-Greek and Jewish theologies into close proximity, and in one famous sequence of events, into combination as a new variant of existing monotheistic belief, this time studded throughout with Epicurean, Aristotelean and other philosophical tenets related to the nature of that which is preordained.

Circa 70 CE- circa 400CE: A dichotomy emerges within this blend of theology and philosophy between that which conforms to Epicurean principles and that which does not. As a religion it tends towards treating extreme stances as heretical, but within that which remains the dichotomy is expressed through theological interpretation. Many such theological divisions arise but primarily the dichotomy is expressed by those who retain mostly the Judaean concept of a predetermined result based on divine will (especially in North Africa) and those who embrace the old “humanist” principle of real-world application and the employment of free will to effect improvement of the human condition (especially in the Western Roman fringe states). Proselytisation in Western Europe begins following this latter set of beliefs, the appeal of immediate improvement proving a valuable selling point. The former set of beliefs however continues as the one most dominant in circles of power within the organized followers of this theology now being more and more associated with secular Roman rule. Division between camps also exist in this sector and lead to numerous declarations of further heresies etc, while the others on the fringe meanwhile basically carry on regardless.

Circa 400 CE: Proselytisation of this nature arrives in the British Isles and Ireland. In Britain it is almost immediately stopped in its tracks and reversed as the Roman civic structure collapses. In Ireland it simply still carries on.

Circa 400 CE- 700CE: An originally isolated Irish Christian church has no reason to drop its Epicurean stance (though it is not called this anymore) which includes at its core a notion of real-world “betterment” through exposure to its theology. On the principle that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, the resultant explosion in the Irish-led establishment of satellite outposts throughout Britain and Northern Europe begins, with as equal an emphasis on local improvements in agriculture and education as salvation and a very Epicurean “hands on” approach generally. When this unorganized but effective expansion eventually reaches Italy the very non-Epicurean Roman version at last recognizes the dilemma this version of its theology causes, especially since it has recently divorced itself from the theology’s actual Byzantine traditional base and needs to sort out its own perceived patch in a hurry.

Circa 800CE-1500CE: A compromise is arrived at between the Roman church and the various manifestations of Epicurean philosophy persisting through the wide network of what is now called the Hiberno-Scottish/Anglo-Saxon mission (Whitby exemplifying this reigorous application of compromise in Britain). The group which embodies this compromise best is the existing Benedictine order, so unsurprisingly this group ends up taking over most of these abbeys and monasteries (and in some cases entire cities). What they also take over, crucially, are the libraries and schools, and vestiges of Epicurean philosophy in the form of industry and agricultural networks supporting large dependent populations.

Circa 1500CE-the present: Surprise, surprise – the places where “protestant” dissatisfaction with Roman interpretations of theology arises first, and where it spreads most quickly, is throughout this by now venerable and ancient network of city-states, monasteries and universities. The Benedictine educated Frederick the Wise appoints the Benedictine educated Martin Luther to his new University of Wittenburg established on Benedictine principles.

Without getting into traditional views of “Epicureanism”, a research much handicapped anyway by two thousand years of Roman Christian antipathy to the term and therefore way too much propagandistic drivel to sift through for the purpose of this thread, it is however fitting and somewhat gratifying to note that in 1817, when the University of Halle was being combined with Frederick’s old university and therefore the combined library required re-indexing, that the earliest written reference to Epicurus was found in the Wittenberg collection. The 6th century codex fragment, believed to have been written in Metz (a monastery founded by the Irish Columbanus), can be seen in the National Museum in Berlin. Contrary to official Roman doctrine it tantalizingly mentions Epicurus and Paul as “brothers” (or so it seems – the sentence is incomplete).

But that the fragment had so obviously survived throughout its long Benedictine guardianship, and that this was very unlikely to have been an accidental occurrence, does seem to support the notion that humanism did not actually require a complete rediscovery or even reinvention as if it had somehow disappeared from view in a very ancient past, even within the broadest Christian context. If such had indeed occurred it had happened only in a very particular Italian portion of that hegemony, with a history which might have isolated it from the events as described above along with other such developments which failed to impinge on local intellect, and therefore employing extremely parochial interpretations of "discovery" and "disappear" in any case for much else, not just "humanism". A modern belief in the medieval requirement for a renaissance of the concept therefore would also seem - at minimum - to ignore or at least disregard quite a lot of very un-dark and quite well documented history that pertained to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 13:48

I think you may need to add in the Neoplatonists - particularly the Alexandrian academists of C5th - C6th C.E., feeding through to Avicenna and Maimonides.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:19

Anyone who rejected the "humans are just the gods' play-dough" ethic and set human will as a force apart from the divine (which is just about every notable post-Epicurus philosopher in the Hellenic tradition) comes within my - admittedly broader than is normal - version of Epicurean. Christianity, like just about all the other dominant Abrahamic offshoots, places huge emphasis on a reconciliation between these two very different views on the nature of being human, each arriving at a different place to settle but all therefore implicitly recognising the value of the Epicurean tenet by default. Along the way they relegated the omnipotent pre-determinator which had been the Judaic deity and promoted a version which obligingly accommodated the belief that Epicurus had a valid point. Those who placed stronger value on that point, and especially those who did not await divine approval to recognise it, have been traditionally "humanist" in outlook.

Neoplatonic theology seems to have had as many internal departures from what could be called a  central or common belief as it had disparities with existing faiths of the day. But yes, it also had at its core an implicit acceptance of the Epicurean distinction between a self-willed humanity and one merely steered by supernatural forces, most definitely plumping for the former in its notions of people determining their own fate through their beliefs and actions. Its existence coincided with a crucial stage in early Christian theological formulation, in which it is known to have exerted some influence, so yes, I completely agree it played a crucial role also in ensuring that Epicurean humanism (amongst other Greek philosophical concepts) enjoyed a continuity of sorts - and even a rather prominent one - through the period and beyond, in fact affecting a much larger volume of people than we reckon ever actually subscribed to it.


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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:21

Wasn't Martin Luther Augustinian-trained?


@nordmann wrote:

Circa 300-200 BCE: Epicurus refines the above and proposes "eudaimonia" - the notion that human advance in every respect is down to human endeavour and not directed by deities. His notion becomes universally accepted as reasonable within Hellenic culture (so from here on I’ll refer to Aristotelean, Socratic offshoots etc as “Epicurean”). This is in sharp contrast to Judaean belief which places human advance as subordinate to ultimate human salvation through faith in a deity, not that Epicurus would have cared much about that, but it was to prove a pivotal discrepancy later.


This explains why Luther disagreed so violently with Erasmus over free-will. No wonder the exasperated Luther declared that Erasmus was an atheist, a lousy theologian and a snake. Reminds me (again) of that favourite comment of mine:

"Erasmus was too good a Protestant to become one; and Luther was too good a Catholic to remain one." The latter had what nordmann likes to call a "religious mind-set"; the former was actually a Greek at heart, but was too sensible to put his neck on the line over it all. Although Erasmus's books did end up on the forbidden list, I believe, but the Inquisition never got him. There's such an irony in all this. Wise old bird was Erasmus.

But I'm getting ahead of things.

EDIT: Crossed posts.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:30

I understood he received his education at Bruder fuer Gemeinsamen Leben in Magdeburg, a school attached to the local Benedictine monastery, and later in the original University of Erfurt (located rather tellingly on Benediksplatz). It was in the latter as a theology student that he adopted as his own motto "Ad Fontes" (back to the source), the motto of the humanists. Was he sponsored by the Augustinians perhaps? Such was the arrangement for theology students at the time, but I was not aware he needed such sponsorship - he had a dad rich from mining and a very wealthy patron in Frederick.

EDIT: I stand corrected - just checked it out. The monastery attached to the Erfurt university had become Augustinian by Luther's time, so I assume the university was also part of the same outfit (they're all on Benediktsplatz and the monastery church St Benedicts is still there too). It had been Benedictine originally but I don't know when it changed owners.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:43

Well, I'm reading Lyndal Roper's new (2016) biography of Luther (Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet) at the moment (got it from Exeter library last week) and on page 51 she writes:

The monastery at Erfurt played an important part in turning young Luther into the reformer he later became. Why did he choose the Augustinians? The town had many substantial monasteries: there was another Augustine monastery and the Carthusians, Servites, Dominicans and Franciscans all had houses there; with Luther's connection to the Franciscans at Eisenach, that monastic order might have been particularly attractive. However, the 'Black Monastery', as the local observant Augustinian house was known, would have been the intellectual's choice..."

However, as I said above, I'm getting ahead of things. The discussion so far has been hugely interesting, so I will keep quiet for a bit (until we get to the 16th century).
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 19 Oct 2016, 23:06

Nordmann,

"Just to clarify what is, upon second reading, a very vague criticism by me above of the "Dark Ages Bridge" theory, I'll present one example of what I mean when I say that I prefer to think of it all as a stream (here come the monks);"

"I prefer to think of it all as a stream"

It's unbelievable, but that is just the metaphor that I used in one of my messages. The developments in history as a stream, with its meanders and slow broad sections, but also rapids as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, but always a steadely current...

I agree my choice of "dark ages" would be better "middle ages". I used this title to emphasize even more that the dark ages weren't dark at all, exept some short periods before the Merovingians and during the Viking raids.
And yes "bridge" could be better formulated as "evolution", "transition" to...
That said, let us perhaps stick to the title as every one now knows about what we speak.

I will try now to expose that already in the middle ages there was already a centering around the human entity feeded by all kind of pre-renaissances
http://www.empereurperdu.com/tribunehistoire/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=9&sid=a78e723594e525481717c568c2821d9b&start=15


My message from 18 september 2007
Cher Duc,
"la Renaissance? Ou bien au contraire, qu'elle ne soit qu'une simple phase de transition?"
Et bien je pense que oui, comme d'ailleurs le moyen-âge.
Quelques exemples du moyen-âge:
La Scolastique: sur son apogée dans le 13ième siècle elle était une méthode austère, qui appliquait rigoureusement les lois de la raison et stimulait la pensée originale. Ces méthodes devenaient du bien commun et même un Descartes devait beaucoup à ces méthodes. Et la Scolastique était pratiquée par des gens qui sont grandis dans les nouveaux centres urbains, des "intelectuels" indépendants qui vendaient les connaissances comme des vendeur de marchandises, mes des marchandises de la connaissance. Et dans des "universités". Et pourtant qu'ils étaient des Catholiques croyants, ils n'avaient pas peur de chercher le comment et pourquoi. On avait le "quaestio" et à la fin le "determinatio", mais pour comprendre le "quaestio" on avait le "disputatio" qui mène au bout du temps une vie à lui seul.
Les "intellectuels" de Chartres: l'homme était le but et le centre de la "Création". Et comme ça on venait à la science rationelle. L'humanisme était déja in statu nascendi.
Et on a déja une plus grande flux des connaissances Greco-Arabes via les "villes-états" de l'Italie, qui recevaient les réfugiés de Byzance, et la Reconquista de l'Espagne, comme par exemple l'Aragon. Un Petrus Venerabilis laisse le Coran traduire pour mieux combattre les infidéles, mais entretemps on apprend le Greque, l'Arabe et toutes les sciences et philosophies de l'héritage Greco-Romain enrichie par les penseurs arabes. Et même toute cette civilisation musulmane, comme j'ai lu chez
Robert Foissier dans deux chapitres élaborées, n'était elle pas aussi un pas vers la Rennaissance via l'intermédiaire de Byzance et les nouveaux états nés de la Reconquista en Espagne et n'oublions pas aussi la Sicile de Roger II et plus tard des empereurs de la sainte empire romaine?
J'ai lu maintenant pendant deux semaines des ouvrages sur le moyen-âge et je ne vois pas en quoi cette période diffère de toutes les autres de l'histoire de l'humanité dans sa quète de son destin.

Well I think that the middle ages are only a simple phase of transition.
Some examples:
The scholastic: At its apogee in the 13th century it was a rigid method, which applicated rigorously the laws of reason and stimulated original thought. These methods became common good and even a Descartes owns a lot to these methods. And the Scholastic was practisized by people who were grown up in the new urban centres, independent "intellectuals, who sold their knowledge, as sellers of goods, but goods of knowledge. And in the "universities". And although they were catholic believers, they had nevertheless no fear (tiens: the French "peur" against the English "fear") to search the how and the why. One had the "qaestio" and on the end the "determinatio", but to understand the "qaestio" one had the "disputatio", which led at the end to lead a life on its own.
The "intellectuals" of Chartres: The human was the goal and the centre of the "Creation". And in that way one came to the rational science. The Renaissance was already there in statu nascendi.
And one had already a greater flux of the Greco-Arab knowledges via the Italian "city-states", which received refugees from Byzantium.
And one had also the reconquista of Spain, as for exemple Aragon. A Petrus Venerabilis let translate the Coran to better fight the infidels. but at the same time one learned Greek, Arabic and all the sciences and philosophies of the Greco-Roman heritage enriched by the Arab thinkers. And even this whole arab civilisation as I read from Robert Fossier in two elaborated chapters, wasn't that also a road to the Renaissance via the intermediary of Byzantium and the new states born from the reconquista in Spain and don't let us forget the Sicily of Roger II and the emperors of the HRE?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolingian_Renaissance
And don't forget even a Clovis and a Charlemagne were always in contact with Byzantium.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_Chartres
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottonian_Renaissance
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Abelard


Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 09:22

You have made two very important points there, Paul, as far as I can see. Though I would add a little to both just to iterate my own point regarding how we underestimate much about the actual progress of learning (including access to archaic knowledge), as well as we also do about critical thinking as an understood and valued intellectual discipline even in a general religious environment which ostensibly discouraged it, and of course therefore just how bright the "dark" ages actually were.

Firstly I wouldn't conflate "Dark Ages" with "Middle Ages" as terms. Though I distrust completely the first term as descriptive of anything real, it most certainly has a chronological inference which places it clearly before the medieval period. In Norway the standard academic term is "post-Roman" (which itself is problematic) which then becomes "early medieval" at a later date, though at slightly different dates depending on the area under discussion. However having said that, I completely agree with the avenues you describe by which archaic texts and knowledge filtered into Europe, and furthermore they even help to illustrate how and why Italy, in many ways, was one of the last regions to find itself fully engulfed in the stream once more (good metaphor, isn't it?) after having temporarily been in something of a side-water for various reasons and for several centuries.

The second point that needs expanding is your reference to the "scholastica" and its apogee, you say, in the 13th century. Well yes, if you restrict yourself to an Italian perception as perceived by Italian contemporaries and whose well recorded history of Italian developments in this field represent a very valuable source when we now trace the progress of learning at that time. But where did the "scholastica" come from? Again one is plunged straight back into the so-called "Dark Ages", but again with a remarkably large amount of historical data for an era we are led to believe is typified by absence of same. Also, what the data reveals is a very lively, informed, active and relevant system of intellectual rigour and inquiry in which the so-called "lost" knowledge from classical times is not only apparently accessible, but is being as analysed, memorised, evaluated, assessed and incorporated into new departures of critical thinking, philosophy and theology as it is today (probably even more so).

One catalyst we know about is John Scotus Eriugena, whose success after being adopted under Carolingian patronage in ensuring scholasticism followed patterns and standards was so spectacular that he became something of a phenomenon in his own right even in his lifetime. Scotus, as the name suggested, was firmly "Irish", and in the 9th century that meant much more than simply being from that island. It meant being from a monastic tradition which had over three hundred years spread a methodology and organisation over a huge area of Northern Europe (and for many areas how they had in fact become Christian at all). It had also retained within it a very non-Roman Church attitude towards how information is assembled, analysed and disseminated. The Irish monasteries (and those founded under their influence and initiative) are renowned for the aesthetic quality of the literature their scribes produced, but should be equally renowned for the sheer scope of subject matter they deemed worthy of inclusion in such an expensive and labour-intensive exercise. Gospels abound, of course, but so do histories (ecclesiastical and secular), contemporary sermons, philosophical treatises (including reference to the so-called "lost" sources), and even pagan myths. This was the academic background of Eriugena, and this with Charlemagne's support briefly became a glorious standard instituted across Europe. Though not in Italy, it must be noted, where a contemporary network of monastic schools, largely Franciscan, laboured within strictures imposed by Rome and were situated anyway in still volatile political states that Carolingian association and influence never succeeded in taming at the time.

So when talking about an "apogee" in scholasticism, I would humbly submit that one should be cautious before accepting the Italian definition. The Renaissance indeed saw such a flowering (ironically kick-started by yet another Scotus from "the insulaæ" - John Duns, a Francisan and therefore well placed to influence the Italian schools), and this renewed scholastic vigour also saw a resurgence in appreciation of and access to ancient wisdom, but this intellectual revolution had long been foreshadowed by events further north, and had been furthermore for many centuries, some of which times the Italians might have referred to as "dark", that however being a description those actually living in that milieu and time so dismissed by later Italian "scholars" would never have believed could ever have been ascribed to them, I imagine.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 10:19

If you can, listen to or download the podcast of, today's "In our time" from BBC R4. Subject - "The C12th Renaissance".
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 15:47

Where did all this leave the common man? The members of the academic and religious élite in the 12th and 13th centuries were obviously having a great time (as these élites always do) arguing and discussing amongst themselves, but did any of their studies, arguments and debates filter down to the lower orders - before the Reformation, that is? I don't know if the following quotation is relevant (I'm a bit mystified by much of the above, if I'm honest), but, having listened to the In Our Time programme, I note that all this early Renaissance business was very much an urban development: were the inhabitants of the rural backwaters left in utter ignorance - in the Dark - apart from a few isolated monasteries and the lucky few (males) who got some sort of an education therein?

I've got an awful feeling this is a stupid question, but what the heck: if we can't ask questions, even stupid ones, we all might as well switch off our computers and watch Escape to the Country.

@nordmann wrote:

Circa 400 CE- 700CE: An originally isolated Irish Christian church has no reason to drop its Epicurean stance (though it is not called this anymore) which includes at its core a notion of real-world “betterment” through exposure to its theology. On the principle that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, the resultant explosion in the Irish-led establishment of satellite outposts throughout Britain and Northern Europe begins, with as equal an emphasis on local improvements in agriculture and education as salvation and a very Epicurean “hands on” approach generally. When this unorganized but effective expansion eventually reaches Italy the very non-Epicurean Roman version at last recognizes the dilemma this version of its theology causes, especially since it has recently divorced itself from the theology’s actual Byzantine traditional base and needs to sort out its own perceived patch in a hurry.

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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 18:55

It's not a stupid question to me, though I'm struggling to find a common definition for the "common people" that works from the 4th to the 16th century. And also I would imagine even at any one time it very much depended on where these people were. There was not much use being all enlightened and up to speed with organised agricultural labour, communal tariffs, setting local rates and taxes, and currency control mechanisms (all just some of the ideas sponsored, encouraged, taught about and administered from the monasteries run in the "old" style) if one also found oneself in the path of marauding Huns, Alans, Avars, Mongols or the like, nor caught up in one of the thousands of small scale wars that erupted throughout that period. However one thing you will notice from the geography aspect to monastery distribution is just how uncannily likely they were to be situated in districts which escaped the worst ravages of these events. Though of course that also was probably no coincidence anyway, political mediation and diplomacy being other skills the same institutions taught and practiced. So the "common people", especially if they were fortunate enough to be physically close to and intellectually integrated with one of these institutions, probably did better through this association than they ever would have managed without them.

None of the above of course counts as "academic" (a word anyway whose modern meaning we owe to the Italians and how they organised their own belated reintroduction to systemic intellectual pursuit as a viable exercise), but it counted very much - I would say - as intelligence, both in the common and the military senses of the word, for those lucky enough to be in a position to employ it.

The philosophical studies part of all this also existed, almost as an adjunct I would say. But it did exist, and did so because it also enjoyed the benefit of the stability and educational environment provided by the presence of these institutions. And we know that what was on offer for discussion and analysis far exceeded that which has been commonly assumed.

And just to demonstrate how diverse and effective these non-aligned (to Rome) monasteries were, there was also a very important third group, operating mostly in what had been southern Gaul, which developed, like the Irish version, relatively independently and uninterruptedly through the centuries immediately following the initial collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Chief amongst these was Lérins, which spawned many subsidiaries and several bishops, the most important of which turned out to be the monastery, abbots and bishops of Arles, which of course then became the Carolingian seat of power. Charles the Bald, by bringing John Scotus Eriugena in to this environment was effectively marrying these vast unaligned groups and collecting them under his wing. Lérins, like the Hiberno-Scottish versions, was also renowned for its learning. Inserting them, Eriugena, and all northern European monasteries which wanted "in" (we know of none which opted "out") into one giant network of what were essentially educational establishments by the standards of their day was the 9th century equivalent of an intellectual Renaissance, by anyone's reckoning.

And we know that the Roman church viewed these developments with absolute dread, the encyclicals and bulls are on the record. One wasn't to see the same panicked directives to put down the books again until the time of the Renaissance we're all led by Italians to believe was the "first" one.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 21:13

Temp, I found this good (if long) summary of Eriugena's philosophy/theology which just about sums up my earlier point regarding the Epicurean trend fostered and continued by the Irish monastic tradition, which he exemplified and which Rome disapproved of in spades. Interestingly the author earlier acknowledges Eriugena's mastery of Greek (learnt in Ireland) and in the piece below his Neoplatonic understanding of humanity, its relation with God, and the importance over all this of a sense of "natura", a concept that later would translate into a recognition of the "laws of nature", a huge focus of the Enlightenment era too.

Overall, Eriugena develops a Neoplatonic cosmology according to which the infinite, transcendent and ‘unknown’ God, who is beyond being and non-being, through a process of self-articulation, procession, or ‘self-creation’, proceeds from his divine ‘darkness’ or ‘non-being’ into the light of being, speaking the Word who is understood as Christ, and at the same timeless moment bringing forth the Primary Causes of all creation. These causes in turn proceed into their Created Effects and as such are creatures entirely dependent on, and will ultimately return to, their sources, which are the Causes or Ideas in God. These Causes, considered as diverse and infinite in themselves, are actually one single principle in the divine One. The whole of reality or nature, then, is involved in a dynamic process of outgoing (exitus) from and return (reditus) to the One. God is the One or the Good or the highest principle, which transcends all, and which therefore may be said to be ‘the non-being that transcends being’. In an original departure from traditional Neoplatonism, in his dialogue Periphyseon, this first and highest cosmic principle is called ‘nature’ (natura) and is said to include both God and creation.

Much more about him on the same site - our old friend the Stanford Philosophy site.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 21:58

Excuses Nordmann and friends...holidays for three days...see you again monday...
Kind regards. Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 20 Oct 2016, 22:04

"Nordmann and friends". Hmmm ....   Smile

Have a good break, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Fri 21 Oct 2016, 07:28

@nordmann wrote:
Temp, I found this good (if long) summary of Eriugena's philosophy/theology which just about sums up my earlier point regarding the Epicurean trend fostered and continued by the Irish monastic tradition, which he exemplified and which Rome disapproved of in spades. Interestingly the author earlier acknowledges Eriugena's mastery of Greek (learnt in Ireland) and in the piece below his Neoplatonic understanding of humanity, its relation with God, and the importance over all this of a sense of "natura", a concept that later would translate into a recognition of the "laws of nature", a huge focus of the Enlightenment era too.

Overall, Eriugena develops a Neoplatonic cosmology according to which the infinite, transcendent and ‘unknown’ God, who is beyond being and non-being, through a process of self-articulation, procession, or ‘self-creation’, proceeds from his divine ‘darkness’ or ‘non-being’ into the light of being, speaking the Word who is understood as Christ, and at the same timeless moment bringing forth the Primary Causes of all creation. These causes in turn proceed into their Created Effects and as such are creatures entirely dependent on, and will ultimately return to, their sources, which are the Causes or Ideas in God. These Causes, considered as diverse and infinite in themselves, are actually one single principle in the divine One. The whole of reality or nature, then, is involved in a dynamic process of outgoing (exitus) from and return (reditus) to the One. God is the One or the Good or the highest principle, which transcends all, and which therefore may be said to be ‘the non-being that transcends being’. In an original departure from traditional Neoplatonism, in his dialogue Periphyseon, this first and highest cosmic principle is called ‘nature’ (natura) and is said to include both God and creation.

Much more about him on the same site - our old friend the Stanford Philosophy site.



Thank you so much for that post and the link, nordmann.

The quote you offer is remarkable: it seems to me to be so modern, yet this man lived on the edge of civilisation, 1200 years ago?

Another question which I fear reveals my essential (and potentially embarrassing) ignorance - but I'll ask it - does the thinking of "the Irishman" anticipate the work of  Giordano Bruno who, if the terrible stories are to be believed, was literally silenced before the Inquisition put him to death? You say "Eriugena's philosophy/theology" -  but is his thinking not the forerunner of modern science, as was Bruno's?

Bruno's overall contribution to the birth of modern science is still controversial. Some scholars follow Frances Yates stressing the importance of Bruno's ideas about the universe being infinite and lacking geocentric structure as a crucial crosspoint between the old and the new. Others see in Bruno's idea of multiple worlds instantiating the infinite possibilities of a pristine, indivisible One, a forerunner of Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.


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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Fri 21 Oct 2016, 08:06

Temp wrote:
The quote you offer is remarkable: it is so modern

You can see why the church in Rome was at panic stations every time the northern European monasteries flexed their intellectual muscle, can't you? (I would suggest you read as much as you can about Whitby and the deal struck there to shut the locals up - it is European church history in a nutshell and happened in your own backyard so you would think historically verifiable information should be easily available - though this is not as evident when one attempts the exercise.)

And yes - substitute proto-universe for God and the laws of physics for Christ in the above summary and you basically have a Laurence Krauss astrophysics lecture - and not only that but a lecture which could only be delivered after discoveries in cosmology that have been made within our own lifetimes. So yes, these guys were scientists and in fact scientists in the absolutely literal sense of the word (adherents to the principle of "scio" = to know). You can see from Eriugena's teachings - and they were teachings, not just idle conjecture -  which were quickly disseminated throughout the extended Carolingian empire as it stood in terms of influence, patronage and protection (ie. all of Europe excepting Italianate states and protectorates), that existing theological doctrine according to him, if it contradicted or impeded the pursuit of a metaphysical hypothesis to its (emphasis on) logical conclusion, especially a pursuit which could be verified or at least analysed and discussed at points along the way using real-world observational behaviour within natural law, should be simply ignored or jettisoned. This is the scientific method. It most definitely wasn't the Roman church method.

All the guys were missing (besides a language which would decrease their dependency on purely metaphysical proposition) was the means to at least partially test their hypotheses, but by amazing coincidence the very machinery by which such tests could be conducted was at that very moment being assembled in the Middle East - as for example when Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī imported Hindu numerals and discovered the huge possibilities this opened for the expression of complex equations, the mathematical mainstay of astrophysical theory, and a revolutionary scientific advance (in that complex hypothesis can be mathematically formulated and expressed) that was immediately disseminated throughout the madrases in the vast territories under Islamic control. These two revolutions in thought, which arose almost exactly simultaneously, came tantalisingly close to meeting at several junctures, but to our immense collective tragedy they didn't. This was one instance where the unofficial cross-semination of thought between the two worlds didn't come to our aid. It wouldn't be until the Enlightenment that this particular conjunction would occur (viz. Newton et al).

But my point is not to say the Irish were great, or even that monks were great, but that (for many reasons to do with intervening church and political history) we have effectively whitewashed from the traditional record the significant progress in critical thinking that pertained throughout a huge period in our European history, almost as much as - if not even more than - we have done with developments within Asian and Middle Eastern progress in the same fields through the same period. When a bunch of Italians rediscovered the thrill of pursuing the same ideals they thought it a "renaissance", and in some ways they were right. But what was being reignited was not actually ancient Greek philosophy or anything even remotely like it. It was a parochial and local move to take up a baton that had in fact never been dropped, just not talked or generally known about where they came from, at least long enough for them to have rather ignorantly or arrogantly presumed it had globally "disappeared" since classical times. A very local view, in other words.

NB: I should add that this apparent ignorance or arrogance inherent in the Italian-centric definition of "renaissance" is immaterial. Once contributions from this new source of intellect to the general progress of critical thinking came on-stream it was welcomed and seized upon by all others who wished to engage in it. And that is exactly how it should be.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Mon 24 Oct 2016, 21:49

Nordmann,

"The second point that needs expanding is your reference to the "scholastica" and its apogee, you say, in the 13th century. Well yes, if you restrict yourself to an Italian perception as perceived by Italian contemporaries and whose well recorded history of Italian developments in this field represent a very valuable source when we now trace the progress of learning at that time. But where did the "scholastica" come from? Again one is plunged straight back into the so-called "Dark Ages", but again with a remarkably large amount of historical data for an era we are led to believe is typified by absence of same. Also, what the data reveals is a very lively, informed, active and relevant system of intellectual rigour and inquiry in which the so-called "lost" knowledge from classical times is not only apparently accessible, but is being as analysed, memorised, evaluated, assessed and incorporated into new departures of critical thinking, philosophy and theology as it is today (probably even more so)."

"if you restrict yourself to an Italian perception"

If I understand you well you point to the Italians, but I would also mention France and especially Paris? And don't come Abelard also in the picture?



Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Mon 24 Oct 2016, 21:54

Yes, but crucially later if they are to be classed as "Renaissance" using traditional terminology - after the first brave Italians (as they were) challenged their church, for them the first and most important barrier to advance that existed. Like any house of cards the rest came down then in quick succession and the effect was largely pan-European.

But don't confuse the Renaissance with reformist thinking, which long predated it. Then you would be completely correct to place French, and indeed several English (as well as German and even Scandinavian) thinkers into the bracket of influential pre-Renaissancists. However for reasons that I have never quite understood they are rarely described as such (even though the chronology is no secret) and instead inferred erroneously to be part of the effect rather than contributary causes of what later happened in Italy.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Tue 25 Oct 2016, 11:27

It was hammered into my youthful head that the Renaissance crystallized the Reformation; that  fresh thought  generates practical expression. In current times, the expanding knowledge of physics is changing the world in all directions (OMG that takes me back to Benefits thread wrangle.) When the thinking stops so does a culture. I'll stop there because I have to think about that .... and get lunch on; any one for creative kale?
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Tue 25 Oct 2016, 17:18

@Priscilla wrote:
It was hammered into my youthful head that the Renaissance crystallized the Reformation; that  fresh thought  generates practical expression.

Ah, the Reformation - at last. As misunderstood a happening (is that the right word?) as the Renaissance perchance?

I've probably been reading too much Hilary Mantel, but to what extent were both the Renaissance, Northern and Italian, and the Reformation triggered by economics? Just how important were the bankers of Antwerp/London/Amsterdam - and Augsburg? Was the Augsburg Confession more to do with the Fuggers than with Luther and Melanchthon? (I hate that man's name - never know how to spell it or pronounce it.) Jakob Fugger was a good Catholic, of course - banker to the Pope and to the Habsburgs - but a generation after him the family was Protestant. His widow became a Protestant a few weeks after his death.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 26 Oct 2016, 10:39

Religious reform, for all its theological implications, is essentially a political procedure wherever and whenever it occurs. It is therefore impossible to divorce the major reformations of the 16th century and later from contemporary political developments of the period, many of which were indeed instigated through realignments and reconfiguration of European economic models, including banking which by the early 16th century had - after several huge political interventions which cumulatively had the effect of transforming it into a very secular industry - begun to assume the pivotal political role it still plays today. It had become impossible for any ruling dynasty to function without recourse to this service, and it had become increasingly necessary that the service be administered from a position of distance from direct political interference. This was, according to Matthias Flacius who wrote a Lutheran ecclesiastic history of the church, simply a logical continuation of a process which had begun with the enforced removal of religious control over the industry, ruthlessly enacted by various European rulers in preceding centuries, and which therefore represented the first huge admission that some things worked better without religious control as represented by the Catholic church - intelligent policy being best formulated when free from consideration for the welfare of a large religious organisation and directed more to welfare of individuals. Flacius saw this as "free thinking" in action, and advised that religious devotion should follow that model too, the soul's welfare benefiting from the same shift in emphasis.

So yes, in many ways - even theologically - banking developments foreshadowed religious ones, at least in the minds of some very influential reformers.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 26 Oct 2016, 22:19

Nordmann,

after reading all the replies from you and Temperance I have to admit that I am a bit out of my depth as for the philosophical implementations.
I wasn't aware of the Epicurist tradition transmitted by the Irish monks. Of course we learned in our national history that it were them who christianized us over here in the Low Countries and Germany...Willibrordus and all those...
An I knew Epicurus from my six years Latin and two years Greek, but you know with philosophers I was not always interested...
But thanks to you did some quick research
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism
goo.gl/Hm8F4G

As for the conclusion that the middle ages were a time of transition between the ancients and the renaissance and that the contact with the Greco-Roman culture was never fully lost, only at certain times a bit faded...also that even from the 11th century,  and if you are right with your Irish links even earlier, there was amid the Christian belief already a centering on the human entity in relation to the religion, we seem all to agree?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Wed 26 Oct 2016, 23:01

There was indeed, but it was a belief not exactly encouraged by Rome, which for obvious reasons wanted to stress the middleman role of its clergy and the importance of sacraments, feast days and the like, all of which it regarded were firmly within its control and viewed by Rome as vital agents of extended authority that it should exert over Christians. The Irish (or Ionian, as it was known in Britain) church however clung tenaciously to the Epicurean principle of free will meaning exactly that, and that this exercise of free will actually compelled one to employ it to beneficial ends, which was interpreted various ways but led to rudimentary but effective stabs at formulating what we would call social policies - education and learning being just some aspects to these.

The Synod of Whitby in 7th century Britain was the first overt move by Rome to curtail this tendency and even Bede, himself a member of an Ionian remnant over a century later, lamented Whitby's effect on subsequent church organisation in his neck of the woods. Presented as a debate concerning the date of Easter, Whitby had been presaged by the expelling of Ionian monks from Ripon Abbey and it being handed over to Roman followers by a sub-king who was probably motivated by the fact that he saw execution of such social policies as a threat to his own authority. Rome had jumped at the chance to exploit this erstwhile ally and it was the same character who summoned everyone to the synod in which Rome's agenda could be deployed. After Whitby Bede noted with sadness the drop off in illuminated manuscripts and books, as well as what he called the "self contemplatory" tendencies which crept into religious observance in institutions like his own. It doesn't take an expert to read into this that what had changed was far more than simply how Easter should be calculated, but that a new ethos discouraging Epicurean tendencies had been successfully instigated through this Roman intervention.

Ironically, Whitby also seems to have kick started a renewed missionary zeal on the part of the Ionian monks, and it is in the next century and a half that history records a virtual explosion of new monastery expansion into Europe. So while Rome had succeeded in making one area conform it had also helped create the same headache for itself in numerous other locations across the continent. Moreover, once these institutions began enjoying effective Carolingian protection and sponsorship it found that simple political maneuvering such as had been sufficient in Northumbria just wasn't enough any more. Its efforts to subjugate these institutions were relentless, but never totally effective, so that by the medieval period Northern Europe was typified by a sort of dual church authority in which Roman theology was dispensed from churches and the old Hiberno-Scottish influences still prevailed in the cloisters. The evidence for this is the association of so many of these monasteries with commercial enterprises - something that has survived right up to today - and which is a legacy of the "hands on" approach to implementing welfare policies, as well as the numerous hospitals also founded by them rather than by the Roman ecclesiastical bodies, but also the reformation itself in which a telling number of these by now ancient institutions produced the personnel who started that ball rolling and who operated often from within the safety of their walls.

Epicurus, who had argued that one should conduct oneself as if the gods are disinterested in you and that you must take responsibility for defining the best way to live a happy and moral life, would have been right at home.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 27 Oct 2016, 09:08

But I'm dragging us back into the Dark Ages again and Temp wants to have a go at the Reformation ... sorry.

The Protestant Reformation, I have read elsewhere, cannot be fully understood until it is placed in the context of historical protest of every conceivable hue. The intellectual capacity to formulate and voice protest on a fundamental, effective and massive scale did not simply arrive in 16th century Europe fully formed and ready for deployment. However it is also a notoriously difficult phenomenon to trace back through time, especially in relation to Christian history, so thoroughly was it expunged from the records kept by the same organisation. Clues however still exist - the Hiberno-Scottish theology being one case in point - as well as in the records relating to institutions which managed to keep Rome at an arm's length generally and had no particular theological axe to grind (probably how they managed it actually). Montpelier, Bologna, Seville, and lesser institutions such as in Mainz and Cambridge (yes it was a lesser one once) all for various reasons came into being through avenues in which Rome could not or would not exert control, and if one digs deep within their libraries one often finds quite surprising nuggets of "protestant" thought long predating either Big "R" event later.

A lovely example of this dangerously Ionian non-conventional theology which survived due to it being rescued and preserved by such an institution in fact is to be found in Cambridge Library. For many its importance is that it is the oldest example in writing of Welsh poetry. For me however the great thing about the Juvencus Manuscript has always been the sheer volume of biographical and topical detail the monks put into this book, which started out as a ninth century copy of a fourth century conversion of the gospels into Virgilian poetry (I ask you!), the scribe being a lad called Nuadu (good old Irish name, actually), but then seems to have become a magnet for all his mates and successors to stick in snippets of everything from scripture quotes to complaints about the weather, with some commentary on the monastery's ongoing problems with the church authorities as well as other gibes directed at the English, and of course at the Vikings who had kidnapped one of them and released him for forty quid. All very intellectually lively and critical, and just the stuff that was sought out and destroyed more often than not - as we believe happened in Ireland after the Norman Conquest and the resultant elevation of Roman ecclesiastic authority in a place they had been itching to get their hands on for centuries. So thorough were they there that we don't even know the name of the Irish version of Thomas Cromwell who audited the monasteries, evicted many monks, and "confiscated" offensive material.

Of course the real significance of the JM in Cambridge is its proof that Juvencus and a respect for his poems had survived five centuries of being officially "heretical" in Roman eyes (associated with Nestorianism), but was still alive and well within the Hiberno-Scottish tradition. That in itself speaks volumes (well, one beautiful volume anyway).

You can see the Juvencus Manuscript here.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 27 Oct 2016, 14:59

Oh, drag us back to the Dark Ages whenever you like - it's all fascinating stuff. Thank you for the excellent link.

Cambridge has always been a trendy place. Plodders go to Oxford. In the early 16th century Cambridge was certainly a hot-bed of heresy: God knows how they got away with it. As early as 1521, the White Horse Tavern, where men like the young Cranmer and others met to discuss the new ideas, was called "Little Germany". Oddly enough, the group included Steven Gardiner who later of course went very conservative indeed. Cambridge was more the place for scientists and mathematicians too which probably explains a lot.

This is only Wiki, but the list of names is interesting:

According to Rosenthal, among those who attended these meetings were the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, the future Bishop of Worcester, Hugh Latimer and the reformers Robert Barnes and Thomas Bilney. The group was not confined to those associated with the reform movement of the next two decades, however, and also included future conservatives like Stephen Gardiner, the future Bishop of Winchester. Others who met at the tavern included Miles Coverdale, Matthew Parker, William Tyndale, Nicholas Shaxton, John Rogers and John Bale.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 27 Oct 2016, 15:47

Cambridge was founded as a protest - after a bunch of Oxford students took umbrage with the fact that two classmates had been executed for the murder of a local woman and the ecclesiastical authorities - who were more concerned with conducting a spat with King John - failed to intervene as was their right in the colleges there (in ecclesiastic court the lads would have been acquitted). In the royal equivalent the lads didn't even get a trial - and were arraigned, sentenced and executed within a few short hours, the magistrate obviously under orders to get the job done before the local bishop changed his mind, John knowing that it was them who would be most embarrassed. The incident nearly finished Oxford at the time with so many scholars defecting elsewhere, and the church poured the modern equivalent of billions into getting it up and running again afterwards. They knew they'd screwed up big time.

One thing you'll notice and it's very telling in itself - if you examine the catalogues of the great libraries in Oxford and Cambridge and check out the stuff that originated in monasteries, Oxford libraries always know exactly who gave them their manuscripts, right back to the libraries' foundation. Cambridge, which has a far superior collection of Hiberno-Scottish literature and its ilk, rarely knows where they got the older stuff from. It's the difference between a concerted effort to build up a collection of approved and official theological texts and what amounted to one gigantic rescue effort of all the "other" stuff.

The lads in The White Horse, whatever happened to them later in life, cut their theological teeth on incendiary stuff. In these affairs I tend to go all James Burke and challenge anyone to fail to see the thread running through these events.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Thu 27 Oct 2016, 16:44

James Burke's 'Connections' ... now that takes me back a bit, somewhere around 1975 at a guess.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Fri 28 Oct 2016, 11:52

While we're digressing ... Temp, I found this in the Cambridge Online Library while sussing out the other stuff. They know exactly who they got this one from - George I, no less. However tracing backwards from him gets them only as far as a lad called Jean-Baptiste Hautin in the early 17th century. Hautin was just a collector of antiquities and books, no intellect of note, so his involvement adds nothing to the argument whatsoever.

However I bring it to people's attention not to make any specific point regarding the subject - sorry, Paul - but simply to invite people to join me in admiring the craftsmanship. They reckon it came either from Wearmouth or maybe even Jarrow itself within a generation of Bede having written the original. Now that's impressive!



The entire book can be scrolled through (I recommend full-screen) here.


EDIT: I should have read the fine print in the metadata! Not only do they know the pre-Hautin bit but it fits in beautifully with the Ionian brain-drain post-Whitby proposition I'd made earlier. Le Mans was yet another originally Columbine institution, and a big player in the Carolingian network in which Eriugena et al could operate without fear of being burnt at a Roman stake. This from the Library entry:

Provenance:
Created after 734 and probably in or shortly after 737, in Northumbria, possibly at the twin monastery of Wearmouth Jarrow. It was taken to Francia before 800, and has close scribal links to manuscripts from the court school of Charlemagne.

From there, at some point the manuscript found its way to St Julien's cathedral in Le Mans, and remained there until the seventeenth century. It seems then to have passed into the possession of the celebrated bibliophile Jean-Baptiste Hautin (approximately 1580-1640).
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Fri 28 Oct 2016, 21:53

@nordmann wrote:
There was indeed, but it was a belief not exactly encouraged by Rome, which for obvious reasons wanted to stress the middleman role of its clergy and the importance of sacraments, feast days and the like, all of which it regarded were firmly within its control and viewed by Rome as vital agents of extended authority that it should exert over Christians. The Irish (or Ionian, as it was known in Britain) church however clung tenaciously to the Epicurean principle of free will meaning exactly that, and that this exercise of free will actually compelled one to employ it to beneficial ends, which was interpreted various ways but led to rudimentary but effective stabs at formulating what we would call social policies - education and learning being just some aspects to these.

The Synod of Whitby in 7th century Britain was the first overt move by Rome to curtail this tendency and even Bede, himself a member of an Ionian remnant over a century later, lamented Whitby's effect on subsequent church organisation in his neck of the woods. Presented as a debate concerning the date of Easter, Whitby had been presaged by the expelling of Ionian monks from Ripon Abbey and it being handed over to Roman followers by a sub-king who was probably motivated by the fact that he saw execution of such social policies as a threat to his own authority. Rome had jumped at the chance to exploit this erstwhile ally and it was the same character who summoned everyone to the synod in which Rome's agenda could be deployed. After Whitby Bede noted with sadness the drop off in illuminated manuscripts and books, as well as what he called the "self contemplatory" tendencies which crept into religious observance in institutions like his own. It doesn't take an expert to read into this that what had changed was far more than simply how Easter should be calculated, but that a new ethos discouraging Epicurean tendencies had been successfully instigated through this Roman intervention.

Ironically, Whitby also seems to have kick started a renewed missionary zeal on the part of the Ionian monks, and it is in the next century and a half that history records a virtual explosion of new monastery expansion into Europe. So while Rome had succeeded in making one area conform it had also helped create the same headache for itself in numerous other locations across the continent. Moreover, once these institutions began enjoying effective Carolingian protection and sponsorship it found that simple political maneuvering such as had been sufficient in Northumbria just wasn't enough any more. Its efforts to subjugate these institutions were relentless, but never totally effective, so that by the medieval period Northern Europe was typified by a sort of dual church authority in which Roman theology was dispensed from churches and the old Hiberno-Scottish influences still prevailed in the cloisters. The evidence for this is the association of so many of these monasteries with commercial enterprises - something that has survived right up to today - and which is a legacy of the "hands on" approach to implementing welfare policies, as well as the numerous hospitals also founded by them rather than by the Roman ecclesiastical bodies, but also the reformation itself in which a telling number of these by now ancient institutions produced the personnel who started that ball rolling and who operated often from within the safety of their walls.

Epicurus, who had argued that one should conduct oneself as if the gods are disinterested in you and that you must take responsibility for defining the best way to live a happy and moral life, would have been right at home.


Thank you so much, Nordmann for your elaborated and enlightening respons. I learned a lot from it. And yes up to now I didn't know anything about it.

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Sun 30 Oct 2016, 14:25

Whitby is of huge historical significance, Paul, at least as I see it. It represents the first well recorded instance by a non-Roman source of an attempt from Rome to have its self-appointed role of absolute arbiter of Christian doctrine and interpretation not only recognised but translated into what it planned to be unassailable authority over the European church from that point on. Up to the 8th century these matters had been decided largely through ecunemical councils convened in what we now think of the "eastern" church, but which throughout the four preceding centuries had been "the" church, and also the one with greatest claim to authority through its intimate affiliation with actual authoritarian Roman political rule, then being dispensed from Constantinople. From the first Council of Nicea the diocese of Rome had been a bit-player in these councils, and in fact not even properly represented at all during the first few crucial councils which had basically shaped the canon to which it too was obliged to adhere (at the first Council of Nicea the bishop had been "kept informed" by letter of what was being decided, his presence there being deemed unnecessary by the convenors).

Up to Whitby if there was a consensus among the myriad branches and manifestations of christendom in Europe it was that these councils therefore represented whatever authoritative dictates the Christian church required, that these dictates were by and large concluded with regard to the really important decisions, and that the bishop of Rome had an opinion of some importance, but then so too did anyone "out there" on the cutting edge of a still expanding concept. The evidence of this is in the names of the European leading lights of the church in these formative years of Christian establishment on the continent that have been handed down to us, a few of whom are also bishops, many more of whom are what we would now call abbots, some of whom had no official role in any hierarchy, and none of whom deferred automatically to Rome for instruction or administrative permission for doing what they were doing.

Whitby put the marker down for what was to come in what was left of the Western Roman Empire and contingent territories thereafter. Rome got its way on the day, and in doing so could (and did) claim this as a justification for pursuing its policy of expanding that perception of its right to do so among all of western christendom. But in doing so it also made itself into a focus of opposition and dissent among those who had originally supposed christendom to have quite a different meaning, structure, direction and supposed future, and one could argue with some justification that in doing so, and in never quite subduing that feeling of dissent afterwards as the thrust of expansion continued very much in the hands of those disaffected by its authoritarian stance, actually created at that point the seeds of what would later manifest itself as "the Reformation" down the line. Whitby can be seen as a watershed moment after which the road to reformation demands in Europe reaching a crisis can be traced as an historical continuum, and in retrospect almost inevitable.
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PostSubject: Re: Dark ages bridge to the renaissance   Sun 30 Oct 2016, 19:15

Thank you very much Nordmann for the information about Whitby. I learned from it.

Kind regards, Paul.
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