Friday, August 9, 2013

Of Dung Ages.

Te Deum After Victory - Gustave Dore

C.S Lewis once said that humans tend to have a habit of 'Chronological Snobbery', that is, they tend to view their own age as the best, most enlightened and wonderful age. All those that preceded it were inhabited by uneducated barbarians who tended to rank on the IQ score only a little bit higher than Eggplants.

The period which suffers from the worst abuse is the Medieval Days. With the exception of Christians (especially Catholics who have a penchant for romanticizing those days) it seems to be the widespread opinion of most writers the Medieval Days were as very dark time, full of ignorance and religious hysteria. This sort of thinking came around at the time of the Enlightenment. Since one of the main tenants of Enlightenment was rejecting Religious thought wholesale, what could be a better target for their criticism then the age of apparent blind faith?

Only the fact is it wasn't. People make a make a mistake when they think that people only began to think in the 1700s and that every area between then and pagan Rome was full of barbarous ignorance. Human intelligence has not risen in that time, and just because we have access to more information than your average medieval peasant would doesn't mean that we've actually become any more adept at dealing with our problems.

And this is the problem with a lot of literature, particularly secular literature that attempts to portray the dark ages as a time of unbridled superstition and ignorance. Humans were no less skeptical, intelligent and curious back in those times, then they are now. If anything they were more so, the whole theme of the middle ages was the attempt to recapture the glory of the Roman Empire, and that included intellectual and philosophical means. Thinkers that still influence us today, such as St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Thomas Aquinas and Sir William of Ockham all came around during the medieval period. Intelligence and philosophical depth were not discouraged at that time. Modern attitudes towards science, philosophy and religion were born during this time.

However, the truth of the matter is, it is not the intelligence of the Medieval Times that offends its Modern critics, but its religiosity. The complete devotion to God that was fairly universal during that time is something entirely alien to the modern mind. That's why secular writers tend to portray the medieval times as times of ignorance. But in doing so they only betray their own.

1 comment:

  1. So, what you're saying is that eggplants are secretly brilliant?