Friday, January 1, 2010

The Medieval and The Post-Modern

'Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.'

~C.S. Lewis

'Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.'

~C.S. Lewis

Medieval World-View

The medieval man believed that the world was set up in a way that inverted our natural experience. He believed that the universe was a chain or set of graded planes, the top of which was the highest Heaven, in which God dwelt in timeless, undeviating unity.

The second link of the chain was the high angels, gradually grading down in an intricate theology of numbers to the lower angels, who dwelt in the realm of Aether. The Aether was described as the means through which God communicated with the Earth. It consisted of all living intelligence beyond the moon. Rather than being Space, as we term it today, the Aether was a dazzling world of light, filled to overflowing with miraculous planets, stars, and spiritual beings. The medieval man believed the darkness with which we see it was only a shadow cast by the earth in the light of the moon, and that, in reality, outside the shadow, it was a sphere of glorious light. Aether and the high Heaven were at the top of the chain, and the medieval man praised them for their very unchangeable quality, their fixedness.

Below the moon there came Air, through which the Aether communicated with the Earth. The Air, in the medieval mind, was directly influenced by the warfare that went on in the Aether and the highest Heaven. Thus, birth, death, sickness, health, were all contributed to events taking place in the spiritual realm. Therefore doctors would blame sicknesses on what they named 'Influence', which, in the Italian, is 'Influenza.' Thus the beginning of the term.

Below the Air there came the Earth, on which Man, with his supposedly disgusting inconstancy and fickle purpose, dwelt. Man and Earth were distorted mirrors of the Heavenly realm. Thus the medieval man's fetish with creating as much beauty on Earth as possible, in order that he might come closest to the vast glory above the moon; thus the medieval man's staunch belief in the spiritual properties of the stuff of Earth, and his loyalty to magic-lore. For where the Astrology of the planets and the Aether forced upon man a changeless Fate, Magic was developed as a means to cast off the icy clutches of serendipity.

Beneath Man came the Animal world, which the medieval man viewed as a grotesque shadow of himself, through which he could learn spiritual lessons. For example, the ant was a lesson for the sluggard, the rule of the queen bee a lesson for the monarch.

Lower than the Animal was the Plant, filled with life and yet inanimate.

And below the Plant, at the very outskirts of the medieval world-view, lay Hell and the daemonic world, as far away from God as was possible in the intricate planing of the spheres.

Post-Modern Worldview

Interestingly, the post-modern man has a fully different view of the world. In fact, it is inverted. Where the medieval man believed in a world of utter order, absolute truth, the post-modern man believes there is no truth, and that each person's absolute is made up only of his mysterious experiences. Rather than God being at the center of the universe, with the sinful Earth being at the very outskirts of the Heavenly Realm, the post-modern man believes that the sinful world is the center of the universe.

As time goes by, the post-modern worldview becomes more and more obsessed with what to the medieval man was the low rung on the ladder: the Plant. Thus, the Green movement. The post-modern man has intellectually negated the possibility of either a Hell or a Heaven, and, instead, has endowed the realms of Plant, Animal, and Air with a strange, god-like authority which must control the actions of Man.

On the next link of the post-modern chain is Man, which, with the Animal as his god, is seeking to become more and more like an Animal himself. Just as the medieval man sought to become like his Creator, so the post-modern man seeks to become like his supposed predecessor, the Animal. Thus, the post-modern man has negated meaning in the universe. There is no spiritual realm, there is no truth, there is no creativity, there is no intelligence except to prove intelligence non-existent, for the Animal is not in the image of the Divine, the Animal has no reason or emotion, the Animal has no creativity, the Animal has no intelligence. With all divine impartation, with all sub-creational responsibility, with all wisdom gutted, the only thing left for the post-modern man is his gut appetite. His chosen life is one of wandering purposefulness, constant changeableness, the very thing the medieval man detested as a part of the Fallen realm.

Below Man is what the post-modern man terms Space. It is a domain of nothingness. Even the stars, the planets, and the miraculous lights that inhabit the world take a background view to the blackness that was only a shadow hiding glory in the medieval man's mind. The post-modern man believes in no beauty, no glory, no virtue. He believes only in a sadist mentality… the savage instinct for survival.


So, we see that the medieval man, embracing his God-given desire for the Kingdom of the Spirit, did everything he could to minimize his Fallenness by enveloping himself in the realm of Glory. The post-modern man of today, by completing the negation of the Dark Ages begun in the Renaissance, has minimized the spiritual to the utmost degree, in order to more wholly embrace the Animal in the Flesh.


Wesley said...

Interesting juxtaposition. However, there is a bit of incoherency in this superficial exaltation of man. I often think about the myriad misplaced value systems in modern society. Don't get me wrong, I love animals, but I cringe every time I see an animal-abuse, save-the-whales, save-the-planet, etc. commercial on TV with various "stars" earnestly pleading for our help. But those same individuals and many from that particular sub-culture blatantly support legalized infanticide and in fact cheer that dreadful decision. So even though Man is exalted in their worldview, defenseless, unborn life is disdained and viewed as punishment to them. They would rather save and serve nature but also themselves and their deified humanity. It certainly seems inconsistent from a god-less worldview, but ultimately this ill-treatment of life more or less subverts the sanctity of life and the metaphysical significance of our existence, of absolutes, of God. Still, there is no such thing as an atheist. It's only the definition of who God is that changes, much in line with your contention. Great post. I hope you don't me commenting. I know I showed up randomly.

Abby said...

In the second quote by Lewis, you can see his evolutionary leanings... interesting.

It does seem that the point you are trying to make is that of man's perception of his world.

Of course, if one relies only upon his limited judgement to understand the important things in this life. It all depends upon our set of worldview glasses and how we understand and interperate things in this life.

Very interesting article Camille.

Amy Barton said...

Fascinating inversion of values! How strange that they're exactly backwards of each other.

"For where the Astrology of the planets and the Aether forced upon man a changeless Fate, Magic was developed as a means to cast off the icy clutches of serendipity." I love this sentence. In this light, Magic doesn't seem a necessarily "bad" thing. There's always been that idea of "good" and "bad" magic...what do you think of that? Of course, God hates sorcery, etc. But even modern Chemistry originated in alchemy. Hmm....

Anyways, there's also a quote that states, "Postmodernsim is...incredulity toward metanarrative." This agrees with your discussion of the Postmodernists rejecting the Plan of absolute Truth. Interesting business....

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Wesley - Thanks for the comment! I completely agree with you. The current Green trend, compared to the current degradation of human life, is very scary. Reminds me of the Carthaginian society, in their paganistic worship, combined with the child-sacrifice that they revelled in. In fact, I would say our society is making a full-round circle to the world-view that was prominent before Christianity.

Abby - I don't think Lewis was making an evolutionary comment…he certainly wasn't an evolutionist. It's worth looking up, though, whether the quote was made before he became a Christian, or afterwards. I do agree with you, though. Can't wait for your email! Thanks for the comment! I love getting comments :)

Amy - Thanks for the compliment! Who wrote that quote about post-modernism and meta-narrative? Oh, goodness, your observation on magic opens a whole can of worms. That's worthy of a whole chain of long-email-discussions! Thanks for commenting!

Amy Barton said...

Hi Camille! The quote is from a Jean Francois Lyotard. =)

Wesley said...

Also, given recent events and the exposure of systematic fraud, I cringe when I see the term "Green." And, tt would seem that Molech is alive and well today receiving four thousand per day.

A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Hope you had a good New Year's and didn't blow up too much stuff. :-P