Were The Dark Ages Really Dark?

“The Dark Ages still reign over all humanity, and the depth and persistence of this domination are only now becoming clear,” says Richard Buckminster Fuller in Cosmography. “This Dark Ages prison has no steel bars, chains, or locks. Instead, it is locked by misorientation and built of misinformation… We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.”

Have you ever considered how History’s name-tagging takes effect in perception? It is generally assumed that Modernity was the fruit of the Enlightenment and that, in turn, the Renaissance was a time of unparalleled progress for humanity. Let’s move further back.

The term ‘dark age’ has been attributed to Petrarch (1304-1374) who described his own time as one of ‘darkness’. He was later followed by the Enlightened Voltaire, Rousseau, Gibbon and, more recently, Bertrand Russell.

Is it truly fair to deem the Middle Ages as ‘dark’? The Western Roman Empire had succumbed to Odin’s ravens. The Spanish Inquisition of the Church was clearly evil. But, is that all the Middle Ages were?

Professor Rodney Stark, a non-Catholic sociologist from UC Berkeley, published a seemingly counterculture book called Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (Templeton Press, 2016), which addresses ten prevalent fallacies about Church history.

“For a long time,” he says, “the dominant opinion has been that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe went through a long millennium of ignorance that has come to be called The Dark Age. The Renaissance was brought about by a weakening of the Church’s control over the great cities of northern Italy.”

This standard vision of the past world, in Stark’s words, is completely false: there are innumerable modern investigations of technological change that show how the Middle Ages “was one of the ages of humanity that stood out for its strong innovative character, in that technology was developed and put at the service of man in a way that no civilization had known before.” And it was during these dark centuries when Europe took the great technological leap forward that put it at the forefront of the world.

Stark is not alone. French medievalist Jean Gimpel demonstrates in his book The Medieval Machine (1976 and 2003) how “the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century has its roots in the Middle Ages, which had already revolutionized the world of work for the renewal of the sources of energy and technological invention.” The tech progress of the Middle Ages allowed a remarkable growth of productivity – which had remained stagnant in the Roman Empire, due to having enough slaves to get the job done – thanks to innovations such as wind and water mills, the rotation of agricultural crops, the plow, the chimney, glass spectacles, stirrups and saddles, firearms, sailing ships armed with cannons.

In addition to completely ignoring the prolific technological changes operated in the Middle Ages, most of the Enlightenment writers also turned their backs on the progress of that time in higher culture: music, architecture, painting, literature, the university.

The exceptional artistic current initiated in Europe in the 11th century was called ‘Romanesque’ even though the works created at that time were completely different from everything the Romans had done. And the ‘Gothic’ style, born in the 12th century, was criticized by some intellectuals during the Enlightenment.

In literature, the work of Gibbon, Voltaire, Cervantes, Machiavelli, was only possible because their respective languages ​​had acquired literary form thanks to medieval giants such as Dante, Chaucer, the anonymous songs of deeds such as the Visigothic El Cantar de Mio Cid in Spain, and the monks who — from the 10th century — were dedicated to writing about the lives of their saints. In education, the university, an institution dedicated exclusively to higher education, was something new. The Benedictine Order rescued, compiled, and even preserved important and even ‘dangerous’ classical texts.

The first universities were created during the 12fth century, and it was there that science was born. From the eminent medievalist, Warren Hollister (1930-1997): “Anyone who believes that the era that witnessed the construction of Chartres Cathedral and the birth of parliament and the university was a Dark Age must be mentally retarded.”

Banking was started by the Templars, and this skill was later transferred to the Italian city-states, where it was perfected, insurance was introduced, double-entry accounting was created, etc. Such institutions — so essential to the next historical step we have been told to call ‘Renaissance’ — would migrate to Germany centuries later.

According to the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Institute, the University of Salamanca was truly the birthplace of Economic Theory. It was first officially taught by Francisco de Vitoria (1485-1546), more than two hundred years before Adam Smith’s The Wealth of the Nations. There could be no neo-Platonic Academia in Firenze without La Divina Commedia, and no King Arthur or Beowulf without troubadours.

If ‘Dark Ages’ is then a ridiculous fairytale, so is the concept of Renaissance and this same evaluation should be applied to the concept of Enlightenment. This takes us to our ostensibly progressive Modern Age as the pinnacle of human achievement. If what we have been taught is someone else’s interpretation of these epochs of human history, are we now in the post-modern Era? How shall we call our time? Who will set the record straight? Will it be fair or unfair?

Knowledge is acquired information. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Values and attitudes change; but to judge human history through incorrect or biased notions make us ideologize past and, with it, the present and future.

Frank Escandell is a fiction writer, researcher, and high tech blogger. He is also a collaborator with several Spanish radio and television programs on technology, society, and culture and the co-author of I Tego Arcana Dei: El Simbolismo Secreto de Rennes-le-Château, a hard study on the origins of the strange symbolism contained in that French church.

The Warrior Versus Modernity’s Cult of Eternal Boyhood

Michel Houellebecq, a controversial (and plain brilliant) French author, about whom the UK’s The Guardian deemed an “aging literary enfant terrible”, wrote in his La Possibilité d’une Île

The physical bodies of young people, the only desirable possession the world has ever produced, were reserved for the exclusive use of the young, and the fate of the old was to work and to suffer. This was the true meaning of solidarity between generations; it was a pure and simple holocaust of each generation in favor of the one that replaced it, a cruel, prolonged holocaust that brought with it no consolation, no comfort, nor any material or emotional compensation.”

Undoubtedly, it seems quite a grim outlook of adult life or just a philosophical entrenchment after Turgenev, things have indeed changed these days.

Jung made use of the mythological term Puer Aeternus from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It’s Latin for ‘Eternal Boy’. In this case, the Boy-Daemon named Iacchus, from the Eleusinian Mysteries, being a minor deity of vegetation and divine youth; it was also Demeter’s Daemon, a naughty boy for copulation. In analytical psychology, the puer element describes adult men whose emotional lives remain at an adolescent stage with too great a dependence on the maternal figure. Remember Tyler Durden in The Fight Club? “Our great war is a spiritual war… Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t.” Precisely, we are the “f@&k-you-Mom” generation.

In our particular case, the focus is on men this time. Women do manage these issues much better than us. Their brain physiology makes them true emotional managers.

There is quite an arrested-development case to be made for most men in Western nations. Specifically, for young men who do not know they have much to contribute to themselves and the rest of us mortals but seem to shy away from their potential, as there was no paternal companionship in human terms to their childhoods, to push them to ‘combat’, to improvement, to “chin-up-chest-out” for themselves. These young men need to feel embraced, protected and many are doing so by then in turn embracing certain ideologies that directly accuse them of ‘patriarchy’ without understanding much about it.

You must be above 60 to remember anything of importance to this issue or being the age of any of the above mentioned young fellas. It was after all the 60s and 70s during which a Zeitgeist turning point or metaphysical mutation occurred. Some of its features were and still are Juvenile-ism, Ever-presentism, the negation of death and individual finiteness. Silicon Valley – accidental provider of many a digital father for these kids – is not an exception, for death must be disrupted. Google-backed Calico or Ray Kurzweil’s Transhuman Singularity are good examples.

Does this disparagement of our species perpetuation fit into the modern warrior credo? How does an often cackled and seemingly tyrannical sense of compassion affect individual autonomy? How come this Peter Pan-like conduct – another representation of the ‘eternal boy’ – has taken roots to reject established standards sine causa and to overvalue everything ‘disruptive’ or transgressive?

Names like Marcuse, Foucault, Derrida, Althusser, and Bourdieu are some to be remembered as the university professors and intellectuals behind France’s May 1968 social movement. Peter Pan remains a faithful soixante-huitard (a 68’s follower) to this day; people who have entered adult life and already seem tired of the responsibilities of living a real life, under the laws of Nature (such as old age), without method, without goals other than creating ‘impact’ or feeling irremediably without purpose. There is no götzen dämmerung for these comfort seekers from Paris’ Quartier Latin or Berkeley’s grasslands (both beautiful places).

Peter Pan still draws from La Sorbonne, now to every major academic institution in the so-called West. He wants to remain static, unnatural, deconstructed and he is not alone. Just as any other meme in history – using the reinterpreted term Dawkins provided the English language with – he wants to live the ‘nowness’, the timelessness, a chandala-sort version of Nirvana. The postmodern archetype of the eternal juvenile seeks new Lost Boys and Darling children. Tinker Bell is thus whispering new sociopolitical strata.

Industriousness, Self-Reliance, Courage, Sense of Duty, Discipline are some universal characteristics of The Way of the Warrior. None of these can ever be used improperly. None of these can ever be called ‘inhuman’. Most important for the sake of this argument, none of these are divorced from Creativity, Art, Science, Solidarity.

Frank Escandell is a fiction writer, researcher, and high tech blogger. He is also a collaborator with several Spanish radio and television programs on technology, society, and culture and the co-author of I Tego Arcana Dei: El Simbolismo Secreto de Rennes-le-Château, a hard study on the origins of the strange symbolism contained in that French church.

For it is a Human Number

“Pythagoras and his followers wrote the precepts of their doctrines in cubical arrangement,” we read in Vitruvius’ De Architectura (Book V, Preface), “the cube containing two hundred and sixteen verses, of which they thought that not more than three should be allotted to any one precept.”

Notably, 216 is the result of 6 raised to the third power. Ever since the ancient Chaldeans, the number 6 represented the act of creation, so it was considered to be the perfect number. Again, among the Platonic Solids described in Timaeus is the Cube, a congruent and regular six-square-face polygon, is representative of “Earth” though with a deeper significance. Continue reading “For it is a Human Number”