The Brilliant Ages(Read original post here: http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/11/the-brilliant-ages/ )
The Dark Ages have a bad reputation.
But, in many ways, the feudal system, with one universal Church and many local kings and barons maintaining the folk law, tied to subjects and vassals by personal oaths of loyalty, with neither the slave markets of the ancient world, the theocratic sultanates, ancestor worship, or caste systems of the Near and Far East, nor with the plutocracies, state-syndicates, and socialisms of modern Europe, achieved something unheard-of in the ancient world and forgotten in the modern:
It achieved maturity. It achieved something never achieved before or since: a form of civilization fitted to the human condition, high and low, male and female, spiritual and temporal. It achieved the modern world without the more notorious evils and drawbacks of the modern world.
It took the wreckage of the Roman Empire, while being attacked from the Norse and the Paynims, and managed to throw the Mohammedans out of Spain. Meanwhile, in the East, the Byzantines has a centralized empire more similar to our modern bureaucracy-state, and collapsed before the approach of Islam.
Monarchy is not a perfect system, but it is better than the Imperial form of government where anyone, from the son of the previous emperor to a famous general to a camel driver can be elevated to the purple as the Praetorian Guard elects, and no one else gets a vote.
Meanwhile, from 500 AD to 1500 AD under precisely the type of government at which you sneer, the West abolished slavery, invented science, erected the Common Law (which is the single greatest juridical accomplishment of Man) created perspective in drawing, the Gothic arch and flying buttress in architecture, the horse collar and stirrup, the romance story in art, individualism in psychology, the Magna Charter, the dinner fork, the Julian calendar, the monastic order, parliamentary government, separation of secular and spiritual government, the University system, the code of chivalry, the notion of limited warfare, Christmas carols, the windmill, modern astronomy, the clock, eyeglasses, the bound book, the Copernican model, and the idea that marriages had to be voluntary for both partners. This was while civilization was wrecked and under remorseless attack by more powerful forces from north, south, and east.
And they did this while preserving pagan culture, arts and letters, unlike their neighbors to the south, the Mohammedan, who destroyed what they could lay their hands on of the previous cultures they conquered.
And they did all this without letting the rich and the moneylender run roughshod over the rest of society. The socialist impulse was channeled into constructive use: anyone who wanted to live without property could join a monastery. Any Puritan who wanted to live without luxuries could be a hermit. Anyone eager for productive work could join a guild or move to a chartered city. There were taxes aplenty, but no tax on income.
One might be tempted to think the guild system and the ownership by many small yeoman-farmers of many small shops and farms imposed undue restrictions on the free market. However, the minute regulation of every aspect and element of life, we whose toilet water tanks are regulated, cannot in good conscience mock the sumptuary laws and guild restrictions of the medieval. They were freer than we are. And their gold was gold indeed.
They had more holidays than we have now. People used to sing in public, together. And churchbells pleasing to the ear from high spires pleasing to the eye sent sonorous echoes across the landscape to mark the hours.
No doubt the Progressive reader is aghast at the notion that the Thirteenth Century was more mature than the Twentieth, but I invite the candid reader to use any reasonable metric to measure what is actually suitable for human life.
The Dark Ages society is the only one, ever, that eliminated both forms of superstition, the consultation of oracles and the worship of autocrats as divine, which have afflicted every other human society ever.
Julian the Apostate had a slave girl slaughtered so that her entrails could be read. He was the last (and only) pagan Emperor of Constantinople. But the Romans, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and every other great civilization of the past thought they could divine the future by consulting the stars or the birds. The Socialists thought they could divine the future using the abortive science of Marx economics.
You may not have noticed that the Brahmin claim to spiritual superiority over their servile classes is not unique to India. In fact, it is a universal conceit outside the Christian world: the ancient Egyptians paid divine honors to the Pharoahs, the Japanese and Chinese to their Emperors, as the Romans to theirs. The descendant of Mohammed claim rulership based on the sacred blood in their veins. The corpse of Lenin displayed for the adoration of the public, or the worship of the Glorious Leader in North Vietnam are modern variations on this theme.
Only the Christian kings know that they will be a naked on Judgment Day as the lowest serf, and that our God is no respecter of persons. Royalty and nobility was thought to be a higher rank than common blood in the Middle Ages, but this was not a spiritual superiority. It was not the elitism of a Brahmin or a Leftwing partisan, who thinks he is morally superior to the common ruck whom he despises. It was an elitism of a military hierarchy only: the king, in the earliest days of the Middle Ages, was merely the commander in chief, not the guardian of your conscience. I assume the medieval practice of routine confession of sins prevented the growth of the spiritual elitism of Brahmins or Leftists.
Only in Christendom could a beggar like Francis be honored with sainthood on an equal footing with King Louis. With the end of the Middle Ages, this great principle was smothered in Protestant nations: both Cromwell and the Puritans in Massachusetts said all their followers were saints, everyone was a saint. Their names are forgotten, and no one erects statues to them. By making everyone a saint, whether he meant to or not, Cromwell made sure no one was.
The Twentieth Century was more violent both physically and spiritually. Maturity is the ability to combine conflicting elements either in a man’s heart or in man’s civilization into a rule and a sense of balance where no one mood, no one passion and no one faction runs away with you.
Maturity in a soul means the reason, the appetites and the passions act in harmony, and the more harmony is achieved, the more the maturity. It is the child who cannot control his appetites and passions, and lets a fierce mood or sudden disappointment throw him into childish rage or erupt into childish tears. Maturity in a community means that the spiritual and temporal powers are balanced, the elite and the commoners agree with mutual recrimination or mutual hatred, that the cities and the country cooperate, men and women are settled into roles fit for human life, and so on.
In the modern day, the elite hates the commons and seeks forever to destroy and enslave them, in the name, ironically enough, of freeing them. The elite and intellectuals in the Middle Ages were clerks in the Church, not vicious and deceptive pundits, newspapermen, and empty headed actors burning with a zeal to subvert and suborn middle class values, and destroy their hated enemies, the Bourgeoisie.
The elite were not a different religion from the commons then, but agreed on the basics of the basic vision of a just life. Not every king was a good king, but there was a basic agreement on what a good king should be. Sneer me no sneers about the divine right of kings placing some men above others: that doctrine dates from the Reformation. The legal theory of the Middle Ages was Roman and hence, in the technical sense of the term, republican.
This legal theory, best explicated by Thomas Aquinas, does not promise civic equality to all men, and so is anathema to the modern age. But then again, the legal theory of the Modern Age started with Machiavelli: both sides of the great conflicts of the Twentieth Century, Democrats or Socialists, justified their politics on the basis of it being a necessary evil, an evil that is done that good might come of it.
The idea of a state whose mission is to encourage the virtue of its citizens comes from the days when the clothing and architecture and music likewise was meant to be both useful and beautiful. Nowadays we dress in drab denim, and live in steel boxes. The society that lives for its own pleasures and powers produces ugliness; the society that lives for God, for something greater than itself, produces pleasure and power.
In the Middle Ages, sacred things were actually set aside from the rough and tumble of common life. Any man or woman could retire from the world and join a nunnery or monetary, and be immune from the class requirements of the surrounding society.
Historians mark the reign of Henry VIII as the end of the Middle Ages. Starting with him, nations began to claim the power to redesign and redefine the contents of the Bible, the nature of the Eucharist, the authority of priests, as well as the doctrines and disciplines of the Church. Separation of the spiritual power from the temporal was lost, and sacred and mundane became intermingled to their mutual detriment.
It was the shipwreck of the world’s most glorious civilization, and a continual loss of personal liberty until, far overdue, some medieval notions of the proper rights and duties of man resurfaced in new guises during ironically-named Enlightenment, the Age of Reason which ushered in the Guillotine and the Gulag.
Once the idea of civil power ruling over sacred things became commonplace, Cromwell became possible, perhaps inevitable: what all such Puritanical movements involved is trying to be holier than Christ, and to force common people to adopt one or more disciplines of the Church: Some foreswear alcohol, some foreswear all worldly pleasures, and some foreswear private ownership of property. The Puritans of Cromwell, the Terror of the French revolution, and the appalling mass murders of the Bolsheviks are, each one in its own way, was attempting to impose the Jesuit life a Jesuit imposed on no one but himself onto the general society in no way suited for such special spiritual discipline.
This confusion of the spiritual and temporal power is the source not of one, but of all the political controversies of the Twentieth Century, and the Twenty-First. That confusion was introduced by the end of the Middle Ages, and introduced a civil war into Christendom which eventually led to its self-destruction at the apex of Europe’s greatest splendor, at World War One. Europe died then, and its dispirited but hollowed eyed corpse has continued from that day to this merely by inertia, waiting from some Christ-hating power, either communism in the East or Islam in the South, to roll over the lifeless Europe, and put a stake through it heart.
If Europe rediscovers Christ, she may be born again from the dead. That is what Christ does for those who have faith in his name.
If not, the churchbells will never be heard again. Instead we shall hear the eerie wailing of the Muslim call to prayer.