Revival of Nature's Authority (1400-1800)
During the Christian era the ultimate authority about everything was not nature but was the Bible. Reclaiming nature as the ultimate authority required a change in culture. This is the story of that change.
University Expansion During Renaissance (1400-1690)
(July 6, 2022) The Renaissance was time when the Pagan past was given a level of respectability after being suppressed and ignored during the earlier medieval era. Pagan themes were seen once again in art but most importantly for the future was the introduction of Latin and Greek philosophy into the universities. These philosophies were not the classical Pagan myths but reflected the even more ancient traditions of the original nature religion.
Universities in Europe grew out of either Roman law schools like the University of Bologna or church schools run by adjacent monasteries like the University of Oxford. These schools or colleges were run much like medieval craft guilds with masters and students.
For example, the law school in the in the Italian city of Bologna was founded in 1088. It's founding was triggered by the discovery nearby of the 50 book Latin compendium of Roman Law called the Digest in 1070. This compendium was ordered by Byzantine emperor Justinian around 530. What turned this law school into a university was the addition of religious subjects taught in church schools. This transformation was finalized when it received a university charter from the Holy Roman emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1158. The name "university is Latin for "universal" as in a universal education. Once one school became a university the stampede was on for all other large schools to do the same. Other subject areas were then added as student interest demanded. After the Black Death of 1350 which shook the legitimacy of the Christian church, interest in all sorts of classical writings picked up.
Top Video: How The Printing Press Revolutionized The World - Aug 25, 2018 • Stephen Fry takes a look inside the story of Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the world's first printing press in the 15th century, and an exploration of how and why the machine was invented.
Printing Press and Paper Making (1450)
(July 6, 2022) Repeated exposure to new facts is what breaks old paradigms. This process was accelerated by the invention of the printing press combined with low cost paper.
Paper making as the random combination of plant fibers into a sheet began in China around 105 CE. The first historical report of this appears in the official history of the Han dynasty written sometime in the 400s CE. It says this:
At the close of the reign of Yeng P'ing (106 CE) Ts'ai Lun was employed at the court and later he was made a member of the Imperial Guard. The emperor Ho Ti upon is accession , learning of Ta'sa Lun's superior qualities and talents, named him a private counselor and he was not spared by his majesty in either praise or criticism. In the ninth year of the reign of Yung Yuan (97 CE) Ta'sai Lun was made inspector of works and through his efforts the engineers and workers by the use of fine materials and skill produced swords and arms that served as models for future generations.
In ancient times writing and inscriptions were generally traced upon pieces of bamboo or upon strips of silk which were given the name chih (paper). But silk being costly and bamboo heavy , these two materials could not be used conveniently. It was Ts'ai Lun who conceived the idea of making paper from the bark of trees, hemp waste, old rags and fish nets. (quoted in Hunter 1947, p52)
Europe did not develop a surplus of old clothes until after 1250 with the adoption of the spinning wheel and horizontal loom. This was also the time when paper started to be produced in Spain and Italy after getting the idea via the Arabs (Hunter 1949). As a comparison, 140 calves had to be killed to provide enough velum for one Bible and that was not cheap.
Sometime during the 1440's Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468) invented the movable-type printing press. Gutenberg was born in Mainz Germany and had attended the University of Mainz for at least a few years so he would have observed the high demand for various written items. Mainz was also at the center of wine making country so he would have also been familiar with the presses which pressed grapes to extract the juice. In his early 30's he traveled down the Rhine river to the prosperous trading city of Strasbourg to find the funding to produce his printing press. During the 1430s he got this funding from some Strasbourg merchants. He did his work in secret hiring a carpenter and goldsmith as needed to help produce the printing machine parts. It would have taken him about a year just to make all the needed letter punches by himself. The ink he probably used was soot mixed into the sun thickened, cold pressed, linseed oil which was also used in paints. His first prints were common high volume items for the church like prayer books and indulgence certificates. This new ability to mass print indulgences was one factor which led to the Reformation. When Guttenberg felt he was ready he went upscale and printed his famous Latin Bibles starting in late 1454. These used both red and black ink and many pages were hand decorated. The paper was some of the finest paper of the age having no imperfections. These were displayed at the Frankfort trade fair in late 1454 to much acclaim.
Hunter, Dard (1947) Papermaking, the History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. Alfred A. Knopf, New York
Impressio Librorum, plate 4 from the Nova Reperta (New Inventions of Modern Times), c. 1580–1605, engraving by Theodoor Galle after a drawing by Jan van der Straet, c. 1550; in the British Museum.
Yet public it became and it ended with both Protestants and Catholics claiming the Bible was the supreme authority but only Protestants defending the right of every person to interpret the Bible for themselves (although if they were "wrong" they should be excluded from society because they threatened the salvation of the true believers). In contrast, Catholics in the council of Trent in 1546 ruled that "no one, relying on his own judgement and distorting of sacred scripture according to his own conceptions shall dare to interpret them." (Sobel p72)
So the Catholic church partly compromised by admitting the authoritative source of knowledge was actually external to itself yet it retained its knowledge monopoly by claiming that only it could accurately discern its secrets.
(image from movie "Luthor")
Church not Only Source of Authority - Protestant Reformation (1520)
(July 6, 2022) The medieval authoritarian paradigm really started to change when the Protestants claimed the Bible and not church doctrine was authoritative and it could not have happened without its amplification by printing press also giving voice to class and nationalist frustrations. The Protestants also claimed that human reason could extract Biblical knowledge. (See the movie Luthor for an emotionally compelling introduction to this time period)
The Reformation was accidentally started by Martin Luthor who only intended to debate the selling of indulgences for the purposes of absolving sin but ended up challenging Papal authority because the Pope had commanded that selling and because the press actively spread his opposition (nothing like controversy to sell papers and books)
In 1515 Pope Leo X put forth a new and more extreme indulgence selling scheme to raise money for the construction of St. Peters Basilica in Rome. These indulgences had greater benefits than ever before applying to almost any sin, including adultery and theft. All other indulgence preaching was prohibited for the eight years this program was active. Special indulgence preachers were even sent out and given strict instructions on how to be most effective.
On October 31, 1517 after nailing the debate theses written in Latin to the church door as was university tradition, Luther sent a letter with these debate points to the Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg, under whose authority the indulgences were being sold. The theses were printed and distributed to interested parties. Yet these were commercial printers and no copyright laws existed so they made extras either because they were hoping to sell them or someone paid for them.
These theses appeared in a four-page pamphlet in Basel and as placards in Leipzig and Nuremburg.. In all, several hundred copies of Luthor's theses were printed in Latin throughout Germany in 1517. Kaspar Nutzel in Nuremberg translated them into German later that year, and copies of this translation were sent to several interested parties across Germany but it was not necessarily printed. (references at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-five_Theses)
Archbishop Albert, on the advice of his advisors at the University of Mainz, decided Luther should be prohibited from preaching against indulgences in accordance with the instructions in the Papal bull sent out by Pope Leo. Albert passed on this request to the authorities in Rome who agreed that Luthor was a threat because he was challenging Papal authority. In February 1518, Pope Leo asked the head of the Luther's religious order, the Augustinian Hermits, to convince him to stop spreading his ideas about indulgences. Just in case Sylvester Mazzolinin was appointed to write an opinion which would and could be used in a trial against him. He wrote "A Dialogue against Martin Luther's Presumptuous Theses concerning the Power of the Pope," which focused on Luther's questioning of the pope's authority rather than his complaints about indulgence preaching. This Papal opposition is what really gained Luthor a following.
Luthor refused to back down and the result was the establishment of anti-Papal Protestantism throughout northern Europe. Yet Protestantism became as dogmatic and intolerant as Catholics. This was for two reasons:
The first reason is that the Bible is often contradictory with the result that Protestants could never come to a common conclusion on the truth it was supposed to contain. This is why so many Protestant denominations exist today. Each ended up picking out certain lines in the Bible to believe while ignoring others.
The second reason is that society was not ready for diversity. Every secular ruler believed that social stability could only be achieved if everyone had the same ideology. This was further supported by both Protestant and Catholic officials who believed errors in belief risked the death of a person's soul. So they were quick to cut out heretics from society like a surgeon cuts out a cancer in order to save others.
Luthor by Eikon Film and NFP Teleart (2003) Movie directed by Eric Till and stars Joseph Fiennes in the title role. (Highly recommended, Rarely does a movie both capture the feelings of the time and be historically accurate.) Online at: https://www.amazon.com/Luther-Joseph-Fiennes/dp/B001EMYRHU
Yet the real proof that the physics of earth extended into the heavens was only seen by those who could understand the astronomical mathematics in Kepler's 650 page book published in 1609 entitled:
New Astronomy, Based upon Causes, or Celestial Physics, Treated by Means of Commentaries on the Motions of the Star Mars, from the Observations of Tycho Brahe, Gent.
Kepler made the claim that planets moved in elliptical orbits subject to physical forces and did not move magically in perfect circles. Additionally he put the sun at one focus of the ellipse. To make this claim he had to replace the classical era Aristotelian physics which placed the earth at the center of the universe where it attracted all physical bodies. Kepler now claimed that all planets and moon had a similar force of gravity similar to the force of magnetism. He said this:
Gravity is a mutual corporeal disposition among kindred bodies to unite or join together; thus the earth attracts a stone much more than the stone seeks the earth. (The magnetic faculty is another example of this sort).... For it follows that if the earth's power of attraction will be much more likely to extend to the moon and far beyond, and accordingly, that nothing that consists to any extent whatever of terrestrial material, carried up on high, ever escapes the grasp of this mighty power of attraction ....
The sphere of the attractive virtue which is in the moon extends as far as the earth, and entices up the waters; but as the moon flies rapidly across the zenith, and the waters cannot follow so quickly, a flow of the ocean is occasioned in the torrid zone towards the westward.
In Chapter 33 Kepler claimed that the Sun somehow moves the planets. He claimed the Sun emitted a physical something, analogous to the light, which pushed the planets along.
Johannes Kepler, New Astronomy, translated by William H. Donahue, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1992.
Enlightenment 1st Phase - Nature Expands into the Heavens (1609 to 1688)
(July 6, 2022) Two discoveries started the expansion of physical nature into heavens which ultimately ended up challenging the authority of the Bible and infallibility of the Catholic church. The most understandable set of discoveries was presented in Galileo's 1610 book where he described what he saw with his telescope. He found that, Jupiter had moons, Venus had phases, and the moon had earthlike geography. This book was entitled the "Sidereus Nuncius" or "Starry Messenger."
Galileo Galilee (1564 - 1642) was a professor of Mathematics at the University of Padua in the Republic of Venice where he specialized in instrument making. This included an irrigation device and an advanced drawing compass/slide-rule.
The importance of his father, Vincenzio, on Galileo's anti-authoritarian views should not be over looked. Vincenzio was a musician and mathematician and part of the group which invented the opera as a musical revival of Greek tragedy. He invented a more refined musical scale for the lute based on the actual harmonies of sound instead of the traditional mathematical Pythagorean ratios. He wrote a book describing and defending this new approach called Dialog of Ancient and Modern Music. In it he states:"they who in proof of any assertion rely simply on the weight of authority, without adducing any argument in support of it, act very absurdly. (page 17 Sobel 2000)
In 1608 or early 1609 Galileo heard about the invention of the telescope in Flanders which had came about because eye glasses had been invented making lenses more common. Because he was an instrument maker and designer he was one of the few who could build it sight unseen and keep on improving its magnification and clarity. His first telescope used standard eye glass lenses but Galileo soon went beyond that with lenses of greater power and clarity.
His first telescope demonstration was in the summer of 1609 for the Venetian military market which gained him a life time appointment as a professor and raised his salary to 1000 florins a year. In the fall he turned an even better telescope towards the heavens and found it was not divinely perfect and ethereal as assumed. He published a book describing these astronomical discoveries in Venice on March 12, 1610. The book caused a sensation. Kepler was delighted because it confirmed his contention that physics extended to the heavens. After this Galileo's native university of Padua also offered him a professorship with terms better than those from Venice so Galileo moved back home.
For Galileo the simplest explanation of his new findings was that the earth had to move around the sun. Yet, as he would be told, this directly contradicted Psalm 104 verse 5:Thou (God) fixed the earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever.
Galileo's answer to this is found in a 1613 letter to a friend who was reporting this growing opposition:The Holy Scripture cannot err and the decrees contained therein are absolutely true and inviolable. I should only have added that, though the Scripture cannot err, its expounders and interpreters are able to err in so many ways. ( Sobel page 63)
He went on to say that many statements about nature were put into the Bible in order to keep it simple for the masses because the main purpose of the Bible was teaching salvation.
Overt public attacks on Galileo began on December 21, 1614 with a sermon by a Dominican priest in Florence named Tommaso Caccini who was actually one of the first to decern the coming cultural war over knowledge authority. He stated that all of Galileo's followers and indeed, all mathematicians in general were "practitioners of diabolical arts and ... the enemies of true religion."
The problem for Galileo is that the only hard proof that the sun was at the center of the solar system was in Kepler's data and mathematics which few people could understand. So most people saw this sun centered idea as unproven.
After the Catholic inquisition in 1615 condemned heliocentrism Galileo went silent about that subject but continued on as normal until a friend of his became pope. Then in 1632 he published his sun centric astronomical views in a book entitled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. He framed it as a debate and not as his own views so he managed to get it approved by the church. But what he did not know was that his anti-sun centered proponent named Simplico just happened to hold the same views as Pope Urban VIII who was insulted and wanted revenge. He at age 68 and ill was tried by the Inquisition, found guilty of heresy, and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
Yet some naively hoped that a more proper reasoning methodology would somehow reconcile nature with the Bible and/or Catholic theology. Protestant Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and Catholic Descartes (1596-1650) are the more famous of these proponents.
This first phase of the Enlightenment culminated in the 1687 publication of Isaac Newton's theory of calculus and motion entitled, the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) and John Locke's theory of acquiring nature knowledge entitled Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
Newton's book showed that earthly physics really did extend all the way through the heavens. Additionally, the heavens operated without continual divine intervention just like a clock. His three laws of motion are:
- An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.
- The acceleration of an object depends on the mass of the object and the amount of force applied.
- Whenever one object exerts a force on another object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite on the first.
Newtons inspiration by the nature based Pagan past is revealed in his introduction:Since the ancients (as we are told by Pappus), made great account of the science of mechanics in the investigation of natural things; and the moderns, laying aside substantial forms and occult qualities, have endeavoured to subject the phænomena of nature to the laws of mathematics, I have in this treatise cultivated mathematics so far as it regards philosophy. The ancients considered mechanics in a twofold respect; as rational, which proceeds accurately by demonstration: and practical. To practical mechanics all the manual arts belong, from which mechanics took its name.
Newton, Isaac as translated by Andrew Motte (1846) Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Online at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Mathematical_Principles_of_Natural_Philosophy_(1846)
Sobel, Dana (2000) Galileo's Daughter, Penguin Books, New York
Enlightenment 2nd Phase - Acknowledgement of Uncertainty and Tolerance
(July 6, 2022) Christian Europe was dualist. Truth was either true or false, people were either saved or unsaved. The physical world was either evil and corruptible while the divine was good and perfect. This dualism originated with the Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BCE) which made its way into Judaism during the Babylonian exile and then into Christianity. The ancient past was not dualist.
John Locke was the first person to attack dualism although he was not aware he was doing that. He was simply trying to understand the how humans could come to know things. The result was the first description of what moderns would call "Decision Theory." He took the new ideas of mathematical probability developed within the context gambling and commercial insurance and applied them to knowledge. Christiaan Huygens published his book on the subject in 1657 entitled On reasoning in games of chance.
For Locke, all knowledge was uncertain. Only if the its probability was high enough could it be considered true. Certainty increases with:
- The conformity of anything with our own knowledge, observation, and experience.
- The testimony of others, vouching their observation and experience. In the testimony of others is to be considered : 1. The number. 2. The integrity. 3. The skill of the witnesses. 4. The design of the author, where it is a testimony out of a book cited. 5. The consistency of the parts, and circumstances of the relation. 6. Contrary testimonies. (book IV, Chapter XV: Of Probability)
This weighing of evidence takes time therefore:The right use of it (assent requires) mutual charity and forbearance, in a necessary diversity of opinions.... It would, methinks, become all men to maintain peace, and the common offices of humanity, and friendship, in the diversity of opinions ; since we cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily and obsequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours, with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reason, nor blindly submit to the will and dictates of another. If he you would bring over to your sentiments be one that examines before he assents, you must give him leave at his leisure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine all the particulars, to see on which side the advantage lies (Book IV Chapter XVI: Of the Degrees of Assent paragraph 4)
But in a contradictory nod the Biblical authority to prevent his book from being suppresses (a fear expressed in the books introduction) he says this:The bare testimony of divine revelation is the highest certainty. (Book IV Chapter XVI: Of the Degrees of Assent paragraph 14)
Locke suddenly assumes the human receiver of knowledge is perfect, a perfection not seen anywhere else in his book.
The net result of his book was the falsification of the idea that knowledge was binary being either true or false. Knowledge could be gathered from nature over time with ever increasing certainty. It did not have to be suddenly revealed. He was certainly proved correct as evidenced by the existence of modern technology.
Locke, John (1689) Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Online at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Essay_Concerning_Human_Understanding
Locke, John (1690) Essay Concerning Human Understanding (a second edition original) Online at: https://www.google.com/books/edition/An_Essay_Concerning_Human_Understanding/hGeKsjjtu6EC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Essay+Concerning+Human+Understanding&printsec=frontcover
In the May 11, 1855 letter detailing the commissioning instructions, the Christian biased Capital Engineer, Captain Montgomery Meigs wrote this:
“We have too many Washington’s: we have America on the pediment, Victories and Liberties are rather pagan emblems, but a Liberty I fear is the best we can get.”
In July 1853, Meigs, supervising engineer of the construction of the Capitol extension, asked Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett to recommend artists to make the sculptures for the new pediments on the East Front. Everett recommended the American Thomas Crawford (1813-1857) who was then working in Rome.
After getting the commission Crawford began to collaborate with Meigs and former Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis on artwork for the Capital. At the time Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War (1853 to 1857) and in charge of Capitol art and construction. He would later become President of the Confederacy. Meigs wrote to Crawford:
“I do not see why a Republic so much richer than the Athenian should not rival the Parthenon in the front of its first public edifice.”
To top the capital dome, Crawford was commissioned to design a statue of "Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace." In 1855 he built a plaster model for the statue in his studio in Rome, Italy.
Crawford died suddenly in 1857 after completing of the full-size plaster model for the Statue of Freedom in Rome. After his death, his widow shipped the model to the United States, where it was cast in bronze by Clark Mills and placed atop the Capitol Dome on December 2, 1863. Crawford's original plaster model is now on view in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center. During the placement ceremony it was hailed by President Lincoln as a symbol of the country's unification.
Katya, Miller (2007) An Appreciation of Thomas Crawford's Statue of Freedomhttp://www.ladyfreedom.net/articles/Lady%20Freedom%20article%20(complete).pdf and http://www.ladyfreedom.net/history.html
Fryd, Vivien Green (2017) Thomas Crawford, Statue of Freedom, 1855-63. American Social History Productions http://picturinghistory.gc.cuny.edu/thomas-crawford-statue-of-freedom-1855-63/
Image from https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/blog/nature-capitol-statue-freedom)
Enlightenment 3rd Phase - Dawn of Freedom with Natural Rights (1690- 1770)
(July 6, 2022) Once a source of authority has been challenged in one area it will be challenged in all areas. The first phase of the Enlightenment challenged human created religious laws and institutions hiding behind a claimed divine sanction. The next phase will challenge was the divine right of kings to rule.
The Dawn of Freedom began in Britain in 1688 because that was the year of the "Glorious Revolution" in which constitutional limits were placed on monarchical power and religious toleration was made state policy. This phase had its roots in the philosophy of government from the classical era. This is why all the original government buildings in the United States look classical. An overview of this phase of the Enlightenment published in 1966 said the following:
"To call the Enlightenment Pagan is to conjure up the most delightfully irresponsible sexual license: a lazy sun-drenched summer afternoon, fauns and nymphs cavorting to sensual music and lascivious paintings, preferably by Boucher. There is some reality to this fantasy: the philosophes argued for a positive appreciation of sensuality and despised asceticism.... In speaking of the Enlightenment as pagan therefore, I am referring not to sensuality but to the affinity of the enlightenment to classical thought. Words other than pagan - Augustan, Classical, Humanist - have all served as epithets to capture this affinity ...." (Gay 1966)
The idea of liberty based upon natural rights only emerged during the Enlightenment. Freedom never emerged in nations having authorities not based upon nature.
In this phase, the Enlightenment thinkers tried to separate the role of the state from the role of religion. Europe had seen too many religious wars and wars against heretics in its history. They concluded that the state would be responsible for material things while religion would be responsible for emotional/spiritual things. This first stated by John Locke (1632-1704) who was also important in closing out the previous phase of Enlightenment. He wrote the following between 1689 and 1693:The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests. Civil interests I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of the body (freedom from bodily pain); and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like. (Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration in Kramic 1995)
Thomas Jefferson in the U.S Declaration of Independence shortened and generalized Locke's phase to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.""We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The concept of happiness as used by Jefferson thus includes the right to health and the right to acquire and hold possessions. During the civil war Abraham Lincoln and the nation elevated in blood the Declaration of Independence above that of the constitution to justify the elimination of the property right of slavery. The Declaration as a statement of purpose trumped any legal document meant to implement that purpose. Freedom is Pagan.
Gay, Peter (1966) The Enlightenment - The Rise of Modern Paganism
Kramic, Isaac [editor] (1995) The Portable Enlightenment Reader. Penguin books