In this new Dark Age, the human intellect has been almost totally decimated by
mind-destroying capitalism. We're in essentially the same state of ignorance that d'Alembert spoke of in the eighteenth century: "The abuses of spiritual authority, joined with temporal power, finally silenced reason; and they all but forbade the human race to think."
One of the horrors of the present "dark age" is its renouncing of all reason and understanding: a return to a barbaric state of illiteracy, authoritarianism, ignorance, fascism, and dog-eat-dog capitalism. Not only have humans lost the ability to think rationally, but they've lost any understanding of the values and principles on which human civilization is based. Falsehood passes for truth, murderous sub-humans pass for human leaders, mind-destroying art, music, and literature pass for true genius. Thinking persons wonder how it will be possiblefor workers 1
to regain the abilities to think rationally and discern genuine value, now that human reasoning has been so totally lost--even from awareness that it has been lost.
Over many centuries humankind has evolved from a primitive life form to a speaking homo sapiens, and, with Plato, a reasoning being, but is now rapidly devolving back to mindless savagery.
Humankind's Evolution and Devolution
599 BCE- 399 CE
400- 1500 CE
1600- 1959 CE
Man's Achieve- ment of Language
The Oral Frame of Mind
Man's Achieve- ment of Reason
Dark Ages Non-Rational, Ignorant Frame of Mind
The Renaissance and the Enlightenment The Use of Reason
Current Americans delusively believe they're highly intelligent and enjoy freedom
As the thousand years of the Dark Age reached its depth of ignorance, oppression, and destruction, thinking humans feared that the devolution of humankind might proceed to the point of total annihilation of the human species. This fear was eloquently expressed by Petrarch, one of the
leading influences of the Renaissance, in his Epistolae metricae.
"Living, I despise what melancholy fate
has brought us wretches in these evil years.
Long before my birth time smiled and may again,
for once there was, and yet will be, more joyful days.
But in this middle age time's dregs
sweep around us, and we beneath a heavy
burden of vice. Genius, virtue, glory now
have gone, leaving chance and sloth to rule.
Shameful vision this! We must awake or die!"
Petrarch understood how dire the situation was that had been created in the Dark Age of "a heavy load of vice." Humankind, he understood, must "awake or die." Fortunately, a few outstanding persons appeared on the stage of history and led humankind out of its suicidal plunge into total ignorance and destruction. As this new age, this new birth--renaissance--came into being, the leaders of the Renaissance understood that they had entered something of a "golden age."
Marsilio Ficino wrote a letter to his friend Paul of Middleburg describing this new age.
"If we are to call any age golden, it is beyond doubt that age which brings forth golden talents in different places. That such is true of this our age [no one] will hardly doubt. For this century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music . . . and all this in Florence. Achieving what had been honored among the ancients, but almost forgotten since, the age has joined wisdom with eloquence . . . This century appears to have perfected astronomy, in Florence it has recalled the Platonic teaching from darkness into light. . . . and in Germany . . . [there] have been invented the instruments for printing books."
Ficino's exuberance over the supposed "golden age" of the Renaissance was largely inaccurate and inappropriate. Along with the positive features, there remained elemental defects and horrors: tyranny, slavery, ignorance, oppression, corruption, and barbarity. Ficino himself was supported by a so-called beneficent despot: Lorenzo de Medici.
Many of the elements contributing to the Renaissance contained both positive and negative aspects. For example, the movement from barter to a money economy assisted in the expansion of commerce, but it also expanded the murderous system of capitalism. Luther and Calvin justifiably attacked the corruption of Roman Catholic despotism, but they created their own forms of tyranny, resulting in Calvin murdering Servetus. Henry VIII created the Anglican church--eventuating in limited opposition to religious oppression. But Henry's motives were largely egomaniacal and he soon became a religious tyrant in his own right, leading to the murder of Thomas More.
In this essay we'll examine how humankind has previously struggled out of "the dark ages" of ignorance and delusion to a renascence of increasing understanding, civility, and culture. After reviewing the various influencing and determining factors that have contributed to humankind's measured victory over tyranny and corruption, we'll be able to determine how we can apply some of those same elements to defeat the destructive forces active today.
Factors which influenced the Renaissance:
Humanism: a perspective that emphasizes humankind's value and power, rather than its submission to destructive political-economic-social forces
"What a great miracle is Man, O Asclepius, a being worthy of reverence and honour. For he passes into the nature of a god as though he were himself a god; he has familiarity with the race of spirits, knowing that he issued from the same origin; he despises that part of his nature which is only human, for he has put his hope in the divinity of the other part."
Hermes Trismegistus, Asclepius
"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!"
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Realization that knowledge comes through experience, not authority; rejuvenation of interest in natural science
Countervailing forces opposing the dominant political-economic-social forces:
A. Anti-monarchical thinking: represented in the famous early Renaissance fresco cycle Allegory of Good and Bad Government in Siena by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (painted 1338-1340) whose strong message is about the virtues of fairness, justice, republicanism and good administration
B. The Protestant reformation opposing Roman Catholic absolutism and corruption
D. Opposition to Aristotelian-Thomistic dogma
Discovery of printing and movable type
Movement out of a barter economy to a money economy
Otto of Freising (c. 1114-1158), a German bishop visiting north Italy during the 12th century, noticed a widespread new form of political and social organization, observing that Italy appeared to have exited from Feudalism so that its society was based on merchants and commerce.
Revival of interest in Classical literature and art
Attacks on "unquestionable" and "inevitable" systems and concepts
Attacking the idea that slavery is essential to human society
Attacking the delusion that capitalism is the only viable economic system given the instinctual nature of human greed
Renewed interest in ideal societies based on Commonwealth principles
Revitalization of interest in spiritual and mythical literature and thought
Development of a code of chivalry, a tradition of honor and decorum
Restoration of rational thought in opposition to religious dogma and social-political-economic mind-manipulation
A small group of advanced thinkers, related directly or indirectly to the Perennial Tradition, 2 pushes humankind forward, revealing what humans were capable of, while overcoming the forces of degradation, ignorance, and indifference.
Rediscovery and reapplication of Plato's philosophy
Of these thirteen factors which contributed to the Renaissance and Enlightenment, we'll explore two in our effort to understand just what elements are of use in our ongoing struggle against contemporary despotism and corruption:
Realization that knowledge comes through experience, not authority; rejuvenation of interest in natural science
Rediscovery and reapplication of Plato's philosophy
Knowledge Through Experience, Not Authority
"The mediaeval way of thinking differed fundamentally from ours as solely ideas alone were real, facts and things only in so far as they participated in the reality of ideas."
Heinz Gotze, Castel del Monte
Roger Bacon, a Franciscan monk heavily influenced by Perennialists such as Suhrawardi, wrote in his Opus Maius (1268):
"There are two modes of knowledge, through argument and experience. Argument brings conclusions and compels us to concede them, but it does not cause certainty nor remove doubts in order that the mind may remain at rest in truth, unless this is provided by experience."
Throughout the Middle Ages, European thought stagnated largely because of its conception of knowledge as derived from argument from authority--whether the authority of the Church or the State. Europe languished in intellectual and cultural retrogression during the Dark Ages, while the light of wisdom was preserved and advanced by those they labeled "the infidel Saracen." The reintroduction of the Classical (Greek) Tradition and the Perennial Tradition through the confluence of European and Muslim thought, beginning around 1000 CE, revitalized earlier conceptions of knowledge as derived from experience.
In Roger Bacon's terms, the Middle Ages held argument to be the primary path to knowledge: argument from authority. Experience, the other mode of knowledge to which Bacon refers, was slowly beginning to make its way into Western life. We can get a feeling for the medieval mode of knowledge from the anecdote about the stable boy who heard the scholars arguing about how many teeth a horse had. The scholars consulted Aristotle concerning this weighty issue, while the stable boy went to the barn and counted the actual number of teeth a horse had. After reporting his findings to the learned gentlemen, the stable boy was, of course, summarily dismissed, because experience had nothing to do with knowledge. Knowledge was found in authority and system.
"Understanding can be acquired only by actual participation in the reality."
Betty and Stewart Edward White, Across the Unknown (1937)
The European Renaissance can be seen as a period beginning with the revival of Platonism to equal or compete with Aristotelian thinking and the birth of the method of experience--participation in reality--which gave the impetus to science and humanism, leading to the later transformative European and American Enlightenment.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was typical of the new conception of understanding deriving from participation in whatever reality one is studying or creating. He is one of the first real men of Western science: a person who insisted on looking for himself rather than believing what others had said. His insistence on experience as the source of understanding is seen in his embryonic science and his extraordinary skill as artist. He was in many ways the archetypal humanist and Renaissance man. Leonardo was quite explicit that experience should be the ultimate authority, and not the ancients, as this passage from his notebooks shows:
"Though I have no power to quote from authors as they have, I shall rely on a far bigger and more worthy thing, on experience, the instructress of their masters. They strut about puffed up and pompous, decked out and adorned not with their own labours, but by those of others, and they will not even allow me my own. And if they despise me who am an inventor, how much more should they be blamed who are not inventors but trumpeteers and reciters of the works of others."
Galileo (1564-1642) took his cue from Leonardo to look for himself literally. He had heard of the invention of the telescope and made one for himself. His patient observations confirmed the theories of Copernicus and Kepler, that the earth moved around the sun and not the other way round. He was also able to discover several new heavenly bodies, bringing the total to eleven.
The scholastics rejected Galileo's discovery of eleven planets because this number not only contradicted the traditional seven, but had no mystical significance, they said. Bertrand Russell indicated that "on this ground the traditionalists denounced the telescope, refused to look through it, and maintained that it revealed only delusions."
"The superior experience and knowledge will be made available to a man or woman in exact accordance with his worth, capacity and earning of it. . . . Our objective is to achieve, by the understanding of the Origin, the Knowledge which comes through experience."
Yusuf Hamadani, Perennialist teacher (sixth century C.E.)
As Renaissance thinkers returned to an emphasis on experience and evidence--as opposed to appeal to religious and political authority and scholastic argumentation--so in today's world we must avoid the false authority of the capitalist press and capitalist-created "public opinion" and base our knowledge on true information coming from alternate news sources.
Similar to Leonardo da Vinci's and Galileo's insistence on personally-verified evidence, we must insist that any "news" or "facts" we accept be based on objective evidence, not the mere assertions of supposed authorities or authoritative sources. We live in an age almost identical to that of the Dark Ages, when so-called truth is actually the concocted lies of capitalist stooges.
As most people in the Middle Ages were content with the lies the political-religious authorities told them, so today most Americans and other world citizens mindlessly accept the lies of the world capitalist mainstream news outlets. We must re-adopt Voltaire's famous class-warfare cry: Ecrasez l'infame--Crush the infamy!
The Renaissance and Enlightenment periods were times of great recovery of human capability--following the Dark Ages, when humans reached new depths of ignorance, disease, and religious, political, and economic oppression. But these two eras of revivification left humankind in only a slightly improved condition--with religious, political, and economic oppression still resulting in the enslavement, impoverishment and murder of the working class by the capitalist class. For example, it took another two centuries before the scourge of human slavery was suppressed--and then only partially.
In the twenty-first century, we can highlight three abominations (among thousands) that typify the continuing subjugation and annihilation of workers:
Capitalist rulers are continuing to perpetrate economic crimes, resulting in workers losing billions through criminal fraud on the part of financial institutions, while none of the Wall Street criminals have been imprisoned, let alone indicted.
Workers continue to be forced into military service in imperialistic wars because they can find no other jobs, with the result that more military personnel are committing suicide than are being killed in combat.
34,000 children and 16,000 adults die each day from hunger or preventable diseases with poverty-related causes; a total of 8 million a year. (As reported by the United Nations) According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 50 million people in the United States live in poverty (with income in 2011 below $23,021 for a family of four) while another 50 million live between the poverty level and twice the poverty level--one paycheck away from economic disaster. Thus, the poor (those in poverty or near poverty), most of whom belong to the working poor, account for approximately 100 million people, fully one-third of the entire U.S. population in 2013.
"To few men does the world owe a heavier debt than to Plato. He has taught us that philosophy, loving and single-minded devotion to truth, is the great gift of God to man and the rightful guide of man's life, and that the few to whom the intimate vision of truth has been granted are false to their calling unless they bear fruit in unwearied and humble service to their fellows. All worthy civilization is fed by those ideas, and whenever, after a time of confusion and forgetfulness, our Western world has recaptured the sense of noble living, it has sought them afresh in the Platonic writings."
A.E. Taylor, Platonism and Its Influence
Rediscovery and Reapplication of Plato's Philosophy
Both the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were, in large part, the direct result of the rediscovery and reapplication of Plato's philosophy and a rejection of the Aristotelian philosophy which had been in the ascendancy since the days of Augustine and Aquinas.
Aristotle had been the major philosophical influence in Europe during the thousand years of intellectual and political-economic degradation that we call the Dark Ages. Our current struggle against oppression and corruption must involve our gaining a renewed understanding of Plato's philosophy and a renewed utilization of his philosophy to create a new Commonwealth society. And we must reject the modern Aristotelians who helped to found and now prop up the baleful ideology of predatory capitalism.
One of my teachers 3 at Yale University while I was working toward my Ph.D. was a man who had studied at Oxford with many of the major Aristotelian thinkers of the day and who later became a leading Aristotelian-type scholar himself. Before beginning his studies at Oxford he had traveled in pre-World War I Germany. He attended the lectures of several German professors during this time, including Wilhelm Wundt, a professor in philosophy and later rector at the University of Leipzig. This Oxford scholar considered Wundt a brilliant thinker and later lauded him in his writings.
Instead of being a brilliant thinker, Wundt was a doctrinaire flunky within the capitalist effort to create a working class that was merely trained to do a particular job, not think about social or political issues. This capitalist operation created an educational system focused on training instead of learning, its leading ideas and practices including:
A thing makes sense and is worth pursuing only if it can be measured, quantified, and scientifically demonstrated
Psychology, accordingly, should concern itself exclusively with human behavior--not with non-demonstrable entities such as "mind," "soul," "thought," etc.
Public education must limit itself to training working class students to carry out whatever task they are given to do and to accept the commands of their superiors
This ongoing ruler-imposed system, which has become the ruling educational ideology throughout the world, is enhanced by anti-intellectual activities such as minority-group studies and multiculturalism, producing uneducated and programmed students who understand almost nothing of what occurs beyond the propaganda and mythology of the political-financial rulers.
"Wundt's theories had great appeal for the Rothschilds and . . . suited their plans for humanity perfectly. Wundt asserted that humans are devoid of spirit and self-determinism (and hence free will) and that man is just the sum of his experiences. This atheistic, materialist philosophy dominated his approach to study of the human psyche. Indeed in practical terms he virtually denied the existence of the psyche and this enabled him to reduce the study of 'man' to an external, physiological examination of stimulus and response. He said:
'The situation-response formula is adequate to cover learning of any sort, and the really influential factors in learning are readiness of the neurones, sequence in time, belongingness and satisfying consequences.'"
Ron Chapman, "Dumbing Down US Education: Part II-- Wundtian Psychology & Rockefeller Finance, Oct 29, 2009
To return to the Yale professor, we later see him--through his own writings--revisit a small American town where he had grown up and his father had been a Protestant pastor. Our Aristotelian-type professor was shocked at how the town had gone down hill since his tenure there. As he looked at the blight and desolation, the only causative agent he could think of was the machine. The cause of the destruction of American towns and cities since the 1970s, according to this Aristotelian thinker, was "the machine age." It never occurred to him to ask "Who makes and uses the machines?" (Answer: capitalists) "For what purposes are machines made?" (Answer: capitalist profit)
I refer to this Yale professor to show how Aristotelian-type thinkers have served as founders and supporters of capitalist oppression over the centuries. With Augustine and Aquinas, Aristotelianism became one of the fundamental ideological support systems for totally illogical, repressive Roman Catholic dogmas.
One of the reasons why ignorant and ill-intentioned thinkers continue to attack Plato is because he was a discerning and forthright thinker who dared to reveal the reality of political-economic-social oppression during his time--knowledge which continues to apply in this era as well. In his Allegory of the Cave he revealed that there are persons who deliberately create a false reality which is used to condition and manipulate the unthinking masses. Plato recognized that democracy is in actuality the manipulation of the masses by an elite group that fools the common people into thinking they are ruling when they aren't.
Plato had seen this "democracy" swindle practiced on the citizens of Athens, and had seen the deadly results of such a fraud when a pseudo-democratic group sentenced his teacher and friend Socrates to death on trumped-up charges.
"Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."
Henry Louis Mencken
Plato understood that a society must have either of two basic forms of government:
Oligarchy: a government in which a small elite group rules for its own benefit
Plutocracy: rule of those with wealth
Tyranny: rule of a criminal cabal
Commonwealth: a government in which politcal and economic principles and practices accrue to the benefit of all members of society
This form of government is ruled by some type of aristocracy, those with some kind of special knowledge and skill.
Plato believed that a commonwealth should be ruled by those persons who were seekers of wisdom--philosophers.
Plato saw clearly that the swindle called democracy quickly degenerates into tyranny--as we have seen throughout American history. The current
demonic cabal is simply the most recent embodiment of this swindle.
We learn from Plato's philosophy that humankind overcomes oppression and ignorance by learning to comprehend the many forms of oppression being perpetrated against it--but also by gaining a clear vision of a possible new societal archetype in which all persons are able to live and develop to their full potential.
Plato created just such a societal archetype in his work, The Commonwealth, which influenced later advanced thinkers who created archetypes of ideal societies. Of the fourteen major utopian visions of a commonwealth society, four were created during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods--those of Thomas More, Johann Andrea, Tommaso Campanella, and Francis Bacon.
Plato, Commonwealth, 380 BCE
Panchaea, Island of Euhemerus (3rd century BCE) in his book, Sacred History
Lady Florence Dixie, Gloriana, or the Revolution of 1900, 1890 CE
Eric Frank Russell, The Great Explosion, 1963 CE
In 2011, a new Commonwealth Archetype was created which provides the only viable solution to the current capitalist Dark Age: the building of cooperative commonwealth communities.
Click on image
Screening and training of applicants before admission to the community
Community ownership by members of the means of production
Democratic control: policies and actions decided by consensus of all community members
Production solely for use, not profit: community-regulated production of goods and services relative to need without the intervention of a buying and selling market mechanism
Replacement of capitalism with cooperative communities one location at a time, not nationally as a whole all at once
It is only through creating such cooperative communities that a New Renaissance can take place.
"There can be no real question that the Enlightenment promoted the
cause of freedom, more widely, directly, positively than any age
before it. It not only asserted but demonstrated the power of knowledge
and reason in self-determination, the choice and realization of human purpose.
"For the first time in history it carried out a concerted attack on the vested interests that opposed the diffusion of knowledge and the free exercise of reason.
"As thinkers the men of the Enlightenment were conscious revolutionaries, very much aware of a 'new method of philosophizing' that amounted to a new living faith, the basis for a new social order."
Herbert J. Muller. (1964). Freedom in the Western World