The Religion of Tyranny and Torture

     "The abuses of spiritual authority," d'Alembert pointed out, "joined with temporal power finally silenced reason; and they all but forbade the human race to think." In the eighth century Pope Zacharias threatened the Irish priest Vergil, later Bishop of Salzburg, with excommunication for teaching that "there is another world and other men beneath the earth." Vergil had the misfortune of having guessed the existence of the southern hemisphere six hundred years before Columbus discovered it.

     Such mental tyranny stemmed from the perverse, cloistered world of the orthodox Christian Church which dismissed any theories that didn't conform with the biblical view of the world. The Church declared that all mankind descended from Noah and if Noah had never been to the "other side" of the earth then it didn't exist. If the apostles hadn't gone to the antipodes to preach the universal message of salvation, then the antipodes couldn't exist. An inhabited southern hemisphere simply didn't fit in with Christian teaching and Augustine (354-430 C.E.) considered belief in the existence of the antipodes to be not only wrong, but heretical as well.

     The fortunes of the Roman Catholic Church waxed and waned in its ongoing struggle with whatever civil authority happened to oppose its oppressive power over the people. But its misanthropic ideology was a constant deleterious influence, making people believe that they were lowly creatures who could do nothing for themselves. Life was merely the interplay of man's fall and God's redemption through Christ. A person was supposed to abjectly obey his superiors, believe without question whatever his priest told him, desist from trying to think for himself, and resign himself to this "vale of tears" in hopes of a happier afterlife. The Church's baleful ideology--as formulated by Augustine--was the immoral and degrading view of life and mankind that dominated the entire period of the Dark Ages.

"Since God has spoken to us it is no longer necessary for us to think."


     This evil influence of the belief in humankind's utter depravity was the theme of both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant brands of Christianity. The total impotence of humans was summed up by Martin Luther (1483 - 1546 C.E.):

"For so long as a man is convinced that he can do something for his own salvation, he retains his self-confidence and does not completely despair; for this reason he does not humble himself before God, but asserts himself, or at least hopes and wishes for opportunity, time, and work in order finally to attain his salvation. But he who never doubts that all depends on the will of God, despairs completely of helping himself, does not choose us, but awaits an act of God; he is nearest to Grace and salvation."

     We need to be aware of the debased state of human life in the Dark Ages to understand at what a degraded level humans were forced to live--a level to which we are now returning. A mere difference of opinion with Church dogma could result in death; the least diminution of obeisance to a superior could bring imprisonment, torture, perhaps a slow death.

     Tyrannical Christian leaders constantly impressed on people that the pleasures--and pains--of this earth are fleeting, that the visible world is merely a symbol of the invisible, and that human life is merely a test for the life beyond. The life of the common man during this age of darkness was miserable--almost beyond our power to imagine.

"So history, namely change, has been mainly due to a small number of 'seers,' --really gropers and monkeyers--whose native curiosity outran that of their fellows and led them to escape here and there from the sanctified blindness of their time."

James Harvey Robinson , The Mind in the Making: the Relation of Intelligence to Social Reform, 1921

     There was essentially no education provided for the common man during the Dark Ages. He was deliberately kept ignorant so his subjugation could be total in its effect. The corrupt Church clergy held literacy tightly in their grasp, to enhance their selfish power. Medieval man was deliberately kept in the mental darkness of illiteracy and ignorance to increase his impotence and subjugation.

     The current "Dark Age" has been brought on by the deliberate destruction of educational institutions throughout the United States, to bring American citizens to the point of mental incompetence in which they believe whatever they're told by the rulers.

     If you view the Oliver Stone movie Nixon, you come away with the distinct impression that the cabal which has taken over America has now almost completely destroyed the dignity and authority of the office of the Presidency. Nixon was run by this cabal until he became so insane as to threaten its own power. The derangement of this demonic cabal is rapidly progressing and must inevitably result in its own demise. The American Presidency has now been almost totally destroyed by their placing a con-man in office with Trump.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . .
it expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson

The Confluence of Transformative Streams of Thought

Bernard of Clairvaux      Only if we see clearly the dreadful nature of human life in the Dark Ages can we hope to understand how important were the faint beginnings of dissident, enlightening thought provided by such early philosophers as Dionysius the Areopagite, Boethius (480-524 C.E.), Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 C.E.), Petrarch (1304-1374 C.E.), and Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464 C.E.). These courageous thinkers who dared to go against the theological oppression of their day were of momentous importance to the eventual triumphs of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

     Boethius, for example, had seen the coming of the Dark Ages and helped to preserve the wisdom of the ancient thinkers before the final darkness fell. His works provided the major source (for the West) of knowledge about such earlier sages as Plato until the rediscovery of the primary Greek writings in the twelfth century.

     As we examine the earlier "Dark Ages" of humankind's history, we discover that there was a gradual divulgence of a universal unity of advanced thinkers, select persons who helped set the stage for the re-birth of human intelligence and freedom. As we've seen in an earlier essay, Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar made contact with the Perennialist stream in the Middle East--when the Templars re-discovered esoteric knowledge in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was the adepts of this Perennial Tradition which provided the unifying force moving forward in a historic line toward the goal of human enlightenment.

     We can trace one such "line of transmission" to show how this illuminating heritage was able to work through a variety of persons and institutions. Frederick II (1194-1250 C.E.), Holy Roman Emperor of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, had contact with the Perennialist stream through his study of and association with the transformative strains that had been brought from Spain into the area of the Provence in southern France. Frederick II created a center for a more humane style of life in Sicily, Italy, and Germany. He was said to speak nine languages and be literate in seven others at a time when most monarchs and nobles were completely unlettered.

Frederick II and&nbsps;al-Malik      Frederick II and al-Kamil Muhammad al-Malik, an Egyptian sultan, agreed that Jerusalem should be restored to Christian authority. Al-Kamil had made a number of offers of peace to the Crusaders, all of which were rejected, due to the baleful influence of the papal legate Pelagius, who saw the crusades as a means of increasing papal power. At one point al-Malik even negotiated with Francis of Assisi, who had accompanied one of the crusades.

     Frederick II created a more liberal culture, which anticipated the beneficent toleration and cosmopolitan independence of the later Renaissance. But Frederick's efforts were defeated by the unrelenting hostility of the church, and by the incapacity of his contemporaries to understand his aims.

      Frederick's ideal of civilization was derived in large measure from Provence, where a beautiful culture had prematurely bloomed, filling southern Europe with the perfume of poetry and gentle living. The Provencal poets had enhanced their modern language with incomparable richness and beauty, creating forms of verse and modes of emotional expression which foreshadowed later Humanism and the Renaissance.

Provence      The naturalism of the Provencal spirit found free utterance in the fabliaux of jongleurs, lyrics of minnesingers, tales of trouveres, romances of Arthur and his knights, compositions varied in type and tone, but in all of which sincere passion and real enjoyment of life pierce through the thin veil of chivalrous mysticism or of allegory with which they were sometimes conventionally draped. For a brief time it seemed that the ecclesiastical and feudal fetters of the Dark Ages might be broken and humanity might enter a new stage of joyous unimpeded enlightenment.

     Frederick II was a patron of science and learning, and was known in his own time as the Stupor mundi, the "Wonder of the world." Despite the various betrayals he experienced during his lifetime, Frederick II died peacefully on December 13, 1250 C.E., wearing the habit of a Cistercian monk. This gives us a distinct clue that he was a part of the line of transmission of the Perennial Tradition through the savant Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 C.E.), founder of the Cistercian order.

the evil Dominic      The Roman Catholic Church has been--and continues to this day to be--the enemy of human enlightenment. In its lust for power and wealth, it has tried in every conceivable way to wipe out any human advance in understanding and freedom.

     The Albigensian Crusade in 1213 C.E. murdered the Catharists and Vaudois--and what has been called "the social renaissance of love" in Provence by sword and fire. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order, created the evil methodology of the Inquisition and the church's tyranny invaded every cranny of human life.

     But the enlightening stream of thought had been re-introduced into the West beginning about 1000 C. E., and all the depraved offenses against human nature the Church could muster were not enough to impede the onward flow of human illumination and development.

     The Perennialist tidal flow carried forward, eventuating in the Renaissance, the cultural movement beginning in central Italy in the late 14th century. It initiated a rebirth of science, philosophy, art and poetry.

     Renaissance humanism was characterized by an attitude and way of life centered on human interests or values, stressing an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason and other human skills.

     Among the Renaissance humanists, Platonic and neo-Platonic thought once more assumed central importance, upstaging Aristotelianism. The writings of antiquity were translated by Renaissance scholars such as Ficino, making it possible to regain the insights and wisdom of earlier cultures.

     Medieval values such as humility, introspection, and passivity were replaced among the aristocracy by an emphasis on nobility of spirit and action called virtu. Humanists encouraged leaders to cultivate generous and altruistic actions in order to gain the esteem of their fellow men. Beauty was held to represent a deeper inner virtue and value and was seen as one of the ways in which humans apprehend reality.

     As the Medieval mind slowly rose out of its long sleep of ignorance, the Perennialist writings began to filter into Europe following the Papacy of Sylvester II (999-1003 C.E.) and were eventually disseminated in such a manner that the writings of Hermes the Thrice-Great achieved a certain degree of recognition. The Corpus Hermeticum did not become available to the West until 1460 C.E., when documents salvaged from Constantinople surfaced in Florence. Their translation in 1471 C.E., by Marsilio Ficino, set off the great explosion of Western interest in Hermeticism as represented by Dee, Trithemius, Agrippa, and Paracelsus.

Hermes the Thrice-Greatest      The copy of the Corpus Hermeticum belonged to Cosimo de Medici. Cosimo also had the manuscripts of Plato, Plotinus, Iamblicus, and others in his possession. But he ordered Ficino to translate the work of Hermes Trismegistus before beginning on the Greek philosophers.

     Parts of the Perennial Tradition had been preserved in its Moslem repository while Europe suffered through the intellectual and cultural retrogression of the Dark Ages. Now this Tradition burst forth throughout Europe by way of scholars and scientists who had carefully studied and imbibed its teachings: Raymond Lully, Alexander Hales, Duns Scotus, Paracelsus, Geber, Albertus Magnus, Pope Gerbert, Pope Silvester II, St. John of the Cross, and others. Anselm, known as Sufi Obdullah el Tarjuman, translated parts of the Encyclopedia of the Arab Brethren of Purity in his book, Dispute of the Ass with Brother Anselmo.

     Many of the scholastic thinkers were merely interested in accumulating and memorizing information and making deductions from it. As Ficino and others translated Plato, Hermes, Plotinus, and similar ancient savants into the vernacular language, many scholastics believed that they had only to memorize the knowledge in these great thinkers to gain understanding and knowledge. As d'Alembert explained:

    "Memory was the first of all the faculties to be cultivated, because it is the easiest to satisfy and the knowledge obtained with its assistance can be most readily accumulated. They [the scholars] did not, therefore, begin by studying Nature, as the first prehistoric [Perennialist and Classical] men had done, for they had the advantage of possessing the works of the ancients which the generosity of patrons and the printing press were beginning to make accessible. They believed they had only to read to become learned, and it was much easier to read than to understand. Thus they devoured indiscriminately all that the ancients had left us in each genre, translating and annotating everything; and out of gratitude they began to worship the ancients without really knowing their true worth."

     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.)

      The metaphor of renascence signifies the entrance of the European nations upon a fresh stage of vital energy in general, implying a fuller consciousness and a freer exercise of faculties than had been possible in the Dark Ages. It also means the resuscitation of intellectual activities, stimulated by the revival of learning and its application to the arts and literature. The Renaissance involved a true revival of the discerning examination of nature and man.

     The fructifying impulse toward knowledge and development had been re-activated by the unifying force of the Perennial Tradition--and humankind began its slow ascent once again. With each new era in our history, the achievements of the savants remain, however far backward the commonality of humankind falls. As we contend with the present dark age, we too have available to us this hidden stream of Perennialist wisdom that makes it possible to overcome the perversions and debasements of the current political-economic-military rulers.