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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

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Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Corona, 'The Science' or Scientism, Islam, the State, the cult of Gender Fascism, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion...

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Morris Bishop: The Middle Ages

A classic with one flaw.

by StFerdIII

This book was originally published in 1968 by one of the world's leading experts on the Medieval era who taught at Cornell University. It is quite an extraordinary and detailed account of the Middle Ages. Bishop is a supremely talented writer and researcher. This is perhaps the most beautifully written account of the medieval era - , and one of the cleverest as well. Bishop certainly has an artistic and literary gift, honed no doubt from thousands of hours of effort giving lectures and writing untold numbers of pages. The masters always make it look easy.

The only part of the book which is out of date and not of much use is the chapter on the Crusades. Bishop lifted most of this chapter directly from the execrable and long discredited work of Steven Runciman. We can see this in the passages he uses, and the source notes. Sadly this chapter is a large blemish on an otherwise wonderful account. Given that the first edition was written in 1968, the account of the Crusades which is crude, unrepresentative, misleading, and factually incorrect should have been purged from later editions. I have no idea why it is not amended.

Ignoring the misinformation given by Runciman there is little else to quibble about with this book. Every page is written by a craftsman who brings the medieval world into the modern. Descriptive, realistic, devoid of the usual anti-medieval cant we find throughout much of the academic and pop-culture world, Morris comes across as a master sculpture rendering a Michaelangelo out of each era and topic.

The Middle Ages were a bridge between the failed world of the Roman empire, and the modern.

“The Middle Ages of Europe were a continuation and a formation. They were a continuation of old Rome in race, language, institutions, law, literature, the arts. They were also a continuation of cultures independent of Rome.”

Only our understanding of them is 'dark'. Whilst imperfect, violent, prone to disease, plague, war, famine, anarchy, invasion, early death, hardship, peril and challenge, the 'middle period' of Western development is in the end a story of triumph, genius, energy, Christianity, and untold progress.

“A modern school of historians contends that the so-called Dark Ages were a period of ascent rather than of decline, that with the withering of the pagan classic civilisation came the first budding of a new culture that was to develop into our modern civilisation.”

When Rome withered and Italy a Germanic run satrapy of Byzantine, Western Europe did indeed contract – much of this 'dark age' was the result of the Islamic irruption and destruction of Mediterranean trade, links and raw material importation. Spain parts of Italy, North Africa and the Levant were all reduced to rubble by the Moslem invasions – a point not made by Morris. As the political-economic structure foundered so too did society at large:

“Economically the old system contracted or gave way. It had depended too much on conquest, tribute, slavery, and had fostered a fatal scorn for productive labor. Towns, in their subsidence, overspent their resources; transport became dangerous and expensive; wars, being mainly defensive, brought in no booty. As money lost its meaning, there began a gradual shift toward a natural economy.”

It was the Christian church in combination with local princes and eventually Kings of larger states, which held the West together against the pagan onslaught from the South [Moslems], the north [Northmen]; and the East [Magyars and Avars]:

“From the sixth to tenth centuries, during the times of cultural and economic stagnation that followed the fall of Rome, the monks held the Western world together. They provided most of the great missionaries. Reasonably secure, they preserved the ancient culture in their libraries, copying old books, making new ones, conducting almost the only schools.”


“[Charlemagne]....It marks the shift of power from the East to the West. Until the 8th century Italy had developed culturally as a satellite of the Byzantine civilisation. The Franks and Charlemagne bound Italy to northern Europe rather than to an east Mediterranean bloc....The coronation [of Charlemagne in 800 AD] has been alleged even to mark the birth of western European civilisation.”

It is remarkable that European civilisation and Christianity survived the horrible centuries from the 7th to the 10th. The liquidation of Europe by the three pronged pagan assault was a distinct possibility. The only possible defense was a local one – centralized states even under Charlemagne had too many defects in management, logistics and power to deflect raids and incursions across the width and breadth of the nation. Feudalism was a contract where men exchanged some parts of freedom for security. Walls were build, local levies raised, better armament and training introduced. The West held. With security came prosperity:

“The eleventh and twelfth centuries were a period of advance and innovation. Men built cities, castles and cathedrals, created wealth, wrote poems, fought in crusades. By the thirteenth century they had become free to make life in Europe safer and more comfortable. The previous centuries had been creative; the thirteenth century was to be logical and legalistic....Thomas Aquinas and his contemporaries ordered the affairs of God and of man. A spirit of optimism and self-satisfaction was widespread. The optimistic spirit of the thirteenth century was encouraged by rising material prosperity. Even the peasants could afford chimneys and tallow candles and metal kitchenware.”


“The three-field system of rotation of crops....fruits....were improved by selection. Stone Age tools of wood and stone were replaced by metal ones. The crank makes its first recorded appearance in Europe in the ninth-century....Water mills became common...the Domesday Book lists 5624 mills in England in 1086. The most momentous advance was in animal traction and harness...the rigid horse collar...nailed horseshoes in Europe dates from the end of the ninth century.”

Europe's improbable, singular and beneficial rise to world power status, and global control has its origins in the medieval era. Every aspect of our modern existence emanates from the period of Rome's fall to the Renaissance – itself a derivative of Medieval culture. Bishop's book is an excellent and detailed introduction into an era of contradictions, sublime genius, depraved irrationality, cultural excellence, spiritual transformation and political-economic revolution. The dynamism of this period is the progenitor of our own existence.


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