While all living beings are mortal, only human kind has access to the self-awareness of its own mortality. With this knowledge of our own finiteness, we may become cynical and fearful pessimists wallowing in despair and nihilism or we may choose to embrace a higher set of goals and principles for the identity we shape for ourselves within processes much greater than ourselves. For as mortal as we may be, the civilizations which we are born into may or may not be limited by that same finiteness. Whether a civilization has the moral fitness to survive, thrive and prosper or not, depends entirely upon the choices made by those who make up said social body and who may influence the spirit (culture) spanning countless generations.
It is here that we find the essential character of the Renaissance principle and Dark Age principles that have shaped world history.
These two paths have presented themselves at all times and cultures and it has been our lot to choose which we wish to be guided by as we use the short time we have been aloted to actualize our innate potentials for creativity, and goodness… or inversely to waste those potentials.
In this series of lectures hosted by the Rising Tide Foundation, six speakers took the challenge of presenting six case studies of the Renaissance Principle as embodied in the moral philosophy, religious growth, science, art and political culture of various great cultures of the world.
We began with an exposition of the characters of Socrates, Plato and Cicero who dedicated their lives to defending the republican/Promethean heritage of Athens and Rome before either society collapsed into imperialism and a corrupting Dark Age dynamic that thrived off of master-slave systems, divide-to-conquer wars and irrationalist cults that broke its adherents from a sense of God, morality, reason, and even their own powers of sovereign free will.
This was followed with a presentation on St Augustine’s fight to defend Platonic Christianity in the midst of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D.
In another lecture, we reviewed the case study of the forgotten Confucian-Christian-Muslim-Jewish ecumenical alliance of the 8th century that transcended all material differences and causes for conflict in order to align in a common higher policy of trade, diplomacy, and cultural sharing in opposition to the growing institutions of the Byzantine and Venetian empires.
We followed this story with an exposition of the Renaissance Principle as it expressed itself within the Muslim cultural matrix with an investigation into the incredible lives and minds of Ibn Sina and al Farabi, and more… as well as the cultural and political dynamics which pulled Islam out of this positive tradition and into destructive and regressive systems of behaviour characteristic of a Dark Age culture.
The Chinese world was then explored featuring an introduction into the life and mind of Confucius and his followers who paralleled both in time and in philosophy the battles waged in Greece and Italy by the Pythagoreans, Socrates and Plato who sought to create a society, and educational system premised upon Natural Law, Creative Reason, Goodness and Love. To the degree that all members of that society strived towards these ennobled goals and to the degree its leadership did too (under Plato’s idea of Philosopher Kings), then that society would enjoy the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ or Tianxia. This insight was also reflected in Hindu and Buddhist cultures as we came to see.
Finally, the lecture cycle closed with an introduction into the mind, poetry and politics of the great Dante Alighieri who unleashed not only a philosophical revolution amidst the medieval dark age of war and depopulation in Europe, but planted the seeds that later blossomed in the form of the Florentine Golden Renaissance of the 15th century and a unified national Italian language capable of expressing the most powerful ideas and metaphors respecting mankind and nature.
This lecture cycle then led the way into a new series which follows the current of this renaissance principle as it leapt over an ocean into a New World far enough removed from the corrupting influence of oligarchism during the 17th century in the hopes that a new paradigm of humankind could finally be born which took the form of a republican independence movement. That new lecture cycle is titled A Harmony of Interests: Inquiries into the True Nature of the American System.
While these lectures only begin to scratch the surface of world history, they each provide gateways into a universal process which is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago and as it will be 2000 or even 200 000 years into the future.