Here’s a thought I had:
When I went to the University I was appalled by it. I condemned and criticized it while I was there. The result is that I dropped out of the University.
Now, after 30 years, I begin to see more of the reasons why . . .
THE MEDIEVAL SYSTEM
It seems that I complained about similar things that was complained about in the medieval Universities. Basically, there was a rebellion against the medieval system. Because of the Crusades, and the growth of the Catholic church, there became increasing control in the society. I see three phases of medieval control:
- Carolingian control – about 800-1100. This ended with the Crusades which brought the Catholic control into power.
- First Catholic control – about 1100-1350. This ended with the black death which disrupted almost all of Europe for most of the late 1300’s, in particular, and into the 1400’s.
- Second Catholic control – about 1400-1550. This ended with the Protestant Reformation.
The control that was rebelled against was the second Catholic control after the black death. This control seemed to be particularly extensive and strong.
The University seems to of largely been a result of the Crusades and growth of the Catholic church. Because of this, they are related. They reflect a growing sense of things such as these:
- Systemization and organization
- Expectations of what one is to do
These were felt in both the University and Medieval society, as a whole, causing two movements to appear:
- Counter University movement
- Counter System movement
The movements seemed to be in reaction to qualities that became particularly important in Medieval society such as:
- Systemized knowledge. In many ways, the systemization of knowledge as a whole was a continuation of the Christian conversion, of “forcing an accepted knowledge” upon the population. This set the general tone toward knowledge and it was displayed in areas like the University.
- Power structure. This, of course, has a lot to do with the growing power of the Catholic Church in society. It would eventually extend to the government and social structure.
What this means is that the Crusades caused a growth of control over society that, in many ways, define Medieval society. This became so extensive that it caused reactions, or movements, against it.
In general, the movements were against the emphasis on the system and power structure which caused a degradation of the “human being”. The net result is that, during the Medieval period there became a conflict between the system/power structure and the human being.
Much of this rebellion seems to of begun at the Universities. There seems to be a number of reasons why:
- It was a systemized and very organized environment
- It promoted a systemization and organization of knowledge
- It was associated with the power structure (church, government, social structure)
- Because it was exposed to different forms of knowledge, from other places, it offered a “different perspective” that was lacking in everyday society
In many ways, the University was an concentrated version of Medieval society with all its power and control and systemization. As a result, the opposition began there.
It seems that the first effect of this opposition at the University is often called humanism. To me, humanism is the emphasis on human qualities as significant and important in life. But, when you look at the history of humanism, I think, it is somewhat confusing. Over the years there has developed many versions and aspects of what it is.
I seem to think there are two forms of humanism:
- Southern humanism. This primarily comes from Italy. This is the humanism that is usually looked at.
- Northern Germanic humanism. This is primarily Germanic in origin. This tends to be overshadowed by the southern humanism and is often confused with it.
In this article I am looking at Northern Germanic humanism.
I tend to feel that the Northern Germanic humanism has early origins. It seems to reflect the Germanic tribal society mentality. In its simplest way, I’d say that Northern Germanic humanism is a reaction against the infiltration of southern Italian, and Christian society, on what is a strongly tribal society. In this way, it is a rebellion against the conquering society and social system of the south. One could then say that the Northern Germanic humanism is really an emphasis on “our way” versus “your way” or as an emphasis on “us” and “our ways”. It seems to primarily focus on the idea of a people, and not necessarily as individual people. This was how it was initially, or so it seems to me. In this way, Northern Germanic humanism is really reflective of a culture clash with southern Italian and Christian culture. I believe that clash still continues to this day.
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
The humanistic feelings, of emphasis on “us” and “our ways”, would transfer to the Catholic church, which was responsible for much of the control and power during the Medieval times. Many people were involved with this opposition but it would end up centering on Martin Luther in Germany. In the early 1500’s he would start a movement which would eventually oppose and shatter the Catholic church, and Christianity in general. This is the Protestant Reformation.
A significant point about the Protestant Reformation is that it made things more “personal”, putting the emphasis on “me” instead of “us”. This is seen in Martin Luther’s statement sola fide (faith alone). This reflects the emphasis on the individual, not the society, as the source of belief and religion.
It seems, to me, that this created something like a “half-individualism”. By this I mean that the mentality is rooted in a culture clash, and is social as a result. But the philosophy of Christianity, which it tried to reform, emphasized conversion and belief. This puts the emphasis on the individual (that is, the Christian conversion required the individual to convert as part of its process). In this way, half-individualism is a form of individualism based in as social conflict between cultures but which uses a philosophy that emphasizes the individual. In this way, it only seems to be individualistic. To put it another way, “the person fights a social conflict as if it were an interior and personal battle”.
The effect of all this is that the Protestant Reformation caused an emphasis on the individual as a source of belief, conviction, and religion. This fact would reveal an important aspect of this problem . . .
THE HUMAN BEING VERSUS THE SYSTEM
What all this is about, really, is the tug-of-war between the human being and the system. That is to say, the problem became an issue as a result of the Medieval system becoming too powerful and squashing the person. In this way, the human being and the system became at odds and have been ever since. Its resurfaced again and again, and in a multitude of ways, since the Medieval times. It even resurfaced in me . . .
MY EXPERIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY
My own conflict at the University was, in many ways, a smaller version of the situation that was seen in Medieval times. I had many of the same conflicts:
- I was appalled by the systemization of knowledge
- I was appalled by the systemization of the whole process
- I was appalled by the power structure and how it manipulated everything
- I was appalled by the conformism
- I was appalled by how I had to “do and believe what they wanted”
- I was not convinced that the University was the “great-all authority of knowledge” . . . its just an organization . . . who made them god?!
- I felt squashed by it all as a person
These caused a reaction . . .
MY REACTION . . . AND THE SIMILARITIES
I was so appalled that I ended up dropping out of the University at about 1990. In the decade following I found that I replicated many themes seen in the Medieval opposition movements. Some of these include:
- I began to use the word “human” a lot.
- I coined the word “humaness” to refer to naturally appearing human qualities.
- I spoke of “The Human” referring to the importance of human qualities.
- I emphasized the need to follow natural inclinations.
- I created the phrase: “the human takes precedence”.
- I emphasized “dehumanization” and its damaging effects.
- I spoke of the System and Systemization, which tends to degrade “The Human”, human qualities, and natural inclinations.
- I stated that there was a “war for humaness” and that we have to fight against the System to maintain our humanity.
- I began to oppose the System.
In many ways, I reflected many views seen in humanism and the reformation. In short, I saw, and reacted to, a battle between the human being and the system. To me, it seems that I am reacting to the same conditions seen in the Medieval world and in a similar way. I tend to feel that this seems to show that the modern world is really a continuation of the Medieval world . . .
MEDIEVAL TIMES AND THE MODERN WORLD . . . WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE???
I tend to believe that the modern world is just the “latest installment” of a social system that began during Medieval times. Its a continuation of that system. I see a number of similarities between the Medieval system and the modern world. These include:
- There is a background of tribal mentality in society which tends to cause a rebelliousness in some people
- There is an influence of foreign beliefs and other influences
- There is a lot of new things being created
- There is a particularly strong power structure
- There is an an organized systemization of belief, knowledge, etc.
- There is a self-righteous cause
- There is the idea that it (the modern world) is the answer to everything
- There is the idea that it (the modern world) must change the world
The result of these is the exaltation of an ultra-organized society (what I call Systemism) at the expense of the human being. This is the same condition seen in the Medieval world.
Many of the above qualities originate from Christianity and the Crusades (for example, we have a high and mighty cause to change . . . I mean, save . . . the world). When you stand back and look at it we (that is, Western society) act like we are still in the Crusades. Of course, there are changes, such as that Jesus Christ has been replaced by science and the Catholic Church has been replaced by the state, but it hasn’t changed all that much.
I see several dominant qualities of this mentality which originate in Christianity:
- A self-righteousness – Christianity is the only true belief in the world
- An emphasis on power structure – the power of the Catholic Church preserves the only true religion
- A systemization of knowledge and belief to “accepted” way’s – one must believe in Jesus Christ and the beliefs established by the Catholic Church
- An emphasis on the “new” – Christianity is a “new” belief that replaces the “old” pagan belief
- The idea that we must change the world to our way – The world must be converted to Christianity
- The idea that the “new” will save us – Christianity will save the world
These are all qualities developed during the Crusades and which persist down to today. In many ways, they are the basis for the modern mentality showing that we are not as far from the Medieval world as we think we are.
THE CHRISTIAN CONVERSION, GERMANIC SOCIETY, AND “TRIBALISM”
To me, it seems that this whole phenomena is rooted in the Christian conversion and its effect on Germanic society (by “Germanic” I mean the culture that includes Germany, France, England, Scandinavia, and everywhere in between). Basically, the Christian conversion brought in many foreign elements from the south and these had a great affect on the Germanic tribal mentality and prompted a reaction as a result. This seems to be at the base of the problem anyways.
The whole phenomena is a reflection of what I call “tribalism” and a dilemma that surrounds it (see my article Thoughts on “tribalism” – some aspects and dilemma’s). To put it simply “tribalism” refers to a sense of a “tribe”, or people, as a distinct and separate entity in the world. In this “tribe” is found unity, security, and meaning. When things disrupt this “tribe”, such an the intrusion of foreign ideas or social structures, it can create conflict for people. For example, it can cause insecurity, fear, apprehension, confusion, loss, despair, apathy, etc. When this happens various reactions can appear such as anger, violence, alienation, rebellion, etc.
The Christian conversion, being foreign in origin, caused such a reaction in the Germanic tribal societies. It disrupted Germanic “tribalism” in a number of ways:
- It brought in new beliefs and attitudes
- It brought in new social structures
- It was authoritative in nature
- It made itself out as the authority in society
- It attempted to destroy existing mentalities, beliefs, traditions, etc.
- It was often very forceful upon the population
All this was intensified by the Crusades which, in a way, made it more forceful, authoritative, and destructive. In this way, it only disrupted the unity, security, and meaning of “tribalism” eventually prompting a reaction.
It seems that the reaction that happens when “tribalism” is threatened often entails things such as:
- The regaining of unity
- The regaining of security
- The regaining of meaning
- Rebellion against the foreign intrusion
My observation is that, contrary to what most people would think, the reaction against foreign intrusion, and the disruption of “tribalism”, is seldom automatic rebellion and violence. The first reactions are often attempts at regaining the unity, security, and meaning that was lost. If these are not reestablished then it can turn into rebellion and violence, particularly if things are forced upon them.
It seems that the Christian conversion created many attempts and methods of regaining the unity, security, and meaning of “tribalism”. Some of these include:
- Siding with Christianity and making it the new “tribe”
- Going in some other direction, which often meant going “underground”
- Maintaining the “old ways”, at least in some way or form
- Appealing to other new things as a substitute
- The creation of new points of view
- Migrating somewhere else
Many of these qualities describe the conditions of Germanic culture particularly following the Crusades. This shows that the disruption caused by the Christian conversion has caused a new form of culture that is endlessly trying to regain “tribalism”. Perhaps we could cause this the “regaining culture”? In this way, we can see that a big part of Germanic culture is a continual attempt at regaining the unity, security, and meaning of “tribalism” that was disrupted by the Christian conversion.
It is my belief that this continual attempt at “regaining tribalism”, which is a reaction to the Christian conversion, is one of the reasons why the Germanic people became so productive, created a lot, was so innovative, discovered many things, and explored a lot.
Despite all that they have done, though, the “tribalism” was never really recovered. One of the reasons for this is that all the new stuff created just became a new “foreign intrusion”. This shows how a vicious circle is often started with the attempt at “regaining”:
- “Tribalism” exists in the society
- A foreign intrusion appears
- “Tribalism” is disrupted
- There is an attempt at “regaining tribalism”
- This causes the creation of many new things as a substitute for “tribalism”
- The new things become a new form of foreign intrusion
- There is a continued disruption of “tribalism”
- Back to phase 4 and the cycle is repeated
Perhaps we could call this the “vicious circle of the regaining culture”? What seems to happen is that this vicious circle becomes a dominating quality with the “regaining culture”. It creates a society that is, in a way, “continually moving but getting nowhere”.
I should point out that all cultures in the world reflect “tribalism”, at least in some way. Its a very natural phenomena and the disruption or loss of the “tribe” has an impact, though it may not seem like it. Personally, I feel that many of the problems of the world are really based in the disruption or loss of the “tribe”. Each culture reacts to it differently though.
But the Christian conversion seems to of caused a unique reaction. This was primarily seen in the Germanic peoples reflecting, of course, that the unique quality of Germanic tribalism. There seems to be a progression of event in how this went:
- There is an already existing society based in the “tribe” – the “Germanic people
- There is a foreign intrusion dressed out as a “savior” of the people but not part of the “tribe” – Christianity
- The “savior” seems convincing to the people so they start to believe the foreign “savior” but maintain tribal mentality deep down – people seem to convert
- This condition continues while there are no tensions or conflicts
- When tensions and conflicts appear it puts a strain on the society and the original base “tribe” mentality comes out – people start to go against the foreign “savior” and its belief falls
Its like there are two levels in the mind of the culture that the Christian conversion caused:
- The base “tribe” mentality
- The belief of the “savior” which is overlayed on the base mentality
When there is a conflict people “fall back” onto the base “tribe” mentality and the “savior” is tossed to the side. In this way, one could say that the culture only half believed. That is to say, something like a “half-belief” appeared. One effect of this is the “half-individualism” described above.
Basically, in “half-belief” people followed Christianity with their minds or, for the more serious, with their hearts . . . but their souls rest with the “tribe”. The reason why ones soul rests with the “tribe” is because of things such as:
- It is associated with self-preservation of the “tribe”, people, and culture
- It is deeply ingrained in the culture as a result of its presence for centuries
This is why the “tribe” and “tribal mentality” is so deep rooted and why its disrupting is so impactful. As a result of this, the “tribe” becomes the “default” mentality, so to speak. This made it difficult for the belief in Christianity to never really became that firm or established. In this way, the Germanic people were never really converted to Christianity.
It seems, to me, that “half-belief” is a common problem with Christianity, at least in some form. I think one of the reasons why is because of the three-fold levels I described above:
- Belief with ones mind – the weakest
- Belief with ones heart – stronger but still weak
- Belief with ones soul – strongest
Basically, the Christian conversion relies on peoples understanding to cause a conversion. That is to say, it requires the weakest aspect of all . . . the mind. In reality, most of the Christian conversion is rooted in understanding. The more serious tried to bring the “heart” into it, at least in some way, but it never really worked in the conversion. This reliance on “understanding of Christianity” is, really, the weakest aspect of Christianity and why it tends to fail.
One of the interesting effects of “half-belief” is that because the belief primarily rests with understanding, with ones mind, there is a tendency for this aspect to be “remembered” and there is a tendency to forget or, rather, disregard the original belief . . . the “tribe”. As a result, this makes it so that consciously people become unaware of the “tribe” and its importance. Despite this, its still strong, and part of the culture, which makes it affect people unconsciously, often without their knowing it. This is why the Germanic people often kept resorting to various forms of worshiping of ones culture, history, and “volk” throughout history. The most dramatic version of this is, of course, the Nazi’s or some attitudes of the British Empire. This behavior reflects that unconscious “tribe” mentality that, really, everyone forgot but is still functioning in the culture. In this way, the “tribe” mentality continues to exist but becomes a silent and unknown force in the culture. As a result of this presence, it keeps reappearing in many different ways and its usually not recognized as such.
In my opinion, Germanic society is still tribal in its deeper orientation. In this way, it is basically displaying qualities similar to what we see in some primitive tribes. But, since the Christian conversion, it has lost touch with that quality . . . it has become unconscious. In addition, it has also been pushed more into the unconscious by many things that have happened since, such as:
- All the creations, inventions that have appeared
- All the events and happenings
- All the wars and conflicts that have appeared
- The effects of overpopulation and dealing with masses of people
- The growth of media and communication
- The growth of consumerism and materialism
- The growth of information
- The infiltration of many foreign things, people, etc.
These have created something like “overlays” on the tribal mentality making it even more hidden from view.
THE QUESTION OF AUTHORITY
Another problem of the Christian conversion is that it tried to make itself out as the authority. In a society with a “tribe” mentality this is not as easy as it sounds for the “tribe” is the authority . . . you don’t just walk into it and replace it. It seems, to me, that one of the main reasons why Christianity failed is because it tried to make itself out as the true and only authority in an already established tribal society. In fact, it seems that the question of authority caused the counter movements above, humanism, and the Protestant Reformation. It also caused my reaction. Personally, I felt as if I was having the “wool pulled over my eyes” or as if a “pretend authority” was trying to be imposed upon me. In addition, it was like a “self proclaimed authority” was trying to tell me what to do. The problem is that I did not accept it as authority. I tend to feel that similar feelings also motivated the Medieval reaction as well.
The “pretend authorities” came from many sources:
- Christianity . . . a foreign authority
- Being told what to believe . . . primarily from the Catholic church
- Being told what knowledge was true . . . primarily from the University
- Having to submit to a power structure that one can’t relate to
The problem is that all this was coming from “without” . . . it was foreign.
This question of authority is often why, if one looks closely, one can see that much of Germanic society is trying to find authority in one form or another throughout the centuries. Examples include:
- The new Protestant interpretation of Christianity
It almost looks like much of Germanic society, from Germany to Britain to the U.S., is on an endless quest seeking an authority which it can’t seem to find. In this way, Germanic society is somewhat uprooted . . . it can’t find its “center”, so to speak. This seems to be a common problem as, it seems to me, that the overall effect of the Christian conversion is an uprooting of cultures.
INDIVIDUALISM AND GERMANIC SOCIETY
Interestingly, much of the individualism we see in Germanic society may have strong roots in the emphasis on “regaining tribalism” as a result of the Christian conversion. In other words, Germanic individualism may be more about the “tribe” than the individual. This is rather ironic as it seems to be going in the opposite direction than what it claims.
There seems to be a number of things that it originates from:
- The warrior ethic developed during the era of the Roman Empire and the wars that followed its downfall
- The warrior ethic of the Crusades which is really a continuation of the previous quality
What it seem, then, is that Germanic individualism was originally associated with war, which is really distinguishing oneself in battle for the benefit of the “tribe”. Already, then, we see the “tribe” as a motive of individualism. In some respects, the individual is elevated for a protection of the “tribe”.
But the Christian conversion created another threat to the “tribe” . . . the disruption of “tribalism”. In this way, the individual would again be elevated again for the protection of the “tribe” but not as a warrior, as such, but in a different and unique way. Instead of elevating the individual-for-the-tribe, as a warrior, he is elevated as the individual-as-an-ideal, of a glorification of things like an individuals understanding, faith, belief, achievements, and such. Interestingly, this emphasis on the individual has many qualities that originated with the Christian conversion, such as:
- Christian belief – the need to “understand” in the conversion process
- Protestant Reformation – emphasis on personal belief (referred to above)
- “Half-individualism” (referred to above)
In this way, one could say that the individual-as-an-ideal originates from a combination of the warrior individual-for-the-tribe mentality and qualities created by the Christian conversion which tends to put emphasis on the individual (described above). I tend to feel that these qualities were interpreted in an individual sense because of the Germanic warrior ethic and the threat to “tribalism”. If one looks at other places where Christianity tried to convert people there are very few other cultures that interpreted things quite in that light. Because of this, the individual-as-an-ideal is a unique Germanic reaction to the Christian conversion.
But the individual-as-an-ideal is based in the “tribe”, as I said above. This makes it so that there is often a unique confusion between the individual and the “tribe”. There is something like a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum its hard to say which one is being spoken about . . . they are as if blended together. On the other end of the spectrum they are in conflict . . . it becomes the “tribe” versus the individual. At this point the “tribe” takes on other qualities. It refers to the greater existing society . . . the church, the government, the King, the aristocracy, the laws, etc. I generally refer to all this as the “system”, as I’ve stated above. The result of all this is that the individual-as-an-ideal tends to create two main conditions:
- The blending of the individual and the “system”. This creates a person who does what society wants. This has made Germanic society very efficient but it tends to create “robots”.
- The individual versus the “system”. This creates a person who emphasizes what a person does, and is willing to oppose things for the right reasons, but it tends to create rebels.
Of course, which path one takes depends on the person and conditions. Both qualities have had great impact on Germanic society. The counter movements, humanism, Protestant Reformation, and my reaction (described above) reflect the individual versus the “system” perspective. This does not necessarily reflect society as a whole. If you look closer, you’ll see that the other perspective is also seen in Medieval as well as Germanic society (in addition to other perspectives as well). What this means is that the reactions I have described reflect a reaction toward the Christian conversion . . . its not the only reaction.
For some related thoughts see:
Copyright by Mike Michelsen