Renaissance means ‘rebirth’, and is the name given to the rebirth of the intellectual, philosophical and scientific culture of the West some 600 years ago. The Renaissance is understood to refer to a complete rebirth of higher awareness, as if we had awakened from a stupor, but a closer examination shows that only half of the job was done. As this essay will discuss, there are two great cultural rebirths – and one hasn’t happened yet.
There was much that was great about the Greco-Roman culture of the classical age. Philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle laid the intellectual and moral foundations for the entire Western world. The degree of moral insight they achieved has never been replicated, and works such as The Republic continue to inspire scholars and intellectuals around the world.
The Roman Empire that followed was one of the greatest feats of all of human civilisation. Its peak population was around 60-70 million, and the city of Rome had a million inhabitants at this time, about 1,900 years ago. Its great figures, like Julius Caesar, Augustus and Nero, are known to most today.
As this great culture was gradually destroyed by Christian and barbarian invaders, the West fell into the Dark Ages, where most knowledge and culture was lost. Europe regressed back into primitive superstition, and stayed there for almost a thousand years.
Beginning mostly in Italy, the Renaissance saw great minds such as da Vinci, Machiavelli, Galileo and Giordano Bruno restore much of the glory of those ancient days. Their contributions to mathematics, science and to the study of human nature lifted humanity out of the dark times and back to an age where reason triumphed. To the scholars and intellectuals of this new age, it felt very much like a rebirth of a higher order of consciousness.
This essay calls this the Minor Renaissance.
The Minor Renaissance, then, is the revival of the scientific and inquisitional culture that was championed by Greeks such as Archimedes, Eratosthenes and Aristotle. The Minor Renaissance gave us industrialisation, global empires, penicillin, spaceships, atomic bombs and computers. Its apogee may have come in 1969, with the first Moon landing.
But as glorious as the Minor Renaissance was, it’s still only a minor one.
Many of us have come to wonder what else there is in life. Somehow we don’t feel fulfilled buying big screen TVs, newer smartphones, bigger cars or bigger houses, and neither do we feel fulfilled flying or driving around the place. Career successes don’t bring any meaningful gratification and bringing children into a world like this is not easy to justify.
This sense of longing is compounded by the fact that our popular culture is overwhelmingly atheist. It’s very rare that the mainstream media expresses any spiritual wisdom, obsessed as it is with tawdry celebrity and crass consumerism. Our communities have decayed, our lives have become atomised, and our spiritual senses have become atrophied to the point where they barely still exist.
It’s little wonder, then, that suicide rates are rising across the West, along with anti-depressant and anti-psychotic prescriptions. The great process of learning and discovery that led to all the engineering and scientific achievements mentioned above, glorious as it was, did not leave us with the spiritual tools to confront the lack of inherent meaning in life on this planet. Bereft of such tools, we drift as if lost in space.
Because the Minor Renaissance was not a complete return to the glory of the Greco-Roman past, we await a Major Renaissance that will be. The Major Renaissance will see the rebirth of the Greco-Roman spiritual culture, some 600 years after the rebirth of the Greco-Roman intellectual and scientific culture.
This Major Renaissance will herald the spiritual rebirth of the soul of the Western people, which has remained dormant for some 1,600 years now.
Ever since the Eleusinian Mysteries were destroyed by Alaric and the Visigoths in 396, Westerners have lost their connection to the divine. The Eleusinian Mysteries had served to enlighten countless people during the thousand years they ran for. Today, however, spiritual truths that were once known by all are only known by society’s outcasts.
The Major Renaissance, therefore, would involve a rebirth of the Greco-Roman spiritual science that reached its highest expression in the rituals at Eleusis. This probably used some kind of psilocybin-based psychedelic sacrament, in conjunction with a ritualised and theatrical moral lecture, to shatter the false conceptions and false conditioning that befall all beings who manifest in the material plane.
A reinstatement of the Mysteries of Eleusis would involve the founding of a 21st century psilocybin mushroom cult. Eventually this would grow to become popular enough that most of the influential people in the world would want to be initiated. This collective enlightenment would provide the energy that sparked a spiritual renaissance that lifted the entire Western World – the Major Renaissance.
A spiritual renaissance would involve a widespread anamnesia, or unforgetting, of spiritual truths once widely understood. As this newspaper has argued before, a spiritual renaissance is happening right now. This is all but inevitable on account of that the truth, as Buddha observed, cannot be hidden for long. If this new spiritual age would come to define the age we lived in, we could be said to have gone through the Major Renaissance.
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