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Modernity | Wikipedia
[C]losely linked to the ethos of philosophical and aesthetic Modernism; political and intellectual currents that intersect with the Enlightenment; and subsequent developments such as existentialism, modern art, ...also encompasses the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism, and shifts in attitudes associated with secularisation, liberalization, modernization and post-industrial life.

Modernism | Wikipedia — See Definition
...a mode of "thinking", "philosophically defined characteristics", "self-consciousness, or self-reference", "novelties"
...a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology.
...a broad cultural, social, or political initiative, sustained by the ethos of "the temporality of the new"
...seeking to restore "a sense of sublime order and purpose to the contemporary world, thereby counteracting the (perceived) erosion of an overarching ‘nomos’, or ‘sacred canopy’, under the fragmenting and secularizing impact of modernity.
...a common cause and psychological matrix in the fight against (perceived) decadence.
...bids to access a “supra-personal experience of reality”, in which individuals believed they could transcend their own mortality, and eventually that they had ceased to be victims of history to become instead its creators.

An Unearthed Treasure That Changed Things
Why Stephen Greenblatt Is Wrong — and Why It Matters
Why Greek?

Getting to the Essence: A Look at the Schism Throught the Eyes of Professor Osipov

The Modern Survival Guide Vol. 1: Introduction
The Modern Survival Guide: Vol. 2

Michel de Montaigne

Me, Myself, and I
What made Michel de Montaigne the first modern man?

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold 1822–1888
— “Many readers have come to see Arnold as the most modern of the Victorians. Arnold himself defines “the modern” in his first lecture as professor of poetry at Oxford in 1857, “On the Modern Element in Literature.” This lecture marked Arnold’s transition from poet to social and literary critic. He argued that the great need of a modern age is an “intellectual deliverance”: preoccupation with the arts of peace, the growth of a tolerant spirit, the capacity for refined pursuits, the formation of taste, and above all, the intellectual maturity to “observe facts with a critical spirit” and “to judge by the rule of reason.” This prescription, which he found supremely fulfilled in Athens of the fifth century B.C., is of course an idealized one when applied to any age. Arnold believed, however, that holding up this ideal was necessary if his own age were to become truly modern, truly humanized and civilized.”

Foundation of Modernity

Many may think Modernity began with the Counterculture of the 1960s, especially if right wing Culture war advocates have their influential say. But as said, truth is stranger than fiction. Despite the historical existence of Western “christianity” (Heterodoxy), Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Orthodoxy) is original Traditional Christianity and the true counterculture of human civilization, whereas Heterodoxy (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) is a distortion of Orthodoxy. Western “christianity” (originating in the Church of Rome in Western Europe) is the creator of Modernity, the secular and secularism. Ironically, it is just such godless secularism that is so despised by modern day, Western “christian”, political conservative, culture warriors — making the claims of such warriors a long departure from the truth, that the source of the secular left in the West is atheist Marxist hatred of their right wing sacred cow of Western “christianity”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “free market” Capitalism.

Fr. John Strickland identifies the point of conversion of the West to Modernity, not in failing church attendance (over which there's much hand wringing in conservative "christian" circles), but in Roman Catholicism's loss of traditional Christian theological foundation, evident in its turn from Orthodox Christian iconography to Western religious painting. The use of realistic, naturalistic style and perspective developed during the Renaissance, especially the manner in which the Christ child is depicted, and also Christian saints and angels make this departure in apostasy apparent.

Infection with the ancient Christian heresy of Gnosticism is also instrumental in conversion of the West to Modernity. Eric Vogelin originally advanced that analysis, which more recently has been summarized within an Orthodox Christian context by Dr. G.M. Davis, who exposes Globalism as a form of Gnosticism and H.G. Wells as originator of many of it tenets.

What Child is This?, or, On the Rise of “Baby Jesus”
On the Diminution of Angels
Oil (Petroleum), Babylon, The Beast

Western Apostasy from Church Tradition

SeeWestern Apostasy from Church Tradition



Anthropological Pessimism

SeeFr. John Strickland

Roman Catholicism created the secular realm and secularism when its heirarchy sidelined laity to the saeculum (non-sacred secular realm) to wait out experience of communion with God until the afterlife, while exalting the heirarchy, priesthood and monastics to the sacred realm. No wonder, then, that Martin Luther decided to shuck all of those offices when reforming the Church of Rome into the Lutheran Church following his excommunication from Rome during The Reformation, but that's like “burning down the barn to get rid of rats”, or “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” It would have been decidedly better had Luther shucked Roman theological Papal Reformation and returned the west to Eastern Orthodoxy. The Specter of Anthropological Pessimism created by Rome was an “emphatically negative view of the human condition in this world” that stemmed from overemphasis and near sole reliance on theology of Augustine of Hippo, and the novel Satisfaction theory of atonement introduced singularly (individually not conciliarly) by Anselm of Canterbury. Little of this, unfortunately, was reformed by Luther, even though he was at least somewhat aware of Church Tradition in the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), referencing it in his arguments against Rome's apostasy. How different the trajectory of the west might have been if Luther had actually reformed Rome back to her original Orthodoxy.


If 'It's Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature!' then it surely isn't nice to fool with The Church's pneumatology, and that's exactly what The Church of Rome did when it unilaterally (without conciliarity with any other Church See, much less ecumenically with them all) added the Filioque to the Nicene Creed. Thereby Roman “Catholicism” was initally created by which Rome arrogated to itself all power and despotic dominance over The Church in the entire world.

(Whether such totalitarianism was “hard” or “soft” or optionally Benedictine matters not.)

In Christian Tradition, the creation of The Church is attributed to the Holy Spirit (3rd Person of the Holy Trinity), so dickering with the Nicene Creed by which The Church had historically defined herself against heresy was effectively an act of apostasy by which Roman Catholicism departed from Church Tradition. Such apostasy is evidenced in 1) the Great Schism, wherein Rome falsely accused the East of heresy, excommunicated the Ecumenical Patriach, and effectively all the other Church sees in the world and their members in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchy, and 2) the Sack of Constantinople.

Repercussions to Natural Environment

After the Church of Rome fooled with the Church's pneumatology, morphed into Roman “Catholicism” with its gnostic tendencies, and created secularism, the West (of Europe) progressively proceeded to endlessly fool around with Mother Nature gnostically as if she were humanity's whore and slave. There is a direct connection between the former and latter, and we only have to look around us today to see what utopian minded effects Modernity such as this hath wroth. Utopia is known in Greek as chiliasm, the human hubris of seeking heaven in the material earth, where it cannot be found by “worshipping the created instead of the Creator.” (“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator....” — Romans 1:25) Progress has come to be the religion of the secular Modern West that exists under a thin veil of distorted “christianity”. Progress is worshipped in its incarnation of the Economy, under which is subsumed Science and Technology, and Consumerism. Progress is propagandized with governmental Bread & Circuses performances, and enforced with the greatest and most destructive military might Earth has ever seen, that treads “softly”, at least sometimes, or pretends to do so.

Adam Curtis

SeeAdam Curtis -
   The Century of the Self
   Pandora's Box

Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve: How the World Became ModernAmazon
— “Greenblatt tells the story of how Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary and obsessive book hunter, saved the last copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) from near-terminal neglect in a German monastery, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age.
...situated in a controversial tradition that views the Renaissance as a victory of reason over medieval religiosity, following John Addington Symonds, Voltaire and David Hume.
..."blustering again and again about the beauty-loathing, eros-denying evils of Christianity ... sighing in the usual postmodern way about pleasure and desire.
...simplistic and clichéd conclusions”

This book is proof that "you are what you read", and that you read what you are, listen to hymns sung to the choir you have emotionally joined while thinking of your self as reasonable. I would not have known about this book had not a former college classmate (who I'll call “Gigi Berkowitz’) informed me she was reading it. Gigi‘s mother was atheist, and since the apple doesn't far fall from the tree, Gigi has an ever present animus against Christianity and anything "christian" as misunderstood by her, an animus which is always waiting in the wings to come to her contentious aid.

The political so called liberal choir to which Gigi belongs, is no different than the political so called conservative choir, which she utterly despises (though could never bring herself to admit she hates). The conservative choir blames all the ills of the modern world on atheistic communists. The liberal choir blames all the ills of the modern world on religion, particularly "christianity", as defined by conflating anything remotely "christian" into presumed bigoted religiosity of evangelical fundamentalist Reformed Protestantism. Both liberal and conservative choirs are reductionist Political Propaganda, guilty of Misidentification of the Problem.

Gigi thinks that blame for all the ilk of modern "christian" religiosity must be laid at the feet of Constantine the Great, despite her great loyalty to modern Democratic Party politics of “human rights”. Or should I say because of such loyalty to all humans being equal (derived ironically from Christian belief in all humanity created in the image and likeness of God), Gigi actually thinks that some humans like her (anti-christian atheists), or who support her liberal political beliefs, are more human than others (Christians).

What a tyrant the Emperor Constantine was, legalizing Christianity the way he did and making persecution against Christians illegal. Surely, Christians should have no human rights, denial of which of course makes them subhuman, racist reasoning to which Gigi claims to be opposed. By her way of thinking, if it weren't for Constantine, the modern West would not be plagued by such unreasonable ilk of racist religiosity today, and the world instead would be one happy, clappy material Utopia. Right! (or should I say Left!). Likewise, politicized “christian” conservatives think that if only god-less atheistic communism can be nuked from the face of the earth, then the world would be one happy, clappy material Utopia. Right! How well is that working for them? That's exactly what the global political ploy (Foreign Policy) of the US has been (Liberal Hegemony, Neoliberalism) since post WWII.

Just as it hasn't occurred to “christian” conservatives that they are being played by the Corporate Capitalist 1% uber rich, it hasn't occurred to Gigi (and probably never will) that if blame can be lain anywhere for the ilk of modern “christian” religiosity, it is more reasonable to lay blame at the feet of Charlemagne, the fake Roman emperor, not Constantine. Such religiosity and all the evil it entails, however, is not a matter of blame, but of Divine Providence. Without the world going to hell in a handbasket through misplaced human desire for Love of Mammon instead of Love of God (prioritizing the material over the spiritual, idolatry of the worst kind), the Parousia and Final Judgement cannot occur, by which the Kingdom of Heaven (of God) comes into being in its fullness, and evil, death, decay, and suffering are banished forever from human life of those who Love God, who desire comm-union with Him above anything and everything else, who sing in the harmonious polyphonous choir of His Church, not the cacophonous monophonous choirs of liberal or conservative political churches.

Political Delusion

On the modern political right are those who see too much of Christianity in the West as if the West is a theocratic Old Testament Puritan millenarian, utopian, chiliastic version of the Kingdom of Heaven itself, and on the left are those who see (or would prefer to see) nothing of Christianity in the West at all, even though atheism is a mutation that has never occurred in any human culture in the history of Earth until Modernity. The secular humanistic values of Modernity are but a bastardization of Christian culture exempt of the divine and the sacred, the crumbling ruins of Western Christendom on which Modernity is built. But the alternative does not demand resorting once again to Western “christianity” from whence these problems arose. Orthodox Christianity offers a third way, a return to the true root of Western civilization, as long as it doesn't remain the West's best kept secret.

SeeDonald Trump

Patrick J. Deneen

Patrick J. Deneen

Patrick Deneen Explains Why Liberalism Failed

Patrick J. Deneen - Postliberal Order | Substack
Russia, America, and the Danger of Political Gnosticism
A Party of Commitment
J. S. Mill and the Despotism of Progress

Fr. John Strickland

Paradise and Utopia | Fr. Strickland's blog

Paradise and Utopia | Fr. Strickland's podcast on Ancient Faith Ministries
The Origins of Christendom in the Cosmology of Christ’s Great Commission
The Formation of a Christian Subculture in the Pagan Roman Empire
The Nicolaitan Schism
Seeing the West with Eastern Eyes: The Causes and Enduring Differences of the Great Schism — Part 1, Part 2

The Rise of Anthropological Pessimism in the West — I, II, III, IV
The Crisis of Western Christendom: The Curse of Anthropological Pessimism

Western Anthropological Pessimism
Augustine of Hippo’s pessimistic anthropology, an anthropology which related closely to a cosmology —
concupiscence, heteronomy (as opposed to Pelagius’ autonomy), vitiated free will to point of powerlessness, created grace (not uncreated Divine energies), original sin, original guilt, predestination, temporal life as concatenation of miseries, purifactory punishment
Augustine impressed upon Western thought a number of interlocking assumptions that led the West gradually after the time of Augustine further and further away from the high optimistic anthropology of the Greek Fathers toward an increasingly pessimistic anthropology which saw man’s salvation not as something that happens now in this life, but something that only occurs after this life, in an afterlife.
Original sin — Adam’s sin was an act of will for Augustine that was grounded in his concept of concupiscence, or evil desire. As a result of Adam’s sin, all of Adam’s descendants—every last one—participated in that act of will and therefore were personally guilty of the act of transgression. Augustine was inclined toward this interpretation of the Fall not only by his doctrine of grace and free will that he had worked out early in his life in response to his experiences of lustful desires, documented in his book, Confessions, and in his response to the Pelagian controversy, but also by St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible used in the West at the time that translated and subtly changed the original Greek ef ho (because) to in quo (in whom) in a very important passage from the epistle of Paul to the Romans —

Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because [ef ho] all sinned [not in quo, in whom all sinned!]... — Romans 5:12

If all human beings have sinned in Adam through original sin and have been conceived in sin and have therefore come into the world personally guilty of original sin, then all human beings are deserving of punishment by God. The human condition is now understood as a condition deserving punishment, universal punishment, emphasis which presented a God that was increasingly understood as one demanding retribution, retributive justice, acting on a relationship to man of wrath.
Unbaptized infants were destined for hell, because they were born with the guilt of Adam and therefore not having had that guilt washed away by baptism, were destined to be punished in hell for it (softened later in the history of the Roman Catholic Church by a doctrine called limbo).
Baptism itself became more and more understood as a sacrament exclusively of washing away sins, of remission of sins, and not, as it had been previously, both in the East and in the West, as a sacrament both of the remission of sins but also of the deification, the gift of the Holy Spirit that deifies the believer.
The entire human race became characterized by a condition called depravity: moral bankruptcy. Augustine used the phrase massa damnata, a damned mass, for the entire human race, a damned mass of creation, awaiting punishment, were it not for the life-creating sacraments of Christ’s holy Church.
Augustine described man’s condition in this world as one of misery, of almost unmitigated misery. The world was not a place, as it had been for the Greek Fathers, of man’s participation in the divine life, of an experience of deification, so much as a place to be endured, a place of punishment to be endured until such time as one died and was relieved of misery and suffering and entered into eternal bliss if they had been predestined for that state.
Salvation was a release from punishment in an afterlife, a life following this life here. This differed quite a bit from the understanding of salvation that had been elaborated in the Greek East.
For Augustine, original sin produces a world not in which participation in the divine life—deification through synergy—is possible so much as one in which man’s condition, man’s life, is dominated by what he called a concatenation of miseries.
Augustine presents as a consolation for those who are, as he puts it, predestined to death, and a pledge of future paradise to those who are predestined to life. A beautiful catalogue of the earth’s blessings, the blessings of this world for those, in fact who have been predestined to hell, predestined to death.
As Augustine reflected on these miseries, which spring forth from the reality of original sin, he also brought attention to the role of punishment and the actual value of punishment as a role in bringing people to paradise, bringing the saints who have been predestined for paradise to that experience which awaits them after they die in this age. All the miseries of this world, from which a man sharing in Adam’s sin cannot escape from, Augustine described as penal, as punishing in character, something designed by God to punish man; a penal character of suffering in this life.
Paradise, from which man was expelled, has no place in this world; something that man, rather the saints, will experience after they have died, after this life has passed away, in that other life, in that world to come. This life has become penal, a place of punishment, which is good at least for the saints who are being purified and prepared in this life for paradise; a purificatory punishment, a punishment that purifies. Those not predestined for heaven receive no benefit from the punishment that God offers to those in this life who are being prepared for paradise.
Augustine reflects on punishment that takes place after this life, a punishment which he speculated takes place in a purgatorial sense after death; that precedes hell itself, and the final judgment. Some, through undergoing punishment after this life in a condition that is purgatorial in character, purificatory, will, by that punishment, be brought ultimately to paradise, to eternal life, to the kingdom of heaven.
Augustine, defending Orthodoxy against the anthropological heresy of Pelagianism, had taken a stance that distinguished him sharply from the consensus in the Greek East about the condition of man, the dignity of man, and his place in this age and the possibility of him experiencing divine life, paradise itself, even in this world. Overall his point, his emphasis, was on the misery of the human condition and the indignity of man as the result of original sin, as he, uniquely, defined it.

Post-Augustinian Tradition of the West
Caesarius of Arles was an early Christian Father following Augustine who contributed to the institutionalization of Augustine’s pessimistic anthropology at the Second Council of Orange in the West, which occurred in 529.
After that, Augustine was very much the point of reference for so many Western Fathers, including Orthodox saints like Gregory the Great, the Pope of Rome. It’s interesting that Gregory, who did develop doctrines in line with Augustine which had a pessimistic kind of quality to them, nevertheless is described by George Demacopoulos as one whose understanding of salvation or soteriology was actually that of the Greek Fathers of the Church and not of Augustine. But he was, certainly, a transitional figure in the growing influence of Augustine in the West. As one famous Church historian, writing about 100 years ago, Philip Schaff, put it, he was the last of the Fathers, and the first of the popes: Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome. Gregory spoke of a purgatorial fire and appropriated other doctrines that Augustine had introduced, emphasizing the rather pessimistic experience of human life in this world. But he did soften Augustine’s doctrines of original sin and predestination. Nevertheless, with time and certainly by the Middle Ages, Fathers of the Roman Catholic West, such as Anselm, had fully embraced Augustine, and with it the implicit pessimism that went with Augustine on the human condition and its broader cosmology.
The Greek Fathers Eastern doctrine of deification secured the cosmological optimism of traditional Christianity in the East. That doctrine of deification didn’t totally disappear in the West, but faded from the predominant understanding of soteriology or salvation in the West after the time of Augustine.
David Vincent Meconi argues that Augustine actually did hold a theology of deification. He quotes Augustine as saying, “In order to make gods of those who were merely human, one who was God made himself human.” But certainly the overall impact of Augustine is one toward a more pessimistic anthropology, and with it, cosmology, than is found in the Greek East, why Western Christendom came to such a point of crisis.
Prior to Great Schism
Eastern Hesychasm — Symeon the New Theologian is known for an ecstatic vision of man’s participation in the life of God, a very good example of hesychasm before that movement. Contributing to this hesychast movement even before it was thoroughly defined by Gregory Palamas in the 14th century, Symeon emphasized that man experiences total participation in the life of God, that he can experience the uncreated light of God. His writings emphasize the constant experience of spiritual transformation through the immediate experience of divine communion — deification. He spoke repeatedly of the need for repentance, but not a repentance that leads to gloom or despair, but one that leads to joy. He spoke about also the ongoing experience of God’s presence in the believer’s life, in this age, an experience of paradise.
Western Flagellation
In contrast, Peter Damian, another Father of the Church in the West, was born in the early 1000s and dies after the Schism in the late 1000s or 11th century. He was an advocate for the Papal Reform movement and the power and influence of the papacy. He argued against a married priesthood in the West and insisted on celibacy, writing a famous letter of kind of diatribe against the women that were essentially living as wives with priests in the West before the final and complete assertion for priestly celibacy took hold in connection with the Papal Reformation of the eleventh century. He became the abbot of a Benedictine monastery and assumed great influence, so much so that he was brought into the papal circles of Leo IX, the pope who is responsible for sending Cardinal Humbert off to Constantinople in 1054 to excommunicate the Eastern Church, the Eastern Christians, with the result being the Great Schism of 1054. He assigned a huge influence to the papacy in bringing about the salvation of the world through the renewal of the Western Church. He also was a proponent, not just of papal supremacy, but of a strong asceticism that was influenced by the Desert Fathers of early centuries, so important in their own way in the development of Eastern monasticism. But with Peter we also have a very severe kind of asceticism being introduced and advanced and developed in Western Christendom. In his piety, he promoted self-inflicted pain and punishment, namely through flagellation, through whipping oneself regularly and ritualistically, to produce pain, as an effective, if not actually necessary, path toward human salvation. He claimed that punishment of personal sins that otherwise would face judgment at the end of time, according to Matthew 25, are atoned insofar as self punishment satisfies God. So if one flagellates oneself, one produces punishment upon oneself that is a form of satisfaction to God who otherwise would punish those sins himself. Peter’s followers often went to excesses. At a monastery where the abbot was under Peter’s influence, a monk would regularly flagellate himself to such a degree that he actually disfigured himself. With time in the high Middle Ages, flagellant movements occured in the Roman Catholic Church, where lay people would go on pilgrimages, and along the way flagellate themselves, standing in the marketplace of public towns flagellating themselves for their sins and the sins of the world, believing that by inflicting physical pain on themselves, they were somehow satisfying God’s wrath and anger. The Roman Catholic Church officially looked on these movements with great suspicion and in some cases even condemned them, so this was not some sort of normative Roman Catholicism or piety, but it was a feature growing out of the pessimism about the human condition in this world that Peter Damian, as much as he participated in the joyful experience of paradise in this world, nevertheless opened the way toward.
Pope Innocent III, who launched the Fourth Crusade which, against his orders, sacked Constantinople, and who also launched the Albigensian Crusade, which brought about so much violence and bloodshed within Western Christendom, wrote a book before he actually became a pope, entitled On the Misery of the Human Condition. It in some ways represents the very pessimistic anthropology which took over Western Christendom during the Middle Ages and especially the late Middle Ages. He attributes to the sexual relationship even of a husband and a wife, joined through the sacrament of marriage, something fundamentally broken and sinful, which was, in fact, how Augustine viewed acts of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. Even if it produced children, it was in its very essence an act of concupiscence or evil desire, and therefore was sinful. So different from a more traditional Christian understanding of the sacrament of marriage, which was consecrated by Christ himself in the second chapter of the Gospel of John and praised in other parts of the Tradition of the Church. Over the course of many centuries by the late Middle Ages, as this book by Pope Innocent III is widely copied and distributed and read, the curse of anthropological pessimism that grew up in the West insufficiently modified by the doctrine of deification, became more and more pervasive in Western Christendom, creating what could be called a cosmological crisis in Western civilization.
Preoccupation with Death
During the late Middle Ages with this preoccupation with the misery of the human condition, there grew a preoccupation with human death. To some extent this was just naturally understandable because Western Christendom went through so many experiences that featured death on a mass scale. There was the 100 Years’ War, for instance, though it killed a lot fewer people than the 20th-century wars did. Of course, there was incessant feudal warfare taking place, but perhaps most emblematic of the constant experience of death was the Black Death, the bubonic plague, that in the middle of the 1300s killed in some cases 30% of the population of Western Christendom. How could that civilization not reel in the face of so much death?
But some of it grew out of the anthropological pessimism and other features of traditional Christianity, where death was experienced as victory. Christ’s death was the ultimate first-fruits of all human death. Christ’s death led to his resurrection. Death was experienced and represented in the early Church as victory, especially as found in the accounts of the martyrs of the Church.
But new patterns of death arose in the late Middle Ages, as documented by historians such as one French historian named Ariès. He wrote about new patterns of dying that cultural anthropologists can discern in the late Middle Ages, claiming there was a transition during this period of time from the theme of victory, as found in early Christian understanding of death which continued very much to be the theme in the Eastern Church — from victory to judgment.
Accelerated Eschatology
In the late Middle Ages, judgment now came at the point of death, personal judgment at the point of one person’s death, that historically Christianity had supported as coming at the end of time per Matthew 25 — the second coming of Christ and the great and fearful judgment that will take place at the end of the cosmos, the end of the world. But now, more and more, that eschatological experience of judgment is accelerated from the end of time to one’s own personal demise on his or her deathbed. The deathbed experience, when someone’s whole life flashes before their eyes and they are confronted by their sins, especially the need to repent for them, atone for them at the point of their death, was much supported by the whole system of penance and repentance that existed in the West at this time. Death now ceases to be an experience of victory and becomes one of judgment, of impending doom for the individual. There actually arose books to deal with this that document its development. The book The Art of Dying was just one of many representative examples of the preoccupation with death and dying that began to characterize Western Christendom on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.
Dance of Death
This preoccupation was also expressed in the rise of a new iconography of pessimism known as the dance of death. In the late Middle Ages pictorial representations arose of people who had died being led off to their judgment, that featured kings and common people, men and women, bishops as well as priests — everyone, the whole human race, being led off inexorably to their judgment through death. The most famous example of such a painting is in Paris on the wall of the cemetery of the innocents in Paris. Even more interesting is a representation made at this time within a church, Holy Trinity in Hrastovlje in modern-day Slovenia, a Roman Catholic church that was built and its iconography painted in the late Middle Ages, just on the eve of the Reformation, that features on its interior southern wall an image of the dance of death.
In the high Middle Ages to late Middle Ages, the famous hymn called the Dies Irae, Day of Wrath, is composed, disseminated and becomes very widely popular in the Roman Catholic West. The overall emphasis is upon doom and God’s wrath bringing judgment upon the human being.
Legalism —
Penitential System
In addition to the curse of anthropological pessimism and preoccupation with death, a system of very formalized approach to penance, to Christian repentance develops, a penitential system, a systemization of penance, of ways of going about repenting of one’s sins. In the West there arose a very formalized system of repentance, of penance, that emphasized a kind of penitential piety, as seen in the inflation of penance that took place in the high Middle Ages and continued to develop in the late Middle Ages. That system contributes to the pessimism creating a crisis of traditional Christian cosmology.
The turning point was probably about 1215, when, during the pontificate of the same Innocent III who wrote On the Misery of the Human Condition, a council was held called the Fourth Lateran Council, sponsored of course now, as all councils were, by the pope. In 1215, this council actually institutionalized, legally, canonically, the requirement of an annual confession for all Christians in good standing, bringing about a greater systemization of penance that required a heightened role for the clergy, to obtain absolution through canonical confession.
Plenary Indulgences
Now it was necessary for one to go to a priest and to obtain absolution from that priest, and the clergy’s role, always very important, now became even more formalized in a legalistic kind of manner. This was connected to the institution of plenary indulgences that only priests could offer by the authority of the pope. These first appeared after the Great Schism during the pontificate of Urban II, during the First Crusade, which he launched.
Treasury of Merits
There also arose connected to indulgences and the role of the clergy in obtaining absolution, a doctrine of the treasury of merits, as it was known, related to Thomas Aquinas and other Scholastic theologians of this time. The belief arose that one can tap into an almost bank account kind of understanding of merits that one can acquire, and this will assist in averting the judgment impending from God. There also arose around all of this a kind of calculus of penances. Confessional manuals began to appear that relate particular sins to exact penances that have to be offered for satisfaction.
Penitential Piety
A very legalistic kind of piety arose now called penitential piety. Along with it arose the emphasis on “good works” as they were known, such as pilgrimages which now, instead of being an experience of the kingdom of heaven in this world, going to a place in this world that has been filled with divine grace, are now formalized acts of penance that pay off, atone for, satisfy sins that people have committed. A pilgrimage might be assigned by a priest as a penance for certain acts of sin, great acts of sin, and people would go on pilgrimages in order to atone for their sins rather than to experience paradise.
Some things in this penitential system were centered upon penance and the experience of penance. But also, the doctrine of purgatory began to assume great importance, to the point of a culture of purgatory. Purgatory is a very post-Schism medieval doctrine that had its origins in the Roman Catholic Church during that time, after which it assumed great importance within the culture of Western Christendom. People had the near-inevitable certainty or prospect of purgatorial punishment after they died, which was conceived as equal to hell itself, only without despair. There is a rise in purgatorial iconography in the paintings of this time, and of course famously Dante in his Divine Comedy dedicated one entire book, the Purgatorio, the Purgatory, to this theme.
Mendicant Monks (Itenerant Preachers)
On the eve of the Reformation, as more and more emphasis was placed upon the penitential system in the West and the role of the clergy in bringing people to atone for their sins and obtain satisfaction through the working out of penances, the call to repentance became very important and was taken up by that new cadre or order of clergy known as the mendicant monks. The mendicant orders of monks, the Franciscans and the Dominicans especially, left monasteries behind and intermixed with the world in an effort to bring the Gospel to the world and to serve other purposes. It’s a remarkable feature of late medieval Roman Catholic piety that many of these mendicant monks, Franciscans and Dominicans, traveled around Western Christendom as itnerant preachers, preaching repentance to people, calling on them to repent, sometimes participating in those flagellant societies or groups that appeared. In their piety, the piety they tried to instill in the West, are all of the features of cosmological pessimism. There was a deep pessimism about the human condition and of the overall cosmos that communicated.
Hellfire Sermon
In their writings they largely brought into being what came to be known later in the Protestant Reformation and beyond as the “hellfire sermon” that emphasizes man’s impending doom before a wrath-filled God. Words of San Bernardino, who died in the middle of the 15th century, are a good example of the growing pessimism of a sinful humanity in a broken world facing a wrath-filled God. He contrasts the God of love and kindness and mercy with the God of vengeance, emphasizing that the God of vengeance is perhaps the more important understanding of God than one of mercy. What severe words of hellfire San Bernardino threw at his audience on a regular basis! And it was this pessimistic piety taking place as part of the crisis of traditional Christian cosmology in the late Middle Ages that of course influenced the early Protestants who grew up within it. Before he launched the Protestant Reformation with his new understanding of penance, Martin Luther, who encountered this kind of penitential piety and shivered at the thought of his unworthiness before God and the impending doom and destruction that he faced, famously remarked at that time, “Love God? I hated him.”

Paradise and Utopia: The Rise and Fall of What the West Once Was (Books 1-4)
The Age of Paradise: Christendom from Pentecost to the First Millennium
The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation
The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution
The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars

In contradistinction to what politicized, presumed “christian” conservatives think they are fighting for in their “culture war”. . .

What is Christendom?
Christendom is a civilization with a supporting culture that inspires its members to transform the world into a paradise [not a utopia]...
For traditional Christianity, paradise is experienced now, in this world, through the transformation of it by the kingdom of heaven. Christendom was built upon this experience and as a result contained a very optimistic cosmology, or vision of the world...
It came into existence at Pentecost and functioned as a counter-culture within the pagan Roman Empire for three centuries...
...the optimism of early Christianity began to fade in the medieval west, which came under the influence of pessimistic doctrines and practices about the human condition...
The Renaissance was a reaction against this cosmological pessimism, and its humanists more or less reestablished Christendom on a new foundation: Utopia. This new secularized variant of paradise and the transformative power it had over the world flourished all the way until the twentieth century...

The Desiccated Soil of Late-Medieval Western Christendom
[T]he man that would unintentionally inspire modern Europeans to depart from Christianity altogether, Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch (d. 1374)...
By the late middle ages, western culture had come to be shaped by doctrines emphasizing the miseries of human life and the need for punishment before the kingdom of heaven could be experienced...
In a certain way, then, Petrarch’s humanist breakthrough–or breakout–was the result of western Christendom’s ancient desire to experience paradise at a time when that very civilization seemed increasingly to deny it. This was an important reason for the coming of the Renaissance, though historians have conventionally given little attention to it.

The Specter of Anthropological Pessimism
The Pessimistic Cultural Atmosphere of Petrarch’s Christendom
The Birth of Utopia

An Eastern Perspective on the Western Renaissance
The Secular Transformation of Western Art
What Child is This?, or, On the Rise of “Baby Jesus”
On the Diminution of Angels

Reformation and the Forgotten Orthodoxy of the West
Approaching Wittenberg from the East

The Old Christendom Enters a New Millennium


Does Church History Matter? | Hank Unplugged Podcast | YouTube Jan 4, 2024

From Utopia to the Age of Nihilism, with Father John Strickland | YouTube Jul 18, 2023
Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and the Cross: My Conversation with Fr. John Strickland | YouTube Mar 12, 2023

From paradise to utopia | YouTube Mar 17, 2022
Paradise and Utopia: An interview with Fr. John Strickland | YouTube Mar 17, 2022

Fr John Strickland on the Eastern Orthodox view of Christian History | YouTube Jan 14, 2022
Seeing the West with Eastern Eyes. The Causes and Enduring Differences of the Great Schism — Part 1 Part 2 | YouTube Jan 11 & 18, 2022

Fr. John Strickland: What is Secular? | YouTube Aug 10, 2021
History of the West in View of the East | YouTube Jan 27, 2021


We are Christendom: A Review of The Age of Paradise | Monk Theodore

Not the Best Case | Gary W. Jenkins
John Strickland's rebuttal of Gary ‘Cyril’ Jenkins' criticism —
Monographs and Metanarratives: An Answer to Cyril Jenkins, Part I
The Forest and Its Trees: An Answer to Cyril Jenkins, Part II

Western painting of Madonna and Baby Jesus
Western painting of angels
Western industrial rapacious, selfish, exploitative treatment of nature
It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!
Eastern icon - Theotokos Hodegetria (Mother of God, She Who Points the Way)
Eastern icon - Archangel Michael
Godly Stewardship — treatment of nature with care and respect
It's not nice to fool with the Holy Spirit, Creator of The Church at Pentecost