The Renaissance was a mistake (from a traditional standpoint)

nagareboshi

Sparrow
Recently, this twitter thread was becoming popular in both Orthodox and Catholic circles. (Warning: slightly inappropriate content)


To my great surprise (as a Latin Catholic) I found that many anti-modernity Catholics were still single-mindedly supporting the Renaissance movement. Really? The Renaissance, perhaps better phrased in my opinion as the Malfeasance, was an elevation of the human individual and his body, as well as the particularities of individual artistic techniques, over the love of God. It makes sense to love man in the context of love for God, but man is nothing without God.

I understand and am sympathetic to people who feel that corporatism and modernity have taken away their European values. However, it is Christianity that civilized the Romans, and it was the Romans who civilized the Nords and Franks. The blind worship of European values, divorced from their context in the divine landscape, is nonsensical in my opinion. Ultimately, the Renaissance is what happens when Frankish bankers, merchants, and craftsmen spend vast amounts of money to ape and mimic the forms of the Romans without actually understanding their Spirit.

Of course, there are beautiful works of God-loving, Christ-abiding art which emerged in the Renaissance style, and those are merit-worthy insofar as they truly glorify God without any selfish intention, but the overall social movement characterized by (1) big lavish spending from Frankish merchant families to gain prestige and worldly recognition, (2) neurotic obsession of realism and technique and forms, (3) the elevation of the human body as being intrinsically valuable outside of God -- was the first step towards Western artistic degeneration.

In my opinion, there are at least these stages of artistic degeneration:

- Representation for the truth (Traditional Art)
- Representation for human individuals and egos (Renaissance Art)
- Representation for representation's own sake (Modern Art)
- Representation for, and of, and by, nothing (Post-Modern Art)

When you "fight against the globalists" by doubling down on non-Christian pagan European values, you're actually falling into a trap. Corporatism vs. neo-paganism are both two sides of the same coin, leading you away from God no matter which side you choose. For traditional art, in my opinion, there should be a sense that the art is powerful enough to direct ones full attention to God, but not so seductive and bewitching as to drag the reader down into the earthly realm, so enthralled by the senses as to lose sight of the divine.
 

SilentCal

Pigeon
“When Painting, for example, grows into the fulness of its function as a simply imitative art, it at once ceases to be a dependant on the Church. It has an end of its own, and that of earth: Nature is its pattern, and the object it pursues is the beauty of Nature, even till it becomes an ideal beauty, but a natural beauty still. It cannot imitate that beauty of Angels and Saints which it has never seen. At first, indeed, by outlines and emblems it shadowed out the Invisible, and its want of skill became the instrument of reverence and modesty; but as time went on and it attained its full dimensions as an art, it rather subjected Religion to its own ends than ministered to the ends of Religion, and in its long galleries and stately chambers, did but mingle adorable figures and sacred histories with a multitude of earthly, not to say unseemly forms, which the Art had created, borrowing withal a colouring and a character from that bad company. Not content with neutral ground for its development, it was attracted by the sublimity of divine subjects to ambitious and hazardous essays. Without my saying a word more, you will clearly understand, Gentlemen, that under these circumstances Religion was bound to exert itself, that the world might not gain an advantage over it. Put out of sight the severe teaching of Catholicism in the schools of Painting, as men now would put it aside in their philosophical studies, and in no long time you would have the hierarchy of the Church, the Anchorite and Virgin-martyr, the Confessor and the Doctor, the Angelic Hosts, the Mother of God, the Crucifix, the Eternal Trinity, supplanted by a sort of pagan mythology in the guise of sacred names, by a creation indeed of high genius, of intense, and dazzling, and soul-absorbing beauty, in which, however, there was nothing which subserved the cause of Religion, nothing on the other hand which did not directly or indirectly minister to corrupt nature and the powers of darkness.”

-St. John Henry Newman
 

ilostabet

Pelican
To add to what was said here it is interesting to see what St. Thomas Aquinas (one of the most influential sages of the West) has to say. In the Summa, he states this objection to metaphor in Scripture (but both the objection and the reply are perfectly applicable to visual art):

Objection 3: Further, the higher creatures are, the nearer they approach to the divine likeness. If therefore any creature be taken to represent God, this representation ought chiefly to be taken from the higher creatures, and not from the lower; yet this is often found in Scriptures.

Reply to Objection 3: As Dionysius says, (Coel. Hier. i) it is more fitting that divine truths should be expounded under the figure of less noble than of nobler bodies, and this for three reasons. Firstly, because thereby men's minds are the better preserved from error. For then it is clear that these things are not literal descriptions of divine truths, which might have been open to doubt had they been expressed under the figure of nobler bodies, especially for those who could think of nothing nobler than bodies. Secondly, because this is more befitting the knowledge of God that we have in this life. For what He is not is clearer to us than what He is. Therefore similitudes drawn from things farthest away from God form within us a truer estimate that God is above whatsoever we may say or think of Him. Thirdly, because thereby divine truths are the better hidden from the unworthy.


It seems St. Thomas is actually predicting what was to come. First he says that, by expressing things in less 'noble' ways (the noble in the realm of imagery would be, not only of the human person itself, but the more anatomically correct representation, not only of Christ but also, even worse, God the Father), it prevents error. We can see that the opposite, the anatomically correct representation, does indeed lead to error - to this day the atheists mental picture of God is the bearded man in the sky, which is obviously not what our conception of God the Father is, but it might be taken to be given that this image is everywhere taken as a Christian image, not only that, but one of the best Christian images. It seems St. Thomas would not agree.

Would it be possible to err in the same way with traditional medieval art, which does not represent God the Father (given that He is unpresentable), but instead gives us Christ, the Virgin, but also not in anatomically perfect ways - not because the artists were incapable of it, but because the persons they are representing are not mere humans in time, but eternal persons, whose essence cannot be reduced to mere bodies. In this sense, the Renaissance is indeed the time of 'those who could think of nothing nobler than bodies'.

So the 'progress' in technique seen in the Renaissance is not progress at all, but a descent into the literal, into the earthly, the mundane, into the most base of realms, and the work of art becomes not an expression of ultimate meaning, the expression of the Divine Self, but of the mortal self of the artist. 'The Creation of Adam' is the ultimate example of this, not just for giving the 'bearded man in the sky' but for other reasons too - it is pure fancy on the artists' part with no relation to Scriptural meaning - which is, indeed, meaningful (the formation from the earth and the spirit breathed giving consciousness). Instead the picture must be 'interpreted' in itself - whereas no such interpretation is possible or needed of traditional art, since it reflects eternal Truth, not individual conceptions.
 

Sitting Bull

Woodpecker
Would it be possible to err in the same way with traditional medieval art, which does not represent God the Father (given that He is unpresentable), but instead gives us Christ, the Virgin, but also not in anatomically perfect ways

Well, to be honest, this error already existed in a "puritan" version much before the Renaissance. The byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian was one of those famous iconoclasts - not to mention the majority of Muslims.
 

ilostabet

Pelican
Well, to be honest, this error already existed in a "puritan" version much before the Renaissance. The byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian was one of those famous iconoclasts - not to mention the majority of Muslims.

I agree in half.

In a sense it is the error of taking art as mere aesthetics (which is nothing more than the sensible, pleasurable), which is what moderns think, but on the other it is precisely because they saw expressed higher truths, that they were afraid that people would come to worship the means (the icon) rather than the end (the Divine which it represented). I think Muslims' objections come from the same preoccupation. I can certainly understand at least the second objection, even if I don't agree with it.

For moderns however there is no transcendent truth which is represented in works of art - it is purely from the artist's self, and for pleasure of the eye, or the ear (of the artist himself or the consumer) - it is not a means but an end in itself (which in a way realizes the fears of the iconoclasts). As usual, the Christian way is the golden mean between the extremes.
 

Sitting Bull

Woodpecker
It's a heresy because it's an excessive stand (and it is not the only one to follow this pattern).
Gee, that looks like that one of the most absurd things I've read in a long while. Must be my Catholic sensitivity. What you just wrote sounds to me like "It's a murder because it's a mistake", a total non-sequitur.

What I agree with you about (and is obvious), is that iconoclasm, Muslim or otherwise, usually springs from an excessive zeal against idolatry. But that of course is to miss the point so loudly and solemnly proclaimed by the Ecumenical Council, that iconoclasm is a heresy. The message is that ultimately it doesn't matter why or how you got there ("Everyone has his reasons" as Shakespeare used to say), what matters is that it's a bad destination.

In Catholic theology, heresy is a sin against Faith, one of the three theologal virtues - it is thus a falsehood in the most absolute sense one can conceive of.
 

ilostabet

Pelican
Gee, that looks like that one of the most absurd things I've read in a long while. Must be my Catholic sensitivity. What you just wrote sounds to me like "It's a murder because it's a mistake", a total non-sequitur.

What I agree with you about (and is obvious), is that iconoclasm, Muslim or otherwise, usually springs from an excessive zeal against idolatry. But that of course is to miss the point so loudly and solemnly proclaimed by the Ecumenical Council, that iconoclasm is a heresy. The message is that ultimately it doesn't matter why or how you got there ("Everyone has his reasons" as Shakespeare used to say), what matters is that it's a bad destination.

In Catholic theology, heresy is a sin against Faith, one of the three theologal virtues - it is thus a falsehood in the most absolute sense one can conceive of.

I don't disagree with the Catholic definition of heresy (also see the Etymology question on the other thread).

What I was saying about 'excessive stand' should maybe be read more as 'extremism', which implies deviation from the golden mean. Which, incidentally, is also the meaning of 'sin'. In Hebrew (chet) means 'to miss the mark', in Greek (amartia) it means 'to go off road' and in the Latin version (from which we in Portuguese make 'pecado' and you French 'peche') means to 'lose one's foot' (like in water) - I have some difficulty translating this expression to English, but in any case, it means the same thing, which is straying from the right path.

Perhaps it seems less absurd now.
 

Sitting Bull

Woodpecker
I don't disagree with the Catholic definition of heresy

The thing is, the Seventh Ecumenical council (accepted by the Orthodox also) tells you to say anathema to the iconoclasts, and you only say you "disagree but understand". Thus you seem to relegate a dogmatic issue to the level of opinion.

Regarding your paragraph on sin, you're still missing the point I keep repeating, that heresy is not any kind of sin and the two are not on the same level (to say the least). Your view is more from a "perennialist" perspective which only deals with the common part to all religions and excludes (without denying) any specific contents such as faith or heresy.

I have no problem with perennialism, except when it seems to be used by Christians as a pretext to dilute their religion.
 

ilostabet

Pelican
The thing is, the Seventh Ecumenical council (accepted by the Orthodox also) tells you to say anathema to the iconoclasts, and you only say you "disagree but understand". Thus you seem to relegate a dogmatic issue to the level of opinion.

Regarding your paragraph on sin, you're still missing the point I keep repeating, that heresy is not any kind of sin and the two are not on the same level (to say the least). Your view is more from a "perennialist" perspective which only deals with the common part to all religions and excludes (without denying) any specific contents such as faith or heresy.

I have no problem with perennialism, except when it seems to be used by Christians as a pretext to dilute their religion.

Well, I have a problem with perennialism (especially the Huxley variety, which I think is quite distinct from the Guenon variety), precisely because it dilutes religion to the metaphysical level, which is only one part of it. In that, it is quite different from seeing the metaphysical truth that is found in all real traditions, which are outward manifestations of the same principles, even when they don't have direct revelation as Hebrews and Christians have. This is why, for example, it is possible for the Chinese to translate the first words of John's Gospel as: In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God. In my view, seeing this metaphysical commonality enhances my faith, and my understanding of our own tradition, it does not detract from it.

If you are looking for a proof of my faith, I don't know how to give it to you. I can, and will, affirm that it is heresy and it is anathema - but that doesn't mean I don't understand where it comes from (or that I don't consider it important to understand). Of course, to some it might be sufficient to follow the Church, which I encourage, but to others it is necessary to understand why a heresy is considered heresy in the first place. And I include myself in such a group.
 

911

Peacock
Gold Member
I would associate the darker sides of the Renaissance with the Medici's Florence, which was a pretty Machiavellian elite. The irony is that while the Renaissance has brought cultural and economic flourishing in Tuscany, it has also brought the seeds of its destruction, because Florence's elite ultimately took advantage of its subjects so much that it strangled its economy, the city-state eventually becoming a backwater, easily conquered by France.

When you think of it, there are a lot of similarities between Florence, the epicenter of the Renaissance, and the modern period West, which is dominated by a parasitic, predatory ruling elite that is destroying it. The difference being there are no Michelangelos or Botticellis this time around, just all round kabbalistic cultural rot.

The Renaissance was not much of a negative period in most other parts of Europe, like in France, Spain or the Flanders, which thrived economically without much cultural rot. It might however have been a major curse if one attributes to it the rise of capitalist regime change of the Cromwell operation, which was financed by Jewish bankers in Amsterdam, and whose effects are still with us today.
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
I would associate the darker sides of the Renaissance with the Medici's Florence, which was a pretty Machiavellian elite. The irony is that while the Renaissance has brought cultural and economic flourishing in Tuscany, it has also brought the seeds of its destruction, because Florence's elite ultimately took advantage of its subjects so much that it strangled its economy, the city-state eventually becoming a backwater, easily conquered by France.

When you think of it, there are a lot of similarities between Florence, the epicenter of the Renaissance, and the modern period West, which is dominated by a parasitic, predatory ruling elite that is destroying it. The difference being there are no Michelangelos or Botticellis this time around, just all round kabbalistic cultural rot.

The Renaissance was not much of a negative period in most other parts of Europe, like in France, Spain or the Flanders, which thrived economically without much cultural rot. It might however have been a major curse if one attributes to it the rise of capitalist regime change of the Cromwell operation, which was financed by Jewish bankers in Amsterdam, and whose effects are still with us today.

Agree. Bread and Circuses. But at least they had good style. E Michael Jones speaks extensively and critically about Florence during this period in his book Barren Metal. What we are also missing today is a Savonarola.

To claim that the Renaissance was a mistake because of a few nude images is overly Puritanical.

Nowhere in the Bible or Church Tradition does it say, to my knowledge, that nude art is intrinsically evil. Adam and Eve were after all naked.

The danger comes when the art is purposely intended to, and actually does, provoke considerable lust.

I'd take a middle lane in that the renaissance shifted the focus of Art from God to Man. Which set up the next stage. But it's hard for me to extract the art as the causation or the spirit of the times.
 

ilostabet

Pelican
To claim that the Renaissance was a mistake because of a few nude images is overly Puritanical.

Nowhere in the Bible or Church Tradition does it say, to my knowledge, that nude art is intrinsically evil. Adam and Eve were after all naked.

The danger comes when the art is purposely intended to, and actually does, provoke considerable lust.

The traditional objection to Renaissance painting has not much to do with nudity as such, but with lack of meaning - with being an art for the senses only (aesthetic instead of cognitive, which it always is in traditional understanding).

This is a good article exploring one aspect of it: the depiction of baby Jesus. Though the author doesn't really get it, and documents the degradation as progress (as so many do), he ends up summarizing the whole process and getting to the heart of the matter in this quote:

«The art [prior to the Renaissance] is not interested in naturalism but rather in theological expression

This quote actually captures the real problem of the Renaissance (and which is what St. Thomas says in the excerpt I quoted earlier).
 

Handsome Creepy Eel

Owl
Gold Member
What does it even mean to be "pro-renaissance"? It's a forgotten cultural epoch from 600 years ago that has no effect on your life today. If you ban pornography, Renaissance isn't going to appear looming behind you like a cultural Frankenstein and force you to to indulge in it again.

It was 600 years ago. It cannot, by very definition, make you do anything today, and therefore there is no need to be "pro" or "against" it. It's the past. Heck, we rightfully mock Jews for being obsessed with the Holocaust that happened just 80 years ago - but we're feeling threatened by Renaissance and need to declare that "we don't support it"?

Why?

Am I "pro-stone-age" because I don't disavow those crude stone tools that eventually led to bronze, iron and steel metalworking that now participate in all the depravities of modern age like drones and AI robots?

The very idea of being "pro" or "against" Renaissance represents a self-masturbatory exercise in pointlessness.
 

ilostabet

Pelican
What does it even mean to be "pro-renaissance"? It's a forgotten cultural epoch from 600 years ago that has no effect on your life today. If you ban pornography, Renaissance isn't going to appear looming behind you like a cultural Frankenstein and force you to to indulge in it again.

It was 600 years ago. It cannot, by very definition, make you do anything today, and therefore there is no need to be "pro" or "against" it. It's the past. Heck, we rightfully mock Jews for being obsessed with the Holocaust that happened just 80 years ago - but we're feeling threatened by Renaissance and need to declare that "we don't support it"?

Why?

Am I "pro-stone-age" because I don't disavow those crude stone tools that eventually led to bronze, iron and steel metalworking that now participate in all the depravities of modern age like drones and AI robots?

The very idea of being "pro" or "against" Renaissance represents a self-masturbatory exercise in pointlessness.

The mere factionalist tendency of common men (my team vs other guy's team, my party vs other guy's party) is inevitable. That should not preclude those who are able of higher considerations to understand periods of history, and how they contribute to our own. In that sense, I think any person with a Traditional understanding, or aiming to have it, should look to, and understand, the Renaissance as the start of the modern deviation - certainly, and by definition, less deviant than later stages, but nonetheless particularly important due to being the start of all modern errors.
 

911

Peacock
Gold Member
The Romans were extremely harsh in Gaul, outright genociding something like a quarter of men, but their Heleno-Italian civilization was an upgrade over the Celto-Frankish civilization. French civilization is a good blend of both.
 
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