So there's Giordano Bruno smouldering in a wet pile of ashes in the cold center of the Campo dei Fiori in Rome. It's a frigid day in February in 1600 and the Christian World is crumbling around its edges. Copernicus holds up a new model of god's heavens and the Monkey is no longer the center. To the west, the New World with all its Injuns & Others openly mocks the Biblical World with its 12 Tribes & neat stacks of Peoples wherein there are no Injuns, or Others. What will typify the 17th Century has begun its Entzauberung and the long slide of the Ancien Regime picks up its pace. Something is rotting in Europa. Something is festering and you can smell the gangrene and the dead flesh. Catholic Scripture is shedding its Authority like a leper losing parts. Christian Certainties are dying on their Biblical Vines. The glue is degrading. The Center no longer holds. Men are awakening from a long, long Spell. There's an Illness in the Kiki Family - something is dying, something is fading, something is passing away. Johan Huizinga called them "Life Forms," but today we use the Frog term: Mentalités. The term refers to "world outlook, beliefs, and cultural customs as well as to personality, emotions and attitude." Reality is setting in. And this time the Reality fits like a Straight-Jacket, tight and binding, and personalized - no longer `off the rack.' There is a vacuum growing in the heart of Kikidom and a vast empty, cold, black space is opening. Symbolism is dying. The Way of the Likenesses is being replaced by the Road of the Real and all the shadows created in Metaphor and Allegory are washed out by the blinding light of Measurement and Logic. Magic is dying. Magic is leaving. We are being left alone with ourselves. And Bruno's Ashes.
Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) was a Dutch Historian and, with Weber, Durkheim, and Oswald Spengler, one of the founders and gurus of Modern Cultural History. He too got roped into "Indo-Germanic" Language study, like the Brit Sir William Jones, and he too studied Comparative Linguistics with a focus on Sanskrit. His doctoral thesis was on the "Role of the Jester in Indian Drama." For awhile he taught as an Orientalist until he was inexorably sucked into medieval and Renaissance Euro-History. From 1915 until 1942 he was a Professor of General History at Leiden University. The Nazis rounded him up with other liberal Dutch Academics and he died in their captivity in 1945. Huizinga's approach to History was thru Aesthetics - in fact, Huizinga believed that it was thru the explication of "Art and Spectacle" that Cultural History, or "Life Forms" would unfold their hidden meanings. Thru the study of Mentalités, Huizinga hoped to lift the veil on one of the West's greatest Puzzles: Why did the Medieval die in the Renaissance, and why should this glorious age of rebirth with its explosion of new Arts and Sciences be so utterly Pessimistic and even Decadent in its inner mental states? "During the preindustrial period Europe witnessed 3 large developments in the mental field which appear most fundamental: 1. "Emotional life" which had been attuned to a hierarchical rank order lost its rankings. 2. The Public Character of life shifted to the Private sphere. 3. "Perceptions of the cosmos and of human society became more impersonal, less tinged with Magic and, ultimately, also less guided by Religion." Huizinga wanted to know how these changes were revealed in a Historiography of Inner Life. Christian Man had once lived in a Magic Universe, but Magic was dying and with it its Universe.
The starting point for the changes in Personality and Emotions which took place in the West as we moved from the Medieval into the Modern is the general agreement among scholars that during the Middle Ages Feeling and Affect were given relatively free rein. Emotions were hardly ever "channeled or repressed." Humans were living in the Extremes. Modern Social Constructs like Bipolar Disorder were nicely camouflaged as `Normal.' Anger was quick and too often decisive. When Lust spilled out it knocked over chairs. Pieter Spierenburg, in his book: The Broken Spell: A Cultural and Anthropological History of Preindustrial Europe says: "In the course of the preindustrial period Europeans gradually developed a controlling force within their personalities. Self-control and the manipulation of emotions became stronger." Especially among the Social Elite of the Hierarchy and from them it slowly filtered down into the unwashed hordes. Conduct, like regulating body functions, became much stricter. A value was added to the Suppression of Emotions. This harnessing of the Personality had long existed in situations like Monasteries where private conduct was always subservient to the Group, but only as the Medieval Waned did this trickle down and out into the public classes. Suddenly social life moved towards the refined - first among the court nobility and the upper bourgeoisie - Etiquette, civility and Polite social intercourse became the hallmarks of Urban Social systems. As Spierenburg points out, Mental changes are most often seen first among elite groups and only then leak out into the broader culture. It was the elite who grew sick of the spectacle of public executions like the burning of Bruno. It was the elite who demanded that the yokels quit pissing on the streets and to stop throwing their shit out of their windows at passersby. The regulation of conduct was always tied to social distinctions. Serfs had always been expected to exhibit submissiveness and deference to their betters - but now that expectation was taking root even among the fashions of how they treated themselves. As social inequalities decreased at the end of the preindustrial, emotional life among the masses was determined less by social hierarchy. Peasants began making eye contact with the vanishing Lords of the Manor. What good can come of that?
The Blowback from this newly discovered empathy of emotions between ourselves and the others was the increase in the Monkey's capacity for Identification. As Personality became Democratized, suddenly there was "interior space" for the thoughts and feelings of others. People started to see other People as "somebody like me." Here too, at first this was restricted to Class - in the heart of the medieval, "members of other social strata, occupational groups, nations, or `races' were hardly viewed as fellow humans." When god's immutable hierarchies ruled men's minds, there was virtually no sympathy for the poor, the feeble, the mentally strange, or the deformed. No Special Olympics. Being poor, ugly, or lame was widely perceived as the Judgment of god and it would have been unseemly to refute that judgment with your pity. But then around 1700 the "ability to identify with others slowly extended across the borders of social strata." Slavery - which enjoyed Biblical as well as Historical sanctions - became controversial. And there was a general movement to change the venues for executions and punishments from public squares - like the Campo dei Fiori - to places hidden behind institutional walls. In fact that may be the Pars pro Toto of the affair: Walls. More and more the open and loud and frequently Profane life of the quotidian was sequestered behind walls. Masonary as well as Psychological. Legislative as well as Metaphorical. The "Autumn of the Medieval" brought on the Winter of Walls. For the 1st time in Western History it became a social error to fart loudly at the table. Welcome to the walls.
"The second general development in the field of mentalities is called Privatization" - the change from Openness to Seclusion. To no one's surprise it was the new attitude to Body Functions which yanked them from the public stage. Amsterdam became the first major Western City to pass laws against pissing and shitting in the street. Skippy knows more than one Convicted Sex Offender whose crime was public urination. In the 16th Century Aristocrats began setting aside a separate room in their homes to which they would repair when they had to take a leak or a dump. It had always been the general practice to simply relieve yourself in a bowl, in a corner, in the room you and the others were in. But the Body was being Privatized and its fluids and excreta were being devalued. During the 18th Century, urine became so taboo that it stopped being used as the primary bleaching agent in cloth production.
Worse, in the 19th Century a lot of city-dwellers were opposed to urban sewage systems; it had long been the accepted custom to sell your shit as manure. Spierenburg comments that "this practice became a lost battle, since everything reminiscent of excrement including its odor was banished from public life." And it wasn't just the `Bathroom' which became separate and privatized, this also happened to the `Dining room'. During the medieval, food was prepared and meat was carved - often whole pigs and oxen - right on the spot where it was eaten. By the end of the 17e these functions had disappeared from the Dining Hall into the Kitchen, which for most, was a new space in their dwellings. And Sleep. There never used to be separate rooms for sleeping. You slept where you passed out. If you had guests then you all slept together. By the 18e, Private Bedrooms had become common. So common in fact that today, the term "to sleep with" has only Sexual connotations. We no longer sleep with people we are not fucking. And here we come to the arena of human behavior which was most affected by the switch from Openness to Seclusion. Sex and courting used to be a village affair and were regulated by the norms of the village. When the villagers desert the villages for the Industrial Urban centers those norms are also left behind.
Don't even think it. The Greeks and Romans simply did not develop norms of sexual life. Like elsewhere and like other times, "the range of sexual activities open to an individual was largely determined by his wealth or position in society." So it was more acceptable for a rich burgher to like little girls and a priest to dig little boys than a poor man. Men from the Athenian elite had sex with their wives, concubines, and with both male and female slaves of any age. Here too, Sexuality is entrained with Hierarchy. As the Hierarchy breaks down and peasants and serfs become "customers," walls go up between what is permissible and what is possible. During the medieval, when Christianity was at its Zenith of Power and Influence, Sexuality was shackled to a belief system which prized Virginity over Fecundity and which saw Sex as the consequence of a Covenant between the Old Dragon and the Woman. Sex had been created by Satan.
Obviously Amy's going to Hell. The Medieval, under the yoke of the Catholic Church was not big on Sexual Pleasure. It's safe to say that both the Old and New Testaments exhibit a general distrust of sex. In fact, the NT is clear that Virginity was seen as the ideal state for both men and women. But most assuredly women. The Kiki "Father-Founder," Jerome, even claimed that Marriage itself was either sinful or a `Near Occasion' of sin. Only the necessity of reproduction justified fucking. And since Marriage led to fucking and fucking led to births and that led to more Souls to Baptize as Kikis, then Hey! Marriage would have to be tolerated. But only penetration was officially condoned by the Church, none of that "faggoty" Foreplay shit was allowed. A Real Christian Man got it up, stuck it in, pump, pump, squish O - O - O & shot his wad for Jesus. Praying all the time. So the Dogma was simple: Sex was only for Marriage, reproduction was confined to Marriage and absolutely everything else was a Mortal Sin which condemned you to Hell for Eternity. Only the Missionary Position was tolerated and all other positions or combinations of Genital Involvement were forbidden. Lucky loves a Logical Algorithm you can print on a T-shirt: "No Ringy - No Nooky. No Butt, No Head. Man on Top." But wait, there's more. Sex was only allowed by the Church if both couples were Fertile and if the Woman was in that part of her monthly cycle when she was ovulating. The much derided Rhythm method came later. Then there were all the days on the monthly and yearly calendar when sex was prohibited: Lent, All Sundays & Fridays, Holy Days, Passion Week, Menstruating days, anytime during pregnancy, etc. Some Etic did a chart to see how many days of the 365 day year were Fuck-Days for Catholics. He did it for the years: 751 - 753. Married Couples who "qualified" were free to Fuck for 91, 92, and 91 days respectively for each of those 3 years. The Etic married those numbers to the normal cycle of fertility for women and found out that if even half of the Catholics in the Medieval followed Church rules strictly, most of us would not be here today. Ergo: nearly all of us are descended from Sinners who are clogging up Hell. Amy's going to Hell.
You can hear Freud gargling. Such Repression leads to Sublimation and Leakage. "Monks and pious laymen in mystic trance sometimes had rather worldly visions of the Madonna. Her radiant beauty blinded them; to some she showed her breasts and a few were even allowed to touch them." Devotional images of Mary nursing Jesus so that her Paps could be seen became suspiciously popular and spread across Europe. Protestants hated them and Iconoclastically slashed and burned them whenever they could. Then there were the Impotence Trials. "In canon law male impotence led to nullification of a marriage because it precluded reproduction." So an unfruited wife could haul her hubby to court where "evidence" would be taken. "The judges called upon female jurors to excite the accused husband." No Wood = Annulment. In one trial a female juror "exposed her naked breasts and rubbed the rod and testicles of the said John with her hands warmed at the fireplace. She embraced and kissed John many times and stirred him to prove himself a man as he should." When his Rod got no longer than 3 inches the man was divorced. Then the entire Jury and Court cursed the poor fool because he had dared to take a youthful bride and cheated her out of god's reward for birthin' up lotsa babies for Jesus. In 1677 a Parisian crowd was ordered by the court to gather at a house where the Marquis of Langey was commanded to fuck his wife in the presence of "experts." He couldn't, and the Church cursed him. In classical Greece the formula went like this: "Female companions were for pleasuring, lovers for daily attention, and wives for producing true-born offspring and guarding the Hearth."
When Max Weber introduced the concept of Entzauberung der Welt - the Disenchantment of the World - he was referring to the "evolution of people's view of the world rather than any change in the natural environment itself." The concept implies that the Cosmos was "Once Upon a Time" imbued with Enchantment - a "Magic Garden." In the garden were "romantic beings and positive forces such as fairy queens, satyrs, guardian angels, and good vibrations along with evil spirits, vampires, incredible snowmen, and devils . . . supernatural beings, god(s) included. The disenchantment of the world is the process whereby the conception of the cosmos resembles the Magic Garden to an ever lesser extent." Religion slowly recedes from the center of social life. To be replaced in the vacuum by impersonal forces and secular formulae which can be measured and tested, falsified or proven. So Magic in our world died in two waves: first, when Christianity replaced Pagan religions and the One God takes the place of Magical Spirits. 2nd, when Christianity was replaced by Science as the go-to force to explicate mysteries. The marginalization of Religion is the process of Secularization - of draining the world of magic. Spierenburg points out that Secularization is a "dual process, observable at the mental level as well as at other levels of society. In the social sphere it relates to a decrease in the power and influence of the representatives of religion: church and clergy. In the mental sphere secularization concerns a diminishing of the religious content of world view and ideology." So as the Medieval Waned into the Modern we have seen the influence of Religion over things like Sex and Marriage notably decrease. It's as if a Spell has been finally Broken and the longest Mentalité which the Monkey had lived within - that of unconsciousness to the dark powers of Symbolism - had slowly dissolved and left us here where we find ourselves today. Alone in an impersonal cosmos where Magic has gone the Way of the Smoke and only Reason and Science are left to tell us what it all means. Even when it don't mean Shit.
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