This is a sad book for me because it is about The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by Charles Freeman. There are some key turning points for the Western World, discussed at length, and one of them was the works of Augustine of Hippo. Augustine was a clear thinking young man from North Africa, born into a Christian family, but attached himself to Manicheism and rejected Christianity for many years. He was a brilliant rhetorician and was awarded the choice position of professor of rhetoric in Milan. Three years later he converted to Christianity and went back to Hippo, Africa and soon became Bishop. He led a retiring life, but one filled with industry and writing. His writing became the foundation theory for the Catholic church. It sounds like a reasonable life, the beginning of it was of a rich young gentleman, and his old age as a successful bishop and author.
The problem was that the stable Roman world he lived within was falling apart under the stress of external nations. Those enemy nations had been there since before the beginning of the Roman state, but now the Romans could not sustain themselves. Not that Augustine intended this, but he laid the foundations for the doctrines that ended any form of serious inquiry into the nature of the world. While he continued his popular writing the whole Greco-Roman civilization continued its slide from rational thought into one of fantasy. People stopped striving for a healthy life here on this earth and turned their attentions to a permanent perfect life after death. They became voluntary slaves to a speculation of a heavenly life and permanent spiritual happiness. The whole world of the empire’s leaders slowly warped their minds into words which promised salvation of their souls. If some monks had been satisfied with following their own spiritual practice, things might have gone along well enough, but beginning with Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity a trend began to stifle science, philosophy and any other kind of rational thought. It literally became illegal to think for oneself about any kind of higher value as it was all ordained by the powers that ruled, and personal thought ended for nearly a millennium.
I have condensed the trend of this book too much, but it is a careful study of the forces that made thinking a punishable offense, and made reasonable world views like Philosophy, Science, Stoicism, Epicureanism, into vile things. Even their names today are associated with the most bizarre even nasty twists on what they represented, which was much closer to love of knowledge, clear perception of reality, finding a tranquil life, and living modestly. As I said at the beginning, I believe all of these people to be filled with good intentions. This book is a clear warning to keep our world view open to the feedback of our lives, and be cautious about forcing us all into a too perfect concept of the world.
Good intentions must be moderated by feedback from the projected effects.