« AnteriorContinua »
Such a psychological paralysis negates the old ethnic will to live! This is the psychological explanation of the painful list of medieval hysterias, ecstasies, visions, and swoons. There arises, says Nietzsche, such a chronic condition of nervousness, such a universal morbidity that health itself becomes a neurosis! Man suffers not from others, not from the world, but from himself! The old pagan virtues-love of philosophy, culture and science, loyalty to the state, attachment to wife and child become vices! Even as late child—become as the eighteenth century the great Kant teaches that the consciousness of duty must always be accompanied by the negation of one's natural impulses.
The mediæval theoretical absoluteness of the "inner" life, however, is forced to compromise at every point. It learns organization from Rome and the Papacy is the result; it takes its philosophy from Greece and there develops the composite fusion of philosophy and Christianity called Scholasticism; the sex instinct is reënforced by Germanic tradition and the inner life is forced to compromise with the old ethnic institution of the family. This process of synthesis goes further; it interprets woman and sex in terms of Christian love; it even moralizes war in its new conception of the Christian knight. It combines the old Greek devotion to beauty and Christian idealism in the new product of Gothic architecture. Nevertheless church and state, philosophy and religion, sex and Christian love, warfare and loyalty to Christ, are still externally juxtaposed; they are not phases of a living, organic experience which expresses itself equally in them all. The church is an end and the state is a
means; philosophy is allowed to explain only what one already believes; the idealization of virginity and chastity degrades the sacredness of the family. The morality of the Middle Ages is a compromise all the way through. Dualism is written over every phase of its life.
The Renaissance, therefore, is the necessary psychological reaction from the abstract spirituality of the Middle Ages. The old virtues, the old instincts, the old psychical patterns of antiquity, are not dead. They are the psychical foundations of civilization itself. This is the explanation of Nominalism, of Humanism, of Individualism. They are symptoms of a new life. Love of beauty, respect for the body, the love of life, of culture, of science, loyalty to family, city and state, cannot be permanently repressed. Nominalism symbolized a return of free inquiry. There are elements in the old paganism which are absolutely necessary to preserve the sanity of mankind. The old is the foundation of the new. This is the explanation of pagan, of humanistic popes. The new Rome, the Church, cannot break absolutely with the old, pagan Rome. The attack of paganism on the capital of the Church, -the paganizing of the church,-is but a symbol of the inadequacy of the medieval philosophy of life. The will to live here and now, the love of life for its own sake, asserted itself against the mediæval internalization and consequent diabolization of life itself. The soul becomes a citizen; the monk becomes a father; the labyrinthine subjectivity of the "inner" life begins to express itself in objective interests. The mediæval inner life without the old pagan instincts is an abstrac
tion; hence the influx of paganism in the Renaissance is necessary to embody and make real the mediæval achievement of the inner life. The mediæval ideals were empty forms, tenuous abstractions; they needed flesh and blood. And flesh and blood came in the paintings of Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci; they came in the wonderful forms-genuinely Christian and equally Greek-chiseled by the hand of Michael Angelo.
When ideas do not lead the responses of the organism clear through to the objective interests of the organism; when they lead to no definite objective; when they are detached from objective ends, the responses of the organism are disorganized. Mediæval life was disorganized by a dual code of ethics. In the field of sex the ideal was chastity. But ideas which do not control the actual responses of the organism to its environment become unreal. Inhibition of sex enriches the sentiments and stimulates the imagination. Inhibition was at the root of the mediæval concept of sin. In the field of property the pagan symbol of the cornucopia was superseded by the ideal of poverty, yet the Church owned one-third of Europe. An inner kingdom had in theory supplanted the pagan state but in practice the Church was actually threatening the sovereign power of the state. of the state. The Prince of Machiavelli (published in 1515) was an expression of the new political consciousness of the Renaissance.
When the inner ideal was fighting for its life against an established order the concepts of soul and pure form and universal idea were symbols of a profound and growing centrality of mind. But once this inner king
dom was achieved there was a slow centrifugal drift of the mind toward the old pagan objectives—the state, the family, art, and science.
To recognize only a purely interior world is to set the instincts and emotions free to drift and flounder in a world of unorganized fact. Such a mind literally drifts into realism. Denial of objective ends through introversion prevents the intellectual organization of such objective ends. Theoretical adherence to an absolute inner ideal leaves an undercurrent of suppressed impulses which urges the will all the more powerfully toward its natural objective ends. It is the hungry man who is obsessed with the idea of food, the ascetic with the ideas of sex and woman, the churchman, who renounces the state, with the idea of power. When Santayana tells us that the world is doing what is done, that we are in the vortex, but that we see with the eye of contemplation, he shows us how a helpless inner stare at the world tends to turn into a materialistic form of realism.
That the Renaissance is a reaction from the inner world of medievalism to an outer, objective, realistic world is perfectly clear from the double-mindedness which characterizes some of the greatest Renaissance artists. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of the world's greatest scientists. He regarded himself as primarily an engineer. He attempted to work out a means of flying. His drawings show a minute knowledge of plants. He made elaborate studies of anatomy. He drew the attitudes of animals. Man to Leonardo was a part of nature. By this realistic treatment of nature Leonardo becomes the very incarna
tion of the Renaissance. But this realism doesn't break with the soul, the inner life of mediævalism. No one has painted a more spiritual head of Christ. But Leonardo's spirituality is not that of Fra Angelico. In the face of his John the Baptist there is the spirit of a Greek faun. But Leonardo's faun is not a return to the Greek Pan. Pan is himself changed because he lives in the same body with the spirit of John. This same presence of two minds in one body is the cause of the baffling complexity of the Mona Lisa.
In Il Sodoma's St. Sebastian we find the same complexity of spirit. The martyrdom, the suffering, the spirituality, of Christianity and the pagan fascination of physical beauty are present in St. Sebastian. Sodoma's mind included them both. In the works of these artists we can actually see the constituent elements because there is a doubleness of mind, because there is not a complete synthesis of the inner and the objective aspects of our world.
In Fra Lippo Lippi (-1469) the inner mediæval ideal has lost its grasp. Instead of the mediæval soul we find positivism and realism. His virgins are his own loves. His angels are ordinary children. In Andrea del Sarto (-1531) we find light and shade and color, with very little depth or soul. In the figures of Luca della Robbia there is soul but it is the soul of Homer incarnated in dancing bodies, in the joy and grace of moving limbs.
Rubens' portrayal of the human body is a protest against the medieval ascetic denial of the body. But this over-emphasis of flesh like the mediæval overemphasis of soul has behind it an emotional complex.