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Ch 1c: pp 10-12 (end of chapter)

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 1c: pp 10-12 (end of chapter)

Postby Stanley Anderson » 13 Feb 2007, 16:46

(5 paragraphs beginning with “At his most characteristic...” to the end of the chapter “...a great deal of their strength.”)

Here are my comments on this section from the earlier study in 2002 (as a point of reference, I had earlier, apart from the study, tried out a sample testing online of a medieval game idea I tentatively called "Walled Gardens". I mentioned that testing in the study post below):

Just as a personal note, Lewis’ comment about medieval man, that “he was an organizer, a codifier, a builder of systems” is at the heart of my desire to create a game that incorporates the medieval mindset, not so much as a trivia-type game with medieval history questions (yuck, boring and too many trivia-type games out there already anyway), but one in which the “play” of the game causes the players to think or work in a medieval thought process. So, that organizing/codifying/system-building concept (among others) is at the core of the four elements/seven planets themed idea I presented in these forums some time ago. The items one tries to “line up” with the elements or the planets don’t have to be “medieval” things in themselves – they may be as modern as the four Beatles (one of the examples I always use to explain the idea of the game), but the process of trying to line them up with, for example, the four elements, is a very medieval-like activity, I think.

Also, if my St. Annes/NICE parallel/chess board theory about THS is true at all, and was something Lewis, either consciously or unconsciously, was striving for in the execution of writing THS, this would seem to be another of those medieval influences in Lewis’ writing – at least in that book. The idea of characters and events and places on either side “matching up” seems to be right in line with that medieval codifier that Lewis talks about in TDI.

On a different tack in this section, there is a very useful theological concept that correlates nicely, I think, to what Lewis says about medieval man being “bookish” and the effects of that trait on his activities. He says “They are very credulous of books” and goes on to explain how this causes them to be “sorting out and tidying up”. “All apparent contradictions must be harmonized”, he says of their motives. Now whether this was a good thing for medieval man to do with old books and philosophies written by “secular” man, it is, I think, a very good approach for the Christian to take about Scripture and the Church and the operation of the Holy Spirit in God’s Will. Things may seem to be contradictory or out-of-sync to us, but if we start with the assumption that it is we who generate the seeming contradictions by our “fallen” perceptions, then we are better equipped to be “see”, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, how those contradictions may be harmonized. A fundamentally skeptical mindset will likely miss opportunities for enlightenment that the receptive mind may “bump into”. (Of course there are exceptions and qualifications to be made for this idea, but I think it is true in general even for non-spiritual endeavors whether scientific or philosophical or purely mechanical)

And I think we can see this idea at work in many places in Lewis’ writing. In Prince Caspian, it is Lucy who is able to see Aslan first while the more skeptical take longer to finally see him, the prime example of Skeptic, the dwarf Trumpkin, being the last one to finally “see the light”. This idea is probably most brought out in Till We Have Faces where Orual’s negative outlook is what prevents her from seeing the gods (and even her own motives) for so long. Lewis brings this idea out in other places too – The Great Divorce, and several others if I took the time to note them down.


I'll also add another new comment about another "fractal" reference I noticed this time upon re-reading the section. Here are two quotes from the current section:

This impulse [to sort and tidy-up and harmonize] is equally at work in what seem to us their silliest pedantries and in their most sublime achievements. In the latter we see the tranquil, indefatigable, exultant energy of passionately systematic minds bringing huge masses of heterogeneous material in to unity. The perfect examples are the Summa of Aquinas and Dante's Divine Comedy; as unified and ordered as the Parthenon or the Oedipus Rex, as crowded and varied as a London terminus on a bank holiday


In describing the Medieval model of the Universe Lewis writes

Its contents, however rich and various, are in harmony. We see how everything links up with everything else; at one, not in flat equality, but in a hierarchical ladder.


Both of these quotes are, again, almost perfect descriptions of the aesthetic appeal of the modern concept of fractals. It is almost as if Lewis were searching about back then for the concept that would not be explicitly named until the 1970's.

--Stanley
Last edited by Stanley Anderson on 05 Mar 2007, 16:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby girlfreddy » 13 Feb 2007, 22:36

Stanley wrote:
Things may seem to be contradictory or out-of-sync to us, but if we start with the assumption that it is we who generate the seeming contradictions by our “fallen” perceptions, then we are better equipped to be “see”, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, how those contradictions may be harmonized. A fundamentally skeptical mindset will likely miss opportunities for enlightenment that the receptive mind may “bump into”. (Of course there are exceptions and qualifications to be made for this idea, but I think it is true in general even for non-spiritual endeavors whether scientific or philosophical or purely mechanical)


For some reason that only God Himself knows, I have been brought into this understanding some time ago. And stranger still, it also involves the fractal stuff of which I hadn't even heard of until this study.

If we categorize things as Christian and non-Christian, if we only look upon that which we believe as Christian, we miss opportunities for God to speak. Just recently He spoke clearly to me through a line in the movie "Flyboys" and through an interaction on a TV show. Neither one of the could be considered "Christian" in the accepted sense of today.

When we divide things up, when we separate things in our fallen nature, we limit God to speaking only through those things that we will accept, rather than allowing Him to speak through anything He chooses to. We fracture His communication network by which we can realize new truths about ourselves, others and even Him.

Just as a personal note, Lewis’ comment about medieval man, that “he was an organizer, a codifier, a builder of systems”


This is a part that I struggle with. Organizing, codifying, building structures may be good, but these days all I want to do is tear down what man has built. Not in a way of bombing or terrorist stuff, but in the way of church stuff. When we built the traditions that we surround ourselves with, we seem to have left out the working of the Holy Spirit, who is not bound by tradition. The Bible is filled with God breaking with tradition to try and show His people a new thing.

And then I have to remember that Jesus Himself never came down on people for holding on to and finding comfort in tradition. He only came down on the people that made tradition the religion instead of worshiping Him being the religion.

And maybe some or most of this is coming from a rebelliousness that resides in me. It's only that so much of what I see in churches today has so little to do with God working and a lot to do with people working. And not as servants, but just to keep busy thinking that everything is OK and all is well with their salvation.
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Postby Leslie » 13 Feb 2007, 23:51

On page 10, I had an “aha!” moment. Lewis has a great gift of being able to put into a few words what would take me many fumbling, roundabout sentences. He says “At his most characteristic, medieval man was … an organiser, a codifier, a builder of systems.” In these few words, Lewis managed to distill my vague notions of medieval thought into something clear and solid. It now seems so obvious, I can't think why I couldn't quite put it into words before.

I haven’t studied the Middle Ages systematically or to any great (or even middling) degree; most of what I know of medieval thought and culture comes from reading about the history of science and philosophy, theology, and a few novels. So if someone had asked me to describe the medieval mind, I would have talked about the elaborate models of the pre-Copernican solar system, or the complex structure of feudalism. And it seems to me that there is much theology, Roman Catholic especially, that derives from the medieval penchant for classification and organization: the detailed catechism; the calendar of saints, each with their own area of patronage; the list of sins mortal and venal; and so on.

The day after reading chapter 1 of TDI (and saying aha!), I was reading The Name of the Rose. Umberto Eco has his medieval monk Adso say “The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.” A couple of pages earlier, Adso had described the design of a monastery library, pointing out such things as the symbolism of the number of windows, being derived from multiplying the ten commandments by the four cardinal virtues. Having been instructed by Lewis, I was able to nod sagely and appreciate Eco’s depiction of the medieval mind, which is an integral part of the story.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 14 Feb 2007, 01:11

Leslie wrote:So if someone had asked me to describe the medieval mind, I would have talked about the elaborate models of the pre-Copernican solar system


This is in fact what much of TDI is about -- in this very section, Lewis forshadows that major topic of the book when he writes, immediately after mentioning the Summa and the Divine Comedy as two perfect examples of the Medieval mindset, "But there is a third work which we can, I think, set beside these two. This is the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science, and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental Model of the Universe."

Of course this "Model of the Universe" encompasses more than just the cosmological model portion, but this portion forms a sort of backbone for all the other parts of the model.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 14 Feb 2007, 18:22

girlfreddy wrote:When we built the traditions that we surround ourselves with, we seem to have left out the working of the Holy Spirit, who is not bound by tradition.


I can appreciate what you are saying here and certainly the traditions of man are subject to corruption and misuse. But as a point of clarification about the Catholic view (whether one accepts/believes that view or not is another matter entirely of course), the concept of "Tradition" (which I'll indicate with a capital "T" to distinguish it from the traditions of man) means those things that the Church has refined and taught and believes, that it says have been specifically brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ. So just as the Holy Spirit led men to write the Scriptures in the first place, the Holy Spirit also led men (again as part of the Body of Christ, his Church) to select the books to be considered part of the Biblical canon, and to refine concepts like the Trinity, and to interpret and define doctrine, etc.

So the Catholic Church would not say it has left out the working of the Holy Spirit, but that it is in fact the Holy Spirit who leads the formation of those Traditions in the first place.

(I don't mean to sidetrack too much from TDI study -- I hope my comments above are not too off topic, but a study like this can afford to engage many subjects -- for a while anyway),
--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby girlfreddy » 14 Feb 2007, 21:18

Stanley wrote:
(I don't mean to sidetrack too much from TDI study -- I hope my comments above are not too off topic, but a study like this can afford to engage many subjects -- for a while anyway),


I'm sorry for getting off topic. It's just that everything I read, hear, and watch I relate to God, His Word and His workings in the past and present. It is the way I think. So if I go too far off, please don't feel badly about kicking my tush back onto the topic. :wink: I promise you I will not be offended.

and ps to Stanley. I understand what the RC (and many other churches, by the way) accepts. But the thing is:
the Church has refined and taught and believes,
the things have been refined by the Church, not necessarily by God. All I'm saying here is that, keeping in mind the theory of fractals being a part of the whole, what we "refined, teach and believe" is still only part of the whole. Sometimes in our "refining", or "dividing up of the whole" we forget there is more.

I think that in the medival age, they wanted a concise and "proper" accounting of what was out there. They felt overwhelmed by the newness of discoveries and seemed to want to place everything in it's proper order. I think that with what Galileo and Pascal and many others discovered, the "elect" of the times needed to feel that all was not chaos, so codifying and placing things in order became the norm, rather than allowing things to be helter-skelter, or ordered by God. Being ordered by God leaves little control to us, and that would not be something that any man would be comfortable with.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 14 Feb 2007, 22:00

girlfreddy wrote:I'm sorry for getting off topic.


Not at all. And besides, even if it was off topic, you seemed to have pulled it back in topic nicely:-)

I understand what the RC (and many other churches, by the way) accepts. But the thing is:
the Church has refined and taught and believes,
the things have been refined by the Church, not necessarily by God.


It's a matter of one's position and beliefs about the Church of course, but RC's at least (and other catholics) would say that the Church has been ordained by God to carry out his Will and so the things refined by the Church have, by definition, therefore been refined by God too.

All I'm saying here is that, keeping in mind the theory of fractals being a part of the whole, what we "refined, teach and believe" is still only part of the whole. Sometimes in our "refining", or "dividing up of the whole" we forget there is more.


I'm not sure I follow this exactly -- I think it may be a difference in our understanding of what fractals are. My fault, I'm sure, as I didn't go into a lot of detail about exactly what the modern understanding of fractals actually is. It's not so much that fractals are a part of the whole, but that a system has a fractal quality if each "level" of focus, either on a macro (all the way up to "whole") or micro (down theoretically to infinite levels of tiny-ness) have structure and complexity. Even this needs more explanation, but it really needs pictures and scads of explanatory notes and such. I wonder if I can find a site that talks more about the basic concepts? I'll look around.

I think that with what Galileo and Pascal and many others discovered, the "elect" of the times needed to feel that all was not chaos, so codifying and placing things in order became the norm, rather than allowing things to be helter-skelter, or ordered by God. Being ordered by God leaves little control to us, and that would not be something that any man would be comfortable with.


I don't think this is how Lewis would classify Medieval thought. I don't want to ignore your comment -- it is thoughtful and deserving of discussion, but I wonder if it might be easier to discuss as we get further into the book. There are many parts of the book that might apply and be helpful here, but the chapter on the Longaevi in particular might be most helpful. As a sort of teaser, here is the last paragraph of the chapter "The Heavens" just before the beginning of the chapter "The Longaevi":

The human imagination has seldom had before it an object so sublimely ordered as the medieval cosmos. If it has an aesthetic fault, it is perhaps, for us who have known romanticism, a shade too ordered. For all its vast spaces it might in the end afflict us with a kind of claustrophobia. Is there nowhere any vagueness? No undiscovered by-ways? No twilight? Can we never get really out of doors? The next chapter will perhaps give us some relief.


--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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