A proposal for a new European history
The European history can – at least in theory – be seen as a confined narrative, comprising all the significant historical events, which have taken place, or are generated in, a limited geographical area called ‘Europe’. Clearly, this statement invokes a number of questions of which the most important one is the definition of its unity in time and space.
Of those two, the definition of space is probably the easiest one to establish. The central part of the geographical area, consisting of the large countries like Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy has been generally recognized as the historical core of Europe. A number of countries along their fringes were included. The Scandinavian countries towards the north, Poland and Russia (up to the Ural Mountains) to the east, Spain and Portugal towards the south and Ireland towards the west were naturally included in a greater Europe. The central countries of Austria and Hungary have put their mark on an important earlier part of the European history. The boundary towards the south east has always been problematic and remains so to the present day (Croatia versus Serbia), because it was historically felt that the real threat to the European identity came from that direction.
The definition of time (of the visible visibility of Europe) is more difficult to determine. The actual term ‘Europe’ was used by the Roman historian Dio Cassius (c. 150 – 235), who distinguished in his ‘Historia Augusta’ (Roman History) a difference between Europeans and Syrians in the army of Septimus Severus, using the terms ‘res europeenses’ and ‘europeenses exercitus’ (HEER, 1966).
A general feeling of a ‘beginning’ can be found in the Christian calendar, which started with the birth of Christ. This marker point was first used by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD, who improved on a timetable of St. Cyril of Alexandria (which went back to Emperor Diocletian (284 AD).
Easter cycle of Dionysius Exiguus. Marble. Ravenna, 6th cent. Museum Ravenna. In: BORST, Arno (1990). Computus. Zeit und Zahl in der Geschichte Europas. Bnd. 28 in: Kleine Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin. ISBN 3 8031 51287
The Western time scale was firmly established at the Synod of Whitby (664), where Dionysius’ chronology was accepted (among other preferences of Roman Catholicism over Celtic Catholicism). The Venerable Beda (673 – 735) wrote a ‘computus’, or a manual for the calculation of specific events. The ‘Reckoning of Time’ (‘De Temporum Ratione’ (725 AD) was a significant intellectual monument in the European history (WALLIS, 1999/2004). The book was used by missionaries to support the Christian setting of time. However, it took at least another two centuries before the beginning of the Christian era was generally agreed upon.
It seems reasonable, with this history in mind and the general acceptance of the Christian era as a yardstick, to put the beginning of the CF-graph (of the European cultural period) at the beginning of the Christian era, i.e. in the year 1. The actual context and name of Europe were not known at that time. This fact fits into the quadralectic approach, whereby an area of invisible invisibility (with no definition or name) precedes the visible visibility (or empirical presence) sensu stricto.
The name ‘Europe’ only gained a (geographical) significance in the eighth century during the reign of Charlemagne, the Aachen-based emperor who did a first successful attempt to join great parts (of the present Europe) together. OAKLY (1979, p. 29) noted that ‘already in Charlemagne’s day ecclesiastical writers had begun to equate the term Europe with the territories over which he ruled.’ A document on the victory of Charles Martel in Tours, also mentioned the term ‘Europeenses’ (ROBERTS, 1985).
Certainly, there is a history of ‘Europe’ before this date. The Celtic cultural expanse between the seventh and ninth century spearheaded into France and Germany and brought about a feeling of recognition. Monks from Clonnard (in Ireland), Iona and Lindisfarne (in England) traveled to the continent and founded monasteries, which were centers of belief and knowledge (McNEILL, 1974; MACKEY, 1989).
The ‘struggle’ between the Celtic and Roman Catholicism in that period is a truly pre-European event. The confrontation did initially not result in a sense of togetherness, but acted as a catalyst to increase awareness (of certain common Celtic roots). The period of the early Middle Ages (350 – 750) can be seen as a preparation of a unity-in-the-making.
The boundary of the first (visible) visibility of ‘Europe’ – in a very general intellectual notion – is put in the year 750 AD, at the end of the rule of the Merovingians (751). The previous experienced ‘local’ history changed dramatically when the Carolingian leader Pepin the Short took over the royal throne, followed – in 768 – by his son Charles, better known as Charlemagne (742 – 814).
The latter forced upon the various countries a feeling of belonging (to a great Christian Roman empire) during his fifty-three campaigns. The integration of the local tribes did not have a peaceful character. The Saxons on the eastern frontier, for instance, were pagans and were given the choice by Charlemagne between baptism or death. Some four-thousand-five-hundred Saxon rebels made the wrong decision and were beheaded in one day (the Massacre of Verden, 782).
The forcefully established unity (of Europe) broke down soon after Charlemagne’s death (in 814). The tripartion of Europe in 806 – when the power was divided among his three sons – failed because Pepin and Charles died in 810 and 811 respectively and only Louis remained. He was more interested in spiritual matters and was unable to continue the political achievements of his father. However, the fact that Europe had been united for some time and had become aware of a common heritage, never waned. The cultural and political developments in the Middle Ages must therefore be placed in a ‘European’ context, up to the present day.
Two points of recognition (POR) are now established on the CF-graph of the European cultural period (fig. 65). Firstly, there is the very beginning of the CF-muun in the year 1 – i.e. the universal accepted beginning of the Christian calendar. And secondly, the establishment of the ‘real’, empirical visibility of Europe in the year 750 AD, at a time when the first integration of Europe took place and the name of the continent became imprinted in the mind of its inhabitants.
Fig. 65 – The CF-graph of the European (cultural) history, constructed from two points of recognition (POR). The beginning of the communication cycle is situated at the start of the Christian era in the year 1. The first, empirical visibility is chosen in the year 750 AD. The full cycle (V) has a length of 2400 years. The visible visibility area (X) lies between the years 750 and 2250 AD.
These two data provide the key to the length of the full communication cycle (between the geographical and temporal entity of a part in the world called ‘Europe’ and an observer at the beginning of the twenty-first century, who established the boundaries of that visibility). These two known points on a CF-graph enable the construction of the whole communication cycle.
It is known – from the theoretical calculation (see p. 115, fig. 48) – that the first visibility (FV) is situated at 5/16V of the CF-graph, therefore the full muun-cycle (V) has a length of:
5/16V = 750 therefore V = 16/5 . 750 = 2400 years
The inflection points (of the CF-graph) and the years are given below:
—————— Beginning of the First Quadrant (I) 1 AD
—————— Beginning of the Second Quadrant (II) 600
—————————— FV – First Visibility 750
—————————— AP – Approach Point 900
—————————— FMA – First Major Approach 1050
—————— Beginning of the Third Quadrant (III) 1200
—————————— FVC – First Visibility Crisis 1350
—————————— PP – Pivotal Point 1500
—————————— SVC – Second Visibility Crisis 1650
—————— Beginning of the Fourth Quadrant (IV) 1800
—————————— SMA – Second Major Approach 1950
—————————— RP – Receding Point 2100
—————————— LV – Last Visibility 2250
——————- End of the Fourth Quadrant 2400 AD
The psychological and spiritual foundation of Europe was laid down long before the actual geographical entity was established. In particular, the Church fathers (patres) – of which Augustine, bishop of Hippo (354 – 430 AD) was possible the most important – created a large corpus of work, which influenced the intellectual development for times to come.
Early manifestations of division thinking often had a numerological nature (concerning references to the Bible) or were disguised as interpretations of symbols (like the shape of the cross). Justin the Martyr and Irenaeus explained the cross as a symbol of four dimensions: latitudo, longitudo, sublimitas and profundum.
The beams of the cross were of unequal length in the ‘western’ or Latin interpretation of the cross. Good works were, in Augustine’s view, metaphorical associated with the horizontal cross beam (latitudo). The vertical top beam renders the hope of reward in heaven (sublimitas). The longer vertical lower beam translates the continuous perseverance (longitudo) and the part of the beam in the ground (profundum) is the ‘abyssus et profundum crucis’, the depth of grace. This inequality (in length and meaning) points to lower division thinking and a search for distinction.
The ‘eastern’ or Greek cross had equal beams, reflecting a general equality in all four directions. This approach conforms with the aims of higher (four-fold) division thinking. LADNER (1955) noted, that the apparent opposition (west versus east) in the preference of the shape of the cross should not be over-accentuated, since the (pagan/Pythagorean) tradition of a cross with equal beams was also well-known in the (Celtic/Christian) history of western Europe.
Augustine advocated both a three-division (of Father, Son and Holy Ghost) and a four division (in the four senses). He described – in his book ‘De Doctrina Christiana’ – the ‘senses’ as ways of seeing and followed ideas, which originated in the intellectual melting pot, which existed in Alexandria at the beginning of the Christian era. Texts could be approached in four different ways: in a literal meaning (or historia), in a deeper meaning (or allegoria), in a moral meaning (or tropologia) and in the highest meaning (or anagogia). The Roman consul and writer Cassiodorus (484/90 – died in 583/590?) took up this basic method of exegesis in his important and influential book ‘Institutiones divinarum et saecularium lectionum (litterarum)’ or, in short, the ‘Institutiones’ (562). De LUBAC (1959/1964) wrote a massive standard work on the early Christian and medieval way of interpretation. A comparison of the four senses with the present practice of quadralectic thinking would be as follows:
——————— 1. First Quadrant – anagogia – invisible invisibility
——————— 2. Second Quadrant – allegoria – invisible visibility
——————— 3. Third Quadrant – historia – visible visibility
——————— 4. Fourth Quadrant – tropologia – visible invisibility
De Lubac (Part I, Tome II, p. 422) pointed to the important role of Beda as ‘le premier auteur qui nous offre pour ainsi dire un tableau developpe du quadruple sens’ (the first author that offers us, so to speak, a developed overview of the four senses).
Ambrosius (c. 339 – 397) was perhaps the most enthusiastic patron of the four-division. He summarized a tetradic list in his book ‘De Abraham’ (four Gospels, apocalyptic animals, parts of the world, and ages), and gave the example of the syzygy of the elements and the virtues (virtues cardinales). His resistance against Arianism (the separation of Christ from God) can also be placed within the context of a conflict between the three- and four divisions. The former (including Arianism) aims at a separation and distinctions of powers (in order to control them), while the latter is not interested in power play and gives all (four) subdivisions an equal value.
The patristic movement-in-general had not decided on any particular form of division thinking as a way to salvation. It was a time of searching for the right context and making statements focused on a strong belief (in one God). Therefore, the four basic divisions could live together in harmony.
A compilation/suggestion of the interpretation of the visibility area (X) of the new European history is given hereafter.
The year 750 or First Visibility (FV) was arbitrary chosen as the start of the empirical (European) history because Charlemagne (742 – 814) was the first to unite the greater part of Europe under his reign. The political integration was accompanied by an effort to raise the intellectual standard.
Johannes Scotus Eriugena (810 – 877) was a scholar, who supplied the foundations of a quadriformis ratio (STOCK, 1980), consisting of a balanced search for the truth. The ratiocinationis quadrivium – as initiated in the ninth century – consisted of four stages:
——————– 1. division
——————– 2. definition
——————– 3. demonstration
——————– 4. resolution
Johannes Scotus major work was aptly called ‘De Divisione Naturae’ (The Division of Nature) pointing to the action in the First (or Holy) Quadrant. The English translation by SHELDON WILLIAMS (1987, revised by John J. O’Meara) is a gold mine of insight, culminating in the ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’. This expression pointed to two types of unification: the ‘holy’ three-division (three steps) and the ‘human’ four-division (four steps) leading to the consummation of all things (GARDNER, 1900).
‘For it is agreed that this visible world is composed of the four elements as of four general parts, and is, as it were, a body built up of its parts, from which, namely from these universal parts, coming together in a wonderful and ineffable mingling, the proper and individual bodies of all animals, trees, and plants are composed, and at the time of their dissolution return to them once more’. (De Div. Nat. I, 474D).
The Holy Trinity became the symbol of power in the realm of the invisibility, while the quaternity was reserved for the empirical, human world (as constructed from the four elements: fire, air, earth and water). However, this distinction was frequently mixed up throughout history. The political record shows a preference for the lower three-division, because it makes the distribution and control of power easier to handle.
The year 900 AD, or the Approach Point (AP), was the onset of just such a development. The infant Europe learned from Charlemagne that the exercise of physical power could lead to clarity. The Vikings ravaged the coasts of Europe and enforced their culture on the occupied coastal areas. The Hungars, with their base in Pannonia, made many raids deep in the heart of Europe. It was only in 955 AD, that the influence of the Magyars waned after being beaten by Otto I on the Lech near Augsburg. These violent political movements – which attracts often the most attention in the history books – were accompanied by more peaceful developments in the areas of farming, husbandry, social interaction and art.
Europe had reached the limits of its conscious potential in the year 1050 AD, when the First Major Approach (FMA) took place. The young unity touched the essential aspects of its being in the deep belief of Christian faith and eagerness of progression. The occurrences of the Crusades (which started at 1095 and lasted until 1270) and the building of many cathedrals all over Europe were visible proof of such an advance. The transition from the Roman to the Gothic architecture took place around this date, pointing to a growing awareness of openness and inner force. It is here that the so-called High Middle Ages (1050 – 1300) started, because the cultural, economic and political achievements became a continuous narrative.
The ‘Tractatus de Quaternario’, written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon monk around 1100 (Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, Ms. 428) was a celebration of the number four. It can be seen as a manual for the tetradic cosmology (SEARS, 1986). This work, now virtually unknown, is a forgotten monument to tetradic thinking, overgrown by ages of polarity.
A better-known work, with a lasting influence, was written around 1150 by Petrus Lombardus and called the ‘Sententiae’ – or with its full name: ‘Libri Quattor Sententiarum’. This important work was composed of many bits and pieces from the Bible, the Church fathers, decisions of the Councils and quotations from the works of Abelard and Gratian’s Decretum. The scholarly script, followed – despite its diversity – in its main headings the four-fold division:
——————— 1. God
——————— 2. Creation
——————— 3. Incarnation
——————— 4. Sacraments
These four expressions of belief fit seamless into the modern interpretation of the (quadralectic) quadrants.
The gradual change from a four- to a three-division can be observed in the work of Joachim of Fiore (c. 1132 – 1202). He was the last of the great thinkers of the Second Quadrant and – in terms of division thinking – a protagonist of the changes to come. His work showed all the wild and precursory experiments of lower division thinking. The lure of the dual comparison (or concordance) opened up a whole new field of speculation. ‘Joachim broke with the traditional theory of the four senses of Scripture to create an ideosyncratic scheme of twelve in which seven ‘typical’ senses manifest the action of the Trinity throughout the history’ (McGINN, 1979; p. 127). BLOOMFIELD (1957) cast him lenient as ‘a lyrical, not a systematical thinker’.
The year 1200 marks the start of the Third Quadrant and the rationalistic age of visible visibility. Power struggle became the name of the game and started noticeable in the Roman Catholic Church as the strongest political body. Individualism showed its impetuous face. The controversy between Petrus Lombardus and Joachim of Fiore offered a rare glimpse in the basic operation (reduction) of division thinking (see also p. 26).
Joachim accused Petrus Lombardus of being a ‘quaternator’, who made God into a quaternity. Lombardus placed God in a separate conceptual entity and added an (extra) part to the trinity of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. The same complaint was expressed by Gautier (Gualtieri) of St. Victor in his writings ‘Contra quatuor labyrinthos’ (1177/78). DOOB (1990, p. 164/200) pointed out that the word ‘labyrinthos’ was a metaphorical expression to indicate persons who had lost the right way in a labyrinth of error.
Walter of Saint Victor (died c. 1190) also labeled, in a futile protest against Aristotelianism, the four dissidents Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, Peter Pictaviensis and Gilbert of Poitiers as the ‘four labyrinths of France’. He despised their dialectical method, and condemned the use of logic to explain the enigmas of belief. The intellectual quarrel marked the boundary of a new era. It showed the importance of a particular form of division thinking for those who aim at a visible (or physical) visibility and, ultimately, power.
The English philosopher William of Ockham (c. 1285 – 1347/49) gave, towards the end of this period, the trend towards simplicity a formal respectability. His conception of universals as merely names became known as ‘nominalism’. The expression ‘Entia praeter necessitatum non sunt multiplicanda’ (don’t multiply entities except by necessity), also known as Ockham’s razor, means – in a quadralectic scenario – that one should not think in a higher type of division thinking than is necessary for the given situation.
The year 1350 or the First Visibility Crisis (FVC) was a crisis in a real, physical sense, because the plague rampaged over Europe and the Black Death wiped out approximately one-fourth of the population at some places. The indirect consequences were devastating of the social and political structures of Europe. A further reduction of division thinking was the immediate result in the period between 1350 and 1500. This course was intellectually taken by Nicolas de Cusa (Cusanus; 1401 – 1464) in his book ‘de Docta Ignorantia’ (On Learned Ignorance). The book is essentially a forceful advocate of the triple division. The existence of a four division was simply denied (Book I, Ch. XX). Cusanus aimed at the ‘coincidentia oppositorum’: a total reduction (of division thinking) towards a unity, which he equated with God.
The attention towards the minuscule was another feature of this period and came to expression in numerous ‘Book of Hours’ of which ‘Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry’ is perhaps the most famous one. The illuminated manuscripts treated the ‘Divine Office’ (the rituals for the eight periods of the day), often with additions of liturgical calendars, prayers, psalms and litanies of the saints. The magnificent calendar section of the ‘Tres Riches Heures’ was painted between 1412 and 1416. The epoch can be described as a time of Christian consolidation. Jesper HEDE (1998) quoted Robert BARLETT (1994) by saying that ‘in the medieval period the terms ‘Europe’ and ‘European’ were known, but they were used rather infrequently and hardly ever with much political and cultural significance‘.
Book of Hours – Catherine of Cleves. Pierpont Morgan Collection p. 28. PLUMMER, John (1964). Het getijdenboek van Catharina van Kleef. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam. LCCCN 66-23096
The year 1500 or the Pivotal Point (PP) was in many respects a pivotal year, a highlight of an extending visibility with new discoveries in geography (America) and industrial activity (printing, dynamite). The Renaissance blossomed as an artistic proof of a rediscovered human creativity derived from ancient times. The spirit was deeply dualistic, but the (ancient) pool of references (mainly derived from the Fourth Quadrant of the Roman Empire) was saturated with forms of higher division thinking. The four division was often used in a metaphorical and numerological sense.
The worldwide conquest of the seafaring nations was accompanied by a component of violence and cultural arrogance. The lower forms of division thinking turned out to be most effective – from the materialistic point of view – to subdue cultures macerated in tetradic thinking. The plundering of foreign lands brought a kind of affluence to Europe, but also initiated a struggle in the distribution of that wealth. The Peasant War (1524/25) in Germany and the Sack of Rome, in 1527, indicated only the beginning of an ‘Age of Intolerance’. The Inquisition was tightened up in 1542 and the persecution of Huguenots in France started in 1562. On the peaceful side, it can be noted, that many practical inventions came entrenched in daily life. A modern historian – in particular, one emerged in oppositional thinking – will have no difficulty to proclaim that the European history really took off from the year 1500.
The year 1650 or the Second Visibility Crisis (SVC) brought a crisis of a different kind. The social unrest of that period was caused by a (relative) material wealth consumed in an environment of absolutist thinking. The great number of insurgencies and revolts all over Europe during the seventeenth century found their common denominator in a combination of a limited view – expressed as intolerance – and the genuine effort to establish a frame of reference for a personal and/or collective identity.
The ‘crisis’ in Europe took about a century to develop, from approximately 1560 until 1660. It was felt at a time ‘that cyclical theories of history became fashionable and the decline and fall of nations was predicted, not only from the Scriptures and the stars, but also from the passage of time and the organic processes of decay’ (TREVOR-ROPER, in: ASTON, 1965). It will come to no surprise, that the term ‘Middle Ages’ was coined around this time (in the year 1667 by professor Horn), indicating roughly the thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the birth of the ‘new’ European history in 1500. The crisis was, in many respects, a stagnation after the expansive years of the early sixteenth century. Oppositional thinking had reached the limits of its creative power. Paul HAZARD (1936) described the general mood in the period between 1680 and 1720 as ‘La crise de la conscience européenne’.
The year 1800 marked the end of the Third Quadrant and the beginning of the Fourth Quadrant. The start of the nineteenth century saw a widening in division thinking to a four-division. Freedom of the mind was a prerequisite to enter this novel sphere. The French Revolution (1789) started with just that aim in mind, but felt back into violence and the power politics of Napoleon. His expansion policy failed miserably. The unification of Europe relapsed into nationalistic sentiments, chauvinism and lack of economic insight. It became clear, for the second time (after Charlemagne), that force was not the way to unite Europe.
Neo-Classicism and Romanticism were the terms used – by later cultural historians – to describe the mood of venturing into the territory of the fourfold, giving way to a customary form of subjectivity. The broadening of outlook became most apparent in the world of technology and general knowledge. Many branches of modern science, like sociology, economy, biology and geology, had their veritable birth-ground at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The steam engine (developed by James Watt; 1736 – 1819) introduced a ‘mechanical’ approach to nature, making human (muscle) power partly expendable and – more important – shifted the personal attention away from the process of making. The process of industrialization started in England, but soon spread all over Europe. Roads and railways were part of an ever-growing infrastructure, which brought people and ideas together.
The year 1950 or the Second Major Approach (SMA) was the second time that Europe hit the roots of its existence. In the period just after World War II a fresh elan came to surface in a generation, which was prepared to build the ruins up again. For the third time, a unification of Europe (now under the guidance of Nazi Germany) did fail as a direct result of its violent nature. However, times did change. The dualistic inspired Cold War (between Western and Eastern political powers) lost its appeal, just like the use of violence became increasingly palled upon. Power- and identity-seeking individuals turned to hijacking and guerrilla tactics, always on a small-scale and aiming at maximum media attention. The news bulletins doggedly followed the outbreaks of violence in their misguided intention to create some kind of reality. These acts of violence dwindled of importance in the light of the enormous achievements in many other fields. The landing on the Moon (in 1969) was a psychological zenith. It also put forward the limitations of life in space. The development of the gene technique raised fresh hope in biology and the world of medicines. The gigantic scale of plate tectonics reformed geology. These examples were only a small part of the enormous increase in scientific knowledge. All fields of research also greatly benefited from the introduction of computers.
The present (2011) has a CF-value of 8.03, which is fairly low (on a visible visibility scale from 6.00 to 11.00). The European cultural history is ‘on the way up’ in the second part of the Fourth Quadrant (IV, 2). This position might give a splendid inspiration for historical descriptions. Europe, as a cultural unit, has seen a lot. Certain comparisons (with other cultures) can give a clue as to where we are going next. At present, I will leave this terrain open for future (quadralectic) historians to work on.
The year 2100 or the Receding Point (RP) will be the beginning of a time of consolidation. No real development can be expected, but there is a firm interest in the past. The time can be compared to the 25th/26th Dynasty (740 – 525 BC) in the Egyptian cultural period, known for its ‘Late Renaissance’. Old ideas revived, up to a point of decadence. Whoever visited the graves of the Apis-bulls (Serapeum) in Sakkara, knows what that means.
The year 2250 is the year of the Last Visibility (LV). The socio-political entity of Europe will not disappear after that date. Its geographical unity will continue in the same way as countries like Egypt and Greece or the Roman Empire. It is all there, but it has no medium to create a new visibility. Europe will remain a continent, witness its own history, but other (large) countries or continents will, by that time, have taken over its cultural importance. However, a cyclic view implies that a future is somewhere, and visibility will open once again. The gateway to another universe is open.