When I walk around Atlanta, I see hundreds of different faces. The city is loud, busy and most of all, fragmented. Like most cities in the Modern Age, the people here are distant from each other, atomized. There is no true form of the “Atlantan” (and likely never was); he or she is often a transplant, a foreigner from elsewhere, or the recent descendent of the same. I myself do not “belong” in Atlanta in this sense, but neither do most of us. The people of Atlanta share no bonds to keep us together.
The people of Atlanta (and most of the Western world) have rejected the very idea of the “Above.” The Above certainly encompasses a physical God. But it also encompasses concepts of family/household, order, position and historical trajectory, which have been discarded for a more agreeable value system of global egalitarianism. The Above has been leveled down to an even playing field. There is no right and wrong, just freedom to treat everyone equally, even if everyone is wrong.
But Spirituality, not egalitarianism, is the foundation of human civilization. The entirety of the West is rooted in Spirituality in some form or another. To be of a Spiritually true form, one must acknowledge the Above. It was taken for granted throughout Medieval Europe in one fashion or another, the institution of the divine right of kings, where rebellion is the worst of crimes. Saint Thomas Aquinas said though in “On Kings,” that kings are still beholden to God, and kings that stray are merely tyrants.
This is an important ideal, both in terms of a transforming Spirituality in the Modern Age, and better understanding history. There are no atheists in Medieval Europe. This is because religion and hierarchy are not separate from one another. How can one pray to or believe in physical God without an established sense of order, a sense of right and wrong? Modern atheists may be awestruck at the devotion of both the peasantry and nobility in Medieval West. But if one accepts the existence of an almighty Gold (and an earthly extension of his rule here on earth through the presiding power structure), devotion (even extreme devotion by our standards) follows logically.
This is all to say that books like Psalters and Books of Hours were not only popular in Medieval Europe, but essential. They are proof of a spiritual standard. The limitless permutations of books of hours, for both public and personal devotion are pictures of that society’s relationship with God. The prevailing effect of this mentality was a true form of man. A society of people who belonged somewhere in that society. The people in most any given kingdom in medieval Europe were unified under the institution of that king, and better still unified under God. They were a unified people, a thede. There was a wholeness to each kingdom of Europe. Humility before God was synonymous with humility before your betters. Hierarchy thrives when people truly know themselves.
Oneself is manifested in the arenas of biology and spirituality. This understanding of biology in the Medieval era is not Darwinian, as we understand it now. For a medieval person, their understanding of their biological self was rooted in their genealogical trajectory (i.e., the concept of a “House.”) Indeed, the Tree of Jesse is one of the most depicted pieces of art in Christianity. The idea that one is a link in a chain is mostly lost to the modern world.
The Getty Museum, Stammheim Missel Ms. 64, fol. 146
We are born with a certain duty, a certain directional force passed down to us from our family. Our children are to learn from us, as we learned from our parents who learned from their’s, onward an et cetera.
Of course, one must forcibly humble oneself to acknowledge it. Nobility is for naught without a spiritual health. Today, the idea that there would be some people born to facilitate that Creator’s will here on Earth is frequently cast by secular Moderns (in a Modern context) as charlatanistic or even corrupt. But elders who spend much of their life in contemplation and prayer, who have seen many years on Earth, have greater wisdom that ought to be heeded. This is how an individual grows. By looking up to to others and learning from them. In turn, we pass down our knowledge to those below ourselves, helping them to grow as well.
Initial F: Tree of Jesse URL