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Western Civilisation

Join Gab (@StFerdinandIII) Western Civilisation was and is superior to anything Islam has developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Raising the alarm about the fascism called Submission since 2000.  

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Medieval/Early Modern Christianity - Recent Articles

Matteo Rici and the Catholic Mission to China

By R. Po-chia Hsia

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The late 16th century Catholic missionary Matteo Rici is one of the more remarkable characters of the late Middle Ages,and early modern period.  Rici is acknowledged as one of the greatest missionaries in world history.  Against overwhelming obstacles including linguistic, cultural, physical, financial, and racial, Ricci proselytised the faith in China, accommodating Chinese sensibilities with the Biblical tradition, based on his belief that mutual respect and a profound appreciation of Chinese philosophy and history, would better serve the needs of evangelisation than force, contempt, condescension, or imposition.

The power of this book is that it presents in a coherent and readable fashion the exploits of this remarkable but little-known missionary.  Ricci was Italian and much of the documentation about his life and activities in the ‘Middle Kingdom’ are in Italian, Portuguese or Chinese (in which he was fluent both as a speaker and writer).  It sets the exploits of Ricci against the backdrop of the Counter-Reformation, Portuguese Asia, and Late Ming dynasty in China.  There are translations of Ricci’s work in this slim volume and excerpts about Ricci by his Chinese contemporaries. 

There are four parts to this book.  Part 1 describes the trading empire of the Portuguese in Asia and the construction of military and trading posts in the 16th century.  Part 2 assesses this maritime expansion and the Catholic missions and their different models from coercion to cooperation and persuasion.  Francis Xavier the precursor to Ricci is discussed.  Part 3 gives a description of Ming China as encountered by the Jesuits (Ricci was one of many missionaries to China).  This section emphasises the most important aspects of Ming China relevant to Ricci’s mission, namely, Confucian learning, Buddhism, scholarly culture, the politics of the Ming court and its policy toward trade and religion.  Part 4 is a concise appraisal of Ricci himself and his activities of evangelisation, including his colleague, Michele Ruggieri.  There is a comparison of Ricci’s persuasive model against that of the Spanish in Central America, who used the coercive and punishment model.  The section outlines the magisterial career of Ricci within the Ming court, which included the introduction of Western geography and cartography, scientific encounters with Chinese scholars, religious encounters with Buddhists and Taoists, and his own perception of the Confucian elite, their culture along with contemporary Chinese appraisals of Ricci himself.  Ricci is one of the few and maybe the only Westerner, to be given a Chinese state burial (1611). 

Some notable dates of this remarkable man:

1571 Ricci joins the Jesuits.

1578 Ricci and Ruggieri embark for India

1580 Portugal and Spain unite

1582 Ricci arrives in Macao, Ruggieri leaves for Zhaoqing China

1583 Ricci follows Ruggieri and joins him in Zhaoqing

1589 Ricci and Ruggieri move from Zhaoqing to Shaozhu

1590 The wealthy and influential Chinese Qu Taisu becomes Ricci’s disciple

1593 Ricci exchanges Buddhist garb for Confucian clothing

1595 Ricci moves to Nanjing and Nanchang, settling in 1599 in Nanjing

1601 Ricci moves to Beijing

1605 Ricci baptises the influential Xu Guangqi in Beijing

1610 Ricci baptises Li Zhizao and dies

1611 State funeral for Ricci

From a young age Ricci demonstrated an extraordinary aptitude for geography, science, and mathematics.  It was these skills which largely won over sceptical Chinese, Confucian and Buddhist scholars and court advisors.  From 1583 onward, Ricci (and Ruggieri) learnt Chinese, Chinese history and were avid students of Ming culture.  Ricci dressed in Buddhist attire given that for the Chinese, Catholic images, doctrines, devotions to Christ and Mary, rosary beads and prayers, heaven and hell, had homologies in Buddhism. 

Many of the early converts were Buddhists who probably saw much similarity in the two creeds.  This cultural appeal and sensitivity were a conscious choice made by Ricci and it did engender criticism from many quarters for being too pagan or not firm and strong enough in its Catholic purity.  Given that Buddhism was the most popular religion in China, it made sense to Ricci and Ruggieri to work with Buddhists and their powerful supporters and not confront them.  Ricci’s most famous and important work, written in Chinese and called ‘A Veritable Record of the Lord of Heaven’, published in about 1602, contains many Buddhist terms, analogies, and statements. 

One of Ricci’s converts (Qu) convinced Riccia that the Confucian intellectuals had a low opinion of Buddhist philosopher and its teachers.  Ricci changed his look from a poor Buddhist monk to a Confucian scholar.  Dressed in black silk with a full length of hair and long beard, he imitated the Chinese elite and criticised Buddhism for its fatalism, vegetarianism and vague doctrines and beliefs.  He impressed the Mandarins with his deep learning including Latin, Greek, the history of Greece and Rome and the history of Christian evangelisation.  He translated Euclid and other mathematical and scientific works into Chinese and provided maps of the world.  Ricci was able to link the core tenets of Confucianism with Christianity, demonstrating that much of Catholic doctrine was already understood and practiced by the Chinese including toleration, forgiveness, respect for ancestors, virtues, and wisdom.  Even heaven, hell and Christ were made compatible with Confucian idealism. 

Thanks to Ricci, Catholicism was thus portrayed and sold to the Chinese as native and natural, not foreign, and irrelevant.  In this regard Ricci converted many thousands of Chinese and in Beijing and elsewhere, established a dozen or so churches and abbeys and give Catholicism a high profile with a great deal of respect given to the Church by the Chinese for its sophistication, learning, culture, and scientific achievements.  Ricci’s legacy survived persecutions, wars and intolerance by various Chinese empires and emperors, and Ricci’s name is still famous in China to this day. 

Slandering Medieval Christianity while applauding Muslim Paganism.

The Dark Ages never existed.

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We know that the Dark Ages are a myth.  This is clear from the archaeological and historical records. The list of inventions from the period 500 AD to 1500 AD rivals and probably surpasses that of any 1000 year era in the historical march of man. Indeed the entire modern world is built on the revolutions in agriculture, science, capital formation, reason, and social development, during this period. The medieval inventions in war and transport for instance, were far in advance of anything that the Greeks and Romans could have developed and far ahead of anything that Islam has ever created.


Yet the modern world, academics, 'experts' and the leftist-Marxist-pro Muslim cult, refuse to recognize the incredible energy, talent, and creative capability of the supposed 'Dark Age' peoples. It is slander. Instead of showing pride in the civilization of the West, the really smart people engage in 'nuanced', 'complicated' and 'cultural relative' corruption and bastardization, in order to forward their favorite theses that the West is stupid; Islam is superior; and the modern world is a morass of racism, oppression, destruction and the rape of poor, little, Mother Earth.


Yet in our ignorance about the Medieval period, we dare to call ourselves 'advanced' and 'educated' ? Please.


The inventions in the arts and sciences alone, make the European medieval period one of the most formidable in history. In music for instance, the Romans and Greeks sang and played very simple, monophonic music. This was little changed from the very basic music one would have found in the Neolithic era. One line was sung, and supported by a limited number of instruments, most of them quite simple in construction and usage.


European medieval musicians invented harmony and polyphony, well before 900 AD. This allowed for the creation of complex and emotional themes to be developed, sung, and played. It was the first time in history that a rich mixture of harmonic polyphony was developed – starting with Gregorian chants in the 6th century, buttressed by an impressive array of inventions in the 7th century including; the pipe organ, the violin, the bass, and the harpischord. In the 10th century musical notation was formed in Europe, making the teaching and construction of complex music much easier.


It is highly doubtful that 'barbaric', dirty and stupid Dark Age peoples would have been enlightened enough to produce such wonderful sounds and melodies – not to mention the blessings of the greatest instrument of all time – the violin. Nothing like these sequence of musical innovations existed anywhere in the world – though I am sure that the Muslims, supported by their Marxist abettors will try to take the credit. Islam did after all, invent the modern world through its program of love and tolerance - or so we are constantly told.


During this revolution in music, the arts also flourished. In fact the range of artistic development during the medieval age is more impressive than that of the much-applauded Renaissance. During the 11th century for example, we have the remarkable era in building, sculpture and art named the 'Romanesque period' – though it had little in common with anything Roman. The Romanesque era was a truly impressive epoch, named after 'Rome' by the ignoramuses, academics and other haute-couture personalities of the 19th century, who believed that European medieval advances could only have been derived by going back to classical culture. The claim and the name is absurd.


Romanesque brilliance was followed by the Gothic originality of the 12th and 13th centuries, in which some of the world's most impressive monuments, churches, public spaces, bridges, mills, and other construction projects were completed. 'Gothic' is another pejorative, used by really smart people in the Enlightenment to mean barbaric, or from the supposedly uncivilized 'Goths' who took down the 'civilized' Roman empire. The Gothic achievements are numerous. They include the use of the flying buttress which allowed for the safe construction of very large, high and internally-vaulted buildings; stained glass windows; thinner walls; and a new forms of sculpture and art production, which far surpassed anything that the Romans and Greeks created. It was during this period as well that the great Flemish painters the Van Eycks, redefined painting and realist art, long in advance of the Renaissance. In fact the Van Eycks were the progenitors of Renaissance genius in painting.


The same is true in literature. None of the array of penetrating writing dated from the Renaissance would have been created if the medieval world had not left Latin and entered the vernacular. Dante, Chaucer and many others wrote in the common tongue of their regions, establishing Italian, English, French, Spanish and German as languages of communication, beauty and common usage. By discarding cumbersome and unproductive Latin for flexible, simpler, and superior languages, society was able to simplify communication and employ resources more profitably into the creation of markets, skills, jobs, science, idea-generation, capital allotment and better governance.


This ability to talk, write, and communicate clearly found an ally in the establishment of regional and national universities where the vernacular languages quickly gained preeminence. The first modern universities in the world were founded in Europe during the 12th century. The innovation was to have the university system dedicated to debate, inquiry and logic – not in transmitting 'received wisdoms' as was being done in the Oriental despotism's within Islam and China. The first two modern schools appeared in Paris and Bologna in about 1150 AD, with Oxford and Cambridge being established circa 1200 AD. By the early 13th century each major university had between 10.000 and 15.000 students Nothing like this existed anywhere else in the world.


The attitude to reason, argue, understand and experiment permeated society which informed the university system, which helped birth modern science. The Enlightenment did not invent 'science', the medieval period did. The first rational-modern scientist was Roger Bacon. The rift with mystical Aristotelianism and the break with conformity to the 'received wisdoms of the past', was quite evident by the 11th century in Europe. Again, this was unique in the world. For example both Jean Buriden [1300-1358] and Nicholas Oresme at the University of Paris anticipated Newton by 300 years, in proposing laws of motion and gravity. Oresme pre-dates Copernicus by postulating that the earth orbited not only around the Sun but along its own axis. 'Dark Age' periods would not produce rational-scientific inquiry.


Another major innovation of medieval Europe – found nowhere else in the world, and certainly not within totalitarian Islam – was capitalism. The great French historian Fernand Braudel is still the best read on the development of capitalism and he was one of many who argued that the medieval period created the forms, the systems, the mechanisms and the capital, to build up what is loosely labeled, 'capitalism' or, the ability to use excess funds to return a profit. This was a European-only creation.


Capitalism mandates all sorts of socio-economic innovations including; management, organization, process complexity, product and service delivery, accountability, accounting, and the rule of contract law. It also presupposes freedom, individuality and social peace including transparent rules and governance. In that regard the most compatible system for capitalism, and one which allows it to flourish is representative democracy – another medieval invention which can be dated to the Magna Carta of 1215.


The capitalist system of the medieval period led to the development of the modern world. It was largely, at least initially, a by-product of Church activity. The Church was the most liquid asset holder in medieval Europe, and its largest landowner. Church-based wealth was deployed in all areas of social and economic life to improve living standards, diet, life expectancy, and farming productivity. The barter economy was replaced by a cash economy sometime in the early 13th century – mostly thanks to the Church and its system of capitalism. Labor specialization and skill developed, reinforcing productivity gains, became legion during the period of 800-1300. Diets, health, and living standards all improved dramatically.


The Church invented credit. The Knights Templars in the 12th century created international banking, letters of credit and depository receipts. This aided in the creation of pools of wealth, used for investments, mortgage loans, and business creation. Land or asset value lending was itself an innovation dating from the times of the Crusades when Nobles had to mortgage their properties. This is the first time in history when we see this done within a system of contractual law, coupled with modern styled contracts. [The word mortgage is Old French for 'dead pledge'. In this contract the lender collected all income from the land during the term of the loan.]


There is no proof that the Dark Ages, were either medieval or Dark. In almost all areas of the political-economy, this era was perhaps the most important and fruitful in history. Nothing like the list of innovations, creations, and advancements were experienced by any other part of the world. Yet we are told constantly that Islam created the modern world, and without the Arab destruction, slaughter and Jihad in Spain for example, the lights of civilization would have been extinguished throughout Europe.


Such views, so widely held and coveted are simply displays of stupidity and ignorance. They are intoned for the purpose of denigrating Christianity, degrading European civilization, and elevating a barbaric death cult to be 'relatively' as successful as what the Western world has produced.


This mental-intellectual barbarity does not conform to reality, facts or history.  The Dark Ages need to be renamed as the Age of the Early Modern World. 

 

The Fall of Rome and the Invasions of the Musulmans

Some key reasons why Muslims were able to conquer half of Christendom

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One of the most remarkable myths about the Roman Empire, is the image of an implacably dominant Rome, whose society was an apogee of progress and stability, whose colossal presence throughout its Western empire was perceived as immanent and immutable.  While there is much to commend Roman engineering, building, urban development and planning, and the management of water, the truth is that Rome was an economic chimera, built around the military, premised on economically restrictive massive taxation, extraordinary tolling of trade and income, and a huge bureaucracy. 

 

It was a slave empire.  Innovation and technology were largely eschewed for slave labour.  It was also a latifundia empire.  A small cadre of families ran the empire post Julius Caesar, with civil wars the inevitable result.  It was a mercenary army post 250 A.D.  Germans ran and populated the military.  This guaranteed conflict and civil wars between generals and their followers who depended on the rapine and plunder of war for their wages and riches.  Rome was economically frail, the long trade links around the Mediterranean and beyond notwithstanding.  This must be true given that post 410 A.D. in Britain for example, when the legions left and after 476 A.D. in Italy, when Odoacer the Goth removed and pensioned off Romulus to a comfortable villa near Naples, there was felt in many parts of the former empire, an economic and social decline.  The centralised state and its tentacles had been removed.  It was not a ‘fall’ but a contraction as the Roman military, the central focal point of the economy, was basically shut down and replaced by localised German run kingdoms. 

 

However, no profound changes outside of Britain can be detected.  As Pirenne writes, ‘Considering matters as they actually, were, we see that the great novelty of the epoch was a political fact: in the Occident a plurality of States had replaced the unity of the Roman State.  And this, of course, was a very considerable novelty….There was no profound transformation except in Britain.’  Outside of the British isles, the Mediterranean world still dominated, now centred upon Constantinople, not Rome.  There would have been economic and social dislocation, and contractions due to the obvious changes in local and regional governance, power and even localised legal charters.  But the essential Roman character and the southern foci of Western Europe remained in place.  In many areas there was little to no changes, in some, incessant brigandage and small-scale conflicts.  In others, trade reorientation and dislocation.  In some areas urban centres declined, in others they remained the same.  In some locales the local Roman infrastructure of roads, bridges, baths and public buildings were abandoned, in others they were repaired and improved.  There was no ‘fall’ across the great diversity and distance of Western Europe. 

 

The greatest disruption until the triad of attacks from the Musulmans, Vikings and Avars (Huns), came from the Byzantines and Justinian’s invasions of North Africa and Italy, creating a savage war that marred the land for 40 years in the mid-6th century.  Socio-economic life in most of those areas must have been deranged.  But in France and elsewhere, life began to improve.  Recent evidence proves Pirenne wrong about the Merovingian dynasty which preceded the Carolingian.  Pirenne believed that the Merovingian empire decayed and was taken over by the successors to Charles Martel.  In this reading, the Merovingians are corrupt, distant, ineffective rulers, who dissipated the great wealth of their Frankish kingdom.  In actual fact it is now rather clear that the renaissance of Charlemagne was founded upon the wealth and riches of the Merovingians.

 

In any event, the most important point raised by Pirenne is the fact that Western Europe suffered a reversal and decline with the coming of the Musulman invasions in the 640s in which they conquered the southern and Christian half of the Mediterranean Roman empire, including taking the merchant navies and trading entrepots of Syria, the granaries and food depots of North Africa, the magnificent and rich urban areas of Spain and southern France, and the important islands in the Western Mediterranean.  The former Roman and Christian unity around the Mare Nostrum was shattered, trade linkages were ended, raw materials and supplies were now directed toward Baghdad, and urban plantations and ports along the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas were diminished and, in some cases, completely effaced.

 

The glaring truths are that the Roman empire was never as economically vibrant or as solid as historians and ‘experts’ maintain, and that the various ‘dark ages’, were economic and social contractions arising from war, invasion and plague.  The worst event was the Musulman invasion of the 7th century, which succeeded because in the 6th century, Eastern and Western Christianity had engaged in a colossally bloody and pointless civil war which exterminated 2 generations of men, from which the militaries of the combatants never fully recovered.  Added to this was the endless Byzantine war with Sassanid Persia, further depleting men, treasure and economic vitality.  Superimposed on these wars was a real pandemic plague in the 6th century which probably killed 30% of the population.  These are important and signal reasons why the Musulmans were able to conquer half of the Christian Roman empire in little more than 70 years.