Mind The Gap!, Modern Times

The Times Of Martin Luther.

Background to ‘The Secret Of Systems’.

Books at the time were still hand written, made from hand-made vellum. No small undertaking, even in our day and age; back then a book was beyond being expensive.

A handwritten bible from the early 15th century.

Now, this will be more of a personal reflection rather than any detailed historical analysis. If you have an observation or an objection, please use the comment form below as I am more than interested in other people’s ideas – just as long as they are intelligent and well formed.

For myself, what I am interested in here is the way people thought at the time, in this case, the late mediaeval period. The point of this is to say that people simply didn’t think as we do today, and for very good reasons: the world around them, the society around them was so utterly different from ours that it formed the minds of the youngsters in a manner quintessentially different from our own. If this aspect of history is overlooked, then can one call it history at all? Wouldn’t it be fairer to call it a regurgitation of facts?

In a way one can look at the “human animal” of the time, the genius that lived in all people of a society, geography and period of time. Their individuality would live within this, and express itself through it. Whilst such things cannot be specific – one can nevertheless discern something that lived in Germans that did not live in, for example, the English. The Germans of Martin Luther’s time lived in practically every country in Europe, including distant Russia. That they lived in small communities isolated from the main stream of the German culture did not dissipate the essential spark of Germanness that they possessed by virtue of their being, well, German. By contrast, the English were by no means as dispersed; albeit they had their traders in cities like Amsterdam, Hamburg and Danzig. Their essential spark being more individual, led them to seek the new world, and it would be a generation after Luther died that Drake would circumnavigate the world.

So much for the background: it has to be said that Martin Luther wasn’t the first Protestant reformer. One need only think of Jan Hus, whose followers became the Hussites – and many cities in and around Bohemia celebrate him, Naumburg included. The problem for Hus – if problem one can call it – was that whilst he had the energy and passion to spread his view of Christianity, he could only do it through word of mouth. Books at the time were still hand written, made from hand-made vellum. No small undertaking, even in our day and age; back then a book was beyond being expensive. Thus the Church had their precious books and the understanding they contained – usually in that pan-cultural language, Latin. Thus it was that a figure such as Geert Groote from Deventer in Holland (a major city in those days, and part of the Hansa) could travel to Paris in 1355 and study there, whilst not knowing a word of French. There are more, of course, most of whom paid for their sins with the forgiveness that the Church had for such people. That is to say, none at all: they were burned at the stake. Groote himself was no reformer though, and died a natural death.

King Wenceslaus decreed (in Kutná Hora) that the “Bohemian nation” would have three votes (instead of one) in University affairs, while the Bavarian, Saxon, and Polish “nations” would have only one vote in total. As a consequence, between five thousand and twenty thousand foreign doctors, masters, and students left Prague in 1409. This exodus resulted in the founding of the University of Leipzig, among others. Thus Charles University lost its international importance and became a strictly Czech school. The emigrants also spread news of the Bohemian “heresies” throughout the rest of Europe.

Wikipedia, Jan Hus

Thus it was that Protestantism was spread without books. The people themselves spread the word through this exodus.

Erasmus And Our Modern Times.

Frontespiece to Erasmus' work, printed and thus distributed freely across Europe.

The dedication page of Erasmus’ Latin translation of the Greek testaments.

What is important to note here is the work of Erasmus as key to many of the modern Bible translations – for Luther did not translate his bible from the common Vulgate, the Testaments as translated by Jerome – the guy with the lion. The Vulgate was the Latin Bible that the Catholics used in their Christian ceremonies, services and teachings. Erasmus took the Greek bible and in comparing Jerome’s works with the texts from the Greeks, said:

“But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep.”

Epistle 337 From Wikipedia.

Which brings up the difference between the Classical mind expressed by the Greeks and the Mediaeval mind. The Classical mind was able to remember vast tracts of spoken language. Indeed, even today there are societies that are illiterate, yet their holy works are remembered by several members of their society – and they are remembered exactly. To the letter. So to speak. The ability to write changed all this: one didn’t need to remember these things any longer, one could write them down and forget them – and I must admit that I am no exception to this rule. In writing my own book, I look back to passages written some eighteen months ago with wonder that I ever thought such things.

In the Mediaeval world, though, the things Erasmus said were true: people thought more of the written word than their own capacities to think. This laziness – now a plague in today’s Holland – led to the mistranslations. Erasmus, whilst Dutch, had that core of the modern mind: a conscience. He said to himself, ‘this is no good, for it is not the truth. What I seek is the truth, and nothing short of the truth. I will do my best to give the world the truth as I can understand it.’ Thus with the differences between the two versions of the Testaments, he judged for himself what the better translation was. But he did so on the basis of the truth, and that for any Christian, is expressed through the words that Jesus spoke during his ministry on earth. Being the dutiful type – the type that doesn’t get burned at the stake – should this post form part of my series ‘The Secret Of Systems’? For to be burned at the stake is to be told that you are not part of the system…

So we come to the time of Martin Luther. He was a monk and a priest, an academic too – such as they weren’t in those days. What with the flowering of the universities in the early modern (late Mediaeval) times, he found himself a professor at the newly founded university of Wittenberg. At the early age of 29. With its libraries and the communication system that was also dawning, he was at one of the many centres of intellectual thinking at the time. Thus the works of Erasmus would have been brought to his attention in one way or another.

Not only this, but they would have been printed on a press, not laboriously – and occasionally erroneously – on vellum. The press cannot lie: again, the press is a system, it is only as good as the stuff you put in. Thus if the writing is good, the printed material is good. The printing press itself can do nothing to improve this – albeit an ignorant typesetter can make a mockery of the most intelligent thought. But again, the typesetter is human, and thus stands in this case, before the system itself. Put intelligence in, and you will have the best use of a system. That is the main topic of my next post in that series, where stupidity costs.

Luther had a passion for the truth; indeed his very name in old German means ‘truth’. Add to this intelligence and an ability to communicate – and a conscience for the truth – and you have the stuff of social explosion. Luther’s problem was that his truth didn’t match the things the Catholic Church were doing at the time. His 95 theses nailed to the door of the church at Wittenberg only made the situation the more difficult.

Since the representatives of the Catholic Church had been handed the right to do these things, they could not be wrong. If you are part of a system, a conscience will be a hinderance to you, for it will make you feel uncomfortable. That is the nature of a conscience: it will prick you. Systems, whilst perfect for those within it, are not usually right in the broader context of societ, or its future. Whilst people loved the idea of being able to buy their loved ones security in heaven, the very idea enraged the enragable Luther. In this, he is very close to my own soul.

On account of his conscience he could not stand this peddling of indulgences – he would have called them lies, and so do I. With good reason! They did not accord with the words of Jesus. Add Luther’s passion for the written word, add Erasmus’ Greek Testaments and add the fact that most cities had a printing press – and the foundations were now present for Luther to light the blue touchpaper.

Which he duly did.

Martin Luther, questioned at the Imperial Diet (parliament) at Augsburg, 1518

Martin Luther, questioned at the Imperial Diet (parliament) at Augsburg, 1518

Irrespective of cost to himself, I will add. If one has a conscience, it matters not what conscienceless people think. If one has a conscience, there is only one thing that matters, and that is the truth. Luther was no exception and thus stood firm. The Catholic Church required him to recant his Theses, he refused.

His response to this was:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

Martin Luther.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Wartburg at Eisenach, as it is today. Much of the interior is original to the time Luther was there.

The Wartburg at Eisenach, as it is today. Much of the interior is original to the time Luther was there.

Note to self: time for a visit, don’t you think?

Friends spirited him away to the Wartburg at Eisenach. Here Luther had the time and the peace – not to mention the peace of mind that is the result of a searched conscience – to translate the Testaments into common German. Now it has to be said that this was not academic German: Luther was, if nothing else, a communicator. Standing on the back of a hay waggon, he would proclaim the Gospels to any and all who would gather to hear him. The more he spoke their language, the more they would hear of the truths he spoke. Thus it was that his translations were aimed at the common man, and it was this which gave Luther’s words their power.

Tyndale translated Erasmus' text into English where Luther had translated it into German.

Tyndale was caught by the numpties and was burned for his sins. It’s the way many authorities in the Church express their understanding of Christian forgiveness.

Luther was no Tyndale, for Luther’s passion lay not in the beauty of the prose, which would endear Tyndale to the English; but in its immediacy, which would set the German soul alight. The masses could understand Luther’s words in print just as they had when hearing him. Either way, they could understand the truth for themselves: Jesus forgives your sins, and does so without any thought of payment. Your joy at being forgiven is for Him thanks enough.

It will come as no surprise that the Catholic Church had wanted to silence this kind of talk. Well, that’s how many people think even now. For the truth hurts  those for whom words or the system stand as more important. This isn’t to say that there aren’t good Catholic Christians, people who accept a truth that they have sought in their own conscience – the point here is that those who have not searched their consciences will always be pricked by those who have. Their response across the ages has been to gag the offenders. I pity those poor people. For they put their faith in the words that are written on paper before the unseen realities they represent. Unseen realities that are buried in their own consciences, their own hearts.

Martin Luther had shown them the reality of our modern times and shown them that now, authority was but hoarded selfishness. A selfishness that hoarded to itself greedily, and in wanting to protect others, now took from them the very thing they needed most. Who remembers the selfish? Who but the learned scholar knows the names of the council that excommunicated him? Do you? I doubt it. Yet the name of Luther is known in every house in Northern Europe. Who remembers those who put Socrates to death? Not one of you, I should think! Yet we all know who Socrates was. The point is that the truth will out, and the likes of Martin Luther were not concerned about their own individual fate: they had done as their conscience demanded of them. They spoke the truth, and if they were to be punished for it by those who knew it not, so be it. That is the truth of our modern society.

Either you know what it is to search your own conscience, or you will stand against those who do.

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13 thoughts on “The Times Of Martin Luther.

  1. LOVE this post, and has triggered ideas for posts and books alike!! I know a little bit about Luther, and his part in Protestantism, but this article has enhanced my knowledge no end! “The point is that the truth will out”- this is great. The idea that Luthers initial core message, Jesus forgives, and he requires no payment in return, has just set me off thinking in about a million different ways. For it is so basic, and so fundamental I think. Catholicism introduced(??) the idea of ‘mind control’ with the basic premise that we should feel like we must work/pay/struggle/suffer for forgiveness Bam- Catholic guilt, guilt in general, holding us back from connecting with truth, or, as you put it, our conscience, our inner voice- our own inner truth. I think the act of “forgiving ourselves” is one of the hardest.. but it really shouldn’t be!! I have really enjoyed this post! Did you study history of any kind? Or is this just an interest or a hobby? Either way thanks a lot for the history lesson, has been much appreciated! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks as ever for your thoughts.

      I’d like to reflect on “Catholicism introduced(??) the idea of ‘mind control’ with the basic premise that we should feel like we must work/pay/struggle/suffer for forgiveness Bam- Catholic guilt, guilt in general, holding us back from connecting with truth”

      To me it’s more indicitave of people who need authorities to be comfortable with their lives. That is to say, somebody to tell them what to do, so they don’t have to be responsible for their own actions – the guard at Auschwitz is as good an example as any. The issue here – which hints at your other comment today – is how can such a person become aware of their own responsibility to themselves, and to others. Not in terms of ‘I’m your priest, etc.’ but in terms of equal standing. Regarding the other person as being correct, albeit in as much as one is able to discern that correctness within ones own self.

      Equalness in this respect being as much one’s own ability to accept oneself – and thus be able to accept the points of view of other people as being equally valid (even if they contradict one’s own ideas). It is this acceptance that leads to true conversation, where both parties are trying to understand the other.

      The easy way out is to take the absolution given from on high by your priest and then forget about it. Of course, this kind of thinking led inevitably to the thought that one could sell indulgences to these deluded souls – the problem as you duly noted, is that at some point in their lives, the truth will out.

      But that’s why we should strive to freedom, that is to say, the kind of equality described above, if one is to deal with these issues before they all come together as a crisis. It ain’t nice, it is sensible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm so much to consider!! “To me it’s more indicitave of people who need authorities to be comfortable with their lives”- I think a lot of people are never made to feel self-important enough, to consider the idea of not reaching for outside validation for their lives. Some people are ground down from day 1, and therefore are never made to feel worth while enough to believe that they could buck trends and do their own thing. HOwever on the flip side, as you state, certain situations, i.e. guard at Auschwitz.. I have no idea how these people would have been able to look themselves in the mirror.. this is literally beyond me. I would imagine the inner turmoil they went through would have been extreme.. but then maybe it wasn’t…??? People are strange. I like your idea of responsibility, to yourself and to others, to promote equality between different people, and then attempt to understand where you are different.. these are great truths 🙂 Catch ya later!

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      • Gemma says:

        Thankyou for your thoughts.

        When you say, “Some people are ground down from day 1, and therefore are never made to feel worth while enough to believe that they could buck trends and do their own thing” Take a look at my response to Clara below: in this case, what kind of teacher is it that wishes to grind a person down?

        My friend Hendrik was a poor student at art, and because of that his teacher made him sweep the floor. What a fucking disgrace!! If a youngster can’t draw, then find some way that he can express himself visually that doesn’t require so much skill.

        In the Waldorf schools – I’m a trained Waldorf teacher, by the way – they use block crayons in the early years so that the children’s poor drawing skills are “ironed out” by the broad surface of the wax crayon. The effects can be quite pleasing!

        Again, your comment points to a person who is uncomfortable with any other idea than their own…

        As to the camp guard – they would look at themselves in the mirror and think no more about it than removing the shaving cream. Our subconscious is literally and metaphorically invisible, in what we see of ourselves or in our imagination (within certain limits, which I am exploring with regard to your schizophrenia). Thus the camp guard will see nothing unusual at all in the things he does. After all, he is under orders – add to which, these people have been defined as ‘outsiders’. Discrimination of this kind is neither new nor uncommon.

        It’s most easily seen in white on black racism… in some countries, like the US and South Africa, it’s assumed to be normality. Now imagine them living in a world where it is socially acceptable to burn such people at the stake, and you will begin to see that it is just a small step from discrimination to issuing a death penalty.

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  2. Clara Stoervall says:

    I enjoyed this text – and I translated it with a few slightly satirical comments (‘adhoc’ at a late hour) into German, so that some of my friends can read it.

    The phenomena you are dealing with in your text have been masterly described from a different angle by Dostojewski in “The Great Inquisitor”, a story in the story of one of his novels.
    There he shows the enormous tragedy which is at the foundation of Catholicism and of human beings afraid of responsibility and freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gemma says:

      I’m afraid I left my copy of Dostojewski’s “Brothers Karamazov” in a public telephone booth in Stuttgart – that was a few years ago! But I never saw it again… so the story is not known to me. I’ll have to find another copy!

      As to your text, if it is published online, please let me know its location and I will happily post a link to it – or you can pop it into a comment. Oh, and if you want to translate your satirical comments back into English, you are welcome to add them here too!

      Like

    • Clara Stoervall says:

      Thank you for sending the link!

      I found the “Paul Klee – article” just when I had given up searching for it.

      “Errorism” is my reaction to the “terrorism” which is coming in the windows.

      Be it “false flag” or not.

      Terror (violence in whatever form) seems to me to be an “error”.

      That’s how I came up with the term “errorism” (tongue in cheek).

      Herzlichen Gruß,
      Clara Stoervall ; – )

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    • Gemma says:

      Terror in my book is more a corruption of what we are here for. After all, a big guy with large muscles and a stick with nails pointing out of it can force his will on the most intelligent of people – simply through his might.

      No conversation or dialogue needed.

      Hence: anybody forcing their will on anybody else is behaving incorrectly. Further to this, anybody who engages in such activities shows that it is THEY who must change, not the person who is capable of discussing a problem.

      Alexandra Sarll’s blog is an amazing contribution to modern humanity in that she is discussing something that many people find utterly distasteful – yet she does it in a way that is both engaging and informative. This is in sharp contrast to the psychiatrists who use blunt weapons like tranquilizers to force their will on their patients. In the short term, that is fine, after all, their patients are ill – but the long-term duty of a doctor is to heal, not to suppress the symptoms.

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  3. Clara Stoervall says:

    Hello Gemma,

    I cannot find a second article of yours on your blog I answered to yesterday,

    it is an article on “abstraction and trauma and Paul Klee” and on “errorism”

    as I like to call it.

    Where can I find that text?

    Did my comment reach you (computer technology – wise)?

    Best wishes,
    Clara Stoervall

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  4. Clara Stoervall says:

    Hello Gemma,

    you wrote:

    “Terror in my book is more a corruption of what we are here for. After all, a big guy with large muscles and a stick with nails pointing out of it can force his will on the most intelligent of people – simply through his might.

    No conversation or dialogue needed.

    Hence: anybody forcing their will on anybody else is behaving incorrectly. Further to this, anybody who engages in such activities shows that it is THEY who must change, not the person who is capable of discussing a problem.”

    – – – I agree. Perhaps except for the word “more” in your first sentence, which I may
    just not understand. ; – )

    What are we here for?

    I’d say to communicate with fellow-humans, with nature, and as far as possible at a given time with the beings of the spiritual realm (very carefully) – thus contributing to
    creation, to its and our development.

    Force, violence (also ‘subtle’ violence e.g. of media, of teachers, of clergy, or of the psychiatrist with blunt medicine you mention…) will lastly only hinder a fruitful development.

    We are certainly not here to side with “devilish” activities like “terror” – that would be a fateful “error”. ; – )

    Who tries to force his will on humans? The devil – who is incapable of true and real (holy) communication: there tends to be a layer of deceit in his speech. He usually regards you as a possible prey, a victim of his ruses, not as a respected partner in an open dialogue.

    Herzlichen Gruß,
    Clara Stoervall

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    • Gemma says:

      These little words … “more” in this instance, “now” in another – are indicitave of the way the English speak and is contrasted by the immediate and direct speech of the Germans. I guess it’s something I have to learn in this, my English incarnation with our poetic, flowery ways of speaking – where in one of my previous, I was a German – and one who spoke with a direct and forthright passion.

      Now, down to business: why is it that someone will force their will on another? It is to stop them from speaking – from expressing their own inner self that might throw light on the “forcer’s” own shortcomings. That way, only the forcer’s way is known and tolerated. Everything else is an intolerable threat. You see it everywhere, and two of my upcoming posts will deal with this in situations that are very real.

      As to the devil, Rudolf Steiner spoke of how Goethe could not distinguish the forces of evil, and thus he was unable to make his character ‘Mephistopholes’ a true expression of evil. At the time, it was not possible to distinguish them; today it is. I speak – albeit tangentially – of one of these forces in my post “The Nurturing Of The Root”. [link]

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  5. Pingback: The Times Of Martin Luther. — Ponderings – Easy World

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