The Council Of Florence: The Beginnings Of Humanism

I was reading Sunday afternoon and stumbled upon the idea that the basis of the Renaissance was this idea called Hermetic thought: ‘man is the measure of all things.’ ‘Humanism’ is, in reality, a culturally acceptable, ‘Christianized’ form of Hermeticism. Before the Renaissance, man was the crown of creation, but it was God’s creation and it was He who conferred man’s dignity. In return, man was to obey and learn from God. The Renaissance was a shift from ‘God the Absolute’ to ‘man the measure of all’. 

The Renaissance began when long lost texts were returned to the West. It was these texts that troubled Christianity for many believed the text was the Lost 'Oldest' Testament, 'Older than Moses'. These ‘neo-Platonic’ texts captured the people’s imagination for they had previously been found unfit for Christianity. The most important of these was the Corpus Hermeticum. The philosophical essence was that ‘the individual decides his own reality’ the true God was to be found within speaking truth into your ear. 

For centuries, Christianity has been split into two churches, the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Roman. The cause of this schism was Rome’s addition of the ‘filioque’ clause to the ancient Nicene Creed. Regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, Rome added the phrase ‘and the Son’ to the end of ‘…I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father…’ creating a ‘double procession’. Rome used this formulation (derived from St. Augustine) to stave off an earlier threat of heresy. The Eastern Church viewed such a unilateral act, as flagrant and changing a basic formulation of belief. It also implied that the Pope had the authority to make such a change, which the East believed he didn’t have. In 1054, the Church split, both sides deeming the other as heretical. 

By the 1400s, the Eastern Byzantine Empire had come under increasing assaults by the Muslim Turks, threatening to overthrow it. The reunification of Eastern and Western Churches became vital to their mutual protection. To heal the split, a Council was set up in Florence Italy (1438-39) called the Council of Ferrara-Florence. It was hoped that by resolving the ‘filioque’ dispute the Byzantine Empire could be preserved. Among the delegation sent by the Eastern Orthodox Church was John Bessarion, Metropolitan of Nicaea, and Mark Eugenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, and the secular, Muslim taught, sage George Gemistos, who called himself ‘Plethon’ in honor of Plato. Plethon was an avowed pagan, yet, he had a considerable reputation for handling disputes. He had a new ‘system of unity’ that made conflicts disappear. 

Plethon was considered somewhat of an oddity, ‘he combined with Platonism, or rather with Neo-Platonism, the most extraordinary kind of Oriental mysticism and magic which he designated as Zoroastrianism’ (Mithraism) When the sage, Plethon, reached Florence, he had already become something of a celebrity. The impact of Plethon was extraordinary. He was like a philosophical ‘rock star’; a sort of ‘Timothy Leary’ pied-piper of his day. Platonism had become a counter-culture phenomenon; an intriguing metaphysical philosophy that seemed to stretch back to the dawn of antiquity. based on the ‘harmony of love’ it was backed up by its own bizarre text, the Corpus Hermeticum. Plethon’s ‘trick’ was this: doctrinal disputes could be made obsolete by a fundamental switch in metaphysics from one of Aristotelean distinctions to one of Platonic ‘harmony’. Eventually it was Plethon and Gnosticism that won the day backed by the wealthy Medici family. This was the true start to the Renaissance. 

With Constantinople under Muslim rule, the major records destroyed and the West firmly on a crash course with Plato, what was once the cause of division, the filioque clause, became superseded by a shift in philosophy in the West. While the Eastern Church can ‘blame’ everything on the filioque clause, the fact is that the main objection prior to the council was Papal authority. Seeking to unify the split, the East showed a tolerance for the Western point of view only to be out maneuvered by the Platonists. Therefore, one must at least ask the question, ‘was the final condemnation of the West a result of the filioque clause, or the ease with which the West was Platonized?’, something even the laity in the East were well aware was Gnostic. It was Plethon’s book 'Differencia' that was in Genaddios possession when he had it burned. Even a mere ‘and the Son’ clause could not be as heretical as ‘the pre-existence of souls’ doctrine for it is that doctrine which could undermine and reformulate all of Christianity and make it essentially the same as Buddhism. It is this ‘Dualistic Procession’ that subtly invokes a metaphysics based on ‘eros’; that reality is dependent upon an intrinsic eroticism. While the Western Church would try to maintain an Aristotelian understanding through the philosophy of Aquinas, it was only a matter of time before this heterodoxy would begin to fractionalize the Church, first into Protestantism, but eventually into thousands of denominations all professing a unique understanding of the truth.

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May 17, 2012