Aquinas and the Realist Revival
The self does not have to turn towards and collapse into a hidden inner soul, or be swallowed up quasi-passionally by a single concept. Not even the Christian self has to do this; St Mark, for one, was able to represent the only perfectly romantic life in history in a thoroughly realist way. But whether the invisibility of Aristotle or the exile of Ovid were straws in the wind or signs of the times, the model of the self produced by Virgil, Paul, and Plotinus, with some Stoic and Gnostic variations and details, was the one which more and more of those people who thought about such matters responded to during the four centuries after the life of Jesus, the great age of imperial Rome. Consolidated as it was by Augustine, this model then became paradigmatic for seven centuries and more after him: through Rome’s fall and the collapse of European civilisation in the fifth to eighth centuries; through the partial revival of that civilisation under Charlemagne and its second Dark Age in the tenth and earlier eleventh centuries; and then on into the scholastic era. Neoplatonist and Gnostic mysticism combined with Pauline and Patristic dogma, and some residual Stoicism, made a powerful spiritual sanctuary for besieged and solitary souls without civil defences. In universal stasis lives could no longer be conceived or exercised as integrated and passional constituents of an active and enduring outer realm, and they had to recognise themselves instead as dimensionless, isolated souls deriving their meaning from an order beyond the limits of life, apprehensible only by faith.
KeywordsMoral Life Christian Faith English Poet Passional Concept Passional Thought
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