Closing of the Western Mind,The Paperback
The conversion of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in 368 AD brought a transformation to Christianity and to western civilization, the effects of which we still feel today.
Previously, the Roman empire had absorbed and sustained the Greek intellectual tradition which, in the astronomy of Ptolemy, the medicine of Galen and the philosophy of Plotinus, reached new heights.
Constantine turned Rome from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilisation of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority.
The century after Constantine's conversion saw the development of an alliance between church and state which stifled freedom of thought and the tradition of Greek rationalism which was intrinsic to it.
The churches enjoyed enormous patronage and exemptions from tax, and in return allowed the emperors to take on the definition and enforcement of an increasingly narrow religious orthodoxy.
This book explores how the European mind was closed by the revolution of the fourth century. It looks at the rise of the 'divine' monarch, the struggle as Christianity painfully separated itself from Judaism, the conflict between faith and reason, and the problems in finding any kind of rational basis for Christian theology.
In these centuries, a turning-point for Western civilisation, we see the development of Christian anti-Semitism, the origins of the opposition of religion and science and the roots of Christianity's discomfort with sex, issues which haunt the Christian churches to this day.
The Closing of the Western Mind is a major work of history.
Wide-ranging and ambitious, its central theme is the relationship between the two wellsprings of our civilisation, the Judaeo-Christian and the Greco-Roman, and how the tensions between them have created the culture in which we continue to live, think and believe.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 512 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 30/04/2003
- Category: General & world history
- ISBN: 9780712664981
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Review by ablueidol
Explores the relationship of key strands of Christianity with the Roman state in the 4th century and the subsequent impact on Christianity and the Greco-Roman world of that relationship. Essentially the state enforced doctrinal unity for the sake of political unity as the Roman Empire crumbled. As a consequence in the West but less so in the East much of the intellectual and religious heritage of the non Christian majority was destroyed or suppressed. Much of the tolerance and sexual freedoms were also suppressed. As a consequence "truth" became as the developing Catholic and Orthodox Church said rather than reason or practical observation and so intellectual progress in the west froze until essentially the Renaissance. The interesting what if is the fate of a Christianity that is not embraced by the state. How does it survive the collapse of the west? Does the west collapse earlier? In which case what is the fate of the east one of the reasons it services is the Huns could live off the pickings of the West and so the EAST can buy time to make them allies. It does and they are the mainstay of its armies for several centuries. This then leads to a what if re the rise and spread of Islam in this world of weak political areas that are a continuity with Greco-Roman culture. The franks for example accepted and adopted a lot of the roman way of life so without Christianity as the dominant force what would have evolved over the 200 years between the collapses and the arrival of Islam( if it arrives at all)