The Structure of the Piscean Age - 4
IX. 1342 to 1522 AD
As we reach the mid-point of the fourteenth century and the third of the "decanate" periods of the Piscean Age, (which is also the ninth "house-subdivision" period) we see the human mind reach a new stage of growth and expansion. Historians often consider the date of the fall of Constantinople (1453), or that of the so-called "discovery" of America (1492) as the beginning of "modern history," but these fifteenth century events were foreshadowed by the long period of conflicts and of mental-social arousal which is contemporary to the Hundred Year War between France and England. No cycle starts on a strikingly positive note — but only with a promise. Spiritually, the new tone sounds forth; but, materially and socially, what is revealed is potentiality and not yet concrete actuality.
The ninth House period of the Piscean Age begins thus with the Black Plague and the spread of sexual diseases, and with the Hundred Years War. It begins with the Golden Bull which establishes the pattern of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Electorate responsible for the perpetuation of the Empire — and ends with the Diet at Worms which sets the prenatal pattern for the Europe of modern nations. It begins with the gradual breakdown of Scholasticism and the growth of rationalism, from William of Occam (1340) onward. And as Byzantine scholars flee from the impending fall of Constantinople, they bring to the West a much expanded knowledge of Greek philosophy and science. With the formation of the new Academy in Florence under the influence of Plethon (1356-1450) we can trace the birth of Humanism and the renascence of Platonism. It will take another century for the movement to reach its full development with men like Erasmus and Copernicus. The invention of the printing press around 1450 gives a powerful stimulation to learning at the very time the scholars from Constantinople are rushing to Italy, where the artistic Renaissance is being initiated under the patronage of men like the Medici.
This period, 1342-1522, begins the era of the great martyrs who die at the hands of the Inquisition and whose sacrifices give added vitality to the forces of building the new society and the new thinking — from Joan of Arc, the first prophet of spiritual individualism and nationalism, to the Bohemian, John Hus, whose followers were among the first to use effectively gunpowder and crude cannons in their desperate struggle against the powers of Church and Empire lined up at the Council of Constance (1415). It also sees the beginning of the great adventures across the seas: the discovery of the Canary Islands and Azores around 1350, and a century later the search for new routes to India and the lands of silk and spices — a search inspired by commercial purposes, after the fall of Constantinople had made impracticable some of the best overland routes to Asia. Columbus and Magellan, Cabot and Vespucci, Ponce de Leon and Cortez are the best known names of the period centering around 1500.
The three great inventions which made this European expansion at all levels possible (compass, printing and gunpowder) most likely came from China. In a sense, modern history and the spread of Western civilization was conditioned by them. The use of gunpowder rendered the medieval armies of noblemen obsolete, and gradually gave power to the bourgeoisie and the common people. It enabled a few Conquistadores to subjugate older and effete civilizations. The compass made world-navigation feasible. Printing provided the material foundation for the intellectual development of Europe. And the Reformation (1517), by applying the new spirit, of individualism to religion, helped to transform the Catholic universalism of the Middle Ages into the nationalism characteristic of modern European history.
What develops through any "ninth House phase" always becomes consolidated and socially effective in the tenth House. Likewise the spiritual ferment which has been slowly activated during the fifteenth century produces strikingly objective and concrete social and intellectual results after 1510. Everything then happens at once: the effective conquest of the New World, the Reformation and the wars of Religion, the crystallization of the new type of social unit, the European nation — above all in France and England under new ruling houses (Bourbon and Tudor) — and the tremendous growth of the Renaissance spirit, in philosophy, literature, art and science.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1969 by Dane Rudhyar
and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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