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Western Civilization 10, Lesson 130 – Thomas Aquinas and the Divine Attributes

Thomas Aquinas is friar and philosopher who lived during the 13th century in Italy.  He is considered to be a saint by the people and the Church because of his works showing the divine attributes of God.  In this essay, I am going to talk about two of the five divine attributes he presented in his works.

God is a purely actual being, meaning that He is all-powerful and has no unrealized potentiality.  For those who do not understand, unrealized potentiality is like a human never learning to swim even though they have the capability.  Unrealized potentiality is a mortal concept, which cannot apply to a higher being like God.

Aquinas presents the example of what would happen if there are other gods.  If that is the case, there has to be a way to differentiate the two from each other.  If you use the reasoning that God is more powerful than “god two”, then that must mean that the second god has not unlocked its full potential.  This cannot be the case for a purely actual being, proving that the second god is not a real god.

This brings me to the second, and considerably shorter attribute: God is perfect.

God is a purely actual being, meaning He cannot have any negative features because they are lacks.  He is perfect in every way and has no unactualized potential.

As you can see, Aquinas’ has good points, however they can be hard to understand and even harder to explain.  Personally, the only divine attribute that fully makes sense to me are the two I included in this essay.  If you are curious about the other three attributes, I highly recommend researching about it.  They are intriguing topics to learn about, even if they are hard to understand.

Thanks for reading!


Western Civilization 10, Lesson 125, Essay 2 – The University System During the High Middle Ages

The system of colleges and universities that we are so familiar with today started 900 years ago in the 12th century.  However, these schools have come a long way in those hundreds of years.  In this essay, I am going to briefly describe what the university system was like during the Middle Ages.

When the system of universities first started, things like degrees and fixed programs of study had not been created yet.  There did not seem to be fixed classes, but debates and discussions over a certain topic that was monitored by a teacher.  There was also no standard that each university had to be held to.  Each one could do their own thing as long as they had the approval from a pope or imperial being.

For example, in Bologna, the students practically ran the school.  They decided what they wanted to do on what day, what type of classes to offer, etc.  The students could even punish their teachers if they were unhappy with their classes and teaching methods.  In Paris, there was a rule that university teachers could not plan out their lessons or read from lesson notes.  Whatever they taught in their class was improvised and their lectures had to come from off the top of their heads.

Like modern-day universities, each one had a nearby town where students would go to have fun.  The Church protected university students and cared for their well-being, especially if it meant protecting them from angry townspeople.  If a student, for example, killed a man, the case would be held in an ecclesiastical court, where the student would be treated kinder than in a town court, where everyone already hated them.

As you can see, the beginning of the universities and their system was very different to the one we follow today.  University was a place of debate, with a healthy dose of partying, and sometimes vandalizing, in the nearby towns.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 125, Essay 1 – Developments of the Twelfth Century Renaissance

This week in class, I spent a lesson learning about the 12th Century Renaissance.  This renaissance was a revival of old Roman literature and was mainly focused on math and the sciences.  In this essay, I am going to briefly go through each of the major developments that happened during this time.

Classic Roman literature was forgotten during the early Middle Ages, but was revived during the Carolingian Renaissance (late 8th to late 9th century) before declining again in the 10th century.  Even though it was brought back during the 12th Century Renaissance, its revival was eventually ruined when the study of Aristotelian logic and philosophy was found.  The analysis of these works were so emphasized upon, that many simply did not have time to read Roman classics anymore.  Despite this, there were many people studying and admiring the works of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero.

However, people started to believe anything and everything ancients said and wrote.  The study of medicine became the study of Hippocrates and Galen.  Physics became the study and analysis of Aristotle.  Geography was no longer about travel or studying maps, but instead studying books.  Instead of doing physical work and learning by experiments and mistakes, people were studying books.  If one of the ancients wrote something, it must have been the truth.

By the 13th century, it was impossible to get a Master of Arts degree without knowing the entirety of Aristotle’s works.

As you can see, the 12th Century Renaissance revived many of the old Greek and Roman works that had been forgotten.  But the people started to treat the works as the absolute truth, and experimentation in almost every field ceased, instead replaced by the study of books.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 120, Essay 2 – Mendicant Orders

The 13th century was certainly a wild time in the Western Civilization.  Not only were the Albigensians were growing in number, but so were the Mendicant Orders.  The Mendicant Orders were Christian orders that were based around a lifestyle of poverty and travel.  In this essay, I am going to talk about the Mendicant Orders and what they did.

The Mendicant Orders were created by St. Francis Assisi around the year 1209.  There were three main Mendicant Orders, all of which are still practiced today.  The Order of Friars Minor, more commonly referred to as Franciscans, was the first Order to be founded by St. Francis.  The Poor Clares was founded next.  Their purpose and practices were the same as the Order of Friars Minor, but was dedicated to women.  The final order was the Order of Laymens, which was open to anyone who wanted to join. 

All three orders lived in poverty and put lots of emphasis on humility, charity, prayer, and faith.  People associated with the orders were known to travel town to town preaching and hoping to get food and board in return.

In 1215, St. Dominic founded the Order of Dominican.  It was very similar to the orders created by St. Francis in lifestyle aspects, but was devoted to the Virgin Mary.

As you can see, a lot of religious activities were happening during the 13th century.  It is safe to say that life was never boring for the common folk during the 1200s.  Whether you were Christian or a believer of the Albigensians and their religion, you were in for an adventure.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 120, Essay 1 – Albigensians

The Albigensians were a group of people who followed a certain worldview that seemed to match the Manichaean mindset.  This new religion and its fast growth worried Pope Innocent III.  It worried him so much that in 1209, he ordered Phillip Augustus of France to move against them in a crusade, known as the Albigensians Crusade, which lasted 20 years.  The question is, what did the Albigensians believe in that caused so many people to join their religion?

As I stated earlier, the Albigensians seemed to be related to the Manichean view, which was that there was a good god and an evil god.  The Albigensians took this one step further.  The good god was created from spirit and the evil god was created from matter. 

They believed that the human body was a prison of the soul and that reproduction was evil because it was bringing more evil into the world.  The sacramental system of the Church was also completely rejected since they were all physical signs, which could not have been from their good god.  They did not consume or come in contact with animal products and avoided oath taking at all costs because it was binding your physical body, which was considered to be evil.

In the religion, there were two types of people: the Perfect and the Believer.  The Perfect were people who followed every belief and regulation that came with the religion.  They lived their lives in perfect accordance to the rules.  The Believer were people who agreed with the religion, but could not follow all of the rules and expectations.

To become a Perfect, a person would have to accept the Consolamentum, which was supposed to wash away all sin.  It was required that everyone in the religion had to accept the Consolamentum before death.  Many Believers would accept it on their deathbeds since they believed that they could not follow through with the lifestyle the Perfects led.

However, if you accepted the Consolamentum and someone in the religion suspected that you were not following the regulations, you would be killed by suffocation.

As you can see, the Albigensians had a very interesting religion.  Their beliefs were very different from the beliefs of the Christians, which was what most likely made Pope Innocent III feel threatened and motivated him to start a crusade against them.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 115, Essay 2 – Pope Urban II’s Speech

Pope Urban II was the pope during the First Crusade.  When the Byzantine emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, called upon him for assistance against the Muslims forces who were threatening Constantinople, he was tasked with the job of rallying men into an army.  What did the Urban say that day that convinced 60,000 men to join the war?

In 1095, Urban delivered a rousing speech to the public.  There was no complete and accurate transcription of the speech, but we have five different versions that should roughly tell us what he said that day.

It seemed that Urban started the speech by describing the situation in the other parts of the Christian world.  He told the people that the bishops in these areas either were not doing their job, or were struggling to do their job.

He then moved onto the topic of the Muslims.  He described that pillaging and torture that the Muslims were conducting against their Christian brethren.  He talked about the burning of towns and Churches, the killing of innocents.  In effect, all the things that would pull at a person’s heartstrings. 

I saw this as Urban riling the people up.  He was aiming to trigger strong emotions against the Muslims so he could successfully carry out his call to action: the summoning of men to fight for the cause.

He called upon knights, bishops, farmers, and anyone who wanted to fight for the valiant cause of defending their fellow Christians.  He assured that everyone who joined the cause would be absolved of all of their sins.

As you can see, Urban knew what he had to say to convince men to go to war.  He used emotions to rile them up and, theoretically, guaranteed a place in heaven to those who decided to join.  Some could consider this as emotional manipulation, and while I do not deny that, I have to commend Urban for his compelling public speaking skills.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 115, Essay 1 – Misconceptions About the Crusades

The Crusades was “a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period.”[i]  It was a war between the Christian and Muslim worlds to obtain the Holy Land (aka. Jerusalem).  The wars lasted between the years 1095 and 1291.  Everyone, even those who have not studied history, have heard of the Crusades.  However, despite many people hearing about the Crusades, there are many misconceptions about it and what happened.

One of the misconceptions was that the Christians attacked for no reason.  This is an incorrect idea.  The Christians decided to fight back when the Byzantine emperor asked for help when the Muslims started threatening Constantinople after they had already taken over two-thirds of the Christian world (Asia minor, Middle Easy, North Africa, and most of Spain).

Another common misconception was that the crusaders were fixated on wealth and the only reason they joined the fight was to gain wealth.  Many crusaders that supported the many wars ended up bankrupt by the time they came back home.  Majority of the men who chose to join the fight wanted to fight for their religion, not their greed.

Muslims were also never forced into Christianity, unlike what many people would assume.  This never happened, though it I can understand why people would think that.  Whenever the crusaders captured a Muslim city, the Muslims always outnumbered the Christians.  Trying to force them to join a different religion would have been a suicide mission.

The Children’s Crusade, despite its incredibly misleading name, was not a crusade made of children.  It was an uprising that happened in 1212.  A young man named Nicholas started a mass movement against the crusades.  People joined his parade, but eventually dispersed when they reached the sea and Nicholas realized it would not part for him like it did for Moses.

The final, and very interesting misconception, is the “Second Son Theory.”  During the time of the crusades, it was very common for the first son of a lord to get all of the land and wealth.  For some time, historians speculated that majority of the crusaders were “second sons” who wanted a chance to get land and wealth that their elder brothers had got from their father.  Going back to the second misconception, crusaders were made up of first and second sons, and all of them pawned their wealth away for the cause.

As you can see, the Crusades are commonly known by name, but not many realize that a lot of the assumptions we make about them are incorrect.  The men who joined and supported the Crusades had the idea of fighting for God.  Not all of them were greedy lords who wanted land and money.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that there had to have been a few of those characters.

Thanks for reading!

[i] Wikipedia contributors. “Crusades.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Sep. 2022. Web. 27 Sep. 2022.

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 110, Essay 2 – Phillip II Augustus

After the Viking invasions in France during the 9th and 10th century invasions, the state was extremely crippled and in need of good leadership.  When the last Carolingian king died in 987, a man named Hugh Capet took over, creating the dynasty of the Capetian Kings.  One of these kings was Phillip II Augustus, the man that created the France we know today.

Hugh Capet was the first king in the Capetian dynasty.  However he was only a king in name, like many of his successors.  He did not hold any more power than a lord who participated in feudalism.  Hugh chose his son, Robert the Pious (r. 996-1031), to be his successor.  True to the title given to him, he did not engage in war during his reign.

After Robert’s death, his sons fought for the right of successor.  This battle lasted from 1031-1039, and greatly weakened what little was left of the French monarchy.

Once the sons came to their senses, they realized that they needed to bring the area outside of France, Île-de-France, under their control if they truly wanted to have the power of kings.  They accomplished this through political marriages and taking the lands of dead vassals who had no successors.  They also dispossessed vassals who were proven to be unfaithful to their oaths.

Phillip II Augustus (r. 1226-1270), was the most influential and important king of the Capetian dynasty.  He defeated the Angevin Empire, which were the territories that belonged to the House of Plantagenet (a bloodline), and crushed King John of England.  From there he turned France into one of the most dominant powers of Europe.  He reformed the country, turning it into the France we know today.

As you can see, Phillip II Augustus was the one who reformed France, but his predecessors did some of the hard work to make it possible.  It is safe to say that without the Capetian Dynasty, the sophisticated France we are so familiar with may not have existed.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 110, Essay 1 – The Great Schism

Christianity was not always split into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.  There used to be one great Christian nation, but that all changed after The Great Schism.

In the 9th century, there were five Christian patriarchs in the world: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.  The Roman Pope was the local patriarch and supreme pontiff, meaning all bishops, no matter their geographical location, had to report to him.

Despite all of the Christian kingdoms having to report to the same person, each area had their own rituals and language barriers.

Constantinople had been advancing technologically and socially over the years, and they wanted to become the “new Rome” of Christianity.  They started to take over the responsibility of the head Pope and disregarded the Pope of “old Rome.”  Rome refused to accept this, claiming that they were “holier” than Constantinople because their Church was founded by the Apostle Peter.

Michael Cerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople, started closing down Churches that followed Western customs.  He enforced the Eastern traditions on every Church that remained open.  When Rome heard of this, Roman legates were sent to try to negotiate with Cerularius.  When they could not come to an agreement, Michael Cerularius, and all his followers, were excommunicated from the Roman Church.

This event was considered to be the official start of the Great Schism.

As time went on, people started to realize that what happened created two separate Churches: the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Many Eastern patriarchs joined Cerularius and created their own regime that was separate from the Romans.

As you can see, the Great Schism was a momentous event in Christian history.  Its effects are still obvious today.  It is funny to think that nobody took it seriously when it first happened all those years ago.

Thanks for reading!

Western Civilization 10, Lesson 105, Essay 2 – The Conflicts Between Pope Gregory VII and King Henry IV

Pope Saint Gregory VII (r. 1075-1085) was one of the many popes who attempted to abolish the practice of laymen investiture.  During his reign, he and King Henry IV had a very interesting conflict over this practice.  In this essay, I am going to briefly describe their disagreement.

When Gregory was first instated as Pope, he tried to reform the Church, but found that his amendments did not stick.  This was because he did not have the ability to instate his own people who would support him.  Those who worked under him were appointed by the king and had their own agendas.

In 1075, he declared that all clerics that were appointed by laymen were relieved of their position and all laymen who continued to do this would be excommunicated.  This did not work for Henry.  He needed his bishops to offset the powerful nobles to diminish the risk of him being overthrown.  In retaliation to Gregory’s new reform, Henry appointed the Bishop of Milan.

Gregory demanded for Henry to stop, but the latter refused to listen.  Following through with his word, Gregory excommunicated Henry and declared him deposed of King Emperor.  Henry’s various vassals and other nobles beneath him rebelled as soon as they heard, forcing him to submit to them.

In 1077, Henry made a trip to Canossa in Northern Italy, where Gregory was, and apologized for his actions.  After forcing Henry to wait in the snow for three days and nights, Gregory lets him enter the fort and eventually lifted the excommunication order.

When Henry returned to his home, he crushed all those who rebelled against him.  Once he gained his former power, he went back to appointing churchmen, even though it was banned.  When Gregory went to excommunicate Henry for a second time, Henry was prepared and forced Gregory to flee Rome.

In 1085, Gregory was officially banned from Rome.  He would live in exile for the rest of his life.

As you can see, the two men had quite the quarrel during Pope Gregory’s time as a Pope.  This story showed how stubborn both men were in their ways. Both were willing to fight to attain what they thought was right and what they thought was best.

Thanks for reading!