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The Medieval and their meaning

December 18, 2009

While there was plenty of strangeness to Medieval thought, a confessor in Christianity must admire some of its hallmarks, among which was the ardent desire to understand the meaning of the world and its divine purpose, described here by John Randall in The Making of the Modern Mind:

The world was a great allegory, whose essential secret was its meaning, not its operations or its causes; it was a hierarchical order, extending from lowest to highest, from stones and trees through man to the choirs upon choirs of angels, just as society ranged from serf through lord and king to pope; and it was inspired throughout by the desire to fulfill its divine purpose. The power that moved all things was Love; that love of God which kept all things eternally aspiring to be themselves, the love of the flame for fire that caused it to strain upward, the love of the stone that is its hardness, of the grass that is its greenness, of the beasts that is their bestiality, of the bad man for evil that is his nature, and of the good man for God that is his home. From the highest heaven to the lowest clod, aspiration to fulfill the will of God, to blend with the divine purpose, was the cosmic force that made the world go round. And highest and lowest could truly say, “In his will is our peace.”*

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*(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940), 36.

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