When someone mentions the term, “The Dark Ages”, my mind imagines a gloomy, dark, foggy picture. Suffering and disease, especially the Bubonic Plague, prevail in this image. Undoubtedly there were just as many sunshiny days then as we enjoy now. Still, there was a certain darkness that held sway over western civilization.
In spite of isolated pockets of culture and enlightened thinking, the prevailing environment was an oppressive ignorance, dogmatism, religiosity and barbarism. Freedom, liberty and especially fresh, uninhibited views of the world and universe were unknown and sternly discouraged. The Holy Inquisition and the Dark Ages are interlocked in my imagination. Fear and distrust ruled Europe and its imperial territories.
I’m glad I didn’t live during those days. The church authorities would have given me a mock trial, tortured me in a dungeon and then would have had me burned at the stake. In all likelihood, the same fate would have befallen you, too. Such were the Dark Ages.
There are some academics and church leaders who believe we are in the beginning stages of a contemporary Dark Age. They cite such phenomenon as an overarching social obsession with entertainments and libertine lifestyles unconcerned with spiritual or intellectual advancement by most people. They liken today’s superficial society with the ancient Roman manner of controlling the citizenry with “Bread and Circuses”. I think these leaders have a valid point even if I don’t agree with their so-called “solutions”.
I don’t have a quarrel with wanting to unwind with a little mass media generated entertainment or the wish to attend a sporting event now and then. I have often wondered why so many people focus so much energy and time on such pasttimes. I guess the “Bread and Circuses” are an extremely convenient escape. The vast majority of ancient Romans were overly concerned with their entertainments too, so I guess we haven’t advanced very far since then. Today’s paradigm only differs from Nero’s Roman mindset by means of sophisticated technology.
While traditional and orthodox religious thinkers believe that the Dark Age is now upon us, the earth will be subjected to a thousand years of evil rule and suffering. Other thinkers, mainly from Eastern traditions, also believe we are in the beginnings of a new Dark Age. Not only because of our escapist lifestyles, but more so because of the meta-background of radical greed and inflated levels of hatred. This combination of escapism, greed and hatred will either cause the end of human existance or it will signal a crossing of the Rubicon into a more reasoned, mindful, compassionate social structure.
This new Dark Age is disguised by our ultra fast knowledge culture of the Internet, amazing technological achievements and Utopian dreams of a wonder-filled future. I agree that we are becoming intellectually lazy and that civilization is, in some major respects, beginning the cycle of Dark Ages. I’m not pessimistic, though.
People who enjoy study and meditation will be able to continue and enhance their personal study and contemplation practices as long as conventional and orthodox people mind their own pleasures and business. However, if the forces of theocracy have their way and henceforth use modern technology to monitor and leverage control over the citizenry, we will all be plunged into a deeper, darker age than happened during the Middle Ages.
My attitude is based upon the belief that we will reach the brink of dictatorial theocratic control and then our collective mindset will see the light. It won’t result in a utopian dream. However, I think compassion and reason will be allowed more control than ever before. I also feel that a new age of reason or a new Renaissance will be the result as we shake off this old Dark Age.
The Blue Jay of Happiness knows that truth loves the light of reason.