Before sharing the story of Abelard, Heloise, and the Great Reconciliation, let me give you a definition. Though often used carelessly, in fact, Reconciliation is an extraordinarily powerful word. It appears throughout the Bible. It’s infused with quantum implications. The Greek root means CHANGE or EXCHANGE.
We are told, Reconciliation involves a change in the relationship between God and humanity or between humans. After a breakdown in relationship, there is now a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship.
Another source says, Reconciliation is bringing again into unity, harmony, or agreement what has been alienated.
Going forward, the Quantum Paradigm which embodies Einstein’s intuited Unified Field Theory is the potential vehicle of the next Great Reconciliation.
In the annals of European history, Abelard and Heloise are remembered, like Romeo and Juliet, as star-crossed lovers.
Historians are well-familiar with the highlights of their story. Abelard, a man of the cloth, was Heloise’s tutor. They became lovers. She got pregnant; their affair was outed. Her uncle exacted poetic justice. Abelard was attacked in the dark of night and castrated. The lovers later exchanged letters, but were never reunited.
The low lights of their story are usually overlooked. In fact, Abelard married Heloise. But to protect his reputation as a cleric, kept it secret. He urged her to take monastic vows. She did so, but only under protest. She felt no calling and made it clear she thought having to live a cloistered life was most unfair.
Their sad history is relevant to the ongoing discussion about the Rules of the Knowledge Game because Abelard went on to distinguish himself as one of the participants in “the Great Debate of the Middle Ages.”
That Great Debate was presented with style and passion in a way that remains indelibly imprinted in my mind. During my Freshman year at Oberlin College, Professor Barry McGill — a tall, pencil thin, bespectacled professor of European History — made a lasting impression.He drilled us on the effect pendulum swings between extremes have had on history.
He emphasized dramatically that ideas have great power to alter the course of people’s lives. Philosophers have a profound effect on the forms governments take and how leaders treat their people.
Long before Hegel wrote about dialectics, which in turn influenced Marx, a triad of medieval scholars – St. Augustine, Abelard and St. Aquinas– completed the classic example of contrasting philosophies regarding what can be known, by whom, and how. (The fancy philosophical word is “epistemology.”)
The importance of this debate cannot be over-stated. When the variables of the formula get too far out of synch, dire historical consequences follow. See: History Repeats Itself – Renaissance or Another Dark Ages?
In the middle ages, St. Augustine sat on one extreme of the philosophical see-saw. Abelard sat at the other. The intellectual world was at odds until St. Aquinas came up with the balancing fulcrum. Professor McGill virtually beamed his approval of the solution to the either/or conflict between science and religion. Historians, he told us, called it The Great Reconciliation.
St. Augustine depended exclusively on his belief in God. In his worldview, knowledge is the result of divine grace. His credo: “I believe that I may know.” Faith in God is prior and necessary to human understanding.
In Life Wheel context, Augustine’s primary reality rested at the center of the Wheel and extended outwards from it to encompass the surface of the physical, manifested world.
Abelard took the opposite approach. Man, he held, depends on observable things and direct experience to acquire knowledge. This approach, taken to the extreme, results in the exclusively materialistic paradigm of research science.
Abelard, however, never denied the existence of God. He believed that experience of the world leads the thoughtful man to deduce the necessary existence of God. In Quantum Paradigm context, he started at the Wheel’s surface and pushed inwards to complete the circuit.
It took St. Aquinas to complete the loop. He concluded there is no significant conflict between the two approaches. Knowing is a two-way street. No matter where you start, each position leads to and completes the other. The center and surface are connected in an infinite loop.
Aquinas said, in essence, “It works both ways. Observing the world leads to faith. Faith leads to effective understanding of the world.”
Allow me to point out a relevant conclusion from the sad story of Abelard and Heloise. Today’s exclusively rational philosophers are as sterile as was he. And Heloise’s feminist counterparts, isolated and cloistered, are equally unfulfilled. Just as yin and yang yearn for unity and the fulfillment of creative balance, so also faith and reason depend upon one another for completion.
As Einstein put it, Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
At the 11th hour of human history, few people have time to learn much less apply the lessons of history. For the sake of simplicity and immediately useful implementation, the Great Debate’s outcome has been summed up in and illustrated in the form of the multi-dimensional Life Wheel.
Here’s why it is critically important to reconnect the surface with the center of the Life Wheel in an infinite two-way loop, joining the material surface with its innermost source:
The renaissance at the end of the middle ages, first in Italy and later in England represented by Elizabeth I’s Shakespeare, were times of paradigm shifts. The origin of universities took place during this time. The rules were in flux. It was fair game to access both sides of the coin. There was no perceived conflict between faith and reason. The result was a time of creative flowering in both the arts and sciences.
Human survival will depend on whether or not there’s a similar paradigm shift now . . . another reconciliation and reawakening to the full spectrum of human potentials, along with the flowering of creative problem-solving in the face of extraordinarily challenging times.
Collected posts will be published as The Lessons of 2020: Using the Wisdom of CHANGE to Build a Better Future. Look for it on amazon at the end of January, 2021.
If you’d like a copy of the Common Sense Book of Change, or extras to give others, click here.
To order Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change, click here.
Okay, then. That’s all for now. Talk with you again soon. Take care, all.