August 13, 2012
The Via Positiva, the Enlightenment and Science – Part Three
This is the third installment in a series of five weekly guest posts from British artist, engineer, graphic designer, and philosopher, Mike King, introducing the Via Positiva – a spiritual orientation that is life-positive and interested in engagement with the world – and exploring its historical roots and discussing the direction he feels it’s pointing us to in the future.
The fifth essay in the series is dedicated to Andrew’s work and how Evolutionary Enlightenment fits into the broader view of the Via Positiva.
Read the introduction to ‘Part Three’ below and then download the full essay in PDF form or, if you missed any of the other essays, check them out here: Part One, Part Two.
The Via Positiva, the Enlightenment, and Science
We can understand the Western Enlightenment – the period of intellectual, scientific and political advances of the 17th and 18th centuries – as the second attempt to bring about a kind of Neoplatonist revolution, this time on the back of the revelations ushered in by Galileo, Kepler and Newton. Science emerged in its modern form for the first time on this planet, and it is no exaggeration to say that it changed everything. However, its very success, I would suggest, completely occluded the spiritual nature of the Enlightenment.
The great spiritual revolution of the Renaissance was a turn from via negativa to via positiva, based on the turn from the Hebrew tradition to the Neoplatonist counter-religion. It is mostly lost to us today, partly because the Catholic Church could not shift its spiritual centre of gravity so quickly, and therefore clamped down on the Greek revival (even though it eventually adopted Aristotle as its “first philosopher”), and partly because the secular history now taught in schools and universities in the West overlooks the intensely spiritual nature of movements like Ficino’s Academy.
The spirituality of the Enlightenment period is even more lost to us. In my book Secularism I show how, while we are generally taught that the Enlightenment was a successful secular revolution giving rise to modern science and democracy, it can also be considered a spiritual revolution that came perhaps at the wrong time to grip the imagination of the West. Out of some fifty key Enlightenment thinkers I have only found two or three who were committed to a materialistic atheistic project, the rest, in fact, revelling in the possibilities of new spiritual and religious thought.
This spiritual revolution has disappeared from view as “Deism” and its role in underpinning the thinking of America’s Founding Fathers quite forgotten. And what was the essential spiritual quality of their thought? Why, the via positiva….Click here to read the rest of the article (to download the PDF, ‘right-click’ and select “save as”)
You can learn more about Mike King by visiting his website here.
Join Andrew for a series of free monthly broadcasts. The next one will be a dialogue with integral philosopher Steve McIntosh exploring ‘Evolution & Enlightenment’ on September 30th at 2pm ET (USA). Register here.
Image: © Andy Lidstone – Fotolia.com