I have been away from this narrative for a while due to personal missteps, time with my children, actual work and a few random other things that matter only to me, and those barely at that. But I want to return to how lies have altered society beginning around the year 999.
“Lies at the End of the Dark Ages and in early Democracy,”
So in 999 AD, that being such an interesting number, right before the post-Jesus world had its thousandth birthday, plenty of people believed that the time was right for the world to come to an end. It is what we would call ‘millennial panic,’ something experienced in a different way as 1999 melted into 2000 with little to any changes at all. But way back then, the year one thousand was filled with ominous signs and visions of demons and ghouls and other monsters and an Antichrist found in leaders of churches one might disagree with or rulers of nations who brutally oppressed their subjects.
Religion was everywhere, new churches, new monasteries, brand new variations on the Christian faith sprouted like a California wildfire and consumed a great deal of society. It started factional wars. It created more serious fundamentalists, the earliest profile of what would evolve into a ‘suicide bomber,’ only in this primitive age it would be an assassin perfectly willing to die so long as they take their intended victim with them.
Churches, as it seems they have done since the The Temple of David first flexed its influence, saw an easy way to take advantage of this. They said: “Give us your jewels, your gold, all of your worldly possessions that an oxcart can hold! Give us everything you have and we will try to get you into Heaven once Jesus returns!” It really was that cold. You can even see sniveling monks greedily rubbing their hands together, their evil, creased faces blurring demonically in the flickering candlelight spreading dark shadows along the walls of their caves.
Here’s a piece of historical writing from about five hundred years after the millennium by the German abbot Joannes Tritemius:
“In this year a terrible comet appeared, which by its look terrified many, who feared that the last day was at hand; inasmuch as several years before it had been predicted by some, deluded by a false calculation, that the visible world would end in the year of Christ 1000.”
And so the signs were everywhere if you chose to look for them. Look! What is that? It is something mysterious in the sky? Is it morningstar? Is that Lucifer? Is it time? Is The Rapture at hand? And so many people, people disgusted with the world and sick of such a sinful life, they actually want Armageddon. If you watch some of the televangelists today they are increasingly apocalyptic, which is something they have always been. To them we have been living in the last days for thousands of years, half of the six thousand plus they believe to be the true age of earth. From the very start we are nearing the end, a fine metaphor for individual life–from the moment we are born we start dying–but a questionable theological idea because the whole nature of God is supposed to be that we don’t know His will. Isn’t it pure blasphemy to speak in the place of God? Isn’t it, priests and preachers and rabbis and Imams and deacons and ministers and christian identity monsters and every other religious charlatan, isn’t it only you who tell the world that they know the final answer?
So 1000 came and went and the only thing that happened of substance was an increase in suicides and murder-suicides where the father killed his wife and children and promised to see them soon in Heaven. Then there were the sinners who still believed who figured: why not? I’ll be in Hell soon anyway. I will rape and pillage my way to the end of the world! Others, not so ambitious, merely gave everything away to the church and then stood on a mountaintop waiting for Jesus to take them. When this continued to go on with nothing happening, and thirst and hunger became more immediate concerns than God, they trudged back down the mountain into some dusty alley to beg for sustenance and the means of survival.
This was the grinding bear of the Dark Ages for several hundred more years, the aftermath of a false apocalypse that left the world angry, exhausted and looking for someone to blame (see the previous piece on the crusades and other horrors).
In 1215 the world suddenly started entering the modern age. The Magna Carta, or The Great Charter of Liberties, was proposed to King John of England–a much despised ruler who had a whole host of royal barons calling for his blood. The Archbishop of Canterbury decided to write up a document that “promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on payments to the crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons.” Since King John and the barons both thoroughly violated these proposals, Pope Innocent III annulled the agreement and war broke out.
After King John died, his son, Henry III, decided it was time to try this Magna Carta thing again, only stripped of its ‘radicalism’ and basically turned it into a flimsy piece of paper meaning nothing. It was like a temporary hold on prosecution until a new law can be put into place. This meaninglessness and hopes for freedom went on for another ten years until Henry III, nearly broke, agreed to expand the rights of citizens in exchange for higher taxes. And so the original charter had disappeared into the failures of the past.
Lies lies and more lies, hidden behind royal and church documents, continued to manipulate society for many more years (some might argue up until the present day). In 1297 Edward I decided to confirm the Magna Carta as part of English statute law. And this went on for hundreds of years, rights barely expanding, but the idea of living a better life than your ancestors firmly being implanted in younger people’s minds. The world was getting better and better. Maybe someday soon everyone will be rich . . .
Of course back at the end of the 13th century a new experiment in government began, The English Parliament, and these power hungry politicians decided that they now had the right to limit the king, give themselves more control over the laws, and the ability to add, limit or modify statements of law however they saw fit. It was a feudal system all of the sudden, the king fallen from grace and the church sitting on the sidelines, nearly untouchable, waiting for one side or the other to fall.
Now this has to be a rather brief history because otherwise I could go on forever, talking about the numerous new great charters and William Brewer and Robert the Bruce and The War of the Roses and the Battle of Sandwich and a whole variety of bloody uprisings before The Great Revolution. But those higher incidents will be left for another time and another chapter. What I really want to do is go back in time a little to 1066 and the Norman Conquest and see just how this spawned a new breed of radical hundreds of years later. It was this ordeal that divided Great Britain into several separate nations–for the sake of this particular history, there was the foundation of Scotland. Ireland and Wales remained ancient lands still under control but, inspired by the Scots, they continued to develop their own separate cultures, to employ their own languages and to teach their children to hate the English or to love the English and hope to some day run off to Oxford and then live in London as a proper British gentleman. It was the dawn of the Scottish separatist party and, in everything but name back then, the IRA.
Radicals grew out of the oppression in a way similar to Jews in Egypt and Christians in Rome and Muslims all throughout the middle east. These were angry people who were fighting for whatever idea of freedom they had attached to themselves. In Ireland they stuck to the Catholic church–a major problem when Henry VIII decided that he needed to get a divorce, thus forming the Church of England, a faith barely discernible in those days from Catholicism, other than the few bones thrown to the King to give him the freedom to do whatever he liked and be consecrated for doing so.
Revolutions exploded all throughout the continent, and this was before America. William Penn wrote The Excellent Privilege of Liberty and Property: being the birth-right of the Free-Born Subjects of England in 1687, which contained the first published copy of the Magna Carta in the American colonies. Penn preached in this book that these were ‘fundamental rights to every citizen.’ And 88 years later . . . well, that is The Age of Revolution and also for another time.
The point of this chronicle, from the apocalyptic ideas of the first millennia and through the civil and holy wars that splattered everywhere throughout the rest of human history, it was always a lie that somehow influenced the mass of people to revolt. Martin Luther’s treatises–prejudicial nonsense demanding a separate nation for people who did not follow the official church law. In and of itself this concept should be honored. But what is the concept? What is the idea? What beliefs will one day take over the world? It is here that the professional liars have their largest gain.
In societies at war with themselves, new ideas–always negative, hateful proclamations, enter the public sphere and divide everyone into singular little camps, angry at the world, blaming everyone in any way different from themselves–and not just racially or religiously or politically or ethnically or nationalistically or even genderwise or age related. No, anything a person chooses to decide that is different from somebody else, whether real or invented, thus became a reason to blame them for the failure of crops or the lighting bolt that burned your house down or the death of a child from smallpox or the fact that your rooster is sterile. Anything that goes wrong is no longer the result of bad luck or your own stupid mistakes. Now it must be somebody else–it must be! Even your spouse, your child, mother and father, some foul uncle who went off to war and came back a sorcerer under thrall of Satan. Anyone but me. Anyone but me. And this is the lie we have been telling ourselves ever since. This is the greatest lie, that we are free from blame. It is a lie leaders and religious icons have told us and told us and told us again until the idea of freedom invaded our souls and we decided that this, too, was something we could share in a free state. It isn’t my fault. I voted for the other guy. It’s your fault. It’s all your fault. Everything is your fault and none of it is mine. . .
Next: What is the Bill of Rights and how does it differ from the Constitution; Also: The French Revolution as the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the world.