Thoughts on the Cathedrals

How did the gothic cathedrals come about and what are they for? Here are some notions under review.

Mankind has a history of at least 8000 years of differing world views, expounding "reality"; and it is assumed that there has been a world view for as long as man has existed. By the time they generate religion or philosophy or cosmology or science, these world views confront the question, "What is man's purpose and relationship to the universe/ultimate/God/etc?" The answers to this question actually comprise religion, philosophy, cosmology, ...
So long as the answers to this question direct all the activities of humanity, it is perhaps not harmful to say: if humanity insists on living within a reality that has for its modus operandi this question, let it be answered as completely as possible.

The answers we know of are organized into the religions, etc. mentioned previously. When these religions, when the changing absolutes of science, when the arguments between all of this and metaphysics are laid out all at once, and one sees directly contradicting understandings and proclamations... one might ask, "What is going on?" How can one divinely inspired authority hear from another divinely inspired authority that it is absolutely not so - his/her revelation of how it all is. And when one examines the practicing aspect of these belief structures, the problem becomes even more acute. Vast populations of people experience states, which according to other vast populations, do not exist and never will. How can all these experiences, which are impossible according to some one or another, be happening all at once?

The usual basis for all these belief structures and sciences is that a creation has been made, or that a creation is constantly emerging-dissolving, and that humanity has a specific function or obligation to fulfill, or that Man fulfills a nature function. And said function, however it is defined, is related to one's destiny or lack of it. How can all these incompatible destinies and functions be happening all at once?

And what about this "creation"? It is obvious that the human condition is a man-made project. All of our sufferings: war, famine, disease, displacement - personal and collective - are created, maintained or eradicated according to human effort. The experience of a significant number of people suggests that not only is our current situation a product of our own doing, but also the entire "universe" we believe ourselves to be in. As our beliefs change so do the explanations for the universe and even what is seen within it. How can all this be happening?

Perhaps it is very simple. Perhaps the only "quality" of the universe/God with which humanity's reality can relate (because man insists on the possibility of relationship) is sustenance, Divine Providence. Any "reality" which man can imagine happening to him will happen because the Universe undifferentiatedly sustains/allows it - for as long as the "reality" is wished for. And therefore man's only relationship with the universe is creative. Whatever he creates in thought, word and deed is what he gets for a "reality". There is no already created anything to go to, and no future time to do it in.

Which needn't be such a bad turn of events, if man could just get with it and use creativity for something other than generating misery and all his infinite complaints. Man might even not need a reality based on relationship. And speaking of creations - look at the gothic cathedrals and other such works. The cathedrals did not go up in a time of great peace and prosperity. The crusades were going on, the hundred years war, the religious wars, the inquisition, the great plague. It's estimated that they required one-third of the gross national resources at that time. In spite of all this, the cathedrals were created.

Who were they created by? The theories run from "the impulse of an esoteric school", to a "huge population explosion", to the "largesse created by a never-before-experienced political and economic favor". But perhaps it would be more appropriate to suggest that it was created by the entire world view of that period. The community spirit and thought was united enough to initiate such a creation. It was, after all, the community directly and indirectly who did the actual building. Those esoterically minded individuals contributed knowledge of form, principles of proportion. Those with capacities for master builder inherited accumulated technology and the science of construction. Artists created a medium for expression. The common laborer gave attention to the mundane operations, and at the same time became employed. The privileged created the means for the laborers, supplying the daily necessities. Great new numbers of people "created-and-found" a means of being creative in whatever level they were involved with. And all of these levels and all of these viewpoints and all of these contradictory conditions happened all at once.

© NADA-zero-infinity 2004