Tag Archives: Enlightenment

Almanac – June 08

632 – Muhammad, Islamic prophet, died,  in Medina, at the age of 63, in the house of his wife Aisha.  With his head resting on Aisha’s lap, he asked her to dispose of his last worldly goods (seven coins), then murmured his final words:

Rather, God on High and paradise.

He was buried where he died, in Aisha’s house.

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793 – Vikings raided the abbey at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, commonly accepted as the beginning of the Scandinavian invasion of England.

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1794 – Robespierre inaugurated the French Revolution’s new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, with large organized festivals all across France.

The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. Though not inconsistent with Christian doctrine, these beliefs were put to the service of Robespierre’s fuller meaning, which was of a type of civic-minded, public virtue he attributed to the Greeks and Romans.

This type of virtue could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. Belief in a living god and a higher moral code, he said, were “constant reminders of justice” and thus essential to a republican society.

To inaugurate the new state religion, Robespierre declared that 20 Prairial Year II (8 June 1794) would be the first day of national celebration of the Supreme Being, and future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day – the days of rest (décadi) in the new French Republican Calendar.

Every locality was mandated to hold a commemorative event, but the event in Paris was designed on a massive scale. The festival was organized by the artist Jacques-Louis David and took place around a man-made mountain on the Champ de Mars. Robespierre assumed full leadership of the event, forcefully – and, to many, ostentatiously – declaring the truth and “social utility” of his new religion.

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1809 – Thomas Paine died.  English  political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary.

As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called “a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”

Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Although the original building is no longer there, the present building has a plaque noting the fact.

After his death, Paine’s body was brought to New Rochelle, but as the Quakers would not allow it to be buried in their graveyard as  per his last will, so his remains were buried under a walnut tree on his farm.

In 1819, the English agrarian radical journalist William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to England with the intention to give Paine a heroic reburial on his native soil, but this never came to pass. The bones were still among Cobbett’s effects when he died over twenty years later, but were later lost.

There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own parts of Paine’s remains, such as his skull and right hand.

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Almanac – May 30

1593 – Christopher Marlowe died.  English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era.

Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day, and  greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe’s mysterious early death. Marlowe’s plays are known for the use of blank verse, and their overreaching protagonists.

He was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. During an argument Marlowe snatched Frizer’s dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, according to the coroner’s report, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned.

Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford immediately after the inquest, on 1 June 1593.

 

 

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1778 – Voltaire died. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state.

 Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.

 

 

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1993 – Sun Ra died. Prolific jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his “cosmic philosophy,” musical compositions and performances.

“Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial,” critic Scott Yanow said, because of Sun Ra’s eclectic music and unorthodox lifestyle.

Claiming that he was of the “Angel Race” and not from Earth, but from Saturn, Sun Ra developed a complex persona using “cosmic” philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of afrofuturism. He preached awareness and peace above all.

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Almanac – May 01

MAY DAY

1776 – Establishment of the Illuminati in Ingolstadt, Upper Bavaria, by Adam Weishaupt, as  an Enlightenment-era secret society opposed to superstition, prejudice, religious influence over public life, abuses of state power, and in favour of  women’s education and gender equality.

The Illuminati were outlawed along with other secret societies by the Bavarian government leadership with the encouragement of the Roman Catholic Church, and permanently disbanded in 1785.

In the several years following, the group was vilified by conservative and religious critics who claimed they had regrouped and were responsible for the French Revolution.

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1999 – The body of British climber George Mallory was found on Mount Everest, 75 years after his disappearance in 1924.

During the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition, Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irvine both disappeared somewhere high on the North-East ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. The pair’s last known sighting was only about 800 vertical feet from the summit.

Whether Mallory and Irvine reached the summit before they died remains a subject of speculation and continuing research. Irvine’s body has not yet been found, nor his camera, which could contain photographic evidence that the pair were the first to reach the summit of Everest.

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Almanac – January 10

1654 – Nicholas Culpeper died. English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer. His published books include The English Physician (1652) and the Complete Herbal (1653), which contain a rich store of pharmaceuticaComplete Herbal l and herbal knowledge, and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick (1655), which is one of the most detailed documents we have on the practice of medical astrology in Early Modern Europe.

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1776 – Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense, anonymously , signed “Written by an Englishman“, and it became an immediate success in the early days of the American Revolution.

 In relative proportion to the population of the colonies at that time, it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of seeking independence was still undecided.

Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people. He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.

Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.

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1927 – Fritz Lang‘s  German expressionist science-fiction film Metropolis released in Germany. The film was met with a mixed response upon its initial release, with many critics praising its technical achievements while deriding its simplistic and naïve storyline.

Due both to its long running-time and footage censors found questionable, Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere; large portions of the film were lost over the subsequent decades.

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1961 – Dashiell Hammett died. American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, a screenplay writer, and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time  and was called, in his obituary in The New York Times, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.

Time magazine included Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

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1976 – Howlin’ Wolf died. American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Burnett is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, “no one could match Howlin’ Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.

A number of songs written or popularized by Howling Wolf—such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”—have become blues and blues rock standards.

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