Gaarder's The Renaissance: Meaning and Interpretation

Renaissance is the word that means reawakening, revival or rebirth. It is a movement in the west that began at the end of the 14th century. In this period, the human civilization came in to culmination in the field of painting, literature, philosophy, sculpture, science and technology and the field of religion.

Jostein Gaarder (Born in 1952)

It is considered as the awakening of human mind from the long slumber of the Dark Age and it is considered as the revival of the civilization of antiquity, so this age is known as the civilization of antiquity and this age is known as the Renaissance. The Greek- Roman civilization in the antiquity was very reach in all aspects of civilization, rich in painting, rich in sculpture and philosophy as well as rich in science and technology, religious dogma.

But, after the birth of the Christianity, the Greek- Roman civilization was fallen and the humanity was lost in to darkness for a long. The religious concept of Christianity dominated the logical and reasonable human mind. Everything was considered as the creation of God, it was believed that human being is just a powerless puppet on the hand of Christianity, there were so many religious wars known as crusades and human civilization was lost, in to darkness up to the middle of the 14th century. So after the birth of Christianity up to the fourteenth century, it is known as the Dark Age.

But, at the end of the 14th century, Renaissance began through the painting from the north of Italy and it grew rapidly in the other aspects of civilization. In the field of sculpture, big church named St. Peter’s Church was created. In the field of literature, Francis Bacon revived the concept of knowledge power, Milton, Shakespeare, Spencer and Marlowe revived the literature. In the field of philosophy Dante, John Locke, Thomas Hoddes, Rousseau revived new philosophical ideas. The world of religion was also reformed and even the field of science and technology carried our great inventions such as printing press, arm fire, compass, telescope etc. The development of human civilization in this age was like the civilization of antiquity so this age is known as the Renaissance.

The Renaissance has also revived the concept of humanism, which is known as the Renaissance humanism. At that time, there were some Renaissance humanist philosophers such as Martin Luther. Such humanist philosophers revived the centrality of human position in the universe and replaced the concept of helpless human picture that was made in the Dark Age. It totally negates the supreme position of God. More over Renaissance humanism philosophers have also given strong importance to the individualism. The Renaissance man was so heroic that he achieved anything and everything that he desired. He was so thirsty for power, knowledge and beauty that he could do anything and everything for the sake of power, knowledge and beauty. Such heroic picture of the Renaissance man is reflected in many Renaissance literatures, such as Marlow’s Dr Faustus in which Dr Faustus as a Renaissance man even sell his soul to the Demon to enjoy power, knowledge and beauty. More over Renaissance humanism also gave supreme importance to human world. It was believed that the universe is meaningful because human being is in existence. If there were not human existence, the universe would be very meaningless. Renaissance as the revival of science and technology was also very rich. In the Renaissance, great scientific theories such as theory of inertia and theory of gravity were propounded even in the new concept, that the earth is not round but it is elliptical in the shape. It is not only the age of Newton, Kepler and Copernicus but also the age of Galileo. Among the scientific inventions printing press, armed fire, compass and telescope are known as the greatest achievement of Renaissance science and technology. It is because of the printing press that so many books were printed and scattered everywhere that caused revival of knowledge and learning. The invention of the arm fire gave European domination over the others with the help of the compass; Columbus discovered the new world of America. It is because of the telescope, the concept of the structure of the cosmos was found out.

The invention of the telescope has brought revolution in the Renaissance concept, about the structure of the cosmos. The universe, with the help of the telescope, the study of the cosmos, was made broadly to discover that the universe has different structure. Before the Renaissance there was the belief on the geocentric structure of the universe: it was believed that the earth is in the center of the universe and all the other heavenly bodies including the sun go round the earth. But, this pre- Renaissance belief was changed in to vice- versa in the post Renaissance belief, because it was discovered that the universe is not geocentric but it is heliocentric. It means the sun is in the center of the universe and the other heavenly bodies including the earth go round the sun. In other word, Renaissance replaced the geocentric concept by heliocentric concept and it is because of the telescope that the new concept of the structure of the universe was discovered.

Renaissance is also a great revival, even in the field of religion. The Renaissance humanist philosopher Martin Luther has brought a strong improvement or reform in the field of religion, which is called the religious movement of reformation. Before the Renaissance, there was the monopoly and dictatorial domination of the priests who imposed blind belief to the ordinary people. Mainly there were three causes that Martin Luther revolted against the priests. First, they claimed themselves as the true messengers of god, secondly they claimed that only church is the place for God to live and thirdly they misinterpreted that the holy book Bible is privileged to read by only the priests. Martin Luther revolted against this hypocrisy of the priest and he said that the priests are not the messengers of God. He also says that God does not live in the church but he is omnipresent which the concept of pantheism. Thirdly, he also said that all the common people could read Bible. It is known as the reformation. Reformation is not different movement but a branch of the Renaissance related to religious reform. After the movement of reformation, ordinary people studied Bible and they came to know that it was the hypocrisy of the priests not to let them read the Bible. Christian religion was divided in to two groups after the reformation one group as Catholics and the next group as Protestants. Catholics are even dogmatic and hypocritical while Protestants are liberal Christens.