(chronosomatically) Contemplating the Navel

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Although it definitively validates the claim that the Renaissance is a re-transcendence from duality to singularity, the heliocentric theory, nonetheless, actually followed an earlier Renaissance event that, similarly, manifested a consequential shift from two to one. The permanent division of the Roman Empire in 395, into a Latin western empire and a Greek eastern empire, created a political, linguistic, and religious duality that dominated the Mediterranean world until 1453. The Empire's western capital was Rome and the eastern capital was Constantinople, today's Istanbul. Less than one hundred years after the division, the western empire fell to northern barbarian invaders in 476, while the eastern or Byzantine empire survived almost a millennium longer. After the fall of Rome, the papacy became the only effective authority in western Europe, but theoretically remained a part of the Byzantine empire. With Charlemagne's confirmation of the Donation of Pepin in 774, however, the papacy became an independent state and soon claimed jurisdiction over the empire in the east, whose emperors and patriarchs did not deny the popes their primacy of honor but refused to admit them any right to interfere in Byzantine affairs. Although the gap between Constantinople and Rome progressively widened, and most times centered on differences concerning Christian doctrine, there were many attempts during the medieval period to restore communion between the two increasingly evident branches of Christianity. Ironically, the religious schism that began in 1054, and initiated the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Church, was the result of a failed attempt to unite the two Christian realms.

This schism still exists because the Fourth Crusade, from 1202 to 1204, included the western capture and sack of Constantinople and destroyed all remaining unity between east and west. The West dominated Constantinople for over half a century until Michael Palaeologus recaptured the Byzantine capital in 1261, restored the empire, and was crowned Emperor Michael VIII, founding the dynasty which was to rule until 1453. Although no powerful Latin enemy ever again threatened the eastern empire, a new menace emerged with the Ottoman Turks. By the middle of the 15th century, the Turks overran most of the Byzantine Empire, leaving the emperors nothing more than Ottoman vassals and Constantinople itself the only remaining Byzantine stronghold. On May 29-30, 1453, Constantinople finally fell to the Turks, thus ending, conclusively, the eastern "Roman" empire.

The Byzantine period of Orthodoxy began with the alienation between East and West; it ended with complete separation. Henceforth Orthodoxy became definitely 'eastern' and was divided from the Roman West by a seemingly unbreachable barrier. From the thirteenth century on, all discussions between the pope and the emperor took place in an atmosphere dominated more by political than religious factors, the Byzantine Church remaining largely outside the discussions. The West made the mistake of thinking that if it won over the allegiance of the emperor it would gain the allegiance of the Eastern Church. The emperors, beginning in the eleventh century, consistently favored reunion for political advantage but from the time Cerularius most of the patriarchs opposed these efforts in the name of the true faith. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the breach in Christendom never healed and actually widened into a complete separation of the Christian Church into two distinct branches.
John E. Paraskevas and Frederick Reinstein, The Eastern Orthodox Church--A Brief History (Washington D.C.: El Greco Press, 1969), p. 52.




Stephen Lauf © 2017.02.12