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Volume 1 Chapter 4

St thomas aquinas, st thomas aquinas, s.

Symbols of the Hellenistic, Christian, and Islamic Eras

The (great thinkers) of the Axial Age were so advanced and their vision was so radical that later generations tended to dilute (their thought). In the process, they often produced exactly the kind of (orthodoxy) that the Axial Age reformers wanted to (abandon)…each generation should try to adapt the original insights…that must be our task today. Karen Armstrong (2007).

The death of Aristotle led to a chaotic transition from the enlightened classical Greek period toward a new human order with the development of Hellenism, Christianity, and Islam. During this time of social unrest, change, and the collapse of the old order, therapeutic philosophies emerged in reaction to the classic Greek philosophies leading to the Hellenistic period.

The Axial Age ended when followers were unable to further develop the rich Axial Age legacy into the realities of the new world order. After the Axial Age, humanity continued the search for universal truths to end human suffering and improve the social conditions, often turning to Christianity and Islam. The symbolic search for the lost head of Nike continued because Christian and Islamic dogmatic orthodoxy left many psychologically and spiritually unsatisfied.

Cynics, Skeptics, Epicureans, and Stoics emphasized that true freedom resulted from an internal individual psychological orientation and away from the external chaotic and corrupt social and political order. Classical Greek thought from the Axial Age would continue to inspire Christians and Muslims even as the early Roman Catholic Church attempted to violently remove any remnants of Greek thought. Ironically, the scholasticism of Augustine and Aquinas, which incorporated Aristotelian thought, would emerge for centuries as the major Church philosophy.

As the Western world plunged into decline during the Middle Ages, Muslims would preserve and integrate classical Greek philosophy to advance Islamic culture. Although Axial Age philosophers had different views of the nature of the soul, the psyche, there was now general agreement it existed and provided an essential role in being fully human. Like the Greeks, Augustine modeled the importance of “knowing thyself” through both a spiritual and psychological process of self-analysis and autobiographical reflection.

Chapter Symbols

A person with wings and a body with a body of a person with wings.

Fig 4.1 – Nike of Samothrace

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A man holding a lantern and a dog.

Fig 4.2 – Diogenes the Cynic

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A blue and white train with windows.

Fig 4.3 – Stoicism

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A man and woman with snakes around them.

Fig 4.4 – Symbolic Allegory

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A painting of a man with a cross.

Fig 4.5 – Christian Love

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A man in a robe holding a bowl and a book.

Fig 4.6 – Christian Symbolism

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A painting of a man in a robe.

Fig 4.7 – Autobiography

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A white circle with a pattern on it.

Fig 4.8 – The Divine Intellect

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A painting of a man in a blue robe.

Fig 4.9 – Feudal Psychology

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A painting of a couple of men in a forest.

Fig 4.10 – Holy Grail

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A woman in a white dress with wings on a cross.

Fig 4.11 – The Inquisition

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A man and woman with deer.

Fig 4.12 – Nature as Sacred

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A man sitting in front of a stone archway.

Fig 4.13 – Thomism

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A woman wearing a black robe.

Fig 4.14 – Sacred Muslim Garments

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A gold crescent moon and a star on top of a dome.

Fig 4.15 – The Five Pillars

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A clock and a group of people praying.

Fig 4.16 – The Call to Prayer

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