Tag Archives: Middle Ages

Five common realities – facts and logic 2

“On my trip on foot from Rome to Amsterdam, I had stayed a few weeks with friends in Florence. One of my friends had taken me to Piazza del Carmine to show the Santa Maria del Carmine Church containing the Cappella Brancacci”, says Narrator.

“On the outside it looks like a weathered warehouse, although the main entrance suggests otherwise,” says Carla.

“Many churches in Italy look closed on the outside; the beauty is shown inside, “says Man.

“For the tourists the access to the Chapel is through the door on the right side in white stucco wall of the monastery, but first we look at the Church,” says Narrator.

Santa Maria del Carmine[1]

“It is true, the wealth is inside the Church. This abundance is too much for me “, says Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2[2]

“I brought you here to show the ceiling in combination with the walls. By the painting on the ceiling, it seems like the Church passes directly into the heaven. In this part of the church heaven and earth are joined together, with the transition of the walls to the ceiling as separation”, says Narrator.

“The ceiling is a half cylinder, but by the very cleaver “trompe d’oeil” [3] in the painting on the ceiling, the spectator seems to be drawn into heaven. The medieval scholasticism is shown in all its splendour on this ceiling”, says Man.

 “Artificially, but cleverly made”, says Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2a[4]

“The Cappella Brancacci [5] is on the right side of the altar; for our visit to the frescoes we must enter the chapel outside via the monastery’s entrance on the right side of the Church”, says Narrator.

“That is done to limit the visit of this Chapel and with the revenue the maintenance of the chapel can be paid”, says Man.

“I show you these frescoes in the chapel, because the two main painters of this Chapel personify the transition from the Medieval to the Renaissance. Masolino da Panicale painted the people to ideal images according to the Scholasticism in a medieval style, while Masaccio depicts the people as individuals in all their glory and wealth. On the upper part on the right wall of the chapel, both styles can be seen in one fresco”, says Narrator.

Feiten en Logica 2b[6]

“I prefer the ideal images of the people made by Masolino; Masaccio’s individuals are – in my opinion –  also ideal images, that wish to show their profane opulence and earthly well-being too obviously,” says Carla.

“I’m stupified by this transition of style, world view and display within a fresco”, says Man.

Feiten en Logica 2c[7]

“Now I will take you to the Uffizi Art museum on a 15-minutes walk from this Chapel. There I wish to show you a self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer. I already bought tickets, so we do not need to stand in the line”, says Narrator.

“May we visit the Basilica Santa Maria del Santo Spirito [8] designed by Brunelleschi? This early Renaissance Basilica has beautiful dimensions”, says Man.

Feiten en Logica 2d[9]

“Is there the Crucifix of Michelangelo?”, asks Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2e[10]

“That is correct, let us first have a drink on the square in front of the Basilica,” says Narrator.

After visiting the Basilica Carla, Man, and Narrator go to the Uffizi Museum [11]. First they look at the Renaissance paintings, including “The birth of Venus” by Botticelli.

feiten en logica 2f[12]

Then they arrive at the self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer.

feiten en logica 2g[13]

“I wish to show you this self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer, because with this painting Dürer ignores the Scholastic ideal image of a man at the end of the Middle Ages; he transcends in this self-portrait also the individual presentation of earthly wealth and profane splendour of the Renaissance. Here is a man that we can meet in the streets in Germany today. This self-portrait has the characteristics of a contemporary photo; It looks like a snapshot “, says Narrator.

“Marvellous, except his clothes, I might meet him today on the street in Germany. After many centuries with images of people like the painter and the spectators thought they looked like or thought they should look like, Dürer and his contemporaries noticed how people looked like in reality and they had the skills to depict it in a painting. When I see this painting – that actually is a picture or snapshot – I am reminded of the essay “On Photography” by Susan Sontag [14]. She states in this essay that people feel the reality so overwhelming, that they need the framing of a picture to be able to observe and process an image of reality. This self-portrait is quite familiar, but at the same time I still miss an awful lot. I would like to ask so many questions to this man; I really would like to meet him for a few days and to live with him together in his world. This self-portrait gives a glimpse of the man Albrecht Dürer and at the same time the portrait deprives my image of him. Susan Sontag in her essay did go one step further: she states that the reality is so inconceivable and overwhelming, that people need the use of a camera to shield themselves from the environment; only through a picture or photo, people can experience and digest the framing and stillness of the really; holidays are really experienced at home while viewing the photos”, says Man.

“I have the same mixed feelings: wonderful to see Albrecht Dürer and at the same time it is unreal. When you mentioned the essay by Susan Sontag, I was reminded of the “Theory of the look” by Jean Paul Sartre [15]: by my look at the self-portrait, I make a thing of Albrecht Dürer and thus I deny his person and memory a large part of his freedom. This portrait is for me a “pars pro toto” where the part – the self-portrait or picture of Albrecht Dürer – takes the place of the whole. My question upon seeing the self-portrait remains: “Who are you?”, says Carla.

“My American beloved had studied on the question “Who are we?” in Sweden and later in a monastery in America. Maybe he had found an answer to this question by solving Buddhist question [16] and maybe this “pars pro toto” – that people need in their observations – fits very well within the metaphor of “Indra’s Net” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Perhaps you are right with this metaphor; people look at a glass pearl within Indra’s Net and they experience in this – indirect – manner the entire interconnected Net of glass pearls that reflect in each other. Tonight at dinner, I would like to share with you my view on “facts and logic” of “Who are you?”. Today we have a wonderful start on this part of the search for “Who are you?” didn’t we?”, says Man Leben.

“Later I’d like to show you the world of ordered chaos, but now I’m tired. Narrator, thank you for this tour and both of you, thanks for your company. I need my afternoon siesta. See you tonight at dinner”, says Carla.

“I’m glad you appreciated my preparation. I’m going to visit a good friend this afternoon”, says Narrator.

“Then I will visit two book stores this afternoon”, says Man.

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Carmine,_Florence

[2] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_del_Carmine_(Firenze)

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trompe-l’%C5%93il

[4] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_del_Carmine_(Firenze)

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brancacci_Chapel; the frescoes in the chapel can be seen on this Web page.

[6] Fresco on the upper part on the right wall of the Chapel. Source image: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaplica_Brancaccich

[7] Detail of the Fresco on the upper part on the right wall of the Chapel. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappella_Brancacci

[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Spirito,_Florence

[9] Floor plan of the Basilica. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Spirito_(Florenz)

[10] Crucifix made by Michelangelo. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santo_Spirito

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffizi

[12] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffizi

[13] Self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer

[14] See also: Sontag, Susan, On Photography. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1978

[15] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 34

[16] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 99 – 136

[17] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 67


Man Leben – Convent years

Im Kloster entdeckt man Leben in vielfältiger Form

In the monastery one discovers life in various forms

You continues the story of your life:

“After my visit to the camps at Dachau and the grave of mother on All Souls ‘ Day in 1983, I moved on. My continued presence in Dachau was not appreciated: wanderers are not welcome. For one week I could sleep in the open air, but I became to visible. Early November I returned to the North. I had a vague plan to visit the grave of my father in Auschwitz. But quickly I understood the impossibility of this plan. The winter is a very bad time of year for wandering and Germany was still divided in two. I couldn’t walk through Eastern Germany to Poland.

I became ill. It started with a cold, and afterwards the fever came. A relatively small monastery gave me hospitality and within four weeks I was fully recovered.

In a very short time the monasteries changed considerably. At the beginning of 1960, there were many young men who entered the monastery for study, contemplation, focus on God and His works, and for disseminating faith and His works in other parts of the world. The monasteries were still in full bloom. Ten years later, no young men entered the convent and many monks had left the monastery for ordinary life with or without a partner. Again ten years later, only the older monks and the Abbot remained. In 1983 the buildings were very inward oriented.


The monastery where I recovered, was not very large. In 1983 the intrusion of emptiness was not depressing in the buildings. The last 15 years only one new brother entered the convent and the resident monks were 15 years older. If the monastery wished to survive, then a change was needed.

I also needed a change. It was still winter and moving without purpose was not on my way. During my recovery I was getting used to the rhythm of the monastery. After my recovery I could stay until spring came. I helped with necessary maintenance and I did jobs for my meals and indwelling.

In the beginning of the spring I had a farewell meeting with the Abbot. This conversation was a new beginning. The Abbot expressed his concerns about the future of the monastery; the convent had to a change in line with the tradition and focus on the future.

Any time, any act, each prayer and singing, every day, every year, everyone’s life, the life within the monastery and the faith in the monastery were focussed on God. The world outside the monastery changed constantly over the centuries. In the past the changes have had effects on the monastic life. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of almost all scientific knowledge and skills in the Western world. Many monasteries acquired richness that were not in line with the tradition of the monasteries. By the end of the Middle Ages – around 1550 [2] – many monasteries were violently stripped of their richness: a number of monasteries decayed.

The last 15 years, the world outside the monastery changed very fast. This rapid change had a significant effect on the monastery, because the average age of the monks increased very rapidly. Stillness, contemplation and focus on God belonged to the monastery; on the other hand inflexibility and clinging to the past was not in line with the tradition.

The Abbot asked if I could contribute to the orientation for the monastery. My architectural background and my introduction to different religions could give good points of view. In addition to the usual tasks for a lay monk, I would dedicate myself to advice for and contributing to this orientation.

The monastery building was in good condition. It was excellent for monastery. With a declining number of permanent residents, parts of the building could also be used for activities in line with the objectives of the monastery.


The orientation on the outside world showed that outside the monastery and the Christian Church, there was a need for reflection and contemplation. This need was often expressed in other manifestations.


This orientation resulted in a monastery open for reflection and education of outsiders: individually and in groups. A number of monks in the convent studied religions from Asia to enrich the monastic life with the motto “explore the new and preserves the good”. Also knowledge and skill was acquired for guidance of groups in religious activities and meditation. Lay monks entered the monastery for  guidance of contemplation and education. Often they stayed temporarily or permanently in the monastery.

Approximately 5 years I have worked and lived in the monastery accompanying groups. At the end of this period, the monastic vows oppressed me. The vows of simplicity/poverty was no problem; I had a luxurious life with good health, sufficient simple meals and a useful contribution to the monastery and the world. The vow of chastity was slightly trickier. Since my student days there were always women in my life. During my stay in the monastery, there were no women in my life; the temptation was not great. The vow of obedience was the major problem: I’ve always been independent and my motto was: “nobody’s boss, nobody’s servant”.

My wish to start studying Eastern religions did not go along with the request of the convent to accompany other monasteries with their changes. I remained involved in the drafting of future plans for other monasteries, but the implementation of these plans was carried out by others. Occasionally I have given advice given during the progress. From resident of the monastery, I became a periodic visitor.

Around my 55th year of life, a new phase of my life began. I began with my study of Eastern religions”, you say.

The next post covers your study of Eastern religions.

[1] Example of a monastery. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedictijnen

[2] In England by King Henry VIII – see also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries; In Europa during the reformation whereby in the Netherlands the iconoclastic and the Eighty Years’ War did harm the monastic orders.

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti.jpg

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meditating_in_Madison_Square_Park.jpg