As a musician, I observe with fascination and wonder how we can glean the feelings of an era from its music. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) expressed the cultural triumphs of European civilization during the Enlightenment, the era between the 1620s, when the scientific and philosophic revolutions began, and 1815, when attempts to put down the resulting revolutionary movements were undertaken. Mozart lived to see the French Revolution, but he died just before the Reign of Terror instituted by Robespierre in 1793; thus he did not witness what many saw as the complete unraveling of the Age of Enlightenment.
Robespierre himself was felled by the guillotine a little over a year later, and the “Terror” was ended. However, the dissident passions did not diminish. What followed was an era of pitched battles, increasing revolutionary fervor. But those forces that sought to restore old traditional authorities, the ancien regime, triumphed. The monarchies were restored by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In France, the Catholic Church regained the status it lost to the “Cult of Reason” in the French Revolution, although Napoleon reinstated it in a reformed, less powerful form. American colonial civilization became the repository of hope that Enlightenment values might prevail.
I started out on this train of thought mulling over the times of my youth, the brash confidence in the rock and roll music of the 1970s, British acts such as “The Who,” “Pink Floyd,” and “The Rolling Stones.” These bands were, and still are, examples of an assertive youth movement (though old folks now) that represented the triumph of the counterculture and the working class. They were male, almost exclusively; only a few girls were allowed. The expression was coarse, vulgar, more violent than the music of the Age of Reason; they were defiant of God and manners, condemned Christianity (but accepted Eastern religions), and they offended conservatives who came to resent an era dominated by liberal thinking that had gone too far. I tried to be like my heroes, those working class, hard ass, smooth talking, rocker mockers.
The Enlightenment fight for the ideals still cherished in our time: the “natural” rights of mankind, religious tolerance, personal freedoms, a government based on consent of the governed, etc., continues to be fought. These were hard won from a resistant established aristocratic order. European confidence in this victory was perhaps misplaced as some historians have said. The expansion of rights and freedoms was un-supported, not matched by equivalent achievements in spiritual growth, faith, or righteousness—character development. The World Wars of the twentieth century, ushering in a host of evils, were the disappointing ultimate outcome of an Age of Enlightenment.
“Disappointment and sorrow attend upon error because, not being a reality, it cannot be realized in experience.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 2:7.6) “Science, morality, religion … these cosmic gifts, socialized, constitute civilization.” (16:9.4) Our planet cries out for moral leadership, leaders with ideals.
The rock and roll generation’s confidence in their power to remake the world was also premature. That an achievement in the arts equivalent to that of the European Enlightenment might come out of the rock music of our day is doubtful, but only time will truly tell.
The UB cautions us to beware of confidence based on self-admiration and self-assertion, a doctrine introduced by our deposed System Sovereign, Lucifer (53:2.3). “Pentecost was designed to lessen the self-assertiveness of individuals, groups, nations, and races. It is this spirit of self-assertiveness which so increases in tension that it periodically breaks loose in destructive wars. Mankind can be unified only by the spiritual approach, and the Spirit of Truth is a world influence which is universal.” (The UB, 194:3.18)
“Only religious confidence—living faith—can sustain man amid such difficult and perplexing problems,” such as those we witness in our own time. (111:6.8)
The historical panorama stretches back into the mists of time, cultural achievements followed by precipitous declines, and the crash “of all things earthly.” Now that we’ve entered an age of terror in our own day, a “terror” that might be avoided, we could rally to work together and achieve spiritual maturity. Our mission should include the encouragement of spiritual living in others, whether by the example of our service, or through our teachings.
Assurance is defined in our dictionaries as “confidence or certainty in one’s own abilities.” Unlike the naïve belief professed by some religionists that “God will take care of everything,” use his divine Superman cape-ability to save us from ourselves, we must grow in confidence in our faith, knowing our gifts when consecrated to the outworking of God’s will are certain to be used.
In The UB, Jesus teaches a definition of faith as becoming self-conscious of the assurance of the divine presence, or the self-consciousness of that assurance. “When my children once become self-conscious of the assurance of the divine presence, such a faith will expand the mind, ennoble the soul, reinforce the personality, augment the happiness, deepen the spirit perception, and enhance the power to love and be loved.” (159:3.12)
During such times of rising fear as our own, we can, we must, minister to our fellows on Earth, encourage each willing, receptive person we meet to seek a personal discovery of this empowering faith. “Religion, true religion, is the indispensable source of that higher energy which drives men to establish a superior civilization based on human brotherhood.” (79:4.9)
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