Many French psychologists and historians were engaged in the psychological characterization of the Middle Ages: L. Fevre, M. Blok, R. Mandra, J. Duby, J. Le Grof, and others. Most researchers see the specifics of the medieval nature, primarily in the emotional sphere . A high level of emotionality was complemented by religious exaltation. The Christian religion in its appeal to people appealed not to reason, but to emotions; Moreover, she rejected the mind, which only interfered with faith, gave rise to doubts, led to heresy. Emotions apparently governed the lives of people of all classes.
Based on the material of chronicles and documents of the Middle Ages, we can present a generalized image of the ruler of that time. This is a sovereign dictator, unbridled and passionate, ready not only to kill, but also to sacrifice everything for the sake of power. The power of the ruler was not limited to any laws, for “there is no power, except from God.” Even politics was dominated not by reason, but by emotions. For example, an important argument in the political struggle was a religious curse – anathema. The ruler cursed by the church was deprived of any political support from his former allies, and even his subjects, vassals, were freed from their oaths of allegiance and vows. In 1076, German King Henry IV took a series of actions to limit the political power of the Catholic Church in Germany and its economic claims. In response to this, Pope George VII excommunicated the king from the church, deprived him of kingship, and freed the king’s subjects from his oath. Large feudal lords took advantage of this, and civil strife began in the country. In January 1077, Henry IV, barefoot and hungry for three days, begged forgiveness from the pope, kneeling in the courtyard in front of his castle. This case illustrates very well the passions that raged in medieval society.
Unbridledness and a high level of emotionality were reflected in another type characteristic of the Middle Ages – the type of exalted fanatic who was equally ready to go to the stake for faith and destroy anyone who did not agree with his ideas. Crusades are indicative in this respect, when thousands of people left their households, families, and went “to free the grave of the Lord” into distant Palestine unknown to anyone. Most of them died even before reaching their goal, but the stream of pilgrims did not dry up. Even a children’s crusade is known, in which children 7-12 years old took part. Those who managed to get to the Arab territories were sold into slavery. The history of the Middle Ages is replete with such great examples in its absurdity, which are difficult to believe in a modern rational person.
Emotions permeated all spheres of human activity. Even knowledge was emotionally colored, and rational arguments were replaced by emotional evaluations. “I believe because it’s absurd,” these words of one of the early Christian theologians of Tertullian became the motto of the Middle Ages. The dissociation of the emotional and intellectual spheres in the human mind of this period left an imprint on the development of cognitive processes.
The emotionality of medieval man is complemented by hypersensitivity, that is, a high level of sensitivity. A man tried to fill his world with bright colors and strong sounds. In the worldview of a person, such effective types of perception as hearing, touch, smell played a large role. The sensual support of the thinking process of people of that time is the vision, but the world around them appears not as a world of signs, but as a world of images. The art of the Middle Ages has a pronounced effective character; it reflects not the objects of the real world, but the passions raging in it; it is designed to shock and inspire. In conditions of almost absolute illiteracy, art was the most important source of information; it was not without reason that in the Middle Ages it was called the bible for the illiterate.
Images dominated not only in the consciousness of the layman but also in theoretical thought. Formulating complex theological principles, theologians did not use abstract categories, but allegories. In the treatises of medieval alchemists, chemical reactions were presented as weddings, or transformations of substances, where each chemical element appeared in the form of a creature. An example is excerpted from the treatise of the English alchemist of the 15th century J. Ripley: “To prepare the elixir of the sages or the philosopher’s stone, take my son, philosophical mercury and incandescent until it turns into a green lion. After that, get stronger and it will turn into a red lion … Cimmerian shadows will cover the retort with their dark veil, and you will find a true dragon inside it, because it eats its tail. ” This is not a cipher at all, but only a description of those visual images that reflect the essence of the chemical reaction in the view of the medieval alchemist. It is hardly possible to use such a description as a practical guide, but it sounds beautiful.
One more peculiarity of the man of medieval Europe can be noted – his sense of unity with society. From birth to death, a person occupied a definite and unchanging place in the social structure of society and did not think of his existence outside his community, craft workshop, clan, etc. The medieval world did not know the concept of human individuality outside its social role, nor did it have an idea of the value of a single human life. “The European lived in a society that does not know developed alienation, he strives to be“ like everyone else, ”which was the embodiment of Christian virtue. Medieval man acted as a canonical personality, personifying the separation of the personal principle from the universal and the subordination of the personal to the universal, supra-individual, sanctified by religious forms of consciousness. ”