As a memorial to a unique particularity among human beings, Cluny is undoubtedly one of the most searingly penetrating examples. No words are adequate in describing the contradictory flood of emotions and impressions one senses when looking upon the mutilated limbs of the most magnificent romanesque abbey church in the West. It was even more stark a reminder than viewing the cannon-blasted remains of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. Many times there have been close brushes with this impulse whose results are to be found not only in large-scale fragments, but also within the scope of daily experience. But seldom do we see the depth to which this impulse can go.
The brutish megalomania of Henry VIII's rages led to the destruction of the most powerful abbey in England. But what transpired at Cluny was connected to a scale of vastly greater proportions. It is necessary to comprehend that Cluny was once the most powerful abbey in Christendom; literally the center of art and learning in the western world for several centuries. What led to its destruction is yet another macabre enactment of one of humanity's deep-rooted traumas, its urge for self destruction...
But to understand the significance of what was lost with Cluny, it is first of all necessary to know the types of conditions into which it was born. For nearly 500 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was so unsettled by the invasions and internal strife of the Dark Ages that neither church nor state had the time or interest for advancement (except sporadically) in the moral, intellectual or constructional spheres. Fighting for survival seldom leaves room for anything else. (During this period the real renaissance in the fields of science, art and theology was reaching a new zenith in the Moslem empire.) The growth and development of the church was tied to the necessity for deriving its authority from the lineage of bishops and popes following the apostles. It was bound to the dogma, doctrine and traditions of the past, however enfeebled or fragmentary those teachings had become in the course of history. What little thinking there was, was constrained in the mire of stagnation. Yet this humus was the fertile ground eagerly awaiting the implantation of a seed such as Cluny. By the conscious efforts of those who knew how to apply the correct evolutionary force at the exact moment necessary, Europe became pregnant with a powerful new catalytic agent for transformation.
Completely autonomous and bursting with the latent embryonic force about to be released, Cluny as an organic manifestation, was still motivated by a habitual momentum that encompassed the church's old form of thinking. Almost immovably entrenched in the rut of tradition, this frozen mentality just couldn't imagine how anything could possibly be ordered differently from how things were now and how they had always been, as far as could be known. Even if someone did have the glimmerings of a new reality, it immediately had to be reconciled to, or more correctly, compromised with the already established mode of thinking. Therefore, before any new idea could be presented, it had to be incorporated with and related to the power structure's way of seeing things. Before anything could be affirmed, it was compromised and thereby effectively negated. A truly new idea could not be born without adding the compulsory garlic of tradition to it. Somewhat like the programming that every culture on earth now forces each of its new inhabitants into. Very few people confined to such a program can imagine that things could be vastly different than that which their personal field of experience continually dictates is absolutely the end-all and only way it can be.
The being that was Cluny at the beginning of its formation was much like that of a man who has been confined for a long period to a paralytic existence, and by a great impulse of will has cast off the crutches and straitjacketed past to return to a normal life. Obviously the reverberations of the illness or disease would linger for a while. The muscles would be weak and would only slowly gain enough strength to overcome the atrophy. With proper and consistent exercise the body could be rejuvenated to the point where the man could once again set out on a new path, a new way of being. Toward this goal of a new beginning for the church, the construction of Cluny Abbey was the most powerful manifestation of its time. The struggle to shake loose from the shackles of compounded centuries of negative programming can be witnessed in the scale and design of the edifice. For its period, it exceeded anything that had been built before it in Europe. In terms of the singularity of its significance, nothing except the microtechnology of the 20th century can be compared with the titanic effort and energy that must have been called upon to produce it. Such a group of beings nowadays wouldn't climb the highest mountains on earth, they would organize and found colonies on other planets. Even so, the thinking had not yet totally escaped from the old pattern.
In essence the great abbey was neither romanesque (even though the elements were still of this form), nor was it the as- yet-dormant gothic. It is probably one of the most exceptionally clear demonstrations of what is meant by transitional. The form was derived from romanesque architecture, yet the essential nature of the energy was not. It was the farthest limit of the romanesque evolution. No other Clunys were built. None needed to be. One was enough! Cluny was the point at which the thinking had been cleared, more or less, of the old atrophy, yet it still hung in the balance as to what exactly it would do next. Like Moses who led his people within sight of the promised land but who himself was unable to enter in, so too with Cluny.
The old octave's positive/negative, and the now dominant reconciling force were there, but the definite affirmation of a new direction had not yet been achieved. The ship was free of its moorings; only the course had not yet been confirmed. It became confirmed when the new mode of thinking called "critical" finally kicked into gear. A mere decade after Cluny's completion the affirmation of a new direction had been accepted, and the birth of gothic followed. Upon the shoulders of the Cluniac titan, the age was launched from a solid foundation. With critical thinking no sacred cow was spared of scrupulous examination. The great divide was crossed and it was on to the great unknown with full sail. Naturally after "America" was discovered and settled, the energy wound back down into the same sort of state that had existed before the great upheaval, but then this is what leads back to what one confronts of Cluny now.... a shattered fragment....
After the influence of the abbey had made it the center of a huge religious empire, the results of power eventually returned in a more and more degraded form. By the time the horrifying social conditions that sparked the Revolution came to pass, Cluny was probably the oldest remaining monastic entity in France. Certainly it wasn't as powerful as in its formative period seven centuries earlier, but until the dawn of the nineteenth century the monastery and abbey were still intact. A true masterpiece; undoubtedly tended by beings nowhere near capable of imagining how it had been brought into existence. Corruption was everywhere rotten, and Cluny was cheek to jowl with the monarchy about to fall. Although almost every religious edifice suffered during and after the Revolution, few had such a terrible destiny as Cluny. Perhaps because Cluny was the largest church in France. Perhaps because it symbolized the root of the old way. Perhaps because those who were associated with it were also connected to the monarchy. Perhaps because there was only a fat spiritless corpse left of the church in France.
But the actual story of what caused the abbey's nearly total destruction brings one back to this particularity among human beings. This particularity has the distressing attribute of being totally irrational in its manifestation. During periods of mass psychopathy such as the "Revolution", everything, whether beneficial or not, is methodically destroyed if it is even vaguely connected to that which is going "out".
Undoubtedly what Cluny stood for was disliked. But the sheer hatred and revulsion in which the church of that time was held can truly be felt here. Imagine a unique piece of art being sold for the price of the materials in it. Imagine a tyrannical general tearing down the first architecturally designed city in the world, the most beautiful of its age. Imagine a fanatic megalomaniac king trying to tear down the great pyramids. Imagine fanatic "missionaries" destroying all the sacred religious and scientific texts and artifacts of every New World culture they come in contact with. Imagine ninety-nine percent of the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and all their sacred texts and art being destroyed by yet another "revolutionary" government. Imagine a short-lived fanatical regime turning a deaf ear to the protests of the entire world and destroying the oldest and largest Buddhist statues in the world at Bamiyan. Now imagine the dullness and stupidity it must have taken to sell the largest and most unusual romanesque church in Christianity, for the price of the building stone. (As can be seen, there have been many other examples since then.)
No amount of reasoning can clearly picture the people responsible. Even if the church was hated why not have used the building for something else? But no. This impulse wanted to destroy. But it didn't want merely to destroy. It wanted to defile the very ground on which the church was built. And of course nowadays it is "normal" and "part of human nature" to carry out such practices. Only a "businessman" seeking "profit", a "new" ideology establishing a "new order".
One wonders who has really profited by the establishment of such acts of unconscionable stupidity. Has anyone? Even the persons who perpetrated the events? There is no point in asking anyone but ourselves; we are the inheritors of such legacies. As long as we feel justified/satisfied to destroy a part of ourselves, as long as we act out our fear of confronting what we really are by destroying that which is part of our being, the part we don't wish to confront, that is as long as we shall stay crippled, distorted and mutilated as a race of beings. Eventually this self-inflicted destructiveness will consume itself. Whether anything will remain of a "human race" after this is debatable. This self-hating rage can only be confronted if all awaken without fear to what each one is in reality. In reality there is no fear. There is no hatred. There is no loss or gain. There is no one to awaken.
Please read between the lines. Please see beyond all images. Please hear beyond all sound. Please be where there is no being. Beyond beyond beyond. Please don't make this a cliché.