Part B – Directions: In preparation for a class discussion, read each of the following selections on the motives and leadership of Western European explorers during the Age of Discovery. Admiral of the Ocean Sea At the end of the year 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science, and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intellectual men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past.
Islam was now expanding at the expense of Christendom. Every effort to recover the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem, touchstone of Christian prestige, had been a failure. The Ottoman Turks, after snuffing out all that remained of the Byzantine Empire, had overrun most of Greece, Albania, and Serbia; presently they would be hammering at the gates of Vienna....
With the practical dissolution of the [Holy Roman] Empire and the Church's loss of moral leadership, Christians bad nothing to which they might cling. The great principle of unity represented by emperor and pope was a dream of the past that had not come true. Belief in the institutions of their ancestors was wavering. It seemed as if the devil had adopted as his own the principle "divide and rule." Throughout Western Europe the general feeling was one of profound disillusion, cynical pessimism, and black despair. . . .
Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory, and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: expansion. If the Turk could not be pried loose from the Holy Sepulcher by ordinary means, let Europe seek new means overseas; and he, Christopher the Christ-bearer, would be the humble yet proud instrument of Europe's regeneration. So it turned out, although not as he anticipated. The First Voyage to America that he accomplished with a maximum of faith and a minimum of technique, a bare sufficiency of equipment and a superabundance of stout-hearted
ness, gave Europe new confidence in herself, more than doubled the area of Christianity, enlarged indefinitely the scope for human thought and speculation, and "led the way to those fields of freedom which, planted with great seed, have now sprung up to the fructification of the world."
In his faith, his deductive methods of reasoning, his unquestioning acceptance of the current ethics, Columbus was a man of the Middle Ages, and in the best sense. In his readiness to translate thought into action, in lively curiosity and accurate observation of natural phenomenon, in his joyous sense of adventure and desire to win wealth and recognition, he was a modern man. . . .
A Gentlemen's Code Confucius says, A gentleman does not specialize.
Confucius says, A gentleman does not compete for the sake of competition. In the archery contest, for instance, the competitors salute one another before ascending the platform to shoot and drink to each other's health after the shooting. They compete, but they compete as gentlemen. . . .
Confucius says, A gentleman loves virtue; a small man loves material gains. A gentleman thinks of the consequence of his proposed deed; a small man thinks of only the benefit that he can obtain as a result of his proposed good deed.
Confucius says, A gentleman is not concerned about his lack of position; he is concerned about his lack of virtue. He is not concerned about whether other people know him; he is concerned about whether he has in himself something worthy of knowing.
Confucius says, A gentleman understands what is right; a small man understands what is profitable. . . .
Historic India . . . [I)n the Upanishads the connection between individuality and Brahman is expressed . . . "As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their name and form, thus a wise man, freed from name and form, goes to the divine person who is beyond all."
This idea lies at the opposite pole from one of the major themes of Western thought, which extols the individual above all else. But the absorption of individuality in a greater whole was - and is - the Indian idea of bliss.
Until man achieves that understanding [that the Self is one with the greater whole), the Upanishads explain, he must endure repeated rebirths... The body is like a suit of clothes the soul wears; as a suit of clothes is shed when it is worn out, so the soul sheds a worn-out body and puts on a new one....
The Ottoman Turks The Ottoman Turks created an empire of tribute from their non-Muslim subjects, which they used as an economic base. The Turks came from Central Asia and subdued most of the Arab world, adopted Islam, and became content to rule over the infidels with little concern for creativity. Soon the leadership of their empire, absorbed by sensuous palace life, lost effective control of the empire, stagnated, and contented itself with boasting about Turkish superiority and past achievements.