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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages

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Andrzej Dąbrówka

The book presents a theory of relationships between the forms of devotion
and early drama genres. The historical background is the circumstances of the Church becoming independent of the Empire. A theological and philosophical aspect of the transformation of piety at the time was the specification of the ontological status of the sacred (spiritualization) and "shifting it to Heaven" (transcendentalization). In opposition to a theory of Western civilization as a process of increasing individual self-control, the author argues for the need to take into account purely religious conditions (the idea of recapitulation). This allows the author to develop a holistic aesthetics for the religiously inspired creativity in the period spanning the 11th-15th centuries and to propose a new typology of medieval drama.

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12. The New Place for People in Nature

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1. THIS WORLD AND THE OTHER WORLD. The diminishing of the place held by the sacred in the system of sacramentalism had to change the views on the place of people in this world, which led to the crystallization of a new anthropology. However, the spiritualization of the sacred itself would not cause change in the ontological status of the world and its inhabitants. It happened only when the deprivation of the universal presence of the sacred was recognized as the departure of God to Heaven and, thus, when people started to understand spiritualization as transcendentalization. The essence of the division of the two spheres can be expressed with the words of Thomas Aquinas that he used in the context of the sacraments: “no supernatural effect can be caused by a creature.” 337 What is left on this side of the border of “the other world” is the world of the profane and its human hosts: Christians.

One of the “technical” causes of this division of worlds could simply be the extent of the “kingdom of Heaven.” The enormous apparatus of salvation integrated such vast resources of human experience and imagination that it could not fit into this world as its parallel, invisible dimension; as it happens in simpler religious systems.

In the human dimension, the earthly life and the eternal life serve as the distinction between “this” and “the other” world. The world of the profane and the world of the sacred are...

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