In the chapter, “Selected Materials, The Seminal Period,” Lewis introduces us to those authors whose works did indeed sew the seeds of what grew into the Medieval Model of the universe – that imaginative framework which had an “emotional effect” (p. 112) on the Medieval mind.
He starts out by commenting on the overlap between the classical Pagan mind and the Christian mind to which he refers in his famous “De Descriptione Temporum” speech, in which he says that the pagans had more in common with the Christian mind than do the moderns. He shows how the older classical mind had an enduring impact upon the nascent early Christian mind, which eventually developed into the Medieval mind.
He then reviews important authors who moved comfortably between the classical and Christian authors as they themselves wrote about the universe. These are Chalcidius, Macrobius, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Boethius. Of Boethius, he said, “To acquire a taste for it [his De Consolatione Philosophiae] is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages. (p. 75).
Because Boethius is so important, the rest of the chapter is an 11-page-worth Book-by-Book introduction and summary of the Consolatione. I’d buy the book just for this summary.
As you read his review of these authors, he refers to how later authors referred to these works, especially Dante and Milton. Part of the joy of reading this chapter are the “aha” moments when he shines light on these later authors. It’s also refreshing to have Lewis sweep away our misconceptions of what the early authors believed about the universe, and to learn how much genius was often at play.Feel free to share this post