.    The Rise of the West    .



Absolutism and Reformation, Reason and Science



Extra, extra, read all about it:


IVAN III THE GREAT, 15th century

Remember me, Ivan the Great, Grand Prince of Moscow and first Grand Prince of all the Russias. Our calling, though, is more than independence from the Golden Horde, it is a higher call. As Byzantium falls, Russia rises as the 3rd Rome, inheritor of the massive power and responsibility of Rome I, Rome II: Constantinople and now Rome III: Moscow. As the 3rd Rome, Moscow is the defender city of the faith, and its symbol will be the Byzantine double eagle. As Byzantium died to the Turk, in the final moment I solidified this by marrying the last Byzantine princess, niece of the emperor whose empire was obliterated in 1453. I will now invite Italian architects to work with Russians to rebuild the Moscow Kremlin into an architectual wonder, stop paying tribute to the Mongol khans, and secure the birth of the Russian Empire.

 IVAN IV THE TERRIBLE, 16th century


POPE PAUL III, 16th century


POPE LEO X, 16th century


POPE SIXTUS V, 16th century


Martin Luther


Ninety Five Theses

It had to come. Here is one of the simplest documents we know, certainly the shortest work of any of the Great Books... yet one very profound. It is one showing the abuses of some of the clergy of the 16th Century church. This is the document that changed Christianity forever, ripping it asunder into all of the diverse denomenations of today's world. It condemns the selling of indulgences as 'tickets to heaven.'  Due to the peoples' reception of Luther's 95 Theses, 'The Church,' became the 'Catholic Church' which was set against the Lutheran,' and then Calvinist, in a matter of only a few decades. Religious wars were begun over the nature of Christ. An ordeal by fire.

John Calvin


Institutes of the Christian Religion

Calvin was a man defiant. He defied the Church as Luther did, and while his doctrines also stress the individual's relationship to God and Calvinist churches still reflect a kind of plain or non-ornamental (bland) appearance in comparison to Catholic, his doctrine of going back to the soil for a simple and hardy life is very powerful and very profound. The Pilgrims that settled the shores of America were Calvinist. The famous protestant work ethic was perfected by Calvin. The rigor and piety of the Christian workingman makes the Institutes one of the founding documents of the American Republic.

Desiderius Erasmus


In Praise of Folly

The ultimate wit, the ultimate critic and the ultimate humanist of the Renaissance, reading Erasmus is like waking up from a dream, but on a beach with the surf washing on your face to snap you back into reality. In Praise of Folly, like its funny title, skewers the establishment with just the right humor to show that yes, people are still people, concepts like 'The Church' are fine but sometimes the people who make them up can be more... human than their ideal. Erasmus is one of those rare writers who terrorises the establishment not because he is a revolutionary with a new idea, but because he is a simple writer with a sharp enough mind to use truth to destroy pretention and the petrified nature of the institution.

Nicholas Copernicus


On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres

Sometimes called 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres,' this was the greatest science book in a thousand years. On his deathbed in Frombork Cathedral, Poland, Copernicus got a package containing his life's most important work, this book, the content of which "Stopped the Sun and moved the Earth." The Scientific Revolution began with this book. For the first time, mankind knew that what was apparently a no-brainer, that the Sun moved around the Earth every 24 hours, was completely wrong. From Ptolemy's Amalgest to Copernicus, this was the rule. "The book that nobody read," told us that we were not the center of the universe. And we had to rethink... EVERYTHING.

St. Thomas More



 Utopia means, 'That which cannot exist.' Yet, More wrote this book to tell us what should exist. Its a story of an island society- isolated, with no crime, no vice, all virtue and good, with all Christian people seeking the eternal salvation and loving each other. A powerful critique of his society in England at the time, the real lesson of Utopia is that there is not a truly perfect way to construct 'a masterpiece society.' The best we can do is strive for a just and honorable way of life, and if a majority of us do it, our lives will be grand- but let's not be perfect, just work on being better first!

St. Ignatius Loyola


The Spiritual Exercises

In 1535 this masterwork of the Catholic counter-reformation was born. The influence was nothing less than an astounding rebuke of Luther's crusade against the church. In fact, it glorifies the church and the individual Christian's unification with the true house of the Lord God. Organized into 5 books: The Creation, Mankind, the Kingdom of God, Christ Jesus and The Trinity, Loyola leads you on the supreme 'finding yourself' session, no yoga or mysticism is needed for a real Christian, instead, read St. Ignatius to find the relationship of your life to the greater whole of the world of God.

Johannes Kepler


The Harmony of the Worlds

Science. Revolutionized the heliocentric theory of Copernicus- proving it by applying Kepler's three laws of motion. Elliptical orbits not circular ones are the cause, and the planets move faster as they are nearer to the sun.

Galileo Galilei


Discoveries and Opinions

Science. He writes about the telescope that he invented, and how he saw the moons of Jupiter. Proving for non-math oriented people that the Earth was not at the center of the universe. He also tries to convince the church to adopt the Heliocentric universe model.

William Shakespeare


Complete Works

Literature. Possibly the most powerful and famous writer of all time.

Sir Francis Bacon (Viscount of St. Albans)



Philo. Bacon wrote about everything- all of the great ideas: truth, death, religion, adversity, family life, envy, love, nature, goodness, troubles, nobility, supersitition, travel, wisdom, innovation, seeming wise, friendship, expense, true greatness of kingdoms and estates, health and more.

Thomas Hobbes



Philo. Hobbes argues that people are brutish and animalistic in the State of Nature, and that the effective state will use force to compel its people to behave and they better appreciate it because anything, even absolutism is better than anarchy and the mob mentality.  

Rene Descartes


A Discourse on Method

Philo. Descartes questions everything. Humans have a mind and a body, they are distinct from each other, and because of this, our mind should learn and trust what our bodies' senses tell it. Modern science was given a kick into overdrive with Descartes powerful work on thinking and methods used in it. "I think, therefore I am."

John Milton


Paradise Lost

Epic. The tragedy of the Fall of Man from Paradise. Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and Satan. Unparalleled discriptions of space, heaven and hell, all in original beautiful English writing. It reminds you about the greatest forces in our lives: good and evil.

John Bunyan


The Pilgrims' Progress

Literature. Except for the Bible, this book ranks first on the all time printed list. A Pilgrim named Christian who has a great adventure: travelling from the 'City of Destruction' to the 'Celestial City.' On the way, he encounters the virtues and vices in the form of real people, with names like Faithful, Dispair and Ignorance. It seems innocent but its great power is that it makes you realize through Christian, the endless possibilites of experience.

Jean de la Fontaine



Poetry. Fables told to French youth but in a masterly way containing moral lessons in the tradition of Aesop and of the later Brothers Grimm. Animal characters like Winnie the Pooh are anthropormorphisized

Jean Baptiste Moliere


The Misanthrope

Literature. A sophisiticated story about hypocrisy told through a comedic framework of 'who you are is different from what you think yourself to be.' Ironically, his readers were the very people he was critisizing in the book! Of course Moliere's king was Louis XIV, the ultimate spoiled royal.

William Forbush (John Fox)


The Book of Martyrs

This book describes the heroism of faithful Christians down through the centuries from the times of the Early Church until his day. This book reminds Christians why their religion is perhaps the most astonishing and lovely forces of world history.

Barch Spinoza



Philo. A genius work that is hard for regular humans to understand sometimes, Ethics talks about freedom, what God is and gives a picture of the cosmos as a great whole. That includes you.

Blaise Pascal


The Pensees

Philo. Perhaps the most profound reconciliation of Christianity and science there ever was. Pascal shows us that right under our noses, always looking at the material world around is, is a deeper and more beautiful one. Pascal is a spiritual genius, and Pensees means 'Thoughts.'

Miguel Cervantes


Don Quixote

Literature. Considered the first modern novel, the knight Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza go on a Spanish adventure. Considered one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written- a strange combination. Spain sometimes feels like the Old West mixed with the Middle Ages!

Christiaan Huygens


A Treatise on Light

Science. Huygens writes about the structure of light itself- photons and the nature of reflection and refraction. Ironically, 17th Century Holland saw artists painting pictures like the one here, with outstanding shades of light not used before. The Light of Experience.

John Locke


Treatise on Government

Philo. A benchmark book for scholars of natural law and government in the Western tradition, Locke here smashes Divine Right of Kings, and lays the groundwork for the American Founding Fathers' ideas about human reason, human rights, and what acceptible government is.

Baron de Montesquieu

18th Century

The Spirit of the Laws

This is the foundational work for our modern governmental concept of "Checks and Balances" or else, "Separation of Powers." Our founding fathers adapted the ideas in this book and made the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government. Not stopping with this, the book goes on to explore the essentials of good government, a classic Enlightenment text.


18th Century

The Candide

Smiling the 'smile of reason,' Voltaire is a towering figure of the Enlightenment. He championed freedom everywhere (except the dismembered Polish Commonwealth), he wrote in this book the story of Candide, who has many bad things happen to him but does not lose the zest for life... optimism. The book tells us that 'this is NOT the best of all worlds that we live in,' and that change can and should be wrought on the existing order of 1700's Europe. Always funny and always powerfully serious, Voltaire teaches us that individual freedom is the most powerful good.

Daniel DeFoe

18th Century

Robinson Crusoe

An 18th Century version of 'Castaway,' (ha ha)- this is a great adventure story of being stranded with not much hope for ever returning to your home. Whereas in the movie Tom Hanks was stranded for a few years, Robinson Crusoe is the lone survivor of a shipwreck and endures 28 years of alone-ness. How does he do it? Humans are social animals and solitary confinement is one of the punishments used in prison. 28 years? What does he do? What does he think? This powerful story is one of the most popular books ever written.

Johnathan Swift

18th Century

Gulliver's Travels

A genius of human behavior and observation, Swift's masterpiece shows us who WE are by changing the order of magnitude of our perspective: First Gulliver, after being shipwrecked, wakes up in a land of little tiny people who argue and squabble about their little problems- until they find him and see that there is something greater than them and their petty issues. Life is greater then them, as it is greater than us. Gulliver goes to other lands, of giants, of philosophers and of brutish guys who all give him realistic and sometimes bitter insights into human life. Are we more than the sum of our parts? Gulliver is going to find out.

Captain James Cook

18th Century

Journal of Voyages

Eventually killed by the ancestors of the inhabitants of our 50th State, Hawaii, Captain Cook's famed explorations opened up the Pacific Ocean's secrets and in this, the greatest 'Captain's Log' ever, the master voyager tells us his thoughts on the open sea, the dangers of travel in unexplored regions, and what real discovery is like. He charted Australia and New Zealand, explored the south Pacific islands like Fiji and Tonga, Tahiti and the others. At one point the cannibalistic Maori of New Zealand eat some of his crew members. So, if you are looking for real, true, gritty and powerful adventure, turn to the Captain. If you've ever talked to a WWII vet and were amazed at what life was like back then, when men were jacks-of-all-trades, try this one and get another dose of reality.

Sir Issac Newton

18th Century

Principles of Gravity

Look into his eyes. You find a serious scientist yet one who said an 'apple fell on my head...' Newton is the first man to understand the invisible force that make all the universe go... gravity. This secret, existing for all time but never yet seen, revolutionized science. Now, it was understood not only THAT the planets move in orbits, but WHY. Not only THAT apples fall to the Earth from trees, but WHY. This is our world, Newton says, 'Why not try to understand it?'

David Hume

18th Century

Treatise on Human Nature

One of philosophy's major works, Hume shows us that, like Gulliver's observation of the behavior of those funny midgets and giants, we can understand human beings best by observing them. "You can tell what is inside a person's soul by what comes out if it." Hume's humor (the smile of reason) make the book entertaining to read, but remember, today you hear a bunch of high handed theories in college that are patently the work of faux specialists. Hume is a specialist too, but his specialty is human nature. Read this and you will finally see into the mind that knows more about our nature than all of your theory-of-the-week flinging professors put together.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

18th Century

The Social Contract. "There once was a man named Rousseau who wrote a book containing nothing but ideas. The 2nd Edition was bound in the skins of those who did not read the first." This book tells us about the General Will (of the People), that following it is a way to channel natural self interest into the greater good of a balanced and healthy society. Written to oppose 'The Leviathan,' you must imagine the Leviathan's head cut off and rule of the state given to the people and not a soverign. One of the famous books of moden democracy, we learn that we shake hands with the government and agree to uphold the laws while the government agrees to protect our rights. This is the Social Contract, a powerful idea. Of course, this has led in some cases to a 'tyranny of the majority' because the General Will cannot be wrong, the book says.

The Emile. A philosophical text describing the ideal education of a boy name Emile, Rousseau shows us Amour Propre, which is self-love and vanity and caring only about how you look in the eyes of other people, not who you are. Emile is educated in a fine way. This book helps us not be a 'nation of slaves- to our desires, to whims, money, to power, to each other.'

Denis Diderot

18th Century

The Encyclopedia

The master compiler, Denis Diderot wanted to give out a work that put all of knowledge into the hands of the average person. So, he compiled the world's first encyclopedia, or else, The Encyclopedia, with a capital E. The original. One great aspect is the drawings and woodcuts that Diderot got French artists to do for the book, depicting pre-industrial machinery and the way Europeans and Americans made things in the 1700's. You will find out how much it took to make things we take for granted, and the dedication it took to make them. If you have this one, and a good book on farming, you should be ok if a nuclear solution ever comes to the USA from China or some other power.

Sir William Blackstone

18th Century

The Rights of Englishmen

In a distinguished text, Sir William Blackstone gives us the source of our rights- though he spoke for Englishmen, his concepts have formed our American traditions too. This is most deserving of reading today, since law, once the shield of the innocent in America, is now becoming a weapon in the hands of a Leviathan style government. Accidents and civil offenses are NOT crimes according to Blackstone, small time, non-violent offenses should NOT put you in jail either, but in America today, we are seeing a major change in the way we do law. Blackstone reminds us what we used to do, and why that was better.

Sir Edward Gibbon

18th Century

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

During a pilgrimage from England to Rome, Edward Gibbon was inspired to write the greatest history book in the English, or perhaps in any, language. Powerfully intelligent and very entertaining, he talks of the Roman Empire's fall because it needed to be told at the time. This classical empire's story mixes drama with humor, passion with powerful characters, major shapers of world history. From Augustus the first emperor during the time of Jesus to the fall of Constantinople, the last vestige of the Roman Empire in its Byzantine form in 1452, Gibbon's history book will probably never be surpassed.

Immanuel Kant

18th Century

A Critique of Pure Reason

A great work of moral and ethical philosophy, Kant lays down an indictment of abandoning the humanity of humankind for pure reason. Kant says that Christian values are the best values, but discounts the possibility that God had a human son. Probably not a Christian, Kant extolls the religion of Jesus Christ and of God, the higher being that Kant does believe in. This book has influenced all of philosophical thought since it was written, and is considered a classic.

Edmund Burke

Inquiries into the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke is the intellectual patriarch of modern conservatism (no, not Bush style neo-consertavism but traditional conservatism)- and this book highlights his speeches in the House of Commons on the defense of the American colonies along with looking into how people judge and interpret what they sense.

Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke warned that the French Revolution was bad when everyone else was saying it was good. Why? Because a cabal of new decision makers would take control and make things terribly worse, and it was true. The Jacobins executed noblemen and even the king and queen based on their own self interest. The foundations of French culture were turned upsidown and the old order was gone for good. On almost everything he ever said and did, Edmund Burke was right.

Adam Smith

18th Century

The Wealth of Nations

Published the same year as the birth of America, 1776, the world's economics masterpiece remains 'The Wealth of Nations.' It argues for laissez-faire capitalism, unrestricted by government intervention. He said that people should set the prices for goods and services by demanding them to some degree, and that the supply of that good or service will respond to the demand. This book taught governments (like ours) how to create and disperse wealth in a modern market economy. The power of money is highlighted in this book too.

Thomas Paine

Common Sense "These are the times that try men's souls," states this famous article that gave the American Revolutionaries that kick they needed to commit to the amazing revolt against their mother country, The British Empire. It was not an easy decision, after all, the South would later attempt the same idea, secession, resulting in the American Civil War. When big decisions are taken, they need big ideas to fight for, and Thomas Paine's Common Sense gave that to our Founding Fathers.

The American Founding Fathers

18th Century

The Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776 this immortal document became the birth certificate of a New Republic, dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens.

The Constitution. In 1787 the New Nation's founding fathers completed work on the world's first Constitution. It gave and still gives to American people, as it is the source of our rights and responsibilities. It outlines the supreme law that everyone must follow, from the individual person to the government of the republic itself.

The Federalist Papers. The founding fathers' wrote a series of Federalist Papers explaining how and why the United States is structured as it is, the superiority of the Enlightenment ideas used in its creation, and what the rationale is for keeping our country's government accountable to the people.

Sir Thomas Malthus

18th Century

Essay on Population

Have you ever thought that maybe the world could get too full of people? Thomas Malthus worried about that 200 years ago when his country, Great Britain, which is a small island, was getting crowded (by 18th Century standards- he would be shocked at today's number of people and crowdedness). In the Essay on Population he argued that people would start fighting each other for food and other scarce resources and society would degenerate if there were too many people and not enough places to live and food and so forth. He was wrong about England, it siphoned off people to the USA and Australia, generated new technology to make more and better food and generally was ok. Yet, now, his essay is now taken to be the prophecy for the entire 3rd World of today. People live in worse conditions in many countries than any human beings have since the pyramids went up- and today this overpopulation problem, more than ANY other, threatens us all.



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