Maison Royale d’Anjou
I am sometimes criticised by elitists for “selling thinking”. In fact, in an article in USAIR Magazine in 1984, my work was described as “the McDonald’s of thinking”. To me, this was a great compliment. “Thinking” has, for far too long, been seen as the exclusive domain of bearded old professors (usually men, of course!) in their ivory towers. If my efforts have helped to change this perception and have demystified the topic in some way, then, to me, it will have been a worthwhile adventure. When the day comes that “thinking lessons” are as accessible to children as are McDonald’s hamburgers, then this effort will have served its purpose and there will be no further need for it. I’m quite happy about the perception that I’m “selling thinking” since I cannot think of a better thing to sell. And thinking sometimes does need to be sold. In March of 1989, I wrote in the Preface to Software for the Brain, about a truly great salesman of thinking and I include it for you here:
The Greatest Thinking Salesman in the World
For many years the Western mind had access to only one source of thinking. Thinking was pre-packaged and served as “absolute truth” and all of education consisted merely of learning the thinking as it was served and repeating it – verbatim. Any attempt to do one’s own thinking, or to explore ideas creatively, or to try to improve them, was ruthlessly persecuted as heresy. Millions were bullied and at least a million (mostly women) were roasted or drowned by the Inquisition, even the powerful Knights Templar were crushed. This infamous period of Western history became known as The Dark Ages.
Then, in 1408, one of the most important figures in European culture was born – Rene d’Anjou – “Good King Rene ” as he was called, Head of the Royal House of Anjou (Maison Royale d’Anjou). During his life this amazing French nobleman held many titles, the most important were: Count of Provence; Duke of Calabria; Duke of Anjou; Duke of Lorraine; King of Hungary; King of Naples and Sicily; King of Aragon; and most resonant of all, King of Jerusalem.
Like the great Chinese thinker Confucius, a thousand years before him, Rene was less a warrior than a thinker. He was a man ahead of his time anticipating the cultured Italian princes of the Renaissance. An extremely literate man, he composed poetry, mystical allegories and even illustrated his own books. The best compendiums of tournament rules were also written by Rene.
It was Rene d’Anjou who broke the monopoly on the ownership and dissemination of thinking. This feat began a program for the advancement of knowledge which changed the course of history right up until the present day. Rene, criticised, even threatened by elitists for selling thinking, started the phenomenon we now call the Renaissance.
Using his numerous Italian possessions as a base of operations, Rene spent many years in Italy and became the greatest thinking salesman of all time. He inspired sponsorship from the ruling Sforza family of Milan and his friend Cosimo de Medici and he got them to send their agents all over the world in quest of ancient manuscripts.
As a result, in 1444, Cosimo opened Europe’s first public library!! The Library of San Marco now made available, for the first time, the thinking and ideas that had been suppressed for centuries. Translations of Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Pythagorea, Gnostic and Hermetic thought were now readily accessible at last. This first public library burst apart the thinking cartel of the Dark Ages!
Cosimo also instructed the University of Florence to begin teaching Greek for the first time in Europe for seven hundred years. He established many academies throughout Italy which sought to add value to the knowledge that existed by freedom of thought, exploration and research, and the general inprovement of thinking as it then stood. This operation to improve the quality of thinking was successful. It broke the Church’s monopoly on thinking and the new “quest for excellence” became the theme for the high culture of the Renaissance which rapidly began to blossom.
Back in his own court, Rene d’Anjou, the prime mover of all this, was leading by his own example. Tolerant and open to a plurality of thinking styles, he was steeped in esoteric tradition. His court included a wise Jewish astrologer, Cabalist and physician known as Jean de Saint-Remy who was the grandfather of Nostradamus. Also, for some time, Rene employed the great Italian Admiral, Christopher Columbus.
It is from Rene d’Anjou, that the modern Cross of Lorraine – the symbol of the Free French Forces against Hitler in the Second World War – ultimately derives. When he became Duke of Lorraine, the now familiar cross with its two horizontal bars became his personal device.
If people don’t do their own thinking then someone else will do it for them and history has shown this is always a dangerous thing. Rene provides a good model for what selling and sponsorship can do in opening up thinking and what now needs be done to secure a safer and more productive future for Australians and, indeed, for all other humans. We now need to find sponsors who, like the Medici princes, wish to ensure that our children can learn to think for themselves – this sponsorship can be private, corporate, government, unions or a mixture of all.
Perhaps, as we enter the countdown to the new millenium we are on the threshold of a second Renaissance. Perhaps, the only thing holding us back from a quantum leap into the future is our ability to think.
And if the only thing separating us from having ‘thinking’ taught in Australian schools is a selling job… then it looks like we got here just in time!
Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,
Count de Saint-Arnaud,
Lord Constable of Anjou
Melbourne, June 1995