Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus's crusade

""""In his “Journals,’’ Columbus’s report to his royal sponsors, he declares; “Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes devoted to the Holy Christian Faith and the propagation thereof, and enemies of the sect of Mahomet and of all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said regions of India, to see the said princes and peoples and lands and the disposition of them and of all, and the manner in which may be undertaken their conversion to our Holy Faith, and ordained that I should not go by land (the usual way) to the Orient, but by the route of the Occident, by which no one to this day knows for sure that anyone has gone.’’

As for the gold that Columbus hoped to find for his sponsors, he knew that it was not merely for their enrichment. He wrote, “I declared to Your Highnesses that all the gain of this my Enterprise should be spent in the conquest of Jerusalem; and Your Highnesses smiled and said that it pleased you.’’

For Columbus, achieving Jerusalem was not merely a matter of releasing the Holy Sepulcher from the age-old Muslim bondage. Like millennialists before and after him, he seems to have believed that the final restoration of the Holy Land to Christian dominion would usher in the Messianic Age. “God made me the messenger of the New Heaven and the New Earth,’’ he wrote in about 1500, “of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John . . . and he showed me the spot where to find it.’’ An apocalyptic impulse informed the New World project at its birth; the project assumed hostility to Islam; and its ultimate purpose involved Jerusalem. Those three facts remain pillars of the American problem today.""""

Paraphrasing Hegel, historical process is manichean.

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