The Armenian And European Renaissance – Hovhannes Sarkavag And Roger Bacon

Hovhannes Sarkavag and Roger Bacon – what could unite such different and distant personalities?

General ideas and concepts.

Roger Bacon is considered the founder of experimental science who largely followed the spirit of the Renaissance. More precisely, he may be called a systematizer of the knowledge that had been accumulated by his time.

Bacon sharply criticized medieval science, considering it mired in irrationality and mysticism. He considered the empirical method the only right way to explore nature. Experimental science was above all for him.

Even logic for Bacon was less true than real practice. “No sensations, no science”, and “knowledge itself is a consequence of experience”. Many would argue with him in modern times, but this was the spirit of the new European time.

But was it only European?

Armenian scientist, hymnographer, and philosopher Hovhannes Sarkavag (Imastaser) in his writings on music wrote: “Only experience is reliable and indisputable – without trial and testing, experience cannot be trusted.”

This outstanding Armenian thinker lived two centuries earlier than Roger Bacon. And like the European philosopher, Imastaser would continue the work of past thinkers, in particular, Grigor Magistros and Grigor Narekatsi.

A connoisseur of music, Imastaser was one of the first in Armenia to speak the “secular language” rather than the absolute dogma. His sharakans (Armenian chants) were among the first to contain national images and to glorify the heroes and martyrs of the battles, moving away from exclusively religious content.

Imastaser’s “Word of Wisdom” occupies a special place as well – here, he declared nature to be the cradle of creativity, the object of human imitation. “Musicians should imitate nature and learn from it”, he writes.

In European philosophy, an absolutely similar thesis “ars imitatum naturam” (“art imitates nature”) was introduced by Thomas Aquinas.

However, Hovhannes Sarkavag lived in 1045-1129, while Thomas Aquinas lived in 1225-1274. This is the second “victim” of Sarkavag whom he outstripped in his knowledge. Actually, it’s really not by chance that he was called “Imastaser” (“wisdom-loving”).

Arthur Hakobyan, Antitopor

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