Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2B

When we think of the “premoderns”, we can imagine people in a feudal structure where noone feared losing the life that she could have had.  That is because people could never have that life.  A peasant could never imagine herself to be the lady of a house.  A lady of a house could never imagine herself to be a queen.  The world was knitted together with the threads of a holistic worldview, where all things came together according to one overarching design.  Everything fit together.

A quick survey of medieval history should put that fantasy to rest.  Every feudal realm had these traders, millers, blacksmiths, who were neither royalty nor peasants.  They, inevitably, made money.  The wife of a miller could fancy herself a lady, if she could afford that sable dress.  The man who made clever trades could become a knight or lord.  The threads of that holistic worldview were forever being plucked out and replaced, even though everyone thought that the tapestry remained the same.

One has to go back further, before “premodern” to get to the world where no-one feared losing the life that she could have had.  One would have to go back, as in An Archaeology of the Fall, to before Civilization to get to the point were xiety referred to what people had.

Only then did people not kill others in order to relieve their own fear of being killed.

Why do I say this?  Peters’ reviewed the ideas of Ernest Becker, who located anxiety in the “modern” denial of death.