One of the things which becomes clear when encountering directly the work of the Italian Renaissance in Florence is the wonderful heritage to which we, in Australia are direct heirs. The key idea of the Renaissance which marked a dramatic break with the Medieval zeitgeist, was, to the dignity and rational autonomy of the individual. The individual was now seen to be the source of creativity, invention and artistic brilliance, and philosophical enquiry.
The Reformation of the Christian Church then established the idea of direct relationship between Man and God; the 18th century Enlightenment explored the concept of the orderly Universe, whose inner workings were discoverable through the power of Reason. The settlement of Australia was a direct outcome of the Enlightenment thinking and the attendant Age of Discovery.
In the 19th century the Romantic Movement sought to establish the place of emotion and feeling and instinct in human life. And, at this time Darwinian evolution and Freudian Psychology began to reveal underlying causes in the world of nature and the mind.
The twentieth century, aside from its sad litany of economic depression, communism, fascism and a bewildering array of other cruelties; was also witness to the great advances in fields as diverse as science, life expectancy and women’s rights.
And the 20th century also began to show the first sprouting of the next step in this march from quattrocento Florence to today: an idea which as yet doesn t really have a name, but which involves the reconciliation of Science, and Reason and objective thought; with the world of the Spirit. Perhaps it can be called the Science of Consciousness.
Leon MacLaren was very keen on this idea of a new renaissance based on a rediscovery of an eternal Spirit, by men and women who were leaders in their fields of Art, Architecture, Law, Music and, of course, Education. His vision for the day schools was that they would help produce a new generation of Michelangelos, Ficinos, Galileos, Newtons and Wilberforces.