Utopia is placed in the New World and More links Raphael's travels in with Amerigo Vespucci's real life voyages of discovery. He suggests that Raphael is one of the 24 men Vespucci, in his Four Voyages of 1507, says he left for six months at Cabo Frio, Brazil. Raphael then travels further and finds the island of Utopia, where he spends five years observing the customs of the natives.
The publication of Utopia followed Columbus's first voyage to America by only 24 years. Utopia preceded by just one year Luther's publication of the Ninety-five Theses that fomented the Protestant Reformation. Michelangelo had completed his four years' labor on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512. Henry VIII had recently come to the throne of England (1509), was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and was being guided in his government by Cardinal Wolsey as his Lord Chancellor. Some of the principal literary figures of More's generation were Erasmus, Ariosto, Machiavelli, and Castiglione, along with More himself. One of the great periods in Western art was in full swing with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian heading a long list. The chief explorers in the first decades after Columbus were Vasco da Gama, John Cabot, Amerigo Vespucci, and Balboa.
The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) by James Harrington, is a philosophical novel that described the existence of an ideal constitution, one that is designed to allow for the existence of a utopian republic. It depicted the functions of everyone in this fictional republic - from the agrarian workers, to the low officials, al up to the rights of the ruling senate.
In this lecture, Moody will describe the common elements of near-death experiences, as medical doctors in many countries have studied them. Also, he will describe shared death experiences, an identical phenomenon reported by bystanders at the death of some other person. Moody traces debates on these topics back to Plato and Democritus, who argued about whether near-death experiences indicate an afterlife, or just a dying brain. Moody will discuss fascinating new ways of studying such experiences and their relationship to humanity's biggest question: what happens when we die?
The religious history of the period is a dramatic one. Christianity, which for more than a thousand years had been represented throughout all of Western Europe by one church, the Roman Catholic Church, experienced a tremendous upheaval during the 16th century. The first overt action of revolt came in 1517 when Luther defied the authority of Rome. That marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the consequences of which were that Europe was divided into numerous divergent sects and into warring camps. Actually, all of that turmoil occurred after More wrote his Utopia, but the causes of the Reformation were of long standing and had been a source of concern to conscientious Christians for at least two centuries. Among the principal evils alleged in the attacks against the church were arbitrary exercise of papal authority, greed of the clergy as revealed in the selling of pardons and of church offices, and the traffic in holy relics. Intelligent people were indignant over the propagation of superstitions to anesthetize the common people, and social critics were bitter over the enormous opulence of the church amid the poverty and squalor of the majority of Christians.
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.