Modern society begins with the eras of the Renaissance and the Reformation as a change in the view taken toward the role and source of authority in public life came into being. The development of humanism in the Renaissance involved a shift in how people thought, and this occurred at the same time that the horizons of the West were expanding, be they geographical, mental, social, economic, or political:
Concurrent with these advances was an important psychological development in which the European character, beginning in the peculiar political and cultural atmosphere of Renaissance Italy, underwent a unique and portentous transformation . . . Whereas in earlier times, the life of the state was defined by inherited structures of power and law imposed by tradition or higher authority, now individual ability and deliberate political action and thought carried the most weight. The state itself was seen as something to be comprehended and manipulated by human will and intelligence. . . .
Tarnas sees this shift as a return to pagan (meaning classical) values. There as a new value placed on individualism and personal genius, and this was a shift from the more collectivist, social view of the medieval period:
The medieval Christian ideal in which personal identity was largely absorbed in the collective Christian body of souls faded in favor of the more pagan heroic mode--the individual man as adventurer, genius, and rebel.
This would be the era of the consolidation of nation-states, which took place at the same time as a new emancipation from spiritual authority. The political shift was from rule by spiritual authority, in europe embodied largely in the Catholic Church, to secular authority in political terms and to a new questioning in religious terms.
John Calvin was one of the great Reformation figures in Switzerland. He became an influential leader in the entire Protestant community and served as pastor and adviser f...