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Struggle of Faith and Reason: A History of Intolerance and Punitive Censorship

Part II: From Mediaeval Cathars to Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini

by Juhani Sarsila (Author)
Monographs 564 Pages

Summary

Humanists look up to Hellas as the cradle of European culture. The book spans nearly five centuries of a later epoch of this worthy tradition. Starting with the awesome high-mediaeval Cathars, the exposition proceeds in chronological order. Eventually, we meet Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini, both of them red-letter heretics. The work affords cognisance of a neglected branch of learning. History of morals in general, and that of the struggle of faith and reason in particular, provides in-depth insights into the allotted fate of dissentient man. A potentially fateful nexus appears to be interweaving between book and author. Organised religion is evermore based on the politically beneficial idea of anthropomorphism or metaphysical projection. For has Man not made God in his image?

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1 Three Phases of Early Church
  • 2 The Broad East and the Narrow West
  • I The Campaign of Catharism
  • 1 Champions of Change Emerge
  • 2 Doctrinal ‘Lapses’ of Catharism
  • 3 Heretical Monkeys
  • 4 Interests of the Church
  • 5 Radicalisation of Methods: Progressive Intolerance
  • 6 On Catharism as Religion
  • 7 Men and Women of Orléans
  • 8 Heretical Pertinacity
  • 9 Two Modes of Catharism
  • 10 ‘Gloomy Catharism’
  • 11 Notions Shared by All Cathars
  • 12 Prodigious Joy
  • 13 Secular Arm against the Diabolic Novelty of Heresy
  • 14 Another Decree of Faith
  • II Extirpation of Heretics
  • 1 Albigensian Crusades
  • 2 Two Commanders of Crusade to Languedoc
  • 3 Weapons and Terror
  • 4 Rendezvous in Béziers
  • 5 Holy Horrors
  • 6 Just Religious Policy
  • 7 Sacred Violence
  • 8 By Virtue of Faith
  • 9 Towards the Fourth Lateran
  • 10 Inclination toward Decay
  • 11 No Right to Heresy
  • 12 Modern Interpretation of Catharism
  • III Averroës
  • 1 On Arabic Peripateticism
  • 2 Siger of Brabant
  • 3 Jewish Sacred Books
  • 4 Roger Bacon
  • 5 University of Paris
  • 6 Segarelli and His Apostolic Brethren
  • 7 Standard Amoralism: Demoralisation
  • 8 Manifold Errors of Segarellists
  • 9 Further Punishers in Charge
  • 10 The Turning Point
  • 11 Dante’s Bones in Jeopardy
  • 12 Pope John XXII Active
  • IV On Heretical Mysticism
  • 1 Radical Mysticism
  • 2 Mediaeval Neoplatonism
  • 3 Radical Free Spirits: Divine Amorality
  • 4 Sister Cathrine
  • 5 Biblical Justification?
  • 6 False Accusations
  • 7 Marguerite Porete
  • 8 On Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Theology
  • V Cecco D’ascoli’s Astrology
  • 1 Inquisition on Duty
  • 2 Abandoning Heretics to the Secular Arm
  • 3 Cecco’s Last Walk
  • VI General Sermon and Auto-Da-Fé
  • 1 The auto-da-fé
  • 2 Peter Johannes Olivi
  • 3 Prous Boneta
  • 4 Exhumation
  • 5 The Dungeons
  • 6 Spiritual Franciscans Guilty of the Heresy of Poverty
  • 7 Nominalism and Reform of Scholasticism
  • 8 Sacred Bias and Hypocrisy
  • 9 Reformers of Church Assembled in Constance
  • 10 John Wyclif – The Morning Star
  • 11 Progressive Intolerance Breaking out in England
  • 12 Wyclif’s Theology
  • Remanence
  • Disendowment
  • Evangelical Truth
  • Arguments against the Worldly Church
  • Ecclesia, the Clergy and the Pope
  • 13 Wyclif’s Philosophical Realism
  • 14 Postmortem Immolation
  • VII John Hus: A Wyclifite in Prague
  • 1 Becoming a Wyclifite
  • 2 Jerome of Prague: Realists versus Nominalists
  • 3 Conflict between Hus and Archbishop Zbyněk
  • 4 Theology of Indulgences
  • 5 Hus in Exile
  • 6 Hus in the Council of Constance
  • 7 Hus’ Trial and Execution
  • 8 Hus: Twice Burned
  • 9 Jerome of Prague’s Turn
  • 10 Jerome’s Address and Trial
  • 11 Jerome Meets His End
  • 12 Aftermaths of Hus and Jerome’s Executions
  • 13 Realism and Nominalism
  • VIII Burning Issues
  • 1 Inquisitors of Heretical Depravity set on duty
  • 2 One Heretical Bishop in England
  • 3 Jews, Sorcerers, Heretics…
  • 4 On the Art of the Italian Renaissance
  • 5 Book Burner Girolamo Savonarola
  • 6 Girolamo’s Moral Dictatorship
  • 7 Girolamo’s Judicial Farce
  • 8 Savonarola’s Legacy
  • 9 Speculations and Excuses
  • 10 Joan of Arc: A Political Victim
  • IX Church Opposition to Reason and Toleration
  • 1 Causes of Reformation
  • 2 Martin Luther
  • 3 Augustinian Theology Versus Humanism
  • 4 Tetzel’s Crusade
  • 5 Purgatory
  • 6 Luther’s Propaganda
  • 7 Tribute to John Hus
  • 8 Hermann of Ryswick
  • 9 Thomas Müntzer: The Angry Young Man of Reformation
  • 10 Müntzer’s Prague Manifesto
  • 11 Müntzer, “Luther’s Archdevil of Allstedt”
  • 12 Müntzer’s Eschatological Vision
  • 13 Out of Step with Luther
  • 14 The Fall of the Advocate of the Peasants’ Rebellion
  • 15 Heaven on Earth: Münster as the New Jerusalem
  • 16 Matthys’ Dictatorship
  • 17 Erasmus and Luther Part Ways
  • X The Reformation Leads to the Counter-Reformation
  • 1 Public Opinion Utilised to Execute Heretics
  • 2 The Machinery of the Inquisition
  • 3 A Grand Inquisitor’s Manual
  • 4 ‘The Accusative Case’ Founds His Inquisition in Geneva
  • 5 Don Servetus’ Clash with Calvin
  • 6 Servetus Promotes Sciences and Arts, and Irritates Calvin
  • 7 Servetus’ Execution in Absentia
  • 8 Servetus’ Ordeal in Geneva
  • 9 Servetus’ Execution in Geneva
  • 10 Servetus’ Naïve Mission
  • 11 Justifications of Persecution and Violence
  • 12 Calvinist Justifications of Persecution
  • 13 Criticism of Calvinist Persecution
  • 14 Castellio’s View of Christian Faith
  • 15 Castellio’s Unrelenting Campaign for Tolerance
  • XI The Latest Roman Period of the Inquisition
  • 1 Two Heretics on Italian Soil
  • 2 Towards the Finale: Giordano Bruno
  • 3 The Wandering Bruno
  • 4 Bruno’s Sophia
  • The Vernacular
  • Seeds
  • Astronomy
  • Lucretian elements
  • Cosmic consciousness
  • The significance of Nicolaus Cusanus
  • Earth in motion
  • Everlasting cosmos
  • Beyond Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo
  • Arius’ hanger-on
  • Metaphysical monism
  • Bruno’s relativism
  • Emancipation from error through reason
  • 5 Bruno’s Approaching Fate
  • 6 Bruno’s Missionary Ideas
  • 7 Bruno Returns to His Fate in Italy
  • 8 Bruno’s Trials
  • 9 “Justified Death Penalty for Heresy”
  • 10 Heretic Burned almost in Secrecy
  • 11 On the Mediaeval Worldview
  • XII Man’s Cosmic Insignificance
  • 1 Lucilio Vanini
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography

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Acknowledgements

My friend and former student, Professor Joel Kuortti (University of Turku) assisted with the first volume of this oeuvre. With the present volume, he not merely read the lengthy manuscript and afforded fruitful suggestions, but he thoughtfully edited the texture for readability, brevity and structure. He painstakingly ameliorated it and helped to crystallise the explicit humanist drive of the work. In the spirit of Horace (Odes 1, 11), the editorial labour benefits the current exposition for “quam minimum credula postero” – do not trust posterity! Our cooperation has been mutually convivial – albeit ‘Covidial’ – and it affords me cordial pleasure to thank Joel for the work he put in these two volumes: Dum vivimus, vitam agamus nihil novi timentes, Socratis exemplum secuti. I would like to thank Leena Sainio for her picture that substantially enlivens the present narrative. I also place on record my sense of gratitude to Timo Airaksinen, Markku Hyrkkänen, Maija-Leena Kallela, Tiina Kartano, Artemis Kelosaari, Tapani Laine, Petri Latvala, Tapio Nykänen, Antti T. Oikarinen, Lassi Patokorpi, Sauli Salmela, Kirsi Salonen, Ira Sarsila, Seppo

I. Sotasaari, Ilkka Tanner, Seppo Varho, Hannu Vatka, Jarkko Vilkkilä and Justus Vuorio, who have all lent their helping hand in this venture of a heresy enthusiast. Eventually, I would like to offer my thanks to the international publishers of Peter Lang for having accepted also the second tome for release in one of their series. After thirteen well-nigh burning months in purgatory, let us all see whether virus will turn out to be stronger than virtus, man’s virtue. Adiutoribus ad unum omnes incolumibus, solus auctor huiusce operis erroribus, qui valent cerni, succubuit.

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Preface

An exponent of Ancient Skepticism, Sextus Empiricus had effrontery enough to articulate that the mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Praisers of facebook-age rationalism and a cohort of technolatrous optimists jointly suggest that Sextus’ rhetorical argument means that justice may turn out to be slow; yet it will come eventually, no matter whose justice it would be all about. At any rate, one could argue for sure that Sextus, as a matter of course, failed to hit the nail on the head. Namely, the antipodal opposite is at least as weighty an argument: When it comes to the lot of close to all mortals, they, as a rule, remain short of frequent blessings of justice – or a number of continual pleasures, sensual, or intellectual, let alone great prosperity and the subsequent envy of gods.

On the other hand, howbeit, justice is to be adjudged the most superlative social virtue, rarely manifested by historical man. The same applies to the three other cardinal virtues, tellingly prudence, temperance and, last but not least, fortitude, all of which date back to Socrates and Plato’s moral philosophy. These four qualities of the soul or spirit come to the fore in the present volume, as they were fated to do so in the first volume, released on March 9, 2020, fortuitously aside with the covid-19 pandemia that has since lingered over my person and my work, denying me the access to libraries! Besides each virtue, displayed by orthodox and heretic likewise, also orthodoxy and heresy appear as key concepts in the run of this narrative, which consists of essays, designed to be perused for multifarious purposes in accordance with the interests of the readers. Taken as a whole, the exposition can probably be assessed to go with intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte) in the first place.

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Understanding comes late in life. It took me twelve years to work on and finalise the interdisciplinary, albeit sketchy, exposition Struggle of Faith and Reason. A History of Intolerance and Punitive Censorship in two tomes, a well-nigh impossible task for a concatenation of reasons. The first part ends with the pathetic death on the gallows of Arnold of Brescia in the capital of Nero and the Inquisition, whereas the second part begins with an essay on mediaeval Cathars and ends with Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini, both of them “Faustian” and Enlightenment style figures. There are sundry approaches to addressing the issue of faith and reason, the two sides of the same coin all the way. Samuel Gregg (2019) has boldly argued for the reintergration of faith and reason, which, to his mind, have badly fallen apart to the evidently or possibly fatal damage of the western civilisation. Problems abound senza fine. Faith gives birth to dissent and heresy, whereas reason oftentimes leads to unreason, irrational use of reason, or sheer madness or insanity. Nonetheless, I find it the most clear-cut to discuss the struggle, contest, or strife of faith and reason through history, which in my opus only stands for episodes of a history of Western Europe, the Heimat or domicile of Faustus and of Mephistopheles, a demon featured in German folklore. This demon man has made in his own image. But does the same apply to God as well?

Juhani Sarsila

October 30, 2020

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INTRODUCTION

1Three Phases of Early Church

Historians have traced three distinct phases of the early history of the Christian Church. In the first phase, religion essentially remained a salient point in the matter of morals, although there were powerful and dangerous undercurrents beneath the smooth surface of holy life. Not only were the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) mutually incompatible, but they were also distinct from the intellectual and moral virtues of the gentile legacy. And early Christians fell far short of unanimity of belief and of charitable tolerance of outsiders. Christianity had already demonised Judaism, as it slipped away from its parent religion (Barnstone 2006b, 777, 793). In the second period, which culminated in the fifth century, their organised religion had transparently turned into an issue of orthodoxy and heresy (αἵρεσις, hairesis) and close to a monomaniac heresophobia. Faith had ruled as a queen over the intellectual life of Europe since the days of St. Augustine, whereas Reason merely occupied the servant’s apartment short of any other role than to speak up for the dogmas of faith (Sandberg 1963, v). In the third period, dating from the seventh century, organised religion definitely came up as a noticeably clear-cut issue of munificence to monasteries, and in the High Middle Ages the Roman Church reached the heyday of her temporal glory and moral degradation.

The actual despotism of Catholicity and the subsequent ignorance in the aftermath of the barbarian invasions had inhibited the struggles of heresy (or novelty, or innovation). Then, in the period that persisted from the sixth to the twelfth century, the theocratical practice of unquestioning creed and ideal conformity was very nearly realised in the lands of the setting sun. Baptised souls compounded for the most heinous felonies by gifts to shrines of those saints whose intercession was homilised to be unfailing. The friars then generally sank into gross immorality, “partly by the cessation of their old enthusiasm, partly by the absence of any hostile criticism of their acts, and partly too by the very wealth they had acquired” (Lecky 1911, II, 91–92). Much of what are called church and society had got corrupt. In the twelfth century, Europe had definitely passed into a persecuting society (R. I. Moore 2007, ix) the tale of which was to be read deep into the twentieth century – and beyond, down to the present forsooth.

To Walter Wakefield (1974, 22), neither urbanisation nor a salient increase of the populace plays a primary role in throwing light on the rise or resurrection of the plague of heresy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Instead, he pays much heed to the revival of religiosity in general and that of piety in particular. Several intensely God-fearing men and women and their innocent children were fated to be labelled as foemen of God, the Temple of the Roman Pontiff – the Ecclesia Romana – , and all human race alike. Wakefield (ibid.) perchance overstresses the revival of authentic religiosity as the sole generator of the heresies of the High Middle Ages:

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The rise of the heresies is explicable only in the light of that revival of piety which occurred everywhere in Western Europe […]. It took the new religious orders, of enhancement of episcopal and papal power, of mystic exaltation for some, of application of intellect to theological problems for others […]. While warriors marched on crusade to the Holy Land and pilgrims thronged the routes to famous shrines, other men and women also scrutinized religious ideas closely and critically […] to find the most authentic forms of Christian life.

For all that, ‘the most authentic forms of Christian life’ could be with ease rendered either as explications of orthodox faith or equally smoothly as expressions of innovation, dissent, or heresy. Like always, it was up to the authorities to decide which is good and which is bad, and what threatens the foundations of the ruling institution and the prevailing order. In this book, we address forms of dissent from orthē doxa (ὀρθὴ δόξα) and its violent repression. I bid you notice that orthodoxy always ought to entail dissent. St. Paul, a consummate dialectician, matching Heraclitus, admitted rather than conceded (1 Cor. 11:19) that “oportet et haereses esse”. Heresy remained inseparable twin of the established faith and loomed large in high mediaeval debate (see Goodman 2000b, xv). St. Paul gave the concept its legs.

We can discern a novel desire for personal spiritual perfection and a stress on purity of life within a group in multiple episodes of dissent already in the eleventh century. We observe within them a diminution of the sense of need for clergy and sacraments. Then, in the twelfth century, a movement away from the ark of God’s ministers, the ecclesia, was signalled by two subtly different stances. One originated from a severe reproof of the ‘Sybaritic’ (hedonistic) Church for its abject failures as a spiritual institution; the other broke out of frenzy for a more satisfying form of religious life (Wakefield 1974, 19). How was the Church as the very stronghold of conservativism to react to these two stances?

The pilgrim movement at the close of the eleventh century culminated in the sanguinary crusades against the infidels, while contacts between Western Europe and Constantinople came to be closer than ever before. The recognisably rapid-fire growth of ‘Manichaean’ ideas in France may be in part ascribed to this emergent contact. Pope Calixtus II presided a council in 1119 to anathematise an anticlerical group in the district of Toulouse. Not only did these scoundrels renounce the Sacraments of the Holy Communion, baptism, and marriage, but they even disbelieved the priesthood and the sacred “party”. Of these abominations, only their reprimand of marriage is not a sign of their Dualist roots (cf. Runciman 1982, 118).

2The Broad East and the Narrow West

In the present oeuvre, thoughts are mainly directed to Western and Southern Europe at the expense of other parts of this comparatively narrow continent. It will be clear that Edward Peters’ analysis below contributes to a better understanding of the heresy that, in the Dark Ages and beyond, rose in those parts of Europe

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newgenprepdf that are more or less covered in this chronicle, rather than history, of heresy and heretics. The course of man’s apparently chaotic history is rendered graspable by contrasts and conflicts (Peters 1980, 51):

One of the most important differences between […] Byzantium and Latin Europe was the preservation in the former […] of a highly speculative […] and numerous groups of churchmen and laypeople who preserved a tradition of intellectual Christianity that had produced heresies and orthodoxies since the third century and continued to produce them until the fourteenth […]. Even though many centers of heresy had been lost to Byzantium during the Moslem invasions of Africa and the Near East, old heretical texts survived to inform new generations about Gnosticism, Arianism, and the various Christological heresies, especially Monophysitism, that had been ruthlessly suppressed […] by diligent emperors and muscular church councils and patriarchs. In Byzantium old heresies had a great capacity for survival and new ones a great capacity for growth in a fertile religious culture that had a large proportion of literate and educated clerics and laypeople, a proportion that would not be reached in the Latin West until the twelfth century.

Peters (ibid.) is only just overstating as he muses about the one-directional influence of Byzantium to the Occident where certain barbarism ruled in those times that concern us:

Among Byzantine movements that […] exerted some influence on the West, Paulicianism, Iconoclasm, and Bogomilism are particularly important. The Paulicians originated in Armenia, deriving their name from the third-century heretic Paul of Samosata, and circulated throughout the Byzantine Empire, although their greatest strength lay in their powerful military state on the Euphrates which flourished briefly in the third quarter of the ninth century. At the same time, Paulicianism slowly changed from an Adoptionist heresy into a dualist one.

Peters throws light upon the nature and significance of iconoclasm that kicked against the anthropomorphic practice of representing the divinity pictorially. As a matter of course, iconoclasm assaulted religious images in general and implied that to ascribe material dimensions to the most sacred spiritual beings was to humanise, and so to limit, them by turning down their pure spiritual gist.

Peters also illustrates differences between East and West. On no account was the splendour, fertility, and diversity of Byzantine metaphysical religious life matched in the Latin West. In the occidental regions, the incessant battle was decisively more against the residual paganism of the Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic nations than against old or new forms of heresies. Most of the efforts of Latin Christian shepherds were aimed at changeover from the pagan perspective and against backsliding movements toward paganism. Sure as the sun at noonday, the monuments of the early western endeavour are the heroic missionary and monastic achievements of the period between the fourth and the ninth centuries (ibid., 52). Heresy was still a marginal issue, and by definition, heathenism was neither a heresy nor an invention.

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ITHE CAMPAIGN OF CATHARISM

There seems to have been a lull all over Europe in the last half of the eleventh century. Yet the calm, if there was any, ended as quickly as the twelfth century began. Thereafter, for about two centuries, the contest for being right about orthodoxy and heresy, at its bitterest in southern regions of France, was a dominant element in religious occupation and politics (Wakefield 1974, 18). Like twitter-time man knows the concept of genetically transmitted disease, his mediaeval fellow human being had been instructed to cognise that heresy could be handed down from generation to generation. To the perpetrator, heresy was a costly error, punishable by temple and state in cordial concordance.

1Champions of Change Emerge

[T] he twelfth century forms the great turning point on the European intellect. Owing to many complicated causes […] a general renewal of Latin literature had then taken place, which profoundly modified the intellectual condition of Europe […]. For the first time for many centuries, we find a feeble spirit of doubt combating the spirit of credulity: a curiosity for purely secular knowledge replacing, in some small degree, the passion for theology; and […] a diminution [sic!] of the contemptuous hatred with which all who were external to Christianity had been regarded.

In every department of thought and of knowledge, there was manifested […] a spirit of restless and feverish anxiety, that contrasted strangely with the preceding torpor. The long slumber of untroubled orthodoxy was broken by many heresies, which, though often repressed, seemed in each succeeding century to acquire new force and consistency. Manichaeism […] burst into a fierce flame among the Albigenses […]. Then it was that the standard of an impartial philosophy was first planted by Abelard in Europe, and the minds of the learned were distracted by subtle and perplexing doubts concerning […] the faith. Then, too, the teachings of a stern and uncompromising infidelity flashed forth from Seville and from Cordova; and the form of Averroes began to assume those gigantic proportions, which, at a later period […] almost persuaded some of the ablest men that the reign of Antichrist had begun. At the same time, the passion for astrology and for the fatalism it implied revived with the revival of pagan learning (Lecky 1893, I, 47–48; emphasis added).

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It was so imagined that doubt or cognitive dissonance not just induces heresy but also is, in actuality, the same thing, an expression of a hostile outlook on God and, conversely, the probable object of God’s wrath, be it in space and time or in eternity. The Temple, the hierarchy of which convinced itself that skepticism was evil, demonised doubt as being a match for heresy (Lea 1956, I, 400). Doubt had evolved into anathema, and we must needs describe that meeting-house, temple or synagogue, that ‘divine’ system as totalitarian. There is only one party of corporative nature that controls practically everything, allowing no opposition, denouncing doubters and critics, as they appear, as dissenting and unamenable to hold to the sacrosanct world-order of the Triune Godhead in substance.

It was John of Brevicoxa who in his On Faith and the Church (1375) first imparted a reference to the text from canon law: “He who doubts the faith is an unbeliever.” He continued that these words should be read in the ensuing manner: “He who doubts the faith,” that is, who doubts the faith is true, “is an unbeliever,” that is, has a weak faith. It further stands in canon law quoted by John that

the faithful ought to believe firmly the whole Catholic truth and, furthermore, must adhere firmly […] to any article in particular which is implicit. It is not required however, that everyone adhere to any particular Catholic truth explicitly. But he who doubts that the whole Christian faith is true is manifestly heretical and should be judged stubborn since he is not ready to be corrected, for no one is ready to be corrected by a doctrine which he believes to be false (Peters 1980, 306).

On this point W. E. H. Lecky (1893, I, 49), the quondam well-known historian of European Morals is more eloquent, a moralist as he is:

Every doubt, every impulse of rebellion against ecclesiastical authority, above all, every heretical opinion, was regarded as the direct instigation of Satan, and their increase as the measure of his triumph […]. Europe was beginning to enter into that inexpressibly painful period in which men have learned to doubt, but have not yet learned to regard doubt as innocent; in which the new mental activity produces a variety of opinions, while the old credulity persuades them that all but one class of opinions are the suggestions of the devil.

In part at least, it is contended, mediaeval heresies were a product of disappointment with, and resentment against, a corrupt clergy. Having developed its structures, the Ecclesia Romana had surfaced as a wealthy and worldly company and bureaucracy, forgetful of its apostolic vision, strategy, and mission. Related to this stand is another theory, in pursuance of which heresies arose as protests against socio-economic dislocations and common inequity, and as such, they could be sounded off exclusively in religious terms. To use a modern term, we may refer to what is amenably termed man’s alienation to which Gnostics of old were wide-awake.

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We are disposed to opine that alienation from the bosom of the Temple had opened the way for such seductive doctrines as religious dualism that took good and evil rationally. This dualism divided creation between principles or gods of spiritual and material realms. Whereas the early prayer-edifice had rejected such abominable ideas, they had been preserved for future needs in various sects in the Balkans and Asia Minor, until they travelled westward sometime around 1000 CE. Historians have also put forward that the star intellectual advances of the High Middle Ages played a role in stimulating convictions that diverged into heresy (see Wakefield 1974, 18).

2Doctrinal ‘Lapses’ of Catharism

Grand Inquisitor Nicolaus Eymeric classifies doctrinal errors – incorrect positions or outlawed heresies – of those whom he either misleadingly or just to a certain degree germanely brands new ‘Manichaeans’, for he presumptuously identifies the third-century Mani and his ancient champions with the Cathars (καθαροί, katharoi, ‘the pure’). What follows is a discriminating list that I have borrowed with slight modifications from H. J. Warner’s (1922) old diatribe:

(1)They maintain that there are two Gods or two Lords, tellingly a good God, and an evil Creator of all things visible and material. They declare that these things were not produced by God or our heavenly Father but by a wicked devil, even Satan. That is why they assume two creators, i.e., God and the Devil, and, accordingly, two Creations: one of immaterial and invisible things, the other of visible and material.

(2)They also imagine that there are two temples, one good, which they utter is their own sect, and proffer theirs alone to be the temple of Jesus Christ, whereas the other they brand an evil temple, which they allege to be the Ecclesia Romana.

(3)All grades, orders, ordinances and statutes of the temple they scorn and ignore, and all who hold the faith they call heretics and deluded. They further allege as one of their dogmas that no soul can be saved by the sound faith of the Roman Catholic Home.

(4)All the sacraments of the Ecclesia Romana of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is to say the Eucharist, and Baptism performed with material water, and Confirmation and Orders and Extreme Unction and Penance and Matrimony, all and singular, they contend to be of no avail.

(5)They invent, as a substitute of holy baptism in water, another spiritual Baptism, to term it the Consolation (consolamentum) of the Holy Ghost.

(6)They further invent, as a substitute of the consecrated bread of the Eucharist of the Body of Christ, a certain bread that they call ‘blessed bread,’ or ‘bread of holy prayer’. Holding that bread in their hands, they bless it in keeping with their rite, and break and distribute it to their fellow-conformers while these are seated.

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(7)As a substitute of the Sacrament of Penance, they articulate that their sect receives and holds a true Penance, and to all those holding their sect and order, whether they be in health or sickness, all sins are remitted, and that such persons are absolved from all their sins without any other satisfaction, as they assert that they have over these the same and as great a power as had Peter and Paul and the other Apostles. They further contend that the confessions of sins that are made to the ministers of the Roman Catholicity are to no avail whatever for salvation, and that neither the Pope nor any other person of the Roman House of God has power to absolve anyone from his sins.

(8)As a substitute of the Sacrament of carnal matrimony between man and woman, they invent a spiritual matrimony between the soul and God, which is actualised when the heretics, the perfect or consoled, receive anyone into their sect and order.

(9)They rebuff the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ from Mary Ever Virgin, as they asseverate that He had not a true human body, and so forth, but that all things were done but figuratively, not literally.

(10)They deny that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the true mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, they disallow that she was a woman of flesh, but they still claim their sect and Order is the Virgin Mary, and that true penance is a chaste virgin who bears sons of God when they are received into their sect and order (also Gui 2006, 37).

(11)They brush-off the future resurrection of human bodies, and imagine, instead, certain spiritual bodies (similarly ibid.).

(12)They hold that a man ought to eat or touch neither meat nor cheese nor eggs, nor anything which is born of the flesh by way of generation or sexual intercourse.

(13)They assert that in brutes and even in birds there are spirits that go forth from the bodies of men, when they have not been received into their sect and order by imposition of hands, in pursuance of their rite, and that they pass from one body into another which is why they do not eat or kill any animal or anything that flies.

(14)They expatiate that a man ought never to touch a woman (H. J. Warner 1922, I, 30–32).

Obviously the most heinous Cathar doctrine, from the orthodox position, was that the Cathar Christ offered no all-sufficient and firm atonement for the sins of men. Consequently, he did not bring any peace to humans either (ibid., 91).

Biographical notes

Juhani Sarsila (Author)

Juhani Sarsila, PhD, now a senior citizen, used to be a university teacher guiding students in Latin, Greek, and history of ideas and learning, or intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte). He has issued manifold monographies, articles, and essays regarding ancient virtue ethics and early Finnish nationalism, the role of forgery in European history as well as the theory and practice of persuasion, or rhetoric. In 2020, he eventually released the first part of his opus maius, as it would be, Struggle of Faith and Reason from Homer to Peter Abelard and Arnold of Brescia.

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Title: Struggle of Faith and Reason: A History of Intolerance and Punitive Censorship