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Gnostic-dualistic tendencies in the history of medieval Europe
Ch. I makes an exception to the main subjct of this volume, that of gnostic-dualistic tendencies. It is about the Disprivileged groups of the Middle Ages, Part I about the Jews and Part II about the women.
With regard to the Jews, one should not use the term 'anti-semitism'. This is a term with a racial connotation, but racism did not exist in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. When people objected to Jews, it was on religious grounds, for which reason we should rather speak of 'anti-Judaism'. Another point is that all ancient and medieval societies, pagan, Muslim, Byzantine, Christians of the West, were based on the concept of wholeness, which means that these societies were thought to exist by the grace of a common set of beliefs and customs. The Jews nowhere fitted into this model.
The attitude of the Byzantine Empire with regard to Jews was undoubtedly dualistic: the Jews should not be there and were discriminated against.
During the first five centuries of Christian-Jewish cohabitation in the Latin West the Jews were not treated badly. They were generally left in peace, while there were many friendly relations between families and individuals. This changed during the eleventh century, when the Crusades began. The first Crusade, that of 1096, consisted in fact of two crusades, the popular Crusade and the seigneurial Crusade. The popular Crusade, that achieved nothing of any importance in the military field, consisted for a great part of rabble. During their march to the Holy Land, where they came to grief, they found the enemy near at hand: the Jews. In the Rhineland and elsewhere in Germany and Austria many Jewish communities were molested; there were countless victims.
After this period the relationship remained difficult. The successive Popes acted as the official protectors of the Jews; on the whole the higher classes of society and the better educated were not anti-Judaistic, but the lower classes fell a prey to anti-Jewish stereotypes, such as the Jews being Christ-killers. Towards the end of the villages governments also began to be hostile to Jews: they were expelled from England, France, Spain and Portugal, and from many regions and cities in Germany. This was also the time that the first ghetto's came into existence.
Part II. It should not be thought that medieval women could only be housewives and mothers. We find them in all walks of life, even in finance and business. We should also not think that women were systematically oppressed by the male half of society. Nonetheless, it is true that the female sex was viewed as being inferior to male sex, which would mean that the relationship was dualistic. Most women were illiterate, but so were men. The degree of literacy was highest in the nunneries, because nuns must be able to read the hours. There were possiblities for girls to go school, although these were not numerous. Girls of noble parents had the best chances for an education. Some medieval women became famous for their erudition. Others were influential in social and political life.
Ecclesiastical law forbade women to exercize sacerdotal functions, but this is also true for married men. Generally the Church advocated the equality of men and women, although male clerics often took a low view of women. It is a popular opinion that medievl society was hostile to sexuality and that the hand of the Church rested heavily on it in this respect. The reverse is probably more true. People of these centuries were certainly much less inhibited with regard to sexuality and nudity than the Victorian era. The Church fought an uphill battle in order to convince the Christians that the marriage bond was insolvable. The position of women was weakened by the fact that marriages were not registrated, neither civilly nor ecclesiastically: they were common law unions, with the result that a partner, mostly the husband, could walk away and found a new family somewhere else.
Finally, a section is devoted to the subject of 'courtly love', propagated by the troubadours. This kind of love was certainly erotic, but must not become sexual. We find in the higher circles of society. It deeply influenced our modern concept of what love is.
Ch. II is about dualism in European mythology. There was a non-Christian undercurrent running under the imposing fabric of medieval Roman Catholicism. In Celtic societies the Druids were very important persons. Druid knowledge was secret; it was in fact Knowledge, reminding us of the Gnosis, which surfaced again in the Cathar religion. In Germanic religion there is no Demiurge, but there is an evil architect, Loki who plays his tricks on the gods. Yet the supreme god Wodan/Odin is also not without negative traits. Germanic cosmogony is neither theology nor philosophy, but the purest mythology. It opposes myth to ratio, an opposition that is present in all European history, even to this day. It is also important that the dualistic and antagonistic elements in Germanic religion will lead to Ragnarok, to the Götterdämmerung, the final catastroph of the world.
These negative and antagonistic elements of the Germanic religion survived after Europe had been converted to the Christian religion. Irreconcilable oppositions persisted: Chaos-beginning and Creation, Necessity and History, Fate and Providence, honour and justice, warrior and martyr, contempt of death and fear of death.
Almost all Eastern European myths contain dualistic elements. There is, in fact, a general substratum of dualism in early medieval Europe, Asia, and America. Most Eastern European myths speak of a Demiurge and of a cosmos in two parts, one good, one bad. >br>
Ch. III is about dualistic heresies in Armenia and the Balkans. There is a dualist succession, starting from the ancient Gnosis in Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor. From there a line runs to the Messalian movement in Mesopotamia and to the Paulicians in the Far East of the Byzantine Empire and Armenia. The next Gnostic-dualistic stage was Bogomilism in the Balkans. From Bosnia and Dalmatia Gnostic-dualism reached Lombardia; finally we find its most complete stage in French Catharism.
To the Messalians of the fourth century, who rejected the Old Testament, there were two worlds, one good, one bad; there was a benevolent Creator and an evil-intentioned Demiurge.
Yet another link with the ancient Gnosis is Paulicianism, to be found in the seventh century and after in Armenia. Here too we have the ideology of the two worlds and the two principles; Paulicians were warlike, often in armed conflict with the Byzantines. To combat them, Byzantine emperors tranferred whole Paulician population groups from Asia Minor to Bulgaria.
Bogomilism originated in Bulgaria during the tenth century. This too was a Gnostic-dualistic heresy, that became very influential. Byzantine emperors fought it, without a complete success; Bogomilism survived until in the fourteenth century. It spread widely, to Bosnia and Dalmatia.
Ch. IV is about protesting and dissenting movements in Lombardia. In and around Milan we find the Pataria, which was a protesting, but not a heretical movement. It was directed against the wealth of the Church. It was mainly a lay movement of the eleventh century.
Yet there was also an evident influence of Balkan Bogomilism on Lombardia. There was a number of Gnostic-dualistic Churches there; their adherents were mostly called Cathars. There was a schism in Lombardian Catharism: some Churches professed absolute dualism (two opposed principles, both existing from eternity), others a relative dualism (the Demiurge one stage lower tha the Creator and dependent on him).
Ch. V is about the ideology of the Cathars in Languedoc, in the south of France. Part I describes how, when and where heretical movements originated in France. The heretical movements of Tanchelm (Antwerp), Peter of Bruis, and Henry of Le Mans are described, together with some minor movenents in Germany and England.
Part II explains why Catharism became so widespread in Languedoc, and Part III how and many Languedoc became, under the shield of the counts of Toulouse and other local barons, a safe haven for the Cathars.
Part IV A describes the Cathar religion which was utterly dualistic. It started from the premiss that there are two principles, one good, one bad, and that the world and mankind have been created by an evil-intended Demiurge. The only way to be saved is by becoming a Cathar. Part IV B describes the Cathar ritual, the initiation, the breaking of the bread, and the endura. Part IV C is about the Cathar way of life, with the difference between the credentes and the perfecti. The perfect led a very strict and sober life. Part IV D mentions the first attempts to redress the situation, Pope Innocents III's anti-heretical programme, and the coming of Saint Dominic to Languedoc.
Ch. VI describes in much detail the wars against the Cathars. It all began with the murder of a papal legate by some Cathars, after which Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the Cathars (Part I). This crusade was condicted by French royal armies, which often acted with great cruelty. (Part II). Special attention is paid to the position of the counts of Toulouse and to the activities of Saint Dominic. (Part III). Part IV is about the instruments to combat Catharism, the Dominican Order, how it came into being, and the Inquisition (how it worked). Part V describes the final scene: the siege of Montségur in 1244/1245.
This volume contains a schematic map of Languedoc, a Manuel, an Index, and a Bibliography.
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|Verschenen:||22 november 2004|