The Resistance to Christianity : The Heresies at the Origins of the 18th Century

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(1934 - )
Raoul Vaneigem (Dutch pronunciation: [raːˈul vɑnˈɛi̯ɣəm]; born 21 March 1934) is a Belgian writer known for his 1967 book The Revolution of Everyday Life. He was born in Lessines (Hainaut, Belgium) and studied romance philology at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) from 1952 to 1956. He was a member of the Situationist International from 1961 to 1970. He currently resides in Belgium and is the father of four children. (From :


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Translator’s Introduction It’s unfortunate that the author of this remarkable book, Raoul Vaneigem, did not take the time to write a concise and easily understandable “Foreword.” Instead, as the reader will see, he dashed off something that only a few people — those who have already had the good fortune to read The Movement of the Free Spirit, which covers some of the same ground — would be able to fully understand. In addition, this chaotic, confusing and cavalier “Foreword” discusses the events and possibilities of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, while the book itself covers a period that, with the exception of the last section of the last chapter, ends with the Eighteenth Century (1793, to be exact). As a result, it is possible that very few readers will move beyond the “Foreword” and try to read the many chapters that follow it. And, of course, that would be a great shame. (From :

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Foreword On the shore where two thousand years of the Christian era have washed up, the rising tide of the commodity has not left standing a single traditional value of the past. By ruining the mass ideologies that had prematurely celebrated the collapse of the religious edifice, this tide — at a time when the State plays God in the conduct of [terrestrial] affairs — can it not ineluctably push towards the annihilation of the remains of a Church whose mysteries were socialized by The Council of the Vatican II? The indifference that one today feels towards the beliefs governed by rituals performed by the Party or the ecclesiastical bureaucracy awakens, from the inside out, an interest that no longer supports an obsolete worry, no matter if it is apologetic or denigrating, but quite simply is curiosity preoccupied with its own pleasure and taking pride in the game of discovering what the official truths were so zealous to bury under the u... (From :

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Chapter 1: A Nation Sacrificed to History Singularly and paradoxically destined, like the Jewish people: the Books or Biblia, which under the name Bible founded the Hebraic mythology, which, raised up by the elective glory of a unique God, aspired to reign over all of humanity. Invested with an eternal and universal truth, each person entered into the design only to lend him or herself to YHWH, at the cost of an effacement in time and space, of which no nation offers such an unhappy example. Born within a Statist centralism that rallied [together] the nomads, hastily sedentarized on newly conquered territories, the arrogance of the God of the holy wars — by a cruel irony — would not cease to puff itself up with the wind of prophet-ism to the extent that the temporal power of the Hebrews, far from seizing the world so as to propagate obedience in it to YHWH, would succumb under the blows of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Roman... (From :

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Chapter 2: Diaspora and Anti-Semitism While the Hebrew word galout (exile) was used in a theological perspective and implied an eschatology of uprooting and return, the Greek term diaspora referred to an historical phenomenon: the dispersion of the Jews across the world. In the beginning, the Jews of Judea and Samaria were chased from Palestine by a conjuration of violence and political constraints. In 722 [B.C.E.], Israel, the Kingdom of the North, fell to the power of Babylon; in 586 [B.C.E.], the Kingdom of Judea succumbed in its turn. A part of the population submitted to deportation, drawing from its unhappiness the hope of a return under the leadership of a hero chosen by God so as to help his people, sanctified by ordeals. The realities of the situation, however, had the upper hand over the tortuous designs of Providence. Many exiled Jews — little concerned with regaining their homeland because... (From :

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Chapter 3: The Judean Sects Originally the term “sects” did not carry any perjorative connotation. It designated certain political and religions factions in the general population. Alexander and Greek domination confirmed the existence of a Samaritan sect, which issued from the separation between the kingdoms of the North and the South. Hellenization encouraged this sect by allowing it to build a temple distinct from the one in Jerusalem. Its members only knew and only recognized the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and the Book of Joshua/Jesus, in which a sermon by Origen, written in the first half of the Third Century, revealed its influence on the mythic genesis of the Messianic Savior. The Samaritan Bible differed from the Masoretic text, was established latter, and was close to the manuscripts discovered at Qumran. The Sadduceans One believes that the sect of the Sadduceans appeared abou... (From :

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Chapter 4: The Men of the Community, or the Essenes Only Flavius Joseph and Philo of Alexandria designate the essenoi or essaoi (from the Hebrew esah’, “counsel” or “party,” and which Dupont-Sommer translates as “congregation” or “men of the community,”) as a Jewish dissidence, hostile to the two sects dominating Judea and the Diaspora: Sadduceism and Pharisaism. Hadot does not exclude the influence of the Aramaic word ossio, “doctor,” which justifies the appellation Therapeutes, or the “doctors of the soul” whom Philo takes to be an Essene sect located not far from Alexandria. If one can judge from the manuscripts discovered at Qumran, they called themselves “Men of the Community,” “Counsel of God,” “Counsel of the Community,” “Sons of Sadoq” (or Tsadoq, Sons of the J... (From :

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Chapter 5: The Baptist Movement of the Samaritan Messiah Dusis/Dosithea Shadow and Light from Samaria If Samaria constitited an object of scandal for Judea, its neighbor to the south, it was because of Samaria’s ancient cults that entered into the project of religious and national[ist] resistance, which was resolved to impede the invasion-politics of Yahwehism and its terrible God, avenger and warrior. These same Samaritans still tolerated an archaic form of YHWH, close to El, the Father, and the angelic plurality contained in the form of Elohim. Holding the sanctuary of Sichem on Mount Garizim as the only true temple, Samaritanism did not admit any other sacred scriptures than the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and the Book of Joshua, which Hellenization, soon implanted in Samaria, propagated under the name Book of Jesus (thus would Origen cite it around 250). The hatr... (From :

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Chapter 6: Simon of Samaria and Gnostic Radicality Stripped of the lies and calumnies in which the Judeo-Christian and Catholic traditions have clothed him, like a habit of derision, Simon of Samaria evokes the thinkers who, as much as Heraclitus or Lucrecius, has irresistibly inscribed himself in the modernity of each epoch. A Hellenized Samaritan, born — according to the heresiologues — in the outskirts of Getta, in the course of the last years of the First Century before the Christian era, Simon was without doubt a philosopher and doctor in the manner of Paracles, whom he resembled in the care with which he interdependently approached the microcosm and the macrocosm, the body of man and the totality of the world. The rare fragments of his last oeuvre suffice to suggest a radical will in the precise sense of the term: that which attaches itself to the root of beings and things. Issued from Greek rationality, his analysis und... (From :

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Chapter 7: The phallic and fusional cults The conquest of the lands of Canaan by the Hebrew invaders began by Judaizing and thereby honoring the agrarian cults among the vanguished so as to better strike to prohibit and defame their persistent practice. The same for the rites of adoration of the Serpent, in which the symbolic participates in phallic power and, at the same time, the mysteries of fecundation. Despite the danger that certain species present, the serprent evokes by the grace of its movements the dance of love, to which the bodies of the lovers surrender themselves. Doesn’t the allegory of salvation — the caduceus in which two serpents intertwine — conserve the memory of the force of life inherent in pleasure and in its slow reptation? More than any other mythology, the Bible changed the serpent into an object of abjection, terror and evil. I would like to conjecture that the religious spirit that substituted... (From :

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Chapter 8: Three Esseno-Christian Christs: Seth, Melchizedek, and Joshua/Jesus The diverse sects of the movement that was given the general name of Essenism inscribed at the top rank of their preoccupations — which were conferred a dramatic reality by the Zealot movement — the question of the Messiah, the envoy in whom God would confide the care of leading the people towards a promised new earth. Due to their collaboration with the [Roman] occupiers, the Pharisians disapproved of Messianic speculations, and in particular those that, hoping for the reincarnation of Adam or one of his sons, claimed that the first man was a partner of God and took part in the creation of the world. For them, no Messiah — infatuated with some power — could arrogate any right or function exclusively reserved for Adonai, the Savior, the Creator. Adam chose evil and the Pharisians stigmatized as minim (Gnostic) anyone who affirmed that Adam re... (From :

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Chapter 9: the Messianic sects of Joshua/Jesus: Nazarenes, Ebionites, Elchasaites At the confluence of Essenism, Samaritanism and the baptist movement of Dunstan/Dosithea, sects formed in which a certain communality of doctrine and practice didn’t exclude rivalries and struggles for power. Their conjunction, no doubt precipitated by the Zealot insurrection, ended in the consecration of a syncretic messiah invested with the secret name “God saves,” who incarnated the long line of prophets “anointed by Adonai” and persecuted for their untimely revelations. All distinguished themselves by a rigorous asceticism; scorn for material goods, the body, women, and pleasure; recourse to the purificatory and initiating rite of baptism; the need to found of communities or Ecclesiai (Churches); propagation of a doctrine of the two roads, that of Light and that of Darkness, sometimes pushed to the cosmic opposition between a Goo... (From :

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Chapter 10: Quarrels about Prophets and Apostles: Jochanaan, Theudas/Jude/Thomas, Jacob, Simon-Peter, Barnabas, Saul/Paul If history hasn’t preserved the least trace of someone named Jesus, on the other hand, his inventors and worshipers — disguised [travestis] in the course of time as brothers, companions, witnesses, disciples or apostles — easily revealed themselves at random to the witnesses of the First Century. So it goes with John the Baptist, Thomas, Jacob the Just, Simon Cephas and Barnabas. Paradoxically, concerning Paul, the best known, upon whom the biographers spread themselves with the greatest gullibility, there remains nearly nothing that hasn’t been reduced to the authenticity of short notes taken from the letters that sheltered the catch-alls of the Marcionites and anti-Marcionites, before being washed, purged and re-sharpened several times according to the rectified line of the Fourth Century. (From :

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Chapter 11: Marcion and the Hellenization of Christianity Despite two centuries and an accusation of heresy that separated him from the State religion, Marcion might well pass for the true father of the Catholic Church, a father maladroitly abandoned to the world, a runt that only his enemies brought to maturity. Missionary zeal; the eagerness to found communities; the hope for divine authority, the investment of which he would receive in Rome; the monarchal organization of the ekklesiai; virulent anti-Semitism; the conception of a Christianity purified of its Judaism; a theology inspired by Greek thought: these compose a great many of the fundamental traits of the future Catholic Church. With Marcion, Christianity — scorning historical truth — arrogated for itself a Hellenic genesis propagated by the myth of Paul, “apostle to the Gentiles.” And today, many historians still brazenly ratify the act of birth... (From :

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Chapter 12: The Inventors of a Christian Theology: Basilides, Valentine, Ptolemy In the crucible of Alexandria, the expectation of a Savior who would untangle the obscure roads of the destiny of humanity produced such disparate developments as ancient Egyptian wisdom, Greek thought, eastern magic and the Hebrew myths. From opposite directions, Philo of Alexandria and Simon of Samaria projected the shadow of an absent person who carved into Judeo-Christian asceticism the aspiration of man to save himself. Against Nazarenism and Elchasaitism, which were forms of Essenism that had been offered up to Greek modernity, there was the will to emancipate oneself from the Gods, which was celebrated by men such as Lucrecius of Rome, Simon of Samaria, Carpocratus of Alexandria and his son, Epiphane. Between these two extremes, various schools, sects, secret or Hermetic societies and inner circles of magicians and sorcerers intermingled and cooked up... (From :

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Chapter 13: Marcos and the Hellenization of Jewish Hermeticism Irenaeus vituperated the Hermeticist Marc (or Marcos) in his Refutation of So-Called Gnosis, [thereby] unveiling his sympathies for the contemporary movement of the New Prophecy, many faithful people of which perished in the pogroms of Lyon in 177. He made fun of the favors that the aristocracy lavished upon him [Marcos], “the dames of the robe bordered with purple” (a privilege of the senatorial classes) and their propensity to the pleasures of love. True or false, this anecdote — so often plagiarized by Inquisitorial reports — translated the reprobation of popular Christianity for the “sins of the flesh”: One of our deacons from Asia, badly taken with him, welcomed him into his house. As his wife was nicely made, the charlatan seduced her body and soul, and she followed him for a long time. Finally, and not without difficulty, t... (From :

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Chapter 14: Carpocratus, Epiphanius and the Tradition of Simon of Samaria In the encounter with the generally ascetic Christian current, which was propagated in the Second Century by gnostic esotericism and by the pistis of the New Prophecy, the teachings of Carpocratus and his son Epiphanius inscribed themselves in a line of life that only Simon of Samaria knew how to trace in thin strokes on the tormented grays of the era. Carpocratus’ biography remains obscure. Origen confused him with Harpocratus, son of Isis and Osiris, a solar god under Greco-Roman domination, often represented in the magic papyrus seated on a lotus, the male principle penetrating the feminine principle so as to impregnate her with his light. Carpocratus taught at Alexandria and wed Alexandreia. Their son, Epiphanius, who died at the age of 17 in 138, was interred on his island of birth, Cephalonia. Around 155 or 156, a philospher named Marcellina taught the doctri... (From :

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Chapter 15: The New Prophecy and the Development of Popular Christianity Born under the pressure [l’impulsion] of the Zealot guerrilla war and the struggle against Greco-Roman oppression, the messianism of the First Century participated exclusively in a Judaisim that was on the road to reformation, hostile to the Sadduceans and the Pharisians. The sects that speculated on the secret name of the Messiah did not agree with those devoted to Joshua in the 80s and 90s, who developed a philosophical and esoteric doctrine that was hardly propitious for wide distribution. The Elchasaite Christians, who aroused the suspicions of the governor of Bythinia, Pliny the Younger, offered the very first example of a Christianity implanted in less firm milieus. They practiced social aid to widows, orphans, and the disinherited; imitating the prescriptions of honor in the Pharisian communities, they prayed to and celebrated the God-Messiah (christo qua... (From :

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Chapter 16: Tatian and the Fabrication of the New Testament Born in Syria around 120, Tatian posthumously became one of the founders of the Church due to his extremism in matters of asceticism. Irenaeus attacked him because, “like Marcion and Satornil, he called marriage a corruption and debauchery. He maintained that Adam was not saved.” Converted to Christianity, and a disciple of Justin in Rome, Tatian was exposed to the attacks of Crescentius, Justin’s accuser. Teaching Christianity in Rome around 172–173, he professed the anti-Marcionism of his master and transmitted it to his disciple, Rhodon. Then he left for the East and founded schools while the New Prophecy took off. One supposes that he died at the end of that decade. Tatian’s single known work falls under the heading of the apologetic. His Speech to the Greeks opposed Christianity to Greek philosophy in general and the Stoics... (From :

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Chapter 17: Three Local Christianities: Edessa and Bardesane, Alexandria and Origen, Antioch and Paul of Samosate While the New Prophecy would, for the first time and despite the dissent of a minority of the bishops, concretize the project of a Christianity that wished to conquer the Greco-Roman Empire and ended up unifying the rival churches, there were three cities in which the oldest Judeo-Christian traditions guarded their particularities and perpetuated their privileges as ancient communities. Such was the case with Edessa, Alexandria and Antioch, the fortresses of Esseno-Nazarenism. Bardesane Of Edessa Starting from the First Century, Edessa was a hub of Christian expansion. “The structure of the archaic Christianity of Edessa,” Drijvers writes, “shows the existence of varied groups with diverse opinions that fought against and complained about each other.”... (From :

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Chapter 18: Novatian, the Apostate Clergy and the Anti-Montanist Reaction The breath of popular Christianity stirred up the pyres in which the faithful were consumed and which nourished the resentment of the crowds accustomed to pogroms and hunting for Jews. The imperial power would impute, according to custom, responsibility for the disorders not to the executioners, but the victims. The State’s persecutions triggered cunningly fomented lynchings, which indiscriminately struck all of the partizans of a God who was hostile to the other divinities. In 202 — contrary to the wishes (or so one says) of his wife, Julia Mammea, who was favorable to the new religion — Septime Severe promulgated an edict that prohibited proselytism, whether Jewish or Christian. The death of the emperor suspended this repression; it was revived under Maximin, not without sporadically rekindling in the ordinary flames of the pogroms. One of them exploded in Cap... (From :

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Chapter 19: Arianism and the Church of Rome The Council of Nicaea, convened on the orders of Constantine in 325, marks the birth of orthodoxy and, consequently, heresy. The tortuous line of the dogma that would take centuries to make its immutable truths precise arrogated for itself the privilege of a rectitude that people like Eusebius, Epiphanius, Augustine, Jerome and their cohorts would extend back into the past and to Jesus, the chosen founder of the Catholic invariance. The Church would push cynicism to the point of claiming for itself a Christianity that would condemn the following manifestations as heresies: Nazarenism, Elchasaitism, Marcionism, anti-Marcionism, Christian Gnosticism and the New Prophecy. In the Third Century, the notion of hairesis — questionable choices, subject to polemic — became a weapon, thanks to which the bishops could defend their privileges against all contestation. In the hands of em... (From :

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Chapter 20: Donat and the Circoncellions From the moment that Constantine agreed to support the Christian communities in 313, he took hold of the Church and treated it as an instrument of his State power. To the bishops he recognized, he accorded the license to promulgate sentences under imperial protection [caution]. His politics of great works (in Rome, Saint Peter, Saint John of Lateran and Saint Agnes; in Jerusalem, Saint Sepulcre), which honored a faith that he openly mocked if it did not cement his own absolutism, aroused the reprobation of a popular Christianity that had been impregnated by asceticism and martyrdom ever since the end of the Second Century. An old contention opposed the party of the tortured, the Christians who remained unshakable in their convictions [even] when faced with their executioners, and the party of the lapsi or traditores, the renegades, the traitors, who were more numerous and, due to their... (From :

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Chapter 21: The Spirituals, Also Called Messalians or Euchites Unlike Arianism, Donatism and Monophysism — which, born from rivalries of nations and churches, might better be characterized as schisms rather than heresies — the movement of the “Spirituals,” who were called Messalians or Euchites by their adversaries, was only Christian in appearance, under which was expressed the ordinary taste for life, so easily diverted [tourne] by dereliction, leveling and destructive asceticism, or religious or political fanaticism. By combating the rigor of the New Prophecy, as it was perpetuated by Novatian, Donat and the Circoncellions, the Church of Rome used a political wisdom of which many popes later showed themselves to be worthy inheritors. Though it was protected by its status as a unique religion, Catholicism did not win the game. Other than a minority, the Greco-Roman aristocracy was reluctant to banish from its everyday... (From :

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Chapter 22: Monophysites and Dyophysites Three currents stood out from the tormented landscape that was presented by the ecclesiatical rivalries and quarrels of the Church, which was struggling for the recognition of its authority and preeminence. They corresponded to the two poles of imperial power: Rome and Byzantium, and the cradle of Hellenized Christianity, Alexandria. Monophysism had more to do with schism than heresy. Born in Alexandria, this doctrine was not innovative but used old speculations on the nature of the Messiah to mark itself from Rome. After the Council of Chalcedoine, held in 451, the eastern Churches seized hold of the Jacobites of Syria and the Armenian churches, so as to constitute their dogma, which was still honored by the Egyptian Coptics. But it is also necessary to take account of the animosity that had not ceased to be manifested between Alexandria and Antioch, the city in which — from the end of the First Century &... (From :

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Chapter 23: Pelagius and Augustine, or the Conception of Free Will and Predestination Thanks to the bias of Augustine of Hippone, who fought against it, the doctrine of Pelagius enriched the Catholic dogma, then in formation, with two specifications that were important to the power that they conferred upon the Church of Rome and to the incessant quarrels that it maintained over the course of the centuries. Augustine did indeed mark the beginning of the requirement to baptize children, who were held to be impure at birth, and the advent of the theory of predestination — much later judged to be heretical, without triggering the impossible condemnation of one of the principal “fathers” of Catholicism — which he fabricated so as to direct it against his old enemy, Pelagius. Pelagius (340?-429?), born in Britain or Ireland, no doubt retained traces of the Celtic freedom of spirit when he reached Rome around 400. A littl... (From :

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Chapter 24: Priscillian of Avila Among the letters falsely attributed to Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (executed in 258), there is one — emanating from Novatian’s partizans, that is to say, from the Christians loyal to the New Prophecy and hostile to the lapsi — that attests to the presence in Spain of Christian communities of the Montanist tendency, the ardor of which Novatian had revived in the fire of imperial persecution. In 254, an African council convened under the egis of Cyprian provided his support to the Novatians who, in Lerida, Leon and Astorga, rejected the ministers suspected of abjuration during Dece’s repressions. Thus, with the Constantinian turn, the Catholic ecclesiatical faction that acceded to power recognized everywhere the authority of the perjured priests and collaborators. (See the example of Bishop Cecilian, enemy of Donat in Carthage.) A Century later, Bishop Pacianus of Barcelona... (From :

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Chapter 25: Paulicians and Bogomiles The Paulicians In the Fourth Century, Armenian Christianity offered to their neighborhoring particularities the same landscape as that of the cities of Latium and Greece, if not the entire Empire: an ancient Christianity of an ascetic spirit, a pro-Roman clerical party that was better and better structured, Marcionite communities, local churches like founded by Paul of Samosate, and archaic cults either Christianized or including the Christ in their ecumenicism: Naassenes, Barbelites, Sethians, Valentinians, and sometimes all of these beliefs confounded together. (Contrary to what the majority of historians affirm, and as the sepulcher of the Aurelii shows.) In Armenia, the pro-Roman faction tried to free itself from Montanist Christianity, Marcionite churches and the schools of Bardesane. Epiphanius, responsible for keeping track of the resistance movements for Roman Catholicism, mentioned a sect founde... (From :

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Chapter 26: Christs and Reformers: Popular Resistance to the Institutional Church By confirming the personal and temporal authority of the lax priests, bishops and collaborators, against whom Tertullian, Hippolyte, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Novatian, Donat and those faithful to popular Christianity had rebelled, the Church loosed upon the world — with the mission of circumventing kings, lords and worldly owners — a horde of clerics who were most often avid and unscrupulous. The intention of Gregoire of Tours’ Historia Francorum was to draft an devastating affidavit concerning clerical morals in Sixth Century Gaul. With rare exceptions, the men in question were merely debauched parish priests and dignitaries, looters and murderers — rivals in violence and deception with the masters of the earth — who attempted the extract the greatest possible profit from the peasants and artisans. While the purely formal repr... (From :

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Chapter 27: The Communalist Prophets The Sixth Century brought to the Western populations [of Europe] a slight amelioration of the conditions of life, which demographic growth soon condemned to precarity. While the development of the cities introduced the air of liberty in the confined atmosphere of an agrarian system that was socially frozen according to the three orders of Rathier of Verona — soldiers, priests and farmers — , the economic growth of the towns, little by little, began to absorb the excess of manual labor produced by the countryside. The swarming beggars, fomenting riots that were easily manipulated in the most diverse ways, were a common fund of laborers for those who learned to play the roles of lord or archbishop, guild-leader or popular agitator. Their violence also struck the masters as well as the rebels or the Jews, who were scapregoats for all kinds of fantastic resentments. The first Crusade, launched... (From :

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Chapter 28: Philosophy against the Church The elaboration of a theological system that reviewed the diverse privileges of the Church was nourished by Greek philosophy, from which Justin, Valentine, and Clement of Alexandria solicited aid in re-founding the monotheism of the Hebrew creator God upon rationality. Although interminable theological controversies had germinated, over the course of the centuries, on the uniquely Catholic dunghill of the trinity, predestination, free will, grace and occasional accusations of heresy — as in the cases of Abelard and Gilbert de la Porree — , these quarrels did not exceed the framework of othodoxy and, in any case, hardly threatened the foundations of the faith propagated under Rome’s control. Gnostic, Platonic, Aristotlian and Plotinian speculations — often badly digested by the Roman doctrine — would make the ecclesiastical body sick more than once, risking the emptying-out of its s... (From :

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Chapter 29: The Cathars The uncertain lights of Marcion have projected the most diverse shadows on the world and history. The frantic founder of a Church of which he wanted to be the master, Marcion imprinted on the ecclesiastical party, which appeared among his adversaries, the political will in which temporal exigences folded and refolded Christianity until it fit into the Constantian mold. Mani, who came from an Elchasaite milieu, was also influenced by Marcion. Where Marcionite churches sunk because of the unsupportable paradox of a missionary authority that confronted the absolute evil of the universe, Mani fought his way through the old Persian dualism, which was better disposed to receive it than the Greco-Roman propensity to merchant rationality and the rationality of the State, which was easily conquered by monotheism. The Paulicians and the Bogomiles formed other branches that grew in parallel to the dualism that was rooted in the separation... (From :

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Chapter 30: The Vaudois and the Adepts of Voluntary Poverty The Vaudois movement illustrates the occasion lost by Rome in its struggles against the Cathars and the subversive effects of the urban pauperization exploited by the “apostolic” reformers. Few records exist that clarify the figure of the movement’s founder, a rich merchant from Lyon named Pierre Valdo or Valdes, perhaps de la Vallee [of the valley]. Legend has it that he received a warning from heaven while hearing the Complaint of Saint Alexis. He made gifts of all his belongings to devote himself to voluntary poverty and evangelism, such as they were prescribed by a canonical text attributed to Matthew: “If you want to be perfect, sell your goods, give them to the poor.” Around 1170, men and women assembled themselves around Valdo and began to preach voluntary poverty in a strict will of Catholic orthodoxy, without any possible c... (From :

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Chapter 31: The Movement of the Free-Spirit Contrary to the religious system that captured beings and things so as to “bind” them, following the meaning of religio, to a temporal power that draws its justification from a celestial transcendance, the movement of the Free-Spirit from the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries designated an ensemble of options that were more individual than collective and were determined to privilege relations with the earth, the body, desire and the flux of life that nature ceaselessly regenerates. Only the theses of Simon of Samaria, reported by the Elenchos, belongs to this effort that discovers in natural irreligiosity the primary matter of desire, which must be refined to attain a veritable humanity. The conception of a relational unity with nature, perfectable on earth and in the individual, not by the roads of asceticism and renunciation but, on the contrary, through ple... (From :

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Chapter 32: Beghards and Beguines Around the end of the Twelfth Century, associations that were both religious and secular were founded, most often on the initiative of magistrates or rich bourgeois; the members of which, designated by the names “Beghards” and “Beguines,” lived in communitarian houses called “beguinages.” Founded as a public service to stop the multiplication of poor people in the towns that drained the surplus of manpower from the countrysides, these communities were independent of all monastic orders and placed under the exclusive surveillance of the bishop. The influx of beggars of both genders did not cease to grow in importance, especially in the northern towns such as Liege, where the first establishments date from 1180–1184 (and thus were contemporaneous with the initiatives of Pierre Valdo in Lyon): Tirlemont , Valenciennes , Douai , Ghent and Antwerp . In... (From :

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Chapter 33: The Millenarianists In the adventure of God, the Jewish, Essene and Christianized apocalypses (or revelations) expressed the historical myth of a Golden Age, passed but promised to return, such as it was conceived, in regret and hope, by the Greco-Roman mindset, deceived by the disorder of the emperors and decked out in all the virtues of an ideal and universal republic. In the “revelations,” the creator God, originally imperceptible and inaccessible, resembled his creatures and, through a growing epiphany, manifested himself so as to separate the just and loyal from the bad and wicked, with the result that, the latter having been annihilated, he would descend to the earth and build with the saints and the elect a kingdom of a thousand years. The Constantinian Church, called “Catholic,” accommodated itself poorly to a doctrine previously and collectively received by a Hellenized Christianity that aspire... (From :

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Chapter 34: The Flagellants Stoicism taught that one should endure suffering; Judeo-Christianity taught one to love it. From punishment as proof of divine love to the love of punishment was only a step. Did not the markets in dereliction, death and fear count among the most profitable for the Church? The appearance in Perugia around 1250 of the movement of the Flagellants inscribed itself in a conjuration of events — the famine of 1250, the plague of 1259, the bloody struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellins — that was propitious for the nourishment of the sentiment that the displeasure of losing oneself carried the consolation of involving the whole world in that loss. The Joachimite expiration date once more catalyzed the tumult of passions that a impossible life easily turned towards the outlet of death. At first encouraged by the Church, hysterical and collective self-punishment — due to its pretensions to excl... (From :

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Chapter 35: The Fraticelles The name “Fraticelles” (from the Italian fraticelli, sometimes translated in French as frerots or the “kid brothers”) designated the radical dissidents of the “Spiritual” faction that, in the Franciscan order, opposed to the “Conventual” or orthodox wing the strict vocation of poverty, as prescribed by Francis of Assisi. Although John XXII applied the term to the Spirituals as a form of polemical malignity, he never seriously attacked the Fraticelles, who were blemished with the same spirit of freedom as the Beghards, Beguines, apostolics and Dolcinists. Respectful for the original directives of Franciscanism, the Spirituals extolled — in addition to absolute poverty and the refusal of all ecclesiastical ownership — theses that were more and more embarrassing for the Church, which was engaged in the whirlpool of business affairs and a... (From :

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Chapter 36: The Eastern Reformers: the Hussites and Taborites Rome discovered in Bohemia a source of considerable riches. Half the land belonged to the clergy, which — exploiting it in the name of the Christ — aroused a popular hatred more lively than anywhere else, if that was possible. In 1360, the ascetic reformer Jan Milic denounced in Prague the corruption of the Church, the veritable incarnation of the Antichrist, and vainly exhorted the priests to the voluntary poverty characterized as evangelical. Upon the death of Milic, his disciple, Matthew of Janov, pursued his reforms. He opposed to the “body of the Antichrist,” served in the form of the Host during the communion of the corrupted Church, the eucharist of the Ekklesia, the true Church of the faithful. The commensality of the bread and the wine, () which Janov opposed to the abstract and mechanical ritual of the clerical communion, explained th... (From :

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Chapter 37: The Men of Intelligence and the Pikarti of Bohemia On 12 June 1411, Willem van Hildernissem of the Carmelite order was called before the Inquisitor Henri de Selles, acting on the behalf of the episcopal tribunal of Cambrai. Willem van Hildernissem was accused of playing an important role in a group of Free-Spirit known to Brussels under the name the Men of Intelligence. Formerly a reader of Holy Scriptures at the Carmel of Tirlemont, he found an inspired ally in Gilles of Canter (Gilles the Cantor, Aegidius Cantor), a sexagenarian layman (probably the son of a noble family) who was dead by the time of the trial. Everything seems to indicate that they shared an interest in the theories of Bloemardine, whose memory remained more vivid than any inquisitor dared to imagine. Ironically, Henri de Selles — attached to the Abbey of Groenendael where Ruysbroeck, the enemy of Bloemardine, died in 1381 — barely escaped a premeditated assas... (From :

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Chapter 38: The Victory of the Reformers and the Birth of the Protestant Churches That which is called the Reformation and saw the emergence of schismatic churches around Martin Luther and John Calvin did not add any fundamental novelty to the program of the reformers who, from the Eleventh Century on, fought against the temporal interests of Rome’s clergy. Commonly accepted among historians, the idea of Catholicism’s control over the people of Europe was contradicted from the moment that one distanced oneself from the power of the laws imposed by the princes and the ecclesiastical authority, with its grid of parishes, confessors, priests, inquisitors and preachers who propagated guilt, horror of sexuality, the Satanism of women, the omnipresent image of death and a Hell directly inspired by the services of penal justice. The fear, hatred and scorn of the Constantinian Church never ceased to animate the most diverse classes of society. Indi... (From :

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Chapter 39: The Dissidents from Lutheranism and Calvinism In 1523, Luther published the treatise Jesus-Christ was born Jewish, which accused the papacy of having distanced the Jews from the truth faith. The Church had confined them to usury; it had calumnied them, accused them of “using the blood of Christians to remove their bad ordor,” and “I do not know what [other] nonsense.” “If we would like to help them,” the Reformer wrote, “it is the law of Christian love that we must apply to them, not the law of the Popes.” What became of such beautiful provisions, after the “Constantinian” turn of the religion called reformed, and the appeal to a holy war against the peasants? In 1543, two pamphelts were published back to back by the master of Wittenberg: Against the Jews and their Lies and Shem, Hamephoras. Jean Delumeau judged it useful to yiel... (From :

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Chapter 40: The Alumbrados of Spain Quite discreet until then, the Inquisition was unleashed in Spain in 1492 and took up — under the mantle of threatened faith — a gigantic genocidal operation, principally directed against the Jews, whose systematic despoilation kept the coffers of the State from going bankrupt. The power that bestowed upon the Inquisition insignia of services rendered in the art of balancing the deficits of the kingdom, in which the Jews (in a certain way) financed the conquest of the American markets, brought down upon Spain the functionaries of the religious police, with whom Northern Europe had canceled its contracts and whom the Italy of the Renaissance valued more beyond its borders than within them. Italian Catholicism accommodated itself to pleasures sooner or later seized by redemption, remorse and contrition. Better than the Council of Trente, the hedonism of a country inclined to luxury and the passions... (From :

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Chapter 41: The Spiritual Libertines At the same time that the Spanish Inquisition worried itself with people who, unconcerned with Catholicism, Protestantism, the Church and its reforms, lived in the quest for love and discovered in it the very meaning of their existence, Luther and Calvin attempted to subdue — in the countries slowly conquered by their glacial truths — the natural liberties that authorized among the people the spiritual liberties that were being arrogated by the Reformers. Eloi Pruystinck And The Loyists Thanks to economic development, around 1520 Antwerp saw the new wave of individual initiative push towards the shore the audacities of private enterprise, the reconversion of God into divine capital and, at the same time, a propensity for luxury and the feeling of power that raised the man of business to the dignity of the elect, nay, the Demiurge. At the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, when... (From :

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Chapter 42: The Anabaptists If in the Sixteenth Century no religious movement endured as much combined hostility from the Catholics, the Protestants and the temporal authorities as the Anabaptists did, this was because they added to the religious discourse of egalitarian theocracy the old social dream in which nostalgia for a golden age provided the weapons of hope to the desperate struggle against the exploiters and the destroyers of the natural riches. In the foreboding of the Third Age, the imminence of which fit in with the crisis of the birth of modern capitalism, the proletarian demands of the towns easily mixed with the peasants’ aspirations and the regrets of the old autartic rural commune. The specter of the millennium, which agrarian fundamentalism still gave the inhumanity inherent in the celestial mandate to the antithetical ideologies of Bolshevism and fascism, would engender among the partizans of the old order and the... (From :

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Chapter 43: The Individualist Messiahs: David Joris, Nicolas Frey, Hendrik Niclaes David Joris Among the wandering preachers whom the Reformation and the free interpretation of the sacred texts threw upon Europe’s roads, David Joris distinguished himself more through the singularity of his destiny than through the originality of his thought. Pursued by the hatred of the Catholics, Lutherians, Calvinists, Mennonites and Munsterians, this man — upon whose head there was a price wherever he went — would end his life peacefully in Basle, under the outward appearance of a notable, orthodox adept of Reformed doctrines, honorably known as John of Bruges. Born in Bruges, perhaps in Delft, less probably in Ghent, he was surnamed David due to the role traditionally played by his father, Joris, during the sacred mysteries presented at the Chambre de Rhetorique. After a career as a glass engraver in Delft, he traveled as much... (From :

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Chapter 44: Ironists and Skeptics That the most radical work of the Sixteenth Century (and well beyond), The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, inscribed itself outside of all theological context indicates quite well the disuse of the discourse of God. Religious language, over which the Church and the [various] orthodoxies claimed to exercise control, ceded place to the ideological language in which the changing economy — turning the liberties of yesterday into the constraints of tomorrow — extinguished the blazes that it ceaselessly lit. If it is true that the principle “He who controls meaning controls the world” has been verified, ecclesiastical power, which conceived no other revolt against it than that of those who were outside of meaning — the senseless, the crazy — began (in the Renaissance) to lose the means of persuasion and terror that somehow or other strengthened the correct line of th... (From :

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Chapter 45: Levelers, Diggers and Ranters By decapitating King Charles , the English Revolution removed God from public affairs. Cromwell’s instauration of a new republic, which was profitable for the interests of the small landowners and the bourgeoisie, revived (with the breath of freedom) the fire of working-class insurrection that had not ceased to smolder since the days of John Ball. More than anywhere else, the legends of Robin Hood and the beloved brigand had, in England, illustrated the idea — widely held, all things considered — that robbing the rich so as to soften the misfortunes of the poor restored the natural obligations of solidarity. The development of Protestantism as the ideology of emerging modern capitalism broke the old structure of the religious myth, at the same time that the barriers and walls raised everywhere by feudalism and the predominance of the agrarian economy ceded place to the free circulation o... (From :

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Chapter 46: The Jansenists While Holland and England, both of which acclimated themselves to the formal freedoms of the bourgeois revolution, engendered a multitude of sects whose language — still taking on theological artifices — less and less dissimulated their ideological texture, the Catholic countries, which were prey to the distraction of the Counter-Reformation, once again found in monarchal and pontifical absolutism the guarantee of a Catholicism that was restored to its temporal and spiritual powers. Indulging in the Constantinian parody of the divine right, Louis XIV persisted in dissimulating — under the pomp of a Church in which Bossuet enjoyed Lully — the pusillanimities of a tormented nature, corroded by the sourness of prestige. The sun, with which (in the manner of the mediocre ones) he claimed to crown himself, only dispensed its light upon the courtiers of literature and the arts, apt to dilute thei... (From :

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Chapter 47: Pietists, Visionaries and Quietists The Pietists Born from the preaching of the Lutherian pastor Philippe-Jacob Spener (1635–1705), Pietism proceeded from the tradition of Johannes Denck, for whom faith — or its absence, because only private conviction was important — did not bother with sacraments, priests or pastors, nor even with the allegedly sacred texts. Under German and English Pietism, there also smoldered the thought of Jacob Boehme (1575–1624), the shoemaker from Gorlitz (in Silesia), whose doctrine was part of the Hermetic tradition and the subtle alchemy of individual experience. Without entering into an analysis of a rich and dense conception, it is possible to emphasize the point at which Pietism’s God, dissolved into nature, more perfectly annihilated the idea of God than atheism, which was content to reduce God to a social function presented everywhere in the exercise o... (From :

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Chapter 48: The End of the Divine Right In the profusion of its diverse tendencies, the triumph of Protestantism — in which the economic mechanisms that chaotically governed historical evolution burst the skin of the God that had clothed them in his myth — put an end to the notion of repressive orthodoxy and, consequently, the existence of “heresy.” The sects gave the [Greek] word hairesis the neutral meanings of “choice” and “option.” They entered into the currents of opinions that soon claimed, with Destutt of Tracy and Benjamin Constant, the name “ideologies.” The decapitation of Louis XVI, monarch of divine right, removed from God the ecclesiastical head at which — like a monstrous cephalopod — were articulated the secular arms that were tasked with imposing his writs of mandamus. The jubilation that, around the end of the [Eighteenth] century, brought do... (From :

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Bibliographical References Aegerter, E., Joachim de Flore. L’Evangile eternal, Paris, 1928. Aeneas Silvius, Piccolomini (Pius II), De hortu et historia Bohemorum, in Omnia Opera, Basle, 1551. Aland, Kurt, Bibliographie zur Geschicte des Pietismus, Berlin-New York, 1972. — , Augustin und der Montanismus in Kirchengeschichtliche Entwuerfe, Guetersloh, 1960. Albert le Grand, Determinatio de novo spiritu; in Haupt (see below). Alexandrian, Histoire de la philosophie occulte, Paris, 1983. Alfaric, P., Le probleme de Jesus, Paris, 1965. Allier, R., “Les freres du libre-esprit,” in Religions et Societes, Paris, 1905. Alphandery, P., De... (From :


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