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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  September 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION September 2000

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Subject:

Re: Heresy

From:

Richard Landes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 17 Sep 2000 17:42:03 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (54 lines)

At 01:11 PM 9/12/00 +0100, you wrote:
>>Can it can be shown that medieval heresy or divergent thought was >always 
>>or necessarily precipitated by poverty or by a deteriorating >economic or 
>>social position?
>
>Certainly this is what Norman Cohn seemed to be arguing in _The Pursuit of 
>the Milennium_, although his theories have been largely (and maybe 
>unjustifiably) discredited.

discredited only in that they are (perhaps a fault traceable back to Cohn) 
taken as the basic nature of millennialism (violent, often paranoid, 
anti-authoritarianism).  this is the dimension of millennialism that tends 
towards totalitarianism (one of the major conceptual thrusts of Cohn's 
book, and still something underappreciated in general historical circles, 
whether of those working on nazism or on communism).

the study of millennialism suggests that positive conditions can trigger 
mnl enthusiasm of a less violent type (eg the great allelulia of 1233, or 
the seventeenth cn ideas of the heavenly city).

>>As in the case of the theory of modern revolutions,
>>could it not have been the opposite, namely an expression of >hostility
>>to the burdensome economic regulation of the "orthodox" church on 
>>the >part of a growing economic group or community?
>
>Isn't this precisely the point? Branding something as 'heterodox' is 
>contingent upon a common understanding, and later enforcement of the 
>orthodox. The Waldensians, for example, began as licensed preachers

no, that's precisely what they failed to get, a license.

>and were only accused of heresy when investigations into their teachings 
>were discovered to trangress the current orthodox position.

not the version i've learned.  the waldensians were really heretics because 
of insubordination rather than theology.  they refused to cease preaching 
when they were forbidden to by their bishops.  they develop in the typical 
donatist direction of seeing the church, from constantine on, as the whore 
of babylon.

a good discussion of this that i know is in Asad, "Medieval Heresy: An 
Anthropological View", Social History 11 (1986).

r
Richard Landes
Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University	Department of History
704 Commonwealth Ave. Suite 205			226 Bay State Road
Boston MA 02215					Boston MA 02215
617-358-0226 of   	358-0225 fax			617-353-2558 of	    353-2556 fax
http://www.mille.org					[log in to unmask]



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