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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Lena  Wahlgren-Smith, speaking of men and women lying together at night as
a test of ascetism, is alluding to something that does pop up in
inquisitorial processes touching the southern French beguins and the
Italian fraticelli as well as others.  The problem is that there seem to be
two different ideas floating around in these processes.  One is that a
person cannot be considered pure unless he/she can lie naked with one of
the opposite sex without being aroused (or at least without following
through on arousal).  This can be documented.  One beguin says he did it
simply because another beguin told him it was a good way to seduce  women.
(I presume he said this because he guessed that acknowledging hypocrisy
would mean less trouble for him than acknowledging heresy.)  On the other
hand, there was the idea that one fully in sync with God could, in effect,
transcend normal ethical requirements.  This too can be documented.  It
seems to have been an occasional part of the heresy called the spiritus
libertatis.  In this latter case, the togetherness becomes an occasion, not
for ascetic heroism, but for sex.

David Burr

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