1. Why do you think the German peasant uprisings occupy such a prominent place in the history of apocalyptic movements? What were the special circumstances that led to the conflation of politics and religion? Are there such links among belief, politics, and the world to come today?
2. How would you describe the role of such fringe groups as Levellers, Quakers, and others in the making of an American identity? What characteristics would you recognize in American political institutions and civic life that echo English developments in the seventeenth century?
3. During the confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, he was quoted as having said, "there is no king but king Jesus." What are the apocalyptic elements found in such pronouncements?
c. 1000 Millenarian agitation widespread throughout the West.
1090/1091-1153 Bernard of Clairvaux.
c. 1098-1179 Hildegard of Bingen, mystic and scientist.
1121/1122 Bernard enters Citeaux on his twenty-first birthday.
c. 1135-1202 Joachim of Fiori c. 1171-1221 Dominic of Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.
c. 1182-1226 Francis of Assisi.
1184 Joachim meets with Pope Lucius III and is given permission to write his visions.
1208-1226 Crusade against the Cathars and foundation of the Inquisition in Languedoc.
1210 Francis begins his preaching and meets with Innocent III.
1212-1250 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.
1213 Joachim's views on the Trinity condemned by the Church.
1224 Francis receives the stigmata.
1260s A new wave of millenarian agitation. The flagellant movement begins.
1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.
c. 1285 Moses of Leon writes the Zohar, the greatest Kabbalistic text.
1347-138 0 Catherine of Siena.
1348-135 0 The Black Death leads to another wave of apocalyptic movements and a rebirth of flagellant activities.
1437-1508 Isaac Abravanel, Jewish apocalyptic writer.
1450s Reception of Hermetic lore in Western Europe.
c. 1480-1690s Witch craze in Western Europe.
1483-1546 Martin Luther.
1484 Innocent VIII's Summa desiderantes affectibus.
1486 Publication of the Malleus maleficarum.
c. 1488-1525 Thomas Muntzer, radical Protestant leader.
1491-1556 Ignatius of Loyola.
1509-1564 John Calvin.
1515-1582 Teresa of Avila.
1517 Luther nails his ninety-five theses on the door of a church at Wittenberg.
1520s Anabaptist peasant uprisings in Germany. Great wave of apocalyptic rebellions.
1542-1591 John of the Cross.
1545-1563 Council of Trent.
1634 Trial and execution of Urbain Grandier in Loudon.
1660s Sabbatai Sevi's messianic preaching.
1665 Sabbatai reveals himself as the Messiah.
September 16, 1666 Sabbatai's conversion to Islam.
alchemy: A strange combination of chemical lore, religion, and secret practices, alchemy dated back to Babylonian times. It was preserved and transmitted to the West by the Arabs and became one of the most important esoteric forms of knowledge in early modern Europe.
Anabaptist: A radical early sixteenth-century sect that advocated adult baptism. The great German peasant uprising of 1525 was greatly inspired by Anabaptists' social and religious views.
astronomy: The belief that a connection exists between the stars and other celestial bodies (the macrocosm) and humans (the microcosm). The stars, it was believed, influenced the life of individuals, and certain amulets, stones related to one's astrological sign and other such objects, provided protection against the fatal influence of celestial bodies.
awakening: The first stage of the mystic's way. The first awareness that life is not right and the turning of the mystic to God.
Catharism (also Albigensian heresy): A heresy, widespread in southern France and northern Italy in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. It had Manichaean origins and beliefs in the corruption of the material world.
dark night of the soul: The fourth stage of the mystic's way. After the first vision of the Godhead, the mystic suffers a period of withdrawal and pain. It also marks a period of growing introspection and preparation for the union with God. Dark Night of the Soul is also the title of a great mystical poem by John of the Cross.
emanation: In mysticism, this term refers to the mystic's awareness of the presence of God in His emanations. The Godhead is utterly transcendental and cannot be seen or comprehended. Instead, the mystic perceives the manifestations of God.
flagellant movement: Movement of people who, in the 1260s and mid-1300s (the most significant periods), whipped themselves in penance and as a way of ushering in the millennium.
heresy: Simply, heresy is the holding of beliefs or ideas that contradict the dogma or orthodox belief of one's own religion hermeticism: A doctrine based on a body of works written c. 150-200 a.d. but believed to have been written much earlier by an Egyptian priest, Hermes Trismegistus. This body of work combined magical, astrological, and other mysterious accounts and had great influence on European culture.
illumination: One of the five stages of the mystical way. This third stage signals the mystic's brief awareness of the presence of the Godhead. It is not a total union with God but a taste of what that union may be.
immanence: In mysticism, the mystic finds God within himself or herself. God is within us.
incubus: A male companion, an evil spirit or demon, given to witches for their sexual satisfaction. See familiars.
Kabbalah (also Cabbala): An esoteric form of Jewish mysticism. Although Kabbalah has ancient roots, its most important text, the Zohar, dates from the late thirteenth century.
Manichaeism: An ancient set of beliefs, dating back to Mani or Manes, a third-century a.d. Persian religious leader. These beliefs held that the world was divided between two contending forces: evil, associated with the material world, and goodness, associated with the spirit.
Messianism: Belief in the Messiah and of His coming in a near future.
millenarianism (millennium, apocalyptics): The belief that after long trials and tribulations, a period of 1,000 years of peace (when the devil will be chained in hell) will be enjoyed by all Christians. Many variations on the theme of the millennium existed during the period between the beginnings of the Christian era and 1700.
mysticism: The belief that mystics (those who follow along the mystical path) experience a union or direct awareness of the Godhead.
mystic's way: Mystics argued that the journey to their final union with God followed a path and included five stages: awakening, purgation, illumination, withdrawal or dark night of the soul, and union.
necromancy: Conjuring the spirit of the dead.
purgation: This is the second stage in the mystic's way. It is the process of chastising and cleansing the body to prepare for the union with God.
Sabbat: The nocturnal gathering of witches.
Sabbatianism: The followers of Sabbatai Sevi, a Jewish messianic figure who declared himself the long-awaited Messiah and attracted thousands of followers in the late seventeenth century.
stigmata: The reception of the five wounds of Christ on the Cross; that is, wounds on the two feet, the two hands, and the piercing of the side. Francis of Assisi was reported to be the first Christian to receive the stigmata.
succubus: A female companion, an evil spirit or demon, given by the devil to one of his male followers for sexual pleasure. See familiars.
union or unitive stage: The fifth stage in the mystic's way. It is the final union of the mystic's soul with the Godhead.
Waldensians: A twelfth-century heretical movement that preached absolute poverty. Founded by Peter Waldo (Valdes of Lyons), the Waldensians translated the gospel into the vernacular and became a great threat to the Church.
witch craze: A period in Western European history, running roughly from the late fifteenth century to the late seventeenth century, when most Europeans believed that a vast conspiracy of witches existed whose aim was to overthrow the Christian order. As a consequence, between 80,000 and 100,000 people were executed on charges of witchcraft.
Isaac Abravanel. Descendants of a well-established Sevillian Jewish family, the Abravanels fled to Portugal in 1391, a period of great violence against the Jews. After political difficulties in Portugal in the 1480s, members of the family, including Isaac, fled to Castile in 1483, where Isaac became an important tax farmer. In 1492, in spite of the pleading of the Catholic monarchs, Isaac chose exile. He left Spain that year and became an important messianic figure before he died in 1508.
Bernard of Clairvaux. A member of an aristocratic family in the area of Dijon, Bernard was born in either 1090 or 1091. He joined the newly created Cistercian Order on his twenty-first birthday and became abbot of Clairvaux at the age of twenty-four. He was among the most influential mystics, intellectuals, and religious figures of the twelfth century. He died in 1153.
John Calvin. Born in 1509, Calvin brought the new doctrines of the Reformation to Geneva. This city became the center for a more radical interpretation of Luther's position. Calvin's great work, Christianae Religionis Institutio, was published in 1535. It emphasized predestination. Calvin died in 1564.
Catherine of Siena. A contemporary of Petrarch, Catherine was born in Siena on 25 March 1347, one year before the Black Death. From a fairly prosperous artisan family, she began to have visions at the age of six and took the habit in 1363. Catherine developed a doctrine of holy hatred, that is, the closer a soul is to God the more that soul hates the sins and mistakes it commits against God.
Charles V (Charles I in Spain and V in the Holy Roman Empire). Ruled in Germany between 1519 and 1556. He was opposed by Luther and the Protestant German princes and played a significant role in the religious and political conflicts of the early sixteenth century.
Francis of Assisi. Born around 1182 in Assisi, Italy, Francis was the son of Pietro Bernardone, a well-to-do merchant, and probably of a French mother. His life was that of a typical child and adolescent in a late twelfth-century urban milieu, until he was wounded in the war against Peruggia. After undergoing a conversion, he began his preaching of poverty. He died in 1226, less than two years after receiving the stigmata.
Hildegard of Bingen. One of the most significant female mystics of the twelfth century, Hildegard came from an aristocratic family in the area of Bingen in Germany. A learned woman, she wrote extensively on a variety of topics and was one of the leading physicians of her time. She was born around 1098 and died, after a long and productive life, in 1179.
Joachim of Fiori. Born around 1135, Joachim was abbot of a Cistercian monastery in southern Italy. He had an interview with Pope Lucius III in 1184 and was given permission to go wandering and to explain his prophetic visions and revelations about the Third Age. Two years later, he met the new Pope, Urban III, and in 1190 or 1191, traveled with Richard the Lionhearted who was on his way to the Holy Land. The author of important millenarian treatises, Joachim died in 1202.
John of the Cross. Juan de Yepez y Alvarez was born in 1542 at Fontiveros and orphaned at an early age. He spent his childhood in an orphanage in quite trying circumstances, until his obvious intellectual abilities came to the attention of his superior and he was sent to school. Joining the Carmelite Order at the age of twenty-one, he soon became one of the greatest mystics of the age.
Martin Luther. The great Protestant leader was born in 1483, became a priest in 1507 and a professor at Wittenberg the following year, and broke openly with the Church in 1517. His translation of the Bible into German and his positions on questions of dogma opened a rift in Western European Christianity.
Moses of Leon (Rabbi). According to Gershom Scholem, Moses of Leon, who lived in several towns in northern and central Castile in the late thirteenth century, composed the Zohar, the greatest of all Kabbalistic texts, between 1280 and 1286.
Thomas Muntzer. Born in Stolberg in the Harz Mountain region in 1488 or 1489, Muntzer became a follower of Luther until breaking ranks with him and preaching a radical form of Protestantism and social doctrine. His millenarian preaching played an important role in the Great Peasant Rebellion of 1525.
Richard of St. Victor. Born around 1123, Richard died on 10 March 1173. He came from Scotland to the monastery of Saint Victor in France, where he studied under Hugh of Saint Victor. His two main works were On the
Preparation of the Soul to Contemplation (Benjamin Minor) and On the Grace of Contemplation (Benjamin Major).
Sabbatai Sevi. Born in 1625 in Smyrna and part of the great Sephardic migration to the eastern Mediterranean, Sabbatai became the focus of great messianic agitation among Sephardic communities in 1665, until his imprisonment and conversion to Islam in 1666.
Teresa of Avila. The granddaughter of a relapsed converso, Teresa, born in 1515, was related through her mother to one of Avila's most aristocratic families. She entered the Carmelite Order when she was about twenty-one and became a reformer, writer, and mystic. Her works are among the most cherished in Spanish literature. They were written in a simple yet effective style.
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