Sunday, July 13, 2014


This book is dedicated to 
freedom and human dignity. 


Preface i 
Introduction 1 
ONE Seeds of Tyranny 4 
TWO Political Maneuvering: 14 

Making Christianity Palatable 
to the Romans 

Deciding Upon Doctrine: 30 
Sex, Free Will, Reincarnation 
and the Use of Force 

The Church Takes Over: 41 
The Dark Ages 

The Church Fights Change: 54 
The Middle Ages 

Controlling the Human Spirit: 76 
The Inquisition and Slavery 

SEVEN The Reformation: 93 
Converting the Populace 


EIGHT The Witch Hunts: 

The End of Magic and Miracles 

NINE Alienation From Nature 

TEN A World Without God 

ELEVEN Conclusion 

Illustration Credits 






In June of 1995 the Chicago Tribune reported that Pope John 
Paul II had urged the Roman Catholic Church to seize the 
"particularly propitious" occasion of the new millennium to 
recognize "the dark side of its history."1 In a 1994 confidential 
letter to cardinals which was later leaked to the Italian press, he 
How can one remain silent about the many forms 

of violence perpetrated in the name of the 
faithÑwars of religion, tribunals of the 
and other forms 
of violations of the 

Unfortunately, too many have remained silent. Several years 
ago I listened in amazement as an acquaintance spoke of how the 
Christian Church had embodied the best of Western civilization 
and how it had brought peace and understanding to the people it 
touched. He seemed entirely unaware of the Church's dark past. 
I decided to prepare a short presentation chronicling the dark 
side of Christian historyÑa presentation to help balance the 
perception that organized Christianity has historically lived up to 
its professed principles and ideals. 

I assumed that I would easily find all the information 
necessary for this presentation at the bookstore, but was soon 
shocked to find so little available on the subject. While historians 
have certainly written about the dark side of Christian history, 
their words have largely stayed within the confines of academe. 
And few have written of Christianity's role in creating a world 
in which people feel alienated from the sacred. Why, at a time 
when so many are searching for deeper spiritual meaning, isn't 


there more accessible information about the history of the 
institutions which are purported to convey such spiritual truth? 
Without understanding the dark side of religious history, one 
might think that religion and spirituality are one and the same. 
Yet, organized religion has a very long history of curtailing and 
containing spirituality, one's personal and private relationship 
with God, the sacred, or the divine. 

This book is what became of that short presentation. My 
intention is to offer, not a complete picture of Christian history, 
but only the side which hurt so many and did such damage to 
spirituality. It is in no way intended to diminish the beautiful 
work that countless Christian men and women have done to truly 
help others. And it is certainly not intended as a defense of or 
tribute to any other religion. 

Helen Ellerbe 
February 1996 


The Christian church has left a legacy, a world view, that 
permeates every aspect of Western society, both secular and 
religious. It is a legacy that fosters sexism, racism, the intolerance 
of difference, and the desecration of the natural environment. 
The Church, throughout much of its history, has demonstrated 
a disregard for human freedom, dignity, and self-
determination. It has attempted to control, contain and confine 
spirituality, the relationship between an individual and God. As 
a result, Christianity has helped to create a society in which 
people are alienated not only from each other but also from the 

This ChristianityÑcalled "orthodox Christianity" hereÑis 
embedded in the belief in a singular, solely masculine, authoritarian 
God who demands unquestioning obedience and who 
mercilessly punishes dissent. Orthodox Christians believe that 
fear is essential to sustain what they perceive to be a divinely 
ordained hierarchical order in which a celestial God reigns 
singularly at a pinnacle, far removed from the earth and all 

While orthodox Christianity originally represented but one of 
many sets of early Christian beliefs, it was these Christians who 
came to wield political power. By adapting their Christianity to 
appeal to the Roman government, they won unprecedented 
authority and privilege. Their church became known as the 
Church. This newly acquired power enabled them to enforce 
conformity to their practices. Persecuting those who did not 
conform, however, required the Church to clarify its own 


doctrine and ideology, to define exactly what was and was not 
heresy. In doing so, the Church consistently chose tenets and 
ideologies that best supported its control over the individual and 

As it took over leadership in Europe and the Roman Empire 
collapsed, the Church all but wiped out education, technology, 
science, medicine, history, art and commerce. The Church 
amassed enormous wealth as the rest of society languished in the 
dark ages. When dramatic social changes after the turn of the 
millennium brought an end to the isolation of the era, the Church 
fought to maintain its supremacy and control. It rallied an 
increasingly dissident society against perceived enemies, 
instigating attacks upon Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians, 
and Jews. When these crusades failed to subdue dissent, the 
Church turned its force against European society itself, launching 
a brutal assault upon southern France and instituting the Inquisition. 

The crusades and even the early centuries of the Inquisition 
did little to teach people a true understanding of orthodox 
Christianity. It was the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic 
Counter Reformation that accomplished this. Only during the 
Reformation did the populace of Europe adopt more than a 
veneer of Christianity. The Reformation terrified people with 
threats of the devil and witchcraft. The common perception that 
the physical world was imbued with God's presence and with 
magic was replaced during the Reformation with a new belief 
that divine assistance was no longer possible and that the 
physical world belonged only to the devil. It was a three hundred 
year holocaust against all who dared believe in divine assistance 
and magic that finally secured the conversion of Europe to 
orthodox Christianity. 

By convincing people that God was separate from the physical 
world, orthodox ChristianityÑperhaps unwittinglyÑlaid the 
foundation for the modern world, a world believed to be 


mechanical and determined, a world in which God is at most a 
remote and impersonal creator. People came to attribute their 
sense of powerlessness, not so much to their sinful human nature 
as to their insignificance in such a world. The theories of 
scientists and philosophers such as Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes 
and Charles Darwin reinforced orthodox Christian beliefs such 
as the inevitability of struggle and the necessity for domination. 
Such beliefs, however, are now proving not only to have serious 
drawbacks, but also to be scientifically limited. 

Orthodox Christianity has also had devastating impact upon 
humanity's relationship with nature. As people began to believe 
that God was removed from and disdainful of the physical world, 
they lost their reverence for nature. Holidays, which had helped 
people integrate the seasons with their lives, were changed into 
solemn commemorations of biblical events bearing no connection 
to the earth's cycles. The perception of time changed so that it 
no longer seemed related to seasonal cycles. Newtonian science 
seemed to confirm that the earth was no more than the inevitable 
result of the mechanistic operation of inanimate components; it 
confirmed that the earth lacked sanctity. 

The dark side of Christian history can help us understand the 
severing of our connection with the sacred. It can teach us of the 
most insidious and damaging slavery of all: the control of people 
through dictating and containing their spirituality. This ignored 
side of history can illuminate the ideas and beliefs which foster 
the denigration of human rights, the intolerance of difference, 
and the desecration of the natural environment. Once recognized, 
we can prevent such beliefs from ever wreaking such destruction 
again. When we understand how we have come to be separated 
from the divine, we can begin to heal not only the scars, but the 
very alienation itself. 

Chapter One 

Seeds of Tyranny 

100 -400 C.E. 

Those who sought to control spirituality, to restrict personal 
relationships with God, gained prominence within the first 
centuries of the Christian era. Their beliefs formed the ideological 
foundation for much of the dark side of the Christian 
church's history. Committed to the belief in singular supremacy, 
these orthodox Christians thought that fear and submission to 
hierarchical authority were imperative. Not all Christians agreed. 
In fact, contrary to the conventional depiction of the first 
centuries of Christianity as a time of harmony and unity, early 
Christians disagreed about everything from the nature of God 
and the roles of men and women to the way one finds enlightenment. 

Perhaps most pivotal to the group of Christians who would 
triumphÑcalled "orthodox Christians" here*Ñwas the belief in 
a singular supremacy, the belief that divinity is manifest in only 
one image. The belief in a singular God differed radically from 
the widespread belief that divinity could be manifest in a 
multiplicity of forms and images. As people believe that God can 

* The use of the term "orthodox" in this book refers to the traditional ideology 
within most denominations of Christianity, not to any specific church or 

have but one face, so they tend to believe that worth or godliness 
among humans can also have but one face. Different genders, 
races, classes, or beliefs are all ordered as better-than or less-
than one another. Even the notion of two differing opinions 
existing harmoniously becomes foreign; one must prevail and be 
superior to the other. 

Within such a belief structure, God is understood to reign 
singularly from the pinnacle of a hierarchy based not upon love 
and support, but upon fear. The Bible repeatedly exhorts people 
to fear God: "Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this 
is the whole duty of man."1 "Blessed is everyone that feareth 
the Lord."2 "Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power 
to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him."3 The third 
century Church Father, Tertullian, could not imagine how God 
could not demand fear: 
But how are you going to love, without some 
fear that you do not love? Surely [such a God] 
is neither your Father, towards whom your love 
for duty's sake should be consistent with fear 
because of His power; nor your proper Lord, 
whom you should love for His humanity and fear 
as your teacher.4 
One's beliefs about God have impact upon one's beliefs about 
society. As the Lord's Prayer states, God's will should "be done 
on earth as it is in heaven." Orthodox Christians believed that 
people should fear their earthly ruler as they fear God. The 
fourth century St. John Chrysostom describes the absolute 
necessity for fear: 

...if you were to deprive the world of magistrates 
and the fear that comes from them, houses, cities 
and nations would fall upon one another in 
unrestrained confusion, there being no one to 
repress, or repel, or persuade them to be peaceful 
through the fear of punishment.5 


To the orthodox, fear was essential to maintaining order. 

Christians, such as the second century Marcion, who stressed 
the merciful, forgiving and loving nature of God, found themselves 
at odds with the orthodox. In orthodox Christian eyes, 
God must be prone to anger and demand discipline and punishment. 
Tertullian wrote: 
Now, if [Marcion's God] is susceptible of no 
feeling of rivalry, or anger, or damage, or 
injury, as one who refrains from exercising 
judicial power, I cannot tell how any system of 
disciplineÑand that, too, a plenary oneÑcan be 
consistent in him.6 

Scholars have suggested that the first line of the Christian creed, 
"I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and 
earth," was originally written to exclude Marcion's followers by 
emphasizing the monotheistic and judgmental nature of God.7 

Orthodox Christians placed great importance upon the 
singular authority of the bishop, upon rankings within the clergy, 
and upon distinction between the clergy and the laity. As there 
is only one God in heaven, declared the first century bishop, 
Ignatius of Antioch, so there can be only one bishop in the 
Church.8 "Your bishop presides in the place of God, and your 
[priests] in the place... of the apostles," he wrote. "Apart from 
these, there is no church."9 Such beliefs and attitudes, however, 
were certainly not shared by all Christians. The orthodox 
emphasized rank to such an extent that one Gnostic Christian 
wrote of them: "They wanted to command one another, outrivalling 
one another in their vain ambition," lusting "for power 
over one another," "each one imagining that he is superior to the 

Not all Christians accepted the belief in singular supremacy. 
Some Gnostic Christians understood God to be multi-faceted, 
having both masculine and feminine aspects. Some thought of the 
divine as a dyad; one side being "the Ineffable, the Depth, the 


Primal Father" while the other side was "Grace, Silence, the 
Womb and Mother of the All."11 In the Gnostic Apocryphon of 
John, a vision of God appears saying, "I am the Father, I am the 
Mother, I am the Child."12 Theodotus, a Gnostic teacher, said, 
"each one knows the Lord after his own fashion, and not all in 
the same way."13 To root out Gnostic Christians from the 
orthodox, the second century orthodox Bishop Irenaeus encouraged 
Christians to "confess with the tongue one God the 

Without the belief in singular supremacy, it followed that 
Gnostic Christians would also reject hierarchical order and strict 
rankings within their church. In contrast to the orthodox Ignatius 
of Antioch who believed that the rankings of bishop, priest and 
deacon mirrored the heavenly hierarchy,15 some Gnostic Christians 
did not even differentiate between clergy and laity, much 
less between stations of the clergy. Tertullian described the 

So today one man is bishop and tomorrow 
another; the person who is a deacon today, 
tomorrow is a reader; the one who is a priest 

today is a layman tomorrow; for even on the 
laity they impose the functions of priesthood!16 


...they all have access equally, they listen 
equally, they pray equallyÑeven pagans, if any 
happen to come... They also share the kiss of 
peace with all who come...17 

Within an orthodox belief structure, there is no understanding 
of shared authority and supremacy between genders; one must be 
superior to the other. Perceiving the singular face of God to be 
male, orthodox Christians considered male supremacy an 
extension of heavenly order. St. Augustine wrote in the early 
fifth century, "we must conclude, that a husband is meant to rule 
over his wife as the spirit rules over the flesh."18 In his first 


letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tried to explain the reason for 
male supremacy: 

For a man did not originally spring from 
woman, but woman was made out of man; and 
was not created for woman's sake, but woman 
for the sake of man.19 

As late as 1977, Pope Paul VI still explained that women were 
barred from the priesthood "because our Lord was a man."20 
Among the orthodox, women were to take submissive roles. 
In the first letter to Timothy, St. Paul says: 

Let a woman learn in silence with all 
submissiveness, I permit no woman to teach or 
to have authority over men; she is to keep 

When Christian monks in the fourth century hacked the great 
scholar Hypatia to death with oyster shells, St. Cyril explained 
that it was because she was an iniquitous female who had 
presumed, against God's commandments, to teach men.22 

There were early Christians, however, who embraced neither 
the idea that God is exclusively male, nor the concept of male 
supremacy. An early group known as the Essenes, many of 
whose writings have been discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 
thought of divinity as having a feminine aspect. In the Essene 
Gospel of Peace, Jesus says, "I will lead you into the kingdom 
of our Mother's angels..."23 A Gnostic text tells how Eve, the 
daughter of Sophia who had wished the first heavenly light into 
the world, gives life to Adam: 

...[Eve] said, 'Adam, live! Rise up on the 
earth!' Immediately her word became a deed. 
For when Adam rose up, immediately he opened 
his eyes. When he saw her, he said, 'You will be 
called "the mother of the living" because you 
are the one who gave me life.'24 

Not all early Christian women accepted subservient roles. 


While Gnostics held a wide range of views, several of their 
writings refer to Mary Magdalene as one of the most important 
leaders of the early Christian movement. Some believed that she 
was the first to see Jesus Christ resurrected and that she 
challenged Peter's authority as part of the emerging Church 
hierarchy. Tertullian was appalled at the role of women among 

The... women of the heretics, how wanton they 
are! For they are bold enough to teach, to 
dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures 
Ñit may be even to baptize!25 

Another point of contention among Christians dealt with the 
nature of truth and how an individual might become enlightened. 
Much of this argument centered around the resurrection of 
Christ, around whether it was Christ's physical body or his spirit 
that had been resurrected. Orthodox Christians insisted that it 
had been Christ's physical body, to use Tertullian's words, his 
"flesh suffused with blood, built up with bones, interwoven with 
nerves, entwined with veins... "26 They believed that since it was 
Christ's physical body, the resurrection was a one-time 
occurrence, never to be experienced again. 

The orthodox insisted that one could learn of Christ only 
through those who had experienced this resurrection, the 
Apostles, or those men appointed as their successors. This 
confined power and authority to a small few and established a 
specific chain of command.27 It restricted the avenues through 
which one could discover God. Orthodox, catholic ("universal") 
Christians claimed to be those appointed successors of the 
Apostles and thus the only ones who could enlighten others. 
Bishop Irenaeus declared: 

It is incumbent to obey the priests who are in the 
Church... those who possess the succession from 
the apostles; those who, together with the 


succession of the episcopate, have received the 
certain gift of truth.28 

To this day the Pope traces his authority and primacy to Peter 
himself, "first of the apostles," since he was "first witness of the 

Some Gnostics, however, called the belief in the resurrection 
of Christ's literal, physical body rather than his spirit the "faith 
of fools."30 They took issue both with the idea that anyone had 
seen Christ in physical body after the resurrection as well as with 
the assertion that Peter had been the first to experience the 
resurrected Christ. Even the canonized gospels of Mark and John 
relate how Jesus first appeared, not to Peter or to the Apostles, 
but to Mary Magdalene.31 By Jesus's saying to Mary "Touch me 
not,"32 some think that Jesus implied he was in spirit form rather 
than in physical body. Believing Christ's spirit to have been 
resurrected suggests that anyone, regardless of his or her rank, 
could experience or "see the Lord" in dreams or visions. 
Anyone could become empowered with the same authority as the 
Apostles.33 Anyone could have access to and develop his or her 
own relationship with God. 

Christians disagreed about the very nature of truth. To the 
orthodox, who believed that truth could come only through the 
successors of the Apostles, truth was static and never-changing. 
It had been revealed only once at the resurrection. Consequently, 
they thought that one should learn of God only through the 
Church, not from personal inquiry and not from one's own 
experience. Blind faith was considered more important than 
personal understanding. Bishop Irenaeus cautioned not to seek 
answers "such as every one discovers for himself," but rather to 
accept in faith that which the Church teaches and which "can be 
clearly, unambiguously and harmoniously understood by all."34 
He wrote, "If... we cannot discover explanations of all those 
things in Scripture... we should leave things of that nature to 
God who created us, being most properly assured that the 


Scriptures are indeed perfect."35 Tertullian declared: 

We want no curious disputation after possessing 
Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the 
gospel! With our faith, we desire no further 

One should unquestioningly accept and submit to whatever the 
Church teaches. 

Indeed, orthodox Christians deemed rigorous personal pursuit 
of truth and understanding an indication of heresy. As Tertullian 

This rule... was taught by Christ, and raises 
amongst ourselves no other questions than those 
which heresies introduce, and which make men 
But on what ground are heretics strangers and 
enemies to the apostles, if it be not from the 
difference of their teaching, which each 
individual of his own mere will has either 
advanced or received?38 

Since the orthodox believed truth to be known only to the 
successors of the Apostles, one could learn of it only by 
accepting the Church's teachings in blind faith. 

Others, however, believing that Christ's spirit and presence 
could be experienced by anyone at any time, considered truth to 
be dynamic and ever-increasing. Some Gnostics believed that 
truth and Gnosis or "knowledge" was found, not by looking to 
the Church, but by looking within oneself. Self-knowledge would 
lead to knowing God. A Gnostic teacher named Monoimus 

Look for (God) by taking yourself as the starting 
point... Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, 
hate... If you carefully investigate these matters 
you will find him in yourself.39 


The first century Simon Magus taught that within each human 
being dwells "the Boundless power, which... is the root of the 
universe."40 The path to enlightenment involved not simply 
accepting the words of the Church on faith, but an active 
personal search for understanding. A Gnostic text reads "...the 
rational soul who wearied herself in seekingÑshe learned about 

These Christians believed self-exploration to be imperative to 
one's spiritual path. In the Gnostic Gospel According to Thomas, 
Jesus says: 

If you bring forth what is within you, what you 

bring forth will save you. If you do not bring 

forth what is within you, what you do not bring 

forth will destroy you.42 
They believed that searching could dispel the ignorance that 
produced a nightmarish existence in which one is caught in 
"many illusions" and experiences "terror and confusion and 
instability and doubt and division. "43 The Gospel of Truth reads: 

ignorance... brought about anguish and terror. 
And the anguish grew solid like a fog, so that no 
one was able to see.44 

Searching within oneself could bring the knowledge and 
enlightenment to dispel such ignorance. They believed that Jesus 
had encouraged self-exploration. Jesus said, "Seek, and ye shall 
find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" and "the Kingdom 
of God is within you."45 

Just as the orthodox wanted to control truth, so they wanted 
strict control over who could dispense that truth. Early 
Christians differed sharply about the role of the Church. Gnostic 
Christians who valued personal exploration believed that the 
structure of the Church should remain flexible, while orthodox 
Christians insisted upon strict adherence to a singular Church.46 
Bishop Irenaeus insisted there could be only one church, and 
outside that church "there is no salvation."47 He said of the 


Church, "she is the entrance to life, all others are thieves and 
robbers."48 Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, wrote, "Let no man 
deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived 
of the bread of God. "49 And Clement, the Bishop of Rome from 
90-100 C.E., argued that God alone rules all things, that He lays 
down the law, punishing rebels and rewarding the obedient, and 
that His authority is delegated to Church leaders. Clement went 
as far as to say that whoever disobeys these divinely ordained 
authorities has disobeyed God Himself and should receive the 
death penalty.50 

Long before the Church's attempt to control spirituality would 
take its devastating toll, the seeds of its tyranny were evident in 
the ideology of early orthodox Christians. Their belief in 
singular supremacy limited the way one could understand God 
and it eliminated any representation of shared supremacy. It 
encouraged a fear-based authoritarian structure that segregates 
people into positions of superiority or inferiority, restricts 
personal empowerment, and demands unquestioning obedience. 
Although orthodox Christians represented only one of many 
early branches, within a few centuries they had effectively 
suppressed the diversity of early beliefs and ideas. Orthodox 
Christian beliefs became synonymous with Christianity itself. 

Chapter TWO 

Political Maneuvering: 
Making Christianity 
Palatable to the Romans 

200 -500 C.E. 

Christianity owes its large membership to the political 
maneuvering of orthodox Christians. They succeeded in turning 
Christianity from an abhorred minor cult into the official religion 
of the Roman Empire. Their goal was to create what Bishop 
Irenaeus called "the catholic church dispersed throughout the 
whole world, even to the ends of the earth."1 To that end, they 
used nearly any means. They revised Christian writings and 
adapted their principles to make Christianity more acceptable. 
They pandered to Roman authorities. They incorporated elements 
of paganism. Orthodox Christianity appealed to the government, 
not as a religion that would encourage enlightenment or spirituality, 
but rather as one that would bring order and conformity to 
the faltering empire. The Roman government in turn granted 
orthodox Christians unprecedented privilege, enabling the 
Christian church to become the very sort of authoritarian power 
that Jesus had resisted. 

Winning acceptance for Christianity was no small feat; 
Christians were not well-liked within the Roman Empire. 


Romans had easily incorporated new gods and goddesses into 
their pantheon with the hope of adding to their own protection 
and security. The 313 C.E. Edict of Milan, for example, granted 
everyone religious freedom so "whatever divinity (is) enthroned 
in heaven may be well-disposed and propitious towards us and 
all those under our authority."2 Christians, however, believing 
theirs to be the one and only God, refused to allow Him to be 
worshipped alongside others. When they refused to profess 
loyalty to the Roman pantheon of gods, Christians were seen as 
likely traitors to the Roman state. For once Roman emperors 
began to represent themselves as divine, loyalty to the Roman 
gods also symbolized loyalty to the Roman state. 

Christians held attitudes that did little to endear them to 
Romans. Bishop Irenaeus, for example, declared, "We have no 
need of the law for we are already far above it in our godly 
behavior."3 Accounts from around the year 200 reflect the 
dislike Romans had for Christians: 

...they were 'the ultimate filth', a gang 'of 
ignorant men and credulous women', who 'with 
meetings at night, solemn fasts and inhuman 
food' made up 'a hole-in-the-corner, shadow-
loving crew', 'silent in public but clacking away 
in corners', 'spitting on the gods and laughing 
at holy things...'4 

Yet, despite such an environment, Christians won not only 
acceptance but political prominence as the official religion of the 
Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. 
The orthodox used politically expedient means to accomplish 
such ends. They designed an organization not to encourage 
spirituality, but to manage large numbers of people. They 
simplified the criteria for membership. The Catholic Church 
decided that anyone who confessed the Creed, accepted baptism, 
participated in worship, obeyed the Church hierarchy and 
believed "the one and only truth from the apostles, which is 


handed down by the Church"5 was a Christian. As one historian 
writes, such criteria suggest that "to achieve salvation, an 
ignoramus need only believe without understanding and obey the 
authorities..."6 The orthodox ignored the argument that a true 
Christian could only be identified by his or her behavior and 
maturity, not by simply going through the motions of ritual. 
Some Gnostic Christians, for example, insisted that Jesus had 
said, "By their fruits ye shall know them..."7 Baptism did not 
necessarily make one a Christian, they said, since many people 
"go down into the water and come up without having received 
anything."8 The simple standards of the orthodox, however, 
made it much easier to garner a large following. 

Orthodox Christians assembled the Bible not to bring all the 
gospels together, but rather to encourage uniformity. From the 
plethora of Christian gospels, Bishop Irenaeus compiled the first 
list of biblical writings that resemble today's New Testament 
around 180 C.E. By 393 and 397, Bishop Athanasius had a 
similar list ratified by the Church councils of Hippo and 
Carthage.9 By prohibiting and burning any other writings, the 
Catholic Church eventually gave the impression that this Bible 
and its four canonized Gospels represented the only original 
Christian view. And yet, as late as 450, Theodore of Cyrrhus 
said that there were at least 200 different gospels circulating in 
his own diocese.10 Even the Catholic Encyclopedia now admits 
that the "idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New 
Testament existing from the beginning... has no foundation in 

Beyond choosing from the many gospels and writings to 
construct the Bible, the Church edited its message with each 
translation. The Roman philosopher Celsus, witness to the 
falsification of Christian writings already in the second century, 
said of the revisionists, 

Some of them, as it were in a drunken state 
producing self-induced visions, remodel their 


Gospel from its first written form, and reform it 
so that they may be able to refute the objections 
brought against it.12 
The Catholic Encyclopedia concedes that "In all the departments 
forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance had wrought 
mischief on a grand scale."13 Despite Church prohibitions 
against any further research into the origins of the Gospels, 
scholars have shown that all four canonized Gospels have been 
doctored and revised.14 While the Church claimed that truth was 
static in nature and had been revealed only once, it continually 
found cause for changing that truth. 

Attempts at uniformity did not entirely succeed. Even the four 
canonized Gospels contradict one another. The Gospel of 
Matthew tells us that Jesus was an aristocrat descended from 
David via Solomon, whereas the Gospel of Luke tells us that 
Jesus was from much more humble stock, and the Gospel of 
Mark says that Jesus was born to a poor carpenter. At his birth, 
Jesus was visited by kings according to Matthew, but according 
to Luke, he was visited by shepherds. And at Jesus's death, the 
Gospels of Mark and Matthew tell us that Jesus's last words 
were "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But 
according to Luke, he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend 
my spirit," and in John he says simply, "it is finished."15 As the 
authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail ask, "How can (the Gospels) 
be unimpugnable when they impugn each other?"16 

Yet, it was the Church's insistence upon uniformity that 
appealed to the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine, a man 
who had his own son executed and his wife boiled alive,17 saw 
in Christianity a pragmatic means of bolstering his own military 
power and uniting the vast and troubled Roman Empire. The 
story is told of Constantine's dream which led to his acceptance 
of Christianity in which he saw a cross in the sky inscribed with 
the words, "In this sign thou shalt conquer." While he personally 
converted to Christianity only on his deathbed, Constantine 


recognized Christianity as a means of conquering dissention 
within the Roman Empire and instated it as the Empire's official 

Orthodox Christians dissociated Christianity from political 
insurgence. In all likelihood, they compromised the truth of 
Jesus's political involvement, holding Jews rather than Romans 
accountable for his death. The canonized Gospels conspicuously 
ignore the tension of increasing Jewish resistance to the Roman 
occupation of Judea during Jesus's lifetime. One exception is in 
the Gospel of Luke when it recounts how authorities "found this 
man [Jesus] perverting our nation, and forbidding [Jews] to give 
tribute to Caesar."18 Less than 40 years after Jesus's death, that 
tension erupted into a violent war between the Roman army and 

Jesus was probably engaged in the concerns of his time as 
both a political and spiritual leader. The term Christ, both in 
Hebrew and in Greek, was a functional title for a king or a 
leader.19 Given the political environment, it is far more likely 
that the RomansÑnot the JewsÑkilled him for his political 
activity. Crucifixion had been the standard Roman punishment 
for sedition and the cross a symbol of Jewish resistance to 
Roman occupation.20 Blaming Jews for Jesus's death was most 
likely a convenient means of obscuring Jesus's political involvement 
and dissociating Christianity from political rebellion.21 

Once Christianity gained prominence, the orthodox allowed 
the Roman emperor to directly influence Christian doctrine. To 
settle ideological disputes in the Church, Constantine introduced 
and presided over the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325. 
In his book The Heretics, Walter Nigg describes the means of 

2.1 The Roman Emperor Constantine believed Christianity would provide 
a means to greater political and military power. This illustration depicts him 
on the eve of an important battle when he is said to have seen a cross in 
the sky with the words, "In this sign thou shalt conquer." 


reaching a consensus: 
Constantine, who treated religious questions 
solely from a political point of view, assured 
unanimity by banishing all the bishops who 
would not sign the new profession of faith. In 
this way unity was achieved. 'It was altogether 
unheard-of that a universal creed should be 
instituted solely on the authority of the emperor, 
who as a catechumen was not even admitted to 
the mystery of the Eucharist and was totally 
unempowered to rule on the highest mysteries of 
the faith. Not a single bishop said a single word 
against this monstrous thing.'22 
One of the political decisions reached at the Council of Nicea 
established the Nicene creed, a means of keeping the belief in 
singular supremacy intact while simultaneously incorporating 
Jesus into the image of God. Jesus was not to be considered 
mortal; he was an aspect of God which could be understood as 
the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This new Holy Trinity mimicked 
a much older portrait of divinity that embodied the value 
of difference. For instance, the vision of God in the Gnostic 
Secret Book of John, "I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am 
the Child,"23 illustrates the concept of synergy where the whole 
created is greater than the sum of the parts. Another text called 
The Sophia of Jesus Christ tells how masculine and feminine 
energies together created a 

...first-begotten, androgynous son. His male 
name is called 'First-Begettress Sophia, Mother 

2.2 A depiction of the Christian Trinity, a concept that allowed Jesus to be 
considered part of God while still maintaining the belief in a singular 
supremacy. It took the older concept of trinity illustrating the value of 
difference, in which a man and a woman together create a synergy, 
something that is greater than them both, and replaced it with a trinity that 
exalted sameness. 


of the Universe.' Some call her 'Love.' Now 
the first-begotten is called 'Christ. '24 

Even the later Islamic Koran mistook the Christian Trinity for 
this archetypal one, referring to it as the trinity of God, Mary 
and Jesus.25 

The Nicene Creed, however, established a trinity that extolled 
sameness and singularity. All reference to a synergy, an energy, 
a magic, that could result from two different people coming 
together was lost. The council eliminated the image of father, 
mother and child, replacing the Hebrew feminine term for spirit, 
ruah, with the Greek neuter term, pneuma.26 The trinity was 
now comprised of the father, the son, and a neuter, sexless 
spirit. Christians depicted it as three young men of identical 
shape and appearance.27 Later medieval sermons would compare 
the trinity "to identical reflections in the several fragments of a 
broken mirror or to the identical composition of water, snow and 
ice."28 Two popes would ban the seventeenth century Spanish 
nun Maria d'Agreda's book, The Mystical City of God, for 
implying a trinity between God, Mary and Jesus.29 All allusions 
to the value of difference were lost; divinity was to be perceived 
as a singular image, either male or neuter but never female. 

Yet, it was their belief in the many faces of God that helped 
Romans accommodate Christianity, not the uniqueness of 
Christian theology. Christianity resembled certain elements of 
Roman belief, particularly the worship of Mithra, or Mithraism. 
As "Protector of the Empire,"30 Mithra was closely tied to the 
sun gods, Helios and Apollo. Mithra's birthday on December 25, 
close to the winter solstice, became Jesus's birthday. Shepherds 
were to have witnessed Mithra's birth and were to have partaken 
in a last supper with Mithra before he returned to heaven.31 
Mithra's ascension, correlating to the sun's return to prominence 

2.3 Holding Jews rather than Romans accountable for Jesus's crucifixion 
was most likely a means of making Christianity more acceptable to the 
Roman government by ignoring Jesus's probable role as a political rebel. 


around the spring equinox, became the Christian holiday of 
Easter. Christians took over a cave-temple dedicated to Mithra 
in Rome on the Vatican Hill, making it the seat of the Catholic 
Church. The Mithraic high priest's title, Pater Patrum, soon 
became the title for the bishop of Rome, Papa or Pope.32 The 
fathers of Christianity explained the remarkable similarities of 
Mithraism as the work of the devil, declaring the much older 
legends of Mithraism to be an insidious imitation of the one true 

With no initial support from the Church, the figure of Mary 
became revered as an image for the feminine aspect of God. As 
Christianity paralleled Mithraism, so the worship of Mary 
resembled the worship of faces of the Goddess, particularly that 
of mother/son traditions such as Isis/Horus, Juno/Mars, Cybele/ 
Attis, and Neith/Ra. Mary was perceived to be a more accessible, 
approachable and humane figure than the judgmental, 
almighty God. She was more gentle and forgiving and much 
more likely to help one in everyday affairs. The fifth century 
historian Sozomen describes Mary's character in his writing of 
the Anastasia in Constantinople: 
A divine power was there manifested, and was 
helpful both in waking visions and in dreams, 
often for the relief of many diseases and for 
those afflicted by some sudden transmutation in 
their affairs. The power was attributed to Mary, 
the Mother of God, the holy Virgin, for she does 
manifest herself in this way.34 

Neither the Bible nor the early Church encouraged Marian 
worship or even recognized Mary as a saint.35 Although the 
Council of Nicea reaffirmed that Christ was indeed born from 
the Virgin Mary, the fourth century Bishop Epiphanius expressed 

2.4 The early Church reluctantly permitted worship of the Virgin Mary. In 
doing so, it allowed pre-Christian veneration of feminine divinity to 
continue as Marian worship. 


the sentiment of orthodox Christians: "Let the Father, the Son 
and the Holy Spirit be worshipped, but let no one worship 
Mary. "36 During the first five centuries, Christian art depicted 
Mary in a less venerable state than even the Magi, the three wise 
men, who wore halos while Mary wore none.37 St. Chrysostom 
in the fourth century accused Mary of trying to domineer and 
"make herself illustrious through her son."38 Diminishing 
Mary's significance was a way of discouraging her association 
with older pre-Christian faces of the Goddess. Bishop Epiphanius 

God came down from heaven, the Word clothed 
himself in flesh from a holy Virgin, not, assuredly, 
that the Virgin should be adored, nor to 
make a goddess of her, nor that we should offer 
sacrifice in her name, nor that, now after so 
many generations, women should once again be 
appointed priests... (God) gave her no charge to 
minister baptism or bless disciples, nor did he 
bid her rule over the earth.39 

Christianity, as the orthodox understood it, was about the 
singular power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not about 
any feminine aspect of God. 

Nevertheless, Marian worship persisted. When a council at 
Ephesus in 431 implied that Mary could be safely worshipped, 
crowds burst into delirious celebrations, accompanied by 
torchlight processions and shouts of "Praised be the Theotokos 
(Mother of God)!"40 Older temples and sacred sites, once 
dedicated to pre-Christian goddesses, were rededicated or 
replaced with churches for Mary. In Rome on the Esquitine hill 
the Santa Maria Maggiore replaced Cybele's temple. Near the 
Pantheon a church dedicated to Mary adjoined Isis's sanctuary 
while another was built on a site which had been dedicated to 
Minerva. On the Capitoline in Aracoeli the Santa Maria supplanted 
a temple of the Phoenician goddess Tanit. In Cyprus, 


shrines that were Aphrodite's hallowed ground easily became 
those of Mary, who to this day is still called Panaghia 
Aphroditessa.41 Geoffrey Ashe notes in The Virgin: 
Like Cybele [Mary] guarded Rome. Like Athene 
she protected various other cities. Like Isis she 
watched over seafarers, becoming and remaining 
the 'Star of the Sea'. Like Juno she cared for 
pregnant women... She wore a crown recalling 
Cybele's. Enthroned with her child she 
resembled Isis with Horus. She even had touches 
of Neith about her.42 

The Church had not subdued veneration for feminine divinity; it 
had simply renamed it. 

Interestingly, the Christian version of feminine divinity 
excluded any portrayal of one of the most powerful aspects of 
the Goddess, the face of the old, wise crone. Three faces of 
feminine divinity were common throughout pre-Christian 
traditions, that of the Virgin or Maiden, the Mother, and the 
Crone. Mary embodied the first two as both Virgin and Mother. 
The third face of the Crone, representing the culmination of 
feminine power and wisdom, was excluded from the Christian 
canon of saints. The Church's rejection of the Crone is 
significant in that it is precisely the Crone figure who later came 
to symbolize the ultimate enemy of the ChurchÑthe witch. 

The Church reaped enormous gains by compromising its 
ideology and adapting to prevalent beliefs. In 319 Constantine 
passed a law excusing the clergy from paying taxes or serving in 
the army43 and in 355 bishops were exempted from ever being 
tried in secular courts.44 In 380 Emperor Theodosius passed a 
decree that read: 

We shall believe in the single Deity of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, under the 
concept of equal majesty and of the Holy Trinity. 

1. We command that those persons who follow 

this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic 
Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge 
demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of 
heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not 
receive the name of churches, and they shall be 
smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by 
the retribution of Our own initiative, which We 
shall assume in accordance with the divine 

The Theodosian laws made it illegal to disagree with the Church. 

And a 388 prohibition forbade any public discussions of religious 

The ancient, multidimensional Pagan worship was prohibited 

in 392 and considered a criminal activity. In 410 the emperor 

Honorius decreed: 
Let all who act contrary to the sacred laws know 
that their creeping in their heretical superstition 
to worship at the most remote oracle is punishable 
by exile and blood, should they again be 
tempted to assemble at such places for criminal 

Pagan temples were pillaged and destroyed. A 386 written 
protest to the Roman government of Christian pillaging remains: 

If they [the Christians] hear of a place with 
something worth raping away, they immediately 
claim that someone is making sacrifices there 
and committing abominations, and pay the place 
a visitÑyou can see them scurrying there, these 
guardians of good order (for that is what they 
call themselves), these brigands, if brigands is 
not too mild a word; for brigands at least try to 
conceal what they have done: if you call them 
brigands, they are outraged, but these people, 
on the contrary, show pride in their exploits... 
they believe they deserve rewards!47 


By 435 a law threatened any heretic in the Roman Empire 
with death. Judaism remained the only other legally recognized 
religion. Yet, Jews were isolated as much as possible, with 
intermarriage between Jew and Christian carrying the same 
penalty as adultery: the woman would be executed.48 The Church 
had triumphed. The belief in but one face of God had led to the 
legal enforcement of but one religion. 

Orthodox Christians acted on their belief about God. As they 
perceived God to control in an authoritarian manner, so they set 
about finding a way in which they, in God's name, could 
exercise similar authoritarian control. To that end, they built an 
organization that appealed to the government of the Roman 
Empire by promoting uniformity and obedience. In all likelihood, 
these Christians altered the story of Jesus's death in order 
to dissociate Christianity from rebellion against Roman authority. 
They established criteria that made it easy to recruit large 
numbers of people. The early Church compromised its ideology 
to accommodate contemporary beliefs. It was through political 
maneuvering that the Church won its standing as the official 
religion of the Roman Empire and the accompanying secular 
power and privilege. 

Chapter Three 

Deciding upon Doctrine: 
Sex, Free Will, Reincarnation 
and the Use of Force 

300 -500 C.E. 

The Church formulated its doctrine regarding sex, free will 
and reincarnation in response to early heretics. In each case, it 
chose ideological positions which best justified Church control 
over the individual and over society. The Church also developed 
a doctrine which justified its use of force in order to compel 
obedience. It was not long before the Church needed that 
doctrine to defend its violent suppression of heresy. 

"Heresy" comes from the Greek hairesis meaning "choice."1 
In the early centuries there was much to choose from within 
ChristianityÑand consequently, many heresies. Gnostics were 
joined by Marcionites, Montanists, Arians, Sabellians, 
Nestorians, Monophysites, the Copts in Egypt, the Jacobites in 
Syria, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in disagreeing with 
the Catholic Church. The heresies surrounding Pelagius, Origen, 
and the Donatists led to particularly significant new doctrine. 
The Mannichaean heresy, while not leading to specific doctrine, 
set a precedent for the Church's denial of unpopular aspects of 
its own ideology. 


The Pelagian controversy brought about Church doctrine 
regarding human free will and sexuality. Pelagius, an Irish monk 
who arrived in Rome at the beginning of the fifth century, 
believed that a person had freedom of will and responsibility for 
his or her actions. He believed that a person's own efforts play 
a part in determining whether or not he or she will be saved. In 
Pelagius's eyes, reliance upon redemption by Christ should be 
accompanied by individual responsibility and efforts to do good.2 
In granting humans responsibility for their acts, the Creator gave 
them freedom. As one historian writes: 
Pelagius fought for the immeasurably precious 
good of man's freedom. That freedom cannot be 
surrendered without loss of human dignity... 
Unless man's freedom to make his own decisions 
is recognized, he is reduced to a mere 
marionette. According to Pelagius, the Creator 
conferred moral authority upon man, and to 
detract from that authority is to cast doubt upon 
man's likeness to God.3 
Pelagius' most vehement opposition came from St. Augustine, 
the celebrated Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Hippo. 
Salvation, as Augustine saw it, is entirely in God's hands; there 
is nothing an individual can do. God has chosen but a few people 
to whom He will give bliss and salvation. It is for these few that 
Christ came into the world. All others are damned for all 
eternity. In Augustine's eyes, it is only God's grace and not any 
action or willingness on the part of the individual that leads to 

Augustine believed that our freedom of will to choose good 
over evil was lost with the sin of Adam. Adam's sin, that, in 
Augustine's words, is in the "nature of the semen from which 
we were propagated," brought suffering and death into the 
world, took away our free will, and left us with an inherently 
evil nature.4 To sin is now inevitable. Should we occasionally do 


good, it is only because of irresistible grace. "When, therefore, 
man lives according to man, not according to God, he is like the 
devil," Augustine wrote.5 An individual, according to Augustine, 
has little power to influence his or her predetermined fate and is 
entirely dependent upon God for salvation. 

Human sexuality, to Augustine, clearly demonstrates a human 
inability to choose good over evil. Augustine based this belief 
upon his own experience. Having himself led a promiscuous life 
in his youth during which he fathered and then abandoned an 
illegitimate child, he thought that sex was intrinsically evil. He 
complained of sexual desire: 

Who can control this when its appetite is 
aroused? No one! In the very movement of this 
appetite, then, it has no 'mode' that responds to 
the decisions of the will... Yet what he wishes he 
cannot accomplish... In the very movement of 
the appetite, it has no mode corresponding to the 
decision of the will.6 

According to Augustine, human will is powerless either to 
indulge sexual desire or to suppress it: 

But even those who delight in this pleasure are 
not moved to it at their own will, whether they 
confine themselves to lawful or transgress to 
unlawful pleasures; but sometimes this lust 
importunes them in spite of themselves, and 
sometimes fails them when they desire to feel it, 
so that though lust rages in the mind, it stirs not 
in the body. Thus, strangely enough, this 
emotion not only fails to obey the legitimate 
desire to beget offspring, but also refuses to 
serve lascivious lust; and though it often opposes 
its whole combined energy to the soul that resists 
it, sometimes also it is divided against itself, and 
while it moves the soul, leaves the body 


"This diabolical excitement of the genitals," as Augustine 
referred to sex, is evidence of Adam's original sin which is now 
transmitted "from the mother's womb," tainting all human 
beings with sin, and leaving them incapable of choosing good 
over evil or determining their own destiny.8 

Augustine's views regarding sexuality differed sharply from 
pre-Christian views which often considered sex to be an integral 
part of the sacredness of life. His views did, however, represent 
those of many Christians. With the exception of minor heretical 
groups such as the Gnostic Carpocratians who exalted sex "as a 
bond between all created things,"9 nearly all Christians thought 
that sex should be avoided except for purposes of procreation. 
St. Jerome warns, "Regard everything as poison which bears 
within it the seed of sensual pleasure."10 In her book Adam, Eve 
and the Serpent, Elaine Pagels writes: 
Clement (of Alexandria) excludes oral and anal 
intercourse, and intercourse with a menstruating, 
pregnant, barren, or menopausal wife and 
for that matter, with one's wife 'in the morning', 
'in the daytime', or 'after dinner'. Clement 
warns, indeed, that 'not even at night, although 
in darkness, is it fitting to carry on immodestly 

or indecently, but with modesty, so that whatever 
happens, happens in the light of reason...' for 
even that union 'which is legitimate is still 
dangerous, except in so far as it is engaged in 
procreation of children.'11 

Sex as an act that empowers the individual threatens a religion 
intent upon controlling society. As Clement said, "lust is not 
easy to restrain, being devoid of fear..."12 

Denying human free will and condemning sexual pleasure 
made it easier to control and contain people. Augustine wrote: 


DECIDING UPON DOCTRINE 35 has been naturally so created that it is 

advantageous for him to be submissive, but 
disastrous for 
not the 
him to 
his own 
will, and 

He believed that Adam's "sin was a despising of the authority of 
God... it was just that condemnation followed..."14 Augustine 
wrote to the bishop of Rome in 416, warning him that Pelagian 
ideas undermined the basis of episcopal authority and that 
appeasing the Pelagians would threaten the Catholic Church's 
new-found power.15 Augustine's friend, the African bishop 
Alypius, brought 80 Numidian stallions to the imperial court as 
bribes to persuade the Church to side with Augustine against 
Pelagius. Augustine won. In April of 418 the pope 
excommunicated Pelagius. Ever since, the Catholic Church has 
officially embraced the doctrine of hereditary transmission of 
original sin.16 

The Church formulated its position regarding reincarnation in 
response to the controversy surrounding Origen. Origen, a 
Christian scholar, thought that the human soul exists before it is 
incarnated into a physical body and then passes from one body 
to another until it is reunited with God, after which it no longer 
takes on a physical form. He believed that all souls eventually 
return to God. He thought that while Christ could greatly speed 
the reconciliation with God, such reconciliation would not take 
place without effort by the individual. Since humankind had 
fallen from God by its own free will, he argued, so humankind 
must also reunite with God through its own volition. The 
orthodox opposed Origen's theories, insisting that they depended 
too heavily upon individual self-determination.17 

Orthodox Christians also thought the theory of reincarnation 

3.1 St. Augustine, the much celebrated Father of the Church. His ideas and 
arguments gave the Church doctrines which denied human free will, 
condemned sex, and justified the use of force in order to compel obedience 
to the Church. 

minimized the role of Jesus Christ, downplayed the necessity for 
salvation in this lifetime, and diminished the unique nature of 
Christ's resurrection. A person's salvation, in orthodox eyes, 
depends not upon self-determination and free will, as Origen's 
theories suggest, but only upon embracing Jesus Christ. 
Furthermore, if a person could choose to reunite with God in 
any one of many lifetimes, then there would be little fear of 
eternal damnationÑand fear was deemed essential by the 
orthodox. Origen's idea that the soul is separable from the body 
also seemed to diminish the extraordinary nature of Christ's 
resurrection. The miracle of Christ's resurrection was understood 
to offer the possibility of overcoming physical death. If, 
however, each soul periodically overcomes death by separating 
from one body and entering into another, then Jesus's feat would 
not have been unique. 

Origen's work also challenged the Church's control of 
intellectual and spiritual pursuit. Although he meticulously cited 
scripture to support his beliefs, Origen found that the scriptures 
provided limited direction in certain areas. Having received the 
education of a learned Greek, Origen continued to seek answers 
both in Platonic philosophy and in his own imagination when 
scripture was unavailing.18 Augustine, too, had pondered 
questions to which scripture provided little guidance. Augustine 
asked, for example: 
...and what before that life again, O God my 
joy, was I anywhere or in any body? For this I 
have none to tell me, neither father nor mother, 
nor experiences of others, nor mine own 



Whereas Origen continued to contemplate and explore such 
questions, Augustine retreated from inquiry outside the scripture. 
He wrote: 

Either I would like to know those things of which 
I am ignorant as to the origin of the soul, or 


else I should like to know if it is not for us to 
learn such things as long as we live here in this 
world. And yet, what if this is one of those 
things of which we are told: 'Seek not the things 
that are too high for thee, and search not into 
the things that are above thy ability: but the 
things that God hath commanded thee, think of 
them always and in many of his works be not 
curious.' (Ecclesiastes 3:22)20 
Augustine went so far as to entertain the idea that before creating 
the world, God had busied Himself preparing a place of 
punishment for those with the audacity to question what had 
preceded creation.21 

Although Origen died in 284, debate over his theories 
continued until 553 when he was officially anathematized, or 
cursed, by the Second Council of Constantinople. In condemning 
Origen, the Church indirectly dealt with the issue of 
reincarnation. Christians were not to believe in the pre-existence 
of souls, the existence of discarnate consciousness, or that a 
person has any more than this one lifetime to turn to the 
Christian God without being subject to eternal damnation. 
Furthermore, the anathemas against Origen served as another 
reminder that, regardless of the sincerity of one's faith, one 
should always remain within the ideological confines of 

In dealing with the Donatist heresy, the Church set a 
precedent for using violence to suppress dissent. When the 
Donatists demanded higher standards of the clergy than the 
Catholic Church, their movement spread like wildfire, with 
Donatists outnumbering Catholics in Africa by the middle of the 
fourth century.22 Having long maintained that no one should be 
forced to believe against his will, Augustine tried to bring the 
Donatists back into the Catholic fold through discussion. Yet, 
when the talks failed, he resorted to force, invoking the newly 


established Theodosian laws against heresy. The Church 
followed his advice and brutally crushed the Donatist 

In opposing the Donatists, Augustine set forth the principle 
Cognite intrare, "Compel them to enter", that would be used 
throughout the middle ages to justify the Church's violent 
suppression of dissent and oppression of difference. Augustine 
The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses 
of an enemy. To love with sternness is better 
than to deceive with gentleness... In Luke 14:23 

it is written: 'Compel people to come in!' By 
threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws 
souls to the Son.24 

Even at the beginning of the twentieth century Pope Leo XIII 
still argued that the ends justified the means: 

The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious 
means for the Church to attain its end when 
rebels act against it and disturbers of the 
ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics 
and heresiarchs, cannot be restrained by any 
other penalty from continuing to derange the 
ecclesiastical order and impelling others to all 
sorts of crime... When the perversity of one or 

several is calculated to bring about the ruin of 
many of its children it is bound effectively to 
remove it, in such wise that if there be no other 
remedy for saving its people it can and must put 
these wicked men to death.25 

Another controversy, the Mannichaean heresy, demonstrated 
the Church's willingness to deny its own ideology when it was 
unpopular and unprofitable. Begun by the Persian Mani in the 
third century, Mannichaean theology is the logical consequence 
of the belief in singular supremacy. The belief in one all


powerful God often elicits the question of why there is pain and 
evil in the world. Why does an almighty God, who creates 
everything, create human suffering? The most common answer 
is that there must be a conflicting force, power, or god creating 
the evil; there must be a devil. A dualistic theology arises which 
understands life to be a struggle between God and satan, between 
good and evil, and between spirit and matter. The concept of a 
devil is exclusive to monotheism; evil is easier to understand and 
does not pose the need for a devil when there are many faces of 
God. In his book Religion and the Decline of Magic, Keith 
Thomas writes of early, pre-monotheistic Judaism: 

The early Hebrews had no need to personify the 
principle of evil; they could attribute it to the 
influence of other rival deities. It was only the 
triumph of monotheism which made it necessary 
to explain why there should be evil in the world 
if God was good. The Devil thus helped to 
sustain the notion of an all-perfect divinity.26 

Mannichaeans embraced orthodox Christian ideology more 
completely than the early Catholic Church. They took the idea 
seriously that spirituality and godliness are detached from the 
physical world. The belief in a singular supremacy creates a 
hierarchy that separates its components, creating a division 
between heaven and earth, between spirit and matter. The 
components higher up on the hierarchy are considered good; the 
components lower down are considered evil. Accordingly, 
Mannichaeans advocated stringent asceticism and withdrawal 
from the world. Women, seen to tempt men with the earthly 
pleasures of sex and family, were considered to be part of 
satan's forces. To be closer to God, Mannichaeans believed that 
one must avoid anything that would bind one to earthly life. 

Although the Church itself would adopt just such a 
Mannichaean theology centuries later during the Reformation, in 
the early years it could not politically afford to fully embrace 


such monotheism. The Church was struggling to incorporate vast 
numbers of people who still understood the world in a pagan, 
pantheistic and polytheistic context. Most people thought that 
everything within the physical world was imbued with a sense of 
the divine, that there was little separation between spirit and 
matter, and that divinity was personified in many different faces. 
To advocate a complete renunciation of the physical world as 
satan's realm and to abolish all but one divine persona would 
have led to certain failure in the Church's efforts to spread 
Christianity. So, although it still maintained the belief in a 
singular supremacy and in its implicit hierarchy, the Church also 
allowed worship of not only the Holy Virgin Mary, but also a 
multitude of angels and saints. Mannichaeanism may have been 
more consistent with orthodox ideology, but it was politically 
imprudent. Mannichaeans and all others who promoted similar 
ideas in the centuries that followed were labelled heretics. 

The tenets formulated in response to early heretics lent 
doctrinal validation to the Church's control of the individual and 
society. By opposing Pelagius, the Church adopted Augustine's 
idea that people are inherently evil, incapable of choice, and thus 
in need of strong authority. Human sexuality is seen as evidence 
of their sinful nature. By castigating Origen's theories of 
reincarnation, the Church upheld its belief in the unique physical 
resurrection of Christ as well as the belief that a person has but 
one life in which to obey the Church or risk eternal damnation. 
With the Donatists, it established the precedent of using force to 
compel obedience. And with the Mannichaeans, the Church 
demonstrated its willingness to abandon its own beliefs for 
political expediency. 

Chapter Four 

The Church Takes Over: 
The Dark Ages 

500 -1000 C.E. 

The Church had devastating impact upon society. As the 
Church assumed leadership, activity in the fields of medicine, 
technology, science, education, history, art and commerce all but 
collapsed. Europe entered the Dark Ages. Although the Church 
amassed immense wealth during these centuries, most of what 
defines civilization disappeared. 

The western Roman Empire fell during the fifth century 
under repeated attacks by the Germanic Goths and the Huns 
while the Roman province of Africa fell to the Vandals. Many 
blamed Christianity. In 410 when the Christian Visigoths sacked 
Rome, "the eternal city" which had held strong for 620 years, 
criticism of the new religion intensified. One of St. Augustine's 
most famous works, The City of God, was written as a defense 
of Christianity against such accusations. 

However, the eastern Roman Empire, also called the Byzantine 
Empire, fared better. Especially under Emperor Justinian's 
rule (527-565), it recovered much of its power, regained control 
of Italy from the Ostrogoths and recovered Africa from the 
Vandals. Justinian and his wife, Theodora, were credited with 


the revival of literature, art, architecture, as well as the codification 
of Roman Law. But this flourishing Byzantine culture was 
cut short when the bubonic plague, beginning in 540, struck with 
a virulence unknown at any time in human history either before 
or since. In Byzantium alone, the plague was said to have 
claimed 10,000 people a day. The severity of this plague is 
difficult to fathom. The later Black Death of the 1300's, which 
some think killed one-third of Europe's population, claimed an 
estimated 27 million lives. In contrast, the sixth century plague 
is thought to have taken 100 million lives.1 The Roman Empire 
never recovered. 

The plague had quite different impact upon Christianity. 
People flocked to the Church in terror.2 The Church explained 
that the plague was an act of God, and disease a punishment for 
the sin of not obeying Church authority. The Church branded 
Justinian a heretic. It declared the field of Greek and Roman 
medicine, useless in fighting the plague, to be heresy.3 While the 
plague assured the downfall of the Roman Empire, it strengthened 
the Christian church. 

After the plague, the Church dominated the formal discipline 
of medicine. The most common medical practice between the 
sixth and sixteenth centuries used for every malady became 
"bleeding." Christian monks taught that bleeding a person 
would prevent toxic imbalances, prevent sexual desire, and 
restore the humors. By the sixteenth century this practice would 
kill tens of thousands each year. Yet, when a person died during 
blood-letting, it was only lamented that treatment had not been 
started sooner and performed more aggressively.4 

Technology disappeared as the Church became the most 
cohesive power in Western society. The extensive aqueduct and 
plumbing systems vanished. Orthodox Christians taught that all 
aspects of the flesh should be reviled and therefore discouraged 
washing as much as possible. Toilets and indoor plumbing 
disappeared. Disease became commonplace as sanitation and 


4.1 Once the fields of Greek and Roman medicine were declared 
heretical, the dangerous medical practice of bleeding became common. 
This engraving published in 1516 illustrates the points from which blood 
was to be let. 

hygiene deteriorated. For hundreds of years, towns and villages 
were decimated by epidemics.5 Roman central heating systems 
were also abandoned.6 As one historian writes: 

From about A.D. 500 onward, it was thought no 
hardship to lie on the floor at night, or on a 
hard bench above low drafts, damp earth and 
rats. To be indoors was luxury enough. Nor was 
it distasteful to sleep huddled closely together in 
company, for warmth was valued above privacy.7 

The vast network of roads that had enabled transportation and 
communication also fell into neglect and would remain so until 
almost the nineteenth century.8 

The losses in science were monumental. In some cases the 
Christian church's burning of books and repression of intellectual 
pursuit set humanity back as much as two millennia in its 
scientific understanding. Already in the sixth century B.C.E., 
Pythagoras had come up with the idea that the earth revolved 
around the sun. By the third century B.C.E., Aristarchus had 
outlined the heliocentric theory and Eratosthenes had measured 
the circumference of the Earth. By the second century B.C.E., 
Hipparchus had invented longitude and latitude and had determined 
the obliquity of the ecliptic.9 After the onset of the Dark 
Ages, however, it would not be until the sixteenth century C.E. 
that Copernicus would reintroduce the theory that the earth 
revolves around the sun. And when Galileo attempted to promote 
the heliocentric theory in the seventeenth century, he was tried 
by the Inquisition in Rome. Only in 1965 did the Roman 
Catholic Church revoke its condemnation of Galileo. St. 
Augustine echoed the Church's scientific understanding of the 

It is impossible there should be inhabitants on 
the opposite side of the earth, since no such race 
is recorded by Scripture among the descendants 
of Adam.10 


History was rewritten to become a verification of Christian 
beliefs. Orthodox Christians thought history necessary only in 
order to place the events of the past into Biblical context. In 
Daniel Boorstin's words, "History became a footnote to orthodoxy."
11 He writes in his book The Discoverers: 
The Christian test was a willingness to believe in 
the one Jesus Christ and His Message of salvation. 
What was demanded was not criticism but 
credulity. The Church Fathers observed that in 
the realm of thought only heresy had a history.12 
Eusebius of Caesarea set about during the time of Constantine to 
rewrite the history of the world into a history of Christianity: 
'Other writers of history,' Eusebius wrote, 
recorded the fighting of wars waged for the 
sake of children and country and other possessions. 
But our narrative of the government of 
God will record in ineffaceable letters the most 
peaceful wars waged in behalf of the peace of 


the soul... 

Blind faith replaced the spirit of historical investigation. One 
should trust, as Eusebius said, "the incontrovertible words of the 
Master to his disciples: 'It is not for you to know the times or 
the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.'"14 

Although the Church restricted historical inquiry more 
severely, it carried on a process of rewriting history that had 
started much earlier. Twentieth century archeology is beginning 
to reveal a very different picture of human history than may have 
been told even in pre-Christian Rome. The idea that history 
began only 5,000 years ago is terribly inaccurate. During the 
neolithic age after people had turned from hunting and gathering 
to agriculture, particularly between 7000 B.C.E. and 4000 
B.C.E., cultures of startling sophistication flourished. Art, 
architecture, city-planning, dance, ritual drama, trade both by 
land and sea, writing, law and government were well-known to 


these peoples. The first ideas of democracy originally date back 
not to the Greeks but far earlier to this neolithic age. Perhaps 
most remarkable is that these cultures show no evidence of 
hierarchy as we know it; they knew no war, organized oppression 
or slavery.15 

Rewriting history to erase awareness of such a past helped 
those in power deflect criticism for the current state of affairs. 
Portraying human society as having steadily evolved rather than 
having experienced major setbacks gives the impression that, 
however ugly and violent society may be now, it was even more 
savage in the past. Augustine's disciple, Orosius, for instance, 
in his Seven Books of Histories against the Pagans, demonstrated 
that the evils of the time could not be blamed on Christianity 
because earlier times had experienced even worse calamities.16 
Distorting and rewriting history gave the impression that 
Christianity had not only lifted society from harsher, more 
barbaric times, but that a social structure of hierarchy and 
domination had always existed and was therefore inevitable. 

The Christian church had similar impact upon education and 
learning. The Church burned enormous amounts of literature. In 
391 Christians burned down one of the world's greatest libraries 
in Alexandria, said to have housed 700,000 rolls.17 All the books 
of the Gnostic Basilides, Porphyry's 36 volumes, papyrus rolls 
of 27 schools of the Mysteries, and 270,000 ancient documents 
gathered by Ptolemy Philadelphus were burned.18 Ancient 
academies of learning were closed. Education for anyone outside 
of the Church came to an end. And what little education there 
was during the Dark Ages, while still limited to the clergy, was 
advocated by powerful kings as a means of providing themselves 
with capable administrators.19 

4.2 As the Church grew more powerful, Christians closed academies and 
burned books as well as whole libraries. This engraving depicts converts to 
St. Paul burning books. 


The Church opposed the study of grammar and Latin. Pope 
Gregory I, or Gregory the Great, a man thought to have been 
one of the greatest architects of the medieval order,20 objected to 
grammatical study. He wrote: 
I despise the proper constructions and cases, 
because I think it very unfitting that the words of 
the celestial oracle should be restricted by the 
rules of Donatus [a well-known grammarian].21 

Gregory the Great also condemned education for all but the 
clergy as folly and wickedness. He forbade laymen to read even 
the Bible. He had the library of the Palatine Apollo burned "lest 
its secular literature distract the faithful from the contemplation 
of heaven."22 

The Fourth Council of Carthage in 398 forbade bishops to 
even read the books of gentiles.23 Jerome, a Church Father and 
early monastic in the fourth century, rejoiced that the classical 
authors were being forgotten. And his younger monastic 
contemporaries were known to boast of their ignorance of 
everything except Christian literature.24 After Christians had 
spent years destroying books and libraries, St. John Chrysostom, 
the preeminent Greek Father of the Church, proudly declared, 
"Every trace of the old philosophy and literature of the ancient 
world has vanished from the face of the earth."25 

Monastic libraries, the only libraries left, were composed of 
books of devotion. Even the most significant monastic libraries 
carried little aside from books about Christian theology.26 While 
monks did copy manuscripts, such work was not esteemed for its 
intrinsic value but rather considered part of the prescribed 
manual labor, necessary in the effort of "fighting the Devil by 
pen and ink," in the words of the Christian Cassiodorus.27 

4.3 St. Gregory the Great, Pope from 590-604. While best known for 
strengthening the Pope's independence from the Byzantine Emperor, he also 
burned books and restricted reading and education to the clergy. 


Copying manuscripts, even if those manuscripts were classical, 
did not necessarily indicate an appreciation for classical learning. 
An historian notes that the order of Cluni followed customs that 
implied a lack of respect for classical works. "If a monk wanted 
a book during the hours of silence, he made a sign of turning the 
leaves; if he wanted a classical book, he scratched his ear like a 

The Church had devastating impact upon artistic expression. 
According to orthodox Christianity, art should enhance and 
promote Christian values; it should not serve simply as an 
individual's creative exploration and expression. New works of 
art which did not concur with the Church's ideology would not 
be created again until the Renaissance. Marble statues of ancient 
Rome were torn down, most notably by Gregory the Great, and 
made into lime. Architectural marbles and mosaics were either 
made into lime or went to adorn cathedrals all over Europe and 
as far away as Westminster Abbey in London. The ravaging of 
marble works accounts for the thin ornate slabs with ancient 
inscriptions still found in many churches today.29 

The rise of the Christian church coincided with a severe 
economic collapse throughout the western world. The Church did 
little to encourage trade. The canons of Gratian include a sixth 
century document which states, "Whoever buys a thing in order 
to re-sell it intact, no matter what it is, is like the merchant 
driven from the Temple."30 The Church stigmatized lending 
money at interest, which made funding economic ventures 
extremely difficult. Commercial contracts of the time indicate 
that the Church would sometimes intervene and free a debtor 
from liabilities, undermining even further the likelihood of 
anyone wanting to lend money.31 

The Church itself, however, was one of the few profitable 
organizations of the time. As such, it provided a potentially 
lucrative occupation for many men. Money and power played a 
critical role in a man's ascent through the Church hierarchy and 


contributed to the disreputable nature of the medieval Church. At 
least forty different Popes are known to have bought their way 
into the papacy.32 Allegations of murder and crime within the 
Church abounded as the papacy so frequently changed hands. In 
a particular one hundred year period, more than forty Popes 
came to office. In the twelve year period from 891 to 903 alone, 
no less than ten different Popes held power.33 

The Church amassed inordinate wealth during the Dark Ages. 
Patrimonial properties, the Church-held lands that were free and 
clear of taxes or military obligation to the king, made up 
between one-quarter and one-third of western Europe.34 In 
addition to patrimony, bishops often held territories in feudal 
tenure, obliging them like any count or baron to provide the king 
with soldiers when called. The Church made money by collecting 
revenues from imperial rulers, by confiscating property as 
the result of court judgments, by selling the remission of sins 
(called "indulgences"), by selling ecclesiastical offices (called 
"simony"), and sometimes by simply taking land by force.35 

Alliances with the state were essential to the Church's secular 
influence and wealth. However, unlike during the Roman 
Empire, several imperial forces now held power. By the year 
700, for example, the West was divided into four political 
realms. Spain was ruled by the Christian Visigoths and would 
fall in 711-713 to the Islamic Moors. Anglo-Saxons ruled 
England. The Franks ruled Gaul. Italy was held primarily by the 
Lombards with a few regions still in the hands of the Byzantine 
Empire.36 The new, more complicated alliance between the 
Church and various imperial rulers came to be known as the 
Holy Roman Empire and was best symbolized by the Pope's 
crowning of Charlemagne in 800 and the German king, Otto I, 
in 952. 

Both Church and state profited from their alliance. Imperial 
rulers provided not only military resources but also lucrative 
positions for the clergy. By overseeing the administrative matters 


of rulers, bishops became vested with both military and civil 
authority. They came to be as powerful and as influential as the 
greatest of feudal lords. The historian Jeffrey Burton Russell 

The system was self-perpetuating: the more 
power and wealth the bishops had, the more the 
kings needed to appoint loyal men; but to secure 
and preserve the loyalty of such men, the kings 
had to bestow upon them further power and 

wealth. It is no wonder that the bishops kept 
their eyes more attentively upon the throne than 
upon the cross.37 
In an age when the belief in the divine right of kings prevailed, 
the Pope's support of a king was thought to be essential. The 
Church also brought a semblance of unity to an imperial realm 
by converting its people to Christianity. 
These widespread conversions, however, were usually little 
more than a facade. Pope Gregory I in a letter to his emissary to 
Britain, St. Augustine of Canterbury, illustrates his concern with 
the appearance that people had converted to Christianity: 
...the people will have no need to change their 
place of concourse; where of old they were wont 

to sacrifice cattle to demons, thither let them 
continue to resort on the day of the Saint to 
whom the Church is dedicated, and slay their 
beasts, no longer as a sacrifice to demons, but 
for a social meal in honour of Him whom they 
now worship.38 

Although the medieval Church wrought havoc in most arenas 
of life, it did not effect real change in the way common people 
perceived God. The Church's continual admonishments against 
pagan practices indicate how insubstantial most conversions to 
Christianity were. It constantly warned against customs relating 
to trees, nature and the belief in magic, occasionally going so far 


as to raze a church after discovering that people were actually 
worshipping older gods or goddesses there.39 A 742 Church 
decree read: 

... every pagan defilement should be rejected and 
spurned, whether it be sacrifices of the dead, or 
soothsaying and divining, or amulets and omens, 
or incantations, or the offering of sacrificesÑby 
(all of) which ignorant people perform pagan 
rites alongside those of the church, under cover 
of the names of the sacred martyrs and confes



Sacred springs were renamed in honor of saints and churches 
built over the sites of pagan temples, yet the nature of reverence 
and worship remained unchanged. 

The Church played a critical role in taking Europe into the 
Dark Ages. Its devastating impact was felt in nearly every sphere 
of human endeavor. Ironically, the one area where the medieval 
Church had little profound impact was in changing the spirituality 
of common people. While most people adopted a Christian 
veneer, they did not significantly change their understanding or 
perception of God. 

Chapter Five 

The Church Fights Change: 
The Middle Ages 

1000 -1500 C.E. 

The spirit of the Middle Ages challenged the Church's now-
established authority. The Church responded by bolstering its 
authoritarian structure, asserting the Pope's supremacy over all 
imperial powers, and rallying Europe against Muslims, Jews and 
Eastern Orthodox Christians. When the crusades failed to unify 
Europe under its control, the Church attacked whomever it 
perceived as an enemy: money-lenders, supporters of nation-
states, and the Cathars. 

Dramatic changes after the turn of the millennium ushered in 
the high Middle Ages. An agricultural society began to give way 
to rapidly growing towns as the population exploded in a surge 
unparalleled in the Western world until the 19th and 20th 
centuries.1 Many more people began making their livelihoods in 
commerce and industry, giving rise to a new social class of 
traders and manufacturers.2 These merchants often served as 
examples that through wit, activity and industry one could 
change one's lot in life. Merchants also disseminated new 
information and ideas from the Arab and Greek worlds as they 
traveled along trade routes from northern Spain and southern 



Latin classics, largely lost under Christian rule, were 
translated from Arabic back into Latin. When Aristotle's work 
was reintroduced to the West, its example of systematic thought 
spawned scholasticism, a discipline that challenged the Church's 
demand that one accept its assertions on blind faith. The twelfth 
century Peter Abelard, for example, used the scholastic method 
to encourage individual decision-making, to question authoritarian 
assertions, and to point out contradictions in Church doctrine 
and scripture. 

The Church's confinement of all education and creativity to 
monasteries began to break down. Not only were lay schools 
created to provide elementary education to merchant and artisan 
classes, but universities were formed in urban areas such as 
Paris, Oxford, Toulouse, Montpellier, Cambridge, Salerno, 
Bologna and Salamanca.3 The age saw literary epics and 
romances such as The Romance of the Rose, The Song of the 
Cid, Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, the Nibelungenlied, 
and Dante's Divine Comedy.4 Court jesters or fools provided 
contemporary sources of vernacular poetry and literature. 
Renewed interest in architecture produced the culmination of the 
Romanesque style and the beginning of Gothic artistic and 
engineering feats. Even within twelfth century monasteries, the 
art of illumination and ornamentation of manuscripts came alive.5 
Art, literature, philosophy and architecture all began to flourish 
again during the high Middle Ages. 

Having prospered and thrived while society remained subdued 
and quiescent, the Church now resisted the many changes taking 
place. Papal prohibitions in 1210 and 1215 restricted the teaching 
of Aristotle's works in Paris. By 1272 discussion of any purely 
theological matter was forbidden.6 St. Bernard of Clairvaux gave 
voice to Church sentiment when he said of Abelard's scholasticism, 
"everything (is) treated contrary to custom and tradition." 
Bernard wrote: 


The faith of simplicity is mocked, the secrets of 
Christ profaned; questions on the highest things 

are impertinently asked, the Fathers scorned 
because they were disposed to conciliate rather 
than solve such problems. Human reason is 
snatching everything to itself, leaving nothing for 

The Church demonstrated a similar disdain for the revival of 
classical literature. As the twelfth century Christian Honorius of 
Autun asked: 

How is the soul profited by the strife of Hector, 
the arguments of Plato, the poems of Virgil, or 
the elegies of Ovid, who, with others like them, 
are now gnashing their teeth in the prison of the 

infernal Babylon, under the cruel tyranny of 
The Church regarded poetry with particular disfavor, sometimes 
classifying poets with magicians whom the Church despised. The 
illustrations in the twelfth century Hortus deliciarum of Herrad 
of Landsberg, for example, depict four "poets or magicians," 
each with an evil spirit prompting him.9 Clerics insisted that 
court jesters also "have no use or virtue" and are "beyond hope 
of salvation."10 

Orthodox Christians expressed disdain for the flourishing 
creativity and declared supporters of the arts to be heathens and 
pagans. The outspoken fifteenth century Dominican prophet 
Girolamo Savonarola believed that classical poets should be 
banished and that science, culture and education should return 
entirely to the hands of monks. He wrote: 

The only good thing that we owe to Plato and 
Aristotle is that they brought forward many 
arguments which we can use against the heretics. 
Yet they and other philosophers are now in 
hell... It would be good for religion if many 


books that seem useful were destroyed. When 
there were not so many books and not so many 
arguments and disputes, religion grew more 
quickly than it has since.11 

Savonarola carried out his moral reforms in Florence using 
techniques characteristic of a police state: controlling personal 
morality through the espionage of servants and organizing bands 
of young men to raid homes of items that were inconsistent with 
orthodox Christian ideals. Books, particularly those of Latin and 
Italian poets, illuminated manuscripts, women's ornaments, 
musical instruments, and paintings were burned in a huge bonfire 
in 1497, destroying much of the work of Renaissance Florence. 
Yet medieval society abounded with dissent. Many began to 
seek a relationship with God outside of the Church. Common 
people in the Middle Ages found little in the Church to which 
they could relate. Churches had become grander and more 
formal, sharply emphasizing the difference between the clergy 
and laity. In some churches, a choir screen would even segregate 
the congregation from the altar. The language of the Mass, 
which in the fourth century had been changed from Greek to 
Latin so as to be more easily understood, was by the end of the 
seventh century totally incomprehensible to most people, 
including many priests. As a result, services were often an 
unintelligible mumbling which was absolutely meaningless to the 

The Church, now enormously wealthy, interested itself more 
in collecting money than in relating to its members. The 
medieval Church's preoccupation with riches was such that its 
ten commandments were said to have been reduced to one: 
"Bring hither the money."13 Priests were selected more on the 
basis of their money than upon any other virtue. A huge 
disparity developed not only between the clergy and the laity but 
also between ranks of the clergy. The income of a wealthy 
bishop, for example, could range from 300 times to as much as 


1000 times that of a vicar.14 In the twelfth century the Church 
forbade clergy to marry in order to prevent property from 
passing out of the Church to the families of clergy.15 The 
incongruity of an extravagantly wealthy organization representing 
the ideals of Jesus Christ prompted the papal bull or edict Cum 
inter nonnullos in 1326 which proclaimed it heresy to say that 
Jesus and his Apostles owned no property.16 

Those seeking a more meaningful connection with God 
increasingly turned to movements outside the Catholic Church. 
These medieval heresies exhibited great diversity of thought. 
There were apocalyptic sects that were convinced that the world 
was coming to an end, such as those led by Tanchelin, Peter de 
Bruys, Henry of Lausanne, and Arnold of Brescia. Other groups 
such as the Waldensians and Lollards foreshadowed the Protestants 
in their desire for a stricter adherence to Christian scripture. 
And yet other groups like the Brethren of the Free Spirit, 
the Tulupins, and the Adamites embraced pantheistic and 
animistic beliefs that perceived the physical world to be wholly 
imbued with God's presence.17 At the turn of the fourteenth 
century, Meister Eckhart challenged the very need for a Church. 
He wrote, "When the Kingdom appears to the soul and it is 
recognized, there is no further need for preaching or instruction."

Many heretics insisted upon a direct relationship with God. 
Despite the danger, they translated the Bible into common or 
vernacular languages which lay people could understand. Simple 
possession of such a Bible was punishable by death.19 In the 
spirit of providing images to which people could relate, the 
portrayal of Christ also became more human and accessible. 
From Romanesque depictions of Jesus as the stiff, hieratic, and 
unapproachable judge of the universe, Gothic art now portrayed 
him as more of a suffering, compassionate human being.20 

The cult of the Virgin blossomed in the Middle Ages. The 
Virgin Mary became a figure to whom one could turn for 


forgiveness and who could protest God's judgment and unrelenting 
law. In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe tells of the 
stories which illustrate her kindness and compassion: 

A thief prays to her before going out to rob, and 

when he is hanged, she sustains him in the air 

till the hangman acknowledges the miracle and 

lets him live. 
A nun who leaves her convent to plunge into 
vice, but keeps praying to Mary, returns at last 
to find that Mary has taken her place and no one 
has missed her.21 

Complete litanies were devoted to the Virgin Mary. The grandest 
of medieval cathedrals were dedicated to her: at Paris, Chartres, 
Reims, Amiens, Rouen, Bayeux, Coutances, Noyon, and Laon.22 
She developed names like "spiritual vessel," "cause of our joy," 
"Ark of the Covenant" and "Seat of Wisdom." Chaucer refers 
to her as the "almighty and all merciful Queen."23 A painted 
wooden figure of the Madonna and child by a fourteenth century 
German artist gives an indication of medieval veneration for this 
female image of divinity. When her figure is opened, the 
Madonna is shown to contain the whole Trinity.24 

The Church responded, not by trying to meet people's needs, 
but by strengthening its own authoritarian structure, developing 
its own judicial system, and more forcefully asserting its 
supremacy over all. The papacy expanded its administrative and 
advisory council called the curia, increased its regulation of 
bishops, began again to summon councils, and, most significantly, 
used papal legates. Papal legates were officers who could 
override the authority of bishops and archbishops, effectively 
eroding the local authority of bishops and bringing the monasteries 
more directly under papal control.25 

The Church developed its own system of law to claim 
authority in secular matters. The revival of civil law, derived 
from Roman and Germanic law, had been replacing many feudal 



OPPOSITE: Figure 5.1 This fifteenth century woodcut illustrates the nurturing 
and protective nature attributed to the Virgin Mary. 

ABOVE: Figure 5.2 This woodcut, also from the fifteenth century, similarly 
depicts the Madonna as a protectress. With the help of angels, she shelters 
people from God's arrows. 


customs and facilitating trade by implementing principles with 
wider application than rural customs which could differ with 
each locale.26 Roman law, however, did not recognize the Pope. 
By 1149 St. Bernard had realized the implicit threat of civil law 
to the Church and complained that the courts rang with Justin-
ian's laws rather than those of God.27 By 1219 the Pope had 
forbidden priests to study Roman law and had altogether 
prohibited its teaching at the University of Paris.28 

Instead, the Church drew up its own system called canon law. 
The eleventh century Ivo of Chartres and the twelfth century 
Gratian reworked the bulk of uncoordinated and often conflicting 
decrees and letters into comprehensive codes that asserted the 
Pope's supremacy. Should the Pope himself find these laws 
inconvenient, however, he was allowed under these same canon 
laws to dispense with them at any time. Ecclesiastical tribunals 
claimed jurisdiction over all cases in which Church interests 
were at stake such as those concerning tithes, benefices, donations 
and wills. To protect its own, the Church claimed the right 
to try all members of the clergy.29 The Church also claimed 
jurisdiction over any matter pertaining to a sacrament or an oath. 
As one historian points out, "there was scarcely a limit to [the 
Church's] intervention; for in medieval society wellnigh everything 
was connected with a sacrament or depended upon an 

Many of the Church's efforts at systematizing and adding 
credence to canon law focused upon establishing the Pope's 
supremacy over imperial powers. The theory of the "plentitude 
of power" gave the Pope as the vicar of Christ full authority 
over both secular and spiritual affairs. It allowed him to prohibit 
the distribution of sacraments within an imperial realm and to 
both excommunicate and depose a king.31 Dictates of canon law 
invalidated the ordination of imperially appointed Popes, called 
anti-popes, and any members of the clergy ordained as a result 
of such imperially appointed Popes. 


Ancient letters were "discovered" and incorporated into 
canon law as evidence of the Pope's supremacy over imperial 
powers. One such letter, the "Donation of Constantine," 
purported to be a letter from Emperor Constantine to Pope 
Sylvester in which Constantine attributes his power to the Pope. 
It reads, "We give to... Sylvester, the Universal Pope... the city 
of Rome and all the provinces, districts, and cities of Italy and 
the Western regions..."32 By the sixteenth century these letters 
were exposed as total forgeries. 

The Pope became increasingly involved in directing political 
conflicts and the conquering of lands. Pope Boniface VIII wrote 
to the Hapsburg Albert of Austria, "We donate to you, in the 
plentitude of our power, the kingdom of France, which belongs 
of right to the Emperors of the West."33 In his letter to King 
Henry II of England, the twelfth century Pope Adrian IV 
sanctioned the English invasion of Ireland. He wrote: 
It is not doubted, and you know it, that Ireland 
and all those islands which have received the 
faith, belong to the Church of Rome; if you wish 
to enter that Island, to drive vice out of it, to 
cause law to be obeyed and St. Peter's Pence to 
be paid by every house, it will please us to 
assign it to you. 34 
Historian Phillip Schaff describes the actions of the medieval 

To depose princes, to absolve subjects from 
allegiance, to actively foment rebellion as against 
Frederick II, to divert lands as in Southern 
France, to give away crowns, to extort by threat 
of the severest ecclesiastical penalties the payment 
of tribute, to punish religious dissenters 
with perpetual imprisonment or turn them over 
to the secular authorities, knowing death would 
be the punishment, to send and consecrate 


crusading armies, and to invade the realm of the 
civil court, usurp its authority, and annul a 
nation's code, as in the case of Magna Charta, 
Ñthese were the high prerogatives actually 
exercised by the papacy. 35 

Papal desire for power grew insatiable. Seeing themselves as 
superior to all other mortals, Popes claimed not only that every 
person was subject to papal authority, but that the Pope himself 
was accountable to no one but God. In 1302 Pope Boniface 
issued the bull Unam Sanctam: 
Therefore, if the earthly power errs, it shall be 
judged by the spiritual power... but if the supreme 
spiritual power errs it can be judged only 
by God, and not by man... Therefore we declare, 
state, define and pronounce that it is 
altogether necessary to salvation for every 
human creature to be subject to the Roman 

Understandably, arguments erupted over who would be Pope and 
hold such power. In what was called the Great Schism, two 
separate lines of Popes, one living in Rome and one in Avignon, 
reigned from 1378 to 1417. They disagreed, not over matters 
concerning Christian ideology or religious practices, but over 
politics and who should reign. 

Another means with which the Church responded to the time 
was an attempt to focus attention away from the tumultuous 
social changes and towards an outside enemy. In 1095 Pope 
Urban II called for the knights of Europe to unite and march to 
Jerusalem to save the holy land from the Islamic infidel. The 
crusades provided an opportunity to vastly increase the influence 
of the Catholic Church. They also served a political purpose 
much closer to home. When the Pope initiated the first crusade 
in 1095, many of the imperial powers were outside the Church: 
the King of France, the King of England, and the German 


Emperor.37 The crusades were a means of uniting much of 
Europe in the name of Christianity. 

Crusaders, caught up in their sense of righteousness, brutally 
attacked the Church's enemies. Pope Gregory VII had declared, 
"Cursed be the man who holds back his sword from shedding 
blood. "38 The chronicler, Raymond of Aguilers, described the 
scene when a band of crusaders massacred both Muslims and 
Jews in Jerusalem in 1099: 
Wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of 
the Saracens were beheaded... Others were shot 

with arrows, or forced to jump from the towers; 
others were tortured for several days, then 
burned with flames. In the streets were seen piles 
of heads and hands and feet. One rode about 

everywhere amid the corpses of men and horses. 
In the temple of Solomon, the horses waded in 
the blood up to their knees, nay, up to the 
bridle. It was a just and marvelous judgement of 
God, that this place should be filled with the 
blood of unbelievers.39 

Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine chronicler, wrote, "Even the 
Saracens (the Muslims) are merciful and kind compared to these 
men who bear the cross of Christ on their shoulders."40 

Another enemy targeted by the crusades was the Eastern 
Church based in Constantinople. The cultures of the East and 
West had been growing apart for centuries. Having upheld more 
respect for the arts, literature and education, Eastern culture 
seemed more sophisticated than the West. The East had reverently 
preserved the writings of the ancient Greeks. Greek 
remained the official language of law, government, the Eastern 
church, and Eastern literature. In the West, however, even the 
Greek alphabet was lost. As the historian Charles H. Haskins 
writes, "at the hands of the medieval scribe a Greek word 
becomes gibberish or is omitted with grecum inserted in its 



placeÑit was "all Greek" to him."41 Starting in the late 700's the 
two cultures began to use different coinage.42 Disparity between 
the two cultures grew as the churches each developed their own 
forms of Christian rites. They celebrated Easter on different 
days. They differed in their views regarding the use of icons, 
and in the ordering of the Holy Trinity in the Nicene Creed.43 
There was little that the East and West now shared in common 
other than that they both considered themselves Christian. 

In 1054, after attempts at reconciling the differences between 
Rome and Constantinople failed, the two branches of Christianity 
formalized their separation. To a Roman Church that vigorously 
asserted its supremacy over all, however, such a separation was 
seen as an affront to and a rejection of the Pope's authority. 
With the help of priests who encouraged the idea that the 
schismatic Greeks were satan's henchmen and were to blame for 
every misfortune, the People's Crusade of 1096 sacked Belgrade, 
the chief imperial city after Constantinople.44 A Greek chronicler 
wrote of the Pope: 
...he wished to compel us to recognize the 
Pope's primacy among all prelates and to commemorate 
his name in public prayers, under 
pain of death against those who refuse.45 
Later in 1204 Pope Innocent III sent a group of crusaders to 
Constantinople. The soldiers of Christ fell upon Constantinople 
with a vengeance, raping, pillaging and burning the city.46 
According to the chronicler Geoffrey Villehardouin, never since 
the creation of the world had so much booty been taken from a 
city.47 The Pope's response to the Greek Emperor: 

...we believe that the Greeks have been punished 
through (the Crusades) by the just judgement of 

5.3 Pope Urban preaching the crusades. While the ostensible purpose of 
the crusades was to rescue the holy land from the infidel, the crusades also 
helped unify Europeans under the banner of Christianity and avert criticism 
from the papacy. 

God: these Greeks who have striven to rend the 
Seamless Robe of Jesus Christ... Those who 
would not join Noah in his ark perished justly in 
the deluge; and these have justly suffered famine 
and hunger who would not receive as their 
shepherd the blessed Peter, Prince of the 

To the Pope, the rape of Constantinople was just punishment for 
not submitting to the Roman Catholic Church. Biblical passages 
supported his stance: "But those mine enemies, which would not 
that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before 
me."49 Following the attack, a Latin patriarch subject to the 
Pope ruled the domain until 1261.50 Constantinople, however, 
was left severely weakened and in 1453 fell to Turkish conquest. 

In the roughly 200 years of crusades, thousands, if not 
millions, were killed. Invading crusaders destroyed in much the 
same way as the Church had at the onset of the Dark Ages. They 
burned any books they found.51 Hebrew scrolls such as 12,000 
volumes of the Talmud and the works of Maimonides were 
burned.52 While they pillaged and looted with a vengeance, 
crusaders were often unable to transport anything upon the 
difficult journey home. Although the crusades did bring about 
moments of solidarity as Europeans rallied together in the name 
of Christianity, they fell far short of all their other intentions. 
The crusades failed to gain more than fleeting control of 
Jerusalem, and failed to enrich their crusaders. Far from gaining 
converts to the Roman Catholic Church, the crusades spread a 
bitter animosity that still lingers today.53 

European Jews were often the first victims of a crusade. But 
Christian persecution of Jews continued long after the crusades 
ended. Jews became the scapegoats for many problems that the 
Church could not fix. When, for example, the black death, the 

5.4 A depiction of Crusaders entering Constantinople. 


bubonic plague, struck in the fourteenth century, the Church 
explained that Jews were to blame and prompted attacks upon 
them.54 A whole folklore developed claiming that Jews kidnapped 
and ate Christian children in Jewish rituals of cannibalism, and 
that Jews stole and profaned the blessed Christian sacraments. 
These were the same tales that Romans once told of the hated 
Christians, the same tales that Christians would tell of witches, 
and the same tales Protestants would tell of Catholics.55 Pogroms, 
the raiding and destroying of Jewish synagogues and 
ghettos, became a common demonstration of Christian righteousness. 

Jews were easy targets for they had never been embraced by 
Christian society. Under the feudal system, a ceremony of 
investiture involving a Christian oath excluded Jews from 
working the land and sent them into commerce and crafts in the 
towns. However, with the rapid population expansion of the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries and the consequent influx of 
people to the cities, artisan guilds were established, each with its 
own patron saint. Jews were again driven from the crafts into 
what fields remained: banking, money-changing and moneylending.
56 Persecuting Jews, therefore, also became a convenient 
means of getting rid of one's creditors. Religious arguments 
were taken up by indebted kings to justify their confiscation of 
Jewish property and their expulsion of Jews from their 

Anyone who held power became a likely target for the 
Church. The Knights Templar, a group originally formed to 
protect crusaders, gained political influence and became known 
as trustworthy moneylenders.58 They were also thought to have 
brought back with them Gnostic, Kabalistic, and Islamic 
mysteries. Threatened by the Templars' growing political power, 
suspicious of their seemingly independent religious beliefs, and 
jealous of their wealth, both Church and kings had reason to 
persecute them. As with the Jews, incredible stories began to 


circulate about the Templars, including accounts of an initiation 
ritual which involved denying Christ, God, and the Virgin, and 
spitting, trampling and urinating upon the cross. Accused of 
homosexuality, of killing illegitimate children, and of witchcraft, 
the Templars were murdered and their property confiscated.59 

The Church found itself at odds with a seemingly endless 
array of people in the Middle Ages. It reacted swiftly and 
forcefully to suppress the first seeds of nationalism and desire for 
independence from Rome. When disputes over tribute payments 
arose in 1275, the Pope excommunicated the whole town of 
Florence.60 And, when a group of smaller Italian city-states 
organized a revolt against papal control in 1375, the Pope's 
legate in Italy, Robert of Geneva, hired a mercenary band to 
reconquer the area. After failing to take the city of Bologna, this 

band set upon the smaller town of Cessna.61 
Swearing clemency by a solemn oath on his 
cardinal's hat, Cardinal Robert persuaded the 
men of Cessna to lay down their arms, and won 
their confidence by asking for 50 hostages and 
immediately releasing them as evidence of good 
will. Then summoning his mercenaries... he 

ordered a general massacre 'to exercise justice.' 
... For three days and nights beginning February 
3, 1377, while the city gates were closed, the 
soldiers slaughtered. 'All the squares were full of 
dead.' Trying to escape, hundreds drowned in 
the moats, thrust back by relentless swords. 
Women were seized for rape, ransom was placed 
on children, plunder succeeded the killing, works 
of art were ruined, handicrafts laid waste, 'and 
what could not be carried away, they burned, 
made unfit for use or spilled upon the ground.' 
The toll of the dead was between 2,500-5000.62 

Robert of Geneva was appointed Pope three years later in 1378 
and became Clement VII.63 


Judging by the ferocity of its attack upon a group called the 
Cathars, the Church was more grandly threatened by this heresy 
than by any other in history. Catharism thrived in southern 
France, an area then known as Langedoc. Politically and 
culturally distinct from the north, Langedoc was tolerant of 
difference. Many races lived together harmoniouslyÑGreeks, 
Phoenicians, Jews and Muslims. Jews were not only free from 
persecution, but held management and advisory positions with 
lords and even prelates. There was less class distinction, a milder 
form of serfdom, freer towns, and a judicial system based upon 
Roman law.64 Nowhere were citizens as educated.65 Culture and 
commerce flourished, making it one of the most prosperous 
regions in Europe. 
Catharism incorporated diverse religious elements. There is 
evidence of a strong connection between Catharism, Moslem Sufi 
communities and the Jewish Kabbalist tradition.66 Women served 
as priests and could administer even the most important rite, the 
consolamentum.67 Cathars were closely associated with the 
Troubadours, the writers of romantic poetry, and were thought 
to believe that God was manifest in nature's colors and sounds.68 
They were liked and protected both by the upper classes and by 
their Catholic neighbors to such an extent that, when the Roman 
Catholic Church later attacked, many Catholics chose to die 
rather than turn their Catharan neighbors over to the Church.69 
Responding to the growing popularity of the Cathars, the 
Catholic Church accused them of the standard malefactions: 
desecrating the cross and the sacraments, cannibalism, renouncing 
Christ, and sexual orgies.70 And, yet, the Catholic St. 
Bernard, who was hardly a friend of the Cathars, said of them: 
If you interrogate them, nothing can be more 
Christian; as to their conversation, nothing can 

be less reprehensible, and what they speak they 
prove by deeds. As for the morals of the heretic, 
he cheats no one, he oppresses no one, he 


strikes no one; his cheeks are pale with fasting, 
he eats not the bread of idleness, his hands 
labor for his livelihood.71 

Circulating scandalous stories of Catharan atrocities did little 
either to check the Cathars' popularity or to stem the tide of 
tolerance and independent thought. Disregarding one of the 

5.5 -Innocent III, Pope from 1198 to 1216. 

Church's most severe sentences, the town of Viterbo even 
elected an excommunicated heretic as chamberlain.72 

In 1139 the Church began calling councils to condemn the 
Cathars and all who supported them.73 By 1179 Alexander III 
proclaimed a crusade against these enemies of the Church 
promising two years' indulgence, or freedom from punishment 
for sins, to all who would take up arms, and eternal salvation for 
any who should die. While this set a precedent for providing the 
Church with a warlike militia to fight the Church's private 
quarrels,74 it failed to rally force against the popular Cathars. 
Then in 1204 Pope Innocent III destroyed what remained of the 
independence of local churches when he armed his legates with 
the authority "to destroy, throw down, or pluck up whatever is 
to be destroyed, thrown down, or plucked up and to plant and 
build whatever is to be built or planted."75 In 1208 when 
Innocent III offered, in addition to indulgences and eternal 
salvation, the lands and property of the heretics and their 
supporters to any who would take up arms, the Albigensian 
Crusade to slaughter the Cathars began. 

The savagery of the thirty-year-long attack decimated 
Langedoc. At the Cathedral of St. Nazair alone 12,000 people 
were killed. Bishop Folque of Toulouse put to death 10,000.76 
When the crusaders fell upon the town of Beziers and the 
commanding legate, Arnaud, was asked how to distinguish 
Catholic from Cathar, he replied, "Kill them all, for God knows 
his own!"77 Not a child was spared. One historian wrote that 
"even the dead were not safe from dishonor, and the worst 
humiliations were heaped upon women."78 The total slain at 
Beziers as reported by papal legates was 20,000, by other 
chroniclers the numbers killed were between 60,000 and 
100,000.79 The Albigensian crusade killed an estimated one 
million people, not only Cathars but much of the population of 
southern France. Afterwards, with its population nearly annihilated, 
its buildings left in rubble, and its economy destroyed, the 


lands of southern France were annexed to the north. 

Entrenched in its authoritarian structure and consumed by the 
belief in its own supremacy, the Catholic Church was unable to 
respond to the rapid growth and changes of medieval society. 
Instead it demanded obedience to the Pope's dictates. When 
crusades against the Muslim, Greek and Jewish infidel failed to 
bring about lasting European unity under the banner of Christianity, 
the Church struck closer to home, attacking anyone who 
threatened its power or disobeyed its commands. Its thirty-yearlong 
Albigensian crusade ushered in a five-hundred-year-long 
period of brutal repression, the length and scope of which has no 
parallel in the Western world. 

Chapter Six 

the Human Spirit: 
the Inquisition and Slavery 

1250 -1800 

There has been no more organized effort by a religion to 
control people and contain their spirituality than the Christian 
Inquisition. Developed within the Church's own legal framework, 
the Inquisition attempted to terrify people into obedience. 
As the Inquisitor Francisco Pena stated in 1578, "We must 
remember that the main purpose of the trial and execution is not 
to save the soul of the accused but to achieve the public good 
and put fear into others."1 The Inquisition took countless human 
lives in Europe and around the world as it followed in the wake 
of missionaries. And along with the tyranny of the Inquisition, 
churchmen also brought religious justification for the practice of 

The unsubmissive spirit of the high Middle Ages only seemed 
to exacerbate the Church's demand for unquestioning obedience. 
The Church's understanding of God was to be the only understanding. 
There was to be no discussion or debate. As the 
Inquisitor Bernard Gui said, the layman must not argue with the 


unbeliever, but "thrust his sword into the man's belly as far as 
it will go."2 In a time of burgeoning ideas about spirituality, the 
Church insisted that it was the only avenue through which one 
was permitted to learn of God. Pope Innocent III declared "that 
anyone who attempted to construe a personal view of God which 
conflicted with Church dogma must be burned without pity."3 
Before the Inquisition was fully underway, the Church 
welcomed heretics back to its fold under terms it considered 
reasonable. The following is an example of such terms: 

On three Sundays the penitent is to be stripped 
to the waist and scourged by the priest from the 
entrance of the town... to the church door. He is 
to abstain forever from meat and eggs and 
cheese, except on Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, 
when he is to eat of them as sign of his 
abnegation of his Manichaean errors. For 
twoscore days, twice a year, he is to forgo the 
use of fish, and for three days in each week that 
of fish, wine, and oil, fasting, if his health and 
labors will permit. He is to wear monastic 
vestments, with a small cross sewed on each 
breast. If possible, he is to hear mass daily and 
on feast-days to attend church at vespers. Seven 
times a day he is to recite the canonical hours, 
and, in addition the Paternoster ten times each 
day and twenty times each night. He is to 
observe the strictest chastity. Every month he is 
to show this paper to the priest, who is to watch 
its observance closely, and this mode of life is to 
be maintained until the legate shall see fit to 
alter it, while for infraction of the penance he is 
to be held as a perjurer and a heretic, and to be 
segregated from the society of the faithful.4 

Few heretics returned to the Church of their own accord. 


The Church turned to its own canon law to authenticate an 
agency which could enforce adherence to Church authority. In 
1231 Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition as a separate 
tribunal, independent of bishops and prelates. Its administrators, 
the inquisitors, were to be answerable only to the Pope.5 Its 
inquisitional law replaced the common law tradition of "innocent 
until proven guilty" with "guilty until proven innocent."6 
Despite an ostensible trial, inquisitional procedure left no 
possibility for the suspected to prove his or her innocence; the 
process resulted in the condemnation of anyone even suspected 
of heresy.7 The accused was denied the right of counsel.8 No 
particulars were given as to the time or place of the suspected 
heresies, or to what kind of heresies were suspected. A suspected 
friendship with a convicted heretic was also a crime, yet no 
information was given as to which heretic the accused was to 
have "adored." The names of the accusing witnesses were kept 
secret.9 One's only recourse was an appeal to the Pope in Rome 
which was so futile as to be farcical.10 The friar Bernard 
Delicieux declared: 

.. .that if St. Peter and St. Paul were accused of 
'adoring' heretics and were prosecuted after the 
fashion of the Inquisition, there would be no 
defense open for them.11 

The inquisitor presided over inquisitional procedure as both 
prosecutor and judge. While he was technically to arrive at his 
decision after consulting with an assembly of experts of his 
choosing, this check to his power was soon abandoned.12 An 
inquisitor was selected primarily on the basis of his zeal to 
prosecute heretics.13 He and his assistants, messengers and spies 
were allowed to carry arms. And in 1245, the Pope granted him 
the right to absolve these assistants for any acts of violence.14 
This act rendered the Inquisition, which was already free from 

6.1 Inquisitors presided both as prosecutor and judge, leaving little 
possibility for someone accused of heresy to ever be proven innocent. 


any secular jurisdiction, unaccountable to even ecclesiastical 

Inquisitors grew very rich. They received bribes and annual 
fines from the wealthy who paid to escape accusation.15 The 
Inquisition would claim all the money and property of alleged 
heretics.16 As there was little chance of the accused being proven 
innocent, there was no need to wait for conviction to confiscate 
his or her property.17 Unlike Roman law that reserved a portion 
of property for the convicted's nearest heirs, canon and inquisitional 
law left nothing. Pope Innocent III had explained that God 
punished children for the sins of their parents. So unless children 
had come forth spontaneously to denounce their parents, they 
were left penniless. Inquisitors even accused the dead of heresy, 
sometimes as much as seventy years after their death. They 
exhumed and burned the alleged heretic's bones and then 
confiscated all property from the heirs.18 

Inquisitors rarely shared the money collected with the 
episcopal courts, the civil government, or spent it building 
churches as planned.19 One historian writes how the inquisitor 
was often able to "seize everything for himself, not even sending 
a share to the officials of the Inquisition at Rome."20 Inquisitors 
were reluctant to pay for even the cost of feeding their victims, 
encouraging the families or the community to pay such costs. It 
was hardly a coincidence that the eagerness of the Inquisition in 
any given region was proportionate to the opportunities for 

Ironically, inquisitors were most often chosen from Dominican 
and Franciscan orders, both of which originally professed 
vows of poverty. The Church did little to encourage their ideal 
of poverty. Although it regarded the Franciscan founder, Francis 
of Assisi, as a saint, the Church persecuted Francis's followers 
who upheld his ideas of poverty, those known as the Fraticelli, 
or "Spiritual Franciscans." The Church denounced the Fraticelli 
as "false and pernicious" and in 1315 excommunicated them.22 


Pope Martin V ordered their village of Magnalata leveled and 
every resident slain.23 The Franciscans who abandoned Francis's 
teachings, however, were often appointed as inquisitors. While 
it did not overtly endorse the Inquisition's avarice and corruption, 
the Church did little to stop it. 

The Inquisition had devastating economic impact. Aside from 
directly seizing the property of successful merchants by accusing 
them of heresy, inquisitors crippled commerce by holding certain 
operations suspect. For example, maps and map-makers, so 
essential to navigating traders and merchants, were held in deep 
suspicion. Inquisitors believed the printed word to be a channel 
of heresy and so hampered the communication produced by the 
fifteenth century invention of the printing press.24 The mere 
suspicion of heresy annulled all rights of the suspected individual.
25 When accused, all debts owed by the heretic and any liens 
which secured those debts became null and void. The historian 

Henry Charles Lea writes: 
As no man could be certain of the orthodoxy of 
another, it will be evident how much distrust 
must have been thrown upon even the commonest 

transactions of life. The blighting influence of 
this upon the development of commerce and 
industry can readily be perceived, coming as it 
did at a time when the commercial and industrial 
movement of Europe was beginning to usher in 
the dawn of modern culture.26 

While inquisitors themselves prospered, their activity left 
communities impoverished. 

The Inquisition was merciless with its victims. The same man 
who had been both prosecutor and judge decided upon the 
sentence. In 1244 the Council of Narbonne ordered that in the 
sentencing of heretics, no husband should be spared because of 
his wife, nor wife because of her husband, nor parent because of 
helpless children, and no sentence should be mitigated because 


of sickness or old age.27 Each and every sentence included 

Of the sentences, pilgrimages were considered the lightest. 
Yet, undertaken on foot, such penances could take years, during 
which the penitent's family might perish.28 Carrying a much 
greater stigma than pilgrimages was "wearing the crosses," also 
known as poena confusibilis or "humiliating punishment." The 
penitents were required to wear large saffron-colored crosses on 
the front and back, which subjected them to public ridicule and 
hindered every effort of earning a livelihood.29 A more frequent 
sentence was perpetual imprisonment, which always entailed a 
scant diet of bread and water, sometimes meant being kept in 
chains, and occasionally entailed solitary confinement. The life 
expectancy in all the prison sentences was very short.30 
The harshest sentence of burning at the stake was given to 
those who either failed in their previous penance, relapsed into 
heresy, or who would not confess to any crime. Although the 
Church had begun killing heretics in the late fourth century and 
again in 1022 at Orlean, papal statutes of 1231 now insisted that 
heretics suffer death by fire.31 Burning people to death technically 
avoided spilling a drop of blood. The words of the Gospel 
of John were understood to sanction burning: "If a man abide 
not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men 
gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."32 
The Church distanced itself from the killing by turning 
heretics over to secular authorities for the actual burning. Such 
secular authorities, however, were not allowed to decline. When 
the Senate of Venice in 1521 refused to approve such executions, 
for example, Pope Leo X wrote that secular officials were: intervene no more in this kind of trial, but 
promptly, without changing or inspecting the 
sentences made by the ecclesiastical judges, to 
execute the sentences which they are enjoined to 
carry out. And if they neglect or refuse, you (the 


Papal legate) are to compel them with the 
Church's censure and other appropriate 
measures. From this order there is no appeal.33 

In practice, any secular authorities who refused to cooperate 
were excommunicated and subject to the same treatment as 
suspected heretics.34 

By far the cruelest aspect of the inquisitional system was the 
means by which confessions were wrought: the torture chamber. 
Torture remained a legal option for the Church from 1252 when 
it was sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV until 1917 when the new 
Codex Juris Canonici was put into effect.35 Innocent IV 
authorized indefinite delays to secure confessions, giving 
inquisitors as much time as they wanted to torture the accused.36 
Although the letter of law forbade repeating torture, inquisitors 
easily avoided this rule by simply "continuing" torture, calling 
any interval a suspension.37 In 1262 inquisitors and their 
assistants were granted the authority to quietly absolve each other 
from the crime of bloodshed.38 They simply explained that the 
tortured had died because the devil broke their necks. 

Thus, with license granted by the Pope himself, inquisitors 
were free to explore the depths of horror and cruelty. Dressed 
as black-robed fiends with black cowls over their heads, 
inquisitors extracted confessions from nearly anyone. The 
Inquisition invented every conceivable devise to inflict pain by 
slowly dismembering and dislocating the body. Many of these 
devices were inscribed with the motto "Glory be only to God."39 
The rack, the hoist and water tortures were the most common. 
Victims were rubbed with lard or grease and slowly roasted 
alive.40 Ovens built to kill people, made infamous in twentieth 
century Nazi Germany, were first used by the Christian 
Inquisition in Eastern Europe.41 Victims were thrown into a pit 
full of snakes and buried alive. One particularly gruesome 
torture involved turning a large dish full of mice upside down on 
the victim's naked stomach. A fire was then lit on top of the dish 


causing the mice to panic and burrow into the stomach.42 Should 
a victim withstand such pain without confessing, he or she would 
be burned alive at the stake, often in mass public burnings, 
called auto-da-fe.43 

Contemporary writings echo the terror created by the 
Inquisition. Juan de Mariana reported in the 1490's that people 

...were deprived of the liberty to hear and talk 
freely, since in all cities, towns and villages 

there were persons placed to give information of 
what went on. This was considered by some the 
most wretched slavery and equal to death.44 
A writer in 1538 described life in the Spanish city of Toledo: 

...preachers do not dare to preach, and those 
who preach do not dare to touch on contentious 
matters, for their lives and honour are in the 
mouths of two ignoramuses, and nobody in this 
life is without his policeman... Bit by bit many 
rich people leave the country for foreign realms, 
in order not to live all their lives in fear and 
trembling every time an officer of the Inquisition 
enters their house; for continual fear is a worse 
death than a sudden demise.45 

The Inquisition often targeted members of other religions as 
severely as it did heretics. The Inquisition now lent its authority 
to the long-standing Christian persecution of Jews. Particularly 
during the Christian Holy Week of the Passion, Christians 
frequently rioted against Jews or refused to sell them food in 
hopes of starving them.46 At the beginning of the thirteenth 
century, Pope Innocent III required Jews to wear distinctive 
clothing.47 In 1391 the Archdeacon of Seville launched a "Holy 

6.2 A mass burning or auto-da-fe. As one inquisitor stated, "We must 
remember that the main purpose of the trial and execution is not to save the 
soul of the accused but to achieve the public good and put fear into 



War against the Jews."49 By 1492 the Inquisition in Spain had 
become so virulent in its persecution of Jews that it demanded 
either their conversion to Christianity or their expulsion. 
Muslims experienced little better. Not surprisingly, Islamic 
countries offered far safer sanctuaries to escaping Jews than 
Christian lands. 

Historians have often diminished Christian responsibility for 
the Inquisition by dividing the Inquisition into three separate 
phases: the medieval, the Spanish and the Roman. The greater 
secular influence of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella is 
thought to separate the Spanish Inquisition from the medieval. 
Yet, the Spanish Inquisition's most influential leader, the 
Dominican Tomas de Torquemada, was appointed Inquisitor 
General by Pope Sixtus IV. Jews were expelled from Spain, not 
from a profit motive (there was little money to be made in 
banishing a large community whose taxes were paid directly to 
the crown), but from the fear that Jews contaminated Christian 
society.50 The Roman Inquisition is distinct from the medieval 
mainly because it was renamed. In 1542 Pope Paul III reassigned 
the medieval Inquisition to the Congregation of the Inquisition, 
or the Holy Office. Each phase was identical, however, in its 
demand for absolute submission of the individual to authority, a 
demand rooted in the orthodox conviction that God similarly 
requires unquestioning obedience. 

The tyranny inherent in the belief in singular supremacy 
accompanied explorers and missionaries throughout the world. 
When Columbus landed in America in 1492, he mistook it for 
India and called the native inhabitants "Indians." It was his 
avowed aim to "convert the heathen Indians to our Holy Faith"51 
that warranted the enslaving and exporting of thousands of 
Native Americans. That such treatment resulted in complete 

6.3 A painting of Christopher Columbus landing in the New World. His 
converting native inhabitants to Christianity seemed to justify the atrocities 
committed against them. 

genocide did not matter as much as that these natives had been 
given the opportunity of everlasting life through their exposure 
to Christianity.52 The same sort of thinking also gave Westerners 
license to rape women. In his own words, Columbus described 
how he himself "took [his] pleasure" with a native woman after 
whipping her "soundly" with a piece of rope.53 

The Inquisition quickly followed in their wake. By 1570 the 
Inquisition had established an independent tribunal in Peru and 
the city of Mexico for the purpose of "freeing the land, which 
has become contaminated by Jews and heretics. "54 Natives who 
did not convert to Christianity were burned like any other 
heretic.55 The Inquisition spread as far as Goa, India, where in 
the late 16th and early 17th centuries it took no less than 3,800 

Even without the formal Inquisition present, missionary 
behavior clearly illustrated the belief in the supremacy of a single 
image of God, not in the supremacy of one all-encompassing 
divinity. If the image of God venerated in a foreign land was not 
Christian, it was simply not divine. Portuguese missionaries in 
the Far East destroyed pagodas, forced scholars to hide their 
religious manuscripts, and suppressed older customs.57 Mayan 
scribes in Central America wrote: 

Before the coming of the Spaniards, there was 
no robbery or violence. The Spanish invasion 
was the beginning of tribute, the beginning of 
church dues, the beginning of strife.58 

In 1614 the Shogun of Japan, Iyeyazu, accused the missionaries 
of "wanting to change the government of the country and make 
themselves masters of the soil."59 

With no understanding of shared supremacy and authority, 
missionaries fought among themselves just as had early orthodox 

6.4 Some missionaries felt that it was their right to kill native inhabitants 
who refused to convert to Christianity or submit to the Church. 


Christians who had "wanted to command one another" and 
lusted "for power over one another."60 In Japan and China, the 
Dominicans fought bitterly with the Jesuits. In the Near East, the 
Franciscans fought with the Capuchins. And in India, the Jesuits 
fought several wars against the Capuchins.61 A Seneca chief 
asked of a Moravian missionary in 1805, "If there is but one 
religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?"62 

Missionaries often took part in the unscrupulous exploitation 
of foreign lands. Many became missionaries to get rich quickly 
and then return to Europe to live off their gains. In Mexico, 
Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits were known to own "the 
largest flocks of sheep, the finest sugar ingenios, the best kept 
estates..."63 The Church, particularly in South America, 
supported the enslavement of native inhabitants and the theft of 
native lands. A 1493 papal Bull justified declaring war on any 
natives in South America who refused to adhere to Christianity.64 
As the jurist Encisco claimed in 1509: 
The king has every right to send his men to the 
Indies to demand their territory from these idolaters 
because he had received it from the pope. 
If the Indians refuse, he may quite legally fight 
them, kill them and enslave them, just as Joshua 
enslaved the inhabitants of the country of Ca



Orthodox Christians defended slavery as part of the divinely 
ordained hierarchical order. Passages in the Bible support the 
institution of slavery: 

Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which 
thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are 
round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen 
and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the 
strangers that do sojourn among you, of them 
shall ye buy, and of their families that are with 
you, which they begat in your land: and they 


shall be your possession. And ye shall take them 
as an inheritance for your children after you, to 
inherit them for a possession; they shall be your 
bondmen for ever.66 

St. Paul instructed slaves to obey their masters.67 The early St. 
John Chrysostom wrote: 

The slave should be resigned to his lot, in obeying 
his master he is obeying God...68 
And in the City of God, St. Augustine wrote: 
...slavery is now penal in character and planned 
by that law which commands the preservation of 
the natural order and forbids disturbance.69 

While there were missionaries who recognized the humanity 
of Native Americans and worked earnestly to improve their lot, 
few recognized an inherent injustice in the idea of slavery. Even 
the well-known Jesuit Antonio Vieira, who was imprisoned by 
the Inquisition for his work on behalf of the native inhabitants, 
advocated importing black Africans to serve as slaves for 
colonial settlers. And he still considered fugitives from slavery 
guilty of sin and worthy of excommunication.70 

Orthodox Christianity also supported the practice of slavery 
in North America. The eighteenth century Anglican Church 
made it clear that Christianity freed people from eternal damnation, 
not from the bonds of slavery. The Bishop of London, 
Edmund Gibson, wrote: 
The Freedom which Christianity gives, is a 
Freedom from the Bondage of Sin and Satan, 
and from the Dominion of Men's Lusts and 

Passions and inordinate Desires; but as to their 
outward Condition, whatever that was before, 
whether bond or free, their being baptised, and 
becoming Christians, makes no manner of 
Change in it.71 

Slaves should, however, be converted to Christianity, it was 


argued, because they would then become more docile and 

Both the Inquisition and those supporting the practice of 
slavery relied upon the same religious justification. In keeping 
with the orthodox Christian belief in a singular and fearful God 
who rules at the pinnacle of hierarchy, power resided solely with 
authority, not with the individual. Obedience and submission 
were valued far more than freedom and self-determination. The 
Inquisition played out the darkest consequences of such a belief 
system as it imprisoned and killed the bodies and spirits of 
countless peopleÑand not simply for a brief moment of time. 
The Inquisition spanned centuries and was still active in some 
places as late as 1834.73 

Chapter Seven 

The Reformation: 
Converting the Populace 

1500 -1700 C.E. 

Both the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter 
Reformation attempted to purge Christianity of pre-Christian and 
pagan elements. While the medieval Church had embraced 
orthodox ideology in theory, in practice it had concerned itself 
far more with amassing wealth and enforcing social obedience 
than with directing the spirituality of common people. Reformers 
now set about teaching the European populace a better understanding 
of orthodox Christianity. By frightening people with 
stories of the devil and the danger of magic, they convinced 
people to believe in an authoritarian God who demanded 
discipline, struggle, and the renunciation of physical pleasure. 

Protesting a Church more concerned with collecting money 
than with teaching scripture, Martin Luther ignited the Protestant 
Reformation. When he posted his 95 theses on the door of his 
town's church in 1517, Luther gave voice to a widespread 
resentment of the Church. His protest found support among the 
exploited peasantry, those who advocated independence from the 
Holy Roman Empire, and those who resented the money being 
sent to the Church in Rome and the Church's immense landed 


estates. Protestantism soon swept through Germany, Switzerland, 
the Low Countries, England, Scotland, the Scandinavian 
Kingdoms, as well as through parts of France, Hungary and 

The Catholic Church responded with its own Reformation, 
called the Counter Reformation, centered around the decisions 
and canons of the Council of Trent which met between 1545 and 
1563. The animosity between Protestants and Catholics sparked 
a series of civil wars in France and England as well as the 
bloody Thirty Years War involving Germany, Sweden, France, 
Denmark, England, the Netherlands, and the Holy Roman 
Empire represented by the Hapsburgs. That both sides considered 
themselves Christian did not temper the bloodshed. On 
August 24, 1572, for example, in what is known as the massacre 
of St. Bartholomew's Day, 10,000 Protestants were slaughtered 
in France. Pope Gregory XIII wrote to France's Charles IX, 
"We rejoice with you that with the help of God you have 
relieved the world of these wretched heretics."1 

Yet, both Protestants and Catholics were concerned with 
establishing a Christianity based upon orthodox ideology. 
Protestants led this effort by advocating stricter adherence to 
scripture. Aided by the printing press, the Protestant message 
demonstrated more uniformity and was less likely to be adapted 
to older pagan beliefs.2 The harsher tenets of the Old Testament 
took on greater prominence. Rather than invoking God's 
participation as a helpmate in life as many had continued to do, 
Protestants believed that one should be more concerned with 
supplication and obedience to God's sovereign will. Jesus should 
be seen, not as a human being with whom to relate, but as part 
of almighty God. Some Protestants even denied that Jesus had 
taken on a biologically human body; his had been a "celestial 

7.1 A depiction of Martin Luther burning the Papal Bull. His protests 
against the Catholic Church touched off the Protestant Reformation. 
7.2 & 7.3 Depictions of the massacre of Protestants in Calabria (left) and 
the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day (above). The presence of two 
major branches of Christianity, each convinced that theirs was the only 
true path to God, turned Europe into a bloodbath. 

Protestants viewed the worship of saints and Mary, which had 
an intensely personal tone, as a form of idolatry and a diminishment 
of Jesus's single-handed victory. An individual, they 
believed, should develop a relationship with God strictly through 
the word of scripture rather than through the humanized images 
of Jesus, Mary, the saints, or even through symbols. Much in 
the way that fourth century Christians vandalized the sacred sites 
and images of more ancient traditions, so now Protestant mobs, 
incited by preachers and with the endorsement of public authority, 
destroyed images of saints.4 Although Protestantism vehemently 
denied the necessity of the Church as an intermediary 
between the individual and God, it removed most of the means 
through which a direct and personal relationship might develop. 

Catholic reformers also diminished the veneration of saints. 
Saints were now to be seen as heroic figures and models of 
virtue rather than as friends or benefactors.5 But the Catholic 
Church was reluctant to part with the authority it had built over 
centuries. Yes, Christian faith should be sourced in the Bible, 
butÑas the Council of Trent declaredÑthe Bible was best 
clarified by "the testimonies of approved holy fathers and 
councils, the judgement and consensus of the Church."6 
Catholics were also unwilling to dispense with the ritualistic and 
sacramental nature of church services. Some Protestants, on the 
other hand, rejected rituals and sacraments entirely, insisting that 
one should experience God strictly through preaching or reading 

Protestant leaders fervently embraced St. Augustine's ideas 
about free will and predestination: that Adam's fall from grace 
had left humanity inherently flawed, incapable of acting correctly, 
and thus entirely dependent upon God's mercy. Salvation 
was now possible only through the grace of God, not through 
individual determination. "Free will after the Fall is nothing but 
a word," said Luther in 1518. "Even doing what in him lies, 
man sins mortally."8 Most Catholics believed that while Adam's 
sin had inclined us towards evil and diminished our free will, his 


sin had not destroyed our free will entirely. Canon Four of the 
Council of Trent reads: 

If anyone says that man's free will, moved and 
stimulated by God, cannot cooperate at all by 
giving its assent to God when he stimulates and 
calls him... and that he cannot dissent, if he so 
wills, but like an inanimate creature is utterly 
inert and passive, let him be anathema.9 

Even though Protestants lacked the organized Catholic 
hierarchy to demarcate who was better than whom, they 
continued to rank human beings. Martin Luther believed that 
differences in gender, class, race, and belief indicated superior 
and inferior states of being. In 1533 he wrote, "Girls begin to 
talk and to stand on their feet sooner than boys because weeds 
always grow up more quickly than good crops."10 In 1525 he 
supported the merciless suppression of the Peasants' War, a 
rebellion that his own spirit of independence from the Roman 
Church had helped to ignite.11 Although Luther could find no 
scriptural warrant for exterminating Jews, he believed that they 
should be enslaved or thrown out of Christian lands and that 
their ghettos and synagogues should be burned.12 He thought that 
the rebellious Anabaptists should be killed and even publicly 
affirmed a 1531 edict by Wittenberg theologians sanctioning their 
Other Protestant leaders were no more tolerant. John Calvin, 
whose doctrine formed the basis of Presbyterianism, wrote of: 

...the eternal principle, by which [God] has 

determined what He will do with each man. For 
He does not create them equal, but appoints 
some to eternal life, and others to eternal damnation.

Calvin established a powerfully repressive, police-state theocracy 
in Geneva that is perhaps best remembered for burning the well-
known physician, Michael Servetus, because of his dissenting 


views of Christianity. Calvin's pupil, John Knox, condemned all 
other creeds. As Protestants fragmented, each new denomination 
laid claim to the sole divine truth, denouncing all others. 

In keeping with their belief in an authoritarian God, both 
Protestants and Catholics advocated strict enforcement of their 
perception of God's laws. The Catholic Church had already 
established the means with which to control society and enforce 
obedience. Protestants, however, lacked the well-developed 
judicial structure and hierarchy of the Catholic Church and 
lacked its global reach. Instead, they transferred the enforcement 
of personal morality to the state. Aside from its secular functions, 
the state should now uphold the moral purity of society; 
it should be "the Godly state."15 The domestic family unit, 
governed by the father, also took on new importance as the 
microcosm of the authoritarian structure. 

Both Protestants and Catholics diminished the important role 
of the community, making it easier for the Church and state to 
have more direct control of the individual. The Reformation 
discouraged fraternities, which in the Middle Ages had provided 
for its members in times of need, organized celebrations and 
plays, helped care for the poor, and set up hospitals.16 Community 
festivals, crucial to the harmony and vitality of the community, 
were curtailed. Catholic confessions, which had been a 
public act of forgiveness that restored a sinner back into the 
community, became a private matter between the individual and 
the priest with the introduction of the confession-box in 1565.17 
And the role of god-parents, which had served to cement social 
ties in ritual friendship, was diminished.18 The Reformation 
eroded the community's capacity to intervene with the authority 
of the Church, state, or family patriarch. 

The ReformationÑboth Protestant and CatholicÑreplaced the 
importance of communal harmony with an emphasis upon Godly 
order and obedience. The ten commandments took the place of 
the doctrine of the seven deadly sins which had formed the core 


of medieval morality: pride, envy, anger, avarice, gluttony, sloth 
and lechery. Those sins that destroyed the sense of community 
had been considered the worst: pride, envy, anger and avarice. 
The most important of the ten commandments, however, was the 
one that upheld, not communal harmony, but parental and civil 
authority: "Honour thy father and mother."19 Some laws in 
Puritan New England even decreed the death penalty for young 
who might curse or "smite" their parents.20 Sin, rather than 
something which disrupted communal harmony, now came to be 
seen as disobedience to authority.21 

Reformers had become aware not only of how little respect 
the Church commanded, but also of how ignorant common 
people were of orthodox Christianity. In 1547 Stephen Gardner 
described a parish in Cambridge: "when the vicar goeth into the 
pulpit to read that [he] himself hath written, then the multitude 
of the parish goeth straight out of the church, home to drink."22 
The historian Keith Thomas reports how, when a rector in Essex 
"preached in 1630 about Adam and Eve making themselves coats 
of fig-leaves, one loud-mouthed parishioner demanded to know 
where they got the thread to sew them with."23 Orthodox 
Christianity was especially foreign to people in rural areas. In 
1607 John Norden wrote: 
In some parts where I have travelled, where 
great and spacious wastes, mountains and heaths 
are, ...many cottages are set up, the people 
given to little or no kind of labour, living very 
hardly with oaten bread, sour whey, and goat's 
milk, dwelling far from any church or chapel, 
and are as ignorant of God or of any course of 
life as the very savages amongst the infidels.24 
To deal with the paganism of common people, Protestants and 
Catholics during the Reformation focused upon teaching the 
concept of a singular, heavenly God. In contrast to their 
understanding of divinity through a multiplicity of faces that 


could be experienced in every aspect of life, people were now 
taught to understand God strictly as a heavenly father who was 
no longer part of or interested in the physical realm. Spirituality, 
or a relationship with God, lay in repudiating physical pleasure, 
which often encompassed not just the pleasure of the physical 
senses but simple comforts as well. The late seventeenth century 
Tronson went so far as to declare: 

If you want to be heirs of Jesus and paradise, 

that is, if you want not to be damned everlastingly 
but to be happy for ever in heaven, then 
you must renounce the world entirely and bid it 
an eternal farewell.25 

The physical body was also to be repudiated. Since God was 
no longer to be found in the physical, the body was ungodly. 
Protestants and Catholics competed with each other over how 
little they could care for their bodies, using little soap and water 
throughout a lifetime.26 A Jesuit in the 1700's, explaining that 
"religious modesty" is enough to prevent anyone from bathing, 
told a story of one who violated the prohibition: 

A youth who dared to bathe at one of our country 
houses did drown there, perhaps by God's 
merciful judgement, for He may have wished this 
fearful example to serve as law.27 

A Catholic sermon from around 1700 advises one "to treat one's 
body as a sworn enemy, and subdue it through work, fasts, 
hairshirts, and other mortifications."28 A Sorbonne prior and 
doctor named Joseph Lambert warned rural folk: must regard every kind of touching of 
your own and others' bodies, every liberty, as 
the most serious of sins; although these lewd acts 
may indeed be secret, they are loathsome in 
God's sight, who sees them all, is offended by 
them, and never fails to punish them most 


While orthodox Christians had long considered sex for any 
purpose other than procreation to be sinful, it was only during 
the Reformation that most common people learned this. Christian 
history is replete with condemnations of human sexuality. In the 
fifth century St. Augustine developed a theory not only of how 
sin passed from generation to generation by the sexual act, but 
also how sexual desire was in itself proof of the lack of human 
free will. Inquisitors at the turn of the sixteenth century wrote 
that "God allows the devil more power over the venereal act, by 
which the original sin is handed down, than over other human 
actions."30 Reformers now took such attitudes and exhorted 
ordinary people to repudiate sexual pleasure even within a 
heterosexual marriage. It became common, for example, to cite 
Jerome's remark that a husband committed a sin if he enjoyed 
sex with his wife too much.31 

Pleasure in any form was now to be repudiated. Grignon de 
Montfort, a Catholic missionary, denounced love songs, tales 
and romances "which spread like the plague... and corrupt so 
many people."32 A prominent eighteenth century Augustinian 
priest repeatedly condemned public entertainment. "Public 
performances are inherently opposed to the spirit of Christianity." 
"Plays give only dangerous lessons." "Plays are the 
source of our time's dissoluteness."33 In seventeenth century 
New England where Puritans controlled much of society, 
warnings or actual punishment befell any youths caught sledding 
or swimming and any adults caught simply enjoying themselves 
when they might be better employed.34 To enjoy oneself on the 
Sabbath was considered a terrible offense. A Massachusetts law 
of 1653 prohibited Sunday walks and visits to the harbor as 
being a waste of time. Playing children or strolling young men 
and women were warned that they were engaging in "things 
tending much to the dishonor of God, the reproach of religion 
and the prophanation of the holy Sabbath."35 John Lewis and 


Sarah Chapman were brought before the New London court in 
1670 for "sitting together on the Lord's Day, under an apple tree 
in Goodman Chapman's orchard."36 
The pleasures of physical beauty and aesthetics were similarly 
disparaged. The seventeenth century bastion of Puritanism in 
New England frowned upon ornamentation of any sort. Furniture 
and dwellings were extremely austere. Beautiful clothing was 
considered sinful. In 1634 the General Court forbade garments: 

...with any lace on it, silver, gold or thread... 
also all outworks, embroidered or needlework 
caps, bands and rails... all gold and silver 
girdles, hatbands, belts, ruffs, beaver hats.37 

Clothing which revealed the female body was illegal. A 1650 
New England law prohibited "short sleeves, whereby the 
nakedness of the arm may be discovered."38 Christians came to 
believe that anything which focused attention upon the physical 
world was ungodly. 
The perceived separation of humanity from a strictly heavenly 
God produced a great sense of shame during the Reformation. 
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, declared: 

I am mere dung, I must ask our Lord that when 
I am dead my body be thrown on the dungheap 
to be devoured by the birds and dogs... Must 


this not be my wish in punishment for my sins 

And Calvin wrote: 

We are all made of mud, and this mud is not just 
on the hem of our gown, or on the sole of our 
boots, or in our shoes. We are full of it, we are 
nothing but mud and filth both inside and outside.

7.4 John Knox, the founder of Scottish Presbyterian ism. Believing the 
physical world to be ungodly, Protestant reformers condemned pleasure of 
any sort: physical, sexual or aesthetic. 

In the mid-1700's Jonathan Edwards, the Calvinist New England 
theologian, preached: 

(You are) a little, wretched, despicable creature; 
a worm, a mere nothing, and less than nothing; 
a vile insect, that has risen up in contempt 
against the majesty of heaven and earth.41 

One should cope with one's intrinsically evil nature through 
discipline, chastisement and struggle. Reformers extolled 
discipline and struggle as measures of a person's spirituality and 
godliness. Much of the Catholic Counter Reformation focused 
upon the administration and education of priests so that they 
could better teach discipline and the laws of the almighty God to 
their parishioners. Penance became a means of avoiding sinful 
behavior rather than a way of making amends for sins already 
committed.42 The Puritan Cotton Mather affirmed the value of 
punishment and echoed Augustine's "compel them to enter" with 
his famous phrase "Better whipt, than Damn'd."43 

Suffering and hardship marked a true orthodox Christian's 
life. Jesus's greatest act was understood to be, not his miracles 
of healing or his courageous rebellion against injustice, but his 
suffering and dying on the cross. The Church canonized 
individuals as saints, not because of their ease of accomplishment, 
but because of their torment and martyrdom. As the poet 
of the Spiritual Canticle wrote, one may not "look for Christ 
without the cross," and "suffering is the livery of those who 
love..."44 The seventeenth century Antoine Godeau preached 
that "a true Christian takes joy in having some afflictions to 
suffer, because suffering is the badge of a true Christian. "45 

Magic, or the belief that God could intervene and make 
physical life easier, became a sure sign of ungodliness during the 
Reformation. God reigned from above and demanded hard work 
and suffering. As the historian Keith Thomas notes, "man was 
to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow."46 Magic was also 
perceived as an arrogant attempt to impersonate God. For, as 


one reformer asked in 1554, "if ye may make at your pleasure 
such things to drive devils away and to deal both body and soul, 
what need have ye of Christ?"47 According to the seventeenth 
century Francis Bacon, magical remedies should be shunned 
because they "propound those noble effects which God hath set 
forth unto man to be bought at the price of labour, to be attained 
by a few easy and slothful observances."48 John Cotta, an 
English physician of the same period, wrote: 

God hath given nothing unto man but for his 
travail and pain; and according to his studious 
industry, care, prudence, providence, assiduity 
and diligence, he dispenseth unto him every 
good thing. He hath not ordained wonders and 
miracles to give supply unto our common needs, 
nor to answer the ordinary occasions or uses of 
our life.49 

This was news to much of medieval Europe. Most people still 
believed in a multifaceted God who could be called upon to 
assist in everyday life. The early Church, unable to convert 
people from such a belief, had established its own system of 
ecclesiastical magic.50 The Church had a whole range of 
formulas involving prayer and the invocation of God's name 
designed to encourage God's assistance in practical, secular 
matters. So strong was the belief in the power of the spoken 
word, for instance, that the Church discouraged people from 
learning exactly what the priest was saying for fear that they 
would be able to use such powerful words to work their own 
magic.51 And so strong was the belief that perjury would 
summon God's vengeance, that the Church relied upon a 
witness's honesty in testifying after he or she had sworn an oath 
upon a Bible or a relic.52 The belief in the magical power of the 
word was still so prevalent in Protestant England that in 1624 the 
Parliament passed an act prohibiting swearing and cursing.53 
It was against the medieval Church's endorsement of magic 


that Protestants most fervently rebelled. "The Papists," wrote 
Calvin, "pretend there is a magical force in the sacraments, 
independent of efficacious faith..."54 The Calvinist James 
Calfhill proclaimed that "the vilest witches and sorcerers of the 
earth" were 

...the priests that consecrate crosses and ashes, 
water and salt, oil and cream, boughs and 
bones, stocks and stones; that christen bells that 
hang in the steeple; that conjure worms that 
creep in the field; that give St. John's Gospel to 
hang about men's necks...55 

Protestants attacked sacraments such as confirmation as nothing 

...but plain sorcery, devilry, witchcraft, juggling, 
legerdemain, and all that naught is. The 
bishop mumbleth a few Latin words over the 
child, charmeth him, crosseth him, smeareth him 
with stinking popish oil, and tieth a linen brand 
about the child's neck and sendeth him home...56 

"The sacraments," wrote John Canne in 1634, "were not 
ordained by God to be used... as charms and sorceries."57 

Magic not only attested to what reformers believed was a 
false understanding of God, it also interfered with the new 
method of indicating social rank. Pre-reformational society had 
designated a man's rank either by his position within the Church 
hierarchy or by his status as a noble or fighter. But as the 
Church hierarchy and the role of nobility declined, financial 

7.5 This caricature of the Pope mocked the sacramental nature of the 
Catholic Church and was popular among Protestants in England, Holland 
and Germany for over a century. Articles used in Catholic worship 
compose the figure: the hat is a church-bell decorated with holy-water 
brushes, the mouth an open wine flagon, the eye a chalice covered by the 
holy wafer, the cheek a plate used in the communion service, the shoulder 
the mass-book. 


success became one of the only means of identifying a person's 
position in the divine hierarchy. Wealth was considered to be a 
symbol of a person's hard work and spiritual evolution. Such a 
"Puritan work ethic" would crumble, however, if a person could 
achieve prosperity magically. 

The increased significance of financial success did not, 
however, lead churchmen to encourage poor people to escape 
their poverty or to better their lot. The poor were to endure 
financial injustice without protest. A seventeenth century 
preacher explained that: 

If there are people who abuse the authority of 
sovereigns and charge you unfair taxes, God 
allows it in order to enact His justice, to punish 
your sins and the ill use you make of your 

A missionary hymn from the eighteenth century called An 
exhortation for working people urges people to bear their station 
in life quietly: 

Do not suffer to complain 

Of life's arduous pain, 

And harbor no envy 

For those who dwell on high.59 
To believe that you could change your situation through any 
means other than hard work and struggle, to believe in divine 
assistance, indicated collusion with the devil. Reformers taught 
that God was in heaven, not on earth. Any supernatural energy 
in the physical world could therefore only be the work of the 
devil and his demons. Indeed, the whole belief in and fear of the 
devil became paramount during the Reformation. Martin Luther 
reported having physical encounters with the devil and 

7.6 Reformers taught that God no longer took part in the physical world; 
the world was now the realm of only the devil and his demons, such as 
the one depicted in this woodcut. Anything magical or supernatural could 
now only be the devil's work. 


wrote, "We are all subject to the Devil, both in body and 
goods..."60 According to Luther, "The Devil liveth, yea, and 
reigneth throughout the whole world..."61 Jean Calvin said that 
the true Christian saint had to engage in an "unceasing struggle 
against him"62 and John Knox called the devil the "prince and 
God of this world."63 The Trent Catechism echoed the importance 
of belief in the devil: 

Many imagine that the whole matter is fictitious, 
since they think that they are not attacked themselves. 
This means that they are in the power of 
the Devil and have no Christian virtue. Therefore 
the Devil has no need to tempt them, as 
their souls are already the Devil's abode.64 

Belief in the devil's power became an essential counterpart to 

the belief in God. The Protestant Roger Hutchinson wrote: 
If there be a God, as we most steadfastly must 
believe, verily there is a Devil also; and if there 
be a Devil, there is no surer argument, no 

stronger proof, no plainer evidence, that there is 
a God.65 

Another writer pointed out that "he that can already believe that 
there is no Devil will ere long believe that there is no God..."66 
Like the early Mannichaeans, reformed Christians emphasized 
belief in the devil as much if not more than belief in God. The 
catechism of the Jesuit Canisius, for example, mentions the name 
of satan more often than it does the name of Jesus.67 
The perceived power of satan increased proportionately with 
the spread of orthodox Christianity. Belief in the devil is a means 
of frightening people into obedience. Churchmen of the Reformation 
were no different from earlier orthodox Christians who 
had considered fear to be imperative. In 1674 Christophe 
Schrader advised other preachers of the necessity of having: 

...a very great fear of the all-powerful and 
excellent God who chased the rebel angels from 


heaven and our first ancestors from paradise, 
destroyed practically the whole universe with the 
deluge, and overthrew whole kingdoms and 

The devil is a necessary counterpart to such an "all-powerful and 
excellent" God. The devil carries out God's judgment, tormenting 
sinners for all eternity. He is, as King James I called him, 
"God's hangman."69 

Like many orthodox doctrines and ideas, belief in the devil 
makes people feel powerless. Attributing malevolence and 
negativity to the devil removes responsibility from human 
beingsÑas well as the power that accompanies responsibility. 
For, if one is responsible for something, one can do something 
about it. But if negativity comes from an external devil, one can 
do little but cower in fear or attack those who represent the 
devil. Like the belief in the lack of human free will, the belief 
in the devil engenders a sense of powerlessness, making people 
easier to control. 

The Reformation brought profound and dramatic change. 
Nations and imperial powers claimed their independence from 
the Pope. Medieval social structures and values changed. Perhaps 
most significantly, the Reformation changed the way people 
perceived the world. The physical world, once a divine, magical 
creation, was now understood to be alien to God, belonging only 
to the devil. The spiritual path was to be marked by suffering, 
struggle and chastisement. Together the Protestant Reformation 
and Catholic Counter Reformation converted the people of 
Europe to orthodox Christianity. 

Chapter Eight 

The Witch Hunts: 
The End of Magic 
and Miracles 

1450 -1750 C.E. 

The Reformation did not convert the people of Europe to 
orthodox Christianity through preaching and catechisms alone. 
It was the 300 year period of witch-hunting from the fifteenth to 
the eighteenth century, what R.H. Robbins called "the shocking 
nightmare, the foulest crime and deepest shame of western 
civilization,"1 that ensured the European abandonment of the 
belief in magic. The Church created the elaborate concept of 
devil worship and then, used the persecution of it to wipe out 
dissent, subordinate the individual to authoritarian control, and 
openly denigrate women. 

The witch hunts were an eruption of orthodox Christianity's 
vilification of women, "the weaker vessel," in St. Peter's words.2 
The second century St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: "Every 
woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a 
woman. "3 The Church father Tertullian explained why women 
deserve their status as despised and inferior human beings: 


And do you not know that you are an Eve? The 
sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this 
age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are 
the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that 
tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: 

you are she who persuaded him whom the devil 
was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed 
so easily God's image, man. On account of your 
desertÑthat is, deathÑeven the Son of God had 
to die.4 

Others expressed the view more bluntly. The sixth century 
Christian philosopher, Boethius, wrote in The Consolation of 
Philosophy, "Woman is a temple built upon a sewer."5 Bishops 
at the sixth century Council of Macon voted as to whether 
women had souls.6 In the tenth century Odo of Cluny declared, 
"To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure... "7 The 
thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that God had 
made a mistake in creating woman: "nothing [deficient] or 
defective should have been produced in the first establishment of 
things; so woman ought not to have been produced then."8 And 
Lutherans at Wittenberg debated whether women were really 
human beings at all.9 Orthodox Christians held women responsible 
for all sin. As the Bible's Apocrypha states, "Of woman 
came the beginning of sin/ And thanks to her, we all must 

Women are often understood to be impediments to spirituality 
in a context where God reigns strictly from heaven and demands 
a renunciation of physical pleasure. As I Corinthians 7:1 states, 
"It is a good thing for a man to have nothing to do with a 
woman." The Inquisitors who wrote the Malleus Maleficarum, 
"The Hammer of the Witches," explained that women are more 
likely to become witches than men: 

'Because the female sex is more concerned with 
things of the flesh than men;' because being 


formed from a man's rib, they are 'only imperfect 
animals' and 'crooked' whereas man belongs 
to a privileged sex from whose midst 

King James I estimated that the ratio of women to men who 
"succumbed" to witchcraft was twenty to one.12 Of those 
formally persecuted for witchcraft, between 80 to 90 percent 


were women.
Christians found fault with women on all sorts of counts. An 
historian notes that thirteenth century preachers 

...denounced women on the one hand for... the 
'lascivious and carnal provocation' of their 
garments, and on the other hand for being over-
industrious, too occupied with children and 
housekeeping, too earthbound to give due 
thought to divine things.14 

According to a Dominican of the same period, woman is "the 
confusion of man, an insatiable beast, a continuous anxiety, an 
incessant warfare, a daily ruin, a house of tempest ...a hindrance 
to devotion."15 

As reformational fervor spread, the feminine aspect of 
Christianity in the worship of Mary became suspect. Throughout 
the Middle Ages, Mary's powers were believed to effectively 
curtail those of the devil.16 But Protestants entirely dismissed 
reverence for Mary while reformed Catholics diminished her 
importance. Devotion to Mary often became indicative of evil. 
In the Canary islands, Aldonca de Vargas was reported to the 
Inquisition after she smiled at hearing mention of the Virgin 
Mary.17 Inquisitors distorted an image of the Virgin Mary into 
a device of torture, covering the front side of a statue of Mary 
with sharp knives and nails. Levers would move the arms of the 
statue crushing the victim against the knives and nails.18 

The witch hunts also demonstrated great fear of female 
sexuality. The book that served as the manual for understanding 


and persecuting witchcraft, the Malleus Maleficarum, describes 
how witches were known to "collect male organs in great 
numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put 
them in a bird's nest..."19 The manual recounts a story of a man 
who, having lost his penis, went to a witch to have it restored: 

She told the afflicted man to climb a certain 
tree, and that he might take which he liked out 
of a nest in which there were several members. 
And when he tried to take a big one, the witch 
said: You must not take that one; adding, because 
it belonged to a parish priest.20 

A man in 1621 lamented, "of women's unnatural, unsatiable 
lust... what country, what village doth not complain."21 

While most of what became known as witchcraft was invented 
by Christians, certain elements of witchcraft did represent an 
older pagan tradition. Witchcraft was linked and even considered 
to be synonymous with "divination," which means not only the 
art of foretelling the future, but also the discovery of knowledge 
by the aid of supernatural power.22 It suggests that there is such 
power availableÑsomething orthodox Christians insisted could 
only be the power of the devil, for God was no longer to be 
involved with the physical world. 

The word "witch" comes from the old English wicce and 
wicca, meaning the male and female participants in the ancient 
pagan tradition which holds masculine, feminine and earthly 
aspects of God in great reverence. Rather than a God which 
stood above the world, removed from ordinary life, divinity in 
the Wiccan tradition was understood to imbue both heaven and 
earth. This tradition also recalled a period when human society 
functioned without hierarchyÑeither matriarchal or patriarchalÑ 
and without gender, racial or strict class rankings. It was a 
tradition that affirmed the potential for humanity to live without 
domination and fear, something orthodox Christians maintain is 



The early Church had tried to eradicate the vestiges of this 
older non-hierarchical tradition by denying the existence of 
witches or magic outside of the Church. The Canon Episcopi, a 
Church law which first appeared in 906, decreed that belief in 
witchcraft was heretical.23 After describing pagan rituals which 
involved women demonstrating extraordinary powers, it declared: 
For an innumerable multitude, deceived by this 
false opinion, believe this to be true and, so 
believing, wander from the right faith and are 
involved in the error of the pagans when they 
think that there is anything of divinity or power 
except the one God.24 
Nevertheless, the belief in magic was still so prevalent in the 
fourteenth century that the Council of Chartres ordered anathema 
to be pronounced against sorcerers each Sunday in every 

It took the Church a long time to persuade society that 
women were inclined toward evil witchcraft and devil-worship. 
Reversing its policy of denying the existence of witches, in the 
thirteenth century the Church began depicting the witch as a 
slave of the devil.26 No longer was she or he to be associated 
with an older pagan tradition. No longer was the witch to be 
thought of as benevolent healer, teacher, wise woman, or one 
who accessed divine power. She was now to be an evil satanic 
agent. The Church began authorizing frightening portrayals of 

* The idea that humanity could live without domination and violence, 
far from being an idealistic myth, is beginning to be substantiated by 
a new picture of human history. The work of James Mellaart, Marija 
Gimbutas, and Riane Eisler illustrates that humanity lived as much as 
25,000 years in peace, much longer than the 3500-5000 years that it 
has lived with warfare and domination. 

the devil in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.27 Images of a 
witch riding a broom first appeared in 1280.28 Thirteenth century 
art also depicted the devil's pact in which demons would steal 
children and in which parents themselves would deliver their 
children to the devil.29 The Church now portrayed witches with 
the same images so frequently used to characterize heretics: "...a 
small clandestine society engaged in anti-human practices, 
including infanticide, incest, cannibalism, bestiality and orgiastic 

The Church developed the concept of devil-worship as an 
astoundingly simplistic reversal of Christian rites and practices. 
Whereas God imposed divine law, the devil demanded adherence 
to a pact. Where Christians showed reverence to God by 
kneeling, witches paid homage to the devil by standing on their 
heads. The sacraments in the Catholic Church became excrements 
in the devil's church. Communion was parodied by the 
Black Mass.31 Christian prayers could be used to work evil by 
being recited backwards.32 The eucharist bread or host was 
imitated in the devil's service by a turnip. The baptismal 
"character" or stigmata of the mysteries was parodied by the 
devil's mark impressed upon the witch's body by the claw of the 
devil's left hand.33 Whereas saints had the gift of tears, witches 
were said to be incapable of shedding tears.34 Devil worship was 
a simple parody of Christianity. Indeed, the very concept of the 
devil was exclusive to monotheism and had no importance within 
the pagan, Wiccan tradition. 

The Church also projected its own hierarchical framework 
onto this new evil witchcraft. The devil's church was to be 
organized such that its dignitaries could climb the ranks to the 
position of bishop, just like in the Catholic Church.35 Julio Caro 
Baroja explains: 

...the Devil causes churches and altars to appear 
with music... and devils decked out as saints. 
The dignitaries reach rank of bishop, and sub



deacons, deacons and priests serve Mass. Candles 
and incense are used for the service and 
water is sprinkled from a thurifer. There is an 
offertory, a sermon, a blessing over the equivalents 
of bread and wine... So that nothing should 
be missing there are even false martyrs in the 

Again, such hierarchy was entirely a projection of the Church 
that bore no resemblance to ancient paganism. By recognizing 
both masculine and feminine faces of God and by understanding 
God to be infused throughout the physical world, the Wiccan 
tradition had no need for strict hierarchical rankings. 

Pope John XXII formalized the persecution of witchcraft in 
1320 when he authorized the Inquisition to prosecute sorcery.37 
Thereafter papal bulls and declarations grew increasingly 
vehement in their condemnation of witchcraft and of all those 
who "made a pact with hell."38 In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII 
issued the bull Summis desiderantes authorizing two inquisitors, 
Kramer and Sprenger, to systematize the persecution of 
witches.39 Two years later their manual, Malleus Maleficarum, 
was published with 14 editions following between 1487-1520 and 
at least 16 editions between 1574-1669.40 A papal bull in 1488 
called upon the nations of Europe to rescue the Church of Christ 
which was "imperiled by the arts of Satan."41 The papacy and 
the Inquisition had successfully transformed the witch from a 
phenomenon whose existence the Church had previously 
rigorously denied into a phenomenon that was deemed very real, 
very frightening, the antithesis of Christianity, and absolutely 
deserving of persecution. 

It was now heresy not to believe in the existence of witches. 

8.1 A fifteenth century woodcut entitled "Witches Sabbath." Such 
characterizations of witchcraft were simplistic reversals of Christian rites 
and rituals created by churchmen that had very little to do with the pre-
Christian Wiccan tradition. 

As the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum noted, "A belief that 
there are such things as witches is so essential a part of Catholic 
faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion savors of 
heresy."42 Passages in the Bible such as "Thou shalt not suffer 
a witch to live" were cited to justify the persecution of witches.43 
Both Calvin and Knox believed that to deny witchcraft was to 
deny the authority of the Bible.44 The eighteenth century founder 
of Methodism, John Wesley, declared to those skeptical of 
witchcraft, "The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up 
of the Bible. "45 And an eminent English lawyer wrote, "To 
deny the possibility, nay, actual existence of Witchcraft and 
Sorcery, is at once flatly to contradict the revealed Word of God 
in various passages both of the Old and New Testament."46 
The persecution of witchcraft enabled the Church to prolong 
the profitability of the Inquisition. The Inquisition had left 
regions so economically destitute that the inquisitor Eymeric 
complained, "In our days there are no more rich heretics... it 
is a pity that so salutary an institution as ours should be so 
uncertain of its future. "47 By adding witchcraft to the crimes it 
persecuted, however, the Inquisition exposed a whole new group 
of people from whom to collect money. It took every advantage 
of this opportunity. The author Barbara Walker notes: 

Victims were charged for the very ropes that 
bound them and the wood that burned them. 
Each procedure of torture carried its fee. After 
the execution of a wealthy witch, officials usually 
treated themselves to a banquet at the expense of 


the victim's estate.

In 1592 Father Cornelius Loos wrote: 

Wretched creatures are compelled by the severity 
of the torture to confess things they have never 
done... and so by the cruel butchery innocent 
lives are taken; and, by a new alchemy, gold 
and silver are coined from human blood.49 

In many parts of Europe trials for witchcraft began exactly as the 


trials for other types of heresy stopped.50 
The process of formally persecuting witches followed the 
harshest inquisitional procedure. Once accused of witchcraft, it 
was virtually impossible to escape conviction. After cross-
examination, the victim's body was examined for the witch's 
mark. The historian Walter Nigg described the process: 
...she was stripped naked and the executioner 
shaved off all her body hair in order to seek in 
the hidden places of the body the sign which the 
devil imprinted on his cohorts. Warts, freckles, 
and birthmarks were considered certain tokens of 
amorous relations with Satan.51 

Should a woman show no sign of a witch's mark, guilt could 
still be established by methods such as sticking needles in the 
accused's eyes. In such a case, guilt was confirmed if the 
inquisitor could find an insensitive spot during the process.52 

Confession was then extracted by the hideous methods of 
torture already developed during earlier phases of the Inquisition. 
"Loathe they are to confess without torture," wrote King James 
I in his Daemonologie.53 A physician serving in witch prisons 
spoke of women driven half mad: frequent torture... kept in prolonged squalor 
and darkness of their dungeons... and constantly 
dragged out to undergo atrocious torment 
until they would gladly exchange at any moment 
this most bitter existence for death, are willing to 
confess whatever crimes are suggested to them 
rather than to be thrust back into their hideous 
dungeon amid ever recurring torture.54 
Unless the witch died during torture, she was taken to the 
stake. Since many of the burnings took place in public squares, 
inquisitors prevented the victims from talking to the crowds by 
using wooden gags or cutting their tongue out.55 Unlike a heretic 
or a Jew who would usually be burnt alive only after they had 


relapsed into their heresy or Judaism, a witch would be burnt 
upon the first conviction.56 

Sexual mutilation of accused witches was not uncommon. 
With the orthodox understanding that divinity had little or 
nothing to do with the physical world, sexual desire was 
perceived to be ungodly. When the men persecuting the 
accused witches found themselves sexually aroused, they 
assumed that such desire emanated, not from themselves, but 
from the woman. They attacked breasts and genitals with 
pincers, pliers and red-hot irons. Some rules condoned sexual 
abuse by allowing men deemed "zealous Catholics" to visit 
female prisoners in solitary confinement while never allowing 
female visitors. The people of Toulouse were so convinced that 
the inquisitor Foulques de Saint-George arraigned women for 
no other reason than to sexually abuse them that they took the 
dangerous and unusual step of gathering evidence against him.57 

The horror of the witch hunts knew no bounds. The 
Church had never treated the children of persecuted parents 
with compassion, but its treatment of witches' children was 
particularly brutal. Children were liable to be prosecuted and 
tortured for witchcraft: girls, once they were nine and a half, 
and boys, once they were ten and a half.58 Younger children 
were tortured in order to elicit testimony that could be used 
against their parents.59 Even the testimony of two-year-old 
children was considered valid in cases of witchcraft though 
such testimony was never admissible in other types of trials.60 
A famous French magistrate was known to have regretted his 
leniency when, instead of having young children accused of 
witchcraft burned, he had only sentenced them to be flogged 
while they watched their parents burn.61 

8.2 The torture inflicted upon women accused of witchcraft was especially 



Witches were held accountable for nearly every problem. Any 
threat to social uniformity, any questioning of authority, and any 
act of rebellion could now be attributed to and prosecuted as 
witchcraft. Not surprisingly, areas of political turmoil and 
religious strife experienced the most intense witch hunts. Witch-
hunting tended to be much more severe in Germany, Switzerland, 
France, Poland and Scotland than in more homogeneously 
Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain.62 Witch-hunters 
declared that "Rebellion is as the sin of Witchcraft."63 In 1661 
Scottish royalists proclaimed that "Rebellion is the mother of 
witchcraft. "64 And in England the Puritan William Perkins 
called the witch "The most notorious traytor and rebell that can 

The Reformation played a critical role in convincing people 
to blame witches for their problems. Protestants and reformed 
Catholics taught that any magic was sinful since it indicated a 
belief in divine assistance in the physical world. The only 
supernatural energy in the physical world was to be of the devil. 
Without magic to counter evil or misfortune, people were left 
with no form of protection other than to kill the devil's agent, 
the witch. Particularly in Protestant countries, where protective 
rituals such as crossing oneself, sprinkling holy water or calling 
on saints or guardian angels were no longer allowed, people felt 
defenseless.66 As Shakespeare's character, Prospero, says in The 

Now my charms are all o 'erthrown, 
And what strength 
which is most faint...67 
I have's mine own, 

It was most often the sermons of both Catholic and Protestant 
preachers that would instigate a witch hunt. The terrible Basque 
witch hunt of 1610 began after Fray Domingo de Sardo came to 
preach about witchcraft. "[T]here were neither witches nor 
bewitched until they were talked and written about," remarked 


a contemporary named Salazar.68 The witch hunts in Salem, 
Massachusetts, were similarly preceded by the fearful sermons 
and preaching of Samuel Parris in 1692.69 

The climate of fear created by churchmen of the Reformation 
led to countless deaths of accused witches quite independently of 
inquisitional courts or procedure. For example, in England 
where there were no inquisitional courts and where witch-hunting 
offered little or no financial reward, many women were killed 
for witchcraft by mobs. Instead of following any judicial 
procedure, these mobs used methods to ascertain guilt of 
witchcraft such as "swimming a witch," where a woman would 
be bound and thrown into water to see if she floated. The water, 
as the medium of baptism, would either reject her and prove her 
guilty of witchcraft, or the woman would sink and be proven 
innocent, albeit also dead from drowning.70 

As people adopted the new belief that the world was the 
terrifying realm of the devil, they blamed witches for every 
misfortune. Since the devil created all the ills of the world, his 
agentsÑwitchesÑcould be blamed for them. Witches were 
thought by some to have as much if not more power than Christ: 
they could raise the dead, turn water into wine or milk, control 
the weather and know the past and future.71 Witches were held 
accountable for everything from a failed business venture to a 
poor emotional state. A Scottish woman, for instance, was 
accused of witchcraft and burned to death because she was seen 
stroking a cat at the same time as a nearby batch of beer turned 
sour.72 Witches now took the role of scapegoats that had been 
held by Jews. Any personal misfortune, bad harvest, famine, or 
plague was seen as their fault. 

The social turmoil created by the Reformation intensified 
witch-hunting. The Reformation diminished the important role of 
community and placed a greater demand for personal moral 
perfection. As the communal tradition of mutual help broke 


down and the manorial system which had provided more 
generously for widows disappeared, many people were left in 
need of charity.73 The guilt one felt after refusing to help a needy 
person could be easily transferred onto that needy person by 
accusing her of witchcraft. A contemporary writer named 
Thomas Ady described a likely situation resulting from a failure 
to perform some hitherto customary social obligation: 

Presently [a householder] cryeth out of some 
poor innocent neighbour that he or she hath 
bewitched him. For, saith he, such an old man 
or woman came lately to my door and desired 
some relief, and I denied it, and God forgive 
me, my heart did rise against her... and presently 
my child, my wife, myself, my horse, my 
cow, my sheep, my sow, my hog, my dog, my 
cat, or somewhat, was thus and thus handled in 
such a strange manner, as I dare swear she is a 
witch, or else how should these things be?74 

The most common victims of witchcraft accusations were 
those women who resembled the image of the Crone. As the 
embodiment of mature feminine power, the old wise woman 
threatens a structure which acknowledges only force and domination 
as avenues of power. The Church never tolerated the image 
of the Crone, even in the first centuries when it assimilated the 
prevalent images of maiden and mother in the figure of Mary. 
Although any woman who attracted attention was likely to be 
suspected of witchcraft, either on account of her beauty or 

8.3 Witches, as illustrated in this painting of a witch trial, were thought 
to possess mighty supernatural powers. The Reformation spread the belief 
that the only supernatural power or magic came from the devil and that 
Cod no longer offered any protective magic; the only recourse left to those 
in a frightening situation was to do away with the devil's agent, the witch. 


because of a noticeable oddness or deformity, the most common 
victim was the old woman. Poor, older women tended to be the 
first accused even where witch hunts were driven by inquisitional 
procedure that profited by targeting wealthier individuals. 

Figure 8.4 Old and poor women were most often the first accused of 


Old, wise healing women were particular targets for witch-
hunters. "At this day," wrote Reginald Scot in 1584, "it is 
indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch' or 'she 
is a wise woman.'"75 Common people of pre-reformational 
Europe relied upon wise women and men for the treatment of 
illness rather than upon churchmen, monks or physicians. Robert 
Burton wrote in 1621: 
Sorcerers are too common; cunning men, 
wizards and white witches, as they call them, in 
every village, which, if they be sought unto, will 
help almost all infirmities of body and mind.76 
By combining their knowledge of medicinal herbs with an 
entreaty for divine assistance, these healers provided both more 
affordable and most often more effective medicine than was 
available elsewhere. Churchmen of the Reformation objected to 
the magical nature of this sort of healing, to the preference 
people had for it over the healing that the Church or Church-
licensed physicians offered, and to the power that it gave 

Until the terror of the witch hunts, most people did not 
understand why successful healers should be considered evil. 
"Men rather uphold them," wrote John Stearne, "and say why 
should any man be questioned for doing good."77 As a 
Bridgettine monk of the early sixteenth century recounted of "the 
simple people", "I have heard them say full often myself... 'Sir, 
we mean well and do believe well and we think it a good and 
charitable deed to heal a sick person or a sick beast'... "78 And 
in 1555 Joan Tyrry asserted that "her doings in healing of man 
and beast, by the power of God taught to her by the... fairies, be 
both godly and good..."79 

Indeed, the very invocations used by wise women sound quite 
Christian. For example, a 1610 poem recited when picking the 
herb vervain, also known as St. Johnswort, reads, 


Hallowed be thou Vervain, as thou growest on 
the ground / For in the mount of Calvary there 
thou was first found / Thou healest our Saviour, 
Jesus Christ, and staunchest his bleeding wound 
/ In the name of the Father, the Son, and the 
Holy Ghost / I take thee from the ground.80 

But in the eyes of orthodox Christians, such healing empowered 
people to determine the course of their lives instead of 
submitting helplessly to the will of God. According to churchmen, 
health should come from God, not from the efforts of 
human beings. Bishop Hall said, "we that have no power to bid 
must pray... "81 Ecclesiastical courts made the customers of 
witches publicly confess to being "heartily sorry for seeking 
man's help, and refusing the help of God..."82 An Elizabethan 
preacher explained that any healing "is not done by conjuration 
or divination, as Popish priests profess and practice, but by 
entreating the Lord humbly in fasting and prayer..."83 And 
according to Calvin, no medicine could change the course of 
events which had already been determined by the Almighty.84 

Preachers and Church-licensed male physicians tried to fill 
the function of healer. Yet, their ministrations were often 
considered ineffective compared to those of a wise woman. The 
keeper of the Canterbury gaol admitted to freeing an imprisoned 
wise woman in 1570 because "the witch did more good by her 
physic than Mr. Pudall and Mr. Wood, being preachers of God's 
word... "85 A character in the 1593 Dialogue concerning Witches 
said of a local wise woman that, "she doeth more good in one 
year than all these scripture men will do so long as they 

8.5 Plantain, the herb depicted in this medieval woodcut, was used as a 
remedy for snake bites and scorpion stings. It was one of many herbs used 
by healers. By targeting anyone with an understanding of the medicinal 
properties of plants, the witch-hunts all but destroyed the Western herbal 



Even the Church-licensed male physicians, who relied upon 
purgings, bleedings, fumigations, leeches, lancets and toxic 
chemicals such as mercury were little match for an experienced 
wise woman's knowledge of herbs.87 As the well-known physician, 
Paracelsus, asked, ".... does not the old nurse very often 
beat the doctor?"88 Even Francis Bacon, who demonstrated very 
little respect for women, thought that "empirics and old women" 
were "more happy many times in their cures than learned 

Physicians often attributed their own incompetence to witch

craft. As Thomas Ady wrote: 
The reason is ignorantiae pallium maleficium et 
incantatioÑa cloak for a physician's ignorance. 
When he cannot find the nature of the disease, 
he saith the party is bewitched.90 

When an illness could not be understood, even the highest body 
of England, the Royal College of Physicians of London, was 
known to accept the explanation of witchcraft.91 

Not surprisingly, churchmen portrayed the healing woman as 
the most evil of all witches. William Perkins declared, "The 
most horrible and detestable monster... is the good witch."92 
The Church included in its definition of witchcraft anyone with 
knowledge of herbs for "those who used herbs for cures did so 
only through a pact with the Devil, either explicit or implicit."93 
Medicine had long been associated with herbs and magic. The 
Greek and Latin words for medicine, "pharmakeia" and "veneficium," 
meant both "magic" and "drugs."94 Mere possession of 
herbal oils or ointments became grounds for accusation of 

A person's healing ability easily led to conviction of witchcraft. 
In 1590 a woman in North Berwick was suspected of 
witchcraft because she was curing "all such as were troubled or 
grieved with any kind of sickness or infirmity."96 The ailing 


archbishop of St. Andrews called upon Alison Peirsoun of 
Byrehill and then, after she had successfully cured him, not only 
refused to pay her but had her arrested for witchcraft and burned 
to death.97 Simply treating unhealthy children by washing them 
was cause for convicting a Scottish woman of witchcraft.98 

Witch-hunters also targeted midwives. Orthodox Christians 
believed the act of giving birth defiled both mother and child. In 
order to be readmitted to the Church, the mother should be 
purified through the custom of "churching," which consisted of 
a quarantine period of forty days if her baby was a boy and 
eighty days if her baby was a girl, during which both she and 
her baby were considered heathen. Some thought that a woman 
who died during this period should be refused a Christian burial. 
Until the Reformation, midwives were deemed necessary to take 
care of what was regarded as the nasty business of giving birth, 
a dishonorable profession best left in the hands of women. But 
with the Reformation came an increased awareness of the power 
of midwives. Midwives were now suspected of possessing the 
skill to abort a fetus, to educate women about techniques of birth 
control," and to mitigate a woman's labor pains.99 

A midwife's likely knowledge of herbs to relieve labor pains 
was seen as a direct affront to the divinely ordained pain of 
childbirth. In the eyes of churchmen, God's sentence upon Eve 
should apply to all women. As stated in Genesis: 

Unto the woman [God] said, I will greatly 
multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in 
sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy 
desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule 
over thee.100 

** Written evidence of herbal contraceptives dates back at least to 
1900 B.C.E. (Noonan, 23). Information about contraceptives during 
the Middle Ages was passed on by healers and midwives. 


To relieve labor pains, as Scottish clergymen put it, would be 
"vitiating the primal curse of woman..."101 The introduction of 
chloroform to help a woman through the pain of labor brought 
forth the same opposition. According to a New England minister: 

Chloroform is a decoy of Satan, apparently 

offering itself to bless women; but in the end it 
will harden society and rob God of the deep 
earnest cries which arise in time of trouble, for 

Martin Luther wrote, "If [women] become tired or even die, 
that does not matter. Let them die in childbirthÑthat is why they 
are there."103 It is hardly surprising that women who not only 
possessed medicinal knowledge but who used that knowledge to 
comfort and care for other women would become prime suspects 
of witchcraft. 

How many lives were lost during the centuries of witch-
hunting will never be known. Some members of the clergy 
proudly reported the number of witches they condemned, such 
as the bishop of Wurtzburg who claimed 1900 lives in five 
years, or the Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpzov who claimed to 
have sentenced 20,000 devil worshippers.104 But the vast majority 
of records have been lost and it is doubtful that such documents 
would have recorded those killed outside of the courts. 

Contemporary accounts hint at the extent of the holocaust. 
Barbara Walker writes that "the chronicler of Treves reported 
that in the year 1586, the entire female population of two 
villages was wiped out by the inquisitors, except for only two 
women left alive."105 Around 1600 a man wrote: 

Germany is almost entirely occupied with building 
fires for the witches... Switzerland has been 
compelled to wipe out many of her villages on 
their account. Travelers in Lorraine may see 


thousands and thousands of the stakes to which 
witches are bound.106 

While the formal persecution of witches raged from about 
1450 to 1750, sporadic killing of women on the account of 
suspected witchcraft has continued into recent times. In 1928 a 
family of Hungarian peasants was acquitted of beating an old 
woman to death whom they claimed was a witch. The court 
based its decision on the ground that the family had acted out of 
"irresistible compulsion."107 In 1976 a poor spinster, Elizabeth 
Hahn, was suspected of witchcraft and of keeping familiars, or 
devil's agents, in the form of dogs. The neighbors in her small 
German village ostracized her, threw rocks at her, and threatened 
to beat her to death before burning her house, badly 
burning her and killing her animals.108 A year later in France, an 
old man was killed for ostensible sorcery.109 And in 1981, a mob 
in Mexico stoned a woman to death for her apparent witchcraft 
which they believed had incited the attack upon Pope John 
Paul II.110 

Witch hunts were neither small in scope nor implemented by 
a few aberrant individuals; the persecution of witches was the 
official policy of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches.111 
The Church invented the crime of witchcraft, established the 
process by which to prosecute it, and then insisted that witches 
be prosecuted. After much of society had rejected witchcraft as 
a delusion, some of the last to insist upon the validity of 
witchcraft were among the clergy.112 Under the pretext of first 
heresy and then witchcraft, anyone could be disposed of who 
questioned authority or the Christian view of the world. 

Witch-hunting secured the conversion of Europe to orthodox 
Christianity. Through the terror of the witch hunts, reformational 
Christians convinced common people to believe that a singular 
male God reigned from above, that he was separate from the 
earth, that magic was evil, that there was a powerful devil, and 
that women were most likely to be his agents. As a by-product 


of the witch hunts, the field of medicine transferred to exclusively 
male hands and the Western herbal tradition was largely 
destroyed. The vast numbers of people brutalized and killed, as 
well as the impact upon the common perception of God, make 
the witch hunts one of the darkest chapters of human history. 

Chapter Nine 

Alienation from Nature 

Christianity has distanced humanity from nature. As people 
came to perceive God as a singular supremacy detached from the 
physical world, they lost their reverence for nature. In Christian 
eyes, the physical world became the realm of the devil. A 
society that had once celebrated nature through seasonal festivals 
began to commemorate biblical events bearing no connection to 
the earth. Holidays lost much of their celebratory spirit and took 
on a tone of penance and sorrow. Time, once thought to be 
cyclical like the seasons, was now perceived to be linear. In their 
rejection of the cyclical nature of life, orthodox Christians came 
to focus more upon death than upon life. 

Earthliness is synonymous with sinfulness throughout much 
of the Bible. For example, Colossians states: 
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: 
immorality, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, 
which is idplatry. On account of these the 
wrath of God is coming.1 
A similar message is also found in James: "This [bitter jealousy 
and selfish ambition in your hearts] is not such as comes down 
from above, but is earthly, unspiritual and devilish."2 Paul 
describes enemies of the cross of Christ as people "whose God 
is their belly... who mind earthly things."3 The message is 
clear: the earth is ungodly. 

The Bible suggests that it was God Himself who ordained the 
antagonism between humanity and nature. God punishes Adam 


for having eaten from the forbidden tree of knowledge. He says 
to Adam: 

...cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow 
shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; 
and thou shalt eat the herb of the field...4 

In sharp contrast to earlier traditions in which harmony with 
nature was a sign of godliness, orthodox Christians understood 
God to have ordered that the earth become alien and hostile. 

Nature was instead seen as the realm of the devil. The 
Church chose the image of Pan, the Greek god of nature, to 
portray the devil. The horned, hoofed, and goat-legged man had 
been associated with a number of fertility figures and had 
previously been deemed essential to rural well-being. With Pan's 
guidance, all the mythical creatures of earth were thought to 
work in harmony: fairies, elves and devas. Pan's skill on the 
pan-pipes was believed to fill the woods and pastures with 
enchanted music. His name, "Pan," meant "all" and "bread." 
But, particularly after the turn of the millennium when the 
Church authorized specific portrayals of the devil, the vilified 
Pan came to evoke terror or "panic" as the image of satan. 

The perceived separation of nature from God affected the 
treatment of animals. The canonized thirteenth century scholar, 
Thomas Aquinas, declared that animals have no afterlife, have 
no inherent rights, and that "by a most just ordinance of the 
Creator, both their life and their death are subject to our use."5 
Animals were often thought to be agents of the devil. In his 1991 
book, Replenish the Earth, Lewis Regenstein writes that: the ten centuries preceding the present one, 
there are accounts of the trials, torture and 

execution (often by hanging) of hundreds of 
animals, mainly by ecclesiastical courts acting 

9.1 The Greek god Pan was associated with nature and fertility before 
Christians vilified his image as that of the devil. 



under the assumption that animals can be used 
by the devil to do his work.6 

The Inquisition spread the frightening belief in werewolves.7 And 
in 1484 Pope Innocent VIII officially ordered pet cats to be 
burned together with witches, a practice which continued 
throughout the centuries of witch-hunting.8 

The belief that animals were agents of the devil contributed 
to the breakdown in the natural control of rodents. Zealous 
Christians most frequently targeted cats, wolves, snakes, foxes, 
chickens and white cocks as animals to be eliminated. Since 
many of these animals helped control the population of crop-
eating and plague-carrying rodents, their elimination intensified 
outbreaks of plague.9 To make matters worse, Church-licensed 
physicians ordered cats and dogs to be killed during times of 
plague thinking that this would halt infection.10 Quite the reverse, 
of course, was true. 

The Church spent centuries prohibiting displays of reverence 
that involved nature. Worship should take place indoors away 
from the natural elements. Christians destroyed outdoor temples 
and built churches with roofs in their stead. The Church 
condemned the veneration of trees and springs, where people 
would place candles or decorations. The sixth century bishop 
Martin of Braga asked, "But what is the lighting of wax lights 
at rocks or trees or wells or crossroads if it is not worship of the 
devil?"11 The General Capitularies of Charlemagne in 789 
With regard to trees, and rocks and springs, 
wherever ignorant people put lights or make 
other observances, we give notice to everyone 
that this is a most evil practice, execrable to 
God, and wherever they are found, they are to 
be taken away and destroyed.12 
Stories attempted to illustrate that the elemental power of 
trees, groves and nature had submitted to Christ. The fifth 


century St. Martin of Tours is said to have stood under a revered 
pine tree as he ordered the tree to be cut down. As the tree was 
falling on him, he made the sign of the cross and the tree raised 
itself up again and fell away from him. A similar story involves 
the eighth century missionary St. Boniface in Hesse. As he 
chopped at a sacred oak tree, the trunk of the tree is said to have 
burst into four equal parts and landed in the shape of a cross. 
And a twelfth century manuscript portrays a scene in which a 
blind woman is taking an axe to a tree. Despite the presence of 
the tree's spirits which rise up aghast, a bishop stands beside her 
blessing her action. Instead of suffering any dire consequences, 
the woman has her sight restored.13 According to such stories, 
the supernatural power of the earth had submitted to that of the 
celestial Christian God. 

But until the Reformation and the witch hunts, most people 
did not believe this. Unable to convince people of the absence of 
God in nature, the early Church instead incorporated aspects of 
the very nature worship it condemned, much in the same way 
that it developed ecclesiastical magic when it could not eliminate 
pagan magic. Images of archetypal fertility figures, usually male, 
sometimes horned, sometimes covered in foliage and disgorging 
vegetation, found their way into Christian iconography and 
manuscript illumination. Leaves became a frequent motif in 
Christian art. Trees which had traditionally been venerated often 
appeared in churchyards.14 And church columns were sculpted to 
simulate tree trunks and perhaps even the mythical tree of life.15 
In its attempt to assimilate people who still revered the divinity 
manifest in nature, the Church incorporated the very imagery 
that the orthodox insisted was tied to the devil. 


The Church also incorporated annual pagan festivals and 
holidays, claiming them as Christian. People used to mark the 




seasons with celebrations and rituals that integrated their activity 
with the earth's cycles. The Church placed Christian holidays to 
coincide with these older festivals in hopes of winning easier 
acceptance and recognition for its new religion. While the 
traditional meaning of most of these holidays had nothing to do 
with orthodox Christianity, the Church usually tolerated the older 
rituals as it tried to teach a new biblical meaning. It was only 
during the Reformation that orthodox Christians insisted that the 
older nature-oriented significance of holidays be abolished. 

The cycle of the year, at both the change of the four seasons 
as well as the height of each season, used to hold great importance. 
The winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, was a 
time of new birth. Often it was symbolized by the birth of an 
annual male fertility figure, a representation of the year's new 
sun. The height of the winter, midway between the winter 
solstice and spring equinox, was a time to nurture that new life. 
Spring was about encouraging fertility, when the sun and earth 
would unite to later bring forth the abundance of the harvest and 
the bounty of the hunt. From the summer solstice through 
autumn the sun's energy transferred to the crops. The height of 
summer and the fall equinox were celebrations of the year's 
harvest and bounty. The end of the year when fields lay dormant 
and the earth seemed to die at the height of autumn was a time 
to honor the dead and release the past. 

By adopting these festivals as Christian, the early Church 
sought both to win the allegiance of the populace as well as to 
harness the vitality of such festivals. While there is nothing to 
indicate the actual time of Jesus's birth, such an event most 
easily correlated to winter solstice festivals. The Roman celebra

9.2 This medieval woodcut suggests the type of story spread by the 
Church in hopes of persuading people to abandon their veneration of 
nature. In such stories, Christians would cut down sacred trees with 
impunity in order to illustrate how the power of nature had submitted to 
that of the Christian God. 

tion of the birth of the sun god, Mithra, for instance, had also 
been observed on December 25th. In pre-Christian Egypt and 
Syria, a winter solstice ritual involved participants who would 
withdraw into the inner womb-like sanctuary of shrines until 
midnight at which time they would come forth trumpeting, "The 
Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!"16 Admonitions 
against celebrating such a holiday by Tertullian, St. Augustine 
and Pope Leo I notwithstanding,17 the Church adopted the winter 
solstice as Christmas. The birth of God's sun at the solstice 
easily correlated to the birth of God's son. 

An Egyptian winter solstice celebration of the birth of Osiris, 
the divine representation of masculine fertility, on January sixth 
became the Christian Epiphany.18 The Church declared that it 
signified the manifestation of Jesus's divinity. Yet, the spirit of 
both Christmas and the Christian Epiphany embodied the 
timeless celebrations of the winter solstice. The difference 
between them was due more to a difference in calendars than a 
difference in meaning; the Egyptian calendar was twelve days 
behind the Julian calendar.19 The dates of many current holidays 
do not fall exactly on the solstice, equinox, or height of the 
season for a similar reason. Means of tracking time varied 
tremendously. Our present calendar was not completely adopted 
in England until 1751, in Russia until 1919, or in China until 

Festivals to mark the height of winter also found their way 
into Christianity. Whether celebrated on the second or fourteenth 
of February, celebrations in honor of feminine faces of divinity 
such as Brigit and Venus, who encouraged art, poetry, healing, 
fire and wisdom, became the Christian Candlemas.21 Over time, 
however, the holiday lost the meaning of nourishing creativity 
and inspiration, and instead commemorated the end of Mary's 

The following chart outlines the seasonal celebrations and the correlating 
Christian holiday. 


forty day period of purification after having given birth. 

The Church adopted spring equinox celebrations as Easter. As 
this time had already been one of celebrating the sun's resurrection 
and return to prominence, celebrating the resurrection of the 
son of God required no great change in understanding. In fact, 
the Easter celebrations were so similar to earlier celebrations 
Ñparticularly those which recognized the resurrection of the 
Babylonian Adonis, the Greek Apollo and the Roman AttisÑthat 
a bitter controversy arose with pagans claiming that the Christian 
Easter celebration was a spurious imitation of the ancient 
traditions.22 Vernal equinox bonfires, originally prohibited by the 
Church, found their way as Easter fires into the official liturgy 
of Rome by the ninth century.23 Fertility symbols associated with 
spring, such as the egg and the incredibly prolific rabbit, 
survived as well. 

Yet, as Christianity spread, festivals of spring and summer 
gradually lost their original meaning. The height of spring 
became Pentecost or Whitsunday, an observance not of fertility, 
but of the biblical event when people spoke in tongues, and a 
commemoration of the birth of the Church. The summer solstice 
no longer was to recognize the culmination of the sun's light, but 
rather was to honor St. John who had baptized Christ. Celebrations 
of the summer season became holidays for the Virgin Mary 
such as "Our Lady's Herb Day" and Assumption Day, the day 
when Mary was "assumed" into heaven.24 

Fall equinox celebrations were incorporated as Michaelmas 
(the feast of the archangel Michael, the conqueror of satan) and 
the Nativity of Mary. Gratitude for the harvest, and the blessing 
of the year's medicinal herbs, of nearby mountains, or of the 
ocean remained a part of these autumn holidays. To this day, 
shrines of Mary covered in ears of corn resembling the older 

9.3 Much of the pre-Christian reverence for feminine divinity transferred 
to the worship of the Virgin Mary and resulted in holidays in her honor 
throughout the year. 


pagan figures of grain can be found in autumn.25 

The height of fall, the end of the earth's annual cycle, was 
believed to be a time when the veil that separates the world of 
the living from the world of the dead becomes very thin. Despite 
Church attempts to prevent the celebration of this holiday, by the 
ninth century the feast of All Saints Day had been moved to 
November first and by 1045 the monasteries of Cluny had begun 
to observe the time as a "day of all the departed ones."26 The 
earlier nature-oriented significance of the season survived more 
fully, however, in the secular celebration of Halloween. 

Pagans also observed the cycles of the moon. Often these 
festivals involved veneration for feminine facets of God. 
Christian theologians condemned celebrations observing the 
cycles of the moon, called la Luna, as madness or "lunacy," 
while St. Augustine denounced women's dances in honor of the 
new moon as "impudent and filthy."27 When the Church could 
not halt such celebrations, however, it again incorporated them 
into the Christian calendar, usually under the guise of honoring 
Mary. The Church formally recognized the following: the day 
when St. Anne conceived Mary, December 8th; the day Mary 
was born, September 8th; the day Jesus's conception was 
announced to Mary, also called the Annunciation, March 25th; 
the day Mary was purified from having given birth, February 
2nd or 14th; and the day Mary was assumed into heaven, or the 
Assumption, August 15th. Unofficial celebrations of Mary were 
even more numerous. 


While adopting nature-oriented festivals helped garner 
membership for the early Church, the celebratory spirit of these 
festivals conflicted with the asceticism and solemnity of the 
orthodox. As the sixteenth century Guillaume Briconnet warned, 


"[H]olidays are not for the pleasure of the body, but for the 
salvation of the soul; not for laughter and frolic, but for weeping."
28 With the Reformation, both Protestant and Catholic 
Churches attempted to abolish not only the nature-oriented 
practices of festivals but also the joyful spirit that accompanied 
them. Holidays were now to be strict commemorations of 
biblical events that had no connection to the earth's seasons. 

The Church identified pagan practices as those which 
displayed either enjoyment or a connection with nature. Reverence 
for nature was so closely linked with expressions of joy that 
St. Augustine thought that the word "jubilation" derived from 
jubilus, the song hummed by those tending vines and olives.29 
The ninth century Synod of Rome reported that "Many people, 
mostly women, come to church on Sundays and holy days not to 
attend the Mass but to dance, sing broad songs, and do other 
such pagan things. "30 The Catechisme de Meaux describes pagan 
Dancing round the fire, playing, holding feasts, 
singing vulgar songs, throwing grasses over the 
fire, gathering grasses before midnight or before 
breakfast, wearing grasses, keeping them for the 
whole year, keeping brands or cinders from the 
fire and the like...31 
Dancing was particularly offensive to orthodox Christians. In 
the sixth and seventh centuries ecclesiastical dancing was 
prohibited as being too sensual and too much enjoyed by women. 
Inquisitors claimed that both women and devil-worshippers 
danced.32 Dancing was a sign of spiritual decay to New England's 
Puritan ministers who in 1684 published a pamphlet 
entitled An Arrow against Profane and Promiscuous Dancing, 
drawn out of the Quiver of the Scriptures.33 An eighteenth 

century missionary hymn warns that satan 
...slithers through the flesh 
Of dancing men and dames 


To hold them in the mesh 

Of his hot and am'rous flames.34 
Certainly not all Christians agreed with the orthodox. In the Acts 
of John, for instance, Jesus danced and said: 

To the Universe belongs the dancer, He who 
does not dance does not know what happens. 
Now if you follow my dance, see yourself in 



To the orthodox, neither nature nor physical pleasure were 
imbued with God's presence; both were of the devil. The Church 
had long condemned sensual pleasure as ungodly. As the twelfth 
century Bishop of Chartres, Sir John of Salisbury, declared: 

Who except one brreft of sense would approve 
sensual pleasure itself, which is illicit, wallows 
in filthiness, is something that men censure, and 
that God without doubt condemns?36 

Holidays had involved such gaiety and pleasure that the Bishop 
of Autun wrote in 1657, "It is not appropriate to multiply 
holidays of obligation for fear of multiplying the occasions of 

With the Reformation came the demand to curtail or abolish 
the celebratory and nature-oriented character of holidays. 
Laughter and revelry were seen as inappropriate for Christians 
engaged in daily combat with satan. Orthodox Christians wanted 
to ban maypoles and Sunday dancing, bagpipes and fiddlers 
accompanying bridal couples to Church, the throwing of corn, 
and the distribution of doles to the poor as "superstitious and 
heathenical."38 Wedding celebrations, according to New England 
magistrates and ministers, should not result in "riotous or 
immodest irregularities."39 A law in 1639 prohibited the custom 
of drinking toasts or health-drinking as an "abominable" pagan 
practice.40 One should not adjourn to the tavern after meetings, 
and nature-oriented occasions such as harvest huskings should 
not degenerate into merrymaking occasions.41 


In 1647 the English Parliament ordered that Christmas, along 
with other pagan holidays, should cease to be observed. A 1652 
Parliamentary act repeated that "no observance shall be had on 
the five-and-twentieth of December, commonly called Christmas 
day; nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches in respect 
thereof."42 Market was to be kept and stores were to remain 
open on Christmas day.43 In New England, where celebrating 
Christmas was considered a criminal offense and remained 
forbiddgn until the second half of the nineteenth century, a 
person caught celebrating Christmas was liable to end up at the 
stocks or the whipping post.44 Factory owners changed starting 
hours to 5:00 a.m. on Christmas day and threatened termination 
for those who were tardy. As late as 1870 in Boston, students 
who failed to attend public schools on Christmas were punished 
by public dismissal.45 

Practices involving nature at holidays were curtailed. 
Orthodox Christians ceased Church processions around towns 
and fields, which were intended to bless crops, to ask for a 
change in weather, or to appeal for protection against insects. 
They suppressed the practice of collecting branches, foliage and 
flowers to be taken back to the church.46 The 1683 Addendum 
to the constitution of the diocese of Annecy read: 

...we order the people, under pain of excommunication, 
to suppress and abolish entirely the 
torches and fires customarily lit on the first 
Sunday of Lent... and the masquerades... which 
are merely shameful relics of Paganism.47 

Efforts to abolish paganism centered upon doing away with 
reverence and enjoyment of both nature and feminine energy. 
Not surprisingly, the imagery used in reference to nature often 
had strong sexual overtones. Francis Bacon, whose aim was "to 
endeavor to establish the power and dominion of the human race 
itself over the universe," frequently used such imagery.48 In his 
book The Rebirth of Nature, Rupert Sheldrake writes, 


Using metaphors derived from contemporary 
techniques of interrogation and torture of 
witches, [Francis Bacon] proclaimed that nature 
'exhibits herself more clearly under the trials 
and vexations of art [mechanical devices] than 
when left to herself.' In the inquisition of truth, 
nature's secret 'holes and corners' were to be 
entered and penetrated. Nature was to be 'bound 
into service' and made a 'slave' and 'put in 
constraint.' She would be 'dissected,' and by 
the mechanical arts and the hand of man, she 
could be forced out of her natural state and 
squeezed and moulded,' so that 'human 
knowledge and human power meet as one.'49 

Nature was to be conquered, not enjoyed and certainly not 

A grim cheerlessness came to distinguish Christians. Already 
in the twelfth century the Abbot, Ruppert of Deutz, tried to 
defend the somberness of a Christian holiday: 

It is not a fast to make us sad or darken our 
hearts, but it rather brightens the solemnity of 
the Holy Spirit's arrival; for the sweetness of the 
Spirit of God makes the faithful loathe the 
pleasures of earthly food.50 

By the eighteenth century, "boring" and "pious" were thought 
to be synonymous.51 In 1746 Diderot described the extremes of 
Christian "unhappiness": 

What cries! what shrieks! what groans! Who has 
imprisoned all these woeful corpses? What 
crimes have all these wretches committed? Some 
are beating their breasts with stones, others are 

9.4 Orthodox Christians, particularly during the Reformation, curtailed 
large festivals and celebrations. In some countries even Christmas, along 
with other "pagan" holidays, was banned. 

tearing bodies with hooks of are beating their 
breasts with iron; remorse, pain and death lurk 
in their eyes... "52 

As one man commented during the Reformation, "It was never 
merry England since we were impressed to come to the 


Christians encouraged a new concept of time that similarly 
had no connection to nature's cycles. Up until the Reformation, 
most people understood time to be cyclical. Reformational 
Christians, however, adopted St. Augustine's idea of linear time. 
Augustine described the pagan theory of cycles, circuitus 
temporum, as: 
...those argumentations whereby the infidel seeks 
to undermine our simple faith, dragging us from 
the straight road and compelling us to walk with 
him on the wheel.54 

Like the theory of reincarnation, the idea of cyclical time 
denied the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ.55 If time 
spirals around, providing repeated opportunities to grow and 
change, then the spirit of Jesus's life and resurrection could 
theoretically be experienced by anyone at anytime, regardless of 

9.5 As people during the Reformation came to perceive the nature of time 
to be linear rather than cyclical, time seemed to become an unrelenting 
task-master, demanding that one spend every moment fulfilling one's duties 
and obligations. This sixteenth century allegorical representation shows 
time rewarding industry and punishing indolence. The concept of linear 
time also frightened many into thinking that there is but one chance to turn 
to God, rather than the numerous opportunities inherent in the concept of 
cyclical time. 


apostolic succession or hierarchical rank. Moreover, if time is 
cyclical, life might not consist of just one frightening chance to 
repent or else to be forever damned, but rather of unlimited 
opportunities to develop a closer relationship with God. Controlling 
people is more difficult when they believe that there are 
many means and opportunities to return to God other than simply 
the one that the Church offers. 
Reformational Christians disparaged the beliefs and practices 
associated with the concept of cyclical time. They opposed the 
belief in lucky and unlucky days, such as that it was unlucky to 
marry during a waning moon or that a sin committed on a holy 
day was worse than one committed at another time. Time should 
move evenly in a straight line without the disruptions and 
irregularity of changing seasons; six working days should always 
be followed by a sabbath resting day throughout the year.56 As 
one Puritan character in a contemporary satire declares: was passing folly 
To think one day more than another holy...57 

The pendulum clock was invented in 1657 as a testimony to the 
belief that minutes were uniform in duration. By 1714, the new 
concept of even, linear time had become familiar enough for a 
man to write in reference to the belief in lucky and unlucky days 
that "some weak and ignorant persons may perhaps regard such 
things, but men of understanding despise them... "58 As with so 
many elements of orthodox Christianity, the concept of linear 
time was adopted by common people only after the Reformation. 


Orthodox Christians repudiated the cyclical nature of physical 
life as well. Passages in the New Testament exhibit disdain for 
the cycle of life: "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth 
forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."59 


By fostering an alienation from sex, birth, and the physical body, 
orthodox Christians came to focus most intently upon death, not 
only as a tool to evoke fear but also as an end in itself. 

Christian theologians understood sex, at best, to be permissible 
if engaged in solely for purposes of procreationÑat worst, to 
be a mortal sin. Yet, they also believed that the birthing of a 
child was an ungodly act. The Church, with its licensed physicians, 
spurned the field of midwifery. A woman who died in 
labor or in child-bed was sometimes refused a Christian burial.60 
Purifying or "churching" a woman for 40 to 80 days after she 
gave birth was deemed essential if a she was to be readmitted 
into the Church and proper Christian society. Even the Virgin 
MaryÑin some people's eyesÑneeded to be purified after having 
brought Jesus into the world. 

Orthodox Christianity encouraged an alienation from the 
physical body itself. God's presence, it was believed, was not to 
be found in the physical world. Paul wrote in Corinthians, 
"therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are 
at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."61 The Bible 
affirms that meaningful, spiritual life is found only when one is 
detached from the physical body: "For if ye live after the flesh, 
ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of 
the body, ye shall live."62 "For to be carnally minded is death; 
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."63 Physical life is 
equated with sin and spiritual decay, while physical death and a 
repudiation of physical well-being is thought to bring spiritual 

A disregard for the well-being of the physical body characterized 
orthodox Christian behavior from the fell of the Roman 
Empire when aqueduct systems, bathing houses and hygiene 
were held in contempt and neglected. Protestants and reformed 
Catholics attempted to outdo one another in their negligence of 
bodily hygiene. As the Augustinian priest and chaplain to the 
King of Poland declared: 


Follow Our Lord's example, and hate your body; 
if you love it, strive to lose it, says Holy Scripture, 
in order to save it; if you wish to make 
peace with it, always go armed, always wage 
war against it; treat it like a slave, or soon you 
yourself shall be its unhappy slave.64 

In the Christian world the very word "carnal," which means 
simply "of or relating to the body,"65 took on the meaning of sin 
and immorality. 
Orthodox Christians also often contended that death was not 
a natural part of life but rather was a punishment. St. Augustine 
argued that death existed only as a punishment for sin: 

Wherefore we must say that the first men were 
indeed so created, that if they had not sinned, 
they would not have experienced any kind of 
death; but that, having become sinners, they 
were so punished with death, that whatsoever 
sprang from their stock should also be punished 
with the same death.66 


...therefore it is agreed among all Christians 
who truthfully hold the catholic faith, that we 
are subject to the death of the body, not by the 
law of nature, by which God ordained no death 
for man, but by His righteous infliction on 
account of sin...67 

Just as Augustine had argued that sin had created sexual desire, 
so he also believed that sin had created death. 

Death, in the eyes of the orthodox, was to be conquered. Paul 
wrote in I Corinthians, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed 
is death."68 St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, describes how 
the Apostles "despised death, and were found to rise above 
death."69 Christian faith is believed to imbue one with power 
over death. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says: 


But they which shall be accounted worthy to 
obtain that world, and the resurrection from the 
dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 
Neither can they die any more; for they are 
equal unto angels; and are the children of God, 
being the children of the resurrection.70 

Instead of accepting death as a natural part of the life cycle, 
orthodox Christians used death as a tool to evoke fear in people. 
The fourth century St. Pachomius advised his monks: "Above 
all, let us always keep our last day before our eyes and let us 
always fear everlasting torment."71 St. Benedict's rule instructs: 
"Dread the Day of Judgment, fear Hell, desire eternal life with 
entirely spiritual ardour, keep the possibility of death ever before 
your eyes."72 The ancient concept of an underworld where one 
would go after death for rest and rejuvenation became the 
frightening Christian idea of hell, a place filled with fire and 
brimstone where one endures eternal pain and agony. Death, 
particularly in a context where there is but one life and one 
chance to do the right thing, became a terrifying prospect. 
It took the Church a long time, however, to teach such an 
orthodox understanding of death. The Church initially made 
Christianity comprehensible to the populace by incorporating 
pre-Christian ideas. The concept of purgatory adopted by the 
medieval Church mitigated the harshness of orthodox ideology. 
Instead of being sent directly to heaven or hell after death, one's 
soul could go to purgatory, an intermediate place, to do penance 
and be punished for sins before hopefully being allowed into 
heaven.73 Such a concept also proved quite lucrative for the 
Church. By maintaining that it could influence the destiny of 
these souls, the Church collected a good deal of medieval 
society's money for its services on behalf of those in purgatory. 
With the spread of orthodox Christianity during the Reformation, 
however, all activities that dealt with death as a natural part 
of life were to be isolated and reviled. No longer should one 


think of departed ones as being in purgatory; people would be 
judged immediately upon dying and sent directly to heaven or 
hell. A person's death should no longer be made into an 
important occasion or seen as part of a natural cycle. Funerals 
went from being large community events to small family 
affairs.74 Orthodox Christians tried to ban the tolling of Church 
bells at funerals and the use of special mourning garments.75 
Cemeteries, once busy meeting places, should be segregated 
from everyday life. Dancing, games, and commercial activities 
in cemeteries were routinely forbidden.76 A 1701 city ordinance 
in New England prohibited making coffins, digging graves or 
holding funerals on the Sabbath as acts that profaned the holy 
Ironically, in attempting to conquer death and isolate it from 
life, orthodox Christianity fostered a preoccupation with death. 
Augustine perceived life to be wholly overshadowed by death. 
"For no sooner do we begin to live in this dying body, than we 
begin to move ceaselessly towards death."78 Death, according 
to the orthodox, could bring salvation. Augustine wrote: 

But now, by the greater and more admirable 
grace of the Savior the punishment of sin is 
turned to the service of righteousness. For then 
it was proclaimed to man, 'If thou sinnest, thou 
shalt die'; now it is said to the martyr, 'Die, 
that thou sin not.' Then it was said, 'If ye 
transgress the commandments, ye shall die'; now 
it is said, 'If ye decline death, ye transgress the 

Orthodox Christians, in their effort to conquer it, often ended 
up glorifying death. Jesus's most valuable act was understood to 
be, not his miracles of healing or his message of love and peace, 
but rather his act of dying. The Bible states that "the day of 
death [is better] than the day of one's birth."80 It became 


customary to call a Martyr's day of death his or her 
"birthday."81 Augustine tried to explain why death had taken on 

such an elevated character: 
Not that death, which was before an evil, has 
become good, but only that God has granted to 
faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted 
opposite to life, should become the instru

ment by which life is reached.82 

St. John Cimacus of the seventh century wrote, "Just as bread is 
the most necessary of all foods, so meditation on death is the 
most important of all actions."83 And the prominent St. John 
Chrysostom declared that "the principal character [of a Christian] 
is to desire and love death."84 Orthodox Christianity had 
taken on the character of a death cult. 

A preoccupation with death overshadowed Christian attitudes 
towards the world at large. Understanding earthly, physical life 
to be inimical to spirituality fostered a zealous anticipation of the 
end of the world. Christians expected God to revisit the earth in 
a second coming to usher in the end times. In the canonized 
Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives the impression that such an end 
may be short at hand: "Truly, I say to you, there are some 
standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of 
Man coming in his kingdom."85 Periodic waves of expecting the 
destruction of the world marked Christian history. During the 
Reformation in England, for example, eighty books were 
published on the subject of the world's end.86 

Orthodox Christianity changed the way people think about the 
earth and the natural environment. When God is believed to 
reign from above, nature is understood to be distant from, if not 
devoid of, God's presence. Such a world view led to dramatic 
changes in the meaning of holidays, the character of those 
holidays, and the perception of time, all of which were alienated 
from the earth's seasonal cycles. The facets of human life which 


speak of a connection to cycles, such as birth, sex, and death 
were disparaged. Rather than appreciating the natural life cycle, 
orthodox Christians denied that cycle entirely and became 
preoccupied with death. 

Chapter Ten 

A World Without God 

1600 -the Present 

Orthodox Christianity fostered humanity's shift towards a 
world view that pays little heed to the idea of divinity. By 
teaching that the earthly realm is devoid of sanctity, Christians 
built the ideological foundation for modern society. Modern 
thinkers perpetuated the concepts of orthodox Christianity, 
providing scientific validation for the belief in hierarchy, 
domination and struggle. With the approach of the twenty-first 
century, however, there is a growing awareness not only of the 
drawbacks of such concepts, but also of their limited scientific 

Soon after people accepted the belief that God no longer 
wielded supernatural power in the physical world, it became 
common, particularly among the educated, to believe that the 
devil also exercised no such power. Once the idea of divine 
magic had been rejected, it was easy to accept that no magic, 
divine or evil, operates in the physical realm. Physical reality 
was instead perceived to be the mechanistic operation of 
inanimate components functioning entirely upon rational and 
definable laws, similar to that of a huge clock. As Shakespeare's 
character Lafew says of the age: 

They say miracles are past; and we have our 
philosophical persons, to make modern and 


familiar, things supernatural and causeless.1 
This new perception and world view characterized what has 
been called the "Age of Enlightenment." Lacking the passionate 
creativity of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment was inspired by 
seventeenth century thinkers such as Galileo, Rene Descartes, 
Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Benedict 
Spinoza, and John Locke. While most still believed that God had 
originally created the world, they now thought that the universe 
functioned according to comprehensive laws which required no 
further intervention on God's part. 

These new beliefs and attitudes mirrored those of orthodox 
Christianity. As orthodox Christians believed there to be a 
division between heaven and earth, so scientists perceived there 
to be a similar division, coined by Descartes as that between 
mind and matter. As Christians believed God to be detached 
from the physical world, so scientists thought that consciousness 
and physical reality were detached from one another. Although 
orthodox Christianity and modern thinkers differed in their belief 
about the devil, both understood the physical world as a realm 
devoid of divinity and sanctity. 

The belief that the physical world functioned independently 
of consciousness found new validation in Newton's laws. His 
laws of motion and of gravity depicted a universe which operated 
upon a thoroughly impartial, mechanical and deterministic basis. 
Newton based all of his work upon experimental evidence as a 
testimony to the belief that matter was devoid of supernatural 
influence and consciousness; since the thoughts of the person 
conducting the experiment would have no impact upon matter, 
every experiment's result should be able to be duplicated.2 In 
other words, he believed that it was possible for a person to 
observe a physical phenomenon without influencing it. Accepting 
the orthodox Christian idea that God no longer had impact upon 
the physical world, modern thinkers concurred that human 
consciousness similarly did not influence physical phenomena. 


10.1 This woodcut illustrates the shift in humanity's perception of the 
universe. As the image suggests, it was as if people moved from a magical 
world of personified forces, to an indifferent, mechanical world which 
functioned much like a clock. The workings of the universe came to be 
attributed not to magic or supernatural intervention, but to Newton's laws 
of gravity and motion. 


Scientists and philosophers also embraced the concept of 
hierarchy and applied it to their work. Hierarchical order 
requires all components to be separated and ranked according to 
their superiority or inferiority; it focuses upon a component's 
difference rather than upon its supportive relationship and 
connection to the whole. Scientists similarly focused upon the 
separation, isolation and analysis of increasingly smaller 
particles. Little attention was given to the relationship connecting 
a component to its surrounding elements or environment. 

Modern philosophy echoed the same idea with the belief that 
reality emanated from and was caused by insignificant and 
random events rather than from and by larger, intentional 
consciousness. Descartes coined the belief with his famous 
phrase Cogito ergo sum, "I think, therefore I am." The smaller, 
less significant act of thinking leads to the larger, more significant 
reality of being. While many still believed that God 
originally created the universe, most now thought that truth 
would be found, not by focusing upon or trying to understand 
God's plan or intention, but by understanding the small, 
separate, mechanical parts of the universe. 

Belief in the necessity of domination and struggle, as well as 
in the absence of divine intervention, found new justification in 
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. As orthodox Christianity, 
particularly during the Reformation, stressed the nobility of 
struggle and the sinfulness of magic and supernatural assistance, 
so Darwin portrayed the natural world as a place where struggle 
and competition characterize every aspect of "the great and 
complex battle of life." Struggle, according to Darwin, was 
essential to maintaining the natural order and preventing the 
disastrous explosion of any one population. 

10.2 Sir Isaac Newton. His scientific laws of gravity and motion lent 
validation to the orthodox Christian belief that God no longer worked 
miracles or intervened in the physical world. 

While orthodox Christians maintained that domination and 
struggle were necessary to sustain a divine hierarchy, Darwin 
believed the same qualities necessary to uphold a natural 
Man, like every other animal, has no doubt 
advanced to his present high condition through 
a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid 
multiplication; and if he is to advance still 
higher, it is to be feared that he must remain 
subject to severe struggle. Otherwise he would 
sink into indolence, and the more gifted men 
would not be more successful in the battle of life 
than the less gifted.3 
Both orthodox Christians and modern thinkers deemed hierarchy 
essential, whether that hierarchy differentiated human beings 
according to their proximity to God or according to their ability 
to survive. Darwin's theories provided a new rationalization for 
subjugating people according to race or gender; they were now 
believed to be "naturally" weaker. 

Despite their similarities, orthodox Christianity is often 
thought to oppose modern science and thought. The Catholic 
Church did continue its tradition of hindering scholarly work by 
persecuting Galileo through the Inquisition and by opposing 
much of Newton's work.* And, indeed, there were ideological 
differences between orthodox Christians and modern thinkers. 

* While Galileo's heliocentric theory challenged the Church's theory that the 
sun revolved around the earth, Newton's work challenged the basis for Catholic 
authority. His insistence upon the possibility of experimentally verifying 
physical phenomenon called into question the basis for the Church's claim to 
authority. The authority of the Catholic Church rests upon apostolic 
succession, the idea that truth has been revealed only during the one-time event 
of Jesus's flesh-and-bone resurrection and, consequently, that truth is accessible 
only through the successors of the Apostles who witnessed me resurrection. 

Modern thinkers, for example, dismissed the idea that the devil 
exercised supernatural influence, while the orthodox fervently 
insisted upon it. Darwin's theory of evolution does differ from 
the Christian concept of creation. Yet, the premise of modern 
thought, that the universe functioned without divine intervention 
or magic, was one that both Catholics and Protestants themselves 
had fiercely advocated. 

Even Charles Darwin did not believe that his work opposed 
the tenets of orthodox Christianity. Reformational Christians 
would certainly have agreed with him that physical reality 
functions "not by miraculous acts of creation" but rather through 
struggle and competition.4 Darwin wrote in The Origin of 
Species, "I see no good reason why the views given in this 
volume should shock the religious feelings of any one." He 
describes how a religious man: 
...learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception 
of the Deity to believe that He created a few 
original forms capable of self-development into 
other and needful forms, as to believe that He 
required a fresh act of creation to supply the 
voids caused by the action of His laws.5 
Modern thought supported orthodox Christian concepts far more 
than it contradicted them. 

However, while Darwin believed that his work did not oppose 
the concept of an almighty God, his theories were used by others 
to deny even a remote creator. Atheism simply extended the 
Christian idea that God is distant and removed from the physical 
world. Once people accepted that, it was not difficult to believe 
that God did not exist at all. The seeds of atheism also grew in 
popularity as a reaction to the brutality of the witch hunts. 
People began to argue that religion did not guarantee a moral 
conscience and that an absence of religious conviction did not 


10.3 Sir Charles Darwin. The orthodox Christian belief in the necessity of 
hierarchy, domination and struggle found new justification in Darwin's 

lead to moral depravity. The late seventeenth century Historical 
and Critical Dictionary, for instance, affirmed that "atheism does 
not necessarily lead to the corruption of mores."6 

Atheism does, however, threaten the underpinnings of a fear-
based social order. Although God may have been relegated to a 
more distant position in heaven, fear of His punishment was still 
thought to enforce individual morality. Many thought that the 
judicial system depended upon fear. In his book Obstruction of 
Justice By Religion, Frank Swancara notes that: 
...the judges who moulded the common law 
thought that one who does not believe in nor 
fear Divine punishment after death cannot be 
trusted as a witness in a court of law.7 
Most thinkers of the Enlightenment found atheism as threatening 
as did orthodox Christians. Voltaire asked, 
What restraint, after all, could be imposed on 
covetousness, on the secret transgressions committed 
with impunity, other than the idea of an 
eternal master whose eye is upon us and who 
will judge even our most private thoughts?8 
And John Locke wrote: 
Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the 
being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, 
which are the bonds of human society, can have 
no hold upon an atheist.9 
Both orthodox Christianity and modern thinkers, while willing 
to dispense with the belief in magic and miracles, still relied 
upon the belief in God's fearful punishment. 

Modern thought most often validated Christian tenets. The 
perception that the universe operates like a machine or a clock 
corroborated St. Augustine's contention that human beings have 
no free will. In his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary 
Zukav writes: 


If we are to accept the mechanistic determination 
of Newtonian physicsÑif the universe really is a 
great machineÑthen from the moment that the 
universe was created and set into motion, everything 
that was to happen in it already was 

According to this philosophy, we may seem to 
have a will of our own and the ability to alter 
the course of events in our lives, but we do not. 
Everything, from the beginning of time, has been 
predetermined, including our illusion of having 
a free will. The universe is a prerecorded tape 
playing itself out in the only way that it can. The 
status of men is immeasurably more dismal than 
it was before the advent of science. The Great 
Machine runs blindly on, and all things in it are 
but cogs.10 

Whether on account of determinism or because of humanity's 
lowly position within a divine hierarchy, people continued to 
believe that the individual has little inherent power or free will. 

Science adopted the same ideas that encouraged Christians to 
treat the natural environment as a realm devoid of sanctity. 
Fritjof Capra describes how the division between mind and 

...allowed scientists to treat matter as dead and 
completely separate from themselves, and to see 
the material world as a multitude of different 
objects assembled into a huge machine... From 
the second half of the seventeenth to the end of 
the nineteenth century, the mechanistic... model 
of the universe dominated all scientific thought. 
It was paralleled by the image of a monarchial 
God who ruled the world from above by imposing 
his divine law on it.11 


By advocating a division between heavenly and earthly realms, 
or between mind and matter, both Christians and modern 
thinkers disassociated themselves from the physical world. 

Many concepts which originated in orthodox Christian 
ideology and found validation among modern thinkers are now, 
at the end of the twentieth century, proving to be of limited 
scientific accuracy. Scientific discoveries, most notably in 
quantum mechanics, have shown classical physics to be severely 
limited in its capacity to explain the workings of the universe. 
The principles and laws that appear to govern the mechanistic, 
deterministic universal machine simply do not apply to subatomic 
particles. Sub-atomic particles defy attempts to establish 
them absolutely within time and space. The physicist Stephen 
Hawking observes that this phenomenon, called the uncertainty 
...signaled an end to [the] dream of a theory of 
science, a model of the universe that would be 

completely deterministic: one certainly cannot 
predict future events exactly if one cannot even 
measure the present state of the universe precisely!

The belief that the universe functions upon entirely rational 
and definable laws is now in question. While Newton thought 
that, given enough information, one can absolutely determine the 
outcome of an event, quantum mechanics has shown that at best 
one can know only the probability of any outcome.13 Gary Zukav 
describes what became known as the Copenhagen Interpretation: 

...scientists attempting to formulate a consistent 
physics were forced by their own findings to 
acknowledge that a complete understanding of 
reality lies beyond the capabilities of rational 

Recent science has also challenged the belief that physical 
matter is completely inanimate, unresponsive, and substantive. 



In their explorations of wave functions, scientists have found 
physical reality to be both "idea-like" and "matter-like."15 The 
division between mind and matter, which corroborated the 
Christian division between heaven and earth, is not true scientifically. 
The physical world is not composed of solid, inert, and 
inanimate matter as was thought in classical physics. The 
physicist Henry Stapp writes: 

If the attitude of quantum mechanics is correct 
...then there is no substantive physical world, in 
the usual sense of this term. The conclusion here 
is not the weak conclusion that there may not be 

a substantive physical world but rather that there 
definitely is not a substantive physical world.16 

Another physicist, E.H. Walker writes: 

Consciousness may be associated with all quantum 
mechanical processes... since everything 
that occurs is ultimately the result of one or 
more quantum mechanical events, the universe is 
'inhabited' by an almost unlimited number of 
rather discrete conscious, usually nonthinking 
entities that are responsible for the detailed 
working of the universe.17 

Such findings contradict the belief in the separation of mind and 

Both the division between mind and matter and the idea that 
the earth is devoid of consciousness are also called into question 
by the more recent Gaia theory. Put forward primarily by James 
Lovelock, the Gaia theory suggests that the earth may be a self-
regulating system. Such a theory explains the relative constancy 
of the earth's climate, the surprisingly moderate amounts of salt 
in the oceans and the steady level of oxygen, all of which permit 
life to thrive.18 It may not be an accident or the result of random 
chance that the earth has maintained an environment capable of 
supporting life. Rather, the earth's activities may be the result of 


self-regulating behavior, which suggests the existence of 

Even the classical means of verifying truth are now considered 
erroneous. Newton believed that since experiments relating 
to physical matter involved inanimate particles which lacked 
consciousness, all results from such experiments should be 
repeatable; the person conducting the experiment could act as an 
objective observer without having any impact upon the physical 
matter. The possibility of such an objective observer, however, 
now no longer seems feasible; quantum mechanics has shown 
that the simple act of observation does have impact upon the 
matter observed. The physicist John Wheeler writes: 
May the universe in some strange sense be 
'brought into being' by the participation of those 
who participate?... 'Participator' is the incon

trovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. 
It strikes down the term 'observer' of 
classical theory, the man who stands safely 
behind the thick glass wall and watches what 
goes on 
without taking part. 
It can't be done, 
says. 19 

Recent scientific discoveries are proving the Newtonian and 
Cartesian perception of a mechanistic universe, which developed 
out of the belief that God no longer inhabited the world, to be of 
limited accuracy. 

The modern scientific method, which emphasizes dissecting 
and analyzing ever smaller components and echoes the Christian 
attempt to segregate hierarchical components, is also being 
reconsidered. Recent science suggests that truth might better be 
found, not just by focusing upon the separation and segregation 
of components, but also by understanding the interrelatedness of 
such components within a larger system. "Parts," as the 
physicist David Bohm explains, 


...are seen to be in immediate connection, in 
which their dynamical relationships depend, in 
an irreducible way, on the state of the whole 
system (and, indeed, on that of broader systems 
in which they are contained, extending ultimately 
and in principle to the entire universe). Thus, 
one is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness 
which denies the classical idea of 
analyzability of the world into separately and 
independently existent parts...20 

Understanding the relationship of matter to the whole system 
might reveal more truth than analyzing the isolated components 
of that matter. Understanding how components work together 
might be more productive than ordering those components 

The orthodox insistence upon the inherent value of struggle, 
which found renewed justification in Darwin's ideas, might also 
warrant revaluation. The Gaia theory, which proposes that the 
earth may be a self-regulating system, suggests that living 
organisms form symbiotic living patterns in order to bring about 
mutually beneficial situations. It suggests that order and 
evolution come about, not only through domination, struggle and 
competition as both orthodox Christianity and Darwinian theory 
imply, but also through cooperation. 

The impact of Christian tenets and modern science upon 
modern life are endless. Modern Western medicine took a 
similar view of the human body as classical physics did of the 
universe: "physicians" came to understand the human body as 
the mechanistic operation of inanimate components with little or 

10.4 This engraving published in 1680 illustrates the human body as if it 
were the mechanistic operation of inanimate components entirely divorced 
from human consciousness. This understanding, adopted by Western 
medicine, mirrored the orthodox Christian belief that God was divorced 
from the physical world. 


no connection to consciousness. An early proponent of seeing the 
body as a machine, Thomas Hobbes, wrote in 1651, "For what 
is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves but so many strings; 
and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole 
body. "21 As orthodox Christians understood God to be detached 
from the physical world, so Western medicine understood the 
workings of the human body to be disconnected from a person's 
mind or consciousness. Illness was seen simply as a malfunction 
of mechanical parts, the cause for which lay wholly in the 
physical world. 

In the same way that orthodox Christians tried to subdue 
lower hierarchical components, Western physicians attempted to 
prevail over the body rather than to work together with it, by 
encouraging its ability to heal itself. An example of such a 
practice is the treatment of non-life-threatening illness with 
antibiotics. Antibiotics subdue the body's immune system, the 
body's own capacity to defend itself from illness. While antibiotics 
are extraordinarily valuable in the treatment of life-threatening 
illness, the frequent use of them in less serious situations has 
led to a whole new group of diseases and has spawned new 
strains of bacteria which do not respond to any known treatment. 
Many are now calling into question modern medicine's precept 
that the body is a mechanical instrument devoid of any connection 
to consciousness, an instrument that is best subdued. 

Orthodox Christian ideology has also influenced modern 
commerce and industry. In mimicry of religious hierarchy, 
businesses were structured with power vested in a single 
authority at the top of the organization. Fear, domination and 
competition, thought so essential to maintain the divine hierarchical 
order, were seen as necessary characteristics of business. As 
uniformity was thought to produce unity, so businesses valued 
conformity and comprised themselves of people of similar race, 
gender and creed. 


More recently, however, a number of companies are finding 
a different structure and ideology to be more profitable. Businesses 
in which the employees are valued and are empowered 
with ownership and responsibility often function more productively 
than those which adhere to a strict hierarchical model. 
Cooperation both within a company as well as with its outside 
suppliers is proving to be more profitable than the fierce 
competition previously prized. In addition, some are questioning 
the value of uniformity and sameness in the workplace. An 
environment in which people have dissimilar perspectives and 
different ways of solving problems is more likely to produce 
creative solutions than one in which everyone thinks the same 

Beyond affecting science, philosophy, medicine and business, 
orthodox Christianity has had tremendous impact upon modern 
social structure and government. The belief in singular supremacy, 
hierarchy, and an inherently sinful human nature thwarts 
efforts to create pluralistic societies which value individual self-
determination. Power and authority within such a belief structure 
must descend from a singular pinnacle rather than rise from a 
pluralistic root. Anything that empowers the individual ultimately 
challenges such an authoritarian structure. 

It was, for example, never the intention of New England 
Puritan leaders to establish a government which represented the 
people's own views and desires.22 "Democracy, I do not 
conceyve, that ever God did ordeyne as a fitt government eyther 
for church or commonwealth," wrote the Puritan John Cotton. 
"If the People be governors, who shall be governed?"23 As the 
historians Joseph Gaer and Ben Siegel write: 

The Puritans had derived the belief that government's 
prime function is 'to regulate man's 
corruption,' that its divinely appointed leaders 
are to be obeyed unquestioningly, and that the 


state's welfare is much more important than the 

The democratic principles established in the United States were 
created in spite of orthodox Christianity, not because of it. As a 
treaty written during George Washington's administration and 
ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797 stated, "The government of 
the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian 
religion. "25 

Orthodox Christians repeatedly opposed religious freedom in 
America. The Puritan John Norton expressed the orthodox view 
of liberty of worship as "a liberty to blaspheme, a liberty to 
seduce others from the true God. A liberty to tell lies in the 
name of the Lord." When Vermont passed a bill allowing 
religious liberty, the Dartmouth Gazette (November 18, 1807) 
echoed the orthodox sentiment, calling the bill a striking example 
"of the pernicious and direful, the infernal consequences to 
which the leveling spirit of democracy must inevitably tend."26 
During Thomas Jefferson's and James Madison's efforts to 
separate church and state, Madison pointed to history and argued 
that whenever "ecclesiastical establishments" had shaped civil 
society, they had supported political tyranny; never had they 
protected the people's liberties.27 

Organized Catholics have done no more than Protestants to 
support personal liberty and democracy. From opposing the 
Magna Carta in the thirteenth century, to establishing a precedent 
for totalitarian states with the Inquisition, to refusing to protest 

10.5 While some Americans felt the threat to the principles of their 
Constitution posed by the Roman Catholic Church (as illustrated by this 
1855 engraving), fewer were aware of the similar threat posed by the 
branches of Protestantism. In forging the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, 
the founding fathers of the United States rejected orthodox Christian 
ideology. As the U.S. Senate ratified in 1797, "The government of the 
United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."28 

the attempted Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II,29 
the Catholic Church has championed authoritarianism and 
opposed democracy and freedom. As the nineteenth century 
Pope Gregory XVI wrote: 

It is in no way lawful to demand, to defend, or 
to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or 
speech, of writing, or of religion, as if they were 
so many rights that nature has given to man.30 

Power and authority should, in the eyes of the orthodox, be 
exercised only by those at the top of the hierarchy. 

Orthodox Christianity provided the ideological foundation for 
modern science and society. Once people had accepted the idea 
that God was in heaven and not on earth, that there was no more 
supernatural intervention or magic, scientists and philosophers 
began to verify just such a world. Their science and philosophy 
confirmed that the physical world functioned mechanically and 
independently of consciousness and God. They also corroborated 
the orthodox Christian belief in the necessity for struggle and 
domination. These beliefs and concepts, however, are now being 
called into question, not only because of their practical drawbacks, 
but also because of their limited scientific accuracy. 

Chapter Eleven 


The dark side of Christian history has been and continues to 
be about the domination and control of spirituality and human 
freedom. Orthodox Christians built an organization that from its 
inception encouraged not freedom and self-determination, but 
obedience and conformity. To that end, any means were 
justified. Grounded in the belief in a singular, authoritarian and 
punishing God, orthodox Christians created a church that 
demanded singular authority and punished those who disobeyed. 
During the Dark Ages, civilization collapsed as the Church 
took control of education, science, medicine, technology and the 
arts. Crusaders marched into the Middle East killing and 
destroying in the name of the one Christian God. The Inquisition 
established a precedent in the Middle Ages for the systematic 
policing and terrorization of society. The Protestant and Catholic 
Counter Reformation sparked wars where Christians slaughtered 
other Christians, each convinced that theirs was the one and only 
true path. And the holocaust of the witch hunts plumbed the 
depths of horror as it eradicated countless women and men as 
well as the belief in earth-based divinity. In 1785 Thomas 
Jefferson wrote: 

Millions of innocent men, women, and children, 
since the introduction of Christianity, have been 
burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have 
not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What 


has been the effect of coercion? To make one 
half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. 
To support error and roguery all over the 

Christianity's impact has been perhaps most insidious upon 
the modern world. By terrifying people into believing that there 
was no divine supernatural assistance in the physical world, 
orthodox Christians created the environment where people 
believed the universe to be pre-determined, mechanical, and 
devoid of consciousness. But instead of attributing such an 
understanding to religious belief, people now credited science as 
having objectively proven such a world. Most people came to 
think that struggle, domination and authoritarian control wereÑ 
perhaps not divinely ordainedÑbut natural and necessary 
qualities of life in such an impersonal universe. Interestingly, the 
very science that once verified orthodox Christian concepts is 
now discovering the limitations of a mechanistic view of the 

Ignoring the dark side of Christian history perpetuates the 
idea that oppression and atrocity are the inevitable results of an 
inherently evil or savage human nature. There have beenÑ 
especially during the neolithic ageÑpeaceful cultures and 
civilizations, however, which functioned without oppressive 
hierarchical structures. It is clearly not human nature that causes 
people to hurt one another. People of gentler cultures share the 
same human nature as we of Western civilization; it is our 
beliefs that differ. Tolerant and more peaceful cultures have 
respected both masculine and feminine faces of God, both 
heavenly and earthly representations of divinity. It is the limited 
belief in a singular supremacy and only one face of God that has 
resulted in tyranny and brutality. 

Ignoring the dark side of Christian history allows the beliefs 
which have motivated cruelty to go unexamined. The belief in a 
singular face of God who reigns at the pinnacle of a hierarchy 


sustained by fear has devastating consequences. People must 
constantly determine who is superior to whom. Every aspect 
which differentiates people whether it be gender, race, belief, 
sexual preference, or socio-economic status, becomes a criterion 
by which to rank an individual as either better than or less than 
another. And it is the ranking and subordination of a person's 
humanity and value that comprises sexism, racism, and the 
intolerance of difference. 

Unity and oneness within an orthodox Christian belief system 
are perceived to come from sameness and conformity, not from 
the synergy and harmony of difference. A society's diversity is 
most often understood to be a liability rather than an asset. A 
peaceful society is thought to be one where everyone is the 
same. Within such a belief system, an end to sexism or racism 
is misunderstood to mean simply a change of roles. Instead of 
men dominating women, women would dominate men. Instead 
of whites dominating blacks, blacks would dominate whites. 
There is no understanding of shared authority, cooperation and 

Belief in a strictly heavenly or sky-based God who is 
disconnected from the earth has had enormous ramifications 
upon humanity's treatment of the natural environment. As 
orthodox Christianity spread, the means of integrating human 
activity with seasonal cycles through festivals were curtailed. 
Holidays came to commemorate biblical events, not the phases 
of the year. The concept of linear time replaced that of cyclical 
time, further alienating people from nature's ebb and flow. 
Modern science then validated the orthodox perception that the 
earth lacked sanctity by portraying the physical world as a 
mechanistic realm entirely devoid of consciousness. 

However, as dark as moments of Christian history have been, 
awareness of them need not lead to a complete rejection of 
Christianity. There have been Christians throughout its history 
who have fought against the tyranny of orthodox beliefs and 


behavior. There have been countless Christians who valued love 
and forgiveness over fear and punishment, who encouraged 
personal empowerment and understanding over submission and 
blind faith. 

The dark side of Christian history was not an unavoidable 
result of human nature; it was the result of a very specific 
ideology and belief structure. As we have ignored the horror of 
Christian history, so we have ignored scrutiny of Christian 
beliefs and their pervasiveness in our seemingly godless modern 
world. Without scrutiny, the destructive patterns have continued 
to alienate people from God, the natural environment, and each 

Yet, with understanding and attention, we can stop such 
harmful patterns. We can recognize that efforts to convince us 
that God demands our fear and unquestioning submission are in 
fact efforts to control us and to contain our spirituality. We can 
recognize that the belief in a singular supremacy lies at the root 
of chauvinism, racism and totalitarianism. We can move towards 
a world that values diversity, freedom and human dignity. And 
we can embrace the hope and pursue the dream that humanity 
can be free to act humanely. 



Peggy Polk, "Papal State" (Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1995, "Tempo" p. 2.) 
Ibid., 2. 
Chapter One -Seeds of Tyranny 

Ecclesiastes 12:13. 
Psalms 128. 
Luke 12:5. 
Tertullianus against Marcion, Book I, Ch. XXVII. Ante-Nicene Christian 
Library (Edinburgh: T&T Clark) 
Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988) 
Tertullianus against Marcion, Book I, Ch. XXVI. 
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979) 28. 
Ibid., 35. 
Ignatius, Magnesians VI and Trallians III. Ante-Nicene Christian Library 
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark) 
"Tripartite Tractate" I,5 79.21-32 from The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. 
Robinson, Director (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) 69. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 50. 
The Secret Teachings of Jesus, translated by Marvin W. Meyer (New York: 
Random House, 1984) 56. 
The Excerpta Ex Theodoto of Clement of Alexandria, translated by Robert 
Pierce Casey (London: Christophers, 1934) 59. 
Irenaeus Against Heresies, 4.33.3. 
Ignatius, Magnesians VI and Trallians III. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 42-43. 
Ibid., 42. 
Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, 113-114. 
I Corinthians 11:8-9. 
Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987) 131-132. 
I Timothy 2:11-13. 
Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, 132-133. 

The Essene Gospel of Peace, edited and translated by Edmond Bordeaux 
Szekely (San Diego: Academy of Creative Living, 1971) 7. 
"On the Origin of the World" II. 116.2-8 from The Nag Hammadi Library, 
Tertullian, "On Prescription Against Heretics" Chapter XLI, Ante-Nicene 
Fathers; Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.A. 325, Vol. 
III (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951) 263. 
Tertullian, "On the Flesh of Christ" Chapter V, Ibid., 525. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 10 and Hans von Campenhausen Ecclesiastical 
Authority and Spiritual Power: In the Church of the First Three Centuries, 
Translated by J.A. Baker (Stanford University Press, 1969) 18-24. 

Irenaeus Against Heresies, 4.26.2. Volume I (Buffalo: The Christian 
Literature Publishing Co., 1885) 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 11. 
Ibid., 11. 
Mark 16:9, John 20:11-17. 
John 20:17. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 3-17. 
Irenaeus Against Heresies, 2.27.1-2. 
Ibid., 2.27.2. 
Tertullian, "On Prescription Against Heretics" Chapter VII, 246. 
Ibid., Chapter XIII, 249. 
Ibid., Chapter XXXVII, 261. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, xix-xx. 
Hippolytus Philosophumena 6.9, Volume II, Translated by F. Legge (London: 
Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1921) 5. 
"Authoritative Teaching" VI, 3 34.32-35.2 from The Nag Hammadi Library, 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 126. 
"The Gospel of Truth" 29.2-6 from The Nag Hammadi Library, 43. 
"The Gospel of Truth" 17.10-15 from The Nag Hammadi Library, 40. 
Matthew 7:7 and Luke 17:21. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 25. 
Ibid., xxiii. 
Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3.4.1. 
Ignatius, Ephesians V 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 34. 
Chapter Two -Political Maneuvering 

Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979) 100. 
John Holland Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, (New York: Charles 
Scribner, 1976) 49. 
St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, translated and annotated by 
Josephy P. Smith (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952) 106. 

Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, 5. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 21. 
Joel Carmichael, The Birth of Christianity (New York: Hippocrene Books, 
1989) 170-171. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 104. 
Ibid., 104. 
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail 
(New York: Dell, 1982) 364, 318. 
Barbara Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 467. 
Ibid., 469. 
Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible (New York: Citadel 
Press, 1975) 445. 
Ibid., 445. 
Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, 327-329. 
Ibid., 317-318. 
Ibid., 317. 
Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987) 131. 
Luke 23:2. 
Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, 326-327. 
Carmichael, The Birth of Christianity, 35, 177, 178. 
See both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Joel Carmichael's The Birth of 
Christianity for further discussion. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages, Edited and translated 
by Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Dorset Press, 1962) 127. The 
quoted material is by E. Schwarz and is taken from the same page of text. 
The Secret Teachings of Jesus, translated by Marvin W. Meyer (New York: 
Random House, 1984) 56. 
"The Sophia of Jesus Christ" III,4, from The Nag Hammadi Library edited by 
James M. Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) 217. 
Geoffrey Ashe, The Virgin: Mary's Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess 
(London: Arkana, 1976, 1988) 206. 
Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 52. 
Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: 
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1952) 257. 
Robert W. Ackerman, Backgrounds to Medieval English Literature (New 
York: Random House, 1966) 92. 
Ashe, The Virgin, 224-225. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 663. 
Arthur Cotterell, Myths and Legends (New York: MacMillan Publishing 
Company, 1989) 131. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 663-665. 
Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough Vol.1 abridged edition (New 
York: Collier Books, 1922) 415. 

Ashe, The Virgin, 179. 
Ibid., 8, 125. 
Ibid., 139, 150-151. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 611. 
Ashe, The Virgin, 129. 
Ibid., 151. 
Ibid., 191. 
Ibid., 192. 
Ibid., 192-193. 
Charles Merrill Smith, The Pearly Gates Syndicate (New York: DoubleDay, 
1971) 27-28. 
J.N. Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 
Prentice Hall, 1969) 49. 
Ibid., 46. 
Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, 218. 
Ibid., 166-167. 
Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe, 44-48. 
Chapter Three -Deciding Upon Doctrine 

Evrett Ferguson, Michael P. McHugh & Frederick W. Norris, Encyclopedia 
of Early Christianity (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1990) 420. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (New York: Dorset 
Press, 1962) 138. 
Ibid., 138. 
Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988) 
Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV, Ch.4, translated by Marcus 
Dods (New York: The Modern Library, 1950) 445. 
Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, 141. 
Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV, Ch. 16, 465. 
Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, 131-134. 
Nigg, The Heretics, 37. 
Barbara Walker, The Wman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 910. 
Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, 28. 
Ibid., 45. 
Ibid., 107. 
Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV, Ch. 15, 462. 
Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, 125. 
Ibid., 129-130, 134. 
Quincy Howe, Jr., Reincarnation For The Christian (Philadelphia: 
Westminster Press, 1974) 65-72. 
Ibid., 66. 
Reincarnation, compiled and edited by Joseph Head and S.L. Cranston (New 

York: The Julian Press, 1961) 38. 

Howe, Reincarnation For The Christian, 81. 

Ibid., 67. 

The New Columbia Encyclopedia edited by William H. Harris and Judith S. 
Levey (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1975) 782. 

Nigg, The Heretics, 117. 

Ibid., 116. 

Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible (New York: Citadel 
Press, 1975) 468. 

Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1974) 477. 

Chapter Four -The Church Takes Over 

Charles Panati, Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything 
(New York: Harper & Row, 1989) 225-228. 

Ibid., 225. 

Ibid., 225. 

Ibid., 264-265. 

Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: Harper 
& Row, 1987) 201-202. 

Ibid., 131. 

Ibid., 328. 

The New Columbia Encyclopedia edited by William H. Harris and Judith S. 
Levey (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1975) 2331. 

Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible (New York: Citadel 
Press, 1975) 448. 

Ibid., 449. 

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (New York: Random House, 1983) 573. 

Ibid., 572. 

Ibid., 573. 

Ibid., 573. 

Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987) and Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman (New York: Dorset Press, 

Boorstin, The Discoverers, 573. 

The New Columbia Encyclopedia, 61, and Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade. 

Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, 444. 

Jeffrey Burton Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity (New York: 
Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1968) 103. 

Ibid., 40. 

Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century (Cleveland & 
New York: Meridian Books, 1927) 96. 

Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 208. 


Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 95. 
John H. Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1976) 223. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 208. 
Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, 247. 
Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 34. 
Ibid., 43. 
Boorstin, The Discoverers, 581. 
H. Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade (New York: E.P. Dutton & 
Company, Inc., 1957) 273. 
Ibid., 274. 
Malachi Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church (New York: G.P. 
Putnam's Sons, 1981) 141. 
Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, 464. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 92, and Graham, Deceptions and 
Myths of the Bible, 470. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 92. 
Ibid., 65. 
Ibid., 93. 
Joan O'Grady, The Prince of Darkness (Longmead: Element Books, 1989) 62. 
Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, 229. 
Ibid., 246. 
Chapter Five -The Church Fights Change 

Jeffrey Burton Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity (New York: 
Thomas Y Cromwell, 1968) 106. 
Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century (Cleveland & 
New York: Meridian Books, 1927) 62. 
Albert Clement Shannon, The Medieval Inquisition (Washington D.C.: 
Augustinian College Press, 1983) 141. 
Ibid., 141. 
Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 45. 
Ibid., 364. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (New York: Dorset 
Press, 1962) 169. 
Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 96. 
Ibid., 97. 
Ibid., 55-56. 
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, edited by Irene 
Gordon (New York: Mentor Books, 1960) 336. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 97-98. 
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (New York: Ballantine Books, 1978) 

Henri Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade (New York: E.P. Dutton & 
Company, Inc., 1957) 246. 
Henry C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church, 4th 
edition revised (London: Watts & Co., 1932) 264, 279. 
Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 438. 
Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 521. 
Theodore Nottingham, "The Birth Within: Meister Eckhart and the Knowing 
of God" GNOSIS, No. 18 (Winter 1991) 19. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 212. 
Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca & London: 
Cornell University Press, 1972) 102. 
Geoffrey Ashe, The Virgin: Mary's Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess 
(London: Arkana, 1976, 1988) 219. 
Ibid., 217. 
Ibid., 217, 221. 
Ibid., 154. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 124-126, 150. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 149, and Haskins, The 
Renaissance of the 12th Century, 207. 
Henry Charles Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Abridgement by 
Margaret Nicholson (New York: MacMillan, 1961) 24. 
Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 217-218. 
Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 240. 
Ibid., 241. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 165. 
Ibid., 75. 
Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible (New York: Citadel 
Press, 1975) 470. 
Ibid., 470. 
Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol. V: The Middle Ages 
(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1952) 775-6. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 168-169. 
Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 433-435. 
Malachi Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church (New York: G.P. 
Putnam's Sons, 1981) 134, and Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 276. 
James A. Haught, Holy Horrors (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1990) 25-26. 
Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, 134. 
Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 280. 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 75. 
Ibid., 64. 
Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 439-441. 
G.G. Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty (Glouster, MA: Peter Smith, 1969) 
Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 159-160. 

Karen Armstrong, Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's 
World (New York: Doubleday, 1988) 387. 

Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 164-165. 

Luke 19:27. 

Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, 134. 

The common belief that the crusaders returned from their exploits with 
literature and learning is mistaken. To quote Charles H. Haskins, "The 
Crusaders were men of action, not men of learning, and little can be traced 
in the way of translations in Palestine or Syria." (The Renaissance of the 12th 
Century, 282.) 

Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, 444. 

For more discussion, see Karen Armstrong, Holy War: The Crusades and 
Their Impact on Today's World. 

Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity, 75. 

Ibid., 156. 

Ibid., 155. 

Ibid., 157. 

Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 510. 

Ibid., 510. 

Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, 146. 

Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, 321 -322. 

Ibid., 322. 

The New Columbia Encyclopedia edited by William H. Harris and Judith S. 
Levey (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1975) 2442. 

Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 59. 

Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 27. 

Timothy O'Neill, "Century of Marvels, Century of Light" 14-18 and Judith 
Mann, "The Legend of the Cathars" GNOSIS, No.4, 28. 

Ian Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin (London: Arkana, 1985) 136 and Lea, 
The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 43. 

Otto Rahn, Kreuzzug gegen den Gral, as quoted in Nigg, The Heretics, 182


Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 74. 

Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, 125. 

Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 46. 

Ibid., 54. 

Ibid., 54. 

Ibid., 57-59. 

Ibid., 64. 

John Kimsey, "The Code of Love," GNOSIS, No.18 (Winter 1991) 27. 

Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 75. 

Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World, translated by Janet Sondheimer, (New 
York: NAL, 1961) 214. 

Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 75. 


Chapter Six -Controlling the Human Spirit 

Henry Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain (Bloomington: Indiana 
University Press, 1985) 161. 
G.G. Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty (Glouster, MA: Peter Smith, 1969) 81. 
Peter Tompkins, "Symbols of Heresy" in The Magic of Obelisks (New York: 
Harper, 1981) 57. 
Henry Charles Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Abridgement by 
Margaret Nicholson (New York: MacMillan, 1961) 221-222. 
Henri Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade (New York: E.P.Dutton & 
Company, Inc., 1957) 547 and Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the 
Middle Ages (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1972) 155. 
Rossell Hope Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New 
York: Bonanza Books, 1981) 13. 
Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 216. 
Ibid., 211. 
Ibid., 214. 
Ibid., 215. 
Ibid., 214. 
Ibid., 177-179. 
Ibid., 177. 
Ibid., 174. 
Ibid., 226-227. 
Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 132. 
Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 439. 
Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 248. 
Ibid., 226-227. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 271. 
Ibid., 271. 
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (New York: Ballantine Books, 1978) 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 438. 
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (New York: Random House, 1983) 275. 
Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 70. 
Ibid., 248. 
Ibid., 232-233. 
Ibid., 222. 
Ibid., 224-225. 
Ibid., 233-236. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (New York: Dorset 
Press, 1962) 220. 
John 15:16. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 443. 
Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 252. 

Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 154-155. 
Ibid., 148. 
Jean Plaidy, The Spanish Inquisition (New York: Citadel Press, 1967) 139. 
Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 154-155. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1007. 
Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 155. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 445. 
Plaidy, The Spanish Inquisition, 138-145. 
Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, 169. 
Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain, 163. 
Ibid., 164. 
John Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1985) 84-85. 
Jeffrey Burton Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity (New York: 
Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1968) 157. 
Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain, 161. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, All. 
Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain, 14-29. 
Hugh A. Mulligan, "Columbus Saga Sinking Fast" (Associated Press, March 
8, 1992). 
Jon Margolis, "War of words over Columbus rages on", The Sunday Denver 
Post, July 28, 1991, p.7. 
Ibid., 7,20. 
Cecil Roth, The Spanish Inquisition (New York: W. W Norton & Company, 
1964) 210. 
Plaidy, The Spanish Inquisition, 165. 
Roth, The Spanish Inquisition, 221. 
Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire (London: Burns and 
Oats, 1977) 90. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 447. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 79. 
"Tripartite Tractate" 1,5 -79.21-32 from The Nag Hammadi Library, James 
M. Robinson, Director (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) 69. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 82. 
Forrest Wood, The Arrogance of Faith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 82. 
Ibid., 85. 
Ibid., 85. 
Leviticus 25:44-46. 
Ephesians 6:5, I Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:9-10. 
Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade, 263. 
Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988) 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 88. 

Wood, The Arrogance of Faith, 119. 
Ibid., 127. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 447. 
Chapter Seven -The Reformation 

Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible (New York: Citadel 
Press, 1975)461. 
John Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1985) 97. 
Ibid., 94, 109. 
Ibid., 95. 
Ibid., 28. 
Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire (London: Burns and 
Oats, 1977) 9. 
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1974) 56. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 10. 
Ibid., 15. 
The "Natural Inferiority" of Women compiled by Tama Starr (New York: 
Poseidon Press, 1991) 36. 
The New Columbia Encyclopedia edited by William H. Harris and Judith S. 
Levey (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1975) 1631. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 86. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (New York: Dorset 
Press, 1962) 304-305 and James A. Haught, Holy Horrors (Buffalo: 
Prometheus, 1990) 111. 
Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear, translated by Eric Nicholson (New York: St. 
Martins Press, 1990) 536. 
Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (London: 
Longman, 1987) 103. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 59-62. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 47, 134, and Thomas, Religion 
and the Decline of Magic, 155. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 117-118. 
Ibid., 35, 116. 
Joseph Gaer and Ben Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the 
Bible (New York: Mentor Books, 1964) 74-76. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 125, 134. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 161. 
Ibid., 161. 
Ibid., 162. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 44. 
Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: Harper 
& Row, 1987) 202. 

Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 437. 
Ibid., 437. 
Ibid., 438-439. 
Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, The Malleus Maleficarum, Translated 
by Montague Summers (New York: Dover Publications, 1971) 167. 
Reay Tannahill, Sex In History (Michigan: Scarborough House, 1992) 161 
and Karen Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's 
Creation of the Sex War in the West (New York: Doubleday, 1986) 329. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 438. 
Ibid., 438. 
Gaer and Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the Bible, 87. 
Ibid., 31. 
Ibid., 31. 
Ibid., 88. 
Ibid., 87. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 43. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 27. 
Jonathan Edwards, "The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners," from 
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, A.M. (London: Henry G. Bohn) 673. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 126. 
Gaer and Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the Bible, 118. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 47. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 457. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 278. 
Ibid., 52, 269-270. 
Ibid., 278. 
Ibid., 278. 
Ibid., 277. 
Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700, 68. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 29, 44. 
Ibid., 503. 
Ibid., 53. 
Ibid., 52. 
Ibid., 56. 
Ibid., 57. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 460. 
Ibid., 461. 
Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 97. 
Ibid., 97. 
Ibid., 97. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, All. 
Joan O'Grady, The Prince of Darkness (Longmead: Element Books, 1989) 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 476. 
Ibid., 476. 

Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 173. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 496. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 472. 
Chapter Eight -The Witch Hunts 

Rossell Hope Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New 
York: Bonanza Books, 1981) 3. 
I Peter 3:7. 
The "Natural Inferiority" of Women compiled by Tama Starr (New York: 
Poseidon Press, 1991) 45. 
Joan Smith, Misogynies: Reflections on Myths and Malice (New York: Fawcett 
Columbine, 1989) 66. 
The "Natural Inferiority" of Women, Starr, 45. 
Karen Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation 
of the Sex War in the West (New York: Doubleday, 1986) 71. 
Smith, Misogynies, 61. 
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (New York & London: 
Blackfriars, McGraw-Hill, Eyre & Spottiswoode) Question 92, 35. 
Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman, 69. 
Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus 25:13-26. 
Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (New York: Dorset 
Press, 1962) 277. 
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1974) 520. 
Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (Vintage Books: New 
York, 1987) 266. 
Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (New York: Ballantine Books, 1978) 
Ibid., 211. 
Joan O'Grady, The Prince of Darkness (Longmead: ElementBooks, 1989) 84. 
Henry Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain (Bloomington: Indiana 
University Press, 1985) 163. 
Jean Plaidy, The Spanish Inquisition (New York: Citadel Press, 1967) 143. 
Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, The Malleus Maleficarum, Translated 
by Montague Summers (New York: Dover Publications, 1971) 121. 
Ibid., 121. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 568-569. 
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (New York: Pocket Books, 1974) 215. 
Julio Caro Baroja, The World of Witches (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1961) 60-61 and Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern 
Europe (London: Longman, 1987) 45. 
Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca & London: 
Cornell University Press, 1972) 76-77. 
O'Grady, The Prince of Darkness, 62. 

Baroja, The World of Witches, 81. 
Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen, Early Modern European Witchcraft 
Centres and Peripheries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) 25. 
Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, 164. 
Ibid., 134. 
Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon (New York: Beacon Press, 1979) 49. 
Baroja, The Vforld of Witches, 149-150. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 43. 
Nigg, The Heretics, 280 and Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and 
Voltaire (London: Burns and Oats, 1977) 174. 
Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 174. 
Baroja, The World of Witches, 165. 
Ibid., 165. 
Jeffrey Burton Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity (New York: 
Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1968) 173. 
Ibid., 173. 
Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 49. 
Smith, Misogynies, 68. 
Montague Summers, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (New York: 
New Hyde Park, 1956) 12. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 9. 
Exodus 22:18. 
Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 1088. 
Ibid., 1088. 
Summers, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology, 63. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 271. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1086. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 16. 
Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 110. 
Nigg, The Heretics, 281. 
Baroja, The Vforld of Witches, 168-169. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 502. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1004. 
Ibid., 445. 
Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, 151. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 445-446. 
Ibid., 445. 
Ibid., 1004. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 229. 
Ibid., 4. 
Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 105. 
Ibid., 59. 
Ibid., 59. 
Ibid., 59. 

Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 102, and Thomas, Religion 
and the Decline of Magic, 493-495. 
Shakespeare, The Tempest, epilogue, written in 1610-1611. 
Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 149-150. 
Ibid., 150. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 551, and Walker, The Woman's 
Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1008. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1083. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 4. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 555. 
Ibid., 554. 
Ibid., 436. 
Ibid., 177. 
Ibid., 265-266. 
Ibid., 266. 
Ibid., 266. 
Ibid., 178. 
Ibid., 479. 
Ibid., 265. 
Ibid., 479. 
Ibid., 85. 
Ibid., 264. 
Ibid., 264. 
Jeanne Achterberg, Woman As Healer (Boston: Shambala, 1991) 105. 
Ibid., 106. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 14. 
Ibid., 537. 
Ibid., 537. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 540. 
Ibid., 540. 
John T. Noonan, Jr., Contraception (New York and Toronto: The New 
American Library, 1965) 42. 
Achterberg, Woman As Healer, 92. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 540. 
Baroja, The World of Witches, 125. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 4. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 655. 
Genesis 3:16. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 656. 
Ibid., 656. 
Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman, 69. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 444. 
Ibid., 444. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 4-5. 
Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1087. 

Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 229. 
Ibid., 229. 
Ibid., 229. 
Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, 17. 
Ibid., 17. 
Chapter Nine -Alienation from Nature 

Colossians 3:5-6. 
James 3:14-15. 
Philippians 3:18-19. 
Genesis 3:17-18. 
Lewis Regenstein, Replenish the Earth (New York: Crossroad, 1991) 72. 
Ibid., 75. 
Barry Holstun Lopez, Of Wolves and Men (New York: Charles Scribner's 
Sons, 1978) 238-239. 
Regenstein, Replenish the Earth, 73. 
Ibid., 74-76. 
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1974) 9. 
John Holland Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism, (New York: Charles 
Scribner, 1976)240-241. 
Ibid., 246. 
William Anderson, Green Man (London and San Francisco: HarperCollins, 
1990) 51,52-53,50. 
Ibid., 52. 
Ibid., 63. 
Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough Vol.1 Abridged Edition (New 
York: Collier Books, 1922) 416. 
Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: 
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1952) 53. 
Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca & London: 
Cornell University Press, 1972) 51. 
Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 141. 
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (New York: Random House, 1983) 599. 
Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 116-118. 
Frazer, The Golden Bough, 419. 
Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 215-216. 
Ibid., 290. 
Ibid., 291. 
Ibid., 278, 309. 
Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects 
(San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988) 344-345. 
Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear, translated by Eric Nicholson (New York: St. 

Martins Press, 1990) 457. 

Anderson, Green Man, 31. 

Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 759. 

Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire (London: Burns and 
Oats, 1977) 177. 

Walker, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, 176. 

Joseph Gaer and Ben Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the 
Bible (New York: Mentor Books, 1964) 92. 

Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 437. 

Walker, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, 176. 

The "Natural Inferiority" of Women compiled by Tama Starr (New York: 
Poseidon Press, 1991) 46. 

Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 197. 

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 66. 

Gaer and Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the Bible, 86. 

Ibid., 86-87. 

Ibid., 86. 

Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 64. 

Ibid., 65. 

Gaer and Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the Bible, 85. 

Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 65-66. 

Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 169-197. 

Ibid., 177. 

Rupert Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God 
(Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont, 1991) 40. 

Ibid., 43. 

Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 35. 

Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire, 228. 

Ibid., 206. 

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 151. 

Boorstin, The Discoverers, 571. 

Ibid., 571. 

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 619-622. 

Ibid., 621. 

Ibid., 623. 

James 1:15. 

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 38-39. 

2 Corinthians 5:6. 

Romans 8:13. 

Romans 8:6. 

Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 448. 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (New York: Pocket Books, 1974) 118. 

Saint Augustine, The City of God translated by Marcus Dods (New York: The 
Modern Library, 1950) Book 13, Ch.3, 413. 

Ibid., Book 13, Ch. 15, 423. 


1 Corinthians 15:26. 
J.H. Strawley, The Epistles of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (London: 
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1900) 92-93. 
Luke 20:34-36. (Underline added) 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 54. 
Ibid., 54. 
John Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1985) 26. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 603-604. 
Ibid., 66. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 39. 
Gaer and Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the Bible, 92. 
Augustine, The City of God, Book 13, Ch. 10, 419. 
Ibid., Book 13, Ch. 4, 415. 
Ecclesiastes 7:1. 
Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 277. 
Augustine, The City of God, Book 13, Ch. 4, 415. 
Delumeau, Sin and Fear, 55. 
Ibid., 352. 
Matthew 16:28. 
Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 142. 
Chapter Ten -A World Without God 

Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well, Act II, Scene iii. 
Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1979) 2125. 
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex Part 
One, Volume III (New York, P.F. Collier & Son, 1871) 642. 
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the 
Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life Volume II (New York: 
D. Appleton & Co., 1897) 303. 
Ibid., 294. 
Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire (London: Burns and 
Oats, 1977) 204. 
Frank Swancara, Obstruction of Justice By Religion (Denver: W. H. 
Courtwright Publishing Co., 1936) 27. 
Frank E. Mauel, The Changing of the Gods (Hanover, NH: University Press 
of New England, 1983) 66. 
John Locke, "A Letter Concerning Toleration," 1689 as printed in The 
Founders' Constitution, Volume 5 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987) 69. 
Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 26. 
Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1984) 8. 
Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988) 

Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 27. 
Ibid., 38. 
Ibid., 80-83. 
Ibid., 82. 
Ibid., 63. 
"Gaia: the Veiled Goddess", The Economist, December 22, 1990. 
Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 29. 
Ibid., 297. 
Andrew Kimbrell, "Body wars", Utne Reader (May/June 1992) 59. 
Joseph Gaer and Ben Siegel, The Puritan Heritage: America's Roots in the 
Bible (New York: Mentor Books, 1964) 29. 
Ibid., 77. 
Ibid., 78. 
Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, edited 
by Hunter Miller, Volume 2 (Washington: United States Government Printing 
Office, 1931) 349-385, and Peter McWilliams, Aint Nobody's Business If You 
Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society (Los Angeles: 
Prelude Press, 1993) 153. 
Ibid., 103-104. 
Ibid., 102. 
See note #25. 
Lawrence Lader, Politics, Power & the Church (New York: Macmillan 
Publishing Company, 1987) 135-140, "World Watch" The Rocky Mountain 
News, April 14, 1992, and "Vatican denies helping Nazis flee after war", The 
Associated Press, February 15, 1992. 
John Dollison, Pope-Pourri (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994) 9. 
Chapter Eleven -Conclusion 

Forrest G. Wood, The Arrogance of Faith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 
1990) 27. 
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About the Author 

Helen Ellerbe was born in Beirut, Lebanon, grew up in 
Saudi Arabia, and was educated in Connecticut, Colorado 
and Germany. She has worked as a German translator, a 
Fortune 500 sales representative, a stockbroker, a sculptor 
of mythological figures, and most recently, as a researcher, 
writer, and public speaker. She lives in the San Francisco 
Bay Area with her husband. 


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