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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1708 times)
Trena Alloway
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Posts: 2386

« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:35:53 pm »

chief occupation thenceforward was the building of towns and monasteries, whence he acquired the name of The Great Builder. His people, who blessed heaven for his conversion, honoured and loved him; the guilt of his sins had been removed by the means which were then deemed of sovereign efficacy; yet still the monitor placed by God in the human breast, and which in a noble mind no power can reduce to perfect silence, did not rest; and the Holy Land beheld, for the third time, the Count of Anjou watering the sepulchre of Christ with his tears, and groaning afresh over his transgressions. H e quitted Jerusalem for the last time, recommending his soul to the prayers of the pious brethren whose office it was to receive the pilgrims, and turned his face homewards. But Anjou he was never more to behold; death surprised him at Metz. His body was transferred to Loches, and buried in his church of the Holy Sepulchre.

These instances may suffice to show what the opinion of the efficacy and merit of pilgrimage to the Holy Land was at the time of which we write. We here find convincing proof that in the minds of princes and prelates, the highest and most enlightened order of society, it was confidently believed to avail to remove the guilt of crimes of the deepest die. And let not any one say that the clergy took advantage of the ignorance of the people, and made it the instrument of extending their own power and influence; for such an assertion would evince ignorance both of human nature in general and of the temper and conduct of the Romish hierarchy at that, and we might almost say at all periods of its existence. However profligate the lives of many of the clergy may have been, they never called in question the truth of the dogmas of their religion. Even the great and daring Gregory VII., in the midst of what appear to us his arrogant and almost impious assumptions, never for

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moment doubted of the course which he was pursuing being the right one, and agreeable to heaven. The clergy, as well as the laity, were firmly persuaded of the efficacy of pilgrimage, and in both the persuasion was naturally stronger in proportion to the ignorance of the believer. We accordingly find that vast numbers of all ranks, and both sexes, clergy as well as laity, annually repaired to the tomb of Christ.

It remains to be explained what the principle was which gave origin to the idea of the right and justice of recovering the Holy Land, which was now in. the hands of the fanatic Turks, instead of those of the tolerant Saracens. This cause was, as we have above asserted, the feudal spirit, that is, the spirit of the age, and not that emanation of it termed chivalry.

Religion, whatever its original nature and character, will always take a tinge from the manners and temper of those who adopt it. Nothing can be more illustrative of the truth of this observation than the history of the Christian religion. Any one who opens the Gospel, and reads it without preconception or prejudice, cannot fail at once to recognise the rational and fervent piety, the active benevolence, the pure morality, the noble freedom from the trammels of the world, joined with the zealous discharge of all the social duties, which every page of it inculcates. Yet we find this religion in the East degenerating into abject grovelling superstition and metaphysical quibbling, pursued with all the rancour of the odium theologicum, while in the West it assumed a fiery fanatic character, and deemed the sword an instrument of conversion superior to reason and argument. This difference, apparently so strange, arose from the difference of the social state and political institutions of the people of the East and of the West at the time when they embraced Christianity.

The free spirit had long since fled from Greece

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when the first Christian missionaries preached the faith among its people. But the temper of the Greek was still lively, and his reasoning powers acute. Moreover, he had still the same leaning towards a sensible and material religion which has at all times distinguished him, and the increasing despotism of the empire depressed and enfeebled more and more every day the martial spirit which he had displayed in the days of his freedom. No field remained for his mental activity but that of philosophy and religion. The former, which had long been his delight, he had contrived to subtilize into an almost unintelligible mysticism; and in this form it speedily„ spread its infection through his new faith, which was besides further metamorphosed and changed in character by an infusion from the dualistic system of Persia. Meantime the ascetic spirit which had come from the East joined with the timidity engendered by the pressure of despotism to make him mistake the spirit of the Gospel, and convert Christianity into a crouching cowardly superstition. When the emperor Nicephorus Phocas sought to infuse a martial and fanatic spirit into his subjects, and to rouse them to vigorous exertion against the Saracens, his bishops replied to his exhortations by citing a canon of St. Basil, which directed that he who had slain an enemy in battle should abstain during three years from participation in the holy sacraments. The priest of a little town in Cilicia was engaged one day in saying mass when a band of Saracens burst in, and began to plunder the town. Without waiting to take off his sacerdotal vestments, he seized the hammer, which in the churches of the East frequently serves the purpose of a bell, and, flying among the infidels, plied his weapon to such effect that he forced them to a precipitate flight, and saved the town. What was the reward of the gallant priest? He was censured by his diocesan,

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