- Christogenea Saturdays
The Devil in Luther's Dreams, Part 1
Last week, in the first installment of this series, which we shall re-title “Martin Luther in Life and Death”, we gave a background on the life of the Reformer, and the events which sent him on the course which he followed. To fully understand Martin Luther as well as this entire period of German history, we must understand the work of John Wycliffe, and the earlier and notable Czech reformer Jan Huss, who inspired the Hussite Wars in rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church in the opening quarter of the 15th century, a hundred years before Luther's own contentions with the church were published. Later, even Luther considered himself a Hussite. We shall present pertinent information about these men in the near future.
However now, in order to understand the pressing need for what is called the Reformation, we must understand what it was that men such as Luther sought to reform. His initial desires were not to break from the Roman Church, but to bring Church policies into line with Scripture. When he saw that was impossible, only then the Lutheran Church was formed. Last week, presenting a summary of Luther's life and some of the myths surrounding it which was written by John Tiffany, we saw the story of The Devil and Luther's Inkwell. Because Luther had written that he “threw his inkwell at the devil”, the myth arose that he was pestered at night by a demon and he had thrown his inkwell to chase it away. Yet it is more likely that Luther was describing the publication of his 95 Theses as the throwing of his inkwell at the devil, the devil being the Roman Church itself.
Here, in order that we may understand the real devil of Luther's dreams, over the next several installments of this series we shall discuss the permeation of humanism into the Catholic church, and attempt to illustrate the fact that it was the humanists, for the most part, who were also the principal apologists for the Jews. The courts of the popes as well as those of archbishops in Germany were filled with humanists, and those in attendance lived profligate and lascivious lifestyles at the expense of poor Christians. The indulgences which Luther protested were being used to finance the profligacy. There were many wicked forces at work during this period. If I had to quantify this period in a summary, I may assert that the nobles and people of Europe were caught between a Tyrannical church, and the humanists who opposed it, and the humanists within it, and the Jews who were using humanism to subvert it, and the few true Christians who sought to withstand it all. Martin Luther seems to fall into the final category. But even that description is not entirely sufficient.
Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press some time around 1440, and the first thing which he produced on it was the famous Gutenburg Bible. However it was not long before his invention was used to widely and affordably distribute many other writings, and not all of them so pious. Within 70 years, the world was set ablaze, and the resulting fires have never been quenched. However the Gutenberg press was really just a tool which accelerated forces that were already in play, and to understand comprehensively all of the divisions of thought and all of the factors behind the Reformation, as well as the catalysts which made reform necessary, we would probably have to keep going back in time, until we got at least as far back as Genesis chapter 3.
For our purpose tonight, however, we will begin a little more recently, perhaps starting with the late-15th century church scholar Desiderius Erasmus. This Erasmus was a church scholar, one who had even edited his own text of the Greek New Testament. His text was later used by 16th century printer and classical scholar Robert Stephanus, who printed four editions of his own Greek New Testament, one of which included a Latin translation by Erasmus and which was the first edition to employ verse divisions. The latter English translation of the King James Version was based at least in part upon these. Both Erasmus as well as Stephanos were early notable humanists. Erasmus esteemed the study of the classics equal to or in some ways superior to the study of Christian Scriptures, and Stephanos printed many classical works as well as his Bible editions. Stephanos also later printed many of the writings of John Calvin. He died in 1559, about 13 years after the death of Martin Luther.
I mention Stephanos in connection with Erasmus only for one reason: because at this time humanism seems to have permeated the organized Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to a much greater degree than is ever generally recognized. Many churchmen at this time were actually humanists, and not truly Christians at all in their philosophies. We saw last week in the first part of this series on Martin Luther, in Life and Death that even he began his academic career as a humanist, and only went to the monastery as the result of a personal epiphany.
Last night during the presentation of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 given here at Christogenea, we discussed at length the last clause of 1 Corinthians 15:44, and the King James Version translation where it says “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” In this manner, we may perceive that the existence of one is independent of the existence of the other. Yet in every single extant ancient manuscript containing this verse, we read in Greek that “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” The difference is the word if, and once it is found in the Greek we may perceive that Paul is telling us that the existence of the natural body indicates the existence of the spiritual body. This is a significant difference, yet once it is realized that the manuscripts upon which the King James Version was based were in large part prepared by humanists, then we can surmise why such departures from the ancient texts may be found.
Erasmus of Rotterdam was a highly influential Catholic priest, classical scholar, theologian and Renaissance humanist. He was quite influential within the Roman Church, and even agreed with many of the demands for reform. But he would not break with Rome, continued to recognize the papal authority, and kept himself apart from reformers such as Luther. However he also did many things to support humanism within the church.
In the balance of this multi-part presentation, there will be many excerpts from The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages by Johannes Janssen, Volume 3, Book 5, published in English translation in London in 1900. For our purposes here, from henceforward it will be referred to as The History of the German People.
From pages 21-22:
Erasmus explained the Scriptures much in the same way as he would explain mythological fables and sagas, not according to the literal meaning of the words, but according to the general truths and ‘morals’ hidden behind the narratives. In his ‘Handbook of a Soldier of Christ’ he writes thus: ‘If you read in an unallegorical sense that Adam’s body was made of clay and a soul breathed into it; that Eve was formed out of his rib; that they were forbidden to eat of the apple-tree; that God took a walk in the Garden of Eden; that the guilty couple hid themselves ; that an angel with a ﬂaming sword was placed at the gate of Paradise, so that Adam and Eve might not go back again: if, I say, you read all this only literally - on the surface, as it were - I do not see that you have done more than in reading about the clay statue which Prometheus made, and how he stole ﬁre from heaven and gave it to his image, so that the dust became alive. There may, indeed, be greater proﬁt in reading the poetical fables of the heathens, if the allegorical meaning is grasped, than in reading the Bible stories, if we keep only to the literal sense. What difference is there between the Books of Kings and Judges and the history of Livy, if you leave out the allegory? For in Livy there is much that would tend to the improvement of morals, while in these books of the Bible there is much that is offensive - for example, the intrigues of David, his act of adultery compassed by a murder, the guilty love of Samson, and so forth. Nearly all the books of the Old Testament moreover are frequently objectionable, either from the obvious absurdity of their narratives or from their enigmatical obscurity. In the New Testament also obscurities occur over and over again. In the passage where Jesus is predicting the end of the World and the persecutions the Apostles will undergo, he confuses and contradicts his sayings to such an extent that it seems to me he must have wished to make his meaning dark, not only for the Apostles, but also for us. Many passages are, in my opinion, inexplicable - for instance, that about the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. Others can only be explained ﬁguratively. By the ﬁre that is talked of in Scripture we must understand the “ﬁre of God’s wrath” and the punishment of God.’ ‘ There is no other ﬂame in which that rich man in the Gospel is tortured, and no other punishment of hell than the incessant soul torture which attends the habit of sinning.’
So we see that Erasmus, from a lack of understanding which should be apparent to many Identity Christians, doubted and disputed with Scripture, missed many of its lessons ostensibly because of the methods of interpretation forced upon him by the organized Church, and sought refuge in the pagan literature as a resolution to his predicament. As pious as his humanism seemed, he was nevertheless a humanist.
As a digression, the pagan literature should be studied by Christians. Paul of Tarsus is a fine example of a Christian who was well acquainted with the pagan classics. But they are only of value in the context of the grander historical picture: that pagan beliefs and philosophies developed in the departure of man from God, and Christ leads men back to God. That is the overall panorama of history which the Christian bible actually does present.
Continuing with the description of Erasmus, from page 23:
‘In his commentaries on the New Testament,’ says Dr. Johann Eck very truly, ‘Erasmus presumes to set right the Holy Ghost, who was the instructor of the Apostles.’ ‘You say,’ Eck writes to him, ‘that the Evangelists were mistaken. No Christian will ever accept the theory of the Evangelists having made mistakes. Far be it from us ever to suppose such a possibility of men taught by the Holy Ghost, and by Jesus our Saviour, of men who were the divinely inspired founders of our faith. If in this point the utterance of Holy Writ is not to be relied on, what other part of it can be safe against suspicion of error?’ ‘That the writers of the Bible were on the whole inspired by the Holy Ghost, and guided by divine promptings, Erasmus did not deny, but he granted as much as this to the great heathen writers and poets who had taught such noble lessons, and whom he considered worthy to stand side by side with the sacred writers of the Christian Church.’
‘Let the ﬁrst place by all means,’ he says in his ‘Table Talk,’ ‘be granted to the sacred Writers, but for all that I so constantly ﬁnd in the pagan authors passages so pure, so holy, so godlike, that I am convinced that a divine spirit prompted the utterances of these men. I cannot read Cicero’s essays on old age, on friendship, and on duty, or his ‘Tusculanae,’ Without sometimes being moved to kiss the volumes and to bless the pious heart which must have been inspired by the Deity. But when I hold in my hands the moral writings of modern days, how cold they all seem! I can scarcely refrain from exclaiming: ‘Holy Socrates, pray for us. I often feel sure that Virgil and Horace are saints in heaven. And if the pagans could become saints, to what end is all this difficult Christian asceticism, to what end the following of evangelical counsel? What proﬁt is there in the institutions of the Church, in fastings, in pilgrimages, and in other devotional rites?’ [None of which are actually demanded of Christians!] Christ, the all-perfect Teacher of virtue and the loftiest of sages, who presented goodness to us in utter purity, Christ, so Erasmus held, had not enjoined fasting; on the contrary, he had set himself entirely in opposition to this and other kindred regulations; fasting was a human invention; it was even a form of tyranny.
[If we look at the criticisms of the Bible reiterated today by pagans and Jews alike, we must realize that many of them are found right here in the writings of Erasmus, a humanist and a supposedly Christian scholar!]
The ‘Philosophy of Christ,’ for the promulgation of which Erasmus desired to labour, was in substance no more than the philosophy of a respectable moral man who kept himself, as far as possible, blameless before the world.
In his ‘Table Talk,’ which he had constantly in his hands in his old age, and which he considered an important work for Christian education, the means towards this education consist chiefly in the acquisition of ﬁne intellectual culture, in following the dictates of healthy human understanding, and in making use of all possible aids of human skill. ‘Erasmus says and teaches many godless things in his “Table Talk” under feigned names and characters,’ says Luther ; ‘above all he advocates War against the Church and against Christian faith.’ The ‘Table Talk ’ was specially intended for the young, and nevertheless it contains the most venomous ridicule of monks and of cloister life, of fasts, pilgrimages, and so forth, and even pictures of improper scenes. Erasmus could not even refrain from coarse lasciviousness in some of his notes on Holy Scripture. The moral of it all is that human cleverness rules life, and views death, because it cannot escape from it, with philosophic resignation. In a treatise on the contempt of death, in which he seeks to comfort a father for the loss of his twenty-year-old son, he quotes various passages from pagan writers on the shortness and misery of life, and amongst them the well- known saying: ‘The best of all is, never to have been born; the next best is to die at the moment of birth.’ ‘Who is there,’ he asks, ‘who could not with perfect truth concur in this statement?’ ‘The wise man must bear everything with the unﬂinching courage of cheerfulness: sorrow is of no proﬁt to the dead, and is hurtful to the living.’ At the end of the treatise he gives a so-called Christian view of death, introducing it with the following words: ‘After having had recourse hitherto to the means of consolation which are at the service of every pagan, I will now brieﬂy state what is required by religion and by Christian faith.’ Here are some of the sentences which we are to regard as ‘Christian’ and ‘pious: ’ ‘ However terrible death may be, we must make it welcome, for we can in no way escape from it.’ ‘Even if death annihilated us completely we might still bear it with equanimity, because it puts an end to the weariness of life.’ ‘ If by death the soul, with its ethereal origin, escapes from the coarse prison and labour-house of the body, we may count those happy and to be congratulated who escape from life and return to a state of blissful freedom.’ Of Christ, the Giver of eternal life, and of the hopes grounded on Him, there is no mention in his treatise.
Such was the ‘new culture,’ the ‘Christian Philosophy,’ the ‘new theology’ promulgated by Erasmus the humanist, Erasmus for a long time looked upon as the greatest intellectual light in the Western world and as the centre of literary Europe. His writings were bought up with unprecedented enthusiasm, read and devoured with the greatest avidity. He himself speaks of his having been saluted as the ‘champion of learning,’ the ‘High Priest of true theology,’ ‘the star of Germany.’ When he returned to Germany from England in the autumn of 1513 his arrival was treated as a great and joyful event, and celebrated as a universal festival for all people of culture. In many towns he was received almost as a king; he was met by ambassadors; speeches were delivered, gifts and addresses presented to him. Even Ulrich Zasius was so bewitched by the brilliancy of his endowments, the versatility of his culture, and the exquisiteness of his Latin, that he declared him to be the greatest of all the scholars Germany had ever possessed.
The whole generation of youthful enthusiasts for classical learning were beside themselves with joy and looked upon Erasmus as a saint.
‘Thou incomparable man,’ says the humanist William Nesel in a letter to him, ‘ thou hast the power to bestow immortality.’ And another time Nesel declared that he (Nesel) stood as far below the lowest of scholars as Erasmus was high above the highest. Humanists like Eobanus Hessus, Justus Jonas, Caspar Schalbe made pilgrimages to the dwelling-place of Erasmus ‘through forest after forest,’ writes Schalbe, ‘through villages raging with infectious diseases,’ in order to seek out the ‘one pearl of the universe.’
The worship of genius, thus concentrated on Erasmus, was an entirely new manifestation in Germany; among the smaller fry of the younger humanists it degenerated into a perfect mania for mutual adulation, a mania which Erasmus encouraged by the systematic manufacture of fulsome eulogiums, which he lavished profusely on any individual who might, he thought, at some time or other be used as a mouthpiece for his own ends.
Another way in which Erasmus exercised a potent inﬂuence over the younger humanists was by the contempt which his teaching and his one-sided classical enthusiasm inspired for all medieval ecclesiastical learning. It has been said of him, and not without justice, that he brought the study of philosophy into disrepute, that he exalted rhetoric, wit, and elegance of style above serious, scientiﬁc, and speculative research. ‘It is very easy,’ writes Wimpheling, ‘to represent scholastic learning as sophistry and barbarism to young men who are enamoured of the pagan poets. These young enthusiasts are only too glad to see contempt poured on studies which require hard work from them. and on the other hand to hear praise bestowed on all that they ﬁnd easy and entertaining. The humanist Jacob Locher, surnamed Philomusus, had already advocated the cult of the Muses in place of the scholastic subjects: the sacred art of poetry, he said, should take precedence of all other studies; the scholiasts, with all their supposed learned labours, were mere theological jackanapes deserving the scorn and ridicule of all really cultivated people. But from the poets, the rising generation would get real culture; even Ovid was an exceedingly chaste writer, and the sayings of Juvenal were on a par with evangelical truth. [Ovid and Juvenal were the pornographers of Classical Roman poetry.]
With the second decade of the sixteenth century complaints increase concerning the decay and depreciation of philosophic studies, the one-sided, exclusive attention to the classics, and the self-conceited arrogance as well as immorality of the younger humanists. ‘Philosophy,’ writes Johannes Cochlaeus in the year 1512, ‘is completely set aside.’ It is a great mistake; for humanistic studies, however much they adorn real scholarship, are hurtful in the extreme to those who have no foundation of sound erudition [or scholastic learning]. Hence the jejune [or naive] shallowness of a certain set of persons to whom the uninitiated have erroneously given the title of poets; hence their buffoonery and lasciviousness. They are base slaves of Bacchus and Venus, not pious priests of Phoebus and Pallas.
The ‘Poets,’ as the younger humanists were commonly called, worked themselves to such a pitch of enthusiasm for the classics that they could see no value whatever in anything that was not Latin or Greek; in language and thought they repudiated their German origin. Their apostasy from the traditional spirit of the Fatherland protruded itself so egregiously, that they even became ashamed of their German names and manufactured new ones from the Latin or Greek vocabularies.
[And evidently we have the influential Catholic priest Erasmus to thank for helping to foster that. From this point on the young humanists in Germany were adopting Greek and Latin names for themselves, and difficult it is to tell who is who, who is German, and who are actually Jews. The importance of this may be realized further on in this presentation.
We will skip a few pages which describe much of the insipid works which these new-age humanist “poets” were said to produce...]
Continuing with the description of the humanist “poets”, from Page 30:
But as crowning specimens of bad taste and utter worthlessness we commend those humanist poems which deal with Christian material, representing the Divine Creator as ruler of high Olympus, and as a thundering Zeus, turning sacred things, in short, into mere child’s play. Eobanus Hessus, for instance, in the year 1514, published a volume of ‘Christian Heroids,’ or love-letters from Christian heroines to their lovers after the model of Ovid. Amongst these are letters from St. Mary of Magdalen to Christ: and even God the Father is made to exchange letters with the Virgin Mary. One cannot read this sort of thing without a shudder. Erasmus, however, declared himself delighted with the work, and greeted Eobanus on the strength of it as the German Ovid who alone could rescue Germany from barbarism.
These ‘poets’ displayed greater naturalness in several shameless imitations of the ancient erotic writers, in which Conrad Celtes had been their precursor and model. Celtes had far out-Ovided Ovid by his indecent descriptions, and had claimed special merit on this score, saying that he wished, by a naked presentation of reality, to warn and check the unbridled appetites of the young. Under the same shallow pretext many of the humanists used to read the most proﬂigate pagan poetry with their young pupils.
[This is an ages-old deception, introducing sexual perversion to young children under the pretext of education. Christians are falling for it again today.]
The next passage opens with a letter to Erasmus lamenting the situation which is just described, by a man identified only as Prince Carpi. Alberto III of Pio, the Prince of Carpi, was an intellectual adversary of Erasmus, but he was also a friend of the de'Medicis. He was quite influential and even apparently arranged the marriage of Catherine de'Medici to Henry II of France. Carpi was deprived of his principality by Charles V of Germany in 1525. He was a defender of the Roman Church, but also, as it is apparent here, of more traditional catholic Christianity. He disputed with Erasmus until his death in 1531.
‘Can you deny,’ asks Prince Carpi of Erasmus, ‘that the same state of things exists now in Germany as has so long prevailed with us in Italy, where the so-called ﬁne arts are cultivated exclusively, and with contempt for philosophy and theology? A melancholy mixture of Christian truth and pagan ideas is spread abroad, love of controversy ﬁlls all minds, and social morality does not conform in any way to Christian doctrine.’ In the fourteenth and ﬁfteenth centuries, many of the Italian humanists had already assumed an attitude of indifference or scepticism towards the Church, and were no longer ruled by Christianity, with its constant reference to a higher life. They ﬁlled the land with their lascivious writings, and set examples of proﬂigacy by their lives. With Greek learning they had in most cases imbibed Greek vices, and they were followers of a shameless philosophy of pleasure-seeking, as Boccaccio has shown in his novels. [As we pointed out last night, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, with not so many words, Paul of Tarsus had taught that a rejection of transcendentalism leads directly to permissable immorality.]
And this contagion was now spreading rapidly in Germany. Men like Locher, Hermann van dem Busche, Ulrich von Hutten were in no way behind the Italians in immorality, and they pushed the disregard of Christian duties in their daily lives to the utmost excess. [This Ulrich von Hutten will be considered later in this presentation.] As strong drinkers the Germans, indeed, outdid the Italians. Not one of the latter could have competed with an Eobanus Hessus, who thought nothing of emptying a bucket of ale at one draught. He was celebrated in song as the ‘mighty toper.’
As for that ‘melancholy mixture of Christian truth and pagan philosophy’ which Prince Carpi and other serious-minded Italians deplored, there was, indeed, ample evidence of its having taken root in Germany also; witness especially the teaching of Conrad Mutianus Rufus and the circle of humanists of whom he was the leader.
Among the North German universities Erfurt had already been distinguished at an early period for its zeal in teaching the Greek and Latin classics, and had received in this respect the most hearty support from the three leading religious professors, with whose labours the fame of the university in the last decades of the ﬁfteenth century is principally connected - Jodocus Trutseller of Eisenach and Bartholomew Arnold of Usingen, theologians, and Henning Goede, professor of law. These three men, who later on, at the outbreak of the religious war, suffered misfortunes and calumny of all sorts for their adhesion to the catholic faith, were at the time we write of on friendly terms with the chief leaders of the rising generation of humanists, Maternus Pistoris and Nicholas Marshalk.
[So supposedly Christian academics embraced and supported immoral humanists right from the birth of the humanist movement.]
Maternus and Marshalk used the ancient authors - poets and all - exclusively as the subjects of their lectures, but with wise discretion and moderation they did not insist on undivided attention to humanistic teaching, and, in spite of their enthusiasm for the classics, they were far from seeking to reform the study of theology by means of the humanities, to upset the ancient doctrine of the Church, or to attack the foundations of Christianity. It was not until Mutian, a prebendary of Gotha, assumed the leadership of the rising generation of humanists that a strong spirit of innovation declared itself among the Erfurt ‘poets.’ Within the circle of humanists which included Eobanus Hessus, Crotus Rubianus, Petrejus Eberbach, George Spalatin, Justus Jonas, Herebord von der Marthen, and for a short time also Ulrich von Hutten, Mutian was worshipped as a ‘teacher of pure virtue ’ and ‘ a father of beatiﬁc peace.’
[Mutian will be of interest to us here and also in our next presentation, when we discuss the arguments among the Christians of Europe in regard to the writings of the Jews, which began long before Luther's treatise On the Jews and Their Lies.]
In Italy Mutian had become a warm advocate of the Neoplatonism which prevailed among the humanists of that country, and Politian and Marsilius Ficinus, apostles of this philosophy, were objects of his particular veneration. He left no record of his opinions in any work of learning, and in this respect he likened himself to Christ and Socrates, who he said had left no writings to the world. But his many conﬁdential letters to friends leave little doubt that, for a time at least, he had quite broken with positive Christianity. He conceived Christianity as the religion of pure humanity, not founded, like Mosaism, on any revelation.
In a letter to Spalatin he says : ‘ I am not going to ask you a riddle out of the Scriptures, but a straightforward question, Which can be solved by secular study. If Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, what did mankind do through all the centuries before his birth? Were they fast bound in the gross darkness of ignorance, or had they a share in truth and in salvation? [So Mutian displays a complete ignorance of Old Testament scripture in the context of History.] I will come to your help with my own view of the matter. Christ’s religion did not begin with his incarnation, but was already in existence before all the centuries, as was Christ himself. For what else is the true Christ, the actual Son of God, than, as St. Paul says, the Wisdom of God, which was not only present with the Jews in the small corner of Syria, but also with the Greeks, the Italians, and the Germans, although they all had different forms of religion? ‘Cain brought offerings of the fruits of the earth, Abel of the ﬁrst-born among the cattle. What other forms of thank-offering other regions of the earth presented to the Deity you can read for yourself. The commandment of God which gives light unto the soul has two heads: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. By fulﬁlling this law We are made partakers of the kingdom of heaven [here Mutian shows a degree of piety, but he is lost in other important areas]: this is the natural law, not graven in stone, like that of Moses; not cut in brass, like that of Rome; not written on parchment or on paper; but instilled into our hearts by the highest of teachers. Whosoever with due piety partakes of this memorable and wholesome Eucharist accomplishes a Divine action. . . . For the true body of Christ is peace and concord, and there can be no nobler sacriﬁce than mutual love.’ In another letter, speaking of the impending Easter festival, he Writes: ‘Our Saviour is the Lamb and the Shepherd. But who is our Saviour? Righteousness, peace, and joy. That is the Christ who has come down from heaven. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink. The veritable Christ is soul and spirit which can neither be touched with the hands nor seen with the eyes.’
[Mutian, like the hippies of the 1960's, embraces the Jesus of Love, dsregards the Jesus of Hate and the Jesus of Obedience, and forms for himself a comfortable feel-good God after his own image. Mutian, the humanist, was an idolater. In the next paragraph we see the proof of the allegation.]
With regard to the Bible he held the opinion that the authors of the sacred narrative had wrapped up all manner of mysteries in riddles and metaphors; that the Jewish writers [mistaking the authors of Scripture for Jews] dealt as copiously in fables as Apuleius and Aesop; he even went so far as to think there was deep wisdom in the opinion of the Mahomedans that Christ was not cruciﬁed himself, but some other man who bore a strong resemblance to him. [The insane babblings of Mohammed, made nearly six centuries after Christ, have no authority whatsoever to speak of Christianity. Neither should they be given credence by any Christian scholar.] His [meaning Mutian] notions of the Deity were very confused. ‘There is only one God and one goddess,’ so he once taught a friend, ‘but there are as many names as deities - for instance, Jupiter, Sol, Apollo, Moses, Christ, Luna, Ceres, Proserpine, Tellus, Mary. But beware of repeating this. These things must be wrapped in silence, like the Eleusinian mysteries. In matters of religion we must make use of the mask of fables and enigmas. Let us, by the grace of Jupiter - that is, of the best and highest God - despise the lesser gods. When I say Jupiter, I mean Christ and the true God. But enough of these all too lofty things.’ ‘Mysteries ought not to be made common,’ he says in another place. ‘We must keep silence concerning them, or else present them under the cloak of fable and allegory, so as not to cast pearls before swine. It is for this reason that Christ left no written record behind him, and that the men who wrote the Gospel histories made such extensive use of parables. Theodot, the tragedy-writer, was robbed of his eyes when he once presumed to turn into a fable some incident out of the Jewish mysteries.’
Mutian was a Catholic priest, a prebendary which is a senior priest with an administrative role in a cathedral or monastery. This is the condition of the priesthood in the days of Erasmus, where it was rife with humanism and obviously lacking in any sound learning of Christian Scriptures or contextual understanding of the classics. Where Christ said “No man cometh to the Father except through Me”, Mutian claims that all of the idols of the nations are actually the same Father, and therefore religion does not really matter at all! In the attitude of Mutian we also see the seeds of modern ecumenism.
Continuing with Mutian, from Page 36:
From remarks of this sort it is evident that Mutian, to the distress of his fellow prebendaries, must have held back from the sacrifice of the Holy Mass and from receiving the Holy Communion. We learn further that he considered the service of the altar as waste of time, that he rejected auricular confession, called the Mendicant Friars ‘hooded monsters’ and lenten diet ‘fools’ diet.’ Only fools, he said, look for salvation in fasting. ‘The priests,’ he complained, ‘are not satisﬁed with mortifying our bodies by fasts; they torment our souls also by retailing to their congregations what they have done that deserves to be cursed.’ ‘I always laughed right heartily,’ he wrote to the humanist Petrejus Eberbach, ‘ when Benedictus used to tell of the complaints of your mother that you so seldom went to church, that you would not fast, and that you would eat eggs contrary to the general custom. I used to excuse these unprecedented crimes by saying, “Petrejus shows great wisdom in not going to church, for the building might fall in, the galleries tumble down; it is a very dangerous place. Besides it’s only the priests who get any money for going; the laity get nothing but salt and water, like the goats. That’s why we call the people a ‘flock,’ for a flock is a collection of sheep and goats. As to fasting, of course Petrejus hates it, and with good reason; he knows what happened to his father: he fasted and died. Had he gone on eating as he had been in the habit of doing, he would not have died.”’ ‘When Benedictus heard this,’ Mutian goes on, ‘he frowned angrily and said, “Who will absolve all you bad Christians?” “Study and learning,” I answered.’ ‘At this moment,’ he once wrote concerning the service in the choir, ‘I am called away by a tinkling bell to a pious murmuring, like a Cappadocian fire-worshipper.’
Mutian saw many things which were legitimately wrong with the Church, as Martin Luther also did. However Luther sought reform, and although he did not execute that reform perfectly, he sought a church with practices that agreed more closely with Scripture. On the other hand, Mutian turned to humanism and to scoffing at Christianity when Christianity was not to blame. Having no anchor, he was blown about by the winds. Yet he remained a Catholic priest influential among the humanists.
Continuing with Mutian, from Page 37:
Amongst the books which Mutian was in the habit of recommending to his friends were the ‘Humorous Anecdotes ’ of the humanist Heinrich Bebel, of Tübingen, a collection in Latin of all sorts of scurrilous, satirical, and even blasphemous anecdotes, tales, and jests. Bebel’s sceptical scorn was hurled not only at the scandalous lives of the clergy, at fasts and other church ordinances, at the sale of indulgences and the worship of relics, but at many of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity itself. He speaks in the coarsest manner of the Trinity and the scheme of redemption, and ridicules the Christian’s consolation in the sufferings of the body. That outward respect for current church doctrine was sometimes paid in spite of anti-scriptural opinions is shown by an anecdote from the life of Peter Linden, Who, on being taken to task for ridiculing the doctrine of the Trinity, answered: Oh well, I will not persist obstinately in my opinion; and rather than make acquaintance with the martyr’s ﬁre I will believe in a ‘Quadrinity.’ [The jest being that people should believe anything so long as they ensure their own safety.]
‘Make haste and get Bebel’s “Facetiae,” ’ Writes Mutian to Herebord von der Marthen. ‘There is no doubt that coarse anecdotes have great inﬂuence on people. They arrest attention, they go straight to the mark, and they stick in the memory.’ [Sort of like Jewish comics.] He expressed a desire to publish such a collection himself. The personal influence that Mutian exercised over the humanists who frequented his house corresponded with the spirit that characterises his letters. Irreverent jesting against sacred things was encouraged, and we read that in conversation with Mutian and his associates, and to the general satisfaction of the company, Crotus Rubianus used to call the Holy Mass a popish comedy, the holy relics ravens’ bones, and the prayers at canonical hours a mere baying of hounds. He used to say that Cicero was a saintly apostle and a greater Roman hierarch than Pope Leo X. [This Crotus Rubianus was the rector of the University of Erfurt from 1520. He was born Johannes Jäger and was one of those German humanists who changed his name because they despised being German.]
This contemptuous bearing towards the Church and its sacred teaching was often accompanied by unlimited license in conduct. Concerning the sexual transgressions of his friends Mutian was wont to speak with a cynicism compared with which the erotic Writers of antiquity seem almost chaste. Even the seduction and carrying off of a nun was treated by him as a good joke.
It is not to be wondered at that in Erfurt and Gotha, and in all places where the later humanists preached the new gospel of classicism and tried to win disciples to their cause, men of earnest lives and strong Church principles should have fought shy of them and opposed them. In many cases this antagonism went to the length of hostility to all poetic culture. The new gospel was judged by the lives of its apostles, and by the spiritual fruit which they brought to the market, and which was for the most part worthless or poisonous.
‘It does not surprise me,’ writes Cochlaeus, ‘that so many people should have become decided antagonists of humanistic studies who formerly befriended and encouraged them. For what good is done by all these “poets” who tramp about Germany as play-actors and swashbucklers? Wherever they go they stir up strife and enmity; their manners, to put it mildly, are loose and free; only in exceptional cases does one ﬁnd in them any reverence for what is sacred and venerable; their sole delight is to insult and ridicule existing institutions, and any one who refuses help in overthrowing the latter is regarded by them as a barbarian.’
Germany was completely overrun with literary parasites, charlatans, and lampoonists, who made the viliﬁcation of the Church and the clergy and the monastic orders a special branch of their newly acquired ‘culture.’
From this we can see quite clearly, that the 1960's hit Germany in the 1500's, it had hit Italy in the 1400's, and there is nothing new under the sun. However for Europe this is only the beginning of sorrows. In our next installment we shall see how humanists, who we have already seen were ecumenists, were also apologists for the jews, and had fully infiltrated the courts of the papacy and the bishoprics of the empire.