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Tell the Publisher! I'd like to read this book on Kindle Don't have a Kindle? No customer reviews. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a product review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. In approaching the origins of witchcraft primarily through the writings of Johannes Nider, this book focuses on witchcraft as an idea, not as a social reality or object of institutional persecution.

The principal story told is of the emergence of this new concept in the mind of a single important authority. But witchcraft alone is not the sole element of the late medieval religious world discussed here. For him witchcraft was but one aspect of a larger religious world that he saw to be in turmoil and crisis. Any attempt to understand his view of witchcraft, to grasp his understanding of that new idea and the anxiety it aroused in him, would fail if it did not set witchcraft within the larger context of his other religious concerns. Although Nider is known today when he is known at all almost exclusively as an authority on witchcraft, he was actually an important figure in many areas of late medieval religious history.

Trained as a theologian, he served for several years as the Dominican professor of theology at the University of Vienna. Within his own religious order, which was undergoing a movement for reform throughout his lifetime, he was a leading figure in the so-called observant movement as the reform party was known , and he directed the process of reform for the entire Dominican province of Teutonia, which stretched from the Rhine to Vienna and from the Alps to the Low Countries.

He personally reformed several important Dominican houses, and he wrote the first and only extended theoretical treatise on religious reform to emerge from the Dominican observant movement— De reformatione status cenobitici On the reform of the cenobite status. Nor did Nider limit himself to affairs within his own order. His writings on the subject of reform, for example, extended to other religious orders as well.

He wrote these works while participating in the great ecumenical Council of Basel, and it was here that he surely achieved his greatest influence and importance in the larger religious affairs of his day. The council convened in as a gathering of ecclesiastical leaders from across Europe.

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It soon became entangled in a protracted struggle with the papacy, which feared rightly that such a body would limit papal authority over the church. This conflict progressively drained the council of its energies, until it finally dissolved itself in During the early years when Nider was present in Basel, however he departed for a post at the University of Vienna probably at the end of or very early in , the council was extremely active in many areas of ecclesiastical concern.

Indeed, for a time Basel became virtually the center of the entire Western Christian world, and Nider was one of the most active and important men in Basel.

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While he was a member of the Council of Basel, Nider undertook crucial negotiations with the most threatening heretical sect to confront the church in the early fifteenth century, the Hussites of Bohemia, and he also found time to consider the questionable status of beghards and beguines, lay people who chose to live a quasi-religious life and whom, for a variety of reasons, many clerical authorities found suspicious or even heretical.

Although he does not seem to have taken much interest in issues of conciliarism per se—that is, the ecclesiological debates over whether the council or the pope should wield supreme authority within the church—he was clearly involved in such matters at least insofar as they affected the other issues that held his attention at Basel.

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  • Matters of ecclesiastical reform, for example, were entangled in complex ways with the issue of conciliarism. It was also at Basel that Nider became interested in the matter of witchcraft. Although the council does not appear to have engaged officially in any discussion of this new phenomenon, scholars have long recognized that Basel was an important center for the codification and diffusion of the idea of witchcraft from lands in and around the western Alps, where some of the earliest true witch trials were beginning to take place at this time, to the rest of Europe.

    Nider was one of the most important figures in this process. Although he actually wrote most of his influential accounts of magic and witchcraft after leaving Basel, many of the stories he related focused on lands in western Switzerland, and he obviously collected much if not all of his material on these subjects while at the council. Here the matter of witchcraft would have been raised and discussed amidst many other religious issues and concerns, and Nider would have seen this new phenomenon as but one aspect of a larger crisis facing the Christian world.

    Despite his significance in so many areas of late medieval religious history, however, Nider has until recently remained a remarkably understudied figure.

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    The only general account of his activities, the biography written by the German parish priest Kaspar Schieler, is now over one hundred years old, and was hardly serviceable even when it was new, offering more eulogy than critical historical analysis. More recent scholarship on Nider what little there is has generally focused on specific categories of his writings or on individual aspects of his thought. Broader studies of the major issues and events with which he was involved rarely do more than mention his name, if that.

    His treatise on the Hussite heresy which admittedly survives in only two incomplete copies goes unmentioned and unexamined in all scholarship on that topic. His attacks on the heresy of the Free Spirit have been noted, but his two far more positive treatises on lay poverty and the semireligious way of life led by many beguines, although labeled by one expert as "fundamental" to any discussion of the subject in the fifteenth century, have remained "almost completely ignored" by modern scholarship.

    The Faith of Demons: What They Believe Doesn't Save You! by Rick Muchewicz

    Even in the area of witchcraft, in which he clearly made his most enduring contributions to the later history of Europe, he has until recently received far less attention than was his due. Quite simply, he wrote too much and his religious concerns were too catholic. Any full examination of all his writings would quickly become encyclopedic, both in volume and in thematic coherence.

    Such a work would doubtless prove fascinating, shedding light on many areas of the late medieval religious world, but it is, to use the hackneyed phrase, simply beyond the scope of this book. The focus here is on witchcraft, yet still not witchcraft solely. The issues of heresy and reform, both broadly understood, do much to clarify how Nider approached the issue of witchcraft and how he conceived of the threat that witches represented to the Christian faith.

    At first glance, the elements of witchcraft—extreme diabolism, gruesome cannibalism of infants, and secret nocturnal conventicles filled with orgies and other depravities—appear entirely irrational, and such authorities as Nider who accepted and propounded these notions appear either mad, naive, or ridiculous.

    In fact, while he obviously opposed these movements and regarded them as utterly condemnable, he seems to have been far less concerned about heretics than about witches. In his writings on heresy, and especially in his broad defense of the semireligious beguines, who were often accused of heresy, he appears much more restrained, moderate, and to modern minds, at least "rational. His support for beguines in particular was based on his conviction that these devout lay people, whom other clerical authorities often viewed with grave suspicion, followed an entirely laudable way of life and might provide a model of spiritual reform for the rest of the laity.

    A careful examination of his reformist treatises then reveals how wide ranging his concept of reform was, not just encompassing institutional change within the church but, even more important, entailing a moral and spiritual regeneration within individual believers. In this spiritual sense, Nider firmly believed that religious reform could and must extend to the laity as well as to the clergy, and should encompass not just the institutional church but ultimately all of Christian society.

    In this spiritual sense, too, his ideas of reform shaped and fed his fear of witches.

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    Only when viewed from the perspective of these larger reformist concerns will the phenomenon of witchcraft begin to appear to us as I think it must have appeared to Nider—as but a single terrible aspect of a world degraded by sin, assailed by demons, and desperately in need of reform. In tales of witchcraft Nider the reformer found ideal material with which to propel faithful Christians who had become somewhat lax in their beliefs back to full piety. To a large extent, he used accounts of the relatively new phenomenon of witchcraft just as moral reformers within the church had for centuries been accustomed to use stories of demonic power and demonic possession, to instruct and encourage proper belief and to warn of the dangers of moral and spiritual lapses.

    That such men should have been attracted to the fantastic horrors of witchcraft and have proved more than ready to accept and employ this new concept is hardly surprising. Scholars have long noted a connection between the growing desire for reform and the rise of witch-hunting in the late Middle Ages.

    Yet the specifics of this relationship have never been fully articulated, let alone explored.

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    • Nider provides exemplary insight into this connection. Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Are There Demons? Description This collection of documents were originally requested by my Jewish friend Derek for his work at his church and amongst those he was encouraging to seek after truth. They proved to be so successful that they have been brought together in this book.