9-HUGUENOTS

The Christian Church was intolerant and sanguinary from the very beginning and it fostered much hate throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The absolute kings of divine right, anointed by the Pope, ruled over the different parts of the empire and not only persecuted the Jews, the ‘Christ killers’, but all those who refused to follow the Roman Church’s liturgy as well. For instance, the Pope would suggest the need for a crusade, and the kings and nobles fearing excommunication, or wanting to earn their passage into heaven, would be quick to raise an army, France leading the way. The first crusade was against the Muslims in 1099. After slaughtering the Muslims in Jerusalem, the French conquered Palestine and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem which lasted until 1291. In 1209, Pope Innocent III asked the French king to carry out a crusade against his own people, the Cathars, and it lasted from 1209 to 1229. The Cathars were completely annihilated down to the last ‘good man’ who was executed in 1231, more than a million in all. All this because the peaceful Cathars refused to accept the Roman Church’s liturgy.

The Church committed so many atrocities and was so inflexible that opposition to it could only grow. So, when Gutenberg’s printing press came along in 1440, it slowly paved the way for the Protestant Reformation that was to come. At first, printing had a very limited impact, for it was used mainly to print the Bible and such. The Church controlled what was being printed, the language used was Latin, only a few scholars could read, and fewer still could write.

In Germany, in 1517, the pamphlet was first used by the leaders of the protestant movement to inflame popular opinion more efficiently against the Pope and the Church. Martin Luther was one of the earliest and most effective pamphleteers. The coarseness and violence of the pamphlets on both sides and the public disorder attributed to their distribution led to their prohibition. Many scholars, disgusted by the abuses and barbarism of the Church, rallied to Luther’s side, and started reading the contents of the pamphlets to the masses. The Protestant Reformation was not about to go away.

By 1520, Luther’s ideas had spread in France, and as early as 1521, at the initiative of the Sorbonne, the condemnations of the Protestant heretics began. Fines and prison sentences were imposed on lowly infidels, while heretical monks and priests were condemned to the stake.

Then came along Jean Calvin, a follower of Luther, who would do something Luther hadn’t considered doing. Luther had mainly been a reformer trying to change the Church from within, but Calvin, a French humanist, wanted much more, he wanted to lay down the rules for a new religion. He had great success among the French bourgeoisie, which comprised the greatest entrepreneurs of the day. Wanting to make up for lost time after the Hundred Years’ War, these businessmen wanted the backwards and cruel Roman Church out of the way. They of course used pamphlets to make their views known, and after the ‘Affaire des Placards’ in 1534, King François I, having lost patience with them, had several of their leaders hanged or sent to the stake. Following these events, Jean Calvin left France and settled in Geneva. Other French Calvinists started emigrating to Hanau, Amsterdam and London.

While Latin continued to be the language of the Roman Church, French became that of the Calvinists in France and French-speaking Switzerland. As of 1570, the printing houses in Geneva and Amsterdam became major centers for the dissemination of French, and consequently of Calvinism. The French nobility had massively adhered to Calvinism as early as 1555. The French Roman Christians, feeling threatened by the Calvinists, perpetrated the Wassy massacre in 1562, when several hundred innocent Huguenots, as Calvinists began to be called, were slaughtered like animals. Then, in 1572, with printing becoming widespread in France, the Huguenots were on the verge of tipping French political power in their favor, and King Charles IX, no doubt with papal approval, engineered the massacre of St. Bartholomew. On the night of August 24, 1572, more than 10,000 noble and notable Huguenots were killed, in Paris and in the provinces.

Because of the Placards Affair in 1534, the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, the siege of La Rochelle in 1627, and the dragonnades under Louis XIV in 1681, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots migrated to more clement lands, and it was the biggest brain drain in the history of any country. That’s why, when Henry VIII was forced to open the door to those with financial and business skills in 1534, many Huguenots had ended up in England where French was still widely spoken among aristocrats.

But in 1573, when William of Nassau-Orange converted to Calvinism, and later, in 1579, when the Treaty of Union was signed in Utrecht, making the Netherlands independent from Spain, Amsterdam became a Huguenot haven and many Calvinists were encouraged to join up with their brothers who were already established there. More importantly, when the Marranos started arriving after their expulsion from Portugal, they joined forces with the Huguenots in both London and Amsterdam, and their union changed the face of the earth

8-MARRANOS

 

When the prelates decided to revamp the image of the revered messiah Apollonius by changing his name and turning him into the son of God, the founding fathers had a problem. The Apollonius lookalike had to be an Essene from Palestine, and that meant he had to be a Jew. How does one build a Roman religion based on the teachings of a Jew? Well, they did it by likening the money-lending Jews of the Temple of Jerusalem to Jews in general. By conjuring up a story where the invented messiah was violently opposed to the Jewish usurers, and where these same usurers were responsible for his horrible death on the cross, it would be one way to turn him into a very acceptable Jew. Furthermore, the faithful would readily accept the idea that Apollonius, their long-departed Greek messiah, had, some 300 years prior, accomplished miracles and was indeed the Son of God as touted by the prelates of the Church of Rome. Whether the results were desired or not, Jews would henceforth bear the Christ-killer stigma. Christians, believing that Jews were responsible for the death of their Christ, wouldn’t be unduly upset to see them tortured, burned at the stake, or despoiled and banned from their homes.

Geographically, France is the hub of Europe, and it naturally became the cornerstone of Christianity when the Church of Rome took over the administration of Gaul and the Western Roman Empire after Constantin’s departure for Byzantium. Clovis, a Frank, was the Church’s first anointed king of divine right, and during his reign, he did his best to persecute and convert the ‘barbarians’ who were by then called Arians.

Once the converting tactics were well under way, the Church of Rome turned its attention to the Jews. In 629 CE, the Pope directed King Dagobert to expulse the Jews from Christian Gaul. Later, in 996 CE, when King Robert the Pious came to power in France, he burned a great number of Jews at the stake. When in 1009 the Muslims burned the alleged Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Christians blamed the Jews, and consequently, many French Jews were again tortured and massacred. Later, in 1096, Jews started being systematically despoiled, and burned at the stake or expulsed from the realm. It was the start of the first crusade, and Philip 1st and his noblemen had taken advantage of the situation in order to replenish their coffers. By despoiling the Jews and expulsing them, they were killing two birds with one stone. Philip was not only doing his Christian duty but he had found a way to finance the crusade ordered by Pope Urban II. Over the next centuries, when King Philippe Augustus and others needed money they would let the Jews back in for a fee, and the whole process would start over again. However, in 1394, Charles VI officially declared the definite expulsion of Jews from France, and as many as 100 000 French Jews made their way to Spain.

They chose Spain not only because it was close to France, but it was also because the Muslims were by then in full control of Spain and were more tolerant towards other religious groups. But when the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula in 1478, the Pope ordered an Inquisition as soon as it became feasible. The Jews were again forced to convert to Christianity, and if they refused, they were burned at the stake. Understandably, many Sephardim chose to convert while continuing to practise their religion in secret, and they became known as Marranos. In 1492, they were expelled from Spain and many of them fled to Portugal and Morocco.

In 1536, there was another Inquisition directed at Jews in Portugal. Once more, facing torture and death, many Jews fled. This time, because a world shattering event had just taken place in England, many of the great banking and shipbuilding Jewish families chose to go there. It had to do with Henry VIII after the Pope had refused to annul his marriage. The Pope, who was in the habit of arranging and annulling royal marriages for political and religious reasons, had refused to grant Henry VIII his divorce, and here’s why. King Henry had married a Spaniard, Catherine of Aragon, and since the Church of Rome considered the Kingdom of Spain much more important than the Kingdom of England, it was therefore unwilling to displease the King of Spain. When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII his request, the latter was so determined to have a son that his present wife could not give him that he declared himself head of the Church in England, separated from Rome, and divorced Catherine.

In the process, England was deprived of the financial services of Rome. At first, Henry sold off all the unprofitable Church property and even had his friends rummage through the unsold properties for possible treasures and valuable materials, but it was a futile move. Most of the revenue derived from these operations ended up in the hands of those doing the demolishing and the selling, and very little revenue reached the state coffers. Not surprisingly, many old aristocratic families are to this day indebted and loyal to the King of England.

With no other option, Henry decided to admit the Jews back into England. The Jews had been expelled from England since 1290, but these were special Jews. The Marranos or Conversos, as they were called, professed to be Christians when in fact they still practised their religion in secret. But Henry overlooked their deceitfulness, for he was in dire financial straits and needed their financial skills. In accepting Jews for their financial skills and Huguenots for their great entrepreneurship, Henry caused a breach in the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire as a financial and political power.

3-TIME BARRIER

When scientists tell us that all life on Earth evolved from amino acids and the like, building blocks of life brewed in the primeval soup of life at the dawn of time, we sort of believe them, and when they tell us that Darwin’s theory of evolution is irrefutable, we sort of believe them, but when they tell us we’re monkeys, that’s when we get our backs up. If we’re intelligent, it’s because God made us that way, and that’s all there is to it.

Nonetheless, it gets harder and harder to refute the evidence that our ancestors had started prancing around on two feet as recently as 7 million years ago. As we became bipedal, and with the Sahara pump working away, we prospered in the African Rift Valleys where environmental conditions were ideal. We spent a lot of time in the water in order to protect ourselves from predators and lost most of our hair in the process. However, we found it impossible to compete with the big predators roaming the grasslands, and we certainly weren’t able to get at the carcasses until they had finished with them. To be sure, we were at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to living off the grasslands. Nonetheless, in time, we got our courage up and invested the killing fields in order to glean a few morsels from the leftovers, and we obviously found nothing but bones. Understandably, we didn’t know what to do with them, but since we were last on the scene and had all the time in the world to experiment, we eventually cracked one open. The precious bone marrow we found was avidly consumed, and when added to the rich and plentiful sea food already at our disposition in the shallow waters, we evolved in a spectacular way. By spending less time foraging for food, we had more time to ‘think’.

Since our brain was rapidly increasing in size along with the rest of our body, there was outward pressure on the cranium, and, in time, our facial features slowly morphed into what they are today. As the neocortex grew exponentially and grafted itself upon our reptilian and limbic brains, it caused an explosion of cerebral activity, and we became the thinking, talking, problem-solving emotional beings we are today.

As of that moment, we traveled in an existential world different from the other primates. But the line that forever set us apart from our wild cousins was drawn in the sand when we grasped the notion of death. After witnessing the death of a loved one, not grasping why our parent or companion was no longer communicating with us, or why his or her body was decomposing, we were probably overcome with deep emotional distress. Our feelings and our need to understand surely made something snap in our brain. That was the day we broke the time barrier, the day we realized that we too would die.

Breaking the time barrier meant we were now intelligent. We could use past experience to shape future events. As a simple ape frozen in the present, we had not known the anguish that the notion of death produces. Before, death had just been a momentary interruption in time, a sad happening devoid of meaning, and one that was not anticipated. But now, having broken the time barrier, not only did we know that we would die, but we also knew what could cause our death, and we were scared out of our wits. We saw dangers that threatened our life every which way we turned. We no longer trusted our instincts and our insecurity made us very aggressive. An everyday occurrence became a deadly threat, and fear overcame us. The forest became a scary place and darkness was unbearable. We could no longer stand the aquatic environment either, for we imagined the most terrible creatures lurking beneath the surface.

We managed to survive by taking refuge in caves and grabbing unto the (coat) tails of any outstanding individual who seemed to have answers. Through trial and error, we discovered how to make a fire and keep it going. Thereafter, we not only could warm ourselves, but we could keep the predators at bay. We learned to make weapons, and to hunt and live in groups, and our confidence grew. Nonetheless, it was hard to accept that we were animals and behaved like animals, and that our life would someday end.