Bogomils

Bogomils

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For many people, the Bogomils were only threated the very existence of the Christianity during the 11th and 12th century, they were the rats who poisoned the innocence of the God. Nobody did understand their vision, neither the possibility of accepting that vision was unthinkable.

They were known by many names (not only the one of which they were most known as ‘bogomils’ after their founder the priest Bogomil),in Byzantium they were called ‘bogeymen’ ,in Italy ‘patarias’, in France as ‘Cathari ‘ or ‘Albighensi’. Almost everywhere they were underpinned under the names as ‘bogri,bugres,bougres,bolgari or bulgari (as in each language at that time Bulgarian meant heretic ). (Sometimes, the history has a strange sense of humor, hasn’t it?)

But, what did exactly the bogomils do to be granted with so much hatred and eventually led to endless crusades against them and their death? What foundation did their beliefs have to contribute to that hysterical outcry by both the Catholic and the Orthodox church? The answer might be hidden behind their strange dualism of the world. The problem appeared from the fact that the Bogomil’ faith possessed a different explanation of the question ‘Why the God created such a world with so much evilness in it?’ ,from where that evilness arrived, nobody was sure and concrete an answer was not to be found in the old ,neither in the new testament. Nor did anyone possess knowledge of the origin of Satan , until 13th century the Fourth Lateran Council decreed that God had created angels and that “[…] the devil and the other demons were indeed created by God good in their nature but they became bad through themselves.” While the Catholic church, for example, was explaining vigorously to everyone that the so called evilness in their world was sent to them as a form of punishment, because we were created in a sin and we shall live in it, other people were searching for a new answer and explanation. Eventually, they did find it! Before giving an account of the Bogomil’s doctrine I would like to mention some facts which might be for utmost importance of the understanding of their faith and origin. Firstly, the place from which the Bogomil took its first steps before conquering Europe was Bulgaria, around 940-950 and Theophylact, patriarch of Constantinople described it as a mixture of Manichaeism and Paulicianism. Therefore the new faith was nothing novel for that time, but only a strange and peculiar a synthesis of elements from earlier heretical traditions. Secondly, despite the fact that they flatly rejected the Old Testament and the Orthodox church, they did learn and know the bible by heart, as they were able to manipulate and convince the others in their own doctrine.

According to them the origin of the Satan was as it follows : “They say that the demon whom the saviour called Satan himself is also a son of God the Father, called Satanael; He came before the Son, the Word [Jesus], and is stronger, as befits the first-born. […] Satan is the steward, second to the Father, having the same form and dress as He does, and he sits at His right hand on a throne. […] He was intoxicated by this, and being carried away […] he plotted a rebellion, and having done so, he seized the opportunity to test some of the ministering powers. He said that if they wanted to lessen the load of their service, they should follow him and join him in breaking away from the Father. […] Then to the aforesaid angels who were enticed by the lightening of their burdensome services and other excessive demands, he said:’ I will place my throne upon the clouds, and I will be like unto the Most High’.(Hamilton, 1989:183).”

“But since he [the Satan] had the form and dress of God and possessed the power of the Demiurge to summon the powers which had fallen along with him and to embolden them, he said, ‘Since God made the heaven and the earth, […] I too will make a second heaven, being the second God’”.
Moreover, the Bogomil contributed the creation of the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eva) to the Satan again: […] moulded the body of Adam from earth mixed with water,and made him stand up, and some moisture ran down to his right foot, and leaking out through his big toe, ran twisting on to the ground and made the shape of snake. Satanael gathered together the breath that was in him and breathed life into the body […] and his breath, running down through the emptiness, ran down to the right foot in the same way, and, leaking through the big toe, ran out into the twisted drop. This instantly became alive, and separating from the toe, crawled away.

But here, this particular moment requires our full attention, the Satan was unable to create the man by himself only, therefore he asked the God for help in making Adam. As a result, the body of Adam was made by the Satan, but his soul was given to him by the God. From this single moment, we could grasp a full insight of the Bogomil’s understanding of the creation and their undisputable rejection of the pleasures such as drinking wine, eating meat or having sexual intercourse.

The bogomil’s hierarchy was not straightened with so much complexity as the Orthodox Church, the people were divided in two parts : the perfect one and the believers. The perfect bogomil- regardless of the sex- was completely devoted to their faith, he/she wore a long, black gown , refused to drink wine, was not allowed to get angry and spent his/her days in prayers. The believers did not distinguish very much amoung the ordinary people, except the fact that they had a higher level of morality , they had to pray four times per day and the some amount during the night, but only in the open sky without the presence of the priest. Many people discriminate them according to their pale faces due to the fact that they did not eat or drink much- for them that was particularly important in their religion , since they did that as an act of compassion to those who were thirsty and hungry. Their compassion and empathy conquered the minds and the hearts of many people and that might be our an answer why their faith gained so many followers before and after to be proclaimed as a heresy.

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