- Use promo code PRIMEBOOKS18 to save $5.00 when you spend $20.00 or more on Books offered by Amazon.com. Enter code PRIMEBOOKS18 at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy (Yale Nota Bene) Paperback – August 11, 2000
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In the first part of the book, the author takes us through a rough chronology of the development of dualist beliefs in the world, in particular providing examples from Egypt to show how among a panoply of Gods, there was a process by which one, usually of the trickster variety with distinct shades of grey in the morality of his actions, was elevated progressively to becoming the master and source of wickedness and evil. Thus, from a spectrum of broadly undifferentiated divinities, a polar duo usually developed, driven very often by the political currents the believers were undergoing, with the maleficent influence of one being necessary to explain the trials and tribulations being experienced. The next stage of the development of dualism was the teachings of the Zoroastrian religion which, unlike the Egyptian theology, proceeded from an a priori dualist belief. The political ramification of the rise of the Achaemenid, the Greek and the Roman Empires linked the theological landscapes of Persia, the Middle East, Greece and Egypt which created a 'bazaar' of religious beliefs with strong currents of syncretism that eventually saw ideas diffuse through this continuum of terrain. Many of the beliefs around Satan in the Jewish religion for example, draw upon dualist visions influenced by Persian thought, which the thinkers of Judaism found useful to explain the political calamities and oppression engulfing them. However, the Jews were always careful to label this Satan as a lesser being than the God of creation and this is the notion that found its way into Christianity as well.
With the ascent of Christianity, the nature of evil might well be considered settled but this is where the syncretic currents of the Middle East come in. Starting with Marcion of Sinope and his distinction between the God of the New and Old Testament, moving to the Gnostics and their conception of the world as having been created by a misguided demiurge to the doctrines of the Great prophet Mani, strains of dualism where evil was seen as a more fundamental and powerful force in the cosmic drama started coming to the forefront and challenging Christian orthodoxy. In many of these, the evil principle was given prime position in the creation of the world and sometimes even equality with the good principle. The Church and the Persian clergy tried their best to root out these heresies but in the fertile religious landscape of the Near East, there were always communities of dissenters who found dualism a more satisfactory explanation of the world around them.
Despite the orthodox repression of the Byzantine Empire, these beliefs never really went away and were always present, usually in the marginal lands of the Empire were imperial and clerical writ was limited. These beliefs finally erupted in one of the most serious challenges to the Church with the rise of Bogomilism, riding on the political revolution of the creation of the First Bulgarian Empire. The Balkans were home to a number of steppe nomads and Slavic groups that were initially pagan and brought with them their cosmogonies where dualistic features were prominent. Despite the imposition of Christianity in the realm, there was just too much diversity of belief and a population sufficiently antagonistic to the Byzantine Empire and by association, the Orthodox Church which helped serve as an incubator for 'heretical' - usually monastic and dualistic beliefs. The Bulgars were initially pagans and were far more tolerant of dualist Christian sects than Byzantium - their realm became a refuge for dualist Christianity to take root and prosper, finally getting an ecclesiastical and missionary structure that could ensure their transmission beyond the marginal beliefs of isolated communities. The rising contacts between the Eastern and Western halves of Christendom through the crusades and Bogomil missionaries led to the rise of Catharist dualism in Western Europe, where it was especially strong in Occitania (Southern France mainly) and parts of Italy. The doctrines of different Catharist schools were decidedly radical - they essentially postulated that the world was created by the evil principle and his presence permeated all matter - hence their extreme ascetic and self-negating living styles (at least for the elect clergy among them). They also embodied a strong sense of monasticism and disdain for the corrupted Orthodox (and Catholic Church) which seemed far more interested in material matters and was perceived to be a false Church of sin. The rising popularity of these beliefs alarmed the Christian clergy and both in the East and the West they allied themselves to the power of ruling, powerful elites and sanctioned bloody repressions against the Bogomil - Cathar heresy. The office of the Inquisition and the Dominican and Franciscan orders were setup to root out Cathar heresy. In terms of propaganda too, the Bogomils and Cathars with their decidedly off-beat doctrines whereby Satan was seen as a power on par with God, with their predeliction for rites of passage into the Cathar elect-hood and in some sects the prevalence of rites for appeasing and currying favour with the Satanic demiurge holding sway over the world, were easy to characterise as a secret Devil worshipping sect - this template would then be used during the witch hunt craze of later centuries and imprinted itself in the cultural depiction of all heretics as having secret pacts with the Devil and propitiating him through orgies and secretive rituals.
In the end, the brutal repression was effective and the Catharist heresy was contained and finally wiped out. However, many of the main issues raised by the Bogomil - Cathar phenomenon, especially the anti-clericalism, found their way into the Protestant reformation (though it should be stressed, there is no direct link of transmission).
The author walks us through this complicated history with a deft and engaging narrative and as a lay reader, on almost every page I learnt something new. As the author mentions in his powerful concluding section, even today, there is still no universally satisfactory solution to the problem of the existence of evil that satisfies those looking for answers to these tough questions and while this fundamental dissatisfaction remains, the ideology of dualism, and with it, the Other God, the one who imbues our lives with misery and evil, will never truly go away.
That's not to say that I found every aspect of the book equally fascinating. He focuses - in places - more on history than on doctrine, and that's not my interest. But it is the interest of other readers - and this book is intended, I suspect, to address the needs of many readers. That's as it should be.
Another strength is the extensive annotation - I've found ample support for my researches in Stoyanov's aptly chosen bibliographic references.
I can honestly say that this book has transformed my thinking on religion. I can think of no higher praise.
The book is dense and well-documented. The bibliography and footnotes are staggering, and the lack of unsourced conjecture is refreshing for the topic. Stoyanov avoids pitfalls of the topic, and while that makes for slow reading, the foot notes (and there are over a hundred pages of them) are themselves rewarding.
Strong recommend to anyone interested in religious studies or the transition from antiquity to medieval thought.
Most recent customer reviews
This book sweeps through all the unorthodox currents of the world's main religions...Read more