No reader of history can write about the Reformation without writing, at least briefly, on the pre-Reformation protestants. And what one fill find in this history, is that the roots of Protestantism is gnosticism, or the belief that Christ was not physical, but a phantom. To reject the physical Humanity of Christ, would then lead to the rejection of the Eucharist, icons, holy water, and Confession. When perusing their history, one will find that these pro-Reformation sects rejected crucifixes, icons, and the Eucharist. In other words, they rejected the tangible. But one of the most untold truths behind these sects is that they did not become this way by simply reading their Bible. The Scriptures in those days were difficult to obtain; they were quite expensive since they did not have electronic copy machines, and one had to hire a scribe for lots of money in order to get a copy of the Scriptures. It was not like now where one can simply buy a Bible from your local 99 cents store, or take one from any hotel room. Most people could not read in the Middle Ages; most were not educated in theology, and most could not afford a Bible. Thus, people had to go to church to learn about the Faith.
As Alister McGrath writes:
“In the early Middle Ages, literacy was rare, and often limited to the clergy. It was common for the courts of Europe to employ clergy to handle their correspondence and archives. This was not because the clergy might bring some special spiritual quality or blessing to these matters, but simply because the clergy were just about the only people at the time who could read and write.”
Moreover, Christianity, be it in the early centuries after Christ, or in the Middle Ages — the epoch in which gnosticism sprung up — was Catholic. In fact, the gnostic rejection of the Eucharist is first mentioned by a student of the Apostles, Ignatius of Antioch.
Gnosticism has been being taught since the time of the Apostles. According to Church history, there was a heretic from Arabia named Scythianus who taught the dualistic doctrine of the two principles. He was influenced — as we learn from the Church historian Socrates — by the teachings of Pythagoras, Empedocles and the paganism of Egypt. We are told by Epiphanius of Salamis that Scythianus debated with St. John himself, being thoroughly defeated by the Apostle. Gnosticism was perpetuated in the time of the Apostles and their successors.
They taught against the Cross, teaching that it was an illusion. The denial of the Cross would inevitably lead to the denial of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, according to orthodox theology, is a sacrifice, it is a presentation of the Crucifixion, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The Eucharist is—in the words of St. Ambrose—“the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.”
Thus, the denial of the sacrifice of Christ, will result in the denial of the Eucharist, which is Christ’s sacrifice in the form of bread and wine. Very close to the time of the Apostles there was a heretical sect called the Docetists. They rejected the Crucifixion as a delusion, and with this rejection was also the rejection of the Eucharist as the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. This gnostic anti-sacramentalism of the Docestists was warned about by St. Ignatius of Antioch, a direct student of the Apostles themselves, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.
Thus, these groups did not learn or deduce the rejection of holy icons or the Eucharist — from Christianity, the Apostles, or even the Scriptures, but from gnosticism itself. The rejection of the Eucharist, of the Crucifix, of icons, are all gnostic beliefs. Gnosticism treats physical matter as evil, and thus any physical sacraments, such as the Eucharist, or any icons, would be rejected on account of their being physical.
There are several sects that are esteemed as pre-Reformation groups: these are the followers of Wycliff — the Lollards — and Tyndale and his followers in England. Since the 12th century, favor towards dualist and Cathar heresy had been growing, from the Lollards all the way to the poetry of Milton. The pre-Reformation dualists in England would really be the foundation for the Reformation that would be commenced in Germany by Luther. Thus, in order to demonstrate the continuity of thought, from Luther to Nazi ideology, one must elaborate on gnosticism. With the acceptance of an abstract Christ, comes the denial of the physical Christ, with this, comes the adversity towards the Humanity of Christ, and ultimately, from this arises a war against humanity itself. To say that the Humanity of Christ was not a reality, is to deny reality itself, and thus does the genocidal thirsts of the diabolical erupt without restraint, since there is no guilt when slaughtering countless lives, when killers do not believe that reality is non-existent.
There has been very little scholarship done on the gnostic roots of both Tyndale and Wycliffe. But a recent study that has been presented by Bulgarian scholar Georgi Vasilev, called Heresy and the English Reformation, has shed significant light on this reality that has been so ignored. It will be from this referenced work that will bring much of my information. Valisev actually does not write from a pro-Catholic position, but the contrary, and so no accusation of bias can be made with merit when referencing this work.
The gnostics reversed the Scriptures and the positions of God and Satan, making Satan the champion righteousness, and God to be the actual devil. They also held that God and Satan are co-eternal, in that they are the exact opposites — one being good and the other evil — but equal in power and might. The gnostics essentially believed that Satan was slandered and made to be the evil one, when in reality he was the noble protagonist. This respect towards Satan led some of the gnostics of the pre-Reformation into open devil worship. The Lollards, who were zealous followers of Wycliffe, were founded by Walter Lollard. Walter first began preaching in Germany. His doctrine went to Italy, from where a Lollard named Basnage travelled from Piedmont with his followers to England and preached their doctrines. (22) According to Louis Moreri, a renown 17th century encyclopedist who wrote a study on the Lollards, Walter “maintained that Lucifer and his associates were condemned unjustly”.
In the study by Moreri, he writes:
“These sectarians said that Lucifer and the angels that followed him were condemned wrongly, that is rather Archangel Michael and the good angels that deserved this punishment. They [the Lollards] added inadmissible blasphemies against the Virgin, they said that God does not punish us for the faults we commit here. The authors [or the sources] say that a girl, member of this unhappy sect condemned to perish on the stake, when asked whether she was a virgin, answered that she was one on earth but would not be under it. They [the Lollards] taught also that the Mass, baptism and the extreme unction were useless; they also denied penance and refused to obey the Church and the secular authorities.”
These Lollards were the same as the Waldensians, for in a 1318 chronicle, referenced by Du Cange, “they called the lollard also a Waldensian”. According to scholar F. Litchenberger, the Lollards had a prophecy that “Lucifer and the demons unfairly chased away from Heaven will some day be restored there.” The Lollards were therefore satanists; devil worshippers who made Lucifer into their god and the true God into a demon.
In a 15th century document from Ignaz von Dollinger, the Lollards did not “accept any saints.” The Cathars, the gnostics of Southern France, as well rejected the intercession of the saints of heaven.
The one whom the Lollards followed, Wycliffe, limited God by asserting that He could not annihilate anything, and that He could only create a limited number of souls and not go beyond that number:
“God cannot annihilate anything, nor increase or diminish the world, but he can create souls up to a certain number, and not beyond it.”
Wycliffe also taught a form of pantheism, that anyone or any creature can become God:
“Every person is God. Every creature is God. Every being is everywhere, since every being is God.”
The similarities between the Lollards and other gnostic sects — like the Bogomils — are so paralleled and equal that to deny the connection between the two would be quite vacuous. Both the Lollards and the Bogomils rejected the Eucharist; both were adverse to the Crucifix; both rejected Catholic respect paid to the Virgin Mary; both despised Christian icons; both saw Satan as the all powerful ruler over the earth. The Bogomils did not just read the Bible and learn these theological rejections, they learned them from the gnostics of the Middle East; and the Lollards did not just read the Bible and pick up on these ideas, they learned them from their gnostic predecessors.
What needs to be emphasized is that such ideas are gnostic, and were not deduced solely from a misinterpretation of Scripture, but learned from gnostic sects, contrary to what was being taught in Christendom through the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was Christianity; their interpretation of Sacred Scripture was the collectively accepted interpretation. To then reject them was to reject Scripture — since it was the Church who compiled the Scriptures — and so the beliefs of the Lollards were passed down to them not by just ‘simple people reading their Bibles’, but rather they were learned from older gnostic sects like the Bogomils.
Let us peruse further the shared beliefs of the Lollards and Bogomils. Both esteemed the devil as an all powerful being, ruler of the world, even to the extent (for the Lollards) that God owed obedience to him. The 12th century Byzantine monk, Euthymius Zigabenus, wrote on the Bogomils:
“Now they say that the great king is the devil, because he is cosmocrator [ruler of the world].”
Moreover, the emperor of Bulgaria, Tsar Boril, convened a council in 1211, in which was mentioned “those who claim that the Devil is the autocrat of the world”. (28) Both the Cathars of France and the Bogomils of Eastern Europe believed that Satan created human beings, and that he took angels from heaven to possess their bodies. In the Secret Book of the Bogomils, which was read by both Bogomil and Cathar, we read:
“And in addition (Satan) devised and made man in his likeness, that is his own, and ordered the angel of the third heaven to enter a body of clay. And he took from it and made another body in the form of a woman, and he ordered the angel of the second heaven to enter the body of the woman.”
Paralleling this gnostic belief, Wycliff taught that the human body is possessed by an angel from heaven, equating the human soul with an angel, and admitting that he learned this belief from an outside source, the name of which we do not know, but it is likely that it was a gnostic writing:
“Thus man has a double nature … this means body and soul … and speaking of the soul, a true writing gives it as being created as a completely invisible and immortal spirit, it being possible that it is an angel in itself.”
Similarly, the Lollard’s founder, Wycliffe, also taught that at times “God must obey the Devil”. This teaching, that at times God is less powerful than Satan, is really a gnostic belief, for the gnostics were devil worshippers, and being sympathetic towards the diabolical, they did not mind giving undeserved power to their lord, Satan. With the gnostic love of the devil and their hatred towards God and humanity, came open veneration for the devil.
One Cathar named Guillelme Carreria was plowing his fields and the plower’s yoke was displaced, and upon this he said: “Devil, put back that yoke in its proper place!”
Martin Luther, like the gnostics before him, attributed much undeserved power to Satan, as was observed by historian Johannes Janssen, who described how Luther’s obsession with Satan helped lead his followers to abominations, iconoclasm and the occult:
“It is one of the chief characteristics of Luther that in his intellectual life, in his social intercourse, in speech, in writing and in preaching he always brought in the Devil —attributed far more influence and importance to him than is warranted by Scripture, and by his writings gained for him in Germany a popularity which he had never before enjoyed… The more the effectual methods of salvation instituted by God, the Sacraments and sacramentals were mocked and despised, the more did empty, fraudulent, absurd superstition and devil worship grow up among the demoralized people. They ridiculed the blessing of the Church in order to curse and swear more freely. They mocked the pictures and relics of the saints in order to carry on the most abominable superstitious traffic in hairs and bones of animals. They knocked off the head of the image of the immaculate Mother of God, in order day and night to give themselves up to the devil. The devil was formally enthroned in the people’s life and literature. There was more talk about him than about God.”
Continuing in his depraved and twisted gnostic worldview, Luther once said: “Satan sleeps with me much more that my wife does”.
His gnostic hatred for God was expressed in other words. Luther once described God as “a master armed with a stick.” In one conversation, Luther said: “I look upon God no better than a scoundrel”, and “God is stupid”. (34) In more explicit gnostic terms, Luther said:
“When I beheld Christ I seemed to see the Devil.”
Spite and hatred was greatly shown against any reverence towards the Virgin Mary and any of the saints, or any of the holy icons, by both the Bogomils and the Lollards. Zigabenus describes the Bogomils as such:
“They do not venerate the glorious and pure Mary, the mother of our God Jesus Christ and say malignant gossip against her.”
Likewise the Lollards affirmed:
“Also that no honor is due to manifest to any sort of images of the cross, neither to the blessed Mary and to any of the other saints.”
The sign of the Cross and the Crucifix was seen with so much vitriol, both in England by the Lollards, and in Eastern Europe by the Bogomils. M.D. Lambert writes: “In East England the crucifix was attacked in terms oddly reminiscent of the Bogomils; ‘no more credence should be done to the crucifix’ it was said, ‘than to the gallows which thieves be hanged on.”
The populist nature of Wycliff’s movement was manifested in the Lollard revolt of the late 14th century, in which Wycliff’s followers dragged Simon Sudbury, the Bishop of Canterbury, from the Tower of London and beheaded him.
The animosity for icons and saints was also directed against the Eucharist. The Cathars taught “that none should believe that the host the priest shows the people during Mass is the body of Christ for it is only bread.” (38) The former Cathar, Bernard Gui, wrote in regards to the Albigensians in France:
“The body of Christ, they say, is not there [in the Eucharist], for if we assume it could be compared to the greatest mountain then the Christians would have eaten it all by now; the Eucharist is born of straw, passes through the trails of stallions or mares. In other words when the flour is cleansed of this filth through the sieve it goes down to the end of the stomach and excreted through the dirtiest organ. That is why it is impossible, they say, for God to be there.”
John Wycliffe, continuing the gnostic teaching, said “That the essence of material bread and wine remains [the same] after their consecration at the altar.”
Tyndale taught the same heresy, saying: “Now the testament is, that is his blood was shed for our sins; but is impossible that the cup or his blood should be that promise”.
Tyndale held that the Blood of the New Covenant that Christ spoke of in the Last Supper was simply referring to the teachings of the Bible, and this same belief was taught by the Cathar Bogomils, for as Zigabenus says of them: “The ‘new wine’ they say is their teaching.”
When Christ said, “my blood is real drink” (John 6:55), the gnostic rejects this, and believes that the blood of Christ is an abstract, intangible thought, idea or teaching. Again, the conflict is between the tangible and the abstract.
This heresy, of both the gnostics and of Tyndale and Wycliffe, is the same doctrine, and it substantiates that, in the words of Vasilev, “we have one and the same theology, born in Bulgaria and transferred to England, expressed in the 16th century with an almost identical vocabulary.”
In ancient Israel, the prophet was the mediator between Man and God. Moses begged the Lord to show mercy unto the children of Israel as they were worshipping the golden calf. The people exhorted Samuel to “Pray for thy servants to the Lord thy God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19) The people of Judea and Jerusalem flocked to St. John the Baptist, “confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5) Jesus told the Disciples that “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:23) And in his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote:
“And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
While the priest in old Israel acted as an intercessor between Man and God, the priest of the New Covenant acts as a participant in the mediation of Christ. St. Paul said that there is “one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5), and while this is true, we cannot isolate man from participating in the mediation of Christ. This is what the heretics do, redefining Christ’s mediation as something almost abstract, without it ever being conduced in any incarnational manner, portraying it as only man asking God for forgiveness, in which there is no human authority confirming absolution. It is obvious from the verses just quoted that God, indeed, established a Church in which man may participate, as priest, as the mediator between Man and God, as a partaker in the mediation of Christ, in the place of Christ on earth.
This teaching of the Sacrament of Reconciliation was rejected by both the Cathars, the Lollards and the later Protestant sects. In the 15th century it was declared in the Norwich heresy trial records that a certain Lollard leader, named Margaret, said: “confession is made only before God and no other priest.”
Tyndale also rejected the Sacrament of Confession, preaching against the idea of a priest being “a mediator between God and us.”
Tyndale taught really a theological socialism, where there is no hierarchy, and all peoples, “every man and woman that know Christ and his doctrine” have the sacrament “to bind and loose”.
That Wycliffe was a gnostic himself is further proven by the fact that he actually translated the gnostic book, the Gospel of Nicodemus (the Evangelium Nicodemi), one of the numerous gnostic gospels that were rejected by the Catholic Church.
The Lollard sect had eventually evolved into the Puritan cult of England. As A.F. Thomson notes: “by the time that the Roman establishment was succeeded by the Anglican, the Lollardy was developing into Puritanism.”