TOPAZ Issue 2 / 2001
The World Mosaic of Sound
A Template Seminar Centre
Design for an Animal Sanctuary
The Science of Intelligence
A curious examination in physics... or evidence of spiritual intelligence?
Film Review - Chocolat
Immunity boosters
Desiderius Erasmus
The Refuge Garden

Desiderius Erasmus (1466? - 1536)

Erasmus Desiderius Erasmus, known more often to the world simply as Erasmus, was a Dutch writer, scholar, humanist and a chief interpreter of the Renaissance in northern Europe. He is also often referred to as the father of the Reformation.

Erasmus was born on 27th October, probably in 1466, into a time of significant change in Europe. A major influence in his life, beginning in his late teens, was a brotherhood started by Gerard Groote (1340-84) called 'the Brethren of Common Life', which promoted ways of combining religion and learning. Groote wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible, and began to translate it into the vernacular. He was a mystic to whom the visible church mattered less than a close union with God. Many religious leaders were influenced by this brotherhood, including both Erasmus and Luther.

After a short monastic life in his early twenties Erasmus left because he believed one needed to live a religious life in the middle of 'temptation' rather than lock oneself away as if it didn't exist. He was a prolific writer with a great sense of humour, which he could use to write satires about life and was therefore able to touch on subjects which were taboo and censured (although the church Council of Trent did list his books as forbidden at some point). His was a war with the pen against ignorance and superstition, and he caused many people to think in fresh ways.

Erasmus had very strong religious beliefs that he adhered to firmly against great odds. He saw that the Catholic church was full of many vices and believed the cure for this was education. If people were educated, including common people, the greater wisdom would automatically cause reform within the church. He was seen as a part of the Reformation movement yet he was strongly against the separation of the church that the Reformation caused. He ended up at bitter odds with Luther, and was strongly criticised by the reformers who had believed he would be one of their leading lights. At the same time the Catholics criticised him for his strong views on reforming the church from within.

This battle of opposites caused great division and separation through Europe that still goes on today. Whilst both parties tried to persuade him to side with them because of his great influence throughout Europe, Erasmus refused to budge from what he firmly believed in. Similar to his great friend Thomas More, who shared many of his beliefs and who was beheaded for them, Erasmus would not submit to pressure that would make him untrue to himself.

Often during his life he expounded the right of people to think for themselves. He was a strong advocate of reasoning, tolerance and pacifism in an age that did not support these qualities. He believed that learning would make those who governed the church rule more justly and religiously, that it would make everyone, including the ordinary man and woman, bring the Catholic church back to being a spiritual affair. He was a Renaissance man who, whilst having to fight for his beliefs, retained his sense of humour, a deep humanity, his belief in reform from within, and his own personal religion.

Marion Verweij, The Netherlands

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