God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World
by Cullen Murphy
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , 2012
In 1568, in the Spanish city of Toledo, Elvira del Campo was brought before the local tribunal of the Inquisition. Del Campo, a scrivener's wife, had been accused of avoiding pork-in other words, of secretly practicing Judaism.
Del Campo admitted that she didn't eat pork, claiming that it disagreed with her. But even as the inquisitor threatened torture, she insisted that she was a good Christian.
So she was brought to the torture chamber, where the interrogation began with the usual tactics, by stripping the prisoner naked and tying garrotes (razor-sharp cords) around her limbs. The inquisitor interrogated Del Campo as the torturer tightened the garrotes with a kind of wooden lever; it was not unusual for the cords to cut literally to the bone.
Henry Charles Lea, author of the groundbreaking A History of the Inquisition of Spain, quotes at length from the "passionless, businesslike" report of the recording secretary:
One cord was applied to the arms and twisted [..] She was told to tell what she had done contrary to our holy Catholic faith. She said "Take me from here and tell me what I have to say-they hurt me-Oh my arms, my arms!" which she repeated many times and went on "I don't remember-tell me what I have to say-O wretched me!-I will tell all that is wanted, Señores-they are breaking my arms-loosen me a little-I did everything that is said of me."
But del Campo's confession was not specific enough. So they put her in the potro, which Lea describes as "a kind of trestle, with sharp-edged rungs across it like a ladder," and wrapped more cords around her body.
Del Campo begged for someone to tell her how to confess: "If I knew what to say I would say it." Instead, a toca, or linen strip, was placed in her mouth, and water was poured on it to simulate the sensation of drowning.
When del Campo became insensate, the inquisitor suspended the interrogation. After the customary four-day interval, they brought her back for more. It was during her second torture session that, as Lea puts it, "the inquisitors finally had the satisfaction of eliciting a confession of Judaism and a prayer for mercy and penance."
The torture of Elvira del Campo makes for difficult reading, even with the intervening centuries. Thus it is remarkable to learn that hers is one of thousands of such records; as Cullen Murphy makes clear in God's Jury, the Inquisition was characterized by both its brutality and its efficient record-keeping.
Both were present at its very beginnings. Murphy explains that its first iteration, the Medieval Inquisition, was a response to Catharism, a dualist heresy that flourished in southwest France at the turn of the 13th century. A bloody twenty-year crusade stamped out the overt practice of Catharism, though underground its embers continued to smolder.
Thus in 1231, Pope Gregory IX created the role of inquisitor, a "detective, prosecutor, and judge rolled into one," as Murphy puts it. Usually a Dominican friar, the inquisitor moved fast, traveling with an assistant and perhaps a few armed guards. When he entered a town, he would first sermonize, urging those who had strayed to foreswear their heresies. A grace period then followed, when heretics could repent for a lighter punishment. After the grace period, the trials began.
Murphy argues that "in a sense, the period of grace ended up creating heresy." Why not confess to something-anything-just to get the inquisitor off your back? Or if you had a grudge against your neighbor, why not turn him in? (Or her: one witness against del Campo seems to have been a disgruntled servant.)
The inquisitors were untroubled by such contradictions-nor by torture, which Pope Innocent IV authorized in 1252. Of course it was unseemly for priests to bloody their own hands with such work: there is evidence that professional torturers were hired, and if the sentence were death, the prisoner would be "relaxed" into the authority of the executioner.
The Inquisition's fusion of cruelty and bureaucracy is nicely exemplified by the Dominican inquisitor Bernard Gui (1260 or 1261-1330). Gui's legacy includes the first inquisitor's manual, which provided interrogation tips, and his Liber Sententiarum, or "Book of Sentences." This book was a kind of professional diary in which Gui recorded 633 guilty verdicts, including over 40 death sentences, and even the expenses incurred during a 1323 execution (55 sols 6 deniers for wood; 20 sols per executioner).
This institutional knowledge was carried over into the Spanish Inquisition, which caught Elvira del Campo in its pincers. But the Spanish added some new twists-the auto da fé, or "act of faith," a public spectacle of humiliation and punishment; the obsession with limpieza de sangre, or "purity of blood," which culminated with the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and again with the Muslim expulsion of 1609.
The Spanish Inquisition would be the longest and furthest-reaching era of this divine institution. It began in 1480, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sought to root out backsliding conversos, Jews and Muslims who had converted to Christianity but were supposedly practicing their original faiths in secret. It ended in the early nineteenth century, as the Church's temporal power weakened. While it lasted, tens of thousands were tried and thousands executed (Murphy is understandably vague on the statistics). As late as the 19th century, inquisitors carried out their grim business in Manila, Cartagena, Santa Fe, and Mexico City.
A third, overlapping phase, the Roman Inquisition, began in the 16th century. Under the direct authority of the Holy See, its biggest target was Protestantism. But it also went after Jews, witches, and homosexuals (all the interesting people, apparently). And it went after ideas, inventing the Index of Forbidden Books, roasting Giordano Bruno for espousing multiple worlds, censoring Galileo for his heliocentrism. It was a busy time for inquisitors: between the 16th and 18th centuries, they conducted perhaps 50,000 trials, resulting in about 1250 executions.
But the Church, in the end, was overmatched by Enlightenment principles and Protestantism (even if the latter had its inquisitorial moments under Calvin in Geneva and Queen Elizabeth in England). By the time of Italy's unification in 1870, the Inquisition was concerned more with internal discipline than external hereticism.
And yet even in its death throes, the Inquisition still had teeth. In 1858, Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child in Bologna, took ill and was secretly baptized by a Christian servant who feared for his soul. The boy recovered, and when the Inquisition got wind of the story, he was taken from his parents and raised by Pope Pius IX himself. Mortara joined the priesthood, specializing in preaching to Jews. He lived until 1940.
It may be redundant to say that God's Jury is almost ridiculously informative. The book would be an excellent popular history if it weren't for two distracting tics.
One is that Murphy seems to have visited almost every place he mentions in God's Jury, and he's not afraid to tell us about it: "I passed the vast expanse of St. Peter's Square, paused momentarily in the shade beneath a curving flank of Bernini's colonnade"; "The roads of southwestern France, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, wind among deep valleys and steep gorges"; "Reading a book in an aircraft cruising above the Syrian Desert." And so on.
Then there's Murphy's habit of interrupting his narrative to prove his grand thesis, that the Inquisition "helps explain what the world is today." Certainly there are many connections between the Inquisition and more recent institutions. But Murphy strains to connect the Inquisition to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, to McCarthyism, to the "dirty war" in Argentina, to the proliferation of security cameras in present-day Britain-in short, to practically any and every relatively recent infringement upon civil liberties.
Murphy has a particular disgust for the Bush administration's use of torture, and with good reason; the waterboarding "debate" made me feel ashamed to be an American (even though the del Campo demonstrates that we didn't invent the technique). But Murphy seems to be trying to establish a moral equivalency between two presidential terms and seven centuries of torture, intimidation, public humiliation, incarceration, and execution. I would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed, but it is not a gulag; medieval popes did not have term limits.
But Murphy does have a point. If I have problems with his argument, it is merely a matter of degree. For the Inquisition indeed echoes loudly in the hysteria over Muslims and illegal immigrants. And the story of Elvira del Campo teaches us to ask two questions: How far will they go? And who's next?
Gordon Haber's fiction and criticism has appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers, including The New York Sun, The Forward, Zeek, The Nebraska Review, Killing the Buddha and Heeb Magazine. Currently he is at work on a novel about the Jewish Messiah.
rejected and denied by many, accepted and embraced by few : falsifiability
- it is not what we (think we) know that matters, it is what we can show true that does
as the maxim demands; truth is demonstrably fact and fact is demonstrably true
everything else ... mere BS -
rejected and denied by many, accepted and embraced by few : falsifiability
- it is not what we (think we) know that matters, it is what we can show true that does
as the maxim demands; truth is demonstrably fact and fact is demonstrably true
everything else ... mere BS -
Have you ever wondered why, in the ongoing presidential campaign, we so strongly hear the pipes calling us to arms? Why the religious among us bristle at any challenge to the creation story they believe? Or even why team sports evoke such intense loyalty, joy, and despair?
The answer is that everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags.
And so it has ever been. In ancient history and prehistory, tribes gave visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and a way to defend the group enthusiastically against rival groups. It gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world. It made the environment less disorienting and dangerous. Human nature has not changed. Modern groups are psychologically equivalent to the tribes of ancient history. As such, these groups are directly descended from the bands of primitive humans and prehumans.
The drive to join is deeply ingrained, a result of a complicated evolution that has led our species to a condition that biologists call eusociality. "Eu-," of course, is a prefix meaning pleasant or good: euphony is something that sounds wonderful; eugenics is the attempt to improve the gene pool. And the eusocial group contains multiple generations whose members perform altruistic acts, sometimes against their own personal interests, to benefit their group. Eusociality is an outgrowth of a new way of understanding evolution, which blends traditionally popular individual selection (based on individuals competing against each other) with group selection (based on competition among groups). Individual selection tends to favor selfish behavior. Group selection favors altruistic behavior and is responsible for the origin of the most advanced level of social behavior, that attained by ants, bees, termites-and humans.
Among eusocial insects, the impulse to support the group at the expense of the individual is largely instinctual. But to play the game the human way required a complicated mix of closely calibrated altruism, cooperation, competition, domination, reciprocity, defection, and deceit. Humans had to feel empathy for others, to measure the emotions of friend and enemy alike, to judge the intentions of all of them, and to plan a strategy for personal social interactions.
As a result, the human brain became simultaneously highly intelligent and intensely social. It had to build mental scenarios of personal relationships rapidly, both short term and long term. Its memories had to travel far into the past to summon old scenarios and far into the future to imagine the consequences of every relationship. Ruling on the alternative plans of action were the amygdala and other emotion-controlling centers of the brain and autonomic nervous system. Thus was born the human condition, selfish at one time, selfless at another, and the two impulses often conflicted.
Today, the social world of each modern human is not a single tribe but rather a system of interlocking tribes, among which it is often difficult to find a single compass. People savor the company of like-minded friends, and they yearn to be in one of the best-a combat Marine regiment, perhaps, an elite college, the executive committee of a company, a religious sect, a fraternity, a garden club-any collectivity that can be compared favorably with other, competing groups of the same category.
Their thirst for group membership and superiority of their group can be satisfied even with symbolic victory by their warriors in clashes on ritualized battlefields: that is, in sports. Like the cheerful and well-dressed citizens of Washington, D.C., who came out to witness the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War, they anticipate the experience with relish. The fans are lifted by seeing the uniforms, symbols, and battle gear of the team, the championship cups and banners on display, the dancing seminude maidens appropriately called cheerleaders. When the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the National Basketball Association championship on a June night in 1984, the mantra was "Celts Supreme!" The social psychologist Roger Brown, who witnessed the aftermath, commented, "The fans burst out of the Garden and nearby bars, practically break dancing in the air, stogies lit, arms uplifted, voices screaming. The hood of a car was flattened, about thirty people jubilantly piled aboard, and the driver-a fan-smiled happily ...It did not seem to me that those fans were just sympathizing or empathizing with their team. They personally were flying high. On that night each fan's self-esteem felt supreme; a social identity did a lot for many personal identities."
Experiments conducted over many years by social psychologists have revealed how swiftly and decisively people divide into groups and then discriminate in favor of the one to which they belong. Even when the experimenters created the groups arbitrarily, prejudice quickly established itself. Whether groups played for pennies or were divided by their preference for some abstract painter over another, the participants always ranked the out-group below the in-group. They judged their "opponents" to be less likable, less fair, less trustworthy, less competent. The prejudices asserted themselves even when the subjects were told the in-groups and out-groups had been chosen arbitrarily.
The tendency to form groups, and then to favor in-group members, has the earmarks of instinct. That may not be intuitive: some could argue that in-group bias is conditioned, not instinctual, that we affiliate with family members and play with neighboring children because we're taught to. But the ease with which we fall into those affiliations points to the likelihood that we are already inclined that way-what psychologists call "prepared learning," the inborn propensity to learn something swiftly and decisively. And indeed, cognitive psychologists have found that newborn infants are most sensitive to the first sounds they hear, to their mother's face, and to the sounds of their native language. Later they look preferentially at persons who previously spoke their native language within their hearing. Similarly, preschool children tend to select native-language speakers as friends.
The elementary drive to form and take deep pleasure from in-group membership easily translates at a higher level into tribalism. People are prone to ethnocentrism. It is an uncomfortable fact that even when given a guilt-free choice, individuals prefer the company of others of the same race, nation, clan, and religion. They trust them more, relax with them better in business and social events, and prefer them more often than not as marriage partners. They are quicker to anger at evidence that an out-group is behaving unfairly or receiving undeserved rewards. And they grow hostile to any out-group encroaching upon the territory or resources of their in-group.
When in experiments black and white Americans were flashed pictures of the other race, their amygdalas, the brain's center of fear and anger, were activated so quickly and subtly that the centers of the brain were unaware of the response. The subject, in effect, could not help himself. When, on the other hand, appropriate contexts were added-say, the approaching African-American was a doctor and the white his patient-two other sites of the brain integrated with the higher learning centers, the cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral preferential cortex, lit up, silencing input through the amygdala. Thus different parts of the brain have evolved by group selection to create groupishness, as well as to mediate this hardwired propensity.
When the amygdala rules the action, however, there is little or no guilt in the pleasure experienced from watching violent sporting events and war films in which the story unwinds to a satisfying destruction of the enemy. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis.
Literature and history are strewn with accounts of what happens at the extreme, as in the following from Judges 12: 5-6 in the Old Testament: the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'?" If he said "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.
Research has shown that tribal aggressiveness goes well back beyond Neolithic times. And there is a good chance that it could be a much older heritage, dating beyond the split 6 million years ago between the lines leading to modern chimpanzees and to humans, respectively.
The patterns of collective violence in which young chimp males engage are remarkably similar to those of young human males. Aside from constantly vying for status, both for themselves and for their gangs, they tend to avoid open mass confrontations with rival troops, instead relying on surprise attacks. The purpose of raids made by the male gangs on neighboring communities is evidently to kill or drive out its members and acquire new territory. The entirety of such conquest under fully natural conditions has been witnessed by John Mitani and his collaborators in Uganda's Kibale National Park. The chimp war, conducted over 10 years, was eerily humanlike. Every 10 to 14 days, patrols of up to 20 males penetrated enemy territory, moving quietly in single file, scanning the terrain from ground to the treetops, and halting cautiously at every surrounding noise. If they encountered a force larger than their own, the invaders broke rank and ran back to their own territory. When they encountered a lone male, however, they pummeled and bit him to death. When a female was encountered, they usually let her go. (This latter tolerance was not a display of gallantry. If she carried an infant, they took it from her and killed and ate it.) Finally, after such constant pressure for so long, the invading gangs simply annexed the enemy territory, adding 22 percent to the land owned by their own community.
Our bloody nature, it can now be argued in the context of modern biology, is ingrained because group-versus-group was a principal driving force that made us what we are. In prehistory, group selection lifted the hominids to heights of solidarity, to genius, to enterprise. And to fear. Each tribe knew with justification that if it was not armed and ready, its very existence was imperiled. Throughout history, the escalation of a large part of technology has had combat as its central purpose. Today, public support is best fired up by appeal to the emotions of deadly combat, over which the amygdala is grandmaster. We find ourselves in the battle to stem an oil spill, the fight to tame inflation, the war against cancer. Wherever there is an enemy, animate or inanimate, there must be a victory.
Any excuse for a real war will do, so long as it is seen as necessary to protect the tribe. The remembrance of past horrors has no effect. It should not be thought that war, often accompanied by genocide, is a cultural artifact of a few societies. Nor has it been an aberration of history, a result of the growing pains of our species' maturation. Wars and genocide have been universal and eternal, respecting no particular time or culture. Overall, big wars have been replaced around the world by small wars of the kind and magnitude more typical of hunter-gatherer and primitively agricultural societies. Civilized societies have tried to eliminate torture, execution, and the murder of civilians, but those fighting little wars do not comply.
Civilization appears to be the ultimate redeeming product of competition between groups. Because of it, we struggle on behalf of good and against evil, and reward generosity, compassion, and altruism while punishing or downplaying selfishness. But if group conflict created the best in us, it also created the deadliest. As humans, this is our greatest, and worst, genetic inheritance.
I'm not in favor of what's being passed off as "sensitivity" training in schools over here today -the idea that all children are equal and the most advanced need to be curtailed and the slow ones bumped along to keep everyone at the same level.
...the idea that children constantly need to have their self-esteem stroked so that they won't become neurotic ... even if that stroking is totally artificial.
I'm not in favor of teaching children that FEELINGS are more important than facts.
There's a subtle difference which turns out to be a HUGE difference between ...
Letting your feelings dictate your action ... and ...
RECOGNIZING your feelings.
When your life is driven by your feelings, you don't actually understand your own feelings and you become a slave to your feelings -to the exclusion of logic and reason.
When you learn to recognize your feelings and identify them ... they no longer dominate you.
You notice that the teacher didn't "lose it" over his kids' emotions. He didn't because he understood what was happening. He felt empathy, yes ... but he didn't get lost in the emotion because he understood the emotion.
That's how his kids will grow up to be ... if they learn to identify their feelings early and meditate on that and practice the empathy they learn with other people.
And you notice also that the kids weren't sheltered from exposure to harsh negative feelings. THAT is where the American system falls down; they're forever trying to shelter people -(actually PREVENT people)- from being exposed to true negative occurrences.
You can't let children (or even adults) view a dead person. That's morbid. You can't show smashed up people from highway wrecks on public TV. You can't show birthing. It all has to be clinically clean on the boob tube.
... it's quite okay to see how bombs are dropped on people on the other side of the world, which kill thousands and maim hundreds of thousands.
Absolutely First Class post Vince.
This chrystalised so much for me as an individual and explained something as to why I never was a 'groupie' in the terms outlined. It shone some light on my time in the military and why I held them in such amused contempt that resulted in being an involuntary occupant of a cell in every camp I was ever in - even the troopship.
Yes, I was involved/engaged with an abuse program for a couple of years.
The participants in the group ALL had to have been engaged in abusive activities and admitted to it.
My own actions involved wrestling my wife to the floor over an issue of ownership of a pen!~ Sounds nuts but that's what emotional overrun can do to people. (She then phoned the police and I was threatened with charges).
I realized from that incident that I couldn't control my anger successfully in a way that allowed me to keep respecting myself and I had no idea of HOW to handle my immense anger without resorting to physical action ... and so I sought help by joining this group.
The MAIN thing the program focused on was IDENTIFICATION of FEELINGS!
It wasn't preachy or condemnation or cowing or anything of that nature; just ... identifying feelings and learning how to deal with the feelings.
(The conclusion I came to, for my own problem btw ... is that it isn't fair to use brute force to resolve an emotional issue. It's like kicking a small animal because you CAN -because you're much bigger- and they can't: it isn't fair conflict resolution).
Anyway, much of the abuse admitted to was a lot more serious than my own but we were all careful NOT to berate or condemn the people doing such things. We'd discuss the abuse and explore the feelings that went into the committing of the abuses instead.
Learning new habits takes a long time. People will continually regress under intense emotional challenge but gradually over time, they gain control over their emotions by stopping, analyzing their feelings and taking time out etc.)
I loved the meetings. I looked forward to going each time. That was kind of strange because I've never liked group meetings --- including church meetings.
What I saw at those meetings made me think of what church meetings SHOULD be like! People opening up ... being totally honest ... admitting ... listening to each other.
But religions won't do that because they're afraid of where such things might go. They -like the establishment- always attempt to bury the negative aspects of emotion instead of exploring the reasons for those emotions.
Letting people express themselves and others listening ... leads to people THINKING for themselves ... and that's a threat.
The answer, of course is ... "how stupid would you LIKE?"
There's no end; no limit to decadence and oppression.
If people think that somehow "they" -the wannabe world rulers of the NWO ... would make good leaders because they're "winners" in all of their worldly ways- people should ask themselves ...
How did "THEY" get to were they are?
The entire model of commerce, trade, production and money trading is built on COMPETITION and not on the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.
Competition means ... trying to capture the "prize" at any allowed cost. Cheat, steal, deceive and confuse in whatever way you can ... so that you can "destroy your competition" and walk off with the prize of winner takes all.
There really is no logical sense to it. There's no sense to endless sports -(which illustrate the tactics of commerce)- except to "win." To win and to retain total dominance ... is the only "noble cause" of the great commerce system.
And so you look at the "winners" of that system as "wise" or "respectable" or "noble" ... and/or imbued with some kind of wisdom to organize and control the entire planet?
They're not. They're really dummies when it comes to understanding human values or human inter-relationships! You really DON'T want those buggers to be in charge of anything more than they already have.
If people could only see that. Being filthy rich is NOT a sign of any wisdom; it's merely the result of being ruthless.
But the problem is that good people with moral, human and compassionate values ... have very little interest in engaging with the cutthroat business/political idiots and their system.
The power-hungry, on the other hand LOVE that stuff and spend all of their waking hours in pursuit of ways to "win" and cheat and gouge and stab and get the upper hand. So these are the people who ultimately GET all of the power ... despite the fact that they're least qualified to have and hold it!
What's the "answer" to this problem?
People need to quit revering riches and power and station ... and start recognizing and respecting actual ACHIEVEMENT.
You look at some of the top models for reverence today and what do you see? Do you see great achievers -(other than people who managed to wangle their way up the power/riches ladder or to inherit their position)- or do you see manipulators?
What has the Royal family in Britain -for example- achieved in the last hundred years?
What did Bill Gates achieve in life all by his lonesome ... except to exploit workers ... and the masses?
What noteworthy human philanthropic achievement can be attributed to Henry Kissinger?
What great achievement do celebrities offer to the world ... other than image?
I mean SOME of the people who are publicly admired HAVE actually done some good personal achieving in their lives and they DO deserve respect ... but who are those people and how many of them are there ... really?