This session explores the characteristic features and problems of attempts at dialogue between representatives of ‘orthodox’ positions and those they designated as heretical groups.
The second half of the 14th century in England saw the effects of William of Ockham’s powerful explorations into the nature of language and knowledge. Scholars have heretofore linked Ockham to Chaucer and Langland in various ways, but have not widened the purview to examine other texts of this period. Going beyond the putative links betweens literary writers and nominalist (i.e. Ockhamist) strains of thought, this paper will situate the anonymous The Cloud of Unknowing within its intellectual context. In the face of growing scepticism on the efficacy of language to address complex ideas such as ‘God’, the Cloud text emphasizes ‘unknowing’ as a mode of devotion and contemplation. Using the Pseudo-Dionysius as his example, the Cloud author does not simply attack reason, but rather assails the tendency to divorce philosophy from personal observance. In this manner, the author stresses the importance of the Church to protect against false mystical experiences frequently reported in the latter 14th century. In this paper I will explore the Cloud author’s epistemological subversion through unknowing, and expand to consider the frequent attempts by English clerics to define the path of the mystic as heterodox.
This paper examines the rise of anti-philosophical literature and dogmatism within the Spanish Jewish community during the 15th century. While this has generally been viewed as a turn against philosophy by an ever increasing conservative rabbinate, I argue that this was an attempt to reach out to the large population of Jewish conversos, who were living as Christians. The crux of this argument rests upon the fact that there was no corresponding attempt to crack down on heretical philosophers or heretical books despite the fact that the Spanish Jewish community was uniquely suited for such actions.
The practice of combining medicine an magic through the application of amulets has a very old tradition, as has the veneration of St Pantaleon in Europe. The paper will discuss the way in which St Pantaleon developed as a pendant of Cosmas and Damianus as a patron of medical practitioners and the way in which the veneration of the saint developed, especially in the Middle and Lower Rhineland region. It wil concentrate on a recently discovered Pantaleon amulet that through text and image perfectly combines magic and superstition on the one hand, and the belief in the healing powers of the saint on the other.