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Main page » Audiobooks » Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition

Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition


We see history as terrifying, so we try to escape it. One strategy is to withdraw through transcendental experiences. Another, unfortunately, is to shift our fears onto such scapegoats as lepers, nonconformists, and other "outsiders," whom we choose to blame for "the catastrophe of our existence," as Professor Ruiz puts it.
The Renaissance As A Time of Magic and Astrology
This course explores the concept of the terror of history through a study of mysticism, heresy, apocalyptic movements, and the witch craze in Europe between 1000 and 1700. You will examine new sources and think in new ways about events in the centuries from the late medieval period to early modern Europe.
You will be introduced to texts with which you may not be familiar, such as the Zohar, or "Book of Splendor," the text of Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism. Or the Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches," a handbook for identifying, interrogating, and trying witches.
You will view the Renaissance not from the perspective that it was the beginning of modernity but that it was a period when many among the educated were fascinated by alchemy and magic, a time when the Pope depended on his astrologer and the learned considered the Corpus Hermeticum—a mixture of magic and astrology believed to date from the time of Moses—to be a more valuable text than Plato's Symposium.
You will consider the ways in which social, economic, political, and religious climates—especially during times of change and stress—exert tremendous influence on the prevalence of irrational attitudes and persecutions. For example, between 1000 and 1700, periods of economic trouble were highly correlated with a rise in apocalyptic fervor. Similarly, religious wars coincided with the persecution of witches.
This course is presented by a teacher who displays both exceptional mastery over, and endless enthusiasm for, his subject matter. In 1994-1995, Professor Ruiz was selected as one of four Outstanding Teachers of the Year in the United States by the Carnegie Foundation.
Particularly valuable is his willingness to add his own perspective, both professional and personal, to his lectures. Whether discussing aspects of ancient mystical practices that were common in Cuba during his boyhood or offering an opinion on whether witchcraft has ever truly existed, Professor Ruiz makes it clear that history is a living thing.

Why Witches and Heretics Were Persecuted
Much of The Terror of History has to do with the concept of the "other"—those who are seen by society as "different"—often by virtue of their sex, economic status, or beliefs—and are frequently persecuted.
These lectures examine the concept of "otherness" in a variety of ways and examine how certain groups came to be seen as "other." Often, this involved the creation of boundaries, either real or imaginary, between people.
For example, the enclosure movement of the 15th century fenced peasants off their land, and the Reformation created a new religious boundary between Catholic and Protestant. This made it easier to accuse those who were poor, or of the wrong faith, of being heretics or witches.
The witch craze provides a way to view the concept of "other" as women's history. Misogynistic attitudes and a growing antipathy toward the poor created a kind of profiling of witches. A witch was identified as someone who was a woman, past childbearing age, poor, lived on the edge of town, and often had certain kinds of esoteric knowledge, such as the use of herbal medicines. In Essex, England, 278 of 291 people accused of witchcraft were women, and all were over 40 years old.
You will also consider how authority—frequently secular government and the church, working together—used others for its benefit. The Inquisition and the witch craze were a means to create a sense of community and identity for the populations of emerging nations and to enforce orthodoxy.
Methods of execution, such as hanging and burning at the stake, provided multiple benefits: spectacle and entertainment, a sense of shared public purpose, and powerful lessons about the fate of those who deviated from accepted norms.
Have we outgrown the terror of history? Is it behind us?
Professor Ruiz suggests that Western culture can be seen as a pendulum swinging between periods of rational thinking and periods of superstition and irrationality. If we look at the 20th century, it was certainly a time of enormous scientific and technological achievements. On the other hand, it was also the most violent century in history.
The pendulum swings. And the terror of history continues.
Teofilo F. Ruiz
University of California at Los Angeles
Ph.D., Princeton University
Teofilo F. Ruiz is a Professor of History and Chair of the department at the University of California at Los Angeles. A student of Joseph R. Strayer, Dr. Ruiz received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1974.
Prior to taking his post at UCLA, he held teaching positions at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York Graduate Center, the University of Michigan, the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris and at Princeton University—as the 250th Anniversary Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching.
In 1994-1995, the Carnegie Foundation selected Professor Ruiz as one of four Outstanding Teachers of the Year in the United States.
Professor Ruiz has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Dr. Ruiz has published six books, more than 40 articles, and over 100 reviews and smaller articles in national and international scholarly journals. His Crisis and Continuity, Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile was awarded the Premio del Rey prize by the American Historical Association.
Courses by this professor:
Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal >
Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire >
Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition

Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition
Course Lecture Titles

1. The Terror of History
2. Politics, Economy, and Society
3. Religion and Culture
4. Mysticism in the Western Tradition
5. Mysticism in the Twelfth Century
6. Mysticism in the Thirteenth Century
7. Jewish Mysticism
8. Mysticism in Early Modern Europe
9. Heresy and the Millennium
10. The Church Under Attack
11. The Birth of the Inquisition
12. The Millennium in the Sixteenth Century
13. Jewish Millennial Expectations
14. The Mysteries of the Renaissance
15. Hermeticism, Astrology, Alchemy, and Magic
16. The Origins of Witchcraft
17. Religion, Science, and Magic
18. The Witch Craze and Its Historians
19. Fear and the Construction of Satan
20. The Witch Craze and Misogyny
21. The World of Witches
22. The Witches of Loudon
23. The Witches of Essex and Salem
24. The Survival of the Past

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Tags: Western, deeply, Terror, Teofilo, History, Tradition, Witches