20 April 2023

What is obscurantism? – Discover the characteristics of medieval obscurantism

By Donald

Today knowledge and knowledge are at the hand of anyone, it is only necessary go to a library or search the internet for information.

In the history of the medieval world there was a time when knowledge was prohibited for the vast majority of the population. In it, the church proposed ideals as an unquestionable truth. Therefore, she saw as enemies all those who criticized or opposed to her.

This is one of the moments in history where educational progress it was very limited, so much so that it is known as obscurantism. So if you want to know more about it and its characteristics, in this article we will show you what it is.

Concept and definition of obscurantism

It is understood as a time when it was very common hinder any kind of knowledge to keep the education of the humble or popular sectors very limited. This was suitable only for small groups of scholars.

This idea was attributed by humanism and the Enlightenment to the Middle Ages and modern times, where the Catholic Church took this position. It was a very dogmatic time that was dominated by Christianity and its knowledge. They were based only on religious superstitionsleaving aside any other knowledge that was not approved by them.

This term was used from the 18th century by some philosophers, who took it for granted that religious ideas were not correct. Therefore, knowledge should be for all people, since it was the light of reason. During the 18th and 19th centuries, education had great relevance, especially the strictly religious one in the conservative sectors of the church.

Often referred to as a dark age, some historians see it as a very complex and oppressive years for the church. In them they prevented the development of ideas such as techniques, philosophical, artistic, trade and others. Therefore, it represents more aspects than those known as the censorshiprestriction of knowledge or the holy inquisition.

What is religious obscurantism?

It was a time that was characterized by religious obscurantism, where the ecclesiastical institutions of the modern age were the continuity of that time. One of the characteristics regarding religion was that its Catholic dogma was predominant. The word of the Bible had more power than the use of thought, science, or reason.

As for knowledge, it was restricted for most people, so it was only for a very small groupincluding the clergy. For this reason, it was in the modern age that this practice of control by the church was denounced in order for education to expand to other sectors, especially those humble.

Besides, any type of publication was censored that did not agree with the dogma of the time, so there was very little freedom of expression. In general, there was a theocentrism where God was the center of all things, therefore, the individual was perceived as subordinate. These beliefs led the church to meddle in people’s lives, under religious precepts.

They also achieved the division of society into estates, which they considered dictated by God, therefore, it made the humble or peasant sectors submissive to the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Lastly, injustice was imparted through institution called inquisitionwhich condemned all individuals considered heretics through torture, executions and others, especially those accused of witches.

What is informative obscurantism?

As for the informative obscurantism of that time, it is the opposite of dissemination and the transmission of knowledge. They could not access it for progress and grow. This was due to the fact that anyone who had a belief other than dogma suffered threats, since they considered that those ideas came from marginal minds.

This time is mainly associated with the Christian religion due to the censorship, persecution and imposition of their beliefs, which they took as the only truth. These were unquestionable for all people, causing that due to the lack of information and education, the evolution of society in different aspects stopped.

When a literary work contained information other than that accepted, it was burned and disappeared. At this time, books on the lives of the saints, poetry or theological reflections were common. You could also find stories of romances, chivalry and even epic songs. There were few approved topics and before any text came out they had to be approved by the church.

What is medieval obscurantism?

Medieval obscurantism is a time that was characterized by control knowledge and knowledge that came to light. These were only given to a small group of people, generally in power and thus prohibiting the lower classes, preventing their freedom of expression, worship and imposing a single way of life.

It was based on religious dogmatic ideologies that were shown as Absolute truths. They did not admit any type of criticism, so the church sought to suppress all that thought that was not beneficial or contributed to their beliefs. This encouraged that anyone who did not recognize these ideals was persecuted to death.

That is why medieval obscurantism is known as a time of few discoveries, population decline and a population enslaved to the faith where fear, repression, disease and hunger were common.

What is scientific obscurantism?

As for the innovations of the time, they arose due to the friction they had with other populations and cultures. Some of them are Byzantine, Arab or even by experimentation of the people of the time. Thus having a practical purpose, either to improve warfare or agricultural production.

As for the scientific method, one of the theologians known as William of Ockham implemented observation and experimentation. On the other hand, Roger Bacon developed alchemy and this was the antecedent of what is known today as chemistry. Although education existed for a small group of people, some scholars were able to advance in different aspects.

The universities that arose at this time studied theology, however, it was common for them to study other subjects. Philosophy was also very important, especially that of Aristotleas it accommodated Christian beliefs.

One of the most famous figures of study was Thomas Aquinas thanks to his knowledge that was adapted to the church. Although other philosophers or scholars arose at that time with scientific theories for the advancement of societyThey were censored and persecuted.

What is the function of obscurantism?

The term was used to refer to a time when the function of those who possessed power was to promote the non-disclosure or transmission of knowledge for all those who belonged to the popular classes, preventing them from emerging. On the other hand, they were looking for dogmatic or absurd knowledge that opposed free thought in different fields such as social, technological, religious and others.

How did obscurantism come about?

The origin does not have an exact event, since it is taken as a whole epoch. In general, it originates in the 5th and 6th century, coinciding with the periodization of the Roman empire. Therefore, the beginning of the medieval period approximately in the year 476. After that, in the following centuries Christianity began to spread, consolidating itself as the most important religion in all of Europe.

Obscurantism is always associated with the Middle Ages, where the term has been used to refer to it since the 16th century. In those years some German humanists began to write satirical texts Which sought to exalt in a ridiculous way or belittle those methods used by the Catholic Church as a way of teaching. This is because they were known to limit knowledge, which was only handled by theological teachers.

Therefore, it is humanism and the Enlightenment that created movements to counter the practices of obscurantism. This made them relevant, forming movements to release knowledge to all people.

Why is it called obscurantism?

That era originated the title of the satire Letters from the Dark Men of the 16th century, which was about a conversation between Johannes Reuchlin German humanist and the Dominican religious order. This was represented as some dark men who were in favor of the burning of books not used by Christianity to hinder the knowledge of the population.

Then, in the 18th century, they used the term obscure to refer to those conservative elements of religious thought of the church. In this way, the term is linked to this period of the history of the Middle Ages, which is taken as a very dark period located between the Renaissance and classical antiquity. Therefore it was used by some authors referring to the Middle Ages that were being left behind.

This became so well known that it passed through the years and even today the title of obscurantism is used for all those acts of the church, Christianity and others, linked to this time. It can also be used to refer to a very complicated language Because it is used on purpose when you want to express ideas or knowledge of topics such as religious or philosophical.

What are the characteristics of obscurantism?

This age is known as the opposite of freedom because it is so linked with the belief of dogmas very conservative religious Therefore, she was affected by different elements of daily life.

One of the best known is the limitation of knowledge, since the language used in written works was difficult to understand. It was only studied by a very small group of intellectuals. This means that only the superior people or elite of the time, leaving the uneducated people in total ignorance.

The freedom of expression of people was also limited because it was prohibited any type of thought contrary to dogma. That is why any public or moral issue was not freely discussed or made public.

As for the reading of the time, it was moralizing and with devotee themes. This was used as a guide for the people, where they reflected the positive or negative aspects that they should follow, making them docile and manageable.

As for education, it was only for the upper classes which were allowed to attend universities. In them they learned about theology, medicine, law and others. They were above all for believers because they operated under the assumption that God was the center of the universe.

The way of life was decadent where they appeared various epidemics or pests for which there was no way to prevent them due to little knowledge about them.

This era had as its main axis the dogma of Christianity, where one of the most important texts was the Bible. With this they made a classification that influenced society in a certain way, where God was the center of the universe, then there was the clergy, followed by the feudal lord and lastly the serf.