Brethren of the Free Spirit

Brethren Of The Free Spirit, a fraternity which sprung up in the thirteenth century, and which gained many adherents in Italy, France, and Germany. They took their designation from the words of St. Paul, Ro 8:2,14, and maintained that the true children of God were invested with perfect freedom from the jurisdiction of the law. In their principles they were Pantheists, and in practice they were enthusiasts. In their aspect, dress, and mode of life they resembled the Beghards, and were sometimes called after them. In their extreme pantheistical creed they held that every thing (even formalities) is God; that rational souls are a portion of God; that sin has separated man from God, but by the power of contemplation man is reunited to the Deity, and acquires thereby a glorious and sublime liberty, both from sinful lusts, and from the common instincts of nature. Hence that a person thus absorbed in the abyss of Deity is the son of God in the same sense and manner that Christ was, and freed from the obligation of all laws, human and divine. They treated with contempt Christian ordinances, and all external acts of religion, as unsuitable to the state of perfection to which they had arrived. From 1300 to 1350 they were found largely on the Rhine from Cologne to Strasburg. In Brussels they appeared as homines intelligentia. Many edicts were published against them; but, notwithstanding the severities which they suffered, they continued till about the middle of the fifteenth century. They were called by several names, such as Schwestriones, Picards, Adamites, and Turlupins. Gieseler traces the sect to Amalric of Bena (q.v.); Mosheim (De Beghardis) assigns their origin to Italy.-Mosheim, Ch. Hist. ii, 351, 354; Gieseler, Ch. Hist. per. 3:div. 3:§ 87.

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