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893 Western civilization is closely associated with reason and science, and with exceptional accomplishment in art, architecture, music, and literature.

In addition, Western culture has been the setting for repeated acts of barbarism: persecutions of certain groups such as Jews, or accused heretics and witches. This two-part series invites you to consider what might be called the "underbelly" of Western society, a complex mixture of deeply embedded beliefs and unsettling social forces that has given rise to our greatest saints and our most shameful acts.

The "terror of history," according to Professor Teofilo F.

Ruiz, is a deeply held beliefdating from the ancient Greeks to Nietzsche and beyondthat the world is essentially about disorder and emptiness, and that human beings live constantly on the edge of doom.

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 scapegoats such as lepers, nonconformists, and other outsiders whom we choose to blame for "the catastrophe of our existence," as Professor Ruiz puts it.This fascinating discussion of mystics, heretics, and witches sets those individuals and their followers within appropriate historical context.My daughter and I enjoyed this audio, and we look forward to listening to others.These audio lectures are a combination of medieval (1000-1700 AD) history and philosophy that attempts to explain how those living during this time of social uncertainties and violence came to cope with it all.Prof Ruiz weaves together the dichotomy of views of the educated (able to read and write their views) with the largely illiterate 'masses' (those dealing with word-of-mouth half-truths and rumors).The explanation/descriptions of mystics, while a bit dry, laid the groundwork for understan These audio lectures are a combination of medieval (1000-1700 AD) history and philosophy that attempts to explain how those living during this time of social uncertainties and violence came to cope with it all.The explanation/descriptions of mystics, while a bit dry, laid the groundwork for understanding the heretics and finally the witches (and other social scapegoats) are mostly developed by the elite and only vaguely understood by the masses.People like Frances of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, and Bernard of Clairvaux (hardly names that roll easily off the tongue..least my tongue) are shown to have had a very strong influence, not only in their time, but extending far into the 21st century (Dan Brown certainly draws heavily from those types of mystics).But did the masses even come close to understanding their messages, or were those larger-than-life figures just there to somehow bring meaning to their otherwise cruel life (Ruiz's Terror).The real 'meat' of the lectures, however, are the bad guys...heretics and witches, which provide the masses someone/something to blame for their misery.Much like the masses saw the inquisition of heretics in the 15th century as a test of Christian faith, we see heretics today, mostly on the front pages of the newspapers..."Shiite/Sunni Strife Hits Middle East", or "Branch Davidians Die in Conflagration" (I made those headline up, but you get the idea).

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