The God Above God, Oct 4, 2020
Dualistic religions did not occur in the steady, stable, and trouble-free states. They acquired strength only in places with an inordinate accumulation of suffering and where the darkness was so deeply condensed that the very earthly existence and all benevolent intentions became pointless. Where God and Satan swapped places, it was impossible to understand where the power of one came to an end and where the kingdom of the other began.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries, Bulgaria was exactly such a state. A thriving kingdom, which had been strong and full of ambitions a short while earlier, had fallen into the abyss of unrest and ruin, turned into a gigantic battlefield for predatory and aggressive neighbours: Byzantium, the Magyars, the Kievan Rus’, and the Pechenegs. Many peasants sought salvation in the bordering states; those who remained lived with an exorbitant burden of taxes. Clergy easily made deals with everybody who promised them to preserve their privileges, turning into the antipodes of their own sermons; the richest Bulgarian culture was trampled by the primitive, barbarian peoples. It’s no wonder that the Paulicians’ ideas fell onto very fertile ground. In a short while in Thrace, there formed a religious culture of the underground. It permeated practically all layers of society, all classes, and was openly hostile to the Church formalism. The movement of Bogomils (after the name of its founder, Bogomil), marginal at first, acquired followers among the nobility and at the royal house in a matter of a few decades.
It was a challenge to the Church’s canons, but it also challenged the Heavenly Father himself—merciful, all-forgiving, and protecting—because, in actual fact, it did not protect, forgive, or save. Quite the contrary, He seemed to mock his children with a barefaced pleasure… [+]