About Erasmus of Rotterdam


- XVth century: Rotterdam, between 1446 and 1469; and Basel, 1536 –



After reading a precedent note, a notice about Erasmus of Rotterdam: historian, theologian, humanist, clergyman; friend of Thomas More, Chancellor of the United Kingdom executed in the Tower of London … … I allowed me to speak about his work, his trajectory and his great human conscience in a century, the XVth, in which to think, and the worst, to dissent from the established systems and that from the first steps of the Christian Era, was like to pay an early tribute to death menace.


I was always interested and moved by the courage of a man whose Christian way of thinking, must inexorably collide against the system of values inherited from an adulterous hierarchy, with the excuse of a religious faith, in that case the Christian one, or any other with spiritual base.


Erasmus of Rotterdam, known this way, was Gerhardus Gerhardi, which name he changed for Desiderius Erasmus: Latin words meaning “desired and amiable”, respectively. He was disciple of Pope Adrian VI.


In Great Britain and in Thomas Moro’s house, he wrote his famous Work: “The Praise of Folie”.


He  was  not  a  bastard  of  the  faith  he  professed,  the catholic one; instead the study of the Holy Scriptures established him as legitimate son of that religion, in the extent  that  the  intellect  and  good  conscience  assumes the  purity  of  his  teaching,   that was  not only oral,  but written, based on Greek and Latin knowledge.


I have always been interested by his life and his teachings; about all because he loved the free thought and because he advocated a return to the simple pure ethics of a religion,  whose main maxim was to love God and our fellow men.


Times and men’s volubility; including clerical ones, whom he admonished for their corrupted life, earned him big enemies. Spain wanted to have him in her University of Alcalá de Henares. It did not prosper.


The whole Europe was convulsed. It was the Renaissance epoch: an appropriate phrase for a society who parted from the Middle-Ages with a new knowledge and a determined apostasy of the obscure times, where the religious piety alternated with good habits’ depravation..


His diatribes and his intent to return to the purity of the gospel, was greatly promoted through the world of that time; a sad paradox of faith, confronted with the ostentatious lifestyle of the clerical hierarchy, which did not suit at all with the divine simplicity of the Gospel.


Erasmus was, in some manner, the precursor of the Reformation, but he was not bearing Martin Luther’s preaching.      Nevertheless   he   had   with   him,   some theological affinity about Rome and against Rome. He was a pure honest man.


The  person  that  is  writing this,   thinks as Erasmus of Rotterdam in many aspects of the life of today, which seams more addicted to an exultant materialism than to spiritual cannons.


On Earth, no doubt, men have the use of reason. Sometimes the reason of the insane, sometimes the one of egoism without pity; when many profess the authentic faith, perhaps with proper will, perhaps for conviction, colliding with that maxim of Jesus: “Through their works, you will know them”.


Our world of today has Christianity in the conscience, but also paganism. We have liberty, but it is not clear enough. Into what does not matter, we are free; but, yes, we accuse: liberty is restricted.


Jesus told: “Verity will make you free”. Who is using the truth, not for the liberty, but for the honour and dignity? Free, we are : in the mind. But free to communicate our thoughts to the others, I have my doubts. And the intimate thought is not enough for man. To have a great knowledge without sharing it, is to have a pseudo-null knowledge. Confidence is an unavoidable part of life. To keep just for oneself secrets and ideas, is an anomaly of the soul. A man cannot make his life a sad soliloquy. He needs to throw out the happiness and tortures of his soul, and when not directly from his soul, from its sensitive manifestations. Is like water running out of the recipient capacity.   The intimate part of a man needs a confessor, not necessarily to forgive (which may be right), but to throw out what the soul and the heart are no more able to keep inside. It occurs the same with the ideas.  What can  I and you  do with them  if they remain closed in the mind. They may stay there for moments, for days, for years perhaps; but at the end, they would constitute an essays or work, in which we would confess our own convictions. “¿The evil is what goes out of the mouth, or perhaps what belongs to the heart? I am asking myself, thinking about Jesus. Both things, I guess. Because we are human, not divine. Because we are beasts, not angels. Liberty is a gift. Against this gift they used violence, and the ecclesiastics also made brutal executions. And the worst of all is that they did it in the name of the same God who proclaimed: “I am Love”.


Erasmus of Rotterdam was keen of liberty, and all persons in love with freedom were his disciples. They feared many anonymous, but were not afraid to other visible things. Most of the time, they put their lives in danger. The relative freedom we have today was not a philanthropic gift, neither from the Church nor from the laymen. It is the product of centuries and, unfortunately, with the consent of the God of Love. I remember that … “A tree’s leave shall not move without the agreement of God”. Then, for me, foolish disciple of Erasmus, the Holy Scriptures conduce me to faith, or to the same free selfdetermination that caused disagreements between Luther and Erasmus.


I think and believe that we need a lot of “Erasmus of Rotterdam” in the word we are living in. Because the word is full of trickeries and harangues ornamented with fanaticism and ecclesiastic swindles, against which Erasmus was fighting. And the most perverse of all is the fact that they were cheating innocents. This is the tremendous,   impossible to forgive,   offence of the hypocrisy of the faith. And what is urging now is more modesty and austerity than splendour and wealth.


Erasmus was the child of an ecclesiastic man. Was he the unique priest father? An extra-human imposition, the one of obliging priests to remain celibate! Saint Peter was married and many of his disciples new about that. Wedding is a sacrament and “Grow and multiply” a divine request. If we do not obey, a human desert will grow upon the green garden of the Earth.


We do not love more when we are celibate than when we are together with a woman; and, if we do love more, it would be a gift out of reach for men. Later, in the same Church, the corruption and the outgoing sexual moral limits were a constant. And also was the support to wars, in the name of who commanded: “You shall not kill”.


In the world of religions, in any of them, unmentionable crimes were committed by Catholic, Reformer, Orthodox and pagan priests. The evil dwell into us and from time to time, he finds opposition from the Good. Man is born for liberty and he is responsible of his acts. Nevertheless, man’s acts are an imperious consequence of his instincts; and not always a strong will is able to restrain them, because the instincts are part of the creation. Virtue is a power that comes from the Heights. Great saints before being exemplar were moral transgressors- through sexual desires.


Erasmus was a clergyman’s child; but, from what kind of clergyman he was the child? From one who did not deserve priesthood? Was Peter a transgressor? Who read history, not only part of history, but also what occurs in the world of today, would understand that to obey is convenient for the reproductive organs.


The transcription of the Holy Scriptures was modified in many occasions. Luther and other Reformists fought against barbarian abuses, power and wealth: “Your soul shall perish with you, who believe that the gift of God can be bought with gold or argent”. Neither silver nor gold are able to buy God; because the Creation itself worth more than metals; and the Christian salvation has been given as a present, and its price was not metal, but blood. To make a life of splendour, lawfully or not, when hunger kills so many people, who are thought to have a soul, I do not believe it is a divine will. But religious people kill; and it is also true that they assist wounded and poor people. What I mean is that Erasmus deep interest for the Holy Scriptures was a profitable thing; and more, the interest he had for the prohibited ones; prohibited against Jesus will, who said: “Go meticulously through the Scriptures, because you believe they are the truth and because they give testimony of me”. Then, who chained them, disobeyed.  They sent people to be hang and expropriated their wealth. These historical crimes could only be fought by a free society and by the suppression of the faith temporal power, which used to proclaim : “My kingdom is not from this world”.


Erasmus epoch must have been very complicated and dangerous ;   like  the  one  of   Saint  John  of  The  Cross, Brother Luis of Leon, Saint Teresa of Avila, accused of apostasy in the Christian faith of centuries.


Christ cannot  be against science;   because  he,  himself, told that of: “Do you not know that you are gods?” And what are gods doing, but create and command? Investigate to save lives means, not to kill; and “YOU SHALL NOT KILL”, IS AN ORDER; a commandment for who professes a faith like ours. What would Erasmus say, judging with his kin knowledge, about the outrages of the present times.


In my opinion, men like Erasmus do not proliferate in our days, and just when we need them so much! We can find some, but not so exemplary, in this world of great progress and disorder.


FOR ME, ERASMUS IS ALIVE. I sense it in my soul, even though, I do not know what is the soul and where it is located.

Author: Ricardo Rubio

English version by Mariette Cirerol


Il pensierosoThe thinker

By José de Ribera, el Españolito (the Spagniard)


An illustration of Erasmus is to be seen in the Spanish version.