to be an enthusiast


In German, there are two words—three even. Enthusiasmus, like the English enthusiasm, is rooted in the Greek “en theos,” to have the god within, to be inspired by god or the gods. But Enthusiasmus was inadequate to contain the sixteenth-century German reformer Martin Luther’s rage against those who purported to receive direct divine inspiration. For them, he coined the term Schwärmer, from the verb schwärmen, to swarm, as in the swarming of bees. The Schwärmer were those, like the so-called Zwickau prophets, Nicholas Storch, Thomas Drechsel, and Marcus Thomas Stübner, who claimed to have direct revelations from the Holy Spirit, or Thomas Müntzer, who insisted that direct revelation and prophecy continued to occur in history. For Müntzer religious radicalism and political radicalism went hand in hand; the new prophecies and apocalyptic revelations he proclaimed called for the re-ordering of society, and not just of the church. In denouncing Müntzer, the Zwickau prophets, and others as Schwärmer, Luther rejected not only claims to continuing revelation, but also the forms of religious and political agitation to which he believed such claims gave rise. To be a Schwärmer, most often translated as enthusiast or fanatic, was to be ungovernable by either human or God.

more from Amy Hollywood at Immanent Frame here.