chapter  5
Destructive narcissism in history
Norman Cohn’s study of millennialism
ByIan Thurston
Pages 8

Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages has long been regarded as the starting point for the study of millenarian sects and movements in medieval Europe. Cohn begins with the militant eschatological traditions that had roots in the oppression and/or perceived oppression of early Jewish and Christian religious groups. Cohn's account of the rise of millennialism is an important starting point for the understanding of malignant narcissism in social groups; millennial fantasies start off in conditions of real injustice, insecurity, and oppression; they are fuel to which further suffering and martyrdom can be added. Cohn gives a number of detailed accounts of the historical trajectories of these groups and the success they did have in winning support and threatening the established power of the church and established vested interests.