ABSTRACT

The phrase ‘spiritual crisis’ has frequently been applied to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and not least by Jonathan Israel. Many of the recurring manifestations of dissidence consisted, inevitably, of opposition to the institutional, social and political power of the Catholic Church. The ‘universalist’ strand, which gave Jews and Muslims an equal chance of salvation with Christians, also seems to have existed throughout the later Middle Ages in various countries. There were also, increasingly in the sixteenth century, learned men who shared Menocchio and Sebastian Franck’s views on religious ‘universalism’. One of them was the French humanist, Guillaume Postel. Henry Kamen points out that Sebastian Castellio had little direct influence on his contemporaries, although the later anti-Trinitarians, for example in Poland, did develop further his doctrine of toleration as a reaction to their own sufferings.