What destroys courage?
The nature and meaning of spiritual abuse.
The Fulcrum of Courage, Part 6
The Notre-Dame de Reims was built where the first Christian king of France was baptized in 469. The alter is directly over the crypt of the bishop who converted him.
It is home to a cathedral school. In Gerbert of Aurillac’s time, young men from noble families went there to train for powerful positions.
In Reims, Gerbert was both a student and a teacher of logic.
Clergy were not allowed to marry, but many clerics lived with women anyway.
There was no shame in it for most of the 10th century. Many voluntary concubines raised children, often with the help of monks.
Even so, it was not discussed in polite company.
Their children were regarded as less susceptible to the Devil than cambions but could not receive any inheritance because they were born out of wedlock.
One day, on the steps of the cathedral, the provost of Reims introduced Gerbert to his daughter. She wore the latest fashion, her voice was angelic, and she stood very close.
The next day, he bumped into her again.
Then again. And again…
They had fun conversations. Her causes sounded like his causes. Her every movement, her smile, was like a dream. She started to spend the occasional night in his quarters.
Things went very smoothly between them.
One evening, they had a conversation about clerics, concubines, and children.
Then she started spending every night.
Somehow, she was always beyond reproach.
She made all kinds of rules, but none of them applied to her. All his friends needed her approval, but she could associate with anyone she wanted.
Whenever he tried to address a double standard, she subtly attacked his character by taking things out of context and twisting them into suggestive accusations.
After a while, Gerbert doubted his own experiences.
She maintained an air of superior intellect but forbade any discussion of logic in their home.
If they had an argument, words meant what she wanted. It was impossible to resolve disagreements unless she was the final judge of truth.
If Gerbert had a decision to make, she expected him to ask her for guidance or permission. If he made decisions on his own – especially about work – she would insult or humiliate him.
He restricted what he spoke about to avoid feeling ashamed. In public, she would embarrass him if he forgot to follow her rules.
Yet whenever she failed to perform a duty or live up to a commitment of her own, she expected Gerbert to absolve her of it.
If he didn’t, he would somehow end up looking like a sinner or a heretic.
As provost, her father could have ruined Gerbert. He saw no way out. The situation destroyed his confidence completely. He studied logic in the library, concentrated on teaching, and had no social life whatsoever.
In the fall of 971, Gerbert started feeling tired all the time. His back and head ached. His stomach was frequently upset. His vision got blurry.
He stopped spending time in the library, and stopped accepting new students.
Then, in the spring of 972, the provost’s daughter had a rendezvous with the new master of a cathedral school from Saxony.
That night she didn’t come home.
The next, Gerbert dreamed of her. She wasn’t there when he woke up.
The following afternoon, she dumped him. Cruelly. Sadistically.
His senses went numb. Waves of distressing memories tormented him. He should have felt relieved. Instead, he felt like part of his soul was missing.
Demoralized and alone, he plunged into despair.
That spring, Gerbert accomplished nothing.
Next: What is love without courage? The emotional meaning of truth.