In the sixteenth century the Inquisition inquired into the faith and correctness of view of many people who considered themselves to be Christians. In 1583 Domenico Scandella, called Menocchio (1532-1599), was denounced for heresy. Menocchio had been asked about the relationship of God to chaos, and he had answered “that they were never separated, that is, neither chaos without God, nor God without chaos.” This led to further efforts to clarify Menocchio’s views. This selection ends with the exact moment when Menocchio commits heresy.
Inquisitor: It appears that you contradicted yourself in the previous examinations speaking about God, because in one instance you said God was eternal with the chaos, and in another you said that he was made from the
chaos: therefore clarify this circumstance and your belief.
Menocchio: My opinion is that God was eternal with chaos, but he did not know himself nor was he alive, but later he became aware of himself, and this is what I mean that he was made from chaos.
Inquisitor: You said previously that God had intelligence; how can it be then that originally he did not know himself, and what was the cause that afterwards he knew himself? Relate also what occurred in God that made it possible for God who was not alive to become alive.
Menocchio: I believe that it was with God as with the things of this world that proceed from imperfect to perfect, as an infant who while he is in his mother’s womb neither understands nor lives, but outside the womb begins to live, and in growing begins to understand. Thus, God was imperfect while he was with the chaos, he neither comprehended nor lived, but later expanding in this chaos he began to live and understand.
Inquisitor: Did this divine intellect know everything distinctly and in particular in the beginning?
Menocchio: He knew all the things that there were to be made, he knew about men, and also that from them others were to be born; but he did not know all those who were to be born, for example, those who attend herds, who know that from these, others will be born, but they do not know specifically all those that will be born. Thus, God saw everything, but he did not see all the particular things that were to come.
Inquisitor: This divine intellect in the beginning had knowledge of all things: where did he acquire this information, was it from his own essence or by another way?
Menocchio: The intellect received knowledge from the chaos, in which all things were confused together: and then it [chaos] gave order and comprehension to the intellect, just as we know earth, water, air, and fire and then distinguish among them…. I believe that it is impossible to make anything without matter, and even God could not have made anything without matter…. The Holy Spirit is not as powerful as God, and Christ is not as powerful as God and the Holy Spirit.
Inquisitor: Is what you call God made and produced by someone else?
Menocchio: He is not produced by others but receives his movement within the shifting of the chaos, and proceeds from imperfect to perfect.
Inquisitor: Who moves the chaos?
Menocchio: It moves by itself.