Early Christian Nudists
There are a number of ministers and priests in the contemporary nudist movement. In fact, the modem nudist movement was largely organized by ordained religious leaders, as discussed more fully in Chapter 8. These religious leaders used as their justification the many parts of the Judaic-Christian Bible which speak of accepting the human body without shame (such as references to those apostles who were fishermen, naked at their work). Religious nudists use these quotations as an answer to the fundamentalist preachers who sermonize about God’s demand for clothing.
For example, the Rev. Martin Wadestone, author of “Nudism and Christianity,” writes: “Actually, in the light of the Bible, there is no sin in nudity itself; but if a person uses the nudity for lustful or immoral purposes he has misused it, and this constitutes a sin. The Bible does not speak against nudity nor does it teach that the body is shameful. There is reference to shame in nudity, but this shame was produced in the mind of man, not by divine ordination.”28
This was also the belief of at least five groups in the history of Christianity: the Carpocrations, Adamites, Adamianis, Encratites, and Marcosians. Most of the historical information we have concerning the beliefs and practices of these early Christians comes to us, in fact, through the recorded criticisms and diatribes of Roman Catholic Church authorities, since these authorities have largely destroyed the writings of those they considered heretical.
Platonic philosopher Carpocrates, born in Alexandria, Egypt in the second century A.D., believed in one God as creator of the world and all things in it. He combined the Christian ideal of the brotherhood of man with portions of Plato’s Republic, advocating that the glories of God should not be hidden. He urged Christians, both male and female, to look upon the natural body with gratitude for the creative force of God-love. His disciples suffered ridicule and sometimes severe persecution but continued their practices into the fourth century A.D. Records indicate that nude statues and a museum were created to honor this sect. It was the Carpocrations who first portrayed Christ’s body in the exposed form commonly seen to this day.
The Adamianis existed in the second and third centuries A.D. They were a group that hoped to regain the innocence mankind lost in the Garden of Eden and, consequently, worshiped in a state of nakedness and lived as a nudist community. It’s believed that groups of Adamianis used deserted pagan temples for their own rituals.
Some generations later, Encratites and Marcosians, who developed out of the Adamiani tradition, appeared on the scene. The Encratites were vegetarians and many, if not all, practiced nudism. In ancient Gaul (France), a Gnostic teacher named Marcus and his followers became known as Marcosians and were well established in the Rhone Valley by the third century. Irenaeus, a conservative Christian writer of the day, criticized their nudity and religious beliefs, remarking: “Marcus is regarded by these senseless and brain cracked as working miracles.”29
The Adamites (no connection with the Adamianis) were an active sect in Bohemia during the fifteenth century A.D. They were part of the Hussite Reformation. This group set up numerous religious nude communities.
Natural-living Christians were referred to by traditionalists as “Gnostic heretics,” because their Christian doctrines were influenced by esoteric teachings and Eastern mystical thought. Henry de Horatev has written that, while in one sense they could be considered Gnostics, “they were not Gnostics but just plain radical Christians.”30
These “in-the-buff” religious groups were not exhibitionists, preferring to live in isolated and inaccessible seclusion, protected by the forests in Gaul, the deserts in Egypt, and the islands of Greece.
They built sturdy stone walls for privacy and protection from the hostile communities surrounding them. DeHoratev reflects, “How much it is to be regretted that the only records we have of the early Christian nudists come to us from hostile censorious quarters! Let us hope that someday, in some European or African monastery or tomb, there will be discovered a cache of lost Gnostic books which will shed new light on the persecuted groups of the nudists of antiquity, just as the Dead Sea Scrolls have brought new understanding to the old Hebrew literature.”3
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