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Catholic Dictionary




A loosely organized group of spiritual persons in sixteenth-century Spain, condemned many times by the Inquisition, who taught that once a person attains the vision of God's essence in this life he can dispense with all external means of sanctification. Vocal prayer, the use of the sacraments, the practice of justice and charity, penance and bodily mortification become unnecessary. Perfect souls need give themselves only to mental prayer and ecstatic contemplation, which unite them so intimately with God that they lose personal liberty and individuality. In the state of perfection a man becomes incapable of sin, and what might be grave crimes in others are not even venial faults in the iluminados.

Consistent with these principles, the Alumbrados often gave themselves over to unrestrained indulgence of the passions. In less extreme forms, Spanish illuminism for a while affected not only the simple people but also members of the clergy and nobility. Repressive measures by the Inquisition finally crushed the movement, which persisted in the Diocese of Cádiz and Seville into the late seventeenth century. Later on the same ideas were revived in Italy under Miguel de Molinos (1640-97) as quietism.