A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Brethren & Sisters Of The Free Spirit
BRETHREN & SISTERS OF THE FREE SPIRIT. They, about the thirteenth century, gained ground imperceptibly in Italy, France, and Germany. They took their denomination from the words of Paul, (Rom. viii. 2—14.) and maintained that the true children of God were invested with the privilege of a full and perfect freedom from the jurisdiction of the law. They were called by the Germans and Flemish, Beghards and Beguttes, names given to those who made an extraordinary profession of piety and devotion.
The sentiments taught by this denomination were as follow :—That all things flowed by emanation from God, and were finally to return to their divine source :—That every man, by the power of contemplation, might be united to the Deity in an ineffable manner; and that they who, by long and assiduous meditation had plunged themselves, as it were, into the abyss of the divinity, acquired thereby a most glorious and sublime liberty; and were not only delivered from the violence of sinful lusts, but even from the common instincts of nature.
They treated with contempt every external act of religious worship; looking upon prayer, and the sacraments as the elements of piety, adapted to the capacity of children, and as unnecessary to the perfect man, whom long meditation had raised into the bosom and essence of the Deity.
- Mosheim, vol. iii. p. 122-124