We explain what obscurantism is, what knowledge was based on during this time and what its main characteristics are.

What is obscurantism?

The obscurantism was defined historically as a dogmatic time (Middle Ages) or a set of strategies to keep the popular classes without instruction. This intentional obscurity occurred in the explicit form of the restriction of diffusion and indirectly by obscuring, hindering the language in written works, thus endowing it with a certain “vagueness” and “exclusivity”.

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The term obscurantism or obscurantism acquired its importance during the Middle Ages . The concept is linked to ecclesiastical guardianship , but it is widely used over time. To understand it, we must bear in mind the power that the Church had over different knowledge and, immediately, over morality and life in general in the villages.

It is opposed to what in the 18th century became known as Enlightenment . This, on the contrary, would call to get rid of religious tutelage.

Characteristics of obscurantism :

  1. Uses of the term

Uses of the term

The term is used for the first time in the satire " Letters of the dark men " , in century XVI. The satire deals with the dispute between Joahnn Ruechlin, a humanist, and the Dominican monks, parodied as obscure since they supported the burning of non-Christian books.

In the eighteenth century " dark " came to mean " conservative " for the Illuminists, and among these "dark" were particularly religious groups.

In the nineteenth century a distinction is made between various types of obscurantism , those belonging to theology and metaphysics ( philosophy ), it is a deliberately abstruse language.

  1. Knowledge restriction

In this sense, it is a matter of leaving knowledge in the hands of an elite and the people in the simplest of ignorance.

  1. Knowledge difficulty

"Darkness" also takes on the meaning of making language more intricate, in this case of written works. On the other hand, in the 19th and 20th centuries , what was intellectually uninteresting , which was pure "disguise" , was considered obscure .

  1. Prohibition of free expression

Prohibition of free expression

Obscurantism, in its restrictive sense, includes the explicit prohibition of "divergent thinking . Public questions - and even the morals of private life - were not open to debate . An exemplary case of prohibition is the political use of the inquisition .

  1. Religious-moral literature

Much of medieval literature is representative of a dark age, due to its moralizing tendency and approach to religious issues . This was a means of leading the populations from the exemplification of Good and Evil. A submissive character was fostered.

  1. Dogma or the irrational

The main source of knowledge was the Bible . Dogma is the axis of the concept of obscurantism . For the Illuminists, for example, religious dogma would have its share of irrationality. It is interesting to think of obscurantism, then, as that which does not obey the "rational", when we embrace it in its primary sense (restrictive politics).

  1. Theocentrism


The dogmas established a hierarchy of "divine" origin that had repercussions on social scales.

God as the center generated the following organization: the clergy, of course, in a privileged situation , then the feudal lords and finally the servants and farmers: these were "instructed" by the former.

  1. Unproductive

The lack of intellectual production , or thematic repetition, due to the dogmatic nature of obscurantism is widely recognized .

  1. Poor living conditions for the population

Poor living conditions for the population

The gleba suffered the worst part of the plagues that, in the absence of prevention strategies , tended to spread easily. An exemplary case was the Black Death. The dark ages created the foundations for a devastating work that weakened, whose conditions were not discussed.

  1. Emergence of universities

The faculties of Medicine, Law and Theology arise . It seems "contradictory" at first glance, but the religious zeal found asylum in these centers because they abided by the theocentric model. The education belonged to the most privileged sectors.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


She has pursued her studies in The United States, where she has graduated in Business and Economics and is currently finishing her Master studies in International Economics and Finance. Miss. Amputee is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish and Russian and has elementary knowledge of French and Italian. She love exploring how Collaborative Research Group can become the best tool to achieve the (necessary) educational change. .

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