Article by: Julian Ochoa
The Cathars emerged obscurely in Europe in the Middle Ages, exactly in Southern France in the 11th century; they nearly exist for four centuries, but were persecuted and exterminated by the Catholic Church. The persecution against the Cathars was called the Albigensian crusade, it was the first crusade against other Christians and the Cathars were the first people to suffer from the inquisition. The Catholic Church launched this crusade against the Cathars, for various reasons. The most famous one being that they had a different view of the world and were critical of the Catholic Church, its beliefs, its hierarchy, the corruption and politicking. The Vatican also saw the Cathars as a threat to their rule in Western Europe and to their control of assets and wealth in the south of France. At this time the Merovingian Dynasty had already broken down and the Carolingian Dynasty was left as a remnant of it in northern France. In 1209 With help of the Vatican and knights from different parts of Europe the French king sent 30,000 men to execute the cathars This crusade lasted 40 years and at the end more than 500,000 people were killed for following Catharism or for supporting them.
It is said that before the Cathars lived in southern France, the Druids lived in Southern France, there after the Romans and after the fall of the Roman Empire the Goths lived in Toulouse. All these groups left their legacy of spiritual beliefs in the region, this amounted to the arrival of Islam to the south of France in Spain and Christianity and Gnosticism from Italy and Byzantium, Egypt and the Middle east.
Land, wealth and power were very important to the Roman church, but most importantly what threatened the foundations of the church were the Cathars beliefs, these beliefs were so radical that it made the people that lived in southern France at the time renounce Catholicism and embrace Catharism. The people that opted to continue following Christianity in Cathar areas, loved living under them because of their tolerance and open mindedness to all other religions.
The name Cathar comes from the Greek word Katharos, signifying “unpolluted”. The Cathars, had a hierarchy, but not as centralised like that of the Vatican. At the top of the Cathar hierarchy there was a Bishop, followed by two other persons called, filius major and filius minor. To join the Cathars the candidate had to go through several requirements, if the candidate fulfilled them he or she would become a Perfecti, a perfect person or a good person a priest of the Cathars. The other members of the Cathar Church were the credentes and auditores, the believers and listeners. The credentes were people whom believed in the Cathar teachings but were not ready to take the life of an ascetic like the perfecti did. They did however help and contribute to the church in as many ways as they could. The Auditores were people that were open to listening to the Cathar teachings, but were still practicing Catholics, or were just mere beginners.
The word perfect has been used by other spiritual groups throughout history; in Greece the Eleusinian and the Pythagoreans used a similar term to describe their hierophants. In the Middle East the Essenes used a similar word for their priests. In the Theosophical writings it is highlighted that in Pauls Epistle the word perfect is used in two different ways. In one way it signifies a person irradiated by the inner God, in the other way a person who has conquered his lower self as a means to enter into the higher mysteries. The term perfect has been used by many mysteries schools to identify its hierophants. (Vol. VII, 1894-5.)
The perfecti then can be considered Hierophants or initiates like those of the Ancient Mysteries. Madam Blavatsky considers the perfecti successors in the west to the Gnostics, their rituals and their way of life show why they would be considered carriers of the ancient wisdom. The Cathars were ascetics, vegetarians and did not drink any form of alcohol. For the credentes to become Perfecti, they had to go through trials and spiritual development to apply to be a perfecti. If the credentes passed their examination and finished their training, they would receive the only cathar sacrament, called the Consolamentum. Taking the consolamentum meant that the person had to lead a strict life abstaining from any form of toxic substance or sexual act. To receive the consolamentum was a serious step and it was seldom performed on people as it meant that the candidate was initiated into the higher mysteries, if any of the vows were broken the consolamentum was cancelled and all efforts would be futile and could set back the candidate in his spiritual progression.
The consolamentum was pivotal at the time of the inquisition as it was given to most credentes before their death to prevent them from fearing the fatality of their end at the hands of the inquisitors.
The Cathars View of the world is that there are two opposing forces, the God that created the spiritual world, that is in everything, and a lesser God that created the material world. The cathars believed that the Spiritual God had nothing to do with the creation of the material world, the Material world as we know it was created by the Devil, or a demiurge and his main purpose was to create order out of chaos by giving shape to the material world. This concept was attributed to the Cathars, however as Blavatsky explains, this concept of dualism is simply an exoteric concept, for the esoteric concepts about the creation of the world teach that the universe, spiritual and material reside at the hands of one universal GOD.
The Cathars believed that in the beginning there was a struggle between God and the Devil, leading to a rebellion from some of Gods angelic forces, which led to their own fall into the material world and their everlasting imprisonment in the world of desires and suffering. To the Cathars the material world was an illusion, where all the fallen angels or Human egos were punished trapped in the cycle of death and rebirth according to the laws of karma until the soul was made perfect once again.
According to the Cathars the mission of man’s life is to enter into harmony with one self and with the universe. This was done by living a life of good morals and manners, a peaceful life, and service to others. By leading a good life man could once again become one with God. To the Cathars the earth was where we came to fix our past deeds either in our present incarnation or in the next one. The idea of hell for them did not exist for they believed the earth; the material world was hell itself therefore the mission was to live a pure life as possible in order to break from the chains of the material world.
The Cathar view of Jesus Christ, was that he had descended into the earth to teach humanity how to lead a better life so to break away from the chains of the material world. The Cathars believed that jesus existed but not totally in a physical body, especially not at the time of his crucifixion where they believe that what was hanged at the cross was just the flesh, but not the Christos.
The Cathars refused to worship any idols, saints or even the Christian Cross for they believed that the cross was a negative symbol for the process of initiation, as it represents the suffering world. The Cathars disbelieved in the Catholic Sacraments, they did not believe that the Body and blood of Christ could be manifested through bread and wine. They also disbelieved that the Priest and bishops were any higher than the common folk, any man could enter in touch with God and Christ if they lived a worthy life. The Cathars themselves did not impose their believes or way of life on the profane, the rules were imposed only on those that were perfecti or that had taken the consolamentum.
The Cathars like all mystery schools had exoteric and esoteric teachings. There were monasteries and convents where the neophytes would be trained to become parfaits. They were very good preachers and proselytes, hence why Catharism spread so fast throughout Europe. The parfaits used to travel from town to town, and were known to be dressed in black or dark blue robes and carried the gospel of john, the most spiritual of the four Christian gospels. They used to preach in the local language rather than in Latin like the Catholic Church did. Some have likened the Cathar teachings to those of the Buddhist, there is speculation that they received the Buddhist teaching by means of the story of Barlaam and Josafat, they are both Christian saints canonized after The Buddha. Other similarities to Buddhism was in the belief in Non-violence, Reincarnation and vegetarianism they also practiced meditation to have inner peace in order to have a more receptive mind to divine powers that will give the person a higher spiritual perception of the world. The Cathars were also known to be Psychics, clairvoyants and herbal medicine doctors, their most common prayer was our father.
The main influences of Catharism are Gnosticism and Manichaeism. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word Gnosis meaning wisdom or knowledge. The Gnostics were groups of Christians that claimed to know the real teachings of Christianity. The Gnostics had similar tenets to those of the Cathars, but some were influenced by paganism or had very different views of Jesus and his teachings. There were other gnostic groups with other belief systems other than Christianity.
Manichaeism is a Gnostic religion that existed at the beginning of the third century of our era. It was a religion founded by the prophet Mani from Persia. Manichaeism was a religion inspired by many traditions from the east and Christianity. It remained a dualist religion as Zoroastrianism, but did not last long as it did not manage to infiltrate deeply into the bureaucracy of the Persians of the time. Manichaeism grew and expanded fast but it also fell quickly by the fall and execution of its prophet by the Persian kings.
In most recent times the Myth of the Cathars has been linked to the knight’s templar, an order of knights who fought in the crusades at the beginning of the 11thcentury. The Cathars and the Templar’s had temples and monasteries located in southern France. When the Vatican asked the knights templar’s to participate in the crusade against the Cathars they refused, a few decades after the Cathars were exterminated the Vatican moved to hunt the knight’s templar for sharing some of the Cathars views. To this day there are speculations that state that the knight’s templar were the warrior faction of the Cathars and that at the time when the Catholics and their dark knights descended on the Cathars the knight’s templar’s fought on behalf the Cathars. There are also speculations that both groups were protectors of the Holy Grail and that that they both worshiped the Black Madonna, which was a symbol of Mary Magdalene. According to the recently found Gnostic gospels it states that Mary Magdalene was a close disciple and lover of Jesus. According to recent speculations the Cathars and the knight’s templar had this information and had the real teachings of Jesus in their power. In movies like Indiana Jones the last crusade, the myth of the Holy Grail is revived, Indiana and Nazi`s agents are chasing the grail. It is also speculated that the Nazis were hunting the Holy Grail and hence why the last crusade of Indiana Jones had a faceoff with the Nazis. In other words, the battle of good and evil continues in our TV screens, more recently the Da Vinci code brought the holy grail and knights templars to our attention, although it does not mention the cathars, the lore of the Da Vinci code touches on the same period when the whole myth of Mary Magdalene sparked the horrible inquisition.
The Cathars were the beginning of the inquisition and were the main reason the church moved quickly to oppose any person or group that had a free spirit. Whether they were of druid origin, Gnostics, or Manicheans did not matter, what mattered was that they lived for a short time, good lives of service, study and meditation. The Cathars proved that their belief was greater than life and therefore worth dying for. Today a lot of spiritual groups are going through a crisis. This time it is not the inquisition chasing them. Our whole world is now globalised and there is greater access to information, even to esoteric information, but even then the world has descended deeper into the material world. What threatens spiritual groups and religions in general is entertainment such as the virtual world, drugs, television, night clubs and the societal expectation put on youth to work to keep the system going, this and other ills is what keep humans distracted from finding that truth that will liberate the world from this material enclave. What the spiritual groups and people of today have to do is not be ready to die like the Cathars, but to live and give a perfect example of how a spiritual life should be, as an example for the conduct of others.