Astaroth and Belcimon
Beleth and Radamant
And others I could name—
This bright heavenly company
Took on a hellish hue as a result of their malice and envy
WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH¹
JESUS OF NAZARETH NEVER INTENDED to found a new religion; he only wished to satisfy the messianic aspirations of the people of Israel. What Jesus himself hoped for, and what he expected would happen in a short time, was the intervention of God in the history of the world and the establishment of a “New Israel” on the ruins of the old.
These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them saying: Go not into the way of the Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans, enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel … I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
MATTHEW 5:5, 6; 15:24
Jesus was not the founder of the Christian religion, which hardly has anything in common with the hopes for which he was martyred. The Church was born only after his death and burial. Until the crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples coincided with the Jews’ messianic aspirations, and the condemnation and execution of the Messiah by them were nothing other than errors.² The Christian religion came into being only after Christ’s passage, and based its existence as a universal religion on the conceptualization of him as the Savior of mankind—an idea that he never espoused while he was traveling back and forth across Palestine, preaching. The Christian religion created within itself a means that permitted its believers to participate in salvation. As the gospel was originally conceived, it should have collapsed by itself, and the ignominious end of the man on the cross should have marked the end of his doctrine. But because Jesus announced that a brief lapse would occur between his death and his return, his disciples, enthralled by the idea that the Kingdom of God was coming to Earth, preached his resurrection. To win over more converts, they quickly announced that he was already seated at the right hand of God. As always, intense faith finds attentive ears in a suggestible people. Moreover, Jesus’ doctrine was a Jewish heresy whose converts went to the Temple every day and broke bread in the seclusion of their own homes.
Paul, the apostle of the prophet who had claimed to be the rightful King of Israel and was already sovereign of the Kingdom of Heaven, announced the coming of the Kingdom of God. He was the first to speak of Jesus as an impartial judge of Gentiles and Jews, who would be rewarded or punished according to their deeds:
“You are all the children of God through your faith in the Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:26] … There is no longer Jew or Greek… . [Galatians 3:28] Is he God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles?” [Romans 3:29]
This concept implies the negation of Judaism, and is in clear disagreement with the Gospel. Jewish hopes for an Earthly Messiah were deferred. The Jewish Christ had died. Those who believed in the real Christ—the Christ of the spirit, whose kingdom is not of this world—belonged to another world. Paul makes a clear distinction between this world and the other, between the body and the spirit, between the first man, Adam, and the other man, the Lord of Heaven. Both men have coexisted since the beginning of time. Sin came to this world through the first Adam, and with this sin, death. Jewish law could never change this situation. Only the death of another man, the Savior, could bring salvation and freedom to mankind.
When Luke writes in The Acts and Deeds of the Apostles, “On the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread,” the day of the week that is dedicated to God is no longer Saturday but the following day, the first day of the week.³Following the example of the solar religions of the Orient, the “day of the sun” was transformed into the “day of the Lord,” and a solar divinity emerged from the Jewish Messiah. On the pagan “day of the sun” they found the tomb empty. After the sun had risen, Jesus Christ returned from the dead as a solar divinity: “And very early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.” (Mark 16:2)
In the Apocalypse of Saint John, what does the white horse ridden by one called “faithful and true” resemble? “He had eyes like flame, many crowns and a name none but he himself knows and is called the ‘Word of God.’ Out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which he rules nations.” This vision described by John on Patmos corresponds in great detail to a representation of Mithra [the ancient Persian God of Light]. On his vesture is even written, “King of Kings and the Lord of the Lords.”
Christ, the solar God who descended to this world to be crucified for and by humanity, came—according to Paul—for both the Jews and the Gentiles, for both Indo-Europeans and Semites.
The first religious institutions of the Indo-Europeans were based in the adoration of nature. But it was a deep and moral naturalism, a loving embrace with nature, delicious poetry filled with the sentiment of the infinite, of the beginning. In sum, it was everything that Celtic and Germanic genius, that a Shakespeare, or a Goethe, would express much later. It wasn’t religion nor meditated morality, rather melancholy, tenderness, imagination; it was above all else, something serious, like the essential condition of morality and religion. Humanity’s faith however could not come from there, because its ancient cults had great difficulties abandoning polytheism and they did not have a clear symbol… .The glory of creating the religion of Humanity corresponded to the Semitic race.⁴
Is not the honor “to suffer persecution to further justice” also incumbent on this religion of humanity, created by the Semitic race and expounded as dogma?
We should hang a thick veil on the first four centuries of our era, when the Christians sent more of their coreligionists to martyrdom than did the pagans. Although the first Christian persecutions of heretics could not keep up with the cruelty of pagan oppression of Christians, there was an aggravating circumstance: These cruelties were committed in the name of the man who had said that the House of the Father has many abodes, that you shall not kill and that you should love your neighbor as yourself.
By A.D. 400, the plains of Provence were already Christianized. Convents and basilicas had been built over the ruins of pagan temples, making good use of their stones and columns. Relics of the martyrs of the new doctrine were deposited in these churches. By becoming saints, the martyrs became more acceptable to the pagans, who were accustomed to numerous gods and semi-gods. Only the Druids in the Pyrenees continued their sacrifices to Abellio, their “God of Light,” which had nothing to do with others’ persecutions or cruelties. This divinity had created neither the world nor the humans who inhabited it. Christianity, as the Judeo-Roman Christologists preached it, could not make any inroads with these spiritualists. Because the Church couldn’t convert these ascetic pagans, it repudiated them by becoming progressively more materialistic and opulent before exterminating them.
For the Druids, a Christ emerging from the house of the adulterous and murderous king David appeared as a contradiction. The Christ who died on the cross could never be the divinity of light. A god cannot die, they said, nor would he allow others to kill those who think differently in his name. Persecuted and cursed, the Druids spent their nights on the most inaccessible mountaintops and in the deepest darkness of their caves, “praising the Universal Father, according to their holy and ancient custom.”
A man of the people:
Would ye instant death attract?
Know ye not the cruel threats
Of the victors we obey?
Round about are placed their nets
In the sinful heathen’s way
Ah! upon the lofty wall
Wife and children slaughter they;
And we all
Hasten to a certain fall.
Thus far ‘tis right
That we by night
Our Father’s praises sing;
Yet when ‘tis day,
To Thee we may
A heart unsullied bring
‘Tis true that now,
And often, Thou
Fav’rest the foe in fight
As from the smoke is freed the blaze,
So let our faith burn bright!
And if they crush our golden ways,
Who e’er can crush Thy light?
GOETHE, THE FIRST WALPURGIS NIGHT
And the Christians came to the Pyrenees. They were persecuted by their brothers, who declared them heretics in the councils of Saragossa (A.D. 380) and Bordeaux (A.D. 384). Together with six of his most famous converts, their teacher Priscillian was tortured and executed in Trevesin in 385 by the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus, himself a convert to Christianity, and Bishop Itacius.⁵ The Priscillianists—as the members of this Gnostic-Manichaeist sect were called—were welcomed by the Druids, who assigned to them a new homeland in the Sarralunga forest between Sabarthès and Olmès, in the mountain range of Saint Bartholomew’s Peak. The Priscillianists were the ones who finally managed to convert the Druids to Christianity.
From the Druids and vates [soothsayers] emerged the Cathars. Out of the bards, the troubadours.
To understand the philosophical and religious doctrine of the Occitan Cathars with any sort of clarity, we should consult their literature, which was once very rich; it was destroyed in its entirety by the Inquisition as a “source of contamination of a horrible heresy.” Not a single Cathar book has survived for us. Only the Inquisitors’ notes are left: notes that we can complete by examining similar doctrines such as the Gnosis, Manichaeism, and Priscillianism.⁶, ⁷
The Occitan Cathars taught that God is spirit. For all eternity, love [Amor] is absolute, perfect in itself, immutable, eternal, and just. Nothing evil or transitory can exist in it or come from it. Consequently, its works can only be perfect, immutable, eternal, just, and good, as pure in the end as the fountain from which they flow.
If we contemplate this world, its imperfection, impermanence, and changeability are self-evident. The matter from which it is made is perishable and is the cause of innumerable evils and sufferings. This matter of life contains within it the principle of death, a death from which no one can escape.
Out of this opposition between imperfect matter and God’s perfection, between a world full of misery and a God who is love itself, between creatures who are born only to die and a God who is eternal life, the Cathars came to the conclusion that an incompatibility exists between what is perfect and what isn’t. Don’t the foundations of modern philosophy establish the principle of cause and effect? If the cause is immutable, so are its effects. Consequently, a being with a contradictory nature could not have created the terrestrial world and its creatures.
If the creation is the work of a good God, why did he not make it perfect like himself? And if he wanted to make it perfect and couldn’t, it is obvious that he is neither all-powerful nor perfect. If he could have made it perfect and didn’t want to, he would be in conflict with the perfection of love. Consequently, for the Cathars, God did not create the terrestrial world.⁸
If a God can be called an invalid
Who constructed a world in feverish ardor
Only soon to destroy it, with feverish shudders
Is the World’s destiny none other than freezing or burning?
Wasn’t it only a son of the Gods
To whom this world fell,
As a plaything of colors,
That as fast as it entertains, it behaves badly
Without any other power than the stuttering of its desires?
LENAU, THE ALBIGENSES
If so many things that happen in this world have nothing to do with divine providence and the desire of God, then how can we believe that God is happy with so much disorder and confusion? And how to explain that all the creatures whose only purpose is to disturb and torture mankind come from a creator who is pure kindness for man? How can the fires and floods that destroy crops and cause the death of so many people or destroy the shacks of the poor be ascribed to this God? A God who is used by our enemies to justify our destruction, we who only wish for and seek the truth? Such were the thoughts of the Albigensian Cathars.
And how could a perfect God give man a body whose ultimate destiny is death after having been tortured by all types of evils?
The Cathars saw far too much intent in visible creation to somehow deny it an intelligent origin. From the analogous principle of cause and effect, they deduced that bad effects came from bad causes and that our world, which could never have been created by a good God, had to have as its creator a bad principle. This dualist system, which we have already found in Mazdaism, Druidism, and Pythagorean philosophy, bases itself in the fundamental opposition between Good and Evil.
Seizing on the New Testament, the Cathars believed that they could refute the opinions of the doctors of the Church, to whom “Evil” was without any doubt the antithesis of “Good,” but really nothing other than the negation or absence of Good, with no basis in a special principle.
When the devil tempted Christ—“All these things I will give you if you fall down and worship me”—how could he offer it if it did not already belong to him?⁹ And how could it belong to him if he wasn’t its creator? When Christ speaks of the plants that his celestial Father did not plant, it is proof that they were planted by somebody else. When John the Evangelist speaks of “the children of God that are not born from flesh and blood,” from whom do the children of flesh and blood come?¹⁰ Are not these children from another creator—the devil—who according to Christ’s own words is “their Father”?
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the Father of it… . He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
JOHN 8:44, 47
For the Cathars, all passages of the New Testament that mention the Devil, or the fight between the flesh and the Spirit, or the old man who should be cast out, or the world submerged in sin and darkness, were sufficient to demonstrate the antithesis between God, whose kingdom is not of this Earth, and the true prince of this world, Lucifer.
The Kingdom of God is the invisible world, absolutely good and perfect, the world of light and eons: the eternal city.
God is the “Creator” of all things, because “to create” signifies producing something that did not exist before. He also created matter, which before was nonexistent. He created it from nothing, but only from principle. It was Lucifer, himself a creature of God, who gave “shape” to matter; this was his principle.
Who is the cause of this world? Can you resolve this question?
The spirits are of God; the bodies are of the Evil one.
The Cathars believed that Lucifer, whom they also called Luzbel, had created everything visible, material, and perishable. Not only do all terrestrial things belong to him, but he also governs them and tries to keep them under his domination.
But the Old Testament tells us that Jehovah is the creator of Heaven and the Earth and virtually everything on it. This is true, the Cathars said: He “created” human beings, man and woman.
In the New Testament, you can read, “There is neither man nor woman, but you are all one thing in Christ Jesus” and that “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on Earth or things in heaven.” By contrast, Jehovah said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” How does this work out? Jehovah curses and God blesses. All the “children of God” in the Old Testament sinned, and in the New Testament, “those born of God do not sin.” Don’t they contradict one another?¹¹
The Cathars referred specifically to the passages of the Old Testament that speak of the vengeance and anger of Jehovah. They were convinced that Jehovah—who sent the Great Flood, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and repeated over and over that he wanted to destroy his enemies and transfer the sins of fathers onto the sons of the third or fourth generations—was neither God nor absolute and eternal love.
Jehovah forbade Adam from eating from the tree of science. He either knew that human beings would eat the fruit or he didn’t. If he knew it, he did nothing other than to push Adam toward temptation, make him a sinner, and provoke his destruction.
Above all, the Albigensian heretics invoked the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where Paul calls Mosaic Law a “law of death and sin.” Lot committed incest with his daughters, Abraham lied and committed adultery with his servant, David was a murderer and adulterer, and the rest mentioned in the Old Testament were not any better, affirmed the Cathars. For them, the law that Jehovah announced to the Jews through Moses was of satanic inspiration, and if it contained some good things, for example the seventh commandment, it was in order to gain some hearty souls for the cause of Evil.
A divinity who reveals himself in a burning bush to a man—Moses—cannot be “God” because God is spirit and does not reveal himself to mortals in physical matter. Jehovah is not God. He is the Antichrist; he is Lucifer.
When Lucifer made the descent to Hell
With his following, a man suceeded him
WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH¹²
The Cathars explained the fall of Lucifer, the origin of the Earth, and the birth of man with the following mythological formula:
Seven heavens. The purest and most brilliant was the Kingdom of God and the celestial Spirits. Each one of these heavens had special superior angels, whose hymns of praise rose incessantly to God’s throne in the seventh heaven. Beneath the celestial regions four other elements existed, immobile and without form, but separate one from the other.
Beneath heaven: the air, with clouds; further down, the ocean with its endless rolling waves; further down still, the Earth, and in the interior of the Earth, fire. Air, water, earth, and fire: the four elements, each one presided over by an angel.
Commanding the celestial armies was Lucifer, to whom God had entrusted the administration of the heavens. Flying high, he visited all the regions of the infinite celestial world, from the deepest abyss to the throne of invisible eternity. His privileged position sparked rebellious thoughts in him; he wanted to be like his creator and lord. First, he seduced the four angels of the elements and then a regiment of the celestial army. Then God expelled him from the Kingdom of the Heavens. The light that until then had been soft and pure was taken from him and replaced by another, reddish, similar to incandescent iron. The angels seduced by Lucifer were stripped of their finery and crowns and expelled from the heavens. Lucifer fled with them to the outer limits of the firmament. Tormented by remorse, he said to God, “Have patience with me, I will return everything to you.”
And God, having compassion for his preferred son, gave him seven days—which meant seven centuries—to do everything that he thought was proper. Then Lucifer established his residence in the firmament and ordered the rest of the angels who had followed him to shape the Earth. He took his crown, which had been broken since his expulsion from the Kingdom of the Heavens, and with half of it formed the sun, and with the other half, the moon. Then he converted his precious stones into the stars. From the primitive mud he fashioned the first terrestrial creatures, animals and plants.¹³
The supreme angels of the third and second heavens desired to share power with Lucifer and pleaded with God to allow them to descend to Earth, promising to return immediately afterward. God read their thoughts, but he did not deny their wish. He wanted to punish them for their lie, but he advised them not to fall asleep during their voyage, because if they did, they would forget the way to return to Heaven. If they fell asleep, he would not call them before 7,000 years had passed. The two angels began their journey. But Lucifer put them into a deep sleep and locked them in bodies that had been shaped from the original clay. When the angels awoke, they were human beings: Adam and Eve.
To get them to forget Heaven, Lucifer created Earthly paradise. But he decided to cheat them with a new strategy: He wanted them both to sin in order to make them his slaves forever. When he put them in paradise, he forbade them—to give more encouragement to their natural curiosity—to eat from the tree of science. He transformed himself into a snake and seduced Eve, who in turn induced Adam to commit the original sin.
Lucifer knew very well that God had also forbidden the first pair to eat the wretched fruit. Because God would never want to see the multiplication of Lucifer’s nature, Lucifer acted as if the prohibition of eating the fruit came from himself, to triumph in this way with greater certainty.
For the Cathars, the apple of the tree of science was the symbol of the original sin: the sexual union of man and woman. Through carnal sin, Adam and Eve were disobedient. The sin of the flesh, however, was and continued to be the most serious grievance, because it was committed with their full approval and represented a conscious rebellion of the soul against God.
Humanity had to reproduce, because Lucifer needed fresh souls. In the new bodies produced by Adam and Eve, he confined all the angels who had abandoned the celestial regions with him.
And then, with the death of Abel, murder entered in the world!
After a while, God had compassion with the fallen angels who had been expelled from Heaven and transformed into humans. So he decided to reveal himself to them, and sent his most perfect creature down to the Earth, his supreme angel, Christ, who would assume an outwardly human appearance. Christ came to the world to indicate how they could return to heaven, to the Kingdom of the eternal light.¹⁴
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light.
JOHN 12:46, 36
Christ did not become a man, a creature of Lucifer; he only appeared as one. He only gave the impression that he ate, drank, taught, suffered, and died, revealing to humans a sort of shadow of his real body. This is the reason he could walk on water and transform himself on Mount Tabor, where he revealed to his disciples the real substance of his body. Since the fall of Lucifer, Jesus Christ was the greatest of all angels, and for this reason he is called the “Son of God.” When Jesus said that he wasn’t of this world, but rather from above it, the Cathars applied this passage of the New Testament not only to the spiritual nature of the Savior, but also to his body. With this ethereal body the Eon Christ entered the body of Maria, like the “Word of God,” through her ear. He left her as pure as he had entered her, without taking any of her matter. For this reason, he never called her “mother,” and this is why he said to her, “Woman, what do I have to do with you.”¹⁵
The Cathars did not recognize the reality of the miracles of Jesus. How could he cure physical illnesses when he considered the body an obstacle to the redemption of the soul? When he cured the blind, he was curing men who were blinded by sin and allowing them to see reality. The bread that he divided among the five thousand was his Word, the bread of the soul that gave real life. The storm that he calmed was the storm of passions unleashed by Lucifer. In this respect, it is possible to apply the words of Christ: The written word kills, but the spirit breathes life.
Because the body of Christ was not of Earthly nature, his crucifixion was only an apparition; this was the only way possible that he could rise to Heaven. A heavenly ascension with a body of flesh and blood appeared absurd to the Cathars. A human body cannot go to heaven; an Eon cannot die.
Ye judge after the flesh, I judge no man.
For the Occitan heretics, the passion of Christ represents nothing other than the grandiose myth of the “sacrifice of love” that renders divine.
The total Christ has not appeared on Earth,
His divine human image must still be completed,
Once when the salvation of the World will be consummated, the rendition, when God and man unite in a form, living in the Spirit
Also the image of Jesus, reflected in all ways, will become agitated and shall dissipate in the intense flow of time, when the entire testimony of Jesus will disappear, the God-Man will be the nucleus, the luminous heart of all the worlds.
LENAU, “THE CAVE” FROM THE ALBIGENSES
Occitan Catharism aspired to be at the same time a philosophy, a religion, a metaphysical creed, and a cult. As a philosophy, it was the result of speculation on the relations between God and the World, between good and bad. From this philosophic system, the Cathar troubadours fashioned a real mythology. According to Albigensian dualism, the confrontation between good and bad was not eternal. There would be a Last Day when God’s victory over Lucifer would be consummated as the final victory of spirit over matter. Then Luzbel, as the repentant prodigal son, would return to his creator and Lord. All the souls of mankind would convert back into angels, and the situation would be reestablished exactly as it was before the fall of the angels. Good fortune would be as eternal as the Kingdom of God. As all souls would reencounter God, eternal condemnation would not exist, because it would be in contradiction with the absolute love of God.¹⁶
As we can see, Cathar dualism was linked to metaphysical and religious mysteries of Pythagorianism, Orphism, and Mazdaism. Despite everything, the Occitan heretics never stopped insisting that they were Christians. And they were, because they followed the supreme commandment of Christ:
These things I command you, that you love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: if you have love one for another.
JOHN 15:17; 13:35
The abyss that separated Catharism from the Christianity of Wittenberg and Geneva was considerable; although not expressly dualistic, neither was it monotheistic. As we have already seen, the Cathars rejected the Old Testament, and regarding Jesus Christ, they said that he was not the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but instead the hero of a mythology transformed by a divine halo.
Cathar morality, as pure and rigorous as it was, was not the same as Christian morality. The Christians did not demand the mortification of everything corporeal, the scorning of terrestrial creation, or the dissolution of all Earthly links. With imagination and desire, the Cathars wanted to achieve general perfection on Earth, and out of fear of losing themselves in the materialism of the Catholic Church, spiritualized everything: religion, cult, and life.
Even more surprising is the fact that this doctrine, at the same time the most tolerant and intolerant found in all Christianity, should expand with a vigor unprecedented in history. Without any doubt, the fundamental reason for this was the pious and pure life of the Cathars, in stark contrast with the type of life led by the orthodox clergy. The underlying cause for the expansion of Catharism in the south of France can be traced to the fact that Occitan Catharism was indigenous: the Occitanians felt closer to the myths and allegories of the Pure Ones than the sermons of the orthodox clerics, which were normally uncultivated and undignified.¹⁷
Neither should we forget that Cathar dualism provided a beneficial contrast to the fear of the devil so extensive in the medieval Catholic Church. The oppressive influence of demons in the intellectual behavior of the Christian Middle Ages is well known. In Catholicism, the Antichrist was the rival of God, with his Hell, his armies, and his Satanic power over spirits. Compared with Catholics’ fear of the devil, a desolate obsession that lasted an entire millennium, the Cathar idea to engage Luzbel was somewhat more conciliatory. For them, Lucifer was a rebellious angel, non-spiritual and mendacious, the embodiment of the world as it was and continued to be. According to the heretics, when humanity looks for the path of spirituality, it will have crushed the power of the prince of this world. He will have no other choice than to submit to the Spirit with contrition and penitence.
If we strip the Cathar doctrine of all its mythological accessories, we are left with Kant’s famous quadruple base:
First: Coexistence of man in the principle of good and bad.
Second: Conflict between the good principle and the bad for supremacy in the human being.
Third: Victory of the good over bad, the beginning of the Kingdom of God.
Fourth: Differentiation of true and false under the guidance of the good principle.
As we can see, poetry and philosophy in Occitania formed an undissolvable reality.
The Occitan Church of Amor (Minne) was composed of Perfecti [“Perfect Ones”] and the faithful or “imperfect ones.”¹⁸ The latter were not constrained by the severe rules of the Perfecti in their condition as Pure Ones. They could do whatever suited them: marry, dedicate themselves to business, compose songs of the Minne, go to war—in sum, live their lives as one did in those days in Occitania. The name “Cathar” was reserved for those who, after a precisely prescribed period of preparation and through a sacramental act (the consolamentum, or consolation, which we will describe a little further on), were initiated into the esoteric mysteries of the Church of Amor.
The Cathars, like the Druids, lived in the forests and caves where they dedicated themselves almost exclusively to the functions of their cult. A table covered with a white mantle served as an altar. Placed on it was a New Testament in [old] Provençal, opened to the first chapter of the Apocalypse according to Saint John; “In the beginning, there was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
The religious ceremonies were equally simple. They began with comments by a Perfect One on a passage in the New Testament. Benediction followed. The faithful who attended the religious ceremony would bring their hands together, kneel, and repeat three times to the Perfect Ones:
The third time, they would add:
“Pray to God for us sinners, so that he will make us good Christians and lead us to a good end.”
Each time, the Perfect Ones would raise their hands and give their blessings, answering:
“Dieus vos benesiga. Shall God bless you! Shall God make good Christians of you and lead you to a good end.”¹⁹
In Germany, where there were also Cathars, the faithful asked for the benediction in rhymed prose:
“For nothing in the world shall wish to die, without before you to achieve that my end shall be happy.”
The Perfect Ones would answer:
“And shall you become a good man.”
After the benediction, all those attending recited the Lord’s Prayer—the only prayer permitted by the Church of Amor. Instead of saying, however, “Give us our daily bread,” they said, “Give it to us, the supra-earthly daily bread.” Somehow for the Cathars, it did not appear dignified to ask for Earthly bread. Although their desire for supra-earthly bread corresponds to the Latin Vulgate, which in Matthew 6:2 says, Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie, Rome reproached them for falsifying the passage.
When a Perfect One was present, before every meal a solemn particion [sharing] of the pan [bread] took place. At the table, the faithful recited the Lord’s Prayer before asking the Cathar for benediction. Finally, this person (or the eldest person present if there were several) took the bread, blessed it, and distributed it with these words:
“Shall the grace of our Lord be with you all.”
With these “feasts” that recalled the early days of Christianity, they wanted to symbolize not the enjoyment of the Christian sacrament but rather the spiritual communion between the Perfect Ones and the faithful of the Church of Amor. During the period of persecution, when the Cathars were obliged to hide and could no longer visit their faithful regularly, they used couriers to take the blessed bread to the cities and towns.
Catharism rejected the Eucharist (transubstantiation) of the Catholic Church. It did not believe that bread could undergo a supernatural mutation during the sacrament, or that it could convert itself into the Body of Christ, which was ethereal and apparent. Even though the Church still had not declared the doctrine of transubstantiation as dogma, it denounced and cursed this heretical Cathar concept. At the time, the same doctors of the Church [who were denouncing the Cathars] didn’t understand this idea very clearly. The Cathars recognized the word of the Lord: “Who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life,” but they added, “The spirit refreshes, meat serves for nothing and his words are spirit and life.” The bread of heaven that brings eternal life is not the bread of the Perfect Ones but the Word of God. The body of Christ is not in the hands of the priest or on the altar. He is the community of those who cultivate the supreme Minne: the Church of Amor.²⁰
Also the era of Christ, covered by God’s veil
Passes and the New Alliance gets old
Then we will conceive of God as the Spirit,
Then the eternal Alliance will be celebrated
“The Spirit is God!” Resonates with power,
A thunderous happiness in the night of springtime.
LENAU, THE ALBIGENSES
In chapters fourteen and fifteen of the Gospel According to Saint John, Jesus promises his disciples that he will ask his Father to send them another Consoler (in Greek, parakletos; in Provençal, consort = consoler; in Luther’s German, Tröster = consoler): the Spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive because it neither sees nor knows him.²¹
Together with Nadal (Christmas), Pascos (Easter), and Pentecosta (Pentecost), the principal Cathar holiday was the Manisola, the festival of the Paraclete (the Hindu Mani, the Platonic “Idea,” the Latin mens).
One of the symbols of the Spirit that is also God—a symbol taken from Buddhism by the Cathars—was the Mani, a precious stone that illuminates the world with its flashing, and makes all Earthly desire disappear. The Mani is the emblem of Buddhist law that disperses the night of error. In Nepal and Tibet, it is considered the symbol of brotherly love, of the Dhyanibodhissattva Avalokitecvara or Padmapani.²²
Yet God existed in the eternal, the unfathomable principle, he who has a thousand names and yet, it is he who is: God!
In the principle the Word was with God. His Father is God, his Mother, and the Spirit that is in God. The Word is God.
In the principle also existed the Spirit. He is the Amor with which God spoke: the Word that made Life and Light. The Spirit is Amor. The Spirit is God. The Amor is God. The Amor is more resplendent than the sun and more brilliant than the most valuable precious stones.
We have no real knowledge of the mysterious Cathar Manisola. The Inquisition’s torturers couldn’t pry knowledge of the consoling Amor, the supreme Minne, from the Cathars. The secret remained buried with the last heretics in the caves of Ornolac! The Inquisition’s reports speak only of the Consolamentum Spiritus Sancti [the consolation of the Holy Spirit], the most solemn sacramental ceremony of esoteric Catharism. The only “believers” who spoke of attending this ceremony were those who talked in the torture chamber.
The Cathars rejected baptism with water and replaced it with a baptism of the Spirit, the consolamentum. Because in their opinion, water is only matter, it could not sanctify nor achieve redemption. They refused to believe that God would free souls from the yoke of Satan through his own creation. They said: Either a person who is to be baptized shows remorse for his sins or not. If he shows remorse, what good does baptism serve, if it is not justified by the testimony of faith or penitence? If he is not repentant, baptism counts for nothing, because he neither wanted it nor earned it. Furthermore, John the Baptist said that he baptized with water but that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The consolamentum was the goal that all the faithful of the Church of Amor aspired to and worked for. The rite would assure them a good end and the salvation of their souls. The Cathars believed that if a believer died without receiving the consolamentum, his soul would transmigrate to another body. If he had committed many or grave sins, even to an animal, only until someone in another life had atoned for his sins and made himself worthy of the consolamentum, could he start moving closer, from star to star, toward the throne of God.²³
This is the reason why the consolamentum was celebrated with such solemnity: a solemnity that contrasted enormously with the simplicity of the Cathar cult.
Once the neophyte had overcome the long and hard preparatory period, he was taken to the spot where the consolamentum would be imparted. Quite often, it was in a cave in the Pyrenees or the Montagne Noir.²⁴ The way was illuminated with numerous torches along the walls. In the middle of the chamber rose the “altar,” and upon it was placed the New Testament. Before the start of the ceremony, the Perfect Ones and the faithful washed their hands so that no impurity would profane the sanctity of the place. All the participants would form a circle in absolute silence. The neophyte would stand in the middle of the circle, a short distance from the altar. Then the Perfectus, who was officiating at the sacramental function, would remind the credent (believer) that he was about to be consoled by Cathar doctrines, which meant that he was going to assume special responsibilities and face dangers in case of persecution.
If the neophyte was married, his wife was asked if she was prepared to break their marriage bonds to donate her husband to God and the Gospel. If a woman was going to receive the consolamentum, the questions were directed to the husband.
The priest asked the believer, “Brother, do you wish to embrace our faith?”
Then the neophyte would kneel, touching the ground with his hands and saying, “Bless me.”
This was repeated three times; each time, the neophyte would move a little closer to the priest, adding after the third time, “Father, ask God to lead me, a sinner, to a good end.”
“Shall God bless you, make a good Christian of you, and lead you to a good end.”
The solemn oath of the new member followed.
“I promise,” he continued, while still kneeling, “to dedicate myself to God and his Gospel, never to lie, never to take an oath, never to have any contact with a woman, never to kill an animal, never to eat meat, and to feed myself only with fruits. Furthermore, I promise never to travel, never to live or eat without one of my brothers, and in the case that I should fall into the hands of our enemies or be separated from my brothers, to abstain for three days from all nourishment. In addition, I promise never to betray my Faith, whatever death awaits me.”
He then asked for a benediction three times as all those present fell to their knees. Then the priest would come up to him and let him kiss the Bible, which was then placed on his head. Then all the Perfecti entered. Some put their right hand on his head, others on his back, and all those present said, “Let us pray to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The officiating priest asked God to dignify the neophyte by letting the Holy Spirit and Consoler descend upon the new brother. The assembly recited the Lord’s Prayer and the priest read the first seventeen verses of the Gospel according to Saint John. Then they dressed the consoled brother with a plaited sash, which was symbolically called the “habit.”²⁵
Finally, the Perfecti gave the new Pure One the kiss of peace. This was done by giving it to his closest neighbor who in turn gave it to the next one and he to the next, until the end. If the consolamentum was conferred to a believer, the priest touched his back with the Bible and held out his arm. In this way, the Cathar passed the symbolic kiss of peace to the person who was nearest.
When the ceremony was ended, the neophyte retired to solitude, to fast on bread and water for forty days and nights, although before the ceremony, no less rigorous fasts had also been performed. The fasting just prior to and after receiving the consolamentum was called the endura.²⁶
When the consolation was conferred on dying believers, two Cathars accompanied by a few faithful would enter the death chamber. The eldest asked the sick person if he wanted to consecrate himself to God and the Gospel. Then the usual ceremony proceeded, the difference being that they placed a white towel on the chest of the dying while one Cathar stood at his head and another at his feet.
Often, after receiving the consolamentum and during the endura, Cathars would voluntarily kill themselves. Like the Druids, their doctrine permitted suicide, but demanded that it should not be done out of fear, suffering, or boredom but instead in a state of perfect disengagement from matter.
This class of endura was permitted only at the moment of mystical vision of divine beauty and generosity. A suicide who ended life out of fear, suffering, or mere boredom would, according to the Cathar doctrine, continue to suffer from fear, suffering, and boredom. Because the Cathars prophesied that real life began after death, suicide was allowed only when someone wanted to “live.”
From the fast to suicide, there is only one small step. The fast demands courage but the supreme definitive act of death requires heroism. The transit from one state to the other is not at all as cruel as it may appear.
Let us contemplate the mask of the “Inconnue de la Seine.”²⁷ Where does the fear of death, the terror of purgatory or Hell, trial before God’s tribunal, or divine anger make itself apparent? She wasn’t a very good Christian, because Christian dogma prohibits suicide. Neither does she look as if she were consumed by pain, because such women do not have the same look. She was a young person who was more attracted by the Hereafter than her present reality, and who had the heroism to kill her body to continue being only a soul. Her body died in the dirty waters of the Seine, but her saintly smile lives on.
Deep down, the death of Faust was also a suicide. If he had not broken his pact with Mephistopheles by saying “Stay, you are so fair!” nothing would have stopped him from continuing to live on Earth. This fact implies a profound lesson: Suicide is only permitted in the moment of maximum happiness—the greater it is, the less Earthly it is. Only when a person has relinquished sadness and lies (those sovereigns of this world) for the peace of his soul can he affirm, “I have not lived in vain.”
What did “not to live in vain” signify according to the old heretical doctrine? First: to love your fellow man like yourself, which meant not to let your neighbor suffer when you have it in your power to bring him consolation and help. Second: not to cause harm to your fellow man, and above all not to kill him. Third: to spiritualize yourself, which means to divinize life in such a way that at the moment of death, the body abandons this world without regrets. Otherwise, the soul will not find any rest at all. If you have not lived in vain as a person, if you have only done good and perfected yourself, this is when, according to the Cathars, you can take the definitive step as a Perfectus.
Two always practiced the endura together. After sharing years of continuous effort and intensive spiritualization in the most sublime friendship, only together could the Brothers decide to co-participate in the next life, the true life of the intuitive beauties of the Hereafter, and the knowledge of the divine laws that move worlds.
The Cathars had a further reason for suicide in pairs. It was painful to have to leave your brother. At the moment of death, the soul should not undergo any pain, because if it does, the pain would continue in the Hereafter. If you love you fellow man as yourself, you cannot submit him to the pain of separation. Pain inflicted on others must be atoned for in the Hereafter, through the slow process of divinization, from star to star (as Dante says, from step to step on the mountain of purification).²⁸ Even approaching Divinity, separation is perceived as painful.
Five classes of suicide were accepted by the Cathars: poison, starving to death, cutting veins, throwing oneself from a precipice, or, after a hot bath in the winter, lying down on cold blocks in order to catch pneumonia, which invariably brought a fatal end. There is no doctor capable of curing a sick person who wants to die.
Because death at the stake was always a possibility for a Cathar, he considered this world a living Hell. After receiving the consolamentum, he could “let himself die,” as it was said then, to escape this Hell of burnings that were alight, for to this world, he was already dead.
If God is better and more intelligent that human beings, shouldn’t he have reserved for the heretics all they aspired to and yearned for in the Hereafter? For this, they were capable of withstanding the cruelest selfdenials and displaying the most extraordinary force of will to perform—as we will see—unheard-of heroism. What they wanted was the divinization of the spirit. What they pined for was the Kingdom of the Heavens: in other words, life after death.
Those who received the consolamentum were henceforth known as Perfect Ones [Perfecti]; the name Cathar corresponded only to them. They were also called “bonshommes” or good men, “Weavers,” or “Consolers.” Their life in solitude was rigorous and monotonous; it was only interrupted when they went preaching in the countryside or the cities, attended to their faithful, or imparted the consolamentum to those who asked for it and were worthy of it. They rejected all material goods and did not belong to themselves; instead their lives belonged to the Church of Amor. They administered the goods that their Church received, and put them into the service of the love of their fellow man. The life of the Cathars was one of privation and the rejection of Earthly goods. Not only did they break all ties with family and friends, but they were obliged to undergo a fast of forty days three times a year and feed themselves solely with bread and water three times a week.
“We live,” they said on one occasion, “a hard and errant life. We flee from city to city, we are like sheep among wolves, we suffer persecution like the apostles and martyrs, but despite all this, all we want is to lead a pious, severe, and abstinent life, and to pray and work. But all this is no longer a worry because we are no longer of this world.”
… he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
They were forbidden to kill even an ant. The Cathar doctrine of transmigration of souls prohibited it.²⁹ This is why they were never allowed to participate in war. When the era of the persecutions exploded upon Occitania, they wandered the battlefields in the shadows of night, caring for the wounded and administering the consolamentum to the dying. They were good medical doctors and had a reputation as infallible astrologers. Eventually, the Inquisitors believed that Cathars could direct the winds, flatten the waves, and calm tempests.
They dressed in long black tunics in a show of the mourning they felt in their souls for finding themselves in the Hell of this world, covered their heads with a sort of round Persian cap, similar to the large beret of the modern Basques, and wore on their breasts a roll of cord that held the Apocalypse of Saint John. As opposed to Catholic monks, whose hair was cut and who wore beards, they shaved and let their hair fall to their shoulders.