Excessive rituals and doctrine are a sure sign that an organized religion is dying. They are beautiful and even alluring and we may be tempted to believe that they will make deep changes in us. But we are of the natural world and this kind of transformation brought about by exterior influences is completely unnatural. Some practitioners convince themselves that they are changed beyond their control. But the reality is that only we can make changes in our view because the world does not exist if we do not view it. Real change must come from inside and radiate outwards into the physical, material, visual world.
Nothing happens in the outside world, the world beyond our skin as we perceive it, without some inner root cause or change. Consequences. Shadows. Effects. All of these are the result of a stimulus in the unique consciousness of an individual.
We each have our unique ancient religion: that of the individual.
The Cathars (from the Greek katharos meaning ‘unpolluted’ or ‘pure’) were a group of Christian mystics who changed the face of Christianity in Europe. They were at their most popular in the 11th and 12th centuries in the region north-west of Marseilles called Languedoc, near the modern frontier between France and Spain. They also were present in Spain, the Rhineland and Flanders, and Italy.
Their powerful influence came about in the midst of great adversity because they were branded ‘heretics,’ rooted out and exterminated by the dominant Church of Rome. They rejected many of its beliefs, texts and doctrines but they were well-supported by local nobility and popular among peasants and artisans.
One group of Cathars was known as the Albigenses taking their name from the local town of Albi, the scene of a huge massacre between 1209-1220 during which between 9,000 and 20,000 citizens were butchered. This happened because the credentes (Cathars believers) could not be distinguished from the Catholics. It constitutes ‘one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history.’ (Lemkin, R)
Cathar practices probably developed as a consequence of traders coming from Eastern Europe bringing the teachings of the Bogomils, named after their founder the priest Bogomil who denied the Christian conception of the world of matter as a vehicle of grace. In France, they were heavily persecuted until the 13th century when the last group was burned at the stake by the Roman inquisition at the fall of Montségur hilltop Fortress in 1244 where they were hiding. However, those outside France continued to be rooted out and killed as late as the 19th century in Bosnia.
They referred to themselves as Les Bons Hommes, Les Bonne Femmes or Les Bon Chrétiens (the Good Men, the Good Women or the Good Christians). They had no hierarchy or physical church and those who silently knew they were Cathars were divided into 2 groups – the elite or Perfecti, who had mastered all the arduous trainings and travelled around in same-sex pairs as healers and the credentes, or believers who may be at various stages of training and vied for the honour of housing the Perfecti.
The Perfecti lived a life of austerity and extreme poverty and were believed to be the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. They believed they were heirs to the true heritage of Christianity and that the Catholic church had turned its back on Christ’s message in favour of reveling in vast material power and wealth.
Catharism : origin and doctrine.
They were dualists as are most of the followers of the world’s major religions but they were ‘absolute dualists,’ or monistic, their worldview dominated by the opposing principles of Good and Evil, the material world being intrinsically evil and to be overcome. Like Buddhists and Hindus, they considered time was cyclical not linear and so offered infinite opportunities to reincarnate until purification was complete. Also, that all beings were made from the same material substance created by Satan (the evil God or fallen angel) as a rebellion against the ‘Good’ God, but that humans each had a trace of the Divine Light of their origins trapped inside them which would eventually lead them back to God.
Catharism is an ancient faith based on Manichean dualism established by the Babylonian prophet Mani c. 215-216 C.E., which pre-dated Christianity itself. In respect of the Christian Bible, the Cathars’ abhorrence of physical matter was encapsulated by the God of the Old Testament, and the natural goodness of mind or spirit by the message of Jesus Christ of the New Testament, the spiritual Christ, which they lived by.
The Church of Rome hounded the Cathars forcing them to flee and hide in the abandoned hill-top castles of Languedoc. It insisted that provincial rulers use torture to maim them and if they refused they themselves would be punished. Made official by French law in 1229, their property and land were authorized to be confiscated which proved to be a great incentive for greedy state officials.
Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) launched a vicious crusade against the Good Men redirecting his military armies from the Holy Land so determined was he to wipe them out. This was triggered by the assassination of Peter of Castelnau, the papal legate responsible for opposing the Cathars.
During inquisitional interviews, if lay people showed favour in any way to the Cathars, they were often treated as heretics themselves. On 8th September 1308, all 114 inhabitants of the village of Montaillou in Ariege were arrested on heresy charges and found to be of the Cathar persuasion according to the relentless interrogation of Jacques Fournier, the Bishop of Palmiers at the time.
The Cathar Creed
After the extermination of supposedly every remaining Cathar in France in 1244, the Cathar creed of the Church of Love was discovered 700 years later in 1986. It was found using the techniques of dowsing or divination, so it could be argued that there is no actual scientific evidence to support its existence, but it is followed widely today by revivalists. It was left for future Cathars who the Perfecti predicted would be born 700 years later in the mid 20th century and who would continue on their work when the material world was on its knees.
In summary, the Church of Love has no membership or fabric, no hierarchy or structure and there are no rivals because it is not competitive: ‘Those who are, know.’ It has no ambition, seeking only to serve, and recognizes no barriers of any kind. It acknowledges all great teachers of the Truth and their teachings, saluting those who have blazed a path but paid the price for it. However, it professes not to teach but instead to be and by simply being, enrich. It recognizes the whole planet as a Being which humans are not separate from. It proclaims itself only in subtle terms of love, the dedication of each Cathar to the silent loving of their neighbour, the planet and the environment while carrying out their role in society however mundane.
Cathars have no expectations of any reward either in this life or the spiritual world except the ‘ineffable joy of being and loving.’ They never feel fear or shame, they keep no secrets or history or perform any initiations. Only the power of love will allow the world to change and that will come about only if humans change first. The influence of Catharism is still apparent in the south-east corner of France, its revivalist practitioners still working to purify the world of evil.
The Cathar Influence
The medieval Catholic Church was greatly influenced and still bears those indications today. Inspired by the goodness of the Perfecti, the papacy of the Middle Ages created new orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans which imitated them. As a result of Cathar asceticism, finally celibacy was imposed on the Roman Catholic clergy after centuries of empty talk, and church buildings were greatly simplified – the cathedral at Albi is a spectacular example.
As for gender and the role of women in the church in the Middle Ages, the introduction of devotion to Mary Magdelene could be seen as a way of countering the prominence of women among Cathar Perfecti. In modern days, women are gradually preaching, teaching and administering sacred rites on an equal footing with men in the church. Thus the Cathar prophecy is steadily coming true. Protestantism was also influenced in similar ways.
‘Human’ is a process – no longer an animal, no longer a god.
Our appearance in human form is a tiny part of the whole cosmic process, so if we cease to interfere with that process, the ‘means whereby,’ we will be able to move on to the next stage of our spiritual perfection!
We are beings suspended between Heaven and Earth, between ignorance and knowledge, between light and darkness.
Animals are ‘beings.’Humans are ‘becoming.’ We are yet incomplete, a new species. Only 10% of our potential has been realized.
We had our chance to be fully-conscious gods of limitless power early on in our evolution, but we chose the cerebral way. We allowed the intellectual mind to interfere and create its own delusional reality known as samsara (a world of suffering and loss, of beginnings and ends).
This has set us back to a position where we are 100% evolved physically, but for the majority of us, only 10% of our potential has been realized. This incongruence creates anxiety, anger and struggle which leads to destruction and discontent.
The Earth and its species have evolved over a 4.5 billion year period: but human DNA is only 200,000 years old at the most. At all costs, we must not be distracted from our precious and special human consciousness because that is our natural process, our earthly way to become and our mission!
We are, so let us simply be!
Monument Valley straddling the states of Arizona and Utah in the United States of America, serenely cradles beautiful upthrusts from the Earth’s mantel which are 570 million years old! Their process continues on! No interference from the human mind. Such an inspiration to cease interfering!
Our planet and its nature are already perfect.
Images courtesy of megapixyl.com, Mariko Kinoshita and Linden Thorp.
The Navajo nation believes to this day that they are the direct descendants of the Holy People or Creation Gods. Their whole reason for existence is to carry their legacy forwards with each generation endowed with the physical and emotional attributes of human beings. Their way of life known as the Blessing Way, or Beauty Way, represents the female energy of creation – harmonious, peaceful, happy, undemanding.
In Navajo wisdom, there is no division between sacred and secular unlike in western traditions. Life itself is sacred, only sacred, therefore knowledge, the process of learning, is also sacred.
Holism is their way of life, a constant expression of interconnectedness and beauty. They astutely survey the misplacement of even one small element of life because it is bound to effect all other parts and so the harmony will be broken.
￼ I recently visited Monument Valley, Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgali (Valley of the Rocks) deep in the Navajo Lands straddling Arizona and Utah, and there I directly witnessed such harmony and beauty. The hotel we chose was called ‘The View’ exactly because it is an astounding viewpoint out on to such Holy Rocks. This is considered to be the heart of the Earth according to Navajo Creation myths – the Monument Valley Tribal Park, 92,000 acres of majestic buttes, spires and rocks. Unlike other Navajo reservations, this valley is still inhabited by Navajo – 30-100 people depending on the season who live in hand-built houses without running water or electricity, tending their livestock and creating artifacts.
‘The View’ hotel, the first in Navajo Lands, opened in 2008, followed by a renovated visitors centre in 2009. When driving at 5 mph down the unpaved valley road which weaves in between the sandstone ‘monuments,’ we could get a view of it embraced by the sandstone contours, built in a way which completely respects the majesty of the sacred.
On arriving, after paying a modest entrance fee to enter the national park, we drove up to the rear windowless side of the hotel to enter the plain lobby. The experience was almost like walking into one of the rocks itself. The lobby is centred around a massive indoor chimney with a log fire burning in it, the walls adorned with Navajo artifacts, but it was the meeting with the beautiful female receptionists that moved me most.
They exhibited the ‘Blessing Way’ perfectly. No masks. No posturing or acting. Their voices were low and respectful, their eyes used carefully, the information we required expressed succinctly. I immediately thought of hospitality training in western traditions, and how the customer is treated as a god and entitled to amass charm points during their stay! But these young women had the courage to show their true strong nature to all visitors equally. There was no effervescent welcome because we were expected by the spirits.
It was as if we were in the presence of the Navajo Creation Beings, moving in an eternal dance with them.
Their creation story states that once the Earth was made and after things had been placed on it, the First Man and First Woman pulled a single feather out of a Bald Eagle and blew on it while vowing that from that moment on nothing would be still in the universe, ‘not even water, not even the rock.’ (see ref: 1983:16)
We ancient spirits in human form, which is what all human beings are, can directly influence such movement. I had a sense that even the 58,000 year-old rocks were flowing amongst the warm breath of the Navajo guardians, and this sense of movement is still with me several weeks after my recent visit to Monument Valley.
This experience illuminated the importance of venerating our beloved ancestors who laid the foundation of our lives. I have no single doubt that we are descended from the gods and have been entrusted to carry forward their sacred legacy. We can all choose to live as Holy Beings in this very life.
These stunning buttes below are called ‘The Mittens.’ They are the covered hands of the Earth beings pushing up from the Earth’s mantel in what was once a great ocean high in the mountains of Arizona.
Our Earth is a living moving monument to our divine origins.
Images courtesy of Linden Thorp (4-9 February, 2017) and megapixyl.com
Reference: Pinxten, Rik and Ingrid Van Dooren, Frank Harvey Anthropology of Space. Philadelphia University Press. 1982
I feel so privileged to be here at Monument Valley staying in a Navajo Hotel called ‘The View.’ These ‘monuments-butte,’ free-standing rock formations, appeared about 570 million years ago. This was once the ocean floor and the mantle of the Earth uplifted in these strange forms known as ‘The Mittens’ to crack it. Later the ocean subsided west during the shifting of the tectonic plates: the resultant mud became sandstone and limestone.
Such an ancient scenario to suddenly arrive in, but arriving creates such a connection with my Earth! I am One with it! I am sandstone and limestone: the desert paints me in rainbow colours against the gigantic Moon.
This is my Earth! I am inspired to become its custodian once more, to hold it and look upon it with complete awe! Only putting aside the synthetic reality created by my limited mind will allow this to be.