The Cathars were important in French history
(text of a letter)
That programme about the Cathars which
I saw on French television has somewhat modified my picture of the situation;
enlarged it in fact.† Clearly the Cathar religion, which was a form of Gnosticism, was very
dominant in the South of France for a long time and
I have referred to this as genocide before, and it certainly was.† At one stage the TV cameras roamed over a panoramic vista of piled-up skulls.
The Alien Man or the Son of God had entered the world to bring a bit of useful information to the benighted souls.† The story about how they had become benighted was different from the standard Fall of Man story, and also different from other Gnostic cosmogonies.† When Lucifer was thrown out of heaven and became Satan, along with other rebellious angels, this created a hole in heaven.† Some other angels, standing too near the hole, were dragged down after the fallen angels, and before they could return were ensnared in matter by Satan, which caused them to lose their memories of who they were.
I donít know how much difference it made to the way women were treated in practice, but they had the standard Gnostic idea of the essential equality of the sexes, and that the soul was intrinsically masculine. Women as well as men could administer the consolamentum, their only sacrament, which was supposed to eliminate the impurities which arose from interaction with the physical world, and leave the soul of a dying person free to re-ascend and perhaps avoid reincarnation, which could be as an animal as well as a human person.
It was very like Buddhism in its reincarnationism; eventually the souls of all sentient beings would have been liberated and the situation would have been resolved.
Clearly the opposition on the part of the Catholic church was very fierce and motivated, which certainly had something to do with the Catharsí refusal to pay taxes to the Catholic church, but one wonders whether it also owed something to their having information about Jesus surviving the crucifixion and coming to France, which would upset the central beliefs of Catholicism, to which the suffering and death of the Saviour were essential.
In fact the absence of hard evidence is remarkable, considering how much attention Jesus apparently aroused, and one wonders if this is not the result of a very determined campaign by the Catholics, who wanted to leave no documentary evidence to conflict with the synoptic Gospels which were composed to support their basic ideas.
There is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that Mary
Magdalene came to
The Cathars were also against violence, which seems a harmless prohibition if you are going to have a mass religion at all, and vegetarian on account of the undesirability of encouraging reproduction of animals, which gets souls trapped in material bodies.† They were, of course, a bit misled by medieval science, and actually ate a lot of fish, which were believed to be spontaneously generated by water.