Today we are going to talk about the Cathars. This melting pot of cultures in southern France after the failure of the Crusades created a new form of Manichaeism.
The church taught that only good existed, that only good was real and that evil was the absence of good; that only light existed, and darkness was the absence of light. We can hear these same things things today.
But the new Manichaean’s taught that evil existed and was just as real as good was; that darkness was not just the absence of light, but an important part of life itself. In fact, life began in the darkness of the human womb. They taught that man had both a physical body and a soul and that the physical body and the soul were in eternal conflict.
You can see this reemergence of the question of duality and dualism. This conflict of ancient duality was eternal and went back to the Godhead itself. The desires of the flesh were not sins because they were the gifts of the God of the physical world.
Give to the spirit those things that belong to the spirit and give to the flesh, those things that belong to the flesh. That is one of the concepts that these new Manichaean’s, the Cathars came out with. There was a strict division between things of the physical world and things of the spiritual world and you could not judge one by considerations of the other.
So there was no punishment for sin, and eternal damnation was just nonsense. The sacraments of penance and communion were invalid and just as ridiculous as if a dog were to bite a stone. People belonged to the dark side with their bodies and to the light side with their souls. It was that simple.
But the Bogomil’s that settled in southern France brought with them their own old Organic Gnostic beliefs that had been carried over from the goddess religions and Zoroastrianism. These ancient beliefs created their own division within this new group of people and was also centered around the idea of duality, but it was the duality of the Organic Gnostics. The Bogomil’s saw duality as sexual, as the physical embrace of male and female, and so it was one of the most sacred things that existed in the development of the human soul.
They believed of true opposites in an eternal loving embrace and this became the pagan religion of the uneducated common folk and the early stirrings of what was to become known as witchcraft. They established secret covens and celebrated their dark carnal sexual mysteries in the forests, caves, and on the mountain tops.
Remember the Rational Atheists and Social Enforcers lived in their heads, and the Social Enforcer especially was intent upon the development of the soul through the denial of the physical and immersion into the mental and spiritual energies.
So the more educated, intellectual, and mystical Social Enforcers became saints. They lived according to an unbelievably strict code of behavior and a mortifying asceticism. They denied their bodies and mortified their flesh. They were zealots and believers and they spread their spiritual beliefs with passion and conviction. They were considered saints and healers who could purify a person at the time of death simply by the laying on of hands.
So even within the Cathars you see a big split. On the one hand you have people retreating from the physical world because of the realness of a spiritual experience that went beyond what physical life had to offer. It’s too easy to think that one group was right and one was wrong.
The real thing is to validate that these people believed that the soul existed and the spirit world was real. But the soul as conceived and experienced by the Social Enforcers was created out of mental and spiritual energies. It did not contain the deeper emotions of the heart and lower passions. It was mystical and all in the head, but it was real. The soul had the ability to exist independent of the physical body.
But the Social Enforcers were not able to integrate duality. They maintained the distinction where black and white cannot mingle within the human body. The physical has its own life. The spirit has its own life. They do not mingle.
In contrast the Organic Gnostics believed in the integration of black and white, and the loving embrace of both dualities as male and female, and they celebrated that through physical love relationships. The soul was not only created, but strengthened and its powers were strengthened. The physical body was the temple of God.
These people were true magicians. They were working with magical energies, whereas the others, the Social Enforcers, had their own spiritual magic that involved the soul, but did not impact physical reality to any great degree.
The one thing both groups could agree upon was a fanatical hatred for the Catholic Church and its dogma. They were anti-Catholic, anti-Church and this united them together.
It caused problems that the church had to deal with and the Church did deal with them through the attempted genocide of this entire population.
In summary, the Cathars were split into two groups. One group believed in duality as the loving embrace of opposites and were Organic Gnostics and the other group believed in a strong unbelievably strict asceticism and renunciation of all things of the flesh. These were the Social Enforcers.
You can view this as the beginning of the left-hand path and the right-hand path where both recognize the spirituality of the development of the soul and its powers, but taking different directions while both being strongly opposed to the Christian Church that had been taken over by Rational Atheists.
PS: I have just started a Facebook discussion group called Organic Gnosticism. Feel free to join if you are interested.