Monday, June 07, 2010

Cathars Were Gnostics

I have been puzzling as to why the Cathars got up the noses of the Catholics at SUCH a rate of knots. It seems that they were a brand of Gnostics. That is, they reasoned that if God made the world, and that world contained imperfections and other not-so-wonderful, even yukky, things (eg death, mozzies and funnel-web spiders), that God wasn't so wonderful and pure as was believed by the Catholics. God was a mixture of good AND bad. This, for the Catholics, was herecy and anyone who believed it deserved no less than to burned alive in the public square.

The Cathars, armed with this world view, believed that they should lead a 'good', pure life. They should do so in the quiet of their own homes and not bother other people with their ideas. The book I have been reading (The Cathars, by Sean Martin), suggests that they had attitudes very much like Buddhists. They did not build churches and they left very little by way of literature. We know about them today mostly due to the evidence they provided to the Inquisitors, who took committed their testimony to writing before hauling them off to the stake.

Here is a link to guff on Gnosticism (just for interest, not for conversion):

There seems to be very little reason to dislike these good-living, peaceful folk. Sure they had some funny (by today's standards) ideas, but that is not reason enough to set fire to them. Here are a few of these ideas/attitudes:

1. They did not approve of/believe in marriage(!)
2. They believed that Jesus was not a man, but rather a spirit who entered Mary through her ears. [I am not making this up - though Sean Martin MAY be doing just that]
3. They followed the teachings of Jesus' brother James (as distinct from Jesus' pal Peter, who was the first Pope of Rome)
4. They believed that women were part of the evil of the world that God created. [Confusingly they also believed that women were equal to men and they were able to occupy high office within the church.
5. There was a process by which certain of them could achieve high office within the church and become Perfects. This process was called the consolomentun. This process could only be administered by other Perfects and it was also given to those about to die, after which no food was to be eaten by the dying Cathar. The consolomentum was often (according to Mathews) the prime cause of the believer's final demise.
6. Cathars were often pals with lordlings who controlled tracts of land desired by larger forces such as kings of England, kings of France and Simon de Montfort. They didn't have a stray dog's chance.

These were seriously weird people. However, it is my strongly-held view that they did not deserve the obliteration, anniliation or genocide that was visited upon them first with a Crusade and second with the Inquisition. Nonetheless, deservous or not, it DID happen and no Cathar is left to put his or her side of the story.

I'll leave you to ponder this and to see if there are some lessons we can all take from this story. [For example, it is best to be a Geelong supporter in 2010 since they have the strength and power necessary to take out this year's Grandy - even though the Mags still have a good chance.]

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