6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2013
If you're at all interested in the history, beliefs, and legends of the Cathars and about the development of esoteric Christianity in general, this is definitely the book for you! Dave Patrick has assembled short essays from 25 different individuals that, taken as a whole, put together many pieces of the puzzle. This collection of articles is at once heart-warming and inspiring, mystical but shocking, and, above all, sobering.
Many of us have read the accounts of the horrible slaughter of the "bons hommes" and "bonnes femmes" during the Albigensian Crusade in the southern region of France more than 700 years ago.
But these contemporary stories of people's searches, rediscoveries, past-life memories, and perspectives about the "heretic" Cathars of the Languedoc is not just a fascinating read; it sparks a new hope that those gentle folks' demise was, if seen over time, actually a victory - a victory over the historic cruelty, idolatry, and corruption of the Catholic Church. As some of the writers say, it's about the triumph of AMOR (love) over ROMA (the heavy-handed brutality of the Church).
We are reminded in some of the essays about the destruction of the entire city of Beziers in 1209 (where the papal legate is said to have told his soldiers, "Kill them all; God will know his own."), the siege of the great walled city of Carcassonne, and the torture and immolation of thousands of people in hundreds of villages and towns whose only "crime" was that they were free thinkers and did not strictly follow the commands nor submit to the interdictions of the Pope.
The most infamous slaughter has to be the torching alive of over 200 of the "pure ones" who, holding hands and singing, descended from the last major Cathar outpost fortress atop Montségur on the morning of 16 March 1244, and climbed onto the flaming pyre set by the Pope's and French King's mercenaries at the foot of the mountain. It is said that the previous night a certain "treasure" secured by four of the faithful was lowered from the fortress wall, and that the bearers scattered out into the countryside with their valuable possessions.
There are numerous theories of what the "treasure" consisted. It has been sought after by many treasure hunters. Nothing has ever been found, and it is suggested by more than one of this book's authors that it may have been a set of secret writings, such as a mysterious but often referenced "Book of Love."
The Cathars were extremely devout Christians in the sense that they thought themselves to be the true successors of Jesus and his disciples, adhering to what they believed were the tenets of Jesus himself. Their holy books included, foremost, the Gospel of John, purported to be written by someone who was an actual witness to the life of Christ.
They followed a lineage of Gnostic thinkers who yearned for truth through actual experience - like the Hermeticists of Egypt, the Platonists of Greece, the Essenes and the Manicheans of the Middle East, and the Bogomils of the Balkans. They were contemporaries of the Troubadours and were often protected and financed by the Knights Templars.
The Cathars have been criticised because they were dualists: they believed God did not create the material world with all its suffering but that matter was the realm of a lesser god - a demiurge who contrasted and opposed good with evil. They claimed this lesser god was the Yahweh of the Old Testament, a jealous and vengeful god - a god whose "flawed creation came about through a misguided desire to ape the true Creator." They read only the New Testament, and their "parfaits" or "perfecti" - those more advanced practitioners, both men and women who took a vow of celibacy - are said to have carried that book around with them.
As members of their communities, the Albingenses (another name for Cathars) engaged in simple but skilled vocations and possessed little material wealth. Many were vegetarians. However, they did not live lives of hermits or monks but interacted with society as a whole. Many with whom they came in contact converted to the Cathar Way, nobles and peasants alike.
They did not practice the usual sacraments of the Church, but, when an initiate was deemed ready, or on his or her deathbed, they performed a baptism of the Holy Spirit, a transmission of power, a laying-on-of-hands ceremony known as the "consolamentum" (meaning "with the sun in the mind") - a purification ritual that permitted the recipient to conquer the fear of death. They were accomplished healers, trained in clairvoyance and telepathy, and they believed in reincarnation so that through successive struggles within a material body the soul could finally obtain liberation and not have to return to the earthly realm of the evil demiurge.
The contributors to this present book include some famous writers and some heretofore relatively unknown. The synchronistic ways in which Dave Patrick met them all and included their offerings is a story in itself that he relates at the end of the book. Rather than cite them individually, I would prefer here to give you a taste of what I consider the preciousness contained in this volume by quoting just a few of the many memorable words of the authors without attribution:
The Cathars "didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God. They didn't believe in the virgin birth. They didn't believe he died on the cross. Jesus was a prophet, yes, and a teacher,.... Jesus didn't come to free the people from their sin, but from their ignorance."
It is said of Catharism: "It's treasure and its secret was that store of spiritual wisdom which might indeed be called the complete Gospel of St. John, of which the existing gospel is but a fragment."
"The message of the Cathars is that we are all part of soul groups incarnating together." This gives "credence to a holographic universe, the paradox of the timelessness of time."
"Cathar teachings remind us that spiritual thirst is universal. People today are finding that religion isn't providing all the answers. We are no longer accepting secondhand information. Like the Cathars, we are seeking within."
"When we go back to the source of the Hermetic Teachings in Egypt, we find that the Egyptian hieroglyph for Heart, Ib, is a vase.... In a way, the Cathars did possess the Grail."
"...it is not we who have rediscovered the Cathars, but they who made ready our spiritual processes of today."
"...destruction of the current egoic systems on the Earth must occur. Greed, power at all costs is unobtainable. That is why collapse in banking, media and justice systems is imminent if not already occurring."
"The Cathar story is part of the story of man's inhumanity to his fellow man throughout the whole of known history. It is the story of control of the masses, keeping them in a state of fear, not only for their lives but also for their immortal souls."
"It's hard for us in the twenty-first century to contemplate such barbaric acts as were perpetrated then, especially those that were in the cause of the Church - or is it? Have we learned anything at all in the intervening seven hundred years? In today's so-called civilised and enlightened world, such cruelty still persists. In Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Syria and many other parts of the globe atrocities occur daily, but somehow we seem to be able to distance ourselves from the horror.... Have we become so desensitised by the deluge of media information that we no longer pay much attention to the coverage of such events?"
"`When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace'. This is a message for the Church, institutionalised religion generally, governments, banks, corporations and other powerful institutions. Is anyone out there listening...?"
"There is no longer a sense of the sacred, for we are obsessed with glamour and triviality, cynicism, violence and the need for constant distraction. What kind of progress is this? What kind of culture? There is no suggestion here that we should return to a heresy but with discernment we should be able to see some of the wisdom in the philosophy of the Cathars."
- First reviewed by Alan Glassman in New Dawn Issue No. 138