Popular fringe historical books and films have romanticized many of the ancient heresies, attempting an apologetic campaign to recast them as innocent victims of an evil, oppressive orthodox European Christian culture. Through such books as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code, and Messianic Legacy readers are introduced to the Gnostic myth woven by fringe theorists of the Cathars as guardians of the sacred “bloodline” of Christ and of “true” Christianity. These, then, are the supposed secrets of the Cathars which the church and Christendom are claimed to have sought to suppress. They were not heretics, but the champions of truth and the Holy Grail. Not to be dissuaded by the facts of history, such books ignore the Gnostic nature and historic discontinuity with orthodox and historic Christianity the Cathars represented. The true “secrets” of the Cathars are much more disturbing, and much more sinister. They were, in a sense, the adherents of a Proto-Modernity.
Catharism spread throughout all of Europe between the 11th and the 13th centuries, particularly in Languedoc (southern France), thus the alternative name Albigensian (from the city of Albi) by which the heresy is also designated. It is perhaps no surprise that France should be the stronghold of such a heresy, as the attack on Christendom itself came from the bowels of France. The word “cathar” comes from the Greek “katharos” which means “pure.” Though many secular writers refer to it as a Christian heresy, Catharism was not actually Christian at all; it is more properly understood as a completely different Gnostic liberal religion. Its origin is difficult to determine with accuracy, but its doctrine is almost identical to that of the Manichaean cults which circulated in the Middle East during the third and fourth centuries. It is also of importance to know that Freemasonry claims to be the inheritor of the initiation mysteries of the Cathars, through the intermediary of the Knights Templars. All of this may certainly be myth making on the part of the Freemasons (as they are very good at deception), but this claimed connection adds to the list of reasons for Christians to avoid membership in the Masonic Lodge.
According to the Cathars, two eternal principles divided the universe. The good principle created the world of the spirits, and the evil the material world. Man was at the junction of the two principles. Humans are fallen spirits imprisoned in physical bodies. The soul originated in the good principle, but the material body is from the evil. The goal of spiritual life then is to seek liberation from the material by a spiritual purification, which often necessitated a series of reincarnations. If this brand of Gnosticism sounds familiar, it should. It is identical to the Hindu belief system based on the Vedas. Like many heresies, the Cathars claimed that their doctrine was the “true” Christianity. Truthfully, they simply kept the Christian terminology while distorting the orthodox meanings behind it. They taught that Christ was the most perfect of the angels and that the Holy Spirit is a creature inferior to the Son. They claimed the Old Testament is the work of the evil principle, while the New Testament is the work of the good principle. They denied the Incarnation, the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ. Thus they cannot be said to be Christians in any way, shape or form. The Cathars said that the Church was corrupt from the time of Constantine’s donation, and they rejected all the sacraments. This is not unlike the attacks on Christianity today from secularists, occultists, and fringe historical mythologists alike. No matter how much the babbling fools wish it to be otherwise, Catharism was not Christian in any sense. In Catharism what you really had was a form of paganism with Christian terminology, with philosophical connections to Buddhism, Manichaeanism, and Gnosticism. The material world being intrinsically evil in their thought, Cathar ethics condemned all contact with matter. Marriage and procreation were forbidden because one must not collaborate in the work of Satan, who sought to imprison souls in their bodies. Thus, the family, the foundation of society and integral to a healthy culture, was undermined. We find similar attacks on the family today coming from the Cultural Marxists. Abortion is a near sacrament in the world of Modernity, and was first made legal by Vladimir Lenin, in 1920. They have succeeded in having the Supreme Court of the United States re-define marriage, so that homosexual unions are now recognized as the same as traditional marriage. And they have made it clear time and time again that our children are not our own, but belong to the “village”. Of course, the village is defined as the Cultural Marxist State.
Since death constituted a liberation for the Cathars, suicide was actually considered a sacrament. They applied the “endura,” that is the withdrawal of nourishment, from the sick and even sometimes from infants, to accelerate the return of the soul to heaven. Does this culture of death sound familiar? We have already mentioned abortion, and can now add the demands for “right of end of life” actions, and for physician assisted suicide. Modernity eerily reflects this heresy nearly point for point. Ultimately, the Cathar wished to attain a state of “disincarnation” similar to the goal of Buddhists and Hindus. Obviously, such strange teachings would not attract many disciples, so Catharism established two classes of faithful: At the highest level were the “Perfect”, followed by the simple “believers”. The Perfect were the initiated, who lived in monasteries and who entirely conformed to the Cathar gnostic philosophy. The simple believers, the vast majority of adherents, were freed of all moral obligations, including in commercial and sexual matters. Debauchery, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, brutal capitalism, an intensely liberal moral fabric were all hallmarks of Catharism. Again, we see refleted in Modernity the very same libertarian ideas. The Cathars taught two degrees of moral order; asceticism for the minority and liberalism in matters of business and sexuality for the majority, with, in addition, the guarantee of eternal salvation at little cost. Now one understands what made their doctrine as successful as it was. However tempting such crude license might have been, the vast majority of the people remained faithful to orthodox Christian teaching. Thus the Cathars were recruited essentially among the tradesmen and upper class of the cities. They were not very numerous, but they were wealthy and powerful, since the wealthy tradesmen liked the idea of doing whatever they wished with regard to business and sexuality, while still gaining salvation at the end. They were known to practice usury, engage in orgies, and even share wives. The count of Toulouse, the most important lord of Languedoc, not surprisingly was an adherent of this heresy. These facts being known, it is historically inaccurate and completely dishonest to claim the Cathars were innocent, pure Christians of non-violence, or the victims of the church in its fanatical fervor. On the contrary, they formed a powerful and arrogant sect which propagated an immoral doctrine, oppressed the Christian commoners and persecuted the presbyters. They even succeeded in assassinating the Grand Inquisitor, Peter Martyr. Not at all the gentle sect the fringe historians and revisionists would have us believe they were.
The church displayed great patience before taking measures against the Cathar peril. The Albigensian heresies were condemned by the regional Council of Toulouse in 1119, but, until 1179, Rome was satisfied with sending preachers into Languedoc, men such as St. Bernard and St. Dominic. Their goal was to preach orthodoxy to the people and attempt to convert those given to the heresy back to the faith. This Auto da Fe was a compassionate means of trying to resolve the major social and spiritual problems caused by the Cathars. These missions were sadly to have little success. In 1179, the Third Lateran Council was finally forced to ask the civil authorities to intervene. The King of France, the king of England and the German emperor had already begun, on their own initiative, the suppression of Catharism, which was threatening the social order by its perverse doctrines, which were rightly understood as an attack on the family and, along with their dishonest business practices, were a violation of civil law and common decency. In short, Catharism was the enemy of Christendom and thus, Western European Christian culture. Beyond that, Cathars could not be taken at their word, since they would not hesitate to give an oath and then violate it with impunity. Keep in mind that the feudal system rested upon the oath of one man to another. The negation of the value of the oath was as grave for medieval society as would be the negation of the authority of the law for modern society. It was nothing less than an attempt at social insurrection.
In addition, the Cathar preachers were encouraging anarchy and directing armed bands, which were called by different names in different countries (“cotereaux,” “routiers,” “patarins” etc.). These bands were sacking the churches, massacring the presbyters and profaning the Eucharist. The Cathari were known to be extremely violent and to completely disregard any civil authority, including the law. The King of France, Philip Augustus, had to send troops against a band of 7,000 Cathar terrorists, and the bishop of Limoges had to march against 2,000 Cathar anarchists. Germany and Italy too found themselves in the same position. In 1145, Arnold of Brescia and his Cathar “patarins” succeeded in seizing Rome and driving out the pope. They proclaimed a republic and remained in power for ten years before being conquered and condemned to the flames by the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa. What all this demonstrates is that, far from the fringe historian mythology of a peaceful persecuted sect, Catharism was nothing less than a revolutionary movement, very much in the spirit of the Cultural Marxists today.
In 1208, the Cathar mercenaries of Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, assassinated the pope’s legate, Peter de Castelnau. Finally, Innocent III decided to preach the Albigensian Crusade. It was led by
Frenchmen from the north under the command of Simon de Monfort. The Cathars resisted for four years (1209-1213) and took up arms again in 1221, which shows how strong they militarily were. Their last fortified stronghold, Montségur, did not fall until 1244. However, Catharism still did not disappear. It transformed itself into a secret society, and vestiges can still be found in such societies as Freemasonry and in Modernity.
As in all wars, the Albigensian Crusade was an occasion of excesses. There is no question that the civil authorities sometimes went too far, and that armies were given to immoral acts in the prosecution of the Crusade. The taking of Béziers (1209) was a horrible massacre. It was impossible to distinguish the Cathari from the orthodox Christians among the population of the city. The papal legate, Arnold de Citeaux, was to have said, “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.” The statement is most likely falsely attributed to him, but they reflect all the same an undoubted fact: the Cathars, who had, for a long time, been provoking the hatred of the Christian culture and populace because of their immorality and their practicing of usury, ran the risk of a popular lynching. But the civil authorities' response against them prevented an even worse massacre by distinguishing between the heretics and the orthodox, and between the leaders and the followers, and by applying proportionate responses to the diverse degrees of heresy. Finally, the Inquisition of the Cathars was a humanitarian work. In severely punishing the leaders of a group that sought the destruction of the culture the Christian State preserved the social order. And the church, with great compassion, spared the vast majority of the Cathars, who were more victims of the heresy rather than responsible for it. In ferreting out the leaders of this revolution of Proto-Modernity, the civil authorities prevented the resurgence of Catharism and all of the social and moral disorders the doctrine provoked. May we have the same resolve in our war of the mind against the tyranny we face today.