Lost Christianities: The Blessed Martyrs – Cathari and Albigenses
© 2013 John F. Rychlicki III Leilah Publications
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cathariHistory offers a critical puzzle piece the Greek Orthodoxy refers to as the Katharoi, “the pure ones.”  The tradition of Manichaeism and Paulician Quietism goes from Antinomian Gnosis {the Carpocratians, who antagonized Clement over the Secret Gospel of Mark} to the Messalians, Euchytes, to various other orders in the invisible chain of authentic heritage.  The Antinomian Gnosis that inspired the tradition transmigrated from Carpocratian sects and Phibionites to the Archontics and MessalThe Gnostic links inspired the Paulicians; it migrated across Anatolia into Bulgaria, where the Bogomils were located.  The Bogomils-Patareni-Cathari bring us to the Albigensian sects.  From this link in the current, derive many Protestant sects that antagonized the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  The Messalians-Paulicians-Bogomils influenced the Gnostic line that would give rise to Quietism.  A factor that should never be overlooked, but which often is, relates to the nature of the monasteries in Roman Catholic Europe.  These were the primary centers of learning in   otherwise ignorant world, the Europe of those dark days.  The monasteries kept alive the light of learning of every art then known, and passed it on faithfully to succeeding generations.

The Paulicians dated in Armenia and Asia Minor from the 5th century A.D. onwards.  From their very beginnings, they were a thorn in the side of the ecclesiastical authorities.  They existed in Armenia & Asia Minor until the 10th Century A.D., when they began to emigrate, via their missionaries, to Bulgaria, where they were referred as Bogomils.  They grew influential in Armenia, and in the 19th Century A.D., re-settling in Russian Armenia.  They derive their name from Paul of Samosata, but an initiate named Constantine of Mananali on the Western Euphrates, was generally recognized as the real founder.  It is generally believed that the Paulicians are an offshoot of the Manichaeans, because of their dualism.  It seems likely that they are partially descended from the Manichaeans, but we see in the Paulicians an offshoot of the Archontics and that groups ancestors.

We learned that many of the faithful studied and practiced both alchemy and astrology.  It is also known that the Kabbalah of the Hebrews was also studied, even though the motive exoterically seemed to be that it was a valuable tool with which to proselytize Jews to Christendom.  The Catholic Church, and the Church of the Byzantium, has a glorious history of renowned mystics, of men and women to whom the highest vocation called the quest for G.O.D.  There were teachers of mystical meditation and interior prayer in many of the monasteries so that the proper preparation for such a high calling would not be lost.  They were of many persuasions, these Magisters, and so were the mystics who came out of these institutions.  The Magisters left their mark on the Church, despite its apparent antagonism to mysticism as such, due to fear it might challenge the Church’s demand for conformity to fixed inherited Canon.

The Emperors Valentinian {372}, Theodosius, {381} Theodosius II {450}, all forbade the assemblies of Gnostics, Platonists, and all other religious Mysteries, leading to greater desires of secrecy and intrigue.  The Gnostic sects from whom the Cathari emerged in southern France are ancient, and Christian Gnosticism sprang out of sects more ancient than themselves.  The word means, “to know,” in opposition to mere theory, and has deep significance, equally with Veda, Wizard, Witch, all meaning a class who know.  An extraordinary man, of the first ages of the Church, was Apollonius of Tyana; Theurgic abilities, and incredible accounts of healing are recorded of him; he was an initiate of various Rites, and visited the Indian Gymnosophists, after which he went about Greece reforming the Mysteries.

As the Roman Catholic Church uses the term Gnostic, Apollonius can scarcely be considered among their ranks, yet he was born about the same date as the Christ Jesus and lived to be 100 years of age.  The first Gnostic of the Church was Simon Magus, a contemporary of the Christian Apostles, who passed at Rome as “a great power of God,” that is an æon or Sefirot, in the language of the Gnosis and Cabala.  He was born at Gitta, Samaria, and his Gnosis is couched in the symbolical language of the period.

The common binding grades of numerous Gnostic sects are given by researchers Dr. Elaine Pagels, Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, and Rev. Stephen Hoeller as follows: Catecomonoi or learners; Pistoi or faithful;  Photozomenoi, illuminated or baptized; Memuemenoi or initiated; and Teleioumenoi or perfected.  Bishop Warburton, quoting Casaubon in his 16th exercise on the Annals of Baronius, gives the degrees as follows: Katharoi or purified; Myestis or initiated; and Teleosis or the end; yet remember the esoteric principle behind telete is death.  Iamblichus phrases a Pythagorean dogma thus: “As the Lesser Mysteries are to be delivered before the Greater, thus also must discipline precede philosophy.”  As the lesser gave the title of Mystae, the Greater gave that of Epoptæ, and if the passage means anything it must that science and art, represented by Geometry, is the counterpart of the former, whilst philosophy is in association with Epoptæ.

A further impregnable evidence of the derivation of the Cathari from Manichaeism is furnished by the sacred thread and the garment that was worn by all the Perfecti among the Cathari.  This custom is too peculiar to have had an independent origin, and is manifestly the Kosti and Saddarah, the sacred thread and shirt the wearing of which was essential to all believers.  Among Cathari the wearing of the thread and vestment, known to the Inquisitors as the hæreticus indutus or vestitus, initiated into all the mysteries of the heresy.  This vestment is possibly the origin of that consecrated Girdle, which was one of the charges brought against the Templars during their trials from 1311-13.

Metempsychosis and the pre-existence of the Soul was an integral part of Gnostic philosophies.  French writer Aroux quotes Pierre Cardinal the Troubadour, as to the veiled language of the Graal legend, which was of a nature of the Culdee secret symbolism.  He states; “The ungent which heals all kinds of wounds, even the bites of the venemous reptiles, is in fact none other but the word of the gospel, so also the golden vessel in which it (the graal) is contained, adorned with most precious stones, is none other than the holy grail itself, or the book of the Gospels, as the Albigensis had adopted and translated it; the Golden book, the vessel containing the true light, visible only to the Initiated, to the Professors of the Gay Science.”

Cathari, Catharism, was a Gnostic Christian monastic fraternity first appearing coalescent in the middle of the medieval 10th century A.D.  Cathari is a derivative of the Greek, katharoi, meaning “puritan,” or, in addition, “the pure.”  Cathari in old Europe also were known in collegiate circles as Perfecti.  Gnostic sects dualist thought {Valentinian, Origen, Manichaeism} of early Christianity were repudiated even antipathized by the Council of Nicea {CE 325}, the 5th  Ecumenical Council or the Second Council of Constantinople {CE 553} condemned by Bishop Irenaeus {circa CE 130-200}, and Hippolytus of Rome {c. CE 170-236}.  Diverse sects at diverging periods of alleged heresy and seditious movements were designated “Cathari.”  Frequent designations of Cathari were awarded to the Novatians of the Third Century of the early Roman Church; the term also was delegated to learners of the Manichaean and later Zurvanite traditions to the Gnostic Arians and later Waldenses.

Theologians in collegia have a pronounced trend to study Cathari as the lineal descendants of the Manichaeans.  The intelligentsia must scrutinize the lure to thread lineal inheritance of the Cathari sects to the first centuries of Christianity; contemporary work only leads to probable hypothesis.  Eckbert von Schönau provides the first recorded uses of the term Cathari, denouncing Gnostic heretics from Cologne in C.E. 1181: “Hos nostra germania catharos appellat.”  Excluding corrupted forms of kathori and cathare, the appellations Piphili,” “Piphles,” in Northern France and Flanders; Arians {of Arius b.250 – d.336 C.E. Heresiarch Bishop, later Presbyter}, “Patareni,” epithets with attractive doctrinal similarity; Tesserants,” “Textores” {Weavers}, unsuitably styled “Waldenses” by agnate sects.  Demagogue Arnold of Brescia and heresiarch bishop Robert de Sperone, dubbed katharoi, “Arnoldistæ” and “Speronistæ.”  To their geo-political partition, Cathari owed the names of ‘Cathari of Desenzano’ or “Albigenses” {from Desenzano, between Brescia and Verona, or from the ancient Albiga in southern France, also from provinces of Albania and Montenegro}; “Bajolenses” or “Bagnolenses” {from Bagnolo in Italy}; “Concorrezenses” {from Concorrezo in Lombardy}; finally “Tolosani” {from Toulouse, France}.

Cathari tracts and monasticism first invited notice by the French Bishop of Limousín between A.D.1012 and 1020, theologians propose.  The Bogomils of the eastern merchant routes rose prodigiously in Bulgaria under the reign of Peter the First {A.D.927-928}.  A Council held by King Robért the Pious condemned thirteen perfecti to burn at the stake, one of which even served as confessor to Queen Constánce.  The condemned perfecti who had called themselves “good Christians and Bogomili {of Bougres, Bulgaria}were burned at Orléans in A.D.1022, the first recorded execution of confessed “perfecti.”  The synods issued at Charroux in A.D.1028 and Toulouse in A.D.1056 publicly condemned the “good Christians” settling in the region from the Bulgarian and Pyrenees merchant routes.  During a decade, spanning A.D.1030-1040 a Cathari fraternity was discovered at the castle of Monte forte, with the community there received everywhere, accessible to all strata of society.  Perfecti at Monte forte were seized by the Bishop of Asti and chose to burn rather than become proselytes.

At the advent of the twelfth century, emergent Cathari sectarians captured the attention of ecclesia in rapid threads of Papal synods in diverse regions in Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, and Spain.  Anti-sacerdotal preaching of the “good Christians” often gained favour of nobility.  Pope Eugene III sent in C.E. 1147 a legate to the Franco provinces of Aquitaine and Toulousain to arrest monastic proliferation of ‘perfecti.’   Bishop Nazarius of a Cathari {Bogomili} fraternity brought apocryphal scriptures of the first and second century’s attribued to Saint John the Apostle in C.E. 1190 from Bulgaria to northern Italy.  The works in question were titled “Interrogatio Iohannis,” “Apparelhamentum Confession of Sins,” and the “Traditio: Immersion into the Community of Parfaits.”  The latter two tracts were taken from the Lyons Ritual, also various archaic tracts ascribed to the Essenes and Johannite sects traveled by the hands of Cathari and Bogomili from the Orient via Mediterranean shipping routes into southern France and Italy.

The catharist {I generalize to coagulate different sects that adopted the name Albigenses} of the Occitan region preached in pairs: the minor ‘son’{filius minor}and the deacon. The minor sons, who would become itinerant perfecti traveling the Occitan merchant routes, were coordinated by a bishop who was geographically restricted. On the eve of the Albigensian Crusade, there were six bishoprics : Agen, Lombers, Saint-Paul, Cabaret, Servian et Montsegur. Among the seats of the deacons were Moissac, Cordes, Toulouse, Puylaurens, Avignonet, Fanjeaux, Montréal, Carcassonne, Mirepoix, Le Bézu, Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Quéribus, Tarascon-sur-Ariège. {“Catharism: the History of the Cathars” by Jean Duvernoy; Privat Editions, Toulouse 1992}.  Catharist philosophy compounded an inner religiosity with a sense of the demands of practical living and agriculture.  It is apparent that Cathari sects {Albigenses in southern France also at Castle of Monteforte near Asti, Piedmont and Florence in Italy} possessed a very comprehensive religious literature, nevertheless with some few exceptions systematically destroyed, partly through the Catholic church, and partly by the perfecti themselves during the persecutions initiated in the Albigensian Crusades.

A Catharist ceremony called  Apparelhamentum or servitium examines the conscience of faith and piety, also was a ritual confession.  Parishioners of Cathari called “believers” {credente}, and “listeners” {auditores} began by penance to the deacon that conducts the ceremony: “We have come before God, and you, and the command of the Holy Church, to receive service, pardon and penance for all the sins that we have committed or caused by thought, word or deed, from the time of our birth until now, and we ask God’s mercy, and yours, that you may pray to the merciful Father on our behalf that he may forgive us.”  Parishioners continue, and atone their sins: “..by means of the will which evil spirits bring to flesh where with we are clothed.” {“The Albigensian Crusade” by Jacques Madaule; Fordham University Press, New York 1967}.  Cathari undertook stringent vows of chastity and poverty; were strict vegetarians and refrained from intoxication and swearing.  The Catharist system was a simultaneous vituperatory on the Catholic Church and the Papal states.  Cathari rebuked sacraments of the Holy See, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The Papacy was directly assailed in its doctrine and ecclesia. Catharist denial of the value of oaths, and the rejection, at least in theory, of capital punishment, rendered impotent the basis of the Christian State in the eyes of many devout Catholics.  The Cathari rite of consolation to the dying, consolamentum, often encouraged suicide or the endura, under certain circumstances, was lawful and commendable.  The assertion of theologians as Charles Molinier, that Catholic and Catharist teaching respecting Holy Matrimony are identical, is an erroneous interpretation of Catholic doctrine and practice. Among Catholics, the priest is forbidden to marry under vows of chastity, but the faithful can merit eternal happiness in wedlock and the birth of children.  For the ascetic Cathari, no salvation was possible without previous renunciation of marriage. Holy Matrimony was meretricious, and that none could be saved in the bonds of matrimony, if they should beget children.

The Albigenses, a geographical name given to the “perfecti,” or “consolati” {those whom submitted to the rite of consolamentum}, enjoyed wide popularity in countries contesting faith in the Papacy, and exercised a subtle fascination with what the Holy See called “Manichaean” heresy.  The Albigensian church consisted of the lay supporters known as ‘believers’ and listeners, or credentes and auditores respectively.  These laypeople took the consolamentum when near death.  The itinerant Albigenses preached in pairs, the elder and younger deacons, perfecti and perfectae; equivalent to dioceses of the Church.

The Council of Toulouse {France} convened in C.E. 1119 by Pope Callistus III condemns heretics whom reject the sacraments of the Holy Roman Church, but fails to denominate the Albigenses.  A Council of Tours convened in C.E. 1163 damned the Albigenses in Toulouse as a cancerous religious sect to be avoided less infection of heresy be met with Papal anathema.  The Council of Lombers convened in C.E. 1165 presided over by the Archbishop of Narbonne was deemed more important as it represented the ecclesia of southern France and was seen as an official inquisition into the Albigenses.  The Bishops of Lombers merely settled for a refutation rather than inflict punishment upon the guilty “good Christians,” Cathari.

The Third Lateran Council of C.E. 1179 was convened by Pope Alexander III and officially condemned the heretic Albigenses of northern Italy and Southern France under many names.  Two years henceforth, Pope Lucius II issued a Papal edict against the Albigenses under various names, condemning them with a perpetual anathema, “to be destroyed by the secular arm.”  Albigenses were incessantly charged with Docetic views of Christ, though they professed belief in an Incarnation, just not the Logos of the Nicene Creed.  Pope Innocent III was the first Vicar to invoke the forces of the secular to destroy Christians, who allegedly ceased to be “Catholic.”

The Councils of Lombers and Toulouse essentially proved ineffective in dealing with Cathari heresy, until the Albigensian Crusade was launched by Pope Innocent III and the excommunicated Count Raymond VI who reconciled and took the field in Crusades against his former nobilities.  Association of the Holy See with spiritual materialism by the Cathari ultimately reflected a dualist-Manichaean outlook that carried along Gnostic philosophy even after the apparent demise of Catharist sects.

The assassination of the papal legate Peter of Castelnau in March C.E. 1208 after meeting with Count Raymond VI led Pope Innocent III to declare a crusade against the Albigensian heretics.  Pope Innocent III declared Peter of Castelnau a martyr and compared his crusade with that of Saint Augustine’s intellectual crusade against the Gnostic Manichaeans.  The fall of Constantinople in C.E. 1204 no doubt fueled the fetishes of fear in the Papacy already weakened by sectarian fighting in southern Europe.

The Treaty of Paris in C.E. 1229 signed by Queen Blanche of France and Count Raymond VII of Toulouse outside Notre Dame Cathedral, brought about by the victorious nobles of the Papacy and French Crown created a world thereafter more dangerous to professed Albigenses.  On 22 December 1216 C.E., Pope Honorius III issued an official Papal Bull sanctioned Friar Dominic of St. Romans Chapel at Toulouse {captured and sterilized from “heretic” Cathari}to create a monastic fraternity of his “blessed sons,” thus founding the monastic Dominican Order.

Two further Papal Bulls issued by Pope Gregory IX set up Dominican inquiries at Languedoc in C.E. 1233.  Created primarily to combat sacerdotal heresy, the Dominican Order already had taken up the initiative as the forerunners of the Inquisition.  Dominicans would be sent to the Dioceses to support Episcopal actions against Albigensian heresy after the 1229 C.E. Treaty of Paris.  Inquisitio is the technical term in Roman law for a process of obtaining evidence.  Such is gathered by denuntiatio {charge by legal judicator}, accusatio {by private commoner}, and diffamatio {by common report}.

The principle rites of the Consolati were the consolamentum and the endura.  Such accounts of these rites come from preservations of records by the Dominicans whom presided over the Inquisition at Languedoc.  During meals in Albigensian hermitages, an elaborate rite of grace was said before each meal as well.  Eating instruments, the gathering table, the participants, and meal itself were blessed by the Cathari congregation with the words: “Benedicte, Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison.”  Teachings were positive rather than negative, sermons usually deferred until after the supper meal and conducted in candle lit dark if prudent.  The errors and vices of their fellow Men were not denounced but meditated on what it meant to be a disciple of the immaterial Christ.

Consolamentum, according to scholar Reinéri Saccho, was peculiar only to the Cathari whom gave it the exclusive title “Imposition of Hands,” and the Catholics demoting it to “Heretication.”  It is believed that the recipient of the blessing received the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, the Consolator of Christ.  The man or woman to receive the consolamentum must prepare by a rigorous three-day fast.  At the service of ceremony, a table or bench was adorned in white with a Liturgy simply called the “Text” place.  The minister at the head of the table reminded the Aspirant of the ascetic life he or she would be obligated to as a Neophyte.

Persecutions and dangers no doubt were relayed to the Aspirant including warnings of excommunication from the “false” Church of the Roman that would offer no salvation for him or her whom had received consolamentum.  The Aspirant was asked if he or she would surrender wholly to the Gospel and to God, further vowing not to eat of meat, fish, eggs, cheese, venison, never to swear or speak foul of another or lie, never to indulge in lust, never to kill, nor eat and preach without a companion without first saying the Lord’s prayer, never to sleep nude, and lastly never to betray the Faith.

With these ascetic oaths, the Aspirant advanced to the Cathari Minister in three stages, each advancement making the melioramentum, bending the knee to touch the ground with the hands and saying:  “Benedicte,” thus demonstrating that the “Perfecti” was greater.  At each melioramentum, the Consolati replied, “Deus vos benedicat.”  Upon reaching the sacramental table, the Consolati said aloud to the Aspirant and those gathered:  “Good Christians, I beg for God’s blessing and yours.  Pray to God that He may keep me from a bad death, and bring me to a good end and to the hands of good Christians.”  The Consolati then presented the “Text” to be kissed by the Aspirant as all gathered placed their hands upon the Aspirants shoulders and head saying:  “We worship Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” as the Consolati Minister prayed for the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to descend upon the Aspirant.  In cases of ill health, modifications were allowed in the rite, and if it was discovered that the Consolati minister was in mortal sin then consolamentum was invalid.

The endura took many forms of assisted suicide, as Consolati made every inducement to the deathly ill to end his life by means other than violence.  A Cathari community at Montfort near Turin, recorded C.E. 1028 gives us accounts that illness or senile decay validated “Satan” as master of the flesh, and could still send the soul into another body.  The ill stricken would consummate the will of God, counteract “Satan,” and thwart the soul awarded to the devil by death induced in the endura.  Different expediencies were adopted.

The ill were asked if they wish to die as martyrs or confessors.  If the former was chosen, a cushion or pillow was held over the ill until she or he succumbed or recovered.  Either result granted the ill henceforth held as martyr.  If the ill chose to die as a confessor, she or he remained three days without food or drink.  Sources reveal other select methods to induce death in endura, such as opening a vein and bleeding slowly to death, or consuming poison.  In Catharist belief, absolution from sin was from fault, not punishment, and penance allowed for the blessings of endura and consolamentum.

The epilogue of the Albigenses, and Cathari took place at Montségur citadel in midsummer of  A.D.1243.  High in the Pyrenees at Ariege, 2000 meters above sea level, surrounded by thick pine forests, rushing torrents and vertiginous cliffs, Montségur was seiged by troops of the seneschal of Carcassonne and the archbishop of Narbonne.  It has been told to Montségur were brought Albigensian riches, holy books, and, according to legend, the sacred Holy Graal.  Montségur became a last sanctuary from the Inquisition for the Cathari, perfecti, who were not in the thick of battle giving consolamentum.  Montségur was definitely armed, and there was food and grain for years to come in subterranean chambers.  The siege lasted until 16 March 1244 as under cover of night, soldiers invaded the fortress.  According to accounts of William of Puylaurens, “about 200” perfecti marched to their deaths and into the bonfires singing praises.

So red was the flame that rose toward the sky, so high and pillar like the smoke, that those Toulousains, Lauraguais and Albigeois, who raised their eyes toward Ariege, knew by this sign that their heroic brethren had been annihilated and that the last hope of the south had died.

~ Maurice Magre “Magiciens et Illumines”

Cathari Bishops Bernard Oliba and Aymeric of Collet were witnessed preaching and organizing hierarchy in Lombardy around A.D.1272-1273.  In A.D.1276, Toulousan Cathari were seized at Sirmione, and in A.D.1278, ‘about 200’ were captured at Verona.  As before, the Cathari heretics were burned.  A Cathari revival of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries never coagulated on firm foundations.  Between A.D.1308 – 1312, Dominican Inquisitors were reputed to have seized and burned hundreds of “good Christians,” or bonhommes.

The last professed ministers admitting to the performance of consolamentum were allegedly hanged or sentenced to life in prison at the village of Villerouge-Terménes and at Catalonia by 1325.  There are records of Pope John XXII writing Prince Stephen of Bosnia, informing him of gathering “heretics” migrating throughout the province of Herzegovina.  Cathari migrated to Herzegovina and Hungary with little or no accounts of consolamentum given after A.D.1446.  Those professing in secret to practice as “good Christians,” perfecti, likely were converted wholly to Catholicism under Ottoman rule, or became proselytes to Islam in the Ottoman Empire.

The Manichaeism of the Cathari could be seen as the ongoing manifestation of dualist thought, locked in a metaphysical battle by self-proclaimed gatekeepers of the hereafter.  These Gnostic practices were preserved and deconstructed in such spiritual threads that became vulgarized in Freemasonry, while stretching to the Bavarian Order of Perfectibilists, or the Illuminated Seers of Bavaria, the Rosicrucian Fraternity, and Thule Society of A.D.1914.  In spite of all zeal, self-sacrifice, and scripturalness, dualist traditions like the Cathari continue, renewed, and recovered from old truths.  For many Consolati, both contemporary and archaic, the stain of blood by the sinful and penitent remains indelible.

Crypto-Catharism is the secret adherence to Catharism while publicly professing to be of another faith; people who practice crypto-Catharism are referred to as “crypto-Cathars.” The term crypto-Cathar is also used to describe descendants of Cathars who still (generally secretly) maintain some Cathar traditions, often while adhering to other faiths, most commonly Catholicism. Generally crypto-Cathars have adopted Catholic terminology as part of their cover. Equally often, the laity knows little about the religion, which is kept as a mystery for priests and people who have undergone initiation.

The precise theology of this religion is still kept a closely guarded secret to this day, and the groups themselves will provide disinformation to further their secrecy. All the members of the group might not recognize their traditions as being non-Catholic. The secret traditions can become so tightly guarded, the traditions so aggrandized or altered via oral transmission, that not even the practitioners can recognize their origin.

            “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away: and

every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear

fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except that you abide in me.

        I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.  If a man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

        If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.”

~ John 15:1-8