Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Gnostic Jesus

Why did the Cathars claim to be followers of Christ? The Cathars were not Christian, since they rejected the major tenets of the Creed. They used Christian terminology to cloak their beliefs, which deceived many. Here is a concise summary of their beliefs (from a gnostic website):
The Cathars’ concept of Jesus is docetistic. The Cathars felt that Jesus was a manifestation of spirit, unbounded by the limitations of matter. Catharism completely rejected the Old Testament, and held the Gospel of John as their sacred text. Like other Gnostic groups, the Cathars held that the Old Testament God was synonymous with the devil, and proclaimed that there was another, higher, True God. The Cathars also held a maltheistic world-view, claiming that this present world was hell. Catharism taught that there was nothing to fear after death, except for reincarnation. Cathars also reject the trinity and the Eucharist.
Here is another site with information on the origins of the Cathar religion, which says the following:
The Cathar religion has its roots in eastern religions of 2500 years ago, with the ideas of Zoroastre (Zarathoustra) that the world consisted of two opposing forces, representing good and evil. Many subsequent religions take this starting point, and the Cathar religion that arrive in Europe via the Balkans in the 11th century is one of these.

The fundamental difference between a 'dualist' religion like the Cathars, and a religion like Christianity, is the importance given to the evil forces. Cathars and other dualists believe that these are of equal importance, whereas Christians believe that the forces of good are superior.

Although it shares many principles with Christianity, the Cathar religion differs from the Christian religion in some important respects. Marriage was outlawed, as was the private ownership of property. The Cathars believed in reincarnation as a path towards eternal life, were strictly vegetarian, and had to abstain from all sexual pleasures. The abstinence from sex was because the Cathars believed that a good soul, created by God, was trapped in an evil body, created by the devil. The goal was to reach heaven, not to perpetuate life on an evil earth.

 The Cathars were put to death because according to the secular law heresy was a capital crime. It is usually claimed that the Cathars were killed because they threatened the power of the Catholic Church. However, even at the height of their popularity, the Cathars and their supporters numbered roughly 10% of the population of Southern France. There were not enough of them to threaten temporal ecclesiastical power, but there were enough of them to sow religious confusion among the people, which they did. One has to get inside the medieval mind. To lead someone into a false belief system was seen as bringing death to a soul, and killing the soul was infinitely worse than killing the body. This is why, to our horror, the most extreme form of punishment was meted out for heresy. It should be remembered that the Pope and bishops tried every means of bringing about a reconciliation with the Cathars, but the Cathars responded with violence and murder. The war which followed became a struggle for dominion of the nobles of the north over the nobles of the south. Religion was just an excuse to fight. Share


xavier said...

Maria Elena:
Another reason that they threatened the moral order was the corruption of the Bible to suit their interpretations. Further, the Catars also undermined promises which in the medieval world was tantamount to destroying the social order. Fealty and pacta sunt servanda were the cornerstone of the Middle ages and teh Catars were deliberately undermining it.

Also what role did the Bulgarian Bogomils have? Also in your research on the Catars were there any Sufi or non-conformist Moslem influences as well?


elena maria vidal said...

You are absolutely correct, Xavier, thank you for making the additional points.

Of course, Catharism in France came almost directly from the Bogomils or Bulgars of Bulgaria. They saw homosexual activity as being preferable to heterosexual relations, hence the word "bugger." Although the basic gnosticism of the Cathars predated Islam by several centuries, and the Muslims persecuted the Cathars themselves, the Cathars probably picked up some Sufi ideas along the way, since they tended to be a mishmash of various religions.

May said...

I've just started THE NIGHT'S DARK SHADE! It's wonderful! And Raphaelle is such an endearing heroine!

elena maria vidal said...

I am delighted you are enjoying it!