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The Albigensian Crusade

By 1200, after the split with the ordre de Sion, the Templars had found a new European based home in the same area that had nurtured the Merovingian bloodline, Godfroi's bid to become King of Jerusalem and thereafter, re-establish the House of David as rulers of the Hold Land.  The place was known as the Languedoc, and was the base for the Cathars of Southern France.  There, the Templars sought refuge.*

Cathar-land, however, did not turn out to be the best place in the world for the Templars to rest upon their laurels and what had become their unbridled wealth.  It was not even a nice place to contemplate the myriad connections between the Cathars, Templars, Merovingians, Benjamites, and the Magdalen.  Instead, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the rest of Europe was not in a mood to be respectful.  It was, on the other hand, time for a "old-time crusade", full of rape, plunder, and putting infidels to the sword.           

Unlike those crusades whereupon Christians had descended upon infidels, however, the Albigensian Crusade of 1209 consisted of some thirty thousand knights and foot soldiers from northern Europe descending like a whirlwind on the Languedoc -- the mountainous northeastern foothills of the Pyrenees in what is now southern France.  And incidentally, wherein lies the town of Rennes-le-Chateau (which keeps cropping up in this history).  

The extermination of populations, cities and crops occasioned by the Albigensian Crusade was extensive enough so as to constitute what might be called the first "genocide" in modern European history.  In one town, for example, fifteen thousand men, women, and children were slaughtered wholesale -- many of them in the sanctuary of the church.  When an officer inquired of the Pope's representative how he might distinguish heretics from true believers, the reply was, "Kill them all.  God will recognize his own."  

The crusade, or war, lasted for nearly forty years.  Having been called by the Pope himself, its participants wore a cross on their tunics, like crusaders in Palestine, and their rewards were imminently spiritual, i.e. remission of all sins, an expiation of penances, an assured place in Heaven, and all the booty one could plunder.  At least, they had their priorities.           

What did the people of the Languedoc do to deserve such a crusade?  The Languedoc practiced a civilized, easy-going religious tolerance, much like Byzantium.  In contrast to the fanatical zeal that characterized other parts of Europe, the Languedoc was a place where learning and philosophy flourished, poetry and courtly love were extolled, and Greek, Arabic and Hebrew were enthusiastically studied.  Schools devoted to the Kaballah -- aka, Ha Qabala, the ancient exoteric tradition of Judaism -- thrived.           

The key problem, from Rome's point of view, was that the Cathars in 1200 constituted a heresy which could conceivably displace Roman Catholicism as the dominant form of Christianity.  In general the Cathars subscribed to a doctrine of reincarnation and to a recognition of the feminine principle in religion.  Indeed, the preachers and teachers of Cathar congregations were of both sexes.  At the same time the Cathars rejected the orthodox Catholic Church and denied the validity of all clerical hierarchies, all official and ordained intercessors between man and God. 

At the core of this position lay an important Cathar tenet -- what the Church called the repudiation of "faith".  In the place of "faith accepted at second hand", the Cathars insisted on direct and personal knowledge, a religious or mystical experience apprehended at the individual in a firsthand fashion.  This experience has been called gnosis, from the Greek word for "knowledge", and for the Cathars it took precedence over all creeds and dogma.  Given such emphasis on direct personal contact with God -- priests, bishops, and other clerical authorities became superfluous.  Also, Popes.  Oops.           

The Cathars were also dualists -- everything consisted of the conflict between good and evil.  The Cathars went one step further, however, and proclaimed the existence of two gods with comparable status.  The "good" God was entirely discarnate, a being or principle of pure spirit, unsullied by the taint of matter.  He was the god of love.  But love was deemed wholly incompatible with power; and material creation was a manifestation of power.  Therefore, for the Cathars, material creation -- the world itself, all matter -- was intrinsically evil.  The universe, in short, was the handiwork of a "usurper god", the god of evil -- or, as the Cathars called him, "Rex Mundi", "King of the World."   

But, since matter was intrinsically evil, the Cathars denied that Jesus himself could partake of matter or become incarnate in the flesh, and still be the Son of God.  The majority of Cathars seem to have regarded Jesus as a prophet no different from any other -- a mortal being who, on behalf of the principle of love, died on the cross.  For the Cathars, the Crucifixion seemed hardly relevant at all.  Jesus, if mortal at all, had been a prophet of amor, the principle of love.  And amor, when inverted or perverted or twisted into power, became Roma -- Rome, whose opulent, luxurious Church seemed to the Cathars a palpable embodiment and manifestation on earth of Rex Mundi's sovereignty.             

In consequence the Cathars not only refused to worship the cross, they also denied such sacraments as Baptism and Communion.  Instead, they seemed to have adhered to a life of extreme devotion and simplicity.  Deploring churches, they usually conducted their rituals and services in the open air on in any readily available building -- a barn, a house, a municipal hall.  They also practiced what we today would call meditation.  They were strict vegetarians, although the eating of fish was allowed.  Strangely, they come across much as New Agers might today.  [Hopefully, the current crop of vegetarians won't meet with the same response from the establishment as did the Cathars.]

 

Knights Templar        History 009

Forward to:

Siege of Montsegur

*This very abbreviated historical perspective is taken from numerous sources, including specifically the excellent book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln [Dell Publishing, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, 1983].

               

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