I just came back from Languedoc-Roussillon, where I followed the footsteps of the Templars and the heretic Cathars. This essay will focus on their similarity with early Christian and Jewish Gnostic thoughts, in which C.G. Jung was very interested. Where did the Cathars came from and what were there beliefs? What was the mystic and symbolic importance of Mary Magdalene, who is still worshiped prominently there in Catholic Churches?
In Languedoc-Roussillon Cathar castles and Templar remains, Abbeys and Châteaus are inspired by powerful myths , major mysteries, complex religious history, symbols of psychological relevance and – also significant pseudo-history. There a lots of stories about the Crusades and the mysteries of Sacred France in regards to Jesus, Mary Magdalene connected to it. Or, as in the cases of Rennes-le-Château, downright fabrications and conspiracy theories. So my journey became a transformational journey visiting places with magic and mysticism in addition to hiking, camping and photographing.
My American wife, recently very pro-French again (wine and food) proposed the very south-west of France to improve my son’s French, she said. It is a long but doable drive, meaning that our Labrador – a good hiker – could accompany us. I tought there could be something in for me too: visiting the remains of Gnosticism and Templars. At some point the journey almost brought back 1971, when I travelled with two friends extensively in the Middle East, in particular Lebanon and Syria.
One drives through a harsh, sometimes nearly unpopulated rural area , ruled by medieval castles which you can visit in smoldering heat, often by yourself. Languedoc-Roussillon and especially the department Aude has been like Syria always cultural fertile and diverse with all its violent consequences. Like Levante and Egypt, Languedoc-Roussillonon harbors historical significance for Christianity and Gnosticism and their fight with each other, in what Phillip Jenkins called “Jesus Wars“. I have written about that here. Through Templars and the crusades this geographic and cultural regions are even themselves interconnected. The 11th century was the century of monks and knights, but also of a second wave of religious disputes like in the first two centuries, the century of heretics. While waves of Crusaders were fighting in Palestine, the common people of Europe were experiencing a crisis of faith. The Cathars, who lead an austere lifestyle, flourished in Aude and Herault at the foothills of the Pyrenees. My thoughts about them in the context of the Templars here.
This second wave of Gnosticism in Europe started a decade years after Jerusalem fell. Graham Simms and others have written about Jesus after the Cruzification. The book Holy Blood, Holy Grail put forward a hypothesis, that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and their children emigrated to what is now southern France and that would eventually initiated the Merovingian dynasty. This was later trivialized in the Da Vinci Code and correctly rebuked by serious historians. The Templar-Grail myth and the Rennes-le-Château version have been scolded as two of most notorious pseudo-histories and classic examples of conspiracy theories in history.
It seems sometimes, we experience today a third wave of Gnosticism, although only a trickle in the void of nihilism. Basic Gnostic theology was already known from the Nag Hammadi texts and earlier finds. Christianity has always had many variants, just as it does today, and Gnosticism is still alive and well. At some point, serious believers must decide where to place their faith not to be detracted from the basic Christian message, unless they want it. In any case from, this essay takes an interest in the transmission of thoughts from Jerusalem and Alexandria to southern France.
History of the Region
The region is named Languedoc, after the language formerly spoken there – the Language of Oc or Occitan and famous by its historic walled city of Carcassone in the north, once overrun by the Moores, today by visitors. The Pyrenees-Oriantales form in the West the border between France and Spain with both sides actual Catalan (still a spoken language). The area was trading extensively with Greece and was later called Septimania, because Augustus settled his veterans of the 7th legion there. After the break-up of the Roman Empire, this part of Gaul was dominated by the Visigoths, who migrated into France from central Europe. They sacked Rome in 491 and are known to have carried off the sacred treasure that the Romans had taken from the Temple of Jerusalem. The Visigoths dominated the Languedoc from the 5th until the 8th centuries with strongholds in Carcassone and Narbonne. There are also many remains of fortifications found around Rennes-le-Château, as mentioned a village with a recent “mystery story” and myriads of explanations on its own with a little help of the BBC.
After the Visigoths, the Arabs dominated the area for much of the 8th century. The sacred treasure is last recorded in the Visigoth treasury at Carcassone, but disappears from history after the Moorish invasions in the 8th century from Spain. Languedoc had also a substantial Jewish population in the region from Roman times – and 768 due to their help pushing back of the Arabs, a semi-autonomous Jewish principality was established there. Until the 13th century Languedoc was defacto independent of the rest of France ruled by the Counts of Toulouse. The Languedoc had its own distinct culture, which at that time – probably because of influence of Greek and Jewish – was the most cultured and advanced in Europe. It was here that the troubadour movement flourished and Gnostic thought resurfaced 1000 years after it was stamped out in the cradle of Christianity in the Middle East. In the 12th and 13th centuries the region was the heartland of the Cathar heresy, supported by the Counts of Toulouse. This gnostic form of Christianity is a strong dualism, essentially very similar to the Manichean thoughts and totally opposed to materialism and authority of the Church of Rome.The bloody and traumatic genocide of the Albigensian Crusade, so named after the major Cathar town of Albi, marked a watershed in the history of the Languedoc, ending the south of France’s independence, becoming subordinate to the north. The crusade against the Cathars infamously ended after the siege of Montségur.
The other major power in the medieval France were the Knights Templar, that mysterious order of warrior-monks formed during the Crusades. They were conspicuously neutral – some suspected even secretly helping the Cathars. After having outlived their usefulness after the fall of Outremer in the Holy land, the Templars were accused for secret heresy and for similar reasons (greed and power struggle although her of temporal forces) stamped out a century after the Cathars genocide. Although the Templars were found throughout Europe, the greatest concentration of their property was in the Languedoc and the neighbouring Roussillon region. After the crusade against the Cathars, the Languedoc retained its heretical character. The first witch trials in Europe were held at Toulouse in the 14th century. In later centuries, Languedoc was famed as a centre for alchemists – the town of Alet-les-Bains, 5 miles north of Rennes-le-Château, being a particular centre for the so-called ‘black art’.
Ugo Bianchi, an Italian historian of religions identified three distinct features of Dualism:
- Absolute Dualism regards the two principles of good and evil as coeternal and equal, whilst moderate Dualism regards the evil principle as a secondary, lesser power to the good principle.
- Absolute Dualism sees the two principles as locked in combat for all eternity. Many absolute dualists’, regards time as cyclical and therefore lean to in reincarnation, whereas moderate Dualism sees historical time as being finite and linear; at the end of time, the evil principle will be defeated by the good.
- Absolute Dualism sees the material world completely evil, but moderate Dualism regards creation as essentially good.
Clearly the Cathars were absolute dualists, however this definition may be used to classify Christianity as moderate dualists, without the great (religious) philosopher Augustine of Hippo, who added our free will and Omne bonum a Deo, omne malum ab homine – “All good from God, all evil from man.” The psychoanalytic C.G .Jung said under the impression of the second world war: We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. ” Simpler said, We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. The Shadow, as C.G. Jung defined it, is in us.
Christian dualist heresy has always derived from a tradition that was ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’ or suppressed from late antiquity onwards. Frome the Catholic/Orthodox point this tradition was mostly recognized as Manichaeism, occasionally in combination with other ancient dualist heretics. From the other side, of course it have been the early Christian apostles who became corrupted by the Church. Hence, this revealing of a kind of ‘secret history’ and attempt to reconstruct suppressed or concealed religious development follows the pattern of pseudo-history.
Gnostic-Manichaean doctrines offered an investigation of the important dualist religious currents. Dualism defines distinctive source of evil in the divine and supernatural sphere the interrelationships between the divine, human and natural world.
The syncretism and distorted borrowings between the orthodox and heretical religions in antiquity and the Middle Ages present a complex picture. Arguably the development of such religious ideas are best evaluated over a great period of time.
With the establishment, expansion and consolidation of the Christianity, Judaism and Islam, other religious traditions dualism routinely attacked by its monistic critics, began to decline and even disappear from their traditional spheres of influence in Mediterranean Europe and the Near East. However, during the High Middle Ages dualist religiosity in Europe was resurrected, mainly through the missionary efforts of the Bogomil and Cathar heresies. The ecclesiastical and secular elites of medieval Christendom had to pursue what they saw as a re-fight of the battle against its revived ancient Manichaeism, the only universal religion to emerge from the great spiritual turmoil in third-century Mesopotamia. In Manichaeism, the traditional dualist religious vision which divided divine reality and the world into two opposed realms of good and evil was further magnified. Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, proclaimed that his intricate dualist system formed a meta-religion and underlay the teachings of Zoroaster, Buddha and Christ after it reached this universalist phase, having passed through a centuries-old evolution in Iran and the eastern Mediterranean world.
‘Dualism’ has a different usage in philosophical-historical and religio-historical contexts. In religious systems such as Manichaeism it means God and the devil as two coeternal principles. In more general terms, the term dualism is applied also to philosophical systems fort pairs of oppositions like that of Plato, with its dualities between the mortal body and the immortal soul, or the world perceived by the senses and the world of eternal ideas, comprehended by the mind; or the Kantian distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal world.
Jung has been often (rightfully) seen of being a contemporary Gnostic.  However, the interpretations which Jung places on Gnosticism and the texts which Jung refers to on alchemy, were often Kabbalistic, so much so that one would be more justified in calling the Jung of the Mysterium Coniunctionis or Kabbalistic in contemporary disguise. One of the most serious and arguably criticisms against Kabbalah and the early Gnosticism was of course, that they may lead away from monotheism, and instead promote dualism, the belief that there is a counterpart to God: The good power versus an evil power. Gnostic-dualistic cosmology having roots in Zoroastrianism, believes since creation good and evil forces are divided; Neo-Platonism (which found its way in Christianity), argues that the universe knew a primordial harmony, disrupted by an evil force. Some argue that both models influenced Catharism.
Catharism was the most successful heresy of the Middle Ages, essentially a Neo-Dualism which followed the classical religious doctrine of the two principles. Most scholar agree Catharism had its roots in the Paulician movement in Armenia and the Bogomils of Bulgaria, as they inherited much (beliefs and organisation) from the Bogomils. However, explanations that it derived from local Jewish Gnostics, like the Essenes or even early Christians migrated to there are quite plausible. Often labeled as Neo-Manichaeism, one has to be aware, that Manichaeism was used then as a blanket term for Gnostics.
Flourishing principally in the Languedoc (Southern France and Northern Spain) and Italy, the Cathars taught that the world is evil and must be transcended through a simple life of prayer, work, fasting and non-violence. As all heretics, the Cathars believed themselves to be the heirs of the true heritage of Christianity going back to apostolic times, and completely rejected the Catholic Church. Most of the bible was rejected (except St. John) and Cathar services and ceremonies, were held in fields and in people’s premises. The main focus, however, has always been on the Cathars (from the Greek word meaning ‘pure’), a name that is normally reserved for the dissident Christians who lived in .
Cathars found widespread popularity among peasants, aristocrats and merchants, which alarmed the Church which founded the Inquisition and launched the Albigensian Crusade to exterminate the heresy. While previous Crusades had been directed against Muslims in the Middle East, the Albigensian Crusade was the first Crusade to be directed against fellow Christians, and was also the first European genocide. With the fall of the Cathar fortress of Montségur in 1244, Catharism was largely obliterated. Today, the mystique surrounding the Cathars is as strong as ever, as plenty can be written and projected about. Most of what we think we know comes from the Italian branch and inquisition protocols, because Catharism was mostly oral. What really happened, and what did the Cathars actually believe?
The Cathar Perfect was believed to have reached state of spiritual purity had been achieved through which the Holy Spirit, thus releasing them from the burden of reincarnation and the suffering “equal unto the angels” and thus already semi-Divine. After a rigorous training a ceremony took place in which various Scriptural extracts were like the opening verses of the Gospel of John. The Perfect were believed to have become “trans-material” or semi-angelic as expressed in the Gospel of Luke.
The first Cathar Synod was held between 1167 and 1176 at St. Felix-de-Caraman, near Toulouse marked the start of the real struggle between the Catholic Church and Catharism, as the Church now had an organised body to fight. In 1208, Pope Innocent III repeatedly tried to use diplomacy to stop the spread of Catharism, but in that year his papal legate and hated inquisitor Pierre de Castelnau was murdered (allegedly by an agent serving the Count of Toulouse). The event pushed him from diplomacy into military action. Some even consider the death of de Castelnau a false flag operation, engineered so that the crusade would be declared. An estimated 200,000 to one million people died during the twenty year campaign, which began in earnest in Béziers in July 1209. Papal Legate Arnaud-Amaury, saw no need to distinguish between the heretics and the thousands of faithful Catholics that lived in the city. “Kill them all,” was the abbot’s alleged reply. “God will recognise his own!” The number of dead that day was between 7,000 and 20,000, the latter figure reported back from Arnaud-Amaury to the Pope.
With such carnage, the other towns (e.g. Narbonne and Carcassonne) offered no resistance and soon the Southern counts had lost their territories and powers to the King of France and his allies. For these Northern lords, attaining the lands of the Languedoc had always been paramount; their mission had been accomplished.
An Inquisition was established in Toulouse in 1229 and from 1233 onwards, hunting down Catharism was no longer done on an individual basis. Many Cathar elders realised the lethal dangers they faced and began to take refuge in the fortresses at Fenouillèdes and Montségur, while others were able to incite uprisings, which forced the Inquisition out of Albi, Narbonne and Toulouse. Count Raymond-Roger de Trencavel was defeated at Carcassonne and only those Cathars hiding in the castles remained to be eradicated. A ten month siege began of the castle of Montségur but in March 1244, the last castle surrendered. Though their life would be spared if they recanted, the Cathars preferred to be burnt, rather than reject their faith. The last Cathar Parfait to be burnt at the stake was Guillaume Bélibaste, in 1321 in the between Rennes-le-Château – known for the mysterious 19th century priest Bérenger Saunière, mentioned later in this essay who with somehow could afford a lavish lifestyle an triggered a massive treasure hunt in the sixties.
Very few Cathar tracts have come down to us. Most of the surviving works come from Italy, due to literacy levels were generally higher than in the Languedoc. The Secret Supper elucidates the Cathar creation myth, in which Satan is cast out of heaven for wishing to be greater than God. Satan pretended to repent, at which God forgave him and let him do what he wanted. With his new-found freedom, Satan created the world of matter, and formed human beings from the primordial clay. Each soul was a trapped angel from heaven. Satan then convinced humanity that he was the one true god. The most important surviving Cathar tract is The Book of the Two Principles, which was written in the 1240s, probably by John of Lugio, a Cathar from the Albanensian. The Book of the Two Principles makes a case for there being two coeternal principles of good and evil, each of which created their own spheres – heaven and the material world. by Sean Martin states in his book The Cathars: The Rise and Fall of the Great Heresy: “The true god cannot be the author of evil. The verse in the Gospel of John which states ‘All things were made by it [the Word of God], and without it, was made nothing’ was interpreted as meaning that ‘nothing’ – i.e., the material world – was made by Satan.”
The Cathars studied and taught solely from the New Testament, notably the Gospel of St. John and the Book of Revelations, both of which were written by Mary Magdalene’s brother, Lazarus, who was devoted to Jesus. Cathar beliefs might thus come from Christianity in the time of Jesu. Some conclude from the Gnostic Gospels, that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were Gnostic. Gnostics believed the follower of Christ experienced Gnosis, knowledge, and thus became close to God. Some say, the Cathar were originally taught this by Mary Magdalene. As the Gnostic leaning psychoanalyst C.G. Jung described it: by knowing your Self, you can connect to God. The Cathars only appeared out of nowhere around the 11th century, but that they might have lived here in Languedoc hundreds of years before that, from the time of early Christianity is more plausible than the Bulgaria connection.
Catharism and women
Cathars being expelled from Carcassonne in 1209. In this group, women appear not as numerous as men. As the early Christianity, also the Cathar movement proved to be extremely successful in gaining female follower. Unlike often stated. the record of Cathar and women is mixed, but the Cathars did respect women, and women played a role in the movement. Women could become Perfects known as Parfaites or Perfectaes. The Cathars were wary of the temptations of the flesh, but allowed females to receive the consolamentum and to preach. While women Perfects rarely traveled to preach the faith, they still played a vital role in the spreading of the Catharism by establishing group homes for women. Cathar beliefs include that one’s last incarnation had to be experienced as a man to break the cycle. Toward the end of the Cathar movement, French Catharism started the practice of excluding women Perfects.
Perfecti (they called themselves “bonhommes”) were expected to follow a lifestyle of extreme austerity and renunciation of the world which included abstaining from eating meat and avoiding any sexuality. They also seem to have had their own ideas concerning Mary Magdalene. 
Saint Mary Magdalene is still popular in southern France. She had been one of Christ’s followers. According to the Canonical Gospels, she was present at the Crucifixion, and the tomb of Christ, and took the news the missing body to the disciples. John’s Gospel additionally has her as the first to encounter the risen Christ, after she lingered in the garden weeping. Because of her role as messenger Mary Magdalene was afforded the title of apostola apostolorum. The early Gnostics has also revered the saint, and their writings portrayed her as a member of Christ’s inner circle. They believed Christ’s spirit appeared to her, after the Crucifixion, to reveal to her deeper spiritual truths. Gnostics also believed that Mary comprehended Christ’s teaching better than any other, being one of the closest people to him. According to one of the Gnostic apocrypha, the Gospel of Philip, she was called the companion of the Saviour.
…But Christ loved her more than all the other disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ The saviour answered and told them ‘Why do I not love you like her?‘
The Catholic Church, however, downplayed her as a penitent whore. After the crucifixion, according to the medieval myth, she came and to southern France, living out her days as a hermit. Mary’s redemption by divine grace made her a symbol of God’s forgiveness of sinners. In so far as this she may have appealed to the Templars, many of whom, in their own way, had turned their backs on sinful lives to follow Christ. Many, including gypsies and poor people around the Languedoc, revered this saint, and believed the legend (fostered by Vezelay from the 1030s onwards) that she came there. She fled Palestine, and landed at Marseilles with Martha and Lazarus, and preached to the pagan inhabitants. Like the Gnostics before them, the Cathars elevated her above the other apostles. They may even have regarded her as the widow of Jesus. The anti-Cathar Ermegaud de Beziers and Durand de la Huesca wrote that the Cathars secretly taught that Mary Magdalene was the wife or concubine of Christ; and also that she was the woman ‘taken in adultery’ who Christ had saved from the Jews who wanted to stone her.
From this allegation has arisen something of a conspiracy theory: It has it that knowledge of Christ’s alleged relationship with Mary (and perhaps proof thereof) passed from the Cathars to the Knights Templar. It was to remove the threat of this great secret, potentially damaging as it supposedly was to the Church, that the Catholic establishment suppressed the Templars, a century after the Albigensian Crusade. Although the theory probably has a particular appeal to those with a latent penchant for goddess worship in both cases, eliminating of the Cathars and the Templars was pure politics and greed. Many esoterics have additionally speculated that Mary Magdalene was herself of royal blood, or a priestess of some Isis/Ishtar cult, and that the Cathars and Templars regarded her almost as the embodiment of the feminine aspect of the divine and the personification of holy wisdom (Sophia to the Gnostics). Another theory has Mary and Jesus founding a dynasty, which fused with the Merovingian line.
I saw Mary Magdalene statues or paintings in almost ever church. extensively in Rennes-le-Chateau. It must be remembered that she was a legitimate Catholic Saint. Her supposed relics had been claimed by the Benedictine Monks of Vezelay in Burgundy, Central France. The cult was in evidence there from the mid eleventh century. The abbey claimed that the relics had been brought there centuries before by a monk who had retrieved them from their original shrine near Aix in Provence, where Mary had supposedly been lain to rest after spending 30 years living as a hermit in a remote cave called la Sainte Baume.Mary Magdalene is usually thought of as the second-most important woman in the New Testament after Mary. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She was present at Jesus’ two most important moments: the crucifixion and the resurrection. Within the four Gospels, the oldest historical record mentioning her name, she is named at least 12 times more than most of the apostles. In the New Testament, Jesus cleansed her of “seven demons”,[Lk. 8:2] [Mk. 16:9].
Petit Provence is the region in southern France adjacent to Aude and Herault where Mary Magdalene and the others came ashore at St. Maries de la Mer. A painting of Mary Magdalene is at the Church in Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, which is west of Marseille showing the boat carrying Lazarus, Martha, Mary Magdalene and a young girl named Sarah. Also the sister of the Virgin Mary and several others are shown on the boat. Often the jar in Mary Magdalene’s hand signifies the blood of Jesus. Left is the painting of the Crucifixion from the Basilica Sainte-Marie-Madeleine et le Couvent Royal, in St. Maximin. This is where Mary Magdalene was buried. She is shown at the foot of the cross in a very beautiful almost intimate pose.
Rennes-le-Chateau, is located near Couiza between Carcassonne and Quillan, has become world-famous ever allegedly since its infamous priest Bérenger Saunière discovered – or was given – a small fortune. About 300 books were written where the money came from, arguable and convincingly rebuked by Bill Puttnam as distorted pseudo-history:
- Lack of solid evidence
- Citing evidence without giving a sources
- Presentation of evidence in a misleading way
- Coincidence taken as evidence
- Failure to explore consequences of derived conclusions
- Disregard of conflicting evidence
- Conflict with accepted chronology
Theories put forward, what kind of Treasure the priest Saunière might have found:
- the treasure of the Visigoths, including the treasure of the temple of Jerusalem,that roman emperor Titus took ad 70. and Alaric I, took from Rome during the sack of 394
- the treasure of the Cathars. When the last Cathar bastion of Montségur fell, the besieging royal troops found nothing of the famous Cathar treasure taken before its surrender
- the treasure of the Knights Templar. The Templars had a presence in the region. There was a commandery at Campagne-sur-Aude and an observation post on Mount Bézu.
- the treasure of Blanch of Castille. The mother of Saint Louis, regent of France, came to Rédé (Rennes-le-Château) in 1249
- evidence that the Merovingian bloodline is unbroken.
- evidence that Jesus didn’t die on the cross
- evidence that Jesus was in fact married to Mary Magdalene.
- evidence that after the crucifixion Marie Magdalene came to France carrying her offspring that later became the Merovingians or intermarried with them.
- he tombs of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea in the vicinity of Opoul Perillos
- the tomb of Mary Magdalene and perhaps even one or more of her children in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château, perhaps in the Grotto locally known as
- the mummified body of Christ, Mary Magdalene or both is buried in the region somewhere
- the Crypt of the Lords of Rennes beneath his church
- the Arma Christi (the instruments used during the Passion of Christ) were kept in Notre Dame de Marceille and Rennes-le-Château by a group of Fransciscan Ebionites.
Mary Magdalene and Isis
But that is not the point, the area of Rennes-le-Château is full of interesting real history especially of Mary Magdalene. Although it did not exist in Roman times, founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, there was most likely an Isis Temple there. Reports of ancient authors relate to the area of Rennes-le-Chateau ( Celtic Rhedae,Rezae,Reddis or Reda). The Greek geographer Strabo describes the tribe of Celtic Tectosages as “Simple and modest in their way of life” but they fear the gods. Another report comes from the Roman authors Pomponius from southern Spain who has written about 43 AD, his famous book De Situ Orbis Geography. In it, he describes a hidden treasure in the mines of the Pyrenees south of Carcassonne. Furthermore, there is a report that on an old parchment (which was discovered in Jerusalem in a Bible), a temple dedicated to Isis in Rhedae under Emperor Nero. then under Titus in 70 AD baptized with the name Magdalene.
Many think today Mary Magdalene was a Priestesses of Isis. Ironically Pope Gregory, in 591 AD cast doubt on the “purity” of Mary Magdalene’s love for Christ when he suggested that one of the seven demons that Christ cast out from Mary Magdalene must have been the sin of adultery. He also conflated Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, the “sinner” who washed Christ’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, causing Peter, not exactly concerned of Anima, to wonder how Christ could allow such an appalling display of erotic attention. The idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute caught the collective imagination and spread like wildfire in legend and art. From Jungian view on has to take this contagious fantasy into account as meaningful projection of her sin which gets a life of its own for psychological reasons. The Catholic Church has admitted its error in the smearing of Mary Magdalen as a prostitute, however, although Mary Magdalene is almost always mentioned first ahead of the Virgin Mary, only a handful of scholars have attempted to reconstruct why she could have been so important. She carried a royal title that translates as “The Wise Women.” According to the Gnostics, Jesus referred to her as “The One who knew all. The Wise Women was in Mesopotamia called Cybele, Astarte, and Ishtar, the Egyptians called her Isis, the Greeks called her Athena, and the ancient Hebrews called her Asherah, The Woman of the Tree and the very consort to the Lord God YHWH. Gnostics called her Sophia, but in the hands of the Catholic Church, she became The Black Madonna. Legend connects this Black Madonna with both Isis and Mary Magdalene.
Bérenger Saunière built a house and called it Villa Bethania. That he named the house like this is the nearest thing to any mysterious religious knowledge he might have had, for then the Church believed that Mary at Bethany and Mary Magdalene were different people. But Bérenger Saunière didn’t. He built a “folly” and called it the Tour Magdala. There he would study and read.
The church is dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and some people think that the priest’s great treasure was spiritual – the knowledge that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and had founded a bloodline, great knowledge which would destroy the Church’s concepts of virginity being related to godliness. There is no doubt that the priest loved Mary Magdalene. He restored his church lovingly and spent a large sum on it between 1886 and 1897 of unknown origin.
Inside the church is a statue of Mary Magdalene and she appears much more often than usual in a catholic church. It is standard iconography that Mary holds a crucifix (the crucifix was not used as an emblem until the 9th century) and her jar of ointment. At her feet is a skull resting on a book; this signifies her meditations on mortality. Although it is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, there are well known hints that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. If we take this story seriously what does this mean? First we know that Jesus did mix with prostitutes, tax-collector and the general outcasts of society. Second, in ancient Sumer and in Egypt, priestesses participated annually in the Sacred Marriage, representing their goddess and thus ensuring fertility and the continuance of life. It is most likely that the latter idea of “temple prostitution” arose from the participation of high priestesses in the sacred rituals.
It is clear in the Old Testament that the priests of the god Jehovah hated the Priestesses of Goddess temples and referred to them as Temple prostitutes because it was known that in many Temples of the day used sexual rituals. One of the Gnostic Gospels was called “The Gospel of Mary” and this gospel it seems contains the teachings of Mary Magdalene. Another Gnostic Gospel (see Early christian writings here) called Pistis Sophia (Sophia was the Goddess of wisdom) is about a dialogue between Jesus and Mary Magdalene whom he calls, “dearly beloved. In one dialogue Peter complained to Jesus that Mary Magdalene dominated the conversation with Jesus but Jesus rebukes him. In another Gnostics text called “Dialogue of the Saviour” she is portrayed as a very wise Woman who understood Jesus completely unlike the rest of Jesus’s disciples. So it seems that Mary Magdalene was a very important member of early Christianity. Pistis Sophia was dated about 250 AD. Sophia means wisdom. In Pistis Sophia Jesus returns to the disciples eleven years after his ascension into Heaven to exchange views on his teachings. Pistis Sophia, written in 250 AD, apparently show the Gnostic teachings of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Arguably the Pistis Sophia is blend of primitive Christianity and Hellenic Paganism, with other elements such as reincarnation, Astrology, Mystery religion and Hermetic magic. The Goddess makes an appearance in the guise of Sophia, a Fallen Angel. In Old French legend, the exiled “Magdal-eder,” the refugee Mary who seeks asylum on the southern coast of France, is Mary of Bethany, the Magdalen. The early French legend records that Mary “Magdalene,” traveling with Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, landed in a boat on the coast of Provence in France.
Mary Magdalen as Eros and feminine archetype
Back to the Church of Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Chateau. The inscription at the portal is most startling (at the left with permission from www.marymagdalenebooks.com). The decor may seem somewhat superficial in any Catholic church at any time and place, but a closer look reveals strangely disturbing – and perhaps even pagan – dark imager and symbols that should unsettle Christians , including a hideous grimacing plaster demon crouched just inside the door, and had the words ‘This Is A Terrible Place’ inscribed over the porch, clearly a gnostic view.
In the church Mary is shown in conventual manner, weeping as Jesus is laid in his tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. The person in red comforting the Virgin Mary in the background is Mary Magdalene’s brother, Lazarus. Like Isis and Ishtar, Mary Magdalene mourns the death of the god and her partner she loves, and when he resurrects, she celebrates his renewal. Through her intense spiritual love, she represents the feminine side of the death and resurrection phenomenon that plays a facilitating role in the humanization of the god-image the reverse process of C.G Jung’s individuation. I can’t help to think which kind of love she represents. There are four shades of love – derived from the different Greek words for love. (I have written here about it). The Greek language distinguishes four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.
- Storge (στοργή) means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural love, like that is felt by parents for offspring, or between brother and sister or by children for their parents. It is a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant. The key attribute is natural.
- Philia (φιλία) is “conscious” love, we know from words like philosophy – love for wisdom (Sophie). It mean a feeling of friendship and enjoyment of an activity, again used in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. The key attribute is rational.
- Agape (ἀγάπη) means love in a “spiritual” sense. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of ” unconditional love” or altruistic love , coming from the heart. In latin the equivalent word is “caritas”, it gives and expects nothing in return. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for us and loving each other like we love ourselves. The key attribute is spiritual.
- Eros (érōs) is “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing without the balance of consciousness. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love”. Plato expanded this definition: as appreciation of the beauty within an object, or even of beauty itself. Indeed the word platonic love today describes, “without physical attraction.” Plato argues that eros helps the soul find knowledge in beauty which contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, leading to transcendence. The Greek believed that beauty can never be evil. The key attribute here is sensual.
I have written here about feminine archetypes here. I am quite sure Mary Magdalene represents the latter three, quite obvious since the Holy Mary represents Storge and from a Jungian view the archetype of the mother and completes the trinity to quaternity (See my article Marriages Made in Heaven : Trinity Finally Becomes a Quaternity).
Although the Judeo-Christian fathers excluded any sign in their orthodoxy that Yahweh and Christ may have had love partners, archeological evidence and Gnostic texts point to the possibility that they did. In our era, with the psychological perspective that C. G. Jung heralded, we can understand the role of the Eros principle  that was split off from our god-image, along with the “evil” of the flesh. The emergence of Mary Magdalene in popular culture as the “Holy Grail” or vessel of Christ’s child reflects the intense yearning in the psyche for the feminine principle to participate in the continuing incarnation of the god-image, and for the divine feminine–masculine partnership to realize itself in personal, human experience. Mary is also the first to experience, personally and empirically, the spiritual image of God, a paradoxical union of opposites: life and death, man and god, spirit and matter.
Magdalen in this church painting on the front of the altar, is shown with a book and a skull and usual but with a crucifix of living wood, implying to some that Jesus did not die on the cross, as early heretics, Gnostics and Cathars believed.
Many argue, that Jesus was a Gnostic teacher but did not die on the cross. We know from the Bible that Jesus spent most likely his childhood in Egypt. A very important Egyptian religion of the time was the religion Isis and Osiris. Like Jesus Osiris was a god who was murdered and then returned from the dead. Many scholars have commented on the similarities between Jesus and Osiris and Isis and the Black Madonna. I have described here, obvious similarities of the teaching of the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with triads in ancient religions. So it all does indicate to some that perhaps Jesus and Mary Magdalene was a trained priest and priestess in Egypt with relations to Isis and Gnosticism. In the porch of the church is yet another secret message that implies that Bérenger Saunière believed that Mary Magdalene loved Jesus, indeed, adored him. Just recently, after some 60 years of treasure-hunters, the village is becoming greatly loved by spiritual people interested in Mary Magdalene.
The Black Madonna
I lived for 5 years nearby the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, close to Zurich in Switzerland.
The breathtaking Baroque basilica in the Einsiedeln’s monastery alone is stunning, in which the black statue resides. The Madonna holds the Christ child, who is, himself, holding a black bird. The Way of St. James which extends from all corners of Europe, touches Einsiedeln and the 11th-century abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou situated in a spectacular location in the Pyrenees mountains on the way to Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre. Black Madonnas have been a source of mysticism within the Catholic Church.
Whatever the true significance may be, approximately four hundred Black Virgins are now located throughout Europe, the majority in France. The Black Madonna can be frequently traced back to pre-Christian mother goddess figures. Black Madonnas may in fact have been originally pagan goddesses who were renamed to transfer worship of the Earth Mother to the Virgin Mary or as some believe Mary Magdalene as incarnation of Isis. The cult of Isis was one of the dominant religions of the Mediterranean during late Roman times had spread all over Roman-occupied lands. Please refer here, to read mor how at that time the Mithras Cult, Christianity and Roman State Religion competed: Isis, Mithras and Jesus: Clash of male and female Archetypes in classical Rome. Churches were routinely built over Isis temples after Christianity became in the fourth century state religion, like it is said happened in Rennes-le-Château. Cybele and Artemis/Diana of Ephesus, both dark-skinned fertility goddesses were still worshipped in France and the Mediterranean coast from Antibes to Barcelona during the later centuries of the Roman Empire. Cybele was during the 3rd century the supreme deity of the town of Lyon. Marseilles was devoted to Greek Artemis. When the Crusaders returned from the Middle East Knights Templar, and refuges of overun Outremer surely brought heretic and christian art and gnostic thoughts. Many of whom who were wiped out as heretics, were involved in promoting the cult of the Black Madonna and her association with Mary Magdalene. The Black Madonna Limoux, south of Carcassone very close to Rennes-le-Château. The church at Limoux is called the Notre Dame de Marceille.
What precisely the Cathars believed, remains somewhat of an enigma. Many have used it as a blank canvas, to paint their own thoughts or convictions on. Hence, a lot of myths and falsehoods now exist about Catharism. Suggestions that Jesus survived the crucifixion, went to Egypt, then settled in France are highly speculative, lacking historical evidence (heretic gospels grew like fungus in the formative period of Christianity) and of course are alien to my belief. However, some relations between Christianity and Egypt are clearly not. So is the thought, that gnosticism was already there long before it resurfaced. There is historical and archaeological research that proves a connection between Jerusalem, Egypt, the Land of heretics and Mary Magdalene. Nor would I argue against the view, that there is much more in the story of Mary Magdalene than the gospel tells. Except maybe rhe gospel of luke Luke – my favorite – who resonates so subtile the Anima  of the Church in his description of Holy Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. Is seems almost they represent the classic female archetypes of love and their shadows – from a Jungian view. Notable, the Cathars recited from the gospel of Luke during the ceremony of receiving the consolamentum and become “bonhomme”.
I might return to the subject and the location.
Bishop Fulk, asking a knight why he did not expel heretics, received the classic answer: ‘We cannot. We have been reared in their midst. We have relatives among them and we see them living lives of perfection.’
- Some of biggest creative thinker of the humanity, like C.G. Jung were de facto semi-gnostic and spiritualist. Might has always utilized symbols and collective archetypes. This is valid from Greek philosopher Plato, Dante Alighieri’s “La Divina Commedia”, up to Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, to name just a few.
- In the 20th century Freud made the mistake, equating drive energy strictly with sexual energy. Jung’s break from Freud came in part because Jung saw drive energy as transpersonal and deriving from the unconscious, the feminine counterpart to consciousness.
- Pope Gregory the Great’s homily on Luke’s Gospel, dated 14 September 591, first suggested that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute: “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? … It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts” (1844–1864, Homily XXXIII, col. 1238–1246).
- Though critical, the role of the animus must be left for another time. I recommend Animus and Anima, Emma Jung.Gnosticism Term used to designate many different sects who flourished in the first few centuries AD. many elements of Christian Gnosticism are pre-Christian Gnostics, such as the belief in Dualism. The name derives from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis.
- Gnosticism: Term used to designate many different sects . Many elements of Christian Gnosticism are pre-Christian Gnostics, such as the belief in Dualism. The name derives from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. Gnosticism can be found around all revealing religions as it is essentially syncretistic .
- Dualism: The belief that good and evil are two independent, opposing principles.
- Bogomilism: Dualist heresy founded by the priest Bogomil in the early tenth century in Bulgaria. The earliest tangible evidence is datable to 1167. The movement survived up to the nineteenth century. It appears to have influenced Catharism strongly, although some see other, local roots.
- Paulicianism: Dualist heresy that emerged in seventh-century Armenia. In 717, a council of the Armenian Church denounced them as ‘sons of Satan’ and ‘fuel for the fire eternal’. They are thought to have survived until the seventeenth century.
- Docetism: The belief that Christ did not have a physical body, common amongst Gnostics. Docetics believed that Jesus’s body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion. Docetism was declared heretical by the Church. Both the Bogomils and the Cathars were Docetist.
- Essenes: Radical Jewish sect that existed from the second century BC to the first century AD. Some argue that that both Jesus and John the Baptist had links with the sect. The community at Qumran, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, is thought to have been Essene.
- Elchasaites: Jewish Christian sect who were, interestingly, also known as katharoi. Their most famous member was the Persian prophet Mani.
- Manichaeism: Dualist religion founded by the Persian prophet Mani in the third century. As it had an Universalist claim it was majorcompetition, Wiped out in Europe during the sixth century, and emigrated as the Nestorians to Asia. ‘Manichaean’ became a blanket term for heretic during the Middle Ages
- Adoptionism: Belief that Christ was not born divine, but only became so after his baptism.
- Nestorianism The belief, first proposed by Nestorius, then patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century, that Christ’s person contained two separate beings, one human, the other divine. Nestorianism was declared heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431, but it survived in Asia and came back ironically with the Mongols in the thirteenth century. See Phillip Jenkins “Jesus Wars”.
- Arianism Named after Arius (256–336), from Alexandria, denied that Christ and God were one person, seeing them instead as two different Divine entities. Declared heretical at the Council the Council of Nicaea.
- Marcionism Gnostic dualist sect that taught the principle of the two gods, with Christ being the son of the true god, and the Jehovah of the Old Testament being seen as the evil god.
- Some Cathar terms:
- Listeners In the Cathar context, a Listener was a person interested in Catharism, but was not ready or willing to become an actual member of the church, which required the taking of the convenanza.
- Believers The majority of Cathars were Believers. That is to say, they had taken the convenanza, but were not yet consoled. They were not subject to any dietary restrictions.
- Perfects In the Cathar context their priests. Perfect The were ascetics who were the heart and soul of the Cathar movement. Bogomilism also had similar classes
- Consolamentum Cathar rite of baptism that elevated the Believer to the state of a Perfect.
- Convenanza Formal rite that made a Cathar Listener a Believer.
- The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy (Yale Nota Bene), Stoyanov, Yuri
- The Cathars: The Rise and Fall of the Great Heresy by Sean Martin
- The Knights Templar: The History and Myths of the Legendary Military Order by Sean Martin
- Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge University Press, 1978); The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge University Press, 1994)
- Gnosticism and Early Christianity by R. M. Grant
- Jesus Wars Harper, 2010 by Phillip Jenkins
- The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau: A Mystery Solved, by Bill Putnam
- C.G. Jung, Aion Untersuchungen zur Symbolgeschichte
- A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, James Henry Breasted Kindle-Edition
- The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia A. H. (Archibald Henry) Sayce Kindle-Edition
- Malcolm Barber & Keith Bate (translators & editors), The Templars: Selected Sources (Manchester Medieval Sources Series, Manchester University Press, 2002)
- The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark
- The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died by Philip Jenkins
- Historia Mundi Volume IV, Lehnen Verlag, Die Kirche zur Zeit der Apostel und Märtyrer
- The Cults of the Roman Empire, Robert Turcan
- Les sites templiers, Jea Luc Barbiere
- Haskins, S. Mary Magdalene: Myth and meaning, (1993) New York, NY: Riverhead Books
- Animus and Anima, Emma Jung
- STRUKTURFORMEN DER WEIBLICHEN PSYCHE wolff Structural forms of the Feminine psyche (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00001582/00001)
- Early christian writings
- Interesting reading http://www.marymagdalenebooks.com
- Jesus after the Crucifixion: From Jerusalem to Rennes-le-Château, by Graham Simmans
- Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (Jonathan Cape, 1982)
- Rennes le Château Rennes le Château Temple of Mysteries
- Pistis Sophia
Earlier Gnostic Writings and Cathar Texts
- The Cathar religion represents a major medieval resurgence of Gnosticism, and we offer an important collection of Cathar Texts, including the complete manuscript of the Lyon Ritual, Interrogatio Iohannis, and The Book of the Two Principles.
- While the Nag Hammadi Library represents the richest source of classical Gnostic texts, many other primary Gnostic documents were discovered in the century prior to the Nag Hammadi find. These are cataloged in the Classical Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments section.
- Of associated interest is the Christian Apocrypha and Early Christian Literature, a section containing other important Christian texts surviving outside canonical tradition, some of which manifest Gnostic influence.
- The G.R.S Mead Collection contains over a dozen volumes written by G. R. S. Mead (1863-1933), one the greatest early scholars of Gnosticism. These works provide an invaluable evaluation of texts relating to Gnostic tradition available before discovery of the Nag Hammadi collection.
- Opinion about the tradition was primarily based on Works Against the Gnostics by the Church Fathers. I included is a full text site search function.
- A large sample of these is presented in the Manichaean Writings collection, along with an introductory lecture.
- Also included in the library is a section devoted to Mandaean Texts and this still living Gnostic tradition.
Contemporary Gnostic Writings and Jungian Texts
Alchemy was recognized by C. G. Jung as another strand of Gnosticism;
- Alchemical Writings provides links to a comprehensive collection to it
- An Introduction to the Ecclesia Gnostica by Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller
- The Seven Sermons to the Dead (by Carl Gustav Jung).
- Collection of Texts from Modern Gnosticism
The Nag Hammadi Library
- Excerpt from Elaine Pagels’ excellent popular introduction to the Nag Hammadi texts.
- The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary Gnostic scriptures — texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define “orthodoxy” — scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth. The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library has provided impetus to a major re-evaluation of early Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism.
- We have add extensive resources on two centrally important texts from Nag Hammadi: The Gospel of Thomas and The Secret Book of John. Multiple authoritative translations of several Nag Hammadi scriptures are included in the collection.
- Valentinus and Valentinian Gnosis. Valentinus was one of the most influential Gnostic Christian teachers of the second century A.D., and was the only Gnostic considered for election as Bishop of Rome (Pope). He founded a movement which spread throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Despite persecution by developing orthodoxies, the Valentinian school endured for over 600 years. A large number of texts in the Nag Hammadi collection are influence by Valentinian tradition. Due to its importance, we have a large section of the library dedicated specifically to Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition.
Hermetism and the Hermetic Gnosis — including the Corpus Hermeticum
- Beyond the bounds of classical Christian Gnosticism — represented by the above materials — the Hermetic tradition is another very important and influential Western tradition of Gnostic character. The Hermetic writings represents a non-Christian lineage of Gnosticism. Our Corpus Hermeticum and Hermetic Writings section offers the most extensive collection of Hermetic texts available on the internet. Included here you will find introductory material, the complete texts of the Corpus Hermeticum, and essentially all other extant Hermetic writings. Included is an introductory lecture.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Collection
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Collection in the Gnostic Society Library is one of the largest and most referenced Dead Sea Scroll resources on the internet. During the middle years of the twentieth century two important but very different collections of ancient religious texts were unearthed in Palestine and Egypt: the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library.
Illustrations are my own (except stated otherwise) and may be used with quoting the proper sources.
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