I just came back again from the haunted and magic Languedoc-Roussillon, where I followed the footsteps of the Esclarmonde de Foix and the heretic Cathars. This essay will focus on Esclarmonde de Foix. Cathars, Catharism and its connection to the holy grail seen through the eyes of Otto Rahn, a shady self proclaimed archaeologist, who had been driven into suicide by the Nazis:
- Where did the Cathars come from and what were their beliefs?
- Was Otto Rahn (“Crusade Against the Grail”), a kind of Indiana Jones, killed for failing to find the Holy Grail in the Cathar land?
- In her mystic and symbolic importance, was Esclarmonde de Foix (1151 to 1215), not only a “Cathar Bona Femna” (Good Woman), but also a “Ketzerpäpstin” (heretic counter pope)?
In Languedoc-Roussillon Cathar castles, Templar Abbeys and Châteaus inspire powerful myths, major mysteries, complex religious history, symbols of psychological relevance and – also significant pseudo-history. There are lots of stories about the Crusades and the mysteries of Sacred France connected to it. Or, as in the case the holy Grail, 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. I choose as base camp a wonderful Bed&Breakfast in sight of the last Cathar stronghold Montségur and close to Foix. As always, please be aware that this is an essay on my impressions and their reflections on history, culture and psychology, not a scholarly work. Readers of my articles know, that I have an soft spot for intuitive, but holistic interpretation of historical schisms, heretics and cross cultural transmission of myths and knowledge. Catharism holds all those secrets, and more, the egnima of Catharism can be felt still in southern France.
My encounter with a French writer
We stayed in sight of Montségur’s castle, in the hamlet of Mijanes, which is situated 650 m above sea level in a clearing at the end of a small road. The house is an old stone farmhouse, beautifully restored in order to preserve the built’s authenticity. At street-level, the old hay barn completely open to the south, gave the opportunity to develop a large community room with separate entrance and fireplace. Very bright, it opens onto a gallery with large sliding doors. Two hectares of meadows surround the house with lots of room for sheep, chicken and a dog called Hector. After a few tries, he got along with our dog. Around, the forest offers beautiful walks and the lack of light pollution nice astronomical pictures and nice sights of the sunset over Montsegur.
The house has “only” room for two guests, its wall of the rooms’ corridor is fully dressed with a bark and natural pigment wallpaper from New Caledonia. The other room was occupied by a French couple, a writer and a retired teacher, who we met during breakfast. The writer happened to be Jose Dupre, who wrote about the German anthropologist Rudolf Steiner, Catharism and Déodat Roché, with whom he maintained a close relation and friendly collaboration during nearly 10 years. Not only a writer, but an expert in his field. Jose Dupre saw interestingly Déodat Roché as a bon homme, a modern Cathari Parfaite or perfect.
Roché’s career was an interesting one, from Martinism – esoteric Christianity, concerned with the fall of the first man – and the Gnostic Church he promoted his own understanding of perennial religion while remaining an active and influential Mason leader for a small formal group of disciples. Via the work of Rudolf Steiner, “Christianity as Mystical Fact” in 1921, the then 43 years old Déodat Roché discovered a modern “Manichean spiritual stream, and received the advice to meditate on the main stages of the life of Jesus Christ from the representation of John’s Gospel. This looked for Roché like a living link with the meditative tradition, which had been maintained by the Cathars.
He became well known through his writings, which were – especially in the 1960s and 1970s – a major source for the renewal of interest in Catharism, marketed into
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) and thence into The Da Vinci Code (2003). He was a Gnostic, who lived like a contemporary Carthar lifestyle according his friend Jose Dupre – “Un cathare au 20e siècle”.
During a conversation, I naively showed to Jose Dupre a vintage copy of Otto Rahns book which started an interesting if not agitated discussion. Otto Rahn is not forgotten in France, but highly disputed if not despised, and his views are of Chatharism and Esclarmonde considered as pure speculations. Jose Dupre told me some details of Déodat Roché, who died in 1978 at the age of 101 years He was a philosopher and seeker who sought contact with people of very different spiritual orientation like Otto Rahn, Simone Weil, but never to lost sight of Christian-Gnostic Manichaeism. Even his appearance – slim, ascetic and benevolent facial features – reminiscent of a figure of early Christianity, such as Origenes, whose writings are more interesting than many “esoteric” contemporaries.
The heretic papessa Esclarmonde de Foix
Esclarmonde was identified from the German mystics Otto Rahnas a historical precedent of the protector of the Grail “Repanse de Schoye” of Eschenbach’s “Parzival”, which included the Grail in the mountain of Munsalvaesche (Montségur), to protect him from the armies of Lucifer.
The historical Esclarmonde (” Light of the World ” in Occitan) was born around 1150 as daughter of Roger Bernard I, Count of Foix and who fathered also another Esclarmonde (The Bastard). Esclarmonde and her brother, Raymond-Roger grew up in the Cheateau de Foix at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountain range at the center of the triangle of Carcassonne-Toulouse-Andorra. She married Seigneur de l’Isle-Jourdain. Their six children’s children included Bertrand, Baron de Launac who later inherited the County of Foix. She was widowed in October 1200, and from this time turned openly to the Cathar Church.
In 1204 she became a Parfaite, a member of the Cathar Elect by the Consolamentum from the hands of the Cathar Bishop Guilhabert de Castres. She would become almost a female pope of the Cathar faith, combining temporal power and transcendental authority. She moved to Pamiers and later decided to fortify the Castle at Montségur against likely assaults by the French Catholic Crusaders. Otto Rahn claims that Montségur was the famous the castle of the Gral’s legend. In 1207 she organized the Colloquy of Pamiers, the last public debate between the Cathars and the Roman Catholic Church, whose representatives were led by Dominic Guzman (later Saint Dominic). It was at this debate that Esclarmonde, an educated Occitan, famously spoke up. The of the Roman Church lost in these intellectual and theological debates as often. At one point, being reminded of the cruelty of the Church by Esclarmonde Dominic admonished her: “go to your spinning madam”. It is not proper for a woman to speak in a debate of this sort”. The following year, 1208, despairing of success through intellectual and spiritual means, Pope Innocent III would launch the Albigensian Crusade.
Certainly the Cathar and Esclarmonde challenged the central power structure of the Roman Popes. The popes of that period were very powerful and interfered quite broadly in the affairs of secular monarchies. But it was also a church that was troubled by corruption and lack of clerical celibacy and moral decency.
Because she refused to submit to the Roman Church, the pope put a price on her head; even so, she managed to evade not only the crusaders and the papal legates but also a series of bounty hunters. There was evidence that she was in the area around Dun until 1212, but the Chateau de Foix, Esclarmonde’s brother’s estate, from was 1214 to 1218 in the hands of the papal legate, who turned it over to the feared and hated Simon de Montfort.
When Raymond-Roger went to Rome to try to retrieve his lands in 1215 at the Lateran Council, the pope reproached him about his sister’s activities. By then she had become the symbol of the resistance against the crusaders’ occupation and the papal inquisitors, as she encouraging the resistance fighters, providing them useful information, and refortifying castles. She became so cunningly, that in time the Crusaders were to call her La Renarde de Foix (the Fox of Foix); the Occitans called her La Grande Esclarmonde (Esclarmonde the Great), and her frequent appearances all over the land gave the people hope and inspiration. In 1218, Raymond-Roger did eventually win back his castle, not through any justice or intervention of the pope, but rather by force of arms. Rumors tell, that for more than 30 years, Esclarmonde lived as a fugitive on the run, sleeping sometimes in caves and keeping a hair’s breadth ahead of the inquisitors and bounty hunters. There is one mention of her in 1232. But it was only a brief appearance, and then she vanished once more.
Her death is said to be 1215, but no-one knows the exact time or place of Esclarmonde’s death— she was rumored to have died in one of the caves where she took shelter—but her memory lives on. Jules Massenet wrote his opera Esclarmonde about her life 1889. In 1911 in Foix, a committee tried to erect a statue to her memory, but the bishop of Pamiers, Jean-Marie Vidal, did all in his power to have the project stopped. Esclarmonde, for she remains “one of the strongest symbols of the Occitan woman’s attachment to religious freedom” and an inspiring role model for courage and strength against tyranny and despotism everywhere. Esclarmonde of Foix has become something of a role model, after her name – almost forgotten for seven hundred years – but made known again by Otto Rahn in the twentieth century.
Otto Rahn the Indiana Jones, who worked for the Nazis
Very little is certain in the short life of Otto Rahn. But one of the few things one can with any confidence say about him is that Rahn, small and weasel-faced, with a hesitant, sly smile and oily hair, was the inspiration for Harrison Ford’s most famous role, Indiana Jones. Like Jones, Rahn was an archaeologist, like him, he fell foul of the Nazis and like him he was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail – the cup reputedly used to catch Christ’s blood when he was crucified. Rahn was a dreamer, who entered into a terrible Faustian pact: impressed with his first book “Kreuzug gegen den Gral” (Crusade Against the Grail), Heinrich Himmler committed every resource imaginable to realize his dream and a formidable salary. There has been just one catch: in return, he had to find something that – if it ever existed – had not been seen for almost 2,000 years, which he write must be buried in southern France. He didn’t, so Rahn’s obsession ended up costing him his life.
Rahn was born in 1904 in Michelstadt (Germany) and made Abitur (German university entrance qualification) in Giessen 1922. Through one of his religion teacher, he became fascinated by the history of the Cathars. At an early age became fascinated with the Holy Grail and the famous German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann had found what he believed to be the ruins of Troy on the western coast of Turkey. Rahn used later the 13th-century epic Parsifal as his guide to finding the Holy Grail. He started studying 1922 law, but switched and completed his university studies in literature and philology 1928.
During his stays in Geneva and Paris 1928 he researched medieval scripts. In Paris he met an esoteric circle of literati and scholar like the Toulouse poet Magre, who both believed that the manuscript of the mysterious Bogomil Bishop Nicetas the Château de Monségur was preserved. It was thought to be hidden during the Albigensian Crusade as part of the legendary Cathar treasure in the underground cave of Ornolaca in the south of France, Languedoc. Through Magre, Rahn met the spiritualist Countess Miryanne Pujol-Murat and became her protege. She claimed to be a descendant of Countess Esclarmonde de Foix and a member of a Gnostic Church.
Grail quest with Antonin Gadal
From 1929 Rahn undertook as part of his study, travels in southern French Languedoc, where he researched among other things caves, and the ruins of Montsegur. In 1930 he undertook a journey to the valley of the Ariege. In France, he investigated the medieval heretic movement, especially the Cathars and Albigensians. On his first explorations he befriended Déodat Roché, a follower of Rudolf Steiner, and the local historian Antonin Gadal. Gadal developed an intense friendship Rahn, and become his mentor and patron, and both worked extensively in the following three years together. From late autumn 1931, Rahn settled in the small spa town of Ornolac-Ussat-les-Bains, in which Antonin Gadal lived, with whom he remained friends over the coming turmoil and difficult years until his untimely death. From 1930-1932 Rahn explored from his home the southern French Pyrenees together with Antonin Gadal.
The more Rahn, a serious scholar read Eschenbachs Parsifal, the more he became convinced that the Cathars, the medieval Christian sect, held the secret to the Grail’s whereabouts. In 1244, shortly before the Cathars were massacred by a Catholic crusade, three Cathar knights had apparently slipped over the wall of Montsegur Castle in the Languedoc area of France. With them, together with the Bogomil manuscripts, was a cup reputed to be the Holy Grail.
Rahn arrived at Montsegur in the summer of 1931. He didn’t find the Grail, but he did find a complex of caves nearby that the Cathars had used as a kind of subterranean cathedral. If he’d been of a less optimistic bent, he might have shrugged his narrow shoulders and gone home. Rahn, however, wasn’t the going-home type. Certainly he was on the right track, he wrote a book called Crusade Against the Grail in which he described his quest.
Otto Rahn and the Nazis
It was because of this book, that Rahn met his Mephistopheles Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS. Not only had Himmler read Crusade Against the Grail; he loved it. All Rahn had to do was find the Holy Grail. Everything but a Nazi he seems to have been blithely unaware with what what he was letting himself in for. A few weeks later a close friend (Rahn was gay) ran into him wearing the black uniform of an SS Sturmbannführer and asked him what on earth he was doing. ‘A man has to eat,’ Rahn replied sheepishly. ‘What was I supposed to do? Turn Himmler down?’
He wrote another book, with the none too catchy title of Lucifer’s Court: A Heretic’s Journey in Search of the Light Bringers, which detailed his further efforts to find the Grail. The book had one open anti-Semitic passage, which was not from him. By now it must have dawned on Rahn that he was dealt with extremely nasty folks.
Otto Rahn’s mysterious death
What gives Rahn’s dilemma peculiar piquancy, is that there’s evidence to suggest that he was Jewish himself – although it’s not clear if he was aware of it and gay. Bravely, if naively, Rahn began to move in anti-Nazi circles. As naive as it was brave, he applied to Himmler to resign from the SS – an organization you could only resigned from feet-first. And so he did. There are stories that Rahn had links with British Intelligence. He ended up dead like Faust. One evening in March 1939, he climbed up a snow-covered slope in the Tyrol mountains and lay down to die. He is believed to have swallowed poison, although no cause of death was ever given. The following day Rahn’s body was found, frozen solid. He was 34.
Nigel Graddon, author of a new biography of Rahn, “Otto Rahn and the Quest for the Holy Grail: the Amazing Life of the Real Indiana Jones”, believes that Himmler’s disenchantment with Rahn was a result of his failure to find the Grail.
The Cathar heresy
The Cathar heresy was a major challenge to the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathars rejected the Roman Catholic church structure and considered themselves the only true Christians. The Thirteenth century was at a high point of their power and influence. Unless in other countries, the itinerant preachers in southern France received extensive support of the local nobles.
The Cathars rejected the old testament of the Bible. They called themselves “veri christiani” (true Christians) and defended of a dualistic world view, which contained Marcionites elements. Catharism promoted values of equality, neighbourliness and charity, and turned its back on the pomp, hierarchy and worldly wealth of the Catholic church. It did not have a founder or leader, nor did it take root in one place. It may have originated in the Middle East i.e. Persia, and spread to Europe via Constantinople, the Balkans and Italy. It inherited elements of Sufism, Gnosticism and Zoroastrianism, fused with the mentioned dualist perspective: a universe of Good versus Evil; Light versus Darkness; a Good God of the spiritual world and an Evil God of the material world. By the eleventh century, there were Cathar believers all over Europe, including England. But one of the places, in which the Cathar church really flourished, and the place with which the word Cathar is now strongly associated, is southern France.
Among several books on Albigensians another name for Catharism, that of Jacques Madaule is free of sectarianism, although noticeably not without sympathy for the phenomenon. It claims to adhere to the results of scientific research and the French writer I met, was worried that the speculation by the Otto Rahn damages their credibility.
The riddle that gives us this first great medieval movement against the Roman Church, has so many aspects. The central questions are:
- How was it possible for an early Christian movement from far remote to propagate beliefs and partly hostile moods and practices in the superior Languedoc, home of the Troubadours and an advanced cultural refinement?
- Why was their doctrine preferably found among the nobility of the country and their followers?
- Why did Rome react so harshly under Innocent III against this doctrine and practice of nonviolence?
- Why did the Inquisition decades after the defeat of the Albigensian army still searched for the “good people”?
- How do we understand the proven fact, that quite many representatives of the Southern French aristocracy and Bishops were Roman Catholics, but were also persecuted and repressed?
When one considers that there have been in northern Italy and on the Rhine Cathars and that Northern Italy temporarily offered even refuge to the persecuted, the matter is even more mysterious. To equate the Cathars with early Protestants is wrong. Those Heretics were Gnostics. Their dualist teachings, their tolerance, their mild life practice their gentility were the flower of a different culture or time. The denial of the incarnation of Christ meant in the Middle Ages the negation of all spiritual and worldly social fabric created by the councils of the forth century.
The Chathars and the Templars
The Templars have never taken part in the fight against the Cathars which raged around during half a century in Europe. They even accepted them into their order. There are hints that the Templars possessed original manuscripts of the apostle Johannes, from Marcion origins (old christian heresy). In the original country of the Cathars, the Southern French province of Languedoc, two-thirds of the population were exterminated in this western “crusade”. Repeated requests, to act, had been strictly rejected by the Templars. They had very good reasons. The Cathars based some of their writings of Marcion, which Templars had found in Jerusalem. In the most popular publications about the Templars, one can read nothing about it. So the Templar’s order in ecclesiastical regard was not homogeneous Christian anymore. Some of the Templar’s secrets living up to the present day. The Cathars most probably handed over sanctums and valuable texts to the Templars.
What the knights thought at that time and felt, we are not able to imagine. The knighthood kept wisely that knowledge under strict secrecy. Later, Hugo of the Champagne procured some first Cathars writings, contents to which the accounts of the Eschaimin texts fitted. The sign of the Marcionites Gnostics was the red Thorn cross – exactly as later that of the Cathars. After the legend the mother Christ had tinkered from four thorns of the crown of thorns a small cross. This thorn cross became later the origin of all knight’s crosses. Till then the Templars had a simple Roman Cross in use. From now on it became the Red thorn cross on White.
The Myth of the Holy grail
Myths may be divided into three classes: those that are connected with the quest for certain power symbols, of which the Grail is only one, those that deal with the quest of the hero in a Jungian sense; and third, those that deal with the nature and history of the symbols.
These wordily stories were interpreted in the light and spirit of medieval Christianity and mysticism, but in essence were contradictive to the Cathar dualistic rejection of the real world.
The Holy Grail is generally considered to be the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and the one used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch his blood as he hung on the cross.
Guyot, a Provençal poet who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century, is said to be the originator of the story. Much ink had been spilled around the possible Eastern origin of the Grail legend based on an Arabic book by an astrologer, Flegitanis found in Toledo, Spain, which contained the Grail story. “Flegitanis” sounds certainly not like an Arabian proper name, but more like the Persian felekedânêh (“astrology”). Some believed the legend originated in the mind of Guyot himself, but there is, however, there is some reason to believe that the story might have been brought from the East by the Knights Templar.
In earlier sources and in some later ones, the grail is something very different. Chrétien, for example, speaks of “un graal,” a grail or platter and thus not a unique item. Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival presents the Grail as a stone which provides sustenance and prevents anyone who beholds it from dying within the week.
Parzival is a medieval German romance written by the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach in Middle High German. The poem, commonly dated to the first quarter of the 13th century, centers on the Arthurian hero Parzival (Percival in English) and his long quest for the Holy Grail.
As for the Grail, that too lives on, with claimants and contenders continuing to turn up in the most unlikely places. As one said at the time, ‘The Grail is like Everest: you climb it because it’s there.’ Or not there, of course.
The Chathars and the Holy Grail through Otto Rahns Eyes
Rahn’s studies and his extensive research in the French archives of Montsegur (Eastern Pyrenees), it eventually led him to believe that he had found the mysterious Grail, that for the first time, was mentioned by the Provencal poets of the 12th century Guyot, the inventor of the Holy Grail. So proclaimed Rahn that in the history of the Cathars so meaningful Montsegur Castle with the Castle of the Grail Montsalvatge (Mont Salva sealed) from Wolfram von Eschenbach epic Parzival is identical. Otto Rahn had put forward the theory, that the Cathars were the guardians of the Grail, which he described as a stone of light. He claimed also that Pope Innocent III. had initiated Albigensian war, actually as a crusade against the Grail. Those theses originate mainly from Antonin Gadal, a teacher, who researched after his retirement after the historical heritage of the Cathars and gained a reputation as a Neukatharer-expert. He was interested in the French history and the Cathar heresy and explored it also climbing into many caves. Gadals paleontological studies of the caves in the valley of the Ariege and his extensive research in the southern French Languedoc finally made both believe, that he had come to the mysterious Cathar treasure. They likened it to the Grail, which the inventor of the Grail legend, a Provencal poet of the 12th century Guyot , mentioned. Gadal infected Otto Rahn in his assumption that the Cathar treasure is hidden in the caves of Sabarthes and encouraged the research of the Middle Ages Montsegur Castle, which he likened to the Grail Montsalvatge (Mont Salva sealed) from Wolfram von Eschenbach epic Parzival held.
The Albigensian Crusade and Inquisition
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. They could not find God in the churches, with their corrupt clergy.
In a bizarre parallel to the fourth century, Rome tried to quell the heresy by a string of councils and sent out priests, but that did not help. Since Catharism represented a clear and present danger to Catholicism, Innocent III sent a call for another holy war March 1208, summoning all Christian nations to launch a Crusade against a country of fellow-Christians. The Pope’s appeal came four years after the sacking of Constantinople by a Crusaders’ army, already the fourth against the Saracens a much harder enemy, than initially thought. The Albigensian Crusade can clearly be described as the first act of genocide in Europe. Starting with the sack of Béziers, historians estimate that the persecution of the Cathars in Languedoc caused half a million deaths. In cultural terms, the suppression of the Cathar heresy and the consolidation of French power in Occitania led to a complete strangling of Catharism in mediaeval Europe.
The temporal enemy was Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, a cousin of the King of France, a feudal sovereign whose authority extended over the regions of Agenais, Quercy, Rouergue, Albigeois, Comminges and Carcassès, not to mention the County of Foix. In the owner of all the territories where the langue d’oc was spoken.
The nobility was weakened on the battlefields of Palestine, during the various local campaigns they had to conduct proving futile. The Crusades itself were gradually appeared to be a dead end.
What was new type of Crusade? The aristocracy of this period was as cosmopolitan as before the first World War. Italian and Spanish poets composed in the langue d’oc, and German Minnesinger took lessons from the Troubadours. Against a methodical system of oppression was established from West Rome. The circumstances which led Innocent III were of some justification for the Pope’s appeal. Every single district throughout the Count’s countries was a hotbed of heresy; and on 14th January 1208 Brother Peter of Castelnau, the Papal Legate, had been assassinated at Saint-Gilles — which was a capital crime. It did, however, justified a declaration of war, since the Church was not, in theory, a temporal power, but intervening in the life of an Emperor still a valid option.
But when the Pope pronounced his excommunication against the County of Toulouse, he knew that was not the case. Raymond VI’s mistake was that of ruling a country where the spiritual authority of the Church was in decline. The murder of Peter of Castelnau, has been said ‘was worse than a crime: it was a mistake’, most likely not of the Count himself, who just declined to take part in the league of Southern barons, to hunt down heretics. The Papacy had no armies in its pay and could not force the French King to launch a Crusade, and in the event failed to persuade him, but could attract a ragged and greedy team of Rome’s mercenaries. The propaganda drive was so successful that the King of France found himself forced to change his stand. It was a large army, which made a considerable impression and devastated the country in what would be called today an act of ethnic cleansing or genocide. Except, that not only heretics were killed, but also Catholics and Jews, as evident in the Massacre at Béziers. “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. (“Kill them all, God will know His own)” was a phrase allegedly spoken by Papal legate and Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amalric prior to the first major military action of the Albigensian Crusade.
The Fall of Montségur and termination of Catharsis
The last stand of the Cathars took place at Montsegur 1241, literally the safe or ‘secure’ mountain. The siege lasted more than two years and there were battles and skirmishes fought every day.
According to Magre, many of the great heroes of chivalry fought and died there. “Men such as Lantar, Belissen and Caraman”, and the beautiful Esclarmonde d’Alion, also known as “Esclarmonde the Bastard”, sword mistress of the south. Through two winters the defenders of Montsegur held out against the Pope, against the Spanish inquisition, the Teutonic knights, the kings of France and last but not least Simon de Montfort – effectively against the world.
The castle fell to treachery just before the spring equinox in the second year of the siege, when shepherds from the neighboring village of Camon showed the Teutonic knights, who were accustomed to the icy Alpine conditions, the secret path up the sheer side of the mountain by which the defenders smuggled in their supplies and on March 16th, the last of the Albigensians, some 225 surviving men, women and children were dragged down the mountain in chains to be burned on the Camp de Cremat.
The castle’s history as, above all, a symbol of resistance made it impossible for the conquering orthodoxy to Christianize or take in the Holy Roman faith as they did at Montserrat and countless other pagan sites such as Montserrat, Lourdes or Fatima.
It is surprising that the outside world has thus far avoided the subject matter of a clear Catholic genocide. When the ‘Cathars’ do surface in films, they are usually portrayed in the inquisitions terms as fanatics or devil worshippers. Otto Rahn’s positive account, Crusade Against the Grail, was the first to be published outside France, and translated in the English. Despite the title, surprisingly little reference to the Grail itself is made in Otto’s opus. Besides, as before mentioned, nobody seems to know what a Grail is, theories range from the sacred bloodline or ‘Sangraal’ described in Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh’s fanciful bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Bran’s cauldron, the lost Gospel of Saint John, the Book of Nicetas, a graven tablet or a ‘hard, dark stone’, symbolic of Christ’s suffering according to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parsifal or the Indian Lapis as Otto Rahn suggested.
In what was then the largest French provincial newspaper, the Dépêche de Toulouse printed 1933 a lead editorial that tore a veil in front of the secret history of Occitan South.
A foreigner, even German, who had until then encountered arrogant silent rejection, suddenly showed that the bloody tragedy of the crusade against the Albigensian Church had not disappeared from the awareness of citizens of Southern France nor from the world.
What was the reason that the repressed and buried layers suddenly came to light? It was a speculative, scientifically immature book of a completely unknown young German named Otto Rahn, who wrote boldly, almost provocative “The Crusade against the Grail, the tragedy of the Cathars”. He took his life under strange circumstances in 1939, alone in the snowy mountains of the Wilder Kaiser, after he had maneuvered through an unexplained cooperation in entanglement and danger with Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. How is it possible, that an unknown German usurped the historical past of Muret and Montségur?
Otto Rahn was from the Marburg area, in which long ago, a judge, Konrad from Marburg had been assigned as an inquisitor to stamp out an heretic offshoot of Catharism, until his assassination.
Rahn had presented prehistoric evidence of the caves of the Pyrenees area, that ancient Persian religions, Gnosticism and Manichaeism of post-Constantinian period had been entrained earlier than historical sources claimed, the heretic church known as Albigensians spread over later over the entire Languedoc, the county of Toulouse across to Beziers, Montpellier, Narbonne and to Catalonia and Ax. The boldest of Rahn’s thesis was, that the Grail legend was nothing more than mythologizing the Cathar belief of their heretical Sacrament and the famous and infamous Mountain Montségur in the lonely Pyrenees, the historical archetype of Montsalwatsch in the great poems of Chrétien de Troyes and the 13th-century work Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach and The Ring opera’s of Richard Wagner.
It was understandable raising eyebrows in those years, that a German took the French a centerpiece of history and turned it into something like an anti-Roman gnostic anti-Pope myth.
Now the French historical research Catharism has of course been more repressed than neglected. Jacobinism and Enlightenment as the official doctrine had no room for medieval religious wars and so-called Crusades. Meanwhile the situation has changed thoroughly. In the Tarn valley underground places of worship were discovered which suggested strange astral symbolism. Montségur, especially the burial ground (champs cremats), where the last fighting faithfuls have been burnt in 1244, was investigated and buried ceremonial objects found.
Of course, we it is known, that there is something like a heretic movement against Rome in French South has formed; science also knows, that originally domestic Bogumiles in Bulgaria represent the link from the Christian centuries to Catharism; we know of the crusade against Albigensian by Pope Innocent III and that the “secular sword” of Anglo-Norman baron Simon yon Montfort and the subsequent Inquisition by the Dominican Order and its founder Dominic de Guzman have eradicated literally Albigensian sect. Nevertheless, there is a certain fuzziness.
The reasons are diverse. In fact, the prosecution has produced a lot of documents, but in particular those relating to doctrine and worship, destroyed. The heretics had been driven back together with their cult in the Pyrenees caves. However, a number of important documents have found in the recent past. Ironically, scholarly Dominicans are significantly involved in these discoveries and important chronicles were found in the Vatican.
What we do not know, comes from the fact that the Catharism continues, and in a sense the old heretic church remains to this day. Only in 1950 the Cahiers d’Etudes cathares were founded. The writer I met, called his late professor a typical “perfait”. Actually, there may be men out there, who up to the present day, form an Episcopate of the “Pure”.
Indeed the original meaning of the word Cathari, came from the Greek katharos, “pure”). The Cathari professed a neo-Manichaean dualism—that there are two principles, one good and the other evil, and that the material world is evil. Embarrassingly often the medieval Catharism is seen as the frontrunner of Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, occult directions or New Age movement. Certain analogies must be stated, like the historical the historical and current anti-Roman movement particularly in Germany.
In any case, this land is full of myths and beauty. You find further information about heretics in Southern France here: A Jungian journey through a land of heretics and Mary Magdalene
- Otto Rahn Kreuzzug gegen den Gral. Die Tragödie des Katharismus Gebundene Ausgabe – November 1955
- The Cathars, France MSM 2006
- Christiana Reemts, Origenes: Eine Einführung in Leben und Denken Broschiert – Dezember 2003
- Hans-Jürgen Lange, Otto Rahn und die Suche nach dem Gral Taschenbuch – 1999
- 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
- Gnosticism and Early Christianity by R. M. Grant
- Jesus Wars Harper, 2010 by Phillip Jenkins
- C.G. Jung, Aion Untersuchungen zur Symbolgeschichte
- 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
- Montsegur Le trace du Chateau
- Bernard Hamilton: The Albigensian Crusade. Historical Association, London, 1974.
- Milan Loos: Dualist Heresy in the Middle Ages. Academia M.Nijhoff, Prague, 1974.
- Renè Nelli: Èncritures cathares: La Cêne secretè.etc. Denøel , Paris, 1959.
Renè Nelli: La philosophie du Catharisme. Payot, Paris, 1978.
Zoe Oldenbourg: Massacre at Montsegur. New York, 1961 (Kindle)
Only listed (as my French is not sufficient) the works of José Dupré:
- José Dupré, Un cathare au 20e siècle : Déodat Roché, 1877-1978 : Sa vie – Son oeuvre – Sa pensée 23. August
- José Dupré, Catharisme et chretiente (relie) 6. Oktober 2005
- José Dupré, Les études cathares sous le ciel : Astrologie – Biographies – Philosophie 27. Juni 2002
- José Dupré, Rudolf Steiner : L’anthroposophie et la liberté
13. Januar 2005
Cathar Texts and Rituals