Cathars & Troubadours

  This is a mixture of personal feelings and observations on the life and times of the Cathars with history. With the extermination of the Cathars, the Languedoc tradition of Courtly Love and its Troubadours also perished.
As a young man I read a novel on the massacre at Montsegur that was quite intriguing, and it caused me to read several historical accounts. In addition, when I got a chance to visit Montsegur, I had some experiences and insights, aided by some fellow travelers, that may be of interest to others. So this is a mixture of personal experience leavened with historical anecdote and several pictures.

To get an unbeatable pictorial overview of the splendor of the Cathar castles and their remains, and, if you read French, to get a more definitive history, please click on this link and explore!  http://www.cathares.org/sommaire.html

What is fascinating to me is that at the same time Catharism was flourishing in Languedoc, so was the Courtly Love tradition with its traveling minstrels and poets the Troubadours. At first it seems the dour Cathars and the libertine troubadours would be like fire and water, but closer examination shows Cathars were a happy lot and Troubadours in theory were not quite as physically libertine as their lyrics may suggest, some cathars were troubadours and vice versa!

PERSONAL DISCOVERIES IN THE LAND OF

TROUBADOURS AND CATHARS
 

Abe Van Luik, abevanluik@thoughtsandplaces.org, 30 September 1997

PREFACE: This is a travel story, punctuated with some
history and some strange but personal insights. This is how the
combination of my reading of history, my visiting historical
sites, and my state of mind, affected me. There is some
controversy over the true nature, or even existence, of the
Cathar heresy. I have used, and believe to a large extent,
sources readily available in libraries and on the Net. There are
some good {and some questionable - in my opinion} resources on
the Cathari on the WWW, just search on "Cathar" for a start.
Some of my views and insights may not be suitable for children.
Some may not be suitable for anyone. < G> (lightheartedness)
definitely applies to this opus, but is not meant to imply a
suitability rating. --abe-- < vbg>

I am writing this note as I begin my personal journey. I am in
my seat, on the TGV (bullet train) on the way from Paris to
Toulouse via Bordeaux. Destination: the Languedoc region.

I made a change to my usual way of visiting France. I planned a
little bit, I have a map, and it is marked up. I actually know
where I am going and in what sequence I want to do that going.
That is not my typical style.

But I went overboard and tried three times to actually call and
make reservations through a hotel chain's "No. Vert" -green or
toll free number. Unbeknownst to me it was changed since the
date on the phone book I consulted. And when I got a new book, I
called after midnight to find out it was not a 24 hour number!

I took that as an omen and decided not to force my itinerary to
this extent: I have a good idea of about where I want to go, and
if I get distracted from that itinerary, city-wise, or if there
is no room at some inn, it will be my choice at that time and so
be it.

Besides, this isn't the busy tourist time in the South anymore,
and I really like being able to choose on the spur of some
moment. So, I compromised with the new me that plans, and the
old me that follows every whim when it hits (but still manages to
find interesting experiences along life's way).
 

I soon had company in the seat next to me, a French metallurgical
engineer that had just finished graduate work and training in the
U.S., and who wanted to talk since I told him we were in somewhat
related lines of work. As I got off the train, after 5 hours, 3
of them at speeds near 200 mph (yup, mph not kph) and saw what a
big crowded city (but quite pretty) Toulouse was, I was glad I
had not booked a hotel there even for the last night as I had
originally wanted to do. So I got in my rental car and "got
outta town." I sped northward.

I am in my first night (of my 4-day adventure), in a hotel in a
delightful little place with no traffic lights at all, one stop
sign to protect the main road from side traffic, where two rivers
come together in a series of 500 foot deep gorges.
 

I know they are 500 feet deep because I hiked on a farm road (saw
one car on it) to the top of one of the surrounding hills in a
most glorious sunset. I was said "hello" to by three people when
I walked past farm houses. Country folks are friendly. I
measured the elevation difference with my trick watch.

The town name is Laguepie, whatever that means. My hotel window
would overlook the Aveyron river if it weren't for a very nice
troupe of trees.

It just came to me that it was just last year, 1996, that I had
another great French adventure of (self) discovery. That
resulted, finally, in a Joan of Arc story as a trip report for my
family with a smaller version I posted in a CompuServe
discussion. But there was a lot more to it than that.

To this day I am sometimes transfixed by the miracles I have
encountered, especially on my journeys back to Europe, and
especially Belgium and France. Back? Yes, I was born here and
lived here for 12 years. In Holland, sure, but with a Flemish
last name and an unnamed Frenchman as a great grandfather, every
return to French-speaking Europe is an exploration of my unknown
(imaginary?) heritage. I have an (imaginary?) inner bond to
peoples and places here. I ask myself if it is all imaginary,
and answer that it really doesn't matter. In my experience,
exploring these faces and facets of Europe is exploring unknown
parts of my inner self.

Changing gears to enter the metaphysical, I am sure there are
people here, as well as in the U.S. of course, who are close to
me on the tree of life (speaking of a spiritual kinship, not
just a gene-trace) and thus capable of a sudden closeness and a
rapid "knowing" each other, as befits "soulmates." Soulmates is
a useless concept, however, because anyone (sibling, child,
parent) can be a soulmate in the sense of having been with us in
our life-journeys (should you choose to believe in life-journeys
of the multiple kind, that is). Yes, it is possible in some
lifetime to find a romantic attachment to a soulmate, and find
instant and deep comfort in each others' company and thoughts and
words, but closeness on the tree of life also makes for easy and
miserable clashes. These clashes are as inevitable as they are
in Earth-families, and stem from being too much alike perhaps.
Part of family life is closeness and love, as well as -hopefully
just occasional- sharp words and pain. Sharp words from a total
stranger are powerless to hurt to any depth. But from those who
are close, well, that is a different story.

Why these reflections? Because. Sometimes I replay specific
scenes of exterior places, or of interior moments of spiritual
recognition and communication, between myself and a place or
person. Moments that somehow influenced life's trajectory,
making ever so slight an adjustment, or even a major
course-correction! They are memorable, but I have to work on
returning the memory to consciousness sometimes. Once it arrives
it floods back in an a pretty good imitation of its original.

Sometimes there is a moment (pay attention, I am setting you up
here for a manipulative exercise in imagination and feeling) when
a person and a place cause a simultaneous exterior recognition
and interior awareness, and the result is a melting, an utter
joy, a feeling of unity that makes one want to run around naked
in the cold of winter and shout love to the universe itself.
Picture yourself (I am assuming you can relate to a male-focused,
blatantly heterosexual vision here, so be forewarned) in such a
moment and space, and feel time melt away and be no more --
because you are about to enter a state of pure love so divine it
is timeless.

Picture yourself with your perfect counterpart and love, your
truest and most ideal soulmate in the classically romantic sense
(that has no counterpart in reality? Hey, some people actually
feel they have found and are with just such a person. If you
have not, then for this exercise enter an imaginary moment and
just let yourself go!). Picture the two of you at evening
twilight as the sky slowly darkens. You are approaching each
other, slowly, dramatically.

If you are a male, you are at the bottom of a grassy hillside as
your truest love comes into view at the top. You are totally
enthralled with seeing this holiest vision that promises true,
soul-melting love. She is a person, yet also a symbol of all
that is true and holy and desirable, the key to unlocking the
very gates of Heaven. Her angelic form is complemented by being
silhouetted against wispy clouds reflecting the waning light of
an unforgettably rosy sunset. Your vision is that of Divine
love, personified.

You move slowly, and feel awkward as you sense every atom in your
body straining, with abandon and without coordination. You are a
young teenager again feeling certain powerful hormones for the
very first time. You stagger upward in the hope of moving
towards and merging with this figure that now just symbolizes,
but soon promises to bestow, Divine bliss.

If you are female, you see the soft rosiness of far away sunlight
diffused through clouds, and you barely see by its wondrous glow
into the darkness of the depth below. Within that darkness you
detect movement, and parts of you know what awaits before your
heart and mind see, and begin to ache and flow with wondrous
anticipation.

Then your heart leaps with recognition, you begin to discern your
fondest lover from your fondest and most secret and sacred
dreams. He takes on more and more solidity as he rises from the
shadows of the dark void below, the void wherein flows the
secret, Sacred River of Eternal Love. You see his lips still
moist from his last draught of this dark, mysterious, and
dangerous nectar, and sense from the electricity now building
between you that he is so charged, and you are so ready, that
before he has reached you and taken you into the King and Queen's
Chamber in the waiting Chateau above, there is likely to be a
discharge of love's lightning that will utterly destroy the both
of you. A blinding and vaporizing instant of total ecstasy.

And thus, without tasting that which has literally begun to melt
your body so that every pore of it weeps with anticipation, you
sense that the very next step could translate you instantly into
the bosom of Abraham, and you stop.

Likewise, as from below you see her freeze in place like a still
photo of an explosion, you feel what she felt and sense what she
senses. You sense that the next step could well be your last in
this physical frame. And you also stop, realizing that it is
this fragile frame that makes this anticipated infinite flowing
of love into one great vaporizing flash possible.

You seek, as does she, to open up from the very core of your very
being and shout in great but frustrated symbols your eternal and
undying love. Wordlessly, since no words can convey the agony of
ecstasy denied, you throw the emotion of love and loss toward and
into the other from your every atom and cell, conveying highest
joy, deepest regret, and stupefying grief.

This, you realize in frustration, is as close as you twain shall
come to being Divinely One. For now.

Does the energy of love that built up to threaten instant
destruction now return to Chaos and leave behind infinite sadness
and pathos? No. Something else, totally unforeseen, now begins
to unfold.

As you stand there an agonizing, eternal moment, you begin to see
that the energy of true love that was about to destroy you, by
being held in close abeyance, has opened up a space in the world
of time. It begins to fulfill your fondest desire symbolically,
outside of time, in the realities of eternity.

Time literally stands still as a powerful, and unexpected unity
is experienced. You know, but can't put into words, its
archetypal meaning, and for an eternal moment the two of you
experience a hint of a unity that is bigger than the both of you.
For a moment outside of time, held open by the power of the
love-bridge you created between you but did not cross, you both
recognize yourselves in a state of actually being pure, Divine
Love, the state from whence we came and to whence we will return.
And you thrill at being totally and joyously One in that Love.

As this vision closes you know it was the true, Heavenly Love
that you experienced, a love only symbolized and hinted at by the
soft, deep bed in the chateau on the hill behind you. You now
know that you stumbled onto a great secret, that love that can
utterly destroy, when harnessed, can open a window onto the world
outside of time, and have us experience eternity and union with
our very nature, Divine Love!

This is the great secret of the Troubadours, those who sang the
praises of, sought, and worshiped the world bending,
time-stopping energies of unrequited, burning love! Troubadours
were a product of Aquitaine and Languedoc, the Southland of
France. And some of the culture of Southern France in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries was a product of the
Troubadours. Troubadours were hunted down, in the thirteenth
century, as were other heretics. They were hunted down viciously
at times, but it was largely their protectors and supporters
being badgered into doing neither that caused their demise, they
did not survive. But their poetry and song did. And now you know
one of the reasons I am in Languedoc. To learn of the
Troubadours by sensing their legacy through visiting the few
remaining castles where their influence is still, purportedly,
palpable.

BUT: (it is now the next night, and a slight itinerary correction
will need to be made). Let it suffice that as I drove the
tollway of the two seas (that's what it is called, it goes from
the Atlantic at Bordeaux to who knows where at the
Mediterranean), I realized the distances I thought to be
minuscule are in fact considerable. So, Troubadour castles are
going to be bypassed. What is a Troubadour castle? One whose
owners (or whose owner's wife) decorated their court with
tapestries and symbols of courtly love. Like artists in all
times and places, Troubadours needed support to be able to work
their craft. And a local nobleman or woman would contribute to
keeping the flame of the Troubadour spirit by giving support to
these artists of song and word. Eleanor of Aquitaine brought
them all the way into France proper, her father was one, and the
reason that she and many southern women were well educated may
have been the general (but limited) liberation of women that went
along with their adoration and idealization in the Troubadour
movement. That movement, not coincidentally, coincided with the
full blossoming of the cult of the Virgin Mary!

Eleanor, by the way, died in 1204, just a few years before all
this persecution and nastiness in her beloved South began.
Eleanor has also been said to have been a Cathar, helping make
the case that they had something in common. Some have said that
the Cathars were rather loose on their morals and so took to the
Troubadour philosophy easily and helped it along, with many of
the one also being the other. I am not convinced of this strong
and obvious connection, given that a Troubadour disguise during
the Albigensian Crusade was a ruse used to gain freedom of
movement, at least for a while. We'll see if Tuesday before I
hit the train I can squeeze a Troubadour castle in, but it can't
take the place of one of my Cathar castles.

Speaking of Cathari, I am glad I consulted two guides. One would
have sent me to a long list of carcasses of castles destroyed
during the genocidal Albigensian Crusade, while the other also
included in the itinerary the living remains of fortified towns
where the deed was done without destroying all the physical
evidence of their society.

That Albigensian Crusade, by the way, sought to destroy primarily
the Cathar, but also the Troubadour heresies. Yes, heresiarchs,
they were both considered heresies. At first they were not, but
it didn't help that as the war dragged on the Cathars made use of
Troubadours, or pretended to be Troubadours, to gain mobility in
occupied territory and send disguised military messages to
coordinate the resistance. Troubadours and Cathars were friends,
they had the bonds of those held in contempt by the powers that
were in power. But there was more of a bond than that I think.

On first reflection, the Troubadour seems a total opposite of the
Cathar, yet they both flourished for a time in Languedoc because
the local nobility practiced what was in essence freedom of
conscience and religion. These ruling nobles were WAY ahead of
their time, but either repented and killed their subjects and
neighbors, handed them over to be killed, or --in most cases--
were either killed or dispossessed themselves.

Troubadours worshiped love. Cathars said they were the true
followers of Christ. Right. That is what Mormons said too and
their 19th century neighbors would have liked to have done to
them what the Catholics did to the Cathari, and what a joint
Catholic-Lutheran force did a few centuries later to the Radical
Anabaptists. And in each of these cases there was a little bit
of military action on the part of the "heretics," the renegades,
which of course called in the massive destructive forces that
hate can generate when given an opportunity.

There was this little heretical detail in the Cathari belief
system of an evil God creating this world and trapping souls from
the realms of light into this darkness, making them suffer.
Christ came and showed the way out. No sex was a good step in
the right direction because it stopped the entrapment of souls in
time. Christ lived celibate and did not eat meat except fish
(meat is from animals that sexually reproduce, bad, and they were
a bit unsure about how fish reproduced, but since Christ
symbolically ate fish it must be OK).

If you were going to be perfect you'd be a vegetarian celibate.
Like me on this trip.

Those who lived such perfect lives, and who in addition did not
have money or possessions and served as itinerant preachers
begging for their meals, were the "good men," the Perfecti. Of
equal status but doing different things were the good women, also
Perfectae, perfect ones. They were a minority. They acted like
a priestly class, organizing, and performing the ordinances of
the religion. All worked for the common good, none owned anything
and they begged as they went about the countryside preaching and
blessing. Almost half were women.

Compare this with the local Catholic clergy and you -- in those
times -- always found a man, often fond of food and drink, often
into material acquisition, and at surprisingly numerous places
and times producing illegitimate offspring, suggesting their
dedication to celibacy was a situational ethic. They were not
liked, generally, hence the phenomenon of Francis and Clare in
Northern Italy organizing men and women into a missionary and
contemplative order, respectively, renouncing all material wealth
and possessions, the Franciscans walking two by two throughout
Christendom teaching a happy, loving, giving religion and asking
for nothing but a bit of a meal, and miraculously reinvigorating
the Catholic Church from within.

The Franciscan way worked to re-inspire the people. And the poor
Clares supported the effort and provided inspiration for women.
It was almost identical to the modus operandi of the Perfecti,
who went about in pairs teaching and asking only for food, at
about this same time! And the Perfectae, like the Clares, set up
homes of refuge and work for women. They also administered, but
apparently the anti-female bias of the age, and especially of the
revered New testament (they did, unfortunately, also pay some
attention to Paul's exhortations) was too strong to liberate the
Perfectae to the degree of allowing them to preach. The Cathari
took over a good chunk of real estate in terms of winning a good
share of the hearts of its inhabitants, both serfs and not a few
nobles.

For a while I was judging these people too harshly. I used to
say they were not my kind of people because they hated life and I
love it. OK, but did they really hate life? Well -- the regular
members were allowed to marry and have children and lived lives
as we do, with love at home, hopefully. But one thing that did
carry into their lives from their attitude toward an evil God
having caused life and its suffering on Earth, is a determination
to help alleviate that suffering through collective action. So,
to a great extent Feudalism was modified significantly in
Languedoc. Perfecti could not take Feudal oaths and were living
outside Feudal society, a situation allowed by an enlightened
local nobility.

Since there were Cathar castles or castles that protected Cathars
when the armies came, nobles still were supported by their serfs
in exchange for protection, but it was a radically more
egalitarian society than in the surrounding Catholic lands where
the Church was a major landowner and a demanding Feudal boss.
So, the real strike against the Church may have been the
diminishment of Feudal obligations on the part of both serfs and
nobles? The Pope promised forgiveness of sin to crusaders dying
in the war, and asked only that these domains be placed in the
hands of good Catholics again: conquerors were given titles to
lands they took from the current owners. When two current owners
asked to join the crusade, thereby hoping to keep their
hereditary titles to their territories, they were turned down
flat. No wonder.

That the Cathari were radically opposed to the God of the Old
Testament was perhaps not as much an issue. The saw the God of
creation as a fallen angel whose powers were radically
diminished by the true God, and who was being allowed to do his
evil thing here for a time, and to capture spirits guilty of
pride to administer Earth life to them as a penance, up to seven
times. But they still believed in a triune God as the New
testament described such a God as being the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit.

The Cathari were also purportedly believers in reincarnation, but
in a limited sense as just alluded to. The final rite of the
Consolamentum or consolation, if lived up to in the time
remaining in life (hence its being applied at the time of
impending death for most non-Perfecti), guaranteed a person's
being able to remain in the world of light and not having to
return to further Earth-lives, although it may have ben that the
total number of Earth lives would not normally exceed seven
anyway.

Could I have been a Cathar commoner? I think so. I find a lot
of the earlier parts of the Old testament as troubling as the
Cathari did. I believe in the goodness and even necessity of
alleviating common suffering and poverty, and cooperating with
others to enhance the common prosperity. Sounds especially good
when the alternative is a Feudal slave-state. And I'd want the
Consolamentum prior to passing on. I like life, yes, a lot, but
one good life is good enough, isn't it?

If I were a woman I'd be drawn to a movement that empowered me,
that did not try to make me feel guilt all the days of my life
and have my God say that because of a mythical Eve's disobedience
long ago my present husband is in charge from the time of Eve's
disobedience to forever. If I were a man in feudal society,
chances are I'd have been a peasant, with no power in society
except that what I said was supposed to be absolute law at home.
Because, as the Church said --correctly so-- the Bible said that
God said so. The Cathari turned that one partly on its head by
questioning the character and motives of that God, and by
allowing women into its highest priestly order. But they
respected the New Testament which reiterates that man is to be
the boss, not woman, and they were creatures of a society they
had not totally broken with, so there seems to have been a
general sameness between the male authoritarian and sometimes
violent nature of Cathar households and Catholic counterparts.
Nothing is ever black and white when it comes to human behaviors,
beliefs or relations. Unfortunately.

So what did all of that have to do with anything? Well, where I
stayed last night and was today after leaving my hotel, the
Cathars thrived. I visited in rapid succession the Medieval
cities of St. Antonin Noble-val, Penne, Bruniquel, and Puicelci
(I was most pleased with it as a well preserved Medieval city).
Then went a hundred miles East, to Minerve. In each city the
Catholic nobles and their 20,000 strong war machine prevailed,
but the cities still stand (usually the fortifications were
demolished as a military move to disarm enemies and suggest to
the locals that their nobles aren't in charge anymore).

At Carcassonne, which I saw only from a distance, the local noble
was imprisoned and killed at the age of 24, and hundreds were
burned as heretics. The medieval fortress has been restored
there, and is a sight I have put on my itinerary-for-sure for
next time. But I was in a hurry to get to Minerve before it
closed up.

Minerve exceeded all my expectations. I was impressed with both
the well preserved, living Medieval city and the famous cave
close by that runs under a whole mountainous ridge of limestone
so that you can easily put a 4-lane road through it (but no one
did, you have to walk it). Neat.

The dramatic setting, as well as the enthusiastic handicapped
lady running the museum, that repeatedly explained things to me
in word for word slow French until even I thought I understood,
made the site and city an especially wonderful thing to see and
feel and experience.

Then South. Until I got tired, low on money, and low on gas.
Just then over a divide I happen on the city of La Grasse, yet
another Medieval city, with a Franciscan Abbey with parts dating
from the 8th century but most of it from the 12th and later. I
climbed the hill overlooking the city until my watch said I had
gained 600 feet. I was very near the summit of the ridge, but it
wasn't rising very quickly and I was tired.

I was also literally dripping sweat after 50 minutes of steep
trails, at 81 degrees on my watch, and with very moist air.
There were wonderful, dramatic patches of valley fog punctuated
with brilliant open spaces filled with blue sky and bright sun in
much of the region when I started out this morning, so the air
was anything but dry. When the sun went down behind the next
mountain ridge I turned back so as to be off the trail at dark.

A very excellent dinner at the hotel, so I can charge it to my
room and thus my card. (I never mentioned last night's hotel
dinner did I? Best not to, only ate the salad and bread and
after two bites of tagliatelle-et-beurre decided I had had my
annual limit of salt. Gag! Five different varieties of
tagliatelle, four with meat, was all they served for the main
course. It was their specialty. Others around me were eating
theirs and seemed to be enjoying it. To be fair: they may have
made mine special, to be really meatless, and accidentally
spilled some excess salt on it, or two may have assumed they were
the only ones applying salt.

About tomorrow and being low on cash, the only gas station in
town takes Visa. And I don't need to eat again until tomorrow
night. The hotel man said the nearest bank with a cash machine
is at the nearest big city, an hour away in the direction I came
from. I'm not turning back an hour and thus losing two hours
tomorrow, because I have two hilltop fortresses to climb.

That is two less than I had originally "planned" when I saw they
were just a few tens of kilometers away from each other. But
that was before I experienced the delightfully twisty farm roads
that cover those tens of kilometers. Makes one glad to pay for a
tollway where one can go 130 legally (kph that is) and often
exceed same.

There were stretches where it never got out of third gear, and
there were very few stretches where it hummed in fifth gear, and
hum the little Peugeot 306 could! In terms of food and drink and
the money that takes I will improvise and maybe eat at the local
Tabac shops, every hamlet has one, and for something as important
as tobacco, they do take Visa! They have candy. That'll do.
(As it turned out, the next day even the Tabac shops I saw in the
few little hamlets I passed through were closed at the time I
happened by!)

So what else do Troubadours and Cathars have in common?
Surprisingly it is sex. Although it is practiced, with fervor no
doubt, the Cathar knows that ideally he or she would not do this,
because it plays into the hand of the evil God to bring children
into the world. The Troubadours, on the other hand, also were
not of a mind to be celibate, but the objects of their higher
love had to always be out of reach for the tension to be there
that created the inspiration, if not revelation, that induced
that characteristic extra degree of loftiness into their poetic
and musical vision. Troubadours and Cathars were both active
practitioners of the good life: suffering happens, but doing all
they could to avoid it (Troubadours) and to alleviate it
(Cathars).

Heresy pure and simple? Wait! Catholic clerics were also,
ideally, celibate in order to assure holiness. And as their
Saints' lives showed, there is spiritual power in preserving or
regaining ones virginity (? some became mystics and saints after
rearing their children, after all, so it is a state of mind that
is at work here, not some bio-historical fact). Some famous
medieval celibate visionaries experienced unity with God and
could only approach describing the experience of being absorbed
into pure Love in words relating to sexual surrender and
consummation. Are we onto something here?

The Cathar ideal is that to be holiest one has to be celibate,
which is also the Catholic clergy's ideal of holiness. The
Troubadours more closely remind me of the Medieval mystical
prophets of Catholicism. Some of these mystical visionaries
became officially Sainted, some were officially burned as
heretics, and there is not a very clear distinction between what
was taught by either, at least so declared some authors I have
read, and if their citations were representative, they were
right. Whether praised or burned was more a function of the
enlightenment and understanding, or tolerance if either of these
were lacking, of the local clerical hierarchy than it was some
application of an absolute standard of what was from God and what
was not.

What if each of these approaches had some truth? What if both
Troubadour and Catholic mystic are onto something? Then perhaps
the pure love we can nurture between ourselves and another
person, perhaps especially if it does not involve release in
sexual union, or the pure love we fervently extend to God, may
actually engulf us in flames of spiritual bonding and fusion not
unlike the love celebrated by the Troubadours or the Catholic
ecstatic mystics: they celebrated a state of passion fueled by
love, yet without the physical accoutrements that nature builds
into our natural response to this urge and feeling. Maybe sex
spurs us on to babies or revelations, or maybe babies are just
another form of revelation?

This experience of love is a tension that charges the air around
us. It momentarily (a contradiction) keeps the doors of
restraints such as physicality and time ajar to allow us to
experience inner worlds of bliss, to bring us to a state of
physical exhaustion and spiritual explosion in the timeless world
of the Light that is and always has been, Love, our origin, our
destiny.

If this is so, then both romantic and spiritual longing can cause
one to fall onto and into yesterday's imagined scene that is the
slope separating the island of physical reality from the
surrounding river of timeless being. They can both do this
because in our organic being they evoke the same system of
symbols that mean subconscious knowing and being. And when you
first feel the abyss of love drawing closer, you can feel terror
as boundaries of reality begin to dissipate. If you turn
quickly, reality is restored and ecstasy is avoided.

But if you ever feel love welling up inside to meet a boundless
love exterior to you, but approaching, surely and wonderfully
approaching, don't turn from it, but stop and experience! It
doesn't matter if it is the nearness of another we desire and
love, feramones, or if it is our love reaching for its Source:
either way, embrace the terror of surrender, of losing self into
an infinitely greater Other. As we become adepts of this feeling
of joy, we realize there will be a future time of our returning
into the timeless world towards which time, enigmatically, is
slowly but surely driving all of us. As long as you live here,
the Earth incessantly turns on its axis, marking and making time
and moving you toward the slope at the edge.

Are these revelations of Love and joy a preparation for death? A
preparation for Life? Who knows? It is, however, a preparation
for immersion in and surrender to and obliteration through, Love.
It is becoming Love, Be-ing Love!

Time to change this subject: In seeking out Cathar castle sites
I am a pilgrim on a pilgrimage. I seek to visit Cathari holy
places where strong emotions were poured forth, emotions
accompanying the wholesale removal of persons from the stage of
this world. But these were not the emotions of those who loved
life and wanted to remain alive. These are the emotions of those
who believed it a privilege to be removed from life and liberated
into their real State of Be-ing. These are the places where
Cathars walked into the fires lit for them, by the hundreds,
carrying their wounded, rather than accept the tenets of a
religion whose God was at war with their God. They believed
their God was the one spoken of by John when he wrote "God is
love."

Who was right? Catholic or Cathar, Cathar or Troubadour,
Catholic or Troubadour? None, I'm sure. But what the Cathari
experienced and loosed as they were liberated by extreme pain is
still tangible after these 700 or so years, because I can feel it
in the rocks that were witnesses to these somber events. And just
a few days ago in a Catholic service I sensed sincerity and faith
and love for and from God. And I can sense truth in the
spiritual love poems of the Troubadours. All of them, in various
ways, approach(ed) a state of wonder and worship and love,
approached the Love that is, forever, and that is us. All of
them were human, and had experiences indigenous to the race. To
experience Oneness and Love is in the very nature of our being,
it is our Be-ing.

Well, it is now Monday, and the Aussies next door woke me up as
they left. Wood floors. Clunk, clunk. Loud voices, echoing.
But, after all, it is almost 9! Peyrepertuse is next. And the
last two items on my ever shrinking itinerary are Montsegur and
some caves on the road to the Principality of Andorra (a place in
a high valley of the Pyrenees bordering on both Spain and France
that is on my list for "next time.").

As it turned out, Monday was magical. Getting gas was a
pleasure, had to come into the office and sit down, like at a
bank, to witness the owner's wife calling on my Visa. Then there
were 3 people advising me on how to get to Peyrepertuse. It took
that many to convince me go via Montseret and Tuchan rather than
the way I mentioned I was going when asked. So, 4 km out of town
at the junction, I went straight instead of turning left as they
suggested, no, pleaded, I should. BUT, I wanted to see Termes
along the way.

They said the road was slow, narrow, dangerous. It was. Every
bridge was one lane, and a lot of the road itself was as well.
So if someone was coming one would have to pull over to let the
other by. Impossible in many places. I never got above 3d gear
for an hour and 15 minutes. The only other car I saw during that
whole time was a little postal truck with a smiling woman waving
as we passed. People here are friendly, as they are, I believe,
anywhere in a sparsely populated countryside.

Barely saw Termes in the clouds, which reconfirmed my
determination to skip it and go on to Peyrepertuse. Hours later,
through beautiful grand gorges and quaint tiny villages without
banks or even open Tabac shops, one uneasily straddling a
mountain pass, I finally saw on a distant peak what looked like
the profile I had seen in pictures of Peyrepertuse castle.

What a sense of humor someone had, a few kilometers of the road
had all its many bushes cut and shaped as if it were a city park,
in mountains in the middle of nowhere! Hilarious! Nicely done
too.

What relief when the road finally widened. What a relief again
when the little village below it had a convenience store with
liter bottles of Diet Coke! I bought one and am still nursing it
as I write. It is colder now than it has been all day since I
have it on my veranda overlooking the swiftly moving Ariege
river. I am in a hotel in Tarascon, well fed: it is cheese week
and the cook/hostess is also vegetarian so I had some really
scrumptious stuff. Heavenly! But now I am way ahead in the
evening of what was a day-long story.

After buying water, some yogurt, chocolate and my Diet Coke, I
was down to about 150 FF, or about $ 30. No banks in any of
these villages with cash machines, or even banks that were open
when I drove through, but I finally did find one in Quillan (what
a miracle cash machines are, at times, and what a curse, at
times). That is on the way to Montsegur, so I am again ahead of
the story.

Peyrepertuse looks a long way up from the village, but the road
goes up to within 300 feet of elevation from the castle. No
wonder there is a fee. It sits very dramatically on top of a
narrow, high mountain, in 3 levels, all of which are climbable.
As I approached on that winding road (even my compact had trouble
making some of the turns without backing up to get more room) the
last of the clouds burned off the top of the mountain and by the
time I climbed the trail it was hot and sunny.

From the top you look out over an impressive, green panorama with
an occasional village and farm (grapes and wineries everywhere).
In one direction, southeast, you see in the hazy air the outline
of Queribus castle, like a thumb sticking up beside a higher
mountain.

The vegetation along the trail was high and thick and provided
merciful shade. Some parts of the castle were also cool, with
shade and a little focused wind. I needed that. But seeing the
castle and the countryside required climbing in full sun. The
rewards were glorious views, in the castle as well as out. In
the chapel I sang a song to and talked with a little bird busily
investigating a growth on the wall just a few feet away. It was
unimpressed.

Spoke German with a couple on a bicycle tour of this country. We
didn't say much but it was good to be able to say and understand
a few things. They were peddling through the mountains from
village to village, renting rooms here and there or camping,
climbing up to the castles when they get to one, and just loving
it. They were in good shape. I saw them way below me just
starting the ascent to the third level when I was almost at the
top, and they arrived when I did. He was at least ten years
younger than I, she at least 20 years younger, so she carried the
pack with water and lunch. Seems fair.

When I finally slouched back to the car, imagine my surprise to
start down and find them ahead of me on the road when they were
just starting lunch when I left them! They never passed me on
the trail, but took an unauthorized shortcut that looks more
like an avalanche chute than a trail. Showoffs!

The ride to Montsegur was dramatic in that the mountains were
higher, the valleys deeper and greener than at Peyrepertuse, and
the views going over passes were just brilliant with fall foliage
here and there and especially in the higher reaches.

Montsegur is scary from a distance. A building on top of a huge
rock thousands of feet above the valley floor. And when you get
closer it gets scarier until you finally turn left in front of it
and start to go up, and up. The trail is steep and rocky. The
American author's guidebook says 800 feet elevation gain, my
watch suggested just over 500, and my French brochure said 500,
so there -- validation! In the setting sun it felt higher, since
the whole way up the sun that seemed to be setting got itself
pretty high in the sky again and was quite effectively warming
both the hillside and me.

Sat and chewed the fat for a while with a young couple from
Hamburg. They were the only ones up there with me as sunset
approached, even though there was quite a crowd when I first
arrived on top. Both were recent graduates of a university
teaching Sinology (China specialists they were). She works for
an import/export firm hoping to expand its Chinese business, and
he works for the government assisting in the making of China
policy.

We began a serious conversation when she found a four leaf
clover, and insisted I take it as a reminder of my sojourn with
the Cathars. That started us talking about who and what they
were, and after a while it became clear that meeting these two on
a remote mountain top was a "meaningful coincidence" in the
Jungian sense. (Is an aside necessary here? Carl Jung, the
famed psychiatrist who first worked with and then split with
Freud, suggested that there was a root connection between all of
us, a collective unconscious he called it, and when we had a need
it was sometimes conveyed to someone through that connection, and
we would experience a meaningful coincidence of just happening to
meet a person that could help us with our need at the time of
that need!).

Both my German friends, because friends they were by this time,
were Cathar aficionados. They also defended the Catholic faith
even though they saw what the Church did here as a terrible, even
horrible, deed. They said they apologized as they passed the
marker at the start of the trail where over 200 Cathari either
walked on their own power into the flames of a great pyre, or
were carried by their comrades if injured, in 1244.

Their saying this reminded me that I had come up here for a
reason, namely to feel what was left here of their spirit. Thus
reminded of my quest, I sensed that it was perhaps a "meaningful
coincidence" that had put these two here with me, just the three
of us in this remote place a long way from home on this day at
this late time. And sure enough, my two young German Cathar
enthusiasts became my guides, and taught me some things I didn't
know.

Some historical things I still need to look into further because
that is what I do, I can't help it. Such as that Bernard of
Clairvaux (later Saint Bernard) was sent by the Pope to convert
these Cathar people. He failed and went to Rome and told the
Pope they were not convertible because they were better
Christians than the local Catholics. I didn't know that and the
woman took the opportunity to assure me he wasn't the only honest
Catholic around during that time, that many of them hid Cathars,
and sided with the right of the Cathari to exist, and believed
strongly in freedom of belief as a God-given right. But bad men
from the north of France convinced the Pope he needed to correct
this heresy and in the process regain control over the territory.

I can't find anything on this report to Rome by Bernard in my
books, and from these sources it seems he actually did have a few
successes in some cities, but generally not. The populace of one
town refused to come hear him, it was a village called
"Greenleaf," and he cursed them for their obstinacy and predicted
they would soon "wither" --which they did during the genocidal
crusade. In addition, my books say the Pope was the one who
called for a crusade, and "bad men" from the North responded, not
the other way around. The French King allowed it but did not
participate until it became a civil war rather than a crusade,
and then stepped in to assure the crown of France gained the
conquered territories. But, my German guides were sure, and thus
it needs a bit more looking into because it may be so: one never
knows the motives of the writers of guidebooks or even histories.

A Pope had already tried sending Bernard, and then Dominic before
he started his Dominican order and became Saint Dominic, and
after a few years he also left in disgust and warned the people
that since they rejected God's love they would soon be faced with
fire and swords. He reported to Rome, and that was what came
next.

I said that I liked the Cathari's being vegetarians, and their
communitarian spirit, helping each other live a better life, but
I said I didn't like their negative views on life as a creation
of an evil God. I like life, although if I were a peasant in the
violent Feudal times we are considering, I might have a negative
view of life too.

That got a thought provoking response from my German guides to
French Catharism. He said that the negative view of life is true
if you go by what is written, but little of what is written and
known is by Cathars, most is by their enemies who burned their
books as well as their bodies. She then chimed in and said the
same thing can be said for Buddhists, if you make the mistake of
taking their teaching at face value, that all is illusion and
that the perfect one's life has no emotions or needs or pleasures
or pains because of total detachment from all worldly unreality.
Their common ideal is to live in reality, which is not here,
while here. But even though this is the theory, in practice
Buddhists are a happy people who live exuberant lives. Probably
something similar was true of the Cathari. What a profound
insight! And a four leaf clover to remind me of it!

Oh, when we got into deep stuff my German language skills didn't
cut it and we switched to English. When it came to admiring the
castle structure or the view, which was dramatic and grand in
every direction, my German was OK. I also learned from them that
this eagle's nest was built by a noblewoman, the countess of
Foix, to provide a safe haven for her fellow Cathari believers,
and that the first contingent to settle there was a group of
Cathar women. {The guidebooks said it was the count of Mirepoix,
not Foix, who did this for his Cathari friends and family, and
that both he and the count of Foix had Cathari relatives whom
they defended. The count of Foix had a wife and a sister who had
received the consolamentum, hence were Perfectae. His sister was
at Montsegur at the end, Esclarmonde de Foix. Is that
historically close enough? Mirepoix/Foix, that is close enough.
Done for a countess or by a countess? Close enough too, but I
will also try and read up on this. The books I already read do
say that women Perfectae were the first to ask for and retreat
into this safe haven, followed later by Perfecti men and still
later by the nobleman who owned the place and his family and
army, and by about 500 people living at the base of the castle
walls in makeshift buildings sitting right at the edge of the
high cliffs -- a misstep and death was sure and swift on the
rocks below.}

The female half of my German informants said that this idea of
men and women being spiritual equals showed Cathars were smarter
than Catholics. That's the only time she didn't put a reverent
modern twist on a statement that may have been critical of
Catholicism. What did not come up at the time, because i didn't
know, is what I noted above: that Cathar spiritual equality did
not translate into equality in the home where Feudal norms,
backed by New Testament ideals, generally prevailed and men were
still the boss. No wonder Perfecta status, with its unmarried or
at least celibacy requirement, and its opportunity to live in a
home for women only, was so attractive!

I really appreciated chatting with them. As young as they were,
they had an impressively mature view of things spiritual (she was
2 years older than he, and both graduated from the same college
just a few years ago). But although they were fascinating to
listen to, I still hadn't achieved what I was hoping for, which
was some new insight from feeling the Cathar spirit in the rocks
around me. That moment came, however, and as is typical it was
not at all what I expected.

When I observed that this castle, because of its history, was a
"heavy," meaning somber, place, she said quite sharply, "No. It
is not heavy unless you are heavy. It is magical. It gives you
whatever you need. Look inside you for what you really need, and
then you will find it here. That is why we keep coming back."

She let that sink in, and then added with a big grin that, "by
the way, it is true of every place. Life supplies your needs
wherever you go as long as you are open to allowing it to give
you what you need." Marvelous!

So as they went away into the main court and I went back to and
gained the high chapel all to myself, I asked me what I needed,
seriously.

I then had a sensation that reminded me somewhat of the "life
review" experienced by the dying, except it wasn't like that and
I wasn't. I was sensing (seeing is too strong a word) my wife,
like a full color vision with no discernible border, and my
children one at a time, my mother and brothers and sister, my
grandchildren, and I then sort of systematically went up and down
as if on a world map to places where there is or was a strong
friendship, and also sensed at least some of these friends.

It was like walking down a hall with portraits, except it was
neither myself nor the hall that was moving, it was the
portraits. This type of vision is an upwelling from the
subconscious, according to Jung, meaning my subconscious, that
comes when we learn to be open to it, and comes as a response to
a serious need not being met through more normal channels. He
said it was the explanation for most of what passes as
revelation. So, in the Jungian scheme it was advice from my
deeper self, suggesting, as I interpret it, that I have a serious
need to pay attention to and invest in my relationships.

All in all it was marvelous! And so what is my need at this
point in time and this place? Am I just homesick and in one of
those nostalgic moods? Maybe, but I sense it is more. I sense
that at a deeper level I do feel a need for more connectedness, I
feel isolated at some level, and I believe the solution that was
shown me was to work on my connections with my family, first, and
also my friends.

So that is what I learned today. Not what I was expecting to
learn, intellectually. But I'm happy and satisfied with what I
learned. In nothing am I disappointed so far on this trip, and I
still have a day ahead of me, with a cave-adventure semi-planned
for the morning! (The hotel owner assured me it was only an hour
to the Toulouse train station from here. My train is at 5, so I
have some play time yet!)

I forgot to tell you about another conversation with my German
guides. I told them there were a few things that I had figured
out about the Troubadours and the Cathars and the Catholic
mystics and it was that they had in common a belief in a
seemingly strange relationship between sexual imagery and
spiritual experience. They smiled at each other and took turns
suggesting that if I looked into Hinduism and the Sufis of Islam
I would see the same teachings. I added that the Kabbalists of
Judaism, in Spain, taught similar things, and they said they knew
and agreed.

So, they had already thought of that stuff I was writing about a
few days ago. So I asked if they had figured out what that all
means. He suggested, just as I have myself thought and written,
that the only physical feelings powerful enough to even come
close to the feeling of the spiritual reality of coming into
God's presence, into the presence of our own ultimate nature, was
the sexual. Otherwise there is nothing in human experience to
relate it to. I said that was what I had thought too.

Then she said that this only tells her that sex was a gift from
God, and is as much part of human nature as a body and a spirit.
It is part of God as it is part of us. I saw an opportunity to
make an arse of myself so I asked if this would be a part of the
good God of the Catholics or the bad God of the Cathari. She
turned to me and said very seriously that it is an interesting
intellectual question over which a war was fought, but in
practice the answer makes no difference to us. We are who and
what we are and ought to do with that whatever is good in our
judgment, no matter what our physical origin. Whew! Blew me
away like a pesky gnat!

Wonder where they will be in about 27-29 years when they are as
old as I am? They were really impressive. Their insights were
what I needed, at that moment and in that place, as well as
beyond that moment and place!

Oh, imagine my surprise when I flushed my hotel toilet and a
disposal started grinding? Never any plugged plumbing in this
hotel! It was loud, though, and sounded like I'd been eating
broken glass or something. But, the neighbors didn't know me,
so, who cares. Talk about people not knowing you, check-in was
done in all 3 hotels by simply giving a last name, or first name
in one place. No questions about money or credit cards, and meals
were charged to the room in every case. Kinda neat.

So, my last day started just before 10, with breakfast at about
9. I waited until 10 because that's when all the touristy things
open. Went to my main cave of interest and saw the grand opening
from behind a locked gate: closed "Mardi." It was Mardi, Tuesday.

Went to my second cave of interest, a few km away, and it was
just plain "closed." Went to my third choice, open! But a
minimum 2 hour duration tour began at 11. I did not want to put
a squeeze on my time to get back to Toulouse. Good I didn't
because the hotelier's assurance of one hour for those 100 km
actually took two, lots of traffic the whole way, and it was not
a freeway except for about 30 of those 100 km.

So, my last choice was to go to the visitors' center where there
were facsimiles of the cave artifacts I wanted to see first hand.
Glad I did. Turns out in the real caves it would have taken many
hours to see only a few things. This place had both pictures and
replicas on artificial rock duplicating the main exhibits in
terms of rock and painting appearance and placement. And the
interpretive films and displays were quite fantastic, very
high-tech stuff. And originals of objects found, carved
implements mostly, were on display here and not at the caves.

The main replications in the displays are from the Magdalanian
period about 12,000 years ago, as is what is found in the local
caves. These people threw wooden spears with throwing sticks.
An accelerator of some power. I tried it and got pretty good
velocity but no precision. The fellow doing the demos had both.
No question but that such a spear could get through an animal's
hide and deep into its chest. They also ate veggies, and there
was a garden displaying their wild plants used for food and
fiber.

They seemed to be explorers when it came to these caves. The
caves literally go on for miles and miles in this limestone
terrain. They did not normally live in these caves, but made sun
and rain shelters with sticks and hides in summer, and more
substantial structures for winter.

In the caves they painted horse, ibex, and bison. They painted
bison most of all although they did not eat them routinely. The
ibex was their staple meat source, as well as smaller animals.
They made fire with friction or with flint stones, and used a
mushroom's dried innards to start the fires. They used hollowed
out bison antlers with a cap over them to carry their fire making
supplies wherever they went. They kept he mushroom powder
available and dry that way. A demo showed a pile of this dried
mushroom powder catching fire from a flint spark. Amazing.

It would have been difficult to be a veggie in those times.
Speaking of veggies, had a great salad and a plate of local
cheeses at the visitors center for lunch.

After this visit, I started for Toulouse but was intrigued by a
town named St. Joan the Virgin, so I pulled in and visited a very
nice 12th century chapel. In it was a novel statuette of St.
Joan praying, with long red hair (it was short in the history)
and a dress (which she did not wear on her campaigns or during
her trial) but with some armor over the dress and the symbol of
Christ's power and the French crown by her knees. Most
interesting was that she was praying with her hands clasped and
raised and with her elbows almost touching a skull lying atop a
signed piece of paper. This of course is the symbolic
representation of her "confession" that she signed under duress,
that led to her death by burning shortly after.

This statuette was off to a side, and in disrepair. But it was
very communicative of her state at the time of her death,
symbolically, and the gross contradictions of death by the
decision of representatives of Christ's church, supposedly, with
her being obviously invested with the authority of Christ (and of
the then powerless French crown).

So, although this trip was not going to revisit the Joan of Arc
story, which was my focus last time, there it was again, and a
good reminder it is of the contradictions in human affairs. Last
few trips I focused on understanding Joan's life, and was
captivated by what she said, which was little but powerful, and
especially what she did, which was much and powerful. Yet, with
Divine aid, or so it seemed, she saved a kingly dynasty from
obliteration, a dynasty related to the ones that did so much evil
in Southern France two hundred years before! Does that mean
there is a God that actually judges who is good and who is bad
among earthly rulers and directs forces to deal with them? The
Old Testament says so, with reference to the Persians that
defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Jews out of captivity,
in particular.

And was this so of the French Kingdom's being all but overpowered
for seventy- some years by the English, nearly a hundred years
after participating in this Church sponsored rape and pillage of
the South? Then, when suffering was sufficient, Joan came into
the world, a peasant teenager from a farm family in the
hinterlands, and definitively turned French fortunes around? I
put no stock in that sort of theory of nation-based justice
myself, since it places retribution onto generations that never
participated in the reprehensible acts supposedly being punished.
I see this violence and oppression as the random effects of the
greed and belligerence and cruelty of powerful people resulting
in opportunistic ventures with dire consequences to many. I see
no links to any overarching and very slow system of Divine
justice.

So, were the Cathars evil and did they deserve to be destroyed,
or were they noble and killed because they set an example of
Christian devotion and piety that the Catholic Church could not
compete with? They have been characterized both ways. Modern
scholars say they were Christians seeking perfection, much like
the Gnostics of the first few centuries after Christ, who were
also hunted and largely destroyed. They believed in the new
Testament and rejected the Old. I'll buy that, in general. They
were against killing anything warm blooded, so they ate no meat.
The Perfect ones were pacifists, but common believers did go to
war, and they did towards the end send knights from Montsegur to
successfully kill off the members of an Inquisitional court that
was sentencing Cathar believers to the fire quite routinely.
This war-like act caused the final assault on Montsegur with the
death of hundreds of Perfecti/Perfectae.

They believed Christ was a spirit, not an incarnated person, and
that all of the stories of him were symbols pointing to a higher
truth. They focused their spiritual readings on the writings of
John, the Book of- and the Revelation of- to be exact, which are
the most mysterious and spiritualized books in the volume.

They could probably easily relate to the end-time visions of the
Revelation, I can not. When I compare life in the Middle Ages
and today, I see no current signs of the ominous end of time as
described in that book now, but can see that in those violent
times, when it seems your end is near and you are in danger
because of your faith, it may be inspiringly applicable. I think
it accurately describes the outlook on life probably current
during the Roman persecutions when things looked quite bleak for
any given Christian's chances of survival. I do not think there
will be an end time as it prophesies. I am an unbeliever in many
things that are part of many Christian belief systems, in case
that hasn't become clear.

Cathar baptism was by the fire of the Holy Spirit, by the laying
on of hands of one of the Perfecti, and it was necessary to be
able to take this step with full awareness of its meaning. No
children or infants were baptized, in other words, making them
the first Protestants, in a way.

This baptism was also called (although I have a suspicion the
literature has it confused) the Consolamentum, or consoling,
which bound one to live the teaching, hard working life of
Perfecti or Perfectae. These latter tended to make weaving or
other craft work a way of supporting themselves and their
community. Everyone, noble or not or Perfecti or not, was
expected to do some meaningful work for the common good.

Quite idealistic, and in practice they had enormous appeal for
the masses, and even nobles, who were appalled by the Feudal
hereditary class system (a slave society) and by abuses in the
Church that made it largely ineffective as a spiritual force.
But these are generalizations, there were exceptions, and
actually for a generation or two Catholicism coexisted quite
nicely with Cathar religious structures and organizations (they
had local congregations and Dioceses in the same territories). I
was reminded of this coexistence in my visit of that very simple
but still grand and still functioning twelfth century Romanesque
Church in the center of the village of St. Joan the Virgin. It
was there and celebrating its first century during the 13th
century times of the Cathari genocides of which I have been
writing.

I think it is always good to realize that in human relations
there are usually sides, but they are never clearly
characterizable as being good or bad without making lots of
qualifying statements. To utterly destroy the adherents of a
religion is bad, and can be laid at the feet of the instigators
as well as the participants. But those who knew Simon de
Montfort and were on his side spoke and wrote of his great faith
spurring him on to do what must be done for the sake of the
purity and survival of Christianity. The Cathari speak of him as
a land-hungry butcher that got his due at the siege of Toulouse
when his head was literally bashed apart from a lucky shot,
reportedly by a women's brigade using a rock throwing catapult.

That one head being bashed lifted the siege of Toulouse, and
bought some temporary peace from the military side while the
Inquisition was more firmly established. It is said that the
Inquisition, which decimated women just two to three centuries
ago over an imagined witch craze, was originally created to deal
with the Cathars after the genocidal crusade failed to kill them
all or cause them to recant and repent. The Inquisition finished
the job, they succeeded, Catharism was good as dead in the South
of France when they were done with it. That could suggest that
witches may have been an enemy that was needed to keep a
religion's "defense department" alive. Without an enemy it was
useless, and thus ready for a reduction in force (layoffs!).

And here we have another good example of contradiction. While
the Catholic Inquisitors were torturing and forcing confessions
and causing many souls to be prematurely released (the Cathari
view) by fire, at the very same time there was an outpouring of
great spiritual intensity from Catholic, mystical prophets and
prophetesses! Maybe it was a time of extremes in human thought
and behavior, which was accompanied by extreme piety and
spirituality, as well as extreme cruelty and blind zeal. That is
how I have come to see these "Middle Ages," after these extreme
times there is little left that can be said to be really "new
under the sun" in terms of human behavior except maybe the modern
drug phenomenon and its chemically-induced behavioral extremes.

So what does all this mean? Very little, it is just the
ruminations, somewhat pompous and ponderous, of one person trying
to visit the past and interpret it. It is also one person's
inept attempt to interpret life, in general as well as his own.
Perhaps life is what it is for each of us, simply put, and what
it is for anyone else is their reality and not ours. But that
goes against something shouting within me right now saying that
persons have much more in common than they realize, across both
time and space.

They are connected somehow, Jung had it right, and it is the
intensity of that feeling of connectedness that makes for
contentment or discontent. Hence the importance of relationships
that are meaningful, sincere, and have qualities that give
satisfaction and comfort. Hence my need on top of Montsegur.
Hence my challenge from this trip: work on making these
relationships what they need to be so that Divine forces can mend
broken hearts and "console" alienated souls, starting at the core
and expanding outward in my own expanding circle of family and
friends.

The TGV is pulling out of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is bathed in a
glorious sunset, a big city with a big roiling muddy river and
lots of cathedral spires poking above the city's rooftop skyline.
Train is now quite full, but I have two seats anyway. Lucky I
guess. But I'll have a dead battery in this thing any minute
now, so I'd better save and exit. Just three hours left to go to
get to Paris and hassle onto the Metro with my baggage. So, it
is nap time! Journey is essentially over. Glad you could come
along!

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