Friday, 31 December 2010

And so this is Christmas...

...and what have I done?

Certainly another year older though not necessarily wiser. Occasionally more cynical and that's one to go on the Resolutions list. This has been the year that I have lost one friend, and seen the nature of a relationship change. I have driven almost 3,000 klms of the Camino in retrospective, and flown to Canada to be a keynote speaker at a conference on Gnosticism based on Pilgrimage to Heresy. I have let go of things. I have come to treasure the peace and quiet of my home. I have overcome Writer's Block and am well into Compostela the second book in the Camino Chronicles series.

And I have become a first-time GrandMom and that's the very best of all. I love my little Puppy with all of my heart. I can watch her for hours just learning about the world.

And I hope that I too am continuing to learn about the world as I progress with my home schooling project and find that trying to condense "general knowledge" into a relatively short curriculum is a real challenge and one that we are enjoying immensely. I have seen my client base wax and wane and wax again following "El Crisis". Who knows what 2011 has in store for debt ridden Spain with our 20% unemployed?

Next year I will be blogging less frequently for the simple fact that I have a book to finish and a deadline to meet. I began these pages writing a history of the Camino, in particular the story of how Santiago and Compostela came to be linked together. I shall be continuing with this and the fascinating story of Diego Gelmirez, first archbishop of Compostela and the main historical character of my novel. I hope you will come along for the ride.

Happy 2011 to everyone who visits these pages. I hope the new year brings for you everything you wish for yourselves. For myself I ask for a chance to continue to write, to help adults in my psychotherapy practice and children in my Learning Centre. I ask for the chance to mellow and enjoy the pleasures of the Ordinary and remember that Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery,

but Today is a Gift.

Monday, 13 December 2010

God is All Good...

Such reasoning only led me to the conclusion that either:

God is not all good - because he either denied his creation access to their true natures, or else put temptation deliberately in their way so that he could exercise his power over them whether they transgressed or not. A God who wishes to keep his creations in the cave of ignorance cannot be all good.

God is not all knowing or else he would have realised that his creature was no fool. "God" is blind to the true nature of his creation, and blind to the fact that he is neither good nor powerful. His name is Samael, the Blind One, and he is evil personified.

God is not all powerful - he could have prevented them from having the longing for knowledge had he wanted to.

Strong words...? Try these on for size:

slavery, genocide, terrorism, poverty, environmental catastrophe, paedophilia, sex slavery, ignorance, squalor, domestic violence, rape, the exploitation of the weak majority by the rich minority, and the inability to free our minds from religious institutions which in order to secure our loyalty must keep us in a state of perpetual fear!

If man is responsible for all this, how can he have been created in the image of a Perfect God? Perfection cannot admit evil or it is not perfection. If God is responsible for this, well, he has one hell of a lot to answer for!

Who created evil? Satan? Perhaps. But who is the Devil and how did he get to have such a hold over us?

There is only one conclusion, that which we have been taught to worship as God, even knowing or perhaps despite the horrifics of the Old Testament and the evidence of our own television screens, is not God. This god is deeply flawed, malicious and insecure, ignorant of his own weaknesses and caprices, jealous of...?

In fact, God is indeed all good etc., but there is another God who perfectly fits this description. And once we realise this, the heaviness of the world, the imperfections of our bodies, the torment of our minds as they strive to make a sense of this life we have been thrown into, all assume their proper place as subservient to our true nature and are allowed to return to our true home, not as the Catholic church will tell you, after death, but in this life. We can be resurrected in the flesh as pure spirit.

Master, when shall the kingdom come? And he answered us straightways: It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying Here it is or There it is. Rather the kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth. But men do not see it.

You will not find this is the New Testament; you will not even find it exactly as it is written here in the Gnostic Writings. It is an excerpt from The Apocryphon of Jesus the Christ which Kieran in Pilgrimage to Heresy is translating. As far as I know, no such gospel exists, yet the words are pure Gnostic, pure Priscillian, pure Cathar, and they are what I have come to believe in myself.

The world came about by a mistake. For he who created it wanted to make it imperishable and immortal. But he fell short of attaining his desire. For the world never was immortal; nor for that matter was he who made the world.

Who would ever have thought to find Jesus saying these words? Yet in the Gnostic writings they are repeated many times.

The disciples asked Jesus: Lord, when will the New World come? And he answered them: What you look forward to has already come and you still do not realise it.
The disciples entreated him: Lord, how shall we know truth from falsehood?
The saviour answered us thus: woe to those who are captives. For they are bound in caverns. In mad laughter do they rejoice in what they think you see. They neither realise their perdition,. nor do they reflect upon their circumstances. They do not realise that they have dwelt in darkness and death.
Some will say the lord died first and rose up, they are in error for he will rise up first and then die. If you do not attain the resurrection first then you too will die.

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is...

A Child's Garden of Gnosticism - Revisited

So, I suppose that brings me back to me.

If God is All Good...
If God is All Powerful...
If God is All Knowing...

Why do evil things happen?

The problem is, as has been pointed out by the Rev. Doctor Stephen Hoeller of the Los Angeles Gnostic Church, that it is impossible to reconcile these premises one with another. Personally, I think I may have predated Dr. Hoeller since I figured this out at the age of 16 around about the time I dropped God. My reasoning went a bit like this:

If God is all-knowing, then God must be aware of human fragility and weakness so that any attempt at testing humankind is expecting man to be Godlike: pure and omnipotent etc.

Either that, or expecting man to fail. If that was the expected outcome, it hardly seems fair to put us through a test that we are by nature (God-given nature at that) destined to fail. We are either perfect and able to withstand temptation, or we are not. Or some of us are...although that would make us less than human, and more like God.

God-like...Like God?

It's getting tricky already! Especially if that God is jealous by self-proclamation.

If God is all good but allows catastrophe and evil to exist then he is not all powerful. If he is all powerful and allows such things to happen, then he is not all good at all.

Ah, but I hear you say: Evil came about because of man's original sin and we have been paying for it ever since. The sins of the fathers and all that. According to Saint Augustine, who turned tailcoat against the Manichees the minute he realised what had happened to Priscillian could happen to him: "sin" is a sexually transmitted disease.

Saint Augustine, however, was writing not far from 400 years after Christ was born. And nobody else had ever suggested such a thing as the idea of children born tainted with sins of their species.

What a horrendous idea! I am tempted to say: "Jesus would turn in his grave".

There...I said it.

Yet somehow, we have been fed this as "Gospel Truth" since the time we were able to understand speech...Generation after generation of newborns cursed to go through life with the greatest of guilts weighing down their innocent souls. And what was that guilt? Wanting to Know!

Let's take the proposition that God created man in his own image. This begs the question: "What image?" If we are speaking of a physical image, well all well and good. But if that is so then God must suffer the same decay as we do, and the same bodily inconveniences which I will leave to your imagination. If however, we posit that this may have meant "in God's intellectual image" (the Nous), then we have to assume that not only does man have free will, but the right to use it. That being so, it is hardly surprising that Adam would have found Eve's gift of interest. And what if man was not exactly created, but partook of the spiritual image of God? Then surely that would make man Godlike, or perhaps even God as a piece of a hologram is the whole hologram.

Even though holograms didn't exist when I was sixteen, this was the form my reasoning was taking.

Is it possible, I thought, that God might not be the good, powerful, knowing being that we have been told to worship? Suppose, having created man, God found out that his creation somehow was smarter than he had expected him to be? Or conversely, is it possible that God thought man his creation simple and foolish and unlikely to give Him any trouble? It all boils down to the rather more plausible possibility that either man was intended to be an automaton, created to serve a lesser God who being All Good should not have debased his creation in such a way in the first place, or else, man proved to be too smart for God to handle hence the prohibitions about trees and apples and all that. Man, he found, was investigative: he, and she, seeks knowledge as a way to truth, and having found the means to that truth becomes all knowledgeable, all powerful, and good. What is the nature of that truth? Could it be that man and woman, realising their bondage to their earthly bodies, recognised that within them was a heavenly spirit, forever at one with and a part of the true God? Could it be that this investigation led Eve and Adam to the conclusion that the one they have been told to worship "above all others" is not only jealous, but deeply flawed!

What would be the one and only outcome of this conclusion? Atheism. Apostasy before religion had even been created. Now obviously "God" couldn't have that and so to punish Adam, Eve and all humankind to come for daring to challenge his orders, they would be forever removed from this paradise he had created for them where they had been expected to remain forever in ignorance of their true origins.

A Vengeful Saint - Dominic Guzman...

I have been to Montsegur. I left a white rose on a rock. To this day the atmosphere is redolent of sadness, injustice, and ignorance. I felt no glory there.

After this, there appeared to be no more organised Cathar resistance although the practice continued in secret, much as it is likely the Priscillianists had to take their conventicles out from the houses of adherents and elite to clearings in the forest, mountain retreats etc. But the Popes knew that the threat remained. By 1226, the second crusade against heresy had crushed the southern counts and the entire region had been annexed to France under the Capetian rule of St. Louis who had headed the Crusade in person. Meanwhile, in 1229, there emerges in the Languedoc a Spanish priest named Dominic, a religious fanatic and thoroughly unpleasant man, although it must be said that he cannot be held directly responsible for the deeds of the Dominican Inquisition which he founded as by then he was already dead.

For several years, now, I have spoken words of peace to you. I have preached to you; I have besought you with tears. But as the common saying goes in Spain: where a blessing fails a good thick stick will succeed. Now we shall rouse princes and prelates against you; and they, alas, will in their turn assemble whole nations and peoples and a mighty number will perish by the sword. Towers will fall and walls will be razed to the ground. And you will all of you be reduced to servitude.

Thus force will prevail where gentle persuasion has failed to do so.

These are the words of Christian "Saint" Dominic to the Christian"`heretic"`: the Cathars. The Lamb to the Wolves...

You decide.

The Inquisition was charged to do anything at all they wished to force Cathars to recant. This stopped short of actual torture or death. They had to keep their souls pure for the Holy Office. Instead, they handed their victims over to the secular forces for that. Any and every means could and was used to exact the "truth" from these poor innocent men and women in order to save them from eternal damnation, the perpetrators never knowing that it was they themselves who already lived in hell. The atmosphere of distrust in towns and villages grew daily. Anyone could be arrested on the grounds that they carried on heretical practices, never knowing the exact nature of their so called crimes, not the identity of their accusers. Bodies of suspected heretics were dug up to be thrown to the flames.

By the middle of the 14th century, there was not a Cathar left.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Burning of the Holy Martyrs...

The Synod of Verona took place in 1184. It was convened for the specific purpose of condemning the Waldensians, another Gnostic group whose beliefs were very similar to those of the Cathars who also travelled and preached in pairs as did the Bogomils. It was clearly only a matter of time.

In 1198, the very mis-named Innocent III tried to launch a crusade against the Cathars but couldn't drum up much support. The nobles and knights lived side by side with the Cathars, some, such as the Count of Toulouse, were clearly Cathar sympathisers and in some cases, their mothers and sisters were Parfaits and Parfaites. "Why would we want to persecute them'' the knights said in Albi. "They are our neighbours and our friends and we respect them and their honest work". Innocent had to be content with seething and fuming while his church became more and more shipwrecked by the doubts of the people.

But after Cathar sympathisers were suspected in the murder of a Papal legate near Toulouse in 1109, Innocent decided to make a call for Holy War and this time he had the backing of the King of France. He exhorted the knights to exercise their religious zeal, promising them full remission of sins for any deeds they carried out in the name of God. These men, for the most part, were mercenaries, interested in nothing but the spoils of war. Near Beziers, a town of some 20,000 both Cathar and Catholic, the townspeople were so terrified of the massed forces that they hid in the Church of Mary Magdalene. When asked by a commander what he should do in this situation, their leader Armaud Amaury most famously exclaimed:

`Kill them all; God will recognise his own`.

What followed over the next 40 years was some of the most blatant butchery ever carried out in the name of Jesus. At Minerve after a long and drawn out siege which ended when the water supply was contaminated, 140 went to the flames. When the knights approached their leader - who had offered clemency to any who accepted the Catholic faith - and said that they weren't there to see heretics escape, he told them not to worry. "They won't recant", he said. He was right. Chroniclers of the time say that the heretics "hurled themselves into the flames". At Lavaur, 400 Perfecti died the same death. Finally in 1244 at Montsegur, perhaps the most famous Cathar site of all, 225 Parfaits and Parfaites died by being burned alive at the bottom of the mountain upon which stood the castle which had been the last remaining Cathar stronghold.

After a prolonged siege, the defences of the castle of Montsegur were breached by a group of Gastons. The residents asked for 15 days to prepare for their deaths and distributed their clothes and few possessions to prepare for a death they did not believe in. Those who were credentes were given the option of deciding during those days whether they would give up their faith and walk free or not. It is on record that 20 credentes asked the leading Parfait Bertrand Marti to be consoled. What is extraordinary about this is that as ordinary believers they could have survived the capitulation, but as Parfaits they knew they would be burned alive.

The words of the Consolamentum are known to us. Part of the sacrament states that the supplicant say: "I have this will and determination. Pray to God for me that he will give me strength".

They would have needed it.