Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cathars and Spirituality

On 'Good' and 'Evil'

Though the attempt to quantify what is 'good' and what is 'evil' may appear irrelevant in this age of scientific realism - the important and vital qualities of religion having been dumbed down or long forgotten - the issue still holds great importance in understanding the absurd society in which we live. The observant Christian will follow his or her religion beliefs, living by the tenants of a faith which dictates the importance of charity and abstinence, in order to avoid the devil and achieve salvation. Yet, the paradox is glaring - we live in a society based entirely in the certainty of scientific fact, most of which contradicts or ignores the foundations of spiritual faith. Many alternative philosophies, such as Existentialism or Satanism believe that the line between good and evil is non-existent - that the two are interchangeable and part of the same, closed system. The Humanist vision, to which both of the previous world-views can be attributed, is one of an unbiased existence in which man lives according to the whims of his nature, whether they be social/antisocial, destructive/constructive, or other.

Yet the truth, as ever, is in balance and equilibrium. The truth is that evil breeds evil; indulgence breeds ignorance, and success breeds jealousy. It is far harder to indulge in good, because someone will always mistake it for bad. And then the indulgent will grow fat on the work of good men.

The Christian ideal is perhaps the most fascinating remnant of an earlier, more enlightened age. As Roman Catholicism stole its imagery and substance from earlier religions (including Judaism and the many 'Pagan' faiths), it contains a great deal of corrupt truth. If we look at the source of these ideas and the eras from which they arose we can shed a great deal of light on the true meaning and application of these 'truths'. One of the most interesting elements within Catholicism is that of the conflict between 'good' and 'evil', or God and Satan. God is always portrayed as a being of light and 'good', whilst Satan is consistently depicted as a being of darkness and 'evil'. But, as many people are aware, Satan was in fact an angel of light who was cast out of heaven for challenging the word of God, just as Lucifer rebelled in giving fire to man. The two angels are in fact one and the same, representing independent action and freedom of thought, rather than blind deference and obedience - a principal upheld and enforced by the Catholic Church. And why? Because Catholicism is a system designed to safeguard money, power and influence; an institution installed to keep the people lowly and the indulgent in power. A far cry from the original intentions of the Christianity.

The concepts of 'Good' and 'Evil' have existed for thousands of years, it is only in the past two millenium that they have been given such distinct embodiments. Figures representing greed, lust and human desire have been present in countless religious systems including the Greek and Roman Gods, the Norse myths and many lesser-known Pagan entities. One of the most obscure and lesser-known belief systems to focus on the interactions of good and evil is the Christian-derived Cathar religion. Closely connected to the Knights Templar, the Cathars occupied a large area of Southern France known as the Langue d'Oc, living in rural simplicity and practicing a religion that appeared, on a first glance, to bear a strong resemblance to contemporary Christianity. A closer look however, revealed a glaring contradiction: the Cathars believed that Mary Magdalene had been the lover and wife of Christ, and that she had fathered his children. This meant that they viewed Christ as a mortal man. This meant that sex was not an unholy sin. This meant he was no more the 'Son of God' than any other deeply spiritual individual; indeed it suggests that for the Cathars, Christ was a true icon - an example of faith rather than an object of patriarchal salvation.

The Cathars also held a particularly esoteric belief, echoed in the practice of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and the Middle-East, to which no parallel can be drawn in current monotheism. They believed that within our realm of experience are two distinct spirits: one of the Earth, or the lower plane, and one of the higher spiritual plane. These two spirits are not enemies, nor are they mutually exclusive, they are interdependent and part of a single hierarchical system. The earthbound spirit works in the field of life and serves the ego of need. In turn, this spirit is fuelled by the individuals that worship it. This spirit also represents indulgence and the self - if the individual consistently indulges in the fruits of the material world, operating from a selfish viewpoint alone, then they are indulging in the food of evil and will never move beyond the earthbound spirit into a higher realm. The other, more subtle spirit of the higher plane exists beyond the realm of material pleasure, and will never be reached by those who do not see beyond the material. To reach this spirit we must continue our evolution and move beyond our physical and spiritual preoccupations to reach a higher realm.

Unfortunately, the earthbound spirit represents a far greater attraction because it exists within our own world; in the physical realm that surrounds us, and in everything that we desire. The higher spirit is a far greater challenge; it exists in our dreams, in our love and in moments of ecstasy that cannot be easily repeated, unlike the pleasure of a good apple. This higher spirit exists in a vibration that we can only reach through intense focus, and then only momentarily. It takes great effort to maintain, in contrast to the lower spirit that vibrates within our own range. And so we have a choice: to serve the earthbound spirit or to seek the higher spirit and complete our evolution. However, these two spirits are not distinct, separate entities but part of a bandwidth that stretches way beyond our material consciousness. We are low-vibrating creatures, capable of distraction and preoccupation, and thus prone to enslavement by the enticing earthbound spirit. This is the truth of 'Good' and 'Evil': the more that we serve the spirit of material satisfaction, the greater the evil that we can wreak upon our fellow humans and the world around us. It is time to evolve.

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