Gnostic Doctrine

Friday, 22 May 2020

Gnostics 2/4 - Cathars & Bogomils the True Christians

The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries were marked by resurgence in Europe of spiritual movements of clearly Gnostic character. During the late eleventh century a Gnostic religion that had survived orthodox persecution for many centuries in the Byzantine Empire and on the Balkan Peninsula – the Bogomil religion – found its way to the Languedoc region of Southern France and to areas of Northern Italy. There it took root and flourished over the next three centuries as the Cathar religion -- the tradition of the Good and True Christians, the Bons Hommes. (The term "Cathar" was used in medieval times in a derogatory fashion by opponents of the Bons Hommes; Cathars simply called themselves "Good Christians.")

During these same centuries in the area around the Southern Pyrenees a form of heterodox mysticism took hold, a mysticism that had historical and archetypal roots in the Gnosis and Gnosticism of late antiquity. At precisely this time, and in the same area of Southern France, there came the first flowering of the Troubadour traditions and of the Jewish Gnosticism of Kabbalah. To the south in Spain, the mystical tradition that gave root to a Gnostic school in Islam took form – exemplified by Ibn 'Arabī  (1165–1240), the seminal figure in Turkish, Persian and Sufi Gnostic traditions. St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) was also deeply influenced by the spirit of this time and this Cathar land.

The relation of the Bons Hommes with this heterodox flowering of Christian, Jewish and Islamic mystical traditions has long fascinated historians. There is no verifiable answer to the relationship of these several movements, but the milieu in which they arose represents an obvious resurgence of Gnostic tradition: a spirit of Gnosis animated this time and region.

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