The Quest for the Grail
and the Holy Spirit


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Fintry Trust Weekend
2nd - 4th September 2016

The Quest for the Grail and the Holy Spirit
Exploring an Alternative Version of the Jesus story

An Alternative Version of the Jesus Story
The Gnostics
The Grail Legends click here for audio
The Cathars and the Church of the Holy Spirit

Since I have given these talks in early September 2016, I have read several books by the late Laurence Gardner including "The Bloodline of Jesus", the "Legacy of Mary Magdalene" and "The Grail Enigma" (2006) . They confirm everything that is in my talks with the exception of the years Jesus spent in India before he began his mission. Gardner has impeccable academic qualifications and his genealogical research is extraordinary. His books not only confirm Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and the existence of their three children but explore in great detail the background of their respective families and how their bloodline descended far into the so-called Dark Ages and beyond. Above all, they show how the Catholic Church tried to eradicate all evidence of Jesus’ siblings, his marriage to Mary Magdalene and the existence of their three children and how it tried, century after century, to eliminate their descendents, known as the Desposyni or Heirs of the Lord. It is a fascinating and also horrifying story of the Church's pursuit of power and its deliberate creation of the myth of the Son of God that would establish, enhance and prolong that power. While the myth itself has great value and should not be discarded because it has archetypal relevance, it is also necessary to know the facts that have been deliberately obscured.

Extract from interview with the Rev. Karen Tate 15th February 2017.
For many centuries Mary Magdalene has been presented in literature and art as a sinner and a ‘Penitent Whore’. Having read The Magdalene Legacy and The Grail Enigma by the late Laurence Gardner, I realize that naming her a “sinner guilty of all vices”, as Pope Gregory the Great did in AD 591 has been the most outrageous calumny fixed on her. It was done in order to conceal the fact of her marriage to Jesus and her exalted role as “the Apostle of Apostles”. The Vatican has not disclosed the documents it has in its archives which bear witness to her marriage and the children she had with Jesus (the Desposyni or ‘Heirs of the Lord’ Chart) but they have been accessed by researchers such as Laurence Gardner. The thirteenth century Albigensian Crusade, initiated by Pope Innocent 111 (see talk 4 below) was designed to wipe out all vestiges of the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit whose presiding image was Divine Wisdom or Sophia and the Cup of the Holy Grail. This Church had kept alive the fact of Mary’s marriage to Jesus and her work as an Apostle in Provence and the Languedoc. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were both Essenes, and this was the teaching that they took into the world. The teaching of the Essenes had its origin in Egypt.

Mary Magdalene travelled and taught with Jesus, anointed him twice, married him and bore his three children. She was a loyal companion to his mother and sister. She was there at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother and sisters; as his wife she went to attend Jesus’ body in the sepulchre and was the first of the apostles to speak with him in the sepulchre garden. She was documented as the consort (koinonos) of Jesus in the Gospel of Philip. She was recognized as ‘the Apostle of Apostles’, the woman whom Jesus kissed and called his ‘blessed one’. She was described as “The woman who knew the All’ and the woman whom Jesus loved. The ‘marriage’ at Cana describes the celebration of their betrothal, an initial ceremony that led in stages to the final ‘second marriage’ when Mary had already conceived their first child.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mary Magdalene (Mary of Bethany) was married to Jesus; that she left Palestine for Provence in 44 AD, 11 years after the crucifixion, with two of their children (giving birth to a third one there) and taught there for 20 years. She was buried there in a chapel at the foot of the Ste. Baume mountain in Provence. For centuries kings and popes travelled there to worship at her shrine which was guarded for a thousand years by Cassionite monks. The symbol of her teaching was the blue rose.


What was the Holy Grail? Was it the Cup of the Last Supper that caught the blood of Christ as he hung on the cross? Or was it a body of sacred texts handed down the generations as a most precious record of the teaching that Jesus imparted to His closest disciples? Or Mary Magdalene herself as the carrier not only of the blood-line of Jesus but of her own distinguished family line as well? And what is the connection between the teaching of Jesus, his wife and co-teacher Mary Magdalene, long-lost Gnostic texts, the Grail Legends and the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit established in the Languedoc area of France during the 12th and 13th centuries, whose symbol was a sacred Cup? Four talks over this weekend will attempt to explore these questions.

The first talk will look at the expanding material on Mary Magdalene, the growing evidence of her marriage to Jesus and the existence of their children and how, astonishingly, with the possible help of her friend Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and her children had to leave Palestine in AD 44 and settled ultimately in southern or south-western France, where Claudia had lived as a child in the city of Narbonne. It is likely that Mary brought with her from Palestine precious texts relating to the teachings that she and Jesus shared with a close group of disciples.

The second talk will focus on the teachings of the Gnostics which have come down to us through the sensational discovery in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt of a large body of texts lost since the fourth century and published in 1977 as the Nag Hammadi Library. Among these texts were the Gospels of Thomas, Philip and Mary and the Secret Book of John or Apocryphon of John. The Gospels of Mary and Philip are particularly relevant to Mary being Jesus' consort and co-teacher and the Apostle of the Apostles.

The third talk will look at the legends that suddenly appeared in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries about the Quest for the Holy Grail. At the beginning of the twelfth century, hardly anyone had heard of these legends. By the end there was no-one in Europe who had not heard of them. Was the Holy Grail the Cup of the Last Supper as has long been thought or was it the body of sacred teachings that had survived through the centuries — teachings about Sophia and the Gnostic Church of the Paraclete or Holy Spirit?

The fourth talk will tell the extraordinary 12th and 13th century story of the Cathars and their Church of the Holy Spirit which was symbolised by a sacred Cup and presided over by Sophia or Divine Wisdom. The texts they held in the highest regard were the Gospel of John, The Secret Book of John and two others called The Book of Love and The Secret Supper. No trace remains of the last two. The Cathar Church and the brilliant culture of the Languedoc were utterly destroyed in the thirteenth century by the infamous Albigensian Crusade, instigated by the Pope, the French king and the Inquisition – a prime example of deliberate genocide.

Talk 1

1. Grail Cup
What is the Holy Grail? Was it the Cup of the Last Supper that also held the blood of Christ as he hung on the cross? Or was it a body of sacred texts handed down the generations as a most precious record of the teaching of Jesus imparted to His closest disciples? Or was it Mary Magdalene herself, carrying the seed of Jesus that passed to future generations. And what is the connection between the teaching of Jesus, his wife and co-teacher reputed to be Mary Magdalene, long-lost Gnostic texts, the Grail Legends and the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit that emerged in the Languedoc area of France during the 12th and 13th centuries and whose symbol was a sacred Cup?  The four talks over this weekend will explore these questions.

This first talk will look at the emerging material on the parentage and marriage of Jesus and the evidence that he did not die on the cross but survived and lived a long life and was buried either in France at or near Rennes-Les-Bains or in Kashmir where his alleged tomb still exists. I have myself visited this tomb in 1956.

This material is, of course, controversial and cannot be verified in the academic sense, as the documentation in the two genealogical Charts given below will not be corroborated by the Vatican but I think it is important and relevant and throws much light on early Christianity. It is, however, fully corroborated by the exhaustively researched and minutely detailed books of the late Laurence Gardner.

2. The Official Gospel Story
Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He was the son of a poor carpenter, Joseph, and his wife, Mary who conceived Jesus by the Holy Ghost but gave birth to him in a stable in Bethlehem in the normal way. Three kings, guided by a star, found their way to the stable and brought the infant Jesus precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Shortly after his birth, the family fled into Egypt, to avoid Herod’s seeking out young children to kill them.
Jesus did not marry. He welcomed women among his followers. He had 12 apostles but women were not among them.

Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. On the third day after the crucifixion, he was resurrected from the dead and appeared to his disciples in his physical form. Different Gospels tell a different story of which disciples visited the sepulchre. The Gospel of John alone tells how Mary Magdalene and other women went to the sepulchre and found it empty. They went to tell the other disciples.

With regard to the paternity of Jesus’ father, the Gospel of Matthew says: “Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” However, in the Syriac Gospel of Matthew it states quite clearly that Joseph is Jesus’ father: “Jacob begat Joseph; Joseph to whom was espoused to Mary the Virgin, begat Jesus, who is called Christ.” The word ‘virgin’ meant no more than that all unmarried women were virgins until their marriage and Mary was no exception to this.

3. The Compilation of the Gospels
The three Synoptic Gospels were written down late in the second century and were the creation of many different hands, not only the three apostles. There was a missing earlier collection of sayings of Jesus, called ‘Q’ from which the material of the three Synoptic Gospels was drawn. The Gospel of John, which presents Jesus as the Son of God, was thought to be written after the other three in 100 AD and reworked in the early fourth century.

The four we know were selected from many other Gospels created by many different Christian groups and were designed to portray a specific image of Jesus. They were given their final form in a Coucil of Carthage in the late fourth century. A different and fascinating story is now emerging.

4. The Dead Sea Scroll (Qumrâm) Chart
During the last four years two genealogical charts have confirmed the existence of a different parentage for Jesus. Some 50 years ago, a translator, the late Tom Gibson Morrison, working for the Roman Catholic team of translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumrâm, translated one from Aramaic to English. This scroll contained a detailed genealogy of Jesus’ family. When the team leader, the Catholic scholar Father Roland de Vaux received the translation, the scroll was removed from the system and secretly sold to the Vatican for a huge sum of money (reputed to be in the region of $1million) and never publicly shown. Tom Morrison realised the vital importance of this scroll and kept a copy of it, bringing it back to the UK in 1960 when he had finished his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. This scroll is one source for the above details and is reproduced in a book called The Historical Jesus Found by Barry Page. This Dead Sea Scroll was probably dated from 63-69 AD. After that date Qumrâm was overrun by the Romans in 70 AD and it would not have survived. See page 178 in his book.

5. The Desposyni (Heirs of the Lord) Chart
In 318 a different genealogical Chart was presented to Pope Sylvester 1st by 8 bishops, all male descendents of Jesus, one of whom was the Bishop of Jerusalem. They had been summoned to Rome by the Pope with the aim of having their hereditary bishoprics removed. They brought with them their genealogical charts which proved their descent from Jesus and their entitlement to their bishoprics. The descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and also of Jesus' brother James were called Desposyni or Heirs of the Lord.

The genealogical tree they presented to the Pope showed how each of these bishops was descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene and James the brother of Jesus. It covered 300 years and 10 generations.

The Pope dismissed the visitors but kept the Chart they had brought with them. Bearing his signature, it was deposited in the separate inner archive of the secret archives in the Vatican. Four years ago, a researcher working in these archives, managed to evade the security cameras and photograph the 318 Desposyni Chart and bring the pictures back to England. (reproduced in Barry Page’s book)

Sylvester was Pope from 316 until his death in 335. He converted and baptised the Emperor Constantine and was Pope at the time of the crucial Council of Nicaea in 325 which established the divinity of Jesus (as being of one substance with God) After this date, the belief was established that Jesus was not married and did not have children or brothers and sisters.

"The Roman Catholic Church tried to kill off all remnants of the Desposyni and their guardians, the Cathars and the Templars, during the Inquisition, in order to maintain power through the apostolic succession of Peter instead of the hereditary succession of Mary Magdalene." (from Barry Page's book)

6. The Parentage of Jesus
According to this new evidence Jesus was not the son of a poor carpenter but the son of a rich merchant called Joseph Haramatheo, the head of the Davidic line in Jerusalem at that time. 'Haramatheo' or Arimathea was a title associated with whoever was the direct descendent of King David. Jesus' father Joseph held this title and James, the brother of Jesus held it after their father's death. The Syriac version of the Gospel of St. Matthew mentions Jesus’ father as ‘Joseph from Rama’, hence the connection to the word Haramatheo.

Joseph Haramatheo (Arimathea) had two wives: Mary and Channah. He married Mary in 8 BC. With Mary, he first had Jesus, then several other sons called James, Jacob, Jude (John), Simon and a daughter Salome, and possibly another daughter or daughters.

As a prosperous merchant dealing in metals like copper and tin, Joseph Haramatheo travelled the trade routes between Palestine, France, England and India, including Kashmir and it is possible that he had houses in Narbonne (an important port) and Kashmir. There is legendary evidence in England that he (or his son James) and Jesus' eldest son visited Somerset and Cornwall and established Nazarene or Nazorean communities there on land given to him by the Druid Arviragus, including the area that later became the site of Glastonbury Abbey. Joseph was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified and he or Jesus brother James was active in saving Jesus’ life. Joseph died in Jerusalem at the age of 68 (see Qumrâm Scroll).

The Nazarenes or Nazoreans spread all over the Mediterranean Roman Empire and as far as England where they set up a community between 35-70 AD.

7. The Alternative Story
Jesus was born in 7 BC and during his adolescence from 6 AD was apparently sent to India to study in the great Buddhist universities there, returning in AD 25. In India he would have learnt meditation and methods of healing. In 21 AD he was in Taxila. There are strong Buddhist elements in his teaching. His ministry as recounted in the Gospels began in 26 AD when he was about 32. At some stage he came into close contact with the Essenes, possibly being brought up in that community and was clearly taught by them since much of his teaching is paralleled by their teaching.

8. Jesus and Judah Thomas in India (some repetition of above)
Jesus survived the crucifixion in 33 AD and (according to this story) travelled to India in c. 45 AD. He met Judah Thomas in 48-9 AD in Taxila, once a great Buddhist city now located in the Punjab area of Pakistan. Judah Thomas had lived there for about 10 years. 1 It is possible that Jesus and Judah Thomas took the basic Nazarene (Essene) teaching there and established many communities in India and Kashmir.

Judah Thomas founded 7 churches or communities in southern India in and around Malabar. These survived for many centuries. He was murdered there in 82 AD.

Jesus spent many years in India and died in Srinagar in 79 AD. However, according to another version which also says he survived the crucifixion, he died in southern France and is buried there.

9. Marriage
According to the 3 Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, Jesus had no wife nor any children.

In Judaea, marriage was considered to be a holy estate and not to be married was unnatural, even a sin. ‘He who has no wife is not a proper man.’ Polygamy was practiced at this time in Judaea among aristocratic families and it would have been considered perfectly normal for Jesus to have had two wives.

AD 29 Jesus married Mary (also called Miriam) of Bethany. Mary was of Syrian descent. Jesus and Mary of Bethany had 3 children, Tamar Sarah, Jesus and Josephes. Josephus was educated at an Essene or Druid school in Marseilles. see

The eldest child of this marriage, Tamar, married Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul) in Corinth in 53 AD. Paul was age 36 at the time. They had 3 children.

10. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene became widely known in France. Many of the great Cathedrals in France were ostensibly dedicated to the Virgin but also (in secret) to her. Both were addressed as 'Notre Dame'.

In the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is described as the consort of Jesus and, in the Dialogue of the Saviour as “a woman who knew the All”

The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, published in 1982 and authored by Michael Baigent and two co-authors, and The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, published in 2003, brought Mary Magdalene into prominence. Many books have now been written about her.

There is the legend in France of her landing with Mary the mother of Jesus and a woman called Sarah at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the south of France, retiring as an anchorite on the St. Baume mountain in Provence. Her skull and bones are said to be held at the Basilica of St. Maximin nearby. There is also a great Basilica at Vezelay which is dedicated to her.

New evidence presented in Barry Page's book and also local legends suggest that she sailed to Narbonne which was a flourishing port and Roman city and lived there (possibly for a few years with Jesus) and her three children, the last of whom, Josephes, was born there and later educated in a Druid or Essene university in Marseilles.

There are two women in the Gospels, one of whom is described by Luke as a ‘sinner’ who anoints Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. In another scene a woman anoints Jesus’ head with a precious oil or unguent. These two women were one and the same, both Mary Magdalene. (Laurence Gardner explains the dynastic reasons why Mary should have anointed Jesus in this way). In 591 Pope Gregory 1 declared that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and a sinner and so she has remained in the public imagination until 1969 when Pope John Paul 11 named her a disciple of Jesus (but not an Apostle). her Feast Day is July 22nd.

(On the 2/11/16 an article in the New York Times announced that Pope Francis had published a letter that "Affirms Ban on Female Priests." The letter said that "ordaining women was not possible because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.") The close relationship of Mary Magdalene to Jesus belies this statement.
In the Epistles of Paul, written in the 40’s and 50’s AD before any of the Gospels there is no mention of Mary Magdalene. It is strange that he didn’t know of her or meet her when he met James, the brother of Jesus and Peter and John in Jerusalem. Was this because she was in France by 44 AD?

11. The Crucifixion
33 AD the crucifixion of Jesus took place. The Gospel story says that he died on the cross and after three days was resurrected from the dead, appearing to his disciples in his risen physical body.

12. The Crucifixion (Alternative Version)
The alternative story says that Jesus’ brother James appealed to Pontius Pilate for permission to have Jesus taken down from the cross before he died. Under Roman law, only the head of the family, in other words Jesus’ father or brother, could ask for the body. Pilate would have paid no attention to what a carpenter from Galilee asked of him. Before he was taken down, he was given a sponge (soaked in opium, belladonna and hashish rather than vinegar), something to make him lose consciousness and to give the impression of him having died. With the help of Nicodemus, a close friend of Jesus' brother James, he was removed from the cross after five or six hours and taken to a sepulchre belonging to James or to his family. He was resuscitated and treated by Essene therapeuts or healers. It is not clear whether, when he had sufficiently recovered from his wounds, he was smuggled out of Palestine, to Thyratira in Asia Minor or elsewhere, possibly to Egypt.

13. The Empty tomb (Fra Angelico)
According to Matthew, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary (his mother?) came to the sepulchre. There was a great earthquake and an angel came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. He spoke to the women and said that Jesus was risen from the dead and had gone before them to Galilee.

The Gospel of Mark says more-or-less the same thing, but only mentions Salome as one of the women and mentions one angel.

According to Luke, Mary together with Joanna (her sister-in-law?) and Mary, Jesus’ mother and other unnamed women came to the sepulchre early in the morning and found the stone closing it rolled away and the sepulchre empty. They saw two men in shining garments sitting near it who said to them: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but risen.” The women rushed back to the apostles and told them what they had seen. Then Peter ran to the sepulchre to see for himself.

14. Detail of the empty tomb

John, the latest Gospel, gives the most detailed description, saying that Mary came there alone, when it was not yet light on the first day of the week and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. She ran to get the disciples and they returned with her, Peter at first not believing what she had told him and then seeing for himself that the tomb was empty. Then the disciples left Mary on her own in front of the sepulchre. She stood their weeping, then looked into the sepulchre and saw two angels there. One of them said to her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

15. Noli me Tangere
Then she turned away and saw a man standing nearby who said to her. “Woman, why weepest thou?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if thou have born him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned around and said to him, “Rabboni, which is to say, Teacher”. Jesus said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God.” Then Mary went back to the disciples and told them what had taken place. Later that day, when the disciples were gathered together indoors, Jesus appeared to them. (This account in the Gospel of John reads as if it were an eye-witness account by Mary Magdalene herself).

16. Last Supper painting
Now I want to return to the Last Supper and the Grail Cup and tell you what I learned about this from a programme on Channel 5 13/5/16. The Grail Cup was said to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper as he offered its contents to each of his disciples in turn. All the Gospel accounts differ in their detail. Matthew says: “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body'. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, 'Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'” Matthew 26: 26-28 (Direct reference to his death being a sacrificial one).

17. Grail Cup

The exquisite cup or chalice shown here is an ornate structure surrounding an onyx bowl which could date to the time of Christ and would have been used in a rich household of that time. This specific onyx bowl disappeared from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 909 AD. A pilgrim from Piacenza visiting Jerusalem in the sixth century describes “a stone cup made of onyx” in the Holy Sepulchre.

An Arabic manuscript recently found in Egypt says it was taken from Jerusalem by a Muslim and given to Ferdinand 1st, king of Laón in 1055. Spain at that time was divided into Muslim and Christian areas and this may have been a kind of propitiation gift or perhaps offered to cement a treaty.

The gold work on the surround of the cup dates to the 11th century. Ferdinand’s daughter built a special chapel to house it. A painting in the chapel shows a man offering a bowl of that shape to Christ at the table of the Last Supper.

The original Church of the Holy Sepulchre was destroyed by a Muslim leader early in the 11th century who gave orders to raize it to the ground. A new one was built on its foundations. When the Muslim ruler destroyed the original Sepulchre, priests may have removed the precious relics and taken them to a small church in Jerusalem.

In 2014 a second Arab document was again found in Egypt that mentioned that the bowl had a flaw or chip taken out of it, cut out with a knife. It might have been removed by a Muslim wanting to keep a piece of a sacred relic which possibly had the power to heal. There is a piece taken out of it.

According to the latest evidence presented by Barry Page, suggesting that Joseph of Haramatheo was Jesus’s father, the onyx bowl which had great value at that time could have belonged to Joseph and the Last Supper could have been held in his house. What more likely than that the Last Supper would have been held in the house of a close relative, even Jesus’ father?

Where did the bowl go during the 500 years between Jesus’ death and when it was recorded as being in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

18. The role of Claudia Procula, the wife of Pontius Pilate
The Gospel of St. Matthew is the only one to mention that before Jesus was brought before Pilate his wife Claudia Procula or Procla sent a message to him, saying that she had had a troubling dream and that he must not harm Jesus. But her words were unable to save Jesus. Pilate gave in to the Jewish mob and the temple priests calling for him to be crucified.

Following the crucifixion, Pilate was apparently summoned to Rome before the Emperor Tiberius, told he had made a big mistake in ordering Jesus to be crucified and ordered to retire to Septimania or the area around Narbonne in France where his wife, Claudia had been born and brought up. 2

19. Claudia Procula and Mary of Bethany

New evidence from France suggests that Mary of Bethany was a close friend of Claudia Procula or Procla, the wife of Pontius Pilate and that she was a convert to the teaching of Jesus and a close friend of Mary Magdalene and that is why she intervened with Pilate on behalf of Jesus. 2

Mary may have left Palestine in 44 AD (or earlier after the Crucifixion) with the help of Claudia Procula, and settled in the Roman port of Narbonne in France where Claudia had lived as a child.

According to this line of evidence and the evidence of the Desposnyi Chart, Mary lived in Provence for the rest of her life and died there in AD 63.

Claudia Procula (Procla) was a member of the Claudius family and the grand-daughter of the Emperor Augustus and was related to the Emperor Tiberius. She therefore held a high position in Roman society.

It is highly likely that in 44 AD (or earlier) when she is said to have left Palestine, Mary (Miriam) of Bethany brought with her to France precious texts relating to the teachings that she and Jesus shared with a close group of disciples.

Mary Magdalene taught for nearly 20 years in Provence and in the Languedoc and was widely known and adored in that part of France. Towards the end of her life she withdrew to a cave on the Ste. Baume mountain in Provence and was buried by Lazarus in a chapel at the foot of it. The date of her death was recorded in the Vatican Desposnyi genealogy presented to Pope Sylvester 111 in 318 AD and is in the Vatican archives. She was sixty when she died. Lazarus’ remains were also deposited in this chapel at Ste. Baume. (The church records in the town of Lyon state that Lazarus was in Gaul (Provence) with Mary Magdalene and Martha and became the first bishop of Marseilles).

Mary’s relics were kept at this chapel at the foot of the Ste. Baume mountain in Provence, guarded for a thousand years by Cassionite monks. At the time of the Saracen invasions in 710, her body was removed from her sarcophagus and put into that of a St. Sidonia, together with a document by the monks saying what they had done to preserve her remains from being desecrated. In 1279 this sarcophagus was opened and her bones were discovered. Her skull was encased in a magnificent gold jewelled head and her bones put in a separate casket in the chapel. Many kings and popes visited the chapel over the centuries. The chapel was probably the most sacred and venerated place in France, visited by Popes and kings for many centuries.

Mary herself was identified with the Holy Balm after which the mountain of the Ste. Baume had been named. Her balm was the Light of the Holy Vessel - the Sangraal, the Light of Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

20. Map of Roman Empire
Narbonne at that time was a flourishing city and port, part of the area of the Roman Empire called Septimania. It was more important than Marseilles and  only three days’ sailing time from the port of Ostia, near Rome. Today, the sea has silted up and there is no access to it as a port. It was roughly three weeks' sailing time from the port of Caeserea in Palestine to Rome.

21. 44 AD Assassination of Herod Agrippa 1
was assassinated by poison and the Roman authorities blamed the Christians for this crime. Mary (Miriam) of Bethany was pregnant with her third child and may have sailed to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer or to Narbonne in France with her daughter Sarah, Mary’s sister Martha and brother, Lazarus. Her third child with Jesus, called Jacob, was born in Narbonne. For the rest of her life Mary taught in the south and south-west of France until she died in AD 63. She was widely known and adored in France. The date of her death was recorded in the Vatican Desposyni genealogy.

22. The Nazarenes (related to the Essenes?)

The Nazarenes were the followers of the Jesus in France, as in Palestine and elsewhere, including Glastonbury. In France they were led by Mary of Bethany. They were living openly in Narbonne and travelling in south and south-western France. Jesus’ brothers and son travelled to communities established in England in Somerset.  The well in Glastonbury was dedicated to Mary of Bethany (not the Virgin Mary) by her son Joses in 63 AD, the year she died.

The Nazarene groups did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

23. The Teaching of Jesus

Jesus was an extraordinary teacher but according to this alternative story he was not the ‘Son of God’ nor was he celibate. His mother was not conceived immaculately nor was he born from a virgin. (These beliefs are the conclusions drawn by two important Councils in 325 and 431 AD). Jesus had brothers, notably James the Just. He also had a sister, Joanna who, in one of the Gospel accounts, accompanied Mary Magdalene to the sepulchre and other sisters as well.

The Son of God belief may have been derived from the Pagan and Greek mythologies which grew up around the figure of Jesus and the interpretations drawn from St. Paul, the Roman Church and many different theologians.

The emphasis of the teaching of Jesus was on forming a direct relationship with the divine ground that he called “The Father” not on the need to believe in him or to belong to the Church he was said to have founded.

Pagan and Greek beliefs were incorporated into the extraordinary mythology which grew up around the figure of Jesus and were in part derived from the mythological traditions surrounding the figures of Dionysus, Mithras and Tammuz. The first two were called ‘Sons of God’ and had ‘virgin’ births. Dionysus hung on a cross. The annual death and rebirth of the god Tammuz had been celebrated for millennia and wee long associated with regeneration of the earth in spring. These ancient traditions were woven into the Gospel story, drawing on the writings of St. Paul. The Son of God belief was derived from the writings of St. Paul and the later Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and was confirmed by the compilers of the Gospel of John.

24. The Role of St. Paul
The authentic letters of Paul appear around 40-50 AD.
Paul is the great myth maker, drawing on material from Greek, Egyptian and Persian (Mithraic) Mystery traditions about a Son of God, resurrection and divine birth. He transformed an oral Jesus movement into written doctrine. He gives Jesus the title of Christ and Son of God.

He promotes the idea of a future kingdom in heaven for those belonging to the Christian community.
And the idea of vicarious atonement – that Jesus died to redeem the sins of humanity.

25. More on St. Paul

Paul also emphasises the imminent return of Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God.
He is the origin of the Last Supper Story. This may have been drawn from a Mithraic ceremony where the congregation consumed the body and blood of Mithras, symbolised by bread and wine, before his ascension into heaven. (Tarsus, where Paul lived, was a site of Mithraic worship).

The entire emphasis of Paul’s writings is on faith and belief as the means to gaining access to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Greek speaking followers of Paul promoted the messianic idea of Jesus’ divinity and Peter as the founder of the Christian Church in Rome.

26. The Dating of the Gospels
The sayings of Jesus were passed down orally for some 20 years. 20 to 30 years after Jesus’ 'death'. Some were written down in Aramaic, Syriac or Greek. None of these survive. 20 to 30 years after these, scribes copied and circulated the original written accounts.

A ‘Q’ gospel, as well as the Gospel of Thomas, is thought to have existed around 50 AD. This Gospel is believed to be the main source of Matthew and Luke, but has so far not been discovered. Mark is thought to have been written first around 60-80 AD.

Some 200 verses common to Luke and Matthew (80-100 AD) are very nearly identical and are thought to have been copied from the ‘Q’ source. Luke may have copied from Matthew in some passages. They differ in the birth story and the scene at the sepulchre.

27. The Gospel of John 1
was written after the Synoptic Gospels. It reads almost like a channeled transmission. The earliest complete manuscript appears in the fourth century AD although the earliest version might date to 100 AD. It is a brilliant, dazzling tour de force. The central theme proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God. In return for believing this, the reader is offered salvation in heaven. It may have been the work of a group of Jewish writers in the Greek world, probably written in Antioch where Paul began his mission, written very much in the Greek style. It echoes Paul’s gospel of faith. 3

28. Gospel of John 2
Nearly all the “I am” statements are found in this Gospel: “I am the light of the world. I am the way, the truth and the light. Before Abraham was I am. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the bread of life.” They proclaim Jesus as the Son of God.

The Gospel reveals little of the life, ethics, actions and teachings of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount disappears, so do Jesus’ injunctions to give to the poor and heal the sick. These are replaced by proclamations about faith and obedience.

The whole gospel seems to reflect the beliefs of the messianic community that composed it. It represents a monumental shift from a focus on creating a relationship with the divine ground available to anyone, however poor, to a future kingdom of heaven available only through the mediation of the priesthood and the Church. 3

Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons at the end of the second century excluded the Gospel of Thomas from his canon of 4 accepted gospels and included John which is now thought to have been written around the years 100-110.

29. The Authentic Teaching of Jesus

Where are we to look for the authentic teachings of Jesus?

The emphasis of the teaching of Jesus was on a different way of living in the world with different values to those that prevailed in the world of his time. This teaching is found:

In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew
In some but not all of the sayings in the Gospels
In the Gnostic Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Thomas
Above all, in the writings of the Essenes.

30. Four Essene Gospels
The Essene Gospel of Peace
The Unknown Books of the Essenes
Lost Scrolls of the Essene Brotherhood
The Teachings of the Elect

These texts were found in the secret archives of the Vatican by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. The first Book was published in English in1937 and the last in 1981, on his instruction two years after he died.

The exquisitely beautiful poetic words of these four Gospels, grounded in the images of Nature and the Cosmos, bring to life the essential teachings of Jesus. What is astonishing about them is that they honour ‘Our Mother, the Earth’ as much as ‘the Heavenly Father’. The Essenes were known as Therapeutae or Healers.

There were apparently hundreds of Essene communities but their main centre was at Qumrâm, in Palestine but this centre was destroyed in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. 4

31. The First Christians
The closest followers of Jesus were led first by his brother James and, after the attempt on James’ life in Jerusalem in 62 AD, they were led by Simon, Jesus’ youngest brother. (there is evidence that James was not murdered but that he had to flee Jerusalem as he was threatened with death).

After the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD, thousands of Jews including Jewish Christians fled to Alexandria and elsewhere. They did not believe in:
the virgin birth
the Trinity
the resurrection from the dead
the concept of the devil

Their emphasis was on good works, healing, and helping the poor
Their way of life was close to the teaching of the Essene community at Qumrân. Like the Essenes, they welcomed women as priests, teachers and healers.

32. The Followers of Jesus

In spite of persecutions and denunciations, congregations of Jesus followers from the Upper Euphrates to Egypt and the Nile river basin believed that Jesus was a human teacher who encouraged them to awaken to the divine spirit dwelling within them.

They opposed the messianic teaching of Paul. They did not believe that Jesus’ death was offered in atonement for their sins. They believed that their compassionate actions in the world reflected the instructions of their Teacher.
They faced increasing pressure and later persecution from the Church in Rome. These groups grew into the Gnostic groups that spread westwards through Europe and in Asia as far as China. They may have passed on their basic beliefs to the Bogomils of Bulgaria and Cathars in France and Italy since they are so similar.

33. The Council of Nicaea
The original concept of Jesus in the Jewish world of his time was that he was human. Only when Christianity moved from the Jewish into the Greek world, did the idea of Jesus being divine and the Son of God come to the fore.

The Arian heresy, as it is now known, became widespread about 318. Named for its principal exponent, a priest named Arius, living in Alexandria, Arianism taught that Jesus was neither eternal nor divine and was a creation separate from God. Therefore he could not be the Son of God.

Arius was denounced by Alexander, the powerful bishop of Alexandria and excommunicated from the Church. He died shortly afterwards.

34. Council of Nicaea 2
The controversy grew so intense that, at the Emperor Constantine’s instigation, another Council was convened in May 325, at Nicaea in Bithynia (present day Turkey). The Council of Nicaea voted overwhelmingly to condemn Arius yet it managed to create another controversy, this time a linguistic one: was Jesus of the same substance as God or only like unto God? They argued over the difference between two Greek words: homoousious – meaning “of the same substance as God” and the very similar word homoiousios which meant similar to or like unto God, rather than of the same substance.

Referring to Jesus as homoousious in effect meant that Jesus was of the same nature and substance as God, and that he in fact was God. Everything hung on the presence or absence of the letter ‘i’.

35. The Council of Nicaea 3
Despite the misgiving of some of the bishops the term homoousious passed into the article of faith, and the doctrine, along with heteras ousious, or heteroousious (i.e., different substances or persons), became the basis of the Trinity. Arius had viewed the Trinity within a hierarchy.

The most significant development ever to take place in Christian theology was the concept that Jesus was divine. This was only officially established at the Council of Nicaea. The contempt for the body (originating with Plato) made the need for emphasis on his divinity even more pronounced.

Jesus was now ‘begotten’ of God because he was of the same substance as God. Mary gave Jesus his physical body, God or the Holy Ghost his divine nature.

36. The Council of Nicaea 4

The controversy between Arius and Bishop Alexander was not resolved. Athanasius became Bishop of Alexandria in 328. He Insisted that the “fully divine Word of God became incarnate in human flesh to save humanity from sin and death.” This set up an impenetrable barrier between the Creator and creation.

In 381 the Emperor Theodosius, exasperated by the warring factions of the Christian bishops passed a decree which established the Nicene Creed and outlawed all other interpretations including the Arian one. We recite the Nicene Creed to this day.

At the important Council of Ephesus in 431 Jesus’ mother Mary was declared God-bearer or Theotokos which meant that Jesus had to be immaculately conceived. Evidence of Jesus having brothers and sisters was at this time expunged from the record.

37. St. Augustine
Augustine in the late 4th century endorsed the Trinity and developed the doctrine of Original Sin. He proposed the antidote to Original Sin as “grace,” a gift from God, but did not explain why God, who predetermines everyone’s fate, would choose some for grace and condemn others to damnation.

Augustine took one final leap, rationalizing the use of violence, torture and war in the pursuit of the Church’s goals. He deftly used “blessed are the peacemakers” from the Sermon on the Mount to justify violence to achieve a “greater peace”. He claimed that “error has no rights,” so dissenters, could be tortured and executed, leading ultimately to the Inquisition. “Why,” he reasoned, “should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return?” Finally, he described a “Just War” — bellum Deo auctore — as a war waged on behalf of God. This doctrine was to form the basis of the Papal Crusade against the Cathars nine centuries later.

To shield bishops from direct responsibility for torture and murder, he argued that defying the Church amounts to treason, so that those condemned by the bishops should be handed over to the state to be punished by it.

Augustine paved the way for the Inquisition that would condemn millions to horrific deaths and also for the justification of war in general, including ultimately, the use of modern nuclear weapons in self-defence.

38. The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church could be said to have followed the example of the Pagan religions in placing the emphasis of its teaching on worship, belief and belonging to an institution ( the Church) as the path to salvation.

After St. Augustine, the Doctrine of Original Sin and vicarious atonement through Jesus’ sacrificial death became a fundamental part of its teaching.

The teaching of Jesus about seeking a direct relationship with the divine ground without the need for an intermediary was lost. Also lost was the teaching that the kingdom of heaven is to be found within.

39. The Templar Boxes

In 1307 the Order was dissolved by decree of the Pope. In a single night all over France the Templar knights were arrested. Many were executed for heresy. Others fled abroad.

Before he was burned to death in Paris in 1314 Jacques de Molay, the head of the Templar Order, had prepared 40 Templar boxes, each containing the facts (Alternative Version) about the life of Jesus. He distributed two of these boxes to each of the senior Desposyni families. The Templars knew the Alternative Version of the Jesus story which is why they had to be eliminated.


1. see The Historical Jesus Found by Barry Page and La Tombe Perdu by Christian Doumergue
2. La Tombe Perdu by Christian Doumergue
3. The Jesus Sayings by Rex Weyler and The Gospel of Jesus: in Search of His Original Teachings by John Davidson
4. Essenes. See website for very interesting articles.
The Essene Gospels – books by Edmund Bordeaux Szekely on Amazon.

see also the website

Since giving this talk I have found out through the website that the blue rose was the symbol of the teaching of Mary Magdalene.

 “The Order of the Blue Rose was established by Mary Magdalene after the crucifixion of Yahshua (‘Yahshua’ is the Jewish name that has come into English as ‘Jesus’), to be a special order for only the most faithful followers of the Nazarene Religion of the Essene Way. You see, immediately after the crucifixion, many of the male followers of Yahshua (‘Jesus’) refused to accept a woman – Mary Magdalene – as their leader. Magdalene, the rightful successor to Yahshua, established The Order of the Blue Rose for those who remained faithful to her. She established the order in Israel shortly after the crucifixion, then escaped to France carrying the baby of her husband and co-Messiah, Yahshua. (They were legally married at Cana.)”

I also believe that the Black Madonna was the symbol of this secret teaching carried by Mary Magdalene to France which had to go underground after the fourth century repression of the Gnostics. Blue is the colour associated with Divine Wisdom. I think the exoteric teaching of the Catholic Church was carried by the image of the Virgin Mary in the great Cathedrals of France and the hidden teaching of Mary Magdalene by the image of the Black Madonna. The great rose windows in Chartres Cathedral for example, may have represented both the exoteric and esoteric traditions.


Talk 2 The Gnostics

1. The Gnostics 1
2. The Nag Hammadi Texts
In 1945, near the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi, in an area honeycombed with caves, an Arab peasant, looking for rich soil with which to grow his crops came across a large red jar in one of the caves. Thinking there might be gold hidden in it, he smashed the jar. In it he found 13 papyrus books or codexes, bound in leather. He took a few home to his mother who found some of them useful as fuel for her fire. The remainder found their way to Cairo and the Coptic Museum there and eventually into international awareness. A large part of the 13th codex was smuggled out of Egypt and offered for sale in America where it was bought by the Jung Foundation in Zurich. Professor Gilles Quispel who had arranged the sale, saw that there were pages missing and flew to Egypt to photograph some of the texts from that codex in the Coptic museum. This is how the Gospel of Thomas came to light.

To his astonishment, Quispel read: “These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and which the twin, Judas Thomas, wrote down.” This gospel was only one of the 52 texts which became known as the Nag Hammadi Texts. They were finally published in 1977. There is one missing text, removed and sold to the Vatican that I mentioned in my first talk that recorded the genealogy of the family of Jesus.

3. The Nag Hammadi Texts

The Nag Hammadi texts offer an “alternative” view of Christianity, a different concept of God and of Jesus’ teaching and a startling revelation about his close relationship with Mary Magdalene.

4. The Earliest Followers of Jesus, the Nazarenes/Essenes
The closest followers of Jesus were led first by his brother James in Jerusalem and, after the attempted murder of James in 62 AD and his flight (probably to France), by Simon, Jesus’ youngest brother. These earliest groups, called Nazarenes/Essenes did not believe in:
the virgin birth
the Trinity
the resurrection from the dead
the concept of the devil
the redemption from sin through the sacrificial death of Jesus. The emphasis of their teaching was on good works and helping the poor and was very close to the teaching of the Essene community at Qumrâm.
They welcomed women as priests, teachers and healers.

5. Who were the Gnostics?

They were a group of early Christians who lived in Alexandria and later, Carthage and Rome, among them the Jewish Christians who had fled from Jerusalem to Alexandria after the murder of James, the older brother of Jesus in AD 62 and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. After the sack of Jerusalem thousands of Jewish Christians fled to Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt. These formed the first Gnostic groups.
These refugees claimed to have inherited the secret teaching that Jesus imparted to his closest disciples, Mary Magdalene and his brothers Thomas and James.

6. Gnosticism
was a shamanic, visionary, tradition, claiming to follow the original teaching of Jesus and his close followers who included three of his brothers: his twin brother Thomas, James and Simon, and Mary Magdalene. It seems to me that it was originally drawn from the Essene community of Qumram as well as from the actual teaching of Jesus. It later became a compendium of many different beliefs and traditions, some originating in  Egyptian Hermetic religion, some in Persian dualistic Zoroastrianism, some in Babylonian astrology and magic, some in the worship of Isis or Mithras, some even in Buddhist beliefs. Many Gospels now lost until the Nag Hammadi discovery in 1945 were in circulation among them. Their movement became so widespread and involved so many diverse communities that it became a real threat to the establishment of the Roman Church.

7. Two Greek Words for Knowledge

There are two Greek words for knowledge. One of them - epistémi - means knowledge in the sense of information gathered. The other, gnosis, means knowledge in the sense of insight, wisdom and illumination or enlightenment.

The Gnostics believed that the meaning and purpose of life was to be discovered neither through faith nor through knowledge about the known world, but through inward transformation and the development of what might be called the eye of the heart. The Gnostic Gospels show us that the focus of their concern was how to release the divine spark hidden within human nature, how to awaken from a state, not of sin as in the mainstream Christian tradition, but rather of ignorance, as in the eastern traditions.

It was about developing a different perspective on life, different values that were utterly at odds with the world of their time as well as the world of today. The world of that time was in a state of tremendous upheaval and tumultuous change as ours is today. The old Pagan religions were dying and a new religion was being born. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD threw the Jews into exile and thousands joined the Jewish community that had long been established in Alexandria after the Babylonian Captivity and the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.    

8. Alexandria (picture)
In the second century Alexandria was the meeting place of East and West, a vibrant crucible for the exchange of ideas and teachings between Egyptians, Greeks, Syrians and Jews, and also sages from the East bringing Zoroastrian and Buddhist teachings from Persia and India. One fifth of the population was Jewish.

During the last fifty years or so, it has become increasingly clear that there was a great underground stream of human experience which flowed from the thriving city of Alexandria into several different channels - into the writings of the early Christian Gnostics, the Hermetic Tradition, the later Alchemists, and the transmitters, both Jewish and Christian, of the ancient tradition of Kabbalah. Hellenistic Egypt in the second and third centuries AD was the generative crucible of all these traditions. Gnostic groups were established in Europe, the Near and Middle East, India and as far away as China where they survived into the fourteenth century.

This vital stream of esoteric teaching known as Gnosticism which was later to suffer such repression and persecution at the hands of the late Roman Empire and the Christian Church under the Emperors Constantine and Theodosius, is the “complementary” or missing counterpart of the orthodox tradition that is familiar to us. It is a vital yet largely unknown aspect of our spiritual inheritance. In some ways it was far more advanced and enlightened than the orthodox form of Christianity that was being developed in Rome. In other ways, however, it was almost incomprehensible as there were so many different sects, each embracing slightly different forms of Gnosticism, that there was great confusion. One can understand why the theologians of the Roman Church were enraged, perplexed and appalled by it.

9. Portraits of Alexandrians in the second century

10. Portrait of Hypatia
4th century

11. The Gnostic Communities
did not organise themselves on a hierarchical model, like the Church of Rome and did not accept the hierarchy of that Church.
     They took their teaching and apostolic descent, not from Peter but from James, the brother of Jesus.
     They celebrated God as both Mother and Father.
     They held that men and women were equal and could hold the position of teacher, healer, priest and deacon.
     They did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God nor that he had been resurrected from the dead in a physical      body.

Jesus was seen as a visionary teacher of the path to enlightenment and union with the divine ground, much like the eastern teachers of Buddhism and Hinduism. (influence of his journey to India?) Jesus and his Gnostic followers broke through the conventions. established beliefs and general inertia and rigid social customs of society.

They felt that what distinguished the false from the true church is the level of understanding of its members, and the quality of their relationship with one another – not how closely they conformed to the teachings of the bishops and priests. Compare Quakers.

These beliefs were revolutionary and offered an enormous challenge to the Roman Church trying to establish itself at the same time and in the same cities such as Alexandria, Antioch and Rome in the 2nd to 4th centuries. While this doctrinal battle was going on, Christians were being atrociously persecuted by certain Emperors, particularly Nero and Diocletian.

12. The Resurrection of Jesus
“Those who say that the Lord first died, and then was resurrected, are wrong; for he was first resurrected and then died. If someone has not first been resurrected, they can only die. If they have been already resurrected, they are alive as God is Alive.” Gospel of Philip

By resurrection the Gnostics meant that the hidden divine spark within the soul had been released from the tomb of the body and united with the divine ground of spirit. They were then ‘resurrected’.

They did not accept the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus. This created huge conflict with the Roman Church.

The Roman Church believed that because Jesus was resurrected from the dead in his physical body, all believers would be resurrected on the Last Day in their physical bodies.

The Gnostics did not accept the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus. Some didn’t accept that he suffered in a human body on the cross. They interpreted the meetings of Jesus and his disciples after his death as visions or
seeing Jesus in his spiritual (etheric) body. What mattered was spiritual vision, not literal seeing. Peter claimed to be the first to see the resurrected Christ and claimed this gave him authority to found the church. Yet Mary in the Gospels of Mark and John was the first to see him. The Gnostics thought that she may have seen Jesus in a vision after his resurrection. This fundamental disagreement created huge conflict with the Roman Church.

They also rejected martyrdom and the belief that those who were martyred were suffering the same fate as Jesus. They repudiated the idea that God would want human sacrifice and that martyrdom conferred salvation and forgiveness of sins. (P. 92 Pagels)

13. Three classes of men
     1. “spiritual” men who are by origin or by nature saved.
     2. “psychic” men who have a latent capacity for gnosis and need to be introduced to the Gnostic Gospel. These      included men who belonged to the Catholic community of Christians.
     3. “earthly or “material” men who will never be saved.

14. Valentinus
Valentinus was one of the most gifted and well-known of the Gnostic teachers who established his own flourishing school in Rome and nearly became Bishop of Rome (Pope) in the early Christian Church there. His was one of the major Gnostic movements that lasted for some 300 years. His teachings became widespread throughout
the Roman Empire and were a real threat to the Church in Rome.

What liberates
is the knowledge of who we were,
what we became; where we were,
whereinto we have been thrown;
whereto we speed,
wherefrom we are redeemed;
what birth is, and what rebirth.

Marcion, another well known Gnostic teacher was attacked by Tertullian because  he gave women the position of priests and bishops in his community.

What is called Christianity
represented only a tiny selection of specific sources, chosen among dozens of others under the influence of very powerful emperors and bishops and a tremendous struggle for power by the Roman church against those who claimed to be the true followers of Jesus. A very powerful literate male elite controlled  a population that was only 15% literate.

16. The Gnostics

repudiated the ideas expressed in the Apostolic Creed formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD
     that Jesus was of the same substance as God and therefore was the Son of God.
     that Jesus was born of a virgin mother who came to be called Theotokos or God-bearer at the Council of      Ephesus.
     that on the third day after his crucifixion, he was resurrected in his physical body.
     that belief in the Christian faith and belonging to the Church of Rome offered redemption.

17. The Gnostic Dualistic Concept of God

The Gnostics made a radical distinction between God as Spirit, the Anthropos, the unknowable ground of being and the image of a deity that people and priests worshipped as king, lord, creator, master and judge whom they identified with the image of God in the Old Testament.

They saw the God of Israel whom they called the Demiurge Ialdebaoth as a kind of imposter. They saw the statements “I am God and there is no other” and “I am a jealous God” as issuing from the Demiurge and not the true God.

They did not accept the hierarchy of bishops, priests, deacons and laity, saying that these were serving the Demiurge and not the true God whom they and Jesus called the Father. Jesus was the Son of Man, not God even though he called the Divine Ground, 'the Father'.

18. The Gnostics’ View of This World
The Gnostics saw this material world as an evil creation of the Demiurge who, they thought, wanted to keep humanity in a state of slavery and ignorance.

They developed an elaborate cosmology embracing many different layers or dimensions of reality and many beings inhabiting these dimensions.
The Gnostics were trying to answer the questions: why does evil exist? Where do we come from and where are we going? As in Buddhism, the emphasis of their teaching was on redemption from ignorance, not from primordial sin. No sense of guilt. They sought liberation from the illusions that hold people in the prison in this world and the prison of the physical body which they held to be evil. (trace back to Plato)

19. God as Father-Mother (as taught by Valentinus)
The Divine Ground was imagined as a dyad:
The Primal Father: the Ineffable, the Depth  
                      united with
The Mother of All: Grace, Silence, the Womb
The Divine Mother was seen as the Holy Spirit

from this primal union the Divine Mother brings forth all the emanations of divine being, ranged in harmonious pairs of masculine and feminine energies.

(compare the tradition of Kabbalah which also had a Mother-Father image of the divine ground)

One Gnostic, Marcus, taught that the cup of wine passed in their ceremonies symbolised the blood of the Divine Mother, praying that “Grace may flow in all who drink of it.” (Grail imagery)

20. The Gnostic Sacraments:
     Baptism into the Trinity of Mother/Father/Son
     Anointing – the spirit descended into you
     A deathbed ritual gave the dying individual a password that enable him or her to pass through the control bands      of the 7 planetary rulers and reach the divine ground beyond them. These were very similar to the sacraments      of the Cathars 8 centuries later.

21. The Gnostic Interpretation of the Teaching of Jesus
The Gnostic interpretation of the teaching of Jesus was about releasing the divine spirit within each one of us, freeing ourselves from imprisonment in the values that govern the world.

This was exactly the same as the Cathars and the later alchemical teaching.
It was about release from the dual prison of the body and the prison of this world.

The integration of soul with spirit and the conscious reunion with the Divine Ground that Jesus called ‘The Father’ and “The All”.

22. Jesus quote
“I am Light which is above everything.
I am the All; from me the All has gone forth,
And to me the All has returned.
Cleave a piece of wood, I am there;
lift up the stone and you will find Me there.”
from the Gospel of Thomas

The following quotation gives the essence of the Gnostic belief that the divine spirit dwells within each of us.

23. Zozimus quote
“Hidden within man there exists a heavenly and divine light which cannot be placed in man from without but must emerge from within.                  
                                                       from the Vision of Zosimus 3rd century AD
24. The Divine Mother
Earlier arrivals to the Jewish community in Alexandria had preserved the tradition (from the First Temple in Jerusalem) of a female deity whom they addressed as Divine Wisdom, Queen of Heaven and Holy Spirit and this tradition found its way into some of the Jewish-Christian Gnostic communities in Egypt who inherited their canon of texts, including the Wisdom texts.

Until the texts discovered at Nag Hammadi were published, no-one knew that some groups of early Christians had an image of the Divine Mother whom they named “The Invisible within the All.” 1

Some texts speak of how, as the Eternal Silence, the Divine Mother received the seed of Light from the ineffable source and how, from this womb, she brought forth all the emanations of Light, ranged in related pairs of feminine and masculine energies. 1 They saw her as the womb of life, not only of human life, but the life of the whole cosmos. They named this Divine Mother the Holy Spirit and saw the dove as her emissary.

(compare Kabbalah which is called “The Voice of the Dove”. Also the Shekinah as the Holy Spirit)

25. However, by the year 200
as Elaine Pagels tells us in Chapter III of her book The Gnostic Gospels, “By the year 200, every one of the secret texts which Gnostic groups revered was omitted from the canonical collection, and branded as heretical by those who called themselves orthodox Christians. By the time the process of sorting the various writings ended...virtually all the feminine imagery for God had disappeared from the orthodox Christian tradition.”

Only the Gnostics retained it.

In a Gnostic text called the Trimorphic Protennoia, the speaker describes herself as the intangible Womb that gives shape to the All, the life that moves in every creature. Other texts name her as the Mother of the Universe but also speak of the androgyny of the divine source in imagery similar to the later kabbalistic texts.

I think it is possible that the compilers of the Gospel of John transposed the “I am” statements associated with the Wisdom tradition and the proclamations of the goddess Isis into the mouth of Jesus.

Perhaps the most beautiful poetic expression of the Divine Mother is this extract from The Trimorphic Protennoia:

 26. The Trimorphic Protennoia (Nag Hammadi text, selected lines only)

I am a Voice speaking softly.
I exist from the first.
I dwell within the Silence
within the immeasurable Silence.
I descended to the midst of the underworld
And I shone down upon the darkness.
It is I who poured forth the Water.
I am the one hidden within Radiant Waters.
I am the Image of the Invisible Spirit
And it is through me that the All took shape,
It is I who speak within every creature.
I am the Mother as well as the Light
The intangible Virgin Womb,
The boundless and immeasurable Voice.

 27. Authentic Sayings of Jesus in the Gnostic Texts
The Gospel of Thomas mentions the kingdom 18 times but in the sense of something to be discovered or perceived rather than inhabited or arriving in a future time.

“The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth and men do not see it.”
logion 111

Jesus emphasises bringing forth the light hidden within:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.”                                

 The Sophia of Jesus Christ

The Apocryphon of John (or The Secret Book of John)
This was one of the Cathar texts.

28. The Texts that mention Mary Magdalene
Now I am going to spend some time on Mary Magdalene.
The Dialogue of the Saviour, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Thomas all mention Mary Magdalene as the close companion of Jesus.

There was also an extraordinary and lengthy text called the Pistis Sophia dated to 250 AD, which is almost entirely a dialogue between Jesus and Mary where Mary questions Jesus about the things she wishes to know and Jesus replies. Peter intervenes, saying words to the effect that he can’t understand why Jesus is paying attention to what Mary says.

The Gnostics identified Mary Magdalene with Sophia.

Pope Gregory 1 (591 AD) turned her into a whore.

29. The Gospel of Mary 1
 In 1896 the Gospel of Mary was discovered in Cairo, thought to date to the 5th century with the original account to the 2nd century. 6 pages plus 4 pages are missing. After many delays, it was published in translation in 1955.
This was part of a codex which included two other texts: The Apocryphon of John or The Secret Book of John and The Sophia of Jesus Christ. (Cathar Texts)

In this Gospel Mary emerges as the closest of the disciples to Jesus and the one to whom he has imparted his most profound teaching.

In a Gnostic text called The Dialogue of the Saviour she is described as “the woman who knew the All.” (NHL)

30. The Gospel of Philip
“And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth].” (brackets enclose words inserted by translator)

The rest [of the disciples were offended by it] and said to him: “Why do you love her more than all of us?”

The Saviour answered and said to them: “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”

31. Gospel of Thomas quote about Mary
Simon Peter said to them (the disciples): “Let Mary leave us for women are not worthy of Life.”
Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her, in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” logion 112

The Gospel of Mary no pp slide for this paragraph
The first part of the Gospel describes the resurrected Christ in dialogue with his disciples, who raise questions for him to answer. The disciples are overwhelmed by the awesome task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Mary encourages them by saying that his grace will remain with them and give them protection. Peter then asks Mary to tell the group the Saviour’s words which she alone knows. The second part of the Gospel begins with Mary relating a vision of Jesus and describing a revelation of the ascending soul being interrogated by the archons or planetary powers. When she finishes her speech (4 pages are missing), some of the disciples (Peter and Andrew) react with disbelief and hostility but Levi reminds them that Jesus knew Mary well and in fact loved her more than the disciples.

32. The Gospel of Mary 2
Mary asks: What is matter? Will it last forever?
The Teacher answered: “All that is born, all that is created, all the elements of nature are interwoven and united with each other. All that is composed shall be decomposed; everything returns to its roots; matter returns to the origins of matter. Those who have ears, let them hear.”

Peter said to him, “What is the sin of the world?”

The Teacher answered: “There is no sin. It is you who make sin exist, when you act according to the habits of your corrupted nature; this is where sin lies. This is why Good has come into your midst. It acts together with the elements of your nature so as to reunite it with its roots.”

33. The Gospel of Mary 3
Peter said to Mary: “Sister, we know that the Teacher loved you differently from other women. Tell us whatever you remember of any words he told you which we have not yet heard.”

Mary said to them, “I will now speak to you of that which has not been given to you to hear. I had a vision of the teacher, and I said to him: “Lord, I see you now in this vision.” And he answered: “You are blessed, for the sight of me does not disturb you. There where is the nous, lies the treasure.” Then I said to him: “Lord, when someone meets you in a Moment of vision, is it through the soul that they see or is it through the Spirit?” The Teacher answered, “It is neither through the soul nor the spirit, but the nous between the two which sees the vision.”

34. The Gospel of Mary 3 – the soul’s journey
Mary then describes to the disciples the journey of the soul through seven manifestations of wrath: Darkness, Craving, Ignorance, Lethal Jealousy, Enslavement to the Body, Intoxicated Wisdom, Guileful Wisdom.

After responding to their destructive challenges, the soul answers them:
“That which oppressed me has been slain; that which encircled me has vanished; my craving has faded, and I am free from my ignorance.”

“I left the world with the aid of another world; a design was erased by virtue of a higher design. Henceforth I travel toward Repose, where time rests in the Eternity of Time; I go now into Silence.”

35. The Gospel of Mary 4 (Andrew and Peter) 2
Then Andrew began to speak, and said to his brothers: “Tell me, what do you think of these things she (Mary) has been telling us?  As for me, I do not believe that the Teacher would speak like this. These ideas are too different from those we have known.”

And Peter added: “How is it possible that the Teacher talked in this manner with a woman about secrets of which we ourselves are ignorant?  Must we change our customs, and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?”

Then Mary wept and said to Peter, “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying about the Saviour?”

Levi answered and said to Peter, “Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you need to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. Rather, let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man and separate as he commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Saviour said.”

36. The Struggle for Power
The battle between the followers of Jesus (Nazarenes or Ebionites) and those of Paul raged from Palestine to Rome as well as in Alexandria, Carthage and Corinth.  Until the fourth century 80 or more different factions or groups were competing.

Irenaeus (AD 125-202) His work Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), written in about 180, was a refutation of Gnosticism. The 4 Gospels were selected by him.

The Emperors Constantine (325 AD) and Theodosius (381 AD) had the books of the Gnostics destroyed and forbade their meetings and rituals. Theodosius named them as heretics. The Gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, the Ebionites, the Egyptians and others vanish, some to be recovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, others lost forever.

37. Irenaeus and Constantine
The Jewish and Christian Gnostic communities in Egypt and elsewhere had many gospels. Under the powerful influence of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons at the end of the second century AD, all of these were banished from the canon of texts that were to become the foundation of Church doctrine and teaching.

A hundred and thirty years after the selection of the four Gospels made by Irenaeus, two edicts of the Emperor Constantine (AD 326 and 333), ordered the burning of any gospels outside the established canon of the four we know today. His biographer Bishop Eusebius had arranged these four gospels in a form he thought would be acceptable to the Emperor. This suggests that many of the gospels previously banned or excluded by Irenaeus 125 years earlier were still in circulation.

38. Theodosius

Some fifty years after Constantine’s edicts, in AD 381, the final coup de grâce was delivered by the Emperor Theodosius who declared that anyone who did not comply with his edict that all must believe in the Apostolic Creed defined at Nicaea in 325 AD that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were of one and the same substance would be declared a heretic. The end result of Theodosius’ policy was the persecution not only of heretics but of the Pagan religions. In 389 AD he ordered the destruction of their shrines and the magnificent temples of Diana at Ephesus and of Demeter at Eleusis in Greece. IN 391 a Christian mpob set fire to the wonderful library in Alexandria which housed thousands ofpriceless manuscripts. It was at this time that the idea entered Christian beliefs and practice that hell and eternal punishment awaited heretics, unbelievers and apostates. Henceforth there would be no mercy for them. 2

Theodosius surrendered his claim to be the Son of God so that Jesus could be the only Son of God. He also surrendered his Pontifex Maximus title and bestowed it on the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

The Gnostic beliefs and practices and the image of the Divine Feminine, the Holy Spirit, Divine Wisdom (Sophia), were nevertheless cherished by the Gnostic communities who, after the edicts of Constantine and Theodosius, could only survive persecution by going underground. These beliefs and practices were to emerge in Europe 800 years later in the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit.  They also seem to have survived or been paralleled in certain of the teachings of Kabbalah, particularly in its cosmology. Hans Jonas writes in his preface to his book The Gnostic Religion, “Our art and literature and much else would be different, had the Gnostic message prevailed.”

Gnostic ideas were also to reappear in the approach to the psyche of Carl Gustav Jung whose concept of individuation or soul growth was based on the Gnostic idea of bringing forth the hidden indwelling spirit that he called the Self and listening to the voice of the soul. This is something that the Gnostic groups did and this is why they were so threatening to the Church of Rome. It is interesting the Jung was planning to visit Rome but found that he was unable to and was overcome at the station by feeling faint as he tried to buy a ticket.  

30. Summary and Quote from Gospel of Thomas
The primary message of the Gnostics is that we are all essentially spiritual beings, part of the Divine Light or substance of God but, born into the material world, we have forgotten our divine nature and are virtual slaves of the values that govern the world. So they experienced themselves as strangers or aliens in this world. They believed their origin was in the divine world.

“There is a light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, it is darkness.”    
The Gospel of Thomas                                         

31. Plotinus quote 
Plotinus couldn’t stand the Gnostics but this quote from him nevertheless sums up their vision:

“We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing... a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use.”

1. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
2. AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State by Charles Freeman, The Gnostics by Tobias Churton, The Gnostic Religion by Hans Jonas, A Gnostic Anthology by Robert Grant
3. see The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jean-Yves Leloup,
The Quest for Mary Magdalene: History and Legend
by Michael Haag
The Meaning of Mary Magdalene
by Cynthia Bourgeault

See the website for very interesting articles.
See also the Essene Gospels transcribed from texts in the Vatican Archives by Edmund Bordeaux Szekeley (amazon)

 Talk 3 The Grail Legends

1. Quest for the Grail Illustration
This talk will look at the legends that suddenly appeared in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries about the Quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail appears variously as a cup, vessel, dish or stone. Was the Holy Grail the Cup of the Last Supper as has long been thought or was it the body of sacred teachings descending from Jesus that had survived through the centuries? Was it a secret Gnostic church that was an alternative to the established Catholic one? What was the Vision of the Grail that the knights of the Grail legend so diligently sought and so few experienced?

At the beginning of the twelfth century hardly anyone had heard of the Grail. By the end of the thirteenth century after this tremendous explosion of mythology, there was hardly anyone in Europe who had not heard of it. The abundant literature about the Holy Grail appeared so suddenly and abruptly in the twelfth century that it seems as if it gave literary shape to a well-established oral tradition.

These stories were told and retold in all the European languages but nothing new was added to them after the mid-thirteenth century. They offered a coded template of knightly virtue and conduct. There is a suggestion in Rudolf Steiner’s work that the Grail stories came to the fore in Charlemagne’s court at Aachen and that the later stories were elaborations of these. This, I think, is possible. The Grail legends transformed Pagan and Celtic Mysteries into the Quest for the spiritual life. In the twelfth century the Cup, Chalice, Dish and Stone were symbols pointing to the teaching of the hidden Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit that was spreading all over Europe through the troubadours.

2. Courtly love
The Courts of Love were purportedly instituted by Eleanor of Aquitaine (1155-1240) and her daughter, Marie de Champagne. Woman exercised an extraordinary powerful influence on manners and culture in the twelfth century. The formality and validity of the courtly ideal is to be attributed largely to their influence and to the Grail Legends which were widely disseminated in these Courts. Through woman, the poet is inspired; to her he turns; by her he desires to be admired and loved, and it is his wish to understand and serve her. The focus is on love at a spiritual rather than a sexual level. The Service of Woman and the Service of Love went hand in hand. Courtly Love was raised to a spiritual practice. (John Matthews, The Grail: Quest for the Eternal )

The predominance of the irrational or the interest in it, distinguishes the feminine as well as the Celtic mentality – legends that have survived to this day. “Courtly Love has its place in the history of the Grail for several reasons. As a civilising force, it drew inspiration from women, hitherto virtually ignored in the culture of the Middle Age. Drawing freely on the sentiments expressed in Arabic poetry and song, as well as on the teachings of the Sufi mystics whose beliefs included idealised earthly love as a means to spiritual perfection, Courtly Love placed woman on a pedestal for the first time in that age, worshipped her as a goddess, revered her as an almost sacred object of devotion – and in so doing touched off a spark in the poetic consciousness which resulted in a flood of lyricism and song.” (John Matthews, The Grail: Quest for the Eternal )

The Troubadours, singers and poets who celebrated the art of Courtly Love in all its aspects and who originated in the south-west of France and travelled all over Europe, became a significant influence on western culture.

“Love became a faith to live by, a code second only to that of chivalry, with which it was closely linked. A complex set of laws ruled every act of courtship made by the knight for love of his lady, who was always portrayed as aloof, cold of heart and lacking in charity, and who humbled her worshipper with cruel words, only spurring him on to greater efforts to please her. [the anima]. Though never classed as a heresy, Courtly Love was clearly frowned on by the Church.” Matthews

3. Jung considered the Grail

Jung considered the Grail to be the most important mythology of the Western world. He asked his wife, Emma, to write a book on it, treating it as a story about the individuation of the European psyche. Emma and Jung saw the Grail stories as a compensation emerging from the unconscious for what was missing in the Church’s teaching with its emphasis on belief rather than on the growth of the soul and spiritual transformation: hence the need for a Quest that would carry a numinous fascination for the young men and women of that time. Emma died before she could complete it and Marie-Louise von Franz, Jung’s most trusted associate, finished it.

4. Quote from John Matthews
In the history and beliefs of the Middle Ages, the role played by the Grail shines like a brilliant star. John Matthews The Grail: Quest for the Eternal

“Without disdaining either sublimity or grace, the Arthurian romances produce a sense of wonderment through a feeling of strangeness; this is their style. They carry the reader into a world of the supernatural where human destiny is liberated from the laws of this world. Strange characters, adventures which get tangled and disentangled in a fog of mystery, obscure magical powers which electrify or else paralyse the will, this is the spectacle usually offered by these stories.” (Heinrich Zimmer, The King and the Corpse) These legends take us into the imaginal world, where the psyche creates the images that reflect its deeper life, and draw us into it, like a fairy-tale.               

5. Cathedral of Chartres
The Grail legends coincided with the building of the great cathedrals in France, England and Germany, as well as the Crusades. The huge wealth of the Knights Templar financed their building. Chartres, like all the great cathedrals in France was dedicated to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Her supreme symbol was the rose and the great Rose windows that adorn the four facades of Chartres represented her. The Virgin Mary was associated with the image of the Grail because she was the precious vessel in which the Son of God became manifest. However, the title 'Notre Dame' given to all the great cathedrals of France also stood for Mary Magdalene as 'the Grail' of the bloodline descending from her marriage to Jesus (see Laurence Gardner's books).

6. Black Madonna
The Grail legends also coincided with the pilgrimages to the places sacred to the Black Madonna and the rise of the worship of Mary Magdalene with the building of her magnificent Basilicas at St. Maximin and Vézelay.

(Since giving this talk I have found out that, according to the Essenes the blue rose was the symbol of the teaching of Mary Magdalene and Jesus that was most probably derived from the Essenes. I also believe that the Black Madonna was the symbol of this secret teaching carried by her into France that had to go underground after the fourth century repression of the Gnostics. Blue is the colour associated with Divine Wisdom. I think the exoteric teaching of the Catholic Church was carried in the image of the Virgin Mary in the great cathedrals of France and the hidden teaching by the image of the Black Madonna. The great rose windows in Chartres Cathedral could have represented both exoteric and esoteric traditions).

7. Table of the Grail in relation to the 12 Constellations
From an astrological point of view the Table of the Grail and the 12 knights who sat at the Table were associated with the Round Table in the heavens and the 12 Constellations and with Jesus and the twelve apostles.

8. There were four major authors of the Grail Legends.
1. Chrétien de Troyes, Le Conte del Graal, writing around 1180 -90 near end of the twelfth century, wrote the first story about the quest, the wounded king and the procession of women carrying the Grail dish through the hall. He died before he was able to finish the story. This was the earliest and most influential of all the Grail texts. It is possible that Eleanor of Aquitaine comissioned him to write this legend.
Troyes was one of the main Templar sites in France where the group of four Templars who went to Jerusalem in the eleventh century came from and to which they returned. They were said to bring a priceless treasure back with them but no-one could say what this treasure was. Was it the teachings of the Gnostic Church, some Gnostic manuscripts, the cup of the Last Supper or part of the lost treasure of the second temple in Jerusalem that had been sacked by the Romans in 70 AD and that had been hidden beneath the Temple Mount, or was it an even older treasure, the Ark of the Covenant?

2. 1191-1202 – Robert de Boron wrote a book called Roman de l’Estoire dou Graal of which Joseph d’Arimathie forms the first of three parts, the second being about Merlin (mostly lost) and a third section called Percival. In his version, the Grail was firmly identified with the vessel in which Joseph had caught Christ’s blood and becomes the Holy Grail. The blood of Christ was believed to contain the soul and even the divinity of the saviour. It carried unlimited powers of healing and was a means of transmitting a direct apprehension of God. In the Christian sacrament, Christ’s body and blood became the bread and the wine.

In a work known as the Lancelot Grail, which is an introduction to the story of Joseph of Arimethaea by Robert de Boron, there is a passage which shows that the Grail legend was already in existence in the 8th century in England. “On the eve of Good Friday of the year 717, the writer lay in his hut in one of the wildest regions of Britain, plagued with doubts about the Trinity. Then Christ appeared to him and gave him a small book, no bigger than the palm of his hand, which would resolve all his doubts. On the following morning the writer opened the book, the sections of which were inscribed as follows:

1. This is the Book of thy descent.
2. Here begins the Book of the Holy Grail.
3. Here begin the terrors.
4. Here begin the marvels.

He then describes how he was drawn up into the third Heaven and of what adventures he had to undergo until the book – which had disappeared – should be found again.” Then de Boron’s story of Joseph of Arimathaea begins.

The first part of his story says that Christ’s body was given to Joseph of Arimathaea for burial. He caught some of his blood in the cup that was used at the Last Supper, either when Jesus was on the cross or in the sepulchre after the crucifixion. After his body disappeared from the sepulchre, Joseph was accused of taking it away and was thrown into prison. Christ appeared to him there in a blaze of glory and entrusted the cup to his care. He was kept alive by a dove who deposited a wafer in the cup every day. After his release Joseph gathered his family and other followers and travelled to Glastonbury where he founded a dynasty of Grail keepers that eventually included Perceval. Joseph built the first Christian church there, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. (this ties in with material in Talk1 about Joseph being a rich merchant who travelled to Cornwall and Somerset).

They travelled further, perhaps to southern France or northern Spain. A temple to house the Grail was built on Montsalvat, the Mountain of Salvation. An Order of knights comes into being. The Keeper of the Grail is wounded in the thighs or the genitals caused by the spear that pierced Christ on the cross. Henceforth he is known as the maimed or wounded king. The country becomes barren – a Wasteland where there is a great drought. The country is restored to fertility and the king’s wound is finally healed by a knight who asks the question: “What ails thee, Father?”

3. 1210  Queste del Saint Graal – completed the transformation from the mysterious object introduced by Chrétien into a fully-fledged Christian symbol. Galahad is the main character in this story, the perfect virgin knight who is the only one to actually see the Grail in a vision.

4. 1207  Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. In this version the Grail is a stone, not a cup. It is called the lapis exillas – the exiled stone or the stone of exile. Wolfram was the author who made the strongest connection to alchemical symbolism and, I would think, to Kabbalah. Wolfram’s stone could possibly be a reference to the Shekinah who was called “The Precious Stone”. It was said to be an emerald. This could relate to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismagistus and to the philosopher’s stone of Alchemy. Wolfram says that he got the story from a Provençal man called Kyot who found the story, written in a heathen script in Toledo and had come to the conclusion that the House of Anjou should be regarded as the guardian of the Grail. (Parzival in his story was descended from the House of Anjou)

There were other later compilations that formed the inspiration for Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Artur, published in 1485 by Caxton

(this material is drawn from John Matthews' illustrated book The Grail: Quest for the Eternal)

9. A Sacred Cauldron or Cup
There are innumerable legends about a sacred cauldron, both in Europe and to the East, as far as India.

1. Greece, legends of a cup or krater. Cup of Dionysus that gave inspiration.
2. Eleusinian Mysteries had a sacred krater or cup, the kernos. Whoever drank from it had a vision of a paradisal sphere and immortality.

3. Many Celtic legends told of a sacred cauldron that gave inspiration, rebirth and nourishment for all. The Cauldron of the Welsh goddess Ceridwen who had a semi-divine son called Taliesin, the greatest Welsh poet (often associated with Merlin). All offered a gateway to Paradise or a vision of the place where the cup, vessel or cauldron was to be found.

10. The Ardagh Chalice
Made in the eighth century, this is one of the most revered treasures of Ireland.
The combination of silver, bronze and gold coupled with the artistic and technical expertise evident in its design were centuries ahead of their time.

11. The Sword in the Stone

After the death of Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, the nobles needed to find a new king. Arthur had been hidden away from the time of his birth by Merlin who had arranged his father’s marriage to Igraine, the beautiful wife of Gorlois, the Prince of Cornwall. Merlin now presented Arthur to the assembled knights but he was young and untried. A mysterious stone appeared with a sword thrust into it. Legend said that whoever was able to draw the sword from the stone would be the rightful king. The young Prince Arthur was able to draw it forth, not once but three times. He was accepted as King and established his court at Caerleon in Wales.

12. King Arthur
tapestry of King Arthur

13. Round Table with Knights
There is a Round Table and only Galahad is allowed to sit in the Siege Perilous without coming to harm. No-one else can sit in it because it represented the seat Judas had sat in at the last supper and was mortally dangerous to whoever sat in it, save only Galahad. One day on the Feast of Pentecost, the Grail appeared before the assembled king, queen and knights veiled and held in a beam of sunlight. The knights vowed to go in search of it.

On their Quest, the knights encountered hermits living in the deep woods they pass through on their quest. These guided them on their way. In one version of the Quest, only three knights succeeded in reaching the Grail: Galahad, the virgin knight who was the son of Sir Lancelot by the daughter of the Grail king (he slept with her thinking she was Guinevere), Perceval, the holy fool and Bors, the ordinary man. Only Galahad actually experienced the vision of it.

14. Vision of Grail
This was Galahad’s vision of the Grail as imagined by William Morris.

15. Principle Characters in the story of Parzival (Wolfram von Eschenbach)
King Arthur and Queen Guinevere
Parzival (in von Eschenbach's story)
Blancheflor, wife of Parzival
Parzival’s mother Herzagolyde, Queen of Wales and wife of
Parzival’s father, Gahmuret, King of Anjou
Gurnemanz, Herzagolyde’s Marshal and Parzival’s tutor

The wounded Fisher King Anfortas
his hermit brother Trevrizent

Fierefiz, son of Gahmuret and Belikane, his black African queen
Répanse de Joie or Schoye, Bearer of the Grail

16. The Story of Parzival as told by Lindsay Clarke
in his book Parzifal and the Stone from Heaven to whose wonderful account of the story I am greatly indebted.

With the story of Parzival, we enter what Henri Corbin, the great Sufi scholar, called the Imaginal Realm, the realm that is between dreaming and waking, where all intellectual commentary has to be suspended as we deeply experience the story. Parzival’s story is one of death and regeneration, following the age-old mysteries connected with the death and regeneration of the crops in ancient cultures and the myths of Osiris and Tammuz. It is also a story illustrating the alchemical journey through the nigredo and the albedo to the final illumination of the rubedo. It is a story that is as relevant for our time as it was for the time in which it was written for we have not set out on the Quest for the Grail.

The story starts with the kingdom of Anjou in France where a young man called Gahmuret, is the second son of King Gandin of Anjou and the brother of Galoes, the elder son who inherited the throne of his father. King Gandin died in battle, having just mourned the death of his other two sons in battle. Gahmuret, admiring his slain father from childhood, resolved to follow in his father’s footsteps and set out into the world to seek adventure and renown, leaving his beloved elder brother Galoes, as king of Anjou. His mother begged him not to go for she had already seen her husband slain for pursuing the same aim. (this is the first time in the story that we hear of a woman left weeping and bereft by the loss of husband or son).

Gahmuret had many adventures and ended up at the court of the Caliph of Baghdad who ruled two-thirds of the known world. After some time spent there, Gahmuret decided to return home. On the way there, sailing along the coast of North Africa he came across a besieged city. He went to its aid, overcame its attackers and fell in love with Belakane, the beautiful dark queen who ruled over the kingdom of Zazamanc. They married and for three months he was content to stay there. But the old restlessness re-asserted itself and he set off once again for his home in Anjou, leaving behind him only a letter saying goodbye to his wife. Six months later, she gave birth to their son, whose skin was both black and white. She named him Feirefiz (Vair Fiz meaning dappled son).

Gahmuret  arrived in the kingdom of France where a great tournament was held at which he outshone all the other knights gathered from the countries of Ireland, Gascony, Aragon, Castile, Portugal and Germany. Among the throng was the Lady Herzeloyde, heiress to the kingdom of Wales after the recent death of her father. With her was her Marshal, the Lord Gurnemanz. Entranced with Gahmuret’s prowess, she fell in love with him and, overcoming Gahmuret’s fear that she would try to hold him to her, they were married. Nine months later a son, Parzival, was born to the queen.

Soon, too soon, Gahmuret’s restlessness reasserted itself and he begged the Queen’s permission to leave. “So now you threaten to abandon us, as once you abandoned your heathen paramour. Can’t you see”, the Queen cried, “that I love you more than my life. I can’t live without you. I’m terrified that I’ll lose you in a stranger’s war.” Ten weeks later came the news that Gahmuret, the greatest warrior in Christendom, had been killed on the road to Baghdad. The Caliph sent word that he had been given a glorious funeral in Baghdad and that he would be forever mourned by the Saracens.

Herzeloyde was only with great difficulty, prevented from killing herself and her son. Driven out of her mind with grief, she secretly left the castle one night, taking her son, Parzival with her. (This is the third time in the story that a wife or mother was abandoned by her husband or son). The despairing queen brought her son up alone in a hut in the forest for seventeen years, vowing to keep him safe from the world and protect him from all harm. Wales and Anjou were left without a king because Gahmuret’s brother, the king of Anjou, had died. Soon both lands were ravaged by war.

One morning Parzival heard horses and the clash of arms and saw five knights in shining armour breaking into a clearing in the forest. Dazzled by them, he rushed to tell his mother about them. She recognised that the moment of parting has come and fainted. She then told him about his father, and how he died. Perceval showed no interest in what she told him and said his one desire was to go to King Arthur’s court and join the knights. His mother told him that he must help any woman he sees in distress but he may only take a kiss from her, no more, although he may take a ring. He left his mother without a backward glance. She later died of grief without him being aware of his loss.

Dressed in homespun clothes and smelling of animal pelts, Parzival set out for the Court of King Arthur. On the way there, he met a woman, kissed her by force and seized an emerald ring from her finger. He also saw a red knight carrying a golden goblet.  Arrived at the Court, he was ridiculed for his appearance and his speech. He learned that the Red Knight had stolen the goblet from Arthur and laid claim to his lands. Perceval asked Arthur’s permission to go after the knight and with unerring aim, killed him with his javelin, bringing the golden goblet back to Arthur, and hoping to be knighted. But his appearance and demeanour as a country bumpkin and a fool went against him. Shocked by having killed a man who later turned out to be his kinsman, he put on the knight’s armour. Humiliated by the reception he got at the Court, he set out at a gallop on the Red Knight’s charger into the unknown.

Arthur and the Round Table represent the highest code of chivalry which prevailed in the Middle Ages. A higher, nobler and more disciplined man than the warrior was indicated by the term knight. The virtues demanded of him were strength and skill in arms, courage and loyalty to his lord but also to his friend and respect for his foe. The Round Table mirrored the developing consciousness of Christian man in the first millennium. The knight’s aggressive masculinity was put to the service of a nobler ideal and a higher state of consciousness. The unconscious warrior instinct was being transformed by being put in the service of this higher state.

The next stage of Parzival’s journey led him to an encounter with Gurnemanz, his mother’s former marshal, to whom he revealed his name. Gurnemanz went on one knee before him, astonished to find that he was the long-lost son of the Lady Herzeloyde. He invited him to stay with him and be instructed in all the skills and virtues of a knight that presently he lacked, including good table manners and how to treat a woman with respect. After a few months instruction in both knightly skills with sword and mace as well as courtly manners and an appropriate dress sense, Parzival hears that the nearby castle of Belrepaire is under siege and says he must leave. Before he goes, Gurnemanz impresses on him that he should not ask too many questions as only fools and spies ask questions.

He leaves his elderly and devoted teacher to go out into the world as a fully fledged knight and comes in the nick of time to the castle of Belrepaire where a beautiful lady, Blancheflor, is being besieged by an unacceptable suitor, Duke Orilus. Parzival fights a great single-handed combat with the Duke and, reaching the point where he was about to kill him, his hand is stayed by a dishevelled woman who begged him to spare his life. Recognising her as the woman from whom he had stolen an emerald ring, he admits the wrong he has done her and spared the life of the Duke telling him to return to King Arthur’s Court.

Having lifted the siege and removed the enemy, Parzival has encountered for the first time a woman who is beautiful and desirable and who is in deep peril. He has fallen deeply in love with her and she with him. He has not only rescued her (one of the knightly duties) but also been rewarded with her devotion. Amid great rejoicings, they are married. Overcoming his mother’s instruction to take only a kiss from a woman, Parzival, at Blanchefor’s amused urging, discovers the deeper pleasures of love. Then, remembering his mother and her grief but  unaware that she has died, he begs Blancheflor to let him set out to find his mother and bring her to Belrepaire.

At this point, the story takes on magical elements. Parzival is entering the entranced kingdom of faerie, so familiar to Celtic poets, the world of the Dream. He finds himself in a grim wasteland, not knowing it to be his own kingdom. In the deep fog that covered the land, he has lost all sense of direction and, dropping his reins on his horse’s neck, he trusts him to guide him through this wasteland. Trying to find his way back to his mother, he comes to a place where he is blocked by a river and a dead end to the path he is on. He asks God to enable him to find what he is seeking. Through the mist he sees two men in a boat and asks them where he could find shelter. One of them who is fishing in the lake points out the way to the mist-shrouded Grail Castle, the only shelter for thirty miles around. The fisherman says to him: “My son, thou seest here space and time are one” indicating that he has entered another realm, and “Take care, knight, there are paths that will lead you astray in the failing light… Find the right way and you shall have royal entertainment of me there.” Parzival has not found his mother but has found the way with the help of the fisherman to the realm of dreams and visions – the realm of the soul. As he climbs the high ridge of a crag, the light has almost gone. Then, a pallid shaft of moonlight gleams through a gap in the shifting clouds and suddenly, a noble castle appears before his tired eyes.

17. The Castle of the Grail
He suddenly comes upon the castle on Montsauvage (Monsalvat), announces his name as Parzival of Wales and finds the gate opens for him as if he were expected. After he has bathed and changed into clothes given to him, he is taken into a great hall lit by a blazing fire and many candles. In the dim light he sees an old man, Anfortas, the Fisher King, wrapped in a sable robe stretched out on a bed near the fireplace —– all as if in a dream. The king marvels that he has got there so quickly from the castle of Belrepaire. (in Wolfram’s version the wounded king and the hermit who pointed the way to the castle are both brothers of Parzival’s mother, hence his uncles. He is therefore of royal descent both from his father and the House of Anjou and from his mother).

A page enters holding a sword upright in a brightly jewelled scabbard and belt which he gives to the king, saying it has been sent to him by a niece for him to bestow on whom he wishes. The king presents the sword to Parzival, saying that it is an outstandingly rare and precious weapon and that it is destined for him. Parzival, though longing to ask questions of the king, does not dare speak.

Large candles light the great hall which is full of other knights now. While the Fisher King is speaking to Parzival, a page carrying a white lance enters and crosses over between the fire and the two men sitting on the couch. From the iron a drop of blood drips on to the tip of the white shaft and flows down the shaft onto the page’s hand. A loud cry of lamentation is heard rising from the assembled company). Parzival notices this but says nothing.

18. Répanse de Joie

Another great door opens and two more pages enter carrying many-branched golden candelabra with lighted candles. Wonderful music is heard. A stately procession of 24 maidens enters the hall, wearing exquisite gowns clasped with girdles of gold, their hair garlanded with crowns of flowers. Behind them came two maidens carrying a table made of some rare substance through which light was shining, which they set down before the crippled fisherman. And then two more maidens followed, bearing platters and knives and a gleaming silver dish.

Then another maiden enters the hall, more beautiful than all the others, dressed in white silk brocade. Her name was Répanse de Joie. On a rich cloth of green silk she carries a grail of pure gold, set with precious stones. From it streams such a brilliant light that the lustre of the candles is dimmed. She reverently sets down the radiant stone of the Grail on the table in front of the king. Parzival, stunned by all he is witnessing, does not dare to ask a question. A table is prepared and a great feast served to all the four hundred knights present in the hall. With every course served the Grail passes in front of them and still Parzival says nothing, having decided to ask the meaning of all he has witnessed in the morning.

The king retires to bed and Parzival retires to the bed prepared for him in the great hall and sleeps until morning. On waking he finds his armour and weapons lying beside him but no-one to help him arm. The doors giving on to the halls save the one by which he entered are all closed and no one answers his knocking and calling. In the courtyard, he finds his horse saddled and ready and the gate open and the drawbridge lowered. As he crosses it, the bridge is raised while his horse is still on it so that his horse is just able to reach the land beyond the moat. As he hears the gates clang shut, Parzival calls out to the person who raised the bridge but no-one replies and so he sets out on his way, bewildered and lonely and deeply unsure of himself. He saw no-one but a bitter voice shouted down through the mist rising off the moat: “Do you lack a heart as you lack a tongue?  Could you not have asked the question?”

What question, Parzival shouted back? What question should I have asked?”

“Look around you, fool. The hour is lost, the land lies waste. Hope withers with it. And you who might have aided us have forfeited the greatest prize of all.”

Parzival wondered desperately how he had failed to aid his host? What had he done or not done that he should be cursed like this? Where had his behaviour been wanting, schooled as he had been by Gurnemanz who had told him not to ask questions?

Carrying a deep burden of shame, but encouraged by Gawain, a knight from Arthur's Court whom he met on his travels, Parzival made his way to King Arthur’s Court, arriving there on Christmas Day. The King was about to knight Parzival, addressing him as Parzival of Wales, rightful king of Anjou and Lord of Belrepaire, when a loud voice rang out from beyond the doors of the great hall. The gates crashed open and a hideous female rode into the hall. She was dressed in rags and riding a bony mule. Her face was like a boar’s snout with two tusks jutting out of it. Before the whole court Cundrie, for that was her name, accused Parzival of failing to ask the question that would have freed the Fisher King from his pain and lifted the curse from the land. She accused him of killing his kinsman, the Red Knight and of causing his mother’s death by leaving her. Unaware of either, Parzival could only stand in trembling silence, unable to find any words to defend himself. The King asked Cundrie how this grave fault could be mended. Only, Cundrie replied, if the right man can find his way back to the castle can this great wrong be set right.

(Like the old crone in the story of the Sleeping Beauty, Cundrie represents the power of the dark feminine which bursts into the castle of the mind with threats and challenges and scornful demands that we wake up from our immature dreams of conquest, that we endeavour to become fully human. (Lindsay Clarke, p. 220)

19. Parzival with the hermit Trevrizent

So, despair corroding his heart, Parzival left the hall, vowing to seek out the Grail Castle. For three years he wandered in grief and pain, feeling unable, because of his sense of shame, to return to his beloved wife, Blancheflor. Then one night, she appeared to him in a dream, reproaching him for not returning to her and telling him to keep faith with his heart if he wanted to return to the castle of the Grail. He realised he had lost the simple sense of trust that had once guided him to the castle. Once again, he let the reins go loose and allowed  his horse to guide him until, after many days of wandering, he found himself approaching a hut deep in a wood where the hermit Trevrizent lived. Haltingly, Parzival told his sad story, telling him he had vowed not to return to his wife until he had found the Grail Castle again.

Trevrizent tells him the story of the Grail, how, long ago there was a war in heaven with the hosts of darkness set against the powers of light. But there were some angels who strove to keep the universe together and who brought the Grail – the stone from heaven – to earth where it remains under the protection of the Grail guardians.  It is the stone of healing – that which has the power to make life whole again. “In that stone’s pure substance are wedded the virtues both of darkness and of light.”

“Why was the Grail stone lost to us?” Parzival asked him. Trevrizent tells him that it was lost because of the fault of his own brother, Anfortas, the Fisher King, who forsook his sacred charge as guardian of the Grail in the pursuit of a woman he had fallen desperately in love with. She scorned him but to win her, he fought a great battle with her sworn enemy and received a terrible wound in his groin. It is a wound that festers with the poisons from the lance and will not heal. His wound cannot heal until one comes to the Castle who understands the power of the Grail and can restore it and for that to happen, there is a question that must be asked. There was a knight who came, said Trevrizant but he did not ask the question.

Parzival, deeply shaken, reveals his name and is even more shaken to learn that Trevrizent is his mother’s brother and therefore his uncle. Then he tells Trevrizent that he is the knight who failed to ask the question: “I was guided there by the Rich Fisherman himself. He gave me the sword which the Grail-bearer had sent to him. I saw the lance that runs with blood. I sat at the table of the Grail. I felt its radiance and ate of its bounty. Yet I did not speak.”

Trevrizent tells him not to give up hope because the ways of the Grail are mysterious and he must know that he is the nephew of Anfortas and Répanse de Joie, the Bearer of the Grail.

Parzival can’t understand why his courage, his knightly virtues and his renown in battle are not enough to bring him to the Grail Castle again. What more does he need? Trevrizent answers that he lacks the hardest of all things to acquire — the gentle strength of a mature and compassionate heart. He tells him that he has to accept his darkness as well as his light and to hold them together as the Grail Stone does. He invites him to stay with him a while and meditate on these things until the bitterness and anguish in his heart is dissolved.

After some months spent with his uncle in his hermitage in the forest, Parzival sets out again and comes to a castle where he meets Gawain again and Cundrie, the witch-like hag who had cursed him. No longer reproaching him but recognising the transformation she sees in him, she takes him up to a high tower and shows him the lands of the Grail Castle stretching out before him and points out to him a Saracen knight whom she tells him he has to fight. Parzival says to her, “Dear God, is there no end to fighting?” but goes out to meet the Saracen she has told him to fight who, she says, stands between him and the Grail.

After a terrific battle, each matched exactly to the other’s strength, the Saracen knight let out a great cry, Zazamanc and lunged at Parzival, who lost his balance and fell to the ground. The Saracen lifted his scimitar and brought it down with all his force but Parzival rolled away and avoided the blow. He sprang to his feet and at that moment the beloved face of his wife flashed before his eyes and he shouted her name Blancheflor aloud. Far away, Blancheflor heard it in her heart and she reached out to strengthen his. The Saracen had let his concentration slip and when he lifted his gaze, he saw Parzival’s sword descending on his head. Then to his utter amazement and Parzival’s as well, the sword shattered into pieces as it crashed against the Saracen’s helmet. Knowing that the loss of his sword meant his end was approaching, Parzival removed his helmet and faced the Saracen knight, asking his name before he faced his death. Then the Saracen sheathed his sword, saying that his name was Feirefiz Angevin.

Parzival gasped, “But the title of Angevin is mine. By what right do you take that name?” “By a son’s right”, the Saracen answered. “My father’s name is Gahmuret the Angevin. Do you know where I can find him?” “Not in this world,” answered Parzival. “My father is dead.”

Now the Saracen gasped in surprise, “Your father?” They both turned as they heard the voice of Cundrie shouting at Feirefiz to take off his helmet. “Show your brother your face,” she commanded. As they gazed at each other, they could see that their faces carried the imprint of the father neither had known.

“You are both Gahmuret’s sons,” said Cundrie, “though by different mothers, both of whom were injured by his pride. Yet the wrong done by the father can be made right by the sons, and in confronting and sparing each other you have each overcome yourself. The time of the sword is over. It is the Grail that calls you now. I have word from Trevrizent at Montsalvage: you, Parzival, are blessed above all men, for you and your wife have been named to the kingdom of the Grail.”

Parzival gazed up at Cundrie in a trance of wonder. Then he became aware of his dark brother, Feirefiz standing with his arms open, waiting to embrace him. They stood for a long time with their arms around each other, their eyes brimming with tears of joy. “Come with me,” Parzival said. “Now that I have found you I would have you always at my side.”

20. Grail Castle
Riding together, telling each other the stories of what had happened to them, they came to the shores of a lake and Parzival recognised it as the place where he had first seen the Fisher King. Looking up they could see the ramparts of the castle soaring above them. To the voice of the sentinel who called down to them, “Who goes there?”, Parzival replied, “I am Parzival of Wales, Lord of Belrepaire and son of the Lady Herzeloyde by Gahmuret the Angevin. I bring with me my dark brother, Feirefiz, from whom I will not be parted. I would speak with my uncle, the Rich Fisherman.”

“Then fair welcome to you both. The Grail bids you enter.”

21. Glowing Dark Heart
Together, they were ushered into the presence of the ailing king, Anfortas. Parzival took his withered hand between his own, leaning close to hear what the king wished to say: “If there be any mercy or pity left in this life, bid them keep the Grail from my sight so that I may have the death I desire.” Parzival, feeling powerless in the presence of the Fisher King’s intolerable suffering, lifted his hand to soothe the pain of the wounded man. His own body trembling with grief, he felt the uselessness of his proven strength and valour in the face of such suffering. He had only compassion to offer the stricken king. In the hushed attentive silence of the assembled company in the hall, he whispered, “What ails thee, uncle?”

Anfortas opened his eyes. His parchment-like skin began to suffuse with colour as the lips of his wound were softly sealed. Outside the castle, the entire land was regenerated, bursting into life once more.

Parzival stood transfixed as the miracle of healing took place before his eyes. At the same moment the great chamber lit up with the approaching radiance of the Grail. Once again he saw the wonderful procession of maidens bearing the Table of the Grail into the hall and behind them the graceful figure of the Grail-Bearer herself, Répanse de Joie, holding between her hands the exquisite chalice in which gleamed the stone.

22. Man and Woman with Grail

As Parzival stood in wonder at this vision, the Grail seemed to change until it no longer seemed to be a heart but the soft protective chamber of a womb and then into a glassy vessel where he saw the figure of a knight standing with his lady reflected. When he turned away from the vision, his heart overflowed with joy for there, by his side, stood his beloved wife, Blancheflor. Taking his hand in hers, she whispered, “Welcome home, my Parzival.” In reply he whispered “Blancheflor, my Condwiramours, my Love.”

Feirefiz  was not excluded from the vision of the Grail and found his love in Répanse de Joie whom he married in great joy.

This magnificent story, so wonderfully retold by Lindsay Clarke in his book Parzival and the Stone from Heaven anticipates our time: this precious time of humanity’s awakening. Once before, in the 12th century, this was attempted in the spiritual impulse of the Quest for the Holy Grail. The mystery of the Holy Grail infuses the Middle Ages with the image of the age-old quest which turns inwards, following the yearning of the seeker’s heart, seeking a path that cannot be taught but only found and is unique for each individual. The chalice, vessel, cup and stone that are the primary images of the Grail evoke the archetype of the Feminine which becomes the inspiration, guide and goal of the knight’s inner quest.

What is the Grail then, but the inexhaustible vessel, the source of life continuously flowing into being, radiating into this world from the unseen realm of the Soul, the realm in which all our lives are embedded? And who are the knights who act as guardians of the Grail but those who faithfully keep alive through the darkened centuries the mysteries of the soul’s awakening?

The whole story has the feeling of a dream – an initiation dream. Parzival encounters in the King a higher state of consciousness, not fully available to him because he is unable to respond with his heart to the suffering king by asking the question that would both set the king free and also open his heart to a new and deeper understanding. Parzival prefigures the dilemma of our age which is unable to ask the question of itself that could transform it.

The last talk will explain why the Grail was lost, why the Feminine was raped and dishonoured and why the Albigensian Crusade was the outcome of what had not been integrated within the northern male psyche. The barbarism and brutality of that Crusade caused the male psyche to regress, to lose the noble vision of the Grail Quest.
In the Jungian sense, “Parzifal or Percival and Lancelot are two of the most inspiring animus-figures of the Middle Ages. They are both saviour figures of whom Christ was the prototype. Both embarked on a spiritual quest which involved the loss of everything held dear to man at that time: power, fame, honour, knightly prowess, mother and wife. Parzival had to heal the Fisher King and restore fertility to the Wasteland. Lancelot in the story of the Knight of the Cart, had to rescue the Queen, symbol of the soul. They both had to overcome the fear of death and being shamed by their culture and they both had to learn a different view of woman as initiator of the Mysteries. They each went through a profound experience of transformation, “requiring a gradual surrender of the earthly personality or persona in exchange for the boon of a higher spiritual nature and the summum bonum of the experience of immortality.” from Heinrich Zimmer, The King and the Corpse

Talk 4
The Cathars and the Church of the Holy Spirit

Montségur – the Cathars and the Church of the Holy Spirit

This final talk will tell the extraordinary 12th and 13th century story of the Cathars or Albigensians and their Church of the Holy Spirit and how this was symbolised by a sacred Cup associated with the Holy Grail—the precious vessel that had carried the original teaching of Jesus through the centuries.

This Church, claiming superior Apostolic authority to the Roman Church, embarked on a systematic effort to convert the area of the Languedoc in south-western France. By the second half of the twelfth century it had virtually displaced the Church of Rome as the recognised vehicle of the Christian revelation in that area… “It was a definitely organised Church with a distinctive rite of admission and a trained priestly caste. It claimed to be nothing less than the true Church of Christ, handed down in unbroken succession from the Apostles and retaining the power, which the false Church of Rome had lost or never possessed, of ‘baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’”

“What this Church of the Holy Spirit stressed was not doctrine but following the actual teaching of Jesus that had been passed down through the centuries from the time of the Apostles.” It was a religion that emphasised release from prison, enlightenment,  spiritual growth and service.  “Against this stupendous claim and the success of its ministers, the Catholic Church found itself obliged to mobilize all its resources, finally raising against it a Crusade which was pursued more relentlessly than any against the Saracen infidel, and then creating an Inquisition to hunt down Cathars to the last man, never resting till it was satisfied that the last of them had been exterminated.” (from The Treasure of Montségur p. 55)

Henry Lea, in his History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages writes, “The movement spread so rapidly and resisted so stubbornly the sternest efforts of suppression that at one time it may be fairly said to have threatened the permanent existence of Christianity itself.”

The Grail

“The Grail is a Living force; it will never die; it may indeed sink out of sight, and for centuries even, disappear… but it will rise to the surface again and become once more a theme of vital importance. (Jessie Weston, from Ritual to Romance)

The mystery of the Grail infuses the Middle Ages with the image of the sacred cup, symbol of the lost feminine element hidden within the outer forms of Christianity. As the Christian Church became more and more fused with the Roman model of Imperial power and more and more identified with the hierarchical control of the masculine archetype, the feminine element, focused on the image of Sophia, the Holy Spirit, had to go underground. It survived as an underground movement after the suppression of the Gnostics in the late fourth century under the Emperor Theodosius, surfaced in an extraordinary flowering in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in south-western France and northern Spain, was driven underground again through persecution and genocide, and is once more surfacing in our own time as men and women respond to the need for a different understanding of life and of themselves.

Throughout these two thousand years, the hidden teaching about the divine spark hidden within man has been kept alive by individuals, drawn from different European countries and from a Jewish as well as a Christian background. This underground stream of secret teaching was hidden in the elaborate code of symbols known as Alchemy and Hermeticism, as well as in the mystical Jewish tradition of Kabbalah and the order of the Knights Templar. It was woven into the symbolic imagery of the Grail legends and was spread all over Europe by the troubadours, many of whom were initiates of the Church of the Holy Spirit. It is carved into the masonry of the Gothic Cathedrals, every stone of which proclaims it.

In the twelfth century, the image of woman was transformed although it has taken eight hundred years for that transformation to bear fruit in the gradual ascent of woman and the rehabilitation of the feminine principle that is now taking place. But it was followed by a century that witnessed an horrific act of genocide: the destruction of a people, a culture and a religion in the area of the Languedoc which set a fearful precedent for future centuries—of tyranny, barbarism and genocide that was perpetrated and justified by both Church and State and never acknowledged to be the atrocity it was. A shadow fell over Europe that has not been lifted even now, because we are the unconscious inheritors in the twenty-first century of the intolerance, cruelty and fanaticism of that one.

Map of the Cathar area

This is the area where the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit developed and thrived in the flourishing cities and surrounding villages of Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne, Narbonne and Béziers.

The Cathars’ Relationship with the Catholic Church
The Cathars believed that the Church of Rome was irrelevant to the soul’s redemption. They detested its arrogance, wealth, corruption and rigid dogmas, regarding it as the temple of Satan, a false church ruled by a false god. They believed it had withheld from men and women the knowledge of themselves as repositories of the hidden light of the Holy Spirit and barred their access to the true teaching of Christ.

This repudiation of the Church could be seen as the long delayed response to its repression of the Gnostics in the fourth century.

Naturally, this didn’t go down well with the bishops of the Languedoc  — regarded by the people as lazy and corrupt — or with the Pope in Rome.

The Cathars’ View of the World
“The Cathars, like the Gnostics held a radically pessimistic view of life and the world combined with a radically optimistic belief that the human spirit is itself divine, though lost in an alien and hostile world ruled by an evil deity.” This belief had its ultimate origins in Plato’s dualism, Persian Zoroastrianism and the later writings of the Manichaeans. The motto of all these groups might have been the opening words of St. John’s Gospel: “The Light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Westward Progression of Dualist Sects into Europe from near-East

This map shows the dualist communities which developed in several different areas over a long period of time. The most important group for the Cathars in France were the groups in Italy and Bulgaria where the people who believed in a similar dualist cosmology were called Bogomils — a word which means Friends of God. Further to the East, there were older groups who held a similar cosmology, including the Manichaeans, who in the third century had established communities in Spain, southern France, Italy and Bulgaria. Basically, this dualist cosmology developed from the belief that the evil in the world could not have emanated from God but rather from an imposter or false god who wished to prolong the suffering in the world by keeping imprisoned souls in thrall to himself. A divine element, part of the true God, was hidden in man but the material world and all that pertained to it, was evil. The Cathars’ solution to the problem of evil, suffering and death was to say that there were two creators and two worlds, one good, the other evil, with the latter controlled by the structures of power in both Church and State that they repudiated. (It isn't hard, looking at today's world, to see that they had a point!)

“The belief in two principles was held by the Paterins in Italy, the German Cathars, the Paulicians of Armenia, the Bogomils of Bulgaria and the Cathars of southern France. Other esoteric groups also involved – the Templars, the Troubadours, the Rosicrucians, the Hermetic philosophers and the Alchemists. All these, together with the Kabbalists, Islamic Gnostic groups and some Sufi mystics all openly taught reincarnation. In the sixth century AD the Christian Church under the emperor Justinian, made this doctrine anathema.” (Davidson)

Map of Cathar communities in Italy

There are 22 places on this map of Italy where a Cathar presence was established by the twelfth century and five where there were Cathar churches with bishops.

St. Francis

St. Francis (1181-1226) was known as “God’s Troubadour” and, indeed, had been a poet and troubadour before he embarked on his vocation. His mother came from Provence and his father travelled regularly to that area and to the city of Troyes, taking Francis with him to the great trade fairs to learn the cloth trade. St. Francis as a young man could have come into contact with both Cathars and troubadours in Assisi and Perugia where he spent a year in prison after a battle between the two cities. He may have been influenced by one or more of them to embark on his life as a poor Franciscan. The way of living and the life of service to the poor that he instituted was identical to the Cathar itinerant priests of the Languedoc. He would have known about the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit and the persecution of the Cathars.

Map of Visigoth France and Spain

Before we go into the story of the Cathars I think it might be interesting for you to know something about the history that made this region of France so culturally diverse and so fascinating. To go back a long way, it seems that there may have been Egyptian colonies here before there were Greek, Roman or Visigoth ones. The cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis, for example, that was established here and, indeed, in other parts of southern France, may date from this early period.

Secondly, as part of the extensive Roman Empire, there was a highly developed Roman Province in this area called Septimania. Rennes-Les-Bains near the (now) better known town of Rennes-le-Chateau was a Spa-town much frequented by wealthy Roman citizens of Narbonne, some of whom retired there.

Thirdly, there were the Visigoths who, moving from East to West through Europe, conquered Rome in the early fifth century and moved on to establish their own extensive kingdom in the area between the Rhone and Garonne rivers as well as in Iberia as Spain was then called. By 418 this huge Visigoth area of France was already recognised by Rome as the kingdom of Toulouse. The Visigoths had scholars who welcomed other scholars, particularly the Jewish ones who had established themselves in Toulouse and other southern towns like Narbonne and Béziers as well as Girona in northern Spain.

There is no reason to suppose that the Gnostic teachings were completely eradicated with the persecution of the Gnostic sects under the Emperor Theodosius in the late fourth century. The Visigoths in their Pyrenean kingdom offered, from the fifth century, a haven from persecution, being heretics themselves because they had embraced the Arian doctrine rather than that promoted by Athanasius and because their kingdom was, at that time, beyond the reach of both the Emperor and the Papacy. It is possible that the teachings of Mary Magdalene and the precious texts she had brought with her survived in small communities for many centuries.

Cathedral of La Daurade

The Visigoths, who had converted to the Arian form of Christianity, loved Toulouse and in the sixth century built one of the most beautiful of all churches, the oldest Marian shrine in France—the Basilica of La Daurade, on the site of the temple of the Roman goddess Minerva overlooking the river. Built at the same time as the magnificent Basilica in Ravenna, it was a symphony of golden mosaic and marble. They gave it a circular form and a round dome like Haghia Sophia in Byzantium with which city Toulouse was compared. Toulouse had been a university city in Roman times and the tradition of learning was continued by the Visigoths who intermarried with the Jewish community and welcomed Jewish scholars to their great city. By the twelfth century, Toulouse, or Tolosa as it was called then, was the most prestigious city in Europe after Venice and Rome. In time, a Visigoth princess whose ancestors had intermarried with the Jews, married a Frankish king and started the Merovingian dynasty of French kings.

The third influence in this area after the Romans and Visigoths were the Jews who had a particularly strong community in Toulouse and Narbonne and who, in the late eighth century, established a kingdom that extended into northern Spain as well as south-western France. Even after the disappearance of this kingdom with the coming of the Moors, Jewish communities in Spain, particularly in the towns of Cordoba, Toledo, Seville and Girona, never lost their links with the towns of south-western France until the time when the Jews as well as the Moors, were, at the instigation of the Inquisition, expelled from Spain in the late fifteenth century. The teaching of Kabbalah flourished in these Jewish communities and it was from one of them that the famous foundational text of Kabbalah, the Zohar or Book of Radiance or Splendour emerged. Said to have been originally based on an Aramaic text written in the second or third century AD, it was published in the 13th century by Rabbi Moses de Laón and was rapidly disseminated through the Jewish communities in Spain and France.

The Moorish Conquest of Spain

Meanwhile, in 712 the Moors (Muslims) from North Africa had invaded Iberia and conquered all the land up to the far north. They penetrated into France as far as Poitiers where they were defeated in a great battle in 732 by Charlemagne’s grandfather, Charles Martel and driven back into Spain. Charlemagne was still fighting incursions of the Saracens in the area north of the Pyrenees in the 9th century. The famous Chanson de Roland tells the story of Roland’s desperate attempt to defend the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army from Saracen attack as it passed through a narrow mountain pass in the Pyrenees. The sounding of Roland’s horn that reached the ears of Charlemagne in the vanguard of his army was later compared to the far-reaching influence of the preaching of the Cathars.

After the Arab conquest of Spain, the Arab or Moorish influence became strongly established in this area, particularly in Toulouse. Scholars travelling between Toledo and Toulouse brought translations with them of Greek Platonic texts which had a huge influence on the building of the Gothic Cathedrals. The fascinating thing about these three different cultures is that they all apparently got on well together. All were viewed as heretical by the Church of Rome. There are many unsolved mysteries connected with this area, not least the whereabouts of the Visigoth treasure from the sack of Rome which was said to have been hidden here and which was said to include the Emerald Table from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem that had been seized by the Romans when they sacked the city in AD 70. (Was this the Table of the Grail at Monsalvat?)

Map of the Cathar area

In the twelfth century the counts of Toulouse ruled over a huge area that was not subject to the laws of the kingdom of France. Toulouse made its own laws. The domains of the Count of Toulouse stretched from the Garonne to the Rhone, from the Pyrenees to the Massif Central and into Provence as far as the borders of Italy. The Languedoc as this area was called was the most civilised part of Western Europe. Its greatest port was Narbonne through which it traded with all the lands of the Mediterranean. It was a prosperous thriving area. Here scholars from three different cultures – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – met to learn from each other and lived together in harmony.

The twelfth century offers an image of a gigantic cauldron in which men and women, ideas and institutions were thrown together in a process of transformation that must have seemed almost apocalyptic in its intensity. It has much in common with our own time which demands a creative response as great as the immense problems confronting us.


It was the age which saw the surge of devotion which built the great Gothic cathedrals, which sent hundreds of thousands of men on Crusades to the Holy Land and thousands of pilgrims streaming along the roads to the shrines of the Black Madonna and to Compostella in northern Spain. They passed through villages such as Conques which looks almost the same today as it did then.

Templar Knight

The twelfth century saw the founding of the Cistercian Order and the expansion of the Order of the Knights Templar all over Europe and as far as Palestine in order to guard the pilgrim routes to the Holy Land. Many Templars in the Languedoc were drawn from the same families as the Cathar Lords which meant that both groups were implicated in the heresy. Wolfram von Eschenbach saw the Templar knights as guardians of the Grail and said the Grail castle Monsalvach was in the Pyrenees. This century witnessed the rise of the universities and the impact of Aristotelian thought on European philosophy and the works of Plato and other Greek philosophers reaching France from Arabic Spain via translators. There was even an Englishman working in Toledo as a translater of these texts.

It nurtured the Grail legends which at its beginning were virtually unknown, and by its end were so well known that there can have been hardly a soul in Europe who had not heard of them. It was dominated by two images: the image of the Quest and the image of the Divine Feminine as the object of the Quest. ‘Notre Dame’, as she was called by troubadours, Cistercians, Knights Templar and pilgrims, was the focus of adoration. The three hundred or so Cistercian monasteries built in this century were dedicated to her. Many of the Gothic Cathedrals, built in a miraculously short time, were called Notre Dame. Some, like Chartres, were built on Celtic or Pagan sites that had long been sacred to the Earth Mother or to the goddess Isis. It seems that the title Notre Dame was a pseudonym for the Church of the Holy Spirit.


South-western France was the centre of a prosperous, thriving economy that drew merchants and traders from all over the Mediterranean; that was so rich that it increasingly aroused the envy of the north, and so spiritually independent that it drew the enmity of the Papacy in Rome. The feudal lords of this region – among them the Counts of Toulouse, Foix and Carcassonne – fostered an extraordinary culture where the cult of beauty, philosophy, poetry, courtly manners and the appreciation of woman flourished. Poetry was the sap of life.


We have records of over five hundred troubadours who lived and thrived in this culturally fertile atmosphere, who contributed to its creation. They travelled from court to court throughout the Languedoc and spread all over Europe, carrying with them a secret, hermetic knowledge which they embodied in the Grail legends and which they called “La Gaie Science” or “Le Gaie Savoir”. ‘Gaie’ in Languedoc meant cock and the cock as the herald of the dawn was the symbol of their secret Church of the Holy Spirit. This was the Church of Amor as opposed to the Church of Roma.

St. Guilhem-le-Desert

The centre where the troubadours were trained was a small town called St. Guilhem-le-Desert, founded in 812. It was not far from university town of Montpelier and held a relic of the True Cross in its abbey. The historical role of the troubadours was not only to create through their poetry a cultural climate in which a long established attitude to woman and the feminine could be transformed, but which could reanimate the idea of the Quest: the Quest for the spiritual as opposed to the material vision. This idea took root in France, England, Germany and Italy. The troubadours were at once theologians, musicians and poets. They had wonderful voices and prodigious memories. At the special meetings of their fraternity, held here or in remote woods and valleys, they wore red cloaks embroidered at the shoulder with a white dove. The dove was a primary symbol of the hidden church of the Grail or the Church of the Holy Spirit. But it was also the symbol of the mystical tradition of Kabbalah which was known as “The Voice of the Dove”. I believe that these two traditions were closely connected with each other.

Map of St. Guilhem

The quest for the Grail, the return of beauty and the elevation of the feminine arose out of a deep longing held within the heart of the people. The troubadours, trained in St. Guilhem, carried this impulse far and wide, to the castles, mountain fortresses and towns of Europe, connecting different groups such as the Templars and other Cathar groups in northern France, England, Italy, Germany and Bulgaria.

The Black Madonna

The effigy of the Black Madonna was found in churches and cathedrals all over Europe, but particularly in France. In the Cathedral of La Daurade in Toulouse stood the same image of 'Notre Dame', 'Our Lady' beloved by so many who called themselves the fidèles d’amour or devotees of love, and served her under the many different symbols that pointed to the teaching of the Church of the Holy Spirit: the star, the rose, the lily and the dove; and the Grail images: the cup, the silver vessel and the stone as in the story of Parzival. The Black Virgin was the symbol of the presence of this Church that had descended from Mary Magdalene as the first of the Apostles. Behind the title 'Notre Dame' was the hidden memory of Mary Magdalene. As Bernard de Ventadour, one of the greatest troubadours wrote: “Lady, I am yours and will be yours; I have been yours for as long as time. You were my first joy and will remain my joy until the end—so long as my life endures.” He was addressing, not the Virgin Mary but Mary Magdalene. It was no secret to the troubadours that Mary had been the wife of Jesus and the mother of his children as well as his apostle who travelled to France in 44AD and lived there for twenty years until her death in 63 AD.

When a troubadour wrote: “Beloved, rise up, for in the East I see the star that heralds the day. Soon dawn will break. Sleep no longer, for I hear the bird singing in the woods and fear you may be taken by surprise”, we can understand that he is speaking to the soul to awake from its sleep. Three centuries later, Shakespeare, the last of the troubadours, was to echo the same theme in Romeo and Juliet. The star that heralded the Day was the symbol of Sophia or Divine Wisdom herself and also of the secret teaching of the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit descending from the teaching of Jesus and Mary Magdalene that, it was hoped, would usher in a new age where man would serve the principle of love and wisdom living unrecognised in his soul. The bird was sometimes a nightingale, sometimes a dove, immemorial symbol of the feminine principle, going back to the Great Goddesses of the ancient world.
The Image of woman transformed by the Courts of Love

The Courts of Love were established in the twelfth century by Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter, Marie in different towns in France. But they were particularly famous in the Languedoc where Eleanor was a daughter of Duke William of Aquitaine, himself a renowned troubadour. When she was married to the king of France, Eleanor established their Court at Poitiers. These Courts gave women a social position and a role apart from that of wife and mother. Here women were queens presiding over Courts where philosophy, poetry and literature could flourish; where the relationship between man and woman, and between man, woman and God could be explored in a context that celebrated life and the aspirations of both genders. Husbands who listened to troubadours singing the praises of the beauty and intelligence of their wives began to look at them with new eyes and pay more attention to their own appearance and their manners. The code of courtly values that grew up here is summed up in the words Pretz et Paradge which can be translated as high ideals, the courage to honour and serve them, a gracious presence and impeccable courtesy, particularly towards women, as well as the ability to compose poetry and play an instrument.

note: It was Eleanor of Aquitaine who introduced the Grail legends into her court at Poitiers and later, in England when she married Henry 11. She may have commisioned Chrétien de Troyes to write the story of Parsifal. (source: Laurence Gardner, The Legacy of Mary Magdalene and The Grail Enigma)

The Changing View of Woman

Until these Courts appeared to offer a different view of her, woman was presented to society by the Catholic Church as a lewd, wicked, treacherous creature, fatally flawed by the sin of Eve, whose destiny was to be ruled by her husband and to serve him in the same way and on a similar contractual basis, as the medieval vassal served his overlord. Following the instructions of St. Paul, she was to keep silent. How different is the image of woman seen through the eyes of the troubadours and indeed, the Grail legends, where the Feminine Archetype is portrayed as the actual goal of the Quest, as well as the guiding spirit of it. What a contrast there is between woman as a chattel to be disposed of by her husband, or woman as temptress and sinner, and woman as the inspiration of a renaissance of spiritual devotion and the celebration of art, poetry and beauty and the ecstatic enjoyment of life. The troubadours freed sexuality and eroticism from guilt and freed both man and woman to follow a spiritual path without renouncing the body or the enjoyment of life and human relationships. A troubadour called Arnaut Daniel who lived only until he was twenty wrote:

There is no day on which I grow not
Finer and more pure,
For this world holds no nobler lady
Than she whom I do serve and do adore.
And these – the words I speak –
Come singing from an open heart. 1180-1200

Castle of Foix

There are some individuals who stand out like supernova from the starry background of history. They are remembered for their achievements but also for their contribution to a quality of being that infuses a whole culture and lifts it to a level it might not have reached without them.

Esclarmonde de Foix, like Hildegarde of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitaine, is one of the outstanding women of the Middle Ages who became the renowned leader of the Cathars. She was what Jung would have called an ‘Anima’ figure at the highest level. It is fascinating that their three lives overlapped to some extent with each other. Eleanor of Aquitaine would certainly have known about Esclarmonde de Foix and vice-versa although it is doubtful that they ever met.

France was the cultural centre of Europe at this time and the most culturally advanced part of France was precisely the south-west, the Languedoc, where Esclarmonde was born in 1155 in the castle of Foix, a fairy-tale castle perched high above the town, clinging to an enormous rock that looked out onto the snow-capped mountains of the Pyrenees. Her father, the Count of Foix, was a vassal of the Count of Toulouse. Her mother was called Zebelia Trencavel, daughter of the Count of Carcassonne. We know that she had a brother called Raimon-Roger and a sister, that the family was close and devoted and that her parents welcomed both troubadours and Cathar priests to their famous and cultured court.

The word Esclarmonde means ‘Light of the World’. It may be that her name came from the Visigoth ‘Is Klar Mun’ meaning ‘Moon of Cristal’ that in time became Esclarmonde. Whatever its origin, it was a strange name to give one’s daughter, and what a strange destiny she had, born into one of the most revolutionary, creative and secret of all centuries. Why is she still celebrated in the remote part of France where she was born that has such a fascinating and largely unknown history? What vision did she incarnate that led to the discovery, seven hundred years later, of the role she played in one of the greatest tragedies of European history; a role that was treasured by the people of the Languedoc, and enshrined in stories that were passed from generation to generation until at last they have reached us? It occurs to me that she may have been the model for Blancheflor or Répanse de Joie in Wolfram’s Parzival which was in circulation in 1207, when Esclarmonde was about 50 years old.

In her parents’ castle, she would have missed nothing of the visits of the wandering minstrels, the troubadours, and also the quiet, black-robed Cathar priests whose teaching was spreading like wildfire from court to court and village to village in this part of France. Among the people of the Languedoc so well-respected were these itinerant priests and so beloved and trusted were they for their industry, morality and general sweetness, that they were dubbed the bonnes homes and bonnes femmes, or good men and women. Among themselves they spoke of each other as Friends of God. They were members of a church which served the Holy Spirit — imaged as the Holy Grail and presided over by Divine Wisdom. Their intention was to transmit the original purity of Jesus’ teachings of love and spirituality and they tried to practice Jesus’ precepts as preserved in the Gospels.

By the time she was in her teens, Esclarmonde was celebrated in poetry and song for her beauty, intelligence and learning. As one troubadour wrote: “Love, I sing your praises for you have made me love Esclarmonde, the most beautiful, and by that, I am lifted so high that to die is a privilege, so great is her nobility. My heart is consumed with love for her.”

With his poetry and his music the troubadour strove to awaken the soul to the wisdom of the feminine, seeing it reflected in a chosen woman whose beauty and gifts seemed to incarnate the qualities of Sophia. The Gaie Savoir the troubadours taught was the result of initiation into the way the soul could be awakened, like the Sleeping Beauty, to the luminous presence of the hidden spirit.

The spread of dualist sects from the Middle East to western Europe

Belief in two principles was held by the Manichaeans, the Paulicians of Armenia,  the Bogomils of Bulgaria and the Balkans, the Cathars in Italy, the German Cathars, and the Cathars of southern as well as northern France.

The Cathar Synod of 1167

The Cathar Church was already well established when Esclarmonde was born in 1155. When she was twelve an event took place that changed the orientation of her life path. This was the visit in 1167, possibly arranged by the Knights Templar, of Nicetas, the Bulgarian Bishop of Constantinople who was also Patriarch of the Bogomil Church in Bulgaria and the Cathar Church in the Languedoc. At the synod convened in his honour, he appointed three Cathar bishops to organise the growing numbers of converts to the Church of the Paraclete or Holy Spirit: one for the Languedoc, whose capital was Toulouse; one for the rest of France; and one for Lombardy, with its centre on Lake Garda. This synod was convened to plan the strategy for supplanting the Catholic Church in the Languedoc with the ‘true Christianity’ — the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit. The Bishop consecrated many children of the Cathar nobility to the Holy Spirit at this great synod where the senior members of the Cathar Church, known as the ‘Perfecti’ ‘or ‘Perfects’ (Parfaits) were assembled. Esclarmonde and her brother Raimon-Roger – later Count of Foix – were two of these children. She decided then, at the age of twelve, that she wished to become a member of this Church.

note: In May 11th-14th 2017, a symposium will beheld at San Felix de Lauregais in honour of the 850th anniversary of the arrival of the patriarch Nicetas in Bulgaria.

The Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit
Whereas the Catholic Church taught that the Redeemer is outside us and that our ultimate redemption (as Christians) has been assured by Christ’s sacrificial death, the Cathar Church taught that man can become the redeemer or awakener of the divine spirit hidden within himself. This gave great significance to the individual since the divine drama of redemption was consummated in and through him not through the sacrificial death of Christ. Each human being carried the presence of spirit while living in this world. Catharism, like Gnosticism, taught a sacred rite of unification, an opus divinum, which ultimately revealed or awakened a man or woman to their innate divinity. This was identical to the Great Work of Alchemy and to the original teaching of Jesus.

The Cathars, like the Gnostics
      rejected the virgin birth as well as the belief that Jesus was the Son of God and his bodily  Resurrection.
      they rejected the Nicene Creed.
      they rejected the belief that Jesus died on the cross in his physical body to redeem the sins of  humanity.
      they rejected the belief in original sin. They believed Jesus was a great Teacher who came to save people from       ignorance or unconsciousness, not sin.
      they rejected the Eucharist and the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
      they rejected the idea of Hell and Purgatory as destinations for the soul. This removed the fear of death that was       inculcated by Catholic indoctrination.

The Cathars
Like the Gnostics, the Cathars were divided into three groups:
      1. The ‘Perfecti’ or ‘Perfects’ (Parfaits) who had received the sacrament of the Consolamentum
      2. The itinerant priests or bons hommes and bonnes femmes, some of whom were Perfecti.
      3. The ‘Credentes’ or ‘Believers’ who generally followed the faith of their local Lord.

The emphasis of their teaching was on Love, service and harming no-one. They did not try to impose their beliefs on anyone, simply offering them to the people.

Large numbers of people in Toulouse, Béziers, and other cities were of this faith, where they had the protection of the Count Raymond of Toulouse. The brilliant character and quality of their education, local government and social structure were so far in advance of the customs of their age and they had for so long enjoyed the freedom to worship in their own way that the local orthodox clergy feared to discipline them.
(John Davidson, The Gospel of Jesus: in Search of his Original Teaching)

The diet of the Cathar priests was essentially Vegan or Vegetarian. They ate every kind of fruit and vegetable but did not eat meat or eggs or drink milk, particularly after they had become a Perfect. However, they did eat fish. They did not object to marriage and did not teach sexual abstinence for the people in general although they did insist on it for those who were training to become Perfects and had received the sacrament of the Consolamentum. They baptised only adults, following the ritual of the early church. For this ceremony, they wore white robes and a rope girdle. They forbade the taking of human or animal life. They abhorred violence. They were physicians and healers as well as priests, caring for the body as well as the soul. They believed in reincarnation and the soul’s progressive enlightenment after death. They loved animals and the beauty of the forests, lakes and mountains that surrounded them. Their educational work was startlingly comprehensive and advanced, not only teaching children and adults to read and write but setting up training workshops for young artisans in the skills of book-printing, weaving, leather-making and other trades.

The Cathar bonnes hommes and bonnes femmes travelled round the countryside in pairs, helping people in whatever way they seemed to need it: assisting the peasant with his harvest, the weaver with his cloth, the children with their education, the sick and dying with healing and comfort. They carried no money and owned no personal homes or chattels. Each community furnished a lodging where they could sleep and receive food. They healed by the method of laying on hands. They were welcomed by peasant and lord alike because they were gentle and trustworthy and because their presence brought relief from suffering, whether physical or mental and because they created a real feeling of community.

Their aim was to put each man in touch with his own inner spirit, to help him learn to trust that inner guidance rather than any outer authority. Their Church of the Holy Spirit taught the people a Religion of Love (Amor as opposed to Roma).

The Cathars
were the first group since the Gnostics in the third century to ordain women as bishops, arch-deaconesses and priestesses. They did not believe that the sexual act transmitted original sin but that it was a sacred union of two equal beings. They took a vow of celibacy once they had received the rite of the Consolamentum and been ordained as Perfecti.

Female Perfecti were regarded as the equal of male Perfecti.

This may be one reason why the movement was so popular with women and why so many married women, once they had reached middle age, asked their husbands to release them from their marriages, so they could become active members of the Church as Perfecti or Perfects. The Cathars evidently succeeded in giving women a respected and active social role as teacher, priestess and healer. There were even women surgeons, for the Cathar Perfects were trained above all in the arts of healing.

Texts of Cathars
The texts the Cathars held in the highest regard was an expanded version of  The Gospel of John, which some think was actually written by Mary Magdalene and then disguised as the Gospel of John. They also had a book called The Apocryphon of John (The Secret Book of John), one of the 52 Gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi Library.

They probably had the Gospels of Thomas and Philip as well as the three Synoptic Gospels. They also had a text called the Liber de Duobus Principiis or the Book of the Two Principles explaining their dualist view of life. They had two other greatly treasured texts called The Book of Love believed to have been written by Mary Magdalene and to contain the secret teachings that Jesus entrusted to her or to his closest disciple, John, who may have been a younger brother or, possibly, Lazarus. This book was one of the most precious texts of the Cathar Church and also, apparently, of the Knights Templar.

The Cathar priests and Perfects always carried with them their special version of the Gospel of John. In their libraries were the works of the Greek philosophers from Pythagoaras to Plato as well as the Gnostic writings of Valentinus and Basilides and the writings of Plotinus and Porphyry so it is more than likely that they had several of the other Gnostic Gospels.

They also had a text called The Secret Supper which may have contained the sacrament of the Consolamentum. The existence of these texts was revealed to the Inquisitors when they tortured the unfortunate people who fell into their hands. No trace of them remains. The Cathars translated these texts as well as some parts of the New Testament into the language of the Languedoc so that the people whom they taught to read could gain access to them. This was one of their most remarkable achievements and unheard of in the Europe of their time. They emphasised brotherhood, compassion, loving service to the poor. They taught the people not to fear death and to trust in the divine guidance of the spirit.

Like the Gnostics and the Troubadours, the Cathars took the dove as the symbol of their teaching – image of the ancient Gnostic church of the Holy Spirit thought to have been derived from the actual teaching of John, the disciple they (the Gnostics) believed to be closest to Jesus. It is interesting that etymologically, the word ‘John’ means ‘carrier of the dove’. This teaching was to be found in the expanded Gospel of John they had and in their Secret Book of John and The Book of Love.

The Cosmology of the Cathars
The Liber de Duobus Principiis (Book of Two Principles) explained that there was a Principle of Darkness, called the Demiurge, which controlled the world, contaminating the concept of God and all the established political and religious institutions, including the Roman Church and the image of God in the Old Testament. They believed that the world and human consciousness were ruled or controlled by this Principle but that their Church of the Holy Spirit taught the way for men and women to free themselves from its power and awaken to the light of the divine spirit hidden within their souls. They saw all human souls as fallen angels imprisoned within the body. At death they were released to return to their true abode. Hence they said that at death “they took the Way to the Stars”. They claimed that their teaching was descended directly from that of the Apostles and the early Church and had nothing to do with the Church of Rome.

The Cathars may have somehow have inherited some of the banned Gnostic texts and also have been aware of the fact that the Gnostics conceived of God in feminine as well as masculine imagery. They taught that Jesus was not the Son of God but a great teacher like an Elder Brother of humanity who had come to rescue souls imprisoned in the world, ignorant of their origin and destination. They believed that Mary Magdalene was the partner and beloved of Jesus in the higher realms, although not, apparently, his wife in this world. They taught that Christ was the indwelling divine spirit in man, the light shining in darkness:

“There is a light within a man of light and it lights up the whole world. If it does not shine, it is darkness.” (Gospel of Thomas)

The Training to become a ‘Perfect’
The training to become a Perfect was long and arduous and made more difficult by persecution. First there was a two year period during which they were taught to gather herbs and learn their application to different illnesses, how to store them and to make decoctions of their essential oils. They were taught to observe the stars and the ways of animals and insects: in short, to observe Nature with a trained and shamanic eye. They learned practical skills: how to weave, how to sow and reap crops, how to build simple houses. They were celibate once they had embarked on the training for priesthood but before this they married and had children. After the two year apprenticeship, they had to survive a forty day fast on bread and water before being accepted into the second state of preparation during which they were taught the secret lore of plants, metals and stones as well as the sciences of mathematics, astronomy and music – all this in addition to a thorough knowledge of the sacred texts of their church.

They were reputed to be able to calm storms and had a profound knowledge of the stars as well as plants and herbs. They must have practiced meditation and very possibly developed clairvoyance and clairaudience as well as spending nights in a cave, waiting for a revelatory or healing dream. They learnt how to develop what today is called “the eye of the heart” and to trust in the guidance of the spirit. It sounds from this as if they were shamans in all but name.

They were celibate once they had become members of the community of Perfecti or Perfects and spoke of their Church as “The Cup that gives out manna” and “The Precious Stone”. It is impossible not to connect these images with the Grail.

Catharism embodies the original message of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the message that she carried to this part of France: a message of love, enlightenment and relationship with the divine ground.

Gnostic-Christian Initiation with the Cathars

The Cathars, like the Gnostics, believed that Christ personified the divine spirit in man and that men and women could redeem themselves from the state of ignorance where the principle of darkness ruled their soul. As long as they were unaware of the inner dimension of their soul, they would be unable to discover the secret treasure of the spirit or light principle that dwelt within it. If sought with the devotion of the lover for his beloved, this inner light would deliver the seeker from a state of imprisonment to the experience of eternal life while still living in a physical body. This, the Cathars taught, was the real meaning of the resurrection, an experience of awakening to the light within. Their essential message was: Follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Transform your understanding. Become a conscious son or daughter of God. Free yourself from the principle of darkness by recognising where you are enslaved by the debased values that govern the darkened consciousness of man rather than those that belong to the invisible world of the spirit. For the Cathars, like the Gnostics and Pelagius in the fourth century, the world was imperfect because of human ignorance and the power of the Demiurge, not because of original sin.

They taught the need for progressive gnosis or insight into the inner kingdom of the soul, believing that, following the Gospel of Thomas, “Whoever has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time achieved knowledge about the depths of all things.”

The Sacrament of the Consolamentum:

This important and complex sacrament, the most important of all Cathar sacraments, was only given to a man or woman who was to be ordained a Perfect. It was also given to the dying, to release them from the cycle of rebirth. Having been given this rite, the perfected Cathar passed from this realm of non-being into the realm of Being, the realm of Light. The ceremony may have been held one of the many caves in the region such as the great cave of Bethlehem at Ussat-les-Bains. We know the details of the ceremony because one original copy of it, written in the language of the Languedoc, exists in the library in Lyons. It was published in French in 1868.

It was preceded by 2 years fasting and purification with 3 fasts a year.
It was led by an ancien, an elder among the Perfects.
It began with prayers and a reading of the first 17 verses of St. John’s Gospel.
The General confession of the postulant followed.
Then came the Ministration of the Lord’s Prayer in which the postulant was given the power to use the Prayer. This was experienced as very numinous because it went back to the actual words Jesus had spoken to his disciples.
The kneeling postulant acknowledged the presence of the Holy Spirit in the elder.
The sacrament of the Consolamentum was then given – a form of baptism by the laying on of hands, accompanied by a recitation of 14th chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter is the most significant in the New Testament for a comprehension of the meaning of the Holy Spirit.
Six recitations of the Lord’s Prayer were followed by the Kiss of Peace.
They were then clothed in the dark blue robe and girdle of the Perfect.

It seems that only the Perfects were initiated into the details of the Cathar cosmology.
Following the custom of the Gnostic communities, all members of the Cathar Church, both male and female – once they had taken the rite of the Consolamentum – were regarded as equal and drew lots to take on the temporary role of bishop, priest or prophet.

The Consolamentum was believed to release the soul from the need to reincarnate, freeing it, as in the Buddhist belief, from the Wheel of Rebirth.

Esclarmonde Ordained a Perfect at Fanjeaux
In 1204 Esclarmonde’s husband died. Esclarmonde was now fifty. Her six children were grown up and married. She decided to return to her childhood home at Foix. With her work as wife and mother accomplished, she was able to dedicate herself to the service of the Cathar Church.

In 1205 in the town of Fanjeaux in the presence of all the nobility of the Languedoc and the assembled Perfects, she was ordained by Guilhabert de Castres, Cathar Bishop of Toulouse and the most renowned Cathar Perfect. In the elaborate ritual of the Consolamentum, he ordained her as a Perfect (Parfaite)  and also an Archdeaconess—equal in rank to a Bishop.
Henceforth she passes into legend as a high priestess of Catharism and guardian of the Holy Grail.

We know that Esclarmonde was an expert herbalist as well as an Archdeaconess and that, as a Perfect she was allowed to administer the supreme Cathar sacrament of the Consolamentum. We know that together with other women, she lived at various periods a semi-hermetic life in the mountains and wooded valleys around Foix, caring for the sick, teaching in special schools established by the Cathars for both children and adults, and administering the Cathar rites.


In 1204, Pope Innocent 111 sent a brutal Cistercian legate to combat the heresy. At the same time, Esclarmonde, foreseeing a time when a refuge might be needed by her people, started to rebuild the ancient and remote fortress at Montségur, which belonged to her and had previously been a Roman, then a Visigoth citadel. With a sense of great urgency and with the help of a brilliant architect who was familiar with the astronomical knowledge of the Cathars, it was rebuilt in the short space of five years, with a defence system of three concentric walls and a huge bastion. It was thought to be impregnable and was built not only as a fortress but also as the stronghold of the Cathar Church, a treasury and perhaps a solar temple. Emissaries travelled to it from all over the Mediterranean and were received there by Esclarmonde. 

Meanwhile, a conference was held at Pamiers between Catholics and Cathars to discuss the heresy in as amicable a spirit as possible. A Spanish priest, Dominic de Guzmán, soon to be appointed by the Pope to set up the organisation of the Inquisition in this area, was present. He was later created St. Dominic (1234) and became head of the Dominican Order. Esclarmonde spoke often, sometimes on matters of theology, sometimes on the subject of women having the right to be heard. This was fiercely resisted by the Cistercian Order whose spokesman said to her in words that have come down to us from nearly eight hundred years ago: “Woman, return to your distaff and don’t meddle with affairs that don’t concern you.” What a boor she must have thought him, unused as women had been for a generation at least, to be spoken to in that way. 

Dove of Montségur

I should perhaps mention again that the dove, together with the cup of the Grail were the two principle images of the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit, as they were of the Gnostic Church of the Paraclete or Holy Spirit that had to go underground in the fourth century to escape persecution by the Roman Church.

Army attacking Cathars

Two years after Esclarmonde’s ordination as a Perfect, in 1207 — the same year that Wolfram von Eschenbach completed Parzival — Pope Innocent 111 ordered the King of France to invade the territories of the heretics and launched the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars which was offically to last until 1229 although persecution continued until 1255. Esclarmonde withdrew to Montségur with the principal Cathar clergy, among them the Cathar Bishop appointed by Nicetas on his visit from Constantinople in 1167. She was followed there by a mass of people, fleeing in terror from the northern barbarians. In 1208, the Papal envoy was assassinated and the Count of Toulouse held responsible by the Pope, and made to surrender all his territories and castles in penance. The Crusade instigated by the Pope was now under way and in 1209 it broke like a tsunami upon the poorly defended territory of the Languedoc. 20,000 knights, leading a rabble of 200,000 so-called pilgrims in search of plunder invaded south-western France, pouring down the valley of the Rhone. The war began which was to last forty-five years and to leave the Languedoc in ruins, both economically and culturally, with over a million people murdered by fire and sword. Those who took part in it were offered remission for their sins and assured a place in heaven by the Pope, as well as any booty they could lay their hands on. The first town they attacked in 2009 was Béziers and the pattern was set for the remaining years. The townspeople resisted and 15,000 were slaughtered, many in the cathedral where they had fled for sanctuary. When the Crusaders asked the papal legate how they were to distinguish heretics from Catholics, he replied with the famous words: “Kill them all. God will recognise his own.”

Cathars expelled from Carcassonne

Simon de Montfort was the commander-in-chief of the Crusade and, sincerely believing, like so many others, that God would welcome the death of the heretics, spared no-one in the execution of the Papal brief. This contemporary picture shows a group of Cathar men and women, stripped of their clothes, being driven out of Carcassonne. In 1211, Simon de Montfort led the destruction of the town of Lavaur where he personally saw to the death by burning of 400 Cathars. In 1214 the castle of Foix owned by Esclarmonde’s family, and the cities and lands of Toulouse and Carcassonne, formerly belonging to the Counts of those cities, were given to him by the Pope.

Castle of Perpetuse

The most beautiful castles and towns of the Languedoc now lay in ruins; their populations murdered or dispersed; the countryside around them laid waste by marauding soldiers. A surviving fragment of a manuscript says it all:

“In these calamitous times of cruel anguish, he who resisted was considered an enemy of God; he who defended his lands and goods, an enemy of the true religion; he who fled before the enemy was regarded as a rebel and guilty. They massacred all those who wished to protect innocents from the hands of Inquisitors and executioners.”

Cathar or Templar Cross

This is a Cathar or Templar Cross. As the persecution increased, the Cathars began to go underground, into the vast subterranean caves of the region that had once been inhabited by Magdalenian man, some 20,000 years earlier. Their known underground temples or churches were at Lombrives, Ornolac and Ussat-les-Bains. In one of them, red crosses, a lance, a platter and a Grail cup emblazoned in a sun and surrounded by a black crown have been found, which recalls the heraldic shield of the Sabarthez which belonged to the Foix family. At Ussat, the cross of the Grand Master of the Templars is inscribed on the walls. In these secret places, the Cathar novices were trained and rituals celebrated among small groups of people. The relationship between the Cathars and the Templars has not been sufficiently researched but it is known that many Cathars were given sanctuary by the Templars and also that some Cathars were disguised as troubadours. Both Templars and Cathar Perfects came from the same families in that region.

Dove in Rock

The vision of the Cathars and the magnificent cultural flowering of the Languedoc died with the Papal Crusade against the Albigensian or Cathar heresy. Mysteriously however, it may have been preserved in the story of Parzival, written by Wolfram von Eschenbach at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Wolfram set the Grail castle, its knights and the Grail treasure precisely in this area of France where the Grail tradition was already a century old. Even his hero Parzival resembles the hero-prince of Carcassonne, Raimon Trencavel, who was Esclarmonde’s nephew and who in 1209 was imprisoned and murdered in the dungeons of his castle. The name of the Keeper of the Castle in Wolfram’s story, Raimon de Péreilhe, is identical to that of the man who rebuilt the Cathar stronghold of Montségur which belonged to Esclarmonde. The coat of arms of the Sabarthez area ruled by the Counts of Foix shows the motto “Custos Summorum”: “Guardians of the Heights.” The device is strange and interesting: a sixteen rayed sun with a winged cup at its centre surrounded by a crown of thorns and backed by a pair of crossed spears. It is impossible not to connect it with the cup of the Grail.

Cathars being burned

For a long time, all that could be discovered about the Cathars was drawn from the documents left by the Inquisition which was officially established in the Languedoc in 1233 by the Dominican Order with St. Dominic at its head. These confessions, held in the archives of Toulouse as well as Paris, were wrung from Cathars by horrific torture and the terror of being burned at the stake, just as the confessions were wrung from the Templar Knights whose Order was destroyed in France in1307. If any proof were required that the Church of Rome was not the true Church, it is found in the horrific descriptions in the annals of the Inquisition. These confessions give an image of Cathar beliefs which is very much at variance with the image I have drawn above. If they had believed the body to be corrupt and the world created by an Evil Principle instead of God, as the confessions suggest, would they have bothered to heal the sick? They showed no fear of death, believing as they did in the soul’s immortality and ultimate redemption, but would they have served life as they did if they had believed it to be irredeemably evil? Perhaps they simply saw, as we do today, the terrible suffering that is created by man's inhumanity to man and ascribed it to the world being under the control of an evil principle. I think their vision and their dedication is best expressed in these words:

“We lead a life hard and wandering. We fly from town to town like sheep among wolves. We suffer persecution like the Apostles and Martyrs, yet our life is holy and austere. These things are not difficult, for we are no longer of this world.”


In 1240 Esclarmonde died at the great age of eighty-five. It says a lot for the Cathar way of life that so many of them lived to a great age — those, that is, who escaped the sword and the stake. No trace of her body has ever been found but it was believed that she was buried in a cave beneath Montségur or possibly in one of the caves of the Sabarthez where there was another castle – Monréal – also associated with the Grail. She was without doubt the inspiration of the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit and the heart of its resistance. She has been immortalised in the memory of the people of the Ariège – where the ruins of the castle of Monségur still exist – as the same dove that was the symbol of the Church of the Holy Spirit.

The siege of Monségur began in 1243, three years after her death. The fortress was surrounded by an army of 10,000 men. In the castle were 450 Cathars, many of them Perfects, together with their Bishop. In March 1244, the castle surrendered but asked for two weeks before complying with the terms of the besiegers. There is much conjecture as to why these two weeks were needed. Was it in order to comply with an astronomically significant date? Was it in order to give the defenders more time to arrange for the transfer to safe hands of the remaining and obviously important treasure – perhaps the sacred texts of their Church or the mythical cup of the Grail of which they were said to be the guardians? Who can say? The night before the garrison agreed to surrender, four men were lowered in baskets on ropes on the far side of the fortress, taking with them the precious treasure. They made their escape to a neighbouring mountain and there lit a fire to signal that their mission had been safely accomplished.

The Burning of Cathars with priests

On March 16th, two days after the spring equinox in that year, 225 individuals of the 450 remaining in the fortress chose to take the path to the stars rather than  give up their faith and be pardoned. Among these were the sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter of Esclarmonde, who had the same name as her grandmother. Watched in anguish by the remainder in the garrison, they were dragged in chains singing down the steep slope, penned into a huge stockade and burned to death. It was recorded that, to the amazement of the soldiers and priests who presided over this horrific event, not a single scream or cry was heard from anyone who died in that stockade, not even from one of the children.


After the siege of Montségur, the Inquisiton redoubled its efforts to hunt down the remaining Cathars who had taken refuge in the remote caves and castles of the Languedoc. The last and most remote castle to be attacked in 1255 was Quéribus, above, whose entire garrison and sheltering population, were massacred. In 1328 the remaining 521 Cathars were walled up by the Inquisition in the cave of Lombrives at Ussat-les-Bains and left to die. Yet, there is evidence that 4,000 Cathars, disguised as troubadours, pedlars and merchants were travelling throughout Europe, taking their Church with them.

Murder of the Templars

In 1307, in a minutely planned military operation extending to every part of  France 5,000 members of the Order of the Knights Templar were arrested overnight without warning and charged with heresy and magical practices. After confessions extracted under torture, many were burned at the stake while others were sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. All their lands, castles and possessions were confiscated. In 1213, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars, was burnt to death in Paris. Before he was executed he had prepared 40 Templar boxes, each containing the facts about the life of Jesus. He distributed two of these boxes to each of the senior Desposnyi families. The Templars knew the Alternative version of the Jesus story which is why they had to be eliminated. Edward 11 managed for a few years to resist the Pope’s call to arrest and try the Templars in England.

Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service; And these things will they do unto you because they have not known the Father, nor me. John 16: 2-3

for the details of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the Desposyni line of descent from them, see the works of Laurence Gardner who devoted his life to detailing this extraordinary story.

Fleur de Lis

One of the most remarkable aspects of this terrible story is that the Cathar Church did not vanish completely. It lived on, of all places, in the printing trade where, from 1282 and for the next three centuries, there appeared in the books printed in the Languedoc and also in the Auvergne region, an extraordinary coded system of watermarks: a secret language whereby members of the Church of the Holy Spirit could stay in touch with each other and keep their faith alive for the day when it could emerge without fear of persecution. The fleur-de-lis emblem on the printers’ pages signified the ‘light shining in darkness’, the light of the Church of the Holy Spirit that had not been extinguished. The Cathars themselves spoke of the day, 700 years in the future, when “the laurel would be green again.”

The Holy Grail represented the Church of the Holy Spirit but also, in my view, man himself as the temple of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate holy vessel is the heart of man. The Rose was the symbol of this. (my comment)


extra notes:
Mary Magdalene was believed to have lived in the village of Les Labadous, near Rennes-le-Chateau. There are many local legends about her. There was an Essene community there. The blue rose was the symbol of her teachings as an apostle.

“Initiation into the mysteries of the Holy Grail was regarded as a new birth. Those who had become members were regarded as elect, regenerate, separate from the rest of mankind who lay in darkness and ignorance.” Rev. Baring-Gould

“The New Testament image of this patriarchal and controlling Lord of Heaven and earth has served to extend male domination during the entire two thousand years of Christian hegemony in Western civilization. Imaging God as omnipotent and male and associating the historical human Jesus with this same image constitutes a powerful idolatry, severely warping consciousness in favour of the eternal male solar power principle. As a direct corollary of this distortion the feminine principle has been scorned and neglected for two millennia.”
Margaret Starbird, Magdalene’s Lost Legacy.

The Nosairi religion in northern Syria was related to an early Christian group of the Naasenes or Nazarenes. Many decades ago when he was in Syria, one of the authors of The Treasure of Montségur spoke to him and said: “The Grail stands for the doctrine Christ taught to John the Beloved. We have it still.” “Deliver us from these human forms and reclothe us in the light of the stars.” It has two important symbols Light and the cup or chalice which contains the sacramental wine. In drinking it the worshipper says, “I drink to the Light.”

The Castle at Monréal-de-Sos may be connected with Grail castle of Wolfram. Held sacred by Cathars.

In the Deodat-Roché museum in the village of Arques in the department of the Aude, there is a Cathar Bible, translated into Occitan by the Cathars and beautifully illustrated. There is also a modern Cathar community.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in 1889 is the only Muslim community that rejects violence and killing. Its Imam lives in the UK, apparently in Haslemere!


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