Secret Societies: The Cathars II

The early start of Catharism caught on quickly and the Romans were quite fond of Manicheanism, especially people in Alexandria. For instance, the Church Father St. Augustine was originally a Manichean before becoming a Christian. As orthodox Christianity started to gain steam in the religious world, other forms of Gnosticism felt the pressure of suppression. In this article, you are introduced to the Bogomils , another Christian sect associated with the Cathars.

Introducing the Bogomils?

During the 10th century, Gnosticism had an impact on the people of the Balkans. At the time, a priest who went by the name of Bogomil had founded a Christian sect. The Bogomils (also known as ‘Friends of God’) followed the teachings of an earlier sect called the Paulicians. One of their beliefs was that the physical world and human beings were actually created not by God, but by Satan. They also argued that Jesus was not a physical being. It is thought that their dualism had roots in the Manicheans system of belief, as well as their moral code and hierarchy. Only a select few of the Bogomils would follow the strictest code that gave up sex, marriage, meat, wine and all of their worldly possessions. Those who made these sacrifices were known as the Perfecti, while the ordinary men and women lived “regular” lives. The ordinary followers could achieve the same level of the Perfecti if they participated in the consolamentum, which was a kind of “spiritual baptism” that took place on their deathbed.

The Balkans and the Byzantine Empire embraced the Bogomil movement up until the arrival of the 14th century. The presence of the Ottomans and their conquest of Asia Minor (now called Turkey) and the Balkans added a new shift regarding religion. These regions were now introduced to and adopted Islam.

The Ups and Downs of the Cathars

It was the Bogomils that directly influenced the Cathars, which were the best known of all the Gnostic sects. They were responsible for converting Crusaders that traveled through their territories. These people would take their new faith back to Western Europeans. Similar to the Bogomils, the Cathars held onto the belief that the material world was a corruptive force and salvation would come from freeing the “divine spark” within the body that would “reunite with the Godhead.”

Both organizations (the Bogomils and the Cathars) shared similarities, such as a small number of people taking on the role of the Perfecti, and the rest of the laypeople being called bonshommes. The Cathar Perfecti also turned their backs on sex, marriage and meat. Even when initiates reached the rank of Perfecti, they were expected to say goodbye to their significant other and renounce their marriages. The bonshommes felt fewer restrictions as they waited until they got closer to death before they took the consolamentum, and were considered purified.