Extract from ‘Veil,’ showing how the Cathars viewed human life.

 

Veil book jacket

Fabrisse, a well-know trobiaritz (poet-minstrel) and Bons August (a Bonnes or Good, member of the Church of Love) discuss how humans are trapped angels.

………….And so it was………..What do lovers talk of in the Sacrarium at midnight? Each night the excitement of our loving in the valley of high candles was followed by much closeness. Naked, warmed by the flames of our little fire, we stretched out and intertwined a leg or an arm, and with sleepy eyes began to talk.

There was great calm and safety in the tiny room surrounded by holy instruments with the wind howling outside. And this particular night, I was ready to go beyond all temporal life, and to reach out into the vast spiritual world.

I looked hard at you, examining a flawless body, made pure by prayer and fasting, by putting aside your own needs and guiding others to your pathway. You worked as a simple weaver, keeping yourself to yourself, responding to the needs of your customers for whom you lovingly made tunics.

I asked softly as I finger-tipped the line of fine dark hairs running between your breasts up from your navel,

“When and why did the naked flesh, the armpits and crevices, the openings and extensions of the miracle of the body, become forbidden by the followers of Christ? How could something like this being that I survey be considered in any way evil?”

“Certainly Christ in human form was born naked. Born from the passion and procreation of his mother and father. Born from such passion as we have for each other.”

I was pleasantly surprised to learn yet another natural belief from my new teacher.

“You mean the virgin conception is a fancy?”

“His flesh was born of flesh. The spirit was made flesh, exactly as the Bible says. Our Lord was a child of such joy, such curiosity! That could only have come from the joy of his parents as they rolled around each other. As they coiled and uncoiled, tensed muscles steadily and relaxed them to create fluids in which to transfer the seed from here to here.”

He smiled as he lightly touched the place of exit of the seed of himself, and then touched me gently where I would receive such a seed.

“There is nothing here to hide or fear. But the lowland Friars and clergy mistakenly became unable to focus on their studies if there were thoughts or traces of women around. Then men and women became separate, which is something so unnatural. It is so tragic that women cannot become priests of God in the Roman faith. If they were permitted, then perhaps the wolves would not have become dominant.”

I understood how if natural things were hidden, they would become sought after. Humans always enjoyed the quest for something they were not able or not allowed to see.

He explained further.

“The devil will be allowed in if there are secrets. He thrives on them. He creeps into the fickle thoughts of humans, and has the skills to make them obsess. We must not allow these to ever get a hold.”

It was true. I craved his lovemaking in my mind when I was away from him. I asked, “Is it wrong to desire you when I am away from you?”

“No! No! That is the pleasure. And once we become used to each other, that phase of longing will be over, and we will go beyond. Such temporal pleasures are joyful, but we must be careful not to beget a child! There are already too many angels trapped inside bodies. And many evil spirits who will eagerly inhabit a body too full of the wrong kind of thoughts.”

I understood that I was still fertile and he virile, so we must make our pleasure secure by the use of herbs which would not allow this transfer to take place.

“My darling, am I such a trapped angel to you?”

“No, your songs keep you free, and your teaching of the art of making holy sounds, your precious Alexandra. But sometimes you are trapped by your fears or wrong thinking, by your human weakness. Sometimes you go back, and that will happen until you take the Consolamentum.”

This word was bandied around the village, associated with the Good and their ability to transcend those of lowland faith. But apart from the word and the notion of a final blessing before death, I knew little more.

“My Lord, tell me more about this. Am I ready to receive it yet?”

He became more serious, moving away a little so he could see my expressions clearly, and holding my hand firmly.

“Must I be clothed to receive it? ”I made to get up and cover myself.

“When the time is right, we will dress and kneel. But Fabrisse, you know there is no going back once you receive it. You can never go back to the way of your lowland faith.”

I understood, and already after only a short time I was so refreshed by the ways of the Good in the pure air of the mountains.

“I know. And I know that there is much to cleanse before I am ready. Please go on teaching me, and gradually I will take on your ways.”

He asked me if I had any doubts that through him I could connect to the original apostles. Could I accept that I would be connected through an unbroken line of ancestors, directly back to the true spirit of Christ himself?

“August, my Lord, it has not been my habit to have doubts through the whole of my life. Why should I start now, especially since my two freed angels have come to me. I am quite ready to be baptized by fire, having so long ago been baptized by water.”

“Then we must train more rigorously, for there is not much time. I heard that the Cardinals are holding inquisition courts all over Roussillon, and their holy soldiers are arresting all adults who do not pledge themselves wholeheartedly to the Romans, leaving only the children and animals untouched.”

“I am not afraid. Though many others are, I know. But the holy spirits of these high places will prevail I am sure. Perhaps they will come for me, for I must sing at the Vigil soon. I am a public figure in the midlands, and there are the spies even  around here.”

I was truly not afraid. But I feared that my beloved Alexandra would be taken, for some said that the lusty Cardinals were taking the beautiful virgins for themselves.

“…And what of my Alexandra? Is she worthy of receiving the Consolamentum also?” “What have you told her of us?”

“Nothing so far. She is so absorbed in her initiation into trouverie that she has not questioned I think.”

“Yes, one so pure with such a mission as hers is perfect. Let her training commence immediately. Bring her to me when you can.”

“August, I must warn you that her father locks her away when she is not with me. And before I took her on, he checked my credentials so thoroughly to make sure I was not a lusty man in disguise in search of a concubine.”

“There you have said it my lady! We must disguise her if she is to come to me. A young curate from the lowlands is due to come to reside at my brother’s house, but I know that he has the pox and is not able to make the journey. Can you find the garb to change her and send her to me in the afternoons after she has had her lessons with you?”

It was agreed then. I must work quickly to tell her, and to swear her to secrecy, for her father must never know. He would certainly be able to betray us. He trusts no one.

“And now, the Creed. There is little time to prepare something that must transcend time.”

He jumped down to floor level and reached under the bed lifting a rough silk-wrapped parcel onto our bed. Before he revealed it, he closed his eyes, kneeling tall, and once more I saw his veil and longed to die with him. Never had I witnessed a single potent energy such as his. It filled my senses, compelling me to do the same.

I knelt tall opposite him and closed my eyes behind me the sounds of the howling wind, the faint crackling of the candle flame. Nearby in the creaking of the chestnut tree and in the distant barking of the shepherd’s dogs, I felt my eyes open. It was no ordinary opening. It felt like waking up for the very first time. Later I learned that these were the eyes of my soul, the eyes of spirit. This would help me to focus like August did.

Bons August gently opened the fabric wrapping to reveal a parchment scroll, tied with a green cord like the one he generally wore at his waist. He sat cross-legged, still opposite me, begging me to listen while he explained the clauses of the Creed which had been agreed by all the other Bons and Bonus.

“It’s almost finished, but you are the one who must finally decide, for you must find a song to convey these truths like the wind into the hearts of the powerful landowners and policy makers who will attend the Vigil. There will be Bishops from Palmiers and Toulouse present, so these sentiments must be disguised so they cannot guess.”

“Yes, since the precipice at Serrabona, I have felt the glimmerings of this important song. It comes from my olive press without logic or reason, so I must work to weave these codices into its fabric. Please make it crystal clear to me my Lord, so that I can make no mistakes.”

He reached across to touch the side of my face with the back of his long hand, its fine hairs like silk creating a frisson which made me dizzy with ecstasy.

“My Lady, this is truly the work of all the gods and apostles. But it is dangerous and there is no return. Those who are ready to hear will hear in their hearts. Those who are not may be suspicious, may betray you.”

“I know my love precisely what I am doing. I know my fate, and perhaps always have. As you patiently answer my questions or instruct me, I recognize all the doubts, all the dissatisfactions clustered around this thing called faith throughout my life. I now understand the difference between theory and practice. We perhaps know in our heads, in our limited minds, but how to live those baubles of the mind called ‘beliefs?’”

“Yes, surely these faint discords, although most people bury them in the name of harmony, to meet the expectations of others, or because their courage is not strong enough, are faith itself. For how can we each accept the faith of others. We have to be a light unto ourselves. We can only depend on ourselves in human life, for if the human vessel is to fulfill its mission, to complete its voyage, it must listen to itself only.

The wolves herd the sheep into their jewel-encrusted houses built for them with the sweat and toil of pure angels in devotion to God, a physical God. They must repeat the same rituals, be regulated by confession and receiving the Body and the Blood of this imaginary Christ in communion. The former arouses the lusty Friars and stuffs their fantasies, and the latter ends up in the latrines. They are mistaken in not recognizing our true nature and encouraging us to embody it in everyday life through love.”

“Yes it is so clear to me now. But why could I not see it before. This perplexes me darling August.”

“You were not ready before my Lady. You were trapped, caught deep in the mire of mask wearing and appearances. The Friars and all their followers had filled your ears with doctrine and dogma so that you were deaf to yourself and the truth of nature.”

“Yes, but something was calling me to the high passes from the sweaty valleys. And although the children and loyal spinners protested, crying tears of insecurity at leaving what they knew so well. It was hard not to give into them, but I trusted my instincts. They led me to you my Lord.”

“The spirit moves us if we let it. It teems and cascades like the mightiest of waterfalls and if we resist damming the stream with petty logic and narrow reason, then it will flow through us and with us.”

We kissed tearfully. Such purity, such truth, was here.

“Now! How does this sound?”

Bons August read the clauses of each codex to check my understanding of them. We must try to anticipate how it would be received by other lowland sheep, for it was to include and one day to reach all the people of the Earth.

“The Church of Love.”

He began, and I must write my impressions to add to the embers of my song. I scratched on a slate as he spoke.

“First. The Church of Love has no fabric only understanding.”

Oh, how I agreed with this. Some found the darkness, the buried saints and relics, the stained glass stories of the Bible, the exotic resins of incense and presence of holy water, a haven, a shelter. But I had always felt enclosed, synthetic. No living things are present there, and not even light is allowed its freedom. Flowers are cut. They die as we watch them on the altar cloth. The darkness made by curtains always drawn, by doors and secrets, the priest always a filter between God and the sinner.

“This is so joyful. Never could I know the gods, the spirits, inside, locked away in the cold thick darkness. That first day in the threshing yard when you came to me, sitting among the winnowed barley, I found myself in a real church. I never wanted to set foot inside another false church ever again. Indeed, I hope we can move to a more natural bed than this one soon. In a cave in wintertime, or a tree in summer snuggling up to all the apples and fragrant leaves.

‘Understanding.’

Yes, the invisible and formless. Love is understanding. If we allow love to be in its original state, we understand everything. There are no doubts or dark corners because the great light shines on all beings equally.”

August smiled, loving me with such a glorious light of complete understanding. He promised me that we would move out of the chapel very soon much closer to the gods, set up high in the abandoned fortresses on the crags.

“Your song my Lady. Can this citadel of love and space be expressed with your voice?”

“Oh yes, and yes! It ‘comes’ unbidden. It is just as you said.”

He went on satisfied.

“Second. The Church of Love has no membership, save those who know that they belong.”

My heart began to sink, to fall down the precipice of regret when I thought of how many conditions there were to being a member of a parish and a communion. The covenants, the blessings, the offerings and taxes, the service and favours. But worst of all was the pride. Belonging to such and such a parish, led by such a priest, the favourite of this Bishop and that Cardinal.

“Titles. Status. Spiritual level. Record of purity, number of blemishes and indiscretions. All the counting and measuring! The badges and awards! Every single one is a separation, a drawn curtain. We position ourselves separately from others. Different. We attract attention this way. It is violence I no longer commit. When people ask me about my faith, my church, my priest, I tell them it is ‘humanity,’ it is ‘love.’”

Again August is pleased. He tells me he longs for my performance at the Vigil. And so, we must ensure together that the creed is acceptable universally, that there can be no possible confusion so simple is it. We must continue in haste in the  afternoon.

“There is much to do my beautiful lady. Before we leave this sacred bed where we are free to be our true selves and which is blessed by all the holy energies, allow me to bless you. Let me leave you with a thought to fill your time away from  me.”

I buried my face in his fragrant beard, smiling, filled with gratitude for having been treated to such unconditional love for the first time in my life.

“Please let my divine training begin and continue forever.”

I moved away and knelt in front of him.

 

On the way back to the ostal that dawn, I had much to arrange. First, before starting the practice of my songs for the Vigil, I must feed some more scraps to the spinners giving them more hope from Bons August. Finally, I must prepare my Alexandra for the training of her life and find her disguise.

I hurried along checking the surroundings for spies. It was not quite dawn and looking down the slope, I could see that no one stirred yet in the ostal.

Oh sacred rock, I cannot believe it! I cannot actually accept that the gods are walking amongst we sinners, and that they are touching my life. I have tried all my life to find such love, in each of my 6 husbands all of whom have died, and in my children, some of whom have also died. But it has escaped me until now. It seems that it was impossible down on the plains, and that it is only with the pure air that I am ready to see the true glories of the gods.

It has been intended I am sure that my lowlands Roman faith would bring me to this rarefied place. I am certain that there is good in it, and that I have benefitted so much from it. But that somehow, there has been a breakage in the ancestry leading back to the first teachings and the apostles. Somehow it is no longer pure, it has become corrupt.

But, the interrogators will ask me, how can I be so sure that the Good are actually ‘good?’

How did August put it? Yes, ‘the devil made the world and everything in it, but only God could make the souls of beings, and they remained pure and eternal. And through an agreement between the forces of good and evil it was that the bodies of men, fabricated by the devil, were deemed the only place where the goodness of the indestructible soul could be tested.’

And,‘It is the life that teaches us the lessons we must learn to get free from the devil, life that shows us how to see only good in everyone and  everything.’

These lessons are precious and we can find them everywhere we look. But up here in the mountains where the light is so clear, they are more evident to those who are ready to see them and to take them into their lives.

Ah, I was so ready in the threshing yard that day when not one but two gods walked into my ostal. Fabrisse de Caramany, the blessed! It was the moment when any  fears I had of human life, which I have to say were few and far between, completely vanished.

There is really no question to ask. Questions, August says, are the currency of devils and doubters. The Good and unconditional love is what our spirits are made flesh to seek out and find. And it is right that we must adore those Good that walk amongst us in male or female form. The Good is all we need to embrace and to live. Yes, we must train every minute to see nothing but the Good in everyone and everything. And if we fail or make mistakes, the Good God will forgive us if we repent.

‘Sin’ in the lowlands faith is something we should be in a state of constant debt and sorrow about. But this odious ‘sin’ is merely mistakes, which we are bound to make as we go about learning our lessons. And the devil and evil are all around us exactly in this life, not in a different realm awaiting us after death. The Roman church has indeed become confused, and now hounds the heretics out to cover it and to keep its evil power and wealth.

The ‘Church of Wolves.’ It is so. And the wolves will hunt and eat.

Oh Ram Rock, I am bursting with this joyous faith, with the gushing of love and honesty. August is willing to be naked with me, to show me his body, his tunic, inside which is the Good God. I cannot any longer harbour fantasies, or let my mind, controlled by the devil, create false motivation for the fulfillment of worldly desires. There will be no covering away, no partial veiling so that the devil can work my imagination.

There is only one remaining veil, and that is the veil of death. This is the only flimsy thing that keeps me away from the spiritual world. It is easy to remove if needed, but apart from that, life will be lived in the open of the threshing yard. The loving will be in everyone and everything. The naked will be naked. The flaps and puckers of skin which inflate and deflate, and arouse lust, will be brought out into the open, to be part of the loving, not hidden away to incite peeping and lust.

And now, my training must accelerate. My songs for the night Vigil will ooze with the Good and the unconditional. I am not afraid of the lusty posturing of the Cardinals, or if the lessons are learned or not, or the blessings of the spirit absorbed. Death is truly a veil, which I will pull away myself if I need to!

How can we be so blind as to be taken in by the devil’s way, and then live without noticing the gods who surround us. It is as if most of us are drunk, oblivious, out-witted by the negative.

Ohhh! I long to tell my beloved Alexandra that her training will be undertaken by both August and myself, the Good and the seeker. We must start immediately.

And my devoted Noses? I will teach them by and by, when I am made Good. Until then, I will show them unconditional love, and keep them hoping through my stories and my songs. For that is the way to keep alive the spirit. That is the way to keep the devil at bay.

Oh beloved Ram Rock, I will be back again tomorrow at 5.00 just before supper and my next lesson with my golden girl. My talking to you moves me on, keeps me level, for that I must remain if I am to train among the wolves.

2 thoughts on “Extract from ‘Veil,’ showing how the Cathars viewed human life.

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