New book – to be released in July 2015 – ‘Glorious Death: Glorious Life’

Buddhists and Cathars jacketThis book is based on the series of articles which I wrote last year about my experience of both the Buddhist teachings and the Cathar Creed. Through my spiritual development I am now able to add a third comparison – that of the faith of indigenous peoples, as 25 years ago I was privileged to be able to live briefly with a tribe of Australian native people and be involved in helping to move back to their traditional lives deep in the south Australian desert. This book is inspired by attitudes to death and so to life: to our eternal existence as spirit energy in the invisible world, and our physical life in the world of matter, the visible world.

This is chapter 1.  The date of completion will be end of July 2015.

1: blueprint

Everything we encounter in our lives is embedded with crucial messages for our spiritual progress. If we can notice, interpret and apply them in all our living moments, then we will be able to be truly and lastingly happy and perfectly content. Imagine such a comprehensive curriculum, custom-designed for our development as a fully alive and enlightened human being for the whole span of our human life, laid out before us. It is a blueprint, and if we are fully aware of its dimensions and able to act on them, we can use it to build ourselves into a fabulous indestructible beacon to shine its light into infinity and eternity, way beyond the limits of the human world. This light will be visible in both the quirky mists and tides of the visible world, and the vast quintessential clarity of the invisible world. I have seen the light of many with my own eyes.

Before describing blueprints and beacons in detail, these aspirations for happiness and contentedness, which are not necessarily in line with those of all human beings, need to be justified. I write this work from a strong desire to share the way with all beings so that they might get the tiniest sense of their own full and lasting happiness, live some moments according their true nature, and learn to eagerly embrace the glories awaiting them at their death.

As children, before we become intellectually complicated and our conditioning becomes unconscious to us, we are often truly happy, secure, basking in the love of families and adults in general, with the promise of future life unblemished. Children are often so pure, free of complexes, and totally at home in their bodies. Then as we develop into adults inhabiting densely populated societies and communities and abiding by their rules, we compromise our true inclinations and become immersed in living up to the expectations of others, and in seeking their approval.

While we are negotiating the minefield of the human world as adults, our dark side emerges behind the masks that we are forced to wear to fit in. It is natural that we unconsciously or consciously resent the suppression of our natural urges and preferences, and become respectively either passively accepting or aggressively anarchic.

It becomes difficult for most of us to trust others, and to deal effectively with negative emotions such as envy, greed, covetousness, and lust. So, it is common to become isolated from ourselves and disaffected, or else we succumb to temptations and live in immoral ways, always in rebellion, or worse.

Aspiring to live comfortably, in full health and free of worries, surrounded by people who love and accept us for who we are, and to be able to feel satisfaction in the way we have lived our lives by the time we die, is surely unequivocal and universal. We aspire to goodness and happiness because we are intrinsically good and naturally happy. The pressures of living in large social or urban groups and communities is the greatest challenge of all which we are ready to face at the time our spirit becomes flesh.

If we can remain positive, emotionally unattached to matter and self-honest at all times, we will keep the divine flame alight for others and our mission will be complete. Then we can return to the invisible world as spirit, as energy, to take up our place in other dimensions, in infinity, eternity and divinity – known by the enlightened as ‘reality.’

Ancient Indian history tells us that there was a Golden Age of Humans, when the gods and holy beings dwelt among us. Our divine spark was burning brightly because civilization was young and we were pure and innocent like young children often are. As a result there was no need of intermediaries like priests or shamans to contact the spiritual world, because we actually were highly evolved gods and holy beings. In that epoch, our accumulated mistakes and bad deeds as a race of humans were few in number, and so no pay-back was required to balance out the energy in the world. The Universe demands balance because it is constructed from invisible energy, not matter as we see it with our human eyes.

These notions above have been highly criticized, called ‘nice words’ skillfully used to cover up the dark and dirty reality of what some people believe to be real human nature, ie. the opposite of good and bright and honourable. But some would say that these criticisms are the words of the devil, of evil incarnate; that they represent a force intent on destroying the light, of creating a block between the mind and the human heart. This dark view can possess people, can wag their tongues without their conscious consent, and is contagious, spreading out to corrupt others.

Each human being makes their own unique view of the world according to their own energy and environment. Add to this our inheritance from ancestors and earlier versions of culture and evolution in which they lived, and we have another blueprint we are born into human life with. We are born into a family, and each family carries with it a history, a certain energy or set of proclivities, which are usually perpetuated through the generations.

Modern science informs us that we inherit DNA from our parents and they from their parents and so on, and that we cannot change this unless we take dramatic steps with surgery, drugs or other medical intervention. This is combined with the rules and structure of the culture, religion, climate, gender, class, etc. we arrive in. It is perhaps easy to see how people become separated from their true natures and their dreams, and live in a shell of compromise and insincerity.

We see those around us who have ‘lost’ themselves. These foundlings act as if they are slumbering or intoxicated by life, swept helplessly on the highs and lows, buffeted by their luck or misfortune, blaming others and over-cherishing their fragile selves. Our objectivity allows us to apprehend how their inner life is incongruous with their outer life, but we must learn ways to be able to see our own incongruities from vantage points inside. We must also accept that every human being is a reflection of ourselves, and cease arrogantly separating ourselves away as ‘different.’ There are no ‘differences’ because we are all made from universal energy, which knows few boundaries.

Many people become so adept at wearing a wardrobe of different masks to cope with each social situation they must participate in, that the masks grows into their face and they can never remove them. Spiritual training can provide the tools to first detect and then remove the masks occluding our self-sincerity, so that we can live according to our true nature and eradicate all conflicts and friction.

The universal quality of our true nature is unconditional love and all its irresistible trappings – tolerance, patience, generosity, honesty, putting others before ourselves, and understanding. We know this as children and can often put it into action because of our innocence. Then gradually the ego develops to enable us to live in the world of suffering, and we accumulate experience, which, if viewed without delusion, we are told by others, can turn into wisdom.

However, I have realized that we must first and foremost listen to our own voice. Also, that wisdom is a bright sudden light, not always something we have to work for diligently, filter by trial and error, to achieve by ploughing through synthetic concepts of time and space. We are wisdom. We are love. It is imbued in every cell and skin pore. All we have to do is nothing – no thinking, no striving, no sweating or self punishment. The Buddha called this ‘the Middle Way,’ the Cathars, medieval mystical Christians, called it ‘formlessness’ or ‘being,’ insisting that ‘we (humans) are the way,’ and the desert dwellers of Australia call it ‘the Dreaming,’ and the ‘now-and-here.’

Some intrinsically know that their spiritual quest is to find their true nature, which has been buried beneath many layers of all types of conditioning. As a young child, I knew this through the devotion and unconditional love of my grandparents, and I aspired to it even then. They were often on their knees praying for others and the world, their gorgeous eyes filled with tears of joy, and their every move was dignified and humble. With living examples of such qualified guides in my life, I realized that the first stage of the search is to reconnect with our true nature by perfecting our spiritual blueprint; the second stage is to transcend the blueprint and the form of that guidance, and expand our greater awareness of all dimensions of life.

I have spent my life in this endeavor, taking some wrong turns, growing tired and sometimes distracted by the irresistible force of human needs the gravitational force field of materialism and self-image. But I have been fortunate that I could always snap back to realizing the emptiness and transience of all things, and appreciating my privileged and divine origins.

During my human life, which I am certain is the culmination of many others lives, I have found three such legitimate blueprints to integrate with my inheritance and environment. This composite allows me to realize my aspirations for goodness and everlasting happiness.

The first blueprint is from practice of and aspiration to the full range of the brilliant teachings of the Buddha – the beginning, middle and final period of his ministry. As I mentioned, I was the legatee of the devout Christianity of my grandparents, but after they died when I was a young adult, I realized that I had been practicing to please them and that modern Christian dogma did not reach me. At that point, I turned to Buddhism from an intellectual perspective, started to study sutras and doctrine, and was deeply touched by its genius.

Then gradually, I became able to accept the invisible, spiritual aspects of Buddhism and put away my books and my intellectual curiosity. Instead, I cultivated emptiness through mindfulness and meditation, and attempted to live in a way that did not create any more negative karma. Karma for my purposes in this work concerns actions, either our own in present life, or those of our lineage of ancestors through the passage of history. There are bad and good actions which evolve from good or bad thoughts. We know this instinctively, and if we endeavor to think and live in a good way, then we avoid creating negative karma for the future. This is the principle of cause and effect: all thoughts and actions have an effect somewhere in the organism of the universe we are part of.

The second comes from a close reflection of the Cathar way of life, and the creed they left for us to reveal in 20th century, 700 years after they were exterminated as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathars, also known as the ‘Good’ and the ‘Perfect’ (Les Bonnes, Les Parfaits), were a late-medieval sect (12th-14th centuries) of mystical Christians, who lived according to the original teachings of Jesus Christ, the spiritual Christ. So little is known about them because they worked tirelessly behind the scenes, quietly ‘being’ as ordinary members of society, but tirelessly tending to people’s spirits and helping prepare them for glorious death.

According to their creed recently rediscovered to initiate a 20th century revival of Catharism, we do not need to wave banners about our beliefs because that is the human visible way. Faith is an invisible quality, it is formless, not bound by its intellectual concept or time, or visibility.

The third blueprint is from my direct experience of living with an indigenous tribe in the desert lands of south Australia. I was involved in assisting them to return to traditional life after a long period of hijack by European settlers in Australia who were determined to ‘civilise’ them. The elders and children of this tribe had decided to return to traditional desert life deep in the scorching interior of Australia. Their leader, Ninija, initiated me and became my spiritual guide, imparting desert wisdom and how to live directly and fully in the field of awareness.

Her way of being, integrated fully into nature and rarely involving making concepts except out of compassion to understand self-professed ‘civilized’ people, convinced me that we live always indirectly because the tool of our intellect is so well-honed. We rarely experience reality directly, fully, as the desert people do every moment of their desert lives. They have mostly not set foot in the prison of the mind even to visit, and so have a variety of other tools at their disposal, e.g. prediction, telepathy, intuition, vision, healing, and many more.

At first sight, the possible combining of three unlikely blueprints into one offering true and everlasting happiness and allowing our human goodness to surface, may seem unlikely. However, if we view the human way before the diversity and pluralism of modern ages overtook us, as one united belief in goodness, in light, in unconditional love, within each of us, then we are united, in one heart, breathing one breath. Once, we had no need of intermediaries to guide and connect us with the invisible domain, and our divine flame was burning brightly.

But my blueprints are transparent and so can be easily superimposed on each other to make a composite, because human faith is invisible, is universal, is divine and originates in love. As the Cathar Creed of the Church of Love quietly indicates, “Its members shall know each other by their deeds and being, and by their eyes and by no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace..…It has no secret, no Arcanum, no initiation save the true understanding of the power of love, and that if we want it to be so, the world will change, but only if we change ourselves first.”

I hope to show you in this work of creative non-fiction – “true stories well told,” (Lee Gutkind) – how my composite blueprint works in daily life. This is my story, my view, and I am unashamed to assert that fact. It does not aim to be a scholarly work laced together with the views of experts or spiritual adepts. I try to write sincerely, much in the way that the early mystics like Shantideva and Sylvanus, et al, wrote. The platform I write from is my life as a sincere seeker of spiritual insights, a devotee of mysticism, and above all an appreciative tenant in the body I have inhabited during my human course. I have always realized that my skin is the only thing to physically separate me from the invisible world.

As already mentioned, we find ourselves in the midst of the human world of suffering and loss, sickness and dashed hopes, exactly because we are being given a golden opportunity to liberate ourselves from that suffering, distorted view of life. It is probably our only chance, because it is said that being born a human is exceedingly rare and difficult, as the struggle to emerge from the womb exemplifies. Living for the most part in secular societies, remote from our original divine spark and purity, we have become disconnected from our basic constituents of unconditional love and compassion. So, we have to train spiritually to regain what once came so naturally to us, and the invisible world puts such trainers into the world so that we can find our way to them.

In my life, I have learned not to consciously search with my eyes for these trainers, but instead to listen for their voices. This may seem difficult to understand if you have never experienced free-falling through your life while detecting and then heeding spiritual indicators. If we look with our physical eyes, we may well be searching with the human ego, in a self-serving way, with the hidden agenda of success, status and satisfaction in human terms. But if we open up our heart and realize that spiritual elevation and compassion are the real and natural goals of the human species, then the invisible world will arrange everything. It is simply a question of accepting and listening to the whispers from your own heart, the seat of your intuition and of your higher self. There have been many such whispers during my life, so perhaps I can help unravel this conundrum a little.

In my childhood in northern industrial Britain in 1950s, I was brought up in a typical lukewarm Christian household and attended a Christian school. My grandmothers were devout Catholics all of their lives and wanted to hand their faith on to me. I adored them and wanted to be compassionate and constantly loving like them. One day, I was listening to the radio with my father and brother as we ate lunch together. The presenter was talking about someone or something called ‘the Buddha.’ I remember thinking that I had never heard this strange phrase before, and that as it had the prefix of ‘the,’ it must be something very impressive like ‘the Queen’ or ‘the Prime Minister.’

The talk went on to say that encountering the teachings of the Buddha was, ‘as rare as a turtle paddling through the great ocean encountering a piece of driftwood with a hole in it, and then swimming up to the surface and putting its head through the hole to look at the sky.’

I did not know what ‘teachings’ were at that age, but this notion was stored away inside me until the day I actually did encounter the Buddhist teachings as a young adult. I had no experience of or knowledge about Buddhism, and there were no Buddhist practitioners in my life. Much later, when my grandparents were deceased, I turned away from Christianity and by a series of coincidences found myself attending lectures about the Buddha at university. These teachings so necessary to revealing my full blueprint had been indicated when I was about 7 years old, and I had caught something spiritual, invisible, which would transform my life. I went on to aspire to their wisdom for the next 40 years, and eventually they provided the means whereby I could go beyond them.

Another striking example is how I came to be in Japan where I presently live and work. Much later in my life I was myself teaching at a university, again in the north of Britain. I was assigned as coordinator to a large group of Japanese female students for an intensive summer course. The professor in charge of them was friendly and we became good friends during that time. One day, she asked me what my dream was, and I revealed to her that I had always wanted to live in Japan having taught many outstanding and special Japanese students during my teaching career.

To my total surprise, a few months later, she sent me an email recommending that I apply for a position as visiting foreign teacher at her university. I did and was selected out of a large number of candidates. So, I started to pack up my belongings and send them ahead to my new life in the Far East. My friends and family thought I was demented giving up my secure life in England to go to an unknown culture almost six thousand miles away. But I knew that this was something I had to do.

I applied for a visa from the Japanese Embassy in London, and was summoned to collect it once it was ready. Whilst I was there, I asked if they had any posters of Japan that I could display in my new office. They regretted that they only had one of a beautiful temple in Kyoto, western Japan, the area I was going to. I duly packed it away and set off East.

A key person in my smoothly settling in was the international secretary at my professorial residence in Kyoto, and one day I invited her to come to my apartment for coffee to thank her. She was surprised to see a sizeable golden Buddha image, which I had brought from Myanmar en route to Japan, where I had had an audience with a Burmese Buddhist Master. She told me that she was also a Buddhist seeker, and that she would like to invite me to her temple one day.

I did accompany her and to my amazement found the core text of her sect was the very last of the Buddhist teachings, the Nirvana teachings. I was stunned, as having worked my way unconsciously but systematically through what are know as the early and middle period teachings, I was perfectly ready for the final teachings as the welling up of tears indicated. I committed myself there and then and started to practice Japanese Buddhism, which I had hardly ever encountered before in the west. These final teachings given by the Buddha from his deathbed were indeed my final teachings. The ancient mother temple of this sect, Daigo-ji, was situated in the mountains of Kyoto, beautiful, loaded with spiritual energy which I connected with immediately.

Later, my friend who had become my spiritual teacher by this time, visited my university office. She walked in and stopped still in her tracks as she looked up at one of the large posters I had on my office wall. It was to me an anonymous temple, one of 30,000 in Kyoto, acquired from the Japanese Embassy in London, but to her it was her mother temple, Daigo-ji. Before coming to Japan, I had never heard of her sect, a branch of Shingon Buddhism brought from China in 9th century to Japan by Kukai, known as Master Kobo Daichi. But out of all the thousands of temples in Kyoto, this was the image I had acquired from London. We were both speechless. The spiritual messages were screaming loudly, unmistakably, and I had managed to hear them and take action with my human body.

In terms of my second blueprint, I am filled with gratitude that my spiritual partner while living in Europe, at exactly the right time in my short human life, had the means and unconscious wisdom to make my second blueprint a reality on my behalf.

Almost 20 years ago, I had the great privilege to live for several years in a tiny village in the remote eastern Pyrenees, on the Mediterranean side of the mountain frontier between France and Spain. It was a simple life, mostly sequestered away from the media and other worldly distractions. I was practising the Buddhist teachings at the time, but entirely on my own among Catholics, without either designated Master or sangha (spiritual community). It was a heavenly location, with unhindered views of untouched primeval forests and stunning peaks.

The village I lived in was medieval, abandoned by young people who had moved to the cities to make a living, and mostly in ruins. Climate change had caused water sources to dry up so it was quite difficult to survive the long hot summers there. In the hottest times, people’s kitchen gardens, often their main source of food, suffered unmercifully, and water had to be brought up the mountain in tankers on a daily basis.

My long days were spent restoring and cultivating a huge medieval garden to try to provide all the food we needed, and making the carcass of an old farmhouse more habitable. Early mornings were spent exercising on the sandy roads once trodden by Les Bons or Les Parfaits, the Good, known by medievalism as the Cathars, and nowadays used as short cuts by shepherds and vineyard workers. I had never even heard of Les Parfaits before arriving there.

In forest clearings, beautifully preserved Roman Chapels could be found. In the cliff faces of deep gorges, hermitages were perfect shelters. And from the valley floors, fortresses expertly balanced on high crags, would intermittently come into view against the cloudless sky. The whole environment had once been dedicated to religious devotion, and now I found myself, a religious devotee also, in an ideal spiritual environment.

As I looked more closely at the beliefs of this mysterious Christian sect viewed as heretics by the mainstream Roman Catholics of the time, I realized that their practice was not dissimilar to the Buddhist way. At that moment, I remember being so relieved that I did not need to jump on the sectarian wagon along with everyone else, because to me, all spiritual pathways are valid and share the same values. It just depends on your karma as to which guise your practice takes.

I am certain that all denominations of faiths long for the sacred to again occupy the waking and dreaming moments of human beings, as it once used to. We all battle, whether directly or vicariously, with samsara (the Buddhist term for the human world), or what has become know as the ‘secular world,’ the realm of human desires and self-induced suffering.

I would go so far as to say that my spiritual blueprint had demanded that I was transported to these mountains to tread the footsteps of the Cathars as they fled from the relentless hounding of the Church of Rome, or ‘of Wolves’ as they saw it. I dreamed many Cathar dreams, both subtle and gross, during my stint there, and came firmly to believe that my ancestors had been Cathars. As it had been for them, reading snippets of their lives, each of my own days became a triumph of good over evil, and the thin veil of my death, which they believed was the sole thing separating beings of flesh from the spiritual world, threatened to blow away at any moment.

I recently realized part of my Cathar dream in publishing a novel called ‘Veil,’ which is a transcript of my life there.

One of the things that branded the Cathars as heretics in the eyes of the Inquisition forces sent to the mountains to accuse and dispose of them, was the belief that men and women were equal. The Roman church has always excluded women from key positions, and perhaps always will, but many eminent Parfaits were women. Buddhism has become similarly gender aware, though in ancient India, women were somewhat whimsically excluded from enlightenment, and are still treated with caution by many sects. My present Nirvana guru is a woman, and despite her rank as overall spiritual leader of a huge world-wide sangha, certain predominantly male Hinayana sects in Thailand and Myanmar, are not allowed to touch her!

The origin of the Cathars remains mysterious, recent research showing that they probably hailed from central Asia or perhaps further east. My spiritual instincts tell me that they were likely Buddhist propagators en route from India traveling along the Spice and Silk Roads, who found their way west, and ended up in direct confrontation with the monopolist Catholics of Europe.

As hinted at above, one of their most striking beliefs is that the world is a battle place between the forces of good and evil, and that as humans we have to make our choices about which side we are on. Buddhist samsara – something which flows on relentlessly until beings attain Nirvana, or the extinguishing of and freedom from all cravings, could be viewed as the world of evil we desire to be free from. The Cathars rejected the Christian crucifixion and baptism outright as the devil’s propaganda. They believed in the laying on of hands and that everyone was fundamentally ‘good,’ or possessed True Nature instead. They rejected the romanticized story of the bearded carpenter born in a stable of an immaculate birth, predicted by three wise kings.

In the Buddhist scheme of things, we work to be liberated from samsara, the human world of the 4 sufferings : birth, illness and suffering, old age, death, and in the Cathar scheme, from the flesh housing for our divine spirits, by the lifting of the veil of death. For many indigenous peoples, their traditional lives are already enlightened. They are integrated fully into reality, their intellectual skills redundant there because the spirit prevails, the spirit of their totem, the natural species they are born into.

The desert provides all they need so they do not become attached to visible material items, and they can clearly hear the spiritual messages in their Lands. They are not distracted by status, money, lust or fame, and their human lives are a training ground for the glories of death. They long for death and the final Burial Ceremony known as the Djang.

The Mahayana Buddhist teachings focus on emptiness. They express human life as a projection from the mind of the individual, like a constant replay of a video, and train us to turn off that video so we can find reality. I believe the Cathars had a very similar approach to living in the human world. Using prayer and contemplation as Buddhists use mantra and karmic cleansing, they took refuge in the pure and positive light of the spirit of God as Buddhists take refuge in the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Australian desert people, as custodians of the environment and guardians of the Dreaming stories which appear in the lands, spend their days visiting Dreaming sites and singing the sacred songs to celebrate the heroes. Abiding faithfully to the desert laws and rituals, they remain pure, integrated and focused on protecting the planet and ensuring their survival and spiritual lineage.

My third blueprint is the result of experience living with Australian native peoples in the south Australian Desert. Again, this came about completely by chance during a two-year world trip I made in the mid-nineties. I knew of the shocking history of these people and the destruction of their civilization by white missionaries, my ancestors, but it was only when I was actually there face-to-face with them that I fully realized the implications of their demise.

I was a member of a group of Europeans assisting a tribe of elderly and young aboriginals to return to the center of Australia, the country finally designated as their ‘Lands’ by white rulers. They were leaving all social and financial support especially so they could return to their traditional life, a life of survival, entailing living rough, close to Mother Nature, their creator. So many of their young adults had been abducted and sanitized by white landowners to become their slaves, and in the process of losing contact with the Lands and their Dreaming heroes, they had fallen prey to substance and alcohol abuse. This often resulted in painful and undignified deaths. Such interference and wholesale conversion of these wise and spiritually evolved desert people to western ways, suffocates their natural spirits. In their traditional life, they are not dominated by concepts such as time and space, they do not work or wait, they do not hide themselves away from the Great Mother Nature under roofs and behind glass.

In the desert, I got insights into how to avoid making concepts altogether, and how to live directly in the field of awareness. I learned how to respect and accept, and to have no attachment to anything, to move with the weather, fully accepting that the natural way was the best for the thriving of the planet. In their natural element, these people are fully happy and content. They watch the land for dreaming stories and indications of how to become spiritually perfect. Nothing else matters apart from the learning of spiritual lessons in human life so that glorious death will come quickly and they can go on travelling in the great sky of existence. The travellers light small campfires as they go which the ‘civilized’ intellect has given the label of ‘star’ to, a word which does not exist in any aboriginal language, or in ethnic languages on the whole.

Three spiritual leaders. The God of Christianity – one God, omnipotent, the Father, the spiritual Christ, present in all beings and all things. The Buddha, all spirit and giver of the laws of ever-present Dharma, eternal, indestructible, Father and Mother. The Creators of the Dreaming, Mother Nature and Father Earth, Lord of all totems, eternal and indestructible.

My life has been blessed by the presence of all three of these emanations of goodness and things natural, and their means whereby. This combination of concepts and systems has brought me to Heaven, to Nirvana and to the Dreaming. Now all cravings are extinguished and I have reached true and lasting happiness. This is the story of going beyond, or letting go, of actually embodying universal Love and transcendent Wisdom.

Following are the codices of the Cathar Creed.

The Church of Love has ‘no fabric, there is no membership, save those who know they belong.

It has no rivals because it is non-competitive.

It has no ambition; it seeks only to serve.

It has no boundaries for nationalisms are unloving.

It is not of itself because it seeks to enrich all groups and religions.

It acknowledges all great teachers of all ages who have shown the truth of love.

Those who participate, practice the truth of love in all their beings.

There is no walk of life or nationality that is a barrier.

Those who are, know.

It seeks not to teach but be and, by being, enrich.

It recognizes that the way we are may be the way of those around us because we are the way.

It recognizes the whole planet as a Being of which we are part.

It recognizes that the time has come for the supreme transmutation, the ultimate alchemic act for conscious change of the ego into a voluntary return to the whole.

It does not proclaim itself with a loud voice but in the subtle realms of loving.

It salutes all those in the past who blazed the path but have paid the price.

It admits no hierarchy or structure, for no one is greater than the other.

Its members shall know each other by their deeds and being, and by their eyes and by no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace.

Each one will dedicate their life to the silent loving of their neighbour and environment and the planet, while carrying out their task however exalted or humble.

It recognizes the supremacy of the great idea, which may only be accomplished if the human race practices the supremacy of love.

It has no reward to offer here or in the hereafter save that ineffable joy of being and loving.

Each shall seek to advance their cause of understanding, doing good by stealth and teaching by example.

They shall hear their neighbour, their community and the Planet.

They shall feel no fear, feel no shame, and their witness shall prevail at all odds.

It has no secret, no Arcanum, no initiation save of the true understanding of the power of love and that, if we want it to be so, the world will change, but only if we change ourselves first.’

I learned during my time exploring the sandy pathways of Les Parfaits in Languedoc, while practicing as a Kadampa Buddhist, that before the Cathar martyrs were burned at the stake, that they secreted this creed in a cave not far from where I was living. It predicted a revival 700 years later, stipulating that those born in the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies would lead the revival. I was born in 1952.

10: The Same Pathway

breathe life into

This is the last article in the present series which looks at the Cathars, a mysterious Christian sect at their peak in the Middle Ages in Europe, from a Buddhist perspective, and attempts to express my direct experience of living in Cathar territory while practicing as a lone Buddhist. I have had a good response to these articles and plan to turn them into a book as soon as I can. There is a need in this age for written accounts of spiritual experiences, and for authentic ‘voices’ as opposed to academic tracts. I would like to be able to breathe life into spiritual traditions in this plural and secular epoch, or as Buddhists refer to it as, ‘The Last Days of the Law of Dharma.’

As mentioned earlier, I had many dreams and spiritual experiences in the Lands of the Cathar, high in the Pyrenean Mountains forming the frontier between Spain and France. I will attempt to describe them here so that you can read a more abstract portrait and superimpose them upon some of the historical facts, as far as they go, I have provided. In this way, I hope your experience of these two traditions is more than cerebral and reaches deep into your unconscious mind. It is no accident that you are reading this article. Everything is pre-destined if we listen to the guides.

unconscious mind

Following are several extracts from a novel I will soon publish as an ebook entitled ‘The Veil.’ Some of it was written in situation there among the secret pathways and crag-top fortresses where Cathar martyrs were finally thrown on the fires, some later when I had assimilated the incredible experience and become more spiritually evolved. I believe it is impossible to see the greater spiritual multi-dimensional design as it is happening. It is only later and with training that we can see all implications.

emptiness

This first passage describes logging in a tree graveyard island, bisected by fierce mountain streams of snow melt from the peaks, close to the village where I lived.

This had become our island, a flippant possessive notion, although it was certain that we were beings closely watched by more legitimate ‘owners. It took us some time to be able to see our audience on the mainland as we worked, because our eyelids had become veils to protect our eyes from pollution and urban chaos. They must be lifted now. And the thundering of torrents from the high peaks drowned out the shallow breathing of the invisible spectators as they stared at their enemy.

By the river, green lizards stood transfixed on rocks, posing as fallen mimosa leaves. Male red deer concealed their spindly legs in a nearby birch copse. Their eyes were undistinguishable from tree bark, and their antlers like miniature trees. Only the flicking of their tails revealed them to us fleetingly. Gaily dressed Hoopees, their chestnut, grey and white plumage, their black combs, cocked their disbelieving heads at us. Then one day, we suddenly noticed a tall monk in a rough black habit, a simple rope around his narrow waist. He was kneeling on a rock drinking icy water from the cup of his dark hands. These wandering religious were known by the villagers as ‘les Parfaits,’ the good.

Later, I, for ‘The Veil’ is of course autobiographical, go to bed and sense the ancient atmosphere of the silent village.

The shutters have been closed earlier to try to keep in some of the latent heat created during the day by the sun. When the high winds blow, it is this tall exposed bedroom, which resembles a lighthouse. It is completely exposed to the silent unlit mountains without moon. I sit back and let my mind slow down, smiling until it ceases completely. Then I turn to listen out here. There is nothing to distract me from the silence inside despite the roaring of the rogue winds. I am merely a little bundle of energy deposited on this wild hillside, but I am certain that I am meant to be here. My mind had long ceased to fret and chew at problems of doubt and the unknown future, or the spoiled past; it no longer dwelled in a souse of fear either.

As I only listened, the devil wind played with the openings of the room as if they were drums, and I could feel the energy of the stars on the baked clay of roof tiles. I had tossed aside my scant knowledge of the power of the heavens, and instead vowed to have only direct experience of them out here where comets and shooting stars were wallpaper. They seeped in under the carefully overlapped edges of the terra cotta tiles. Then tumbled around the elderly cobwebs and warm corners borrowed by scorpion families and squirrels during this indoors period of cold. As I drifted into sleep, stars caught in the attic slipped quietly through the lath and plaster of the ancient ceiling and soft-landed on the down quilt. They were not completely silent, but gently fizzed and fingered in the sky.

I reveled in the hot smolder of a planet on my cheek, a comet flying between my toes, the eternal vibrating of the universe singing out in every pore of my skin. I was part of the Cosmos, the whole universe fitted inside me.’

And later, a Cathar convert called Fabrisse de Caramany, tells of her conversion to the Parfait to a large Rock called Ram Rock, which she can crawl inside the huge curled horn of. She must not divulge to anyone what miracles have come into her life for fear of being imprisoned and tortured by the Fat Cardinals from the valley who hound the Cathars and mean to wipe them out.

Ram rock

‘Oh Rock. The floor of the threshing yard was strewn with perfectly winnowed barley that day. The first harvest. Its creamy grains gathered in the thick flounces of sunshine. Mmmmmm. You know that dry earthy scent which comes off it. Father August went on squatting, the wet-earth brown of his robes perfectly at home in the enclosed courtyard full of our crop. He could not resist playing with the grains, watching them intensely as if a thousand rosaries had been broken there. And in the silence between us, as I brushed aside a strand of hair which had blown into my eyes, and he ran his lengthy olive fingers over an arc pattern of grains he was busy with, he said, “Each grain has an original blessing,” and looked at me full, his head slightly bowed, “like you.” He trained his rustling eyes down again on the grains saying, “and me.”

Behind him a pair of grey and white wagtails boldly pecked, and I shoed them away by a sharp intake of breath which unnerved him. ‘Those wagtails are real scavengers,’ I said, irritated by them. You know Rock, I was irritated by their opportunism, always ready to rush in and thieve, and I felt my cheeks hotter than usual.

He said smiling, “You have done the work of removing the husks for them. Look! They are pleased!” And at that moment a single hen wagtail moved towards him and pecked at a grain he offered her in the palm of his hand. He looked for many moments deep into the eyes of this twitchy silvery bird, in a kind of trance like soothsayers lapse into. The he said, without removing his eyes, “God is here in this flapping feathery spirit.”

He continued in silence to pour his being into this creature, and then turned to look at me sideways again with the same deluge of love. And I knew him to be Love in flesh, a divine being. That grain-filled yard, once a commonplace, had become a heart place into which I could step whenever I wanted. It had become my own courtyard chapel filled with the grains of God, with an irritating winged thief transformed into a blessed creature, and with a child of the invisible world.

We sat and talked on and on in the hot sun, and he said, ‘We in the mountains find different routes to God, in the way we find pathways over the mountain passes. We are quiet here. Each of us like a mountain.”

His eyes were no longer dried leaves tossed in my direction on a chance breeze, but moist mossy lights looking deliberately behind my heart and searching my soul.’

There is no single doubt in my mind that the past is a construct of the mind! The heart lives now. But outside the intellectual mind, we can contact the invisible world. During my time in the country of the Perfect, I myself experienced persecution as they had. I was surrounded by Catholics, but in fact I was persecuted by my partner, a lapsed Jew agnostic. As my Buddhist beliefs surged deeper through both passionate practice and study, my partner was unable to comprehend what I was experiencing, and so we parted ways. There was great antagonism and endless interrogations to find why I had “deserted.” I wrote the following poem at this time when my sutras were defiled and my shrine destroyed, my Buddhist images hurled around!

calling meCalling

Sipping Rhone wine under the flounces

of the massive Lime-flower tree

aroma and scent trouble me.

The wine at its best, the flowers at their peak

and yet my habitual absorption in the sensory

is being tugged at

its tension overstretched like used muslin

its once overwhelming newness wearing thin.

The perfection of sky balanced on untouched forests

almost eludes me at this time

but the gist of your abstract words has already dropped

in the fine covering of flowers at my feet.

For someone is calling me from the white marble of Montpellier.

A dream in our shuttered salon

the logs in the stove like alpine witness wands

compels me to descend our mountain hairpins

on the weekly bus alive with grape-pickers

my suitcases slotted between their stained baskets

to the other North African haven of Montpellier.

You demand why and who and how I must go

down from this ultimate haven of Cathars

Catholics, shepherds, but the gist of your question

disappears in the evening sizzle of biftek

buried in an armful of bay leaves and vine twigs.

For someone is calling me from the vivid painted timbers of Montpellier.

The fierce row on the boards at bedtime

your coarse tears extinguishing the candles and

unbalancing the stable slab of incense

propel me out of your faithless fleshy cloisters.

You hurl bells, burn sutras in your ashtray

demand and denounce my path to this ‘borrowed’ deity

making last-ditch interrogations under a strong light.

But the gist of your spite is sucked into the Lama’s Himalayan eyes

dredged over the ample of his saffron robes

as he welcomes me to the wooden temple in an orchard

its specifications exact, my mission specific.

He has been waiting with his butter lamps and words.

‘‘You heard my calling. I knew you would come soon.’’

I left the high mountains as described and soon took up my place as a temple keeper in a tropical Montpellier Garden. The Tibetan Lineage of Kagyupa was my refuge for the next year, but I longed to go back to the Cathars, and realize now that my Buddhist persuasion is a perfect match with my Cathar inheritance. It has been confirmed that I am descended from Cathars, and I am now certain they were deeply connected to the Buddha’s path.

the sala grove

The next series of articles on NIrvana Linden will be about the final teachings of the Buddha, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Perhaps you have never knowingly read a Buddhist sutra or felt the urge to, but the final teachings of Gautama Buddha offer remarkable insight into a bright future for all living beings. Please explore the systems of genius made to perfectly fit human existence with me over the next weeks.

6: metempsychosis and karma: the Church of Love

rebirth

rebirth

If we come into contact with people at large during each day, packed on to commuter trains, or standing in queues because of the delays of seasonal rushes and peak times, it is easy to become irritated or even enraged. We can be indignant and incredulous that people around us are behaving so badly, in such a self-centred way. We wonder why they cannot be like us, civilized, considerate, ‘normal.’ These dramatic differences we perceive distance us from humanity, isolate us inside the world we create in our heads with all its synthetic standards and bars to jump. We make judgments, and in so doing place ourselves above others and outside the field of love.

The medieval Cathars of Languedoc were so focused on their practice of faith out in the community that they could easily accept and have compassion for all the excesses and ‘fascist’ attitudes around them. They helped as many people as they could, and put themselves at risk of being discovered and captured while administering the Consolamentum so that people could be saved from damnation. Corruption and deception were a way of life in medieval Europe, and the friars and cardinals leading the interrogations against the Cathars were merciless, torturing and imprisoning at will, and other atrocities. Betrayal of the trust of the Perfecti was common too.

Some say that medieval European society was as bleak as today’s, but as the Perfecti believed that evil spirits could jump into other bodies – metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls or rebirth)- they could accept that people behaved badly, driven by their occupying spirits.  Metempsychosis is one of the oldest beliefs in the history of humans in all parts of the world, Orient and Occident alike, and it is thought nowadays that it may be almost a natural or innate beliefs native to the human mind. As Christianity spread steadily across Europe, the eternal nature of the soul was a seminal belief retained by the Manichaeans and Cathars, and other gnostic sects, but the mainstream Catholic church rejected it as heretical. They put enormous defensive energy into eradicating such beliefs, and in a way maiming their own roots of Christianity in the process.

Cathars believed that Jesus was the manifestation of a pure spirit unbounded by matter. The God of the old testament was Satan, while the God of St John’s gospel in the new testament was the all-loving compassionate God. The human figure of Jesus was simply a messenger, an emanation of the true God, which could never be made manifest in the Devil’s world. Cathars thus attached no importance to the crucifixion and nativity due to their material nature. In this respect, they were indeed a highly spiritual and mystical sect.

God of Love

God of Love

My own upbringing was fairly strict, mainstream Christian, and although I felt deep reverence for the holy beings and saints, I was always rather scared of the suffering evoked by the crucifix and crown of thorns, the dark corners of musty churches, the negative emphasis on sin and guilt because Jesus died for humanity on the Cross. On the other hand, if I had had access to the faith of the Perfects, I would have aspired to become a Perfect and eventually to join the compassionate God in the celestial realms.  Christian practices were too materialist for me, too dark, to oppressive, so I turned to Buddhism as an older teenager, which surprised my family and seemed to be a betrayal of the faith into which I was baptized.

When I encountered the Cathars of Languedoc, I was so thrilled to find a meaningful Christianity that was so similar in essence to Buddhism. Siddhartha, the privileged Prince who became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, was also perhaps only a messenger manifest as flesh and blood. After his death and Parinirvana at the age of 84 or so, after his final teachings of Nirvana which I devote myself to today, he shifted to the spiritual source, the Dharmakaya (see previous article at https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/dharma-kaya-the-body-of-truth/)  and so in various emanations can eternally guide and protect those who take refuge in him. Engaged Buddhists connect themselves to the faultlessly transmitted Dharma Lineage, which stretches back to Shyakyamuni Buddha who became enlightened. Our commitment is beyond the narrow intellectual concepts of time and space, and we know that as we approach or turn back from Enlightenment, we will transmigrate into other realms, either higher or lower. In fact, most Buddhists practice specifically to break the perpetual cycle of rebirths so that we can return to the spiritual source.

Siddharta

Siddharta

Some scholars refer to the Cathars as ‘Western Buddhists.’  This is ironic as Buddhism is quite widely practiced in the west these days, and has, as in my case, superseded Christianity. This is not to say that the original teachings of the messenger or prophet Jesus are not superb, but with time and cultural distortion, and the tightening of the material grip on societies, they seem to have been outgrown. In contrast to the Christian, the approach Buddhists make to the spiritual world, the invisible world, with the correct protections and aspirations, is positive. There may be dark corners in our spirits, which need to be sluiced with the lights of virtue and merit, with purification, but our appreciation of karma, the injurious actions of our ancestors and of our own, motivates us to cleanse our negative karma.  The Cathars too believed in karma necessarily because of rebirth, and worked to purify themselves during their human sojourn.

karma: dependent conditions

karma

In 1244, after the Albigensian Crusade, which lasted 9 months and claimed the cities of Beziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne and Toulouse, the Cathars surrendered. That year, on March 16th,  over 200 of them were brought down from the hilltop fortress Montsegur and thrown on to a huge pyre to be burned. On March 14th before they surrendered, they held a religious ceremony and made the prophecy that the ‘Church of Love’ as they referred to it would be proclaimed in 1986, 700 years later. Their own words on that occasion best describe their creed:

Cathar Creed at the Fountain 1244

Cathar Creed at the Fountain 1244

The Church of Love

It has no fabric, only understanding.  It has no membership, save those who know that they belong.  It has no rivals, because it is non competitive.  It has no ambition; it seeks only to serve. It has no boundaries for nationalisms are unloving.  It is not of itself because it seeks to enrich all groups and religions.  It acknowledges all great teachers of all ages who have shown the truth of love.  Those who participate, practice the truth of love in all their beings. There is no walk of life or nationality that is a barrier.  Those who are, know.  It seeks not to teach but be and, by being, enrich.  It recognizes that the way we are may be the way of those around us because we are the way. It recognizes the whole planet as a Being of which we are part.  It recognizes that the time has come for the supreme transmutation, the ultimate alchemic act for conscious change of the ego into a voluntary return to the whole.  It does not proclaim itself with a loud voice but in the subtle realms of loving.  It salutes all those in the past who blazed the path but have paid the price.  It admits no hierarchy or structure, for no one is greater than the other.  Its members shall know each other by their deeds and being, and by their eyes and by no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace.  Each one will dedicate their life to the silent loving of their neighbor and environment and the planet, while carrying out their task however exalted or humble.  It recognizes the supremacy of the great idea, which may only be accomplished if the human race practices the supremacy of love. It has no reward to offer here or in the hereafter save that ineffable joy of being and loving. Each shall seek to advance their cause of understanding, doing good by stealth and teaching by example. They shall hear their neighbor, their community and the Planet.  They shall feel no fear, feel no shame, and their witness shall prevail over all odds.  It has no secret, no Arcanum, no initiation save of the true understanding of the power of love and that, if we want it to be so, the world will change, but only if we change ourselves first.

Today, there are many Europeans, born in the 40s and 50s, who feel that they are the martyred Cathars of Languedoc reborn. They believe that they exist now as the result of a powerful commitment made at the end of a previous life to return to make a significant contribution towards the spiritual rehabilitation of this planet and its people. As mentioned in an earlier article, during my time living in Languedoc, I had many mystical dreams and feelings, which I could not ignore. I was born in the 50s and lived in Languedoc in the nineties at the commencement of the new era of Catharism!

The Church of Love

The Church of Love

Three years ago as a result of elevation and spiritual guidance as a Nirvana Buddhist, I received a strict chastisement from my spiritual superiors for neglecting and criticising my Christian origins.  I was so shocked, immediately repenting with remorse. Now, a little more wisdom and research into the community of present-day Cathars, leads me to accept that perhaps I was critical of the Roman Church (the basis of modern Christianity) because it has distorted the original teachings of God. Now, I strongly believe my origins to be Cathar, and my affiliation, the Church of Love. This embracement of all original faiths was a huge realization handed to me by my compassionate Buddhist gurus and guides. My main mission nowadays as a Buddhist is to bring all original and true faiths into the stable light of harmony. The Buddha in his final teaching, the Mahaparinirvana sutra, said,

 All rivers of faith flow into the great Ocean of Nirvana.

Interfaith Harmony and Unity

Interfaith Harmony and Unity