Saturday, July 24, 2004

Heresy

It turns out that the story espoused in The Da Vinci Code is just a modern-day version of the Albigensian Heresy. If that isn't familiar, you might be familiar instead with the phrase "Kill them all, God will know his own" uttered by a French member of the Catholic Church concerning a town which was resisting said Church's attempt to root out Albigensians (also known as "Cathars"). In the original Latin this was "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet.".

Here's one version of the story: 'In the 13th century under the authority of Pope Innocent III, it was ordered that France be cleansed of the Cathar heresy by a crusade. The town of Beziers was besieged, but the citizens of the town, 99% Catholic, refused to surrender the few Cathars amongst them. When the town fell, the leader of the crusader army asked advice from Arnaud-Armaury, the Abbot of Citeaux as to how to identify the heretics. He answered "Kill them all. God will know his own." All 20,000 residents of the town were slaughtered, including perhaps 200 Cathars.'

I don't want to go off at great length on this but the Cathars were, so far as I have been able to trace it, the original Puritans. They wanted to purify the earth. (Hence the connection to the word "catharsis".) They believed that the Catholic Church was Satanic. They had interesting ties to ancient non-European religious beliefs, probably including Zoroastrianism and possibly including some form of Hinduism. Their beliefs, on the one hand, are a continuation of Gnosticism in the Mediterranean region of Western Europe, apparently coming directly from the pre-Constantinian Christians, and on the other hand, led more or less directly to the Huguenots and the French Revolutionaries, with many of the former Cathari regions, villages, and families providing the leading members of these later religious movements. Or so at least is the judgement of Friedrich Heer.

Far from having died out, this underground religious belief seems to be alive and well today in the mind of Dan Brown. I thought I was the first to have this insight but it turns out through a quick Google search that there are many (I know, it's a shock, etc.). Here's one.

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