“The last surviving ruins of the Cathar Gnostic school in the south of France near Toulouse, in Languedoc, are now a tourist attraction. The so-called sacred mountain of Montsegur and the meadow beneath, the Field of the Burned, were the places where the remnants of the Cathars (Greek for ‘pure’), branded heretics by the Catholic Church, were brutally disposed of in March 1244. …
“Cathari beliefs were typically Gnostic. Bertrand Russell described them thus: It seems that the Cathari were dualists … they considered the Old Testament Jehovah a wicked demiurge, the true God being only revealed in the New Testament. They regarded matter as essentially evil,and believed that for the virtuous, there is no resurrection of the body. The wicked, however, will suffer transmigration into the bodies of animals.” ~Bernard Simon
The Cathar, or Cathari, are not the best known group of Gnostics, but they are a legitimate one. We all know that early Christians suffered much prosecution from governments and other religions in the early days. Yet they were perfectly willing to do the same when they gained political power.
The Cathars were one of those alternatives to conventional Christianity that the Catholic church just couldn’t allow to exist. So in 1244 the Catholic church wiped them out. It is claimed the Cathars walked calmly to their death singing sacred songs and refusing to engage in violent response. Like all true soldiers of Light, they chose to save their immortal souls rather than their physical bodies. It was not that they didn’t care about physical death, it was a matter of priorities. They would rather accept physical death than engage in violence and possibly lose their souls as a result.
Demiurge and the Physical World
The belief that the physical universe is a fallen universe, created by the fallen angels, or the Demiurge, is common in Gnostic groups. Not only Christian Gnostics, but those who preceded the Christians such as the Essenes and the Theraputae of Egypt had the same belief.
You frequently see questions to spiritual groups on social media asking why God allows death, or why God created disease, etc. The correct answer is that He didn’t. Those things are all part of the false creation of the Demiurge, the realm of matter.
The Cathars are not the only Gnostic group to build their settlement near a mountain. It was, in fact, very common. While the chosen mountain may have been sacred for some reason, that really wasn’t important. It just had to be a mountain with no one living on it. If the mountain had deposits of metals, crystals,or gems in it, that would make it better, more “sacred”. The Essenes always got up before sunrise, took a ritual bath to cleanse themselves of “sin”, then climbed to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise while reciting certain prayers asking God to bring more spiritual light into the world. It is reasonable to assume the Cathars uses their sacred mountain in much the same way.
I think it is a misinterpretation to say that the Cathars, and some other Gnostic groups, believed that the virtuous would go on to a spiritual life after death, while the wicked would be reborn as animals. The way most of us would interpret “virtuous” and “wicked,” there would be a lot of people who didn’t belong to either group. What about them?
In fact, none were left out of the true belief. That belief was that those who properly prepared for a spiritual life after physical death would go on to such a life. Everyone else would be reborn as animals,then plants, over and over until their spirit had insufficient energy to come back again. Only then would it return to what we might call the spirit recycling center to be recharged then reissued as a new human. This is one reason why so many Gnostics were always kind and gentle with animals. It could, after all, be your dead grandmother.