The Cathars on the path to the Holy Grail – Chapter 7 of ‘The Grail and the Rosycross’




Great teachers of wisdom like Hermes, the Buddha, Zarathustra, or Jesus periodically constructed a spiritual bridge between the perfect and the imperfect world. In many legends, this in fact impossible, temporary link between eternity and time is referred to as the Grail, the chalice, or the divine mixing vessel: a protected field of life where seeking souls that have overcome all earthly resistance can find their way to eternity. In this book from the Crystal Series, the reader not only finds the legends of the West about Parcival and the Knights of the Grail of King Arthur’s Round Table, but also for instance the Persian legends of Kay Chosrou and the Chalice of Yamshid ‘that reflects the Universe,’ or the medieval Russian legend of Vsevolod, who became Grail King of the invisible city of Kitesj.

In Hermetic philosophy we also find references to a ‘Crater, sent down, filled with the powers of the Spirit,’ a Grail cup for the healing of humanity. It becomes evident that confrontation with the spiritual values of the Grail can totally change our life. Whoever succeeds in finding that unearthly energy can receive the divine wisdom firsthand. The numerous Grail legends all point to the creed of the present-day Rosicrucians: the mystery of the Grail is an inner process, on the highest level the soul can reach.


The appearance of the Cathars in the region around the Mediterranean coincides with the golden age of the European Grail stories. At royal courts, troubadours told the epic of the Grail and sang in mystical metaphors of divine love. The Cathars, however, didn’t stop at the narrative and contemplative side of things. They searched for the Grail in a daily applied mode of life of purity and courage.

In 950 AD, the Bulgarian Bogomils took the pure Christian-gnostic spiritual teachings of Mani further West. After 1000 AD, the Cathars continued to carry the torch of the Christian teachings of salvation, and within a short time a large and flourishing movement developed that spread its influence throughout the West. At the end of the 12 th century, hardly anybody in Europe had heard about the Grail, but by the end of the 13 th century this began to change. The vessel filled with the forces of the Spirit, as Hermes Trismegistus called it, had appeared in Europe to pour the redeem- ing message of Divine Love into mature human souls.

The centre of the Cathar movement could be found in Aquitania, in the South of France. An extraordinary high culture developed there. Especially in the Languedoc the minnesinging thrived and the pure Christian message of the Cathars was propagated. The path to the Holy Grail leads the modern seeker to the region of the Sabarthez, and particularly to the valley of the Ariège.

The coat of arms of the Sabarthez bears the motto Sabarthez, custos summorum, Sabarthez, guardian of the most high. This most high is symbolically represented by the winged Holy Grail and a radiant sun.

The Sabarthez with its capital Tarascon lies in the lovely valley of the Arie’ ge and extends to the high valley of Sem. It was surrounded by the county of Foix. On a rock about a hundred metres above the town of Foix, the majestic castle of the counts of Foix, patrons of the Cathars, still stands today. In the Middle Ages, this castle was famous for frequently welcoming troubadours like Chrétien de Troyes, Bertrand de Born and Wolfram von Eschenbach as visitors.

The Ariège valley has a wide branching system of caves, reaching many kilometers into the mountains. These caves, some small, others large with high ceilings, provided shelter to the Cathars. But even before them, others had found refuge and healing in this extensive complex with its warm springs and very specific atmo- sphere, turning it into a sanctuary for those wanting to practice their faith freely. The rock drawings which were found in this region show traces of a history of human habitation dating back about 12,000 years. The hills and caves of the Sabarthez were also used by the Celts and Druids as places of worship. Traces of Manichaeans, Paulicians and Priscillians, all of them predecessors of the Cathars, and similar groups based on the Gnosis and its teachings of wisdom, have been found.

The name ‘Cathars’ has been derived from the Greek ‘catharos’, meaning ‘pure’. The Cathars simply called themselves Christians, and the population spoke of them as the ‘bonshomes’ and ‘bonas femas’ – good men and good women. Amongst themselves, they used the names ‘amici Dei’ or ‘amicz de Dieu’ or ‘crezens’. The word Cathar was first used in the mid-12th century to indicate a group of heretics from Cologne. Later it was mainly used in official descriptions. The church gave them the name ‘Albigenses’, used for all so-called heretic movements in Aquitania. The word Albigenses is not related to the town of Albi in the South of France. It was used by the Church and the French from the North to describe heretics who were not Waldenses and lived in the south. Heretics in England were also called Albigenses, by the way.

It was not possible to become a Cathar merely by being baptised or by a declaration of joining that religious community. A long preparation in the Christian way of life after the example of Jesus was required. The Cathars realised only too well that no service of outward forms with imitated and mutilated rituals could liberate the soul from its captivity. To that end, first the Christian Mystery of Initiation of the Holy Grail had to be accomplished by a consistent and sincere Christian mode of life.

When we follow a young candidate on his path, we will feel best the seriousness and devotion of the Cathars to the process of inner transformation. The determined candidate renounced civil life, marriage, earthly possession as well as the consumption of meat and wine. He practised the endura, a voluntary process of neutra- lisation of everything binding him to earthly life in order to awaken and develop his soul. The time of preparation, which lasted several years, was spent in the caves of Ussat-Ornolac in the Ariège valley. Some caves served as temple, others as dwellings. The entrance to these dwellings was sometimes closed off with a wall and a doorway. These so-called spoulgas were inaccessible.

Until the 13th century, these caves were at the bank of a great lake stretching out to Tarascon. The candidate who had decided to follow the path of the Holy Grail, first had to pass a symbolic wall. In that way he bade farewell to the world and was granted access to the world of those who searched for the Divine Spirit.With the help of his elder brothers he followed that path step by step. These stages were accomplished in silence, in a daily routine of fasting, work and learning. Thus the candidate ac- quired knowledge of the wisdom of the stars (astrosophy), medicine, and particularly the mysteries relating to the stages of his inner development.

The Cathars knew that only liberating knowledge and a life of service would lead to the Holy Grail. Shortly before his initiation, the candidate ‘died’ a symbolic mystical death after a forty day period of fasting. In the cave of Keplèr he had to stay for three days in a tomb in order to die as to his earthly nature. In this way, his soul could regain its freedom and in imitation of Jesus speak the ‘Consummatum est’, it has been accomplished.

The mystery of the Grail is closely linked with dying as to our earthly nature. The inscription on the Grail chalice, by which the candidate is called to the brotherhood, can also be considered as an epitaph. However, the endura has nothing to do with physical death or with any pain or torture. The endura was, and still is, solely a process in which all ties binding the consciousness to the past are broken. In that process, the old I surrenders to the renewing Christ power in order for the soul to be reborn.

On the third day of his stay in the cave of Keplèr, the candidate was raised from the tomb by his guide. Then he could receive the consolamentum, the sacrament of consolation, and his pure soul could be linked with the Divine Spirit. This momentous event took place in the cave of Bethlehem. The candidate entered this cave through the ‘mystical gate’. In the cave of Bethlehem stood a granite altar covered by a white linen cloth, on which lay a Bible opened at the Gospel of John. In a niche in the rock wall, hidden behind a curtain, the Grail chalice was placed. The symbol of the Pentagram, chiselled in the rock wall, was of Druid origin just as the altar stone. To receive the consolamentum, the can didate had to stand in the chiselled Pentagram.With his head raised and legs and arms spread, he formed a fivepointed star.

The birth of Christ became a physical reality for the candidate during this initiation. Antonin Gadal, the Patriarch of the Cathars and guardian of their treasure, testified: ‘Nothing would be able to make the Man, born in Bethlehem, tremble or leave the right path. Nobody in this world could overcome the Mysterious Power he represented.’

As a new parfait, the candidate who had accomplished his path and had become perfect, left the sanctuary through the mystical gate. He celebrated a ritual and blessed his companions. Then he walked the famous way of the Cathars that still exists today: across the Montagne Sacré to the Montségur, where the parfaits assembled before they went out into the world to bring the Light to their fellow human beings.

Built on a high rock, Montségur is shaped like a ship. This castle had been built at a place where in ancient times a sun temple had been, in which the mysteries of Zarathustra were linked with humanity of those days. In the chapel is a window admitting a ray of sunlight on the 24th of June, St. John’s Day, at 12 o’clock noon, lighting up the symbol of the Sun Logos on the opposite wall.

When in 1244, the army of the inquisition forced the inhabitants of the castle to surrender, the Cathars obtained a temporary respite in order to finish their spiritual work. On the evening before they were burnt at the stake, all members of the Brotherhood standing by their confession received the Consolamentum from the hands of their Grandmaster Bertrand Marti in order to link their souls with the Divine Spirit. The mysterious treasure of the Cathars was hidden in the caves of the Ariège valley. On 26 March 1244, 205 men and women surrendered voluntarily to the flames of the stake. Legend tells that on that day, when the Cathars walked hand in hand and singing into the flames, a troubadour who was among the spectators prophesied:  ‘After 700 years the laurel will blossom on the ashes of these martyrs.’

In 1944, the patriarch of the Brotherhood of the Cathars, Antonin Gadal, climbed with seven witnesses to the Montse¤ gur and thus fulfilled the prophecy of this troubadour. Once again it had been proven that the seekers for the Holy Light that is differentiated in the Holy Grail, can be persecuted, tortured and murdered, but the Light itself can never be destroyed. It will always return to the place where it once shone.

In Albi, the persecutors of the Cathars built a fortresslike cathedral to show their victory over Catharism. The cathedral still stands today and dominates the town. Thus one of the darkest pages of the history of the ‘Christian’ church was closed. However, the all-forgiving love of the Grail and the corresponding absolute conflictlessness of the Cathars have also left their mark. In Albi wonderful and unexpected processes have happened, which have led to a spiritual revolution and have given a new impulse to the spiritual path of liberation of humanity.

In 1167, not far from Albi, the Brotherhood of the Cathars had been called upon by the Bulgarian patriarch Nicetas to propagate the mysteries of Christian initiation in Europe. Humanity had to be liberated from the historical Christ and the dogmas related to it, for these images kept and keep humanity from the liberating potential brought about by the cosmic Christ power as a Grail, filled with the Light that drives all darkness from human souls. Whoever is touched by that insight becomes afflicted by an incurable wound driving him to seek the universal truth. He will strive for the rebirth of the soul, and shall no longer let himself be led astray by the songs of his I that only seeks to reaffirm the security and power of its own small world. Humanity must learn to live out of the love sacrifice and the miraculous feeding of the Grail again.

In the year 1954, in the Rose Garden of Albi, next to the stronghold of the Inquisition, the Universal Light has been passed on to the Young-Gnostic Brotherhood of the Golden Rosycross in order to continue and develop the work started by the Cathars all over the world. Jan van Rijckenborgh, the Grand Master of the Spiritual School of the Golden Rosycross, received the Seal of the Grand Master from the hands of Antonin Gadal. It was the same seal the Bulgarian patriarch Nicetas had entrusted to the Brotherhood of the Cathars in the 12th century.

As a visible sign of this spiritual link, on 5 May 1957 a monument called ‘Galaad’ was erected in the Ariège valley. The name Galaad or Galahad frequently occurs in the Grail legends. Literally translated it means: ‘Stone Heap bearing Witness’. On the square of the monument lies the altar stone at which the parfait after his initiation in the cave of Bethlehem celebrated his first ritual. It has been given to the Young- Gnostic Brotherhood by the patriarch of the Cathar Sanctuaries. This monument represents the uninter- rupted effort to save humanity from its spiritual captiv ity, expressed by the Triple Alliance of the Light: Grail, Cathar, and Cross with Roses.

It is obvious that even today, for example, the cave of Bethlehem and the Cathedral of Ussat-les-Bains are still special places where the atmosphere of inner purity and service are still tangible. The ‘Cathedral’ or cave of Lombrives has an 80 metre high space where the Cathars celebrated their services. In 1328, eighty-four years after the fall of Montségur, this cave was finally closed off from the outside world making it impossible for the 510 inhabitants to be fed by the community. Their remains have been recovered later.

Although the message of the Grail may have been passed on to humanity in colourful images, it is certainly not a fairytale but a living, vibrating reality in our modern age. That reality cannot be discovered by idolising or digging in the past. It is a dimension to be unlocked by the sober practice of the endura, that is: by giving up earthly interests and by striving for the link with the Divine Spirit, the Universal Gnosis.

According to the hermetic law ‘As above, so below’, the Grail has a macrocosmic, a cosmic and a microcosmic aspect. The macrocosmic aspect is the All-Manifestation. The cosmic aspect is related to the Earth as an abode for humanity. The microcosmic aspect is the Grail chalice within the human being. That chalice has to be found again, cleansed and prepared to receive the sanctifying power of the Spirit.

That miracle is possible for everyone. And hence, the image of the living Grail stirs the deepest layers of our consciousness and awakens the slumbering and encapsulated soul. The recollection of its reality that has once been and that humanity is confronted with over and again, turns a human being into a seeker for God. The timeless question: ‘Do you wish to receive the Grail?’ is answered by the equally timeless words: ‘There is but one law. A holy, deep longing!’


Introduction. Seeking the Holy Grail?

  1. The Mystery of the Holy Grail
  2. The Book of Kings of the Persians of Antiquity
  3. The journey from East to West
  4. Origin and meaning of the Grail legends of the West
  5. The Celtic Grail and the Arthur legend
  6. Parcival – the path of the seeker
  7. The Cathars on the path to the Holy Grail
  8. Kitesj – symbol of an undamaged cosmos
  9. The hermetic path of initiation of the Grail
  10. The Grail in the struggle against the past
  11. The Grail is present in every human being

From: The Grail and the Rosycross
Chapter: The Cathars on the path to the Holy Grail




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