Its bases are to be found in the evangelic texts, and in particular in the Gospel according to St John. Cathars are Christians, but they are different from the Roman Catholics because of a dualistic interpretation of the world. For them God creates eternity and spirit, whereas time and material life are the creations of the Evil.The human soul is divine. The body is the prison of the soul and is devilish. Baptism or "consolament" is the unique sacrament which is practiced by the Cathars. It reveals the Human its divine nature.
A religion without church nor cross
The Cathar clergy is not very numerous, but very active. During the golden age of Catharism in Languedoc, the believers are allowed to become "good Christians" after a long religious instruction. Then they can preach and celebrate the Cathar baptism. Their mission is the evangelization of the population. They are more famous under the name of "Perfecti". They live among the populations of the villages. Catharism ignores the places of remembrance, churches or chapels, refuses decorations, sculptures, but opens "Houses", which are at the same time orphanages and schools.
Poverty as a way of life
The "Good Christians" organize their lifes around the principles of the original church. They refuse material wealth, they all work, even people from the Nobility, they respect the "rule of truth" and chastity, they don't swear, they don't take the oath, they don't kill people nor animals, they don't eat any meat.
Besides, the absence of a strong social hierarchy and the essential role granted to women who benefit from a status equal to men, distinguish the Cathars from the other Christians.
Catharism in Western Europe
In the 12th century the Roman Catholic church dominates Western Europe without share-out. The Pope is at the same time spiritual and temporal leader. Royal powers are asserting themselves in France, in England, in Spain where the Moors are repelled away southwards.
This society is strongly organized in three orders which assume each a defined role : the clergymen pray and stimulate the religious life ; the nobles go to war, are in charge of justice and possess the economic and political power. They are forbidden to work with their hands. The commoners take charge of the work, especially agriculture. An important tax system allows nobles and clergymen to collect the wealth resulting of the exploitation of their vast domains.
In this medieval Europe which is getting organized and growing rich, the Cathar doctrine preaching poverty, work of all, suspension of the oath, represents a real danger for the established order. Catharism seduces believers in all Europe, and particularly in Occitania (south west of France) where active communities are often developping with the friendly support of local lords.
Desire of purity and Love of God
A divine soul in a devilish body