In the early 70’s meditation and mindfulness made their way into Western culture. With it’s roots in Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, one could understand the resistance of the Christian quarter at the time. Over the last 50 years, Western society’s devotion to the Christian tradition has waned substantially, making it easier for mindfulness to now be permanently woven into contemporary Western culture. It’s acceptance has been greatly enhanced by scientific research that has clearly established the profound benefits of mindfulness and meditation to one’s health and wellbeing.
What most people are unaware of is that Christianity also had a tradition of mindfulness, which I call Western mindfulness, that has been overshadowed by the dogma, conflicts and abuses of the ‘Church’. This ignorance of a mindfulness tradition within the Church isn’t a recent phenomenon, in fact, it’s death knoll could have been the genocide of the Cathars in the period between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.
The Cathars were Christians that had a strong Gnostic influence to their theology. It could be said that they where committed to a theology of love. They were attributed the name the good Christians because they genuinely possessed the qualities that were referred to as the ‘fruits of the Spirit’: love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, gentleness, faith, mercy and temperance. It’s no coincidence that when you are devoted to a practice of mindfulness, irrespective of your religious orientation, these are the qualities that you would bring to the fore in how you turn up in the world.
How different would our world be if we all possessed those qualities of consciousness referred to as the ‘fruits of the Spirit’?
The thing that had the biggest influence on the Cathars was the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew. The Cathars were especially inspired by the Beatitudes. A set of eight statements that were seen as a ‘path to enlightenment’ as we might refer to it today, but in the medieval times, were described as the path that made it possible for you to return to the kingdom of Heaven. It equates to Buddha’s Eight Fold Path to Enlightenment.
The Beatitudes are in essence a detailed explanation for how to live mindfully. Living mindfully is an approach to life that would see you being able to remember in each moment that you have a choice to be kinder to yourself, to others and to the planet. This is contrast to living life habitually, where the programming of your formative years is the filter responsible for you continuing to ‘get’ what you have always ‘got’. For most people that’s a life devoid of love, joy and peace. It’s more of a life that is your unique cocktail made up of ingredients that include; pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.
The Cathars understood how to create a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit. They had the foresight to ‘preserve’ their knowledge in the form of a set of ‘portable stain glass
windows’ (artwork in manuscripts) that after their elimination in the mid-fourteenth century were transcribed onto small cards, the likes of which arrived into Western Europe at the end of the fourteenth century. These would eventually be integrated into the suited cards that emerged from the middle East that became a popular form of entertainment (cards games). By the early fifteenth century these special sets of cards were know as Trumps or trionfi, and shortly after tarocchi. Their use for esoteric purposes (tarot readings) did not emerge until the end of the seventeenth century. Until then they were used primarily for entertainment and reflection.
What became known as the Marseille Tarot included what I call the Cathar Code, which is the primary focus of my soon to be released book The Spiritual Roots of the Tarot, the Cathar Code Hidden in the Cards. Their ‘code’, based on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, was in essence the foundational principles to living life with a Western approach to mindfulness. Over the ensuing months I will be sharing more about the Cathar’s approach to mindfulness.