- 2 -self-development, spirituality, and mysticism as an individual and personal quest.Second, they both share a sense of the emergence of a new age of peace and fulfillment.This feeling of like-mindedness seems to reinforce the internal evidence for dualism inthe symbols. Intuitively, heretical origins for the Tarot feels comfortable.But history isn't about feelings; it's about evidence. So we must undertake anextensive examination of the historical evidence to examine the hypothesis thatCatharism was a source for the Tarot symbols.
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Were the Cathari direct descendents of the ancient Gnostics? Yes, sorta, kinda.
The Medieval Manichee
by Runciman (1947, Cambridge University Press) is a dated butclassic treatment of the subject. The influence of Runciman's work can be seen in the factthat the book was reprinted in 1955, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, and 1996. The book is areal goldmine for the English-speaking reader because it provides a comprehensivesynthesis of the earlier French and German scholarly studies.Runciman establishes that fundamental elements of Cathari practice go back toGnosticism, specifically the Manichees (Burkitt, 1925). The Manichees were divided intoinitiated Elect and ordinary members called Hearers. The Cathari were divided intoPerfecti and believers or Credentes. The Cathar initiation ceremony seems to be derivedfrom the Manichaean ritual. Both distinguished between the Gnosis (knowledge) of theInitiate and the Pistis (belief) of the ordinary believer. Both avoided swearing and werevegetarians. Both gave an equal place to women who could be initiated as ManichaeanElects or Cathar Perfects. The parallels are too numerous and the details too close to bedismissed as coincidence.