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Catharism and the Trumps

Part III: Catharism and Tarot Okay, after a couple of dry historical sections--let's get down to the nitty-gritty! Is the Tarot actually Gnostic in origin? The answer is--it's hard to see Catharism as the sole or fundamental source of the Tarot symbols. It is possible that the dualist heresy was A source but essentially we have to reject the idea that the dualist heresy was THE source (or primary or fundamental, etc.). After analyzing what the Cathari believed, it just isn't consistent to think of the Tarot as a Cathar symbolic system. Read More »

Magic: a Dilemma for Christianity

3. Magic: a dilemma for Christianity While it is clear that paganism disappeared, it is equally clear that Magic did not vanish. As a result, the issue of magic always posed a dilemma for the Church. The dilemma could not be solved by crushing Magic because belief in supernatural powers was an integral part of the culture into which Christianity was born. Indeed, Magic was an integral part of Christianity itself. The old and new testaments are full of demons and angels, prophesies and miracles. Read More »

Christian Magic

2. Christian magic During the first few centuries of the common era, magic was identified with the paganism of the Greco-Roman world that gave rise to Christianity. These rival religions were competitors and paganism was seen as a threat. Efforts focused on suppressing the power and beliefs of paganism. Read More »

Joachim of Fiore

Part V: Joachim of Fiore To understand the transformations that occurred in Catharism, we must pause to consider the strange mystic and prophet, Joachim of Fiore. Too "Catholic" for the occultist historian and too "heretical" for the orthodox, he appears more often in footnotes than in the text of history books. It has only been in recent decades that his incredible influence on the intellectual history of the Middle Ages and Renaissance has become the subject of scholarly research. Read More »

Doctrines of Catharism

Part II: Cathari Doctrine and Practice We have a great deal of information on Catharism because of the Inquisition--specifically set up after the Albigensian Crusade to stamp out the heresy. As always, one has to look at the testimony of accusers with a critical eye. Charges of immorality, for example, were not based on evidence but on the prevailing theory of heresy (Moore, 1975). Heresy was evil and unnatural and therefore was expected to show moral and physical symptoms. Leprosy was often taken as evidence of heresy. Read More »

Art of Memory

8. Art of memory One of the most confusing aspects of magic deals with imagery. It will take several chapters to untangle all the threads. We will begin with the Art of Memory which Yates (1966) established as an integral part of the esoteric tradition. Yates also shows that Llull's Art contributed to this tradition, which helps tie this chapter to material presented earlier. Read More »

Universal Belief in Magic

1. Universal belief in magic There are a number of things that we know about magic in 15th century Italy with a fair degree of historical certainty. We know, for example, that there was a universal belief in the efficacy of magic. So if one were to ask whether the Tarot designers and early card-players believed in magic, the answer is yes. Read More »

Catharism and the Tarot Conclusions

Conclusions This series of studies examined the hypothesis that the Tarot symbols are based on a Gnostic model. The evidence argues against any direct influence from the ancient Gnostics. Their elaborate myths are not evident in the Tarot symbols, their literature was lost, their concepts aren't preserved in the late Medieval literature. The symbols of dualism in the Tarot are more likely derived from proximal sources such as Neoplatonism and the dualism inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Read More »


Part IX: Dante It occurred to me that as we progressed through this series of studies, it was difficult to see how the many threads were woven together. As the infrastructure of Catharism was violently disrupted, its remnants were transformed by the Spiritual Franciscans with their Joachimism and their institution of the Tertiaries and later the Confraternities. The Gnostic doctrine, inherited from the Bogomils, was supplanted by a Neoplatonic Apocalypticism. Read More »

Tarot Imagery

Part VIII: Tarot imagery In an earlier section, we briefly examined the hypothesis that the Tarot symbols are the product of, or were directly influenced by, Gnosticism in the form of Catharism. The answer was clearly No! A scholarly examination of Catharism uncovered doctrines that are in direct conflict with a number of the Tarot symbols, as well as with concept of any material expression of dualist dogma. Read More »

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