In Cave and Castle: The Esoteric Quest in Languedoc, Provence and CataloniaLeonard George, Ph.D.

The Esotericism of the TroubadoursChristopher Bamford

The Survival of Hidden Gnostic and Hermetic Wisdom in the Dark Ages Yuri Stoyanov, Ph.D.

Resurgences of Manichaeism: Cathars, the Grail, and Esoteric ChristianityChristopher Bamford

The Cathars: Their Beliefs and OriginsJames McDonald

The Language of Love and Longing: Troubadour Poetry & Song in Medieval LanguedocMarjorie Roth, Ph.D.

The History and Language of OccitaniaBertran de La Farge

Gauthier Langlois

The Myths and Mysteries of Mary Magdalene Kayleen Asbo, Ph.D.

The Knights TemplarKaren Ralls, Ph.D.

Platonic Master Builders of Medieval EuropeScott Olsen, Ph.D.

In Cave and Castle: The Esoteric Quest in Languedoc, Provence and Catalonia
Leonard George, Ph.D.

Nowhere has an esoteric heritage as old or as rich as Languedoc, Provence and Catalonia.   The first people in the region plumbed the mysterious caverns and painted visions on the walls – their earliest works are nine times older than Egypt’s pyramids.  The divine feminine called seekers here through the ages – as Celtic Epona, Greek Aphrodite, Roman Venus, Mary the bearer of the Holy Grail, Shekhinah the presence of God for the Jewish Kabbalists.  Medieval Troubadours mapped the esoteric range of lust and love.  Cathars preached sanctity through non-violence and simplicity, and were met with slaughter by a threatened church.  The roots of the quest, and of its suppression, lie in Languedoc.

The Esotericism of the Troubadours
Christopher Bamford

This talk will explore what is too often thought of as simply a poetic movement, but is in fact a profoundly esoteric one. The Troubadours—called the first Romantics, because they wrote in the vernacular, their mother tongue, and stuck close to experience—represent a profound mutation in consciousness and culture. Drawing upon and transforming through practice ancient pagan folk wisdom, mystery traditions from Eleusis through Sappho to Neoplatonism, as well Sufi love poetry and practices, the Troubadours created the first truly “feminine” culture. Secular, though spiritual, their insights fitted precisely with the Marian spirit of the age and its profound bridal mysticism.

The Survival of Hidden Gnostic and Hermetic Wisdom in the Dark Ages
Yuri Stoyanov, Ph.D.

Following the establishment of the orthodoxies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, schools and individuals professing Gnostic and Hermetic teachings were progressively driven underground. Based on the speaker’s latest discoveries and field work in regions ranging from Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East to Central Asia, this talk charts the principal underground lines of survival and transmission of the teachings through which ancient Gnostic and Hermetic wisdom were able to endure frequent waves of repression. The rise of Bogomilism and Catharism in medieval Europe, and the subsequent grand resurrection of Hermeticism during the Renaissance, brought these traditions back to prominence.

Resurgences of Manichaeism: Cathars, the Grail, and Esoteric Christianity
Christopher Bamford

The mission of the third century prophet Mani, founder of Manichaeism, is little known and even less understood, but within esoteric Christianity and world spirituality, his teachings constitute a “secret stream” of the utmost importance for the continuing evolution of humanity and the Earth. This talk will explore the nature of Mani’s mission, the inner meaning of his teachings, and their resurgence in the Cathars, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, early Guild Masonry, the Templars, and the Rosicrucians.

The Cathars: Their Beliefs and Origins
James McDonald

We will briefly discuss Cathar beliefs, covering aspects that are less well known as well as those more widely understood. According to Catholic sources, Medieval Cathars claimed that their beliefs and practices dated from the earliest days of Christianity. Drawing on primary sources, insights will be offered into these claims, discussing Gnostic ideas in Early Christianity and assessing the possibility that the Cathars preserved not only Gnostic and Dualist ideas from the early days of Christianity but also many mainstream beliefs and practices. There will be opportunity to ask questions on all aspects of the Cathars of the Languedoc, including theology, origins, modern vestiges, and the Crusade against them in the 13th century.

The Language of Love and Longing:
Troubadour Poetry & Song in Medieval Languedoc

Marjorie Roth, Ph.D.

A repertoire of songs in Old Occitan written by the poet/composer/performers known as Troubadours flourished in southern France, northern Spain, and parts of northern Italy during the 12th and early 13th centuries at the courts of illustrious patrons like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marie de Champagne. We will contemplate the mystical practice of Fin amour, or “courtly love”, which defined the social context of the Troubadours and provided the main topic of their songs. We will consider the influence of Celts, Cathars, and Arabic culture on Troubadour poetry and listen to their songs “so that before long we shall be able, ladies and lovers, to recover the joy which we have lost”- Raimon de Miraval

The History and Language of Occitania
Bertran de La Farge

Occitania is the country whose vernacular language is Lenga d’Óc. Its history begins around 200 BC with the Celtic, Greek, Iberian, and Latin peoples of the area, out of which a Gallo-Roman civilization developed, centered in Narbonensis. In 418, the Visigoths established there both a kingdom, with Toulouse as its capital, and their own Arian Christian religion. A new language, a synthesis of Latin and Celtic tongues, gradually appeared. With the emergence of the Cathars and the Troubadours, Lenga d’Óc became a mature culture, and Occitanian civilization developed its own ethic of Paratge and Convivencia, and its warm ideal of Chivalry. Despite sixty years of war and Inquisition in the Middle Ages, its spirit has never died, and remains alive today.

Life in the Languedoc in the 12th and 13th Centuries
Gauthier Langlois

The people of the Languedoc protected themselves in the 11th century in fortified villages called castra, built around a church or castle. These were places where peasants, artisans, merchants and knights met and socialized. Lords dispensed justice, Troubadours developed their art, and from the 12th century Cathars found a ready audience for their teachings. Lords, often in conflict with the Catholic Church for land, favored the Cathar Church. It was this society that was disrupted by the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century.

The Myths and Mysteries of Mary Magdalene
Kayleen Asbo, Ph.D.

Drawing on the medieval Legenda Aurea and a decade of contemporary research, this multi-media lecture will trace the story of Mary Magdalene from the saint’s legendary arrival upon the shores of Saintes Maries de la Mer to the caves of La Baume, where she is believed to have lived as a contemplative hermit for the last thirty years of her life. Art, poetry and music will bring to life the lasting legacy of the divergent myths of Mary Magdalene, each revealing a different archetypal element of prophet, priestess, penitent, mother, bride and embodiment of Sophianic wisdom.

The Knights Templar
Karen Ralls, Ph.D.

The great variety of heresy-related trials and alleged “heretics” and “heresies” in the late medieval period remains of interest to many today –especially those that clustered in southwestern France in the cultured, civilized area known as the Languedoc. Although groups such as the Cathars, Knights Templars, or the gifted Troubadours of the Languedoc may be more familiar to many today, there was far more going on in the High Middle Ages at the time as well, with networks extending into Sicily, Spain, Britain, and beyond. Why was this area in particular – one of the most artistic in all of Western Europe – persistently labelled a ‘hotbed of heresy’?

Platonic Master Builders of Medieval Europe
Scott Olsen, Ph.D.

Following in the footsteps of their Pythagorean predecessors, the Medieval and Gothic Master Builders implemented the great geometric ratios of Nature and the Golden Ratio as taught by Plato in their designs, plans and architecture. Guided by the insights of writers such as Keith Critchlow and John James on Chartres Cathedral, we will consider Nigel Hiscock’s analysis of Platonic geometry in the plans of medieval abbeys and cathedrals and the stunningly suggestive Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt.