Early Catharism in Frankish areas
Whether or not the New Theology had influenced any western heresies in the eleventh century, it had certainly impacted upon the development of Bogomilism. It is clear, from the study of Neo-Messalianism, that by the twelfth century, in Byzantium, Neo-Messalian ideas and practices were becoming fused with the dualist Bogomil heresy, which had spread there from its native Bulgaria. Faced with the persecutions of the Komneni Emperors, several heretics were tempted to take the crusading routes in the reverse direction, towards Germany, France, Flanders, Champagne, Burgundy, Toulouse and Aquitaine, whose inhabitants were known, collectively, to the Greeks and the peoples of the East, as “the Franks”. The Bogomils must have hoped that these Franks, who were so keen to fight for Christian rights in the East, would wish to provide a refuge for other Christians who were being persecuted, not in this case by Muslims, but by the Greeks. The religious movement that the Bogomils would inaugurate in the West would become famous as the heresy of the Cathars.
It is known that eastern dualist heretics came to Frankish lands in the 12th century, where they were sometimes called Popelicani or Publicani. This was the name that was used in the contemporary chronicles, both for the Paulician dualist communities that the Crusaders found in the East, and for the Paulician fighting troops, that the southern Italians came up against, when fighting with the Normans against the Byzantine army. It is hard to know whether the missionary immigrants to the West were actually Paulicians (dualist followers of an old heresy which had originated in Armenia), or whether they were Bogomils, who were being given the only Latin name that Westerners had for eastern dualists. Other groups who appeared in the West, and who seemed to have Greek connections, were called Cathars. Is there any evidence that might suggest that the latter in particular had brought Greek Neo-Messalian (or New Theology) ideas with them?
Heretics with Greek connections in Köln
In 1143 at Köln (Cologne), a dispute arose between two reformist groups who were both antagonistic towards the Church, one of which seems to have been led by immigrants. This dispute is documented, because it provoked Evervinus, Prior of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Steinfeld, to send an urgent letter to Bernard de Clairvaux.
According to Evervinus, one group sought a straightforward renewal of the Church. These critics thought it had strayed too far from its early Christian founders, and had become too worldly and too corrupt for its sacraments to be any longer valid.
The second group, however, believed that its adherents belonged to the original, uncorrupted apostolic church; they were said to have their own hierarchy and their own pope; they condemned marriage, held no possessions and tried to lead an austere and exceptionally pure life, abstaining from all meat and milk products, because they were the product of copulation. Although there is no mention of a dualist metaphysic as such, there is an inordinate stress on personal purity.
Even so, these heretics may not have been thorough-going dualists, because they did not reject the Eucharist, but seem to have made of every meal a Eucharist, in which the highest grade consecrated the food and drink into the body and blood of Christ, so that all who partook, nourished themselves as members of Christ’s body:
“They have openly confessed to us that at their daily meals, after the manner of Christ and the Apostles, by the Lord’s Prayer, they consecrate their food and drink, thus changing it into the body and blood of Christ, so as therefrom to nourish themselves as the members and body of Christ.”
Similarly they did not, like dualists, reject water baptism, but considered it as a preparation for the real baptism of fire and the Spirit. They were divided into three grades: the attenders (auditores), the believers (credentes) and the chosen (electi). The full rigours of the purified life were presumably only practised by the latter.
They were keen to debate with representatives of the Church, to whom they proclaimed that their tradition
“has lain concealed from the time of the martyrs even to our own day, and has persisted thus in Greece and certain other lands.” 
This seems to be an early testimony to the introduction, into the West, of Byzantine Bogomilism, and it seems to point as much to Neo-Messalian, as to dualist, influence.
Catharism in the Rhineland and Flanders in the 1150s and 1160s
By 1163, when heretics were found in Bonn and condemned in Köln, they were, for the first time, called Cathars (presumably from the Greek word for ‘pure’) by the Köln chronicler (Chronica Regia Coloniensis):
“Some heretics of the sect called Cathars came to Cologne from Flanders. […] They were brought before the church court and thoroughly examined about their sect.”
Also, a priest called Jonas was condemned for spreading Cathar (?) heresy (de Cattorum haeresi) in the 1150s and 1160s in the dioceses of Liège, Köln and Trier.
Is the name ‘Cathar’ an indication that early Eastern heresy in this area came from Greece rather than Bulgaria? By the end of the century the usual appellation for dualist heretics in the north would be changed to Bulgar (Bougre), as the persecution of Cathars intensified (were they then forced to seek more support from the Slav Bogomils in the Balkans, or was the whole movement just becoming more dualist?). The witnesses for the heresy in the Köln area used the names Cathari, Catharistae and Cataphrygiae: the first two would be known from Augustine’s catalogue as referring to the exceptionally pure; the third was a name given to the Montanists in early Christian history, who had believed that the Holy Spirit had been conferred on them. Such names clearly emphasised the heretics’ excessive desire for purity (and maybe the importance they gave to the Holy Spirit), acknowledged their link to the Greek East, and were memorable to the common people because of the association with cats (supposedly the familiars of the devil). There is, as yet, little to indicate that these Cathars were fully-fledged dualists.
There is, however, much more information available about the Köln heretics of 1163, thanks to a series of erudite sermons preached by a monk from the nearby monastery of Schönau. Eckbert von Schönau used the name Cathar for them, and mentioned all the points, made twenty years earlier by Evervinus von Steinfeld, – except the one about their hierarchy. However, he also stated that they believed that all flesh was created by the devil, that human souls were apostate spirits expelled from heaven, and that Christ did not have a real human body during his time on earth. This sounds, at last, like a complete dualist theology; but it may not be quite as straightforward as it seems.
Eckbert clearly believed that they were dualists. As a consequence, he then studied Augustine’s treatises against the most famous dualists of all, the Manichaeans of late classical antiquity, before writing his sermons, – as he proudly admitted. Some of the things he alleged against them certainly derive more from his learned research, than from his experience in Köln, because he accused them of celebrating the Manichaean festival of Bema – which has to be many centuries out of date! It is impossible to tell how much of Eckbert’s ‘evidence’ has come out of the pages of Augustine’s famous anti-Manichaean writings. By this time, the dualist element may have started to take over from the Neo-Messalian (if such it was), but it would be wrong to judge, on the basis of this overly erudite text, that the process had been completed by 1163.
Early Cathars of the Greek tendency in the Languedoc
In the last quarter of the 12th century, dualist teachings were starting to be noticed in southern France, particularly in the areas where the outspoken anti-clerical heretic, Henri de Lausanne, had been active earlier in the century. The first real evidence of dualist heresy in the Languedoc is the 1177 letter from Raymond V, Count of Toulouse, to the Chapter-General of the Cistercian Order, asking for help to counter heresies, which included errors concerning the creation of man and the introduction of a theory of two principles. (The evidence for the supposed Cathar council of Saint-Felix in 1167 is far too dubious to be used ; and the heretics interrogated at Lombers in 1165 seem to have been strongly reformist and anti-clerical, but not dualist.)
In the Languedoc, there is certainly evidence of a Greek influence. Durand, the Waldensian, who rejoined the Catholic Church in order to refute what he saw as the greater danger posed by the dualists, was aware of three parties among the dualist (in his words ‘Manichaean’) heretics in the early years of the thirteenth century:
“They are divided into three parts, and each part judges and condemns the others. Some of them obey heretics in Greece, others in Bulgaria, and others in Dragovitsa.” (from his Book Opposing the Manichaeans, chapter 5)
“Besides, the Greek Manichaeans disagree with the Bulgarian, and both with the Dragovitsan.”(from chapter 12)
He always mentioned the Greeks first (perhaps because he thought they had arrived first, or perhaps because they were for a time the most important group); and he knew that the Greeks and Bulgarians shared a generally similar Bogomil world-view, nowadays believed to be mitigated dualism, in which the principle of evil was held to be a later and subordinate creation. (It is thought that the Dragovitsans held to an absolute dualist belief that the two principles of good and evil, God and the Devil, were equal and both eternal.)
Is it possible to discern any specifically Neo-Messalian (or New Theology) doctrines in the greater volume of testimony about Catharist teachings in the South?
The central rite of the Cathar Church, of whichever tradition, was the consolamentum. This was a spiritual baptism, not unlike that preached by Symeon the New Theologian. Among the Cathars, those who had already been ‘consoled’ into an extremely austere and pure life, laid their hands on the head of an initiate (or postulant), to turn him into a perfectus (a purely spiritual person). This signified the latter’s reception of the powers of the Holy Spirit. (Another name for the Holy Spirit is the Comforter: that is why the ceremony was called a consoling.) The postulant was told:
“You wish to receive the spiritual baptism by which the Holy Spirit is given in the Church of God, together with the Holy Prayer and the imposition of hands by Good Men.”
In this way he was reborn into a new life in the Holy Spirit. Now his purified soul would be ready to ascend directly to God at the moment of his death.
Symeon the New Theologian had been keen that his monks should want a second baptism, and he had referred them to the laying-on of hands by Peter and John in Acts 8:14-17. Similarly, Chrysomallos had been suspected of Neo-Messalian heresy, because of his encouragement of a second, spiritual baptism. They were both mindful of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus (in John 3:5) that a man cannot enter into the kingdom of God, unless he has been born of water and the spirit. There was, of course, an important difference between Symeon’s spiritual baptism and that of the Cathars: for the latter, the consolamentum ensured their eternal salvation, as long as they did not commit any sins after it.
A new heaven and a new earth
Another teaching, which may derive from the New Theology, can be found in the Manifestatio Haeresis, an anonymous early 13th-century description of Catharism in the Languedoc. This mentions their hope for a new heaven and a new earth, which they call the land of the living:
“In that land of the living, they believe, there are cities and outside them castles, villages and woodlands, meadows, pastures, sweet water and salt, beasts of the forest and domestic animals, dogs and birds for the hunt, gold and silver, utensils of various kinds, and furniture. They also say that everyone shall have his wife there and sometimes a mistress. They shall eat and drink, play and sleep, and do all things just as they do in the world.”
Behind this curiously worldly (and therefore non-dualist) account, there seems to lie a description of the present world transformed into a utopia, as found in Symeon’s description of the “Day of the Lord”. It is difficult to judge, because many of the details are likely to have come from the polemical imagination of the antagonistic author, rather than from the preaching of the heretics.
It was probably a hope for the future, but one that was beyond history. They may have expected a general resurrection in the land of the living at the end of time, when all the souls would have purified themselves from contact with matter and with evil. Then the world would be transformed from the hell it had been under the devil’s rule, to the heaven it would be under God’s. (One can see how New Theology ideas could quite easily be tucked into dualist clothing.)
Catharism in Champagne
To return to the longer but slower growth of Catharism in the North: by the first decade of the 13th century, there had been many instances of (otherwise unspecified) Popelican and Bougre heresy in northern France.
One of the fuller 12th-century testimonies to Catharism in northern France may be the letter from the church at Liège to Pope L. Which pope was this? Pope Leo IX (1048-54) has been suggested, but this is surely much too early. The letter is usually assumed to have been written in 1145 to Pope Lucius II, during the time when the episcopal throne was empty. If that is also too early, the letter would have been sent to Pope Lucius III (1181-85). Whichever it is, it describes a far-flung missionary activity, which was being organised from Montwimers (later called Mont-Aimé) in the bishopric of Châlons-sur-Marne, and which was affecting the ecclesiastical province of Liège.
“From Montwimers, which is the name of a village in France, a certain heresy appears to have overflowed various regions of the land, a heresy so varied and manifold that it seems impossible to characterize it under one single name.”
This group was divided into Attenders, Believers and Christians, the latter being called upon to carry out priestly functions. One of the Attenders, who wished to seek absolution from the Church for his error, carried the letter in person to the Pope, to warn him:
“Its blasphemies are abominable: it denies that sins are remitted in baptism; it holds the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ to be useless; it asserts that nothing is bestowed by the imposition of the episcopal hand; it believes that no one receives the Holy Spirit except by merit of previous good works; it condemns marriage; it preaches that only in itself does the Catholic Church exist; it adjudges every oath a crime.”
While many of these rejections conform to what is known of Catharism in the latter part of the century, it is interesting that there is no mention of any indubitably dualist teaching. As with most of the early evidence for Catharism, it is seen as reformist and extremist, taking purity and conformity to the Gospel to absurd lengths which threaten Church practice, rather than as dualist, daring to attack the omnipotence of God. It seems likely that the Neo-Messalian spirituality of the movement was more important in its early development in the West, and that its dualist metaphysic became more prominent towards the end of the 12th century.
The letter also demonstrates that this new heresy had a base in Champagne, the area later visited by Wilhelmus Aurifex. In 1210, Blanche de Navarre, Countess of Champagne, built a castle on the hill of Mont-Aimé, and it remained in her hands until her death in 1229. This is the same Countess of Champagne, whom Gautier de Mussy, the third heretical ‘bandit’ mentioned by the Anonymous of Laon in the same breath as Amaury de Beynes and David de Dinant, was accused of trying to influence. In the decade following her death, Mont-Aimé was the scene of a mass burning of over 180 alleged Cathars by the Dominican Inquisitor and ex-Cathar, Robert le Bougre.
This is going to open up a whole page of pure speculation (the reader has been warned). Did Gautier de Mussy have contacts with Catharist heretics as well as with Amalricians? Such contacts could explain why the Bishop of Nevers was twice asked by Pope Innocent III to help with the investigation into Gautier’s case, because the diocese of Nevers had been involved in a long-running battle with Catharist heresy from 1198 onwards. Were Gautier de Mussy and Wilhelmus trying to bring different heretical groups into some sort of alliance?
Could there have been interaction between Cathars and Amalricians?
The Amalricians could certainly have appreciated some of the more Neo-Messalian attitudes of the Cathars. Both saw themselves as spirituals, seeking to transform the world according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some of the Amalricians may have been familiar with some of the more intellectual Cathars. If the letter of Yves de Narbonne is to be believed, the Amalricians could, indeed, have come across Cathars in the schools of Paris, because the Italian Cathars, with whom Yves was sheltering in Lombardy, explained that they sent their best students to study in Paris.
Champagne is an even more likely place for one particular Amalrician to have made contacts with Cathars. Wilhelmus Aurifex came from the Artois, in north-eastern France, made a missionary journey to the dioceses of Troyes in Champagne, and Langres in Burgundy, and was condemned beside the Amalricians in Paris. Was he the link between the Amalricians in Paris, the Godini in the North-East (who were thought by Garnier de Rochefort and the Anonymous of Laon to be connected to the Amalricians) and Catharist sympathisers (like Gautier de Mussy perhaps) in Champagne and Burgundy? Was he hoping to unite illuminist and Catharist spirituals, with the intention of promoting a general spiritual revival in France, ready for the new era, which he expected to commence in the near future?
Wilhelmus seems to have been more eager to spread new ideas, and particularly to announce a new future, than to pray for wisdom, or to understand in any depth the moral and mystical experience, which was crucial to Amalrician religion. He seems to have been as impressed with popular expectations of imminent calamities, as with the Amalrician vision of progress towards a contemplative age of peace. It is sad to speculate, once again, that Wilhelmus could have been responsible for arousing the fears which led to such drastic action being taken against the whole group. That Wilhelmus and Gautier de Mussy were trying to connect the mystics of Paris into a more organised heretical movement is, in the present state of our knowledge, an unjustified speculation; but if it were ever found to be true, it would explain the severe political reaction in Paris. That would certainly have caused Guérin and the King’s ministers to worry about future trouble for the French Church, which would lead inexorably to future trouble for the French government. It is known that Wilhelmus, as a notorious troublemaker, was put under surveillance, which led to the exposure and prosecution of the Paris group. May it also have been Wilhelmus, with his wider heretical links, who caused their suppression to be so unbearably harsh?
The rapid rise of Catharism could have helped to encourage some of the Amalricians to accept that the time was ripe for a new age of the spirit; but the two groups were travelling along fundamentally different religious paths. The Cathars, who were becoming increasingly dualist, renounced the world and rejected life, denounced the Roman Church and created their own. The Amalrician mystics, being illuminist and pantheist, found God in this world and in their personal experience in this life, and in the main, they preferred to re-interpret, rather than to reject, Catholic rituals and doctrines. There may have been contacts; there may even have been some influences; but Catharist development is unlikely to have been an important source for the religious inspiration of the Amalricians.
Some possible legacies of Symeon’s New Theology
The spiritual teachings which have been characterised as Neo-Messalian and which derive from the writings attributed to Symeon the New Theologian may have had some widely dispersed consequences. They may have helped to inspire the early Cistercians; they may have contributed inspiration to some of those accused of heresy in the early 11th century; they may have contributed ideas to Joachim’s extraordinary synthesis; and they may have influenced the development of Bogomilism and Catharism. They may, therefore, have had some influence on the Amalricians, but indirectly and at several removes. It has nevertheless, I hope, been interesting to look for evidence of a Greek illuminist tradition, stemming from those involved with Symeon the New Theologian, which may have been influential in unexpected areas of medieval history.