Dualism is a theology based on the belief in two gods: a good god
of light and immaterial things, and an evil god of darkness and
Although the names of the gods change, and in some variations there
is a third superior god, the same basic belief system can be traced
from its origins in Persia some three thousand years ago.
The spread of Dualism can be summarised as follows:
- The theology appears for the first time in ancient Persia, where
Zoroastrianism a Dualist religion, becomes the official state
religion (there are still Zoroastrians in modern Iran, regarded
by Moslems as one of the Peoples of the Book. They also
exist in India, where they are known as Parsees (ie Persians))
- Elements of Dualist belief are incorporated into Judaism around
600 BC (When the Jews are exiled to Babylonia, then part of the
Persian Empire). It is from this period that Jewish writings (including
what Christians call the Old Testament) regard Satan as an adversary
of God, rather than an angelic servant of God in his heavenly
- When Alexander the Great conquerored Persia in the fourth century
BC Dualist ideas spread from Asia back into the Middle East and
- Elements of Dualist belief appear in Early
Christian thought, borrowed directly from Judaism and from
new strands of Hellenic thought.
- In the fourth century AD, a Persian called Mani (or Manes) created
a new Dualist religion incorporating elements of Christianity
and Buddhism into Zoroastrianism. This new religion (Manichaeaism)
spread through the new Persian Empire, including Armenia
- Although Armenia become Christian (the first country to do so),
elements of Dualism remain strong there, even after Armenia came
under the control of the Byzantine Empire. As well as Zoroastrians,
there were Christian Dualist sects, notably Paulicians and Messalanians,
- Around the sixth century, Armenian Dualists were rounded up
by the Byzantine Emperor, and removed en mass to the Balkans.
- A couple centuries later, Dualism, in the form of Bogomilism,
was noted in Bulgaria by Byzantine chroniclers and branded as
- During the Middle Ages, Dualist belief spread westward through
Italy and into Europe, branded by different names in different
places, and generally regarded by the Roman
Catholic Church as manifestations of the Manichaean heresy.
- One of the places were the Dualism takes root is the Languedoc,
where the so-called heretics become known as Cathars
In summary, some of the more important manifestations, in chronological
order, are the following:
- Zoroastrianism (Persia)
- Jewish and Christian Gnosticism (the Roman Empire, as recorded
in recently discovered Gnostic
- Manicaeism (Persia & the Roman Empire)
- Bogomilism (Byzantine Empire)
- Catharism (Medieval Europe)
Here is a little more detail about some of these threads:
In the third century AD, before Christianity became the official
religion of the Roman empire, a Persian named Mani (Latin Manes,
Manicheus), gathered Christian Gnostic and Buddhist elements and
combined them with the Zoroastrian teaching.
He gave a simple explanation for where evil in the world comes
from, preaching new dualistic religion. For this he was condemned
by the Persian magi (those wise men - actually Zoroastrian priests
- mentioned in the Bible). Mani was executed for his "heresy"
in 276 AD.
By the second half of the seventh century a Gnostic sect named
Pavlikianis was active in Armenia incorporating elements of Mani's
teachings. This sect was seen as a threat to the state authorities.
Tzars Constantine V Kopronim (741-775) and Ivan Cimiskes (969-976)
forceably removed them to Thrace and Macedonia.
The Bogomils or Bogumils appeared in Bulgaria in the middle of
the 10th century in the time of Bulgarian Tzar Peter (927-969).
Dualist beliefs of the Bogomils appear to have been a continuation
of the Pavlikiani teaching from nearby Macedonia.
The first known written information about this heresy appears in
the epistle of Patriarch Teofilact to Tsar Peter. He explains to
the Tsar that this heresy is the "Pavlikian heresy mixed with
Manicheanism". More information is to be found in the apologetic
tractate of the presbyter Cosma, "Speech on Heresy" created
around 972. Cosma blamed a priest called Bogomil for spreading this
new teaching across Bulgaria - a teaching that opposed the teaching
of the orthodox Christian church - that there is only one god.
Bogomil taught that there are two gods - one the god of good, and
the other the god of evil. The god of evil created whole material
world, including human beings. By his will exist all the visible
things: the earth itself, animals, churches, crosses. Some of the
Bogomils thought that the evil god, Satan, was God's younger son,
next to Christ, the older brother. Others thought that he was not
God's son but an angel that seceded from the ranks.
Cosma, further on in his tractate, says that the Bogomils were
attacking the Church establishment, especially the clergy and bishops,
and that they rejected Old Testament along with the books of the
church fathers, and the [then new] cult of the Virgin Mary's along
with the cults of other saints, all the other Church literature
and all the prayers except the Lord's Prayer "Our father
Further, they did not respect icons, nor the cross, and they did
not accept church buildings as the house of God. They gathered in
their houses to pray and confess to each other.
They had critical attitude towards the governments, the state establishment,
and the rules of society. They were alleged to incite their followers
to rebel against the authorities, deterring slaves from working
for their masters. They were attacking the established Church hierarchy
and the nobility, teaching that those who worked for the tsar were
repulsive to God.
They preached poverty and were critical of the rich. Cosma describes
the heretics as quiet people, pale from fasting, dressed in modest
clothes. But according to Cosma, this is only a ploy, and in fact
they are rapacious, seeking out people with a simple spirit, and
talking to them about the salvation of their souls.
The popularity of the dualistic heresy may be an expression of
rebellion towards the hierarchy of the Orthodox Christian Church
- a Church that like it's offshoot, the Roman Catholic Church, uses
the idea of a god to keep its followers in obedience. It may also
be an expression of rebellion against government institutions that
lean on the Christian Church, using it to bolster and endorse their
power. The appearance of the Bogomils in Macedonia and Bulgaria
occurs at a time when local people felt oppressed by Byzantium,
after the death of the Tsar Simeon, in the time of Tsar Peter. Ideologically,
this Gnostic teaching was opposed to the Byzantine conquerors, against
the pliable local nobility and against the hierarchy of the Orthodox
Christian Church. (According to Cosma's notes the Orthodox Christian
Church was itself utterly corrupt).
Another factor is probably the attraction of a plausible explanation
for the existence of evil in the world. It is a simple fact that
despite developing an entire field of philosophy to the question
(Theodicity), the mainstream Churches have never succeeded in producing
a half-viable theory as to how a perfect creator could create such
an imperfect world. (Most believers, it must be said, are entirely
unaware of this problem, or else imagine that it is answered by
the doctrine of Freewill).
The religion spread to the West, branded as heresy wherever it
was recognised. Adherents were known under different names depending
where they were or where they came from:
- kudughers (Greek name for the Bogomils)
- babunes (characteristic name in Serbia, coming from the name
of the mountain Babuna in Macedonia)
- Christians (characteristic name for Bosnia)
- Patarenes (Italian name taken from Pataria, the name of a poor
quarter in Milan)
- Konkorecani (Concorretti according to the place Concorezzo,
northeast from Milan),
- Caloiani (name in Italy according to the name of one Italian
bishop named Caloian)
- Bagnolenses (phrase used in Italy according to the place Bagnolo
- Garatenses ( from Garatus, one from the elders of the sect in
- de Desenzano (the one from Desenzan, place on the Lake Garda),
- Scalvini (Slavs-name for those heretics in Italy that were supporting
the connections with the Bosnian Bogomils),
- Christian boni or veri, boni homines, bonomii,
- Cathars, Cathares or Katari (name characteristic in France and
Germany, popularly, but wrongly thought to be derived from the
Greek word katharos meaning pure), kataristi (from kathari), katafrigi
- Bulgari or Bougres (name used in France according to Bulgarus
that means Bulgarian),
- Albigenses, Albigensians, Albignezes (from the city Albi in
the county Toulouse where a Cathar Council was held),
Basic common beliefs from the second half of the Twelfth century
- two gods, one the supreme good, the other; the supreme evil;
the first one having constructed the invisible, and the second
the visible world. But with some disagreement concerning this
dualism, whether it should be absolute or mitigated:
- The absolute dualistic point of view claims that from the
very beginning there are two coequal principles;
- The mitigated dualistic point of view asserts that there
is a connection between the two principles and that the principle
of evil came from the principle of good. [Notice that mitigated
dualism is now perfectly conventional mainstream belief in
the Orthodox Churches and in the Roman Catholic and Protestant
- Rejection of the Old Testament, together with the prophets,
and also the writings of the Church fathers.
- Rejection of the cult of the Virgin Mary
- Holding that Christ only appeared to have a human body, so he
did not really suffer and he did not really die
- Holding that only Dualists represent the real church and that
its leaders are the inheritors of the apostles
- That churches (Synagogues of Satan) are of no value.
- That the use of holy images is mere idol worship, and that those
who revere the Church Fathers are badly mistaken
- That church ceremonies and the sacraments are to be condemned,
including baptism and marriage (which is nothing but a license
- That the resurrection of the body is a fiction. They denied
the resurrection of the body because it comes from the Satan.
- That purgatory was an invention. [As indeed it was - and a very
recent one in the thirteenth century]
- That they should not eat animal products. They are forbade the
consumption of meat, milk and cheese.
- That they should not swear oaths. [Including feudal and judicial
- That no-one should pass any sentence of death.
There are no important differences in the organization of their
churches. Followers are divided in to two categories:
- the real Christians (the Elect, or as the Cathar Elect are often
- others are common believers - listeners or auditors
Only the Elect know all the secrets of their religion and only
they are required to lead the rigid ascetic life described in their
The hierarchy that runs the church consisted of bishops - all male
members of the Elect, each supported by an "Older Son"
and a "Younger Son".
Click on the following link to go to a page on Cathars
Recent work by Georgi Vasalev has largely confirmed long-held suspicions
that distictive Bogomil / Cathar ideas were known to key characters
in the development of Protestant ideas. It is now probable, rather
than merely possible, that Dualist ideas motivated men like Wycliffe,
Langland, Tyndale and Milton.
If you are more interested in the Cathars of the Languedoc, you
might be more interested in Cathar Country Tours.