Languedoc Topics
Mysteries of the Languedoc


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 material things.

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 court.
  • When Alexander the Great conquerored Persia in the fourth century BC Dualist ideas spread from Asia back into the Middle East and Hellenic Europe.
  • 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, in Armenia.
  • 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 a heresy.
  • 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 or Albigensians.

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 Gospels)
  • 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:

  • Bogomils
  • 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 near Mantova),
  • Garatenses ( from Garatus, one from the elders of the sect in Italy)
  • 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 (from kathari)
  • 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 are:

  • 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 Churches]
  • 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 to fornicate).
  • 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 oaths]
  • 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 called, Perfects).
  • 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 teaching

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 and Catharism

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.



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