The Fire and the Light: A Novel of the Cathars and the Lost Teachings of Christ. Glen Craney. Brigid’s Fire Press/Amazon Digital Services. September 2013 (second edition). pb, 505 pp.; ASIN: B00F8KTR5Q.
In researching this subject, the author had a dream in which Esclarmonde de Foix appeared to him and asked him to tell her story. This extensive, multilayered story tells the story of the lost teachings of Christ that were passed down from Akhenaten to Moses, the Essenes, early Christians, Bogomils and Cathars. It is about alternative teachings of the gnostic Cathars that deny the traditional Gospels and Pauline letters, the former speaking of the Light of Christ and God stemming from within each follower. It’s a religious point of view that is deeply spiritual. It began in what is now the southern part of France in Occitania and ends in Baragoza, Aragon in the 13th Century (1194 to 1250). It’s about the wild and passionate determination of Cistercian and Dominican clergy to quash these teachings and the Cathar believers.
This is history, romance, adventure, spirituality, theological debates and history told about a conflict that finally ended in disastrous massacre at Montsegur. These are the teachings of the Essenes later taught by the dynamic female leader Esclarmonde de Foix who renounced physical love that her whole being might be attuned to the Divine Light. She is an aggregate of several real women but no less credible and compelling through the poetic license taken by the author to present her character. The teachings suggest that those who practice violence will be doomed to be reborn into the same life and level of violence. If so, there are dozens of characters in these pages who make torture, persecution and death into a level of violence that at times is beyond endurable.
At the same time, it casts doubt on teachings like Purgatory, hell, and salvation that sound more like condemnation than the love of a merciful, loving God. Besides being a great story, in these pages is found several theological debates that will leave readers thinking and pondering personal beliefs.
There are Courts of Love begun by Eleanor of Aquitaine in which troubadours vie with each other to compose and sing of the ways of love, claiming them as a model of chivalric living and loving that all true knights and princes must follow. Ironically, these sayings are also a mirror for the love of God, to be followed by those who claim to be Christian. However, most of these same knights, princes, and clerical leaders manifest the exact opposite in their mission to destroy every Cathar follower, no matter their social and economic status.
This is a novel that will haunt readers long after the last pages are read. The author is to be commended for the creation of this passionate depiction of true history and spirituality which has been hidden and denied for far too long. Highly recommended historical fiction superbly created and presented!