on December 1, 2006
The heretical Cathars of southwestern France regarded the legend of the Holy Grail--not the actual chalice reputed to have captured blood of the crucified Jesus--as symbolism for the survival of the human soul. This belief which conflicted with Roman Catholic teachings about the symbolism of the cross aroused the enmity of the Roman Catholic Church in the early Middle Ages in its determination to be the unrivaled, unquestioned authority in spiritual and even many political matters. The Knights Templar were another group seen by popes and many secular rulers too as potential threats to their power and position. The German author-scholar Rahn of this work originally published in 1933 (this is the first edition in English) sees in early, suppressed versions of the medieval poem "Parzival" references to this Cathar belief along with recountings of its practices. A central topic is the importance of the many caves in the region to this spirituality. This connection between the caves and the spirituality is found in parts of "Parzival"--e. g., "[The hermit] led young Parsifal to the second cave in which an uncovered 'altar' was located." The Cathars also hid in caves to escape the Church's forces and Inquisitors. Rahn made extensive explorations of the region's caves to better appreciate the quality of the Cathar spirituality and its differences from that of the prevailing Catholicism promulgated by the popes and their secular allies. A better study of the Cathar spirituality could not be found. And beyond delving into it uniquely and sympathetically, Rahn uses it like a prism to bring out the religious conflicts of the time.
on November 19, 2006
I give this first English translation of Rahn's book only four stars as opposed to five due to it's beginning, 'Parcifal'. A long, convoluted histriography of English and French noblemen is given that in short, to me, is bordering on the incomprehensible.
The text moves along, though, to the Cathars at the turn of the thirteenth century in the south of France. The 'pure ones' profess God is Love, and a Spirit, and that the Heaven we long for is beyond the stars. Flesh is separated from Spirit in man, resulting in a radical dualism that did not sit well with the Holy Mother Church. Gnosticism is present in their worldview as they look at the Old Testament God as evil, the one who enclosed the pure souls of men in foul matter. There is too much misery in the world, at the turn of their century to accept an all god Creator, benevolent and all knowing. A little sophistication is required to explain the harsh realities of day to day life. And theirs is the longing. The longing for something 'other', something greater than flesh and blood and ultimately transcendent.
The Grail, a stone that fell from the sky, presumably this version being it was a jewel stone in the crown of Lucifer when he fell, is destined for the bowels of Mt. Tabor, home of the last Cathar castle in Montseg'ur.
Troubadors, steeped in Catharism and protectors of their near holy Minnes, are keepers of the oral tradition concerning the Grail. Specifically, Wolfram Von Eschenbach, in his version of Parcifal, is the real deal according to Rahn.
As in other Grail romances, the stone just appears, and is pre-christian. It's main miraculous power is to fill the serving bowls and goblets with food and wine.
The crusade spoken of in the title is the Catholic Church, and specifically Pope Innocent III, swearing to stamp out the hideous heresy fulminating in the south of France. Politically, Paris wants a unified France, and is the secular arm to the holy crusade against Catharism.
Much time is spent revealing the horrible methods of torture and killing in the name of stamping out the heresy. The Church certainly is not depicted as either 'Holy' or as a 'Mother', but rather a vehicle through which corrupt Popes realize their full capacity in obtaining every earthly power possible.
Rahn's language, here translated, is lyrical and poetic in it's own right, highly reminiscent to me of Goethe with his Faust at times.
A very good read for those interested in history, mysticism, esotericism, or Gnosticism.
on January 15, 2014
I was not sure what type of book this would be, it had the look of a novel, but it is more of a historical book that shows the truth behind legends and stories.
This book is well worth reading and hard to put down. The translation is great, with no confusion. If you are interested in the the Cathars, and their version of the original teachings of Jesus, this book will provide you with a good history of the people and the land they were in, as well as their beliefs, and their defense against Roman Catholic moral corruption.
Another good book which helps to illuminate the original teachings of Jesus, and another example of the wickedness and ignorance of the Roman Catholic church.
- For more info on Cathar doctrine read "Heresies of the High Middle Ages" by Walter L Wakefield and Austin P. Evans. -
on February 12, 2008
In spite of it's rather winding way of getting to a point, this is a good solid book on the heretical view of the Cathars that the Roman Catholic Church held of it.
I did have a problem with certain inconsistensies. The chapter on the Cathar doctrine, begins by saying that not one Cathar book was saved from the fires. Then the author begins telling you of their doctrine and beliefs. There is only one place to gather any data from, and that is archelogical findings, or the writings used to condemn them by the Church.
Other than this, and other misnomers that in the the years since it was written have had new light shed on them, this is a very helpful book.
on May 13, 2013
'Crusade against the Grail' is interesting but difficult to gain from in a factual way. It interweaves it's poetic theme with facts, seeming, to me, to change from fancy to fact and back again without providing the knowledge, or bridges, to do so. It has given me a better understanding of the subject but I would need a least one reread to become remotely proficient on what the book is about.
My interest at present is too little to justify ploughing through it again
on April 28, 2008
A must have for Cathar, Templar and Crusade students. Covers the era and all aspects of the grail legends. Written by the actual man who inspired Indiana Jones, this book does not dissapoint! Highly recommended!
on February 15, 2008
Otto Rahn is remembered for his Nazi sponsorship and the strange circumstances of his demise. Almost certainly he knew that he had to conceal what he discovered from his masters. This landmark book serves -- not to discuss these matters except in a short preface-- but as an informed and readable introduction to the subject; astonishingly it was published way back in 1933 but has taken 75 years for an English translation in the current climate of interest in the subject.This book is authoritative, informative and at times brilliant. Even the title serves to clarify the issue of Church against Grail -- the Grail being pre-Christian in origin. We owe the translator and publishers much thanks.
on November 1, 2014
I ask myself how I can do justice in reviewing the work of an author who has so impressed me with the magnitude of his scholarly knowledge and even more so by the depth of heart he evokes in his dedication to an elucidation of the sacred Minne. Depths as deep as the caves of the Sabarthès are explored here with a light bright enough to reveal the outlines of the long-buried Church of Amor, its mysticism and its mysteries hidden somewhere within the mountain gorges of the French Pyrenees.
Otto Rahn takes us on a journey that is at once a great work of historical scholarship and a personal quest into legend, myth and the pure faith of the brutally persecuted heretical Christian sect of the Cathars, "the Pure Ones". His methods of inquiry are transdisciplinary in nature combining historical scholarship with that of theology, literary analysis of epic poems and myth, as well as daring first-hand archaeological explorations, woven together in a narrative of poetic mastery with all the depth of sensitivity of a true artist. In his introduction, the translator Christopher Jones proves his knowledge and great skill as a translator while providing interesting and important background information into the life of Otto Rahn, the motivations and personal integrity that compelled his work and his expeditions into the mountains. This is a scholarly work based on extensive and solid research, yet it reads almost like a classic tale of legend, adventure, mystery and peril.
The Crusade Against the Grail begins by painting a picture of medieval southern France and the Occitan culture of the Languedoc province while setting it against the historical background and legends of the region, with influences pointing to the mythology of the ancient Greeks and the mysticism of the Druids. Rahn shows the development of the Church of Amor and its worship of divine love symbolized by the Minne, exalted in the songs of the troubadours. He shows the adaptation of its mysticism in the Christian beliefs of the Cathars and how these contrasted with and came to challenge the religious hegemony of the Church of Rome, which hunted and tortured them as a heretical sect. The Christian beliefs and fate of the Cathars are reminiscent of that of the earliest Christians, and it is perhaps due to the purity of their faith that both were so heavily persecuted in their own time by corrupted and power-hungry despots. The vicious suppression of the heretical Cathars by Papal decree described here is both appalling and tragic and evokes one of the mysteries of all the ages - the epic spiritual struggle between good and evil. The Cathars practiced a dualistic form of Christianity and held courageously fast to their insistence of the virtues of supreme spiritual love faced with the moral hypocrisy and dark cruelty of the Church of Rome. Rahn brings us along on a journey into a world of honorable medieval knights and noble ladies, mountain fortresses and mystical druidic oak groves; priests and kings and echoes of the songs sung by troubadours lead us further into tales of brutal sieges, deep grottos and of the last refuge of the keepers of the mysterious graal.
Otto Rahn's quest to understand the true mystery of the grail is genuine and moving and he intricately weaves poetry, mystic writings found on deep cavern walls and the oral histories and legends of those dwellers of the beautiful and majestic mountains of the Tabor throughout, while the story of Rahn's own life is itself a tale of mystery and adventure. The fact that an English translation of his work has become available for the first time only very recently (and is an excellent, clear and enjoyable-to-read rendition), is perhaps a testament to the timeliness of Rahn's desire to unearth one of the greatest mysteries of all time - the story of the grail. After all, 700 years have now only just passed since the curious final words of the last Cathar Perfectus before he was burned alive, "In 700 years when the laurel grows green again".. Rahn's quest nestles itself in the imagination and within the caverns of the heart and begs further exploration - so that the pure and divine spiritual light of the Minne may shine once again and illuminate the dark and ancient places of this world.
on June 6, 2014
Because I had written about the Cathars in my book 'Baggage' I found any increasing knowledge of that era of religiosity truly interesting. However the times were too violent for my liking. Nevertheless i enjoyed the writing.
on March 24, 2016
I liked learning about the Cathars, but I found the writing very scattered and all over the place. The book could have been better organized especially in the early chapters where I found it hard to keep up with who is was talking about and why, jumping from subject or discussion on one person to another subject or discussion on another person which seemed disjointed. Once it got into a full discussion on the Cathars and the persecution of them, it was a little easier to read. While I finished it, I am now looking for another book on the Cathars that I can get the whole picture in a more easy to follow and cohesive way.