The initiation centre of the Cathars was housed in what is nowadays called the Montagne Sacrée (the Holy Mountain) in Ussat-les-Bains, South of France. The next illustrations give an impression of the complex of caves, within which the three different stages of initiation were accomplished, described in the books On the Way to the Holy Grail and Le Triomphe de la Gnose Universelle (The Triumph of the Universal Gnosis), both written by Mr Antonin Gadal.
The Cathars referred to the three stages of initiation in terms of a metamorphosis:
The caterpillar – the pupa – the perfect insect. Or as: Formation – Reformation – Transformation.
The physical human being must disappear, the Omega, the end. The Spirit-Human Being will replace him, the Alpha, the new beginning. In this way, the purified soul, liberated from the imperfections of matter, will become the Light Soul. […] This is what was called ‘Sahu’, the glorious body, the soul that has received the seal of the consecration and the illumination. (The Triumph of the Universal Gnosis)
The instruction that the candidate received was not focused on mental knowledge, but was intended for linking the spiritual lines of force, unfolding on the basis of the awakening soul principle, with and testing it against the imperishable, universal laws that the Creator has set down in His creation and the creature. These laws underlie the whole of nature and therefore also affect the destiny and the experience of life of every human being. In this way, gradually insight was able to develop into the underlying cohesion of all phenomena that can be traced back to the one source, from which everything existing originates. This one source is God, and the law that links everything and emanates from him is the divine love.
The mediaeval human being possessed a great susceptibility of the heart that was strongly linked with intuitive, visual thought. In order to become familiar with more abstract concepts, the ancient symbolic language was used in conversations with the candidate, as it was already transmitted since pre-Christian and early Christian times. It might rather be described as ‘characters’, comparable to Chinese written language.
As an example, we may mention the vertical line, the Resch, referring to the divine, descending impulse. Resch means God or ‘head’, in the sense of divine Consciousness. If the Resch was drawn as a capital P, it meant: God the Son; if it was written as its mirror image, it meant: God the Father. We sometimes see the Hebrew sign Aïn also referred to as Aïn Soph, the circle of Eternity. Moreover, we find the signs X and C, both referring to the Christ, and the M, referring to the Mater, the Materia, the Mother. The S or Soter means ‘Saviour’ or Liberator. And there are the A or Alpha and the Ω or Omega and, of course, the Pentagram, the five-pointed Star that refers to the reborn soul figure.
By always forming different combinations, time and again another aspect could be explained. We will now show this on the basis of what we call the ‘seals of the Grandmasters’, and of a few rock drawings that are still more or less visible in and near some caves.
The cave of Bethlehem had two entrances, both of which were originally partially closed off by a stone wall, and open at the top for sufficient light. At the side of the forecourt, we find the doorway which, however, only the Head of the Order, or someone else on his instruction, was allowed to open. Slightly more to the right was a low passage in the rock, through which the room might be entered with reverently bowed head. Mr A. Gadal writes about this sanctuary in his book The Triumph of the Universal Gnosis:
It is indeed in Bethlehem that the Pentacle liberated the human being from matter – after he had received the Consolamentum – and raised the Spirit-Man above the Man of Matter. In this way, the superman developed through the sanctification in Christ! Daily, the tiresome, obstacle-strewn way should be cleared and followed step-by-step, not as angels, which we cannot be, but as simple mortals – as we try and desire to be – thus returning to matter the supporting spiritual task of serving the Spirit!