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2007-12-09 - 10:16 p.m.

I'm always intrigued by religious sects (as a bystander only), and I've recently learned about this medieval bunch called the Cathars, who, in their rejection of the "consensus" reality," their eschewing of meat and dairy, and their desire to cut through the addictions, illusions, and bonds of the material world puts them in alignment with yogi's and other transcendentalists. (But of course it's more complicated than that.)

Thanks to Wikipedia, I discovered the most interesting Cathar of all, Esclarmonde de Foix, who, in the 1100s established schools for girls and hospitals, among other useful things.

Here is a Cathar text, the Gospel of John the Evangelist, and here's a screed against them by Raynaldus, who took offense to their dislike for sacraments and the Old Testament, among other things.

Although the Cathars were wiped out during the Inquisition, their message has stayed more or less alive through the centuries, and they actually still exist today. The modern Cathars are practically a secret society, but they pop up every ten years or so to let people hear their message.

And speaking of the Inquisition, and grand themes of Life, Death, and Rebirth--I watched The Fountain this weekend and was really taken by it.

It is flawed, I will not kid you. Some of the later scenes are so literal and on-the-nose that it's uncomfortable to watch. And it takes itself very seriously, which I can see irritating some viewers.

But the rest of it is just good old fashioned epic sci-fi filmmaking, a skillfully-crafted hunk of movie, exploring the nature of spiritual faith, romantic love, the death of the ego, and the limits of rationality. It is so painful to watch Hugh Jackman's character(s) struggle to play God, with the mussed-hair intensity and hubris of Herr Frankenstein, and so satisfying when the lessons sink in.

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