The Cathars & Reincarnation
By Arthur Guirdham
Published by C W Daniel Co Ltd
208 pages, paperback
The Cathars were a dualistic, heretical Christian sect persecuted and all but exterminated by the Inquisition in the 13th century in the Midi region of France. Research on the Cathars has been sparse until the late 20th century.
The fascinating aspect of this book is that much of the information from a teenager’s dreams, visions and writings in 1944 was substantiated by later research.
This book is a synopsis of Dr. Guirdham’s diaries and notes, as well as his correspondence with ‘Mrs Smith’, a rather sane and ordinary English housewife and mother. His diary covers the period from 1963 to 1968.
Arthur Guirdham is an English psychiatrist and was a confirmed skeptic on reincarnation and related matters. Mrs Smith was referred to him having experienced nightmares of being burnt alive.
He decided to keep a diary when the material the patient presented clearly related to the 13th century in the Languedoc region. She had kept notes, diaries and drawings of the dreams and visions she had when she was a 13 year-old.
The doctor himself had had an intermittent interest in Catharism since 1938, and 25 years later his dormant interest was awakened by his patient. His interest made him aware of the unique nature of her material.
Mrs Smith had these remarkably accurate dreams in spite of having no previous knowledge of French medieval history, or of Catharism in particular.
The book is at once an ongoing diary with detailed knowledge of the daily life and death of the Cathars within. It consists of research findings as well as an apologetic for the coincidental case made toward reincarnation (or far memories).
There are no chapter headings. The style is didactic, carefully researched, justified, but often conceptually hard to interpret.
It will please students and scholars researching Catharism, as there is much solid research and history here, supported by outside scholarship to be found in footnotes and bibliography.
The main justification for the veracity of Mrs Smith’s material is the painstaking research carried out by the author whenever he had the opportunity to travel to significant locations or talk to medieval/Cathar scholars.
He details correspondence with both Mrs Smith and scholars such as Professor Nelli, the acknowledged expert on the history of the period. What surprised historians and experts were the following main aspects:
1. Her detailed knowledge of the Cathars in Toulouse persecuted by the Inquisition. She had recorded word for word in 1944 songs which only were discovered in archives in 1967 in the Languedoc.
2. Correct drawings of old French coins, jewelry, details of rituals and dress; layout of buildings; correct details of the family and social relationships of people who were traced though the records of the Inquisition at a much later date.
3. A particular church in which religious prisoners were held.
At no time was Mrs Smith herself confident or aware that her information was correct. At times she revealed an abysmal ignorance of life in medieval Europe. The doctor is careful to emphasise that she imparted only what she dreamt and recorded.
This five year period of the doctor’s diary and correspondence saw an increase in his own ‘psychic’ activity. This has led him to revise his skepticism about reincarnation and further develop the theme of group reincarnation, dealt with in more detail in a later book.
For readers who have a grasp of medieval European religious history, this book will entertain, but not bring much new knowledge to light. For those who believe in reincarnation, it will confirm their belief. For skeptics, it will do little to change their ideas.
The area of far memory is not a new one. Many recorded far memories have been categorised as fiction in order to be published. The Joan Grant ‘Far Memory’ books come to mind.
Dr. Guirdham’s sincerity cannot be denied. Neither can the density of the writing. The material could have been more rationally grouped in broad headings for ease of reading.
This is a documented and candid case of recorded ‘far memory’ beginning in the dreams of a 13 year-old girl and continuing to her mature married state.
It will reward those readers who are interested in the fate of the Cathars, those interested in the progress of Gnostic dualism in Europe, and for those interested in reincarnation in individuals and groups.
Not an easy read by any means, but endlessly fascinating.
– Reviewed by Jennifer Hoskins in New Dawn No. 88