XI. The Gnostics Return
“If God understood all things from the beginning and knew that His angels would in the future become demons, because of the character which He himself gave them from the beginning (because all the causes which would make those angels become demons in the future arose entirely within His providence and it did not please God to make them otherwise than He did), it of necessity follows that the afore- said angels could never in any way have avoided becoming demons. And this is particularly true because it is impossible that anything which God knows to be future may be in any way changed so that it does not come to pass in the future—above all, in Him who from eternity knows the future completely, as we have just seen explained.
How, then, can the unlearned say that the aforesaid angels could remain good, holy, and humble with their Lord for all time, since it was from eternity utterly impossible in God? They are therefore by the most valid reasoning forced to confess that, in accordance with their thesis God knowingly and in full awareness created and made His angels of such imperfection from the beginning that they could in no way escape evil. And so God himself, of whom the words good, holy, just, wise, and righteous were used above, who is above all praise, as was previously declared, was the whole cause and origin of all evil—which is obviously to be denied. For this reason we are required to acknowledge two principles. One is good. The other is evil, the source and cause of the imperfection of the angels and also of all evil.”– The Book of Two Principles (Cathar Text)
One thousand years have passed since Jesus walked the Earth. These are dark times. The Great Church has demonstrated its authority for 600 years already. The light of the Gnostics has receded deep into the past. Those few who are even aware of the distant glow are scared to death even to mention it. They have witnessed the burnings of men who were considered heretics, the destruction of their homes and temples, and the elimination of their sacred texts. We have here, the epitome of the Dark Ages. The Holy Roman Empire is the only path to salvation for the whole of the Western World. Though we will just as soon look back into what led to this resurgence and note the continuing traditions that led up to this major comeback, let us begin with a very important time for the opponents of Catholicism in a very important place.
We arrive in Occitania, in the mid twelfth century. Occitania is located in what is now Southern France, but was not France at all at the time. Here we find the inception of the new faith that would stand up to the Roman Church. The Cathars, from katharos meaning ‘pure’, were on the rise. This faith slowly spread itself throughout the region. It seemed to resurrect the Gnostics entirely. The serious insistence on dualism was central to their faith. They believed in Christ, but called themselves the ‘Good Christians’ and opposed directly most of the teachings of the Catholic Church. In order to avoid persecution, they took up the trade of weaving cloths and traveled as merchants. This helped them to spread their teachings without appearing to be a rising religion.
The Cathars preached that Jesus was never corrupted into the form of human flesh, and was only an apparition or emanation of the good god. They stated that his crucifixion was false, since he never was physically incarnated, and that the cross was a falsely worshipped instrument of torture that the church had turned into an idol. Of course they believed, like the Gnostics, that the Good God had created our true forms, while our bodies were the makings of the Evil God. This was a dangerous teaching for the time, in that they were directly implying that the Pope was not the source of the True God’s word, but the embodiment of evil and his intention was not the liberation of the soul, but rather the entrapment of it within the cycles of human rebirth – the hell of materiality.
Like the teachings of Jesus and the Mysteries, the Cathar faith was separated into two classes, the Credentes and the Perfecti. This gave the applicant some room for personal placement. The Perfecti were considered pure and lived within a strict code of morals regarding chastity, humility, poverty, and simplicity. Their lives were exemplary and held in great respect especially considering that the Catholic Clergy had already gained a reputation of indulgence and decadence. Seen against this background, the Cathar message was greatly strengthened. The ascetic lifestyle of the Perfecti seemed to mirror their teachings of the great goal of man to achieve a release from the corrupt form of matter and the body. At the same time, the Church’s reputation showed their gluttony and indulgence in the world. A prayer of the Perfecti reads;
“O Lord, judge and condemn the imperfections of the flesh, have no pity on the flesh, born of corruption, but show mercy to the spirit, which is imprisoned.”
The Perfecti were completely celibate, just like the Essenes, and did not eat any meat or product of regeneration such as milk, eggs and cheese. Often on top of this, they would fast for up to seventy days of the year on only bread and water in order to loosen the ties of the soul to the body. Also, they renounced all possessions except for the clothes they wore.
The high standards, however, did not keep the masses away and many still aimed to complete the initiation into this class. Abstinentia was the three-year process of mentorship under a Perfecti required before one’s consolamentum, the final ritual that confirmed their position as a Perfectus. Less than priests, the Perfecti were more similar to the ascetics of the East, Fakirs, Gnostics, Adepts of the Mysteries, or Magi.
The Credentes, or ‘believers’, were not so limited in their lifestyles. These numbered in the tens of thousands at the height of Catharism. It was known that not all the participants of the religion were capable of taking on the challenge of becoming a Perfectus. Therefore, this was a level at which they understood the dualistic nature of the world, yet still ate well, procreated and owned property. While the Perfecti were sworn against violence of any kind, the Credentes were allowed to fight for a just cause. They created the skeleton of the organization, which provided for the wandering teachers when they could with shelter and food. They also participated in the ceremonies and services given by Perfecti throughout the year.
Before the death of a Credente, it was common to receive a consolamentum that was said to have the power in itself to raise him or her into the status of Perfecti. The main difference between the two had to do with the Perfectus’ closeness to the release from matter, assuming that this was their last bodily form, while the Credente was moving upwards towards this place, but may still need a few human lifetimes to arrive there. The deathbed consolamentum was performed in the hopes that they may be able to make the jump out of their current life instead of having to rediscover and relearn the teachings of Catharism in the next life.
This whole tradition, being in direct conflict with the mighty church, was lucky to get off the ground at all. In the 12th century, it saw a great deal of success, and its influence began spreading outwards from Occitania and Languedoc. Its success was due to its great support from the Nobles of the time, who actually made up about 30% of the Perfecti. Without such support, the ‘new’ faith would have collapsed before anyone knew its name. To quote again from The Master Game,
“The real problem [for the Catholics] was that as well as winning over large numbers of ordinary people, Catharism had succeeded in attracting the tacit and sometimes even the overt support of the most powerful noble families in southwestern Europe. These included, most notably, the Counts of Toulouse, the Counts of Foix, and the Trencavel viscounts who ruled the walled cities of Albi, Beziers and Carcasonne. With their knights and castles and strength of arms concentrated in the Languedoc and surrounding areas, such men had transformed Catharism into something that the Church of Rome had never faced before. Here was a heresy that could fight back, that would not easily be crushed by the use of secular force, and that might conceivably, if allowed to grow further, push the Catholic religion out of Europe altogether.”
This was the problem that turned the 13th century into an age darker even than that which preceded the temporary lighting of the Gnostic torch. But before moving forward, it is worthwhile to consider the history of the Cathars. How did this faith just pop up in Europe when the Gnostic teachings had been dormant for over half a millennia? Though the Cathars and Gnostics weren’t identical, they certainly shared an enormous amount of similarities, especially in their central teachings. So where had this knowledge been hiding all the while?
Threads of Wisdom
We’ll find that the Gnostics never really gave up. Traditions would arise and then become extinguished; a new version would then supplant the old with a different name. Every time a new faith would rise or fall, the populous would have to question the battle of authority. Great uprisings against this church would not have occurred unless the radical faiths had a very important message to deliver. Why otherwise, would such great numbers of people risk their lives and that of their families?
The ‘heresy’ that immediately preceded Catharism was called Bogomilism. The Bogomils, meaning ‘near to God’, were almost certainly one of the largest contributing influences of the Cathars. They had seen their beginnings in the mid 10th century and shared, once again, many central beliefs with both the Gnostics and Cathars. They were dualists, believing that this world was the creation of the earthly god. They also directly challenged the hierarchy of the church. They did not build temples or monuments, but instead preferred to worship in the outdoors, bringing to mind the ceremonies and rituals of the Theurgic Mysteries and other Pagan traditions focused on connection with nature. In this way we can also see a closer connection to the ascetic lifestyle than to that of a Catholic Priest.
At this point, the Catholic Empire was split between the West, ruled by Rome, and the East, ruled by Constantinople. While the Cathars battled Rome, the Bogomils took Constantinople. This group had originated apparently from a man named Bogomil who began the teachings. Very little is known about him, in fact, close to nothing. Actually, like most of the traditions discussed herein, very little is known about the religion at all since it was not the will of the church to preserve the Bogomils place in history. The Priest Bogomil must have lived toward the end of the first millennium because after the death of the Orthodox Tsar Peter, the religion spread rapidly out of Bulgaria into Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Dalmatia and Macedonia. This all happening around the turn of the 11th century, the Bogomils already had reached into Constantinople itself, the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Gaining popularity and strength, it was looking decent for the Bogomils, and probably around this time, the plan of seeding Europe with Catharism was taking shape. Though the Cathars went by a different name, they were really an extension of Bogomilism, and by making them seem separate, it would be less obvious that such a major religion was surrounding Rome.
Come 1100, Alexius I Comnenus arrested a Bogomil named Diblatus and tortured him into revealing the name of the teacher, Basil. Comnenus slyly approached Basil in the guise of a student seeking spiritual guidance. Basil kindly began to help him in his false quest for knowledge and ended up giving him much information regarding the organization and membership of the faith. He and his fellows were then arrested and Comnenus tried to reason with them and convert them to the Orthodox Faith. Those who converted were released, the rest were imprisoned for life with the exception of Basil who was burnt to death.
Even still, Bogomilism was now a major religion, and by the mid 12th century, it had already planted the seed of the Cathars. Around this time, a Bogomil man called Nicetas came from Constantinople to the West. He sought out the Cathars and gave them instructions as to changes needing to be made. When he arrived in Occitania, the entire Cathar administration was patiently waiting. He addressed land dispute issues and certain doctrinal changes. Apparently these changes had to do with the belief that certain links might exist between the Good and Evil Gods, even familial relationships. This was clearly not okay by the strict dualism of the Bogomils.
This event shows us that the Cathars were as children to their father religion in the East. They not only descended directly from the Bogomils, but they still considered these Eastern neighbors to hold authority over their own faith. At this point, the two posed a very real threat to the Grand Churches of Rome and Constantinople, and they had a formulated plan. As one could imagine from their beliefs, their goal was the complete disintegration of the enormous corrupted churches and their replacement with the true doctrine. In this way, they sought to bring deliverance from the flesh to all mankind. This is a heavy game being played. It involved not only the spreading of knowledge across the globe, but also the restructuring of the society from a materialistic one to one more focused on spiritual progress. This was a heartwarming prospect, though short lived.
But once again, let’s go back before we go forward. The next question is, though the shadowy figure of Bogomil himself was quite mysterious, where can we find the source of his beliefs? How were they connected back to the Gnostics? Where had the Gnosis been before it reached Bulgaria at the end of the first millennium?
The Paulicians constituted the next link backward. This group was founded by an Armenian by the name of Constantine. The teaching, once again, was based around the dualism found in Gnosticism, Catharism and Bogomilism, blended with the Christian doctrines. There are a few details that do not line up exactly. For instance, they placed more significance on the New Testament than do our other Gnostic uprisings, though the Bogomils also used the New Testament as well as Psalms as their holy texts. Subscribing to the New Testament, though, may be understood as playing it safe in a time when anything could be called heresy and any heretic could be killed. Besides, the New Testament is not necessarily false – it is simply incomplete and heavily edited.
Constantine believed himself to be the restorer of the ‘pure Christianity’ of Paul, whom we know to be a Mystic, thus the name Paulician or Paulian was adopted. His own name he changed to Silvanus after one of Paul’s disciples. His first congregation was founded in the year 660, and twenty-seven years later he was stoned to death by the order of the emperor. Then the court official who had executed the order converted, became Constantine’s successor, and was burned to death in 690! This rough start did not deter the faithful followers. Instead they stuck together with some success for the next couple centuries. In this time they moved from place to place, following their leaders and trying to keep together.
By 871 the emperor Basil I ended the ‘Paulician state’ and they left for Syria and Armenia. Then in 970, they were transferred to Thrace, or modern day Bulgaria, where they were granted religious freedom so long as they kept back the Scythians – the nomadic horse mounted tribes occupying Scythia to the east. So they had a moment’s peace, but they had to remain loyal to the emperor and defend against these invasive warriors. Eventually, several thousands of them joined the army of Alexius Comnenus to fight against the Norman, Robert Guiscard, but after deserting Comnenus on the battlefield, most were thrown into prison, and the rest generally converted. It is said that Comnenus ended Paulicianism just before the dawn of the 12th century. We will clearly remember that at this time, Alexius Comnenus turned his attention to the Bogomils. It is noticeably odd how these heresies ends are so intimately tied to the rebirth of a new heretical uprising. The Paulicians were to be seen again later on, but only as insignificant minorities and were never again considered a significant religion or a threat to Catholicism – that is unless one considers the faith to be identical to the Bogomils and Cathars.
So what wellspring were the Paulician beliefs drawn from? The Manichaeans were the logical predecessors. The Prophet Mani was the founder of this religion, which most historians consider to be without a doubt a Gnostic one. Once again, we find the cosmic struggle of matter versus spirit, the God of Good versus the God of Evil. We find a spiritual world of light, and a material world of evil darkness – an inherently evil physical world and an opposing divine world of Spirit.
This religion thrived between the third and seventh centuries. At its height, it was one of the largest religions of its day, spreading from China to the Roman Empire. This faith may be viewed as perhaps the greatest opposition to the original formation of the Church at Rome. It brings us right back to the time when knowledge was not yet equated with Heresy. Thus, it was an original Gnostic system, perhaps the largest, and most typical of them. In the East, it enjoyed a long lifespan, finally dissolving in 14th century China. In the West, as we might imagine, no such duration was possible. In 382, Theodosius I issued a decree of death for all Manichaean monks. By 391, he declared that the only legitimate religion for Rome was Christianity.
Even still, Manichaeism seems to have left its imprint on Christianity. Even Augustine was a Manichaean who converted to Christianity after his own religion was outlawed. It is interesting to note that in later centuries the ‘heresy hunters’ regarded the uprising of the Cathars and Bogomils, as well as the Paulicians, as a resurgence of the Manichees. They were once again obligated to remove the imposing threat, and as Rome looked to Constantinople, it seemed to say in distress, “The Manichaeans are back…”
Indeed, there are many theological historians who have made much of this ‘chain of heresy’. It is quite clear to see that medieval dualism followed such a path. It arises under one name, is then crushed by the church until its remaining devotees hide underground, still teaching but in great secrecy. Then when the time is right, the knowledge resurfaces with a new name. This is highly reminiscent of the Perennial Philosophy, the seed that remains underground always, but chooses to sprout when it is needed. All the way from the Gnostics to the Cathars, there have been deviations and modifications, but the central teachings are consistent.
The Rise of Islam, though not as specifically tied into this chain as those we’ve just discussed, was also a major influence on the world. Not since the time of Zoroaster had the Arabs been so strongly united in spiritual bond. When compared with the Catholic Church, Islam appears to be an entirely Gnostic practice. That is to say, the Quran was based on all the theological history of Christians and Jews, yet Muhammad was thought to be the final prophet. The fact that the religion was openly founded upon all the wisdom available in the Middle Eastern world of the time, tells of a sort of mature approach that is mirrored by those Gnostic sects we’ve been speaking of. At the very least, one could say that Islam offers more of a path to follow than Catholicism does.
Of course, Islam held within it the Esoteric core that served as a solid pillar of understanding. This was called Sufism. The Sufis were, like the Perfecti or Kabbalah, the mystical source for the preservation of the outer religion. Regardless of whether or not they were called Sufis in the beginning, this class certainly did exist from the very birth of Islam. They were ascetics, a tradition that had long existed in the region, and they took on many vows of sacrifice. Though these vows may be sounding a bit monotonous, we must note that the central focus of the Sufis (and thus the esoteric goal of Islam) was found in the releasing of one’s soul from the corruptions of the bodily form.
For the Sufis, this was achieved through meditation, songs, chants, yoga and the dances of the dervishes. They used many different means to bring themselves to a state of ecstatic union with Allah. Their focus was on love and especially love for God. All in all, there is no arguing that the aims of the Muslims, be they Sufis or not, were very much based upon the same founding principles that all other mystical faiths were built on, regardless of their present day appearance. Islam was infiltrated by dark elements in the last half century and the extremist violence was programmed into the Islamic world by nefarious forces. What American knows the first thing about what is written in the Quran?
The Quran is a song to be sung. It is a lyrical poetry that embraces a philosophy. It is certainly a stand against the older religions and was thus the cause for the initial crusades, but it was not standing against the prophets. It is a uniting of many values of the Arab region and within the Sufi tradition, some of the greatest secrets of the ancient world are still held. Being associated with the new faith, and being called by a new name, would certainly avoid the suspicion that the Sufis may actually be the torchbearers of the true religion of Egypt as it lives today. Sufi knowledge is protected with great care and years or decades of probation may come before one is trusted with their first secret. The Sufis likely protect a great deal of our history.
Once again, we may find many aspects within all these systems that are consistent with the ancient sources of wisdom. Certainly the prime objective of these philosophies is to preserve the knowledge of the soul – to continually remind the student that we are not our bodies, that we are not physical beings occasionally taking part in sublime moments, but that we are divine beings trapped within the physical matrix – too dense to regain our rightful, ethereal form. This was the essence of the ancient pagan religions as well as the Greek Mysteries, and evidence of this message was written into the ancient structures of the Druids, the early Americans, the Khmer Empire of ancient Cambodia and the Aryans of India. Yet for the first millennium of Christianity, we find the Roman Church fighting violently against this ideology.
After this thousand-year game of ‘whack-a-mole’ the Church finally found an enemy too large for its hammer. Though Islam had continued to grow as a looming threat, the Cathars were in the heart of Europe; quite close to home. As stated earlier, significant noble families of Europe backed the Cathars, and they had a strong alliance to the Bogomils in the East. The people admired their peaceful ways and talents. None of this helped the Church, which now had to find a way of ridding the land of such a benevolent force. Meanwhile, many were becoming all too aware of the vices that took place within the Vatican – characteristically, feasts, orgies and decadence.
As we arrive in the 13th century, we find the Catholic Empire showing its true colors, and the faithful Cathars doing the same. At this point, the struggle had been much like the modern ‘War on Terror’, in which the ruling empire of the US generally refers to the enemy as ‘terrorists’, which means, anyone they disagree with. Literally, the ‘terrorist’ is the very same thing as the ‘heretic’ in this way. When the US declared war on Iraq, it was equivalent to the Roman Church declaring a crusade on the Albigenses – which refers to the Occitanian city of Albi and its Cathar population. In fact it was another battle in the very same war. It is in this time that we can see with the greatest clarity, the two sides of this unending war. In the outcome, we also can find the perfect example of the classical human ending to a war – the most violent and terrible force will defeat the helpless innocents.
The War on Heresy
In 1209, the Albigensian Crusade was launched against Catharism. Therein were two goals – to eliminate the Cathars and to extend the control of France down into the south in order to keep Occitania, or the Languedoc, free of heresy. Both of these goals were apparently accomplished.
This was not the beginning of the Crusades. In the very end of the 11th century these holy wars began in the hopes of restoring Christian access to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, and these were launched against Islam. The word Crusade literally means taking up the cross, and once again, it is eerily close to the concept of the war on terror, in which the enemy is defined as anyone who stands in the way.
While the Bible preached that “Though shalt not kill”, here was an example of the ‘authentic’ religion savagely murdering everyone who apparently did not take these teachings to heart. The propaganda involved was bizarre and absurd when viewed in hindsight. For anyone who fought in this holy war was granted instant redemption of all sins, all the booty he could plunder and a guaranteed spot in Heaven! Furthermore, all he needed to do was fight for forty days, and was then granted his return home, that is unless he sought the treasures to be obtained from the cities that were left empty – empty besides the rivers of blood and the body parts that littered the streets, homes and even temples.
It began with an attempt at peaceful conversions. These had very little success. As was stated, the political power of the Languedoc was separated between the lords and counts of the various cities. The Church began to ask these noblemen to assist them in the process of condemning the religion. However, the nobles were largely supportive of the Cathars and saw no reason to persecute them. It is interesting to note that at this time, the region was one of the most fluent in the arts and maintained a peaceful system, which flourished with culture. Perhaps one of the highest forms of society existing at this time in the world, this state of peace and understanding may have served as an initial incentive for the faith to base itself there, or vice versa.
By many accounts, this region is where Mary Magdalene travelled after the crucifixion, carrying Jesus’ bloodline. This bloodline is blended into the Merovingian line, who were French Royalty… So, were many of the Cathars actually descendents of Jesus and Mary, being exterminated by the Catholics? Was this the secret truth that the Church most feared? The Cathars certainly believed in Jesus’ relations with Mary.
Regardless, Pope Innocent III, on becoming pope in 1198, had resolved to ‘deal’ with the Cathars and when the first diplomatic attempts at conversion failed, he sought to use force. His battle was hard to fight, though, as everyone respected the Cathars and suggested that they even were more Christian than the Church itself. The people of the Languedoc admired their fine artistry and illuminating teachings. In 1204, the Pope actually suspended the activities of some of his own bishopry who had, themselves, defended the ‘heresy’. So it was, that an excuse was needed in order for the Pope to declare a full crusade on the region.
Just as the terrible acts of 9-11, the excuse was provided. After the powerful Count Raymond VI of Toulouse refused to assist the Pope, and the French King Philippe II refused to take action against the Nobles who permitted the faith, Count Raymond met with Pierre de Castelnau, the papal legate. Apparently an angry meeting ensued, in which no doubt, the one said, we must put an end to this heresy, while the other stated that it was no heresy and the whole thing was an unjustified attack on an innocent people.
Nevertheless, the following day Castelnau was murdered. There is no evidence, however, aligning the assassination with the Cathars. Indeed there were many groups of individuals who held great contempt for the church and there is no reason to exclude the possibility that this assassination was an inside job of the Church itself, providing the perfect spark that would allow the Crusade to begin.
Either way, that is just what happened. Pope Innocent declared war and offered the land of the Languedoc to any who would fight. This offer drew in many of the wealthy nobles from the north of France. In effect, the Pope was speaking directly to the French Lords. He said, essentially, ‘if you all help me, France will become twice the size and you will all receive great riches and more power’. What else is the incentive behind any war?
It worked of course. In 1209, an army of about thirty thousand knights and militiamen descended into the Languedoc from Northern Europe. This was a very grisly army, to say the least. Unlike most wars in which the people of an area unite into their military and fight as a whole, this group of warriors was a mixing pot of all the worst kinds of people. Anyone who simply chose their battle for who pays highest was in, and many of these bands of brutes had no other concerns. Indeed, one would need a certain moral flexibility in order to be involved in a massacre of this nature regardless of who the enemy was. It may well be counted amongst the first known and recorded genocides of our history, at least for its magnitude.
When this beast of an army arrived at the town of Beziers, the first blow was delivered. First, the army asked the Catholics to come out and show themselves and the Cathars were asked to surrender. Neither group agreed. The famous remark of Arnaud Amalric comes from this moment. When asked by a soldier how to distinguish the Catholics from the Cathars, he simply replied, “Kill them all. God will know his own.” In this horrible event, at least 15,000 men, women and children were slaughtered, with estimates ranging upward to 60,000, as was the report of Arnaud for the total number of dead. In this report, he proudly told the Pope that neither age, nor sex, nor status was spared.
The town was left looking like the floor of a butcher shop, and this image quickly spread to the neighboring cities, as did the army. Next was the fall of Perpignan, then Narbonne, then Carcassonne, and finally Toulouse. A trail of carnage was left in the wake of this force of evil. The Cathar faith was being eliminated.
It should also be noted that the Perfecti did not fight back. Their strict code of ethics did not allow for combat. They did resist in the form of hiding and retreating, and the Credente class certainly did defend themselves and their families and faith. But by 1243, almost all the major towns and cities occupied by the heresy had fallen to the northern invaders. The faith was now preserved only in small pockets and a few last bastions. The very last of these was Montsegur, a giant fortress in the mountains. The last of the Cathars remained here and suffered a ten-month assault by the invaders who attempted to starve them out. However, materials were snuck in through holes in the perimeter formed by the besiegers.
At last, in 1244, Montsegur was taken and the Cathar faith, as a whole, was no more. There were in fact several survivors who entered into the mountains or some other hiding, but there would never again arise an amount that would be significant enough to pose a challenge to the church, and so it ended.
At the very end of this siege, some mysterious events took place. While this enters into a whole other story, which is better investigated in other works, such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, a quick note can be made here. The mystery involves a certain treasure, which is said to have been held in the fortress of Montsegur as late as the last few days of its Cathar occupation. This was strange, seeing as most of the treasure contained in the fortress was estimated to have been relocated before the heavier part of the battle ensued. The treasure was apparently transported by four of the last Perfecti by night down the treacherous rocky cliffs adjacent to the fortress. Therefore, it is thought to have been something small, and something more significant than riches or gold judging by the manner in which it was treated.
The authors of Holy Blood hypothesized that it was also, perhaps, of great significance to a festival that could only have been held on March 14th. This is stemming from the fact that towards the end, the Catholic army called for the Cathars to surrender, and in response, they requested a two-week truce to consider the conditions. These two weeks included the Spring Equinox and allowed for the date to be reached with the ‘treasure’ intact. It also included Easter, and though the Cathars apparently gave no importance to the crucifixion and therefore Easter, the Equinox was apparently a date of importance to them as we might expect.
The treasure escaped on the last day of this truce, and it was at the risk of complete destruction. The Church had stated that the truce would be nullified if anyone attempted escape. So, it seems that this treasure held special significance to the date and was more important to the Cathars than their lives. Perhaps they held the Holy Grail – either it’s metaphor (the bloodline) or the object itself.
At his point, it is important to introduce a very peculiar set of warriors within the Crusades – one that did not lift a finger against the Cathars, but simply supervised the events as they took place. This group is one of the most mysterious of all societies in the past millennium. The field of research involving them is enormous and it is often hard to separate the truth from the propaganda in such an ocean of information. At the same time, an attempt must be made, for they were an integral factor in this unending mystery.
As with all of these sects from the Gnostics, Paulicians, Bogomils, Manichaeans, Cathars, to the Templars and those that would come later, it is hard to summarize their importance without filling many volumes. If one is to cover all these topics within a single book, much information must be left out. Regardless, I will attempt to cover what seem to be the most important factors in the larger picture. If we start at the beginning, we find many hints as to the intentions of this order. Though they were very different from the Gnostic faiths, the Gnosis did become a central pillar of the Templar legacy and it is largely through them that it comes down to us today in its modern form.
Originally, the knights were nine in number, led by Hugues de Payen, and they did not increase in size until nine years later. Some of the earliest records of the Templars are dated some fifty years after their inception, and as such, may not be accurate. This information may have been only what the order itself wanted to be leaked. It is odd that historians did exist right around the time and place that the Templars originated, yet they have remained silent. This goes to show the secrecy surrounding their early years and therefore the difficulties in studying them 900 years later. Nevertheless, it is all we have to go on.
Guillaume de Tyre tells us that their origin was dated at 1118, when the nine of them were given residence at the palace of Baudouin I, King of Jerusalem, though there is much information that leads us to believe that the order was already known of within the preceding decade, which may shake our faith in the information source. Their quarter of the castle was apparently sitting just above the site of the original temple of Solomon. This should be our first clue as to their true purpose, as the Temple of Solomon is possibly one of the most significant religious sites in the world, being central to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Templars and Freemasons to name a few. The fact that the original knights spent their first nine years on this site, enjoying the hospitality of the King of Jerusalem should immediately flag the fact that this was significant to the entire purpose of the knights. Officially, their job at this point was to guard the streets and commons of the Holy Land, and especially to protect the pilgrims. But we might imagine that in truth, their purpose was more along the lines of an investigation of sorts. They were carrying out an excavation beneath the Temple.
In this early time, the Templars also went by the title, ‘Knights of the Temple of Solomon’. They enjoyed the support of the Pope as well, the only power to which they paid allegiance. It seemed very strange that for all the royal treatment they received, they were only nine in number, a force one would assume not capable of such a task as protecting the streets of the entire Holy Land. If this truly was their primary function, then one would imagine they would be welcoming new recruits. Instead, we might wonder if they weren’t simply created to accomplish a certain task, and perhaps in succeeding they were then able to expand their ranks and move toward secondary purposes. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that in these first nine years, they were excavating beneath Solomon’s Temple and searching for something, which they likely found at the end of the nine years when they finally left the Holy Land and went off to recruit new members at an alarming rate.
Why all the sudden would they begin to create an army? Were the roads of Palestine suddenly swarming with too many new pilgrims? How were nine men meant to protect the entire land in the first place? The ‘guardians of the roads’ theory seems to be a complete cover story – the one which became the historical story since the true purpose of the knights was a secret that needed to remain hidden. Of course, many wild and fantastic theories have been tied to the order, but most every researcher who looks into these topics realizes that such theories are sometimes warranted. There are certainly more mysteries to the Templars than there are established facts.
In the beginning, it was hard for the world to understand these people. They were the first Catholic Warrior Monks – living by a strict code of ethics, yet fierce soldiers who were not afraid to slaughter those who crossed them. The people were only just beginning to accept that even though Christ taught not to kill, these men were killing not men, but evil itself, as was the opinion of Bernard de Clairveaux.
By 1128, the Roman Church was singing the praises of the new knighthood, declaring them the perfect example of Christian values. At this point, they were the chosen warrior monks of Christendom – the militia of Christ. They followed strict codes of conduct on and off the battlefield. They were not allowed to accept mercy when captured, but instead were compelled to fight to the death, and they were not allowed to retreat from battle unless the odds were against them at least three to one. This era of the Templars was significant in that now the Church had its own army that was not under the jurisdiction of any political powers of Europe, but instead answered only to the Pope himself. Also, they were allowed no other allegiances.
By 1130, Hugues de Payen, Grand Master of the army, returned to Palestine with around three hundred knights, while others were spread across Europe maintaining numerous lands and sites donated to the cause. As soon as the Nine had begun recruiting, their land and wealth increased exponentially. This was because all new knights were obligated to donate their possessions to the order and take a vow of poverty. This vow of poverty is shown in the later Templar Seal depicting two knights riding upon one horse. While they did claim to live in personal poverty, the order itself became quite rich. They held vast stores of gold in their castles, which could be accessed by notarized receipts so that the rich may travel abroad without having to travel with their own gold. That is to say, they created a banking infrastructure, exactly like the original, gold backed dollars!
Needless to say, they soon become very powerful and influential. Their authority was even respected by Kings and monarchs. They became the official banking system of Europe, and also managed shipping and farming through their vast network of territories, fortresses and castles. At their height, they saw great admiration from all of Europe and were held in such high respect that their presence was found in practically all the diplomacy and military struggles of the time. They even claimed the ability to replace monarchs.
Though they were supposedly in allegiance with only the Pope, it seems they had a hidden agenda of their own. It is speculated that they were linked with the Muslim faith, enjoying the respect of the Saracen leaders not given to any other Europeans. This is quite staggering considering their many military struggles with Islam. It is thought that they were tied to the Hashishim, a group of Islamic assassins that was seemingly the Muslim equivalent of the Templars. Hashishim is the root of the word assassin, stemming from the root of the word Hashish, a commodity that they traded perhaps with Templars, establishing one of the first major drug cartels. Some believe this group was actually employed by the Templar Order.
The extensive rights and freedoms granted to the knights no doubt gave them access to all the faiths and philosophies of the known world. From Judaism to Islam to Christendom, and the Cathars as well, all these faiths were at their fingertips. It is likely that they took great advantage of this information and perhaps consistently renewed their agenda based upon their learning. It seems to paint a picture of something very like the CIA blended with the Federal Reserve, and as we know, this implies a huge and powerful influence on the whole of society.
Their relationship with the Cathars is perhaps one of the more important factors. Some have claimed that one of the first nine was actually a Cathar, and though this is not verifiable, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that one or more of the Grand Masters were of Cathar families. There is even more to suggest that many of the members were indeed Cathars. During the Albigensian Crusade, therefore, the Templars did not raise a finger against these people, but only witnessed, probably with great sorrow, the slaughter of a people whom they were actually quite close to. It is very possible that this relationship affected the Templars in ways that may have changed their course altogether. As we’ve already seen, the Cathars were certainly heirs to some very important secrets and perhaps also great treasures – gold and silver included, but more importantly spiritual artifacts, objects of power.
It is not out of the question to wonder if perhaps the Cathars passed some of their secret possessions onto the Templars after coming to an agreement with them. As their history reveals, the Templars, though always claiming loyalty to the Papacy, were very capable of acting on their own and often did. At the height of their power, the Knights were in some ways more powerful than the Pope, and reports of their arrogance and pride seem to prove that at a certain point, they believed in themselves and took their own orders. What they received from the Cathars at minimum was the Gnostic teachings of dualism and separation of spirit and body. More than likely, however, they also learned some of the most profound esoteric secrets still preserved in their day. Some of these may have pertained to mystical initiation ceremonies, rites and rituals, and even physical artifacts, while others may have been historical secrets of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was, in a sense, the patron saint of the Templars. It was said that they possessed his skull, and this was among their most protected treasures. It is possible that they kept, or knew the location of Mary’s body as well. The Templars had roots in the Johannite tradition, or the followers of John, just as the Paulicians were followers of Paul, yet if we remember, both Paul and John were initiates of high degree. Either had a better claim to Jesus than did Peter.
Though the Templars had apparently found some secret wisdom or object beneath the temple, many believe that the Cathars had a greater bag of secrets still. Even still, it is likely that if these secrets made their way anywhere after the fall of Montsegur, they would likely have been passed to the Templars and if the two groups already enjoyed a level of trust, it is possible that at least some of this knowledge would have been shared willingly.
The whole of the Templar history lasted only about two centuries, though many would say their story extends down to our present day. This period of two centuries, however, shows a slow transition from the original Nine Knights, to a major disciplined military order, to a multinational corporation dealing in diplomacy, shipping routes, banking, medicine, technology and many other fields.
Philosophically, the knights may be thought of as a nonlocal Alexandria. Though they did not likely ever come close to reaching the height of knowledge that was contained in the ancient libraries, (and perhaps this has never occurred since either) they did constitute an anthology of learning. By maintaining respect from Islam and Judaism, not to mention Cathars and other more pagan, Gnostic, or her[m]etical magic traditions, they were a mobile mixing pot which certainly would have seen the bigger picture if there was one to see at the time.
In the year 1291, things began to fall apart for the Templars. On the 28th of May, they lost the city of Acre, their home for nearly a century, to the Mamlukes – another sect of warriors who would eventually contribute greatly to ending the crusades altogether. This was a very significant loss for Christendom and the Templars. This was their Eastern headquarters, and at this battle, they lost their Grand Master William de Beaujeu, who was replaced by Theobald Gaudin.
Gaudin immediately removed himself from the Holy Land and went to Cyprus where he began looking for assistance. None was found and eventually his brethren abandoned their last mainland fortress to join him in Cyprus. This Mediterranean island was owned by the Order at the time, and it served now as their last bastion.
At this point, Pope Nicholas IV was hatching a plan to take back the Holy Land by uniting all the military orders together, namely the Templars and Hospitallers, but he died before this could happen. Nicholas was succeeded by Pope Boniface VIII, and Gaudin died as well, being succeeded by Jacques de Molay who is believed to be the last grand master of the order.
To understand the Templar’s transition from Holy Knights to heretics, the Hospitallers provide a clue. They received their name because they worked out of a hospital in Jerusalem. Originally, they had a similar task as the Templars in providing protection and medical service to the pilgrims in the Holy Land. Eventually, this advanced to become an armed escort service that became quite powerful. This hospital was first commissioned in 600. In 1005, it was destroyed by Caliph Al Hakim along with many other buildings in Jerusalem. Two decades later, it was rebuilt on the site of the monastery of St John the Baptist.
The Hospitaller order itself was not established until 1113, after the first crusade. This is right around when the Templar order first appeared, though it was not officially known until five years later. These two orders were the most powerful Christian groups in the Holy Land, and both fought to protect against Islamic forces. It was curious that much later, in the year 1248, Pope Innocent IV introduced their official dress code, a red surcoat with a white cross on the front, exactly opposite of the Templars’ white tunic with red cross.
The next half century saw the two orders in a sort of sibling rivalry until 1292 when a man by the name of Raymond Lull instigated the idea of fusing the orders together under one ‘war king’. It seemed the job for Phillippe IV, representing the throne of France, but Jacques de Molay had doubts. Molay expressed to Pope Clemont V, who seemed into the idea, that the two orders had existed separately for so long and that their rivalry had benefited the church. He also expressed worry that the fusion would call for a new system of rules, and he believed the Hospitallers (who were less strict) would lower the standards of the Templars.
This is the time in which many rumors began to circulate through Christendom. There was an uncertainty factor spreading, and even talk of heresy began. The fact was that despite their vows of poverty and the sacrifice of their possessions, the order had become extremely wealthy and influential the world round. Many thought that they had become corrupt and arrogant. The fact remained that their primary function was to protect the pilgrims of the Holy Land. But with Palestine in the hands of Muslims, their purpose was obsolete. The accusations of heretical practice were not uncalled for either, though we must not think that ‘heretical practice’ as identified by the Pope labels actions that are really wrong. As we may remember, heresy only means things that the church doesn’t like. It is very likely true that the Knights did have allegiances to more than just Jesus Christ. It is probable that they worshipped many older gods or forces. This is to say, the Templars came to think outside the box of Roman Catholicism, and for this they reached their end.
The situation was not helped by Esquin de Florvan, a renegade Templar who was imprisoned and stated to his fellow inmates, “They spit on the Holy Cross, these Knights Templar. Not only do they deny the divinity of Christ during their reception, they do not even worship God Almighty, but a graven idol instead.” He then insisted on telling this to the King of Aragon, James II, who dismissed it as nothing more than rumor. Then he moved on to Phillippe IV, who, whether he believed it true or not, decided to use the information. He immediately told Clemont V who responded in August of 1307 that he would launch a full investigation in October. Phillippe, however was too impatient and in September issued the arrest of the Templars.
Friday, October 13th the arrests began, marking all Fridays landing on the 13th as suspicious ever since. There are stories of the Templars receiving a heads-up and escaping in large quantity, but it is very hard to say if this was true. One thing is for sure, their treasures were never found. Whether they received information of the impending attack, or just felt a premonition based on their falling status, it seems as though they were as prepared as they could be. One of the more popular theories is that their treasures were hauled off to the coast where they were loaded onto 18 ships setting sail from the port of La Rochelle. It was known that the Templars were excellent mariners, and the hypothesis that they had perhaps discovered America long before Columbus is based on a growing body of evidence. Some insist that this was their major secret and that their wealth came from American silver and gold.
Historically, they were the pirates who owned the seas. They sailed under a Jolly Roger, perhaps alluding to the skull of John the Baptist. They inspired the term ‘false flag’ by keeping the flags of every nation on board their ships and raising the ones corresponding to those they met at sea to instill trust before getting close and raiding them.
As soon as the first knights were arrested, the list of heresies began adding up. In Paris, 138 members of the order were interrogated. They were kept separated from one another and were informed that Phillippe and the Pope both knew of their transgressions. All who complied were pardoned, and all who did not awaited death. It goes without saying that torture was a popular method in this inquisition. Soon there were 87 separate charges of heresy.
By the end of November Clemont authorized the arrest of the Templars all throughout Christendom. The orders were to be opened at the same moment throughout all countries, and executed immediately. Many of the countries involved now carried out the orders reluctantly and did not use torture. It seems that most of these countries did not buy the story. Even the Pope himself was unhappy with Phillippe’s way of handling things. In 1308, he suspended the trial and demanded that the Church alone deal with the whole matter. Months later, he gave into Phillippe’s pressure but insisted that the trials remain in the Church’s control. He also called for a general council to be held in Vienna in 1310 in which the truth would be determined.
Those Templars wishing to defend the Order were called to Paris. Some 600 men answered the call. Phillipe argued that those who had previously confessed in the earlier interrogations would be proven as liars and heretics; nullifying their pardon he would sentence them to death. Therefore, on May 12th, 1310, fifty-four men were turned over to Phillipe and burned at the stake.
The investigative commission, which collected evidence for the council, had great trouble gathering the proper information, and thus, the council was delayed. Eventually, it found the Order to have remained orthodox, but that ‘unworthy aspects’ had entered into their initiation ceremony. Those who acknowledged this were to be reinstated and their sins absolved. This verdict did not reach the council intact.
When Phillipe had arrived in Vienna, Clemont called a special meeting with the commissioners and cardinals. In four fifths majority, they voted in favor of the dissolution of the order. Though Clemont knew that the evidence supported the knight’s right to continue, in a modified state that is, he feared going the way of his predecessor, Boniface VIII, whose death was very much helped along by Phillipe.
So the Templars were dissolved. Their properties were given to the Knights Hospitaller. So it seemed that Phillipe had won, but Jacques de Molay was not dead, he was still imprisoned. It was March 1314 (Pi) when Molay was finally executed. All who witnessed the event were impressed by his apparent willingness to die. It is legend that before he died, he declared a curse on both Phillip and Clemont, summoning them to join him before God within the year. A month later, in April, Clemont died from illness and on November 29th Phillip died in a suspicious hunting accident. These apparently accidental deaths were likely the result of Molay’s followers. While the curse of Jacques de Molay may have been thought up after the fact and attributed to him, it is still an interesting sentiment.
Even still, the Templar Order was over. Those who were able to escape the attack would in large part flee to Scotland, where the Papal Bulls had never reached. Therefore the Order was technically never dissolved in Scotland. It is thought that the Templars who remained there existed for hundreds of years afterward, and we must return to this fact when reaching the time of the Freemasons, who claimed the Templars as their predecessor in a lineage spanning all the way back to ancient Egypt. It was the Scottish Rite Freemasons that would play a large part in the formation of America.
Just as the Cathars had survived in one form or another, the Templars had as well. However, neither has resurfaced to the prestigious places they had once occupied. Both were hunted down and always forced to retreat into shadows, just as all other heresies. It would be a quiet world for Christendom in the years that followed. Though the Templars were seemingly finished, their significance has not yet left this story. For now, however, we must proceed chronologically.
We must now approach another great challenge to the dogmatic theology of Rome. Yet another uprising would illuminate the world with a hope for actually understanding the universe from outside the cage of Christian thinking. This would not be another religious sect. Instead it would focus on a type of thought that is more in keeping with philosophy, reason and logic. It was to incite an age in which the precursors of modern science would emerge and common sense would finally take a stand against blind faith.
If then you do not make yourself equal to God, you cannot apprehend God; for like is known by like. Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself grown to a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure; rise above all time and become eternal; then you will apprehend God. Think that for you too nothing is impossible; deem that you too are immortal, and that you are able to grasp all things in your thought, to know every craft and science; find your home in the haunts of every living creature; make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths; bring together in yourself all opposites of quality, heat and cold, dryness and fluidity; think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven; think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave; grasp in your thought all of this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God.
But if you shut up your soul in your body, and abase yourself, and say “I know nothing, I can do nothing; I am afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven; I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,” then what have you to do with God?– Corpus Hermeticum
It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.– Voltaire