I suppose that there is no one at this day, even on the outermost fringes of the wide world of books, who willed to be acquainted with the fact that the old chivalry
of the Temple was instituted as a protection to the Christian pilgrims who visited the Holy Places of Jerusalem in the first quarter of the twelfth century. It was a military and religious organisation ab origin symboli, differing as such from the Hospital of St. John, which at its incorporation was a healing fraternity, and only assumed arms following the example of the Militia Crucifera Evangelica which had arisen suddenly at its side. Templar history is a great storehouse of enchanting hypothesis and also of unreclaimed speculation repeated from writer to writer. I know no greater sea on which ships of imagination and fantasy have launched more boldly; if they have reached no final harbour, they have paused to take in further stores at innumerable "summer isles" of an imaginary Eden "lying in dark purple spheres of sea," and if in some undemonstrable way they have slipped their cables and eluded sporadic hostile vessels, this has been because the equipment of the latter has not been better than their own, white as regards credentials the letter of marque carried by the unwelcome visitor would often not bear much closer inspection than their own unchartered licence. Now, an Order which was established in the East for a specific Christian purpose, which embodied ideas of devotion that were ecclesiastical as well as religious, which accepted monastic vows--even those counsels of perfection that qualified for the Quest of the Graal--yet, in spite of these, which became wealthy in the corporate sense beyond the dreams of avarice, insolent and haughty beyond the prerogatives of feudal royalty, and had darker charges looming against it, does assuredly offer a picture to research the possibilities of which are likely to be exploited in all directions. The story of the brotherhood and the things implied therein have been therefore approached from many points of view, enforced by many considerations and by much which passes for evidence. I speak--as it will be understood--here of the things recognised or divined beneath its external
surface, for on that side there is nothing more direct and more simple. We know that the Latin Church has a heavy account to balance in respect of the Order, and by the characteristics of the charges preferred it is also responsible for having brought it--whether warrantably or otherwise, but at least all unwittingly--within the dubious circle of the Secret Tradition in Christian times, for a considerable proportion of those who recognise the fact of the Tradition. It remains, however, that from this standpoint the story has never been told at all by any one who spoke with knowledge on so involved a subject. Here there is no place to attempt it, but the Mystery of the Temple in a minor degree interpenetrated the Mystery of the Graal, and something must be said concerning it in this connection. There is at the present time in England (a) an extending disposition to appreciate remotely and dimly an imbedded evidence that the romance-literature did somehow shadow forth an initiatory process--but this I have hinted previously; and (b) that in some manner not yet understood the Knights Templars and the Graal legend grew up together, and will answer with strange voices if set to question one another across the void which intervenes between an externalised chivalry in fact and an ideal knighthood in books. In a word, the literature has been held sometimes to represent, within clouds and under curious veils, something of the imputed Templar subsurface design, or alternatively certain Graal texts do at least indubitably reflect in their own manner, on their own authority, the Knighthood of the Morning and of Palestine raised from the world of reflections into the world of the archetype. The Longer Prose Perceval is not only a work with an allegorical and also a mystic motive; it is not only the story of a suppressed word, of the sorrow and suffering which were wrought by that suppression, and the joy and deliverance which followed the recovery of the word; it is not only the prototypical correlative of the legend of
the Royal Arch and the eighteenth degree in a form not less clear because it can be traced only by a specialist; but--at least in adventitious ways--it has ever-recurring characters of Templar symbolism. But that which wears herein--and so through the French cycle--little more than the aspect of accident, passes in the Parsifal of Wolfram into the appearance of a preconceived plan. Herein is the story of a confraternity, partly military but in part also religious, connecting by the legend of its lineage with a kind of secret history in Christendom written under the guise of knight-errantry; it is the romance of an Order of the Holy Graal whose members are chosen out of thousands, dedicated, set apart, and sometimes terrible in power, almost "like Cedron in flood." I do not wonder that before the face of this picture the criticism of the Graal literature has been haunted here and there with the dream of Templar intervention, and the only question which concerns us is the extent to which such an hypothesis can be justified. Even in the least illuminated circles the possibility is regarded with increasing respect, and apart from any claims on its own basis it would be difficult for this reason to pass it over entirely. The imputed fact, or the likelihood, that the literature was a vehicle, officially or otherwise, of some mystical tradition, without depending for any one on the merits of this hypothesis, would in certain minds be enhanced substantially thereby. But it is desirable to note, in the first place, that it is now an old speculation; secondly, that recent years have not brought to light, that I am aware, any new facts on the subject; and, lastly, that in so far as the contention is put freshly there is a disposition to dwell on the Templeisen depicted in the Parsifal as not only a militant body but also a governing theocracy, and one which above all things was not ecclesiastical. It is just this which impresses me as perhaps a little exaggerated in tone: I do not know that Amfortas and his chivalry can be called a governing power any more than the
company over-ruled by King Pelles of Lytenoys, of whose warfare we hear in the Vulgate Merlin. If Mont Salvatch was anything of the kind, it was obviously a secret kingdom, and as much might be said of Corbenic and the realm to which it belonged. Seeing also that the keepers of the Graal and the cohort of their ministers had at no time a sacerdotal aspect--some express claims notwithstanding as to their geniture and their ministers--the ecclesiastical note therein is wanting through all the cycles; the distinction in chief between the Templeisen and the other knights of the Graal is that in Wolfram the former are elaborately organised, while the latter are either an inchoate gathering or they are merely the retinue which would be attached to a feudal castle. In one case, which is that of the Didot Perceval, the House Mystic is perhaps a simple tower, which, from all that we learn by the context, might be little more than a hermit's hold.
It is obviously one thing to say that Wolfram modelled his chivalry on the prototype of the Knights Templars--which is an interesting fact without consequence--and another that the modelling was inspired by a familiarity with Templar secret intention, and it is on this point, which is obviously the hypothesis in its motive, that reasonable evidence is wanted. The next step is to recognise tendances suspectes in the poem of Wolfram, to predicate them of Guiot, his precursor, and to regard the Templar design--whatever otherwise it was--as anti-Catholic in its spirit. With the first ascription I have dealt in discussing the German cycle in general; of the second we can divine little, and then but darkly; while in respect of the third I recur to that canon of criticism which has served me well already: in so far as the Templar Order is held to be anti-Catholic, it is antecedently and proportionately unlikely that any evidence will connect it with the Graal literature. Whatever the origin of that literature, as we now have it, in one and all its forms, it is not merely a Catholic
legend, but it seems so to have issued from the heart and centre of Catholicity that it is almost in the likeness of an exotic, as if from some sanctuary behind the external and visible sanctuary of the universal Church. If this is the heart of romance going out in its yearning towards God, there was never a heart in Christendom "which warmer beat and stronger." It is like the voice of that ideal city, the first city, the spiritual city, of which Wagner spoke, and it is seldom heard on earth; it seems to speak from the pictured home of the soul, the place of pre-existence, with all the mystery and wonder of enchanted Hud and of Irêm in the Land of the Morning. And in the melody of that voice, within the verbal message thereof, we know that the country deep in Asia is not to be found in any Highlands beyond the Himalayas, or in the fabled Sarras. Again, it is the country of the soul and of the soul's legend; it is the Kabalistic place of the palaces at the centre of the dimensions, sustaining all things. We know also that we shall look vainly for Corbenic on the wild coast of Wales, and for the local habitation of the Graal Castle of Mont Salvatch at any of the grand passes of the Pyrenees into Spain; for this also is like the Rosicrucian mountain of Abiegnus and the mystic Fir-Cone, a mystery enfolded within and without by many meanings.
But if such is the position in respect of the Holy Graal, and if it follows therefrom that in some hands it has rested under a serious cloud of misapprehension, there is something to be said on the same subject, though not in the same sense, in respect of the Knights Templars. The eye which has turned from the Graal literature to the records of the great chivalry has been drawn in that direction because of the charge of heresy which was preferred of old against it. I am not designing to suggest that the side of criticism which is prominent in the open day is interested--or much less concerned seriously--in heresy as such, though I confess--if it be fitting to say so--that next to the truth which is of God
and the deeps therein, whereof simple minds dream nothing, I am conscious of few things more fascinating than the story of the bad old doctrines and of those who loved, followed and honoured them. It draws the mind for ever with vague and preposterous hopes; and seeing further that I am on the side of the orthodox faith only in so far as the old mule which carries the mysteries can be shown to be on God's side--as the High History testifies--I do not doubt that many are the choses suspectes which might be gleaned from this book, and many there may still be who could wish to include its writer in the annals carried forward of Smithfield or Tyburn and those who went thither in the days of Mary or Elizabeth.
Here is cleansing confession; but scholarship, as I have intimated, is detached, subject to its inoculation by the notion of pagan faiths perpetuated through Christian centuries--the stilettos of which virus have pierced me also in both arms. But I believe, apart from such images, that I carry a lamp which enlightens these obscure ways, and much as I may love their crookedness, they do not deceive me. It is on this account precisely that the heresy of the Temple, so far as it concerns the Graal, can be dealt with shortly here, for which purpose I will go back as early as my knowledge of the criticism extends along these lines.
The summary of the particulars in chief may be grouped together as follows: (1) In the year 1825, Von Hammer, an orientalist of the period, identified certain baptismal fonts or vases--which he included among antique memorials of the Templars--as examples of the true San Graal vessels, and as he connected Templar secret doctrine with that of the Gnostics, he remembered that, according to Epiphanius, the Marcosians made use of three large vases in their celebration of the Eucharist. These were filled with white wine, which was supposed to undergo a transformation of colour and other magical changes. (2) In the year 1828, the Abbé Grégoire
expressed a conviction that Christ transmitted to St. John the Evangelist a secret doctrine which descended ultimately to the Templars. (3) In the year 1834 Gabriele Rossetti affirmed that the Templars belonged to secret societies, and that they professed doctrines inimical to Rome; but though much has been hazarded concerning their opinions, nothing has been ascertained conclusively. He held further that they were of Egyptian derivation and that from them the Albigenses emanated. Here I am reminded of a rumour regarding a manuscript said to be in the Louvre, but of which I know nothing, either as to title or claims; it is reported to state that the Templars originated from a more ancient Order, called the Magian Brothers. (4) In the year 1854 it was sustained by Eugene Aroux that all the archaic romances of the Holy Graal were written to glorify the Order of the Temple and to present its doctrine in the form of romance. (5) In the year 1858 the same writer went further and suggested that the Templars were parties to a concealed programme for the creation at Jerusalem of a religious and military rival of the power and orthodoxy at Rome. (6) In the year 1842 Dr. K. Simrock expressed an opinion that the doctrine and tradition of the Templars were based on the tradition of the Graal; that Christ had been instructed by the Essenes; that he confided a secret knowledge to some of his disciples; and that this was imparted subsequently to the priests of the Temple chivalry. (7) In 1844, writing on the influence of Welsh tradition, it was hazarded by A. Schulze that the symbols and doctrines of the Templars might have been borrowed from the Graal. (8) In 1865 Louis Moland in his Origines Littéraires considered that the Graal legend and the Templar Order were expressions in literature and life of the same ideal, being the union of knighthood with sanctity, and he further stated (a) that there was a strange Templar reflection in a literature which was unquestionably and closely related
with the principles of that Order; (b) that the Roman Curia interdicted the Graal romances coincidently with the suppression of the knightly Order. It will be seen that the root of this thesis is identical with that of Schulze.
The summary above has of necessity omitted many allocations and many hazards of hypothesis which might have been collected from other sources. Our next step is to ascertain from the charges against the Templars in the course of the processes instituted by the ecclesiastical Courts of France, and elsewhere, what were the heresies of doctrine and practice imputed to the chivalry. Setting aside those which constituted infringements of the Decalogue and sins crying to heaven for vengeance, the major accusations were two--that candidates for reception into the Order were required to deny Christ and offer a ceremonial outrage to the Cross, as the symbol of his Passion. The minor accusations were many, but after disentangling the alleged cultus of the Baphometic head and some other things which I rule outside our concern, they are reducible also to two, being (1) the secular absolution from sin which was said to be given by the Grand Master in open chapter, or alternatively, I believe, by the preceptors of local commanderies and encampments; (2) a practice in respect of the Eucharist which did not involve exactly a denial in doctrine, but exhibited hostility thereto. The first is important because in a qualified form it was the only charge which was held proven against the Templars as a result of the examinations in England; but it is on the second that the whole thesis with which we are concerned breaks down. The accusation was that in consecrating the Blessed Sacrament, the necessary and efficacious words were omitted. The evidence adduced on this question included that of an English priest who had once officiated for the Templars and who was forbidden to recite the Clause of Institution.
I do not propose to report upon the validity of the
charges in whole or in detail; those who are concerned must be referred--if they can summons such patience for their aid--to the Latin process of the trial, which was published many years since in France. The Templars have been accused by learned people of Gnosticism, Manichæanism, Albigensianism, on the authority of those memorials; but there is no evidence for such charges; it is wanting also for the other speculations which are included in my summary above; and, in fine, there is none also for the suggested Graal connections, though I confess that my researches were begun in an expectation of the kind. The Templars, if guilty, as affirmed of old on the worst of all possible authority, were in the position of the heresies in Southern France; they reduced, denied, derided, or stood in fear of the Eucharist, and therefore the abyss intervenes between them and a literature which existed to exalt it. As regards the German Parsifal, it possesses the putative tendances suspectes to which I have referred in more than one connection. It may be said that the Host which came from heaven was a designed antithesis to the Host consecrated on earth, but I believe that this is fantasy, because to hear an ordinary Mass was as much a duty of knighthood according to Wolfram, as we find it in the Quest of Galahad, the Longer Prose Perceval and any of the other romances. I believe in my heart that the instituted analogy between the Templeisen of Mont Salvatch and the great Order of Chivalry was natural and irresistible in the mind of the poet who conceived it--whether Wolfram or Guiot; I believe that it is the only connection and, as I have said, that nothing follows therefrom. I believe that the sole Eucharistic privilege enjoyed by the Templars was a decree which permitted them to celebrate one Mass annually in places under interdict; that they were militantly papal; that there were next to no instances in which they renounced their faith, much as they may have dishonoured it by their lives; and that their foundation under the patronage of
la doce mére de Dieu represented their ecclesiastical ideal. I believe in fine that their first principles were expressed on their behalf in the Epistle of St. Bernard ad Milites Templi. It was written at the instance of Hugo, the first Commander, and this fact is all that need be derived from the prologue. The text itself exhorts the new institution to strive with intrepid souls against the enemies of the Cross of Christ, because those to whom death is a reward and life is Christ need fear nothing. Let them stand for Christ therefore, rather desiring to be dissolved, that they may be with Him. Let them live in good fellowship, having neither wives nor children. A later section concerns that external Temple from which their particular title was taken, and it compares the glories of the House built by Solomon with the inward grace of that to which the Order was attached in the spirit. In other words, this was for St. Bernard a house not made with hands, since the chivalry was itself a Temple, and, like that of Masonry, the edifice was erected in the heart. The brethren are in fact described as a Holy City; they are connected with the idea of the Church itself; and the enumerated details of the Holy Place are used for spiritual exhortation addressed to the knighthood. The promise to Zion that its wilderness shall become an abode of all delights, its solitude a garden of the Lord echoing with joy and gladness, with thanksgiving and the voice of praise, is said to be the heritage of the Order, and to watch over their heavenly treasure should be their chief care--so acting that in all things He should be pleased Who guides their arms to the battle and their hands to the warfare.
Whether it profits to add more I question, but this I will say at least--that I am sacrificing all my predilections and making my task in the next book much harder by throwing over the Templar hypothesis, not alone in its connection with the Graal on the historical side, but as one of the channels through which the Secret Tradition may have passed in Christian times. I cannot say even
that I speak under correction, for I question that correction is possible. I have searched many of these byways with an anxious eye for the evidence, and I have been haunted with the dreams of those who went before me in the way, but I have returned so far with hands empty. I can therefore say only: magis amica veritas.