The Templar Initiation – a story
(In this tale is told the Templar Initiation, though not all of it. That remains perhaps for another time. I have, however, repeated the story of Creation as told by Mani as part of the young man’s acceptance into the Order. It seems clear that there was some considerable sympathy and identity of spiritual striving between the Cathars and the Templars. We know that nine knights journeyed to Jerusalem. There is some debate whether the Comte de Champagne was among the nine, though he became a member of the Order some months later. Therefore I have invented a young Cathar called Jehan de Tarascon who, for reasons that I do not tell, joined the nine. I believe the details of the initiations to be as accurate as I can make them, though I have imagined the fire initiation details. There was, though, a fire initiation. The ‘Bernard’ mentioned later in the tale is, of course, Bernard de Clairvaux. The tension between allegiance demanded to Rome while the Templars felt their loyalty to be to Jerusalem must have surfaced in some way before the Council of Troyes in 1128, when the Knights became the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. I have included no descriptions of battles. Read Michael Bentine’s book for that. Now read on.)
Two men rode through the late afternoon towards the small chateau in the valley. They had not spoken for several miles, but now one broke the silence.
“Gondamer, did the Grand Master’s messenger say any more about this young man?”
“A young man from the south; one who follows the rule of the Sangreal in his own way. That’s all.”
“In his own way? What do you make of that?”
“No more than you, Rossal.”
They did not let the old ostler take their horses to the stable when they arrived, but saw them in to the stalls themselves before going in to the main house.
One of their number stood at the window, the last daylight glinting dully on his bald brow. The others sat on wooden benches or stood at the fire, where logs burned in the hearth. Their host sat beside the hearth. They identified at once the youngest man among them. Outside, rooks gathered in the twilight cawing in the treetops in the woods beyond the field. The youngest man stood uncertainly among the rest of the company. He noticed how the others deferred to him, none ever quite turning his back on him, but watching for instructions or a sign
“Sit, sit,” the host told his visitor, who chose a joint stool beside the bare wooden table.
“You are from Tarascon?” one of the others asked? The newcomer nodded assent. Then he said: “But not Tarascon in Provence. The other Tarascon, in Languedoc.”
One of the newest to arrive looked disappointed. “So, you are not from the place where Saint Mary Magdalene has her grave?”
“That is Beaucaire, Rossal; across the river from Tarascon,” the host said, quietly.
“Yes yes, I know,” Rossal said, “but all the same.”
The host rose from his place near the log fire and approached the young man from Languedoc. Turning to the others, he said:
“This young man, for those of you who don’t yet know him, is Jehan de Tarascon,” he said, “and I have invited him here to add his voice to our considerations.” Turning to the young man, he continued, “and these gentlemen are Godrey de St. Omer, Payne de Monteverdi, Archambaud de St. Agnan, over by the window Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bison, this big fellow is Gondamer, and this is Rossal.”
“I hear strange things from Languedoc,” said Gondamer, “people who turn their back on the church, on good food and wine.”
“I heard something,” said Bison, “of people who believe that, when we die, we return after many years to be born again into a body of flesh.”
“We are a Christian people,” said Jehan de Tarascon; “different but as Christian as you.”
“In this room,” said Godfrey de St. Omer, “we are not entirely averse to such difference.”
“Who is the founder of your faith?” asked Payne de Monteverdi; “Tell us something of him.”
“If I can be sure of a generous hearing, I will gladly tell you about the man known as Mani, the Apostle of Christ,” said Jehan de Tarascon.
The knights and nobles made themselves comfortable in the warmth and let the young man speak.
“It was in the month of Iyar –
“The month of Iyar?” interrupted Archambaud; “You use the Hebrew calendar?”
“Yes,” explained Jehan, “But not all of my people do so.”
“Go on,” said the host.
“Thank you, Sieur de Payens. It was, as I say, in the month of Iyar that we also know as April, that a child named Kurkabios was born in Mardinu, in Nahr Kutha in Babylon. His father had left before he was born, and was drawn to dwell among the Elchasaites.”
“Elchasaites?” said Archambaud? “What are these creatures?”
“I believe,” said their host, de Payens, “that they were a baptising creed that insists on the kingship of Jesus.”
“Just so,” said Jehan, and continued: “Thus his mother, Mariam, was left to live as a widow for four years. Then, his father sent for him to join him among the Elchasaites.
“At the age of twelve, this boy had a revelation that this was not the people among whom he should dwell – “
“A revelation, you say?” interrupted Payne de Monteverdi; “What kind of revelation? An angel appearing to him?”
“Kurkabios himself described this,” said Jehan: “It was something as close to him as it might be a twin, or a part of himself yet unseen that manifested itself, but a being of light and love.”
“You mean an angel?” said Gondamer. Jehan looked at Gondamer and de Monteverdi, and back to their host with a look of appeal.
“Let Jehan tell the tale. Think, Gondamer! The divine twin; such as might ride with you on the same horse!”
This seemed to enlighten Gondamer, whose face showed the dawn of understanding.
“Go on, Jehan,” de Payens instructed.
Jehan thanked his host, and continued.
“Twelve years later, this divine twin, or heavenly friend appeared to Kurkabios again, and told him to begin his travels, promising to be with him wherever he went.
“This light filled being revealed to Kurkabios the mystery of light and darkness, and how they gave birth to the world. He told of the mystery of the Tree of Knowledge. He said that he became as one with the divine twin, becoming one body and one spirit with him. It was then that he took the name Mani, which is to say, ‘I am the I am’.”
The group in the room stirred with new interest.
“The Master Word that was lost!” whispered Bison to St. Omer: “But can it be the same thing? Is it simply a coincidence?”
The Sieur de Payens silenced the muttering, saying: “It is the same. The prophet that Jehan de Tarascon speaks of was a living bearer of the Master Word of the Golden Triangle, the word that was lost. That is why, though we are neither the Hearers nor the Elect, the Perfect Ones of Jehan’s religious calling, we take some of their practices as our own.”
“The Consolamentum, for instance,” said Andre de Montbard. De Payens nodded, and signalled for Jehan to continue.
“Mani wrote many books, and the Moslems say he was a great painter of pictures – “
“The Moslems reject painting of images,” objected Gondamer.
“Even so,” Jehan went on, “it is said among them that he was a painter who created scenes of great beauty, though no one knows where one may see them.”
He fell silent. A log fell in the hearth, and de Payens took another from a large basket and placed it carefully among the flames. Gondamer looked at Rossal, raising his eyebrows. The two looked away from each other. The Sieur de Payens was a poor knight who did not expect servants to come running for any and every small task, such as building up the fire. Poor though he was, he was clearly the acknowledged leader of this small group. It was said in some quarters – though very quietly – that the Comte de Champagne himself called de Payens ‘Grand Master’.
“Is there more to say, Jehan?” he asked. Jehan looked around him at the company assembled, and licked his lips, unsure of what his reception was among these nobles and fighting men. Though they differed in appearance, the fat Archambaud, the slender de Montbard with his lined face, Bison with his remarkable breadth of shoulders, each man had about him something definite, something certain. They sat or stood comfortably and at ease in themselves. It was especially true of de Payens, who reminded Jehan strongly of some of the Elect of his religion. His nobility was not just what he inherited from his forefathers. It shone from him like sunlight on a crystal.
“He was accepted by the King Shapur, who was converted to Christianity by him, though the priests of Zaradost were dismayed at this. Mani was allowed to preach throughout the Babylonian empire. He spread his teachings to India, Turan and even as far as China, saying that he acknowledged Buddha and Zaradost as great teachers of mankind.”
“An apostle of Christ who acknowledges Buddha and Zaradost?” said St. Omer: “I think such a teaching can only lead to trouble for such a prophet.”
“So it was,” said Jehan quickly: “Shapur died, and his son Hormisdar continued to support Mani, but his brother Bahram, when he came to power, was swayed by the advice of the priests of Zaradost. Mani was cruelly slain and his body flayed and his skin stuffed with straw, to be hung up over the gate of the city of Gundishpur called the Mani Gate.”
A silence fell in the room. De Payens went to the chamber door and called for more candles. No one spoke until they arrived and were lit.
“What became of the followers?” De Payens asked, his eyes on the others.
“Twelve thousand were slain under Bahram. More were put to death under his successor.”
“I have heard some men say,” de Payens said, “that those like you, Mani’s followers in the south, should suffer a similar fate as heretics, turning their backs on the Mother Church”
“Is that the teaching of Christ?” Jehan demanded quietly. De Montbard took a dagger from his belt and began paring his nails carefully, the steel flashing orange and red in the firelight.
“There are those who say that Christ gave his teachings to the Church, and that none shall wrest them from their hands,” he said.
“Were His teachings not for all peoples everywhere?” Jehan said in reply: “Are we not free to follow Him as we may?”
“Perhaps it is well to make peace with the Church,” said de Montbard.
“Even though,” de Payens said, his voice cutting through the chamber like steel, “even though we in this room look to Jerusalem as the centre of our worship, and not Rome.”
Gondamer and Rossal turned to look at Jehan, holding him in a steady gaze.
“What do you say to that, Master Tarascon?” Rossal demanded.
“I say you must be free to worship Christ in whatever way you may,” he answered humbly.
“And Rome?” said Gondamer.
“I confess to no special allegiance to Rome,” said Jehan: “Live and let live.”
“In this room, we do not look for differences among those who worship Christ,” said de Payens, “but where we can agree. What say you, my brothers?”
There was a general assent in the chamber, and none, as far as Jehan could tell, spoke grudgingly.
“Can you take bread and wine with us?” asked de Payens, “or are you not permitted?”
“I am not of the Elect,” said Jehan: “I will gladly break bread with this company and drink wine. One day, for sure, I shall live as one of the Perfected, one of the Elect. Until that day, I am no more than a Hearer of the teachings of the Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
“If you would join us,” said de Payens, “you will live a life that is a sure, clean and noble preparation for becoming one of the Elect of your confession.”
The nine men left the chamber and went into the dining room to sit at a table of bare planks resting on trestles. The food was plain but ample, served on plain earthenware. No one spoke during the meal, other than de Payens, who said the grace before meals. Afterwards, he spoke to Jehan, taking him aside from the company.
“With the permission of our liege lord the Comte de Champagne,” he said, “We intend to depart for Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem?” said Jehan: “Do you intend to fight Saracens?”
“Who knows what we shall be called upon to do,” de Payens said: “But our intention is to make it our home, but more than this; the centre of our lives. With,” he added, “the permission of the King of Jerusalem. Sleep on this question, Jehan de Tarascon: Would you join us?”
“I am conscious of the honour, Sieur de Payens,” said Jehan, “but first I should tell you more of the pictures that I place before my soul in contemplation. You must be certain that you want me among you.”
“Good. What more would you tell us?” asked de Payens.
“Perhaps the great story of the how the world came to be, and the creatures in it. Would you care to hear that?”
“You shall tell us tomorrow,” said de Payens, “and if it is fitting, we shall have more to tell you about our small brotherhood. But all the brothers must be in agreement, you understand.”
“I understand, Sieur de Payens,” said Jehan, “or at least, I think I do. But are you not the leader? On the way here, I heard one refer to you as ‘the Grand Master’. Do they not defer to your judgment?”
“We try, like your Elect, to share our wisdom in the hope of finding among us the wisest course.”
Jehan slowly nodded. De Payens clapped him on the shoulder; a gesture which Jehan interpreted as kindly dismissal.
“Until tomorrow, then. Sleep well.”
JEHAN’S TALE OF CREATION
The long, low room was brightly lit as the sun appeared over the horizon when the men reassembled the following morning to hear Jehan’s great tale. The flames of the newly lit fire were almost invisible in the sunlight.
The men had taken the same places that they had chosen the previous evening, and Jehan, standing in the centre of the company, began to speak at a signal from de Payens.
“At first the Father of Greatness dwelt with His twelve sons in the bright regions of light, strength, wisdom, and His divine attributes are reason, mind, intelligence, thought and understanding. The divine brother of the Father of Greatness is the Great Spirit, whose breath feeds them with light and life. At first, all was harmony and peace.
“Below, to the south of the regions of greatness was a realm of darkness, chaos, confusion, noise and stink. The spirits who dwelt there were in permanent warfare one with another. The two realms were separate, and this was the First Great Moment.
“But those who dwelled in the regions of darkness were never still, and in their raging, some of them came close to the borders with the realm of light, and a yearning for it arose in them. They came to invade the realm of light. Thus began the Second Great Moment.
“The Father of Greatness in His bright dwellings was obliged to meet this invasion. He can do no evil, and thus he called into being the Mother of Life, and she called into being the Primal Man.
“The Primal Man was clothed and armed with the Five Bright Elements, which are ether, wind, light, water and fire, and these are all the gifts of the world of light. He went down to meet the demons, and they stole away the bright elements, leaving the Primal Man alone and naked in the abyss, surrounded by monstrous creatures, while the demons went away satisfied with what they had taken.
“Now, the gifts of the Realm of Light were scattered throughout the regions of the Dark, and they acted on it like a poison.
“The Primal Man lay in the abyss, exposed to all dangers, but he spoke a sevenfold prayer to the Mother of Life. She heard his prayer, and beseeched the Father of Greatness to help him.
“The Father of Light sent a mighty ally, the Friend of All Luminaries, who called into being the Great Ban, who was the builder. He in turn called forth the Living Spirit and his five sons, and together they went forth into the darkness of the abyss. The Living Spirit called into the darkness, ‘The Peace be with thee, Thou whose excellence shineth among the evil ones and shineth in the darkness.’ So saying, he reached forth his hand and drew the Primal Man out of the abyss.
“Then the Living Spirit went among the demons and cut the five roots of the tree in the realm of the archons of the darkness. He punished them, chaining them to the five elements, and the Great Ban enclosed the realms of the dark archons in a mighty wall. The King of Glory, son of the Living Spirit, held the ten regions of the heavens in the heights, while the Living Spirit flayed the demons and made of their substance the world of matter. Of their skin he made the sky; of their bones the mountains and the earth from the rest. Another of his sons, Atlas the Supporter held up the eight layers of the earth, and the sun and moon were made of the uncontaminated light set free from the grip of the demons, while the stars were made of light only a little soiled.
“Now there came from the Father of Greatness the Third Messenger, who set the world and all the bodies of the heavens in motion, so that the earth knew day, night and seasons. He caused to be made the Column of Glory, three mighty wheels of wind, water and fire, whose task was to draw to them particles of light freed from the darkness, to fill the moon in the first half of each month, and to be led to the sun through the second half, and from the sun to the New Paradise of Light.
“Now came the Maiden of Light in her twelvefold nature. She was to be seen traversing the heavens in the moon. When the demons saw her in all her beauty and nakedness, they spilled their seed on to the earth, and this gave rise to five kinds of trees and plants. The Third Messenger moved through the heavens in the sun, and the sight of him caused the female demons to give birth to five kinds of animals, that ate the fruit of the trees. The seed of the demons that fell into the sea became a mighty dragon, but Adamas-Michael, son of the Living Spirit, transfixed it with his spear.
“The demons were now dismayed that they were losing what they had taken from the Primal Man, and a chief among them, Az, whose nature is lust and greed, called to him a female demon, and together they devoured the demons in whom still shone the captured light. Then they coupled, and brought forth Adam and Eve, but Adam was made in the image of the Third Messenger, and Eve was made in the likeness of the Maiden of Light. They were set sleeping in the Garden, all ignorant of the light that was within them, or of the darkness that would breed all the sinfulness that plagues humankind. Demons were set to guard them as they slept, but Jesus the Splendour came to them, drove back the demons and tethered them, and awoke the sleeping Adam. He raised him up from the ground and showed him a vision of the Father of Greatness and the realms of light wherein He dwells. Jesus also gave Adam to eat of the Tree of Life, and instructed him of the things that were, those that are, and those that are to come, which we call the Third Great Moment of future time.
“Jesus warned Adam against taking Eve to him as wife, and Adam kept his lustfulness in check, remaining continent. But Az the archon of the dark realm came and coupled with Eve, and she bore Cain. Cain then coupled with his mother, and she bore Abel. Cain and Abel both then had daughters with Eve.
“A demon came to Abel’s wife, and she bore two children. Abel accused Cain before Eve of fathering these two children, and so Cain slew Abel in anger.
“This same demon now showed Eve how to entice Adam, and they bore Seth. The demon approached Eve again to entice Adam, but Seth counselled his father to go eastwards towards the rising sun, towards light and wisdom.
“Thus the light-filled spirit of Adam could enter again the realms of light on the death of his body, as one untainted, but Eve and her offspring would have to labour to transform themselves, freeing themselves and the world-all from the darkness, and turning all to light, before they could re-enter the realms of the Father of Greatness.”
There was a silence when Jehan had finished speaking. After a while, Bison spoke.
“It is like the story that we know, and not like.”
“It is a true picture,” said de Payens: “The brotherhood of the Sangreal will take no hurt to their souls considering this tale.”
“It tells of the work of transformation,” said Archambaud: “That in changing ourselves we change the world itself.”
“There is a Great Builder in it, too,” said de Montbard, “and we are brothers to the masons, the brothers of Hiram Abiff and of Titurel.”
Gondamer looked at Rossal and raised his eyebrows in query.
“Titurel built the Castle of the Sangreal to house the Holy Grail itself,” Rossal whispered.
The silence fell again, and Jehan saw how all turned to the Sieur de Payens for guidance.
“What do you say, my brothers,” demanded de Payens: “Shall we admit this man to our brotherhood?”
“If you think so,” said Payne de Monteverdi.
“No,” said de Payens firmly, “we must all be of one mind, but you must decide yourselves. Who is against?”
None replied or showed any demur.
“Then who will welcome him among us?”
All gave their assent, some muttered, some spoken more boldly.
“Then welcome among us, my brother,” said de Payens.
“But what,” said Jehan, “what is this brotherhood to which you invite me so generously?”
De Payens walked to the hearth, his heavy boots making no sound as he trod the rushes covering the flagstones. He gazed into the fire for a few seconds before answering.
“There is no name for this brotherhood,” he said at last, “other than servants of the Sangreal. It may be that when we reach Jerusalem, by the grace of God, the permission of our liege lord the Comte de Champagne and of the King of Jerusalem, we shall have a name that is true to our mission.”
“The Comte de Champagne may well join us in Jerusalem,” said Payne de Monteverdi.
“God willing,” said de Payens, “but we may not speak for him. There are many things that require his presence here.”
“But after all,” said Archambaud, who had returned to his post beside the window, “The Comte is bound to give us congé. He himself calls you Grand – “
De Payens silenced him with a gesture.
“There are things our young friend here must be taught before we expose him to the matter of our brotherhood,” he said. His voice was mild, but Archambaud flushed crimson and bowed his head.
Bison, looking at Jehan, said to de Payens, “And if we are called upon to fight? Can he fight?”
Without waiting for de Payens to answer for him, Jehan said, “I am ready to show what I can do with sword, lance or any weapon you name, whenever it pleases you to try me.”
De Montbard rose and approached de Payens beside the fire.
“There is the question of the blood,” he said softly. The colour rose now in Jehan’s cheeks.
“My blood is as noble as any man’s here,” he said, glaring at de Montbard. “My father is the Sieur de Tarascon and my mother is of the house of the Dukes of Foix – “
“You misunderstand me,” de Montbard said. “I do not doubt the nobility of your family or your lineage. But there is a nobility even greater than that of noblemen or even kings.”
Jehan blinked. He searched the faces of the men assembled there, but he found no solution to the puzzle that de Montbard had put before him. De Payens moved away from the fire and approached Jehan, putting his arm round the young mans shoulders.
“San Greal and Sang Real,” he said: “Holy Grail and Holy Blood. I would rather have broached this question when you and I were alone, but my brother de Montbard has raised it, and so it must be answered.
“If you join the Brotherhood of the Servants of the Sangreal, you must take into your heart that every drop of your blood belongs to Christ. There must be no corner of your soul that is a secret place for you alone. Joining this brotherhood means total sacrifice.”
He paused. “I shall not ask whether you understand this. Your head can encompass it at once, no doubt, but you must educate every particle of your being to know and understand this, for it is the centre of our very lives.”
The strength seemed to flow out of Jehan’s body all at once. He sat heavily on a joint stool.
“It is what is required of the Elect among my people,” he said, “The Perfected Ones make the same sacrifice. I did not think I was ready.”
“No man is ready at first,” said de Payens. “You will be led through the stages that make this sacrifice possible.
“We must go,” he said: “We are summoned to the court of the Comte de Champagne. By the way Jehan,” he added, “Let your beard grow.”
The sun had risen higher in the sky, and the chamber was no longer receiving directly the rays of the bright sunrise. Jehan stood in the shadows as the others filed out of the room.
THE LEGENDS ARE CONTINUED
Nine men set sail for Outremer where lay the Kingdom of Jerusalem. These nine included Jehan, but he was not to be counted among the founders of the new Order of Knighthood. The Comte de Champagne did indeed follow his vassal lords and companions in arms some time afterwards, and was counted among the first men of the Order.
King Baudoin II of Jerusalem granted them for quarters a wing of what had been the Temple of Solomon but now had more the aspect of a palace. Thus de Payens and the others made their home in the place that was most precious to them. Jehan noticed how, even in the most mundane practical aspects of their life, they maintained the greatest reverence for the place where they lived.
“We are now part of the Great Legends of this place,” de Payens said to his brother knights: “They live again in us, in our hearts. We are now truly, Knights of the Sangreal, and this is to be our Castle of the Grail.”
In the most retired and sacred place within the Temple, they found the triangular altar with its cubical base, on which the Laws of Moses could still be read. De Payens lifted from it an object that was about the size of a man’s hand.
“The Master Word that was lost,” he said. The others, with no prompting and at no other signal than de Payens’ words, knelt.
“We must search for other things that are as holy as this,” he said, “and send them for safekeeping in a place that we can be sure will not be robbed or desecrated.”
Jehan was ordained among the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. He took the red girdle, which was never to be discarded while he lived.
“This girdle,” said de Payens, “is of the colour of blood. It divides the lower part of the body, which is full of desires and the power of those desires, from the upper part. You can think of it as the leash, whereby you keep the hound of your lower nature under control. Then the power of your lower nature can be transformed and revealed in its true strength. Do you recall the tale of Sigune and Chien-de-la-Lande?”
Jehan did indeed remember the story of the love of the knight Chien-de-la-Lande for the Lady Sigune, and how she would not allow him to woo her until he had captured for her the hound Gardevias. This hound had a leash of coloured and plaited leather cords, held together with rings of pearl. Once the leash was unravelled, it revealed the secrets of the starry heavens. Sigune had been able to begin reading the starry script, but the animal had bounded away from her and was lost. Chien-de-la-Lande hunted it for her sake, but was slain by the Duke Orilus, who claimed the territories that Chien-de-la-Lande ruled as regent until the young Prince Perceval was of age to rule in his own right.
“But Perceval never came to rule his kingdoms,” said Jehan. “This we know well in Languedoc. He became the Grail King, and his son Cardeys became the ruler of his earthly possessions.”
“The wisdom that is bound prisoner in the darkness of your lower nature is part of the wisdom of the heavens that was lost to us in the Garden,” de Payens said. Jehan, with his upbringing among the Cathari of Languedoc, understood these words, but the pictures of his imagination were formed differently in his soul, though he allowed no conflict to arise in his heart because of it.
The next part of the initiation into the Order was the first of the closely guarded secrets, as it was easily liable to misinterpretation by the worldly and cynical. He was led in singlet and breeches before the altar deep in the undercroft. There de Payens and Andre de Montbard awaited him, naked apart from their red girdles, and Jehan was required to kiss those points on the body where those sensitive to such things can see the spirit organs like wheels, in the head, throat, heart, upper belly, above the genitals and at the base of the spine.
It was some time later that Jehan was taken through the four stages of the next initiation.
“When Christ asked Simon Peter whether he believed in Him, the Disciple answered that he did. This, Christ said, is the rock upon which He shall build His church. But Simon Peter denied Christ three times. You shall now know how that feels in your soul,” de Payens said. “The Tree that grew in Paradise gave the wood for the crucifixion of Our Redeemer. The Queen of the South would not set her foot upon it, but we do so, in order to know what it means to deny Christ.”
And Jehan was required to step upon a wooden cross and spit on it, though everything in his heart rose in protest against it. The soul pain of denial was as searing as a red-hot iron on his flesh. Never again would he permit any such denial, for every drop of his heart’s blood was dedicated to Christ.
This was the first part, of the element of earth. Then Jehan was baptised with water, poured from a cockleshell, in memory of St. James. The baptism of air followed. De Payens took Jehan to the highest point of the Temple, where they could look out over all Jerusalem and the lands beyond.
“I shall leave you here, like St. John’s eagle in his eyrie,” said de Payens, “and return later. You must tell me what you hear in the air.”
When de Payens returned the following morning, he said nothing, but went up to him where he was kneeling, his face luminous in the early light of day. Jehan whispered in his ear: “I heard the beating of the heart of Christ.”
De Payens said nothing, but nodded, and raised him up. Then he led him back down to join the others.
For the final part of the initiation, Jehan was again taken to the most retired part of the undercroft, where he wore nothing but a loincloth and a linen turban. Andre de Montbard and Payne de Monteverdi took burning torches and traced the direction of the flow of blood from his heart along his limbs and to his head. They were careful not to burn him, but Jehan could feel occasionally the hairs of his arms and legs curl and singe.
“When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan,” said de Payens, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. We baptise you with fire in memory of the moment when the Blood of Christ first flowed in the veins of Jesus.”
THE LEGEND GROWS
It was some ten years after the first journey to Outremer that Jehan overheard a conversation between de Payens and a visiting monk. The visitor was describing the way of life of his monastic order.
“We live as the Essenes, the people of John the Baptist. We eat no flesh. We wear a habit of undyed wool, as they wore robes of undyed linen. We raise sheep for their wool, and we are gardeners. We live apart from mankind, but are at the service of those who need help or healing. And, Hugues de Payens, we shall be your brothers, though we shall bear no weapons.”
“Brother Bernard,” de Payens replied, “The Holy Mother of God blesses your work. And it is you whom I ask to speak for us at Troyes.”
Jehan put his ear closer to the door.
“You know that it shall mean coming under the rulership of the Holy Father in Rome? Can you do that? Can you allow yourself to become servants of Rome?”
“We are servants of Christ,” de Payens answered, “and we acknowledge the Pope as head of the church.”
“Yes,” Brother Bernard continued, “but can you, in your heart, make your allegiance to Rome?”
“Do you see anything in our brotherhood that is against Rome? Do you see in us enmity to the Pope?”
“But in your heart, Hugues, in your heart!” Brother Bernard insisted. Outside the door, Jehan held his breath.
“In my heart I am pledged to serve all Christian men and women, whether as a knight in arms as a guard of the pilgrim roads, or in protection of Christian cities. Can there be any question of that? And as a Christian knight, can there be any question that I do not hold the Pope in Rome as being under my protection if need be? Therefore, I ask him for his. Can you support us at Troyes, Bernard?”
As Jehan listened, he heard Brother Bernard heave a sigh. Then he said: “I shall represent you at the council in Troyes. But I shall say that you and your brother knights will hold yourselves vassals to the Holy Father. He will require that if you are to become a holy order of knights.”
“You shall say what you think it right to say,” said de Payens in reply, “though you know, Bernard, that I hold Jerusalem to be the holiest city on God’s earth, and ever shall do.”
Jehan made to move away from the door, but he paused as he heard de Payens say, “Should I speak at the Council of Troyes myself?”
“No! Hugues, you should leave all discussion to me at Troyes.”
“Are you afraid that I shall speak too clumsily, be too much the man in arms at a gathering of priests?”
“I am afraid that you will speak too clearly. You are an honest man, and these are politic men.”
There was a silence. Then de Payens spoke again.
“Very well. You shall speak for us. And remember,” he added, “We are builders, too. We shall build churches for His Holiness and his flock. Tell them that at Troyes.”
Jehan stole silently away.
During the following years, Jehan accompanied de Payens through Europe as a member of an Order of Knighthood that lived a monastic life, but trained as soldiers. De Payens drew more kings and nobles to the Order, or gained support and necessary materials for the daily running of the Order’s affairs through the powerful effect that he had on those that heard him. There were times that Jehan thought the man positively shone while speaking to princes and kings.
The Order grew greatly as they travelled. Most strongly affected of all was the King of Scotland, David, son of the blessed Queen Margaret.
“The Knights of the Temple shall be the guardians of my morals by day and by night,” he announced to those closest to him, and he was most generous in his gifts to the Order. In de Payens, he saw something of the light of piety that he revered in his mother. Scotland became of foremost importance to the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, and the first of their secular buildings were erected there.
Standing on a high point overlooking the Forth and the hills of the Kingdom of Fife and beyond, de Payens said to Jehan one day: “Perhaps here in Scotland our treasures will be safe.”
He said no more, but Jehan saw him over the following days with the Scottish knight Sinclair, in close conversation.
In the course of these travels, Jehan was taken through further initiations: the Consolamentum in the sign of the Sun was given to him, which is the right to make confession to a brother of the same rank, and to hear the confession of a brother of the same rank. He heard the Prayer of Moses with all the brothers gathered in full chapter, and he gave up some hair of his head and beard and the parings of his nails, and this was performed in the sign of the Moon, when the new moon shone overhead, like a paring from the fingernail of God.
He was invited to be present at the recitation of the High Priestly Prayer, which is the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and this was when Mars was bright in the night sky. Later still, he was presented with the Ring of the brotherhood, during which ceremony, the words were spoken: ‘Christus verus Mercurius est.’
He was a seasoned knight, hardened in battle when he heard the Prayer of Baphomet, spoken in chapter, and the voices of the knights rose in soul-shattering crescendo, and overhead, Jupiter shone in the heavens.
It was not long after this that he received the anointing of his eyelids, so that his inner eye would be opened, just as the eyes of Mary of Magdala could see beyond the sight of most mortal men when she anointed the feet of Christ, and Venus was the evening star at that time.
There was a final initiation that Jehan received before he returned to Languedoc. He was taken to a chamber and left alone in utter darkness with no food or water. He prayed in the darkness, and after some hours, he saw a vision. At first, he felt a rejoicing in his soul, as a beautiful head appeared, full of wisdom and compassion. But all at once, he gasped with horror, as it was further revealed that this head was severed, and lay on a silver platter.
“It is the Revelation of Baphomet,” de Payens explained later: “Some see only the beautiful head, but you are a man of deeper vision. What you saw was the Black Grail.”
Jehan felt a cold hand grip his heart as he heard the words.
“It is what our Order must confront everywhere in the world;” de Payens continued, “the evil that lies in the hearts of men and in the depths of the earth itself.”
“Can this be accomplished in a lifetime? Can we truly bring about the Future Great moment that Mani foretold?” Jehan asked.
“It may take many lifetimes,” de Payens replied, “but accomplished it must be, though it progress as slowly as Saturn moves through the heavens.”
“Are there more initiations I must undergo?” asked Jehan after a pause. De Payens was silent for a while, and finally shook his head.
“There is one other, but that is only for the Grand Masters. It can only be performed in a place where Joseph of Arimathea spilled a few of the drops of the Blood of Christ on his journey westwards. There is one such place in Ariège. Our masons are building a castle there for our purposes. But you, my brother, must return to your people.”
“They are also your people,” Jehan protested softly.
“They are also our people,” de Payens agreed.
Indeed, Jehan never became a Grand Master and thus never learned the nature of the great initiation of the Grand Masters of the Templars. He knew simply that they were celebrated in places that lay on the path of the footsteps of Joseph of Arimathea.
He returned to Languedoc and cast aside the sword for good. He did not live to see the time that followed soon after his death when his people the Cathari were called heretics and were harried out of the country by Simon de Montfort and his troops, put to the torture and burned at the stake in their thousands at the order of the Pope Innocent III. He never knew the child known as ‘the Treasure of the Cathari’, who was smuggled in the dead of night out of the last stronghold at Montsegur amid many great dangers, and whose spirit was to become one of the great inspirers of humanity, bringing the water of the stream of life in new vessels, and to whom belongs a different tale, not to be told here