Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Another History of the Knights Templar, Part 4

To understand the Templars is to understand the Normans, and vice versa. There are no two ways about it.

Where the Normans went, Templar encampments followed. The absolute epicenter of Templar activity was in Upper Normandy and radiated into England, which the Normans had conquered in 1066 AD. We see Templar encampments in the Kingdom of Sicily and in Syria and Lebanon, another Templar holding. There can be no mistake- the Knights Templar was a Norman enterprise, first and foremost.

The Norman conquest of England was no walk in the park. The Angles and Saxons who populated southeast England had terrified Europe before pushing the Britons to the western fringes of the British Isles. And the Britons were no pushovers either, having given the Romans no end of headaches. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Normans launched an impressive war machine across the Channel, well-trained soldiers using the state of the art equipment of the time.

It was like D-Day in reverse -- a stunning achievement of coordination and military logistics for a relatively obscure band of Vikings and Franks. Like all invasions, it was most certainly costly.

Where all that money came from is anybody's guess.

Mixed in with the Nordic Vikings in the Norman nation were Gallo-Romans, or Romanized Gauls. These would have been the descendants of soldiers and and mercenaries enlisted in the Roman army as the indigenous population declined.

The Franks are even more interesting- they were a tribe from western Germany who gave the world the famous (or infamous) Merovingian dynasty, which has been pulled into the esoteric Templarist orbit in the wake of books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This tribe also produced the Carolinian dynasty which in turn gave us Charlemagne.

Given that the Frankish nation gave us two crucial dynasties in the rise of Christendom, how do we account for the presence of Franks in an upstart nation such as the Normans? The epicenter of Frankish power was middle Europe, a long way away from the rainy coasts of Normandy.

The question becomes, what might caused their disaffection with their kinsmen?

As we saw, Charlemagne declared war on the indigenous beliefs of northern Europe, slaughtering tens of thousands of "pagans" to establish his Holy Roman Empire. The Normans converted in the 10th Century- remarkably late for such an ambitious people. The old beliefs went "underground," as opposed to dying out.

There's a certain breed of believer who would have been perfectly at home underground.

That pre-Christian beliefs survived among the Normans is recorded in the incongruous iconography in Norman and Templar churches, Roslyn Chapel (built by the Norman-derived Sinclair family), as well as in sites like Royston Cave (which we'll get to soon).

Pushed west?
The heartland of the Franks and the Mithraists

But does it go deeper than smatterings of folkloric icons here and there? Given that the Normans took up the ancient Sun cross as the Templar banner, it's worth noting that the Frankish precincts of eastern France/western Germany were ground zero for the Mithraic warrior cults. Given that there's no shortage of compelling evidence that the Templars/Normans were heretics at best and apostates at worst, did they find something besides the Ark of the Covenant in the travels?

Did they find their history?

In Casear and Christ, Will Durant explores the opinion of most historians that rather than help save the Roman Empire like Constantine intended (and conservatives still insist to this day) Christianity actually destroyed it and brought Western Europe to its knees for much of what is now called the Dark Ages (much as Globalism is doing today).

Durant refers to the opinion of the man he calls the “greatest historian,” Edward Gibbon, when he notes that:
“(Christianity) had declared war upon the classic culture- upon science, philosophy, literature, and art... it had turned men’s thoughts from the tasks of this world to an enervating preparation for some cosmic catastrophe, and had lured them into seeking individual salvation through asceticism and prayer, rather than collective salvation through devotion to the state. It had disrupted the unity of the Empire while soldier emperors were struggling to preserve it...Christ’s victory had been Rome’s death.”
Durant was being diplomatic. Gibbon’s own words are quite a bit more fiery. Gibbon specifically condemns Christianity for quelling the ancient martial spirit of the Romans:
“ Christianity had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of the military spirit were buried in the cloister; a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion ... the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to synods; the Roman world was oppressed by a new species of tyranny; and the persecuted sects became the secret enemies of their country.”
Ruefully, Gibbon then credits the decadence of the pampered Romans for the rise of Christianity, admitting that the warrior ethic of the Empire had already been in decline:
“The sacred indolence of the monks was devoutly embraced by a servile and effeminate age; but, if superstition had not afforded a decent retreat, the same vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to desert, from baser motives, the standard of the republic.”
Christianity had also taken hold amongst the various barbarian tribes, who saw it as a ticket to their acceptance as overlords once they had smashed the last vestiges of the once-mighty western empire. This process had begun in the early fourth century through the conversion of the Goths by St. Wulfila (c.311-c.383 CE). Gibbon offers a backhanded compliment to Christianity, commending it for helping mitigate the beserker spirit of the Barbarian hordes who were moving in to take over the corrupted and emasculated city of Rome.
“...but the pure and genuine influence of Christianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the Barbarian proselytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.”
If Gibbon was contemptuous of Constantine’s new cult of state, Sir James Frazer (himself the descendant of Normans) was downright scathing:
The saint and the recluse, disdainful of earth and rapt in ecstatic contemplation of heaven, became in popular opinion the highest ideal of humanity, displacing the old ideal of the patriot and hero who, forgetful of self, lives and is ready to die for the good of his country. The earthy city seemed poor and contemptible to men whose eyes beheld the City of God coming in the clouds of heaven.

A general disintegration of the body politic set in. The ties of the state and the family were loosened: the structure of society tended to resolve itself into its individual elements and thereby to relapse into barbarism; for civilization is only possible through the active co-operation of the citizens and their willingness to subordinate their private interests to the common good. Men refused to defend their country and even to continue their kind.
Some Christian apologists counter these arguments by blaming Rome’s lingering imperial attitude to citizenship, which had disenfranchised a large portion of its population. For instance, the army had become largely composed of German mercenaries, most of whom were denied full citizenship.

Other historians cite the hordes of immigrants that colonized the Western Empire, as well as the assaults of the Asian Huns in the Fourth century. And it is true that Pagan Rome- the Rome of Jupiter and the Pantheon- was monumentally corrupt and unfair. Many iniquitous laws and customs that sprang from Rome’s tribal roots were never reformed.

And by ‘never’ I mean not even in the glory days of Constantine’s cult of state.

In fact, things were about to get much, much worse for peasants and workers when the Feudal System would emerge from the ashes of the Western Empire.

That cold, hard truth is that Constantine and Theodosius had created a imperial theocracy that would condemn most of the peoples of Western Europe to centuries of abject poverty, ignorance, plague and serfdom.

What must be remembered here is that Constantine’s adoption of Christianity was a shock to the Roman body politic. It would be similar to a modern American president converting to Islam.

Though Christianity was also heavily influenced by the Persian and Egyptian mystery cults that gave rise to Mithraism, it was very much a disreputable faith to Rome. It was seen as a docile and effete Oriental cult, filled with pederasts, housewives and slackers. Christians were also known to be troublemakers in the Empire, responsible for riots and acts of terrorism and vandalism.

One can only imagine what the Mithraic legionaries -- who saw themselves as the inheritors of an indomitable ancient tradition -- thought as they watched their Christian rivals surrender the Empire to savagery and superstition. Less than two centuries earlier they had been (literally) stabbed in the back by one of their own, an act that eventually led to the destruction of the ancient Western traditions. Esteemed academies of ancient learning were shuttered, revered texts were put to the bonfires, and venerable teachers and sages had been beaten to death in the streets by fanatical Christian mobs.

One can only imagine what the Mithraists felt when, through the incompetent machinations of the cowardly and corrupt Christian emperors following Theodosius, the Eternal City itself was becoming a magnet for the worst elements of the provinces. Literacy, science, and civic order were being undermined and discarded. And soon Rome itself would be the savage playground for barbarians, who raped, looted and sacked at will.

Now, just for a moment imagine that all those stoic sun worshippers, who were among the fiercest and most accomplished warriors of their time, didn’t simply abandon the faith of their fathers.

Imagine for a moment that they greatly resented the imposition of what they saw as a pacifistic and unnatural faith from the Orient on the Eternal Empire.

Just imagine that they blamed this religion for the degradation of civic virtue, for the collapse of the military, for the fall of the West and the incremental but unrelenting decline of the East.

Imagine that they were forced by circumstance to profess the Christian faith, but never in their hearts accepted its teachings.

Imagine how they and other Solar cults felt as their rivals hijacked the icons, holidays and practices of their ancient faith and grafted them on to this new state cult behemoth.

Imagine that, along with other co-religionists, they formed tight-knit, secretive brotherhoods with elaborate rituals and codes so they could continue to practice the timeless religion and recognize one another in foreign lands.

Imagine that the practioners of this faith eventually migrated from the fanatically Christian epicenters of the Mediterranean to the unconverted hinterlands of England, Normandy and the Nordic countries. England would not be converted until the late 9th century, Normandy well into the 10th and the Nordic lands would resist the cross of Calvary until the 11th.

Imagine that at the first opportunity that came their way, these errant knights took up the old banner of the Solar equilateral cross, an ancient pre-Christian symbol whose true meaning was lost in the epidemic ignorance of the Dark Ages.

Just imagine that they would take advantage of the institutional vacuum of the Dark Ages to build an empire within an empire, one that would eventually become the greatest financial, military and naval power the western world had seen since the glory days of Rome.