Secret Societies & Occult Politics - Dream of the Sages
Secret Societies & Occult Politics - Dream of the Sages
By Robert Richardson
To students of history, religion, or the occult, a pattern of individual names and esoteric movements appears on the canvas of time like a sudden flash of light, then just as quickly vanishes. A group of disparate people – sometimes famous, sometimes obscure, sometimes solitary, sometimes united, but always engaged in some amorphous activity – spontaneously surfaces. Just as suddenly their traces evaporate, their true purpose and the scope of their actions never comprehended. Understanding their reality seems to be beyond our grasp. Further study may grudgingly yield information – but it is inconclusive, incomplete, perplexing. Their nature and purpose seems to forever remain a mystery. The search for a solution only leads to speculations, not genuine answers.
For us to intellectually apprehend how and why esoteric groups work and influence the world requires a different type of thinking, a thought process that sees these organisations and their activities as an ebb and flow of an ideal. Most of us have approached the inquiry into the nature of how esoteric groups actually work and influence history by studying the limited and grossly distorted documentation available about them, like an investment analyst abstractly examining from afar the sterile financial structure of a multi-national corporation. But for us to understand the nature of historical esoteric groups, we should first attempt to find their underlying purpose. If we approach their study through that avenue, we may be able to understand why and how they work to achieve their purposes.
All of the positive esoterically tinged movements that have influenced history share one common characteristic. They seek to positively impact and alter, in a transformational way, the entire structure and direction of society. Their impetus is to interject into day to day living a transcendent awareness and communion with the spiritual element of life, to give a spiritual orientation and focus to the material activities of day to day living – to, in effect, spiritualise the material. The reason for this direction is to correctly align man with the necessary spiritual path to fulfill his spiritual destiny. Their motives are highly altruistic, despite the wildly imaginative suspicions and innuendoes of many writers and even some church leaders. The methods employed by many powerful Western spiritual movements are always entirely in keeping with these goals.
The best known of these movements have manifested at key transitional points in Western history. The Rosicrucian movement on continental Europe. The less obvious but equally influential hermetic academies in Renaissance Italy and England. The Cathars in southern France. The Essenes at the dawn of the Christian era. And the best known, and by far the most misunderstood, of these groups, the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and The Temple of Solomon – The Knights Templar. Each of these groups formed, existed, and survived a certain duration to accomplish a particular mission, then vanished. Through their actions, each of them positively influenced society as we know it today.
Historians and spiritual writers have expended a great deal of ink unsuccessfully trying to explain what these groups were about and what they believed. Each of these groups encountered considerable opposition and conflict and, seemingly, was superseded by rival groups. History is invariably altered by the victors to suit their goals and needs. Most of the existing works about esoteric groups have been based on deliberately distorted records left by the supposed victors. For example, as has been very aptly stated, attempting to draw an accurate picture of the activities of the Knights Templar by studying the records of the Inquisition is like trying to get an accurate picture of the activities of the wartime French resistance solely by studying the records of the Gestapo.1
However, one unaltered stream runs through each of these groups. It is their operational procedure. Each group has several common yet contradictory characteristics. Their organisational structure is both hierarchical and independent. It is at once interdependent and self-sustaining. In other words, it is a cell-like structure, organised around a belief system, designed to be able to function without need for a central governing body, yet still maintaining dutiful fealty and responsibility to the doctrine which the overall body represents. To cite one case, most people, ignorant of the actual working nature of the Essenes, assume that the Qumram monastery was the only Essene entity. In fact, many Essenes lived in the day to day society. The Qumram community was a centralised training base. Essene headquarters were on Mt. Carmel. The Essenes, like the Cathars, the Templars, and the Hermetic academies, could function independently if cut off from their supposed core. The Rosicrucian groups are the best recognised model of this structure. This system later became the basis for intelligence organisations and underground resistance movements. They were consciously organised like the esoteric societies, designed to continue functioning without support or contact from the main body, yet incapable of revealing the heart or details of the structure of the entire organism if penetrated or compromised by opposing forces.
Similarly, each of the esoteric groups has other definite organisational characteristics: Some sort of unified command and reporting structure that always appears vague and mysterious to outsiders. A highly disciplined internal training system. A firm code of conduct. An adherence to a canon of basic beliefs not fully comprehended by outsiders. The unwavering concept of individual personal responsibility and personal accountability. And the invariable but gracefully unstated implication of leadership by example.
These traits do not define a belief system per se, but something far more important and exceptionally relevant to our society today. They define a principle-centred existence that is applied in day to day affairs. They define very clearly a specific way of living one’s life. This way of life is lived in accordance with the knowledge and principles that have been carefully and selectively handed down orally through generations of initiates, and have as their basis the essential principles of the universe and the knowledge of the origin and purpose of man. This orally transmitted information is referred to as “The Tradition”, and sometimes, when collected in a preserved body of wisdom, “The Temple.”
Before examining more closely how this system has impacted us, it will benefit us to review the Western model for the public visibility of this system. The model was long established in the West. It entered into a decline. Its adherents transferred the model to other bases, perpetrated it, and preserved it for transmission into the future. The model was the Egyptian Temple system.
All of Egyptian society was organised along an esoteric and an exoteric basis. The exoteric structure centred around the pharonic system of government, with which academic students of this civilisation have occupied themselves in an effort to comprehend why this society lasted so long and so successfully. Their studies have not seen much successful fruit, because they have failed to comprehend that it was the esoteric structure which sustained the entire basis of the Egyptian dynasties and the surrounding society for so many centuries.2
This esoteric structure has had little effective study in academic circles, like most of man’s genuine history. It was organised around the Temple system. The Temple system was based on the gradual instruction of an increasingly elite group. This study took many decades. It involved intensive personal discipline. It began with a period of self-purification. It entailed physical, mental, and spiritual training. It worked on all aspects of the being.
The successful candidate was gradually culled away from his peers. The less capable aspirants were weeded out. The more fortunate were advanced progressively and carefully through the system over many years. They studied the physical and spiritual aspects of man, his origin, purpose, and relationship with the divine, becoming true physicians who could heal not just the physical being. Through increasingly progressive steps, they ultimately advanced to a series of tests. Some of these tests proved fatal to the aspirant. One objective of the training was an induced out of body experience in the Great Pyramid. To return the aspirant to this plane required the efforts of a high priest with twelve disciples. The priests were not always able to return the aspirant, and the death of the aspirant was not uncommon. When the aspirant did return to this plane, he consciously saw the world differently, like one who has been reborn with new knowledge and a new perspective. This is the origin of the phrase now so popular with fundamentalist Christians, “born again”. In the end, a handful of carefully trained and highly developed individuals were advanced into an elite priesthood which, through its adherence to spiritual principles, maintained a balance that facilitated the functioning of Egyptian society. Their point of view had by now changed. They no longer worked on spiritual progress for their own sake, but for the benefit of the upward evolution of mankind. And from their inner core, they were dispatched to different corners of the known world to indirectly help the lesser developed advance themselves, thereby assisting in the progress of humanity.
The Temple replicated the structure and spiritual principles of the universe. The outer society replicated the Temple and its spiritual principles, but in a form not articulated to the common people who were not sufficiently developed to consciously understand, honour, and fulfill its reality. Instead, by replicating the principles in society, the average person was able to live in rhythm with the principles and to become positively influenced by them, growing through this process without making the total dedication and sacrifice required of the elite core group.
The Egyptian pharonic concept represents the embodiment in the person of pharaoh the highest principles and aspirations of the society. The pharaoh was the outward representative of the Temple principles and of the life of the entire society. He was supposed to live life in the material world in compliance with the inner laws of which the populace remained only vaguely conversant. The pharaoh was supported and aided in this role by the inner and most highly developed elite of the Temple priesthood. His dictums were executed by a separate administrative arm.
It is difficult if not impossible for any group, no matter how dedicated, to indefinitely sustain itself in accordance with spiritual principles. Such organisations have a period of life in which they create an expression suited to the times, accomplish the mission and disappear to be succeeded in another time and place by a successor organisation suited to the expression of its times. During the existence of any group, as individuals successively replace each other from generation to generation, changes occur. Some are more able than others, some less able than those who precede or follow them. Human frailty sets in. Slight changes in even a highly disciplined Temple system can have vast implications over time. Alterations in the focus and dedication of those holding the pharonic throne could divert the course of events. Embodying the weathervane of a society or group is neither easy nor sustainable. Gradually, systems and principles can deteriorate.
But over that same time period, the seeds of the future can also be planted. Non-Egyptians were allowed to enter the Temple system. Some advanced through the full training. Some returned back to their own countries. This is the origin of the system called the Mysteries which arose in the Mediterranean pre-Christian era as Egyptian culture declined. The Mysteries appeared in a different form but followed the same lines as the Temple system. It was the same message, simply put into a different bottle, a bottle styled for the people of Greece and the Mediterranean world. Similarly, the Egyptian Temple system is undeniably the training ground for the great Pythagoras and the system of knowledge that he spread through ancient Greece and southern Europe.
The teachings of Pythagoras appeared differently as well. Styled in a more modern form, they followed the same line as the Temple, but less rigid. Still, they entailed an academy. A gradual system in which the candidate advanced degree by degree toward a higher level of mental and spiritual development. And an outward aspect as well, a concern with the nature and direction of humanity, just like the Temple system. Metaphorically, the superiority of the system of knowledge that he represented is expressed by the parable of his dying of starvation on the steps of the Temples of Muses.
While the Temple system was being disseminated to the north and east of Egypt by Pythagoras, another Temple trained initiate followed a similar path of preserving the initiatic knowledge. His name is known to history as Moses. He aligned with an obscure people and reconstituted their societal structure and belief system around the Temple principles. By restructuring an entire ethnic people, he insured that aspects of the Temple system would be preserved by this insular group for generations, until its next reconstitution was necessary in a form applicable to the requirements of that time.
Moses reconstituted the Temple system among the Jewish people in a manner stylised after the Egyptian model. A specific caste of priests was physically organised around a Temple. The entire twelve tribe system – itself a mystical anagram – focused on the Temple, and the life of the nation centred on it, on their faith, and on a specific identity as a people set apart, unique in God’s eyes, and held together under a pharaoh-like king. Even the mystical Tree of Life of the Kabbalah directly corresponds to the Egyptian Neters. The focus on their religion as the core of their existence gave the Jewish people their unique identity and enabled them to survive the cultural annihilation experienced by others. But it did not give rise to the powerful spiritual current Moses had hoped. This vacuum gave rise to the mission of the Essenes.
The Essenes, like the Templars, are a widely misunderstood spiritual group. Subdivided into different groups and having members active both in their monastic training ground at Qumram and throughout the Jewish community in day to day living, from the headquarters at Mt. Carmel they were directed toward one specific goal – the preparation of an entity sufficiently advanced to bear the higher consciousness which would incarnate in the man known as Jesus. This particular mission extended far beyond the concept of the messiah, which may be loosely defined as the priest-king. In the concept of the messiah is the return of the pharaoh, the embodiment of the spiritual governing principle in the day to day affairs of the state, but in the Essene case it involves a particularly advanced consciousness carrying an impulse to revive the spiritual facets of mankind. The pharonic ideal also appeared throughout Europe, degenerating over time into the present concept of royalty. Interestingly, all prophetic Jewish literature except one book foretells and focuses on the coming of a messiah.
For the Essenes, the mission was consuming. In an occult sense, the entire organisation focused on the incarnation of a spiritual being who would alter humanity through the implantation of a spiritual impulse. The documents of their training base at Qumram denote the discipline that was expected to be extended in daily life. There is little in the aspects of daily training in these documents that is not in other spiritual schools. Their nature has assumed a special character given that those men and women in the modern world primarily responsible for studying these documents do not understand the rudiments of the way in which individuals are trained to live in society and reflect spiritual values, nor can they apprehend a methodology so broad that it intends through deliberately indirect actions the reformation of the entire society.
The name Essene has many interpretations. One of the most interesting is “trowel”, the tool with which a mason works with stone and mortar to create a building. The Essenes were masons, building the house of God in themselves. By doing this, they were working to help advance mankind. Ultimately, the mission of creating the vessels adequate to sustain the spiritual capacity necessary for the reformation of society was successful. The Essenes, their mission completed, disappeared from history, most traces of their existence obliterated by the different Jewish sects that opposed them.
The start of the Christian era marked a singular turning point. Prior to this time, many conflicting religious expressions of the same ideals existed side by side. The Greek Mysteries are allegorical representations of the Egyptian system. The rise of various cults such as Sol Invictus, Mithras, and the Roman system of gods are all representations of the same group of principles. This mass confusion was consolidated in the early years of the Christian era as the Roman church proclaimed itself supreme and systematically absorbed or annihilated its opposition, driving these movements into extinction. But by these actions, the church created a widespread common vocabulary and belief structure.
During this time, Pythagorean thought assumed an academic and philosophical character and resurfaced later in Neo-Platonic ideals. Plato’s ideals, often seen as observations derived from Athenian society or a philosophical treatise, are really esoteric principles expressed as the restoration of a balanced and spiritual order. As opposed to blind obedience, man functions in an intellectual manner driven by principles. But the outcome is still the same dream the sages have held for centuries.
The manifestation of the esoteric movements took a different form in the south of France in the 11th century with the group called the Cathars. Before reviewing the Cathars, it is important to hold everything preceding them in perspective to understand the change in direction that begins its implementation with the Cathars and the Templars. In Egypt, a highly structured elite imposed a regimented society based on spiritual principles on a less enlightened humanity to evolve their awareness. In Israel, an elite group worked to affect a top down solution to promulgating spiritual principles, but without rigidly structuring society. In the Pythagorean and Platonic systems, a small group worked for the good of humanity, but without rigidly structuring society and emphasising the value of individual intellectual reasoning capacity. Each of these directions represented gradual steps toward the realisation of the development of human potential and individual freedom. Centuries later, humanity would realise the benefits from the seeds planted by these groups.
The appearance of the Cathar movement is viewed by historians as the rise of a new religion which jousted with Christianity for supremacy and, like so many groups which have struggled with the Roman church, lost. The Cathars are primarily known to us by relatively recent works which interpret their story in light of our limited knowledge of their activities. The Cathars are usually traced back to the Bogomils and other groups. They are, in fact, only the same principles, appearing again in the guise of the message of the times. The Cathar priesthood, the Parfaits, were noted for their unimpeachable conduct, purity, and dedication. They contrasted so sharply with the corrupt Roman church that people flocked to them, especially in the south of France. However, it is by their conduct that we must see what they really are. They seek by conduct to show men how to change their daily lives. They do not proselytise. They do not impair individual freedom. In fact, by standing in contradistinction to the prevailing power of the predominate secular authority of the time that imposed its will from top down, the Roman church, the Cathar parfaits encouraged among the common people the freedom of individual choice. It is expressed by principles lived in action by an elite priestly core which maintains focused spiritual values.
What survives of the Cathars today is distorted by people who think the incomplete remnants of the misunderstood Cathar belief system is the key. The key was their code of conduct. That is what attracted followers, that is what made believers, that is what they promulgated. Persecuted for forty years in the very first crusade, hunted down, killed, and driven underground, they were succeeded by three distinct movements, the Troubadours, the trade guilds, and the orders of knighthood, particular the Knights Templar.
The Troubadours were a means through which the sages deliberately intended to imbue man with an orientation toward putting spiritual principles in action. Travelling minstrels, harmless singers of songs, tellers of poetry, the Troubadours offered no overt threat to the established power structure. They moved through all levels of society, from royal courts to common taverns. Through their actions and their travels the Troubadours began the seeds of the first popular literature, of the beginning of a common popular consciousness. They were the first to move ideals on a widespread basis into the popular imagination. Through them, the legends of The Grail and high spiritual ideals lived in action came into popular consciousness. They became the vehicle for inspiring the popular imagination.
The trade guilds held a simple task. They inspired a code of conduct in daily living for the common people. A harmonious order was established. That order constituted around discipline and respect within the guild for members and for their work. Work itself became a noble ethic to be valued. And because of the protection of the Knights Templar, the guilds were spared from oppression by the nobility. Under the unseen guidance of the secret orders, the road up from slavery and serfdom had begun for the common people.
Before turning to an overview of the Templars it is significant to note how key turning points have occurred in the transmission of the esoteric spiritual message. It was first transmitted to an elite in societies. The populace was given a highly simplified version. After the consolidation of much of the West by Rome, it was transmitted through role models. After the suppression of the Cathars, it was spread through the means of ordinary society, not just to sustain an elite, but in disguise, through and to every man. It reached into their lives in songs, it touched their imaginations with inspiring stories, and became principles in the lives of working men and the foundation of the guilds. And all these principles were based on one unifying ideal – the impulsion of proper spiritual principles and their use in focusing day to day living to uplift the consciousness of man so that he could evolve and fulfill his purpose and destiny.
The Knights Templar remain today the single greatest force for turning the spiritual mind of the West. Many prominent occultists have contended over the years that the beginning of the decline of the West and of its spiritual dark age – the age of Kali Yuga – started with the suppression of the Templars. Today it is fashionable for writers and historians working from records left by the Inquisition to charitably agree with the Inquisition that the Templars had become corrupt, that they had fallen from principles, and to tacitly agree with some of the charges against them. These conclusions are the reiteration of falsehoods promulgated by the only keeper of information in its time, the Roman church, to cover up its own actions against the Templars, actions motivated by church and French leaders’ greed for the Templars’ wealth.
To review how the Templars worked in the world is not possible within the confines of this space. But a summary of a handful of their accomplishments clearly reveals its purposes and the workings of a genuine esoteric organisation. Like the Essenes and every other genuine group, a core inner order actually provided the Templars with their spiritual impetus and direction. But by bridging all worlds of their time – spiritual and material, nobility and common man, religious and military, commerce and contemplation, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic – the Templars moved the entire course of history. These activities marked another turning point in history. While their inner order worked esoterically on spiritual self-development, everything they did was an action in the world of its time directed at impacting the day to day lives of people in a positive and transformative way. Their goal and mission was the transformation of all of society, and nothing less. But their method was to work through the key aspects influencing the society of their time in order to inject spiritual principles in daily life and plant the seeds for future change.
The best description written of the activities of the Templars remains: “The mission of the Knights Templar was two-fold. Firstly, to inject a certain spiritualism idealism into the world of their time through a number of concrete actions. Secondly, to insure the continuity of the Spiritual Tradition of the Temple by seeking out the sacred esoteric heritage of mankind wherever it was to be found, to reunite it, and to present to a certain spiritual elite a synthesis of the Tradition adapted to the Western mentality of the Middle Ages.”3
The Templars mode of action was uniquely suited to their times. It moved at one and the same time on multiple levels because it was practical, pragmatic, and designed to create immediate effects. But it also created an atmosphere which carefully sowed the seeds for long term future changes on material and spiritual levels. In this regard a few concrete actions of the Templars are particularly worth noting.
The Templars sponsored the building of churches, chapels, and great cathedrals across Europe. Templar churches embodied in them certain esoteric geometric and mathematical principles that create a transformative effect on worshippers. The effect subliminally led more people to experience the value of the spiritual on their everyday lives. At the same time, cathedral building had a positive economic impact on the overpopulated and impoverished European society. Churches and cathedrals dedicated to the Templar patron, the Virgin, promoted the feminine principle of spirituality, and, again subliminally, raised the oppressed status of women in society by providing a female role model for veneration.
The Templars created a new class in society. They raised up the common man by protecting the working masons and sponsoring the first genuine, independent movement of the trade guilds, the Compagnons de Saint Devoir (the Companions of the Rule of Holy Duty), who built the Templar sponsored churches and cathedrals. These trade groups, formally placed under Templar protection sometime around 1145, created an internal hierarchy, taught codes of personal conduct and ethical values to the illiterate craftsmen, provided sources of income, protected widows and orphans of members, and created through the graded craftsman system a hierarchy similar to the discipline in an esoteric order. In a network of houses in various parts of every country through which apprentices travelled and worked, common manners and fair play were instilled, and a sense of common, shared interests was developed. From their contacts with the Eastern initiates and esoteric schools of the Middle East, the Templars imparted to the master tradesmen certain secrets of geometry and mathematics for incorporation into the cathedrals, thereby raising the consciousness of the trade class.
The guild houses eventually evolved into the Masonic lodge systems, and the shared sense of values created the concept of a unified society of the working man. In addition to creating a sense of self-worth among the individual members, this system was the beginning of the first principles of equal rights for all. After the suppression of the Templars, the Compagnons were persecuted for many centuries. But when the plague swept through Europe and decimated the population, the longer term impact was the elimination of European overpopulation that had created a surplus of labour and resultant poverty. By protecting the guilds from oppression by the nobility and the church, the Templars left in place a mechanism that insured both a cohesive structure within plague decimated common society and a body which spoke on behalf of the common people. It allowed the standard of living to rise and the basis for a new way of life to begin. The feudal system waned, replaced by new centres of power. And, indirectly, the course of society and the evolution of consciousness expanded. Principled but indirect stimuli often have far reaching results. As the modern writer and statesman Vaclav Havel noted during his own seemingly impossible struggle against Communist authoritarianism, “Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political influence.”
The umbrella of Templar action extended beyond the working tradesmen. The Templars were originally said to be founded to protect travellers on their way to Jerusalem. The protection of travellers to the holy place was a metaphor for providing the spiritual means to higher knowledge. But one reason the Templars became widely venerated by the common people was because their network of European commandaries actually did make travel on the roads safer for the peasants. Heretofore, the common people enjoyed no protection from incessant road bandits or pillaging nobility. The protection of the European roadways not only facilitated the safe movement of commerce. It was the first truly widespread societal benefit enjoyed by all classes of society. For the first time, a commoner enjoyed the same protection as nobility. Once a seed of equality is planted and assumed as a given by any society as a whole, the process of eventual transformation is assured. By becoming an independent force on which every part of society could depend, the Templars sowed the seeds for the concept of common standards for all in society and governance.
Much has been made of the fact that the Templars virtually invented international banking when they became a repository of royal treasuries, the executor of wills, and the financiers of kingdoms, and became fabulously wealthy as a result. Seen in a different light, it has never been noted that for the first time there existed through the Templars a common source of trust and justice. Royalty could be assured their treasuries would not be pillaged. They could travel safely from location to location without fear of robbery and knew that they could secure funds at any Templar preceptory along the way. They could be assured that heirs would not deprive each other of their inheritance, because the Templars would enforce will provisions fairly. And commoners with possessions could be assured that Templars would execute their wills justly, prevent their possessions from being usurped by the nobles, or even care for their children in the event of their deaths. Again, this was the first widespread standard of unimpeachable fairness available to all levels of society, a singular force on which people from all walks of life could depend. From these actions eventually grew the ideal that justice could be fair and serve all.
The Templars also impacted the concept of government. They were both advisors to kings and adversaries of the tyrannical use of royal power. One of the most famous encounters between royalty and the Templars occurred when English King Henry III attempted to upbraid the Master of the Temple in England and was instead bluntly countered, in modern terms, “Be careful what you say King. For if you cease to rule with justice, you will cease to be King.” What royalty and the church, and later historians, would decry in this exchange as Templar arrogance, was in fact an assertion of the rights of society against the abusive power of royalty. The Master of the Temple in England would later be witness to the signing of the Magna Carta and a behind the scenes force in its creation and execution. Similarly, by fighting for the freedom of the small border kingdoms of Aragon, Navrarre, and Mallorca from Muslim forces and aligning with those kingdoms, the Templars insured the existence of smaller independent and more liberal states.
Lastly, the Templars provided a covert bridge that had not previously existed to other faiths. Generations of historians have failed to comprehend that the accusations of Templar familiarity with Islamic and Jewish sects represented not the religious “corruption and betrayal” of which their enemies accused them, but rather the specific mission of attempting to regenerate a commonality of knowledge and respect of beliefs – which happens to be characteristic of modern religious tolerance. By their very existence, the orders of chivalry, and specifically the Templars, paved the way for the Renaissance – thus the ideals stirred by the Troubadours became physically embodied by the orders of knighthood. Through the orders of chivalry, the idealised Troubadour poetry became a manifest reality. It demonstrated that the highest ideals which inspired men could in fact become a living reality, that the concept of the Grail quest could became a genuine, worldly search for the spiritual and a way of life.
By the start of the 14th century the secret orders had moved from working with a small spiritual elite to a hidden vanguard which worked quietly in society. The emphasis each esoteric group made in their lifecycles of approximately 200 years foreshadowed the major next step in human progress and evolution. The ideals and energy put into motion by the orders of knighthood soon came to flower in the Renaissance.
In Italy the influence of the esoteric on many of the leading noble families became a primary motivation for the explosion of learning and culture that became known as the Renaissance. Through the sponsorship of families like the Medicis, learning – new modes of thought and the rediscovery of ancient wisdom – returned to become a valued world distinctly apart from the province of the church, as in ancient Greece.
In the Renaissance, the ideal of the Platonic reformation of society took root. Through the wealth of key Renaissance families, art was sponsored, books rediscovered, and esoteric principles applied in the cultural aspects of life, from creating a rich fabric of meaning in a garden, to promoting the translation of the Corpus Hermeticum. For the first time, the implementation of esoteric ideals was openly through the medium of families who remained fully engaged in everyday life. They sponsored activities influencing mundane existence. They injected the concept of beauty and harmony into their residences and surroundings. Architecture and music again became important and vital. Even gardens (e.g. the Boboli Gardens) became expressions of the esoteric ideals of beauty, harmony, and balance, inspiring the renaissance and infusing society. The esoteric mission of the Templars to bring a moribund society back to life with new ideas and spiritual principles finally flourished, 180 years after their demise.
Cultural figures took the lead in this revival. Marsilio Ficino strongly influenced the rebirth of Platonic and esoteric ideals and teachings. At Villa Carreggi, outside Florence, Ficino actually started a Platonic academy under the sponsorship of Cosimo De Medici. However, it was Giorgio Gemistos, long forgotten to history, who was the hidden hand moving the Renaissance to fruition by providing the inspiration for Medici’s actions. An occultist and sage council, Gemistos met Medici in 1437 when Gemistos attended the ecumenical council of Florence/Ferrera as the unofficial advisor to the Greek delegation. During this council he spent time with Medici. His inspired vision of transforming religion and culture through a spiritual revival led Medici to redirect his own life. He began a fervent pursuit of the translation and introduction of classical texts and metaphysical ideas to vivify every aspect of life. The objective of this work was nothing less than the transformation of the life of man and its orientation toward a spiritual way of living through inspiring the cultural elements of society. From the Platonic academy and the esoteric lodges of Italy, waves of creativity and new expressions surged across Europe, imbuing all levels of society with new ideas and planting the seeds for future changes.
In England, in the light of the Renaissance and inspired by esoteric orders spanning the English Channel and connecting Britain and the continent, an academy called “The Temple” arose at Gorhambury, becoming an influence on the future course of the West. Originally under the direction of Sir Nicholas Bacon, it became focused around his adopted son, Francis, along with another esoteric academy founded at Mortlake by John Dee. Trained from youth for his work and initiated and trained in an esoteric lodge in France, the full impact of Bacon and the lodge that worked around him has not yet been fully realised.
Together with a group of men representing all key facets of the society of his time, Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare and took the interesting multi-dimensional symbol of Pallas Athena, the spear shaker, as an image in works published under his own name. The entire structure of the Shakespearean plays are based on principles in esoteric teachings. This is why they have had such an enduring appeal. They were a message styled to the common man. The design of even the Globe Theatre was an embodiment of the esoteric principles. Bacon and his group sought to reintroduce the proper use of the intellect in reasoning through his essays and attempts to reform institutions, to redirect the ancient dialectic methods to a tool which could be, like the plays, accessed by anyone. Of equal and often overlooked importance, the group introduced the reformation of the English language as a vehicle for the transmission of esoteric and cultural concepts. They firmly planted a series of ideals in English culture that eventually, through England’s global colonies, began a far reaching transformation beyond the confines of Europe.4
Attempts during this era to establish a Republic such as the Palantate in Bohemia, and the little studied activities of John Dee in Bohemia to reform religious activities, did not meet with success. But the ideals widely established through these activities and the concurrent issuance of Rosicrucian pamphlets fired a wide imagination in society and, according to some academic sources, most likely led to the period known as the Enlightenment.5
Throughout history, slowly, step by step, the process of transforming humanity has been gradually aided by the activities of positive esoteric societies. The actions of positive groups have resulted in benefits realised sometimes generations later in society. Most interestingly, to the students of these groups and of the ebb and flow of history, they seem to be acting in anticipation of the next advancement necessary in human evolution. For some time now, the activities of these organisations have appeared quiet, depending perhaps on the fruition of past efforts to create a positive movement in humanity or awaiting a new impetus from their own core.
The trend of worldwide culture for the last 200 years has inexorably been moving toward the enhanced concept of individual freedom. Today, with some exceptions, we live in a world in which individual freedom is often taken for granted. The options of free will and choice by individuals are becoming a driving force. Now, even commerce and technology have joined to accelerate this evolutionary step as free market economies, the Internet, and broadband technologies will soon bring to people across the globe previously undreamed of options for working, learning, communicating, and participating.
Yet, in this time, the stakes in the essential struggle of the spirit have become higher than ever. The conflict between light and dark is more subtle, the struggle less overt, but the future consequences of our personal actions will be higher than ever because of the variety of choices and the possibility to exercise self-indulgence through the vehicles of technology and commerce without restraint or discernment. The outcome of this struggle, to determine whether or not man will sink into self-indulgent materialism or rise above it to create a truly better world, is far from certain. It no longer depends on others, but on ourselves. We can actively work to become more spiritual, thereby transforming ourselves and the material world and successfully realising what generations of initiates have dreamed of and worked toward, or we can choose to work to materialise and dull the spiritual aspect of man into haziness until it is ultimately lost. The choice of which future we actively wish to create is now man’s individual responsibility, and the result of that choice and of our actions will ultimately be our legacy to future generations.
1. Paraphrased from Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Delacorte Press. New York. 1982.
2. For more esoteric studies of Egypt, the reader is referred to the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz.
3. Gaetan DelaForge. The Templar Tradition in the Age of Aquarius. Threshold Books. Putney, Vt. 1987. P 63.
4. For a more detailed study of this period, the reader is referred to the works of the Francis Bacon Research Trust.
5. For more information on this period and the seeds it sowed, the reader is referred to Francis A Yates. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Ark. London and New York. 1986.
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