Originally published in
New Dawn No. 64 (January-February 2001)
from Alpheus Website
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.
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
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, spiritualize 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
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.
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)
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 centralized 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 recognized model
of this structure. This system later became the basis for
intelligence organizations and underground resistance movements.
They were consciously organized 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
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-centered 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.”
All of Egyptian society was organized along an esoteric and an
exoteric basis. The exoteric structure centered around the pharaonic
system of government, with which academic students of this
civilization 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)
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
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.
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 pharaonic 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 emphasizing the value of individual intellectual reasoning capacity.
Each of these directions
represented gradual steps toward the realization of the development
of human potential and individual freedom. Centuries later, humanity
would realize the benefits from the seeds planted by these groups.
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 proselytize. 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 centers 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,
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.
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.
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,
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.
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, Navarre, and Mallorca from Muslim forces
and aligning with those kingdoms, the Templars insured the existence
of smaller independent and more liberal states.
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 idealized 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 organizations 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
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 realizing what generations of initiates have dreamed of and worked toward, or we can choose to work to materialize 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.