Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism

Isabel Cooper-Oakley




OH, these are voices of the Past,
Links of a broken chain.


MYSTERIOUS songsters of the Middle Ages, messengers who were burdened—by right of the royal gift of song—with a knowledge that transcended that of their fellow-men—such were the Troubadours, who formed an integral portion of the mystic thread, and thus served in the weaving of the glorious traditions of eastern arcane lore into the young web of the western child-life.

Much has been already set down by many competent writers on this most complicated and interesting period of the Middle Ages; here and there some few frankly acknowledge that in the study of the writings and poems of the Troubadours, traces of hidden knowledge on their part become revealed, a knowledge which pertains to some more ancient tradition than that of the Catholic Church. It is these traces that must be collected, in order to demonstrate that these "Messengers of Love," as they were often termed, were inheritors of a "Kingdom of Heaven "—a mystic heaven, indeed, of pure doctrine, noble life, and holy aspirations.

It is but slightly that we need touch on their general history, for the outer aspect of their work can be easily followed by students; our chief attention must be centred on the most important part of their mission, and the part but little known in the general world, namely, that of their work as spiritual teachers, their secret language, and above all their secret doctrine.

Rossetti [92] in his valuable book gives many proofs of the existence of a mystic language in the "Secret Schools," and of the "double" and even "triple language" used by these Troubadours in communicating with each other. These details must be investigated if we desire to arrive at any clear comprehension of the extent to which these Secret Schools were organised and developed during the Middle Ages, and on this point Rossetti writes as follows:

The existence of such a style of language is an historical fact affirmed by many, and denied by none; it is a not less notorious fact that the persecuted sect conformed in public to the language and ceremonies of the persecuting religion; while they give in secret to every sentence of that language, and to every act of those ceremonies, an arbitrary and conventional meaning, corresponding with their own designs. There is scarcely a contemporary or succeeding historian who does not tell us that the Patarini, or Cathari, or Albigenses, were Manicheans; and we know that Silvanus, one of the successors of the murdered Manes, so artfully used that doctrine "that it seemed all drawn from the Scriptures, as they are received by catholics. He affected to make use of Scriptural phrases and he spoke like the most orthodox among us, when he mentioned the baptism, death, burial or resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ." And he and his proselytes did all this so cunningly that "the Manicheans seduced numbers of people; and their sect was considered by the simple-minded to be a society of Christians, who made profession of an extraordinary perfection." These are the words of the Abbé Pluquet (Dict. des Hérés., art., Silvan and Manicheans), who traced the existence of this sect in Italy as far back as 1022, when many of them were discovered and burned for the love of God. Let us hear the same author describe the actions of later sectarians after other innumerable examples of inhuman cruelty. "The Clanculars were a society of anabaptists who taught that on religious subjects it was necessary to speak in public like other men, and only in secret to express the thoughts." And the Albigensis and Manicheans show the best means of succeeding in this design with the following fact.

Persecuted incessantly by the remorseless Inquisition, one of their chiefs had recourse to a cunning device. He knew that he and his friends were accused of refusing to worship the saints, and of denying the supremacy of the Romish Church, and that they would be forced to make a profession of faith and to swear by the Holy Mary to have no other religion than that of the Holy Church. He was resolved not to betray his inward sentiments, but he desired if possible, to escape death. "O, muses! O, high genius! Now vouchsafe your aid!" He shut himself up in a cave with two aged females of his own sect, and gave the name of Holy Church to the one and Holy Mary to the other, "In order, that, when the sectarians were interrogated by the Father Inquisitors, they might be able to swear by the Holy Mary that they held no other faith than that of the Holy Church." Hence, when we desire to estimate properly the devout and holy things written in those times, we must first consider who composed them; and thus we shall be able to reconcile the frequent contradictions which are apparent between the verses and the actions of the Troubadours and Trouveurs." [93]

It is remarkable that this Secret language should have remained so little known, since it gives a clue of almost unmeasured importance to many a hidden mystery in the Troubadour life of the Middle Ages. It is to Eugene Aroux that we owe the largest debt of gratitude for unveiling this Mysterious bye-way of Mystic Studies; he denounces, with the wrath of a good, but bigoted Catholic, the teachings of Dante, and he unveils for us the real reason of his wrath: and from his stand-point he is right, Dante was not an Orthodox Catholic; he was a true Mystic, and his Church was composed of all those great and liberated souls who have existed in every clime: without distinction of race, religion or caste. Aroux draws the attention of the Student to the following important points: with relation to the real views of Dante, thus he says, in commenting on the Poet:

Though we may seem to have gone back quite beyond the deluge, it is evident that we are really completely in the Middle Ages. And in fact, though people may talk to us of the origin of the human species and of its dispersion over the earth, the question is really that of the starting-point of the Manichean-Gnostic doctrine and of its course from East to West. Let the following lines be carefully considered: "We do not readily believe that men were, immediately on the confusion of tongues, dispersed all over the world. The root of the human race was first planted in the countries of the East, then OUR RACE spread itself by putting forth numerous shoots on one side and another, [like] PALM-TREES, and it finally reached the extreme boundaries of the West, whence it resulted that rational throats quenched their thirst for the first time at the streams of Europe, at some at least, if not at all. But whether they were foreigners coming there for the first time, or whether, born in Europe, they had returned there, they brought with them a triple language."

Here is the text of this passage, so singular as it is, understood in a literal sense:

"Es pracedenti memorata confusione linguarum non leviter opinamur per universa mundi climata …. tunc homines primum fiusse dispersos. Et cum radix humane propaginis principaliter in oris orientalibus sit filantata; nec non ab inde ad utrumque per thfusos multipliciter PALMITES. NOSTRA fuit extensa PROPAGO; demumque ad fines occidentales protraeta, unite primitus tune vel totius Europe, vel salient qucedam, RATIONALIA GUTTURA potaverunt. Sed sive ADVENAE tunc PRIMITUS ADVENISSENT, sive ad Europam INDIGENAE REPETISSENT, idioma secum TRIFARIUM homines attulerunt."

However little it may now be remembered that, according to Dante, those only are men who make use of their reason, others being brutes in his eyes; that, further, he has taken care to explain to us in the Vita Nuova that the name of palms, palmieri, was affected by those who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it will be acknowledged that the true meaning of this passage is quite different from that which we have given it, and that it conceals another which is as follows:

Our doctrine had its origin in the East; its votaries, constituting the true human race, were not at first spread all over the earth: it was by slow degrees that our Sectarian race, nostra propago, multiplied itself with the help of Syrian pilgrims, palms palmieri, who brought the light to the confines of the West, and then rational throats, men using their reason, quenched their thirst at the streams of Europe. These missionaries of the sect being either Orientals or Europeans returning to the country of their birth, they brought with them a language of three-fold meaning, allegorical, moral, and mystical.

To reject an interpretation so plain and so thoroughly in accordance with all that we have previously seen, it would have to be explained how it could have come into Dante's head that men were born in Europe, when no rational throat had as yet dm/1k of its streams, that these Europeans had been to the East to learn a triple language, to bring it back into their own country, which no doubt had one of its own, and that the human race born in the East had to people the West, already inhabited by men, whether rational or not. Now this explanation is none of the easiest.

It is always the case that these importers of the triple language are divided into three bands, having each their own idiom; to one was allotted the South of Europe, to another the North, to the third the part of Asia and of Europe occupied by those who are now called Greeks, quos nunc Groecos vocamus, as if they did not bear this name ages ago. But let us explain: here it is a question of the refugees of the Sect, of the Sinon of the party, whom we have seen so ill-treated in Hell, who are also spoken of in the Monarchy under the name of Greek pastors. These hold to white and yellow, as one of the aspects of Lucifer; they have one foot on the European soil of the Catholics, the other on the Eastern land of the Manicheans, and, which is very disturbing, they understand for the most part the artifices of the conventional vocabulary. The three idioms were then subdivided in each of the regions mentioned; but those of the north, such as the Hungarians, Slays, Teutons, Saxons, and English kept the monosyllable is as the sign of their common origin. For the rest of Europe there was a third idiom, "though it may not be perceived that it is triple, licet nec videatur trifarium." Among the inhabitants of this region, "some say, as affirmation, oc, others oil, and others again si; that is to say, Spaniards, French, and Italians. But what proves the common origin of their idiom is that they use some of the same words to express many things, such as Dieu, ciel, amour, mer, terre, vivre, mourir, aimer, and others besides. [God, heaven, love, sea, earth, to live, to die, to love.]"

Dante knew very well that the Spaniards did not use oc as an affirmation, that they used si like the Italians, but he desired to call attention to the chief centre of the Albigensian doctrine, to the land of the langue d'oc, and not venturing to name Toulouse, he made use of this very visible artifice, especially when it is recognised that the words which he mentions as revealing the common origin of the language in the three countries are precisely those which the sectarian poets so frequently use in their mysterious compositions.

Aroux further explains that these "importers" of the "triple language" were divided into three bands, each having its own idiom: one set traversed the South of Europe, another the North, another the part of Asia and Europe occupied by those now called Greeks. Then Aroux breaks out in wrath: "They have one foot on the European soil of the Catholics, the other on the Eastern land of the Manichaeans." [94]

But it is from another of his interesting works [95] that we get the most intimate details about the organisation of these Troubadour heretics, and their spiritual teaching; the passages are so important that it is better to give them in full. [96]

The eminent professor [97] whom we follow untiringly because he is an authority on the subject, had no suspicion, when making researches into the elements composing the personnel of Provençal literature, that he was digging into the archives of the Albigensian Church. So it is, however, as will be shown by a rapid estimate of these elements in the light of common sense. One may believe with him that previous to the XIth century there were in the south of France men, who under the name of jesters, joculatores, made it their profession to recite or to sing romantic fictions. But it was precisely because the apostles of the dissenting doctrine found this custom established in the countries where it had survived the Roman domination, that they eagerly adopted it for the furtherance of their propaganda. For just as they excelled in turning to account the heroic traditions, the religious fables of the various peoples in order to engraft their ideas on this national foundation, they displayed exceeding skill in adapting themselves, according to times and places, to the manners and customs of the countries in which they carried on their ministry. Thus they became minnesingers in Germany, bards and skalds in Scandinavia, minstrels in England, trouvères in northern France, troubadours and jugglers in ancient Aquitaine, giullari, men of mirth, in Italy—leaving everywhere monuments of their genius and a most popular memory.

The missionaries of the heresy certainly preached the religion of love long before the time when William of Poitiers spoke of them, towards 1100, by the name of Troubadours, for before winning over the higher classes of society, their doctrines must have taken a long time to filter through the lower ranks.

At the time of the complete organization [98] of the sectarian propaganda, that is to say from 115o to 1200, the most brilliant period of Provencal literature, Fauriel rightly distinguishes different orders of troubadours and jesters, the very necessity of things having obliged their division into two distinct classes. The one in fact addressing themselves more especially to social parties, singing only for courts and castles; the other, appealing more to popular instincts, composed for public places, for the mercantile and working classes, for the country population. We have said that the former were the dissenting bishops, combining the qualities of the Perfect Knights and the Perfect Troubadours. We have explained how, having no less courage than skill, knowing how at need to employ cunning, and giving constant evidence of a patience and humility proof against everything, they were of the type of Renaud de Montauban, the chivalrous figure in contrast to Maître Renard, the symbolical representative of the Roman clergy.

The latter, no less useful on account of the recruits that they unceasingly made amongst the most numerous classes, amongst those who had most to suffer from clerical oppression and exactions, furnished the model of the knights errant, as also that of the wild knights ["chevaliers sauvages"], personified in the romance of which Guido the Wild is the easily to be recognised hero.

Lastly, above these two orders of knights and troubadours, there was that of the barons and feudal lords, who, having embraced the Albigensian faith, having become its protectors or godfathers, carried on the propaganda in their own way and in their own social sphere. These men often cultivated poetry, and used it to impress on the nobility, and still more on the bourgeoisie, ideas hostile to pontifical omnipotence. Not only did they encourage the people to shake off the theocratic yoke by setting them the example, but they further upheld them and resolutely took up their defence against prelates, inquisitors and legates, the Estults, Galaffrons, giants and necromancers that abound in the romances of Geste. Thence, we have that heroic personage Roland, in contrast to Master Issengrin; that son of Milo, whose powerful words, under the name of Durendal, made an enormous breach in the granite of the mountains, a breach through which an invasion was made on to Spanish soil, where it could exclaim, long before Louis XIV., "The Pyrenees exist no longer!"

These noble sectaries, of the type of the chivalric Roland, were, as a matter of fact, feudal lords, true knights. As such, they did not hesitate to confer in case of need, in accordance with the ideas of the time, and especially in masonic [?"masseniques"] lodges, the order of knighthood on distinguished members of their communion whom religious or political interest drew into foreign countries.

On another side, observe how generously certain German Emperors—such as a Conrad, an Otho, the two Fredericks—once came down into Italy, lent themselves to bestowing the order of knighthood on the bourgeois of Milan, on merchants and bankers of Genoa and Florence. For them it was a means of recruiting their forces against the papacy, and of strengthening in Italy an opposition which they well knew to be not simply political. And Dante also is careful not to forget the families who quartered on their shields "the arms of the great baron," vicar of the Emperor Otho; and it is with pride that he recalls the promotion of his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida, knighted by Conrad.

As to the jesters, properly so-named jesters of song, of sayings, of romance, as they were called—they must be distinguished from the mimic jesters, that is to say, from the mountebanks and buffoons. The clerical jesters were, as has already been said, evangelical ministers, still subject to the preliminary discipline of the priesthood. Holding the rank of deacons in the sectarian church, they were with regard to the pastors to whom they were attached, in a position analogous to that of squires to knights, and it is under this title that they figure in the romances.

If distinguished troubadours are spoken of, and, among others, Giraud de Borneil, as always accompanied by two jesters, it is unquestionably that these troubadours were Albigensian bishops, whose dignity and functions required the assistance of two deacons. This is why it is said of them that "They never went on a tour (episcopal) without having both of them in their retinue."

It would be a great mistake to think that the first comer could be admitted to the functions of a jester. Fauriel will tell you that it was necessary to have "an extraordinary memory, a fine voice, to be able to sing well, to play well on the accompanying instrument, and also to have a knowledge of history, of traditions, of genealogies. Several jesters indeed are cited for their historical knowledge." The learned member of the Institute thinks that this knowledge could not have been very great, at a time when all history was reduced to barren chronicles; but is it quite certain that their blunders, their anachronisms, their confounding of personages, countries, and dates, may not be voluntary? Would they not on the contrary be a proof that their knowledge in this respect was much greater than one is willing to suppose? As to the genealogies, it is a question of those of Geste's romances.

Besides the jesters attached to the person of the bishop or of the mere pastor, were those who, having already completed their probation, went forth, furnished with the recommendation of the one or the other, to give instruction or carry consolation into courts and castles. It was these who were called elder sons [of age? "fils majeurs"], deacons of the first-class. The others, designated younger sons [under age? "fils mineurs"], performed the same functions in towns and villages; but for the most part their own special aptitudes marked them out for the kind of service expected from them.

These two classes of one and the same priesthood were recruited from all ranks of society, on the sole condition of uniting to a true vocation the natural gifts and the knowledge necessary for success in so difficult and dangerous a mission.

One curious matter, to state precisely, would be how many personages came down into these poetic classes from a station generally considered superior. Nothing was more common in the 12th and 13th centuries, in the countries of the Provençal tongue, than to see knights, castellans, canons, clerics, become troubadours or simple jesters. Several of the most distinguished among both had begun by being considerable personages in society. Peyrols had been a knight; Pierre Cardinal was born of a noble and wealthy family; Pierre Roger had been a canon at Clermont; Arnaud de Marueilh had been a clergyman, and the famous Arnaud Daniel was a noble who had received a first-rate education. Assuredly these men did not consider that they were lowering themselves by embracing the apostolate, but on the contrary were raising themselves in their own eyes and in those of their brethren. The mysterious Sordello was a noble lord.

Moreover, how should knights such as Sordello, such as the Dauphin of Auvergne and so many others, have hesitated to become troubadours out of zeal for their faith, when kings like Richard of England and Peter of Aragon, powerful suzerains like William of Poitiers, had declared themselves professors of the Gay Science; when they added their voices to those of the servants of love, to exalt, in interests perhaps less religious than political, the mysterious and Perfect lady who under various names—as star, flower, light—was appealed to, to cast down to hell the Roman she-wolf, to crush the pontifical serpent? The Infamous dates not from Voltaire.

Just as episcopal mandates, days for the sermons of preachers, and the order of the offices, &c., are affixed to the doors of churches, so did the troubadours give out their notices in the castles by a kind of poetical programme, thus making known the lyric, pastoral or romantic compositions which were to serve as the text for their teachings. In how many places was not the Divine Comedy thus recited and commented on before a select audience? Fauriel cites as a specimen a whimsical piece by Pierre Cardinal, "in which the author," he says, "envelops himself in veils of allegory of the most fantastic kind till it appears to him unintelligible." These veils would have appeared to him transparent if he had understood the true composition of the balsam of Fierabras.

As this famous balsam, the unguent proclaimed by the troubadour knight and probably bishop, Pierre Cardinal, the unguent which heals all kinds of wounds, even the bites of the venemous reptiles (in the orthodox ranks, be it understood)—is in fact none other than the word of the Gospel; so also the golden vessel in which it is contained, the vessel adorned with the most precious stones, is none other than the Holy Grail itself, or the book of the Gospels, as the Albigenses had adopted and translated it; the golden book, the vessel containing the true light, visible only to the initiated, to the professors of the gay science ["du gay saber"]. Now, among the romances given out by Pierre Cardinal, we find in the nick of time that of Tristan of Leonois, so well-known to Dante, and which, celebrating the conquest of England by the law of love, should have more than one claim to the interest of the people of Provence.

We have seen, on the one hand, that the Albigensian clergy, so skilful and so full of zeal, were recruited from the ranks of the priesthood as well as from those of the nobility and the bourgeoisie; on the other hand we have become convinced, from the interpretations that we have given of the decrees of the Courts of Love and of the decisions in the amorous casuistry, that ecclesiastics converted to the faith of Love could not continue their cure of souls in the parish where they had performed their vicarial functions.

What then became of those fresh recruits enrolled under the banner of heresy when once dispossessed of their cure or of any other sacerdotal function?

Like the other aspirants to the sectarian priesthood, they went into seminaries or lodges to receive instruction; then, having become deacons or squires, having undergone tests and given the required pledges, they were admitted to the rank of Perfect Knights, or Perfect Troubadours. Having thus graduated, they started in the character of missionaries or of pilgrims of love ("pellegrini d'amore ") as Dante says, sometimes undertaking long and dangerous journeys. And so we find traces of them everywhere, from the icy north and the depths of Germany even to the east, in France and the low countries, in England, Spain and Italy. Then it was that, in the symbolical language of the faithful in love, they were called by the name of Knights-errant.

Preaching the doctrine of love, the true law of the Redeemer, their mission was to redress the wrongs of Rome, to take up the defence of the weak and oppressed; they were also represented and celebrated as the true soldiers of the Christ, the champions of the poor, attacking under all their forms the monstrous abuses of theocratic regime; as comforters of the widow Rachel, that Gnostic church so cruelly tried by the pontifical Herod; as the devoted supporters of the sons of the widow, those humble members of the "massenie" of the Holy Grail; as the terror of ogres, dragons, and giants.

Fauriel must then believe in them, writing: "It is unquestionable that in all the countries in Europe in which there were Knights, there was one particular class known by the title of Knights errant;" and he cites in proof of this the tax which was levied upon them in 1241 by Henry III. of England, who was in great need of money and would naturally turn to his best allies to obtain it; would he necessarily call them by their true name of Albigensian missionaries?

"It is in the poetical monuments of southern France, he adds, that I find the most ancient traces of knight-errantry. What may be gathered from them as a whole, is that the condition of Knight errant was rather accidental and transitory than fixed and permanent." Where else indeed than in Provence could one find more traces of their pilgrims of love since Provence was their native soil? And was it not the least that could be expected, after the trials of a wandering life, that these zealous missionaries, called back to sedentary functions, might rest after their prolonged fatigue?

Contrary to the romances which represent them as always solitary, and running about in search of adventures, "the Provencal poets depict them to us as usually travelling several together, and to all appearance temporarily associated for some enterprise or common quest." Yes , indeed! Exactly like the missionaries of our own times, and they were always accompanied by their socius, whom the Troubadours, their colleagues, turned into their squire.

One of the most illustrious among these knights-errant—an authentic personage, at least as a Troubadour—was Raimbaud de Vaqueiras, whose platonic amours with Madame Beatrice, who called him her beautiful knight ("beau chevalier"), are extremely curious, but would make too long an episode. We will merely say that Boniface, Marquis de Montferrat, whose sister Raimbaud's Beatrice must have been, was one of the nobles of the south of Europe who most especially occupied the attention of the Troubadours, for the very simple reason that, sharing their faith, he sheltered under his protection the Vaudois, whose cradle was in the valleys of Piedmont.

Other knights are mentioned at the same period in the historical monuments of the south of France and of the Catalogue, under the name of the "Chevalier Sauvages"— Wild Knights. The romance entitled "Guido, the Wild," presents the poetical personification of these guides or pastors of Alpine districts. He figures in Ariosto's "Roland," which we shall probably annotate some day, with some heroes whose symbolical value is not more difficult to estimate.

An article of certain constitutions of James I., of Aragon, who wanted to treat with Rome, forbade in 1234, the making of Wild Knights; another article, says Fauriel, "seems to establish a connection between this class of Knights and the jesters; it prohibits the giving of any gratuities to a jester or to a Wild Knight." I can well believe it, and such a connection was a matter of course. Was not the jester the squire, the socius of the Wild Knight, and the King of Aragon wishing to give pledges to Rome, how could he separate them in the prohibition he was issuing? Would not the gratuity given to one have been given to the other? The Wild Knights had in reality the closest relations with the Knights errant; like them they were ministers of the proscribed worship, forced to disguise their character carefully. They differed from them on one point only, and that was that instead of going to a foreign land to catechise and convert the orthodox population, they had to fulfil their own ministry in their own native country. Further, instead of exercising sedentary functions in a single parish, they had to move over a much more extensive area.. They were obliged to go up hill and down dale, in Alpine districts, to carry the words of peace and consolation to the isolated populations, who were too few in number to have a resident pastor; and also to those whom persecution or the stake had deprived of their own.

Unlike the ministers of towns, boroughs and castles, the gentle knights, as titularies of this or that church, their lady-love—they themselves were the pastors of the woods and mountains, compelled, in order to feed their sheep, to travel through the wildest districts; hence the name given to them by their co-religionists, who caused it to be taken, like so many other conventional terms, outside their church, in a totally different sense.

The most bitter feeling on the part of the Catholics was aroused from the fact that the teachings they denounced were so closely allied to those inculcated by themselves, and that the lives of the heretics shone out as stars against the blackness of the mediaeval monastic life. [99] Indeed, the majority of the higher classes became Troubadours, and when prevented by persecution from speaking, they took refuge in song, [100] and treated their subjects sometimes seriously, sometimes lightly, but ever was there, as we have seen, a dual meaning in La gaie saber, or the "Art of loving": for the true "union of love," as Aroux points out, meant the attachment of the "Perfect Chevalier" to the "celestial chivalry," for such were those knights [101] called who gave themselves to the service of the "Holy Grail," or the "Mystic Quest," i.e., to the inner service, or initiation, of their secret body. They were indeed:

The soldier-saints who, row on row,
Burn upward each to his point of bliss.

The perfect passion of self-sacrifice was theirs, and moved those men of the Middle Ages to martyrdom and suffering in their zeal for the spreading of the knowledge of the mystic doctrine. Such, for instance, was Peter Waldo, [102] who became the founder of the powerful groups of Waldensians, [103] or the "Poor of Lyons," a secret body with masonic connections. He was first attracted to serious subjects by a Troubadour who was reciting a poem in the streets of Lyons—a chant in favour of the ascetic life; Waldo invited the Troubadour in, and from that time became one of them.

We must here digress from the mystic aspect, in order to give a slight outline on the general organisation, which can be taken from Baret's admirable work on the subject; [104] he gives a chart of the chief School of Troubadours as follows: [105]

  1. The School of Aquitaine
  2. The School of Auvergne
  3. The School of Rodez
  4. The School of Languedoc
  5. The School of Provence

All these were again sub-divided into groups.

The general compositions of the Troubadours may be classified under the following heads:

"The Gallant," "The Historical," "The Didactic," "The Satirical," and the purely "Theological"; then further, others we may term "The Mystical," or even "Hermetic"; the "Satirical" were often Theological from an essentially belligerent standpoint. Baret emphasises the fact that theological matters occupied the attention of the Troubadours much more than history. Nostradamus enumerates several works of this kind. [106] In the Vatican Library, says Baret, there are four anonymous treatises which belong to the Provençal Literature.

But the object which was the special search of the Inquisition was the translation of the Bible into the Catalonian tongue, and very carefully was this work concealed; for the organisation of these mystic schools was admirable and their Bishops and Deacons were disguised as Troubadours. Throughout Spain, Germany, Italy and Central Europe, this powerful "secret organisation" extended with its mystic traditions. Aroux, in connecting the Troubadours with the Albigenses on one side, links them also to the Manichaean religion on the other, that most pernicious—according to the Roman Church—of all heresies, because the most vital; [107] and, indeed, nothing but the wholesale bloodshed undertaken by the Dominicans could have crushed out its public organisation; still, it lived again in other forms and under other names, and when Rutherford and other writers connect the Manichaeans with the Freemasons they are touching a deeper truth than perhaps they know. As the above-mentioned writer points out, the Troubadours and the "Steinmetzen or Bridge-Builders" were connected, and "among them, too, the Freemasons found ample occupation"; this is accurately true, for from Manes [108] "the widow's son," descends the tradition which was common to Troubadour and Freemason; their hieroglyphs were in many cases identical and the signs common to both. Manes went into Egypt and brought back from thence the ancient tradition, he who was crucified for reforming the Magian Priesthood, became the originator of the powerful symbolic phrase used among "the sons of the widow" with its corresponding sign. It is this tradition which underlies the well-known societies of the Knight Templars, the Fratres Lucis, the Asiatische Brüder, and many others who have kept alive the mystic teaching, and handed it on.

From the death of Manes, 276 A.D., there was an intimate alliance [109]—even a fusion—with some of the leading Gnostic sects, and thence do we derive the intermingling of the two richest streams of Oriental Wisdom: the one, directly through Persia from India; the other, traversing that marvellous Egyptian period, enriched by the wisdom of the great Hermetic teachers, flowed into Syria and Arabia, and thence with added force—garnered from the new divine powers made manifest in the profound mystery of the blessed Jesus—into Europe, through Northern Africa, finding a home in Spain, where it took deep root. From this stock sprang into full flower that richness of speech and song for which the Troubadours will live for ever, Manichaeans, who sang and chanted the Esoteric Wisdom they dared not speak.

Next we see them dispersed in sects, taking local names,—separated in name only, but using the same secret language, having the same signs. Thus, everywhere they journeyed, and, no matter by what name they were called, each knew the other as a" widow's son," bound together on a Mystic Quest, knitted—by virtue of a secret science—into one community; with them came from the East the chivalric ideal, and they chanted of love and sang of heaven: but the love was a "Divine Love," and their heaven was the wisdom and peace of those who sought the higher life. As Aroux [110] says, the chief object which dominated the work of these "Trouveurs" [Troubadours] was Chivalry —" not the feudal, fighting, iniquitous Chivalry, as corrupt as it was ignorant," but that tone of thought which is well termed mystic, and which sees in all life only a manifestation of the Divine power; they fought for the purity of their ideal against the ever-increasing corruption of the Roman Church.

A word must here be added on the origin of chivalry which is mistakenly supposed to be of Christian inception. Viardot says:

In recalling what Christian Europe owes to the Arabs with regard to knowledge, we must not omit what she owes to them with regard to manners. The high civilisation to which they had attained bore its natural fruit, and the Arabs were no less distinguished by the advance and the gentleness of their manners than by the extent and variety of their knowledge. The humanity, the tolerance that they displayed towards conquered nations, to whom they generously left their possessions, their religion, their laws, and mostly their civic rights, bore a striking testimony on this point, which was thoroughly confirmed by their whole history. This high civilisation appeared under two chief aspects—gallantry in private manners, chivalry in public manners. Gallantry (as we will call the delicacy of social relations) arose among them from the extreme reserve imposed on the two sexes, from the severity of the laws and of opinion, in fine, from the cultivated mind of the women, who knew how to inspire love and to command respect. In all social relations, in all family customs, the Arabs showed extreme austerity. "Those people," they said of the Spaniards, "are full of courage, and endure privations with fortitude; but they live like wild beasts, washing neither their bodies nor even their clothes, which they only take off when they fall into rags, and going into each other's houses without asking permission." [111]

Chivalry was the virtue of warriors. Founded on justice, it corrected the abuses of force, which is the right of war; founded on humanity, it tempered the excesses of hatred, reminding men of their brotherhood even in the midst of combat; it was a kind of association or confraternity between men of arms which drew together and united all its members when politics or religion separated them, and which imposed on them noble duties when all rights were disowned. Chivalry was the most powerful correction of feudalism by giving to the weak and the oppressed, protectors and avengers . . .

Bravery, however, the sole virtue of German soldiers, was neither the only one nor even the first, required of an Arab Knight. Ten qualities were indispensable to give him a right to this name, namely: goodness, valour, courtesy, poetry, elegance of speech, strength, horsemanship, skill in the use of lance, sword and bow. [112]

This "Celestial Chivalry"—Aroux demonstrates —was derived from the "Albigensian Gospel," whose "Evangel" or "Gospel" was again derived from the Manichaean-Marcion tradition. [113] These Albigenses were identical with the Cathari, and the Troubadours were the links bearing the secret teaching from one body to another. "Thus one sees them taking every form: by turns, artizans, colporteurs, pilgrims, weavers, colliers . . . deprived of the right to speak, they took to singing."

It must be remembered that simultaneously with the inflow of this Manichaean Oriental wisdom into Spain, there had been the same development in Italy from Sicily, and all through the Danubian Provinces into Hungary, over the Caucasus to Russia, and along the shores of the Caspian Seas; just as the legend of the Holy Grail was everywhere, so also was this stream of thought, for the two were one.

The most prominent public development takes place, as we see, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but the enormous spread of the teaching was the result of centuries of quiet work. Travel was slow, and nearly all communication was from person to person. Hence when we see in the twelfth century the "flowering of the plant," it must be remembered that this result was the work in each country of small bands of—even isolated—travelling mystics who were true missionaries in life and heart.

To turn to another aspect it is curious to think of the Troubadours as authorities in dress and etiquette. Rutherford says: [114] "They prepared the youth of both sexes for society, and they drew up rules for their guidance therein," and then he gives a most interesting quotation from a Troubadour, Amanieu des Escas, who instructed a young man of rank while he was a Page or Esquire as follows: "Shun the companionship of fools, impertinents, or meddlers, lest you pass for the same. Never indulge in buffoonery, scandals, deceit, or falsehood. Be frank, generous, and brave; be obliging and kind; study neatness in your dress, and let elegance of fashion make up for plainness of material. Never allow a seam to remain ripped and gaping; it is worse than a rent; the first shows ill-breeding, the last only poverty, which is by far the lesser evil of the two. There is no great merit in dressing well if you have the means: but a display of neatness and taste on a small income is a sure token of superiority of spirit," etc., etc. There is much more of the same kind, but this citation serves to show how eminently practical was the advice given to the young men in olden days.

Very bitter and violent were the attacks made upon these men by the monks, who were jealous of the real purity and asceticism of these heretical Troubadours, and who were infuriated at the publicity given to their own misdeeds; such an attack is graphically described by Hueffer in his thoughtful work on the Troubadours. The writings of "Izarn the Monk," for instance, he well describes as a "striking specimen of monkish effrontery" and he proceeds to criticise the "unctuous self-laudation" of his work, the Novas del Heretge, or the Tale of a Heretic, a dialogue between the author and a Bishop of the Albigeois sect.

"The opening lines," says Hueffer, "are important to the historian of theology. They prove that the Neo-Manichaean heretics believed, or at least were said by the Catholics to believe, in something very like metempsychosis. 'Tell me,' the monk begins, 'in what school you have learned that the spirit of man, when it has lost its body, enters an ox, an ass, or a horned wether, a hog, or a hen, whichever it sees first, and migrates from one to the other until a new body of man or woman is born for it? . . . This thou hast taught to deluded people, whom thou hast given to the devil and taken away from God. May every place and every land that has supported thee perish!” [115]

It is curious and suggestive to find that St. Francis of Assisi had been a Troubadour; Görres [116] speaks of him as a "genuine Troubadour," and there is no doubt that he and some of his Franciscans were at one time members of the heretical Cathari: indeed it is questionable whether he was at any time an orthodox Churchman, though—like that other Troubadour, Dante—the Church has ever claimed him as a "faithful son."

A few words must now be devoted to what may be termed the general position of the Troubadours, the place and functions of some of them at least. Among the most illustrious of the Troubadours was Alfonso the Second, King of Arragon (1162-1196). Ticknor [117] says: "From 1209 to 1229, the shameful war which gave birth to the Inquisition was carried on with extraordinary cruelty against the Albigenses, a religious sect in Provence, accused of heresy, but persecuted rather by an implacable political ambition. To this sect—which in some points opposed the pretensions of the See of Rome, and was at last exterminated by a crusade under the Papal Authority —belonged nearly all the contemporary Troubadours, whose poetry is full of their sufferings and remonstrances. [118] In their great distress, the principal ally of the Albigenses and Troubadours was Peter the Second of Arragon, who in 1213 perished nobly fighting in their cause at the disastrous battle of Muret. When therefore the Troubadours of Provence were compelled to escape from the burnt and bloody ruins of their homes, not a few of them hastened to the friendly Court of Arragon, sure of finding themselves protected, and their art held in honour, by princes who were at the same time poets." These passages and the accompanying notes are of importance to students, for they show how intimate a part was played by the Troubadours in the religious movements of the period; and how they were instruments in keeping the mystic teaching alive, and in handing on the Wisdom of the East clothed in this, its latest, poetical disguise.

In Germany also the Troubadours dwelt in high places, for, according to M. de Saint-Peloie, the Baron Zurlandben had just (1773) found a MS. in the library of the King, containing the sonnets of princely Troubadours, written about the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among these royal writers were the Emperor Henry VI., Conradin, King of Bohemia, and other Princes, Electors, Dukes and Margraves.

The emotional life of the young European nations was largely educated by means of the chivalric romances, based, as they were, on the highest religious and mystic teaching; and later, in 1400–1500, the Celestial Chivalry was the great standard set before the people, as a national ideal.

Says Ticknor: [119] "Religious romances were written …. in the form of Allegories, like the 'Celestial Chivalry,' the 'Christian Chivalry,’ ‘The Knight of the Bright Star’ "; and this author remarks that the object of that interesting book—the Celestial Chivalry, written by Hierónimo de San Pedro (at Valencia, in 1554) was to drive out of the world "the profane books of chivalry."

The titles he uses are worth attention, the first part being called "The Root of the Fragrant Rose"; the second, "The Leaves of the Rose." The names are suggestive, for it was just at this period, when, owing to bitter persecution, the Cathari and Albigenses were nearly exterminated, [120] that the Rosicrucians began to revive the same old Eastern tradition, and the blessed Christian Rosencreutz turned his steps eastwards, and in Arabia spent three years fitting himself for the work to come.

The Rose was one of the ancient traditional mystic symbols, re-adapted by the Rosicrucians, and used, indeed, by all sectaries and mystics Aroux [121] asserts that the famous Roman de la Rose [122] was not only a satire against the Pontifical Court, but also the apotheosis of heresy, for it contained the Hermetic Science under the guise of a religious poem.

Rossetti [123] is as emphatic about this symbolic language, and Warton [124] gives us the following suggestive hints: "In the preface of the edition [to this poem,] printed in the year 1583, all this allegory is turned to religion. The Rose is proved to be a state of grace or divine wisdom, or eternal beatitude, or the Holy Virgin to which heretics cannot gain access. It is the White Rose of Jericho,….the Chemists made it a search for the Philosopher's Stone." There is ever a mystery in the crucified Rose, typical of light and glory springing from the blood of Adonis, himself Dionysus, the best of heavenly beings. Endless are the exquisitely beautiful and refined symbolic meanings of the sacred Rose.

Thus as we study the Troubadours it becomes evident that an enormous under-current of secret teaching was being carried on, and Rutherford gives us some important hints on this point which have been previously noticed [125] but may again be usefully referred to since they illustrate this particular fact and verify much that is said by Aroux.

The body of the learned in the Middle Ages—or the inner circle of that body—seems to have formed a secret society, whose purpose was to keep as much knowledge as possible confined to itself, after the manner of the Druids, or of the Egyptians and Chaldaen Sages; when compelled to put the more occult portions of their scientific acquirements into a more permanent form they adopted one perfectly unintelligible to the vulgar. Some wrapped up their more valuable secrets in parables, others threw them again into the shape of illuminations, and others again adopted the device of Roger Bacon, who, giving the name of an important ingredient of gunpowder in an anagram, rendered the whole receipt for the composition of the substance a complete mystery to the uninitiated.

It has been said that Rutherford has allied the Troubadours with the Freemasons, and the latter body has an undoubtedly Manichaean tradition. For confirmation on this point we can refer to what is said by a very well-known Masonic authority, [126] whose knowledge about Masonry is unquestionable:

Sons of the Widow [127]—a powerful society founded by Manes, a Persian slave….and continued to the present day; it consisted of two degrees: 1. Auditor. 2. Elect. It was at peace under the Mother of the Emperor Anastasius (A.D. 491–518), but was persecuted by Justin. In the course of time, its agents secretly instigated the Crusades; but being betrayed, had to veil their mysteries under many names. In Bulgaria and Lombardy it was known as the Society of the Paterini, in France as the Cathari and Albigenses, and from it originated the Hussites, Wyckliffites, and Lollards. The Dutch sect of the Family of Love also sprang from it.

Such is the statement of a high Mason on this connection, corroborating the links that have already been outlined, and many more might be instanced, showing that all the tenets of these medival sects of Troubadours are traceable to Gnostic and Manichaeistic doctrines. Very wonderful is the part filled by the "Messengers of Love" in the spiritual evolution of Europe during the Dark Ages. Martyrs many, and Saints not a few—such will be the roll-call of the Minniesängers, Troubadours, and Bards of these olden days, when in the future the Ancient Wisdom once more reigns supreme.


  1. Rossetti (Gabriele), Disquisitions on the Anti-papal Spirit which produced the Reformation, ii, 112, 170. London, 1834.
  2. Rossetti, Gabriele, Disquisitions on the Antipapal Spirit which produced the Reformation, ii., 553-555. London, 1834.

    Another writer makes the following comment:—"D'après les idées de M. Rossetti, il y aurait encore dans les poésies de Dante et de Pétrarque, ainsi que dans les romans de Boccace, quelque chose que ces hommes n'ont jamais entièrement exprime dans leurs écrits latins. II semblerait, à entendre le nouveau commentateur de la Divine Comédie, qu'une grande et éternelle vérité, partie de la bouche des Orphées, des Thalés, des Pythagores, et bondissant d'écho en écho jusqu'a nous, par l'intermédaire des prophètes, de Platon, des Sibylles, de Virgile et de Boétius, a été recueillie enfin, tenue voilée, mais exactement transmise aux générations modernes, par one succession de sectaires, comme les manichéens, les templiers, les patarins, les gibelins, les rosecroix, les sociniens, les swedenborgiens, les francs-maçons, et enfin les carbonari." —Delécluze (E. J.), Dante Alighieri, ou la Poésie Amoureuse; pp. 605-606. Paris, 1848.
  3. Aroux (Eugene), Dante Hérétique, Révolutionnaire et Socialiste, Révélations d'un Catholique, p. 388. Paris, 1854.
  4. Aroux (E.), Les Mystères de la Chevalerie, pp. 161-169. Paris, 1858.
  5. The phrases "True human race" and "Sectarians" are generally applied to Mystics, also to the Maniclmans, Albigenses, Troubadours, Palmers, and Palmieri; it meant those men and women throughout the world, of every nation and in every clime, who were seeking the inner life in its true sense; and who will be the "first fruits" of the "Redeemer," in the mystical sense.
  6. Aroux is here referring to Fauriel (M.P., Paris), whose works on the Provencal literature have been so often quoted in these pages.
  7. This was just before the most deadly persecutions began. There was an extraordinarily extended organization of this so-called heretical church.
  8. Lecky (W. E. H., M.A.), History of European Morals, ii. 217. London, 1877.
  9. Thus we have the "Bible" of Guiot von Provins; and the whole cycle of the "Grail legends."
  10. Wolfram von Eschenbach was one of these.
  11. See Gilly, D.D. (W. S.), The Romaunt version of the Gospel according to St. John; from MSS. preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. Introduction, pp. xc. xcix.
  12. Also called Valdes, Valdernis, Valdensis, and then Waldensis.
  13. Baret (Eugène), Les Troubadours et leur Influence sur la Littérature du Midi de l’Europe, p. 64. Paris, 1867.
  14. These are the French Schools only; Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Danubian Provinces contained as many.
  15. There is one of importance, Traité sur la Doctrine des Albigeois et Tuschius, by Raoul de Gassin.
  16. Says Lea: "When to Dualism is added the doctrine of transmigration as a means of reward and retribution, the sufferings of man seem to be fully accounted for. . . . Manes had so skilfully compounded Mazdean Dualism with Christianity and with Gnostic and Buddhist elements, that his doctrines found favour with high and low, with the subtle intellects of the Schools, and with the toiling masses." Hist. of the Inquisition, i. 89. London, 1888.
  17. Mani—or Cubricus—was the pupil of Terebinthe (who was afterwards called Buddas). He was an Egyptian Philosopher, and from him Manes received the Hermetic tradition; Manichaeism was based on the Ancient Babylonian religion with Christian, Persian and Egyptian elements introduced. The Gnostics who joined the Manicharan stream were the Basilideans, Marcionites, and Bardesanites. See Beausobre (M. de), Histoire critique de Manichée, 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1734
  18. Says Lea: "Of all the heresies with which the early Church had to contend, none had excited such mingled fear and loathing as Manichaeism." And again: "The Manichaeism of the Cathari, Patarins, or Albigenses, was not a mere speculative dogma of the schools, but a faith which aroused fanaticism so enthusiastic that its devotees shrank from no sacrifices in its propagation." Lea (H. C.), op. cit, i. 89.
  19. Aroux (Eugene), Les Mysterès de la Chevalerie, pp. 69-71. Paris, 1858.

    "Every Knight has the power to create Knights. There is in the hand and in the sword of every Knight a power (I nearly wrote a fluid,' but I did not dare) which is really capable of creating other Knights."—Gautier (Léon), Chivalry, trs. Henry Frith, p. 223. London, 1891.
  20. "O believers I enter not into a strange house without asking permission to do so." (Koran, Sour. XXIV., v., 27). Jos. Conde, Part I., cap. 18.
  21. "Fue muy buen caballero, y se decia de él que tenia las dies prendas qué distinguen à los nobles y generosos, qué consisten enbondad, valentia, caballeria, gentileza, poesia, bien hablar, fuerza, destreza en la lanza, en la espada, y en el tirar del arco." (J. Conde, perto II., cap. 63.)

    He was an excellent Knight, and it was said of him that he possessed the ten accomplishments that distinguish nobles and honourable men, which consist in goodness, valour, horsemanship, courtesy, poetry, excellence of speech, ability, skill in lance, sword, and in drawing the bow.

    The word "gentileza" or "gentillesse," which has greatly changed in meaning with the lapse of time, means charming manners, the good tone of a man well born and well bred, of one whom the English call a gentleman. Viardot (L), Histoire des Arabes at des Mores d'Espagne, ii., pp. 197, 199. Paris, 1831.
  22. Lea (H. C.), op. cit., i. 92: A further irrefragable evidence of the derivation of Catharism from Manichaeism is furnished by the sacred thread and garment which were worn by all the Perfect among the Cathari. This custom is too peculiar to have had an independent origin, and is manifestly the Mazdean kosti and saddarah, the sacred thread and shirt, the wearing of which was essential to all believers, and the use of which, by both Zends and Brâhmins, shows that its origin is to be traced to the prehistoric period anterior to the separation of those branches of the Aryan family. Among the Cathari the wearer of the thread and vestment was what was known among the inquisitors as the ‘haereticus indutus' or ‘vestitus,' initiated into all the mysteries of the heresy."
  23. Rutherford (John), The Troubadours, their Loves and Lyrics, p. 4. London, 1873.
  24. Hueffer (Francis), The Troubadours, p. 32. London, 1878.
  25. Görres (J.), Der heilige Franciskus von Assisi, ein Troubadour. Strassburg, 1826.
  26. Ticknor (George), History of Spanish Literature, i., p.p. 284–285. 1849.
  27. The following note is given by this author: "Sismondi (Hist. des Français, Paris, 8vo. tom. vi. and vii. 1823, 1826), gives an ample account of the cruelties and horrors of the war of the Albigenses, and Llorente (Histoire de l’Inquisition, Paris, 1817, tom. i., p. 43), shows the connection of that war with the'origin of the Inquisition. The fact that nearly all the Troubadours took part with the persecuted Albigenses is equally notorious. Histoire Litt. de la France, tom. xviii, p. 588.
  28. Ticknor (George), Hist. of Spanish Literature, i. 220, 221. London, 1849.
  29. "By order of the same Francois I., his General Almeida extirpated with a cruelty unusual even in those times, the remnant of the Albigenses still lurking in the villages of Provence, a sect, it should be remembered,of genuine Manichaeans, transplanted thither from the East at a comparatively recent date. As Manichaeans, they would naturally have preserved the symbols and tokens for mutual recognition so much in vogue, as history and existing monuments attest." King M. A. (C. W.), The Gnostics and their Remains, p. 399. London, 1887.
  30. Aroux (Eugene), Dante, Hérétique, Révolutionnaire at Socialiste, p. 83. Paris, 1854.
  31. Begun by Guillaume de Loris—a Troubadour—i260, finished by Jean de Meung, Poet, Alchemist, and Astrologer. It is a Hermetic treatise of much value.
  32. Rossetti (Gabriele), Il Mistero dell 'Amor Platonico del Medio Evo, ii. 411–414. London, 1840.
  33. Warton (Thomas), Hist. of English Poetry, II., p. 149, note d. London, 1840.
  34. The Theosophical Review, xxiv. 202. London, 1899.
  35. Mackenzie (Kenneth R. H., ix°), The Royal Masonic Cyclopedia, p. 768. New York, 1898.
  36. This term is applied to the Albigensian Troubadours; and it was employed amongst themselves.