Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sdrawkcab Gniklat

For an eighteen-year period, between 1973-1991, a number of parents groups and religious organizations expressed concern about what they saw as an insidious evil, one that could infect innocent children and teens without their knowledge. A number of them proclaimed that rock recordings contained subliminal messages goading the kiddies to drink, smoke dope, indulge in wanton sex, and worship Satan.

The fears originated in the work of a legitimate scholar, Dr. Wilson Bryan Key. Briefly a journalism professor at the University of Western Ontario, and a friend of Marshall McLuhan, Key published Subliminal Seduction: Ad Media’s Manipulation of a not so Innocent America in 1973. In this book, he explained and analyzed actual subliminal advertising techniques with the help of copious visual examples. Subliminal Seduction became the first of a best selling trilogy, with Media Sexploitation (1976) and The Clam-Plate Orgy: And Other Subliminals the Media Use to Manipulate Your Behavior (1980).

While all three books featured a moralistically indignant tone, Key was careful not to overreach, and only presented images through which he could make a possible case for manipulation. Because of their success, the books raised a level of public concern, but no panic. The real panic would come in 1982 when an illegitimate scholar from an illegitimate institution added a new wrinkle into the subliminal controversy.

William Yarroll, a man claiming to be a neurologist and president of The Applied Potentials Institute, asserted on a series of television appearances, most notably on the January 14, 1982 episode of the Praise the Lord (PTL) show, that a Satanic conspiracy forged in Los Angeles had attempted to brainwash youngsters into the cult through a subliminal technique known as backward masking (or backmasking for short).

Backmasking involved the reversal of normal speech on an album, in the belief that consciously or unconsciously the speaker is imparting a second message that the listener unwittingly perceives. One of the most powerful examples Yarroll gave came from the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven.” Yarroll claimed that the lyrics, when played in reverse, said, “Play backwards. Hear words sung,” thus giving the listener a heads-up, or an invitation to look deeper into the lyrics.

Figure 1. “Stairway to Heaven” end, forward, backward and slowed.

Yarroll accepted the invitation, and came up with a doozy at the point where Plant sings:

[Forward lyrics] If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.

Figure 2. “Stairway to Heaven” bridge, forward, backward and slowed.

(Highlight the space below to see the lyrics Yarroll interpreted.)

“Oh, it’s my sweet Satan, the one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He will give you, he will give you 666. There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”

The PTL episode so greatly freaked Monika Wilfrey, a young homemaker from Lancaster, California, that she went through her record collection backwards, and discovered numerous examples of similar speech. After throwing away most of her music, she contacted her local state legislator, Assemblyman Phil Wyman. Down in the polls, Wyman jumped on the issue. US Representative Robert Dornan (R-CA) picked up the crusade, and popularized it across the United States. The subsequent abreaction became most intense in the US Southeast, where Rev. Gary Greenwald hosted record smashings, and a group of North Carolina teenagers participated in a record burning at their church.

The “Stairway to Heaven” example didn’t only horrify conservative fundamentalist Christians. In 1983, Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton signed into law a bill requiring a warning label on music suspected of backmasking.

The revelation also shocked Robert Plant. Greatly dismayed at the interpretation of a song that, forwards, champions morality, the Led Zeppelin lead singer could only say that he wrote the song with the best of intentions.

Actually, we have good reason to take Mr. Plant at his word. Numerous studies, and evaluations of the backward masking controversy that arose during the 1980s indicated that Yarroll’s claims weren’t just overstated, but untrue.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Proto-Punks

Here's some of the things I look at in my day gig.

As the music scene of the 1960s came to a close, some fans felt that rock had lost its meaning, edge and relevance once the major labels raided the youth market after the Monterrey Pops festival in 1967.

Fans and musicians of pre-Monterey rock and roll made conscious attempts to revive the spirit of rebellion and reckless fun that had been lost after rock’s corporate mainstreaming. Part of the dissent lay in what fans saw as “selling out” by performers. Another part lay in the middle-class professionalism that had turned such previously admired artists as the Stones and Who away from the cultural and musical roots that initially attracted large disaffected crowds of working-class youths. As famed rock journalist Lester Bangs (left) wrote in 1970:

It wasn’t until much later, drowning in the kischvats of Elton John and James Taylor, that I finally came to realize that grossness was the truest criterion for rock ‘n’ roll, the cruder the clang and grind, the more fun and longer listened-to the album’d be.

Later in 1970, Bangs wrote a paragraph that had a significant impact upon the history of rock. In a positive review of Iggy and the Stooges debut album (simply titled The Stooges), he decried the arrogance of the new music orthodoxy, and its hatred of the raw and authentic:

Here’s the smug post-hippie audience, supposedly so loose, liberated, righteous and ravenous, the anarchic terror of middle American insomnia. These are the folks that’re always saying: ‘Someday, somebody’s gonna just bust that fucked-up punk [Iggy] right in the chops.’

Bangs didn’t invent the term ‘punk,’ nor was he the first to link it to the aesthetic. A couple of months earlier, Nick Tosches of Fusion magazine wrote an article titled “The Punk Muse: The Story of Protopathic Spiff Including the Lowdown on the Trouble-Making Five-Percent of America’s Youth,” in which he championed a music described as a “visionary expiation, a cry into the abyss of one’s own mordant bullshit. . . [its] poetry puked, not plotted.” Nevertheless, as an early exponent of the aesthetics of punk, and his position as a respected (by fans and musicians) journalist, Bangs legitimately deserves credit for popularizing the term ‘punk rock.’

Although not widely known, various elements of punk culture and expression pervaded the 1960s, usually under the radar. Nowadays, here in the 21st Century, a number of writers have begun to refer to a group of artists they dub ‘proto-punk.’ The proto-punks weren’t cohesive in their sonic style, some of them sounding more folk than rock, some more avant-garde than tonal. They do share, however, a number of elements. Most had little or no musical training, which was okay since they were against professionalism. Many of their recording procedures failed to enhance, and sometimes detracted from their performances. Many of them held ideologies that were too left even for the counterculture. They were usually crude in both sound and language. All of them had an animosity to rock commercialism, whether it was against the sugary bubblegum (or as some called it ‘treacle’) groups of the early-1960s, the massive British invasion following Beatlemania, or the post-Monterrey sellout. In short, none of these tunes would ever make it to radio, AM or FM until decades later.

Below are examples of some of the folks referred to as proto-punks. Some of it you might like right off the bat. Some of it’s admittedly an acquired taste. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Things I Wonder, by the Shaggs (1969)

Once upon a time, a childless New Hampshire man named Austin Wiggin predicted that he would have daughters who would form a famous musical group. Sure enough, his daughters Helen, Dorothy, Betty and Rachel formed the Shaggs in 1965. They made a number of homemade records during the 1960s that sold nary a copy. Yet, they had an ardent fan base. Frank Zappa declared that they were his favorite rock band of all time. Lester Bangs doted on them too as an example of the crudeness that made rock and roll so much fun.

In 1980, Rounder Records took their ‘60s recordings and released them. RCA later brought them out. Recently, they have been heard on NPR and the Pacifica radio network. In 2006, they completed a successful reunion tour. Unfortunately, Helen, the drummer, passed away that year.

There are many things I wonder
There are many things I don't
It seems as though the things I wonder most
Are the things I never find out

I wonder about the stars above
I wonder about the birds that fly
I wonder about your love
But most of all I wonder why you make me cry

I wonder, I wonder
I wonder why we have to say goodbye
There are some things I don't understand
There are some things I do

But one thing I don't understand
Is why we have to be so blue
I understand why you feel the way you do
Because I feel the same way too

“CIA Man” by The Fugs (1965)

The Fugs--Ed Saunders, Tuli Kuperberg and Ken Weaver-- were more bohemian poets in the retro style of the beatniks than actual musicians. Thus, their lyrical content had a wit and a bite that fans never forgot.

The tune “CIA Man” is just one of many examples. People like me find it particularly fascinating because of the almost-prophetic nature of their words. Recording a decade before the Church and Pike Committees, they nailed the Agency on its unlawful interference in foreign governments, Project MK-ULTRA, USAID and Operation PHOENIX years before official acknowledgement of the transgressions. Thus, I’m seriously considering making this the official song of The X-Spot.

Irony of ironies: during the 1980s, original Fug member Ken Weaver became a contract agent for the CIA, where he served as a translator.

Who can kill a general in his bed?
Overgrown dictators if they’re red?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can find the counteragents quick?
Especially the ones themselves have picked?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can plan a riot in Vietnam?
Who can have the troops destroy the Cong?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can buy a governmental chief?
Who can pick the next one out as quick?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can get a budget that’s A-rate?
Who will be the 51st state?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who would drop secrets as Service?
The one that’s got the other service nervous?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can cipher anything with zeros?
Not well known, but simply, well, they’re heroes,
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can take the sugar from the sack,
Pour in LSD and put it back?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who can squash republics like bananas,
If they do not like their social manners?
Fucking-a man!
CIA man!

Who can train guerillas by the dozen?
Send them back to kill their uncs and cousins?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

Who’s the agency well known to God?
The one that cut the staff and cut His rod?
Fucking-a man!
CIA Man!

“Strychnine,” by the Sonics (1965)

The Sonics--Gerry Rosalie, Rob Lind, Bob Bennett, Andy Parypa and his brother Larry--were a kick-ass band from Seattle, a town that produces more kick-ass musicians per capita than any other. Their style is heavily blues-influenced, and tight as anything. Their version of “Louie, Louie” is hands down the best ever recorded. These guys never recorded a dull track.

Last I heard, they’re scheduled for a reunion gig this November at the Cavestomp Garage Rock Festival in Brooklyn. If I can swing it, I’ll definitely be there.

Some folks like water.
Some folks like wine.
Well, I like the taste
Of straight Strychnine.

Hey! Hey!

You may think it’s funny
That I like this stuff,
But once you’ve tried it,
You can’t get enough.

Wine is red,
Poison is blue.
Strychnine is good
For what’s ailing you.

If you listen to what I say,
You’ll try strychnine someday.
Make you jump. It’ll make you shout.
It will even knock you out.

Folks like water,
Some folks like wine.
Well, I like the taste
Of straight strychnine.

Hey! Hey!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: Legacy of the Knights

Edited for accuracy and clarity 9/26.2007

Throughout this series, I’ve used the words ‘esoteric,’ ‘esoterica’ and ‘arcana’ without explanation, because I expected you, dear reader, to pick up right away on what their meanings are from the context. As you probably know by now, these terms refer to knowledge not commonly shared, items understood by only a few, confidentially disseminated information, and so forth. Naturally, we generate all sorts of esoterica on our own every time we swap secrets with a friend, or when we deliberately keep information away from people whom we deem enemies.

Here, however, we have been discussing--all of us, thanks to your comments--a particular brand of esoterica, one that traces its origins to the region of Sumer-Akkad, mostly through Semitic sources mentioned in the Christian Bible (e.g. Abraham, Jesus, etc.). From these sources, we traced legends of this esoterica through the priest-kings of the Merovingian dynasty, and through various organizations that might have some connection to the Merovingian bloodline, most notably the Knights Templar.

Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, and Ron Howard’s film adaptation of it, served as the introduction into this particular esoterica for millions of people. As someone whose interest in this subject preceded the release of both, I had to marvel at how deeply they captured the attention of a worldwide audience, despite the fact that their main thrust was both blunt and misleading. Because the narrative has dominated the mediasphere over the last five years or so, I thought it best to begin a discussion of esoterica from a starting post familiar to many, using the Priory of Sion legend spun by Pierre Plantard, Gerard de Sede, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln as a guide.

The most tenuous point in BLL’s story is the continuation of esoterica from the Knights Templars to the Freemasons. As I pointed out earlier, Freemasons reject the idea that their order originated in the Knights, even though the two groups share considerable iconography. Other contemporary organizations, such as the charitable Knights of St. John’s Hospitallers (or The Hospitallers Brothers of St. John of God, or Knights of the Sovereign Order of St. John, etc.) , which began in Jerusalem in 1080, share a common history with the Knights Templar. Other Catholic orders, such as the Knights of Malta appear to carry on some of the cloak-and-dagger traditions laid out by the Templars. As a quasi-military order, they have had connections to intelligence circles, boasting membership rosters that include two former Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, John McCone and William Casey, presidential advisor Alexander Haig, former-CIA case officer and columnist William F. Buckley, former-CIA Assistant Director of Counerintelligence James Angleton, and Nazi Germany's commander of Eastern Intelligence, Reinhard Gehlen.

The Knights also influenced a number of organizations unaffiliated with the Catholic Church. The Rosicrucians (The Ancient Order of Rosae Crucis, or AMORC), a Protestant order, began in early-seventeenth century Europe, and settled much of its base of operations in San Jose, California beginning in 1915. Referring to their meeting places not as lodges but as ‘universities,’ and to their members as ‘students,’ the Rosicrucians are heavily invested in the dissemination of knowledge to its initiates. One of their early tracts, a 1616 book titled The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz pays homage to the Knights in the name of its protagonist. Rosenkreutz translates to ‘rose cross,’ the symbol of the Templar order.

In fact, there are a number of quasi-Masonic and quasi-Templar groups that exist today—way too many to list and discuss here. One organization, however, has become rather a source of intense scrutiny within the conspiracy community, while a related organization has become a genuine concern of the general public.

Adam Weishaupt (left), an eighteenth-century professor at the University of Ingolstadt, got involved in this esoterica when he joined the Masons. While he craved the Mason’s secret knowledge, he loathed their leadership even more. He started his own on May 1, 1776. At this time, he envisioned a society that had all the virtues of the Freemasons, yet at the same time, wouldn’t fall prey to their petty catfights, hissy fits, ego trips, et cetera. For this reason, he named his new club The Order of Perfectibilists, later known as the Illuminati.

As averred by Jim Marrs in Rule by Secrecy and others, the Illuminati existed surreptitiously within Freemasonry as a cellular institution using the existing one for cover. Later in the 19th Century, elements of the Illuminati morphed into the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. By the dawn of the Twentieth Century, new recruits to the Illuminati couldn’t put up with the organization’s constant catfights, hissy fits, ego trips, et cetera. So, in 1904, reorganized as the Ordo Templis Orientis (Order of the Eastern Temple, or OTO). For twenty years, the OTO was tied philosophically with Freemasonry. In 1924, however, Aleister Crowley took over as grandmaster, and began to introduce his own brand of esoterica based more on ancient Egyptian traditions than Sumerian ones. Called 'Thelema,' it would become an important contributor to modern-day Satanism.

Meanwhile, a number of American Masonic and anti-Masonic esoteric groups began forming their own secret societies, many of them located on university campuses. The most prominent of these is the Brotherhood of Death, known more widely as the Skull and Bones. Located on the campus of Yale University, the fraternity took its name and logo (left) from an old Templar icon, a skull with crossbones (very similar to the Jolly Roger symbol that have become a staple of Hollywood pirate ships). Although actually formed in 1832, the Bonesmen have backdated their organization's founding to May 1, 1776, the same day Weishaupt's Illuminati formed. The alumni list of former Bonesmen reads like a Who’s Who of nineteenth and Twentieth Century power, boasting a membership roster that includes powerful industrialists, wealthy financiers, and political officials. In her 2003 book Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, and in numerous television interviews, Alexandra Robbins, a self-confessed member of an elite secret society, expressed her belief that loyalty to Skull & Bones trumped all other concerns.

Figure 1. Alexandra Robbins interview with Keith Olbermann


Figure 2. 60 Minutes segment on Skull and Bones.


The debate over the beneficence or deviousness of secret societies will probably continue for many years to come. Conspiracy researchers will undoubtedly keep an eye out for them. While it’s way too simpleminded, factually erroneous, and outright bigoted to champion the notion of a Jewish-Masonic-Illuminati conspiracy (as some actually do), one nevertheless has to call into question the nature of secret organizations, especially when the powerful people of the world seem to have a connection to them. After all, democracies and republics are only possible when citizenry has universal access to information, and when the mechanics of government are transparent enough for all to see, and comprehend. In the case of the 2004 presidential election, for example, one had legitimate reason to doubt the fealties of both major-party candidates.

Some secret societies and powerful organizations that you will come across in conspiracy literature (e.g. the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderbergers), seem to have few roots in esoterica. Bohemian Grove, a campgrounds located in Monte Rio, California, apparently exists as meeting grounds for the powerful, although some esoteric traditions (e.g. “The Cremation of Care” ceremony) are represented there. To call Bohemian Grove a secret society would nevertheless be misleading, for it seems to welcome the elite without regard to personal beliefs or affiliations. A view of Bohemian Grove as a secret society would also assume that secret societies have no competing agendas, even though their memberships might overlap.

In retrospect, I believe that might explain the interest in the Priory of Sion among those interested in national security issues around the turn of the century. A while back, someone on the Priory of Sion listserv had mentioned the Priory to an acquaintance in US Intel, and this acquaintance went into conniptions, as if the poster had asked for state secrets, or something. After that, a number of other posters related similar experiences with Intel associates, and a few lurkers, apparently having some military or intelligence connection, began to lambaste the idea that the reaction meant anything.

Of course, me being X. Dell, I asked some of my spy friends about the Priory of Sion, and got the same reaction--which was a lot of fun to watch, actually; I recommend it highly. Nowadays, I don’t think such a reaction would take place. The Da Vinci Code has defused the issue, because now anyone can simply talk about the Priory of Sion as a fictional organization in a book or movie. At the time, though, I wondered if some within the US/UK intelligence services—according to former CIA Assistant EO Victor Marchetti, many spies belong to one secret society or another—wanted to know if the new kid on the block, might have really been the reincarnation of a once powerful giant. After all, spies think in strange ways, sometimes. I have little doubt that some could have seen Plantard’s confession as a red herring.

Thanks for your patience with this rather convoluted story. Now that this series is over, we’re going to do some silly stuff for a while.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: When Pete Fell Down and went Boom

Pierre Plantard, the bigoted grifter and ex-con who conceived of the Priory of Sion, hoped that the breadcrumbs he laid out for Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh would lead the authors down the same shallow research path that he himself had taken, see the documents he deposited in the National French Library, and come to the conclusion that he wanted them to--that a secret organization had operated behind the scene in France and Western Europe for centuries, and that he was its current head. But BLL unwittingly double-crossed Plantard by digging much deeper than he had anticipated.

Or wanted.

As I mentioned in a previous post, part of the secret to telling a successful lie is to incorporate as much truth into it as you can. Thus when people verify things independently, the liar initially gains credibility. After awhile people will stop checking things, and simply take the liar’s word.

But in this case, BLL’s diligence turned Plantard’s raison d’etre on its rump. For years, Plantard ranted against what he saw as a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy. The perceived connection between Freemasonry and Judaism had been around for a long time, mostly because of prejudice, but also because of certain Masonic symbols that were based in Judaism. For example, as a Freemason (actually, a good friend of mine) pointed out, the Masonic emblem consists of a Star of David, minus the crossbars.

Figures 1 and 2. Star of David and Masonic Emblem.

But as we have seen earlier with the Knights Templar, Freemasonry makes use of a number of icons that symbolize unaffiliated organizations--or at least organizations where no affiliation is claimed. Thus the connection between Judaism and Freemasonry on an institutional basis is dubious at best. Unfortunately, this has not stopped many, especially within the conspiracy community, of equating Freemasonry with Judaism.

More pernicious is the name Priory of Sion, for it calls to mind the hideously racist tract known as “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” The pamphlet was largely plagerized from an 1864 satire by Maurice Joly, Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Joly’s work had nothing to do with Judaism until a couple of decades later when unknown Russian authors translated the text, changed the participants into Jews and Freemasons outlining a secret plot to take over the world, and distributed the result as anti-Semitic propaganda.

So, Plantard, a man who believed in a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy, formed a society with the name Sion (Zion) in it, and sets it up as an international conspiracy that controlled the church and various crowned heads for centuries. Of course, by 1956 most people knew that the “Protocols of Zion” had no basis in reality. By creating the Priory, Plantard seemed to be rekindling this particular fire, hoping that it would spread. Also, Plantard most likely drew upon the knowledge that many accused a single family, the Bauer/Rotschilds (Rothchilds) of dominating Europe behind the scenes for centuries, just like the Priory of Sion. Maybe he hoped that these suspicions might fuel his initial spark.

Suspecting a single family of wielding that much power ignores the fact that many other families—e.g. the Hapsbourgs, the Lorraines, the Thurn und Taxis, etc.—wielded not only conspicuous power and wealth, but also official recognition as heads of state. And they weren’t Jewish. Perhaps that explains why BLL kept digging, or why they simply dug in another direction. After all, if such an order as the Priory of Sion existed, and if the Priory represented a Judaic manipulation of public affairs on the part of the elite, then those who were elite must have had some Jewish roots. Tracing European aristocracy to the Merovingian dynasty, and through the Merovingian dynasty to Christ Himself, would have been just about the only way to make Plantard’s claims seem less incredible. After all, in this scenario, everybody who is anybody is Jewish, even if they’re practicing Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, or Hare Krishnas.

BLL certainly take seriously the possibility that Jesus had a family, that this family came to power in France after four hundred years, and that they had served as a major power ever since. But where Plantard would interject anti-Semitism, BLL would cast a scenario that was more critical of the Catholic Church. In other words, they focussed away from a Jewish conspiracy, and gravitated more towards a Roman Catholic one, although they never actually accused the Church of doing anything untoward other than that which was already in the public record. I have little doubt that this accounted for Plantard’s initial cry of “Sacrilege!” upon the publication of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982.

Furthermore, HBHG exposed Plantard to a degree that might have endangered him were anyone to take him seriously. After all, BLL named him as someone claiming to head the power behind European history. Putting this in perspective, that’s like some ne’er-do-well walking in off the street and telling major media that he is the head of the Mafia. One would have to wonder how the actual heads of Mafia families would feel about such a person making such claims on national TV. Perhaps some of us would be forming betting pools on how much longer such a person would have to live. And even though it isn’t called the Priory of Sion, Europe still has aristocracy and royalty. Sure, in most nations constitutional law tempers their authority. They still wield a great deal of influence because of wealth and connections, however. Were any of them to take him seriously, Plantard could have had a world of hurt coming to him, thanks to BLL.

So, Plantard did the only thing he could do. From 1982-1993, he kept changing the history of the Priory of Sion. He immediately updated its inception from the Twelfth Century to 1681, and later fudged this starting point again. He changed the people associated with the Priory as well, and that got him into serious trouble. After working out the logic of his latest version, he named Roger-Patrice Pelat as a former Grandmaster of the Order in September of 1993. This represented not only poor judgment on Plantard’s part, but also terrible timing, for Pelat, who died in 1988, was a good friend of former President François Mitterand, and Pierre Bérégovoy. Bérégovoy committed suicide in May of 1993. His Socialist Party lost power in that year’s legislative election amid a scandal alleging that Pelat bribed the Prime Minister with a million Franc “no-interest loan,” the kind you can pay back at your leisure if at all.

Interjecting himself into the Bérégovoy scandal was probably the stupidest thing Plantard did in his life, for it forced the authorities to rain down hard on him. A court-ordered search warrant of his home turned up a number of documents supporting a claim that Plantard himself was the true King of France. Were the documents themselves not forgeries, a public crisis could have arisen, for they indicated that Bérégovoy and Pelat were conspiring to overthrow the current government with the intent of restoring Plantard to the throne.

Again, Plantard responded in the only way he could. He testified under oath that he had made up the Priory of Sion, and that he himself was an imposter. He admitted that his long-time spokesperson and co-conspirator Philippe de Chérisey forged the documents found in his home, the photocopied parchments shown to BLL, and others.

That would seem to close the case on the Priory of Sion. But a number of questions stemming from HBHG still remained, many of them raising concerns about the current day. After all, we know that Plantard was a fraud. Still, we have to understand fully what he actually confessed to. Right away, one sees that he placed himself into histories and legends that predated his own birth by centuries, and this represents the major portion of his fraud. So even if we do away with Plantard, that cultural history is still there.

Between 1999-2002, I participated with scores of other scholars, Freemasons, and interested parties in the Priory of Sion listserv, which, as you can see, is still around (you need a Yahoo account to get in). With contributions coming from all over the world, we painstakingly delved, cross-referenced and studied the purported history surrounding the Grail legend. While much of what we did involved the parsing of various versions of history (many of them turning out to be grossly inaccurate or dubious), we nevertheless conceded early on that these legends had existed long before Plantard. In other words, there had always been contention about the legitimacy of the story of Christ regarding His family, mission and divinity. The story about the Grail, especially concerning King Arthur and his putative descent from Jesus, has been around for well over a millennium. The connection between Christ and the Merovingians had been made by others ages ago.

Simply put, Plantard didn’t invent that part of the story. He simply exploited something that was already there, and twisted it to benefit himself to the detriment of those he hated.

Sometime, around 2000, those of us on the listserv found out that we weren’t the only ones who had an interest in pursuing the Grail matter further. What concerned us was the separation of fact from fiction and fallacy. What concerned these other researchers had more to do with national security.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: Pete the Anti-Semitic Puppetmaster

Le Serpent Rouge contained no information that would address the immediate concerns of Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh. It did, however, gave a number of clues referring to a potential Grandmaster of the Priory of Sion. Following up this lead, the authors discovered that various clues in the Zodiac poetry led to the identity of a guy named Pierre Plantard du St. Clair (left).

During World War II, Paris police investigated Plantard and his underground press. His ultra-right-wing attitudes concerned the cops, who feared he might become a potential fifth columnist for the Nazis. The authorities seem to have given up on him, however, for a declassified 1941 report summarized him as a man lost in fantasy. Sure enough, when the Nazis invaded France, they left Plantard alone, for the most part.

It would seem, Plantard wasn’t exactly a man on the straight and narrow. He had a rap sheet. Because of the obligations of French law, we don’t know many details of his crimes, but many of them concern fraud for claiming to be the head of one phony association or another. The rest of his crimes involve those illegally dealing with the property of others, which I can only guess meant stealing or fencing.

Plantard created his first phantom organizations in 1937, when he wrote authorities to inform them that he and his 100 associates stood ready to defend France against a nefarious Jewish-Masonic conspiracy bent towards global dominion. Though such pulp magazines as Chevalerie d’Institutions et Regales Catholiques d’Union Independante et Trinationaliste (Chivalry of Catholic Institutions and Rules of the Independent and Trinationalist Union, or CIRCUIT, for short), and such non-existent organizations as the Alpha Galates, he tried in vain to get his message across.

Plantard’s fortunes would reverse in 1956 when fresh out of the pokey he met a man named Noel Corbu. Corbu had recently purchased the villa built by Beranger Sauniere, and he told Plantard the story of how the poor parish priest came into a lot of money, for reasons no one could ascertain. With a bit of homework, and help from the likes of Gerard de Sède, Plantard incorporated Sauniere into the legend of a secret society that gave birth to all the other major secret societies. He shrewdly gave his organization a lineage that was for the most part obscure, but contained elements of the sensational: in particular its association with the likes of Claude Debussy, Sir Isaac Newton, Jean Cocteau, Leonardo Da Vinci and other luminaries. He then set himself up as the heir of this legacy, the possible Pretender to the throne of France.

He named this new phantom association the Priory of Sion, and registered it with Le Journal Officiel, an official listing of all organizations operating in France. Each organization had to provide detailed information about its officers, the location of its headquarters, its telephone numbers, its organizational structure, its dues, et cetera. The Priory’s full entry:

25 juin 1956. Declaration a la sous-prefecture de Saint-Julien en-Genevois. Prieuré de Sion. But: etudes et entr’ aide des membres. Siege social: Sous-Cassan, Annemasse (Haute Savoie).

[June 25, 1956. Declaration to the Sub-Prefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois. Priory of Sion. Objective: studies and mutual aid to members. Head Office: Sous-Cassan, Annemasse, (Haute Savoie.)]

This is a pretty vague citation. It contains no telephone numbers (as you can see) no organizational structure, or a lot of the other required details. Furthermore, the address given for its head office is completely worthless. You wouldn’t be able to send mail there if you wanted.

Between 1956-1969, Plantard, de Sède, and perhaps a few other associates spread the word about the Priory of Sion through trashy novels, while seeding the National French Library with documents. Like fishermen, they waited for someone to swallow the bait, someone who could take the story and run with it. The flounder they caught just happened to be journalist Henry Lincoln of the BBC.

In the last of Lincoln’s Priory of Sion specials, Chronicle: The Shadow of the Templars (1979), Plantard granted Lincoln a rather extended interview. Up until this time, Plantard had kinda kept his distance from the Priory. Yet Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh noted his presence early on, after seeing his name carefully stamped upon the photographs that de Sède presented to him as evidence. For Plantard to come out of the closet on Lincoln’s TV show was a real feather in the newsman’s cap. At the same time, Lincoln expressed frustration about Plantard’s coyness and petty deceptions on camera. What really took Lincoln aback, however, were some of the asides Plantard made while the cameras weren’t rolling. One in particular, in which Plantard told him that they (meaning the organization represented by Plantard) weren’t all Jews these days, really stuck in Lincoln’s mind, for the comment seemed out of place, and vaguely anti-Semitic.

For awhile, Plantard seemed to enjoy his association with BLL, and it’s easy to see why. After all, Lincoln had made his organization seem legit by putting it on TV and reporting it as a news story. He and his collaborators were also writing a book that would establish his phantom organization as a real entity in popular culture, something that Plantard himself had failed to do.

But Plantard’s good will toward the authors must have diminished significantly with the publishing of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982, for when he read it, he was mortified.

And he had good reason to be.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: Red Snakes & Secret Files

In an attempt to understand the fruits of their research in a broad context, Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent, and Richard Leigh used their facts to create a “synthetic” narrative. In other words, they created a story that was consistent with the evidence they had, even though they knew quite well that some of that evidence might mislead them. They did this in order to compare their version of events to mainstream versions that were inconsistent with the evidence they uncovered. In the process, they give the reader ample warning that this is how they approached the subject.

At the same time, all three were sceptical of the help given to them by author Gérard de Sède, and the other parties secretly helping him. Some of the things they found in Le Bibliothèque Nationale de France seemed to be laid out perfectly for them--as if someone wanted them to find some things, but not others. They also found some of these documents entirely intriguing for reasons unconnected to the subject matter.

For example, after some prodding by de Sède to check out the National Library, BLL found a listing for a document simply titled Dossiers secrets. True, the reference was pretty obscure. Still, you have to figure if you titled something The Secret Files--well, actually, more like THE SECRET FILES!!! COME AND GET ‘EM!!!--people would beat down your door to take a look at them.

Among other things, BLL found a history of The Priory of Sion listing of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion. Some of the names—e.g. Leonardo Da Vinci, Robert Boyle, Claude Debussy, Sir Isaac Newton and filmmaker and Jean Cocteau--are pretty familiar. However, most of the names—e.g. Iolonde de Bar, William of Gisors, Blanche d'Évreux (not the one pictured left), and René D’Anjou--you’ve probably never heard of.

The Secret Files led BLL to another source titled Un Tresor Merovingian a Rennes-Le-Chauteau by a guy named Tony the Hermit (Antoine l’Ermite). This, unfortunately, was harder to call up from the stacks than your normal book. Every time they tried, the librarian would give them some lame excuse, such as the book was on loan (interesting, since research libraries don’t usually loan out rare material), or on reserve, or getting its hair washed. One time, they asked a visiting scholar friend of theirs to try and check it out. She had as much success as they did. When they went back to Paris to see if it had come in yet, they were informed that the book was now on reserve to their scholar friend!

Nope. She didn’t have it

The authors finally got a hold of it after several years of trying when someone simply dropped it into Lincoln’s mailbox. Lincoln eagerly read it, only to find that he had already read it. It turned out to be an almost verbatim copy of a chapter found in Robert Charroux’s Treasures of the World.

In other words, it was a dead end.

Le Serpent Rouge (The Red Snake), was another document in the National French Library that seemed to be able to connect their research to the actual workings of a present-day secret society. As it turned out, however, the entire text of the Red Snake consisted of a brief poem, written in stanzas coinciding with the signs of the Zodiac. Judging from my own sign (Aquarius), you might very well get the feeling that someone is leading BLL on a snipe hunt.

How strange are the manuscripts of this Friend, great traveler of the unknown, they appeared to me separately, yet they form a whole for him who knows that the colors of the rainbow give a white unity, or for the artist for whom the black springs out from under his paintbrush, made from the six colors of his magic pallet.
Translation: another dead end.

Le Dossiers Secrets identified its author as a man named Henri Lobineau on its title page. Within it’s text, however, the book stated that the Lobineau was a pseudonym, and offered some clues divulging the author’s the real identity. BLL, after a bit of sleuthing, tracked down the alias to one Leo Schidlof, an Austrian who immigrated to England after WWII. Schidlof died on October 17, 1966, about a month before someone made the last deposit to the files at the French National Library (the first dating to sometime in 1964). So, the authors had to settle on interviewing his daughter, who said that her father was no expert in such affairs, but rather a mundane antiques dealer. Even so, during the last year of his life he had been hounded by a number of men, many of them Americans who showed him credentials identifying them as CIA. These men in black told her that they were interested in a leather briefcase containing secret information concerning The Priory of Sion’s activities between 1600-1800.

It would appear that the Schidlof was a victim of mistaken identity. No such documents were ever found on him, nor did his daughter ever recall that he had them.

Tracking another lead, BLL believed that during the month interval between Schidlof’s death, and the deposit of The Secret Files, someone gave the papers to a young Pakastani immigrant named Fakhar ul Islam, who attempted to spirit them away to a contact in East Berlin.

Sounds like a good spy story, doesn’t it? I mean, why would the Priory attempt to sneak out a bunch of historical papers to presumably communist operatives under the command of the Kremlin? Maybe they distrusted US and UK Intelligence? Maybe, this was an attempt to gain some help from the KGB, or other intelligence sources with no ties to esoteric fascism?

As soon as the trail grew hot, it grew cold again when the authors found the 1967 news stories telling of how Fakhur was killed in transit with the briefcase. Somebody pushed him in front of a Parisian Metro, then retrieved the package. Press accounts only mentioned that the authorities considered his death a homicide and that it was under investigation by Le Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (The Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, or DST). Whether or not you believe in such things as Holy Grails, the investigation of Fakhur’s demise should have raised eyebrows. What could have been nothing more than a homicidal sociopath on the loose was investigated by French counterintelligence--pretty big guns for your normal transfer student.

The authors of Le Serpent Rouge, Pierre Feugère, Louis Saint-Maxent, and Gaston de Koker, allegedly finished the document on January 17, 1967. Someone deposited it in Le Bibliothèque Nationale On March 20, 1967. If that someone were Feugere, then it would be the last thing he would do of any significance. On February 15, 1967, de Koker and Saint-Maxent were found hanged in their apartments. The police found Feugère’s ripe corpse on March 20. All three died at about the same time at separate locations, with each homicide investigated independently, and never connected until the publishing of The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail in 1982.

BLL speculated that one of two things must have happened. Either Feugère, Saint-Maxent, de Koker, Schidlof and Fakhur were really onto something, and someone assassinated them in order to silence them, or someone planted false evidence at the National Library, and connected the items to people who had recently died under fishy circumstances in order to make the story of secret power and intrigue all the more convincing.

Now who would do such a thing? Better yet, why would they do such a thing?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Behind the DaVinci Code: The Priory of Sion

The Cathar’s putative treasure might have contained of a good deal of precious metals and stones. After all, many of them were wealthy. Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh felt, however, this could not have been the sum total of their treasure, however. Since Catholic troops threatened to kill them if any one of them escaped, the Cathars must have felt that the safety of this treasure was more valuable to them than life itself.

BLL posited that the treasure carried out by the four escapees of Montsegur consisted mostly of books, and other sacred items--perhaps the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail itself--and entrusted to the care of a powerful and secret organization. If this were the treasure Bérenger Saunière found in Rennes, then it would offer a compelling explanation for how he got rich. After all, a secret organization had been looking for this treasure for over 700 years. If he happened to stumble upon some clue as to its whereabouts, the organization had the wealth to assist him in finding it, and reward him if he did. The organization would also have the power to silence him or his maid Marie Denarnaud if they couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

According to BLL, this organization really didn’t have much of an identity at first. They were simply a motley crew of Merovingian descendants and sympathizers who silently plotted to regain the throne of France. They took advantage of the Crusades, installing one of their numbers, Baldwin I, as the monarch--the first Merovingian despot of the Siegfried line recognized by the Church in over 400 years.

This secret Merovingian enclave took a name after they successfully managed to build a priory on the north side of Jerusalem on the foot of Zion Hill. From then to now, they call themselves Le Prieurè de Sion, or Priory of Sion (Zion).

According to BLL’s research, the Priory’s influence spread throughout Europe thanks to the Templars, the first order it had founded. The Templars couldn’t make a move without Priory consent. So, when the Knights got a little too big for their armor, the Priory officially cut them out off in an 1189 ceremony, during which then-Grandmaster (or Nautonier, the “official” title) William of Gisors symbolically chopped down an elm tree to mark the occasion, thus leaving them to fend for themselves at the mercy of the Church, and monarchs still willing to sponsor them.

Like the Cathars, the Knights Templar also faced doom, rather than give up a treasure they believed to be more valuable than their lives or their organization.

That had to be some treasure.

Indeed, if it existed, the treasure probably contained something more than mere bullion. You can always replace something like that. Restoring such things as sacred relics or esoteric knowledge might prove a more daunting challenge.

Following the logic of this tale a bit further, one could only conclude that both Cathars and Templars maintained allegiance to the Priory of Sion, which for centuries operated behind the scenes, surreptitiously pulling the strings of power, and secretly manipulating the Church while claiming to support it. At the same time, the Priory’s adepts maintained the ancient secrets of Sumerian mysticism while plotting to take control of France.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: The Good Men and Women

Some say that Catharism, a heretical faith found primarily in Southern France during the late-Middle Ages, originated in the mystic knowledge of ancient Sumeria, and represented a thorough integration of Islamic intellectualism, Christian rites and Cabalistic Judaism, with just a touch of Buddhism. Others say that their beliefs didn’t really originate from anywhere but the Cathars themselves, who thus acquired the traits of these other religions out of dumb coincidence.

Cathars, known to themselves simply as The Good Men and Women, saw the world as fundamentally dichotomous, with everything being either one way or the other. One of their most important polarities was what René Descartes would eloquently describe in future centuries as mind-body dualism, the belief that the mind was the true life-form, and the body this disgusting thing, kept around only because it served as the mind’s slave. Cathers disdained the body because they felt that everything spiritual, like thought and emotion, was good. Anything physical was inherently evil.

One bitter point of contention with the Church: the Cathars didn’t exactly worship God. The Cathars actually believed in two gods, a good one representing the abstract, Rex Coeli (the King of Heaven) and an evil one representing physical substance, Rex Mundi (King of the World), also known as Asmodeus. From what remains of Cathar theology, these parties could have represented either Yahweh and Satan, or the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament. Both gods were equally powerful, and therefore required equal worship and respect.

Cathars angered the church in other ways. They preached gender equality, a concept at odds with masculine, patriarchal conceptualizations of God. Cathars also didn’t believe in hierarchies, but rather the subjugation of all, including monarchs to law and principles. (Now where would the Pope be without hierarchies?) Even more outrageous, the Cathars preached religious tolerance, especially towards Jews. This undermined any authority the Church had to call for another Crusade against Moslems, and threatened mainstream Christian excuses for the persecution of Jews in Europe.

Pope Innocent III, determined to resolve the “Albagensian issue” held council in Albi, a town off the west coast of Italy, to denounce the Cathars as heretics (hence they are also called Albigensians in some circles). He first opted to convert them peacefully. In January of 1208, however, the Pope decided to take stronger action, after the murder of a papal envoy named Pierre de Castelinau. Without evidence or testimony, the Vatican declared the Cathars guilty of conspiracy to murder Castelinau, and dispatched troops to the Languedoc to wipe out the heretics.

During a decades-long campaign, Catholic forces broke through all Cathar resistance town-by-town, killing and torturing thousands. Papal Legate Armaund-Amaury, the abbot of Citeuax, boasted in his status report, “Today, Your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex.” During the reign of Pope Innocent IV, the few Cathars left eventually retreated to their walled fortress located atop Montsegur, where the Church's soldiers surrounded them.

According to Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh, the Cathars managed to hold off the fighting monks for some time, partly due to the fact that siege warfare was a nine-to-five affair. At night, the Cathars bribed a select number of Catholic troops, who then allowed them to pass through the ranks unmolested. These were supply runs mostly.

The Church eventually made headway in its siege, and offered the Cathars a deal. In exchange for renouncing their heretical beliefs, they would be allowed to keep their lives and their property, and would only have to do light penance. The Cathars responded by asking for two weeks to think it over. The Church granted the request provided that they could station troops within the fortress lest anybody try to escape.

On the thirteenth day, the Cathers threw a big party. BLL speculated that the party might have been the real reason why the Cathars asked for the two-week cease-fire. It would seem that day, March 14, 1244, was an important holiday, one that could not be celebrated at any other time. The authors added that the papal troops inside the fortress, who witnessed the party, were thoroughly moved. Some of them even converted immediately--even though they knew that doing so could very well mean their lives within the next forty-eight hours.

On March 15, the last day of the cease fire, 180 Cathar elites, called parfaits (perfect people), marched down the mountainside and in effect said “Screw Innocent IV and the offer His Holiness rode in on.” Since the Catholics didn’t have time to erect stakes for each and every parfait, they instead herded them into a makeshift wooden cell, then torched it.

Even though the parfaits were already dead (except for a lucky four who survived by masquerading as rank-and-file Cathars), Innocent was still quite willing to let the rest of them go, and gave them a few days to think it over. In the meantime, if anybody tried to escape--even one person--then all Cathars would be put to death. Nevertheless, according to BLL, the four remaining parfaits waited until nightfall, then escaped down the indefensible back wall with the remaining treasure on their backs.

Cathars outside of the Languedoc, and those surviving Montsegur, immediately went underground, where they stayed for centuries. As for the Cathar treasures, some said they were taken North to the town of Rennes-le-Château, where a poor parish priest named Bérenger Saunière dug it up in the 1890s.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Behind the Da Vinci Code: The Mystery of the Knights

The Crusades made a lot of Europeans wealthy; but, some of these rags-to-riches stories were more unusual than others. Take Hugues de Payens, for instance, a 12th-century vassal who didn’t go on a Crusade. After all, Crusades were for suckers. He had something more lucrative and less risky in mind.

Hugues got together seven of his buddies and approached his lord, Count Champagne, and asked for their release so that they might journey to the holy land and serve as knights for the newly-installed King Baldwin I (or Baudouin I, in case you don’t want to mistake him for the actors).

Could it be that Hugues and his friends were jerks, and Champagne just wanted to get rid of them? Was it possible that Hugues had something on Champagne and simply blackmailed him for their release? According to Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh, the Count had none of these things in mind when he let them go.

In uniforms of chain mail, with an overlay featuring a rosy-red cross, the group of eight went to Jerusalem. Proclaiming themselves Christian knights, they informed Baldwin that they were now going to station themselves on his turf. Their mission, they explained, was to protect fellow Crusaders making the pilgrimage.

For most kings, a band of rogue, foreign knights coming into their realm and making themselves at home, should have meant nothing more than a breach in security. Most despots would have had their palace guards dispose of them right then and there. Nevertheless, Baldwin did more than consider their offer. He shut down a wing of his castle, and, after kicking out all its previous inhabitants, loaned it to Hugues’ knights until they could find better accommodations.

A few years later the knights set up shop at their new headquarters, located atop the ruins of King Solomon’s temple, hence their new name, the Knights Templar. They became the toast of western Christendom after swearing their allegiance to Pope Innocent II, who then officially recognized them in 1138. They received a bundle in land and livestock from wealthy patrons of Western Europe. St. Bernard of Clairvaux acted as their PR man back home, singing their praises and telling all of their good deeds. Count Champagne eventually made the trip to Palestine himself to join the Templars, taking an oath to serve Hugues and obey his orders.

If you’re assuming the Templars successfully repelled Moslem and bandit attacks on the roads outside of Jerusalem, then assume something more reasonable. After all, they were only nine guys against hundreds of would-be bandits. Pilgrims were mugged and slaughtered just as often as ever. So why did they receive all the accolades? Surely they must have done something.

Actually, they did a lot of things. For one, they became the first Christian bankers of Europe. At that time, the Church wouldn’t allow Christians to form banks because The Bible prohibited the charging of interest (usury). The Knights finessed their way out of that requirement. They charged no interest; however they expected the borrower to give them back a certain percentage of the loan as a gratuity. Those who didn’t feel like “tipping” suddenly became accident-prone. The Templars also invented checking, and letters of credit. Travellers could then, at least, make the journey to Jerusalem without carrying large amounts of cash, and thus some might have felt safer.

The Templars also forged close ties to such esoteric Islamic groups as the Saracens and the Hashishim (from whom we get the English word ‘assassin’), a name derived from the word ‘hashish’. This esoteric sect believed that covert ops in the name of Allah was sacred. They therefore followed strict rituals, including the ingestion of cannabis before a mission. These and other secret rites subsequently became the basis of considerable mystery.

The Knights Templar propagated a few mysteries of their own. Like the Hashishim and the Sarecens, they practiced secret rituals that sent the rumor mill spinning like a gyroscope. What they learned from their Islamic counterparts only made them more enigmatic. A lot of the mystery had to do with the temple itself. They did a lot of excavation in the area both before and after they finished their offices. It would seem that the Knights Templar were looking for something.

According to those formerly in the loop, they retrieved artefacts unidentifiable to anyone who didn’t know about them. Some described one object as a magic box. The Templars sat around it and posed questions, expecting the box to answer them. Some legends claimed that the mystery box was in fact the Ark of the Covenant.

Suppose the mystery box were the Ark. Why would anyone ask it questions? Does it work like a magic-8 ball?

Petitioner: “Oh magic Ark of the Covenant, does she love me?”
Ark of the Covenant: “Answer hazy, try again.”

We moderns also have magic boxes that answer our questions, but we don’t call them arks. We call them computers. We also call them a lot of other things when they don’t work as expected.

Of course, we’d have to drink a substantial amount of Jim Beam to seriously consider the possibility that ancient peoples might have conceived of, yet alone built a computer. But other rumoured technologies don’t seem quite so fantastic. It was said, for instance, that the Templars treated sickness with potions derived from molds. Is it just me, or are they trying to describe antibiotics?

Arguably the most influential technology that the Templars were said to have brought back to Europe was a mathematical construct known as ‘the golden mean,’ or ‘the golden ratio,’ a mathematical constant commonly approximated as 1.6180339887. This number frequently occurs in nature, human perception, and beginning with the Renaissance, human expression. In an earlier post, Foam pointed out how pervasive this ratio is in visual art, as exemplified by The Shepherds of Arcadia picture I had posted earlier. It also occurs in disciplines as diverse as music, economics, and aesthetics. After the Middle Ages, the golden mean made a huge splash in the field of archetecture.

As their numbers grew, the Knights Templar were increasingly in demand to do any number of things. They personally guarded King John at Runnymeade when he signed the Magna Carta. Robert the Bruce relied upon their assistance as commandos at Bannacock. And, since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, such Templar spinoffs as the Teutonic Knights, Scottish Rite and the DeMolay Society--named in honor of Templar Jacques DeMolay--began popping up all over Europe.

Templars, however, were the kind of guys who would let success go to their heads. They earned a reputation for rowdiness. The phrase “drinks like a Templar” could only describe the most serious alcoholic. They neglected all of their public duties, and as a result the peace in Jerusalem eventually failed. Members of the order did anything that struck their fancy, and because of papal endorsement, monarchs were loath to stop them. Afraid of their increasing power, Henry II of England threatened to confiscate their British properties, to which they responded, “What sayest thou, O King? Far be it that thy mouth should utter so disagreeable and silly a word. So long as thou dost exercise justice, thou wilt reign. But if you infringe it, thou wilt cease to be king.”

Hank could take a hint. He backed down.

Pope Clement V (referred to by Aunty Belle as “The Lilly Livered”) backed a police action by a French King named Pretty Boy Phil (Philippe IV, otherwise known as Phillipe le Bel). Philippe organized a simultaneous raid on Templar strongholds. The members of the order surrendered, submitting to arrest, and interrogation. Templars who confessed wild heretical beliefs were sent to prison. Those who kept their silence found their heads under the business end of an axe.

Still there were a few Templars unaccounted for. Where did they go?

According to BLL, Templar sympathizers in Philippe’s government had tipped off the order twenty-four hours before the raids. Many of them spent that last day gathering up and securing their treasures, among them, presumably the Ark of the Covenant. A lucky few were then ordered to take these possessions and escape, which they did in large ships flying a flag bearing one of their symbols, a skull on top of crossbones.

By June of 1308, the Templars were history. They had lost all official sanctions from the Church and secular governments. Their lands were confiscated. And all members were either dead, serving out a life sentence, or looking over their shoulders, trying to figure out some way of keeping the treasure safe.

What happened to the treasure? Some say the Templars buried it on the outskrits of a little town called Rennes-le-Château where a poor parish priest named Saunière discovered it in the 1890s.

What happened to the missing Templars? According to Jim Marrs' 2001 book Rule by Secrecy, numerous legends recounted by BLL and other sources, they eventually turned up in England, and over time infiltrated a local guild. They enticed the guild to provide them cover for their continuing Templar exploits in exchange for a bit of secret knowledge, most importantly the secret of the golden mean, the key to the construction of the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

Which guild would this be? Well, what guild would you need to construct a pyramid?

Answer: you’d need masons. Freemasons.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that modern Freemasons deny that their organization originated in the Knights Templars. At the same time, however, Freemasonry is rife with Templar symbols--especially the pentagram, and the pentagon, both of which are visual representations of the golden mean. With such enclaves as The Scottish Rite and the De Molay Society still existing within Freemasonry, one has to wonder why Masons have so deeply embraced the history, culture and semiotics of the Knights Templar in their present-day organizations.

What’s more, Freemasons are not the only modern-day group to pay homage to the Knights Templar in this manner.

I'm still on a work binge, but I thought I should post, simply to move this series along. Thank you all for stopping by. I hope to get back to the blogsophere more fully soon.

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