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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1700 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:34:12 pm »

p. 169


Introduction--The Crusades--Wrong Ideas respecting their Origin--True Causes of them--Pilgrimage--Pilgrimage of Frotmond--Of the Count of Anjou--Striking Difference between the Christianity of the East and that of the West--Causes of their different Characters--Feudalism--The Extent and Force of this Principle.

AMONG the many extraordinary phenomena which the middle ages present, none is more deserving of attention, or more characteristic of the times and the state of society and opinion, than the institution of the religio-military orders of the Hospitaliers, the Templars, and the Teutonic Knights. Of these orders, all of which owed their origin to the Crusades, and commenced in the 12th century, the last, after the final loss of the Holy Land, transferring the scene of their activity to the north of Germany, and directing their arms against the heathens who still occupied the south coast of the Baltic, became the founders, in a great measure, of the Prussian power; while the first, planting their standard on the Isle of Rhodes, long gallantly withstood the forces of the Ottoman Turks, and, when at length obliged to resign that island, took their station on the rock of Malta, where they bravely repelled the troops of the greatest of the Ottoman sultans, and maintained at least a nominal independence till the close of the 18th century.

p. 170

[paragraph continues] A less glorious fate attended the Knights of the Temple. They became the victims of the unprincipled rapacity of a merciless prince; their property was seized and confiscated; their noblest members perished in the flames; their memory was traduced and maligned; the foulest crimes were laid to their charge; and a secret doctrine, subversive of social tranquillity and national independence, was asserted to have animated their councils. Though many able defenders of these injured knights have arisen, the charges against them have been reiterated even in the present day; and a distinguished Orientalist (Von Hammer) has recently even attempted to bring forward additional and novel proofs of their secret guilt. * To add one more to the number of their defenders, to trace the origin, develope the internal constitution of their society, narrate their actions, examine the history of their condemnation and suppression, and show how absurd and frivolous were the charges against them, are the objects of the present writer, who, though he is persuaded, and hopes to prove, that they held no secret doctrine, yet places them among the secret societies of the middle ages, because it is by many confidently maintained that they were such.

As the society of the Templars was indebted for its origin to the Crusades, we will, before entering on our narrative, endeavour to correct some erroneous notions respecting the causes and nature of these celebrated expeditions.

The opinion of the Crusades having been an emanation

p. 171

of the spirit of chivalry is one of the most erroneous that can be conceived, yet it is one most widely spread. Romancers, and those who write history as if it were romance, exert all their power to keep up the illusion, and the very sound of the word Crusade conjures up in most minds the ideas of waving plumes, gaudy surcoats, emblazoned shields, with lady's love, knightly honour, and courteous feats of arms. A vast deal of this perversion of truth is no doubt to be ascribed to the illustrious writer of the splendid epic whose subject is the first Crusade. Tasso, who, living at the time when the last faint gleam of expiring chivalry was fitfully glowing through the moral and political gloom which was overspreading the former abodes of freedom and industry in Italy, may be excused if, young and unversed in the philosophy of history, he mistook the character of European society six centuries before his time, or deemed himself at liberty to minister to the taste of a court which loved the fancied image of former times, and stimulate it to a generous emulation by representing the heroes of the first Crusade as animated with the spirit and the virtues of the ideal chivalry. But the same excuse is not to be made for those who, writing at the present day, confound chivalry and the Crusades, give an epitome of the history of the latter under the title of that of the former, and venture to assert that the valiant Tancred was the beau ideal of chivalry, and that the "Talisman" contains a faithful picture of the spirit and character of the Crusades. *

p. 172

We venture to assert that the Crusades did not originate in chivalry, and that the first Crusade, the most important of them, and that which gave the tone and character to all the succeeding ones, does not present a single vestige of what is usually understood by the term chivalry, not a trace of what the imagination rather than the knowledge of Burke described as embodying "the generous loyalty to rank and sex, the proud submission, the dignified obedience, and that subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom--that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." Little surely does he know of the 11th century and its spirit who can suppose any part of the foregoing description to apply to those who marched in arms to Asia to free the sepulchre of Christ; slightly must he have perused the Gesta Tancredi of Radulphus Cadomens, who can conceive that gallant warrior, as he undoubtedly was, to have been the mirror of chivalry.

Chivalry and the Crusades commenced in the same century, and drew their origin from the same source. One was not the cause of the other, but both were effects of the same cause, and that cause was feudalism. This inculcated "the proud submission, the dignified obedience," &c., &c., which were gradually idealised into chivalry; it impressed on the mind of the vassal those principles of regrard to the rights and property of his lord which seemed to justify and sanction the Holy War. Previously, however, to explaining the manner in which this motive acted, we must stop to notice another concurring cause of the Crusades, without

p. 173

which it would perhaps never have begun to operate.

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