...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
From the declaration of Arbroath
I am standing on top of a church. It is 1973 and the tall Ethiopian women walk past me with their copious jewelry adorning arms, legs and head. I have not fallen sick yet and have no idea about the history of these incredible structures, churches literally hewn out of the rock itself, or even that these Coptic Christians have the slightest connection with the land of my birth and the Celtic monks of Iona. I do not yet know that this church may be strongly connected to a group of medieval knights who helped build them as part of their plan to recover the most precious object in the world, the ultimate treasure, the ark of the covenant. Many years later I would become friends with a man who would write the following about that ark:
"The greatest treasure of all, however, was saved: moved out of Axum by the priests only days before that city was burnt in 1535, the Ark had been taken to one of the many island-monasteries on Lake Tana. there it was kept in safety until long after Gragn's death. Then, in the mid 1600's, Emperor Fasilidas (described by Bruce as 'the greatest king that ever sat upon the Abyssinian throne') built a new cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion over the gutted ruins of the old - and there, with due ceremony, the sacred relic was at last re-installed in all its former glory."
Graham Hancock is here describing places that were all within a day's travel of where I now stand, a young traveler irresistibly drawn here by an invisible magic that shows first and tells later. It shows me that many of our pilgrimages on Earth are actually guided by an unseen spirit and it is often only after an entire lifetime has been lived that we recognize the presence of an astonishing intelligence moving through the circumstances of our lives. I had no books like Hancock's The Sign and The Seal to guide me and had absolutely no interest in Christianity at all. If anything at this point I was dedicated to Zen and Sufi paradigms, both of which had a great emphasis on a direct experience of God that would leave you in no doubt at all that your existence has a spiritual foundation.The year after this near fatal journey in Africa (I was very close to dying I now realise in that mud hut, thus the powerful out of body experience of complete exhiliration even as the body shivered spastically below) I would make it to Japan and start zen training and the Sufi love has never really left.
I have always had an unusually strong connection with an archetypal figure that is the warrior monk, best exemplified in the Knights Templar perhaps, but actually it is there in so many other traditions. Without warriors, the religions which the monks adhered to would never have lasted and thus we can imagine how a Janus like face, with one side pointed towards the inner world, the monk, and one side pointed towards the enemies, best expresses that archetype. Even the very pacifistic Buddhists had their warrior monks on Mt. Hie in Kyoto where I lived for many years, and in nearby China the Shaolin monks were of course highly expert martial artists who meditated a lot. The Muslims had the assassins, who when being prepared for deadly duty would use hashish to give them a taste of the heaven to come complete with an excess of willing virgins.
If the warrior is about action, literally the doing of powerful deeds to protect a spiritual tradition and perhaps to deepen it, then the monk is about being, focused in the tranquil depths of a spirit out of which such action must spring if it is to be effective. Naturally women may well scoff at such an elaborate system and rightfully so. None of the shamanic traditions I have encountered have warrior monks because the shamans themselves have nothing to protect and those aboriginal, earth friendly societies which produce shamans are definitely more feminine in nature. Living in the jungle in harmony with the environment the sensation of control is anathema to any sane shaman. It is only now as oil companies descend upon the Amazon with a ferocious greed that the shamans are using bows and arrows not for hunting but for warning. So Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and of course Judaism all have their warrior monk archetypes and it is those archetypes that still run the world whether you like it or not. The modern American military machine is soundly connected to Bible ceremonies in the White House and most of the generals consider themselves good Christians no doubt.It is my contention that the age of warrior monks not only is coming to a close, it must. Killing in the name of God simply is not a useful evolutionary concept when the stakes for humanity are so high.
But again let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater as we actually owe a lot to previous warrior monk incarnations. In their day, they were necessary. The true warrior is after all really principally interested in overcoming one opponent, himself. The same can be said of the monk. He must quench all desire save that for the sacred. The intention of both is to produce a grounded and aware human being who is capable of taking actions that may endanger life i.e. taking ultimate risks. We do need people like that now because life will inevitably get much riskier on Earth as our complex and oil addicted cultures all hit the wall. But if we are to look for a synthesis of the warrior-monk's best qualities I believe we can find a truly peaceful co-existence in the archetypical pilgrim. The true pilgrim must have the strength and endurance of a warrior and the internal attitude of a monk in order to keep pushing forward no matter what the obstacle, against even death itself. But back to Lalibela..
James Bruce (December 14, 1730 – April 27, 1794) was a Scottish traveller and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile. According to Andrew Collins, "James Bruce was a member of the Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 lodge of Edinburgh, known to be one of the oldest in Scotland, with side-orders and mystical teachings entrenched in Judaeo-Christian myth and ritual."
Well strangely enough I was in Kilwinning looking at gravestones many years later. I was doing research on the freemasons at Rosslyn, only a thirty minute drive from this location of the first freemason lodge in Scotland, and indeed in the world. Though the modern Lions Club or Rotary Club level of social freemasons may insist it all began in England in the 18th century there is simply far too much written in stone evidence to the contrary. The Scotish rite freemasonry upon which the United States of America was solidly created by Washington et al, (all Scottish rite trained masons) goes back inevitably to the Knights Templar and to this part of Scotland. And contary to a plethora of poorly researched and sensationalist Japanese writers the world is not controlled by freemasons who all help each other get jobs. I know a 32 degree British mason living in Japan who has been out of work for a long time despite being a member of the Tokyo lodge under Tokyo Tower.
Basically, modern masons are a tiny shadow of the once great warrior monks who forged the system of knowledge transmission that was their aim. I am by no means suggesting that just like every other organization, just like the US governement or the Japanese for that matter that they did not have their problems. But it is high time we gave up infantile stories about freemasons controlling the world. Modern America may be trying to do the same under its blithe banner of democracy but even with hundreds of times more powerful tools like computers they can barely control a patheticically foiled attempt to control the oil fields of Iraq. No one group can alone control the world. The fact is that hundreds of groups are always in competition to do just that and it aways has and always will be impossible no matter how much you supposedly control the money. Life is just too unpredictable. As our national poet Burns said so poignantly the best laid schemes O' mice an men gang aft aglay, meaning that even our best laid plans go awry, then as now.
The unfortunate love affair that some sections of Japanese conspiracy theorists have with the idea that the Jews control the world is surely the height of such absurdity. How come they cannot even control the dirt poor Palestinians who lob home made rockets at them from Gaza? These Jews control the world?? Think again. Life is always far more complex even though conspiracies have always, and will always exist. I have always used conspiracy theory in my lecture work as a way of making people think outside the box.
My birth name is John Craig, a fairly comon name in Scotland it is true, but I was later to find a statue in the Kilwinning graveyard, full of templar crosses and thus of dead templars, of a charitable man who had created an orphanage in the area. His name? John Craig..but remember I do not believe in reincarnation!
Some historical researchers believe that much of the motivation behind James Bruce's epic travels in Ethiopia centred around his desire to recover sacred objects connected with Solomon's Temple. As a leading Freemason, Bruce may have also been interested in verifying legends associating the medieval Knights Templar with old Christian churches in Ethiopia. Like this one I was standing on at Lalibela, completely and blissfully unaware. Bruce had a plan, whereas I was imply drifting South to Cape Town and inevitably had to cross Abyssinia, or what is now Ethiopia.
Bruce was particularly interested in obtaining examples of Ethiopian books, such as the "Kebra Nagast" and the "Book of Enoch," both of which were written in Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia. According to Hancock, Bruce began studying this obscure language as early as 1759. In going to remote Ethiopia, Bruce risked numberless dangers and sufferings, purportedly just in order to discover the source of the Nile.
What Bruce did find, though the ark evaded his grasp as it had his warrior monk brother masons before him, was a treasure in writing. It was written in Ethiopian from a time far back in their history when the falasha, the black Jews had been recipients of it from their own Jewish brethren who travelled out of Israel to establish a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia. Written in it are many truly strange passages dealing with the astronomy of our solar system and a shadowy group of people called 'The Watchers'.
Prior to the eighteenth century, scholars had believed the Book of Enoch to be irretrievably lost. It was originally composed long before the birth of Christ, and was considered to be one of the most important pieces of Jewish mystical literature, it was only known from fragments and from references to it in other texts. James Bruce changed all this by procuring several copies of the missing work during his stay in Ethiopia. These were the first complete editions of the Book of Enoch ever to be seen in Europe.
Graham Hancock, from the Sign and the Seal
Hancock believes, as I do, that the Templars had to know the possibility of the Ark being in Ethiopia. If there was even a slight chance it was there they would have used all their knowledge and financial clout to fully investigate that possibility and try to get it for themselves. Part of that long quest was to slowly win the friendship of the local people by building churches that only they had the architectural skill to literally carve out of the mountain face. And if the ark is still in Ethiopia, as Hancock has made a really excellent case for in his landmark book, then that country, though ravaged with disease and civil war still now as it was when I was there is surely important. Hancock and I were later to create a book together and a DVD entitled, Secrets of the Lost Ark. Another synchronicity here worth noting is that Hancock was born in Edinburgh, just north of the templars original base at Rosslyn. Neither Hancock nor I has ever been a freemason nor ever will. They have no secrets to teach us, in fact I think the reverse might be closer to the truth in all honesty. Modern day masons are so obsessed with a history that is in no way secret in the slightest anymore, and thus their entire system of secret handshakes and silly initiations is doomed to enter the dust bin of history. Enough said then, about the rulers of the world!
As I drove from Edinburgh to Oban on my way to Iona I passed the impressive Wallace Monument on my left, and saw on my right the medieval fortress of Stirling Castle. In there Mel Gibson was to be greatly honoured by the community for his part in showing the world how Wallace had created a new Scotland and a new king of Scots. Not king of Scotland, not of the country, but of the people. This egalitarian approach to kingship where the people decide who shall be king, not the divine right rule any more, was to deeply influence the creating of a republic across the sea hundreds of years later. The declaration of Arbroath quoted above was a model for the declaration of US independence from Britain and is still considered one of the greatest documents ever written by man.
All this was made possible by warrior monks like William Wallace (Braveheart) and his successor Robert the Bruce. Bruce was himself a man intimately connected to the templars of his time and may well be a relative of the man who discovered in Ethiopia a book of the Bible later considered too risky to be included in the Old Testament. It may seem very noble to fight in the name of a God but neither Buddha nor Jesus ever said one word about adopting such tactics as a way of life. The Bible and the Koran are great books no doubt, but to attempt to live by them in the 21st century when the warrior monk has become the Pentagon and the CIA is clearly not an intelligent option any more. Not for humanity. Not for evolution. Just say, NO!
Everything has been connected in my life. And in yours too, whether you see it or not, or believe it or not. There are absolutely no coincidences and no mistakes. Fighting for freedom must now involve a non-violent approach, one that I believe is best expressed in the perennial philosophy of the archetypal pilgrim. The warrior monk must give way to the Earth Pilgrim if we are to survive the next few years on the planet of the apes.