Tuesday, July 05, 2022
  The People of the Secret  
Introduction | Table of Contents | Author | Book Review
Introduction by Colin Wilson
people of the secret 250

The notion of an "ancient wisdom", guarded by hidden custodians or Masters, is usually attributed to that remarkable and inventive old lady Madame Blavatsky - perhaps because her disciple Annie Besant wrote a book of that title. And when, more than thirty years after her death, the Theosophical Society decided to publish The Mahatma Letters [1] - purportedly written by two of these "Masters" to A. P. Sinnett - most critics seemed to feel that Sinnett must have been singularly gullible to be taken in by them. The modern view of the matter is stated in Richard Cavendish's Encyclopaedia of the Unexplained: [2] "Through the Theosophical Society the idea of an occult Master first became popular in the West. It was a glamorous simplification of the tradition common to both East and West from time immemorial, of the searching spirit who asked, 'Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' " In short, the Masters are the product of wishful thinking.

The idea sounds eminently reasonable. What it fails to take into account is that the tradition is far more than a story about a "searching spirit" who wanted to be saved. It is a specific and widely held doctrine that can be traced throughout many centuries and many countries. And modern mythological science is inclined to believe that when a "legend" is as widespread as this - the Flood is another example - then it probably has at least some basis in reality.

There can be no doubt, of course, that according to the ordinary laws of common sense, the whole idea is preposterous. Human beings possess the highest intelligence on the surface of this earth; and the highest human beings - certain teachers, priests, philosophers - have exhibited an intelligence that goes far beyond that of "the mob" as the average human intelligence is beyond that of a chimpanzee or porpoise. The highest knowledge we possess is to be found in the works and sayings of these philosophers and teachers. A book like Whitehead's Adventure of Ideas [3] deals with the impact of these ideas on civilization; and it explains the history of civilization perfectly adequately in terms of ideas. The notion of "hidden masters" seems superfluous. Worse still, it seems indefensible. Anyone can see that we would all like to believe in the existence of superhuman intelligences, because it would provide us with a comforting sense of meaning and purpose. We can recognize this element of wishful thinking in a poet like W. B. Yeats. As a young man, he found the real world - of Victorian London - crude and unbearable; so he insisted on the real existence of fairies. He also quotes Shelley's lines about an old Jewish cabalist, hundreds of years old, who lives "in a sea cavern 'mid the Demonesi", and who

  • quote small leftMay have attained to sovereignty and science
    Over those strong and secret things and thoughts
    Which others fear and know not…,quote small right

and admits that he was attracted to the Theosophists because they insisted on the real existence of the old Jew and his like.

[1] The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Ed. A. T. Barker Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1932.

[2] Richard Cavendish, Encyclopaedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology, Routledge, London, 1974.

[3] A. N. Whitehead, Adventure of Ideas, C.U.P., Cambridge, 1933.

Since this is so self-evident, how is it possible to defend the real existence of hidden masters - of the proposition that there exists "in some hidden centre, perhaps in the Highlands of Central Asia… a colony of men possessing exceptional powers", and that these men are "the secret government of the world"? For this is, in fact, the central thesis of the present book, and it is argued with an intelligence and persuasiveness that leave no doubt that its author - a lifelong student of the so-called "occult sciences" - is fully aware of all the obvious objections to his thesis. He argues for this secret tradition, not because he thinks it ought to exist, but because he thinks there is convincing evidence that it probably does.

Let me say at once that my own view on the matter is neutral. I found the book absorbing, and its erudition impressive. In my own book Mysteries [4] I have argued that alchemy cannot be dismissed as a crude form of chemistry, but needs to be understood as an attempt to express certain laws of the universe of which modern science is still largely ignorant. But while I am willing to keep an open mind about "the secret tradition", I am by no means wholly convinced that it has been kept alive by a hierarchy of "masters".

Still, even to accept the possibility of such "masters" may seem to place me in the same boat as theosophists, ufologists and various other modern "cults of unreason"; so it is incumbent on me to explain how I can do so while still regarding myself as a basically rational person.

In the Introduction to my book The Occult [5] I discuss the theories of Dr David Foster, the cybernetician who wrote The Intelligent Universe. [6] Dr. Foster argues that he cannot wholly accept the Darwinian view of evolution, according to which living creatures are moulded solely by physical circumstances. He uses the simile of one of those plastic wafers that housewives use to programme their washing machines. An acorn, he says, contains a similar "programme" to make it grow into an oak tree. And, as a cybernetician, he finds it difficult to understand how this complex programming came about through "natural selection". In cybernetics, blue light can be used as a programme for red light, because it has higher energy; but red light cannot programme blue light. In the same way, the mind of a watchmaker needs to be more complex than any watch he is asked to repair, just as his fingers must be delicate enough to handle its mechanisms. If his mental powers were cruder than the watch movement, then his intervention would probably wreck it. And nature is a thoroughly crude and clumsy watchmaker. A Darwinian will reply: "Quite so; and it has wrecked 99 per cent of its watches; but the remaining 1 per cent survives…"

[4] Colin Wilson, Mysteries, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1978.

[5] Colin Wilson, The Occult, Panther Books, London, 1979.

[6] David Blythe Foster, A Monograph on the Theory of the Intelligent Universe (the Author), Windlesham, 1964.

But this fails to explain how the watches came to exist in the first place. David Foster argues that, looking at things as a cybernetician, this suggests to him that there is an equivalent of "blue light" in the universe - some higher form of organization (or intelligence) which stamped its pattern on the acorn and the human gene…

Now this is, admittedly, an extreme view. Bernard Shaw was also a believer in creative evolution; but he only supposed that some obscure force of life, working on an unconscious level, has continued to struggle and wriggle until it has finally achieved its present position in the evolutionary scale. David Foster seems to be arguing that this Shavian life force would hardly be in a better position than nature itself to create a Swiss watch.

I would suggest a kind of compromise: that there could exist some purposive form of intelligence on an unconscious level, working away in the dark (so to speak), yet with a definite sense of aims to be achieved. I can best illustrate this by citing the example of the microstomum worm, which I have discussed in The Occult. The microstomum seeks out a polyp called hydra, not for food, but for the sake of its stinging capsules. When the hydra has been digested, the stinging capsules are picked up in the lining of the flatworm's stomach, and passed to another set of cells which carry them to the flatworm's skin, where they are mounted like guns, ready to explode when predators attack. Once the flatworm has acquired enough "bombs", it ignores hydras; they are not its favourite food.

Now our own digestive processes are unconscious; but this highly purposive and unconscious activity seems to defy explanation in Darwinian terms. In Darwinian theory, nature is in the position of the weather, which can "sculpt" a rock to look like a face; but it is impossible to see how such a "wind" could bring about the complicated goings-on in a flatworm's insides. The same goes for a creature called the flattid bug, whose colonies disguise themselves in the shape of a coral flower - which does not exist in nature. It is preposterous to imagine that some colony once accidentally achieved such a disguise, which enabled it to survive, and that it somehow learned to repeat the trick from generation to generation…

And where does that get us? Well, it suggests some deeper sense of purpose existing in nature, on a level below (or, if you like, above) our "daylight consciousness". And, moreover, that this unconscious purpose is in some ways more intelligent (or complex) than our conscious purposes. But then, we might ask, what is human intelligence? Is it not the ability to grasp and drag into the daylight of consciousness the knowledge that exists inside us on an intuitive level? This was the theory of knowledge that Plato expressed in the Meno, where Socrates leads a slave to work out a geometrical proposition simply by asking him questions, and then points out that the slave must already have "known" the answer before he became conscious that he knew it. So let us suppose that there have always been certain men who have been able to grasp this "unconscious purpose" whose existence I have postulated - that is, who were able to grasp that nature has its own hidden, complex purposes, and is not merely a combination of crude and destructive forces. Would they not make every attempt to preserve their knowledge and to pass it on to future generations? And would not such an attempt take the form of an esoteric school or "invisible college"?

I can see that this argument may strike some readers as plausible rather than convincing. Yet I think that it will be found convincing if we can go to the heart of the matter, and grasp that notion of an unconscious yet intelligent and complex purpose. If I look out of my window at the field around our house, I see various natural forms - trees, grass, flowers - that seem to grow as simply and automatically as one of those chemical gardens we used to make at school. But if I think of the behaviour of the bombs in the stomach of the microstomum, I confront a far more complex purpose. And if this nature around me is seething with such complex purpose, then my senses tell me very little about what is going on. When the mystic Jacob Boehme went out into the field, he felt that he could see into the heart of every tree and plant, and understand its inner purpose. If he had succeeded in turning that insight into words and ideas, then it would have become something very like the secret tradition that the author is discussing in this book.

I have another reason for finding his arguments more than half-convincing. For many years now, I have been fascinated by the teachings of that remarkable man of genius, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (about whom Ernest Scott has written in the eighth chapter). Gurdjieff's ideas first reached the general public as late as 1949, in a book called In Search of the Miraculous, [7] by his one-time disciple Ouspensky. Gurdjieff was always a mystery man, and Ouspensky mentions stories to the effect that Gurdjieff spent many years searching in Central Asia for a Brotherhood who had preserved certain ancient teachings. In his autobiography Meetings with Remarkable Men, [8] Gurdjieff tells how he became obsessed with the idea of "secret teachings" in childhood, when he read about the discovery of certain inscribed tablets on an archaeological site, and realized that they told a story that he had heard from his father. This implied that ancient knowledge could be preserved in a fairly unchanged form. Later, according to Gurdjieff, he became a member of a group of "Seekers after Truth", many of whom met their death in attempts to penetrate remote parts of the world where such knowledge might be found.

Now I have always been inclined to regard this part of Gurdjieff's story as deliberate myth-making, like Madame Blavatsky's secret Mahatmas in Tibet. Yet in writing a short book on Gurdjieff - which necessitated reading everything that has so far been published about him - I found myself increasingly willing to believe that Gurdjieff has actually discovered some important sources of "hidden knowledge" in his search. Perhaps the most convincing and impressive of all these books is a recently published volume called Secret Talks with Mr. G., issued anonymously in America. [9] Here Gurdjieff speaks of his search for the principles of "objective magic", and leaves no doubt that he is trying to explain himself as honestly and accurately as possible. There is no hint of leg-pulling. Gurdjieff explains that his interest in magical phenomena (also described in Meetings with Remarkable Men) led to the development of "psychic powers" in his early manhood: (It is known that he became a medium and "magician" in his mid-twenties.) He developed remarkable powers of telepathy, hypnosis and psychometry (the ability to "read" the history of objects). [10] In Secret Talks with Mr. G., he describes how he became bored with this kind of "magic", and decided to try to discover the "objective use of his talent". In investigating "objective magic", he became convinced that "all mystical states, trances and mediumistic abilities … were no more than accidentally-induced hysteria…" - i.e., that they were purely subjective. Gurdjieff defined objective magic as the manifestation of laws of a higher cosmos in a lower cosmos (i.e., our own). And he concluded that most human "magic" - telepathy, mediumistic trances, etc. - involved only the laws of our own cosmos.

[7] P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, Routledge, London, 1949.

[8] G. I.. Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men, Routledge, London, 1963.

[9] Secret Talks with Mr. G. Institution for the Development of Harmonious Human Beings Publishers, Nevada, 1968.

[10] He says: "The means for psychometrizing objects [had] appeared in me spontaneously several years earlier."

According to Gurdjieff, the means by which he obtained this knowledge of "objective magic" involved "psychometrizing" sacred objects - shrines, monuments and so on.

At this point, it may be desirable to explain that the word "psychometry" was invented in the 19th century by an American professor, Joseph Rodes Buchanan, who stumbled upon the idea when a bishop told him that he could always distinguish brass by touch, even in the dark, because it caused a bitter taste in his mouth. Buchanan found this to be true, and decided to find out whether his students could distinguish other chemicals by touch alone - wrapping them in thick brown paper. He soon found that many of them could accurately identify such chemicals. Then came the most interesting step - the discovery that these "sensitive" students could somehow "pick up" the contents of letters in sealed envelopes, sensing the state of mind of the writer, and whether it was a man or woman. Buchanan's brother-in-law, William Denton, tried his own students with geological specimens, and discovered that they could often describe accurately the history of bones, rocks, meteors and so on. Both Buchanan and Denton became convinced that all human beings possess this faculty, in a more-or-less latent form, and that it would, if developed, enable us to "read" the past history of our earth. Recently, a Soviet scientist, Genady Sergeyev, has announced his development of a machine that can psychometrize objects, picking up various emotions that have been associated with them, in the form of vibrations which can be transformed into electrical impulses. Sergeyev believes he is in process of developing a kind of "time machine". Gurdjieff also seems to have developed a similar power - he speaks, rather obscurely, of mastering skills "such as time and space travel in the sense of visiting through images".

So none of Gurdjieff's claims need be dismissed as inconsistent with science. And his notion of psychometrizing sacred buildings makes sense in the light of Buchanan's discoveries. But what precisely was he hoping to discover?

Rather than attempt to quote Gurdjieff's own words - which are often obscure, and would require commentary -let me try to state his basic insight in my own terminology.

We assume that our senses tell us roughly the truth about "the world". This, says Gurdjieff, is nonsense. Having succeeded in achieving a state of "objective consciousness", Gurdjieff recognized "during these times … that these experiences were real, and that the usual reality in which I lived from day to day was false… compared to that reality, ordinary reality is a dream". For except in circumstances of emergency or great effort, our senses are lazy; instead of focusing the world, they content themselves with a blurred image, analogous to the way a drunk "sees double". If I spend a long time without making any real effort - if, for example, I watch TV for too long - I seem to lose my sense of reality; life takes on an unreal quality. But if, when I am feeling lazy, I force myself to take a long walk in the wind and rain, some inner muscle tightens, and the world becomes more "real".

Under ordinary circumstances, my senses do not show me reality; on the contrary, they keep it out. Half the things I see are mere symbols - book, tree, motor car; they have as little character as one of those children's drawings of a matchstick man. But when some effort has tightened that "inner muscle", my senses begin to let in meaning. I look at a tree, and it has individuality; it is itself, not just a "tree".

This insight into meaning - of recognizing that meaning exists outside ourselves - is one of the most delightful that human beings can experience. For, oddly enough, we have an innate tendency to doubt it. A child feels that a Christmas party is the most marvellous thing in the world; but when he wakes up groaning and vomiting in the middle of the night, the very thought of trifle and fruit salad disgusts him. And since life holds many such experiences for every human being, we all come to suspect that life is far grimmer and duller than we would like to believe. That is why "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has become a piece of the conventional wisdom.

Yet when a poet goes out on a spring morning, he is overwhelmed by the recognition that, on the contrary, the world is a far more rich and complex place than most human beings ever realize. The "meaning" rushes in through his senses, bringing a flood of sheer delight. And, if he gives any thought to the matter, he then comes to recognize that there is something seriously wrong with most human beings. We live in a narrow, subjective little world, like a man with a bad cold who cannot smell anything less powerful than an onion. We remain wrapped in our silly, subjective little meanings, and hardly even begin to suspect the vastness and multiplicity of this extraordinary universe in which we find ourselves. 1t is as if we were hypnotized, trapped in a world of dreams.

Now although poets recognize this interesting truth about the universe in their "moments of vision", they still fail to act upon it. The "light of common day" returns, and they accept it as inevitable, instead of cursing it for a liar and a swindler. Yet every time the "glimpse of meaning" returns, they recognize that something can be done about it. It is possible to wake ourselves up. How? First of all, by careful self-observation. So many of our responses are purely mechanical, and if we can learn to recognize these, and even resist them, we can begin that process of self-control which is synonymous with freedom. Second, by galvanizing ourselves to effort. We spend most of our time in a drifting, will-less state, like Tennyson's Lotos Eaters, but problems and crises seem to shake the mind awake. Many people unconsciously seek out crisis - drama - because it makes them feel more alive. Gurdjieff taught himself to seek it consciously, as a means of jarring himself into wakefulness. "I had to forgo any limits, emotional, perceptual or knowable, that 1 had formed in myself, or had accidentally been formed in me by previous experience. I quickly recognized that any objective shock to the system could be used, provided it were safe enough to stop short - in some cases just exactly short - of total disruption of the life force in the body." And the "method" he came to teach depended upon keeping his students in a more-or-less perpetual state of alertness. Sartre said he had never felt so free as when he was in the French Resistance and might be arrested and shot at any moment. Gurdjieff's method was based on a similar recognition: that we could achieve freedom if we could be kept in a permanent state of"crisis".

In short, Gurdjieff started from the recognition that the poet's - or saint's - vision of meaning is real, not an illusion. Meaning is "out there"; we have to learn to fling open the senses. The Earth Spirit tells Faust: "The spirit world shuts not its gates/Your heart is closed, your senses sleep." It follows that if we could discover the way of opening the closed gates, we would be able to contemplate meaning directly. As Gurdjieff learned to contemplate it by "psychometrizing" sacred monuments.

Through these experiences, Gurdjieff came to believe that he had grasped certain recurrent "meanings" in the form of laws -in particular the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. (Anyone who wants further information about these is recommended to read Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous.) He also recognized that "in the world there were forms which were 'Holders of Knowledge' which could be tapped intentionally, if only I knew how to release them. But I also knew that these were not remembered by modern civilizations, and that in order to locate them and read them it was necessary to somehow obtain a map of the ancient world which contained an accurate description and location of the anciently existing monuments and shrines."

In Meetings with Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff has described how he came to obtain such a map through an Armenian priest, and how he took it with him to Egypt. But he withholds further details. In Secret Talks with Mr. G., he is more forthcoming:

  • quote small leftI could feel the specific moods of old objects in particular, and it was in this state that I encountered either accidentally or through intervention of higher - I hope higher - forces, an ancient monument. Through this monument which I accidentally tapped by the use of certain active substances in collaboration with a few words of antiquity, I learned the secret of relation of the two great cosmic laws.quote small right

For students of mysticism, the interesting thing about Gurdjieff's descriptions of his experiences of higher consciousness is that they are repeatedly confirmed by other mystics. The clearest thing to emerge is that our usual notion that consciousness is essentially simple is untrue. There are many forms and levels of consciousness. I will offer only one example - a description of an experience under nitrous oxide, taken from R. H. Ward's A Drug-taker's Notes. [11] Ward describes how, after inhaling the gas, "I passed… directly into a state of consciousness already far more complete than the fullest degree of ordinary consciousness, and that I passed progressively upwards… into finer and finer degrees of this heightened awareness." He noted with surprise that "I was not being made unconscious by the gas I was inhaling, but very much the reverse". After passing through a phase of emotional experience, "compounded of wonder, joy and a wholly peaceful inevitableness for which there is no name", Ward describes an intellectual realm, a realm of ideas. He passed through this region too quickly to grasp any of these ideas, but could recollect later the insight that "everything was one thing, that real knowledge was simultaneous knowledge of the universe and all it contains, oneself included."

Similarly, Gurdjieff speaks of "toying with the interchangeability of objective and subjective phenomena", and says:

  • quote small leftThe important point for my realization at that time was not the exact relation of one cosmos to another, but that I perceived directly now that everything in the universe was directly connected, and that moreover, these forms were all connected just because they were all one and the same, repeated to provide an illusion of complexity.quote small right

[11] R. H. Ward, A Drug-taker's Notes, Gollancz, London, 1956.

What emerges from the comparison of these two accounts (both too long to quote fully here) is that Gurdjieff and Ward both experienced clearly that consciousness is not a physical state - the opposite of sleep or unconsciousness, a mere reflection of the body's awareness - but a self-sustaining entity, a universe in itself. Consciousness is not a by-product of the body as heat is a by-product of fire. It somehow has its own independent existence.

This is a difficult thing to grasp - like the idea of infinity. But one implication is clear. If consciousness is not a by-product of the body, then its relation to the body must be analogous to the relation between a mirror and the light that falls on it. We could conceive the human race as millions of fragments of a broken mirror. But the light exists in its own right. Which again suggests that our chauvinistic view of ourselves as the only highly conscious form of life in the universe - or at least, the solar system - is fundamentally mistaken. It is not simply a question of whether there are intelligent beings on other worlds; they would also be mirror-fragments. What is at issue is what is reflected in the mirror: consciousness, an intelligence far beyond anything we normally experience.

I submit that if we can accept this view of the universe - at least as a logical possibility - then we have accepted the position which is the starting point of this book. From the natural human standpoint, Madame Blavatsky's Mahatmas were probably pure fiction, and it would be sheer gullibility to accept the notion of higher beings, or higher forms of knowledge, without practical evidence. But if Gurdjieff and Ward and hundreds of other mystics - are telling the truth, then this view is just a kind of parochialism. In fact, you would logically expect the universe to be peopled with higher beings, higher forms of intelligence, with meanings to which, in our narrowness, we are blind. You might also expect that, if some of the mystics were more successful than Ward in grasping the precise meanings of the "intellectual realm" of higher consciousness, they would have attempted to express these meanings, either in words or symbols, to be passed on to other explorers of the realms of consciousness. And this again is what Gurdjieff asserts. In Meetings with Remarkable Men, for example, he tells of a visit to a monastery in Turkestan, where he saw a peculiar apparatus whose purpose was to teach priestesses the postures of the sacred dances; it consisted of a column standing on a tripod, with seven arms projecting from the column; each arm was jointed in seven places. The dances, says Gurdjieff, expressed the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. Ritual dances based upon these laws became an important part of Gurdjieff's "method".

It is important, then, to recognize that the present book should not be classed with volumes on UFOs, spirit communications or occult phenomena. I am not now dismissing such works out of hand; only pointing out that they progress from the particular to the general, from observations and "sightings" to theories about "the unseen" or unknown. This book starts from a diametrically opposite position. It argues, like David Foster, that mechanical evolution cannot account for life on earth. There is evidence, it says, that "order" is increasing, and that this suggests intelligent direction or "intervention". One of the most remarkable and sustained attempts to work out a cosmology based upon this assumption is to be found in J. G. Bennett's immense work The Dramatic Universe, [12] and this might be regarded as the starting point of our author's argument. Bennett goes, of course, an important step beyond David Foster. David Foster argues only that, to the eye of a cybernetician, evolution seems to suggest some intelligent intervention. Bennett chooses to call these agents of intelligent intervention "demiurges", speaking of them as "the instruments of the universal individuality whereby the evolution of life on earth has been aided and guided within the framework of natural laws". He elsewhere calls them "a class of cosmic essences that is responsible for maintaining the universal order…"

From this foundation, Ernest Scott ventures into fascinating realms of historical speculation. His method is imaginative and undogmatic. He asks, in effect: supposing the "interventionist" theory of history is true, where - in the history of the past two thousand years or so - could we find evidence for its operation? What follows then is an erudite and closely argued excursion into cultural history, with special reference to the Cabbala and to the Sufi tradition. I read the typescript of this book immediately after reading Arnold Toynbee's War and Civilisation, [13] and I found that their effect on me was very similar. Toynbee was once described by Professor Trevor-Roper as "a reader of tea-leaves", and it is arguable that the Study of History [14] is a magnificent piece of imaginative speculation rather than an essay in historical detection. But, for me, his vision not only excites and stimulates; it brings history to life as, when I was a child, Conan Doyle's Lost World [15] brought pre-history to life. Reading here about King Arthur or the secrets of alchemy or the Freemasons or Assassins, I seldom bothered to ask "Is this historically true?" I simply enjoyed the bold sweep of his speculation, much as I still enjoy the big dipper at the fair. Yet looking back on it afterwards, I found that there were very few individual points at which I felt inclined to quarrel with his conclusions.

Now, having read it twice, I still do not know whether I am "convinced". I only know that I count it a compelling intellectual adventure, as far above the general run of occult speculative literature as Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man [16] is above the general run of school history textbooks. If its author had been born a few centuries ago, he would have been burnt for heresy. But his real crime would not have been in expressing heterodox and dangerous ideas, but in expressing them so brilliantly and persuasively.

[12] J. G. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, Vols. I-IV, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1956-66.

[13] Arnold Toynbee, War and Civilisation, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1950.

[14] Arnold Toynbee, Study of History, O.U.P., Oxford, 1935-61.

[15] A. Conan Doyle, Lost World, John Murray, London, 1979.

[16] W. Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, Watts, London, 1932.

Table of Contents | Word Cloud | Word Count
Table of Contents    Copyright © 1983 by The Octagon Press Ltd

Introduction by Colin Wilson

1 - The Hidden Tradition

2 - A Secret Directorate?

3 - The Inner Alliance: Rome, Christianity and Islam

4 - The Vehicles: The Jewish Cabbala, The Tarot, Nostradamus

5 - Love Courts, Troubadours and Round Tables

6 - Alchemy: The Disguised Path

7 - What Gold did They Make?

8 - Gurdjieff and the Inner Circle of Humanity

9 - Freemasons, Sufis, Initiatory Societies

10 - Assassins, Kali-Worshippers, Dervishes

11 - Sufi Discourses, Rituals, Initiation

12 - Science Fiction and the Ancient Tradition

13 - The Executive of the People of the Secret

Appendix A - Some Important Figures in the Sufi Tradition

Appendix B - The Khwajagan

Word Cloud

WordItOut word cloud 1148338

Word Count

word count

Edward Campbell (journalist)

Edward Cranston Campbell (26 August 1916, Glasgow – 4 April 2006, Tunbridge Wells) was a British journalist, and an acknowledged authority on circuses and the training of wild animals. [1]

Campbell began his journalistic career in the late 1930s with Kemsley Newspapers in Glasgow. He moved to Fleet Street in 1956, where he worked for the Evening Standard, the Evening News and the Sunday Dispatch. [1][2]

Campbell also authored books, among them Jungle Be Gentle, the ghost-written "autobiography" of his friend, the German animal trainer Hans Brick, and The People of the Secret, published by Idries Shah's Octagon Press, under the pseudonym "Ernest Scott". [1][3]


[1] Stacey, Don (2006-05-18). "Obituaries: Edward Campbell". The Stage. Retrieved 2008-10-04.

[2] Author information provided in an ICR Monograph

[3] The People of the Secret, Octagon Press 1986, ISBN 0-86304-038-1

External links

Obituary on thestage.co.uk

Some Unusual Aspects of Communication (Monograph authored by Campbell)

Quest for the People of the Secret  From: New Dawn Magazine

message of shambhala 1946A persistent legend originating in the East tells of hidden locations on the Earth where there exists certain groups of individuals with both exceptional powers and highly perfected character and consciousness. From these secret locations, they influence the whole of humanity and are known variously as the Hierarchy of Adepts, the Great White Lodge, the Secret Chiefs, the Great White Brotherhood, the Masters, or The People of the Secret.

In the biblical legend of the Three Wise Men from the East, we find one of the earliest spiritual archetypes and one of the best known written references to this Eastern legend. Researchers have openly argued the Eastern influence in Biblical writings for the best part of the twentieth century, but the appearance of the mysterious three wise men in the Gospel of Matthew is perhaps the first and most obvious example of Eastern legend in early scripture. Described as “men who studied the stars”, these travellers, “came from the east to Jerusalem” to meet the infant messiah.

    quote small left…Herod called the visitors from the east to a secret meeting
    and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.[1]quote small right

Herod consulted his own high priests and teachers of his kingdom on this matter to no avail, and afforded the three wise men great respect and reverence in requesting a private meeting with them. Little else is said of the men before they returned to their homeland following a warning by an angel that it was dangerous to cooperate with Herod. The concept of three mysterious teachers is an older element of Eastern culture certainly in circulation prior to and throughout the time of Jesus.

In the 19th century, the French diplomat Louis Jacolliot wrote a number of remarkable works on the ancient legends of India during his posting in the East. During this time, he uncovered the Legend of the Nine Unknowns. According to this legend, a secret society of these Nine Unknowns was created by the Indian Emperor Asoka in 273 BC, in an attempt to encapsulate all human knowledge of the time, and ensure that it was governed by those incapable of misuse. Apparently the martial art of Judo is the result of a “leak” from the physiological teachings of the Unknowns.

Researchers traced the transmission of this legend through Talbot Mundy, the English novelist who travelled extensively through India. It is thought that portions of this legend filtered through to the West during the Crusades from various secret and semisecret Islamic traditions. Perhaps this legend had an influence on the foundation story of the Knights Templar, an order begun by nine knights who have since been revered as holders of the knowledge of the ancients.

[1] Gospel of Matthew, GN Bible (New York: Collins, 1976)

The Hidden Directorate

The term “Hidden Directorate” was coined by British author Ernest Scott in his classic work The People of the Secret, in which he makes a strong argument for the reality of an assembly or hierarchy of adepts. Initially, the book reads like a history of occult and esoteric tradition, eventually becoming more complex by presenting very clearly, and at times quite influentially, an alternative “theoretical history” of the world’s spiritual heritage.

In tracing the tradition of esoteric thought throughout time, it is possible to find a pattern of movement in certain groups and individuals. This movement seems to be working in a particular direction concerned with freeing the consciousness of humanity. Scott’s work operates from certain premises.

Firstly, History is not the equilibrant of chance and hazard. The plan for human history was written long ago, and is monitored constantly. Part of this process is ensuring that certain gains are attained to ensure the balance and evolution of man and life as a whole, the direction of which is “the Will of God.” The responsibility for this process on Earth lies with an intelligence called the Hidden Directorate. Below this level, members of ordinary humanity are in touch with the Directorate, and may at times share its consciousness.

  • quote small leftThis group of advanced human individuals is what has been referred to as the Hidden Executive. It is the reality behind all legends of ‘masters’ and ‘initiates’ from earliest historical times to the present.[2]quote small right

Scott claims the existence of several centres employed by the Executive, one of which is, or was, in Afghanistan, and corresponds to the legend of the Markaz or “Powerhouse.” Those under a chain of command from the Afghanistan centre have been known as “Sufis,” and from this base and others around the world, the Executive works to implement the overall plan of the Directorate.

The aim of this process is to instigate the patterns and intellectual movements that will orient people to higher evolutionary states. Scott asserts that this unified theory of history is impossible if our search is limited to the “visible shadows and not the invisible substance”.

The concept of a Hidden Directorate guiding the affairs of mankind can itself be traced as a subtle thread throughout the world’s spiritual and esoteric heritage. The early civilisations of Greece acquaint us with Mount Olympus, home to the pantheon of hidden Gods who constantly meddle in the lives of unfortunate mortals. Homer’s epic work, The Illiad, depicts how the war between the Greeks and the Trojans was decided by a war in Heaven, and the death of the epic hero, Achilles, was also determined by the same divine judges. Prior to these oral legends, another was recorded in stone and considered one of the oldest pieces of literature in history. Entitled The Epic of Gilgamesh, it relates the story of a true epic king, Gilgamesh, and clearly outlines the effect of an unseen divine community upon the daily life of the king and his people.

Many researchers have wrongly likened the Hidden Directorate to subversive societies like the Illuminati. Rather than being an exterior, politically-oriented centre for control, the Directorate is more concerned with the inner dimension of human development, which may or may not be discernible to the general mind.

By reintroducing the theory of “ancient wisdom guarded by hidden custodians or Masters”, Scott argues for a benevolent group that maintains a key influence over people of the world’s cultures, implanting key ideas and initiating experiences, “in a sacred, secular, or whatever context is required for the time, place and people.” [3] They exist for the good of humanity and exist to override the sinister forces keeping man from achieving his true spiritual potential and right.

It is important to understand that the Directorate seeks not to control, but to direct or influence humanity. Due to the higher natures apparent in man, he cannot be blindly lead, only prompted into action by creating certain opportunities at certain times, and implanting particular ideas. The power of man’s free will cannot be overrun.

The French poet and esotericist Maurice Magre writes in the epilogue of his book The Return of the Magi:

  • quote small leftThere have been men whose names are unknown because they cared little for fame, and truth radiated from them without knowing it. There have been revealers who were unaware of the revelation that was in them; modest sages who mingled their wisdom with their daily life… We have all of us met, at least once in our lives, one of these unheralded initiators, and received from them a priceless gift, by a kindly word, a certain look of sadness, a sincere expression in the eyes.[4]quote small right

[2] Ernest Scott, The People of the Secret (London: Octagon Press, 1983).

[3] Richard Holmes Jr, Critique Magazine

[4] Maurice Magre, The Return of the Magi, trans. Reginald Merton (London: Sphere Books, 1975), pp. 223-24.


Sufism is a term originally used by Western orientalists to describe the mystical path of Islam, otherwise called tasawwuf by Muslims. In reality, this tradition existed long before Islam and forms a foundation for much of the world’s collective religion and ancient thought. The Directorate itself is part of many Sufi legends including those throughout Tibet involving the mythical inner kingdom of the planet known as Shambhala. Scott argues that the Sufi influence is a common thread connecting the entire history of Europe, and that its beginnings can be traced from Spain and from the Middle East.

By the early eighth century, Cordoba, Spain, saw several schools of Sufi Initiates forming under the cover of Islam. Working in a fashion similar to the Western mystics during the later Inquisition, these individuals walked a fine line to heresy, occasionally crossing that line into the view of officialdom.

As a result there were numerous Sufi martyrs, including Mansur el Hallaj (858–922) who claimed the importance of Jesus as a member of the chain of Initiates. He openly taught Sufi concepts, and was eventually dismembered alive by the Muslim Inquisition. As he died, he prayed for the souls of his murderers.

Despite their persecution by the growing Muslim establishment, the Sufis continued an unbroken line of their wisdom and methods in a careful transmission between different secret brotherhoods or orders. Known as Tariqas, these groups acted as caretakers of the continuous line of knowledge.

During this time a particular work arrived in Spain from Basra, and is known as the Basra Encyclopaedia. Held by the Sufi initiates, it is a coded written book of all world knowledge. It arrived in the first half of the 11th century either through the Sufi known as El Majriti, or his pupil, El Karmani. The encyclopaedia was chiefly concerned with the inner development of man, and the forms of knowledge that could develop in Europe. The actions of the underground Sufi movement in Spain preceding the 12th century was the first strategic effort from the Directorate to inject influence into Europe.

Objectives of the Directorate

It would seem that the movement of the Directorate involved five clear objectives. The first was quite obviously the injection of an intellectual component into the heart of Europe. This end was achieved through increasing philosophical and intellectual speculation through the advancement and appearance of Eastern mathematics. Another instrument was the introduction of the Kabbala into the Western consciousness around the year 1000.

The developmental secret hinted at by the alchemists was incorporated into many forms from painting to architecture, and the true nature of the Gothic cathedrals as blueprints for human alchemy became realised in certain quarters. These elements continued to be reproduced as part of an esoteric tradition through various esoteric schools. Aspects of secret cathedral design remained a busy focus of research, particularly the complex structures left throughout key points of Europe.

It is beyond doubt that some very significant material was introduced under the eyes of the official Church authority and that unwittingly they even approved much of this material, completely unaware of the hidden nature contained. An example was the commission of El Greco to paint “Burial of Count Orgaz” for the Catholic Church. Appearing to be another devotional work, it contains a few notable differences separating it from the usual.

  • quote small leftIts composition can, however, be dissected to show reincarnation concepts, something like the equivalence of consciousness and sexual energy and the plurality of ‘I’s’ in a human personality. These are not concepts which an ordinary clerical sponsor would have approved had he known of them.[5]quote small right

The second objective was the establishment of certain modalities that could support the dissemination of knowledge on the basis of initiation. The instruments of modality were various, but survived in what would be now called Illuminism and Freemasonry, which combined as one of the most influential forces on world politics.

It is claimed that Illuminism was injected into Europe from the school of Ibn Masarra (883–931) in Cordoba, a centre of underground Sufi teaching, while Freemasonry derives from the Knights Templar, a particularly powerful order that enabled Sufism to travel from the East to Europe through interaction with pilgrims and mystics in the Holy Land. They were initiated in rituals originally from the school of Hiram Abif, the builder of Solomon’s Temple, where they acquired their namesake. The order was later condemned and their leader burned alive in 1314 as a heretic. The Templars were the prototype for nearly every esoteric society to come afterwards.

The publication of the mysterious Rosicrucian document Fama Fraternitatis in 1614 saw the open suggestion of the existence of certain “unknown superiors” or “Brothers of the Rosy Cross” who live and work in secret and yet direct much of the spiritual destiny of the world. Becoming part of the core belief system of many Western esotericists, this concept and the associated transmissions from these “hidden masters” melded with diverse strands of existing legend, and by the nineteenth century the foundations for a major unfolding of the adeptic myth were laid. The philosophy as a movement was accelerated through the efforts of Theosophy, without which the entire myth would probably have remained forever in obscurity.

Much later in modern times, organisations like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn did a great amount to further the Directorate’s goals throughout the West. In an age where magic attracted many of the keenest minds of the day, the Golden Dawn was a virtual melting-pot of personalities. The self-styled leader, MacGregor Mathers, claimed to be in direct contact with the Secret Masters, and used this influence over the majority of his followers including the poet W.B. Yeats and a young Aleister Crowley. In many ways, this order was a catalyst for the introduction of thousands into the area of Eastern magic and philosophy.

The third objective of the Directorate was the introduction of a subtler shade to the concept of love, which recovered the dying mystery tradition of female or goddess reverence. This concept of love was introduced through the Troubadour movement of the Middle Ages. While restoring the feminine element lost in Pauline Christianity, it also recovered the traditions of pagan and, in particular, Egyptian thought, creating the Cult of Virgin Mary. This cult continues to be suppressed to all extents by the Catholic Church. The appearance of statues of the Black Madonna is another permutation, which implicitly suggests the Mary/Isis, and hence the Horus/Jesus concept of shared heritage and myth. In many ways, these statues are indicators of various awakened communities and the Sufi realisation that all true religions are one.

The fourth objective was to establish a “psychokinetic technique whereby certain individuals, working perhaps in pairs, could increase their level of conscious energy.” This was enabled through the appearance of the technique of alchemy which, under the guise of base metal transmutation, outlined the course for the transmutation of the soul and increasing the level of conscious energy.

[5] Scott, p.119

The Transmittants

The last objective of the Directorate for the Middle Ages was the act of securing an immediate development through specific individuals who have the ability to influence their society and its future for the good of humanity. These men chosen by the Directorate were capable of making a deep impression on their age, and they contributed material that had a quality of persistence in various guises through many centuries.

  • quote small leftThe earliest alchemists were probably “knowers”. They had learned techniques which gave them access to an enhanced level of awareness. From this level they knew the inner content of religion. They discovered that all true religions are one.[6]quote small right

These men were concerned with achieving particular evolutionary gains in the 12th and 13th centuries, regardless of whether they operated under the cover of Islam or Christianity. To declare that Christianity and Islam contained an inner truth overlaid by dogma and politics would have been considered heresy, and as Scott argues, these men “knew they had to build a bridge, but it so happened that bridge-building was illegal. The bridge builders had to pretend they were engaged in some other activity – like digging holes in the road. Not unnaturally, the holes were incomprehensible to their contemporaries and have remained largely so ever since.” [7]>

One of these individuals may have been Albertus Magnus, the Count of Bollstadt (1206–1280) and one of the earliest European alchemists. He refused to believe that knowledge ended with Aristotle, and was one of those challenging and ambivalent intellects that sought to break out of any conceivable cage that may limit its movement. His independent thought and liberated writing did much to raise his name across Europe, drawing numerous young, hungry scholars to his personal teaching. One such scholar was Thomas Aquinas.

Legend has it that Magnus over the course of thirty years constructed a “talking head” and a complete artificial man. Idries Shah claims that “making a head” is a Sufi code phrase for a particular method of inner development, keeping with the stories of Magnus’ apparently obsessive attention to occultism, and his otherworldly powers of the mind. He is said to have commanded “instantaneous hypnotism”, an example of which is the story of his dinner party to whom he invited a minor royal family of Europe. It was mid-winter and he held the party in open air. When his guests entered the yard, the snow disappeared, the grass grew green and fruit appeared on the trees. As soon as the glorious dinner was finished, the perfect scene vanished, and the party found itself shivering and covered in snow. Clearly an extremely adept alchemist, his strange abilities and coded writings eventually earned him a wide regard. Throughout his time, Magnus was spoken of as holding a great amount of hidden knowledge in his grasp that seemed a great burden to him. It has been suggested that this knowledge may have been passed onto his pupil, Thomas Aquinas, later Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas left university in Naples, much to the annoyance of his family, to join the same order of Dominican monks that his teacher Magnus was a part. For the next three years, he studied under Magnus and emerged “a philosopher and alchemist.” In 1256 he travelled to Paris, where he attained the seat of Master of Paris University.

He began his post with the aim of assembling all world knowledge into a single encyclopaedia, quite similar to the Sufi Basra Encyclopaedia. He considered that both Reason and Faith were concerned with the same object. The former starts with sense-data and attains to a knowledge of the existence, goodness and will of God. The latter rests on revelation. Each requires the taking into account of the knowledge arrived at by the other. The Church took a quick and decisive stand against this notion, feeling “Rationalism” had gone too far in the European mindset and education system.

Aquinas’ writings were condemned by the Church, particularly by the Bishop of Paris and two successive Archbishops of Canterbury. The basic concepts of Aquinas, namely that the human soul is “a single substantial form of the human body” was viewed as an attack on doctrine. The sorest point, however, was that the writings implicitly suggested a system, inspired by and derived from the new translations of Aristotle into the European languages, a self-sufficient view of man and the universe, not reliant on the teachings of the Church. This was probably the single most important reason for the suppression of Thomas Aquinas that followed, but not before he managed to inject the Sufi impulse into European thought and education.

  • quote small leftBoth Magnus and Aquinas were engaged, it seems, in a perilous exercise of hunting with hounds and running with hares. They probably knew, because of their contact with a genuine esoteric source, that “known” truth and theological dogma need not, by any means, coincide. They were probably engaged in trying to reintroduce the original developmental force of Christianity, while gently diluting the organisational accretions which had all but smothered it.[8]quote small right

If men like Magnus and Aquinas were in touch with an aspect of the Directorate, they would be capable of generating the effect required on their contemporaries and environment. Historically, it would seem that the effort failed. Yet behind the scenes much must have been achieved. “There is evidence that at the deepest levels of Sufi secrecy there is a mutual communication with the mystics of the Christian West,” says Idries Shah.

Contemporary with Aquinas was Roger Bacon (1214–1292). Renown for his eccentricity and genius, he wore Arab dress at Oxford and was considered to “make women of devils and juggle cats into costermongers”. He is also remembered as one of the greatest intellects of the period.

After becoming a Franciscan monk in 1247, his views on almost everything brought him into conflict with the established cleric. He had in mind the formation of a vast encyclopaedia of all world knowledge, and in a secret letter to the Pope suggested that the Church should centralise this enterprise. This pattern suggests that one of the strongest elements of Sufi evolution is the realisation of this “World Encyclopaedia”, begun in Basra. This is argued as the platform from which the Directorate is planning the next stage of action for future centuries. Apparently in this instance, the Pope misunderstood the letter and thinking that the encyclopaedia already existed, expressed his interest in seeing it. Bacon then decided to write it himself.

He worked diligently without the knowledge of his superiors, and in an amazingly short period of time he produced three monumental pieces, the Opus Major, Opus Minor and Opus Tertium. Each outlined a scheme for research and experimentation in languages, mathematics, optics, alchemy and astronomy. The Pope, Clement IV, died in 1268 before reading the works, taking with him Bacon’s dream of introducing the esoteric and natural sciences to the universities of Europe.

  • quote small leftBacon professed to believe that the totality of human knowledge and possibilities was contained in the Bible; but unlike his contemporaries he did not believe that the Bible was an open book. To understand it, a certain kind of inner study was necessary and this involved a knowledge of alchemy, astrology and magic.[9]quote small right

Bacon was quite clearly engaged in secretly building a bridge between the outward and exoteric side of Christianity and its true esoteric nature that was disappearing under the weight of dogma. He was clearly on dangerous ground, eventually paying for his views with a 14 year prison sentence in his own monastery.

He openly cited the teachings of the Sufi master Suhrawardi, in particular his work “Wisdom of Illumination.” Suhrawardi claimed that his philosophy was that of the inner teaching of all the ancients – Greek, Persian and Egyptian.

  • quote small leftIt was the science of Light and through it man could attain to a state about which he could not normally even dream. Bacon repeated this claim and declared that the same secret had been held by Noah, Abraham, the Chaldean and Egyptian masters, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Socrates and the Sufis.[10]quote small right

Many researchers recognise that Bacon was in touch with some genuine esoteric source, and like Nostradamus and Odhar centuries later, Bacon was subject to strange visions and prophecies in which he described in the plainest possible detail the motor car, the aeroplane, submarine and the cantilever bridge, and numerous other inventions which are only making sense to us now. His visions and inventions are still secretly discussed throughout the modern world.

[6] Scott, p.123

[7] Scott, p.123

[8] Scott, p.118

[9] Scott, p. 121

[10] Scott, p. 121

The Search for the Source

The legend of the Directorate is one of those few lasting for countless centuries, in a surprisingly unchanged form. While it has moved throughout cultures, great and obvious care has been taken to assure careful and clear transmission. Offering great implications for the world, it actually offers many more for the individual. In its Sufi leaning and origin, it presents perhaps the closest form of a unified world religion, and a definite course for the realisation of humanity’s potential. It may be that matters will never be more explicit than they are now, and that a successful search for a Source, as Scott says, is – and always has been – the minimum price of admission.

Recommended Reading:

  • People of the Secret by Ernest Scott
  • Meetings With Remarkable Men by G.I. Gurdjieff
  • In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky
  • The Templars and the Assassins by James Wasserman
  • The Sufis by Idries Shah


Download the "offline" version of this book
Copyright or Public Domain?          

The People of the Secret appears to be an orphan.

The book is available online, as a PDF or Kindle @ B-OK.org

First published in 1981, the book is now out of print.

@ Google Drive

google drive 500

Download this tabbed-page version of The People of the Secret
from my Google Drive @: https://goo.gl/S4Fmg1

Once there, click on "DOWNLOAD ALL" as pictured.

Click on the folder to inspect the files.

All the files, located in the respective folder,
are necessary to view the book "offline".

The entire package is approximately 3.5MB.

Chapter 1 - The Hidden Tradition

A comet crosses the sky and it furrows the earth - and men's wits - with the energy of its passing.

Asteroids collide and scatter their substance across the heavens.

On earth, a continent sinks, an island re-emerges from the ocean. A desert becomes a new sea, a fertile land becomes a desert.

Nations, whole races, rise, decline and disappear: leaving only legend to mark their place and their passing.

All accident, all arbitrary thrust and collision of blind forces signifying nothing?

Or all purposeful, intentional, having reason and significance within some present moment vastly greater than we can imagine?

Until very recent times there was little doubt in men's minds about the answer. Things happened by intent. The intent might be benign at the level of human life or it might be hostile but at some level, on some scale, it was meaningful.

Even if the intent was implacable, the existence of intent was never doubted. "The Serpent has swallowed the Sun" and "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away" are observations separated by millennia but they represent the same unquestioning acceptance that Somebody or Something exerted Will and that by extension, Purpose, high arbiter, governed all.

So it was for untold generations of men.

Then across the space of a few brief centuries a new picture was forced upon us and the basic assumption that had supported man - consciously or instinctively - for perhaps 20,000 years went into the discard.

It so happened that Western science had chosen to investigate natural phenomena from a certain (it now appears arbitrary) standpoint and had discovered that it was possible to isolate the forces that produced phenomena. It discovered also that it was possible to invoke these forces, to duplicate the phenomena and to predict the outcome.

Suddenly there was no place for purpose in the universe. Phenomena in a purposeless vacuum worked perfectly and on the principle of Occam's razor - not to introduce, arbitrarily, elements not necessary to explain what has to be explained - the baby was thrown out, a little gleefully, with the bathwater.

The universe, it now seemed, was a mechanical system of pulls and pushes. There was no freewill because all was determined in advance. There was no contingency. Where mechanical laws were total, there was no place for either.

Given the co-ordinates of one event and sufficient information, all future events would be predictable. The universe would either run down or blow up. We did not yet have enough data to say which, but one or the other.

If enough monkeys danced long enough on enough typewriters, the complete works of Shakespeare would in the end type themselves. It was statistically inevitable.

All observed phenomena, including life, were - now had to be - accidental consequences of purposeless forces acting at random without the agency of anything whatever outside the ultimate mechanicalness which was the ground of nature. Life presented no problems either. "Higher" forms would evolve from "lower" forms because mechanisms inherent in earlier situations contained the inevitability of later situations.

Whether our superstitious ancestors liked it or not, this was how the universe was. Intellect had solved the ultimate secret by showing that there was in fact no ultimate secret. Demonstrably, there was no ghost in the machine.

With some reason, this release from previous assumptions was accompanied by euphoria. William of Ockham, of the 14th century, collaborating with the 20th century, had abolished God, and the scientists, brash in their new-found freedom, saw themselves as the founding fathers of a new future for humanity, a new world order: sane, rational, enlightened, unsuperstitious. All the untenable assumptions of the past were error and they had been swept away by what Wells, as late as the 1930s, could call the "brotherhood of efficiency, the Freemasonry of science".

With the hindsight of even three or four decades, this view now seems startlingly ingenuous but nevertheless the generations which produced it deserve praise for their honesty. They were being true to their lights and they had no reason to suspect that quite different lights would presently become uncomfortably visible.

Having concluded that mechanism was all there was, Western science began to notice that, at the extreme micro and macro ends of things, disquieting events could be observed which suggested that somehow mechanism - which undoubtedly existed - also existed side by side with something alarmingly like freewill.

Some experiments had shown that energy was a continuous stream. Others, equally convincing, suggested it was corpuscular and discontinuous.

One experiment suggested that a quantum of energy was concentrated enough to hit an individual atom: another showed that it was so large that it could divide itself between two slots cut in a gross metal plate.

Worse, energy seemed to know in advance whether there was one slot or two and to modify its performance accordingly!

At the other end of the scale of size, Einstein's work - for the layman's understanding at least - seemed to boil down to the discovery that two and two no longer made four - except perhaps in those (negligible) areas of ordinary sensory experience where the difference was unnoticeable.

In 1925 some of the world's top mathematicians had a look at the problems that had piled up in consequence of the work of Bohr, Planck, de Broglie and Einstein. They came to a very strange conclusion. All the anomalies inherent in the new data could be accommodated and handled quite well if you used only equations. You could not, under any circumstances, form a picture of what was going on.

Mass, length and time, the basic co-ordinates of a mechanical universe, were simply ineligible as units for dealing with the situation that had now emerged.

Which was intolerable. Things must be either here or there, not "maybe here" or "maybe there". Two and two must make four. In a universe whose basic laws (as uncovered by Western science) expressly excluded uncertainty, how could there be uncertainty?

In 1927, Heisenberg suggested the principle of Indeterminacy and, from that moment on, the push and pull universe was on a diminishing economy.

After a partial absence of only a few centuries and a more or less total absence of only a few years, the ghost was back in the machine.

It was ironic perhaps that the ghostly suspicion was first conjured into visible appearance in the sanctum of physics, the most materialistic of the sciences, and equally ironic that psychology, the most "idealist" of the sciences, should succeed for much longer in ignoring the ghost in its own machine (ESP and the like) and strive so doggedly to rehabilitate Lord Kelvin.

Here again, Western science to a certain extent was the victim of its own attempts to be honest. The behaviourists were being true to their lights. Human behaviour was demonstrably mechanical and a push on a chemical rod in the human engine produced a psychic effect, as causally and as certainly as the push of an iron rod produced a physical effect in a steam engine.

While physics had been driven screaming into a non-sensory continuum, psychology did not quite see how, even if it wanted to, it could follow suit. Although Jung had perhaps sketched the hazy outline of such a country, its terrain continued to be regarded as in some way preternaturally unscientific.

Like a Pavlov dog, Western science felt itself subjected to intolerably conflicting impulses which it could not resolve in action and predictably, perhaps, it became neurotic.

Could it be that the West's dilemma at all levels was caused by the same recurring mistake - that of artificially limiting the field of inquiry? This seems to be illustrated in at least one unlikely aspect.

In all Western scientific inquiry it had been tacitly assumed that data for the solution of its problems could arise only in the West. This is essentially an unscientific assumption, but one that was made imperiously at all times.

As it now begins to appear, data for resolving the West's scientific impasse was available in the East all along but the East's culture and philosophy, both ancient and modern, was consistently assumed to be either puerile or defective - or both.

The knowledge of the East was not tried and found wanting. It was assumed to be inferior and not tried.

Nor was the evidence of significant data in the East in any way hidden or difficult to come by. Some extremely significant pointers to certain branches of inquiry, which had already been confirmed in the West, were lying about inviting attention. Jalaluddin Rumi (13th century) was on record with a theory of the evolution of form, six hundred years before Darwin. [1] Suggestive pointers to very sophisticated psychological processes, like the mechanism of learning, were outlined in the traditions of the Coptic Church and the Suhrawardi Sufis. [2]

It is difficult to avoid noticing that this astigmatism in Western science confirms one of the axioms of the West's most heterodox philosopher Charles Fort. [3] What might with affection be called Fort's Theorem, declares that if you encounter data which lie outside an area which you have defined for yourself as containing the only possible data, you will either fail to see it altogether or else will plausibly discredit it in terms of your own prior assumptions.

In fact in 1927, when Heisenberg was giving form to the cat that had appeared among the pigeons, the solution to the West's scientific impasse was already circulating unobtrusively in Europe and America: an apparently fortuitous accident of Eastern origin. Perhaps aid to under-developed countries works at different levels.

This material did not take the form of a scientific paper and was unfamiliar in texture. It did not therefore have the impact which the West would normally accord to a revolutionary idea. It took the form of a very ancient teaching about the nature of man and few thinkers in the West noticed it at all. Fewer still saw that, behind its unfamiliar appearance, lay a method of reconciling the apparently insoluble conflicts of Western Science.

Although this material was probably of universal application, it had one aspect of extreme pertinence for the dilemma of Western science in the first third of the 20th century. It implied that freewill and causality were not irreconcilable; both could be accommodated within a framework that possessed different qualities of time.

Causality in fact could be the field of operation for will at another level.

The West had been quite right in detecting both; quite wrong in its assumption that they could not exist together.

Remarkably enough, this idea already existed in the West but had taken root in certain unwarranted assumptions of "occultism" and, having no apparent justification, had been passed over.

By contrast, many of the corollaries of this teaching have had almost instinctive currency in huge populations in the East for several millennia.

There it takes the form of a legend that the affairs of humankind, the ebb and flow of history, are subject to purposive direction from a higher level of understanding; the process being manipulated by a hierarchy of intelligences - the lowest level of which makes physical contact with humanity.

[1] "Originally you were clay. From being mineral you became vegetable. From vegetable you became animal and from animal man. During these periods man did not know where he was going but he was being taken on a long journey nonetheless and you have to go through a thousand different worlds yet.." (Mathnawi III Story XVII)

[2] See 'Tincture Technique', by Richard Drobutt in New Research on Current Philosophical Systems, Octagon Press, London, 1968.

[3] Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932).

This idea, at a simple level of exposition, was presented recently in a book review in a popular newspaper; the writer having apparently summarized material which is now more or less openly available in the West.

The writer said: [4]

  • quote small leftFor many centuries there has been a strange legend in the East. It suggests that in some hidden centre, perhaps in the Highlands of Central Asia, there exists a colony of men possessing exceptional powers. This centre acts, in some respects at least, as the secret government of the world.
  •    Some aspects of this legend came to the West during the Crusades; the idea was renewed in Rosicrucian guise in 1614; it was restated with variations last century by Mme Blavatsky and the French diplomat Jacoliot; was suggested again by the English author Talbot Mundy and most recently by the Mongolian traveller Ossendowski in 1918.
  •    In the mysterious Shangri-la of this legend, certain men, evolved beyond the ordinary human situation, act as the regents of powers beyond the planet.
  •    Through lower echelons - who mingle unsuspected in ordinary walks of life, both East and West - they act at critical stages of history, contriving results necessary to keep the whole evolution of the earth in step with events in the solar system.
  •    If in the West this seems like a very tall tale indeed, it is one nevertheless that has engaged thinkers behind the European scene for centuries. In 1614 for example when a mysterious document called The Fama appeared in Europe, some of the best intellects of the day spent a generation chasing clues to its origin and trying to get themselves enlisted. There is no historical record of anybody succeeding.
  •    A hoax? Maybe. But in 1961 an article appeared in a small magazine [5] which to the ordinary reader seemed like a simple travel documentary.
  •    To others who knew - or believed they knew - how such things are arranged, it produced much the same effect as did The Fama on their forebears 350 years ago; though attempts to enlist were not this time quite so disastrously negative. Since 1961, a further stream of hints seemingly connected with the same tradition have been appearing regularlyquote small right

[4] London Evening News, February 10, 1969. 'Do these Supermen Exist?'

[5] Blackwoods Magazine, December, 1961, 290, pp. 481-595.

The writer then lists a number of recent publications, [6] deals with them briefly and goes on to conclude:

  • quote small leftThe tradition of which all this seems to be a part has been linked with such diverse phenomena as the restoration of culture after Jenghis Khan, Arabian poetry, the Troubadours, the joker in our playing cards, Freemasonry, the Templars, the Renaissance, the Saracen culture of Spain and the Franciscan Order of the Roman Church.
  •    It has also been noted that some of the latest ideas in Freudian and Jungian psychology were outlined by members of this same tradition as long ago as the 11th Century, when there was no Western vocabulary capable of dealing with the ideas.
  •    In view of the extent of the claims which are implicit in some of the literature now appearing in the West, it is remarkable that orthodox scholarship has not yet, apparently, responded with the interest which this material would seem to justify.quote small right

If we include the above quotation, our total material so far converges on three distinct, if startling, suggestions:

  1. That in the first quarter of the 20th century, Western science had not only reached a critical stage but an impasse and that, simultaneously, material possibly capable of resolving the situation appeared unobtrusively from the East.
  2. That this "intervention" derives from a source superior to, and qualitatively different from, ordinary intellect.
  3. That similar "intervention" occurs at critical points in human history and has done so in all cultures and all ages in a form appropriate to the moment.

Preposterous as these ideas appear in the context of Western thought, we shall examine them in turn.

[6] The Sufis by Idries Shah (W. H. Allen), The Teachers of Gurdjieff (Gollancz), Reflections (Zenith Books), Special Problems in the Study of Sufi Ideas (Octagon Press), Wisdom of the Idiots (Octagon Press), New Research on Current Philosophical Systems (Octagon Press), and some of the writings of Robert Graves.

There are reasons for believing that between 1920 and 1949 an influence of the kind suggested in (2) above operated in France, England and America. To avoid compromise with the sometimes fragmented language of occultism, we shall refer to the source of this influence simply as the Tradition.

Part of the intention behind the 1920-1950 operation appears to have been to reveal publicly, perhaps for the first time, the mechanism of the Tradition's own operation. It might be conjectured that human intellect had for the first time reached the capacity for processing the evolutionary ideas involved and had perhaps earned entitlement to this information.

Among those who were in contact with the Tradition during this period and whose subsequent life work reflected its aims were a London journalist, Rodney Collin, and the mathematician and philosopher, J. G. Bennett.

Rodney Collin wrote two significant books [7] in which he attempted to show that both biology and history functioned in a different kind of time from that experienced in events normally registered by the senses. These books were significant in many respect but perhaps chiefly so in that they suggested that the matters now being handled by Western science could not be dealt with by ordinary "linear" thinking.

This was the conclusion that had already been forced upon the mathematicians of the 1920s but they did not possess the key to the radical solution which Rodney Collin now suggested might exist.

Rodney Collin also attempted an analysis of Western history in which the decisive operations of "schools" of the Tradition were suggested. In this survey, a great deal of Western history took on a startling and vivid new dimension. Events and sequences in history which, to even the most perceptive of historians, had appeared random and meaningless were shown to be purposive in terms of Will acting in a different kind of time. The mechanicalness of events and the automaticity of people were in fact the building material out of which Intelligences immediately above the level of man contrived an intentional structuring of events.

Behind the partial freedom from causality in which these Intelligences worked, there lay a larger aim: that of nurturing and tutoring the life of the earth so that it might remain harmoniously in step with the evolution of the solar system. Collin attempted to give a progressive, logical development to his exposition - suggesting for example the consequences that might be deduced from the absence of a zero term in a geometrical progression - but in the main the impact of his work was an emotional one and it probably lacked the essential overlap into the orthodox field necessary to attract the attention of ordinary science.

This appeal to science, in terms which it might plausibly regard as its own, had to wait another twelve years for the work of J. G. Bennett.

Bennett had made contact with the Tradition soon after the 1918 Armistice and remained in contact with it until the operation was withdrawn about January 1949.

Bennett believed that the operation of the Tradition at this stage held decisive possibilities for mankind. Science was truly at a crossroads and if it took the wrong turning, or continued on the course it was following, it would inevitably involve into a prolific but sterile technology. He probably saw this in its fullest implications long before the same warning began to circulate from artists, poets and intuitive philosophers like Orwell. Bennett's tremendous work The Dramatic Universe was forty years in preparation, the last volume finally appearing in 1966. [8]

[7] The Theory of Eternal Life, Stourton Press, Cape Town, 1950, and The Theory of Celestial Influence, Vincent Stuart, London, 1954.

[8] The Dramatic Universe, VoL IV, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1966.

A man's life starts with a fertilized cell and his earliest life is worked in cellular time, perhaps 1,000 times faster than clock time. Multiplication of cells and the functions which unfold from them, are conducted at terrifying speed so that a whole phase of evolution is recapitulated in the foetus in a matter of days.

Compression is at its maximum at the start. Progressively, less and less happens as an organism achieves extension in time. Less and less inner process, that is, happens in each successive interval of clock time. Man, however, chooses to experience in clock and calendar time and it seems to him that time goes increasingly fast. His life accelerates from beginning to end. A period of 24 hours seems an age when we are toddlers; a whole week, a month goes by like a flash when we have grown old.

From this and other indications, it is deduced that to represent biological processes as they are, and not as we happen to experience them - against clocks and calendars - we should have to set out a human life on a logarithmic and not an arithmetical scale.

The period of man's gestation is 10 lunar months. The period of his childhood is 100 lunar months. The full span of his life averages 1,000 lunar months.

If these points, 10: 100: 1,000 are marked at equal intervals round a circle, we may have some representation of a complete life, together with milestone marks that show the rate at which inner events have occurred or will occur. Various "cosmologies" can be constructed on this scheme which do not concern us here.

The figure is, however, a starting point for obtaining an "organic" picture of history. We shall return to this in a moment.

If the basic proposition is accepted that history obeys the same laws as cellular life, an interesting series of analogies becomes available.

As cells perform different functions in the body of a man, so men perform different functions in the body of a culture.

Masons, engineers and architects maintain and replace the structure of a culture just as their corresponding cells maintain and repair a human body.

There are soldiers and policemen to defend a culture as there are reserves in the adrenals to defend the human organism. There are scientists and thinkers to direct a culture as there are brain cells to direct a body. There are poets and artists and mystics who form the emotional life of a culture as there are nerve cells to conduct the emotional life of a man.

Analogies can be extended in many ways. For example, a human life may be based on the satisfaction of eating and drinking or on the excitement of movement and travel. It may be ruled by a passion for research or by some deep emotional drive. Similarly, a culture may be ruled by one functional group. Peasant states, merchant states, warrior states and monastic states come to mind.

A man who is balanced in his functions but who is led by a developed intellect is an advanced man. So a culture which is balanced in its functions but is led by a developed intelligentsia is an advanced culture.

The analogy between the body of a man and the body of a culture was glimpsed by the pathologist Virchow more than a century ago. It has since been noticed by many scientists but is generally held to be too fanciful for serious study. There may be reasons to suppose that it is not "fanciful" enough.

A sperm cell originates a new individual. Suppose a conscious man originates a new culture. Suppose that within life there are always a few men, unsuspected and hidden, who are able to process conscious energy and are therefore in touch with the pattern of conscious energy outside life. In J. G. Bennett's terminology this would correspond to the Demiurgic level. Such conscious men would be to a human culture as a sperm cell is to tissue cells in a human body.

A conscious man would inseminate a new culture as a sperm cell fertilizes a new individual. Not all sperm cells originate new men and not all conscious men would originate new cultures. Those that didn't, would nevertheless vivify a culture, as abundant sexual energy tones and vivifies a man.

Here may be glimpsed one aspect of a sexual - even an incestuous - analogy which permeates both myth and epic poetry and is, at surface level, always incomprehensible.

If a civilized culture has such a structure, it should be possible to represent any of its aspects from its cellular equivalent. Its time-scale, for example, would be some extension of the logarithmic scale which appears to apply to human life.

Rodney Collin suggests that the logarithmic terms of human life, 10: 100: 1,000 should be extrapolated into the series 100: 1,000: 10,000 (lunar months) which is roughly 8, 80 and 800 years.

If the analogy holds, eight years will be the period of gestation of a culture; eighty the period of its physical self-expression and 800 years the total of its life. At the end of 800 years it will die.

Some men die before they are 70 or 80. Some live to be over a hundred, but the intervals given by the 10: 100: 1,000 lunar months series will represent the human average and the periods 8, 80 and 800 years will represent the average for cultures.

During the eight years that a culture is in the womb, the Conscious Man who has impregnated it gathers round him a body of material, an inner circle of disciples. A Teaching is worked out. The teaching is the personality of the coming culture, it may take the "form of artistic expression, or a new principle of science. Perhaps a book is composed or a code of principles. Some symbol is worked out which will be the signature of the culture till it dies. A culture's character, like a man's character, is formed in the womb and the whole of its life will be an expression of that character and no other.

Eighty years is the period of a culture's physical expression in the outside world, exemplified in the dazzling expansion of invention and creation which is so visible - and so inexplicable - at the beginning of each cultural period.

Perhaps the Dispersal, which J. G. Bennett related to the appearance of the four Root Languages, is the first glimpse we can hope for of this mechanism at work. This example may however be exceptional, since it involved not one but four simultaneous operations. On the other hand it may be less exceptional than it looks if we notice that the 6th century BC, which was the century of Pythagoras and the century when Europe was born, was also the century of Buddha in India and Confucius in China.

It is not without interest that the cyclic nature of culture, the birth, self-expression, decay and death sequence, has been partly deduced by ordinary intellectual means by men like Toynbee and John Napier, though there may be reasons to suppose that the "inventor" of logarithms was in touch with a contemporary operation of the Tradition.

The analogy between cells and cultures may be extended further. A son does not wait for his father to die before he can be born himself. Similarly the generations of culture overlap. A new culture begins long before its parent dies - and perhaps while its relatives on another continent are still adolescent.

We may also suppose family strains in the body of civilization which is made up of all cultures, taken together. However different the men of Rome may seem to us, we have some sense of kinship with them. We and they are of the same family. We do not have the same feeling of consanguinity with cultures of, say, Africa or China, even when these are more recent than Greece or Rome.

The cell/culture analogy may even yield a method of rediscovering the past where this has left traces too faint to suggest an outline. Suppose cultures take their place in the long-body of humanity in the same sequence as the glandular functions emerge in a man. Also, that these functions lie on the logarithmic scale. The succession should lie therefore on the sequence Pancreas, Thyroid, Parathyroid, Adrenal, Posterior Pituitary and Anterior Pituitary.

Is any trace of such a sequence discernible? Such essence nature as it may be possible to glimpse in past cultures, Rodney Collin suggests, do not appear to contradict this scheme. The traces of Aurignacian Man are heavy, lymphatic and lunar. Magdalenian Man is swift, decisive and thyroid-Mercurial. The vast stone-work of Egypt, Sumer and Ancient India suggest the poised, solid Parathyroid or Venusian nature. The Graeco-Roman and Persian periods are ages of iron, passionate, adrenal and Martian.

Early European, Medieval and Renaissance cultures till the near-present correspond to Posterior Pituitary function.

Plotted on the logarithmic time-scale it would seem that the six functions so far developed in the "long body" of humanity occupy places lasting 32,000: 16,000: 8,000: 4,000: 2,000 and 1,000 years respectively.

Earlier it was suggested that a culture is begotten by a conscious man. This may happen on the home ground, so to speak, or it may happen in a wholly new situation; just as a man may found a family in a distant land because he senses that the soil has become exhausted or the atmosphere vitiated in his homeland.

Rodney Collin's intuition leads him to pin-point Egypt as the source which sired Europe. The identity of the Individual can probably never be known, but certain key figures, half-legendary, like Solon, Thales and Pythagoras may suggest the "school" within which the birth was accomplished.

Plato's writing suggests that Solon received something from Sais in 590 BC and the Timaeus suggests that the Egyptians held Athens in special affection. Was this, Rodney Collin asks, the affection of parent for child?

It is significant that Solon, Thales and Pythagoras have a certain "extended" quality about them. They appear as men having not one skill beyond the human ordinary but a whole range of superlative achievements. Thales was a civil engineer, a politician, a mathematician and an astronomer. He is credited with the theory of a prime-source cosmic substance which was symbolized for external understanding as "water".

Pythagoras revealed a system of medicine (some unsuspected fragments of which appear to be embedded in the work of Cato the Censor, [9] a geometry which stated the laws of three-dimensional space and a musical octave which gave the key to harmony on many levels. He is credited with a theory of soul ascent and descent and also with access to his own reincarnative history. Into a lifetime of 80 or 90 years he packed, said Empedocles, "all things that are contained in ten, even twenty, generations of men".

Insights, two thousand years before their time, were in the very air. Xenophanes of Colophon is saying that the sun and stars have neither substance nor permanence. The stars are burned out at dawn and in the evening are recreated from new exhalations.

Arthur Koestler [10] thinks that this is an example of a rational account of the universe beginning to emerge in the only idiom available, that of superstition. Could it not equally be a glimpse of the modern idea of a re-creating universe? Or, if for "dawn" you wrote "Day of Brahm", an insight into the manvantaric idea?

Koestler makes much play of the fact that the Greek schools were contradictory, that their alleged insights cancelled each other out. "Every philosopher of the period", he says, "seems to have had his own theory regarding the nature of the Universe. To quote Professor Burnett, 'no sooner did an Ionian philosopher learn half a dozen geometrical propositions and hear that the phenomena of the heavens recurred in cycles than he set to work to look for law everywhere in nature and with an audacity amounting to hybris, to construct a system in the universe'." [11]

It may be that a very important point is being lost here. Access to a level of consciousness at which the laws of the universe may be experienced does not automatically provide the means whereby the knowledge can be verbalized or indeed rendered into "fact" at all. The implication "this is how things are, because I have been there and seen" is at the mercy of the intellectual and emotional instrument through which the translation has to be managed. It is not the divergence of the Greek schools that is remarkable, but the overlap of their insights.

[9] Cato the Censor on Farming, Trs. Ernest Brehaut, Columbia University Press, New York, 1933.

[10] Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, Hutchinson, London, 1959.

[11] The Sleepwalkers, Chapter 1.

Gestation over, the first-born of modern Europe was delivered into the light and air of Greece.

The picture of its expression, maturity and decline is wonderfully sketched by Rodney Collin.

  • quote small leftWithin 80 years, on the shores of Greece and southern Italy, where only tile and timber had stood before, rose the most subtle temples ever built by man. To make possible this tremendous achievement, Pythagoras had already developed the inner laws of harmony and worked out their manifestations for a new architecture and a new music. Anaximander, a pupil of Thales, had invented the basic instruments of a new technology - the gnomon, the clock, the astronomical sphere. Unknown sculptors had woken Egyptian statuary from its age-old immobility and created the figure of the kouros, the wide-eyed man of the new age. Vase painters set a symbolic mythology of the relation between man and Gods in every home and the dramatic form of tragedy, created by Thespis, revealed the eternal clash between the wilfulness of man and the higher laws of the Universe…
  •    Yet behind this diversity we sense one informing source, some hidden centre of vitality which is suggested but never revealed by the strange role of the Eleusinian mysteries…
  •    It is interesting to observe the workings of the laws of scale. We saw how the human organism grows according to a definite curve from a single cell to many billions. So for a civilisation. Thus Greek culture, all its potentialities compressed at the beginning of the sixth century into one man and a handful of men, by mid-century had already absorbed some hundreds of the best and most creative individuals and by the end had organized into a new pattern of life thousands of citizens of Athens, Croton, Syracuse and a half-dozen other centres. This growth or incorporation of larger and larger numbers of human cells continued steadily…
  •    At the same time, in exact proportion to this "growth", the intensity of Hellenization diminishes and the last millions drawn into the Greek body politic tend rather to obscure its nature. No doubt they would have accomplished its destruction entirely had it not been for the more conscious men like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others who continue to be produced from the centre…
  •    Even so, the time comes when the inner life of the culture is insufficient to hold in check the decay which is always waiting to attack an over-ripe organism…
  •    The conquests fall away and the Greek world, like an old man, begins to shrink and stoop. When it is but four and a half centuries old it falls under the sway of the new Roman civilisation and thereafter lives a servile life teaching or pandering to its young master until, eight hundred years from its founding, the Greek homeland is overrun by Goths and the Hellenic civilisation finally dies as an independent organism.quote small right

It would be difficult to imagine a more vivid picture of the life and death of an historical organism seen from the insight of "biological time".

So the Greek cell in the body of human history lived its life, performed its function and died. It was sired from Egypt and its parent was one, perhaps the last, in a previous group whose cycle we do not know. It is possible that Egypt fertilized other ground than the Greek. In the 10th and 11th centuries AD we shall find an Eastern cousin with a remarkable role to play in the family affairs of Europe and we may suspect that its parent, too, was Egypt.

Beginning with Greece, Rodney Collin sees a chain of six cultures till the present. We shall continue to attempt a summary of his map of history.

While Greece was still only two centuries old, she transmitted, via the Epicureans and the Stoics, the energy of fertilization to Rome. Again a period of dazzling achievement seemingly from nowhere. As the signature of Greece was drama, music, philosophy and mathematics, that of Rome was a code of law and an Empire-wide chain of roads and public works.

At its height it served as the matrix for the third European organism - the Early Christian. Here there is open record of a Founder and his school and of a "signature", the New Testament, the sign manual of the whole organism-to-be. Yet astonishing and significant for the future as was this newest cell in the body of mankind, tremendous as was its scope, its external form followed the inevitable laws of birth, development and decline. It reached maturity with Constantine's edict of tolerance and then became subject to the progressive atrophy which no organism actualizing in time may evade. In Rodney Collin's phrase "eight centuries from its conception, the Papacy, its highest temporal expression was an object of commercial haggling on the Roman market".

So died the external form of the Early Christian culture. But long before, while it was still at its height, a new birth was planned.

In 529 Benedict founded Monte Cassino and conducted an operation which though it must certainly have had precedents in the cycles of antiquity has, till the present time, no parallel in Europe.

A conception was arranged but the birth had to be delayed.

If historical organisms have a relationship with the musical octave as well as with the logarithmic scale, and there are reasons to suppose that they do, there will not be a linear progression, a regular increase of frequency in an ascending scale. At two points there will be "intervals". Between Early Christian and Monastic Christendom there will be one such "gap" and the Dark Ages would certainly occupy such a place.

The withdrawal of the four Centres during the last Glaciation suggests a parallel on another scale.

Force had to be conserved till the time was right to leap the gap. Benedict's task was to encapsulate the gains of the past till a new ovum, existing but not yet actualized at the far end of the Dark Ages, was ready to be fertilized.

During the Dark Ages, the monasteries with their monks were self-sufficient (perhaps in the same way as the Centres, with their pilot populations, had to be in the Dark Ages of the Glaciation).

Outside there was disorder among events, confusion among men: processes without design, humanity without direction.

The gap lasted 500 years and the next cultural organism, the Medieval Christian, did not emerge till the 11th century. Its mother was a lonely valley in Burgundy; its father was the influence of Monte Cassino. Assisting at the birth somewhere in the shadows was the Comacine influence from Northern Italy.

The medieval Christian culture was two centuries in labour and in a sense it seems to have emerged from a single building, the Abbey Church of Cluny.

The Abbey was founded in 910 by twelve monks from Monte Cassino and from this peaceful retreat in strife-torn France an extraordinary influence spread. Within a century the Cluniacs had gained control of a thousand square miles of surrounding country and were establishing the rule of law and order where there had been little or none for five centuries. As with a human body whose crisis of illness is reached, infection is dispelled at a rate which seemed impossible only the day before. So with the Cluniac influence. By 1095 a great new building in a strange and wholly unfamiliar style was ready to be consecrated - the Abbey Church of Cluny. In it was encapsulated all the Gothic cathedrals to come. In each of these there was a suggestion of a whole unseen cosmology; each an encyclopaedia in stone, containing, for those who could read, so tradition has it, a summary of the Plan and Purpose of evolution.

Conceived in an ecclesiastical body, the Medieval Christian culture was nevertheless designed for a new and different kind of expression. Though conceived by conscious men who were deeply committed to a religious expression of the Great Work, the Medieval Christian culture depended for its execution on exponents who were not churchmen at all, but craftsmen.

As the zodiac seems to sweep the solar system with a predestined progression of influences, it might seem that in the 11th century the process of Conscious Direction was almost imperceptibly leaving the sign of religion and edging marginally into some secular modality that lay ahead.

An echo of this bi-valency seems to attach to the anonymous craftsmen who built the cathedrals - as it does to their descendants-in-theory, the modern Freemasons.

In passing, it might be noted that the period reflects another one in a different spiral when Universal Encyclopaedias in stone were also used to focus men's minds: the time of esoteric building in Islam.

As there were other schools beside that of Pythagoras in Greece, there were other neighbour schools to Cluny: Chartres for many studies, Rheims for music, Mont St. Michel for astronomy.

Now occurs an event whose significance seems to have been little considered.

A joint mission from Cluny and Chartres goes to Saracen Spain and is apparently received with fraternal regard. It sends back knowledge: logarithms, algebra, the Koran; perhaps one might guess, a technique of alchemy.

Here, apparently, a focus of intense Christianity is acquiring sustenance from a source which, at ordinary level, it could regard only as alien and indeed hostile.

Unless this visit was some extra-ecumenical whim of the Gothic school it suggests the existence of some hidden unity behind appearances. Could it be unity of a hidden Directorate of evolution which subtends both Christianity AND Islam? Constantine had an assistant at Cassino - Johannes the Saracen - who helped in translations. [12]

The idea of pilgrimage already existed but it is suddenly expanded by the Cluniacs. Northern Spain is cleared of the Saracens and Cluniac influence builds St. James of Compostela. The pilgrimage circuit now runs from Rome to Canterbury to Compostela. Could this idea have come from Saracen Spain as an instrument for broadening men's minds, for bringing new currents into stagnant society? Perhaps the Haj, the Mecca pilgrimage, had proved its worth as a cultural instrument and was being used again.

So, on the one hand, the Cluniacs are going to a Moslem school. On the other hand, they are building cathedrals at the expense of Saracen territory.

This strange ambivalence is exemplified further. The Cluniacs greatly approved of the First Crusade. Perhaps at the level of political expediency it had many advantages. It drew off the looters and the freebooters from France and facilitated the Cluniac mission to extend local law and order. But it was directed, however obliquely, against Islam. On the one hand, collaboration: on the other, competition.

There is an incongruity here that has no obvious explanation, but if we consider the possibility that at some level both impulses are modalities of the same evolutionary directive, the problem disappears.

At the same time, the ways of the Hidden Directorate appear mysterious indeed to human judgment. Could it be that certain evolutionary gains may be obtained only within some environment of friction intentionally created?

[12] Constantine the Tunisian had already translated, at Monte Cassino, the Arabian El-Razi's alchemical book, the Liber Experimentorum (Legacy of Islam, p. 346).

Repugnant as this idea may be at the level of individual lives, it is not without support in the esotericism of Jewry.

Professor Norman Cohn has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the famous Protocols of the Elders of Zion were deliberate invention. [13] But nobody seems to have examined the psychological basis on which the central theme of the Protocols could have arisen in the human mind. The suggestion, briefly, is that some hidden impulse at racial level continually arranges for the Jews to initiate such action as will ensure their own persecution within which some result beneficial to Jewry can arise.

If man is coaxed - all but coerced - along the optimum line of his own evolution by contrived situations which involve enormous suffering for individual men, the Hidden Directorate would appear to stand accused of a cynicism and despotism which individual men are to some extent already able to transcend. It is a problem which will press increasingly as further data emerges.

But we must return to Rodney Collin's sequence of cultures. The Medieval Christian culture grew, its pilgrimages and its Crusades bringing cultural diffusion to Europe (as the Dispersal brought diffusion to the root races of the world). At its peak, the Cluniac influence spanned Europe from Portugal to Poland.

It delivered its possibilities, grew old and effete. Its adaptability became frozen. Its creativity became petrified in dogmatism. The Catholicity of the Universal Encyclopaedias became the monstrous tyranny of the Inquisition. The body of the culture lived on for a total of nine hundred years and was finally despatched by the French Revolution. Significantly, the Citizens razed the Abbey of Cluny in an act more symbolic than they knew.

But long before, a new impulse had been born out of the old. Round the Medicis had grown a new Idea, opposed to the dogmatism represented by the Pope and devoted to the best of the past.

The seed-bed this time was neither a philosophical school nor a monk's cell. It was the milieu of an intelligentsia. Cosimo Medici becomes the central magnet to which all that is new is attracted. He founds the first public library in Europe. The best of the past is salvaged from Constantinople. Florence becomes the epicentre of Europe. Everything seems to be in a process of remaking round a "court" of sensitive intellectuals. We see Donatello, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Mirandola and Alberti, each supremely qualified in his own sphere and a strange breed of hyper-specialists like Michelangelo and da Vinci, who are supremely qualified not in any one branch of human capacity but in nearly all. The glimpse is of the uomo universal, the Weltmensch. Pythagoras and Thales are re-echoed on a new turn of the spiral.

And how far, this time, the waves spread. Out of Florence come Queens, Cambridge, Magdalen, Oxford, Glasgow University, the voyages of Columbus, the conquest of Mexico, modern astronomy, the English Renaissance, the Encyclopaedias and finally, universal education.

The modern world was born into Florence about 1450; its signature: printing, painting and education.

The body of the Renaissance cell lives still. It may not die for another two hundred years. Its influence, even now, is seen as reactionary - as all lives must finally seem to their own offspring.

But though the Renaissance lives on to kindle or restrain in its declining years, it gave birth, just over a century ago, to its own successor, our all too familiar West of the present day. It is a lusty and perhaps wilful infant, this Synthetic Age of ours, and its imprint on the body of history is Electronics.

Its gestation lasted from 1859 (the Origin of Species) till 1865 (the unification of America).

It reached the peak of its development about 1935 with road and air transport and radio and the cinema established as its commonplace modalities. It is now on the path of maturity and gradual decline. Like all organisms it must suffer increasing rigidity, the onset of feebleness and eventual death. It may continue as a physical presence till the 27th century, but long before that, its successor, unseen and unsuspected, will have come to birth. If a culture sires its successor during its maturity, the latest cell in the body of history may even now be in gestation. If and when it is born it will have to make its mark in a world of increasing speed, tension and compression.

[13] Warrant for Genocide, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1967.

If we in the 1980s find the pace of evolution almost too much, we can hardly imagine the pressures which the human cells in the coming body of culture will have to accept as normal.

From Pythagoras to the Pentagon: twelve thousand generations of men, two thousand five hundred calendar years, six cells in the body of Western history.

Each cell overlaps its successor's time, sending influences forward, each successor influencing and being influenced by the presence of its ancestors.

Within each cell, smaller cells of influence, reinforcing the keynote of the whole, subject to the entropy of the whole.

Wave upon interlocking wave of influence, a living body of history.

And within and over all the inescapable signs of Purpose and Intent.

Rodney Collin's tremendous account need not stand or fall on "fact". Interpretation derived even from first-hand insight must inevitably be subject to the distortions of translation from one dimension to another. Even if the pattern is correctly "brought down", certain datum points from which cycles are seen to start may well be arbitrary. A scheme of history such as this must be judged in its wholeness and not by the seeming accuracy of its parts. It must be judged in P. D. Ouspensky's phrase "by the psychological method".

So judged, it must surely be felt to have an overall "rightness" which is invulnerable to a demonstration that this or that aspect must be "wrong".

There we must leave it.

Rodney Collin would certainly have condemned certain of our - unwarranted - intrusions into the broad sweep of his insights. He might not agree at all that the Withdrawal was an "interval" on a larger octave corresponding to the Dark Ages in the small cycle of Europe.

Almost certainly he would reject the suggestion that the Renaissance exhibited a zodiacal swing away from religion and towards a modality of Influence for which we do not even have a name.

Behind such a suggestion there is inevitably an implication: that religion is not the instrument of man's evolution, but only one of a number of similar modalities that apply in turn.

Nor would he, probably, agree with the suggestion that the Hidden Executive may achieve evolutionary gains by a process apparently indifferent to human life and suffering. Both suggestions would probably have been anathema to his Catholic beliefs.

We have not, however, introduced such ideas arbitrarily but because they are necessary to explain material which has only recently emerged: material which was certainly not available to Rodney Collin.

Standing on its own, each account presents overwhelming support for a single idea; that the life of man is subject to direction by Forces or Individuals above - but not infinitely above - the level of man himself.

Equally inescapable is the idea that such Direction is implemented at the level of life by human agents: that is, by exceptional men attuned to and partly identified with the level above.

Is the idea so very impossible? At each stage in evolution the universe expands to the human mind. The first limit of his horizon is nature. God is the trees and the seas and the wind. Then his consciousness expands one step and so does his universe. Now the planets represent divinity, and animism, once the good, is now the enemy of the better.

Again his mind opens. The sun is now seen as the Absolute, subtending and controlling the planets: gods serving God.

Later the sun is seen to be only one of many suns in a galaxy of suns and - faster and faster the horizon recedes - the galaxy is only one of innumerable galaxies in a greater whole. This lies at the end of a road where thought cannot reach at all.

At each stage man has to abandon the secure, the trusted, and - for his present moment - the ultimate. At each stage he has to struggle with the denying force of inertia. He has to surmount a mental obstacle as once he had to surmount biological obstacles. If he succeeds, he learns more, understands more, gets closer and closer to participating.

It may be that he is now required to confront - and accept - the mechanism of his own evolution. A new - yet old - concept may confront him: the presence of Men among mankind who are his teachers and his taskmasters on the evolutionary road.

He may now have to meet once again, after 30,000 years, but on a higher turn of the spiral of understanding, the presence of Secret People in his midst.

Who are they? Is it possible to glimpse them, first in the pages of history, then dimly at first, in the daily life of our own times?

Perhaps we may catch such a glimpse.

Chapter 2 - A Secret Directorate?

Over an immense period of time a process of life has been developed on earth and has culminated in man. The process has been achieved by making available on the planetary scene a succession of energies, each higher in frequency than the one before. Constructive, vital, automatic, sensitive, conscious and creative energies [1] have been "switched in" in turn and have given rise to the entire evolutionary progression from molecule to man.

The action of these energies - seen first in biology and then in history - suggests that each new, higher, frequency is applied while life is still struggling to come to terms with the one before. Here there may be an important pointer.

Man was capable of no more than minimal consciousness when he was confronted with creativity. Each new stage is switched in long before the organism is fully deploying the energy before. Tentatively some sort of general statement might be suggested: Energy X can be fully accommodated only in terms of a struggle to reach X+1.

In the natural progression, it can be assumed that at some stage man would have inherited unitive energy - the energy of love. By this is meant objective love and not its precognitive echo in sexual or polar love.

Seen against the progression of energies along the evolutionary process, it may be supposed that unitive energy would lie far in the evolutionary future. Man has not yet accommodated to consciousness, much less to creativity.

Yet it seems that in the appearance of Jesus on earth unitive energy was transmitted to man and we have to speculate that this happened before man was ready for it.

[1] J. G. Bennett's terminology.

Because the fall of man was not in a decisive sense the fault of man, objective justice would require that he should not be obliged to carry more than his own share - probably marginal - of the consequences that flowed from it. Some operation of redemption must have been envisaged immediately [after] the fall took place. An action would have to be taken in the planetary future in such a way as to short-circuit a fault in the planetary past.

As this required the removal of something already actualized in time, it could be accomplished only by an agency which was not only outside time but also outside existence. We must also suppose that there were compelling reasons why the operation should be attempted at the earliest possible point. It might be permissible to suppose that the Demiurgic level applied for help.

This call was answered; an Action was projected into mankind; a sacrifice was made; a lifeline was thrown.

It remained, however, for man to grasp the lifeline; and even before that, he had to be made to understand that such a lifeline existed.

Man was only marginally conscious and only a minute spark of the energy of creativity had crystallized in him. Yet he was now being asked to accommodate the second highest energy in the galaxy: the unitive energy of love.

If there is anything in our suggestion that a level of energy becomes incorporated in an organism only in terms of a struggle towards a higher level still, it will be seen that man was now in a doubly difficult situation.

He had been trying (with very little success) to incorporate X (consciousness) in terms of aspiration towards X+1 (creativity) and was now required to include X+2 (unitive energy) as well.

Man's difficulty was all but insuperable: and it may be surmised that the difficulty of the Demiurgic level, and through it the Hidden Directorate, was hardly less so.

The Event had enormous potentiality, but its potentialities could be actualised in full only within a catalytic action successfully performed by the Directorate.

We shall suggest that this catalysis was impeded and partly prevented by contingency at material level.

At that level, the Event was not understood. It was experienced in its entirety at Apostolic level by men and women who had been raised in consciousness by their proximity to the Event. At Pentecost they were raised further to the experience of union with unitive energy. The experience was so transcendent - perhaps obliterative - that they were no longer capable of comprehending the situation of those who had not experienced it: and who did not possess even the minimal basis (consciousness) upon which it could be experienced.

At the other end of the scale, ordinary men and women, using mind and emotion to confront the situation, could understand it only in temporal terms. If a man had faith he was already saved and would presently know it. Something had been done on his behalf and it had already been done. Ordinary mind could not grasp that the Promise was not to man in a temporal future but to Mankind in a non-temporal future. "My Kingdom is not of this World" may imply a regression far beyond the mere rejection of materiality.

In the legend of the Three Wise Men from the East there is a hint of the Directorate being involved in the Event from the very first and perhaps arranging the external details. In the early reaction of ordinary men and women and in the way the early church understood, there is more than a hint of the Directorate being baulked - at a moment of time which was absolutely critical - by the intransigence of human nature.

Such a situation is allowed for by the measure of freewill which man has and its consequences may not be annulled by force majeure from the Directorate, no matter how much is at stake. All that may perhaps be done is to contrive life situations which will provide increased opportunities for man to choose differently.

Perhaps the minimum basis on which the situation might have made a recovery would have been the acceptance of some idea that the universe consisted of a spectrum of Being. The idea did creep in, both in the concept of angels and in the communion of saints, but both carry a vague aura of apology, as though they were concessions to a superstition inferior to the canon as a whole.

The early church turned scornfully, indignantly, away from such an idea. In doing so, it turned away from one component of its total inheritance.

The four great Impulses of the past had been reduced to their essence and the Jews in their wanderings had made an amalgam of them all. [2] It was in this mixed and fertile soil that the Christian impulse was to take root. In the event, the early church rejected its birthright; it rejected the wisdom component within which lay the techniques of developing consciousness.

Perhaps the attitude of the Early Fathers is understandable. They reasoned that if man had now been given the ultimate energy, he had no longer any use for energies below the ultimate. Traditions concerned with levels below the ultimate were now obsolete, superseded - and by easy extension anathema.

From the perspective of two thousand years it is clear that such an idea was wholly fallacious. The acquisition of a level of energy does not depose the level below it. On the contrary, the lower energy is made permanent and is incorporated.

The early church would have none of this. It turned away from all hints of a demiurgic tradition - and they were available in abundance from Egyptian, Greek and Jewish sources - and scornfully declared the interval between man and the Absolute to be sterile.

For some time - centuries perhaps - the situation might still have been redeemed and, in the theological teachings of some of the devout but heretical Fathers, one may suspect the attempts that were being made to redeem it.

[2] An idea developed byJ. G. Bennett

The bid failed and it is interesting that an account has come down to us of a single afternoon when the matter seems finally to have been decided.

Perhaps the minimum basis on which the wisdom component could have found its legitimate place in Christianity would have been a creed which in some way suggested a spectrum of Being in the universe.

Something of the sort seems to be contained in the ideas of Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria, whose "Arian heresy" implied that the level of the Father was superior to the level of the Son.

In 325, Constantine, to lend Emperor's status to the affairs of his newly approved church, convened the Council of Nicaea.

The Council was doubly important in that it represented for the first time both church and state and its findings were to have the force of law - both spiritual and temporal.

On the ideas of Arius the Council could not agree and a compromise formula which sought to relate the Father and the Son as being "of the same substance" was suggested. To this, all but two Bishops finally agreed. The two dissenting Bishops continued to disagree.

Unanimity was essential if the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was to be claimed for the Council's conclusions. Both unanimity and the approval of deity were matters of personal concern to Constantine and he proceeded to ensure both by the simple expedient of having the two dissenting Bishops removed from the meeting. [3]

Thus the datum point of Christianity for the next 1,500 years seems to have been decided by nothing more than an overt act of political gamesmanship.

By deciding as it did about the nature of the Trinity, the Council of Nicaea removed any possibility that the concept of a hierarchy - and hence of kinetic element in the universe - could arise.

[3] Condensed from the account in Eastern Christianity by Nicholas Zernov, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1961, p. 43.

In return, the church secured for itself consistency, totality and exclusiveness. It got them - as other systems have - by excluding one element of the total situation. By virtue of its own definition the Christian church was now impregnable. It possessed all that could be possessed. No expansion of horizon could ever happen, because the ultimate horizon had already been attained.

This, of course, is not to say that Christianity failed, but if men have found within it the impulse to consciousness and hence through love to the unitive level, they may have been obliged to find the technique - in part at least - elsewhere. Even so, this may have happened on a scale which justifies the period of evolutionary time involved. But it is impossible to feel that the total promise of the Event has been fulfilled.

The situation which developed in the early Christian centuries was probably such as to frustrate effectively the Demiurgic catalysis which was both necessary and intended.

Yet Demiurgic responsibility for evolution remained. The Demiurges were still obligated to achieve evolutionary gains, in harmony with growth beyond the earth. Their agents, the Hidden Directorate on earth, were still required to contrive the social environment which would provide the necessary opportunities. The mandate of both is to raise the level of consciousness of mankind in general and of suitable individuals exceptionally. Mankind in the West had subconsciously decided that this was no longer necessary.

The pupils believed that a complete textbook of Ultimate Mathematics had been thrown into the classroom. They insisted that it was, therefore, no longer necessary to learn arithmetic. The suggestion that higher mathematics needs a knowledge of arithmetic had no rationale in the Christian West because it had been excluded from the early formulation.

It is not surprising to see that all attempts to reintroduce the lost component and to place man in touch with a genuine technique whereby he might develop true consciousness (as opposed to the walking-dream consciousness which he does possess and which he mistakes for the other) have at all times and places been regarded as a deep and subtle attack on religion itself. This is as true of Islam as it is of Christianity.

For some two centuries after the Council of Nicaea it would seem that Directorate participation was either withdrawn or confined to a sort of holding operation.

Then, about AD 567, Mohammed was born. There seems to be nothing in his early life to suggest that an event of significance had happened, but presently the mark of higher activity begins to attach to circumstances. Mohammed spent periods during his youth with Bedouins in the desert and in conducting caravans from Mecca to Syria, southern Arabia and perhaps to Egypt. Arab religion at the time - "paganism" according to most authorities - was influenced in the north by Christianity and in the south by Jewish tradition. Legends suggest that before Mohammed, a number of individuals had left Arabia to try to find links with "the original religion of Abraham" and it may be that Mohammed made contact with this activity during his travels.

Perhaps a parallel exists here to the journeys from Greece to Egypt which resulted in the school of Pythagoras.

At any rate, some event took place which resulted in Mohammed deciding to retire to Mount Hira near Mecca. There, it would be seen, he made contact directly with a level of higher consciousness.

Soon afterwards he began to teach. His first audience consisted of his own family, his wife Khadija, his friend Abu Bakr and his cousin Ali. Initial attempts to record Mohammed's teaching which he received in a state of trance were abandoned and his hearers began to memorize for oral transmission the material which he delivered.

The nucleus of a "school" was thus established for which additional human material was waiting on the periphery. After Mohammed's death in 632 a group of some 90 men and women came together and through them the further development of the impulse was realized. Such descriptions of them as exist suggest that they included people who already knew that the possibility of higher consciousness existed and were searching for an Operation through which it could be exemplified.

One such was Salman the Persian, originally a Zoroastrian who had gone from one Christian teacher to another and been passed along through a series of testing trials and tribulations which culminated in his being sold into slavery.

It was this event, apparently disastrous for his search, which in fact brought him to the Companions.

This inner group of 90 took an oath of fidelity and are said to have adopted the name Sufi. Many derivations of this word have been suggested, including that of Suf - meaning wool from the fact that the group adopted a rough woollen cloak as their garb. Ain Sof, the Cabbala term for the Unknowable, has also been suggested as has Sophos, wisdom. Idries Shah [4] has said that a certain effect on human mentation is associated with a sound which might be written as S-OOOOF and it does not seem that the derivation of the word Sufi need be sought further.

Does this mean that Sufism derives from the school that formed round Mohammed? There are reasons to suppose not. Uways el Qarni, who died in 657, was regarded as a Sufi master but he never met Mohammed.

Five hundred years later another Sufi master, Hakim Jami, implicitly denied the formal Islamic origin of Sufism by declaring that Plato, Hippocrates, Pythagoras and Hermes were on an unbroken line of Sufic transmission.

Within our suggested mechanism of history there is no problem. When Demiurgic levels first incarnated on earth to achieve closer control of evolutionary trends, certain ordinary men were initiated by them: that is, ordinary men were given access to a technique whereby their minds could become able to process conscious energy and hence to achieve contact with the Demiurgic intention.

A certain number of such Initiates have been maintained within the ordinary life of men in all places and at all times. Sometimes they are known or suspected. Usually they are quite unknown.

Such men have been given different names in different ages. It is clear that certain of the Old Testament Prophets and the Priest-Initiates of Egypt were of this order. The Sufis are the exemplars of this unbroken Tradition in recent historical times. The term has been adopted within recent years by groups imitating such outward form of Sufi practice as they have been able to discern and the word has to some extent been debased during the 20th century in both East and West.

[4] Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi, W. H. Allen, London, 1964, p. 16. Arabic documentation of the term, however, begins only after AD 815.

We are concerned only with the original and generally invisible Tradition and to conclude that Sufism is the esoteric aspect of Islam only is clearly unwarranted on the evidence.

The line, by whatever name it is known, is the line of esotericism in all religions. It is also the line of esotericism in many other modalities of evolution whose existence is generally unsuspected.

There may be reason to suppose, however, that enhanced techniques of "soul-making", relevant to the present stage of mankind's development, were made available by the Demiurgic level, through its Directorate on earth, at the time of Mohammed. Put bluntly, these techniques constitute the trade secrets of Sufism.

The Sufic influence was certainly exercised within the framework of Islam as it has been exercised within the framework of all religions without being identified with any.

We shall see that it was employed within Medieval Christianity in an effort to restore the wisdom component which had been excluded by the formulations of the early Church.

Here it might be permissible to venture a speculation in general terms. So long as a religion develops according to its evolutionary potential, Sufic activity will coincide with its orthodox expression. As a religion becomes formalized in dogma - that is, when it begins to desert its evolutionary possibilities - the Sufic influence separates and is then seen by orthodoxy as a heresy. At a certain stage of divergence, when nothing more can be salvaged, the kinetic component withdraws entirely, at which point the religion becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns and finally extinguishes itself.

There is certainly no indication that the development of Islam was any less free of contingency at material level than Christianity was. It may be that in the matter of contingency Prophets and Messengers are sometimes faced with cruel alternatives. Rejecting all compromise with events as they develop may mean that the Message with which they are charged will be denied actualisation altogether. They may choose to some extent to compromise with contingency and thereby ensure that the Message is actualized at least partially.

Something of the sort has been suggested, in that Mohammed's original insistence on an exclusive monotheism was altered marginally as the price of securing the survival of his Companions and hence of his Message.

Certainly the early promise that a genuine theocracy would arise with spiritual authority subtending a stable structure at all levels was not fulfilled.

To begin with, there was the familiar explosive expansion along almost every line of human activity which we have seen associated with the birth of every new cell in the body of history. Mohammed's successor, Abu Bakr, sent armies into the Sassanian and Byzantine empires and was welcomed as a liberator. Before he was assassinated, Syria, Egypt, Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, Persia and Cyrenaica had all fallen to the mounting wave of Islam. But, as always, the impulse channelled through a genuine prophet had to be actualised in terms of human instruments congenitally contaminated with pride and jealousy and all the permutations of egoism in human behaviour.

Islam in no way avoided its share of human shortcomings. On the one hand, there was a sublime reverence for man's highest aspirations. There was just law-giving, a surging expression of art and architecture. On the other hand, there was egoism, conflict and hatred in many of those who sought to serve the new ideas.

Umar, the second Caliph, was murdered. Uthman, the third Caliph, and a Meccan aristocrat, aroused widespread opposition by apparently favouring his own family and he, too, died by assassination.

Ali, the fourth Caliph, was Mohammed's cousin and the husband of his daughter Fatima. Ali was opposed by Mu'awiya, a relative of the murdered Uthman. In 661 Ali, too, was murdered and at this point arose the schism within Islam which has never been bridged to this day.

The successors of Ali drew together as a separate sect (the Shi'ites), while the supporters of Mu'awiya and his line of Umayyad caliphs regarded themselves and their Sunnite tradition as the true succession of the Prophet.

At some point in its development, a religion begins to diverge from the impulse from which it derives; a departure which appears to be in the nature of things. It is as though space itself were curved and an unfolding event must actualize in a sequence diverging from the straight line of its own noumenon. At this point a religion elaborates dogma and ritual; it becomes obsessed with the letter and not the spirit of its own inner nature. Its outward expression becomes formalized, rigid and autocratic. We have suggested that this is the point at which the kinetic component appears to separate and is thereafter seen as a newly-arisen heresy.

From the external viewpoint it seems fair to say that the social and political body of Islam was showing advanced entropy within thirty years.

The Umayyad Caliphate, deriving from Mu'awiya, retained temporal control and continued the external expansion of Islam.

Damascus was chosen as the capital, Arabic chosen as the language of Empire. Laws were made, a uniform coinage established and toleration extended to Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians.

As the eighth century opened, a second wave of conquest began in North Africa. The Moslem war machine drove west and finally occupied Morocco. There the Saracen general Tariq is said to have ridden his horse into the breakers, waved his sword aloft and declared "0 Allah, in thy name, if there be land beyond this sea, I shall conquer it, bearing witness to thy unity and omnipotence". There was land across the sea as it turned out: Spain, a land so torn by the chaos left by departing Romans and contending Visigoth rulers that it was ripe and ready for invasion.

In 711 Tariq crossed the Straits with an army. The word Gibraltar (Jebel-Tariq, Mount Tariq) marks the event. Within months he was in Córdoba and Moslem armies, Arab, Syrian and Berber, were pouring through Spain and mustering to cross the Pyrenees.

Legend has it that the Saracen captains looked down on the lush lands of France and called out "On, on, to the conquest of the world for Islam". One general is said to have had misgivings: "No. We shall remain in Spain. France is too green and my men would degenerate in that soft land." His misgivings - according to Moslem legend - gave Charles Martel time to gather his forces and the westward flood tide of Islam finally broke on the battlefield of Poitiers in 732.

So the Saracens settled for Spain. Visigoth landowners made terms with the invaders and the cities and monasteries followed suit. Settlement was facilitated by a number of widely contrasting factors. The serfs were still tied to a Roman slave system but could now obtain at least nominal freedom by embracing Islam. There was no lack of fervent converts.

The Jews regarded the occupation as a merciful deliverance from Christian persecution and welcomed the Saracens with open arms. They remained a powerful component of "Moorish Spain" for 700 years.

Yet another, almost a theoretical factor, helped. The Council of Nicaea had declared against Arius but the Arian heresy remained, for the Visigoths, orthodox Christianity. Not surprisingly, the Neo-Platonic ideas in Islam found an answering echo among Spanish Christians.

But there was little of a unified nature about the Moslem conquest of Spain. Within the occupying forces there was conflict and hatred. Arabs denigrated Syrians and both were contemptuous of the Berbers. The latter were so badly treated by their brothers in Islam that generation by generation they drifted back to their African homeland.

Dissension at Spanish colonial level was matched by dissension at the heart of Islam. The Umayyad rulers had Islamized Persia but the Persian aristocrats had contrived to retain positions of an executive nature, from which, it is said, they hoped to keep alive Zoroastrian ideas.

Finally, in protest against taxation, they rebelled and in 749 defeated the forces of the Caliph and proclaimed the first of a new line of caliphs, the Abbasid, choosing a descendant of Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed. The centre of government was then moved to Mesopotamia where the second caliph of the new line laid the foundations of Baghdad in 763. Here a stable Caliphate was to continue for nearly a century.

Concurrently Cordoba had crystallized as the centre of the Umayyad regime. It was to become a showpiece of Islamic rule. At its peak it contained 700 mosques, three public baths, a Palace with 400 rooms and a city library with 400,000 books.

At this stage it is difficult to resist the temptation to speculate, from a human standpoint, upon the experience of the Hidden Directorate. It must surely have been compounded of a mixture of alarm, disappointment and qualified satisfaction.

The Directorate had vested high hopes in Islam as the vehicle of a major evolutionary gain. It had seen much of the intrinsic promise destroyed by the intransigence of human nature. Yet two stable centres now existed, 3,000 miles apart, serving, at least in name, a spiritual reality.

If we think of Córdoba and Baghdad as magnetic poles we can see that the whole of Europe lay in the field which they subtended. Within this field much might yet be achieved. Within it, a required, a fore-ordered, rise in the specific gravity of human nature could still be contrived. Humanitarianism, science, art and a technique of man's individual as well as corporate evolution might be induced.

A wholly new basis of human life was called for, utterly beyond the wildest imagination of the men of AD 1000. Step by step, trend by trend, man and his institutions would be impelled or restrained along a predestined road. Over and over again man would step aside and be guided back; or would step off the road and be halted and impelled to retrace.

Institutions once regarded as fundamental verities of human experience would melt away. Monarchy would yield to the social management of man by himself. The concept of nation would change to the concept of continent, and from continent to the conception of the entire world as one.

Man would be offered a glimpse of an expanding universe and his mind, which measured in leagues, would strain to measure in light-years.

Within the millennium which lay ahead of the year 1,000, the specific gravity of human soul-stuff would be required to rise by an amount greater than had been achieved in all the eras that had gone before.

Within the force-field that was moulding him, man would understand little and co-operate hardly at all. From the viewpoint of his own present moment in any of the unfolding centuries, he would see only change without pattern; quixotic ebb and flow; disruption, chaos, order restored and chaos once again. Sacred standards would be cast down and strange, seemingly arbitrary, new standards created.

From the present moment of a lifetime of seventy years, all would seem the whim of chance and accident, all without purpose or meaning.

Yet from the present moment of Intelligence able to contain the whole history of mankind as a single perception, all would be true end-gaining, deliberate, law-conforming and almost but never quite - inevitable.

If not quite inevitable then certainly necessary; for a great event lay ahead in man's temporal future. It existed already in eternity and was required to be actualized in time.

The event is a mutation in man's evolutionary nature involving a new modality of experience, a new organ of perception. Though latent, perhaps, since man emerged from his primate ancestry, it is an organ of experience that has only intermittently been active in certain exceptional individuals. Man is due to inherit it one day as part of his total experience.

For this event man had to be prepared. Certain promising races of pre-men were inexplicably extinguished and it has been conjectured that this happened because they were unable to come to terms with intellect - for them an incomprehensible and unmanageable experience.

By analogy, a function giving access to a four-dimensional world might be equally disastrous to intellect-based Modern Man. A certain minimum standard of soul, a certain minimum psychic specific gravity is necessary before such a radical new modality may be risked.

Preparation for this - in our view - was begun as a deliberate operation of Higher Intelligence 1,000 years ago.

The first steps involved a certain social tolerance a certain expansion of intellect, a certain instinctive humanitarianism. These had to be established before the first tentative switching on of the new organ could be regarded as viable.

How mankind was prepared within the ferment of the last thousand years, we shall hope to glimpse in succeeding chapters.

Once we have the key we shall see that the ebb and flow of history itself illustrates the goals that were required to be gamed. Here and there it may be possible to see the agents of the process at work - the Secret People serving, perhaps members of, the Hidden Directorate.

But for the most part, their presence, like their purpose, will be obscured from the view of the men and women among whom they walked.

Chapter 3 - The Inner Alliance: Rome, Christianity and Islam

Before we look at the impulses which radiated from three points in the Moslem world and led to the awakening of Europe, it will be useful to look briefly at the state of European knowledge as the Moslem conquest was developing.

The Roman Empire in the West had officially come to an end in 476 when Romulus Augustulus was deposed, but for a century before this, Rome had been a capital in name only. Shortly before the Council of Nicaea in 325, Constantine had moved his seat to the Greek city of Byzantium, taking many of the treasures of Rome with him. Even at that time Rome was only a shadow of its former glory: Athens already housed the chief schools of philosophy, Beirut the schools of law. Science was studied in Egypt and Syria, Alexandria had the great library.

Though the official language of the Empire was Latin, the cultural language was Greek and it was Greek, not Latin, that became the official language of the new Byzantine Empire. Thus knowledge resided in Greek, a language which almost nobody in Western Europe could speak. Only the monks preserved Greek and only the monasteries had, therefore, the key to pre-Christian learning.

But the monasteries were almost invariably sited in inaccessible spots remote from the battlefields and remote, therefore, from contacts which might have served to inject a revival of learning into the stream of ordinary life. Helping further to keep Europe at the level of warring tribes was the Church's deep suspicion about almost everything that derived from the pre-Christian past.

There seems to have been one exception to this - the Celtic Church. The spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire had thrown a few isolated Christians among the Druidic Celts of Ireland and it was to extend this nucleus that the Church sent Palladius to Ireland in 431. Though he built several churches, his mission largely failed and the conversion of Ireland had to wait for St. Patrick.

Patrick was a Romano-Briton who had been sold into slavery in Ireland. He escaped to Gaul, crossed the Channel to England and returned home. Later, as he rose in the church hierarchy, his knowledge of Ireland and the Irish language made him an obvious choice for a missionary effort to succeed Palladius.

Patrick was well received, and Celtic Christianity was probably born at the meeting between Patrick and King Logaire at Tara. The Irish reacted to the impulse of Christianity as no other nation did. They reverenced religion but they loved life. They also respected learning, They already possessed a wisdom tradition from their own Eastern ancestry and it had been carefully preserved in their initiate system. Their ollamhs, or bards, were also healers, whose methods and training are astonishingly paralleled by Sufic methods in use at the present time.[1]

When the Irish accepted Christianity they did so on their own terms - which was to deny any conflict between the love of learning and the love of God. They must, one feels, have been a sore trial to Patrick.

In the work of Rodney Collin we saw that a new cell may be born into the body of human history by the action of a conscious man - or men - on a carefully selected site. We also saw that a cell of history in decline may be reborn from a "shock" administered from outside the line of its own actualization. In the conversion of the Irish we may suspect the rebirth of Celtic culture by a "shock" from Christianity.

Once again there was a period of incubation, then an explosive expansion ... By the 6th century, Irish learning was famous and scholars were being drawn to Ireland from the fringes of Europe. Mostly they came by the old trade route from the Loire to Cork, but some came through Britain and across the Irish Sea to Bangor. Some indication of the extent of the traffic may be gathered from the fact that in 550, an entire ship was chartered to bring scholars from Gaul to Cork.

[1] Robert Graves, in his introduction to The Sufis, by Idries Shah, W. H. Allen, London, 1964.

Officially, Celtic Christianity had no independent existence, but its spirit and its methods were wholly different from those of Rome. It saw no reason to reject a heritage from the past, whereas Rome could find little good to say of anything that preceded Jesus.

The Irish Church preserved pagan literature because it valued knowledge. It read pagan poetry side by side with the Christian Gospels. When it copied the Gospels, its monks were inspired by more than devotion and skill or even love of the message they were transcribing. In the Book of Kells, from a monastery in Ireland, and in the Lindisfarne Gospels, from a monastery off the Northumbrian coast, there seems to be illumination at more than manuscript level. The work suggests inner illumination - both light and joy.

The Celtic Church acted as a magnet to minds that sensed something defective in the official presentation of Christianity and the magnet caused a two-way flux from Europe to Ireland and from Ireland back to Europe.

With St. Columba (521-597) and his pupil Columbanus, the missionary stream outwards began. Columba established Iona in the Western Isles of Scotland as a place whose energies are so palpable even today that they impress Roman Catholics, atheists and drop-outs alike with a sense of the sublime. Columbanus founded more than one hundred monasteries on the continent of Europe, an immense achievement which, for some reason, seems little noticed by either Rome or secular history.

His foundations included Luxeuil, Bobbio, St. Gall, St. Bertin, Kumieges, St. Riquier and Remiremont - monasteries that reflected piety and wisdom in combination.

Rome can hardly have been unaware of events - and the possible danger of a spread of learning not altogether under its control. Perhaps in the mission of Augustine to Britain in 597 there may have been a secondary briefing.

When he met Celtic church leaders from Wales, Augustine invited them to co-operate in converting the Anglo-Saxons under the auspices of Rome. The Celts refused, and the conflict of essential natures which manifested openly at this time was never resolved.

It may be that from its own initiate tradition, the Celtic Church knew the significance of certain dates and held them as a matter of conscience and not of convenience. Rome insisted on her version and at the Synod of Whitby in 664 imposed Roman orthodoxy on the Celtic Church. The independence of the Celtic Church, and perhaps the contribution it might have made to a future wholly different from the one we know, was terminated.

A glimpse of the Celtic Church's activity - and perhaps its methods - a century later, may be gleaned from the writing of a monk of St. Gall. He tells how two graduates of the Irish schools accompanied merchants on a trading mission to France.

Mingling with the merchants at a fair, they stood calling their wares like other traders. But what they called out was "We have wisdom to sell." "For," says the monk of St. Gall, "they knew that if men get anything for nothing they think little of it." The incident came to the ears of Charlemagne, who sought out the merchant monks and asked them the price of their wisdom. "Proper places and noble souls and such things as we cannot travel without, food and wherewith to be clothed", they told him. Charlemagne installed them at his own court where a school was presently established in which "rich and poor sat together".

Rodney Collin, tracing the sequence of cultures, describes the fate of the Celtic Church in a single sentence. It was murdered. It did not, however, die at once. That a true developmental influence lingered on within it for another two centuries may be deduced from the fact that Sufic-Celtic traces are discernible in the 9th century.

A well-known Celtic cross of the period, now in the British Museum, incorporates the Arabic formula Bismillah er Rahman, er Rahim, suggesting that the Celts were once again in touch with an influence from a genuine psychokinetic source.[2]

We suggest that because they had retained a knowledge of genuine psychokinetic technique from their Druidic inheritance, the Celts came close to reintroducing the missing wisdom component into Christianity. The effort failed, and a second attempt had to wait for other centuries and other sites the events which followed the expansion of the Moslem Empires.

[2] T. W. Arnold and A. Guillaume, Eds., The Legacy of Islam, O.U.P., London, 1968, p. 114.

We shall now make two suggestions, different in their degree of plausibility. The first is that Initiates of high degree accompanied the Saracen armies into Spain. The second is that a large proportion of the world of today derives - largely unsuspected - from the activities of these schools of Initiates which began to operate from Cordoba and Toledo in the early years of the ninth century.

These schools were supported by immense efforts both of human industry and of spiritual force channelled into Spain from the East.

The Moslem conquests had overrun in part or in whole, the cultural areas of Byzantium, Persia, Greece and Egypt and almost at once Arab scholars, and their collaborators proceeded to collate, analyse and reissue the corpus of human knowledge which derived from all these sources. From an esoteric standpoint, "the beads of Mercury had been reunited". It was an immense task, and one to which Western scholarship has given scant credit, except in highly specialized works.

Helped by Nestorian Christians in Syria, the work began with the translation of ancient texts. Simultaneously, with these texts as a basis, Arab pragmatism gave rise to new and significant syntheses.

One of the earliest of the great "Arab" scholars was Al Razi (865-925), a man who has been rated by modern German scholars as being comparable in intellect to Galileo. Like the other medical authors of the time, he was Arab in language, Persian in origin.

Razi had a greater degree off freedom from prior assumption than orthodox Moslems, and this was echoed in his work. His medical insights were great and his mind versatile. He studied the symptoms of measles and smallpox and interspersed treatises on gynaecology and ophthalmology with books on the theory of music. He founded a hospital and in his investigation of alchemy, provided, at exoteric level, the basis of much modern chemistry. Some of his medical works were required reading in European universtities as late as the 17th Century.[3] His portrait adorns the great hall of the School of Medicine at the University of Paris.

[3] E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy, Penguin, London, 1957.

A little later, Avicenna (a Persian whose family came from Balkh) wrote a hundred books, one of them over one million words long. He classified 760 drugs, including opium and cannabis. He produced treatises on heat, energy and gravity and suggested, a thousand years before his time, the limiting velocity of light.

Razi and Avicenna - both Persians - are only two of an enormous number of Arab scholars who provided the raw material required for the coming injection of intellect into Europe, yet many of them are virtually unknown to the European science and philosophy which they sired. Some of their work remains untranslated to this day.

Yet these scholars of the East represented only the external corpus, almost the manual workers, of the operation, which was directed from an altogether different level.

That Arabic influence was leaping into Europe by the early 800s is shown by the remarks of one Paulus Albarus of Cordoba. He is on record as complaining that among his fellow Christian churchmen few of them knew their own tongue, i.e., Latin, well enough to write so much as a letter of greeting to a brother, but that "herds of them could learnedly expound the Arab pomps of language".[4]

It is difficult enough to follow the ordinary, external shifts and trends of history. To trace in detail impulses which, by their very nature, are invisible at the time of their origin and which may only be suspected from their effects, is altogether impossible.

All we can hope to do, in respect of the secret aspects of the events which entered Europe at this time, is to try to note certain key individuals and certain key events, more or less at random, and then see whether a common thread can be found connecting them.

We shall hope to show that a common thread does connect the whole history of Europe and that the threads lead back to Spain on the one hand and to the Middle East on the other. For a brief period, a third thread runs south and east to Sicily.

[4] Helen Waddell in The Wandering Scholars, Constable, London, 1927. She notes that the later fashion for Arab poetry emanating from the Sicilian school of Frederic II was thus anticipated by 400 years.

As Cordoba became stabilized as a showpiece of colonial Islam, several schools of Initiates formed within it, using the external form of Islam as their "cover". Some such camouflage - as necessary, for the work they had to do was as incomprehensible to the zealots of Islam as it was to what was now accepted Christianity. Such agents of the Great Work as became partly visible were viewed with equal incomprehension - and hostility - by both. As the price of even relative freedom to work, the Sufic Initiates generally conformed to the letter of Mohammedan orthodoxy. Occasionally, however, the work they had to do could be done only by crossing into open defiance of official dogma. For this reason there were Sufi martyrs to Islam, as later there were Western martyrs to the Inquisition.

One such was Mansur el Hallaj (858-922) who emphasized the importance of Jesus as a member of the chain of Initiates. He spoke the Sufi secret ("I am the truth"), and for his heresy against orthodoxy he was dismembered alive by the Moslem Inquisition (Caliphate of el Muqtadir). As he died, he prayed for mercy for his murderers.

It would seem that the very first aim of the Iberian Operation was the injection of an intellectual component into the soul-stuff of Europe - an action which is reverberating in waves of increasing amplitude to this day.

The second was the injection of a modality for which there is no generic term in English at all. "Secular religion" might be the closest suggestive description.

The twin vehicles of this were what would now be called "Freemasonry" and "Illuminism" - impulses which at their seventh harmonic were to encompass the French Revolution.

The third aim was to introduce a new and subtler shade to the concept of love

The fourth was to provide a psychokinetic technique whereby certain individuals, working perhaps in pairs, could increase their level of conscious energy.

The fifth was an action to obtain an immediate development in respect of a few exceptional individuals who would serve as transmitters.

To increase intellectual and philosophical speculation the chief instrument was probably mathematics. Another was the open publication of the Cabbala.

"Illuminism" was injected into the European consciousness from the school of Ibn Masarra (883-931) in Cordoba, traced by Professor Asín.[5] From the experiences to which Masarra pupils were given access they were able to glimpse the heights to which human consciousness could aspire. Ripples from this school were to coalesce in the allegories of Dante, the work of the Augustinian scholastics, the theology of Duns Scotus, the science of Roger Bacon and the reluctant ecclesiastic recognition of the Blessed Raymond Lully.

The love theme, which was to soften and enhance the harshness of European life for centuries to come, was introduced through the Troubadour movement. Though the primary intention here was probably to restore a defective feminine element which had been lost in Pauline Christianity, it produced the curious tangential effect of creating the Cult of the Virgin Mary which today is usually assumed to be Christian from its beginnings. But memories are short; the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception, for instance, was only proclaimed an article of faith (by Pope Pius IX) in 1854.

To provide a technique which would enable individual men who were ordinary (or almost so) to work towards achieving a decisive rise in the level of their own conscious energy, Alchemy was given out.

And to provide quickly men able to serve as transmitters, a few exceptional individuals were developed rapidly in the Cordoba and Toledo schools and sent out into the social, political and religious streams of Europe.

One undoubted example of the latter category was Gerbert d'Aurillac, born in Auvergne in 940. Gerbert was a forceful character in his early days, if there is anything veridical at all in the account given of him by William of Malmesbury in the Gesta Regum Angelorum. According to William, Gerbert was a fugitive monk of Fleury, by whom the ordinary arts, arithmetic, music and astronomy were lapped up as inferior to his genius.

[5] Miguel Asín Palacios, The Mystical Philosophy of Ibn Mdsarra and his Followers (translation of Abenmasarra y su escuela: Origines de la filosofia hispanomusulmana: Madrid, 1914), tr. by E. H. Douglas and H. W. Yoder, Leiden, 1978.

He fled to Spain, stole a codex "conscious of the whole art" from under his master's pillow (with help, apparently, from the master's daughter), fled and was pursued. The direction of his flight, according to William, was "betrayed by the stars", so Gerbert hung himself under a bridge between earth, air and water, thus putting the stars out of their reckoning.

Gerbert then invoked the Devil and was assisted by him across the Bay of Biscay. He returned to France and became scholasticus of Rheims, where Otto, the future Emperor of Germany, Robert Capet, soon to be king of France, and Fulbert, the future Bishop of Chartres were his pupils.

Gerbert constructed a water organ and a clock as well as a brazen head which solved mathematical problems for him. Otto made him Bishop of Ravenna and afterwards Pope. "So did he urge his fortunes, the Devil aiding him, that nothing which ever he planned was left imperfect."

What does seem to be known about Gerbert, outside William of Malmesbury's imagination, is that he secretly withdrew from his monastery of Fleury in Burgundy and spent some years in a Sufi School at Cordoba or Toledo. He emerged speaking Arabic and in some way transformed. If there is any doubt about the source from which Gerbert received his teaching, the following story would seem to give a very clear pointer.

According to William again, the treasure of the Caesars lay buried in the Campus Martius beneath a statue with an outstretched arm that said Percute hic ("strike here"). Many men struck the arm and went away disbelieving. Gerbert, however, watched and noted where the shadow of the outstretched finger fell at noon. He marked tile place and came back at night alone with his chamberlain and a lantern and pick. Where he struck, the earth opened and they went down into a great hall where a king and queen of gold sat feasting with golden servitors. Light streamed from an enormous gem in the roof of the cavern and in a corner Gerbert saw a boy with a bow and arrow ready to shoot. Gerbert forbore to touch anything, but his chamberlain, overcome with greed, picked up a golden knife. In an instant the golden boy shot his arrow, broke the gem and destroyed the light. With masonry toppling all round them, Gerbert seized the knife from the chamberlain, threw it back into the cavern and the pair made their escape.

Apart from some elaboration about the nature of the treasures, this story related about Gerbert is familiar from another source. In its simpler version it says, briefly: "For centuries an ancient Egyptian statue which was reputed to indicate the position of a hidden treasure baffled all attempts to find it. It was the figure of a man with one hand and finger outstretched.

"All seekers, except one, tried to find the hoard in the direction in which the finger pointed. The one dug at the spot where the shadow of the finger rested at mid-day. He found the treasure." [6]

Where does this story come from? It is traditionally attributed to Abulfaiz Dhu'l Nun, who died in 860. And who was Dhu'l Nun? He was a Sufi teacher, third in succession after David of Tai (died 781) and Maaruf Karkhi (died 815) of the Sufi school of The Builders. In modern Freemasonry, the celebrated masonic word Boaz is said to be Al Buazz, a corruption of Dhu'l Nun's first name Abulfaiz.[7]

The Sufic origin of Gerbert's course of instruction could hardly be more clearly indicated. The Sufic origin of Freemasonry is also strongly suggested.

Every legend about Gerbert has one idea in common: He was not an ordinary man. The invention of machines of one kind or another is in line with the exceptional mechanical talents of the Weltmensch from Pythagoras to Leonardo. But the legend of the brass head which could answer questions is another matter altogether. Perhaps because one French church history took William of Malmesbury too literally, this head of brass has been taken as an actual mechanical contrivance, and it has been seized upon by modern computer engineers in search of their own ancestors.

More than one modern cybernetic expert has suggested that Gerbert (or Sylvester II as he became when elected Pope) invented the world's first binary computer.

[6] New Research on Current Philosophical Systems, Octagon Press, London, 1968.

[7] Idries Shah, The Sufis, W. H. Allen, London, 1964.

In Computers and Automation, 1954, [8] the following appears: "We must suppose that he (Sylvester) possessed an extraordinary knowledge and the most remarkable skill and inventiveness. This speaking head must have been fashioned under a certain conjunction of stars occurring at the exact moment when all the planets were starting on their course …"

In fact Sylvester is by no means the only medieval figure to have had this kind of binary computer. Robert of Lincoln (Robert Grossteste) had one. So had Albertus Magnus. Albert took thirty years to make his.

In Valentine and Orson, an old French romance connected with the Alexander cycle, there is another legend of a brazen head. This one told all who consulted it everything they sought to know. It was kept in a castle in Portugal and was the property of a giant named Terragno. "Giant" is one of these key words like "brass", "gold", and "light", which we shall find cropping up over and over again. Like the other words, "giant" may have a meaning vastly different from its apparent one.

The Templars also were supposed to have a head which was all-wise and in consequence they, like Gerbert-Sylvester, were linked with the Devil.

In modern times, C. S. Lewis has contributed a story of remarkable power in which the "head" idea is the central theme. Here, however, the head is probably at its lowest level of understanding in all literature. It is the severed head of a criminal which has been revitalised so that it makes contact with extraterrestrial evil, symbolised as "macrobes" - roughly equivalent to the ultimate evil which endlessly obsessed H. P. Lovecraft.

Looked at from a slightly less material level, the gradations of heads in esoteric legend (they are of different metals) are strangely similar to the gradations through which the Philosopher's Stone is purified in alchemy. There may also be similarity with the gradations of colour in a Red Indian chiefs head-dress.

Could it be that. Sylvester's "head of brass" refers to a non-material "head" that Sylvester had made by his own efforts? This head was able to answer infallibly because the substance of which it was made was coextensive with an energy level containing the answers to all questions which can arise in time.

[8] Quoted in Dawn of Magic, by Pauwels and Bergier, Gibbs and Phillips, London, 1963.

There might be support for such an idea in very recent times. The Indonesian mystic Pak Subuh has more than once referred to the fact that at a certain level of development a man need not store knowledge at all - in the ordinary intellectual sense. He implies that it is possible to have access to a level at which answer and question exist together as a one-to-one correspondence. Here there is a clear link with the binary computer idea which has so fascinated cybernetic historians looking for their own origins in an early but exceptionally talented Pope.

It is certainly not without relevance that the methodology of Subud (the cult which regards Pak Subuh as its leader) has been identified with a Sufic (Nakshbandi) origin.

Of possible further relevance is the statement of a modern Sufi master, Ahmad Mustafa Sarmouni, to a Western investigator. "Faced with two possibilities you spend time and effort to decide which to accept. You review the whole spectrum of political, emotional, social, physical, psychological and physiological conditioning before coming up with the answer, which more often than not, does not satisfy you even then. Do you know, can you comprehend, what freedom it gives you if you have no choice? The choice that you make, your decision, is based upon such positive knowledge that the second alternative may as well not exist."

We suggest that the brazen head of Sylvester, like all the other heads that have worried people from the early Middle Ages till the present time, was a head of a symbolic kind, the nature of which has been suggested in the foregoing paragraphs.

Yet if Gerbert did possess some higher faculty it does not seem that he fulfilled his potential. With his rise to the Papacy a very great possibility surely existed: that the Directorate would be able to work within the Christian Church from the top down to restore the elements which had been lost - or discarded - in the involution of the first millennium.

It may be that Gerbert failed some high hope that had been vested in him. Certainly it would seem that after him, the Directorate had to begin a long process of infiltrating developmental trends into the Church from the bottom up instead of from the Papal throne down.

Let us suppose for a moment that the "head of brass" symbolizes the regeneration of man to a certain level.[9] Suppose that it means regeneration in terms of will at the level of the individual (and therefore impure) Self. Above this there would be another level, based on supra-Self, for which a "head of gold" might be the symbol.

Perhaps the process of opening a man to consciousness is one of the most perilous that can occur in nature. A very deep insight in this direction has been offered by a writer of the 19th Century [10]

  • quote small leftIf you seek a finite end first, i.e., before you seek the universal, the Kingdom of God, which you are ordered to do, you have to give up (the finite ends) at every stage … All sorts of gifts are offered.
  •      You may stop in any of them, but if you do, you commit idolatry … If the human will creates itself into an entity, there is the second death: a miserable existence is created and made permanent. We were made mortal in order to save us from that … If the immortality is made in the self-will it is contrary to the universal will and the result is a wrathful biting life.quote small right

An almost identical insight is conveyed in the system of the First, Second and Third Degree Hasnamuss Individuals described by G. I. Gurdjieff.[11]

If Gerbert did not submit his Head of Brass to the alchemical process which transforms it to the Head of Gold, but used the level he had obtained for the gratification of his self-will, then he betrayed the Directorate - and, incidentally, condemned himself to an infra-immortality which is the substance of every legend of Hell. Such a situation, if sensed by Gerbert's contemporaries, would be described in the only symbolism available at the time: he had sold his soul to the Devil.

[9] In Arabic nahas, brass, also means "unlucky, ill-omened". This is the word used in Saracen tradition for the alleged brazen heads, indicating the perils of developing will without knowledge and love.

[10] Maria Attwood in The Suggestive Inquiry, Trelawny Saunders, London, 1850.

[11] G. I. Gurdjieff, All and Everything, Routledge, London, 1950.

It may be significant that the school which derived from Sylvester produced Benedict IX, noted for his profligacy, Laurence Archbishop of Malfi, John XX and Gregory IV, all reputed to be sorcerers.

In none of these men does it seem possible to catch even a glimpse of the spiritual radiance which surrounds the smallest action of the Sufi masters and it may be that in general the Directorate has not been justified of her European children.

At the same time, it is wholly wrong to attempt to evaluate such matters from their externals.

It may be that certain of the later adeptus transformations can be achieved only against the friction set up by the deliberate creation of an environment of opprobrium and abuse. It is interesting in this connection to note that Gerbert was connected with the school of Dhu'l Nun. Dhu'l Nun was the founder of the order of the Malamati, which is also known as the order of the blameworthy. Incurring blame and opprobrium can be required of a man as part of a developmental process.

The smallest activity of the Directorate can be likened to an iceberg: only one-ninth - perhaps one ninety-ninth - is ever visible. All the rest is unseen and, over many centuries of history, quite unsuspected.

Chapter 4 - The Vehicles: Jewish Cabbala, Tarot, Nostradamus

Much that took place unnoticed in the 10th century became visible in the 11th, and has probably recurred ever since in harmonics through the centuries to the present time.

Perhaps events which first take place in association with conscious energies are compressed like a micro-dot. Projected into time, the image covers larger and larger areas with less and less definition. One occult tradition believes that all the violence in 2,000 years of Christianity is the working out of a single act - the wounding of Malchus by Simon Peter - which abrogated the conscious script of the drama. Attempts have been made to show that the "harmonics" of this can be predicted when plotted on certain esoteric symbols.

In something of the same way, the prophecies of Michel de Nostradame up to the year 7000 are said to be necessarily non-specific because they have to serve for recurring cycles of events which, though generically identical, take the colour and the form of the various environments in which they will be actualized. In other words, if one turn of the spiral is covered, all are covered, given that the same events take different forms in different ages.

Whether or not this analogy breaks down if pushed too far, it does seem possible to detect later harmonics of the events which took place in Spain in the 10th century.

One such event was an attempt to classify in a coherent form all existing knowledge of the time. A select group in Basra, who were either Sufis or scholars working directly under a Sufi master, was charged in the early 900s with bringing all existing knowledge into one coherent system.

The group, known as Ikhwan El Safa (the Faithful Brethren), or the Brethren of Sincerity), completed the "encyclopaedia" in 980 with the last of 52 treatises.

Perhaps a first harmonic of this impulse can be seen in the 1250s with the Novum Organum of Roger Bacon; again in the mid-18th century in the work of the French encyclopaedists; and again today when science is making repeated and ever more despairing efforts to bring the whole of human knowledge into one unified system.

The Cabbala was introduced into Europe around the year 1000 and has probably been behind recurring events of a certain kind, century after century.

The last was as recent as the beginning of the First World War when Cabbalistic societies like Ordo Templi Orientis, Licht Liebe Leben and their English counterpart, The Golden Dawn, exercised an important though wholly masked effect on literature, science and politics. The privately printed Vision [1] of W.B. Yeats leaves little doubt that the Cabbala was still a practical instrument for trembling the veil well into the age of the aeroplane.

Another example of the stone in the pool of ether which sends ripples through time may be the Troubadours of the 12th century. Their relationship to the hippies of the 20th is obvious. Both are involved in a wandering existence. Both strum their stringed instruments. Both sing a strange version of the love theme. Both are associated with some strange hint of non-sensory experience. And both are at odds with the orthodoxy of the day.

The Encyclopaedia of the Brethren of Sincerity was brought to Spain from Basra in the first half of the 11th century either by a Sufi known as The Madridian (El Majriti), whose specialty was astronomy, or by his pupil El Karmani.

[1] A Vision: an explanation of life founded on the writings of Giraldus and on certain doctrines attributed to Kusta ben Luka, Wm. Butler Yeats, T. Werner Laurie, London, 1925.

Although, from its origins, the encyclopaedia material was certainly concerned with the inner development of man, the initial concern of those who commissioned it and arranged the work was probably to provide raw material on which natural science could develop in Europe.

In the next century, El Majriti's work based on the Encyclopaedia material was translated into Latin by Adelard of Bath, regarded as Europe's first Arabist and precursor of Roger Bacon.

Adelard was one of a number of native Europeans of exceptional quality who performed the second stage of injecting learning into the West. This group, known as the Translators, may be seen as a second stage of the original School. At this second degree, the members probably know a great deal. They may know the nature of the original operation in the Great Work, and feel an overwhelming sense of duty and devotion to carry it on.

Probably they do not know the secrets of the original group and the practical work of inner development may now be shading into the theoretical. This increasing "mechanicalness" is probably inevitable in the nature of time and it may even be used by the conscious men of the original School as an instrument which ensures inevitable - though increasingly dilute - transmission.

Such transmission is probably subject to an inverse law and at the tenth or hundredth harmonic may manifest simply as a blind urgency to propagate without reference to purpose at all. Something of this sort may obtain in the door-to-door canvassers of Christianity at the present time.

The Translators formed round the person of Raymond I (died 1151) in association with the Christian Jew Dominico Gundesalvo, Archdeacon of Segovia.

It is interesting that although Spain was being reconquered from the Moslems and Toledo had been retaken in 1085, the atmosphere of art, learning and religion associated with the Moslem occupation was so intense that work like that of the Translators' School could continue in spite of a total inversion of the religious and political externals. Arabs, Jews and Christians could apparently live and work side by side.

At the Translators' School the whole Aristotelian corpus was translated from Arabic into Latin, followed by translations of the Islamic and Jewish philosophers El Kindi, El Farabi, El Battani, Avicenna, Ben Gabirol and El Ghazali. Farabi is the "Neo-Platonist" whose Treatise on Music contains the germ of the idea of logarithms.

Outstanding at the Translators' School was Adelard of Bath (died 1142). He had studied at Tours and Laon and had then been drawn in a circuitous route, which is a familiar pattern in such affairs, to Sicily, Syria and Palestine. In Spain he rendered into Latin the work of El Majriti and the astronomical tables of Khwarizimi of Central Asia which included values for trigonometrical sines and tangents.

It is salutary to realize that the bases of Space Age rocket trajectories was being laid in Toledo eight hundred years ago by men whose names are barely known to the scientists of today.

Adelard gave a mathematical proof that total vacuum was impossible. He published a "dialogue" of 76 chapters, each treating of one aspect of the natural sciences and he was probably responsible for a large number of scientific papers under the pseudonym of Magister A.

The fact that learning was becoming available in Europe's common second language drew more and more scholars to Toledo and Cordoba. They came to learn, to assist and to disseminate.

The English contingent, apart from Adelard, included Robert of Chester, credited with releasing alchemy into Europe in 1144, and David Morley, who described his journey as "going to the wiser masters of the world".

Although ignored or ridiculed by materialist science today, the importance of alchemy is probably very great, not only in its external - and perhaps almost accidental - effect of siring experimental chemistry, but in another aspect as a reservoir of spiritual force wholly unsuspected in external judgement.

From Italy, Plato of Tivoli, John Brassica and Gerard of Cremona came to Toledo, studied and either stayed to help or went home with learning to distribute.

Gerard, who came to seek Ptolemy's Almagest, first translated by Al-Hajjaj in 829-30, never returned home. He died in Toledo in 1187, having made 71 major translations.

Others who made the pilgrimage and contributed to the scatter of learning were Henry Bate, Rudolph of Bruges and Hermann of Carinthia, who took Arab astronomy to the Balkans.

Other notables included emissaries from the School of Chartres and Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, who commissioned a translation of the Koran from Robert Ketton.

Arab medicine was studied at Salerno, which had been a medical school since the tenth century, when Constantine the African had translated Greek and Arab texts. It was founded under the Saracens by "four Masters, a Latin, a Greek, a Jew and a Saracen". [2]

Montpelier in the south of France was another centre where East was meeting West. Like Toledo it had a mixed population of Arabs, Jews and Christians. Here, as at Salerno, medicine was the chief speciality.

[2] P. Hitti, History of the Arabs, Macmillan, London, 1949, p.579.

About the year 1000 the Cabbala became available in the West. There is no occult school, no mystic, no magician who has not been influenced by the Cabbala. It is the backdrop to every secret tradition in Europe. Its theory has influenced Western philosophy and its practice has been responsible for a whole range of mysterious people who flit in and out of history and folklore, all defying classification, but all causing a strange disturbing echo in the European subconscious.

It is almost assumed today that the Cabbala is uniquely Jewish, the secret signature of the Jewish race. Though, as a partly written, partly oral, transmission it is likely to be distorted, it is regarded as an altogether exceptional survival from the past and the essential expression of the Jewish spirit.

It is believed that the Jews obtained it from some secret source which had preserved objective knowledge and that the survival of the Jews, their influence on the world and the extent to which they are supposed to be "different" all derive from their mysterious inheritance of the Cabbala.

Modern Cabbalistic legend asserts that Abraham acquired a corpus of mysticism and magic from Chaldea. When he arrived in Egypt he found that a similar but separate corpus already existed there, this deriving from the Egyptian archetype Hermes. Abraham's arrival in Egypt meant the reuniting of two separate elements in an originally integral system of mysticism and magic.

Moses is held to have been an Initiate of an Egyptian school which combined both traditions, and the first man to take the combined corpus into the world.

Later, Moses committed to writing the relatively open and exoteric part of the combined lore. This is the Pentateuch, Genesis being the most arcane of the five "open" books.

The truly secret part, concerned with the nature of the universe and the practical techniques of individual evolution, remained a wholly oral tradition confined to seventy elders. Perhaps because this part includes material on the ultimate nature of matter and energy, security had to be absolute, and the elders who were admitted to the knowledge were bound by the most terrible oaths.

When Jewry was subjected to further dispersion and the cohesion of the people in a simply physical sense became increasingly difficult, the elders were faced with a grave dilemma.

They realized that the body of real knowledge of which they were the custodians was in danger of being lost; the dilution and dispersal of the people preventing continued transmission in any ordered fashion.

Yet to commit to writing such dangerous secrets as were contained in the combined inheritance from Chaldea and Egypt was unthinkable.

This fear of objective knowledge "leaking" is reflected also in some texts of Chinese alchemy, where phrases occur like "Guard that there is not even a fly upon the wall while you work. For woe unto the world should the military learn the secrets of the Art."

In general, success in preserving actual techniques of ancient wisdom from the profane appears to be extraordinarily high. Apart from a modern Rosicrucian legend that the supra-mental force, which Bulwer Lytton called Vril, was used at the siege of Breda in the 17th century, post-classical history seems free of hints that ultimate secrets have been misapplied on any significant scale. The worst fears in this direction have already been realized. The "military" have now obtained a high order of control over the forces of nature by the back door. Nuclear energy has been obtained by pragmatic science without the agency of even a fly on an alchemist's wall.

Incidentally, it is believed in some quarters that the last surviving initiate of the old Chinese order of transmission made the decision to entrust part of his knowledge to Richard Wilhelm. Jungian psychology is said to have diverted from sterile Freudianism as the result of Wilhelm's transmission to Jung. Significant passages occur in Jung's work which refer to a Chinese component in his system.

It might not be too fanciful to see Wilhelm as a "harmonic" of Abraham. The Chaldean cell is in decline and an attempt is made to fertilize a new cell far away by passing on an infinitely compressed micro-dot of objective knowledge to a suitable individual (Abraham).

The Chinese cell is dying and a similar operation is attempted. In circumstances of extreme difficulty and stress Lao Nai Hsuan opens Wilhelm's mind to the I Ching.

If some version of Jungian psychology were ever by a twist of fate to become the religion of some Post-Admass culture it would perhaps contain the legend of how St. Wilhelm brought the Id-Child out of the East, confounding the Philistine Freuds on the way.

At any rate, according to modern Cabbalistic legend, the Jewish elders very reluctantly decided to commit their most treasured inheritance to writing, but to do so in such a way as to ensure, as far as humanly possible, that it would remain unintelligible to the profane. Even this was done in three degrees of secrecy which have come down to the present time as the Sepher Yetzirah, the Sepher ha Zohar and the Clavicles of Solomon.

And what are these Clavicles of Solomon? According to the French Cabbalist Enel,[3] the Clavicles of Solomon are to be identified with the trumps of the Tarot pack. He says, "Count the Gebelin has found in the 22 major arcana, the symbolism of the Egyptian mysteries and he attributes their composition to Hermes. Certainly on the monuments of ancient Egypt it is possible to find depicted in hieroglyphs, most of the plates of the major arcane, which justifies the opinion of Gebelin."

[3] Trilogie de la Rota by "Enel", Cabasson, Toulon, 1931.

Elsewhere Enel says, "The occult sense of the Cabbala is expressed in the keys or clavicles of Solomon, also called the Keys of the Tarot. Tarot or Rota is an ancient Egyptian word which refers to the celestial wheels which constitute the mechanism of nature. These rotas correspond to the Ophanim of the ancient Hebrews and the Cherubim of the Christians."

From this it would appear that the Clavicles of Solomon, the most secret section of Cabbalistic lore, would have to wait for their appearance till the publication of the Tarot. The Cabbala was being studied in Europe, however, from the 11th century and the Tarot is historically dated as having entered Spain and Italy in 1379.[4]

If the Clavicles and the Tarot had a common ancestry independent of both, there is no difficulty, and we shall see presently that this is probably the case. In passing, it might be noted that the word Tarot is no more likely to have been derived from the word Rota (which does not exist in Egyptian dictionaries) than from the Arabic turuq which means "ways" and has a very definite affinity with the use of the Tarot pack.

Such concepts do not strike the Western scientific mind felicitously. What is the Cabbala in understandable modern terms?

Some of its aspects and attributes have been defined by Crowley:[5]

  • quote small leftAn instrument for interpreting symbols whose meaning has become obscure, forgotten or misunderstood, by establishing a necessary connection between the essence of forms, sounds, simple ideas (such as numbers), and their spiritual, moral or intellectual equivalents…
  •      An instrument for proceeding from the known to the unknown on principles similar to those of mathematics…
  •      A system of criteria by which the truth of correspondences may be tested with a view to criticizing new discoveries in the light of their coherence with the whole body of truth…quote small right

[4] Annotation to The Sufis by Idries Shah.

[5] Aleister Crowley, "777", Neptune Press, London, 1955.

Perhaps the Cabbala could most crudely be regarded as a cross-sectional plan of the Universe from the Absolute (Ain Soph) down to - and perhaps sideways from - the level of man.

Or a cross-section of the Body of God, showing energy flows within it and the connections which exist - or may be made - between various terminals.

The Cabbala sees the "matter" of the Absolute as filling the universe, and the Absolute for his own reasons projecting this universe from his own noumenal nature.

The first such projection or emanation contains a number of others within it. Each of these in turn emanates from the one before and includes subsequent emanations within itself, thus giving rise to all the principles or gradations of energy in the manifested universe.

These rays or Sephiroth are connected to each other by paths annotated by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The trumps of the Tarot pack also identify these paths.

Given a knowledge of these energy levels and their lateral connections, a man may, beginning from his own level, ascend the whole diagram, identifying with, and acquiring the properties of each, so retracing the road along which he was projected from the Ain Soph.

Since the Cabbala became available in the West, an immense amount of intellectual effort - and spiritual aspiration - has gone into understanding and applying its principles. About most of it there is, however, a suggestion that something is not quite right. Either some key is missing, or the corpus has been corrupted in transmission. Much Cabbalistic writing and interpretation suggests improvisation. Conclusions are reserved and tentative. Although writers sense the perfection of the whole philosophical machine, they are aware that square pegs, here and there, obstinately decline to fit round holes.

Is the Cabbalistic corpus known to the West in some way corrupt? If this were so, it would not be a theoretical matter. Something like spiritual nuclear energy is probably involved in higher manipulations of the Cabbala, and it is obvious that if operations are based on an imperfect circuit diagram, errors may be disastrous. In the literature of the subject there is more than a hint that some operations have been disastrous - and though not visible as such, disastrous nevertheless.

Is there any evidence that the Cabbala of the West is corrupt? We have seen that the Cabbalistic tradition itself attributes the Cabbala's origins to an amalgam. Two separate though similar expressions of an ancient objective science came together, in a wholly oral transmission, later reluctantly written down in cypher. The version of this known to the West appeared mysteriously around AD 1000.

Where did it come from? Incredibly it would appear that it did not originate in a Jewish source at all, but in a Sufic one. The accepted modern authority on Jewry, The Jewish Encyclopaedia, declares that it came from Basra, as one of the treatises composing the Encyclopaedia of the Faithful Brethren published in 980!

The statement seems unequivocal. "…The Faithful Brothers of Basra originated the eight elements which form God …" Then perhaps comes the clue to all the square pegs and round holes that have followed: "…changed by a Jewish philosopher in the middle of the 11th century into ten".

A present-day Sufi sheikh is even more explicit: "The Cabbala came from the region of the Faithful Brothers to two places, Italy and Spain. Its system of word manipulation may be derived from parallel and ancient Jewish teaching, but it is founded upon Arabic grammar … there is no doubt that the Arab study of grammar and the meaning of words is at the base of the usage of words in the Cabbala for mystical purposes … The Sufis and the Brethren had produced what they considered to be the most ancient teaching, the secret lore of fulfilment and power and handed it to the Arabized Jews. The Jewish Cabbalists adapted this teaching to contemporary Jewish thinking and the Cabbala of the Arabs became the Cabbala of the Jews and later of the Christians … But the mystical schools of Sufism which never regarded organized book knowledge as a sufficient source, continued to ally practice of the Sufic Rites with the essentials of the old Cabbala teaching …"

And elsewhere: "The alteration of basic Cabbalism (from eight elements to ten) deprived the Western development of the system of a great deal of its meaning and usefulness. Hebrew and Christian Cabbala literature later than the 12th century is therefore only of partial meaning. This includes all aspects of the Cabbala of ten elements as distinct from the 'Eight Cabbala'. [6]

In this matter of the relation between forces and sounds as represented by alphabets and grammar, the observations of the learned Cabbalist Enel are interesting.

The Cabbalists, he says, teach that the signs of sacred alphabets are the images of the creative forces of the Cosmos. Wattan, the Adamic language, was based on this principle. This language has, of course, been lost, but Enel considers that it survives in principle in Aramaic "which is in complete harmony with the laws governing the universe". Parts of the Old Testament and the Talmud were written in Aramaic and the language in its Eastern and Syriac branches was largely superseded by Arabic. The link between an original language preserving correspondence with natural forces and both the Semitic and Arab later transmissions is therefore indicated.

[6] Idries Shah, The Sufis, W.H. Allen, London, 1964.

If then, a knowledgeable re-synthesis of this ancient wisdom was made by the Basra encyclopaedists in 980, and fed into Europe through El Majriti and Solomon ben Gabirol ("Avicebron"), how did this become altered within a century so that it was "deprived of a great deal of its meaning and usefulness"?

Who altered it, and why? Did it happen because somebody thought he knew better? Or did it arise by accident in endless transcriptions? Or did someone fear that too much had been given out and strive to contain the danger by deliberate falsification?

The nature of the alteration was the addition of two elements to the original. This hardly looks like an error in transcription. Yet the nature of the alteration was such as to prevent the "machine" being employed in its entirety.

Examples of post-publication panic are not unknown in the literature of alchemy, and it would seem likely that a Jewish source, perhaps from a partial understanding as well as a sense of security, invented the Cabbala of ten elements as a "blind" to draw attention away from the potentialities of the "Eight".

The falsification may involve four Trumps of the Tarot, Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 20. Idries Shah says No. 14 "has been wrongly portrayed and interpreted". Enel notes that in the Egyptian, No. 14 is the Solar Genius. In the Medieval it is Temperance. No. 15, according to Shah, has also been wrongly portrayed and interpreted. Enel notes that No. 15 in the Egyptian is Typhon and The Devil in the Medieval version. No. 16, according to Shah, is a classic example of a word being misunderstood. Enel, however, has no misgivings about this, and gives the Tower struck by Lightning for both the Egyptian and the Medieval. No. 20, according to Shah, is "wrongly emphasized". Enel notes that this trump in the Egyptian is the Awakening of the Dead. In the Medieval Tarot it is Judgement.

Astronomy, trigonometry, music, chemistry, alchemy and the Cabbala, all, it would seem, dripped into the veins of a Europe still almost completely unconscious after the sleep of the Dark Ages. The transfusion took place in Spain from Saracen sources in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Our submission is that this was not by chance. It was not an accidental drift, concentration and redistribution of random material from the past: but a purposeful operation planned at a hidden level and executed at a lower level to produce a calculated effect - the awakening of Europe.

It would seem that the agents were of many degrees of awareness. They ranged from conscious men of an original School, through initiates of a lesser degree, down to men chiefly impelled by the hunger for scholarship - but having nevertheless some knowledge of the Great Work.

At the outermost perimeter there were scribes and copyists performing their role mechanically; but all, whatever their degree of awareness, serving a purpose whether they glimpsed it or not.

At ordinary historical level the contribution of the Arabs to the awakening of Europe is undoubted, and it is now increasingly exiting scholars: but the attribution of the whole operation to schools of men possessing some kind of consciousness in advance of the ordinary human kind is regarded as either unproved or as pure fantasy.

The idealistic interpretation cannot of course be proved. Proof depends on fact and facts define themselves as the only admissible data. If some variety of data beyond fact is postulated, this can never be shown in terms of fact. Yet the analogy of this ring-pass-not of fact and supra-fact is freely admitted in human experience. The effect of Beethoven's Fifth is admitted to be a reality though it cannot be demonstrated with a thermometer.

In the absence of some subjective experience which validates the noumenal as a reality, the only support for a supra-causal theory of history must lie in analogy. Support for the analogy may be possible if it can be shown that "fact" is consistently amenable - and most plausibly amenable - to a hypothesis of higher causation. This is something like the "psychological method" of P.D. Ouspensky. [7] It is as far as "fact" can be pushed towards transcending itself.

[7] P.D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe, Routledge, London, 1951.

Suppose, for example, that consciousness is two-dimensional and can record only what takes place on the surface of a sheet of paper. Within this "flat-land" universe, certain phenomena are regularly recorded. To begin with, a point suddenly appears. This point changes to a circle whose diameter gradually increases up to a certain limit. This activity, whatever it may be, now rests. The circle remains the same, but its colour changes, apparently arbitrarily. If these phenomena occur regularly and are carefully enough recorded, flat-land observers will be able to predict the whole sequence as a series of facts occurring in time. One of the predictions will be that the mysterious circle, after some time, grows smaller and finally becomes a point and vanishes. In terms of flat-land consciousness, there is no more to explain. "Fact" is wholly incapable of rising to the noumenal level which, in this case, would be a coloured pencil pushing through the paper.

Developmental ""schools" are pencils piercing the pages of history. Their existence cannot be shown in terms of pages. It can only be experienced in terms of pencils.

But if it is seen that the idea of pencil gives consistently a more satisfactory explanation of the holes that keep appearing in pages, even flat-land consciousness may begin to feel that the hypothesis moves from possibility to probability.

And this, perhaps, is as far as any proof of a higher motivation of the historical process can be taken. The reader can only be shown the series of holes which appear in pages and left to consider whether they are not most plausibly explained by pencils.

Even those amenable to this sort of approach have objected to the identification of the "one-up" dimension with Schools of the Sufic tradition. They point out that much of the Iberian population is in any case concerned with material which is not specifically Sufic at all, being largely Greek and Egyptian.

To this it can only be replied that much Greek, Egyptian and Neo-Platonic material is held by Sufi schools to be in true alignment with the developmental needs of mankind.

Sufic Schools of the Directorate will use material from any source - artistic, scientific, religious or secular - which lies on the optimum line of man's possible evolution; an idea which is conveyed in the Sufic teaching aphorism: "Pears do not grow only in Samarkand."

Chapter 5 - Love Courts, Troubadours and Round Tables

Between 1100 and 1300 the Wandering Minstrel declaimed his poems and sang his haunting songs of love round the Ducal courts of Provence. His apprentice or joglar played the viol, and the music they made and the ideas they spread abroad have been reverberating through Europe ever since, crystallizing in psychological ideas and literary forms unrecognizably remote from the origins.

There would seem to be no possible connection between the songs of Guillem, Count of Poitiers, in the 12th century, and modern university-sponsored excavations at Cadbury and Glastonbury in 1970, but we hope to show that there is a connection; for the legends of Arthur and the 20th century search for his origins alike connect back to a "something" which manifested historically as the Troubadour phenomenon.

The Troubadours were a mystery, even in their own day. The movement apparently sprang from nowhere, without seeming ancestry, and when it appeared it was ready-made in its final form. Superficially, it was an entirely local and somewhat aberrated conceit among minor princelings and effete aristocrats who, like Jack Point, "sighed for the love of a ladye".

Though seemingly the concern of the wealthy and the leisured, it nevertheless had scullions and kitchen maids in its ranks. But whatever the rank of the lady fair, the subtending idea was the same: she was unattainable and her suitor's love was hopeless.

Significantly, the lady was unobtainable, even at ordinary level, for she was not a maid, but a married woman. Strangely enough, her husband did not seem to regard the suitor as an enemy or even a rival.

Something of this strange and unnatural situation is to be found implicit in Arthurian material where the reader finds it impossible to discover where his allegiance is supposed to lie.

Lancelot is Guinevere's lover. She is Arthur's dutiful queen. Arthur is a hero-king. In the circumstances, the reader feels that Lancelot ought to be presented as worthy of the reader's moral disapproval. Instead all three elements are presented as equally worthy.

In such a typically Troubadour ménage à trois, much of significance is symbolized. The alchemical content is suggested in relation to King Mark, Tristan and Isolde by the alchemist Fulcanelli thus:

  • quote small leftLet us note that the queen is the wife both of the old man and of the young hero. This is in accordance with the hermetic tradition which makes the king, the queen and the lover combine to form the mineral triad of The Great Work [1]quote small right

How did such an idea originate, and where did it come from?

In the light of documents which emerged in Spain after the Second World War, and of some hints released more recently from the East, there seems little doubt that the Troubadours were one more social experiment of the Sufi Schools operating from Spain.

[1] Fulcanelli, Le Mystère des Cathédrales, Paris, 1965; trs. M. Sworder, Spearman, London, 1971.

Like most Sufi experiments its derivation is carefully obscured. Like most such experiments it was concerned to operate by manipulating environment so as to effect a change in a small selected section of a population.

Over the century and a half during which it was active, the Troubadour movement achieved a refinement of life and a standard of culture which probably went unequalled for 500 years.

When the operation withdrew, Provenҫal culture reverted to a level which historians do not hesitate to describe as barbarism.

It seems possible to detect a number of aims behind the Troubadour movement. The first was to suggest by a subtle symbolism the existence of a kind of love which could not be realized in human terms.

"The Sufis believe that within mankind there is an element activated by love which provides the means of attaining to true reality." [2]

Secondly, perhaps, the reinstatement of a passive, recessive feminine element into the stream of European life. This element was primary in the Great Mother impulse and has probably been defective in the entire history of the West.

Whether the ingrafting of the Cult of the Virgin into Christianity was part of the intention or whether this crept into dogma by osmosis from the Troubadour impulse, it is impossible to say. Most likely the cult of the Virgin was adopted into Christianity on the well known principle "if you cannot beat them, join them".

It is certainly remarkable, as Robert Graves has pointed out, that "her greatest veneration today is in those parts of Europe that fell strongly under Sufic influence".[3]

The theory of the Sufic origin of the Troubadours has been strengthened in academic circles by the discovery in Spain of bilingual Troubadour songs in Arabic and Catalan,[4] and Roger Loomis [5] points to similarities between Moorish poetry in Spain and Troubadour poetry in Provence, such as the curious custom of addressing the worshipful Mistress as "My Lord" (Provenҫal: "Midon").

Loomis also refers to the work of Ibn Hazm, The Dove's Neck Ring which, he says might be regarded as a textbook on the courtly love of the Troubadours.

In Ibn Hazm's book the influence of love is described as "making a stingy one generous, a gloomy one bright-faced, a coward brave, a curmudgeon gay and an ignoramus clever".

It seems clear that the love poetry originated in Moorish Spain and was brought to Provence by Spaniards speaking both Arabic and the Catalan dialect. This was almost identical with Provenҫal, the "langue d'oc" of Southern France.

[2] Idries Shah, The Sufis, p. ,65.

[3] Robert Graves, Introduction to The Sufis.

[4] Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1961.

[5] Loomis, The Development of Arthurian Romance, Hutchinson, London, 1963. The Orientalist, J. B. Trend, among many others, agrees that "the words 'troubadour' and 'trobar' are almost certainly of Arabic origin: from tarraba, to sing or make music" (in Legacy of Islam, 1968 edition, p. 17).

The word Troubadour is usually held to derive from the Provenҫal verb trobar, to find or invent, but Idries Shah has shown that the derivation is from the Arabic root TRB with the agental suffix ador added.[6]

This TRB root involves a play on words characteristic of Sufic thinking. The range of words that can be built on this consonantal root includes a meeting place of friends, a master, playing the viol and the idealization of women.

Sufi schools mounting an operation choose their terminology - and their codes - with great care, selecting a title whose root consonants will permutate to suggest words covering as many of their proposed activities as possible.

It can hardly be denied that the TRB permutations cover the known attributes and activities of the Troubadours.

The most characteristic feature of the Troubadour love poetry - on which the whole concept of courtly love and later of chivalry rested - was the idealization of woman. She was the poet's ideal mistress whom he worshipped from afar, without, however, any hope of obtaining her favour. Or so it would seem, viewed externally. Much of it, between the lines, was thinly disguised metaphysics, with unattainable Princesses used to symbolize a spiritual quality to which man might feel drawn, but which was essentially unattainable in his ordinary state.

The songs followed a set pattern of statement and refrain, the result giving a monotony which is the subject of much literary criticism. Lewis Spence [7] comments on the "monotonous repetition of amatory sentiment for the expression of which the same conceptions and even the same phrases are compelled again and again to do duty".

This is certainly a defect, if judgment is on aesthetic grounds, but the matter may take on another appearance if we suspect that the Troubadours, after the pattern of the Sufic schools of Spain, were communities meeting under a master for a specific purpose and choosing to operate through the medium of "poetry readings" accompanied by the viol and lute.

If there is a secondary meaning to the poetry - if it was in fact in code - the monotony may not be an inadvertent defect at all.

The first historical Troubadour of the West was Guillem, 7th Count of Poitiers and 9th Duke of Aquitaine (1071-1127). He was the grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a lady of unusual talents and a marked capacity for survival, whose influence on later events, historical, cultural and literary, is quite astonishing.

Guillem had been a Crusader in the East. He had also fought in Andalusia where, presumably, he made contact with the Troubadour operation at its inception.

He was soon in conflict with the Church because his songs were held to be overtly - and therefore scandalously - sexual. Friedrich Heer, however, senses the concealed mysticism. "In Guillem's love songs, the vocabulary, and emotional fervour hitherto used to express man's love for God are transferred to the liturgical worship of women." [8] One is tempted to add "and vice versa".

[6] Idries Shah, The Sufis, p. 318.

[7] L. Spence, Legends and Romances of Spain, Farrar and Rhinehart, New York, 1931, p. 17·

[8] Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World.

Guillem provided the talent initially, but it was left to his granddaughter Eleanor to build up what might be called the theatrical circuit. She created a network of minor courts round which the Troubadours circulated and within which the highly stylized concepts of courtly love and chivalry rapidly developed.

Eleanor was the richest heiress in Europe, with lands stretching from the Loire to the Pyrenees, from the Auvergne to the Atlantic. At the core was Provence, where she spent her childhood. With such possessions, she was thought a fitting match for Louis VII of France, whom she married in 1137.

Louis had never expected to be king, and had been educated as a monk: but the death of his elder brother put him unexpectedly on the throne of France. Temperamentally, he was excessively unsuited to the mercurial and passionate Eleanor. "I thought", said Eleanor later, "to have married a King, but find I am wed to a monk."

In 1146 Louis went off on the Second Crusade, taking his wife with him. Contrary to the Papal Bull on the subject, she insisted on taking her Troubadours with her.

The Crusaders, when they reached Syria, halted at Antioch and there Eleanor found an environment truly suited to her temperament. Antioch at the time was one of these princeling states which had grown up after a local conquest by the Crusaders, who instead of returning home, preferred to settle in the exotic surroundings of their conquest. The ruler of Antioch was Raymond, who was Eleanor's uncle. His court, over which he presided in great style, included Christians, Moslems and Greeks. Some of the original Crusader-conquerors had married Saracen women, and the second generation were more than half Moslem in their ways.

The exotic atmosphere and the luxury in Raymond's court appealed greatly to Eleanor, who may well have known a family tradition in such matters from her grandfather, who had obviously had Arabic, if not Sufic, contacts in Syria or Spain.

Indifferent to the scandal, Eleanor decided to remain in Antioch with her uncle and let her husband go back to France alone. Louis, in spite of his scholarly temperament, was made of sterner stuff - and promptly set off for home taking his wife with him by force.

This was an action which had far-reaching effects indeed, leading as it did to the transmission of certain influences like the orders of chivalry into England.

Indignant perhaps at her husband's treatment of her, Eleanor on her return to France proceeded to have her marriage dissolved. This formality completed, she married Henry, son of Geoffrey of Anjou, who was shortly to become King of England.

The early years of her second marriage were spent at Angers, which rapidly became a resort of Troubadours and an academy of the cult of courtly love. Here Bernard de Ventadour wrote his love poetry in her honour.

In 1154 Henry and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England, but it quickly became apparent that neither her second husband nor the English climate was agreeable to Eleanor. When Henry, who was twelve years her junior, took as his mistress Rosamond Clifford (subject of the "Ballad of Fair Rosamond") Eleanor withdrew to Poitiers where she devoted her entire resources to developing the Love Court in its final form.

Poitiers became a university of courtesy, Troubadour poetry and chivalry; an academy of the courtly arts to which the nobility from far and near came for instruction. Several future kings and queens and many future dukes and duchesses were educated in Eleanor's campus and returned home to model their own courts on hers.

Thus the courtly ideal and the lyrical love poetry were distributed over Europe - together with whatever was secretly contained in these forms.

At Poitiers, courtiers were "tried" to decide whether they had kept the 31 articles of the Code of Love laid down in the De Arte Honeste Amandi compiled by Andreas Capellanus. One of the chief judges was Marie, Countess of Champagne, Eleanor's daughter.

In all this apparently weird activity, a subversive element was undoubted. Love Court judgments were always subtly subversive of the social order. Troubadour songs were openly subversive of the Papal authority.

The Troubadours and the Love Courtiers, like the jesters of the time (who were undoubted Sufi figures), claimed licence to criticize matters which were by common consent regarded as taboo.

Obviously something was going on. It would be tempting to equate or at least associate this something with the Albigensian heresy, but it would probably be wrong to do so. A study of such Sufic interventions as can be suspected from their outward effects, suggests that a Sufic operation is frequently in existence simultaneously with an "official heresy", but is never part of it. It may be significant, however, that the Troubadour and Love Court phenomenon almost exactly spans the period of the Albigensian heresy.

The Troubadour movement was greatly reduced by the siege of Toulouse in 1218 and the Treaty of Paris in 1299. It was virtually extinguished by the expanding powers of the Inquisition in the early 1300s.

Catharism (the "Albigensian Heresy") came from the East and was apparently rooted in Greek Gnosticism and 4th century Persian Manichaeism. It first appeared in Western Europe about 1140, and in two years gained a hold in the region between the Rhine and the Pyrenees. It had a widespread organization, with its own clergy, bishops and international councils. The most important bishopric was at Albi in Southern France, which gave the movement its name "Albigensian". In Languedoc and Provence it flourished alongside the court culture of the Troubadours.

Catharism enjoyed much aristocratic patronage especially that of Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. It had a great appeal for women and numbered many nuns of noble birth among its supporters. The appeal was perhaps from the fact that women as well as men could become Cathars or "pure ones". Its appeal among ordinary people may have sprung from the fact that they could participate, Cathar literature being in the vernacular.

The Albigensian mystery is largely unresolved to this day. The Cathar massacres were so complete that almost nothing of their beliefs survived. What little is known comes from their enemies. They were certainly remorselessly hostile to the Church of Rome, which they believed had succumbed to the lust of gold and power at the time of Constantine and had ruled in unholy alliance with the princes of the world ever since.

The Cathars were said to believe that Satan had created the human race. He was a son of God, but was essentially hostile to man. Another son of God now had the task of redeeming the situation. Against the rigid dogma of the 11th and 12th centuries this was seen as a transparent attempt to elevate the status of Satan.

The belief seems strangely like the expression of some racial memory concerned with the events which we have interpreted in terms of the Demiurgic revolt.

In many respects Cathar ritual reflected the practices of the early pre-Constantine Church. There might also be a link with a common ancestor of Freemasonry in that the Cathar candidate was addressed as "a living stone in the temple of God".

Catharism was clearly a threat to Rome, and when various missionary attempts were repulsed, Innocent III appealed to the faithful to stamp out the abomination.

A Crusade was preached by the Cistercians and an inflammable situation rapidly turned into a French civil war between North and South. The war ended officially with the surrender of Raymond VII, which meant the defeat of the entire south. As soon as the Albigensians were crushed in the field, the Inquisition was set up at Toulouse and many heretics were burned at the stake. In 1244 at Monségur 200 men, women and children were burned alive in a single day.

The Cathars survived In Germany - in Cologne, Strasbourg, Erfurt and Goslar, for some time to come. Another stream of refugees went to Italy, where there were sympathizers in Florence. Others went to Liguria and Sicily.

The Troubadours as such were not persecuted; but with the collapse of the ducal courts in the South of France, the environment in which they worked was destroyed. The last of the Troubadours is said to have been Guiraut Riquier, a native of Narbonne, who lived until 1294 as a refugee at the court of Alfonso X in Spain.

It seems that a Sufic operation designed to inject a developmental impulse into a certain population at a certain time may run parallel to, but always separate from, an official religion. The same "mistletoe-relationship" may apply to an official heresy.

If the Troubadour and courtly-love medium was a local and minor instrument of the Directorate, it may be presumed that European events for a century and a half would fall well within the "present moment" of those directly responsible.

If so, the destruction of the Albigensians - the oak beside which the mistletoe grew - would certainly be foreseen.

Such operations, as we are suggesting are characterized by a certain finality. They operate on a selected group for a particular purpose and for a certain time only, The impulse is then wholly withdrawn.

So penetrating is the energy involved, however, that harmonics of the original excitation may continue for centuries. For the most part it is only such echoes that are detectable and it is these that are investigated historically.

In the matter of the Troubadours, it is possible that the original operation, which was extremely local, was transferred to a larger octave so as to encompass the whole of Europe. It is at any rate clear that the courtly love and chivalric ideal, which had produced such marked refinement in human conduct, did not expire with the destruction of the Albigenses.

It might almost seem that when the Albigensian persecution was imminent, the impulse was transferred to a new carrier-wave, this time accented on a combined military and astrological theme, the Arthurian legend.

We suggest that the Arthurian legend was deliberately developed for this purpose.

But to glimpse this; we must return to Eleanor and her many activities.

Evidence of initiatory influences in her family has recently been given by Idries Shah.[9]

Eleanor's favourite son, Richard, was the famous Coeur de Lion. In Arabic, Coeur de Lion would be Qalb el Nimr. This contains two Sufic initiatory words. Qalb, "heart", comes from the QLB root, which "spreads" to give "essence" or "vital portion". "Lion" has a secondary significance as "man of the way", a familiar term for a Sufic aspirant on the way to higher development. Richard's nickname is thus an announcement to those who understand, that he has been initiated. Since phraseology of this kind must also make sense at the literal as well as the esoteric level, he is also the lion-hearted, the bold and fearless warrior of the Crusades.

The whole Plantagenet dynasty was deeply involved in hidden activity, and some of this echoes today in modern chivalric orders.

Geoffrey of Anjou, Richard's grandfather, had a shield showing golden lions on a field of blue, a combination which would be recognized even by a modern alchemist as a statement to a certain effect. Geoffrey's father, Falk V, was "King of Jerusalem" and a great friend of the Saracen Regent of Damascus. Geoffrey "made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land" and visited his father, and it seems likely that his initiation took place at this time. Geoffrey adopted as his family emblem, the broom plant (planta genista), hence the Plantagenets.

The French for broom is genet, which has almost the same sound as genette (the civet cat). Among relatively modern secret societies in Europe, one had the title Knights of the Genet (Chevaliers de la Genette), and the 20th century alchemist Fulcanelli regards it as one having genuine initiatory knowledge.

According to the Oxford Dictionary and other dictionaries, civet is derived from the Arabic zabad, "civet cat".

Did a similar sound shift serve to render zabad as az-zabat ("forceful occasion" in Arabic), and hence Sabbat? A closely associated word is zida, quintessence, main point, substance.

Thus the broom plant, the Plantagenets, a modern Hermetic society, the Witches' broom and the Sabbat may all have derived from a single event, the initiation of GeofTrey of Anjou, father-in-law of Eleanor of Aquitaine and grandfather of Richard Coeur de Lion.

Richard's mother, Eleanor, outlived her husband (after spending fifteen years as his prisoner in Salisbury), and emerged to take over the government of England while Richard went off to the Third Crusade.

There we find Coeur de Lion in a situation which makes little sense by ordinary standards, but is consistent with his hidden role: "Things outwardly opposed may inwardly be working together" (Rumi).

He is fighting Saladin, his Saracen foe, but is at the same time on the best of terms with him. Saladin sends his personal physician to attend Richard when he is ill, and Richard is reported to have offered his own sister as a bride for Saladin's brother.

[9] Idries Shah, The Sufis, p. 393.

Later, on his way home, he is imprisoned and passes his time composing Troubadour poetry!

It seems unlikely that Richard was the only member of the family with access to non-ordinary knowledge. His half-sister, Marie, Countess of Champagne, Eleanor's daughter, was almost certainly knowledgable and it was probably through her that the move was made to translate the chivalric ideal from its local situation into a pan-European one.

Material which is to be manipulated in a certain way for developmental effect is almost always constructed round actual people and actual events. In this case the central figure was the Romano-British chieftain Arthur. Historians now grant the historicity of Arthur. He is held to have been a battle leader of Celtic tribes who, in the Götterdämmerung of the Roman departure from Britain, rallied the Celts and inflicted a major defeat on the invading Saxons at the battle of Mount Badon somewhere between Kent and Wiltshire.

This battle is described by St. Gildas, writing 40 years after the event; but he does not mention Arthur. Arthur is first mentioned by name in the Historia Britonum of Nennius, a Welsh cleric writing about the year 800.

A colourful version of the Arthurian story was set down by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written about 1135; and this was paraphrased in couplets by the French poet Wace in 1155. However, the legend had already reached the Continent in advance of Geoffrey's version from the Breton minstrels and from the recitations of Bleheris, an emigré Welshman who seems to have brought it independently to Poitiers.

The temptation should perhaps be resisted to link the wandering Breton minstrels with their contemporaries the Troubadours - or with the 10th century Abu-Ishak Chisti, the Syrian founder of the Chisti order of Sufis whose followers were the origin of the medieval Court Jesters of Europe - and we should regard the Breton minstrels rather as the descendants of the Irish Ollamhs or the Welsh bards. Professor Sir Hamilton Gibb notes that "the author of one version of the Grail-saga even mentions an Arabic book as his source".[10]

Yet even if we do not establish a direct Sufic influence, we cannot ignore the possibility of a stream parallel to the Sufic coming down from antiquity through the Celts, who, as we have seen in the case of the Celtic Church, preserved the imaginative and poetic side of the old tradition when it was in danger of dying out in the rest of Europe.

It is perhaps because the Celts, through their comparative isolation from the rest of Europe, were still to some extent in touch with the old tradition that their legends were suitable for use as the basis of the new courtly romances by the Sufic element. Through the influence of Eleanor and her associates these were diffused through northern France and into Britain.

Friedrich Heer, whose insights in these matters are remarkable, says in The Medieval World: "In the great images of the romans courtois, two currents merged in a powerful confluence: the stream of material flowing into Western Europe from outside (our italics) during the 12th century, and the suppressed native springs of the Celtic and even more primitive cultures."

[10] H. A. R. Gibb, Literature, in Legacy of Islam, London, 1968, p. 193.

As we have seen, the Arthurian material - or raw material - already existed at Poitiers from the penetration of the Breton minstrels, from the travels of Bleheris and from Geoffrey of Monmouth's British "history".

The process of upgrading it to a world myth which would last for a thousand years was ready to begin. The architect, it would seem, was Chrétien de Troyes who was a courtier at Poitiers and a protége of Eleanor's daughter Marie.

Chrétien used the Arthurian material, but he also cashed in on the popularity of a current verse form. This was the verse romance dealing with what today would be called the French national spirit, but was then called "the Matter of France". These verse romances, the most famous of which was the Chanson de Roland, commemorated the spirit of Charlemagne and the deeds of the Paladins in their fight against the Moors. Popular in tone, these verse romances were recited by pilgrims or Crusaders on the march.

Chrétien turned the Arthur material into a "Matter of Britain".

The suggestion that more than mere composition was involved here is made by Roger Sherman Loomis: [11]

  • quote small leftA perusal … leads inevitably to the conclusion that some powerful forces had been at work between the 11th and 13th centuries to transform Arthur from an insular into an international figure.12quote small right

Chrétien de Troyes, who began his literary career about 1170, wrote five Arthurian Romances: Erec, Cliges, Lancelot, Ivain and Perceval.

A distinct suggestion that Chrétien was working under orders is contained in Chrétien's own comment on Lancelot, which deals with the love of the Knight Lancelot for Guinevere, Arthur's wife. He declares that he was given the "sen" (the controlling idea) from Marie of Champagne: thus showing the deliberate injection of the Provenҫal love-theme of the Troubadours into the Arthurian medium.

The basic plot of the fifth romance, Perceval, was given to Chrétien by Philip of Flanders, who was Marie's second husband. This again suggests a policy move; for in Perceval for the first time the story of the Grail is introduced.

Perceval is at the castle of the lame Fisher King and is attending a banquet. Before each course a procession passes through the hall, including a squire bearing a lance to which a drop of blood clings, and a maiden bearing a jewel-studded grail or bowl. Perceval fails to ask the correct question: "Whom does one serve with the Grail?", and next morning finds the castle deserted. He then sets out in quest of the Grail.

Chrétien apparently died before completing Perceval, and the Grail mystery is therefore unsolved. Jessie Weston [13] suggests that the grail and the lance were sexual symbols, and the ritual in the castle was an initiation rite.

[11] The Development of Arthurian Romance, Hutchinson, London, 1963.

[12] Significant indications of the influences operating within the Arthurian legend can be detected in many proper names, e.g., Camelot which has baffled historians looking for a geographical location. Camelot may be a play on associated ideas. Camelot = khamlet (camlet in English), woollen cloth. (The Sufis are sometimes said to be named after the woollen cloaks they wore, from Suf= wool.) Also kamilat = completion or perfection as in Insan-i-Kamil, the Perfected Man.

[13] J. Weston, From Ritual to Romance, Doubleday, New York, 1957.

After Chrétien's death, the theme was taken up by other poets. Four different sequels to Perceval appeared, in one of which it is clear that a Christianizing process had already begun.

Here the bleeding lace is identified with the Spear of Longinus, which is said to have pierced the side of the crucified Christ, and the Grail is identified with the vessel in which Joseph of Arimathaea caught drops of blood.

The Arthurian legend proceeded to spread like a self-multiplying organism. Versions of Chrétien's romances were made in Middle English, Middle High German, Dutch and Old Norse. Between 1210 and 1230 three long French prose romances, the Prose Lancelot, the Quest of the Holy Grail and the Mort Artur were written, probably by monks, and combined in a "Vulgate Cycle", so called on account of the great popularity which the contents enjoyed with the common people. It seems clear that the value of the Arthur material - and the energy it contained - were sensed by the Church. While the idealistic love theme is more or less intact in Lancelot in the Vulgate Cycle, the other two are already being "adapted" to validate the celibate ideal which the Church could endorse. The Vulgate Cycle was the main source of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (printed by Caxton in 1485) and the Morte d'Arthur in its turn was the main source for Tennyson's Idylls of the King.

As the original Chrétien de Troyes romances were spreading over Europe a very remarkable "coincidence" can be observed in Britain.

We have suggested that when certain legends are to be used to operate on human psychology in a certain way, historical figures and historical incidents are chosen as a basis. We may also suspect that validation of the historical facts is sometimes arranged. By a very strange coincidence, the bones of the historic Arthur just happened to come to light as Chrétien's Arthur was catching the European imagination. A present-day journalist would recognize this event as precisely what was needed to "keep the story going".

Henry II is travelling in Wales and just happens to meet the one monk who knows where Arthur's grave is. It is at Glastonbury Abbey. Henry II, it will be recalled, was the husband of Eleanor, who has something like a family interest in translating the Troubadour mystique into a new medium.

The monks at Glastonbury start digging at the indicated spot and seven feet down come upon a stone slab and a lead cross with the inscription: "Hic jacet sepultus inclytus rex Arturus in insula avallonia." Below, in a coffin made of a hollow log, is the skeleton of a very large man indeed. The medieval world accepted these relics as authentic, but the find has been regarded as a little too fortuitous by modern scholars, who recall that "genuine" relics were the stock-in-trade of any medieval monastery which hoped to attract pilgrims and hence funds.

Against this is one awkward fact. Hollow coffin burial is now known to correspond to a certain period; but it is thought that the Glastonbury monks would have had no way of knowing this in 1190. If they had been bent on faking a relic discovery for the greater glory of the Abbey, they would much more probably have "discovered" Arthur in a container of stone.

Against all customary usage, they discovered him in a hollowed-out log.

One possible explanation has not so far been considered. Glastonbury is associated with an esoteric tradition. In the 10th century, St. Dunstan, who was born near Glastonbury, was educated by the Irish monks there, before entering the household of King Athelstan. Athelstan through his nephew and his sisters was connected with both the Frankish Court and the Emperor Otto I. Sufic influences are known to have entered England at this time, and it is not at all improbable that Dunstan made contact with these influences. He was at any rate turned out of Athelstan's court "for practising the black arts".

Dunstan then became a monk and lived as a hermit till recalled to court by Athelstan's successor, Edmund. In 943, Dunstan was made Abbot of Glastonbury, and under him the monastery became a famous school with a high reputation for both music and geometry - subjects which had a particularly Arabic flavour at that time. Further, Dunstan is the patron saint of goldsmiths, which is a strange association unless gold has a secondary meaning. He is also reputed to have "tweaked the Devil's nose" with his goldsmith's tongs.

The matters associated with Dunstan's name have an inescapable flavour of alchemy, and legend says that the wonders performed by Dee and Kelly at the court of Elizabeth 600 years later were based on a quantity of "Philosopher's Stone" made by St. Dunstan, secreted in a hollow stone and recovered by Kelly's clairvoyance.

It may be that a secret Sufic school operated at Glastonbury behind the cover of an orthodox monastery. If so, it is possible that the discovery of the mortal Arthur at Glastonbury and the creation of the psychological Arthur at Poitiers were two sides of the same operation.

Sufic operations are notoriously economic, each component serving several purposes. Glastonbury Abbey had been burned down in 1184. Were Arthur's bones disinterred to attract pilgrim money for a rebuilding programme: and at the same time to endorse the Arthurian legend abroad, currently becoming a vehicle of Sufic psychology?

Love-poetry and the Arthurian Romances flourished in Germany at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. Provenҫal poets had been received at the court of Frederic Barbarossa, and from 1180 onwards the German Minnesänger took up the medium - on the Provenҫal model - in Middle High German, These German poets were all members of the minor nobility, attached to the courts of rich patrons, the most famous of whom was the Landgraf Hermann of Thuringia.

Among the most famous of the Minnesänger were Heinrich von Veldeke, Friederich von Hausen (who died on the Third Crusade), Heinrich von Morungen (who journeyed to India), Rainmar von Hagenau, Hartman von Aue and, the father of German lyrical poetry, Walther von der Vogelweide.

The Arthurian romance also appeared in new forms. Hartmann von Aue wrote a German version of Chrétien's Erec and Ivain, and between 1200 and 1210 Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote his masterpiece, Parzival.[14] Here the Grail appears, not as a vessel, but as a "stone".[15]

[14] Wolfram says that his source was one Kiot, a Provenҫal, "who learned the heathen letters [presumably Arabic] in order to read a book he found in Toledo".

[15] It is conjectured that Grail (Graal) derives from Persian Gohr meaning precious stone (figuratively "the Essence") with the (Arabic) definite article transposed to the end. Gohr al thus became Graal, hence Grail. Identical process produced the English word Admiral from Arabic Amir al (Bahr) = Commander of the (Sea), hence Admiral.

Permutations of the Arthurian legend continue into the 20th century. One of the most penetrating allegories in modern fiction, C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength,[16] is based on it. In this, an esoteric order of chivalry has continued to the present day, able to call on Principalities and Powers to further its support for "the true West" over which Arthur in some mysterious way still rules. "For Arthur did not die: but our Lord took him to be in the body till the end, with Enoch and Elias and Moses and Melchizedek the King. Melchizedek is he in whose hall the steep-stoned ring sparkles on the forefinger of the Pendragon."

So compelling are the energies that surround Arthur that they can hypnotize Sir Winston Churchill into one of the most extraordinary statements ever made by an historian.

Investigating the historic origins of the story, Sir Winston says: "If we could see exactly what happened, we should find ourselves in the presence of a theme as well founded, as inspired and as inalienable from the inheritance of mankind as the Odyssey or the Old Testament. It is all true, or it ought to be" (our italics).

Perhaps the most penetrating summary of the whole subject comes from Friedrich Heer: "There can no longer be any doubt that the theme of the great romantic epics (in France extending from the work of Chrétien de Troyes to that of Renard de Beaujeu, in Germany from Hartmann von Aue to Wolfram von Eschenbach) is initiation, dedication, metamorphosis and absorption into a higher and fuller life at once more human and more divine. … All Arthurian romances of the first rank were attempts at expounding the process of man's interior development. … Through his relationship with the woman, the man gains access to his own soul." [17]

Some four years before this present book was written, a group of five people of different nationalities came together because of a common interest in esoteric subjects. Each had a speciality interest in one branch of occult lore. All of them had been convinced for some time that behind the various aspects of esotericism which they had studied piecemeal, there was some overall unity which eluded them.

They began to suspect, from hints that had become increasingly explicit from the early nineteen fifties, that the word "Sufi" pointed to the overall organization which they suspected but had not been able to identify. This group decided to pool resources and see if they could take this idea further.

The group of five succeeded in making contact initially with one contemporary Sufic group and were allowed facilities for further investigation. The conditions under which they were allowed to investigate and the discoveries they made will be discussed later, but it is appropriate at this stage to look at one study which they originated.

They approached a sociologist, whose interest was European history, and asked him to consider, purely as a theoretical exercise, the idea that certain movements in history were not fortuitous but directed. In effect, the idea of The Secret People was presented to him as a purely hypothetical concept and he was asked to try to analyse a number of historical incidents "as though such an organization existed". The several historical occasions he was asked to study were in fact Sufic operations.

[16] Bodley Head, London, 1945.

[17] Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World, p. 144.

His analysis is now given, and we have added in italics after some of his conclusions a possible relevance, taken either from the Troubadour/Arthurian complex or from alchemy and associated subjects.

His report was as follows:

In all the periods studied, the incidents or events under review take place against similar backgrounds. A prevailing order claims, explicitly or implicitly, to have a monopoly of truth. In the past such systems were either religious or national, but, whatever the apparent form, the essential structure of such ideologies is essentially the same as that of modern totalitarian regimes.

All such systems seek to indoctrinate their communities with a given set of beliefs and the concept of heresy is a means of involving the population in the control apparatus. Each individual becomes the supervisor of his neighbour "for the good of all". The good so served is, in fact, the good of the control apparatus itself.

Assuming the existence of individuals and organizations concerned with breaking the monopoly of such rigid systems by conveying new knowledge into them (the given hypothesis), there would appear to be two main means possible.

(1) The use of some advanced capacity (perhaps related to ESP) to communicate directly with selected members of the community.
     Even if such capacities exist, their employment would be difficult or impossible to identify in operation and little more can be said about
     such a possibility.

(2) A direct approach from within the community itself through some centre which was
     (a) hidden and therefore unsuspected by the organization in power;
     (b) operating openly but seemingly engaged in an activity wholly innocuous to the official regime.
     (c) apparently part of the official regime itself.

The suggested historical groupings which fall under suspicion as being the subjects of such intervention exhibit certain characteristics in common and it may therefore be possible tentatively to suggest the general procedures possibly employed by some (postulated) individuals and groups conducting such intervention.

Characteristics of such interventions are:

(1) They are said to be teachings.
(Freemasonry's rationale is supposed to be a teaching transmitted from ancient times.)

(2) They have a leadership.
(The Rosicrucians regard Christian Rosenkreuz as their spiritual head. The Grand Master was spiritual and temporal head of the Templars.
     St. Francis was the head of the Franciscans.)

(3) They use symbols or a language of their own.
(The Troubadour codes. The ciphers of alchemy. The strange medieval figures who spoke no Western language but held up symbols.
     The "tools" of Freemasonry. The symbol language of heraldry. )

(4) They are said to be for the benefit of mankind.
     (The Knights Templars were to protect pilgrims.
          In recent times there have been suggestions of an influence, not explainable in terms of expediency or of either personal or national
     advantage, connected with the origins of the Red Cross.
          Baden Powell's life attitude may have been decisively affected by his contact with the Regiment of Guides in the Second Afghan War. Much
     of the Scout and Wolf Cub symbolology has a trans-personal and trans-national significance if investigated below its apparent surface triviality.)

(5) They stress secret knowledge or development by stages or degrees.
(Freemason and Rosicrucian secret societies are based on a degree structure allegedly marking, or at least symbolizing, advances in inner

(6) They cross the ordinary boundaries of nation, race and religion.
(Both the real and the ostensible activities of Raymond Lully exemplify this. Alchemy was international and alchemists understood each other
     in spite of differences in race or language.
          Eleanor of Aquitaine's courts were attended by the young nobility of Europe.
          The Translators converged on Spain from many countries and returned to distribute their material.)

(7) They are said to have come from outside or are connected with strangers or foreigners.
(The mystique of Freemasonry.
          The mystique of the gypsies. Historians continue to try and trace some motivation behind the diaspora of the gypsies in the 15th century
     but find that what they are seeking eludes them. The possible simultaneous appearance of the Tarot pack in Europe has however been noted:
     as has the phrase "the affairs of Egypt".
          The choice of a Syrian as the Patron Saint of England.)

(8) They have powerful sponsorship from important figures in the host community.
(Raymond of Toulouse for the Cathars. The family of Aquitaine for the Troubadours. The British Royal Families for the Orders of Chivalry.
     Royal patronage for cathedral builders.)

(9) They require tests and practices for their operation.
(The signs and passwords of the Freemasons. The trade practices of workers in traditional crafts and the rituals to which apprentices are
     subjected on obtaining the grade of Journeyman. The word Journeyman is almost overt in suggesting participation on a Path.
     The trade test of an apprentice cooper to the present day has thinly veiled initiatory elements.)

(10) They have a myth or symbolical story or stories whose parallels are believed to be worked out in the life of the community or group.
(The symbolology of Hiram Abif. The symbolology of the English Coronation rite. The symbolology of Morris Dancing. The order of knighthood
      based on Arthurian (chivalric) symbolism.)

(11) They have unexpected links with each other not explained by saying that heretics are attracted to one another - which is not in any case true.
(There is reason to suspect that much activity ordinarily assigned to well known individuals is in fact the result of influences emanating from
      groups with which the individuals were associated. The tales of Wolfram von Eschenbach and Chrétien de Troyes, the poetry of Dante,
      Spenser, Blake and Goethe: the Orders of Chivalry, Zen Buddhism and judo; the medicine of Paracelsus and the psychology of Mesmer:
      the devotional system of St. Francis and the disciplines of the Jesuits may all be variations of weft upon a single unsuspected woof.)

(12) These links are sometimes tenaciously clung to, even at the expense of general goodwill in the community.
(Local nobles continued support for the Cathars even when such action became anti-survival. The "fraternal links" of modern Freemasons
      are said to be supra-national even when the host communities are at war.)

(13) The dogma, ritual or myth does not provide a true historical link with the origin of the movement.
(The historicity of Christian Rosenkreuz is regarded as untenable. Arthur of the Round Table in incompatible with any historical Arthur.
      The belief that the Gypsies came from Egypt is untenable. Legends of historical incidents in which alchemical gold-making occurred are
      at one level veridical; at another, the historicity goes "soft" at the critical point.)

(14) There are distinct signs of actual or former mental and physical practices such as exercises.
(The dancing of the witches; the whirling of some dervishes; the Freemason memorising the "work"; a witch riding a broomstick;
      the psychological exercises of the Jesuits; Maypole dancing; working through a maze at the end of a pilgrimage.)

(15) There is a connection with religion but it is never "official" religion.
(The Arthurian literature is aspirational and devotional but the precise nature of the religious content cannot be pinned down.
           Master Builders of the cathedrals seem to have worked independently of official Church policy, e.g., gargoyles and the symbolism
      of the great Cathedrals.)

(16) There is always a connection with non-religious behaviour to such an extent that religious or mystical investigators become confused in
      trying to locate the association. Elements of art, science, literature, chemistry, commerce, military affairs intrude but cannot be
      accommodated in formal labelling.
(The sexual components of the Love Courts. The sexual ambivalence of the Arthurian saga. The Baphomet legend in the Templar Order.
      The strains of science, chemistry and religion in alchemy. The martial elements in the Orders of Chivalry. The Hermetic Fair when a "Papal"
      enthronement was played as "Black Comedy" actually within the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The Christian "Feast of Fools" and the "Feast of
      the Donkey" - all seemingly religious activity with a non-religious or anti-religious component that defies analysis.)

(17) It would appear that some force prevents, certainly at the time of their maximum operation, the coherent investigation of their location,
      operation and other attributes which would make it possible to mount effective opposition.
(Witch covens and their procedures are endlessly reconstructed from testimony extracted from witches under torture but coven meetings
      do not seem to have been raided in session.)

(18) They are always studied piecemeal and an apparently "inside" explanation of their activities and nature is eagerly accepted. Activities of this
      sort are in turn regarded as heresies, later as psychological phenomena and at the present time as the result of social and economic forces.
      The pigeon-holing actually serves to aid concealment. Once labelled there is no further public interest, "the secret being now exposed".
(Official science accepted Jung's psychological explanation of alchemy with relief. A troublesome thorn in rationalist flesh, it had been identified
      and labelled and was therefore respectable. There was no further need to regard it as something that needed attention.)

(19) Apostasy from such organizations contains the suspicion of diversionary tactics.
      (Dervish orders who "went over" to Jenghis Khan. Mevlevis who agreed to put on a tourist pantomime for Kemal Ataturk.)

(20) The available literature of such organizations seems to disappear after a time or is found in such a diversity of forms as to baffle inquiry.
      This peculiarity may suggest a deliberate policy of stirring up the pond to make the water muddy.
(The quantity of surviving alchemical texts is enormous but the success in decoding is in inverse ratio to the amount of material included
      in any particular study.
           After only seventy years it has apparently become impossible to unravel the origins of the neo-pagan Society of the Golden Dawn.
      There are now probably as many authoritative "final explanations" as there are researchers. Documentation of seemingly equal validity
      is available to prove that it derived from a "revelation" to Henri Bergson's sister and that it grew from a magical document lying on a book
      barrow in the Farringdon Road, London. Elucidation of Rudolph Steiner's source is no less enturbulated.)

From external analysis it seems impossible to arrive at any firm conclusion as to the theory of "intervention". As to the object of such historical operations as have been suggested, it would appear impossible to discover the aims and purposes which they could have.

If they are mounted to convert and organize masses of people it seems clear that they have never succeeded. It is more likely (assuming that such activities take place) that the aim is to locate and act on selected people at various points in history and then to disband activity decisively.

It seems possible to detect vestigial traces of some activity of the kind suggested. The quality of such activity seems consistently arid and banal and may suggest the mechanical perpetuation of some format from which the essential quality has been fully abstracted.

Chapter 6 - Alchemy: The Disguised Path

What is alchemy? Half a century ago there was little doubt in the West. It was a superstition among ignorant ancients that, by certain manipulations, base metals could be turned into gold.

Then, when Freudian and Jungian ideas began to circulate in Europe, a new, enlightened view of alchemy became fashionable. Alchemy, it was now said, was really human psychology. The alchemists were psychoanalysing themselves. They were sublimating and calcining their own subconscious. Their real aim was not to make gold but to make a non-aberrated man.

As pursuits of this kind in the Middle Ages overlapped territory which the Church held to be its own, the alchemists had been obliged to conceal what they were really doing behind an apparently lunatic attempt to turn lead into gold.

Even for the new psychological avant-garde this explanation was not entirely satisfactory, because it was well known that even in the 20th century highly intelligent men in Fez, Cracow, Damascus, Paris and London were currently engaged in attempts to make perfectly tangible yellow gold. They had given up charcoal furnaces and were using Calor gas, but they were manifestly doing something with pots and pans, and not with Egos and Ids.

Perhaps all external ideas about the nature of alchemy could be put into four views, separately or in combination:

First View: It is possible to transmute one element into another. One such transmutation is lead or iron into gold. From some unimaginable antiquity, a mighty secret has been handed down which shows how to do this. It is the most closely kept secret in human history.

Second View: Alchemy is the science of purifying man's inner nature and arriving at a non-aberrated individual. Such an individual would have, by comparison with ordinary men, certain advanced powers. For political reasons, this exercise had to be concealed in a pseudo-science of metal refining to which the Church would have no reason to object.

Third View: Metals can be transmuted. Lead can be turned into gold. An alchemist knows how to do this, and also knows a greater secret. If he is in a certain relation to the crucible in which the process happens, a comparable transmutation takes place in his own common presence. As lead turns into gold in the crucible, the operator's mind is transformed. He is subjected to something like nuclear radiation. Also, certain chemical by-products in the crucible are capable of being stored and used either to make more gold or to transform other men. Hence legends of "The Sly Man's Pill" and the Elixir which Saint-Germain is supposed to have offered Casanova when he was dying.

Fourth View: An alchemist is a man who knows an immensely powerful method of cleaning the Augean stable of his own subconscious mind. Pushed far enough, this process gives rise to a true soul-body inholding the properties of a different order of things. If this soul-body is directed on the base metals in a certain way (projection), it will accomplish a comparable transmutation in inorganic matter.

It should be said at once that no one outside the select circle of successful alchemists (if there are such) knows which of these, separately or in combination, approximates to the truth, but some hint may be contained in the first article of the Hermetic declaration, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. "True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above to accomplish the miracle of one thing."

Whether as a quick way to a fortune, as a process of psychological development, or as a holy science of soul-making, alchemy captured the imagination of Europe for centuries and at certain levels does so still, though in such circles there is now a widespread belief that there has been an interdict upon the complete operation since about the end of the 18th century. There are reasons to believe, however, that occasional breakthroughs still occur.

Alchemy may be derived from the Arabic al-kimia. The allegedly Egyptian origins of the art suggest that the "chem" root may come from the Egyptian name for Egypt, meaning black, referring to the black soil which distinguished it from the desert sand. It may also come from the Greek word for fusing.

Alchemy, at any rate, is of great antiquity, whether credit for the first historical record should go to China or Egypt. There are records of Chinese alchemy - or anti-alchemy - laws in 144 BC, and some reason to pre-date Chinese alchemy to the 4th century BC, at least.[1]

There were considerable exchanges between the Far and Near East, and Middle Eastern alchemy may well have come from China. On the other hand, Chinese alchemy was very largely esoteric and concerned with producing a medicine to give long life or immortality. Middle Eastern alchemy prior to Islam had a preponderantly exoteric reputation, and was seemingly concerned to manipulate metallic alloys. It has been pointed out that if China transmitted the idea of alchemy, it would have been an alchemy of medicine, and not of metallurgy.

If, however, we take the viewpoint that alchemy is the translation into "material" terms of information about non-causal events obtained through access to higher consciousness, there is no historical difficulty. Both sources, Chinese and Middle Eastern, would penetrate to the same insights, but would translate them into whatever "material" terms appealed to their own psychology; in one case, medical, in another metallic, in a third, a combination of both.

Almost from the foundation of Islam, alchemy became a Moslem science, though Holmyard makes the point that this is true only linguistically. Arabic was the cultural language of the Islamic empires, and therefore the language of art and science. The texts dealt with might, however, be in any language: Persian and Greek, for example. Listing Stephanos, Apollonius, Archelaos and others, Holmyard says: "Islam appropriated Greek alchemical authorities in toto." Certainly it would seem that Islam was the agent for reissuing a great amount of alchemical work from a much more remote past, but that, in addition, the Arab alchemists made their own highly original contributions.

The first translation of alchemical texts (from Greek and Coptic) are said to have been made on the order of Khalid, son of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, in the first half-century following the death of Mohammed.

[1] E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy, Penguin, London, 1957.

Armed with these translations, the young Khalid studied the subject at Damascus under Morienus, said to be a Christian monk of Alexandria.

The Nestorian Christians at this time were celebrated for their work in assisting translation of past knowledge into Arabic, but this was a transition phase of Saracenic development. By the 8th century, the Arabs had produced a wide range of scholars able to read Greek. After this the transmission of past learning became rapid.

In alchemy this phase is associated with the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan, otherwise Geber. His style of writing (intended to enlighten those who already possessed the key to alchemy, while remaining exasperatingly obscure to those who did not), became known as the Geber style and gave the word "gibberish" to the English language.

Jabir was an orphan, whose father Hayyan was beheaded for instigating revolt against the Umayyad dynasty. In consequence the boy was befriended by the Shi'ite faction. Little is known about his early life except that his master was a scholar called Harbi al-Himyari. Jabir appears as a fully-fledged alchemist at the court of Haroun al Rashid. His protector was the Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al Sadiq.

Accounts exist of Jabir curing one of the ladies of the court with "a certain elixir", so it is clear that the medical aspect of alchemy associated with the Chinese stream was known to the Arab alchemists by the second half of the 8th century. Jabir was a scholar of great range. As well as books on alchemy, he wrote papers on astronomy, logic, medicine, automata and magic squares, (some of which were translated in Spain by Gerard of Cremona).

Coded material seems to be inseparable from these magic squares, and it is possible that matters concerned with the rival factions claiming the true mandate of the Prophet are involved in these cipher puzzles as well as material deriving from the objective science of alchemy.

Considering the nature of the material deriving from Mohammed it may be that the two aspects are inseparable.

Scholars dispute the attribution of much of the "Jabirian corpus" to Jabir, but it seems clear that he was the author of much of it, though his texts were probably expanded or even, slanted by the Ishma'ilite sect in the 10th century for reasons connected with the double streams of occultism and politics which are apparently inseparable from this tradition.

Jabir's ground plan of nature involved four basic elements (earth, air, fire and water), in line with Aristotelian belief, but he developed these in terms of hotness, coldness, dryness and moisture. In the presence of these qualities and under planetary influences, metals were formed in the earth by the action of sulphur and mercury. Holmyard feels that this represents Jabir's major contribution to alchemy and that it influenced the development of experimental chemistry till the 17th century.

Holmyard, perhaps as a result of a visit to an alchemical laboratory at Fez, appears to have more than a purely academic attitude, and notes that when Jabir wrote sulphur, he meant "sulphur". Holmyard almost makes a leap into the mystical background of alchemy when he writes "(these were) hypothetical substances to which ordinary sulphur and mercury formed the closest available approximation".[2] Perhaps interesting comparisons with the "hydrogens" of G. I. Gurdjieff might also be made.

The combination of mercury and sulphur, absolutely pure and in a certain proportion, give rise, Jabir believed, to gold. In various degrees of impurity and in various proportions they give rise to all the other metals.

[2] E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy, Penguin, London, 1957, p. 73.

One of Jabir's apparent endeavours was to arrive at a formula which would give the various balances. One such table, which he published, turns out to be a "magic square" which was known to the Neo-Platonists and, says Holmyard, "had associations for the Sufi mystical society of which he was a member".

And there we have it. Jabir was not an Arab with a bee in his bonnet about naive chemistry and magic squares. He was a Sufi.

The most open-minded scholars are continually baffled by a certain seeming incongruity. Throughout history men who are clearly intellectuals and who have, from internal evidence of their work, a high I.Q., are associated with what appear to be childish pursuits. They draw magic squares and fuse metals in bowls trying to manufacture gold. It is a disquieting picture, rather like coming upon Einstein seriously trying to get nuclear fission with a magnifying glass.

Yet the contradiction would seem to resolve when viewed against the background of all alchemical pursuits, which is clearly mysticism.

Jabir, reputed to be the greatest alchemist since Hermes, is a Sufi. He is associated with a technique of entering a different kind of consciousness. He has, in consequence, access to an inductive and not a deductive method. Instead of observing the results of experiment and deducing the laws which apply, he observes the laws in operation at noumenal level and induces their experimental application.

Since there is no everyday knowledge of such a process, there is no ordinary vocabulary to describe it. The alchemist is reduced to talking about sulphur and mercury and elixir and stone. If he lives at a time when there are no inverted commas, he cannot easily suggest the symbolic nature of these terms.

At the same time, there are many alchemical authorities who appear, from internal evidence, to be fully knowledgeable yet who deny completely that the transmutation of metals and hence gold-making in the ordinary sense is possible at all.

One such was Abu Ali Ibn Sina whose name was Westernised to Avicenna. He was regarded as the greatest intellect since Aristotle, and for centuries the medieval world regarded him as a genius whose word upon any subject was final. A famous work "On Minerals", long attributed to Aristotle himself, was discovered in 1927 to be a condensation of one of Avicenna's books.

Now Avicenna held the same basic ideas as did Jabir about the constitution of matter; but he went out of his way to assert that transmutation of minerals, and hence gold-making, was an old wives' tale.

There are several possible explanations. The first is that men of exceptional intellect, working pragmatically, arrived at certain conclusions by deduction from experiment. Such men would be in effect materialist scientists before their time.

The second is that certain exceptional individuals associated with genuine schools of human development added to the sum of the practical knowledge of their time because they had access to higher consciousness and could induce the application of natural laws to practical events.

The third is that men of this latter category chose to conceal the source of their knowledge by deliberate mis-direction.

The Sufic tradition appears to contain many examples of this, and it is said that reality can sometimes be best approximated, at temporal level, in terms of apparently irreconcilable opposites. "It is necessary to note that opposite things work together even though nominally opposed," said the great Sufic sage Rumi. Both Rumi (died 1273) and El Ghazzali in the 11-12th centuries, acknowledged Sufi giants, referred to mystical knowledge as alchemical transformation.[3]

Holmyard makes the point that alchemy, like printing, reached its highest pitch of perfection while still in its infancy, an observation in line with Rodney Collin's theory of cellular development. "Islamic alchemy," says Holmyard, "never surpassed the level it attained with one of its earliest exponents, Jabir ibn Hayyan."

Certainly an enormous amount of all subsequent alchemy in Europe derived from the Latin translations - in various degrees corrupted - made from the Jabir alchemical corpus.

So, from Egypt to Greece, to Islam, to Europe. The great transition to modern times took place after 1100 and was centred round the famous College of Translators at Toledo, founded by Archbishop Raymond. Robert of Chester, collaborating with another "student translator", Hermann of Dalmatia, undertook to translate the Koran at the request of Peter the Venerable, who was a Cluniac.

When they had finished this - it took two years - Robert of Chester then began the translation of an Arab treatise: The Book of the Composition of Alchemy. He recorded the completion of this task on February 1I, 1144, so that the literary date of this alchemy passing into Europe is known precisely.[4]

Chester noted that no Latin words existed corresponding to some of the Arabic alchemical vocabulary, and he was forced to use simple transliterations.

In this way, many words like alkali, alcohol, athanor, elixir, matrass and naphtha passed from Arabic into Western European languages.

Adelard of Bath translated another alchemical text and Gerard did several from the Greek, one by Razi, and very probably The Book of Seventy by Jabir.[5]

The mystery of the alchemical process was now about to engage the whole of Europe, and this it proceeded to do in the 12th and 13th centuries.

[3] One of Ghazzali's most important works is Kimia-i-Saadat, The Alchemy of Bliss.

[4] E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy, p. 103.

[5] ibid., p. 106.

Among the first of the European alchemists was Albertus Magnus. Albert, Count of Bollstadt (1206 or 7-1280) was the prototype of many strange figures of the Middle Ages who combined an eager, questing intellect together with a "certain something" which served to earn them election to the mysterious company of Secret People.

He refused to believe that knowledge ended with Aristotle, and insisted on the primacy of personal observation and experiment, whatever ancient texts had to say. "He is the first Christian who is prepared to accept a rational treatment of natural phenomena".[6]

A Dominican monk - in spite of his independent mind - he travelled all over France and Germany on foot, lecturing on philosophy before finally returning to Cologne to study and write in seclusion.

Albert was one of these apparently ambivalent intellects which are such a sore trial to the logical mind. He seems to have asserted on the one hand that the alchemical transmutation of metals was impossible, and that alchemists succeeded only in dyeing metals to look like gold. In another book attributed to him, he declares a subjective insight into the alchemical process "given him by the Grace of God", and goes on to describe recipes for performing transmutations!

Albert's fame was such that young scholars came from all over Europe to get his teaching. One such, and the most famous of all, was Thomas Aquinas.

Whatever is to be made of his apparently contradictory views on alchemy, Albertus was no simple pragmatist. Legend associates him not only with constructing one of these famous "talking heads", but with making an entire artificial man, a task which occupied him for thirty years.

As Idries Shah [7] has disclosed, "making a head" is a Dervish code phrase for a certain exercise of inner development, and it is inconceivable that such a legend should have attached to a man who was not, alchemically speaking, on the inside.

That he possessed other powers associated with a level of development beyond the ordinary - instantaneous hypnotism, for example - is suggested in another legend. He is said to have invited a royal party to a banquet in mid-winter and then proposed holding it in the open air. Suddenly the royal guests saw the snow disappear. The sun came out, the trees were covered in foliage, the grass became midsummer green and fruit appeared on the bushes. As soon as the banquet was over, the sylvan scene vanished and the party found themselves shivering in the winter cold.

Clearly Albertus had the practice as well as the theory.

That there was a network of transmission behind the scenes so that knowledgeable people, whether clerics or laymen, could contact one another, may be suggested by the family circumstances of Albert's greatest pupil, Thomas, later Saint Thomas, Aquinas.

To glimpse this it will be necessary to flash back briefly to a strange little empire in the Mediterranean, where a whole world, largely unsuspected by the rest of Europe, continued to inject apparently alien standards into European history.

[6] Gordon Leff, Medieval Thought, Penguin, London 1958, p. 208.

[7] Idries Shah, The Sufis, p. 227.

In the 11th century, armies on the way home from the Crusades began to take part in the struggle for power in Southern Italy. Some of them, under Tancred de Hauteville, conquered part of South Italy, and took Sicily from the Saracens. Out of this operation grew a royal dynasty with Roger II established as the monarch of a combined kingdom of Apulia and Sicily.

This court was a strange mixture of the cultured and the barbaric, of East and West, of Christianity and Islam. Half European, half Oriental, it had a combined tradition of Greek, Latin, Moor and Jew. Roger kept a harem and had eunuchs.

A daughter of Roger II married the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI, and had a son, Frederick. The office of Emperor was elective, but with the support of Innocent III, the young Frederick was elected Emperor as Frederick II. As the Sicilian kingdom was hereditary, Frederick became both Emperor and King of Sicily.

The Pope's support for Frederick had been conditional on his mounting a Sixth Crusade. Frederick promised, but never quite got round to it. A later Pope, Gregory IX, excommunicated him and invaded his domains in South Italy. Frederick sailed for the Holy Land, but had an interview with the Sultan of Egypt, as a result of which it was agreed that Christian pilgrims should have access to the holy places for ten years. Frederick apparently achieved as much in ten minutes as all the Crusades put together. H. G. Wells regards this interlude as an outstanding example of simple commercial sanity in an era of supercharged religious emotion.

Frederick much preferred his Sicilian court to his German one. An amazingly well educated man, he spoke six languages, including fluent Arabic, and he gathered round him philosophers of all persuasions. Among his court scholars was Michael Scot, who translated both Ibn Rushd ("Averroes") and Aristotle.

From the court of Frederick, it is claimed, Arabic numerals entered the West. Called by his contemporaries "The Wonder of the World", Frederick was an astonishing mixture of scientist, philosopher, linguist, traveller and sybarite. He was a patron of the arts, valued beauty for itself, and was apparently interested in everything. In 1224 he founded the University of Naples, the first secular university in Europe, and he enlarged the medical school at Salerno. For light relief, he founded a zoological garden.

When the Provenlçal Troubadours were fleeing from the Albigensian terror, he set up a refuge for them. From this grew a Sicilian school of poetry, which later spread north. Out of it, it is claimed, grew the poetry of Dante. Frederick himself was a poet in the Italian vernacular.

It is fairly clear that Frederick was engaged in enterprises which went deeper than appearances. The Saracenic empires were undoubtedly the cover for the Sufic operation into Europe, by which certain evolutionary gains were being attempted, and the hidden inner activity spilled over into many forms. Whether Frederick was knowledgeable about the inner processes working through the history of the time it is impossible to say: but some indication may be glimpsed from the fact that when building castles in Southern Italy - for example, Castel del Monte in Apulia - these were designed as perfect octagons. This, says one historian, was a non-functional design and must therefore have been purely aesthetic.

Those who have noticed the recurrence of the octagon motif in various connections may suspect that it was not aesthetic at all.

The strange and haunting legend of Barbarossa - the monarch who sleeps in a deep cavern, his beard growing round a stone table, and who will awaken when the time is right for him to restore peace in a disordered world - this legend is normally ascribed to Frederick I.

H. G. Wells suggests that the legend should rightly be attached to Frederick II, and that it was subsequently antedated to enhance the religious prestige of the Crusader, Frederick I.[8]

If, as Wells suggests, the legend of Barbarossa should properly refer to Frederick II, some interesting speculations arise.

The legend of the great figure who sleeps till an appointed time has counterparts in Egyptian legend, in the story of Melchizedek, of Arthur, Merlin, Rip Van Winkle, and perhaps the Wandering Jew. That a legend of such an obviously archetypal nature should attach to a man who exhibited the qualities of Frederick II and who built octagonal castles for no apparent reason, is interesting indeed.

Was the influence of Frederick II purely local, a quixotic injection of alien Oriental ideas which startled Western Christendom as a nine days' wonder and then faded out of history? Or did his influence later emerge in underground and unsuspected ways?

One of the major influences on medieval Christianity was undoubtedly Thomas Aquinas, whose orthodox piety incorporated a resolute attempt to reinstate reason as a legitimate component of religious faith. His efforts made an impression on Church dogmatism from which, perhaps, modern attitudes of thought became possible.

Was it coincidence, therefore, that Thomas's family had distinguished themselves in the service of Frederick II? Or that, after an elementary education at Monte Cassino, he went to the University that Frederick had set up? Or that Thomas found his teacher in the person of Albertus Magnus who was clearly involved in activities which were not discernible on the surface?

It seems likely that certain influences from the court of Frederick II were well known in Thomas's family, and that he was destined for the role he had to play.

A not dissimilar family link may also be suspected in the career of Raymond Lully who, so far, has just failed to attain the award of canonization accorded to Aquinas.

Thomas went from Frederick's University at Naples (where his masters were Peter the Irishman and Martin of Denmark), to become a Dominican monk - a move of which apparently his family disapproved. This may, however, have facilitated his meeting with Albertus at Cologne. For the three years subsequent to 1245, Thomas studied under Albertus and emerged a "philosopher" and an alchemist. He then went to Paris, where in 1256 he was admitted as Master of Paris University.

This appointment brought to a head the clash between the alchemist scholars and the Church. One of Thomas's aims was to correlate all known learning of his day, an aim which has a familiar ring against the tradition which includes the Encyclopaedists of Basra and Roger Bacon. Reason and faith, he claimed, were both concerned with the same object. The former starts with sense-data and attains to a knowledge of the existence, goodness and will of God. The latter rests on revelation. Each requires to take into account the knowledge arrived at by the other. The Church now took its stand.

[8] H. G. Wells, The Outline of History, Cassell, London, 1920, p. 678.

"Rationalism", it was felt, had gone far enough.

Thomas's writings were condemned by various European churchmen including the Bishop of Paris and two successive Archbishops of Canterbury. Their objection largely centred on Thomas's view of the human soul as "a single substantial form of the human body" - a view which apparently represented an attack on an article of faith.

The fight, however, was really between Aristotle and Rome. Aristotle had been regarded as an almost superhuman authority so long as he was known only in Greek. When his thinking became available in Arabic and, through the Translators and the alchemist scholars, in Latin, his system was suddenly seen to be a self-sufficient cosmology that did not require Christianity. The alarm bells rang.

Thomas apparently believed in the reality of alchemical transmutation; but his attitude contained an interesting factor not much hinted at before his day.

The Great Work, he believed, was dependent on a "celestial virtue", which was not always at the alchemists' command, and part of the alchemist's task was to arrange conditions under which this virtue would be most likely to function.[9]

An echo of this idea appears in our own day in the analysis of alchemy from external sources made by Pauwels and Bergier.[10]

Here it is conjectured that the alchemical process, whether related to the inner development of man or the transmutation of metals, is dependent upon some seemingly arbitrary factor which the authors suggest may be the intensity of cosmic rays at a particular place and time.

It may be that Pauwels and Bergier have an insight here, though their identification of the arbitrary factor with cosmic rays may be fanciful.

It is significant that initiate tradition in the Sufi stream insists that certain operations, though the procedures may be correct, will be effective (or, as they say, "developmental") only under a combination of circumstances which they summarize as "right effort by the right people at the right time and the right place". In the absence of these conditions, there is no "occasion".

Whatever reality is concealed in this formula, it would explain recurring references throughout the whole of alchemical literature to an intangible which many alchemists were never able to find, and in the absence of which their efforts were endlessly vain.

Both Albertus and Thomas Aquinas were engaged, it seems, in a perilous exercise of hunting with hounds and running with hares.

They probably knew, because of their contact with a genuine esoteric source, that "known" truth and theological dogma need not, by any means, coincide. They were probably engaged in trying to reintroduce the original developmental force of Christianity, while gently diluting the organizational accretions which had all but smothered it. They tried, as a beginning, to show that rationalism and intuitive insights could be harmonized with theology.

[9] E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy, p. 114.

[10] Dawn of Magic, Gibbs and Phillips, London, 1963.

Historically, it would seem that the effort failed. Yet behind the scenes much must have been achieved. "There is evidence that at the deepest levels of Sufi secrecy there is a mutual communication with the mystics of the Christian West," says Idries Shah.[11]

This behind-the-scenes communication is being increasingly recognized by modern Arabists and other scholars, but they tend to interpret the discovery so as to square with prior assumptions. They now incline to the view that there was something "behind the scenes" and that it was good, but they think this was so because of the effect of Christianity on the expositors of the ancient teachings.

"The discovery that Christian contemplatives used Sufi books, Sufi methods, and Sufi terminology has stimulated the inevitable results … Sufism, it is now declared, is able to produce true mystical experience because the Sufis revere Jesus. Further, Sufism was profoundly influenced in its early days by Christianity. The implication is that Sufi ideas are not to be rejected. If St. John of the Cross and Lully could use them, there must be some good in them. The scholastics have retraced a part of their path, and are rewriting their history to allow for uncomfortable facts." [12]

If men like Albertus and Thomas were in touch with some aspect of the Directorate, they would have the effect required on their contemporaries and their environment, and it is impossible, therefore, to judge their success or otherwise from externals.

Much was certainly achieved. The developmental secret hinted at by the alchemists was incorporated in many media from folk-practices to art and architecture.

The true nature of the Gothic cathedrals as textbooks of human alchemy was suggested in many ways. The idea that a whole stupendous spiritual reality existed behind the veil of everyday life was carefully injected by the few who knew. It continued to be reproduced in forms of increasing dilution through Illuminist, Rosicrucian and Masonic ideas all through the centuries.

Hints about the inner content of Gothic architecture continue to drip into the European consciousness to the present day; as, for example, in the cathedrals chapter of P. D. Ouspensky's New Model of the Universe [13] and in Le Mystère des Cathédrales by Fulcanelli (see fn. 1, p. 82).

Some significant material appears to have been introduced under the very eyes of official ecclesiastical authority and even to have been unwittingly given official approval, though the ideas, if presented openly, would probably have produced a reaction of official horror.

Thus the Burial of Count Orgaz by El Greco appears to be a devout religious work by a painter of genius, which it undoubtedly is.

Its composition can, however, be dissected to show reincarnation concepts, something like the equivalence of conscious and sexual energy and the plurality of "I's" in a human personality. These are not concepts which an ordinary clerical sponsor would have approved had he known of them.

[11] The Sufis, p. 245.

[12] ibid., p. 246.

[13] Routledge, London, 1931.

Perhaps another example of devotional art being not quite what it seems is given by the 14th century fresco The Triumph of St. Thomas, attributed to Andrea da Firenze in Santa Maria Novella in Florence. In this, St. Thomas is the focus of a pictorial allegory on learning. Above his head are the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. Flanking him are the evangelists, among them St. John, and the Prophets, including Moses. At the foot, a row of female figures personify the theological sciences and the liberal arts, including arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

St. Thomas is the centre of all. He sits enthroned and holding the Wisdom of Solomon open at a passage which says: "I prayed and understanding was given to me."

But below St. Thomas and apparently supporting him there are three small figures all but lost in the decoration. In The Flowering of the Middle Ages [14] in which a detail of the fresco is reproduced, these figures are identified. They turn out to be Ibn Rushd and the two arch heretics Sabellius and Arius. The nature of the structure on which St. Thomas rests can hardly be avoided.

Contemporary with Albertus and Aquinas was Roger Bacon, the almost fabulous "miraculous Doctor" (1214-1292), who wore Arab dress at Oxford and was said to "make women of devils and juggle cats into costermongers", a reputation which has gone some way towards concealing one of the greatest of the European intellects and one of the most outstanding figures of all time.

Influenced by Robert Grossteste, Bishop of Lincoln (and first Chancellor of Oxford), Bacon became a Franciscan in 1247.

His heterodox views about almost everything early brought him into conflict with his clerical superiors. He had in mind a vast encyclopaedia of all knowledge then possessed in the world (once again an echo of the Basra Encyclopaedia) and he proposed, in a secret letter to the Pope, a major institute of learning, sponsored by the Church, which would centralize the enterprise.

The Pope apparently misunderstood and concluded that the encyclopaedia already existed. He expressed interest in it, and wanted to see it. Bacon, in a panic, sat down to write it.

He had to work without the knowledge of his own superiors, and it is some indication of the quality of his mind that in these circumstances and against the clock, as it were, he produced his three monumental works, the Opus Major, Opus Minor and Opus Tertium. In these he outlined a scheme for research and experiment in languages, mathematics, optics, alchemy and astronomy. The Pope, Clement IV, died, however, in 1268, and with him went Bacon's dream of introducing the natural sciences to the universities of Europe.

[14] Edited by Joan Evans, Thames and Hudson, London, 1966.

Bacon professed to believe that the totality of human knowledge and possibilities was contained in the Bible; but unlike his contemporaries he did not believe that the Bible was an open book. To understand it, a certain kind of inner study was necessary and this involved a knowledge of alchemy, astrology and magic.

Clearly he was on dangerous ground and his volatile personality did little to reconcile his views with orthodoxy. He apparently paid for his views with a 14-year period of imprisonment by his own Order. He lived to return to Oxford, but died soon afterwards, in 1292.

That Bacon, like some others, was engaged in building, secretly, a bridge between the outward form of Christianity and its increasingly dilute inner content is suggested from many circumstances.

He cited the Wisdom of Illumination by the Sufi master (and martyr) Suhrawardi. The latter had declared that his philosophy was that of the inner teaching of all the ancients, Greek, Persian and Egyptian. It was the science of Light and through it man could attain to a state about which he could not normally even dream. Bacon repeated this claim and declared that the same secret had been held by Noah, Abraham, the Chaldean and Egyptian masters, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Socrates and the Sufis.

Of speculative alchemy, Bacon said: "And because this science is not known to the generality of students it necessarily follows that they are ignorant of all that depends on it concerning natural things, namely, of the generation of animate things, of plants and animals and men, for being ignorant of what comes before, they are necessarily ignorant of what follows." [15]

Bacon, like Albertus, was clearly in touch with some genuine esoteric source. Unlike Albertus, he knew Arabic. It seems clear that the source, for both of them, was a Sufi one.[16]

Thus in suggesting that the work of alchemy may produce results other than those apparently being sought (e.g., making gold from lead) he uses an analogy which is in fact a straight lift from a Sufi teaching-story.

Bacon knew about "the right people in the right place at the right time", and implied the prime necessity of a living transmission in all developmental processes.