The Canals of France,
Hapgood went on. “In
return for their help, Martel created a homeland, Septimania
de Midi, for the Jews in the
“Rashi was a scholar of world class proportions. He made a commentary on the Talmud, which is a commentary on the Old Testament, which you could call a long involved commentary on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible as we know it. That, in turn, you could call a commentary on the covenant, which is the Law. And most of the Law is a commentary on the Ten Commandments.
“So Rashi was a great man in a great tradition. One of the things he was aware of was that Christians are welcomed and even encouraged to pray for things from God. Rahsi was in the tradition that the duty of man is to serve God and not the other way around. He taught that it is not proper to ask for things when praying. His scholarship was above reproach. And in effect it was brilliantly helpful in facilitating the survival of the Jewish community among a Christian majority which was not always friendly. The distinction was profoundly different from Christians, who did not hesitate to ask for things, and it was different from Classical pagans, who also asked for blessings. But deep as the difference was, the observance could be carried out in total secret, even if one were under the control of an enemy. They cannot prove you are not praying for things in your heart.
“Two things happened after Rashi that are interesting to us. One was the beginning of the Holy Grail story, and the other was the writing of the Cabala. The Cabala takes the position, ‘All right. We don’t ask favors from God. But what if – just saying suppose – we wanted to do just that. How would be go about it?
“The result was a brilliant and thoroughly intriguing piece of work. Some days when I look at it I think, ‘This, not the Bible, might actually conceal a code.’
“The Cabala was written in
the south of
“There was another remarkable
document written here. Just about
everyone who has been to a Christian church in
“As you know, during the
early days of the church, there were tensions between Arian Christians and Athanasian Christians.
“The point of the council was
to decide the minimum beliefs one had to have to be
“The creed is called the Nicean Creed or the Athanasian Creed, as if it were written by Anthanasia himself. It wasn’t. It was written here, and it is still used.
“I probably ought to qualify
that. There were creeds in existence
before and there have been changes since.
“And of course the troubadour
tradition that the Holy Grail is the best known example of started here. And there was the ‘Song of Roland,’ possibly
the first work of real literature to come out of
Hapgood paused and looked unhappy before he went on with his story.
“Pretty much all the things I
just described happened in the Dark Age or maybe very early Middle Ages. The Dark Age began with the fall of
“One of the things that came
with the Middle Ages was what we call the
Crusades. The First Crusade, when much
“After that the crusaders
were driven out, and subsequent crusades by and large went worse and
worse. The Fourth Crusade at the time of
“The worst of all was the Albigensian. There
are those who say it was not
“For some time a group called
Cathars had been collecting there in the
“The Cathars were Manichaean’s who shared some ideas with the Arians, if not the same history. They did not recognize the Pope’s authority. What is worse, they were clean living people who typically spent their lives in charitable service so they were immensely popular. They had not been responsive to persuasion to join ranks with the church of Rome. Resort was made to force.
“The crusaders had a problem
at the beginning because the whole watershed of the Aude
river, named after Roland’s wife, was dominated by the
great fortress of
“Now the strategic location of the fort worked against the Cathars. The crusaders simply went up one valley at a time and cleared it. But resistance was very determined. The crusade became more and more savage. Official policy was to kill everybody, since only God would know who really was a heretic. It was here that the procedures for persecuting heretics were worked out, including pro-active pursuit of the victims, secret testimony, torture-execution of those who were ‘obstinate’ and torture pure and simple. It was called the Inquisition.
“It was from this time that
the words, inquisition, witch hunt and crusade get their extraordinarily evil
overtones. The crusades against Islam
may have actually been effective at reversing the tide, which even after the
“Among the people who died at
the hands of the Albigensian crusaders were the
Jews. At this point the degree of
treachery begins to stagger the mind.
Had it not been for this very Jewish community and
“At the end, the Cathars were reduced to a single castle under siege. When, with the help of some Basque mountaineers, the crusaders were able to bring up their siege engines and batter the walls, it was evident that all was lost. That night a group of Cathars climbed down the back side of the mountain and either did or did not hide an object or a message. They came back before first light. Then the whole group walked down the mountain and surrendered. They were promptly burned alive.
“The Knights Templar took no part in the Albigensian Crusade. To what extent they may have even had ties with the Cathars no one knows. Whether they both guarded the same secret is a matter of the wildest speculation.
“Later, when the Templar turn came to be persecuted, they were rounded up and tortured and killed, but neither their hypothetical secret nor their undeniable vast fortune has ever been discovered.
“As for the
Hapgood stopped speaking, and the group sat silent as evening
gathered. It had been a deliciously warm
Indian summer day. They pondered what
lay ahead as the stolid barge nosed onward toward the Canal du
Midi and the unconquered “Virgin of Languedoc,” the mighty
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