Chapter 20: She Who Must Be Obeyed
"Oh, Mother! What is God?"
- 12th Century graffiti, Wildenborg Castle
"There it is! Right there on the f*****g wall!"
I steadied the flashlight, its beam picking out a familiar eight-legged outline scrawled on the cave wall above us. Mr. Horn took a half step closer, eyes roaming, taking in the ancient graffiti, the signature of a mysterious vanished cult identical to the markings in the grotto at Tarantula Square. I'm not sure it meant as much to him as it did to me, but I was grateful for his company nonetheless. Mr.Horn, while an expert documentary cameraman, is a man of notoriously few words and as ever his true thoughts remained a mystery to me, his face lost in the shadows.
The end of the century was in sight and we were deep in the bowels of the Lombrives, the largest limestone cave system in Europe, whose galleries provided a sanctuary to beleagured Neanderthals and emergent cro-magnons alike, sacred to shamans, druids, medieval Christians and heretics in turn. Its myriad tunnels were part of a single conjoined labyrinth, until a glacier sliced the system in half during the last ice age. While part of the system is open to the public with modern spelunkers having penetrated twelve miles or more into its depths, some of the deeper capillaries remain unplumbed to this day.
Deep in the heart of mountain lies a subterranean lake, beside whose lightless waters rises a glistening crystalline vault known as the 'Tomb of Pyrene', and identified in popular lore as the last resting place of the bride of Hercules, from whom the mountains of northern Spain and southern France draw their name. Beyond the vast natural column named the 'pillar of Hercules', the passage's ribbed throat widens into a yawning honeycombed wombspace into which Westminster cathedral and Pinewood Studios' fabled 'Bond Stage' could fit with ease, its walls rising into a darkness that our meager lighting budget could never hope to dispel, the dank stone covered in an illegible tangle of dead languages, pentagrams and other less familiar geometric markings. Here amidst the dust of centuries, I found the last piece of the puzzle that would complete the cycle begun all those years before in far away Montserrat, the final clue to the identity of the faceless goddess, the 'supernatural' force that had guided my steps and seemingly manipulated the day-to-day events of my life since the day I had first set foot in the Scala cinema and settled down to the all-day all-nighter that set the long, strange journey in motion...
My first encounter with Our Lady of Darkness had briefly jarred me out of the youthful cynicism I had mistaken for 'reason', but over the years I had somehow pushed the events to the very back of my mind, telling myself it had been little more than a ludicrous chain of 'coincidences', inspired by my overheated imagination and prolonged exposure to Dario's fractured ouvre. What happened at Montsegur in the summer of 1996, however, had proved a whole lot harder to explain away. I tried to tell myself that it had simply been a freak storm, that caught us unawares and that the voltage coursing through the walls of the keep had somehow affected Kate's brainwaves and triggered the violent seizure that followed. Despite all I had seen, my conscious mind refused to give in to the thought that she had been 'possessed', or that the citadel really was the 'castle of the Holy Grail' after all.
Returning to the Pyrenees, I spent months at a time camped out with Mr.Horn on the holy mountain, locked off cameras covering every conceivable angle, hoping to capture the 'hand of God' and those fiery, plasmic fingers on film for all to see, but we waited in vain. Our search for the missing Grail historian proved just as fruitless. We followed SS Obersturmfuhrer Otto Wilhelm Rahn's trail back to Germany and pulled every file we could. We found a few survivors, a family, a teddybear, a handful of notes and in the end we found a grave.
The fact that Otto Rahn existed at all stretches credulity. He seems to have stepped alive from the pages of a 30's pulp, complete with black coat, fedora and those pale-green, oddly otherworldy eyes. Born and raised in the Black Forest, not far from the ruins of Wildenborg, where Wolfram von Eschenbach first committed Parsifal to parchment in the 12th century, Otto was a lonely, troubled child. Bullied at school, he sought refuge from his peers and dysfunctional family in the myths of an immutable, vanished past, in the works of his compatriots and role models, the Brothers Grimm and the legends of the knights and troubadours of old.
Otto's niece insists he was possessed of what she calls the 'seventh sight', and regardless of whether his alleged telepathic abilities were real or imagined, there seems little doubt that he deliberately cultivated an aura of mystery about himself from the very beginning, a suspicion underpinned by his early thwarted ambitions towards a career in the film industry, two surviving unproduced screenplays, and the macabre theatricality of the promotional stills for his first book Crusade Against the Grail (1933).
Inspired by rogue archeologist Heinrich Schliemann's sensational 'discovery' of Troy, the ambitious young philologist set about deconstructing Parsifal in the same manner that Schliemann had approached Homer's Illiad, intending to prove the 12th century Grail romance was anchored in actual historic events.
While still in his early twenties, Rahn was taken under the wing of the mysterious Countess de Pujol Murat, a leading figure in a secret society known as the 'Polaires', who drew their name from Stella Polaris or Arktos, true north symbolized by the swastika, which is said to represent the seasonal positions of Ursa Minor around the Pole Star. To what extent their lodge maintained ties with other societies of its day, such as the Thule Geselschaft, whose leadership were to eventually found the National Socialist German Worker's Party that brought Hitler to power, is hard to tell at this distance in time. While Rahn openly wore the Sieg Rune of the Thule on the sweater knitted for him by his mother, the Polaires themselves seem to have been more closely affiliated to their British counterparts, rather than the racist and increasingly anti-semitic German lodges of their day. They would later suffer persecution under the Nazis, who suspected the secret societies of either actively aiding and abetting the Jews, or acting as unwitting pawns in a hypothetical 'zionist-Masonic' conspiracy. While the European Polaires were all but wiped out and their records subsequently destroyed in the war, the British movement went from strength to strength, growing out of and eventually breaking away from Conan Doyle's Spiritualist Association of Great Britain (SAGB), under the auspices of charismatic Welsh platform medium Grace Cooke and her ambitious huband, Ivan.
Grace seems to have attempted to wrest control of the SAGB after the demise of its founder and mentor by audaciously channeling his talkative shade in closed sittings with Sir Arthur's bereaved family. When the Doyle clan began to smell a rat Grace and Ivan split to the Pyrenees, where they spent the better part of the following year as guests of the Countess de Pujol Murat at approximately the same time as Rahn's own sojourn in the south.
The only way to ever know for sure whether Rahn was either a Mason or a card-carrying envoy of the Thule Society, would be to access the surviving British order's records, and to this effect, I took to posing as a clairvoyant at the Spiritualist Association's mouldering West London headquarters, a routine ably abetted by one-time television psychic Andre Phillipe. The White Eagles maintain close ties with the SAGB, recruiting heavily from their hapless membership and accordingly it took me little more than 48 hours to insinuate myself into a gathering of their west London chapter, in a lavishly converted chapel not much more than a block or two from Harrods.
The White Eagles' spotless unisex lab smocks and custom of 'scrubbing down' before and after ceremonies brought the works of David Cronenberg to mind, as much as it recalled the witch cults of Argento's Suspiria and Inferno. Certainly it looked as if Cronenberg's resident production designer Carol Spier might have been responsible for the décor, the sparsely furnished interior dominated by a huge swooping Luftwaffe-style eagle that had taken the place of the banished cross. Grace's granddaughter, the order’s dynastic high priestess, held court over her devoted following, swathed in turquoise robes, adorned with the distinctive silver star of the Polaires. Despite the exotic, crypto-fascist bling, the essence of her address seemed to be pretty much the same vacuous, feelgood love-thy-neighbour gobbledygook spouted by preachers the world over, so after half an hour or so I politely excused myself, taking the opportunity to avail myself of the small private library and adjoining reading room on the floor below.
Browsing through the order's bound memos and archived copies of their bi-monthly periodical Stella Polaris, it became apparent that any reference to the war years had been assiduously removed. Noticing the high priestess’ robed husband, Colm Haywood, watching me with naked suspicion from the reading room doorway, I decided to brazen it out and broach my concerns directly. Colm blanched as I mentioned Otto's name, then recovering his saintly demeanor, he greeted me with a fraternal third degree handshake, assuming that to know as much as I did meant I had to be 'one of them', and confirming that the Polaires were, in all likelihood, just another franchise of the all-seeing eye. Hastening to set my mind at rest, the high priest explained that earlier editions of the newsletter had been removed for safekeeping to the organizations lavish and closely guarded headquarters in Glastonbury. Then urging me to get in touch by e-mail should I wish to view the redacted material, he politely showed me the door. I could tell my questions had rattled the high priest or grand wizard or whatever he liked to call himself and it came as little surprise when subsequent attempts to contact him at the address provided drew a blank. The Rahn affair was toxic spiritual waste and the last thing anyone needed was for some smartass to forge a direct, clearly established paper trail, linking Hitler's Reich to the burgeoning New Age movement.
It is impossible to gauge the extent of Rahn's immersion and complicity in the clandestine groups that funded and tacitly guided his early work. Regardless of whether he was a true Nazi, a Masonic fifth columnist or even a closet Zionist, there can be little doubt that the Polaires not only supported and encouraged his research, but deliberately steered his attention towards the heretic fortress of Montsegur, which the young philologist was to subsequently identify with the 'Grail Castle' of song and story.
The convoluted 'fourth dimensional' geometric charts drawn by Danielle/Arianne, who had thoughtfully taken to leaving his work pinned to trees and roadside fences in the Rennes area, drew my attention to the similarity between the floorplan of the keep and the constellation of Arcturus, almost the star system's mirror image, inverted as if viewed through an ancient camera obscura. I only wish I had the smarts or the computer power to be able to calculate what those stars might have looked like a thousand years ago when the foundations of the keep were first hewn from the raw stone.
The castle's alignment to the sun, and the subsequent lightshow in the north tower that marks the dawn of every successive solstice, has lead historians and New Age gurus alike to lazily identify the keep's builders with the heliocentric Celts. In point of fact, the building has little or nothing in common with the megaliths of Stonehenge, Avebury or Newgrange. It's construction is without precedent and we have no clue as to its origins, purpose or how it eventually came to be destroyed.
There is every reason to doubt the construction served any conventional defensive purpose. As Jurgen Prochnow puts it in Michael Mann's The Keep (1983), the whole place is 'constructed backwards', as if to keep something in rather than keep something out. The so-called 'arrow slits' slant inwards and downwards in such a way as to make it impossible to actually fire an arrow through them with any degree of accuracy, and no attempt has been made by conventional archeologists to explain the north facing slit, which communicates not with the outside world but the interior of the keep itself.
A fingertip search of the courtyard, conducted in August 2007, revealed a single area of worked stone, a rough ledge at the base of the north facing slit. No effort has been made by the original architects to otherwise flatten the mountaintop to provide a convenient floor space let alone seats or shelves, yet climbing up onto the ledge I found at once that the narrow shelf was the acoustical focus of the keep, my voice carrying loudly and clearly throughout the edifice.
It is my considered opinion that the mysterious, almost vaginal slit in the north tower is aligned to the position of the moon at the spring equinox (the anniversary of the fall of the castle - March 15th 1244), just as the east facing slits are designed to harness and concentrate the first, faint light of the solstice dawn. This apparent alignment to both the moon and the stars dispells the notion of any simple heliocentric culture having been at work, hinting at a far more complex understanding of the physical universe. In fact, what the castle resembles more than anything else is a vast pinhole camera...
The history of the motion picture apparatus has long been intertwined with the 'dark art' of sorcery. The gimmick that ate the medium. A cheap conjurors trick that eventually took over the auditorium and forced out the human performers.
Stage magician George Melies was the first to grasp the camera's capacity to lie after licensing the first projector from the Lumiere Brothers, who drew inspiration from Roget's famous pamphlet on fusion frequency, which was in turn derived from the zoetrope or moving picture wheel, a toy of the devil shunned for centuries by the Catholic church, who, like the modern day Taliban, deemed its capacity to mimic the 'illusion of life' inherently heretical...
The magic lantern enters the history books with Giovanbattista Della Porta's experiments in light and shadow, using a device described as a 'thaumaturgic' in the Magiae Naturalis, probably the same early form of motion picture projector as the Lucernae Magicae seu Thaumaturgae, described by the Jesuit monk Kircher in the second edition of his Arsmagna Lucis et Umbrae.
Kircher's work influenced the creation of the henakitoscope (1832), the zoetrope (1860), the kinemetoscope (1861), the kineograph (1861), and the praxinoscope (1877) and finally Thomas Alva Edison's kinetoscope (1899). Edison had a pet name for the tar-papered studio in West Orange, NJ, where all his prototypical films were made. He called it the 'Black Maria' - a term richly, if inadvertently, redolent of the image to whom Ignatio de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, dedicated his life in 1522, the Black Madonna of Montserrat...
Kircher wrote his treatise in 1646, but it is generally conceded that the device was in use long before its closely guarded secret appeared in print...
The famous Italian goldsmith, Cellini, recorded in detail his meeting with a notorious Sicilian magus during his visit to Rome in 1540. While discussing the 'magical arts' with the sorceror, Cellini remarked that he would like to see someone invoke demons, and the older man calmly offered to produce a horde of them for his benefit. The ruins of the Colosseum were chosen by the magus as a suitable spot for such a demonstration and Cellini arranged to meet him there the following evening, bringing along one of his friends to act as a credible witness. Within the silence of the vast amphitheatre, the necromancer drew circles in the dust and kindled a fire upon which he tossed various substances that produced a dense column of perfumed smoke. He then began a lengthy incantation, while there appeared about the circle a vast array of devils, which, according to Cellini, completely filled the Colosseum. The sorceror called the demons by name while Cellini's friend shook with fear, pointing out four gigantic devils in full armour, who seemed to be riding across the walls of the ancient auditorium. In an effort to reassure the trembling onlookers, the magus told them the demons were in fact only smoke and shadows. Indeed, they gradually diminished in number, their outlines fading from view as the smoke cleared...
While some sceptics dismiss Cellini's account as pure fiction, it seems more probable the author is simply exaggerating an actual experience, as was his custom throughout the autobiography. From the given account, it seems the Sicillian warlock was using a mechanical device, possibly operated by hidden accomplices to achieve the ghostly illusion. This sort of skullduggery dates back to ancient times, when concave metal mirrors were used in pagan temples to project brilliant lights and even images upon various surfaces including smoke, a theory supported by British historian and archeologist Sir David Brewster. The smoke from the fire may have caught occasional images, but the mighty background of the Colosseum itself is the only sure solution to the mystifying effect, otherwise the sorceror would surely have chosen some other, more convenient venue. The name of the thaumaturge mentioned in Cellini's account has sadly not come down to us, but his Sicillian origins bring to mind the order of the 'Faithful in Love' described by Dante, that allegedly traced its roots all the way back to 12th century 'Cathar' prophet Nicetas himself.
In his thought-provoking novel Flicker (1992), Theodore Roszak speculates on how the 'moving picture wheel' may owe its ancestry to the flick books of the gnostics, apparently designed to demonstrate to the initiate how life as we know it is itself merely an illusion created by a constant subatomic flicker, a friction between positive and negative charges, between existence and non-existence, between spirit and matter, light and darkness...
There seems little doubt that the Albigensians of the 12th and 13th century were an oddly civilized folk for their day with fragmentary records referring to a 'Jewish school of medicine' in Toulouse and a 'school of magic' in Salamanca. They had a form of proto-democracy in the form of elected 'magistrates', or 'capitouls', who acted as a check on the power of the church and the aristocracy and, while not essentially matriarchal as some have claimed, were at least unusually egalitarian in their gender politics. Some say they were Luciferians like the Yezzidis, others that they were the last of the true Christians but in the end it doesn't matter who they really were or why they fought or why they died. To quote Conan The Barbarian: "All that matters is few stood against many", and as I learned the facts of their history, I couldn't help but feel a growing affininity with the castle's stubborn defenders.
At first I knew little more than what I had gleaned from the script of 'La Chiesa', but there was something about the high, wooded valleys and dim-blue mountaintops that stirred feelings I couldn't adequately explain. In South Africa, the Afrikaners called black people 'kafirs' - a word used by the Arab slavers for those, who did not believe in Islam and hence could be bought and sold like cattle . It was a 'fight word', an insult like 'nigger', and I felt a natural, intuitive abhorrence for the Apartheid system that alienated me from my family and birth place from the very top. The word 'cathar' was used an insult by the Teutonic knights and crusaders who took Occitania by force. It too is a 'fight word', not a belief system. It is in fact the same word by another spelling. A heretic. An unbeliever. Someone who does not bear allegiance to the one God, be it Mohammed or Jehovah.
The basic principals of the dualist heresy that sparked the fourth and last crusade, springs from the simple notion that infinite goodness cannot create evil. Since there is evil in the world, it follows that some other principal must be at work. The conventional monotheisms put this down to God's plan, but while pain might enoble man, as William Peter Blatty rightly points out in The Ninth Configuration, "does pain enoble a caterpillar?" Children and animals are innocent. Why should they suffer and die?
The creator of this world (God/ Yaweh/ Jehovah/ Allah/ what you will) either doesn't exist, or is quite evidently insane and does not necessarily love us nor mean the best for us. Although this force has the power to torture our physical bodies and even kill us when necessary, it has no power over our immortal souls, which the 'Cathars' believed were created by the true, good God and were apparently eternal. Needless to say, this idea held great appeal in the Middle Ages when life was by all accounts nasty, brutish and short. In order to hide the evil in this world, the 'Cathar' holy men or 'parfaits' believed an illusory veil had been drawn over our eyes.
Each of us however is supposed to have a divine counterpart, unfallen akin to a 'guardian angel' or Socrates' 'daemon', who is trying to help us awaken. This other personality is the authentic waking self. The one we have now is asleep and minor. We are in fact asleep and in the hands of a dangerous black magician disguised as the True Good God. The bleakness, the evil and pain in this world causes us to fall asleep into delusion early in life. Like Keanu Reeves, we really do have superpowers but can't remember how to use 'em. The act of awakening, of slowly becoming aware of these powers, is not so much an act of learning as an act of 'anamnesis', of remembering which implies there must be something to remember and that our actual lives extend beyond our apparent births and deaths.
Yet this malign force, which deliberately manipulates and misleads us (known as 'Rex Mundi' or 'the king of the Earth' to the 'Cathari'), cannot be infallible, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this text in the first place. The all-seeing eye is not all-powerful, but tries to deceive the children of the kingdom into believing so. And if the designer of the prison programme is fallible, then it can be beaten. That is the true meaning of the first law of magic; 'As above, so below... 'Gods' are only enlightened 'mortals', hence mortals might, through the piecing together of seemingly dissociated information symbolically encoded in our minds over successive generations, regain the key to their secret.
Christ (like the prophet Elijah) is said to have 'entered alive into the Kingdom of Heaven'. Other ascended masters are rumored to have existed over the centuries. Maybe we can make it to the next level, but it ain't easy as Gilgamesh found out. We are nothing more than an energy wave, a frequency after all. Maybe it's possible to change channels? The last time anyone seems to have pulled this off was when Fulcanelli, the master alchemist, is supposed to have transcended the fabric of space time at some point just before or during the Second World War, having apparently unpicked the 'art of light' encoded in the gothic architecture of the great cathedrals and mansions of Europe. According to his principle disciple, the publisher Eugene Canseliet, Fulcanelli had been aging backwards for some years and seemingly changed gender before disappearing. Farfetched, I know, but I have not been able to satisfactorily dismiss the possibility. All I know is he isn't really hiding beneath the floorboards as Leigh McClosky discovered in Inferno.
The trouble with these so-called 'ascended masters' is that there never seems to be one around when you need them.