(presented by the Andras Laszlo as a lecture on August 1st, 1998, in the Saint Mary Monastery in Szabolcs, Hungary)
THE ESSENCE of all spiritual paths is to find the Center of Existence, the Center of Consciousness, the Center of Myself; to return to where I started from and to return there through Myself. The most diverse paths of realization are known in this sense: some attempt to walk and complete this path through the pure forms of solitude, silence and contemplation – walking is obviously meant symbolically here since essentially there are no movements in such process of realization. There are also various active paths related to the highest form of activity, above activities: the act, where the role of active knowing weighs as much as the role of the activity itself – quite similarly to all other autonomous paths of realization. Spiritual paths could be incredibly diverse, including those that are fundamentally different from conventional ideas, which conceive the methods of self-realization and self-transcendence of man in terms of tranquility, turning inwards, contemplation. There are, however, other possibilities that on the level of actionality take on extreme forms, going to the most extreme situations that present the very limits – both in the internal and external sense: fighting in battles and wars; in the sphere of such paths, the paths of the knights enjoy an eminent role.
The path of the knights is a spiritual path, a path of realization, a path of self-actualization. The path of the knights may be conceived as a path that transforms the basic combative nature of humans into heroism; in the symbolic language of alchemy: it transforms the bellicose as materia prima secundum quid into materia ultima secundum quid. This is how we may sum up the essence of the warrior path, but we haven’t exhausted its inner nature yet; it stands in the sign of fight.
Fight in the conventional sense may not be considered a spiritual path; in its common, vulgar form it is not a path of self-realization, but simply another way of stirring up the murky waters of existence gushing out from the vortex of becoming. What is it that turns fight into a possibility for the self-transcendence of man as the carrier of Subject? Let’s have a look at what kind of basic natures, basic forms fight as such exhibits. The outcome of the fight is always decided between “darkness” and “light”. When the ruling presence of spiritual light manifests itself in the enemy, he is a noble opponent; when the enemy is dominated by the powers of darkness, he is an ignoble enemy. The fight may only be fought against darkness from the position of light; this means that I am not attacking the powers of light in the enemy, only the powers of darkness present in him; the powers of light always mean allegiance for those who can actually follow the light. So the knight may face a noble enemy, but he’ll be looking for the darkness in him, and he expects the noble enemy to do the same. It is known that the Order of the Knights Templar regularly met with knights from Muslim Ismailite-Sufi orders and maintained intimate friendships with them knowing that the next day they’d meet in battle and the possibilities of death will open up and both sides will fight mercilessly; but they also knew what was the fight against; friendship is when the light meets the light, battle means to seek out the darkness behind the dominant light and fight against that. This is the meaning of the fight, just like this is what the essence of peace is related to. There are two types of peace: ‘peace after the victory of light’ (pax post victoriam lucis) and ‘peace after the victory of darkness’ (pax post victoriam tenebrarum) the latter of which may never be accepted from a spiritual point of view. This is why all pacifism is fundamentally flawed, sinful, deviant and regretful and works toward the corruption of the world. Only the victory of the powers of the light means peace and nothing else is acceptable. Thoughts like “peace no matter what”, “no more war”, “no more bloodshed” in such sentimental forms inevitably express the deification of the vortex of existence, the state of becoming; these are merely samsaric view points. The aspect of heaven, of the divine, of Nirvana are completely different: the single, fundamental aspect here is to reinstate the superior, the even more and more superior and not those that are related to circumstances and consequences that stem from changes in the various states of existence and becoming; in comparison to the previous ones, these factors are insignificant. When we determine that the warrior path is a method of transforming the bellicose nature of man into heroism and we identify the types of possible fights including our attitude toward them, we must repeatedly draw into consideration that even if the enemy is ignoble (i.e. he represents darkness, he is the representative of the dominance of darkness) I am launching my attack only against the darkness and not against the light, however minimally it may be present in him. I only attack that which represents a downward orientation, a tendency of leveling, the corruption of states of existence – these are the factors that stand in the sign of darkness and with which no solidarity whatsoever may be taken. The paths of the knights have always most thoroughly considered this and brought it to the forefront at each and every occasion.
Volumes may be written on the history of knighthood. Here we must mention that knighthood has always existed since pre-historic times or since times within pre-historical states. “Horse” in such cases doesn’t simply mean the animal which we call a “horse”; it means carrier, the ruled, dominated carrier and this is the meaning that was later related to the animal that most often played the role of the carrier. But in the Sanskrit language, in the Hindu tradition, for example, the carrier of the ‘knight’ – asvin – is the hamsa ‘swan’ – let’s remember the Lohengrin saga in this respect. The “carrier“: this is what horse itself used to mean and I refer mostly to the Indo-German languages, although this was in a sense valid everywhere. For example we could find a knights’ order also in the Aztec culture: the Knights Order of the Jaguar; no matter how far we go back, with appropriate research and information we should be able to find this everywhere – at least in places with the kind of ethnic groups that were capable of representing the spiritual-metaphysical tradition. We find this in Chinese tradition just as much as in the Japanese one, where in certain sense it is still alive, where the ‘path of war’, budo, or the path of the ‘warrior knight’, busi-do originally represented a high spiritual rank and it was as one of the paths of spiritual realization. By going through the fight and facing death, the warrior-knight path opens up possibilities for contact with states that are superior to death both ontologically and by orders of magnitude. The Japanese always knew this and this was also known in Europe when the idealism of knighthood was still vivid, functioning and powerful, and it still played a significant role in life. We may go as far as saying that spiritual paths of the highest level were always related somehow to various warrior paths even if this relation was not that pronounced. A relatively recent example is the Cistercian Order within the monastic orders of the Catholic Church, which was the contemplative equivalent of the Order of the Knights Templar. Contemplative orders often appeared in parallel with the paths of the knights; there was a bridge between these both in terms of practice and cooperation. Not directly, but based on some parallelism there has always been a fundamental and deeply organic relationship between inner paths of contemplation and other forms.
It is customary to separate knowledge and action and this separation is, to some degree, justified. René Guénon, one of the most significant figures of metaphysical tradition, said that action means modifications on a horizontal level, meaning it always remains on the same ontological level, while knowledge may be conceived along a symbolical vertical axis and as something that entails changes of corresponding magnitude. This is indeed so from many aspects, but what this personality -whom we hold in the highest regard- leaves out of consideration is the act. We must differentiate between the act and mere activities; the act is an activity in which deep and strong -gnostic- powers of knowledge are at work exerting their influence from the heights to the depths; when the activity is gnostically empowered, it is an act. The knowledge element is unconditionally present in the act, similarly to how in true knowledge and knowing there is a strong element of actionality. It is absolutely possible that a connection is formed between these, which means that not all forms of action are tied to horizontality and that there exist also vertical forms of action in which gnostical powers manifest themselves – and these in turn are manifestations related to actual acts.
To act is a spiritual path. The sequence of acts correspond to the gradual unfolding of spiritual paths. Not only are the spiritual path and the path of acts not in opposition to each other, they are connected in the tightest possible way. We know that the interest of the knights’ orders, besides fighting and transforming bellicosity into heroism, had a very strong gnostic orientation. In regards gnostic principles, the orders always exhibited the most intense interest and attention and made it a point to connect with these on an operative level, in fact these belonged to their very goals. The knights of the antiquity in the Western world had also reached such high levels since among the Romans, they stood on the second level of the patrician rank: starting from the top, the rank of the senator was followed directly by the eques, the ‘knight’. The senator was part of the ruling class, while the eques represented the class that was capable of actively maintaining, conserving, defending, extending and completing the empire. Even in later Centuries we find deeply spiritual orders: it’s enough to think of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Grail; the Order of the Grail was a fully spiritual order that drew on and sustained a pre-Christian spirituality and which was led by the King of the Grail who was in the same time the top ruler of the country that was ruled by this order. While he sustained a worldly dominance, by his essence he represented a spirituality in his domain that drew on innate metaphysical powers and also served as a path of realization, religion and culture, permeating the world.
There always were so called secret orders. “Secret” means that the only thing known about them was that they existed and almost nothing more. A later version of the Grail was Rosicrucianism which strongly carried Hermetism, a tradition of Egyptian origin synthesizing Greek, Arab, Germanic, Celtic, Cabalistic and other forms. Hermetism later reemerged as so called later stage Hermetism or alchemical Hermetism, represented, sustained and carried by true Rosicruicianism. (Even today there are “rosicruician” formations but these are all imitations that just usurp the name). Rosicrucianism was a knights’ path, a gnostic path and a magical path simultaneously, bringing heroic knighthood, Gnosis and magic into perfect unity.
The heyday of chivalric orders in the strict sense was the XI–XII–XIII–XIV. Centuries. These were connected to the Crusades, the objective of which was for Christianity to reconquer the Holy Land, Jerusalem and the surrounding land, most of all the Holy Sepulchre. The purpose of the Crusades was mainly to reconquer the Holy Sepulchre, but these were accompanied by pilgrimages and the crusades themselves did not always reflect a knightly character.
The Order of the Knights Templar was brutally destroyed by Philip the Fair in 1314. (There were many attempts to revive Order of the Knights Templar, but none of these have been serious. Let’s note here, that -however sympathetic their ideology would be- the revived Order of Saint George is also not serious; in the times of King Sigismund, during and after his reign, there were two chivalric orders in close relationship with and with close similarity to each other: one of them was the Order of Saint George, the other was the Order of the Dragon, both representing a very similar orientation.)
A few words on the destruction of the Order of the Knights Templar. It is generally believed Philip (the Fair) IV., the pope and chancellor Nogaret were after the treasures of the Templars; this is true, but this was absolutely not the main objective. There was a spiritual power present in the Order of the Knights Templar that transcended the general currents of power within Christianity. They were aiming for something more, something that had an initiatory character; in this context they focused on a gigantic spiritual figure called Baphometous which was probably the name of a divinity of initiation: I am saying this based on the “bap” root (baptismos, baptisma and baphometous); this figure was center-stage. The Order also had a strongly gnostic and magical orientation and it is likely that they had as an objective the unification of the pope, the emperor and the grand master of the order (or a main leader above the grand master) in one single person: the emperor should have also been the pope and the head of the order, as well and he should have come from the Ghibelline-dynasty. This dynasty was actually the Hohenstaufen-dynasty which, after the name of their central castle, Waiblingen, was called, with bad Arabic, Ghibelline. In opposition to them stood the Welf dynasty, which was also called Guelf. The Guelfs recognized the unconditional superiority of the pope above the emperor; according to their views, the pope could also be emperor, but even if he’s not, he stands above the emperor and they acknowledged the pope as emperor. The Ghibellines’ view was that the emperor’s rank was superior to that of the pope and thus he could take over the papal function and even if he doesn’t do so, he stands higher than the pope. This was absolutely not impossible since the emperor carried the title Vicarius Christi while the pope only carried the title Vicarius Petri; this situation later changed. Chivalric tendencies, but especially the Order of the Templars were tightly connected to the aims of the Hohenstaufen-Ghibellines to the extent that the imperial nature of the chivalric Middle Ages was decidedly determined by the Ghibelline ideology in close relations with the Teuton Order, but even more so with the Order of the Templars as long as the latter one existed, after which the whole Ghibelline world collapsed with the last Ghibelline that claimed the throne beheaded; this was especially painful since the Hohenstaufen-dynasty was Europe’s most superior dynasty.
When looking at the inner nature of the warrior path we must mention the most crucial factor that captures the very essence of the issue: the relationship between the fight and heroicity with death. In battle, the knight was always striving toward victory while constantly facing death, constantly accepting the challenge of death in a way that he aimed at defeating not only the enemy, the opponent, but to also triumph over death itself. When the knight fell in battle and his fall was truly worthy of a knight because in his death he managed to transform himself into a heros, this death was called mors triumphalis (‘triumphant death’); this meant that he experienced death as a transcendental act; the highest possibility was to experience resurrection, even metaphysical Awakening, Nirvana, to reach the ultimate goal, but at the very minimum the goal was to die in a way that transcends the very summits of the general states of existence, to ensure that in death there wouldn’t be a decline towards a mere deflammation (extinguishing) of life but, again, toward transcendence, possibly resurrection, ascension to heaven for which the basis was provided by the very experience of death, an exteremely conscious experience with unrestrained intensity. The knight was seeking death so he could, in the high intensity tension this created, overcome the very forces aimed at extinguishing his consciousness and thereby to reach a state much superior to those he could have otherwise experienced.
The significance of the relation to death is fundamental. The North American Indians for example, among which the warrior spirit enjoyed a central significance, generally would go to battle knowing that there was a chance of dying, but there were always volunteers who, after experiencing special inspiration of an initiatory nature, went to battle specifically in order to die: these wore different feathers and signs and they were called “those who never return”. For them, dying no matter what, was a spiritual act of initiation, in fact, it was an act superior to the general levels of initiation. It was an act, that was in the same time knowledge (gnosis), as well as magic that aimed at their Auton-being; to objective was to provoke death with such intensity that while death prevailed on the surface, internally, in the sense of a transcendent internality and in the sense of an inner existence that transcends man and his personality, they should eventually achieve victory (mors triumphalis). This was always eminently important for all warrior paths.
As a matter of curiosity, I’d like to mention that in the Second World War, there were high ranking Tibetan monks in Germany, some of which returned to Tibet, but others stayed until the last hour; they created a special force called Volunteers of Death who fought in SS officers’ uniforms without rank and died when defending Berlin; all of them died and this was their objective.
We can always find “Volunteers of death” on the warrior paths; an adequate research would probably reveal much more about the rites and the selection which were normally kept secret, so such research would be rather difficult. According to traditional views, the quality of the post-mortem state depends to a significant degree on the entirety of life, on its terminal period and on the moments right near death (circummortalis) in context of consciousness and its intensity. The quality of spiritual-conscious powers that prevail throughout life are absolutely not irrelevant since these determine the terminal stage, the terminal stage determines the moments around death and the quality of the moments around death determines what kind of possibilities present themselves after death. So post-existence, the possibilities after death in terms of keeping up the powers of awareness depend to a large degree on the forces that determine the whole life or, even more so, the final period of life and the quality of the moments near death. Everybody who’s open spiritually at least to some degree gives attention to this, especially if somebody specifically turns their attention to this. Anybody who followed the warrior path was highly aware of these facts, of these circumstances. A knight wanted more than just life, more than a high intensity life: he wanted first and foremost the domain above life, to transcend life; he wanted life from the vantage point above life, from beyond life and death. Deterioration is not sacrifice. People say that somebody died for this or that, that somebody “sacrificed their life” for something – in actuality they didn’t sacrifice anything. To sacrifice life means to sacrifice it in the sign of this supra-life principle, since sacrifice means to create the bridge of transcendence from the general states of existence of the world to transcendent states, i.e. to the states that are rooted in Myself and that are connected to the innermost Subject of Myself. If sacrificing life is not taking place in this transcendent sense, it is not a sacrifice, it is simply the termination of life; only for something superior is it possible and desirable to sacrifice anything. Operations that point to a degradation are not sacrifices but belong to the grossest forms of denial of spirituality.
It could be and should be the goal of everybody to stand at the peak when he dies; if this happens when he’s 30, he should be at the zenith at that time, if this happens when he’s 120, he should be at the peak of his capabilities when he’s 120. To achieve this with conventional means is extremely difficult, in fact that’s how it’s really difficult, but it was not easy on the warrior path either. However, the focus of the warrior’s life was to die in battle by all means, in the moment of victory, possibly in the moment of inner victory and to be right at the top when this happens. It is not possible to transcend life and death from the position of spiritual collapse; to transcend life and death in the moment of death, a spiritual zenith position is necessary. The goal, when it comes to transmuting fight and bellicosity into heroism through an adequate fight -which is a fight against “darkness” not only in the enemy, but much more so against darkness in myself, in first case singular, the projection of which I face as the darkness manifest in my opponent-, was identified by the warriors as the final self-realization through the fight against their inner darkness. In Islam they differentiate between al-jihad al-asghart and al-jihad al-akbar. The former refers to the war in the outside world, the ‘small holy war’. The Prophet Muhammad said that after the ‘small holy war’ comes al-jihad al-akbar, the ‘great holy war’, the war against the powers of darkness in the inner world. The war in the outside world that is taking place within large extensions of space is still ‘small’, since it happens in the world of phenomena in consciousness, while the ‘great holy war’ happens in the world of powers of consciousness that create the phenomena, as well as shape consciousness itself. The warrior fought on all levels: not only against noble and ignoble enemies in the outside world, not only against the darkness these represented against the powers of light, but on all occult levels, even on higher, supra-occult levels. He conducted war against powers that emanated from himself and got somewhat, but not fully separated from himself, then turned against him and ultimately aimed at preventing the realization of a re-integrative Unity. In the view I represent, the most fundamental tenet is that I, Myself am everything, everything is Auton. Even things that are not I, Myself, i.e. heteron (something else) are Auton: unrecognized Auton; the unrecognized Auton functions, among other things, in the form of dark-powers in conscious existence. In conscious existence there is no fundamental difference between the external and the internal world and I must perform operations with these; in terms of approaches, one of the categories these operations fall under is martial operations; the paths that aim at fight, knighthood and heroicity capture the relation with heteron-powers with this symbology. There are other ways to conceive this relationship, for example, as merely a way of knowledge, as the sum of processes, etc.: the dimension of fight or war is one of many. It’s not about the superiority or inferiority of the method, because verification becomes evident only in the results. There could be operations aimed at knowledge that produce the same results as the paths that may be grasped by the symbolism of fight; the end result decides. These, and their combinations are all legitimate.
The metaphysical path in an Auton-Heteron context is the warrior path: facing death, facing the other, the relationship of Myself with Myself, the relation of Myself with the Absolutum – these are the starting positions and not only for knowledge but as something which I need to establish a high tension relationship with. Transcending these tension-hubs depicts the various stages of the warrior path which may appear in external fights, in external struggle in general, in the concrete acts of the external fight, since true fighting operations have always been of initiatory character; but these may also appear in the sphere of spiritual powers and anti-spiritual powers in the internal space of the soul, among many other, additional forms.
The warrior path is a spiritual path; a path of self-transcendence. If we don’t think in terms of paths, we may also say act: an act of self-realization, spiritual act, metaphysical act. All approaches are similes so instead of saying “walking a path”, we may say anything. The approaches that are stuck struggling with questions like whether or not this may be called a path are all rather ridiculous; we may conceive it as a “path”, we may conceive it differently, using different terms: there are many approaches and they all may be valid in parallel to each other.
I emphasize that the warrior path is one of the highest ranking paths, an actual path and the validity of knighthood prevailed almost until today. This doesn’t mean that knighthood today is absolutely insignificant. The current knights’ orders, in many respects, in various forms and in many ways have declined, especially after 1945. The powers that represent the dominance of darkness triumphed in 1945 and these powers have spread across the whole Earth and have also corrupted the specific forms of realities that are connected to the ideology and spirituality of chivalry; thus we notice a general and pervasive decline and this we may observe at each order. Current orders restrict their activities mostly to charity work, which we may appreciate, but this is not the true domain of knighthood in a strict sense; anybody can hand out humanitarian aid packages if they can acquire these and can control the logistics to distribute them – this doesn’t require a warrior predisposition or capabilities. In the same token today the warrior capabilities no longer mean to go to battle on horseback with full armor, but rather to seek out the “dragon” in a much more subtle form.
The “dragon”, the “dragon of waters” plays a significant role in the ideology of knighthood (in Far-Eastern symbolism there was a “dragon of the sky” which had a positive meaning; the “dragon of waters” of the West represents darkness, thus it is negative); to seek out and face the “dragon of darkness”, fight it and defeat it. This, in the current age means a fight against mostly internal but sometimes external powers and forces that are, if not abstract, rather subtle. This is the equivalent of the fight against the dragon of past eras, but this latter also happened on a spiritual level, it didn’t mean defeating a dragon-like animal and even more importantly, the possibilities of the fight weren’t exhausted in such an act. The fight took place against the dragon-powers (powers of darkness) on various ontological levels; today this must happen in a different way.
The warrior mentality and attitude is still valid. The probability of its appearance, however, has become almost zero; almost. The currently functioning orders, even the residual ones, still represent and sustain something, although very little; to go to a meeting and then go home and continue a torpid life does not represent a spiritual rank, it is not a spiritual, warrior life. Nothing is more important than the spiritual order. Nobody may say that his life doesn’t allow him to live accordingly; if that appears to be the case, one must change his life. One must subordinate everything to this (in a spiritual sense of course). It’s unconceivable to say that “I’d do it but I won’t because I don’t have the opportunity”; again, one must change his life. If one lives with somebody who blocks his spirituality, one must turn away from such a person; if one’s lifestyle, work, activity doesn’t allow this, then one must change his field of activities. We can’t subordinate the superior to life, to samsara, becasue the current corruption of the world originates precisely from this; the main reason for the corruption of the world is that the superior is subordinated to the inferior. The inferior must be subordinated to the superior in all areas of life, in any context. This is what used to define the warrior path, just like any other paths of realization; to subordinate the inferior to the superior and to avoid that the superior is subordinated to the inferior even for a minute, in any area of life; this must not be allowed even in the most extreme circumstances under the biggest pressure; and again: if somebody experiences life like this, one must urgently change things. We don’t address people who lack recognition; it’s arguable if somebody like this may be called human at all -I don’t mean that such a person may not qualify as a superior man, but that he may not even qualify to be human. Nobody may think it seriously that he’s not interested in what happens to him after his death; if somebody still says that he’s absolutely not interested, all he did was that he proved that he doesn’t understand anything of any of this. Such a thing can’t be stated with seriousness; these things are not indifferent and if they are not indifferent, they require that one internally faces them.
Similarly to other true paths of realization, the warrior path didn’t ever make concessions in this respect; and this was not even the prerequisite for an advanced stage, this was condicio sine qua non right at the very beginning. A life that defines itself as having higher goals and religious orientation, as seeking life above life is unconceivable if the lifestyle contradicts all this both in an internal and external sense. The circumstances are unfavorable? They must be changed.
The warrior path as a path of transcendence never allowed concessions. True paths or realizations, like true Yoga, true Zen in a Japanese context, true Taoism in China and the others never allowed compromises. There are people who run the course of decline in their life and end up labeling their youthful orientation for something higher as childish, because according to them a “serious thing” is founding a company, for example; attempting to rise above the vortex of becoming is “not serious” – these are the attitudes that develop during a life of decline; this is being subhuman; a subhuman being does exactly the same thing with the exception that it lacks human qualifications (speech, conceptual thinking, bipedal, upright walking, etc.); this is not a human form of existence, this is subhuman.
A true path of realization, including the warrior path, dynamically and radically positions itself against all mediocre conditioning in life. These mediocre conditions are more dangerous than even the darkest conditions, because when facing those, some kind of resistance may awaken, but when facing mediocre conditions and conditioning this typically doesn’t happen; thus these depict the most basic opposition on all paths of realization.
If we think about the warrior path – what it used to mean- based on what I’ve covered today about fight, the types of fights, about seeking out situations at extreme limits, about facing the death forces of darkness, about conquering death, and awaken in ourselves what relates to knighthood, then in this context we may count on the possibility of a certain progress.