|Our Lady of the Pillar, Chartres Cathedral in 2008|
While I had been researching and lecturing on the Black Madonna for years, I had yet to actually see them in person until the Autumn of 2008. For those of you who remember, this was the beginning of the "great recession" when each day was like a terrible reality show to see if the world was going to crash economically. The United States Congress debated long and hard as to whether or not the tax payers would prop up the banks. My naturopathic acupuncture practice tanked as my patients either lost their jobs and health insurance, or lost their investments and had no disposable income to pay for my services.
I had been selected to attend the Slow Food International Gathering of Food Communities in Turin, Italy for October of that year. Terra Madre, as the gathering is called, was where I would attend as a member of the delegation for Slow Food USA. Since I had a large number of frequent flier miles and no business to speak of, I thought I would attend Terra Madre and go and see the major Black Madonnas in Europe while I was in the neighborhood so to speak. My experience is chronicled in the soon to be released, (yes really, in September of 2015,) book on the Black Madonna.
When I returned from this life changing experience in Europe, I had the occasion to attend a weekday service at The Christian Community of Los Angeles. The Erzoberlenker at the time, our version of a Cardinal, was visiting our congregation from Germany and led the study group after the service. I asked him what he thought about the economic crash we were experiencing. His answer has always stuck with me. He said the reason the economy was in such a dire place was that we humans were having to learn what it meant to be in a human community. He said the Angels were most active in the realm of economics because it gave us the most opportunity to be supportive and loving towards our fellow human being.The economic realm he said, was the one place where we humans all had to encounter one another, we could not avoid one another, and was ripe with occasions for what he termed "brotherhood," which I interpret as community.
|The Seal of the Knights Templar|
One of the main themes of my book, The Black Madonna, Cosmic Companion for the journey of the Human Heart, is exploring the symbolism of the similarities among the Black Madonnas. When I started my study, one theme really jumped out at me. While there were often no artists associated with the Black Madonnas, historians could agree that a large number of Black Madonnas had been brought to the European continent from the Holy Land during the Middle Ages by the Knights Templar.
This realization really got my heart to ponder. Why, with all that the Knights Templar were involved with during their 200 year tenure, why would they bother to bring Black Madonna statues to Europe?
|Our Lady of the Underground, found in the Crypt of Chartres Cathedral|
In my never to be humble opinion, the Knights Templar are a very misunderstood sect. While not overlooking the violent and oppressive nature of the Crusades from a materialistic perspective, there is actually a very high ideal associated with the Knights Templar.
They were one of the most esoteric orders of their day, high Christian initiates who had a great grasp of the challenges of their age. They were the greatest organizing force of the era, more so than the nation states. They employed large segments of the population and started the first modern banking system in the West. Checks were conceived by the Knights Templar to aid pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land. One could deposit money for the trip in Europe and draw funds from banks in the Holy Land. Their guiding ideal was "Not I but the Christ in me." They took dual vows of the Knight and the Monk. While they controlled vast amounts of land, business enterprises and money, their vows of poverty inspired them to use the funds for the betterment of society. They personally owned nothing but saw themselves as stewards of the economic realm for the good of the community. The Templars established schools, cathedrals and artistic initiatives throughout Europe.
|Chartres Cathedral from Above|
The main ideal of the Templars was to help humanity prepare for the coming era. The Templars and other Christian Initiates knew that the times were a changing. Humanity was evolving out of an age of innate wisdom and awareness of the natural and spiritual world into a new age of individuality and consciousness. The new age was to be one of conscious freedom and love. The Templars sought to foster this new age through the beauty of the arts. It was their intent to invite Humanity in freedom to a new age of Love through beauty.
|Inside Chartres Cathedral|
There was a great Christian mystery school at Chartres Cathedral in the Middle Ages. This magnificent cathedral was built with Templar money and patronage. Chartres houses some of the worlds most famous Black Madonnas. The Templars placed other Black Madonnas in shrines along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is interesting that the Templars thought that community exposure to the arts was an integral aspect of economics. One can wonder what our economic picture would look like if our great financial institutions thought of the good of the whole, and fostered beauty and community with their investments.
|Chartres Cathedral at Night|
There are many mysteries surrounding the Black Madonna and the Templars. I explore some of them in my book. For now, I hope this understanding, that the spiritual world can communicate with humans through the arts, and that our responsibility towards other members of our community can be fostered in the economic realm is actually a deeply Christian ideal first modeled by those who brought the Black Madonnas to Europe nearly a thousand years ago.
Blessings on your Journey!