CHIVALRY, THE TEMPLARS - AND THE MEANING OF 11:11
Updated: Nov 13, 2020
There is a beautiful film called “I Origin.” A brooding young medical researcher makes love on a rooftop to an unforgettable woman whom he has only just met, but somehow she eludes him before the night is out, leaving him without her name or her number. He doesn’t know where she came from or where she went.
He is haunted by her memory. The next day he gazes out the window of a commuter train at an enormous billboard, featuring only a close-up of a mesmerizing pair of hazel-green eyes. The gaze goes right through him – surely this is his lost lady. He glances at his digital watch. It is 11:11 am. He looks up again, and the train has moved on.
He departs the train, walks out of the station – and sees the same pair of unforgettable eyes in the same ad on a passing bus. As the bus moves on, it reveals a street address on a shop behind the bus: 1111.
On his way home, he stops to buy razors at a drugstore, and sees her eyes again in a magazine. The total on the receipt: $11.11
Yes, he finds her again. Yes, they marry. Yes, the ending is both tragical and magical, touching on soul destiny, love lost and found again beyond death, and the mysterious power of the unique windows to the soul found in each pair of eyes the world over.
But what is the meaning of 1111? It has become a catch-phrase, a mystical harbinger, an auspicious omen, a numerological blessing. One sees it everywhere now, and I note it down when I come upon it – and it is usually not without some synchronistic connection.
But what does it mean?
If there are such things as soul mates, I grew up with the example of one in my parents’ marriage. It gradually dawned on their ten children that, though they loved us all and each one dearly, the great passion of their lives was not us (!), but rather their intimately shared missionary quest as holistic pediatric healers – with the convenient laboratory of their ten offspring on whom to lovingly experiment. They pursued that missionary intimacy well into their golden years, reluctantly giving up work in their 80’s. When they retired to the family farm, their children were somewhat dismayed to find that Mom and Dad did not want any of us to build another vacation home on the land, so we could be nearby. They wanted to be alone together – with occasional visits from their vast brood, but no permanent new neighbors with a sense of carte blanche to drop in any time. After falling madly in love in their youth, they had raised the ten of us in a herculean effort of chaotic parenting – and they wanted to be alone again to bask in the golden years of that love.
He died at 95 holding her hand. She died twelve weeks later as I held hers.
I grew up thinking that this model of marriage was just the way things were supposed to be, and that marriage is to a soul mate, and marriage is forever.
That is not how it turned out in my case. But I did absorb into my cells this notion of a perfect union of feminine and masculine within one’s own soul, which then calls forth that longed-for reflection in another pair of eyes, in whom one beholds one’s own essence reflected and glorified. In my years of meditation, and my devotion to the Divine Feminine aspect of Spirit, I learned that the reasoning, focused, linear, defender/protector energy of the masculine must inevitably come into balance within each soul with the receptive, feeling, intuitive, nurturing, compassionate qualities of the feminine. In my experience, this is a journey toward balance lasting many lifetimes – but that may be viewed as a theological controversy by those who reject the doctrine of reincarnation. We needn’t quibble about that. The dynamic is the same.
However, I do harbor serious doubts that the Divine Plan calls for the marvelous phenomenon of the unique human soul to flame out in one life: happy or miserable, loving or malicious, ambitious or slothful – left imperfect with unfulfilled yearnings and desires to remain unexpressed for all eternity…cause “you only live once.”
I don’t think so.
So there is in us this yearning for that balance. Within each one of us is the perfect pair of lovers, waiting to find harmonious blending. And in some magic life or other, there may also be that meeting of the rumored “perfect other,” the legendary “twin flame” with whom one finds the lost polarity, the mirror, the missing part of one’s own being, parted eons before in the mysterious birth of soul consciousness.
And this is the meaning of 11:11. Twin pillars united within one soul, finding the twin pillars united in the beloved soul. A visual symbol of a completed soul embracing a completed soul.
So we come to alchemy, which is a vast subject – and one of which I am not a master. But the unique heritage and legacy of the Templars is bound up with this universal dynamic, which finds expression in so many aspects of the Templar legend: the devotion to St. Mary Magdalene, whose mystical union with Christ is an article of faith for many Templars (though by no means a dogma of the Order); the quest by a pure Knight for the attainment of the Holy Grail, the image of the Fair Lady’s scarf borne upon a spear in battle, the timeless image of the Sword and the Cup. Defending the honor of a woman – any woman, fair or plain, young or old, rich or poor, charming or crude – this was an essential and famous aspect of the medieval Code of Chivalry, leading to the simplification of the word nowadays to mean simply a man holding a door for a lady, or giving her his umbrella in a storm.
But in truth, this Code was never the exclusive property of men, of knights. The medieval expression in the legends of knighthood is merely one manifestation of an ancient and universal code to be found the world over, and found again and again throughout time. It is the defense of the Sacred, of the purity of the Soul herself, the protection and honoring of the best in us, the defense of the defenseless – the cherishing of the innocence of children – by the Father within each of us, by the Mother within each of us.
Speaking of the protection of innocents: my friend Andrew Harvey teaches that we must find that cause which breaks our heart – for it is there, in that heartbreak, where our passion for sacred justice will find its fuel renewed again and again, no matter how bleak the world may seem. For me, that heartbreak is at its most painful when I consider the abuse and trafficking of children. This is the ultimate opposite of the beauty of the human soul – the utterly selfish exploitation and abasement of innocence, the cynical disregard for the divinity of the human spirit via the violation and trashing of the bodily temple of a defenseless child. Jesus of Nazareth reserved his harshest words for this crime, saying of those who “offended these little ones,” that “it were better for that man that a millstone be cast around his neck, and he be cast into the uttermost depths of the sea.”
And we know that most abusers were abused. With justice there should be compassion. But justice comes first. No, not true – justice comes second. Protection comes first. Prevention comes first. Cherishing of the child comes first.
So the essence of the Code of Chivalry finds its highest expression when, in our adoration of our Mother-Father-Source, we cherish and nurture those blended qualities within us – when we meditate on them, act on them, reflect on them – until we come as near as may be to the perfection of the Soul.
A story is told of the revered yoga Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, the great pioneer and avatar of Yoga in the West. He dined with many guests at a fine house one day, sometime in the 1940s. A young girl of no more than seven years gazed at him in fascination, mesmerized by his long and lustrous black hair flowing luxuriantly over his shoulders, entranced by the beauty of his eyes and the gentleness of his face, but impressed also by his almost careless air of majestic manhood.
In the innocent way of children, she suddenly asked aloud, “Are you a man or a woman?”
Without missing a beat, the great master smiled down at her, and said, “Neither!”
To one who had long ago transcended identification with the body, to identify with the passing gender of one incarnation rather than with the perfected alchemical Sacred Masculine/Divine Feminine union of the soul was unthinkable.
Yet this wonderful soul also respected the power of the magnetism between the sexes, and taught deep techniques whereby, rather than attempting to suppress the life force of the sex drive (as those in the religious life have attempted so unsuccessfully to do in the West), this sacred energy could be consciously transmuted and channeled up through the spine to the higher centers of awareness in the medulla oblongata and the “thousand-petaled lotus” in the brain, wherein Cosmic Consciousness can be experienced, through the ancient science of Kriya Yoga.
If there were one miracle of sudden conscious evolution which I would wish to see suddenly manifested in the world, one great leap forward into a global realization, it would be the reconciliation of man to woman, of woman to man, through the deep soul awareness that we are not these bodies, that we have worn passing garments of both genders throughout many lives, seeking to perfect that balance of feeling and reason in the soul. It may be that the victim in this life was the abuser in a past one, and vice versa. If we can only let go of this fierce attachment to gender identity, we may yet find wisdom, compassion, and reconciliation.
First, however, justice must be served. The long toleration of the unacceptable must end. The sovereignty of each human soul must be protected. The revelations now unfolding are long overdue, and the world will not, I think, be the same. It will be too easy, however, to demonize the masculine for its essential assertive quality, and to create a new imbalance.
I do not pretend to have all the answers to this complex dynamic – nor does the Templar legacy claim to have transcended or perfected some blissful path toward alchemical union. The chaotic reality of life on Earth derives from the tragicomic nature of this planetary school, whereon billions of souls at vastly different stages of spiritual evolution are cast willy-nilly into intimate contact with each other – as when all the grades of school children are jumbled together during recess on the playground – and infinitely complex interplays of karma, of dazzlingly various patterns of desire, ambition, yearning, arrogance, pride, greed, humility, saintly devotion, dull ennui, brilliant creativity, and dark selfish passions all intermingle like stones in a tumbler, knocking and grating on each other until all the rough spots are smoothed out, and the imperfections ground into a polish of perfection.
As for gender identity and sexual preference, it should be clear that those in whom the common pattern does not play out, those whose sense of the predominance of one quality over another is in flux, or differs from what the world calls “the norm,” are souls who happen to be expressing in their identity, and in their choice of a beloved, the reality of their sovereign being and alchemical balance, which must be honored in every human soul – so long as no harm is done to another.
For me, my choice was made eons ago in adoration of the Divine Mother. She is not merely a convenient concept to me. She is an intimate Reality. She is the Cosmos made personal. She is the Unknowable made known. The Unmanifest Absolute is the Father beyond Creation, but the Mother is alive in every atom of space, and sings in the farthest flung vibrations of the cosmic shout which gave birth to the universe.
There are Templar men and women of many different paths and spiritual preferences, of widely varying religious backgrounds. Not all will practice the same paths of meditation, nor will all see and commune with Source by the same Name, or through the same image. For Jesus, God was first and foremost the Father, his Abba, to whom he was the beloved Son. In India, God is often seen as Mother. In Islam, any image is rejected, as the Great Spirit, the holy breath of life expressed in the ineffable word Allah, must never be confined to some narrow icon, or seen as somehow incarnate in one mere human being. For followers of Guatama Buddha, the peace of the Soul also transcends the notion of Personal Deity – and yet we find in Tibetan Buddhism a multiplicity of gods and goddesses. The interplay of human and divine creativity in spiritual seeking will not be denied nor limited!
But for all of us, as Templars, we strive to uphold the simple essence of the Code, of the Alchemy of the balance within. For there we find Father and Mother, Judge and Friend, Lover and Beloved – and there we find the inspiration to embody and practice sacred knowledge, to defend the oppressed, to protect women and children, to seek justice, and above all to seek direct communion with Spirit, on that path to which we are led.
As the great scripture of India, the Bhagavad Gita, said long ago,
“By whichever path a soul approaches Me, by that same path I also approach them.”
In finding that beautiful balance within, the goal of the long heroic struggle is achieved. My friend, Brother Bhaktananda, a great saint, used to tell us, “Yes, you’ve all been born with a great destiny - the destiny of achieving blissful reunion with God. That destiny awaits each one of us.”
The Gita goes on to give a message to the Knight within each soul, a message which echoes down the ages and rekindles divine fire within the restored Orders of true Chivalry -
“Kill, therefore, with the Sword of wisdom the doubt born of ignorance which lies in thy heart. Be one in Yoga, in self-harmony, and arise, great warrior, arise!”