Temple of The Grail
obedience is
the cornerstone of our rule, obedience! Learning, however, is the way to
apostasy, the way to wilfulness and the gratification of self.’
    There were whispers of acquiescence
among the various delegates. The bishop and the others sat back with fraternal
indulgence, patting their ample bellies in communal understanding.
    ‘And yet,’ continued my master,
biting into a hunk of cheese as though he wished it were the inquisitor’s neck,
‘should one be forced to accept religion without reason?’
    The Bishop of Toulouse frowned and
leant over the table, his mouth framed by two huge, wet, lips. ‘But it is the
church that decides what is reasonable,’ he waved a hand imperiously, ‘and not
the individual, preceptor, that is common and undisputed knowledge!’
    There were nods and smiles, their
faces aglow with the fire of wine that by now they had all consumed, despite
their previous apprehensions.
    ‘Then, your grace,’ my master said,
his dark, Arabic face filled with the thrill of restrained battle-anger, for
his eyes shone a brilliant metallic green, ‘I see how the church must be
    ‘Burdened . . . yes . . .’ the Friar
de Narbonne answered, in somnolent vacuity, and then frowning, as though
suddenly confused, he asked, ‘by what in particular, preceptor?’
    ‘Why, burdened by a deep
contradiction friar, namely, that the Roman church has come to rely so heavily
on those learned men whom it despises, and on whose wisdom rests an entire body
of theological material that has become the foundation of its own philosophy.’
Satisfied, he bit into a dumpling, and waited for a reply.
    ‘Why should this concern the church,
preceptor?’ asked the bishop, shrugging his fat shoulders, lacking a little, if
I may say, in what the Greeks call intellect.
    ‘Perhaps it should not concern the
church at all. After all, the world is ruled by contradiction, nature itself is
the greatest paradox . . . and yet,’ my master paused, and I saw the churchmen
move forward a little in their seats, ‘it bears consideration. There may come a
time when the canon lawyers and theologians disagree with the pope. One can
only then imagine the dreadful circumstance, my brothers . . . Shall we have a
pontiff whose weakness is ruled by the wisdom of earthly men, and not by the
wisdom of God? Or shall we have a pope who ignores the wisdom of his
theologians because he is ignorant?’ My master then quoted Plato in Greek, saying,
‘What is just or right means nothing, but what is in the interest of the
stronger party . ’
    There was a confused silence, and to
my delight I saw a congregation of frowns. The abbey’s head librarian, Brother
Macabus, a middle-aged monk with very curly hair, deep folds under both eyes,
and a curiously small nose, answered my master, also in Greek, ‘Is that which
is holy loved by the Gods because it is holy, or is it holy because it is loved
by the Gods?’
    My master smiled. ‘Indeed. Is that
not a timeless question, brother?’
    The pope’s legation was silent. The
only sound was that of men shifting in their seats with obvious bewilderment.
    From my right there came a voice, ‘The
Greeks honoured the body more than the soul.’ It was Brother Setubar, the old
bent monk, speaking in slow deliberate words. ‘They were fools! Learning is
only good for the body, the soul nourishes itself with spiritual things. As a
physician I knew this, and so I learnt only what was necessary and no more. It
is only pride that moves a man to know more than he ought to know, and it is
pride which makes him think that he knows more than he should! We are born and
from that moment we are depravati . . . corrupt, a body that dies little
by little, that is all we need to know, everything else is dung!’ He ended,
muttering something in his own German vernacular.
    ‘And yet Peter tells us,’ my master
retorted, ‘that one must travel through the barren desert of doubt to find at
its end the green

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