PART 4 continued from PART 3
Flying over the Alps, destined for Klagenfurt Austria, those strange stirrings I had felt in Scotland returned. It was a resonance that I would grow very fond of in my many flights to meetings. I only knew that I was happy and grateful! The plane landed in the midst of a snow dusted fairyland, where ice and snow adorned the city and surrounding ancient castles perched on mountain tops like a Disney movie.
Several of the Templars met me at the airport and whisked me away to lunch at a small local style restaurant. We still laugh at my reaction to a massive liver meatball floating in broth and delectables that tasted like home. I was immediately submerged in authentic Austrian culture and loved it!
I was invited to stay with the one of my new friends with his family in his restored medieval castle, which turned out to be a HUGE gift. For although Austrians are known for their generous, open and warm natures, they are also known to be very protective of their private space and families. Yet, my new friends opened their homes to me and brought me into their families.
I did not expect such warmth and generosity! The chemistry with the people was right. I soon met the other Templar women, along with wives of the male members and found deep connections with them also. I also learned that there was a strong contingency within the Order who also shared my passion for learning, spiritual education and the study of philosophy. They were more than a church family… they were my spiritual family.
It did not take me long to understand that these same people were happy, well adjusted, well educated and high functioning individuals, who were well grounded in the outside world. It must not have been easy for them to take time out of their busy schedules to show me the incredible sights of their area, but they each took turns as Knightly hosts.
One knight even drove me to the snowy mountaintop home of the Order, a 1000 year old castle. As we ascended the frozen steps leading to the castle gate, an archway greeted me with the openness and excitement of an unexpected homecoming. I snapped a photo to commemorate the occasion. I was so happy!
I would later create a drawing from a photo I had taken of the old castle portal. The drawing, entitled »Schwelle«, translated from German means a threshold, portal, opening or doorway and is a symbol of that threshold crossing into My Templar Way.
I was welcomed into the hearts of many Knights and showered with kindness! But before I boarded my plane to return to Texas, I was accepted as novice in the Order, filled with Light and Love.
The tenets of the Order confirmed that I had made the right decision to say yes to this adventure. Here are some of my favorites:
~The TRUE Templar lives in the heart and not in gender. Therefore we must all conduct ourselves as with highest integrity.
~The Templar Way is the goal of individual growth.
~The first step in mastering self is self control, not manipulation of others.
~Freedom, independence and happiness are the result of self mastery and cannot be given to another.
~Self-reliance and self-responsibility in all aspects of life are prerequisites to true liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
~All Knights are equal. Each remains independent to make contributions according to his or her talents and abilities.
The Order supported the members in their templar education and provided a unique service to the community by offering low cost seminars, cultural journeys, discussions and lecture series to the public on research topics such as science, physics, philosophy, mathematics, global affairs, economics, history, archeology, art, music, and holistic studies.
There was a three-step path to become a knight of the Templar Order of Austria, with the process usually taking approximately three years. Each of these three steps required the pilgrim make three separate and conscious decisions to proceed to the next level within the Order. The novice who stood at the threshold of this Templar world must be willing to humbly observe. The squire must be willing to learn. The knight must be willing to serve with integrity. At each threshold the highest entity of the order, the »Ritterrunde« (‘Knight Ring), the assembly of all knights) would then decide whether or not to accept the pilgrim as novice, then as squire, and finally as knight.
Requirements were intellectually and psychologically rigorous. The candidate must diligently prepare in both inner and outer world to make transitions from one level to the next. Training for each step builds character and personal attributes which prepare the candidate for the rigors and challenges of knighthood. Within each ritual a personal mystery play would unfold.
This process was a very strong emotional journey; and like all journeys, eventually come to live in the memories of one’s heart. It was inevitable that I could not maintain the pace of travel, so I embarked upon the establishment of a Sister Order in the United States. Many factors came into play over the coming decade to coalesce a small but intimate Knight Ring in Texas, who still gather around those same principles. The Templar Fellowship of America was born out of my experiences in Austria. It does not claim a pedigree, but it meets the needs of its members.
There is a Rolling Stones song, “You don’t always get what you want…. But if you try sometime, you get what you need.” Initially, I wanted to be a Templar and to learn everything about them. But in time, what I needed was a way to grow and connect with others who also wanted to study medieval history and ancient philosophy through the lenses of mysticism. In that process I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I got exactly what I needed… a new inspiration to continue my growth in my sojourn on this planet.
And now, these years later, I use what I learned every day. We remain in touch across the pond and visit remotely when we can. Several Austrian families have visited my family in Texas and we have met up in other places for short reunions. I am indeed fortunate to have found others who share these unusual interests and perspectives. Now they have become one of my anchors living in a global community. They also serve as a reminder of the importance of stretching one’s boundaries and remaining open to new experiences. For invariably, there IS something good around the corner!