The mystical tradition embodied by the troubadours is not widely recognized. Traditional historians will claim they originated in southern France, during the 12th and 13th centuries. They will often cite that the troubadours were an evolution of the 10th century minstrels, and themselves evolved into the trouvores of the 14th century. Be this as it may, there is much more to the troubadour story than simple entertainment via love songs.
That troubadours sung of courtly love is undisputed. Courtly love was a vogue at the time that was characterized by a romantic devotion for a sexually unattainable woman, usually another man's wife. In some circles, the woman was abstracted to an ideal and held to be the Virgin Mary. It is generally accepted that the troubadours embodied these concepts in their songs, but the mystical tradition holds that the troubadours, in fact, originated them, and as a result, the code of chivalry itself. The mystic holds that the love songs were in fact odes to God, who in the vocabulary of the mystic is called the beloved.
There is reason to believe that these troubadours originated in Saracen Spain, and they were an act of spiritual impregnation of the West by the Near East. The seed that would grow a religion of love. "The darkness of scholastic Christianity is being replaced by the light and warmth of Saracen life, in spite of the eclipse of it's military power," says Jules Michlet in his Satanism and Witchcraft (London, 1960). Not only have historians noted that the troubadours resembled Arab singers "not only in sentiment and character but also in the very forms of their minstrelsy" (P. Hitte, History of the Arabs, New York, 1951), some also note that the very word 'troubadour' drives from the Arabic root TRB which means (among other things) to find. The troubadours were finders.
To the casual listener, the songs were sweet and moving love songs, whose effect was to soften the heart, it's object obviously a female. To the mystic, it was a reminder that Love is the both the sustainer of the phenomenal world as well as the Path to enlightenment. As the Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi said, "Whatever you are, whatever your condition is, be a lover." (It is an interesting aside, that both Rumi (d. 1275) and the mystic poet Omar Khayyam (d. 1122) both referred to themselves as troubadours.) The pinnacle of this movement resulted in the Arthur legends, and the Grail cycle; Avalon et. al.
Associations between love and poetry, poet and musician, all of these and magician, run all through the mystic traditions of the near east (both Semitic and Arabic), and were later embodied in the West through the legacy of the Rosy Cross, the Templars, and Masons as they searched to find the Philosophers Stone; that which could transform the bestial man to divine human.
The alchemy of love.
The poet Yeats, whose mystical phrase has so enamored Van, was the head of the magick circle The Order of the Golden Dawn whose membership included Alister Crowley.
It is a very real possibility that prior to the death of the great Arab culture, a seed was planted in the West whose roots eventually tore down the wall of religious oppression and whose flower was the Enlightenment era.
A very Toynbee-an way of looking at history, though one with which Toynbee himself would likely disagree.
From the ancient sun to the old heart stove come the troubadours
From the city gates to the castle walls it's the troubadours
On a sunlit day it was bright and clear
And the people came from far and they came from near
To hear the troubadours