Monday, August 01, 2011

Another History of the Knights Templar, Part 3

The Templars exit from orthodox history texts after the death of Jacques DeMolay.
Since then any number of groups have claimed to be the "true inheritors" of the Templar legacy, claiming lineage to the true order, handed down in secret through the successors to DeMolay himself. The most important of all these groups is a fraternity who trace their origin to an alliance forged by Templar remnants and a Scottish guild of stoneworkers and church builders. This group came to be known as the ‘Ancient Free and Accepted Order of Masons,’ or Freemasons for short.

The origins of the Masonic order are at best murky. They were said to arise in the late Middle Ages, from fraternities of actual stonemasons, who used an elaborate system of codes and signals to recognize one another when they traveled. And somewhere along the line, they developed a rich and arcane set of rituals and beliefs which later came to be expressed in the Masonic degrees of Initiation.

In standard Freemasonry, known as Blue Lodge Masonry, there are three degrees of initiation: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craftsman and Master Mason. Chivalric orders like the Templars operated on a similar system of graded initiation with Page, Squire and Knight.

In the 16th Century, the Speculative Masons began to interact with European esoteric groups like the Rosicrucians, Kabbalists and Alchemists, and this interaction was the basis of a new revival of the ancient mysteries in Europe. This revival was centered in England, particularly with the rise of Queen Elizabeth I, who counted a great many legendary occultists in her court such as John Dee, Edward Kelly, Francis Walsingham and Sir Francis Bacon.


Bacon was a brilliant polymath whose landmark novel The New Atlantis is considered to be a Masonic blueprint for the eventual creation of the American Republic. Indeed, the inner circle of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution were either Freemasons or members of Masonic-type secret societies. George Washington was a Freemason, as were thirty-three of his generals in the Continental Army and thirteen of signatories of the United States Constitution.

Though most historians dismiss Masonic claims that the order is a direct descendent of the Knights Templar, the two share a lot in common. Like the Templars, the Masons are organized as a knightly order that also concerns itself with both spiritual issues and with the architectural arts. Like the Templars, the Masons are an initiatory and hierarchal organization. Like the Templars, the Masons meet secretly at night.

Like the Templars, the Masons are an all-male society. Both the Masons and the Templars have a special reverence for the Temple of Solomon. Both share an infinity for the same types of symbols, such as the skull and crossbones. Many Masonic orders refer to themselves as knights and carry swords, which aren't generally part of the stonemason's toolkit.

Unlike some historians, the Roman Catholic Church has taken the links between the Masons and the Templars more seriously. In his landmark encyclical from 1864, Allocution of Pio Nono, Pope Pius IX identified and categorized the heresy of ‘Johannism,’ a veneration of St. John that the Templars and the Freemasons also share:
"Thus the Order of Knights of the Temple was at its very origin devoted to the cause of opposition to the tiara of Rome and the crowns of Kings, and the Apostolate of Kabalistic Gnosticism was vested in its chiefs. For Saint John himself was the Father of the Gnostics, and the current translation of his polemic against the heretical of his Sect and the pagans who denied that Christ was the Word, is throughout a misrepresentation, or misunderstanding at least, of the whole Spirit of that Evangel.
"To acquire influence and wealth, then to intrigue, and at need to fight, to establish the Johannite or Gnostic and Kabalistic dogma, were the object and means proposed to the initiated Brethren. The Papacy and the rival monarchies, they said to them, are sold and bought in these days, become corrupt, and to-morrow, perhaps, will destroy each other. All that will become the heritage of the Temple: the World will soon come to us for its Sovereigns and Pontiffs. We shall constitute the equilibrium of the Universe, and be rulers over the Masters of the World."
If nothing else, the beliefs and symbols of Freemasonry offer up many historical breadcrumb trails to follow back, trails that prove to us that the Knights Templar were anything but another monastic/military order, fighting to defend the doctrines of Rome. There are a number of mysteries surrounding the Templars that historians ignore but can be better understood in light of studying Masonic lore, whether it's based in fact or not.

And there is much that we do know about the Masons that links them-- symbolically, at the very least-- to the ancient Mysteries, back to the Mithraists and before that to the Shemsu Hor. The links between the Masons and the Templars might even suggest that the Templars were a bridge between the ancient and the modern secret societies.

It suggests that the names and the superficial details may change, but the core idea remains the same and has been secretly handed down to the initiates through the ages. The Templars were unlike any other chivalric order, and one thing historians do agree on is that they spent their time in the Middle East looking for something.

Judging from the evidence, what they were looking for may not be what we've been told to believe.

Returning to the Freemasons...

In 1818, Thomas Paine wrote an essay called ‘The Origin of Freemasonry’ which explicitly linked the fraternity back, not to the Templars per se, but to the Druids and the Shemsu Hor. Paine himself was not a Freemason, and his motives in this essay aren't very clear. To Paine, the Druids were an indigenous British/Celtic Solar priesthood, whose rites and practices were little different from their counterparts in Egypt or Rome. In surprisingly brisk and frank language, Paine lays out his case:
To come then at once to the point, Masonry (as I shall show from the customs, ceremonies, hieroglyphics, and chronology of Masonry) is derived and is the remains of the religion of the ancient Druids; who, like the Magi of Persia and the Priests of Heliopolis in Egypt, were Priests of the Sun.
Paine then refers to Solomon’s Temple and its design and construction not by local craftsmen but by the Dionysian Artificers of Phoenicia (aka "the Zidonians"). Remember that veneration of Solomon's Temple is one of the crucial commonalities between the Templars and the Masons:
Even in the building of this temple, the Jews did not know how to square and frame the timber for beginning and carrying on the work, and Solomon was obliged to send to Hiram, King of Tyre (Zidon) to procure workmen; "for thou knowest, (says Solomon to Hiram, i Kings v. 6.) that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Zidonians." This temple was more properly Hiram's Temple than Solomon's, and if the Masons derive any thing from the building of it, they owe it to the Zidonians and not to the Jews. -- But to return to the worship of the Sun in this Temple.
Paine then contrasts the rituals of Masonry with those of Christianity, which he also believes to be a Solar religion:
The (C)hristian religion and Masonry have one and the same common origin: both are derived from the worship of the Sun. The difference between their origin is, that the (C)hristian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun...

In Masonry many of the ceremonies of the Druids are preserved in their original state, at least without any parody. With them the Sun is still the Sun; and his image, in the form of the sun is the great emblematical ornament of Masonic Lodges and Masonic dresses.
Paine also shows a remarkable familiarity with the basic tenets of the Shemsu Hor. This is doubly remarkable since none of the ancient Egyptian texts would be interpreted until long after Paine died.
The worship of the Sun as the great visible agent of a great invisible first cause, "Time without limits," spread itself over a considerable part of Asia and Africa, from thence to Greece and Rome, through all ancient Gaul, and into Britain and Ireland.
Paine’s linking of the Druids to the Dionysian Artificers of Phoenicia and the Shemsu Hor of Egypt can't be dismissed. Phoenician traders had been visiting Britain and the Celtic lands for thousands of years, often for tin which was needed for smelting bronze. Scottish legends trace that nation's lineage back to Egypt. Alternative historians today have explored the links between the so-called Celtic nations and ancient Egypt and Phoenicia, though Paine beat them to by 200 years. Orthodox history records the travels of Celtic rovers throughout the Mediterranean, bolstered by modern DNA sampling.

But no conversation about ancient sun worship is complete without the Followers of Mithras, whose underground temples are found all over Europe. More so than the Freemasons, the militaristic, aesthetic, self-sacrificing Mithraists are startling similar to the Knights Templar. The stern strictures of Mithraism found an eager audience in the Germanic lands, a cross-pollination that may well have yielded a remarkable harvest in the centuries to come.

In The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly Palmer Hall records the influence of the Mithraic Mysteries on Freemasonry, particularly in their uses of initiatory degrees. What is noteworthy again is the use of the cross in Mithraism.
Initiation into the rites of Mithras, like initiation into many other ancient schools of philosophy, apparently consisted of three important degrees. Preparation for these degrees consisted of self-purification, the building up of the intellectual powers, and the control of the animal nature.... After his initiations were over, he was hailed as one who had risen from the dead, was instructed in the secret teachings of the Persian mystics, and became a full-fledged member of the order. Candidates who successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked upon their foreheads with the Egyptian cross.
The question then becomes how and why a long-forgotten pagan faith would influence an Elizabethan secret society like the Freemasons, when serious academic work on Mithraism wouldn't be done until the late 19th Century. The questions only deepen when you begin to explore the startling connections between Mithraism and Templarism.

What exactly were the Templars looking for? Why did the Normans-- a Scandinavian people who could fairly be called the founding tribe of Templarism-- chose Northern France, England, Sicily and Syria to establish their kingdoms? What drew them there?

The answer to both questions might well be one and the same.