The Knights Templar - History and Mystery


This page tries to give multiple points of view on the Templar phenomenon, historical facts, metaphysical interpretation, survival and controversal speculations

History

The Order was created in Jerusalem in 1119, some years after the Crusaders conquered the Holy Land. At the concile of Troyes in 1128, its rule was dictated by Saint Bernard. Its official role was to protect pilgrims. Through donations, the Templars gained many possessions in Europe and became bankers. At the end of the 13th century, the Christians lost all land in the middle east. The french king Philippe le Bel arrested all Templars in France in 1307, under suspicion of heresy. The pope Clement V suspended the Order in 1312. The last grand master, Jacques de Molay, was burnt by order of the king in Paris in 1314 because he revoked his initial confession of heresy.

Esoteric role, according to René Guénon

The Templars had the title guardians of the Holy Land; which does not denote a geographical place but a spiritual centre. As knights, the Templars controlled the access to knowledge; as monks, their role was to maintain and transmit the metaphysical truth, and also to communicate with similar organisations of other traditions.
(Aperçus sur l'Esotérisme Chrétien, ch. III)

Their double nature (warriors and monks) and their position at the spiritual centre gave the Templars a role of harmonisation between the spiritual authority (the pope) and the temporal power (the king) in the christian world. But the king rebelled against his legitimizing divine authority, and instead allied with the lower caste of the bourgeoisie.
(Autorité Spirituelle et Pouvoir Temporel, ch. VII)

The Trial

On Friday 13th of October 1307, all the Templars (2-15 thousand) were arrested in France, under the pretext of heresy. Without the permission of the pope, the knights were imprisoned, tortured and questioned based on a list of 127 articles that the royal inquistors had prepared. From 1309-1311, a popal commission investigated, and most of the Templars then revoked the confessions they made before. The pope's conclusion was to "provisonly suspend" the Order and leave the knights to secular justice: those who confessed heresy and maintained were set free but had to enter in closed monasteries, those who confessed and then revoked where executed under charge of relaps, and those who never confessed any heresy were condemned to lifelong imprisonment.
The french king asked the other european sovereigns to also arrest the knights in their countries, but except for Provence and Italy, the knights were not prosecuted in other countries.

Survival and Reenactment

When the Order of the Templars was suspended by the pope, the king Dinis of Portugal founded the Order of Christ which would inheritate the possessions of the Templars in his country. It is contested whether or not the Templars were allowed to enter this new order.
There are indications that, even before the end of the Order, its spiritual continuation was guaranteed through the Rosicrucians.
Another assumption is, that Templars who fled to Scotland have founded Freemasonry. The names of some higher grades in that organisation suggest an inspiration of the Templars, but a direct descent from the Templars is often refuted (Joseph de Maistre, 1782).

More contested are theories of a direct continuation, where Molay while in prison had designated his successor. The most famous among these is the Larmenius filiation, which was brought forward by Fabre-Palaprat. Several modern day groups claim to be legitim descendents of this filiation.

Reenactment is a more recent phenomenon: people interested in a specific period of history (the vikings, the knights, ...) make some personal research about that epoch, choose a fictive character and 'impersonate' that role, they wear clothes and make tools (weapons) of the era and participate in meetings with like-minded, to revive history. They hope that this time-travel experience will help them to better understand history.

Legends and myths

Some popular books helped to spread the wildest phantasies about the Templars: On the darker side, the Templars were also accused:

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories consist of believing that the world is ruled behind the curtains by a small group of a hidden organisation. A non-exhaustive list of suspected groups are: Jews, Freemasons, Aliens, Communists, Rock bands, NATO, European Union, Trade Globalisation.

Very often, these groups are accused to worship the devil. A classical book of inspiration for these theories is Secret Societies and Subversive Movements by Nesta Webster (1924).

A more recent book, Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (1988) is both inspired by, and inspiring itself such strange theories.


Written on the Day of Assumption 2002. Patrick Hahn