Sunday, September 27, 2009

Templarism


Many in the Masonic community are drawn to the myth that Freemasonry is derived from the religious order of the middle-ages known as the Knights Templar, also know as the Poor Soldiers of Christ.

I can see the appeal that such a myth has for many, but Freemasonry is not the Society of Creative Anachronism. The leap from the symbolism of working-class stone masons, to being knights in shining armor is a big one.

I suppose though that the leap from wearing a commodore's uniform of the 1800's with a sword, and a funny hat is not that much of a leap to wearing a fez with a Sphinx on it. After all, it was the age of Gilbert and Sullivan. Not Freemasonry though.

The Order of the Templars existed from 1129, to 1307, approximately. Historical Freemasonry began with the foundation of the Grand Lodge of London in 1717. This was more than 400 years after the order was suppressed.

While wide-spread, and very wealthy, the influence on the average European peasant at the time must have been minimal, after all, the majority of the population could not even read, and there were no books available anyway.

While stone masons did build their fortresses, masons also built every other stone building at the time, including those for monarchs, the church, and the other religious orders, such as the Hospitallers, and the non-military monastic orders.

While brave in battle, the Templars also engaged in suicidal tactics at times, reminiscent of the Japanese banzai attacks in World War II. A strong sense of honor, but little common sense.

While wanting a connection to the Templars can be appealing to some, it has no basis in reality. Numerous Masonic scholars have written on the subject, and Freemasonry has no more relation to the Knights Templars than to the Priory of Sion, the Ancient Egyptians, or the original builders of Solomon's Temple.

Any serious student of history knows that Freemasonry evolved from the stone masons guilds, and took form in the latter half of the 17th, and early part of the 18th century. The documentation exists. The rest is, unfortunately, wishful fantasy.

6 comments:

Frater Raum Sariel 3° said...

Why adopt an attitude of absolutes? Do you know for certain that no Templars where Masons and that no Masons where Templars?

There is a golden thread that binds all so really why piss on the parade?

San Diego Freemason said...

I am certain that no Knights of the Temple were speculative Freemasons, since speculative Freemasonry did not exist then.

While most members, initially, were from the lesser nobility, some could have come from other backgrounds, including the building trades.

Within a few decades of the founding of the Order, the Templar's had become primarily Bankers and money lenders.

Their great wealth made them a target for the likes of Kings, and the Church.

After the suppression of the Order, many entered other orders, such as the Hospitaller's, while in Portugal the the Order was renamed the Order of Christ.

The idea that some Knights continued underground for 400 years and developed Freemasonry, which was not even claimed until 1737 by Ramsay, 20 years after the founding of the first Grand Lodge in London.

No other Masonic bodies had made such a claim prior to this, and the bodies in existence at the time did not accept Ramsay's claims as being factual.

No credible historian believes that there is any descent of Freemasonry from the Knights Templars.

That an Order dedicated to universal brotherhood, using the symbols of Operative Masonry, and open to individual's regardless of race, or religion would be claimed to have descended from a Christian religious Order formed in the Crusades which turned into a banking house is absurd.

As I implied in the original post, it's appeal is to romanticism, and the desire to play at knight's and establish "chivalric" higher degrees.

Frater Raum Sariel 3° said...

FYI: The Grand Lodge of Germany 1250 had purely Speculative lodges amongts it's Operative Stonemasons lodges.

There where speculative Masons amongst the Kushite's and even the Chinese before that.

If we are taking about purely the line of 1717 you may be correct. But, when we account for the global scope of history you are not.

My advice would try to be a little more openminded instead of absolutist in your views.

San Diego Freemason said...

Before the 1200's there were Chinese engaged in purely philosophical and esoteric pursuits that called themselves speculative stone-masons?

Hmmmm......

I researched your statement about the German Freemasons. Yes, there was a Grand Lodge formed in Cologne in 1250.

It appears that non-operative members existed within this lodge also. So far, nothing contrary to what I have said regarding the Templars.

The comment on the research done on the German Freemasons states, and I quote:

"supports the theory that the seed of modern Freemasonry, was not linked to Knights Templar or English Freemasonry, but originated with the Masonic Institutions of Germany, who in turn, had received their Masonic knowledge from earlier Masonic organizations."

Quite possible. No different than the historical evidence regarding the evolution of Freemasonry accepted today.

No Knights Templar.

Freemasonry developed throughout Europe from the stone-masons guilds.

While the author of this piece makes a good argument that non-operatives were accepted into the Grand Lodge in Cologne, said Grand Lodge was primarily an operative Grand Lodge.

The first purely Speculative Grand Lodge, as far as I am aware, was the Grand Lodge of London.

Still no Templars lurking about.

San Diego Freemason said...

I thought that the following information would shed more light on this subject:

Sir Knight Colman in his Centennial address to the Grand Encampment in 1916 upon the subject of the early history of that body, said:

"There is no probability, hardly even any possibility, that our modern Order of Christian Masonic Knighthood is directly connected with the ancient Order of Christian Knights whose name and date we proudly bear and whose valiant character and Christian virtues we emulate."

Dr. Rugg, Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, in his Centennial address to the Grand Commandery of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said:

"Tradition and common belief have their value, but they must not be allowed to offset historic evidence. It is the part of unwisdom to cling to a theory that has been generally discarded by those who have made the most extensive and careful examination of the grounds on which it rests. In this case the most reliable authorities concur in judgment that Masonic Templary, as recognized in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is not historically connected with or lineally descended from the chivalric orders of the Crusades."

Sir Hopkins, Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, at the Conclave held in Louisville in 1901, said:

I readily admit that we can not show an indisputable title to this inheritance, but the claim is precious although the title may not be secure. I would fain believe that the founders of the Order did not leave the organization which they founded and cemented with their blood to become the plaything of chance or to rest upon the uncertain tenure of the will or whim of a rapacious king and a weak pope. I am disposed to admit that it is only a sentiment, but it is one to which some of us cling tenaciously and which we only surrender when we recognize that tradition must yield to history."

Sir Knight Parvin, Past Grand Recorder of Iowa and for many years closely connected with the Grand Encampment, has said: "The popular theory under which so many writers view the origin and history of Templar Masonry would trace it back by some mysterious line of connection to the Order of Malta which was dissolved in 1798, or back to the Order of the Temple, which ceased to exist in 1313, and the latter theory, even at this day, has many advocates. A better and truer theory, is to credit the whole system of Masonic Templarly to the inventive genius of the ritual makers of the eighteenth century."

Quoted from an article by Stanley C. Warner at the Masonic Dictionary.com

Khan said...

Actually, Robinson provides worthwhile lines of thought on this subject. His points on Templar associations, he admits, are incomplete; but he pursued the issue because of things he found while he was researching Templars and later insurrections in England, before he knew anything about Freemasons.

His contribution contrary to the "we came from guilds of stone masons" issue is more pointed and conclusive. His historical method and research are sound, and he definitively states: there weren't any guilds of stonemasons in medieval England.

There weren't "lodges" that we would recognize, as such, in that profession, and certainly no reason evidence that the "secrets" of operative masonry warranted threats of grisly death.

His work is worth a read.