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Masonic Knights Templar

The Knights Templar is an elite group of the York and Scottish Rites of Free Masons. The word knight, prefixed to so many of the high degrees as a part of the title, has no reference whatever to the orders of chivalry, except in the case of Knights Templar and Knights of Malta. The word, in such titles as Knight of the Ninth Arch, Knight of the Brazen Serpent, etc., has a meaning totally unconnected with Medieval knighthood. In fact, although the English, German, and French words Knight, Ritter, and Chevalier, are applied to both, the Latin word for each is different. A Masonic knight is, in Latin, eques; while the Medieval writers always called a knight of chivalry miles. So constant is this distinction, that in the two instances of Masonic knighthood derived from the chivalric orders, the Knights Templar and the Knight of Malta, this word miles is used, instead of eques, to indicate that they are not really degrees of Masonic knighthood. Thus it is said, Miles Templarius and Miles Melius. If they had been inventions of a Masonic ritualist, the titles would have been Eques Templarius and Eques Melius.

The eques, or Masonic knight, is therefore not, in the heraldic sense, a knight at all. The word is used simply to denote a position higher than that of a mere Master; a position calling, like the "devoir" of knighthood, for the performance of especial duties. As the word "prince," in Masonic language, denotes not one of princely rank, but one invested with a share of Masonic sovereignty and command, so " knight" denotes one who is expected to be distinguished with peculiar fidelity to the cause in which he has enlisted. It is simply, as has been said, a point of rank above that of the Master Mason.

The Knights Templars, after the death of De Molay in 1313, seem to have had no common head. Their possessions confiscated, their leaders incarcerated for life, or put to death, the brethren persecuted in every way, the survivors of that once powerful Order were compelled, for the sake of concealment, to leave their homes, cast off the garb of the Temple, and to mingle again with the world. Some endeavored, alone and unaided, secretly to preserve their beloved Order, according to the rules by which, in its day of glory, it was governed.

It is claimed, without foundation, that some sought refuge in the Society of Free and Accepted Masons, in order that they might there enjoy, with impunity, the religious dogmas which they had brought with them from the East - the liberal sentiments of the Johannite Christians - the pure doctrines of the primitive Christian Church.

In consequence of the power of the Church over the citizens of the country - a power which the former abused very freely - it became necessary to have secret societies and places where the members could secretly meet and exchange their opinions without being overheard by spies and traitors. Secret orders of all kinds were, therefore, existing in great numbers, and foremost of all were the Freemasons, an order which, on account of the strength of its principles, has continued to exist. At that time Masonry was not what it is now. A writer of those times, in a work published in 1666, informs us that it was neither a political nor a Christian institution, but a truly secret organization, which admitted such men as members who were anxious to obtain the priceless boon of liberty of conscience, and to avoid clerical prosecution.

But the air of mystery which hung about the masonic lodges was also very attractive to all who were mystically inclined. Then, as now, strange rumours circulated about the doings of the Masons, wild stories were whispered about among the ignorant, which the clergy of those times, like their brothers of the present day, helped to start, circulate, and exaggerate. They were accused of practising black magic and sorcery, and some even accused them of being in league with devils. All these things served to attract to the masonic lodges not merely those who were desirous of freedom of speech, but also those who desired to learn forbidden secrets; and, moreover, adventurers of all kinds sought to gain admittance and sometimes succeeded. Many of the masonic brothers attempted to study and practise alchemy.

It is said that many of the Knights retired to Scotland, then a separate kingdom, where they obtained lands and revenues. In that kingdom they continued to reside unmolested, and it is claimed became in some measure associated with the Masonic fraternity which was patronized by the Kings of Scotland. In England, during the long disturbed state of the kingdom, Masonry had "lain dormant", but found its way back from Scotland, where it had "continued uninterrupted under the hereditary guardianship of Royalty". There are no old or authentic documents to show when the present Masonic Templar Order or descendants of "Templars of the Crusaders" was first formed in England. But about the year 1560, the Preceptor of the combined Orders of the Hospitalers and the Temple in Scotland, who had with several of the Kuights, Esquires, and serving Brethren, joined the Reformation and became Presbyterians, resigned to the Crown the whole of the property belonging to the Hospitalers and the Templars, and subsequently connected themselves with the Freemasons' Lodge.

When the Hospital and Temple lands were resigned to the Crown, the Templars who still adhered to the Roman Catholic Religion placed themselves under a new Grand Master, David Seton, and continued to preserve and transmit the Ancient Ceremonies and Principles of the Order, and although they subsequently admitted Protestants, it continued in the hands of the High Church Party. Viscount Dundee, known as the famous "Claverhouse," held the office of Grand Master. He was killed at the battle of Killecrankie, with the Grand Cross of the Order on his person. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Pretender, was installed at Holyrood, Edinburgh, September 24, 1745, and became Grand Master.

The tradition that the "Baldwin Encampment," which, up to the middle of the 19th century, had been conceded to be the witness that Masonic Knights Templars were descendants of the Knights of the Crusades, is not now accepted. It is within the range of possibility that a connection existed between the chivalric order of Knights Templars and the fraternity of Operative Masons of mediaeval times, because bodies of skilled workmen erected Templar strongholds in the Holy Land, and built their preceptories, priories and round churches in Europe. The famous Temple Church, London, is an example. What, then, was more natural than that the Knights Templars in the 14th century, proscribed, persecuted and despoiled of all things, should seek their perpetuation among the affiliated bodies of mechanics of whose universality and antiquity they had abundant evidence? On the other hand no historical doubt exists that every Freemason living since the revival of 1717 can trace his pedigree only to Great Britain. No other association, guild or otherwise ever grew into a society of Freemasons, nor was any connection with the building trades of the Continent ever claimed by the first Freemasons of Europe.

Of the many historical records which treat of Freemasonry those which are bear evidence of authenticity fixed the date of the first connection of Knights Templar with the Masonic fraternity at the middle of the twelfth century. It can be collected from sources of information on the subject, that Freemasonry which had declined for some time previous to the reign of Edward the Confessor began to flourish under the immediate patronage of that monarch - and thence received the countenance and support of succeeding Sovereigns.

In the time of Henry II Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, esteemed it an honor to hold the office of President of the Society of Freemasons as it was then named. It is recorded that in this reign Knights Templar were first initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry, from which period they gave it their patronage, and the Grand Master of the Temple was appointed to superintend the Lodges, by which appointment pre-eminence was confined to the Orders of Knighthood, over the Society of Freemasons. By this junction of the two Orders, Freemasonry assumed a more important character and higher position in the eyes of the world and continued to increase in general estimation down to the reign of Richard I. It is generally believed that it was at this period that the first connection was formally established with a Masonic Lodge and the Knights Templar. Before that event, individual Knights were initiated into Masonic mysteries and patronized the Society of Freemasons, but subsequently and after the suppression of the Order and their dispersion throughout Christendom, and after they had regained stability and freedom from persecution, this Order of Knighthood was conferred exclusively on those who had previously passed through the higher degrees of Freemasonry.

It does not appear however that the Knights of Malta, joined the Masonic Society until the close of the fourteenth century, and at that time the two Orders of Chivalry, that of St. John and the Templars had been united and have continued in unbroken union to the present day. It is important to notice that at the time the Templars and Freemasons became an associated body, the Knights Templar as an Order had no authority over the Grand Master of Freemasonry as such - nor had that officer in his capacity as head and President of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons any power to give Laws to the Knights Templar.

By the end of the 19th Century Freemasons were to be found in every quarter of the globe, but in no part were they more demonstrative than in the United States of America. In the United Kingdom all their proceedings were conducted in the privacy of their lodge-rooms, while in the United States they were fond of parading the streets and affording a spectacle to their fellow - citizens. While Freemasonry proper consisted of three degrees, there were many fancy and ornamental degrees which attracted the lovers of gorgeous paraphernalia, and of these degrees that of the Knights Templar was the most popular in America. The members of it are addressed as Sir Knight, and when they paraded in public they are clothed in as fantastic a garb as that of a general officer in the Grand Duchy of Gerolstein.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:01:32 ZULU