By, Nesta Webster
IN the year 1118--nineteen years after the first crusade had ended with the defeat of the Moslems, the capture of Antioch and Jerusalem, and the instalment of Godefroi de Bouillon as king of the latter city--a band of nine French gentilshommes, led by Hugues de Payens and Godefroi de Saint-Omer, formed themselves into an Order for the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre. Baldwin II, who at this moment succeeded the throne of Jerusalem, presented them with a house near the site of the Temple of Solomon--hence the name of Knights Templar under which they were to become famous. In 1128 the Order was sanctioned by the Council of Troyes and by the Pope, and a rule was drawn up by St. Bernard under which the Knights Templar were bound by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
But although the Templars distinguished themselves by many deeds of valour, the regulation that they were to live solely on alms led to donations so enormous that, abandoning their vow of poverty, they spread themselves over Europe, and by the end of the twelfth century had become a rich and powerful body. The motto that the Order had inscribed upon its banner, "Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam," was likewise forgotten, for, their faith waxing gold, they gave themselves up to pride and ostentation. Thus, as an eighteenth-century masonic writer has expressed it:
The war, which for the greater number of warriors of good faith proved the source of weariness, of losses and misfortunes, became for them (the Templars) only the opportunity for booty and aggrandizement, and if they distinguished themselves by a few brilliant actions, their motive soon ceased to be a matter of doubt when they were seen to enrich themselves even with the spoils of the confederates, to increase their credit by the extent of the new possessions they had acquired, to carry arrogance to the point of rivalling crowned princes in pomp and grandeur, to refuse their aid against the enemies of the faith, as the history of Saladin testifies, and finally to ally themselves with that horrible and sanguinary prince named the Old Man of the Mountain Prince of the Assassins.(1)
The truth of the last accusation is, however, open to question. For a time, at any rate, the Templars had been at war with the Assassins. When in 1152 the Assassins murdered Raymond, Comte de Tripoli, the Templars entered their territory and forced them to sign a treaty by which they were to pay a yearly tribute of 12,000 gold pieces in expiation of the crime. Some years later the Old Man of the Mountain sent an ambassador to Amaury, King of Jerusalem, to tell him privately that if the Templars would forgo the payment of this tribute he and his followers would embrace the Christian faith. Amaury accepted, offering at the same time to compensate the Templars, but some of the Knights assassinated the ambassador before he could return to his master. When asked for reparations the Grand Master threw the blame on an evil one-eyed Knight named Gautier de Maisnil.(2)
It is evident, therefore, that the relations between the Templars and the Assassins were at first far from amicable ; nevertheless, it appears probable that later on an understanding was brought about between them. Both on this charge and on that of treachery towards the Christian armies, Dr. Bussell's impartial view of the question may be quoted:
When in 1149 the Emperor Conrad III failed before Damascus, the Templars were believed to have a secret understanding with e garrison of that city ; . . . in 1154 they were said to have sold, for 60,000 gold pieces, a prince of Egypt who had wished to become a Christian ; he was taken home to suffer certain death at the hands his fanatical family. In 1166 Amaury, King of Jerusalem, hanged twelve members of the Order for betraying a fortress to Nureddin.
And Dr. Bussell goes on to say that it cannot be disputed hat they had " long and important dealings " with the Assassin " and were therefore suspected (not unfairly) of imbibing their precepts and following their principles."(3)
By the end of the thirteenth century the Templars had become suspect, not only in the eyes of the clergy, but of the general public. " Amongst the common people," one of their latest apologists admits, " vague rumours circulated. They talked of the covetousness and want of scruple of the Knights, of their passion for aggrandizement and their rapacity. Their haughty insolence was proverbial. Drinking habits were attributed to them ; the saying was already in use ' to drink like a Templar.' The old German word Tempelhaus indicated house of ill-fame."(4)
The same rumours had reached Clement V even before his accession to the papal throne in 1305,(5) and in this same year he summoned the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques du Molay, to return to France from the island of Cyprus, where he was assembling fresh forces to avenge the recent reverses of the Christian armies.
Du Molay arrived in France with sixty other Knights Templar and 150,000 gold florins, as well as a large quantity of silver that the Order had amassed in the East.(6)
The Pope now set himself to make enquiries concerning the charges of " unspeakable apostasy against God, detestable idolatry, execrable vice, and many heresies " that had been " secretly intimated " to him. But, to quote his own words :
Because it did not seem likely nor credible that men of such religion who were believed often to shed their blood and frequently expose their persons to the peril of death for Christ's name and who showed such great and many signs of devotion both in divine offices as well as in facts, as in other devotional observances, should be so forgetful of their salvation as to do these things, we were unwilling . . . to give ear to this kind of insinuation . . . (hujusmodi insinuacioni ac delacioni ipsorum . . . aurem noluimus inclinare).(7)
The King of France, Philippe le Bel, who had hitherto been the friend of the Templars, now became alarmed and urged the Pope to take action against them ; but before the Pope was able to find out more about the matter, the King took the law into his own hands and had all the Templars in France arrested on October 13, 1307. The following charges were then brought against them by the Inquisitor for France before whom they were examined:
1. The ceremony of imitation into their Order was accompanied by insults to the Cross, the denial of Christ, and gross obscenities.
Since, however, a number of these confessions were made under torture, it is more important to consider the evidence provided by the trial of the Knights at the hands of the Pope, where this method was not employed.
Now, at the time the Templars were arrested, Clement V, deeply resenting the King's interference with an Order which existed entirely under papal jurisdiction, wrote in the strongest terms of remonstrance to Philippe le Bel urging their release and even after their trial, neither the confessions of the Knights nor the angry expostulations of the King could persuade him to believe in their guilt.(14) But as the scandal concerning the Templars was increasing, he consented to receive in private audience " a certain Knight of the Order, of great nobility and held by the said Order in no slight esteem," who testified to the abominations that took place on the reception of the Brethren, the spitting on the cross, and other things which were not lawful nor, humanly speaking, decent.(15)
The Pope then decided to hold an examination of seventy-two French Knights at Poictiers in order to discover whether the confessions made by them before the Inquisitor at Paris could be substantiated, and at this examination, conducted without torture or pressure of any kind in the presence of the Pope himself, the witnesses declared on oath that they would tell " the full and pure truth." They then made confession which were committed to writing in their presence, and these being afterwards read aloud to them, they expressly and willingly approved them (perseverantes in illis eas expresse et sponte, prout recitate fuerunt approbarunt).(16)
Besides this, an examination of the Grand Master, Jacques du Molay, and the Preceptors of the Order was held in the presence of " three Cardinals and four public notaries and .many other good men." These witnesses, says the official report, " having sworn with their hands on the Gospel of God " (ad sancta dei evangelia ab iis corporaliter tacta) that--
they would on all the aforesaid things speak the pure and full truth, they, separately, freely, and spontaneously, without any coercion and fear, deposed and confessed among other things, the a denial of Christ and spitting upon the cross when they were received into the Order of the Temple. And some of them (deposed and confessed) that under the same form, namely, with denial of Christ and spitting on the cross, they had received many Brothers into the Order. Some of them too confessed certain other horrible and disgusting things on which we are silent. . . . Besides this, they said and confessed that those things which are contained in the confessions and depositions of heretical depravity which they made lately before the Inquisitor (of Paris) were true.
Their confessions, being again committed to writing, were approved by the witnesses, who then with bended knees and many tears asked for and obtained absolution.(17)
The Pope, however, still refused to take action against the whole Order merely because the Master and Brethren around him had " gravely sinned," and it was decided to hold a papal commission in Paris. The first sitting took place in November 1309, when the Grand Master and 231 Knights were summoned before the pontifical commissioners. " This enquiry," says Michelet, " was conducted slowly, with much consideration and gentleness (avec beaucoup de ménagement et de douceur) by high ecclesiastical dignitaries, an archbishop, several bishops, etc."(18) But although a number of the Knights, including the Grand Master, now retracted their admissions, some damning confessions were again forthcoming. It is impossible within the scope of this book to follow the many trials of the Templars that took place in different countries--in Italy, at Ravenna, Pisa, Bologna, and Florence, where torture was not employed and blasphemies were admitted,(19) or in Germany, where torture was employed but no confessions were made and a verdict was given in favour of the Order. A few details concerning the trial in England may, however, be of interest.
It has generally been held that torture was not applied in England owing to the humanity of Edward II, who at first, absolutely refused to listen to any accusations against the Order.(20) On December 10, 1307, he had written to the Pope in these terms :
And because the said Master or Brethren constant in the purity of he Catholic faith have been frequently commended by us, and by all our kingdom, both in their life and morals, we are unable to believe in suspicious stories of this kind until we know with greater certainty about these things.
Edward II also wrote in the same terms to the Kings of Portugal, Castile, Aragon, and Sicily. But two years later, after Clement V had himself heard the confessions of the Order and a Papal Bull had been issued declaring that " the unspeakable wickednesses and abominable crimes of notorious heresy " had now " come to the knowledge of almost everyone," Edward II was persuaded to arrest the Templars and order their examination. According to Mr. Castle, whose interesting treatise we quote here, the King would not allow torture to be employed, with the result that the Knights denied all charges ; but later, it is said, he allowed himself to be overpersuaded, and torture appears to have been applied on one or two occasions "(22) with the result that three Knights confessed to all and were given absolution.(23) At Southwark, however, " a considerable number of brethren " admitted that " they had been strongly accused of the crimes of negation and spitting, they did not say they were guilty but that they could not purge themselves . . . and therefore they abjured these and all other heresies."(24) Evidence was also given against the Order by outside witnesses, and the same stories of intimidation at the ceremony of reception were told.(25) At any rate, the result of the investigation was not altogether satisfactory, and the Templars were finally suppressed in England as elsewhere by the Council of Vienne in 1312.
In France more rigorous measures were adopted and fifty-four Knights who had retracted their confessions were burnt at the stake as " relapsed heretics " on May 12, 1310. Four years later, on March 14, 1314, the Grand Master, Jacques du Molay, suffered the same fate.
Now, however much we must execrate the barbarity of this sentence--as also the cruelties that had preceded it--this is no reason why we should admit the claim of the Order to noble martyrdom put forward by the historians who have espoused their cause. The character of the Templars is not rehabilitated by condemning the conduct of the King and Pope. Yet this the line of argument usually adopted by the defenders of the Order. Thus the two main contentions on which they base their defence are, firstly, that the confessions of the Knights were made under torture, therefore they must be regarded as null and void ; and, secondly, that the whole affair was a plot concerted between the King and Pope in order to obtain possession of the Templars' riches. Let us examine these contentions in turn.
In the first place, as we have seen, all confessions were not made under torture. No one, as far as I am aware, disputes Michelet's assertion that the enquiry before the Papal Commission in Paris, at which a number of Knights adhered to the statements they had made to the Pope, was conducted without pressure of any kind. But further, the fact that confessions are made under torture does not necessarily invalidate them as evidence. Guy Fawkes also confessed under torture, yet it is never suggested that the whole story of the Gunpowder Plot was a myth. Torture, however much we may condemn it, has frequently proved the only method for overcoming the intimidation exercised over the mind of a conspirator ; a man bound by the terrible obligations of a confederacy and fearing the vengeance of his fellow-conspirators will not readily yield to persuasion, but only to force. If, then, some of the Templars were terrorized by torture, or even by the fear of torture, it must not be forgotten that terrorism was exercised by both sides. Few will deny that the Knights were bound by oaths of secrecy, so that on one hand they were threatened with the vengeance of the Order if they betrayed its secrets, and on the other faced with torture if they refused to confess. Thus they found themselves between the devil and the deep sea. It was therefore not a case of a mild and unoffending Order meeting with brutal treatment at the hands of authority, but of the victims of a terrible autocracy being delivered into the hands of another autocracy.
Moreover, do the confessions of the Knights appear to be the outcome of pure imagination such as men under the influence of torture might devise ? It is certainly difficult to believe that the accounts of the ceremony of initiation given in detail by men in different countries, all closely resembling each other, yet related in different phraseology, could be pure inventions. Had the victims been driven to invent they would surely have contradicted each other, have cried out in their agony that all kinds of wild and fantastic rites had taken place in order to satisfy the demands of their interlocutors. But no, each appears to be describing the same ceremony more or less completely, with characteristic touches that indicate the personality of the speaker, and in the main all the stories tally.
The further contention that the case against the Templars was manufactured by the King and Pope with a view to obtaining their wealth is entirely disproved by facts. The latest French historian of mediæval France, whilst expressing disbelief in the guilt of the Templars, characterizes this counter-accusation as " puerile." " Philippe the Bel," writes M. Funck-Brentano, " has never been understood ; from the beginning people have not been just to him. This young prince was one of the greatest kings and the noblest characters that have appeared in history."(26)
Without carrying appreciation so far, one must nevertheless accord to M. Funck-Brentano's statement of facts the attention it merits. Philippe has been blamed for debasing the coin of the realm ; in reality he merely ordered it to be mixed with alloy ; as a necessary measure after the war with England,(27) precisely as our own coinage was debased in consequence of the recent war. This was done quite openly and the coinage was restored at the earliest opportunity. Intensely national, his policy of attacking the Lombards, exiling the Jews, and suppressing the Templars, however regrettable the methods by which it was carried out, resulted in immense benefits to France ; M. Funck-Brentano has graphically described the prosperity of the whole country during the early fourteenth century--the increase of population, flourishing agriculture and industry. " In Provence and Languedoc one meets swineherds who have vineyards, simple cowherds who have town houses."(28)
The attitude of Philippe le Bel towards the Templars must be viewed in this light--ruthless suppression of any body of people who interfered with the prosperity of France. His action was not that of arbitrary authority ; he " proceeded," says M. Funck-Brentano, " by means of an appeal to the people. In his name Nogaret (the Chancellor) spoke to the Parisians in the garden of the Palace (October 13, 1307). Popular assemblies were convoked all over France " ;(29) " the Parliament of Tours, with hardly a dissentient vote, declared the Templars worthy of death. The University of Paris gave the weight of their judgement as to the fullness and authenticity of the confessions."(30) Even assuming that these bodies were actuated by the same servility as that which has been attributed to the Pope, how are we to explain the fact that the trial of the Order aroused no opposition among the far from docile people of Paris ? If the Templars had indeed, as they professed, been leading noble and upright lives, devoting themselves to the care of the poor, one might surely expect their arrest to be followed by popular risings. But there appears to have been no sign of this.
As to the Pope, we have already seen that from the outset he had shown himself extremely reluctant to condemn the Order, and no satisfactory explanation is given of his change of attitude except that he wished to please the King. As far a his own interests are concerned, it is obvious that he could have nothing to gain by publishing to the world a scandal that must inevitably bring opprobrium on the Church. His lamentations to this effect in the famous Bull (31) clearly show that he recognized this danger and therefore desired at all cost to clear the accused Knights, if evidence could be obtained in their favour. It was only when the Templars made damning admissions in his presence that he was obliged to abandon their defence.(32) Yet we are told that he did this out of base compliance with the wishes of Philippe le Bel.
Philippe le Bel is thus represented as the arch-villain of the whole piece, through seven long years hounding down a blameless Order--from whom up to the very moment of their arrest he had repeatedly received loans of money--solely with the object of appropriating their wealth. Yet after all we find that the property of the Templars was not appropriated by the King, but was given by him to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem !
What was the fate of the Templars' goods ? Philippe le Bel decided that they should be handed over to the Hospitallers. Clement V states that the Orders given by the King on this subject were executed. Even the domain of the Temple in Paris . . . up to the eve of the Revolution was the property of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The royal treasury kept for itself certain sums for the costs of the trial. These had been immense.(33)
These facts in no way daunt the antagonists of Philippe, who, we are now assured--again without any proof whatever--was overruled by the Pope in this matter. But setting all morality aside, as a mere question of policy, is it likely that the King would have deprived himself of his most valuable financial supporters and gone to the immense trouble of bringing them to trial without first assuring himself that he would benefit by the affair ? Would he, in other words, have killed the goose that laid the golden eggs without any guarantee that the body of the goose would remain in his possession ? Again, if, as we are told, the Pope suppressed the Order so as to please the King, why should he have thwarted him over the whole purpose the King had in view ? Might we not expect indignant remonstrances from Philippe at thus being baulked of the booty he had toiled so long to gain ? But on the contrary, we find him completely in agreement with the Pope on this subject. In November 1309 Clement V distinctly stated that " Philippe the Illustrious, King of France," to whom the facts concerning the Templars had been told, was " not prompted by avarice since he desired to keep or appropriate for himself no part of the property of the Templars, but liberally and devotedly left them to us and the Church to be administered," etc.(34)
Thus the whole theory concerning the object for which the Templars were suppressed falls to the ground--a theory which on examination is seen to be built up entirely on the plan of imputing motives without any justification in facts. The King acted from cupidity, the Pope from servility, and the Templars confessed from fear of torture--on these pure hypotheses defenders of the Order base their arguments.
The truth is, far more probably, that if the King had any additional reason for suppressing the Templars it was not envy of their wealth but fear of the immense power their wealth conferred ; the Order dared even to defy the King and to refuse to pay taxes. The Temple in fact constituted an imperium in imperio that threatened not only the royal authority but the whole social system.(35) An important light is thrown on the situation by M. Funck-Brentano in this passage :
As the Templars had houses in all countries, they practised the financial operations of the international banks of our times ; they were acquainted with letters of change, orders payable at sight, they instituted dividends and annuities on deposited capital, advanced funds, lent on credit, controlled private accounts, undertook to raise taxes for the lay and ecclesiastical seigneurs.(36)
Through their proficiency in these matters--acquired very possibly from the Jews of Alexandria whom they must have met in the East--the Templars had become the " international financiers " and " international capitalists " of their day ; had they not been suppressed, all the evils now denounced by Socialists as peculiar to the system they describe as " Capitalism "--trusts, monopolies, and " corners "--would in all probability have been inaugurated during the course of the fourteenth century in a far worse form than at the present day, since no legislation existed to protect the community at large. The feudal system, as Marx and Engels perceived, was the principal obstacle to exploitation by a financial autocracy.(37)
Moreover, it is by no means improbable that this order of things would have been brought about by the violent overthrow of the French monarchy--indeed, of all monarchies ; the Templars, " those terrible conspirators," says Eliphas Lévi, threatened the whole world with an immense revolution."(38)
Here perhaps we may find the reason why this band of dissolute and rapacious nobles has enlisted the passionate sympathy of democratic writers. For it will be noticed that these same writers who attribute the King's condemnation of the Order to envy of their wealth never apply this argument to the demagogues of the eighteenth century and suggest that their accusations against the nobles of France were inspired by cupidity, nor would they ever admit that any such motive may enter into the diatribes against private owners of wealth to-day. The Templars thus remain the only body of capitalists, with the exception of the Jews, to be not only pardoned for their riches but exalted as noble victims of prejudice and envy. Is it merely because the Templars were the enemies of monarchy ? Or is it that the world revolution, whilst attacking private owners of property, has never been opposed to International finance, particularly when combined with anti-Christian tendencies ?
It is the continued defence of the Templars which, to the present writer, appears the most convincing evidence against them. For even if one believes them innocent of the crimes laid to their charge, how is it possible to admire them in their later stages ? The fact that cannot be denied is that they were false to their obligations, that they took the vow of poverty and then grew not only rich but arrogant ; that they took the vow of chastity and became notoriously immoral.(39) Are all these things then condoned because the Templars formed a link in the chain of world revolution ?
At this distance of time the guilt or innocence of the Templars will probably never be conclusively established either way ; on the mass of conflicting evidence bequeathed to us by history no one can pronounce a final judgement.
Without attempting to dogmatize on the question, I would suggest that the real truth may be that the Knights were both innocent and guilty, that is to say, that a certain number were initiated into the secret doctrine of the Order whilst the majority remained throughout in ignorance. Thus according to the evidence of Stephen de Stapelbrugge, an English Knight, " there were two modes of reception, one lawful and good and the other contrary to the Faith."(40) This would account for the fact that some of the accused declined to confess even under the greatest pressure. These may really have known nothing of the real doctrines of the Order, which were confided orally only to those whom the superiors regarded as unlikely to be revolted by them. Such have always been the methods of secret societies, from the Ismailis onward.
This theory of a double doctrine is put forward by Loiseleur, who observes :
If we consult the statutes of the Order of the Temple as they have come down to us, we shall certainly discover there is nothing that justifies the strange and abominable practices revealed at the Inquiry. But . . . besides the public rule, had not the Order another one, whether traditional or written, authorizing or even prescribing these practices--a secret rule, revealed only to the initiates ?(41)
Eliphas Lévi also exonerates the majority of the Templars from complicity in either anti-monarchical or anti-religious designs :
These tendencies were enveloped in profound mystery and the Order made an outward profession of the most perfect orthodoxy. The Chiefs alone knew whither they were going ; the rest followed unsuspectingly.(42)
What, then, was the Templar heresy ? On this point we find a variety of opinions. According to Wilcke, Ranke, and Weber it was " the unitarian deism of Islam "(43); Lecouteulx de Canteleu thinks, however, it was derived from heretical Islamic sources, and relates that whilst in Palestine, one of the Knights, Guillaume de Montbard, was initiated by the Old Man of the Mountain in a cave of Mount Lebanon.(44) That a certain resemblance existed between the Templars and the Assassins has been indicated by von Hammer,(45) and further emphasized by the Freemason Clavel :
Oriental historians show us, at different periods, the Order of the Templars maintaining intimate relations with that of the Assassins, and they insist on the affinity that existed between the two associations. They remark that they had adopted the same colours, white and red ; that they had the same organization, the same hierarchy of degrees, those of fedavi, refik, and dai in one corresponding to those of novice, professed, and knight in the other ; that both conspired for the ruin of the religions they professed in public, and that finally both possessed numerous castles, the former in Asia, the latter in Europe.(46)
But in spite of these outward resemblances it does not appear from the confessions of the Knights that the secret doctrine of the Templars was that of the Assassins or of any Ismaili sect by which, in accordance with orthodox Islamism, Jesus was openly held up as a prophet, although, secretly, indifference to all religion was inculcated. The Templars, as far as can be discovered, were anti-Christian deists ; Loiseleur considers that their ideas were derived from Gnostic or Manichean dualists--Cathari, Paulicians, or more particularly Bogomils, of which a brief account must be given here.
The Paulicians who flourished about the seventh century A.D., bore a resemblance to the Cainites and Ophites in their detestation of the Demiurgus and in the corruption of their morals. Later, in the ninth century, the Bogomils, whose name signifies in Slavonic " friends of God," and who had migrated from Northern Syria and Mesopotamia to the Balkan Peninsula, particularly Thrace, appeared as a further development of Manichean dualism. Their doctrine may be summarized thus :
God, the Supreme Father, has two sons, the elder Satanael, the younger Jesus. To Satanael, who sat on the right hand of God, belonged the right of governing the celestial world, but, filled with pride, he rebelled against his Father and fell from Heaven. Then, aided by the companions of his fall, he created the visible world, image of the celestial, having like the other its sun, moon, and stars, and last he created man and the serpent which became his minister. Later Christ came to earth in order to show men the way to Heaven, but His death was ineffectual, for even by descending into Hell He could not wrest the power from Satanael, i.e. Satan.
The Bogomils and Luciferians were thus closely akin, but whilst the former divided their worship between God and His two sons, the latter worshipped Lucifer only, regarding the material world as his work and holding that by indulging the flesh they were propitiating their Demon-Creator. It was said that a black cat, the symbol of Satan, figured in their ceremonies as an object of worship, also that at their horrible nocturnal orgies sacrifices of children were made and their blood used for making the Eucharistic bread of the sect.(47)
Loiseleur arrives at the conclusion that the secret doctrine of the Templars was derived from the Bogomils :
Thus the Templars recognize at the same time a good god, incommunicable to man and consequently without symbolic representation, and a bad god, to whom they give the features of an idol of fearful aspect.(48)
Their most fervent worship was addressed to this god of evil, who alone could enrich them. " They said with the Luciferians : ' The elder son of God, Satanael or Lucifer alone has a right to the homage of mortals ; Jesus his younger brother does not deserve this honour.' "(49)
Although we shall not find these ideas so clearly defined in the confessions of the Knights, some colour is lent to this theory by those who related that the reason given to them for not believing in Christ was " that He was nothing, He was a false prophet and of no value, and that they should believe in the Higher God of Heaven who could save them."(50) According to Loiseleur, the idol they were taught to worship, the bearded head known to history as Baphomet, represented " the inferior god, organizer and dominator of the material world, author of good and evil here below, him by whom evil was introduced into creation."(51)
The etymology of the word Baphomet is difficult to discover ; Raynouard says it originated with two witnesses heard at Carcassonne who spoke of " Figura Baffometi," and suggests hat it was a corruption of " Mohammed," whom the Inquisitors wished to make the Knights confess they were taught to adore.(52) But this surmise with regard to the intentions of he Inquisitors seems highly improbable, since they must have been well aware that, as Wilcke points out, the Moslems forbid all idols.(53) For this reason Wilcke concludes that the Mohammedanism of the Templars was combined with Cabalism and that their idol was in reality the macroprosopos, or head of the Ancient of Ancients, represented as an old man with a long beard, or sometimes as three heads in one, which has already been referred to under the name of the Long Face in the first chapter of this book--a theory which would agree with Eliphas Lévi's assertion that the Templars were initiated into the mysterious doctrines of the Cabala."(54) But Lévi goes on to define this teaching under the name of Johannism. It is here that we reach a further theory with regard to the secret doctrine of the Templars--the most important of all, since it emanates from masonic and neo-Templar sources, thus effectually disposing of the contention that the charge brought against the Order of apostasy from the Catholic faith is solely the invention of Catholic writers.
In 1842 the Freemason Ragon related that the Templars learnt from the " initiates of the East " a certain Judaic doctrine which was attributed to St. John the Apostle ; therefore " they renounced the religion of St. Peter and became Johannites.(55) Eliphas Lévi expresses the same opinion.
Now, these statements are apparently founded on a legend which was first published early in the nineteenth century, when an association calling itself the Ordre du Temple and claiming direct descent from the original Templar Order published two works, the Manuel des Chevaliers de l'Ordre du Temple in 1811, and the Lévitikon, in 1831, together with a version of the Gospel of St. John differing from the Vulgate. These books, which appear to have been printed only for private circulation amongst the members and are now extremely rare, relate that the Order of the Temple had never ceased to exist since the days of Jacques du Molay, who appointed Jacques de Larménie his successor in office, and from that time onwards a line of Grand Masters had succeeded each other without a break up to the end of the eighteenth century, when it ceased for a brief period but was reinstituted under a new Grand Master, Fabré Palaprat, in 1804. Besides publishing the list of all Grand Masters, known as the " Charter of Larmenius," said to have been preserved in the secret archives of the Temple, these works also reproduce another document drawn from the same repository describing the origins of the Order. This manuscript, written in Greek on parchment, dated 1154, purports to be partly taken from a fifth-century MS. and relates that Hugues de Payens, first Grand Master of the Templars, was initiated in 1118--that is to say, in the year the Order was founded--into the religious doctrine of " the Primitive Christian Church" by its Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch, Theoclet, sixtieth in direct succession from St. John the Apostle. The history of the Primitive Church is then given as follows :
Moses was initiated in Egypt. Profoundly versed in the physical, theological, and metaphysical mysteries of the priests, he knew how to profit by these so as to surmount the power of the Mages and deliver his companions. Aaron, his brother, and the chiefs of the Hebrews became the depositaries of his doctrine. . . .
Here we have the whole Cabalistic legend of a secret doctrine descending from Moses, of Christ as an Egyptian initiate and founder of a secret order--a theory, of course, absolutely destructive of belief in His divinity. The legend of the Ordre du Temple goes on to say :
Up to about the year 1118 (i.e. the year the Order of the Temple was founded) the mysteries and the hierarchic Order of the initiation of Egypt, transmitted to the Jews by Moses, then to the Christians by J.C., were religiously preserved by the successors of St. John the Apostle. These mysteries and initiations, regenerated by the evangelical initiation (or baptism), were a sacred trust which the simplicity of the primitive and unchanging morality of the Brothers of the East had preserved from all adulteration. . . .
The Christians, persecuted by the infidels, appreciating the courage and piety of these brave crusaders, who, with the sword in one hand and the cross in the other, flew to the defence of the holy places, and, above all, doing striking justice to the virtues and the ardent charity of Hugues de Payens, held it their duty to confide to hands so pure the treasures of knowledge acquired throughout so many centuries, sanctified by the cross, the dogma and the morality of the Man-God. Hugues was invested with the Apostolic Patriarchal power and placed in the legitimate order of the successors of St. John the apostle or the evangelist.
Such is the origin of the foundation of the Order of the Temple and of the fusion in this Order of the different kinds of initiation of the Christians of the East designated under the title of Primitive Christians or Johannites.
It will be seen at once that all this story is subtly subversive of true Christianity, and that the appellation of Christians applied to the Johannites is an imposture. Indeed Fabré Palaprat, Grand Master of the Ordre du Temple in 1804, who in his book on the Templars repeats the story contained in the Lévitikon and the Manuel des Chevaliers du Temple, whilst making the same profession of " primitive Christian " doctrines descending from St. John through Theoclet and Hugues de Payens to the Order over which he presides, goes on to say that the secret doctrine of the Templars " was essentially contrary to the canons of the Church of Rome and that it is principally to this fact that one must attribute the persecution of which history has preserved the memory."(56) The belief of the Primitive Christians, and consequently that of the Templars, with regard to the miracles of Christ is that He " did or may have done extraordinary or miraculous things," and that since " God can do things incomprehensible to human intelligence," the Primitive Church venerates " all the acts of Christ as they are described in the Gospel, whether it considers them as acts human science or whether as acts of divine power."(57) Belief in the divinity of Christ is thus left an open question, and the same attitude is maintained towards the Resurrection, of which the story is omitted in the Gospel of St. John possessed by the Order. Fabré Palaprat further admits that the gravest accusations brought against the Templars were founded on facts which he attempts to explain away in the following manner :
The Templars having in 1307 carefully abstracted all the manuscripts composing the secret archives of the Order from the search made by authority, and these authentic manuscripts having been preciously preserved since that period, we have to-day the certainty that the Knights endured a great number of religious and moral trials before reaching the different degrees of initiation : thus, for example, the recipient might receive the injunction under pain of death to trample on the crucifix or to worship an idol, but if he yielded to the terror which they sought to inspire in him he was declared unworthy of being admitted to the higher grades of the Order. One can imagine in this way how beings, too feeble or too immoral to endure the trials of initiation, may have accused the Templars of giving themselves up to infamous practices and of having superstitious beliefs.
It is certainly not surprising that an Order which gave such injunctions as these, for whatever purpose, should have become the object of suspicion.
Eliphas Lévi, who, like Ragon, accepts the statements of the Ordre du Temple concerning the " Johannite " origin of the Templars' secret doctrine, is, however, not deceived by these professions of Christianity, and boldly asserts that the Sovereign Pontiff Theoclet initiated Hugues de Payens " into the mysteries and hopes of his pretended Church, he lured him by the ideas of sacerdotal sovereignty and supreme royalty, he indicated him finally as his successor. So the Order of the Knights of the Temple was stained from its origin with schism and conspiracy against Kings."(58) Further, Lévi relates that the real story told to initiates concerning Christ was no other than the infamous Toledot Yeshu described in the first chapter of this book, and which the Johannites dared to attribute to St. John.(59) This would accord with the confession of the Catalonian Knight Templar, Galcerandus de Teus, who stated that the form of absolution in the Order was : " I pray God that He may pardon your sins as He pardoned St. Mary Magdalene and the thief on the cross " ; but the witness went on to explain :
By the thief of which the head of the Chapter speaks, is meant, according to our statutes, that Jesus or Christ who was crucified by the Jews because he was not God, and yet he said he was God and the King of the Jews, which was an outrage to the true God who is in Heaven. When Jesus, a few moments before his death, had his side pieced by the lance of Longinus, he repented of having called himself God and King of the Jews and he asked pardon of the true God ; then the true God pardoned him. It is thus that we apply to the crucified Christ these words : " as God pardoned the thief on the cross."(60)
Raynouard, who quotes this deposition, stigmatizes it as " singular and extravagant " ; M. Matter agrees that it is doubtless extravagant, but that " it merits attention. There was a whole system there, which was not the invention of Galcerant."(61) Eliphas Lévi provides the clue to that system and to the reason why Christ was described as a thief, by indicating the Cabalistic legend wherein He was described as having stolen the sacred Name from the Holy of Holies. Elsewhere he explains that the Johannites " made themselves out to be the only people initiated into the true mysteries of the religion of the Saviour. They professed to know the real history of Jesus Christ, and by adopting part of Jewish traditions and the stories of the Talmud, they made out that the facts related in the Gospels "--that is to say, the Gospels accepted by the orthodox Church-- " were only allegories of which St. John gives the key."(62)
But it is time to pass from legend to facts. For the whole story of the initiation of the Templars by the " Johannites " rests principally on the documents produced by the Ordre du Temple in 1811. According to the Abbés Grégoire and Münter the authenticity and antiquity of these documents are beyond dispute. Grégoire, referring to the parchment manuscript of the Lévitikon and Gospel of St. John, says that " Hellenists versed in palaeography believe this manuscript to be of the thirteenth century, others declare it to be earlier and to go back to the eleventh century."(63) Matter, on the other hand, quoting Münter's opinion that the manuscripts in the archives of the modern Templars date from the thirteenth century, observes that this is all a tissue of errors and that the critics, including the learned Professor Thilo of Halle, have recognized that the manuscript in question, far from belonging to the thirteenth century, dates from the beginning of the eighteenth. From the arrangement of the chapters of the Gospel, M. Matter arrives at the conclusion that it was intended to accompany the ceremonies of some masonic or secret society.(64) We shall return to this possibility in a later chapter.
The antiquity of the manuscript containing the history of the Templars thus remains an open question on which no one can pronounce an opinion without having seen the original. In order, then, to judge of the probability of the story that this manuscript contained it is necessary to consult the facts of history and to discover what proof can be found that any such sect as the Johannites existed at the time of the Crusades or earlier. Certainly none is known to have been called by this name or by one resembling it before 1622, when some Portuguese monks reported the existence of a sect whom they described as " Christians of St. John " inhabiting the banks of the Euphrates. The appellation appears, however, to have been wrongly applied by the monks, for the sectarians in question, variously known as the Mandæans, Mandaites, Sabians, Nazoreans, etc. called themselves Mandaï Iyahi, that is to say, the disciples, or rather the wise men, of John, the word mandaï being derived from the Chaldean word manda, corresponding to the Greek word , or wisdom.(65) The multiplicity of names given to the Mandæans arises apparently from the fact that in their dealings with other communities they took the name of Sabians, whilst they called the wise and learned amongst themselves Nazoreans.(66) The sect formerly inhabited the banks of the Jordan, but was driven out by the Moslems, who forced them to retire to Mesopotamia and Babylonia, where they particularly affected the neighbourhood of rivers in order to be able to carry out their peculiar baptismal rites.(67)
There can be no doubt that the doctrines of the Mandæans do resemble the description of the Johannite heresy as given by Eliphas Lévi, though not by the Ordre du Temple, in that, the Mandæans professed to be the disciples of St. John--the Baptist, however, not the Apostle--but were at the same time, the enemies of Jesus Christ. According to the Mandæans' Book of John (Sidra d'Yahya), Yahya, that is to say, St. John, baptized myriads of men during forty years in the Jordan. By a mistake--or in response to a written mandate from heaven saying, " Yahya, baptize the liar in the Jordan "--he baptized the false prophet Yishu Meshiha (the Messiah Jesus), son of the devil Ruha Kadishta.(68) The same idea is found in another book of the sect called the " Book of Adam," which represents Jesus as the perverter of St. John's doctrine and the disseminator of iniquity and perfidy throughout the world.(69) The resemblance between all this and the legends of the Talmud, the Cabala, and the Toledot Yeshu is at once apparent ; moreover, the Mandæans claim for the " Book of Adam " the same origin as the Jews claimed for the Cabala, namely, that it was delivered to Adam by God through the hands of the angel Razael.(70) This book, known to scholars as the Codex Nasarous, is described by Münter as " a sort of mosaic without order, without method, where one finds mentioned Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, the Temple of Jerusalem, St. John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Christians, and Mohammed." M. Matter, whilst denying any proof of the Templar succession from the Mandæans, nevertheless gives good reason for believing that the sect itself existed from the first centuries of the Christian era and that its books dated from the eighth century(71) ; further that these Mandæans or Nazoreans--not to be confounded with the pre-Christian Nazarenes or Christian Nazarenes--were Jews who revered St. John the Baptist as the prophet of ancient Mosaism, but regarded Jesus Christ as a false Messiah sent by the powers of darkness.(72) Modern Jewish opinion confirms this affirmation of Judaic inspiration and agrees with Matter in describing the Mandæans as Gnostics : " Their sacred books are in an Aramaic dialect, which has close affinities with that of the Talmud of Babylon. " The Jewish influence is distinctly visible in the Mandæan religion. It is essentially of the type of ancient Gnosticism, traces of which are found in the Talmud, the Midrash, and in a modified form the later Cabala."(73)
It may then be regarded as certain that a sect existed long before the time of the Crusades corresponding to the description of the Johannites given by Eliphas Lévi in that it was Cabalistic, anti-Christian, yet professedly founded on the doctrines of one of the St. Johns. Whether it was by this sect that the Templars were indoctrinated must remain an open question. M. Matter objects that the evidence lacking to such a conclusion lies in the fact that the Templars expressed no particular reverence for St. John ; but Loiseleur asserts that the Templars did prefer the Gospel of St. John to that of the other evangelists, and that modern masonic lodges claiming descent from the Templars possess a special version of this Gospel said to have been copied from the original on Mount Athos.(74) It is also said that " Baphomets " were preserved in the masonic lodges of Hungary, where a debased form of Masonry, known as Johannite Masonry, survives to this day. If the Templar heresy was that of the Johannites, the head in question might possibly represent that of John the Baptist, which would accord with the theory that the word Baphomet was derived from Greek words signifying baptism of wisdom. This would, moreover, not be incompatible with Loiseleur's theory of an affinity between the Templars and the Bogomils, for the Bogomils also possessed their own version of the Gospel of St. John, which they placed on the heads of their neophytes during the ceremony of initiation, giving as the reason for the peculiar veneration they professed for its author that they regarded St. John as the servant of the Jewish God Satanael.(75) Eliphas Lévi even goes so far as to accuse the Templars of following the occult practices of the Luciferians, who carried the doctrines of the Bogomils to the point of paying homage to the powers of darkness :
Let us declare for the edification of the vulgar . . . and for the greater glory of the Church which has persecuted the Templars, burned the magicians and excommunicated the Free-Masons, etc., let us say boldly and loudly, that all the initiates of the occult sciences . . . have adored, do and will always adore that which is signified by this frightful symbol [the Sabbatic goat].(76) Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of the Templars adored Baphomet and caused him to be adored by their initiates.(77)
It will be seen, then, that the accusation of heresy brought against the Templars does not emanate solely from the Catholic Church, but also from the secret societies. Even our Freemasons, who, for reasons I shall show later, have generally defended the Order, are now willing to admit that there was a very real case against them. Thus Dr. Ranking, who has devoted many years of study to the question, has arrived at the conclusion that Johannism is the real clue to the Templar heresy. In a very interesting paper published in the masonic Journal Ars Qautuor Coronatorum, he observes that " the record of the Templars in Palestine is one long tale of intrigue and treachery on the part of the Order," and finally :
That from the very commencement of Christianity there has been transmitted through the centuries a body of doctrine incompatible with Christianity in the various official Churches. . .
What is the explanation of this choice of St. John for the propagation of
anti-Christian doctrines which we shall find continuing up to the present day ?
What else than the method of perversion which in its extreme form becomes
Satanism, and consists in always selecting the most sacred things for the purpose
of desecration ? Precisely then because the Gospel of St. John is the one of all
the four which most insists on the divinity of Christ, the occult anti-Christian
sects have habitually made it the basis of their rites.
So Mote It Be
1. Développement des abus introduits dans la Franc-maçonnerie, p.56(1780).
2. Jules Loiseleur, La doctrine secrète des Templiers, p. 89
3. Dr. F.W. Bussell, D.D., Religious Thought And Heresy in the Middle Ages, pp. 796, 797 note.
4. G. Mollat, Les Papes d'Avignon, p. 233 (1912).
5. Michelet, Procès des Templiers, I.2 (1841). This work largely consists of the publication in Latin of the Papal bulls and trials of the Templars before the Papal Commission in Paris contained in the original document once reserved at Notre Dame. Michelet says that another copy was sent to the Pope and kept under the triple key of the Vatican. Mr. E.J. Castle, K.C, however, says that he has enquired about the whereabouts of this copy and it is no longer in the Vatican (Proceedings against the Templars in France and in England for Heresy, republished from Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. XX. Part III. p. 1).
6. M. Raynouard, Monuments historiques relatifs à la condamnation des Chevaliers du Temple et de l'abolition de leur Ordre, p, 17 (1813).
7. Michelet, op. cit. I. 2 (1841).
8. Michelet, Procès des Templiers, II. 333.
9. Ibid., 295, 333.
10. Ibid., 290, 299, 300.
11. " Dixit per juramentum suum quod ita est terribilis figure et aspectus quod videbatur sibi quod esset figura cujusdam demonis, dicendo gallice d'un maufé, et quod quocienscumque videbat ipsum tantus timor eum invadebat, quod vix poterat illud respicere nisi cum maximo timore et tremore."--Ibid., p. 364.
12. Ibid, pp. 284, 338. " Ipse minabatur sibi quod nisi faceret, ipse ponereteum in carcere perpetuo."--Ibid., p. 307.
13. " Et fuit territus plus quam unquam fuit in vita sua : et statim unus rum accepit eum per gutur, dicens quod oportebat quod hoc faceret, vel moreretur."--Ibid., p. 296.
14. Mollat, op. cit., p. 241.
15. Procès des Templiers, I. 3 : Mr. E.J. Castle, op. cit. Part III. p. 3. (It should be noted that Mr. Castle's paper is strongly in favour of the Templars.)
16. Ibid., I. 4.
17. Procès des Templiers, I. 5.
18. Michelet in Preface to Vol. I. of Procès des Templiers.
19. Jules Loiseleur, La Doctrine Secrète des Templiers, p. 40 (1872).
20. Ibid., p. 16.
21. Proceedings against the Templars in France and England for Heresy, by E.J. Castle Part I. p. 16, quoting Rymer, Vol. III. p. 37.
22. Ibid., Part II. p.1.
23. Ibid., Part II. pp. 25-7.
24. Ibid., Part II. p. 30.
25. " Another witness of the Minor Friars told the Commissioners he had heard from Brother Robert of Tukenham that a Templar had a son who saw through a partition that they asked one professing if he believed in the Crucified, showing him the figure, whom they killed upon his refusing to deny Him, but the boy, some time after, being asked if he wished to be a Templar said no, because he had seen this thing done. Saying this, he was killed by his father. . . . The twenty-third witness, a Knight, said that his uncle entered the Order healthy and joyfully, with his birds and dogs, and the third day following he was dead, and he suspected it was on account of the crimes he had heard of them ; and that the cause of his death was he would not consent to the evil deeds perpetrated by other brethren."--Ibid, Part II. p. 13.
26. F. Funck-Brentano, Le Moyen Age, p. 396 (1922).
27. Ibid., p. 384.
28. F. Funck-Brentano, op. cit., p. 396.
29. Ibid., p. 387.
30. Dean Milman, History of Latin Christianity, VII. 213.
31. E.J. Castle, op. cit., Part I. p. 22.
32. Thus even M. Mollat admits : " En tout cas leurs dépositions, défavorables à l'Ordre, l'impressionnèrent si vivement que, par une série de graves mesures, il abandonna une à une toutes ses oppositions."--Les Papes d'Avignon, p. 242.
33. F. Funck-Brentano, op. cit., p. 392.
34. E.J. Castle, Proceedings against the Templars, A.Q.C., Vol. XX. Part III. p. 3.
35. Even Raynouard, the apologist of the Templars (op. cit., p. 19), admits that, if less unjust and violent measures had been adopted, the interest of the State and the safety of the throne might have justified the abolition of the Order.
36. Funck-Brentano, op. cit., p. 386.
37. " The bourgeoisie, whenever it has conquered power, has destroyed all feudal, patriarchal, and idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder all the many-coloured feudal bonds which united men to their ' natural superiors,' and has left no tie twixt man and man but naked self-interest and callous cash payment."--The Communis Manifesto.
38. Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, p. 273.
39. E.J. Castle, op. cit., A.Q.C., Vol. XX. Part I. p. 11.
40. Ibid., Part II. p. 24.
41. Loiseleur, op. cit., pp. 20, 21.
42. Histoire de la Magie, p. 277.
43. Dr. F.W. Bussell, Religious Thought and Heresy in the Middle Ages, p. 803.
44. Les Sectes et Sociétés Secrètes, p. 85.
45. History of the Assassins, p. 80.
46. F.T.B. Clavel, Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Maçonnerie, p. 356 (1843).
47. Loiseleur, op. cit., p. 66.
48. Ibid., p. 143.
49. Ibid., p. 141.
50. " Dixit sibi quod non crederet in eum, quia nichil erat, et quod erat quidam falsus propheta, et nichil valebat ; immo crederet in Deum Celi superiorem qui poterat salvare."--Michelet, Procès des Templiers, II. 404. Cf. ibid., p. 384 : " Quidem falsus propheta est ; credas solummodo in Deum Celi, et non in istum."
51. Loiseleur, op. cit. p. 37.
52. Raynouard, op. cit., p. 301.
53. Wilhelm Ferdinand Wilcke, Geschichte des Tempelherrenordens, II. 302-12 (1827).
54. Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, p. 273.
55. J. M. Ragon, Cours Philosophique et Interprétatif des Initiations anciennes et modernes, édition sacrée à l'usage des Loges et des Maçons SEULEMENT (5,842), p. 37. In a footnote on the same page Ragon, however, refers to John the Baptist in this connexion.
56. J.B. Fabré Palaprat, Recherches historiques sur les Templiers, p. 31 (1835).
57. Ibid., p. 37.
58. Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, p. 277.
59. Eliphas Lévi, La Science des Esprits, pp. 26-9, 40, 41.
60. Raynouard, op. cit., p. 281.
61. Matter, Histoire du Gnosticisme, III. 330.
62. Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, p. 275.
63. M. Grégoire, Histoire des Sectes religieuses, II. 407 (1828).
64. Matter, Histoire du Gnosticisme, III. 323.
65. Ibid., III. p. 120.
66. Jewish Encyclopodia, article on Mandæans.
67. Grégoire, op. cit., IV. 241.
68. Jewish Encyclopodia, and Hastings' Encyclopodia of Religion and Ethics, articles on Mandæans.
69. Codex Nasarous, Liber Adam appellatus, trans. from the Syriac into Latin by Matth. Norberg (1815), Vol. I. 109 : " Sed, Johanne hac ætate Hierosolymæ nato, Jordanumque deinceps legente, et baptismum peragente, veniet Jeschu Messias, summisse se gerens, ut baptismo Johannis baptizetur, et Johannis per sapientiam sapiat. Pervertet vero doctrinam Johannis et mutato Jordani baptismo, perversisque justitiæ dictis, iniquitatem et perfidiam per mundum disseminabit."
70. Article on the Codex Nasarous by Silvestre de Sacy in the Journal des Savants for November 1819, p. 651 ; cf. passage in the Zohar, section Bereschith, folio 55.
71. Matter, op. cit., III. 119, 120. De Sacy (op. cit., p. 654) also attributes the Codex Nasarous to the eighth century.
72. Matter, op. cit., III. 118.
73. Jewish Encyclopodia, article on Mandæans.
74. Loiseleur, op. cit., p. 52.
75. Ibid., p. 51 ; Matter, op. cit., III. 305.
76. The Sabbatic goat is clearly of Jewish origin. Thus the Zohar relates that " Tradition teaches us that when the Israelites evoked evil spirits, these appeared to them under the form of he-goats and made known to them all that they wished to learn."--Section Ahre Moth, folio 70a (de Pauly, V. 191).
77. Eliphas Lévi, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, II. 209.
78. Some Notes on various Gnostic Sects and their Possible Influence on Free-masonry, by D.F. Ranking, reprinted from A.Q.C., Vol. XXIV. pp. 27, 28 (1911).