The Knights Templar
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See also:Myth & Legend
Twelve thousand years ago, Planet Earth rotated on its axis and encircled the Sun much as it does today. Much as today, it was populated by a great variety of species of plants and animals, and it was host to a very large number of human beings. Some few men and women, whom we shall refer to as "the Illuminati", had attained a very high level of civilisation.
The Illuminati adopted what we might call a "Theory of Everything". Recognising the apparent order and connectedness underlying all the multifarious phenomena they observed in the sky and in Nature, they inferred that it could result only from a single prodigious Intelligence which governed the entire Cosmos. This was a strictly scientific theory, amply justified on the basis of its explanatory power, the freedom it allowed for objective human study and investigation of the material world, and the practical fruits of co-operative application of the knowledge so gained.
It followed as a corollary that human intelligence is a manifestation of the Supreme Intelligence and part of the Universal control system. Hence man must be capable of communication with the Supreme Intelligence. This is the central principle of mysticism, and it requires the individual to undertake subjective study and investigation of the interior mental means whereby the individual man can refer to God to obtain information and advice.
In other words, the Universe is governed by One Principle with which man may voluntarily co-operate. In more traditional language, the individual man (and woman) is potentially a local agent of God, endowed by God with complete freedom of personal action but always subject to the natural consequences of personal action.
Although the great mass of the common people fatalistically continued to imagine themselves as no more than playthings to be tossed about in the incessant warfare between imaginary local "gods" and their priestly advocates, the Illuminati realised that by gaining a deeper understanding of the manner in which the Universal Intelligence ran the world, they could intelligently co-operate with It, and specialise Its operation in particular situations, thus introducing a measure of personal control into matters affecting their own and other people's lives. They expressed this understanding in the form of scientific and moral "laws" — succinct descriptions in terms of the cause-effect relationships they uncovered in their objective and subjective researches. Such laws, which are statements about how the Universe actually works, must be distinguished from the decrees and regulations by which human governments and doctrinal authorities attempt to restrict the voluntary activities of individual persons or groups.
For members of the mystical-scientific Illuminati, desire for spiritual satisfaction and material progress went hand in hand. Consequently, their methods of travel and communication relied as much on psychic means as on the physical methods used by their less advanced brothers and sisters. Psychic projection of personality and telepathy (which is independent of language) were standard practice among them. They were well versed in astronomy; and their technology included means of local modification of gravitational forces which enabled them to move heavy objects over sea and land without depleting the Earth's store of fossil fuels.
Although the Illuminati understood the operation of moral as well as physical laws, not all of them were immune from the temptation of abusing their knowledge to exercise personal domination over their intellectual inferiors — usually by instituting a "religion" centred on some icon, symbol or "idol" with which the common people could identify more easily than with a Supreme Intelligence whose existence could not be verified directly by the physical senses. Thus, far from being an idyllic oasis of peace and concord governed by practitioners of the highest moral principles, the Earth was the scene of just as much conflict and strife as it is today, and for the same reason: people who should know better deliberately misled the masses with false propaganda for their own selfish short-term ends.
The explosion of magma from the Earth's interior caused the bed of the Atlantic to sink by a mile or more. All mankind must have heard the bang and the roar of its subsequent effects. A devastating tidal wave swept through the world's oceans, drowning land dwellers in low-lying areas. Enormous quantities of hot debris, steam, and asphyxiating gases were hurled into the atmosphere to a height of 30 or more miles, blotting out the Sun for weeks on end.
The coarser material resulting from the explosion settled fairly quickly and, mixed with air and water, formed a layer of pumice floating on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, preventing marine navigation for a thousand or more years before it eventually sank to the bottom.
The smaller fragments took much longer to drift downwards. Dense clouds bearing vast quantities of fine ash and water vapour encircled the Earth several times and gradually settled on sea and land as directed by the prevailing winds. The memory of the resulting torrential rains is preserved in the myths of the Deluge. Torrents of muddy water cascading down mountain and hillside, swelling streams and rivers, swept all but a very few Earth-dwelling creatures to their deaths.
The impact caused the Earth's axis of rotation to tilt through about 2 degrees. When the Sun once again became visible through the slowly clearing atmosphere, it could be observed that it no longer followed its previous course relative to Earth. The "fixed" stars, too, had apparently shifted. The re-distribution of sea and land in the North Atlantic changed the flow of the major ocean currents and produced far-reaching climatological changes over the adjoining land masses.
The human population of the Earth was almost wiped out. But scattered over the still habitable parts of the world were a few members of the Illuminati who had foreseen the catastrophe and had taken precautions to ensure the survival of at least some of their number and their dependants. It fell to those few to begin the reconstruction of civilisation.
That they were obviously successful should reassure the twenty-first century reader concerned about environmental pollution that the Earth has survived cataclysms way beyond his most horrible imaginings.
We find some evidence for this in artefacts which survive in many widely dispersed parts of the world: for example, pyramidal buildings constructed in the most stable manner imaginable, presumably designed to stand the best chance of survival in the event of another cataclysm. There are, too, the megaliths — menhirs, dolmens, and cromlechs, many of which can be interpreted as astronomical observatories designed to confirm the new relative positions and motions of the heavenly bodies and to detect any irregularities which might presage further disaster. The huge size and mass of these stones is evidence not only of a technology capable of moving and erecting them at a time when human beings must have been thin on the ground, but also of a desire to make their working laboratories as permanent as humanly possible.
As human populations increased, we may be certain that the central teaching of the Illuminati became progressively diluted and distorted as parts of it infiltrated through to the common people. However, we can still find evidence for its continuance among a select few — such as the Druids in Europe and their equivalents in other continents.
In the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Brotherhood was patronised by the Pharaoh in person, and Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhnaton, actually attempted to make the One Universal Intelligence the sole God in Egypt. This bold experiment did not survive his demise in 1350 BCE, when the priests of Amun and various other traditional local gods reasserted their supremacy. Akhnaton's failure conveys the lesson that far-reaching changes in human behaviour cannot be brought about quickly by crude fiat, and can be effected only gradually by gentle persuasion of individuals over several generations.
Under Akhnaton, the Order of Brotherhood had a place of assembly, or Lodge, in the Temple at El Amarna. In the less friendly climate of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the Order had to make other arrangements to ensure its continuance and spread its influence. One member of the Order at this time was a sage named Hermes, whose reputation for learning and wisdom was such that he is still sometimes confused with the Egyptian god "Thoth", the god of letters, science, mathematics, etc. Hermes was born in Thebes on 9 October, 1399 BCE and died at El Amarna on 22 March, 1257 BCE.
The fame of 'Hermes Trismegistus' (meaning thrice-great) attracted seekers for wisdom from far and near and, for many centuries after his death, the Brotherhood's School continued to be a centre of learning. After a period of training and initiation in Egypt, a few of the most highly gifted students were commissioned to return to their own people and establish new Lodges in the name of the Brotherhood. Notable among the overseas students were Greeks, including Solon, Pythagoras, Anaximander, Anaximines, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Democritus, Socrates, Plato, and Epicurus — who was permitted to found a Lodge in Athens in about 300 BCE. Other notable students of the Brotherhood included Cicero, Seneca and Plotinus.
The plans of Solomon's famous Temple indicate that it was intended as a copy of the mystic Temple of the Brotherhood at El Amarna, except that the side structures which made the original building a cross were omitted from Solomon's version. In designing his Temple, Solomon had the assistance of Hiram, King of Tyre, and one Hiram Abi or Abiff, both of whom had travelled in Egypt, and may have been initiated into the Brotherhood.
During his association with the Egyptian court, Solomon's understanding of the teaching of the Order of Brotherhood had been somewhat influenced by Egyptian idolatry, in which the Sun was considered not merely as a symbol of the Supreme Intelligence but as actually representing the living spirit of God. When Solomon constituted his own version of the Brotherhood, he restricted admission to males and, while adopting many of the details of the original Brotherhood's initiations and rituals, he also adapted them. This "Saloman Brotherhood" is the ancestor of what became Freemasonry, which was translated to Europe largely though the agency of the Knights Templar and took root in various European countries — notably in Scotland and, later, in North America.
Centuries later, as their basic doctrine became eroded by power and diluted by numbers, wars broke out between the Scotti and the other tribes in Ireland. Around the sixth century CE, under the leadership of Aidan mac Gabhrain, they once again took to the sea, landed in Western Scotland, and gradually, after many feuds and battles, became masters of the North of the island of Great Britain. Thus Scotland got its present name.
The early Scottish kings were crowned on top of Dunadd, a rocky eminence in the Kilmartin Valley, whose rich legacy of megalithic monuments and carved stones indicates that it was a centre of religious and scientific culture going back into prehistoric times.
The Templars, as they came to be commonly known, increased rapidly in numbers and influence. Although the Knights themselves took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Order as a collective became very rich, and acted as bankers and money-lenders to the nobility of Europe, including the King of France. The explosion of cathedral building in the Gothic style that occurred in Western Europe during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries suggests a Templar influence both in the architectural features themselves and in provision of the enormous resources of skilled labour and materials required.
But even the Templar vows were not proof against temptation, and pride comes before a fall. The Order incurred the wrath of King Philip IV of France who, unable to repay his debts, accused the Order of blasphemy and diabolical practices, and persuaded Pope Clement V to institute an inquisition. Grand Master Jacques de Molay and many members of the Order were imprisoned, tortured, and eventually burnt at the stake.
The Order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312. But by that time, many Templars had made good their escape to other countries in which the authorities were less hostile. Several Knights and their retinues sought the hospitality of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, who had himself been excommunicated by the Pope. Some of them settled in the Kilmartin Valley mentioned above. The memorial stones in the local churchyard bear witness to their presence and to the strong Masonic tradition which became established in Scotland. Thus, in the Kilmartin Valley, two divergent branches of the great current of mystical-scientific Egyptian tradition were re-united.
Scotland was not the only beneficiary of the Templar dispersal. Their influence was also felt in other European countries, notably in Portugal, where it inspired epic voyages of world exploration, and in Switzerland, notable for its prowess in banking and where the democratic ideal has been translated into practice more effectively than in any other country.
The teachings of the Illuminati, Templars and Masons gained adherents among members of the Royal House of Scotland, whose influence was greatly extended when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Monarch of the British Isles in 1603.
This historical "accident" provided an opportunity for one of the most brilliant men of the time, Sir Francis Bacon, First Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans, who rose to become James' Lord Chancellor. He wrote many influential works expounding the principles of the Illuminati, and it is not unlikely that he led the group of distinguished writers who produced the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare. There is no doubt that Bacon's work contributed much to what became known as the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
James I ascended the throne of England at a time when religious dispute was rife. The Pilgrim Fathers sought relief from persecution by sailing to America and founded a Protestant colony in Massachusetts in 1620 CE. They were followed by waves of emigrants from the British Isles and other parts of Europe, seeking religious and economic freedom in the New World. Their culture of personal responsibility and liberal religious views went with them. Thus it was that the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution of the United States were heavily influenced by the ideals of the Illuminati.
Despite whatever modifications may have been introduced into the original Egyptian doctrine by Solomon and subsequent Grand Masters of the Masonic Order, the Masonic teachings expounded in the Degree Lectures as revised by Pike between 1853 and 1857 still contain much of the essential wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus and give a fascinating account of the ideas which have contributed to mankind's perpetual struggle to understand the Universe and man's place in it.
We shall therefore use the Lectures of the 4th to the 32nd Degrees in the Magnum Opus of Albert Pike as the principal thread on which we may string our personal contributions to the Hermetic study of the Universe. In doing so, we shall not betray any Masonic secrets. We shall not concern ourselves with details of the initiatic rituals, passwords, or signs of recognition — which have in any case almost certainly changed considerably since Pike's first collected version. But we shall find in the lectures much to interest, inform, and stimulate us to try to build a personally satisfying philosophy of life.