To the country of France, we owe the existence of the Order of the Temple, commonly called the Knights Templar. A French Knight, Sir Hugh de Payns, organized the first group around the First Crusades in 1096 A.D. with eight or nine companions.
They were first called The Poor Knights of Christ and took vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Their purpose was to be Monastic Fighting Men, as opposed to the purpose of the Hospitalier who were more involved in caring for the sick than fighting. With this small nucleus, de Payns went back to Europe and campaigned for funds and recruits. Only the sons of the high born were accepted. Little did he know that from this small seed, governmental systems and existing religions would change, and Freemasonry would be put to an endless test of faith and perseverance like the world had never known. Baldwin XI, King of Jerusalem, gave the Poor Knights their first home in quarters of the home of King Solomon. Baldwin called this his "Royal Temple." (Hence, Templar means "of the temple.") The name Knights Templar soon replaced that of Poor Knights of Christ. Their first home, Solomon's home, later became known as El Aska Mosque of the Moslems.
To show the strong religious background and intentions of the Templars, the Rules and Regulations were framed by the Abbot Bernard Clarivaux in 1128, making the Templars responsible only to the Pope in Rome. They did not have to obey local authorities, including kings and bishops. As individuals, they owned nothing; as a group, they could own anything. They were exempted from the paying of local tithes and taxes.
When their charter was given, only the high born could attain the rank of Sir Knight; any other became one of the three ranks: Squires or orderlies; chaplains (monks); and the service troops.
The rules were very hard and severe punishment was meted out for any infraction:
NOTE: Two, three, and four were enforced to keep down the incidences of homosexuality and masturbation.
The costumes of the Templars depicted their order and purpose. White tunic or blouse, belted with a red Templar Cross over right breast depicted their aid to suffering humanity. The cross was thus shown:
The Templar motto was: "Do your duty, come what may."
The typical knight was:
Unquestionably unconcerned about the mysteries of Christianity.
Trustful of Christ's promise of salvation.
Confident of the efficacy (the power to produce a result) of sacraments.
The typical Knights Templar was the very person to be used as a tool to change the times.
The discipline of the Templars was very rigid for they trained like modern day commandos and took extreme care of their horses. But without the horse and in their full suits of armor, the Templar was a sitting duck for the Moslems, and often the armor proved more deadly than the Saracen blades. Without help, if the knight became unhorsed, he could barely move. It was often said that the Knights Templars were more concerned with the horses than with Christ!
The Knights Templars fought to the death, as fighting was their mainstay. In the seige of Jerusalem in 1244, only 36 Knights Templars were left. Although they fought valiantly and killed many of the enemy, they were overpowered by the Khwarazami Turks, thereby putting an end to the Christian rule in Jerusalem.
As the Templars settled in other places, they began intercourse with the Moslems, often trading narrying with them. It was a classic case of East meeting West and the result was a mixture of cultures and philosophies. The offspring of this union, Syrians and Armenians, became Christians, but took on the mannerisms and appearances of their Moslem relations with whom they associated.
Some Knights Templar even studied Oriental philosophies, much to the chagrin of the Catholic hierarchy. Some were chastised and some were persecuted, and even prosecuted, as the church fathers sought to stop this practice. The Orientals shared eagerly with the Templars in their quest for knowledge and strong bonds were formed between friend and foe.
Soon a new emblem emerged, the Heraldic Cross, which is an unusual set of equilateral triangles, set thusly:
Called a "formee," the cross had meaning for Christian and Moslem, for friend and foe. Taking the calling of Peter the Hermit and the prophecy of Simeon towards Christ in the Temple of Solomon, the motto of the Knights Templar became "In Hoc Signo Vinces." The Moslem saw in it the call of Mohammed in Mecca: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet."
To unfold its esoteric meaning, one would have to travel mentally to the Great Pyramid and dismantle the structure and feast on that which is hidden from all eyes except those of the Adepts. For now, unfold the physical and be content until further opportunity avails itself.
The Knights Templars fought like demons for hundreds of years in the various Crusades meeting the end at Acre, their last stronghold in the Holy Lands (1291). The Grand Master and most of the men were killed and a new Grand Master was chosen. The survivors made their way to France and their impending doom.
The year is 1307 and Jacques de Molay is Grand Master of the Knights Templar; Phillip le Bel (the fair) was King of France; Pope Clement V was on the Papal throne in Rome; Guillaume de Nogaret was the chief aide. A renegade Templar "confessed" the sins of the Knights Templar, which were lies, but refuted to be:
Denials of Christ.
Under the guise of a new crusade, the Grand Masters of the Hospitaler and the Templars were summoned to Paris and told to bring only few men with them, as there were plenty men from each order in Paris at the time. It was a common practice for the Grand Master of each order to take a great company of knights and service troops with them as a show of force. The Grand Master of the Hospitalers refused with an excuse, but de Molay accepted, which would lead to his fatal downfall and the castigation of the Knights Templar. He bought with him some sixty Knights Templar and 12 horses laden with silver and gold, which was another mistake.
On October 13, 1307, Jacques de Molay and about thirteen thousand Knights Templar and subordinates were arrested and charged with setting the welfare of Knights Templar above the welfare of every religious and moral duty and participating in secret collusion with the Moslems. This was done by King Phillip le Bel of France in direct defiance of the Pope, the hand-picked vassel of the King. However, the Knights Templar were looked upon as churchmen since their original charter made them subordinate only to the Pope himself. Therefore, only the Pope could cause them to be prosecuted and/or punished. Being a vassal of the King, this was no mean thing, and the stage was set for the final takeover of all Templar property and goods and the deathblow to Knights Templarism as a powerful force in world events.
All over the European continent, Templars were tried, and in every country except France, they were either acquitted or given a mild reprimand. The Pope persisted and after two years of agitation and recriminations, the Order was declared suppressed and all property belonging to Knights Templar was transferred to the Knights Hospitalers in other lands. But in France, King Phillip succeeded in getting all of the Templar property in a guise of accounting proceedures. Some of the Templars were then pardoned and some went underground. How far underground and in what manner will be discussed later.
de Molay was tried before a church commission on March 18, 1314, and was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to be burned at the stake at a heretic. His last words are well-remembered today: "Mea Speas in Deo Est." His final pronouncement to his so-called peers is also remembered: "I summon you to meet me at the bar of the Celestial Supreme Court, from which there is no appeal." de Molay was burned at the stake on March 19, 1314. A month later, Pope Clement V died of, possibly, cancer; in November of the same year, Phillip the Fair died of a stroke of the heart. Guilliaume de Nogaret died along with several other Knights Templar who testified against de Molay.
Legend has it that while in prison, de Molay hid all the secrets of Knights Templarism in the first three degrees of Freemasonry. Every Pope since Clement V has outlawed Knights Templar, and since the legend of de Molay reached Rome, has outlawed Freemasonry, as well through what has become known as Papal Bulls. Were they guilty as charged? Was Satanic worship carried on as stated? Was human sacrifice offered?
Freemasonry survives today, not because of innocence or guilt of those Sir Knights, but because like the apostle, Paul, said: "Neither powers nor principalities, etc. shall separate me from the love of God." Freemasonry shall live on until men shall look upon each other for their character and uprightness, rather than through prejudiced eyes and discriminating hearts. Until then, we must fight prejudice, despotism, and manner of evil that exists in the hearts of men. Our sword of justice and our cause is right and "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES."