Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Templar City of Tomar

Nestled within central Portugal lies the enchanting Templar city of Tomar. Steeped in history and shrouded in legend, Tomar stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Knights Templar. Founded in the 12th century by Gualdim Pais, the Master of the Templars in Portugal, Tomar served as a strategic stronghold and spiritual center for the order, playing a pivotal role in the defense of the region during the Reconquista. Known for its impressive architectural heritage, rich cultural tapestry, and significant historical importance, Tomar is often referred to as the "Templar City." Today, Tomar is celebrated for its architectural heritage, including the Convent of Christ which embodies the fusion of Templar and Manueline styles.

In 711 AD, Muslim forces under the command of Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated the Visigothic Kingdom at the Battle of Guadalete. Within a few years, much of the Iberian Peninsula fell under Muslim rule, except for a few small Christian enclaves in the northern mountains. The Kingdom of Asturias, established in the mountainous region of northern Iberia, became the focal point of Christian resistance. Over the next several centuries, Christian kingdoms gradually expanded southward, reclaiming territory from Muslim rule through a series of military campaigns and sieges. The Kingdom of León, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal emerged as key players in the Reconquista.

The Kingdom of Portugal was established in 1139, following the Battle of Ourique, where Afonso I, also known as Afonso Henriques, emerged victorious against the Moors. Afonso declared himself the first King of Portugal and began the process of consolidating power and expanding Portuguese territory. However, it's important to note that the region of modern-day Portugal had been inhabited and governed by various peoples and entities prior to this establishment as a kingdom, including the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. The Battle of Ourique is often considered a pivotal moment in Portugal's history, marking the beginning of its journey toward nationhood.

Fueled by the Crusader spirit of the Holy Land, the Reconquista drew inspired Christian warriors and chivalric knighthoods to the Iberian Peninsula to fight back the Moors. The Knights Templar first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in the early 12th century. Their military expertise and financial resources made them valuable allies to Christian rulers engaged in the Reconquista.

The Templars played a crucial role in the construction and defense of key fortifications along the Christian frontier, including castles, watchtowers, and fortified towns. One such strategic stronghold was Tomar. King Afonso I of Portugal granted lands to the Knights Templar as a reward for their assistance in the Reconquista and as a means of securing the newly gained territories. In 1160, the Knights Templar began constructing the Castle of Tomar, which served as the initial headquarters for the Templar Order in Portugal. Over time, their presence expanded, and in 1162, Gualdim Pais, a prominent Templar Knight, began the construction of a castle and the Convent of Christ atop the nearby hill. This vast complex served as the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal and played a crucial role in their activities throughout the region.

The Convent of Christ in Tomar became not only a fortified stronghold but also a center of religious and military activity for the Order. It housed knights, monks, and pilgrims, and its grand architecture reflected the power and influence of the Templars. The Knights Templar were deeply involved in the defense of Portugal against Muslim incursions from the south, and Tomar served as a strategic base for their operations.

However, the glory days of the Knights Templar came to an abrupt end in the early 14th century. In 1312, under pressure from the King of France and the Pope, the Order was disbanded, and many of its members were arrested and executed. In Portugal, King Denis negotiated with Pope John XXII to transfer the assets and properties of the Templars to a newly formed Order of Christ, which was established in 1319 and fell under the authority of the Portuguese Crown. The Convent of Christ in Tomar became the headquarters of this new order, ensuring the continuation of the Templar legacy in Portugal.

The Order of Christ became a military, political, and economic power and influence that was given more land holdings, tax exemptions, and permission to mint its own coin. It was at the Convent in Tomar that the Iberian Union was established in 1581 and lasted until 1640 (during which time the Crowns of Portugal and Spain were united in a dynastic union). The wealth of the order would help fund Portugal’s legendary maritime voyages.

Under the Order of Christ, the Convent of Christ underwent further expansion and embellishment, becoming one of the most important religious and cultural centers in Portugal. In the 15th century, two cloisters were constructed (the Cemetery Cloister and Washing Cloister) as was the Chapel of São Jorge. King Manuel (who also served as Master of the Order of Christ) had the Hall of Passage built that connected the choir to the Chapel of São Jorge. King John III demilitarized the Order of Christ and they were more similar to the Cistercians than they were to the former Templar order. King John III ordered the construction of a new cloister for the order which is considered the best example of Renaissance architecture in Portugal. Saint Barbara's Cloister was built that has a view of the beautiful Chapter House Window and the western side of the church’s nave. The Cloister of John III was started during this time, but didn’t finish until the reign of Philip I of Portugal. During the 17th century, a 6-km aqueduct for the Convent was built. The Order of Christ remained active until the dissolution of the religious orders in the 19th century.

Today, the Convent of Christ in Tomar stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a testament to the enduring legacy of the Knights Templar and their successors, the Order of Christ.

Outside of the Convent now lies a city with a rich history. Located near the Convent is the Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes (National Forest of the Seven Hills) which is described as a lush green park with paths, gardens, and scenic views. Within the city, there are many historical buildings like the Church of Santa Maria do Olival which is a 12th century Gothic church that served as a burial place for the Knights Templar in Portugal (including Gualdim Pais). One of the oldest synagogues in Portugal is in Tomar which also houses the Jewish Museum of Abraham Zacuto. The Praça da República (Republic Square) is surrounded by the City Hall and the Igreja de São João Baptista Church of Saint John the Baptist).

The City of Tomar stands as a living testament to the enduring legacy of the Knights Templar, with its medieval streets, imposing castle, and the majestic Convent of Christ serving as reminders of a bygone era. Visitors to this charming city are greeted with an opportunity to step back in time, explore the mysteries of the Knights Templar, and marvel at the architectural wonders they left behind. As one wanders through the narrow alleys and ancient buildings of Tomar, they are transported to a world where knights once roamed and legends were born.


References

1. Convento de Cristo. (n.d.). Retrieved from Monument History: http://www.conventocristo.gov.pt/en/index.php?s=white&pid=168&identificador=ct12_pt 

2. Hero Traveler. (n.d.). Retrieved from Tomar: The Templar City of Portugal: https://www.herotraveler.com/ncvieceli/story/tomar_the_templar_city_of_portugal 

3. Templar Knights. (n.d.). Retrieved from Tomar and the Knights Templar Region: https://templarknights.eu/about-tomar/ 

4. The Best Portugal. (n.d.). Retrieved from Tomar the Last Knight Templar City: https://thebestportugal.com/tomar-the-last-knight-templar-city/ 

5. Wright, N. (2019, July 05). Portugal Resident. Retrieved from Tomar – Portugal’s Knights Templar Town: https://www.portugalresident.com/tomar-portugals-knights-templar-town/


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Corpus Christi

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, which means "Body of Christ" in Latin. This feast day, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, celebrates the Eucharist, particularly the presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.

This feast day originated in the 13th century when a Belgian nun named Juliana of Liège had a vision in which she was instructed to institute a feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. After several years of effort, Pope Urban IV established Corpus Christi as a universal feast on August 11, 1264, with the papal bull "Transiturus de Hoc Mundo." Interestingly, Urban's papal bull would be confirmed by Pope Clement V at the Council of Vienne in 1311. It was at this ecumenical council that the Knights Templar were formally suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church which led Pope Clement to issue the papal bull "Vox in Excelso" that dissolved the Templar Order.

Corpus Christi is typically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which falls 60 days after Easter Sunday, though in some countries it is observed on the Sunday following that Thursday. The date may vary depending on local ecclesiastical calendars.

The celebration often includes a solemn procession in which the consecrated host, contained in a monstrance (open or transparent receptacle), is carried through the streets, accompanied by clergy, musicians, and members of the congregation. This procession symbolizes the public proclamation and veneration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In addition to processions, Corpus Christi may also involve special Masses, prayers, hymns, and other religious ceremonies. It is considered one of the principal feasts of the liturgical year, emphasizing the central importance of the Eucharist in Catholic theology and practice. It serves as an opportunity for believers to deepen their faith and devotion to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.


References

1. Council of Vienne. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/event/Council-of-Vienne

2. Feast of Corpus Christi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Feast-of-Corpus-Christi

3. Mershman, F. (1908). Feast of Corpus Christi. Retrieved from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04390b.htm

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Message for the Pentecost

Sir Knights,

As we gather to celebrate Pentecost, I extend my warmest greetings and blessings to each one of you. This day marks a pivotal moment in our faith, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the birth of the Church. It is a reminder of the divine guidance and strength that inspire our mission.

Pentecost signifies unity, courage, and the transformative power of faith—values that are at the core of our Order. The Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles to speak in tongues, breaking barriers and uniting people of different nations and languages. Similarly, we, as Knights Templar, are called to transcend boundaries, fostering brotherhood and compassion among all.

Let us take this occasion to reflect on our own spiritual journeys. The flame of Pentecost is not merely a historical event but a living reality, inviting us to rekindle our commitment to God, to our Order, and to our communities. The Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord are bestowed upon us to guide our actions and decisions.

In these times of challenge and change, may the Spirit of Pentecost fill our hearts with renewed purpose and zeal. Let us strive to be beacons of light, justice, and mercy in a world that deeply needs our witness. Together, united by the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish great deeds for the glory of God and the betterment of humanity.

May the peace and blessings of Pentecost be with you and your loved ones. Let us move forward with the confidence that we are guided by the Spirit in our noble endeavors.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Visits as Grand Commander

Wednesday night was my first official visit as Grand Commander of Idaho. I'm visiting Lewiston Commandery No. 2 and Coeur d’Alene Commandery No. 5 which held a joint meeting. I had the pleasure of officially installing the Sir Knight I appointed as Eminent Grand Standard Bearer, whose previous obligation conflicted with our Annual Conclave in Burley last month. I had the pleasure of dragging the Northwest Department Commander with me.

Thursday morning, we traveled to Wenatchee where the two of us attended the Reuben Baer Past Commander's Association and the Memorial Service of the Grand York Rite of Washington. Friday morning I attended the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Washington where I represented the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International.

I attended the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Washington on Saturday morning, where a good friend presided. One of the accomplishments of the Grand Commandery was gaining 100% Life Sponsorship which means that only two Grand Commanderies in the Northwest do not have 100%, but are close. Sir Knight Jim McGee, a candidate for Grand Captain General of the Grand Encampment, also attended and assisted in installing the new officers. He was also made an Illustrious Knight of the Triangle.

Saturday afternoon and evening were spent with friends and Sir Knights, some food, and some adult libations. Now it's time for bed to get ready for the 7-hour drive home and then I can see my mother for Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Day of Ascension

Sir Knights,

Today, we commemorate the miraculous Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose divine journey signifies the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair, and righteousness over sin. As Knights Templar, we are entrusted with the solemn duty to uphold the virtues of Christianity, to defend the faith, and to protect the innocent with unwavering courage and resolve.

Let us emulate the courage and sacrifice of our predecessors, who stood firm against adversity and injustice. As we ascend higher in our spiritual and earthly endeavors, may we continue to be beacons of hope and defenders of truth in a world often shrouded in darkness.

As we stand united in our sacred mission, let us renew our commitment to the sacred vows we have sworn, to serve with honor, integrity, and valor. Together, let us march forward with steadfast determination, guided by the divine light that shines within each and every one of us.

On this hallowed day, let us offer prayers of gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us and seek guidance for the challenges that lie ahead. May the grace of the Almighty be upon us always, guiding our steps and illuminating our path.

In the spirit of unity and fraternity, I wish you all a blessed Ascension Day. May the Blessed Redeemer guide and protect us as we journey forth, ever faithful to the sacred calling of the Knights Templar.


Tuum in Christo

This stone has an imprint of a foot and is said to be the spot from which Christ ascended to heaven. I took this picture in November 2022 when I visited Israel.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

YouTube Channel

April marked the 14th anniversary of the Traveling Templar and the creation of the Traveling Templar YouTube channel. I will be posting videos covering a variety of topics including my travels, the history of the medieval Knights Templar, events and history of Masonic Templary, and various other aspects of Freemasonry.



Saturday, April 20, 2024

Right Eminent Grand Commander

Today I had the great honor of being installed as the Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho. I am excited to work alongside the new Most Excellent Grand High Priest and the newly installed Most Illustrious Grand Master. It was an interesting, for lack of a better word, session as I presided as our now Junior Past Grand Commander was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Cancer and because of his medical treatments, he couldn't attend the Conclave. I ask everyone to please keep him in your prayers.

I was installed by Sir Knight G. Arthur Shoemaker, Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who knighted me and has greatly impacted my Masonic career. Assisting him were Sir Knight John W. Zeller Sr., Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who appointed me to the Grand Commandery line; Sir Knight David A. Grindle, Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who was Senior Warden when I was knighted and has been a constant companion throughout Freemasonry; and Sir Knight Jeremy C. Vaughn, Past Grand Commander of Idaho and current Northwest Department Commander of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, who is one of my dearest friends.

I am proud to serve over this august body. Even though it is third-in-line of the York Rite bodies, the Templar orders stand as the second oldest of the York Rite bodies established in Idaho (Royal Arch being the first) and the Grand Commandery of Idaho sits as the oldest Grand body of the three York Rite organizations in Idaho. There existed five Commanderies in Idaho before a Grand Commandery was formed. The first Commandery was given dispensation on May 24, 1882, and chartered as Idaho Commandery No.1 on September 11, 1882; 14 years after the first Royal Arch Chapter was established in Idaho. This Commandery existed just under 22 years before the formation of the Grand Commandery. According to the Proceedings on August 31, 1904, Sir Knights from five Commanderies met and organized the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho. Assembling in the Asylum of Idaho Commandery No.1 where the Eminent Commander, John McBirney, called a meeting to order and on motion, Sir Knight James A. Pinney was chosen as Chairman and J.O. Baker as Secretary. After reading the warrant issued by the Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, it was moved to form the Grand Commandery. Sir Knight James Pinney acted in place of the Most Eminent, filled the chairs, and held the first elections where he was elected as the first Right Eminent Grand Commander.

As a mark of distinction, the Grand Commander wears a red cord with two red tassels that hang around the neck and ends with a jewel representing the office of the Right Eminent Grand Commander of Idaho. Now, per the Grand Encampment, a Grand Commandery officer wears a red Maltese cross and the jewel of the Grand Commander should reflect this, but this rule was created after the Grand Commandery of Idaho had this jewel created so this jewel was grandfathered in. The Idaho Grand Commander's jewel is a Patriarchal Cross suspended from a triangle with a Maltese Cross with the phrase "In Hoc Signo Vinces" at the intersection of the upper crossbar and a Latin cross at the intersection of the lower crossbar (See picture).

While it is going to be a busy year, I am looking forward to it. Because Idaho is so widespread and because of my hectic work schedule, I will be holding virtual Quarterly meetings where I will invite the Grand Commandery officers, Commanders, Recorders, and Committee Chairman to attend, but all Sir Knights will be welcome to attend. These meetings will assist those officers following me in line with the government of this Grand Commandery, help spread the load so that it is not on the Grand Recorder or Grand Commander all of the time, identify deficiencies during the year and not at the end, and ensure transparency between the constituent Commanderies and Grand Commandery.

Inspired by my trip to Israel and Templar research, I designed a coin that will be gifted to dignitaries and sold. The profits from the sales will go to the Grand Encampment’s Holy Land Pilgrimage. On the front of the coin is the jewel of the Grand Commander of Idaho with the red representing the rope that the jewel is suspended from. The back of the coin shows Abraxas with seven stars and the words “TEMPLI SECRETUM". In researching Templar symbols, I found that a Grand Master of the medieval Knights Templar in 1214 used as their seal that displays Abraxas with the words “TEMPLI SECRETUM." It is interesting to note that this seal was not used for particularly significant Templar documents, but can be found on ordinary, seemingly unimpressive, historical records like those dating from 13th century France.

Abraxas (Greek: ΑΒΡΑΞΑΣ) is a god written about in Gnostic texts and may also be known as Abrasax (as there is thought to have been a mistranslation from Greek to Latin). Carl Jung in his writings on the Seven Sermons to the Dead stated that Abraxas was a god higher than Jehovah. He is said to be the father of all things, "the power above all and the First Principle," and the ruler of 365 heavens. It is said that Abraxas created Nuos and Logos which led to Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom which gave rise to Principalities and Powers, and from "from these infinite productions and emissions of angels." It is these angels who govern the 365 heavens which were said to include the Judeo-Christian God, Jehovah, which followers of Basilides denied of being a god, but rather an angel. This obviously was not a very popular belief in the 2nd century and Basilides is considered a heretic and damned by many historical Roman Catholic figures. Some have speculated that the imagery of the Anguipede (a mythological creature that has snakes for its lower appendages) represents emanations of this being which are as follows: The human body is displayed as it is written that God created man in his own image. The snakes represent the two great supports of man given by God, Nous (mind, intellect) and Logos (reason and judgment). The cock (rooster), being the creature who traditionally greets the golden dawn, is an emblem of foresight and vigilance. He carries the shield of wisdom and the whip or flail is said to be the "whip of Helios" (Abraxas is associated with the Sun) which represents dynamism or strength/power. No one knows the origins of Abraxas and the relics associated with him. Some believe that it originated with a man named Basilides (an Alexandrian mystic) in the 2nd Century AD, but even then it cannot be proven, and is also hypothesized that it was transmitted to him from another source, yet unknown to us in modern times. Abraxas was also referred to as the Great Archon, the Lord Creator, Almighty God, and Greatest God. Many have attempted to guess as to the reason the Templars would use such an image, but without proper records and evidence, it all falls into the realm of speculation. Historical writings and modern scholars have drawn parallels between Abraxas and Mithras of Persia as well as beliefs found in Hinduism. It is possible that the Templars were introduced to Abraxas through their time in the Middle East, but again, without hard evidence, we can only imagine. Although it is an interesting symbol, the use of this seal does not mean that the Templar Order was a Gnostic one. There are many interesting symbols used by the ancient Templars. Some of these symbols are still seen or used today in Masonic orders that have similar names to commemorate the deeds of these great men. It is a tragedy that too little of the Templars remains for analysis and study. The symbols we know seem to resonate with their dual personality of being men of the cloth, of God, and being warriors feared on the battlefield. While not conclusive, it leads to a belief of influence by Gnostic and Eastern beliefs that the Templars may have encountered in their travels.

I don’t make promises about how many new Sir Knights will be initiated during my year. As many have said, it is not at the Grand Commandery where we will solve any membership issues. It is in the Commandery, the Council, the Chapter, and the Lodge in which that will happen. My promise and my goal this year is to grow our presence with the Masonic and non-Masonic community, to invigorate our Constituent Commanderies, and to ensure Templary continues in Idaho. Ensuring that we keep our current Sir Knights and inspiring new members to join.

This weekend also included the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho (where I represented the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International) and Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Idaho as well as the annual meetings of the Idaho Council of the Order of High Priesthood, Idaho Council of the Order of the Silver Trowel, Idaho Chapter of Knights Preceptor, Syringa Order No.121 of the Order of the Sword of Bunker Hill, Idaho Priory No.13 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor, Templar Honors Dinner (For recipients of the Knight Commander of the Temple, Knight Templar Cross of Honor, Campanion of the Temple, and Knight Grand Cross, and their significant other), and Tri-Valley College No.178 of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America. At the Templar Honors Dinner, my Mother received the Companion of the Temple (CT). This is an award given to men and women for their support of Templary, but who are not Knights Templar themselves.

I was happy to have David Studley, Right Eminent Grand Encampment of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA, and Sir Knight James McGee, Past Grand Commander of Alabama, present at the Conclave and my installation.

Now, I must get some sleep for a quick meeting of Intermountain Chapel No.27 of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon in the morning where I will go out of office as Worthy Master and pass the baton onto my successor.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Timeline of the Templars - Part II (12th Century)

In Part I, I discussed the fall of the Roman Empire, the continuation of the Byzantine Empire, the rise and expansion of the Islamic faith, the Holy Roman Empire, the Great Schism, the conflicts of Islam and Christianity, the First Crusade, and the formation of the Knights Templar. Part II will go through the events following the establishment of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon through the end of the 12th century.


The Formative and Expansive Years

Part I left from the point that the Templars were founded and the Council of Nablus. The common legend by William of Tyre is that for the first 9 years of the Templar’s existence, they had no more than 9 knights, but according to another historian, Michael the Syrian, Hugh De Payen founded this Order with 30 Knights with him.

Hugh de Payens served as the Templar’s first Grand Master serving from its founding until 1136. During the first 9 years, not much is known of Templar activity and much is left to wild speculation. What is known is that around 1127, Hugh de Payens traveled back to Western Europe to garner support and recruit more knights. Traveling through France, the Templars were given land by Count Thybaud of Champagne. In 1128, Hugh de Payens traveled to London where land was donated where the first Temple Church would be built in Holborn, London.

The Templars also spread to the Iberian Peninsula where they were instrumental in pushing back the Moorish invaders during the Reconquista. Countess Teresa donated the Castle of Soure to them in March 1128.

In 1129, Hugh de Payens was summoned by Pope Honorius II to an ecumenical council that would be held in Troyes, France, which had been instigated by Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian abbot and nephew to one of the Templar members, André de Montbard.

The Council of Troyes was attended by bishops, clergy, and representatives of various religious orders. Among its objectives, the Council’s most notable decision was its endorsement of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. Recognizing the military prowess and religious zeal of the Templars, the Council of Troyes granted official approval to the order, providing it with both spiritual legitimacy and material support. Through the efforts of St. Bernard, the Rule of the Templars was established.

By 1130, recruits were starting to flood to the order and the Templars had received gifts of castles and land in Germany, France, England, Scotland, Greece, and the Iberian Peninsula. Among the recruits was the Count of Champagne who had given up his title, lands, and family to join the Knights Templar and serve under his former vassal. Hugh de Payens returned to the Holy Land with new knights to help bolster the Templar order.

On August 31, 1131, King Baldwin II of Jerusalem died. His eldest daughter Milesende and her husband, Fulk (Count of Anjou), who had been married back in 1129, were crowned King and Queen of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem on September 14, 1131. In the first years of his reign, King Fulk had been constructing castles and fortresses to protect from the Saracens, but in 1137 he surrendered the castle at Montferrad (present-day village of Baarin in Syria).

Hugh de Payens died on May 24, 1136, in the Holy Land after leading the Knights Templar for about 18 years. Robert de Craon, who had been Seneschal for Hugh, was elected Grand Master of the Order. It was during Craon’s reign that three Papal bulls were issued. 

The first one, Omne Datum Optimum, was issued in 1139 by Pope Innocent II. Omne Datum Optimum is Latin for "Every Good Gift" and allowed the Templars to keep their spoils of war, placing donations directly under papal protection, and exempting them from paying tithe. This proclamation added a priest class to the hierarchy as well as made the members of the Order answerable to the Grand Master. 

The second Papal bull, Milites Templi, Latin for "Soldiers of the Temple," was issued by Pope Celestine II in 1144, gave ecclesiastical protection to the Knights Templar and further endorsed them by advocating that the faithful donate to the cause of the Templars. This along with the Templar's annual collections and with the next Papal Bull laid the base for the Order's famous wealth. 

The final Papal bull was called Militia Dei, which is Latin for "Soldiers of God," and was issued by Pope Eugene III in 1145. This was somewhat controversial as it allowed the Templar priests to take tithes, build their own churches, collect property taxes from their tenants, and bury their dead in their cemeteries. Some speculate that this gave the Order's priests to take confession, but others believe this is a false assumption as no language exists within this Papal Bull that allows for such liberties.

His battle records were mixed as he destroyed brigands led by the Emir of Aleppo as well as stopped Islamic incursions in Beaufort and Banyas. However, the Templars were defeated along with the Frankish army in 1139 at Teqoa (between Jerusalem and Hebron in the West Bank today).


The Second Crusade

After the death of King Fulk in 1143, the Crown of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem went to Baldwin, Fulk’s 13-year-old son, with Queen Melissende as his regent. The kingdom fell into decline due to the neglect of the Queen Regent and her failure to protect Edesse or Antioch. 

In 1144, Seljuk Turks led by Imad al-Din Zengi besieged and massacred more than 30,000 Christians in Edessa (in modern-day Eastern Turkey). Edessa was the most northerly, the weakest, and the least populated of the Crusader states. This event was the catalyst for the Second Crusade. Imad al-Din Zengi would die on September 14, 1146, by assassination. Amidst the chaos following Imad al-Din Zengi's death, his son Nur Ad-Din emerged as his rightful heir and successor.

Robert de Craon died on January 13, 1147, during the Second Crusade and was succeeded by Everard des Barres. At taking over as Grand Master he convened, in Paris, a meeting of the General Chapter of the Templars at which King Louis VII of France, Pope Eugenius III, many Templar knights and sergeants, and other Christian dignitaries were in attendance. It was also around this time that Pope Eugenius III authorized the use of the red cross on the Templar uniform, but whether or not it occurred at this meeting it is not known; some theorize that the approval to wear the red cross occurred in 1146.

Having previously served as the Preceptor of France, Everard was close to Louis VII and when the king sent out for the Holy Land on the Second Crusade, Everard and a host of Templars went along. Everard was sent ahead with other diplomats to treat the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Comnenus, and work out a contract to allow the Frankish army to pass through the Byzantine territory. Diplomacy was needed as both the Franks were as suspicious of the Byzantine Emperor as he was of them.

Once the Frankish Army arrived in Antioch, King Louis requested a loan of 2,000 silver marks from the Templar Grand Master to help finance further military operations; he had spent nearly all of his funds getting his troops to the Holy Land. It was from this point that the Templars became the bankers and treasurers for the kings and lords in the Holy Land and across Europe.

The call for a new crusade came primarily from Pope Eugene III, who urged Christian rulers across Europe to take up arms and defend the Holy Land, but others including Bernard of Clairvaux also carried the message and inspired Emperor Conrad III of Germany to lead an army to the Middle East.

In 1148, Everard des Barres led his Templar knights along with King Louis and King Baldwin III on an unsuccessful Siege of Damascus. King Baldwin wanted to use the newly arrived Frankish army to lay siege to Damascus. The siege would most likely have been successful, except politics got in the way and many of the Christian lords withdrew their troops and the Crusader army fell apart.

Led by Nur ad-Din Zengi, the ruler of Aleppo and Damascus, the Muslims took advantage of this disunity and attacked the city of Antioch in 1149. Nur ad-Din amassed a formidable army, drawing forces from various Muslim territories, including Aleppo, Damascus, and Mosul. The Muslim coalition was united in its goal to crush the crusader presence in the region and reclaim Antioch for Islam. The defenders of Antioch, led by Prince Raymond of Poitiers, braced themselves for the impending assault. Raymond was a skilled military leader and had played a significant role in the city's defense during previous conflicts. Despite the valiant efforts of the defenders, the Muslim forces launched a relentless siege, employing a combination of siege engines, catapults, and battering rams to breach the city's defenses. Ultimately, the walls of Antioch succumbed to the overwhelming force of the Muslim army which resulted in the loss of the city and the death of Prince Raymond of Poitiers who was beheaded. The loss of Antioch marked a turning point in the fortunes of the crusader states and highlighted the growing strength and unity of Muslim powers in the region.

After the defeat at Damascus, Everard accompanied King Louis back to France where he resigned and abdicated the office as Grand Master. He became a Cistercian monk at Clairvaux and lived there until his death on November 12, 1174. Bernard de Tremelay would take over the Knights Templar in 1149.


Siege of Ascalon

When Bernard de Tremelay became Grand Master, King Baldwin III gave him the fortified city of Gaza which was an important city as it sat as the gateway into Egypt, but it also stood between the Muslim-controlled city of Ascalon and Egypt. The Templar Grand Master rebuilt the walls and constructed new towers to ensure it was nearly impregnable by land or sea. To better protect from attacks from Ascalon, he had surrounding fortresses reinforced.

At the end of 1152, King Baldwin III decided to take advantage of the divided Muslim leadership and military victories of the Latin Kingdom by leading his troops to the city of Ascalon (between Gaza and Tel Aviv). In January of 1153, the Crusading army besieged this city. The city was besieged by land and sea, but was unable to prevent the city from being resupplied which caused the siege to cover several months. On August 15th, 1153, a Templar siege tower was set afire, but because of the prevailing winds the fire blew back at the Muslims, and the already weakened walls crumbled causing a breach to be opened in the Muslim defenses. 

The events that followed vary depending on the historical source, but all agree that the Templars were the first and only ones to make it through the breach which resulted in the slaughter of the Templars including the Grand Master, Bernard de Tremelay, on August 16th; he was the first Grand Master to die in battle. Their bodies were hung from the walls which incensed the Crusading army; the city fell three days later. After the death of Bernard de Tremelay, the Templar order elected André de Montbard, uncle of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, as Grand Master.

Montbard served only for three years and left no lasting fingerprint on the office of Grand Master; other than being the last of the founding knights. Montbard died on January 17th, 1156, in Jerusalem while in office and was succeeded by Bertrand de Blanchefort.

There is little information on when Bertrand de Blanchefort joined the Templar order, but what is known is that in 1156, just days after the death of the previous Grand Master, André de Montbard, Bertrand was elected to that position. His quick ascension was due to the fact that by 1156, Grand Master Montbard was an old knight and was in, as we shall say, semi-retirement in France. In Montbard's absence, the Order was overseen by Blanchefort.

Bertrand was taken prisoner after a battle between the forces led by King Baldwin III and the Islamic forces led by Nur ad-Din near Banyas or Paneas (near Mount Hermon) in 1157. He would remain a prisoner for 3-years until the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I, negotiated a treaty with Nur ad-Din which included the release of the Frankish knights.

Once released, the Grand Master de Blanchefort worked on reforming the Rule of the Order which became known as the "Retraits." In this reform, he specified more clearly the duties and responsibilities of the ranks within the Templar hierarchy. These "Retraits" also established some checks and balances on the authority of the Grand Master. One interesting change he pushed for was the use of the title "Master by Grace of God" which was approved by Pope Alexander III.

In 1160, Gualdim Pais, the Master of Templars in Portugal, established the Castle of Tomar and the Convent of Christ which would serve as the headquarters of the Portuguese Templars and a strategic fortress in the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista.

In 1161, King Henry II of England donated land near the Thames where the English Templar headquarters would be and where Temple Church sits today. Temple Church itself is comprised of two sections called "The Round" and "The Chancel". The Round was the original nave and is based upon the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Round was consecrated on February 10, 1185, to Mary Theotokos by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem.


Egypt

In 1162 or 1163, Amalric I succeeded his brother Baldwin III as head of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. His focus would fall upon the Caliphate in Cairo which was weakened by the infighting between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam. Amalric gathered his forces and set out to Egypt and was accompanied by the Templar and Hospitaller Orders. The Crusaders attempted to besiege the ancient city of Bilbeis in September of 1163, but had to retreat when the Egyptians destroyed the river embankments and flooded the plains where the Crusaders were stationed.

The following year, Amalric would have attempted to take the city, but Nur ad-Din started expanding and invading the Latin Kingdom so Geoffroi Foucher, a Templar, was sent to strike a deal with the Egyptian sultan to ally forces against Nur ad-Din; Nur ad-Din was accompanied by Salah ad-Din or Saladin, a great Kurdish Muslim leader who would become famous for his victories over the Crusaders. In 1168, Amalric I turned back to conquering Egypt, but because of a treaty the Templars did not take part in this operation and which resulted in a deterioration in the relationship between the Templars and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Bertrand de Blanchefort died of old age on January 2, 1169, in Reims, France. Phillipe de Milly, who had been a nobleman in the Holy Land and who had joined the Templars in 1166, was elected Grand Master. Many believe that King Amalric had campaigned in support of Phillipe so he could gain Templar support for his Egyptian campaign. The relationship between the Templars and the King of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem had been damaged during Blanchefort's time. Phillipe resigned as Grand Master early in 1171 and was succeeded by Odo de St Amand.


The Leper King

Amalric I died on July 11, 1174, and the throne went to his son, Baldwin IV, also known as Baldwin the Leper or the Leper King. Despite being afflicted with leprosy from a young age, Baldwin proved to be a skilled and determined ruler who displayed remarkable military prowess.

One of his victories was against Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard in 1177. The battle occurred on November 25, 1177, located near Ramla (Israel southeast of Tel Aviv). This battle was between a Christian army of 375 knights, 80 Knights Templar, and several thousand infantry against Saladin's army of around 27,000 men. Saladin underestimated the king and allowed his army to become spread out over a large area. The two forces met at Montgisard which caught Saladin by surprise and his troops were tired from their march from Egypt. The Crusader forces charged and broke through the center routing Saladin's forces. Both sides lost many, but the Muslim forces lost over three-quarters of their troops; Saladin himself only survived by escaping on a camel.

Toward the end of his rule, St. Amand oversaw the construction of an impregnable fortress known as Chastellet near Jacob's Ford on the Jordan River. This fortress was located in an important place and was effective in preventing Saladin's army from conquering Jerusalem in 1179. After Saladin was defeated at the fortress, the Christians thought they could inflict further damage on Saladin so they launched an assault at the Battle of Marj Ayun (southern Lebanon). 

Unfortunately, Saladin had reorganized his forces and defeated the Christian Army, killing and capturing many. Among those captured was the Templar Grand Master, Odo de St. Amand. There were proposals of ransoming him, but he refused as it was against the Rule of the Order. In the next year, St. Amand died while still in jail, but no exact date is known. 

Arnold of Torroja was elected Grand Master of the Templars in 1181 who was seen as an outsider and not prone to be too involved with the geopolitics of the region. Due to his appearance as an outsider and an impartial arbitrator, many groups used him to mediate disputes. During a truce (due to a drought) between Saladin and Baldwin, Torroja went on a tour of Europe with Patriarch Heraclius and Roger des Moulins, Grand Master of the Hospitaliers, to get more soldiers for another crusade, Torroja fell ill and died on September 30, 1184. Torroja’s Seneschal, Gerard de Ridefort, was elected as Grand Master by late 1184 or early 1185.


The Fall of Jerusalem

In 1185, the leper king, Baldwin IV, passed away and the sole authority passed to his nephew Baldwin V who was 8 years old at the time of his coronation, but the kingdom was run by a regent, Raymond, the Count of Tripoli. The next year Baldwin V died and the succession came into question. There were two major contenders for the throne: Sibylla, Baldwin IV's sister supported by Guy de Lusignan, and Isabella, Sibylla's younger half-sister, supported by Raymond III and the Hospitaller Grand Master. Ridefort and the Patriarch of Jerusalem sided with Guy de Lusignan, and in July of 1186 Guy and Sibylla were crowned King and Queen. 

It is not surprising that Ridefort didn’t support Raymond as Ridefort had formerly been in Raymond’s service before he was a Templar. When Raymond refused to marry Gerard to Lady Lucia, a rich heiress, the friendship soured and Ridefort left his service.

Raymond III's poor relationship with the monarchy gave Gerard de Ridefort the ability to label him as a coward and/or traitor which only gave Raymond the need to ally with Saladin. In reaction to crimes committed by Renaud de Chatillon, Lord of Oultrejordain, and the refusal of the king to punish him, Saladin desired to enter the Kingdom of Jerusalem to take care of Renaud himself. Raymond would only allow a small contingent to enter Galilee and only for a day. He informed the people and troops in the area to stay within their fortresses and avoid conflict. Learning of this Gerard de Ridefort sent some of his troops to defend Nazareth against the approaching Muslims. The Battle of Cresson would result in the slaughter of the Christian troops, with only a few survivors including Gerard de Ridefort.

Small encounters and fights would eventually lead to one of the bloodier battles of the Crusades, the famous Battle of the Horns of Hattin. Eventually, Saladin would invade the Kingdom and the King would call his troops. The Crusaders met at the Springs of Saffuriyah on the 27th of June and held a council. Many of the king's men advised the king to hold near a source of water and let Saladin come to them, allowing the heat to tire the enemy, which had occurred in previous battles against the Muslim forces.

Saladin had learned from past mistakes and did not move his forces from his water source so instead, he sent part of his force up to Tiberias and took the fortress belonging to Count Raymond, who was away, but whose wife and family were still in the castle. Even though counseled against by Raymond, at the advice of the Templar Grand Master the Crusading Army set off across the arid terrain through the blazing heat on the 2nd of July to face the Saracen army. The water went quickly, men and animals succumbed to the heat of the day, and the forces were harassed by Saracen scouting parties.

The Crusaders camped on the hills known as the Horns of Hattin, but Saladin's forces kept up the harassment campaign throughout the night. On the morning of July 4th, Saladin ordered the surrounding brush to be set on fire which sent a black smoke to flow into the already-parched Crusader camp. Then the battle started, it was a slaughter. Guy de Lusignan attempted to send his forces to take the springs near Hattin, but was repelled. The Crusading force was exhausted from the march plus they were dealing with desertion of their troops who refused to keep going forward. The infantry that did stay was defeated by the Muslim cavalry. Even the Knights Templar were defeated and those who were captured were beheaded, except for the Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort.

This victory made Saladin's force the dominant fighting force in the region and he continued through the kingdom using his noble captives as means to secure the surrender of castles and fortresses such as Acre, Ascalon, and Gaza; this would eventually lead to the fall of Jerusalem in July of 1187. This led to the Third Crusade which would start with the Siege of Acre. A few months later, Saladin released the Templar Grand Master and he took back the command of the Templar Order.


The Third Crusade

The Horns of Hattin had decimated the Templar order and the Crusading forces and would lead to the Third Crusade in 1189. The Templars would begin to grow their forces again and we see in 1189 that the Grand Master led the Templars in a campaign to support the Siege of Acre, along with the King Guy de Lusignan and his army`. The Siege of Acre would last for two years and cost countless lives on both sides of the fight. On the 4th of October, 1189, Gerard de Ridefort died at the foot of Mount Toron near the walls of Acre. Some say he died during the battle against Saladin's forces and others say he was first captured and then executed by Saladin.

The Knights Templar played a significant role in the prolonged Siege of Acre, ultimately resulting in its capture by the Crusaders. This victory helped to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land for several more decades. It’s also interesting to note that the Siege of Acre led to the formation of the Order of St. Thomas. Acre would also become the new headquarters for the Knights Templar due to the loss of Jerusalem where they were previously housed on the Temple Mount.

There was a delay in electing a new Grand Master as the Templar order wanted to avoid losing a Grand Master during battles so they amended the Rule concerning the role of the Grand Master. A year before the elections were held, Robert de Sablé joined the order and King Richard urged the Templars to elect de Sablé which occurred in 1191. Robert de Sablé served as counselor to King Richard I, the Lionheart, of England from 1190 to 1193, and even led King Richard's navy into the Mediterranean where he took part in several successive campaigns that recaptured many fortresses and cities along the Levantine Coast that had been lost to the Christians.

One of those captured cities was Arsuf which is also known as Apollonia (north of Tel Aviv). The Crusader army, led by King Richard I of England, engaged Saladin's forces. The Knights Templar, alongside other Crusader orders and armies, played a crucial role in securing victory for the Christians. Their disciplined fighting and tactical acumen helped to repel the repeated assaults by Saladin's forces, allowing the Crusaders to maintain control of key coastal territories.

The Third Crusade ended in a stalemate and Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Muslims. Both sides entered into the Treaty of Jaffa in 1192 which allowed for Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem without fear of persecution.

During his tenure as Grand Master, Robert de Sablé purchased the island of Cyprus from King Richard and served as Lord of Cyprus until 1193 when he sold the island to Guy de Lusignan, the King of Jerusalem as the Holy City had been captured by the Muslims after the Battle of Hattin. Robert de Sablé died on September 23, 1193, in Arsuf, Israel. Also in 1193, Saladin died leaving his sons in control of Cairo, Damascus, and Aleppo.

Gilbert Horal was elected as Grand Master of the Templars serving from 1193 to 1200. Tensions between the two orders were already strained because armed fighting over control of cities and castles around the Levant got so out of control that the Vatican had to intervene. Pope Innocent III favored the Hospitallers which is likely due to Horal's favor for peace with the Saracens. 

Horal continued to give Templar support to the Reconquista for which they were rewarded with the fortress of Alfambra (sometimes spelled Alhambra) by King Alfonso II of the Kingdom of Aragon in 1196 AD.

During the reign of Horal, the world saw the rise of the Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus St. Mariens in Jerusalem, or, simply, the Teutonic Knights, rise from a monastic order to a full-fledged military order in 1198. 

Gilbert Horal died in December 1200 which was around the start of the Fourth Crusade. Phillipe de Plessis would succeed Horal as the Thirteenth Grand Master.


Conclusion

During the 12th century, the Knights Templar emerged as a prominent military order in the Holy Land during the Crusades. There were 12 Grand Masters of the Order. Hugh de Payens served the longest at 18 years. Everard des Barres and Robert de Sablé served the shortest terms at 2 years. The average length of a Grand Mastership was 6.4 years. Two Grand Masters resigned and abdicated their position. Three Grand Masters were killed in action.

While founded to protect Christian pilgrims, the Order expanded its role to become warriors, advisors, ambassadors, and bankers. They developed a sophisticated banking system, providing loans to nobles and kings, and managing vast estates and agricultural lands. They established a network of fortresses and castles across the Levant, strategically positioning themselves to defend Christian territories from Muslim incursions. Their military prowess and disciplined organization earned them respect and fear on the battlefield.


References

1. A Brief History of the Knights Templar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mostly Medieval: http://www.mostly-medieval.com/explore/temphist.htm

2. Battle of Arsuf. (n.d.). Retrieved from Templar History: https://templarhistory.com/the-battle-of-arsuf/

3. Battle of Montgisard. (n.d.). Retrieved from Templar History: https://templarhistory.com/the-battle-of-montgisard/

4. Brain, J. (n.d.). The Knights Templar. Retrieved from Historic UK: https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Knights-Templar/

5. Council of Troyes. (n.d.). Retrieved from Templar History: https://templarhistory.com/the-council-of-troyes/

6. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Convento de Cristo: http://www.conventocristo.gov.pt/en/index.php?s=white&pid=168&identificador=ct12_pt#:~:text=The%20Knights%20Templar%20came%20to,Santar%C3%A9m%20and%20Lisbon%20(1147).

7. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem: https://www.theknightstemplar.org/history/

8. Moeller, C. (1912, July 1). The Knights Templars. Retrieved from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14493a.htm

9. Price, B. W. (2021). In the Steps of the Templars. Lewis Masonic.

10. Rowe, D. M. (2014). A Chronological View of the Crusades. Retrieved from Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA: http://www.knightstemplar.org/KnightTemplar/articles/crusades.htm

11. Saladin and the Templars: A Clash of Titans. (2020, June 7). Retrieved from Templar History: https://templarhistory.com/saladin-and-the-templars/

12. Siege of Ascalon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Templar History: https://templarhistory.com/the-siege-of-ascalon/

13. Were there Nine Original Templars? (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem: http://www.theknightstemplar.org/the-nine-original-knights-templar/

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter

On this blessed day of Easter, let us, as Knights Templar, reflect upon the trials of the cross our Savior endured for our sake.

As guardians of faith and defenders of the weak, let us renew our commitment to upholding the values of honor, courage, and compassion. Let the spirit of Easter inspire us to rise above adversity and embody the divine virtues that guide our noble order.

May the light of Christ's Resurrection illuminate our path and strengthen our resolve to serve humanity with unwavering devotion. On this holiest of days, may the blessings of Easter fill our hearts with joy, peace, and the boundless grace of God.

Happy Easter, dear Sir Knights, may we continue to walk in the footsteps of the risen Lord, bearing His light for all to see.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Anti-Mason Disinformation: Edmond Ronayne

"You must conceal all the crimes of your brother Masons, except murder and treason, and these only at your own option, and should you be summoned as a witness against a brother Mason be always sure to shield him. Prevaricate [falsify], don't tell the whole truth in his case, keep his secrets, forget the most important points. It may be perjury to do this, it is true, but you're keeping your obligations, and remember if you live up to your obligation strictly, you'll be free from sin. ‘That's the evidence I sight."

This is a quote often cited by anti-Masons in their condemnation of the Craft. It is from a publication called “The Handbook of Free Masonry” by Edmond Ronayne. As it carries such a name some people believe or at least infer that it must be a book approved and authorized by the whole of Freemasonry. However, had they done any basic research they would have seen that it was written by a former Freemason turned anti-Mason named Edmond Ronayne.

The 19th century witnessed a surge of anti-Masonic sentiment in the United States, fueled by conspiracy theories, suspicions of secret societies, and fears of undue influence within the government. Edmond Ronayne's journey from a member of the Masonic fraternity to one of its staunchest critics demonstrates the dangers of religious fanaticism and the need to guard the West. 

Born to a Catholic family on November 5, 1832, in Ireland, his family emigrated to North America. In 1851, he renounced Catholicism and became an Anglican. In 1858, he joined the Loyal Orange Order. In 1859, he left the Anglican Church which he saw as too “Romanist.” He left the Orange Order in 1860. He joined Harrington Lodge No. 49 in Quebec, but withdrew his membership when he moved to Wisconsin in 1865.

By 1870, he was living in Chicago with his family and affiliated with Keystone Lodge No.639 where he served as Secretary and was elected as Senior Warden the next year. At the end of 1872, he accepted election as Worshipful Master, but over the past year, he had felt disenfranchised because of local politics and the involvement of several Masons. His resentment to the fraternity grew as he felt the Grand Lodge misappropriated donations from American Masons as they used the funds to rebuild Lodges after the Chicago Fire of 1871 and Ronayne felt they should have used it to feed and clothe the needy. In late 1874, he finally renounced Freemasonry and left the fraternity. I’ve also read that he was expelled by the Grand Lodge of Illinois, but I’ve never been able to confirm this. 

He would later associate himself with the National Christian Association which saw organizations like Freemasonry as subversive, a competing religion, and a threat to their Christian values. This is the organization that built the statue honoring William Morgan in Batavia, NY.

Edmond Ronayne would publish three anti-Mason books: Handbook of Free Masonry (1876), The Master's Carpet; or Masonry and Baal-Worship Identical (1879), and Masonic Oaths Null and Void (1880). Modern anti-Masons often reference his “handbook” as if it is legitimate and sanctioned by Freemasonry. His second book claimed that the use of Hiram Abiff was really a secret way to worship Baal, Osiris, or Tammuz. His books, particularly the Preface, are examples of the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy by his claim that as a Past Master, his word cannot be questioned when condemning Freemasonry. He also claims that his book reveals the real secrets of Freemasonry and that no other exposition has shown what he has published (he had quite the ego). He also traveled the country performing what he said was a Masonic ritual and giving lectures that were often sponsored by the National Christian Association.

Through his writings and activism, he helped shape public perceptions of Freemasonry during the late 19th century and, sadly, he is still referenced by anti-Masons today even though the information cited from his book is contrary to everything Masonry teaches.


References

1. American Anti-Masonry in 1880: Edmond Ronayne And the National Christian Association. (2011, August). Retrieved from Waller Mason Lodge No. 808: http://mastermason.com/WallerNews/WN0811.pdf 

2. American Anti-Masonry in 1880: Edmond Ronayne and the National Christian Association. (2010, February 2). Retrieved from National Heritage Museum: https://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/edmond-ronayne/ 

3. Edmond Ronayne. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British-Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/ronayne_e/ronayne_e.html

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It has been a busy week. This last week I started a new position within my company. On Thursday, Idaho Commandery No. 1 met for its monthly meeting where we initiated 5 new Companions into the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross. Friday night started the 221st Spring Reunion of the Boise Valley of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite. Saturday morning I took part as the Expert in 14th degree or Perfect Elu. Sunday morning I served as Captain of the Host for 30th degree or Knight Kadosh. This morning I served as Captain of the Host for the 30th degree or Knight Kadosh.

Now, it's time to sit back, drink a Guinness, and relax. Happy Saint Patrick's Day


Erin go brách!


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Baphomet and Freemasonry

An enduring misconception and argument used by anti-Masons is the supposed worship of Baphomet within Freemasonry. While Baphomet is often associated with various occult practices and conspiracy theories, there is no credible evidence to support the claim that Baphomet is the god of Freemasonry or worshipped therein.

First and foremost, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor does it advocate the worship of any particular deity. Instead, Freemasonry encourages its members to believe in a higher power or Supreme Being, but does not prescribe a specific religious doctrine. This inclusivity is reflected in the diversity of its membership, which comprises individuals from various religious backgrounds.

The idea that Baphomet is the god of Freemasonry likely stems from misinterpretations or deliberate misrepresentations of Masonic symbolism and literature. Baphomet, often depicted as a horned deity with androgynous features, has been associated with occultism and esoteric traditions. However, there is no direct connection between Baphomet and Freemasonry within the context of Masonic teachings or rituals.

Moreover, Freemasonry promotes values such as charity, tolerance, and personal development, which are incompatible with the characteristics attributed to Baphomet in occult lore. Depending on the organization, Baphomet is seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge (enlightenment), dualism and balance, alchemical transformation, fertility, and occultism in general. It's important to note that interpretations of Baphomet can vary widely among different occult traditions and practitioners. While some may view Baphomet as a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual liberation, others may associate it with darker or more sinister aspects of the occult. As with many symbols in the occult, the meaning of Baphomet is complex and multifaceted, and it can hold different significance for different individuals and groups. The notion that Freemasonry venerates a dark or sinister deity contradicts its fundamental principles of moral and ethical conduct.

It's essential to distinguish between myth and reality when discussing the role of symbolism in Freemasonry. While symbols such as the Square and Compass hold significant meaning for Masons, they represent philosophical concepts related to morality, virtue, and self-improvement, not specific deities.


The Washington Statue and Baphomet

Often when confronted by anti-Masons about Masonic veneration of Baphomet, they use the picture of a statue of George Washington called the Enthroned Washington (seen here) as it bears a striking resemblance to the popular rendering of Baphomet.

The Enthroned Washington statue by Horatio Greenough, created in the mid-19th century, was indeed heavily influenced by classical Greco-Roman sculpture, particularly the statue of Olympian Zeus. This influence is evident in both the overall composition and the portrayal of Washington himself.

The statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was renowned for its grandeur and majesty. It depicted the Greek god Zeus seated on a throne, with a commanding presence and an aura of divine power. Greenough's Enthroned Washington similarly portrays the first President of the United States seated on a throne, evoking a sense of authority and dignity.

The influence of the statue of Zeus is evident in the classical style of Greenough's sculpture, characterized by idealized proportions, harmonious composition, and meticulous attention to detail. The drapery and pose of Washington in the Enthroned Washington statue echo the conventions of classical sculpture, emphasizing the figure's noble bearing and statesmanlike qualities.

While some have drawn parallels between the Enthroned Washington statue and the imagery of Baphomet due to its seated posture and raised hand, it is more accurate to attribute the statue's inspiration to the classical tradition rather than occult symbolism. The raised hand in Greenough's sculpture is a gesture of authority and command, a motif commonly found in classical depictions of rulers and gods.

Furthermore, Greenough's intention with the Enthroned Washington statue was to create a monumental representation of Washington as a symbol of American democracy and republican ideals. The statue was commissioned to commemorate the centennial of Washington's birth and to honor his legacy as the father of the nation.


Drawing Baphomet

The modern depiction of Baphomet, often associated with occultism, was indeed popularized by the French occultist, ceremonial magician, and writer Eliphas Levi in 1855 (14 years after Greenough completed his Enthroned Washington). Levi, whose real name was Alphonse Louis Constant, was a prominent figure in the occult revival of the 19th century and is renowned for his influential works on magic, mysticism, and symbolism.

In his book "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie" (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic), first published in 1855, Levi introduced his illustration of Baphomet, accompanied by a description that infused the figure with complex symbolism and esoteric meaning. Levi's depiction of Baphomet portrayed a seated figure with a goat's head, human torso, goat hooves, wings, and various other symbolic elements.

Levi's Baphomet amalgamated various occult and alchemical symbols, drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as Hermeticism, Kabbalah, and ancient mystery traditions. The figure's androgynous features symbolize the reconciliation of opposites, reflecting Levi's belief in the union of masculine and feminine energies within the individual.

Furthermore, the goat head, reminiscent of the ancient Greek god Pan, represented primal instincts, fertility, and the untamed forces of nature. The torch between Baphomet's horns symbolized enlightenment and the pursuit of knowledge, while the pentagram inscribed on its forehead signified the mastery of spiritual and material realms.

Levi's depiction of Baphomet became iconic within occult circles, influencing subsequent esoteric traditions and contributing to the figure's association with secret societies, magic, and mysticism. Despite Levi's intention to present Baphomet as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and inner transformation, the image became increasingly associated with darker interpretations, particularly in the context of Satanism and anti-establishment movements. Associating Baphomet with the devil was cemented in the 20th century when Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, adopted the Sigil of Baphomet as the official emblem of his church.

Over time, Baphomet evolved into a potent symbol within occultism, often invoked in rituals, magical practices, and occult literature. The image's ambiguity and rich symbolism have made it a subject of fascination, interpretation, and controversy, with its meaning varying depending on the perspective of the interpreter.

It is important to note that Levi was briefly associated with Freemasonry as he was initiated into Lodge Rose du Parfait Silence (Grand Orient of France) on March 14, 1861 (after he published his drawing of Baphomet), but was dropped from the rolls on August 21, 1861.


The Taxil Hoax

Looking back one can see where many conspiracy theories against Freemasonry have their roots. The Taxil Hoax is a notorious episode in the history of Freemasonry that played a significant role in perpetuating the rumors linking Freemasonry with Baphomet. The hoax was orchestrated by Léo Taxil, a French writer and anti-Catholic who sought to discredit both Freemasonry and the Catholic Church through a series of elaborate fabrications and sensational claims. 

In the late 19th century, Freemasonry was viewed with suspicion by certain segments of society, including some religious authorities who saw it as a threat to traditional values and religious institutions. Taxil, capitalizing on this climate of distrust, began publishing a series of books and articles purportedly exposing the secrets and rituals of Freemasonry.

One of Taxil's most infamous fabrications was the creation of a fictitious character named Diana Vaughan, whom he claimed had been initiated into a Satanic sect within Freemasonry. According to Taxil's elaborate hoax, Vaughan revealed shocking details about the alleged worship of Baphomet, a demonic deity, within Masonic Lodges.

Taxil's writings sensationalized these claims, portraying Freemasonry as a sinister organization engaged in occult practices and devil worship. The inclusion of Baphomet, often depicted as a symbol of the occult and Satanism, added a sensational element to his allegations, capturing the public's imagination and fueling fears about the secretive nature of Freemasonry.

The hoax reached its apex in 1897 when Taxil called a press conference to announce the conversion of Diana Vaughan to Catholicism and to expose the alleged Satanic rituals of Freemasonry. However, to the shock of the attendees, Taxil confessed that he had fabricated the entire story as a satire intended to mock both Freemasonry and the Catholic Church.

The revelation of the Taxil Hoax dealt a significant blow to the credibility of anti-Masonic propaganda, but the damage had been done to the Craft. The association between Freemasonry and Baphomet had already taken root in the public consciousness, perpetuating a myth that persists to this day in certain fringe circles and conspiracy theories.

Despite Taxil's admission of deception, the rumors linking Freemasonry with Baphomet continue to resurface periodically, fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding about the true nature of Freemasonry. The Taxil Hoax serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of sensationalism, manipulation, and the spread of false information.


Templars and Baphomet

Another argument is that Freemasonry originates or stems from the medieval Knights Templar and that the Knights Templar were believed to be guilty of venerating Baphomet. The Knights Templar were a powerful military and financial force in the Middle Ages. Their wealth, power, and prominence attracted jealousy, suspicion, and hostility from secular and ecclesiastical authorities. Following the 1307 suppression of the Templars by the French tyrant, King Philip IV, some knights, while being tortured, confessed to engaging in blasphemous rituals, including the worship of a mysterious entity known as Baphomet.

The precise origins and meaning of the term "Baphomet" remain uncertain, but it likely entered the Templar trials as part of the accusations brought forth by their adversaries. Some historians suggest that "Baphomet" could have been a corruption or misinterpretation of other terms or concepts, while others propose it may have been a symbolic representation used in Templar rituals, possibly related to the order's alleged connections to esoteric traditions or Eastern mysticism.

However, the idea that the Templars worshiped Baphomet as a deity remains speculative and lacks conclusive evidence. It is widely believed that the accusations of heresy and idolatry leveled against the Templars were politically motivated, and aimed at discrediting and eliminating a powerful rival to royal and papal authority.

Another theory that has circulated, particularly in the context of anti-Islamic arguments, is the notion that Baphomet was somehow associated with the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. This theory is largely based on linguistic speculation and historical misunderstandings, rather than credible evidence. The origin of this theory can be traced to the writings of 18th and 19th-century European authors who sought to demonize Islam and portray Muhammad as a false prophet or even a diabolical figure. Some of these authors attempted to equate Muhammad with Baphomet, suggesting that the two names were phonetically similar or derived from the same root. However, scholars and historians have thoroughly debunked this theory, highlighting the lack of linguistic or historical basis for such claims. The etymology and meaning of the term "Baphomet" are far removed from the Arabic name "Muhammad," and there is no evidence to support any connection between the two figures.

Another theory speculates that Baphomet was a code. The Atbash Cipher, an ancient substitution cipher that replaces each letter in the alphabet with its reverse counterpart, has been invoked by some within occult circles to decipher the meaning of the name "Baphomet" in connection with the Knights Templar. According to this interpretation, applying the Atbash Cipher to the name "Baphomet" results in "Sophia," a Greek word literally meaning “wisdom” and symbolically representing divine wisdom in various philosophical and mystical traditions.


Riding the Goat

When all else fails, I’ve seen anti-Masons post a picture like this which makes me cringe.

The myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry is a common misconception that has been perpetuated over the years, but it has no basis in actual Masonic ritual or tradition. The notion of riding a goat is often used in jest or as a humorous exaggeration, particularly by those unfamiliar with the inner workings of Freemasonry.

It's important to understand that Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with a rich history and a focus on moral and philosophical teachings. Its rituals and ceremonies are symbolic, emphasizing principles such as brotherhood, morality, and personal development. No ritual or practice within Freemasonry involves riding a goat or any other animal.

The origin of the myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry can be traced back to other fraternal organizations, particularly college fraternities and secret societies, where initiation rituals often include humorous or eccentric elements designed to test the resolve or endurance of new members. These rituals may involve absurd or outlandish tasks, including metaphorically "riding a goat," as a form of initiation or hazing.

Over time, these exaggerated initiation practices became associated with secret societies in general, including Freemasonry, leading to the misconception that Freemasons engage in similar rituals involving the riding of goats. However, it's essential to distinguish between the lighthearted traditions of some college fraternities and the solemn and dignified ceremonies of Freemasonry.

In reality, Freemasonry places a strong emphasis on dignity, respect, and moral values, and its rituals are intended to inspire reflection and personal growth rather than frivolity or hazing. The myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry is just that—a myth—and should not be taken seriously as an accurate representation of Masonic practice.


References

1. Éliphas Lévi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/esoterica/levi_e/levi_e.html 

2. George Washington (Greenough). (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_(Greenough) 

3. McIntosh, C. (2011). Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival. SUNY Press. 

4. Myth of Baphomet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/baphomet.html 

5. Newman, P. D. (2013, February). Masonic Templary II: The Name and Nature of Baphomet. Retrieved from Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA: https://www.knightstemplar.org/KnightTemplar/Magazine/2013/0213.pdf