[Editor’s note: Footnotes in original are omitted.]
One little known, but immensely important, secret society was founded in the eleventh century. It was the Priory (Order) of Sion. Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine and leader of the First Crusade, founded this Order in 1090. It was connected with the Rosicrucians. Between 1118 and 1188, the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion was also grandmaster of the Templars; in 1188 the two orders separated. Then the Priory of Sion became mostly concerned with the Merovingians, who had laid the foundations of the Priory of Sion. Its declared objective was to restore the Merovingian dynasty to the thrones of Europe; however, World War I seemed to have thwarted this scheme.
Grand masters of the Priority of Sion have included Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1519), Robert Fludd (1595-1637), Robert Boyle (1654-1691), Sir Isaac Newton (1691-1727), Charles Radcliffe, Victor Hugo, Claude Debussy, and Jean Cocteau. Today its members are among the inner circles of Freemasonry, the Round Tables, and other secret illuministic societies.
Out of the Priority of Sion came the Templars. Hugues de Payens, a Burgundian knight, Godfrey of St. Omer, Andre de Montbard, and six other knights founded the Order of the Temple in 1118. Bernard of Clairvaux was the author of the Templars’ constitution, which he modeled after the Cistercian Order. The Templars were divided into degrees. The Order had a pyramidal chain of command where subordinates were expected to obey commands of superiors without question or hesitation. Furthermore, like all other secret societies, those who controlled it possessed secrets about which ordinary members were ignorant. In 1128, the Council of Troyes approved the Templars as an official military and religious order.
Like the Assassins, the Templars were established to serve their religious faith as an independent power. Moreover, some of the Templars’ esoteric dogmas and ceremonies seemed to have come from the Assassins. The Templars and Assassins were allies in several battles—and at times to the detriment of the Christians.
Hugues de Payens, a member of the Priority of Sion, and his knights established the Templars ostensibly to protect pilgrims as they journeyed to the Holy Land. However, for some years they provided little protection to travelers; they left this task to the Hospitalers, an order established earlier for the protection of pilgrims. The Templars’ primary objective was to search for treasurer among the ruins of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. They apparently found ancient scrolls that contained hidden knowledge and other holy artifacts. They also found much gold. The manuscripts that they found conflicted with much of the teachings of the Catholic Church. With this new knowledge, they intimidated church officials. These discoveries brought them immense power and wealth. Later the Crusaders of Jerusalem saw the Templars as a military resource to be used to defend against Moslem incursions. Although they only owed allegiance to the pope, they offered their services to defend the Crusaders.
Because of the services provided by the Templars, Crusaders begin bequeathing their estates to the Templars. Soon the Templars had amassed enormous wealth although they had taken a vow of poverty. This wealth enabled them to become bankers. They lent money to the kings of Europe and even to Moslems. With their enormous wealth scattered throughout Europe, the Templars had become the international financiers or bankers of their era. They performed the same functions as international financiers and banks perform today.
The Templars also became analogous to a modern multinational corporation. They imported into Europe new knowledge of architecture, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and metallurgy that they had acquired in the Middle East.
Not only had they been given castles and other buildings across Europe, they were also avid builders. The Templars were the prime movers behind building the great medieval cathedrals and were probably responsible for introducing Gothic architecture in Europe. (Missing from the cathedrals built by the Templars were depictions of the Crucifixion.) Templars were behind the formation of the medieval stonemason and other building guilds, whose members became members of the Templar Order.
The Templars began deteriorating with its fourth Grand Master. As the wealth and fame of the Templars grew, fewer desirable men began to join and rise to control the Order. Gnostic dogma eventually replaced Christian doctrine. (Some Templar authorities contend that the Templars were Gnostics from the beginning.) The Templars, especially those in the inner most circle, believed that “the true church, one that taught mysticism, reincarnation, and good works, was being suppressed by a dark power that called itself the one true faith.”
The Templars answered to no one but the pope. In Europe their holdings were independent of secular authority. With the passage of time, the Templars became more independent and more isolated as the popes granted them more privileges. The Templars were exempted from tithes and church taxes. They were exempted from feudal oaths and services. Of these privileges, the most irritating one to bishops and archbishops was the authority of Templars to suspend interdicts wherever they traveled. In short, Templars owed allegiance only to the pope. They were rich and powerful, and their persons were sacred.
In Palestine, negotiations with the Saracens fell to the Templars. Thus, the Templars and Saracens became well acquainted. At times the Templars even allied with the Moslems against the Christians.
After the fall of Jerusalem to the Moslems, which was due in large part to the incompetence of Gerald de Ridfort, Grand Master of the Templars, the Templars lost what remained of their religious virtue. They eventually became politicians. As their power grew, their own independent power became more important than Christian unity.
By 1303, the Moslems had driven the Templars and the Christian Crusaders from the Holy Land. After being driven from the Holy Land, the Templars no longer functioned as guardians of the Crusaders. However, the Order still had 20,000 members and enormous wealth scattered throughout Europe.
After the Templars left the Holy Land, the pope saw them as a force to be used to keep recalcitrant princes in line. He would use them to expand and maintain his secular sovereignty. They would be soldiers of the Church at home.
In France the Templars served as the king’s banker in exchange for his protection from the envious. To escape from civil disorder, the bankrupt King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) fled to their temple in Paris. Here he witnessed their enormous wealth. Finally, King Philip’s lust for their wealth (he needed money for his wars), and perhaps his fear of their independence, came so great that in 1307 he proceeded to expropriate their wealth in France. The Templars had defied his orders and refused to pay taxes. Moreover, the Templars had denied him membership in the Order. He charged them with heresy and turned them over to the Inquisition. (The evidence seems to have supported Philip’s claim of heresy. The highest degree Templars were probably Gnostics, and many lived licentious lives.) Other kings followed Philip when in 1312 at the Synod of Vienna, the pope abolished the Order of the Templars and ordered the kings of Europe to arrest the Templars in their domains. Much of the Templar’s wealth fell to the kings of Europe although most of it was supposed to go to the Hospitalers. Poor Philip seems to have confiscated little of their vast wealth in France. Most of their wealth, which included not only money, but also artifacts and ancient writings, vanished.
Some of the surviving Templars joined the Hospitalers, the Knights of Christ, and the Teutonics Knights. Some joined other secret societies that Freemasonry or other illuministic societies later absorbed. Some Templars fled to Scotland; from them the York Rite and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry probably came. Today the Order of the Knight Templar survives in the highest degree of the York Rite Freemasonry.
An important religious movement associated with the Templars was the Cathari (Pure Ones), whom the Catholic Church condemned as heretics. The Cathari, who were also known as the Albigenses, arose to prominence during the twelfth century in Languedoc in southern France.
They lived a simple, religious life. Instead of meeting in elaborate buildings, they meet in the open. Their beliefs were similar to Buddhism and closely related to the Mithras and Manichaeans. Among their beliefs was reincarnation, abstention from meat except fish, and nonresistance. Jesus was the spiritual Son of God; he existed in a spiritual body and not a human body. They also taught that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and had children by her. Mary and her children migrated to Languedoc after Jesus’ execution. Their theology was a dualistic theology. An evil god created the material world and man; a good god created and ruled the heavens. Thus, the God of the Old Testament was Satan. They were also followers of the Cabala. To the Cathari, all baptized members were spiritually equal and were priests. As itinerant preachers, they traveled in pairs. In the utmost poverty and simplicity, they lived. They refused to acknowledge the authority of the pope. The Templars have been accused of having the same religious beliefs as the Cathari. St. Bernard may have been a secret adherent of the Cathari’s beliefs.
The pope had Philip II, King of France, to declare the Cathari heretics and to exterminate them. The war against the Cathari began in 1209 and became known as the Albigensian Crusade. The crusade ended in 1229, and the Cathar heresy was finally eradicated in 1244 with the fall of Montsegur. More than 100,000 Cathari were killed during the crusade.
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2. Jim Marrs, Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids (New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000), p. 291.
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Copyright © 2009 by Thomas Allen.
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