Introduction to Born in Blood

Introduction  to BORN IN BLOOD  by John J. Robinson

              In Search of the Great Society

The research behind this book was not originally intended to
reveal anything about Freemasonry or the Knights Templar. Its
objective had been to satisfy my own curiosity about certain
unexplained aspects of the Peasants' Revolt in England in 1381,
a savage uprising that saw upwards of a hundred thousand
Englishmen march on London. They moved in uncontrolled
rage, burning down manor houses, breaking open prisons, and
cutting down any who stood in their way.

One unsolved mystery of that revolt was the organization
behind it. For several years a group of disgruntled priests of the
lower clergy had traveled the towns, preaching against the riches
and corruption of the church. During the months before the
uprising, secret meetings had been held throughout central
England by men weaving a network of communication. After the
revolt was put down, rebel leaders confessed to being agents of a
Great Society, said to be based in London. So very little is known
of that alleged organization that several scholars have solved the
mystery simply by deciding that no such secret society ever

Another mystery was the concentrated and especially vicious
attacks on the religious order of the Knights Hospitaller of St.
John, now known as the Knights of Malta. Not only did the rebels
seek out their properties for vandalism and fire, but their prior
was dragged from the Tower of London to have his head struck
off and placed on London Bridge, to the delight of the cheering

There was no question that the ferocity unleashed on the cru-
sading Hospitallers had a purpose behind it. One captured rebel
leader, when asked the reasons for the revolt, said, "First, and
above all . . . the destruction of the Hospitallers." What kind of
secret society could have had that special hatred as one of its pri-
mary purposes?

A desire for vengeance against the Hospitallers was easy to
identify in the rival crusading order of the Knights of the Temple
of Solomon in lerusalem. The problem was that those Knights
Templar had been completely suppressed almost seventy years
before the Peasants' Revolt, following several years during which
the Templars had been imprisoned, tortured, and burned at the
stake. After issuing the decree that put an end to the Templar
order, Pope Clement V had directed that all of the extensive
properties of the Templars should be given to the Hospitallers.
Could a Templar desire for revenge actually have survived under-
ground for three generations?

There was no incontrovertible proof, yet the only evidence sug-
gests the existence of just one secret society in fourteenth-
century England, the society that was, or would become, the
order of Free and Accepted Masons. There appeared to be no
connection, however, between the revolt and Freemasonry,
except for the name or title of its leader. He occupied the center
stage of English history for just eight days and nothing is known
of him except that he was the supreme commander of the rebel-
lion. He was called Walter the Tyler, and it seemed at first to be
mere coincidence that he bore the title of the enforcement offi-
cer of the Masonic lodge. In Freemasonry the Tyler, who must be
a Master Mason, is the sentry, the sergeant-at-arms, and the offi-
cer who screens the credentials of visitors who seek entrance to
the lodge. In remembrance of an earlier, more dangerous time,
his post is just outside the door of the lodge room, where he
stands with a drawn sword in his hand.

I was aware that there had been many attempts in the past to
link the Freemasons with the Knights Templar, but never with
success. The fragile evidence advanced by proponents of that
connection had never held up, sometimes because it was based
on wild speculation, and at least once because it had been based
on a deliberate forgery. But despite the failures to establish that
link, it just will not go away, and the time-shrouded belief in some
relationship between the two orders remains as one of the more
durable legends of Freemasonry. That is entirely appropriate,
because all of the various theories of the origins of Freemasonry
are legendary. Not one of them is supported by any universally
accepted evidence. I was not about to travel down that time-wom
trail, and decided to concentrate my efforts on digging deeper
into the history of the Knights Templar, to see if there was any
link between the suppressed Knights and the secret society
behind the Peasants' Revolt. In doing so, I thought that I would
be leaving Freemasonry far behind. I couldn't have been more

Like anyone curious about medieval history, I had developed
an interest in the Crusades, and perhaps more than just an inter-
est. Those holy wars hold an appeal that is frequently as romantic
as it is historical, and in my travels I had tried to drink in the atmo-
sphere of the narrow defiles in the mountains of Lebanon
through which Crusader armies had passed, and had sat staring at
the castle ruins around Sidon and Tyre, trying to hear the clash-
ing sounds of attack and defense. I had marveled at the walls of
Constantinople and had strolled the Arsenal of Venice, where
Crusader fleets were assembled. I had sat in the round church of
the Knights Templar in London, trying to imagine the ceremony
of its consecration by the Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1185, more
than three hundred years before Columbus set sail west to the

The Templar order was founded in Jerusalem in 1118, in the
aftermath of the First Crusade. Its name came from the location
of its first headquarters on the site of the ancient Temple of Sol-
omon. Helping to fill a desperate need for a standing army in the
Holy Land, the Knights of the Temple soon grew in numbers, in
wealth, and in political power. They also grew in arrogance, and
their Grand Master de Ridfort was a key figure in the mistakes
that led to the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. The Latin Christians
managed to hold onto a narrow strip of territory along the coast,
where the Templars were among the largest owners of the land
and fortifications.

Finally, the enthusiasm for sending men and money to the
Holy Land waned among the European kingdoms, which were
preoccupied with their wars against each other. By 1296 the
Egyptian sultan was able to push the resident Crusaders, along
with the military orders, into the sea. The Holy Land was lost, and
the defeated Knights Templar moved their base to the island
kingdom of Cyprus, dreaming of yet one more Crusade to restore
their past glory.

As the Templars planned a new Crusade against the infidel,
King Philip IV of France was planning his own private crusade
against the Templars. He longed to be rid of his massive debts to
the Templar order, which had used its wealth to establish a major
banking operation. Philip wanted the Templar treasure to
finance his continental wars against Edward I of England.

After two decades of fighting England on one side and the Holy
Roman Church on the other, two unrelated events gave Philip of
France the opportunity he needed. Edward I died, and his deplor-
ably weak son took the throne of England as Edward II. On the
other front, Philip was able to get his own man on the Throne of
Peter as Pope Clement V.

When word arrived on Cyprus that the new pope would mount
a Crusade, the Knights Templar thought that their time of resto-
ration to glory was at hand. Summoned to France, their aging
grand master, Jacques de Molay, went armed with elaborate plans
for the rescue of Jerusalem. In Paris, he was humored and hon-
ored until the fatal day. At dawn on Friday, the thirteenth of
October, 1307, every Templar in France was arrested and put in
chains on Philip's orders. Their hideous torture for confessions of
heresy began immediately.

When the pope's orders to arrest the Templars arrived at the
English court, young Edward II took no action at all. He protested
to the pontiff that the Templars were innocent. Only after the
pope issued a formal bull was the English king forced to act. In
anuary, 1308, Edward finally issued orders for the arrest of the
Knights Templar in England, but the three months of warning
had been put to good use. Many of the Templars had gone under-
ground, while some of those arrested managed to escape. Their
treasure, their jeweled reliquaries, even the bulk of their records,
had disappeared. In Scotland, the papal order was not even pub-
lished. Under those conditions England, and especially Scotland,
became targeted havens for fugitive Templars from continental
Europe, and the efficiency of their concealment spoke to some
assistance from outside, or from each other.
The English throne passed from Edward II to Edward III, who
bequeathed the crown to his ten-year-old grandson who, as Rich-
ard II, watched from the Tower as the Peasants' Revolt exploded
throughout the City of London.

Much had happened to the English people along the way.
Incessant wars had drained most of the king's treasury and cor-
ruption had taken the rest. A third of the population had perished
in the Black Death, and famine exacted further tolls. The
reduced labor force of farmers and craftsmen found that they
could earn more for their labor, but their increased income came
at the expense of land-owning barons and bishops, who were not
prepared to tolerate such a state of affairs. Laws were passed to
reduce wages and prices to preplague levels, and genealogies were
searched to reimpose the bondage of serfdom and villeinage on
men who thought themselves free. The king's need for money to
fight his French wars inspired new and ingenious taxes. The
oppression was coming from all sides, and the pot of rebellion was
brought to the boil.

Religion didn't help, either. The landowning church was as
merciless a master as the landowning nobility. Religion would
have been a source of confusion for the fugitive Templars as well.
They were a religious body of warrior monks who owed allegiance
to no man on earth except the Holy Father. When their pope
turned on them, chained them, beat them, he broke their link
with God. In fourteenth-century Europe there was no pathway to
God except through the vicar of Christ on earth. If the pope
rejected the Templars and the Templars rejected the pope, they
had to find a new way to worship their God, at a time when any
variation from the teachings of the established church was
blasted as heresy.

That dilemma called to mind the central tenet of Freemasonry,
which requires only that a man believe in a Supreme Being, with
no requirements as to how he worships the deity of his choice. In
Catholic Britain such a belief would have been a crime, but it
would have accommodated the fugitive Templars who had been
cut off from the universal church. In consideration of the
extreme punishment for heresy, such an independent belief also
made sense of one of the more mysterious of Freemasonry's Old
Charges, the ancient rules that still govern the conduct of the fra-
ternity. The Charge says that no Mason should reveal the secrets
of a brother that may deprive him of his life and property.

That connection caused me to take a different look at the
Masonic Old Charges. They took on new direction and meaning
when viewed as a set of instructions for a secret society created
to assist and protect fraternal brothers on the run and in hiding
from the church. That characterization made no sense in the con-
text of a medieval guild of stonemasons, the usual claim for the
roots of Freemasonry. It did make a great deal of sense, however,
for men such as the fugitive Templars, whose very lives depended
upon their concealment. Nor would there have been any problem
in finding new recruits over the years ahead: There were to be
plenty of protestors and dissidents against the church among
future generations. The rebels of the Peasants' Revolt proved
that when they attacked abbeys and monasteries, and when they
cut the head off the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leading Cath-
olic prelate in England.

The fugitive Templars would have needed a code such as the
Old Charges of Masonry, but the working stonemasons clearly
did not. It had become obvious that I needed to know more about
the Ancient Order of Free and Accepted Masons. The extent of
the Masonic material available at large public libraries surprised
me, as did the fact that it was housed in the department of edu-
cation and religion. Not content with just what was generally
available to the public, I asked to use the library in the Masonic
Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio. I told the gentleman there that I was
not a Freemason, but wanted to use the library as part of my
research for a book that would probably include a new examina-
tion of the Masonic order. His only question to me was, "Will it
be fair?" I assured him that I had no desire or intention to be any-
thing other than fair, to which he replied, "Good enough." I was
left alone with the catalog and the hundreds of Masonic books
that lined the walls. I also took advantage of the publications of
the Masonic Service Association at Silver Spring, Maryland.

Later, as my growing knowledge of Masonry enabled me to sus-
tain a conversation on the subject, I began to talk to Freemasons.
At first I wondered how I would go about meeting fifteen or
twenty Masons and, if I could meet them, would they be willing
to talk to me? The first problem was solved as soon as I started ask-
ing friends and associates if they were Masons. There were four
in one group I had known for about five years, and many more
arnong men I had known for twenty years and more, without ever
realizing that they had any connection with Freemasonry. As for
the second part of my concern, I found them quite willing to talk,
not about the "secret" passwords and hand grips (by then, I
already knew them), but about what they had been taught con-
cerning the origins of Freemasonry and its ancient Old Charges.

They were as intrigued as I was about the possibilities of discov-
ering the lost meanings of words, symbols, and ritual for which no
logical explanation was available, such as why a Master Mason is
told in his initiation rites that "this degree will make you a brother
to pirates and corsairs." We agreed that unlocking the secrets of
those Masonic mysteries would contribute most to unearthing
the past, because the loss of their true meanings had caused the
ancient terms and symbols to be preserved intact, less subject to
change over the centuries, or by adaptations to new conditions.

Among those lost secrets were the meanings of words used in
the Masonic rituals, words like tyler, cowan, due-guard, and Juwes.
Masonic writers have struggled for centuries, without success, to
make those words fit with their preconceived conviction that
Masonry was born in the English-speaking guilds of medieval

Now I would test the possibility that there was indeed a con-
nection between Freemasonry and the French-speaking Templar
order, by looking for the lost meanings of those terms, not in
English, but in medieval French. The answers began to flow, and
soon a sensible meaning for every one of the mysterious Masonic
terms was established in the French language. It even provided
the first credible meaning for the name of Hiram Abiff, the mur-
dered architect of the Temple of Solomon, who is the central fig-
ure of Masonic ritual. The examination established something
else as well. It is well known that in 1362 the English courts of fi-
cially changed the language used for court proceedings from
French to English, so the French roots of all the mysterious terms
of Freemasonry confirmed the existence of that secret society in
the fourteenth century, the century of the Templar suppression
and the Peasants' Revolt.

With that encouragement I addressed other lost secrets of
Masonry: the circle and mosaic pavement on the lodge room
floor, gloves and lambskin aprons, the symbol of the compass and
the square, even the mysterious legend of the murder of Hiram
Abiff. The Rule, customs, and traditions of the Templars pro-
vided answers to all of those mysteries. Next came a deeper anal-
ysis of the Old Charges of ancient Masonry that define a secret
society of mutual protection. What the "lodge" was doing was
assisting brothers in hiding from the wrath of church and state,
providing them with money, vouching for them with the author-
ities, even providing the "lodging" that gave Freemasonry the
unique term for its chapters and their meeting rooms. There
remained no reasonable doubt in my mind that the original con-
cept of the secret society that came to call itself Freemasonry had
been born as a society of mutual protection among fugitive Tem-
plars and their associates in Britain, men who had gone under-
ground to escape the imprisonment and torture that had been
ordered for them by Pope Clement V. Their antagonism toward
the Church was rendered more powerful by its total secrecy. The
suppression of the Templar order appeared to be one of the big-
gest mistakes the Holy See ever made.

In return, Freemasonry has been the target of more angry papal
bulls and encyclicals than any other secular organization in Chris-
tian history. Those condemnations began just a few years after
Masonry revealed itself in 1717 and grew in intensity, culminat-
ing in the bull Humanum Genus, promulgated by Pope Leo XIII
in 1884. In it, the Masons are accused of espousing religious free-
dom, the separation of church and state, the education of chil-
dren by laymen, and the extraordinary crime of believing that
people have the right to make their own laws and to elect their
own government, "according to the new principles of liberty."
Such concepts are identified, along with the Masons, as part of
the kingdom of Satan. The document not only defines the con-
cerns of the Catholic Church about Freemasonry at that time,
but, in the negative, so clearly defines what Freemasons believe
that I have included the complete text of that papal bull as an
appendix to this book.

Finally, it should be added that the events described here were
part of a great watershed of Western history. The feudal age was
coming to a close. Land, and the peasant labor on it, had lost its
role as the sole source of wealth. Merchant families banded into
guilds, and took over whole towns with charters as municipal cor-
porations. Commerce led to banking and investment, and towns
became power centers to rival the nobility in wealth and influ-

The universal church, which had fought for a position of
supremacy in a feudal context, was slow to accept changes that
might affect that supremacy. Any material disagreement with the
church was called heresy, the most heinous crime under heaven.
The heretic not only deserved death, but the most painful death

Some dissidents run for the woods and hide, while others orga-
nize. In the case of the fugitive Knights Templar, the organiza-
tion already existed. They possessed a rich tradition of secret
operations that had been raised to the highest level through their
association with the intricacies of Byzantine politics, the secret
ritual of the Assassins, and the intrigues of the Moslem courts
which they met alternately on the battlefield or at the conference
table. The church, in its bloody rejection of protest and change,
provided them with a river of recruits that flowed for centuries.

More than six hundred years have passed since the suppression
of the Knights Templar, but their heritage lives on in the largest
fraternal organization ever known. And so the story of those tor-
tured crusading knights, of the savagery of the Peasants' Revolt,
and of the lost secrets of Freemasonry becomes the story of the
most successful secret society in the history of the world.

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