The Templar Tradition: Yesterday and Today

By Gaetan Delaforge

There is a tendency among North Americans to be suspicious of
esoteric organizations or any kind of activity which is secret.
Those who have heard of Templar orders frequently associate them
with secret societies and Freemasons. There is also the belief that
because the Order of the Knights Templar was destroyed by one of
the Kings of France and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312, there
must have been something unsavory about the Templars.

To understand esoteric societies which have European roots, it
should be realized that secret societies have always been a part of
European culture. In fact, the very reasons which have made secret
societies necessary in Europe have been the same as those which
made the Pilgrim Fathers leave the Old World to establish a society
where men could speak freely and openly live their thoughts. The
New World tradition of freedom of speech and expression has somehow
created the attitude that any activity which does not avail itself
of this freedom must be hiding something dishonorable. 

The European with the memory of the past built into his genes, a
past in which the State or the Church have tried to control -
sometimes brutally - how he worshipped, thought, or behaved,
attaches great importance to his privacy. The closer something is
to his heart, the more he feels the need to protect it from outside
influences. What is closer to a man's heart than his family and his
spiritual life? In some European countries like France it is a
major event to be invited to someone's home and this privilege, if
it is ever granted, is only done after a long acquaintanceship. In
Europe, especially on the continent, the idea of keeping what is
your own business to yourself is therefore quite natural. In
Britain the attitude is that it is no-one's business what people do
behind closed doors so long as it is not illegal. The old motto
"the Englishman's home is his castle" is partly a reflection of

In North America, Freemasonry is much more open to the public gaze.
Meeting places of Freemasons are clearly marked and even some of
their ceremonies are open to the public. In Europe the locations of
their lodges are much more discreet - they are not hidden but at
the same time their whereabouts are not advertised. Does this mean
that European Freemasons do things in their lodges which are not
done in American lodges? Hardly - after all one of the important
aims of international masonic lodges is the standardization of
their practices.

There is of course a more important reason why esoteric groups
(whatever their origins) try to maintain a certain discretion. The
symbols, rituals and meetings of a group, when repeated over time,
develop an egregore or group mind which binds the members together,
harmonizes, motivates and stimulates them to realise the aims of
the group, and enables the individual members to make more
spiritual progress than if they worked alone. An egregore can be
disturbed if people who are not sympathetic to its aims think
negatively about the elements which make and sustain it. Therefore,
eosteric groups try to protect themselves not so much against
exposure of doubtful activities but to ensure that peoples'
negative thoughts do not disturb the group mind or egregore.

A Templar order which has managed by hard work and devotion to
Templar ideals to tap into the Templar egregore or tradition, will
naturally divulge knowledge of its keys only to members. In
addition, discretion is one of the principles which have been
hallowed by tradition as part of the discipline or training which
Templars are required to undergo.

Templar tradition teaches that the essence of the common heritage
of man 's spiritual experience has been synthesized in a body of
practical knowledge which has been kept alive by generations of
initiates from the earliest times down to our day. This body of
spiritual knowledge is referred to in esoteric circles as the
Temple Tradition, and the sum total of the initiates and the
structures which have perpetuated this tradition is called the
Order of the Temple. The Order of the Knights Templar was one of
the manifestations of the Order of the Temple. The Knights Templar
believed that their line of the Tradition would always be present
at important moments in the evolution of our planet. Modern
Templars therefore strive to revive the Templar Tradition today
because they believe we are at a capital moment in the history of
the Earth. They call this the Resurgence of the Order. They believe
that Templars have a role to play in the current transition from
the Piscean Age to the Age of Aquarius. Some Templar Orders claim
that the souls of former Templars have incarnated in this century
in order to continue where they left off in the fourteenth century.

A brief histo of the Order of the Knights Templar

In 1118, almost twenty years after the foundation of the Kingdom of
Jerusalem by Godefroy de Bouillon and his crusaders, nine French
knights under the leadership of Hugues de Payns arrived in the Holy
Land and installed themselves next to the site of the former Temple
of Solomon. They came to create an order which was both military
and monastic and one of their first acts was to pronounce vows of
chastity, poverty and obedience before Theocletus, the Patriach of
Jerusalem. Because they had camped on the site of Solomon's Temple,
they, and those who joined them, subsequently became known as the
Knights of the Temple, or Templars, and their Order the Order of
the Temple. The overt purpose of the Order was to protect pilgrims
who came to visit the holy places, in particular the route linking
Jerusalem and St. Jean d'Acre. Ten years later the number of
Templar knights had reached 300 and with them an army of some 3000

The Templars were supported by one of the most powerful figures of
the time, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, head of the Cistercian Order.
At a very young age he had founded the abbey of Clairvaux on lands
donated by Hugues de Champagne, who later abandoned his family and
possessions to join Hugues de Payns in founding the Order of the
Temple. St. Bernard was the closest confidant of Pope Honorius II,
and obtained the backing of the Pope in giving the Church's
official recognition to the Order of the Temple.

In 1128 a Council of the Church was held at Troyes in France to
prepare a constitution for the new order. St. Bernard, despite
ill-health, was one of the driving forces at the Council and
participated actively in the drafting of the Rule which would
govern the order and the life of the Templars. The order based on
these rules turned out to be a very closed brotherhood restricted
to men of noble birth. The brotherhood itself was composed of
knights, chaplains, and sergeants to whom a large number of
artisans and manual workers of all kinds were attached. The head of
the order was the Grand Master, and next in rank was his deputy,
the Senechal, followed by the Marshal, and the Commander. The order
was divided into provinces and commanderies each run along the same
hierarchical structure.

The Rule granted the Order virtual sovereignty vis-a-vis local
government and ecclesiastical authorities wherever it was located,
with the right not only to be exempted from taxes but to impose its
own. The Order also enjoyed judicial immunity with authority to
exercise justice within its territories. In its relationship with
the Church, the Order was responsible only to the Pope and was
given the power to appoint its own clergy.

A candidate for entry to the Order had to undergo severe tests
before he was admitted. He had to endure a long period of
probation, when he was tested for his sincerity and force of
character by being asked to perform many types of unpleasant tasks.
The battle standard of the Order was a red eight-pointed cross on
a background of black and white squares called the Beauceant. The
battle cry of the Templars was "Vive Dieu, Saint Amour," and their
device "Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam,"
(Not for us, Lord, not for us, but to Thy Name give glory). The
seal of the Order displayed two horsemen on the same horse
signifying poverty and service.

In less than a century the Order became a power to be reckoned with
both in Europe and the Middle East. Its influence and wealth, which
developed during the Crusades, came about because in contrast to
other armies in the Holy Land the Templars were disciplined and
their organization and life style completely adapted to Middle East
conditions. Because the fortunes of the Templars were intimately
linked with those of Christendom in the Holy Land, the failure of
the Second Crusade marked the beginning of the end for the
Templars. Jealousy, the rivalry of the Hospitallers - the Knights
of St. John - and a gradual decline in their purity and idealism
further contributed to their decline. The capture of Jerusalem by
the Moslems in 1244 and the fall of St. Jean d'Acre in 1291 ended
European presence in the Holy Land, and the Templars and their
rivals the Hospitallers left the area; the Templars returning
gradually to France through Cyprus and Sicily.

In France they enjoyed a brief period where they lived and
exercised their privileges unmolested. This came to an end when
Philip IV, known as Philip the Fair, short of money and realizing
that the Templars had lost their popularity, adopted a plan
conceived by one of his advisers, Guillaume de Nogaret. The idea
was to discredit the Templars in ways which would force Pope
Clement V, who owed his election to Philip, to suppress the Order,
leaving the way open for the King to acquire its wealth. On October
13th, 1312, Philip seized the Templar strongholds and arrested all
the Templars he could find. During the seven years that followed
there were endless trials in which the Templars were tortured and
forced to confess all kinds of alleged wrongdoings. On April 3rd of
that same year, in a Council held in the town of Vienne in France,
the Pope announced the abolition of the Order, and on March 18th,
1314, after terrible harrassment and torture, the 22nd Grand
Master, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake.

In other European countries, although there was less torture and
killings, the Templar movement also went into decline. As best they
could the kings of Spain and Portugal resisted the pressures placed
on them by Philip and the Papacy to abolish the Order. They managed
to solve the problem by creating new orders so that Templars who
integrated themselves into the new orders could be protected. These
orders were the Order of Montesa in Spain and the Order of Christ
in Portugal. They still exist today but as purely formal
institutions conferring honorary titles, and have very little in
common with the original orders.

Purpose, Authenticity and Legitimacy

The above are the simple facts of Templar history. What the
Templars really were and what their real mission was, has and will
remain the subject of discussion and controversy. The Templar
tradition has its version and academic historians have others. A
list of publications covering different sides of the debate is
given at the end of this article and readers will have to draw
their own conclusions. After practical experience in the Temple
Tradition, I am convinced that the role of the Templars was not
just to fight battles and obtain wealth and temporal power.

According to Templar tradition, there were two levels of the Order,
a secret Council on the one hand, and a formal hierarchy and
organisation on the other. The purpose of the secret side of
Templar activities was to carry out the designs of its real founder
- St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard had obtained secret
teachings which were known to the original Church fathers, and
undertook to integrate these teachings with knowledge from other
sources and to consolidate this spiritual capital so that it could
be assimilated by initiates of his time for transmission into the

In the Templar tradition Jerusalem is a place of great symbolic
importance. Templars believe that the integration of the different
streams of the tradition - Christianity, Islam and Judaism -
stemming from the patriarch Abraham was successfully effected there
by the Templars, and that the richness of today's Western esoteric
tradition is due to this work. The Templars were given the task by
St. Bernard of finding and reuniting the hidden and dispersed parts
of these streams. This was not easy because until modern times most
of these teachings were oral. The nine founding knights could not
have seriously believed that their small band could defend the
pilgrims. They were in Jerusalem for completely different reasons.
Legend has it that they unearthed various documents and sacred
objects in the area around the site of Solomon's Temple and sent
these discreetly to their secret chiefs in France.

There is much similarity between Templar teachings and many aspects
of Sufism - an esoteric branch of Islam. Although often at war with
each other, it is well known that there were very close and
friendly contacts between Templars and Moslem secret societies.
According to Templar tradition, the Templars obtained knowledge of
Sufi practices from the Arabs. The Middle East was considered the
birth place of alchemy and it is known that several Templars were
secret alchemists. For example, a sculptured chest found at
Volterra in Italy depicting alchemical processes is believed to be
of Templar origin. The esoteric side of Judaism based on the
Qabalah was also known to the Templars. The Templars worked closely
with builders known as the Compagnons, who knew secrets in the art
of building and were responsible for the construction of some of
the great cathedrals in France. The Templars protected the
Compagnons and in return obtained their services and knowledge. One
of St. Bernard 's dearest wishes was to build churches which were
esoterically functional, and which would be monuments in stone of
the Temple Tradition.

Templar Tradition claims that it is only against this background
that the behavior of the Templars can be understood, especially in
the period just before the end. The secret chiefs of the Order knew
that the outward activities of the Order were no longer justifiable
and it was allowed to die. There was therefore no reason to
overthrow the French king to defend a structure which was no longer
appropriate to contemporary spiritual needs. In the same way that
soldiers die for their country, it should not be so difficult for
us today to accept that a group of men who were soldiers of the
Christ were prepared to follow in his footsteps by sacrificing
themselves. After all, many Templars would have been believers in
reincarnation and expected that their souls would one day
reincarnate to continue the Templar tradition. The spiritual
warriors in the Samurai Tradition of ancient Japan thought nothing
of sacrificing their lives for the abstract concept of honour.

The Order of the Temple believed that it had carried out its
mission to the best of its abilities and that there was no longer
any need to preserve the Templar Order in its traditional form.
Those who doubt whether the Templars were a spiritual force
probably think of spiritual force as something which has to develop
some kind of a permanent public organization. Rather than risking
a confrontation with the Church and the State, the Templars no
doubt realized that their teachings, at least the popular versions
of them, could be transmitted in other ways: for example, by
setting a tradition of noble behavior, by perpetuating their
spiritual tradition through cathedral building, and by
consolidating the wisdom of the past for the future. If the
Templars were not a spiritual force, why is it that the spiritual
revival of esotericism in the West has tried so hard to prove
Templar associations and origins? Highly respected writers such as
Rudolf Steiner and Manly Hall are convinced that the Templars were
the synthesizers and transmitters of teachings which are being
given today in many lodges and groups. Why is it that six hundred
years later people are talking of Templar revival and remain
fascinated by the ideals of these warrior monks? A spiritual force
is not an institution or a religion. It is a power which pushes
people into trying to live an ideal which brings another dimension
of meaning, reality and nobility to their lives.

There have been many claims and versions about the truth of the
Templar succession. For lack of space only a few will be mentioned
here. For example, it is said that in the year of de Molay's death,
Geoffroy de Gonneville, one of the dignitaries of the Order,
brought a message from de Molay to a group of Templar knights from
various countries meeting somewhere in Dalmatia, announcing that
there would be a resurgence of the order in 600 years. The story
goes on that at the end of this meeting, or convent as such
gatherings were called by the Templars, the Supreme Council of the
Order travelled to Corfou where it remained for three years before
its dissolution. According to this story it was this Council which
launched what was to become the Order of the Rose-Croix and the
grades of the Scottish freemasonry.

Another version was that after the death of de Molay, the
provincial Grand Master of Auvergne in France, Pierre d' Aumont,
fled with two commanders and five knights disguised as stonemasons
to one of the Scottish islands, to be taken in by a local Commander
of the Order, one George Harris. Along with some other Templars it
was decided to continue the order and d'Aumont was appointed Grand
Master. To avoid persecution the revived Order borrowed symbols
from masonry and called themselves Freemasons. According to this
version, in 1361 the Grand Master removed his headquarters to
Aberdeen, where under the guise of Freemasonry the Order expanded
to other European countries.

There is yet another account according to which there is a document
which proved that a certain Dr. Bernard Fabre-Palaprat, who was
declared Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar during
the reign of Napoleon I, had formally inherited the succession
which had continued in an unbroken line since the death of Jacques
de Molay. This document was supposed to have been some kind of a
Charter of succession prepared by Jacques de Molay before his death
designating one Jean-Marc Larmenius as his successor. There is much
controversy in Templar circles concerning the authenticity of this
document. Fabre-Palaprat's detractors say that he was merely a pawn
manipulated by Napoleon for his own designs.

Fabre-Palaprat died in 1838 and was succeeded by an Englishman,
Admiral Sydney Smith. By 1860 virtually nothing remained of the
order and its documents were handed over to the French national
archives. Subsequently various people have claimed that they were
the successors of Palaprat.

In the 18th century the belief that the Order of the Knights
Templar was the origin of Freemasonry seems to have been prevalent.
This belief was particularly associated with Scottish freemasonry,
because, as was mentioned elsewhere, some members of the Order had
taken refuge in Scotland after the Order was abolished. As is well
known, the Templars were great builders and welcomed many masons to
help them. It is not unlikely that those who worked with the
Templars would have been marked by the experience and would no
doubt have reflected this contact in the development of operative
masonry. It is also believed that as the nine founding knights
spent much time near the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, during
which they were initiated into secret teachings, the origins of
freemasonry could be traced to them. No one can be sure of the
truth in all this, but while this task is of great import to an
academic historian, to someone who is a seeker the important thing
is that later groups such as Freemasons, Rosicrucians and others
have somewhere obtained bits of Templar teachings and have kept the
esoteric tradition alive.

In France and other countries there is a plethora of orders
claiming to be part of the Templar Resurgence. In the United States
there are several Masonic Orders with Templar overtones, which seem
to be more interested in the romantic, mythical and fantasy side of
Templarism, providing no real spiritual content in terms of living
a Templar life. This situation is not confined to Templarism as
there are many groups which play at spirituality, admittedly with
less accent on regalia. Who can condemn such people? After all they
do at least aspire to some vague notions of chivalry and nobility
even though their day-to-day lives may not live up to their ideals.
In terms of what we have indicated as Templar ideals, it should be
relatively easy for those who feel attracted to the Templar
Tradition to see whether any order claiming to be genuine is
playing at being Templars or is the real thing.

What common sense conclusions can one come to about all this? There
are two approaches which can be followed. The first is that of the
pure historian. The whole story of the Templars will continue to
keep historians busy for a long time. No one has so far managed to
prove to everyone's satisfaction that his version of Templar
history is the correct one. There continue to be, especially since
the late 1960s, various groups claiming to be the true heirs of the
Templar succcession. None of these have managed to go any further
than earlier generations in solving the question of succession in
a definitive manner.

If one is interested in joining a modern Templar order and would
like to be sure of its authenticity there is another approach. In
my opinion, authenticity should first of all be related to whether
the order in question not only advocates but practices the ideals
of the founding fathers of the original Order. Unless one is
interested in pure historical research, what good would it do to
know that a particular order has a genuine parchment showing that
it descended directly from Jacques de Molay if the order in
question was only a benevolent society or a group of men whose main
interest was to dress up from time to time with capes and swords?
A real seeker would not care two hoots as to whether there were old
documents in a library somewhere, but would want to know whether
the order was a living embodiment of the Templar spirit, or at
least was trying to be in words and deeds. Is it a group in which
people practice a spiritual hobby or is it an activity where
service to humanity and to the planet is the main interest in the
life of its members?

To go further, it can be said that the authenticity of a Templar
order is dependent on the degree to which that order has been able
to link up consciously with the egregore or group mind of the
Eternal Order of the Temple. This, like true nobility, has nothing
to do with old parchments or honorific titles of knighthood. Any
group which manages to live the Templar tradition will discover the
keys which will enable it to contact the egregore of the Order of
the Temple as it has been expressed through the original Templars
and through all who have followed in their tradition, whether or
not they have called themselves Templars. This is not an easy task
because to build up sufficient energy to make the contact, a
dedicated group must live the Templar life in a very intense way,
with all the allied sacrifices of time, money and personal ambition
which a genuine warrior of the spirit has to make. This is
particularly true for the initial group who begin the attempt.

As was mentioned earlier, an egregore is a kind of group mind which
is created when people consciously come together for a common
purpose. Whenever people gather together to do something an
egregore is formed, but unless an attempt is made to maintain it
deliberately it will dissipate rather quickly. However if the
people wish to maintain it and know the techniques of how to do so,
the egregore will continue to grow in strength and can last for
centuries. An egregore has the characteristic of having an
effectiveness greater than the mere sum of its individual members.
It continuously interacts with its members, influencing them and
being influenced by them. The interreaction works positively by
stimulating and assisting its members but only as long as they
behave and act in line with its original aim. It will stimulate
both individually and collectively all those faculties in the group
which will permit the realization of the objectives of its original
program. If this process is continued a long time the egregore will
take on a kind of life of its own, and can become so strong that
even if all its members should die, it would continue to exist on
the inner dimensions and can be contacted even centuries later by
a group of people prepared to live the lives of the original
founders, particularly if they are willing to provide the initial
input of energy to get it going again.

If the egregore is concerned with spiritual or esoteric activities
its influence will be even greater. People who discover the keys to
tap in on a powerful egregore representing, for example, a
spiritual or esoteric tradition will, if they follow the line
described above by activating and maintaining such an egregore,
obtain access to the abilities, knowledge, and drive of all that
has been accumulated in that egregore since its beginnings. A group
or order which manages to do this can, with a clear conscience,
claim to be an authentic order of the tradition represented by that
egregore. In my view this is the only yardstick by which a genuine
Templar order should be measured.

Whether or not a particular order has done this cannot be proved by
words in a book, or by a piece of paper inscribed with the names of
previous Grand Masters. A potential knight should not be sheeplike
or scared of his shadow. Like all warriors he should not be afraid
to take the risk of making a wrong choice, but he is less likely to
do this if he has an open mind and common sense, with his head in
the clouds and his feet firmly on the ground. With this kind of
baggage he should be able to know fairly quickly whether the order
is authentic and whether he has made contact with the living
tradition of the Temple.

One of the allegations made against some modern orders, especially
in France, is that they have meddled in politics. Indeed a number
of orders have allowed themselves to be infiltrated by people
wishing to manipulate them for political ends. Of course Templar
orders are not the only groupings which have fallen into such
traps. Any grouping which binds people together in the modern world
has to be on the alert for such eventualities. Any contemporary
Templar order which knowingly involves itself with politics has not
understood the mission of the Order of the Temple today. A modern
templar order has no other role but to exhort its members to live
a spiritual life which will assist our planet to pass successfully
through the present critical phase of its evolution. *

The fact that nearly 600 years later the Knights Templar still
invoke passionate partisan or dissenting sentiments is clear
evidence that they have left their mark. The main tenet of the
Templar tradition, that the Order had concealed its spiritual
mission in its outer activities, cannot be proved in ways which
would satisfy academic historians and others who are more
interested in the form rather than the content of spiritual
traditions. There are historians who can demonstrate all kinds of
negative elements and stimulate doubts about the veracity of
Christian, Moslem, Hindu or any other beliefs. The point is that
these spiritual currents continue notwithstanding. Spirituality is
something which is of the soul. If a man does not know within
himself that he has a soul how can one convince him intellectually?

Only someone who has a spiritual vocation and experience can know
whether a group is spiritual. A living tradition must be able to
change its adherents and to make them more aware of the spiritual
in daily life. Someone would have had to try out the practical side
of the Templar tradition and see whether it works or not before he
can say that it is just myth or fantasy. In my view, the tradition
of the Order of the Temple is a living force and it will continue

* For more on this role see Chapter XVIII of the author's The
Templar Tradition, Threshold Books.

influence the more evolved members of the species as long as we
exist. It is something which appeals to those who are ready for it
and there is no point in trying to convince those who are not.
There will always be people who spend their lives living a fantasy
and there will always be those who find that there are spiritual
realities. How can we tell who is living the fantasy and who the
reality? Perhaps at the end of day we can only take refuge in the
old saying "it takes one to know one." 

Gaetan Delaforge is the author of the book The Templar Tradition in
the Age of Aquarius, Threshold Books, RD 3, Box 1350 Putney,
Vermont, 1987.

Suggested Reading

Barber, Malcolm, The Trial of the Templars, Cambridge University
Press 1978.

Burman, Edward, The Templars, Knights of God, Wellingborough:
Crucible/Aquarian Press, 1986.

Charpentier, Louis, Les mysteres templiers, Paris: Robert Laffont,

D'Ares, Jacques, Au dela du Christianisme, Encyclopedie de
l'esoterisme. Jean-Pierre Delarge, editeur, Paris, 1976.

Delaforge, Gaetan, The Templar Tradition in the Age of Aquarius,
Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1987.

Howarth, Stephen, The Knights Templar, London: Collins, 1982.

Partner, Peter, The Murdered Magicians, Wellingborough:
Crucible/Aquarian Iress, 1987.

Steiner, Rudolf, Inner Impulses of Evolution, The Mexican
Mysteries, The Knights Templar, Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic
Press, 1984.