Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism

Isabel Cooper-Oakley




ANCIENT history is like a night-landscape, over which we grope, vaguely discerning a few outlines in the general gloom, and happy if here or there the works of a particular author or a ruin or work of art momentarily illumine, like a lightning flash in the dark, the particular field which we are exploring.

Philo about the Contemplative Life, p. 349, F. C. CONYBEARE.

DUPES or charlatans! Such is the stricture of the Masonic authorities on the leading spirits of the Strict Observance; but as the student wades through the pile of polemical literature which has heaped itself round this particular body, he is moved to ask: Is it possible that all the honesty and wisdom is with the critics; and is it rational to suppose that in this widespread development of mystic Masonry there existed no one clear-sighted enough to do within the body the work which the "enemy at the gate" ever arrogates to himself as his special function, the work of healthy investigation?

One well-known authority opens fire with the following critical broadside:

Of all the wonderful perversions of Freemasonry which owe their origin to the fervid imaginings of our brethren of the last century, none can compare in point of interest with the system of the "Strict Observance." [71]. . . The whole system was based upon the fiction that at the time of the destruction of the Templars, a certain number of Knights took refuge in Scotland, and there preserved the existence of the Order. The sequence of Grand-Masters was presumed never to have been broken, and a list of those rulers in regular succession was known to the initiates, but the identity of the actual Grand-Master was always kept during his life-time a secret from everyone except his immediate confidants—hence the term "Unknown Superiors."

In order to secure their perfect security these Knights are said to have joined the Guilds of Masons in Scotland, and thus to have given rise to the Fraternity of Freemasons. [72]

The trail of the materialistic serpent is traceable in his valuable work, although the author is in advance of some German critics by giving credit for honest motives to one at least of the leaders of this Rite. But even with this extension of generosity it is evident that "dupes or charlatans" is the summing up by at least two-thirds of the Masonic writers in the last century and in the present one, of the mental and moral condition of the members of the Strict Observance.

The evidences of the position—mental, moral and worldly—of many of the members, however, preclude such a hasty generalisation, for it should not be overlooked by critics who thus stigmatise the students of mysticism that more royalties, members of reigning families, scholars and officers, belonged to this Order, than were enrolled on any other Masonic list. And among these princes and grand-dukes were earnest students, good and wise rulers, men respected by all who knew them both for their judgment and their probity. With them we find scholars, nobles and officers of high standing, with stainless records; these again cannot be swept up into one category or the other, and even allowing for a residue of members whose principles were not of the highest, and making a generous allowance for such persons, who are found in every society, even then there remains too large a body of honest members devoted to mystic research to allow of any hasty generalisations, and the fact remains of a widespread feeling that within Masonry was hidden that occult and mystic tradition which is the true history of spiritual evolution.

In reading the merciless and shallow criticisms upon those members of the Strict Observance who were trying to re-assert the mystic doctrine, it is amusing to note the cool assumptions of honesty and clear-sightedness which—from their own stand-point —appear to have been the sole prerogatives of an all-knowing few who had sounded—as they thought— mysticism and its supernatural follies with an illuminated wisdom that angels might envy.

Before passing to the system itself, however, it will be well to note some of the members who have fallen under the "mangling tooth of criticism." We find in the year 1774 no less than twelve reigning princes were members of this Rite, and in the list which follows—in which by no means all the royal members are cited—we find that in some cases whole families joined the Society. They cannot all have been dupes, and they were certainly not charlatans; they were also in too responsible positions for them to have taken up with what was doubtful. The list stands as follows:

  1. Karl George, Landgraf of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  2. Friedrich, Landgraf and Prince of Hesse-Kassel.
  3. Ludwig, Grand-Duke and Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  4. Christian Ludwig, Landgraf and Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  5. Friedrich George August, Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  6. Ludwig George, Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  7. Friedrich Karl Alexander, Markgraf of Brandenburg, Onolzbach and Baireuth.
  8. Karl I., Duke of Brunswick, and his three sons: Friedrich August, Maximilian Julius Leopold, Wilhelm Adolf.
  9. Karl, Grand-Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
  10. Karl, Prince of Hesse-Kassel.
  11. Karl, Prince of Courland.

These are a few of those who joined this much decried Rite, and the same class of members may be found in Austria, Italy, France, Russia, and Sweden. All, moreover, were real lovers of mysticism; many of them were members of the Rosicrucian and other allied bodies, all were seeking in various systems for the old narrow path which leads to wisdom; not seeking by one way alone, but testing all ways that presented themselves. A sketch, therefore, of some of the leading spirits in this interesting Order may perhaps be of interest, and it will serve to bring the leading spirits more clearly before our readers.

The most important personage is Charles Gotthelf, Baron of the Holy Roman Empire, of Hund and Alten-Grotkare, a Lusatian nobleman, born in 1722. He became, in 1753, a Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Chamberlain, and in 1755 was elected senior of the nobility of Upper Lusatia. The seven years' war brought great misfortune to him, his estates being occupied and plundered by the war-waging armies. He had himself, as an adherent of Austria, to flee to Bohemia, where he remained until the end of the war. King Augustus of Poland appointed him a Privy Councillor in 1769, and Maria Theresa in that year did the same; but he did not accept the post in Vienna, being desirous of accomplishing the contemplated reform of Masonry.

He entered the Masonic Order in 1742, when at Frankfurt-am-Main. In the next year he is said to have established a Lodge at Paris, and while staying with the French Army he became acquainted with the heads of a Rite which pretended to be, in its higher degrees, the continuation of the famous Order of Knights Templars. According to his repeated declarations, maintained even on his death-bed, he was received into this Order in Paris by Lord Kilmarnock, Grand-Master of Scotland, a Jacobite nobleman, on which occasion Lord Clifford acted as Prior. He was presented to a very high member of the Order, a mysterious personage called only "the Knight of the Red Feather." Perhaps this was Prince Charles Edward himself. Von Hund supposed him to be the Supreme Grand Master of the Order, and was appointed by him coadjutor of the Seventh Province of the Order (Germania Inferior). Hund visited Scotland also, where he was bidden to raise the Order in Germany, together with the then Master of the Seventh Province, de Marschall, whom he always considered his predecessor. Marschall had founded Lodges at Altenburg and Naumburg, but found only in the latter men worthy of being led further, viz., to be received into the Templar degrees. He did not care for the rest of the German Lodges, and on his return to Germany (about 1751) Hund placed himself in connection with Marschall, who, unfortunately, was very ill already, and died soon afterwards.

Before his death he destroyed nearly all his Templar papers, only a very few of which he had given to Hund. He (Hund) hoped to find the missing rituals, etc., with the Naumburg Lodge, but was disappointed. He, therefore, sent two brethren of that Lodge to England and Scotland, in order to acquire the missing documents. They returned, carrying with them only a patent to him as Master of the Seventh Province, written in cypher, and nothing more. [73]

A full account of the working arrangements of the Order is given by the writer from whom we summarise, and he tells us these were changed from time to time according to the conditions that arose incident upon the constant attacks that were being made on this and all other occult societies by the group of materialists in Germany, Herr Dr. Biester and his colleagues, of whom mention has already been made, [74] and there will be necessity to refer to these critics again a little later on. Another interesting sketch of the Baron von Hund by Reghellini runs as follows:

In 1756 the wars had caused the Prussian (Masonic) Lodges to be abandoned. Baron de Hund, who had received the High Templar's Degree in the Chapter of Clermont at Paris, on returning to Berlin declared that he had been raised to the dignity of Grand-Master or the Templars by M. Marschall, who called himself the successor of the G∴ G∴ Master-Templars by uninterrupted transmission from the time of Jacques Molay; that Marschall on his death-bed had delegated this high dignity to him, and had declared him his successor, transmitting to him all his powers and dignities. He did not omit to give Hund a list of all the names of the Templar Grand-Masters, which must therefore have been a curious contrast to the list of the Order of the Temple of Paris.

Hund placed himself at the head of the German reformers: he persuaded them that his Rite would restore Freemasonry to its ancient brilliancy and its former splendour; he was even bold enough to establish, at his own expense, a Lodge at Kittlitz, near Löbau. At the same time he caused a Protestant church to be built. It was the Brother Masons of this Lodge who laid the first stone; Baron de Hund placed upon this stone a copper plate on which he had his Masonic opinions engraved, and if we except that of the continuation of the Ancient Templar Order in the Masonry to which he especially belonged (for in order to be received into the Rite of the Clerks of the Strict Observance he had even become a Catholic [75])—if we except, as we say, this opinion, we believe that his principles were altogether philosophical. In the doctrines of his Eques Professus, the eighth rung which he added to the Templar ladder of the Strict Observance, he maintains that these Pontiffs are the only Priests of the True Light, the Worshippers of God, and the disciples of the pure doctrines of Jesus and of John. [76]

There are very many details about the work done by Von Hund in his efforts to draw the mystic side of Masonry into prominence; details which can be read in the work of any real authority on the history of Masonry, and which cannot, for want of space, be entered into in these pages. Most of the German Masonic authorities, such as Keller, Rebold, Krause, Lenning, Findel, and others, concede his personal asceticism and moreover his entire honesty of purpose, but he is usually summed up as a dupe.

Passing on to another aspect of this much-tangled web of Masonic evolution, we find that about 1770 events of great importance transpired in Germany; Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick had become a Mason, and he induced his brother, the reigning Duke Charles, and his nephews—the sons of Duke Charles —to enter the Masonic Fraternity, and they all joined the Rite of the Strict Observance. It was at this juncture that there appeared also on the scene Johann Augustus Starck, a profoundly striking personality from all accounts.

He had been in St. Petersburg from 1762-65 as teacher of Oriental languages, and was also a deep student of theology and philosophy. Starck had held many public positions of trust and importance, amongst others that of interpreter of Oriental MSS. at the Royal Library in Paris. He had travelled in England, Scotland, Italy and Russia, and was an ardent searcher after hermetic and theosophic mysticism. In St. Petersburg he had come into contact with the Melesino System, which was both hermetic and theosophic in its tenets.

Starck held that the mystic traditions of the Knights-Templars, derived by them from those still older fraternities with whom they had been in contact in the East, were preserved amongst the clericals of that Order who had cherished their unbroken continuity until his days, and he announced that he was in communication with certain Superiors, or chiefs of the Order.

Our well-known English authority, writing on the Strict Observance, says:

On February 17th, 1767, some Masons, chief amongst whom may be mentioned Von Vegesack, Von Bohnen and Starck, founded at Wismar the Lodge of the "Three Lions," and added thereto a Scots Lodge, "Gustavus of the Golden Hammer."

Shortly afterwards they added a hitherto unknown body, a "Clerical Chapter." To these brethren we are indebted for the historical fiction (sic) that the Knights-Templars were divided into military and sacerdotal members; that the latter possessed all the secrets and mystic learning of the Order; and that they had preserved a continuous existence down to the eighteenth century. Starck claimed to be the emissary of these Clerical Templars, asserted their and his superiority over the Secular Knights, and offered, on his claims being acknowledged, to impart their valuable secrets to Von Hund and his disciples. Starck (1741-1816), was a student of Göttingen, and a very learned man, an Oriental linguist of great attainments, and had held scientific appointments in St. Petersburg, Paris, Wismar, and elsewhere. [77]

The author of this work—a standard work on Masonry—regards Starck as a charlatan, although he brings no proofs, other than his assertions, which are upheld by many modern materialistic critics, that there were no leaders, or unknown Superiors, that the tradition was false, and that no real connection existed between the Templars and the Masons. Unfortunately for many of these critics this tradition was not "written in the stars" but preserved on stones, and we find the eminent archaeologist Baron Joseph von Hammer [78] demonstrating the connection between the Masons and the Templars. He traces the Eastern origin of both by means of engraved symbols, showing the extraordinary identity between those used by the Masons, and those of the Templars, and practically makes them identical in their inception, that is to say, developed from the same original stock of mystic Eastern lore, and when we have to sketch the history of the Knights-Templars we shall turn to these researches for their monumental records, proving the Eastern sources from which the secret traditions of the Templars were derived; justifying the claim of all those later societies which based their assertions on the same tradition.

At present we must confine ourselves to the Strict Observance, and so we pass on to what Johann Starck says in his own writings on the subject. One of his works deals entirely with the accusation brought against the Strict Observance and other secret societies, namely that they were derived from the Jesuit order [79]

He was particularly attacked on his belief that the Knights-Templars could have continued in existence for four hundred and fifty years, unknown to the world at large. To this charge he replied that

If he [Dr. Biester [80]] had been somewhat better acquainted with ecclesiastical history, he would have found not only one, but several religious bodies, which under far more violent oppression and persecution than those endured by the Knights-Templars, have secretly continued to exist for a longer period than four hundred and fifty years.

Starck's view is upheld by a modern writer of note, who, speaking of the Templars says:

Considering how widely the Order had spread its branches, obtained possession and affiliated to itself multitudes both male and female amongst the laity all over Europe, it would be a mere absurdity to believe that all its traditions were swept away at one stroke by the suppression of the Templars in the year 1307. [81]

Thus we find this view supported a century later than the time when Starck penned his defence of the tradition. Starck proceeds, moreover, to show how many scholars were of the same opinion. He writes:

How great are the number of scholars who joined it [the Strict Observance] and accepted the opinion that the order of the Templars had continued to exist for four hundred and fifty years, secretly truly, but uninterruptedly! There are Professor Dähmart at Greifswalde, Eques ab abiete, Doctor and Professor Rehfeld, Eques à caprea, Doctor and Professor Rölpen, Eques à tribus specis, Professor and Preacher Ruhlenkamp at Göttingen, Eques à gallo cantante, Professor Schwarz at Reval, Eques à rota, Professor Eck at Leipzig, Eques à noctua, etc.

These men are scholars and students holding responsible public positions and as such would hardly be all fools or charlatans. Space will not permit us to follow at present all the arguments brought forward by Starck, in order to show the absurdity of the accusations of Jesuitism, an accusation which was freely brought against many of the societies of the period; we must pass on to the condition of the society itself, and trace even this but briefly.

Ragon, in speaking of the Strict Observance, says that in Germany a society was formed of Reformed Masons, that is to say:

Approaching more nearly to the true institution than the ordinary Freemasons. The study of the Kabala, of the Philosopher's Stone, and of Necromancy or the invocation of spirits, occupied them chiefly, because according to them all these sciences formed the system and the object and end of the ancient mysteries of which Freemasonry is the sequel. [82]

The studies enumerated in this quotation appear to have been carried on chiefly in one of the higher grades of the Strict Observance called Clerici Ordinis Templariorum . It was this branch that took up the study of Alchemy, and which was under the particular direction of Starck, Herr von Raven, and others, who were entirely devoted to the mystic side of Masonry. Ragon gives the following divisions and grades into which the System was divided, namely:

  1. Apprenti
  2. Compagnon
  3. Maitre Symboliques.
  4. Maitre Ecossais
  5. Novice
  6. Templier, divis 6 en 3 classes sous les noms de:
    1. Eques.
    2. Socius.
    3. Armiger.

Between 1768 and 1770 the Baron von Hund added a seventh grade, which he called:

  1. Eques Professus.

It is also stated by Ragon [83] that the largest portion of this society became Martinists, and were known later by the name of the "Knights of the Holy Sepulchre." This change was made at the convention at Lyons, which took place in 1778. The Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick and the Baron von Raven also joined this division. Another group took the name of the "Beneficent Knights of the Holy City," and amongst them we find the two mystics, the Comte de St. Martin and Willermoz.

It will be better to add here a few details about the Knights Templars, since they are so intimately connected with the Masonic Order just mentioned; details which will also serve to show the inner aspect of their tradition. Much has been written about them and their history—from one aspect—is better known than that of almost any other mystic organisation, but the fact of a secret teaching is not sufficiently clear. That there was a secret doctrine [84] amongst the Templars is shown by Neaf [85]; he points out that the Knights Templars considered that the Roman Church had failed in its ideal, and that when the terrible persecutions fell upon them that they divided and joined two different associations, one the body of Freemasons and the other a body named the Johannites. Another writer [86] points out the connection between the Templars and the Bogomiles, who were the Manichaeans of the Balkan Provinces, and the Gnostics of the early Christian period and their descendants, the Cathari of the mediwval ages. Dr. Simrock [87] suggests a deeply interesting idea with regard to the connection between the tradition of the Holy Grail and the secret teachings of the Templars; he appears to consider that the Grail tradition, which is drawn in some parts from the Apocryphal Gospels, is the basis of the secret teaching of the Templars. Some of the early sources of the tradition are given by the author of Sarsena, and also the connection between the Templars and the Essenes.

All these links are of importance if we wish to understand the close connection between these various organizations, and also how one developed out of the other. Another writer says:

Taking the rules of their Order and of the Christians in equal division, they (the Kabalists) began to draw a parallel between the books of Moses and the records of the Magi, and formed from all this material a new Brotherhood into which they imported certain rules that could exist together with those of the Christians. During the Crusades there were several orders of widely different views; and among numerous others in the year 1118, the Knights of the Temple, with whom the Magi joined themselves, and to whom they imparted their principles and mysteries. The fall of the Templars and the entire demolition of the Order by the Council held in Vienna in 1311, is due to the fact that all the knowledge which we may consider as part of the Wisdom of the ancient Magi, and also the Natural Sciences, had at this time begun to be lost. There is one section of Freemasons which finds in Freemasonry the restoration of the Order of the Knights Templars, and the systems of the Great German Lodge and that of the Swedish Brothers are certainly pre-eminently connected with the former. According to this system, and in especial according to all the various systems which obtain in this particular Order, Freemasonry is a mystical conception of the principle doctrines of Christianity, the slain Master no other than the Christ! And here the question fairly arises, had the teachings of the Christ in truth mysteries, unsearchable, incomprehensible doctrines, which were only to be made comprehensible to a small number of specially chosen disciples, and were not the Essenes— that body among whom He had learned those mysteries, for the Essenes demanded of those initiated, moderation, justice, avoidance of injury, love of Truth and detestation of evil; holy water belonged to the ritual of admission to their highest grade, and John said "Repent and be baptized." Christ who led the blameless life, suffered himself to be baptized. Does not this lead us to the almost certain conclusion that Christ, and even more John, were initiated members of the Essenes? Were sufficient documents available to prove the historic truth of this statement, it would be perfectly obvious why John (the Baptist) who bled for Truth and Goodness, should have been chosen as the Patron of the present Order and of nearly all that precede it. The keeping of John the Baptist's Day as a Festival by the Freemasons is adduced in confirmation of this idea that the Freemasons had for over six hundred years identified themselves with the "Johannrittern" and St. John the Baptist had been chosen Patron by both Orders. And as it is certain that much of the ritual of the form of Reception means something quite other than that which has been substituted latterly, it may very easily be that there is some truth in this assertion. For it is just as little true that the Freemasons identified themselves six hundred years ago with the "Johannrittern" as that they now crown the Master, Hiram, in the Lodge in real earnest. Christ, as has been said above, founded no secret society, and yet He gave out His teaching only by degrees as regarded its inner significance, for he said "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." After His death the pure doctrine was falsified by additions, but yet it may be possible that its pristine purity and simplicity may have been preserved, and where else than in some kind of Order? In the early Christian Church there was a disciplina arcani, and in this manner were the mysteries transmitted among the few, and even in the time of the Crusades there were still living descendants of the Essenes. The Order of Knights of the Temple was founded in the year 1113 by Gottfried von St. Omar, Hugo de Paiens, and seven others whose names are not known. They consecrated themselves to the service of God according to the form of the Canonicorum Regularium, and took solemn vows before the Bishop of Jerusalem. Baldwin the Second, in consideration of the office of these seven servants of God, lent to them a house near the Temple of Solomon. They bound themselves (as we are told by the author of the book called Die theoretische Brüder U.S.V.) with certain Essenes who formed a secret society consisting of virtuous Christians and true seekers after Truth in Nature, and learned also their secrets. That the Templars had mysteries in their keeping is beyond contention. The Order had secret ceremonies of admission, gloried in possessing such, and for this reason several of its members endured martyrdom. The Order of Knights Templar contained many of the best and most far-seeing minds among the parents of Freemasonry; and, as is well-known, there were whole branches of Freemasonry specially devoted to the restoration of the Templars. And the Johannine and other systems taught this descent, even before the "Strict Observance" became generally known, which insisted on the restoration of the Templars as the highest aim of the mysteries. If we consider closely the similarity between the customs of both Orders we shall find that the Reception and other ceremonies of the Order of Freemasonry relates to that of the Knights of the Temple exactly in so far as to enable us to say with positiveness that the Freemasons preserve in their midst the mysteries of the Templars and transmit them. That the Templars possessed secrets is witnessed by the evidence in their procedure: the Freemasons claim the like procedure for themselves, for from grade to grade the Aspirant is told that later he shall experience yet more. More what? Also a secret. Nine Brothers founded the Order of the Templars; the chief and hieroglyphic number of the Freemasons is three times three. The Templars held Divine Service in places which were interdicted. By the strictest observances they reserved these for themselves (or set these aside) they appealed to the rights of their forefathers.

In the general organisation, Roessler tells us:

The Brother Templars were, according to their statutes as Hospital Brothers divided into three classes: 1, into the class of the serving who, without distinction, nursed sick pilgrims and Knights Templars; 2, into that of the spiritual Brothers destined for the service of pilgrims; 3, into that of Knights who went to war.

We find in the Instructions of the Chevalier d'Orient where are celebrated the foundation of the Knights Templars and the spread of their teachings in Europe the following declaration on the matter is given:

"Eighty-one Masons [88] under the leadership of Garimonts, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, went, in the year 1150, to Europe and betook themselves to the Bishop of Upsala who received them in very friendly fashion and was consequently initiated into the mysteries of the Copts which the Masons had brought with them; later he was entrusted with the deposit of the collection of those teachings, rites and mysteries. The Bishop took pains to enclose and conceal them in the subterranean vaults of the tower of the 'Four Crowns' which at that time, was the crown treasure chamber of the King of Sweden. Nine of these Masons, amongst them Hugo de Paganis, founded in Europe the Order of the Knights Templars; later on they received from the Bishop the dogmas, mysteries and teachings of the Coptic Priests, confided to him.

"Thus in a short time the Knights Templars became the receivers and depositors of the mysteries, rites and ceremonies which had been brought over by the Masons from the East—the Levites of the true Light.

"The Knights Templars, devoted entirely to the sciences and to the dogmas brought from the Thebaid, wished, in course of time, to preserve this doctrine in,solemn fashion by a token. The Scotch Templars served as pattern in the matter, they having founded the three degrees of St. Andreas of Scotland, and adapted them to the allegorical legend to be found in the instructions referred to.

"Scotch Templars were occupied in excavating a place at Jerusalem in order to build a temple there, and precisely on the spot where the temple of Solomon—or at least that part of it called the Holy of Holies—had stood. During their work they found three stones which were the corner stones of the Solomon temple itself. The monumental form of these excited their attention; this excitement became all the more intense when they found the name Jehovah engraved in the elliptical spaces of the last of these stones— this which was also a type of the mysteries of the Copt—the sacred word which, by the murder of the Master Builder, had been lost, and which, according to the legend of the first degree, Hiram had had engraved on the foundation stone of Solomon's temple. After such a discovery the Scotch Knights took this costly memorial with them, and, in order eternally to preserve their esteem for it, they employed these as the three corner stones of their first temple at Edinburgh." [89]

Our author further tells us that:

The works began on St. Andreas' day; and so the Templars who had knowledge of this fact, of the secret of the three stones, and of the re-discovered word, called themselves Knights of St. Andreas; they appointed degrees of merit in order to attain, and these are present in the apprentice, companion, and master degrees known under the name of the Little Master-Builder, the Great Master-Builder, and the Scotch Master.

By the instruction common to all Knightly Orders the Crusaders were under obligation to make many journeys and pilgrimages where, as is said, they had to see themselves surrounded by dangers. Therefore they founded those degrees in order to recognise each other and to assist each other in need. For these journeys they took signs, words, and particular touches or grips, and imparted to all Brothers a principal sign in order to find help in case of a surprise.

In order to imitate the Christians of the East and the Coptic Priests, these Knights preserved among themselves the verbal law which was never written down, and took care that it should remain concealed to the initiated of the lower degrees. All this is preserved with exactitude in the philosophic rite of our days, although this rite does not precisely seek to derive its origin from the Knights Templars.

The Knights Templars united the possessions of the Old Man of the Mountains under their rule, as they had perceived the supernatural courage of his pupils, they admitted these into their order. Some historians have thus come to the opinion that the Knights Templars had been induced themselves to accept the institutions of those admitted. Gauthier von Montbar was acquainted with these teachings, and transplanted them into Europe.

All these circumstances were very detrimental to the religion of Rome; it lost many of those who had belonged to it; more especially many Crusaders who were sojourning in Syria, Palestine and Egypt, where all the forms of belief of the first Christians were preserved and tolerated by the Saracens.

Eastern Christians regarded the dogma of the unity of God as a mystery and saw in it a divine manifestation. They, therefore, only imparted the knowledge thereof at initiation which they held very secret. They practised the morality commanded by the Son of Mary, but did not believe in his divinity; for all those who followed Gnostic and Kabalistic traditions considered him to be their Elder Brother.

The Knights of the Cross who had come to know these dogmas and mysteries of the Christians of the East, were obliged, when they had returned to Europe, to hold this initiation still more secret, for the mere suspicion of such a faith would have been sufficient to bring these new religious professors to the rack and the stake. [90]

We will now pass on to some of the religious and philosophic views held by the Knights Templars which are summarised from the Abbé Gregoire and which show the link with the Gnostic teachings.

The Order of the Temple is cosmopolitan; it is divided into two great classes: 1, the Order of the East; 2, the Order of the Temple.

The Order of the Temple sprang from the Order of the East, of which ancient Egypt was the cradle. The Order of the East comprised different orders or classes of adepts. The adepts of the first order were at once legislators, judges, and pontiffs.

Their policy was opposed to the propagation of metaphysical knowledge and the natural sciences, of which they made themselves the sole depositories; and whoever should have dared to reveal the secrets reserved for the initiates in the order of the sacerdotal hierarchy, would have been punished with most dire severity. They gave to the people only unintelligible emblems constituting the exoteric theology, which was a compound of absurd dogmas and extravagant practices tending to give more ascendency to superstition, and to consolidate the government.

Moses was initiated in Egypt. He was profoundly versed in the theological, physical, and metaphysical mysteries of the priests. Aaron, his brother, and the other Hebrew chiefs became the depositories of these doctrines. These chiefs or Levites were divided into several classes, according to the custom of the Egyptian priests.

Later on, the Son of God was born into the world. He was brought up in the Alexandrian school. Filled with a spirit altogether divine, endowed with the most marvellous intelligence, he succeeded in attaining all the degrees of Egyptian initiation.

On returning to Jerusalem, he presented himself before the chiefs of the Synagogue, and pointed out to them the numerous alterations that the Law of Moses had undergone at the hands of the Levites; he confounded them by the power of his spirit and the extent of his knowledge; but the Jewish priests, blinded by their passions, persisted in their errors.

However, the moment had come when Jesus Christ, directing the fruit of his lofty meditations towards the universal civilisation and welfare of the world, tore down the veil which hid the truth from the people, preached the love of one's neighbour and the equality of all men before the common Father. Finally, consecrating by a sacrifice worthy of the Son of God the heavenly doctrines which he had come to spread, he established for ever on the earth, by his gospels, the religion inscribed in the Book of Eternity.

Jesus conferred on his disciples the evangelical initiation, caused his spirit to descend upon them, divided them into different orders, according to the custom of the Egyptian priests and Hebrew priests, and placed them under the authority of St. John, his beloved disciple, and whom he had made supreme pontiff and patriarch.

John never quitted the East; his doctrine, always pure, was not altered by the admixture of any other doctrine.

Peter and the other apostles, on the contrary, carried the teachings of Jesus Christ to distant peoples; but as they were often forced, in order to propagate the faith, to conform to the manners and customs of these different nations, and even to admit other rites than those of the East, slight variations and changes crept into the different gospels, as well as into the doctrines of the numerous Christian sects.

Down to 1118, the mysteries and the hierarchical order of the Egyptian initiation, transmitted to the Jews through Moses and afterwards to the Christians through Jesus Christ, were religiously preserved by the successors of the apostle John. These mysteries and these initiations regenerated through the evangelical initiation or baptism formed a sacred deposit which, thanks to the simplicity of primitive customs from which the brothers of the East never departed, never underwent the slightest alteration.

The Christians of the East, persecuted by the infidels, appreciating the courage and piety of those valiant crusaders who, sword in one hand and cross in the other, flew to the defence of the holy places; doing justice, above all, to the virtues and the ardent charity of Hugh of Payens, considered it their duty to entrust to hands so pure the treasures of knowledge acquired during so many centuries, and sanctified by the cross, the teachings and the ethics of the Man-God.

Hugh was then invested with the patriarchal apostolic power, and placed in the legitimate line of the successors of John the Apostle or Evangelist.

Such is the origin of the foundation of the Templars, and of the introduction amongst them of the different modes of initiation of the Christians of the East designated by the name of Primitive or Johannite Christians. It is to this initiation that belong the various degrees consecrated by the rules of the Temple, and which were so much called in question in the famous but terrible action brought against this august Order.

Jacques de Molay, foreseeing the misfortunes that threatened the Order, appointed as his successor Brother Jean Marc Larmenius, of Jerusalem, whom he invested with full patriarchal apostolic authority, and with magisterial power.

This Grand Master passed on the supreme power to Brother Theobald, of Alexandria, as is evidenced by the charter of transmission, etc.

Let us come finally to the Levitical doctrines:—God is all that exists; every part of all that exists is a part of God, but is not God.

Immutable in His essence, God is mutable in His parts, which after having existed under the laws of certain combinations more or less complex, live again under laws of fresh combinations. All is increate.

God being supremely intelligent, every one of the parts which compose Him is endowed with a portion of His intelligence, in virtue of its destiny, whence it follows that there is an infinite gradation of intelligences resulting from an infinity of different compounds, the union of which forms the entirety of the worlds. This entirety is the Great All, or God, who alone has the power to modify, change, and govern all these orders of intelligences, according to the eternal and immutable laws of an infinite justice and goodness.

God—infinite Being—is composed of three powers; the Father, or Being; the Son, or action; the Spirit, or mind, proceeding from the power of the Father and the Son. These three powers form a trinity, a power infinite, unique and individual.

There is but one only true religion, that which acknowledges one only God, Eternal, filling the infinity of time and space.

The Order of Nature is immutable; therefore all doctrines that any one would attempt to build up on a change of these laws would be founded only on error….

Eternal life is the power with which every being is endowed, of living in his own life and of acquiring an infinity of modifications by combining himself unceasingly with other beings, according to what is ordained by the eternal laws of the wisdom, the justice and the infinite goodness of the supreme Intelligence.

According to this system of modification of matter, it is natural to conclude that all its parts have the right of thought and free-will, and therefore the power of merit and demerit; hence there is no longer anything of what is called inorganic matter; if, however, any must be admitted, where is the limit, for instance, among mineral, vegetable, and animal substances?

However, the high Initiates do not profess to believe that all the parts of matter possess the faculty of thought. It is not thus that they profess to understand their system. They certainly admit a series of intelligences from the elementary substance, the most simple molecule, or the monad, up to the reunion of all these monads or of their compounds, a reunion which would constitute the great All, or God, which, ak the Universal Intelligence, would alone have the power of comprehending Itself. But the manner of being, of feeling, and of using the intelligences, would be relative to the hierarchical order in which they found themselves placed; consequently the intelligence would differ according to the mode of organization and the hierarchical place of each body. Thus, according to this system, the intelligence of the simple molecule would be limited to seeking or rejecting union with certain other molecules. The intelligence of a body composed of several molecules would have other characters, according to the mode of organization of its elements, and the higher or lower degree that it occupied in the hierarchical scale of compounds. Man, for example, among the intelligences which form part of the earth, would alone have that modification or organization which would fully give the "I" consciousness, as well as the faculty of distinguishing good from evil, and consequently which would procure the gift of free-will.

Such is a summary of the version given by the Abbé Grégoire [91] of some of the inner philosophy held by the Knights Templars. There is a distinctly Eastern tone of thought in even these few fragments, fragments which indicate quite clearly to many students the sources from which these traditions were drawn.

The Strict Observance endeavoured to reconstitute a Gnostic teaching when it sought to revive the Traditions of the Templars.


  1. "The mysteries of Mithras were solemnized in a consecrated cavern, on December 25th, which was the date fixed for the celebration. They began from the moment that the priests at midnight saw the constellation of Virgo appear, which on setting ushered in the year by calling forth the sun, which appeared as a son supporting itself on its Mother's lap.

    "Some Masonic Systems have preserved the Magian degree, it is the last in the Strict Observance." Acerrellos (R. S.), Die Freimaurerei in ihrem Zusammenhange mit den Religionen der alten Aegypter, der Juden, und der Christen, I., p. 293. Leipzig, 1836.
  2. Gould (R. F.), Hist. of Freemasonry. V. , p. 99. London, 1886.
  3. This summary is taken from an interesting study on the Baron Von Hund, written by a well-known Hungarian mason, which appeared in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, "Transactions of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati," No. 2076. VI., part ii., p. 89. Margate, 1893. I.
  4. The Theosophical Review, xxii. p. 431.
  5. This is contradicted by some authorities.
  6. Reghellini da Schio (Par le F M R da S), La Maçonnerie considerèe comme le Resultat des Religions égypttienne, juive at chrétienne, II., PP. 374, 375- Paris, 1833.
  7. Gould, Hist. of Freemasonry, V. , p. 104. London, 1886.
  8. Fundgruben des Orients, VI., p. 445 (Wien, 1818), "Gegenrede wider die Einrede der Vertheidiger der Templer." 1.
  9. See his long dissertation on the subject in Uber Krypto Katholicismus, Proselyten-Macherey Jesuitismus, Geheime Gesellschaften, etc. Frankfort und Leipzig, 1787.
  10. Editor of the Berliner Monatschrift. See above, p. 13.
  11. King (C.W.), The Gnostics and their Remains, Ancient and Mediaeval, p. 399, 2nd ed. London, 1887.
  12. Ragon (J. M.), Orthodoxie Maçonnique, p. 210. Paris, 1853.
  13. Op. cit., p. 230.
  14. If these facts already point to the existence of secret statutes in the Order of the Knights Templars, this will also be proved by a number of other notes and finally substantiated by some quite positive statements which are most explicit. A great number of witnesses, who give information on theceremonies of admission in question refer the same to certain definite phrases which describe them. It then furthermore transpires that these secret statutes were not only received by means of oral tradition but also existed in manuscript form. Gervais de Beauvais saw at one of the Heads of the Orders, a little book with the Statutes of the Order of 11 2 8 , which was shown without thinking, and he knew that the same man had also possessed another book about which he was very mysterious and which he "would not show anyone for all the world." Prutz (Hans Dr.), Geheimlehre des Templherren Ordens, P. 45. Berlin, 1879.
  15. Naef (F.), Recherches sur les Opinions religieuses des Templiers, pp. 25 to 41. Nismes, 1890.
  16. Loiseleur (Jules), La Doctrine Secrète des Templiers, pp. 35, 48. 1872.
  17. Simrock (Dr. K.), Parzifal u. Titurel, Rittergedichte von Wolfram von Eschenbach, I., 497. Stuttgart und Tübingen, 1842.
  18. "These Masons are always in the figurative sense Knights of the Cross who had been admitted to the mysteries of the working in the mystic Temple, and to the religion of the Children of the Widow."
  19. The legend of these three stones has a striking resemblance to that of the three mysterious stones which the Nymphs found and brought to Minerva—the Goddess of Wisdom.
  20. Accerrelos (Roessler, Dr. Karl), History of Freemasonry, Leipzig, 1836. II., p. 85 et seq.
  21. Grégoire (Abbé), Histoire des Series Religieuses, II., pp. 292 et seq. Paris, 1828.