It is unnecessary to summarize here the entire history of the Knights Templar, which can be found easily enough online, so we will just highlight certain points that are of interest. Ultimately, our goal is to consider the option of a Fourth Order of the Templars.
The Templars conjoined the two greatest archetypes of Tradition: the ascetic and the warrior. As is well-known, the great Church Doctor St. Bernard of Clairvaux created the Rule for the Knights, adapted for them from the Rule of St. Benedict. That is available as In Praise of the New Knighthood.
Such an order of knights is hardly possible today, first of all because there is no desire among the hierarchy for such a venture. The other obstacle is that the means of warfare have changed so much. The various means for mass destruction have eliminated the role of the Knight. Although the ideal of the warrior ethic still exists, it has been incorporated into the special forces in the military services of secular states.
Nevertheless, the romance of the Knights Templar persists, despite or, in some cases because of, their ignominious end. The Traditionalist order of the Society of Saint Pius X sells an audiolecture The Knights Templar as well as a written history, The Templars: Knights of Christ.
Hence, the last Templar grandmaster, Jacques de Molay ought to be a candidate for sainthood as a martyr for the faith. Instead, due to his fabricated condemnation by both Throne and Altar, Freemasonry — the enemy of the Church — has claimed him as one of their founders.
There are two ways to do history. The ordinary way is two-dimensional, that is, the goal is to describe the relationship of physical events over the course of time. The esoteric way is three-dimensional history which is more concerned with identifying the spiritual forces that underlie material events. Among those factors are “archetypes” which are mythological motifs that manifest themselves repeatedly, in different forms, throughout history. The motif that we are interested in is that of esoteric and exoteric teachings. The esoteric teaching will assert itself, often in apparent opposition to the exoteric teachings. However, our goal is always to unite them.
Following the breakup of the Templars, some of them were absorbed into the Order of Christ in Portugal, and others returned to the East where they were first formed. The story is that the Templars reformed as the Rosicrucians who emerged publicly a couple of centuries later. Johannes Valentinus Andreae published the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, one of the manifestoes of the Rosicrucians. He referred to that document as a ludibrium, that is, play. This brings to mind Valentin Tomberg’s ideal of turning work into play. Secular historians will only be satisfied with material connections between events, but the third dimension will look for the reappearance of related ideas. The obvious clue is that a “secret” society will not be publishing manifestoes.
The Knights Kadosh
Albert Pike in the chapter Knight Kadosh from Morals and Dogma adds to the mythical history of the Templars. He asserts that the first Knights took their vows before the Patriarch of Constantinople. That is incorrect; it was the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He then claims that the Templars had both an esoteric teaching, the Church of John, and and an exoteric teaching, the Church of Rome. He implies that the exoteric teaching a smokescreen to hide the true teaching. However, there cannot be any conflict between the esoteric and exoteric teachings. After all, the Templars were quite devout in their exoteric practice.
Nevertheless, the destruction of the Templars did have consequences. Pike claims that a remnant of the Templars continued under the auspices of Freemasonry. Their goal was to “to overturn the Throne and the Altar upon the Tomb of Jacques de Molay”. Having ended the French monarchy, they directed their efforts against the Pope. At the time that Albert Pike was writing, the second part of the task was incomplete. However, were he alive today, he may be more sanguine about the ultimate success of the revolution.
A Dilemma Resolved
Pike implies that the revolution was a Pyrrhic victory, since the successor of the Templars perished, i.e., there is no longer a direct – or real – relationship to them. Therefore, we turn instead to the ideal relation and ask the same question. Pike makes the distinction between the Johannine and the Petrine current in the Templars. By rejecting the Petrine, he implies that the Rosicrucians and Freemasons are the heirs of the Johannine current. However, there has been revealed a more complete way to regard those currents.
The Russian esoterist Valentin Tomberg studied under Professor Gregory Mebes; in that group there were three grades: Martinist, Templar, and Rosicrucian. Certainly, then, Tomberg was immersed in the Johannine current. Nevertheless, he came to the realization that any doctrine of “two churches” was false. The Church of John was not a rival to the Church of Peter. Rather, their relationship was described this way:
The mission of John is to keep the life and soul of the Church alive until the Second Coming of the Lord. This is why John has never claimed and never will claim the office of directing the body of the Church. He vivifies this body, but he does not direct its actions.
Hence, the spiritual current of the Templars belongs with Rome, although only the SSPX seems willing to revivify that connection.
A Fourth Order
A latter-day Templar revival would not be a first, second, or third order, since it is a lay initiative, but a fourth order. The masonic temptation is to build, and this needs to be avoided. Hence, that would rule out much of what is called an “intentional community”. The alternative is a community that grows organically. Instead of a top-down model, that more traditional idea of subsidiarity is appropriate. Hence families would develop into phratries, and then tribes, in a natural way.
The Knights Templar was restricted to those already knighted. Moreover, each knight turned over his assets to the community. That would not be appropriate for a lay group. A “family corporation” of some type would be fairer, and it would make it easier to leave without causing legal problems. Several years ago Chronicles Magazine had an article about it, but I haven’t yet located the back issue.
An Order needs to have a spiritual centre. One viable alternative is to affiliate to an SSPX chapel. Not only would there be a friendly atmosphere for medieval values, but a relatively small group would be able to exert influence. I will offer some specific suggestions in the mailing list.
The Templars survived for two centuries, and their demise was not the result of any internal tension. That is because they inserted themselves into a larger organisation, which granted legitimacy, cohesion, and spiritual support. Self-existing alternative movements today typically claim a factitious membership based either on a non-existent genetic similarity, or else the adherence to some small set of propositions. The first alternative cannot settle legitimate and important differences of opinion, and the second alternative is no different from the modern world.
Building an organisation from scratch outside of existing institutions is a daunting task. Even in democratic situations, the formation of new political parties – while theoretically feasible – has been totally ineffective in practice.
There need to be outward distinctions, while not appearing to be overly eccentric. Obviously, a certain modesty in dress and the avoidance of much of popular culture would be mandatory. In another post, we will adapt the Rule proposed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux to make specific recommendations for lay groups. Of course, there will need to be some latitude for local groups to determine some of their own customs.