The Templar seal depicting a horse with two riders has always mystified historians, at least those not familiar with its Sumerian antecedent. But given the complex and sometimes contradictory story of the Knights Templar, it makes sense on a number of different levels.
It symbolizes the exoteric and the esoteric nature of the Order. It symbolizes the agenda of Rome and the hidden agenda of the grand masters. It symbolizes the Norman core of the Order and also its shadowy patrons, possibly Venetians. And it symbolizes the virtual empire of the Normans/Templars and the ancient virtual empire of the Phoenicians.
The Phoenicians were similarly dualistic. There was the obvious mercantile component of the virtual empire; "an empire built on trade, not conquest" as the cliche goes, but there was also the cultural component as well. The Phoenicians were in many ways the Internet of the ancient Mediterranean.
There was the exoteric religion of the Phoenicians and their Canaanite kin that was based on the Sumerian-derived pantheon, and then there was a parallel, syncretic Greco-Egyptian Mystery tradition the Phoenicians seem to have created and disseminated, from Persia to the British Isles. And then there was the evolution of that tradition from the Mysteries to Gnosticism, which Phoenicians seem to be the secret force behind as well.
Rome had countless thousands killed --perhaps up to a million people or even many more-- from the reign of Constantine to the Albigensian Crusade in order to eradicate Gnosticism from Europe. It was much like conservative hero Cato's genocide of the Carthaginians-- probably the most efficient genocide of a people in terms of raw percentage-- up to 85% of the nation was killed during Rome's invasion.
The never-ending Crusade would be slowed with the rise of the Rosicrucians and the original Freemasons, who would bring down the Medieval royal families and greatly reduce the power of the Vatican in Europe.
Even so, tens of thousands of Rosicrucians and Freemasons would then be slaughtered in concentration camps with the rise of self-confessed Christian Adolf Hitler who-- contrary to all of the ridiculous and somewhat sinister disinformation floating around out there --went out of his way to crush all forms of Esotericism, outside of the traditional Volkisch mysticism of the SS.
And we can add the hundreds of Templars burned alive to the death toll.
What becomes clear is that the heresy the Templars were accused of was Johannite Gnosticism; in other words, a reverence of John the Baptist as the true messiah. The Vatican is unambiguous about this-- or rather, was until it reversed course in the mid 2000s under pressure or influence we can only guess at. As Pope Pius IX wrote:
"The Templars, like all other Secret Orders and Associations, had two doctrines, one concealed and reserved for the Masters, which was Johannism; the other public, which was the Roman Catholic. Thus they deceived the adversaries whom the sought to supplant. Hence Free-Masonry, vulgarly imagined to have begun with the Dionysian Architects or the German Stone-workers, adopted
the Evangelist as one of its patrons, associating with him, in order not to arouse the suspicions of Saint John , Rome the Baptist, and thus covertly proclaiming itself the child of the Kabalah and Essenism together." Saint John
- Pope Pius IX
Was John himself Phoenician? Syrian Phoenicians are generally credited with the creation of Gnosticism and the Vatican is on record as believing the Baptist to be the "Father of the Gnostics." It's hard to say, but what is clear is that like many other hubs of the Roman East, Israel was a marketplace of religious ideas during the time of John and Jesus and the lines of demarcation were not always clear. Syncretism was rampant and ideas were stolen left and right as any number of sects competed for adherents among the bustling cities of the eastern Mediterranean, from Antioch to Alexandria.
The fact that the Templars would use the Gnostic deity of Abraxas on their official seals only confirms these connections. The Gnostics were like the Phoenicians in that they valued magical gems or coins, known as "scarabs" or "amulets," as portable icons for the believer. The figure of Abraxas was especially popular:
The Basilidean Gnostics taught that from this supreme God was created nous (mind). Abraxas also was identified with the Hebrew 'Adonai, the Egyptian Horus, and the Hindu Prajapati.
Gnostic amulets known as Abraxas gems depicted the god as a pantheos (all-god), with the head of a cock, herald of the sun, representing foresight and vigilance; a human body clothed in armor, suggestive of guardian power; legs in the form of sacred asps. In his right hand is a scourge, emblem of authority; on his left arm a shield emblazoned with a word of power. - Glossary of Spiritual and Religious Words
Abraxas was identified with Horus and was probably derived from a common Phoenician scarab design picturing a kneeling Horus atop the two symbolic serpents of Egypt called the Uraei, often seen on pharaonic headdresses. As you can see in the images above, the snake legs of Abraxas take the place of the Uraei. Note that Abraxas also carries Horus' pharaonic flail. The rooster was identified with Horus in his form of Harpocrates, the rising sun, for obvious reasons.
But how could the Templars have learned of Abraxas, with the original Gnostics long buried and even the anti-Gnostic writings of the aristocratic Church Fathers generally unavailable in the days before the invention of the printing press?
Scholars have long cited the survival of ancient wisdom in Arab and Persian lands, which became sanctuaries for scholars and religious minorities fleeing the rampaging desert monks (literally the first "storm-troopers," in that they came out of the Egyptian wilderness into the cities to destroy all opposition to the orthodoxy like a desert storm).
But the tolerance of Hellenistic learning had waned considerably by the time the Templars came along, and a backlash was rising in the Muslim world due to a number of thorny religious disputes:
(Abbasid caliph al-Mamun) responded to a crisis of legitimacy by attempting to undermine traditionalist religious scholars while actively sponsoring a doctrine called Mu’tazilism that was deeply influenced by Greek rationalism, particularly Aristotelianism. To this end, he imposed an inquisition, under which those who refused to profess their allegiance to Mu’tazilism were punished by flogging, imprisonment, or beheading.But there were other sects in the Levant where the Templars could rediscover the lost legacy of Western civilization. A process would begin in which ancient wisdom and sacred science would be rediscovered, a process that would lead to the progress and prosperity of the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance and the gradual weakening of Roman power.
But the caliphs who followed al-Mamun upheld the doctrine with less fervor, and within a few decades, adherence to it became a punishable offense. The backlash against Mu’tazilism was tremendously successful: by 885, a half century after al-Mamun’s death, it even became a crime to copy books of philosophy.
This would be the true birth of Europe, which may have been midwifed by a mysterious sect who arose in Phoenicia at the same time the Normans were making their mark on Europe.
Remember that contrary to the popular myth of fanatical holy warriors, the Knights Templar often made peace with the "Saracens", a blanket term not only for Muslims but for other non-Christian sects in Asia. They would be criticized for their contacts with the indigenous people of the lands they were occupying, one group of whom was almost certainly the source of the Templars exposure to the ancient Gnosis.
Unlike the Knights Templar, this sect survives to this this day:
The Druze faith began as a movement in Ismailism, that was mainly influenced by Greek philosophy and gnosticism and opposed certain religious and philosophical ideologies that were present during that epoch. The faith was preached by Hamza ibn 'Alī ibn Ahmad, a Persian Ismaili mystic and scholar. He came to Egypt in 1014 and assembled a group of scholars and leaders from across the world to establish the Unitarian movement.- WikiAs with the Sikhs of India and arguably the Templars themselves, the Druze learned that the only way for a Gnostic sect to survive was to learn how to fight, and fight better than their oppressors:
It was during the period of Crusader rule in Syria (1099–1291) that the Druze first emerged into the full light of history in the Gharb region of the Chouf Mountains. As powerful warriors serving the Muslim rulers of Damascus against the Crusades, the Druze were given the task of keeping watch over the crusaders in the seaport of Beirut, with the aim of preventing them from making any encroachments inland.Following the Persian conquest of Syria and the Phoenician homelands, there was a lot of exchange of people and ideas between Persia and the Levant. Ismailism seems to have Phoenician fingerprints all over it, and the Druze religion-- largely centered in historical Phoenicia-- is nearly identical to the Phoenician Mysteries and Gnostic cults in nearly every way:
Subsequently, the Druze chiefs of the Gharb placed their considerable military experience at the disposal of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt (1250–1516); first, to assist them in putting an end to what remained of Crusader rule in coastal Syria, and later to help them safeguard the Syrian coast against Crusader retaliation by sea- Wiki
The Druze religion is a secret faith. They have preserved the strictest silence upon their beliefs and truly occult rites.......Of the alleged 45 sacred books of the Druze, none were ever seen, let alone examined, by any European scholar.
To the Druze, previous religions are mere types of the true, and their sacred books and observances are to be interpreted allegorically. As converts are no longer admitted, the faithful must keep their doctrine secret from the profane; and in order that their allegiance may not bring them into danger, (they are allowed) to make outward profession to hide their inner belief... --Antioch Gate
The connections between the Phoenician Mysteries and the Druze extend to the special relationship between the Druze and the post-Templar esoteric orders of the late Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. Many have argued that the Templars were changed forever by contacts made in the Levant and it would seem that those contacts were with the Druze (note etymological similarity to "Druid")
Sophisticated Druze still sometimes claim connection with Rosicrucians, and a special relation to Scottish Freemasons. The Druze are rather like Druids, and also like Freemasons. In fact, some say that Templar Knights were initiated into Druze orders, and thus Freemasonry was born. It must be pointed out that the Druze were much given to making vehement warfare against the Crusaders.
Rosicrucian doctrines spread to Europe from Arabia, and it is possible that Druze doctrines were carried to Europe during the Crusades. There are modern and traditional parallels between the Druze and the Rosicrucians who came a few hundred years later.Even more remarkable is the special attachment to Akhenaton, whose conversations with a mysterious flying disk he called Ra-Horus-Aten changed the course of world history:
In the modern sense, some Druze were initiated into Orders of the Rose-Croix or higher degrees of Masonry (or the mystical Masonic Rite called the Order of Disciples of Pythagoras) and they came to a faith which is in essence the same mystery doctrine that the Rose-Croix teaches. --Antioch Gate
That organized school began to spread to other lands during the reign of Akhenaton, and spread to Greece (where Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus were initiates), then Canaan. Akhenaton is recognized as a divine being by both the Rose-Croix and Druze. Even the mystical work of Rose-Croix (and Martinist work) revolved around "reintegration."The Druze are not the only Syncretic/Gnostic sect in the former Phoenician lands, nor the only sect with a special link to Mt. Hermon, home of the Igigi, the Watchers left behind by the Anunnaki in Sumerian myth and later regarded as "fallen angels."
Archetypical Man as a divine being forgot his true essence and mistakes the material universe (which is part of him) as separate and external, since the Fall. Physical man is but a material shadow though endowed with a divine spark. --Antioch Gate
Also known as Nusayris, (the Alawites) are an Arabic speaking ethno-religious community, who also live in the Latakiah province of Syria and in the adjacent districts of northern Lebanon and southern Turkey. In recent years many 'Alawis have moved to the large cities of Syria. A small number still survive in Wadi al-Taym south of Mt Hermon. World-wide they number 2.2 million people, of whom 1.6 million live in Syria where they constitute 13% of the population and are the largest minority group.
Their religion is secret and seems to be a syncretistic mixture of extreme Shi'a (Ghulat), ancient pagan, gnostic and Christian elements. They are sometimes classified as a branch of Twelver Shi'ism, but are actually an independent religion. They do not keep the five pillars of Islam, and they have no mosques but meet in private houses for their religious observances. Their festivals include Persian and Christian holy days. They have a ceremony similar to the Christian mass and believe in a trinitarian manifestation of God.The Druze and the Alawi both arose from the mountains of the Levant and almost certainly stem from earlier common antecedents, the same philosophy that also produced the so-called Assassin cult of Hassan-i Sabbah, which has become closely entwined with the Templar mythology.
Despite mutual animosity, the Alawis are much like the Druzes. Historically both the Druze and the Alawis are off-shoots of Ismailism, which was an earlier split from the Shi'i Imamis (Twelver Shi'ah, the sect that predominates in Iran) ...Alawis reject Islam's main tenets; by almost any standard they must be considered non-Muslims.
An accepted reference on Nusayri rites and doctrines was published in Aleppo in 1859 as Kitab al-Majmu. According to its author, Sulayman al-Adhani, the Nusayris, like other sects of the Syrian mountains on the Mediterranean, primarily believed in the transmigration of souls.- Islamic Articles LibraryThe Assassins were yet another warrior Gnostic clan in the former Phoenician homelands, a fact which beggars coincidence. It could be argued that the Phoenicians kept close to home and took on whatever exoteric guise their neighbors adopted and continued to pursue their own interests apart from the demands of the religious and military forces running rampant throughout Asia Minor and North Africa for centuries.
And contrary to the reductionist propaganda surrounding them -the hashish and the false Paradise and the rest- the Assassins also followed Gnostic ideas of spiritual incarnation, the same ones that inspired Bogomil high initiates to hurl themselves onto the Crusader bonfires, rather than beg for mercy:
"Isma'ili theology was thus revolutionary in character. The haqa'iq transcended human reason and ultimately derived from gnostic doctrines, considering the principles of spiritual and physical worlds in Neoplatonic terms.
The Gnostics held that the physical world had been created by an inferior deity, the Yahweh of the Old Testament, who was allowed a certain lassitude until God decided to send His son to inhabit the body of Jesus and free the world from false teachings.
Certain Gnostic notions passed into Islam when Mohammed adopted the gnostic idea that the body which was crucified was only a phantom which the Jews and Romans could not harm."-- Edward Burman, The Assassins: Holy Killers of IslamThe radicalism of the Assassins showed that the dreamy, hippie Gnostics of Alexandria were a distant memory and a new kind of Gnostic emerged in the Levant, forged in the endless human bonfires of Rome's inquisitors and crusaders. But the indulgent Gnosis of the Alexandrian rich kids may well be an aberration itself.
Gnosticism originally arose in Roman Syria, the territory carved out of Phoenician rubble, and was a rigorous and pessimistic creed, exactly what you might expect from a defeated people whose racial memory stretched back to a time when men walked with gods:
(The Syrian) school represents the oldest phase of Gnosticism, as Western Asia was the birthplace of the movement. Dositheus, Simon Magus, Menander, Cerinthus, Cerdo, Saturninus Justin, the Bardesanites, Sevrians, Ebionites, Encratites, Ophites, Naassenes, the Gnostics of the "Acts of Thomas", the Sethians, the Peratae, the Cainites may be said to belong to this school.And the constant bickering between the El cults of Canaan and the El cults of Israel certainly seems to be reflected in the jaundiced eye the Syrian Gnostics regarded the God of the Jews and Christians with.
The Naassenes (from Nahas, the Hebrew for serpent) were worshippers of the serpent as a symbol of wisdom, which the God of the Jews tried to hide from men. The Ophites (ophianoi, from ophis, serpent), who, when transplanted on Alexandrian soil, supplied the main ideas of Valentinianism, become one of the most widely spread sects of Gnosticism. Though not strictly serpent-worshippers, they recognized the serpent as symbol of the supreme emanation, Achamoth or Divine Wisdom.
The universe they symbolized by a triangle enclosed in a circle. The number three is the key to all mysteries. There are three supreme principles: the not-generated, the self-generated, the generated. There are three logoi, of gods; the Saviour has a threefold nature, threefold body, threefold power, etc. - The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Serpent-- who represented Wisdom to the Gnostics-- wasn't a tempter in the Garden, he was a liberator. Yahweh was a slave-master, denying knowledge to Adam and Eve in the same way plantation masters forbade their slaves from learning how to read or write:
The Garden of Eden story is then transformed so that the biblical tree of the knowledge of good and evil becomes a vehicle of knowledge (gnosis) established by the heavenly or pleromatic realm. But the tree of life becomes a vehicle of bondage and dependence established by the demiurgical realm.To the true Gnostic, death was a liberation from the false prison planet of the Demiurge and his Archons. It's no surprise then how Gnostic sects like the Druze became such fearsome warriors.
The divine messenger from the pleroma encourages man to eat from the tree of knowledge; and in so eating, man discovers that the jealous Creator - Demiurge (often linked with misspelled forms of Yahweh such as Yaldabaoth or Yao) is not in fact the ultimate God but really an enemy of God. Man, as a result of divine help, thus comes to know more than the Creator.
Gnostics are those set within a world where they are the spiritual persons (pneumatikoi) who possess the light particles and need only to be awakened in order to inherit their destinies.
The Valentinian goal is reentry into the pleroma, which is often symbolized by terms such as "union" or "unity."... At death the Gnostics, who had experienced awakening, shed the rags of mortality as they ascended through the realms of the fates (or planets). -- G. L. Borchert, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary
But there's an even older Gnostic sect in the Middle East than the Druze or the Alawi, one that the Templars almost certainly came into contact with and one that would explain the reverence for John the Baptist in esoteric orders.
No less an authority than Josephus recorded that the Jews believed it was the execution of John and not Jesus that was believed to have brought the wrath of God down upon them in the civil wars that led to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the First Century:
The Mandaeans (literally, "the knowers") are the only surviving Gnostics from the time of late Antiquity. They have dwelled for the past eighteen hundred years in southern Iraq and southwest Iran, and increasingly, as a result of recent wars, in other parts of the world. They adhere to the typical Gnostic doctrines and mythologies regarding the soul's entrapment in earthly life and the existence of a heavenly Lightworld, the soul's true home.
Being baptists, the Mandaeans consider John the Baptist their main prophet and renewer of the religion, which, they say, ultimately stems from Adam himself. The Mandaeans live next to but remain apart from their (mostly Moslem) neighbors, and throughout the centries they have preserved their traditions to a remarkable degree.Conversion to Mandaean beliefs would explain the charges most consistently aimed at the Templars by defectors in the ranks, namely that "they spit on the Holy Cross, these Knights Templar. Not only do they deny the divinity of Christ during their reception, they do not even worship God Almighty, but a graven idol instead. " From Pope Pius IX's landmark Allocution:
"The secret thought of Hugues de Payens, in founding his Order, was not exactly to serve the ambition of the Patriarchs of Constantinople. There existed at that period in the East a Sect of Johannite Christians, who claimed to be the only true Initiates into the real mysteries of the religion of the Saviour.Pio's charge of Templar Johannite subversion seems ridiculous to orthodox historians, but the mystical ferment of the 11th Century might well speak to contact between the Normans-- no admirers of the soft, decadent pederasts who were taking away their ancestral gods-- and Mandaean sects in the mountains of Antioch. Pio again:
"The Johannites ascribed to Saint John the foundation of their Secret Church, and the Grand Pontiffs of the Sect assumed the title of Christos, Anointed, or Consecrated, and claimed to have succeeded one another from Saint John by an uninterrupted succession of pontifical powers.
"Thus the Order of Knights of the Temple was at its very origin devoted to the cause of opposition to the tiara of Rome and the crowns of Kings, and the Apostolate of Kabalistic Gnosticism was vested in its chiefs. For Saint John himself was the Father of the Gnostics, and the current translation of his polemic against the heretical of his Sect and the pagans who denied that Christ was the Word, is throughout a misrepresentation, or misunderstanding at least, of the whole Spirit of that Evangel."And of course the eternal Roman fear of being overthrown-- the ultimate source of all religiously-based conspiracy theory dating back to the Bacchants and the Syrian Goddess-- informs Pio's frankly baseless charge that the Templars were planning to overthrow the Holy See.
Blavatsky's Secret Chiefs in suspiciously Mandaean garb
"To acquire influence and wealth, then to intrigue, and at need to fight, to establish the Johannite or Gnostic and Kabalistic dogma, were the object and means proposed to the initiated Brethren. The Papacy and the rival monarchies, they said to them, are sold and bought in these days, become corrupt, and to-morrow, perhaps, will destroy each other. All that will become the heritage of the Temple: the World will soon come to us for its Sovereigns and Pontiffs. We shall constitute the equilibrium of the Universe, and be rulers over the Masters of the World."The worship of Baphomet - a skull or model of a severed head (such 'relics' were common in the Middle Ages) by most reputable accounts- seems also to derived from the John-worshipping Mandaeans, who were probably also conversant in Arabic given their settlements in modern-day Iraq. "Baphomet" could be a sacred pun, combining the Baptist with the Arabic Abufihamat, meaning "Father of Understanding" or "Father of Wisdom."
If Gnostic sects thrived in the Middle East and continue to survive to this day, the same couldn't be said for their brethren in Europe. The Cathars built a prosperous Gnostic community in France at the same time the Templars were active and developed a two-tiered system roughly analogous to the laity and clergy of the Catholic Church:
(The Cathars) believed in reincarnation, rejected the Old Testament, rejected the sacraments of the Catholic Church, rejected material possessions, and rejected the image of cross. They also had a clergy known as the "perfect", which were distinguished from other Cathars, known as "good Christians", by black clothing. The perfects abstained from meat and marriage, for which the general population of Cathars showed them reverence and respect. Although ascetic doctrines were advocated and adhered to by the perfects, other Cathars continued to own material possessions, have families, and likely ate meat. -- Crusades-EncyclopediaRome set about to liquidate the Cathars but found that they weren't like the old Gnostics- they were more like the Druze. Rome's tactics became more and more brutal, providing a model for the Nazis- who saw themselves as the new Teutonic Knights, slaying the enemies of the Mother Church.
Indeed, by calling themselves the "Third Reich" the Nazis defined themselves as the inheritors of the mantle of Charlemagne, another religiously-inspired mass-murderer who established the First Reich of the Holy Roman Empire. Note the tactics of the fanatically-religious crusader, De Montfort (who like Philip the Fair, died a gruesome- and humiliating- death not long after the massacre):
The Cathars spent much of 1209 fending off the crusaders. The leader of the crusaders, Simon de Montfort, resorted to primitive psychological warfare. He ordered his troops to gouge out the eyes of 100 prisoners, cut off their noses and lips, then send them back to the towers led by a prisoner with one remaining eye. This only served to harden the resolve of the Cathars. --WikipediaOverwhelmed by superior numbers, the Cathars eventually fell to the waves of bloodthirsty maniacs:
The doors of the church of St Mary Magdalene were broken down and the refugees dragged out and slaughtered. Reportedly, 7,000 people died there. Elsewhere in the town many more thousands were mutilated and killed. Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice. What remained of the city was razed by fire. Arnaud wrote to Pope Innocent III, "Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex."--WikipediaIndeed, heretic or true believer- it made no difference to Rome. The Cathar genocide would give rise to a famous slogan popularized during the Vietnam War:
The Béziers army attempted a sortie but was quickly defeated, then pursued by the crusaders back through the gates and into the city. Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander, is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathars from Catholics. His reply, recalled by Caesar of Heisterbach, a fellow Cistercian, thirty years later was "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius."—"Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own."In this light, I don't think it's very difficult to imagine why people formed secret societies in Medieval Europe.
The Templars were the next human sacrifices in the endless procession of religious genocide in Europe. The French Templars got it the worst, but many other Templars elsewhere in Europe either did the usual penance or were simply allowed to change their identification or melt into other orders.
The "Great Templar Escape" that has inspired legends and novels and even films like the first National Treasure film has been dismissed by historians for lack of documentation-- as if flouting the direct orders of the Holy See (and risking the usual, Cathar-type bloodbath) would leave a paper trail. Recent theories have the Templars taking refuge in Switzerland (which would later produce modern Gnostics like Carl Jung, Erich Von Daniken and Albert Hofmann, essentially the three founding fathers of the Secret Sun).
But the most popular theories have it that the Templars escaped into Scotland. Again, orthodox historians have poo-poohed this, but Robert the Bruce was a Norman, the Scots would rout the English at Bannockburn and go on to establish a permanent aristocracy inside England based in banking and shipping, just as the Templars and the Venetians and the Phoenicians before them.
When the Papal letter reached the hand of Robert the Bruce of Scotland to imprison the Templars, he summarily dismissed it. No effort at all was ever made to prosecute the Knighthood in Scotland and this was undoubtedly a major attraction to many noble Templars in hiding. Though perhaps no longer able to openly call themselves Templars, they appear to have continued to exercise real power in the world.
Much evidence supports the belief that Robert the Bruce apparently welcomed renegade Templars into Scotland, both by overland journey from England, and as well as on ships from France. He was in great need of experienced and well equipped fighting men of this there is no doubt. the English outnumbered and out-eqquipped him badly, particularly when it came to armor and horse.-- Acheson Geneological SocietyAnd sure enough, the earliest stirrings of Freemasonry- ultimately traced back to the Norman St. Clair family and the building of Rosslyn Chapel-- would ride with Bruce into England. American Masons under the rule of the Grand Lodge of Ireland would eventually form the core of the Revolutionary Army before becoming absorbed in the aristocracy themselves, just like the Templars before them.
Just like the Templars, the power and arrogance of the newly-empowered American Masons would inspire a populist backlash leading the creation of the Anti-Mason Party. However, the Freemasons took the crisis as an opportunity to create a dizzying array of collegiate fraternities and civic organizations, groups that would ultimately evolve away from their mystical origins and overshadow the Masonic Orders as the backbone of the American ruling class. That's evolution for you...
In Europe and South America, Masonic orders would foment revolutions that would overthrow or marginalize the old ruling dynasties and severely curtail the power of the Catholic Church, forcing the Vatican to establish itself as a sovereign state to protect its own power. The fortunes of the Church are in free-fall in Europe and the Americas, a process accelerated by the priestly vice of pedophilia finally being exposed to the public.
Scandals over abuse date back to the very earliest days of the Church and were fomented by reformist radicals within the Vatican in the Middle Ages, but the fear of the Church's power kept them out of the major media until finally exploding-- due to sheer, mind-numbing volume-- in the early 2000s. And despite the protestations of ridiculous Vatican shills, the crisis is not close to being over.
Strangely enough, at the very same time that these crimes were finally being brought to light in public, private talks with a shadowy English group claiming to be the true remnant of the Knights Templar resulted in the Order being exonerated by the Holy See in 2007, the 700th Anniversary of the original Templar repression.
While the power of the Christian world has shifted ( Rupert Murdoch and the Chinese Communist Party are now the world's largest publishers of Bibles), and with South America increasingly becoming less Catholic and more Pentecostal, it seems the Templars' exoneration is just part of a overall evolution in the late-period history of the Church.
The Vatican is still powerful and still unimaginably wealthy, but the shift of its power base from Europe to Africa (where it will have to contend to the aggressively expansionist ideology of Islamism) seems to harbor an uncharted future for the Church. If indeed the Freemasons are the inheritors of the Templar mantle, it would seem their fortunes are in decline as well. Membership in the various Masonic Orders is dropping as the aging lodges fail to attract enough younger members to stay relevant.
Of course, the greater Masonic-derived method of grooming tomorrow's ruling class is with us more than ever, though the regimented systems of the high-level fraternities and professional and civic organizations has nothing to do with the Mysteries or the Gnostics at all. But the same evolution seemed to happen with the Templars themselves. Money has a funny way of making even the most committed mystics break their vows.
At the same time, the Gnostic story seems to be entering a new stage, as those Swiss hierophants Jung, Hofmann and Von Daniken have popularized methods for understanding the dense, often-impenetrable visionary cosmologies of the ancient Gnostics. This process is still developing but could easily accelerate as disillusionment with the status quo intensifies.
Then of course there are various neo-Gnostic Christian sects identified by Bloom in The American Religion, Mormonism being the most powerful and successful (and best-looking, apparently).
Indeed conspiracy theory itself, as self-defeating as it can be and as tainted as it often is with fascism and fundamentalism, is nothing less than a modern reincarnation of the totalizing pessimism and suspicion of the ancient Gnostics, with the defunct "Illuminati" or the non-existent "Luciferians" taking the place of the Archons. But it's wise to remember that genocides are always preceded by conspiracy theorizing.
Even as the Internet and other new technologies seem to have empowered narcissism and self-absorption, they have also empowered new seekers with the tools to bypass the filtering systems of the mass media and the academic and ecclesiastical establishments.
The future of these new Gnosticisms is entirely dependent on which model their adherents choose to follow: the navel-gazing, hippy-dippy Gnosticism of the Alexandrian cults and the Bogomils, or the rigorous, unshakable Gnosticism of the Druze, the Sikhs and indeed, the original Knights Templar. The jury is still very much out on this question.
As for the Templars themselves, they have yet to really emerge from the shadows. There have always been pretender groups, but it may well turn out that the Hertfordshire Templars are different from all of the Masonic and quasi-Masonic Knight Templar orders.
Watch this space- if the situation changes, it will be a major topic for discussion around here.
* links courtesy of anonymous reader!