I met a friend a science-fiction convention this weekend who insists that the medieval Knights Templar live on today as the Freemasons. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this theory – it’s discussed in several books I’ve read, including The Hiram Key, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (Barnes & Noble Books, 1998); and The Temple and the Lodge, by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (Arrow, 2000). I just wanted to know what the Doper community thinks of it. Unfortunately, CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) does not appear to have any counterpart skeptical organization devoted to investigating/debunking exotic historical theories.
The idea is that after the Templars were dissolved by papal bull in 1312 (and thoroughly suppressed by the French King Philip the Fair, who confiscated all Templar property in France and had their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft), some of them took refuge in Scotland and were sheltered by the king there. The organization maintained a kind of underground existence and eventually evolved into Freemasonry. This theory is, of course, bound up with a lot of other esoteric matters, such as ancient mystic knowledge from Egypt; the “Grail Blood” theory (Merovingian dynasty of the Franks = bloodline of Jesus Christ) and the Priory of Sion; the role of the Templars in creating modern fractional reserve banking; the role of the Templars in founding the Swiss Confederation; the Masonic symbolism of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland; and the theory that a Templar fleet led by Henry Sinclair, Prince of Orkney, sailed to America (Oak Island in Nova Scotia, specifically) in 1397, and left buried treasure there, too – possibly even the Holy Grail! [insert your own Monty Python joke here]
Whether any Masons accept these theories, or any part of them, I do not know. On the other hand, there also are several non-Masonic organizations around today who claim to be the true Templars.
Here are some relevant links:
http://www.templarhistory.com/still.html – article, “Do the Templars Still Exist?” by William Dafoe.
http://www.templarhistory.com/smotj.html - article discussing existing “Templar” organization, the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.
http://www.smotj.org – homepage of the SMOTJ (U.S.).
http://www.osmth.org/ – homepage of the SMOTJ (international).
http://www.templarhistory.com/mts.html – article on the Militi Templi Scotia, a Scottish “Templar” organization
http://www.templarhistory.com/masonic.html – article on “Masonic Knights Templarism”
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~bilrob/templar1.htm – page of links about the Knights Templar
http://www.geocities.com/veritas_gdl/links/templars.htm – page of links about the Templars and related subjects
http://www.tartans.com/articles/holygrail.html – article on “The Search for the Holy Grail in Nova Scotia.”
http://www.dagobertsrevenge.com/index.html?search – website of Dagobert’s Revenge, a print/webzine devoted to the “Grail Blood” theory and related esoterica.