Templar Origin of Freemasonry
The theory that Freemasonry originated in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and was instituted by the Knights Templar, was advanced by the Chevalier Ramsay, for the purpose, it is supposed, of giving an aristocratic character to the association It was subsequently adopted by the College of Clermont, and was accepted by the Baron von Hund as the basis upon which he erected his Rite of Strict Observance. The legend of the Clermont College is thus detailed by M. Berage in his work entitled Les Plus Secrets Mysteres des Hauts Grades, Most Secret Mysteries of the High Degrees (iii, page 194). The Order of Freemasonry was instituted by Godfrey de bouillon, in Palestine in l330, after the defeat of the Christian armies, and was communicated only to a few of the French Freemasons, some time afterwards, as a reward for the services which they had rendered to the English and Scottish Knights. From these latter true Freemasonry is derived. Their Mother Lodge is situated on the mountain of Heredom where the first Lodge in Europe was held, which still exists in all its splendor. The Council General is always held there, and it is the seat of the Sovereign Grand Master for the time being. This mountain is situated between the west and the north of Scotland, sixty miles from Edinhurgh.
There are other secrets in Freemasonry which were never known among the French, and which have no relation to the Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Degrees which were constructed for the general class of Freemasons. The high Degrees, which developed the true design of Freemasonry and its true secrets, have never been known to them. The Saracens having obtained possession of the holy places in Palestine, where all the mysteries of the Order were practiced, made use of them for most profane purposes.
The Christians then leagued together to conquer this beautiful country, and to drive all these barbarians from the land. They succeeded in obtaining a footing on these shores under the protection of numerous armies of Crusaders which had been sent out there by the Christian princes. The losses which they subsequently experienced put an end to the Christian power, and the crusaders who remained were subjected to the persecutions of the Saracens, who massacred all who publicly proclaimed the Christian faiths This induced Godfrey de Bouillon, towards the end of the third center, to conceal the mysteries of religion under the veil of figures, emblems and allegories.
Hence the Christians selected the temple of Solomon because it has so close a relation to the Christian Church of which its holiness and its magnificence make it the true symbol. So the Christians concealed the mystery of the building up of the Church under that of the construction of the Temple, and gave themselves the title of Masons Architects or Builders, because they were occupied in building the faith. They assembled under the pretext of making plans of architecture to practice the rites of their religion, with all the emblems and allegories that Freemasonry could furnish, and thus protect themselves from the cruelty of the Saracens.
As the mysteries of Freemasonry were in their principles, and still are only those of the Christian religion they were extremely scrupulous to confide this important secret only to those whose discretion had been tried and who had been found worthy. For this purpose they fabricated Degrees as a test of those to whom they wished to confide it, and they gave them at first only the symbolic secret of Hiram, on which all the mystery of blue Masonry is founded, and which is, in fact, the only secret of that Order which has no relation to true Freemasonry.
They explained nothing else to them as they were afraid of being betrayed, and they conferred these Degrees as a proper means of recognizing each other, surrounded as they were by barbarians. To succeed more effectually in this they made use of different Signs and words for each Degree so as not only to distinguish themselves from the profane Saracens, but to designate the different Degrees. These they fixed at the number of seven, in imitation of the Grand Architect, who built the Universe in six days and rested on the seventh, and also because Solomon was seven years in constructing the Temple, which they had selected as the figurative basis of Freemasonry. Under the name of Hiram they gave a false application to the Masters, and developed the true secret of Freemasonry only to the higher Degrees.
Such is the theory of the Templar origin of Freemasonry, which, mythical as it is, and wholly unsupported by the authority of history, has exercised a vast influence in the fabrication of advanced Degrees and the invention of Continental Rites. Indeed, of all the systems propounded during the eighteenth century, so fertile in the construction of extravagant systems, none has played so important a part as this in the history of Freemasonry. Although the theory is no longer maintained, its effects are everywhere seen and felt.
TEMPLARS OF ENGLAND
An important change in the organization of Templarism in England Ireland took place in 1873. By it a union took place of the Grand Conclave of Masonic Knights Templar of England and the Grand Conclave of High Knights Templar of Ireland into one body, under the title of the "Convent General of the United Religious and Military Orders of the Temple and of Saint John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta." The following is a summary of the Statutes by which the new Order is governed, as given by Eminent Sir Knight W. J. B. McLeod Moore, Grand Prior, in his circular to the Preceptors of Canada:
1. The existing Grand Masters in the Empire are to be termed Great Priors, and Grand Conclaves or Encampments, Great Priories, under and subordinate to one Grand Master, as in the early days of the Order. and one Supreme Governing Body, the Convent General.
2. The term Great is adopted instead of Grand, the latter being a French word; and grand in English is not grand in French Great is the proper translation of Magnus and Magnus Supremus.
3 The Great Priories of each nationality--England, Scotland, and Ireland, with their Dependencies in the Colonies--retain their internal government and legislation, and appoint their Provincial Priors, doing nothing consistent with the Supreme Statutes of the Convent General.
4. The title Masonic is not continued; the Order being purely Christian, none but Christians can be admitted consequently it cannot be considered Strictly as a Masonic body: Freemasonry, while inculcating the highest reverence for the Supreme Being, and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, does not teach a belief in one particular creed, or unbelief in any. The connection with Freemasonry is, however, strengthened still more, as a candidate must now be two years a Master Mason, in addition to his qualification as a Royal Arch Mason.
5. The titles Eminent Commander and Encampment have been discontinued and the original name Preceptor and Precentor substituted, as also the titles Constable and Marshal for First and Second Captains. Encampment is a modern term, adopted probably when, as our traditions inform us, "at the suppression of the ancient Military Order of the Temple, some of their number sought refuge and held Conclaves in the Masonic Society, being independent small bodies, without any governing head." Prior is the correct and original title for the head of a langue or nationality and Preceptor for the subordinate bodies. The Preceptories were the ancient Houses of the Templar Order; Commander and Commanderies was the title used by the Order of Saint John, commonly known as Knights of Malta
6. The title by which the Order is now known is that of The United Religius and Military Orders of the Temple and of Saint John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta." The Order of the Temple originally had no connection with that of Malta or Order of Saint John, but the combined title appears to have been adopted in commemoration of the union which took place in Scotland with "The Temple and Hospital of Saint John,'' when their lands were in common, at the time of the Reformation. But our Order of "Saint Solon of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta," has no connection with the present Knights of Malta in the Papal States, or of the Protestant branches of the Order, the lineal successors of the ancient Knights of Saint John, the sixth or English league of which is still in existence, and presided over, in London, by His Grace the Duke of Manchester. The Order, when it occupied the Island of Malta as a sovereign body, was totally unconnected with Freemasonry. 7. Honorary past rank is abolished substituting the chivalric dignities of Grand Crosses and Commanders, limited in numbers and confined to Preceptors. These honors to be conferred by His Royal Highness the Grand Master, the Fountain of Grace and Dignity; and it is contemplated to create an Order of Merits to be conferred in like manner, as a reward to Knights who have served the Order. 8. A. Preceptor holds a Degree as well as rank, and will always retain his rank and privileges as long as he belongs to a Precentor.
9. The abolition of honorary past rank is not retrospective, as their rank and privileges are reserved to all those who now enjoy them
10. The number of officers entitled to precedence has been reduced to seven; but others may be appointed at discretion, who do not, however, enjoy any precedence.
l l. Equerries, or Serving Brethren, are not to receive the accolade, or use any but a brown habit, and shall not wear any insignia or jewel: they are to be addressed as Frater, not Sir Knight. In the early days of the Order they were not entitled to the accolade, and, with the esquires and men-at-arms, wore a dark habit, to distinguish them from the knights, who wore white, to signify that they were bound by their vows to cast away the works of darkness and lead a new life.
12 The Apron is altogether discontinued, and a few and a few immaterial alterations in the insignia will be duly regulated and promulgated: they do not, however, affect the present, but only apply to future members of the Order. The apron was of recent introduction, to accord with Masonic usage: but reflection will at once show that, as an emblem of care and toil, it is entirely inappropriate to a Military Order, whose badge is the sword. A proposition to confine the wearing of the star to the Preceptors was negatived; the star and ribbon being in fact as much a part of the ritual as of the insignia of the Order.
13. From the number of instances of persons totally unfitted having obtained admission into the Order, the qualification of candidates has been increased. A declaration is now required, to be signed by every candidate that he is of the full age of twenty-one years, and in addition to being a Royal Arch Masons that he is a Master Mason of two years' standings professing the doctrines of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, and willing to submit to the Statutes and Ordinances, present and future, of the Order.
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