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Knights and Orders of Chivalry

A knight originally was a boy in attendance on a prince, and was called an aldor or altherro; from this was a gradual transition first to a knight as a soldier, next as a professional soldier, and lastly as one class of professional soldiers those who had taken up arms under vow to make it a life-long vocation, like the vow of priesthood. The word itself first was knight among the Saxons, Knight among Danes, cniocllt in Ireland. A modern professional soldier takes oath to the government, fights or is ready to fight for his country, and lives under military regulations; the knight took a vow to his vocation, a personal oath to his king, or his lord, or his chieftain, and behaved according to the rules of chivalry. These latter, and allowing for a great difference in the circumstances, were in essence the same as military regulations now. Just as there was a transition from Operative Masonry to Speculative Masonry, so was there a similar transition, and following in general the same lines from the "operative" soldiery of the Saxon and Norman periods to chivalry as a set of ideals and rules for gentlemen and ladies, which may be metaphorically described as its "speculative" or "symbolical" form. This latter consisted of legends and traditions art, poetry, ballads, music, ideas and ideals, a philosophy of daily conduct, an ideal of honor and gentle manliness, and grew into such a mass that a great cycle of legends such as that which accumulated around the Search for the Grail. Modern Knight Templarism has no historical continuity as either a calling (Masonic knights, for one thing, are not soldiers), or as an organization, with the Orders of Knights in the early Middle Ages, but it is the heir of that large wealth of tradition, literature, art, philosophy; and few modern fraternal societies have so rich a heritage.

The philosophy underlying chivalry, considered solely as a system of thought, has been overlooked by professors and historians of philosophy; it also has been very largely overlooked by Knights Templar themselves, else they would by this time have a larger and more learned literature of their own. A student of that philosophy of chivalry has ready to hand, as text book or authoritative work, a masterpiece of learning and thought: The Broad Stone of Honor; or, The True Sense and Practice of Chivalry, by Kenelm Henry Digby; in five books, the last of which is in two volumes, making six volumes in all; London; Bernard Quaritch; 1877.

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