Sacred Texts  Gnosticism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at

The Templars

In the second paragraph Clarkson * discovers an allusion to the Vesica Piscis, which is in truth a figure generated by two circles intersecting at their respective centres; and for the same reason, the secret sign of the Brethren of the Vehme-Gerichte was the two annular links of a chain. The Egg formed by three intersecting circles, contains in its upper section seven triangles, and as many in its lower section, which are the opposing genii of Light and Darkness. This was the idol which the Manichæans were accused of worshipping on the charges brought against them by the Popes (Clarkson, p. 20). Still more does the "Vultus Triformis" of this Creed arrest our attention as bearing a more than accidental affinity to the triple-faced idol, the adoration whereof was so persistently laid to the charge of the Templars--the real meaning of which accusation

p. 396

shall be investigated in its proper place. This same "tête d’un homme monstrueuse," image of "le Dieu qui ne meurt pas," so often mentioned in the confessions of the Knights, may be recognised beyond all mistake in the hideous head with flaring hair and beard, and eyes wide open, as if just severed from the body, placed upon a box inscribed X. P. S., which repeatedly occurs amongst the Rosicrucian pictures in the Diary of Hosea Lux. This MS., the most remarkable of the kind extant, or ever composed, written between the years 1568 and 1612, is full of mystic drawings, beautifully done in pen and ink, which may be either prophetic hieroglyphs, or else enshroud the arcana of some seeker after the Elixir of Life: the latter it would rather seem, to judge from the perpetual introduction of certain very significant emblems. The author must have belonged (as an actual Mason assures me) to a Lodge of Templars, as is proved by his use of the "hand in hand" and "foot to foot" insignia. As exhibiting the whole list of the present Masonic signs, but employed for Rosicrucian purposes, at so early a date, this Diary is of the utmost value to the history of the Order. * To quote a few of the most important embellishments of these mystic pages: the same "Baphometic" Head appears in another place set on a box inscribed with "Solomon's Seal," containing a retort: over the head is a disk, set all round dial fashion but with hearts instead of numerals; in the field is written the opposite motto "Timore et tremore." Another is picture presents the Head hovering above the Ark of the Covenant, all enclosed within the outline of a heart out of whose aorta issues a naked boy bearing a flaming star and crescent conjoined. Yet more mysterious is the heart containing Τ over a bell resting upon a star: above all, for a crest is set Solomon's Seal; for supporters to the shield, his pillars Jachin and Boaz, flanked on the right by that King seated, on the left by a naked man standing, who pierces the heart with a long rod. Singular, too, is the man with uplifted hands, having instead of a face Solomon's Seal enclosing a retort. Other symbols

p. 397

frequently occurring on these pictures are the naked boy extended on the spokes of a wheel; or again placed upon an egg set in a candlestick: the king's bust crowned with the winged crescent (on which the merest novice in alchemy can discern the allusion to regulus of antimony and quicksilver): the egg containing a circle whence issue rays of light; probably typifying the crucible, for another heading shows the same figure within a furnace with the infant metal springing rapturously from its womb; the five links of a chain interlaced: all these being Rosicrucian emblems now embalmed in the repertory of the Freemasons. These drawings, besides their artistic value with respect to their fertile invention and incredibly minute finish (Lux being a copper-plate engraver of some eminence), are highly interesting as pictorial exponents of the Hermetic philosophy still so flourishing at the time of their execution. Of such designs, nothing can surpass in elaborate execution and impenetrable mystery the large drawing of the naked female standing upon musical notes, holding in her right a torch tipped with a beautiful face whence issue flames; an owl perched upon her extended left hand; on her breast for brooch Sol's head in a crescent. Upon a pedestal is set a tall long-necked alembic containing the most obvious emblem of the generative power, emitting upwards the stream of Life, which is caught into the mouth of a cherub whose hair forms a bunch of flowers supporting the before-mentioned disk of hearts, whilst his hand holds forth a wheatsheaf. In the field lies a crown over a marshal's bâton shaped like a phallas. Another drawing full of interest is the portrait of a man in a fur cap with plume, wearing round his neck a pendant inscribed like the jewel of the G. A., from which again is hung a human foot; with his right hand he points to a crescent divided into three parts enclosing X. A. P., his left rests on the head of a mighty hammer. De Quincey, in the above quoted essay, describes a manuscript work by Simon Stadion, of Würtemberg, written in the year 1604, under the title, "Naometria, seu nuda et prima Libri intus et foris scripti Expositio, et Prognosticticus." It is a series of dreams and prophecies based upon the Apocalypse: in which he speaks of "Stellæ matutinæ ductu anno 1572 conspectæ";

p. 398

and constantly brings in the Rose and Cross, on which account he is generally supposed to have been a Rosicrucian. Martin Luther also took for his seal the Rose and Cross; some deep religious significance, at the time well understood, must have recommended the device to the choice of the "Tertius Elias."

Besides these obligations to the Rosicrucians, the London Freemasons also borrowed much of their phraseology from Lord Bacon's work, still fresh in men's minds, in which, adopting the idea of the "House of Wisdom," a technical term with the Arab astrologers, he proposed the foundation of a "Solomon's House," or learned community dedicated to the cultivation of experimental philosophy and the advancement of science. These philosophic and royalist plotters, in order to cloak the true nature of their proceedings, conducted, their conclaves according to the rules prescribed by Bacon: and the same ceremonial and nomenclature they carefully maintain to the present day.

A final and demonstrative proof of the recent and English origin of Freemasonry is afforded by the dates of institution of the various Foreign Lodges, which are by their own profession branches of the parent Society in London. The Parisian was not founded until the year 1725, the Madrid in 1728, and the Florentine in 1733. And yet France and Italy had been the birthplace of the actual art of masonry, and the scene of the full glory of its revival.

Another important fact remains to be noticed, the Rosicrucians still subsist amongst the Parisian Freemasons as the designation for their highest degree (to be conferred upon distinguished English visitors), although all disclaim those mystics as being the parent stock; inasmuch as that truth, if allowed, were utterly incompatible with their own claim to immemorial antiquity. Nevertheless, they loudly profess to trace their descent through the line of the Templars down from that splendidly fabulous origin they arrogate to themselves.

But to return to Andre, and the honour Nicolai assigns him as the creator of the immediate parent of modern Freemasonry,

p. 399

certain it is that his far-famed Rosy Cross had been ages before the regular badge of the Knights Templars. Considering how widely the Order had spread its branches, obtained possession and affiliated to itself multitudes both male and female amongst the laity all over Europe, it would be a mere absurdity to believe that all its traditions were swept away at one stroke by the suppression of the Templars in the year 1307. * In fact, the Parisian Templiers, as the most important division of the French Freemasons still style themselves, pretend to have kept up the succession of Grand Masters unbroken; nay more, to have preserved the archives of the Order ever since that date. François I. is even reported to have burnt alive, with a contrivance of refined cruelty in "The fiery bath," four unfortunate gentlemen convicted of being Templars,  which, if true, suffices to prove the existence of that fraternity down to a period but little removed from the public manifestation of the Rosicrucians. Truly was he by such proceedings "semina odii in longum jaciens," to borrow the forcible simile of Tacitus, if we are to believe Barruel's express declaration that Spartacus Weishaupt's Jacobins did no more than pay to royalty the so long deferred legacy of revenge handed down to them by generation after generation of secret societies--fulfilling the last Templar's solemn vow of vengeance against Philippe le Bel, and all future kings in his person. By order of the same François I., his general Almeida, extirpated with a cruelty unusual even in those times the remnant of the Albigenses still lurking in the villages of Provence, a sect, it should be remembered, of genuine Manichæans, transplanted thither from the East at a comparatively recent date. As Manichæans, they would naturally have preserved the symbols, and tokens for mutual recognition so much in vogue, as history and existing monuments attest,

p. 400

amongst all followers of the Gnosis. And such machinery and grown yet more into articles of necessity, after continued persecution had transformed their congregations into regular secret societies.

But dismissing all such speculations, we are under no necessity for connecting the Rosicrucians with the ancient Brethren of the Temple, in order to account for their display of the Gnostic symbols which figure so conspicuously in Andreae's plates, and which have since been so diligently illustrated (though often with erroneous ingenuity) by Von Hammer in his 'Mystery of Baphomet Revealed;' yet even his misinterpreted examples go to prove the same truth, and his 'Baphometic Idols,' whose adoration should have been the heaviest count in the charges against the Templars (though unmistakably of Cinque-cento design and workmanship), are astrological and cabbalistic sigils breathing a purely Rosicrucian spirit in their syncretism of symbolic forms. For there is one point in these sculptures alone sufficient to upset all Von Hammer's elaborate structure--the Arabic legends, being cut in current Neshki characters, betray their modern manufacture; for had they been contemporary with the flourishing times of the Templars, the primitive Cufic must, as a matter of course, have been employed. Yet, at the same time, these same legends indicate clearly enough the fountain-head of the doctrines held in common by all similar fraternities.

But before considering this last and so important point, the subject will be more conveniently approached by our first considering the principal arguments set forth by the learned Orientalist in support of his theory. His object in truth is sufficiently declared by the title of his treatise, 'Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum: seu Fratres militiæ Templi quà Gnostici et quidem Ophiani, apostasiæ, idololatriæ, et quidem impuritatis convicti per ipsa eorum monumenta" (published in the Mines de l’Orient, vol. vi.). The treatise is copiously illustrated with fine copper plates of magical statuettes, architectural ornaments, mystical inscriptions, vases, and coins. As regards historical evidence, the main foundation of his hypothesis rests upon certain heads in the Articles of Accusation against the

p. 401

[paragraph continues] Templars, despatched by Pope Clement V. to all archbishops, &c. These are--

"Art. 42. Item, quod ipsi per singulas provincias habeant Idola, videlicet capita* quorum aliqua habebant tres facies, et alia unam, et aliqua cranium humanum habebant.

"Art. 54. Item, quod aliquod caput illorum cingebant seu tangebant chordulis quibus si ipsos cingebant, circa camiciam seu carnem.

"Art. 55. Quod in hac receptione, singulis fratribus prædictæ chordulæ tradebantur, vel aliæ longitudinis earum."

In this girding with a consecrated string there is a striking analogy to the Kosti  prescribed by the Zoroastrian religion, still assumed by every Parsee upon his initiation (which takes place upon his completing his seventh year), and thenceforth constantly worn over the shirt. This distinctive badge was the most likely of all to be retained by Manes (himself a Magian) in his Christianised modification of the Persian creed. Other articles, unnecessary to quote, allege the permission and even the obligation of unnatural practices. But, from the very beginning, this last accusation, so needless to be proved, because so readily believed, has been brought against the members of all secret societies, as Ovid shows by the popular tradition respecting Orpheus, the acknowledged founder of the Grecian mysteries.

"Illetiam Thracum populis fuit auctor amorem
 In teneros transferre mares, citraque juventam,
 Ætatis breve ver et primos carpere flores."  (Metam. x. 83-85).

Clarkson has more recently discussed the same question in his very ingenious essay 'Upon the Symbolical Evidence of the Temple Church. Were the Templars Gnostic Idolaters as

p. 402

alleged?' He endeavours to prove their Manicheism by means of architectural evidence, deduced from the members of the edifice and the geometrical relations discoverable in the ground plan. But, dispassionately considered, such arguments are of little weight, inasmuch as they could be found, if looked for (under a similar prepossession), in many other buildings, both mediæval and modern, having no connection whatsoever with the Brethren of the Temple. Again, a fatal objection to his theory is the fact, that all such "Round Churches" are acknowledged copies of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, which, whether Helena's original building, or merely a Gothie reconstruction by the Frankish kings (the more probable explanation), was certainly not subjected to Templar influence in the laying out of its plan. The circular, domical shape had been given by Helena to her church simply because that form, according to the Roman notion handed down from Etruscan antiquity, was regarded as most appropriate for a tomb. Hence, to go no further back, it was adopted for Helena's own sepulchre (Torre pignatara), and for that of her grandchild, Constantia. In illustration of his hypothesis Clarkson adduces the statement of Clemens Alexandrinus about the "Primary Elements" of the old Egyptians, and supposes them to have been the square, the angle, the semicircle, the circle, the oval, the line, the waved line, triangular, and the cross. These would represent the seven primary consonants, of which the invention was attributed to Menmon, viz., the letters with their equivalent sounds, B, C, D, L, M, N, S. Should this theory have any truth in it, the frequent introduction of such figures into talismanic inscriptions obtains a satisfactory explanation.


395:* 'The Symbolical Evidence of the Temple Church. Were the Templars Gnostics?'

396:* Through the kindness of the present owner, Mr. J. E. Hodgkin, F.S.A.; I have had opportunity to make a minute examination of the MS.

399:* Even the sceptical Michelet allows "il est possible que les Templiers qui échappèrent se soient fendus en sociétés secrètes. En Écosse ils disparaissent tous excepté deux. Or, on a remarqué que les plus secrets mystères dans la Francmaçonnerie sont réputés émaner d’Écosse, et que les hauts grades y sont nommes Écossais. V. Grouvelle et les écrivains qu’il a suivis.'--('Hist. de France,' iii. p. 129.)

399:† Communicated to me by a Brother; the historical authority I cannot discover.

401:* Such a head of silver was actually seized in the Parisian Chapter-house; but the Templars passed it off for a reliquary containing the skull of one of the 11,000 virgins, in spite of the long beard with which it was furnished (Rayn. p. 299). Another is said to have been found elsewhere bearing the numeral LIII. These damning evidences would naturally have been made away with by the Templars upon the first alarm of the inquiry.

401:† Woven out of seven threads by the wife of the Mobed or fire-priest.

401:‡ "Dum erat juvenis sæcularis, omnes pueri clamabant publice et vulgariter unus ad alterum, Custodiatis vobis ab osculo Templariorum" Wilkins, Conc. Britann. ii. p. 360).

Next: Idols of Baphomet