pparently Renaissance writers had a two-tier approach to the Templars. Some writers, such as Ramon Lull, the famous witch-hunter, were of the opinion that Philip IV's actions needed to be justified and said so in their writings. Others, like Dante, sought to vindicate the Order and point the finger at Philip. Generally speaking, most writers concentrated on the magic the Order was said to have possessed. Amidst all of this, the general public was not that sure at all what to believe.
hen, along came one of the most influential of all Renaissance writers, Henry Cornelius of Agrippa. His book, De Occulta Philosophiae, contains references to the Order, for reasons that remain obscure. Agrippa presents the Knights Templar as a bunch of witches who needed no broom to fly. He was favourable to the Templars, although he went heavily into the magic thing in his discussion of the Order. It can be said that during this period there was a two-fold shift in the attitude towards the Order: they were increasingly seen as victims, not as malefactors, and on the other hand, they were moving from militant knights into capable magicians.
nter the Freemasons. The time frame here is about the early 17th century, during which time the foundation of Freemasonry was laid in Europe. Freemasonry bases its history on a document called "The Old Charges" dated in 1440, claiming to be a copy of an even older document. As the new movement gathered new recruits into its seemingly egalitarian and free system, the need to a history of the movement became evident. A Frenchman called Chevalier Ramsay came up with and presented the idea of Crusading Masons, in other words, Crusaders who had already possessed the Mason train of thought. He went even so far as to concoct the idea that the Biblical builders of the Temple of Solomon were the spiritual forefathers of 18th century Freemasons. According to Ramsay, the Crusaders had founded [fictitional] lodges, most of whom had since lapsed except those in Scotland and England. Historical proof of such organizations is apparently nonexistent, we must note. And I've recently been told that Ramsay's ideas have since been discarded by modern Freemasons, who now claim descent from the ancient operative stonemasons' guilds.
funny sidenote is in place here: originally Ramsay was not talking Templars into the Freemasons. He was referring to Crusader Masons being linked with the Knights Hospitallers. The problem with those good Knights was that they still existed on the island of Malta, and might have reacted with considerable irritation to such claims by the upstart Masons. The Templars were all accountably beyond any form of objection, hence it was safer to change the Order in question to be the Knights of the Temple of Solomon (who on the side brought in the reference of the Temple). Unable of resisting the adoption, Ramsay and some other Mason systematicists cooked up a considerable amount of instant history.
he utilization of the Templars has been very effective in Freemasonry. Especially German Freemasons put a very large effort into installing Templar themes into their ranks and rites. The most impressive development is the incorporation of a tradition of secret wisdom that supposedly is caried from the Jewish sect of the Essenes to the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, all the way to the Templars and on to the Freemasons. While there is no evident proof of such a cycle, the imagery appears to be widely used in Freemasonry. It is to my regret that I must state I can see no factual data of this actually happening. Freemasonry today incorporates material from many historical and non-historical sources.
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