Christian Chivalry and Freemasonry
Rarely does one connect Chivalry with
Freemasonry, yet there is one branch of the fraternity which places
great stress on Christian Chivalry and those virtues which go to
make up chivalric character.
We refer to that great Order known as Knights of
the Temple, or Knights Templar.
The original Knights of the Temple were
Christian warriors; they were men of Faith, inspired with love of
God and the Church. The story of their exploits, their adventures,
their self-sacrifice, and their accomplishments, read as a page from
a story book.
There is nothing so appealing in all history as
the story of the great Crusades, sponsored by the Church, but
actually carried on through the great chivalric orders of that day.
The object of the Crusades was to wrest the Holy Land and the sacred
places of Christian history from the Moslem.
The Crusade period marked a new era in the life
of the world. It brought the Eastern and Western worlds together.
The evils and virtues of the East were brought to the West and vice
versa. But the greatest thing which emerged through these conflicts
of Christian and Saracen was the virtue of Charity. The Knights of
the Temple and the Knights Hospitaler were the Red Cross
organization of that day. For the first time in the history of war;
men began to think of aiding others. Many are the deeds of Charity
recounted, not only between those of the faith, but extending from
Christian to Moslem.
Thus did this era usher in those homely virtues
of Charity, Hospitality and Universal Benevolence.
Today the warlike character of the Knights has
disappeared; no more is it thought necessary to engage in useless
struggle over holy sites and places; no more is it believed
necessary to fight men of other nations in order to convert them to
our way of thinking.
But the same feelings of Love, and Truth, and
Charity, and Hospitality, and Universal Benevolence still remain in
the human heart, and the world at large is benefited by any group
which encourages such essential needs of mankind.
Thus has grown the modern Order of the Temple.
Knights of today claim no direct legal descent from those ancient
knights of old, yet they do claim to carry on the virtues for which
they fought, bled and died. No longer is it necessary to fight with
material weapons, for today "the pen is mightier than the sword",
and the weapon of a knight is the influence of a good life carried
out as set forth in the New Dispensation - that we love one another.
And you ask: "Just what place does the Templar
Order hold in respect to other branches of Freemasonry?"
And we reply: "A most important part". To the
Christian Freemason it represents the summit of the teachings of the
Craft. While in no way minimizing the teachings of the symbolic
degrees, yet to him the Order of the Temple conveys the essence of
Masonic teachings, and is the Christian interpretation of the
Symbols of ancient Craft Masonry.
Sanctioned by Grand Lodge
The Grand Lodge of York, in 1780, gave its
sanction to the working of five separated degrees or orders:
The Entered Apprentice.
The Master Mason.
The Royal Arch.
The Knight Templar.
The United Grand Lodge of England, the Mother of
regular and legitimate Freemasonry in the world, set forth at the
time of the Union the following: "It is declared and pronounced that
pure and Ancient Craft Masonry consists of three degrees and no
more, namely, those of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master
Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch.
And that the Grand Lodge might not create any
misconstruction of their declaration, it was added:
"This article is not intended to prevent any
Lodge or Chapter from holding meetings in any of the degrees of
Chivalry, according to the Constitution of said Order."
Thus, the Order of the Temple was given an
official place and standing in the structure of Masonry.
During the early and unwritten history of the
Masonic Fraternity, there was a strong tone of Christianity which
ran throughout the Symbolic structure, but by the time Anderson
published his Constitutions, Christianity was virtually taken out of
the ritual and Constitutions, because of a great desire to make the
fraternity such as might be acceptable to men of any religion who
subscribe to a belief in a Supreme Being.
Removal of Christian Symbolism
This was truly unfortunate for those who
interpreted the Lodge symbols as Christian doctrines. To deprive
Freemasonry of the Ancient Craft of its Christian symbolism in an
attempt to make it more universal, was, to them, unmasonic, and
characterized as being compared to "removing a Masterpiece of Art
from a gallery, or depriving a Crown of its Most Precious Jewel.
And the Christian Freemason sought out an Order
which interpreted his Freemasonry in the Light of the New
He ended his search when he entered any asylum
of Knights Templar.
It was Dr. William F. Kuhn, the great Masonic
thinker, who said: "Freemasonry is not a series of degrees to give
those who have the money to purchase them, certain titles and
decorations, for even in Freemasonry 'a fool may be a belted
Knight', and an Entered Apprentice may have a clearer conception of
God and man's relation to Him, than he who wears the insignia of the
highest rank. Moral conception does not exist merely in believing
but in believing and doing. The Stoics of Rome persuaded themselves
to believe that they were of Divine Essence and elaborated a finely
spun system of philosophy, but they permitted the poor to lie
starving at their doors."
Templars believe in practice; their charities
may not be proclaimed from the house tops, but the records of the
smallest preceptor of Knights Templar should prove that Charity and
Hospitality are yet the grand characteristics of this great
Christian Order. Templary realizes that it is hypocritical to
profess and teach great platitudes without making an honest effort
to practice what is professed. Our governing body (Sovereign Great
Priory) administers a substantial fund known as The Knights Templar
Charitable Foundation, contributed to by all members and
administered without ostentation. This fund originally designed for
orphans of deceased Knights Templar is also used for many deserving
welfare cases and education of deserving students, including those
for the ministry.
What are the Chivalric Orders?
We have referred to the Orders conferred by a
Preceptory. In Canada the work of the Preceptory is divided into
The Order of the Red Cross.
The Orders of Mediterranean Pass and Malta.
The Orders of the Temple.
The Red Cross Order is not, strictly speaking, a
Christian Order. Its value in the Templar system is its bridging of
the gap between the Royal Arch degree and the Order of the Temple.
It is a story founded upon an important period in Hebrew history and
stresses Faith in God, the importance of Truth, and the value of
Liberty and Justice.
The Order of Malta brings to the novitiate the
story of another of the great Chivalric Orders, whose deeds of
heroism fill the pages of history, and whose Christian character
forms a bright page in religious history.
The most striking degree or Order in Masonry in
the opinion of most expert ritualists is the Order of Consecration
as set out in the Canadian Work. It is rightly described as the "ne
plus ultra" of the Masonic system and is especially appreciated by
all Christian Freemasons. We cannot describe its beauty or the
impressions which are created in the mind of the Candidate. It must
be seen to be appreciated.
Rise up, 0 Men of God
Have done with lesser things
Give Heart and Soul and Mind and Strength
To serve the King of Kings.
Lift high the Cross of Christ
Tread where His feet have trod
As brothers of the Son of Man
Rise up, O Men of God.
To Royal Arch Masonry has been given the WORD.
To Knights Templar is given the INTERPRETATION. Shall we say more?
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