As modern Gnostics, we seek constantly to ask deeper questions of our Tradition and of ourselves. What, then, is the pilgrimage? Who, therefore, the pilgrim, and whom the knight?
What power (pouvoir, ability) is there in a splayed red cross on a field of black over white? Of two knights straddling a single horse?
Such symbols were not incidental but central to the efforts of the Restorer of our Church, Bernard Raymond Fabré-Palaprat. The myth – and we have little reason to consider it otherwise – behind the Larmenius Charter and its thread connecting the ancient past to the early modern era served as a kind of battery, equally as important as the Apostolic Succession in the Johannite endevour.
So we ask ourselves, what does it mean to access and embody Templar symbolism in the 21st century? Precisely, how can one be a “Templar” in the modern day, and what are the ramifications of such identity and practice?
Historically, the Templars began as a vocation – a call for a handful of French aristocrats to a logistically impossible task, to protect a thousand mile pilgrimage of path and road from Western Europe to Jerusalem. Within a generation, however, the Templars were transformed into a political instrument, using military and financial power to redraw the map of the world.
During the Crusades the Templar world was divided into a martial East and a corporate West – the brothers of the Temple in Britain, France, Spain and Germany were involved in everything from the governance of farms and vineyards to construction, manufacturing, and above all, finance. Only a fifth of the Templars ever raised a sword in battle, merely operating a novel economic machinery which fuelled the mission of creating and maintaining a ligature between Europe and the Holy Land.
Overwhelmingly the historical Templars were devout and obedient orthodox Roman Catholics, despite a series of esoteric initiation rituals which few underwent and fewer still understood. Much of what we identify as the allure of Templarism is an experience completely unknown to the majority of actual historical members of the Order. And yet there is something buried there in the legend and symbolism which has accreted around the Templars like dust on a tomb. We know intiuitively there is something there for us; to discern, reject, challenge, embrace in turn.
Clearly, the object of “restoration” of Christian control over territories traditionally inhabited by Jews, Muslims, Druze and Yezidis is not only undesirable but morally repugnant. Just as transparent are the motives of numerous self- described Templar groups, which seek to rally and amplify anti-Muslim (and ultimately anti-Semitic) sentiment. So, why, then, pursue this line of inquiry at all?
I forgot that I was a King’s son, And became a slave to their king. […] I sank down into a deep sleep.
In the Gnostic scripture “The Hymn of the Pearl” is the myth of a prince, lost in the west, amnesiac, with no memory of his birthright and heritage. He receives a letter from his parents in the east, and, defeating a dragon, returns to the east to reclaim his royal garments and duties.
“From Us – King of Kings, thy Father, And thy Mother, Queen of the Dawn-land – Up an arise from thy sleep.”
It flew in the form of the Eagle, Of all the winged tribes the king-bird; It flew and alighted beside me, And turned into speech altogether. At its voice and the sound of its winging, I waked and arose from my deep sleep.
I remembered that I was a King’s son, And my rank did long for its nature. To the way that I came I betook me, To the Light of our Home, to the Dawn-land.
The pilgrimage is a return to our Divine Self, to the Light of our Home, to the Dawn-land in the East. The pilgrim is our pedestrian selves. The knight, therefore, is our mental and spiritual discipline which makes the pilgrimage possible, for ourselves, and for others in service, in accordance with the the principle of noblesse oblige.
Traditionally chivalry has been associated with a litany of virtues, varying from recollection to recollection, yet each stress the disciplined aspiration to the adherence of a superior code of conduct from that of the pedestrian. For us to protect the route of our own pilgrimage, we must be more than we are, commit steadfastly to our own nobility, and from thence its obligations. So.
The Chivalric Virtues
Each of these traditional knightly virtues, which we the assembled Knights of the Order of the Temple and St. John are sworn to embrace, embody, and uphold, are articulated through the Statement of Principles of the Apostolic Johannite Church.
We affirm that there is one Great, Unknowable, and Ineffable Godhead that made manifest the Universe through Emanation and that while the Universe is contained within this Divine Godhead, the Godhead transcends it.
To this we ascribe the traditional knightly virtue of prudence: a contraction of providence, pro-videre, to foresee. With a sound working model of existence, we can extrapolate the behaviour of the entire universe, and therefore ourselves. In short, we can see where we are going, and must therefore strive to be cognizant of and accountable for our actions.
We affirm that every Being contains the ‘Sacred Flame,’ a Spark of the Divine and that Awareness of the Sacred Flame within constitutes the highest level of Self-Knowledge and the Experience of God simultaneously. This act of Awareness, which is held to be liberating, transcendent and experiential, is called Gnosis.
The word “gnosis” – lit. ‘knowledge” but more accurately “insight” – is also the root of nobility, in the sense of “one who is known, regarded.” By stepping into the light of our own gnosis, we are seen by others, and having assumed this visibility we are obligated to conduct ourselves accordingly, and serve as a beacon to other pilgrims that they may know their own pilgrimage is not in vain.
We affirm that there are many ways in which Gnosis may be experienced. Thus, we promote freedom of thought in pursuit of one’s inward Path towards the Divine, whether that pursuit is modern or ancient in origin, or individual or communal in experience.
This freedom invokes the virtue of liberty, just as every Gnostic seeks to escape the bonds of one’s own ignorance, so too are we bound to advocate for liberty in all its forms.
We affirm that the Godhead is composed of three Persons, which are one in substance – God, the Father Almighty; the Son, the Logos or Christos Soter and the Holy Spirit or Pneuma Hagion.
In the acceptance of such a structure to our divine nature, our hearts are emboldened. And therefore we embrace the virtue of COURAGE, and all heart- centred practice. This is our only certainty – that the world has been ordered as a result of an ongoing Creation expressing itself, and we are integral to and of that process. Our kinship therefore with all Created beings demands and nurtures compassion, because we recognize and serve the Sacred Flame in others as in ourselves.
We affirm that God guides us towards Unity by the loving example of the Incarnate Christos, manifested in the life of Jesus, and the ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit as the source of continued Inspiration and Revelation via Gnosis.
The example of Christ and the legacy of the Holy Spirit teaches us to uphold mercy as foundational principle of our actions. In ancient times mercy was considered a kind of transaction, an accrual of social and spiritual capital to be remembered (it is the same word, in essence, as “market”). For us though we see each expression of mercy as an investment in the betterment of self. We are merciful because its exercise is transformative and better equips us for our own challenges on the pilgrimage.
We affirm the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that is built upon the message and authority of the Incarnate Christos and that the same lives from age to age by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the stewardship of the Successors of the Apostles.
As the Apostles were called to follow and serve, so we too uphold service to our communities and uplift and celebrate the Sacred Flame within all persons. In chivalric tradition, it is the is the question “Whom does the Grail serve?” that unlocks its transformative power – the question itself, the inquiry into service, not any specific answer to that question. And so by example each of us is sworn to service not as a end, but as the beginning of a journey. The willingness to inquire as to service is in itself a transformative act.
We affirm the Seven Sacraments of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which act with the Holy Spirit and the Sacred Flame within us to promote unity with the Divine and in the community of Believers.
Sacramental life not only nourishes but strengthens our souls and selves, fortifying our mission and call to service. We are persuaded by the evidence of our own experiences as to the reality of the Sacraments, and in this unwavering truth we find our faith. This word, often represented as pistis or fides, has evolved in meaning to include both steadfastness – a holding to one’s post – and trust – an arguably more intimate and mutual relationship. Through its exercise we find that it is both: as we adhere to our offices and Templar praxis, we are brought into a more trusting relationship with all our other virtues, and with one another.
We affirm the use of sacred writings that reveal the Divine message of love and compassion throughout history. We especially revere the Christian New Testament, the writings of the Old Testament and others, the Nag Hammadi Library texts and the Corpus Hermeticum as potent sources for this teaching.
From study and contemplation this we invite Wisdom, holding to Her as a principle throughout our journey and stewardship. Wisdom is our heritage and purpose. In Proverbs we read: “Do not forsake Wisdom and She will protect you; love Her, and She will watch over you.”
We recognize the Sacred Flame to be present in all Beings and therefore our Offices are open to all humanity without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, social status or sexual orientation.
Finally, this is an invitation for us to uphold the Benedectine vow of hospitality, to welcome all aspects of ourselves and others into a place of protection and divine safety, so all that may be reconciled. In personal work this includes the embrace of the Shadow, so that we may be fully integrated and whole as we present ourselves in service of others. In sacramental justice this means offering the eucharist to all who hunger for it.
The Novitiate of the Knights of the Temple is open to all baptized, confirmed or received members of the Apostolic Johannite Church regardless of gender.
A postulancy of one year of active membership and the recommendation of a priest of the Apostolic Johannite Church is required to embark upon the process for being received as a Novice.
Postulancy commences when an individual submits their declaration of intent to the local Superior for the Knights of the Temple.
Upon entering the Novitiate, novices take religious vows for one year as a part of the discernment process.
Knights of the Temple are expected to serve and assist with minor parish duties at a local Johannite Parish if one is nearby.
Should it be determined that the Novice is spiritually mature, stable and committed to their own path and public service, and with the concurrence of their local priest and the appropriate Superior, they will be admitted to Religious Profession and receive the Accolade.
Those Novices who are eligible for Solemn Vows are required to submit a national-level criminal background check prior to being allowed to take Solemn Profession and reception as a Knight of the Temple.