Monday, October 17, 2011

Knights Templar: Questions and Concerns Before I Join

I will likely be petitioning a commandery near me. Before doing this, however, I’ve been asking around and researching Masonic Templarism. I’ve found some strange points that I need clarifying. In fact, from what I hear from some other Sir Knights, I’ve been made a little more reticent to join than during my initial inkling to petition.

I've decided to present my wants and don’t wants in a list.

  • To learn about chivalry.
  • To practice chivalry.
  • To feel close to my paternal grandfather who was a Sir Knight.
  • To be an honorable man and true to his word through the lessons of knighthood.
  • To carry a sword because, well, it’s freakin’ cool to carry a sword.
  • To learn about the history of early knighthood, and what it meant to be an historical knight.
  • To present papers on topics of Chivalry.

Don’t Want:
  • To do an excessive amount of drill.
  • To join an evangelical Christian organization. 
  • To be a Civil War Re-enactor.
  • To join a Masonic body that believes all Masons should be Christian.  
  • To swear an oath to harm others of a different religion.

For me, I chose to go through the York Rite first. My paternal grandfather was in the York Rite while my maternal grandfather was in the Scottish Rite. I really had no idea which was better and Chapter and Council had moved to Farmington so it was an easy choice, at least for convenience sake. I have really enjoyed my time in Chapter and Council and love the challenge of making the Farmington York Rite viable. In my opinion, all Master Masons should go through the Capitular degrees, at a minimum, because I really do believe that the Royal Arch has something to say to them. Some days, I wash we lived in the English system of conferring only the Holy Royal Arch (as they call it) degree without the Mark, Past, or Most Excellent Master degrees being conferred previously because it would make that degree even more essential to the understanding of Masonry and would ease the pressure on Chapters in general. I finally have the time to “complete” the York Rite which is why of come to this series of questions and concerns.. (I’ve spoken with many companions who remind me that the three bodies are separate, so it’s not a completion of a Rite at all.)

I’m concerned that should I join the Knights, I will be joining an organization that I will demit from immediately. I was really struck by something that Worshipful Brother Ray Hayward wrote in his monthly message for Minnesota. He said that, “[s]peculative Knights Templar are those people who take the moral and spiritual aspect of the historical Templars and apply them to lead a fuller, more meaningful life.” I really hope that this will be my experience. I want to hold my sword before Circe, as Odysseus was instructed to by Hermes, using the lessons of speculative knighthood to be more assertive within my life.

In fact, I have used quite a bit of Worshipful Brother Ray’s writings to justify, for the most part, my decision to join a commandery. You can find his papers here. Worshipful Brother Ray is a very wise man and a brilliant teacher of those lessons we find within the York Rite.

So that’s where I stand right now. If you can help me out with my quandary, that would be great. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.


Raconteur said...

The St. Paul York Rite, and Commandery is, from everything I've heard, populated mainly by Bradenites, and though I can't vouch for the ones in York or Commandery, Braden is generally so religiously diverse, that I would worry that it would be too Christian-focused.

As for what's expected, I think it's best to go to the source. Brother Hayward is remarkably good-natured and cordial, and I don't think he would be a hard guy to pin down to a cup of coffee. Talk with him. Or message him on Facebook. He's always been very responsive. I'm sure he would be honest about the culture and expectations of the various orgs under his purview.

devul said...

I, too, am about to join the Commandery. It took me years to do so because I had the same questions and concerns about its "Christian" nature. After years studying Masonic Tradition (which really means, "this fairy tale we made up to teach a moral lesson"), I decided that as long as I looked at the Christian aspects as just more (here comes the heresy) symbolic tales, everything would be alright. No one expects us to take any of the stories or penalties of the Blue Lodge as anything but symbolic, so why should the York Rites be any different, right?

Anonymous said...

I joined Commandery this year, and I know exactly what you mean. It seems like the incoming generation (me included) really wants scholarship, proactive self-improvement, and real, tangible application of masonic philosophy, whereas the current generation wants fellowship, incidental/passive self-improvement, with little effort toward actually understanding/living the lessons. That dichotomy, I think, turns off a lot of younger guys. Let me say this though: the two most powerful and moving moments, hands down, of my entire masonic career, came during the final Commandery degree.

The Plumbline said...

Hey Brother,
I want to assure you that your items on the "do not list" are not representative of my Commandery. However, I can't speak for all just as Northern Masonry and Southern Masonry can be very different. I haven't been as active, but the masonic lessons have been enlightening.

J. Mitchell said...

“[s]peculative Knights Templar are those people who take the moral and spiritual aspect of the historical Templars and apply them to lead a fuller, more meaningful life.”

I hope you find a commandery like this. I consider myself lucky in having found one, but I also understand it is an oasis in a desert of 1950's templary. Ironically enough, the Grand Encampment gets this 'modern templary' and yet the way they went about implementing it actually resulted in five grand lodges declaring the Grand Encampment and thus their own Templars, irregular.

MP said...

I cannot join the KT - I am not a Christian. And I think to allow it the cover of GL support, yet ignoring that we have no similar chivalric path for non-Christians to join as Masons is sad.

Millennial Freemason said...


Please expand on what you're saying. I think the argument you make is a good one to look at further. In fact, I've spoken with many brothers about the Swedish Rite, which is Christian only from the EA degree onward, and their misgivings about its religiously restrictive nature. What would you change, how would you change it, and what would an open Masonic chivalric organization look like to you? Could the KTs be opened to men of all faiths? Everyone, please chime in as well.


AlamoJack said...

MP makes a good point. It's hard to say we as Masons do not favor any particular religious creed while at the same time are quite proud of our "Christian" Knight Templars. I understand that one does not have to join KT, but mainstream Masonry is so concerned with public image I wonder how many doors we shut by giving a perception that we are "Christian", at least in part. It gives the appearance that most of Masonry is for all believers, but the "pinnacle" of York Rite (an incorrect but common statement) is reserved for only Christians.

I wonder how much resistance Grand bodies would give to a appendant body that requires one to defend Judaism, Hinduism, etc above all others.

Anonymous said...

Moving Commandery to a dogma-free state would be very interesting, and I would support it, but then again, I would also support allowing women into masonry (it's silly that we don't), so my position is admittedly at an extreme end of the scale. The old guys, however, would fight it tooth and nail.

It would require some significant re-writing, but it would be a worthwhile challenge.

MP said...

I believe it is impossible to remove the dogmatic requirements from the Masonic KT.

I also believe it should be impossible to do so - the Knight Templar were a Christian order of Knights - to remove the requirement of Christian belief from it denigrates the name.

However, US GLs should look long and hard at what message they are putting out there regarding religious tolerance when they promote KT membership via such constitutional rules as to which appendant bodies the GL permits to work/permits its members to join.

Some GLs have very clearly defined lists, yet the lists are ignored if the appendant organization has a majority of its members coming from another appendant organization of which the GL approves ...

For example, the Knight Masons, AMD, CBCS, Royal Ark Mariners, MSRICF, etc are not in the "list" of the Massachusetts GL, yet members of the AASR NMJ SC who are Past GL officers are members of these organizations.

Just try getting an Operatives Lodge approved for Mass. Masons to join ...

A long time ago, there was a Masonic "Order of Judas Maccabeus", and it looks like there have been some attempts to reinvigorate this group in upstate NY ... looking at what I can find of that, their first order seems to parallel that of the Order of the Secret Monitor.

I think, however, we need to look at why there was such a big push in times gone by to become a KT - it was one of two ways to become a Shriner, the other was to become a 32nd AASR.

Could we create a Fraternal Chivalric order that isn't sectarian?

I'm sure it could be done ... but could you get a GL to approve of you doing so?

I think the best way for it to be handled is for all the GLs to get out of the business of approving/disapproving appendant bodies, and let the market decide which will survive, and which will not.

Dustin Tarditi said...

I joined the Commandery about 2 years ago... With the York Rite, The Commandery, and all things Masonic, you get out of it what you put into it. I've added my personal experience and feedback regarding your "wants" and "don't wants":

Except for carrying a sword, you need none of these things to be virtuous, chivalrous, or honorable. Sir Knights only bear arms when in full dress, as dictated.

Don't Wants:
I've not been to any Commandery meeting or ceremony where there was evangelizing, but there are certainly Christian aspects to the Orders, forms, and ceremonies, and the core virtues and principles of The Commandery are founded in Christian principles and defense of The Faith.
This is not some paramilitary Masonic order, and KT are no more "crusaders" than Shriners are "saracens" - It is a branch of Freemasonry, and all aforetaken obligations remain unobstructed and equally uncompromised.

Not Quite a Cowan said...

On the state level, there may be a lack of "evangelizing," but on the national level, at the General Grand Encampment meetings there is plain talk about financing Christian (read: Protestant) missionaries to "take back" the "Holy Land." This concept may get watered down at the state level, but make no mistake, in the US, the General Grands are explicit in their desire to continue to Christianize the "heathen masses."

Do not let anyone fool you into thinking that you can join if you merely "appreciate" the tenets of Christianity without being a Christian. Section 177 of the Grand Commandery Constitution states that one must be a "firm believer in the Christian religion." Of course, defining "firm believer" and "Christian religion" are two more issues. See also the Grand Comm's "Guidelines for Religious Activities" and the discussion about being "militant" @

Not Quite a Cowan said...

I suppose one point of my previous post is that if you are see Commandery as merely a means to perpetuate notions of chivalry, then you may be a bit surprised to learn about its blatant Christian focus. I'm not stating that this focus is either good or bad, but you should know the mission of the entire organization before you join, and not just how they do it in a small part of Minnesota. The values of the entire national organization will be attributed to you -- ask yourself if you are comfortable with this attribution.

Millennial Freemason said...

Thank you Not Quite a Cowan. It is good to read all information before making any important decisions. This is what I posted on G+, (you can put me in circles if you'd like here)

I'm particularly shocked by the statement in that paper to encourage Royal Arch Masons and Sir Knights to celebrate Reformation Sunday together. 1) Not all Sir Knights are Protestants (for any who don't know, Reformation Sunday celebrates Martin Luther) and 2) not all Royal Arch Masons are Christian.

Thinking about it further though, I can still put aside the national organization's interest because I do see what we do in Minnesota. The hard work by the Sir Knights in this state. And I enjoy a challenge. Change is a good thing and I think I could change this aspect as well. I mean, it appears to me to be one man's opinion, an opinion that was colored by his own personal faith journey.


Still Not a Cowan, but Perhaps a bit Flustered said...

I'm curious--what do SKs do in Minnesota that you feel sets them apart from other states? or somehow overcomes the mission of Commandery that you seem to have issues with? Is putting aside the national body's goals and principles even possible? With all due respect, what would you say to a liberal joining the local Michele Bachmann volunteer staff simply because "they seem like nice folks who do good things in my home town, so I'll put aside my obvious discomfort with her national platform." You seemed to have talked yourself into joining already and are merely trying to back into your reasons for doing so, with our assistance.

Millennial Freemason said...

I'll attempt to argue why I usually can discard a national organization's interest by way of example. I'm an Eagle Scout but I also support gay rights. I don't like the ban on gay scout leaders. The statement has been made to me that we as Eagle Scouts who share that viewpoint should renounce any allegiance to the BSA including returning our Eagle Scout awards. I think this is wrong. I earned the award and frankly, I don't see anyone who says, "you have to fix the problem" actually trying to fix the problem. Instead, they throw apples, trying to color all Eagle Scouts with the same brush. Then they wonder why nothing gets done and change hasn't occurred. Nothing gets fixed from the outside, i.e. Old Dixie and PHA recognition. 

I think the Mission Statement of the Knights Templar is fairly open for interpretation: Integrity, Obedience, Courage. Even the Obedience goal is similar to a Masonic vow, follow the dictates of the Fraternity until they have changed. Of course, I completely agree that the Religious Activities paper is fairly damning as is the Holy Land Pilgrimages but just like the BSA, I see that the overarching goal is good. And once I join, I will discuss with the  leaders of this state on how we can enact some change in those national interests. I take Gandhi's quote, "be the change you want to see in the world" as meaning to take an active role. If you aren't actively trying, you're being passive. 

Sorry if all this seems argumentative. I'm not trying to make it so.


Millennial Freemason said...


Could you tell me more about the Order of Judas Maccabeus? I saw this article concerning this body.

I already know one Companion and myself that would love to get our hands on the ritual and start an assemblage. I think I could even convince the brothers and companions of this state to allow something like this to practice here.


Magpie Mason said...
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MP said...

Nick, unfortunately I don't know anything more about the order of Judas Maccabeus than what is in that post to which you linked. I'd heard of it while hanging around a bunch of Masonic historians during a meeting of the United Ancient Order of Druids.

I think, really, the difference between the AASR Templarism (in the US) and the York Rite Templarism is that in the YR, KT is the pinnacle, and thus, a Christian order is the ultimate goal of the system. The AASR in the US is not so directed.

Then again, as a student of occult history, I find myself in disagreement with the attitude of the MSRICF that only a trinitarian Christian can understand the mysteries of Christian Rosencreutz.

I think the best bet would be to ditch the list of approved appendant bodies, and allow each one to flourish or perish on its own without the imprimatur of the GLs.

Millennial Freemason said...


You make a great point about GLs sticking to Craft Masonry. I don't know but one guess may be because of Cerneau. Of course, it doesn't explain the many similarly functioning bodies in Masonry like Shrine and Grotto that both enjoy GL approval. I'm not sure the answer. If we allow a free-for-all, charlatans may rule the day but if we allow a very restrictive approval process, we lose new ideas.


MP said...

Nick, it's really two things, one of which you hit on: Cerneau, and Memphis-Misraim, which is still practiced by GLs with which many US jurisdictions are in amity, the farce of the GCR notwithstanding.

Togeika said...

I was raised in March of this year. I chose to join the Scottish Rite the first chance I had, after being introduced to Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma. A lecture trip that took me to Little Rock made me want to learn more about Albert Pike. His ecumenism and criticism of "false Priests" caught my attention. Pike called the Buddha "the first Masonic legislator" because of his stand against the caste system and support of democratic rule.
When I examined the Scottish Rite and the terminal degree in the York Rite, they seem to emphasize opposite approaches to personal spiritual growth.
This week, I received the 27* degree, Knight Commander of the Temple. I like the chivalric degrees the best and this one was the best so far. Many of the degrees have Christian themes, but you are encouraged to explore their universal meaning. Christian initiates are asked not to impose their personal meaning on others. It is an enlightened approach.

Millennial Freemason said...


You have a great blog. Thanks for your comments. I've been very antsy to join the Scottish Rite, especially since we have the premier Valley in the country. Currently, I'm starting my journey to prepare for the degrees. Now that I've read through your posts, I'm even more excited. Ahh, I have no time.


Togeika said...

@Nick Johnson, Thank you! I have enjoyed your blog. I use Google to do a daily automated search and one of my searches is Freemasons. So I am notified of new posts to your blog there.
If you (or any other MM) are interested in joining the SR @ the Minnesota Valley, you might consider doing the one day ceremony the first of the year. We were told that after that ceremony, the initiation fees were going to go up to $350.00 (and that doesn't cover all the actual costs!) You can always observe the degrees you miss in the one day later, when you have more time. This week we will experience the 28° - Knight of the Sun(it takes up a quarter of Albert Pike's writing in Morals and Dogma) and the 29th Degrees, which is related the the Knights Of St. Andrew (I've petitioned to join Knights of St. Andrew.) I've been going over the 28° in Morals and Dogma and find it exciting. Pike, in this degree, goes into the archetypal meanings of the great spiritual traditions from around the world.

Shawn Gooding said...

I don't see anything about Christ cited in your list of reasons to join. If you are uncomfortable with Christianity as a central motif and requirement for membership, then you should not join the Masonic Knights Templar. There are neo-KT Orders out there that would admit a non-Christian. The Grand Commanderies of KT under the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA are NOT evangelical organizations, but they are Christian. You can't be an apologist and join the Order of St John of Rhodes+Palestine+Malta, be it Masonic or otherwise.

Togeika said...
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Togeika said...

EASIA-EASIA said..." You can't be an apologist and join the Order of St John of Rhodes+Palestine+Malta, be it Masonic or otherwise."
I am not sure what you mean by apologist, but you join several chivalric orders in the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, without any need to interpret the universal meaning of the symbols in a Christian specific way:

Millennial Freemason said...


You bring up an interesting point. Does one need to cite Christ as a reason to join the Masonic Knights Templar? Is being a Christian sufficient? Hmm, something to ponder further.


Togeika said...

In most Asian societies, it is not unusual for individuals to have multiple faiths. For example, in Japan, there is a saying: "A Shinto Priest christens you, A Christian Priest marries you, and a Buddhist Priest buries you."
Also, I personally follow Huston Smith's creed:
(I heard him explain to a young woman after a lecture at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in the early '80s, when she asked him): "If all the great traditions are true, which do you follow? He replied: "I consider myself a member of each and every great spiritual tradition as long as membership in that tradition does not exclude my membership in any of the other great traditions." In college I realized that Jesus and I never had a quarrel. My quarrels were with the bureaucracy of the Church.

Shawn Gooding said...


I'm well aware of what goes on in the Southern Jurisdiction. The Scottish Rite NMJ was de-Christianized in the late 1940's as a result of a financial lobbying effort put forth by persons of a particular agenda. The origin of the Scottish Rite is Christian. The Kadosh, the Elu degrees, etc. are all Christian degrees in their proper form.

Bottom line, the KT are Christ's soldiers. If someone is embarrassed by that concept or feels lukewarm about it, they should just refrain from petitioning. Period. As you say, they can go join the Scottish Rite SJ.

Masonic Lodges are traditionally dedicated to Christian saints. All of our earliest rituals are trinitarian catechisms. Freemasonry came out of the church and the Christian mysteries. Some Rites have preserved this, others have expanded their scope to become deistic and universal. The Duke of Sussex was motivated by efficiency and greed in the expansion of the BE.

Magpie Mason said...
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MP said...

Belovedelect, you keep saying essentially the same thing, yet you ignore history:

four of the "Eleven Gentlemen of Charleston" were Jewish:
Abraham Alexander, Emanuel De la Motta, Israel Delieben, and Moses Levy

Moses M. Hayes, to whom Francken passed on the Rite he received from Morin, was Jewish.

So, I find it hard to believe what I see, later, in Folger's works about the AASR, that it was ALWAYS intended to be for Christians, after the 16th degree.

I find it hard to believe, what you keep spouting, considering that some of the very men responsible for the growth of the first Supreme Council - the Mother Council of the World, were Jewish.

Togeika said...

Greetings BelovedElect,

I'd recommend researching the Scottish Rite a little more, especially Albert Pike and his writings. Ecumenicism and comparative religion have been in the SR much before 1940. We saw a grand example at the end of the 30° - Knight of Kadosh, last Thursday.

No matter who by or where a tradition originates, every capable person can understand the universal truths contained within them.
It is late. More later! I'll give a link to what I write at my blog. Don't want to take this off course on Nick's fine blog. Thanks Nick!

Matt Johnson said...

I am joining the Scottish Rite, SJ either this year or next. It has everything...getting the Lost Word, Knights Templar knighthood. Plus their resources are fantastic for booksworms like me. Google "Explanation of the York Rites" by Normand.

Matt Johnson said...

Here it is.

I think all of the bodies are interesting. However, I am busy and my lodge comes first. So I am going to do my lodge and the SR. I do agree it is not Masonic to go against the ideal of universal brotherhood and endorse a particular religion, even my own. That is not Freemasonry.

Barry said...

I posted on TSS as well.

I encourage you to go through and I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

I love the ritual and although it is Christian oriented, it is not fanatical or overly zealous in any way.

Bro. Barry

Anonymous said...

If you are already a Mason and have been through York Rite, then you know that Mason have no other link to Christians or any religion other than to hope you have belief in a higher power, which would generally coincide with the mission of charity and relief in communities. Those that think otherwise tend to not help others..

Every step of the Scottish Rite is a lesson in history and religion - accepting of all men and taking pieces away for personal value from each. The commandery has its history rooted in Christian beliefs but like all things masonic, it is allegory. No Mason will ever force you to believe or practice anything other than your personal beliefs. Your duty is to your blue lodge first and appendant bodies are further vehicles for "masonic light" or education. Its a personal choice to learn more, not change your beliefs.

Its awesome and the very end, ties mortality and death together in a realization of our greater purpose as humans - regardless of your background, color or preferences. Go for it.

LD said...

Nick - I regularly read your blog and enjoy it, thanks for putting it out there.

I'm thinking about many of the same things you did in considering whether to join the Commandery. I vaguely remembered this series of posts and have been rereading them. This post had several links that are now defunct. Any chance you know where the essays could be found now?

It would also be great if you had time to do a follow up. It seems obvious based on your activity with Commandery that it has gone well. I wonder what your experience was though. There seems to be a jump between your pre-membership concerns and your active involvement. What happened in the time in between?

It seems that in your area, the membership is pretty diverse. In my area, I'm pretty sure the Christian influence is heavier (since Lodge prayers often end "In Jesus name"). I wonder what role that might play in the way the organization functions and my comfort level with it.

I'd love to hear some insights from you! Thanks!

Togeika said...

Sounds like the Antithesis of the Freemasons. Why would you post here?

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