The Knights Templar have a Hollywood reputation. Meaning what most people know of them is formed by what they have seen in movies. Though one thing about them that Hollywood got right was the fact that they were a powerful group. They had money and ability. They set out to protect people as they traveled to and from the Holy Land. In 1099 the Holy Land was taken back from Muslim control and so pilgrims began to visit it again. But they were met with highwaymen and thugs.
About 19 years after that the Templars formed to protect those people. They were known as the “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon” which as you can tell is a mouthful so they came to be known as the Templars. For the first decade of their existence they were a solitary group, a privately formed militia but soon were recognized by the Catholic church and eventually given the blessing of the pope who said they only needed to answer to him.
So by 1039 they had no government over them except the power of the papal see in Rome. There’s a lot more of course which is worth finding out about if you are interested. Such as how they finally came to be disbanded in 1312 and how the last of their leaders died in flames two years later.
But this article is about 21st century Templars and not the ancient order.
The below linked article is about a group called “The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem” and though not literally the successors of the Templar order they consider themselves to be spiritually aligned with them. Like the Templars before them they seek to support Christian causes and Christian safety in the Holy Land. A task that hasn’t changed much since the days of the Templars. It is still Christians and Muslims seeking control of the area. The Jews, it always seem, are there, but somehow not even considered a tertiary presence. The new group allows three things that were unheard of among the original Templars: They drink booze, they allow women to join, and perhaps most stunning of all they allow Muslims to join. And though many in the group hold to the ancient hatreds Muslims do join. There’s a common cause to protect the Holy Land and the organization, a non-profit, distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to schools and people in need all around the world and especially in Israel.
The author of the below article doesn’t shy away from terms like “batshit crazy” when describing the group and pointing out their “expressions of historicist foolishness and idle prejudice”.
For me though the question to ask is why do grown men and women want to dress up in chain and cross and wield a sword as part of their charitable organization? By asking that question I’m not indicating I think something is wrong with what they are doing or that they are merely playing dress up and acting like foolish men who refuse to grow up.
In fact I think what they are doing is psychologically healthy when done in moderation.
People are strongly attached to symbols. They are very much part of what makes us human. Language itself is nothing more than symbols strung together. When I type “chair” it is not a chair, but a symbol (or even set of them) that represent something in the real world. The “c” is a unique symbol in itself that represents a sound. Each letter a sound symbol and when put together the sound symbols represent word symbols of objects in the real world. But even deeper into this we find that some words are symbols, not for things, but for other symbols or ideas. We can discuss things that don’t actually exist like philosophical notions. One cannot lay one’s hand on a notion like can be done with a chair, but we are able to use the symbols we call words to explore it all.
So when a group of men decide that there is something about the Knights Templar of old that they wish to hold onto as the symbol of their modern movement it tells us something we need to know about the group. Though obviously the connections will be imperfect they will take what they want. For example, the real Templars spilled a lot of blood in their day. The modern group won’t do that. But they might look at the reasons the Templars did that. Or they might look at the considerable skill with which they did it. Doing so they might decide that they want to be skillful, or protectors, or masters of their own fear. It might be different for each member of the group. The idea here is that it’s more than just play acting.
We do that in many aspects of our lives. We take on a part and play it out. If we choose well our part then we can find success in the connections with the symbols.
Disbanded 700 years ago, the most famous of the medieval Christian orders is undergoing a 21st century revival