According to one esoteric tradition, after excavating the foundations of Solomon’s Temple for nine years the Templar Knights left the Middle East with five “caskets” or cases full of treasures they had collected in the HolyLand. These cases, the story goes, were eventually deposited in Kilwinning, the Mother Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry, before being transported to Rosslyn Castle, ancient home of the Sinclair Barons of Rosslyn, where they were kept safe until a fire broke out in the building. The cases were then quickly removed from the castle and very soon afterwards the construction of Rosslyn Chapel officially began. Thus, it appears that the chapel may have been built specifically to hold the five cases.
This notion was ostensibly corroborated in the 1990s by Andrew Sinclair, who conducted ground scans at Rosslyn and discovered five rectangular objects or boxes in the crypt underneath the Chapel. Sinclair’s discovery has fueled speculation about what might be in the cases, including notions of artifacts associated with Solomon’s Temple or Herod’s Temple, and possibly some ancient scrolls. It has been conjectured that some of the imagined artifacts in the cases were discovered by the Knights via clues they found while studying obscure Essene texts, a theory recently corroborated by the discovery of the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Clues found in the Copper Scroll have led archaeologists to empty pits in close proximity to Templar symbols and weapons, thus ostensibly revealing that the Knights had overseen the secret excavations and then absconded with whatever treasure they found. The hypothetical scrolls that may exist within the five cases have been theorized to include genealogical information regarding a family spawned by Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or, assert authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas in The Hiram Key, possibly Essene information regarding the origins of Freemasonry. But at present all that can be said for certain about the scrolls is that one of them contains a diagram with symbols recalling the mysterious Johannite Heresy, a gnostic belief system into which the Templars may have been initiated in the Holy Land.
Copied by Lambert de St. Omer, a retired schoolmaster, when the Templar Knights passed through Flanders as they moved through northern Europe, this diagram—today entitled the “Heavenly Jerusalem,” it hangs on a wall within a museum in Ghent, Belgium—is a map of the New Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation. Johannite heretical wisdom is evident in the design via the identification of a Messiah—the figure prophesied to found the holy city of the future—as being not Jesus but John the Baptist. Such a designation is consistent with the ancient Johannite heresy, which stated that John was both Messiah and founder of the gnostic Johannite path that leads to the intuitive vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem. According to this heretical tradition, there were two Messiahs or Chosen Ones, with John, the Priest Messiah, one rung above Jesus, the incarnated King Messiah. If the Johannite Heresy is truly the key to understanding the Templar scroll now in Belgium it must be allowed that the Knights were Johannites and embraced a greater veneration for John the Baptist than Jesus. Furthermore, if they were Johannites then they practiced a gnostic path comprised of heretical rites that culminated in an inner revelation regarding the nature of the universe and the goal of human existence. This would explain why the five cases with their Johannite scrolls ended up in Rosslyn Chapel. The Sinclair builder of the Chapel considered himself to be a caretaker and preserver of the Templar’s gnostic wisdom. Earl William Sinclair was a Grand Master Freemason of the developing Scottish Rite, an order that had descended directly from the Templars who had fled France and later made their home in Scotland. According to Niven Sinclair, a contemporary patriarch of Clan Sinclair, rather than risk death by exposing the gnostic secrets in his possession Earl William imbedded them within his stone edifice. Perhaps he knew at the time that the secrets he was hiding for posterity—secrets which would prove that the Templars were Johannite gnostics and heretics—were indeed the Templars’ Biggest Secret.
The Disbelief of Pope Clement V
According to conventional history, the first intimation that the Vatican had regarding the Templars gnostic and Johannite predilections came to the surface during the Knights’ depositions for allegations of heresy in 1307. Then, in 1308, Pope Clement V disbanded the ruthless Inquisition so that he could privately interview the Templar Knights himself. At stake was his own private bodyguard of knights, which since the time of Pope Honorius II and the Council of Troyes in 1128 had been the Holy See’s personal militia. The Knights had been accused of a litany of heretical offenses, any one of which could have been reason to cast them into the holy fires of the Inquisition, but since many of the Knight’s confessions had been extracted under extreme torture their credibility had been compromised. Therefore, having himself never fully believed the damning allegations against his beloved Templars, Clement V confidently called for 72 Knights to be transported from Paris to his villa in Poitiers in southern France where he was sure they would recant their previous testimonies. Imagine his surprise when, after insuring the Knights that they were safe in his home no matter how damning their confessions might be, the Templars refused to discredit the confessions previously extracted from them in the dark and dank torture chambers of Paris. Pope Clement, who was essentially a pawn put into office by King Philip, could only scratch his head in disbelief and lament that his Knights had somehow strayed from the straight and narrow. To his dismay he had found out conclusively that all the vile allegations against the Templars were indeed true. The Pope was finally forced to accept the fact that he had lost his knights. Later, within the silence of his quarters the distraught Pope must have wondered whether the Templars had ever truly been a Christian army of the Church.
What the Vatican Really Knew
Since the time of Templars’ private audience with Clement V a body of evidence has been forming to prove that although the Pope was blind to the Knight’s heretical activities, other informed Church officials within the Vatican did indeed know about their heretical propensities. For example, according to testimony given during the Templar trails from one Father Antonio Sicci, some of the Knights’ gnostic activities had been witnessed by Vatican spies in Palestine well before 1307. It also became clear during the Templar trials that both the Vatican and King Philip of France had had their spies overseeing the Knights’ activities in Europe before 1307 because some of them were later chosen as witnesses for the prosecution. It was because of the evidence uncovered by these early spies that months before the Templars’ mass arrest King Philip knew exactly what heretical activities to instruct his 12 specially selected spies to look for when he had them infiltrate certain Templar pre-ceptories. The monarch may have also known what heresies to look for from studying information contained within a secret Templar document. This document, entitled Baptism of Fire of the Brothers-Consulate, and often referred to by Templar historians as the “Secret Rule of the Templars,” was later discovered in 1780 in the Vatican Library by a Danish Bishop. Said to have been written in A.D. 1240 by a French Templar Master named Roncelinus, it appears to give a green light to all the heretical offenses that the Knights were accused of in the 14th century. Permission to indulge in all manner of Templar heresy can be found in this document, including defilement of the Cross, denial of Christ as the Savior, sexual liaison, and the worship of the idolic head known as Baphomet. There is even a passage within the document that gives the Knights permission to initiate other gnostics into their order, including Cathars, Bogomils and even Assassins. If the Baptism of Fire of the Brothers-Consulate was indeed in circulation beginning in A.D. 1240 it would have been an easy task for a Church or Royal spy to procure a copy for their employers.
The Knights of St. John
A more substantial bit of evidence in support of the notion that the Vatican was aware of the Templars heretical Johannite affiliations came in the mid 1800s when Pope Pius IX gave his famous “Allocution of Pio Nono against the Free Masons.” In fact, this address implies that the Vatican may have known all along about a heretical Templar-Johannite relationship.
At the time of his momentous address the Pope was receiving immense pressure to take a stand against the uprising of numerous heretical gnostic sects forming in France, one of which was the Johannite Church of Primitive Christians. This sect claimed to be a direct descendant of the early Knights Templar, and the chief of the sect, Bernard Fabre-Palaprat, claimed to be a Templar Grand Master in line from both Hughes de Payen and John the Apostle. Pope Pius’ subsequent denigration of the sect during his address proved that the Church had ostensibly known for hundreds of years about an intimate Templar-Johannite association: “The Johannites ascribed to Saint John [the Baptist] the foundation of their Secret Church, and the Grand Pontiffs of the Sect assumed the title of Christos, Anointed, or Consecrated, and claimed to have succeeded one another from Saint John by an uninterrupted succession of pontifical powers. He, who, at the period of the foundation of the Order of the Temple, claimed these imaginary prerogatives, was named Theoclet; he knew Hugues de Payens, he installed him into the Mysteries and hopes of his pretended church, he seduced him by the notions of Sovereign Priesthood and Supreme royalty, and finally designated him as his successor.”
Pope Pius’ address was soon corroborated by some highly respected esoteric historians of the 19th century. In Isis Unveiled Madame Blavatsky revealed: “They (the Knights Templar) were at first the true Knights of John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness and living on wild honey and locusts,” while her contemporary, the self-styled Templar descendant and Kabbalist, Eliphas Levi, volunteered in The History of Magic: “The Templars had two doctrines: one was concealed and reserved to the leaders, being that of Johannism, the other was public, being Roman Catholic doctrine… The chiefs alone knew the aim of the Order the Subalterns followed without distrust.”
Thus, Levi confirmed the Templars’ affiliation with the gnostic Johannites but he went one step further in pointing out that it was principally the Grand Masters and chiefs of the Order who were aware of the Knights’ heretical activities. This notion has been corroborated by transcripts compiled by the Papal Council during the Templar trails that show that when the Knights were questioned regarding one of their most important Johannite rites, that of worshiping an idolic head called Baphomet, only the chiefs of the Order knew anything about it. The caretaker of the head was, at the time, Hughes de Peraud, the second in command under Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who secretly carried the head from one preceptory to the next whenever an initiation or ceremony called for its presence.
What was Baphomet?
Who or what was Baphomet and how did it connect the Templars to the Johannites? The contemporary Johannites, who became separated from mainstream Templarism in the mid 19th century, claim to know. Supposedly their church, the Apostolic Johannite Church, is in possession of secret wisdom descended directly from the chiefs of the Knights Templar. According to James Foster, former Primate of the Johannite Church, Baphomet of the Templars was the decapitated head of John the Baptist, the “Messiah” of the Johannite tradition. This would explain the extreme sanctity the Templars ascribed to the head and why it was in the sole possession of the Order’s second in command. According to the Templars at their trial the head possessed special power and could make “trees blossom and the land to produce.” Legend has it that when John’s head was found by the Templars in the Boukoleon Palace in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade the head had been used to keep an eleventh century emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire vibrant and alive through daily passes near his body. This power, known as the Holy Spirit in the West and Kundalini in the East, is the same power John was saturated with during his lifetime in the Holy Land. It is this power that can awaken itself as a normally dormant evolutionary energy at the base of the spine and culminate in gnostic awareness.
The author is a Templar Knight and the North American Grand Prior of the International Order of Gnostic Templars (www.GnosticTemplars.org). He is the author of four books that cover the early mystery traditions, including Guardians of the Holy Grail: The Knights Templar, John the Baptist and the Water of Life.