I know that this is the third book that I review of Baigent and Leigh, but their books are just very interesting historical works on interesting persons and subjects.
And looking through the cases of more serious bookstores, there are many kindred books about several interesting historical subjects, but actually I find historical information quite unusefull. It is nice to know that Jaques de Molay was the last leader of the Knight Templars and was burned in 1313, but this doesn’t add much to my personal worldview. Therefor I think that I will read only a few more of such books (they are read quickly anyway since it is nothing more than absorbing information) and then return to my ‘usual literature’.
This time a book in which the writers prove that Freemasonry descents from the Knight Templars, which is indeed completely the opposite of my article / book review of “The Children Of Hiram“. Of course you can gather facts to prove your story and leave out other facts, to back up your theory or explain the facts in a different way. Many facts are in fact theories and the stories and history and built together from the information that is found. Personally I prefer the version of Baigent and Leigh over that of Van den Abeele, maybe for ‘romantic’ reasons, but the amount of information and ‘facts’ that are given by Baigent and Leigh appeal more to me than the (seemingly) lack of certain historical facts in Van den Abeele’s account, but most things correspond in both books and “The Children Of Hiram” definately is a very worthwhile book on the history of Freemasonry with only facts and almost no theories drawn from them.
But let us move to the version of Baigent and Leigh.
The book starts with the writers travelling to Scotland during which they quickly wanted to find out if there was any thruth in a legend that they heard from an acquintance. The legend was about ruins of Templar castles, but there had never been proof of Templars living in Scotland. A years-long investigation was the result, in which some pretty stunning discoveries were done. Some of these resulted in the book “The Templar Revelation” (on which my very first article is based) and others eventually led to the book at subject here.
When checking out the legend that they heard, the writers accidentally stumbled upon a range of anonymous graves with no more decoration than a straight sword on the graveyard of a small village called Kilmartin at the Loch Awe in Scotland. They expected to find Templar graves on one of the little islands in the lake, but at least they found something. Theories to try to back up are formed, more evidence are sought (but safe a few exceptions not found) which fills the introduction to this book.
Chapter one of part one gives the history of Scotland between 1290 and 1330 in which the excommunicated tried to form a Celtic kingdom of Scotland. This is also the very periode in which the Templars were made life difficult on the continent. There even seemed Templar activity in Scotland in that periode, expecially with the battle for Bannockburn in 1313. For some reason the winning army of King Edward of England were eventually scared away by a minority of Scotts.
Then the book continues with a quite detailed history of the order of the Knight Templars. Their origin, foundation, history, different leaders, their gathering of land and fortune, their contact with Moslems and Jews, the Templar philosophy and loyalty to the Pope, etc., etc. Then the arrests, tortures, the inquisition and finally the last strike with the friday 13 october 1307 Europe-wide offensive of Philips IV of France that wiped out the entire Templar order.
But -as the writers suggest- many Templars had been warned about the plans of Philips, so they took what they could and fled, for example with their entire fleet and their (supposed) treasure of which nothing has ever been found. Several possible routes to escape are discussed (Portugal, near east, etc.), but Scotland via Ireland is proven most reasenable.
A history of the Templars in Scotland and Ireland is given based on the accounts of (historical) historians, poetry, literature and slowly working towards neo-Templar organisations such as the Scottish guard in France and pre-masonic activity, such as sir William Sinclair with his chapel full of masonic imaginary around 1450. Many families that were later to become familiar names in Freemasonry pass the revue. Sinclair, Montgomery, Roslin, etc.
Passing through similar, but earlier founded movement like the Rosicrucians and the Royal guard, part II is fully dedicated to the history of Freemasonry.
This part has quite some similarities with “The Children Of Hiram”, dealing with the Stuart-minded (Jacobite) and very political early history of the Masonic movement. The foundation of the “Grand Lodge”. The later schismas and internal quarrels, the fast expansion of lodges all through the UK, Europe and the rest of the world and eventually the first Mason that came up with the story that Freemasonry has its past in the Knight Templars: Andrew Michael Ramsey around 1690 and the new form of Masonry based on this past of Karl Gottlieb von Hund around 1750, which was later to become the still existing “Rectified Scottish Rite”.
Part III deals with the formation of the United States Of America.
When Masonry was at its peak in the UK, colonalisation of the ‘new world’ began and many Masons travelled to this new world to build up a new life, preferably a life and community according to the ideals of Masonic and Rosicrucian thinkers.
Especially so called ‘field lodges’ flourished in the early times. These were lodges that were founded in different sections of the British, but also French armies. Often the colonels or generals were not only leaders of the different regiments, but also of the lodges. So many soldiers were member, that every soldier was -if not a member- very much influenced by Masonic thinking. Many high-ranked persons openly practised Freemasonry and later when the English defeated the French all over the east-coast, a large part of the people who formed the United States, wrote the constitution and the first laws, did this with a Masonic conviction. For example, two of the five people who wrote the declaration of independence (?) were Freemasons: Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livinstone and of one other the conjecture is strong, but there is no proof: Roger Sherman. The driving force behind the constitution consisted of five Masons: Washington, Franklin, Randolph, Jefferson and Adams. The first president became George Washington on 7 februari 1789, his vice-president was John Adams and the oath was taken by Robert Livingstone, grandmaster of the New York grand lodge. The burial of Washington was one large Masonic ritual.
Shortly is touched upon the formation of the states and other matters that made the United States to what they are today.
Needless to say that however there were many Masonic influences on the childs-years of the US, the largest part of the people involved in the process were not Masons. But a nice (disturbing?) list of Masonic presidents is a good thing to close this part off: Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, FD Roosevelt, Truman and Ford.
All in all a very nice investigation of the case of Freemasonry and it is obvious that there is more to the subject than Ad van den Abeele wants to admit in his book. He doesn’t mention that already in the 14th century gravestones with symbols that were later to be used by Freemasons (the well-known compass and square) were found in Turkey and similar stones were found by the writers of this book in Scotland. These graves were certainly of Knight Templars. This is only one obvious link between the two organisations.
Should I have caught your interest, you are invited to read this book for more information.