The knowledge of the Templars concerning the early history of Christianity was undoubtedly one of the main reasons for their persecution and final annihilation,





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   In the Dark Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire, one religion gained absolute supremacy in the Western world: Christianity. While ostensibly based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, scholars today can trace Christianity’s evolution back through the ideologies of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Babylon to the much older culture of Sumer.


   The discovery in recent years of lost writings dating from before the time of Jesus has provided much-needed information to fill in the gaps of knowledge about both the man and his times.


   Due to a lack of first-hand accounts of Jesus, acrimonious debates over Christian beliefs and theology continued for centuries from the time the secular power of the Holy Roman Catholic "Universal" church emerged during medieval times.


   Until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Roman church stood as the ultimate authority in the Western world. Through the lending of both its money and blessings, the Vatican dominated kings and queens and controlled the lives of ordinary citizens through fear of excommunication and its infamous Inquisition.


   Europe’s best and brightest men were exhorted by the clergy to battle for God and country, and Christian Europe launched Crusade after Crusade against the Muslims holding the Holy Land of the Middle East. The power of the church became further centralized and all powerful.


   Some of these men, particularly in southern France with its association to certain legends concerning Mary Magdalene and her descendants, had knowledge of secret traditions which ran counter to the teachings of the church. The Crusades presented a convenient excuse to lake the Holy Land and search for verification of these traditions.

Some researchers even suggest that the Crusades may have been inspired by this search for hidden knowledge.


According to French author Socle,fl’eter the Hermit—generally considered to be instrumental in promoting the First Crusade along with Saint Bernard—was a personal tutor to the Crusade’s leader, Godfrey de Bouillon, a man later associated with the Knights Templar.


   Once in the Holy Land, the Crusaders apparently found some verification of heretical ideas which supported elder traditions, principally those circulating in southern France, and differed from the teachings of the church. It was this conflict that led to the creation of societies which used secrecy as protection from the Roman church, which, in turn, began to guard its established theology with increasingly violent means.


   By many recent accounts, at least one group of Crusaders brought back more than just heretical hearsay—they reportedly returned to Europe with hard evidence of error and duplicity in church dogma. These Crusaders over time became known as heretics and blasphemers and an attempt was made by the church to exterminate them. They were the Knights Templar, whose traditions live on today within Freemasonry.



A religious-military knighthood called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was formed in 1118 when nine French Crusaders appeared before King Baldwin of Jerusalem and asked to be allowed to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. They also asked permission to stay in the ruins of Solomon’s Temple.


   Their requests were granted and the order became known as the Knights of the Temple, soon shortened to Knights Templar.


   Scant attention has been paid to the Knights in traditional history books and their role in shaping future events has been mostly relegated to footnotes. It is known that the order flourished, becoming extraordinarily wealthy and powerful, until in the year 1307 they were crushed by an envious French king and a pope fearful of their secrets.


   As with much of history, there was more to this story than has been told to a general audience. With the destruction of the Templars, the church attempted to wipe out all evidence of the order and their secrets, which involved the innermost mysteries of Christianity—issues so volatile that the Templars had to be destroyed by the very church that ordained them.


   Until recently, most of what was known about the origins of the Templars came from the Prankish historian Giillanmc de Tyre, writing more than fifty years after the events. His account is sketchy, incomplete, and perhaps even wrong in some instances. Today, thanks to the effort of a number of scholars, the record is more complete and Templar contributions are being reappraised.


   The Middle East at the time was in turmoil. In 1099 the knights of the First Crusade, under Godfrey de Bouillon, had captured the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Muslims and created a Christian kingdom under that name. But the countryside was far from pacified and the journey from the eastern Mediterranean ports to the Holy City was perilous.


   So nine knights petitioned Jerusalem’s King Baldwin II of Le Bourg to be allowed to form a military order and to be quartered in the east wing of his palace which was adjacent to the recently captured Al-Aqsa Mosque, former site of King Solomon’s Temple. Baldwin agreed and even paid the knights a small stipend. This act was thought by some researchers to indicate that Baldwin may have had ulterior knowledge of their activities.


   These knights were led by Hugh de Payens—a nobleman in the service of his cousin, Hughes, Count of Champagne—and Andre de Montbard, the uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux, later known as the Cistercian Saint Bernard. Montbard also was a vassal of the Count of Champagne. At least two of the original knights, Rosal and Gondemare, were Cistercian monks prior to their departure for Jerusalem. In fact, the entire group was closely related both by family ties and by connections to the Cistercian monks and Flemish royalty.


   "Payens and his nine companions all came from either Champagne or the Languedoc, and included the Count of Provence, and it is quite apparent that they went to the Holy Land with a specific mission in mind," wrote Picknett and Prince.

Provence lies adjacent to the Languedoc and includes Marseilles, where Mary Magdalene reportedly arrived in Europe after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.


   A letter to Champagne from the Bishop of Chartres dated 1114 congratulated the count on his intention to join la Milice du Christ (Soldiers of Christ), a prototype for the Knights Templar. Furthermore, author Graham Hancock wrote that he had established that both I’ayens and Champagne had journeyed together to the Holy Land in 1104 and were together back in France in 1113, indicating that plans for such an order had been underway for several years prior to the audience with King Baldwin.


   One irony was that sometime later Champagne himself joined the Templars, in effect becoming a vassal to his own vassal. One explanation for this strange occurrence—and a significant point concerning the order itself—was that their oath of allegiance was to neither king nor to their grand master but to their religious benefactor, Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, who continued to support the group as he rose to prominence. He was canonized in 1174.


   During the first nine years of their existence, this unofficial order recruited no new members, an odd circumstance for a small group claiming to protect Jerusalem’s roadways. Furthermore, the protection of pilgrims had already been undertaken by another order, the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem known as the Hospitallers.


   The idea that a mere nine knights could effectively patrol the roads leading to Jerusalem is preposterous. It is obvious that the Templars had another reason altogether for journeying to the Holy Land. They made little effort to guard the roads, leaving such protection to the Hospitallers. Instead, the Templars kept close to their quarters and excavated for treasure deep under the ruins of the first permanent Hebrew Temple.


   Solomon’s Temple, first constructed some three thousand years ago, was actually planned by his father, the biblical King David. King Solomon constructed the temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.


   Prior to the temple’s construction in Jerusalem, the Hebrew temple said to house Yahweh since the exodus from Egypt was a simple tent. Traditionally, this portable temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, said to be the means of communication with God. One Hebrew name for their temple was hekal, a Sumerian term meaning "Great House." In fact, some experts have claimed that Solomon’s Temple was "almost a carbon copy of a Sumerian temple erected for the god Ninurta a thousand years earlier."


   Solomon’s Temple was destroyed during the Babylonian conquest about 586 B.C., then rebuilt by King Zerubbabel after the Jews returned from captivity. Much of the new design was based on a vision by the prophet Ezekiel, who in the Old Testament described his experiences with flying devices. In the time of Jesus, Zerubbabel’s temple was greatly reworked to become the temple of Herod the Great. It was destroyed only four years after its completion in A.D. 70 during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. Today, remnants of the Jewish temples are enclosed within the Dome of the Rock mosque, an Islamic holy shrine second only to Mecca and Medina.


   There is no question that Templar excavations were extensive. In 1894 a group of British Royal Engineers led by a Lieutenant Charles Wilson discovered evidence of the Templars while mapping vaults under Mount Moriah. They found vaulted passageways with keystone arches, typical of Templar handiwork. They also found artifacts consisting of a spur, parts of a sword and lance, and a small Templar cross, which are still on display in Scotland.


   It was during their excavations, according to several accounts, that the Templars acquired scrolls of hidden knowledge, again most probably dealing with the life of Jesus and his associations with the Essenes and Gnostics. They also reportedly acquired the legendary Tables of Testimony given to Moses as well as other holy relics—perhaps even the legendary Ark of the Covenant and the Spear of Longinus—which could have been used to validate their claims as an alternative religious authority to the Roman church.


   Such reports were well supported by the discovery of a document etched on copper among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in 1947. This "Copper Scroll," translated in the mid-1950s at Manchester University, not only mentioned a vast treasure of both gold and literature but actually described their hiding place—the site of the Templar excavations beneath Solomon’s Temple. It apparently was one of several copies, another of which may have come into the hands of the Templars. With its detailed directions to hidden Hebrew valuables, the "Copper Scroll" was literally a treasure map.


   Author Hancock thought the Templars’ search was only partially successful.

"If the Templars had found the Ark, they would certainly have brought it back to Europe in triumph. Since that had not happened it seemed to me quite safe to conclude that they had not found it," he wrote.

Hancock theorized that the Ark had long since been transported to Ethiopia, where it remains hidden.


   According to author Laurence Gardner, in addition to gold, the Templar excavators also recovered "a wealth of ancient manuscript books in Hebrew and Syriac . . . many of these predated the Gospels, providing first-hand accounts that had not been edited by any ecclesiastical authority.

   "It was widely accepted that the Knights possessed an insight which eclipsed orthodox Christianity, an insight that prrmillrd them the certainty that the Church had misinterpreted both the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection."

   Their newfound wealth as well as their possession of lost documents also could explain the rapid acceptance of the Templars by awestruck church leaders. According to Knight and Lomas, "The Templars clearly had possession of the purest ’Christian’ documents possible—far more important than the Synoptic Gospels!" With this knowledge the Templar leaders, either directly or by implication, must have greatly intimidated church officials, leading to great growth and power.


   Having accepted no new members for almost a decade and claiming to be poor even though most of them were members of or connected to royal families—their original seal depicted two knights sharing one horse—the order’s fortunes suddenly soared.


   Their leaders began traveling, recruiting members and gaining acceptance from both the church and European royalty.


   On January 31, 1128, Templar grand master Payens and Montbard traveled to Troyes about seventy-five miles southeast of Paris to plead the case for official recognition by the church before a specially convened council. This Council of Troyes was made up of Catholic archbishops, bishops, and abbots, including Montbard’s nephew, Saint Bernard, by then head of the powerful Cistercian order. With the added endorsement of King Baldwin, the council approved the Templars as an official military and religious order. This resulted in Pope Honorius II approving a "Rule" or constitution for the Knights Templar which sanctioned contributions to the order.


   This Rule was prepared by Saint Bernard and copied the structure of his Cistercian order. To support the religious side of the order, the Rule, among other things, ordered all new Templars to make a vow of chastity and of poverty, which included turning over all their property to the order. On the military side, Templars were forbidden to retreat in combat unless their opponents outnumbered them more than three to one and their commander approved a withdrawal.


   The structure of the order was a forerunner of Freemasonry. Each local branch was called a "Temple" and its ruling commander reported to and pledged obedience to the grand master.


   Within the ranks there were four classifications—knights, sergeants, chaplains, and servants. As in later Freemasonry, there was great emphasis on keeping secrets from both the public and their fellow Templars. Picknett and Prince wrote that with the order’s rigid pyramid command structure,

"It is likely that the majority of the Knights Templar were no more than the simple Christian soldiers they appeared to be, but the inner circle was different."


   The power and prestige of the order increased rapidly, and at the zenith of its popularity counted a membership of about twenty thousand knights. The distinctive white surcoat emblazoned with a red cross worn only by the Knights Templar was always seen in the thick of battle. Quickly their reputation rivaled that of modern fighting elites such as the U.S. Marines, Britain’s Special Air Service, or the earlier German Waff en SS."


   "They [Payens and Montbard] had gone west with nothing and came back with a Papal Rule, money, precious objects, landed wealth and no less than 300 recruited noblemen to follow Hugh de Payens’ lead as Grand Master of a major order," noted Knight and Lomas.


   "Within a year [of the Council of Troyes], they owned lands in France, England, Scotland, Spain and Portugal," reported Baigent and Leigh. "Within a decade, their possessions would extend to Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary and Constantinople. In 1131 the king of Aragon bequeathed to them a third of his domains. By the mid-twelfth century, the Temple had already begun to establish itself as the single most wealthy and powerful institution in Christendom, with the sole exception of the Papacy."

   Contributions from royalty and the nobles were not just in coin or land. Members received lordships, baronies, landlord status, and castles. Grand Master Payens had many high-level connections. He was married to Catherine de Saint-Clair, daughter of a prominent Scottish family that donated land south of Edinburgh where the first Templar study center or preceptory outside the Holy Land was built.


   Saint Bernard—who had supported the Templars so well at Troyes— and his Cistercian order also prospered. According to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, the Cistercians were practically insolvent prior to the formation of the Templars, but then showed sudden and rapid growth. "Within the next few years a half dozen abbeys were established," they wrote. "By 1153 there were more than 300, of which Saint Bernard himself personally founded 69. This extraordinary growth directly par-ullcls that of the Order of the Temple."


  In 1139 Pope Innocent II —a protégé of Saint Bernard — proclaimed that the Templars would henceforth answer to no other authority but the papacy. This license to operate outside any local control meant an exemption from taxes, which considerably increased the wealth of the order. The pope also granted the Templars the most unusual right to build their own churches. According to Baigent and Leigh, within Templar enclaves,

"the knights were a law unto themselves. They offered right of sanctuary, like any church. They convened their own courts to try cases of local crime. They ran their own markets and fairs. They were exempt from tolls on roads, bridges and rivers."

   Obviously, whatever the Templars had unearthed beneath Solomon’s Temple brought them power and recognition from church and political leaders alike.


   This power only increased after 1129 when King Baldwin II asked Payens and his Templars to aid in an ill-fated attack on the Muslim city of Damascus. This somewhat hasty and ill-conceived operation may have been instigated by Count Fulk V of Anjou. Fulk had rushed to Jerusalem near the end of the Templar excavations. Pledging allegiance to the fledgling order, Fulk had contributed an annuity to continue their operations. His reward for such generosity may have come in 1128 when French king Louis VI selected Fulk to marry Baldwin’s daughter Melisende. Following Baldwin’s death in the aftermath of the failure to take Damascus, son-in-law Fulk, the Templar, became king of Jerusalem.


   On his return to the Holy Land following a visit in Europe, Payens, along with three hundred knights, shepherded a large throng of pilgrims. The Templars then joined with the Christian forces in the attack on Damascus.


   It was here that the Knights Templar had yet another opportunity to learn Holy Land secrets. During this action the Christians became allied with an Islamic secret society that also claimed to be privy to ancient knowledge: the notorious Assassins.


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The Assassins, a fanatical Islamic sect that developed a dictatorial pyramid command structure copied by all subsequent secret societies, were so infamous that even today their very name is synonymous with terror and sudden death.


   The name reportedly was derived from the cannabis drug hashish, which members smoked in preparation for killing. Sect killers, who were taught that murder was a religious duty, became known as "hashshasin," Arabic for hashish smoker, which over time became simply "assassin." This is the popular origin of the name. However, author Daraul and others have suggested that it may well have stemmed from the Arabic word "Assasseen" denoting "guardians of the secrets."


   Assassin founder, Hasan bin Sabah, was a schoolmate of the Persian poet laureate Omar Khayyam and Nizam ul Mulk, who later became the grand vizier to the Turkish sultan of Persia. He had his own secrets to guard. He had gained esoteric knowledge from the former and royal privileges from the latter. After being caught in a money pilfering scandal, Hasan was forced to flee Persia for Egypt, where he was further indoctrinated in ancient secrets, to include an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Cabala.


   While in Egypt Hasan may have laid his plans for the formation of his Assassin sect while studying the organization and practices of the Dar ul Hikmat (House of Knowledge) or Grand Lodge of Cairo. This lodge was a repository for ancient knowledge and wisdom brought forward from the days of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. According to author Webster, lodge members perfected the techniques used centuries later by Weishaupt to organize the Illuminati. Also stemming from this lodge was the cult of Roshaniya or the Illuminated Ones, which became such a terror to authorities in Afghanistan under the leadership of Bayezid Ansari in the sixteenth century.


   Tracing their ties to the prophet Mohammed, the Assassins were an outgrowth of the Islamic sects of Hakim, Fatima, the Batinis, and Shiahs. It was about A.D. 872 that one Abdullah ibn Maymun created the Batinis sect, which set the tone for the development of the Assassins. A dedicated materialist, Abdullah was schooled in Gnosticism and became determined to abolish all structured religion, including the Ismailis to which he belonged. To achieve this end, Abdullah was forced to pose as a pious member of the Ismailis. The Ismailis believed they were descended from Ishmael, the son of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham and his surrogate wife, Hagar, demonstrating again the intertwined histories of the Israelites and their Mideast neighbors.


Webster quoted an earlier researcher, Rcinhnrt Dozy, who described Abdullah’s program as one dedicated to forming a vast secret society filled with both freethinkers and bigots for the purpose of discrediting and destroying religion. After elaborate initiations, he would "unfold the final mystery, and reveal that Imams [spiritual leaders], religions and morality were nothing but an imposture and an absurdity." He also sought to overthrow the reigning regimes and take power for himself, first by subterfuge and then by force. Exhibiting disdain for the public, he won over the credulous with magic tricks passed off as miracles, the religious leaders by displays of piety, and the mystics by lengthy dissertations on the ancient mysteries. Through such duplicity, "a multitude of men of diverse beliefs were all working together for an object known only to a few of them."


   After years of schisms within the Ismailis, the followers of Abdullah and others joined in "societies of wisdom," which in 1004 became the Grand Lodge of Cairo, where members were turned into fanatics. It was here that the later Druses sect held sway.


   The Druses apparently continued Abdullah’s duplicitous methods as they claimed to be both Muslims and Christians at the same time. They also used recognition signs which can still be found in Grand Orient Freemasonry. As in all secret societies, while most members were simply fervent worshippers, the top leadership had other agendas. It was through the Druse-led Grand Lodge of Cairo that Hasan learned well the techniques he employed within his own society.


   Hasan’s killer cult came into existence about 1094 when he and some Persian allies took the mountain fortress of Alamut on the Caspian Sea in Iran. He created his own Shiah Ismaili sect which came to be known as the Assassins. While proclaiming himself as a great spiritual leader, Hasan forged a personality cult centered on himself backed by lethal violence. According to Webster,

"The final object was domination by a few men consumed with the lust of power under the cloak of religion and piety, and the method by which this was to be established was the wholesale assassination of those who opposed them."

   The higher initiates were taught the Assassin secret doctrines, one of which was that "Nothing is true and all is allowed." Another secret was that,

there is only one God and everything in creation, including humankind, is part of a universal whole, a concept along the lines of Einstein’s unified field theory, which continues to be seriously studied by modern scientists.

Finally, the Assassin dogma that the end justifies the means may well have been a precursor of that same philosophy which passed into "Illuminized" Freemasonry.


   Hasan’s method of recruitment was so extraordinary as to be thought a myth. According to several sources, including the writings of Marco Polo, who passed his way, Hasan found and developed a secret valley that he filled with gracious palaces and landscaped gardens well stocked with exotic animals and beautiful women. Local youths would find themselves befriended by strangers in drinking places. They would awake from a drug-induced stupor to find themselves surrounded by such beauty and luxury that it could only have been the promised paradise. After a few days of living beyond all expectation, the recruits were again drugged and woke up back in their dull reality.


   After a few such experiences, Hasan had no trouble in enlisting their allegiance by promising to return them to "paradise" permanently in exchange for their deadly work. Entranced by the promise of eternal heaven, these brainwashed goatherders proved eager soldiers, even to the point of sacrificing themselves when required.


   Calling himself the Grand Master or Shaikh-al-Jabal, Hasan operated this early-day Murder, Incorporated, from his highland fortress, gaining the title of "Old Man of the Mountain," a name that struck terror in the hearts of his neighbors.


   The power of the Assassins increased until by the mid-twelfth century the cult boasted a string of strongholds stretching throughout Persia and Iraq. Their influence may have even reached to the secret society of Thugs in India, who were known to use recognition signs similar to the Assassins.


   As Grand Master, Hasan created a system of apprentices, fellows of the craft, and masters, which has been compared with the later Masonic degrees. Masonic historian Mackey admitted the Assassins "whose connection with the Templars, as historically proved, may have had some influence over that Order in molding, or at least in suggesting, some of its esoteric dogmas and ceremonies."


   Author Daraul quoted an Orientalist named Syed Ameer Ali as stating,

"From the Ismailis the Crusaders borrowed the conception which led to the formation of all secret societies, religious and secular, of Kuropc.... The Knights Templar especially, with their system of grand masters, grand priors and religions devotees, and their degrees of initiation, hear the strongest analogy to the Eastern Ismailis."

   Several accounts have connected the Templars with the Assassins in joint operations during the Crusades, including the attack on Damascus in 1129 led by King Baldwin of Jerusalem. One eighteenth century author lamented the fact that the Templars would "ally themselves with that horrible and sanguinary prince named the Old Man of the Mountain, Prince of the Assassins."

   "Those who think that the Assassins were fanatical Muslims, and therefore would not form any alliance with those who to them were infidels, should be reminded that to the followers of the Old Man of the Mountain only he was right, and the Saracens who were fighting the Holy War for Allah against the Crusaders were as bad as anyone else who did not accept the Assassin doctrine," commented Daraul.

   Sometime prior to his attack on Damascus, Baldwin had entered into an agreement with the Assassins, who counted many members within the walls of the city. With the aid of this Fifth Column, the city would be taken. The Assassins had been promised the city of Tyre for their assistance. The plot, however, was discovered and all Assassins in Damascus were rounded up and lynched by the inhabitants.


   Buoyed by the return from Europe of Grand Master Payens and his Templars, Baldwin decided to make an outright attack on the city but was repulsed with heavy losses.


   This battle along with other later combined operations could have provided the opportunity for the Templars and Assassins to share esoteric ancient knowledge as well as important military intelligence, since it is recorded that the Assassins had deeply penetrated the Muslim hierarchy.

   "The Templars entered at various times into amicable arrangements and treaty stipulations with the Assassins," confirmed Mackey, "... we may therefore readily believe that at those periods, when war was not raging, there might have been a mutual interchange of courtesies, of visits and of conferences."

   The murderous nature of the Assassins proved their downfall. Hasan, the Old Man of the Mountain, was assassinated by his son, Mohammed, who in turn was poisoned by his son, who had learned of Mohammed’s plan to kill him. By 1250 invading Mongol hordes had captured the last Assassin stronghold, effectively eliminating the order. Although, according to some researchers, pockets of Assassins still exist in the Middle East today.


   It must be noted that there were only slight differences between the average fighting man of both the Templars and the Assassins. Both groups were filled with brutish, ignorant, and bloodthirsty men who merely did what they were told. Only their leaders knew the underlying truths of their order.


   Brutish as the rank-and-file knights may have been, the Templar leadership was brilliant and rapidly built up one of the most powerful non-government organizations ever seen. Payens died in 1136 and was succeeded as Templar grand master by a Lord Robert, son-in-law of the Archbishop of Canterbury, another indication of the aristocratic nature of the Templar hierarchy.


   By the thirteenth century, the Templars owned about nine thousand castles and manors throughout Europe, yet as a religious order paid no taxes. Their investments included basic industries, particularly in the building trades. They owned more than five thousand properties in England and Wales alone. Their empire stretched from Denmark to Palestine.

"If their eventual aim was world hegemony, they could not have organized themselves better, or planned their aristocratic hierarchy more thoroughly," commented Daraul.

   They used the revenue from these holdings to build a huge fleet of ships and underwrite a vast banking system. The concept of using money to produce more money was coming into focus.


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Although conventional history traces the development of modern banking to early Jewish and Italian lending institutions, it was the Knights Templar who predated the Rothschilds and the Medicis.

   "They pioneered the concept of credit facilities, as well as the allocation of credit for commercial development and expansion. They performed, in fact, virtually all the functions of a 20th century merchant bank," wrote Baigent and Leigh, noting, "At the peak of their power, the Templars handled much, if not most, of the available capital in Western Europe."

   Christians were prohibited from the practice of usury, which then meant charging any interest on loans, but the Templars managed to iivoiil this restriction, probably by emphasizing the military rather than I he religions aspects of their order. In one case, old docnmejits revealed that the Templars charged as much as 60 percent interest per year, a much higher rate than the moneylenders of the time.


   In a practice which continues today in Swiss banks, the Templars held long-term private trust funds, accessible only by the originators of the account.


   It can also be argued that the Templars first introduced the credit card and packaged tours as they developed fund transfers by note, a Muslim technique most probably obtained from the Assassins and other contacts in the Middle East.


   Pilgrims, merchants, officials, and the clergy faced many hazards and obstacles traveling in Europe and the Holy Land. They were prey for ferrymen, toll collectors, innkeepers, and even church authorities demanding alms, not to mention highway robbers and thieves.


   To protect against such misfortunes, the Templars developed a system whereby the traveler could deposit funds to cover travel expenses with the commander of the local Temple and receive a specially coded receipt. This receipt or chit was issued in the form of a letter of credit, redeemable from any Temple. At the end of his journey, the traveler would receive either a cash refund of his account balance or a bill to cover any overdraft. It was a system which closely resembled both a bank check and the modern credit card.

   "In England, the Templars also acted as tax collectors," Baigent and Leigh noted. "Not only did they collect papal taxes, tithes and donations, they collected taxes and revenues for the crown as well—and seemed to have been even more fearsome in that capacity than [Britain’s] Inland Revenue [or the U.S. Internal Revenue Service]. In 1294, they organized the conversion of old to new money. They frequently acted as trustees of funds or property placed in their custody, as brokers and as debt collectors. They mediated in disputes involving ransom payments, dowries, pensions and a multitude of other transactions."

   Along with banking practices, the Templars brought to Europe their acquired knowledge of architecture, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and medical techniques. In less than one hundred years after formation of the order, the Knights Templar had evolved into the medieval equivalent of today’s multinational corporation.


   The Templars were not content to simply acquire existing castles and other structures. They were avid builders, constructing iinuu’iisc fortified estates, particularly in southern France and the Holy Land. Many were built on peninsulas or mountaintops, making them practically impregnable. Granted the privilege to build their own churches, the Templars became the prime movers behind the construction of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe.


   One of the best-known Templar works is the famous Chartres Cathedral located southwest of Paris on the Eure River. Chartres was built on the site of an ancient Druid center and, in fact, is named after one of the Celtic tribes, the Carnutes. "It was a pagan site," wrote author Laurence Gardner, "dedicated to the traditional Mother Goddess—a site to which pilgrims traveled long before the time of Jesus."


   Completed in 1134, a remarkably short thirty years after it was begun, the cathedral at Chartres is said to be the first of the Gothic style of architecture. Many believe such innovation was brought from the Middle East to Europe by the Templars, especially since Chartres was greatly inspired by the Templar-connected Saint Bernard, who held almost daily conferences with the builders. Considering the history of the Templars, author Hancock said he was "satisfied that they could indeed have unearthed on the Temple Mount some repository of ancient knowledge concerning the science of building and that they could have passed on what they had learned to Saint Bernard in return for his support."


   The name Gothic is believed to have been derived from the Germanic tribes of Goths that overran the Roman Empire. However, Gardner and others argue that, at least when pertaining to architecture, the name may have come from the Greek goetik, meaning something magical. And the Goths certainly had nothing to do with the magical architecture of an amazing number of cathedrals constructed during the twelfth century— just after the Templars brought their secrets back to Europe.


   Prior to this time European buildings had been squat, thick block structures built for expediency and defense. Suddenly, people were astounded by the impossibly high vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses of the new cathedrals. Pointed arches and vaulting coupled with magnificent stained glass windows reflected new techniques inspired by Templar knowledge of sacred geometry and metallurgy techniques.


   It was the "Templars who instigated the first stonemason guilds." According to Picknetl and Prince, the Templars "were behind the formation of builders’ guilds, including that of the stonemasons—who became lay members of the Templar Order and who had all their advantages, such as exemption from paying tax."


   The stained glass in Chartres has evoked much comment.

"Nothing like it had ever been seen before, and nothing like it has been seen since," commented Gardner. "Even in twilight, this glass retains its brilliance way beyond that of any other. Gothic stained glass also has the unique power to transform harmful ultra-violet rays into beneficial light, but the secret of its manufacture was never revealed... No modern scientific process or chemical analysis has yet managed to penetrate its mystery."

Gardner also noted that among those perfecting this Gothic stained glass was Omar Khayyam, which again tied the Templar builders to the Eastern knowledge of the Assassins.


   Author Hancock noted that the power and grandeur of Egypt’s Kar-nak Temple, the Zoser "step" pyramid and the Great Pyramid were unmatched until the time of the Templar cathedrals. He added that he became even more convinced of some connection between the Ancient Mysteries and the cathedrals when he recalled that Saint Bernard once defined God as "length, width, height and depth," a clear evocation of the knowledge of Pythagoras, Plato, and the ancient Egyptians.


   There is also physical evidence within Chartres Cathedral that lends strong support to the idea that the Templars had acquired hidden knowledge regarding the story of Jesus. At the north door of Chartres above a small column is a carving of the Ark of the Covenant being carried in a wheeled wagon. Since the Ark had been missing since the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70 and since prior to that time all accounts depicted the Ark being carried by hand, many researchers believe this engraving offers proof that the Templars found the ark and transported it to Europe. This carving is tied conclusively to the Ark as a Latin inscription just below it reads, "In this place, the Ark is loved and obeyed," although it also could mean "In this place, the Ark is hidden." In another part of Chartres Cathedral is a stone carving believed to represent the Virgin Mary connected to an inscription reading arcis foederis, or Ark of the Covenant.


   While it is true that various Christian traditions depicted the Virgin Mary as a "living" Ark of the Covenant for bearing Jesus, the carving of the Ark on a wheeled wagon clearly indicates that this carving may well refer to the tangible Old Testament Ark.


   All this concern with a Mary and the Ark greatly supports the idea that many learned men in the Middle Ages knew of a tradition which claimed that both at one time may have resided in Europe.


   The true fate of the legendary Ark remains a great mystery. Some researchers believe it was destroyed, while others believe it still exists in some secret society hiding place or perhaps stored away in the catacombs beneath the Vatican for safekeeping. Author Graham Hancock, former East Africa correspondent for The Economist, made an in-depth study of the Ark and concluded that it was secreted away to Ethiopia where it remains today. At least one modern researcher believes this sacred object may still be hidden beneath Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.


   Another clear connection between the Templars and their work within Solomon’s Temple can be found in Rosslyn Chapel, a miniature cathedral in the small Scottish town of Roslin south of Edinburgh. William Sinclair, a descendant of the prominent Saint-Clair family connected by marriage to Grand Master Payens, founded the chapel in 1446, but it was finished in 1486 by his son, Oliver. It was intended to be the first part of a larger church which was never completed.


   Ostensibly a Christian place of worship, questions have arisen regarding Rosslyn.

"It is actually a strange combination of Nordic, Celtic and Gothic styles," noted Gardner.


"Upon checking with the official history we found that Rosslyn had to be reconsecrated in 1862," wrote authors Knight and Lomas. "Prior to that date there is uncertainty about its consecrated status... [Rosslyn’s] symbolism is Egyptian, Celtic, Jewish, Templar and Masonic in profusion; a star-studded ceiling, vegetative growths coming from the mouths of the Celtic Green Men, entangled pyramids, images of Moses, towers of the Heavenly Jerusalem, engrailed crosses as well as squares and compasses. The only certain Christian imagery was in later Victorian alterations..."

   Knight and Lomas discovered that the floor plan of the Rosslyn Chapel was an exact match for that of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, even including two important columns at the entrance. These columns are called Jachin and Boaz, names tied to the Ancient Mysteries, and which still carry mythical and mystical significance for both Jews and Freemasons.


   "Rosslyn was not a simple chapel," Knight and Lomas concluded, "it was a post -Templar shrine built to house the scrolls found by Hugh de Paytns MI. I his KM in under the Holy of Holies of the last temple at Jerusalem! . . . Rosslyn Chapel was a deliberate replication of the burial place of the secret scrolls!" These authors wrote that the scrolls hidden beneath the Jerusalem temple were the most highly prized writings of the Jews, particularly of the more devout sects, and represented the "most priceless treasure in Christendom" perhaps to include the long lost "Q" document said to be the basis for the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. "More mundane material, such as the Community Rule, was deposited around Judea in places as humble as the caves at Qumran," they added.


   It should also be noted that at the time the Templars built their Gothic cathedrals, not one carried a depiction of the Crucifixion, a most strange anomaly for a Christian order but strong evidence that the Templars indeed denied the orthodox view of this event.


   Yet another factor connecting the Templars to heresies of the day was the romanticized writings of Wolfram von Eschenbach, whose hero Parsival became the Parsifal of Wagner’s famous opera. Parsifal, said to be one of Wagner’s most visionary and esoteric works, connects Wagner’s outlook to Templar traditions. A poor Bavarian knight, Wolfram was believed by many to have been a Templar himself, as he certainly demonstrated a very personal knowledge of the Templars as well as their equipment and fighting techniques. He described a brotherhood of knights dressed in white mantles decorated with red crosses guarding some great sacred secret and even called them Templets, which could be translated as Templars.


   It was Wolfram who was among the first to popularize the legend of the Holy Grail, that elusive goal of many medieval quests. Grail mythology—King Arthur, Merlin, the Round Table—actually began with a poem by Chretien de Troyes written in the late twelfth century. It was Chretien who first named Arthur’s residence as Camelot. Since Chretien lived in Troyes, site of the official sanctioning of the order, and was employed by the Count of Champagne, Templar grand master Payens’s liege lord, he may have had access to the Templar knowledge brought from the Holy Land which he incorporated into his writing.


   In Wolfram’s Parsival, the Grail is a magical stone which bestows youth on those who possess it. This stone was guarded by Knights of the Temple at a great temple on Munsalvaesche, or Mountain of Salvation, believed to be connected to the mountain fortress of Montsegur in southern France, the last bastion of the Cathars.


   Wolfram tied himself even closer to the Templars when he related that his source for Parsival came from an old Arabic manuscript which had been kept by the House of Anjou. Recall that it was Count Fulk of Anjou, later king of Jerusalem, who had worked closely with and funded the original Knights Templar. Interestingly enough, Wolfram began writing Parsival about the time work on the Chartres Cathedral was completed.


   Beginning with the Templars, then working its way through the Cistercians of Saint Bernard on into the symbolic architecture of the Gothic cathedrals, the seeds of their heresy spread far and wide.


   The Templars thrived, thanks to the technologies and philosophies discovered in Jerusalem, while the church became more and more antagonistic, gradually realizing the threat posed by their knowledge. The Templars, in their turn, grew antagonistic toward the church. Researcher and author David Hatcher Childress observed,

"To the Templars, the true church, one that taught mysticism, reincarnation and good works, was being suppressed by a dark power that called itself the one true faith."

   Through the centuries of its power, the church—then an irresistible attraction to corrupt officials, scalawags, and conmen as well as the pious—often instigated bloody massacres against its enemies, which eventually came to mean anyone who failed to acquiesce to its authority. For example, between the years 1208 and 1244 tens of thousands of people were killed by a papal army sent by the Vatican to the province of Langue-doc in southwestern France, the long-standing home of the Knights Templar—as well as home to some very unorthodox ideas.


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The object of this papal attack was a people known as the Cathars, forefathers of the Italian and Scottish Carbonari, who so influenced the Illuminati. They were followers of the earlier Gnostics, who were more committed to matters of the spirit than material wealth.


   The Cathars, whose name meant Pure Ones as they believed their religious views were more "pure" than those of the Catholic church, were ideally situated for acquiring unorthodox beliefs. The Languedoc, formerly known as Occitania, encompassed the Mediterranean coast west of Marseilles, the Black and Corbieres Mountains and the Pyrenees, which separated the area from Spain. An independent state, the region was more closely tied to the Spanish frontier and the vestiges of the old Septimanian kingdom than to the newly forming French nation. Languedoc was a crossroads where travelers passed to and from the Middle East via Muslim Iberia and the sea.


   With the breakup of the Carolingian empire created by Charlemagne following his hard-won conquest of the area in A.D. 801, this corner of the old Roman Empire fell under the control of various kings of the Franda or Franks, the name of which soon would be applied to the entire nation—France.


   Languedoc was home to a number of ancient towns, many of which traced their origin to the Greeks and early Romans. It had its own traditions, culture, and its own language. The language of Occitania or Langue d’Oc gave the area both its identification and its name.


   Perhaps due to this convergence of ideas and traditions, the Languedoc was more cultured and prosperous than its neighbors. "Prejudice against Jews was common, but. . . persecution was not," noted Michael Costen, Senior Lecturer in Adult Education at the University of Bristol and author.

"Organized and official persecution of the Jews became a normal feature of life in the south only after the Crusade because it was only then that the Church became powerful enough to insist on ... discrimination."

The Cathars also got along reasonably well with the Cistercian monks, the predominant church representatives in the region.


   After a visit to Rennes-le-Chateau in the Languedoc, authors Picknett and Prince said they "found evidence for a complex series of connections that led back to a Gnostic tradition in the area, a place that has been notorious for its ’heretics,’ be they Cathars, Templars or so-called ’witches.’"


   According to Costen, Catharism was "the most serious and widespread of all the heretical movements which challenged the Catholic Church in the 12th century." Until very recently, little was known of the Cathars other than that they were considered heretics. This was because the only available information on them came from their implacable enemy, the Roman church, which saw that any material supporting the Cathars was destroyed.


   The Cathars were known widely as bons hommes or good men who led simple, religion-centered lives. They preferred to meet in nature rather than in elaborate churches. Cathar priests, known as perfecti or the perfect ones, dressed in long dark robes and were very ascetic, having pledged to forgo worldly possessions.

"There is a very considerable similarity between Catharism and Buddhism," wrote Dr. Arthur Guirdham, a psychiatrist who made a close study of that group. "Both believe in reincarnation, in abstention from flesh foods—though fish was allowed in Catharism—in non-resistance, that it was sinful to take the life of any living creature, even an animal."


   "Their way of life was an attempt to obey the teachings of Jesus," explained Picknett and Prince. "All baptized members were spiritually equal and regarded as priests. Perhaps more surprising for those days was their emphasis on equality of the sexes... They were also itinerant preachers, traveling in pairs, living in the utmost poverty and simplicity, stopping to help and to heal wherever they could. In many ways the Good Men would have appeared to pose no threat to anyone—except the Church."

   Costen said it would be wrong to simply accept the official view that the Cathars were dangerous heretics.

"Rather it should be seen as a positive choice made by people who were given a very unusual opportunity to hear a new theology [the accounts of Jesus and Mary Magdalene circulating in southern France at the time] and to choose for themselves as a result of the uncoupling of the powers of Church and secular authority," said Costen, adding, "It was impossible for the Medieval church ... to ignore the challenge presented to it within its own territories."

   Dr. Guirdham explained that Catharism was a form of dualism, a belief which "has existed from time immemorial" and connected to the ancient sects of Mithras and the Manichaeans. The Cathars also viewed Jesus as the spiritual Son of God.

"To them Christ did not exist in a human but in a spirit body. The Inquisition wrongly translated this as meaning that to the Cathars, Christ was a kind of phantom. The Cathar view was in accordance with that expressed by modern spiritualists and by the adherents of [Rudolf] Steiner [who was to influence the Nazi cult]," said Dr. Guirdham.

   In their dualist theology, the Cathars believed that good and evil are opposites of the same cosmic energy force and that a good god created and rules the heavens while an evil god created man and the material world.

" Because of this belief, it was obvious that the God of the Old Testament was Satan," stated Costen, who said the Cathars thought that when people died, ". . . they could either leave for their true home [in Heaven] or stay where they were... where they would have to suffer... seven reincarnations... other writers quoted nine. Thereafter the soul was irretrievably lost."


   "I saw how there had been a thread throughout all time," commented Dr. Guirdham, "the Manicheans, the cult of Mithras, the [Cathars], all completely massacred, very, very completely, and among other things because of this reincarnation business."

   Other researchers thought the Cathars’ only problem was a lack of proper obedience to the church. Picknett and Prince wrote, "The overriding reason why the Cathars fell afoul of the Church was that they refused to acknowledge the Pope’s authority."


   Author Gardner agreed, writing,

"The Cathars were not heretics; they were simply non-conformists, preaching without license, and having no requirement for appointed priests, nor the richly adorned churches of their Catholic neighbors."

However, Gardner also saw a connection between the Cathars and the Knights Templar potentially dangerous to the church.

"The Cathars were known also to be adepts of the occult symbolism of the Cabala, an expertise that would have been of significant use to the Knights Templar who were thought to have transported the Ark and their Jerusalem hoard to the region."

   Something about the peaceful, if unorthodox, Cathars was certainly upsetting to the Vatican. Interestingly enough, in 1145, Pope Eugenius III sent none other than that Templar patron Saint Bernard to preach against Catharism in Languedoc. According to Gardner, Bernard instead reported, "No sermons are more Christian than theirs, and their morals are pure." Did this mean Saint Bernard was oblivious to their theology? Or did his defensive words add substance to the allegation that he and the Templars secretly held Cathar beliefs?


   The answer is immaterial since, justified or not, the Vatican began laying plans to eradicate the Cathars. And it is quite clear that some of the Cathar beliefs were directly opposite those of the church.


   The beginning of the Cathar heresy is hard to pin down. Some of the Languedoc clergy traced their predecessors back to the earliest days of Christianity, which may have resulted in their belief of a more pure interpretation of church origins. Others believed the Knights Templar had passed along knowledge they gained while excavating in Jerusalem. Then there is the fact that even today in that area of France one may still find traces of a remarkable belief—that Mary Magdalene, viewed as either the wife or consort of Jesus, migrated to the area following the crucifixion. It was said that the Cathars had knowledge of a tradition that spoke of Jesus as both a husband and father.


   The concept of Mary Magdalene and Jesus as a couple is one supported by the Gnostic writings discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. In the Gospel of Philip, named for the apostle Philip and believed written in the second half of the third century, it is written,

"And the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ’Why do you love her more than all of us?’"

Jesus answered them with a lengthy discourse on how "Great is the mystery of marriage!" and how it was "a great power" necessary to the existence of the world.


   There is an important connection between the gospels only discovered in 1945 and a tract published in the 1330s reportedly by the German mystic Meister Eckehart under the name Schivester Katrei or Sister Catherine. According to authors Picknett and Prince,

"This unusual and outspoken tract. . . contains ideas regarding Mary Magdalene that are only otherwise found in the Nag Hammadi Gospels... She is portrayed as being superior to Peter because of her greater understanding of Jesus, and there is the same tension between Mary and Peter [found in the Nag Hammadi Gospels]. Moreover, actual incidents that are described in the Nag Hammadi texts are mentioned in Sister Catherine’s tract." (emphasis in the original)

   Picknett and Prince see this tract as evidence that documents identical to the recently discovered texts were known to the Cathars, most probably through the discoveries of the Knights Templar.


   Another real possibility is that the Cathars already had an oral tradition of an intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary but lacked any substantiation of their theology until the Templars returned to Languedoc from Jerusalem with their newly found scrolls. The Templar discoveries may have only reinforced and intensified an existing belief.


   Another factor may be a connection made by authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, between the Jesus bloodline and the Merovingian kings of southern France.

   "If our hypothesis is correct," they wrote, "Jesus’ wife and offspring—and he could have fathered ÿ number of children between the ages of 16 or 17 and his supposed death—after fleeing the Holy Land, found refuge in the south of France, and in a Jewish-community there preserved their lineage. During the 5th century this lineage appears to have intermarried with the royal line of the Franks, thus engendering the Merovingian dynasty. In 496 A.D. the church made a pact with this dynasty, pledging itself in perpetuity of the Merovingian bloodline— presumably in the full knowledge of that bloodline’s true identity... When the Church colluded in ... the subsequent betrayal of the Merovingian bloodline, it rendered itself guilty of a crime that could neither be rationalized nor expunged, it could only be suppressed..."

   Author Laurence Gardner, as an internationally recognized expert on sovereign and chivalric genealogy, was permitted to study the private records of thirty-three European royal families. He confirmed that the Merovingians were related to Jesus, but through his brother James, who Gardner claimed was the same person as Joseph of Arimathea.


   Gardner also made a persuasive argument for Mary Magdalene as the spouse of Jesus in his 1996 book Bloodline of the Holy Grail.

   "It was never any secret... for the majority of these people [European royalty], that Jesus was married and that Jesus had heirs, because it is written as such in very many family archives.... The published papers of Mary, Queen of Scots talk about it at length. The papers of James II of England, who wasn’t deposed until 1688, talk of it at length... I was actually in a position where I was presented with . . . some very, very old documentation, not only last opened in seventeen-whatever, but actually documented and written down hundreds of years before that," he explained, adding, "I also had access to Templar documents, to the very documents that the Knights Templar brought out in Europe in 1128 and confronted the Church establishment with, and frightened the life out of them with, because these were documents that talked about bloodline and genealogy.... The early Christian Church leaders adopted scriptures and teachings that would obscure the truth about the royal bloodline of Jesus."

   The early church was fearful not only of Jesus’ descendants but of women in general. Women were prohibited from teaching or becoming priests—a prohibition only now being relaxed. Clergymen were required to be celibate and never marry, despite the clear admonition by Paul in I Timothy 3:2 that a bishop or church leader should have a wife.


   According to Gardner and other recent authors, women were denigrated by the early church in order to preserve the power and authority of its insider "old boy" network of cardinals and bishops. Today many diverse Bible scholars are taking a second look at the role of women as defined by the early church. "Most Christian movements we know to have been characterized by the prominence of women were ultimately judged heretical," observed University of Pennsylvania scholar Ross S. Kraemer.


   To discourage any attention toward Mary Magdalene, Gardner said church fathers made much of New Testament scriptures which described Mary as a "sinner," the original word being a mistranslation of the word almah, actually meaning a virgin undergoing a ritual prior to marriage. "The duplicitous bishops decided, however, that a sinful woman must be a whore," commented Gardner, "and Mary was thereafter branded as a harlot!" Other scholars, such as Jane Schaberg of the University of Detroit-Mercy, concluded that the persona of Mary Magdalene may even be a composite of other biblical women and that such conflation was deliberate.


   According to the traditions of southern France as well as William Cax-ton’s 1483 work Legenda Aurea or Golden Legend, one of the first publications of England’s Westminster, Mary Magdalene, her brother Lazarus and sister Martha, with her maid Marcella and the children of Jesus, journeyed by ship to Marseilles, France, after the crucifixion. The party then moved farther westward where "they converted the inhabitants to the faith."


   Gardner wrote that Mary was "nine years younger than Jesus.... Mary was aged 30 at her [symbolic] Second Marriage, during which year—33 A.D.—she bore her daughter Tamar. Four years later she gave birth to Jesus the younger, and in 44 A.D., when she was 41 years old, her second son, Joseph, was born. By that time Mary was in Marseilles— Massilia—where the official language was Greek until the 5th century." By these same reports, Mary died at what is now Saint Baume in southern France in A.D. 63 at age sixty.


   Returning from the Seventh Crusade with King Louis IX, one Jean de Joinville in 1254 wrote they "came to the city of Aix in Provence to honor the Blessed Magdalene. . . . We went to the place called Baume, on a very steep and craggy rock, in which it was said that the Holy Magdalene long resided at ë hermitage."

   "For centuries after her death, Mary’s legacy remained the greatest of all ilm-iits ID a church that hail bypassed Messianic descent in favor of Apostolic succession," wrote Gardner, noting, "The most active Magdalene cult was eventually based at Rennes le Chateau in the Langue-doc region."

   There is a tantalizing hint that perhaps in that same region was evidence more tangible than stories about the Magdalene. According to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, the very same Joinville wrote that his friend Louis IX once told him of a time when Cathar leaders had approached the commander of the papal army and cryptically asked if he would "come and look at the body of Our Lord, which had become flesh and blood in the hands of their priests."


   In addition to the traditions regarding Mary and reincarnation, the Cathars also were greatly persuaded by the beliefs of an itinerant preacher named Peter Valdes of Lyon. His followers, or Waldensians as they were known, read from scriptures translated into their own vernacular Occitan and believed that a personal calling to preach was more important than church training. They also disdained bloodshed, even that instigated by the church or state. When the Waldensians refused to stop preaching openly, they were excommunicated and expelled from Lyon by local church officials.


   Many people believed the Cathars originated with a Bulgarian priest named Bogomil, whose Bogomilism sect was widely spread through the Byzantine Empire. Bogomils rejected many aspects of the orthodox church, such as mass, the Eucharist, Old Testament miracles and prophesy, baptism, marriage, and the priesthood.

"They believed that the physical world was the work of the Devil and intrinsically evil," wrote Costen. "They developed for themselves a rich mythology of the Creation and Fall which acted as a substitute for much of the Bible which they rejected. These dualists accepted that matter was the creation of the Good God, but believed that Satan had fashioned the world and the material bodies of men from it, either trapping the spirit of an angel within the material body to form Adam or having the clay animated by the Good God."

   However, authors Picknett and Prince argued that all of the Cathar beliefs could not have come from the Bogomils. They quoted the research of Yuri Stoyanov, who wrote,

"The teaching of Mary Magdalene as the ’wife’ or ’concubine’ of Christ appears, moreover, an original Cathar tradition which does not have any counterpart in the Bogomil doctrines."

Whatever the truth of their origins, these Cathar beliefs had evolved over a long period of time, as did the decision to move against them. Despite whatever agreements might have been made, papal authorities must have finally decided that something had to be done about whatever relics, treasure, or writings might be concealed in the Languedoc.


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Proclaimed heretics by King Philip II of France at the insistence of Pope Innocent III, beginning in 1209, the Cathars were hunted down and exterminated during what became known as the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathars were sometimes called Albigenses for their large presence in the central Languedoc city of Albi. This was an operation in which the much vaunted Knights Templar were conspicuously absent.


   It was a long, bitter, and bloody affair, which ended in 1229 but was not fully concluded until after the fall of the fortress of Monsegur in 1244. Even then, the church did not entirely extinguish the Cathar heresy. In Languedoc today there remains some instinctive wariness and distrust of both church and state, according to several authors.


   For some time after becoming pope, Innocent III had tried to bring ecclesiastical pressure to bear on the Cathars with notable lack of success. A man whose fondest dream was spearheading a great Crusade to capture the Holy Land, this pope had to settle for a Crusade in Languedoc, where the nobles as well as the general population saw little to be concerned about in the simple and gentle Cathars.


   In an effort to subdue the power of the Crusader knights, the church had long instituted a policy known as the "Peace of God." Based on an alliance between the church and the military powers, this "Peace" was intended to place church authorities in firm control of any military activities.

   "The agency which was supposed to oversee the enforcement of the Peace in the Languedoc was the Order of the Temple and to that end they were able to collect a small tax on each ox used by the peasantry," wrote Costen. "There is little evidence that the Templars ever did anything effective to enforce the Peace."

   Proving unsuccessful in the use of anti-Cathar preaching and Templar suppression, Pope- Innocent III by 1204 decided it was time to act. I le began writing to King Philippe Auguste of France urging a move against the southern heretics. He also reinstated Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, who had been excommunicated by a predecessor, after Raymond rather reluctantly agreed to support his Crusade. Despite Raymond’s agreement, little action was taken.


   Raymond was again excommunicated for failing to act against the Cathars, and when a representative of the pope met with him over Christmas 1207 in an attempt to revive the issue, he was murdered by one of Raymond’s men. Thoroughly fed up with the situation, Pope Innocent III set his Crusade into motion.


   Although seen today as a war by Christians against Christians, at the time, many people, particularly outside the Languedoc, supported the war as one against a deadly enemy in their own midst. To Pope Innocent, the Crusade was necessary not only to subdue heresy but to demonstrate the power of the church over recalcitrant secular leaders like Raymond.


   Innocent promised the status of a Crusade to anyone joining his army. This meant both absolution of any sins committed in the process as well as a share in any loot. "Many saw an opportunity for plunder and profit and were not to be entirely disappointed," said Costen. "On the whole, though, the Crusaders were primarily motivated by religious zeal."


   Soon the pope’s army, "the biggest ever to assemble in the Christian world," gathered at Lyon under the leadership of Arnald-Amalric along with a number of noblemen and bishops.


   As this massive force—about thirty thousand strong—moved down the Rhone valley, Raymond had second thoughts and decided to join. After pledging to join the Crusade, Raymond was reconciled with the church and promised immunity from attack.


   The first major attack came at the city of Beziers. Here, despite their bishop’s call to surrender, the townspeople decided to resist. According to Costen, the army’s loot-hungry camp followers stormed the city’s gates and were soon joined by the soldiers acting without orders. "Both church and town were looted and the inhabitants massacred, with clerics, women and children being killed inside the churches," he wrote. "When the leaders of the army confiscated booty from the camp followers the town was fired and burnt down." According to the official report, twenty thousand inhabitants were slain.


   It was at Beziers that Arnald-Amalric, when asked how his troops should distinguish between Catholic and heretic, replied, "Kill them all, God will know his own."


   In view of the massacre at Beziers, town after town throughout the Languedoc fell to the papal army without a fight. Internal strife was rampant as inhabitants outdid each other in handing over known and suspected heretics. At the town of Castres, Cathars handed over to the army were burnt at the stake, a practice which was to continue throughout the Crusade.


   By 1229 the campaign was effectively ended by a Treaty of Paris. Though the treaty ended the independence of southern French royalty, it did not stop the heresy. Cathar perfecti retreated to the mountainous redoubt at Montsegur, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Beginning in the spring of 1243, the papal army besieged the fortress for more than ten months. According to Picknett and Prince, here,

"a curious phenomenon took place. Several of the besieging soldiers defected to the Cathars despite the certain knowledge of how it would end for them." (emphasis in the original)

The Cathars certainly must have possessed something to commend their beliefs to these veteran soldiers.


   Finally, in March 1244, the siege of Montsegur was ended by the Cathars’ surrender. Picknett and Prince noted several "mysteries" connected with the fall of Montsegur. One was "for reasons that have never been explained [the Cathars] were given permission to remain in the citadel for another 15 days—after which time they gave themselves up to be burned. Some accounts go further and describe them as having actually run down the mountainside and jumped into the waiting bonfires in the field below." Costen supported this story somewhat, noting, "There is no suggestion that the Cathars of Montsegur resisted the massacre."

   "The most persistent mystery of all concerns the so-called Treasure of the Cathars," commented Picknett and Prince, "which four of them managed to carry off in the night before the rest were massacred. These intrepid heretics somehow managed to get away by being lowered down on ropes over the particularly precipitous side of the mountain in the middle of the night."

   The Cathars, many of whom were wealthy, did indeed have a considerable cache of gold and silver. But, according to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, this pecuniary treasure was smuggled out of Montsegur and lost to history three months before the massacre of the fortress’s Cathars.


   No one knows for certain what secret knowledge or "treasure" the Cathars might have fell to be sent from Montsegur at the last minute, but it is generally believed that it was writings concerning the perpetuation of the Jesus bloodline after Mary’s arrival in southern France, a subject closely connected with the Knights Templar.

   "The Templars were hungry for knowledge, and their search for it was their main driving force," wrote Picknett and Prince. "They seized knowledge wherever they found it: from the Arabs they took the principles of sacred geometry, and their apparent close contacts with the Cathars added an extra Gnostic gloss to their already heterodox religious ideas."


   "From its earliest years the [Templars] had maintained a certain warm rapport with the Cathars, especially in the Languedoc," noted Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln. "Many wealthy landowners—Cathars themselves or sympathetic to the Cathars—had donated vast tracts of land to the Order. ... It is beyond dispute that Bertrand de Blanchefort, fourth Grand Master of the Order, came from a Cathar family. ... In the Languedoc, Temple officials were more frequently Cathar than Catholic."

   Blanchefort, who headed the Templars from 1153 to 1170, was,

"the most significant of all Templar grand masters," according to these three authors. "It was Bertrand who transformed the Knights Templar into the superbly efficient, well-organized, and magnificently disciplined hierarchical institution they then became."

   There is evidence that many other Templars were themselves Cathars, and it has been established that the Templars hid many Cathars within their order and buried them in sacred ground. Along with their failure to participate in the Albigensian Crusade, Picknett and Prince found the fact that the close connections between the Templars and the Cathars were not brought up in subsequent charges against the order, evidence that such connections were an embarrassment to a church hierarchy wanting nothing more than to forget both the Cathars and their beliefs.


   Following the Albigensian Crusade, those Cathars that survived either fled to neighboring countries—Italy was a favorite for ironically this home nation of the pope was not strenuous in hunting the heretics—or went into hiding with the aid of sympathetic neighbors.

"By the early 14th century the Cathars of the Languedoc were becoming isolated and poor," Costen stated. "Their destruction was caused by the methodical pursuit of the Church with its new weapon, the Inquisition. . . ."


"The Languedoc saw the first act of European genocide, when over 100,000 members of the Cathar heresy were massacred on the orders of the Pope during the Albigensian Crusade . . . ," noted Picknett and Prince. "It was specifically for the interrogation and extermination of the Cathars that the Inquisition was first created."

   As the result of the Crusade, "The Church retained its monopoly of religious activity, its control of belief and strengthened its control over the private lives of individuals. The new French State gained the Church as an ally in strengthening control over towns and nobility," wrote Costen, noting that as recently as the 1920s, much like suppression of Native American languages during the past century, children in the region were punished for speaking the old Occitan language on public school playgrounds.


   The extermination of the peaceful Cathars was also a foretaste of what church leaders had in mind for their rivals in power, the Knights Templar.


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For sixty-two years after the fall of the Cathar stronghold at Montsegur, the Knights Templar empire stood against the growing power of the Vatican and the nation states.


   Their control over industry and finance was tremendous, and they had grown into a fearful military power, complete with their own naval fleet based in the French Atlantic port of La Rochelle. It was the Languedoc that connected La Rochelle to Mediterranean ports, allowing commerce with Portugal and the British Isles without passing through the Muslim-held Strait of Gibraltar. Templar vessels, among the first to use magnetic compasses, carried weapons and supplies to the Holy Land as well as an estimated six thousand pilgrims a year.


   But as their power and wealth grew, so did their pride and arrogance, as evidenced in 1252, when a Templar master threatened England’s King Henry III with these words, "So long as thou dost exercise justice, thou wilt reign. But if thou infringe it, thou wilt cease to be king."


   That the Templar order was closely connected to the royalty of England is clearly demonstrated by the fact that King John was residing part-time in the London Temple in 1215 when an alliance of noblemen—many of them Templars—forced him to sign the Magna Carta or Great Charter creating a constitutional monarchy in that nation.


   But while the Templar order flourished in Europe, things went badly in the Holy Land. Less than a century after its capture, Jerusalem again fell into the hands of the Muslims. Soon only the city of Acre remained under Christian control. In 1291 this fortress port fell and the order, along with the Hospitallers, was forced to relocate to the island of Cyprus, which the Templars had purchased from Richard the Lion Heart during an earlier Crusade. With the loss of the Holy Land, so too was lost the principal justification for the existence of the Templars.


   Near the end of the twelfth century, the Templars had aided in the creation of another military order—the formidable Teutonic Knights, those childhood heroes of Adolf Hitler. The Teutonic Knights had created a gigantic principality of their own—called the Ordenstaat— which extended from Prussia through the Baltic to the Gulf of Finland. This Teutonic independent state may have inspired dreams within the Templar leadership of a similar autonomous empire in the Languedoc.


   But this was not to be. Beginning in the early fourteenth century, the Templars were doomed to the same fate as that of the Cathars.


   A key instigator of the Templars’ demise was France’s King Philip IV, a ruler envious of the Templars’ wealth and fearful of their military strength. At one time, Philip sought refuge in the Paris Temple to escape a rebellious mob. He knew from personal experience the wealth of the Templars and was heavily in debt to them. Adding to his rage against the Templars was the fact that he had been turned down as a member of the order.


   In 1305 Philip journeyed to Rome and convinced Pope Clement V that the Templars were actually plotting the destruction of the Roman church. The pope accepted Philip’s word, as the French king has been the power behind his own ascension to the papacy.

"Between 1303 and 1305 the French king and his ministers engineered the kidnapping and death of one Pope—Boniface VIII—and quite possibly the murder by poison of another—Benedict XI. Then, in 1305, Philip managed to secure the election of his own candidate, the archbishop of Bordeaux, to the vacant papal throne. The new Pontiff took the name Clement V," explained Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.

According to Masonic author Albert Manley, Philip had agreed to support Clement’s bid for the papacy in return for a secret commitment to crush the Knights Templar.


   Furthermore, since it was widely whispered that the Templars were attempting to restore the ancient Merovingian kings both in France and other states, Philip’s charges fell on receptive ears. The Merovingians were said to trace their bloodline back to Jesus, which presented a grave challenge to Rome’s authority and supported the idea that the Templars had gained secret knowledge of the true life of Christ.


   With the blessing of Pope Clement V, King Philip returned to France and began to move against the Templars. Drawing up a list of charges that ranged from subversion to heresy, Philip issued secret orders to officers throughout the country that were not to be opened until a predetermined time.


   This was dawn of Friday, October 13, 1307, a date which from that time onward brought a sinister connotation to any Friday the thirteenth. Authorities spread out over France and quickly rounded up all the Templars at hand.

   "Captured knights were imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and burned," said Gardner. "Paid witnesses were called to give evidence against the Order and some truly bizarre statements were obtained. The Templars were accused of a number of assorted practices deemed unsavory, including necromancy, homosexuality, abortion, blasphemy and [use of] the black arts. Once they had given their evidence, under whatever circumstances of bribery or duress, the witnesses disappeared without trace."

   It is still a matter of controversy as to whether the Templars were truly guilty of such accusations. It is apparent that many of the charges against this erstwhile Christian order were spurious and contrived. But there is also evidence that the inner circles of the Templars were sympathetic to, if not adherents of, the heresies dealing with Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Some researchers have even speculated that the Templar skull and crossbones flag may have pertained to the remains of Mary, the Baptist, or both. Vestigial memory of this Templar symbol may have inspired the pirate flags of later centuries as well as the Skull and Bones order.

   "We strongly feel that while the highest-ranking knights may have had radically atypical views on the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Templars were, throughout their entire existence, a faithful Catholic Order.... The Knights Templar were betrayed by a Church and a Pope that they had served well," commented the Masonic authors Knight and Lomas in defense of the order.

   It was apparent that, despite the suddenness of the arrests and the secrecy of the orders, many Templars were forewarned. "Shortly before the arrests, for example, the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, called in many of the Order’s books and extant rules and had them burned," noted Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.


   Many French Templars were arrested without a fight apparently hoping the situation would turn around, but many others fled the country. The biggest mystery was the disappearance of both the Templar fleet and the accumulated treasure in the Paris Temple. Most researchers have connected the disappearance of the Templar fleet with the missing treasure.


   Author Gardner claimed the Templar treasure remained in France at the time of the arrests. "[Philip’s] minions had scoured the length and breadth of Champagne and Languedoc—but all the while the hoard was hidden away in the Treasury vaults of Paris," he wrote.


   Later, according to Gardner, Grand Master Molay had the treasure transferred to La Rochelle, where a fleet of eighteen galleys transported the hoard to safety in Scotland.


   Authors Baigent and Leigh generally agreed with this, pointing out that there were "five years of legal wrangling, negotiation, intrigue, horse-trading and general dithering before the Order was officially dissolved," plenty enough time to disperse the treasure.


   Knight and Lomas added a fascinating addition to the story of the Templar escape—that a segment of the Templar fleet may have made its way to America 185 years before Christopher Columbus set sail.


   This claim begins with the Mandaean sect, those who believed that John the Baptist was the true messiah and that Jesus perverted his teachings. The Mandaeans have been connected to Na/oreans thought to be part of the Qumran community whose scrolls were found in 1945. Muslims forced the Mandaeans from the banks of the Jordan River into Persia where remnants of the sect still exist.


   The Mandaeans, like the Essenes, believed that the souls of good people would go to a wonderful and peaceful land across the sea when they died, a land they believed was marked by a star called "Merica." Since it is likely the documents discovered by the Templars in Jerusalem were duplicates of those found at the Qumraii community, the Templars may have found a reference to the new lands as well as the name "Merica."


   Knight and Lomas conjectured that at least one part of the Templar fleet provisioned in Portugal then sailed west for "la Merica." They said these intrepid sailors, flying their well-known skull and crossbones battle flag, arrived in New England in the year 1308.


   Compelling evidence of such a landing can be found in Westford, Massachusetts, where today a punched-holes engraving of a knight can be found on a rock. This figure, dressed in the style of a fourteenth century knight, carries a shield containing a picture of a sailing ship following a single star. In Newport, Rhode Island, a landmark tower matches the rounded architecture of the Templars and is dated back to the fourteenth century.

"There is no doubt that the building is extremely old," noted Knight and Lomas, "because on a map of 1524 recording the European discovery of this coastline, Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazano marked the location of the Newport Tower as an existing ’Norman Villa.’"

   Recently discovered ruins in Patagonia, thought to be the lost La ciudad de los Cesares (the City of the Caesars), revealed an ancient pier and docks along with a slab of dressed stone marked with a Templar cross, which prompted investigator Flugberto Ramos to speculate that Templars may have journeyed there in pre-Columbian times.


   More persuasive evidence of previously unknown Templar exploration can be found in Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel, where clear depictions of ears of corn and aloe cactus are found on archways and ceiling. "According to official history, seed grains on Indian maize were first brought to Europe and Africa by 16th century explorers . . . ," noted Knight and Lomas. Since Rosslyn Chapel was completed in 1486, six years before Columbus ventured out over the Atlantic, and the carvings are an integral part of construction, "we have certain evidence that the men that instructed the masons of Rosslyn Chapel must have visited America at least a quarter of a century before Columbus," commented Knight and Lomas.


   While these authors admit that indications of a Templar presence in the pre-Columbian New World are not conclusive, they do add to the suspicion that the later Templar-inspired Freemasons Bacon and Raleigh knew more about the "New Atlantis" than previously imagined.


   They also explained that a sixteenth-century German monk named Waldseemueller, who first wrote that America was named for explorer Amerigo Vespucci, knew nothing about the Templar-Mandaean legend of "Merica." The monk had heard about the new land of "America" and also of the explorer Vespucci and simply put the two together.

"Waldseemueller got the name right but the explanation wrong," said Knight and Lomas. "Very shortly after he had written these words, he realized his mistake and publicly retracted his assertion that Amerigo Vespucci was the discoverer of the New World—but by then it was too late. ..."

   "The standard historical line that is routinely trotted out for the origin of the name of the New World, comes entirely from a silly misunderstanding by an obscure clergyman who never ventured more than a few miles from [his] monastery ... on the French/German border," they commented.

   Whether or not there was a Templar landing in "la Merica" in the early fourteenth century, there could well have been a Templar connection to its discovery. According to Baigent and Leigh, Templars in sympathetic Portugal were cleared by an inquiry and then changed their name to Knights of Christ, devoting themselves chiefly to sea exploration.

"Vasco da Gama was a Knight of Christ and Prince Henry the Navigator was a grand master of the Order," they noted. "Ships of the Knights of Christ sailed under the familiar red pattee cross. And it was under the same cross that Christopher Columbus’s three caravels crossed the Atlantic to the New World. Columbus himself was married to the daughter of a former Knight of Christ and had access to his father-in-law’s charts and diaries."

   While Templar connections to America will be debated for some time, there seems little doubt that many members of the order—as well as their treasure of both gold and documents—made their way to Scotland by way of their fleet.


   Scotland, then being fought over" by England and Robert the Bruce, was the perfect refuge from the persecution of the order, which soon spread outside France. At the urging of Pope Clement V, other nations began rounding up Templars and attaching their property. England’s King Edward II was initially slow to move against the Templars, but, as King Philip’s son-in-law, he was finally spurred to halfhearted action. A few Templars were arrested but generally given light sentences such as penance in a monastery or abbey. Templar property was handed over to the Hospitallers order.


   It was two years after the attack against the order began that Edward finally ordered the arrest of all Templars remaining under his control in English-occupied Scotland. His men managed to secure exactly two men, one of them Walter de Clifton, the Templar master. Under interrogation, Clifton revealed that his fellow Templars had fled "across the sea," more evidence that Templars may have set out for America.


   Robert the Bruce’s Scotland was a different story, with its long history of involvement with the Templars. According to Gardner, Grand Master Payens had met with the Scottish king just after the Council of Troyes, and Saint Bernard had merged the Celtic church with his own Cistercian order. The Knights Templar had been encouraged and supported by a succession of Scottish kings beginning with King David and had gained a considerable amount of property there.


   During the time of the Templar persecution, King Robert had every reason not to prosecute the Templars—he was one by birth based on the support of his ancestors, he was at war with Edward II, and he had been excommunicated by the Roman church for warring with Edward, Philip’s son-in-law. Cut off from both the church and his neighbors, Robert welcomed any help he could get.


   English blockades closed off most of the normal routes from the continent to Scotland.

"But one important route was open," stated Baigent and Leigh, "from the north coast of Ireland, including the mouth of the Foyle at Londonderry, to Bruce’s domains in Argyll, Kintyre and the Sound of Jura. . . . Thus Templar ships, Templar arms and material, Templar fighting men and, just possibly, the Templar treasure would have found their way to Scotland, providing vital reinforcements and resources for Bruce’s cause."

   While official history does not credit the Templars with Bruce’s victory against the English, researchers have found considerable reason to believe that was the case. Several Masonic authors flatly state that Templars were among Bruce’s army.


   The Battle of Bannockburn, which secured Scottish independence, was fought on June 24, 1314. Intriguingly enough, this was Saint John’s Day, one of the most significant days of the year for Templars, who venerated the saint.


   Ostensibly to relieve a besieged garrison at Stirling Castle, gateway to the Highlands, King Edward mobilized an army of well more than twenty thousand in addition to the nearly ten thousand in the Stirling garrison. It was plain that he sought to destroy Bruce rather than simply reinforce Stirling. King Robert could only muster a force of less than ten thousand, so outnumbered nearly three to one, his chances for victory appeared dim.


   The two forces clashed in the vicinity of Stirling Castle and fought viciously all day. Although specifics of the battle are vague, it appeared that a "fresh force" arrived just as the battle hung in the balance.


   This new force was enough to cause King Edward and five hundred of his best knights to leave the field, which caused a panic among the remaining English forces. "The withdrawal deteriorated quickly into a full-scale rout, the entire English army abandoning their supplies, their baggage, their money, their gold and silver plate, their arms, armor and equipment," reported Baigent and Leigh.


   These authors believed that a contingent of Templars, with their distinctive flowing beards and red-cross banners, was the "fresh force" that struck fear in the hearts of Edward and his men. Other authors confirm this. Gardner wrote that a member of the Saint-Clair family commanded Knights Templar at the Battle of Bannockburn. Mackey wrote that Masonic historians mentioned orders "first conferred on the field of Bannockburn, as a reward for the valor that had been displayed by a body of Templars who aided Bruce in that memorable victory."


   By the date of this battle, the Templars supposedly no longer existed. In 1312 the order had been officially dissolved by the pope at the insistence of King Philip, and in 1314, the order’s last official grand master, Jacques Molay, was burned at the stake in Paris.


   Molay, according to nineteenth century author Eliphas Levi, had organized "Occult Masonry," namely adding the Johannite heresy to the Templars’ secret knowledge concerning Mary Magdalene’s journey to Europe with the children of Jesus.


   Johannites were named for John the Baptist, who they considered the true biblical messiah with Jesus merely a secondary figure during the time prior to the Jewish revolt in Palestine. The Johannites, who claimed to have inherited their secret knowledge, believed that Jesus or "Yeshu the Anointed" was actually a mortal man who was initiated into the cult of Osiris. They believed that the story of the Virgin Mary was a fabrication by later writers to explain away his illegitimate birth.

   "The Johannite sect recognized that the title ’Christ’ was not unique to Jesus": explained Picknett and Prince, "the original Greek Christos merely meant ’Anointed’—a term that could have been applied to many, including kings and Roman officials. Consequently, the Johannite leaders always took the title of ’Christ’ themselves—Significantly, the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Philip applies the term ’Christ’ to all Gnostic initiates."

   Levi even claimed that Grand Master Payens had been initiated into the ideas of the Johannite sect prior to heading the Knights Templar. This idea was supported by the claim of the Masonic leader Baron von Hund, who claimed he had been presented the "true history" of Freemasonry. Recall that von Hund created the "Strict Observance" lodge in Germany. It was initially known as the Brethren of John the Baptist. It has also been suggested that the Masonic ritual involving the death of a Hiram Abif actually symbolizes the martyrdom of Templar master Molay.


   If indeed the Templar elite were infused with the teachings of the Johannites passed through Grand Master Molay, it is clear why church authorities persisted in his death sentence. Another reason may have been that Molay recanted an earlier confession that some of the charges against the Knights Templar were true.


   Molay, who entered the Templar order in 1265, had fought in Syria and later was stationed at the Templar base on Cyprus. He was elected grand master about 1298. In late 1306 or early 1307 Molay was summoned to appear before Pope Clement V, supposedly to discuss regaining the Holy Land. Instead he was questioned about the charges against the order being leveled by King Philip. On that fateful Friday thirteenth, Molay was arrested and made his initial confession, most probably under torture.


   Molay also was coerced into writing to his brother Templars and urging them to turn themselves in and confess. Appeals from Molay for a personal judgment by the pope proved fruitless. And in March 1314, after three cardinals condemned him to life imprisonment, Molay retracted his confession. As a relapsed heretic, he was handed over to Philip’s officers, who burned him at the stake near the Templar-inspired Notre-Dame cathedral.


   Legend has it that, as the flames licked around him, Molay called out for both Pope Clement and King Philip to join him before God within a year. Both men were indeed dead before a year had lapsed. Some believed that secret Templars poisoned them while others believed their deaths resulted from Molay’s curse.


   Authors Knight and Lomas claimed to have connected Molay’s death lo a modern controversy.

"The Qumranian/Masonic style shroud that was i.ikcn (mm the Paris temple of the Knights Templar and used to wrap the damaged figure of the Grand Master traveled with de Molay to the home of Geoffrey de Charney, where it was washed, folded up and placed in a drawer. Exactly 50 years later, in 1357, this 14-foot-long piece of linen was taken out of store and put on public display at Livey . . . that length of cloth is today called the Shroud of Turin," they wrote.

   In other parts of Europe, most Templars shaved their conspicuous beards and blended into the general population. A few were tried, found not guilty, and released. In Germany, intimidated judges released Templars, who promptly joined other orders such as the Knights of Christ, the Teutonic Knights, or the Hospitallers.


   The Hospitallers began about 1070—before the First Crusade—when a group of Italian merchants established a hospital dedicated to Saint John in Jerusalem. After Crusaders took the city in 1099, the Hospitallers organized as an order and a grand master was selected. While not initially a military order, the Knights of Saint John, known simply as Hospitallers, became more militant as the Templars rose to prominence.


   With the loss of the Holy Land, the Hospitallers fell back to Cyprus along with the Templars. After the destruction of the Templars, the Hospitallers gained much of their property, which only increased their already prosperous and powerful order. Later they were forced to retreat to Rhodes. When a third siege by the Turks finally took the island in 1522, the order relocated to the island of Malta, where they would become the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta or simply the Knights of Malta.


   Today, the Knights of Malta are headquartered in Rome under the direct supervision of the pope and are recognized by more than forty countries as a sovereign nation. A British offshoot, known as the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, is a Protestant order headquartered in London and headed by the king or queen. According to author David Icke,

"The Catholic and the Protestant wings are in fact the same organization at the highest level... Both were the same force, as were, and are, the Teutonic Knights. All were involved in the same things, including banking, and used the same vicious, unscrupulous methods to get their way."

   Modern Americans connected to the Knights of Malta include the late CIA directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler chairman Lee lacocca, columnist William F. Buckley, Joseph P. Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican William Wilson, Clare Boothe Luce, and former U.S. secretary of slate Alexander Haig. Dr. Luigi Gedda, the head of Catholic Action, was decorated by the Knights of Malta for his liaison work between the Vatican, the CIA, and the European Movement of Joseph Retinger, the "Father of the Bilderbergers." "Today, the Order of Malta is believed to be one of the primary channels of communication between the Vatican and the CIA," wrote Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.


   "Today, there are no fewer than five organizations in existence alleging one or another species of direct descent from the [Templars]," noted Baigent and Leigh. The Hospitallers, Knights of Malta, Knights of Saint John, Freemasonry, and the Rosicrucians, and perhaps others, all trace their lineage to the Knights Templar with their esoteric knowledge recovered from under Solomon’s Temple.


   As these groups became more and more intertwined, the lines of membership blurred. Baigent and Leigh noted that the disposition of Templar property in Scotland involved,

"something quite extraordinary—something which has been almost entirely neglected by historians... For more than two centuries in Scotland—from the beginning of the 14th to the middle of the 16ththe Templars, it appears, were actually merged with the Hospitallers. Thus, during the period in question, there are frequent references to a single joint order—the ’Order of the Knights of St. John and the Temple.’" (emphasis in the original)

   The Knights of Malta survived the Medieval persecution by allying themselves with the Vatican and even participating in the persecution of its enemies. Likewise, many of Europe’s royal families, themselves usurpers of the thrones of the Merovingians and others, worked in partnership with the Vatican to maintain the status quo. These royals are sometimes referred to as the "Black Nobility."


   Yet another order which was created specifically to combat the Vatican’s enemies and to protect the secrets of the church was the Jesuits. This order, officially known as the Society of Jesus, was formed in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola, a soldier turned priest, who swiftly turned the organization into an aggressive militant force against both heretics and Protestants alike. It was the structure of the Jesuits that Adam Weishaupt used as a template for his Illuminati.


   But even the militant Jesuits were susceptible to the lure of the secret knowledge of the Templars. Over time, many Jesuits may have gotten too close to the heresies of the period. They began to resist the authority of the Roman church and its power over governments, resulting in a ban against the order by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. Butt the imperative of protecting the church forced a reinstatement of the Jesuits, including all former rights and privileges, by Pope Pius VII in 1814.


   Since King Philip’s move against the Templars had failed to entirely exterminate adherents of the order, and even the militant Jesuits were not entirely reliable, the effort to remove all enemies of the church was taken up by the infamous Inquisition, which came close to completing this task over the next few centuries.


   Operating on behalf of a succession of popes, the Franciscan Gray Friars and the Dominican Black Friars conducted unspeakable tortures during the Catholic Inquisition. In 1480 the Inquisition recovered lost momentum when the grand Inquisitor, the Dominican Tomas de Torquemada, initiated the Spanish Inquisition, aimed primarily at Muslims and Jews. By 1486 the list of ecclesiastical crimes had grown to include Satan worshippers, herbalists, midwives, and just about anyone who disagreed with church dogma or local social values.


   The dreaded Inquisition, first initiated to control the Cathars during the Albigensian Crusade, was not entirely dissolved until 1820.

"Meanwhile, those of the privileged class who possessed true esoteric skills and Hermetic knowledge were obliged to conduct their business in the secrecy of their lodges and underground clubs," noted Gardner.


   "The once revered knowledge of the Templars caused their persecution by the savage Dominicans of the 14th century Inquisition. It was at that point in the history of Christianity that the last vestige of free thinking disappeared," he added.

   While Molay’s death ended the overt power of the Knights Templar, there seems to be no question that the order survived and was fused into other secret societies.

"These days, history books and encyclopedias are almost unanimous in declaring that the Knights Templar became extinct in the 1300s. They are quite wrong," declared Gardner. "The Chivalric Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem [an updated title for the Knights Templar]—as distinct from the later contrived Masonic Templars—is still flourishing in continental Europe and Scotland."


   "After the sinister events surrounding the official suppression of the Templars, the Order went underground and continued to exert its influence on many other organizations," agreed Picknett and Prince. "Gradually it has emerged that the Templars have continued to exist as Rosecrucianism and Freemasonry, and the knowledge they had acquired passed into these- societies."

   Behind the Knights Templar lurked one of the most mysterious secret societies of all: the little-known Priory of Sion, another group obsessed not only with politics but with unorthodox religious views.


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If the claims of several recent authors are correct, the Prieure de Sion or Priory of Sion, may be one of the oldest and most powerful secret societies in history.


   It reportedly was the moving force behind the creation of the mighty Knights Templar and records show that past Priory leadership involved such names as Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Fludd, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo and artist Jean Cocteau. It lists twenty-six past grand masters going back through seven hundred years of history. Yet the public had no knowledge of this group until mid-twentieth century, which has fueled charges that the whole issue is a hoax.


   It was in the mid-1950s that the public—mostly in France—first learned of the Priory, which means a religious house, something like an abbey.


   Scattered newspaper and magazine articles beginning in 1956 spoke of a "mystery" surrounding the small Languedoc town of Rennes-le-Chateau. At first this story appeared little different from other stories of local hidden treasure found almost anywhere. But, as the years passed and more information came to light, the story of the Priory took on much greater significance.


   The "mystery" of Rennes-le-Chateau involved a Catholic priest named Francois Berenger Sauniere, who was assigned to the town’s parish in 1885. Young and well-educated, Sauniere was given this backwater assignment after apparently evoking the ire of some superior. Yet, the thirty-three-year-old priest decided to make the best of it.


   Sauniere, working closely with an eighteen-year-old housekeeper named Marie Denarnaud, cared for his parish and still found time to hunt and fish. "He read voraciously, perfected his Latin, learned Greek [and] embarked on the study of Hebrew," noted authors Baigent, Leigh, and I .incoln. He also decided to restore the town church, which had been consecrated to Mary Magdalene in 1059 and stood on Visigoth ruins dating to the sixth century.


   In 1891, while working in the church, Sauniere removed the alter stone and discovered that one of its supports was hollow and contained four parchment documents—two genealogies dating from 1244 and 1644 along with two missives written in the 1780s by a former parish priest, Abbot Antoine Bigou.


   The Bigou texts were unusual and appeared to be written in different codes. "Some of them are fantastically complex, defying even a computer, and insoluble without the requisite key," stated Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.


   Sauniere took his discovery to his superior, the bishop of nearby Carcassonne, who sent him on to Paris to meet with the director general of the Saint Sulpice Seminary. Later it was found that in earlier years, this seminary had been the center for an unorthodox society called the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, thought to be a front for the Priory of Sion. If this was the case, it would explain how Priory members learned of Sauniere’s discovery.


   Whatever was in the documents, it set Sauniere’s life on an entirely new course.

"For during his short stay in Paris, Sauniere began to mix with the city’s cultural elite, many of whom had dabbled in the occult arts," noted authors Vankin and Whalen. "Contemporary gossip had it that the country priest had an affair with Emma Calve, the famous opera diva who was also the high priestess of the Parisian esoteric underground. She would later visit him frequently in Rennes-le-Chateau."

   Not only did Sauniere’s reported Paris visit gain him new friends in high places, he also came into great wealth. Before his sudden death in 1917, researchers estimated he had spent several million dollars on construction and renovations in the town. During his work upon returning from Paris, Sauniere made yet another discovery—a small crypt beneath the church reportedly containing skeletons.


   His behavior became quite odd. Sauniere scraped off a Latin inscription on the headstone of a member of the prominent local Blanchefort family, not realizing that copies had already been made. Translated, the inscription read, "To Dagobert II King and to Sion belongs this treasure and he is there dead." He began collecting worthless postage stamps and valueless rocks along with costly rare china and fabrics.


   But he also had the town’s road and water supply upgraded, assembled a massive library, and built a zoological garden, a lavish country Imusr named Villa Bethania and a round tower named Tour Magdala or Tower of Magdalene, all of which indicated sudden wealth.


   Within the renovated church, Sauniere erected a strange statue of the demon Asmodeus—"custodian of secrets, guardian of hidden treasures, and, according to ancient Judaic legend, builder of Solomon’s temple." He filled the renovated church with unusual painted panels, one depicting Jesus’ body being carried to his tomb. But a full moon in this panel caused authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln to suspect it might mean that the body was slipped out of the tomb in the dead of night. Over the church entrance, he had inscribed the Latin words Terribilis Est Locus Iste, meaning "This place is terrible." Perhaps Sauniere was echoing the words of Jacob in Genesis 28:17, who said "This is a terrible place!" upon realizing he had found the "Gate of Heaven."


   Unusual visitors came to the town, including Archduke Johann von Habsburg, cousin to the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph. "Bank statements subsequently revealed that Sauniere and the archduke had opened consecutive accounts on the same day," noted the author trio, "and that the latter had [transferred a] substantial sum over to the former."


   Sauniere began to exhibit a defiant independence toward his church superiors, refusing to disclose the source of his new-found wealth or accept a transfer from Rennes-le-Chateau, where he and his housekeeper were seen digging incessantly in the graveyard around the church. When push came to shove, the Vatican supported Sauniere, a good indication of the significance of his discoveries.


   On January 17, 1917—the official Feast Day of the Saint Sulpice Seminary where he first consulted experts on his discovered documents as well as the day that was on the Blanchefort tombstone he obliterated and just five days after his housekeeper had inexplicably ordered a coffin—Sauniere suffered a sudden stroke. A nearby priest was called to administer Last Rites but, "visibly shaken" refused to do so after hearing Sauniere’s confession, which has never been made public.


   Marie Denarnaud kept her silence about Sauniere’s activities, living quietly in the Villa Bethania. Toward the end of her life she sold the villa to a man whom she promised she would tell a secret which would make him both wealthy and powerful. Unfortunately, she too died of a stroke before passing along this secret.


   Thus began the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau.

"Speculation has varied over the years as to the true nature of Sauniere’s discovery" wrote Picknett and Prince, "most prosaically il has been suggested that he found a hoard of treasure, while others believe it was something considerably more stupendous, such as the Ark of the Covenant, the treasure of the Jerusalem Temple, the Holy Grail—or even the tomb of Christ... The Priory claim that what Sauniere had discovered were parchments containing genealogical information that prove the survival of the Merovingian dynasty."


   Two things seem certain about this story—that Sauniere obviously found something for which some person or group of people were willing to pay him large sums of money and that he continued looking for something else his entire life. It seems equally clear that his superiors in the church acquiesced in whatever Sauniere was up to. One Priory official even suggested that Sauniere was being well paid by ranking church officials for both his efforts and his silence.


   According to one account, another clergyman named Antoine Gelis was close to Sauniere and also came into a considerable amount of money. Whatever Gelis knew about the situation died with him in November 1897, when the elderly priest was found beaten to death in his home. Details of his murder disappeared from church records and had to be reconstructed from police and court reports.


   In 1969 British BBC television documentary producer Henry Lincoln read of the mystery while vacationing in France. He soon joined forces with novelist Richard Leigh and photo journalist Michael Baigent to research the story that ultimately provided them several TV programs as well as the best-selling 1982 book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This book brought the story of the Priory to an international audience.


   Their research led them from Rennes-le-Chateau and the Blanchefort family to the Knights Templar and the Cathars to the order called Priory of Sion. A Bertrand de Blanchefort was the fourth grand master of the Knights Templar and operated from a preceptory in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Chateau. It has been established that the Blancheforts fought on the side of the Cathars and that Bertrand was a protege of Templar founder Andre de Montbard.


   Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln discovered that during the time Blanche-fort guided the order, Templars were dispatched to the vicinity of Rennes-le-Chateau, where they engaged in extensive excavations. They theorized this may have been a mission to bury and safeguard the treasure recovered from under their Jerusalem quarters. Their suspicion was heightened when they learned that as King Philip launched his nationwide arrests of the order in 1307, only those Templars near Rennes-le-Chateau remained unmolested. It should be noted that during World War II, German troops also reportedly excavated extensively around Rennes-le-Chateau, apparently hunting Holy relics as dramatized in two Indiana Jones films by director Steven Spielberg.


   The three British researchers gathered an assortment of material on the Priory, including a number of books by French author Gerard de Sede, who was found to be connected to one Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair, an official of the modern Priory of Sion. Researching in the National Library of France, they studied microfilm of documents called Dossiers secrets or Secret Files that purported to trace the Priory of Sion back to the time of the Crusades and closely tied the society to the Knights Templar. These files named past grand masters of the Priory, presented detailed history, and even stated that Sauniere was working for the order while in Rennes-le-Chateau. Since these papers were dated to the 1950s, yet not placed in the archives until the mid-1960s, controversy over the legitimacy of these documents has raged with no final proof forthcoming on either side, much like the MJ-12 documents in the United States.

   "One curious feature of the dossiers is the constant and underlying implication that the authors had access to official government and police files," noted authors Picknett and Prince, who were generally more cynical of Priory information than other writers.

They reported that critics of the Priory story claimed the group was nonexistent until the name first appeared publicly in the 1950s and that the whole idea is a scheme of "royalists with unlimited delusions of grandeur."


   Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln countered this by stating that at least one charter for the Order de Sion at Orleans from King Louis VII along with a papal bull confirming the order’s possessions and dated 1178 still exist. They explained that many documents pertaining to the order were destroyed when Orleans was bombed by the Germans in 1940.


   Names connected to the Templars and Freemasonry cropped up in their investigation:

  • Marie de Saint-Clair, a descendent of Henry Saint Clair of the Rosslyn Chapel connection, reportedly was married to Jean de Gisors, reportedly the first independent grand master of the Priory of Sion;

  • Rene d,’Anjou, who, among others, carried the title "King of Jerusalem" which indicated a descendency from the Templar Count of Anjon, was listed as di.ind Master of Sion from 1418 to 1480;

  • the great Leonardo da Vinci was listed as Priory grand master from 1510 to 1519;

  • Robert Fludd, that friend of Sir Francis Bacon and English kings, was listed as Priory grand master from 1595 to 1637;

  • Johann Valentin Andrea, the cleric connected to Hessian Freemasonry and considered the author of the Rosicrucian Manifestos, was listed as Sion grand master from 1637 to 1654;

  • Robert Boyle, member of Bacon’s "Invisible College" who reportedly taught alchemy to Sir Isaac Newton, served between 1654 and 1691;

  • while the famous Freemason Newton reportedly replaced Boyle as Grand Master of Sion from 1691 to 1727.

   Other grand masters of Sion listed in the Dossiers secrets give good indication of the depth and reach of the Priory. They include,

  • Charles Rad-clyffe, a cousin to Bonnie Prince Charlie;

  • Charles de Lorraine, who also served as grand master of the Templar-inspired Teutonic order;

  • Maximillian de Lorraine, nephew to Charles and mentor to musicians Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig von Beethoven;

  • Victor Hugo, a Lorraine aristocrat and author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables;

  • the composer Claude Debussy, whose associates included writer Oscar Wilde, poet W. B. Yeats, novelist Marcel Proust;

  • opera diva Emma Calve;

  • the young priest from Rennes-le-Chateau, Berenger Sauniere.

   Based on their research, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln came to accept as "indisputable historical fact" that the Priory of Sion, under different names at different times, was the secret society behind the Knights Templar and survived the destruction of the Templars in the fourteenth century. At the very least, the Dossiers secret state that members of the Priory—members of the Gisors, Anjou, and Saint-Clair families to include Hugh de Payens and Godfrey de Bouillon—were among the founders of the Templars.


   They also believed that the Priory exists today and "acting in the shadows, behind the scenes, it has orchestrated certain of the critical events in Western history." Unstated was the implication that Priory members were involved within the nucleus of Freemasonry, the Illuminati, and the Round Tables.

   "The avowed and declared objective of the Prieure de Sion," according to the trio, "is the restoration of the Merovingian dynasty and bloodline—not only to the throne of France, but to the thrones of other European nations as well."

   They said Priory members worked through Freemasonry in the nineteenth century to revive the Holy Roman Empire, to be ruled jointly by the Habsburg family and a reformed Roman church. This scheme apparently was only thwarted by World War I and the fall of Europe’s royal dynasties.


   Throughout the years, the Priory—which apparently inherited, if not initiated, the Templar discoveries in Jerusalem—had been preoccupied not only with royal bloodlines but with the heretical knowledge of the Cathars and earlier sects.

   "Suddenly, the meandering history of Europe develops a dramatic, cohesive plot line," noted Vankin and Whalen. "The persecution of the Cathars by the church, the collusion of Rome in the assassination of [Merovingian] King Dagobert, the successful conspiracy of the Pope Clement V and Philip IV of France to suppress the powerful Templars— all were efforts to eradicate... Jesus’ bloodline... For [it] constituted nothing less than a rival church with a more direct link to J.C.’s legacy than the Vatican could ever claim."

   In an earlier work, Vankin argued the case for his belief that the church suppressed documents pertaining to Jesus, as implied by the accounts of the Templars and the Priory.

"There are two possible explanations for the absence of a Holy Paper Trail," he wrote. "First, Jesus never existed—he is a purely fictional character. Second, and more likely in my view, is that historical writings about Jesus have been censored to insure that no extant information could contradict the ’official’ biography of Jesus that gave the Church a rationale for power. Under either scenario, the story of Jesus holds many dangerous secrets."

   As previously mentioned, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln came to believe that the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion actually pertained to the Priory. After much research, the trio concluded that the protocols were based on a real document which had nothing to do with an international Jewish conspiracy but instead was issued through "some Masonic organization or Masonically oriented secret society that incorporated the word ’Sion’... [and] may very well have included a program for gaining power, for infiltrating Freemasonry, for controlling social, political and economic institutions."


   Whatever the Priory is today, according to the Dossiers secrets it was founded in 1090 by Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine and the handsome descendent of Charlemagne, who led the First Crusade to capture Jerusalem. However, other Priory documents state the order was not founded until 1099, the year Jerusalem was taken and its inhabitants massacred. This text also said that Bouillon’s youngest brother owed his throne to the Priory and, indeed, his brother Baldwin I of Le Bourg became king of Jerusalem. Baldwin II, who authorized the Knights Templar order, followed.


   Whatever year the Priory was founded, once Jerusalem was taken, some knights were housed in an abbey built by Bouillon over the ruins of a Byzantine church on Mount Sion just south of the city. This became the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont Sion, from which the order took the name Knights of the Order of Notre Dame de Sion. The word Sion was believed to be a transliteration of Zion, itself a transliteration of the ancient Hebrew name for Jerusalem.


   Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln claimed to have found an original charter for the Priory, dated 1125, with Templar grand master Hugh de Payens’s name on it which would definitely tie the two orders together.


   Picknett and Prince said the Priory and the Templars were "virtually the same organization, presided over by the same Grand Master, until they suffered a schism and went their separate ways in 1188."


   Gardner generally concurred, but wrote that the Order of Sion had been founded by the Knights Templar to serve Jews and Muslims within their Christian order and that both shared the same grand master.

"Although the early Templars had a Christian affiliation, they were noted exponents of religious toleration, which enabled them to be influential diplomats in both Jewish and Islamic communities. However, their liberal association with Jews and Muslims was denounced as ’heresy’ by the Catholic bishops and was instrumental in the Knights’ excommunication by the Church of Rome in 1306," he added.

   Apparently, the Order of Sion was restructured in 1188, a year after Jerusalem was retaken by the Muslims and all involved had returned to France. Here there was some sort of rupture between the order and the Templars at a town called Gisors. Afterward, the order became more concerned with the French Merovingian bloodline, while the Templars, as previously noted, fell back to Cyprus and Rhodes and became more associated with England and Scotland and their royal bloodlines.


   Jean de Gisors, according to the Priory documents, was the first grand master of the order after its separation from the Templars, which they called the "Cuitting of the Elm." This order was already connected to the Rosicrucians through Johann Andrea. According to a priest writing in 1629, Gisors in fact founded the Rose-Croix order in 1188. This same contention is found in the Dossiers secret, according to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln. The idea that both Gisors and Andrea were officials of Sion, added much credence to the claim that they were involved in the creation of Rosicrucianism.


   It is clear that shortly after the First Crusade, there was a blending of ideas, theology, and ancient secrets from which came the Rosicrucians, the Knights Templar, and the Priory of Sion.


   Following the break with the Templars, a large priory of the Ordre de Sion was established in the mid-twelfth century at Orleans by a charter from King Louis VII, the original of which is still in municipal archives.


   The history of the Priory from that time until the present is veiled in mystery. The first definite public notice of the Priory’s existence came in July 1956 when a Prieure de Sion, with the professed goal of "studies and mutual aid to members," was registered with French authorities. Even then the address listed was untraceable and little could be learned about the group. About that time, the Priory claimed a membership of almost ten thousand divided into "grades" starting with a grand master, although this information is considered highly questionable. It also claimed not to be a secret society, yet efforts to gain solid information on the order are still met with denials, circumvention, and dissembling.


   One of the Priory officers was listed as Pierre Plantard, the same man connected to de Sede, the French journalist who wrote about the order in later years. Plantard was said to be secretary-general of the Department of Documentation, implying there were other departments within the order.


   Meanwhile, more Priory documents were made public, but only in small private editions and quantities. "Whatever the motivation behind |them], it was clearly not financial gain," noted Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, who came to believe that the paced and deliberate release of Priory information was "calculated to ’pave the way’ for some astonishing disclosure."


   The three authors claimed that a 1981 notice in the French press reported that none other than Pierre Plantard had been elected grand master of the Priory of Sion, his election being "a decisive step in the evolution of the order’s conception and spirit in relation to the world; for the 121 dignitaries of the Prieure de Sion are all eminences grises [gray eminences or elder statesmen] of high finance and of international political or philosophical societies; and Pierre Plantard is the direct descendant, through Dagobert II, of the Merovingian kings."


   The late Plantard was indeed connected with the Priory throughout his life. Not only was he the apparent source of Priory information to selected researchers, but he owned property in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Chateau, and his father reportedly knew the priest Sauniere. He reportedly worked with the French Resistance during World War II and was held by the German Gestapo for more than a year toward the end of the war. Interestingly enough, the code name for one of the plotters against Hitler toward the end of the war was "Gray Eminence." In 1958, along with French minister Andre Malraux, he helped organize the movement that returned Charles de Gaulle to power in France. Clearly Plantard was not just some nobody off the street.


   After much arduous work, authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln managed a series of interviews with Plantard beginning in 1979. They found him aristocratic and courtly, eloquent with a dry sense of humor. Although for the most part vague and evasive about the order, Plantard did claim that the Priory does in fact have the lost "treasure" of Solomon’s Temple and plans to return it to Israel "when the time is right." He also indicated that in the near future, a monarchy would be reestablished in France and perhaps other nations.

   "Again, we considered dismissing the Prieure de Sion as a minor ’lunatic fringe’ sect, if not an outright hoax," stated the authors. "And yet all our own research had indicated that the Order, in the past, had had real power and been involved in matters of high-level international import."

   Other authors also questioned the statements of Plantard as well as the Dossiers secret.

"On the evidence given in the secret dossiers, the case for the survival of the [Merovingian] dynasty beyond King Dagobert II, not to mention the continuation of a clear line of descent right through to the late 20th century, is at best fragile and at worst demonstrably fictitious," commented Picknett and Prince.

   Robert Richardson, writing in the Spring 1999 issue of Gnosis Magazine, was more to the point when he stated unequivocally that the whole Priory story was a "fraud." He loosely connected Plantard to prewar esoteric organizations and concluded, "The tnuidulc’iit history of the ’Priory of Sion’ and its false bloodline was created by utilizing the vast amount of esoteric documents publicly available in French libraries and by depositing its own documents among them."


   While confirming that a real Catholic monastic order named Priory of Sion existed at Crusades-era Jerusalem, Richardson said it was absorbed into the Jesuits and disappeared in 1617. He claimed Plantard and other right-wing members of a group called Alpha Galates concocted the Priory story "by placing fabricated histories in libraries, by falsely associating itself with ancient esoteric groups, and by usurping the heritage of prewar esoteric groups."

   "The group the ’Priory’ has plagiarized most from is the Order of the Rose-Croix of the Temple and the Grail, founded by Josephin Peladan in 1891," wrote Richardson. "This group is intimately connected with the real affair of Rennes-le-Chateau."

He said Peladan’s secretary, the Scottish Rite Mason Georges "Count Israel" Monti, was denounced by the French Masonic Grand Lodge as a false claimant to nobility. He tars Plantard with the same charge by stating,

"It is highly likely that Alpha Galates [and hence Plantard] was a front for Monti’s group and that Monti’s group continued on, subsequently implementing a plan which would be carried out under the guise of the ’Priory of Sion.’"

   Richardson, while certainly entitled to his opinions, also made questionable statements. For example, he disputed a description by authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln regarding Bertrand de Blanchefort.

"Blanchefort was the home of a Cathar noble by that name," he noted, "not a Templar Grand Master. Few researchers have bothered to investigate this or innumerable other outright fictions."

   Yet Masonic author Charles G. Addison, writing in 1842, a century before the time of Plantard and Alpha Galates and citing even older sources, wrote at length on Bertrand de Blanchefort and listed him as Templar grand master between the years of 1156 and 1169. There is obviously more to this story than a simple hoax, although truth appears to be elusive.


   While also disbelieving the story of trying to preserve the Merovingian bloodline, Picknett and Prince concluded that behind this "smoke-screen of full-scale nonsense, prevarication and obfuscation, there lies a very serious, very single-minded intent."


   An attempt to discern this intent requires a study of the Merovingian royalty.


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The Merovingian dynasty of Franks has been traditionally considered the first race of kings in what is now France. France was named for the Franks and their first ruler, Francio, was said to be a descendant of Noah.


   Francio’s race migrated from the legendary city of Troy in northwest Turkey, bringing their royal bloodline to Gaul. They named their settlement Troyes after their hometown. Paris was named for the Greek hero Paris whose elopement with Helen to Troy precipitated the Trojan War.


   The name Merovingian refers to Meroveus, the father of Childeric I, ruler of the Salian Franks. According to genealogist Gardner, Meroveus traced his lineage through his father, Clodion, back through Joseph of Arimathea to Jesus.

"Despite the carefully listed genealogies of his time, the heritage of Meroveus was strangely obscured in the monastic annals," noted Gardner. "Although the rightful son of Clodion, he was nevertheless said by the historian Priscus to have been sired by an arcane sea creature, the Bistea Neptunis [sea beast]... There was evidently something very special about King Meroveus and his priestly successors, for they were accorded special veneration and were widely known for their esoteric knowledge and occult skills."

   Authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln saw the legend of the sea creature fathering Meroveus as alluding to, or concealing, the idea of some sort of dynastic alliance or intermarriage. Some authors have suggested that the "sea beast" story was a misinterpretation of the idea that Meroveus was half-fish, the fish being a long-standing symbol of Christ.


   French author Gerard de Sede raised eyebrows by declaring that the Merovingians were, in fact, descended from extraterrestrials who interbred with selected ancient Israelites. This allegation was echoed by author David Wood, who wrote that this royal line, as well as all humans, were descendants of an extraterrestrial "super-race."


   Meroveus’s grandson, Clovis I, took control in about A.D. 482 (about ten years after the fall of the Roman Empire) and eventually extended his rule to include most of Gaul. Paris was his capital, a status which the city retained when Hugh Capet became king of France in 987.


   According to the Priory of Sion’s Dossiers secret, the Merovingians were of Jewish origin. "They were the lost tribe of Benjamin, who migrated to... and then on to Germany, where they became the Sicambrians [Franks]," reported Picknett and Prince. Others pointed out there was so much intermarriage in the region that the terms "Goth" and "Jew" became interchangeable.


   The Dossiers secret declared that the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, living in southern France, intermarried with the Sicambrian Franks and founded the Merovingian royal lineage. Priory members claimed that the parchments discovered by the priest Sauniere at Rennes-le-Chateau were genealogical lists tracing the Merovingian lineage right up to descendants living in Europe today—to include the evasive Pierre Plantard.


   Some support for this idea can be found in the Jewish principality of Septimania, created in the mid-eighth century after the Jewish inhabitants of Narbonne aided King Pepin in taking the city from the Muslims. The first king of Septimania was a Prankish noble named Theodoric (the Grail romances refer to him as Aymery), a Jew "recognized by both Pepin and the caliph of Baghdad as ’the seed of the royal house of David.’" Theodoric is thought by many to have also been a Merovingian. His son, Guillem de Gellone, also rose to prominence as both a Merovingian and Jew of royal blood.

   "Jesus was of the Tribe of Judah and the royal house of David. The Magdalene is said to have carried the Grail—the Sangraal or ’royal blood’—into France," noted Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln. "And in the 8th century there was, in the south of France, a potentate [Guillem] of the Tribe of Judah and the royal house of David, who was acknowledged as king of the Jews. He was not only a practicing Jew, however; he was also a Merovingian."

   Clovis converted to Christianity after evoking the name of Jesus, at the urging of his Catholic wife, Clotilde, during a crucial and ultimately successful battle in 496. This came at a time of decline for the Roman church, then locked in a continuous battle against Arianism.


   Arianism, named after the Alexandrian priest Arius, taught that God created everything including Jesus and therefore, Jesus was not himself God, but rather a heavenly teacher, a messiah. This concept, perhaps strengthened by the Magdalene tradition in southern France, gained considerable popularity at the time.


   To counter Arianism, Roman emperor Constantine had convened the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. When Arius rose to argue his views, he was punched in the face. The council, under firm control of the Roman church, declared that God was a Trinity—Father, son, and spirit. Arius and his followers were banished.

"There were now only two official objects of worship": commented Gardner. "The Holy Trinity of God and the Emperor himself—the newly designated Savior of the World. Anyone who disputed this in any way was at once declared a heretic. Christians who attempted to retain loyalty to Jesus as the Messianic Christ were discounted by the Imperial Church as heathens."

   Despite edicts from Rome, Arianism remained strong in western Europe. "If the early Merovingians, prior to Clovis, were at all receptive to Christianity, it would have been the Arian Christianity of their immediate neighbors, the Visigoths and Burgundians," commented Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.


   When Clovis was baptized into Catholicism, nearly half of his troops followed his example.

"A great wave of conversions followed, and the Roman church was effectively saved from almost inevitable collapse," noted Gardner. "In fact, were it not for the baptism of King Clovis, the ultimate Christian religion of Western Europe might well now be Arian rather than Catholic."

The Roman authorities, in turn, proclaimed Clovis the "new Constantine" and pledged allegiance to both him and his descendants, a pledge they soon repudiated.


   Upon the death of Clovis in 511, his realm was shared by his four sons—Theuderic, Chodomir, Childebert, and Lothar. The emblems of the Merovingian kings were the fish (still a symbol of Jesus), the Lion of Judah (further indication of their Hebraic heritage), and the fleur-de-lis (which became the symbol of French royalty). Despite strife between the brothers, Merovingian rule grew to include Septimania along the Mediterranean coast between Provence and Spain to Saxony in the north and eastward to Bavaria.


   By 561 the realm had been divided between Clovis’s grandsons, Charibert I, Guntram, Sigebert, and Chilperic I. These brothers also intrigued against each other, causing weakness within the kingdom, which was quickly exploited by their neighbors. By 613 Chlotar II—son of Chilperic I—had regained some unity within the kingdom.


   His son, Dagobert, was abducted at the age of five and taken to a monastery near Dublin, Ireland, where he was educated and later married the Celtic princess Matilde. After his surprise return to France, Dagobert proved even more effective in consolidating the Merovingian sovereignty, but in 679, while hunting, he was murdered by a retainer of Pepin the Fat, one of his own officials with close ties to the Roman church.


   According to Gardner, papal authorities deliberately obscured the history of the Merovingians to secure their own power and prominence.

"The inevitable result was that accounts of Dagobert’s life were suppressed to the point of his non-existence in the chronicles," he wrote. "Not for another thousand years were the true facts of his existence to be made public once more. And only then did it become apparent that Dagobert had a son called Sigebert, who was rescued from the mayoral clutches in 679. Following his father’s murder he was removed to his mother’s home at Rennes-le-Chateau in Languedoc. ... In time, the deposed Merovingian line from Sigebert included the famous crusader, Godfrey de Bouillon, Defender of the Holy Sepulchre."

   Here again can be found the connections between the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, and elder traditions involving Jesus’ bloodline. Although, as pointed out by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, "while the Merovingian royal blood was credited with a sacred, miraculous, and divine nature, it was not explicitly stated anywhere that this blood was in fact Jesus."


   Yet the connection was there as evidenced by the linkage of the Jewish Franks to the Merovingians Dagobert and Guillem de Gellone through a Hugh de Plantard to Eustache, first count of Boulogne and the grandfather of the Crusade leader Godfrey de Bouillon.

"And from Godfrey there issued a dynasty and a ’royal tradition’ that, by virtue of being founded on the ’rock of Sion,’ was equal to those presiding over France, England and Germany," they added.


   "By dint of dynastic alliances and intermarriages, this line came to include Godfrey de Bouillon... and various other noble and royal families, past and present—Blanchefort, Gisors, Saint-Clair—Sinclair in England... Plantard, and Habsburg-Lorraine."

   Following the death of Dagobert there was again division in the land. The surviving Merovingians were forced to yield power to court officials known as "Mayors of the Palace," known to be under the control of the Catholic church.

 "In 750 the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed by one of these mayors—Pepin III the Short—who established the Carolingian dynasty so named for his father, Carolus or Charles Martel. "The Merovingian monarchy had been strictly dynastic," explained Gardner, "but that tradition was destined to be overturned when Rome grasped the opportunity to create kings by papal authority... The Church’s long-awaited ideal had come to fruition—and from that time onwards kings were endorsed and crowned only by self-styled Roman prerogative." (emphasis in the original)

   "The Merovingian kings did not rule the land nor were they politically active," wrote Gardner. "They were avid students of proper kingly practice in the ancient tradition and their model was King Solomon, the son of David. Their disciplines were largely based on Old Testament scripture— but the Roman Church nevertheless proclaimed them irreligious."

   Heresies aside, it is clear why the early church was fearful of the Merovingians. If indeed their heritage connected to the "royal house of David" and specifically to Jesus, they represented a distinct threat to the theology being formulated by the church at the time and later by European dynasties.

   "The Thule Society’s early mission was to put a member of Jesus’ family—a Merovingian—on the throne of Europe," wrote author Henry. "When Hitler came along he dismantled this operation."

   According to several modern writers, the picture that is becoming clear in light of recent research and literature is this: Mary Magdalene, as the wife of Jesus, arrived in the south of France following the crucifixion, along with Jesus’ children. They preserved their bloodline while living in the large Jewish community of the region and, in the fifth century, intermarried with Frankish royalty to create the Merovingian dynasty. The Roman church pledged allegiance to this dynasty, in full knowledge of its messianic lineage.


   But church authorities, fearful and jealous of this dynasty born of both priestly and political bloodlines, fomented the assassination of Dagobert and the usurpation of Childeric III to gain complete control over what was to become the nation of France. And throughout this intrigue wound the threads of the Plantards, the Bouillons, the Knights Templar, and the Priory of Sion.


   By the twelfth century, these families, knowing full well their heritage, mounted the expedition to Jerusalem—if not the entire First Crusade—to recover family genealogies from beneath Solomon’s Temple. They also created the secret Priory of Sion, and the Knights Templar as a front organization, to achieve this purpose. At this point restoration of the Merovingian monarchy may indeed have been a primary goal.


   As discussed, the Templars apparently were successful in their attempt to gain the Temple treasure, whether it was merely historical records or something more substantive, such as the Ark of the Covenant or even the mummified body of Jesus. Whatever it may have been was transported back to the area of Rennes-le-Chateau and so strengthened the beliefs of the Cathars that they were quite willing to die for them. The Templars, being less willing to sacrifice themselves, simply melded their beliefs into other secret societies.


   Over the years there were repeated attempts to take the throne of France for royalty of Merovingian lineage, but only one in the eighteenth century came close to success. According to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln,

"By virtue of its intermarriage with the Habsburgs, the house of Lorraine [a family descended from the Merovingians] had actually acquired the throne of Austria, the Holy Roman Empire [which finally ceased to exist in 1806]. When Marie Antoinette, daughter of Francois de Lorraine, became Queen of France, the throne of France, too, was only a generation or so away. Had not the French Revolution intervened, the house of Habsburg-Lorraine might well, by the early 1800s, have been on its way to establishing dominion over all Europe."

   The Habsburg dynasty was believed to be an integral part of the Priory of Sion and even related to the Rothschilds through Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa’s second son Albrecht, or Archibald, II. The family origins go back to a Swiss estate named Habichtburg (Hawk Castle), or Habsburg, built in 1020 by the Bishop of Strasbourg. Through strategic marriages, the Habsburgs grew to be the most powerful of the European royal houses. Emperor Maximilian, whose French troops were poised in Mexico during the War Between the States, was a Habsburg, as was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.


   There may have been another attempt to recreate the Holy Roman Empire in the late nineteenth century. According to French author Jean-Luc Chaumeil, several of the characters involved in the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery—including the priest Sauniere—were members of an ultra-secret group of Scottish Rite Freemasons who, just as the Illuminari before them, sought to create a European union based on Theosophy and Gnosticism. Called the Hieron du Val d’Or, this society’s objectives were much the same as the CFR or Trilateral Commission’s—to create a global God-ordained system "wherein nations would be no more than provinces, their leaders but proconsuls in the service of a world occult government consisting of an elite." To most researchers, this sounds like an early-day New World Order.


   As Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln saw it,

"During the 19th century the Prieure de Sion, working through Freemasonry and the Hieron du Val d’Or, attempted to establish a revived and ’updated’ Holy Roman Empire—a kind of theocratic United States of Europe, ruled simultaneously by the Habsburgs and by a radically reformed Church."

Apparently this effort was frustrated by events early in the twentieth century.


   The Habsburgs’ power gradually was restricted to the Austrian Empire, which collapsed following the assassination of Habsburg Archduke Francis Ferdinand and the end of World War I. Today, the Habsburgs appear to be making a comeback with Karl Habsburg-Lothringen representing Austria in the European Parliament, his sisters politically active in both Spain and Sweden and Gyorgy von Habsburg an influential executive with the largest film producer and distributor in central Europe.


   Evidence that Priory members may still have direct connections to Freemasons seeking political change was developed when Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln studied privately published tracts dealing with the Priory in the French National Library. One of these was supposedly written by one Madeleine Blancassal, a phony name concocted from the Priory’s interest in the Magdalene and two Languedoc rivers. Of particular interest was that this work, according to its title page, was published by the Grand Alpine Lodge of Switzerland—a Masonic lodge comparable to Britain’s Grand Lodge or France’s Grand Orient Lodge and connected to the P2 Lodge scandal.


   Although Alpine Lodge officials denied any knowledge of the tract, at least two other works bore the Alpine imprint and French journalist Mathieu Paolio claimed to have seen these publications in the Alpine Lodge library. Shortly after Paolio published a book in France exposing the Priory’s interest in the Merovingian bloodline, he accepted an assignment to Israel where he was executed as a spy.


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Icke claimed that Henry Kissinger is a member of the Grand Alpine Lodge and that "it is involved at a very high level in the global manipulation."


   Recall that Kissinger’s name cropped up in the official investigation of the P2 Lodge scandal in Italy in the 1980s. Icke’s allegation obliquely connects Kissinger to the Priory, which Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln discovered has an "American Contingent."


   This author trio worked to trace the missing parchments said to have been found by the priest Sauniere at Rennes-le-Chateau in the late nineteenth century. Piecing together confusing, sometimes deceitful, information, they concluded that at least three of Sauniere’s documents had been purchased from the priest’s niece and taken to England in the mid-1950s by three men, at least one of whom was a member of British Intelligence. According to official papers authorizing the transfer,

"These genealogies contain proof of the direct descent, through the male line of [Merovingian] Sigibert IV, son of Dagobert II ... through the House of Plantard, Counts of Rhedae [an older name for Rennes-le-Chateau]. ..."

   The papers were held by Lloyds International of London until 1979, when they apparently were returned to a Paris bank after Lloyds discontinued the use of deposit boxes.


   In checking on the English connections to the Priory papers, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln found all the names traced back to a large insurance company named Guardian Assurance, today called Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance. They also found that all of the men named were prominent figures with aristocratic titles or standing in the banking and business community. Some had connections with Winston Churchill and intelligence services.


   In January 1984 the plot thickened when the authors received a two-page letter from Plantard under the Prieure de Sion logo and a crest containing the letter R and C, thought to refer to the Order of the Rosy Cross. This Mise en Garde or Cautionary Notice warned of legal action against anyone suspected of taking or faking Priory documents. The letter carried four signatures—Pierre Plantard, John E. Drick, Gaylord Freeman, and A. Robert Abboud. Freeman has been previously mentioned in Priory documents.


   Significantly, all the names on the Mise document, with the exception of Plantard, were connected to First National Bank of Chicago. Freeman became the bank’s president in 1960, eventually becoming board chairman. He sat on the board of the Atlantic Richfield oil company and was associated with the MacArthur Foundation and the Aspen Institute. Abboud succeeded Freeman as the bank’s board chairman and also served as president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Drick, beginning in 1969, became president and a board member of the hank and sat on the board of other large American firms.


   According to Professor Donald Gibson, "The First National Bank of Chicago was interconnected with Rockefeller financial interests." Furthermore, prior to 1983, the London branch of First National Bank of Chicago had shared office space with none other than Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance.


   Buoyed by this seemingly strong connection between the Priory and an "American Contingent," Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln were chagrined to discover that Drick had died in 1982, two years before the Priory documents were produced. To compound this mystery, it was determined that the three American signatures on the Mise letter were exact copies—even to the order presented—as their signatures on the 1974 annual report of the First National Bank of Chicago. Furthermore, Freeman denied any knowledge of the Priory. Confronted with deceit and falsified documents emanating from England, the trio wrote, "One thing seemed evident— someone with an interest in the [Priory of Sion] was active in London."


   In an interview with the trio, Plantard explained everything away— he said Drick’s name was still being used on Priory documents even after his death with the use of a stamp, like that carrying the other two signatures. Asked why such men as Freeman, Abboud, and Drick would concern themselves with a society whose aim was the restoration of the Merovingian royalty, Plantard told the authors that these men’s primary objective was a united Europe.


   Another fascinating tidbit concerning these authors’ work gave an indication of the intricate interconnectedness of today’s secret societies. In their book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, several times the authors cite Sir Steven Runciman as an expert historian with particular knowledge of the Crusaders, the Knights Templar, and even the Priory of Sion. Runci-man’s name was one of those listed in the personal address book of Clay Shaw, the New Orleans Trade Mart director put on trial for complicity in the Kennedy assassination. Along with Sir Steven, other prominent European names in Shaw’s book included the Marquesse Giuseppe Rey of Italy, Baron Rafaelo de Banfield of Italy, Princess Jacqueline Chimay of France, and Lady Margaret D’Arcy, Lady Hulce, and Sir Michael Duff of England.


   Plantard also sent the trio of authors a copy of his letter to the Priory resigning his position as grand master, which became effective in mid-1984. This communication also announced the reinstitution of a Priory statute which prohibited members from revealing anything about the order, including their membership. Plantard said he was resigning for reasons of health, "personal and family independence" and due to his disapproval of "certain maneuvers" of "our English and American brethren." "Following M. Plantard’s resignation, the Prieure de Sion became, in effect, invisible," commented the authors.


   A short time later, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln received an anonymous tract accusing the Priory of involvement with Lucio Gelli and his Italian P2 Lodge and Vatican activities concerning Banco Ambrosiano. Author Vankin also raised the possibility that the Priory was the mysterious power behind the fascist P2 Lodge. In their search for confirmation of this allegation, the authors discovered tenuous connections between the Priory and other largely unknown European secret societies.


   One of these was Alpha Galates, whose members were interested in the chivalry of medieval knights. Members of this group apparently were connected to a wartime French publication entitled Vaincre, which has been accused of both supporting and working against the collaborationist Vichy government. This publication was edited by Plantard, and contributors included men linked to both the Priory and the Swiss Alpine Masonic Lodge.


   Another secret society was known as the Kreisau Circle, formed in 1933 by a small group of career military officers and professionals who opposed Hitler. The circle met at the Kreisau estate of its leader Helmut James Graft von Moltke and plotted to overthrow the Nazi regime. Many circle members, including Count Glaus von Stauffenberg who planted a bomb near Hitler in July 1944, were arrested and executed for their role in the failed plot.


   It was Hans Adolf von Moltke who offered praise to Plantard upon his becoming grand master of Alpha Galates. Toward the end of the war, members of the Kreisau Circle were sending peace feelers to members of both British and American Intelligence, including Allen Dulles, then with the OSS in Switzerland. The von Moltkes were also heavily involved in the European unity movement, one facet of which was Retinger’s American Committee on a United Europe. Recall that Retinger, "father of the Kilderbergers," was connected to Dulles and other CIA officials, CFR offi-t. i;ils, Averdl I hyriman, and David and Nelson Rockefeller. A close working relationship was developed between the CIA and the Vatican, chiefly through the Knights of Malta and Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, spiritual adviser to the Knights and the man who first brought Vatican attention to banker Bishop Paul Marcinkus of P2 scandal notoriety.


   As previously mentioned, in the 1950s Plantard helped create the Comites de Salut Public or Public Safety Committees which were instrumental in returning De Gaulle to power in France.


   Obviously, this cloudy mixture of conspiracies pointed to some level of a reality not addressed by the daily media. Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln stated,

"We found indisputable evidence attesting to the involvement of an organized and coherent cadre working in concert behind the scenes, sometimes using other institutions as a facade. This cadre was not named specifically, but everything indicated that it was indeed the Prieure de Sion."

   They pondered over the Priory’s activities in the,

"shadowy underworld of European affairs—where the Mafia overlaps with secret societies and intelligence agencies, where big business clasps hands with the Vatican, where immense sums of money are deployed for clandestine purposes, where the demarcation lines between politics, religion, espionage, high finance and organized crime begin to dissolve . . . [into] a somewhat murky sphere . . . where Christian Democratic parties of Europe, various movements dedicated to European unity, royalist cliques, neo-chivalric orders, Freemason sects, the CIA, the Knights of Malta and the Vatican swirled together, pooled themselves temporarily for one purpose or another. ..."

   But no one—least of all those hardworking researchers Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln—has been able to get a firm handle on the Priory and its surrounding secret groups with their phony documents, contradictory statements, and obscure backgrounds.

   "The Prieure de Sion had begun to seem to us like a holographic image, shifting prismatically according to the light and the angle from which it was viewed," they wrote in 1986. "From one perspective, it appeared to be an influential, powerful and wealthy international secret society whose members included eminent figures in the arts, in politics, in high finance. From another perspective, it seemed a dazzlingly ingenious hoax devised by a small group of individuals for obscure purposes of their own. Perhaps, in some fashion, it was both."

   Lincoln eventually gave up on trying to sort out the tangled mess. In the mid 1990s when asked for an update on the- Priory, he replied dishearteningly, "In my old age, I’ve decided to stick to that which can be verified." Lack of absolute proof and documentation, of course, is the hallmark of any good secret society.


   Some researchers believe the Priory of Sion represents the pinnacle of today’s power pyramid, that the Priory recruits receptive Freemasons through Rosicrucianism on into the Priory. Whether planned that way or not, the new European Union appears to be a close copy of the united Europe envisioned by New World Order leaders and the Priory of Sion.


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It would appear that the links to conspiratorial secret societies have come full circle—from the CIA, CFR, and Bilderbergers back through the Round Tables and Freemasonry, on back through the Illuminati and the Knights Templar to the Knights of Malta and the Priory of Sion and their recent connections to the CIA, CFR, and Bilderbergers.


   And always there has been an agenda of discrediting both national and church authorities as well as an attempt to unify first Europe, then the rest of the world.


   This assault has been particularly aimed at the Roman Catholic church, which has stood as the predominate religion of the Western world since the time of the Roman Empire. Every Protestant denomination—whether Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, fundamentalist, Unitarian, etc.—has drawn its traditions from the Catholic church.


   Yet many people—formally declared heretics by the church in the past—believe that early on church leaders got the stories of Jesus’ immaculate conception, spiritual leadership, and resurrection all wrong. Even today there are alternative traditions concerning Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and John the Baptist which conflict with official church dogma.


   Rather than participating in ecumenical studies to determine which traditions have the more factual basis, the church instead attempted to eradicate any challenge to its authority by the most violent and murderous means.


   One of the most prominent and powerful threats to church dogma came through the Knights Templar. Originally a small and secretive group of knights formed to protect pilgrims after the First Crusade’s success in capturing the city of Jerusalem, the order actually spent little time patrolling the highways.


   Instead, this group of knights—well-connected to powerful European families—excavated deep under the site of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Whatever they found there was transported back to Europe and apparently hidden in the south of France near a small village named Rennes-le-Chateau.


   While no one seems to have absolute proof of the specifics of this Templar "treasure," most researchers have concluded that in addition to a literal treasure of gold and silver, they found ancient scrolls and artifacts which could have been used to destroy church traditions at the very time they were being established.


   One group which may have had their religious beliefs strengthened by the Templar find was the Cathars, located primarily in the Langue-doc region of what was to become southern France. This group of highly spiritual people already had a tradition concerning the arrival at Marseilles of Mary Magdalene with the children of Jesus and their subsequent intermarriage with Prankish Jews resulting in a line of priest-kings called the Merovingians.


   Threatened by the power of the Merovingian lineage, church officials arranged the assassination of King Dagobert and, through their control over the Merovingian "mayors" or court officials, set up their own royalty. When the peace-loving Cathars preached against such abuses by the church, Pope Innocent III in 1209 began to move against them militarily.


   In a campaign known as the Albigensian Crusade, a large papal army swept through southwestern France and exterminated anyone believed tainted by the Cathar heresy. The Cathars were virtually wiped out, with only a few escaping to other countries or into the protective ranks of the Knights Templar.


   The Templars were conspicuous by their absence in the Albigensian Crusade, lending much credence to the claim that the "treasure" recovered in Jerusalem supported the Cathar beliefs. In fact, the Templars— many of whom were from Cathar families—hid many Cathars from the pope’s army.


   Meanwhile, the Knights Templar apparently were able to intimidate the church into granting exceptional rights and favors to the order, which quickly became one of the most powerful multinational organizations in the world.


   While fighting in the Crusades, the Templars had gained much esoteric knowledge dealing with architecture, construction, metallurgy, astronomy, and geography. Much of this knowledge came from their association with an Ismaili sect called the Assassins, headed by a ruthless tyrant known as the Old Man of the Mountain. The Assassins and their leader claimed to possess ancient knowledge dating back to the time of Noah and beyond.


   In 1307 it was the Templars’ turn to feel the wrath of the Vatican and King Philip IV of France, who had been turned down as a member and was heavily in debt to the order. In that year, Philip had all Templars in France arrested and tortured. Most fled the country by means of a large Templar fleet of ships headquartered at La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. It was believed that they took a "treasure" with them which consisted not only of valuables but also papers containing the "secrets" discovered in Jerusalem.


   Some Templars were thought to have crossed the Atlantic, arriving in what was later to be called New England 185 years before Christopher Columbus set sail.


   Other Templars fled to Scotland where they were welcomed by King Robert the Bruce, who was fighting both neighboring England and the Vatican at the time. This Templar contingent may have contributed to the independence of Scotland by participating in the defeat of the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It was in Scotland that the Templar traditions survived and became interwoven with the Scottish Rite ritual of Freemasonry.


   In other nations, the Templars were simply absorbed into other secret societies and orders such as the Knights of Christ, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Teutonic Knights. In this manner, their unorthodox ideas were spread throughout Europe and became centered in the Strict Observance lodges of Freemasonry, that birthplace of "Illuminized" Freemasonry.


   In recent years, several authors have discovered that a previously unknown French secret society may have been the masterminds behind the Knights Templar. This group, known as the Priory of Sion, is now viewed by many as the apex of a pyramidal power structure exerting disproportionate control over the most powerful modern societies.


   Although it only became known to the public in the past thirty years, existent documents reveal that the Priory was in existence no later than 1178 and, according to questionable Priory documents, the order was formed about the time knights of the First Crusade took Jerusalem. There the Knights of the Order of Notre Dame de Sion was formed. They also state that the Priory and the Templars were the same organization, even with the same grand master.


   A schism came about in 1188 and the Templars went their own way while the Priory became dedicated to restoring the Merovingian royal dynasty and largely dropped from sight.


   Recent Priory notoriety carne about as the result of publicity over a "mystery" tied to the Languedoc village of Rennes-le-Chateau, where a priest named Francois Berenger Sauniere discovered hidden documents in the late nineteenth century. After taking his find to church authorities, Sauniere came into sudden wealth and received several high-ranking visitors.


   It is believed that his discovery involved buried treasure and/or documents detailing a genealogy linking the descendants of Jesus through the Merovingian royalty to persons living today. It may be these displaced royals who have been behind a movement to create a unified Europe and restore the old Holy Roman Empire. This group is thought to involve members of the Habsburg dynasty as well as individuals connected to intelligence services both in Britain and America.


   Investigation into the European unity movement as well as the Priory of Sion discerns clandestine connections between many of the modern secret societies, Freemasonry, intelligence agencies, and the Vatican. This underworld of intrigue became briefly public when the P2 Lodge scandal broke in Italy during the 1980s. Even then, the news media of the United States failed to take much notice of this startling, if complex, plot to subvert a modern nation.


   While controversy continued over the legitimacy of the modern Priory, evidence grew indicating a certainly conspiratorial reality behind the shifting pronouncements and papers of the group.


   It is clear that secret societies—both then and now—were concerned not only with political issues but with matters pertaining to royal bloodlines, religion, and spiritualism.


   Yet individuals within these societies both supported and bankrolled Communism. While this support could be simply another application of the Hegelian dialectic process of backing both sides of a conflict, it also points to members’ knowledge of and intense interest in the elder secret society traditions studied so closely by Marx, Trotsky, and Lenin.


   This hidden knowledge involved secrets from the distant past which have provided a basis for secret society theologies. These secrets continue to attract the attention of high-level society members and even intelligence agencies.


   It is these secrets which connect modern conspiratorial societies to the Ancient Mysteries.


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