There are historical facts about the Knights Templar. And then we have interesting theories and mysteries about the Templars that try to plug gaps in our knowledge. But beyond that – there’s a thick cloud of bonkers conspiracy theories about the Knights Templar.
Some of those theories are dangerous and unpleasant. Others are just rather silly. So, let’s look at the last two hundred years of Templar hokum. That ranges from daft nonsense from the French Revolution down to the loony rubbish you find on Twitter and other more murky sites.
TEMPLAR CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Poison from the French Revolution
Don’t blame Twitter – blame the eighteenth century for many of the crackers conspiracy theories in circulation today about the Knights Templar, Illuminati, Rosicrucians and Freemasons. It was a century that saw the dawn of the Freemasons as we know them today. A revival of interest in the Knights Templar. And huge political events like the 1789 French Revolution that were blamed on shadowy and sinister cliques.
The French Revolution led to the monarchy being overthrown and King Louis XVI executed at the guillotine. Not everybody welcomed the sight of the king’s head in a basket. A Jesuit priest called Augustin Barruel fulminated against the revolutionaries. He saw the dark and malign hand of a Templar-Illuminati-Freemason plot.
His evidence for this was somewhat thin – non-existent in fact.
And it appears that the police fed Barruel lies that he went on to promote unknowingly serving their agenda. This was particularly the case with unfounded accusations against the French Jewish community. It’s sad that this hogwash about an umbrella conspiracy of Templars, Jews and Freemasons has persisted down to the present day. And worse that social media has given it a new lease of life.
In reality, Barruel was what is termed a “useful idiot”. Elements of the state – in the police for example – didn’t support Napoleon’s policy of tolerance towards Jewish people. So they stirred up hatred and used the pseudo-intellectual Barruel to spread rumours and falsehoods. Regrettably these stories have enjoyed a very, very long shelf life.
TEMPLAR CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Gabriele Rosetti
The bile of Barruel influenced a young aristocratic Italian intellectual called Gabriele Rosetti. He came to England as a political exile in the early nineteenth century and married a certain Frances Polidori.
She was the sister of a man called Dr John Polidori – infamous for accompanying the poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley on their drug-fuelled trips around Switzerland. Escapades that resulted in Shelley’s wife Mary penning Frankenstein while Polidori (with help from Byron) wrote a story called Vampyre – on which Bram Stoker’s later Dracula was based.
Rosetti was exposed to a lot of the esoteric thinking among that set. And he also became a Freemason. Aware of Barruel’s work, Rosetti wrote that the Knights Templar had been destroyed because they posed a danger to the Roman Catholic church.
But more importantly, the Templars were part of a secret conspiracy in Europe stretching to the Eleusian mystery cult of ancient Greece. Rosetti believed he could identify secret messages from this underground clandestine society in classic works of literature.
This included the Divine Comedy by the 14th century Italian author Dante. A book written when the Knights Templar were on trial for their lives. Rosetti was so fascinated by the coded references in this compelling story that he named his son Dante Gabriele Rosetti – who went on to be a celebrity 19th century painter.
TEMPLAR CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Madame Blavatsky
Madame Blavatsky was arguably the mother of New Age thinking. Or an architect of total humbug according to your point of view. She was a great believer in Karma and Reincarnation plus a spirit called Lucifer – the bringer of light – who could help us achieve enlightenment. Some Christians responded: hang on, isn’t that the devil?
Blavatsky also pushed the idea of different races of humans in history – two of whom had originated far in the arctic north. One of these northern races was called the Hyperboreans. Blavatsky also believed in the one-time existence of Atlanteans whose home – Atlantis – had been submerged in a catastrophe. Even though these races were our ancestors, they reproduced in different ways. One race sort of budded like yeast cells while another laid eggs.
It’s not her fault that the Nazis found this race theory very attractive! She was dead by the time Hitler appeared on the scene. But the Third Reich liked the idea of theory of human evolution that didn’t involve Africa.
Even though she seems completely crazy to most of us now, Blavatsky exercised a huge contemporary influence. She was the ultimate Marmite personality. You either worshipped her every utterance or despised her intensely. There wasn’t much by way of a middle ground.
And she shaped a lot of occult movements in Germany and elsewhere that claimed to be Templar. Regrettably, some of these occult German Templars morphed by degrees into Nazis.
These eighteenth and nineteenth century conspiracy theorists mentioned above created Templar fantasies that have lingered. So many assumptions about the Knights Templar on social media originated centuries after the order was wiped out.
It seems that the spirits of Barruel, Rosetti and Blavatsky still dwell amongst us!