Review of Freemasonry

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by Bro. Ruben Gurevich, 32, RAM, QCCC, SRRS, MPS
Amherst Lodge No. 981, Grand Lodge of F. & A. M., State of New York, USA

Note: This paper is the book-review of: The Knights Templar of the Middle East – The Hidden History of the Islamic Origins of Freemasonry, by “HRH Prince Michael of Albany” and Walid Amine Salhab.

In the hands of actual scholars, the stated premise of this book could have resulted in a work truly worthy of attention. First, the suggestion that Islamic ideas and practices have influenced the creation of the Christian Military Orders goes at least as far back as the 1840s (Jose Antonio Conde, Historia de la Dominación de los Árabes en España, Barcelona, 1844) and continues to be the subject of a lively discussion between historians to this day (cf. the various articles in favor of that thesis by the Israeli Professor Dr. Elena Lourie and her supporters, and those of the American Dr. Alan Forey and his followers against it.)


Second, the idea that modern Freemasonry is a direct descendant of the order of the Temple via a group of Templars who took refuge in Scotland after the dissolution of the order in 1307, is one that refuses to die in spite of lack of proven evidence to that effect. Today, most bona fide historians either have declared against it, or, at best, have emitted a verdict of “not proven”.[i]


Thus, any research that would have added new information to those well-trodden paths would have been much welcome by those individuals who, like myself, are passionately interested in the history of ideas. Unfortunately, it is clear that the self-styled – and arguably false [ii] – “HRH Prince Michael of Albany” and his collaborator, the film maker Walid Amine Salhab, had a different agenda when they wrote their book.


As is often the case with tendentious works, the authors start off from a few true facts, i.e.

a) most of us in the West exhibit a serious lack of knowledge and understanding about Islam, its principles, its history, and its development;

b) Islamic scholars, both through their own original works, as well as through the preservation and transmission of a vast body of classical Greek and Asian philosophical, mystical, mathematical, and scientific works, were one of the conduits by which Western Europe became reacquainted with the knowledge that, eventually, spurred its own Renaissance; and

c) the history of most religious organizations (the authors conveniently omit Islam from their list) show numerous examples when some of their leaders, as the flawed human beings they were (are?) engaged in narrow-minded, bigoted, and, at times, downright cruel  behavior. From there on, “Albany” and Salhab proceed to weave a biased, sensationalist and ultimately nasty web of half-truths, unproven facts and self-serving myth.


After wading through a litany of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-Catholic diatribes (just as the first of frequent examples, see The Knights Templar, p. 3) and being subjected to the writers’ thorough disdain for any and all professional historians – who, by the mere fact of disagreeing with them prove their pigheadedness and incompetence – the reader is left with the familiar and unsupported claims expounded by the prolific output of mutually-endorsing writers such as Laurence Gardner, Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Tim Wallace-Murphy & Marilyn Hopkins.


With the phenomenal success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (USA, Doubleday, 2003), those claims have reached mega status. I wonder if Messrs. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln had any idea of the unwanted progeny they would engender with their 1982 best-seller Holy Blood, Holy Grail (England, Jonathan Cape, 1982) ?


In “Albany’s” and Salhab’s own words :

…and their bid to power [that of the Hasmonean princes who had been displaced by Herod the Great (my parenthesis)] culminated in a marriage, held at Cana, between a descendant of the royal house of David, Jeshua ben Joseph, and a Hasmonean princess, Myriam of Migdal. Today, they are better known as Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalen.

The Knights Templar p. 7


Ironically, this familiar, albeit completely unsupported statement, follows shortly after they had stated :

Roman Catholic Church (sic) promotes a history that is, to say the least, rather edited. In fact, from the point of view of the proper historian, there is little truth to the historicity of the Christian church as a whole.

The Knights Templar p. 6

Who is calling the kettle black ?


The first part of The Knights Templar is but a reiteration of, and speculation upon, the meaning and implications of the “Rex Deus” genealogy of the supposed descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalen – which, of course, includes one of the authors, “Michael of Albany” – interspersed with a host of other startling claims, most of which are, again, neither original nor substantiated, such as: Moses was actually the Pharaoh Akhenaten; ancient Israel was located in the Western Arabian Peninsula, the Kabbalah is not Jewish but Persian, Hugues de Payens (one of the co-founders of the Templars and their first Grand Master) was an anti-Catholic crypto-Muslim, as was St. Bernard de Clairvaux, together with the rest of the Cistercian-Templar hierarchy, and the network of “Rex Deus” Royal families (descendants from Christ) who supported him, etc., etc.


The rest of the book deals with the stated – albeit, once again, unsupported – connection between the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, and between Freemasonry and the Royal House of Stewart, both before and after the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 ousted them from the British throne and replaced them with the House of Hannover.


Regrettably, those matters – which, again, during the last hundred years have been the subject of numerous studies by a variety of serious historians, both Masonic and non-Masonic – are disposed of with the same lack of  true scholarship the authors exhibited in the previous sections of their book. (I’d be happy to provide a representative list of “errors” to anyone who wishes to see it).[iii]


From a technical standpoint – and this may not be the writers’ fault – the edition of The Knights Templar in my hands contains some misnomers (i.e. Aryan instead of Arrian in at least two occasions) and a barrage of typographical errors and misspellings (the list is too long to include here).


In conclusion : current events prove that we need works of serious scholarship, books that adhere scrupulously to proven facts, books that will promote better understanding between members of different cultures, ethnic groups, and religious affiliations. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.


2. One Mason’s views.


“HRH Prince Michael of Albany” states that he is a Mason belonging to Edinburgh’s “…Lodge Robert Burns 1781, of which I am a member.” (The Knights Templar, p. 151.)


If that is correct, and what the Scottish Sunday Mail asserted on July 23, 2006 (see note 2 below) – that due to the “bogus” nature of his claims he was obligated to flee Scotland, and his UK citizenship was revoked – is not, for his own good and for the good of the Fraternity I beseech him to clear his name and reputation. However, if the Sunday Mail statements are true, I believe that, regardless of the possible legal ramifications that could derive from those facts, this flagrant breach of the “Moral Law” all Masons are directed to obey would constitute sufficient grounds to terminate his Masonic affiliation.


His published views, though, are altogether another matter. Prejudice and bigotry are not uncommon. Bad scholarship, regrettably, is not a crime. Therefore, one of the inevitable consequences of living in a free and tolerant society, is that every year we see the appearance of a number of biased, tendentious, and selectively “researched” books.


It is, then, up to each of us – exercising the same rights enjoyed by the authors of those books – to buy them or not, to read them or not. Usually I don’t waste my time reading or, much less, refuting any of them. However, when someone who declares himself to be a Mason publishes views which, clearly, are contrary to that most basic Masonic code of respect and tolerance for all religious creeds and denominations, I feel compelled to doubt if “HRH Prince Michael of Albany” is, indeed, a Mason. If he is one, I enjoin him to act like one.

[i]               An example of recent scholarship to that effect is the well-researched, well-written, and absorbing book by Robert L. D. Cooper, The Rosslyn Hoax ?, England, Ian Allan Printing LTD, 2006. Mr. Cooper, the Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library, has spent over twelve years researching this work and has made an extensive study of all pertinent original documents, something that most “historians” supporting a different view have not done. In one illuminating statement, Mr. Cooper states: “The myth of a lineal connection between the medieval Order of the Knights Templar in a Scottish context was invented by a Scottish Freemason, Chevalier James Burnes, for his fellow Freemasons who were interested in Creating a Masonic Order which mirrored their own attitudes and their own 19th century chivalric ideas.” (The Rosslyn Hoax ?, p. 245)

[ii]              For a thorough study of the claims made by Mr. Michel Roger Lafosse, aka Michael James Alexander Stewart, aka “HRH Prince Michael of Albany”, see the articles in the Scottish Sunday Herald of April 2, 2006, and the Sunday Mail of July 23, 2006, as well as the article on Michel Roger Lafosse on Wikipedia. The item in Wikipedia contains, also, links to other websites posting what seems to be conclusive proof against Mr. Lafosse’s claims.

[iii]              Once again, for a well-researched study on that subject, see the work by Robert L. D. Cooper quoted above.

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