Robert the Bruce Legend
One of the most enduring myths associated with the Templars in Scotland
is the notion that the Templars played a prominent role in the Battle of
Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 – and the prominence of that date to Freemasons,
being the Feast of St John the Baptist, certainly has played no little part in
THE MASONIC CHICKEN AND TEMPLAR EGG SCENARIO
Are or are not Freemasons the direct descendants of the Knights Templar?
Bruno V. Gazzo, Editor of PS Review of Freemasonry interviews Stephen Dafoe the author of 'The Compasses and the Cross' a History of the Masonic Knights Templar.
Bruno Gazzo (BG): Let me just congratulate you for this book because it makes a clean sweep of all the false myths about the origin of Masonic Knights Templar.
Can we say that 'The Compasses and the Cross' is the sequel of 'Nobly Born' where you wrote about the true story of the Templars of the old?
Stephen Dafoe (SD): Thank you,
Brother Gazzo. I think that in many respects The
Compasses and the Cross is a sequel to Nobly
Born. In Nobly Born I tried to not
only difuse the myths of the Templars of old, but also explain how the myths
came about. For example the legend of de Molay cursing Philip IV and the Pope or
the legend of digging under the Temple mount. In The
Compasses and the Cross, I’ve taken the same approach with the Masonic
Templar varient. Certainly, Lewis Masonic envisioned the two books as
companions, as they have designed the books in the same illustrated style and
large format. I’ve had as many comp;liments ont he layout of the book as the
In this book you provide evidence of the falsity of several myths about Masonic
Knights Templar that Freemasons themselves have argued over during the years.
Could you tell our readers the “Masonic chicken and Templars egg” scenario
Certainly. I’ve noticed a growing belief over the past decade that the Knights
Templar were the founding fathers of Freemasonry. We seem to go through periods
where one origin theory is the flavour of the month over another, and today the
Templars are that popular flavour. So, the chicken or egg scenario is the
question: did the rise and development of Freemasonry give birth to the Masonic
Knights Templar or did the demise of the original Knights Templar give birth to
Freemasonry itself? In one of the early chapters in the book I trace the Masonic
origin story through the early writers like Anderson, Hutchins and others to see
how the crusaders were handled with respect to the role they played in
Freemasonry’s development. What we see emerging from that egg is a chicken
without a sword. Quite simply the early writers make little to no mention of the
crusaders; it is only later that the crusaders become the possessors of Masonic
secrets at the time or the crusades and later still that the Templars are
Are or are not Freemasons the direct descendants of the Knights Templar?
As much as we would like to believe that we are, as much as we may hold aloft
our copies of John J. Robinson’s Born in
Blood as proof, the simple fact remains that there is not sufficient
evidence to support the idea that the Templars became Freemasons and plenty of
evidence to show that they did not. Just as we can follow the development of a
child into an adult, so too can we follow the development of Templar Masonry
over the years.
Who have been the main culprits of so many historical hoaxes?
SD: I really
feel that we Freemasons have been the biggest culprits. In selling the
importance of our many degrees and ceremonies, be it Royal Arch, Crytic Rite,
Knights Templar or Royal Order of Scotland, we’ve created traditional
histories. The problem is many masons believed these traditional histories to be
actual histories. Masonic and nonmasonic writers have then dug into this Masonic
lore, intended to teach moral and philosophical lessons, and emerged with the
basis of yet another speculative book ro “Shake the Masonc World to its Core
(TM).” We Masons then buy these books to support our own beliefs and wishful
Who really was the Chevalier Ramsey, this humble son of a Scottish baker?
I think Ramsay was a man who was smart enough to know that the French would
never go for Freemasonry in a big way if it stuck to the idea of descending from
rough-handed stone masons. This is why pitched it from the crusader angle. He is
a man whose name we Freemasons remember from an oration he may or may not have
actually given. Of course that is Ramsay the Freemason. Ramsay the man is
another story, which readers will find in the book.
Was there a single, homogeneous Masonic Templarism or not?
I spend the final three chapters of the book demonstrating how Masonic
Templarism took on a different form wherever it went, although my focus was on
the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. American Templary is more
different than anywhere in the world and Canadian Templary is a weird
amalgamation of American and British styles. So I’d have to say that
Templarism is no more homogenous than Freemasonry is, although at its core, it
strives to accomplish similar goals.
Why have the Freemasons themselves constructed these false myths? Perhaps
because the new bourgeois class was envious of great noble titles or rather
because after the revision of the Constitutions of Anderson of 1738, they wanted
to bring together Christian Freemasons under the same flag?
Certainly the former point was the case in France, as I mentioned earlier with
Ramsay’s Oration; however, we cannot rule out the desire for Christian
fellowship within a Masonic setting. Now whether this was a direct result of
Anderson’s revised constitutions, I am not certain. We see the early traces of
Masonic Templary in the German lodges of von Hund’s day that had members
adopting the names of French knights.
far as the interest in Masonic Templarism today, the motivation behind petitions
is far more varied. Many men join because they want to be called Sir Knight, a
title that is ridiculous outside the confines of a preceptory or commandery. I
shudder whenever I receive a piece of mail address to Sir Knight Stephen Dafoe.
Having said that, there are many who join the Masonic Templars to unite with
other Christian Masons and I’m sure an equal number of non Christians who join
because they are attracted by the co-called mystical practices of the Templars
In your opinion what is the level of Masonic education as it is imparted today
in Lodges and Chapters?
mean, are there still Masons who truly believe to be descendants of the Masonic
Knights Templar because they are told so in Lodge or Chapter?
The current ritual used in the UK is quite clear that there is no connection
between the crusading Templars and the Masonic variant. Here in Canada, there
was once a third historical lecture that expressed the same sentiments. In the
United States there is also no official party line that claims the two are
connected historically. However, popular books often overshadow party lines, and
so we have a large number of Freemasons who hold to this notion no matter how
many Compasses and the Cross hit the marketplace. We want to believe these
stories, so we believe these stories. But, as I stress in the closing of the
book, we no longer need to hang on to these claims. Masonic Templarism has
survived and surpassed the noble order we chose to pay homage to.
What is the future of the Masonic Knights Templar? I want to be a little bit
unfair, but can a XXI Century Freemason be proud of belonging to an order
historically ‘Built on sand’?
I think the future of Masonic Templarism is grim, particularly in the United
States. In the past five years they have lost roughly 32,000 members through
demits and suspensions for non payment of dues. Men are joining these orders
seeking to be a part of something that spans nearly a millennia, but are
discovering a group of men dressed in civil wear uniforms. But it is more than
the choice of garb because we are losing members here in Canada with more
traditional attire. Once the Orders are conferred it is on to discussing bills
and minutes. This isn’t why men desire to become Templars. Templarism should
have a bright future because the ideals of chivalry have never been of greater
need in society. Whether the Templars of old were truly chivalrous or not is of
no consequence. If we are going to place the original Templars on a pedestal,
then we owe it to their memory to try and at least reach for that position
Will there be a sequel to The Compasses and the Cross?
Anything is possible. I’ve had a pretty ambitious schedule over the
past couple of years with the two books for Lewis and working with artist Bob
Prodor on our Templar comic book series, the first issue of which was released
this month. It’s called Outremer: The Saga of the Knights Templar and is
available from www.templarcomics.com.
Presently I’m taking a break from the Templars both past and present to write
my book on the William Morgan affair. Although I’m best known for my Templar
work, I’ve been obsessed with the Morgan story for many years now and after a
four-part magazine series and 50,000 word paper in this year’s Heredom, I’m
pleased to finally be able to tell the whole story. I do plan to be returning to
the world of the Templars in a major way this spring, but am not at liberty to
discuss the project just yet.
to get back to your original question, my agent has a proposal out presently
that would classify as a third book in the Nobly Born / Compasses and the Cross
series. We’re hoping to receive word on that this month.
Essentially the theory is that the Templars who escaped the persecutions
of 1307 fled to Scotland and aligned themselves to Robert the Bruce, who was, at
the time, excommunicated by the Catholic Church for the part he had played in
the murder of John Comyn at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. It was these
immigrant Templars, who just a few short months after the execution of their
Grand Master, assisted the Bruce in routing the English at Bannockburn. Although
no credible historian has ever offered the slightest bit of evidence to support
the idea, the myth prevails to this day and forms the traditional history of the
Royal Order of Scotland – an order the tradition claims was created by the
Bruce in gratitude for the Templars’ support during his struggles.
The Masonic writer Thory claimed that after the battle the Bruce created
the Order of St Andrew of the Thistle. Later the Order of Heredom was added in
recognition of the Scottish Masons who had formed a significant contingent in
However, the Order of Knights of St Andrew of the Thistle couldn’t have
been created by Robert the Bruce in 1314, for it was started by James II more
than a century later in 1440. 14 Nor is there any evidence to support the notion
that the Templars ever formed a part of the Royal Order of Heredom. 15
As to the unlikelihood that the Templars took part in the Battle of
Bannockburn, the matter was dealt with in my last book, Nobly Born, and
in intricate detail in Robert Cooper’s excellent book, The Rosslyn Hoax.
However, a single important point here may help to shred the myth. While
it is true that the Bruce had been excommunicated, the persecutions of 13
October 1307 were not brought on by the pope, but rather by the King of France.
As such, the Bruce’s excommunicated status within the Catholic Church would
afford the Templars no protection from the king.
It is worth noting that Anderson made mention of Robert the Bruce in his
1738 Constitutions, stating that the Bruce had employed the craft after
the Battle of Bannockburn. 16 Although this seems to be the earliest Masonic
reference to Robert the Bruce, the legend of the Templars involvement in the
battle formed an integral part of the traditional history of the Royal Order of
Scotland, formed sometime around 1741 – just a few years after Anderson’s
reference and Ramsay’s Oration.
Although the Bannockburn story plays a prominent role in the Templar
Freemason mythos, the d’Aumont legend dwarfs it by comparison. This legend
tells that Pierre d’Aumont, the
Preceptor of Auvergne, together with a number of knights fled from France
to Scotland disguised as operative masons. On their arrival they created a new
order to preserve the ancient traditions of their soon to be defunct Order. This
new order, adopted the name Franc Maçons – Franc (meaning French and Free)
and Maçons in homage to their disguise. Thus, the Franc Maçons became known as
the free Masons when the new order later travelled to England. 17 Disregarding
for a moment the silly notion presented in the theory as to the etymology of the
term Freemasons, let us unravel the story of d’Aumont, who the theory claims
was Preceptor of Auvergne. While it is true that the Preceptor of Auvergne fled
the arrests of 13 October 1307, his name was certainly not Pierre d’Aumont;
rather, it was Imbert Blanke. Sometime after crossing into England, Blanke was
arrested and later went on to play a role in the Templar trials of that country
by defending his English Brethren. 18 Although Blanke was accompanied by a
number of brethren, the number of Templars that accompanied his mythical
counterpart Pierre d’Aumont is suspiciously Masonic. For in addition to
d’Aumont, we find two commanders and five knights. 19 On first reading, this
arrangement may not seem like anything particularly noteworthy; however, the
following phrase familiar to Freemasons may make things a little clearer:
‘Three rule a lodge, five hold a lodge and seven
or more make it perfect.’
In this sense, d’Aumont and the two commanders play a parallel in the
myth to the Master and his two wardens, while the five knights represent the
five masons who hold a lodge. Combined, the group form the seven or more who
make it perfect. While this theory could easily be used to provide evidence of a
Templar Freemason connection, it is my belief that the reverse is true and that
von Hund’s d’Aumont legend was carefully crafted to bear a Masonic
symbolism. Although the above scenario is speculation on the part of the author,
it is not out of the realm of possibilities, for later Masonic traditions
connected Masonic symbolism to Templar themes.
In his short work The Templar Orders in Freemasonry, Arthur Edward
Waite spoke of a ritual he had discovered called Le Chevalier du Temple,
which he believed had been created sometime between 1768 and 1789. 20
Although the high degrees in Freemasonry were certainly in operation by
this time, the Chevalier du Temple operated within the three Craft
degrees. What is particularly unique about this ritual is that it does
not paint a Templar perpetuation theory; rather, a number of surviving
knights assembled and created Freemasonry to preserve the chivalry
that had previously existed in their persecuted Order. The traditional
history of the Order claimed that the originators of the secret combine
required a period of seven years from its members to ensure that they
were worthy. Three were spent as Apprentices, two as Fellowcraft and the
final two as Master Masons. The obligation was taken in front of a
black tomb representing that of the martyred de Molay. The lessons of the
first degree related to the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, the second
to the Hospitallers of St John. The third degree, as would be expected,
referred to the Templars, but particularly to the martyrdom of Jacques de
Molay, who is the substitute for Hiram Abif. In the final degree, the
part of the three ruffians is replaced with Clement V, Philip IV and the
Prior of Montfaucon, the latter of whom had betrayed the Order to the
king. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Master Mason Degree was the
dual representation of the letters J.B.M., which Freemasons will
recognise as the initials of the two pillars and the Master’s word.
However, in the rituals of the Chevalier du Temple, the letters stood for
the initials of Jacques Burgundus Molay. 21
Sadly, there is little information on this interesting Templar twist on
the Craft rituals outside of the information provided by Waite. Given its late
date, it certainly could not have been among the earliest and the lack of
information on the Order would seem to indicate that its traditional history
never gained the popularity of the d’Aumont legend.
It was Mackey’s belief that the Templar Freemason theories originated
with Ramsay’s Oration, which, in turn, gave rise to the d’Aumont theory of
Templar perpetuation. Let us then close this brief interlude on some of those
theories with the words of Mackey on the matter:
‘The Chevalier Ramsay was the real author of the doctrine of the
Templar origin of Freemasonry, and to him we are really indebted (if the debt
have any value) for the D’Aumont legend. The source whence it sprang is
tolerably satisfactory evidence of its fictitious character.
The inventive genius of Ramsay, as exhibited in the fabrications of high
degrees and Masonic legends, is well known. Nor, unfortunately for his
reputation, can it be doubted that in the composition of his legends he cared
but little for the support of history. If his genius, his learning, and his zeal
had been consecrated, not to the formation of new Masonic systems, but to a
profound investigation of the true origin of the Institution, viewed only from
an authentic historical point, it is impossible to say what incalculable benefit
would have been delved from his researches. The unproductive desert, which for
three-fourths of a century spread over the continent, bearing no fruit except
fanciful theories, absurd systems, and unnecessary degrees, would have been
occupied in all probability by a race of Masonic scholars whose researches would
have been directed to the creation of a genuine history, and much of the labours
of our modern iconoclasts would have been spared.
‘The Masonic scholars of that long period, which began with Ramsay and
has hardly yet wholly terminated, assumed for the most part rather the role of
poets than of historians. They did not remember the wise saying of Cervantes
that the poet may say or sing, not as things have been, but as they ought to
have been, while the historian must write of them as they really were, and not
as he thinks they ought to have been. And hence we have a mass of traditional
rubbish, in which there is a great deal of falsehood with very little truth.
‘Of this rubbish is the Legend of Peter d’Aumont and his
resuscitation of the Order of Knights Templars in Scotland. Without a particle
of historical evidence for its support, it has nevertheless exerted a powerful
influence on the Masonic organisation of even the present day. We find its
effects looming out in the most important rites and giving a Templar form to
many of the high degrees. And it cannot be doubted that the incorporation of
Templarism into the modern Masonic system is mainly to be attributed to ideas
suggested by this D’Aumont legend.’