From About Freemasons
The Knights Templar is an order of Freemasonry. The full title of this order is very long and complicated: The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta. As a result, most people simply call the order the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar are known for their philanthropic efforts and for their long history. As early as the 1700s, Freemasons began using symbolism as well as rituals associated with the medieval Order of Knights Templar, which existed after the first Crusade, between 1118 and 1312. Although modern Knights Templar do not claim any affinity or direct ancestry with the medieval Knights Templar, some of the symbolism and even historical legends between the two groups are similar.
Organization of the Knights Templar
In some Jurisdictions, the Knights Templar are affiliated with a craft lodge, while in other Jurisdictions they remain largely independent. All Knights Templar meet in what is known as commanderies or Preceptories. To become part of the Knights Templar, a Mason must be a Christian as well as a Master Mason. In some Jurisdictions, to be part of the Knights Templar a Mason does not have to be a Christian but still must swear to defend the Christian faith. To become a Knights Templar, a Mason must also be part of a Holy Royal Arch Chapter. Some Jurisdictions further require that a Mason be part of a Cryptic Masons Council. To be considered, a Mason must also have a good reputation, have declared faith in a supreme being, and must have a good moral character.
Most Masons must make a declaration such as the following in order to be considered for membership in the Knights Templar:
1. "Do you solemnly declare, upon your honor, that in seeking admission to this Valiant and Magnificent Order of Christian Knighthood you are actuated by no mercenary or other unworthy motive?"
2. "If called upon to draw your sword in a religious cause, will you give preference to the Christian Religion?"
3. "Does your conscience accuse you of any crime, unrepented of, which would render you unworthy of becoming member of an Institution founded upon the Christian Religion and the practice of the Christian Virtues?”
In the United States, Masons who become Knights Templar must pass, in order: Novice, Installation, and Consecration. Sometimes, these three portions are conferred separately while in other cases they are conferred together. During the rituals, the Mason symbolizes a knight who has vowed to pilgrimage for seven years to the Holy Sepulcher.
Traditions of the Knights Templar
Although today's Knights Templar claim that they do not claim any direct ascendancy from the medieval Knights Templar, the traditions and practices of some Jurisdictions suggest that today's Knights Templar do in fact have at least a symbolic link to the old order. Some historians, for example, claimed that The Knight of Rose-Croix Degree that is part of the Scottish Rite are evidence that the current Knights Templar and the medieval Knights Templar are links to store clay.
In some orders, Knights Templar are tossed about Sir John De Bermingham, First and Last Earl of Louth who fought with Scottish King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. In fact, the story of Sir John De Bermingham is part of the degree ceremonies in some Knights Templar degrees. However, the story is actually based on legends and stories from the 1700s and is not supported by historical fact.
The Knights Templar and Charity
Like many Masonic orders, the Knights Templar are known for their charitable contributions and good works. A number of famous philanthropic organizations are linked to the Knights Templar in particular. These include the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, which provides eye care to those who cannot afford it, and the Knights Templar Educational Foundation, which provides low-cost education loans.