Secrets of the Knights Templar: The Knights of John the Baptist
Soon after the Knights Templar founded their order in the Holy Land in 1118 AD they assimilated into a very ancient gnostic tradition and lineage known as the Johannite Church, which had been founded by St. John the Baptist more than a thousand years previously. The ruling patriarch of this ancient tradition when the Templar Order first formed was Theoclete.
The Johannites and St. John the Baptist
Theoclete met the first Templar grandmaster, Hughes de Payens and then passed the mantle of his Johannite authority to him. Hughes de Payens thus became John #70 in a long line of gnostic Johannites (the “Johns”) that had begun with John the Baptist and included: Jesus, John the Apostle, and Mary Magdalene. John was not just a name, but also an honorific title meaning “He of Gnostic Power and Wisdom.” It is related to the Sanskrit Jnana (pronounced Yana), meaning “Gnosis.”
BaldwinII ceding the location of the Temple of Salomon to Hugues de Payns and Gaudefroy de Saint-Homer. The fourth person is Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem. ( Public Domain )
The acquisition of the Johannite Church by the Knights Templar was later alluded to in Isis Unveiled by the nineteenth century esotericist Madam Blavatsky. While claiming to have learned it from ancient Kabbalistic records, Blavatsky stated:
“The true version of the history of Jesus and early Christianity was supposedly imparted to Hughes de Payens, by the Grand-Pontiff of the Order of the Temple [the Johannite sect], one named Theoclete, after which it was learned by some Knights in Palestine, from the higher and more intellectual members of the St. John sect, who were initiated into its mysteries. Freedom of intellectual thought and the restoration of one universal [Gnostic] religion was their secret object. Sworn to the vow of obedience, poverty, and chastity, they were at first the true Knights of John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness and living on wild honey and locusts. Such is the tradition and the true Kabbalistic version.”
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Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness ( Public Domain )
Blavatsky’s history was echoed by no lesser authority than Pope Pius IX, the nineteenth century pope, who made a public statement regarding the Templars and the beginning of the Johannite “heresy” in his Allocution of Pio Nono against the Free Masons:
“The Johannites ascribed to Saint John the foundation of their Secret Church, and the Grand Pontiffs of the Sect assumed the title of Christos, Anointed or Consecrated, and claimed to have succeeded one another from Saint John by an uninterrupted succession of pontifical powers. He who, at the period of the foundation of the Order of the Temple, claimed these imaginary prerogatives was named Theoclete; he knew Hughes de Payens, he initiated him into the Mysteries and hopes of his pretended church; he seduced him by the notions of Sovereign Priesthood and Supreme royalty, and finally designated him as his successor. ”
Then the Order of the Knights of the Temple was at its very origin devoted to the cause of opposition to the Tiara of Rome and the crown of Kings, and the Apostolate of Kabbalistic Gnosticism was vested in its chiefs. For Saint John was the Father of the Gnostics….
“The Templars, like all other Secret Orders and Associations, had two doctrines, one concealed and reserved for the Masters, which was Johannism; the other public, which was the Roman Catholic. Thus they deceived the adversaries whom they sought to supplant.”
Pope Pius’ announcement made it clear that the Church had been aware of the existence of the Johannites for many centuries. The early Templars were also aware that the Vatican knew of their existence; Vatican spies were always swarming the Middle East.
A painting of the Pope Pius IX ( Public Domain )
They tried – albeit unsuccessfully- to keep their Johannite affiliation hidden by restricting entrance into the Johannite Mysteries to only the inner circle of the Templar hierarchy. Meanwhile, the lower rank and file Templars remained primarily Catholic in their beliefs. Eliphas Levi explains:
“The tendencies and tenets of the [Templar] Order were enveloped in profound mystery, and it externally professed the most perfect orthodoxy. The Chiefs alone knew the aim of the Order; the subalterns followed them without distrust.”
While attempting to keep their veil of secrecy tightly drawn, the Templar elite organized their order into a concentric arrangement - consisting of outer and inner circles of initiates. The Johannite hierarchy comprised the three inner circles, while the rest of the knights occupied the seven outer circles. According to Jean Robin, another French occultist of high repute, only those advanced Templars of the three inner circles were aware of the Orders’ gnostic practices. He states: “The Order of the Temple was indeed constituted of seven ‘exterior’ circles dedicated to the minor mysteries, and of three ‘interior’ circles corresponding to the initiation into the great mysteries.”
The Heretical Johannite Teachings
Upon receipt of the Johannite lineage, Hughes de Payens and his Knights Templar received documents and scrolls that revealed many mysteries that had been lost, hidden, or destroyed because of their heretical content. Some of the documents revealed that John the Baptist had been born within the Essene sect of the Nasoreans or Nazarenes, which was created when an ancient Gnostic sect from the East, the baptizing Mandeans, arrived in the Holy Land and united with the Essenes.
Al-Maghtas ruins on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River are the location for the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist. ( Public Domain )
They also learned that John had been a great prophet of the Mandean-Essenes and the principal teacher of Jesus. But most importantly John had been co-messiah with his student. This truth surfaced in recent years through the discovery and translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were scriptures written by Essenes living at Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea.
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These scrolls state that the Essenes expected not one but two messiahs. One messiah, the King Messiah, was prophesied to be born into the Tribe of David, and the other was to be the Priest Messiah, born into the Tribe of Levi. The Priest Messiah was eventually incarnated as John the Baptist and the King Messiah manifested as Jesus. As the awaited Priest Messiah, the intensely religious Essenes would have held John the Baptist in higher regard than Jesus since he was closer to Yahweh. As expert Geza Vermes clearly states in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“…[T]he Priest-Messiah comes first in the order of precedence; he is also called the Messiah of Aaron, the ‘Priest,’ the ‘Interpreter of the Law.’ The King-Messiah was to defer to him and to the priestly authority in general in all legal matters…. The ‘Messiah of Aaron’ was to be the final Teacher, “he who shall teach righteousness at the end of days.”
The Power of the Head of John the Baptist
In order to be true to their adopted Johannite tradition the inner circle of Knights Templar placed John the Baptist in a higher position than Jesus. They devised an initiation rite that required the new Johannite initiate to spit on the Cross while renouncing Jesus and embracing John as his Savior.
This heretical initiation rite was often performed in the presence of the head of John the Baptist, which had been discovered by crusading Templars in the Boukoleon Palace in Constantinople during the 4th Crusade and found to emanate the same intense energy it had when on the body of John.
Head of Saint John the Baptist , by anonymous Spanish painter. (c. 1600-1650) ( Public Domain )
This energy, known in the West as the Holy Spirit and in the East as the Kundalini, would enter the body of the new Johannite Templar and initiate an alchemical process that would culminate in the development of enlightened Gnostic consciousness, the consciousness once wielded by the Gnostic Master John the Baptist. It is the “heretical” awareness that God exists within us as us.
Featured image: Figures of two Templar knights. Photo source: Public Domain
The History of Magic, Eliphas Levi, Translated by A.E. Waite, Weiser Books, 2001
Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, Part 1, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, Kessinger Publishing
The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Geza Vermes, Penguin Books, 1998.
Mark Amaru Pinkham is the Grand Prior of The International Order of Gnostic Templars www.GnosticTemplars.org. Mark is the author of Guardians of the Holy Grail: The Knights Templar, John the Baptist and the Water of Life.