Beliefnet
Excerpted with permission from Templars in America: From the Crusades to the New World, by Tim Wallace-Murphy & Marilyn Hopkins, Red Wheel Weiser Book Publishers 2004.

The complex and fascinating story of European exploration of the Americas in the time of ancient Egypt and classical Rome is based on hard archaeological evidence, archival records, and, surprisingly, modern scientific, forensic evidence. The ship-building and navigational skills that enabled the Viking people to cross the Atlantic as often as they did are well documented, as are many of their voyages. The age-old traditions that link both the Irish and the Welsh to medieval exploration of the New World, while still classed as myth and legend as no verifiable evidence has yet been found to substantiate them, are fascinating nonetheless.

Equally legendary is the tradition that the medieval warrior monks of the Knights Templar had trading links with the Americas. Unlike some legends, however, this one does have a solid factual basis. One hundred years after the suppression of the heretical Order of the Knights Templar, and nearly a century before Columbus, two leading European Templar families combined forces in an attempt to create a new commonwealth in America far beyond the repressive reach of Holy Mother the Church and the long arm of the Inquisition.

In 1396, Henry St. Clair, Earl of Orkney and Lord of Roslin, placed his feet under the command of two of the sons of the renowned Zeno family of Venice and sailed with them to explore the North Atlantic and visit America--not once, but at least twice. Steeped in Templar tradition and spirituality, they sailed across the North Atlantic in the manner of Earl Henry's Viking ancestors. They left proof, carved in stone, on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as documentary evidence that is accepted by the majority of academics and borne out by a strong oral tradition that has withstood the test of time. Perhaps the most enduring legacy is not the round Templar church built on the North American continent, but the enduring friendship and amity that has lasted for over 600 years between the worldwide Clan Sinclair and the Mi'qmaq people of northeastern Canada. This friendship was based from the beginning on shared spiritual values and the principles of truth and justice, values that ensured that these voyages would be of enduring peace, respect, and tolerance, completely free from the lasting legacy of distrust, hatred, and genocide that marred almost every other contact between the white invader and the Native American peoples.

Although the voyages had little immediate political or commercial impact, they acted as beacons to a centuries-long process of spiritually inspired actions that affect us all today. Earl Henry's grandson, Earl William St. Clair, was instrumental in transforming the craft guilds of Scotland, of which he was a hereditary Grand Master, into the fraternity of Freemasonry, whose beliefs and traditions molded the thinking of the founding fathers of the United States. Thus this spiritually inspired brotherhood gave the world an enduring and vitally important political legacy--the American Constitution.

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There is a group of families in Europe, known among themselves as Rex Deus, who have a long-held oral tradition that they are all descended from the 24 high priests of the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. To keep their bloodlines pure, they restricted their matrimonial alliances, wherever possible to other families claiming the same descent. In this, they are replicating the traditional behavior of the high-priestly families of biblical Israel. Most people are aware that the priestly class at that time was hereditary and drawn from the tribe of Levi. Less commonly known is the existence within the Levites of the Cohens, an even more exclusive group from who were chosen the high priests. The general Levitical priesthood were allowed by Jewish law and tradition to marry outside the tribe. A Cohen, on the other hand, was not merely forbidden to do so, but was strictly enjoined to marry only within the wider Cohen family, thus preserving, or so it is believed, an unbroken and direct genealogical link to the priesthood instituted by Moses.

The familes of Rex Deus claim to preserve the true teachings of Jesus for future generations and are dedicated to bringing about "the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth." They knew that Jesus came to reveal and not to redeem, and as their version of the "true teaching of Jesus" was considerably at variance with the dogma of Holy Mother the Church, they had to keep their traditions secret in order to avoid persecution. The Church, as the self-appointed guardian of divinely revealed truth, instituted a regime of intolerance and repression against all who had the temerity to disagree with its teaching; those who did not swallow Church dogma hook, line, and sinker were deemed heretical.

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