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.


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.

The Council of Nicea in 325 promulgated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which declared that Jesus was divine and coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Books written by heretics were burned immediately afterward, and it was not long before the burning of heretical books was followed by the incineration of their authors. Therefore, in order to survive, the Rex Deus families outwardly followed the prevailing religion of the district within which they lived, but kept their hidden teaching alive by passing it down orally through the generations to selected children as they became mature enough to be initiated.

The families of Rex Deus who claimed direct descent from the high priests of the Temple of Jerusalem, and, through them, from the ancient initiates of Egypt, nominated one of their number from each generation as the Fisher King, the true heir to the throne of Jerusalem. The much-maligned Order of the Knights Templar, which transformed the face of European society during its brief 200-year history, is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the activities of this secretive group. After their brutal suppression, Rex Deus wisely chose other routes by which to pass on their beliefs to the spiritually aware with European society.

Their central belief, that heaven could be created upon Earth if mankind could only learn to change its behavior, was promulgated in many different ways. The stories of the search for the Holy Grail were allegories for the initiatory path to enlightenment promoted by Rex Deus. To them, spirituality did not concern itself with "pie in the sky" after death; it was the mainspring of action here on Earth. Brotherhood, justice, truth, and service to the community were the true foundations of their entire beliefs. No longer content to risk the continuance of this tradition through purely hereditary means, the 15th century Fisher King, Earl William St. Clair, played an instrumental part in spreading these esoteric teachings, which had their origin in ancient Egypt, to carefully chosen men of goodwill of his own time.

He had the perfect means at hand, for he was appointed grandmaster of the Craftmasons, the Hard and Soft Guilds in Scotland, in 1441.

The absolute secrecy that shrouded the first three centuries of Freemasonry has made it difficult to assess the full range and depth of the wide variety of esoteric influences that formed the fraternity. The history of the St. Clairs of Roslin makes it plain that it was the preservation of Templar tradition that lay behind the transformation of the guilds of operative masons into the speculative and fraternal society of Freemasonry. Under the guidance of the St. Clair grandmasters, the tradition of transmitting secret and sacred knowledge through the rituals leading to higher degrees developed a high level of sophistication and complexity, which led to the development of Scottish Rite Freemasonry and the Royal Arch degrees.

The fact that Scottish Rite Freemasonry draws its teaching from sources of great antiquity is made manifest in the name "Roslin," which, according to Tessa Ranford, translates from the Scottish Gaelic as "ancient knowledge passed down the generations." The St. Clairs and the other families of the Rex Deus were descended from the high priests of the Temple of Jerusalem, who were, in turn, descendants of a close-knit priestly group who could trace their lineage and teaching back to the establishment of a hereditary priesthood in ancient Egypt.

William St. Clair of Rosslyn, as the Fisher King of Rex Deus in his time, was thus the chosen route by which the sacred gnosis of the Egyptian/Hebraic tradition could reach out and liberate insightful medieval men from the blinkered thinking and despotic dogmatism of Holy Mother the Church. It is therefore no surprise to learn that, in continental Europe, Freemasonry developed an innate anticlerical and anti-Catholic bias and kept particularly close ties with its spiritual parent in Scotland. Like their Scottish counterparts, French lodges took great pains to keep as close as possible to the traditional beliefs that had been handed down over the centuries.

The tradition of hereditary teaching and control of sacred knowledge continued for nearly three centuries after the death of Earl William St. Clair. The founding of speculative Freemasonry always had at its heart the long-term aim of spreading Rex Deus teachings and transformative influence far beyond the narrow confines of the Rex Deus families. Such an important step could not be rushed.

The worldwide fraternity of Freemasonry put their transformative teaching into action and became the mainspring of political and social change in the 17th and 18th centuries. The concepts of democracy, freedom, and science all benefited from the touch of the spiritually gifted men who derived their insights from the living body of Rex Deus tradition, enshrined within the teaching of Freemasonry.

Many such initiates combined a loose network with tolerant scholars to form the "Third Force," a movement of moderation that campaigned against the excesses of both Catholics and Protestants in the troubled times following the Reformation.

<> It is perhaps fitting that it was in the lands first settled by Earl Henry St. Clair that Freemasonry exerted its most lasting influence. The fraternal brotherhood came to the North American continent during the early 18th century as a result of the emigration of Freemasons from the United Kingdom to the colonies and also through the activities of the traveling lodges of the British army. Lodges were formed in Boston and Philadelphia in 1730, and a leading American, Benjamin FRanklin, published the first Masonic book in the New World in 1734.

By the time of the outbreak of the American Revolution, most of the leading advocates of independence, such as George Washington, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, were members of the craft--as were, of course, many members of the British army of occupation.After the War of Independence, new Grand Lodges were formed in the United States so that American Freemasons were no longer under the active control of the Grand Lodge in London.

From the time of George Washington to Gerald R. Ford in the late 20th century, 14 presidents of the United States are known to have been Freemasons. The Declaration of Independence was signed by nine members of the craft, and Masonic thinking formed the predominant influence on the creation of what many authorities claim to be the embodiment of the highest ideas of democracy, namely the Constitution of the United States.

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