Knights Templar Order

For about 200 years we thought that Freemasonry emerged in 1717. For over 20 years we now know that this is not the case. Freemasonry is over a century older. And from the first moment we have written evidence, we see different traditions with their own forms alongside each other. In the first half of the 18th century there were at least five traditions in Great Brittany: one in Scotland, one in Ireland, and three in England, namely the so-called “Premier Grand Lodge”, later named “Moderns”, secondly the so-called “Antients”, and then a third tradition, which I call the “Harodim”. This last one one finds in London and in the North of England and is also linked to York. The rituals are not very dramatic; it is mostly very long catechisms. Obviously the English “High Degrees” emerged from ritualising parts of these catechisms. The Moderns and the Ancient fought over almost anything. There was but one thing they agreed on: there was no third tradition.

Jan Snoek (translated from German) in Der Schöttische Meister-Grad (‘the Scottish master degree’) (1).

I already open the text about the “Harodim” with this quote. There I concluded that the Kirkwall Scroll does not seem to come from the “Harodim” tradition. The next question is: is it “Antient” (and thus from England) or “Scottish”?

In the text about the degrees and their order I noted a similarity between the degrees that are possibly displayed on the Kirkwall Scroll and those in “The ‘Sheffield’ Knight Templar Ritual (c. 1800)”.

  • 1st / 2nd / 3rd degree;
  • Mark Degree;
  • Excellent Master / Super Excellent Master;
  • Royal Arch;
  • Knight Templar / Knight Rose Cross.

There is also a “High Knights Templar Rituals, Dublin (c.1795)” with similar degrees (and order) and, most promising of all, it is likely that the Kilwinning High Knight Templars Lodge of late 1779 also worked in the degrees:

  • Excellent;
  • Super-excellent;
  • Royal Arch;
  • Knight Templar.

These Knights Templar encampments also sometimes seem to have “H.R.D.M.” degrees, which makes everything all the more confusing. Is this Knight Templar Freemasonry a “tradition”? It would be too convenient if we here have the Scottish tradition that Snoek refers to.

In any case, in Ireland, England and Scotland, there were lodges with such degrees, but there is most similarity between the Kirkwall Scroll and and the (“Antient”?) English and Irish Knight Templar systems. This is yet another support for the idea that the scroll is more likely made in England than in Scotland.

Snoek’s text about the “The ‘Sheffield’ Knight Templar Ritual (c. 1800)” also has something else to think about:

In 1791, when Thomas Dunckerley was invited by the Knights Templar encampment at Bristol to become its Grand Master,

he accepted the offer, and parlayed this apparently singular invitation into the creation of the Grand Conclave of the Royal, Exalted, Religious and Military Order of H.R.D.M., Grand Elect Masonic Knights Templar, K.D.S.H. of Saint John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, etc., with himself as the first Grand Master,

(That’s a quote within a quote, that doesn’t work so well.)

Note all the different organisation (?) names that Dunckerley brought together in a conclave, (confusingly) “H.R.D.M.”, but also “K.D.S.H.”. Further a few (“etc.”) Biblical names of orders (?). Could these -perhaps- account for the “purely Christian degrees” in panel 2? That -of course- should mean that all these titles or degrees were already known around 1785 when (and where) the scroll was painted.

The above makes is somewhat likely that the scroll can be placed in a Masonic Templar tradition. Because (as in Sheffield) the “craft” degrees are included, there is an extra argument for the scroll being “Antient”.

The above must mean that Graeme’s lodge (if that is where the scroll originates) was quick with introducing these degrees and was already ‘up and running’ in that regard around 1785.

(1) Der Schöttische Meister-Grad (‘the Scottish master degree’) in Formen und Inhalte freimaurischer Rituale (2017)