The full title of this Order is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta, and it is an international philanthropic chivalric order affiliated with Freemasonry. The word "United" in this title indicates that more than one historical tradition and more than one actual Order are jointly controlled within this system. The individual Orders 'united' within this system are principally the Knights of the Temple (Knights Templar), and the Knights of Malta, together with the Knights of St Paul. Within the York Rite system a fourth constituent element is the Order of the Red Cross.
The Knights Templar exists as an independent organization or forms part of the York Rite. Though the independent and York Rite versions share many similarities there are key differences which are described below.
Knights Templar as a part of the York Rite
|The Knights Templar is the final order joined in the York Rite, and the only not to deal with Hiramic Legend. Also unlike other Masonic bodies which only require a belief in a Supreme Being regardless of religion, membership in the Knights Templar is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in the Christian religion and who have completed their Royal Arch (and in some jurisdictions their Cryptic degrees).
This body is modeled on the historical Knights Templar and hopes to carry on the spirit of their organization. Throughout history it has been claimed that Freemasonry itself was founded by the Knights Templar or that the Knights Templar took refuge in Freemasonry after their persecution. The Grand Encampment of the United States acknowledges the existence of these theories but states that there is no proof to justify such claims.
A local Knights Templar unit is called a Commandery and operates under a state level Grand Commandery as well as The Grand Encampment of the United States. This is unique among Masonic bodies as most report to the state level alone. The Knights Templar confer three orders, and one passing order as opposed to the standard degree system found elsewhere in Freemasonry.
* The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
* The Passing Order of St. Paul, (or Mediterranean Pass)
* The Order of the Knights of Malta (or simply Order of Malta)
* The Order of the Temple
Knights Templar as an Independent Body
When operating outside of the York Rite membership is by invitation and candidates are required to be Master Masons, holders of the degree of the Holy Royal Arch and to sign a declaration that they profess the Doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. In some Australian States, the requirement of being a Royal Arch Mason no longer applies.
Local bodies of Knights Templar are known as Preceptories; local bodies of Knights of St Paul are known as Chapters; local bodies of Knights of Malta are known as Priories; all operate under a Grand or Great Priory, often with an intermediate level of Provincial Priories. Although some jurisdictions maintain a separate Great Priory of the Temple and Great Priory of Malta (as, for example, in England), the Grand Master and other officers of both Great Priories hold simultaneous equal office in both bodies. Three degrees are administered in this system:
* The Degree of Knight Templar (Order of the Temple)
* The Degree of Knight of St. Paul (incorporating the Mediterranean Pass)
* The Degree of Knight of Malta (Order of Malta)
The Degrees or Orders
The Degree of Knight of the Temple (Order of the Temple)
The original medieval Order of Knights Templar was established after the First Crusade, and existed from approximately 1118 to 1312. There is no known historical evidence to link the medieval Knights Templar and Masonic Templarism, nor do the Masonic Knights Templar organizations claim any such direct link to the original medieval Templar organization. Though it has been said that its affiliation with Masonry is based on texts that indicate persecuted Templars found refuge within the safety of Freemasonry, the order itself states that "there is no proof of direct connection between the ancient order and the modern order known today as the Knights Templar."
The official motto of the Knights Templar is In Hoc Signo Vinces, the rendition in Latin of the Greek phrase "e? t??t? ???a", en toutoi nika, meaning "in this you will conquer".
The Knight Templar degree is associated with elaborate regalia (costume) the precise detail of which varies between nations. The ritual draws upon the traditions of medieval Knights Templar, using them to impart moral instruction consistent with the biblical teachings of the Christian tradition.
The Degree of Knight of Malta (Order of Malta)
This degree is universally associated with the Masonic Knights Templar. In the York Rite system it is conferred before the Templar Degree; in the 'stand-alone' tradition it is conferred subsequently to the Templar Degree. It is known by varying degrees of formality as the Order of Malta, or the Order of Knights of Malta, or the Ancient and Masonic Order of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta. In practice this last, and fullest, version of the name tends to be reserved to letterheads, rituals, and formal documents.
The ceremony for conferring the degree (which is always worked in full) contains a mixture of masonic tradition, historical accounts of the Order of St John, moral teaching, and the communication of modes of recognition between members. A series of banners is employed in the ceremony, each representing one of the great battles of the historic medieval Order of St John, whose story is the basis of the moral teachings of the degree.
The Degree of Knight of St Paul (Order of St Paul)
This degree is conferred as a prerequisite to becoming a Knight of Malta, in both the York Rite and independent 'stand-alone' versions of Knight Templar Freemasonry. The "Preliminary Declarations" of the Order of Malta ritual in England state of a candidate for the Order of Malta: "He must also have received the Degree of Knight of St Paul, including the Mediterranean Pass". The exact status of the 'Mediterranean Pass' has at times led to confusion as to whether this is the 'stub' of a separate degree. The English ritual book clarified this in its 1989 edition (and subsequent editions) by stating: "The Mediterranean Pass is one of the secrets of the Degree of Knight of St Paul".
This degree is close to being a true 'side degree', in that a small group (usually three) of members of the degree take the candidate "to one side" (ie apart on his own) and simply communicate the secrets of the degree to him, without actually working the ceremonial ritual of the degree. The only respect in which the degree fails to meet the definition of a true 'side degree' is that a Chapter of the Order is formally opened and closed by the presiding officer, on either side of the secrets being communicated.