From Baldock to Bethnal Green, by way of Jerusalem
A RAMBLE THROUGH SPACE AND TIME
A LOT of people have been arguing whether Barack Obama deserved his Nobel peace prize, or if it was not a bit previous, even aside from Afghanistan. Israeli peace campaigner Uri Avnery called the award a "down payment on deeds still to be done". Meanwhile, in Jerusalem the city of peace - another title far from being earned - Israeli riot police were in action against Palestinian youth, Arab homes were being demolished, and Jewish settlers - supported by American money (now there's something Obama should interfere with) - were moving in.
And that is not all. Here is Uri Avnery again:
'The scandal that is taking place now at the foot of al-Aqsa is a part of this story. Something unprecedented is happening there: the digging in “David’s Town” (clearly a propaganda appellation) has been turned over to the same ultra-nationalist religious association, Ateret Cohanim, that is building the provocative Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and around it. The Israeli government, quite officially, has entrusted this scientific task to a political group. Not just any political group, but an ultra-radical one. The digging itself is being conducted by archeologists who accept their authority.
Israeli archeologists who care for the integrity of their profession (there still are some) protested this week that the digging is proceeding in a thoroughly unprofessional way: the work is done in an unscientific hurry, artifacts found are not examined properly and systematically, the sole aim is to uncover evidence as quickly as possible to support the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount.
Many Arabs believe that the aim is even more sinister: to dig under the al-Aqsa mosque in order to bring about its collapse. These fears were reinforced by the disclosure in Haaretz this week, that the digging is undermining Arab houses and threatens to bring them down.'
By way of a a break from all this conflict, which does not get any better, I thought we might take a ramble, -a sorha - through the bigger picture in space and time, from Baldock in Hertfordshire to Bethnal Green in London, by way of Jerusalem -al Kuds - and taking us from a court case 700 years ago to one that is due next month.
Friends and regular readers of this blog may have gathered that I have occasionally joined conducted historical walks through the East End of London, and once, commemorating the huge Tolpuddle Martyrs rally, around the southern bounds of Islington, from Copenhagen Fields to Clerkenwell. What is not so well known, is that on many a Sunday morning I explore the counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, without even needing to move from my chair or computer, thanks to BBC Radio Beds, Bucks and Herts (or Beds, Books and Hearts?) and a programme called 'Treasure Quest'. Unlike the contestants in the studio who tackle clues and give directions to the radio car, listeners at home can use the internet. Some of the places I have been to, but others I am only just learning about.
Thus I have learned that beneath the town of Hertford are cellars linked by tunnels said, like the the artificial cave at Royston, also in Herts, to be the work of the medieval Knights Templar. Though it may have suited 18th century antiquarians, present-day writers of conspiracy lit, and those trying to boost small-town tourism to go for this connection, it is not entirely certain, though fortunately no one is fighting over it. The Templars gained their title at the time of the Crusades, from their occupying parts of the Haram al Sharif, around al Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem, where not only Israelis and Palestinians but rival Christian sects jealously contest possession of ancient sites. Many Arabs have long comforted themselves with the thought that the Zionist state might last no longer than the Crusader kingdom, though alas it has proved not as simple as that.
The Knights Templar also gained tremendous wealth, so that though they lost Acre and Cyprus, they acquired landed property in many places, including Hertfordshire, where they founded the town of Baldock. In those superstitious times - as by some in these - they were credited with possessing mystical knowledge from the East. But it is not clear why the Templars of Hertforshire should have had to go underground. Nowadays there is a Knights Templars school in Baldock, though it is no Hogwarts. The freemasons in Hertfordshire adopted the Knights Templar name, it being a traditional part of masonic lore to claim continuity with the builders of Solomon's Temple.
As their recruitment page explains:
"This is our title, and you will notice that the word Masonic is included. This is because we are not directly descended from the original Knights Templar, but we came into being (in a wide variety of ritual forms, and at first worked under Warrants of Royal Arch Chapters) in the British Isles in and around the 1760’s. The present day Templar ritual was introduced in the 1850’s, and a few years’ later, the same occurred to the Mediterranean Pass and Malta degrees.
"A direct link with the original Templars is that they were granted their encampment in Jerusalem, on the site of King Solomon’s Temple. On 15th July 1099 the city walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the city captured by the Crusader army of the 1st crusade. In 1118 nine knights under the leadership of Hughes de Payen approached the patriarch of Jerusalem (King Baldwin II); having decided to dedicate their lives to the service of the Holy land. The patriarch subsequently assigned them a portion of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (said to have been built on the original Temple of Solomon). This group of knights subsequently took their name from this: Pauperes commiltones Christi Templi Salomonis (the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon). Thus becoming known as the Knights of the Temple, and later, Knights Templar."
The real Knights Templar's tzorres began in 14th century France, under the reign of a King known for some reason as Philip the Fair, who seems to have been anything but. To pay for his wars against the Flemings and English, and get rid of his debts, he had arrested then chased out the Jews, harassed the Lombards, debased the coinage, and even tried taxing the clergy, incurring the wrath of the Pope. Then seeing that the Templars were no longer that popular since the Crusades had finished, and that the papacy was already looking into allegations against them, he imported a team of inquisitors who could get a confession out of anyone. On 13 October 1307 he launched the round up of Knights Templar across France. Not only had they refused to lend him money, but they were alleged to secretly worship the devil, engage in lewd practices with each other, and tear down and piss on the cross. Hundreds were burned at the stake. Finally, in 1314, Philip had the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, roasted slowly over a fire before the Notre Dame, in Paris. According to legend, de Molay cursed both Philip and Pope Clement V from the flames, saying that he would summon them before God's Tribunal. Within a year they had both died.
Then in England, King Edward II had leading Templars put on trial beginning on October 22, 1309. But it seems that most of those arrested were allowed reconciliation with the church, once they acknowledged that it was heresy to say their order's master could grant absolution. Most Templars in England were never arrested, and the persecution of their leaders was brief. The order was eventually dissolved, and members entered other orders, like the Hospitallers, to which their lands also passed. It was not until 1804 that a modern Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem was formed.
There have been stories about the Templars surviving in Scotland, playing a crucial part in the battle of Bannockburn, and the Bruce rewarding them by creating the Order of the Thistle. But Rosslyn Chapel which is said to contain Templar symbols was not built until a century after they were dissolved. Contemporary accounts of Bannockburn make no mention of any Templar knights (possible invented by the English to explain their defeat). And the Order of Knights of St.Andrew or the Thistle was not created by Bruce in 1314, but by James II in 1440. An even bigger gap separates the Knights Templars from the masonic organisations to whom they hare supposed to have passed on their esoteric knowledge.
But the idea of a secret underground society lasting across centuries and influencing great events is one that turns up in various guises, and if it helps some people to try and explain the mysteries of life, blame a conspiracy, or even feel part of it, mere facts and logic may find it hard to compete.
Besides, who am I, who has just started looking up stuff about the Knights Templer, to dismiss those who have obviously studied the subject? Here is one person who appears to be an expert:
This is Johanna Kaschke, explaining how the Knights Templar obtained a knowledge of significant numbers from the ancient Middle East, which they passed on to the Scottish masons. She believes all sorts of great men through history, like V.I.Lenin, were members of the secret order.
Having never been any good at sums, I am not going to challenge Ms.Kaschke's expertise on numbers. But I can't help noticing those gaps in time, nor wondering how it was that those so gifted with mysteriou powers and the ability to shape history have been unable to foresee and prevent their own persecution.
From her home in Bethnal Green, east London, Johanna Kaschke runs a one-woman secretarial business called Whizz, not to be confused with the similarly-named removals firm, nor the west London-based Maths-Whizz which provides children with tuition. In her blog, Blue Sphere, she writes about health and global warming, local issues, and the problems of working Mums, . "... it does take a lot of time to look after children, give them personal support, spend time with them."
About herself, we learn she is a mother of five, a widow, and now a grandmother.
"I am a resident in Bethnal Green, East London, UK and am engaged in local politics as a member of the Conservative Party. I am also member of the following groups: Hamlets Police & Community Safety Board, :LAP 1 Steering Group member, Member of the Safer Neighbourhood Panel for Bethnal Green North; Board Member of the Parkview Residents Association; Chair of the Parkview Neighbourhood Watch; Member of the Servioce Improvement Working Group".
In her student days in Germany, Johanna Kaschke joined the Social Democrat youth movement, and also assisted Rote Hilfe, which was accused of helping former members of the Red Army Fraction, or Baader Meinhof group. In a blog entry on May 23 she writes:.
When again in the 1960s and 70s the Baader-Meinhof movement came up, I was kind of caught up in it, having to grow up in a society with widespread protests and try to find my way through it. Looking at it today, I can see that a lot of those members were mentally unstable ..."
In London, Johanna Kaschke joined the Labour Party, but managed within a short time to move from Labour to George Galloway's Respect, then to some Communist group, and finally "My current affiliations are with the Conservative Party because I have become a fan of the Monarchy and find that the Conservatives are the only ones wanting to preserve this. I have become a fan of hereditary peers ..."
Now like the knights of old, riding forth to joust with their rivals, this battling Tory grandma is pursuing libel actions against various people who have commented on her, among them David Osler, who is due to face trial on November 23. Our libel laws are a funny old game, and I've no wish to join Dave in the dock, but I do hope to to attend in the public gallery for what looks like a fascinating case.
See Dave's Part on this: