Introduction to Knights Templar
The Order of Knights Templar today exists as the top ranking Masonic organization in the York Rite of Freemasonry. The Order today requires membership in a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and in some jurisdictions, membership in a Council of Royal and Select Masters.
The Knights Templar is a Christian-oriented fraternal organization based on the ancient organization that was founded in the 11th century. Today, the Knights Templar display their courage and goodwill in different ways than the ancient Templars. Members of the Order today organize fund-raising activities such as breakfasts, dinners, dances and flea markets for the support of Masonic-related youth groups, in addition to raising millions of dollars for charitable purposes.
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
The Order of the Red Cross continues or reverts to the period of the Royal Arch Degree when the Israelites were returning from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Zerubbabel, their leader prevails upon King Darius to restore the Holy Vessels to the new Temple. They had been carried away by the Babylonian armies when the first Temple was destroyed. In presenting his plea before the King, the companion gives a powerful testimony to the almighty force of Truth.
The ritual places the candidate in the role of Zerubbabel and follows him through his journey to King Darius in Persia and his role in the Immemorial Discussion, as found in the apocryphal book, 1 Esdras. The purpose is to bridge the gap between Royal Arch Masonry and the Chivalric Orders as well as between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross teaches the lessons of the triumph of truth.
The Order of Malta
The Maltese Cross, symbol of the 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 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 "εν τούτῳ νίκα", en toutōi nika, meaning "in this sign you will conquer".
The Knight Templar degree is associated with elaborate regalia 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.