Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trampling on the cross

The Knights Templar have entered into the public consciousness in such a way that you can now find books written about them claiming anything under the sun. A personal favorite of mine is the thesis that Templars were the first to cross the Atlantic in the 13th century, establishing colonies in Nova Scotia and burying gold there. Wow, who'd of thought? But seriously there may be something to some of the charges against them, like that of having stomping on the cross be part of the initiation ceremony.

What's likely, and much more easy to document historically than things like Templars discovering North America, is that during their occupation of the Middle East they came in contact with a large number of religious groups across the board. They had to have come into contact with Eastern Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims. It's possible that they came into contact with sects deemed heretical by Sunni Islam, as well as Shi'ia Islam, because Syria was a hotbed of that, both then and now. It's documented that the Druze faith fought against the Crusaders, and that Twelver Shi'ias in Lebanon were directly involved with fighting against the Crusaders. According to Wiki, Syria at the time also was home to the Sevener Ismaili's, a radical, mystical, branch of Shi'ism that recognized the first six Imams of regular Shi'ism, then recognized an alternate seventh Imam, then declared that the Imam had gone into seclusion, becoming the Imam of the Time. Ismaili's are known because of Hassan-I-Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain, the leader of the Hashishim or Assasins, who were Ismaili's. Their fortress of Alamut has become the stuff of legend.

Druze, Twelver Shi'ites, and Ismailis are still there in Syria to this day, despite orthodox Sunni attempts to eliminate them.
There are also very established Sufi orders in the area, which it's possible that the Crusaders came in contact with, as well as, just to round out all of it, heretical Christian sects. But lets focus on the Sufis, who haven't gotten nearly as much attention as the St. John's Christians.

What makes the possible Sufi connection interesting with respect to the allegation of trampling on the cross is that there are some Sufi Tariqat, or sects, that emphasize the interior, esoteric, interpretation of Islamic scripture, to the point in some rituals of doing things contrary to the law of Islam, like drinking wine, to show that their allegiance is with the view of Islam stemming from inner contemplation as opposed to outward appearances. The Bektashi's in Turkey are reportedly known for this.

So, adding it all together, couldn't it be possible that in an initiation ceremony the Templars emphasized throwing away or ritually desecrating the outward symbols of the Christian faith in order to introduce the initiate into the inner meanings of the same?

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