The Secret Teaching
of the Knights Templar

A Critical Investigation
Hans Prutz

Translated from the German and edited with an Introduction by Eamon Kiernan

Heroes or villains? Christians or devil worshippers? The Knights Templar were perhaps the greatest of the military orders of the Crusades. Accused of heresy, the Order was suppressed by the Church in 1312.

Originally published in 1879, this treatise by one of Germany’s most eminent historians examines the secret teaching which lay behind the downfall of the Order.


ISBN-10 3-936730-02-4
ISBN-13 978-3-936730-02-9


This book is currently out of print, but may be available in libraries or through the second hand book market.

Click here for an excerpt from the Introduction

Were the Templars what they seem:
the noble guardians of a superior spiritual wisdom?

Bestsellers such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and more recently, The DaVinci Code have catapulted the military order of the Knights Templar into public consciousness like never before. The fulsome praise usually accorded the soldier-monks of the Crusades is, however, deceptive. In their own time, the Templars were hated and feared by their fellow Christians, and for good reason. They regularly deserted the Christian cause on the battlefield; not out of cowardice, it can be said, but because the advantage of their Order took precedence over everything else. In the territories under their control they set up a system of exploitation second to none in its ruthlessness. The spiritual teaching which they supposedly protected with such pure devotion reflects an early form of Satanism.

This emerges clearly from a historical work which first appeared in Germany in 1879: Hans Prutz’ Geheimlehre and Geheimstatuten des Tempelherren-Ordens. An English version is now available under the title: The Secret Teaching of the Knights Templar: A Critical Investigation.

One of the foremost historians of his day, Hans Prutz sought to identify the heresy which corrupted the Order of the Knights of the Temple on the basis of the depositions made at the Trial of 1307-9. These open a horror vista that many today find impossible to believe. The reception of new members into the Order involved the desecration of the Cross, the exchange of ritual kisses to naked parts of the body, and perhaps homosexual intercourse between the participants. The Order had its own unorthodox variations of the Catholic Sacraments. Its prayers and liturgical rites were not addressed to the Christian God, but to an idol called Baphomet, which they worshipped in the form of a metallic head.

The Secret Teaching of the Knights Templar offers a cogent explanation of how such an extreme heretical development could have occurred. Many enabling factors come together: the Frankish mixed culture in the embattled Christian States in the Holy Land, which was moving away from Catholic orthodoxy; the heretical noble families of Provence, from which many of the Knights Templar were recruited; the papal privileges granted to the Order which made it independent of outside scrutiny; the corrupting effects of wealth and power. Above all, it was the catastrophic failure of the Crusades that prepared the way for large-scale betrayal. The loss of the Holy Places was proof to many at the time that Christianity did not enjoy the blessing of God and could not be the true religion.

Under these influences, and impelled, no doubt, by the personal power of one or more of its leading members, the Order first adopted a version of the Albigensian heresy, before giving itself over to a derivation of Luciferianism which was expressed in part by the strange behaviour which came to light at the Trial.

Lamentably, much of the evidence is provided by  statements extracted under torture at the behest of King Philip IV “The Fair” of France. Many historians have argued that the Trial was therefore a farce and that the Order was innocent. In contrast, Prutz emphasises one salient fact: these dubious confessions were confirmed by confessions made in places where there was no threat of torture, for example in Pisa and Florence. Prutz concludes that despite the vested interests that were served by the Trial of the Templars, the evidence brought to light proves that the Order systematically cultivated a form of the Luciferian heresy.

In his later work, Prutz came to abandon this strong view of the Order’s guilt. Much of the argument in The Secret Teaching of the Knights Templar concerns a supposed Secret Statute, a Rule expressing the heretical belief-system of the Templars, which Prutz believed was written at Castle Pilgrim in Palestine around the time of the Siege of Damietta in 1229. In Entwicklung und Untergang des Tempelherrenordens (1888), Prutz notes that new archival research had failed to produce a physical example of this Secret Statute. This leads him to a correction of his earlier thesis: there never was a Secret Statute in the Order, and therefore no systematic body of secret teaching. The Order was indeed guilty of heresy, but not in the organised way he had previously claimed. The Luciferianism which had played such a strong explanatory role now loses much of its importance.

On consideration, Prutz’ later position appears to be much less convincing than the earlier one. The absence of a definitive and binding codification, which a Secret Statute would have represented, does not necessarily mean the absence of an organised heretical doctrine. A primarily oral transmission, a possibility which Prutz dismisses all too quickly, would be in keeping with both the dangerous nature of the heretical teaching and the low standard of education which prevailed in the Order. Despite the general trend towards a rehabilitation of the Templars, there is ample reason to maintain a strong view of their guilt.

The Secret Teaching of the Knights Templar certainly discourages the false romanticism one finds in most literary treatments of the Templars today. The Knights Templar, we learn, were anything but noble guardians of spiritual wisdom. They created their own Church for their own ends while preserving the appearance of orthodoxy and faithful service. To put it plainly, they served Evil while pretending to serve Good, and they did so with the connivance of the highest Church authorities.

To anyone with any sympathy for the Christian Churches, or indeed, for any spiritual path, there is a disturbing implication which might not be evident at first sight. There is nothing, apart from the intrinsic goodness of its members, if they are good, to prevent an institution of the Church, or even the Church as a whole, from turning to Evil, while at the same time going through the motions of faithful observance. This seems to be as valid for the Orders and Institutes of the Roman Catholic Church as for evangelical congregations, or for spiritual communities which invoke the protection of gurus or guardian spirits, or indeed for intentional communities of any kind. It was possible for the Order of the Knights of the Temple to have gone thoroughly wrong as an organisation while many individual members, their lives closed off by systems of obedience and need-fulfilment, remained ignorant. The discernment of Good and Evil, of Right and Wrong, is not a task that can be left to religious superiors, elders or theological professionals, no matter how impressive, but poses a constant daily challenge for everyone, through humble listening to the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most noteworthy lesson that the story of the Knights Templar holds ready today.