The Order of the Templars was a powerful, militarized monastic order which arose during the Crusader wars: Introductory remarks

A recent post is entitled: Upgrades at Toronto Public Library website are highly impressive.

At the latter post, Bert Eccles has shared a most interesting Comment, about how he likes to be reading many books at the same time, as that makes for a more interesting reading experience, than would otherwise be the case.

I very much like the idea of reading several books at the same time, the strategy that Bert has referred to, in his Comment.

I often have several books on the go, at the same time. I recall years ago, when reading about how best to learn things, I came across the concept that when studying for an exam, it’s good to move back and forth, from subject to subject, as that keeps things interesting. Keeping things interesting – that’s most definitely the name of the game, in my anecdotal experience.

Among the books I’m currently reading is Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014), which is recommended for students to read, at a local high school in Toronto that I’m in touch with.

A basic point, as I understand from a recent conversation with a high school teacher, is that some students spend all their time, when studying, reading and re-reading their assigned material, and their notes.

In the process, they learn to recognize material, when it appears on an exam, but they may not have much in the way of recall, which requires a more active kind of learning, than reading the text, many times over.

The above-noted book outlines how to make study a more active, and thus more productive, process.

Whenever I read anything these days, I’m thinking of at least four things: (1) the evidence the writer is working with; (2) the frame within which the material is presented; (3) the author’s relationship to storytelling; and (4) the intended audience for the text and images.

I’m really pleased Bert Eccles wrote his Comment, as it has prompted me to spend a few moments thinking about getting around to posting some reflections about the many books I’ve been currently reading.

History of the Order of the Templars

By way of example, I’ve been reading extensively about the history of the Order of the Templars, the medieval monastic order that played a key role in wars, originating in Europe, that have come to be known as the Crusades.

The Templars became very powerful, owning a great deal of property across Europe. They were also heavily involved with financial matters, as they had the means to ensure that money and valuables could be safely transported from one part of the world to another, and they had the means to ensure that money and precious goods could be stored for safekeeping, in secure locations.

The Templars rose because they had a particular military and strategic financial function to perform, and they had a spectacular fall. In the end they were wiped out, and all of their extensive properties, located across Europe, were seized.

As well, their central archives were lost, which in turn gave rise to rampant speculation – which has taken strong hold of the public imagination, even to the present day – about what the Order of the Templars was about.

As a general rule, in the current era as in the past, in the near-total absence of evidence – or in some cases in the total absence of evidence – all manner of stories can be told, and in some cases will be strongly believed.

My first introduction, to reading about the Templars, was through a book written by an author who has extensive experience in preparing stories for the broadcast industry. The book is entitled: The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors (2017).

The story, in this book, is told all from the perspective of personalities and specific battles. The book makes for great storytelling, the kind of character-and-setting based storytelling that makes for a great cinematic experience.

The book brings the story of the Order of the Templars to life, which is a major achievement. The underlying details, however, which I would describe as the tactics, strategies, and logistics of warfare, and of related political goal-seeking, are not given as much attention.

I decided that, when I was going to read about the fall of the Order of the Templars, I was going to go with the most historically authoritative author that I could find, rather than necessarily going with the author of the first book that I encountered. Thus I have at this point only read part-way through the above-mentioned book.

A review of the latter book, at the Toronto Public Library website, notes that “The author does not provide new insights, and his knowledge of this Order and of the era in which it flourished is wide but not deep.” The review also notes:

“The author accomplishes three things. One, he relates an engaging tale that will reward casual readers. Two, he diligently uses all of the relevant primary sources, many of which are translated but were not readily available before the 1990s. Three, while he uses secondary materials selectively rather than definitively, he has drawn on the rich scholarship of the past several decades, and that makes this account up-to-date.”

Thus the latter book is good way to get warmed up, in the event a person wants to learn about the Templars. This recently published book has many holds on it, at the Toronto Public Library, at the time of this writing (mid-April 2018), indicating that many readers are keen to read it.

I much appreciate Bert Eccle’s Comment, as it has prompted me to get to work on the post you are now reading, about the Order of the Templars.

Violence associated with strongly held religious worldviews, political worldviews, and sundry ideologies

The story of the Templars is concerned with topics that bring to mind contemporary militarized monastic orders, including ones associated with Buddhism (or Buddhisms, if one wishes to use that term), as outlined in a Jan. 16, 2014 post entitled:

Buddhist Warfare (2010) highlights connections between Buddhisms and violence

The story of the Templars also is concerned with topics related to consciousness, belief systems including religious, political, and ideological worldviews, and the positioning of practices such as mindfulness meditation in contemporary culture. I have explored the latter topics at a separate page (which in practice functions as a post) at my website, entitled:

Mindfulness meditation

As is noted at the latter page, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, which features a documented effort aimed at the genocide of a defenceless, innocent population, is of relevance with regard to the role that militarized monastic orders can play in history – in centuries past, and, indeed, with regard to history as it now unfolds, in the present moment.

The case of Buddhist warfare is of particular interest. As I understand, the majority of major religions including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have, in the course of history, readily lent themselves to warfare and violence, directed at non-subscribers to a given major religion whatever the religion may be. The non-subscribers are positioned variously as infidels, unbelievers, and heretics with a subtext that says: “If you don’t believe what I believe, you are not part of my community meaning that you can readily be wiped off of the face of the earth.”

In the above-noted page, I have focused in particular on the concept of Buddhist warfare, because such a concept of warfare runs counter to a prevailing meme, widely circulated in Western society, and celebrated especially by a number of key writers in the postwar years, as I recall, which advances the claim that Buddhism is at all times and under all circumstances solely dedicated to the practice of non-violence.

The evidence, as I have noted at the above-mentioned page, does not support the claim of consistent non-violence for Buddhism, any more than it does for other major world religions. The evidence does not support the claim of non-violence for virtually (I’m always keen to learn of exceptions) any other strongly held belief system, whether we refer to a strongly held religious worldview, political worldview, or sundry ideology.

In the larger scheme of things (of which the tendency toward violence is one feature, among many others), the major world religions do wonderful things on behalf of their faith-communities, and bring comfort, solace, and meaning to many people.


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