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The Knights Templar and Cannabis


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Part 1: The Knights Templar and Cannabis

from Green Gold: the Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion

by Chris Bennett, Lynn Osburn, and Judy Osburn


  1. The Knights Templar and Cannabis
  2. Sufi Alchemists and the Grail Myth
  3. The Alchemist Monk Francois Rabalais
  4. Medieval Alchemists and Cannabis
  5. The Hashish Club
The Knights Templar and Cannabis

The alchemical information about cannabis use was reintroduced into Europe after the Dark Ages, when the Knights Templar, founded by Hugh de Payns (“of the Pagans”) around the beginning of the twelfth century, became involved in a trade of goods and knowledge with the hashish ingesting Isma’ilis. This knowledge was passed on from Eastern adepts and handed down esoterically through the medieval alchemists, Rosicrucians[1] and later on to the most influential occultists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Modern Freemasonry is also said to have been derived from ancient Templar knowledge, which in turn came from earlier Arabic sources. “Sufi ism,” said Sir Richard Burton, was “the Eastern parent of Freemasonry.” However, the modern day Freemasons, the religion of the Businessman and Banker,[2] for the most part are practicing empty rituals the meaning of which has been long forgotten. But some mystic Masons like Gerard de Nerval, one of the members of the famous Le Club Des Haschischins, were well aware of this Arabic origin for modern Freemasonry. Nerval commented on it in one of his books, much to the horror of many Masons of the time. Nerval published a 700 page memoir, Voyage en Orient, and released information considered sacred by Masons concerning the Master Builder Hiram, which is a pivotal part of their secret rituals. As the authors of The Temple and the Lodge commented:

Nerval not only recited the basic narrative. He also divulged — for the first time, to our knowledge — a skein of eerie mystical traditions associated in Freemasonry with Hiram’s background and pedigree. What is particularly curious is that Nerval makes no mention of Freemasonry whatsoever. Pretending that his narrative is a species of regional folk-tale, never known in the West before, he claims to have heard it orally recited by a Persian raconteur, in a Constantinople coffee-house.

Idries Shaw, the Grand Sheik of the Sufi s and historian of their faith, commented on the connection between the Templars and the Sufis:

That the Templars were thinking in terms of the Sufi , and not the Solomonic, Temple in Jerusalem, and its building, is strongly suggested by one important fact. “Temple” churches which they erected, such as one in London, were modeled upon the Temple as found by the Crusaders, not upon any earlier building. This Temple was none other than the octagonal Dome of the Rock, built in the seventh century on a Sufi mathematical design, and restored in 913. The Sufi legend of the building of the Temple accords with the alleged Masonic version. As an example we may note that the “Solomon” of the Sufi Builders is not King Solomon but the Sufi “King” Maaruf Karkhi (died 815), disciple of David (Daud of Tai, died 781) and hence by extension considered the son of David, and referenced cryptically as Solomon — who was the son of David. The Great murder commemorated by the Sufi Builders is not that of the person (Hiram) supposed by the Masonic tradition to have been killed. The martyr of the Sufi Builders is Mansur el-Hallaj (858-922), juridically murdered because of the Sufi secret, which he spoke in a manner which could not be understood, and thus was dismembered as a heretic.’ — Idries Shaw, The Sufis

Mansur el Hallaj, an outspoken advocate of intoxication as means to spiritual ecstasy, is stated to have been the founder of the still existing Order Templar Orientis in their official documentation, either written by, or under the supervision of the great hashish initiate Aleister Crowley, who at one time was a grand master of the Order. Interestingly el-Hallaj is also connected with the pre-European history of alchemy . Not surprisingly many have credited the Templars with being a vital link in this chain of transmission.

The Order of Knights of the Temple was founded in the Holy Land in 1118 A.D. Its organization was based on that of the Saracean fraternity of “Hashish im,” “hashish-takers,” whom Christians called Assassins. The Templars first headquarters was a wing of the royal palace of Jerusalem next to the al-Aqsa mosque, revered by the Shi’ites as the central shrine of the Goddess Fatima. Western Romances, inspired by Moorish Shi’ite poets, transformed this Mother-Shrine into the Temple of the Holy Grail , where certain legendary knights called Templars gathered to offer their service to the Goddess, to uphold the female principles of divinity and to defend women. These knights became more widely known as Galahad, Perceval, Lohengrin, etc. —Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail also comment on the liaison between the Templars and Isma’ili’s: “Secret connections were also maintained with the Hashish im or Assassins, the famous sect of militant and often fanatical adepts who were Islam’s equivalent of the Templars .” The authors also comment that “the Templars ’ need to treat wounds and illness made them adepts in the use of drugs.” And the Order; “in advance of their time regarded epilepsy not as demonic possession but as a controllable disease.” Interestingly cannabis is the safest natural or synthetic medication proven successful in the treatment of some forms of epilepsy.[3]

Most (scholars) agree that the Templars “had adopted some of the mysterious tenets of the Eastern Gnostics.” — Walker, quoting, R.P. Knight, The Symbolic Language of Ancient Art and Mythology

The famed New Age author, and modern day “stoned philosopher” Robert Anton Wilson, wrote a whole book on the Templars, putting forth a theory that they were practicing a form of Arabic Tantrism, and ingesting hashish , a technique they had picked up from their contact with the Assassins. Unfortunately Wilson offers no documentation, but does comment that; “ambiguous references to a sacred plant or herb appear in their [the Templars ] surviving manuscripts.”[4]

The Templars had acquired a great deal of wealth, a fleet of ships and a strong army of warriors who fought by a creed of never retreating unless the odds were more than three to one. Some began to feel threatened by the wealth and power the Order had attained. In a joint effort orchestrated by King Philip (who had been rejected membership into the sect) and Pope Clement V, the Templars were accused of heresy. Among the many criminal accusations against the Templars were mocking the cross, sodomy[5]and worshipping a mysterious idol in the form of a head. The Templars were also accused of tying a sacred cord around their waist, which was said to have been consecrated by pressing it against the mysterious head.

The spiritual descendants of Zoroastrianism, the modern Parsi, each day tie a sacred cord around their waist as part of the ancient Kusti ritual. The Templar practice of the Zoroastrian Kusti ritual indicates a tradition of knowledge going back through the Isma’ilis (witness the similarities between their seven grade initiations, with those of the cult of Mithra s) to earlier Gnostic and Zoroastrian influences.

If the Templars trampled the crucifix, they may have copied the example of Arab dervishes who ceremonially rejected the cross with the words, “You may have the Cross, but we have the meaning of the cross.” — Idries Shaw, The Sufis

The crucifixion is a major tenet of Roman Catholicism that has been denied by a number of groups dating back to the earliest days of Christianity. The Gnostic s were killed for repudiating it. The largest massacre in Roman Catholic Church history was over this very tenet when the Albigensian Crusade took place and 30,000 soldiers were sent forth by the Papacy to slaughter 15,000 men, women and children — slaughtered not for denying Christ and his teachings, but for denying his crucifixion. (See chapters 19 and 20, Goddess and the Grail and The Resurrection.)

In The Sufis, Idries Shaw states the Templars ’ worship of a mysterious head could well be a reference to the great work of transhumanisation that takes place in the aspirant’s own head.

The Golden Head (sar-i-tilai) is a Sufi phrase used to refer to a person whose inner consciousness has been “transmuted into gold” by means of Sufi study and activity, the nature of which it is not permissible to convey here. — Idries Shah, The Sufis

We propose in this study that the mysterious head worshipped by the Templars may have actually been some sort of a vessel or cauldron, like the head of Bran the Blessed in Celtic mythology [6] or a later day version of the Mahavira Vessel .

In “The Mahavira Vessel and the Plant Putika, ” Stella Kramrisch describes a plant which she connects with the mysterious soma.[7] The Mahavira Vessel, like the Templars mysterious idol, is referred to as a head. To the ancient worshipper the Mahavira vessel represented the decapitated head of Makha, from whose wound flowed forth the Elixir of Life.

The Templars were rounded up and arrested on Friday the thirteenth (the origin of the “bad luck” associated with this combination), October, 1307. Although put through the extreme tortures that the Inquisition was so famous for, the vast majority of the Templars denied the charges. Of course the inquisitors coerce a small number of admissions of guilt. When subjected to excruciating pain, people will most often admit to whatever their questioners want to hear. The court repeatedly refused to hear depositions from no fewer than 573 witnesses. Some Templars managed to escape, but the majority were burned at the stake. A witness to the event stated:

All of them, with no exception, refused to admit any of their alleged crimes, and persisted in saying they were being put to death unjustly which caused great admiration and immense surprise.[8] — Stephen Howarth, The Knights Templar

For this act Dante, who was inspired by Sufi authors, in his Inferno, places both King Philip and Clement V firmly in Hell.[9]

Baigent and Leigh speculate in The Temple and the Lodge that some of the Templars may have escaped to Scotland. They point to medieval graves with Templar insignias, and Templar style churches (round) as evidence. Scotland was at war with England at the time of the Templars ’ persecution, and in the resulting chaos the Papal Bulls dissolving the Order were never proclaimed there. Comparatively, according to Professors Graeme Whittington and Jack Jarvis of the University of Saint Andrews in Fife, Scotland, hemp was grown agriculturally in tenth century Scotland. Sediment from Kilconquhar Lock, near Fife, contained cannabis pollen . Cannabis from around the same time has been found in East Anglia, Wales and in Finland. The hemp was found to have been grown in areas occupied by religious groups of the time. Jarvis commented in an Omni interview, “the decline of these ecclesiastical establishments may have coincided with a decline in the growing of hemp.”

In a letter to Chris Bennett, dated November 6, 1992, Dr. Alexander Sumach, author of Grow Yer Own Stone and A Treasury of Hashish stated:

You are on to some interesting views. The Templars were active in only rare goods — which were tax free. Silks, drugs, astronomical equipment. Cannabis as a confection — not a pipe was their toy. Turkish delight. They grew fields of hemp for canvas and rope to equip their vast fleet that traveled far and wide. Check out the connection between the Mic Mac Indian myth hero “Glooslap” who may have been a Templar in Nova Scotia. He taught the Indians to fish with nets. Cartier, centuries later saw the natives with neat hemp clothing made from native hemp. Cartier was from a hemp district in France, knew all about ships. If he called it hemp….

Mircea Eliade commented on the potential connections between the Templars and the Grail Myth (also known as the Fisher King and The Perlesvaus). He stated in A History of Religious Ideas Vol. III that in a twelfth century text of the legend, the knights were members of a group referred to as Templeisen. He adds: “A Hermetic [alchemical] influence on Parzival seems plausible, for Hermetecism begins to become known in twelfth-century Europe following massive translations of Arabic works.” The scholar further comments on the secret languages, symbols and passwords that were in use in Europe at that time.

Wolfram Von Escchenbach wrote his version of the myth, Parzival, sometime between 1195 and 1220. Interestingly Wolfram is also said to have paid a “special visit to Outremer,” a Templar outpost, “to witness the Order in action.” In Wolfram’s version of the tale the Templars are the knights who guard the Grail and the Grail castle. R. Barber contends in Knight and Chivalry that Perlesvaus, written by an anonymous author, may well have been penned by a Templar.

The Templars appear in The Perlesvaus not just as military men, but also as high mystical initiate s. This is indicative, for the Templars were only too eager to reinforce the popular image of themselves as magi, as wizards or sorcerers, as necromancers, as alchemist, as sages privy to lofty arcane secrets. And indeed, it was precisely this image that rebounded upon them and provided their enemies with the means of their destruction. — Baigent and Leigh, The Temple and the Lodge


[1] Modern Rosicrucian groups, like AMORC, have little knowledge of cannabis use. Interestingly, the founder of the modern day branch of this ancient order, H. Spencer Lewis, commented that when he reintroduced the Order in the early part of this century, he altered the Rosicrucian methods more than had ever been done before, in order to make it more acceptable to the modern day initiate. The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics comments that the Rosicrucians had been, up “until the war, very active in good works, especially in carrying investigations into the uses of vegetable drugs and the relief of disease by means of colored lights and hypnotic processes.” After studying many of the early Rosicrucian texts, I found them to be full of vegetative symbolism and secret references to cannabis, as well as being loaded with a lot of other valuable arcane knowledge. Perhaps this is an area of study to be looked at in future work. — C.B.

[2] The Templars are said to have been the forerunners of the modern Bankers, and the cheque, a Templar invention.

[3] “Marijuana…is probably the most potent anti-epileptic known to medicine today.” (Alfred D. Berger, “Marijuana,” Medical World News, July 16, 1971, pp. 37-43; reprinted in Marijuana Medical Papers). See also Grinspoon’s and Bakalar’s recent publication, Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine for a full account of the many medical benefits of hemp.

[4] R.A. Wilson, Sex and Drugs.

[5] All but a few of the Templars denied these crimes, and those that confessed did so only after a great deal of torture had coaxed them to it. As for the charges of homosexuality and sodomy, this is not at all surprising considering the all male atmosphere of monastic life. Perhaps like certain orders of the Sufis, the Templars were tolerant enough of others to permit homosexuality among those who were drawn to it, unlike the Holy Roman Church which burned homosexuals when they were discovered.

[6] “And it is Bran’s mystical cauldron that numerous writers have sought to identify as the pagan precursor of the Holy Grail.” —Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln, 1982.

[7] See chapter 4, Persia.

[8] Historical legend has it that the defiant leader of the Templars, Jaques De Molay, cursed both Clements and King Philip as he was burning, telling them that they would follow him within a year. And so they did, both dying within the year as De Molay is said to have foretold.

[9] “Recent research has shown that Sufi materials were sources of Dante’s work. His Sufic affiliations must have been known to the alchemists of the time.” (Shaw, The Sufis).


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  1. Sufi Alchemists and the Grail Myth
Marcel Eliade has commented that there may be a Zoroastrian (here referred to as Parsi) origin for the Grail Myth: “In a work published in 1939, the Parsi Scholar Sir Jahangir C. Coyajee has also remarked upon the analogy between the Grail and the Iranian Glory, xvarenah, and the similarities between the legends of Arthur and those of the fabulous King Kay Khorsaw.” Interestingly the xvarenah mentioned, is the same substance the sacred Haoma was said to be rich in. Eliade goes on to say that in one of the many forms of the legend, the Grail is found in India: “Let us add that in the cycle of compositions posterior to Wolfram Von Eschenbauch, the Grail is won in India by Lohengrin, Parzival’s son, accompanied by all the knights .”

Barbara Walker tells us that the whole wasteland motif is of an Arab origin, and that the early crusaders brought it back to Europe believing that if the grail were not recovered then the wasteland that befell the Saudi-Arabian dessert would befall their more fertile land.[10] The story about Parzival and his son is closely paralleled in the following account given by Idries Shaw in The Sufis:

The first Sufi record of a teaching journey to England—such is contained in the travels of Najmuddin (Star of Faith) Gwath-ed-Dahar. He was born about 1232, or perhaps earlier. His son ”followed his father’s footsteps” from India to China in 1338. The first Najmuddin was a disciple of the illustrious Nizamuddin Awlia of Delhi, who sent him to Rum (Turkey) to study under Khidr Rumi. Khidr Rumi’s full name was Sayed Khidr Rumi Khapradri — the Cupbearer of Turkestan. It will be remembered that the Khidr order (equated with the Garter) has as its slogan a salutation to the cupbearer. This cup had miraculous qualities.

Idries Shaw’s comments on the cupbearer and the cup’s miraculous qualities parallel the Grail myth immensely. Further examination of Shaw’s comments shed even more illumination on the subject. First, let us look at the name Khidr , which is also spelled Khizr. It is a Moslem name used in reference to the Biblical prophet Elijah. As J.M. Campbell recorded in his classic 1894 essay, “On the Religion of Hemp :”

In his devotion to bhang , with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah alone, The North Indian Mussulman joins hymning to the praise of bhang. To the follower of the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty, it is the spirit of the great prophet Khizr, or Elijiah. That bhang should be sacred to Khizr is natural, Khizr is the patron saint of water. Still more Khizr means green, the revered color of the cooling water of bhang . So the Urdu poet sings “When I quaff fresh bhang I liken its color to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.” The prophet Khizr or the green prophet cries “May the drink be pleasing to thee.”

Peter Lamborn Wilson makes the following comments on the Sufi term, Saki-Khaneh, House of the Cupbearer:

The saki or wine serving boy is a symbol of the Beloved or the spiritual master in Sufi poetry, but in Pakistan saki-khaneh is a slang term for a tea house that serves charas and bhang .” — Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy

Shaw comments on the connections between the Arab Khidr Order and the famous British group, the Order of the Garter:

The early records of the Order of the Garter are lost. Its patron saint was St. George , who is equated in Syria, where his cult originates, with the mysterious Khidr -figure of the Sufi s. It was in fact called the Order of St. George, which would translate direct into Sufi phraseology as Tarika-i-Hadrat-i-Khidr (the Order of St. Khidr ). It became known as the Order of the Garter. The word “garter” in Arabic is the same as the word for the Sufi mystical tie or bond.

The modern day Order of the Garter traces its origins to the Knights of the Round Table and is attributed to Saint George, who is by tradition considered to be the patron Saint of England. History provides little factual records of who Saint George was and what his actual exploits were. “Folklore named the pagan savior, Green George, a spirit of spring. His image was common in old church carvings, a human head surrounded by leaves.”[11] He is probably best remembered as the slayer of the dragon in a story that is found in twelfth century literature.

A Muslim writer in about AD 900 compared St. George with the Mesopotamian God Tammuz. Moslems also identified St. George with the mysterious prophet Khidr , known as the Verdant One and whose footsteps leave a green imprint. Khidr shares his day, 23 April, with the Saint. — William Anderson, The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth

Scholar Sula Benet made the following comments on a tale that closely resembles that of Saint George : “In the Ukraine there is a legend of a dragon who lived in Kiev, oppressing the people and demanding tribute. The dragon was killed and the city liberated by a man wearing a hemp shirt.”[12]

In the story of the Grail legend Parzival was sent on a quest for the Grail, the cup Christ drank from at the last supper which was thought to contain the power to heal the ailing King. In medieval times the people believed the state of the land coincided with the health of the king, and since the King was dying, the land in turn was becoming barren.

Comparatively, in Rabelais ’ Pantagruel , which is a parody of the Grail myth, and contains occult references to cannabis, we find the following passage referring to the herb Pantagruel ion, which is now known to be hemp :
…in the season of the great draught, when they were busiest gathering the said herb; to wit, at that time when Icarus’s dog, with his fiery balling and barking at the sun, maketh the whole world troglodytic and enforceth people everywhere to hide themselves in the dens and subterranean caves. It is likewise called Pantagruel ion, because of the notable and singular qualities, virtues, and properties thereof; for as Pantagruel[13]hath been the idea, pattern prototype and exemplar of all jovial perfection and accomplishment; so in this Pantagruelion have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature that if the worth and virtue therof had been known, when those trees, by the relation of the prophet, made election of a wooden king, to rule and govern over them, it without all doubt would have carried away from all the rest the plurality of votes and suffrages.[14]

One could make a modern analogy of the Grail Myth. Mankind represents the dying king who has forgotten his divinity. The polluted and stripped earth is the wasteland caused by this sickness. The rediscovered knowledge of hemp ’s many uses in the effort to heal ourselves, those around us and the earth,[15] could be said to represent the Grail . And our mission to end marijuana prohibition is the Quest.

There is no mystery why so few references to cannabis can be found in Medieval European literature; while embracing wine as a sacrament, the Inquisition outlawed cannabis ingestion in Spain in the twelfth century and France in the thirteenth. Anyone using hemp spiritually, medicinally, or otherwise was labeled “witch.”

Saint Joan of Arc, for example, was accused in 1430-31 of using a variety of herbal “witch” drugs, including cannabis, to hear voices. — J. Herer, The Emperor Wears No Clothes

In keeping with the medieval church’s war on all things Arabic, including bathing, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal fiat in 1484 condemning the use of cannabis in the “satanic mass.” — A. De Passquale, “Farmacognosia della Canape Indiana”[16]

So after cannabis prohibitions of the fifth, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, hemp was re-condemned this time as an unholy sacrament of the second and third types of satanic mass.[17] This religious prohibition lasted more than 150 years.

In The Sufis, Idries Shaw tells us there is an Arab origin for the European witches: “Who brought the witches to the West? In the medieval form, from which most of our information derives, undoubtedly the Aniza tribe.” Pointing to evidence like the similarities between the witches circle and the circular dance of the medieval dervishes, Arab words used in witches’ spells, and the use of hallucinogenic plants in both systems, Shaw puts forth a reasonable argument that modern witches can find at least a part of their origin in a group founded by Abu el-Atahiyya (748–828):

His circle of disciples, the Wise Ones, commemorated him in a number of ways after his death. To signify his tribe, they adopted the goat, cognate with his tribal name (Anz, Aniza). A torch between goat horns (“the devil” in Spain as it later became) symbolized for them the light of illumination from the intellect (head) of the “goat,” the Aniza teacher. His wasm (tribal brand) was very much like a broad arrow, also called an eagle’s foot. This sign, known to the witches as the goosefoot, became the mark for their places of meeting. After Atahiyya’s death before the middle of the ninth century, tradition has it that a group from his school migrated to Spain, which had been under Arab rule for over a century at that time. — I. Shaw, The Sufis


[10] The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

[11] Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. In this book, Barbara Walker offers the following origin for the story: “St. George the Dragon-slayer apparently evolved from a mythic meld of Green George with an Arian Bishop of Alexandria who opposed St. Athnasius, and put to death an orthodox master of the mint named Dracontius, “Dragon.’”

[12] Sula Benet, Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp.

[13] Here referring to the story’s hero, a giant who was named after the herb.

[14] Rabelais also states that his heroes drank as heartily “as the Templars.”

[15] See the Emperor Wears No Clothes, by J. Herer; also Hemp, Lifeline to the Future, by C. Conrad.

[16] In Estratto dai Lavori dell, Institute di Farmacognosia della Universita di Messina, Italy, no. 5.(1967) p. 24.

[17] The Emperor Wears No Clothes.