January 16, 2016


The Jedi Knights Templar (Dylan Pahman, 1/13/16, Acton)

The Templars were created in the twelfth century to defend Jerusalem and pilgrims who journeyed there. They were named for their origin at the site of the biblical King Solomon's temple (see 1 Kings 5-8). They took monastic vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, but they also carried swords and fought as knights. Their original rule was written, in part, by the Western saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Disappointed with the conduct of other knights, who "despised the love of justice," the Knights of the Temple were meant to "defend the poor, widows, orphans and churches."

The Knights managed to get an order from the pope exempting them from local laws, allowing them to move freely across Europe and to operate tax-free. In addition, as Andy Hill wrote for GB Times, "The rise in power of the Templars went [hand] in hand with an impressive fundraising campaign, under which people, some of them kings, donated vast sums of land and wealth to the order." Like many medieval monastic orders dedicated to material simplicity, the Templars soon found themselves with the embarrassment of riches, which they shrewdly used to protect pilgrims from the dangers of carrying large amounts of gold on their journeys by creating the first international banking system.

The story of the Knights' demise is fascinating, but too complicated to tell here. The Knights were disbanded and many burned at the stake due to charges of immorality and heresy, in part surrounding their secretive initiation rite. The truth of the matter is debated to this day, but the seeming injustice of the event started rumors that the Knights hadn't truly died out but rather went underground.

Enter the Jedi. The Star Wars prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III) tells of the demise of the Jedi, betrayed by one of their own and the corrupt emperor of the very government they had sworn to protect. By the time of the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), the Jedi have drifted into legend. Many people, such as Han Solo, even doubted the existence of the Force. In "The Force Awakens," the new heroine of the series, Rey, at one point exclaims that she thought Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi and hero of the first films, "was a myth."

When she and ex-stormtrooper Finn meet Han Solo and his sidekick Chewbacca, Finn asks Han what he knows about the location of Luke. "There were a lot of rumors. Stories. People who knew him best think he went looking for the first Jedi temple," Han explains. To this, Rey replies in disbelief, "The Jedi were real?" Han continues, "I used to wonder about that. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil, the Dark Side and the Light. The crazy thing is ... it's true." The effect would be like learning that all the modern-day conspiracy theories about the Knights Templar were actually true.

The parallels with the Templars don't stop at the Jedi's unjust demise or the fact that Luke "went looking for the first Jedi temple" either. According to Peter Konieczny, Star Wars creator George Lucas even originally named them the "Jedi Templar" rather than the Jedi Knights.

Posted by at January 16, 2016 12:20 PM