Burnes, Masons and Knights Templar 77


UPDATE Almost two years after writing this post I finally managed to make contact with Robert Cooper at Freemason’s Hall in Edinburgh, and he could not have been more friendly and helpful, spending an hour with me on the phone going over various points and arranging to show me various material. I am not deleting the criticisms below as they are part of the record; but they are of course substantially altered.

There is a strange link between the warped mind of Anders Breivik and the biography of Alexander Burnes I am writing. Anyone who has read The Da Vinci Code or The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, knows the (dubious) story of a continued descent of the Knights Templar through the rites of Scottish Freemasonry (the Da Vinci Code, of course, finishes in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland). Anders Breivik’s “Templar” manifesto, his signing himself as “Andrew Berwick” and his posing in Masonic costume all indicate he was influenced by this stuff.

Well, that story of the Scottish Freemasons inheriting the rites and knowledge of the Knights Templar was first popularised by Alexander Burnes’ brother, James Burnes, in his “Sketch of the History of the Knights Templar” (Edinburgh, 1840). James Burnes went on to become “Grand Precepteur de l’Ordre Souverain Du Temple” and “Grand Preceptor of the British Langue of the Sovereign and Illustrious Order of St John of Jerusalem”. The source for this is Robert Bigsby in his Memoir of the Illustrious and Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, (Irongate, 1869).

James Burnes’ History of the Knights Templar describes himself as the Masonic “Grand Prior of India.” This is undoubtedly true – there are plenty of other sources. He also really was, as he claims, a Knight of Aquitaine and of the Royal Guelphic Order of Hanover and Saxe Coburg, created by reigning monarchs who were also masons. Bigsby says James Burnes was “best remembered for his zealous exertions in promoting Freemasonry in Scotland and India.” He apparently reached number two in the Scottish freemason structure, though I have yet to find his title.

His brother Alex Burnes, the subject of my biography, was also a zealous freemason and some sort of search for ancient masonic knowledge linked to Alexander the Great was a sub-theme of his wanderings in Central Asia – and links in of course to Kipling’s exploration of the same masonic themes in The Man Who Would Be King, which is at least in part based on Alex Burnes. Freemasonry was a fundamental part of the Burnes family’s life – Alex and James’ great-uncle, the poet Robert Burns was famously a freemason, and their are more Burnes (eight) in the list of members of the Knights of St John which Bigsby publishes, than any other family.

I genuinely have no agenda, pro or anti Freemason (to be honest I view them as harmless and a bit silly), in digging up this old stuff. But I hope that the above explains why I cannot leave this aspect out of a biography of Alexander Burnes. Yet I have contacted in writing the masonic organisations in Scotland and in India, and the Order of St John, to ask if they have any records relevant to James and Alexander Burnes. The Scottish Masons claim never to have heard of the Burnes, – that cannot be true – while the others have not replied to my letters.

They can hardly be surprised people think ill of them if they are so secretive and unhelpful. I am afraid their new (and I am sure unwelcome) association with Breivik will make them even more paranoid and hostile to anybody researching this stuff.


77 thoughts on “Burnes, Masons and Knights Templar

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  • writeon

    A young woman, a Norweigian nurse, is coming to stay with my daughters in their flat in a few days. One of my daughters is almost finished with her education and will soon qualify as an MD. My daughter and the nurse are taking a course in tropical medicine and deseases before they head off for Africa.

    Several of my daughter’s friends are young Norweigian medical students, and they are mostly still in a state of profound shock about the atrocity Breivik unleashed on Oslo.

    Many of the young people so casually slaughtered were the cream of Norway’s Labour Party, the future of the party, which is thoroughly Social Democratic in character. Breivik succeeded in killing about a tenth of the party’s youth in his savage attack.

    One of the young people on the hellish island said that he had never lost anyone close to him before, now, suddenly, he lost over eighty of his friends, muredered in the space of a couple of hours. How this affects someone is anyone’s guess, but it must be truly terrible.

    Breivik’s ideas were a ghastly mishmass of half-baked nonsense, but even crap ideas have consequences. The extreme Islamophobia he was steeped in, the paranoia, the hatred… have consequences, have the potential to lead us once more towards rivers of blood.

    I was talking to the mechanic who maintains my car, he’s a Muslim from Iraq, and he mentioned how terrible it was that the media was on a hair-trigger and ready to blame Muslims for the atrocity, like the vile rag the Sun. To think that my kids are going to have to struggle with the threat of Fascism and the ideology of racism, like my parents did, beggars belief.

  • Guest

    “I genuinely have no agenda, pro or anti Freemason (to be honest I view them as harmless and a bit silly)”
    .
    There are rumoured to be many `Masons` in the higher echelons of the police and the judiciary!. Prerequisite to promotion I have heard!.

  • harpie

    Jeff Sharlette has been reading and tweeting Brevik’s manifesto, here:
    http://twitter.com/#!/JeffSharlet

    [Author of The Family, C Street, Sweet Heaven When I Die. Teacher of Dartmouth College students.]

    This caught my eye in relation to Craig’s topic:

    Wow — started losing followers when I made fun of Knights Templar. Sorry, M’Lord.

  • harpie

    That s/b
    [quote]Wow — started losing followers when I made fun of Knights Templar. Sorry, M’Lord.[end quote]

  • Jack

    “I genuinely have no agenda, pro or anti Freemason (to be honest I view them as harmless and a bit silly)”

    Try working for the police or the average council for a couple of years (I’ve done both) – they’re all as thick as thieves, with the emphasis on thieves. It’s often quite blatant. Of course they only do ‘favours’ for each other – usually commercial favours. But for every Lodge favour, someone else is being screwed out of a job or a contract.

  • Clark

    Unfortunately, I can confirm from personal knowledge that police, Freemasons and Islamophobia do often go together.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’ve had a couple of (what I think may have been) Masonic handshakes in recent times. The diamond central design on my ring (My Precious…!) , when glanced at in the right light, resembles a set square. Perhaps they imagined that I was a Grand Master of some sort? It is somewhat freaky, however, to have a fifty-something year-old genetleman sort of holding onto one’s hand for a few seconds too long and sort of… uhm, tickling. Whatever turns one on.
    .
    Jack, that’s intriguing – so, the Masonic business plexus is alive and well, then? Fascinating.
    .
    Wait, while I gather up my wages and slip betweixt the pillars.

  • Clark

    From Guest’s link above:
    .
    “The successful hacking of a computer belonging to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst was achieved in July 2006 by sending Hurst an email containing a Trojan programme which copied Hurst’s emails and relayed them back to the hacker.”
    .
    This is very easy to do to a Windows system. This is one of the reasons that I no longer use Windows.

  • craig Post author

    Scouse Billy,

    I would much prefer you not to post links to weird conspiracy theorists. The connections I have posted between Breivik and Pamela Geller are a matter of fact and record. That link you posted talks of:
    Quote “As more and more evidence pointed to Oslo being yet another example of a state-sponsored terrorist attack by Israel’s Mossad” Unquote
    but actually offers no evidence of that at all.

  • Scouse Billy

    So, Craig you consider this man a “weird conspiracy theorist” and would prefer me not to post his pieces on your blog…
    .
    .
    .
    Wayne MADSEN (USA)
    .
    Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. Has some twenty years experience in security issues. As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and MS-NBC. He has been invited to testify as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. Lives in Washington, D.C.

  • John Goss

    You cannot be a Christian and a Freemason. You can (that is you can profess Christianity and enter the brotherhood), but in truth, you can’t. Walton Hannah in his book “Darkness Visible” first made me aware of this, when I was less than half my current age. Yet Archbishops (even of Canterbury) have sold their souls. That may or may not make them bad people. They have their reward. But I thought you, Craig, must have met a few. One of the easiest ways to compromise the British Secret Services was through Freemasonry, as history has shown. And the Soviet Union used these links to great effect before it became obvious how infiltration was taking place. My understanding is it does not happen now; or at least not to the same extent.
    Another person who may not have died from natural causes is Stephen Knight. He wrote “The Brotherhood” (1985). Chapter 11, (this is for you Guest), concerns the City Police which covers my domain. A hack-book it was written in 1985 and pulped out in large quantities on acid paper, which judging from the copy I have will not last another twenty years. (Thank God for high-technology). It says “in the City area there is not one of the divisional commanders or their deputies who is not a Freemason.” Some seventeen years back someone who I trust told me “You cannot get above sergeant in the W.M. Police Force unless you’re a Mason.” I believed it then, but I realise it might have changed. I suspect things have improved, mostly because of the decline in the number of people becoming Freemasons. But it does not detract from the fact that when Freemasonry was so prevalent there were cases left unchallenged, which campaigners fought long and strong for, like challenging the establishment conviction for the murder of Hilda Murrell.
    Of the episodes of Judge John Deed I saw they never got under the skin of Freemasonry. High Court Judges move up the degrees until they become High Court Judges. Like the Church of England is purported to be the Conservative Party at prayer, the Judiciary is its legal representative, and the legal representative also of the State.

  • Jon

    @Billy – I don’t know of Madsen at all, but I’d hardly posit that being a “frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News” does one any credit 🙂

  • Scouse Billy

    Jon, lol I know, but independent journalists need to pay the bills – as far as I’m concerned the 4th estate no longer does its job and we need the Pilgers, Madsens etc. more than ever.

  • Jaded.

    My personal opinion is only a dimwit would join the masons. My logic is how could anyone sane make an oath without knowing exactly what they are letting themselves in for? And hogwash to anyone that says they do know. I think they are just a sad gang with no real sense of identity. They do allow folk their honest and peaceful view I take it. Or do they get all flustered and angry with anyone who disagrees with them?

  • andytweed

    The links to ultra fascist masonic groups throughout Europe explain more about this attacker than his edl pals on facebook. Craig is obviously a mason to decry them as ‘silly’.

  • Jaded.

    Well, if he is, I am sure he wouldn’t mind me calling him a dimwit. And I wouldn’t mind him telling me what he thinks of yours truly either. 🙂 I’ve never had Craig down as a mason though. Are you a mason Craig?

  • YugoStiglitz

    As everyone now knows, I live in Mason (Ohio), so I must be part of the conspiracy.

  • angrysoba

    The Knights Templar are something of an obsession with certain conspiracy theorists. Some of this story is creepily reminiscent of Foucault’s Pendulum in which a bunch of murderers have convinced themselves that they are descendents of the Knights Templar, IIRC.

  • Slobadon

    Is it “Islamophobic” to state the fact that all rapes in Oslo over the past 5 years have been committed by foreigners? You silly one-worlders are bringing this kind of violence to reality.

    Diversity + Proximity = War

    Killing children is horribly wrong in any case.

  • glenn

    Jaded says: ” My logic is how could anyone sane make an oath without knowing exactly what they are letting themselves in for?”
    .
    Good question, and maybe that should be posed to those rare individuals that swear allegiance to a flag. Or promise their eternal souls to one god or another. Or make marriage vows in front of hundreds of people they know personally, for that matter.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Well, Yugostiglitz, you could be the Grand Master of Old Palmyra and wear an odd apron and golden ring – so long as you refrain from giving us all funny handshakes…!

  • John Goss

    Kipling is one of my favourite poets. He had a great sense of rhythm, metre and atmosphere. He wrote a poem ‘The Mother Lodge’ and I have long been intrigued by the second line of the last verse.

    Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
    Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
    We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
    An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

    It’s the double negative that makes me ponder: “an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm” because if it doesn’t do no ‘arm it must do some ‘arm. With his craftsmanship he could easily have written “and it does nobody ‘arm” or some other construction which maintains the metre.

    Most, but not all, masons I’ve known have been upright and honourable but my suspicion is that they are individually compromised – making them useful appendages to the brotherhood. The ceremony itself is not something anyone would want his wife or children to know about.

    Those who take it seriously, take it very, very seriously. From what I’ve read it is not for the squeamish. It is a mockery of Christianity. And the higher the degree, the more shady its adherents.

  • Paul Johnston

    [Joke]
    @Craig
    You say “No, I am not a mason!”
    Do Masons have “al-Taqiyya” ?
    [/Joke]

  • YugoStiglitz

    I just can’t help but note the Funny that arises with you posting something about the Masons and the Knights Templar and expecting your readers to behave.

    Angrysoba, Foucault’s Pendulum is an incredible book as an effort to explain how people create cobwebs where there are none.

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