Please allow me to first preface this book review with a few remarks. Unlike the vast majority of reviewers who voice their opinions in "occult publications", I am not an "expert" in absolutely everything, and this includes the history of the Knights Templar. Furthermore, I do not give "good" reviews to please publishers so that they may be encouraged to continue sending me free review copies, nor do I give "bad" reviews because the author, in his book, may have said something that personally upset me or that I do not agree with. Lastly, it should always be remembered that, after all, a book review is only one individual's opinion, to be accepted or rejected as the reader sees fit based upon previous experience.
The Knights Templar & Their Myth begins with a very good Introduction that states, in part, that
"There is little doubt in the author's mind that the story of Templars endowed with occult powers is a kind of fairy tale, though this does not mean that the story is trivial. The Templar myth belongs to poetic and visionary experience, and has to be interpreted on this basis. ... From the penumbra of Templar fantasies come stories of Templar hidden treasure which is still to be found, of Templar black magic; this is the world in which Aleister Crowley made himself the Master of a Templar Order which existed for magical purposes. ... In this book I have tried to establish how a medieval act of political injustice grew into a modern fantasy. ... From the twelfth-century Archbishop of Tyre to the sixteenth-century hermetic philosophers and so until our own day, the Templars were misrepresented through the spread of mistaken or forged texts. By this means they were transformed from the ignorant, obedient servants of an oppressive ideal into the enlightened magician-heroes of freedom and knowledge. It may be a transformation for the better, but it is not one which the Templars would have understood or approved."
Partner's book seems to be extremely well researched in matters related directly to the medieval Knights Templar and breaks down only a little in a few places, primarily between pages 170 and 172 when Theodor Reuss, Karl Kellner, the O.T.O. and Aleister Crowley are briefly brought into the study. The bibliography shows that Partner's research into the Knights Templar was extensive, while at the same time the only work referred to by Crowley was Magick Without Tears [Hampton, N.J., 1954 E.V.], and it seemed rather obvious to me that (a) Partner's opinion of Crowley is probably based more upon the hatchet jobs done upon him by sensationalistic and vindictive writers like John Symonds, as well as misrepresentations of Crowley's work and teachings presented by Kenneth Grant and the Caliphate pseudo-o.t.o., than it is upon a direct and extensive research of Crowley's works; and (b) while the author's scholarship is impressive, his lack of an initiate's understanding of magick and the "occult" in general tends to mar his work, leading him to false conclusions. For instance, although Partner does not come down hard on A.C. at any time, he does tend to make snide remarks that proves to someone who has devoted as much effort into studying Crowley as he has devoted to the Knights Templar that he has failed to understand the man and his work.
Here is an example: "in 1912 Reuss met a magus more powerful than himself, whom he recognized as 'The Most Holy, Most Illustrious, Most Illuminated and Most Puissant Baphomet, X°, Rex Summus Sanctissimus, 33°, 90°, 96°, Past Grand Master of the United States of America, Grand Master of Ireland, Iona, etc.' In this typically modest manner the British magician, Aleister Crowley, took up the cause of the Templars."
There is also, along these lines, a photo of Crowley in masonic costume published with Liber LII, the "Manifesto of the O.T.O.", in The (Blue) Equinox, Volume 3, Number 1, under which the caption reads
Partner has jumped to the usual uninformed conclusion, obviously, that this is an example of A.C.'s supposed egomania. However, again as usual, Crowley's terrific sense of humour is either not understood or not taken into account - a sense of humour that permeates even his most serious works and which has more than once gotten him into trouble, his major fault being that he constantly overestimated the intelligence of others and so believed that they would see and appreciate the joke. To put things into perspective, here are a few quotes from The Confessions of Aleister Crowley [Hill and Wang, NY, 1969 E.V.]:
"I remembered that I had been made a Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the 33° and last degree of the Scottish Rite in Mexico ten years before, but I had never bothered my head about it, it being evident that all freemasonry was either vain pretence, tomfoolery, an excuse for drunken rowdiness, or a sinister association for political intrigues and commercial pirates. Reuss told me a good deal of the history of the varous rites, which is just as confused and criminal as any other branch of history; but he did persuade me that there were a few men who took the matter seriously and believed that the foolish formalism concealed really important magical secrets.
"This view was confirmed when The Arcane Schools of John Yarker came to me for review. I wrote to the author, who recognized my title to the 33° and conferred on me the grades of 95° Memphis and 90° Mizraim. It seemed as if I had somehow turned a tap. From this time on I lived in a perfect shower of diplomas, from Bucharest to Salt Lake City. I possess more exalted titles than I have ever been able to count. I am supposed to know more secret signs, tokens, passwords, grand-words, grips, and so on, than I could actually learn in a dozen lives. An elephant would break down under the insignia I am entitled to wear. The natural consequence of this was that, like Alice when she found the kings and queens and the rest showering upon her as a pack of cards, I woke up." [Pages 638-9]
After one absurd event Crowley said on page 695 that
"The history of freemasonry has become more obscure as the light of research has fallen on the subject. The meaning of masonry has either been completely forgotten or has never existed at all, except insofar as any particular rite might be a cloak for political or even worse intrigue." [Page 696]
"The eighteenth-century Rosicricians, so-called in Austria, had already endeavoured to unite various branches of Continental freemasonry and its superstructures; in the nineteenth century, principally owing to the energy and ability of a wealthy iron master named Karl Kellner, a reconstruction and consolidation of traditional truth had been attempted; a body was formed under the name O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) which purported to achieve this result." [Pages 700-1]
"I may say that the secret of the O.T.O. ... has proven to all intents and purposes the simplification and concentration of the whole of my magical knowledge. All my old methods have been unified in this new method. It does not exactly replace them, but it interprets them. It has also enabled me to construct a uniform type of engine for accomplishing anything that I will.
"My association with freemasonry was therefore destined to be more fertile than almost any other study, and that in a way despite itself. A word should be pertinent with regard to the question of secrecy. It has become difficult for me to take this matter very seriously. Knowing what the secret actually is, I cannot attach much importance to artificial mysteries. It is true that some of the so-called secrets are significant, but as a rule they are so only to those who already know what the secret is. Again, though the secret itself is of such tremendous import, and though it is so simple that I could disclose it and the principal rules for turning it to the best advantage in a short paragraph, I might do so without doing much harm. For it cannot be used indiscriminately." [Pages 708-9]
And from page 126 of Magick Without Tears [Llewellyn Publications, 1973 E.V.]:
"... warned by the prolix, pious, priggish and platitudinous horrors of Freemasonry (especially the advanced degrees of the Scottish and Egyptian Rites), I resolved to cut the cackle and come to the 'osses in the most drastic manner of which I was capable."
It is painfully clear that Crowley did not think very highly of Freemasonry and that he did not take very seriously all the magnificent sounding titles and degrees that were thrust upon him. It is also obvious that he did not seriously believe that the O.T.O. was a direct descendent, so to speak, of the Knights Templar. However, he did discover amongst all of the rigmarole that valuable information had been preserved, and that the myth of the Knights Templar was, like all myths, a useful one for conveying that knowledge to others. The O.T.O., Crowley decided, could be reshaped by way of Thelema to better convey this knowledge and serve the new Law, the Law of Thelema. It seems today that this was a mistake, that the O.T.O., too solidly based upon old æon masonry, could never be reshaped into a truly useful Order for the New Æon of Horus. Turning a sow's ear into a silk purse seems to be an even more complex alchemical process than transmuting base metal into pure gold, as the events during Crowley's time up to and including the present seems to prove. And during the last days of Crowley's life, when he and Karl Germer were no longer conducting initiations into the last and ill-fated Lodge in Pasadena, California, it seems that the two men had a silent agreement to allow the O.T.O. to die as the insanity of the Lodge members, especially with Germer in New Jersey and Crowley in England, during World War II, was completely out of their control - and, unfortunately, that insanity is carried on today by the Caliphate pseudo-o.t.o., the Typhonian pseudo-o.t.o., and others. It died, but the corpse was resurrected and is now used like a rotting zombie to carry out the petty desires of the necromancers who disturbed the sleep of the Ordo Templi Orientis.
Partner's extremely limited knowledge of Crowley, his lack of initiated knowledge, and certain character flaws such as possible prudishness which reveals itself, for instance, where he refers to "all sorts of odd sexual practices" in the O.T.O., the "oddest" practices of which besides regarding sex as a sacred and magical act seem to be anal and oral sex which even plenty of Christians engage in, though many may not wish to admit it - these things mar the book a little, but all in all I found The Knights Templar & Their Myth to be a down-to-earth, realistic and well researched investigation, and one that is well worth reading.
Peter Partner concludes:
"The unromantic truth is that the Templars of the Middle Ages made not the slightest attempt to build the Temple of Wisdom, unless that Temple is defined as that of the Catholic Church. The end of the Templars arose not from the operation of demonic forces but as a result of their own mediocrity and lack of nerve. A handful of them measured up to the terrible challenge which confronted them, but most, including their leaders, at the moment of trial proved to have nothing much to say. In the Holy Land the Templars had been brave soldiers but rather short-sighted politicians, who in no way conformed to the high standards which their nineteenth-century admirers ascribed to them. The most striking characteristic of the medieval Templars was their ordinariness; they represent the common man, and not the uncommon visionary."
And what of Templarism today?
"Templarism is not dead. The Masonic Templars continue their lodges, which in great Britain have several times in this century been presided over by a member of the reigning dynasty. In the United States the Masonic Templar 'encampments' still pitch their tents. On the continent of Europe there are many Templar organizations, some of which, if they sound bizarre and eccentric, are no more so than other Templar organizations which have been recorded in this book. The note of bizarre play-acting has never been absent from Templarism, and, indeed, in this lack of 'seriousness' some of its crazy charm lies. One of the more innocent attractions of esotericism is that it can be an irreverent and cheeky game, which by implication makes fun of established patterns of behaviour, especially those influenced by religion. It seems to the initates that they go by rules and myths which the inspirers of the other rules and myths could not possibly know or understand, and that this is a game which they may play but which is forbidden to others. Who cannot remember from childhood the attractions to the game in which we would not allow the less favoured children to take part? One of the comments made by its early critics on Freemasonry was that the Masons were like children who wanted to 'faire la chapelle', which has the meaning of 'playing at church' just as children 'play at doctors'." [Page 179]
And who should understand this better than someone like me who has himself been "banned" from playing at the game of Templarism which I have never been interested in playing in the first place?