Cannabis: The Philosopher’s Stone

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

(published by Access Unlimited:




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] “ 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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