Reviewed by William Courson
In “Born in Blood,” John J. Robinson, an avocational historian and medievalist, makes a patiently reasoned and thoroughly documented re-appraisal of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 in England (known popularly as Wat Tyler’s Rebellion) and emerges with a truly convincing demonstration of the sub rosa connections between the Templar order, the Wat Tyler uprising and the foundations of Freemasonry.
It had for long been thought that this popular revolt against a pathologically avaricious landlord class, a backward, decadent Church and corrupt, venal and self-involved royalty was but a lightning flash, operating under a disorganized, “ad hoc” leadership. Mr. Robinson has effectively disproved this. “Born in Blood” demonstrates convincingly that far from being a spontaneous swelling of discontent, the revolt was a well-planned and highly organized attempt on the part of remnants of the Templar order (brutally dissolved by the French King and his lieutenant, the Roman Pontiff, seven decades earlier) to avenge itself against their oppressors. The author’s hypothesis sheds copious illumination on a host of previously anomalous events and processes and misunderstood connections.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of its members who believe that Freemasonry evolved from craft guilds of medieval stonemasons, the author persuasively links Freemasonry’s origins, doctrine, governance and ritual to the once powerful and wealthy Knights Templar. In the face of persecution of almost unbelievable cruelty, the author claims that surviving Templars, having secured temporary refuge in England and a rather more secure home in Scotland, were forced to form an underground Great Society. The author combines scholarly research and a captivating, storytelling style to trace Freemasonry’s birth in the bloody carnage following Papal censure and evolution into a globe-spanning fraternity dedicated to self-improvement and good works. His painstaking analysis of the derivations and meanings of words like “cowan,” “cabletow,” “due-guard” and “tyler,” which occur in Masonic liturgy and nowhere else in the English language, is nothing short of brilliant as well as conclusive.
Many great history lessons in this book. Recounts the schism between the Pope and the Knights Templar, leading to the mass arrest of Templars in France in 1307. Relates how many Templars escaped France, and how the English king was for the most part sympathetic to the Templars, which means there’s a strong likelyhood that many took refuge in England and Scotland, among other places.
Centuries later, in 1717, Freemasonry made itself known to the world. John Robinson details how the rituals and symbols of Freemasonry originate in the period of time between 1307 when the Templars were outlawed, and 1717 when Freemasonry came out in the open.
The key to deciphering the Freemasonic rituals is understanding that the words are of French origin. All kinds of preposterous explanations for the rituals of the first three degrees have been offered without taking the French origin of the words into account. When the words are looked up in French, it all makes sense.
John Robinson makes a compelling argument. This book will be enjoyed by brother Freemasons, non-Masons and anti-Masons alike as well as conspiracy theorists and aficianados of what has come to be called ‘alternative history.’ I highly recommend it particularly for those interested in the Templar order, the medieval Catholic Church, British history and Freemasonry. This is an excellent book and a pure pleasure to read, and will surely provoke serious thought about the real origins of the Masonic Craft.