The Knights of St. John are known formally as the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta and Rhodes, abbreviated to SMOM.
A modern dilettanti of the Freemasonic-Illuminati-SMOM Gnostics.
Secrets of Malta... (8/10/2007)
Originally published in Gnosis Magazine #40 (Summer 1996). - Does an enciphered manuscript give a glimpse of initiation as practiced by the Knights of Malta over 200 years ago?
By Virginia M. Fellows
Whatever laws may govern synchronicity in the world of events, they have managed to elude my comprehension completely. Why is it that so often an amalgam of relevant information appears at exactly the right place and time? Is it an even that is carefully orchestrated from a higher world? Is it arranged by superior intelligences? By angelic intercession? By personal process of subliminal creativity?
Although I haven't an inkling of the inner workings of the invisible realm that directs such happenings, I do know that when these events come, they have purpose and meaning. When I am fortunate enough to have one happen to me, I am content to accept it as a mystery gift from an inner world while seeking its relevance in the outer.
Thus it was with pleasurable anticipation that I accepted a phone call that came to me on a crisp morning early in the fall of 1985. The call left me with more than a vague suspicion that it was not mere chance. It came from a young man, a stranger to me at the time, who had inquired at a local New Age book store for reference to someone with an interest in esoteric and occult matters. Since my specialty, as the proprietor knew, is research in various mystery schools, the obscure histories of alchemy, cipher writing, masters of the sacred arts, and custodians of the Holy Grail, my phone number was passed on to the inquirer.
After that contact, John Baird - for that was the young man's name - and I arranged a rendezvous, and two days later we were chatting over steaming mugs of herb tea. I discovered that my new acquaintance was a personable young man in his early thirties with an amazing story to tell. I quote from him verbatim:
It was on December 31, 1955, that I was adopted. On New Year's Day my new father invited an older uncle over to see the baby that he and his wife had just brought home. My uncle, whose name was Alex, looked down on me and smiled and sort of laughed, and from what I've been told, he said, "I'm glad to see that I have a nephew at last. He's the one I've been waiting for. I can die happy now, knowing there is an heir to the family. There is something he will do for all of us." Just to prove the truth of his words, my uncle sat down in a chair, asked my father to bring him a tall glass of dark ale, and toasted the newborn. He died that day.
Thus John's story began. It was to corroborate for me many beliefs and convictions that I had firmly held but which had never been satisfactorily verified by first-hand accounts.
John was too young to remember his uncle, of course, but he had been told that he was a member of a prestigious old Scottish family, the Bairds. Before his death, the old gentleman had arranged a bequest to the new family heir - a voluminous manuscript written by hand around 1882. He had instructed that the document be held for his nephew until he came of age. Sometime in the late 1970s the uncle's widow gave him a sheaf of old paper that had been lying in wait for over 100 years. Attached was a short note from the uncle explaining that the manuscript was written in code and had, according to the wishes of the writer, never to that date been deciphered. It was reserved for the second half of this century.
The young heir enthusiastically took up the challenge. To familiarize himself with its contents, he copied the manuscript in his own hand word for word. Before long he had the key to the cipher. It was what he called a "tilted cipher" - a fairly familiar style that was especially popular during the seventeenth century. Francis Bacon referred to it as the "Trithemius cipher," having been invented by the fifteenth-century abbot of that name. The cipher involves moving the letters of the alphabet a certain number of places to the right or to the left on the standard alphabet. If the alphabet is moved six places to the right, for instance, then "F" would be substituted for "A," "G" for B," and so on. It is most easily deciphered on a wheel composed of two superimposed disks, each one carrying an alphabet that can be easily moved in either direction.
John met with some difficulty with the deciphering until he realized that only every third line was to be included in the message. All other lines were "dummy lines" or nulls and therefore not to be counted. With this discovery, John found the transcription moved along easily enough in spite of the great patience and concentration required.
It turned out that the original writer was an ancestor of the Baird family who, in the 1880s, had felt compelled to leave a record of an experience he had undergone as a young man between the years of 1770 and 1776 on the tiny but famous island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The writer, fearing that world conditions were disintegrating rapidly and that his message was in danger of being lost, wrote down with uncanny accuracy his memories of the astonishing adventure that he had experienced. His purpose was to inspire and educate future generations with certain arcane knowledge that was even then being perverted and diluted by "dark forces" that he described as being only too real.
Checking back on the historical calendar, one find that the middle of the eighteenth century was indeed a dangerous periods of political unrest and chaos in European history. It was the time when revolution was being fomented among the hungry masses of France. On the other side of the ocean, the American colonies were chafing under the yoke of British dominion. In addition, there was severe religious strife everywhere - the very existence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy was at risk.
Malta itself had recently recovered from repeated attacks by the Ottoman Turks and and would later attach itself to Great Britain. The small island, long a target for bloody sieges by sea, had struggled fiercely to maintain self-rule, creating for itself a reputation for valor.
Despite Malta's position in the middle of the Mediterranean, equidistant between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, it has been considered more European than African. Rising theatrically out of the blue waters, it consists of three small islands occupying only 125 square miles of rocky, unwelcoming terrain. Somehow it seems out of place in its watery surroundings, as though the gods had dropped it there as an afterthought for some purpose of their own. there has always hung over Malta a powerful air of mystery that is difficult to define but perhaps not so difficult to account for.
The mythology of the island is as rich and resonant as that of ancient Egypt, and indeed Malta displays ruined megalithic structures dating back to the third millennium B.C. They were contemporary with the temple mounds and ziggurats of Sumer, and may predate the great pyramids of the Nile, whose dates of construction are even now being disputed by scholars. Carved out of the rock, Maltese subterranean temples hint at oracles, magical rites of initiation, and long forgotten priesthoods. Sacrificial chambers cut deep in the harsh sandstone evoke speculations of tragedy and terror. Even today eerie burial chambers yield up sunbaked bones and ritually trepanned skulls from overcrowded cells.
Events as far apart in time as the visit of the shipwrecked Paul of Tarsus, the raids of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and the Axis bombings of World War II have all left their marks on Malta, but no period of its history had make it more famous than the time of its occupation by the Knights Hospitallers, also known as the Knights of Malta.
Inhabitants of the island still speak of wraiths of knights and warriors, ghostly figures robed in white who silently ascend and descend the worn stairs leaders from crude castles to the rocky shored below. Footsteps, say those who listen, can even now be heard splashing through seawater on quiet moonlit nights. Perhaps the popular movie The Maltese Falcon exemplifies a well as anything the romanticism that tales of the island still evoke.
It was the glorious harbor, said to be the finest in the world, that formed the basis for the Knights' extended stay on the island. Semi-military, semi-religious, and semi-mystical, they were originally known as the Order of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist. Established in the early twelfth century, the order was first intended to provide nursing care for pilgrims in the Holy Land. But this was the time of the Crusades, and the Hospitallers (as they came to be called) soon became a military order, expert in fighting the Muslim Saracens and, in later centuries, the Ottoman Turks. By 1187, the Hospitallers controlled twenty strongholds in the Holy Land. [just popping in to offer a grain of salt...you might need it!]
In the next century, though, the fortunes of the Crusader domains waned. After the reconquest of Palestine by the Muslims, the Hospitallers fled to Cyprus, finally establishing themselfes on the isle of Rhodes in 1310. Evicted in turn from Rhodes by the Ottoman Turks in 1522, the Knights of St. John were homeless once more. In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V offered them a roost on the island of Malta for the nominal fee of one falcon a year - an easy enough tribute since the birds existed in abundance around the three little islands.
Malta may not have been the place of choice for the Knights, but they had to take what they could get. Soon, with their maritime expertise and their magnificent harbor, they developed into a strong naval force for the defense of Christianity from the invading hordes from the East. They were virtually invincible. At the bloody siege of the island in 1565, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent vowed that he would not spare on single inhabitant. With a force of less than 1000, the Knights made mockery of his boast and repelled his force of nearly 30,000, inflicting 20,000 casualties.
But there was more to the Knights of Malta, as they came to be called, than glory in battle. Their secret magical and religious activities were often hinted at but by no means understood in the outside world. For the Knights, the spiritual quest was of paramount importance, and they themselves promoted most of the rumors, half-truths, and speculations as a smoke screen behind which they could conceal themselves. (They are generally depicted, for example, as the rivals of another military order, the celebrated Knights Templars, but my own researches suggest that the Knights of Malta were in fact an offshoot or reorganization of the Templars, who were suppressed by King Philippe le Bel of France in 1310.)
Were these strange men magicians, secret adepts, and alchemists, "those who know," as they were constantly rumored to be? Did they actually possess great supernatural powers, and did they have the secret of immortal life? Perhaps they were even the possessors of the Holy Grail. Their blood-red surplices, emblazoned with a white balanced arm cross - the exact reverse of the Templars' red cross on white habits - were viewed with considerable awe, respect, and even fear, as is generally accorded to possessors of unknown powers. but what exactly were these mysteries? Some of them have been revealed through John Baird's deciphered manuscript.
Neptune's statue in in one of the courtyards of the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta.
It was during the middle of the eighteenth century, between 1741 and 1773, under the reign of a Portuguese Grand Master by the name of Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, that the story told by John Baird's ancestor took place. This was, fascinatingly, also the period when the famed "Wonder Man of Europe", the mysterious Comte de St. Germain, was astonishing the courts of Europe with his amazing occult powers, his limitless wealth, and his indefatigable efforts at forestalling the tragic events that would lead to the French Revolution.
It was also the time of the equally enigmatic "Count" Cagliostro (1743?-1795). This pseudo-count claims in his autobiography that he was born on Malta. This is most likely untrue - autobiographies of adepts were not meant to be taken literally. High Freemasons, Rosicrucians, and members of other secret societies deliberately created false pedigrees for purposes of mystification.
On the other hand, Cagliostro's claim that he once visited Malta with a mysterious stranger from the East may be true. He gives the stranger's name as Althonas. Cagliostro had met this adept one day while walking by the sea. The stranger, "a person of singular dress and countenance and accompanied by an Albanian greyhound," had invited him to his living quarters.
There Cagliostro entered "a spacious apartment illuminated by candles and furnished with everything necessary to the practise of alchemy." Althonas expressed his belief in the "mutability of the physical law rather than in magic, in the traditional cosmological principles of the 'opus alchymicum'," which he regarded as a science having fixed laws that could be discovered and elucidated by reason - a view identical to those of St. Germain.
Subsequently Cagliostro was invited to accompany his new acquaintance on a trip to Malta. When Cagliostro said he had no funds for the journey, the stranger laughed and explained that it was an easy matter to make sufficient gold to cover all costs.
When they reached Malta, they found the Grand Master Pinto avidly experimenting with alchemy. While in Malta, Althonas "passed away." And when Cagliostro left the island, he claimed to be "in funds, for Pinto well provided me."
Some of these bizarre memoirs have been corroborated by the document left to John Baird. But Master Pinto had a very low opinion of Cagliostro, considered him a fraud, and claimed that he had stolen alchemical secrets from his deceased friend. Then, said Pinto, Cagliostro headed for Europe to defraud people there with his false Egyptian Mysteries. Master Pinto promised that these would be exposed in time.
The prologue to the text follows in part:
Herein is the record of many discourses of the Master of Malta. They encompass cabalistic thought and hermetic arts - in short, the mystical order of all things. The Master, being gravely distraught over the possible demise of the old science at the hands of godless scientific methods, sought to preserve the vast store of arcane knowledge he had amassed. To this end he chose a cadre of pupils who had proven themselves after two years of harsh discipline and self-mortification. These students were to be living encyclopedias of the Master's knowledge. Moreover they would be beacons of the white light to illuminate the past of mankind.
It seems that the writer of John Baird's inherited manuscript, William Baird, and a friend, Ian Douglas, both young Scottish aristocrats, after graduating from university, had set out in a small sailing boat, the Naughty Maiden, in search of adventure.
They arrived safely on the island of Malta and set about to enjoy their leisure. One afternoon found them "enjoying a decanter of fine port" in a local tavern. They were approached by a young man by the name of Gino Corio. Although a bit taken aback by the forwardness of the stranger (to whom they had not been properly introduced!), they listened to what he had to say. "If you wish to learn great secrets," said Gino, "I will take you to a place where a mystic will unveil the secrets of God."
Gino had a brother who was a servant of the mysterious Master Pinto. Through him, Gino had leanred that the master was about to start teaching a course in occult adepthood to a selected group of applicants. He, Gino intended to spy on them. Would the two visiting Scotsmen care to join him?
Here was adventure of the highest order. William and Ian accepted the invitation eagerly. Perhaps, they reasoned, they might even try to join the course themselves.
Before applying, the two young sailors and their new friend decided to do a little investigating on their own. Learning that the course was to be given in a large warehouse on the west side of the island, they went to the spot before the others had arrived. Entering a classroom that "was not unlike lecture halls in Oxford and Cambridge," they concealed themselves - or so they thought - behind a tapestry, a beautiful arras on which had been woven a scene from the Iliad of Homer. There was a convenient small hole in the tapestry, and when they heard Pinto arrive, the young men peeked out through the hole. At the lectern was standing a tall slender man dressed in a long white robe trimmed with gold; on his head was a cap decorated with gemstones. In the writer's words:
Although his name was known throughout Europe, very little was known about the man himself. Pinto was a master alchemist on equal footing with the Count of St. Germain. And like the illustrious Count, Pinto's past and identity are points of much dispute. Some claim him to be the son of a wealthy Venetian merchant who learned the magical arts while travelling throughout Asia. Others were of the opinion that Pinto was the illegitimate son of a certain Spainish prince and had learned magic and mystery in Africa. The most disquieting thing about the rumors of Pinto were those of his death. Some said he was executed for heresy while teaching in Spain. Others said he died of a strange fever in Egypt. Many of the natives considered Pinto to be a vampire who could not die. The man I saw was obviously not a demon or a vampuire; in fact he was very pleasant looking. As he spoke his voice felt soft to the ears, but though low it was loud enough to echo throughout the old warehouse. As I listened I could sense truth being revealed.
Just as Pinto was about to begin his lecture, he truned toward the curtains, called out the names of the three youths concealed there and invited them to come out from hiding and join the class. Sheepishly the trio appeared and took the three chairs that had been reserved for them in the front row.
This Grand Master, Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, is reported to have been one of the most powerful as well as the strictest of all the Masters of Malta. The Grand Duchess of Malta, arbiter of local society, refused, it was said, to "receive" Pinto, so formidable was his reputation for fearful mystical powers.
So it was this Grand Master who was to instruct 23 specially chosen young men willing to undergo the rigors of the intense physical and spiritual training required to make them adepts. The two visiting Scotsmen, who were of the aristocracy, as well as their new friend, who was not, eagerly agreed to join the group. (A century earlier no one who was not a peer would have been accepted as a Knight.)
This was not to be an easy apprenticeship. Pinto promised his students that when he was finished, thos who had "stayed the course" would have developed all manner of spiritual powers ranging from clairvoyance to immortality.
You will learn the secrets of the Cabala, the mysteries of divination, the science of alchemy and other areas of arcane practice. When you leave this isle, you will be skilled and skillful and very formidable practitioners of the hermetic arts. Nothing happens by accident, except disasters. If you are here tonight, it is because you were drawn by the great emanation of God that attracts all who desire wisdom. It is because of willingness to learn that you have been chosen to receive the teachings of the most benevolent wizards (magi) of yore. Over the next few years all of your questions will be answered....When you leave Malta you will understand why events happen or not. You will be able to shape happening toward the good of humanity. Most important of all, you will put your fingers upon the pulse of God, and he will reveal the ancient secrets of the creation to you.
Pinto then gave the assembled young hopefulls a somewhat orthodox lecture on the seven worldly evils, the so called Seven Deadly Sins.
All of the evils, said Pinto, are based primarily on the first one, avarice or greed, followed by gluttony, lust, and sloth. Then there is pride, jealousy, and finally anger. The last is the "slow poison that will rot your bones bare."
Seven antidotes, Pinto went on, will replace the sins in ther souls. The seven godly virtues lead to brotherly love: faith, hope, chairty, rectitude, fortitude, prudence, and temperance, all of which must be firmly established in the character of each candidate who applies for initiation. "When a man's character is fully purged of evil, and his heart is filled with love and all the godly virtues, he becomes a true man of peace," said Pinto.
After delivering this more or less conventional lecture, Pinto gave specific practical instructions to his disciples. They were to live on the west side of Malta in a shelter they were to build for themselves. They were to respect a vow of silence during their apprenticeship. They would do exactly as they were told without question or hesitation. They would each be given the opporunity to ask one question during their stay. This question must be asked three times before an answer would be recieved. Any question whatsoever would be answered, with one exception: they were not to ask the length of their testing. That alone would not be revealed. (We learn later that this particular apprenticeship lasted for two years.)
Having given these instructions, Pinto issued to each student a bundle containing the clothes he was to wear: a tunic, a loose pair of pants, an embroidered sash, a cap, and undergarments. Each tunic was printed with a number by which the student would be addressed. Iam and William recognized the conical caps and brocaded sashes as "the garb of apprentices of a master alchemist who had learned the secrets of the philosopher's stone and had partaken of the elixer of life."
William was to be called Three, Ian was Four, and Gino was to be called Five. Pinto dismissed them with the following prayer:
Grand God, creator of life, we who would seek you ask for belssing. Grant us your great wisdom and patience - your patience that is beyond all time. May these disciples know your presence within them. May they grow in knowledge and virtue. Let them light the path of man's destiny. I ask in the Living Word of God. So be it!
As the young men left the warehouse, they hear Pinto's final instruction: "Be here at dawn. Your trials will begin on the beach!"
As John Baird continued to decipher the manuscript, he discovered that this ancestor, whose name had eventually been changed from Three to "Black Thorn," had managed to stay the course and eventually reached the point where he could say of himself: "On the island of Malta the sea was split and the clouds rolled back like an ancient scroll. Ignorance was blown away like chaff before a storm."
Apparently Black Thorn had finally recieved the gift of enlightenment. He lived to be over 100 years old and wrote his manuscript in the 1880s at that advanced age, recalling with clarity every detail of the teachings of his youthful apprenticeship.
Ggantija Temples - Gozo, Malta.(said to pre-date Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge)
John Baird, who has not yet fully completed the deciphering of his manuscript, says that further instructions are given in reading the "light sheath" or aura, learning about the "auraciles" or chakras of the body, the expansion of memory thrtough meditation, understanding the soul of man, and the various and sundry arts of "wizardry". Much, the instructions say, can be made to happen through chanting, spiritual commands, and "concantations.(?)"
Intriguingly, Pinto gives several personal anecdotes to the "Great Count Saint Germain," with whom he claims to be "at the same level" and with whom he has an intimate friendship. One particularly interesting story tells of a threat by villainous men such as the Notorious Marquis de Sade and Adam Weishaupt, who attmepted to infiltrate and dominate the ranks of Pinto's and St. Germain's secret society for sinister political purposes.
According to Pinto, St. Germain managed to thwart the plot by a clever and miraculous subterfuge. The "evil men" had raised a great deal of currency, intending to exchange it for silver. St Germain approached them with an offer to exchange "a great deal of gold" for their currency. As he expected, the greedy manipulators consented and exchanged all their assets for St. Germain's gold. But this gold had been produced alchemically, and within 24 hours after the transaction was completed, St Germain caused the gold to be turned back into lead, and the plotters were without funds.
There are other stories and instructions given by the Master Pinto, according to John Baird. Hints of further teachings make one thirst to see the completed work. Unfortunately before John had transcribed the entire manuscript he moved to Florida, and I lost track of him for more than three years. Fortunately he has now moved back to my area and promises to do further work on the manuscript. He assures me that the transcription will be completed soon.
The information that one recieves from this text is an undeniable boon to students of occultism. So much that has been available in recent years is either spurious, hearsay, or intentionally fabricated disinformation. "Not all true things are the truth," as Celement of Alexandria cryptically observed some 1800 years ago. One could add, "not all true things are to be said to all men."
There is more than one danger to be aware of in this context - the malicious distortion of secret teachings by enemies. In Isis Unveiled, H.P. Blavatsky blames the Jesuits for polluting and downgrading medieval knightly orders. And in this manuscript, Pinto tells his students of one of the sources of disinformation they will have to content with:
I expect you to do battle with black and grey forces that will oppose you. Learn your lessons, and you will become a living mass of power that will smash all obstacles. The black forces that you will encounter will consist of those who have given themselves over to the wicked and chaotic entitites that have sought out ways to corrupt the race of man. Their earthly kings are blood-sucking money-lenders an unscrupulous men of commerce. Their clergymen are warlocks and spoiled priests. I will tell you more about the black forces after you have completed your training and conditioning. [bolding added for emphasis- the curator]
Contemporary seekers will recognize that another obstacle: that "those who know" have until the present time purposely withheld information from an unevolved humanity that is not yet ready to be entrusted with its powers. Two millennia ago, Christ said, "I have yet many things to say until you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).
In the present age this edict no longer holds. Modern esotericists believe that it is now time for each individual soul to take responsibility for its own actions, for each one to "sit under his own fig tree." Cosmic justice ordains that members of humanity who have struggled on earth for unknown centuries must now be informed oof the choices that are theirs to make.
It is because of this new period of revelation, I am convinced, that my personal searches have corroborated the reality of superior "brothers" portrayed in John Baird's inheritance. It may be that benevolent custodians of humanity are gradually emerging from the shadows to come to the aid of a world in serious risk of self-annihilation. It was surely for the end of this century that the writer of this manuscript laboriously enciphered his warning signals and his assurances that "disaster can still be averted."
As someone has said, "It is an exciting time to be alive!"
Virginia M. Fellows, a free-lance writer based in Michigan, has spent many years researching Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, spiritual alchemy, and related subjects. She is currently working on a book about the mystical and alchemical activities of Francis Bacon.
The Knights of Malta destroyed the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus? (one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.)
Some accounts will say it was toppled by earthquake in 1304. This seems to be the popular mainstream version of the grand structure's demise.
Another account tells of it being ordered to be destroyed in 1522 (presumably by the Roman Catholic Church). Interestingly, this is the same year that the Knights are said to have been driven off the island of Rhodes by the Turks. One author, Claude Guichard, pins the deed squarely on the shoulders of the Knights of Malta, writing in 1581:
"Taking candles, they went down into the chamber and found marble columns carved in relief. The space between the columns was lined with mouldings and sculptures, and histories and battle scenes were also represented in relief. Having admired this at first, and entertained their fancy with the singularity of the work, finally they pulled it down, broke it apart and smashed it, in order to use it [for the lime kilns]."
They reportedly saw fit to build a fort out of its remains.
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