At least once a week I am asked this exact question by various people: “How do I join the Knights Templar”? This is not at all an uncomplicated issue, so I decided to write a special article about it.
First of all, it is not immediately obvious to some people that the Order of the Knights Templar, strictly speaking, was a medieval Order with a very illustrious history, as well as amazing and mystifying lore. It was officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in the early 12th century and after almost two hundred years of existence was dissolved by the authority of the Pope in 1312. The precise papal decrees that abolished the Order contained strict prohibitions: nobody was supposed to call himself a Templar or even dress as one, under penalty of excommunication. It can be argued that the Knights Templar existed for at least one decade prior to being recognized by the Church, therefore the Church did not really have any right to dissolve the Order. One must remember, however, that the Knights Templar were able to gain their fame and power because of the many privileges that were granted to them by a number of popes. Even the iconic Templar uniform, featuring a red cross, was assigned to them by a papal decree. After the support of the Church was lost the Knights Templar simply could not operate in their original capacity of warrior monks who defended Christendom. It is therefore important to respect the opinion of those who believe that joining the Knights Templar is a complete impossibility, because the Order no longer exist.
Of course, there is a wide-spread belief that the Order of the Knights Templar was not completely destroyed in the 14th century, but rather went into hiding. As a result, some branches of the Order would have survived and, at least theoretically, one could join an organization that can demonstrate direct lineage back to the medieval Knights Templar. There is no shortage of groups that claim or imply their connection to the original Order. Unfortunately, no organization thus far, to the best of my knowledge, was able to prove such a lineage beyond a reasonable doubt. If any such proof exists it remains hidden from the uninitiated. It is certain, however, that many groups have demonstrated a desire to adhere to the principles and ideals (variously understood) of the original Knights Templar. If any individual feels drawn to a particular modern Templar organization then becoming a member is in many cases quite possible. There is no doubt that the original Knights Templar would have approved many objectives and the overall disposition of many modern Templars. One should be advised, of course, to examine specific goals of any such organization, its claims, its legitimacy and the level of commitment involved. I only provide links to the most established groups, so you will have to do more research online if that’s not enough for you. Beware of scams and shady enterprises!
There are two distinct trends in contemporary Templarism: Masonic and non-Masonic. Both have a rather long history, but Masonic Templarism is probably more popular and widely publicized. Freemasonry is an international fraternal movement that traditionally adheres to monotheistic philosophy and certain ideals of the Enlightenment era. In the US, Masonic Templarism is primarily represented by the York Rite Masons. This branch of Freemasonry has a high level of initiations associated with the Knights Templar, resulting in the use of Templar symbolism and general interest in the history of the Order. The York rite is mostly represented in English-speaking countries. The Scottish Rite, another major branch of Freemasonry, also has degrees of initiation that evoke the Knights Templar. Apart from that, there are many other smaller Masonic organizations that use Templar themes and symbolism. It is important to remember that Masonic Templar degrees typically represent a very high level of Masonic initiation, which is caused by the fact that Freemasonry (although somewhat unofficially) claims to have its roots within the historic Order of the Knights Templar. So, a Templar degree represents a high honor, but becoming a Masonic Knight Templar is a rather long journey.
Non-Masonic Neo-Templar organizations often trace their heritage (albeit not directly) to the Templar revival movement in early 19th century France, headed by Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat. The most popular international group of this kind is the OSMTH (Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani). The English translation of this Latin name also happens to be the name of the autonomous US branch of this organization: Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Another organization definitely worth mentioning is the OSMTJ ( Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem). With over 3,000 members worldwide, this group is fairly inexpensive to join, compared to OSMTH, and it is somewhat more diverse. A Templar organization known as OSMTH-Porto (sometimes also called the OSMTH-Regency), of no less than 2,000 members, is particularly well represented in France and Portugal. Open to Christians of all denominations these non-Masonic bodies are involved in charitable work and preservation of the Knights Templar heritage.
Apart from that, there are numerous groups of reenactors who are especially interested in recreating combat traditions of the Knights Templar, as well as their uniforms and weapons. Although these groups offer valuable experiences and contribute to the spread of knowledge about the Order and medieval history in general, their members cannot be properly identified as Knights Templar according to most standards.