Thursday, 2nd July 2020

Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

Almost a Knight to Remember

Posted on 07. Apr, 2010 by in Articles, Personal essays

Almost a Knight to Remember

I rather liked being called “Sir Paul”

SOON-TO-BE-NATION OF SAVANTIS, Can’t-tell-you-where

I turned down a knighthood recently. It was a tough decision – I liked the sound of “Sir Paul.”

I had replied to a notice in the International Herald Tribune that had offered “an economically available, State Sanctioned Hereditary Knighthood.”

Turns out that some wannabe nobles have resurrected the Knights Templar, a prominent and powerful group of medieval Christian noblemen who protected pilgrims on the crusader routes to Jerusalem.

The Knights Templar were created by the Catholic church in 1127, and were wiped out the same way, when Pope Clement V’s Bull Vox in excelso of March 22, 1312 abolished the group, despite its being vigorously championed by celebrities such as Dante Alighieri.  Two years later the Church ordered Knights Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay burned at the stake.

The literature surrounding the Knights Templar weaves historical fact, fantastical tales, conspiracy theories, metaphysics and religious geopolitics.  Some writers claim that the image of what is now called the Shroud of Turin is actually Jacques de Molay’s.  An abundant shadow literature claims that the Knights Templar were the origin of Freemasonry, that they had links to the fabled continent of Atlantis, that they possessed the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.

Several years ago a group of mostly-British visionaries recreated the Ancient and Noble Order of Knights Templar as a non-profit organization in Israel.  For just a single $5,000 fee, and fees of $500 year (less than my golf club fees), I could be honored in an investiture involving apanages and escutcheons. I’d get to wear a special ring and have use of two castles and the opportunity to buy privately bottled Knights Templar Bordeaux.

And even better, the title comes with citizenship of a new country they’re creating, code-named Savantis.

“Only five people know where it is,” said Knights Templar Chancellor Savant Graham Renshaw-Heron.  But from reading between the lines I figure they’re buying an island in the Philippines or the Caribbean.  According to Sir Graham, the thousand or so locals are enthusiastic about becoming Savantists and living under five dukes who will control the country. The nation will become a beacon of hearty, mostly British-bred, capitalistic enthusiasm, with economic benefits accruing from the planned casinos, resorts, golf courses and offshore banking and flags of convenience shipping.

I asked my friend Dan about whether he too wanted to sign up – I figured we could get a two-for-one deal, maybe even a free toaster.

“Those guys don’t need they’re own country,” he said. “They’re already on their own planet.”

The Knights Templar certainly have a history of geographical expansion.  The medieval group had a fleet larger than that of most countries – Columbus flew the Templar’s red cross on his sails. William Mann, author of The Labyrinth of the Grail, claims that the Knights Templar “possessed the ‘secret’ of being able to fix longitudinal positions long before it became common practice,” and that this “sacred geometry”, allowed Neolithic to Roman era “societies who were in on the secret” to circumnavigate the world and settle corners of the world that are far removed from Europe.

So, the idea that the new Knights Templar might start their own country has a certain fuzzy logic – after all, the original Knights Templar bought the island of Cyprus.  And I love the idea of starting your own country.  In fact I propose something similar in my novel Earthlove, in which a nature conservation organization thinks about buying a tropical archipelago and establishing a Republic of Rich Misunderstood Heads of State to provide secure luxury housing for deposed dictators who otherwise might face pesky legal efforts to divest them of their fortunes. Instead of wandering around the world seeking asylum, Baby Doc could have leased an island of his own, as might have Ferdinand Marcos, Idi Amin, Mobuto Sese Seko and other rich despots.

But can you just start a new country like that?

Well, countries are being created and destroyed all the time. The United States, of course, didn’t exist before 1776.  Italy didn’t exist before 1866, and even then it was missing Rome, which joined in 1870.  A vast swath of African and Asian countries were mere pink blotches on the colonial maps before the post-WWII period, and the 1990s breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia created nation-building opportunities for many territories that previously were only known to geographers and stamp collectors.  The United Nations had just 157 country members in 1981, but this number expanded quickly — Switzerland just became the 190th member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican as the only generally-recognized country out of the international body.  Palestine and Tibet? Watch this space.

Most of these new countries of course were created by standard causes – wars, revolutions, political uprisings, collapse of empires.

But don’t discount human ingenuity in the nation-building process.

For $145 you can become a citizen of the Principality of Castellania in Austria, where Prince Ralph I, formerly a burgher named Otto Hubner, has sold more than 2000 citizenships in 25 years of independence.  Or why not become a Sealander? In 1967 Englishman Roy Bates re-invented himself as Prince Roy of Sealand and took over an abandoned World War II anti-aircraft tower off Britain’s east coast. “I have always liked the idea of liberty,” he told the British newspaper The Mirror, “and this was the ultimate way of achieving it.”

In November 1998, Philippine police raided a hotel in Olongapo, near Subic Bay, and arrested a Briton, an Australian and a Malaysian.  They had been running an internet scam that offered passports for a fictitious nation called the Dominion of Melchizedek, named after Jerusalem’s high priest to whom Abraham gave a tenth of his fortune in celebration of rescuing Lot and his family from Sodom.

The Dominion of Melchizedek bubble burst when a man who identified himself as “His Serene Highness Gerald-Dennis Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein” tried to open bank accounts in Hong Kong with checks issued by phony Melchizedek banks.  The 22 year-old unemployed Austrian, who had been living in the passenger terminal at Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong, turned out to be a baker, not a prince.  During his trial (he was convicted for bank fraud and jailed for six months), it was learned that he had visited a number of Asian countries with his Melchizedek “diplomatic passport.”

But Savantis, which Sir Graham assured me is “just an inch away from receiving United Nations recognition,” would be a kinder, gentler, and I assume, a more legitimate place.  I could see myself as social director at the Savantis Golf Club, perhaps, or professor of creative writing at Savantis University.

One thing is sure though, and that is there will never be a Gay Pride Day in Savantis.  The Knights Templar constitution, which preaches that “there are no, nor shall there ever be, any political, religious or racial affiliations, obligations or favours of any nature,” draws the line on the issue of homosexuality. They are very clear: “While it may be recognized that certain governments, and for their own reasons, have de-criminalized acts of homosexuality, it is the avowed policy of this Noble Order to unreservedly condemn and decry all such activities.”

Curiously, after his arrest on the morning of October 13, 1307,  de Molay spent the next seven years in prison undergoing extreme tortures to force him to issue a confession that would damn the order in the eyes of the people and the Catholic Church.

Although de Molay confessed under duress to denying Christ and trampling on the Holy Cross, he steadfastly denounced the accusations that the initiation ritual consisted of homosexual practices.

Now while I have gay friends I’m not in favor of them receiving special treatment in society. Let them do what they want as consenting adults.  Just don’t involve me and don’t show me the holiday snapshots.

But I don’t much like the idea of Savantis telling anyone, in particular me, how to run their lives. Nevertheless, I grudgingly admire the Knights Templar’s fighting spirit, encouraging the “abandoning of all wimpish thoughts whether this or that cannot or should be attempted.”

The Knights Templar documentation is wholeheartedly individualistic and appeals to anyone who thinks there is entirely too much government in our lives.  Savantis will be a place where: “Further and more self-evident human rights such as the absence of oppressive alimony laws, childish seat belt laws, alcoholic consumption laws, the punishment of success by the successful being forced to support the unsuccessful, or the energetic being obliged to support the slothful, shall also be Constitutionally and conspicuously absent, while the inherent rights of self defence, privacy, protection of property, etc. shall be immutably enshrined in The Constitution of Savantis, which shall become blended with the Constitution of this Noble Order….”

It’s their right, of course, to decide who can become a Savantis citizen and what the codes of ethics are. Northern Australia, among many places, prohibits homosexuality.  Vibrators and sex toys are outlawed in Kansas.  And adultery will, theoretically at least, get you arrested in New York.

When I questioned the civil liberty issue Sir Graham argued: “Your golf club wouldn’t allow me to play in just a bathing suit. They’re allowed to set their own standards of behavior. So are we.”

I didn’t like the possibility that these guys, and they’re all guys since women can’t hold Savantis office, could conceivably change the constitution in a few years and tell me, say, that the Missionary Position is the only approved posture.

* * * *  *

And I like the sound of Sir Paul. The truth is, I was tempted. I left myself a phone message (“Sir Paul, this is Steven Spielberg. I’d like to make a film of your novel.”) to see how it sounded. It sounded just fine.  (I’m rather used to honorifics, actually. My mom called me Angel. My wife calls me Hunk. Other acquaintances have called me more colorful titles.)

But I’ve always rejected honors.  I refused to join the high school honor society. I refused to join a fraternity. With the exception of my golf club, I’m sympathetic to Groucho Marx’s dictum “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

But still, “Sir Paul” has a certain ring (and a reasonable price tag).  Maybe I was too hasty. Maybe I could work my way up the Templar totem pole. Since I’m a writer, I could be eventually be known as “The Prince Formerly Known as Artist.”

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