My name is Jonathan True and I am a Knight Templar. I'm now beyond my prime, but remain fairly lively! As a pastime I thought that I might share my story about knighthood, about the Templars, and how I came to be involved in all this.
Without any further ado, I'll begin with my childhood--though I won't dwell on it for very long. I was born immediately following the aftermath of World War II. And I was reared in a small town in the Tidewater region of Virginia. As a small boy I played "soldier" with my chums. Once a week we would go to a movie, which mainly was about our American heroes who bravely fought the Axis enemies. Like just about every other red-blooded American boy, right up to the present day, I was brought up with the "gun."
Hunting was also part of my life, being a Southerner. So I felt myself a soldier, even in my most formative years. I certainly didn't know anything about psychological archetypes back then; but, looking back, I have little doubt that I was literally born to be a soldier.
But being a soldier is a far cry from being a knight. It's altogether a different status, being a knight. Nonetheless--my military instincts seemed in-born, even though I was yet unschooled in their finer qualities. As for school, somehow I always knew that I wanted to attend a military academy. And eventually I did.
Following high school I managed to be accepted by the Citadel, a major military academy located in South Carolina. A son of "Dixie," I really wanted to attend a Southern school instead of one the military academies up North. Fortunately I eventually was weaned away from this kind of regional prejudice, but it took awhile!
Besides the usual standard military disciplines required as a member of the R.O.T.C. at the Citadel, I majored in Physics and minored in Biology. Back in those formative years, I also had to take baseline studies in the Humanities. Regardless, my interest always circulated around the "gun," though even I had come to learn to expand my thought when it came to weapon systems.
We now lived in the world of the Iron Curtain, the symbol of the divide between the West and Communism. The Cold War nearly immediately followed the end of World War II. Like just about everyone else, I lived and breathed in a nearly endless war-world. It seemed the natural course of things. And it also naturally followed that there would be an ever expanding sophistication of weapons, far beyond just "guns."
Of course I wanted to be on the cutting-edge of this weapons sophistication! Consequently, I chose my major and minor at the Citadel very carefully. There was atomic weaponry, hence my interest in Physics. And there were biological and chemical weapons, hence my minor in Biology (with a little bit of Chemistry thrown in for good measure).
But underneath my major and minor fields, there stood the basis of my military understanding. Not quite surreptitious, but here and there, I was introduced to the concepts of knighthood. And it is *this* that has held my attention unto this very day!
As is the case for military schools, there's a serious need to teach proper etiquette--ranging from appearance, manners, handling your knife and fork, to dancing lessons. One cannot be a future officer unless he is also a gentleman! In the midst of all this extraneous training, I kept hearing the word "chivalry." Well, the word I already knew; but, I had little conception what this word implied. My interest was piqued, so I did some extracurricular research on my own. I knew that chivalry and knighthood were connected, so in my spare moments I gathered library books on the topic of knights. With this a new world opened for me.
Nonetheless, getting beyond just the encyclopedic or dictionary explanations of knighthood turned out to be somewhat of a chore for me. Still a young muddlehead, I found it difficult coming to grips with a new subject that stood outside my immediate academic boundaries. It pays to be intrigued however. I was motivated enough to dig a little deeper. I found myself in the strange territory of the Middle Ages. Even tougher, I faced some very difficult forms of literature.
Medieval knighthood was encrusted with poetry, epics, minstrels, and romances. Even in translation, so much of this material was almost too much to digest. But I kept prodding ahead, because I wanted to know the stories about the great knights who served as the heroes of that period. Hence I came to know the wonderful tales about Arthur, the knights of the Round Table, such as Gawain and his brother Gareth and, of course, there were also Parzifal, Lancelot, and Galahad. Beyond these great nobles there were also Siegfried, Roland, Tristram, and the Cid. These knights and the stories of their accomplishments dwelled both in fact and in fantasy. Essentially, they were archetypal images of the Knight.
Still, I had to dig more in order to find what I really wanted to know about knighthood. I wanted to know how one could become a knight. What was the process, the stages towards becoming a knight? And what about their sense of who they were, about their behavior, their allegiance, their tradition? The answers to these questions surely would point to their condition, to the concept of chivalry.
The page and the squire were the steps towards becoming a knight in the Middle Ages. As for the page, his first lessons involved courtesy; and, later he would learn the rudiments of sword-play. About all I can say to this is that my first several years at the Citadel perhaps initiated me as a modern page. Maybe not so much wielding the sword, but rather handling more responsibly the gun-- learning to respect its lethality. As for courtesy, fortunately I had a family who stressed the practice of such. Also, my etiquette training seemed part and parcel a refining of courtesy.
The squire was even more a "hands-on" stage towards knighthood. He learned the skills of horsemanship. He learned how to use the lance. He engaged these skills in mock tournaments. And most importantly, the squire was apprenticed to a knight.
Back in medieval times the great battle horses, along with the knight in his armor, served as the ultimate fighting machine. In near modern times most major armies had the cavalry--horsemen who, sometimes, still employed the sword. That kind of cavalry eventually phased out of existence, to be replaced by the armor of fast moving vehicles and tanks. Though not setting my sights on an eventual career in armor, I did engage in some armor training. As for horses, alas I cannot boast holding any serious skills managing these marvelous animals. However, I felt that all my time spent at the Citadel could be seen from the perspective of both the page and the squire.
Of prime interest for me was the *transition* from the squire to the knight. It involved initiation and ceremony. When he reached the age of twenty-one, if he could afford the equipment of the knight as well as owning a horse, he was eligible for knighthood. As for the initiation, the squire would take a ritual bath before dubbing. This bath symbolized purification; and, in due course, this ceremony took on religious significance. Future knights were asked to submit to the will of God. So the ceremony involved wearing a white tunic, symbolizing purity, over which a black tunic (symbolizing death) and a red tunic (symbolizing nobility and the willingness to shed blood for God) were placed. And, last, the future knight placed a white belt around his waste, symbolizing chastity.
Upon being attired, the future knight went to a church where he spent a night in vigil. They placed their weapons on the altar and spent the night contemplating on the dubbing ceremony to come. Throughout the night they could stand or kneel, but they could not sit. Priests would be at hand to keep them from falling asleep. Finally, upon morn, the new knight was dubbed by his sponsor--a knight in full armor. The aspirant also was fully armed, having already received his golden spurs, he kneeled to receive the accolade which reminded him of the duties of knighthood. Finally he was dubbed by the sword and told to rise, with the words "Be thou a knight."
And, yes, in the later development of medieval knighthood chivalry was about one's relationship with a woman. A lady could be an inspiration for a knight, she could be his good luck, his motivation, and she was treated in ideal terms. As for reality and the ideal, like anything else, there can be a less than perfect fit. Nonetheless, chivalry was also about knightly tradition, about how the knight behaved as a noble person, about how he related to his master, who usually was a feudal lord or prince or even a king. Chivalry also was about his relationship with other knights, oft displayed in tournaments, comradeship, or even encounters. Chivalry was a hidden discipline, if you will.
When it came to relating the knightly profession to my own life, I felt it something I wanted to do. When I would finally receive my officer's commission in the U.S. Army, upon graduation from the Citadel, I would receive my gold second-lieutenant bars. They would be my knightly golden spurs. The commissioning ceremony in general would serve as my initiation. And upon becoming a military officer, I will have been "dubbed."
As for commitment, well I couldn't say that it was to a particular "lord" or even to God. Though I had been raised as an Anglo-Catholic within the Episcopal Church, back in Virginia, I wasn't much of a devotee. I simply was not into religion in any serious way. Thus, outside of a kind of vague concept of what God and Christ might entail, I could only think in terms of narrow ethical behavior--like the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule.
Rather my commitment as a knight, as an officer in the U.S. Army, would be to my country. I will have taken an oath to serve and protect the Nation.