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"The people never have the power. Only the illusion of it. And here's the real secret: they don't want it. The responsibility is too great to bear. It's why they’re so quick to fall in line as soon as someone takes charge. They want to be told what to do. They yearn for it. Little wonder, that, since all mankind was built to serve."
―Haytham Kenway to Ratonhnhaké:ton, 1781.[src]-[m]
The Templar Order, also known as the Order of the Knights Templar or the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, is a secret transnational organization which for thousands of years has striven to seize control of humanity in the name of uplifting their condition and inaugurating lasting, world peace. Their vision of a perfect, global society, which they term the New World Order, is one which entails a world government under their dominion, whether directly imposed or in the form of a shadow regime manipulating states and society from behind-the-scenes.
In this light, the Templars have frequently infiltrated state governments throughout history to position themselves in the central loci and highest echelons of power, operating as a deep state. They are commonly united in the classical realist beliefs of the inherent depravity of human nature and the privileging of security as a metric for peace, and these assumptions buttress their conviction that true peace can only be achieved when humanity is shepherded by a society of enlightened individuals—in their eyes, them.
A hallmark of Templar methodology has been the notion that no cost is too great for the eventual realization of their grand project, and there are no means that cannot be justified by the nobility of their end dream. This has translated into a penchant for orchestrating complex political crises on a monumental—at times global—scale as a means of securing their long-term objectives and, alongside this, the pursuit of the Pieces of Eden and other relics left behind by the ancient Isu which can grant power over other humans. Historically, there have also frequently been Templars who exploited their membership to consolidate power and wealth for their own self-interests rather than advancing their collective mission, as was the most infamous case of the Borgia family.
While the Templar Order is one and the same with the Knights Templar of the Crusades, their history stretches far further back to at least the formation of the Order of the Ancients by the Egyptian pharaoh Smenkhkare. Their reorganization as a monastic Christian military order by Bernard de Clairvaux and Hugues de Payens was a disguise for their operations and lasted until their purge in the 13th century by King Philip IV of France, whereupon they withdrew into the shadows and feigned extinction. By then, the name "Templar" had cemented itself for their organization. Since the internal revolution of Grand MasterFrançois-Thomas Germain, the Templar focus has shifted from puppeteering nobles and aristocracy to socioeconomic control through capitalism, a plan that led to the founding of the multinational conglomerate Abstergo Industries in the 20th century as their new public front.
Owing to their opprobrium of human agency, the Templars have a long record of relying on coercive measures, indiscriminate political violence, and state terror, and this catalyzed the formation of the Hidden Ones at the end of Ptolemaic rule. The emergence of the Hidden Ones, whose evolution into the Assassins in the Crusades paralleled that of the Templars, precipitated a millennia-long shadow war that has persisted to this day.
"Uphold the principles of our order and all that for which we stand."
"Never share our secrets nor divulge in the true nature of our work."
"Do so until death, whatever the cost."
The Templars are expected to uphold these three sacred tenets at all times, and breaking these tenets has always resulted in negative consequences for the one who does so. For example, Haytham Kenway (a Templar) assassinated Edward Braddock (another Templar) due to Braddock's actions compromising the Templars' beliefs with his actions, beliefs, and bloodlust.
Ideology and goals
"We're cruel and desperate creatures, set in our conquering ways. The Saxons and the Franks. The Ottomans and Safavids... I could go on for hours. The whole of human history is but a series of conflicts and subjugation. A desire for more, and more, and more."
Throughout the millennia that they have existed, the Templars have maintained that they are unified by a vision of perpetual peace for all humanity, making it their mission to create perfect order in a chaotic world of ceaseless bloodshed, petty strife, and corruption. For the most ardent believers of this dream, it is a noble cause in which they are altruistically taking upon the burden to save humanity from itself. Underlying this sentiment is the wholehearted conviction that guidance by individuals wiser than most is the only solution by which humans' natural impulses for error can be stymied and restrained. These meritorious few in Templars' eyes are those with the will to make the sacrifices deemed necessary to bring an ultimate end to anarchy, deception, and injustice. More than that, they are those who have arrived at the same insight about humanity's intrinsic depravity, a "realization" which they assume to be an absolute truth of reality.
The fundamental assumptions of Templar philosophy correlates closely to those of classical realism. Invariably, Templars harbour cynical views of human nature, focusing principally on their history of endlessly repeating conflicts and acts of conquest and subjugation. They hold it to be self-evident that human beings are inherently self-serving, irrational, susceptible to corruption, and disingenuous towards others and that these are flaws which can never be fully overcome, only suppressed through discipline enforced by authority. Compounding this problem are the perennial disagreements fostered by diversity in thought and beliefs. In explaining his ideology to the Assassin Desmond Miles, Templar scientist Warren Vidic employed the "tired analogy" of treating cancer at the source rather than merely cutting out its tumours. Because Templars believe that the source of conflict and suffering in the world is human nature itself, they dismiss any solution which respects their agency as unrealistic folly.
This premise sits at the heart of their conflict with their archenemies, the Assassins, who not only profess to a faith in humanity but also reject that any objective truth can be known, thereby treating the Templars' generalization of human nature as illogical. Nevertheless, Templars are enticed by these assumptions for far-ranging reasons. For some, they are born from such a desperation to resolve the violence in their environment that they feel they cannot afford to trust measures that may be inefficient or prone to failure. Though the authenticity of this account cannot be verified, this was the sentiment expressed by the Aztec Templar Cuali according to Abstergo Entertainment, for he found it unfathomable that the Assassin way could protect his people from imperialism. For others, their beliefs about the savagery of humanity and the need for repression are a reflection of their own violent personalities. Such was the case with Majd Addin, who revelled in the power over life and death, and Edward Braddock, who asserted with his dying words that "apply[ing] the sword more liberally and more often" would "engender peace".
Truth and insecurity
The journal of the Grand Master Haytham Kenway reveals deeper insights into the allure of the Templar ideology. In an entry dated to 10 June 1747, a twenty-one-year old Haytham recounted his conversion from his Assassin father's skeptic teachings to the immutable '"truths" offered by the Templar Reginald Birch who raised him. He felt invigorated by the "absence of doubt" and "feeling of 'knowing'" that the Templar path enabled, where he did not have to grapple with the ambiguities of the universe. The freedom to be content in self-assurance for his beliefs provided an internal stability that he craved and which he witnessed in his master, but this craving exposes an element common to Templar psychology: insecurity.
Insecurity correlates with the analysis provided by the Assassin Mentor Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad in his Codex, wherein he posited that the Templars understood deep down that a perfectly objective perspective either did not exist or was unreachable. Whereas the Assassins embrace this realization with their aphorism "nothing is true", the Templars are driven by a fear of this uncertainty, this lack of an "absolute truth", to strive to fabricate their own model of Truth and impose it upon reality. By the end of his life, Haytham had come to wholly convince himself that his Templar vision was a natural and necessary emanation of Truth, but Altaïr suggested in his time that the Templars wilfully sought to reshape the very fabric of human epistemic space to align with their wishes. He described this as casting an illusion over the world, a scheme that almost arose in literal form through the Apples of Eden and the Eye-Abstergo project, yet Haytham believed that he was an agent of Truth bringing order to a chaotic world while it is unclear if other Templars thought there was a meaningful difference between creating an illusion and creating (their own version of) Truth in a world without one.
Regardless, the microcosm of personal insecurity manifests in the macrocosm of insecurity for the world. The Templars argue that their ultimate dream is peace, but peace for them is defined chiefly in terms of security in a system of anarchy, with individual human fulfillment and harmony à la free will liable to subsumption under the demands of security. As aforementioned, they do not believe that free will permits the development of harmonious relations because they are suspicious of humans' capacity for genuine compassion. Consequently, Templars persist in a largely statist mapping of global politics despite their transnational character. 
"There is only one Father of Understanding. He is the Lord above; he is order incarnate. Therefore, may the Father of Understanding be this and naught else--the invisible hand that plucks harmony from the strings of the universe. Nothing more. Let all remaining pagan blasphemies wither into dust."
Originally, King Alfred the Great created the Templar Order under the influence of his Christian values, hoping it would help to bring peace and improve humanity by harmonizing the people with the order of the universe and aligning the needs of men with the flow of nature itself. He even went as far as to declare the Father of Understanding as a title for God. This led to the tradition of strict reverence for the Father of Understanding as their monotheistic deity and guiding force for the Templar's actions as well as universal order.
The existence of the Templars became known to the public in 1129, when its military order was endorsed by the Holy See as a means of countering the ever-increasing threat against the Holy Land by the Saracens, and to protect the city of Jerusalem. Over time, the Templars began to believe it within their power to unite the world in peace.
Their system of belief changed greatly upon the discovery of the Pieces of Eden; they began to speculate that all religions were probably false and this led the Order to become somewhat agnostic, though mostly deistic due to still retaining belief in a Supreme Being called the Father of Understanding, a religious practice which carried on from their predecessors, the Order of the Ancients. They publicly maintained the pretense of following the Christian ways so as to not lose the support of the Church.
However, select Templars such as David Brewster were deeply religious, believing the powerful artifacts had come from God himself. Even Maximilien de Robespierre tried to establish a deist religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, based on the Templar Doctrine. During the persecution of the Templars, the last publicly known Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, cursed King Phillip IV and Pope Clement V that they would answer for their crimes before God almighty. When the Spanish Templars were cleansing their nation of "heretics", they stated that God will punish their souls. Even Tomas de Torquemada believed that the Templar's work was God's command alone.
Realizing the power that the Pieces of Eden held over human beings, the Templars began to seek out the artifacts. In 1191, Robert de Sable, then Grand Master of the Order, personally sought the fabled Apple of Eden, buried in the catacombs of Solomon's Temple, beneath the Temple Mount. The theft of this Piece of Eden by the Order of Assassins renewed the sustained conflict between the two powers, ending with the deaths of De Sable at Arsuf, and Armand Bouchart in Limassol. Despite this setback, the Order continued its mission of creating a world of peace, through manipulation of the Pieces of Eden.
As time progressed, the Templars became more focused on the Pieces of Eden, rather than operating to transform and influence society through non-supernatural means. Their goals changed as they sought to control and unify the entire world using the Pieces of Eden to create a "New World Order".
Ethical and unethical practices
The Templars have often been consequentialists when it came to their methods, which included subterfuge, manipulation of individuals as well as events, murder and even warfare. The Templars' treatment of individuals such as Desmond Miles, Daniel Cross, and Clay Kaczmarek may be perceived as unethical from an isolated standpoint, though the Templars would argue that their many atrocities throughout history have been committed in the name of the greater good. The Templars are liberal in their methods used in the name of the greater good, and are perceived by many to be 'evil' or 'corrupted', or at least bent on domination in many instances. However, while some Templars commit those atrocities are fully aware of the magnitude of their actions, others are simply unaware of the atrocities committed in the name of the greater good. Some, such as Maria Thorpe, choose to leave the Templar Order in disagreement with the Order's methods. However, for those who were steeped in the Order's plans and secrets, leaving the Order was nearly an impossible task as they would usually have been killed to stop them from revealing any information they were party to. The Templars also had no problem with suppressing knowledge, such as when they tried to eliminate Nicolaus Copernicus and murdered Alan Turing, if it suited their purposes, despite their claims that they sought to uplift mankind.
At various points in history, such as during the 18th century, the Templars opposed the unethical treatment and unnecessary killing of innocents, though their definition of an 'innocent' was less broad than that of the Assassin brotherhood. By the early 18th century the Templars had come to view slavery as an unnecessary and questionable practice; Laureano de Torres y Ayala for one believed that "a body enslaved inspires the mind to revolt. But enslave a man's mind and his body will follow on naturally." So strong was the Templars' distaste for the practice that at least one member, Woodes Rogers, was forced out of the Order for continuing to trade in slaves. Many Templars throughout history have shown extremely little issue with harming innocent people for the supposed greater good; Edward Braddock notably slaughtered countless innocent people simply because they either got in the way or because of his belief that random killing would result in people becoming too fearful to disobey. Even children have been shown to not be immune to Templar cruelty; the British Rite extensively used (and promoted) child labour without regard for the dangers such workers faced, the modern purge of the Assassin Order had children mercilessly gunned down in an attempt to eradicate the Assassins and several Inner Sanctum members showed little qualms if children were caught in the crossfire (or in the case of one, dissected for research) of their operations.
Vulnerability to corruption
The nature of the Order, which involves the acquisition and the exercise of power, makes the Templars highly susceptible to arrogance and corruption. Many have used the Templar cause as a shield or stepping-stone to further their own selfish and cruel desires, attaining power not for the benefit of mankind as was the decree of the order, but for power's own sake. Others like Thomas Hickey or Juan Borgia, likewise, used the Order's considerable connections, wealth and power to attain wealth and luxury of their own.
Dedicated Templar visionaries, who are fully convinced of the Order's righteousness of cause and who lived in service to such an ideal, such as Haytham Kenway and prince Ahmet, are few and far between. Some Templars such as Colonel George Monro saw themselves and their fellow Templars as benevolent protectors and providers of humanity, an act which caused the assassin turncoat Shay Cormac to defect to the Templar Order. The modern-day Templar Juhani Otso Berg took these benevolent Templars as his influential and inspirational examples as to what a Templar should really be.
During the Italian Renaissance, Templar goals were corrupted by Rodrigo Borgia and his son Cesare into seeking power and domination at all costs, which is far removed from their original noble motive. Modern Templars view the Borgias as debauched tyrants and consider their reign to be a Dark Age of the Order.
Originally, the title of Grand Master officially denoted the head of the Templar Order. Indeed, during the Middle Ages when the order's existence was public knowledge, the Grand Master was projected as their sole supreme commander. However, as the organization spread across the globe, establishing branches in virtually every country, the title of Grand Master came to designate only the leader of regional factions called Rites.
Beneath the Grand Master of each Rite are nine ranks, with immediate subordinates being the high-ranking Master Templars. In order following the Masters are the Seneschals, Advisors, Commanders, Preceptors, Knights, Warriors, Clerics, and finally, the Disciples. These ranks parallel a similar system of hierarchy among their mortal adversaries, the Assassins. Some rites had a preliminary rank, Adept, before becoming a fully fledged member of the Order.
To maintain cohesion of the Rites as components of a centralized entity, the Inner Sanctum was formed. Consisting of an elite group of nine Templars, the Inner Sanctum harbors direct knowledge of all of the order's plans and is the nucleus from which orders are relayed to the other Rites. Their number, nine, reflects a convention that dates back to at least the Third Crusade, when nine leading Templars coordinated closely to seek after the Apple of Eden in Solomon's Temple. In modern times, since the foundation of Abstergo Industries as a public front for the order, the Inner Sanctum simultaneously serves as Abstergo's Board of Directors.
The Inner Sanctum, in turn, is classified as one of two parts of the order, the other being the Outer Temple. Whereas the Inner Sanctum is privy to all the affairs of the order, being responsible for them, the Outer Temple comprises all other Templars, all of whom are kept in the dark of the full details and extent of the order's operations.
Guardians and General of the Cross
Although the Inner Sanctum acts as the executive arm of the Templar Order, even they are not its paramount leaders, for they are ultimately subservient to the Guardians and the General of the Cross, the latter of whom is the true head of the Templar Order. Every major decision of the Inner Sanctum must be passed to the Guardians for review, who in turn relay them to the General of the Cross for the ultimate grant of approval. Accordingly, the General possesses the sole power to veto any significant action or plan the Inner Sanctum seeks to undertake.
Under normal circumstances, even the Inner Sanctum does not know the identity of the General of the Cross, a secret so strictly guarded that only the Guardians are permitted knowledge of it. As a result, the Guardians are the bridge between the Inner Sanctum and the General of the Cross, the medium through which communication between the two exists. There are three Guardians, and as witnessed in the case of the Guardian Alan Rikkin who also served as Chief Executive Officer of Abstergo Industries and chairman of the Inner Sanctum, a Guardian may hold another office at the same time.
Council of Elders
Apart from the Inner Sanctum and the Guardians, there exists a Council of Elders which wielded some authority over even the Guardian Alan Rikkin. Among the Council's functions is the power to dissolve Abstergo Foundation based on whether they believe the subsidiary is a worthy investment or a waste of resources.
The Black Cross is a title bestowed upon the members of a branch within the Templar Order tasked with keeping the Grand Masters of the various Rites in line with the Templar Code and ideals.
Secret inquisitors only answering to the Inner Sanctum's orders, the agents were authorized to use any means necessary, even deadly force, to take down corrupted members of the Order. A Black Cross' secondary mission was to track Pieces of Eden for the Inner Sanctum.
Deadly enforcers acting as an independent morality police force of one man, very few individuals wore the title of Black Cross across the centuries though the Bolden family line counted many among their number.
In the database entry for "The Assassin Brotherhood" in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Rebecca Crane raises for the first time the question of the Assassin and Templars' respective names prior to their reformation in the 11th century when their current names were conceived. The next installment, Assassin's Creed: Origins, addresses this by revealing that the Templars were known as the Order of the Ancients and the Assassins the Hidden Ones in the 1st century BCE.
In real history, the demonym "Templar" was derived from the order's official name Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, with the Temple of Solomon referring to their base, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Historically, after the fall of Acre at 1291, the Templars became bankers rather than actual knights. In fact, it was their banking business that led King Philip IV of France to force Clement V to disband the order and take its wealth for the failing economy of Philip's kingdom.
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