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National Secrets

The reviews are in for National Treasure, Hollywood’s take on the esoteric origins of America, starring Nicholas Cage. The critics hated it, but the good news is, the public loved it.

The story centers on Ben Gates (Cage), a descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The signers, it seems, may have left more than a blueprint for Democracy on the Declaration. America’s founders, led by freemasons, had, the movie suggests, hidden an actual treasure, indeed, the legendary treasure of the mysterious Knights Templar. Originally established during the crusades, the actual Templars were reputedly wiped out in the 14th century by the French King Philip the Fair in league with the church of Rome. To this day Freemasons consider themselves to be the heirs of the Templars. The treasure, though, according to historical accounts, had its origin even before the Templars are said to have carried it home to France from Jerusalem after the crusades. Only a handful of men (which the film purports included the founding fathers), it is said, once knew of the treasure, and only by correctly interpreting many mysterious signs and symbols could its location be uncovered. In the movie, the most important clue is a map on the back of America’s most sacred and protected document, the original Declaration of Independence.

That the reaction of critics goes against popular opinion should come as no surprise, but it is interesting to examine just why they chose to pan such an overwhelmingly popular film.

One critic argued that no “serious historian” has ever believed that there was a “Templar treasure.” We beg to differ.

The Templar treasure is no myth. Strong evidence of its existence was part of actual court testimony in at least one Templar trial. In contrast to their French counterparts, British proceedings against the Templars never took on a hysterical tone. The English trials, in fact, were quite orderly and free from the fantastic accounts of devil worship and spitting on the Cross, which had become familiar features of continental trials. Even the use of torture was minimal and, then, only as a result of pressure from the church and the French king.

In England, the record reveals that knowledgeable and influential figures testified that, just before the Friday 13th, 1307 raid, which destroyed their organization, the Templars had been warned of the king’s warrants. It is no secret that before the raid the Templars had served as virtual world bankers receiving deposits of treasure from the rich in many locales and issuing payments on demand drawn on those deposits in other locations. While scholars may question the existence of the Templar treasure, it is clear that the raiders of their strongholds failed to find it. This begs the question: what actually happened to the vast deposits, which the Templars certainly held. According to the testimony, upon receiving warning of the pending raids, the knights feverishly loaded all valuables in their care onto a hastily assembled wagon train and then quickly and quietly transported the immense horde—the holdings of what was then the only bank of the world—to the French port city of La Rochelle. There the treasure was loaded onto ships of the Templar fleet—the largest in the world.

From there, many believe, the fleet sailed to the one place a fugitive order could find protection—the independent nation of Scotland where the upstart king Robert Bruce had been excommunicated for declaring his country’s independence.

The outlaw order seeking protection, and the outlawed nation in sore need of ships and knights established a mutually rewarding relationship. Very soon, at the greatest battle in Scottish history, Bannockburn, the fugitive Templars proved their value. Just as English forces appeared to be sweeping the field, a fresh cadre of knights charged from the forest and routed the enemy. It was the feast day of St. John, patron saint of the Templars, destined to remain the date of their last great victory in the field. They soon went underground, masking their true identity behind the Masonic mask.

When James VI of Scotland was crowned King James II of England, the Scottish family at the heart of the Templars, the Sinclairs, was rewarded with the title and responsibility of “hereditary guardians” of Freemasonry. The honor would be confirmed again in 1601. The Sinclairs had protected the treasure since it had been brought to their estate at Roslyn, and would protect the order as well.

In the fourteenth century, as anti-Catholic sentiment had led to attacks on churches and the destruction of long-preserved relics, it is believed that the Sinclairs had become concerned over possible threats to the immense but secret treasure in their possession. Once again—almost a century before Columbus crossed the Atlantic—the vast cache was moved, this time, apparently, to Nova Scotia.

In most of America, the story of the first Sinclair voyage to the New World in 1398 is taken lightly. Not so in Nova Scotia, where in Guysborough, a statue of Henry Sinclair remains a testament to belief in the voyage. Further corroboration comes from maps and charts from this early Atlantic crossing which were used by Gerardus Mercator in preparing his own maps and by Martin Behaim in producing his globe.

The second criticism of National Treasure was that there is no evidence of any treasure ever being pinpointed by secret symbols placed strategically for others to follow. Wrong again.

Once the Templar treasure was safely stashed in a massive vault complex deep underground on a small island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, the Sinclairs built the Roslyn Chapel. Carved in stone on Masonic pillars in the church are depictions of American maize corn and aloe. A hidden vault beneath the chapel long concealed the resting-place of Sinclairs who had fought as Templars. Skull and bones, the markings on tombs, signified that the only bones were needed for Resurrection. Crossed legs meant they had been Templars.

Across the ocean there were still more clues. Oaks were planted on what would be called Oak Island to distinguish it from the other small islands in the bay.

Today the island has become a focus of sensational worldwide media speculation over the purpose of a gigantic and, as yet unexplained, shaft, of which the full contents remain a mystery.

The “Money Pit”

For fifty years, two men who do not see eye-to-eye have owned Oak Island. Fred Nolan, a surveyor, discovered numerous symbols including a ten-foot equilateral triangle with a cross in the middle. Before anyone could decipher its meaning Nolan realized it was part of an even larger triangle. Within that area he found drilled rocks with metal ringbolts, and a heart-shaped rock within another smaller triangle. Another formation was made up of ten-ton granite boulders, again forming a cross with the intersection being a skull-shaped rock showing evidence of artificial construction.

David Tobias owns the other side of the island—location of the notorious “Money Pit.” Excavation of the shaft began before 1800 with the discovery of flagstones at a three-foot level and then every ten feet a layer of oak planking. Beyond ninety feet an elaborate booby trap has persistently flooded the shaft and thwarted the dreams of treasure hunters for more than a century. Even after it was learned just how the shaft was flooded, the advanced hydraulics of the ancient builders have continued to defy the modern excavators.

Is there a treasure-laden vault under the small island? Both men still believe there is, and despite their advanced age, continue to work toward getting it to surface. Tobias is considering a new proposal for a massive shaft that will miss nothing in expanding the original “Money Pit” shaft. The price tag would be $15 million, adding considerably to the $5 million he is said to have already spent. Nolan too, has brought in his son-in-law and recently purchased a nearby island and the treasure rights.

Oak Island’s Money Pit, though, is not the only potential repository of wealth and secrets in the Americas.

Virginia’s Bruton Vault

In colonial Williamsburg, Virginia lies the Bruton Vault. It too is connected to a secretive group with connections to the Templar-Masonic heritage. The vault itself is in one of the most visited American family destinations.

Here the original settlement has been restored and developed into a major park. For many it is a great alternative to the hustle of nearby Six Flags, and an opportunity to get a sense of American history for young and old. Few know that it conceals an unusual secret, but one no visitor will ever see.

The secret is that more than one of the most significant items reputed to be part of the Templar treasure may have been hidden under the original Jamestown Church. These items are believed to include works by Sir Francis Bacon, as well as the Ark of the Covenant, said to have been brought to France by the early Templars from Jerusalem. What could these celebrated artifacts be doing there?

The fact is, the history of the English colonial program has been altered, largely to fit into an acceptable orthodox framework. The true history borders on the bizarre.

Perhaps the greatest secret influence behind the persuasion of Queen Elizabeth to join the French and Spanish in racing to the New World was a mysterious man by the name of Dr. John Dee. The mysterious Dr. Dee was a magician and an astrologer as well as a scientist on the level with the great Copernicus. His tricks of levitation, experiments with alchemy, and his magic mirror brought suspicion on him. He was booted out of school for actually levitating items on stage during a school play. For a while he was even forced out of England. But he did come to have the Queen of England as his protector. When Elizabeth took the throne, she relied on his ability to read the stars and to see the future, calling on him to choose the date and time of her coronation.

His influence on the Queen and the history of England is both incalculable and rarely mentioned. He coined the term Britannia, planned the Royal Navy and convinced Elizabeth that sacred England owned the seas. He also convinced her that she was a lineal descendent of Arthur who went westward when he suffered his possibly mortal wounds. As a result of King Arthur’s voyage to the west, Dee argued, England and the Queen had the right to America. She granted him a patent to all the lands north of the 50-degree-line.

If it had just been England’s ‘mad monk’ influencing Elizabeth, the country might not have taken the course in did in the history of the New World but Dee had Sir Francis Bacon in his corner. Bacon wrote of the New Atlantis and urged Elizabeth along.

The new colony was to be founded by the Virginia Company. Named ostensibly for England’s Virgin Queen, it had less to do with her than with a virgin goddess older than Christianity. The flag of the state of Virginia shows the goddess Athena (also known as Minerva to the Romans) holding a sword and spear standing with one foot on the chest of her vanquished enemy. Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, was nicknamed the Spear-Shaker, a war goddess like Poseidon the Earth-Shaker.

Even operating under the permission of the Queen, Bacon and others envisioned a world where monarchy and religion had no power. While other adventurers and merchants joined the bandwagon, colonization for Dee and Bacon was a divine mission. Bacon’s writings on the subject of such an Arcadian paradise were a long-held theme in war-torn Europe. To keep the Queen as his patron he wrote under the name of a butcher’s apprentice, William Shakespeare.

While this might come as news to many, the Bacon-as-Shakespeare controversy is centuries old. The mystery of how an illiterate butcher’s apprentice could have written on so many subjects—from law, to science, medicine and history—without the advantage of ever having owned a book has led many to suspect that he served as a “beard” for someone else.

Within the confines of a brief article it is impossible to cover the subject fairly, but suffice it to say, four hundred books have been written on the topic, and authors have included Benjamin Disraeli and Walt Whitman.

The original Shakespearean manuscripts, it is said, as well as some other Bacon texts, were brought to America. Francis Bacon didn’t survive long enough to enjoy the lands granted to him, but his family was well represented. In 1676, however, the Bacon family found itself at odds with Virginia’s government. It was, after all, a royal colony and Bacon represented an anti-government philosophy.

In the year of Bacon’s Rebellion, as the history books recall, the contents under the Jamestown Church were moved and placed in a ten-by-ten-foot vault twenty feet below the tower of the Bruton Parish Church. Nevertheless, despite the efforts, legal and borderline illegal, of modern researchers and groups, the secrets of the vault remain secure—at least for now.

The Knights of the Golden Circle

It is over a century since an impoverished parish priest in Rennes-le-Chateau, France tracked clues to an astonishing amount of money (a case made famous by the books Holy Blood, Holy Grail as well as The Da Vinci Code) but much more recently, American treasure hunters have followed signs and symbols to caches of money hidden across the south and even in the west. National treasure? Not exactly, as the stashes were part of a plan to keep the Confederacy alive during, and even after, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Researchers Warren Getler and Bob Brewer describe a series of esoteric graffiti that includes reference to Biblical passages, dates, and coded letters, all serving to signal the way to secret stashes. The small hordes were buried by groups of Masons, and Knights of the Golden Circle, a group whose members were often recruited through Masonic Lodges.

Hidden in Plain Sight

While National Treasure was confined to two hours, the film did manage to make references to some deeper secrets. On the desk of Abigail Chase was David Ovason’s book, The Secret Architecture of our Nation’s Capital. While it is known that Washington was laid out according to Masonic geometry, Ovason points out that there are numerous zodiacs built into both the plan of the city and many buildings.

One of the most intriguing clues in National Treasure is found on the back of the one-hundred-dollar bill. The clock-tower points to a certain time in the day, indicating its shadow will give the next direction. Here the movie makes a mistake. The treasure hunters had first thought they missed the critical moment, and then figured daylight savings time meant they were just coming up on the moment. Daylight Savings time, however, had been proposed by Franklin, but was not yet in effect when Independence Hall was built.

The meaning of that critical time remains a secret.


Steven Sora is the author of several books on esoteric history including Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar, Secret Societies of America’s Elite, and The Lost Colony of the Templars.

Alternative History

March/April 2005 – #50