Tracy R. Twyman is a prominent author and researcher on the occult. In Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled (coauthored with Alex Rivera), she reveals the primordial identity and origins of Baphomet, as well as the hidden truth about the Knights Templar. In the interview, Twyman ties these revelations with ancient Gnosticism, Freemasonry, Kabbalistic demons, and another arcane deity, Abraxas — pointing to the possibility of an ancient, secret ritual that brings about the end of the universe for the release of humanity’s divine spark.
Miguel: Can you give us a brief history of Baphomet? Maybe start with the earliest references to him and his true identity as Alex Rivera and you discovered through your research.
Tracy: The word Baphomet really comes from the Knights Templar. The idea is that the Knights Templar were worshipping this severed head as a god. This is what they were accused of by the French police after being arrested, and in a lot of cases, this is what they confessed to as well. You would just think that this was some weird anomaly in history, happening to one of the most powerful organizations in history at the time, the Knights Templar. They just happened to have this weird obsession with a demon no one had ever heard of before and made up a whole religion around it. It just seems like a strange chapter in history where these knights found a spiritual mascot.
The entire idea is expressed very well by the writings of Albert Mackey in the late 1800’s. He was a well-known Masonic author. In one of the volumes he published and edited, there was an article about an old Arabic magic book in a Masonic lodge library he was a member of. The book talked about Baphomet, describing him as the sun of suns and the moon of moons and the mystery of mysteries.
So, you might think the Knights Templar were worshipping this weird demon that no one had ever heard of before, but later you have occult writings describing Baphomet as the most important thing ever. This is the big concept of the big mystery that’s behind Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and many other western occult traditions.
What we discovered is that Baphomet was just a name for something that’s a very big concept — not just some minor demon that the Knights Templar worshipped for some reason. Later writings influenced by the Templar tradition indicate that this deity is comparable to the transformative power of the universe. Baphomet is a name for a force that can be called upon during magic rituals, alchemy, and other supernatural transformational events. The god is also an intelligence that can be contacted and represents the divine primordial wisdom — which is why the Templars confessed that they believed the head of Baphomet gave them wisdom. It prophesied for them. That’s how they obtained that wisdom, and because of that, it also made them rich and caused the land to germinate.
You see these associations with Divine Wisdom. I’m referring to forbidden Divine Wisdom like could be compared to the wisdom in the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. This is wisdom that passed down clandestinely to man against the wishes of some of the gods. That’s the sort of wisdom that Baphomet is associated with in secret circles.
Actually, the name Baphomet has been interpreted in a number of different ways, but it’s almost always associated somehow with hidden wisdom or Divine Wisdom. Baptism of Wisdom is probably the most common interpretation, and I would say probably the most accurate. There are other routes like putting the word Baphomet through the Atbash site — and you get Sophia, which is the Divine Wisdom principle of the Gnostics.
Miguel: You write that this intelligence or primordial force, Baphomet or Sophia, has the power to break all boundaries and limits. Baphomet has taken different identities throughout history, however — with different names — and has been passed along by initiates, alchemists, secret societies, and the Gnostic-minded. What other names or what other incarnations has Baphomet taken in history?
Tracy: I felt like the Templars created an egregore. They combined a bunch of different things, but they’re taking as the basis this spirit that the Judeo-Christian traditions thought of as the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. This is reflected by the sigils that are associated with Baphomet and used by 19th-century occultists. One of them shows the goat head inside a pentagram. But around these symbols are written the names in Hebrew of a couple of demons. We’ve got Samael, Lilith, and Leviathan. As we explain in the book, there are Kabbalistic traditions about those three demons that connect them all.
Lilith and Samael were male and female halves of the original Serpent in the Garden of Eden, and it was supposedly a hermaphrodite. God split the two parts apart because they were breeding demons and it was threatening the world order somehow. Yahweh had to severe the Serpent so it couldn’t breed anymore. The story comes from the Zohar. I believe that if they’re ever reunited again sexually, then the universe would be destroyed. The two demons or halves of the Serpent are always trying to unite but never succeed. They continue attempting some semblance of sexual union through an intermediary that they called Tanin’iver. This entity is said to be the same as Azazel, the goat demon that’s talked about in the Bible.
This all connects to Baphomet because, as I said before, there are seals of Baphomet that have the names of these demons on them. But if you think about it, here we have a hermaphroditic being which Baphomet eventually became represented as. Eliphas Levi in the 19th century depicted Baphomet in that goat-headed hermaphrodite way, and it’s been replicated infinitely ever since. If you think about it, that’s the combination of those three demons. You’ve got the hermaphroditic Serpent, and you’ve got the Azazel as the intermediary represented with the goat head.
I think that is what some Kabbalists taught: there was this ancient and primordial spirit that mankind has always been contending with in the quest for wisdom. The Templars must have encountered the same idea, represented it in the form of the severed head — which I think was more of a touchpoint. It was just a way of communicating with the spirit. They used the severed head because it went along with the traditions or common practices used by some magicians in the Middle East during that time of using severed heads for divination. They called them terafim. They would embalm a head, usually a baby’s head, and write magical sigils on the tongue to magically animate it. They would perform a ritual that would supposedly make the head magically come alive, start talking, and give you any information needed. This is probably what this Baphomet head was.
This all makes sense because they said the head was talking to the Templars. They said it was giving prophesy to them. And the assumptions by researcher afterward writing about the Templars was that it was maybe the severed head of John the Baptist. It kind of makes sense for one thing: Templars have been associated with John the Baptist. The Freemasons also venerated John the Baptist. John, of course, was a prophet — so that goes along with the head prophesying; and it was well-known that John had his head severed and placed on a plate by Herodias. We can theorize then that, maybe at that time, the head of John was being used as a tariff for divination. It’s possible that it got passed on in that form.
We do know that crusading Knights Templar were involved in the trading of relics. There are several, alleged heads of John the Baptist floating around and being venerated by different churches in different places throughout the world. It’s possible that some head associated with John the Baptist’s ended up with the Templars. Maybe that’s why they called it Baphomet, Baptism of Wisdom, associating it with the Baptists who may have been one of their patron saints.
Miguel: It seems that sex rituals were undoubtedly part of the stream from ancient times to recently. Why do you think this sort of side effect of this underground stream was so predominant? What was it with this sexual magic?
Tracy: According to the story of the Garden of Eden, it sounds like transgressive sex has been part of the mystery tradition since the beginning. It was part of the whole transmission of that original Forbidden Knowledge or Gnosis given by the Serpent. It really sounds that way from how it got interpreted by Kabbalistic rabbis later. It some stories, Eve became pregnant by the Serpent while Adam married Lilith and had demon children with her.
Also, if you look at the story of Lilith, she incarnates into human bodies to try to breed with important figures in history like King Solomon or other biblical patriarchs — with the royal and priestly bloodline ultimately resulting in Jesus. It’s interesting that you have these sex stories as part of the original corruption of man by the Serpent. That’s telling you that the Serpent has some need for involvement with certain people and there is a sexual element to it. I don’t know if it’s just about breeding heirs. The story sort of talks about how the Serpent wants to breed with humans to create heirs that will inherit thrones and eventually get back the power that was lost to Adam in the beginning.
We specifically wrote in the book about these sex orgies that became associated with the Templars. We also talked a lot about artifacts like cups, bowls, and coffers that were discovered by this guy named Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall in the 19th century. Hammer-Purgstall claims that these objects originally belonged to the Templars. He found them on properties that formerly belonged to the Templars. They depict all sorts of strange orgies and things like that. He said these were recognizable from descriptions the church fathers had given of different Gnostic orgies.
We looked at all the accusations against the Templars, Gnostics, Cathars, and other heretical groups. Later on, you have similar accusations and confessions being given by witches in Europe. We noticed that the descriptions of the orgies were very similar, and even the alleged reasons for some of the orgies in the elements were similar.
The purpose of these orgies seems twofold. One was to channel entities and allow them to have sex through the bodies of the participants. The other is to kind of reverse the course of nature in a way. It has to do with the darker aspects of certain Gnostics sects that were against creation. They’re against the god that they believe created everything here, and they’re looking for some way of reversing that. We show interpretations of some of these rituals and try to get into the minds of the people that were doing them. These Gnostics felt like they were undoing what is normally done in a procreative act like sex for pleasure — but also, it’s being driven by instincts of procreation. It seems that in these rites they were trying to push that flow of energy backward. Think of it as a stream, and we used the metaphor of the Jordan River because we got that in some of the Gnostic literature. It’s like reversing the flow of a stream.
Miguel: So that would be like withholding the semen or withholding an orgasm sort of, just bringing all that energy back.
Tracy: That’s one way of doing it. Oher ways would be being involved in orgies where you might spawn a child, kill it, eat it, and give it back to where it came from.
Miguel: Like the Carpocratians were accused of and so forth.
Tracy: Right. You see this on the artifact from Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall. We don’t know if it’s really evidence of the Templars or not because there’s a lot of controversy about whether these artifacts were genuine. But it’s one piece of evidence out there; and there certainly seems to be quite a bit of evidence that the Templars were influenced by Gnosticism, which we provide in the book. It’s not that far of a stretch to think they were involved in the alleged Gnostic orgies also. In fact, some of the things they confessed in both torture to the French king and without torture to the Popes’ Cardinals. It seems to go along with the sexual policies they had in the Templar Order where, for instance, they would pledge that they would never touch women — but they would give themselves to each other instead.
One of the interesting images we theorized about from Purg-stall is a figure called “mete.” She’s depicted on several of these artifacts he discovered. She kind of looks like Cybele because she has a crown of towers. And in one of the depictions, she just seems like a female. But in several other depictions, she has a beard. She appears as a hermaphrodite like Baphomet. She’s shown with chains in her hands while pulling the sun, moon, and the stars down from the heavens. I theorized if this depiction isn’t just a modern fabrication and is connected to a secret cult of the Templars, then it’s influenced by Ophite Gnosticism, which is what Hammer-Purgstall thought.
If that’s all true, then what might this image mean? Again, he called the figure “mete.” He says Baphomet comes from that. Mete can mean wisdom, and Baphomet is just a longer version of that name, Baptism of Wisdom. So, it’s Baphomet pulling the sun and the moon down from the heavens with the chains. Maybe it’s just showing the destruction of creation, which the anti-creationist Gnostic sects would have been interested in. If you interpret Baptism of Wisdom as being not just the name of the deity but also — and this is what Hammer-Purgstall seemed to agree with — the name of the ritual that they were doing in honor of that deity. It seems this could shed light on the meaning of their more blasphemous rituals, the orgies, and the black masses. There could be a very dark version of the Baptism of Wisdom ritual where you would do something deliberately evil, something to reverse the course of nature that would have the effect of destroying the universe — or even a ritual where you’re conjuring demons like Lilith and Samael, allowing them to have sex through your bodies.
Again, the warning from the rabbis is that if these two deities ever get together again the universe would be destroyed. And again, the Templars may have had a ritual where they were attempting to conjure the forces that would eventually destroy creation. They felt they were doing that by engaging in these obscene rights, potentially with children and animals.
Miguel: You and Alex make a great case that the start of Christianity was split. You had the Jesus cult, which was more of an apocalyptic cult. But the true esoteric or mystical side was with John the Baptist, with Simon Magus, the Mandaeans, and so forth.
Tracy: We’re sort of theorizing about Gnosticism. I would say permutations of it later became associated with the Templars. They might have been influenced by Gnosticism, and it was all tied up with the head of John the Baptist. Alex did a lot of research on that chapter to show that Gnosticism really can be traced back to Simon Magus, who was the student of John the Baptist. Maybe all these ideas started with him, or at least the tradition of what we consider Gnosticism may have started with John.
Interestingly, Tobias Churton also writes about this subject in Mysteries of John the Baptist. In one section, Churton talks about the Gospel of John. He basically says that this Gospel begins by talking about John and his baptism of Jesus, telling the story from John’s perspective. He makes the case that the entire gospel is very Gnostic in the way that it expresses things which I would agree with. Churton also says it’s as though it’s from the perspective of John the Baptist or someone writing from that perspective. The Gospel of John is about John, but it’s the wrong John.
It’s interesting too that in Freemasonry they sort of get those two John’s deliberately mixed up. They venerate both and use symbols that have both in it— and no one’s ever really explained why that is. What’s the obsession with these two Johns? I think it’s just to connect them to people’s minds without coming out — saying that a lot of things that are associated with John the disciple might be coming from John the Baptist.
John the Baptist seems to have had a significant role in birthing the mystical traditions that came after Gnosticism but also influencing Templarism and Freemasonry. That’s quite a lot of influence coming from John. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a separate stream from Christianity…what Christianity became. We’re not sure how different their philosophies were at the time because a lot of things aren’t really known about what Jesus thought or was teaching. That’s another book entirely, I suppose.
Miguel: This is something that always irks me about modern Gnosticism. They’re always talking about Sophia. Oh, it’s great! Sophia’s great! But when you read the text, and you really get into the character of Sophia, she is very much like Baphomet because she’s might give you wisdom, but there is a danger in this. The character of Sophia is very charged and powerful and chaotic when you start understanding it. It’s kind of like Abraxas. These gods that will drive you crazy. And it’s the same thing as other incarnations of Baphomet, that energy like the essence of Dionysus or Hecate. Do you agree that these things can make you crazy if you’re not careful?
Tracy: I think they all come from a very chaotic aspect of existence, so yes, that goes along with it. It seems to me that what the Gnostics were trying to describe, when they talk about the Pleroma, is a state higher than anything we have experienced and everything that exists. It’s the thing that everything came from but, somehow, it’s above that at the same time, right? It’s so far removed from our experience that they can’t even really describe it. The way that the Bible and a lot of philosophers try to explain creation or existence and its coming about, they always start with chaos and then order forms out of that. It’s in the ancient minds that we’re in a fallen state in a way, but it’s relative compared to what we came from. It’s maybe only chaos because we can’t conceive of what it is. But to our mind, it seems like chaos because it’s really from something preceding where we’re at, something preceding time and space.
That’s why these pre-creation entities and elements are often symbolized as chaotic. That’s what the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and the serpent in a lot of systems represents — certainly like the Ouroboros that’s surrounding creation. I like to consider that maybe the Pleroma that the Gnostics were writing about was the same idea, like some idea of a pocket of chaos, but it’s like this primal soup. It’s where everything comes from. It has all of the elements of creation, but they have not been put together yet into anything. I guess what I’m saying is chaos isn’t nothingness. It’s this pregnant soup full of possibilities.
Miguel: I think you guys describe it as endless potential.
Tracy: You end up coming across that concept repeatedly. That is also the kind of the wisdom that these traditions keep hinting at, the dangerous wisdom or Baptism of Wisdom. It’s what they were talking about in the Fourth Discourse of the Corpus Hermeticum — when Hermes tells his disciple that to become enlightened you need to submerge yourself into this cup full of wisdom that God has provided. It may destroy you, but if you were able to withstand it, then it will somehow bring you to the other side, return you to your true self and your true understanding. That should be compared to submerging yourself in the knowledge of this chaos that everything came from. The chaos itself is thought of as the knowledge itself in a way too. I think that’s what all those things are symbolizing, and of course, chaos is symbolized as an ocean or water.
Miguel: You also call Baphomet a chimera god. The other main dude would have to be Abraxas, and as you and Alex agree, this is a primordial energy that is limitless, eternal, and seems to come from an ancient Egyptian stream, a mystery religion. Could you tell the listener about what you and Alex found on Abraxas?
Tracy: This is part is evidence that the Templars were involved in Gnosticism because they had seals to close their documents like a notary would seal a report. They are sealing communications like treaties and so forth. They employed a seal with the quintessential picture of Abraxas — the one your listeners probably have seen with the human body, snake legs, and chicken head. Around the depiction seal of Abraxas used by the Templars, they had these words in Latin: Secret of the Temple. I think the seal is implying Abraxas somehow symbolizes the secret of their order. It might not have made sense to anyone at the time, but after they confessed to worshipping Baphomet, it’s obvious.
I think Abraxas is just another representation of the same energy and same entities. Maybe when they were theorizing Baphomet as a sort of egregore they created. There’s undeniable evidence they were into Gnosticism and also ritual magic because Abraxas seems to be pretty clearly associated with all of this and the secret of their temple. Abraxas is this transformative power of the universe that’s a combination of creative and destructive male and female energies, just like Baphomet.
The other evidence the Templars were Gnostic is what was said about them not only at the time but afterward. Pope Pius IX put out this lengthy treatise about what he thought about the Templars and later the Freemasons. He says the Templars were involved in Gnosticism and the Johannite heresy pertaining to John the Baptist and also John the disciple. It just seems undeniable that, if nothing else, a lot of other people thought they were involved in Gnosticism. Templars and Freemasons were influenced by several things, but Gnosticism was a significant strain.
Miguel: Of course, the symbol of Abraxas was used in ancient times as a very powerful magic amulet, perhaps to keep him away if he was thought to be a chief Archon. You also bring up another snake-legged god when you mention Typhon. This deity is just another cipher for the Egyptian god Set, which is also Seth. All this is tied up in fascinating ancient again, sex mystery religions.
Tracy: I think it was the Pope, again Pius IX, who said the Templars were involved in creating their own religion — a synthesis of all persecuted beliefs. That was his term. We’re sort of retro-engineering from a lot of source including the Templar tradition. You also have the fact that what the Templars were accused of doing in their rituals was replicated later by witchcraft cults and weird pseudo-Gnostic/pseudo-Christian cults like the Cathars. Even in modern times, we have the Aleister Crowley and OTO, the Church of Satan, and groups like that. A lot of what they do is replicate what the Templars were accused of doing. We should bear in mind there is very little evidence of what the Templars actually did.
But here you have these groups facing the rituals on the accusations made by enemies of the Templars, like witchcraft, Gnosticism, Kabbalism, and eventually Freemasonry. These are all the persecuted beliefs, and some of them came after the Templars, but they influenced them. It appears the Templars were creating their own religion that was practiced solely by them, later picked up other groups.
Pope Pius IX accused them of plotting to take over the world. They certainly had a lot of power at the time. The Templars almost took over Europe during their times. Afterwards, their influence was even greater as it influenced occult groups. Pius looked at Freemasonry as the stepchild of Templarism. He thought they would create this new religion and rule the world. He says the Freemasons were put in a position where they could change the world even if they didn’t take over. You look at all the revolutions that swept the world in the late 17th or 18th centuries, and you see a very changed world. It seems like they did tap into Baphomet. This god was talking to them. Baphomet made a pact with them — so they tapped into something explosive and powerful, and it’s still affecting us even today.
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