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Temple of the Four Orders mural

Symbol of the Temple of the Four Orders, showing sphinxes, four columns, and a pentagram.

The Temple of the Four Orders was a secret fraternal organization dedicated to the study and practice of the occult, active at the end of the 19th century in Great Britain. The Temple believed its practices allowed it to summon arcane forces and exert control over the course of history. Its membership reached to the highest levels of British society, including government ministers and peers.

Though it was initially an apparently neutral organization, after its takeover by Lord Henry Blackwood it became a highly dangerous with ambitions of global dominance. Blackwood's plots were only foiled thanks to the intervention of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson.

History and beliefs[]

Little is known of the Temple's history before its involvement with Holmes. According to its former head, Lord Chief Justice Sir Thomas Rotheram, the Temple had existed for centuries, using its mystical systems to guide the world toward the greater good. The members of the Temple believed in magic, and alleged that their rituals allowed them to summon powerful occult forces. However, they believed these could also be used for great evil, and under Sir Thomas it seems attempt to perform practical, or black, magic were forbidden.

Blackwood

Lord Henry Blackwood

Not all members of the Temple agreed with this prohibition. Among these was Lord Henry Blackwood, who sought to use the Temple to advance his own power. Blackwood was Sir Thomas’ illegitimate son, conceived during an esoteric ritual with a woman who was not his wife. This led to a belief within the order that Blackwood would be an especially powerful magical practitioner, which was further strengthened when his mother died giving birth to him. However, many members distrusted him, among them Sir Thomas. They suspected him of black magic, notably performing human sacrifices to augment his abilities. However, they never had enough evidence to prove this, and never directly intervened. Blackwood was eventually caught in the act by the police, led by Inspector Lestrade with the assistance of Sherlock Holmes. He was sentenced to death and hanged for five murders.

Sir Thomas

Lord Chief Justice Sir Thomas Rotheram, head of the Temple

However, Blackwood did not stay dead. Just a few days after his burial, his tomb in Brompton Cemetery was found empty, and a groundskeeper reported seeing Blackwood rise from the grave. The Temple's leadership took this as evidence of his incredible power. Fearing that his son would continue killing, Sir Thomas summoned Holmes to the order's headquarters to meet with him; Lord Coward, the Home Secretary; and John Standish, the American ambassador to Britain. The three asked Holmes to stop Blackwood, warning that the force he was attempting to raise would alter the world. Lord Coward offered to use his influence over the police to help with the investigation. Holmes agreed that Blackwood must be stopped, but refused the Temple's help, making his contempt for their practices and beliefs clear. Before leaving, he warned Sir Thomas that Blackwood would likely come for him next.

Standish SH 2009

Ambassador John Standish

As Holmes predicted, Blackwood indeed murdered his father not long after. Lord Coward summoned the leading members of the order to announce Sir Thomas’ death, and nominated Lord Blackwood to take his place. Blackwood appeared, and laid out a grand vision of a future ruled by the Temple and fear of its magic. He even proposed re-conquering the United States as part of a renewed British empire. Only Standish, the American ambassador, opposed him. He believed Blackwood was meddling with forces beyond his control, and drew a gun to put an end to him once and for all. However, he burst into flames when he pulled the trigger, and in a panic leaped out a window to his death. With Blackwood's power cemented, the rest of the order drank allegiance to him as their new leader.

Considering Holmes the greatest threat to his plans, Blackwood asked Lord Coward to put out a warrant for his arrest, and the Temple began preparing for Blackwood's planned coup in the sewers below Westminster Palace. In the meantime, Holmes was caught by the police, and Inspector Lestrade, revealing himself to be a member of the Temple, brought him to Lord Coward at Westminster. As Coward prepared a gun to shoot him, Holmes accused Coward and Blackwood of planning a massacre of Parliament at noon, when both houses would be in session. He also revealed that he knew Coward was a longtime follower of Blackwood's, and present at at least the last of his prior ritual murders. Coward's clothing allowed Holmes to deduce the location of Blackwood's preparation. Holmes then escaped through a window, narrowly avoiding being shot by Coward. Lestrade, it turned out, had been working with Holmes all along to stop Blackwood.

Lord Coward

Lord Coward, Home Secretary

In spite of Holmes' escape, Coward continued with the conspiracy as planned. When the members of the House of Lords had fully assembled, Temple members chained the door and linked arms to prevent anyone from escaping. Lord Coward then announced Lord Blackwood to the assembled men. Blackwood laid out his vision for a new empire, and claimed that he would call upon dark powers to slay all the those assembled who were not loyal to him. In reality, Blackwood had connected a remote-activated device to the building's ventilation that would vaporize cyanide tablets and send the smoke straight into the debate chambers. The Temple members, who had been secretly inoculated through the drink of allegiance, would be unharmed.

Fortunately, thanks to the intervention of Holmes, Watson, and Irene Adler, the device was successfully disarmed. When the assembled Lords failed to die, Blackwood fled, leaving Lord Coward and his followers to face the assembled Lords alone. Blackwood managed to escape through the sewers to the unfinished Tower Bridge. There he confronted Holmes and Irene, who had been fighting over the cyanide containers that Irene stole. Blackwood recovered the jars and pushed Irene from the bridge. He fought with Holmes, but Holmes managed to incapacitate him. Holmes told Blackwood that he knew the secrets behind all of his magic, which was nothing more than parlor tricks, mostly accomplished with the help of Luke Reordan. Blackwood would be revealed as a fraud, and then hanged properly. Angered, Blackwood prepared to attack Holmes again, but a piece of falling construction equipment knocked him off the bridge, where his was ironically hanged on a length of chain.

It is unknown what became of the Temple following Blackwood's defeat, but it is unlikely that it managed to recover after its treachery. The ultimate fate of Lord Coward and the other Temple members who took part in the attempted massacre at Parliament is likewise unknown

Symbols[]

The Temple employed a mix of esoteric, mystical, and occult symbolism. The order's symbol consisted of two sphinxes, back-to-back, underneath a pentagram, all enclosed within a triangle and surrounded by four columns topped by obscure symbols. The order viewed the sphinx as a guardian of power and gatekeeper to other dimensions. It was seen as being comprised of parts of four animals: the head of a human, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of an ox. These correspond with the faces of the Four Living Creatures before the Throne of God, seem in the visions of the Biblical prophet Ezekiel and the Book of Revelations, which Blackwood quotes frequently. The Order has also adopted some of the Hebrew terms from Kabbalah. Sunburst motifs are also common, probably indicating illumination. There is also a heavy influence of occult imagery, such as the pentagram. The goat-head pentagram seen in Sir Thomas' Book of Spells is similar to one published by the French occultist Stanislas de Guaita in 1897.

Notable members[]

Among the Temple's notable members were:

It is unclear whether Inspector Lestrade was actually a member of the order, or if he just pretended to be one at Holmes' direction.

Trivia[]

  • The Temple, though a fictional organization, seems to be based on a combination of fraternal organizations like the Freemasons and late-19th century occult societies like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The film's credits actually list a "Golden Dawn envoy" among the cast.
  • Along with the Four Living Creatures, Blackwood's murders correspond to the four classical elements: earth (Reordan), water (Sir Thomas), fire (Standish), and air (Parliament).
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