" . . a unique and erudite reanalysis of the role of the Baptist using the lenses of Gnosticism, Freemasonry, and other esoteric traditions that have elevated John to a position equal to or superior to Jesus. This book is a truly invaluable addition to scholarly literature on John the Baptist." --The Rev. Jeffrey J. Butz, S.T.M., instructor of religious studies at Penn State University and author of The Secret Legacy of Jesus Few Freemasons today understand why the most significant date in the Masonic calendar is June 24th--the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist and the traditional date for appointing Grand Masters. Nor do many of them know that Masons used to be known as "St. John's Men" or that John the Baptist was fundamental to the original Masonic philosophy of personal transformation. Starting with the mystery of John in Freemasonry, Tobias Churton searches out the historical Baptist through the gospels and ancient histories, unearthing the real story behind the figure lauded by Jesus's words "no greater man was ever born of woman." He investigates John's links with the Essenes and the Gnostics, links that flourish to this day. Exposing how the apostle Paul challenged John's following, twisting his message and creating the image of John as "merely" a herald of Jesus, the author shows how Paul may have been behind the executions of both John and Jesus and reveals a precise date for the crucifixion and the astonishing meaning of the phrase "the third day." He examines the significance of John's severed head to holy knights, such as the Knights Templar, and of Leonardo's famous painting of John. Churton also explains connections between John, the summer solstice, fertility rites, and ancient Jewish harvest festivals. Revealing John as a courageous, revolutionary figure as vital to the origins of Christianity as his cousin Jesus himself, Churton shows how John and Jesus, as equal partners, launched a covert spiritual operation to overcome corruption in the Temple of Jerusalem, re-initiate Israel, and resurrect Creation. TOBIAS CHURTON is Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is faculty lecturer in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. The founding editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today, he holds a master's degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and is the author of several books, including Gnostic Philosophy, The Magus of Freemasonry, and The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians. He lives in England.