Templar culture is toxic
Templar culture is harmful in many ways, both to the templars themselves and to those they deal with, primarily mages.
Templars are expected to be emotionless automatons. They aren’t supposed to show fondness or positive emotions toward mages or form friendships with them. Templars and mages do have relationships, but they are elicit and hidden. Suppressing all emotion – with the exception of aggression, anger and violence – isn’t healthy for templars and is downright dangerous for mages.
At the same time, templars don’t receive any mental healthcare. A popular fan-theory is Greenfell Chantry is a rest home for templars, based on the aside about Cullen being sent there in Witch Hunt. However, Cullen himself never discusses any treatment he received. Samson doesn’t receive any help for his greater-than-normal dependence on lyrium and is thrown out of the Order at the first opportunity.
It is possible many templars suffer from mental trauma after facing demons, blood mages and abominations and witnessing failed Harrowings, but the possibility templars may be adversely impacted by this is rarely mentioned. However, Cullen says forgetting such things is believed by many templars to be a positive found in lyrium-induced dementia.
So it shouldn’t be any surprise that templars’ first reaction is violence. In dealing with any threat, perceived threat or disobedience, templars always seem to escalate the situation. Templars’ tools in addressing transgressions great and small seem to be limited to reactive violence or humiliating punishments. They don’t appear to be able – or trained? – to think through problems to reach an alternative solution.
Templars don’t inhabit circles, they occupy them. Templars are hardly seen out of armor or off-duty. They behave like soldiers in enemy territory, despite the power imbalance that overwhelmingly favors them. This is particularly dangerous for mages, because templars are biased against mages. Mages are not only viewed with suspicion, but templars generally treat them as if they have committed a crime. Even the Circles are proactive imprisonment for crimes yet to be – and most likely will never be – committed.
This is part of templars’ us versus them worldview. The best example of this is the meeting between the grand clerics and the Inquisitor in Val Royeaux. When a templar strikes Mother Hevara, Ser Barris attempts to go to her aid, but is told she isn’t worthy of his attention. Then Envy-as-Lucius gives a speech on templar exceptionality that is well-received by those templars in attendance – with the exception of Ser Barris – and is an insight into the mistrust and derision with which templars view those who are not part of the Order.
Notable exceptions are Evangeline and Greagoir, although Evangeline comes to a more measured response through the course of Asunder. She is fighting a mage in her first in-world appearance, but Asunder is really about her struggling with what she thinks the Order should be and what it actually is – although it takes her falling for a mage and therefore seeing them as people get to that point.
Greagoir is progressive for a templar. He considers magic to be both a gift and a curse. He values the lives of civilian above those of mages, but also of templars. He argues against Annulling the Circle, but will agree to it, if pressed. Greagoir also accepts the practices of Harrowing and Tranquility.
This is because templars are trained to follow orders without question. It is openly acknowledged an obedient templar is preferred over a devout one. Templars are expected to obey orders without question – the crux of Evangeline’s dilemma in Asunder is whether to follow orders or to do what is right. Templars are not expected to think for themselves; they are weapons.
The combination of possible untreated mental trauma, othering of mages and those who aren’t templars and failure to question or engage in critical thought creates an organization both dangerous to those to whom it is supposed to protect and to its members.