temple, solomon, art, illustration, painting

Tracing the Generation of the Third Degree

by Adrian T. Taylor, Ph.D.
Founding Member of the David A. McWilliams, Sr. Research & Education Lodge


In the text “Accosting the African Origins of Freemasonry, and Beyond,”[1] this researcher took up the problem of the African/Egyptian origins of Freemasonry.  In the latter text, a representative argument was reviewed, as portrayed by Lanier A. Watkins.[2] In Bro. Watkin’s text, a variety of figures peculiar to members of the Craft were displayed, juxtaposed to similar figures found in ancient Egypt, as we can see in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Images Peculiar to Freemasons[3]

Upon displaying similar figures, it was then contended by Bro. Watkins that “with sufficient evidence it is sensible to suggest that many of the signs used in our modern craft may have their origin in [a] much older African Culture.”[4] Assessing the latter text, this researcher argued that “sufficient evidence” had been crafted to simply “suggest” that Freemasonry “may” have an African origin, given that anyone can effectively suggest anything, no matter a suggestion’s truth-value.  Conversely, this researcher argued that “sufficient evidence” had not been crafted, on the latter grounds, for there to be a definitive/clear African Origins of Freemasonry, beyond a simple suggestion.

Essentially, this researcher argued that Bro. Watkin’s “suggestion” was too permissive, though consequential.  Later, this researcher created a framework for what can count as “sufficient evidence,” to responsibly examine the question: Is there an African Origin of Freemasonry?  Consequently, this researcher constructed Three Stations that needed to be circumambulated, that of (1) The Secret History Station, (2) The Generation of the Ritual Station, and (3) The Egyptian Meaning Station.

In this paper “The Generation of the Ritual Station” will be reviewed.  It will be reviewed focused on tracing the generation of the third degree, in light of the purported similarities between the Legend of Hiram Abiff and the Legend of the Egyptian deity Osiris,[5] as originally portrayed by the Greek, Plutarch (46 – 120 C.E.).[6]

The Generation of the Ritual Station

Ritual and ceremony are nothing new to Freemasonry and society at large.  Ritual and ceremony attempt to buttress and communicate shared values and experiences, over time.  In the Craft, allusions to ritual and ceremony can be traced to the oldest Freemasonic document of record, the Regius Manuscript/poem.  It was written circa 1390 C.E. and is sometimes referred to as the Halliwell manuscript, grouped with the Gothic Constitutions, which traces Freemasonry’s legendary/mythic origins to ancient Egypt.[7] In society, ritual and ceremony are seemingly ubiquitous, ranging from the profane (putting on your Washington Redskins jersey before the big game against the Dallas Cowboys) to the profound (listening to the bride and groom at a wedding ceremony, pledge: “until death do us part!”).

Nonetheless, Freemasonry is distinguished by its “secret” initiatory ritual ceremonies which progress by degrees of instruction.  Traditionally, secrets were kept for proprietary reasons (as vital trade secretes) by the operative stonemasons of Gothic Cathedrals and were communicated orally because much of Europe at that time was illiterate.  Effectively, said ritual ceremonies have been participatory, morality plays, attempting to communicate the core values (e.g. faith, hope and charity) and virtues (e.g. brotherly love, relief and truth) of the Craft.

It is here, in the space of ritual and ceremony, where the problem of the African Origins of Freemasonry arises, particularly focused on the generation of the third degree.  Some essentially see the Legend of Osiris dramatically reworked in the finished Legend of Hiram Abiff.[8] To move beyond a simple suggestion on the African Origins of Freemasonry, towards a negotiation of “sufficient evidence,” we need to (1) trace the genealogy of the third degree, and (2) pay particular attention to the dispensation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers, who according to Dr. David Harris, a Mason, was the key generator of the third degree ritual.[9]

The Genealogy of the Third Degree

When we assess the earliest, operative stonemason records of the Craft, we essentially find a rather straightforward singular ritual and ceremony.  When a man was made a Mason, after, in some instances, at least seven years of apprenticeship, he was read a legendary history of the craft.  Additionally, he was instructed to take an oath of fidelity, with his hands placed on the Bible, before he was recognized as a Fellow of the Craft or an operative Journeyman (both terms denoting a full Mason).

Based on the available evidence, we find that over time the ceremonies became more elaborate, and two degrees emerged.[10] Rooted in British culture and custom, we can find the construction of instructive questions and answers to be committed to memory, new modes of recognition, the creation of terrible pledges of trustworthiness, the communication of various lectures informed by the Bible, and the creation of various symbolic rites.

As the Craft began to change from an operative labor guild (of stone builders) into a speculative society (of moral-character builders), the ceremonies and symbolism began to change.  This gradual change was informed by the decline in palace and cathedral constructing.  It was also a reflection of the renegotiation between faith, reason and the State, rooted in the Renaissance and the Scottish Enlightenment.[11] These changes were eventually reflected in the second degree.  In time, more non-operative masons were freely “accepted” as members and began to replace/dominate the old stonemason guilds.  According to most accounts, Elias Ashmole (hermeticist, alchemist and founding member of the Royal Society) is the first Free and Accepted “speculative” (or philosophical) Mason.  In his diary, Ashmole recorded his “acceptance” into the Craft in 1646, at a tavern in Warrington, England.[12]

Eventually, the Craft changed from a two degree system in 1717 (the first degree was for Entered Apprentices and the second degree was for Masters or Fellows of the Craft) to a three degree system, securely established by 1730 (the Entered Apprentice, and the Fellow Craft degrees, with the addition of a third degree, for the Master Mason).  The latter transition from a two degree to a three degree system has been traced by recognizing that the Premier Grand Lodge of England only worked two degrees in 1717.  This can also be traced by tracking “Two early manuscripts of 1711 and 1726 (Trinity College, Dublin MS. and Graham MS.), an expose of 1723 (A Mason’s Examination), and two minutes of 1725,” indicating that a third degree was being worked.  Further, it was clearly established that three degrees were in use with the introduction of the bestselling expose of 1730, Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected.[13]

According to Dr. Harrison, “The changes in ritual, the reorganization, and the centralisation [sic] that would be administered as a result of the new Grand Lodge eventually resulted in rebellion, most notably in York and with the creation of the rival ‘Antients’ [sic] in 1751,” only to be harmonized at the Union of 1813, as the United Grand Lodge of England.[14]

Within this milieu, there are credible reports that one of the earliest depictions of the third degree was “performed as a play by an all-Masonic cast at the Philo Musicae et Architecturae Societas Apollini (Apollonian Society for Lovers of Music and Architecture) in London.”  In this original play, we find that “it dramatically told two stories: the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the death of Noah, and with his death, the loss of his ‘secret knowledge.’”[15] In a later edition of Dr. James Anderson’s Constitutions of 1738 we find that a “Noachidae was the first name of the Masons, according to some old tradition” meaning “sons of Noah.”[16] For Anderson, his legendary conception of Noah was consequential insofar as Noah “was commanded and directed of God to build the great Ark”  and that he and “his three Sons, JAPHET, SHEM, and HAM, all Masons true, brought with them over the Flood the [Masonic] Traditions and Arts of the Ante-deluvians.”[17] This ongoing transition helped to facilitate the consummation of what we now know as Blue Lodge Freemasonry.

When the third degree ritual took its final form, in light of the contemporary debate about the nature of its origins,[18] we know that the new ceremony featured a legend about a Grand Master Mason Hiram Abiff, a widow’s son—replacing, but combining many of the original elements from the Masonic legend of Noah.  Assessing the accepted legend, we essentially find a narrative featuring Grand Masters, King Solomon of Israel, King Hiram of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff, focused on the building of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.  According to one amended account, from the Masonic Scholar Brent Morris,

King Solomon organized the works by skill for work efficiency.  King Hiram furnished building supplies and workers for the Temple.  Hiram Abiff was the master builder, responsible for all of the decorations of the Temple… Three Fellowcraft Masons were impatient to receive the Master Mason word, and tried to extort it from Hiram Abiff.  He refused to reveal the secret and was murdered.  The murderers hastily buried the body of Hiram outside the city and tried to escape.  They were captured, returned to Solomon for judgment, and punished.  The body of Hiram was found and reburied in a more dignified grave.[19]

The allegorical meaning and/or allusions of the above mentioned legend are going to vary depending on the contingencies of a given evaluator.[20] Yet, if we take the recent work of Dr. Harris seriously, focused on the dispensation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers, [21] we may be able to more responsibly ascertain what influenced the generation of the third degree—the degree where some contend that the Legends of Noah and Hiram Abiff were inspired by the Legend of Osiris.

The Dispensation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers

According to Dr. David Harrison, in the text Genesis of Freemasonry, “most historians have neglected … the importance of the ritual, which was central to the history of Freemasonry and held the true meaning of the Craft.”[22] Beyond any notions about what “the true meaning of the Craft” truly is, given the challenges of circumscribing symbolic speculations, his review of the dispensation of Dr. Theophilus Desaguliers, focused on the generation of the third degree is instructive.  Assessing the work of Harrison, we clearly find that Desaguliers was “influenced by various sources.”[23]

As has already been reviewed in this text, the ritual ceremonies of Freemasonry have emerged over time.  Based on the documented evidence, the Craft first had one, two, and then three degrees of instruction—along with the proliferation of degrees in our times.  More importantly, we can say that the latter degrees mirrored the social/political worlds in which they emerged, culminating in the transformative nature of the third degree.

In the social world of early to mid 18th century Britain, we can find a renegotiation between what can be framed as Classical and Modern traditions.  This is reflected, in part, by the Classical traditions of the Bible, Stonemasons Guilds, and Esoterica (magic, alchemy, and hermeticism); and, in part, by the Early to Modern traditions of the Renaissance and the Scottish Enlightenment (rooted in Esoteric speculations, Reason and Science).[24] As such, the Classical and Modern traditions, in conflict with each other during the dispensation of Early to Modern Europe, and even in our times, found a place to lodge, symbolically in Solomon’s Temple.  Assessing the historical record, (Rev. Dr. James) Anderson and (Rev. Dr. John Theophilus) Desaguliers (both members of the Royal Society) are credited with transforming the latter conflict, playing significant roles in getting this work done through the creation of the Book of Constitutions (1723) and the generation of the third degree (1720s), respectively.  Accordingly, the historical record demonstrates that “Desaguliers, with the assistance of Anderson, reconstructed the ritual with dramatic and theatrical flare.”[25]

Further, we find that codifying third degree “ritual changes date to the early 1720s, and occur after Desaguliers visited the Lodge of Edinburgh that met at St. Mary’s Chapel.” A growing consensus of historians are contending that “elements of what was to become the Third Degree ritual were designed during this period, the changes perhaps being influenced by what Desaguliers had witnessed in the lodge in Scotland” and his collection of “Old Charges” and/or “Curious Writings.”[26]

Little is known about the life of Desaguliers.  In 1683, Desaguliers was born in France – during a time of political tumult and religious intolerance.   Eventually, his family fled to England.  It is reported that in the early 1700s he attended Oxford University, became a member, and eventual curator, of the Royal Society,[27] and “quickly penetrated [Sir. Isaac] Newton’s circle” of natural philosophers (denoting early scientists).[28] As such, we find that Desaguliers established a significant relationship with Newton, accepted as the keystone of the scientific revolution.[29] Newton was also recognized as an Esotericist in his times given his translation of The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, and his “obsession” with measuring and discovering the “occult” mysteries of Solomon’s Temple.  It is also reported that Newton became the godfather of one of Desaguliers’ children, and that Desaguliers’ “experiments even influenced some of Newton’s own ideas, such as the transmission of heat through a vacuum.”[30]

As well as being an early scientist, Desaguliers became a Reverend (and Huguenot minister) with the Church of England.  In his own life, eventually embodied in the confluence of influences on the generation of the third degree, we see that Nature’s God can be ascertained through Faith and Reason. Faith and Reason were not mutually excluded; they were essentially two different epistemologies that could be valued to secure more light.  Moreover, records indicate that he was at the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge of 1717.  In 1719, he was the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge, a position that surely solidified his place and respect in the Craft, informing the authority that he was granted to re-work the third degree.  Before he died, apparently with little pomp and ceremony in 1744, it is reported that he served as Deputy Grand Master more than once.

Focused on Desaguliers’ dispensation, and the factors that contributed to the actual generation of the third degree, we find the renegotiation between the past and his working present.  By this, we are referencing the dispensation of Desaguliers and his attempt to synthesize the Classical and Modern traditions, embodied within the third degree.

The Classical and Modern Traditions

There were a variety of streams at work during the dispensation of Desaguliers’ third degree work.  One was the Classical Tradition, informed, in part, by the Bible, Stonemasons Guilds, and Esoterica (magic, hermeticism and alchemy).  The other was the Modern Tradition, informed, in part, by all that came before it, and the light of the Renaissance and the Scottish Enlightenment.

Assessing the earliest records of the Modern Craft, Freemasonry’s Judeo-Christian foundations are clear.[31] During the dispensation of Desaguliers, Protestant England was still in flux, religiously and politically.  England was still recovering from the political and religious turmoil-warfare that followed from Henry the VIII’s decision to separate from the Church of Rome two centuries earlier.  Within this space, Freemasons wanted to establish harmony.  According to Masonic scholar Mark A. Tabbert, they “sought to avoid theological and political differences by subscribing to a viewpoint that supported a universal affirmation of man’s dependence on God, the existence of an afterlife, and the wisdom conveyed through Holy Scripture and evident in the designs of nature.” Henceforth, Masons pledged to support “that religion in which all men agree,” essentially Christianity, given the dispensation of which this passage emerged, “leaving their particular opinions to themselves.”  Thus, Freemasonry is often framed as “a brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God.”[32]

As has been reviewed, Freemasonry pulls from the operative Stonemasons Guilds of Medieval Europe.  Assessing the nature and organization of the latter guilds, the literature suggests that they were “comprised of ‘laborers,’ who wrought the stone; ‘foremen,’ who supervised the work, and ‘architects,’ who were the master overseers.”  These “Guilds oversaw a craftsman’s progress from apprentice to master, maintained the quality and ownership of the craft, and provided assistance to the brothers in time of need.”  Further, “A stonemason’s ‘lodge’ was located at the site and was the place where mason gathered, received instruction and stored their tools.”[33]

Historicizing the religious tolerance and respect for the State that we often find in the Craft, it becomes clear that it is rooted in the operative past.  On the one hand, stonemasons built cathedrals for the Church, and on the other hand they built castles for the King.  To maintain harmony, and regulate the order, the accepted history of the Craft suggests that stonemasons “drew up long lists of rules or ‘charges;’ that articulated their mythical history, established their local authority, and required the members to be faithful Christians and loyal subjects to the king.”  To keep trade secrets and acknowledge rank, “hand signs and grips” were contrived, which allowed senior craftsmen to travel to “distant job sites.”[34] As times and historical conditions changed, so too did the craft from an operative system to a speculative system, appealing to the metaphors of architecture.

During the dispensation of Desaguliers, an Esoteric tradition of magic, hermeticism and alchemy was also at work.  Often, Esoteric matters are synonymous with the occult or “sinister” issues of deliberately hidden/veiled secrets.  Allegations of “black” magic and the Craft are old.  Confronting the reality that “Freemasonry is referred to as the Craft suggests” for Harrison, “a direct link to the craft guilds of the medieval period, yet elements of the ritual and the symbolism also hint at connections with the occult and particularly with witchcraft.”[35] During Freemasonry’s formative years, allegations of “black” magic were addressed by James Anderson (Book of Constitutions, 1738) and Laurence Dermott (Ahiman Rezon, 1778).  Anderson dealt with the allegation that Masons raised “the Devil in a Circle,” and Dermott recognized that “free masons were supposed to have a power to raise the Devil,” such that people were “forbid by the clergy to use the black art.”[36]

Beyond said allegations, the work of Harrison displays some more than curious connections with the Craft and magic.  For Harrison, there are connections between the following: “The ‘casting’ or ‘drawing’ of circles” used in early rituals; “the use of candles within the ritual, lit at the opening and blown out at the close of the lodge,” is thought to be “reminiscent of magic ceremonies, assisting in developing the atmosphere of the lodge room already charged with ambience created by the display of powerful symbolism and poetical ritual;” the reality that early lodges “met once a month during the time of the full moon,” like the ancient Druids; there are suspicious links recorded in 1586 of “Noah’s son Ham being linked to the black arts,” connected “to a gruesome story of necromancy;” and the prevalence of numerology, associated with “Masonic magical numbers, such as three, five, seven and 15.”[37]

The search for “lost knowledge” was also on offer during the dispensation of Desaguliers.  This theme was captured in the practices of hermeticism and alchemy, both tracing their roots to ancient Egypt.  Those that were disposed to the latter practices were persecuted as magicians, as such, by the Catholic Church, tortured and burned at the stake, alongside the philosophers and scientists.[38]

Beyond Desaguliers, the emergence of speculative Freemasonry is fundamentally connected to esoteric matters (i.e. hermeticism and alchemy) as portrayed by the interests of Elias Ashmole (the first Free and Accepted Mason of record).  He is cited for his translation of The Hermetic Arcanum (or The secret work of the hermetic philosophy), and his defense of the Rosicrucians in the text Theatrum Chemicum Brittannicum.  According to Harrison and other sources, we find that “he was an avid student of the occult, experimenting in many forms of what was termed magic, and rigorously researched number mysticism, alchemy and astrology.”  Additionally, he was “involved in the Hermetic Arts, learning Hebrew in an attempt to further his studies in his search for lost knowledge.”  Preceding Desaguliers, we find a foundational negotiation between the Classical and Modern traditions, given that it was Ashomle’s “study of the Old Science of alchemy and astrology, which inspired him to be a founding member of the Royal Society, which in turn would be a bastion for the New Science.”[39]

During the dispensation of Desaguliers, Egypt was the eternal, attractive enigma, especially for Esotericists.[40] Egypt was thought to be “the fount of all wisdom and the stronghold of hermetic lore.”[41] However, the dispensation of Desaguliers was not unique.  The fascination with Egypt started with the Greeks; was constitutive of the legendary founding of the Craft as portrayed by the Gothic Constitutions;[42] and continues to this very day.[43] People during the dispensation of Desaguliers learned about Egypt through existent texts/translations of the Greeks, and others, which informed hermeticism and alchemy (and its “imagined” institutional perpetuation via the Rosicrucians).

Though the hieroglyphs were not deciphered until 1822 by Jean-Francois Champollion, Egypt was not a complete enigma.  Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe learned about Egypt through the works of Herodotus, Plato, Plutarch, Strabo, Diodorus, Iamblichus, Clement of Alexandra, Horapollo, Apuleius, and others; and texts like the tractate Asclepius, the Corpus Hermeticum, the Tabula Smaragdina, and the Rosicrucian text Fama Fraternitatis (The Rosicrucian Manuscripts).  The latter texts kept the image of Egypt alive for the dispensation of Desaguliers, rooted in the mythos of hermeticism and alchemy.[44]

The patron of Hermeticism is fictitious.  Hermes never existed in his many purported guises.  In the foundational text The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times, written by Egyptologist Florian Ebeling, we find that “The figure of this legendary Egyptian sage arose from the merging of two deities of highly divergent origin: the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek God Hermes.”[45]

For the Egyptians, Thoth (who the Egyptians called Tehuti) was mysteriously born in some accounts from the semen of the deities Horus and Set, containing within his being two warring elements.   Thoth was typically symbolized by an ibis, a baboon, the head of an ibis on the body of a man, or as a human sage.[46]

Figure 2: Image of Thoth[47]

Thoth had many characteristics.  In different dispensations, he was known as the deity of wisdom, inventor of writing/hieroglyphs, generator of sacred literature, superintendent of justice, inventor of the calendar, author of measurement, measurer of time, generator of rituals and sacred offerings, and inventor/practitioner of magic.[48] In Egypt’s Hellenized (or Grecian) period (circa 332 B.C.E to 30 C.E.), his magical and/or “mysterious” elements became privileged, focused on easing one’s passage to the netherworld, such that it even became inappropriate to even speak his name.[49]

After Alexander of Macedonia conquered Egypt in 332 B.C.E., Thoth became Hermes Trismegistus (thrice great), first portrayed by Akhmim in 240 C.E., though referred to as “twice great” around 570 B.C.E.[50]

Figure 3: Image of Hermes Trismegistus[51]

For the Greeks, Hermes was originally the “helpful messenger of the gods,” according to Ebeling.  He had many attributes, from the god of community to the god of oratory.  Similar to Thoth, “he conducted the souls of the dead in the netherworld… out of the shadowy realm and into the world above.”[52] When he was merged with Thoth, he took on a new legend and attributes.  He became the deity “of all wisdom, philosophy, and theology,” even teaching philosophy to the Greeks under his pseudepigrapha.[53] He also became the deity of the “Egyptian Mysteries,” though there are grounds for a “hermetic lore” being rooted in Egypt.[54]

Typically when people talk of the “Egyptian Mysteries,” they are appealing to notions of Egyptian secrets, sacred ritual, and ceremony—all attributed to Thoth. This brings us to “The Legend of Osiris,” and attendant ritual, ceremony and “mystery.”

Figure 4: Image of Horus (left), Osiris (center), and Isis/Hathor (right)[55]

Assessing the nature of the legend, we find the following amended account by the British Museum:

Osiris was the king of the earth and Isis was the queen. Osiris was a good king, and he ruled over the earth for many years. However, everything was not well. Seth [or Set/Typhon] was jealous of Osiris because he wanted to be the ruler of the earth. He grew angrier and angrier until one day he killed Osiris. Osiris went down into the underworld and Seth remained on earth and became king. Osiris and Isis had one son called Horus. Horus battled against Seth and regained the throne.  After that, Horus was the king of the earth and Osiris was the king of the underworld.[56]

Ironically, at least during the Hellenized period of Egypt, if there were any secrets, they were out.  The Legend of Osiris was public knowledge.  As such, the “Egyptian Mysteries” were not so mysterious/secret. It was dramatically/symbolically depicted by Plutarch circa 100 C.E; viewed as a public morality play and seemingly derided by the Christian Minucius Felix circa 200 C.E.; and it was referenced as a three degree initiation ritual by Apuleius circa 200 C.E., though expressed cautiously.[57] The words of Apuleius are instructive, given that his work appears to be the ancient foundation of Masonic ritual and ceremony:

Perhaps, curious reader, you may be eager to know what was then said and done [during the Mystery Initiation/s of Isis/Osiris]. I would tell you were it lawful for you to hear. But both the ears that heard those things and the tongues that told them would reap the evil results of their rashness. Still, however, kept in suspense, as you probably are, with religious longing, I will not torment you with long-protracted anxiety. Hear, therefore, but believe what is the truth. I approached the confines of death, and, having trod on the threshold of Proserpine, I returned there from, being borne through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining with its brilliant light; and I approached the presence of the gods beneath and the gods above, and stood near and worshipped them. Behold, I have related to you things of which, though heard by you, you must necessarily remain ignorant.[58]

In the passage above, we find Apuleius referencing a kind of dreadful death and “resurrection,” in this world, alluding to the immortality of the soul, in the next.  Similar textual references can be found in Egypt, when tracing the travels of the sun god Ra and the tests of his companions in the netherworld by ferryman and the guardians of the gates.[59]

Beyond ritual and ceremony, and the variety of texts that are attributed to Hermes, hermeticism was/is essentially a holistic-pantheistic philosophy, developed to communicate the following maxims: “That which is above is the same as that which is below;” and “all is part of one, or one is all.”[60] Ritual ceremonies of initiation were contrived to make this ethos dramatically experiential, in Hellenized Egypt.  Accordingly, this was the knowledge that was lost, which needed to be found.  Informed by this “lost knowledge,” Ashmole, Newton (alchemist and purported Rosicrucian), Desaguliers and others in their dispensation, in the midst of the tensions between faith, reason and the State, would endeavor to recover and reconstruct the foundations for the idea that that there needn’t be any “false” distinctions between Man, Earth, and Cosmos.  All is One, Spirit/Light.

Alchemy, rooted in spiritual transformation, through the metaphor of turning base metals into gold, is also traced to Egypt.  It is important to account for given its practice during the dispensation of Desaguliers.[61] According to the literature, it appears that alchemy “first flourished in Hellenistic Egypt in the first century.” It is an amalgamation of various philosophies, like the naturalist philosophy of Aristotle, the tenants of Stoicism, Gnostic doctrine, Babylonian astrological lore, “and motifs from Egyptian mythology, particularly the myth of Osiris.”[62] The first recorded alchemical text is attributed to Zosimus.  Valuing the hermetic doctrine, we find Zosimus communicating the following ethos:

In his Book on Immateriality, Hermes rejects magic [in opposition to Zoroaster] and says: ‘Pneumatic man, who has known himself, must neither achieve anything whatsoever with the help of magic, even if it is generally useful, nor must he defy necessity, but allow it to act according to its nature and its will.  And he must now allow himself to be distracted along the way from his search for himself, to know God, and to understand the ineffable Trinity; and he must leave the filth subjected to him, that is, the body to Destiny, to do with it what it will.’[63]

Later in the aforementioned text, laboratory experiments are on display for transforming base metals into finer substances.  “But the spiritual side of alchemy predominates,” ultimately citing “the authority of Hermes Trismegistus.”  As such, chemical metaphors are used to allude to “knowledge of self, God and nature.”[64]

The latter realities were brought together, informed by the Scottish Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Century, rooted in the Renaissance.  The Renaissance, French for “rebirth,” was a period where Europe was effectively raised from the Dark Ages, imposed by ignorance, superstition and fear,[65] into the light of the ancient world, as preserved by the Monastery,[66] and the Moors from North Africa.[67] It was at once a dispensation where “artistic, social, scientific, and political thought turned in new directions.”[68]

In Eric Hornung’s text The Secret Lore of Egypt we find that the Renaissance becomes important because this renewed “encounter with Greek literature [e.g. Plutarch, Diodorus and Iamblichus], particularly in the framework of the Platonic Academy in Florence, awakened fresh interest in the classical accounts of Egypt and its superior wisdom.”  Similarly, “There was a special focus on late antiquity, an epoch that was thoroughly imbued with Egypt, while classical antiquity remained in the shadows.”[69] Overtime, “Renaissance Hermeticism quickly spread to England, where Thomas More wrote a biography of Pico della Mirandola and depicted a religion with expressly Hermetic traits in this Utopia (1516) and also propagated the idea of religious freedom.”[70] These ideas were also foundationally advanced, and re-imagined in England, through the New Atlantis (1626) by Francis Bacon.[71]

Rosicrucianism, rooted in Renaissance Hermeticism and alchemy, would also “spread to England,” committed to the “idea of religious freedom,” captured in the text Fama Fraternitatis. Though the founder (Christian Rosenkreutz) and the beginning of the order appear to be legendary, the following is clear about the Rosicrucians, for the purposes of this research: they emerged in the beginning of the 17th century; they are rooted in hermeticism and alchemy; they trace their legendary roots back to ancient Egypt; and according to the illuminating work of Hornung, “The New Order proved to be attractive to many Freemasons,” especially informed by their religious tolerance.[72]

“During the religious and political wars that spread throughout Western Europe in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, intellectuals, artists, scientists and theologians were often forced to relocate in search of safety,” according to Tabbert.  Britain became the destiny, in part, and “public taverns and coffeehouses became popular places for cultured gentlemen to gather for intelligent and social discourse.”[73] This is the dispensation where men like “Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton and Elias Ashmole” got together to found the Royal Society, practice natural philosophy and “discover ways to gain personal improvement, bring order to society and understand the whole Universe,” in concert with faith.[74]

Figure 5: Image of King Solomon’s Temple[75]

The various elements that made up the Classical and Modern traditions came together in the biblical depiction of King Solomon’s Temple (I Kings and 2 Chronicles) for Desaguliers (and Anderson).  During the dispensation of Desaguliers, many natural philosophers published treatises on its nature.  It was contended by the likes of Newton, and others, that “the Temple’s architecture and ornaments held mathematical and geometrical keys to understanding the Nature of God and His creation.”[76] Accordingly, Faith and Reason would be brought together for Desaguliers in the third degree ritual.  Today, Solomon’s Temple is used as a symbol to unify the Craft, rooted in the Classical and Modern traditions, Faith and Reason.


Accosting the permissive suggestion of Bro. Watkins, that “sufficient evidence” was essentially at hand for an African Origins of Freemasonry, by displaying various figures from Egypt next to “similar” figures peculiar to members of the Craft, this researcher sought to create a more responsible framework to answer the question: Is there an African Origin of Freemasonry? Consequently, Three Stations of circumambulation were created for negotiation, (1) The Secret History Station, (2) The Generation of the Ritual Station, and (3) The Egyptian Meaning Station.

In this paper, “The Generation of the Ritual Station” was assessed.  It was reviewed focused on tracing the generation of the third degree, in light of the purported similarities between the Legend of Hiram Abiff and the Legend of the Egyptian deity Osiris, as originally portrayed by the Greek, Plutarch.   Establishing what can count as “sufficient evidence” for said question was the charge, beyond gross speculations. As such, the genealogy of the third degree was traced; and the dispensation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers was reviewed.

Upon reviewing the genealogy of the third degree, we found that it slowly emerged in Medieval Europe, from an operative one degree stonemason’s guild, to a speculative three degree system.  Upon reviewing the dispensation of Desaguliers, we found that a variety of streams were at work.   One was the Classical Tradition, informed, in part, by the Bible, Stonemason’s Guilds, and Esoterica (magic, hermeticism and alchemy).  The other was the Modern Tradition, informed, in part, by all that came before it, and the light of the Renaissance and the Scottish Enlightenment.

In light of the above, we can conclude the following on the problem of the African Origin of Freemasonry, upon our encounter with “The Generation of the Ritual Station”:

  • There is no “smoking gun” for a direct or clearly conscious connection for Desaguliers’ third degree work and the Legend of Osiris.

Nevertheless, based on “sufficient evidence,” we can conclude the following:

  • The oldest recorded “resurrection” narrative is traced to Egypt, per Osiris.[77]
  • The Western fascination and legendary depictions of Egypt started with the Greeks.[78]
  • The oldest Freemasonic document of record, the Regius Manuscript, traces its legendary founding to Egypt.[79]
  • Esotericism (magic, hermeticism and alchemy) interested early speculative Masons like Elias Ashmole, the first Free and Accepted Mason of record (demonstrated by his translation of The Hermetic Arcanum, and his defense of the Rosicrucians in the text Theatrum Chimicum Britannicum),[80] and Desaguliers (as portrayed by the iterations of the third degree ritual and Desaguliers’ close relationship with the esotericist and scientist Sir Isaac Newton).[81]
  • Hermeticism and alchemy trace their foundations to ancient Egypt.[82]
  • During the dispensation of Desaguliers and Anderson, there were a variety of texts in existence traced to the Greco-Roman Period (e.g. Plutarch, Diodorus, Apuleius, Iamblichus), and others (like the tractate Asclepius, the Corpus Hermeticum, the Tabula Smaragdina, and the Rosicrucian text Fama Fraternitatis), that depicted various (legendary/mythical) conceptions of Egypt.[83]
  • In the 17th century, the Rosicrucians, rooted in esoteric-Egyptian lore, proved to be attractive to many Freemasons.[84]
  • Freemasons, along with many others, are still fascinated with Egypt.

Though disturbed, there are two more stations to cross if we want to secure More Light, focused on the problem of the African/Egyptian Origins of Freemasonry.


[1] See Dr. Adrian Taylor, “Accosting the African Origins of Freemasonry, and Beyond,” in The Phylaxis (Volume 36, Number 4, Winter 2009).

[2] See Taylor, “Accosting the African Origins of Freemasonry, and Beyond” for a reference to Lanier A. Watkins text “Origins, 1717 or Antiquity?”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] For a representative text, see Albert G. Mackey, “The Ancient Mysteries” (1882) in The Symbolism of Freemasonry (Forgotten Books, 2008).

[6] See Plutarch, “Isis and Osiris” in Plutarch: Moralia, Volume VII (Loeb Classic No. 306), (Massachusetts: Loeb Classic Library, 1936).

[7] See Christopher Hodapp, “Appendix A: The Regius Manuscript” in Freemasons for Dummies (New Jersey: For Dummies, 2005).

[8] See Mackey.  Also, see Russell R. Boedeker’s review of the matter “Albert Pike: Trilogy of Thoughts” (Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, September 15, 2007) http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/albert_pike.html (November 28, 2009).

[9] See David Harrison, The Genesis of Freemasonry (Hersham, Surrey KT12 4RG: Ian Allan Publishing, 2009).

[10] Hodapp, 119.

[11] See Melvyn Bragg, “Scottish Enlightenment” (BBC Radio 4, History, In Our Time, December 5, 2002) http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20021205.shtml (accessed January 6, 2010).

[12] Harrison, 14.

[13] See S. Brent Morris, The Complete Idiots Guide to Freemasonry (New York: Alpha, 2006), 22.

[14] Harrison, 10.

[15] Hodapp, 121

[16] Harrison, 123.

[17] See James Anderson, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734), (Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006) http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/history/anderson/1734.pdf (accessed November 29, 2009), 7 of 51.

[18] Morris, 11.

[19] Ibid., 12.

[20] The meaning of the third degree ritual resurrection takes on a variety of different meanings, from faith in one’s word, the raising of Lazarus or Elijah, the eternal quest to find lost ancient/secret wisdom, the death and Resurrection of Christ, the dismembering and reassembling of Osiris, the immortality of the soul, the illusion of death, to the cycles of death and rebirth in nature itself, and beyond.

[21] See Erik Hornung (translated from German by David Lorton) The Secret Lore of Egypt (New York: Cornell University Press, 2001).

[22] Harrison, 201.

[23] Ibid., 120.

[24] Ibid., 112.

[25] Ibid., 117.

[26] Ibid., 113 – 114.

[27] See Melvyn Bragg, “The Royal Society” (BBC Radio 4, History, In Our Time, January 4th and 5th 2010) http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime.shtml (accessed January 6, 2010).

[28] Ibid., 126.

[29] See Dr. Robert A. Hatch, “Sir Isaac Newton” (The Scientific Revolution Homepage, 1998) http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/rhatch/pages/01-Courses/current-courses/08sr-newton.htm (accessed November 28, 2009).

[30] Harrison, 126.

[31] See Anderson’s, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734) for a prime example of the Judeo-Christian roots of the Craft.  In his text he frames the history-genealogy of Masonry squarely within the Biblical tradition.

[32] See Mark A. Tabbert, American Freemasons (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 18.

[33] Tabbert, 18 – 19.

[34] Tabbert, 19.

[35] Harrison, 49.

[36] Ibid., 49 – 50.

[37] Ibid., 48 – 54.

[38] Hornung, 90 – 91.

[39] Harrison, 25.

[40] See Hornung’s “Introduction.”  And see Jan Assmann’s “Forward” in Florian Ebeling’s text (translated by Florian Ebeling) The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus (New York: Cornell University Press, 2007).

[41] Hornung, 1.

[42] See Hodapp.

[43] To view how Egyptologists account for an Afrocentric conception of ancient Egypt, see Hornung’s chapter “18. Egypt à la Mode: Modern Egytosophy and Afrocentrism.”

[44] See Ebeling and Hornung.

[45] Ebeling, 3.

[46] Hornung, 6.

[47] See “Tehuti/Thoth” (Google Images, 2009) http://www.hyperflight.com/images/thoth.jpeg.jpg (November 28, 2009).

[48] Hornung, 9.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 9 – 10.

[51] See “Hermes Trismegistus” (Google Images, 2009) http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/jpg/trismegistus.jpeg (November 28, 2009).

[52] Ebeling, 4 – 5.

[53] Ibid., 6 – 7.

[54] See Hornung, “1. The Ancient Roots of the ‘Other’ Egypt.”

[55] See “Horus, Osiris, and Isis” (Google Images, 2009) http://www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/images/206.jpg (accessed November 28, 2009).

[56] See “Story” focused on “Ancient Egypt” (The British Museum, 1999)  http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/gods/story/page8.html (accessed November 28, 2009).

[57] Hornung, 13.

[58] For a summary of this passage see Hornung, 14.  See P.G. Walsh, Apuleius: The Golden Ass (Translated With Introduction and Explanatory Notes.), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

[59] Hornung, 14 – 15.

[60] Ibid., 14.

[61] See Ebeling’s chapter entry “Prehistory and Early History of a Phantasm” focused on section “4. Hermes: Astrologer, Magus, and Alchemist.”

[62] Ibid., 25.

[63] Ibid., 26.

[64] Ibid., 27.

[65] See The Dark Ages (The History Channel: DVD), (A&E Home Video, 2007).

[66] Tabbert, 16 – 17.

[67] See Ivan Van Sertima, The Golden Age of the Moor (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1991).

[68] See “Renaissance” (Annenberg Media, 2009) http://www.learner.org/interactives/renaissance/index.html (accessed November 28, 2009).

[69] Hornung, 83.

[70] Ibid., 88.

[71] See the text edited by Michael R. Poll, “New Atlantis” by Francis Bacon, in Collected Rosicrucian Thought (Louisiana: Cornerstone Book, 2007).

[72] See Hornung, “13. ‘Reformation of the Whole Wide World’: The Rosicrucians.”

[73] Tabbert, 20.

[74] Ibid., 20.

[75] See “Solomon’s Temple” (Google Images, 2009) http://sacredsymbolic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/solomons_temple_jerusalem.jpg (accessed November 29, 2009).

[76] Ibid., 23.

[77] See Plutarch.

[78] See Hornung, “2. Foreign Wonderland of the Nile: The Greek Writers.”

[79] See Hodapp, “Appendix A: The Regius Manuscript.”

[80] See Harrison, 25.

[81] See Harrison, “Freemasonry in Flux: Desaguliers, the Masonic Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Freemasonry.”

[82] See Ebeling, “I. Prehistory and Early History of a Phantasm.”

[83] See Ebeling, 25, 28, 33, 37 – 40, 50 – 51, 57, 76, 84 – 85, 89, 99, and 105 – 106.  Also see Hornung, 12, 20 – 22, 53, 84 – 85, 93, 103, and 118 – 121.

[84] See Hornung, “13. ‘Reformation of the Whole Wide World’: The Rosicrucians.”

The Unlodged Mason

empty churchBack in November, my good friend and Brother Frederic Milliken wrote an article entitled Message to the Unlodged Mason. In the article, Fred discussed the importance of attending lodge and the advantages of having personal interaction with other Freemasons. I generally agree with Fred’s conclusion on this subject and believe that that attending lodge functions is essential to the Masonic experience, but I also can identify with the plight of what Fred calls the unlodged Mason.

Fred correctly compares the unlodged Mason to the Christian that does not attend church. This is a fair comparison because it is my opinion that the purpose and structure of Masonry is much more similar to that of a religious organization than that of a community organization. So why do some Christians not attend church? Many Christians do not attend church because the goals of the church may not match the goals of the worshiper. Some churches have an all or nothing approach to dogma and require that you agree with the church’s opinion on every matter. Other churches continually ask for more and more out of their volunteers which eventually sucks all of the enthusiasm out of the those in the congregation that offer their time and resources. Then, there are also those worshipers that attend service or Bible study searching for answers to their complex questions about spirituality and that constantly receive replies that are either not straightforward or that sidestep the question all together. This constant cycle of a church not aligning with the individual worshiper’s values, requiring him to over-commit to the organization, and not providing him with the spiritual knowledge he seeks results in the Christian walking away from the congregation.

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what occurs in our Masonic lodges as well. Numerous individual Masons have been turned away from the lodge because he brought new ideas to the assembly and was told that “this isn’t how we’ve done it before.” Lodges often volunteer their young, enthusiastic members for every task which inevitably interferes with that member’s family and vocational responsibilities. Finally, many men come to the Masonic lodge looking for a method of self improvement and enlightenment and find an organization that neglects education almost entirely.

Freemasonry often plays a big role in the lives of unlodged Masons. I have personally met many Masons who don’t attend lodge that have noticed my ring. They are always excited to interact with another Mason and often mention how important the fraternity is to them. Other unlodged Masons are avid Masonic researchers. Still others would gladly come back to the lodge if they felt that they would not be compelled to volunteer for every single lodge function and constantly put the lodge first in their lives.

It is also important to note that the lodge is not always at fault for each individual Mason that does not attend lodge. Some Masons have unrealistic expectations of the fraternity, others probably should have never joined, and there are those that just don’t feel like going. For some reason, these men continue to pay their dues, but they are just not interested in interacting with their assemblies. However, our lodges can and should work to make functions more attractive to those that do not attend lodge for the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. Our lodges should not do this for the sake of the organization, but for the sake of those individual Brothers because they do need real, personal Masonic interaction.

If our lodges accept and tolerate individual opinions and values, if we expect a reasonable amount of involvement from our members, and if we offer the spiritual and moral enlightenment that our Brothers seek, our unlodged Masons are much more likely to start attending lodge. With a wider variety of Brothers, the beautiful Masonic tapestry will be enhanced and become even more colorful. Like Brother Fred wrote in his article: there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Franz Bardon, mystic, Hermetic, biography

The Unknown Elementalist Franz Bardon

by Br. Martin Faulks.

Franz Bardon

He is one of the most important but least known magicians and spiritual teachers of the Twentieth Century. He published a complete path of spiritual and magical development that is completely based off the four elements and stands beyond any tradition. Known only through the four books he wrote which were published in the 1950’s and through the writing of his students. Many have borrowed his techniques and terminology without giving him proper credit, indeed no matter what tradition you follow the chances are you are practicing at least one exercise from Franz Bardon’s first book “Initiation Into Hermetics.”

Who was Franz Bardon?

Unlike most “Magus” of the time, Bardon seemed far more interested in producing something of value than he did in trying to create a legend about himself. Indeed unlike a few other authors that could be mentioned he hardly ever mentions himself in any of his works. To find more about Franz Bardon we need to read the accounts of his life left by others. Our two main sources are Frabato the Magican an occult novel/biography or Franz Bardon written by his secretary Otti Votavova and Memories of Franz Bardon by his son Lumir and his student Dr M.K. Though the two accounts do have some contradictions they all agree on the following.

Franz Bardon was the oldest of 13 children, and the only son of a very devout Christian mystic, Viktor Bardon. Viktor felt that he was unable to obtain his spiritual goals and prayed that he receive this blessing. The story is that a sudden change came over his son. His parents and teachers become amazed by the sudden change as the boy developed a calm and wise temperament over night. An advanced soul entered the body of his son Franz to become Viktor’s spiritual teacher.

We are told nothing more about Bardon until he is an adult when he makes a living as stage magician with a twist! Under the stage name Frabato (Franz Bardon- Troppau-Opava) we are given accounts of his performance in which he demonstrated genuine magical abilities where most stage magicians use tricks. The reading of minds, healing, astral projection,Mind control, levitation and much more. A little research assured me that Bardon did indeed gain some fame in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s under the stage name “Frabato”

A Life of Persecution

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party gained power in the 1930’s occultists and spiritual groups were banned. Gipsies and Freemasons were taken to the concentration camps along with the Jews. In occupied country followers of the old ways were hunted down.

Otti Votavova states that Hitler belonged to the legendary “FOCG” or “99 Lodge” of black magicians, described in Frabato The Magician. In both accounts we hear of the attempts of this organisation to bring Franz Bardon into their fold and the eventual magical battle that ensures. Bardon however is eventually arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in late 1941 along with one of his students. While the prisoners were being whipped, the disciple lost his control and uttered a kabbalistic formula to immobilize the torturers. However, the effects of the formula eventually wore off and the disciple was shot in revenge. When he refused to help them, the Nazis cruelly tortured Bardon. Among other things, they performed operations without anesthesia, and forged iron rings around his ankles and fixed heavy iron balls to them.

After regaining his freedom, Bardon recommenced his occult work and healing. This type of thing was strongly discouraged in the very repressive political climate of post war Czechoslovakia and indeed it turns out that the new Russian Communist ideologies persecuted free-thinkers, Gypsies, Jews, and anyone interested in the occult or esoteric subjects as efficiently as the former Nazi Rulers. In 1958 Bardon was arrested by the communist government for his occult practices and died the same year under mysterious circumstances.

Franz Bardon’s Teachings

Bardon’s works are most notable for their simplicity, their relatively small theoretical sections, and heavy emphasis on practice. Franz Bardon is of the old school of occult thought. To him we are dealing with real spiritual forces that you can learn with practice to draw into yourself and control, direct and condense. In his books you will find instruction on all magical exercises Talismans, astral projection, mediation, control of the elements, concentration, mind reading, self hypnosis, spirit summoning, magical words and gestures, healing, clairvoyance meditation/mental control, refining and balancing of the spirit, control of the elemental powers, conversation with unseen beings, astral projection, scrying, invocation of higher forces, invisibility, construction of talismans, fluid condensers, creation of elemental beings, magical pictures, loading and protecting a room/space and much much more. The whole course is completely based on the Four elements and directed towards physically tangible results. One thing that makes an enduring impression is Bardon’s evident sincerity. He insists frequently that he is doing as much as possible to transmit a system of occult development to the serious student who is either unable to find a teacher or work in a group. .His stated purpose was to give the serious student of magic the most complete and best possible magickal instruction obtainable outside of an occult lodge and without the benefit of a personal teacher.

Did he succeed? The only way to judge is by trying his curriculum yourself.

Books by or about Franz Bardon

Initiation into Hermetics By Franz Bardon Published by Merkur Publishing

The Practice of Magical Evocation By Franz Bardon Published by Merkur Publishing

The Key to the True Kabbalah By Franz Bardon Published by Merkur Publishing

Questions to the Master By Franz Bardon Published by Merkur Publishing

Memories of Franz Bardon By Lumir Bardon and Dr M.K Published by Merkur Publishing

Frabato the Magician By Otti Votavova Published by Merkur Publishing

A Bardon Companion: Commentary Upon Franz Bardon’s Books By Rawn Clark Published by O2

Secret Of The Masons: It's Not So Secret

NPR Highlights New Masons

Rachel Martin of NPR files this story about contemporary Freemasonry. Similar in tone to the famous LA Times story of 2008, the story highlights the new generation of masons and show them in a favorable light.  Both stories emphasize new – that is 21st century – Masonry, where the Flintstone-esque attraction of Lodge Night replete with outrageous hats and grandiose titles is replaced by something more esoteric – an inward quest for self-awareness.  And high time, too.

Still, there seems a basic lack of understanding by people outside our mystic circle that to me seems curious.  Mark Tabbert, for instance, who is quoted in the article, is listed as a Massachusetts Grand Master, by the author, who clearly is confusing Mark’s “Masonic super-hero” alter ego with an altogether different heroic Grand Master.

But all kidding aside, Tabbert’s thoughts are right on the money. He says,

In the quest to be larger and to do more good and to have more fun, [Freemasonry] let in a lot more people, and it dropped the standards of the fraternity.

He says the current renewed interest in Freemasonry has brought in men who take a more serious approach to the ritual than older generations did, and who want to tighten initiation standards and raise dues. But he says the fraternity must watch out for men who sign up because of misguided theories linking Freemasonry to “divine secrets.”

Once you get through the romanticism of a quest that doesn’t exist, or foolishness about the Knights Templar or the Arc of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, you find out that there actually is a quest,” Tabbert says. “And the quest is the inner journey, the self improvement, to be useful in society and improve yourself.

NPR can’t bring itself to completely ditch the Templar treasure/ Holy Grail story line, though:  “While the Masons may not have any big secrets, they do have treasures – including the gavel that George Washington used to hammer in the cornerstone on the Capitol building in 1793…. It’s one of the most treasured Masonic artifacts, guarded by a lodge in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C.” [emphasis added] which makes it sound like it’s watched over by two giant Anubis-headed warriors like in Night of the Museum. And who knows – maybe it is and they were just gone the day I saw it.

On the whole, however, the article is a positive take on the Craft and will – undoubtedly – generate some interest.

Originally posted under audevidetace

vintage sanka ad

Always Been Good Enough – The Emblematical Instant Coffee of Refreshment

vintage sanka adA budget debate in Excelsior Lodge focused on memorial contributions for deceased brethren.  In the jurisdiction, it is customary for Lodges to remit a nominal amount as a memorial contribution to the state-wide Masonic charity, and I may reliably report that since time immemorial, that amount has been ten dollars.  I know this because several brethren of Excelsior Lodge have been Masons since time immemorial ;  one of them – Roy Mantooth —  was even Past-Master of Antediluvian Lodge No. 1, before he transferred, and his membership number, barely visible on his faded dues card, is four.

You read that right: Four.

Mine is 127598.  His is 4.

So the story goes, when they decided they ought to assign membership numbers, Solomon took number one, then Hiram King of Tyre, then the other Hiram, and then Mantooth because he was the one who always filled the coffee pot. With Sanka.   Anyway – so since forever Excelsior Lodge has sent ten dollars as a memorial, until this year’s  sitting master – a dangerous and revolutionary firebrand, not to mention a financial daredevil  – decided to make the contribution twenty-five dollars and chaos ensued.

As discontent is concerned, it was pretty mild, like most things Masonic. No shouting or anything (that’s for The Elks, or worse: The Eagles). No, it was more like watching dandelions taking over your garden, slow, inexorable, and not really noticeable, but you wake up one morning and think,  wow – where’d all those weeds come from?  But like discontent everywhere, it was deeply rooted.

“We need to lower that memorial contribution back down to ten dollars,” Mantooth was saying in his forceful manner, “it’s been ten dollars since I’ve been here and that’s always been good enough in the past.”

Always been good enough in the past.  You run into this sentiment a lot in Masonry.  In fact, I think it’s a Masonic motto: Is est satis pro habenae opus. A few nods from some of the older fellows and Mantooth started gathering more steam, “ I mean, if we were going to send flowers to the funeral – instead of sending a memorial to the Charity – we wouldn’t spend more than ten dollars, anyway…”

To be fair, Mantooth is not a florist, but one of the younger fellows piped up at that, saying  “that would be a pretty lame bunch of flowers for ten bucks,” but  it didn’t register.

And the problem is, it usually doesn’t register, because the divide between the older and younger members is very deep.  We’ve all noticed them in a hundred small ways – the emblematical instant coffee, for example, which, with a plate of day-old snickerdoodles from Albertson’s, is the Alpha and Omega of a typical Masonic fête.  Our meetings are slack, our regalia tattered, and our dress codes are either from 1974, or would shock the staff at the City Rescue Mission, take your pick. But more alarmingly, our lodge halls are crumbling.  In some halls this occurs because the members have fled the instant coffee for the latte house, but in others it comes not from penury but from pure parsimony, and heaven help the master who suggests raising dues.

These are all symptoms of  doing Masonry on the cheap, and its effects are insidious.  It means not paying proper attention to good form because it’s easier not to, and it means that the way things were in the past is not only good enough now, but for the foreseeable future.  This is why members think that flowers still cost ten dollars, that instant coffee is an elixir, and that red Bee Gees jackets present the image of the fraternity that will attract members in the critical 25 – 40 age group.  Because it’s always been good enough; no further analysis required.  If the goal of the fraternity was to rival the AARP in members over 65, we’d be in fine shape.

If not, it’s time to unplug the percolator. Go digital instead of analog.

I don’t pretend knowing how to pry the dead hand of the past off the steering wheel, but a good place to start is your officer line, you incoming masters.  Pack that sucker as full of young brethren as possible, giving yourself a coterie of men who share your priorities and who can withstand the insistence that the old way is the only way. With a young line, you still might have an antediluvian secretary (or treasurer), but with no voting bloc of his own, that’s a majority of one. Too often, the young men are sidelined because they don’t know the work, or because the master wants “seasoned” brethren in line to help him out.  This can be helpful in the short term, but it will defer our younger members assuming the mantle of leadership for as long as it continues.

And if you hate Sanka as much as I do – the sooner you start, the better.

This was originally published under audevidetace

emblem of industry

Landmarks And Liabilities

Scottish rite, freemasonry, education, brent morris

Mackey’s notorious list and its impact on Maryland Masonry. Originally published in The Philalethes Magazine, vol. 44, no. 3, June 1991 authored by S. Brent Morris

A mushroom may grow ever so tall, on a boundary line or at a corner, but it will never be mistaken for a landmark
Albert Pike on Mackey’s “Landmarks”[1]

Freemasonry in Maryland, as in the rest of the world, is changing. This is a continuing process that began in 1717 at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London when four lodges made a radical innovation on the body of Masonry and created the office of Grand Master, an office that prior to that date had been only legendary. The additions, corrections, and elaborations to our Craft have come in fits and spurts since then, and we should not be so naïve to think that our Grand Lodge is immune. What is needed to face the challenges of change is an openness of mind and a flexibility of procedures.

Maryland Masonry is fortunate that its leaders have had minds open to the evolving needs of the Craft. They have laid a solid foundation on which the Grand Lodge has set goals, established programs, and disseminated the tenets of our profession. However, there is a grave danger that we are losing our flexibility of procedures which will be so essentially necessary for our survival in the twenty-first century.

At the 1989 Semiannual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, we witnessed the elimination of informed debate on several potentially vital pieces of legislation and the disenfranchisement of the representatives of the subordinate Lodges. This disregard for democratic principles was not part of a conspiracy nor planned with malice, but rather it sadly followed from a strict application of Mackey’s so-called “Landmarks of Freemasonry.” These twenty-five platitudes never have been adopted formally by the Grand Lodge of Maryland, but they threaten to become liabilities through a rigid interpretation.

Albert Galatin Mackey is one of the best-known American authors on Freemasonry. What is less well-known is that his creative genius often overshadowed his quest for historical accuracy and truth. In 1858, Mackey invented his list and foisted it upon an unsuspecting American Craft. Soon after there was a headlong rush by “scholars” to create lists of Landmarks and thus fill in what they perceived as a nagging gap in Masonic tradition. Right behind these creative writers came the Grand Lodges, each trying to outdo the other in adopting the “true” list of fundamental Landmarks of Freemasonry.

These enterprises resulted in nothing less than confusion in the temple. Of the American Grand Lodges, thirteen have adopted no formal list, five rely upon the Old Charges, ten have produced their own lists (ranging from seven to thirty-nine Landmarks), eight use Mackey by custom, and only thirteen have formally adopted his tabulation.[2] The United Grand Lodge of England, the source and origin of all Freemasonry, has never seen fit to adopt any formal enumeration and in particular has never endorsed Mackey’s list, and our English Brethren seem none the worse for it.

Where in all of this does the Grand Lodge of Maryland stand?—somewhere between using Mackey by custom and by formal adoption. In November, 1939, R.W. Harry C. Mueller, Grand Secretary wrote that “Maryland has included in its Code Mackey’s twenty-five Landmarks. By the adoption of this Code we feel that the twenty-five Landmarks in their entirety were adopted also, although there was no specific mention made of this, nor has there been at any time.”[3]

Thus the foundation of Masonic Jurisprudence in Maryland has never been formally adopted!

Isn’t the simplest solution to formally adopt Mackey’s product and to be done with it? That would easily solve the problem F the status of Mackey’s landmarks in Maryland, but like most simple-minded solutions, it’s more wrong than right. There is a naïve satisfaction in having an absolute list of guiding principles, and a childlike comfort in being able to assert, “These constitute the Landmarks … in which it is not in the power of any man, or body men, to make the least innovation.”[4] However, naïve satisfaction and childlike comfort should not be the guiding forces of Maryland Freemasonry as it prepares to face the rigors of the twenty-first century.

To begin with, Mackey was simply wrong. Some of his so-called “Landmarks” are universally agreed upon, but most are just creatures of his fertile imagination. Albert Pike’s scathing denunciation of Mackey’s concoction stands as the damning opinion of contemporary scholar, and Pike was not alone in his condemnation. No serious student of Freemasonry has accepted Mackey’s 1858 list in its entirety, nor have more than thirteen Grand Lodges. “So far as known, no Grand Lodge outside the United States has ever adopted any list of landmarks.…”[5] Even a partial list of those disagreeing with Mackey provides a Who’s Who of Masonic scholarship.

Some Masonic Scholars Disagreeing With Mackey’s Landmarks:

  • 1856, Rob Moms, Past Grand Master, Kentucky
  • 1858, J. W. S. Mitchell, Past Grand Master, Missouri
  • 1885, Robert Freke Gould, Past Master Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
  • 1888, Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander. Southern Jurisdiction
  • 1910, George Fleming Moore, Sovereign Grand Commander, Southern Jurisdiction
  • 1919, Roscoe Pound, Dean, Faculty of Law in Harvard University
  • 1923, Joseph D. Evans, Past Grand Master, New York
  • 1924, Melvin M. Johnson. Past Grand Master, Massachusetts
  • 1931, E. W. Timberlake, Jr., Past Grand Mater, North Carolina
  • 1961, Henry Wilson Coil, Fellow of the Philalethes Society
  • 1973, Dwight L. Smith, Past Grand Master, Indiana

A Landmark should be something so fundamental, so basic to the fabric of Freemasonry, that any deviation merits immediate condemnation. Mackey’s creation fails this test rather miserably. There is no reason to analyze each of his landmarks; a few particulars should suffice. For example, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina not only does not recognize the prerogative of a Grand Master to make Masons at sight (Mackey’s Landmark 8), but also does not recognize any Mason made by this method, regardless of whether he may belong to a regularly chartered Lodge. Yet we still maintain fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Several of the regular European Grand Lodges we recognize use a Grand Masonic Word different from Maryland, thus effectively negating the Mackey’s first landmark, the modes of recognition.

Freemasonry recently has come under increasingly vicious attacks from narrow-minded religionists. One of the frequent accusations made against our gentle Craft is that we are a “secret society” with all of the vague connotations of unknown evil that charge carries. Maryland has wrestled with this problem and has tried to solve it with our rather awkwardly worded Standing Resolution No. 8, which says in part “that our Order is not a secret one in the sense that everything that goes on in the Lodge room may never be revealed; rather it is an Order which has certain secrets which we do not share with the world outside these doors.”[6]

This is all fine and good, but Mackey’s Twenty-third Landmark states in simple, plain language, “Freemasonry is a secret society.” If we adopt Mackey’s invention, then we are declaring to the world that we are indeed a secret society (despite our waffling resolutions to the contrary). If we are not a secret society, then Landmark 23 of Mackey is not a Landmark of Maryland.

The Grand Lodge of Maryland presents another paradox on the one hand we acknowledge by custom Mackey’s Landmark 14, “the right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge.” On the other hand we ignore this clear, absolute right and allow only the privilege of visitation. A Brother visiting a Maryland Lodge may be denied admission if any member of that Lodge personally demands it. In fact, Maryland’s deviation from this “landmark” has earned us special condemnation in Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence, as an offensive example of a “very contracted view of the universality of Freemasonry.…”[7]

At the 1989 Semiannual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, an amendment to the Constitution was proposed that would have allowed subordinate lodges to conduct normal business in the first degree. The Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence carefully considered the matter, adhered faithfully to Mackey’s landmarks, and made the straightforward decision that “the proposed Amendment … would violate the Landmarks of Freemasonry and Masonic history and tradition.”[8] This inescapable conclusion that the committee reached by following Mackey’s authority is logically precise and historically wrong. On May 18, 1842, the Grand Lodge of Maryland “Resolved, That all the business of a Lodge, except that of conferring the inferior degrees, and the instruction therein, should be transacted in a Master Mason’s Lodge.”[9]

In other words, from 1749 to 1842, every Lodge in Maryland conducted its business on the first degree—in violation of Mackey’s landmarks and Masonic history and tradition! How is it possible that our first ninety-three years of Masonic activity violated the Landmarks of Freemasonry and Masonic history and tradition? For that matter, what does this say about the United Grand Lodge of England, whose Lodges have never stopped meeting on the first degree? These contradictions are possible only if Mackey’s inventive list is given official status in Maryland, and we abandon our original history and customs.

Finally, there is the example of the recently aborted attempt to provide checks and balances upon the powers of the Grand Master of Maryland. The argument which prevented the amendments from even being discussed was that Mackey’s so- called landmarks do not allow the Grand Lodge to limit the authority of the Grand Master. Mackey states with his usual authoritative tone that Grand Masters and Grand Lodges are “coeval” (a highfalutin word that means “of equal antiquity”). However, there is no foundation in fact—only in modern Masonic ritual—that Grand Lodges or Grand Masters existed before that historic 1717 meeting in London.

These lofty, theoretical arguments overlook a fundamental problem: if the Grand Lodge cannot limit the powers of the Grand Master, how did we get the limitations we now have? Perhaps the Grand Architect Himself ordained the requirement that the Grand Lodge has to approve edicts of the Grand Master for them to remain in force? The powers of the Grand Master spring from the consent of the lodges he governs, and they can modify his powers whenever or however they see fit.

The fact is, Mackey’s fabrication never has been adopted formally by the Grand Lodge of Maryland nor has it made any particular contribution to our jurisprudence. What is true is that Mackey has been regularly ignored by the Grand Lodge of Maryland when convenient, though his invention most recently prevented a democratic discussion of important issues facing the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The solution to the confusion is straight forward: drop Mackey’s lame “landmarks” (either by agreement or by formal edict or by resolution) and give the Grand Lodge of Maryland the flexibility and authority it needs to face the problems of the future.

Quotations from Some Masonic Scholars Disagreeing with Mackey’s “Landmarks”

Robert Freke Gould

We shall vainly search in the records of those early times for a full specification of the twenty-five “Landmarks” which modem research pronounces to be both ancient and unalterable … Of the Ancient Landmarks it has been observed, with more or less foundation in truth: “Nobody knows what they comprise or omit; they are of no earthly authority, because everything is a landmark when an opponent desires to silence you, but nothing is a landmark that stands in his own way.”

The History of Freemasonry, New York: John C. Yorston & Co., 1885, vol. 2, p. 59.

Albert Pike, Scottish Rite, Morals and Dogma, Magnum Opus, AASR, albert pike quotesAlbert Pike

There is no common agreement in regard to what are and what are not landmarks. That has never been definitely settled. Each writer makes out for himself the list or catalogue of them, according to his own fancy, some counting more of them and others less.

Most of these so-called landmarks were not known either to Ancient Craft Masonry in England or Scotland before the revolution of 1723, or to the new Masonry, as landmarks, for years afterwards. It is a pity that Masonry has not a Pope, or cannot make one of some Grand Master, Editor, or Chairman of a Committee on Foreign Correspondence, endowed with infallibility, to determine the age which a landmark must have to entitle it to call itself a landmark; what is the essential nature of a landmark; how many of the supposed twenty-five are landmarks, and what others the oracular wisdom of the author [Mackey] of this catalogue has overlooked.

Proceedings of the Masonic Veterans’s Association of Iowa, 1888 (reprinted in Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1961, pp. 367–59).

E. W. Timberlake, Jr.

A number of Grand Lodges have undertaken, by express enactment, to fix what the landmarks shall be within their respective jurisdictions, and these differ very widely. For example, nine American Grand Lodges declare that the ancient charges contain the landmarks, while several Grand Lodges have adopted statements of their own, varying all the way from seven in West Virginia and ten in New Jersey to thirty-nine in Nevada and fifty- four in Kentucky. It would seem obvious, therefore, that, since even a Grand Lodge can neither create nor abolish a landmark, such declaratory enactments cannot be viewed in any other light than as Masonic legislation.… It is generally conceded that Dr. Mackey’s list includes all of the landmarks, but it is not conceded that all those which he enumerates as landmarks, are in reality such.

“The Landmarks of Masonry,” Nocalore, vol. 1, part 1. pp. 4­16,1931.

universal freemasonryRoscoe Pound

The skeptic says, first, that down to the appearance of Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence “landmark” was a term floating about in Masonic writing without any definite meaning. It had come down from the operative Craft where it had meant trade secrets, and had been used loosely for “traditions” or for “authorized ritual” or for “significant historical occurrences,” and Oliver had even talked of “obsolete landmarks.” Second, he says. the definition of a landmark, the criteria of a landmark, and the fixed landmarks generally received in England and American from 1860 on, come from Mackey. Bro. Hextall says: “It was more because Mackey’s list purported to fill an obvious gap than from any signal claims it possessed that it obtained a rapid circulation and found a ready acceptance.” Perhaps this is too strong. But it must be admitted that dogmatism with respect to the landmarks cannot be found anywhere in Masonic writings prior to Mackey and that our present views have very largely been formed—even if not wholly formed—by the influence of his writings.…

In reading [Mackey’s definition of a landmark] we must bear in mind that it was written in 1856, before the rise of modem Masonic history and before the rise of modem ideas in legal science in the United States. Hence it is influenced by certain uncritical ideas of Masonic history and by some ideas as to the making of customary law reminiscent of Hale’s History of the Common Law, to which some lawyer may have directly or indirectly referred him. But we may reject these incidental points and the essential theory will remain unaffected—the theory of a body of immemorial recognized fundamentals which give to the Ma¬ sonic order, if one may say so, its Masonic character, and may not be altered without taking away that character. It is true Mackey’s list of landmarks goes beyond this. But it goes beyond his definition as he puts it; and the reason is to be found in his failure to distinguish between the landmarks and the common law.

Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence, New York: Board of General Activities [Grand Lodge, F. & A.M.], 1941, pp. 32–34.

Henry Wilson Coil

The way to define a thing or a principle is to examine it closely, list its peculiarities, state how it looks and acts, what it does and does not do, and what it is not as well as what it is. Again, the landmarkers reversed the process by attempting to define the unknown thing arbitrarily and, then armed with that prejudicial formula, search through the rituals, the regulations, and even unofficial literature in search of items which would satisfy the definitions. They did not know that the definition is the conclusion, not the beginning of such enquiry. But, worse yet, they commonly included some items which did not conform to their definitions. Of this class, one of the leaders, Mackey, was a striking example. What he called ancient and unwritten principles were in several of his proposals no more than legislation of the premier Grand Lodge set forth in the Constitutions and General Regulations published in 1723. Some that he called universal were not followed in all, possibly not even in a majority of Masonic jurisdiction. Those called unalterable had already been altered in some instances, and Mackey, himself, gave out several additions which altered his unalterable list of twenty-five.

Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Company, 1961, p. 364.

Dwight L. Smith

The Grand Lodge of England, which should know a thing or two about the ancient landmarks, never has “adopted” landmarks or in any way attempted to define them other than to make casual references to certain practices. To my knowledge, no Grand Lodge of Freemasons outside the United States has ever become concerned about what the landmarks are, or how many there may be.

Not so in the U.S.A. Beginning about the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Grand Lodges started trying to define the landmarks and enumerating them. They literally ran races to see how many ancient landmarks they could “adopt” officially. Some lists became so long and so all-inclusive that it was hardly safe to take aim at the brass cuspidor for fear an ancient landmark would be removed. And the hilarious feature about the various lists of “official” and “unalterable” landmarks is that so many are in total disagreement with their neighbors’ lists!

“Of Landmarks and Cuspidors,” The Philalethes, vol. 26, no. 1 (February 1973), pp. 6 & 22.


Coil, Henry W., et al. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Publishing aid Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1961.

Gould, Robert Freke, et al. The History of Freemasonry. New York: John C. Yorston & Co., 1885.

Mackey, Albert G. Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence. Revised by R. I. Clegg. Chicago; The Masonic History Company, 1927.

Maryland, Grand Lodge of. Maryland Manual of Ancient Craft Masonry. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Md., 1935.

Reports to the Annual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M, of Maryland, November 17, 1986.

Reports to the Semiannual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & AM of Maryland, May 15, 1989.

Masonic Service Association. “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.” The little Masonic Library. 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing aid Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946.

Pike, Albert. “The Landmarks of Freemasonry.” The Little Masonic Library. 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946.

Pound, Roscoe. Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence. New York: Board of General Purposes, [Grand Lodge, F. & A.M.], 1941.

Schultz, Edward T. History of Freemasonry in Maryland. 4 vols. Baltimore: J. H. Medairy & Co., 1887.

Smith, Dwight L. “Of Landmarks and Cuspidors.” The Philalethes, vol. 26, no. 1 (Feb. 1973.)

Timberlake, E. W. Jr. “The Landmarks of Masonry.” Nocalore, vol.1, part 1 (1931).


[1] Albert Pike, “The Landmarks of Freemasonry,” The Little Masonic Library, 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946, vol. 1, p. 66.

[2] Masonic Service Association, “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry,” The Little Masonic Library, Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946. vol. 1, p. 95.

[3] Masonic Service Association, “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry,” pp. 76–77.

[4] Grand Lodge of Maryland, Maryland Manual of Ancient Craft Masonry, Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F.&A.M. of Md., 1935, p. C.

[5] Henry W. Coil, et al., Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, N.Y.: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1961, p. 360.

[6] Grand Lodge of Maryland. Reports to the Annual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Maryland, November 17, 1986, p. 29.

[7] Albert G. Mackey, Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence, rev. R. I. Clegg, Chicago: The Masonic History Co., 1927, p. 141.

[8] Grand Lodge of Maryland, Reports to the Semi-Annual Communication, Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Maryland, May 15, 1989, p. 29.

[9] Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland, 4 vols., Baltimore: J. H. Medairy & Co., 1887, vol. 3, p. 67.

Lodge Twittering…

It may come as no surprise to many of you but I, being a techie person, do use Twitter.  Surprise, surprise!!!

Many people ask me why I use twitter.  For the longest time I couldn’t figure it out.  I enjoy it and learn from it but I couldn’t figure out how to explain it’s value.  Well let me explain now.  I enjoy technology and I enjoy being one of the first to experience just about everything.  With Twitter you have instant access to the pulse of the global news or even the news from the block over.  You can get a glimpse of what people find important, by the links they share.  But most important to me, I get to see first-hand what early adopters of technology are looking at and trying out.  That’s where I want to be.  I want to know what is coming and how they intend to use it.

OK let’s bring this full circle back to masonry.  Hmmmm… Ummmmm…. hmmmmm… Well there was that Masonic twitter group I started a few months back.  Just look up #mason in your twitter search and you will find it.  Oh and of course there is the @masoniccentral twitter account that is tweeting our podcast start times and regular posts from this website.

Can you see my challenge yet?  I’m looking for useful ways to use Twitter in a lodge or Grand Lodge environment.  Now I do have a few more ideas but I really want to challenge you the readers to send me some ideas.  Comment on this post and let me know what your genius idea is for twittering that will benefit lodge in some way.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter… @dbk  If I don’t follow you back then please let me know your a mason or a reader/listening fan of mine.  I’ll return the favor.

Don’t forget to post your ideas for Twitter as a comment to this post…

Teachings of Diogenes-Lesson 3 Light of Teaching


In winter Diogenes walked barefoot in the snow. In summer he rolled in the hot sand. He did this to harden himself against discomfort. “But aren’t you overdoing it a little?” a disciple asked.

“Of course,” replied Diogenes, “I am like a teacher of choruses who has to sing louder than the rest in order they may get the right note.”

How do you mentor your new masons? Do you hand them a book and say memorize this and call me in a month? Or do you teach him the catechism then slap him on the back say congratulations and forget about him?

It is a sad fact that most masons lead a double life. They never try to get to know or help out the candidate, sure they come out to lodge and help with the ritual but who lives the example outside the lodge.

M.W. Brother Herman Forester GM, GLKY puts it very eloquently in the Masonic Home Journal, June, 2009:

The Brotherhood of Freemasonry is not just something we belong to, it is a way of life which has been passed down through the ages, Freemasonry teaches us to be better than ourselves. It is about the good things about man, love of God, love of our fellow man, made in God’s image, our families, neighbors, community and country. The teachings of Masonry are so important to a world desperately seeking the things that Masonry teaches. Brothers, let us all stand together for the right things, which are not always the most popular things, harmony and Brotherly love must always prevail in our Lodges. Honor, integrity and unity must set the standard for all who wear the square and compass, and a rallying point to live by not hollow words but noble actions and deeds for all to see.

I have had the pleasure of taking a young mason under my wing and helping him to understand masonry both in and out side of lodge. He is a sponge soaking up what ever I put before him. Not everything you see or read is correct so careful study is required this actually benefits both of us, as he learns so do I. I show him both sides the correct as well as the incorrect ways of masonry.

The Masonic Journey is of an individual nature. Each individual must choose his path if he is not mentored he may become lost and fall off the path, but those who are mentored and have someone to look to for guidance will keep to their path and grow.

“Did you ever think?

  • 15 Masons gathered to make you a EA,
  • 15 Masons gathered to pass you to Fellowcraft,
  • 33 Masons gathered to make you a Master Mason.

What did you do?

Well I walked barefoot in the snow and rolled in the hot sand so that my voice could be heard above the chorus!

Read Teachings of Diogenes-Lesson 1 Emptiness
Read Teachings of Diogenes-Lesson 2 Honesty

Wor.Bro. Ian M. Donald
Wor.Bro. Ian M. Donald

Wor. Bro. Ian M. Donald
A man is not measured by how tall he stands,
But by how often he bends to help, comfort and teach!

Diogenes (c. 412- c. 323 B.C.) was a very playful philosopher who liked to use great wit when challenging the values and beliefs of his fellow citizens in ancient Athens.    He lived in great poverty, probably begging and stealing his food, and steadfastly disdained all forms of luxury.   It was because of his determination to follow his own dictates and not adhere to the conventions of society that he was given the epithet “dog,” from which the name “cynic” is derived.
– From the web site of David Quinn

symbols, symbolism, freemasonry

Symbols and Symbolism

symbols, symbolism, freemasonry

By Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º


With respect to the term “Mysteries”, no semi-educated mind can doubt that Symbols (especially Masonic symbols) were the Universal Language of Ancient Theology. For the Tutors of the Ancient World – in likeness with Nature – imparted their teachings by way of sight. The ancient sages of Persia, Egypt and Greece adopted the custom of surrounding their doctrines with enigmas difficult to interpret, illustrating men and women with imagery and parables that were more within their reach and knowledge.

So too were the Mysteries a succession of symbols, and the oral aspect of the same an explanation of their significance; in them were amalgamated sacred commentaries, ideas about Physics and Morals, theories about Creation, allegories about Nature, the relation between planets and elements, and all other conceptions regarding the relation between the Gods and mankind.

The word Mystery comes from the Greek word Musterion, which means: “Secret that must remain Occult” or “secret counsel of God”, hence the strict Silence that must be observed and our consequential familiarization with another term which is etymologically applied to everything related to Mysteries: “Mystic”, a word derived from the Greek “Mustikos” which is an adjective of “Mustes” or Initiates, a reason for which Mystic is considered a synonym of Initiate, and henceforth the essential “mysterious relation” between Initiations and Silent Secret Doctrines. In the most exterior sense, Mystery is that which should not be talked about, that which is prohibited to make known to the outsider. In a second more interior sense, the Mystery designates what is received in Silence, that about which no discussion should be had, for these are truths that by virtue of their supra-natural/rational nature, are above any discussion.

Finally, there is a third much more profound sense in which the Mystery is properly Inexpressible, it can only be contemplated in silence, and for that reason is incommunicable.

There exists an alliance between philosophical systems and symbols that are evident in monuments of all ages, and in the symbolic writings of the Parents of Nations that later came to be part of the rituals of Secret Mystic Societies. It was in this way that Patriarchs and Matriarchs alike expressed themselves through a constant series of invariable and uniform principles that form a harmonious and perfect conjunction which together define a ceremony of religious and cryptic nature that necessitates a preparation or initiation on the part of the individual who desires to comprehend them. Thus exist Lesser and Greater Mysteries, being the first ones those of symbolic nature and common use, those that comprise all that is related with the development of possibilities of the human condition and that culminate with what has been denominated Restoration of Primordial State; and these are nothing but the preparation for the Greater Mysteries, which appertain to the realization of supra-human states, taking the individual from the condition in which he/she was left in the Lesser Mysteries and conducting him/her through stages of spiritual order until the Supreme Identity. Hence the dominance of the Greater Mysteries over Metaphysical Knowledge. They are the most exalted and bring the initiate/adept closer to the occult truths of divinity. To characterize these two terms – Lesser and Greater Mysteries – we can utilize two geometric symbols: to the first we can assign a horizontal line, symbolical and representative of human dominion, which, in turn, serves as a base to the second: a vertical line allegorical of one’s ascension to the heavens, a supra-human realization identified with superior states.

initiation, ancient mystery school, Demeter, Triptolemos, Persephone

Grand Relief of Eleusis: Demeter, Triptolemos, and Persephone

All the philosophers that illustrated antiquity were disciples of initiation, being the progress and foundation of the mysteries what, in those times, permitted mankind to free itself from superstitions. Only the Mysteries could liberate man and woman from barbarousness. From them are derived the doctrines of Sages of the likes of Zoroaster, Confucius, Plato and, of course, Hermes Trismegistus. Such is the vastness and timelessness of the Ancient Mysteries that fragments of them can be appreciated still influencing the various Rites of the modern Masonic Order. Some of the most important to date are the rites of Osiris in Egypt, those of Mithra in Persia, those of Adonis in Syria, those of Dionysius and Eleusis in Greece and those of the Druids among the Celts, to mention a few. In all the Mysteries can be found a common factor indicating a same origin: all initiations had a funereal aspect and were about a type of mystical death and resurrection alluding to a heroic personage or semi-god. Through the assimilation of the Mysteries the Candidate was instructed in the subordination of the Degrees, physical trials and tests of knowledge were given in the darkness of the night, the aspirant had to be solemnly and severely tried and entirely purified in order to attain Wisdom and Light. The Esoteric character of the mysteries remained preserved by way of mandates and oaths of secrecy whose violation was punished with death.

The legend of Osiris offered our fore-brothers and sisters their first glimpse of the Masonic Symbolism of Immortality, when Isis found a lush acacia tree over the grave of her dead husband Osiris. This imagery and concept was taken – much later – by the Jews, mainly due to their leaders Moses and Joseph who were both Egyptian Priests and Nobles. At some point, much later in time, the story of Hiram, the martyr-hero of the 3rd Degree, was created, emulating for posterity his allegorical death and resurrection in the persona of every initiate, and the rather timely and propitious symbolism of the sprig of acacia; In the mysteries of Mithra, Zoroaster secluded the initiates in lugubrious caverns, a striking ceremony that was later adopted by most Mystery Schools until it reached the Masonic ritual in the form of the Chamber of Reflection; The Eleusian initiation demanded that the aspirant remain stationary through various intervals of time, hence the Ages of Masonry; In the mysteries of India, the candidate journeyed three times describing a circle that stopped in the South, Symbolic Masonry has preserved these journeys or “travels’ in the form of Circumambulation; And way before our Brothers-Knights of the Order of the Temple came into existence, the Essenes conditioned the admission of all aspirants to the immediate surrender of their wealth to the Brotherhood and their works of charity.

In short, it is my opinion that, for all the aims and goals of our numerous rituals, symbols are of a great transcendence to the Masonic knowledge, compelling us to work in their internal mysteries seeking the Light in everyone of us and in those who surround us, always upholding our sacred principles of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality.

To conclude for the time being, I wish to proclaim that “Any day is good to fix things… including our lives”.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity!

More Masonic Symbols.

Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.

Sufism and freemasonry

Freemasonry and Sufism: Two Roads One Destination

Sufism and freemasonry

“My heart can adopt all forms, I follow the religion of Love: Whichever road the camel of Love takes, that is my religion and my faith”
-Ibn Arabi

By Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º 

Contrary to the majority of “Exoteric Spiritual Systems” Free-Masonry lacks totalitarian ambition. It accepts that although its method is “just and perfect”, it is not the only one through which its goals are accomplished. It recognizes that its modus-operandi is merely one more of the Traditional Avenues of Access to Knowledge, just like in the Occidental world so were the diverse Gnostic Schools with which it shares a number of basic elements.

For the individual who knows how and when to advance beyond the appearances which at times seem discordant and contradictory and reaches the central nucleus of a proposed concept and/or theory, it must not be difficult to encounter profound parallelisms among Traditions which emanate from the same fountain. Thus, it is with minimum or no effort that we can realize how Free-Masonry shares so many essential tenets, attributes and characteristics with other socio-cultural movements which have emerged all throughout the history of mankind; Movements which in the form of academies, cults, private associations, clubs, congregations, guilds and corporations united and still unite “men and women of good repute and customs” who labor incessantly in the construction of their Inner Temples.

The acceptance of this proven fact, however, must not lead us to the extreme assumption that “everything is identical”, thus reducing Traditions to its minimum common denominator and therefore losing its intrinsically characteristic richness. The fact that “within their nucleuses” Traditions seem analogous does not make their manifestations appear so before the eyes of the common folk, for in order to really appreciate it, it is necessary to make an active and persevering effort.

One of the traditions which outside the occidental frame distinguishes itself among those most proximate to Free-Masonry, is Sufism. The similarity and compatibility of Sufism with the Craft is such that, quite frequently, learned men and women refer to Free-Masonry as: “Western Sufism”, and, in like manner, they refer to Sufism as: “Free-Masonry of Islam”. Before continuing on, it is important to under-line what I consider the most fundamental difference between these two Traditions: While Free-Masonry accepts any “exoteric frame”, Sufism can only be lived plentifully within the Islamic Religion. In this occasion, therefore, notwithstanding how passion-inspiring the topic may be, I will not address the more or less true relationships existing between these two Institutions and their precursors; I will, however, focus very succinctly on points that are central and common to both Traditions.

There are two origins commonly attributed to Sufism: One, is a type of “Concealed Interior Doctrine” directly transmitted by the Prophet (may Peace be upon him!) to his most intimate Disciples; a somewhat similar to certain Gnostic Interpretations of Primitive Christianity and transmitted to our modern days by way of a “golden thread” of Initiates. And the other, entirely different from the first one, is that of the Persian Influence upon the primogenial Arabic Islam, an influence through which certain pantheist and monist depth was aggregated. It is indeed probable that both theories bear much Truth in them; But, only one reality remains uncontested: Sufism has been present in Islam since the first centuries of its existence, having, just like Free-Masonry, a best or worst fate while living its Principles of Love and Tolerance in any of the social/political contexts of the last twelve hundred years.

Though Sufism is not a monolithic block, and philosophical positions from the most orthodox to the most heterodox have been based on it, the most adequate definition may be the one given to us by Omar Ali Shah: “Doctrine which seeks to remove the veil from the eye of the heart (Ayd al-Qalb) to see what is Real (al-Haq)”. It is difficult to condense greater profoundness in such a few words, and impossible to explain them to he/she who does not feel. On the other hand, the moral aspect, just like in Free-Masonry, is not alien to Sufism; Hence the definition given by Junayd of Bagdad: “Adoption of superior qualities and abandonment of inferior ones”.

Sufism, contrary to practices and Ascetic Schools of the Indian subcontinent with which it is also compared, is vivid and practiced in open communities, thus vertebrating themselves with Progressive Ways from smaller groups headed by a “Master” to larger “Grand Orders”, of which the Naqsbandi is probably the best known. The exterior practices of Sufism are determined in great measure by belonging to either “Order”, and most specially by the “ritualistic knocking”, counsel and input of the founding “Master” who inaugurates all major ceremonies which are then followed by prayers, supplications, invocations, diets, pilgrimages and other activities which are as generic and specific to the Muslim World.

The internal practices are, on the contrary, much more faithful to Sufism and very common/familiar to it independently of the “Order” affiliated with, as it usually happens with any esoteric doctrine of difficult comprehension to the non-initiate. Let us in this occasion only mention the practice of Meditation over the Internal Reality (Haqiqah), over the thought-integrator of opposites, over the motion of Nature innate to all human beings (Fitra) and which reveals in its interior the Full Sense of Creation and the presence of Allah (Dhirku’llah) in an analogous perception.

These exercises, among other disciplines, are carried out individually, but, under the tutelage of the “Master” of a regular Community where nobody is granted admission, unless he/she has been subject to rigorous trials aimed at provoking the “Awakening of the Sufi”, an event rarely referenced to under such appellative, but, instead, commonly known as: the “Awakening of a Friend”, very close to the Masonic expression: the “Resurrection of a Brother Master Mason”.

May these few lines suffice to at least superficially emboss the coincidences between Sufism and Free-Masonry, in order that the individual interested in the study of Esoterism in general may benefit from the resources offered by either path, and the Free-Mason, with or without an apron, may know of a Sister Tradition in the Muslim World, a world that is now so perversely defamed and slandered by Profane and “Mason” alike, a world that, contrary to the nefarious assertions of our nation’s failed leadership, is plethoric of Hope, Faith and Charity and ever ready to extend the hand of Brotherly/Sisterly Love, Relief and Truth to all the people of the world.

Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.