In this edition of Symbols and Symbolism, we look at a reading on the Ouroboros, that serpent devouring its tail as a representation of eternity and the passage of time. This symbol, while existing in a mainstream context, is little known outside of most esoteric and occult circles. Its use triggers very specific meanings for those utilizing it as part of their overall allegorical narrative.
In this episode we look at a reading of Frank C. Higgins from The Beginning of Masonry. In this piece, Higgins explores the philosophical relationship of God and Freemasonry.
There is no place in Masonry for dogmatic controversy affecting the current convictions of brethren of the craft. In its highest contemplation, Freemasonry solely regards and addresses itself to the “Great Architect of the Universe,” respecting the Names under which this Unique Identity is apostrophized in every clime, by every race, and by every school of thought.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being. Men differ alone with respect to some of His manifestations of love and solicitude for humanity, making claims to an exclusiveness in one respect or another, which are too often the outgrowth of fast-vanishing racial isolation and the diverse trends of thought consequent upon differences of origin, climate, and environment.
In quibbling over these differences, so frequently the result of misunderstandings of identical premises, viewed from diverging angles, men are too prone to forget that the goodness and providence of Almighty God is forever pouring in a mighty deluge upon us, manifesting itself unceasingly and impartially in everything that either experience or can be experienced. From the selfish standpoint of the unintelligent ego, each individual is alternately blessed with satisfactions and cursed with deprivations or distresses, the extremes predominating in many instances without apparent reason. Many of the ancient philosophers, therefore, taught that man could attain supreme contentment only by realizing his identity with the All. Sensing this, he perceived the resistless operation of the great laws of Being, in perfect poise, harmony, and impartiality, requiring only to be heeded for man to escape the evils and enjoy the benefits thereof during his allotted term, the accidents and mishaps befalling him not being subject to the caprices of an unpropitious Ruler, but consequent upon his own unguarded collisions with unchangeable law.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being.
Therefore, the whole problem of human life became the attainment of greater and ever greater knowledge of the natural law, upon which all progress and all security to life and happiness depended in so eminent a degree, and the divine gift of the reasoning faculties, which rendered the possible, was appreciated as God’s most precious blessing to man. Thousands of years of experiment and ceaseless vigilance on the part of eager watchers have never resulted in the detection of a single principle so unrelated to the rest of the universal machine as to have no dependence upon it. Even where the wonders of science have disclosed marvels so intricate as to baffle explanation or analysis, they have at least proved so entirely subject to certain conditions of known factors as to be easily provoked into manifestation or suppressed from view, at the will of man.
Year by year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, the infinite details of this great cosmic-pervading law keep on unfolding to human perception, filling all space with their greatness and mocking pursuit in their ultra-microscopic perfections and yet nothing is discovered that had not existed ages before the human mind began to concern itself with its intricacies. The capacity of mind to see and understand has limitations and history-that of which it takes cognizance through the medium of the senses-is limitless and without historical beginning or end.
Every past age has attempted to place bounds upon that which it is legitimate for man to know or think he knows about the origin and constitution of the wonders about him. Each era has closed its book of human knowledge with a flaming “Finis” at the end of an ultimate chapter, and yet the dawn of every other day has ushered in new wonders, new visions, and new truths.
“Dogma” is the name given to all these futile finalities which do not finish, to the barbed wire entanglements and chevaux de frise set by each generation at the limit of its attainments, in the vain thought that the “End” had been achieved.
In most cases dogmas will be found to revolve round the privilege of classes to rule masses, irrespective of the fact that part of the cosmic law is as sure and continual an oxygenation of the sea of humanity by waves of upheaval as is manifest in seas of water, in which that which is the sluggish depth of today may be the foam-crested wave of tomorrow. Yet the mind of man, framed in the image of the Creator, even as the receiver of an acoustic instrument must be attuned to the vibrations of the transmitter, that the message may be received as it is sent, has discovered constant and unchanging elements in this stupendous order of varied manifestations, has discovered chaos-banishing laws which must be the same in an atom as in a sun, and so may be exhibited in symbols of dimensions convenient to the stature of contemplative man.
Such are the symbols of Freemasonry – evidences of the truth attributed to Triple-great Hermes, the mystic founder of our craft, that “that which is above may be discovered by examination of that which is below.”
The Masonic student may concern himself with every branch of research that is capable of throwing light upon the causes that have led men to crystallize their perceptions of immutable law in emblems and symbols. He may pursue each of the various paths of investigation indicated by the obscure phraseology of ritual until he emerges into the full blaze of Masonic light embracing its fundamental truth. He may unravel the intricacies of ancient philosophies and mythologies, in order to convince himself of their ultimate source in the fountain of revealed wisdom, and he may set his own value upon anthropomorphisms or the embodiment of attributes and principles in fleshly guise, so that what really are the play of natural forces, the sport of the elements, the cycles of worlds, are described in terms taken from the vocabulary of human life. Yet, with all this, he may not consciously offend his brother, by striking at the latter’s highest individual spiritual contemplation in a humor of disdain or ridicule. Each mind is a universe in little, a cell of the universe in great, one as eternal as the other, and subject to the same law of gradual unfoldment. Some day we shall all know the intricate and the complicated as we at present know that which is simple and few of parts; but of the infinite aggregate, the unfathomable indivisible total, our Masonry teaches us the value.
In this installment of Symbols and Symbolism, we look at Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry definition of the Great Architect of the Universe, more aptly know as the deity or God. While an obvious connection to the cosmic power at hand in in the mysterious workings of the cosmos, his definition is an interesting skirting of an obvious connection to a Christian appellation and connection to the Christianization of Freemasonry as he opines “… it cannot be denied that since the advent of Christianity a Christian element has been almost imperceptibly infused into the Masonic system, at least among Christian Masons” So then, how does Mackey define the aspect of deity at work in the doings of Freemasonry – as a Great Architect of the Universe.
From Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:
The title applied in the technical language of Freemasonry to the Deity.
It is appropriate that a society founded on the principles of architecture, which symbolizes the terms of that science to moral purposes, and whose members profess to be the architects of a spiritual temple should view the Divine Being, under whose holy law they are constructing that edifice, as their Master Builder or Great Architect. Sometimes, but less correctly, the title “Grand Architect of the Universe” is found.
I found this piece on an old disc the other day. I wrote it as a piece of architecture to a, now, defunct Masonic Club here in Los Angeles – the Hermes Trismegistus Traditional Observance club in Culver City. It dates back to August 22, 2006, almost ten years to the day.
Reading through it, I thought it would be fun to share it again to see if it still holds it esoteric weight.
King Solomon’s Temple – A Symbol to Freemasonry
Solomon’s ancient temple was built a top Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem between 964 and 956 B.C.E. Its construction is chronicled in the First Book of Kings, which begins at the end of King David’s reign and the crowning of Solomon. As king, Solomon continues the task his father began which was to build the temple. The text tells us that God restricted David, having collected the materials to construct the temple, from building it because of the blood he shed at the conquering of Israel. Ultimately, Solomon completes work on the temple, which was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, and become “a glorious temple for which God was to dwell”. (1 Kings 8:13).
Chris Hodapp, in his manual Freemasons for Dummies, defines Solomon’s Temple as a representation of the individual Freemason, where both an individual man and the physical temple take “many years to build” as a “place suitable for the spirit of God to inhabit.” The work of a becoming a Freemason is, in my opinion, a metaphor to the construction of the temple. This definition is not far off the mark, but alone it says nothing of why this bold metaphor is used.
Through deeper explorations of this topic, I was lead to a broader understanding of the temple and its relevance to the Freemasonry we practice today. One path of that exploration led me to understand it from the perspective explored in the works of John Dee, Henry Cornelius Agrippa and Francesco Giorgi, each an important Renaissance philosopher.
In Dame Frances Yates text The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age
This philosophy of this divine self, interacting with the magical principals I suggest, merged at that time into the then strong and intelligent stone mason guilds, blending their practical application of numbers and formulation with the exploration of the divine worlds that many worked to physically construct. These ideas were accepted and adopted into the early landmarks of Freemasonry where, I believe, that the temple was perceived as more than a representational place of being. Over time, as philosophy and understanding changed, much of the fraternity lost sight of why Solomon’s Temple was important, that it represented a more mystical and philosophical construct akin to Agrippa’s spheres. Its interpretation has, today, moved into a metaphorical position becoming a part of the metaphorical stage in which our craft is set. But by examining how the temple exists in our degrees today will see some of that connection to the Renaissance philosophy.
In modernity, King Solomon’s Temple, within Freemasonry, appears in each of the three degrees (or worlds) as different aspects within each degree. Within the first, it is represented as the ground floor, the allegorical entrance into the fraternity. The temple is not depicted as the complicated structure; instead it is as an unfinished edifice, which is implicit to the ritual. Like Agrippa’s first elemental sphere, the first degree of masonry is the initiate’s entry point into Freemasonry and its philosophy, giving the initiate the elemental components to start his formation, only the work is not the rough labor of the operative, but instead the work of the speculative.
The Second Degree makes use of the temples middle chamber, whose dual meaning represents the halfway point into the temple, and the halfway point of Freemasonry. But interestingly we are taught here that the second degree is the most important of the three degree, as it is here we are lead through the 15 steps from the ground floor to the middle chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, where we as masons are instructed on our “wages due and jewels.” The various adornments of the temple have a multifaceted meaning that is described in this degree, which again factor into the representation of the temple.
But what makes this degree so important to me is that it is not the middle chamber, but the odyssey across the three, five and seven steps to it that mark it as important. Across those steps we are taught about the three stages of human life, the five orders of architecture, and the seven liberal arts (amongst other things), and like Agrippa’s second sphere of celestial magic, its mathematical influence can be felt throughout.
This path is the important symbolic link to the temple, where our ritual goes so far to remind us that of the three degrees, the Fellowcraft is the one that applies “our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbor, and ourselves; so that when in old age, as Master Masons, we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well spent life, and die in the hopes of a glorious immortality.” The importance being laid on the journey of a Fellowcraft.
The third degree, or the consequence of that well spent life, ultimately represents the Sanctum Sanctorum or, Holy of Holies, in King Solomon’s Temple. Mentioned at the end of the Fellowcraft, this is where the brother reflects on the “well spent life” by the rewards of his work. The symbolism here is that it is the deepest heart of the temple and the furthest attainment of a Freemason. It also is to represent the deepest penetration into the psyche of the man. This is also the pinnacle of the ritual without the further exploration of the additional rites. The Holy of the Holies is representational of the celestial realm defined by Agrippa, and is the closest sphere outside of the divine itself. It functions as the house of God, both literally in the constructed temple, and metaphorically within the newly raised Mason. This echoes the ideas mentioned by Giorgi and later expanded on by Agrippa and Dee. Dee’s further expansive ideas later went on to influence early Rosicrucian thought in a similar fashion.
Agrippa’s three worlds, I suggest, form (in part) the basis of the steps and the journey through King Solomon’s Temple through the degrees of Freemasonry. The presence of King Solomon’s Temple in ancient thought, from the earliest Old Testament writings to the pinnacle of renaissance occult philosophy has preserved it as an iconographic representation of the path to the divine. Solomon’s temple is not a solitary place in history, used as a simple metaphor in which to base an allegorical play. Instead, it is a link in early Christian Cabala and Hermetic thought, which is just as vital today, as it was then, to the tradition of Freemasonry. Still a metaphor but a more profound one whose importance is not often explored or represented in modern Masonic thought. Looking at the ideas of this renaissance philosophy, I believe that philosophy becomes squarely linked to the past, present, and future of Freemasonry and to King Solomon’s Temple.
- Duncan, Malcom C., Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry. New York: Crown Publishers. 2005.
- Hodapp, Christopher, Freemasons for Dummies. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2005.
- The Holy Bible, NIV, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing. 1984.
- MacNaulty, W. Kirk, A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol. London, Thames and Hudson. 1991.
- Vitruvius, 10 Books on Architecture. Trans. Morgan, Morris Hickey. New York: Dover 1960.
- Yates, Frances, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age. London/New York: Routledge, 2003.
From Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of the All-Seeing Eye. Note, some links have been added as reference to the original quoted sources.
An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus, the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity. On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of Divine watchfulness and care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus, the Psalmist says
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (Palms 34:15),
which explains a subsequent passage (Psalms 121.4), in which it is said:
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
In the Apocryphal Book of the Conversation of God with Moses on Mount Sinai, translated by the Rev. W. Cureton from an Arabic MS of the fifteenth century, and published by the Philobiblon Society of London, the idea of the eternal watchfulness of God is thus beautifully allegorized:
Then Moses said to the Lord 0 Lord dost thou sleep or not? The Lord said unto Moses, I never sleep: but take a cup and fill it with water. Then Moses took a cup and filled it with water, as the Lord commanded him. Then the Lord cast into the heart of Moses the breath of slumber; so he slept, and the cup fell from his hand, and the water which was therein was spilled. Then Moses awoke from his sleep. Then said God to Moses, I declare by my power, and by my glory, that if I were to withdraw my providence from the heavens and the earth, for no longer a space of time than thou hast slept, they would at once fall to ruin and confusion, like as the cup fell from thy hand.
On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes what has been called a hatchet, but which may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square.
The All-Seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence-his guardian and preserving character – to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs, 15.3, when he says:
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding (or, as in the Revised Version, keeping watch upon) the evil and the good.
It is a symbol of the Omnipresent Deity.
Read more on the All Seeing Eye as Omnipresent Deity
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
What perplexes me is why does it matter? Why does answering the question even matter any more to the cackling hens of the I’m right your wrong neener neener neener bunch. They have their opinion, and to them, were just wrong and ALL going to hell. So, here is my hat, I’m coming into the ring….
The quick observational answer is no, Freemasonry is not a religion, in that it does not teach FAITH. It does, however, strive to bring a philosophical and allegorical set of ideas forward and, in that sense could be construed as one which requires the observer to separate the two from one another. Faith is separate from Religion.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.
9. get religion, Informal.
a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.
b. to resolve to mend one’s errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
[Origin: 1150–1200; ME religioun (<>This is NOT faith, though the two share some defining terms.
The definition of faith(n) is:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
[Origin: 1200–50; ME feith]
Freemasonry does not proclaim a belief not based on proof. It is a system of ethics, but then so are the boy scouts. It does proclaim a confidence in a person, the candidate who is forming his ashlar. But it does not suggest a belief not based on proof.
Note the difference in word origins, religion comes from the latin root meaning to tie, fasten, bind. Faith’s origin is to trust.
The difference here is that in all of the writings in the past refer to Freemasonry in some way as a “religion” NOT as a faith. The problem today is that the fundamental argument that Freemasonry is a religion confuses the two and presumes that any religion must also be a faith. The difference here being that that assumption is false and the two are not dependent on one another.
Pike does say that Freemasonry is perhaps a representation of all religion in a passage from the 10th degree p161/162 saying:
Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it. The Brahmin, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Catholic, the Protestant, each professing his peculiar religion, sanctioned by the laws, by time, and by climate, must needs retain it, and cannot have two religions; for the social and sacred laws adapted to the usages, manners, and prejudices of particular countries, are the work of men.
But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions. All that ever existed have had a basis of truth; and all have overlaid that truth with errors. The primitive truths taught by the Redeemer were sooner corrupted, and intermingled and alloyed with fictions than when taught to the first of our race. Masonry is the universal morality which is suitable to the inhabitants of every clime, to the man of every creed. It has taught no doctrines, except those truths that tend directly to the well-being of man; and those who have attempted to direct it toward useless vengeance, political ends, and Jesuitism, have merely perverted it to purposes foreign to its pure spirit and real nature.
I suggest that Pike backs this up by saying on p.160, that the key is toleration, and without it, it becomes a pissing match for my faith is bigger than yours.
Toleration, holding that every other man has the same right to his opinion and faith that we have to ours; and liberality, holding that as no human being can with certainty say, in the clash and conflict of hostile faiths and creeds, what is truth, or that he is surely in possession of it, so every one should feel that it is quite possible that another equally honest and sincere with himself, and yet holding the contrary opinion, may himself be in possession of the truth, and that whatever one firmly and conscientiously believes, is truth, to him–these are the mortal enemies of that fanaticism which persecutes for opinion’s sake, and initiates crusades against whatever it, in its imaginary holiness, deems to be contrary to the law of God or verity of dogma. And education, instruction, and enlightenment are the most certain means by which fanaticism and intolerance can be rendered powerless.
So at the end of the day is Freemasonry a faith? No, not at all. Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Perhaps in its practice, but not as a dogmatic belief system with specifics to salvation.
Is Freemasonry tolerant of all faiths? Yes. Does that frighten, distance, and otherwise disenfranchise all fundamentalist ideologues? You bet your ass it does, which is why every organized dogmatically proscribed faith HATES and denounces Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is the religion of not being a religion. The faith of all faiths. It says no one faith is right, and no one faith is wrong, which is diametrically opposed to what any fundamentalist body wants to tell you is right.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Yes, Freemasonry Is Religion, And It’s Incompatible With Some Christian Beliefs. Here’s Why.
I’ve been a Freemason for only about four years, but I’ve already done a lot of changing in my views. One view I used to have, which I think most first years have is that Freemasonry and Christianity are totally compatible.
Oh the many internet arguments we enter, arguing “no, we don’t have a problem with Catholics, but the Catholic Church has a problem with us,” and “Evangelical Christianity is perfectly compatible with Freemasonry.” These kind of skirmishes happen all the time. And then there’s the biggest trope in all of Masondom: Freemasonry is not a religion.
This is all, of course, entirely from our point of view. We are an open, welcoming, tolerant fraternity, and we search for the connections that bind each other together, and not the dividers that keep us apart. Tolerance is a cornerstone of freemasonry, so it’s naturally abhorrent to us to be dragged into any argument that certain sects should be excluded. And I think this is entirely true, but that is from my point of view; the point of view of a guy who thinks he’s totally right.
In all fairness, though, whether freemasonry is compatible with certain religions isn’t only up to us. Many practitioners of those religions make great points. I’ve even got some favorites.
Freemasonry distracts you from God, taking time away from your family, and your worship, and that is Satan’s work.
There are certainly men who have utterly lost themselves in Freemasonry, and it hurts their families. One only knows what it does to the man’s personal relationship with his creator. But then the same thing is easily said about any activity. People lose themselves in hobbies when they seek distractions. I’ve even seen people lose themselves in their church; so focused on the inner workings, the politics, jazzing up the service, being on the lighting committee, etc, and they eventually wonder where God went in all is this. This is not a problem with freemasonry. It’s a problem with people, and one freemasonry actually attempts to remedy in its earliest instruction to new brethren. We come right out and say: divide your time correctly, keeping time for God, family, work, etc. And that freemasonry never comes first. Ever.
The things you do in lodge are things you should be doing in church.
Well, woulda, coulda, shoulda. And feel free to, if you like. Nothing says you can’t flip hotcakes for your lodge on Saturday and waffles for your church on Sunday. And nothing says you can’t focus on being a better man in lodge and in church. A little double coverage never hurt anyone.
The teachings don’t contradict, and should you find a contradiction, masonry insists you side with the obligations to God, family, and to yourself before you ever consider your lodge.
Masons seek light, but the Bible tells us that Jesus is the light and the way.
Right, but in freemasonry, spoiler alert, the light is the Volume of Sacred Law, which, if you’re a Christian, is the Bible. It will be sitting there, open, on the altar. And I’m personally not a Christian, but I’m pretty sure Jesus is in there. Somewhere in the back, I believe.
Now, that’s all well and good, but these are not things I can dictate. If you, as a Christian, or are of some other faith, and you don’t find these explanations convincing, that just fine. I would say that you are in the minority of your faith, but that you have a point of view, and you have legitimate practical concerns about freemasonry. Compatibility is, I suppose, a matter of educated opinion. I would not say your faith is incompatible with freemasonry.
There are some views that are completely incompatible with freemasonry. I will let the Christians argue among themselves whether these views are legitimately Christian, but there is some grist we just won’t grind.
If you have a problem with the tolerance off freemasonry, then there’s a legitimate problem here. I got into a discussion recently with a Christian whose argument against freemasonry was that his religion taught him he was not to pray with those who practice idolatry, but run from them. In a nutshell, because masons come from all different faiths, but will pray together in lodge, a good Christian can’t be a part of that.
Now I’ve heard probably the most common Christian argument against Freemasonry, mainly given by Catholics; there is one true way to Heaven and that is by accepting Jesus; Masonry essentially teaches that your goodness can get you to Heaven; ergo Masonry is incompatible with Christianity. I could answer that by saying that Masonry doesn’t propose any particular way to get anywhere, and that even if that were the case, one needn’t accept such a premise to join or participate in a lodge. But this prayer thing is something that I’ve never, ever run into before.
I asked this gentleman if he would apply the same standard to a non-denominational public prayer, like at a graduation commencement or some kind of national moment of prayer after a disaster. He would. And…my brain just broke a bit. I realized, not for the first time in my life, that some people–perfectly nice people–are just completely different. And not just in a “same goals but different paths” way. Just. Completely. Different.
Obviously there are only a relative minority of Christians with this notion. But I do, basically, get the idea. I see how the thought can be derived from scripture. It’s a Christian belief, though not a widely held one. And it’s not a belief I’d assign only to Christians. Many faiths have an extremely orthodox element that is utterly intolerant of certain ideas. For instance, the idea that regardless of what gets you into Heaven, and your religion may have very specific requirements, God still wants you to be a good, peaceful, generous person. That’s the kind of wild idea that some religious practitioners reject out of hand.
I really don’t think you can be a freemason and not think that.
If you believe you should run from people practicing different faiths, rather than stand with them as you each pray to Deity for peace and harmony, then no, I really don’t think that is compatible with freemasonry.
Worse yet, I don’t think that’s compatible with the American Way, because much like the masons, America is founded on the idea of tolerance, and from many–one. If this is a closely-held belief you espouse, then you have to admit to yourself that America, in its very founding principles, is doing it wrong.
Religion is a lot of things to a lot of people, and I’m not going to define it for you, but it’s certainly easy to see why so many non-freemasons see it as a religion. There is an awful lot of crossover, here. Masonry doesn’t tell you what god to pray to, it doesn’t teach you how to get to Heaven, but it does teach you that being a good, honest, just person is morally and spiritually valuable, and it does teach you how to be that. And that altar in the middle of the lodge room floor is the Altar of God. And I’m hardly the only mason who has said this. There’s a beautiful passage in a Masonic play, A Rose Upon the Altar.
Freemasonry, my brother, is, truly, not a religion. But it is religion–religion in its truest, purest sense. We don’t worship a God here–we worship the Great Architect. We have His word for it–inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it to me. At this Altar…good men and true worship their Creator. At this Altar the sore distressed find comfort. Around this Altar glows the Shekinah, the heavenly light from Him to whom it is erected, for those who have eyes to see. The Divine Presence is here! This Altar is as much a holy of holies as a church. If you want comfort, kneel here and ask for it. If you want aid, here you shall find it. Here is the Book in which the promise is made…come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…This Altar is God’s.
And there it is. I mean, argue if you want. You don’t have to agree. You may even be right. I’m sure I’ll get flack from masons and Christians alike. A Masonic lodge is no substitute for your church or house of worship, and I’d never claim it is. But neither is in, nor any of these, an adequate substitute for the world God has made, or the people he put in it, and religion exists everywhere among us. And it can be practiced everywhere.
And yes, some religious practices just don’t mix.
I wish more young Masons would put their thoughts on paper. It is vital to us all, especially Freemasons, to know the thoughts and contemplations of those who will follow us.
In today’s article Brother Gallagher seems a bit torn between Masonry as a religion and Masonry as not a religion. That is totally understandable given the history of the Craft and the practice of Freemasonry since the formation of this great nation.
Freemasonry’s biggest problem is that it is so tolerant that it will allow Brothers to remake and transform the Fraternity into the mores and customs of their particular region. That’s how you end up with the Grand Master of Florida expelling two Brothers for not being Christians.
Dr. Fels in the video is equally confused as he tries to walk a tightrope whereby everybody is right and nobody is wrong.
So let us start by looking back at the formation of modern speculative Freemasonry.
Anderson wrote in his Book of Constitutions in 1723:
A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understand the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves, that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatsoever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished.
The key phrase here is “that religion in which all men agree.” What Anderson is saying here is that Freemasonry agrees with and accepts the tenets that all religions have in common. So it is the tenets that all religions have in common that Freemasonry adopts but not the specific paths of practicing them. This is what Dr. Fels misses.
- No specific Holy Book
- No sacraments
- No ordained clergy
- No definition of Deity
- No dogma, no creed – that is no ideological doctrine
- No means to salvation
The problem enters as to the question of Freemasonry as a religion because there are many religious people in Freemasonry. The Lodge offers prayers but so does my book club, my household at mealtime and Congress before it convenes. Prayer does not make a group a church. Neither does scriptural lessons.
And because Freemasonry accepts the basic tenets of all religions that does not make us some sort of new super amalgamated religion.
If we look at the most widely accepted definition of Freemasonry we can see where we are going wrong.
Masonry is said to be,
a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
The key words here are, SYSTEM OF MORALITY. Freemasonry is a system of morality and when it says that it borrows the religion in which all men agree it is saying that it accepts the same morality that is found over and over again in most religions.
Your religion deals with your relationship with God. Freemasonry deals with your relationship with your fellow human beings.
It is more than coincidental that those who declare that Freemasonry is a religion are those who are not Freemasons. They say they know more about the Craft than those of us who practice Freemasonry.
Once you remove the argument that Freemasonry is a religion and convince those that are criticizing it from a religious viewpoint that it is merely a society then you remove all possibility of a religious objection to it. If Freemasonry is not a religion than it cannot be criticized as one. And that stops the bitter resentment and ridiculous attacks on the Craft. Well not quite. You still have to prove that Freemasonry does not want to take over the world.
Truth be known, Freemasonry makes no ruling about religion. FREEMASONRY MAKES NO RULING ABOUT RELIGION. It’s not for any sectarian religions and it is not against any sectarian religions. FREEMASONRY IS NEUTRAL. It makes no religious rulings nor declares any means to salvation. FREEMASONRY IS NEUTRAL. It is a society of friends devoted to the Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God.
As one site put it:
Freemasonry is kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in one’s work; compassion for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; concern for good government; support for public education; and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man.
Does that sound like a religion?
Sir Ronald D. Gerac, M.Ed. Right Eminent Grand Commander Lone Star Grand Commandery Order of the Knights Templar, Prince Hall Texas is a Freemason of preeminence. You perhaps have heard the saying used in advertisement, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Well when EGC Gerac talks, Freemasons listen – intently.
Gerac is that kind of individual who can enter a room and immediately takeover. He gives you the sense that he is in command all the while being able graciously to poke fun at others and himself.
Gerac is an optimist and he never hesitates to attempt to lift all in his presence up to the next level. He is our chief cheerleader.
Gerac understands fully and completely that Freemasonry is a way of life. Therefore, you will often hear him talking about life and how the virtues of Freemasonry are applicable to our daily lives, right here, right now.
His 2014 Allocution to his Commandery illustrates this approach, always in a colorful way.
A year ago, I charged you to not live your 2013 as 2012: The Sequel. Well, did you, or did you not? Are you experiencing new levels of life that are 180 degrees away from where you were, or are you still continuing to do the same things you were doing and expecting a different result? Have you surrounded yourself with likeminded people for your spiritual growth, or are you still hanging around negative people? It’s okay if you are. Believe me, because negativity has its own share of benefits.
Negativity serves a purpose. It helps you to see the positive in the world, just as the darkness allows you to see the stars. If you didn’t have negative experiences, you would never be able to appreciate the positive ones. If you were never sad, you wouldn’t know what it felt like to be happy. If you never felt fear, you wouldn’t know what faith felt like. If you were positive ALL the time, then you wouldn’t even know you were being positive because there would be no contrast. You would feel the same all the time.
Negativity forces the BELIEVER to feel those painful emotions so that he or she can recognize and appreciate the positive emotions. Negativity builds character and strength when we persevere and overcome it. It causes the BELIEVER to build mental and emotional muscle. Here’s some advice for you who have had your fair share of negativity: increase your positive to negative ratio up to 3 to 1; that is, three positive emotions for every one negative emotion. Research shows that teams, couples, or individuals that experienced interactions at a ratio greater than 3 positives to one negative emotion were more productive and higher performing than those with a lower ratio. You have already had your first positive for the day. God woke you up. Did you thank Him for doing that? Do it before it’s too late. Here’s your second positive: Each and every one of you in this room today has had a part, albeit small or large, in helping me become who I am today. Because of your thoughts, prayers, conversation, advice, support, a smile, or maybe even something as small as a status like on Facebook, I am, and Marvin Sapp said it best, I’m stronger; I’m wiser, I feel better. So much better. The God I serve has blessed me with so many friends like you-some closer than others-but a blessing from God has no rank and only one value: priceless. Now you all are on your own for your third positive and don’t hold me responsible for your one negative.
In this last Templar year, I have come to notice an emergence of one particular type of behavior from people within our own circles that has brought itself to a level of profound disturbance within my spirit. People who we used to confide in are now, as they say, “all into their feelings” and don’t want as much to do with us as they used to. Bonds are breaking down. Friendships are being destroyed. The group dynamic in our Commanderies and Palaces is being threatened. In some cases, marriage relationships are cracking down the middle. That hand to your back for comfort has a knife in it. “We used to be cool, but now, I don’t know WHAT happened.” You have people that barely know you making opinions about you from other folks. They smile in your face. You know the rest of the lyrics. So what happened to these almost impenetrable friendships and relationships?
Allow me to talk to you about gardening for a few minutes. If you have ever done any type of gardening, you know that, for one, it does take work to yield a desired result. It also takes an investment of time and patience to do that work. You must have the right working tools to work with in order to keep your garden thriving. Other than drought, a gardener’s worst enemy is the weed. A weed masquerades itself like a plant. It needs water and sunlight to survive, just like a plant. Many times, an unsuspecting gardener is providing care for weeds and doesn’t realize this fact until it’s too late. What do we know about these weeds?
- Generally, weeds have absolutely no redeeming value as far as food, nutrition, or medicine are concerned. They multiply rapidly, are often poisonous if eaten, they taste bad, and they have thorns or other physical features that make them difficult to remove.
- Weeds compete with beautiful flowers, grasses, and other beneficial plants for water, sunlight, and nutrients, and making them starve to death. They cause a growth imbalance in beneficial plants because they quickly absorb more of one nutrient than another.
- Weeds compete for space. They appear as if they must be seen.
- Weeds are parasitic. In some cases, they can attach themselves to neighboring plants and steal their nutrients.
If you haven’t caught on yet, let me help you out just a little bit. SOME OF YOUR SO-CALLED FRIENDS ARE WEEDS.
- They have absolutely no redeeming value to your life. The more gullible people they talk to, the more rapidly they multiply. The more minds they poison. Their attitudes and dispositions become the thorns that make them difficult to be around.
- When they are around, it seems as if they starve you of the essentials of positive living that you are more used to experiencing daily. Do you ever get that feeling of being choked when these so-called friends come around? Does the tenor of your conversation change around them?
- When they are around, they absolutely must be seen and heard.
- Some of them siphon from the necessities of life that you originally allocate to close family members…money, food, transportation, advice, time, and love.
When some of us read the first part of John 10:10, we take it for the face-value literal translation that we receive when we read it.
The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy.
We take that to mean the stealing of worldly goods and possessions. We think of the physical killing of people. We think of the destruction of actual edifices and physical buildings. We don’t look deeper into it to see that the writer also meant that for those that steal, they rob us and others of the truth. While they are not speaking the truth, or the whole truth, they kill synergetic and kindred spirits among friends and brothers. They purposely destroy relationships…friend to friend, husband to wife, Master or Matron to the membership. Sir Knights and Princesses, the ENEMY himself is the source, but we are too blind, or as they say, “all into our feelings” to see it clearly.
Get out of your feelings. Wake up and see the destruction that you had a hand in, but caused by that so called friend of yours who you thought was giving you good, sound advice, but actually was just spreading mess and gossip, much like a weed spreads its seeds and multiplies at a rapid rate. Kill your weeds. Yes, KILL YOUR WEEDS. Not by standard weapons of defense and harm, such as a firearm, knife, or some blunt object like a baseball bat or a frying pan. Once you recognize who the weeds are in your life, the best way to kill that weed is like this: ***pick up cell phone, slide ringer over to IGNORE*** Ignore the phone call from the weed. Block the number if you have to. Don’t nurture it by giving it the time or attention it needs to survive. We say “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine?” Don’t let YOUR light shine on the weed to help it grow. Let the weed find someone else to poison. If you must converse with the weed, combat it with truth. Don’t allow the weed to come to you and say, “I heard this from somebody…I won’t say who, but this is what I heard.” That is POISON attempting to spread POISON. Anyway, if what that “somebody” said was true, then they need to be MAN or WOMAN enough to say it to your face. Don’t lower your standards to hear it from someone else. Kill your weeds. Prune them out of your life. If they are not helping you to become a better person, why are you still listening to them? Why do you take their word over someone more credible? Why don’t you ask the direct questions yourselves? And better yet, why haven’t you told that weed of a friend that you are not having that from them anymore? You complain about what you allow when you have the power to stop it altogether.
Friends, let’s nurture each other. Let’s help each other rise to the next level. Let’s strengthen each other through prayer, advice, random acts of kindness, and love.
I conclude with this thought: Life is like a camera. FOCUS on what’s important. CAPTURE the good times. DEVELOP from the negatives. And if things don’t work out, TAKE ANOTHER SHOT.
May God bless our active and retired Armed Forces personnel, first responders, local law enforcement, and firemen. God bless America. God bless the Lone Star Family. God bless Prince Hall Masonry in Texas and abroad. And may God have mercy on us and bless us all.
Sir Ronald D. Gerac, M.Ed.
Right Eminent Grand Commander
Lone Star Grand Commandery of Texas
Order of the Knights Templar
And in another address to his Commandery, again always in a colorful way:
Some time ago, you all heard me speak of this thing called a “Masonic Turd.” For those of you reading this and thinking, “What the…?!” In short, it is my own colorful way of describing a Masonic error that has gone uncorrected for a period of time. I know it is not the most prudent term that can be used to label such a situation, but one must admit that it does grab the attention of the listener.
I remember a long time ago, a famous comedian was telling a joke about a neglectful family. I am in no way channeling the joke right now, as I cannot remember the whole thing. Besides, the joke is not the focal point here. The comedian said the family had a dog who would just defecate at will and on cue anywhere in the house. When the dog “dropped one” in the living room, no one in the family bothered to clean it up. The turd just sat there. In fact, it sat there so long that the next generation treated it as a drink coaster. They just started setting their drink on it like it was just a part of the furniture. The sad part is this: to the new generation, it was furniture. This was an error that had gone uncorrected for quite some time.
I reintroduce this topic because it seems like since I first brought this term to light a little over a year ago, I have personally encountered more situations where a Masonic error has gone uncorrected. One case involved a principal officer in an organization whose duty was to give a monthly report on all the sick and shut-in members on the roll and an annual report on all members reported for the calendar year. Not only did this principal officer not perform the prescribed duty, but no other member or officer charged him to do so. Eventually, others did not regard the proper practice of this ever so significant duty. Another case involved a Lodge in one situation and a grand body in another separate situation where neither entity knew how to handle and process a demit certificate. In both cases, they just allowed their respective situations to just “sit” there. The problem is simple, either the teachers are NOT teaching, or the learners are NOT listening.
How will we ever get bigger and better if we don’t improve ourselves in Masonry? I again ask each of you, Sir Knights and Princesses all, to look deeply within your Asylums and Palaces. Examine your processes and methods. Do they fall in concert with your constitution? Are officers well versed in their primary and ancillary duties? Are officers and members asking questions? Are officers “just winging it?”
I challenge all constituent Commanderies and Guilds to identify the top three processes and methods that are in dire need of improvement. Make this new Templar Year the year where those identified areas of need will no longer be a concern for you. Let’s start now and not later with improving the way we operate internally. Let’s improve our systems and processes. Let’s ask questions when we don’t understand. If you do not, you will die on the vine and it will take Miracle Grow to rejuvenate your organization. Don’t be like the “turd” that no one ever wants to clean up. Put on your gloves, grab your cleaning supplies, and let’s get to cleaning up our Masonic errors.
Sir Ronald D. Gerac, M.Ed.
Right Eminent Grand Commander
Lone Star Grand Commandery of Texas
Order of the Knights Templar
Here endeth the Life Lessons of EGC Roanald D. Gerac. Take due notice and govern yourselves accordingly.
William J Morris, in his Pocket Lexicon of Freemasonry, defines the All Seeing Eye as “an emblem found in every well-furnished lodge, and which is unnecessary further to explain.”
Yet, further explanation is necessary to detail the Eye of Providence that is so much in the parlance of the Masonic Lodge. While most American Lodges make use of the letter G to stand in as a representation deity, the All Seeing Eye, has that same function, perhaps with a more artistic flare.
Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, writes this succinct observation on the meanings behind the eye in his entry for the All-Seeing Eye:
“An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus, the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity.
On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of Divine watchfulness and care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus, the Psalmist says:
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry,
which explains a subsequent passage in which it is said:
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
In the Apocryphal Book of the Conversation of God with Moses on Mount Sinai, translated by the Rev. William T. Cureton from an Arabic manuscript of the fifteenth century, and published by the Philobiblon Society of London, the idea of the eternal watchfulness of God is thus beautifully allegorized (The full quote from Cureton’s work reads):
Then Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, what is thy meat and what is thy drink, and what thy clothing?
The most High God answered, My Meat is the tears of sinners when they weep over their sins; my drink is the repentance of those who repent of them; and my clothing is the praises of the angels, and the thanks givings of the souls of those who have escaped from their iniquities.
Then Moses said to the Lord, Oh Lord, doust thou sleep or not?
The Lord said unto Moses, I never sleep: but take a cup and fill it with water.
Then Moses took a cup and filled it with water, as the Lord commanded him.
Then the Lord cast into the heart of Moses the breath of slumber; so he slept, and the cup fell from his hand, and the water which was therein was spilled.
Then Moses awoke from his sleep. Then said to God to Moses, I declare by my power, and my glory, that if I were to withdraw my providence from the heavens and the earth for no longer a space of time than thou hast slept, thy would at once fall to ruin and confusion, like as the cup fell from thy hand.
The All-Seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence – his guardian and preserving character – to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs (xv, 3), where he says:
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding (or, as in the Revised Version, keeping watch upon) the evil and the good.
It is a symbol of the Omnipresent Deity.”
The subject was not, it seems, defined sufficiently by Mackey, and became the subject of a Short Talk Bulletin in 1932, aptly titled The All Seeing Eye, and published by the Masonic Service Association of North America.
That Short Talk reads:
In the modern Masonic ritual the All-Seeing Eye is combined with the Sword, pointed at a Naked Heart; which latter emblem apparently came to American Freemasonry through Webb. The quotation from his Monitor (1797) is as follows:
The Sword pointing to a Naked Heart demonstrates that justice will sooner or later overtake us, and although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the yes of man, yet the All Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the whole, and will reward us according to our merits.
It seems natural for men to personify his members in order to symbolize a virtue. The foot is universally a symbol of swiftness; the arm, of strength; the hand, of fidelity. The hand we extend to clasp that of a friend must be open, showing it contains no weapon; the knight of old removed his mailed gauntlet before offering his hand, to indicate that he greeted a friend from whom he feared no attack. From this we get our modern concept that it is good manners to remove a glove before shaking hands.
The eye was adopted early as a symbol of watchfulness, for reasons too obvious to set forth. By a natural transition, the watchful eye never slept, and which thus saw everything, speedily became the symbol of Deity.
Hear the Psalmist (XXXIV): “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.”
Again (CXXI), “He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
A Proverb reads: “The yes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
Egypt symbolized her God and King, Osiris, by a open eye; it was in all the Temples, and is frequently found sculptured in stone together with a throne and a square, symbolic of Osiris, power and rectitude. One of the great curiosities of the world is the similarity, often identity, of ideas, inventions, discoveries, conceptions of peoples far removed, the one from the other, both in time and geographical location. The primitive loom, for instance, is strikingly similar in Egypt, India, South America, and Africa and among the Esquimaux (Eskimo). The Swastika (symbol made of four joined squares), often termed the oldest of symbols, is to be found literally all over the world. So is the point within a circle and the square as an emblem is found in early Egypt, Rome and China, to mention only three.
Forty years ago the Reverend J.P. Oliver Minos drew Masonic attention to one of the Rig-Veda Hymns especially addressed to “Surya,” or the Sun:
Behold, the rays of dawn, like heralds, lead on high.
The Sun, that men may see the great all knowing God.
The Stars slink off like thieves, in company with Night, Before the All-Seeing Eye, whose beams reveal his presence, Gleaming like brilliant flames, to nation after nation.
You can read the full text of the Hymn to Surya at Sacred-Texts. And, it would seem that this is a the Hymn as it is performed.
The short talk continues:
“In the religions of India the eye is of high importance and prominence. Suva; one of the most important of the Gods of India, is pictured with three eyes, one more brilliant than the other two. Drawings are for sale in the market places of Benares and other Indian cities which visiting Masons often think are Masonic, merely because they portray the All-Seeing Eye. Indian religious devotees consider the peacock a sacred bird because of the resemblance of the feathers to an eye.
As a symbol of Deity the eye is a natural hieroglyph.
The connotation of sleeplessness, vision, knowledge is easily grasped by even a child-like intellect. But it is also, and for the same reason, a symbol of the sun; indeed, sun worship antedated almost all, if not all, other forms of worship.
The sun was worshiped by too many peoples in too many lands and ages to attempt to catalog here. Shamash was sun God to Assyrians, Merodach to the Chaldees, Ormuzd to the Persians, Ra to the Egyptians, Tezzatlipoca to the Mexicans, Helios to the Greeks and Sol to the Romans to mention only a few.
The sun is the source of a hundred myths; familiar is that of Helios, who drove his chariot daily across the sky. The Scandinavian God Sunna was in constant dread of being devoured by the wolf Fenris (symbol of the eclipse); Phaeton was the son of Phoebus, the sun, and stole his fathers chariot to drive across the heavens. Unable to control the fiery steeds, he came to near the earth and parched Libya into a land of barren sands, blackening the inhabitants of Africa and so heating that continent that it never recovered normal temperature! Had not Zeus transfixed him with a thunderbolt, he would have destroyed the world.
Modern poets and ancient have sung of the sun as thee eye of day; we recall:
The night has a thousand eyes and the day but one But the light of the whole world dies When the day is done.
Diogenes Laeritus thought of the sun as an incorruptible heavenly being when he wrote:
The sun, too shines into cesspools and is not polluted.
Dryden translated Ovid to read:
The glorious lamp of heaven, the radiant sun, Is nature’s eye.
Thou sun! Of this great world both eye and soul!
Freemasonry does not make of the eye a symbol of the sun. Her All- Seeing Eye is one emblem, her sun another, each with a distinct meaning. One of the Lesser Lights represents the sun; the sun shines out from between the legs of the compasses, opens sixty degrees on a quadrant, in the Past Master’s Jewel, all symbolic of the Masonic light which must come from the East from which comes all truth. It has been written:
The sun is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty, it doth signify absolute authority,: By analogy, if the lodge is the symbol of the world, then the Master, who controls the time of opening and closing, may well have one of the Lesser Lights as his symbol. Mackey goes further to say that the Master is ‘himself’ a symbol of the rising sun , the Junior Warden of the sun at meridian, and the Senior Warden of the setting sun, just as the Mysteries of India the three chief priests symbolize Bramha, the rising sun, Siva, the meridian, and Vishnu the setting sun. In the Orphic mysteries the sun was thought to generate, as from an egg, and come forth with power to triplicate himself; triple power (such as is found in a Lodge under a Master, Senior and Junior Warden) is an idea as old as mythology, as may be seen in the trident of Neptune, the three-forked lightning of Jove, the three-headed Cerebus of Pluto.
See how fitly the sun, as a symbol of authority, the sun, as man’s earliest deity, and the sun, as origin of the eye as a symbol of God, can be united. In his Symbolic Language (1840) [Thomas] Wemyss wrote:
The sun may be considered to be an emblem of Divine truth because the sun, or the light of which it is the source, is not only manifest in itself, but makes other things manifest; so one truth detects, reveals and manifests another, as all truths are dependent on and connected with each other, more or less.
So does the Master make Masonic truth manifest to the brethren; so does the Great Architect manifest His Divine truth to all men. If it is further necessary to show a connection between eye and sun, sun and God, and thus eye and God; refer again to the passage from Webb, which couples the All-Seeing Eye with the sun, moon and stars. Sufficient has been said to make it evident that the All-Seeing Eye is not a modern symbol, or one lightly to be regarded or passed over in silence, merely because modern ritual makes comparatively little of it. Alas, many brethren are so ill-instructed in the ancient Craft that it is a matter of some wonder to them why officer’s aprons, when decorated with emblems so often have the All-Seeing Eye upon the flap; why that pregnant symbol is so frequently engraved upon working tools, or the square and compasses which lie upon the Altar.
Throughout the Craft emphasis is put upon the number three; three Light (greater and lesser); three steps on the Master’s carpet; three steps at the beginning of the Winding Stairs; three principal officers; three degrees; three due guards; etc. The number three is but another way of expressing the idea of a triangle, one of man’s earliest, if not the earliest symbol for Deity, inasmuch as it is the simplest closed figure (signifying endlessness) which can be formed with straight lines.
The emphasis upon three, then, is Freemasonry’s symbol of omneity of Deity — His being without beginning or ending.
The letter “G” as a symbol of Deity particularly speaks of the reverence we owe to the supreme architect; His Omni glory. Lodges are opened and closed with prayer, symbol of the loving omnipresence of the Great Architect; Freemasons believe that where two or three are gathered together in His name. There His is also, in the midst of them.
On our Altar lies His Holy Book, rule and guide of our faith, symbol of His Omnipotence, since in it are the prophecies and histories of the powers of the Most High.
The All-Seeing Eye is significant of His Omniscience; that the Supreme Architect sees all and knows all, even the hidden secrets of the human heart.
Here, indeed. is the kernel of the nut, the inner meaning of the symbol which has come down to us from so many diverse ages, so many religions, which has been interwoven with sun and pagan gods and myths, nature religion and many kinds of worship, which was old when Egypt was young and ancient when India was new.
The All-Seeing Eye is to Freemasons the cherished symbol not only of the power but of the mercy of God — since, as has been beautifully said to comfort us who cannot always do as we know we should, or even as we want — “to see all is to know all; to know all is to understand all; to understand all is to forgive all.”
Therefore the thinking Freemason has reverence for this symbol. He treats it not as one of many; rather as among those to be held in tenderest thought and most precious memory. The Sword pointing to the Naked Heart may thunder of justice, but the All-Seeing Eye whispers of justice tempered with complete understanding, which is man’s most lovely conception of Him who judges erring men.
Pike attributes the eye to the eye of the Greeks Jupiter in the 25th degree, Knight of the Brazen Serpent, saying:
That Osiris and Isis were the Sun and Moon, is attested by many ancient writers; by Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Lucian, Suidas, Macrobius, Martianus Capella, and others. His power was symbolized by an Eye over a Sceptre. The Sun was termed by the Greeks the Eye of Jupiter, and the Eye of the World; and his is the All-Seeing Eye in our Lodges. The oracle of Claros styled him King of the Stars and of the Eternal Fire, that en-genders the year and the seasons, dispenses rain and winds, and brings about daybreak and night. And Osiris was invoked as the God that resides in the Sun and is enveloped by his rays, the invisible and eternal force that modifies the sublunary world by means of the Sun.
Zeus was the Greek iteration of Jupiter, adopted later by the Romans.
Pike, elaborating further, says:
The Blazing Star in our Lodges, we have already said, represents Sirius, Anubis, or Mercury, Guardian and Guide of Souls. Our Ancient English brethren also considered it an emblem of the Sun. In the old Lectures they said: “The Blazing Star or Glory in the centre refers us to that Grand Luminary the Sun, which enlightens the Earth, and by its genial influence dispenses blessings to mankind.” It is also said in those lectures to be an emblem of Prudence. The word Prudentia means, in its original and fullest signification, Foresight: and accordingly the Blazing Star has been regarded as an emblem of Omniscience, or the All-Seeing Eye, which to the Ancients was the Sun.
And, lastly, for what it’s worth, the All Seeing Eye has worked it’s way into the material culture, at least with some humor.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Before we delve too deeply into the subject matter, I’d love to start by finding out about you. Who is Robert Sullivan, how long have you been a Mason, and to what orders are you a member of?
Robert W. Sullivan (RS) On my website I describe myself as a philosopher, historian, antiquarian, jurist, theologian, writer, and lawyer. I am the only child of antique dealers and I was born on October 30, 1971 in Baltimore, Maryland. I graduated high school from Friends School of Baltimore (the oldest private school in Baltimore, founded in 1784) in June 1990 and attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania becoming a brother of Lambda Chi Alpha (Theta Pi, member #1199) fraternity. I earned my B.A. in History in 1995 having spent my entire junior year of college (1992-1993) abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, England studying European history and philosophy. While in Oxford I was a member of the Oxford Union, the Oxford University Conservative Association, and the Oxford Law Society. Upon returning to the United States in June 1993 I took a year off from Gettysburg College to serve as office director of the Washington International Studies Council located on Capitol Hill.
Prior to attending law school in the United States I spent the Michaelmas Term 1995 at Trinity College, Oxford University studying jurisprudence and international law. From 1997 to 2000 I attended Widener University School of Law, Delaware Campus, from where I received my Juris Doctorate.
I have been a Blue Lodge Mason since 1997 having joined Amicable-St. John’s Lodge #25 in Baltimore, Maryland. I became a 32 degree Scottish Rite Mason in 1999, Valley of Baltimore, Orient of Maryland.
RS – Since being a child I have always been interested in the mysterious and the unexplained. Growing up I always tuned into In Search Of hosted by Leonard Nimoy. My interest in Masonry had to do with its mystical origins and esoteric symbols, however I was primarily motivated to become a Mason to continue a family tradition; my Grandfather Robert W. Sullivan Jr. was a Freemason, his father-in-law, my Great Grandfather, Frederick J. Wheelehan was as a Past Master (former Worshipful Master) of Freedom Lodge #112.
GS – Did you realize your vision in your first few experiences of joining? (Did it live up to your expectations?) Or did you discover something else?
RS – Yes, the Masonic ritual experience was everything I imagined it would be, however, it was not until a couple years later that I truly understood the esoteric symbolism and the themes of Gnostic ascension that are contained in the third degree ritual. I had a much better understanding of the ritual after I finally read the works of the Masonic greats such as Albert Mackey, Manly P. Hall, and Albert Pike. After that I discovered the real meaning and purpose of Masonic ritual and its underlying occult philosophy.
GS – Gnostic Ascension, elaborate on that. What does the idea mean or look like to you?
RS – Gnostic ascensio [Ascension] is being brought from a state of symbolic death to a resurrected life or darkness to light which is the main theme of the third degree ritual. Once re-awakened, the candidate’s divine spark is ignited, their slumbering Prometheus is conscious, and the newly resurrected initiate is ready to effect positive change in his life and in society in general.
GS – What ultimately led to your crafting your book, The Royal Arch of Enoch?
RS – The research for the The Royal Arch of Enoch
GS – For those who don’t know about Enoch, describe briefly who he was and why he bears symbolic significance to Freemasonry and more broadly to esoteric or occult circles.
RS – Enoch is one of two people in the Bible to never experience a physical death; the Prophet Elijah is the other. Enoch is taken into Heaven at Genesis 5:18-24 and the Book of Enoch (or I Enoch) documents Enoch’s interactions with both Arch-Angels and Fallen Angels the latter being known as the Watchers. He is important with Masonry because the High (or Haute) degree ritual that bears his name, the Royal Arch of Enoch, sees the recovery of the Tetragrammaton thus philosophically ending the “mission statement” of the Blue Lodge. Enoch’s corporeal travels in the afterlife are very esoteric in nature including the gleaning of knowledge from the Watchers which ultimately become the seven liberal arts and sciences (Medieval Quadrivium and Trivium). My book documents components of I Enoch being incorporated into the Royal Arch of Enoch high degree ceremonial which should not be occurring since the Book of Enoch was lost to Western Civilization from approximately 2-3 C.E. to 1821 when it was first translated into English. This historical anomaly and its influence upon material culture is the thrust of my book.
GS – Without giving too much away, why do you think this anomaly is important?
GS – It’s interesting to me that Enoch comes in tangentially in two different degrees in two different systems (York Rite and Scottish Rite). Why do you think that is (how did that happen)?
RS – Both the York Rite and Scottish Rite owe its origin to the premiere high degree system which was known as the Rite of Perfection. The twenty-five degree Rite of Perfection was developed by the Society of Jesus [aka the Jesuits] as part of the on-going Counter Reformation in an effort to undermine the English Monarchy and destroy the Protestant Church via subterfuge. The Rite of Perfection was mid-wifed piecemeal into the United States and a Temple of Perfection was established in Albany, New York by Henry Francken. The Lodge of Perfection is the forerunner to the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite while T.S. Webb’s Illustrations of Freemasonry of 1797 bear all the hallmarks of Francken’s Lodge. Webb, of course, was the driving force behind the York or American Rite of Freemasonry.
GS – Do you think the two parallel one another in any way? What does one suggest that the other omits and vice versa? Do the two compliment one another?
RS – Yes, the two Rites parallel each other in that the Name of God or the Tetragrammaton is recovered. This is the “Lost Word” that goes missing in the Blue Lodge with the death of Hiram Abif. The two degrees have differences as well. For example, in the York Rite the Name of God is located on the Ark of the Covenant while in the Scottish Rite it is found on the Foundation Stone upon which the Ark once sat, so both Rites associate themselves with the Ark of the Covenant and by default the Decalogue and Hebrew Kabbalah.
GS – Can they be taken together, or do they exist as two separate tellings, unique unto themselves?
RS – Once a man becomes a third degree Master Mason, he is then eligible to join the York and Scottish Rites. He can join one, both, or neither – the decision is his. Since these two rites are not mutually exclusive, a person could receive the Royal Arch degree twice: once in the York Rite and once in the Scottish Rite. So in that sense an initiate can “take” the degrees in each separate haute degree system.
GS – I heard you say, in another interview talking about the book, that the degree is a re-telling of the Book of Enoch. I’m curious how so? Is it an interpretation of its existence (like acknowledging the BoE by the degrees existence) or could it be construed as a literal retelling?
GS – I have an idea what you mean, but if you can, define what you mean by an “…occult theocracy.”
RS – A society that is outwardly democratic yet inwardly ruled by hidden leaders or masters who rule behind the scenes without the consent of the populace. This can be seen in the early days of the Republic where DeWitt Clinton used high degree Freemasonry as a vehicle to formulate public policy across states’ lines without electoral consent.
GS – Interesting, by saying it represented a perfected temple, vis-à-vis a one world government, do you think that was the notion behind the degree or just an allegorical bonus to utilizing an Enocian theme?
RS – The degree was part of the original twenty-five degrees of the Rite of Perfection, and as the title suggests, by beholding the Tetragrammaton in the Royal Arch ritual the Masonic parfait becomes “perfected” and now can perfect or formulate society as a whole. This was the penultimate goal of what can best be defined as the Thomas Smith Webb-DeWitt Clinton-Salem Town ritual synthesis.
GS – Is one degree (York or Scottish) closer to that retelling?
RS – Not necessarily, but the placement of the Tetragrammaton on the Ark of the Covenant in the York Rite correctly associates the “Lost Word of a Master Mason” with Hebrew Kabbalah in keeping with Enochian and arcane mystical themes and concepts.
GS – Do you think it would have the same meaning if it were given immediately following the third degree?
RS – In some English “Antient” Lodges, the Royal Arch was given after the third degree. Today it is given as part of the higher degree systems and I think the ritual works much better that way.
GS – I’m curious, from the work you’ve done, do you find parallel passages in the Book of Enoch to support the ideas of both the Scottish and York Rite workings, or do you see them as fanciful extrapolations of an Apocryphal biblical figure?
RS – Neither, I see the hands of Counter Reformation Jesuits hard at work in the development of this ritual to undermine the Church of England and inject a heavy dose of Roman Catholicism into Freemasonry. Since the Council of Trent of 1545, the Jesuits have been charged with thwarting Protestantism. Since the formation of the Church of England by Henry VIII, England has been in the Jesuit’s crosshairs. The Spanish Armada of 1588, the Gunpowder Treason of Guy Fawkes, and the “Catholic” Rite of Perfection were all designed to put England under the yoke of Rome. This was the Jesuit’s modus operandi.
GS – So then do you suggest the degree is (was?) really a subversive conversion tool?
RS – The purpose original French-Jesuit Rite of Perfection was to Christianize Freemasonry and serve as a vehicle to restore the Catholic side of the Stuarts back to the Throne of England in violation of the Settlement Act of 1701. In that aspect one could say it was subversive. However, the high degrees flourished on the continent of Europe and by the time they reach the United States, the Jesuit influence and control over the degrees seems to have waned.
GS – What you’re suggesting sounds almost as if it’s the creation of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis or the embodiment of John Winthrop’s City upon a hill. Do you think these forbearers were thinking of that one world illuminism you mentioned with the Enocian arch degree?
RS – Yes, these works clearly anticipate a new “Order of the Ages.” One can add John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun, and Thomas More’s Utopia to that list.
GS – So with Enoch, are there other lessons we can pull from the texts about him that inform Masonry?
RS – Yes, in The Royal Arch of Enoch: The Impact of Masonic Ritual, Philosophy, and Symbolism I present evidence that the haute degree that bears the Biblical patriarch’s name is the defining template for the United States of America. This can be seen in the architecture and design of Washington, D.C., it can be found in the Masonic architecture of Baltimore, Maryland, and can be seen in the “rising sun” template of Union College of Schenectady New York which was first college established after the Revolution to offer degrees in civil engineering or operative masonry.
GS – What you’re suggesting sounds almost as if it’s the creation of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis or the embodiment of John Winthrop’s City upon a hill. Do you think these forbearers were thinking of that one world illuminism you mentioned with the Enocian arch degree?
GS – Do you see any parallel components between say the rituals of Masonry and the practice of Enochian or Solomonic magick?
RS – Yes and Yes. Naturally, Solomonic Magick, as discussed in the Testament of Solomon and Ars Goetia, documents 72 demons that Solomon commanded to construct the first Temple of God. Since the third degree Masonic ritual centers on the construction of Solomon’s temple the nexus is obvious. Further, the 72 demons symbolize a secret name of God, Shemhamphorasch, which is composed by 72 Hebrew letter groups. Again, here we have a “name of god” which is lost in the third degree ritual when Hiram dies and the word is lost yet recovered in the Royal Arch ceremonial which is reflecting Solomonic Magick.
With regard to Enochian Magick, if one is looking for a likely candidate to have possessed a secret copy of the Book of Enoch prior to its official discovery in the West, look no further than the inventor of Enochian Magick
First, Dee’s sorcery, Enochian, is a way to summon angels and demons and is obviously named after the Biblical patriarch and reflects Enoch’s interaction with these ethereal beings.
Second, Dee had one of the largest libraries in Europe and was a purveyor of esoteric texts so a copy (or a detailed summary) could have been in his possession.
And third, and most interesting, is Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh, like Dee was involved with Sir Francis Walsingham’s spy-ring that protected Queen Elizabeth I and Raleigh actually mentions in his History of the World that the Book of Enoch contains an Astronomy/Astrology book which begs the question: How did Raleigh know this when the I Enoch was “officially” lost to history at the time. Where is Raleigh getting this information? The answer points in one direction and one direction only: Dr. John Dee.
GS – Do you think this idea of the name of God in the degree is a manifestation of Dee’s work with Enocian magic, or an older idea that we can find some parallels in say the Kabbalah or some other tradition?
RS – I would say it is kabalistic more than anything. In the Book of Enoch, Enoch beholds the Sephirotic Tree of Wisdom as an emanation of the name of God and the source of all wisdom.
GS – You mentioned earlier, and in other interviews for the book, the connection between the Jesuits and Higher degree Freemasonry. I’m curious, do you think that most of what we know or see as esoteric Masonry today comes out of this notion that mythologizing the Catholic experience was an inducement for those 17th century occultists to come back to the Catholic Church?
RS – I think that the high degrees are more mystical and occult laden than the Blue Lodge degrees and one can make an argument that the Jesuits were injecting the high degrees with mystical Roman Catholicism. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises are mystical in nature and the works of the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher are very hermetic and arcane leading some within the Society of Jesus to believe they were the real Rosicrucians. The high degree system was itself a Jesuit invention employing subterfuge and even espionage to secretly lure Protestants back to the Roman Church while serving as a vehicle to restore the Stuart Pretenders back to the throne of England violating the Act of Settlement of 1701.
GS – Do you think this is a point many Jesuits would agree with today? And, do you think they feel the same way?
GS – So, moving beyond The Royal Arch, one of my fascinations is the notion of esoteric Masonry. I’m curious your take on the subject. Do you think Masonry has a deeper esoteric, or even an occultic, side?
RS – Yes absolutely. Many of the symbols and rituals contain occult and hidden meaning. For example, the third degree Master Mason ritual is a retelling of the Egyptian Osirian Cycle where the candidate, portraying Hiram Abif, is killed and resurrected which reflects the murder of Osiris and his resurrection. In Christianity, the dying and resurrected “sun-man” character is, of course, Jesus Christ. Hiram Abif is surrounded with solar symbolisms; for example he is buried west of the temple representing the setting, dying sun. Twelve Fellowcrafts go looking for Hiram symbolizing the twelve houses of the zodiac looking for their lost solar ruler, and finally Hiram is raised from the grave with the “Strong Grip of the Lion’s Paw” which is an esoteric reference to the sign of Leo which is the sole house of the sun.
GS – How much of this, do you think, is just absorbed Christian Mysticism which is borrowed from these traditions or more broadly absorbed from their source?
RS – I believe it owes its origins to sources other than Christianity. Freemasonic symbols and rituals derive from the Ancient Mysteries (of Egypt, Eleusis), Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, and Pythagoreanism among others while incorporating Judaic-Christian Biblical themes.
GS – Do you think there is a practice of esoteric Masonry still happening today?
RS – I do not know if I would call it a “practice”, but I believe there is a renewed interest in the esoteric side of the Craft. This seems to be the motivating factor that is influencing the younger generation to join Freemasonry. I definitely see a pendulum swinging back to the mystical side of the Craft where in the past the primary motivations to join a Blue Lodge was community involvement and/or family tradition.
GS – What’s next? What’s on the horizon for Robert Sullivan?
RS – I will be publishing my second book titled Cinema Symbolism: A Guide to Esoteric Imagery in Popular Movies in May/June 2014. This book is a continuation of the final chapter of The Royal Arch of Enoch where I discuss hidden occult, Masonic, Enochian, and solar symbolism in films such as The Ninth Gate, National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, and Being There amongst others. I am currently writing its sequel, Cinema Symbolism II and I am writing my first work of fiction as well. I have also begun outlining another book on occult Freemasonry.
GS – That sounds interesting, the Ninth Gate is one of my favorite films. Do you think there is an intentional evocation of these themes by the film writers, directors and producers, or are they playing to some underlying zeitgeist?
RS – In some cases it is clearly intentional while in others it could be accidental. If it is accidental, concealed symbols in film appear by way of Carl Jung’s Collected Unconscious psychological mechanism which is a descendant of Plato’s Theory of Forms.
GS – And, I like to conclude with asking who, or what, has been your greatest Masonic influence? Who do you look up to and why?
RS – Albert Pike and Manly P. Hall have been the greatest Masonic influences upon me. I really enjoy their work and have learnt a lot of kabalistic and esoteric information from reading Morals and Dogma and The Secret Teachings of All Ages. In fact I modeled The Royal Arch of Enoch after both of these books. Although I may not “look up” to them, they are both by far the greatest Masonic influence upon me. As to Masons that I look up to, that would be George Washington for his sacrifice and commitment to something he believed in when others may have not shared his vision.
Robert, thanks so much for taking some time to talk about your work and the intricate connections of Enoch and the Haute Degrees of Freemasonry. You can read more about Robert W. Sullivan IV on his website and you can find his book The Royal Arch of Enoch on Amazon.