The following is an adjusted version of the introduction for a new book I’ve been working on, The Master Mason. This work is the culmination of nearly a decade of consideration and contemplation over the complexities of what it means to become a master in the masonic system of initiation. It is not the complete work and serves as an introduction to the broader themes explored in its subsequent pages. In a nut-shell, the work is an exploration of Freemasonry and how it relates to the Hermetic tradition, the Kabbalah and other esoteric systems that have at various intersections crossed paths with what we know as Freemasonry today.
Transcending Yesod — The Third Degree of Freemasonry
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
“To be or not to be” are the immortal words written by the eminent bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. His question appears in the story of Hamlet made by a lost son striving to find answers to what would, by most, be an unfathomable question which is the essence of the third degree. “To be” is perhaps the oldest of the New Age paradigms stirring echoes across theologies of all cultures said best in the application of the Golden Rule as to do unto others which is Being itself. Like the Golden Rule, in order to do unto others, we must first understand ourselves, the innerness of our being such that we can Be in the first place. This lesson is not something that is wholesale unique to the fraternity of Freemasonry, or this degree, as we find the idea of the Golden Rule transcribed across millennia and within every theological system. So too do we find the testament as a personal gospel of finding our truth. For most, truth is mythology whose philosophical lessons are lost in the dogmas of its authority – its commentaries on the philosophies become more valuable than the philosophies themselves and the value of what was said is lost to the dominion of those who hold authority over them. We must interpret the truths for ourselves so as to find their resonance within us. This is the entirety of the lesson of the third degree, the marrow in the bones of antiquity within which the truth spans all landscapes if the seeker looks deeply enough into its composition. But, as with any concept, truth is itself mutable as generations add or redact its communication creating ever fluctuating permutations and confluences of its principle concepts. Truth is truth, no matter how others dictate its interpretation. It is our own internal mechanisms that decide it for ourselves. For the Mason reading, we, as Hiram, perish in custody of our virtue which in turn is the vehicle of our metaphoric resurrection in being made perpendicular again, a zenith we find in the number three as the union between one and two, duality itself made whole. By reading the degree, whether in the Scottish or York Rite telling, the overtones are distinctly Christian but like the Christian Church itself, the tradition existed well before the consummation of the Gospels and illustrate the depth of antiquity for what they seek to convey. As with every symbolic story, we must look at it with filters and adjudge the entirety by the description of the pieces to achieve a level of perspective over the totality within which it exists. Freemasonry is, if anything else, a conglomerate of ideas, culled together from a variety of sources. So then, to understand its summation we need to look at the Kabalistic connections of this degree as it relates to our Tree of Life progression (see The Apprenticeand Fellow of the Craft) as the degree of the Master Mason resides within the Sephirot of Yesod on the pillar of mercy giving several meanings and parallels. So too will we do well in finding its corresponding relations in the Tarot as Yesod relates to the card of the Four Nines, which is also a source of its symbolic origin. But, our greatest understanding will come as we look at the degree itself to try and make sense of why the master mason is arranged the way it is, given its discordant portrayal when compared with the two that preceded it in both presentation and tone. No longer is the degree about simply the teaching of ideas and social principles, nor is it an indoctrination meant to introduce foreign concepts to the newcomer. No, this degree is about the inner journey, the making of the “transcendent transparent” which it does by introducing, in its present-day conduct, an aspect of itself that strives to teach its lesson through theatrics so as to convey its lesson in a manner reminiscent of a morality play with antecedent’s common at the time of its ritual organization. “To be…or not to be,” that is the challenge that faces each of us as we confront our own inner Hiram. And is the question which will open the door of the future of Masonry in the pursuit of the higher degrees. The esoteric writer Eliphas Lévi says, in his book The History of Magic, “Ordeal is the great word of life, and life itself is a serpent which brings forth and devours unceasingly.” Man, is born into chaos to seek light from that which he was created which, the great tradition of Hermetica tells us, is but merely a reflection, as the moon reflects the light of the sun — an aspect of this tradition we find in the parallel with Yesod. So then, we need a place to begin our study and where best to begin than with the number of the degree itself so as to construct an understanding of the significance of the number three and its relationship to many other traditions as the unifying force of division.
As with the past books, this work is being made available to early adopters through a Kickstarter campaign designed to provide a mix of old and new rewards for those students of the work to commemorate its publication.
Following the path laid out thus far in The Apprentice and The Fellow of the Craft, The Master Mason sets out to complete the path of the Symbolic Lodge giving us firm footing in the climb into the Lodge of perfection. Focusing on the nuances of the degree, the Master Mason ritual is an enigma of sorts in that it’s telling follows a divergent path from its predecessors. It is because of this difference that those who undergo it’s rites experience something new in their becoming a master. As with the earlier works, The Master Mason delves further upon the Kabbalistic Tree of Life taking the necessary detours to explore the symbolism and history of the ritual.
For those veteran contributors, you’ll notice a significant difference from the previous campaigns. This change is some of the lessons learned in undervaluing and short sighting some of the hurdles that come with self-publishing a book like this. If you’re new to this book series and collecting the work, there are definitely opportunities to become a sponsor and ensure a spot in the progress of the Great Work.
And, because of the special history of bringing this work to life, I thought it only fitting to launch it on the day of the full solar eclipse in 2017. Truly, a day from darkness into light.
My thanks to you, in advance, for your support in this passion project of mine.
Recently I attended a Festive Board of Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge No 1283, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM. The guest speaker DDGM John Tolbert made a passionate presentation on Hermeticism and Freemasonry using slides as illustrations. That made his presentation peppered with pictures which is what this article will look like. Jewel P. Lightfoot, the founder of this Lodge, had a marked interest in Hermeticism as you will see. This made the Presentation all the more personal to the members of this Lodge assembled. Tolbert was kind enough to allow me to reprint his presentation with his pictures which you will find below.
HERMETIC PHILOSOPHY AND FREEMASONRY by Brother John Tolbert
Have you ever wondered why all of the words and passwords that we use in our degrees are in Hebrew and that every prayer we use in our degrees are from the Old Testament?
Have you noticed that a Masonic Lodge room is full of diametrically opposed objects and symbols which represent polar concepts or ideas? Examples of these opposites are:
Square and Compasses
Rough and Perfect Ashlars
Jachin and Boaz / Wisdom and Strength
Terrestrial and Celestial Globes
Darkness to Light
Checkered Pavement / Black and White pavers
East and West…North and South
Death and Rebirth
Sun and Moon
Stepping off upon the right and left feet
Cowans and Eavesdroppers Ascending and Descending
Isn’t it interesting that Masons are encouraged from the very beginning to control their passions and to pursue a virtuous and pure life? It’s interesting, because the Greeks demanded the very same thing from their candidates before they were admitted into the Ancient Mystery Schools, and the School of Pythagoras (you can see a map of the school here).
After reading thousands of pages written by Masonic scholars, I am convinced that Freemasonry was not “invented” by the English (nor the Scots) in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Yes, in the early eighteenth century, Freemasonry was developed into a regulated institution and rituals were developed from existing initiatory rites of operative Lodges, but something else was going on beneath the surface and intellectuals of the time could sense that there was more.
In the most recent issue of Heredom, the annual publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society, on page 61 (a paper about the 1738 anti-Masonic Papal Bull by Marsha Keith Schuchard) it reads:
“In January 1721, when the antiquarian William Stukeley (close friend of Newton and Desaguliers) determined to join the fraternity, “suspecting it to be the remains of the mysteries of the ancients…”
This illustrates that even from the first years of organized Freemasonry, educated men were recognizing something about Freemasonry that led them to believe that it was rooted in ancient philosophy and concepts.
The namesake of this Lodge, Jewel P. Lightfoot, speaks candidly to the Texas Mason concerning the mystical and spiritual aspects of the Craft. Please listen carefully to the following quote from the INTRODUCTORY in our current monitor, written by Lightfoot many decades ago.
“ The presence in the modern Masonic system, of many of the emblems, symbols and allegories of the ancient Temples of Initiation, as well as certain rites performed therein, has persuaded the most learned among Masonic scholars to conclude that Masonry is of very ancient origin, and is, in some aspects, the modern successor of, and heir to, the sublime Mysteries of the Temple of Solomon, and the Temples of India, Chaldea, Egypt, Greece, and Rome [I am certain that he was referring to the cult of Mithras], as well as the basic doctrine of the Essenes, Gnostics and other Mystic Orders“
With this single quote, Brother Lightfoot clearly asserts that Masonry contains remnants of the symbols and rites of the Ancient Mysteries and Masonry also contains the basic doctrines of known esoteric groups, which he terms, Mystic Orders.
This is precisely what the antiquarian William Stukeley had noticed in 1721; there were aspects of Freemasonry that seemed to have similarities to known rites and cults of the ancient world.
This presentation is specifically written to explore one well known stream of thought from the ancient world, broadly called Hermetic Philosophy, and its potential influence on the early progenitors of our Craft. Remember that Stukeley was a close friend of Newton and Desaguliers. John Theophilus Desaguliers is generally credited with the early development of our three degree system, he was the secretary / research assistant for Newton for twenty years, and he was also the third Grand Master of English Lodges.
NOTE – The association of Desaguliers with Isaac Newton is well worth researching; Newton was a practicing alchemist, obsessed with King Solomon’s Temple, and concealed his heretical religious views in enciphered writings, which were supposed to be burned at his death but were retained and translated in the twentieth century.
Hermetic Philosophy focuses around an entity called Hermes; this entity has also been named Thoth (Egyptians), Mercury (Romans), and Hermes Trismegistus or Hermes Thrice Great.
Thoth, Hermes, Hermes Trismegistus, may or may not have been just a single person, but the name and legend could have been inspired by some incredibly intelligent human (like Plato, Pythagoras, or Hypatia) who had such a capacity for knowledge, that their writings evolved into myth and legend, and sometimes converted into God forms. Plato is a perfect example of how one very intelligent person can have profound influence on entire civilizations, and the effects can last for centuries.
Most esoterically minded Masons are already aware of the great intellect of “Hermes” and his contributions of science and knowledge to mankind, but let’s examine how Hermetic Philosophy was evident in 15th-18th century literature, art, and direct Masonic connections. It is important to recall at this point that the typical European citizen had been enduring centuries of civil unrest, violent revolutions, constant wars, disease epidemics, cruel oppression from monarchs and religious authorities, public torture spectacles, and the raw uncertainty of life itself. In light of these long term social stresses, it is no wonder that a new, mysterious, and apparently ancient spirituality would capture the fascinations of intellectuals and develop into obsessions of looking for a better world, a pure un-corrupt religious experience, and a closer relationship to God. These are the allures of so-called Hermetic Philosophy.
The term Hermeticism, doesn’t really have a dogmatic or well defined definition, but in general, it includes the study of alchemy, gnostic spirituality, Kabbalah, theurgy, astrology, and other mystical approaches to relating the physical reality to the spiritual realm. Almost any occult science could be included under the Hermetic umbrella.
The following is a brief and certainly incomplete list of known references to the interest in Hermeticism in 15-18th century Europe.
1.Marsilio Ficino’s translation of what is now called the Corpus Hermeticum brought Hermes and the mysterious writings into the focus of philosophers and the ecclesiastic authorities. The Hermetic writings were interpreted as having predicted the coming of Christ and therefor acceptable; a beautiful marble floor panel in Siena Cathedral (1480s) in Italy depicts Hermes Trismegistus as being a contemporary of Moses.
2. Hermes was a central character in the Sloane (1646) manuscript Constitutions. Hermes discovers the two pillars, one of brick and one of marble, which contain the preserved wisdom and knowledge of the ancient masters.
3. Alchemy, being within the scope of Hermetic Philosophy is everywhere in Europe during this period. The Medici funded translations of ancient scrolls rescued from Byzantium revealed to the Western mind the concepts of alchemy. The Rosicrucian manifestos of the early 1600’s, likely written by Johanne Valentine Andreae and his associates, set off what is called a furor of interest in alchemy as well.
4. Giordano Bruno is travelling around Europe (the late 1500s) promoting controversial mathematical and astronomic theories; he is also promoting the Hermetic Art of Memory, which is not just a mnemonic strategy of memory, but a mystical technique. Bruno was burned at the stake in early 1600 for his heretical scientific and spiritual views.
5. William Shaw, the Master of Werks for James VI, declares in the Second Shaw Statutes (1599) that all craft fellows and prentices shall “Tak tryall of the art of memory”. William Fowler, a colleague of Shaw, had met with Bruno in London in the 1580s and it is feasible that this is how Shaw became exposed to the Hermetic Art of Memory.
6.Robert Cooper, the Grand archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, makes many references to Hermeticism in his book Cracking the Freemasons Code. Brother Cooper asserts Hermeticism as being a component of Scottish Freemasonry in the 1500-1600s.
7. The interest in Alchemy, astrology, magick, and the Kabbalah are very evident in the circles of Royal Society members, and well known Masonic persons. Elias Ashmole, Isaac Newton, Thomas Vaughn, and others were known alchemists and studied occult subject matter; their personal libraries are evidence of these interests. John Byrom maintained a group of intellectually inclined Brothers who convened in an occasional gathering called the Cabala Club, and Lodges in London have minutes showing that papers were presented in Lodges about John Dee, Rosicrucians, and Jacob Boehme. Boehme’s visionary spiritual writings as well as John Dee’s books of angel magic and alchemy were of extreme interest to many intellectuals and free thinkers during this time period.
8. Kabbalah teacher Rabbi Leone Yahudahdi Modena, in 1680, lectured in London about Solomon’s Temple, Lawrence Dermott, the Grand Secretary of the Antients refers to the Rabbi, as Architect, Hebraist, and Brother.
9. Acception – There existed in the 1600’s an elite organization, which was closely associated with the London Mason’s Company, the operative organization of stone Masons. This elite and secretive group was called The Acception and only “accepted” very few members (one being Elias Ashmole); the cost of membership was very high, and one had to be highly educated and well respected. The early 20th century Masonic scholar and writer Reverend Castells, asserts that the name “The Acception” is synonymous to Kabbalah, which in Hebrew means “to receive.” Reverend Castells is convinced that “The Acception” was a purely speculative Masonic organization.
10. Medieval Kabbalists held Hermes in great veneration, no wonder, since he is considered (in some legends) as having given the Kabbalah to Moses. The Zohar contains phrases which closely parallel the well known Hermetic motto, “As above so below.” “Come and see: the world above and the world below are perfectly balanced.” (Zohar 2:176b) Kabbalah and Hermeticism share the all important mystical understanding of the balanced interrelations of heaven and earth.
This follow up book to my 2010 project Masonic Traveler – Essays and Commentary is a different approach to understanding the importance and meaning behind the First Degree of Freemasonry.
Taking the approach from the Scottish (French) Rite degrees, this work explores the nuance of symbolic initiation lost in the contemporary system at work in much of the main-stream practice. By using the Scottish Rite First Degree, the meaning and process of the masonic initiation takes on new dimensions why compared to Albert Pike’s First Degree treatise in Morals and Dogma. It is that dimension that this work seeks to explore celebrating the art and history behind the initiation process.
The idea behind this work is that the degree, whether intentional or as a byproduct of revision and deconstruction, is a metaphorical entry point onto the Tree of Life from the mystical tradition of the Kabbalah. That, the first degree, when examined next to the works of other esoteric writers, becomes the foundation degree of initiation as it blossoms into a rich allegorical journey from chaos into order.
While not a tell-all expose into Freemasonry, the work, at a deeper level, is an attempt to understand what it means to BECOME a Freemason.
In this work are:
Two never before seen original poems by the author
Original Art envisioning the meaning of the initiation
Three explorations of the work
Notes to support the thesis
An interesting note, all aspects of the book from its creators hand. Not a pain stream or commercially published work, its creation is with an artisanal work as the product of a loving devotion to the medium and subject matter. Also interesting about the book is that this work is the first of three to round out three ineffable degrees of the fraternity taking us ever higher into the allegorical tree of life.
And, with this announcement I want to publicly thank those who invested in the work through Kickstarter. So, a big round of thinks to:
For some reason, I have noticed a lot of people talking about how religion influences Freemasonry lately. Some folks have proclaimed that the foundations of Masonry are found in Kabbalah or Hermeticism. Others argue that Masonry is essentially a Christian art.
Quite frankly, I disagree with both camps and find both sides a bit annoying. I am a firm believer that Freemasonry is impartial to religion. However, I am also familiar with the old saying “those that live in glass houses should not throw stones.”
So why do I reside in a glass house? Because at one point in my life I was guilty of these very transgressions. Early in my Masonic career, I found myself expending all of my energy to prove to myself and everyone else that Freemasonry was truly Christian. The reasons for this were numerous. First, I was raised in a church which declared that its communing members could not be Freemasons. Second, I was in hot pursuit of a young girl who belonged to the aforementioned church. But most importantly, I was not comfortable being a Freemason if it wasn’t a Christian organization.
I think that trying to determine what religion Masonry is derived from is a perfectly natural thing to do. We become Freemasons to discover truth and for most of us, we are preconditioned to believe that there is one correct answer to every question. Therefore, when we become Freemasons we understand that the craft is tolerant of all religions, but we also believe that if it teaches the Great Truth that it must point to one individual religion. We want one path, one plan, and one True Religion. So we set out to compare various religious teachings to the lessons taught in the Masonic lodge to determine which religion gave birth to Freemasonry. This is where we begin to err, for the man that studies the Blue Lodge degrees would observe that Freemasonry is Jewish, the reader of Morals and Dogma may determine that Freemasonry is alchemical, and the Sir Knight would learn that the craft is indeed Christian.
The problem with this process is that the approach is entirely incorrect. Why must we automatically assume that Masonry’s truth was taken from religion? Why don’t we assume that religion learned its truth from Masonry? Or let me put it a different way: Would the introduction of religious teachings into Masonry make it perfect or would the introduction of Masonic teachings into the world’s religions make them perfect?
This is how I finally learned to approach Freemasonry. Over a number of Sundays, I would sit and listen to preachers give their sermons. The thought that kept penetrating my brain was “How much better would that lesson be if it incorporated some Masonic teachings?” No matter what the subject of the religious meditation was, I realized that Freemasonry taught more about it in less time through its symbolism than the minister could ever cover in one of his sermons. I realized that Freemasonry wasn’t teaching the truths of my religion. Instead, my religion was attempting to teach the truths of Freemasonry.
Of course, this realization didn’t happen overnight. All things change over time. I eventually left the church and the girl dumped me. I have studied several different religions trying to find the almighty truth. Yet, I keep discovering that Masonry’s lessons are more universal and all encompassing than those of any particular creed. More than ever before, I realize that Freemasonry is not partial to any religion because it teaches only truth and does not attempt to answer questions which cannot be answered. Instead, it leaves the individual Brother to discover these answers for himself.
Freemasonry’s religion is simply the teaching of truth. Its initiates may flock to any religion that they choose to find salvation, but in the Masonic lodge only truth is discussed. That is what makes Freemasonry so appealing to so many men. It is the only organization that divests itself of man-made dogma and canonical law and serves only to shine a light on the bridge that runs between man and his Creator. It is not the vessel to the realms of Deity, but instead a lamp to light the path.
Jesuits, Illuminism, and the Royal Arch of Enoch with Robert W. Sullivan IV
Robert Sullivan is a newcomer in the world of Masonic scribes with his first work, The Royal Arch of Enoch, hitting the bookshelf late in 2012. What makes Sullivan’s work interesting is the degree of focus he puts on the Apocryphal figure of Enoch in the Masonic degrees, a figure that most, at best, consider briefly in their progress and, at worst, completely ignore all together. Sullivan’s work takes on the historic, esoteric, and political implications of including the biblical figure of Enoch in both the York and Scottish Rite and why that inclusion may not have been with the purest of Masonic intents but rather a happy accident of allegoric construction like so often happens in the secret traditions, including those of Freemasonry. I found the conversation to be extraordinary and I think you will too as we gain a bit more insight on the keeper of the lost word that is found anew, at least in part.
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.
GS – Thinking back, what induced you to originally want to become a mason?
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 began back when I was an associate student at Oxford University in 1992-1993, however the true writing of this book began in 2005 on the old social networking site Myspace. I started posting blogs and uploading photos that reflected my research and much to my delight, was very positively received. I was then approached by a fellow Mason who had seen the page and encouraged me to memorialize the information. Since this was what I was planning on doing anyway, I began putting pen to paper writing and editing the book. The Royal Arch of Enoch: The Impact of Masonic Ritual, Philosophy, and Symbolism was completed and published in August 2012, approximately seven years later.
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?
RS – My book is the first to document it; in other words, prior to the publishing of The Royal Arch of Enoch, this anomaly was unknown to historians in the East and West. The incorporation of the Book of Enoch into the degree ceremonial is a genuine mystery and it is this ritual in particular that has defined, among other things, the American national character. Carrying this Enochian iconography forward, The Royal Arch of Enoch also documents the symbolic restoration of the sun as the premier icon in all of Freemasonry and as the supreme emblem of imperial administration and religiosity lifted from the Ancient Mysteries, incorporated in the Abrahamic Faiths, and carried on in both blue lodge and high degree Masonry.
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?
RS – Although the ritual does not mention quotes or mention I Enoch per se, the ritual that bears Enoch’s name contains elements and components that come out of the pseudepigrapha. For example the Royal Arch ceremony parallels Enoch’s apotheosized ascension from the Book of Enoch thereby transforming the Masonic candidate into a sublime initiate (or parfait [French for “perfect”]) who, by beholding the name of deity as the emanation of all wisdom, becomes a symbolic god-like Enochian (or hermetic) divine figure in his own right. This degree under the T.S. Webb system was thus the premier and most sublime degree in Masonry. The movement of the essential elements of the Book of Enoch into the framework of the pre-history and paragon iconic myth of Freemasonry’s relationship to the broader world can be traced to the transformation of Enoch into a heavenly king. This king was not only a virtuous and wise Pythagorean ruler – an image that had fateful consequences for Freemasonry’s association with Illuminism: the means to the transformation of the world into a perfected Masonic Temple: a one world government – outwardly democratic yet inwardly ruled by an occult theocracy; and with the actual imagery of Pythagoras as the supreme Masonic initiate. The Masonic-Enochian Ritual utilizes the currency of platonic thought, notably that found in Plato’s own Timaeus, as the medium or method for the achievement of Pythagorean kingship with its array of symbolic effects transforming the candidate into a symbolic Enoch, Pythagoras, and Hermes Trismegistus. The Royal Arch of Enoch ritual, on a symbolic level, transforms the Masonic initiate into a divine, apotheosized monarch by beholding the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (or Wisdom) as an emanation of the Tetragrammaton; this concept comes directly out of the Book of Enoch. There are others, but I would refer one to read my book
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, Dr. John Dee. If a copy of I Enoch fell into Masonic circles Dee is a likely source for the copy and the evidence is compelling.
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?
RS – The Society of Jesus of 2014 would likely not be aware as this happened 300 years ago while the Jesuits were put out of business from about 1773-1815. Like Freemasonry, the Jesuits of today’s influence and power has been undercut, although the pendulum does appear to be swinging back towards the other direction for both groups. One has to bear in mind that the Jesuits of 1545 to 1773 were Europe’s version of the CIA while Ignatius of Loyola designed the order based on the mysticism of the Knights Templar and the arcane priesthoods of Egypt. The inner workings of the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, and Freemasonry are all based upon the occult machinations of the Society of Jesus.
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.SullivanIV on his website and you can find his book The Royal Arch of Enoch on Amazon.
In this installment of the Sojourners column we meet and talk to a ‘young’, but accomplished, artist and Freemason – Ryan Flynn. With his art, Flynn brings to the fraternity an unmatched graphic skill to match the patient and certificate makers of old in their typographic excellence and aesthetic composition. Equal parts artist, graphic designer and a true Freemason, Flynn captures the essence of what it means to BE a mason – translating those esoteric ideas into traditional drawings and paintings. No, this is not the print, cut, carve, hack, hew, etch, letter or engraving of the secrets of Freemasonry, rather, Flynn’s work takes a post-modern approach into the little trod corner of the Masonic landscape by capturing it’s ideas in the rendered image. I think you’ll enjoy this Sojourner’s visit as much as I did and will come away from it with a new take on art and Freemasonry and the synthesis between them.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Ryan, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule and sitting down to talk to me. I suppose, let’s start with the basics on how long you’ve been a part of the fraternity?
GS – What was your first introduction to the fraternity?
RF – I had a couple of friends from other states join in 2008 and 2009 and it peaked my interest.
After doing some research on the craft, I called my local lodge and visited for dinner. The next week I put in my application.
GS – Do you remember what ultimately induced you to join?
RF – I am a history buff, more particularly an art history buff, and the idea of symbols in art and architecture was always something I enjoyed learning about.
I also was never part of the armed forces or anything else that served “something bigger than myself,” so when something like Masonry presented itself to me, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.
GS – Since you’ve joined, have you found your way into any of the other bodies or related groups?
Ryan Flynn with one of his Codex images
RF – As of right now, I am the Junior Warden of Ancient York Lodge no.89 in Nashua, NH. I am a 32º Scottish Rite mason and member of the Philalethes Society and this upcoming year I plan on joining the York Rite.
GS – One of the things that intrigue me most is the artwork you create, in particular the Masonic art, much of it you have up on your website. With that in mind, I’m curious what your biggest influences to making it are?
RF – I have always been artistic. While attending high school, Lexington Christian Academy, my teachers realized this and always pushed me to be more artistic, even those teachers that taught classes that didn’t directly involve the fine arts. I particularly remember the motivation I received in World Literature class after reading Dante’s Divine Comedy with its amazing abstract symbolism. The work taught me to take symbolism in my art to another level.
As for history, my teachers were so impassioned with the subject that I couldn’t help but get motivated. I especially was intrigued with the history of art and the renaissance.
I was very fortunate with my high school. I had hands on training in painting, drawing, graphic design, stained-glass mosaic work, set design and sculpture. And my professor always pushed me harder than the others.
GS – Did you ever have any formal training? How did it influence you in your work now?
RF – After high school, I attended the University of Massachusetts and studied graphic design, painting, drawing and art history. Yet again, I was fortunate to have a professor that motivated me to learn more, and I started diving into learning about symbolism, sacred numerology and mythology.
In 2006, I studied painting and art history in Florence, Italy. I had the privilege of studying the great renaissance masters in person, and I particularly loved learning about the history of art, especially the beginnings of the renaissance. My time in Italy highly motivated me to create, and to create with purpose. I truly believe that I left for Italy as a student, and returned as an artist.
GS – How so? What changed?
RF – While attending college in Massachusetts, I was taught color theory, methods of lighting, brush work and drawing techniques, but MEANING was never discussed. Studying in Italy, I would have these moments of complete harmony with the art, moments to contemplate on what you are looking at, it changes you, and motivates you.
When I came back from Italy, I wanted to paint ideas, not images, and with being initiated into the craft, I had direction.
In Italy, I began to truly understand that works of art were really the culmination of research, practice and years of work. Michelangelo’s “David” transformed from a large nude man, to a blatant political statement, warning the enemies of Florence to fear the repercussions of challenging them. The Sistine Chapel became a lesson book for deep religious and philosophical thought, and at the same time a motivation to stand up to oppression and to use your mind and talents to bring light to others.
It was simply motivating. I recently returned to Florence, and found myself again, sketching, and really looking at the art and architecture again, this time with Masonic eyes. When I returned home, I immediately started working again. To put it plainly, Florence is with out question my muse.
GS – So, from your background, where do you see art mingling with Masonry? Do you think the two have always been in close proximity to one another?
RF – Masonry is based on art, and highly symbolic art at that. Our ancient brethren were artists, and anyone who has put a chisel to a piece of Marble understands how gifted and dedicated they were. And, just as I try to do with my work, they used their talents to share concepts that simply cannot be done by speaking. Hence why we as Free and Accepted Masons use symbols as the base of our degrees and lessons. I firmly believe that a successful work of art can sum up more feeling and emotion than a 30 minute lecture.
CODEX I: THE PILLARS Ryan Flynn
And there are great examples of artists predating what we would now call Freemasonry hiding symbols of what became the basis of our craft into their works. Artists like Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo and William Blake made it a point to reference Pythagoras, Kabbalah and sacred geometry in their works because they knew it was important knowledge to pass down.
Masonic artists should be no different.
GS – For those who might be unfamiliar with your artwork, how would you describe it to them stylistically?
RF – I’ve dabbled in a lot of styles, but I have been working as of late in a style that mimics the medieval Italian style.
I have a mechanical method of creating; I always need to know how something works before I paint it. So when I learn something, I become motivated to create something referencing it. If anyone ever sees me in lodge, I’m always carrying a sketchbook and notebook. When listening to the ritual, sometimes I get an idea and need to jot it down.
Once I had a good amount of ideas in there I realized I had my own Codex, which inspired me to create my first Masonic series, the Middle Chamber Codex series, in which I re-organized some of my notes to mimic the codices of DaVinci. This in turn led me to try making illuminated documents.
My future works will continue in this style until I am led into something else, it’s one of the things I love about being an artist, I set my own path.
GS – Of the work up on your site, which is your favorites?
Master Mason Patents Ryan Flynn
RF – Without question my authentic Master Mason Patents.
I love the fact that is the real deal, real gold, real calf skin parchment and all by drawn by hand. I take a lot of pride in them. I also like that it’s the only work that the client does not see until it’s finished. I never do one the same as the others; everyone gets their own unique patent.
As any artist will tell you, to know that something you create will be around a lot longer then you will be is a comforting thought. And because they are authentic, these patents potentially can last for hundreds of years.
A little scene that keeps popping in my head is of my daughter’s great-grandson finding my patent a hundred years from now and seeing how much Masonry meant to me.
GS – This may be out there a bit, but do you see juxtaposition between Masonic art and, say, more obscure, esoteric, or symbolic art?
RF – Absolutely, Masonry is about gaining light. And all forms of art can produce amazing “Eureka” moments in the viewers mind. I find that looking at abstract art can be a wonderful method of meditation and reflection.
GS – Your work, how do you create it? Is it hand made, mixed or digital media?
RF –Each project is a little different, but it all starts with pencil on paper.
Codex Series Prints Ryan Flynn
Pretty much with all my prints I will hand draw elements of the project on paper, then scan them in and position and color digitally. For my Limited Edition prints, I then Gicleé print them and complete them by hand, coloring them with metallic infused inks.
As for the authentic patents, they are 100% hand made. I order only the finest parchment from a small family owned company in upstate New York. And once they arrive I press them for a couple days under some large books to keep it flat. Then I sketch out my design on paper and using a small tracing table that I built, transfer it to the parchment. It’s a time consuming process with no room for error. If I mess up, I start over. After the sketch is completed, I ink it with high quality inks. Finally, when that is done, I Apply 23kt gold leaf and a wax seal that I designed.
As for my watercolors and paintings, they are all 100% from the brush. I sketch out my projects with light graphite and start applying the paint from light to dark.
GS – Have you had much response to your work from the Masonic world? What’s been the response?
RF – When I originally produced the window designs for my lodge, the images went viral, I think they were shared on Facebook over 1000 times, and they were featured on the covers of some magazines, I was in shock at how many people adored them.
My codex series was a big hit. I unveiled them at the Masonic Restoration Symposium in August and had many brothers not only purchase them, but have long conversations with me about why it was important to masonry for me to continue creating them.
I also have received some welcomed support by some fellow brothers. My good friend, Wor. Paul C. Smith, has helped me by pointing me towards information, by offering me council as well as recommending books and reading. His help has been immeasurable.
GS – Your patients look like illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages. How did you master that technique? Is there a subtext to styling them the way you styled them?
RF – Easy, I haven’t mastered it.
When I finished my first one, I looked back and said to myself “this is amazing.” Then I did my second one and it blew the first one away. As for training, having extensive knowledge in drawing, painting and design can lead you to learn anything you want.
Some things didn’t work out so well. I tried to create my own inks and failed miserably at it. I’ll try again soon.
As for gold leaf techniques, I learned by making mistakes. I bought some faux gold leaf and applied it to heavy paper and spare scraps of parchment. It took me 3 or 4 tries to get it to work the way I want.
GS – Given your proximity with Masonry and the arts, beyond the work you create are there any artists or artistic influences that come to mind that you think should (or do) have an influence on Masonry?
RF – As for the fine arts, I encourage every lodge to have someone take the time and learn about Filipo Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and William Blake.
Brunelleschi, for those who are not familiar with him, started the renaissance by stepping back, travelling and learning about geometry, science and the knowledge of the past. This to me sounds like the perfect example of what we as masons should strive to accomplish.
Michelangelo should be a patron saint of symbolism. He knew of Kabbalah, sacred geometry and numerology and he put in into all of his masterpieces. The Sistine chapel is a love letter to the Kabbalah, and learning about how he hid those messages into this work will open up your eyes on how to contemplate on a work art.
And Blake – Blake is the prime example of what a Masonic artists should strive to be. His tremendous works engulf the viewers with blatant Masonic symbolism, but upon further inspection, the real messages can be found within. Each of his paintings could be its own lecture in lodge.
GS – So what’s next, any new Masonic works on the horizon?
RF – I carry around with me a notebook of all my potential works. I don’t want to reveal most of them yet because I have not perfected them, and as any artist or writer will tell you, a first or second draft will rarely look like the final project.
However, I can say that I have detailed plans for a tracing board that will be like nothing else in Freemasonry. I’m also working on an illuminated manuscript of the Middle Chamber lecture and a series of prints that mimic the Egyptian style.
Unfortunately all my big projects require funds so it’s a slow and steady process, but God willing I have a lot of time to get working and make and hopefully make a small difference in Masonry.
My thanks to Ryan, to whom I appreciate the taking of his time. I very much appreciate his tremendous body of artwork and will definitely keep an eye out for your up coming projects. You can see more of Ryan Flynn’s artwork at his website, and, if you’re in the New Hampshire area, you can see Ryan’s lodge windows in person by visiting Ancient York Lodge.
The following is the introduction to the Fellow of the Craft, a book on the second degree of Scottish Rite Masonry. Where and when the final work will see publication is still to be determined. In the mean time, I thought it would be good to share and discuss.
In totality, the Rite degree differs from the Webb-Preston ritual, as it lends itself to the 32 degrees of Scottish Rite progression. From a traditionalist point of view, these degrees may seem heretical in that they lend themselves to see the 32 degree progression, a divergence from the idea of “no degree greater than the third.”
The title of this complete work is By Wisdom a House is Built which stems from the degree prayer In strength shall this, my house, be established which in itself comes from the 24th Proverb whose 3rd and fourth verse reads:
By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
The degree of becoming a Fellow of the Craft is, in essence, the building of ones house from foundation to eaves.
Intelligence to understand, Honesty to guide intelligence, Courage to act, Prudence to guide courage, and Love to humanity composed of the four others….
…By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established…
The true alchemist will extract the lessons of wisdom from the babblings of folly…
The second degree is our enigma. Having undertaken the ritual and trials of the first degree, we now are at a crux in that we are in one aspect the coalesced form of Malkuth yet faced with our next stage of evolution, an evolution that necessitates our further need to be transformed and given shape for the tasks before us both here and beyond this degree. To do this we need to study and learn – not simply what it means to be a mason but how that practical application applies to the world around us and our interactions on the material influences that we encounter. Why we do this, you will remember, is to relate our own elemental being, as Malkuth, to the elemental world in which we have both become and inhabit. We are Malkuth, the elemental world, and need to now traverse the path of Tav upon the pillar of mercy towards our apex in the craft lode in becoming Master. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves and must first begin our lesson of the Second Degree and the implementation of our will into manifested action to act the square to all mankind. This is our summation of all things, our end which is without end. In the Christian VSL, it begins with the utterance of the Great Architect in saying “Let there be LVX“, and then there was LVX. So too, as LVX was created man become the blazing star of LVX so too uttering our creative force. To realize that vision, as a traveler, we must climb the steps and reach our gnosis which we do through our wisdom journey to surmount the three steps of our existence, the five steps out antiquity, and the seven steps of knowledge, and only there at the top can we acknowledge our being as a fellow of the craft as it is there that we find our self – the man made manifest as he knocks upon the door of greater illumination. As the warning above the temple door reads, “Know Thyself” because “as what you seek you already are.” Little in this journey will change you in a manner you may expect. Rather it is in the subtle shifting of thought that the greatest and most noble developments will occur. This is the middle chamber, the way before the Holy of Holies which is where the need to transform must take place before venturing forward. While these ideas may seem strange and foreign know that they have been a manner of practice for millennia in the houses of wisdom and schools of the sacred. We cannot say with certainty these ideas existed in their present form but in a manner of cause and effect they have been a part of this sacred practice to bring its students from the earthly state to the celestial so as to see the various heavenly apartments above us in the unfolding universe. This is the mystic tie that binds us – as a fellow of the craft, as a lodge, as a member of humankind, and as one can imagine to the Great Creator. In this chain of union, the brilliance of the sun illuminates us, and the moon and stars sing us the glories of the divine harmony of Truth. As the great author Pike says “Light! All comes from Light, and all returns to it.” Of the many great lessons of this degree to be learned this is the most important to understand.
As the great book itself says, “Let there be LVX!”
The following is the introduction to The Apprentice, a book I’ve been working on for some time and I needed to let it see the light of day before it strangled me. It is not the complete work, rather the first paragraph of twenty pages that follow behind it which explore the ideas and claims made here-in. In a nut-shell the work is an exploration of Freemasonry to the Hermetic system of Kabbalah that, I believe, matured into the systems that practice it today. Those systems, I believe, would not of evolved into what they have were in not for Pike’s work in crafting the Scottish Rite in the the manner he did.
So, I respectfully submit this to you and would delight in hearing your thoughts.
To say there is a first degree of Scottish Rite masonry may come as a surprise. As most commonly practiced, the Scottish Rite is a system of degrees that begins following from the traditional Masonic system in most prevalent practice today of blue, or craft, lodge masonry. Specifically the Scottish rite craft lodge degrees parallel the first three degrees of the Webb Preston York Rite System which is the dominant system of lodge ritual adopted in American Masonry in the early 1800’s.
In an earlier era, and along a parallel development, there existed a similar series of degrees that lead seamlessly into what we know of today as the 4th through 32nd Scottish Rite system. Sadly, only a few lodges today still practice the Rite’s precursor degrees, most notably the blue lodge in Louisiana, as the degrees are said to retain much of their earlier European and French roots. Much of what is contained in those degrees mirror what is common practice in the York degrees, but there are differences and it is in those aspects of divergence that these earlier rituals hold some parlance for the Scottish Rite. To see this we must look to the earlier rituals so that we can find in them the fundamentals of the esoteric scholarship and taught in the Rite as applied by Brother Pike in the present day system. These differences become especially obvious in his degree analysis in Morals and Dogma giving us the opportunity to find out why. For those reading who are not already Scottish Rite masons the degrees, as they are taught in the multitude of valleys across America today, suggest a link between the Scottish Rite teachings by degree to the teachings of mystical Kabbalah, more precisely to the Kabalistic Tree of Life, something brought to the attention of the Scottish Rite candidates in the lecture of the fourth degree. In that fourth degree the connection is made loosely but in close analysis of the progressive degrees it becomes very clear to say that there is a distinct connection between the degrees, the 10 Sephirot and the 22 paths that compose the most universal representation of the esoteric Tree. As the fourth degree mention is a superficial reference it is our starting point to see the two as related and necessitates an extensive exploration of the following degrees within which we can find a multitude of parallels in the Rite’s construction.
As one begins to climb the allegorical Tree, very quickly it becomes obvious that veiled in its canopy are metaphorical links, ineffable symbols, and outright allegorical references to the connections between them — something that many writers, both Masonic and lay, have traced through a variety of esoteric systems of study. Was this system intended to mirror an ancient Jewish system of esoteric theology, or a device made use of by Pike to capture with such detail the similarities that he saw between them?
As you will begin to see it is the latter as the degrees lack the theology of Judaism, rather it takes on a parallel structure borrowing from this older tradition in a way that they become a natural compliment to one another, such that the two have become intricately linked — the Kabbalah of old intermingled with the Christian Mysticism of Cabbalah to become a syncretic blend of spiritual Qaballah unencumbered by strict religious dogma. Throughout his work Pike keeps the systems separate, acknowledging the idea of the one true God keeping the system in a predominately Christian worldview. With the skill of a master artisan, Pike weaves a tapestry of old and new thought together to knit the details of what he sees as the ideas that underlie all modern religions illustrating that importance into the system that is the inheritor of those combined faiths into the Scottish Rite. That choice to link the three degrees of Freemasonry, an old system at the time of his own contributions, revived as best he could the systems of the Hermetic esoteric tradition that we find in several modern magical systems today. But, before those traditions could build on that work Pike welding these disparate systems together into an amalgam of esoterica, such that I believe they have become inseparable from the deeper meaning of the degrees. The lesson with their Qabalistic teachings has been interlaced in a way that to change their composition would change the very nature of the Scottish Rite itself. To that end the degrees, both the lower three and the higher 29 are — in and out of themselves — a complete loop which are formed into a circuit of learning that is its own birth, baptism, and maturation, that ever climbs the Tree towards a pinnacle of completion ending at the 32 degree. But before we get to that zenith, we must first start in the beginning, in the very roots of the Tree of Life, at the point just before the degree system begins where we can start to construct this understanding. That starting point is outside in the space before the door of the lodge room as the aspirant makes his first fateful knocks, which is the essence of what the first degree represents. To enter that space we must start with an explanation of the Kabbalah and our entry point through the degrees of Masonry into the Tree of Life through chaos of Ain Soph becoming the Sephirot of Malkuth.
 No known catalog of ritual practice comparisons is believed to exist.
 Such traditions are likely, in the opinion of the author, outgrowths and parallel developments of the work of Pike in Morals and Dogma and the Scottish Rite. Such groups include the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelema, Theosophy, and other like Hermetic systems.
Its been debated in a sea of endless questions, was William Shakespeare a Freemason?
Well, this week (April 23rd -30th) is a celebration of all things William Shakespeare as Stratford’s Greatest son’s celebrates his 447th birthday.
For the non mason, its hard to really pick up on the clever word play that is so intricately woven into Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays, and one is often left wondering “was it Shakespeare who applied Masonic ideas into his works, or the Freemasons who appropriated the ideas from the bard of Avon?” Most scholars suggest the latter, but Masons familiar with the wordplay might see otherwise.
Its been in debate for a long while, at least in Masonic circles, appearing in the Builder Magazine in 1919 with a score of quotes and lines to illustrate the point.
Some of my favorites include:
“What is he that builds stronger than either Mason?” Henry V., I, 47.
“Here, Robin, an I die, I give thee my apron.” 2 Henry VI., II, 3:75.
“The nobility think scorn to go in leather aprons.” 2 Henry VI., II, 2:14.
“Hold up, you sluts, your aprons mountant.” Timothy of Athens, IV, 3:135.
“To hold opinion with Pythagoras That souls of animals infuse themselves Into the trunks of men.” Merchant of Venice, IV, 1.
“What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl? That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.” Twelfth Night – IV, 2
Pythagoras is a bit of a Masonic patriarch, and aprons are in abundant supply throughout the fraternity.
Moments of jest in Shakespeare…often carry the deeper and more veiled allusions to the Mysteries, but this is not always so. The Tempest, for instance, gives many Masonic allusions quite openly, and indeed might be said to be a most complete Masonic play. For a start the play is based upon Virgil’s Æneid, Books III and VI. Book VI in particular deals with the ancient Mysteries, whose degrees of initiation are echoed, howbeit with different allegories, by those of Freemasonry.
How much of this is want to see the work of Masonry in Shakespeare’s plays or the real deeper mysteries artfully woven into them – this is the question!
Some suggest that Shakespeare’s work is a clever use of Gematria, the letter numerical interplay seen in the esoteric applications associated with the Kabbalah, which Shakespeare skillfully worked into illustrating his Mason Mark, the right-angle triangle. Its in this same discovery that some suggest that Kit Marlowe wrote the Sonnets because of the discovery of the Masons Mark.
Shakespeare seems to have been fully conversant with the Masonic symbolism of the Square – and thus the symbolism of Euclid’s 47th Proposition. We have seen in Anthony and Cleopatra (II, iii) reference to the lines:
Read not my blemishes in the world’s report; I have not kept my square, but that to come Shall all be done by the rule.
The Bard also makes a number of pointed references to a ‘mark’ in his Sonnets. An analysis of these, in my book reveals that their placement is not a casual matter but clearly predicated by Masonic considerations of a very exact and specific nature. They all refer to his own Masonic mark.
Marke how one string sweet husband to an other, (s8) For slanders marke was euer yet the faire, (s70) Marke how with my neglect I doe dispence. (s112) O no, it is an euer fixed marke (s116)
Shakespeare’s mark turns out to be no different from that of Alexander Hamilton – the right-angle triangle. He uses it consistently throughout the Sonnets to encode his name.
The context of the first Marke actually has a clear association with a right-angled triangle. In this sonnet the discussion concerns the three-way play between ‘sweet husband’, ‘happy mother’ and the ‘child’ they bring forth; there is also, in the following sonnet, the strongest indication that the mother is a widow. This scenario brings to mind the legend of Osiris, Isis – the widow and child Horus. The most common representation of this relationship in Masonic symbolism (following Plato) is the 3-4-5 right-angled triangle: the upright represents Osiris, the horizontal Isis and the hypotenuse Horus . Therefore it’s interesting to note that the word Marke is the 828th word in the Sonnets – and 828 is the gematria value of the Hebrew words BN ALMNH – The Widow’s Son.
I’ve always been keen to the idea that William Shakespeare was really the statesman Francis Bacon, the writer of the almost eerily Masonic tale – The New Atlantis. You can spend a lot of time following the threads about their connection on Sir Francis Bacon’s New Advancement of Learning.
Hence, to read these plays as mere stories in dramatic form, filled in with many wise reflections, is to miss their real character. The Tempest may be read simply as such a story, and even as having a moral purpose. Sir Edward Strachey says quite aptly that it is “a mimic, magic tempest which we are to see, a tempest raised by art, to work moral ends with actual men and women,” But he fails to show how it is to bring about such a state in the actual affairs of men, say of our day or of any time. The play contains hints suggesting that it is meant to be of universal application. It will yet be clear that this play can be fairly interpreted as an allegorical drama, summing up the whole method of Francis Bacon’s philosophy, and especially his moral philosophy, as it is to affect in actual life the individual, and all the relations which men and women sustain toward each other, from the primary relations of the family to the highest, which is that of government. And when so interpreted it will be found that it is also the philosophy of Freemasonry.
I do find it to be very interesting to think about and consider Shakespeare’s involvement with the early invention of Freemasonry (I’ve had conversations that he was at the same time Grand Master of both the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons) – well before it coalesced in its 1717 founding. And, it seems that the brothers of the United Grand Lodge of England felt of like mind in 1929 when pro Grand Master Lord Ampthill, accompanied by 600 masons in full regalia, laid the foundation stone of Stratford’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. The UK fraternal magazine Freemasonry Today [now archived] suggests that the connection can be found in the meaning from a quote found in Love’s Labour’s Lost as it being the essence of a Freemason’s purpose: to be a builder of love.
“For charity itself fulfills the law, and who can sever love from charity?” Love’s Labour’s Lost, IV.iii
Perhaps the mystery is the greatest clue to the bard’s mystic tie to the fraternity. Alfred Dodd, writing his examination of the plays and poems, says it unequivocally:
The story is told in the Great Shakespeare Folio of 1623 . . . the greatest Masonic Book in the world. The System was buried in secret and left to grow and root itself, like a bulb, in the dark for a hundred years. The emergence of the Masons in 1723 was a PLANNED emergence . . . …….the Centenary of the 1623 Folio. William Shakespeare was not only a Freemason, he was the FATHER and FOUNDER of the FRATERNITY, the Writer of the Rituals.
Was he or was he not to be…a Freemason? That is the question! Asking the questions is likely more fun than knowing for sure, but so long as conspiracy theories abound, this is one of the fun ones. Are the greatest works of the English language and drama really manifestos of esoteric ritual word play? We may never know.
But asking gives us more reason to celebrate the worlds greatest writer and dramatist – Happy Birthday Shakespeare.
This post was in contribution to HappyBirthdayShakespeare.com, a tribute to Shakespeare by bloggers from all over the world to post on how Shakespeare has impacted their lives. This celebration is sponsored by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which owns and cares for the five Shakespeare Houses.