RW Frank Jackson was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in 1969 at the age of 18. Today he is both the Grand Junior Warden of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and the Grand Historian.
Jackson offers many Masons a different perspective on the origins of higher knowledge, scholarship, and philosophical thought. And a different perspective on the development of Freemasonry in the United States.
How many people, whether Masons or not, know the role Egypt, a part of Africa, was to play in the development of knowledge? How many know that Socrates and Aristotle spent time in Egypt? That Plato spent 13 years studying in Egypt and Pythagoras some 21 years?
Much of what we attribute to the knowledge of the Greeks who passed it on to the Romans came originally from Egypt and Africa, some of it transported directly by Aristotle.
The video will cover:
Origins and development of the Pyramids
The Library at Alexandria
Jackson’s personal Mason journey
Early Texas Prince Hall Development
One has to remember that Prince Hall Masonry went through a period of governance by a National Grand Lodge. It also didn’t bloom nationwide until post Civil War. This has made for a much different path of Masonic development from Mainstream Masonry.
Keep all these factors in mind as you watch RW Frank Jackson in the video above. You may find that it will broaden your horizons.
Norris Wright Cuney
Noris Wright Cuney
Born May 12, 1846
Hempstead, Texas, U.S.
Died March 3, 1898 (aged 51)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Resting place Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston, Texas
Residence Galveston, Texas, U.S.
Known for Leader of the Texas Republican Party, First Grand Master Prince Hall Masons Of Texas http://www.mwphglotx.org
The first three are categorized as the Trivium, the latter four labeled the Quadrivium. The Trivium, Nagy tells us: “ …is to convey to students an understanding of how Words are used as Symbols. Study of such matters includes the eventual ability to decode and encode meaning and intent using Words as a base.” The Quadrivium “… is to convey to the student and understanding of how Numbers are used as Symbols. Study of such matters includes the eventual ability to decode and encode meaning and intent using Numbers as a base.”
But the larger question I am sure you are asking by now is why is the book titled Building Athens? What does Athens have to do with the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences?
Nagy tells us:
Masons unfamiliar with the legacy of Athens hamper their Masonic progress. To participate in Masonry at the Fellow Craft Level without having knowledge of Athens’ most famous citizens and, more specifically, their Works is to see and experience Ritual as a shadow show likened to that depicted in Plato’s Cave.
Most of us know about Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras. But how many of us have heard of Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Democritus, to name a few?
John “Coach” Nagy
Actually, when Nagy first envisioned this book it was going to be more of an explanation of the rich symbolism in the Second Degree but the end result took a turn when reality dawned on the Coach.
First, in observing other Masonic writers he noted how some produced the unfolding of layers of symbolism.
“Through this insight, I realized that these Brothers had constructed writings that hid things in plain view through Symbolic Layering. They Masterfully conveyed Light without hiding it. They shared it knowing that Brothers would see Light that profanes couldn’t. Trained Brothers knew what was conveyed.”
Symbolic Layering is one fascinating aspect of this book and one which the reader must discover on his or her own. That led Nagy to his conclusion that Trained Minds are so important to understanding Symbolic Layering and the meaning of Masonry.
I quickly realized that a Mason’s mind must be first ‘readied’ to receive such information before he can benefit from it. I also realized that no matter how I might go about my initial focus, without a ‘readied mind’, my actions would be equivalent to discussing colors with a blind person. No such sharing would have relatable significance.
But how is this done? How are Freemasons readied to receive this information?
“Fellow Craft Masons that diligently invest in the education pointed toward by Ritual physically reshape their ‘Ashlars’, a.k.a. ‘brains’, toward what is required by the Builder. They furthermore reinforce natural affinities that their brains already have and cultivate interconnections that change how reality is experienced. This training transforms each mind’s ability to sort, uncover, discriminate, differentiate, distinguish, decide, detect, project, create, evaluate and a host of other mental talents that would otherwise lay dormant or poorly used if not otherwise nurtured.”
Once again Nagy emphasizes Trained Minds in Trained Masons.
“Information challenged individuals, unable to deal effectively with information overload, become lost within information. Trained Masons know what is pertinent. They furthermore know how to see through illusions offered up as a fact to see Truths hidden within and fallacies veiled in truth.”
So in Catechism form Coach Nagy sets out to retrain our minds in order that we may separate the chaff from the wheat, see the layering of symbolism and discover the meanings of Masonry and its application to our daily lives.
Nagy talks about the great Greek philosophers and their contribution to symbolic thought and the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences.
In regards to Plato, Nagy tells us that,
Plato was influenced by Socrates, along with Pythagoras, Aristophanes, Protagoras, Homer, Hesiod, Parmenides. Aesop, Heraditus, and Orphism
As we start into the specifics Nagy tells us,
Masonry is a training ground for Symbolic understanding. Without an intimate knowledge of Symbols, Masons become malnourished by the inability to absorb what is presented.
Nagy talks a lot in the book about Shibboleths which he defines as “a word, phrase, motto, slogan, or saying used by adherents of a party, group, sect, organization, or belief, also a widely held belief, truism or platitude which can be a linguistic tool that allows for identification of a specific group based upon pronunciation of specific words.”
The subsequent chapters of the book take each of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences in detail.
“Grammar is many things. It is the Strength aspect of the study of Symbols as words. It is a fingerprint, identifying sources with such pinpoint accuracy that no masking can obscure it. It tells its observer the history, culture and attitude of its source. It develops the left Temporal, Occipital and Parietal lobes of the brain thus providing pattern recognition skills to those developed. As a Mason, I recognize that Grammar knowledge allows Masons to Travel in directions that hold back illiterate men.”
“Rhetoric is the Beauty aspect of the study of Symbols as words. Moreover, as only things of Beauty can do, it invites those affected to experience its Beauty by merely taking in what is offered. Any Persuasion that occurs is not forced though; it is not put upon those so invited. It is put forth to partake in and its recipients are wholly responsible for what they do with it.”
“To Master influences such as these, Masons must know what persuades. Rhetorical study cultivates understanding, insight and planning into this. It also requires Craftsmen to know what future such Work shapes. With such training Masters duly Craft its ends. As Centers of Influence, their Work creates Spheres of Influence.”
“Logic is essential in Building anything having Integrity. Non-reason condemns people to unnecessary, damaging and life-threatening conclusions. Ritual informs Masons that Logic is important. Masons must apply Logic in their Work to assure that what they have wrought is both sound and viable in supporting their aims. Sadly, Masons receive only a shadow of what is required Logically to Raise them Above the norm.”
“Logic is the Wisdom aspect of the study of Symbols as Words. Logical abilities allow Masons to discern Truth from fallacy. The power of right reasoning is deemed essential to Masons. Without Logic, Masons cannot comprehend their rights and duties. Without Logical faculty, men are considered insane; viewed as madmen and idiots; and denied admission into the Masonic Order. Lack of Logic also limits Travel.”
“Arithmetic lets Masons see the world in such dramatic detail that they appear to be sighted to the blind untrained. It requires foundational understandings of how Numbers manifest and what can be done with them. Arithmetic is the Strength aspect of the study of Symbols as Numbers. Through Arithmetic, the world becomes a familiar place.”
“How does this happen? Arithmetic study develops the abilities of Masons to recognize relationships and reveal patterns. Its study also forces Masons to understand, confront and deal effectively with concepts related to zero and infinity. Through its Strength, Arithmetic enables Masons to have real impact through development of analogy.”
“Geometry is one of two Wisdom aspects of the study of Symbols as Numbers. Geometry puts dimension to those concepts revealed and accepted during Arithmetic study. It also facilitates dealing with irrational quantities. Geometry trains the mind to imagine things that exist, things that may exist and things that will never exist. It’s amazing how much Geometry is part of our world.”
“Masons studying Geometry bring ordered thinking to their physical world. It also hones their critical thinking; sharpness portable to other disciplines such as Music and Astronomy. Of all the aspects of Masons developed by such study, the one applied toward the measure of man may very well be its most important.”
“Music is intimately dependent upon Arithmetic and Geometry. There is Logic behind its construction. Music has both a Grammar of its own and it is itself the Grammar of sound! Most importantly, its purpose is identical to that of words when employed as Rhetoric, through its use, it persuades. Lastly, understanding of Music supports a Mason’s understanding of Astronomy.”
“Music relates to internal and external motion and requires a firm understanding of how motion Works under certain conditions. Builders who know these basics can then both evaluate and devise systems that employ such motion.”
“Ultimately, the capstone of Liberal Art and Science studies opens up a Mason’s ability to seriously study of Theology and Philosophy. Astronomical information is often times conveyed within such texts and it takes a trained individual to identify when such information is present. This requires all the skills developed by Liberal Art and Science study.”
These are only the chapter headings – a tease. Where you mind really gets challenged is in the catechism of each chapter. There is where the general becomes the specific; there is where the learning takes place; there is where the mind is expanded; there is where you must commit much time and energy.
Once you have completed this expansion of the mind an overview of the big picture illustrates the importance of such study. Nagy tells us:
“To look deeply without toward what constitutes the makeup of your world is to put forth an effort to see and seed the possibility of knowing the very essence of Creation. Of all the actions that Masons can take, except for ‘sincere and searching self-reflection’, this action has the deepest impact. It permeates everything thereafter done.”
Finally, we are told:
“Next to the Entered Apprentice Degree, no more demanding Work in all of Masonry can ever match what is ordered upon Masons within the Fellow Craft Degree. It’s most unfortunate that the Work specified as important to Masons within the Fellow Craft ritual is ‘skipped over’ by far too many Masons as they pursue the title of that ‘next’ degree. Mentoring Master Masons would do well in tempering the enthusiasm of those Fellow Crafts desiring the next level, as well as their own, especially if they have yet to earn the title.”
Leaping over this specific Work has damaging consequences for the Mason, the Brothers who have to deal with that Mason, the Fraternity as a whole and future Masons who Enter and expect proper guidance from Brothers.
Building Athens is not just an information book but a challenge. I consider myself reasonably well informed, no Rhodes scholar mind you, but time and time again I felt a need to consult further research on some of the points Coach Nagy was making and some of the references he alluded to. This is the kind of book you might want to read twice. Once you mind has been expanded it makes much more sense the second time around and you will “get it” finally.
The only question left: ARE YOU READY TO RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN?
That secret portion of Masonry which is known only to the initiates as distinguished from exoteric Masonry, or monitorial, which is accessible to all who choose to read the manuals and published works of the Order. The words are from the Greek, εσωτερικός, internal, and εξωτερική, external, and were first used by Pythagoras, whose philosophy was divided into the exoteric, or that taught to all, and the esoteric, or that taught to a select few; and thus his disciples were divided into two classes, according to the degree of initiation to which the had attained, as being either fully admitted into the society, and invested with all the knowledge that the Master could communicate or as merely postulants, enjoying only the public instructions of the school, and awaiting the gradual reception of further knowledge. This double mode of instruction was borrowed by Pythagoras from the Egyptian priests, whose theology was of two kinds-the one exoteric, and addressed to the people in general; the other esoteric, and confined to a select number of the priests and to those who possessed, or were to possess, the regal power. And the mystical nature of this concealed doctrine was expressed in their symbolic language by the images of sphinxes placed at the entrance of their temples. Two centuries later, Aristotle adopted the system of Pythagoras, and, in the Lyceum at Athens, delivered in the morning to his select disciples his subtle and concealed doctrines concerning God Nature, and Life, and in the evening lectured on more elementary subjects to a promiscuous audience. These different lectures he called his Morning and his Evening Walk.
In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, on the infamously nefarious figure of Baphomet – the alleged false idol of the Knights Templar and one of the key instruments of their undoing by Pope Clement.
The imaginary idol, or, rather, symbol which the Knights Templars were accused of employing in their mystic rights. The forty-second of the charges preferred against them by Pope Clement is in these words:
Item quod ipsi per singulas provincias habeant idola: videlicet capita quorum aliqua habebant tres facies, et alia unum: et aliqua cranium humanum habebant.
Also, that in all of the provinces they have idols,namely, heads, of which some had three faces, some one, and some had a human skull.
Von Hammer, a bitter enemy of the Templars, in his book entitled The Mystery of Baphomet Revealed, revived this old accusation, and attached to the Baphomet an impious signification. He derived the name from the Greek words, Baph (βάπτισμα) – baptism, and μhtis (σοφία) – wisdom, and thence supposed that it represented the admission of the initiated into the secret mysteries of the Order. From this gratuitous assumption he deduces his theory, set forth even m the very title of his work, that the Templars were convicted, by their own monuments, of being guilty as Gnostics and Ophites of apostasy, idolatry, and impurity. Of this statement he offers no other historical testimony than the Articles of Accusation, themselves devoid of proof, but through which the Templars were made the victims of the jealousy of the Pope and the avarice of the King of France.
Others again have thought that they could find in Baphomet a corruption of Mahomet (Mohammed), and hence they have asserted that the Templars had been perverted from their religious faith by the Saracens, with whom they had so much intercourse, sometimes as foes and sometimes as friends. Nicolai, who wrote an Essay on the Accusations brought against the Templars, published at Berlin, in 1782, supposes, but doubtingly, that the figure of the Baphomet, figura Baffometi, which was depicted on a bust representing the Creator, was nothing else but the Pythagorean pentagon, the symbol of health and prosperity, borrowed by the Templars from the Gnostics, who in turn had obtained it from the School of Pythagoras.
King, in his learned work on the Gnostics, thinks that the Baphomet may have been a symbol of the Manicheans, with whose wide spreading heresy in the Middle Ages he does not doubt that a large portion of the inquiring spirits of the Temple had been intoxicated.
Amid these conflicting views, all merely speculative, it will not be uncharitable or unreasonable to suggest that the Baphomet, or skull of the ancient Templars, was, like the relic of their modern Masonic representatives, simply an impressive symbol teaching the lesson of mortality, and that the latter has really been derived from the former.
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.