Third Degree On The Blue Ghost

Recently, the Bee Hive attended a third degree ritual aboard the The Blue Ghost, an Essex class aircraft carrier out of Corpus Christi Bay in Texas. The event was hosted by Oso Naval Lodge No. 1282 at the Museum on the Bay on Saturday, September 10th,  2016.

Master Mason’s Degree 

USS Lexington

USS Lexington

U.S.S. Lexington

Known as “The Blue Ghost,” the Lexington is one of 24 Essex class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name, is named in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington. She was originally to have been named Cabot, but she was renamed while under construction to commemorate USS Lexington (CV-2), lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.

The Lexington was commissioned in February 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, receiving the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars for World War II service. Like many of her sister ships, Lexington was decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, but was modernized and reactivated in the early 1950’s, being reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), and then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS). In her second career, she operated both in the Atlantic/Mediterranean and the Pacific, but spent most of her time, nearly 30 years, on the east coast as a training carrier (CVT).

She was decommissioned in 1991, remaining active longer than any other Essex-class ship, and was donated for use as a museum ship here in Corpus Christi. Lexington  was designated a national Historic landmark in 2003. Though her surviving sister ships, Yorktown, Intrepid and Hornet carry lower hull numbers, Lexington was laid down and commissioned earlier, making Lexington the oldest remaining aircraft carrier in the world.

USS Lexington

USS Lexington

I head up Route 358 from North Padre Island to the Crosstown Expressway and then onto Route 181 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As I cross the bay on a high arching bridge, there she is, The Blue Ghost in all her magnificence. Coming off the bridge I wind my way around to ground level and park a block away. I walk towards my destination.  A double sized golf cart waits for me at the bottom of the ramp. Soon I am on my way up the long ramp that will take me on board the retired aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, The Blue Ghost. I am here to witness a Third Degree on the Lexington by a very special Degree Team.

USS Lexington

USS Lexington

I think back to the meaning of Lexington to me. Lexington seems to end up following me or I it wherever I go.

I was born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts the birthplace of the American Revolution. It was this Lexington for whom the USS Lexington was named. It was here on April 19, 1775 that Paul Revere rode into Lexington with other riders and proclaimed, “The British are coming, the British are coming.”  I went to church 100 feet from the Lexington Green where the first battle of the American Revolution was fought on that day. My mother was secretary of the church. She also worked weekends at the Buckman Tavern beside the Green as a historical story teller to visitors. The Buckman Tavern is where The Lexington Minute Men gathered on that early morning of April 19, 1775. I would become Master Councilor of Battle Green DeMoaly also just off the Green. Much later I would return to Lexington’s Simon Robinson Lodge as Master of Paul Revere Lodge with the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to exemplify the Third Degree and participate in a Tri Table Lodge.

The Degree Team

The Degree Team

This night I would witness the Third Degree by a team of Masons from the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM drawn from all over Southeastern Texas who were Grand Lodge award winning Ritualists.The host Lodge was Oso Naval Lodge No 1282. Grand Master, MW Wendell P. Miller was in the East for the Second Section of the Degree. District Instructor PM Mike King was the producer of the degree and sat in the West for the Second Section.

Wall Screen

Wall Screen

For the reenactment of the Legend of Hiram Abiff, the players were all dressed in ancient costumes. Upon the giant wall behind the South was a huge video screen which the Grand Lodge used in conjunction with the Lecture and the Charge. In addition to these two, there was also an Apron and a Bible presentation.

The degree was flawless and very well done. Long pieces of ritual were recited from memory without mistakes and with great flourish. At its conclusion, the Grand Master was presented with a few gifts as mementos of the occasion among which was a very decorative flag.

After the Degree, we gathered to greet new friends and touch base with old ones. Most of the Brothers present were not familiar to me which gave me a good opportunity to make new friends. Many pictures were taken including me with the Grand Master.

MW Wendell P. Miller & PM Frederic L. Milliken

MW Wendell P. Miller & PM Frederic L. Milliken

Grand Master Presented A Flag

Grand Master Presented A Flag

What was most impressive to me was the fact that you don’t often see a Grand Master performing degrees at the local level. Grand Masters are too involved with Administration and Ceremonial functions to actually do ritual in a Degree. And few remember their ritual from long ago. Not this one, MW Wendell P. Miller did not miss a word of a lengthy ritual part.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Hugs all around and back out into the night and onto the deck of the Blue Ghost we went. From that vantage, there was a beautiful view of Corpus Christi all lit up in the night. We took the same cart back down the ramp and dispersed.

As I left the Blue Ghost late at night, I turned back and snapped a couple of pictures that really gave meaning to the Lexington’s nickname. Once again, I had celebrated Freemasonry in fine style!

The Blue Ghost

The Blue Ghost

Making Freemasonry Great Again

When Greg Stewart interviewed me for a piece on Freemason Information, I can remember him asking me where is Freemasonry headed, what’s working right now and what isn’t? That was the gist of what he was asking – what path does Freemasonry take for the future?

I have gotten to thinking of that question once more after watching Lodge Veritas’ Ryan Flynn Festive Board Promo video. While Freemasonry has shown a sharp decrease in Lodge attendance in the 21st century so far, it has also shown a huge increase in Internet Freemasonry.

So while the idea of Freemasonry, its philosophy, has shown a marked increase in activity on the Internet, especially within Social Media and You Tube Videos, the practice of Freemasonry in person has tailed off. Could that be because Lodge Meetings no longer discuss ideas but are continually bogged down by administrative issues? And great ritual performances have been replaced by the marketing of Freemasonry and its push for recognition in society with an over emphasis on charitable pursuits?

I recall that I, as a Texas Prince Hall Freemason, recently attended a Third Degree at a Dallas Grand Lodge of Texas Lodge. The degree was well done, the charge spot on and the gathering at a restaurant afterward a significant bonding and camaraderie addition to the evening. Why can’t we do this all the time, I asked myself?

And then there was the Grand Raising at Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas at its recent Winter Grand Session where Masonic talent from all over the state contributed to a majestic event that sent goose bumps down one’s spine. Why can’t we do this all the time, I asked myself?

Aye, there’s the rub!

Maybe we as Freemasons don’t “think great” enough. Maybe we have allowed our once great dominant fraternity to diminish itself by too many mundane and trivial pursuits. Maybe we don’t have the “fire in the belly” for our Craft anymore.

I have no crystal ball so I can’t tell you where Freemasonry is headed. I can tell you that Lodge Veritas in Oklahoma gets it. They understand what it will take, to borrow aTrump phrase, to make Freemasonry great again. After you watch the video, you will too. And…Brother Flynn is a great artist!

History Made In Texas Freemasonry

PM Michael Huskisson 1283, GM Wilbert M. Curtis, Eric Brewer 1283, David Villegas 1283, David Bindel 1283, Rick Parker 1218

PM Michael Huskisson 1283, GM Wilbert M. Curtis, Eric Brewer 1283, David Villegas 1283, David Bindel 1283, Rick Parker 1218

A Historical event in Texas Freemasonry took place on Friday, November 13, 2015. For the first time Brethren from Local Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Texas visited a Grand Session of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas.

Past Grand Master Jerry Martin of the Grand Lodge of Texas visited the Summer Grand Session of Prince Hall in June of 2015, but no local Brethren accompanied him.

Newly Raised Master Masons Prince Hall Texas

Newly Raised Master Masons Prince Hall Texas

The occasion this past Friday was a Grand Raising of 52 Fellow Crafts under the leadership of Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis. Grand Master Curtis recognized the visiting Brethren from Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge No 1283  and Irving Lodge No 1218 before proceeding with the degree.

Both Texas Grand Lodges signed a mutual compact of recognition in April of 2007, but that agreement prohibited intervisitation. It was not until the first of this year, 2015, that the compact was modified to allow cross visitation.

Brethren from Jewel P. Lightfoot No 1283 Grand Lodge of Texas just last month visited Pride of Mt. Pisgah No 135 Prince Hall Texas.  In December Pride of Mt. Pisgah with Brethren from other Prince Hall Lodges will be visiting Jewel P. Lightfoot to observe their Third Degree.

Newly Raised Master Masons from Pride of Mt. Pisgah with Brothers from Mt. Pisgah and Grand Lodge of Texas Brethren

Newly Raised Master Masons from Pride of Mt. Pisgah with Brothers from Mt. Pisgah and Grand Lodge of Texas Brethren

It seems that concerns that both Grand Lodges might have had over intervisitation were not anything to worry about. All visitations so far have been received with great joy and great fellowship. Welcome to the 21st Century!

The Word In Masonic Ritual

The Beehive is proud to present once again a paper that comes from the weekly Masonic Newsletter of Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada. Anderson sends out a new article each Sunday and to get on the mailing list all one needs to do is to E-Mail him at

This article, about Masonic Ritual and the Masons word, may punch some holes in the conceptions you have of the origins of Masonic ceremony. It may destroy some myths, such as…. and also…..and then there is…. Oh, I can’t tell you that part of the rituals of Masonry. That would be like giving up the ending of a murder mystery. You will just have to read Anderson’s take on the ritual for yourself

The Word In Masonic Ritual

by Edward M. Selby, M.P.S.

Wood-Inlaid-Masonic-Table2-300x178We have an area in Masonic inquiry that deserves more study and a re-evaluation. In spite of evidence to the contrary an opinion still persists there was no Speculative Masonry, as we now think of it, prior to the organization of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, notwithstanding facts, abundantly proven, that non-operative Masons were working in Britain at least one hundred years before that date. Beginning with the Acception in 1620 numerous records occur of meetings and of the making of Masons all during the Seventeenth Century. Many clues as to the manner of working and scraps of old rituals are preserved which show how lodges worked, perhaps as early as fifty years before 1717. These rituals differ in many details but, nonetheless, they have many characteristic things which are common to all.

For years the accepted thesis was that the Mother Grand Lodge was the first to devise lodge ceremonies into three degrees. It was following this, it was said that numerous inventive and innovative agencies and persons built on this base multitudinous degrees and rites. To an extent this is true but good evidence proves lodge workings had been divided into at least two and possibly three grades several years before Drs. Anderson and Desaguliers wrote their Constitution and ritual about the year 1723. Furthermore, an examination of this evidence reveals several things, later employed in the so-called “advanced degrees,” was known and utilized in earlier forms of lodge initiation. This is more understandable if one accepts the fact that the London Grand Lodge, in 1717, was simply an association of four lodges which were then meeting in London and Westminster, and that these lodges only did what many other groups of Masons had already done before them all over Britain. They prepared for their own use a set of Constitutions and a method of initiatory working which was consistent with the views and purposes of their own membership.

Book of Zechariah, Gustave Doré, bibleAbout sixty years ago an English scholar, J.E.S. Tuckett, presented a theory that pre-Grand Lodge Masonry consisted of a deep well of Masonic lore, only a part of which later found its way into the Grand Lodge ritual; and that from this well was taken many things that later appeared in the so-called “high degrees.” His ideas met with little acceptance at the time they were offered. Masonic documents have since appeared which add weight to his thesis. For example, the Graham Mss., undiscovered until 1936, tells a well known story about the payment of Craft wages which later appeared in the Mark Degree. The Dumfries Mss. No. 4 gave much attention to the furniture of KS Temple, suggesting ideas in our present degree of Most Excellent Master. In it also appears that famous phrase from the Book of Zechariah, “Holiness to the Lord.” The Dumfries Mss. is dated c. 1710 while the Graham Mss. is dated 1726 although the language is more consistent with English usage some fifty years before.

During the Eighteenth Century there was a marked difference in opinion as to what constituted ancient Masonry. This was the basis of a dispute between two rival groups of Masons in which the “Ancients” accused the “Moderns” of being ignorant of many things they deemed essential in the old ceremonies. An outstanding example of this is the Royal Arch Degree which the “Ancients” insisted to be a part of their Lodge ritual whereas the “Moderns” branded it as an innovation.

Best evidence leads us to believe that Speculative Masonry, as it evolved during the Seventeenth Century, was a product on one hand of the Old English Constitutions and of ritualistic practices employed in Scottish operative lodges on the other. The merger of these two systems seems to have emerged sometime after the union of the crowns of the two countries in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. In this way relations between the two nations became much closer than they had been during three hundred years of previous hostility.

Scottish Masonry has contributed much to our present ritual. One item in particular dealt with an apprentice who, when he had completed his indenture, was taken by his master and “entered” on the rolls of the lodge. He was not immediately “accepted” as a Fellowcraft because, having satisfied his master, it was then mandatory that he also satisfy the body of the Craft. When that had been done, following a period of trial and probation, he was invested with “the Mason Word” and recognized as a Fellow. He could then travel in foreign countries and there work and receive Master’s wages. There is good reason to believe this investiture was also accompanied by a ceremony which was similar in substance to the Hiramic Legend of the present Third Degree.

In this there seems to have been some confusion in the use of the term “Master.” In one instance it referred to a Fellow who had mastered the skills of the operative craft. In another, it meant actual Masters who had presided over a lodge and those whose skill was such they could design and supervise the erection of buildings. These were a privileged class who jealously guarded their preeminence. There was then two Words, one for each class of Masons. In this, some believe, can be found the early roots of the Royal Arch Degree which did not emerge as a separate identity until about 1725.

The story of the Mason Word is told by Douglas Knoop and his associates in their scholarly works on Masonic antiquity, particularly their Early Masonic Catechisms. Collectively these catechisms and constitutions, as many of them actually are, presents a picture of what British Masonry was like during the years which preceded the Mother Grand Lodge in 1717, and for many years thereafter until its system was finally accepted and it became the dominant body of the fraternity. It should, however, be kept in mind that there was a period of transition which lasted until 1813 during which there continued many varied forms of ritual. And that during that period there was developed most of the so-called “higher degrees.”

What was the Mason Word or Words? It is spelled out in so many different versions they can only be explained as either deliberate attempts to deceive the profane reader, or as corruptions by ignorant Masons. An early example appears in the Sloane Mss. of about 1700 which gives it as MAHABYN. In the Trinity College Mss. of 1711 in Dublin it is MATCHPIN. In the same document is another word JACHQUIN. In 1723 this poem appeared in one of the public prints –

“An enter’d Mason I have been
Boaz and Jachin I have seen
A Fellow I was sworn most rare
And know the Astler, Diamond, and Square,
I know the Master’s Part full well
As Honest MAUGHBIN will you tell.”

to this is given a reply:

“If a Master Mason you would be Observe you well the Rule of Three
And what you want in Masonry
Thy MARK and MAUGHBIN makes you free.”

In 1725 was printed a broadsheet titled “The Whole Institution of Free Masons Opened – “Two words are given in it, MAGBOE and BOE, which were said to mean “Marrow in the Bone.” A year later the Graham Mss. told a story about Noah and his three sons in which MARROW was associated with close fellowship, marrow then being a word of common usage to describe a close fellow or companion. Again, in “The Whole Institution of Free-Masons Opened”, appeared this cryptic paragraph:

Yet for all this I want the primitive Word, I answer it was God in six terminations, to wit, I Am, and Jehovah is the answer to it, and grip at the rain of the Back, or else Excellent and Excellent, Excellency is the answer to it, and Grip as aforesaid, or else TAPUS MAGISTER, and MAGISTER TAPUS is the answer to it, and Grip as aforesaid, for proof read the first of St. John.

What all this meant is left to the reader’s imagination, but throughout are suggestions of several things familiar to present-day Masons.

In the Old Constitutions much was made of two pillars erected by the children of Lamech before the Flood. Sometime during the Seventeenth Century these pillars were gradually replaced in Masonic thought by the B&J of KS Temple. Here we see a Temple Legend slowly superseding the Old Legend of the Craft, as Dr. Mackey was fond of referring to it. The use of the words B&J is not clear. It is certain they were given to a new Mason at the time of his initiation. At one time they were both given to an Entered Apprentice. On other occasions one was given separately to EA and to a FC. This becomes, confusing when we examine an expose published in 1730 by Samuel Pritchard, an apostate mason. In his “Masonry Dissected,” he described work then in use during the third decade of the Eighteenth Century. In it J&B are the words of the Entered Apprentice Degree. The significant word of a Fellowcraft was associated with the letter G. while the word of a Master Mason was MACHBENAH.

That Pritchard knew more than he should have told is evident. What is not clear is how accurate he revealed work which generally prevailed during the 1720s. It is possible he belonged to one of the branches of Stuart Masonry which had subverted the ritual of Freemasonry for political purposes, since the word MACHBENAH is translated “The Builder is Stricken,” and in Gaelic it means “Blessed Son.” All this could have had a reference to James II, son of Charles I and of his widow Henrietta Maria.

Bernard E. Jones states the present version of Lodge Ritual did not appear until sometime after 1730. Before that date he says many versions of ritual existed and that they varied greatly among lodges, which is demonstrated in the Old Catechisms. In the Dumfries Mss., a thoroughly Christian document, the word is given as INRI. Also we find this:

…Christ shall wryt upon these pillars better names than Jachin and Boaz for first he shall wryt upon ym ye name of his god ….

What was the Mason Word in its earliest form? A suggestion is found in a story told some ninety years ago about an old manuscript that was read by a non-Masonic scholar in one of the British libraries. It was a Fourteenth Century work and contained a Hebrew acrostic MACH which he interpreted as “we have found our master Hiram.” Unfortunately this meant nothing to the reader until several years later he happened to refer to it in a conversation with a Masonic friend. A search was made but the manuscript could not be located. This calls to mind a speculation found in Mackey’s Encyclopedia. He calls attention to two Hebrew words MAHA and BONAY which can be put together to form a question, “What, is this Builder?”

Considering what we know about the origins of Masonic ritual we offer these conclusions –

Our present ritual has roots in many diverse methods of Masonic working which were practiced during the Seventeenth Century and which continued to be used for some time after 1730.

Slowly the ritual centered itself, more and more, around a Word and all that it came to mean. As early as 1725 one of the news prints poked fun at a certain Doctor who had recently received a Fifth Order of Masonry and with it a mysterious hocus-pocus word that was said to possess great powers.

That sometime between 1725-1740 the Royal Arch Degree appeared as the culmination of a slowly developing philosophy. This had its origin in old Craft practices and utilized much material taken from ritual ceremonies in old lodges. Out of all this resulted a final definition of Ancient Craft Masonry which was given at the Union of the two rival Grand Lodges in 1813.

Pure Ancient Masonry consists of:

three degrees and no more, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.

From whence came the idea of an arch in Masonry. One reference appears in the Old Catechisms (A Mason’s Examination) which likens the arch to the Rainbow. That same year (1723) Dr. Anderson mentioned it in the same manner in his Constitutions. Notice is taken here of two verses from the beginning of St. John’s Gospel which had much use, during the Eighteenth Century, on Masonic membership certificates.

In the beginning was the Word ….. . . and the Darkness comprehended it not.

Here we see in use that essential part of Lodge working, the principle of Darkness and Light. This has caused some to speculate on a coincidence that the Greek word for “Beginning” is apxn. In its English form it is written ARCHE, and pronounced Ah-r-he.

Whether any of this has merit the fact remains that in the Arch of Promise, as God described it to Noah, is the ne-Plus-ultra, the ultimate of everything which is in Masonic philosophy.

Speculative Masonry is not something, like the Goddess Athene, who sprang fully armed from the brow of Jove. Historically its progress can be traced over a period of three centuries between the years 1400-1700. No one can be certain about all its details but the cumulative result came about because of the efforts of many imaginative innovators who developed from the simple forms of old English and Scottish Masonry that great system of morality which we call today Freemasonry.

From a primitive period in the Seventeenth Century we visualize a time when lodges of Masons had their own concept of this growing system, each with a character all its own, but notwithstanding this, all built around a common core of ideals and principles which bound them together. From this rich well of Masonic experience and experimentation was finally formed the three primary grades of the lodge on which was added other explanatory and enlightening ceremonies or degrees when the initial three were felt to be inadequate to express all that was in their common heritage of the past.

What is noteworthy about all this is that the Word, and what it came to mean, either in the Holy Royal Arch, in the Grades of Perfection of what we now call the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and in possibly other variants of Masonic instruction employing the same principle, is found what Lawrence Dermott called – “The root, the heart, and the marrow” of everything worthwhile in Speculative Masonry.

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

Possessed by the Devil of Commercial Avarice

Albert Pike, Scottish Rite, Morals and Dogma, Magnum Opus, AASRI take great wisdom from Albert Pike. When taken in portion, his writings in Morals and Dogma strike me almost a prophecy along the lines of Nostradamus or the Oracles of Delphi. It was in a deep reading of his work on the third degree that I found the passages below.

In navigating his writing in his Magnum Opus under the third degree, these gems of political observation ring true today probably more than they did in the nearly 150 years ago. I was at once shocked with a twinge of amusement that Pike foresaw perhaps the situation within which we find ourselves today. And in his writing he looks to Masonry as part of the remedy for it, but with his own cryptic warning about looking to the society of builders.

It was a problem America, and the world perhaps, is faced with today which is that those in charge are “possessed by the devil of commercial avarice” which he describes as being the point when “a nation becomes possessed with a spirit of commercial greed, beyond those just and fair limits set by a due regard to a moderate and reasonable degree of general and individual prosperity.”

Pike delves the subject deeply, without the realization that what he would write about could (or would) be happening.  But, in the subtext of his work, maybe he saw that it could happen.

When the thirst for wealth becomes general, it will be sought for as well dishonestly as honestly; by frauds and overreaching, by the knaveries of trade, the heartlessness of greedy speculation, by gambling in stocks and commodities that soon demoralize a whole community. Men will speculate upon the needs of their neighbors and the distresses of their country. Bubbles that, bursting, impoverish multitudes, will be blown up by cunning knavery, with stupid credulity as its assistants and instrument. Huge bankruptcies, that startle a country like the earth-quakes, and are more fatal, fraudulent assignments, engulfment of the savings of the poor, expansions and collapses of the currency, the crash of banks, the depreciation of Government securities, prey on the savings of self-denial, and trouble with their depredations the first nourishment of infancy and the last sands of life, and fill with inmates the churchyards and lunatic asylums. But the sharper and speculator thrives and fattens. If his country is fighting by a levy en mass for her very existence, he aids her by depreciating her paper, so that he may accumulate fabulous amounts with little outlay. If his neighbor is distressed, he buys his property for a song. If he administers upon an estate, it turns out insolvent, and the orphans are paupers. If his bank explodes, he is found to have taken care of himself in time. Society worships its paper-and-credit kings, as the old Hindus and Egyptians worshiped their worthless idols, and often the most obsequiously when in actual solid wealth they are the veriest paupers. No wonder men think there ought to be another world, in which the injustices of this may be atoned for, when they see the friends of ruined families begging the wealthy sharpers to give alms to prevent the orphaned victims from starving, until they may find ways of supporting themselves.

This seems to be speak directly to the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York, and now around the country over the “heartlessness of greedy speculation, by gambling in stocks and commodities…” who have “ruined families.” Has anyone questioned the patriotism and loyalties of the companies and banks that continue to benefit while those whom they prey continue to inch into “distress?”

Pike goes on to say:

We should naturally suppose that a nation in distress would take counsel with the wisest of its sons. But, on the contrary, great men seem never so scarce as when they are most needed, and small men never so bold to insist on infesting place, as when mediocrity and incapable pretense and sophomoric greenness, and showy and sprightly incompetency are most dangerous.

Like a call for action, Pike declares the need for the Masonic principles saying:

So much the more necessity for Masonry!

War has not ceased; still there are battles and sieges. Homes are still unhappy, and tears and anger and spite make hells where there should be heavens. So much the more necessity for Masonry! So much wider the field of its labors! So much the more need for it to begin to be true to itself, to revive from its asphyxia, to repent of its apostasy to its true creed!

So how does Masonry fit into this troubling world? As a Master Mason, it is the lesson of the third degree itself, Pike says:

Masonry seeks to be this beneficent, unambitious, disinterested guide; and it is the very condition of all great structures that the sound of the hammer and the clink of the trowel should be always heard in some part of the building. With faith in man, hope for the future of humanity, loving-kindness for our fellows, Masonry and the Mason must always work and teach.

We have to step back a bit to see Pike’s concern about this responsibility when he talks about Faith, Hope, and Charity saying:

These forces are within the reach of all men; and an association of men, actuated by them, ought to exercise an immense power in the world. If Masonry does not, it is because she has ceased to possess them.

An association of men? Masonry perhaps?

Interesting food for thought.

temple, solomon, art, illustration, painting

Tracing the Generation of the Third Degree

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


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

Figure 1: Images Peculiar to Freemasons[3]

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

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

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

The Generation of the Ritual Station

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

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

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

The Genealogy of the Third Degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dispensation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Classical and Modern Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 2: Image of Thoth[47]

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

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

Figure 3: Image of Hermes Trismegistus[51]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Hodapp, 119.

[11] See Melvyn Bragg, “Scottish Enlightenment” (BBC Radio 4, History, In Our Time, December 5, 2002) (accessed January 6, 2010).

[12] Harrison, 14.

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

[14] Harrison, 10.

[15] Hodapp, 121

[16] Harrison, 123.

[17] See James Anderson, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734), (Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006) (accessed November 29, 2009), 7 of 51.

[18] Morris, 11.

[19] Ibid., 12.

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

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

[22] Harrison, 201.

[23] Ibid., 120.

[24] Ibid., 112.

[25] Ibid., 117.

[26] Ibid., 113 – 114.

[27] See Melvyn Bragg, “The Royal Society” (BBC Radio 4, History, In Our Time, January 4th and 5th 2010) (accessed January 6, 2010).

[28] Ibid., 126.

[29] See Dr. Robert A. Hatch, “Sir Isaac Newton” (The Scientific Revolution Homepage, 1998) (accessed November 28, 2009).

[30] Harrison, 126.

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

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

[33] Tabbert, 18 – 19.

[34] Tabbert, 19.

[35] Harrison, 49.

[36] Ibid., 49 – 50.

[37] Ibid., 48 – 54.

[38] Hornung, 90 – 91.

[39] Harrison, 25.

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

[41] Hornung, 1.

[42] See Hodapp.

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

[44] See Ebeling and Hornung.

[45] Ebeling, 3.

[46] Hornung, 6.

[47] See “Tehuti/Thoth” (Google Images, 2009) (November 28, 2009).

[48] Hornung, 9.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 9 – 10.

[51] See “Hermes Trismegistus” (Google Images, 2009) (November 28, 2009).

[52] Ebeling, 4 – 5.

[53] Ibid., 6 – 7.

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

[55] See “Horus, Osiris, and Isis” (Google Images, 2009) (accessed November 28, 2009).

[56] See “Story” focused on “Ancient Egypt” (The British Museum, 1999) (accessed November 28, 2009).

[57] Hornung, 13.

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

[59] Hornung, 14 – 15.

[60] Ibid., 14.

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

[62] Ibid., 25.

[63] Ibid., 26.

[64] Ibid., 27.

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

[66] Tabbert, 16 – 17.

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

[68] See “Renaissance” (Annenberg Media, 2009) (accessed November 28, 2009).

[69] Hornung, 83.

[70] Ibid., 88.

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

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

[73] Tabbert, 20.

[74] Ibid., 20.

[75] See “Solomon’s Temple” (Google Images, 2009) (accessed November 29, 2009).

[76] Ibid., 23.

[77] See Plutarch.

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

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

[80] See Harrison, 25.

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

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

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

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