Page from French Bible Moralisee (c 1235-1245),
British Library, showing Christ as the Great Architect, designing the
universe with the compass of the Freemason.
In reading of the ancient origins of Masonry we are puzzled to find references to the Third Root Race. This takes us back millions of years. Then there are the references to a deluge during the Fourth Race, then to Atlanteans, but in the form of the Mysteries. Then came Ancient Egypt, the Cyclops, etc. All these are creating a setting in time - but what form did Masonry then take?
Running like a thread through all these epochs to our present time is the tradition of an Archaic Wisdom-Religion – original, based on a knowledge of the processes of nature of which much was kept secret. Only the Hierophants and high-degree Initiates knew of the essential inner Truths.
There were institutions – for one the Mystery Schools – where this knowledge was studied. Proficiency in it conferred power, notably the psychic ones, but major Adepts became co-workers with nature and able to work so-called miracles. Whereas this knowledge obviously related to Nature universally, the centre for this learning was in the East.
From the time of Plato (and others) it spread to the West, again via the Mysteries, e.g. Eleusinian, but other expressions of the Wisdom sprang up, as for example the Kabalah, the Rosicrucians, the Alchemists, the Hermeticists and latterly Masonry as we know it today. There are two specific dates mentioned: one 1646 when the Operative Masons were functioning in London, and the other 1717 when Speculative Masonry came into existence, presumably in its present form.
What form Masonry took in ancient times we do not know but there is the indicating that every Centre or Lodge was itself a Brotherhood, the movement itself constituting a wider Brotherhood.
We have several statements that Masonry is rooted in the Kabalah. This is also a systematic representation of the nature and processes of Nature herself, starting from the highest conceivable notions of Deity (excluding the “absolute” of Theosophy) down through intermediate realms to our mundane physical earth. Until about the beginning of the Christian era the Kabalah had not been written down. This occurred in about the first century a.d. This was a massive work requiring virtually the life time of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, and then later of his son and his secretary. It is said, however, that Shimon retained the most important secrets unwritten.
Most of this previous pristine literature was lost. An attempt was made in the 13th century to reconstruct it from what could be found by Moses de Léon.
By this time, however, the Roman Church had become very powerful and they recognized that many basic concepts of the Kabalah (and later of Masonry) were inimical to Church doctrine, particularly that relating to “God”. As will be seen from the extracts, the Jesuits were successful in introducing into Masonry a belief in a personal God, which did not accord with its “occult” origins.
H.P.B. has some interesting material on Hiram Abiff, Solomon and his Temple. They were both mythical figures and in spite of dates being widely attached to them, did not exist as living men. The Temple itself was also a myth, with no establishable historic existence.
It is not difficult, however, to discern an allegory in the story where Solomon is the Wisdom, and the Temple its magnificent and perfect vehicle on earth (Know ye not ye are the temple of God? - Cor.3.16)
Our story of Masonry indicates clearly the continuing tradition of the Ancient Wisdom from the remotest times up to the present day which constituted a main stream of thought with many tributaries, each of which has been an individual representation of the main ideas. These representations have always in time suffered various fortunes but the purity of the original teachings has either become lost or delayed. The knowledge has been replaced by belief and as that belief has not been based on scripture it has been superstitious. Truth has gradually been lost.
One of the tributary movements was that of the Templars who began their existence as an Order a thousand years into the Christian era. They were initially possessed of the prime truths. By the time of their foundation Christianity had become a powerful force. They escaped infiltration by establishing close cadres of secrecy while at the same time parading in public as conformers to the Jesuitical dogmas. They were, however, a link in the chain leading up to modern Masonry.
We have used specific dates for the start of modern Masonry, one in the 17th and the other in the 18th centuries, but H.P.B. gives several indications that Masonry as such, particularly in its close relationship to the Mysteries, is of very ancient origin. For instance, she says, “The ritualism of Christianity sprang from ancient Masonry”. This leads us to conjecture that, like the teachings, the ritualism has also been spoiled. In the light of what H.P.B. says in The Key to Theosophy, this spoilation could have been by way of the introduction of a personal God, by the idea of supplicatory prayer, and the forgiveness of sins by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We can only guess what the ritualism was like before these ideas were added to it.
In her general remarks about Masonry H.P.B. does indicate that the true teachings of the Ancient Wisdom have been preserved right up to the present day in the Mysteries kept strictly secret and divulged only to those who had proved themselves worthy and who had otherwise been trained to receive them.
She instances Cagliostro, commonly regarded as an impostor, as one who knew the true Eastern Philosophy. Perhaps her defence of Cagliosto ought to be taken more seriously.
Elsewhere we have said that the Knights Templar were precursors of the Masons and H.P.B. specifically supports this view.
In her general remarks about Masonry she reiterates the view that there is no ‘personal God’.
H.P.B. several times refers to the gradual secularisation of Masonry, leading to the eventual oblivion of its true nature founded in the Mysteries.
In her dissertation on symbols, degrees and orders, she makes some statements to the effect that ‘real’ Masonry is still alive, adding that this is the case amongst some Rosicrucians. Again in a number of places she tells us that the real Ancient Wisdom, the Secret Doctrine, on which all the Mysteries and the later movements which led up to Masonry are based, is still in the possession of the Eastern Adepts in Arcane Science.
Although H.P.B. in her passages on Masonry mentions the importance of numbers, she does not enlarge on the subject. She does, however, considerably enlarge on it in The Secret Doctrine. In Chapter VIII she mentions the relationship between the form and measurements of the tabernacle built by Moses and the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple and the Great Pyramid.
In one paragraph she specifically refers to the archaic Masonry of the Temples and the claims that speculative Kabala and Masonry try vainly to link themselves with it. She says that they cannot do this because all their claims are shown to be inaccurate from an archaeological standpoint.
She also makes a very significant statement that, “All Symbolism of the ancient Initiations came to the west with the light of the eastern sun”. Later she says that Freemasonry derives her rites from the east. She adds too that “The knowledge of the members of Masonry now about the full signification of their symbols is nil”.
She makes reference to the cyphers given in Isis Unveiled, saying that one of them used by the Jesuits had been elaborated to include commas, diphthongs, accents, dots, etc. The cyphers have not been reproduced here but can be see on pp 395-7 of the second volume. The purpose of printing them was to show that these secret cyphers were known to the Adept Brotherhoods of the east.
Our story of modern masonry indicates clearly that, via the Kabala, it had its origins in the east where the Initiates of the Mysteries are possessed of the secrets of the Ancient Wisdom. As the story progresses we see how these secrets were not only lost to Masonry but to the other tributaries of the Ancient Wisdom. There are, however, clear statements that the Eastern Initiates are still in possession of these secrets. The inference that we can draw from this is that in the massive literature produced by H.P.B. at the end of the 19th century, some of the secrets of this Ancient Wisdom were made known by those Initiates.
Whereas such information could only have been available to Initiates into the Mysteries, it was now publicly available, at least to the extent that it had been given out. Importantly, however, this literature is first hand from the Masters of the Wisdom. No literature emanating from the teachings of World Teachers had up till then been written down during the lifetime of those teachers. It had therefore been subject to many defects and deficiencies of those who undertook to commit it to writing. Not only would there have been mistakes but deliberate alterations. Such cannot happen with the theosophical literature as given by H.P.B. and some of her Teachers because the original versions of this literature are extant in many copies. Even so, significant changes were made as soon as she was dead. This reaction is in line with what has happened in every case when some of the truths of existence have been made public before.
The books by H.P. Blavatsky from which passages have been extracted are:
1. I.U. ISIS UNVEILED, Vols I and II, all editions same pagination.
2. S.D. THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vols I and II
3. S.D. THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vol III, only in the 1897 edition (this material is in C.W.XII)
34. C.W. THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY
Another book which readers might care to read for much information about the craft from a Masonic point of view is:–
5. THE FREEMASON’S GUIDE AND COMPENDIUM by Bernard E. Jones, (George G. Harrop)
First published 2003 by The Theosophical Publishing House, London.
Available from: The Theosophical Society in England, 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA
Theosophical Society in England, Bookshop link