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 several places there is reference to the Kabala being the root or basis of Masonry. The Kabala is a comprehensive expression of the Ancient Wisdom, or the Archaic Wisdom-Religion. This has been in the possession of Adepts or Initiates in the Arcane Science since there were minds on Earth to apprehend it.
The Kabala extends back into remote antiquity but up until the beginning of this present Christian era it was only transmitted orally from Master to student. It is generally accepted that it was not written down until the first century a.d. by Rabbi Shimon ben-Yohai, and by his son and his secretary. This was an enormous work which schematically and diagrammatically portrayed in some detail the nature and workings of Cosmos, with particular reference to Man.
H.P.B. was a student of the System and wrote much about it. This has been extracted and collated into a booklet as a companion to this one.
By reason of its close relationship to the Kabala, Masonry becomes heir to the vast traditional Ancient Wisdom, but according to H.P.B. both Masonry and the Kabala has become altered to make it fit Christian Church doctrine, and further the real secrets of both the Kabala and Masonry have been lost.
The Kabalah is indeed “of the essence of Masonry,” but it is dependent on Metrology only in one of its aspects, the less Esoteric, as even Plato made no secret that the Deity was ever geometrizing. For the uninitiated, however, learned and endowed with genius they may be, the Kabalah, which treats only of the “garment of God”, or the veil and cloak of truth,
is built from the ground upward with a practical application to present uses. [C.W.XIV, 66]
Some believe – perchance with more reason than the rest – that the substance of the Kabalah is the basis upon which masonry is built, since modern Masonry is undeniably the dim and hazy reflection of primeval Occult Masonry, of the teaching of those divine Masons who established the Mysteries of the prehistoric and prediluvian Temples of Initiation, raised by truly superhuman Builders. Others declare that the tenets expounded in the Zohar relate merely to mysteries terrestrial and profane, having no more concern with metaphysical speculations – such as the soul, or the post-mortem life of man – than have the Mosaic books. Others, again – and these are the real, genuine Kabalists, who had their instructions from initiated Jewish Rabbis – affirm that if the two most learned Kabalists of the mediaeval period, John Reuchlin and Paracelsus, differed in their religious professions – the former being the Father of the Reformation and the latter a Roman Catholic, at least in appearance – the Zohar cannot contain much of Christian dogma or tenet, one way or the other. In other words, they maintain that the numerical language of the kabalistic works teaches universal truths – and not only one Religion in particular. Those who make this statement are perfectly right in saying that the Mystery-language used in the Zohar and in other Kabalistic literature was once, in a time of unfathomable antiquity, the universal language of Humanity. But they become entirely wrong if to this fact they add the untenable theory that this language was invented by, or was the original property of, the Hebrews, from whom all the other nations borrowed it.
They are wrong, because, although the Zohar (...), The Book of Splendour of Rabbi Shimon ben-Yohai, did indeed originate with him – his son, Rabbi Eleazar, helped by his secretary, Rabbi Abba, compiling the Kabalistic teachings of his deceased father into a work called the Zohar – those teachings were not Rabbi Shimon’s, as the Gupta-Vidya shows. They are as old as the Jewish nation itself, and far older. In short, the writings which pass at present under the title of the Zohar of Rabbi Shimon are about as original as were the Egyptian synchronistic Tables after being handled by Eusebius, or as St Paul’s Epistles after their revision and correction by the “Holy Church.” [C.W.XIV, 168-9]
... for the Keys of the Golden Gate leading to the Infinite Truth, lie buried deep, and the gate itself is enclosed in a mist which clears up only before the ardent rays of implicit Faith. Faith alone, one grain of which as large as a mustard-seed, according to the words of Christ, can lift a mountain, is able to find out how simple becomes the Cabala to the initiate, once that he has succeeded in conquering the first abstruse difficulties. The dogma of it is logical, easy and absolute. The necessary union of ideas and signs; the trinity of words, letters, numbers, and theorems; the religion of it can be compressed into a few words: “It is the Infinite condensed in the hand of an infant,” says Eliphas Lévi. The ciphers, 22 alphabetical letters, one triangle, a square and a circle. Such are the elements of the Cabala, from whose mysterious bosom sprang all the religions of the past and present; which endowed all the Free Masonic associations with their symbols and secrets, which alone can reconcile human reason with God and Faith, Power with Freedom, Science with Mystery, and which has alone the keys of the present, past and future.
The first difficulty for the aspirant lies in the utter impossibility of his comprehending, as I said before, the meaning of the best books written by Hermetic Philosophers. The latter who mainly lived in the mediaeval ages, prompted on the one hand by their duty towards their brethren, and by their desire to impart to them and their successors only, the glorious truths, and on the other very naturally desirous to avoid the clutches of the blood-thirsty Christian Inquisition, enveloped themselves more than ever in mystery. They invented new signs and hieroglyphs, renovated the ancient symbolical language of the high-priests of antiquity, who had used it as a sacred barrier between their holy rites and the ignorance of the profane, and created a veritable Cabalistic slang. This latter, which continually blinded the false neophyte, attracted towards the science only by his greediness for wealth and power which he would have surely misused were he to succeed, is a living eloquent, clear language; but it is and can become such, only to the true disciple of Hermes. [C.W.I, 130-1]
But let us limit our present research to the Kabalah, and chiefly to the Zohar – called also the Midrash. This book, whose teachings were edited for the first time between 70 and 110 a.d., is known to have been lost, and its contents to have been scattered throughout a number of minor manuscripts, until the thirteenth century. The idea that it was the composition of Moses de León of Valladolid, in Spain, who passed it off as a pseudograph of Shimon ben-Yohai, is ridiculous, and was well disposed of by Munk – though he does point to more than one modern interpolation in the Zohar. At the same time it is more than certain that the present Book of Zohar was written by Moses de León, and, owing to joint editorship, is more Christian in its colouring than is many a genuine Christian volume. Munk gives the reason why, saying that it appears evident that the author “made use of ancient documents, and among these of certain Midraschim, or collections of traditions and Biblical expositions, which we do not now possess.”
As a proof, also, that the knowledge of the Esoteric system taught in the Zohar came to the Jews very late indeed – at any rate, that they had so far forgotten it that the innovations and additions made by de León provoked no criticism, but were thankfully received – Munk quotes from Tholuck, a Jewish authority, the following information: Haya Gaon, who died in 1038, is to our knowledge the first author who developed [and perfected] the theory of the Sephiroth, and he gave to them the names which we find again among the Kabalistic names used by Dr. Jellinek. Moses ben Shem-Tob de León, who held intimate intercourse with the Syrian and Chaldaean Christian learned scribes, was enabled through the latter to acquire a knowledge of some of the Gnostic writings.
Again, the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Creation) – though attributed to Abraham and though very archaic as to its contents – is first mentioned in the eleventh century by Yehuda-ha-Levi (in his Khozari). And these two, the Zohar and Yetzirah, are the storehouse of all the subsequent Kabalistic works. Now let us see how far the Hebrew sacred canon itself is to be trusted.
The word Kabalah comes from the root “to receive” and has a meaning identical with the Sanskrit Smriti (“received by tradition”) – a system of oral teaching, passing from one generation of priests to another, as was the case with the Brahmanical books before they were embodied in manuscript. The Kabalistic tenets came to the Jews from the Chaldaeans; and if Moses knew the primitive and universal language of the Initiates, as did every Egyptian priest, and was thus acquainted with the numerical system on which it was based, he may have – and we say he has – written Genesis and other “scrolls”. [C.W.XIV, 170-2]
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