Sunday, May 04, 2008



The origin of Freemasonry has been, for a long time, vague and obscure. And while it is to this obscurity in its history, augmented by the multiplicity of systems which have been introduced, that it is necessary to attribute the contradictory opinions as to its origin held by those who have written upon that subject, it is, however, due to the scientific researches of a few Masonic historians who have entered this field of darkness with the determination to lay aside all the commonly received opinions and traditions upon the subject, that at the present day this obscurity has disappeared.

By the connection that its forms of initiation present with the Egyptian Mysteries, and with many societies and philanthropical schools of antiquity of the Dionysian, the Therapeutic, the Essenian, the Pythagorean some authors have believed that within one or several of those societies might be found the cradle of Freemasonry; while others, led into error by the symbols and passwords of Hebrew origin, have pretended that its birth had place at the building of Solomon's Temple, of which the books of Kings and of Chronicles, as found in the Old Testament, afford us such precise details. This temple, erected in the year 1012, before the Christian era, by king Solomon, who was, no doubt, Master of the Hebrew Mysteries a type of the
Egyptian and nine years afterward dedicated by him to the glory of the one only and ever-living God, was the first national manifestation of an only God ever erected. From the pointed bearing of this fact, and as a masterpiece of gorgeous architecture, representing in perfection the image and harmony of the universe, this temple has ever symbolized in Freemasonry the moral excellence to which
every brother is in duty bound to carry his perfected work. Losing sight, however, of this aspect of the matter, as well as of the fact that all the teachings of antiquity were invariably clothed in allegories and illustrated by symbols, many authors, and following them, the mass of the brethren, have accepted the teachings of Masonry and the legends of the degrees not as allegories, but as actual occurrences, and have inextricably entangled themselves in their endeavors to explain them as such.

Another peculiarity that has, above all, contributed to induce error in the researches into the origin of the society, is the difference presented by the forms of initiation; that of the first degree being evidently borrowed from the
Egyptian, while those of the second and third belong entirely to the Hebrew mysteries. This difference, however, will be easily understood, when it is known that Numa Pompilius organized his colleges of constructors as a fraternity of artists and artisans, and, at the same time, as a religious society. When so organized, the greater number of the colleges, finding themselves composed of Greeks
who had been initiated into the mysteries of their country, imitated in their worship the form of initiation practiced in those mysteries; but when, some seven hundred years afterward, in the time of Julius Caesar, the Jews were protected at Rome and granted many immunities, among which were the privilege of setting up their synagogues, a great many Hebrew artists and artisans were affiliated in those colleges, and in their turn introduced a part of the Hebrew mysteries, and with them their own beautiful allegories, among which that of the third degree was chief.
It is true that the forms of initiation practiced in our day probably bear very little resemblance to those which were in use among the Roman colleges of builders, and that these forms have often been changed or modified to suit the country and the men who found themselves at the head of the fraternity ; nevertheless, it is certain that a fixed and unchanged foundation has always religiously been preserved. The rituals, which were established at London in 1650, as well as those of 1717, seems to have been based upon the Anglo-Saxon documents, arranged by the General Assembly at York in the year 926. It will be remembered that the fraternity in 1650, the year
after the bloody execution of Charles I, and when the accepted Masons had acquired such influence in the institution, had, to some considerable extent, and, in 1717, to a far greater degree, abandoned the material object of the association, and the members thereof having submitted, at their initiation into the two first degrees, to all the proofs required of the Master, the allegory of Hebrew origin and the summit of Hebrew mystery was always preserved as the proper illustration for the third degree, susceptible, as it is, of a local interpretation that satisfies men of
every worship.

Notwithstanding the connection that so evidently exists between the ancient mysteries and the Freemasonry of our day, the latter should be considered an imitation rather than a continuation of those ancient mysteries; for initiation into them was the entering of a school wherein were taught art, science, morals, law, philosophy, philanthropy, and the wonders and worship of nature; while the mysteries of Freemasonry are but a resume of divine and human wisdom and morality that is to say, of all those perfections which, when practiced, bring man nearest to God. Freemasonry of to-day is that universal morality that attaches itself to the inhabitants of all climes- to the men of every worship. In this sense, the Freemason receives not the law, he gives it ; because the morality Freemasonry teaches is unchanging, more extended and universal than any native or sectarian religion can be; for these, always exclusive, class men who differ from them as pagans, idolaters, schismatics, heretics, or infidels; while Masonry sees nothing in such religionists but brothers, to whom its temple is open, that by the knowledge of the truth therein to be acquired they may be made free from the prejudices of their country or the errors of their fathers, and taught to love and succor each other. Freemasonry decries error and flies from it, yet neither hates nor persecutes. In fine, the real object of this association may be summed up in these words : To efface from among men the prejudices of caste, the conventional distinctions of color, origin, opinion, nationality; to annihilate fanaticism and superstition ; extirpate national discord, and with it extinguish the firebrand of war; in a word, to arrive, by free and pacific progress, at one formula or model
of eternal and universal right, according to which each individual human being shall be free to develop every faculty with which he may be endowed, and to concur
heartily and with all the fullness of his strength in the bestowment of happiness upon all, and thus to make of the whole human race one family of brothers, united by
affection, wisdom, and labor.

Slowly and painfully does the highest condition of human knowledge accomplish its great revolution around the glittering axis of truth. The march is long, and since
it began nations and peoples have lived and died ; but when that journey is accomplished, and the incarnation of truth, now robed but in its symbol, shall appear in all the splendor of its brilliant nudity, truth's torch itself
shall then enlighten the world, the doctrine that has just been announced shall become the religion of all the peoples of the earth, and then, and not till then, will be realized that sublime ideal now mysteriously hidden in the symbol of Freemasonry.

That day is, without doubt, yet far distant; but it will arrive. Its coming is marked by destiny and in the order of the centuries. Already, in the sacred balance of eternal justice, is seen each day to diminish a portion of the errors of the people, and to increase the body of light, of principle, and those truths which are preparing the way for its triumph, and which, one day, will give assurance of its reign.


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