This essay is an attempt to crystallize my thoughts into a cohesive form rather than to expound upon finished concepts. As I am quite new to Masonry, I would ask the reader to forgive any inconsistencies or inaccuracies in this attempt.
I understand masonry in its essence to be a path of self-development, a path steeped in ancient rites and forms that harkens back to antiquity. There are many facets to masonry, and many associated movements. I will attempt to address three aspects of the Masonic movement, and show their relationship to what I understand to be the true nature of Masonry.
First I will address the social aspect, then the form and ritualistic presentation, and thirdly the esoteric nature of the work.
To the Social Life of Masonry:
In his book “Born in Blood” The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, John J. Robinson points out that all historical documents to the original purpose of masonry were lost or destroyed before the year 1717. Around this time Masons began meeting more openly. They held their meetings in pubs, and may have been seen to be using any deeper purpose as an excuse for a good night of cheer. Still today it is often talked about as an old boys club, with much emphasis on eating and drinking.
No doubt there is some truth to that, however I see the social aspects of masonry to be that of nurturing, and developing of a culture of chivalry, of practicing good social form, ethics and morality. It is a place where at least once a month I get dressed up and meet with like minded men and practice being a gentleman. If this alone were the level to which a man gave himself to masonry, it would already be making the world a better place through the practice of good form and moral behavior. The form and weight given to moral striving I think would eventually deter a person who was only looking for the camaraderie of pub culture.
Through the structure, oaths and commitments to each other, Masonry formed a safe-haven, which allowed men of all faiths and religions to come together safely, in times when doing so was punishable by horrific torture and death.
Through traveling and visiting other lodges (which is strongly encouraged), horizons are broadened. A new awareness for one’s fellow man is kindled, and prejudices overcome. There is a strong sense of community building and support here. I believe that one’s community is as large as ones circle of awareness is and ones willingness to take responsibility with in it. And so Masonry by its nature sets out to form a global community able to unite people of all faiths, a community of active and striving men with the intent to make the world a better place by setting a good example.
The form and ritualistic presentation:
The Masonic experience begins as we enter the lodge room, its walls hung with the symbols and regalia of the rituals and rites that date back to the middle ages. We commit the rites and rituals to our memories, and look with great care to the geometry of our movements within the lodge. There is a somber earnestness with which this work is carried out, which could almost be religious. And yet it is not. The form and imagery and the sincerity within the Lodge room lends a sense of importance, and I believe it serves as a support to motivate and shepherd us past the perils and pitfalls of this path of self-development.
The memory work, and the “pageantry” of the rituals, brings to mind for me, the 12th century Arthurian legends of the “Knights of the Round Table” and their striving to bring about new social awareness. The table at which Arthur and his knights ruled was purposefully round so that there was no head of the table, and all who sat around it met as equals. This New form of governance and ideology is inspiring and I feel it is still valid today. I see parallels in the Masonic lodge. In the Lodge we meet ‘on the level’, meet as equals disregarding our different positions in life, and share a rotating leadership which all strive to take part in.
The spiritual or esoteric nature of Masonry:
Masonry as an esoteric path is an individual path, which means I can only comment very generally about it. Each of us is free to make out of it what he can. But the structure of rituals, and degree work, makes it hard for an inquisitive mind to ignore the lessons. It occurs to me that each of these lessons is a lesson for life, which continues to show deeper meaning as we deepen our understanding.
Most paths of spiritual development are described as ‘a journey’ to be taken step-by-step. The mysteries of Freemasonry are revealed by degrees. The Masonic movement throughout its history has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery. Out of historical necessity of self-preservation the movement developed into a brotherhood, with a complex set of passwords signs and symbols, and its rules and structures are akin to an order of monks or knights. It is nonetheless a path of self-development to be embarked upon by individual men. And as such, to the extent the individual gives himself to this path of self-improvement, the mysteries of freemasonry will come to light. It is often said one gets out of Masonry what one puts in. Perhaps these medieval forms and structures within Masonry create a support system that carries or nudges one toward a deeper striving, towards inner work.
Throughout the ages masons where thinkers; Many of the great artists, mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists, were Masons and their contributions are greatly valued still today. Masonic thinkers in the 17th and, 18th century embraced Deism, accepting the existence of a creator on the basis of reason, but rejecting the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with mankind. They looked out into nature and saw God in the wonders nature, in the laws of nature, the hidden mathematics, the geometry and the wonders of science. Their thinking was based on reason, having become disenchanted with organized religion. They strove to remain free thinkers, developing and protecting streams of thought free of the dogma and the whims of the ruling powers of the day. Such thinking was risky, and thinkers and philosophers formed working groups and met in secret. Many of the founding Fathers of America were such Masonic thinkers, and brought these ideals into the foundations of the American constitution.
I see the nature of the Masonic Path of self-development in Wolfgang Von Eschenbach’s Grail legend Percival, which tells of the young son of a knight whose mother clothed and raised him as a peasant boy to protect him from the perils of his true destiny. Percival however is drawn to his destiny and becomes a knight. After long searching, He finds himself in an enchanted castle, where his uncle is suffering greatly under an enchanted ailment. Percival in his innocence is unprepared, and does not know to ask the question, which would unlock the spell:
“Uncle what ails you?”
“Striking in this work is the emphasis on the importance of humility, compassion, sympathy and the quest for spirituality. A major theme in Percival is Love…”
The imagery of this fairy tale describes a spiritual quest. In the Masonic degree work the candidate is also presented half dressed half shod, a poor traveler journeying to the east to find light. At the heart of the Masonic path we also find the same underlying tenets as key aspects of the work: interest in ones’ fellow man, the development of humility, compassion and the quest for enlightenment. I see a parallel also in the heart of the Temple legend where three Fellow-craft Masons attempt to get the Masters word, prematurely. One could say they are attempting to enter the grail castle, unprepared.
In conclusion, I have chosen three aspects of Masonry, the social, the ritualistic forms and the esoteric, and have shown their relationship to the true Nature of Masonry as I see it. The social life of masonry naturally brings out the best in men through the practicing of good form and moral behavior. Through community building and through interest in ones’ fellow man, the Masonic fraternity becomes a safe haven in which to work and develop inner self. The form and ritualistic aspects bring us out of the daily routine, and adds significance to our fragmented lives, helping to guide or shepherd us along this path. The esoteric aspects of masonry, point us to our calling, and aid us in creating a better world by example.
All Masons everywhere know of the persecution of their brethren in Europe and the spoliation of their property by the Nazi Party and the German Reich before and during World War II. But it may come as a surprise to many that the Nazi treatment of Freemasons and Freemasonry had a part to play in the trial and conviction of Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher and the other infamous members of the Nazi hierarchy by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. This, of course, does not mean that they were tried and convicted solely because of their persecution of Freemasonry. The indictment contained four counts, namely, (1) that the defendants had engaged in a common plan or conspiracy (2) to commit crimes against peace, (3) war crimes, and (4) crimes against humanity. The third count, that of committing war crimes, had ten subdivisions, in the fifth of which the plunder of public and private property was treated as being in the same category as the murder and ill treatment of civilian populations, the utilization of slave labor, the killing of hostages and the like. It was under this count that most of the evidence of the persecution of Masonic lodges was admitted in evidence.
In 1946 and 1947 the United States Government printing office published a set of books in a limited edition, which has now become a collector’s item. It is entitled Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression and was prepared by the Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. It ran to eight volumes plus two supplements, and an additional volume containing the judgment and sentence of the tribunal. In addition to that and to the charter under which the tribunal was set up, it contains the indictment under which the defendants were tried, the arguments of the prosecuting and defence counsel, the statements made by the defendants on their own behalf and the prosecution’s trial brief. By far the largest portion of the trial brief consists of translations of captured documents found in the private and official files of many of the defendants and of the organizations they headed. All the material in this paper is to be found in these documents, or, in one instance, in the pre-trial examination of Alfred Rosenberg, and, in another, in a letter written by von Ribbentrop after his capture.
The Nazi persecution of Freemasons and Freemasonry has been ably reported by a Committee of the Masonic Service Association, which went to Europe in the summer of 1945, shortly after the collapse of Germany, for the purpose of investigating the “condition of Masonry in the devastated countries of Europe.” It was composed by Ray V. Denslow, editor of The Royal Arch Mason, Past Grand Master of Missouri, and at that time the General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, chairman; Hon. George E. Bushnell, now the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, but at that time Lieutenant-Commander of the Rite and Chairman of the Committee on Jurisprudence of the Grand Lodge of Michigan; Charles H. Johnson, Past Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York; and Claude J. McAllister, Past Grand Master of Montana and Fraternal Correspondent and Historian of the Grand Lodge of Montana.
In the report the committee made upon its return, it told of the persecution of individual Freemasons, the pillaging of lodges and the destruction of many of their temples. It is no part of the purpose of this paper to review that report, for it has been widely publicized among the craft. But I do want to use one quotation from the report in order to show that the documentary evidence used in the trials confirms the committee’s statement, and in order that the reader may more easily understand certain things which appear in the documents.
After a general review of the manner in which the persecution started, including Hitler’s views as expressed in Mein Kampf, the committee said: “Then [Hitler] began to associate Freemasonry with the Jews in such a way that the reader might take it for granted that all Freemasons were Jews and all Jews were Freemasons.” In reviewing the documents, which probably were unknown to the committee at the time of their report, we shall see the words “Jews” and “Freemasons” in juxtaposition in nearly every instance.
The Nazis were obsessed with the idea that Freemasons were their enemies, so much so that they used many arms of the party and state to bring discredit to the Craft, death to many of its members and irreparable loss to many, if not most, of its lodges. The Gestapo [Secret Police], the SA [Storm Troopers], the SS [Blackshirts], the members of the armed forces, and even the foreign office were used.
Mr Justice Robert Jackson, chief of the United States’ prosecution staff, said in his argument before the court: “In connection with the persecution of the Jews, the SA again performed its propaganda function. It was the function of the SA to create and foster among the people an anti-Jewish spirit. Evidence of this function is to be found in the issues of Der SA-Mann. Article after article in this publication was devoted to propaganda designed to engender hatred toward the Jewish race. The nature of these articles is apparent from some of the titles (including an) article entitled `Jews and Freemasons,’ 13 January 1939, p. 15.”
Again, later in his argument, Mr Justice Jackson told the court: “The headquarters organizations of Gestapo was set up on a functional basis. In 1943 it contained five subsections, one of which (Section B) dealt with political churches, sects and Jews and was subdivided as follows:
“B 1. Political Catholicism;
“B 2. Political Protestantism sects;
“B 3. Other churches, Freemasonry;
“B 4. Jewish affairs, matters of evacuation, means of suppressing enemies of the people and state, dispossession of rights of German citizenship.”
Mr Justice Jackson could have told the court of other articles in Der SA-Mann, such as “The World Polyp of Freemasonry: A Dangerous Enemy Must Be Made Powerless,” 23 February 1935, page 2; “Revolts and Disturbances — The Work of the Freemasons,” 28 March 1936, page 11; “5 Million Freemasons — A World Threat,” 5 March 1938, page 6.The Organization Book of the NSDAP [Nazi Party] at page 413 was found to contain the following: “Bravery is valued by the SS men as the highest virtue of men in a struggle for his ideology. He openly and unrelentingly fights the most dangerous enemies of the state: Jews, Freemasons, Jesuits and political clergymen.”The armed forces were subjected to the propaganda that Freemasonry had to be counted as one of their enemies. One document entitled “The Bearer of Arms — Political Soldier,” dated June 6, 1939, contained a draft of a speech for the opening of a training course for commanders in Munich. The draft, or outline, is partially as follows:
“The next war will be the struggle for the victory of our ideology.
“Democracies led by Jews and Freemasons against Totalitarian States.
“At the end of such a war there must be a clear decision — no compromise solution.
“It is therefore a matter of existence or non-existence.”
In January 1939, a letter was addressed to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to all senior Reich authorities and the NSDAP Bureau for Foreign Affairs as follows: “Enclosed please find for your attention a circular which has been sent to the German authorities abroad on the subject of `The Jewish Question as a factor in German foreign policy for the year 1939.'”
The circular read partly as follows: “In North America, in South America, in France, in Holland, Scandinavia, Greece, everywhere, wherever the flood of Jewish immigration reaches, there is today already a visible increase in anti-Semitism. A task of the German foreign policy must be to further this wave of anti-Semitism. Salonika reported on 30 November 1938 `That forces are at work to stir up hate against the Jews’ and that at the same time Greek Freemasonry is endeavouring to stem the anti-Semitic movement.”
Another foreign office document is a secret letter mailed 8 April 1944, to all the representatives of the office in Europe. It dealt with the establishment of an organization whose purpose was to deepen and strengthen anti-Jewish information in foreign countries. Included are the minutes of a work conference by the consultants on Jewish questions of the Jewish missions in Europe, held at Krummhuebel, 3 and 4 April 1944. The letter contains the following paragraph: “Prof. Mahr suggests that duplicates of handbooks and reference books be obtained and sent to Krummhuebel for the projected archives. He recommends, further, the addition of lists of Freemasons of high degree, journalists, writers and businessmen who had Jewish relatives.
Among the documents used by the prosecution was an article in the Voelkischer Beobachter for 28 August 1939, reporting a speech by Rudolph Hess. The heading and part of the article are as follows:
“RUDOLPH HESS ANSWERS CHAMBERLAIN.
We stand by the Fuehrer’s banner, come what will.
The Fuehrer’s deputy again gives proof of England’s responsibility.
Graz, August 25th.
“The 7th Reich session of `Germans Abroad,’ as already reported in another section of this issue, was opened in Graz on Friday evening with a great demonstration on the Trabrennplatz (racecourse). A culminating point in the proceedings which took place with strong support from the population of Graz was a speech by the Fuehrer’s deputy, Reich Minister Rudolph Hess.
(Among other things he said):
“Jews and Freemasons want a war against this hated Germany, against the Germany in which they have lost their power.”
A secret report issued in June 1939 by the Reichsfuehrer of the Chief of the Reichs Security Main Office dealt with the seizure of the leading men of the System Era. According to the report, a total of 553 men were seized. An analysis made by the author of the report showed that of that number, 58 or 10 per cent were Jews and 45 or 9 per cent were Freemasons.
It is therefore clear that Jews and Freemasons were almost always treated in the same manner by the Nazis. They scarcely ever mention one without naming the other in the same breath. No wonder their persecution of the Craft led to such dreadful results for Freemasons, for the whole world knows how they treated the Jews.
Arthur Seyss-Inquart, on 14 July 1939, wrote a letter addressed to the General Field Marshal from Vienna. He said: “If I may add something about myself, it is the following: I know that I am not of an active fighting nature, unless final decisions are at stake. At this time of pronounced activism this will certainly be regarded as a fault in my personality. Yet, I know that I cling with unconquerable tenacity to the goal in which I believe. That is Greater Germany and the Fuehrer. And if some people are already tired out from the struggle and some have been killed in the fight, I am still around somewhere and ready to go into action. I told myself in July 1934 that we must fight the clerical regime on its own ground in order to give the Fuehrer a chance to use whatever method he desires. I told myself that Austria was worth a mass. I have stuck to this attitude with an iron determination because I and my friends had to fight against the whole political church, Freemasonry, Jewry, in short, against everything in Austria. The slightest weakness which we might have displayed would undoubtedly have led to our political annihilation; it would have deprived the Fuehrer of the means and tools to carry out his ingenious political solution for Austria.”
This is the same man in whose personal files were found a memorandum of a meeting held 28 December 1918, which seems to show that he was not above imitating the secrecy and degree system of Freemasonry at the same time he was fighting the craft. The memorandum is as follows:
“Place: Vienna I. Am Hof 5
“Present: The Organizers
“After full discussion of the available drafts those present agreed to immediately take in hand the constitution of the planned organization.
“The name chosen is `Deutsche Gemeinschaft’ (German Association).
“The present are in agreement regarding the following principles of the organization.
“1. The aim of the organization is to liberate the German people from Jewish influences (written in: i.e., to fight Judaism with all available means).
“2. The organization is to be secret….
“3. The association is split up into several degrees, of which the lower ones are subordinate to the higher ones….
“4. Provides for local sub-associations (lodges?).
“5. As members can only be accepted such people who are Germans, not Freemasons, and who are of Aryan descent and are not married to a Jewess … and who make a vow the wording of which is to be determined.”
Only one of the defendants, Joachim von Ribbentrop, ever appeared to make any denial of personal responsibility for, and to assert his opposition to, the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry, and that was after he was captured; and he placed his opposition to the persecution on the ground that it made his work harder as Foreign Minister of the German Reich. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Churchill and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, which he enclosed in a letter to Field Marshal Montgomery with the request that it be forwarded to him, he wrote: “The German foreign policy was in every phase directed by the Fuehrer himself. Its execution was my task. After my appointment as head of the German Foreign Office I have considered it my business to help the Fuehrer in attaining the justified German claims in Europe — as laid down by Hitler — and this by diplomatic means. But at the same time I have considered it just as important to help to adjust the dynamics in the National Socialist doctrine and its principles of world conception (Weltauffassung) with the necessities and possibilities of foreign politics. My work was accordingly concentrated on the following, or better, on the double aim:
“(a) Concentration of the greater part of the Germans in Europe within the Reich and limitation of the German foreign policy, to the fulfilment of this aim; and
“(b) Evolution of the principles of world perception (Weltauffassung) of the party in such a way that the existence or carrying through of such principles would not endanger or even make impossible the peaceful living together and collaboration of Germany with other nations. This had to do especially with the question of toleration or better adjustment in matters of the churches, in the Jewish question, the question of communism, Freemasonry, etc., for which I have always pleaded in my verbal reports, memorandums, etc. ….
“I have been a patriot all my life. I have placed myself at the disposal of Adolph Hitler in the desire to help him save our country from ruin in 1933 and to build up a strong and united Germany in Europe and simultaneously to attain the English-German alliance without war…. I always was an opponent to the radical party programme. I have always opposed the policy against the Jews, churches, Freemasons, etc., which I considered in principle a fault and which has caused considerable difficulties in foreign politics.”
The looting of Masonic lodges and the confiscation of their libraries and archives was the special task of the defendant Alfred Rosenberg.
Early in 1940, Hitler made plans for the creation of a research centre for the Nazi party and the German Reich which was to become a place where the Nazis could study the writings and methods of their enemies, in order that they might better combat them in the future. It was to be called the Hohe Schule. On January 29 of that year he issued a decree in the following terms: “The Hohe Schule is supposed to become the centre for National Socialistic ideological and educational research. It will be established after the conclusion of the War. I order that the already initiated preparations be continued by Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg, especially in the way of research and the setting up of the library. All sections of party and state are requested to cooperate with him in this task.”
The prosecution’s trial brief states that what began as a project for the establishment of a research library developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures.
The order of 29 January 1940, was implemented by further orders, issued by the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. On 17 September 1940, the Chief of the Army High Command for the Military Administration in Occupied France received an order notifying him that Hitler had authorized Rosenberg to search lodges, libraries and archives in the west for material valuable to Germany, and to safeguard them through the Gestapo. He also had the authority to transport such material as might appear valuable to him to Germany and to safeguard them there. Less than a month later, similar notification was directed to be given the Military Administration in Belgium, and by 30 October 1940, Rosenberg’s activities were extended to the Netherlands, and later to Norway and Denmark.
To carry out his duties, Rosenberg set up a special purpose staff known as the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, and sent his representatives into the occupied countries to search lodges, libraries, and archives for material to be transported to Germany for use in the Hohe Schule. In this he had plenty of help. Goering got into the act on 1 May 1941, when he issued an order in which, after declaring that “the battle against Jews, Freemasons and other affiliated forces or opposite `Weltanschauung’ is a foremost task of National Socialism during the war,” continued as follows: “I therefore welcome the decision of the Reichsleiter Rosenberg to form staffs in all occupied territories for the purpose of safeguarding all research material and cultural goods of the above-mentioned groups, and transporting them to Germany. All party, state, and Wehrmacht Services are therefore requested to give all possible support and assistance to the Chief of Staff of Reichsleiter Rosenberg’s staffs, Reichshauptstellenleiter Party Comrade Utikal, and his deputy DRK-Feldfuehrer Party Comrade vom Beer, in the discharge of their duties. The above-mentioned persons are requested to report to us on their work, particularly on any difficulties that might arise.”
On 1 March 1942, Hitler issued from his Fuehrer’s Headquarters a decree which was directed to all Bureaus of the Armed Forces, the party and the state, which was as follows: “Jews, Freemasons and the ideological enemies of National Socialism who are allied with them are the originators of the present war against the Reich. Spiritual struggle according to plan against these powers is a measure necessitated by war. I have therefore ordered Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg to accomplish this task in cooperation with the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces. To accomplish this task, his Einsatzstab for the right (sic) occupation territories has the right to explore libraries, archives, lodges and other ideological and cultural establishments of all kinds for suitable material, and to contribute such material for the ideological tasks of the NSDAP and for scientific research work by the university (Hohe Schule).”
This decree was implemented on 5 July 1942, by a notice issued from the Reich Chancellory, where Hitler then had his headquarters, addressed to “The Highest Authorities of the Reich and to all departments directly subordinate to the Fuehrer,” in the following language: “The Fuehrer has charged Reichsleader Rosenberg in his capacity as delegate of the Fuehrer with the supervision of the entire spiritual and political education and schooling of the NSDAP, with the spiritual fight against the Jews and Freemasons as well as against all allied with them in their doctrinal opposition to National Socialism, as the instigators of the present war. For this purpose the Fuehrer has ordered that the staff of the Reichsleader Rosenberg shall have the right, in occupied territories under military government and in occupied Eastern territories under civil administration (this does not include the General Government) to search libraries, archives, lodges and all other political and cultural institutions of all kinds for suitable material for the fulfilment of his task, and to ask the competent army and police officers to confiscate the material thus procured for the world doctrinal tasks of the NSDAP, and for later scientific research work of the university, whereby the police political files will remain with the police, all other documents, however, to be turned over to the staff of Reichsleader Rosenberg….” A copy of the decree of 1 March 1942 was attached to the notice.
So much importance was attached to the material the Einsatzstab Rosenberg was collecting that on 10 August 1942, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces issued an order to the effect that it was to be treated like armed forces goods. Apparently they were given priority in transportation, and were as well guarded as war material.
It will thus be seen that the assistance of every party, state and armed forces organization in Germany was enlisted in the task of confiscating Masonic property. How well they carried out this task is well known from the reports of destruction or desecration of Masonic Temples throughout Western Europe. Two official reports are included in the documents discovered and used by the prosecution staff. One of them, undated, tells of the activities of the Einsatzstab in the Netherlands and the results it achieved, in the following language:
“The Working group Netherland of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg began its work in agreement with the competent representative of the Reichskommisar during the first days of September 1940. The execution of the past (sic), conforming with the Fuehrer’s orders, coordinated itself with the liquidation, that is, confiscation, according to civil law, of the various subversive institutions…. The screening of the material of the various Masonic lodges was taken care of primarily, and the library and the archives of the following lodges were sifted and all useful material was packed.
“Groot Oosten der Nederlands”
[There follow the names and locations of thirty-one Lodges in the Netherlands.]
Included in the report are also the names of ten lodges of the Droit Humain, a pseudo-Masonic body, in Amsterdam and The Hague, 35 lodges of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and 15 Rotary Clubs. To continue with the document:
“All together 470 cases combining material from the here mentioned lodges and from organizations of a similar status were packed and transported to Germany. Furthermore, everything the temple of the lodge in Nijmegen and the temple of the I.O.O.F. in Haarlem contained, was sent to Germany. Also, steel shelves for about 30,000 books were taken from the building belonging to the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag where they have so far been for the Bibliotheka Klossiana, containing parts of one library of the Grooten Oosten and the library of the Vrijmetseler Stichting. Amsterdam, are of great value. And so are the archives of the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag, containing all the historical documents of the lodges affiliated with the Grooten Oosten.
“To estimate the value of the Bibliotheke Klossiana, containing many rare pieces, it is to be remembered that in 1930 the Grooten Oosten der Nederlands, was offered $5,000,000 for the Bibliotheka Klossiana by Freemasons in the United States.
“A particularly valuable discovery was made by the working group searching the altars in the building of the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag. The Master Hammer of the Grooten Oosten, made of pure gold, with which some of its members had presented to the Grooten Oosten on its 60th anniversary, fell into our hands. It is a piece of high quality whose money value alone is estimated to be 3,000 Reichsmark….
“It is safe to say that the racks of books confiscated, packed and so far sent to Germany by the Working Group are of extraordinary scientific value and shall contribute an integral part of the library of the `Hohe Schule.’ The money value of these libraries, as shown in the case of the Klossiana, can only be estimated, but surely amount to 30 – 40,000,000 Reichsmarks….
“The temple and the museum of the Grooten Oosten der Nederlande. At present, both are needed for exhibitions on behalf of the Dienststelle of the Reichskommisar. With the end of the exhibition, temple furnishings and museum shall be turned over to us…. It is safe to say that the library of the Hohe Schule itself, with very little effort, receive an extraordinary amount of treasures which shall give it a unique position in the realm of questions regarding Judaism and Freemasonism.”
The other report is dated at Paris 8 August 1944. It is a progress report, with no details given. It is as follows: “The fight against Jews, Freemasons and the forces allied to them or otherwise ideologically opposed to us, has always been a most urgent task of National Socialism, especially during the war which has been forced upon us. In order to secure, within the areas occupied by Germany, all research material and the cultural effects of the groups indicated, and to dispatch them to Germany, the Fuehrer at the suggestion of Reichsleiter Rosenberg has ordered that libraries, archives, lodges and other ideological and cultural institutions of all kinds be searched for appropriate material, and that this be secured for the ideological instruction of the National Socialist Party.”
What were Rosenberg’s special qualifications for the persecution of Freemasonry? They appear in the documents assembled by the prosecution. He was the man who in 1930 wrote “The idea of honour — national honour — will be for us the beginning and end of all our thoughts and deeds. It does not permit besides itself any other equivalent centre of power, be it of whatever kind, neither Christian love, nor the humanity of the Freemasons, nor the Roman philosophy.”
Rosenberg was high in the Nazi party. He was one of 16 Reichsleiters who composed the party directorate. He was Hitler’s delegate for the supervision of the ideological education of the NSDAP movement. The German Leader Lexicon (Das Deutsche Fuehrerlexicon) for 1934-1935, listed, among his other accomplishments, the authorship of 16 publications, of which it stressed his book, The World Policy of Freemasonry. He had therefore set himself up as an authority on Masonry. But listen to his testimony during a pre-trial examination taken 25 September 1945, at Nuremberg:
“Q. Do you recall any further correspondence with Bormann regarding the acquisition of materials from libraries and archives?
“A. It is possible that I did correspond with the man, but I don’t remember it.
“Q. As a matter of fact, with reference to the statement that you have just made regarding private property, you wrote to Bormann on 1 July 1940 along that line, did you not?
“A. I can’t remember that.
“Q. Didn’t you set forth some theory, by which it could be justified, in the case of the French Masonic lodges?
“A. We had assumed that those great Masonic lodges in Paris had carried on an anti-German policy for years. I, as a matter of course, wanted to find out from the libraries whether I could find confirmation or otherwise of the opinion which we had been holding on that subject.”
In other words, here is the expert on Freemasonry, who wrote a book on its world policy, admitting he knew nothing about it, and that his activities in plundering lodge libraries and archives was for the purpose of learning whether perchance the charges he had hurled at the institution might possibly be correct. To continue with his testimony:
“Q. You advocated a confiscation of three libraries, didn’t you?
“A. Yes; a confiscation of such libraries.
“Q. What was the principle on which you believed it justifiable to confiscate those libraries?
“A. I didn’t consider that as an ordinary private French property, but as the property of an organization into the activity of which I wanted to go.
“Q. What was the basis on which you made this differentiation between property of this organization and any other private property?
“A. I told myself that actually it was a fighting organization, directed for some time against the German Reich.
“Q. In other words, you convinced yourself that it was all right, is that it?
“A. It so happened that same material was of interest to the police, and had been confiscated by the police. I only got hold of such material as was necessary for my research, to get the precise nature of their activities.
“Q. The fact of the matter is, is it not, that at least some of the materials in these Masonic lodges’ libraries was confiscated for your purposes?
“Q. In fact, were the available books and the historical archives of the Paris Masonic lodges given to the Hohe Schule?
“A. They arrived at Frankfurt and we set them up separately with other libraries. On account of the air raids, those libraries had been transferred to Schloss-Hungen…. It is possible that on account of the transportation, those libraries are no longer in the state in which I had them set up….
“Q. What was the mission you had received from the Fuehrer?
“A. I received the mission to confiscate Jewish and other libraries, which were to be considered as hostile and for a purpose of scientific research. In conjunction therewith I also received the mission to safeguard the works of art, which had been left in the houses and castles.
“Q. Did you establish an organization to carry out this mission?
“A. There was in Paris a representation of this Einsatzstab. They visited the various organizations and the various castles where those works of art existed. There a brief outline of them was made. They were packed up and forwarded to Germany. All things concerned with the Freemasons and Jews were forwarded to Frankfort-am-Main….
“Q. What did you have at the Hohe Schule?
“A. At the Hohe Schule I had all the works concerning the question of Jews and Freemasons. The other books not dealing with either the Jews or Freemasonry, but also of scientific value, were transferred to the library of the Hohe Schule at Tanzenberg near Klagenfurth.”
In view of such evidence it is no wonder that the International Military Tribunal, in its opinion and judgment, has the following to say with regard to Rosenberg and his Einsatzstab: “The defendant Rosenberg was designated by Hitler, on the 29th January 1940, head of the Centre for National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, and thereafter the organization known as the `Einsatzstab Rosenberg’ conducted its operations on a very great scale. Originally designed for the establishment of a research library, it developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. On the 1st March 1942, Hitler issued a further decree, authorizing Rosenberg to search libraries, lodges and cultural establishments, to seize material from these establishments, as well as cultural treasures, owned by Jews…. In many of the occupied countries, private collections were robbed, libraries were plundered, and private houses were pillaged.”
Mr Justice Jackson, in his opening address for the United States, said: “We will not ask you to convict these men on the testimony of their foes. There is no count of the indictment that cannot be proved by books and records. The Germans were always meticulous record keepers, and these defendants had their share of the Teutonic passion for thoroughness in putting things on paper.”
The reader may judge for himself whether Mr Justice Jackson kept his promise. The documents shriek the defendant’s guilt.
The author of the outline of the speech for the opening of the Munich training course for commandoes was absolutely correct when he said “it is therefore a matter of existence or non-existence,” although it is most likely he never dreamed for one minute that once the smoke of battle had cleared away it would be the persecutors of Freemasonry who would be non-existent. Freemasonry exists, and will continue to exist, so long as there are men of good will who believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of men.
Although the Four Cardinal Virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice – figure prominently in the Entered Apprentice Lecture, the lecture itself does not go into any detail about their significance or give much explanation of their importance. This post is intended to provide some additional information about the Four Cardinal Virtues. [note: this post is based on a presentation at our January 2018 Regular Meeting by our District Education Officer]
The Four Cardinal Virtues are deeply rooted in Western philosophy. A stained glass representation appears below.
The figures below show the Four Cardinal Virtues as they are presented on stained glass windows in Freemasons Hall, London.
Here is a brief overview of the development of the Four Cardinal Virtues in Western philosophy.
The Four Cardinal Virtues originate specifically in Books 4, 6, and 7 of Plato’s Republic (circa 380 BC)
In Plato’s Republic, the four cardinal virtues are wisdom, temperance, courage and justice. These reflect the nature of the soul, which has three parts:
1. Reason: Our reason thinks; when it does this well, it has wisdom.
2. Appetite: Our appetite desires; when it does this well, it has temperance (self-control, soberness). Think of this as “passions”.
3. Spirit: Our “high spirit” shows emotions (fear, anger, respect, etc.); when it does this well, it has courage.
For Plato, Justice consists of the proper interplay of the three parts of the soul. In the just person, reason controls the “high spirit” — and both control the appetite (passions).
Plato then applies this to society as a whole:
Society mirrors the individual soul. And the virtues of society mirror the virtues of the individual soul.
Plato divides society into three groups.
1. The aristocrats are the educated; they should be wise [Prudence].
2. The workers (merchants, commoners) do the work; they should be temperate (have self-control) [Temperance].
3. The soldiers (guardians) protect the city; they should be courageous (brave) [Fortitude].
For Plato, Justice in society is the proper conformity of the three groups to their social roles. Each group has its own place, according to its natural abilities. The aristocrats are to rule wisely, and the other groups are to obey and to do their own tasks. This will promote the happiness of the city and of its members.
The Four Cardinal Virtues were adopted by the Roman and Greek Stoics, circa 200 BC.
As an example, here is a short extract from Cicero (106 BC – 46 BC), On Duties
“….there is not a shadow of a doubt that man has the power to be the greatest agent of both benefit and harm towards his fellow men. Consequently it must be regarded as a vitally important quality to be able to win over human hearts and attach them to one’s own cause…..But to gain the goodwill of our fellow human beings, to convert them to a state of ready activeness to further our own interests, is a task worthy of the wisdom and excellence of a superman…. [note: for Cicero this means behaving with Justice]
This brings me back to moral goodness. It may be held to fall into three subdivisions.
The first is the ability to distinguish the truth from falsity, and to understand the relationships between one phenomenon and another and the causes and consequences of each [note: Prudence]
The second category is the ability to restrain the passions and to make the appetites amenable to reason [note: Temperance]
Third…is the capacity to behave considerately and understandingly in our associations with other people. [note: for Cicero this was Fortitude]…..”
Note the similarity to Plato’s three parts of the soul, tempered by Justice, or the interplay of the three parts of the soul.
For the Stoics, all other virtues were grouped – or hinged – around, or under, the Four Cardinal Virtues. The word “Cardinal” comes from the Latin “cardo” meaning “hinge” and “cardinalis” or “acting as a hinge”, hence the name Cardinal Virtues.
The Four Cardinal Virtues appear in Jewish writings about 200 BC in the Book of Wisdom. Although the Book of Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon, the earliest known written references to it date from about 200 BC in Alexandria.
“For [Wisdom] teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these” (Book of Wisdom 8:7).
[Note: although the Book of Wisdom is presented as having been written by King Solomon, it is thought to have been written in Alexandria, by a Jewish author, circa 200 BC. At that time, Alexandria was ruled by the Ptolemy dynasty, which was of Greek (Hellenistic) origin.]
“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence)….”
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) ranked the four Cardinal Virtues in what he considered their priority or precedence.
St. Thomas Aquinas ranked prudence as the first cardinal virtue because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” It is the virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it.
In St. Thomas Aquinas‘ view, it is very easy to fall into error, so Prudence requires us to seek the counsel of others, particularly those we know to be sound judges of morality. Disregarding the advice or warnings of others whose judgment does not coincide with ours is a sign of imprudence.
Justice, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. As Fr. John A. Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, it is “the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due.” We say that “justice is blind,” because it should not matter what we think of a particular person. If we owe him a debt, we must repay exactly what we owe.
Justice, wrote Saint Thomas Aquinas, is also connected to the idea of rights. While the term “justice” in a negative sense (“He got what he deserved”), justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when we as individuals or by law deprive someone of that which he is owed. In St. Thomas’ view, legal rights can never outweigh natural rights, a concept which is enshrined in, among other places, the US Declaration of Independence.
The third cardinal virtue, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is Fortitude. While this virtue is commonly called courage, it is different from what much of what we think of as courage today. Fortitude allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles, but it is always reasoned and reasonable; the person exercising fortitude does not seek danger for danger’s sake. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it.
Temperance, Saint Thomas declared, is the fourth and final cardinal virtue. While fortitude is concerned with the restraint of fear so that we can act, temperance is the restraint of our desires or passions. Food, drink, and sex are all necessary for our survival, individually and as a species; yet a disordered desire for any of these goods can have disastrous consequences, physical and moral.
Temperance is the virtue that attempts to keep us from excess, and, as such, requires the balancing of legitimate goods against our inordinate desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may be different at different times; temperance is the “golden mean” that helps us determine how far we can act on our desires.
Here are some videos for research and information purposes. Note that, although some of them are from particular religious viewpoints, we have included these videos here for research purposes only and their inclusion here should not be viewed in any way as a promotion of any particular religious or theological viewpoint:
Here is a video on Plato’s view of the Four Cardinal Virtues in Book 4 of The Republic (note: audio isn’t great):
Here is a video on the Stoic philosophers’ view of the Four Cardinal Virtues
Cicero, On Duties and General Issues Concerning Duty
Here is a short video on the Four Cardinal Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a short video on the Three Theological Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a video on the 4 Cardinal Virtues from an Islamic perspective:
Faith, Hope and Charity / Faith, Hope and Love a.k.a. The Theological Virtues
Are Connected to the Four Cardinal Virtues
Here are two videos on the Theological Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a video on The Ladder of Ascent, based on Jacob’s Ladder:
Here is a depiction of the Four Cardinal Virtues taken from a 10th century Masonic chart:
Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?
Elias Ashmole (1617 – 1692) was not the first Speculative Freemason. Nor was he the second, third or even tenth! The first Speculative Freemasons were William, Lord Alexander, his brother Anthony Alexander (the King’s Maister o’ Wark – Master of Works) and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton. They were Initiated on 3rd July 1634, in the Lodge of Edinburgh, that is more 12 years before Elias Ashmole. (1) To understand the importance of this and to set Ashmole’s ‘initiation’ in context some background information is necessary.
At the time of these events Scotland was a country entirely independent of England. The 1603 ‘Union of the Crowns’ (James VI of Scotland became James I of England) provided the Kingdoms of Scotland and England with single monarch but did not unite the two countries in other respects. For example Scotland retained its’ own parliament, monetary system, laws, religion and, of course, Freemasonry. In 1534 Henry VIII of England instituted a religious reformation, by making himself the head of the church in place of the Pope in Rome. His motivation for doing so was his need to annul his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the Pope’s refusal to grant such an annulment. The motives were therefore legal, jurisdictional and political rather than religious. (2) Once set in motion Henry took the opportunity to confiscate most of the church’s money and property. Lay organisations which supported and encouraged pre-Reformation religious practices were swept away, their money and property were confiscated and this included English guilds. The situation in Scotland was quite different. The Protestant Reformation took place in Scotland in 1559 and was religious in nature. The Catholic Church and many of its’ practices was replaced by an entirely new system of religious observance based on Calvinism. MORE? Unlike England, Scottish Guilds (known as Incorporations), were not abolished but their religious support for the pre-Reformation Church simply ceased when the new Protestant faith was established. (3)
Scottish Incorporations (rather like the extinct English Guilds) therefore functioned in Scotland before and after the Reformation. (4) The main purpose of Incorporations was to advance the interests of their members. Considering them as a form of proto-Labor Union goes some way to understanding ‘what they were about’ but they did more than negotiate with employers. They were responsible for regulating their members to the extent that they tasked with controlling wages, supervising ‘quality control’, setting the terms for apprenticeships, burying deceased members, looking after their widows and orphans and even improving the morals of the members. All the major trades had an Incorporation including Baxters (bakers); Cordiners (shoemakers); Fleshers (butchers); Hammermen (iron workers); Wobsters (weavers) and of course Masons (stonemasons). When new members admitted to an Incorporation certain secrets were communicated to each new member. (5) However, and most importantly, only the Incorporation of Masons had an additional level to the incorporation – the Lodge. In this the Masons were unique. The reasons why an extra body was required was due to the fact that the Incorporation of Masons also included other trades such as Wrights (carpenters) and Coopers (barrel makers) and communicating stonemasons’ secrets could not be done in a body were non-stonemasons were present. The Lodge was therefore a place where secrets were transmitted from stonemasons to stonemasons and no one else. Incorporations were an acknowledged and accepted part of Scottish society in other words they were the public face of stonemasons but the Lodge was secret – the private face of the craft. Incorporations kept written records of their activities whereas Lodges did not.
That changed in 1598 when the King’s Maister o’ Wark, William Schaw (c.1550 – 1602) wrote what are now known as the First Schaw Statutes and which were followed by the Second Schaw Statutes in 1599. It is because of these documents that Schaw is known as the Father of modern Freemasonry. Without going into detail as to what these documents contain it is important to appreciate that they were instructions issued to all the Lodges in Scotland. They contain a large amount of interesting information regarding stonemason Lodges but it is sufficient here to state that they formalised an existing organisation. Schaw was a primarily a civil servant and one can understand his dismay at being in charge of a informal, perhaps disorganised, system of Lodges spread across Scotland. His statutes instituted a much more organised system including the keeping of written records and this is why the oldest Lodge records date from soon after his statutes. (6) The establishment of a national system of stonemasons Lodges was no doubt of benefit to Schaw, certainly from the point of view of efficiency, but it seems certain that the statutes were actually a subterfuge for esoteric matters which space does not allow for discussion here. Schaw died in 1602 leaving behind his national system of Lodges, as detailed in his statutes, which can be seen continuing to the present day. (7)
One of the inevitable consequences of Schaw’s instructions was that Lodges became fixed, permanent, institutions. They were no longer casual, meeting when thought necessary (usually to initiate a candidate or conduct Lodge business). After Schaw’s death Lodges now met at particular times (the main annual meeting being on 27th December – Saint John the Evangelist’s Feast Day) and kept written records. An identifiable body of men meeting in every Scottish town on a regular basis almost certainly attracted attention. Whether these Lodges admitted non-stonemasons before Schaw formalised them we have no way of knowing for they did not keep written records until instructed to do so by him. It is a very interesting, if speculative, thought that Schaw may have been the first non-stonemason (that is a Speculative Freemason) to be initiated into a Lodge.
Soon after Lord Alexander, his brother and a friend became members of the Lodge of Edinburgh other non-stonemasons also joined the Lodge. In 1635 Archibald Stewart of Hesselsyd became a member. He was followed by David Ramsay (a ‘special servant’ to the king – who was by now Charles I (1600 – 1649) in 1637 and later that year Alexander Alerdis [Allardyce of that Ilk] joined the Lodge. Henry Alexander (the brother of Lord Alexander and Anthony who had been admitted to the Lodge in 1634) became a member of the Lodge in 1638. (8)
Initiation of these non-stonemasons is of major significance for our understanding of the origins and development of modern Freemasonry but the Initiation of Sir Robert Moray (1608/09 – 1673) in 1641 even more important for several reasons. He was the first Speculative Freemason to be Initiated on English soil. Briefly, Moray was part of the Scottish army that occupied after besieging Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, during the so called ‘Bishops Wars’ (1639 – 1640). Members of the Lodge of Edinburgh were pioneers attached to the army to build bridges, fortifications etc. and they held a special meeting to initiate Moray and another army general, Alexander Hamilton. There is nothing unusual in this as this was a common practice known as ‘out entries’ as attested by a number of similar Initiations noted in various Lodge records. It also accords well with Scottish Masonic belief that a Lodge is not a place but is a gathering of like minded men who come together for the purposes of Freemasonry. This record of Moray’s Initiation means that he was therefore made a Freemason five years before Ashmole.
Moray was a prime mover in the founding of the Royal Society and became its’ first president. The society’s inaugural meeting was held on Wednesday, 28 November 1660, at Gresham College, London, attended by 12 eminent gentlemen. Ashmole was not one of them. These 12 prepared a list of 40 other eminent gentlemen to be invited to join the new society. Ashmole was on that list and therefore, although one of the earliest members of the society, he was not a founder member. (9) The Royal Society still holds its’ annual meeting on Saint Andrew’s Day (30th November) in honour of the Scot who was the first president. (10) Moray and Ashmole must therefore have met each other but there is nothing extant which casts light on the nature of their relationship. Whether they ever discussed Freemasonry is also unknown. The absence of evidence can, occasionally provide some insights as they permit us to compare ‘silence’ with what is known.
As we have seen Moray was Initiated into a Lodge of a fixed, permanent, type as directed by William Schaw in his statutes. (11) Ashmole by comparison was Initiated in a Lodge the evidence for the existence of which is an entry in Ashmole’s personal diary. It seems therefore that the Lodge at Warrington, England, was at best an occasional Lodge and was consequently quite unlike Scottish Lodges. Whether they were the same, or more specifically, conducted the same ceremonies of Initiation is unknown. It has been claimed that we know nothing of Masonic ritual in use before 1717. (12) This is incorrect as there is a large amount of written material on that very subject. (13) These rituals comprise a family of very similar documents of which the Edinburgh Register House MS of 1696 is the oldest. (14) The existence of these rituals allows us to see the form of ceremony used by Lodges in Scotland before the existence of any Grand Lodge and raises the question as to what kind of ceremony did Ashmole experience? Was it the same as that practiced in Scottish Lodges? If so, then he would have been Initiated, like Moray, ‘Scottish style.’ If not, then it was not according to the established practice of the time.
Ashmole’s interest in Freemasonry was fleeting at best. His detailed and meticulous diaries show that he was ‘initiated’ in Warrington on 16th October 1646. He never again attended a Lodge meeting. The only other Masonic occasion relating to Ashmole is again found in a diary entry for 1682 when he attended a gathering of Freemasons at the Masons’ Livery Company. Ashmole’s Masonic career is in stark contrast to the Speculative Freemasons referred to above who continued to attend Lodge meetings for several years after their Initiation ceasing only on the outbreak of war. Ashmole wrote nothing about Freemasonry other than the two brief entries in his diary. Moray on the other hand wrote a large amount mainly describing, interpreting use of his Mason’s Mark (I can provide a high resolution image of this for illustrative use) and what Freemasonry meant to him. (15) He did not reveal what would be considered to be Masonic secrets and was not concerned about people knowing that he was a Freemason. (16) In comparison to Ashmole Moray considered his membership of a Lodge to be important and that Freemasonry and particularly his Masonic Mark had mystical and symbolic significance.
Moray and Ashmole did share something in common – an interest in Alchemy. Moray built an alchemical laboratory within Whitehall Palace. The rooms were gifted by the king. He was a personal friend of Charles II (1630 – 1685) and it was this friendship that was instrumental in gaining royal approval for the Royal Society in 1662. (17) One of his experiments was an attempt to extract lead from rock and then to turn that lead into silver. In this he was partly successful and reported the results of the experiment to the Royal Society.
We can see from the very brief outline of the Scottish Lodge system described above that more than 100 years before the existence of any Grand Lodge, stonemasons’ Lodges were Initiating non-stonemasons. They did so for a variety of reasons and once they did so there was no stopping the admission of non-stonemasons into their Lodges. Modern Speculative Freemasonry was born although there were to be many subsequent additions, changes and elaborations. The change from stonemasons’ Lodges into modern Masonic Lodges is known as the ‘Transition Theory’ and is something that can be clearly seen taking place in the written records of Scottish Lodges. The details of the actual individuals, Speculative Freemasons, initiated as early as 1634 are part of the extant written evidence. Information such as this underlines the importance of these Lodge records.
1) The Lodge is still in existence and is now known as The Lodge of Edinburgh Mary’s Chapel), No. 1. The Lodges Minutes commence on 31st July 1599 and are continuous to date.
2) The Act of Supremacy of 1534 ended Papal authority over the church in England and transferred to the crown.
3) Many of these Incorporations continue to exist in Scotland to this day including, for example, the Incorporation of Masons of Glasgow which has a recorded existence from 1475. CHECK They are now confined to being charitable bodies.
4) There are very few references to Lodges before the Reformation but the most important occurs in 1491 when the Masons of Edinburgh were permitted to use the Lodge for ‘recreational purposes.’ See Appendix 1, The Masonic Magician, p. 246.
5) For example a member of the Incorporation of Hammermen of Dundee was expelled in 1653 for revealing the Hammermen’s secrets to a non-member. See: The Burgh Laws of Dundee, p. 493.
6) The first are those of Lodge Aitcheson’s Haven which commence on 9th January 1599.
7) The statutes have most recently been reproduced in The Rosslyn Hoax?, Appendix 1 & 2. pp. 330 – 335.
8) Later the 2nd Earl of Stirling.
9) See: ‘From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite’ in Philalethes, Winter 2011, pp 22 – 23.
10) Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland.
11) For this reason these are occasionally referred to as ‘Schaw Lodges.’
12) See: ‘From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite’ in Philalethes, Winter 2011, pp 24.
13) These rituals or catechisms have been known of since 1930 when the oldest of them, the Edinburgh Register House MS dated 1696, was discovered and announced to the Masonic world in ‘Ars Quatuor Coronatorum’ (AQC) Vol. 43, pp 153 – 155. (This is the annual journal of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 the oldest Lodge of Research in the world).
14) Others pre-Grand Lodge rituals in this family of documents are dated 1700, 1705, 1710 and 1715.
15) These discussions are contained within the Kincardine Letters written 1657 – 1659.
16) From the historian’s point of view it is a pity that he did not discuss any aspects of Lodge ritual including the so called ‘secrets’ but it is perhaps an indication that he took his oath (obligation) to heart.
17) The society was in fact granted three Royal Charters: 1662, 1663 and 1669 all within the lifetime of Moray. In the second of these ‘the King declares himself to be the Founder and Patron of the Society.’ See the society’s web site at: http://royalsociety.org/about-us/history/
From the Grand Lodge of Antient Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland, Facebook page
Here are some links to more information on people and topics mentioned in this article:
The theory that modern Freemasonry is in some sense a direct descendant from the ancient Mysteries has held a peculiar attraction for Masonic writers this long time, and the end is not yet, for the world is rife with men who argue about the matter up and down endless pages of print. It is a most difficult subject to write about, so that the more one learns about it the less he is inclined to ventilate any opinions of his own. The subject covers so much ground and in such tangled jungles that almost any grand generalization is pretty sure to be either wrong or useless. Even Gould, who is usually one of the soundest and carefullest of generalizers, gets pretty badly mixed up on the subject.
For present purposes it has seemed to me wise to attention to one only of the Mysteries, letting it stand as a type of the rest, and I have chosen for that purpose MITHRAISM, one of the greatest and one of most interesting, as well as one possessing as many parallelisms with Freemasonry as any of the others.
I – HOW MITHRA CAME TO BE A FIRST-CLASS GOD
Way back in the beginning of things, so we may learn from the Avesta, Mithra was the young god of the sky lights that appeared just before sunrise and lingered after the sun had set. To him was attributed patronship of the virtues of truth, life- giving, and youthful strength and joy. Such qualities attracted many worshippers in whose eyes Mithra grew from more to more until finally he became a great god in his own right and almost equal to the sun god himself. “Youth will be served,” even a youthful god; and Zoroastrianism, which began by giving Mithra a very subordinate place, came at last to exalt him to the right hand of the awful Ormuzd, who had rolled up within himself all the attributes of all gods whatsoever.
When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, who worshipped the stars in a most thoroughgoing manner, Mithra got himself placed at the very center of star worshipping cults, and won such strength for himself that when the Persian Empire went to pieces and everything fell into the melting pot with it, Mithra was able to hold his own identity, and emerged from the struggle at the head of a religion of his own. He was a young god full of vigour and overflowing with spirits, capable of teaching his followers the arts of victory, and such things appealed mightily to the bellicose Iranian tribesmen who never ceased to worship him in one form or another until they became so soundly converted to Mohammedanism centuries afterwards. Even then they did not abandon him altogether but after the inevitable manner of converts rebuilt him into Allah and into Mohammed, so that even today one will find pieces of Mithra scattered about here and there in what the Mohammedans call their theology.
After the collapse of the Persian Empire, Phrygia, where so many religions were manufactured at one time or another, took Mithra up and built a cult about him. They gave him his Phrygian cap which one always sees on his statues, and they incorporated in his rites the use of the dreadful “taurobolium,” which was a baptism in the blood of a healthy young bull. In the course of time this gory ceremony became the very center and climax of the Mithraic ritual, and made a profound impression on the hordes of poor slaves and ignorant men who flocked into the mithrea, as the Mithraic houses of worship were called.
Mithra was never able to make his way into Greece (the same thing could be said of Egypt, where the competition among religions was very severe) but it happened that he borrowed something from Greek art. Some unknown Greek sculptor, one of the shining geniuses of his nation, made a statue of Mithra that served ever afterwards as the orthodox likeness of the god, who was depicted as a youth of overflowing vitality, his mantle thrown back, a Phrygian cap on his head, and slaying a bull. For hundreds of years this statue was to all devout Mithraists what the crucifix now is to Roman Catholics. This likeness did much to open Mithra’s path toward the west, for until this his images had been hideous in the distorted and repellant manner so characteristic of Oriental religious sculpture. The Oriental people, among whom Mithra was born, were always capable of gloomy grandeur and of religious terror, but of beauty they had scarcely a touch; it remained for the Greeks to recommend Mithra to men of good taste.
After the Macedonian conquests, so it is believed, the cult of Mithra became crystallized; it got its orthodox theology, its church system, its philosophy, its dramas and rites, its picture of the universe and of the grand cataclysmic end of all things in a terrific day of judgment. Many things had been built into it. There were exciting ceremonies for the multitudes; much mysticism for the devout; a great machinery of salvation for the timid; a program of militant activity for men of valour; and a lofty ethic for the superior classes. Mithraism had a history, traditions, sacred books, and a vast momentum from the worship of millions and millions among remote and scattered tribes. Thus accoutered and equipped, the young god and his religion were prepared to enter the more complex and sophisticated world known as the Roman Empire.
2 – HOW MITHRA FOUND HIS WAY TO ROME
When Mithridates Eupator – he who hated the Romans with a virulency like that of Hannibal, and who waged war on them three or four times – was utterly destroyed in 66 B.C. and his kingdom of Pontus was given over to the dogs, the scattered fragments of his armies took refuge among the outlaws and pirates of Cilicia and carried with them everywhere the rites and doctrines of Mithraism. Afterwards the soldiers of the Republic of Tarsus, which these outlaws organized, went pillaging and fighting all round the Mediterranean, and carried the cult with them everywhere. It was in this unpromising manner that Mithra made his entrance into the Roman world. The most ancient of all inscriptions is one made by a freedman of the Flavians at about this time.
In the course of time Mithra won to his service a very different and much more efficient army of missionaries. Syrian merchants went back and forth across the Roman world like shuttles in a loom, and carried the new cult with them wherever they went. Slaves and freedmen became addicts and loyal supporters. Government officials, especially those belonging to the lowlier ranks, set up altars at every opportunity. But the greatest of all the propagandists were the soldiers of the various Roman armies. Mithra, who was believed to love the sight of glittering swords and flying banners, appealed irresistibly to soldiers, and they in turn were as loyal to him as to any commander on the field. The time came when almost every Roman camp possessed its mithreum.
Mithra began down next to the ground but the time came when he gathered behind him the great ones of the earth. Antoninus Pius, father-in-law of Marcus Aurelius, erected a Mithraic temple at Ostia, seaport of the city of Rome. With the exception of Marcus Aurelius and possibly one or two others all the pagan emperors after Antaninus were devotees of the god, especially Julian, who was more or less addle-pated and willing to take up with anything to stave off the growing power of Christianity. The early Church Fathers nicknamed Julian “The Apostate”; the slur was not altogether just because the young man had never been a Christian under his skin. Why did all these great fellows, along with the philosophers and literary men who obediently followed suit, take up the worship of a foreign god, imported from amidst the much hated Syrians, when there were so many other gods of home manufacture so close at hand? Why did they take to a religion that had been made fashionable by slaves and cutthroats? The answer is easy to discover. Mithra was peculiarly fond of rulers and of the mighty of the earth. His priests declared that the god himself stood at the right hand of emperors both on and off the throne. It was these priests who invented the good old doctrine of the divine right of kings. The more Mithra was worshipped by the masses, the more complete was the imperial control of those masses, therefore it was good business policy for the emperors to give Mithra all the assistance they could. There came a time when every Emperor was pictured by the artists with a halo about his head; that halo had originally belonged to Mithra. It represented the outstanding splendour of the young and vigorous sun. After the Roman emperors passed away the popes and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church took up the custom; they are still in the habit of showing their saints be-haloed.
Mithraism spread up and down the world with amazing rapidity. All along the coast of northern Africa and even in the recesses of the Sahara; through the Pillars of Hercules to England and up into Scotland; across the channel into Germany and the north countries; and down into the great lands along the Danube, he everywhere made his way. London was at one time a great center of his worship. The greatest number of mithrea were built in Germany. Ernest Renan once said that if ever Christianity had become smitten by a fatal malady Mithraism might very easily have become the established and official religion of the whole Western World. Men might now be saying prayers to Mithra, and have their children baptised in bull’s blood.
There is not here space to describe in what manner the cult became modified, by its successful spread across the Roman Empire. It was modified, of course, and in many ways profoundly, and it in turn modified everything with which it came into contact.
Here is a brief epitome of the evolution of this Mystery. It began at a remote time among primitive Iranian tribesmen. It picked up a body of doctrine from the Babylonian star worshippers, who created that strange thing known as astrology. It became a mystery, equipped with powerful rites, in the Asia Minor countries. It received a decent outward appearance at the hand of Greek artists and philosophers; and it finally became a world religion among the Romans. Mithraism reached its apogee in the second century; it went the way of all flesh in the fourth century; and flickered out entirely in the fifth century, except that bits of its wreckage were salvaged and used by a few new cults, such as those of the various forms of Manicheeism.
3 – THE MITHRAIC THEORY OF THINGS
After overthrowing its hated rival, the early Christian Church so completely destroyed everything having to do with Mithraism that there have remained behind but few fragments to bear witness to a once victorious religion. What little is accurately known will be found all duly set down and correctly interpreted in the works of the learned Dr. Franz Cumont, whose books on the subject so aroused the ire of the present Roman Catholic Hierarchy that they placed them on the Index, and warned the faithful away from his chapters of history. Today, as in Mithra’s time, superstitions and empty doctrines have a sorry time when confronted with known facts.
The pious Mithraist believed that back of the stupendous scheme of things was a great and unknowable deity, Ozmiuzd by name, and that Mithra was his son. A soul destined for its prison house of flesh left the presence of Ormuzd, descended by the gates of Cancer, passed through the spheres of the seven planets and in each of these picked up some function or faculty for use on the earth. After its term here the soul was prepared by sacraments and discipline for its re-ascent after death. Upon its return journey it underwent a great ordeal of judgment before Mithra. Leaving something behind it in each of the planetary spheres it finally passed back through the gates of Capricorn to ecstatic union with the great Source of all. Also there was an eternal hell, and those who had proved unfaithful to Mithra were sent there. Countless deons, devils and other invisible monsters raged about everywhere over the earth tempting souls, and presided over the tortures in the pit. Through it all the planets continued to exercise good or evil influence over the human being, according as his fates might chance to fall out on high, a thing imbedded in the cult from its old Babylonian days.
The life of a Mithraist was understood as a long battle in which, with Mithra’s help, he did war against the principles and powers of evil. In the beginning of his life of faith he was purified by baptism, and through all his days received strength through sacraments and sacred meals. Sunday was set aside as a holy day, and the twenty-fifth of December began a season of jubilant celebration. Mithraic priests were organized in orders, and were deemed to have supernatural power to some extent or other.
It was believed that Mithra had once come to earth in order to organize the faithful into the army of Ormuzd. He did battle with the Spirit of all Evil in a cave, the Evil taking the form of a bull. Mithra overcame his adversary and then returned to his place on high as the leader of the forces of righteousness, and the judge of all the dead. All Mithraic ceremonies centered about the bull slaying episode.
The ancient Church Fathers saw so many points of resemblance between this cult and Christianity that many of them accepted the theory that Mithraism was a counterfeit religion devised by Satan to lead souls astray. Time has proved them to be wrong in this because at bottom Mithraism was as different from Christianity as night from day.
4 – IN WHAT WAY MITHRAISM WAS LIKE FREEMASONRY
Masonic writers have often professed to see many points of resemblance between Mithraism and Freemasonry. Albert Pike once declared that Freemasonry is the modern heir of the Ancient Mysteries. It is a dictum with which I have never been able to agree. There are similarities between our Fraternity and the old Mystery Cults, but most of them are of a superficial character, and have to do with externals of rite or organization, and not with inward content. When Sir Samuel Dill described Mithraism as “a sacred Freemasonry” he used that name in a very loose sense. Nevertheless, the resemblances are often startling. Men only were admitted to membership in the cult. “Among the hundreds of inscriptions that have come down to us, not one mentions either a priestess, a woman initiate, or even a donatress.” In this the mithrea differed from the collegia, which latter, though they almost never admitted women as members, never hesitated to accept help or money from them. Membership in Mithraism was as democratic as it is with us, perhaps more so; slaves were freely admitted and often held positions of trust, as also did the freedmen of whom there were such multitudes in the latter centuries of the empire.
Membership was usually divided into seven grades, each of which had its own appropriate symbolical ceremonies. Initiation was the crowning experience of every worshipper. He was attired symbolically, took vows, passed through many baptisms, and in the higher grades ate sacred meals with his fellows. The great event of the initiate’s experiences was the taurobolium, already described. It was deemed very efficious, and was supposed to unite the worshipper with Mithra himself. A dramatic representation of a dying and a rising again was at the head of all these ceremonies. A tablet showing in bas relief Mithra’s killing of the bull stood at the end of every mithreum.
This, mithreum, as the meeting place, or lodge, was called, was usually cavern shaped, to represent the cave in which the god had his struggle. There were benches or shelves along the side, and on these side lines the members sat. Each mithreum had its own officers, its president, trustees, standing committees, treasurer, and so forth, and there were higher degrees granting special privileges to the few. Charity and Relief were universally practised and one Mithraist hailed another as “brother.” The Mithraic “lodge” was kept small, and new lodges were developed as a result of “swarming off” when membership grew too large.
Manicheeism, as I have already said, sprang from the ashes of Mithraism, and St. Augustine, who did so much to give shape to the Roman Catholic church and theology was for many years an ardent Manichee, and through him many traces of the old Persian creed found their way into Christianity. Out of Manicheeism, or out of what was finally left of it, came Paulicianism, and out of Paulicianism came many strong medieval cults — the Patari, the Waldenses, the Hugenots, and countless other such developments. Through these various channels echoes of the old Mithraism persisted over Europe, and it may very well be, as has often been alleged, that there are faint traces of the ancient cult to be found here and there in our own ceremonies or symbolisms. Such theories are necessarily vague and hard to prove, and anyway the thing is not of sufficient importance to argue about. If we have three or four symbols that originated in the worship of Mithra, so much the better for Mithra!
After all is said and done the Ancient Mysteries were among the finest things developed in the Roman world. They stood for equality in a savagely aristocratic and class-riddled society; they offered centers of refuge to the poor and the despised among a people little given to charity and who didn’t believe a man should love his neighbour; and in a large historical way they left behind them methods of human organization, ideals and principles and hopes which yet remain in the world for our use and profit. It a man wishes to do so, he may say that what Freemasonry is among us, the Ancient Mysteries were to the people of the Roman world, but it would be a difficult thing for any man to establish the fact that Freemasonry has directly descended from those great cults.
(Note: Kipling, who has never wearied of handling themes concerned with Freemasonry, often writes of Mithraism. See in especial his Puck of Pook’s Hill, page 173 of the 1911 edition, for the stirring Song to Mithras.)
[We have reproduced here the list of works consulted by that late Brother Heywood as it contains some interesting titles. It also provides sources on the subject that some people my not previously have been aware of – Ed.]
WORKS CONSULTED IN PREPARING THIS ARTICLE
The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, Vol. II, Waite.
Vol. 1, 1915. – Symbolism, The Hiramic Legend, and the Master’s Word, p. 285; Symbolism in Mythology, p. 296.
Vol. II, 1916. – Masonry and the Mysteries, p. 19; The Mysteries of Mithra, p. 94; The Dionysiaes, p. 220; The Mithra Again, p. 254; The Ritual of Ancient Egypt, p. 285; The Dionysiaes, p. 287.
Vol. III, 1917. – The Secret Key, p. 158; Mithraism, p. 252; Vol. IV, 1918. – The Ancient Mysteries, p. 223.
Vol. V, 1919. – The Ancient Mysteries Again, p. 25; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 143, 172; The Mystery of Masonry, p. 189; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 218, 240.
Vol. VI, 1920. – A Bird’s-Eye View of Masonic History, p. 236.
Vol. VII, 1921. – Whence Came Freemasonry, p. 90; Books on the Mysteries of Isis, Mithras and Eleusis, p. 205.
Vol. VIII, 1922. – A Mediating Theory, p. 318; Christianity and the Mystery Religions, p. 322.