The Impacts on Freemasonry by ancient/mystic civilizationss
Author: Nate Braunhut, Gila Valley Lodge #9 (F&AM) Florence, AZ
Posted by: Daniel Genchi
This article was prepared to examine some of the possible impacts on Freemasonry in ancient/mystic civilizations. All research was gathered through secondary resources by Nate Braunhut and presented in this form to Gila Valley Lodge #9 of Arizona.
Israeli influence on Freemasonry is known to all Masons with the story of Hiram Abiff constructing King Solomon’s temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. As the story goes, in a significantly paraphrased form, Kind Solomon sought a builder from the King of Tyre to help him construct his temple. Hiram Abiff is selected to represent his country and is sent to Jerusalem, where he is made chief architect of Solomon’s temple. It is believed that King Hiram of Tyre, King Solomon of Israel, and Hiram Abiff were the founding members of Masonry and viewed themselves in Masonic equality. It appears, although there were many Master Masons involved in the building of King Solomon’s temple, only King Solomon, King Hiram, and Hiram Abiff were privy to the information contained in the High and Sublime degree, although it is unclear if they learned the mysteries or invented them, and required the approval of all three to share its secrets. When three Fellow Craft Masons approached only Hiram Abiff and demanded to know the secrets, he refused and was murdered. His death is depicted in Masonic ritual.
In operative freemasonry, the east-west orientation of the tabernacle and the temple, with the only entrance in the east, reflects the fact that from time immemorial human beings have associated the east with the source of life and the light of knowledge. This veneration of the east originated in primitive society, probably because of the mystery then associated with the daily rising of the sun after the darkness of the night. Even in ancient times the sun was known to germinate plant life and to ripen the seed and fruits of nature. Hence the sun came to be regarded as a symbol of the commencement of a new cycle of life. This is reflected in the reverence held for the east in the Egyptian rites and other Ancient Mysteries, in which the sun was regarded as a manifestation of God. In those Mysteries the place where the sun rose was esteemed as the birthplace of God. Many of the earliest Christian churches, especially those in the eastern countries, were oriented east west and had the entrance in the east like King Solomon’s temple.
In operative freemasonry the symbolic lodge was oriented on an east west axis. The entrance to the lodge was at the eastern end and the master was seated in the west. This arrangement was in allusion to King Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem, which had a single entrance in the east, flanked by two columns. In his lectures on Signs and Symbols, the Rev Dr George Oliver supported the customs adopted in operative lodges when he said: “The principal entrance to the lodge room ought to face the east, because the east is a place of light both physical and moral; and therefore the Brethren have access to the lodge by that entrance, as a symbol of mental illumination.”
Although speculative craft freemasonry closely follows most of the symbolic precedents established by the ancient Israelites and adopted in lodges of operative freemasons, the orientation of speculative lodges is the reverse of their operative counterparts, so that the entrance is in the west and the master is seated in the east. It is not known when this reversal took place, but it probably was in deference to established religious practices in Europe and Britain during the formative days of modern speculative craft freemasonry.
While modern Freemasonry didn’t appear in the country of Egypt until the 1790s, there are several symbols which date back to ancient Egypt which are used by Masons today. Examples include the pyramid, the all-seeing eye, the six pointed star, the lotus, and the use of two columns.
Pyramid – This symbol is often seen in Masonic building and publications. It represents the great pyramid of the cheops. This symbol was highly revered by the ancient Egyptians and stood for the beginning of life from the sea of Chaos. It also speaks of the Masonic espousal of the philosophy of the search of light of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.
All Seeing Eye – Is the Masonic Rendition of the eye of Horus or the Eye of Ra. The Egyptians believed that the symbol had protective powers while the masons believe that the symbol is representative of a masons deeds and thoughts always being watched by the Supreme Being.
Six Pointed Star – In ancient Egypt this symbol stood for the confluence of two great powers. Masons also believe that two powers come together in the symbol, many have interpreted the symbol as the coming together of the male and female forms with one triangle representing the phallus while the lower triangle represents the triangular female mound. If one were to erase the upper and lower bases of the triangle you would come upon the most popular symbol of the Masonic tradition that of a compass and a square.
The Lotus – In Masonic tradition this symbol stands for spiritual enlightenment. The ancient Egyptians believed that the lotus represented life and resurrection.
Two Columns – Most Masonic temples and structures have two symbolic columns; the origins of these structures can again be traced back to ancient Egypt. The first connotation is related to King Solomon and stands as a symbol against the corrupt insinuations against him. They also are symbolic of the twin architects Set and Horus from the ancient Egyptian pagan religion. They stand for the pillars of intelligence and power beyond which lies the gate to eternity.
Kabbalah originated in ancient India and is teaches the connection between the eternal and the moral. There is no solid evidence that the practice of Kabbalah is related to the origins of Freemasonry. The best argument that can be made draws parallels between Kabbalah and Freemasonry. For example, both can be argued as enhancing a man’s relationship with their spirituality. Both are taught in three stages, or degrees. The degrees of Freemasonry enlighten the man to ancient teachings of morals and symbolism. The degrees of Yogi (or yoga as it is more commonly called) stress the advancing ability of a person to synchronize their mind and body through a spiritual action with the body. While interesting similarities exist, most discussion of a concrete connection between Kabbalah and ancient India with Freemasonry are unfounded and unsupported by historians or available evidence.
Modern freemasonry arrived in Calcutta, India in 1730 by way of officers in the East Indian Company, a trade company chartered by the British in 1599 to facilitate trade between Britain, India, and China.
There are several examples of ancient China influencing Masonry. For example, in a book called “The Great Learning”, written in 500 BC, it is stated “A man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him, and this is called the principle of acting on the Square”.
Confucius, the great Chinese moral teacher, born about 550 BC and Mencius, his pupil, arranged an orderly system of moral teaching. From the sixth volume of the work on philosophy, I quote; “A Master Mason in teaching his apprentices, makes use of the compasses and the square. We who are engaged in the pursuit of Wisdom, must also make use of the compasses and the square”.
Mencius also wrote; “Men should apply the compass morally to their lives, and the level and marking-line besides, if they would walk in the straight and even path of Wisdom, and keep themselves within the bonds on honor and virtue”.
In Peking, in China, there is a place called the temple of Heaven, one of the few ancient relics of the Chinese monotheistic faith. It is constructed in the form of a square, with special seats in the east, the west and the south. There is an altar in the very center. There are three circular platforms of diameters of 90 feet, 150 feet, and 210 feet. Note that these are in the ratio of 3, 5 and 7. The temple was built in 1420, but the altar is considered to be 4000 years old.
There was a society called HUNG, or “The Brotherhood of Heaven and earth”. This can be traced back to 386 AD. It had a supreme Grand Master, a Senior and Junior Warden, and many subordinate lodges. In the lodge ceremonies, the initiate knelt at the altar, with the Senior and Junior Wardens kneeling at his right and left, each holding a sword overhead to form a right angle over the candidate. The lecture given by the Worshipful Master taught that all are equal, that they must live uprightly and justly, that they must help a brother in distress, preserve his secrets, respect the chastity of his wife, and that they must obey the Worshipful Master. The three great principles of the Hung lodge were Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
It is interesting to note that Masonry was absent on mainland China for centuries. In 1949 the Grand Lodge of China was established and still exists today.
There are a few symbols date back to ancient Greece, one of them being the Greek sphinx. It was said that the Greek sphinx would devour travelers who failed to answer her riddle. According to A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Arthur Waite the masonic sphinx “is the guardian of the Mysteries and is the Mysteries summarized in a symbol. Their secret is the answer to her question. The initiate must know it or lose the life of the Mysteries. If he can and does answer, the Sphinx dies for him, because in his respect the Mysteries have given up their meaning.”
A double headed eagle is a Masonic seal and initiation symbol. The number inside the pyramid over the eagle’s head is 33. The eagle is a universal symbol representing the sun, power, authority, victory, the sky gods and the royal head of a nation
The symbol IHS in the original Greek, ‘IHC’ was derived from the Greek spelling of Jesus ‘IHCOYC’. The letters were later translated into the Latin form ‘IHS’. From the fourteenth century the letters have been mistranslated as the first letters of various three letter acronyms: Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, saviour of mankind), Iesus Habemus Socium (we have Jesus as our companion – motto of the Society of Jesus) and In Hoc Signo (by this sign you shall conquer – motto of the modern Knights Templar). IHS and IHC are properly termed the Chrismon, or Christus monogramma.
As discussed in the staircase lecture on the 2nd degree of Masonry, the terms ‘doric’, ‘ionic’, and corinthian’ are all classes of architecture of Greek origin.
The oldest, simplest, and most massive of the three Greek orders is the Doric, which was applied to temples beginning in the 7th century B.C. The Doric order reached its pinnacle of perfection in the Parthenon.
The next order to be developed by the Greeks was the Ionic. It is called Ionic because it developed in the Ionian islands in the 6th century B.C. Roman historian Vitruvius compared this delicate order to a female form, in contrast to the stockier “male” Doric order.
The Ionic was used for smaller buildings and interiors. It’s easy to recognize because of the two scrolls, called volutes, on its capital. The volutes may have been based on nautilus shells or animal horns.
The third order is the Corinthian, which wasn’t used much by the Greeks. It is named after the city of Corinth, where sculptor Callimachus supposedly invented it by at the end of the 5th century B.C. after he spotted a goblet surrounded by leaves. The oldest known Corinthian column stands inside the 5th-century temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae.
Roman collegia, or groups of people united by a purpose, may have formed into the earliest Masonic lodges. While there is no direct evidence of this, it is thought that Roman collegia may have been the first evolutionary step in development of Masonry.
Each collegium aspired to control or own a hall or meeting place, which it called schola. For officials it had a kind of president called a magistri. Decuriones were a kind of warden, and there were factors to manage the business affairs. Fees and dues went into a common chest, called the arca. It has been alleged by some writers that the funds thus accumulated were used for charitable purposes but the best informed archaeologists dissent from this opinion, and say that the income was employed to defray necessary expenses for the upkeep of headquarters, and for memorial banquets. Oftentimes some well-to-do member or friend left behind a legacy, usually with the direction that it be used for memorial banquets, but sometimes for the benefits of the membership as a whole. Most collegia besought the graces of a patron, often a woman, who, in return for signal honors, helped pay the expenses of the little group. It is supposed by a few chroniclers that these patrons, who often belonged to the upper classes, were more or less useful in controlling the activities of the collegia in the interests of the established order.
Collegia entered Britain with the Roman army of conquest and were responsible for the cities, highways, dikes and churches, some remains of which are still in existence. When the Angles, Saxons and Danes made an end of the Roman civilization in the islands, the collegia continued to exist among them in a somewhat changed form, known as guilds. Among these guilds were those devoted to building and its allied arts, and out of these guilds there emerged in time those organizations of Masons who gave us Freemasonry.
Like the Greeks, two classes of architecture, being Tuscan and Composite. The Composite order is a combination of Ionic and Corinthian orders. The Tuscan order was developed in Rome and does not appear in ancient Greece. It was added to the classical orders by Renaissance architectural scholars who felt that the Tuscan order predates the Greek Doric and Ionic. Tuscan columns are unfluted with a simple base and unadorned capital and entablature.
Two striking similarities exist between the Druids and Freemasonry, including the lay-out of the Masonic lodge or Druidic temple and the origins of how Masonry and Druidism came to England.
The Masonic Lodge, like all Druid temples, is built due east and west. Its form is an oblong square which the ancients believed to be the shape of the world. In the west are two pillars surmounted by globes. The one on the left is supposed to represent the sun, the other the moon. The floor is mosaic, and the walls are adorned with the various symbols of the craft. From a structure and design standpoint, there is not difference between a Masonic lodge and Druidic temple.
As Masons learn, the Craft came to England by Pythagoras who traveled to acquire knowledge in Egypt and in Syria, and in every other land where the Phoenicians had planted masonry. He formed a great lodge at Crotona, and made many masons, some of whom traveled into France, and there made many more and in time, the art passed into England. History teaches us that this is the same story and path which Druids took in coming to England.