The Arcane Schools by John Yarker

ORIGIN AND ANTIQUITY OF THE FREE MASONRY.
CHAPTER VII.
RECAPITULATED PROOFS OF ANCIENT MASONRY.

THE information embodied in the foregoing pages might have been extended to a great length; and in giving so condensed an account the tastes of the general reader have been consulted. Some recapitulation of the salient points may be advisable as a short preparation for the chapters upon Masonry which follow; by way of laying the foundation for the introduction of the Association of Geometry, Craft and Art, or what is now called Freemasonry, into England.

Though Free Masonry, using this term to indicate a Brotherhood embracing religion, morality, symbols, and art, has passed under various names according to the language of the country in which it has existed, yet the most casual reader must have observed that the various Schools which we have described, as derived from a primitive system, had all the same essential Rites, and are in agreement with the Masonic System. The mere fact of the use of an organised system of esoteric Marks in architecture, in all time and in all countries, is itself proof of equal continuance of degrees, and ceremonial rites, in affinity with them; but we are not solely dependent upon this, and though the proofs of a continuation of a secret Society is naturally less prominent than in the case of a Church or a Sect, they are strong enough to remove all reasonable doubt on the subject. {219}

The evidence which we have already adduced goes to shew that the first Great Mysteries were, at the very least, a union of the traditions of religion and art. The various phenomena of life, the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, their effect on vegetable and animal life were carefully studied; astronomy and all those arts which are so largely indebted to mathematics and geometry, were combined with Theosophia in the ancient Mysteries; and all the facts of physical science and art were embraced in their instruction.

A widespread Ugro-Finnic, or proto-Aryan, civilisation preceded the Aryan and Semitic developments, and it is even amongst the earliest of these people that we can trace a system which combined tuition in religion and science and which corresponds in its essential features with Freemasonry. The Mongolian races of Thibet and China afford us proof of this, equally with the "Masters of Secrets," who left us above 8,000 years ago the ruins of Erech, Serpal, Eridu, and Babel on the plains of Shinar.

"China." The primitive Indian Manu, whose era is so remote that no date can be assigned, speaks of a written character composed of geometrical Symbols. We find in China amongst a people who spread from Thibet at a remote period, and were contemporary with primitive Babylon, a system of operative and speculative Masonry of which the Kings, as was the case upon the plains of Shinar, were the Grand Masters. One of the oldest words in the Chinese language is literally "square and compasses;" and the "Skirret" is an hieroglyphic; the altar was a "cube." "Aprons" with "emblems" of office were worn; and one of the most ancient books contains the "square" and "plumb" as jewels of office, which had to be returned on the death of a Monarch-ruler, whose emblem was the "hammer." The Diety was designated "First Builder," and the Magistrates Level men. At a later period, but still 3,000 years ago, the then Emperor has the "circle" and "rule" as his attributes, as the Egyptian Osiris had the "Cubit." Coupled with this we have the doctrine of Universal {220} Brotherhood, and the use of North-east, and South-west to indicate the beginning and end of any object in view. Confucius, Mencius, and other philosophers, equally apply the use of Masonic tools in their writings. In every sense of the word this system is Freemasonry without its name, and traditional Jewish legend. Sir John Mandeville, in 1356, mentions a coincidence with the Societies of the Essenes, Pythagoreans, and Ancient Masons. He says that the Khan of all Tartary before the eruption into China, decreed that all men should be governed by Masters of tens, hundreds, and thousands. Moorcraft<> says that when he entered Thibet he was met by an officer of the Government named the "Nerba" and "on the back of his habit, and on the right shoulder were sewn the saw, adze, chisel, rule, and all the insignia of Freemasonry in Iron, the Symbols of a fraternity of which he said he was a member." Japan 2,500 years ago had the Chinese Guilds introduced by way of Korea.

"Egypt." The most ancient Memphis of Egypt has traces of this system; in the use according to Diodorus of tools in the hieratic writing; in the use of the cubit-rule as an emblem of truth; in the building symbolism of the "Ritual of the Dead," a book so old that 4,500 years ago, it could not be understood without a commentary added to an older commentary, that had become unintelligible. The architect at this period, and 6,000 years ago, was a "Royal Companion," and some of them mated with Princesses. The Very Rev. C. W. Barnett, Dean of Capetown, says in a recent address, that he had himself seen, on buildings 3,000 years old, the square, triangle, circle, sun, moon, pentacle, and that the evidences of Masonry are found at Thebes Luxor, Philae, Abu Simbel, Osioot, Dendera, Carnac, and on other noted archaic ruins, as well as in the pitch dark recesses of the great pyramid; and that the Sphynx holds in its colossal paws an exquisite small temple, which has Masons' marks indented into the solid walls, roof, and monolithic columns. {221}

"Babylon." Ancient Babylon was allied in blood and religion with the two races that we have just mentioned. What we have not yet to record in Symbols we find represented in their language. The earliest Monarchs were termed Pat-te-shi, which is interpreted literally to strike or anoint the foundation stone, and with the addition of tsi-ri is translated Sublime Master. Again the seven Cabiric gods, or eight with one slain by his brother-gods, are named Patecei, from Patasso, a hammer, and though we need not go to Asgard, which is believed to be near the Caspian, the God Thor has the hammer for his weapon and the Svastica {Symbol: Swastika} for his emblem. There is similar proof that the first Kings and Viceroys were Masters of the builders, and probably the designers, or at least superintended the erection; and such edifices were consecrated with the Rites of Modern Masonry. The Kings are represented with a Maltese Cross worn from the neck. We seem to lose the Akkadian Symbols of the Mason in the conquests of the Tent-dwelling Semites. The highest chamber of the tower of Borsippa or Babel was a perfect cube. Brother G. W. Speth, the late eminent Secretary of Lodge 2076, has pointed out some interesting bearings which Cabiric emblems have upon modern Freemasonry. We have shewn that the most ancient style of building was termed Cyclopean, of which the Cabiric Initiates were the Masters, and that it is a prehistoric style existing in all countries, running in later times into level work and often cruciform in its plan. The Cabiri recognised seven ancient gods, of which three were Chiefs, and an eighth was slain by the others. In Masonry whilst three rule a lodge, seven make it perfect, and the eighth, or Initiated Candidate, is represented by the slain god. There is also the common symbolism of a cube with 8 corners, which the Greek Cabiri termed Eshmon, and the Phoenicians applied to Ouranos, or heaven, and as Esh is eight it equally represents the Ashlar.<<"Ars Quat. Cor.," v, pt. 2.>> These Cabiri laid claim to be the inventors of {222} all the arts of life, including the smelting of metals, and were termed Technites or Artificers. Aeschylus introduces Prometheus as a Cabiric god, inasmuch as amongst the arts that he taught mankind are the erection of houses of brick, the construction of ships, the invention of letters, and the art of digging gold and silver from the prolific earth, and of fabricating instruments for ornament and use; he is the Tubal-Cain of the Semites, and Greek Mythology condemns him to a cruel punishment on Caucasus, for stealing the fire of heaven to aid mankind.

"Greece." Primitive Greece was allied in its culte with the races already mentioned; and its early gods were those of the Cabiri, and their buildings Cyclopean; early Greek culture is found in tombs and palaces 3,000 B.C. excavated by Dr. Schliemann, and the contents of these tombs appear to ally the occupants with the Scythians. A long period of barbarous wars succeeded, attendant upon the invasion of the country by the Hellenes, an Aryan or Celto-Iranian people, spreading general devastation. In Hellenic Mythology it is figured to us in wars with a race of giants, Titans whom Jupiter at length conquered and condemned to servile employment in the forges of Vulcan. Reduced to plain matter of fact, it is the war between the Aryan invaders, who invented the mythology, and the primitive inhabitants who worshipped the Cabiric gods, and were reduced to artistic labour for their conquerors. By this invasion the Cabiric Mythology became Hellenised; in one direction the conquerors Aryanised the old myths that had grown up in the country, and in another direction they appear to have Grecianised the legends of Egypt and Phoenicia.<>

For some centuries Greece sank into semi-barbarous desolation; its true civilisation was that of Egypt, whence culture passed through the Romans to Europe. Egyptian colonists with their religious mysteries settled at Argolis, the ancient seat of those Cyclops or Cabiri who built the enormous walls of Tyrenes, and Mycenae, at a period too {223} remote to be defined; their chief Inachas it is said lived 1976 B.C., and was succeeded by his son Phoroneus, whilst the deluge of Ogyges, in Boetia, occurred 1796 B.C., but it is probable that little reliance can be placed on these dates. To the new race is attributed the destruction of the older Cyclopean towns. At dates from three to four centuries later there entered Greece fresh colonies of Egyptians and Phoenicians: Cecrops arrived in Attica from Sais, in Egypt, 1687 B.C.; assembled the well-disposed inhabitants, laid the foundation of Athens, and of that peculiar tribunal termed the Areopagus. Cadmus settled with his colonies in Boetia 1594 B.C., and founded Thebes; he brought with him into Greece the Phoenician alphabet, which, originating in Egypt, forms the basis of our own alphabet. Danaus settled a new colony in Argolis 1586 B.C., which had previously been settled by Egyptians, and to this year is also credited the deluge of Deucalion.

"India and Media." Primitive India and Proto-Media shared the same fate as ancient Greece; Aryans equally invaded these countries and reduced the ancient inhabitants. Egypt also received Colonies of the same race, and the great pyramid is constructed upon the Mystic design of the temple of the realms of Osiris. The Aryan invaders of India established bounds beyond which the artizan, as a third caste, was not allowed to proceed. Accordingly this third class, which was largely the prehistoric inhabitants of the country, continued Rites of their own, in which as we have seen, they used art Symbols and measurements to typify the truths of a religion, which differed only from that of the Brahmins and Maharajahs in the use of art instead of nature Symbols. The priests of Benares say that this Fraternity constructed all the marvellous works that are spread over the land. As in China, it was a Society of the Level and Plumb.

"Persia." The ancient Persians say that their ruler Jemschid erected the Artizans into a class, though the country never accepted strict caste laws. This ideal king {224} gave them laws which he superintended, and allowed them to appoint a Chief or Grand Master to oversee them. Hence in strictly Aryan countries, governed by firm caste laws, we have a triple set of Mysteries, those of the Brahmins, or Priests, with an intangible Diety; in the warrior Caste such Mysteries as those of Mythras, Bacchus and Serapis; and amongst the Artizans the Art, or Cabiric gods.

When an apprentice has completed his time he applies to his Guild for his Freedom and makes the customary payment. A priest is called in and after prayers he receives the "acolade" from the Master of the Guild. The Rev. P. J. Oliver Minos says that he has traced 20 Masonic Landmarks to Hindu Rites; and that in Persian Mazan is a Sorcerer, -- a Scientist, and that "Free" may be the Sanscrit "Pri" to love as brethren, as distinct from slaves, the root "vri" or "var" to choose. Mazandun is land of sorcerers, scientists.

As the caste system extended itself in India to different trades, a Guild system arose, such as we had in old times in England. In India at this day, each caste forms such a Guild, embracing the whole of that class, exercising an influence for the general advantage. Some of these lay claim to the "twice born thread" of the Brahmins. The deserving members are rewarded by titles and offices, the undeserving are punished by fines, or condemned to furnish a feast; the refractory suffer by temporary or permanent caste deprivation.

"Aryan Greece." The origin of Classical Greek is Aryan, and was first introduced into Thessaly by the followers of the Mythical Deucalion, in three great tribes designated Hellenes. The Dorians are said to take their name from Doris, son of Helen; the Aeolians from another son Aeolus; and Ionians from a grandson Ion. It is noteworthy that it is after the recivilisation of Greece and the introduction of the Egyptian Mysteries that the method of building edifices of squared and level blocks in contradistinction to the polygonal and irregular style {225} of the Cyclops, arises in that country; hence it would appear that either the Dionysian artificers must have superseded the Cabiri or instructed them. There are traces in India, Greece, Palestine, and other countries, of a gradual improvement, as exemplified by the use of both styles in the same building, and there can scarcely be a doubt that the improvement came from the Aryan race. Ancient Greek writers identify the Pelasgi with the older style and attribute it to Assyrian introduction. The Etrurians were of the Pelasgic race, and their buildings are of the Cyclopean style, and from them we derive the Tuscan style of column; Varro mentions a tradition that they conquered North Italy 1044 B.C. To the Aryan Greeks the solidity of Cyclopean Masonry, which went beyond their early Kings Inachides and the Oenostratus, could only be the work of giants, and similar views were held in other countries. It is from the tribes of Dorians and Ionians that we derive the Doric and Ionic styles, after follow the Corinthian and the Composite, as the developments of the three original Greek styles, with the Tuscan. But Isocrates justly says that the Greeks borrowed their ideas, and the forms of their temples, from the Egyptians. It is known that the Phoenicians often employed Egyptian architects; and it was from the former that Solomon obtained his chief workmen for the erection of the temple of Jerusalem, and the style had points in common with that of Etruria, from which Rome derived much of its art.

"The Dionysiacs." There are three questions to be considered in reference to the application of the name Dionysius to the slain and resurrected sun-god of Greece. In the first place, Herodotus positively asserts that these Mysteries were derived from Egypt, it is certainly not the Cabiric version. But Assyria had its God Dionisu, and the Aryan Greeks in some cases Hellenised the older Mythology. It therefore seems to be pretty evident that the Hierophants, who first organised the system, found it politic and expedient to use the Assyrian name in place of the {226} Egyptian. It is somewhat doubtful whether the Great Mysteries of Dionysos were practical Masons, as well as teachers of secret truths of a spiritual nature. The usually accepted statement is that the builders were Initiates into the Mysteries of Dionysos; but as these Mysteries, according to the savant Heeren, were allied with those of the warrior class of Persia and India, it is possible that there was a separate class of builders, as in India, under the designation of "Dionysian Artificers," for though neither Egypt nor Greece were caste ridden, and the latter left the Aryan home before caste laws were promulgated, yet both in Egypt and Greece there was a custom of hereditary transmission of Art, as honourable in itself.

The probability of the evidence is that the Dionysiacs were an operative body who had their Initiated Masters or Chiefs appointed by the Hierophants of the Mysteries, and who taught them and superintended their labours; and that they developed in Greece the method of building with flat, squared blocks. As the priests of the Mysteries in early times had the superintendence of the erection of their temples, they may have reserved the right of Initiating Masters; and the echo of this may be found in the old MSS., which caused King Athelstan to grant a Master's Charter in Witenagemote, which new body then proceeded to add "points" for the governance of subordinate workmen.

We read that in the year 1263 B.C. the Council of Amphictyons built the temple of Apollo, a combination of Architects two centuries before the time of Solomon. These Dionysiacs existed in Greece above 3,000 years ago; hence Cabiric art fell into abeyance, and became a tradition. On the Ionic emigration they carried their art into Asia, and the erection of the Temple of Heracles at Tyre has been attributed to them, and which had two Pillars, one of gold, the other of emerald. They were divided into Lodges under Masters, had emblematical Jewels, degrees, ceremonies, and tokens of recognition; {227} they also admitted amateurs as Honorary members. They became a powerful body which exercised much political influence, and were incorporated as a Society of Architects by the Kings of Pergamos. At one time they were termed Daedalidae, from Dedalus, the architect of Crete, and the Labyrinth, respecting whom there is a myth which has some analogy to Masonic legend; he is often represented with the square and compasses in his hand, hence the Greeks fabled that he invented these working tools and that he was father of architecture in general; and was banished for murdering a Fellow out of jealousy. Lord Bacon, in his "Wisdom of the Ancients," allegorises the legend as to Daedalus, coupled with the death of his son Icarus by falling from a flying machine which his father had invented; by the Labyrinth, he says, is typified Art in general. It is admitted that the Dionysiacs were attached to the Osirian legend; and one of the walls of Thebes has a representation of the Ark of Osiris, with a sprig of five branches, and the legend "Osiris sprouts forth," being an analogue of the Jewish Ark, and the Rod which budded. A symbolic ladder had its place in the Greek Temples, and Aelian says that Pittacus of Mitylene introduced a ladder into the temples of his country to imply "the rise and fall in the vicissitudes of fortune, according to which the prosperous might be said to climb upwards; the unfortunate to descend." This is but the exoteric explanation of an esoteric spiritual Mystery. We mentioned in our third chapter a Mosaic table of a Masonic character found at Pompeii. There can be no doubt that we have in the "Book of Chronicles" the Hebrew equivalents of the divisions of labour in the great building operations of other nations, these cannot be a Hebrew invention, but equally represent the organisations of Chaldea, Egypt, and India. We read (1) of Ish Chotzeb, or men who hew at the quarries; (2) Ghiblim, stone cutters or artists; (3) Ish Sabbal, or men of burdens; (4) Bonai, the builders or setters; (5) Menatzchim, the comforters or foremen; (6) Harodim, rulers or princes, who {228} superintended the whole levy. It may be noted that Gebal, where Solomon's Masons wrought, was a seat of the Adonisian Mysteries, and that he was said to have been slain in Lebanon. Even the more ancient Job, according to our modern translators, though said to be incorrect, may have had a knowledge of Masons' Marks, for he says: "In the hands of all men he (God) putteth a Mark, that every man may know His work." Solomon's Temple was completed in the year 1004 B.C. and the old York lectures taught that its erection occupied 7 years, 7 months and 7 days. Josephus, in his treatise against Apion informs us on the testimony of Menander, that Hiram rebuilt the temple of Melcart -- the City King, which, if Herodotus is correct in his data, must then have existed for over seventeen centuries. Hiram then abandoned old Tyre and took up his residence on the adjacent island, and encompassed the City square with high walls of cut stone. Hence the temple which Herodotus saw was that of Hiram then near six centuries old. The Talmud has a legend that Hiram was granted 600 years of Paradise for reward, for the Cedars of Lebanon which he supplied to the builders of the temple of Jerusalem, and the book "Yalkutt" which is a compilation from the "Midrash," a word which means "to gather together," says that Hiram built himself, in the midst of the sea, a paradise of seven heavens (as was Babel), and that, for his great pride, Yod sent Nebuchadnezzer against him who destroyed his Paradise and cut him to pieces when he was about 600 years old.

"Roman Collegia." In Rome the Arts were erected into Colleges by charter of Numa Pompilius, 703 B.C. The early architecture of Italy was Pelasgic, but Greece contributed much to its advance, and their Colleges of Artizans have such a close resemblance to the Dionysic system that the rule of one must have been the rule of the other. In point of fact Latin historians assert distinctly that the founders of Numa's Colleges were Greeks, which {229} would lead us to suppose that Dionysian artificers were brought to reconstitute older schools.

Zosimus informs us that Numa was created Pontifex Maximus, and all his successors, and he derives the origin of the title, which may be translated Bridge-Master-General, from Thessalian Greeks who, before statues and temples began to be built by them, had images placed on a Bridge over the Peneus from which the Sacrificers were termed Bridge-priests. It is curious that the civil government had a similar constitution to the Masonic Colleges. At the birth of the republic there were 3 tribes -- Sabines, Albines, and Strangers. Each was divided into ten Curies, these into Decuries, at the head of which were placed Curions, or Decurions, and above these 100 Centurie. Gradually, however, this gave way to an enlargement, the Umbrians were the most ancient population and the Dacians, Thracians, and Italian Celts were Aryans, but not closely related to the Hellenes of Greece. It is believed that Numa was an Initiate of the Etruscan priests, and Salverte holds that he was acquainted with electricity and used it in his rites. Herodian says that the Romans obtained from the Phrygians a statue of the "Mother goddess," by representing that they were of the same blood through the colonies of Aeneas, 1270 B.C., when Troy was destroyed by the confederate Greeks.

The Roman formula was that "three form a College," but when formed one might continue it. According to the Laws of the "Twelve Tables," the Collegia had the right to make their own laws, and were also permitted to form alliances amongst themselves. They were divided into "Communities"; had a common Arca or chest; elected their officers annually; accepted Honorary members as "Patrons"; had priests, as there is mention of a "Priest of the builders or artificers." They had emblems of office; signs of recognition; many of the symbols used by Freemasons, as, says Schauberg, the rough and perfect cube, and they could distinguish a {232} brother by day as well as by night. Their Wardens ruled ten men, a custom which Sir C. Wren says was in use amongst the old Free-masons. The Communities or "Maceriae" were held secretly and in secluded rooms; generally met monthly; each member was bound by oath to assist another; some of the Registers of Members are yet extant. Their officers were, a Magister, who presided over a hundred men and was elected for five years; Decurions or Wardens, each of whom presided over 10; Seniores or Elders; Scribe or Secretaries; Sacerdotes or priests; Tabularii or archivists; Erratoris or Messengers; Viatores or Serving brethren; Signiferi or Flagbearers. One inscription informs us that the Collegium held a yearly feast in anniversary of its foundation. Throughout the whole Roman Empire the Collegia were in active operation, and the "Corpus Juris" mentions amongst the Arts legally existing, and free from taxation, the architects, masons, stone cutters, painters, sculptors, carpenters, and ship and machine builders. We know the Collegia were established in Britain, as last century an inscription was found in Chichester which says that the "Collegium Fabrorum" had erected a temple to Neptune and Minerva and the safety of the family of Claudius Caesar, "circa" 52 A.D. The great architect Vitruvius defined the art of Masonry, 2,000 years ago, as "a science arising out of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning"; he also shews us that the Romans had a canon of proportion, which being a secret goes far to shew that he was an Initiated temple architect, and which canon is still represented in our Masonic Lodges by a tessellated pavement.<<"Ars Quat Cor.," viii, p. 99.>> Aristophanes, in one of his Comedies, introduces Meton, the astronomer, with rule and compasses in his hands, preparing to lay out the plan of a new city. Upon the tombs of Roman members of these Colleges are found emblems identical with those of modern Freemasonry, and we find upon tessellated floors, and mural paintings, the {231} triangle, double triangles, square and compasses, gavel, plumbrule, five-pointed star, the branch. There has recently been dug up at Rome, near the Triano, a glass bowl, upon which, on one side, is a square and above that the blazing star or sun, and the letters J. N. Underneath the square are two pillars, standing upon a Mosaic pavement.<<"Liberal Freemnson," 1888.>>

Mr. Toulmain Smith points out that contemporary with the Roman Collegia were the Greek "Eranoi," or "Thiasoi," numerous at Rhodes and Piraeus, and other parts. Their organisations had even a closer resemblance to Freemasonry than the Collegia.

Although the Celtic races of Britain had in early times many fine cities, and though the York Lectures state that Ebrank, Bladud, and Croseus were eminent as Masons, yet it is considered that the Latin term "Marus" indicates that we had stone building from the Latins. This Ebrank is Ebroc, the great founder of York; Bladud founded Bath, and brought from Athens four philosophers whom he located at Stamford; he is said to have been a great Mathematician, and having invented a flying machine fell from the temple of Apollo on the site of St. Paul's, London, and was killed; Croseus will be Carausieus, once Emperor of Britain, and Patron of the Collegia.

We mentioned in our last chapter the Benedictine Monk Henry Bradshaw, of St. Werberg Monastery, Chester, before 1513. Speaking of that city he has the following lines: --

"The founder of this citie, as saith Polychronicon,

Was Leon Gaur, a myghte strong gyaunt,

Which builded caves and dongeons many a one,

No goodlie buildyng, ne proper, ne pleasant,

But King Leir a Britain fine and valiaunt,

Was founder of Chester by pleausant buildyng,

And was named Guar Leir by the King."

"Syria." It is not improbable that a Masonic School {232} continued to exist in Palestine during the centuries: the Macabees were considerable builders. Recent discoveries in Jerusalem shew that stones of a remote, but uncertain, antiquity bear Masonic Marks, some of which are cut in the stone and others painted thereon in red; some of these marks are assumed to be Phoenician characters.

In the Talmud, in "Sabbath," 114, it is said that "the wise-men are called builders because they are always engaged in the upbuilding of the world." The Essenes were called Bonaim or builders because it was their duty to edify or build up the spiritual temple in the body. Chief Rabbi Henry Adler says that the Jewish Sages followed all professions, including Masoning, and that Shammai is, on one occasion, represented with the cubit rule in his hand. The Sages were termed Chaberim, associates, friends, brethren. There is found represented the triangle, square, and circle, as constructive rules, as, for instance, in the erection of the Succuth, or Booths, at the feast of Tabernacles.<<"Vide Ars Quat. Cor.," 1898, Yarker.>> In the Book of Maccabees<<2nd ch. ii, 29-34.>> there is a very interesting paragraph which says: "For as the Master Builder of a new house must care for the whole building; but he that undertaketh to set it out and paint it, must seek out fit things for the adorning of it, even so I think it is with us. To stand upon every point, and go over things at large, and to be curious in particulars, belongeth to the first authors of the story; but to use brevity, and avoid much labouring of the work, is to be granted to him who will make an abridgement." Now although such passages as these, which are fairly common amongst Jewish and Christian writers, may not prove that the authors were Masons, as the term is now understood, it confirms the belief of those writers who assert that the Arcane Schools of Christians did make use of building symbolism; and indicates moreover that the art of building, or masoning, was one which the learned thought to be symbolically useful, and how much more then by the {233} builders themselves, to whom it would recommend itself so aptly.

There exists to-day a Jewish Guild at Assuan in Egypt which claims great antiquity, and practises Jewish Rites connected with the building of the two first temples, and for that purpose meet annually at sunrise and labour till sunset. An Architect who is now out there, and received initiation in Derbyshire, 1866-75, says that they practise the very same ceremonies which he there received. Of course in a Jewish Guild circumcision is necessary for reception. The native Copts have similar Guilds, but their ground diagrams are designed for the square pyramid and not for a 3 to I temple like that at Jerusalem, but they assert that Solomon had his initiation from Pharaoh, to whom he paid a great price. The triplicity of a pyramid is one of their symbols, as it is equally in the ancient Guilds of this country and in the modern Royal Arch degree of Freemasonry. Of course in the building of the 1st temple Yah was the God of Jedediah; Baal of the King of Tyre; and On (which is both Egyptian and Greek, if not also Hindu) the god of Hiram the Abiv. Plato has a line which says "Tell me of the God On, which was, is, and shall be," it is therefore the equivalent of the tetragrammaton. Oliver quotes in the like sense, Rev. i. 4: GR:Omicron Omicron Omega Ka-alpha-iota Omicron eta nu, Kappa-alpha-iota Omicron epsilon-rho-kappa-omicron-mu-xi-upsilon-omicron-sigma -- ("God (On) is, and was, and is to come.")

We are told that Herod, King of Judea, employed 10,000 Masons besides Labourers, in rebuilding the temple of Zerrubabel; and it is quite certain that recollections of the temple of Solomon had not died out. It is even believed that, from the time of Alexander the Great, large numbers of Jews emigrated into Spain and were the founders and builders of Toledo, Seville, and Barcelona, besides other buildings in Bohemia; and the best time of their race was during the Moorish rule, when Oriental and Secret Societies were prevalent.

The Journal "Israelite" of 1860 contained a paper in reference to the existence in Spain of certain old legends {234} in proof that the Jews emigrated thither in the days of the tyrannical Rheoboam and of Adoniram's journey thither to gather taxes and was slain. The writer says: "It is a fact that there are numerous tombstones with old Hebrew or Samaritan inscriptions in Seville or Toledo -- we cannot positively say which of these two places -- and among them is one which bears the name of Adoniram the Collector of Solomon and his son Rheoboam. . . . The Jews were the founders and builders of most of the ancient cities of Spain -- Toledo, Seville, Barcelona, and others; and also that the Jews were the inhabitants of these places at the time when the Ostragoths invaded the peninsula. Al Tanai Synagogue is of great antiquity, neither Greek or Gothic. The most ancient chronicle of Bohemia says that this building was found there when the founder of the city of Prague laid the first corner stone of it." There is an ancient Hebrew book, certainly 1,500 years old, entitled the "Testament of Solomon," which gives a full account of the legions of daemons employed by Solomon in the construction of the Temple, and the positions assigned them, but it is more than probable that these Talmudic legends originally referred to the 72 Suliemen of pre-human times, and were engrafted in Babylon upon the personality of the Israelite King. Sir Charles Lemon informed his P.G. Lodge in 1846, that when visiting Poland he saw an ancient Jewish Synagogue which was built 600 years B.C., where he found Masonic emblems now used by the Fraternity. (See "Freemason," 1814 page 176.)

The "Mishna," or oldest portion of the Jewish "Talmud," preserves the measurements, and details, of the first temple, with its utensils, and, very recently, a representation of it was found in the Roman Catacombs. According to Josephus, Clemens, and Eusebius, each and all its details, were symbolical of the Universe.

The third temple, or that of Herod, was destroyed in the year 70, and the Emperor Hadrian erected in 136 a fourth temple upon its site which he dedicated to Jupiter {235} Capitolinus, and compelled the Jews to pay taxes for its maintenance. It is said in Hadrian's time that there was a temple erected to Astarte which was destroyed at the instigation of Helena, the mother of Constantine. In the 4th century many churches were erected in Palestine, and the Emperor Justinian built a great number in that country.

The Emperor Julian attempted to rebuild on the site of Solomon's temple, and there is a very curious account, which confirms in a remarkable manner the Rites of the Guild of Free Masons, namely -- that a Reed below the floor (about 10 feet) there was a vault which contained a pedestal, with the plans, and the centre diagrams, and which is drawn upon to form the Arch degree in modern Freemasonry, and that this centre had to be discovered on the erection of the 2nd temple. An old writer relates that when the Emperor's labourers were set to clear away the rubbish they came upon a vaulted chamber into which one of the workmen was let down with a rope; he returned and reported that in the centre was a square pedestal surrounded with water, and produced a scroll which Nicephorus relates was a verse of the Bible. The Guilds say that this was and is the first lines of Genesis, and that it was carved over the Eastern entrance of the 1st temple. Julian was obliged to desist from his intentions as Nicephorus says that fire broke out which destroyed his workmen. An older writer Philostorgius circa 853 A.D. has the same account.

It may be convenient to mention here the Holy-sepulchre at Jerusalem which led to the introduction of round churches into England; though the temples of the Greeks and Romans were often circular, as was that of Venus in Cyprus mentioned by Homer; that of Vesta and the Parthenon. The Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated in 335. Its round part represents the Sepulchre of Christ, and leading from it is a broad aisle, at the end of which is a rectangular church on the site of Golgotha. This was partially destroyed by {236} Chosroes, King of Persia, in 614, and restored 14 years later by Bishop Heraclius, to fall in 636 into the hands of the Islamite Caliph Omar. On the death of Haroun al Raschid his three sons contended for the throne, and the churches were burnt, but shortly after restored by Bishop Thomas. In 1010 the Caliph Hakem destroyed them, but they were again rebuilt next year. In 1048 the three churches were reconstructed by Constantine Monomachus; the original rectangular church would seem to have perished by the year 1102, and many changes were made in the remaining portions<<"The Holy Sepulchre," Northampton, 1897. Wm. Mark.>> During all the period of their occupation the Saracens erected numerous buildings, and the building art was not extinguished down to the time of the Crusaders, who added largely to the structures existing.

"Greco-Egyptian." Although we do not know much about the remote organisation of the building fraternities in Egypt, yet M. Maspero opened the tomb of an architect, builder, and carver of inscriptions at Thebes, and with the mummy was found a square, level, compasses, and other implements. At Tel-el-Amarna, 1500 B.C., Bek the hereditary successor of a line of Architects, terms himself the teacher of the King; and, as we have seen, the symbols and representations, however ancient, are more Masonic than in any other country. It is not, however, an unreasonable supposition to suppose that from 500 B.C. when the Persians had conquered the country, to be succeeded by the Greeks and Romans, gradual changes took place, under this foreign influence, in the more ancient Corporations of Masons.

The Roman Collegia may have modified Guild life of the more ancient native fraternity, and it is this explanation which must be placed upon the English tradition of the "Charges of Euclid." Draper mentions the conquests of Alexander the Great as leading to the establishment of "the mathematical and practical Schools of Alexandria, the true origin of science." When the "Needle" {237} which Cleopatra had re-erected 22 B.C. came to be removed in 1880, there was found at the base a peculiar arrangement of stones, which was held to symbolise a Masonic Lodge as now known; thus a portion was laid so as to form a square, on which rested a rough Ashlar, and a perfect Cube, also an oblong of the purest limestone carefully polished and without spot or flaw.

We have expressed a decided opinion that the origin of Free Masonry is to be found in the primitive system of a secret School which developed a Mystery in which natural religion was taught in union with science and art, and that, before the divorce of the two, the great State Mysteries organised a better style of building with squared blocks, in other words the Osirian, Dionysian, or Bacchic Mysteries, which were a highly spiritualised faith, still more subtilised and spread by Greek philosophers as the Mysteries of Serapis, a Gnostic pre-Christian system, which used the cross, and had all the characteristics essential for the faith "before Christ came in the flesh." It is idle to suppose that the Ceremonial Rites of Masons were then absolutely uniform; those of a Cabiric or Pelasgian civilisation could not be entirely uniform with those of the Aryanised Dionysiacs, yet such ceremonial rites existed beyond doubt, and each had their slain-god if the mode of his death was not quite uniform, and Initiates only had acted a part in the ceremony, nor need we have any doubt of the possibility of the transmission of such Rites, from the earliest period, though we cannot produce yearly minutes for it. What right have we to expect this? It means the violation of solemn oaths, perhaps death. Take the universality of laying a foundation stone, and we see that the modern ceremony was exactly paralleled in ancient Babylon and Egypt. Even Job must have known something of it in his desert home, for he says: "Where was't thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who laid the corner stone thereof: when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy." If a Rite which professed to date {238} from Solomon's temple existed in early times, as it probably did, it would be amongst a small number of Jewish Masons, and a modification of the Phoenician Cabiric Mysteries, but we can leave this for the present.

The Legend of the Origin of English Masonry which has been handed down to us from the times of Edwin and Athelstan repeats a tradition which traces the Society to Egypt, and particularises its derivation and organisation. It is clearly a legend which existed at the time, and there is no probable basis which would justify us in expressing a doubt that, as a legend, it had actual existence in Athelstan's time, nor in going beyond it to invent a theory that the forerunners of the Society were at the building of Solomon's temple, an assertion which is not there, and never intended to be there; and the absence of which is a good proof of the antiquity of the account related.

The Legend to which we refer may be inaccurate in some of its details; the name of Euclid, the eminent Geometrician, may have been inserted for Thoth or Hermes as the Greeks termed the god of art; and we may be sure, that in the centuries through which the legend had passed, before it reached the form of our oldest MSS., it would be modified in minor particulars; but we may be well persuaded that it contains a basis of truth, as it would be a likely Legend to be handed down by Romans and Romanised Britons who worked by Euclid's traditions, and onward through Culdee monks who taught the rules of handicraft to the people at York, and other places, practised the teaching of the Mysteries of Serapis in the Arcane Discipline of the Church, and even superintended, built, and laboured with their own hands at the erection of their churches and monasteries.

This tradition alleges that Egypt finding her people to be generating a too numerous population of well-born youths, for whom it was difficult to find suitable employment, sought anxiously for a remedy. A proclamation was made, and Euclid an Initiate of Serapis, of the Platonic Academy, and it may even be of the Colleges {239} of Builders, undertook to provide a remedy. For this purpose he accepted these Lords' sons, and taught them Geometry "as the most honest art of all," and when they were capable proceeded to organise them into a Brotherhood, and give them a "Charge," which examination will shew to agree in all essential points with the Roman Collegia. There may be something in the alleged Grand Mastership of Euclid, who is said in Anderson's "Constitutions" of Masonry to have acted as the architect of some noble edifices in Egypt, but it is more probable that he owes the rank assigned to him from his eminence as a Geometrician, about 276 B.C., and it is noteworthy that in the old Masonic MSS. it is not claimed for Masonry that it was exclusively a society of Sculptors and Stone-cutters but embraced all arts that work by the rules of Geometry. There is good reason to accept judiciously this alleged Alexandrian descent of Masonry into England. We are told that the original builders of St. Mark's at Venice were Alexandrian refugees, and, it may be, the style of the palace of the Doge, which is called Moorish but is not so. The Byzantine style was probably Alexandrian, and when the Saracens took Egypt the Artists were dispersed over Persia, Greece, and Europe.

In the light of what has preceded, the traditional legend resolves itself broadly into this: that besides the great State Mysteries, but derived from them, there were minor schools of Philosophers, and Colleges of the Arts and Sciences, all with special, but similar, ceremonies of their own, and that Euclid held a prominent position in all these. Further that the Masonic association was of Greco-Roman introduction into England, a genealogy which attaches itself to the divine Father, Mother, and Son of old Egypt.

Nor was Art itself in Egypt confined, in its practice to mere Artisans, for there were sacred images which could only be wrought by the priests of the Mysteries. Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais, has a peculiar passage ("Calvit."), in which he writes: "The prophets or hierophants, {240} who had been Initiated into the Mysteries, did not permit the common workmen to form idols or images of the gods, but they descended themselves into the sacred caves, where they have concealed coffers, containing certain spheres, upon which they construct their image secretly, and without the knowledge of the people, who despise simple and natural things, and wish for prodigies and fables." We see from-this that there was a Craft secret and symbolism known only to the priests, and that like the "Four crowned Martyrs," of Christian Masonry, they were capable of practical sculpture. The "sacred caves" were the Crypts of their temples; and the word translated "sphere" is indefinite, for there are yet drawings to be found in Egypt which shew that the "Canon of proportion" was a chequered tracing even from the time of the very ancient 5th dynasty. The primitive canon divided the human figure into 19 squares, of which the head occupied 3 squares, the pubis began at 9 1/2, and the knee-joint at 6th square from the bottom one. A seated figure occupied 15 squares; but the proportions varied in the course of ages.<<"Ars Quat. Cor." (W. H. Rylands). vi.>> The learned Dr. Stukeley was of opinion that the Isaic Tablet of Cardinal Bembo<> was a tracing-board of the Egyptian Mysteries, a temple spread out in plane, and that it could be divided into Porch, Sanctum, and Sanctorum.

In the time of Euclid one of the most beautiful buildings in all Egypt was in progress and dedicated to the divine Triad, namely, the re-erection, on its ancient site, of the temple of Philae, which was begun about 300 B.C. and continued for two centuries. Mr. James Ferguson thus eulogises it: "No Gothic architect, in his wildest moments, ever played so freely with his lines and dimensions, and none, it must be added, ever produced anything so beautifully picturesque as this. It combines all the variety of Gothic art, with the massiveness and grandeur of the Egyptian style." In it are nine sculptured tablets {241} on the wall which pourtray the death, resurrection, ascension, and deification of the god to whose honour it was erected. The most sacred oath a Copt could swear was, "By Him that sleeps at Philae, and by Him that sitteth upon the throne." The Mysteries of the god continued to be celebrated in this temple until about 450 A.D., after which it was probably used for Christian worship.<<"Egypt," Wm. Oxley.>>

Another building of great extent was erected by Ptolemy Philadelphus as a temple of Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian triad in an Eclectic form. It was the most magnificent temple then in existence, and had numerous subterraneous passages and caverns, artificially constructed for the Rites of the Mysteries. It contained a library said to consist of all known books in 700,000 volumes; a library destroyed by the Moslems in 638 A.D. It was partially destroyed previously by the Christians when emblems of a cruciform character were exposed. The steady advance of Christianity, developing into a ferocious intolerance, necessitated even greater secrecy in the celebration of the Mysteries, followed by persecutions of the Initiates by the later Emperors, made it essential to reorganise them under other names, with the assumption of a humble disguise. It is in this way that we renew our acquaintance with them in the Colleges of Art, and in the Gnostic and Occult fraternities.

So far as this country is concerned we know nothing from documents of a Masonry dating from Solomon's temple until after the Crusades, when the Constitution believed to have been sanctioned by King Athelstan gradually underwent a change. To advance an opinion amongst well read people, that all Craft Masonry must necessarily date from Solomon's temple, can only raise a smile. The building was erected by Phoenicians and partly of wood, and its magnificence is no doubt greatly exaggerated in the Talmud; and the Jews, with a special God for their own race, were unpopular with all other nations; and far more extensive and magnificent buildings, {242} of which the ruins exist to this day, are found in Egypt, India, and the Americas. It is, however, a curious thing, in regard to Solomonian legends, that there seems to have existed amongst the oldest proto-Aryan races, we have knowledge of, a dynasty of Solymi, or Sulieman, entitled Kings; and it has also been discovered amongst the ruins of Babylon as the name of a God of these ancient people, whilst the real name of King Solomon was Jedediah, or the beloved of Jah. It is therefore possible that the title may have been prehistorically known in some Cabiric Rites, and that Ouranos, Ur, Urim, has been corrupted to Hurim, or Hiram Abif, and perpetuated from the building of the 2nd Temple; for we may assume that the graphic form of the legend has been the gradual growth of centuries, though perpetuated as a drama in the Mediaeval Guilds, and when the Talmud and the Koran tells us that Solomon employed troops of daemons to erect the temple we may feel sure that the Talmud is drawing upon the pre-human Suliemen, or Kings of the Jins or Afreets.

There can be no doubt that the early Christian Monks found amongst their skilled Masons certain forms of reception, or Mysteries, similar to, if not identical, with those which had descended to themselves as heirs of the Epoptia of these Mysteries. It suited some of these Monks to transform the Serapian Sun-god into Jesus, in obedience to the prevailing policy of the church; whilst it pleased others, whether Jews, Christians, or Moslems, matters little, to substitute Hiram; these Rites would also vary in different countries, and at different eras; hence sects of Masons arose, and, as we shall see later, have come down to our own days.

When we first began to examine the ancient MSS. of the Masonic Craft, of which the result will be found in these pages, we scarcely expected to find more than chance coincidence between Masonry and the Arcane Colleges, but the resemblances which we have before us in Rites, Symbols, and Organisation, will admit of no such general {243} explanation. It must be clear to the most superficial thinker that there is far more in the Masonic MSS. and the Rites than they have yet been credited with, for their whole tenor proves the intimate affinity which existed, even in the most ancient times, between all the Arcane Schools of knowledge. This is equally apparent whether we seek it in the Egyptian Constitution of Athelstan, which informs us it was originally a Craft for the study of Geometry, and which therefore implies a Society equally speculative and operative; or in the Semitic Constitution which came into England later; for such a distinction only shews the transmission of certain rites, with the same aim, through two different channels; the one a continuous type of that Speculative Masonry which erected the great Pyramid to represent the Egyptian's faith in the soul's future destiny; the other of that Chaldean faith symbolised in the tower of Borsippa; somewhat opposed as Rites, but one in general aim; two systems pointing respectively to Egypt and Babylon. In this chapter we have leant rather to the Greco-Egyptian than the Semitic view, but when we reach Anglo-Norman times of the Masonic Guilds we shall see much change in this respect and that a close connection with Palestine introduced new legends and their concomitant Rites. {244}

 

Table of Contents | Archaic Legends | Proto-Aryan Civilisation and Mysteries | Aryan Civilisation and Mysteries | The Mysteries in Relation to Philosophy | Philosophy in Relation to Masonic Rites | The Mystic and Hermetic Schools in Christian Times | Recapitulated Proof of Ancient Masonry | Masonry in Saxon England | Masonry in Norman England | …