The Arcana of Freemasonry: A History of Masonic Symbolism

The Arcana of Freemasonry: A History of Masonic Symbolism

by Albert Churchward


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ISBN-13: 9780486455655
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/21/2008
Series: Dover Occult
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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ISBN: 978-0-486-12123-9


I. Freemasonry—The Bridge of History—Uniting the Past with the Present


"Egypt! how I have dwelt with you in dreams
So long, so intimately, that it seems
As if you had borne me: Though I could not know
It was so many thousand years ago!
And in my gropings darkly underground,
The long-lost memory at last is found
Of Motherhood—you the Mother of us all!
And to my fellow-men I must recall
The memory too: that common Motherhood
May help to make the common brotherhood."


The origin of Freemasonry is one of the most interesting subjects to which the Masonic student can apply his time and talent.

There are authors who attribute the origin of modern Freemasonry to the followers of Pythagoras, because some of the speculations of that philosopher concerning the meaning of numbers are to be found in the esoteric doctrines taught in Masonic Lodges. Others, on account of the Christian symbols that have been incorporated in the decorating of things pertaining to Masonry, follow the Swedish system, and say that the Essenes and the first Christians founded it. Others, again, make it originate in the building of Solomon's Temple; many Jewish names, emblems, and legends, taken from the V.S.L., having found their way into the rites of Initiation and in several degrees. And still others state that it goes back to Adam; ask why—they do not know. Thomas Payne and those of his school say that the Druids were the fathers of the Craft, they being supposed worshippers of the sun, moon, and stars, these jewels of the firmament being represented on the ceilings of the Masonic Temples.

Dance of Villoison speaks of Herculanæum as its birthplace, because of the many similarities that existed between the Collegia of the Romans and the Lodges of the operative Masons of the Middle Ages.

Michael Andrew Ramsey, a Scotch gentleman, in a discourse delivered in Paris, in 1740, suggested the possibility of the fraternity having its origin in the time of the Crusades among the Knights Templar, and explains it in this way: The Pope, Clement V, and Philippe le Bel, King of France, fearing the power of the Templars and coveting their immense wealth, resolved to destroy the Order. When, in 1308, Jacques de Molay, then Grand Master of the Order, was preparing an expedition to avenge the wrongs and disasters suffered by the Christians in the East, the Pope, the only Sovereign Power to which, in the spiritual, the Templars owed allegiance, enticed him to France. On his arrival he was received with every mark of friendship; but soon after the King caused him to be arrested, together with some other dignitaries, accusing them of the most heinous crimes, imputing to them the secret rites of their initiation. By order of the Archbishop of Sens and his provincial council, Jacques de Molay, Guy of Auvergne, and several other officers were burned alive on 18th March, 1314. The Pope, by a Bull, dated the 2nd of April, and published on the 2nd of May, 1312, that he issued on his own responsibility—the Council of Vienne, in Dauphiné, being adverse to hasty measures—declared the Order abolished throughout the world. The execution of the Grand Master and his companions gave the "coup de grâce" to the Order, but some of the Knights who had escaped to Portugal continued the Order. They assumed the title of Knights of Christ, which the order still bears. Jacques de Molay, before his death, had appointed Johan Marcus Larmenio as his successor to the office of Grand Master. The Knights who, fleeing from the persecution, had taken refuge in Scotland at the Court of King Robert Bruce, refused to recognize his authority; and pretending to reestablish the Order of the Temple, under the allegory and title of Architects, protected by the King, laid the foundation of the Order of Free and Accepted Masons of the Scottish Rite, in 1314. The new society soon forgot the meaning of the execratory oath that the members were obliged to take at their initiation; the death of Clement V, of Philippe le Bel, of the accusers and enemies of Jacques de Molay, and the other Knights who had been executed, having removed the object of their vengeance. Still they continued to decorate their Lodges with tokens commemorative of the death of the Grand Master, and to impose on all new members the obligation of avenging it, which they signified by striking with an unsheathed dagger at unseen beings, his supposed murderers. This allegory is well known to the Knights of Kadosh. A century had scarcely elapsed when this idea was abandoned—the founders and their disciples having passed away, their successors saw only allegories in the Symbols of the Order—and the extensive use of words and texts taken from the Bible was introduced. The enemies of Cromwell and of the Republic, having in view the re-establishment of the monarchy, created the Degree of Grand Master to prepare the minds of the masses for that event. King William III was initiated.

Masonry, says Preston, was very much neglected as early as the reign of James II, and even after this period it made but slow progress until 1714, when King George I ascended the throne. Three years later, in February, 1717, the first Grand Lodge was established in London. A committee from the four Lodges then existing in that city met at the tavern of the "Apple Tree," and nominated Anthony Sayer, who was elected Grand Master on the 24th of the following June, the day of St. John the Baptist, and for that reason St. John was selected as the patron of the Order.

This origin of the Craft is credited by many authorities on the subject. They found their opinion on the fact that many of the ceremonies practised by the "Architects" are still observed among Masons, and that the Grand Lodge preserved the fundamental laws, together with the spirit of the ancient Brotherhood. Others, who claim to be well informed, are of opinion that it did not originate in any Order of Chivalry, but the building fraternities of the Middle Ages.

From 1738, however, Lodges sprang up over Europe at a rapid rate, notwithstanding the bitter opposition of the Church of Rome, which fulminated against it in most terrible anathemas, as early as 1738, at the instigation of the Inquisition. Pope Clement XII, on the 28th of April of that year, caused a prohibitory Bull to be issued against Freemasons, entitled "In Eminenti," in which he excommunicated all Masons; and the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, by edict, in the name of the High Priest of the God of Peace and Mercy, decreed the penalty of death against them in 1739; and in May, 1751, Pope Benoit XIV renewed the Bull of Clement XII by another, beginning with these words: "Providas Romanorum Pontificum."

Lodges were established in France in 1725, and on the 14th September, 1732, all Masonic Associations were prohibited by the Chamber of Police of the Châtelet of Paris.

In 1727 Lord Coleraine founded a Lodge in Gibraltar, and in the succeeding year in Madrid, the capital of Spain, the stronghold of the Inquisition.

In 1740, in consequence of the Bull of Clement XII, King Philip V of Spain promulgated an order against Masons in his kingdom, many of whom were arrested and sent to the galleys. The Inquisitors took advantage of the opportunity to persecute the members of the Lodge they discovered in Madrid. They caused them to be loaded with chains, to be obliged to row in the galleys, with a scanty supply of food of the poorest quality, but plenty of bastinado. King Fernando VI renewed the ordinance on 2nd July, 1751, making Masonry high treason.

In 1735 a Lodge was established at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, by some of the descendants of the Knights Templar who fled there, under the title of "Knights of Christ." These have kept alive the ancient Order in defiance of the Pope's Bulls.

In 1730 a great many Germans were initiated in England. In 1733 the Grand Master, Lord Strathmore, authorized eleven of the Brotherhood to open the Hamburg Lodge. In 1740 B. Puttman, of the Hamburg Lodge, received a Patent of Provincial Grand Master from England, and the Lodge assumed the title of Absalom. King Frederick II, who had been initiated when Crown Prince of Prussia, continued to give support, and assumed the title of "Grand Master Universal, and Conservator of the Most Ancient and Most Respectable Association of Ancient Freemasons or Architects of Scotland." He cemented together again the Order which had become scattered, so far as he was able, and signed the Constitution in his Palace, at Berlin, 1st May, 1786, saving Freemasonry from annihilation in Germany.

In 1732 we find the first Lodge in America; it was held in the "Tun Tavern" in Philadelphia, the brethren having previously met in Boston, which may be regarded as the birthplace of American Freemasonry. Henry Price was the first Provincial Grand Master appointed by the Grand Lodge of England on 30th April, 1733.

It was established in Italy in the same year.

In 1735 the Grand Duke Francis of Lorraine was initiated. He protected the Masons, and the Craft flourished in Italy until 1737, when Juan Gascon of Medicis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued a decree of prohibition against it. Soon after his death, which occurred the same year, the Lodges which had been closed were reopened. It was not long, however, before they were denounced to Pope Clement XII, who issued his Bull of 28th April, 1738, and sent an inquisitor to Florence, who caused various members of the Society to be cast into dungeons. They were set at liberty as soon as Francis of Lorraine became Grand Duke of Tuscany. He not only protected the Masons, but founded lodges in Florence and other places on his estates.

G. Findel was a great advocate that Freemasonry was not derived from the mysteries of the ancients; he says: "Seeing that the ancient symbolical marks and ceremonies in the Lodges bear very striking resemblance to those of the mysteries of the ancients, some have allowed themselves to be deceived, and led others astray, imagining they can trace back the history of the Craft into the cloudy mist of antiquity; instead of endeavouring to ascertain how and when these ceremonies were introduced into our present system, they have taken it for granted that they were derived from the religious mysteries of the ancients." Now I propose to trace these mysteries, for the information of the Brotherhood throughout the world.

"The cloudy mists of antiquity" may no longer remain; within the past few years we have discovered how to decipher and read the ancient writings on the walls of old ruined temples and cities in Africa, Asia, and North, Central, and South America, as well as the ancient writings on papyri, and these give the key to unlock the mysteries of the past and reveal the origin of our Signs, Symbols, and Rituals; and these I trace back to Ancient Egypt, and in no other part of the world can the origins be found.

If we take the theory propounded by Krause, what do we find? He has endeavoured to prove that Freemasonry "originated" in the association of operative Masons, who, in the Middle Ages, travelled through Europe, and by whom the Cathedrals and Monasteries were built. But the secrets these operative Masons had were received from the Chaldean Magicians. These Chaldean or Turanian Priests were the working or operative Masons of the old Egyptian Stellar Mythos Cult, from the seventeenth Nome of Upper Egypt, and were styled Companions (see Ritual). They were initiated in the first and second degree only of the old Egyptian Cult, because they, and they alone, were employed to look after the building of the Temples and keep the secrets of the same.

These Turanians, who were called "Companions" in Egyptian, only knew the secrets of two of the degrees out of the Seven Primary Mysteries, which were Astro-Mythological. We ordinary Masons, M.M. and up to P.Z., only have these Seven Mysteries. The Greater Mysteries belonging to the Egyptian Eschatology were ten in number.

If we trace these old Turanians (operatives) back to Egypt, we find them well established at the commencement of the Stellar Cult—but it is possible to trace them farther back than this, even to Early Totemic Sociology.

In Africa, at the present day, there exist some of the Nilotic Negroes, descendants of those who first formed the "Nomes" in Egypt; those who formed the seventeenth Nome are now "the Elgunono." These tribes still, at the present time, are mostly formed into a "secret brotherhood," and by some are called the Blacksmiths. "Horus-Behutet," the first worker in metals, is their chief or head Deity; our word T.C. is thus a substituted word. Their chief priest is called Ol-Aibon, and they still have many of the primary Symbols and Signs we use. These, with the Madi (who were the first builders) and Masai, ultimately all settled in Egypt and formed the early Stellar Mythos people. An early exodus from these tribes, to other parts of the world, was made by the old Turanians.

The Stellar Cult existed for at least three hundred thousand years, as witnessed by records found and still extant. These people travelled and went out over Europe, Asia, part of North and South America, Central America, and the Islands of the Pacific, as well as Africa. The remains and ruins of the large cities and Temples found throughout the world were mostly built by these people. The Solar, who came after, built some, but the buildings of each are easily distinguished one from the other. The former were iconographic, the latter were not. They worked out all the revolutions of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and the Ritual of Ancient Egypt upon which all doctrines throughout the world have been founded. So that for the oldest records of our Brotherhood we have to go back as far as Totemic Sociology over six hundred thousand years. This is proved by the fact that skeletons of Stellar Mythos people were found in Lombardy in the Pliocene strata—and the above is a low estimate for that.

Now we find from these old Temples that all our Signs and Symbols were in use then just as we use them now; there is no difference, except that in some cases we have slightly modernised them. Their Rituals, with slight modifications, were the same as ours.

Here we see Krause's theory not without some semblance of plausibility, as Rome, during several centuries, held sway over Gaul and Britain. Roman colonists settled in various parts of these countries, and with their language and customs they imported many of their institutions and associations. That of the Builders, or Collegia, held their Lodges wherever they established themselves, and no doubt initiated new members, and as these countries freed themselves from the yoke of Rome the associations would still remain. But they at best were only carriers of the "operative masons"—Egypt was their birthplace, and we can identify the Nome as the seventeenth Nome from the Ritual, these names, for instance, "Companions"—carried out of Egypt by the Turanians, who spread over Europe; Asia, except the North; lower part of North America, Central America, South America, as far down as Chili, in the Caroline Islands of the Pacific—but not in North Asia, Australia, Tasmania, or extreme North America.

Chevalier Ramsay stated that modern Masonry had its beginning in the Society of Architects founded in Scotland under the protection of King Robert Bruce, and the title of "Ancient and Accepted Masons of the Scottish Rite" may possibly have been formed in Scotland there and then; but, if that is so, we must trace the origin of this to the Order of Knights Templar, who fled to Scotland, and through them to the Ancient Mysteries practised in the East. From whence did these Templars obtain them? It is well known that one of the charges made against Jacques de Molay and his associates by their accusers was that "they used sacred rites in their initiations." Their four oaths are well known, but who knew their rites of initiation? The aim of the Society of Architects was to perpetuate the ancient Order of the Temple, and they continued to use their initiations of members, symbols, signs, and some parts of the initiatory rites, which had been obtained in the East, but they only knew three degrees out of the seven lesser and ten greater. The next question is: From whence did the Templars receive those symbols, and their esoteric meaning, in which we plainly trace the doctrines of the old Egyptians? No doubt from the Christians, who, like the Emperor Julian, the Bishop of Synnesius, Clement of Alexandria, and many other philosophers, had been initiated into some of the mysteries by the Priests of Egypt before being converted to Christianity. In this way may be traced how part of the religious mysteries of Egypt, signs and symbols, etc., came to Scotland.


Excerpted from THE ARCANA OF FREEMASONRY by ALBERT CHURCHWARD. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents

I. Freemasonry—The Bridge of History—Uniting the Past with the Present
i. Different Opinions as Regards the Origin of Freemasonry and a Modern Introduction in Various Countries.
ii. The Source of Signs and Symbols
II. The Soul of Masonry
III. Out of the Silence
IV. The Divine Name
V. 1717-1917! The Second Century of Modern Masonry!
VI. Some Subjects Suggested for Study
A Lecture before the Essex Masters' Lodge
VII. Origins of Freemasonry
A Lecture before the Dorset Masters' Lodge
VIII. Freemasonry, Past and Future
A Lecture before the Mid Kent Masters' Lodge
IX. The Origin and Explanation of some Masonic Signs and Symbols
A Lecture before the Hendre Lodge, Cardiff
X. Egyptology and Masonry
A Lecture before the Humber Masters' Lodge
XI. The Four Cardinal Points
XII. Operative Masons
Final Chapter

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