Hali-Wark-Folc ⬩ Harodim ⬩ Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor ⬩ Hermetic Schools and Masonry ⬩ Godfrey Higgins ⬩ High Grades ⬩ Hiram Abif ⬩ The Holy Graal ⬩ The Holy Lodge ⬩ William Hutchison
It has been advanced that companies of men under this semi-corporate title were concerned in the erection of cathedrals and other ecclesiastical works during the period of Culdee influence. They are mentioned in Charters quoted by Hutchinson and said to have been in his possession. He terms them Freemasons of their period. Their activities are held to have continued after the Norman conquest. A Charter addressed to those Craftsmen was granted by a Norman Bishop of Durham in 1102.
The obscurity that overshadows the use of this word in Masonry has been deepened rather than removed by successive attempts to elucidate that for which it is supposed to have stood in the past whereunto it belongs. Outside the Craft and its extensions the term itself presents no difficulty whatever. It is said in 1 Kings v. 15, 16, concerning the work in the forest of Lebanon: “And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains; beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.” The word translated “officers” in the text is HARODIM, and this according to James Anderson, in his first Book of Constitutions, signified Rulers or Provosts. The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles ii. 17 is rendered “overseers,” and is MENATZCHIM in the Hebrew, a word still preserved in Craft Masonry, though HARODIM has passed out of use. In a lecture attached to the Degree of Provost and Judge we hear of one Tito, who was senior and Prince of Harodim. It does not follow from the text of the sacred books in either case that these Provosts were Masons or chiefs of the builders, but it was so understood by Anderson and the opinion transmitted by him has obtained everywhere.
Grand Chapter of Harodim.—In the year 1787 William Preston established a Grand Chapter of the Ancient and Venerable Order of Harodim, which was not—as might be inferred from so sonorous a title—any new departure in Ritual, or an English addition to the list of High Grades, but an elaborately devised Lodge of Instruction for the exposition and promulgation of his important system of lectures. It laid claim upon mysteries “peculiar to the institution itself,” but they were presumably manners of distributing and working the lectures themselves. The Grand Chapter was governed by “a Grand Patron, two Vice-Patrons, a Chief Ruler, and two Assistants, with a Council of twelve Respectable Companions.” These were chosen annually at that Convocation of the Chapter which was held nearest to the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. The Order was divided into different classes, with particular lectures attached to each, each lecture being subdivided into sections, and the sections again into clauses. These sections were assigned annually to certain “skilful Companions,” who distributed the clauses among those committed to their charge. Unfortunately this miracle of invention, which has been praised and blamed in about equal proportions, did not survive Preston, who died in 1818.
The Northern Harodim.—It is admitted that some kind of Masonic Order or Degree subsisted under the name of Harodim in the northern part of England during the latter part of the eighteenth century, but that there is no information extant as to its exact nature. Our knowledge, such as it is, depends from the confused lucubrations of John Marker, which appear, however, to rest on a substratum of fact, and I shall attempt in the following paragraphs to evolve some kind of order out of their chaos magnum.
The Swalwell Lodge.—(1) Outside Anderson and his Book of Constitutions, it is suggested that the word Harodim, in the corrupt form of Highrodiam, is first heard of in connection with a Lodge said to have been established at Winlaton about 1690 by a certain German Ironmaster. In the absence of all references it is impossible to check the statement, and it can be set down only as antecedently improbable on the surface. (2) The thesis is that this Lodge removed to Swalwell in 1725, being the date attributed to certain Regulations still apparently extant. (3) The Swalwell Lodge went under the Grand Lodge of London on March 21, 1735, retaining its old customs intact for over thirty years. (4) It may be with reference to this date that Yarker speaks in his loose way of two Master Grades, being (a) Highrodiam, given in a Grand Lodge, and (b) English Master. It is proposed that the first was the old Past Master Ceremony of the Swalwell Lodge, but the notion seems purely speculative. (5) It is stultified, moreover, by another statement, according to which the early Swalwell Regulations have no trace of ceremonial beyond penalties for revealing illegally the three Fraternal Signs. (6) According to Yarker, the Swalwell Minutes begin with a copy of the Anderson Constitutions of 1723, and are followed by the Regulations to which reference has been made. These are said to represent ancient manuscript sources, but the allocation to 1725 in their transcript form looks like another speculation. It is not at least a date which appears in the record itself. (7) We are in confusion also as regards the Minutes proper of the Lodge, for Yarker gives various quotations from the year 1725 and onward, speaking also of a second Minute-Book bound up with the Constitutions of 1767. But all this notwithstanding, he registers ultimately as a fact that the actual Minutes begin on June 5, 1780, and end on February 3, 1845. (8) However this may be, the Swalwell Craft Lodge lost its original Warrant and Obtained a Charter of Confirmation on October 1, 1771, becoming No. 61 on the Roll of Grand Lodge. In 1776 it assumed the name of Industry, and in 1794 it ascended in the scale of the Roll and became No. 44. In 1845 it descended from this position to No. 56 and removed to Gateshead, where it meets to this day, but is now known as Industry No. 48.
Durham Harodim Degree.—(9) The Northern Harodim Degree is said to have attained considerable popularity in the County of Durham, and various references are extant. (10) A writer in The Freemason’s Magazine of 1794 refers to an ancient and mysterious Degree called the Passing of the Bridge. According to Yarker, it included the main features of the Royal Arch, but his authority does not appear. (11) Joseph Laycock, who brought the Swalwell and Gateshead Lodges under Grand Lodge in 1735, and was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Durham in that year, made an Oration to the Lodge at Gateshead, which was printed at Newcastle in 1736 in The Book M ∴ or Masonry Triumphant. It quotes some old verses respecting the use of Sword and Trowel by the Jews, and these, according to Yarker, “are found verbatim in the Ritual of Harodim Rosy Cross that is, The Royal Order of Scotland. As we shall see in a later place, the important Ritual of this Order is divided into two parts, of which the first is called The Passing of the Bridge and the second Rosycross. The suggestion seems to be, therefore, that the Northern Harodim Degree was an eighteenth-century form of the Royal Order. (12) In further evidence of this, but subject to the stultifying question of dates already mentioned, Yarker affirms that, according to the Swalwell Minutes of 1746, the Harodim Ceremony at this period was a system of Secret Reception in Points. (13) He says also that this Lodge was custodian of the old York Ritual, which contained Harodim elements.
Other Ritual Vestiges.—(14) The Phoenix Lodge at Sunderland is supposed to have conferred the Harodim Degree from 1755 to 1811; it was worked also by the Palatine Lodge, No. 97, and by Lodges in the jurisdiction of York. I do not question that there is some ground for all these statements, though Yarker’s fatal quarrel with the law of references does not permit us to check them, while his almost inextricable mental confusion makes him impossible as a guide of research otherwise. I admit that Highrodiam is an obvious corruption of Harodim, but on the other hand I cannot see that Heredom is also a garbled variant, and I think that all Masonic scholarship will share my doubt. The Royal Order of Scotland is very old in Masonry, and in my opinion long anterior to the earliest extant vestiges; but Yarker’s citation from The Freemason’s Magazine is not a reference to a Northern Harodim Degree, while the quotation made by Laycock proves also nothing concerning it. The alleged Highrodiam Degree may have been a form of the Ritual which passes now under the name of the Royal Order, or it may not.
There is Mons Magorum invisibilis, described in one of the Rosicrucian documents, and it has been explained by Thomas Vaughan. It is called elsewhere in the records a Mountain of Initiation. The hills of the wise are holy and all these hills are strange. But this is the most like of all things to the mystical Heredom of Kilwinning in Masonic legend. As the Invisible Mountain of the Magi recurs under many titles in the literature of the Rosy Cross, so is Heredom everywhere, a looming portent, in the more exclusive and consecrated worlds of the High Grades. The Rose-Croix is of Heredom, and Heredom is connected with Kilwinning, so that it has been held to have a local habitation besides a figurative name. It has been said to be in the vicinity of that little town in Ayrshire, which is the Kilwinning that can be known on earth. One must confess that the place is mean and common, and that there is no mountain near it. So people with a mind for geography, and in need of a mountain that might be scaled by earthly feet, took the story further away and established the beloved mountain in I-Colm-Kill, that island strangely named which lies to the South of the Hebrides. But it is better to be saved from the faring over those wind-swept seas. There is as much chance of reaching a term in this quest as there is of finding Corbenic on the broken coast of Wales, or Wolfram’s Castle of the Holy Graal on some high upland of the Pyrenees. With its immemorial archives, the repository of a thousand charters and the Sanctuary of Grades without end, the Masonic Kilwinning is not of this world, and it is appropriately overshadowed by Heredom, which is not of this world either, but the symbolical Mount Sinai of just Rites made perfect, of initiations conceived in the heart, but worked only in dream. The dream and conception alike are due, as we know, to Ramsay, that great unconscious mage; yet he spoke of Kilwinning only, not of its fabled hill. We shall never know how that fable first arose, whence it has travelled, or by whom was imported first. Some one, as we have seen, has suggested that it is a corruption of Harodim, a word which belongs to a known language and carries a definite meaning—as we have just seen. There is more grace in a greater speculation which connects it with the Greek ίϵρός = holy, and δόμος = house. The Masonic House of Kilwinning is holy in the reveries of the past, but it happens that Heredom is a mountain—of which no one seems to have thought when they offered their counter-criticism on this etymology. It is fitting, however, that an unknown eminence should have a name beyond understanding, and that “Assyrian bull” Ragon missed the mark assuredly when he said that its synonym was the Court of St. Germain, the only haeres or heritage left to the royal prince Charles Edward in exile. Masonry has many consecrations, but little and less than little in any hallowing attached to the Jacobite cause. As there are intimations of ineffable beauty in the Rose-Croix Grade and in the Royal Order of Scotland, I will remain faithful and true, by connecting both with the mystical Heredom, as if with a certain cloud-capped peak in Darien, and looking towards that day to come when Masonry shall assume a new body of manifestation and another robe of glory. I testify further, on the faith of many legends which are truer than history, that there are three mountains, and their names are Mount Moriah, Mount Sinai, and Mount Heredom. This is in the name of the Brotherhood. There are also Tabor and Carmel, which are near in the spirit to an island called Patmos; but these are hallowed places of Greater Mysteries than those of Masonry.
Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor
I have been informed by at least one American Mason of excellent standing that this association still exists in the United States and is unobjectionable in its present character. I have no particulars concerning it, and it would seem to be an obscure body. Its Masonic connections now, as at the beginning, may be limited to the fact that its male members are Masons, but there are both sexes. It would not be necessary to mention it on such slender grounds, but it has been noticed in various publications belonging to the Brotherhood in an unofficial sense, while ridiculous periodicals like The Masonic and Rosicrucian Record have put forward spurious claims regarding it. It is distinctly an Order with a past and that past is as follows. In or about the year 1880 an adventurer passing under the name of D’Alton was located at Baildon, near Bradford, and was making inquiries among occult students of the period. He was brought into communication with one who was well-informed on matters appertaining to Alchemy, Magic and later Kabalism, one also who was a clergyman of the English Church and a Past Master of the Masonic Craft. The appearance and expression of D’Alton caused some hesitation about admitting him into any one’s house. He was dismissed by the cleric as soon as possible, but there was a feeling that he might return as a burglar. A few months passed away, and then D’Alton was convicted elsewhere of a very bad case of swindling.
Peter Davidson.—About the time that he came out of prison the clergyman mentioned received a letter from one Peter Davidson, inviting him to join an Occult Order under the title of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and stating that its secretary was Mr. Burgoyne, resident at Burnley in Lancashire. Inquiries were made and the respectability of Davidson was vouched for by an old friend of the clergyman, who became a member thereupon. Many applied for admission and paid their entrance fees. The clergyman himself appears to have been unwisely active in securing subscribers among people of his own class and remitted their monies to Burgoyne, from whom he received in consequence a number of illiterate letters, giving hints about a great adept who was behind them. Certain suspicions were aroused and inquiries were made on the spot. It was ascertained that Burgoyne was in collusion with an ex-Brahmin—Hurychund Christaman—who had cheated various people at Leeds, Halifax and elsewhere. Other investigations proved that the handwriting of Burgoyne was identical with that of D’Alton. By means of a photograph Christaman was found to be in communication also with Davidson, to whom the clergyman wrote asking whether he was aware that the Secretary of the Hermetic Brotherhood, under the alias of D’Alton, was a convicted felon. Davidson answered that he knew him as a great occultist. Davidson was regarded therefore as implicated in the rascality of his confederate, and the known members of the Order were communicated with, stating the facts of the case. Davidson and Burgoyne threatened legal action, but the police had been shadowing the latter since he left Armley Jail, and presently he fled with Davidson to America, presumably taking the considerable subscriptions which had been obtained under a pretence of purchasing land in America and erecting suitable buildings for an occult society.
Migration to America.—The police are said to have recognised that it might have proved an imposture of magnitude, had it not been stopped in time. The Hermetic Brotherhood was established duly in the States, but a photograph of D’Alton was obtained in his prison-dress and, together with one taken before his conviction, was sent by the clergyman to an American correspondent whom the Order had endeavoured to dupe. Copies of both were printed in juxtaposition, accompanied by an open letter addressed to all transatlantic members. Meanwhile Burgoyne had proved unendurable even to Davidson, who is said to have “turned him out” with a small sum of money, Burgoyne saying—a little tritely—as he went: “The way to make gold is to practise on the credulity of mankind.” This time he fled to California, consequently upon the portrait disclosure. He had deserted his wife at Burnley and ultimately he married another woman—I believe in the Far West. But he is said to have led a miserable life, in constant dread of reprisals on the part of those whom he had defrauded. At the sight of any stranger it is reported that he would go into hiding. He died under circumstances which I have not been able to ascertain. Davidson continued to turn occultism to account and apparently the Hermetic Brotherhood remained in his hands. It must have lived down the rough unveiling of its original secretary. The interests of the Society seem to have been represented for a period by a monthly magazine under Davidson’s editorship. It was called The Morning Star.
Hermetic Schools and Masonry
If we isolate the Building Guilds of the Middle Ages and later from all imputed correspondence—by way of descent—with the Ancient Mysteries, with Dionysians and Essenes, Roman Collegia and Crusading Knights, or Solomon and his Temple; if we take them just as they are, acknowledging that their history is still in cloud and darkness for want of sufficient materials to elucidate it, but supposing that they originated like other trade unions—as a matter of trade convenience; if we picture them as craftsmen in stone and clay, somewhat roughly banded together; it is still indubitable that out of these Guilds a Speculative Fraternity was either evolved in modern days or another and emblematical concern was superposed thereon. At a given period and in an undetermined place something occurred so to transfigure these artificers that they ceased gradually to hew stones, to make bricks, to plan and to build edifices; that they laid down chisel and hammer, assumed the mantle of philosophers and began to concern themselves—theoretically at least—in the progress of humanity, the improvement of its moral nature, and in that which is termed loosely a spiritual experiment. How this came about is the problem which remains for our consideration and for solution, if that be possible.
Three Hermetic Schools.—In earlier days of research—the eighteenth century and onward—Emblematic Freemasonry was taken on its own terms. The makers of all the spurious histories, the dreamers of all the fond, romantic dreams—both here and on the Continent—ignored to all intents and purposes the historical distinction between an Operative and a Speculative mode. Was Masonry before the world in God? Did it date from Adam in Paradise? Was the first Lodge opened in Egypt? However the thesis shaped it was Speculative Masonry worked in Three Degrees, having no essential distinction from those which obtain among us; and it was as much in vogue among artists who built the Pyramids, Babel or Solomon’s Temple as it was among Essenes and Thebaid hermits, who built only in the heart. When other counsels of research obtained in England and abroad it became, as we have seen, a custom to explore the records of the Building Guilds. I do not know whether I am the first to say that this quest has failed, but I have not come across my precursor. The multiplication of old Charges and analogous documents, the tabulation of their variants, the criticism of spurious codices have exercised great skill and deserve all praise, being invaluable for the history of architecture; but as to origin or development, Emblematic Freemasonry remains substantially where it was—a great Dramatic Mystery with its origin in the clouds. In respect of documentary evidence, we know as little whence it came as those who profess it among us know whither it is going. Under these circumstances we seem led irresistibly to infer that it originated where and when it was first manifested, being the City of London in the early eighteenth century. But it happens that there is one direction which has been regarded not unfavourably as a possible source of light. It is that of the Hermetic Schools in England, and these—-speaking broadly—may be classified as three—Alchemical, Rosicrucian and Kabalistic. They had a common bond of interest and tended, here as elsewhere, to merge into a single school.
Symbolical Groups.—The presence of a non-operative element among Masons at an early period has been suggested by several writers. Mr. R. F. Gould considers that we are justified in inferring that from the fourteenth century, or even earlier, there were associations of a speculative or symbolical character, as apart from practical Masonry, though—with the sincerity by which he was characterised—he adds that on this point the judgment of certain students was opposed to his own. We have seen on our own part that the view is unsupported by evidence. On the other hand, the practice of receiving within the ranks of the Fraternity men who were neither architects nor builders, and that not merely as patrons, is beyond challenge. This practice was characteristic, however, of most Trade Guilds in England. Now, the hypothesis with which I am concerned suggests that the Hermetic Schools intervened for the transfiguration of English Operative Masonry about the middle of the seventeenth century. The Reformation had succeeded the Renaissance, and with all the disabilities attaching to both movements there can be no doubt that there was a great extension of the intellectual horizon. Many new avenues of thought had been thrown open, and men, being comparatively free to speak and act, acted and spoke freely, within the limits of their opportunities, while among other things there was a new impulse in Germany and England given to the prosecution of several branches of inquiry which antecedently could have been and were pursued only at the personal peril of the student. In England the practical experiment of Alchemy was undertaken by numerous persons, and it is just prior to the date which I have mentioned that the rumour of the Rosicrucian Fraternity raised curiosity in Europe. Hermetic literature—not only with a modern accent but almost for the first time in vernacular language—extended greatly, and schools of theosophy sprang up in several countries. The root of the Rosicrucian movement was in Germany, but the impulse reached England, and some of the most famous names connected with the subject are identified with this country. Hence came Alexander Seton and hence Eirenaeus Philalethes, who has been regarded as one of the great masters of Hermetic Art. Here also was Robert Fludd, who must—I think—be regarded as not only advocate and apologist in chief of the Rosicrucian Art and Philosophy but as a fountain-head. Here too was Thomas Vaughan—mystic as well as alchemist. And here in 1640 lived Elias Ashmole, alchemist and antiquary—founder also of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
English Alchemists.—There are evidences to shew that the experiment of Alchemy in England was at the period of Ashmole an exceedingly old pursuit. It was practised certainly in the time of Chaucer, but the literary remains of the early period are non-existent rather than scanty. Vernacular manuscripts date, broadly speaking, from about the fifteenth century, and Roger Bacon is perhaps the first name which can be cited in connection with the subject. As regards printed books prior to the seventeenth century, these also are few and far between, but no doubt there were many practical processes derived from Latin treatises, and they would have come over chiefly from Germany. At the beginning of the seventeenth century there must have been a great awakening of interest, though it is clear from evidence furnished personally by Robert Fludd that his own voluminous writings—several of which bear indirectly on this subject—found a considerable public abroad, and next to none at home. The interest grew, however, and must have been rather widely diffused before the middle of the seventeenth century. It was maintained and stimulated by visitors from abroad, some of whom claimed to possess important secrets of Rosicrucian and Hermetic Art. In the face of possibilities opened by such pretension, but following also the general tradition of the literature—and taught, moreover, like others, by the experience of their own failures—English students came to regard this Art as a secret transmitted rather than as a Mystery that could be acquired by the pains of untutored research; and one result of this feeling would be the association of pupils under the guidance of an adept or master—real or supposed.
Alchemical Groups.—In this way also informal alchemical associations may have come into being, but they have left no trace behind them. It should be added that the horizon of Alchemy in England was more limited than in some of its developments abroad, where its traditions came almost to rival the so-called universal science of Raymond Lully. By means of Hermetic Art men hoped in England to transmute metals and to produce an elixir which would heal diseases and prolong life. When they sought after these secrets, and when they wrote concerning them, there is little evidence of any ulterior object in view, of Spiritual Alchemy such as we find it abroad, or of the catholic concern of Paracelsus. Now, it is precisely in the mid-seventeenth century that we meet with traces of a change in this respect, and when Thomas Vaughan wrote his strange little books on the subject Alchemy in England was coming slowly into touch with a wider spirit of research—as it was pursued, for example, in Germany—and was assuming something of that accent and intention which help to connect it—as it does connect undoubtedly—with certain broad aspects of the initiatory process.
Operative and Speculative Masonry.—A section of Masonic opinion has looked in the past and a section looks still towards Elias Ashmole and his connections as in some way—yet undetermined—the representatives of the transition from Operative to Speculative Masonry. In France there has been practically no doubt on the subject from the days of Ragon, though concerning the value of his personal view I have spoken with desirable plainness elsewhere in this section. In America the distinguished name of Albert Pike can be cited in support of the thesis. After every allowance has been made for the position of such a speculation, still almost inextricable, it can be affirmed at least that it might offer a place of repose for all the tolerable views, because it harmonises all—on the understanding that Ashmole and his consociates are not regarded personally but as typifying a leavening spirit introduced there and here, and at work during the period intervening between 1640 and the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717. It would account at once not alone for Hermeticism itself but for alleged Rosicrucian influence as a part thereof, for the obvious presence of Kabalistic elements in Speculative Masonry, and for all other contributories of a mystical character in the symbols and legends of the Fraternity, as well as for that otherwise incomprehensible bond of sympathy which—in the eighteenth century and onward for one hundred and more years—subsisted between Masonry and the purely mystical societies, and which developed at one period a most striking sequence of results, as we shall see in its place later on. Pike was like Ragon unfortunately, a man of uncritical mind, and I summarise his findings under all needful reserves.
Hermetic and Masonic Symbols.—Among Masonic symbols which he identifies as used in common by Freemasons and Hermetic and Alchemical literature are the Square and Compasses, the Triangle, the Oblong Square, the Legend of the Three Grand Masters, the idea embodied in a Substituted Word—which may well be the most important of all—together with the Sun, the Moon and Master of the Lodge. It was, moreover, his opinion, based on this and other considerations, that the Philosophers—meaning in his case the members of Hermetic Confraternities became Freemasons and introduced into Masonry their own symbolism. He thinks finally that Ashmole was led to be made a Mason because others who were followers of Hermes had taken the step before him.
Hermetic Literature.—Unfortunately it is very nearly impossible in the existing state of our knowledge to set forth even the outlines of any tolerable hypothesis along these lines, because the connecting links are wanting. If it is worth while to record any personal opinion which I am disposed to hold on the subject, it may be said that at no distant period of time more light is likely to be forthcoming and may determine the question finally on the one or the other side. The Hermetic literature of the seventeenth century is a source from which to expect assistance and a concerted attempt to examine this literature—which is still largely in manuscript—is pending on the part of those who feel that importance attaches to the issue. Any new knowledge will come, however, from analysis of the symbolical documents rather than from what is understood as direct historical evidence. Something will depend also upon new aspects which may be assumed by what has been termed well the Rosicrucian Mystery, and this for the reason that whereas during past investigations reliance has been placed of necessity upon public documents alone it is now recognised—-at least in certain circles—that there are other channels of inquiry from which help may be derived. For the moment, however, it is still possible to deal only with the vague outcomes of historical research.
Rosicrucian Influence.—The influence of the Rosicrucian Fraternity upon that of the Masons has been questioned only by those who have been unfitted to appreciate the symbolism which they possess in common. The nature of the influence is another matter and one, moreover, in which it may be necessary to recognise the simple principle of imitation up to a certain point. The influence does not belong to the formative period of Emblematic Freemasonry but to that of development and extension. It has been exercised more especially in connection with High Grades, as to which it is impossible—for example—to question that those who instituted the Eighteenth Degree of the Scottish Rite either must have received something by transmission from the old German Brotherhood or, alternatively, must have borrowed from its literature.
German Views.—Outside the High Grades, there have been writers of consideration—being Germans more especially who have regarded Freemasonry as actually a final development of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. The first to advance this hypothesis was Nicolai of Berlin—a bookseller of some literary eminence—in the year 1782. He was followed by Buhle, without much otherwise in the way of agreement with the views and claims of his predecessor. Gould has ruled that the speculations of both are dead, but this is true only of the specific complexion which was given them, and he himself would have been doubtless among the first to recognise—and does in fact acknowledge implicitly—the likelihood of such a broad and gradual influence as is here under consideration. More than a century prior to the two German writers—that is to say, in the year 1638—Henry Adamson—who is described by Gould as a citizen of Perth—published a metrical account of that city in which are the following lines:
For we are Brethren of the Rosie Cross.
We have the Mason Word and second sight.
Elias Ashmole.—I do not know whether the significance of this quotation—which is one of the earliest references to the Rosicrucian Society found in the English language—has been appreciated at its full value. It is the first occasion assuredly on which that Fraternity and Masons are bracketed, so to speak, together; in which connection it should be remembered that the earliest reports in Europe concerning Rosicrucians do not go back much further than 1614. The informal relation instituted by the verses cannot be regarded as evidence, except perhaps of an implied link and bond in the mind of the writer; but even from this point of view it is not without significance. It was several years subsequently—namely, in 1652—that Rosicrucian Manifestoes were first translated into English, and it was a little prior to this time that Elias Ashmole was admitted into the Brotherhood of Masons. That he was connected previously with Rosicrucians themselves, or otherwise with the representatives of some association which had assumed their name, is an inference drawn from his life. His antiquarian studies led him more especially in the direction of Alchemy, but as regards this art he did not remain an antiquary, a mere collector of old documents on the subject. He was to some extent a practical student and, moreover, not simply an isolated inquirer. He had secured that assistance which has been regarded always as next but one to essential, namely, the instruction of a Master. The alternative is Divine Aid, which is of course a higher kind of Mastery.
William Backhouse.—The charitable instructor in the case of Ashmole was one William Backhouse, of whom few particulars are forthcoming in public beyond his asserted Rosicrucian connections. The assertion may, however, be reducible to the unquestioned fact that he followed Alchemical studies—a recurring confusion of uncritical persons and times. Ashmole was associated otherwise with many of the occult philosophers, alchemists, astrologers and so forth—belonging to his period. The suggestion that he acted as an instrument of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, or as a member thereof, in the transfiguration of Operative into Speculative Freemasonry is a matter of faith for those who have held or hold it. Of direct or indirect evidence there is not one particle. Supposing that such a design existed at the period he is not an unlikely person to have been concerned in planning it on the part of himself and others, or to have been delegated for such a purpose. But of the design there is again no evidence. The period is for me the beginning of a leavening only and not the result thereof. It has been affirmed further in the interests of the claim that a meeting of an Alchemical— presumably Rosicrucian—Order took place in London, and in a hall which was used regularly for Masonic gatherings—meaning Masons’ Hall; that Ashmole and his fellow-Rosicrucians—perceiving how working Masons were already outnumbered in membership by persons of education not belonging to the trade—believed that the time was ripe for a complete ceremonial revolution and that one founded on mystical tradition was drawn up therefore in writing, constituting the Entered Apprentice Grade, approximately as it exists now. The Grade of Fellow Craft was elaborated in 1648 and that of Master in the year 1650.
Ashmole’s Initiation.—These are the reveries of Ragon, categorical in nature, accompanied by specific details, all in the absence of one particle of fact in any record of the past. It seems to me therefore that no language would be too strong to characterise such mendacities and that they could belong only to the class of conscious lying; but the charge against Ragon is more especially that he elaborated the materials of a hypothesis which had grown up among successive inventors belonging to the type of Reghellini. If there were Rosicrucians in England at the date in question, if Backhouse was actually a Rosicrucian, it may be presumed that those who according to Ashmole’s own statement communicated to him some portions at least of the Hermetic secrets would not have withheld the corporate mysteries of their Fraternity. But on the other hand there is at present no historical evidence that the Hermetic Order possessed any such corporate existence in England at that period and there is no evidence that Backhouse was himself a member—holding from abroad or otherwise. However this may be, in the memoirs of the life of Elias Ashmole, as drawn up by himself in the form of a diary, there is the following now well-known entry under date of October 16, 1646:
“I was made a Freemason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Mainwaring of Kartichan in Cheshire; the names of those that were then at the Lodge: Mr. Richard Penket, Warden; Mr. James Collier, Mr. Richard Sankey, Henry Littler, John Ellam, Richard Ellam and Hugh Brewer.”
Life of Ashmole.—The two noteworthy points in this extract, over and above the main fact which it designs to place on record, are that neither Candidate was an operative by business and that the work of initiation was performed evidently by the brother who acted as Warden. At this period Elias Ashmole was under thirty years of age. His father was a saddler by trade, his mother was the daughter of a draper and he himself solicited in Chancery. But while still in his youth he tells us that he had entered into that condition to which he had aspired always: “That I might be able to live to myself and studies, without being forced to take pains for a livelihood in the world.” The admissions of October 16, 1646, are not required to prove the practice of initiating men of other business than that of Masonry and its connected crafts, or even of no business at all, but it should be observed that here—as in cases of earlier date—the reception was in the capacity of simple brothers and not of patrons. The practice is doubtless much older than its earliest record, and there is nothing whatever in the diary of Ashmole to indicate that the occurrence was unusual, or that he and his companion were in any sense favoured specially—as commoners who became Brethren and not as noble patrons.
Alchemical Pursuits.—The nature of those studies which were engrossing him about the time of his initiation may be learned by the publication, five years later, of his Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, being a collection of metrical treatises written in English at various dates on the subject of the Hermetic Mystery and the Philosopher’s Stone. They appear to be concerned only with what is called technically the physical work on metals and the physical medicine or elixir, not with those Spiritual Mysteries which have passed occasionally into expression under the peculiar symbolism of Alchemy. At the same time Ashmole is careful to explain his personal assurance that the transmutation of metals is only one branch of Hermetic practice.
“As this is but a part, so it is the least share of that blessing which may be acquired by the Philosopher’s materia, if the full virtue thereof were known. Gold, I confess, is a delicious object, a goodly light which we admire and gaze upon ut pueri in Junonis avem; but as to make gold is the chief intent of the Alchemists, so was it scarcely any intent of the ancient Philosophers and the lowest use the Adepti made of this materia. For they, being lovers of wisdom more than worldly wealth, drove at higher and more excellent operations; and certainly he to whom the whole course of Nature lies open rejoiceth not so much that he can make gold and silver or the devils be made subject to him as that he sees the heavens open, the angels of God ascending and descending, and that his own name is fairly written in the Book of Life.”
The Hermetic Work.—I regard this extract as presenting a theory in brief of the whole Hermetic work, and it is in particular remarkable for its analogies with the books of Thomas Vaughan, a contemporary of Ashmole and about the same age. It is like the opening of a certain door, beyond which there seems to stretch an endless vista, a prospect beyond prospect. It is not possible in the present place to attempt any description. It may be observed, however, by way of very brief analysis, that “the chief intent of the alchemists” is not said to attain its term by the common way of the alchemists, being that which Vaughan calls the “torturing of metals.” There is a certain matter which in its lowest application can produce gold but in its highest opens a path to Eternal Life. Now, we know otherwise from Hermetic literature that the Stone of the Philosophers was not a stone actually, and that the Powder of Transmutation was not literally and atomically a powder. These modes of language were veils made use of by the adepts, sometimes to shew forth symbolically the higher fields of their concern, sometimes to put on record their acquaintance hypothetical or practical—with certain renovating and transmuting substances available to operation in the lower branches of their art. It will be obvious, I may assume, that a materia which can be used in the making of material gold does not open the heavens, reveal the Ladder of Jacob, or enable the operator to find his name written in the Book of Life.
Alchemical Stone.—The language of Ashmole is therefore that of parable, and a similar criticism obtains when he distinguishes elsewhere four species of so-called Philosophical Stone—mineral, vegetable, magical and angelical. Here is another allegory under which he indicates the four palmary divisions of occult science. The first is concerned with the supposed development end perfection of metallic substances; the second deals with the secret virtues of plants, about which something will be found in such books as the Herbarium of Paracelsus; the third is—in modern language—the science of lucidity, vision at a distance, reading in the Astral Light, and so forth; bur the fourth is a celestial and divine power, by which the angelical world was supposed to be opened and by which gifts of veridic dream and prophecy were conferred upon the seer. It calls to be said that none of these Philosophical Stones opens the Book of Life, and seeing that Ashmole uses this figurative expression categorically he was either aware that there is a fifth, highest and most catholic Stone—about which he does not speak—or he misconceived the way and end of research in true adeptship. I think personally that he had a very full conception and grasp of occult initiation but did not know that of the mystics, unless at a far distance and through a dark glass. However this may be, he says generally with regard to Hermetic practice:
“I must confess I know enough to hold my tongue but not enough to speak, and the no less real than miraculous virtues I have found in my diligent inquiry into the arcana lead me to such degrees of admiration, they command silence and force me to lose my speech.”
Rosicrucian Doctrine.—It should be added that Ashmole’s exposition is a faithful reflection of Rosicrucian doctrine as this is put forward, directly or indirectly, under the name of the Brotherhood in German books and pamphlets of the early seventeenth century. Supposing that circa 1650 there was a Rosicrucian School in England no person is so likely to have been a member as Ashmole, and it is not possible to imagine him in separation therefrom. Indeed I am by no means certain that his testimony is not thinly presumptive of membership, being so to the manner born of it in thought and figures of speech; and I incline to this view the more (a) because the literature of the Rosy Cross at the Ashmole period and earlier offers little conscious realisation of the highest ends of adeptship, and (6) because the direction in which it falls short is that of Ashmole’s own deficiency. But if we can tolerate—however tentatively—the Rosicrucian initiation of Ashmole we may take it for granted that he did not stand alone. On the whole it seems possible that on October 16, 1646, at Warrington in Lancashire, a Brother of the Rosy Cross was made a Mason, with or without an ulterior motive in view. It follows expressly from his frank and honourable testimony concerning himself that he was one who had only seen the end of adeptship, even within the measures that he conceived it, while as regards any other Rosicrucians to whom he may have been joined we know nothing concerning them, with the sole exception of Backhouse.
The Ashmole Hypothesis.—It will be seen that the Ashmole hypothesis is but a part of the wider claim of Rosicrucian influence on the development of Emblematic Freemasonry. I have recorded and agree with the opinion that in so far as it has been advanced in the past this claim has lapsed. To put it shortly, the House of the Holy Spirit, being the Rosicrucian Brotherhood in Germany, had a Secret House in England which either transfigured itself into the thing called Speculative Masonry or revolutionised the old operative Craft along speculative lines for its own purposes, presumably that it might have recruiting centres available and more or less openly manifest. With this hypothesis there lapses its earlier form, which even now is regarded favourably by a few here and there. Among the great Rosicrucian apologists of the early seventeenth century we have seen that there was the Englishman Robert Fludd, and it has been sought to connect him not only with the German Fraternity, but with the transition of Operative into Emblematic Freemasonry by an admixture of Rosicrucian doctrine and symbolism therewith.
Robert Fludd.—Supposing that the Rosicrucian Society of 1615 existed otherwise than on paper, Fludd may have been brought within it, for he had certainly wrought and fought for it throughout his literary life; but we do not know. He reflected and extended its continental literature. His Masonic connections are still more slender and tentative and are reducible within two simple points of fact: (1) That he lived in his later years, as indeed he died also, in Coleman Street, close to the Masons’ Hall; (2) That in the year 1660 an Inventory of the Company’s goods, taken before the fire of London, has the following entry: “Item I, Book of the Constitutions that Mr. Flood gave.” Why it should follow that a person whose house is near Masons’ Hall is likely to have been himself a Mason and why the Mr. Flood mentioned in 1660 must be identified with Robertus de Fluctibus, the Kentish philosopher who died in 1637, I am not able to see ; but there has been reasoning of this kind. Much has been done recently to elucidate the life and writings of the Kentish occult philosopher, but the last conclusion of his latest biographer, the Rev. J. B. Craven, is that which has been reached previously by first-hand students of his Latin works—namely, that there is no evidence of his alleged Masonic connections.
The Operative Brotherhood.—When the question at issue has been relieved from these reveries there remains the more reasonable suggestion that the Operative Brotherhood came gradually and not unnaturally under the influence of persons who belonged to both associations. It is reasonable (a) because of the non-operative element within the Craft, (b) because this element began to predominate, (c) because a Craft Mystery so curiously qualified was antecedently likely to attract the members of other confraternities, having Mysteries of their own. It would attract also those who were simply Hermetic students, though isolated and unattached as such. Attached or otherwise, Ashmole is a case in point. The influence which in this manner would begin to be exercised, consciously or unconsciously, would be Hermetic in a general sense rather than Rosicrucian exclusively; but this is a distinction which will not be realised readily by those who are acquainted only at second hand with the mystical and occult movements of the seventeenth century. Finally, it may have been even older than the Commonwealth and Restoration. As to the Ritual side of the Operative Mystery in that century we know next to nothing, while of Rosicrucian Ritual procedure—if any—we know nothing at all.
A Lost Word.—The Adamson couplet is evidence that there was a Mason’s Word at the period, whereas Speculative Masonry is concerned with the Quest of a Lost Word. The distinction seems therefore generic. Granting for a moment the fact of Hermetic influence I conceive that it was gradual and indeed very slow in its working, and at circa 1650 we are far enough away from the invention of the Third Degree and far away from the Legend of Solomon’s Temple. The latter connotes a more fully developed Kabalism than belongs to the English Hermetic Schools of the date in question.
Third Degree.—Such in rough outline is the case as it stands for the interference of Hermetic Schools in Freemasonry, prior to the first historical evidence for the Ritual of the Third Craft Degree and apart from any long since exploded hypothesis which has sought to connect the Brotherhood with older Mysteries, by means of direct transmission within their own bonds. I have registered my feeling that some day it may assume a less uncertain aspect—in other words, that sources of additional knowledge may become available. It is not worth while to exaggerate the importance of the question since that which is at issue is largely a point of date. I know that the root-matter of the Third Degree belongs to the Secret Tradition and is not only of the Hermetic Schools but of Schools thereunto antecedent. This is not a speculative question or one of simple persuasion. It is, moreover, no question of history and does not stand or fall with particular personalities and dates, and with claims made concerning them. As regards both these there is work remaining to be done—that is to say, in the purely historical field; but unfortunately the subject has only a few sympathisers in England, and among these a small proportion only who are qualified to work therein.
Ragon’s Reverie.—In France I have indicated that the Ashmolean hypothesis is practically an accepted explanation by those who are at the pains to seek for any: it has followed the lead of Ragon and has remained in uncritical hands, which have built up further fabrics of speculation in the guise of historical theses that cannot be called in question. Thus a late President of the Martinist Order in Paris found it possible to state with authority as certain facts: (1) That Freemasonry was established in England by members of the Fraternity of the Rose-Cross, who were anxious to create a centre for the protection of their Order and for recruiting purposes. (2) That the earliest Masonic Lodges were of a composite character, in part consisting of operative craftsmen and in part of men of understanding imbued with these ulterior motives. (3) That the Rosicrucian link with Masonry began unquestionably through Ashmole. The enunciation of empirical suppositions in this language of certitude reduces an important matter of speculative research to a byword among serious students. To sum up on my own part, the Ashmolean hypothesis is a name which stands for an idea; his personal intervention in Masonry is not a matter of importance, but he represents a school, and it is the interference of the school in question which—in the opinion of a few—may enable us to understand better the rise and development of Emblematic Freemasonry and the existence among us of that Master-Grade “which is at once the foundation and keystone of the whole” speculative edifice.
The Kabalistic School.—I have dealt so far with two out of the three schools; and it seems to me that their position, so far delineated, is not altogether unlike that of speculation on Comacines, Roman Collegia and Dionysian architects, except that these latter were obviously Building Guilds, while the former were symbolists, speaking a tongue of symbolism. Some of them were concerned only or chiefly with the ascent of the soul in God, some of them worked in metals, with a view to their material transmutation; but while the dedication of the former was ab origine spiritual that of the latter in a sense became spiritual, for such was their kind of chemistry that they claimed to behold in their alembics a reflection of the work of God in creation and the analogy of that redeeming process by which the soul is transmuted in God. They made use of these correspondences freely in their cryptic books, which deserve at their best to be termed books of devotion as well as records of physical experiments. The integration of men like these in Lodges of Masons could not fail of effect; we know that it occurred in the case of Ashmole; our difficulty is to ascertain that there were others who followed in his steps; and this is our hindrance about the hand of Hermetic Schools in Freemasonry. When we pass, however, in its proper place to a consideration of the Kabalistic or third Hermetic School the position will prove, I think, different, though it may not take us further back than the eighteenth century.
Like the rest of the Instituted Mysteries, Freemasonry was brought into the general drag-net of Anacalypsis, which, I suppose, will be always of interest and very often of use for its vast collection of materials on the old philosophies and religions. Higgins was a sincere and honourable man, whose word can be accepted implicitly on a matter of fact up to his point of knowledge, all his crazy speculations notwithstanding—and they were not so crazy after all, considering his period. When he affirmed that a given Masonic or any other document was in his possession, I am quite sure that it was, however much he may have been misled respecting its authenticity and however far he may have erred in his other judgments concerning it. Now, he does actually tell us that he had such a Masonic treasure, and he affirmed his ability to prove thereby (1) that not very long antecedently to the year 1836 the “Chaldees—read Culdees—at York” were Freemasons; (2) that they constituted the Grand Lodge of England; (3) that they held their meetings in the crypt under the cathedral of that city. “The circular chapter-house did very well for ordinary business, but the secret mysteries” were carried on in the hiddenness of the under-places.
Grand Lodge of York.—We know of course that the “Grand Lodge of all England” was constituted at York in 1725 by the simple process of the ancient York Lodge assuming that title, and there was no secrecy about the claim or its circumstances. But in the dream of Godfrey Higgins Freemasonry had existed at York from time immemorial as a Culdee form of Christianity, that it was in communion of doctrinal identity with the non-Roman Christianity of Iona in Scotland and with that of obscure sects in India and the East. It held meetings in crypts because it could not hold them openly, for its peculiar Christian views and practices were intermixed with Druidical elements. There is neither space nor occasion to set out the whole plan of the reverie, but there is one point of curious interest. Higgins lived in the early days of the Union; the Grand York Lodge was dead as such; but in the pursuit of his researches Higgins proceeded to York “and applied to the only survivor of the Lodge, who shewed me, from the documents which he possessed, that the Druidical Lodge, or Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, or Templar Encampment, all of which it calls itself, was held for the last time in the crypt, on Sunday, May 27, 1778.” On these and other considerations Higgins concluded that the Masons of Southern England were “only a modern offset” until “amalgamated with those of York.” See Anacalypsis, Vol. I, pp. 718, 768, 769, 790, 817.
If it were possible to take unexpectedly a census of opinion within the ranks of the Masonic Fraternity on the general subject of Rites, I suppose that such opinion would fall unconventionally into two groups. They would consist on the one hand of those who regard Masonry as complete in the Craft Degrees, which might or might not include the Holy Royal Arch. The contrasted section would be much more composite in character, but its members would be in agreement at least upon one point, being the antithesis of the preceding opinion. All would maintain that the Masonic Experiment must be taken farther than the admitted limits of the Craft before it can be brought to perfection. The issue is in each instance so keen and clear that no intermediate ground is possible for a place of adjustment. As an expositor of the second school, I hold not only that the Experiment is unfinished in Craft Masonry—taken per se—and is left like a loose line hanging in space; not only that the Royal Arch—though of considerable interest and importance within its proper measures—is an artificial and substituted completion which carries no real warrants in the nature of its own symbolism; but that I have never met with any serious attempt to justify the claim of completion apart from High Grades. I am not at the moment—within the limits of this paper—holding any brief for this or for that sequel which has entered the lists. The position is that something to follow is essential and it would remain unaffected if every High-Grade competitor for recognition which has entered the lists were successively dismissed from the field.
Closing in the Third Degree.—There is nothing in the wide world of Ritual which renounces so completely and unconditionally all claim upon a term attained as the Closing in the Third Degree. There is nothing which so explicitly parades the fact of failure. A quest after genuine secrets is announced at the opening of the Lodge and the Chair of Solomon, as the source of all authority, guarantees its help in that quest; but at the end of all it is admitted that the secrets are still lost, while no shred of assistance has been afforded in this Masonic extremity by the mouthpiece of the Chair. Certain substitutes are accepted, that the work may somehow continue until “time or circumstances” restore the genuine things. Does this suggest an end of the whole business? Is it not inevitable that there should be a story after? Moreover, the Temple is left unfinished and the triad of the Headship is broken. Are these defects atoned for in the Royal Arch? The answer is no, and absolutely. It belongs to another dispensation, it is concerned with another Temple, it acknowledges another headship; and the discoveries which it communicates are nihil ad rem secretam, the loss of which is bewailed in the Craft. Again, its own Temple is not only left unfinished: it has not even been begun.
Craft and Arch.—Between the pair of them—the Craft and Arch—it would appear that never was an experiment in quest more completely stultified. The conclusion is that the oft-quoted dogmatic ruling of the United Grand Lodge for the restriction of the Masonic Rite and the definition of its constituent elements is the ruling of persons who did not understand the first and most superficial significance of their own symbols. But the truth is that—already and indeed long since—they had begun to shut the doors against themselves by casting out the Christian elements from the Craft Degrees.
I have cited on many occasions as the need arose that memorable and axiomatic definition of Freemasonry, which says that it is “a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” The reference is exclusively to the Three Craft Degrees, not to the Royal Arch and still less to any Rites or developments of High-Grade Masonry. It is of course possible by the hypothesis that some or all of these may answer to the same description: they do not as a matter of fact, but this point is beyond the present issue. It is for such reason, however, that the Craft is distinguished as Symbolical Masonry, while other branches are Christian, Hermetic, Egyptian, or whatever they may elect to assume as their chief characteristic and seal. Now if we seek to distinguish and set apart those elements of Craft Masonry in which morality is illustrated by symbol, they lie plainly before us; but if we inquire after the allegorical element, we can find it in the traditional history and nowhere else. The Legend of the Master-Builder is the great allegory of Masonry. It happens that his figurative story is grounded on the fact of a personality mentioned in Holy Scripture, but this historical background is of the accidents and not the essence; the significance is in the allegory and not in any point of history which may lie behind it.
Biblical Testimony.—The Scriptural references to the artist and craftsman are found in two texts concerning the building of the House of the Lord and the House of Solomon. In 1 Kings vii. 13 it is said, without preface of any kind, that “King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.” He was (1) a widow’s son, of the tribe of Naphtali; (2) the son of a man of Tyre, (3) a worker in brass, filled with wisdom and understanding to work in that metal. He made the two Pillars of brass which are Jachin and Boaz; the molten sea which stood upon twelve oxen, the ten bases, the ten lavers, the shovels and the basons. All these were of brass, and it does not appear that Hiram made the things that were of gold, being the altar, table of shewbread, candlesticks, censers and so forth. The name of this craftsman in Hebrew was היירם, and of its meaning there are several explanations, i.e. exaltation of life, nobly born, he that destroys, their whiteness and their liberty—none of which are especially applicable to the Master-Builder. In 2 Chronicles ii. 7, Solomon asks the King of Tyre to send him “a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave.” In response thereto Solomon sends “the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre.” He is described otherwise as “a cunning man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father’s.” This text does not distinguish the work performed by the craftsman, while the Temple and all its decorations are referred to Solomon himself. What is certain from both narratives is that the craftsman was an artist in metals, dyeing and graving, but he was not an architect.
Special Pleadings.—Masonic writers have done what has lain within them to shew that he was, but their qualifications for textual criticism do not entitle them to a hearing; they have sought also to reconcile certain trifling discrepancies in the two accounts by the help of gratuitous assumptions, but the work is worthless. A modern allegory woven about a Scripture personality does not call for a harmony between Kings and Chronicles to support it; it gets no help whatever from the fabulous suggestion that Tyre was a centre of the Dionysian Fraternity, Hiram’s father—according to both Scriptural accounts—being a man of Tyre; nor yet by foolish meanings attached to the name of Hiram. The one question before us is the broad lesson of the allegory, and it is given plainly enough on the ethical side in the Masonic Legend. That it has other and deeper meanings I have indicated whenever opportunity has offered, without prejudice to the import which lies within the measures of “a system of morality.”
The Holy Graal
The question which I pose for consideration is whether the Quest of the Holy Graal—including such doctrine as it may be found to connote—is a version of the soul’s quest, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, however embedded the allegory and how strange soever the symbols. Now, a proposition of this kind is apt to be carried in the affirmative by a vote of certain minds who are commonly informed by sentiment as a substitute for real knowledge. On the other hand, it is apt to be rejected by minds of an opposite character on grounds which are not more satisfactory because such people are seldom carried away by false lights owing to a zeal of feeling. If I may suppose for a moment that some at least of my readers—amidst any or all of our differences—share certain dedications in common with myself which belong to the mystical order, it is a little unfortunate for our views, and yet calls to be recognised, that on the subject of the Holy Graal and the possibility of its mystical aspects the textual knowledge at least tends to be on one side, and it happens to be that of negation. I have read several foolish books which talk of a Holy Graal that was never on the land or sea of legend or romance, and they develop wonderful theses as to what was meant by the great palladium, according to the intention of its early symbolists. I have read many dull though learned books, the findings of which are rooted in early folk-tales of the subject and fail to realise the connotations of its developments in the literature of romance. The things in the first class are bad because their writers do not know the cycle of literature about which they presume to talk. The second mislead us—or may tend at least to do so—because their authors are familiar with beginnings but have no eyes for the end.
Some Old Celtic Myths.—The archaic texts concerning the Holy Graal are for more than one reason not a little like the cryptic books of alchemy in the hands of the scholarship of both subjects. There happens to be an old Byzantine papyrus—it belongs to the fourth century A.D.—which contains recipes for the sophistication of metals, and it uses certain technical words and catch-expressions. These terms and expressions recur in alchemical literature and hence it follows for the scholarship of Greek alchemy—for great chemists like M. Berthelot—that a sheaf of transparent processes for making a base metal look like gold or silver is the root or fountain of all alchemical literature—not only of Turba Philosophorum and the Latin Geber, but the New Light of Alchemy and the Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King. In like manner there are old Celtic Myths about a miraculous dish of plenty, and the recurring influence of these is traced through the Graal cycle. It comes about in this manner that as M. Berthelot had a very keen eye for a sophisticator’s catch-words and followed them keenly through Arabian, Syriac, Latin and even vernacular texts of a later period, so textual scholars of the Graal literature get away only with difficulty from the feeding-dish, even when they venture into the domain of vegetable gods. But we may remember on our part that from the days of Zosimus the Panopolite to those of Eirenaeus Philalethes there are texts of alchemy which are not to be accounted for even by the transmutation of metals, to say nothing of their surface colouration by means of spurious tinctures or the “rolled gold” of the period; and so also that the cycle of the Holy Graal, from the time of Chrétien de Troyes, the so-called Robert de Borron and Walter Map, to the time of the Quest of Galahad, does not lie within the measures of a Bowl of Plenty. We may meet still with the catch-words here and there in the one case, and in the other with miraculous feastings dighted in strange halls of banquet, but new motives predominate, a whole new scheme of things and other lights of symbolism.
Elements of Graal Literature.—It is obvious that in a brief statement like the present I can only clear the ground and ascertain at the end whether there is room left for a mystical side of the subject. It is necessary therefore in the first place to enumerate those several elements which enter into the matter of the Graal. Among things antecedent in folklore there is an Irish legend concerning the Cauldron of the Dagda, a magical talisman, from which no person ever went away unsatisfied—meaning that it had food-giving properties. There is also the Cauldron of Bendigreid Van, in one of the Welsh Mabinogion: it restored those who were slain to life, but did not give back speech to the resuscitated. There is lastly the Cauldron of Ceridwen, in which were the waters of inspiration, mystical lore, hidden sciences, the gift of melodious song and knowledge of things to come. It did not provide the eternal feast of the Dagda, but it seems to have shared the power of restoring life with the Bath of Bendigreid and subject to the same limitations, so that it is scarcely to be distinguished therefrom. Now, as I have intimated, there are certain texts of the Graal cycle in which the sacred vessel provides food—“rarest meats” and sometimes wine, so that it is comparable to the Cauldron of the Dagda; there is also one text in which it issues directions and gives oracles, so that it is comparable to the Cauldron of Ceridwen.
Hallows of the Graal Legend.—Connected less or more intimately with the Sacred Vessel, more especially when it is seen in the course of a solemn procession, there are certain other Hallows, being (1) a Lance which bleeds at the point; (2) a Sword which is usually fractured; and (3) a Dish or Platter which is other than the Vessel called Graal. The antecedents of these are held to be found in folklore, as in the case of the third would of course go without saying; but a Lance which distils blood and a Sword which is either broken or destined so to be, and must again be joined together with perfect skill, are objects of an exceptional kind. They are found in the Welsh Mabinogi of Peredur the son of Evrawc which—rightly or wrongly— is supposed to embody materials more archaic than any text proper of the Graal literature. I do not think that the last word has been said upon this subject, but in the present place there is no occasion to challenge it. However this may be, the old story in question and its folk-elements are of considerable importance for the criticism of the whole subject. It embodies above all one of the palmary and recurrent romance-motives of the cycle, being (1) the exhibition of an object in the course of an established procedure, (2) the necessity of asking a technical question concerning it, and (3) the fatality that follows failure to make the required demand. It embodies further the second but not less important and predominant motive of the cycle, being that of a quest pursued in order to learn the story connected with the said object.
Of Exile and Return.—On the hypothesis that the Peredur preceded the romance literature of the Holy Graal, into which its elements were transferred, and that these are so old in folklore as to be pre-Christian, to what transformations were they made subject when—so to speak—the form of their faith was changed? It is obvious that a Dish of Plenty is nothing to the purpose of the mystic, nor indeed is a Magical Cauldron of which three particles or drops communicated all wisdom, but a deep draught was destruction. Even what has been termed by scholarship the Exile and Return formula, which characterises so many folk-tales and has been traced in the Peredur, as well as in that still later text, the English Syr Percyvelle—supposed, like the former, to embody primitive elements—offers little to our purpose. It is easy to compare the myth of coming forth and going back—which commemorates also an intervening period of toil, adventure and quest—with the morality of those old Instituted Mysteries which are thought to have offered in dramatic form an allegory of the soul’s first estate in a pure land lying under a pure sky, its expulsion or descent therefrom and finally its return thereto by following the life of the Mysteries. There is nothing in the Peredur story and as little or next to nothing in a score of the collateral fables to justify such a comparison. The Peredur is indeed—pace folklore scholarship—a tolerably indifferent example of the suggestive formula.
The Story of Galahad.—It can be only by way of parenthesis, but I may add here as a point which has never been noticed by criticism, that the formula in question is illustrated in a very full manner by the Quest of Galahad, which otherwise of all texts confesses least to the presence of folklore motives. Galahad is born in the Graal Castle, goes out therefrom, undertakes the quest thereof, because of the Sacred Hallows, and in fine returns thereto. It may seem like the shewing of a vision, a perfunctory research, since he knew already of the Castle, the Graal and the other treasures. But in reality it is more than this, for albeit he was born in the Castle he was not reared therein, but in a convent of white nuns, and it is reasonable to suppose that his first ocular knowledge of the Holy Vessel was when he beheld its manifestation at King Arthur’s Court, in common with the whole chivalry of the Round Table.
The Story of Peredur.—In recurrence, I conclude that while Peredur is much more than the story of a fool and his folly, since the valour of a simpleton leads him to a high grade in the chivalry of this world, it is useless to question his oracles till he has suffered that transformation of the later romance-cycle, by which he became in fine the Perlesvaux of the High History, the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and the second of the three peers in the Quest of Galahad.
The Sacred Vessel.—When the magical cauldron of Celtic folklore was changed over into Christian symbolism it became the Holy Graal. Though there are cups, talismans, bowls and brews without end in the old, old fairy-tales it is to be noted that there is no pre-Christian Graal. But what is actually that Holy Vessel of the Sanctuary, the memorials of which grew out of folklore and are enshrined in those great books of chivalry by which alone we know concerning it? The answer is that the Cauldron of the Dagda became either that Paschal Dish in which Christ ate the Last Supper with his apostles, or alternatively the Cup or Chalice in which He consecrated the wine at the First Eucharist. There seems to be some confusion in the mind of the romances on this subject. In either case it became a Holy of Holies and of all Holies. The reason was that after the sacramental and other ceremonial offices of Maunday Thursday it was used to receive the Precious Blood which flowed from the wounds of Christ. The circumstances are recounted variously, as follows: (1) When the centurion pierced the side of Christ Joseph of Arimathea collected the issue from the wound and preserved it in this vessel. (2) Alternatively it received the blood still flowing from the wounds, apparently from the whole body, when this was prepared for burial. The first point is therefore that the Graal was a Relic of the Passion, and the other Hallows in the Castle or Temple of the Mystery were relics in like manner: (1) The spear with blood flowing from the point, taken over ex hypothesi from folklore, which does not explain the issue, whereas in the romances of the Graal it is another miracle connected with the Crucifixion, being the Lance of Longinus. (2) The Sword, which—rather curiously—is not that of St. Peter but either the weapon used to behead St. John the Baptist, or alternatively it is the traditional sword of Judas Maccabeus, or one purely mythical and said to have been that of King Solomon. (3) The Dish, which in folklore sometimes carries a head swimming in blood and may be that of the blessed Bran. In the later romances there is no explanation concerning it, but having regard to the confusion which represents the Graal itself sometimes as that vessel in which Christ ate the Paschal Lamb on “Sher-Thursday” and sometimes as the Cup of the Eucharist, it may be that some of the romance-writers saw to it that both objects should count among the Hallows and appear in the solemn pageants. In conformity with this suggestion the Grand Saint Graal represents the Sacramental Chalice as placed within the Graal. (4) Subsidiary Hallows, which appear only in certain texts, are the Crown of Thorns, the Nails used at the Crucifixion and the Cerements which enveloped the Sacred Body in the rock-hewn sepulchre.
Various Allocations.—According to the metrical romance of Joseph of Arimathea, which passes under the name of Robert de Borron, the Graal was that vessel “in which Christ prepared His sacrament,” and the Titurel of Albrecht von Scharfenburg concurs herein; but in Diu Crône it is a ciborium containing Sacred Hosts. On the other hand in the Grand Saint Graal it is that Dish in which the Son of God partook of the Last Supper before He gave to the disciples His own flesh and blood. It is the Paschal Dish also in the Huth Merlin and in the Galahad Quest. In conclusion as to this matter, several texts, like the continuations of the Conte del Graal by Gautier and Manessier, are acquainted with Graal history as regards its office in the Passion and as a reliquary of the Precious Blood, but with nothing antecedent thereto, and it is the same with the Vulgate Merlin.
The Mass of the Graal.—For us and for our concern it happens fortunately that the Graal does not lie within the measures of a simple relic. It is the Cup of a Super-Pontifical Mass in the traditional story concerning Joseph of Arimathea, in the Didot Perceval, the Grand Saint Graal, the High History and the Quest of Galahad. Of this Mass there are two aspects and the distinction between them is of high symbolical importance. According to certain texts the Graal Mass draws its peculiar virtue from Secret Words communicated by Christ Himself to Joseph of Arimathea, who was the first Bishop of Christendom, himself therefore independent of all manifest apostolates and succeeded by those who were set apart in like manner from any official priesthood. When Joseph was imprisoned by the Jews, Christ brought him the Sacred Vessel, which had passed previously from his hands, and “communicated to him certain Secret Words, which were the grace and power thereof.” It appears afterwards as a vessel of sacramental and inward refreshment, the celebration of which becomes a daily service in commemoration of the Lord’s Supper. In Gerbert’s conclusion to the Conte there is a service performed at an altar over “the holy spiritual thing.” A prose version of the Joseph speaks of the secret uttered at the great sacrament performed over the Graal.
Texts of Transubstantiation.—This is on the one side and appears to intimate a purely spiritual Mystery, as if the Ritual of a Hidden Church were celebrated in the presence of an elect body of believers. There is, however, another aspect of the Mass formula, represented by the High History and the Galahad Quest. These are texts of transubstantiation. In the first of these texts the Mass of the Graal is characterised by five changes, corresponding to the Five Wounds which Christ received upon the Cross, though behind this there is a deeper meaning which is mentioned but not disclosed: it is called the Secret of the Sacrament. At another celebration the Sacred Vessel seemed transformed into the Divine Body. It may be compared with yet another account, in which the Blessed Virgin places her Child in the hands of a Hermit-Priest, but at the Canon of the Mass the Child becomes the Man-Christ crucified. For the Galahad Quest the “flesh and blood of God” are present in the Graal. At a Mass witnessed by Lancelot the Holy Trinity in the guise of Three Men are exalted above the head of the officiating priest, and two of them place the youngest in the priest’s hands. On another occasion a child enters the substance of Bread. Again a Man is elevated bearing the stigmata of the Passion, and this Being passes subsequently from the vessel and communicates to the Knights present. It is good to add that in the last celebration of all these terrifying wonders are taken out of the way, and the attainment of Galahad is marked by a communion not less spiritual by intention and intimation than anything in the Didot Perceval. The words are: “And when he”—that is to say, the man who was in the likeness of a Bishop and had about him a great fellowship of angels—“came to the sacrament of the Mass and had done, anon he called Galahad and said to him: ‘Come forth, the servant of Jesu Christ, and thou shalt see that thou hast much desired to see.’ And then he began to tremble right hard, when the deadly flesh began to behold the spiritual things. . . . Therewith the good man took our Lord’s body betwixt his hands and proffered it to Galahad, and he received it right gladly and meekly . . . And therewith he kneeled down before the table, and made his prayers, and then suddenly his soul departed to Jesu Christ and a great multitude of angels bore his soul up to heaven, that the two fellows might well behold it. Also the two fellows saw come from heaven an hand, but they saw not the body. And then it came right to the vessel, and took it and the spear, and so bore it up to heaven. Sithen was there never man so hardy to say that he had seen the Sancgreal.”
Spiritual Mysteries.—In these great transfigurations I submit that although the Sacred Vessel continues sometimes to bear the seals of its folklore origin, giving refreshment of earthly food, we are not justified for such reason in ignoring its spiritual Mysteries and in regarding it as nothing better or more important than a pagan Bowl of Plenty. “All manner of meats and drinks,” says the Great Quest, “and all the hall was fulfilled with good odours,” or “a savour as all the spicery in the world.” We need remember, I think, only that he who feeds the soul feeds also the body and that in the sacramental sense the same elements serve equally in both. It is God Who manifests and God Who communicates Himself under all the veils of creation.
Mystical Aspects of the Eucharist.—If such be the story belonging to the Holy Graal and such the nature of its mystery, it is obvious that its mystical aspects can reside only in a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. As to this I must be contented perforce with the simple citation of findings which I have made previously. Behind all the transubstantiations, the spiritual and the real presences, the symbolism of daily bread and the wine of earthly grapes, to intimate concerning the supersubstantial bread and the wine of life in the kingdom, there lies—founded on experience—that doctrine which teaches the communication of Divine Substance to the soul, and this is the doctrine of Divine Union, that term and consummation of all our mystical quests. Herein are the mystic aspects of the Holy Graal; they remain of necessity within the measures of the Mass; but in this higher understanding the Book of the Mass is the greatest Book of Initiation which has been put into any language, and the literature of the Holy Graal is an inspired commentary thereon. If these aspects appeal to us, be it remembered that they are for our translation into life, in which way and so only—we can follow on our own part the Quest of the Holy Graal.
Path of Heaven.—We can follow, and we may even attain at the end, like Galahad, if we are valiant, wise and true, are integrated in the spirit of the Quest, as into a sacred Order of Knighthood, a chivalry which is not of this world. It is a path which leads to heaven—that is to say, into the state of mystical and ineffable union with Christ, by Whom I mean and understand not only the great human Master Who walked with the elect in Nazareth, but that mode of Deity Which is immanent in all creation. God hidden and revealed under the veils of manifest things is the cosmic Christ; God hidden in the transcendence, beyond those measures which we denominate space and time, is the Eternal Father, with Whom we are in communion only through and in Christ by that bond of love between them which is the Holy Spirit. The Divine within us, too often hidden too deeply in our manifest humanity, yet indeed immanent within us, is Christ Mystical, the Kingdom of Heaven within us—that side, aspect, apex, centre and sanctuary within, where that abides which is not apart from God in the universe, far as our manifest self may seem remote therefrom.
German Cycle of the Graal.—Hereof are the mystic aspects of the Holy Graal, and at this point the discourse properly ends, but a word must be added about the German cycle of the Holy Graal and there are additamenta, owing to rumours and speculations which, not so far back in the past, have been current in certain quarters. The Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach has not come up for our consideration because the Graal in that knightly epic is neither bowl nor chalice, but a stone earned on a green cushion and exposed on a jacinth table. It is called pure, precious and Lapis exilis, the last formula being met with otherwise but once only in symbolism, when it is used by Raymond Lully to describe the Transmuting Stone of Alchemy. I will not dwell on its food-giving properties, for it served the banquets ready dressed, an eternal pantry and cellar, a sufficiency for the table of Gargantua. It appears to be called for this reason “the crown of all earthly riches.” Its virtues were renewed on Good Friday in each year by the descent of a dove from heaven, carrying a sacred Host, which she deposits on the stone and then returns upward. It has been a fashion to laud the epic of Wolfram for its high moral excellence: to my own mind it belittles its own symbolism, and one is not unprepared beforehand for the latest thesis of American scholarship—that the German Graal legend degenerated into the mysteries of iniquity belonging to the Venusberg. I have mentioned Diu Crône already, which substitutes a ciborium for a chalice, and is the chronicle of a quest pursued in a world of shadows, for the Keeper of the Graal and his chivalry wear the semblance of life, but have been long dead. The Titurel of Albrecht von Scharfenburg throws over the antecedent inventions of the German cycle and represents the Graal as a chalice. Wolfram and Albrecht have also variants to offer as regards the conventional question which is a keynote of the Perceval texts. It concerns no longer the service of the Graal, but the woe which reigns in the Castle or the meaning of the mournful prodigies. As in the French cycle, the healing of a wounded king, who—except in Wolfram—is the reigning king of the Graal depends thereon.
A Speculative Hypothesis.—It is very difficult to place a mystical construction on the significance of this Graal question. It offers no intelligible motive, but is to all appearance arbitrary. If, however, Arthur and his court were the chivalry of the Christian world, in the sense of that part of humanity which is on God’s side in the world; were the Keeper of the Graal in—let us say—the Didot Perceval, which is the most logical version concerning him, the Priest and King of a Hidden Church; did he pass into languishments because those outside its gates neither knew nor cared concerning its Great Mysteries of Christ and God; and supposing the question signified: “Shew unto me the vision of these Mysteries,” as a bid for initiation therein: then we are at the door of some great business belonging to the Secret Tradition—but not otherwise. It is then a simple case of: “Ask, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Alleged Eastern Origin.—And now as to those rumours and speculations about which I have promised to speak. It has been said that the Graal is of Eastern origin, in the sense of India and not in that of Palestine. But the name and the thing, its legends and their romance-literature are myths connected with relics, which relics are concerned with the Passion of Christ, for the most part. As such, they are not of India, of China or of Cathay. Let us keep our minds clear and not confuse ourselves and the issues of our subject by mistaking analogies for identities, and by regarding a natural tendency of imagination to symbolise independently on the same objects as proof that a given symbol which we may denominate B is historically derived by succession from some antecedent symbol, denominated A. The world of myth, legend and folklore is full of stories about cups and bowls, but the sole subsisting identity between them is that they deal in bowls and cups. A lamp hangs in the Sanctuary of every Catholic church, but it is not referable to the lamp of Aladdin, though both things are lamps. In like mannner the Ring of Gyges has no connection whatever with the Ring of the Nibelungs, though the story in both cases is concerned with rings. There is a significant and important symbolism concerning a Cup of the Mysteries in Vedic India, but it is not the Cup of the Graal. M. Emile Burnouf in La Vase Sacrée et ce qu’il contient has taken likeness for identity in this manner. He has given a good working account of the Indian Vase sacrée, with which he has a certain acquaintance, and has then gone on to speak of the Great Cup, about which he knows little, as if the second were derived from the first by a movement of mystical wisdom from East to West. But until he can tell us that there was a High Mass celebrated in Vedic India, a consecration of Bread and Wine and a doctrine akin to transubstantiation, his case fails.
The Holy Graal and the Heresies.—There were different pitfalls laid for the unwary by Mrs. Cooper-Oakley, whom I mention because she is likely to be known among theosophical students of Masonry. She reflects from anterior writers and in particular from Eugène Aroux, who himself extended and deepened the dreams of Gabriele Rossetti. Put shortly, the thesis is that the Holy Graal connects by derivation with early Gnostic and Manichaean heresies through later Albigensian heresies. My answer is that these sects or theosophies—however we elect to term them—were not concerned with (a) Passion relics, (b) devotion to the Precious Blood, or (c) a very high doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
The Question of Templar Origin.—Provisionally at least, I must ask my readers to beware also of hypothetical Templar connections. I do not think that the last word has been said on this subject, which remains in suspension awaiting further evidence. I have wanted this evidence badly to interlink certain schools and for possible light on Masonry. The fact that the literature of the Holy Graal grew up with the Holy Order of the Temple, that its canon closed approximately with the suppression of the chivalry, and that the Graal Knighthood in the poem of Wolfram von Eschenbach is rather like the Militia Templi could be taken as points of departure, were further facts forthcoming to illustrate the alleged connection; but they are not evidential by themselves.
Views of Eugène Aroux.—Such was not, however, the opinion of Eugène Aroux, a legatee in hypothesis and reverie of the Italian Gabriele Rossetti. That “anti-papal spirit which preceded the Reformation” was the subject pursued by both, through paths of mediaeval poetry and far paths of romance. In Les Mystères de la Chevalerie et de l’Amour Platonique au Moyen Age, Aroux in particular took all chivalrous romance as his subject and found everywhere the evidence in full of a combat a l’outrance offered by the Albigensian Church; its analogues and connotations, to the Court and Church of Rome. But seeing that in France and Germany the literature of the Holy Graal is part of the literature of chivalry it was turned also to his purpose, was connected with the Knights Templar—who were as much heresy incorporated as were ever the Cathari or Albigenses—while the Templars were a school or sect of Freemasons, and Freemasonry was older at least than the vendetta of Guelphs and Ghibellines. There arose thus in his mind that portentous dream which he denominated La Massenia du Saint-Graal, described as “a mysterious association, the members of which were incorporated to discover that Vase of Truth inscribed with luminous characters, wherein was collected the Precious Blood of the Saviour—in other terms to lead back the Christian Church to the practice of apostolical times and the faithful observance of gospel-precepts.” Alternatively, the Sacred Vessel contained the Celtic Awen, which was water of sacrifice and inspiration.
The Graal and Masonry.—As regards the Massenia it is advanced that the methods of reception and the precautions by which it was protected can be gathered from the procedure obtaining now in Freemasonry, which is nothing but the Massenia continued. There were originally three Grades, presumably and only because there are three in Craft Masonry; but they were extended afterwards to seven, for Aroux remembered the seven Grades of the French Rite; and in fine they were increased to thirty-three, this being the perfect symbolical number of the Ritus Scoticus, Antiquus et Acceptus. The last development commemorated the fusion of Albigenses, Templars and Ghibellines effected by Dante. I confess that I should prefer to regard the great Italian poet as originator and patron of the Scottish Rite, rather than the shallow infidel and over-lord poetaster who was Frederick the Great. But Aroux dwelt at the foot of Mount Impossible in a wilderness of farfadets, and it is taking him much too seriously to say that there is no evidence for his views: there is in truth no sense therein. His scheme of romance-criticism could be applied with equal success to Rookwood and Black Bess, while as regards the literature of the Holy Graal he seems only to have known it at second hand. There is a mystery behind the Graal, but it is not a mystery of heresy, least of all of the Albigensian kind. In fine, Aroux was not a Mason, but I have always regretted that his star of fortune did not lead him to unearth in some forgotten archives that “detached” Grade entitled Chevalier de la Table Ronde which is cited in the mammoth List of Ragon: he would have found wonders therein and we should have heard of more than its name.
Beauty of Graal Literature.—So much in respect of the rumours, and of idle dreams enough. I reach now a conclusion from which none will dissent. There is no romance-literature to compare with that of the Holy Graal. There is no French poem of the period which has a talismanic magic like the Conte del Graal. As a book of romance in pageantry there is no collection of episodes like the High History. And from cover to cover I think that the glory of all the glories is the Book of the Quest of Galahad.
The Holy Lodge
By its own hypothesis, the Art and Mystery of Masonry did not begin, symbolically speaking, with the Masters of the Sacred Lodge, when a King reigned over Israel, but with those of another epoch and another institution, that is to say, a Holy Lodge, about which we know nothing but the names of those who ruled it. It remains an implicit of the Order; and as there is something which, ex hypothesi, follows the Grade in culmination of the Craft series, so there is something which anteceded. It is a root of mystery which has not as yet been penetrated in the world of symbolism. As Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram, the Master-Builder, presided over that department of the Mystery which is represented by the Temple at Jerusalem, so did Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel preside over that Mystery which is commemorated by the promulgation of the Law and the creation of the Tabernacle. Had the old literati who invented this first of all Grand Lodges known the Sepher Ha Zohar in a more intimate sense than was possible from Latin extracts they might have produced something memorable as to this imputed head and fount of all Emblematic Freemasonry. We might have heard perchance of mythical elders in Israel before the Sanhedrim was constituted, of wise men who did not sit down to feast and rise up to play when Moses was hidden in the mystic mount and who were therefore permitted to see the original Tables of Stone before they were broken by the Lawgiver. It would have been for them assuredly a tradition behind tradition, a Masonry behind Masonry, a beginning and term of quest. For the Zohar tells us that these first Tables comprehended the liberation of all, whereas those which were substituted in their place contained the law of prohibition and bondage. So also from the same sources, though not to the same extent, they could have derived eloquent intimations respecting the Second Temple, which might have been woven into their story concerning the Grand or Royal Lodge, concerning Zerubbabel, Prince of the People, and those at work with him.
Certain “moral and elucidatory lectures” were published under the suggestive title of The Spirit of Masonry, in 1775, and were recommended to the consideration of Brethren in the Grand Lodge Proceedings of November 13, 1776. The work was described by Oliver as “the first efficient attempt to explain, in a rational and scientific manner, the true philosophy of the Order.” The author was William Hutchinson, a man of antiquarian pursuits and a virtuoso of his period, who was born in 1732 and died on April 7, 1814.
Woodford’s Panegyric.—There is nothing more excellent than the brief note of Woodford on him whom he terms “the father of Masonic symbolism.” I mean that, it is admirable in spirit and expresses what all men feel with regard to the worth of its subject, “whose head and heart went in unison, whose life was blameless and whose memory is still fondly regarded by Freemasons, wherever the English language is spoken.” To say that a writer who did not enter earthly life till fifteen years after the Grand Lodge was founded can be regarded as the father of Masonic symbolism is of course nonsense: the meaning is that he cast light thereon, and this he did certainly. William Hutchinson was a native of Barnard Castle, Durham. Like Ashmole, he “solicited in Chancery” and like him also he was a great student of the past. I believe that his county histories of Durham, Northumberland and Cumberland are still valuable works of reference. He tried general literature also, including several dramatic pieces and a story in the manner of Walpole’s unforgotten Castle of Otranto. I have unfortunately seen none of these things. Amidst his intellectual pursuits he contrived to be successful in the law, as well as to prolong his life beyond the normal span.
Masonic Activities.—I do not know when or where Hutchinson was made a Mason, but he became and remained the Master of Barnard Castle Lodge for several years, during which period it was his custom to deliver Lectures or Charges; they brought Brethren from considerable distances, and it was in this manner, by a selection from the series, that the Spirit of Masonry came ultimately into being. It was Hutchinson’s one work on the Craft subject, was published in 1775, and five editions in all appeared in the author’s lifetime, not to speak of a German version, belonging to the year 1780. Finally, it was edited and annotated by George Oliver, who was in deep sympathy with its author’s standpoint.
Connected Views of Hutchinson and Ashe.—As it will call to be said at one stage or another I may define my own view from the beginning by stating that Hutchinson’s attempts to discover prehistoric Masonry are to be set aside as definitely as his frantic etymologies. These things are products of his period and have condemned themselves long since. That which remains over is his intimations of Masonry in its Christian aspects, which are memorable as a record of feeling—also at their proper period—and as an indication of the tenor of that time in Masonic circles. (1) The origin of Masonry is not solely from builders, architects or mechanics. When Moses ordained the Sanctuary and Solomon the Temple they selected men enlightened by the true faith to conduct these “works of piety.” We may compare Jonathan Ashe in the Masonic Manual, who extends and underscores the points of Hutchinson by affirming that the Society was never established for the profit of working Architects or Masons, and that these were never its founders in any sense. It originated as a religious, social and charitable establishment, the members acting as builders on two occasions only—under Moses and at the Temple of Jerusalem. (2) Masonic symbols may have been “deduced” from the Assideans, the Essenes and other religious schools of the past, including Druidism. According to Ashe, it had professors before the Flood, while the Noachidae were its Wardens afterwards. From these it descended to the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Masters in Israel. Some of its principles are referable to Pythagoras and also to the Basilidean system of religion. (3) The loss of the Mason’s Word, which is a cardinal allegory of the Emblematic Art, signifies the loss of religious purity through the corruption of the faith in Israel. The “deplorable estate” of religion under the Jewish Law is thus held to be described by Masonry “in figures.” Ashe re-expresses the notion by affirming that the Order is “a positive contradiction to Jewish blindness and infidelity.” As to the direction and nature of that blindness it is indicated by Hutchinson’s explanation of the three Lodge-Luminaries, for they represent three stages of Masonry, otherwise three dispensations of God to man: (a) the Divine knowledge communicated in Eden before the Fall; (b) under the Mosaic Law; and (c) in the Christian revelation—which the Jews rejected. The Lights are also significant of the Holy Trinity, which is a rock of offence in Israel. (4) And now as to the light of Christ and how it is reflected in the Order: The Master Mason represents a man under the influence of Christian revelation, “saved from the grave of iniquity and raised to the faith of salvation.” This view and its literal wording are reproduced by Ashe, and according to both writers all Master Masons bear the emblem of the Trinity; but the reference of Hutchinson is apparently to the Pentagram, having the letter G in its centre, while Ashe is alluding to the rosettes worn on the apron. (5) Hutchinson says that Masonry is founded on the Mysteries of Religion, that the four cardinal virtues are the furniture of the Lodge, and that Prudence—in its union apparently with Fortitude, Temperance and Justice—is comparable to that Star which led the Wise Men to Bethlehem, proclaiming the nativity of the Son of God. Ashe reproduces the same idea when he affirms that the forms of worship in the various and remote ages of the world “are all resolved into the present system of Masonry, which is made perfect by means of Christianity.”
The Secret Tradition.—I have been at the pains of making this summary and contrast to shew how it stood with Masonic hypothesis, respectively in 1785 and 1815, or before and after the Union and long after the Book of Constitutions threw open the portals of the Order to members of the Jewish religion and to Deists. It will be observed and could have been developed further that each thesis certifies to the existence of that Secret Tradition from primitive times on which the old Masonic literati insisted ever and continually: now this claim is everywhere in the cognate literatures and its root is in the secret theosophy of Israel. It has not therefore been invented by Masons: the error of their particular enthusiasm was to identify the tradition with Emblematic Masonry, and this of course is delirium. The onus probandi is on those who affirm that the Speculative Art, understood as “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” was in existence prior to the eighteenth century; and they have never produced their evidence. They have offered in place of it—and as a typical Masonic substitute—the fact that people who were not of the building trade were members of Lodges. But this does not make a speculative out of an operative community; it does not convert a house of craftsmanship into a temple of allegory; it does not give birth to ritual, and more especially to one ritual which reflects the Instituted Mysteries of the ancient world. The Vintners are not vintners; the Haberdashers are not in business with buttons, tapes and cottons; the Leather-sellers know little enough about harness; and finally there is the Honourable Company of Masons, the constituent members of which are no wallers, paviours and plasterers. By the doors long since have the Crafts gone out therefrom, and they have not left their shadows behind in the way of moralisation or ceremonies. We do not therefore term the vintner of that Livery an Emblematic Tavern-Keeper, nor do we speak of Symbolical Saddlers.
Genesis of the Emblematic Order.—That which we call Freemasonry appears on the surface to have followed the course of the City Companies and having been operative through the ages to have ceased gradually therefrom and taken unto itself an organised life after another manner; but this is not really its history: the description applies only to the Company of Masons, which is utterly distinct from the Emblematic Order. It will be seen that we are in the presence of a mystery, and indeed it is literally true to say that our Emblematical Order is in this respect without a parallel in history. History of its own there is next to none available prior to the year 1717. In place of it there is speculation—romantic reverie, invention of every kind. Over and above all there is the fashion of the moment, which is to annex everything in the history of architecture and in that of the building guilds, assuming that in some undemonstrable manner these things belong to our subject and throw light thereon. The best evidence that they do nothing of the kind is ready to our hand in the fact that the antiquities of these subjects exhibit no traces of a craft converted into morality, or veiled in allegory or symbolically illustrated. On the other hand the real antiquities of Speculative Freemasonry are in the secret literatures and in the Instituted Mysteries of the past.
The Christian Elements.—Hutchinson and Ashe did not look at the subject in this manner, and it would not have been possible that they should; but both rejected decisively the origin of Freemasonry among working architects and craftsmen. The fact is worth noting, and so is the thesis which they maintain in common—that the Third Degree is Christian. As it stands before us and is worked now among us, after many processes of editing, it bears the seals of Christianity. At the period of Hutchinson it was possible to say, and he affirmed without contradiction that “the members of our Society at this day, in the third stage of Masonry, confess themselves to be Christians.” At the risk of repetition subsequently we may compare the evidence of Oliver (1) as regards the old Lectures, which said that “God sent His only begotten Son at the appointed time to instruct Israel,” and (2) as regards the Royal Arch, in which the original prayer at Opening concluded with these words: “This we most humbly beg, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.”