Masonic Education: The Angles In The Masonic Square And Compasses

At the Regular Meeting of t. John’s Lodge No. 21 on 9 January 2019, our Education Officer was asked about the correct angles in the Masonic Square & Compasses.

To answer that question for others who may ask in future, here is a diagram explaining the angles in the Square & Compasses:

The angles in the Masonic Square & Compasses.
The angles in the Masonic Square & Compasses.

 

Masonic Education: Albrecht Durer – St. John Devouring The Book

Our Education Officer came across this woodcut print by the German artist Albrecht Durer, circa 1498, depicting St. John Devouring The Book, as described in the Book of Revelation. The print originally appeared circa 1498 in Durer’s book, The Apocalypse.

Albrecht Durer print, St. John Devouring The Book, circa 1498 (Source: Royal Collection Trust)
Albrecht Durer print, St. John Devouring The Book, circa 1498 (Source: Royal Collection Trust)

Here is a short video posted on YouTube by the Clark Art Institute:

Here are some links to more information on Albrecht Durer’s St. John Devouring The Book:

Here are links to more information on Albrecht Durer:

Thanks to Vladimir Sterjovski for putting our Education Officer on to this print.

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MASONIC EDUCATION: JOHN STEINBECK – EAST OF EDEN

MASONIC EDUCATION

At our October 2019 Regular Meeting, our Masonic Education Officer presented a paper on John Steinbeck and themes in his 1952 novel, East Of Eden

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

John Steinbeck’s novel East Of Eden is centered around Genesis, Chapter 4.

Here are some online sources for the full Torah text of Genesis, Chapter 4:

    Here is the Torah text of Genesis, Chapter 4:
  1.    Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, and she said, “I have acquired a man with the Lord.”
    2.    And she continued to bear his brother Abel, and Abel was a shepherd of flocks, and Cain was a tiller of the soil.
    3.    Now it came to pass at the end of days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord.
    4.    And Abel he too brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering.
    5.    But to Cain and to his offering He did not turn, and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell.
    6.    And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen?
    7.    Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it.”
    8.    And Cain spoke to Abel his brother, and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.
    9.     And the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
    10.    And He said, “What have you done? Hark! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth.
    11 And now, you are cursed even more than the ground, which opened its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.
    12.   When you till the soil, it will not continue to give its strength to you; you shall be a wanderer and an exile in the land.”
    13.   And Cain said to the Lord, “Is my iniquity too great to bear?
    14.   Behold You have driven me today off the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from before You, and I will be a wanderer and an exile in the land, and it will be that whoever finds me will kill me.”
    15.  And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be wrought upon him sevenfold,” and the Lord placed a mark on Cain that no one who find him slay him.
    16.  And Cain went forth from before the Lord, and he dwelt in the land of the wanderers, to the east of Eden.Note that the title of John Steinbeck’s novel, East Of Eden, comes from Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 16.

    John Steinbeck’s novel focuses particularly on Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 7 but, before going into that, it is worth noting the implications of Genesis, Chapter 4, Verses 8 and 9:

    8. And Cain spoke to Abel his brother, and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.

    9. And the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

    Cain obviously knew he had killed his brother Abel. So Cain’s denial, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” is clearly a lie. The fact that Cain lies about Abel’s murder implies that he knew what he had done was wrong, which in turn implies the existence of human conscience.After all, at this point in the Bible, God had not said that murder was wrong.

    So Torah scholars interpret this as meaning that, even without a Divine revelation that murder is wrong, human beings have a conscience which is able to determine the difference between right and wrong. This means that free will exists and people can choose to act in a moral manner. Freemasonry emphasizes the exercise of free will.

    But the key verse for John Steinbeck is Verse 7:

    7. Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it.”

    The first sentence is also translated by other Torah scholars as, “Surely, if you do right, there is uplift….”  In other words, doing good (i.e. right) is uplifting….

    The second sentence is also translated in the Torah as, “If you do not do right, sin crouches at the door….”

    This is about living a moral life. Habitually doing good (acting morally) leads to living a moral life and vice versa…i.e. Sin is waiting to take control of behaviour.

    This idea of habitual moral behaviour also appears in Aristotle’s Nichomachian Ethics:

    “We have become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts… It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference….”

    Aristotle (384-322 BC)
    Aristotle (384-322 BC)

    ´Note the connection here to the Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice.

    The idea of habitual moral behaviour also appears in Enlightenment works such as Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations, published in 1776:

    “To become known as an honest merchant, one has to be an honest merchant…..”

    Adam Smith (1723-1790), author of The Wealth Of Nations (1776) and The Theory Of Moral Sentiments (1759)
    Adam Smith (1723-1790), author of The Wealth Of Nations (1776) and The Theory Of Moral Sentiments (1759)

    But the key passage in the Torah translation of Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 7 is:

    “Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it.[Italics added]

    That means that man CAN or MAY rule over sin through free will and, through free will, choose to live a good and moral life.

    ´In East Of Eden, John Steinbeck focuses on Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 7 by having a character called Lee, a Chinese-American man who reads Genesis, Chapter 4 Verse 7 and becomes obsessed with its meaning.

    ´Lee consults the King James version of the Bible, which interprets Genesis, Chapter 4, verse 7 as:

    ´If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. “ [italics added]

    ´This means man SHALL rule over, or conquer, sin.

    Note the key difference between the Torah (Man CAN or MAY conquer sin) and the King James Version (Man SHALL conquer sin).

    ´Lee then looks up Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 7 in the American Standard Bible, which translates it as:

    “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  [italics added]

Lee takes this translation to mean that God is ordering man to MASTER, or conquer, sin.

Note the key differences in these translations and their resulting implications.

The Torah says “CAN or  MAY conquer sin”;

´The King James Version says “SHALL conquer sin”;

´The American Standard Bible says “MUST conquer sin”;

´Faced with these three different interpretations of the same verse, Lee goes to San Francisco, where he consults the wisest sages in the Chinese community about the real meaning of the verse.

´The sages are intrigued and they spend two years studying the problem. They hire rabbis to teach them Hebrew so they can translate the original Hebrew text for themselves.

The sages conclude that the Hebrew word timsholin the Hebrew text means, “you MAY”, thus the passage means man MAY conquer sin, not SHALL or WILL conquer sin. This has significant implications for the idea of free will.

John Steinbeck explains the significance of this, through Lee, as follows:

´“What makes a man [i.e. what distinguishes man from animals]…A cat has no choice; a bee must make honey…[Man has a choice, and] these sixteen verses [of Genesis, Chapter 4] are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race…”

John Steinbeck concludes the novel East Of Eden with the word “timshol”, “you MAY”.

Here are some sources for further reference:

Some biographical documentaries on John Steinbeck;


John Steinbeck quotes:

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MASONIC EDUCATION: ALLEGORY OF THE COMPASSES

PASSIONS, REASON AND THE ALLEGORY OF THE COMPASSES

One of the first lessons taught to newly Initiated Freemasons is the allegorical lesson of the compasses, in which the compasses teach Masons “…to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions in due bounds toward all men, but more especially our Brethren in Freemasonry….”

Our Masonic ritual dates from the 18th century or earlier and today the meaning of the word “passions” is not taken to mean what it meant in the 18th century.

In the 18th century, and in Masonic ritual which originated in the 18th century, the idea of “passions” was connected to the Cardinal Virtue of Temperance.

Temperance is seen as being linked to Reason – and Intemperance to lack of, or absence, of Reason – and is closely connected to keeping “our passions in due bounds” as taught in the allegorical lesson of the compasses.

To get a clearer idea of what 18th century Freemasons thought of the relationship between “passions”, Reason, Temperance and Intemperance, here are some quotes from three 18th century Freemasons:

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish political theorist writer and Freemason.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish political theorist writer and Freemason.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters.”

Here are some links to more information on Edmund Burke:

 

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet, essayist and Freemason
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet, essayist and Freemason

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

“The ruling passion, be what it will,

The ruling passion conquers reason still.”

Here are some links to more information on Alexander Pope:

 

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American icon and Freemason
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American icon and Freemason

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

“When passion rules, it rules badly.”

Here are some links to more information on Benjamin Franklin:

 

 
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MASONIC EDUCATION: SOME SOURCES OF MASONIC RITUAL

In this segment of St. John’s Lodge No. 21 Masonic Education, let’s look at the origins of some segments of Masonic ritual.

First, we two Entered Apprentice Degrees coming up in the District this month so let’s start with some things from the Entered Apprentice Degree, beginning with a small portion of one of the Entered Apprentice lectures.

Part of that lecture refers to “…divest our minds and conscience of all the vices and superfluities of life, better fitting ourselves as living stones for that spiritual Temple, that house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens…..”

Ever wonder where that Living Stones reference came from? It comes from the New Testament, specifically the First Epistle of Peter, 2: 4-9.

Icon of St. Peter
Icon of St. Peter

Here’s how the King James Version puts it:

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking [i.e. “the vices and superfluities of life”]……

To whom coming, as unto a LIVING STONE [emphasis added], disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

Ye also, as lively [i.e. living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God….

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded,

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, [Note: this is translated in later versions as “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and it figures in Scottish Rite and Royal Arch ritual.]

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed, [Note: later translations put this as: “…A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock which makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do…”]

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness and into the light…”

As you can see, this passage contains a lot of imagery and symbolism used in Freemasonry.

2. The Entered Apprentice ritual also contains the phrase, “…that house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens….”

This line is from the New Testament, specifically from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 5:1-2:

Icon of St. Paul
Icon of St. Paul

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling….. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life……”

To put this in some context, here is more of 2 Corinthians, 5:1-2. Note that it is all about God’s Judgement:

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of [God]; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Now let’s move on to the sources of some Masonic ritual from the Fellow Craft Degree:

In the Fellow Craft degree, reference is made to “travelling upon the Level of time, to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller ever returns….” In the same part of the ritual there appears the phrase, “walk uprightly in our several stages of life before God and man….”

The line “….to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller ever returns….” is from Shakespeare and appears in Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1; more specifically, in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be, That is the question…..”

We won’t put the full soliloquy here – it’s far too long – but the portion in which this phrase appears is from lines 1770-75. Here is a link to the full soliloquy from Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1. ”

“……Who would these fardels [i.e. burden, encumbrance] bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns
– puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?…..”

Notice that this section is all about judgement after death.


The reference to several “stages” or “ages” of life also appears in Shakespeare, specifically in the play As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII:

“……………All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages……..”

Here is a link to analysis and explanation of Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages” and a video of the soliloquy below:

Another section of the Fellow Craft Degree contains the line, “Wild beasts of the field and vultures of the air.”

This line comes from Jeremiah 34:20:

“And I will give them into the hand of their enemies fand into the hand of those who seek their lives. gTheir dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.”

It is interesting to look at the context in which this verse appears in the entire Jeremiah 34 Chapter.

Note that Jeremiah 34 is all about the consequences of violating commitments made to God.

God makes a covenant with King Zedekiah requiring the Israelites to free their Hebrew slaves. The Israelites initially comply but then renege of the Covenant and force the freed slaves back into slavery.

God responds to the broken Covenant by punishing the Israelites with conquest by the Babylonians, who take the Israelites into captivity on Babylon.

We will discuss more sources of Masonic ritual in future Masonic Education posts.

MASONIC EDUCATION: FIVE ORDERS OF ARCHITECTURE

The Fellow Craft Degree features the Five Orders of Architecture: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan and Composite.

So the question becomes: Where do the Five Orders of Architecture come from? The answer is that they are laid out in a book published in 1562 called the Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture by a Roman architect named Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola.

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola’s three best known buildings were built between 1550 and 1585:

Here is a link to an online edition of Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola: Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture [note:PDF]

His Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture was first published in Italian in 1562 and was translated into English in 1669.

Vignola’s Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture drew on an earlier work by Sebastiano Serlio, Regole Generali di Architectura (1537) but it was taken primarily from the 10 Books On Architecture by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. Here is a link to Vitruvius’ 10 Books On Architecture [note: PDF]

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola, Canaon Of The Five Orders Of Architecture. Book cover
Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola, Canaon Of The Five Orders Of Architecture. Book cover

Giacomo Vignola’s purpose in studying Vitruvius and other ancient sources was “To draw from thence some Rule to reduce the said five Orders of Architecture under one brief Rule, easy, and which may readily be put into practice….”

His English translator John Leeke (1669) explained that “I have styled him the Regular Architect, because he sets down One General Rule for the principal numbers in all the Five Orders…”

The rule is based on the Module, which is diameter (or half the diameter) of a column at its base. The height of the column must be X times this measurement, varying according to each of the Five Orders.The module measurement is also applied to the base of each column and the Capitol of each column.

Vitruvius specifically mentions the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian orders in Books IV and VII of his 10 Books On Architecture. Here is how Vitruvius describes them: 

DORIC, IONIC and CORINTHIAN ORDERS

Book IV

Vitruvius, The Ten Books On Architecture. Book cover
Vitruvius, The Ten Books On Architecture. Book cover

…..To the forms of their columns are due the names of the three orders, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, of which the Doric was the first to arise, and in early times. For Dorus, the son of Hellen and the nymph Phthia, was king of Achaea and all the Peloponnesus, and he built a fane, which chanced to be of this order, in the precinct of Juno at Ar­golis, a very ancient city, and subsequently others of the same order in the other cities of Achaea, although the rules of sym­metry were not yet in existence.

Later, the Athenians, in obedience to oracles of the Delphic Apollo, and with the general agreement of all Hellas, despatched thirteen colonies at one time to Asia Minor, appointing leaders for each colony and giving the command-in-chief to Ion, son of Xuthus and Creusa….. Ion conducted those col­onies to Asia Minor, took possession of the land of Caria, and there founded the grand cities of Ephesus, Miletus, Myus (long ago engulfed by the water, and its sacred rites and suffrage handed over by the Ionians to the Milesians), Priene, Samos, Teos, Colo­phon, Chius, Erythrae, Phocaea, Clazomenae, Lebedos, and Melite. This Melite, on account of the arrogance of its citizens, was destroyed by the other cities in a war declared by general agreement, and in its place, through the kindness of King Attalus and Arsinoe, the city of the Smyrnaeans was admitted among the Ionians.

Now these cities, after driving out the Carians and Lele­gans, called that part of the world Ionia from their leader Ion, and there they set off precincts for the immortal gods and be­gan to build fanes: first of all, a temple to Panionion Apollo such as they had seen in Achaea, calling it Doric because they had first seen that kind of temple built in the states of the Dorians.

Wishing to set up columns in that temple, but not having rules for their symmetry, and being in search of some way by which they could render them fit to bear a load and also of a satisfactory beauty of appearance, they measured the imprint of a man’s foot and compared this with his height. On finding that, in a man, the foot was one sixth of the height, they applied the same principle to the column, and reared the shaft, including the capital, to a height six times its thickness at its base. Thus the Doric column, as used in buildings, began to exhibit the propor­tions, strength, and beauty of the body of a man.

Just so afterwards, when they desired to construct a temple to Diana in a new style of beauty, they translated these foot­prints into terms characteristic of the slenderness of women, and thus first made a column the thickness of which was only one eighth of its height, so that it might have a taller look. At the foot they substituted the base in place of a shoe; in the capital they placed the volutes, hanging down at the right and left like curly ringlets, and ornamented its front with cymatia and with festoons of fruit arranged in place of hair, while they brought the flutes down the whole shaft, falling like the folds in the robes worn by matrons. Thus in the invention of the two different kinds of columns, they borrowed manly beauty, naked and unadorned, for the one, and for the other the delicacy, adornment, and propor­tions characteristic of women.

It is true that posterity, having made progress in refinement and delicacy of feeling, and finding pleasure in more slender pro­portions, has established seven diameters of the thickness as the height of the Doric column, and nine as that of the Ionic. The Ionians, however, originated the order which is therefore named Ionic.

The third order, called Corinthian, is an imitation of the slen­derness of a maiden; for the outlines and limbs of maidens, being more slender on account of their tender years, admit of prettier effects in the way of adornment.

It is related that the original discovery of this form of cap­ital was as follows. A freeborn maiden of Corinth, just of mar­riageable age, was attacked by an illness and passed away. After her burial, her nurse, collecting a few little things which used to give the girl pleasure while she was alive, put them in a basket, carried it to the tomb, and laid it on top thereof, covering it with a roof-tile so that the things might last longer in the open air. This basket happened to be placed just above the root of an acanthus. The acanthus root, pressed down meanwhile though it was by the weight, when springtime came round put forth leaves and stalks in the middle, and the stalks, growing up along the sides of the basket, and pressed out by the corners of the tile through the compulsion of its weight, were forced to bend into volutes at the outer edges.

Just then Callimachus, whom the Athenians called κατα­τηξίτεχνος for the refinement and delicacy of his artistic work, passed by this tomb and observed the basket with the tender young leaves growing round it. Delighted with the novel style and form, he built some columns after that pattern for the Cor­inthians, determined their symmetrical proportions, and estab­lished from that time forth the rules to be followed in finished works of the Corinthian order….”

Vitruvius then goes into a lengthy technical explanation of the proportions of the Corinthian order which readers can look up in the PDF link above.

TUSCAN ORDER

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola says he takes the Tuscan Order from Vitruvius, Book IV, Chapter 7, which lays out the proportions for Tuscan temples. Note that Vitruvius is simply describing the proportions of Tuscan temples; he does not identify a separate Tuscan Order.

BOOK IV    CHAPTER VII
TUSCAN TEMPLES

1. THE place where the temple is to be built having been divided on its length into six parts, deduct one and let the rest be given to its width. Then let the length be divided into two equal parts, of which let the inner be reserved as space for the cellae, and the part next the front left for the arrangement of the columns.

2. Next let the width be divided into ten parts. Of these, let three on the right and three on the left be given to the smaller cellae, or to the alae if there are to be alae, and the other four devoted to the middle of the temple. Let the space in front of the cellae, in the pronaos, be marked out for columns thus: the corner columns should be placed opposite the antae on the line of the outside walls; the two middle columns, set out on the line of the walls which are between the antae and the middle of the temple; and through the middle, between the antae and the front columns, a second row, arranged on the same lines. Let the thickness of the columns at the bottom be one seventh of their height, their height one third of the width of the temple, and the dimi-nution of a column at the top, one fourth of its thickness at the bottom.

3. The height of their bases should be one half of that thickness. The plinth of their bases should be circular, and in height one half the height of the bases, the torus above it and congé being of the same height as the plinth. The height of the capital is one half the thickness of a column. The abacus has a width equivalent to the thickness of the bottom of a column. Let the height of the capital be divided into three parts, and give one to the plinth (that is, the abacus), the second to the echinus, and the third to the necking with its congé.

4. Upon the columns lay the main beams, fastened together, to a height commensurate with the requirements of the size of the building. These beams fastened together should be laid so as to be equivalent in thickness to the necking at the top of a column, and should be fastened together by means of dowels and dove-tailed tenons in such a way that there shall be a space two fingers broad between them at the fastening. For if they touch one another, and so do not leave airholes and admit draughts of air to blow between them, they get heated and soon begin to rot.

5. Above the beams and walls let the mutules project to a distance equal to one quarter of the height of a column; along the front of them nail casings; above, build the tympanum of the pediment either in masonry or in wood. The pediment with its ridgepole, principal rafters, and purlines are to be built in such a way that the eaves shall be equivalent to one third of the completed roof.”

COMPOSITE ORDER

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola says the Composite Order is simply the Corinthian with different ornamentation. The Fellow Craft lecture says exactly the same.

There are many other sections of Vitruvius’ 10 Books On Architecture which will be of interest to Freemasons but here are a few highlights. 

Vitruvian Man – from a famous drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (see below) is taken from Vitruvius Book III Chapter 1

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, taken from Vitruvius' Ten Books On Architecture, Book III, Chapter 1.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, taken from Vitruvius’ Ten Books On Architecture, Book III, Chapter 1.

“BOOK III – CHAPTER I

ON SYMMETRY: IN TEMPLES AND IN THE HUMAN BODY 

1. The design of a temple depends on symmetry, the princi­ples of which must be most carefully observed by the architect. They are due to proportion, in Greek άναλογία. Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an en­tire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as standard. From this result the principles of symmetry. Without symme­try and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members, as in the case of those of a well shaped man.

2. For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the dis­tance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown.”

CHAPTER V – HOW THE TEMPLE SHOULD FACE

1. THE quarter toward which temples of the immortal gods ought to face is to be determined on the principle that, if there is no reason to hinder and the choice is free, the temple and the statue placed in the cella should face the western quarter of the sky. This will enable those who approach the altar with offerings or sacrifices to face the direction of the sunrise in facing the statue in the temple, and thus those who are undertaking vows look toward the quarter from which the sun comes forth, and likewise the statues themselves appear to be coming forth out of the east to look upon them as they pray and sacrifice.

2. But if the nature of the site is such as to forbid this, then the principle of determining the quarter should be changed, so that the widest possible view of the city may be had from the sanctuaries of the gods. Furthermore, temples that are to be built beside rivers, as in Egypt on both sides of the Nile, ought, as it seems, to face the river banks. Similarly, houses of the gods on the sides of public roads should be arranged so that the passers-by can have a view of them and pay their devotions face to face.

CHAPTER IX – ALTARS

ALTARS should face the east, and should always be placed on a lower level than are the statues in the temples, so that those who are praying and sacrificing may look upwards towards the divinity. They are of different heights, being each regulated so as to be appropriate to its own god. Their heights are to be adjusted thus: for Jupiter and all the celestials, let them be constructed as high as possible; for Vesta and Mother Earth, let them be built low. In accordance with these rules will altars be adjusted when one is preparing his plans.”

THE EDUCATION OF AN ARCHITECT

Given what we looked at in earlier discussion of the Liberal Arts and in Freemasonry’s emphasis on lifelong education and the acquisition of knowledge, it is interesting to examine what Vitruvius says about the education of an Architect.

Book 1

The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test…..

It follows, therefore, that architects who have aimed at acquiring manual skill without scholarship have never been able to reach a position of authority to correspond to their pains, while those who relied only upon theories and scholarship were obviously hunting the shadow, not the substance. But those who have a thorough knowledge of both, like men armed at all points, have the sooner attained their object and carried authority with them…..

He ought, therefore, to be both naturally gifted and amenable to instruction. Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist. Let him be educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens.

The reasons for all this are as follows. An architect ought to be an educated man so as to leave a more lasting remembrance in his treatises. Secondly, he must have a knowledge of drawing so that he can readily make sketches to show the appearance of the work which he proposes.

Geometry, also, is of much assistance in architecture, and in particular it teaches us the use of the rule and compasses, by which especially we acquire readiness in making plans for buildings in their grounds, and rightly apply the square, the level, and the plummet.

By means of optics, again, the light in buildings can be drawn from fixed quarters of the sky. It is true that it is by arithmetic that the total cost of buildings is calculated and measurements are computed, but difficult questions involving symmetry are solved by means of geometrical theories and methods.

A wide knowledge of history is requisite because, among the ornamental parts of an architect’s design for a work, there are many the underlying idea of whose employment he should be able to explain to inquirers….

[Note: an explanation follows about the need to explain the history of figures depicted in decorative statues on buildings]

As for philosophy, it makes an architect high-minded and not self-assuming, but rather renders him courteous, just, and honest without avariciousness. This is very important, for no work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility. Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with the idea of receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by cherishing a good reputation. These are among the precepts of philosophy. Furthermore philosophy treats of physics (in Greek φυσιολογία) where a more careful knowledge is required because the problems which come under this head are numerous and of very different kinds…….

Music, also, the architect ought to understand so that he may have knowledge of the canonical and mathematical theory, and besides be able to tune ballistae, catapultae, and scorpiones to the proper key. For to the right and left in the beams are the holes in the frames through which the strings of twisted sinew are stretched by means of windlasses and bars, and these strings must not be clamped and made fast until they give the same correct note to the ear of the skilled workman. For the arms thrust through those stretched strings must, on being let go, strike their blow together at the same moment; but if they are not in unison, they will prevent the course of projectiles from being straight.

[Note: acoustics] In theatres, likewise, there are the bronze vessels (in Greek ἠχεῖα) which are placed in niches under the seats in accordance with the musical intervals on mathematical principles. These vessels are arranged with a view to musical concords or harmony, and apportioned in the compass of the fourth, the fifth, and the octave, and so on up to the double octave, in such a way that when the voice of an actor falls in unison with any of them its power is increased, and it reaches the ears of the audience with greater clearness and sweetness. Water organs, too, and the other instruments which resemble them cannot be made by one who is without the principles of music.

The architect should also have a knowledge of the study of medicine on account of the questions of climates (in Greek κλίματα), air, the healthiness and unhealthiness of sites, and the use of different waters. For without these considerations, the healthiness of a dwelling cannot be assured.

And as for principles of law, he should know those which are necessary in the case of buildings having party walls, with regard to water dripping from the eaves, and also the laws about drains, windows, and water supply. And other things of this sort should be known to architects, so that, before they begin upon buildings, they may be careful not to leave disputed points for the householders to settle after the works are finished, and so that in drawing up contracts the interests of both employer and contractor may be wisely safe-guarded. For if a contract is skilfully drawn, each may obtain a release from the other without disadvantage.

From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.

Consequently, since this study is so vast in extent, embellished and enriched as it is with many different kinds of learning, I think that men have no right to profess themselves architects hastily, without having climbed from boyhood the steps of these studies and thus, nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences, having reached the heights of the holy ground of architecture.”

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Holocaust Memorial Day – 27 January 2019

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and it is fitting that we remember all who died in the Holocaust, including the Freemasons who were specifically targeted by the Nazis.

In Nazi controlled areas, Freemasons were made to wear a Red Triangle on their clothing. Many of our Masonic Brethren died in Nazi concentration camps.

Here is a 1959 paper on Freemasons and the Holocaust, reproduced here with the permission of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland. We will go through it and gradually add links to names for readers’ benefit.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY – 27 JANUARY ANNUALLY

[It is fitting that on this day we reproduce an erudite, if lengthy, paper of the persecution of Freemasons by the Nazis before and during WWII

We do so to once again place evidence of the victimisation of Freemasons by the Nazis in the public domain in the fervent hope that it will not, once again, slip from the public consciousness – Ed.]

 

A STUDY IN NAZI PERSECUTION

W. Irvine Wiest

A Paper Read at the Fifteenth Annual Consistory of the Society of Blue Friars

Washington, D.C., 22nd February 1959.

Reproduced by kind permission of that Society

PART 1

Book cover - The Red Triangle: A Brief History of Anti-Masonry
Book cover – The Red Triangle: A Brief History of Anti-Masonry

All Masons everywhere know of the persecution of their brethren in Europe and the spoliation of their property by the Nazi Party and the German Reich before and during World War II. But it may come as a surprise to many that the Nazi treatment of Freemasons and Freemasonry had a part to play in the trial and conviction of Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher and the other infamous members of the Nazi hierarchy by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. This, of course, does not mean that they were tried and convicted solely because of their persecution of Freemasonry. The indictment contained four counts, namely, (1) that the defendants had engaged in a common plan or conspiracy (2) to commit crimes against peace, (3) war crimes, and (4) crimes against humanity. The third count, that of committing war crimes, had ten subdivisions, in the fifth of which the plunder of public and private property was treated as being in the same category as the murder and ill treatment of civilian populations, the utilization of slave labor, the killing of hostages and the like. It was under this count that most of the evidence of the persecution of Masonic lodges was admitted in evidence.

In 1946 and 1947 the United States Government printing office published a set of books in a limited edition, which has now become a collector’s item. It is entitled Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression and was prepared by the Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. It ran to eight volumes plus two supplements, and an additional volume containing the judgment and sentence of the tribunal. In addition to that and to the charter under which the tribunal was set up, it contains the indictment under which the defendants were tried, the arguments of the prosecuting and defence counsel, the statements made by the defendants on their own behalf and the prosecution’s trial brief. By far the largest portion of the trial brief consists of translations of captured documents found in the private and official files of many of the defendants and of the organizations they headed. All the material in this paper is to be found in these documents, or, in one instance, in the pre-trial examination of Alfred Rosenberg, and, in another, in a letter written by von Ribbentrop after his capture.

The Nazi persecution of Freemasons and Freemasonry has been ably reported by a Committee of the Masonic Service Association, which went to Europe in the summer of 1945, shortly after the collapse of Germany, for the purpose of investigating the “condition of Masonry in the devastated countries of Europe.” It was composed by Ray V. Denslow, editor of The Royal Arch Mason, Past Grand Master of Missouri, and at that time the General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, chairman; Hon. George E. Bushnell, now the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, but at that time Lieutenant-Commander of the Rite and Chairman of the Committee on Jurisprudence of the Grand Lodge of Michigan; Charles H. Johnson, Past Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York; and Claude J. McAllister, Past Grand Master of Montana and Fraternal Correspondent and Historian of the Grand Lodge of Montana.

In the report the committee made upon its return, it told of the persecution of individual Freemasons, the pillaging of lodges and the destruction of many of their temples. It is no part of the purpose of this paper to review that report, for it has been widely publicized among the craft. But I do want to use one quotation from the report in order to show that the documentary evidence used in the trials confirms the committee’s statement, and in order that the reader may more easily understand certain things which appear in the documents.

After a general review of the manner in which the persecution started, including Hitler’s views as expressed in Mein Kampf, the committee said: “Then [Hitler] began to associate Freemasonry with the Jews in such a way that the reader might take it for granted that all Freemasons were Jews and all Jews were Freemasons.” In reviewing the documents, which probably were unknown to the committee at the time of their report, we shall see the words “Jews” and “Freemasons” in juxtaposition in nearly every instance.

The Nazis were obsessed with the idea that Freemasons were their enemies, so much so that they used many arms of the party and state to bring discredit to the Craft, death to many of its members and irreparable loss to many, if not most, of its lodges. The Gestapo [Secret Police], the SA [Storm Troopers], the SS [Blackshirts], the members of the armed forces, and even the foreign office were used.

Mr Justice Robert Jackson, chief of the United States’ prosecution staff, said in his argument before the court: “In connection with the persecution of the Jews, the SA again performed its propaganda function. It was the function of the SA to create and foster among the people an anti-Jewish spirit. Evidence of this function is to be found in the issues of Der SA-Mann. Article after article in this publication was devoted to propaganda designed to engender hatred toward the Jewish race. The nature of these articles is apparent from some of the titles (including an) article entitled `Jews and Freemasons,’ 13 January 1939, p. 15.”

Again, later in his argument, Mr Justice Jackson told the court: “The headquarters organizations of Gestapo was set up on a functional basis. In 1943 it contained five subsections, one of which (Section B) dealt with political churches, sects and Jews and was subdivided as follows:

  • “B 1. Political Catholicism;
  • “B 2. Political Protestantism sects;
  • “B 3. Other churches, Freemasonry;
  • “B 4. Jewish affairs, matters of evacuation, means of suppressing enemies of the people and state, dispossession of rights of German citizenship.”

Mr Justice Jackson could have told the court of other articles in Der SA-Mann, such as “The World Polyp of Freemasonry: A Dangerous Enemy Must Be Made Powerless,” 23 February 1935, page 2; “Revolts and Disturbances — The Work of the Freemasons,” 28 March 1936, page 11; “5 Million Freemasons — A World Threat,” 5 March 1938, page 6.The Organization Book of the NSDAP [Nazi Party] at page 413 was found to contain the following: “Bravery is valued by the SS men as the highest virtue of men in a struggle for his ideology. He openly and unrelentingly fights the most dangerous enemies of the state: Jews, Freemasons, Jesuits and political clergymen.”The armed forces were subjected to the propaganda that Freemasonry had to be counted as one of their enemies. One document entitled “The Bearer of Arms — Political Soldier,” dated June 6, 1939, contained a draft of a speech for the opening of a training course for commanders in Munich. The draft, or outline, is partially as follows:

“The next war will be the struggle for the victory of our ideology.

“Democracies led by Jews and Freemasons against Totalitarian States.

“At the end of such a war there must be a clear decision — no compromise solution.

“It is therefore a matter of existence or non-existence.”

In January 1939, a letter was addressed to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to all senior Reich authorities and the NSDAP Bureau for Foreign Affairs as follows: “Enclosed please find for your attention a circular which has been sent to the German authorities abroad on the subject of `The Jewish Question as a factor in German foreign policy for the year 1939.'”

The circular read partly as follows: “In North America, in South America, in France, in Holland, Scandinavia, Greece, everywhere, wherever the flood of Jewish immigration reaches, there is today already a visible increase in anti-Semitism. A task of the German foreign policy must be to further this wave of anti-Semitism. Salonika reported on 30 November 1938 `That forces are at work to stir up hate against the Jews’ and that at the same time Greek Freemasonry is endeavouring to stem the anti-Semitic movement.”

Another foreign office document is a secret letter mailed 8 April 1944, to all the representatives of the office in Europe. It dealt with the establishment of an organization whose purpose was to deepen and strengthen anti-Jewish information in foreign countries. Included are the minutes of a work conference by the consultants on Jewish questions of the Jewish missions in Europe, held at Krummhuebel, 3 and 4 April 1944. The letter contains the following paragraph: “Prof. Mahr suggests that duplicates of handbooks and reference books be obtained and sent to Krummhuebel for the projected archives. He recommends, further, the addition of lists of Freemasons of high degree, journalists, writers and businessmen who had Jewish relatives.

Among the documents used by the prosecution was an article in the Voelkischer Beobachter for 28 August 1939, reporting a speech by Rudolph Hess. The heading and part of the article are as follows:

“RUDOLPH HESS ANSWERS CHAMBERLAIN.

We stand by the Fuehrer’s banner, come what will.

The Fuehrer’s deputy again gives proof of England’s responsibility.

Graz, August 25th.

“The 7th Reich session of `Germans Abroad,’ as already reported in another section of this issue, was opened in Graz on Friday evening with a great demonstration on the Trabrennplatz (racecourse). A culminating point in the proceedings which took place with strong support from the population of Graz was a speech by the Fuehrer’s deputy, Reich Minister Rudolph Hess.

(Among other things he said):

“Jews and Freemasons want a war against this hated Germany, against the Germany in which they have lost their power.”

A secret report issued in June 1939 by the Reichsfuehrer of the Chief of the Reichs Security Main Office dealt with the seizure of the leading men of the System Era. According to the report, a total of 553 men were seized. An analysis made by the author of the report showed that of that number, 58 or 10 per cent were Jews and 45 or 9 per cent were Freemasons.

It is therefore clear that Jews and Freemasons were almost always treated in the same manner by the Nazis. They scarcely ever mention one without naming the other in the same breath. No wonder their persecution of the Craft led to such dreadful results for Freemasons, for the whole world knows how they treated the Jews.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, on 14 July 1939, wrote a letter addressed to the General Field Marshal from Vienna. He said: “If I may add something about myself, it is the following: I know that I am not of an active fighting nature, unless final decisions are at stake. At this time of pronounced activism this will certainly be regarded as a fault in my personality. Yet, I know that I cling with unconquerable tenacity to the goal in which I believe. That is Greater Germany and the Fuehrer. And if some people are already tired out from the struggle and some have been killed in the fight, I am still around somewhere and ready to go into action. I told myself in July 1934 that we must fight the clerical regime on its own ground in order to give the Fuehrer a chance to use whatever method he desires. I told myself that Austria was worth a mass. I have stuck to this attitude with an iron determination because I and my friends had to fight against the whole political church, Freemasonry, Jewry, in short, against everything in Austria. The slightest weakness which we might have displayed would undoubtedly have led to our political annihilation; it would have deprived the Fuehrer of the means and tools to carry out his ingenious political solution for Austria.”

This is the same man in whose personal files were found a memorandum of a meeting held 28 December 1918, which seems to show that he was not above imitating the secrecy and degree system of Freemasonry at the same time he was fighting the craft. The memorandum is as follows:

“Place: Vienna I. Am Hof 5

“Present: The Organizers

“After full discussion of the available drafts those present agreed to immediately take in hand the constitution of the planned organization.

“The name chosen is `Deutsche Gemeinschaft’ (German Association).

“The present are in agreement regarding the following principles of the organization.

  • “1. The aim of the organization is to liberate the German people from Jewish influences (written in: i.e., to fight Judaism with all available means).
  • “2. The organization is to be secret….
  • “3. The association is split up into several degrees, of which the lower ones are subordinate to the higher ones….
  • “4. Provides for local sub-associations (lodges?).
  • “5. As members can only be accepted such people who are Germans, not Freemasons, and who are of Aryan descent and are not married to a Jewess … and who make a vow the wording of which is to be determined.”

Only one of the defendants, Joachim von Ribbentrop, ever appeared to make any denial of personal responsibility for, and to assert his opposition to, the Nazi persecution of Freemasonry, and that was after he was captured; and he placed his opposition to the persecution on the ground that it made his work harder as Foreign Minister of the German Reich. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Churchill and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, which he enclosed in a letter to Field Marshal Montgomery with the request that it be forwarded to him, he wrote: “The German foreign policy was in every phase directed by the Fuehrer himself. Its execution was my task. After my appointment as head of the German Foreign Office I have considered it my business to help the Fuehrer in attaining the justified German claims in Europe — as laid down by Hitler — and this by diplomatic means. But at the same time I have considered it just as important to help to adjust the dynamics in the National Socialist doctrine and its principles of world conception (Weltauffassung) with the necessities and possibilities of foreign politics. My work was accordingly concentrated on the following, or better, on the double aim:

“(a) Concentration of the greater part of the Germans in Europe within the Reich and limitation of the German foreign policy, to the fulfilment of this aim; and

“(b) Evolution of the principles of world perception (Weltauffassung) of the party in such a way that the existence or carrying through of such principles would not endanger or even make impossible the peaceful living together and collaboration of Germany with other nations. This had to do especially with the question of toleration or better adjustment in matters of the churches, in the Jewish question, the question of communism, Freemasonry, etc., for which I have always pleaded in my verbal reports, memorandums, etc. ….

“I have been a patriot all my life. I have placed myself at the disposal of Adolph Hitler in the desire to help him save our country from ruin in 1933 and to build up a strong and united Germany in Europe and simultaneously to attain the English-German alliance without war…. I always was an opponent to the radical party programme. I have always opposed the policy against the Jews, churches, Freemasons, etc., which I considered in principle a fault and which has caused considerable difficulties in foreign politics.”

PART 2

The looting of Masonic lodges and the confiscation of their libraries and archives was the special task of the defendant Alfred Rosenberg.

Early in 1940, Hitler made plans for the creation of a research centre for the Nazi party and the German Reich which was to become a place where the Nazis could study the writings and methods of their enemies, in order that they might better combat them in the future. It was to be called the Hohe Schule. On January 29 of that year he issued a decree in the following terms: “The Hohe Schule is supposed to become the centre for National Socialistic ideological and educational research. It will be established after the conclusion of the War. I order that the already initiated preparations be continued by Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg, especially in the way of research and the setting up of the library. All sections of party and state are requested to cooperate with him in this task.”

The prosecution’s trial brief states that what began as a project for the establishment of a research library developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures.

The order of 29 January 1940, was implemented by further orders, issued by the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. On 17 September 1940, the Chief of the Army High Command for the Military Administration in Occupied France received an order notifying him that Hitler had authorized Rosenberg to search lodges, libraries and archives in the west for material valuable to Germany, and to safeguard them through the Gestapo. He also had the authority to transport such material as might appear valuable to him to Germany and to safeguard them there. Less than a month later, similar notification was directed to be given the Military Administration in Belgium, and by 30 October 1940, Rosenberg’s activities were extended to the Netherlands, and later to Norway and Denmark.

To carry out his duties, Rosenberg set up a special purpose staff known as the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, and sent his representatives into the occupied countries to search lodges, libraries, and archives for material to be transported to Germany for use in the Hohe Schule. In this he had plenty of help. Goering got into the act on 1 May 1941, when he issued an order in which, after declaring that “the battle against Jews, Freemasons and other affiliated forces or opposite `Weltanschauung’ is a foremost task of National Socialism during the war,” continued as follows: “I therefore welcome the decision of the Reichsleiter Rosenberg to form staffs in all occupied territories for the purpose of safeguarding all research material and cultural goods of the above-mentioned groups, and transporting them to Germany. All party, state, and Wehrmacht Services are therefore requested to give all possible support and assistance to the Chief of Staff of Reichsleiter Rosenberg’s staffs, Reichshauptstellenleiter Party Comrade Utikal, and his deputy DRK-Feldfuehrer Party Comrade vom Beer, in the discharge of their duties. The above-mentioned persons are requested to report to us on their work, particularly on any difficulties that might arise.”

On 1 March 1942, Hitler issued from his Fuehrer’s Headquarters a decree which was directed to all Bureaus of the Armed Forces, the party and the state, which was as follows: “Jews, Freemasons and the ideological enemies of National Socialism who are allied with them are the originators of the present war against the Reich. Spiritual struggle according to plan against these powers is a measure necessitated by war. I have therefore ordered Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg to accomplish this task in cooperation with the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces. To accomplish this task, his Einsatzstab for the right (sic) occupation territories has the right to explore libraries, archives, lodges and other ideological and cultural establishments of all kinds for suitable material, and to contribute such material for the ideological tasks of the NSDAP and for scientific research work by the university (Hohe Schule).”

This decree was implemented on 5 July 1942, by a notice issued from the Reich Chancellory, where Hitler then had his headquarters, addressed to “The Highest Authorities of the Reich and to all departments directly subordinate to the Fuehrer,” in the following language: “The Fuehrer has charged Reichsleader Rosenberg in his capacity as delegate of the Fuehrer with the supervision of the entire spiritual and political education and schooling of the NSDAP, with the spiritual fight against the Jews and Freemasons as well as against all allied with them in their doctrinal opposition to National Socialism, as the instigators of the present war. For this purpose the Fuehrer has ordered that the staff of the Reichsleader Rosenberg shall have the right, in occupied territories under military government and in occupied Eastern territories under civil administration (this does not include the General Government) to search libraries, archives, lodges and all other political and cultural institutions of all kinds for suitable material for the fulfilment of his task, and to ask the competent army and police officers to confiscate the material thus procured for the world doctrinal tasks of the NSDAP, and for later scientific research work of the university, whereby the police political files will remain with the police, all other documents, however, to be turned over to the staff of Reichsleader Rosenberg….” A copy of the decree of 1 March 1942 was attached to the notice.

So much importance was attached to the material the Einsatzstab Rosenberg was collecting that on 10 August 1942, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces issued an order to the effect that it was to be treated like armed forces goods. Apparently they were given priority in transportation, and were as well guarded as war material.

It will thus be seen that the assistance of every party, state and armed forces organization in Germany was enlisted in the task of confiscating Masonic property. How well they carried out this task is well known from the reports of destruction or desecration of Masonic Temples throughout Western Europe. Two official reports are included in the documents discovered and used by the prosecution staff. One of them, undated, tells of the activities of the Einsatzstab in the Netherlands and the results it achieved, in the following language:

“The Working group Netherland of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg began its work in agreement with the competent representative of the Reichskommisar during the first days of September 1940. The execution of the past (sic), conforming with the Fuehrer’s orders, coordinated itself with the liquidation, that is, confiscation, according to civil law, of the various subversive institutions…. The screening of the material of the various Masonic lodges was taken care of primarily, and the library and the archives of the following lodges were sifted and all useful material was packed.

“Groot Oosten der Nederlands”

[There follow the names and locations of thirty-one Lodges in the Netherlands.]

Included in the report are also the names of ten lodges of the Droit Humain, a pseudo-Masonic body, in Amsterdam and The Hague, 35 lodges of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and 15 Rotary Clubs. To continue with the document:

“All together 470 cases combining material from the here mentioned lodges and from organizations of a similar status were packed and transported to Germany. Furthermore, everything the temple of the lodge in Nijmegen and the temple of the I.O.O.F. in Haarlem contained, was sent to Germany. Also, steel shelves for about 30,000 books were taken from the building belonging to the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag where they have so far been for the Bibliotheka Klossiana, containing parts of one library of the Grooten Oosten and the library of the Vrijmetseler Stichting. Amsterdam, are of great value. And so are the archives of the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag, containing all the historical documents of the lodges affiliated with the Grooten Oosten.

“To estimate the value of the Bibliotheke Klossiana, containing many rare pieces, it is to be remembered that in 1930 the Grooten Oosten der Nederlands, was offered $5,000,000 for the Bibliotheka Klossiana by Freemasons in the United States.

“A particularly valuable discovery was made by the working group searching the altars in the building of the Grooten Oosten in Den Haag. The Master Hammer of the Grooten Oosten, made of pure gold, with which some of its members had presented to the Grooten Oosten on its 60th anniversary, fell into our hands. It is a piece of high quality whose money value alone is estimated to be 3,000 Reichsmark….

“It is safe to say that the racks of books confiscated, packed and so far sent to Germany by the Working Group are of extraordinary scientific value and shall contribute an integral part of the library of the `Hohe Schule.’ The money value of these libraries, as shown in the case of the Klossiana, can only be estimated, but surely amount to 30 – 40,000,000 Reichsmarks….

“The temple and the museum of the Grooten Oosten der Nederlande. At present, both are needed for exhibitions on behalf of the Dienststelle of the Reichskommisar. With the end of the exhibition, temple furnishings and museum shall be turned over to us…. It is safe to say that the library of the Hohe Schule itself, with very little effort, receive an extraordinary amount of treasures which shall give it a unique position in the realm of questions regarding Judaism and Freemasonism.”

The other report is dated at Paris 8 August 1944. It is a progress report, with no details given. It is as follows: “The fight against Jews, Freemasons and the forces allied to them or otherwise ideologically opposed to us, has always been a most urgent task of National Socialism, especially during the war which has been forced upon us. In order to secure, within the areas occupied by Germany, all research material and the cultural effects of the groups indicated, and to dispatch them to Germany, the Fuehrer at the suggestion of Reichsleiter Rosenberg has ordered that libraries, archives, lodges and other ideological and cultural institutions of all kinds be searched for appropriate material, and that this be secured for the ideological instruction of the National Socialist Party.”

What were Rosenberg’s special qualifications for the persecution of Freemasonry? They appear in the documents assembled by the prosecution. He was the man who in 1930 wrote “The idea of honour — national honour — will be for us the beginning and end of all our thoughts and deeds. It does not permit besides itself any other equivalent centre of power, be it of whatever kind, neither Christian love, nor the humanity of the Freemasons, nor the Roman philosophy.”

Rosenberg was high in the Nazi party. He was one of 16 Reichsleiters who composed the party directorate. He was Hitler’s delegate for the supervision of the ideological education of the NSDAP movement. The German Leader Lexicon (Das Deutsche Fuehrerlexicon) for 1934-1935, listed, among his other accomplishments, the authorship of 16 publications, of which it stressed his book, The World Policy of Freemasonry. He had therefore set himself up as an authority on Masonry. But listen to his testimony during a pre-trial examination taken 25 September 1945, at Nuremberg:

“Q. Do you recall any further correspondence with Bormann regarding the acquisition of materials from libraries and archives?

“A. It is possible that I did correspond with the man, but I don’t remember it.

“Q. As a matter of fact, with reference to the statement that you have just made regarding private property, you wrote to Bormann on 1 July 1940 along that line, did you not?

“A. I can’t remember that.

“Q. Didn’t you set forth some theory, by which it could be justified, in the case of the French Masonic lodges?

“A. We had assumed that those great Masonic lodges in Paris had carried on an anti-German policy for years. I, as a matter of course, wanted to find out from the libraries whether I could find confirmation or otherwise of the opinion which we had been holding on that subject.”

In other words, here is the expert on Freemasonry, who wrote a book on its world policy, admitting he knew nothing about it, and that his activities in plundering lodge libraries and archives was for the purpose of learning whether perchance the charges he had hurled at the institution might possibly be correct. To continue with his testimony:

“Q. You advocated a confiscation of three libraries, didn’t you?

“A. Yes; a confiscation of such libraries.

“Q. What was the principle on which you believed it justifiable to confiscate those libraries?

“A. I didn’t consider that as an ordinary private French property, but as the property of an organization into the activity of which I wanted to go.

“Q. What was the basis on which you made this differentiation between property of this organization and any other private property?

“A. I told myself that actually it was a fighting organization, directed for some time against the German Reich.

“Q. In other words, you convinced yourself that it was all right, is that it?

“A. It so happened that same material was of interest to the police, and had been confiscated by the police. I only got hold of such material as was necessary for my research, to get the precise nature of their activities.

“Q. The fact of the matter is, is it not, that at least some of the materials in these Masonic lodges’ libraries was confiscated for your purposes?

“A. Yes….

“Q. In fact, were the available books and the historical archives of the Paris Masonic lodges given to the Hohe Schule?

“A. They arrived at Frankfurt and we set them up separately with other libraries. On account of the air raids, those libraries had been transferred to Schloss-Hungen…. It is possible that on account of the transportation, those libraries are no longer in the state in which I had them set up….

“Q. What was the mission you had received from the Fuehrer?

“A. I received the mission to confiscate Jewish and other libraries, which were to be considered as hostile and for a purpose of scientific research. In conjunction therewith I also received the mission to safeguard the works of art, which had been left in the houses and castles.

“Q. Did you establish an organization to carry out this mission?

“A. There was in Paris a representation of this Einsatzstab. They visited the various organizations and the various castles where those works of art existed. There a brief outline of them was made. They were packed up and forwarded to Germany. All things concerned with the Freemasons and Jews were forwarded to Frankfort-am-Main….

“Q. What did you have at the Hohe Schule?

“A. At the Hohe Schule I had all the works concerning the question of Jews and Freemasons. The other books not dealing with either the Jews or Freemasonry, but also of scientific value, were transferred to the library of the Hohe Schule at Tanzenberg near Klagenfurth.”
In view of such evidence it is no wonder that the International Military Tribunal, in its opinion and judgment, has the following to say with regard to Rosenberg and his Einsatzstab: “The defendant Rosenberg was designated by Hitler, on the 29th January 1940, head of the Centre for National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, and thereafter the organization known as the `Einsatzstab Rosenberg’ conducted its operations on a very great scale. Originally designed for the establishment of a research library, it developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. On the 1st March 1942, Hitler issued a further decree, authorizing Rosenberg to search libraries, lodges and cultural establishments, to seize material from these establishments, as well as cultural treasures, owned by Jews…. In many of the occupied countries, private collections were robbed, libraries were plundered, and private houses were pillaged.”

Mr Justice Jackson, in his opening address for the United States, said: “We will not ask you to convict these men on the testimony of their foes. There is no count of the indictment that cannot be proved by books and records. The Germans were always meticulous record keepers, and these defendants had their share of the Teutonic passion for thoroughness in putting things on paper.”

The reader may judge for himself whether Mr Justice Jackson kept his promise. The documents shriek the defendant’s guilt.

The author of the outline of the speech for the opening of the Munich training course for commandoes was absolutely correct when he said “it is therefore a matter of existence or non-existence,” although it is most likely he never dreamed for one minute that once the smoke of battle had cleared away it would be the persecutors of Freemasonry who would be non-existent. Freemasonry exists, and will continue to exist, so long as there are men of good will who believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of men.

 

Reproduced here with the permission of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland.

THE SEVEN LIBERAL ARTS

Masonic Education

In Freemasonry, the Fellow Craft Degree introduces the Seven Liberal Arts but does not delve into the idea in great detail.

So here is a more in depth discussion of the Seven Liberal Arts and their importance in Western philosophy and education.

The Seven Liberal Arts are at the core of Western philosophy and education. They formed the basis of Western higher education from at least the late Roman period. In their present form, they can be traced with certainly to Boethius (circa 480-524/525) and undoubtedly go back much farther.

The earliest known use of the phrase “liberal arts” was by Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) who used it in his first handbook for orators, De Inventione.

But the first real classification of the Seven Liberal Arts appears in Martianus Capella (circa 400-439) and his Marriage of Mercury and Philosophy, which lists the seven liberal arts as: Grammar, Dialectic (i.e. Logic), Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy and Harmony (i.e. Music).

By the time of Boethius (circa 480-524/525) the Seven Liberal Arts had been sub divided into the Quadrivium, consisting of the four scientific arts: Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy and Music.

By the 9th century the three remaining Liberal Arts, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric, has been combined into the Trivium.

In Medieval Western higher education, the Trivium was taught first, the idea being that the student had to learn to communicate and to reason before studying the more scientific subjects in the Quadrivium.

Medieval depiction of the Quadrivium: Arithmetic (top left), Geometry (top right), Music (bottom left), Astronomy (bottom right)
Medieval depiction of the Quadrivium: Arithmetic (top left), Geometry (top right), Music (bottom left), Astronomy (bottom right)

The Quadrivium is said to have originated with Pythagorus (circa 500 BCE) and the idea of a core of mathematical knowledge, transmitted through educational curriculum, as being essential for understanding the universe was definitely mentioned in Plato’s Republic (circa 380 BC).

But is wasn’t until the time of  Boethius (circa 480-524/525) that the Seven Liberal Arts were sub divided into the Quadrivium, consisting of the four scientific arts: Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy and Music.

Freemasonry makes Geometry the preeminent science of the Quadrivium. The Fellow Craft lecture emphasizes Geometry as the science through which nature and the universe can be understood and through which the intentions of the Creator can be inferred.

Geometry, says the Fellow Craft lecture, can be used to study and understand Astronomy and other sciences. It leads to the creation of order, through which societies and civilizations can arise.

Here is a Freemason from Mississippi discussing the Seven Liberal Arts on his YouTube channel:

Here is his discussion of Geometry, which is preeminent among the Seven Liberal Arts and which also features in the Fellow Craft Degree:

Here is his examination of the Winding Stairs lecture’ in which the Seven Liberal Arts are emphasized:

Resources For Further Study

Plato

Cicero

Boethius

Trivium / Quadrivium

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Masonic Education – The Four Cardinal Virtues

Masonic Education
The Four Cardinal Virtues

Although the Four Cardinal Virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice – figure prominently in the Entered Apprentice Lecture, the lecture itself does not go into any detail about their significance or give much explanation of their importance. This post is intended to provide some additional information about the Four Cardinal Virtues. [note: this post is based on a presentation at our December 2018 Regular Meeting by our St. John’s Lodge No. 21 Education Officer]

The Four Cardinal Virtues are deeply rooted in Western philosophy. A stained glass representation appears below.

The Four Cardinal Virtues depicted in stained glass.
The Four Cardinal Virtues depicted in stained glass.

The figure below shows the Four Cardinal Virtues as they are presented on stained glass windows in Freemasons Hall, London.

United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Temperance, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)
United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Temperance, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)
United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Fortitude, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)
United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Fortitude, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)
United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Justice, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)
United Grand Lodge of England stained glass window depicting Justice, one of the Four Cardinal Virtues (Courtesy of United Grand Lodge of England)

Plato’s Republic (Circa 380 BC)

The Four Cardinal Virtues originate specifically in Books 4, 6, and 7 of Plato’s Republic (circa 380 BC)

In Plato’s Republic, the four cardinal virtues are wisdom, temperance, courage and justice. These reflect the nature of the soul, which has three parts:

1. Reason: Our reason thinks; when it does this well, it has wisdom.
2. Appetite: Our appetite desires; when it does this well, it has temperance (self-control, soberness). Think of this as “passions”.
3. Spirit: Our “high spirit” shows emotions (fear, anger, respect, etc.); when it does this well, it has courage.

For Plato, Justice consists of the proper interplay of the three parts of the soul. In the just person, reason controls the “high spirit” — and both control the appetite (passions).

Plato then applies this to society as a whole:

Society mirrors the individual soul. And the virtues of society mirror the virtues of the individual soul.

Plato divides society into three groups.
1. The aristocrats are the educated; they should be wise [Prudence].
2. The workers (merchants, commoners) do the work; they should be temperate (have self-control) [Temperance].
3. The soldiers (guardians) protect the city; they should be courageous (brave) [Fortitude].

For Plato, Justice in society is the proper conformity of the three groups to their social roles. Each group has its own place, according to its natural abilities. The aristocrats are to rule wisely, and the other groups are to obey and to do their own tasks. This will promote the happiness of the city and of its members.

The Four Cardinal Virtues were adopted by the Roman and Greek Stoics, circa 200 BC.

Stoic Philosophers on the Four Cardinal Virtues

Stoic philosophers (including Marcus Aurelius, CiceroSeneca, Arius Didymus) recognized Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice as the four primary or Cardinal Virtues.

As an example, here is a short extract from Cicero (106 BC – 46 BC), On Duties

“….there is not a shadow of a doubt that man has the power to be the greatest agent of both benefit and harm towards his fellow men. Consequently it must be regarded as a vitally important quality to be able to win over human hearts and attach them to one’s own cause…..But to gain the goodwill of our fellow human beings, to convert them to a state of ready activeness to further our own interests, is a task worthy of the wisdom and excellence of a superman…. [note: for Cicero this means behaving with Justice]

This brings me back to moral goodness. It may be held to fall into three subdivisions.

The first is the ability to distinguish the truth from falsity, and to understand the relationships between one phenomenon and another and the causes and consequences of each [note: Prudence]

The second category is the ability to restrain the passions and to make the appetites amenable to reason [note: Temperance]

Third…is the capacity to behave considerately and understandingly in our associations with other people. [note: for Cicero this was Fortitude]…..

Note the similarity to Plato’s three parts of the soul, tempered by Justice, or the interplay of the three parts of the soul.

For the Stoics, all other virtues were grouped – or hinged – around, or under, the Four Cardinal Virtues. The word “Cardinal” comes from the Latin “cardo” meaning “hinge” and “cardinalis” or “acting as a hinge”, hence the name Cardinal Virtues.

Book of Wisdom – circa 200 BC

The Four Cardinal Virtues appear in Jewish writings about 200 BC in the Book of Wisdom. Although the Book of Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon, the earliest known written references to it date from about 200 BC in Alexandria.

Bible – Book of Wisdom – circa 200 BC

“For [Wisdom] teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these” (Book of Wisdom 8:7).

[Note: although the Book of Wisdom is presented as having been written by King Solomon, it is thought to have been written in Alexandria, by a Jewish author, circa 200 BC. At that time, Alexandria was ruled by the Ptolemy dynasty, which was of Greek (Hellenistic) origin.]

St. Paul

The Four Cardinal Virtues come into Christian thought with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine wrote of the Cardinal Virtues in De moribus ecclesiastica. 1,25,46:PL 32,1330-1331. [388 AD]

“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence)….”

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) ranked the four Cardinal Virtues in what he considered their priority or precedence.

St. Thomas Aquinas ranked prudence as the first cardinal virtue because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” It is the virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it.

In St. Thomas Aquinas‘ view, it is so easy to fall into error, so Prudence requires us to seek the counsel of others, particularly those we know to be sound judges of morality. Disregarding the advice or warnings of others whose judgment does not coincide with ours is a sign of imprudence.

Justice, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. As Fr. John A. Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, it is “the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due.” We say that “justice is blind,” because it should not matter what we think of a particular person. If we owe him a debt, we must repay exactly what we owe.

Justice, wrote Saint Thomas Aquinas, is also connected to the idea of rights. While the term “justice” in a negative sense (“He got what he deserved”), justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when we as individuals or by law deprive someone of that which he is owed. In St. Thomas’ view, legal rights can never outweigh natural rights, a concept which is enshrined in, among other places, the US Declaration of Independence.

The third cardinal virtue, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is Fortitude. While this virtue is commonly called courage, it is different from what much of what we think of as courage today. Fortitude allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles, but it is always reasoned and reasonable; the person exercising fortitude does not seek danger for danger’s sake. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it.

Temperance, Saint Thomas declared, is the fourth and final cardinal virtue. While fortitude is concerned with the restraint of fear so that we can act, temperance is the restraint of our desires or passions. Food, drink, and sex are all necessary for our survival, individually and as a species; yet a disordered desire for any of these goods can have disastrous consequences, physical and moral.

Temperance is the virtue that attempts to keep us from excess, and, as such, requires the balancing of legitimate goods against our inordinate desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may be different at different times; temperance is the “golden mean” that helps us determine how far we can act on our desires.

Also see https://www.thoughtco.com/the-cardinal-virtues-542142

Some Articles For Additional Research

Some Videos for Additional Research

Here are some videos for research and information purposes. Note that, although some of them are from particular religious viewpoints, we have included these videos here for research purposes only and their inclusion here should not be viewed in any way as a promotion of any particular religious or theological viewpoint:

Here is a video on Plato’s view of the Four Cardinal Virtues in Book 4 of The Republic (note: audio isn’t great):

Here is a video on the Stoic philosophers’ view of the Four Cardinal Virtues

Cicero, On Duties and General Issues Concerning Duty

Here is a short video on the Four Cardinal Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:

Here is a short video on the Three Theological Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:

Here is a video on the 4 Cardinal Virtues from an Islamic perspective:

Faith, Hope and Charity / Faith, Hope and Love a.k.a. The Theological Virtues

Are Connected to the Four Cardinal Virtues

Here are two videos on the Theological Virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:

Here is a video on The Ladder of Ascent, based on Jacob’s Ladder:

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MITHRAISM: FREEMASONRY AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES

We came across this article on the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland Facebook page. We have reproduced it here with permission. We have added some links to some names, places and references for readers wanting to research this further.

MITHRAISM: FREEMASONRY AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES

By Bro. H. L. Haywood, editor, The Builder

The theory that modern Freemasonry is in some sense a direct descendant from the ancient Mysteries has held a peculiar attraction for Masonic writers this long time, and the end is not yet, for the world is rife with men who argue about the matter up and down endless pages of print. It is a most difficult subject to write about, so that the more one learns about it the less he is inclined to ventilate any opinions of his own. The subject covers so much ground and in such tangled jungles that almost any grand generalization is pretty sure to be either wrong or useless. Even Gould, who is usually one of the soundest and carefullest of generalizers, gets pretty badly mixed up on the subject.

For present purposes it has seemed to me wise to attention to one only of the Mysteries, letting it stand as a type of the rest, and I have chosen for that purpose MITHRAISM, one of the greatest and one of most interesting, as well as one possessing as many parallelisms with Freemasonry as any of the others.

I – HOW MITHRA CAME TO BE A FIRST-CLASS GOD

Way back in the beginning of things, so we may learn from the Avesta, Mithra was the young god of the sky lights that appeared just before sunrise and lingered after the sun had set. To him was attributed patronship of the virtues of truth, life- giving, and youthful strength and joy. Such qualities attracted many worshippers in whose eyes Mithra grew from more to more until finally he became a great god in his own right and almost equal to the sun god himself. “Youth will be served,” even a youthful god; and Zoroastrianism, which began by giving Mithra a very subordinate place, came at last to exalt him to the right hand of the awful Ormuzd, who had rolled up within himself all the attributes of all gods whatsoever.

When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, who worshipped the stars in a most thoroughgoing manner, Mithra got himself placed at the very center of star worshipping cults, and won such strength for himself that when the Persian Empire went to pieces and everything fell into the melting pot with it, Mithra was able to hold his own identity, and emerged from the struggle at the head of a religion of his own. He was a young god full of vigour and overflowing with spirits, capable of teaching his followers the arts of victory, and such things appealed mightily to the bellicose Iranian tribesmen who never ceased to worship him in one form or another until they became so soundly converted to Mohammedanism centuries afterwards. Even then they did not abandon him altogether but after the inevitable manner of converts rebuilt him into Allah and into Mohammed, so that even today one will find pieces of Mithra scattered about here and there in what the Mohammedans call their theology.

After the collapse of the Persian Empire, Phrygia, where so many religions were manufactured at one time or another, took Mithra up and built a cult about him. They gave him his Phrygian cap which one always sees on his statues, and they incorporated in his rites the use of the dreadful “taurobolium,” which was a baptism in the blood of a healthy young bull. In the course of time this gory ceremony became the very center and climax of the Mithraic ritual, and made a profound impression on the hordes of poor slaves and ignorant men who flocked into the mithrea, as the Mithraic houses of worship were called.

Mithra was never able to make his way into Greece (the same thing could be said of Egypt, where the competition among religions was very severe) but it happened that he borrowed something from Greek art. Some unknown Greek sculptor, one of the shining geniuses of his nation, made a statue of Mithra that served ever afterwards as the orthodox likeness of the god, who was depicted as a youth of overflowing vitality, his mantle thrown back, a Phrygian cap on his head, and slaying a bull. For hundreds of years this statue was to all devout Mithraists what the crucifix now is to Roman Catholics. This likeness did much to open Mithra’s path toward the west, for until this his images had been hideous in the distorted and repellant manner so characteristic of Oriental religious sculpture. The Oriental people, among whom Mithra was born, were always capable of gloomy grandeur and of religious terror, but of beauty they had scarcely a touch; it remained for the Greeks to recommend Mithra to men of good taste.

Statue of Mithras, Rome, circa 98-99 A.D. (Source: tertullian.org)
Statue of Mithras, Rome, circa 98-99 A.D. (Source: tertullian.org)

After the Macedonian conquests, so it is believed, the cult of Mithra became crystallized; it got its orthodox theology, its church system, its philosophy, its dramas and rites, its picture of the universe and of the grand cataclysmic end of all things in a terrific day of judgment. Many things had been built into it. There were exciting ceremonies for the multitudes; much mysticism for the devout; a great machinery of salvation for the timid; a program of militant activity for men of valour; and a lofty ethic for the superior classes. Mithraism had a history, traditions, sacred books, and a vast momentum from the worship of millions and millions among remote and scattered tribes. Thus accoutered and equipped, the young god and his religion were prepared to enter the more complex and sophisticated world known as the Roman Empire.

2 – HOW MITHRA FOUND HIS WAY TO ROME

When Mithridates Eupator – he who hated the Romans with a virulency like that of Hannibal, and who waged war on them three or four times – was utterly destroyed in 66 B.C. and his kingdom of Pontus was given over to the dogs, the scattered fragments of his armies took refuge among the outlaws and pirates of Cilicia and carried with them everywhere the rites and doctrines of Mithraism. Afterwards the soldiers of the Republic of Tarsus, which these outlaws organized, went pillaging and fighting all round the Mediterranean, and carried the cult with them everywhere. It was in this unpromising manner that Mithra made his entrance into the Roman world. The most ancient of all inscriptions is one made by a freedman of the Flavians at about this time.

In the course of time Mithra won to his service a very different and much more efficient army of missionaries. Syrian merchants went back and forth across the Roman world like shuttles in a loom, and carried the new cult with them wherever they went. Slaves and freedmen became addicts and loyal supporters. Government officials, especially those belonging to the lowlier ranks, set up altars at every opportunity. But the greatest of all the propagandists were the soldiers of the various Roman armies. Mithra, who was believed to love the sight of glittering swords and flying banners, appealed irresistibly to soldiers, and they in turn were as loyal to him as to any commander on the field. The time came when almost every Roman camp possessed its mithreum.

Mithra began down next to the ground but the time came when he gathered behind him the great ones of the earth. Antoninus Pius, father-in-law of Marcus Aurelius, erected a Mithraic temple at Ostia, seaport of the city of Rome. With the exception of Marcus Aurelius and possibly one or two others all the pagan emperors after Antaninus were devotees of the god, especially Julian, who was more or less addle-pated and willing to take up with anything to stave off the growing power of Christianity. The early Church Fathers nicknamed Julian “The Apostate”; the slur was not altogether just because the young man had never been a Christian under his skin. Why did all these great fellows, along with the philosophers and literary men who obediently followed suit, take up the worship of a foreign god, imported from amidst the much hated Syrians, when there were so many other gods of home manufacture so close at hand? Why did they take to a religion that had been made fashionable by slaves and cutthroats? The answer is easy to discover. Mithra was peculiarly fond of rulers and of the mighty of the earth. His priests declared that the god himself stood at the right hand of emperors both on and off the throne. It was these priests who invented the good old doctrine of the divine right of kings. The more Mithra was worshipped by the masses, the more complete was the imperial control of those masses, therefore it was good business policy for the emperors to give Mithra all the assistance they could. There came a time when every Emperor was pictured by the artists with a halo about his head; that halo had originally belonged to Mithra. It represented the outstanding splendour of the young and vigorous sun. After the Roman emperors passed away the popes and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church took up the custom; they are still in the habit of showing their saints be-haloed.

Mithraism spread up and down the world with amazing rapidity. All along the coast of northern Africa and even in the recesses of the Sahara; through the Pillars of Hercules to England and up into Scotland; across the channel into Germany and the north countries; and down into the great lands along the Danube, he everywhere made his way. London was at one time a great center of his worship. The greatest number of mithrea were built in Germany. Ernest Renan once said that if ever Christianity had become smitten by a fatal malady Mithraism might very easily have become the established and official religion of the whole Western World. Men might now be saying prayers to Mithra, and have their children baptised in bull’s blood.

There is not here space to describe in what manner the cult became modified, by its successful spread across the Roman Empire. It was modified, of course, and in many ways profoundly, and it in turn modified everything with which it came into contact.

Here is a brief epitome of the evolution of this Mystery. It began at a remote time among primitive Iranian tribesmen. It picked up a body of doctrine from the Babylonian star worshippers, who created that strange thing known as astrology. It became a mystery, equipped with powerful rites, in the Asia Minor countries. It received a decent outward appearance at the hand of Greek artists and philosophers; and it finally became a world religion among the Romans. Mithraism reached its apogee in the second century; it went the way of all flesh in the fourth century; and flickered out entirely in the fifth century, except that bits of its wreckage were salvaged and used by a few new cults, such as those of the various forms of Manicheeism.

3 – THE MITHRAIC THEORY OF THINGS

After overthrowing its hated rival, the early Christian Church so completely destroyed everything having to do with Mithraism that there have remained behind but few fragments to bear witness to a once victorious religion. What little is accurately known will be found all duly set down and correctly interpreted in the works of the learned Dr. Franz Cumont, whose books on the subject so aroused the ire of the present Roman Catholic Hierarchy that they placed them on the Index, and warned the faithful away from his chapters of history. Today, as in Mithra’s time, superstitions and empty doctrines have a sorry time when confronted with known facts.

The pious Mithraist believed that back of the stupendous scheme of things was a great and unknowable deity, Ozmiuzd by name, and that Mithra was his son. A soul destined for its prison house of flesh left the presence of Ormuzd, descended by the gates of Cancer, passed through the spheres of the seven planets and in each of these picked up some function or faculty for use on the earth. After its term here the soul was prepared by sacraments and discipline for its re-ascent after death. Upon its return journey it underwent a great ordeal of judgment before Mithra. Leaving something behind it in each of the planetary spheres it finally passed back through the gates of Capricorn to ecstatic union with the great Source of all. Also there was an eternal hell, and those who had proved unfaithful to Mithra were sent there. Countless deons, devils and other invisible monsters raged about everywhere over the earth tempting souls, and presided over the tortures in the pit. Through it all the planets continued to exercise good or evil influence over the human being, according as his fates might chance to fall out on high, a thing imbedded in the cult from its old Babylonian days.

The life of a Mithraist was understood as a long battle in which, with Mithra’s help, he did war against the principles and powers of evil. In the beginning of his life of faith he was purified by baptism, and through all his days received strength through sacraments and sacred meals. Sunday was set aside as a holy day, and the twenty-fifth of December began a season of jubilant celebration. Mithraic priests were organized in orders, and were deemed to have supernatural power to some extent or other.

It was believed that Mithra had once come to earth in order to organize the faithful into the army of Ormuzd. He did battle with the Spirit of all Evil in a cave, the Evil taking the form of a bull. Mithra overcame his adversary and then returned to his place on high as the leader of the forces of righteousness, and the judge of all the dead. All Mithraic ceremonies centered about the bull slaying episode.

The ancient Church Fathers saw so many points of resemblance between this cult and Christianity that many of them accepted the theory that Mithraism was a counterfeit religion devised by Satan to lead souls astray. Time has proved them to be wrong in this because at bottom Mithraism was as different from Christianity as night from day.

4 – IN WHAT WAY MITHRAISM WAS LIKE FREEMASONRY

Masonic writers have often professed to see many points of resemblance between Mithraism and Freemasonry. Albert Pike once declared that Freemasonry is the modern heir of the Ancient Mysteries. It is a dictum with which I have never been able to agree. There are similarities between our Fraternity and the old Mystery Cults, but most of them are of a superficial character, and have to do with externals of rite or organization, and not with inward content. When Sir Samuel Dill described Mithraism as “a sacred Freemasonry” he used that name in a very loose sense. Nevertheless, the resemblances are often startling. Men only were admitted to membership in the cult. “Among the hundreds of inscriptions that have come down to us, not one mentions either a priestess, a woman initiate, or even a donatress.” In this the mithrea differed from the collegia, which latter, though they almost never admitted women as members, never hesitated to accept help or money from them. Membership in Mithraism was as democratic as it is with us, perhaps more so; slaves were freely admitted and often held positions of trust, as also did the freedmen of whom there were such multitudes in the latter centuries of the empire.

Mithras (courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland)
Mithras (courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland)

Membership was usually divided into seven grades, each of which had its own appropriate symbolical ceremonies. Initiation was the crowning experience of every worshipper. He was attired symbolically, took vows, passed through many baptisms, and in the higher grades ate sacred meals with his fellows. The great event of the initiate’s experiences was the taurobolium, already described. It was deemed very efficious, and was supposed to unite the worshipper with Mithra himself. A dramatic representation of a dying and a rising again was at the head of all these ceremonies. A tablet showing in bas relief Mithra’s killing of the bull stood at the end of every mithreum.

This, mithreum, as the meeting place, or lodge, was called, was usually cavern shaped, to represent the cave in which the god had his struggle. There were benches or shelves along the side, and on these side lines the members sat. Each mithreum had its own officers, its president, trustees, standing committees, treasurer, and so forth, and there were higher degrees granting special privileges to the few. Charity and Relief were universally practised and one Mithraist hailed another as “brother.” The Mithraic “lodge” was kept small, and new lodges were developed as a result of “swarming off” when membership grew too large.

Manicheeism, as I have already said, sprang from the ashes of Mithraism, and St. Augustine, who did so much to give shape to the Roman Catholic church and theology was for many years an ardent Manichee, and through him many traces of the old Persian creed found their way into Christianity. Out of Manicheeism, or out of what was finally left of it, came Paulicianism, and out of Paulicianism came many strong medieval cults — the Patari, the Waldenses, the Hugenots, and countless other such developments. Through these various channels echoes of the old Mithraism persisted over Europe, and it may very well be, as has often been alleged, that there are faint traces of the ancient cult to be found here and there in our own ceremonies or symbolisms. Such theories are necessarily vague and hard to prove, and anyway the thing is not of sufficient importance to argue about. If we have three or four symbols that originated in the worship of Mithra, so much the better for Mithra!

After all is said and done the Ancient Mysteries were among the finest things developed in the Roman world. They stood for equality in a savagely aristocratic and class-riddled society; they offered centers of refuge to the poor and the despised among a people little given to charity and who didn’t believe a man should love his neighbour; and in a large historical way they left behind them methods of human organization, ideals and principles and hopes which yet remain in the world for our use and profit. It a man wishes to do so, he may say that what Freemasonry is among us, the Ancient Mysteries were to the people of the Roman world, but it would be a difficult thing for any man to establish the fact that Freemasonry has directly descended from those great cults.

(Note: Kipling, who has never wearied of handling themes concerned with Freemasonry, often writes of Mithraism. See in especial his Puck of Pook’s Hill, page 173 of the 1911 edition, for the stirring Song to Mithras.)

[We have reproduced here the list of works consulted by that late Brother Heywood as it contains some interesting titles. It also provides sources on the subject that some people my not previously have been aware of – Ed.]

WORKS CONSULTED IN PREPARING THIS ARTICLE

  • The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, Vol. II, Waite.
  • The Book of Acts, Expositor’s Bible.
  • Mystery Religions and the New Testament, Sheldon.
  • Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, Sir Samuel Dill.
  • The Works of Franz Cumont.
  • Le Culte de Mithra, Gasquet.
  • On Isis and Osiris,
  • Plutarch. Life of Pompey, Plutarch.
  • Annals, Tacitus.
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Mythrasliturgie, Dielitch.
  • De Corona, Tertullion.
  • History of France, Vol. V, Vol. VI, Vol. VII, Duruy.
  • Neoplatonism, Bigg.
  • Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, Sir Samuel Dill.
  • Menippus, Lucian.
  • Thebaid, Statius.
  • See bibliography in Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VIII, p. 752.
  • Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. III, p. 109; Vol. IV, p. 32; Vol. XIII, p. 90.
  • The History of Freemasonry, Vol. I, Gould.
  • Mackey’s Encyclopedia-(Revised Edition): Allah, 46, Babylon, 89. Egyptian Mysteries, 232-233. Egyptian Priests, Initiations of the, 234. Gnostics, 300-301. Legend, 433. Manichaeans, 462. Mithras, Mysteries of, 485-487. Mohammed, 488. Mysteries, Ancient, 497-500. Mystery, 500. Myth, 501. Myth, Historical, 501. Mythical History, 501. Mythology, 501. Myth, Philosophical, 501. Ormuzd, 539. Persia, 558 Pike, Albert, 563. Roman Colleges of Artificers, 630-634.
  • THE BUILDER:

Vol. 1, 1915. – Symbolism, The Hiramic Legend, and the Master’s Word, p. 285; Symbolism in Mythology, p. 296.
Vol. II, 1916. – Masonry and the Mysteries, p. 19; The Mysteries of Mithra, p. 94; The Dionysiaes, p. 220; The Mithra Again, p. 254; The Ritual of Ancient Egypt, p. 285; The Dionysiaes, p. 287.
Vol. III, 1917. – The Secret Key, p. 158; Mithraism, p. 252; Vol. IV, 1918. – The Ancient Mysteries, p. 223.
Vol. V, 1919. – The Ancient Mysteries Again, p. 25; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 143, 172; The Mystery of Masonry, p. 189; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 218, 240.
Vol. VI, 1920. – A Bird’s-Eye View of Masonic History, p. 236.
Vol. VII, 1921. – Whence Came Freemasonry, p. 90; Books on the Mysteries of Isis, Mithras and Eleusis, p. 205.
Vol. VIII, 1922. – A Mediating Theory, p. 318; Christianity and the Mystery Religions, p. 322.

Mithras (courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland)
Mithras (courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland)