Rosicrucian and Masonic Origins
by Manly P. Hall
From Lectures on Ancient Philosophy (Los Angeles: The Hall Publishing Co., 1929)
FREEMASONRY is a fraternity within a fraternity, an outer organization concealing an inner brotherhood of the elect. Before it is possible to intelligently discuss the origin of the Craft, it is necessary, therefore, to establish the existence of these two separate yet interdependent orders, the one visible and the other invisible. The visible society is a splendid camaraderie of "free and accepted" men enjoined to devote themselves to ethical, educational, fraternal, patriotic, and humanitarian concerns. The invisible society is a secret and most august fraternity whose members are dedicated to the service of a mysterious arcanum arcanorum. . . . . Though the great initiate-philosophers of Freemasonry can be counted upon one's fingers, yet their power is not to be measured by the achievements of ordinary men. They are dwellers upon the Threshold of the Innermost, Masters of that secret doctrine which forms the invisible foundation of every great theological and rational institution.
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It is possible to trace Masonry back a few centuries with comparative ease, but then the thread suddenly vanishes from sight in a maze of secret societies and political enterprises. Dimly silhouetted in the mists that becloud these tangled issues are such figures as Cagliostro, Comte de St.-Germain, and St. Martin, but even the connection between these individuals and the Craft has never been clearly defined. The writings of early Masonic history is involved in such obvious hazard as to provoke the widespread conclusion that further search is futile. The average Masonic student is content, therefore, to trace his Craft back to the workmen's guilds who chipped and chiselled the cathedrals and public buildings of medieval Europe. While such men as Albert Pike have realized this attitude to be ridiculous, it is one thing to declare it insufficient and quite another to prove the fallacy to an adamantine mind. ...
Preston, Gould, Mackey, Oliver, and Pike -- in fact, nearly every great historian of Freemasonry -- have all admitted the possibility of the modern society being connected, indirectly at least, with the ancient Mysteries, and their descriptions of the modern society are prefaced by excerpts from ancient writings descriptive of primitive ceremonials. These eminent Masonic scholars have all recognized in the legend of Hiram Abiff an adaptation of the Osiris myth; nor do they deny that the major part of the symbolism of the craft is derived from the pagan institutions of antiquity when the gods were venerated in secret places with strange figures and appropriate rituals.
Though cognizant of the exalted origin of their order, these historians -- either through fear or uncertainty -- have failed, however, to drive home the one point necessary to establish the true purpose of Freemasonry: They did not realize that the Mysteries whose rituals Freemasonry perpetuates were the custodians of a secret philosophy of life of such transcendent nature that it can only be entrusted to an individual tested and proved beyond all peradventure of human frailty. The secret schools of Greece and Egypt were neither fraternal nor political fundamentally, nor were their ideals similar to those of the modern Craft. They were essentially philosophic and religious institutions, and all admitted into them were consecrated to the service of the sovereign good. . . .
The secret doctrine that flows through Freemasonic symbols (and to whose perpetuation the invisible Masonic body is consecrated) has its source in three ancient and exalted orders. The first is the Dionysiac artificers, the second the Roman collegia, and the third the Arabian Rosicrucians.
The Dionysians were the master builders of the ancient world. Originally founded to design and erect the theaters of Dionysos wherein were enacted the tragic dramas of the rituals, this order was repeatedly elevated by popular acclaim to greater dignity until at last it was entrusted with the planning and construction of all public edifices concerned with the commonwealth or the worship of the gods and heroes. Hiram, King of Tyre, was the patron of the Dionysians, who flourished in Tyre and Sidon, and Hiram Abiff (if we may believe the sacred account) was himself a Grand Master of this most noble order of pagan builders. King Solomon in his wisdom accepted the services of this famous craftsman, and thus at the instigation of Hiram, King of Tyre, Hiram Abiff, though himself a member of a different faith, journeyed from his own country to design and supervise the erection of the Everlasting House to the true God on Mount Moriah. The tools of the builders' craft were first employed by the Dionysians as symbols under which to conceal the mysteries of the soul and the secrets of human regeneration. The Dionysians also first likened man to a rough ashlar which, trued into a finished block through the instrument of reason, could be fitted into the structure of that living and eternal Temple built without the sound of hammer, the voice of workmen or any tool of contention.
The Roman collegia was a branch of the Dionysiacs and to it belonged those initiated artisans who fashioned the impressive monuments whose ruins still lend their immortal glory to the Eternal City. In his Ten Books on Architecture, Vitruvius, the initiate of the collegia, has revealed that which was permissible concerning the secrets of his holy order. Of the inner mysteries, however, he could not write, for these were reserved for such as had donned the leather apron of the craft. . . .From earliest times, the initiated stonecutters marked their perfected works with the secret emblems of their crafts and degrees that unborn generations might realize that the master builders of the first ages also labored for the same ends sought by men today.
The Mysteries of Egypt and Persia that had found a haven in the Arabian desert reached Europe by way of the Knights Templars and the Rosicrucians. The Temple of the Rose Cross at Damascus had preserved the secret philosophy of Sharon's Rose; the Druses of the Lebanon still retain the mysticism of ancient Syria; and the dervishes, as they lean on their carved and crotched sticks, still meditate upon the secret instruction perpetuated from the days of the four Caliphs. From the far places of Iraq and the hidden retreats of the Sufi mystics, the Ancient Wisdom thus found its way into Europe.
Was Jacques de Molay burned by the Holy Inquisition merely because he wore the red cross of the Templar? What were those secrets to which he was true even in death? Did his companion Knights perish with him merely because they had amassed a fortune and exercised an unusual degree of temporal power? To the thoughtless, these may constitute ample grounds, but to those who can pierce the film of the specious and the superficial, they are assuredly insufficient. It was not the physical power of the Templars but the knowledge which they had brought with them from the East that the church feared. The Templars had discovered part of the Great Arcanum; they had become wise in those mysteries which had been celebrated in Mecca thousands of years before theadvent of Mohammed; they had read a few pages from the dread book of the Anthropos, and for this knowledge they were doomed to die. What was the black magic of which the Templars were accused? What was Baphomet, the Goat of Mendes, whose mysteries they were declared to have celebrated?
Truth is eternal. The so-called revelations of Truth that come in different religions are actually but a re-emphasis of an ever-existing doctrine. Thus Moses did not originate a new religion for Israel; he simply adapted the Mysteries of Egypt to the needs of Israel. Even the two brooding cherubim over the mercy seat are visible in the Egyptian·carving, furnishing indubitable evidence that the secret doctrine of Egypt was the prototype of Israel's mystery religion. . . .
Neither prophet nor savior preached a doctrine which was his own, but in language suitable to his time and race retold that Ancient Wisdom preserved within the Mysteries since the dawning of human consciousness. So with the Masonic Mysteries of today. Each Mason has at hand those lofty principles of universal order upon whose certainties the faiths of mankind. have ever been established. Each Mason has at hand those lofty principles of universal order upon pregnant with life and hope to those millions who wander in the darkness of unenlightenment.
Father C. R. C., the Master of the Rose Cross, was initiated into the Great Work at Damcar. Later at Fez, further information was given him relating to the sorcery of the Arabians. From these wizards of the desert C. R. C. also secured the sacred book M, which is declared to have contained the accumulated knowledge of the world. This volume was translated into Latin by C. R. C. for the edification of his order, but only the initiates know the present hidden repository of the Rosicrucian manuscripts, charters, and manifestos. From the Arabians C. R. C. also learned of the elemental peoples and how, with their aid, it was possible to gain admission to the ethereal world where dwelt the genii and Nature spirits. C.R.C. thus discovered that the magical creatures of the Arabian Nights Entertainment actually existed, though invisible to the ordinary mortal. From astrologers living in the desert far from the concourse of the market-place he was further instructed concerning the mysteries of the stars, the virtues resident in the astral light, the rituals of magic and invocation, the preparation of therapeutic talismans, and the binding of the genii. C. R. C. became an adept n the gathering of medicinal herbs, the transmutation of metals, and the manufacture of precious gems by artificial means. Even the secret of the Elixir of Life and the Universal Panacea were communicated to him. Enriched thus beyond the dreams of Croesus, the Holy Master returned to Europe and there established a House of Wisdom which he called Domus Sancti Spiritus. This house he enveloped in clouds, it is said, so that men could not discover it. What are these "clouds," however, but the rituals and symbols under which is concealed the Great Arcanum -- that unspeakable mystery which every true Mason must seek if he would become in reality a "Prince of the Royal Secret"?
Paracelsus, the Swiss Hermes, was initiated into the secrets of alchemy in Constantinople and there beheld the consummation of the magnum opus. He is consequently entitled to be mentioned among those initiated by the Arabians into the Rosicrucian work. Cagliostro was also initiated by the Arabians and, because of the knowledge he had thus secured, incurred the displeasure of the Holy See. From the unprobed depths of Arabian Rosicrucianism also issued the illustrious Comte de St.-Germain, over whose Masonic activities to this day hangs the veil of impenetrable mystery.
Between the years 1600 and 1800, mysterious agents moved across the face of the Continent. The forerunner of modern thought was beginning to make its appearance and all Europe was passing through the throes of internal dissension and reconstruction. Democracy was in its infancy, yet its potential power was already being felt. Thrones were beginning to totter. . . .Out of this struggle for expression materialized certain definite ideals, the same which have now come to be considered peculiarly Masonic.
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One political upheaval followed another, the grand climax of this political unrest culminating in the French Revolution, which was directly precipitated by the attacks upon the person of Alessandro Cagliostro. The "divine" Cagliostro, by far the most picturesque character of the time, has the distinction of being more maligned than any other person of history. Tried by the Inquisition for founding a Masonic lodge in the city of Rome, Cagliostro was sentenced to die, a sentence later commuted by the Pope to life imprisonment in the old castle of San Leo. Shortly after his incarceration, Cagliostro disappeared and the story was circulated that he had been strangled in an attempt to escape from prison. In reality, however, he was liberated and returned to his Masters in the East. But Cagliostrothe idol of France, surnamed "the Father of the Poor," who never received anything from anyone and gave everything to everyonewas most adequately revenged. Though the people little understood this inexhaustible pitcher of bounty which poured forth benefits and never required replenishment, they remembered him in the day of their power.
Cagliostro founded the Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry, which received into its mysteries many of the French nobility and was regarded favorably by the most learned minds of Europe. Having established the Egyptian Rite, Cagliostro declared himself to be an agent of the order of the Knights Templars and to have received initiation from them on the Isle of Malta. (See Morals and Dogma, in which Albert Pike quotes Eliphas Levi on Cagliostro's affiliation with the Templars.) Called upon the carpet by the Supreme Council of France, it was demanded of Cagliostro that he prove by what authority he had founded a Masonic lodge in Paris independent of the Grand Orient. Of such surpassing mentality was Cagliostro that the Supreme Council found it difficult to secure an advocate qualified to discuss with Cagliostro philosophic Masonry and the ancient Mysteries he claimed to represent. The Court de Gebelinthe greatest Egyptologist of his day and an authority on ancient philosophies-was chosen as the outstanding scholar. A time was set and the Brethren convened. Attired in an Oriental coat and a pair of violet-colored breeches, Cagliostro was haled before this council of his peers. The Court de Gebelin asked three questions and then sat down, admitting himself disqualified to interrogate a man so much his superior in every branch of learning. Cagliostro then took the floor, revealing to the assembled Masons not only his personal qualifications, but prophesying the future of France. Having finished his address, Cagliostro made a spectacular exit, leaving the French Masonic lodge in consternation and utterly incapable of coping with the profundity of his reasoning.
Through all this stormy period, these impressive figures come and go, part of a definite organization of political and religious thoughta functioning body of philosophers represented in Spain by no less an individual than Cervantes, in France by Cagliostro and St.-Germain, in Germany by Gichtel and Andreae, in England by Bacon, More, and Raleigh, and in America by Washington and Franklin. Coincident with the Baconian agitation in England, the Fama Fraternitatis and Confessio Fraternitatis appeared in Germany, both of these works being contributions to the establishment of a philosophic government upon the earth. One of the outstanding links between the Rosicrucian Mysteries of the Middle Ages and modern Masonry is Elias Ashmole, the historian of the Order of the Garter and the first Englishman to compile the alchemical writings of the English chemists.
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The smaller group of adepts that had withdrawn from the order remained inactive apparently, having retired to what they termed the "House of the Holy Spirit," where they were enveloped by certain "mists" impenetrable to the eyes of the profane. Among these reclusive adepts must be included such well-known Rosicrucians as Robert Fludd, Eugenius Philalethes, John Heydon, Michael Maier, and Henri Khunrath. These adepts in their retirement constituted a loosely organized society which, though lacking the solidarity of a definite fraternity, occasionally initiated a candidate and met annually at a specified place. . . . In the meantime, a group of men in England, under the leadership of such mystics as Ashmole and Fludd, had resolved upon repopularizing the ancient learning and reclassifying philosophy in accordance with Bacon's plan for a world encyclopedia. These men had undertaken to reconstruct ancient Platonic and Gnostic mysticism, but were unable to attain their objective for lack of information.
Several initiated Rosicrucians were brought from the mainland to England, where they remained for a considerable time designing the symbolism of Freemasonry and incorporating into the rituals of the order the same divine principles and philosophy that had formed the inner doctrine of all great secret societies from the time of the Eleusinia in Greece. . . .The adepts brought over from the Continent to sit in council with the English philosophers were initiates of the Arabian rites and thus through them the Mysteries were ultimately returned to Christendom. Upon completion of the by-laws of the new fraternity, the initiates retired again into Central Europe, leaving a group of disciples to develop the outer organization, which was to function as a sort of screen to conceal the activities of the esoteric order.
Such, in brief, is the story to be pieced together from the fragmentary bits of evidence available. The whole structure of Freemasonry is founded upon the activities of this secret society of Central European adepts; whom the studious Mason will find to be the definite "link" between the modern Craft and the Ancient Wisdom. The outer body of Masonic philosophy was merely the veil of this qabbalistic order whose members were the custodians of the true Arcanum. Does this inner and secret brotherhood of initiates still exist independent of the Freemasonic order?
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Much of the writings of Albert Pike are extracted from the books of the French magician, Eliphas Levi, one of the greatest transcendentalists of modern times. Levi was an occultist, a metaphysician, a Platonic philosopher, who by the rituals of magic invoked even the spirit of Apollonius of Tyana, and yet Pike has inserted in his Morals and Dogma whole pages, and even chapters, practically verbatim. . . .Affectionately termed "Albertus Magnus" by his admirers, Pike wrote of Hermeticism and alchemy and hinted at the Mysteries of the Temple. Through his zeal and unflagging energy, American Freemasonry was raised from comparative obscurity to become the most powerful organization in the land. Though Pike, a transcendental thinker, was the recipient of every honor that the Freemasonic bodies of the world could confer, the modern Mason is loath to admit that transcendentalism has any place in Freemasonry.
The Mason who would discover the Lost Word must remember, however, that in the first ages every neophyte was a man of profound learning and unimpeachable character, who for the sake of wisdom and virtue had faced death unafraid and had triumphed over those limitations of the flesh which bind most mortals to the sphere of mediocrity. In those days the rituals were not put on by degree teams who handled candidates as though they were perishable commodities, but by priests deeply versed in the lore of their cults. Not one Freemason out of a thousand could have survived the initiations of the pagan rites, for the tests were given in those strenuous days when men were men and death the reward of failure. The neophyte of the Druid Mysteries was set adrift in a small boat to battle with the stormy sea, and unless his knowledge of natural law enabled him to quell the storm as did Jesus upon the Sea of Galilee, he returned no more. In the Egyptian rites of Serapis, it was required of the neophyte that he cross an unbridged chasm in the temple floor. In other words, if unable by magic to sustain himself in the air without visible support, he fell headlong into a volcanic crevice, there to die of heat and suffocation. In one part of the Mithraic rites, the candidate seeking admission to the inner sanctuary was required to pass through a closed door by dematerialization.
It becomes self-evident that he who passed successfully through these arduous tests involving both natural and also supernatural hazards was a man apart in his community. Such an initiate was deemed to be more than human, for he had achieved where countless ordinary mortals, having failed, had returned no more. Let us hear the words of Apuleius when admitted into the Temple of Isis, as recorded in The Metamorphosis, or Golden Ass: "Then also the priest, all the profane being removed, taking hold of me by the hand, brought me to the penetralia of the temple, clothed in a new linen garment. Perhaps, inquisitive reader, you will very anxiously ask me what was then said and done? I would tell you, if it could be lawfully told; you should know it, if it was lawful for you to hear it. But both ears and the tongue are guilty of rash curiosity. Nevertheless, I will not keep you in suspense with religious desire, nor torment you with long-continued anxiety. Hear, therefore, but believe what is true. I approached to the confines of death, and having trod on the threshold of Proserpine, I returned from it, being carried through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining with a splendid light; and I manifestly drew near to the Gods beneath, and the Gods above, and proximately adored them. Behold, I have narrated to you things, of which, though heard, it is nevertheless necessary that you should be ignorant. I will, therefore, only relate that which may be enunciated to the understanding of the profane without a crime."
Kings and princes paid homage to the initiatethe "newborn" man, the favorite of the gods. The initiate had actually entered into the presence of the divine beings. He had "died" and been "raised" again into the radiant sphere of everlasting light. Seekers after wisdom journeyed across great continents to hear his words and his sayings were treasured with the revelations of oracles. It was even esteemed an honor to receive from such a one an inclination of the head, a kindly smile or a gesture of approbation. Disciples gladly paid with their lives for the Master's word of praise and died of a broken heart at his rebuke. On one occasion, Pythagoras became momentarily irritated because of the seeming stupidity of one of his students. The Master's displeasure so preyed upon the mind of the humiliated youth that, drawing a knife from the folds of his garment, he committed suicide. So greatly moved was Pythagoras by the incident that never from that time on was he known to lose patience with any of his followers regardless of the provocation.
Enthroned in the radiant East, the Worshipful Master is the "Light" of his lodgethe representative of the gods, one of that long line of hierophants who, through the blending of their rational powers with the reason of the Ineffable, have been accepted into the Great School. This high priest after an ancient order must realize that those before him are not merely a gathering of properly tested men, but the custodians of an eternal lore, the guardians of a sacred truth, the perpetuators of an ageless wisdom, the consecrated servants of a living God, the wardens of a Supreme Mystery.
A new day is dawning for Freemasonry. From the insufficiency of theology and the hopelessness of materialism, men are turning to seek the God of philosophy. In this new era wherein the old order of things is breaking down and the individual is rising triumphant above the monotony of the masses, there is much work to be accomplished. The "Temple Builder" is needed as never before. A great reconstruction period is at hand; the debris of a fallen culture must be cleared away; the old footings must be found again that a new Temple significant of a new revelation of Law may be raised thereon.
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