Page from French Bible Moralisee (c 1235-1245),
British Library, showing Christ as the Great Architect, designing the
universe with the compass of the Freemason.
Modern is taken here to mean roughly from the time approaching and into the present Christian era (A.D.)
H.P.B. gives us some interesting information about early 'modern' Masonry. She associates it closely with Greek and Latin writers, some Initiates. She says that these Pagans, according to her, founded the rituals and dogmas of early Christianity, laying the foundation of ritualistic Churches and of the Lodges of modern Masonry. But she adds that the Churches and Masonry have widely diverged since the days when both were one. In another place H.P.B. refers to the "lost word" and says it was possessed by Paracelsus.
We are given a specific date, 1646, when Ashmole was admitted "to the freedom of the Operative Masons' Company in London. She says that at that time Masonry was a true secret organization.
Later she speaks of the connection of Freemasonry with other speculative rites of antiquity including the purity of the old English Templar-Rite of seven degrees.
In the same paragraph she refers to the eighteenth century founders of speculative Freemasonry. Then significantly she says, "There are no longer any secrets left unpublished."
Then there was the great Masonic Revolution of 1717 and the Constitution of 1723 and 1738 when the first Grand Lodge was founded. The "ceremonies and passwords" of Masonry are travestied copies of pure Paganism and of New Platonism. Lastly we have the categorical statement that modern Masonry was born on the 24th June 1717 in Covent Garden, London.
The extracts which follow indicate periods, some dates even, of events in the development of Masonry.
Who was, in fact, the first operative Mason of any consequence? Elias Ashmole, the last of the Rosicrucians and alchemists. Admitted to the freedom of the Operative Masons' company in London, in 1646, he died in 1692. At that time Masonry was not what it became later; it was neither a political nor a Christian institution, but a true secret organization, which admitted into the ties of fellowship all men anxious to obtain the priceless boon of liberty of conscience, and avoid clerical persecution. [I.U.349]
"We think we have sufficiently established the fact of the connection of Freemasonry with other speculative rites of antiquity, as well as the antiquity and purity of the old English Templar-Rite of seven degrees, and the spurious derivation of many of the other rites therefrom". Such high Masons need not be told, though Craftsmen in general do, that the time has come to remodel Masonry, and restore those ancient landmarks, borrowed from the early sodalities , which the eighteenth century founders of speculative Freemasonry meant to have incorporated in the fraternity. There are no longer any secrets left unpublished; the Order is degenerating into a convenience for selfish men to use, and bad men to debase. [I.U.II, 377]
The entrance of such men as Elias Ashmole into the Operative Fraternity paved the way for the great 'Masonic Revolution of 1717', when SPECULATIVE Masonry came into existence. The Constitutions of 1723 and 1738, by the Masonic impostor Anderson, were written up for the newly-fledged and first Grand Lodge of 'Free and Accepted Masons' of England, from which body all others over the world hail today. [I.U.II, 389]
In the Mysteries, the third part of the sacred rites was called epopteia, or revelation, reception into the secrets....
The word epopteia is a compound one,... - "upon", and ... - "to look" or be an overseer, an inspector - also used for a master-builder. The title of master-mason in Freemasonry, is derived from this, in the sense used in the Mysteries. [C.W.XIV, 123]
It is the former [the Epoptae], the "set apart,"who have preserved the true secrets; it is the Mystae, those who knew them only superficially, who laid the first foundation stone of modern Masonry; and it is from this half-pagan, half-converted primitive fraternity of Masons that Christian ritualism and most of dogmas were born. [C.W.XI, 88]
No Hebrew MS is known to be older than Kennicott's No. 154, which belongs to A.D.1106 (Donaldson). "The Masorah was committed to writing in 506 A.D." [C.W.III, 453]
It may thus be shown that both modern Freemasonry and Church ritualism descended in direct line from initiated Gnostics, Neo-Platonists and renegade Hierophants of the Pagan Mysteries, the secrets of which they have lost, but which have been nevertheless preserved by those who could not compromise. If both Church and Masons are willing to forget the history of their true origin, the theosophists are not. They repeat: Masonry and the three great Christian religions are all inherited goods. The "ceremonies and passwords" of the former, and the prayers, dogmas, and rites of the latter, are travestied copies of pure Paganism (copied and borrowed as diligently by the Jews), and of Neo-Platonic Theosophy. [C.W.XI, 75]
We yield willingly to the modern Fraternity of Masons the title of "Builders of the higher Temple", as the a priori superiority of the comparative adjective is as illusionary as the blaze of the burning bush of Moses itself in the Templars' Lodges. [C.W.XI, 89]
In Masonic Lodges the Tyler demands the sacramental words (or precepts) from the apprentice or candidate, thus repeating the ancient formulae. As Ragon, following the occult tradition, has well proved, Masonry was a forced product of the Gnostic mysteries, born of a compromise between Political Christianity and Gnosticism. [C.W.XIII, 8]
Not until about thirty years after his [Elias Ashmole's] death did what is now termed modern Freemasonry see the light. It was born on the 24th day of June, 1717, in the Apple-tree Tavern, Charles Street, Covent Garden, London. And it was then, as we are told in Anderson's Constitutions, that the only four lodges in the south of England elected Anthony Sayer first Grand Master of Masons. Notwithstanding its great youth, this grand lodge has ever claimed the acknowledgment of its supremacy by the whole body of the fraternity throughout the whole world, as the Latin inscription on the plate put beneath the cornerstone of Freemasons' Hall, London, in 1775, would tell to those who could see it. [I.U.350]
But we will return to these Lectures of Robertson and his charges against Masonry. The greatest accusation brought against the latter is that Masons reject a personal God (this on the authority of Barruel and Robison), and that they claim to be in possession of a "secret to make men better and happier than Christ, his apostles and his Church have made them". Were the latter accusation but half true, it might yet allow the consoling hope that they had really found that secret by breaking off entirely from the mythical Christ of the Church and the official Jehovah. But both the accusations are simply as malicious as they are absurd and untrue; as we shall presently see. [I.U.II, 375]
Since the origin of Masonry, the split between the British and American Masons and the French "Grand Orient" of the "Widow's Sons" is the first one that has ever occurred. It bids fair to make of these two sections of Masonry a Masonic Protestant and a Roman Catholic Church, as far as regards ritualism and brotherly love, at all events. [C.W.XI, 72fn]
Some of the writers interested in the subject - especially Masons - have tried to identify Enoch with Thoth of Memphis, the Greek Hermes, and even with the Latin Mercury. [S.D.II, 529]
The books by H.P. Blavatsky from which passages have been extracted are:
1. I.U. ISIS UNVEILED, Vols I and II, all editions same pagination.
2. S.D. THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vols I and II
3. S.D. THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vol III, only in the 1897 edition (this material is in C.W.XII)
34. C.W. THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY
Another book which readers might care to read for much information about the craft from a Masonic point of view is:–
5. THE FREEMASON’S GUIDE AND COMPENDIUM by Bernard E. Jones, (George G. Harrop)
First published 2003 by The Theosophical Publishing House, London.
Available from: The Theosophical Society in England, 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA
Theosophical Society in England, Bookshop link