WAS FREEMASONRY DERIVED FROM MORMONISM?
By Eugene Seaich
The following article has been edited and appears here by permission of the author. It is drawn from an appendix in a much larger work (approximately 1,200 pages) by the author, entitled Ancient Texts and Mormonism, which he hopes to publish in the future. Inquires can be forwarded to the author by clicking here.
The relationship of Freemasonry to the LDS Temple Endowment has long been a matter of speculation among students of Mormon history. Joseph Smith was of the opinion that Masonic ritual was a corrupt form of the original Priesthood. Thus, in a letter to Parley P. Pratt, written three months after Joseph became a Master Mason,1 Heber C. Kimball observed that:
Later, he explained that:
Benjamin F. Johnson, another of Joseph's intimate friends, recalled the similar opinion of the Prophet that:
But since Masonic historians make no claim that masonry existed prior to the time of the medieval cathedral-builders, anti-Mormons have been quick to argue that the similarities between Mormonism and Masonry can only be of recent origin, indeed, can be no more than the product of deliberate borrowing from the Masons by a naive or devious Joseph Smith. Very seldom, however, do they think to ask where the Masons obtained their ideas, or to compare them with what is known of the Primitive Church and its Temple traditions. Indeed, most recent scholars are content to point out superficial resemblances between the Mormon Endowment and the rites of Free-masonry, while entirely ignoring the fact that the Endowment far more closely resembles the ancient rites of the Church than it does Freemasonry, or than Freemasonry resembles the ancient rites of the Church.5 Were they to discover what truly lies behind Freemasonry, then, they would quickly realize that it has preserved authentic relics of early Christianity, which by largely unknown means had filtered down to it from the mysteries of the past, and which even in their Masonic dress furnish important clues to the nature of their original sources. Obviously, Joseph Smith was inspired to recognize this generic relationship; thus it would appear to have been Providence rather than Deception which led the Prophet to become a Mason in 1842, perhaps as part of his ongoing education in the rudiments of the Restored Gospel.
It is remarkable that the Prophet not only claimed to recognize in Freemasonry authentic survivals of ancient Temple practice, but also dared to correct what he found, offering in its place what he said was the true and uncorrupted prototype. Thus, while Mormon Temple ritual bears a familial resemblance to Masonic ritual, it also differs in significant points, showing that Joseph had his own ideas about the proper form of the original. Indeed, there are already scattered passages in the Book of Mormon (1830) which suggest the existence of a fuller and more mature Priesthood order, specifically referred to as the "Holy Order of the Son of God" (Alma 13). In these scattered passages we repeatedly encounter figures of speech which betray surprising knowledge on the part of their authors of what was yet to be revealed to Joseph Smith:
We cannot comment openly on these passages, nor shall we enter below into a discussion of the Endowment itself; but the Latter-day Saint who attends the Temple and understands its doctrines will readily recognize their relevance to modern Temple practice. They are especially important for us because they show that the Endowment was not created de novo during the last years of Joseph Smith's life, nor did it owe its initial inspiration to Smith's encounter with Masonry, but fitted perfectly into the plan for restoring the Gospel from the start.7
The nature of Temple worship in antiquity will in fact show more clearly than anything else that the origins of the LDS Temple Endowment lie farther back than the advent of modern Freemasonry. We must therefore investigate the ancient sources of Masonic ritual, to show that it does indeed contain important relics of the original Temple-cultus, hence was readily capable of stimulating the mind of Joseph Smith in his own work of recognition and restoration. The heart of Masonry is the granting of the Third Degree (Master Mason), which depicts the death and resurrection of "Hiram Abiff" (2 Chron. 4:16: Huram Abiv, "Hiram, his father"). This is brought about by means of a life-giving embrace between the candidate and a Master Mason, known as the "Five Points of Fellowship." Since Cecil McGavin's popular Mormonism and Masonry8 describes this embrace in some detail, we shall use it as a convenient starting point for our own discussion. A Masonic poem quoted by McGavin describes and explains these "Five Points of Fellowship" together with the Masonic writer's reflections on their meaning ("Masonic Moralizing"):
In the Masonic rite, the whispered "good counsel" is the "Masonic Word," which restores "marrow in the bones." After receiving it, the candidate is told that he has gained immortality by recapitulating the death and resurrection of Hiram, "the greatest man who ever lived,"10 and who long ago allowed himself to be killed rather than divulge the secret knowledge which he had discovered on ancient pillars when excavating for the foundation of Solomon's Temple.
Masonic legend further tells us that God had originally revealed this knowledge to Adam and the patriarchs, and that Enoch had inscribed it against the threat of the coming Flood. When Hiram's co-workers were deprived of direction by his untimely death, they attempted to resuscitate him "upon the Five Points of Fellowship," which enabled them to learn enough to complete the Temple and to continue in their occupation as "stone-masons" (cf. Eph. 2:20-22; 2 Pet. 2:5), i.e. as co-builders of Christ's "Heavenly Temple." Yet the oldest form of this modern legend appears to have dealt not with Hiram Abiff, but with Noah, the last of the patriarchs to have heard and retained God's original revelation.11 Thus we read in the seventeenth century Graham Manuscript, a Masonic document rediscovered in 1936, how Shem, Ham and Japeth sought to recover their dead father's precious knowledge after the Flood. This Scottish work describes how they attempted to revive his corpse; but when they took a grip at a finger...it came away; so from joint to joint; so to the wrist; and so to the elbow.12 So they reared up the dead body and supported it, setting foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek, and hand to back, and cried out, "Help, Oh Father," as if they had said, "Oh Father in Heaven, help us now, for our earthly father cannot." So they laid the dead body down again, not knowing what else to do. Then one of them said, "There is yet marrow in this bone;" and the second said, "But a dry bone." And the third said, "It stinketh." So they agreed to give it a name, as it is known to Freemasonry to this day.13
Masonic researcher, J. R. Reynolds, believes that a Noachic Miracle Play produced at Wakefield and Newcastle in the late Middle Ages contained these "necromantic" events in a "comic" or "ludicrous" fashion.14 Sir Edmund Chambers' The Medieval Stage refers to a similar spectacle, which, however, "seems to have been a pageant or dumb-show rather than a proper miracle play."15 Alex Horne, perhaps the finest of all Masonic scholars, tentatively concludes that this Noachic "pantomime" was adopted and retained by the Masons, and eventually assimilated into the story of Hiram Abiff, with the result that he too was said to have died and been resurrected before passing his vital knowledge to his successors.16
Yet both the "Points of Fellowship" and the idea of regaining ancient knowledge concerning eternal life had a much earlier origin than even the late Middle Ages. The embrace itself goes back at least to the Old Testament legends of Elijah and Elisha, who raised widows' sons by "stretching themselves" upon their dead bodies and placing mouth upon mouth, eyes upon eyes, and hands upon hands.17
The same embrace reappeared in the early Christian Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus tells the disciples that they must "become one" with him by placing eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in the place of a hand, and a foot in the place of a foot, and an image in the place of an image (Log. 22).
That this was remembered even during the Middle Ages is shown by the fact that the Seder Eliyahu Rabbah (eighth century) also explains how God will resuscitate the dead by lifting them out of the dust, setting them on their feet, and placing them between his knees to embrace them and press them to him.18
The concomitant expression, "fellowship," which has remained so closely associated with this embrace in Masonic lore, likewise had an ancient origin, being identical to the Greek word, koinonia, used to describe the union of Christ and his disciples, who must suffer what the Savior suffered in order to obtain eternal life:
Additional embraces depicting this saving "fellowship" have been preserved in the early Jewish-Christian Odes of Solomon:
The Coptic Gospel of Philip similarly retains the Greek word, koinonia, to describe Mary Magdalene's redemptive relationship with Christ (59:8-9; 63:33), a relationship which apocryphal writers understood to be that of "consort" or "wife."19 This again reflects the wide-spread tradition in the Western Church that Mary was the "fallen" human counterpart of the Church, whom Jesus had come to redeem, even as Hosea's wife, Gomer, had been the counterpart of Yahweh's fallen "Bride," the spiritually "dead" Israel (Hos. 1-3).20 By such fellowship, "the holy united itself to the unholy in order to make it holy" (Anderson and Freedman), i.e. shared its Divine Nature with its defunct "partner" (koinonos) in order to bring her back to life.
The Masonic idea of reclaiming secret knowledge from before the Flood likewise appears to have had very ancient origins, already being spoken of in various pseudepigraphal works of the second century B.C. The Book of Jubilees (ca. 150 B.C.), for example, contains the old legend that secret knowledge had been given by God to the patriarchs, and that it had been specially preserved and handed down by them for the use of later mankind:
We are further informed that these "commandments" included secret knowledge for controlling "demons," as well as information concerning "every kind of medicine" (10:11-13). Later, these were passed on to Noah's son, Shem (10:14), who (according to rabbinic tradition) taught them to Abraham (Pirke de R. Eliezer, 8). Abraham subsequently passed them to his son, Isaac, explaining that:
These writings eventually came into the hands of Jacob (31:21-6), who gave them to Levi, "that he might preserve them and renew them for all his children unto this day" (45:16; cf. D&C 84:6-17). Significantly, Jubilees is thought to be the product of the same Hasidic element which withdrew to Qumran and claimed to possess sacred mysteries withheld from the rest of the world.21
The aging Enoch is also said to have told his son, Methuselah, that he had seen "heavenly tablets," upon which wonderful secrets were written, and to have asked him to faithfully preserve them for future generations (1 Enoch 82:1; 104:13; 107:3; 108:1ff). Sinners, he warned, would alter and pervert them, but in the End Time they would come forth in their purity for those who were worthy to receive them (104:12-13).22 This secret knowledge included information concerning the Flood and how to prepare for it (106:15-19).
Enoch appears to have been the Hebrew counterpart of the Babylonian Edoranchus (the seventh "patriarch" in Berossus' account of the first generations), who was also taught secrets of prophecy, and who was eventually welcomed by the gods into their company.23 Similarly, 1 Enoch describes the apotheosis of Enoch, who was "raised aloft to the Son of Man" (70:1) and told,
This allusion to the "Ancient of Days" shows that Enoch did not remain merely a "saved" human being, but became the equivalent of the Heavenly "Son of Man" (Daniel 7:13). Second Enoch accordingly has him say of himself,
3 Enoch even claims that the patriarch became no less than a
It would appear, then, that Enoch was looked upon by ancient writers as the possessor of the heavenly secrets which lead to deification,25 and which he bequeathed to his offspring for the benefit of later generations, when righteousness would return to the world. This daring claim should also be compared with the Masonic belief that the candidate for the Third Degree may become what Christ is, as we shall presently see.
Josephus himself claimed that this sacred knowledge had first been transmitted through Seth,26 who (knowing of the impending Flood) inscribed it on
The same tradition was subsequently taken up by the first alchemists.27 The third-century founder of European alchemy, Pseudo-Democritus, for example, claimed to have learned of it from his dead Master, "Ostanes the Persian," who (like Noah) had died before passing his wonderful knowledge to his sons. Yet when Democritus succeeded in resuscitating the shade of "Ostanes," he learned that the lost pillars could still be found in a certain Temple. These he eventually located and opened to discover the "Great Mystery," which teaches that immortality is transferred between heaven and earth
i.e. when the Divine and the Mortal
combine themselves into one.28
This again, is the mystery of koininia, which was expressed by the embrace in the Temple, and which would later find its way into the Masonic "Points of Fellowship." A similar alchemical tradition, relating to secrets inscribed on ancient pillars, survived into the late Middle Ages as the legend of the "Emerald Tablet," purportedly found in the tomb of Hermes Trismegistus, and which disclosed that "gold" appears when the Divine unites with the Human to form a single spiritual continuum:
Josephus' story of the antediluvian pillars became widely accessible once again through an account contained in Ranulf Higdon's Polychronicon, a popular history of the world which he completed around 1350. Here we learn how Adam foresaw the time when the Eternal Wisdom would be lost. He therefore committed it to the safety of twin pillars of marble and tile so that it could eventually come forth for the salvation of mankind. An identical account found its way into the Masonic Cooke Manuscript (ca. 1410), which is one of the "Old Charges" upon which modern Masonic legend is based.30 This time, however, it was said that Lamech's son, Jabal, was the one who erected the twin pillars, so that the sacred science would "neither burn nor sink in water." It is in fact very likely that medieval readers associated Jabal's father, Lamech, with the "Lamech" who was the father of Noah, hence the transferal of the story to Noah and his sons in later Masonic documents. The Gnostics had also spoken of this important tradition, which appears in the Nag Hammadi Three Steles of Seth, written sometime before A.D. 265. This explains that immortality is the result of the candidate's henosis with a Gnostic version of Christ. Here again, the two become one, thereby sharing their Father's perfection:
In this case, however, the two antediluvian pillars have become three, no doubt to symbolize God's "triadic" nature. Yet the basic "Great Mystery," which the Gnostics preserved in this special form, appears to have exerted a critical influence on the "Great Work" of the alchemists, whose search for "gold" was also a matter of "begetting" eternal life by bringing heaven and earth together, even as Christ became one with his disciples.
By now, then, it should be fairly obvious that the "resurrected dead Master" who discloses this great secret of henosis with eternal life was none other than Jesus Christ, who himself had to be raised from the dead before he could impart it to his disciples. This was obviously understood by the Freemasons, for it is said at the conclusion of the granting of the Third Degree that the person whom the candidate impersonates is "the greatest man who ever lived." Peter Tomkins in fact suggests that the reason why Catholicism so opposes the "rival sect" of Freemasonry is the latter's daring assertion that each candidate becomes "the living, slain and rearisen Christ in his own person," and that through identification with the experience of his surrogate, Hiram Abiff, "each for himself" becomes "no less than Very God of Very God."31
The identity of the "resurrected dead Christ" is also made clear in the medieval account which Gustave Flaubert incorporated into his Masonically-inspired tale, The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaler (1875). This time, Jesus appears as a dying and loathsome Leper, who is befriended by Julian the Ferryman. The latter takes pity on him and attempts to warm him with his own breath, described with a fictional version of the Five Points of Fellowship:
Flaubert claimed to have derived this tale from a stained-glass window in the Cathedral at Rouen, depicting events in the life of St. Julian. But the window to which Flaubert refers shows only St. Julian ferrying the Leper across a river and being later rewarded with eternal life. For the embrace itself, Flaubert depended upon the thirteenth century French prose-account, which tells us that the leprous Christ first offered his life-giving embrace not to Julian, but to his wife ("Madame, it is fitting that I have the body of a woman to warm me...That is why I have come here").32 The compassionate wife is about to oblige the Leper, but the latter instead blesses the couple for their proffered kindness and miraculously disappears. The "ferry-man's wife" is of course a figure for the New Testament "Bride of Christ," i.e. the Church and its members (Eph. 5:31-32), who must be willing to do for each other what he is willing to do for them:
This mutual reciprocity is the Johannine version of koinonia, or the disciple's "sharing" of Christ's life of sacrifice. That the wife's embrace was not required in this instance suggests that it belongs to the ancient tradition of the "arrested sacrifice" (cf. Gen. 22:10-18), i.e. evidence that one is willing to give of one's self before it is actually demanded (cf. Rom. 4:5, 11).
The startling idea of portraying Christ as a "Leper" was also very ancient, going back at least to the first quarter of the second century, when Aquila translated Isa. 53:4 ("we did esteem him as stricken") as "we did esteem him as haphemenon ('leprous')." The same tradition is also recorded in the Talmud and Midrash, which describe the expected Messiah as a "Leper" (BT. Sanhedrin, 98a, 98b; Sepher Zerubbabel).33 But the Old French account must have also been based on the Biblical belief that the sick and dying could be resuscitated by means of an intimate embrace, as, for instance, when a beautiful maiden was placed in bed with the ailing King David to "warm" and revive him (1 Kg. 1:1-4). The Septuagint version particularly stipulates that she is to "excite him and lie with him." Yet the King was too weak to respond, and "knew her not." David must therefore cease to be King, and in fact dies shortly thereafter.34 For reasons of his own, Flaubert conventionalized the proposed embrace in traditional Masonic fashion, at the same time transferring it to St. Julian and Jesus. Thus he gave us his own literary version of the well-known resuscitation of Hiram Abiff, which became still another metaphor for the henosis of the resurrected Christ and the candidate who is willing to take part in his life and death.
In more recent years, this Masonic line of resurrected "dead Masters" (Noah, Hiram, Ostanes, the Leper, etc.) was joined by the figure of Bezaleel, the architect of Moses' Tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 35:30-35). Alex Horne traces his appearance to a manuscript account from around 1726, which tells how two young princes sought to resurrect the wise old "stone-cutter" (vs. 33), in order to be instructed in the lost arts of Freemasonry.35
Such a Bezaleel legend, however, was mentioned already in Eusebius' fourth-century Church History (10.4), making the "sacred crafts" of Bezaleel, Solomon and Zerubbabel cognate metaphors for the one who raises the "new and holy Temple of Christ" (Mt. 26:61; Mk. 14:58; John 2:19). The Talmud had also assigned special wisdom to the figure of Bezaleel, claiming that he "knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and the earth were created" (Babylonian Talmud [BT] Berakoth, 55a).36 Indeed, he was said to be filled with God's Spirit and with divine, secret knowledge, by means of which the "heavens were established" and the "depths broken up" (Prov. 3:19-20). Clearly, Bezaleel was already a well-known figure for the Creator. In the section entitled "Panegyric on the Splendor of Our Affairs," Eusebius singles out this symbolic Creator, "Bezaleel," as the "Chief Architect" of the restored Sacred Edifice, and calls him
This "great glory," he adds, was foreshadowed by Hiram's building of a Temple at Tyre, the original prototype of the Jerusalem Temple. He then recounts how "Bezaleel," the new Temple-builder, has succeeded in raising an eternal edifice which will never again pass away. The following account is condensed from Eusebius' rather lengthy text, but we have preserved his characteristic language throughout, with its surprising "proto-Masonic" allusions (here italicized):
Now the Savior has come to his Holy Hill. Seeing his Bride lying desolate upon the ground, he stretches forth his hands and raises up her dead carcass, causing her to stand upright. She who was assailed by the batteries of her enemies and left for dead upon the earth becomes a restored Temple, whose chief Cornerstone is the Savior himself. In its Holy of Holies the Spouse reclaims his Wife--a woman once deserted and rejected--now clothed in glory and ornaments befitting a royal Bride. Then seeing her promised sons, she asks, "Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children and am a Widow?" Yet her promised restoration was inscribed of old on Sacred Tablets, and is now brought to reality by "Bezaleel," the new and excellent "Zerubbabel," our most peaceful "Solomon," i.e. Jesus Christ, the Architect of the New Temple. Wonderful and mighty is this work, but more wonderful than wonders are these archetypes, these renewals of divine and spiritual buildings in our souls, which the Son of God himself framed and fashioned according to his own image, and to which everywhere and in all respects he imparted the likeness of God.
Eusebius then summarizes the overall meaning of his parable as follows:
We are especially struck by his references to the "dead carcass" of the Church (cf. the Scottish Graham Ms. and its "stinking dead body"), which the Savior has caused to "stand upright" (Graham Ms: "reared up").37 She who was "assailed by the batteries of her enemies" also reminds us of the mortally-wounded Hiram Abiff, who was at once a symbol of Christ and the Christian who aspires to become identified with him (Tomkins). The "restored Temple" is of course the central ideal of Freemasonry, which seeks to restore the "true spiritual house" and to rediscover the "way into the truth and the life" (Dumfries No. 4 Ms., Catechism).38 Meanwhile, since the Church was formerly a "Widow" rejected by her Husband (cf. Isa. 54:6), her children are appropriately called "sons of the Widow," a common designation for members of the Masonic Fraternity.39 Their restoration was again promised on "sacred tablets," corresponding to the antediluvian tablets and pillars of Shem and Enoch, now the Twin Pillars, "Jachin" and "Boaz," in the Masonic Temple. The names "Bezaleel," "Zerubbabel" and "Solomon" are once more synonyms for Jesus Christ, who promised to restore the "Temple of his Body" on the third day, and who would become the resurrected Masonic Master, "Hiram Abiff." Finally, the designation of this renewed Temple as a "heavenly" structure corresponds to the idea of the "Heavenly Temple" described in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and which has become the "symbolic Temple" of Speculative Masonry, and whose "types and figures"40 signify realities yet to be realized in the lives of its members.
Eusebius' conception of the "intellectual Temple" clearly belongs to the tradition of spiritualizing allegories in the Testament of Levi, the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and indeed, in the New Testament itself. 41 Thus it served as another important link between the traditions of the early Church and the writers of the Middle Ages. Just how the tradition passed on to the Masons of later centuries is not so well known, though the parallels are too striking and significant to have been mere coincidence. It may be noted, however, that the Venerable Bede in the seventh century wrote a parable very similar to that of Eusebius, called De Templo Solominis, which contains the same sort of "allegorical or symbolical study" of the Temple that characterizes Speculative Freemasonry.42 The thirteenth century Bishop Durandus also wrote such an "allegory," telling how men must work to build up the kingdom of God by "cementing the stones" with charity, "covering its roof" with faith, and erecting a City "four-square" with the cardinal virtues, etc. Much the same thing reoccurs in a 1659 work by the Puritan Divine, Samuel Lee (Orbis Miraculum, or the Temple of Solomon), and again in John Bunyan's Solomon's Temple Spiritualized (1688), both of which express the truths of the New Testament by means of Temple-symbolism, such as the restoring of God's Temple with the "stones" of our bodies, erected on the "sure foundation" of Christ, etc.43
One of Eusebius' most arresting and interesting "figures," however, occurs in the preceding chapter of his History, wherein he declares that
This metaphor also appears in the roughly contemporary Nag Hammadi library, explaining that man's separation from Christ began when the preexistent Body of Christ was "dismembered" by the Fall (cf. Gen. 2:21),44 but will be brought back together by a Sacred Marriage embrace in the eschaton (Gen. 2:24 and Eph. 5:31-32):
According to Eusebius, the effects of this redemptive union will "pervade all the members" with "one energy of the Divine Spirit," joining them to the Savior as a single "harmonious Temple." This is in fact the inmost secret of the "divine and sacred mysteries" (10.3), which were designed to restore "the hideous carcass of the dead to life" (10.4), a striking image which has haunted Masonic lore ever since.
Perhaps the best-known of all Masonic symbols are the compass and square, shown interlocked with the letter "G" between them, as the traditional emblems of Freemasonry (see figure a). During the granting of the First, Second and Third Degrees,46 the compass and square are placed upon the altar of the Temple in an interlinked fashion, representing the divine Light as it unites with the candidate and fills him with increasing knowledge. At the same time, this leads to his "rebirth" as its resurrected "offspring" (figures b and c).
That this symbolic rite was derived from a still older mystery, however, is suggested by an early Masonic catechism, which asks,
The answer which it gives is:
Thus, the union of "the two Cherubims" in the Jerusalem Temple would appear to be the ultimate source of the "mystery of the Golden Altar" in the Masonic Temple.
That the letter "G" (signifying God's secret Name) also appears between the intertwining compass and square47 is paralleled by Philo's explanation that the union of the statues in the Jewish Temple represented God's "consorting" with the soul, and his "divinizing" of the recipient (50). Thus the compass and square are exact symbolic equivalents of the ancient Cherubim, i.e. the ancient "Male" and "Female," whose union was the central feature of the Wisdom mystery, and which brought about the candidate's deification.48 But we should also compare this unique symbolism with the Divine Image itself (Gen. 1:27), which teaches that God is male and female united; hence the sacred "G" appears only when the male compass and the female square are inter-twined.49
The association of these "male" and "female" symbols with solar and lunar iconography (see figure d) was also based on early Israelite and Semitic tradition, according to which the heavenly bodies represented various male and female deities. Their symbols were in fact still used by European alchemists to describe the union of "heaven" and "earth," taking the "Sun" as a figure of Christ, and the "Moon" as a figure of his Bride, the Church. These must again unite in order to "beget" the "Philosopher's Stone," i.e. eternal life (see figure e). Zosimus of Panopolis accordingly wrote in the third century that "heaven" must marry "earth" if the latter is to be regenerated:
But before they can complete this all-important work, both must die and pass through the "nigredo" state, i.e. the death and dissolution of the body (see figure f). Zosimus appropriately characterized this stage of the mystery with the image of the "priest" who is torn to pieces and mutilated before he can be resurrected and discover the "Stone of the Nile."50
Other alchemists described the marriage of the "sun-compass" and the "moon-square" as the bringing together of superius/inferius and externis/interius (Tractatus Aureus Hermetis), which exactly mirrors the language of the ancient Gospel of Thomas ("You shall enter the Kingdom when the upper is as the lower and the outside is as the inside," log. 22).51 Both "Male" and "Female" will then be resurrected as the "gold" of eternal life, forever joined as a divine zakar wanekebah, or "Rebis" ("Two-in-One," figure g). The "Sun" and the "Moon" are further referred to as the "King" and "Queen," just as the Jews referred to God and his exiled Shekhinah in the Kabbalistic mystery.
The ultimate origin of the compass and square as divine emblems is presently lost in the mists of antiquity, but their universal employment as builders' tools caused them to appear nearly everywhere as theological symbols for denoting creative power. In Greek iconography, for example, the nature of the gods Pluto, Bacchus and Mars was represented by the triangle (a three-sided, enclosed compass), and that of the goddesses Rhea, Venus, Ceres, Vesta and Juno by the square.52 In Egypt, the "amulets" of Osiris included two plumb lines, suspended from two compasses, as well as two squares (figure h).53 In pre-Christian China, one also found the Demiurge, Fu Hsih, and his female counterpart, Nü Kua, displaying the compass and square as symbols of their male and female creative powers (see figure i and figure j). Even earlier, the I Ching (ca. 720-474 B.C.) had described the heavens as round (just as the compass delineates the horizon), and the earth as square (with its "four corners").54
But these symbols were also employed by the Israelite Creator, who declares in the Old Testament that
These references show that the ubiquitous builder's tools were also traditionally associated with his divine power and work. There was a legend that the veil before God's Throne in the Heavenly Holy of Holies was covered with the archetypal forms from which Creation would proceed.56 These forms undoubtedly included the basic round and straight shapes of nature, which the compass and square were used to mark out. It is therefore no surprise to find that medieval cathedral builders frequently depicted Christ with the plumb line, compass and square in his hands, as, for example, in the Cathedral of Santa Croce in Florence, where Jesus stands above the main portal holding the worker's square as a sign of his divine creative power.
More intimate forms of art likewise employed these symbols as signs of Yahweh-Christ's creative and healing powers. There is an Italian miniature of the thirteenth century, for instance, showing him holding the compasses in his right hand, measuring out the extent of the universe.57 This appears to have been inspired by the Old Testament prophet who asked, with reference to Yahweh,
Using the same metaphors, the early Freemasons would say that
Edmund Spenser, in the early seventeenth century, similarly described the carrying out of God's work by means of the Freemason's symbolic tools:
Milton, too, spoke of God's creation of the universe by means of these sacred implements:
Yet the privilege of sharing the "mystery" of these sacred symbols was restricted to whose who were deemed worthy. This is clearly shown by an early Masonic manuscript from around 1581, which stipulates that
Joseph Smith similarly added to the received text of Genesis 14 the following strict requirements for enjoying the creative powers of the Priesthood:
Further associated with the compass and square were depictions of the corresponding god and goddess as intertwining serpents, whose sacred embrace created life and maintained fertility. These can in turn be traced all the way back to the Sumero-Babylonian caduceus,60 that mythical pair whose "nuptial" interaction provided healing and general well-being (figure k). These were again connected during the late Babylonian period with the union of the sun and moon (figure l). The Israelites at about the same time had a Bronze Serpent (nehushtan) of their own, whom they worshiped as an essential member of the pantheon (2 Kg. 18:4); its special purpose was to heal the victims of poisonous reptiles (Num. 21:8-9). Paradoxically, talismans showing monotheism's "One God" as a "two-serpent" composite (i.e. as "male and female in one") were still common during the centuries immediately preceding Christ (figure m, and figure n). It is therefore significant that the Church saw the nehushtan as a prophetic allusion to Christ (John 3:14-15), who would miraculously "heal" the "Temple of his dead body" in three days (2:19-20).
From the foregoing discussion it should have become abundantly clear that the basic rites and symbols of Freemasonry had their roots in traditions far older than the advent of seventeenth-century "Speculative Freemasonry."61 Indeed, there can be no doubt that such traditions had their ultimate Sitz-im-Leben in the Judaeo-Christian Temple-cultus, as we have repeatedly described it in the earlier pages of this study. But what is especially remarkable is that Joseph Smith not only recognized the generic relationship between these earlier sources and Freemasonry, but that he correctly discarded the extraneous innovations which had been added to them, incorporating in their place important elements of his own which were not found in Freemasonry, but which had truly existed in ancient times.
We must therefore conclude that Mormonism was not at all derived from Freemasonry, but that both had come from a common source in antiquity. Thus, what Joseph Smith saw in the Masonic Temple inspired him to recognize important remnants of the authentic Endowment, which he was subsequently able to restore in their original form. This was roughly equivalent to his earlier experience with the Egyptian facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. There, too, he had recognized in the "counterfeit" Egyptian religion generic features of the Eternal Gospel, features which had also survived since the beginning of time, and which he finally restored in their pristine purity.
It is particularly noteworthy that of all the extensive Masonic ritual, which occupies more than two-hundred double-columned pages in Richardon's Monitor of Freemasonry, the Prophet accepted as genuine only that which might fill a single page in the same format, even correcting it in major points. The rest he supplied in the form of authentic covenants derived directly from the Primitive Church, set again in a traditional Salvation History describing man's "journey through the wilderness" in search of God. His conception of the Endowment in fact corresponds far more closely to the Temple-allegories of the early Church Fathers than it does to Masonic ritual, save for the all-important and central encounter with the resurrected Savior, which indeed had a history all of its own, long before the Masons began to imitate it. And since the restored Endowment most closely resembles this earlier tradition, it would appear that the Freemasons borrowed their ceremony from ancient "Mormonism," rather than Mormonism from seventeenth-century Freemasonry.
1. On March 15, 1842, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were initiated as Entered Apprentice Masons. On the next morning, they were advanced to Fellow Craft Masons. Later in the same day, Joseph was given the degree of Master Mason. History of the Church, 4:551-2; Cecil McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry (Salt Lake City, 1956), 90.
2. Quoted by Reed C. Durham, in a talk given before the Mormon History Association, Nauvoo, Ill., April 20, 1974. Printed in Mormon Miscellaneous, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Oct. 1975); published by The New Nauvoo Press, Nauvoo, ILL.
5. Michael W. Homer, for example, in his detailed historical study, "Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry," in Dialogue, vol 27, no. 3, pp. 1-113, notes a number of significant connections between Mormonism and Freemasonry, but fails to note any connections between Freemasonry and the ancient Church. This of course leaves the impression that these specific aspects of Mormonism owe their existence solely to Freemasonry, and that they had no Christian precedents, when in fact, as we shall show, Freemasonry and Mormonism had a common origin in the early Church.
7. It is clear, for example, that the idea of dividing the Endowment into Aaronic and Melchizedec Priesthood portions was already part of the Prophet's 1833 plan for the City of Zion (see the entry for June 25, 1833, in History of the Church, I:357-62).
11. Some Freemasons therefore divide their "forebears" into two separate races: the original Noachites, who had possessed God's word in an unbroken line since the time of Adam, and the Hiramites, who rediscovered and restored it at the time of Solomon's Temple.
17. The divine power of these two prophets is further attested by their ability to provide the widows and their sons with a bottomless supply of oil and meal, prefiguring Christ's miracle of the Loaves and Fishes as symbols of inexhaustible life. Elisha's power was in fact demonstrated once again when a corpse was resuscitated by lowering it into his grave; when it came into contact with the old prophet's bones, it was immediately restored to life (2 Kg. 13:21). Combined with the story of the finding of the Book of the Law in the Jerusalem Temple (2 Kg. 22:8), this tale was preserved in the Masonic ritual of the Royal Arch Degree, where a candidate is lowered into a subterranean vault to recover the lost Name of God and to regain its secret of eternal life. It is significant that Elijah and Elisha are both shown together in Chartres Cathedral as types and images of Christ and his power to redeem humanity (the "Widow's Son"); this has been recounted by J. K. Huysmans in his classic study of Chartres Cathedral, The Cathedral (E.T., London, 1898, 218). Elijah was also celebrated by medieval alchemists as "Helyas (Elias) the Artist," the master of alchemy, and the one who raises the dead by means of a chemical "embrace" uniting the "Sun" and the "Moon" (see Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin, London, 1985, 144).
18. Compare Acts 20:10, where Paul raises a man from the dead with a sacred embrace. Also the Jewish apocryphon, Joseph And Aseneth, where Joseph gives his bride eternal life with an embrace and a kiss (15:5-6; 19:10-11). The Seder Eliyahu Rabbah adds specifically that the Messiah will be the very "Son of the Widow" whom Elijah raised from the dead. See Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament (hereafter TDNT), ed. Kittel and Friederich, Grand Rapids, 1976, IX:527.
20. In addition to the figures `Gomer/Israel' and `Mary Magdalene/the Church' we also find the symbolic `Flute Girl/Judaism' (in the Acts of Thomas) and the prostitute `Sarah/Israel' (as the wife of the False Messiah, Shabattai Zevi).
22. See also 2 Enoch, 33:9-11; 35:2-3; 47:2-3; 48:7-9; 54:1ff; 65:5. We should again compare the story of Moses' loss of the original Tablets of the Law, and their replacement by a "lesser" set of Tablets (pp. 757-8, above). Jewish Christians referred to this "lesser Law" as the "False Pericopes," and maintained that Christianity had restored the true doctrine (see Daniélou, TJC, 60-61).
24. See Michael A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch (Oxford, 1978), II:166. E. Isaac (in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, I:50, 43), disturbed by the daring of this statement, objects that "'son of man'...should be distinguished from the 'Son of Man;'" S. Mowinkel suggests the same distinction. Yet D. S. Russell observes that "the phrase thereby loses its technical meaning, becoming merely, "Thou are the man who..." (op. cit., 349), i.e. that it is deprived of its deifying import. R. H. Charles was in fact so disturbed by the same passage that he gratuitously altered it to "This is the Son of Man" (instead of "Thou art..."). Emphasis ours.
30. Horne, King Solomon's Temple, 233ff. According to Higdon, "the time men knew, so Adam said, that they should be destroyed by fire and water, therefore the books they had made by great travail and study would be destroyed. They enclosed these in two great pillars of marble and tile...in order to save them for the help of mankind" (ibid., 234).
31. Peter Tomkins, The Magic of Obelisks (N.Y., 1981), 110. This should be compared with Hippolytus' summary of the early Church's doctrine of deification (theosis): "Thou hast become God...Whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon thee, because thou hast been deified...For the Deity by condescension does not diminish aught of the dignity of His divine perfection, having made thee even God to his glory" (Refutations, X:30).
36. Such "letters" were even at the time being developed into the Kabbalistic doctrine of the SEPHIROTH, or the primal attributes out of which God created the universe. See the SEFER YETZIRAH (Book of Creation) and the SEFER HA'BAHIR (Book of Light), written between the third and the eleventh centuries.
39. The oldest known use of this epithet appears in the Old Testament stories of Elijah and Elisha, who restored life to the dead sons of widows who had befriended them. By the time of Jewish Christianity, it referred to the heavenly "Mother" who became "evil" by attempting to rule over matter without the help of her Syzygos, the "True Prophet" (Clementine Homilies, 3.20,22, 27 and Clementine Recognitions, 1.45). She thus appears to be related to the Gnostic "Fallen Sophia," or the preexistent Mother who awaits reconciliation with the Savior. Certain Gnostics thus referred to themselves as "sons of the Widow," especially the Manichaeans (C. J. Jung, Mysterium Coniiunctionis, Princeton, 1963, 17-23). The Manichaean Book of Secrets also describes both Jesus and followers as "Sons of the Widow," for he was held to be the "Elder Brother" of the disciples (Isabel Cooper-Oakley, Masonry and Medieval Mysticism, London, 1900, 97). All in fact belonged to the same heavenly race, "without earthly father" (Heb. 7:3). From the Manichaeans, the expression "sons of the Widow" may have passed to Wolfram von Eschenbach, whose hero "Parzival" was also a "son of the Widow," showing his own descent from this same heavenly family (cf. Isa. 53:10; Mk. 3:35). Wolfram claimed to have received his story from a certain "Flegetanis," a scion of the ancient tribe of Solomon and Hiram, who supposedly lived in Kabbalistic Spain and had access to the kind of secret knowledge described in "Survivals of the Temple Cult in Kabbalism." From such facts as these it would seem that both Kabbalism and Gnosticism served as conduits for the transmission of this ancient lore to the founders of Freemasonry.
41. Testament of Levi, 8:1-17; Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 5.6-7.3; also 2.20 and 4.21-23; Excerpta Ex Theodoto, 27.3-6; Origen, Commentary on John, 1.17ff; 10.25-26; Cyril of Jerusalem, Lectures on the Mysteries (now applied to baptism); Epistle to the Hebrews, esp. 3:8-4:1; 10:19-20; 12:22-24. Ernst Kaesemann (Das Wandernde Gottesvolk, Goettingen, 1962), interprets this whole epistle as a "cultic Temple journey" through the wilderness.
42. Horne, Sources of Masonic Symbolism (Richmond, Va., 1981), 75ff. This tradition is often referred to as "Masonic Moralizing," and we see it again in certain references in the LDS Temple to the "meaning" of its symbols. Compare Eph. 6:10-17 for the New Testament background to this "moralizing."
46. According to the closing lecture given during the granting of the Third Degree, the three basic Degrees (Apprentice, Fellow, Master) represent "the three principle stages of human life, viz.: Youth, Manhood, and Age" (Richardson's Monitor, reprinted by Ezra Cook, Publishers, Chicago: 1875pp. 40-1). Compare the Primitive Church's doctrine of the three degrees of glory (1 Cor. 15:41; Mt. 13:8, 23; also Papias, Fragments, 5; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.36:2; Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, VI.13, 14; etc..
48. According to the research of Raphael Patai (The Hebrew Goddess, third edition, Detroit, 1990, pp. 67-95), there were actual cherubim in the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple, which had been redesigned to represent a male and a female in an erotic embrace: "When the pilgrims came up to the festival, the veil would be raised for them, and the cherubim shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between a man and a woman" (BT. YOMA, 54a; BT. BABA BATRA, 99a). When the Christians gained access to the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19-20), they too could embrace God in person, as we read in the Gospel of Thomas: "When you make the two one, when you make the male and the female into a single one, when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in the place of a hand, and a foot in the place of a foot, and an image in the place of an image, you will enter into the kingdom" (i.e. pass through the veil) (22). This also appears to have been the "Great Mystery" of Paul, where Christ and the Church become "one flesh" (Eph. 5:31-32). Both were undoubtedly patterned after the example in Ezek. 16:8, where God "covers Israel's nakedness" with his cloak and "makes her his own" in a marriage covenant. Note again that the Seder Eliyahu Rabbah predicts that God will one day raise up the dead from the dust, set her on her feet, and place her between his knees, embrace her, and bring her back to life (quoted above). Compare also Acts 20:10, where Paul brings a dead person back to life with a sacred embrace.
49. Compare E. Snow's definition of Godhood, in Journal of Discourses, 19:269-70. "Deity consists of man and woman...There can be no God except he is composed of the man and the woman united." They are like scissors, "composed of two halves, but they are necessarily parts of one another."
54. "Ch'ien is Heaven. It is round. It is the ruler, the father...K'un is the earth, the Mother...the level" (Appendix 5, to I CHING). "Sun suggests the plumb-line, the carpenter's square" (ch. 18). Liu An (d. 122 B.C.) also wrote that "the way of Heaven is termed circular, and the way of earth square. The square governs darkness (yin) and the round governs brightness (yang)" Huai-nan Tzu, ch. 3).
61. See Horne, King Solomon's Temple, pp. 26-63, for a thorough and objective discussion of the recent origins of "Speculative Freemasonry," which can no longer be supposed to have existed amongst the stone-workers of earlier centuries. It is also clear that the traditions which the Speculative Freemasons inherited from the past came from Christian Temple-theory, not from a romanticized "Temple of Solomon," through (as we have repeatedly seen) the Christian Temple had its own roots in the Wisdom Mystery of the Jews.