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THE WORTHIES OF FREEMASONRY

THE MASONIC REVIEW - 1857


We propose under this title to present to our readers, in the course of the succeeding numbers, a series of biographical and historical sketches of some of those illustrious characters whom the annals and traditions of Freemasonry have connected with the institution as its founders or its patrons. Seven of these particularly merit our attention, from the important position they occupy in the lectures and traditions of the craft. The names of these worthies are, Enoch, the first inventor of pillars; Noah, the founder of the Arkite rites; Solomon, the builder of the Temple; Hiram, the widow's son; Zerubbabel, the restorer of the Temple; and St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, the two "lines parallel" of Masonry.

The materials from which our narratives are to be derived are sometimes scanty and sometimes copious, but never uninteresting. But as written history does not reach, in all cases, to those sass which are to engage our consideration, we shall necessarily be compelled to borrow much from that traditional lore with which Freemasonry abounds, but which, scattered in recondite works, or locked up in the scarce manuscripts of the ineffable degrees, are not within the reach of every Mason. Hence, in placing them in the possession of our readers, so far as we legitimately can, we believe we will be offering them an acceptable service.

Of the nature of these traditions, of their claims to credence, and of the use which we intend to make of them in the course of these sketches, we cannot say more or better than has already been said by one who has himself abundantly borrowed from them.

"It is admitted," says Dr. Oliver, "that we are in possession of numerous legends which are not found in holy writ; but being of very ancient date, are entitled to consideration, although their authenticity may be questioned, and their aid rejected. I shall not, however, in any case, use their evidence as a prima facie means of proving any doubtful proposition, but merely in corroboration of an argument which might probably be complete without their aid. Our system of typical or legendary tradition adds to the dignity of the institution by its general reference to sublime truths, which were considered necessary to its existence or its consistency; although some of the facts, how pure soever at their first promulgation, may have been distorted and perverted by passing through a multitude of hands in their transmission down the stream of time, amidst the political fluctuations of the earth and the downfall of mighty states and empires." (1)

With these preliminary remarks, we proceed to portray a sketch of the first of the illustrious personages in our series of the worthies of the craft.

ENOCH, THE INVENTOR OF PILLARS

" _____him the Most High

(Rapt in a balmly cloud, with winged steeds),

Did as thou seest, receive to walk with God,

High in salvation, and the claims of bliss,

Exempt from death." PARADISE LOST.

Though the scriptures furnish but a meagre account of Enoch, the traditions of Freemasonry closely connect him by numerous circumstances with the early history of the institution. All indeed that we learn from the book of Genesis on the subject of his life, is that he was the seventh of the patriarchs; the son of Jared, and the greatgrandfather of Noah; that he was born in the year of the world 622; that his life was one of eminent virtue - so much so, that he is described as "walking with God;" and that in the year 987 his earthly pilgrimage was terminated (as the commentators generally suppose), not by death, but by a bodily translation to heaven.

In the very commencement of our inquiries, we shall find circumstances in the life of this great patriarch that shadow forth, as it were, something of that mysticism with which the traditions of Masonry have connected him. His name, in the Hebrew language, Henoch, signifies to initiate and to instruct, and seems intended to express the fact that he was, as Oliver remarks, the first to give a decisive character to the rites of initiation, and to add to the practice of divine worship the study and application of human science. In confirmation of this view, a writer in the Freemason's (quarterly Review says, on this subject, that "It seems probable that Enoch introduced the speculative principles into the Masonic creed, and that he originated its exclusive character."

The years of his life may also be supposed to contain a mystic meaning, for they amounted to 365, being exactly equal to a solar revolution. In all the ancient rites of what has been termed spurious Freemasonry, this number has occupied a prominent place, because it was the representative of the annual course of that luminary which, as the great fructifier of the earth, was the peculiar object of divine worship.

The immediate ancestors of Enoch had lived in the practice of that piety which had been taught to them by their ancestor, Seth, and occupied the region about Mount Moriah as the scene of their agricultural and pastoral cares.

Of the early history of Enoch, we know nothing. It is, however, probable that like the other descendants of the pious Seth, he passed his pastoral life in the neighborhood of Mount Moriah. From the other patriarchs he differed only in this: that, enlightened by the divine knowledge which had been imparted to him, he instructed his contemporaries in the practice of those rites which have been called Primitive Freemasonry, and in the study of those sciences with which he had himself become acquainted.

The oriental writers abound in traditionary evidence of the learning of the venerable patriarch. One tradition states that he received from God the gift of wisdom and knowledge, and that God sent him thirty volumes from heaven, filled with all the secrets of the most mysterious sciences. The Babylonians supposed him to have been intimately acquainted with the nature of the stars, and they attribute to him the invention of astrology. The Rabbins maintain that he was taught by God and Adam how to sacrifice and how to worship the Deity aright. The cabalistic book of Raziel says, that he received the divine mysteries from Adam, through the direct line of the preceding patriarchs.

The Greek Christians supposed him to have been identical with the first Egyptian Hermes, who dwelt at Sais; they say he was the first to give instruction on the celestial bodies; that he foretold the deluge that was to overwhelm his descendants; and that he built the pyramids, (2) engraving thereon figures of artificial instruments and the elements of the sciences, fearing lest the memory of man should perish in that general destruction. Eupolemus, a Grecian writer, makes him the same as Atlas, and attributes to him, as the pagans did to that deity, the invention of astronomy.

Dr. Wait, in his Oriental Antiquities, quotes a passage from Bar Hebraeus, a Jewish writer, which asserts that Enoch was the first who invented books and writing; that he taught men the art of building cities; that he discovered the knowledge of the zodiac and the course of the planets; and, that he inculcated the worship of God, by fasting, prayer, alms, votive offerings, and tythes. Bar Hebraeus adds, that he also appointed festivals for sacrifices to the sun, at the periods when that luminary entered each of the zodiacal signs; but this statement, which would make him the author of idolatry, is entirely inconsistent with all that we know of his character, from both history and tradition, and arose, as Oliver supposes, most probably from a blending of the characters of Enos and Enoch.

In the study of the sciences, in teaching them to his children and his contemporaries, and in instituting the rights of primitive Freemasonry, Enoch passed the years of his peaceful, his pious, and his useful life, until the crimes of mankind had increased to such a height that, in the expressive words of holy writ, "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually." It was then, according to Masonic tradition, that Enoch, disgusted with the wickedness that surrounded him, and appalled at the thoughts of its inevitable consequences, fled to the solitude and secrecy of Mount Moriah, and devoted himself to prayer and pious contemplation. It was on that spot, then first consecrated by this patriarchal hermitage, and afterwards to be made still more holy by the sacrifices of Abraham, of David, and of Solomon, that we are informed that the Shekina, or sacred presence appeared to him, and gave him those instructions which were to preserve the wisdom of the antediluvians to their posterity, when the world, with the exception of but one family, should have been destroyed by the forthcoming flood. The circumstances which occurred at that time are recorded in a tradition which forms what may be called the great Masonic legend of the patriarch Enoch.

Enoch being inspired by the Most High - so runs the legend and in commemoration of a wonderful vision, built a temple under ground and dedicated it to God. His son, Methuseleh, constructed the building, although he was not acquainted with his father's motives for the erection. This temple consisted of nine brick vaults, situated perpendicularly beneath each other, and communicating by apertures left in the arch of each vault.

Enoch then caused a triangular plate of gold to be made, each side of which was a cubit long; he enriched it with the most precious stones, and encrusted the plate upon a stone of agate of the same form. On the plate, he engraved in ineffable characters the true name of Deity, and placing it on a cubical pedestal of white marble, deposited the whole within the deepest arch.

When this subterranean building was completed, he made a door of stone, and attaching to it a ring of iron, by which it might be occasionally raised, be placed it over the opening of the uppermost arch, and so covered it over that the aperture could not be discovered. Enoch himself was not permitted to enter it but once a year; and on the death of Enoch, Methuseleh, and Lamech, and the destruction of the world by the deluge, all knowledge of this temple and of the sacred treasure which it contained was lost, until in after times it was accidentally discovered by another worthy of Freemasonry, who, like Enoch, was engaged in the erection of a temple on the same spot.

The legend goes on to inform us, that after Enoch had completed the subterranean temple, fearing that the principles of those arts and sciences which be had cultivated with so much assiduity would be lost in that general destruction of which he had received a prophetic vision, he erected two pillars, the one of marble, to withstand the influence of fire, and the other of brass, to resist the action of water. On the pillar of brass he engraved the history of the creation, the principles of the arts and sciences, and the doctrines of speculative Freemasonry, as they were practised in his times; and on the one of marble he inscribed characters in hieroglyphics, importing that near the spot where they stood, a precious treasure was deposited in a subterranean vault.

Josephus gives an account of these pillars in the first book of his antiquities. He ascribes them to the children of Seth, which is by no means a contradiction of the Masonic tradition, since Enoch was one of these children. "That their invention," says the historian, " might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone; they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day."

Enoch having completed these labors, called his descendants around him on Mount Moriah, and having warned them in the most solemn manner of the consequences of their wickedness, exhorted them to forsake their idolatries, and return once more to the worship of the true God. Masonic tradition informs us that be then delivered up the government of the craft to his grandson, Lamech, and disappeared from earth. (3)

This brief sketch of the services of Enoch, which exhibits the care with which he devoted himself to the investigation of the science, the assiduity with which he cultivated those principles of morality and religion which constitute the doctrines of speculative Freemasonry, and the caution which he exercised in preserving for future ages those important secrets, which tradition tells us were thus preserved for the future service of the craft, justly entitle him to the encomium that he has received from one of the most illustrious of our writers. (4)

"Enoch was a very eminent Freemason, and the conservator of the true name of God, which was subsequently lost, even amongst his favorite people, the Jews." - MACKEY'S MISCELLANY.

ENDNOTES

(1) Oliver, Historical Landmarks, vol 1, p. 53, note 29.

(2) They have undoubtedly confounded the pyramids with those pillars of Enoch, of which we stall hereafter speak.

(3) Selden quotes the annals of Eutychius Patriarch of Alexandria, as stating from the ancient monuments from the East, that Enoch died or was translated on Saturday, after sunset, the 3d of Tisrl, or 30th September.

(4) Oliver, History of initiation, p.3

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