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The Holy Saints John and Masonry

by Jeffery E. Marshall
June 2000

Author’s Note: The ritual discussed in this paper is that used by the Grand Lodge of Maryland, circa 2000.  The author understands that other jurisdiction may use ritual that is different than this ritual.  This is especially true of the Emulation Ritual used in many parts of the world, which no longer makes reference to the Holy Saints John.

Whence came you?  I imagine all of us in this room were asked that question sometime in our Masonic career.  Yet, that is not true in many parts of the Masonic world.  Here in the United States, we still dedicate our lodges to the Holy Saints John.  But this practice stopped in England with the creation of the United Grand Lodge in 1813[1].  The English practice spread to most of the world, while the US grand lodges, perhaps because of the separations of ocean and war, retained many of the pre-union forms.  The dedication of the lodges to the Holy Saints John and the association of the two parallel lines with them are two differences.  The question why the UGLE removed the reference is perhaps a simple one—to remove any hint of a specific Christian bias.[2]  The question of how they got into the ritual in the first place is a much more difficult question.

To help answer this question, we will take a look at several layers of symbolism.  Some will be strictly Masonic.  Others, however, will venture into the field of religion.  While we normally try to avoid discussions of religion and politics in lodge, a look at religion is virtually required given the topic.  Furthermore, this look at religion will take us into what for many is uncharted and perhaps uncomfortable territory.  We as Masons, however, should have the fortitude to navigate these waters.  However, whether one chooses to stay and plumb their depths or return to a familiar harbor is the decision each Mason must make and we should all respect.

As we travel, perhaps we should keep the mutable nature of symbols in mind.  The way a symbol works often depends upon an individual’s frame of reference.  Change the frame and the interpretation of the symbol may change as well. 

For example, one mental game asks a series of questions, most of which are noise and meant to distract and add to the mystification of the overall effect.  After several of these questions, the person is asked to name a country whose name begins with the letter D.  Then, the person is asked to name an animal whose name begins with the second letter of the country selected.  Finally, the person is asked to name the color of the animal.  The “correct” answer is a gray elephant from Denmark.  It the one that most people will pick, because Denmark and elephant come to mind first.  But is it the only answer?  Well, no.  It could just as easily be a tan jackal from Djibouti.   But the scorer throws out the second answer because it isn’t the way most people think.  That is, it does not work on commonly established thought patterns.

As another example, we can ask a large group, “how much is two plus two?”  Nearly everyone will say four.  But someone may say ten.  Another might say eleven.  And yet a third say twelve.  The group thinks these few voices are dissenters or crazy.  After all, everyone knows two plus two equals four.  The person that says ten may think the person that says eleven is wrong.  Yet all are correct.  Again the issue is not as clear-cut as many might like to think it is.  The answer again lies with the frame of reference.  For most of us, the frame of reference is base ten.  Yet for someone whose frame of reference is base four, two plus two equals ten.  For those that think this is all a theoretical exercise, remember that the computers many of us use rely heavily on binary and hexadecimal numerical systems, neither of which is base ten.

So what?

Well, society’s scorekeepers use specific frames of reference to keep score of its members.  It can also use these frames of reference to control how its members think.  Perhaps this is necessary for a well-ordered society.  Yet no new discoveries come from thinking within the confines of the current paradigm. 

Perhaps this is part of the value of a well-constructed symbol set.  There is a surface meaning that employs the “normal” mode of thought for the society and other meanings that can seem to appear when using other frames of reference.  By analyzing how the change in reference can change the meaning of the symbol, we can perhaps learn a little bit about how we think and perhaps change how we think. 

Perhaps that is the whole point of initiation: to challenge our frame of reference and to expand it. 

Perhaps it is also how esoteric knowledge is conveyed.  It is encoded in symbols that mean one thing to the broader society that employs conventional thought patterns and something quite different to those that are initiated into a different set of thought patterns.   An example of this may be the word crustoj.   Orthodox Christians see it as evidence that Jesus existed and was discussed in Roman writings.  Some Gnostics or those who seek to show an actual Jesus never existed see it as something quite different.

It may also be crucial in determining how we related to each other and the cosmos.  If Deity and the cosmos are infinite, then any model is at best an imperfect and incomplete.  Therefore, the model that we select to explore Deity and our relationship with the cosmos will, in large part, determine how we live our lives.  Perhaps how we structure our thoughts and the framework we build them upon is just as important as what our thoughts actually are.  For this framework and building process may determine the nature of our thoughts.  The process is perhaps as important as the outcome.

With this in mind, let us set sail and explore.  During our journey, we will be faced, like Odysseus with the dilemma of Scylla and Charibdis.  While we examine the symbols and allegories, we must decide for ourselves whether we are simply reflecting our own personal frame of reference upon the symbols or whether the symbols reflect the meanings we see.  We must decide whether the common frame of reference is correct or whether there is another, initiatic frame of reference implied.  In many ways, this is the path of gnosis.

Perhaps the vessel the connects the various aspects of the Saints John symbol together—for that is what it is, a symbol—is the opening passage of the Gospel of John.  Here we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light[3] of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

In this passage, we find the two Saints John, and two key Masonic concepts, Light and the Word.  This pairing is important to keep in mind as we start our voyage.  The pairing of opposites and their reconciliation is perhaps a critical concept, which we will discuss later.

To start our voyage, we will first stop at what seems to be a familiar port.  In the Entered Apprentice Degree, we are told

Lodges were anciently dedicated to King Solomon, who was our first Most Excellent Grand Master; yet Masons professing Christianity, dedicate theirs to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, who were two eminent Christian patrons of Masonry; and since their time there is represented in every regular and well-governed Lodge, a certain point within a circle, embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist: and upon the top rests the Holy Scriptures.  The point represents and individual brother: the circle, the boundary line beyond which he should never suffer his prejudices or passions to betray him. 

In going around this circle we necessarily touch upon these two parallel lines as well as the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself circumscribed within their precepts; it is impossible that he should materially err.

That sounds nice, but it is also troubling in a way.  How many lodges represent this circle and two perpendicular parallel lines?  What precepts do we refer to?  The precepts of the Saints John?  If so what are they?  Perhaps this is a case when the modernization of the lodge actually works against our understanding of the symbolism referred to above.

Before lodges were permanent structures, they often met in tavern rooms.  Either before the meeting or as part of the opening a lodge member would draw the “lodge” on the wooden floor in chalk.[4]  Part of the “lodge” was the point and circle.  The circle was drawn with two wooden sticks bound together to create a set of compasses.  Once the circle was drawn, the sticks were then set tangentially on either side of the circle.  Thus, the two parallel lines are the arms of the compasses.

The next thing we are told in the EA degree is that the tenets of Masonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.  We are also told in another degree that the compasses teach these precepts.  We can, perhaps break down the compasses into it three components, two arms and that which binds them together.  The two arms teach Brotherly Love and Truth.  That which binds them together, Relief, is represented by the Holy Scriptures.  The Gospel of John is sometimes called the Gospel of Love and John is sometimes identified as the “beloved disciple”.  Thus, John the Evangelist represents Brotherly Love.  John the Baptist called out for truth.  Thus, he represents the tenet of Truth.  If so, then the precepts referred to above are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

As we continue to reflect upon the symbol, however, we can take it to a few deeper levels of meaning.  First the two Saints John have feast days on June 24 and December 27.  These are the feast days assigned by the Christian Church.  They also nearly correspond to the summer and the winter solstices.  Well so what?  The answer I think lies in the solar symbolism inherent in Masonry.  Think of the lodge opening ritual and how we speak of the sun as it passage during the day pertains to each of the three principal lodge officers.  We can also make a case that the mythos of the third degree is an echo of the ancient mystery religions, which were often associated with the death and rebirth of the sun.[5]  The candidate represented the sun in these rites.  As representatives of the solstices, the Saints John therefore represent the birth and zenith of the sun.  They are thus vivid reminders of the Master Mason degree.

If we examine the symbolism of a point in a circle a little deeper, we find further solar symbolism.  This symbol is the astronomical symbols for the sun—1—and dates as far back as ancient Egypt.[6]  With the addition of the two parallel lines, the symbol becomes the sun and the two horizons.  This is emblematical of the sun’s travel through the day, which is echoed in the Masonic opening ritual.  It is also therefore, emblematical of the journey the soul makes after death to the afterlife.  Fideler, in Jesus Christ Sun of God, writes, “In Greek sacred geography, the symbol 1 represents the central omphalos and the bounds of the circular earth.”[7]  Omphalos means naval stone and was thought to be the marker of the center of the earth.  The omphalos stone at Delphi looks a lot like the Masonic beehive.

Figure 1

Now, let us look at Saint John the Baptist in a little more detail.  As we can see from Figure 1, Saint John the Baptist stands with one hand point above him and the other below him.[8]  This appears to be an allusion to the Hermetic aphorism, “That which is above is like unto that which is below and that which is below is like unto that which above”, found in the Emerald Tablet.  It also can perhaps remind us the vesica pisces and the function of the Logos.  The Greek word logoj—logos is often translated as “word”, but it means much more than that.  It can also mean a ratio, that which relates one thing to another.  As a mathematical term, it should be especially interesting to Masons.  That is exactly what the vesica pisces, the stylistic fish also represents.  This symbol is essentially the intersection of two circles.  The intersection is that which relates the two circles together.

Saint John the Baptist’s name also offers some key hints as to why he is an eminent patron of Masonry.  Both John’s name and his title are perhaps key indicators as to why he is considered important in Masonry.

Figure 2 The vesica pisces

First, the concept of Baptism is similar to the concept of initiation.  Essentially both baptism and initiation give the initiate a new identity and a fresh start.  These concepts hearken to two other verses from the Gospel of John.  In John 3:3, we read, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  In John, 12:24, we read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”  Perhaps it is significant that they key part of the initiation ritual happens in the third degree and that a key word in the Fellowcraft degree means “corn”.[9]   This word is encountered at the Junior Warden’s station in the Fellowcraft degree.  The Junior Warden is Hiram Abiff in the Master Mason degree.

When we start to look at the John’s name, our voyage leaves more familiar waters and begins is journey into waters that are perhaps less familiar.  But, before we look at John’s name, let us step back a moment and look at the four gospels.  Quite often the gospels are divided into two groups.  The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  These three gospels seem to spring from a common source.  The Gospel of John is set apart from these three and appears to be very different in both its narrative style and the accounts that it relates.  John is sometimes called the Gnostic Gospel.

Figure 3 Omphalos stone at Delphi

The word Gnostic springs from a Greek work, gnosij—gnosis, which means knowledge.  In this case, it is a specific kind of knowledge, that of the Divine.  The term Gnostic is often applied to a broad group of sects that often had differing viewpoints.  Often their philosophy was a mixture of pre-Christian Greek thought and Judaic/Christian ideas.  Perhaps this disparate group can be brought together by a few key concepts:

1.                            The importance of gnosis as a personal quest.  Each Gnostic sought a personal relationship with Deity and his or her own knowledge of the Divine.

2.                             The groups had a loose organization at best.  In some there was little or no established priesthood.  Often members took turns leading meetings.

3.                            These groups were ruthlessly suppressed by the Roman church.

Roughly speaking, Gnostics tended to fall into two groups.  One group saw the material world as at best a prison for the soul, if not evil.  They thought it was created by the Demiurge, which is the deity of the Tanach.  This Demiurge was perhaps functionally equivalent to the evil or at best an unillumined/misguided principal.  The other group had a much more positive view of the manifested cosmos and tended to see the Demiurge more as a master craftsman/architect.  The Hermetic movement may be either the descendant or a sibling of this second group.

Quite a few of these groups shared a common mythos of Sophia and a doctrine of emanations.  Sophia, a Greek word that means Wisdom, was a feminine archetype, often associated with the Logos, a male archetype.  For example, in the “Acts of John”, we find:

But what I am thou shalt see whan thou comest- If thou hadst known how to suffer, Thou wouldst have power not to suffer. Know then how to suffer, than thou wilt have power not to suffer. That which thou knowest not, I myself will instruct thee. I am thy God, not the betrayers´. I would be kept in time with holy soul. In me know thou the Logos of Sophia. Say thou to me again: Glory to Thee, Father! Glory to Thee, Logos! Glory to Thee, Holy Spirit! But as for me, if thou wouldst know who I was: In a word I am the Logos who did dance all things, and who was not ashamed at all. It was I who danced. But do thou understand all, and understanding, say: Glory to Thee, Father![10]

In some of the Gnostic myths, Sophia decides to create by herself rather than in conjunction with her consort.  This action sets in motion a series of events that leads to her fall as she descends down to earth to cure the problems she unintentionally caused.  The Logos is then sent to redeem her.  Perhaps Sophia represents the soul entrapped in a material body.  The nature of Sophia’s actions and the mythic result largely depend upon which of the two groups of Gnostics tells the myth.  In the “negative” Gnostic myths, Sophia creates either out of pride or ignorance and creates a Demiurge that imprisons souls in matter.  In the “positive” Gnostic myths, she works as a create force with the Creator.

Both Sophia and the Logos are associated with creation in both types of the Gnostic myths.  But we also find Wisdom associated with creation in both canonical and apocryphal works from the Bible.  For example, in Proverbs 8:27-33, we read:

When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman[11]; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.  And now, my sons, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

In Sirach[12], chapter 24, we find several interesting passages.  Verse 3 reads, “I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud.”  Verse 9 reads, “He created me from the beginning before the world, and I shall never fail.”  Verse 11: “Likewise in the beloved city he gave me rest, and in Jerusalem was my power.” And in verse 20 we find, “For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.”  The “I” and “me” in all of these verses refer to Wisdom.  In these, perhaps we find references to the Divine Breath, which could be a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit, the first creation, her home being in Jerusalem and honey.  In Genesis, we read of God imparting life by breathing into Adam’s nostrils.  The lodge of the Holy Saints John is said to be in Jerusalem.  And honey comes from the beehive, a Masonic emblem.

Perhaps the only surviving Gnostic sect today is the Mandeans.  Their name comes from the Aramaic word Manda, meaning “knowledge”.  We are perhaps first introduced to the Mandeans in the Acts of the Apostles.  In Acts 18:24-25, we read, “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.”

Throughout the Mandean literature, we find references to an Aramaic word “shkinta”.  For example, in Chapter 54 of the Ginza Rba we find:

Yukasar chose her that passeth (crosseth) over; he chose her, called her forth and established her. He clothed her in radiance ineffable and brought light abounding and covered her therewith. He raised her up to the Great Place of Light and the everlasting Abode, and in his own shkinta his (the dead man's) soul was assigned (a place) and found rest in his treasure. Living waters (water of Life) from the House of Life burst forth (in splendour ) and (like them?) shall shine forth the souls who are called upon, raised up and signed in this masiqta, (the souls of) our fathers, teachers, brothers and sisters who have departed the body, and of those who still live in the body. They shall rise upward on a smooth road and by the path of the perfect, shall behold the Place of Light and the everlasting Abode and be established by Him who opened (revealed) the great first light.

Chapter 69 is even more interesting especially when compared to the descent of Sophia as the soul descending into the body:

Bliss and peace there will be On the road which Adam attained: Bliss and peace there shall be On the road which the soul traverseth. The soul hath loosed her chain and broken her bonds; She hath shed her earthly garment. She turned round, saw it and was revolted She uttered an evil curse on the being Who had clothed her in the body. She provoked the Framer-of-Bodies, she roused him From the lair in which he lay. She said to him, "Rise up, look, Framer-of-Bodies; The hollow of thy hand is filled with water!" The voice of the Framer-of-Bodies (is heard), Who howleth and weepeth for himself And saith "Woe is me that the hollow of my hand Is filled with water!" And to her he saith "Go in peace, daughter of the free, whom In the house of evil ones they called handmaiden. Go in peace, pure pearl that was transported From the treasuries of Life; Go in peace, fragrant one who imparted Her fragrance to the stinking body. Go in peace, radiant one, who illumined Her dark house. Go in peace, Pure and chosen one, immaculate and spotless!" Flying, the soul went Until she reached the House of Life: She arrived at the House of Life. `Uthras went forth towards her, Saying to her "Take and put on thy robe of radiance And set on thy living wreath! Arise, dwell in the shkintas, The place where `uthras abide, conversing; And Life is victorious and triumphant is Manda-d-Hiia And lovers of his name". And Life be praised!

These passages are written in Aramaic.  There may a relationship between the Aramaic word shkinta used in the two passages above and the Hebrew word hnyk>—Shekinah.  The Shekinah is God’s presence is often depicted as a female.  In Qabalistic writing, the Shekinah is associated with the sephirah Malkuth[13] and is the Bride.  Shekinah can perhaps also be equated with Wisdom and hence Sophia.  In some writings, Shekinah is seen as a goddess.  When Shekinah is associated with Malkuth, she plays very much the same role as Sophia descended down as the soul, animating the material body.  As the Bride, she can be seen as the Bride of Christ, at least in the Western Qabalah.

The word shkinta may also mean a dwelling place.  With this concept, we find an even more tantalizing reference in the “Apocryphon of John”.[14]  In Hebrew, Eve is hvx,   word can mean life force and dwelling place.  Thus, it functions very much as shkinta does in the Aramaic passages.  In the “Apocryphon of John” we find:

I [Eve] entered into the midst of the dungeon which is the prison of the body. And I spoke thus: "He who hears, let him arise from the deep sleep." And then he [Adam] wept and shed tears. After he wiped away his bitter tears he spoke, asking: "Who is it that calls my name, and whence has this hope come unto me, while I am in the chains of this prison?" A nd I spoke thus: "I am the Pronoia of the pure light; I am the thought of the undefiled spirit. . . . Arise and remember . . . and follow your root, which is I . . . and beware of the deep sleep.”

From the “On the Origin of the World”[15], we find:

Sophia sent Zoe[16], her daughter, who is called "Eve," as an instructor in order that she might raise up Adam, in whom there is no spiritual soul so that those whom he could beget might also become vessels of light. When Eve saw her companion, who was so much like her, in his cast down condition she pitied him, and she exclaimed: "Adam, live! Rise up upon the earth!" Immediately her words produced a result for when Adam rose up, right away he opened his eyes. When he saw her, he said: "You will be called 'mother of the living', because you are the one who gave me life."

If we look at the Master Mason ritual, we find an interesting set of recitations.  These verses come from Proverbs and Sirach.

S:  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs (9:10)

W:  "And the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

E:  "A tale-bearer revealeth secrets : but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter." (Proverbs 11:13)

S:  "My son gather instruction from thy youth up: so shalt thou find wisdom till then old age." (Sirach 6:18)

W:  "For there is a golden ornament upon her; and her bands are purple lace." (Sirach 6:30)

E:  "Thou shalt put her on as robe of honor: and shalt put her about thee as a crown of joy." (Sirach 6:31)

S:  "Be not faint-hearted when thou makest thy prayer; and neglect not to give alms." (Sirach 7:10)

W:  "An stretch forth thine hand unto the poor that thy blessing may be perfected." (Sirach 7:32)

E:  "Be not slow to visit the sick; for that shall make thee to be beloved." (Sirach 7:35)

The references in lines 5 and 6 above are to Wisdom.  We are enjoined to embrace Wisdom and clothe ourselves with her.  Recall that Sophia may be equivalent to Shekinah, the Bride.  This sounds very similar to the Gnostic Bridal Chamber.  This concept is discussed in the Gospel of Phillip, found in the Nag Hammadi Library.  Phillip 67:26 reads, “The Lord did everything in a mystery: a baptism and a chrism, and a Eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.”  These are seen as five “Gnostic” sacraments by some.  The bridal chamber, listed last, is perhaps the penultimate sacrament.  The sacrament of the bridal chamber reflects a union and reconciliation of opposites that brings union and potentially awareness and entry into the kingdom of heaven.[17]  Certainly its position after redemption suggests this possibility.

We may also find traces of this Wisdom or divine feminine in Saint John the Evangelist.  This Saint John is sometimes identified as the Beloved Disciple[18] that was charged by Jesus to take care of his mother.  In John 19:25-27, we read:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Tradition tells us John took both Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdelene to the city of Ephesus.  This story has four potentially interesting facets. 

First, Ephesus was famous for its temple to Artemis[19].  This temple is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  If we are tracing an aspect of the Divine Feminine, then it is interesting that John travels to a city famous for it’s connection to a temple dedicated to a female goddess.  Furthermore, Artemis, while perhaps most commonly known as a goddess of the hunt, was perhaps better known in antiquity as the goddess of the family, motherhood and childbirth.  These are attributes that we can perhaps associate with the Gnostic Eve, discussed above.  Artemis was also listed as one of the names of the Queen of Heaven by Lucius Apuleius in Metamophoses or The Golden Ass, as discussed below.

From a perhaps even more interesting Masonic perspective, both Artemis and the city of Ephesus were heavily associated with the bee. The high priest of Artemis was known as Esshnthe King Bee[20] and the priestesses were known as Melissathe bees.[21]  Artemis was compared to the Queen Bee.  In Sirach, we read that Wisdom said she was sweeter than honey.  The word Esshn is also used as a transliteration of the word for breastplate (]>x) in the Septaginent’s version of Exodus 28:15.  Liddell-Scott-Jones says this means logion[22].

Third, Ephesus was associated with magical or occult writings.  In The Book of Acts and Archaeology by Craig S. Hawkins, the author writes: “Ephesus in ancient times was known for its sorcery and occultic practices, so much so that the phrase Ephesia grammata or "Ephesian scripts or writings" became a common term in the Greco-Roman world for magical texts.”[23]  Ephesus, when used as an adjective—efsioj—means a magic formula.[24] The concept hints at hidden knowledge.

Also, Ephesus was home to another person who perhaps plays an important role.  Hereclitus of Ephesus was perhaps the first to speak of the Logos.  Almost certainly the use of Logos in the Gospel of John stems from Hereclitus.  The Stoics used Hereclitus’ concept of the Logos as a cardinal point in their philosophy.  For them, the Logos was a symbol of reason and their quest was to control the passions and live according to the dictates of reason.  They advocated brotherly love, that all humans come from the same divine source and the natural equality of humanity.  They held that external differences of rank and wealth were of no significance in social relationships.  They also advocated the four cardinal virtues of wisdom (prudence), courage, justice and temperance.[25]  They also posited a rational universe, in which “the law of nature is the material presence of God in the universe”.[26]

In this philosophy, we can see a great deal of Masonry.  Its philosophy encompasses virtually the entire Entered Apprentice Degree.  Their concept of the law of nature seems to echo the Fellowcraft Degree’s Middle Chamber lecture.  We can clearly see the message of the compasses in the control of the passions.  Perhaps it is interesting that we find Hereclitus through exploring the Saints John and the Saints John, as discussed above, may be connected to the compasses Masonically.  While the Stoics were not gnostic per se, their philosophy may well have influenced gnostic philosophers and almost certainly shows up in Hermetic philosophy.  For example, Basilides, a gnostic philosopher, based his ideas in part on the Stoics.[27]

Hereclitus was also famous for his proposition that something could be both “is” and “is not” at the same time.  In this regard, he stands opposite Aristotle, who posited that something must be either “is” or “is not”.  Hereclitus’ doctrine seems very close in nature to the Gnostic Bridal Chamber.  It is the reconciliation and union of the opposites.  Perhaps it is foj that comes from the reconciliation of wy and tufloj as discussed in note 3[28].

Again, this potentially has a parallel in the Masonic symbol for the Saints John.  As discussed above, they are represented by two parallel lines.  These two lines can very easily represent the two opposite sides of a proposition—the “is” and the “is not”.  This concept is illustrated beautifully in the Gnostic “Thunder Perfect Mind”, found in the Nag Hammdi Library.[29]  While the speaker in this poem is not explicitly identified, the voice is clearly feminine and most likely Sophia.  For example, the third stanza reads:

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored and the scorned,
I am the harlot and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the m[oth]er and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.

Echoing the concept of the Bridal chamber, we find “I am the bride and the bridegroom.”  The poem also references the Logos:

I am the incomprehensible silence and the much-remembered thought.
I am the voice of many sounds and the utterance (logos) of many forms.
I am the utterance of my name

It also has what can be used as a symbolic reference to the parallel lines in Masonry: “I am the staff of his power in his youth and he is the rod of my old age.”  Here, we have two staffs, which can be the parallel lines and the sticks used draw the circle.  One represents youth and the other age, the two extremes.

The church philosophers chose the doctrine of Aristotle as the underpinning to their doctrine.  Saint Thomas Aquinas was instrumental in changing the church’s philosophy to a more Aristotelean basis as he tried to defend the logic of church doctrine.[30] The doctrines based upon either “is” or “is not” reflect an unresolved duality. This doctrine resembles the “negative” gnosis that may ultimately rest upon Zoroastrian influences.[31]  Two few early church figures were perhaps supporters of this dualistic philosophy: Paul[32] and Saint Augustine.  Saint Augustine was a Manichean, a dualistic Gnostic sect before he became an “orthodox” Christian.  His writings suggest that he never clearly left his “negative” Gnostic roots behind.  Like Paul, he was very anti-sex and seemed to take a negative view of the material world.[33]

Aquinas was also a Dominican, the order that provided quite a bit of impetus to the Inquisition.  Interestingly, Aquinas himself was perhaps sympathetic to the basic ideas of gnosticism as he sought knowledge of God.  If there is an issue with the fruits of Aquinas’ works, it is perhaps not the fruits themselves, but rather how they were later used.

Perhaps all of this is completely coincidental.  But it does give some room for thought, if nothing else. In Ephesus, we can link together the bee, a Masonic symbol (or at least part of one), the roots of the word logos as applied to Deity, and the Divine Feminine.  All three of these are present in the Masonic ritual.

Also the Gospel of John hints that John was given special knowledge, not given to the other disciples.  In John 20:20-22 we read:

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Here, we find a potential contention and jealousy between the “beloved disciple”—John and Peter that seems to prefigure the conflict between the orthodox church and the Gnostic churches.   John is perhaps the visible root of the Gnostic churches and Peter certainly is rock upon which the orthodox church was built.

Perhaps in the reconciliation of John and Peter, we can find much to offer spiritually.

Now, continuing our voyage, let us turn back to John’s name.  But what is in a name?  Well, that depends upon your view of sacred writing.  Perhaps the name means nothing, but perhaps it can mean a great deal.  If sacred text is meant to be symbolic rather than literal, many, if not most names may be carefully selected to convey symbolic meaning.  In Greek, the language of the Gospels, John is Iwannhj—Ioannes.  This name is perhaps interesting.  It can be broken down into Io and Oannes. 

Figure 4 MM Tracing Board from "An Explanation of the Third Degree Tracing Board"

In Greek myth, Io was courted by Zeus.  She was then changed into a cow to protect her from Hera.  Hera found out and drove Io forth.  After a journey around the Mediterranean, she arrived in Egypt, where the Greeks say she became known as Isis.

Oannes was a Mesopotamian deity, the god that brought civilization and knowledge from the sea.  Oannes was often depicted as a fish-man.  Thus, we perhaps have a tie-in to the vesica pisces discussed above (see Figure 2).  This is also, perhaps, and allusion to Osiris.  In the myths of Osiris, Set, after finding Isis had found Osiris’ body and conceived Horus, cut the body into fifteen pieces.  Isis was able to recover all the pieces except the last one, which was swallowed by a fish.  Of course we also know one of the primary early symbols for Christ, one that is still in use today, is the fish. 

Oannes is often linked with the Sumerian Ea, who is also to the sea, knowledge and civilization.  In Sumerian, E means house and A means water.  These two letter/word names have an equivalent in Hebrew.  The Hebrew letter m means water and the letter b means house.  In English, m is m and b is b.   The letters MB are, of course, of Masonic significance.  They are sometimes clearly shown on Masonic aprons.  The old tracing boards of the Master Mason degree show them depicted on the coffin, using the Masonic Cypher. 

This cypher is discussed in “An Explanation of the Third Degree Tracing Board” by G. R. Oswell.  The article is available at  The author uses a different board, but the letters relating to it are the same as shown in the tracing board in the edition of the Scottish Rite Journal.  Brother Oswell wrote:

Underneath the badge of a P.M. are six lines in a well-known Masonic cypher, the invention of which is traditionally attributed to Albertus Magnus[34], Bishop of Cologne, one of the great German builders of the XIIIth Century, who is said to be among the first to teach the principles of that most noble of all orders of architecture, the Gothic, to his fellow craftsmen. It was originally my intention to illustrate on a blackboard how to obtain the key to this cypher, but I am afraid the time factor will not permit, as it would make this Lecture unduly prolonged. I will, therefore, content myself with observing that it is used in a variety of ways and in the method employed by Brother Harris, like Hebrew, it reads from right to left.

The first line consists of the initials of the pass-word leading to this degree. It is followed by the letters HAB, the usual contraction of the name of the leading figure in the allegory which comprises the Third Degree.

Beneath this is the date of the great tragedy, A.L. 3000. AL. are the initials of the Latin words Anne Lucis, which mean Year of Light, the light, in this instance, being the Light of Creation. An interesting theory concerning this date is put forward by Brother the Revd F. de P. Castells. " In the Middle Ages there was prevalent an opinion that the world was destined to last six thousand years, after which there would be a millenium of universal peace and happiness. And so the year A.L. 3000 was, in a way, the central point in human history, which the death of the brightest character recorded in the annals of Freemasonry at that point had the effect of dividing the six thousand years into two equal parts." (*Rev. F. de P. Castells: Arithmetic of Freernasonry).

Then follow the letters MB MB. These are the contracted forms of the secret words of the Degree. There is no doubt that the first was the Master Mason's Word of the Moderns, and the other that of the Ancients. Brother the Revd. Dr. Rosenbaum, a well-known authority on Hebrew proper names informs us that . . . . . is Hebrew whilst the other . . . . . . is Aramaic, and they may be said to convey the meaning attributed to them in the Ritual.

Another version of this tracing board is depicted on the inside cover of the October 1998 edition of the Scottish Rite Journal.  In this version, the characters above the skull and bones in a gold box are HAB AL3000.  The characters surrounding it are TC.  Below the skull and bones are the characters representing MB.

Let us now turn our attention to who HAB represents—Hiram Abiff.  Both I Kings and II Chronicles discuss Hiram as part of the description of the building of King Solomon’s Temple.  In I Kings 7:13-14 we find that Hiram’s father was a man of Tyre and his mother was of the tribe of Naphtali.  II Chronicles 2:14 says Hiram’s father was a man of Tyre and his mother was of the tribe of Dan.  Thus, in both accounts, Hiram Abiff is half-Tyrean and half Jewish.

Tyre was an important Phoenician city.  At the risk of perhaps oversimplifying the Phoenician religion, their primary worship was a trinity of Father-Mother-Son.  The city of Tyre was a prime center of the goddess worship, as well as the son (Melqart) worship.  A major temple in Tyre dedicated to Melqart resembles King Solomon’s Temple.  The worship of the son, was highly correlated to that of the mother.

We also find elements of fusion and the house and water elements in the construction of the temple itself.  Both I Kings and II Chronicles tell us that a large bronze “sea” was constructed outside the temple.  With these two images, we clearly see water and house together.

The symbolism of water and creation is important in many sacred writings.  For example, the Egyptian Ennead, we find Atum rising from the waters in the form of a large hill.  Atum then creates principle Egyptian deities in a series of emanations.[35]  In Genesis, we find the spirit of God stirring on the face of the deep and then the separation of the waters and the dry land.  It is also echoed, perhaps even more directly in this passage from “On the Origin of the World”:

When the ruler saw his magnitude - and it was only himself that he saw: he saw nothing else, except for water and darkness - then he supposed that it was he alone who existed. His [...] was completed by verbal expression: it appeared as a spirit moving to and fro upon the waters. And when that spirit appeared, the ruler set apart the watery substance. And what was dry was divided into another place. And from matter, he made for himself an abode, and he called it 'heaven'. And from matter, the ruler made a footstool, and he called it 'earth'.

Thus, in Hiram Abiff, we have a fusion of the male and female aspects of Deity from his mother’s and his father’s people.  This perhaps mimics the conjoined goddess-god found in Ioannes—John.  It is, as if Hiram Abiff represents the Hereclitian “is and is not”, the reconciliation of opposites.  Perhaps, then, it is not insignificant that when Hiram Abiff is slain, the Word is lost.

Retuning back to John, we find that John the Baptist is linked heavily Elijah.  Elijah is perhaps interesting Masonically, as he was the only figure from the Tanach to raise a widow’s son from the dead and one of only two figures in the entire Christian Bible to do so.  In I Kings, chapter 20, verses 17-24 we read of this event.  Here Elijah actually raises a Widow's Son, on what may be considered the Five Points of Fellowship, albeit in a supine position.

And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.  And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?  And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.  And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?  And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.

The other example of a widow’s son raised to life is in Luke chapter 7, verses 12-20.

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.  And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.  And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.  And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.  And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.  And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Note that this raising of the widow’s son is what attracts John the Baptist’s attention to Jesus.  There is, however, another example of a raising from the dead in the Gospels.  This episode is mentioned only in the Gospel of John.  In chapter 11, we read of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead[36].  Some see in this passage not a literal raising from the dead, but rather the traces of a ritualistic enactment of a death and rebirth as part of an initiation ceremony.  Verse 16 is interesting in this light, “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus[37], unto his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”  Thomas, as most of us are taught is the doubting disciple, the one who had to see to believe.  Yet in the Gnostic tradition, Thomas is often seen as the enlightened disciple, the one who sought knowledge rather than simple blind faith.  And here, in the account of Lazarus, we have Thomas desiring to die as well.  For one who doubts and had not seen a man literally raised from the dead, this is certainly a strange statement.  Yet for one who knows what is happening and sees this as an initiation, this statement may make perfect sense.

Now each of us must decide what the Masonic rituals mean.  This is perhaps especially true of the ritual in the Master Mason degree.  There are those that see the final part of the ritual as nothing more than a way to shift from the allegory to a period of instruction.  There are others that see it as something far more, something along the lines of the death and resurrection in some of the ancient mysteries.  Perhaps the narratives above are of the same sort.  They may be purely ancillary to Masonry, or they may provide a frame of reference for the Masonic mythos.

If the latter is true, the question then becomes how these mysteries came to be a part of Masonic ritual.  Ultimately, this question is bound together with the origins of Freemasonry.  There are some that propose a Templar origin, while others favor an operative Masonic origin.  But perhaps the two are not so opposed as many would believe.  In the spirit of exploration, let us navigate some of these waters.

Perhaps John the Baptist also serves as a bridge between these two theories.  According to the records of the Inquisition against the Templars, they possessed a head called Baphomet.  On the surface this sounds quite bizarre.  Given the source of the information, we must wonder whether is even true.  Men will confess to just about everything under torture.  But if we sit back and examine story in light of John and the wisdom literature it may make some sense, at least in a symbolic way.

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that John the Baptist was beheaded.  Perhaps a head could have served as a reminder of John the Baptist. 

But if so, what of the name Baphomet?   This name has sparked considerable speculation, ranging from the devil to Mohammed.  But perhaps the solution is easier.  It may lie in something called the Atbash cypher.  This cypher is based upon a simple substitution algorithm using the Hebrew alphabet.  The last letter t is substituted for the first letter a, the next to last letter > is substituted for b and so on, hence the name of the cypher.  To use this cypher, we first turn Baphomet into Hebrew letters: tmvpb[38].  We then decode with the cypher to get aypv.  If we then transliterate these characters back to the Latin alphabet, we have Sophia.

Now this transliteration has a few potential problems.  First, we mix a Hebrew based code with a Greek name (Sophia).   Second, we use a Latin-based alphabet rather than a Greek alphabet.  The second objection is easily handled as the Greek word Sophia is sofia, an exact transliteration between the Latin and the Greek alphabets.  But what of the first objection, the mixing of Hebrew and Greek?  If anything, this adds more credibility to Baphomet being a gnostic cypher since many of the Gnostic texts were mixtures of Greek and Hebraic thought and frequently mixed Greek and Hebrew words.

Yet we have three other potential clues that may help to verify that Baphomet is a cypher for Sophia.  First, we can perhaps also see Baphomet as a Greek word created from baptw—baptism and mhtij—which can mean wisdom[39].  Thus, we have a baptism of wisdom or perhaps direct illusions to John the Baptist and Wisdom.  Second, there is a Greek word that is nearly and anagram of sofiaofij, which means serpent.  The serpent is often used as a symbol of wisdom.  Furthermore, in many gnostic writings, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is seen as the representative of the true God and the act of eating the apple is one of initiation into knowledge and freeing from the tyranny of the Demiurge.  Also, the word head in Hebrew is >ar.  This is the root of ty>arb, the first word in Genesis (known as ty>arb in Hebrew).  Thus, we see the importance of “head” as the foundation of scripture. 

The word ty>arb is most often translated into English as “in the beginning”.  Yet a prominent Mason of the early 19th century, Godfrey Higgins, spent considerable time in his book Anacalypsis, trying to demonstrate the word actually should be translated as “in wisdom”.  On page 76 of volume I, he writes:

Wisdom was the first emanation from the Divine power, the protogonos, the beginning of all things, the Rasit [ty>ar] of Genesis, the Buddha of India, the Logos of Plato and St. John, as I shall prove. Wisdom was the beginning of creation. Wisdom was the primary, and beginning the secondary, meaning of the word. …

The meaning of wisdom, which the word Ras[>ar] bore, I can scarcely doubt was, in fact, secret, sacred, and mystical; and in the course of the following work my reader will perceive, that wherever a certain mythos, which will be explained, was concerned, two clear and distinct meanings of the words will be found : one for the initiated, and one for the people. This is of the first importance to be remembered. …

Also, the feast days of both Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist were cited as days of observance in the Templar Rule.

But does that mean that Freemasons are descended from the Knights Templar as some such John Robinson have stated? 

Not necessarily.  At the same time the Knights Templar began their initial forays in Jerusalem and formed their order, a new style of architecture seemed to spring forth, almost as if from the void.  One man stood behind both the Templars and the new cathedral building.  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was clearly connected with both the Templars and the cathedrals.  He helped to form the Templar order and gave them their Rule.  The Catholic Encyclopedia in the article on Saint Bernard says, “He had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and there is no one who speaks more sublimely of the Queen of Heaven.”[40]

The title, “Queen of Heaven” was in use long before the Christians first applied it to Mary.  The Sumerian Inanna was sometimes referred to as the Queen of Heaven, as was the Phoenician Astarte and the Egyptian Isis.  Lucius Apuleius in Metamophoses or The Golden Ass, in Book 11, Chap 47 writes[41]:

Behold Lucius I [Isis] am come, thy weeping and prayers has moved me to succor thee. I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of powers divine, Queen of heaven, the principal of the Gods celestial, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the air, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me Pessinuntica, the mother of the Gods: the Athenians call me Cecropian Artemis: the Cyprians, Paphian Aphrodite: the Candians, Dictyanna: the Sicilians , Stygian Proserpine: and the Eleusians call me Mother of the Corn. Some call me Juno, others Bellona of the Battles, and still others Hecate. Principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis. Behold I am come to take pity of thy fortune and tribulation, behold I am present to favor and aid thee. Leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away thy sorrow, for behold the healthful day which is ordained by my providence, therefore be ready to attend to my commandment."

Perhaps in the Queen of Heaven, we see, masked for the times, what Lucius heard and saw.  Perhaps we see the Shekinah, Wisdom and Sophia.  Perhaps it is no accident that many of the cathedrals that sprang from Bernard’s influence were dedicated to “Our Lady”.  And perhaps it is no accident that much of the imagery associated with Mary as the Queen of Heaven is the same as that of Isis.  Perhaps the men who built the cathedrals drank from the font of Wisdom and passed their Gnosis through the years in their guilds.  And perhaps this transmission was preserved in Speculative Masonry.

Moving forward in time, there was a tremendous interest in Hermetic thought in the Renaissance.  A noted earlier, Hermetic thought may be likened to the positive strain of Gnosticism.  This school rested upon the Corpus Hermeticism, of which parts were found at Nag Hammadi with the Gnostic texts.  Quite a bit of Hermetic thought was attributed to Hermes Trismegistus—Hermes the Thrice Great.  This figure was thought to be the Egyptian deity Thoth, the scribe of the gods and interestingly the god of wisdom.

During this period, especially coming out of the dark ages and discovering light in the Greek and Roman civilizations, great spiritual insight was given to the Egyptians.  This was not only because both the Greeks and Romans cited the knowledge of the Egyptians, but also because of Egypt’s great antiquity and the mystery of the hieroglyphs.  While the hieroglyphs could not be translated at the time, many saw them as symbols of great knowledge.  The most visible and dramatic symbol of Egypt was the pyramids and other architectural monuments.  Perhaps this translated into a linkage of architecture and spiritual knowledge in some people’s minds.

This may be demonstrated in the Schaw Statutes.  In these two documents that are key early records of Masonry, William spoke of ‘the art of memory’.  Demonstration of this art was required for advancement in Masonry.[42]  One of the principle exponents of the “art of memory’ at the time (1598-1599) was Giordano Bruno.  Bruno was also an advocate of the Egyptian religion and taught that it was the true root of a civilized society.  The church burned Bruno in 1600 for his teachings.[43]

The Cooke Manuscript and the Regius Poem may also provide some hints of the esoteric nature of early Masonry.  The Regius Poem, which dates from perhaps 1390, mentions knowledge from Euclid and Egypt.  The Cooke Manuscript, from the 15th century speaks of Lamech entrusting knowledge to two pillars in the event of a flood or other catastrophe.  It then says Hermes discovered these pillars and their knowledge after the flood.  This is a references to Hermes Trismegistus and thus perhaps to Hermetic wisdom.  The story of Lamech entrusting knowledge to two pillars is also echoed in the legend of Enoch, who also secured knowledge in two pillars to protect it from inundation and conflagration.[44] 

We also know that early 17th century speculative Masons such as Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole were clearly interested in Hermetic writing and Egyptian symbolism.  For example, Moray wrote:

This character or Hyerglyphick, which I call a starre, is famous amongst the Egyptians and Grecians.  For the Egyptian part of it I remitt you to Kircherus bookes that I named in my last.[45]

Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest, was a student of Qabala and Hermeticism.  The heart of Hermeticism and the Western Qabala is a quest to seek understanding of Deity through understanding creation.  It is very much based upon the statement from the Emerald Tablet, “as above, so below”.  And as we see in Figure 1, the Masonic representation of John the Baptist seems to illustrate this point.

We also find that many educated men of the period read Vitruvius, one of the great ancient architects.  Vitruvius’ works are incorporated in Masonry as part of the lecture on architecture in the Fellowcraft degree’s Middle Chamber lecture.  Vitruvius wrote at length about the linkage between the Divine and architecture.  These ideas may have sparked an interest in non-operative masons in architecture, which at the time meant Masonry.

Our boat now sails back to familiar waters, the voyage, at least for the moment at an end.  We have explored Gnostic thought and found many similarities between it and Masonic ritual.  Many of the symbols in our Gnostic voyage are used in our ritual.  We have found a quest for knowledge common to both.  We have found Wisdom.  But perhaps it is all coincidental. 

Masonry has no established dogma.  Each Mason must decide for himself what the symbols and allegories mean to him.  But perhaps that is the final clue that we are on a Gnostic voyage.


[1] For example, four lodges convened on June 24, 1717 to form the Premier Grand Lodge.  The choice of Saint John the Baptist’s Day was most likely not an accident.  Both Schaw Statutes from 1598 and 1599 were issued on December 28, the day after Saint Jon the Evangelist’s Day.  David Stephenson, in The Origins of Freemasonry Scotland’s Century 1590-1710 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK: p 43), thinks this was because the meetings held to discuss them were on 27th.

[2] The Duke of Suffolk, who became the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, was known to be very sympathetic to Jews and had a large library of Hebrew writings.  Perhaps part of his purpose was to make the UGLE far more inclusive, especially to Jews.

[3][3] The Geek word used is foj.  In Greek gematria, foj equates to 1500.  Two other interesting words equate to 1500—wy, meaning eye/countenance and tufloj, meaning blindness.  Here we have two opposed symbols, sight and blindness.  We also have the Masonic symbol of the All Seeing Eye and perhaps the Divine Countenance.  For a discussion of Greek gematria and the role it plays in the Gospels, see David Fideler, Jesus Christ Sun of God (1993, Quest Books, Wheaton, IL).

[4] There are records showing that Tylers were paid a wage to set up the lodge like this prior to a lodge meeting.  Often a single Mason was the Tyler for several lodges.

[5] For further details see “The Hermetic and Alchemical Roots of Masonic Symbol and Allegory” by Jeffery Marshall in the 1998 Transactions of the Maryland Masonic Research Society.  Also see Robert Hewitt Brown’s Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy, reprinted by Kessenger Publications.

In the Grand Lodge of Maryland AF&AM, each new Master Mason is given a booklet published by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Maryland.  Pages two to three are interesting in this light.  For example: “The legend which you saw and heard dramatized is found in various forms in ancient times.  Its meaning can be understood only as you study similar rites and ceremonies which go far back in the history of mankind.”  On page 3, we read: “Every one of the Ancient Mysteries taught the truth of immortality.  The Egyptian Mysteries, for example, included the legend of Osiris, which stand in the same relation to the Egyptian Mysteries as the Master Mason degree stands to the preceding Degrees, the death of Osiris is dramatically set forth, as well as the search for his body, its discovery in an acacia tree, and its burial and resurrection.”

The above references the story in which Osiris was sealed in a coffin by Set and then set out to see.  The coffin was then entombed in a tree.  The tree is then used as a pillar in the main hall of Byblos.  Isis found the pillar and petitioned the king and queen for it.  The tree was perhaps not an acacia as referenced above, but rather some form of palm.  The acacia tree was, however, sacred to Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis. Masonically, we should take note of the tree used to mark the body and a pillar being used to contain something and a pillar made from a tree.

[6] See “The Hermetic And Alchemical Roots of Masonic Symbol and Allegory”, by Jeffery Marshall in the 1998 Transactions of the Maryland Masonic Research Society.

[7] Fideler, page 359.

[8] This is also the traditional pose of the Magician in the Tarot deck.

[9] See “All Its Parts Fitted With Such Exact Nicety: An Ear of Corn Suspended Near a Waterford”, by Jeffery Marshall in the 1999 Transactions of the Maryland Masonic Research Society. 

[10] From the Hymn of Jesus, part of the Acts of John in the Nag Hammadi Library (see

[11] This is the text from the Revised Standard Edition.  The King James Version does not translate the word as master craftsman.  Rather this verse reads, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.”  The Hebrew word translated as “craftsman” is ]vmaStrong’s Concordance lists this word, exclusive of vowel pointers, as meaning skilled/craftsman/architect, a throng of people or the Egyptian deity Ammon.  The NIV Interlinear Bible translates it as “craftsman”.

[12] Sirach is one of the Apocryphal texts.  It was originally included in the King James Version of the Bible.  Passages from Sirach are used by some Grand Lodges in the Master Mason degree. 

[13] In Qabalah, Malkuth is the lowest of the ten sephiroth and is sometimes associated with the material world.  The ten sephiroth can be seen as a series of emanations from the divine used in creation.  They can perhaps also be seen as a series of archetypes.  The arrangement of the sephiroth on the Tree of Life can perhaps also be seen as a map of the mind.  For more information, see “The Four Cardinal Virtues: A Link Between Masonry, Qabala and Tarot”, by Jeffery Marshall, in the 1998 Transactions of the Maryland Masonic Research Society.

[14] The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson(1977, E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands).

[15] The Nag Hammadi Library

[16] Zoe is a Greek word, zwh, which means life.  It is the same word used in the opening pas         sage of the Gospel of John, cited above.

[17] In “THE MYSTERY OF THE BRIDAL CHAMBER IN THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP” by Sorror A.L. (found at, we read, “However, the problem [the nature of the material world] is somewhat resolved in the Gospel of Philip because the ‘kingdom" is achieved when the initiate understands the mystery of union in the bridal chamber.” In effect, the union becomes a union of spirit and matter, thus uniting and transcending both.

[18] In the Gospel of Phillip, Mary Magdelene may be seen as the beloved disciple.

[19] The plant Artemisia absinthium—wormwood, takes it name from Artemis and was sacred to Artemis.  “From “The actual name Wormwood is from the Anglo Saxon wermode, meaning, 'mind preserver'. Absinthium is Latin for 'without sweetness'.”  The site also says “Absinthine is a narcotic analgesic that affects the medullary portion of the brain concerned with pain and anxiety, inducing a dreamy creative state. It gives people a different view of reality. The bitter flavor stimulates digestive secretions. When used in small amounts, thujone works as a brain stimulant.” 

In Revelation 8:10-11, we read, “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”  Perhaps there is an attempt in the passage to link the star to Artemis, or perhaps it simply reflects the bitter taste associated with wormwood. There are several passages in the Tanach that refer to wormwood’s bitter taste. Given the properties noted above, derivatives of wormwood could be used to induce a state of mind conducive to visions such at that described in Revelation.

[21] Means, bee.  Applied “to the priestesses of Delphi, Pind. P. 4.60; of Demeter and Artemis, Sch.Pi. l.c., Porph. Antr.18; of Cybele, Did.ap.Lact. Inst.1.22.”

[22] “transliteration of Hebr. &hnull;ōšen, worn by Jewish priests, J.AJ3.7.5,au=J. AJ 3.8.9, where it is said to mean logion, by which word it is rendered in LXXEx.28.15”  The whole Hebrew title for the breastplate is up>m ]>x, which can be translated as breastplate of decision.  This seems to take on the appearance of some form of oracle.  The actual Greek translation of this phrase (rather than transiteration) is logion, which means oracular.  It may be significant that logion has the same root as logoj.  It may also be significant that a key synonym for logion is crhsthrion.  This word is not quite like Cristoj—Christos, but is similar.  Godfrey Higgins, in Anacalypsis tries to show the original name for Christians derived from Crhstoj (good, kind) rather than Cristoj.  On page 131 of volume II, he writes:

Amidst all the confusion of sects, two leading doctrines may be perceived—that of those who held the literal meaning, at the head of which was Paul; and that of those who held the allegorical or learned, of which were Pantænus, Clemens, Origen, Justin, Philo, and Plato.

The more I reflect upon Gnosticism, the more I am convinced that in it we have, in fact, the real science of antiquity—for a long time almost lost—but, I trust, by means of our oriental discoveries, yet to be recovered. …

Ammonius Saccas, the greatest of the early fathers, held Jesus Christ in veneration, as a person of a divine character and a teacher of celestial wisdom.* It was not till after the time of Justin Martyr that the Paulites of Rome began to prevail against the philosophers of Alexandria, where, in its catechetical school, the original Chrestianity was taught; and from the hands of such men as Plato, Philo, Pantænus, and Ammonius, it fell into the hands of such men as Calvin, Brothers, Wilberforce, and Halhed; and the consequence was, that instead of a religion of refined philosophy and WISDOM, it became a religion of monks and devil-drivers, whose object, by the destruction of books and their authors, was to get the upper hand of those they could not refute, and to reduce all mankind to their own level. With these people, the popes, who were equally desirous of power, formed an alliance, and, to conceal this, fabricated the Acts of the Apostles, the Latin character of which is visible in every page : for a proof of this, Mr. Evanson’s Dissonance of the Gospels may be consulted.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in the article on the origin of the name Jesus Christ ( says:

But at this stage the Greeks and Romans understood little or nothing about the import of the word anointed; to them it did not convey any sacred conception. Hence they substituted Chrestus, or "excellent", for Christians or "anointed", and Chrestians instead of "Christians." There may be an allusion to this practice in I Pet., ii, 3; hoti chrestos ho kyrios, which is rendered "that the Lord is sweet." Justin Martyr (Apol., I, 4), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., II, iv, 18), Tertullian (Adv. Gentes, II), and Lactantius (Int. Div., IV, vii, 5), as well as St. Jerome (In Gal., V, 22), are acquainted with the pagan substitution of Chrestes for Christus, and are careful to explain the new term in a favourable sense. The pagans made little or no effort to learn anything accurate about Christ and the Christians; Suetonius, for instance, ascribes the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius to the constant instigation of sedition by Chrestus, whom he conceives as acting in Rome the part of a leader of insurgents.

In the section on Marcionites in Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (, G. R. S. Mead writes:

The date is October 1, A.D. 318 and the most remarkable point about it is that the church was dedicated to "The Lord and Saviour Jesus, the Good - "Chrestos", not Christos. In early times there seems to have been much confusion between the two titles. Christos is the Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, Anointed, and was the title used by those who believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. This was denied, not only by the Marcionites, but also by many of their Gnostic predecessors and successors. The title Chrestos was used of one perfected, the holy one, the saint; no doubt in later days the orthodox, who subsequently had the sole editing of the texts, in pure ignorance changed Chrestos into Christos wherever it occurred; so that instead of finding the promise of perfection in the religious history of all the nations, they limited it to the Jewish tradition alone, and struck a fatal blow at the universality of history and doctrine.

In “The Life of Claudius, Suetonius says in chapter XII ( “He [Claudius] banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.”  Tacitus makes a similar remark.  Chrestus was said to be a common Greek name at the time.

This may be a lesson in “where you stand depends upon where you sit”.  Two different groups, with two different set of objectives, looks at the issue from their own perspective and see two different things, and each use the same thing to prove their point.

Perhaps, however, the crhstologia—fair speech, which stimulates goodness supports the Gnostic tradition better.  In this word, we have both a Christlike word and logos joined together.  Another interesting word in this light is crhstomaqeia—chrestomathia, which means desire of learning (, but can also mean a selection of literary texts.

[23] The author references pp 391-392 of Bruce, F.F. 1979 COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF ACTS. THE NEW INTERNATIONAL COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 

[28] In the Symposiums, Plato shows how Diotima taught Socrates the value of reconciling two poles, using the concept of love.  In the dialog, she says (see

"He interprets," she replied, "between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all, prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love. all the intercourse, and converse of god with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate powers are many and diverse, and one of them is Love.

She then says:

"But-who then, Diotima," I said, "are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?" "A child may answer that question," she replied; "they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant…”

[29] These quotes were taken from an online version at  The text is essentially the same as that found in the Nag Hammadi Library cited previously.

[31] Yet, in Zurvan, the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda and Ahriman may be reconciled into a Unity.  Perhaps the Gnostic dualists did not consider Zurvan.  Zurvan was, however, a key figure in the Mithraic Mythos, which the Christians suppressed.

[32] Se, for example Elaine Pagels book, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegis.

[33] See Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988, Vintage Books, New York, NY), especially chapter 4.  On page 131, she writes, “Yet since everyone is conceived, as Augustine argued, through sexual desire, and since sexual desire is transmitted to everyone through the very semen involved in conception, he concludes, as we have seen, that all humankind is tainted with sin, ‘from the mother’s womb’.”  Paul, in I Corinthians 7:32-38, writes:

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.


[34] Albert Magnus was Thomas Aquinas’ mentor and teacher.

[35] See, for example, Egyptian Light and Hebrew Fire, by Karl W. Luckert (1991, SUNY Press, Albany, NY).  Interestingly, the chaotic waters in this doctrine were called Nun.  In Hebrew, nun is the letter n and means fish.

[36] The beggar referenced in Luke chapter 7 is unnamed.  Yet later in Luke, in chapter 16, we learn of a beggar named Lazarus that dies outside the city gates.

[37] Didymus means twin in Greek.

[38] Since it is Hebrew, we reverse the order of the characters and drop the a and e as vowel sounds because Hebrew does not have written vowels.  The “ph” becomes one Hebrew character: p.

[39] The Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek lists mhtij as a synonym of sofia and gives wisdom as one meaning of the word.  This dictionary can be found online as part of the Perseus Project at For the specific words metis and sophia, use

[42] See Stevenson, page 49.

[43] For a discussion of Bruno, see Frances A. Yates, Giordando Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964, University of Chicago Press, London, UK).

[44] Since Enoch supposedly placed these pillars in an underground vault, along with an inscribed plate, on Mount Moriah, this may be the origin of the Royal Arch mythos.  Also Enoch and Elijah are linked together.  Both are said to have ascended bodily to heaven.  Also, according to some legends, both are said to have become angels (Enoch became Mettatron and Elijah became Sandalphon).  These angels are often paired together, sometimes as the twin cherubim.  See, for example,  Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels (1967, The Free Press, New York, NY), p192, 257.

[45] Stevenson,  page 173.

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