63. The infiltration into Freemasonry

As has been abundantly demonstrated in previous chapters, in the middle ages the initiatic transmission preserved within the external catholic religion had progressively receded. Already in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the reform of monastic rules had made the scientia sacerdotalis disappear. What little remained was poured into the order of the temple by St. Bernard. However, it was no longer the contemplative knowledge that in greek christianity continued to be called Hesykía, but a form of devotional initiation, albeit very refined intellectually, typical of the holy faith, the troubadours and the minnesängers. Being an expression of the warrior aristocracy, that knowledge was called ars regia1. The ars regia thus constituted the knightly method based on the action of war and the virtues of loyalty and justice. Every other type of action, while remaining under imperial control, was delegated to merchants and craftsmen for its implementation.

The destruction of the order of the temple and the subsequent persecution inflicted on all esoteric knightly organisations marked the rapid disappearance of aristocratic devotional paths. The only initiatic transmission that was still alive in western europe was that linked to the guilds, or the craft organisations of the working classes. The corporations recognised by the sovereigns and free cities could gather several guilds of this type. As chance would have it, in the period following the destruction of the temple, the handicrafts of the guilds reached the height of their splendour in the late gothic period. This splendour unfortunately proved fatal. The sudden enrichment of certain guild sectors led to a social imbalance. The economically more emancipated ‘major arts’ began to be distinguished from the ‘minor arts’. In the free cities and communes, public administration passed completely into the hands of the members of the ‘major arts’, establishing a regime controlled by what came to be known as the ‘popolo grasso’ (fat people), even overwhelming the families of the old city patriciate. The new bourgeoisie completely abandoned any link with the productive profession that had traditionally been passed down through the family line, becoming a class enriched by mercantile exchange2. The descendants of the ‘popolo grasso’ were thus able to devote themselves to fashionable studies and to all the professions to which university degrees led. The adherents of the economically depressed ‘minor arts’ were excluded from political leadership and were considered as servile and working class.thus humanism prepared the renaissance revolution.

To tell the truth, the first products of the outward imitation of classical civilisation were clearly less elegant and refined than the late gothic works of art. But the mindset had changed and anything that continued in the vein of medieval tradition was criticised as crude and uncultured. Giorgio Vasari3 was the first to interpret the term ‘gothic’ in derogatory sense, meaning a barbaric, ugly, ungainly style, worthy of those goths who had overwhelmed the luminous greco-roman civilisation4. Art was considered the fruit of culture, of individual ‘genius’, becoming a secular activity. Architects, painters and sculptors therefore refrained from joining the ancient guilds. While the great artists sought inspiration in their occult interpretation of paganism revived through books and manuscripts, the guilds declined; and the fact that even the renaissance popes stopped commissioning guilds to execute sacred buildings and vestments dealt a coup de crace to the ancient arts and crafts5. Artisans were downgraded to the production of practical and aesthetically unimportant artefacts, while artists could concentrate on creating more and more symbolically complex works.

With the ‘outward’ support of the various heretical currents, hermeticists, qabbalists and magicians, the geniuses of the renaissance were dedicated to revolutionizing the traditional order of europe and to realizing the most extreme utopias. This subversive plan described by the so-called rosicrucian manifestos6 seemed to be on the verge of realization, when the defeat of the white mountain forced europe to face reality. The victory of the counter-reformation was only partial, but it was enough for those who already felt victorious to seek ways of escape and concealment. The refuge that the rosicrucians quickly identified were the guilds of stonemasons and stone-cutters (masons) that they had hitherto despised and marginalized. The legend of the knights templar disguising themselves as craftsmen in order to escape arrest when the order of the temple was disbanded was revived. Now, since the middle ages, craftsmen’s yards welcomed two categories of outsiders: the first was the priest, employed by the guild as chaplain for the spiritual care of the workers and for the performance of the religious rites that marked the course of the construction7. The second was the physician to intervene in the event of accidents. The chaplain and the physician were considered to be accepted masons; this allowed them to attend the rituals and initiatic works of the relevant art, but certainly not to participate in them, as they were not members of the craft8. This highlights the fact that the accepted masons were not initiated into the mysteries of the art.

As we said, at the time when the Renaissance was declining along with its utopias and magical fantasies, many occultists knocked on the doors of the stonemasons’ and stone cutters’ yards, aware that the guilds, with their structure, would protect them, while at the same time defending their occult secrets. Particularly in England, several guilds took the honour of accepting people of recognised culture and higher social standing. In contrast to the medieval acceptances, these people were received as if they were already initiated9. The first historically proven acceptance would have been that of one John Boswell, in the year 160010. However, many historians of Freemasonry have given evidence that far greater personalities had been accepted earlier, such as Thomas Moore, Rabelais, Andreæ, Maier, Fludd, Bacon, Inigo Jones, Comenius, Ashmole, Robert Moray and William Lilly11. As already evidenced, none of these occultists were really initiates, for they had all derived their sciences and arts from bookish readings of classical authors, hermetic-alchemical and qabbalistic texts, without any authentic spiritual transmission.  “However, a deep-rooted tradition claims that Elias Ashmole was a Rosicrucian and that through him the Rose Cross current was introduced into Freemasonry.”12The artisans of the guilds, because of the decadence they had undergone, welcomed among themselves with honour and respect authentic braggarts13! They conveyed the mentality and fashions of the late Renaissance into the guilds, with their repulsion for Gothic and their adoption of Palladian aesthetics14. The massive entry of the educated bourgeoisie, dedicated first to the occult sciences and then to the great names of the aristocracy, however, did not stop the weakening of the guilds. Wren himself was accused of having neglected to revitalise and strengthen the guilds of builders of which he was grand master. In 1717 the last four lodges in the London area united to form a grand lodge with the aim of finding a solution to the unstoppable decline. It was not until 1721 that this initiative was taken up by two accepted freemasons, two pastors: the Presbyterian James Anderson and the Calvinist Jean-Théophile Désaguliers15. The former was commissioned to collect all the documents of ancient masonry and, on the basis of them, to draw up a new set of rules, the constitutions. Désaguliers, however, was the real inspiration behind the new constitutions16, which led Freemasonry to lose its operational character and turn into a speculative institution. We must not overlook the fact that he was Newton’s pupil and favourite pupil, so his actions were undoubtedly based on Rosicrucian ideals17.The fact remains that speculative Freemasonry was now based solely on the symbols of the ancient art, detached from any practical work. For this reason it is also called symbolic Freemasonry. But the reform of the institution followed the well-known protestant pattern, namely to make it generically “Christian”, with the intention of unifying the various reformed confessions into a single brotherhood while isolating Catholicism18. To this end, every symbolic reference to the New Testament was eliminated and replaced by the Old Testament of protestant philosemitism. Thus the masonry symbol was applied exclusively to the Temple of Solomon, replacing the authentic medieval christocentric symbolism. For the previous operative Freemasonry, the temple was actually the body of Christ and not the temple of Solomon, Zerubbabel or Herod19: “Jesus said: «Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.» The Jews replied: «Forty-six years were spent building this temple, and you will rebuild it in three days?» But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” (Gospel of St. John, ii.19-21). “Honorius of Autun, in his Speculum mundi, establishes the following correspondences: the apse represents the head of Christ; the nave, the body proper; the transept, the arms; and the high altar, the heart, that is to say, the centre of being.20

The artificial semitisation began a few years after the first publication of the constitutions (1725), when the members of the grand lodge posed the problem of the master’s degree, absent in operative Freemasonry, but required by Rosicrucian theory21. In ancient Freemasonry, master was the function assumed by the most experienced fellows to lead the guild. As in all regular initiatic ways the master was one and the same and his function consisted in the transmission of the craft initiation and the teaching of the art to fellows and apprentices. Since the reformers of Freemasonry were accepted fellows, they were unfamiliar with the distinction between initiatic degrees and initiatic functions22. They made masterhood a degree, creating a confusing situation in which in the same lodge there was no longer just one master, but often a veritable crowd that reached that degree by ‘seniority’. It was therefore necessary to invent the figure of the elective venerable master to replace the ancient master of the art. Thus, the technical question: “who confers Masonic initiation on a recipient?” still remains effectively unanswered.

An ‘initiation ritual’ adapted to the new degree of master was also invented, mixing the myth of Osiris with a narrative about the murder of Hiram23, completely absent from the Bible.

The more modern and efficient organisation made the Grand Lodge of England a true example to all other similar organisations, not only in the British Isles, but also on the continent. In fact, the general decline of Freemasonry and the Compagnonage24 coincided with the loss of the professional exercise. Almost everywhere, the lodges had become more and more open to non-builders, so that even the most conservative and lodges hostile to London25, such as those in Scotland, soon followed the path of speculative freemasonry. Paradoxically, it was the Catholic Irish Freemasonry that not only consecrated the degree of master, but even added to it a fourth degree, the royal arch, for particularly competent masters. This degree was extrapolated from the Qabbalah26 and was soon taken over by the rival Grand Lodge of England. In this way, semitisation became more and more prevalent in speculative Freemasonry. Soon Jewish sacred and pass words appeared, as well as the mysterious use of symbols and letters of the Hebrew alphabet27.

Scottish Freemasonry became fashionable in France when the Stuart pretender chose that country as a land of exile and a springboard for a longed-for restoration. The French aristocracy, above all, found in the lodges centres of diversion, culture and socialisation. “The French brothers did not limit themselves to stifling the rudimentary ceremonial of the three degrees that had come from England, but in turn wanted to create new ones. The Masonic secret, manipulated by ingenious creators, with the birth of new legends provoked an exuberant and anarchic proliferation of ‘high degrees’28. In truth, this new Freemasonry was an entirely French product and was called Scottish for two simple reasons: firstly, because it was politically favourable to the Stuarts; secondly, because it has been also supported by the tenacious action of the Scottish knight Ramsay (who was in fact not a knight at all). He convinced the aristocratic French brothers that Freemasonry, far from being a remnant of the humble medieval arts and crafts, was a chivalric order of Templar origin, still endowed with secret knowledge and missioned to avenge its own destruction29.

It is impossible in few lines to paint a sufficiently clear picture of these high-degree regimes, which in few decades exceeded a hundred. However, it is certain that alongside protagonists of great moral rectitude and sincere intentions, who acted as antiquarians, saving documents and symbols of the past, there were many other figures to whom Freemasonry fell victim. At best, they were simple scroungers, charlatans, illusionists, hypnotists and swindlers. But others were certainly commissioned to infiltrate the organisation, to mystify its aims and, in general, to change the mentality of the Freemasons. All the founders of high degree systems presented themselves in the lodges claiming to have been commissioned30 by unidentified Superiores Incogniti to restore Freemasonry to its ancient mysteries. Often these appointees gave themselves in lodge demonstrations of magical operations as proof of the authenticity of their mandate31. Now, in most cases these mysterious “Unknown Superiors” were the product of the fraudulent fantasies of those who claimed to be missioned by them.

However, in other cases, there were actual commissioners who inspired the action of the founders of the high degrees. Clearly they belonged to occult circles that drew on rosicrucian legend32, hermeticism, alchemy and Qabbalah, especially that of protestant origin33. Some have called this environment ‘occult power’, attributing even exaggerated importance to the Jewish component, without specifying that it was the deviant Qabbalah. Since the ‘Rosicrucians’ first, and afterwards the ‘Unknown Superiors’ would have been the instigators of an infiltration aimed at fomenting the mental confusion of which Freemasonry was a victim, it is completely inappropriate to claim that they were anything like siddhas or even jīvanmuktas. The mere juxtaposition between a living liberated person and an intellectual nullity, such as the count of Saint-Germain34, is simply grotesque. On the other hand, it is evident that invoking mysterious characters or environments beyond the reach of any investigation is an old expedient. Many have claimed to be inspired by the mahātma of the Great White Brotherhood, by the pontiffs of the Supreme Centre, by the invisible himalayan bābājīs. Clearly these are fantasies reminescent of the ‘Unknown superiors’ of the eighteenth-century, to the delight of the hopelessly credulous admirers of ‘extraordinary functions’35. Tradition, the real one, is based on sacred texts taught by well-known authentic masters, on which one must reflect in the light of logic based on intuition.

Gian Giuseppe Filippi

  1. Similarly, in the Hindū tradition, knowledge (jñāna) is transmitted exclusively through the priesthood (brāhma), while all the arts of action (karma) are part of the royal domain (katra). Obviously, all actions of lesser importance, while always remaining under the control of the katra, are delegated to the humbler castes for their performance.
  2. Luc Benoist, Le Compagnonnage et les Métiers, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1966, pp. 20-25.
  3. In his book Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architetti, III cap., Firenze, 1568.
  4. In fact, the term derived from goetia, evocative art, intended both in the positive sense of ‘prodigious’, and in negative as ‘magical’ because of the often-uncontrolled use of symbols unrelated to religion.
  5. If the ecclesiastical attitude of the Renaissance was one of contempt towards them, “Luther’s reformation destroyed papal authority and dealt a fatal blow to Masonic associations” (F.T.B. Clavel, Historia de la Francmasoneria, Madrid, El Museo Universal, 1984, p. 14). Even under Cromwell’s dictatorship, the guilds had to be dispersed. Only those guilds that adopted anti-Catholic attitudes in a more or less sincere manner survived.
  6. As we have said in the previous pages, there was no organization called Rose-Cross, nor anyone who could be identified as a Rosicrucian. However, most of the occultists of the late Renaissance declared themselves admirers of such non-existent entities and individualities and were inspired by them in their works. Such admirers of the Rosicrucians were predominantly readers of hermetic, alchemical, magical and qabbalistic works.
  7. When the Reformation began, the priest was replaced by the pastor in protestant countries out of a misunderstood sense of continuity. However, the pastor had no charismatic or ritual powers, being a simple layman.
  8. Etymologically [acceptance] means the fact of being received (accepted) in the operative brotherhood without belonging to the profession.” Daniel Ligou, Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie, Paris, PUF, 1987, p. 7.
  9. Elias Ashmole was accepted as having already been initiated into some mysterious secret fraternity and even elevated directly to the rank of fellow-master. Elder David Bernard, Light on Masonry, Utica, W Williams printer, 1829, p. 550. Surprisingly, he was the first to be designated a ‘speculative Freemason’. In the account he left us, he states that none of those present at his rite of acceptance were operative Freemasons. Daniel Ligou, Dictionnaire, cit.pp. 83-84.
  10. Auguste Vibert, Freemasonry before the Existence of the Grand Lodges, Whitefish, Montana, Kessinger Publishing, 2010.
  11. Paul Naudon, Les origines de la franc-maçonnerie. Paris, Éd. Dervy Livres. 1991; Robert Freke Gould, History of Freemasonry: Its Antiquities, Symbols, Constitutions, Customs, Etc, London, Jack Pbls, 1883; Joannis Corneloup, Universalisme et Franc-Maçonnerie, Paris, Vitiano Compiègne, 1963. Many of these appear both on the list of accepted masons and of that of the founders of the Royal Society.
  12. Jean Palou, La Franc-masoneria, Buenos Aires, Dedalo, 1975, p. 63. De Quincey even goes so far as to suppose that Freemasonry was created ex novo by Robert Fludd. Thomas P. De Quincey, “Historico-Critical Inquiry into the Origins of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons”, in Collected Writings, Edimburgh, D. Masson, 1890, p. 386. It is in this occultist climate that the ‘collaboration’ during the Crusades among Templars, masons and Sufis is described for the first time. We allude to the book by Pierre Dupuy Histoire de la condemnation des Templiers, which appeared in 1713. Indeed, this pseudo-historical text did not even speak of Sufis, but of the Ishmaelite sect of the Assassins; but this was enough to give rise to the legend of the ‘Islamic Rosicrucians’.
  13. An “English document of 1676 describes how the Green Ribbon Kabbalah dined with the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross, the Hermetic Adepts and the Accepted Masons, and how all these societies had “invisibility” in common”. Francis A. Yates, L’Illuminismo dei Rosa-Croce, Turin, Einaudi, 1976, p. 256.
  14. Although this style had already been adopted by Inigo Jones, it became canonical thanks to the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Christopher Wren (1632-1723), a member of the Royal Society and a friend and collaborator of Isaac Newton. A graduated in mathematics, he was accepted as a Freemason by order of the Duke of Richmond, Grand Master of Freemasonry, to whom, later, he succeeded in mastery. We must add that by royal decree, from 1691 the acceptance in Freemasonry was also allowed for members of the aristocracy (Clavel, Historia, cit, p. 21). From that moment on, the honorary office of Grand Master was formalized. The various lodges competed to have as honorary heads and political protectors those accepted who were illustrious by birth (Count Bennet of Arligton, the Duke of Buckingham and Richmond himself) or for cultural merits (Cibber, Newton and Wren himself).
  15. In fact, the members of the four original lodges were for the most part operative Masons. It is therefore not clear why the whole affair was only conducted by accepted fellows.
  16. Indeed, Anderson merely acted as secretary under the direction of Grand Masters Payne and Désaguliers. Almost all the original documents were then burnt ‘to protect’ the new Constitutions (Palou, La Franc-masoneria, cit., p. 80). As a matter of fact, the first Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of England, Sayer, Payne and Désaguliers, were petty bourgeois, accepted freemasons, but very able to invest the money of the brotherhood. They were responsible for choosing their successors from among the members of the high nobility. An unscrupulous libertine, the Duke of Wharton, accepted the post and from that moment on, the heads of the Grand Lodge of England were all peers of the realm or princes of the blood (Clavel, Historia, cit. pp. 27-31).
  17. Lusol, L’Età massonica, Milano, Mondadori, 1944, pp. 64-80.
  18. In 1738 Pope Clement XII excommunicated the Freemasonry, alarmed by its anticlericalism, but, above all, by the spread of lodges throughout the kingdoms of Europe.
  19. Indeed, although Christianity, Judaism and Freemasonry avoid mentioning the Temple of Herod the Great, a historical figure hated by all, the fact remains that the archaeological remains concern only the latter sanctuary. Of the temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel no trace remains, to the point that many historians have questioned whether they were really built in Jerusalem or in some other unknown location in the Arabian Peninsula, to the great embarrassment of contemporary Zionism. Adolfo Roitman, Envisioning the Temple, Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, 2003, pp. 151-154; Kamal Salibi, The Bible came from Arabia, Beirut, 2007, pp. 110-123; Keith W. Whaitelam, The invention of Ancient Israel, London & New York, Routledge, 1996, pp. 71-121.
  20. Jean Hani, El simbolismo del templo cristiano, Barcelona, Sophia Perennis, 1983, p. 47.
  21. Many current Masonic circles attribute the creation of the three initiatic degrees to the Rosicrucian Elias Ashmole: “Ashmole then noticed the decline of the workers’ societies and undertook to regenerate them under the cover of architecture by means of a representation of the mysteries of ancient Indian and Egyptian initiation, giving the new association a goal of union, perfection, progress, brotherhood, equality and science, through a universal bond based on the laws of nature and love for humanity. To this end, as a profound connoisseur of alchemy, the Kabbalah, the ancient mysteries and the annals of primitive peoples, he took the great initiative of writing the foundations of the three-degree organisation on which his system of human solidarity and perfection was to be based. He drew up accordingly the rituals of the degrees of apprentice, fellow and master and began to disseminate and explain them, thus increasing the reformist and regenerative tendency of the Institution, until death surprised him in this endeavour. Twenty-five years after these events, this seed sown by the wise Ashmole sprouted publicly, and when the lodges of London reformed in 1717 and entered upon a philosophical life of study, perfection and moral propaganda, they adopted Ashmole’s rituals, repudiated all purely operative work, broke their subordination from the authoritarian centre of York […]”. Lorenzo Frau Abrines, Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Masonéria, Mexico, Ed. Del Valle de Mexico, 1976, I vol. P. 135.
  22. In this regard, see Goblet d’Alviella, Los origenes del grado de maestro en la Francomasoneria, Barcelona, Edicomunicacion, 1991.
  23. The legend of the master’s degree does not solve the problem of the resurrection from death of the fellow who is ‘reborn’ to the master’s degree. If by chance, in the Middle Ages, there had been a need for a narrative of death and resurrection for the master, certainly that of Christ would have been used; but since the master’s degree did not then exist, the problem cannot be posed. On the other hand, no element of the legend of Hiram is present in any document of ancient operative Freemasonry, nor does it appear in Old Testament sources, Old Testament apocrypha or rabbinic traditions. Only in the Talmud does a certain Adoniram appear, who recalls that name, tax collector of King Rehoboam, killed by the angry mob for understandable reasons. René Le Forestier, La Franc-Maçonnerie Templière et Occultiste aux XVIII et XIX siècles, Paris, La table d’Émeraude, 1987, vol. I, p. 41.
  24. This is how the artisan guilds on the continent were called, of which that of masons was only one, among others.
  25. In addition, the Catholic lodges were hostile to the new dynasty and supported the deposed Stuart dynasty, while the Protestant lodges were fervent supporters of the Hanoverians. But to follow these more political aspects, although not insignificant, could take us away from the topic at hand.
  26. When we speak of Qabbalah in this context, we mean the Protestant version that began with Reuchlin. Indeed, for much of the 18th century, Jews had not yet been allowed access to Freemasonry.
  27. We remind the reader that until the Renaissance there was no trace of the use of the Hebrew language in the initiatic ways of Catholicism, the sacred language being Latin or the illustrious vernacular. For example, in the Middle Ages the combination of the Latin concept of knight (eques) with the Hebrew attribute of qadoš would have been considered a true monstrosity.
  28. Le Forestier, La Franc-Maçonnerie Templière, cit., p. 51.
  29. Le Forestier, La Franc-Maçonnerie Templière, cit., p. 55.
  30. In addition to Ramsay himself, there were the barons von Hund, von Zinnendorf, von Ecker und Eckhoffen, as well as more reprehensible figures such as the social climber Stark, the trickster Johnson, the tavern-illusionist Schröpfer, the ‘magician’ Gugomos and others. Some have even wanted to see in the sad freak tricks of the latter, real powers comparable to those of tantric siddhas!
  31. It had been several centuries since people in Europe could no longer distinguish what came from heaven from the products of the underworld psychism. The prodigy, therefore, was, and still is, considered by the ignorant as a sign of the ‘spirit’.
  32. The Golden Rose Cross, the Order of the Knights and Brothers of Light, the Initiate Brothers of Asia and, at least in part, the Bavarian Illuminati.
  33. Only towards the end of the 18th century did Freemasonry in many kingdoms and principalities begin to admit Jewish recipients. In this way, heterodox Qabbalah, represented by the various Falke, Irschfeld, Schönfeld, Martinez de Pasqually, Falk-Schek, the Bédarride brothers, etc., began to penetrate Freemasonry.
  34. Or even suspicious or invented figures, such as Federico Gualdi, Valmont and Althotas.
  35. Occultists, morbidly attracted to the secret and the arcane, think that operative ritual efficacy can only be restored by mysterious characters such as the Rosicrucians and the Unknown Superiors. The reality is exactly the opposite of these fantasies: in fact, such a straightening out is within the powers of well-recognised real figures in the traditional environment, endowed with complete magisterial realisation and unquestionable initiatic transmission. For example, the Parisian lodge Henri IV accepted the emir ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jazā’irī, famous Algerian warrior and prince, wise shaykh of the Qādiriyya ṭarīqa. Unfortunately, this acquisition did not go beyond the propagandistic exploitation of French colonial policy.