January 11th, 1877.
ʺIn response to your letter, I willingly furnish the information desired with respect to the antiquity and Isis Unveiled Vol II 358 present condition of Freemasonry. This I do the more cheerfully since we belong to the same secret societies, and you can thus better appreciate the necessity for the reserve which at times I shall be obliged to exhibit.
You rightly refer to the fact that Freemasonry, no less than the effete theologies of the day, has its fabulous history to narrate. Clogged up as the Order has been by the rubbish and drift of absurd biblical legends, it is no wonder that its usefulness has been impaired and its work as a civilizer hampered. Fortunately the great anti ‐ Masonic excitement that raged in the United States during a portion of this century, forced a considerable band of workers to delve into the true origin of the Craft, and bring about a healthier state of things. The agitation in America also spread to Europe and the literary efforts of Masonic authors on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Rebold, Findel, Hyneman, Mitchell, Mackenzie, Hughan, Yarker and others well ‐ known to the fraternity, is now a matter of history. One effect of their labors has been, in a great measure, to bring the history of Masonry into an open daylight, where even its teachings, jurisprudence, and ritual are no longer secret from those of the ʹprofaneʹ who have the wit to read as they run.
ʺYou are correct in saying that the Bible is the ʹgreat lightʹ of European and American Masonry. In consequence of this the theistic conception of God and the biblical cosmogony have been ever considered two of its great corner ‐ stones. Its chronology seems also to have been based upon the same pseudo ‐ revelation. Thus Dr. Dalcho, in one of his treatises asserts that the principles of the Masonic Order were presented at and coeval with the creation. It is therefore not astonishing that such a pundit should go on to state that God was the first Grand Master, Adam the second, and the last named initiated Eve into the Great Mystery, as I suppose many a Priestess of Cybelé and ʹLadyʹ Kadosh were afterward. The Rev. Dr. Oliver, another Masonic authority, gravely records what may be termed the minutes of a Lodge where Moses presided as Grand Master, Joshua as Deputy Grand Master, and Aholiab and Bezaleel as Grand Wardens! The temple at Jerusalem, which recent archæologists have shown to be a structure with nothing like the pretended antiquity of its erection, and incorrectly called after a monarch whose name proves his mystical character, Sol ‐ Om ‐ On (the name of the sun in three languages), plays, as you correctly observe, a considerable share in Masonic mystery. Such fables as these, and the traditional Masonic colonization of ancient Egypt, have given the Craft the credit of an illustrious origin to which it has no right, and before whose forty centuries of legendary history, the mythologies of Greece and Rome fade into insignificance. The Egyptian, Chaldean, and other theories necessary to each fabricator of ʹhigh degreesʹ have also each had their short period of prominence. The last ʹaxe to grindʹ has consecutively been the fruitful mother of unproductiveness.
ʺWe both agree that all the ancient priesthoods had their esoteric doctrines and secret ceremonies. From the Essenic brotherhood, an evolution of the Hindu Gymnosophists, doubtless proceeded the Solidarities of Isis Unveiled Vol II 359 Greece and Rome as described by so ‐ called ʹPaganʹ writers. Founded on these and copying them in the matter of ritual, signs, grips, passwords, etc., were developed the mediæval guilds. Like the present livery companies of London, the relics of the English trade ‐ guilds, the operative Masons were but a guild of workmen with higher pretensions. From the French name ʹMacon,ʹ derived from ʹMas,ʹ an old Norman noun meaning ʹa house,ʹ comes our English ʹMason,ʹ a house builder. As the London companies alluded to present now and again the Freedom of the ʹLiveriesʹ to outsiders, so we find the trade ‐ guilds of Masons doing the same. Thus the founder of the Ashmolean Museum was made free of the Masons at Warrington, in Lancashire, England, on the 16th October, 1646.
The entrance of such men as Elias Ashmole into the Operative Fraternity paved the way for the great ʹMasonic Revolution of 1717ʹ when SPECULATIVE Masonry came into existence. The Constitutions of 1723 and 1738, by the Masonic impostor Anderson, were written up for the newly ‐ fledged and first Grand Lodge of ʹFree and Accepted Masonsʹ of England, from which body all others over the world hail to ‐ day. ʺThese bogus constitutions, written by Anderson, were compiled about then, and in order to palm off his miserable rubbish yclept history, on the Craft, he had the audacity to state that nearly all the documents relating to Masonry in England had been destroyed by the 1717 reformers. Happily, in the British Museum, Bodleian Library, and other public institutions, Rebold, Hughan and others have discovered sufficient evidence in the shape of old Operative Masonic charges to disprove this statement.ʺ The same writers, I think, have conclusively upset the tenability of two other documents palmed upon Masonry, namely, the spurious charter of Cologne of 1535, and he forged questions, supposed to have been written by Leylande, the antiquary, from a MS. Of King Henry VI. Of England.
In the last named, Pythagoras is referred to as having — ʹformed a great lodge, at Crotona, and made many Masons, some of whom travelled into France, and there made many, from whence, in process of time, the art passed into England.ʹ Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul ʹs Cathedral, London, often called the ʹGrand Master of Freemasons, ʹ was simply the Master or President of the London Operative Masons Company. If such a tissue of fable could interweave itself into the history of the Grand Lodges which now have charge of the first three symbolical degrees, it is hardly astonishing that the same fate should befall nearly all of the High Masonic Degrees which have been aptly termed ʹan incoherent medley of opposite principles.ʹ ʺ It is curious to note too that most of the bodies which work these, such as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Rite of Avignon, the Order of the Temple, Fesslerʹs Rite, the ʹGrand Council of the Emperors of the East and West — Sovereign Prince Masons,ʹ etc.,etc., are nearly all the offspring of the sons of Ignatius Loyola. The Baron Hundt, Chevalier Ramsay, Tschoudy, Zinnendorf, and numerous others who founded the grades in these Isis Unveiled Vol II 360 rites, worked under instructions from the General of the Jesuits. The nest where these high degrees were hatched, and no Masonic rite is free from their baleful influence more or less, was the Jesuit College of Clermont at Paris. ʺThat bastard foundling of Freemasonry, the ʹAncient, and Accepted Scottish Rite,ʹ which is unrecognized by the Blue Lodges was the enunciation, primarily, of the brain of the Jesuit Chevalier Ramsay. It was brought by him to England in 1736 ‐ 38, to aid the cause of the Catholic Stuarts.
The rite in its present form of thirty ‐ three degrees was reorganized at the end of the eighteenth century by some half dozen Masonic adventurers at Charleston, South Carolina. Two of these, Pirlet a tailor, and a dancing master named Lacorne, were fitting predecessors for a later resuscitation by a gentleman of the name of Gourgas, employed in the aristocratic occupation of a ship’s clerk, on a boat trading between New York and Liverpool. Dr. Crucefix, alias Goss, the inventor of certain patent medicines of an objectionable character, ran the institution in England. The powers under which these worthies acted was a document claimed to have been signed by Frederick the Great at Berlin, on May 1st, 1786, and by which were revised the Masonic Constitution and Status of the High Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. This paper was an impudent forgery and necessitated the issuing of a protocol by the Grand Lodges of the Three Globes of Berlin, which conclusively proved the whole arrangement to be false in every particular. On claims supported by this supposititious document, the Ancient and Accepted Rite have swindled their confiding brothers in the Americas and Europe out of thousands of dollars, to the shame and discredit of humanity.
ʺThe modern Templars, whom you refer to in your letter, are but mere magpies in peacock’s plumes. The aim of the Masonic Templars is the sectarianization, or rather the Christianizing of Masonry, a fraternity which is supposed to admit the Jew, Parsee, Mahometan, Buddhist, in fact every religionist within its portals who accepts the doctrine of a personal god, and spirit ‐ immortality. According to the belief of a section, if not all the Israelites, belonging to the Craft in America — Templarism is Jesuitism.ʺ It seems strange, now that the belief in a personal God is becoming extinct, and that even the theologian has transformed his deity into an indescribable nondescript, that there are those who stand in the way of the general acceptation of the sublime pantheism of the primeval Orientals, of Jacob Boehme, of Spinoza. Often in the Grand Lodge and subordinate lodges of this and other jurisdictions, the old doxology is sung, with its ʹPraise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,ʹ to the disgust of Israelites and free ‐ thinking brethren, who are thus unnecessarily insulted. This could never occur in India, where the great light in a lodge may be the Koran, the Zend ‐ Avesta, or one of the Vedas. The sectarian Christian spirit in Masonry must be put down.
Today there are German Grand Lodges which will not allow Jews to be initiated, or Israelites from foreign countries to be accepted as brethren within their jurisdiction. The French Masons have, Isis Unveiled Vol II 361 however, revolted against this tyranny, and the Grand Orient of France does now permit the atheist and materialist to fellowship in the Craft. A standing rebuke upon the claimed universality of Masonry is the fact that the French brethren are now repudiated. ʺNotwithstanding its many faults — and speculative Masonry is but human, and therefore fallible — there is no institution that has done so much, and is yet capable of such great undertakings in the future, for human, religious, and political improvement. In the last century the Illuminati taught, ʹpeace with the cottage, war with the palaceʹ throughout the length and breadth of Europe. In the last century the United States was freed from the tyranny of the mother country by the action of the Secret Societies more than is commonly imagined. Washington, Lafayette, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, were Masons. And in the nineteenth century it was Grand Master Garibaldi, 33, who unified Italy, working in accordance with the spirit of the faithful brotherhood, as the Masonic, or rather carbonari, principles of ʹliberty, equality, humanity, and independence, and unity, ʹ taught for years by Brother Joseph Mazzini.ʺ
Speculative Masonry has much, too, within its ranks to do. One is to accept woman as a co ‐ worker of man in the struggle of life, as the Hungarian Masons have done lately by initiating the Countess Haideck. Another important thing is also to recognize practically the brotherhood of all humanity by refusing none on account of color, race, position, or creed. The dark ‐ skinned should not be only theoretically the brother of the light. The colored Masons who have been duly and regularly raised stand at every lodge ‐ door in America craving admission, and they are refused. And there is South America to be conquered to a participation in the duties of humanity. ʺ If Masonry be, as claimed, a progressive science and a school of pure religion, it should ever be found in the advance guard of civilization, not in the rear. If it be but an empirical effort, a crude attempt of humanity to solve some of the deepest problems of the race, and no more, then it must give place to fitter successors, perchance one of those that you and I know of, one that may have acted the prompter at the side of the chiefs of the Order, during its greatest triumphs, whispering to them as the dæmon did in the ear of Socrates.ʺ
Yours most sincerely,
ʺCHARLES SOTHERAN ʺ
An excerpt from H P Blavatsky- Isis Unveiled Vol II pp357-361