Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

guild-namely, that the apprentice had passed his time, and was now free of his craft.

Nothing could have been more artful on the part of the pseudo-philosophers than this mixing of themselves up with a body of men like the masons. Nobody could deny that builders had existed from very remote times, and hence, if the two could be blended to the eye of the world, their antiquity would be established. To effect this, they, or rather the Rosicrucians, from whom they took the idea, used Solomon's temple and the various implements of the builder, as the myth of their new order. Crafty as the plan might be, it was yet liable to some objections which have been already noticed—it derived a scheme of Christian morals from Jews and idolators, and preserved it for ages by the same means.

It will scarcely add to the force of what has just been stated, but the fact is that even the guilds, although much older than the lodges, are yet not antient in the common acceptation of the word. The first thing of the kind, so far as antiquarian industry has been able to trace it, was in the reign of Henry the Sixth, when a company of Italian masons was especially licensed by a papal bull, while in Germany the first guild is supposed to have arisen in 1452, out of the building of the celebrated cathedral at Strasburgh. They may have been earlier, but this is not very likely to have been the case. The union of men of any. trade or occupation would hardly take place 'till the pursuits themselves had acquired some degree of public importance. The main question, however, is not at all affected by considerations of this kind. The utter impossibility of uniting the mythus with the craft itself is too evident to make this of the least importance; and, indeed, nothing but the eagerness for blending themselves with antiquity could have led them into the error of basing

themselves on an art, to which Christians have contributed so little. The five orders of architecture belong to the heathen Greeks ; and the Gothic style, it is well known, has come to us from the Persians.*

What has been said will probably be considered by most readers quite sufficient to prove that the Freemasons are not anterior to the Rosicrucians; and their principles, so far as they were avowed about the middle of the seventeenth century, being identical, it is fair to presume that the Freemasons were in reality, the first incorporated body of Rosicrucians or Sapientes.

In the Fama of Andrea," we have the first sketch of a constitution, which bound by oath the members to mutual secrecy, which proposed higher and lower grades, yet levelled all worldly distinctions in the common bonds of brotherhood, and which opened its privileges to all classes, making only purity of mind and purpose the condition of reception.

The emblems of the two brotherhools are the same in every respect-the plummet, the level, the compasses, the cross, the rose, and all the rest of the symbolic trumpery, which the Rosicrucians named in their writings as the insignia of their imaginary associations, and which they also would have persuaded a credulous world concealed truths ineffable by mere language; both too derived their wisdom from Adam, adopted the same myth of building, connected themselves in the same unintelligible way with Solomon's temple, affected to be seeking light from the East,-in other words, the Cabala-and accepted the heathen Pythagoras amongst

* See a dissertation on the subject, by M. Lenormont, in M. De Caamont's “ Architecture Religeuse,&c.

+ Let me again remind the reader, that though there might be no actual colleges, or lodges of Rosicrucians, I have never denied the existence of a large body of men, who under that name professed the same alchemical and theosophic doctrines, and pretended to form a brotherhood.

their adepts. But though it sounded well enough for the Freemasons to confess an alliance with the Greek philosopher so long as science and the knowledge of nature were amongst their objects, such an admission became manifestly absurd when the advancing intelligence of man rejected the visionary portions of alchemy; to keep pace with their age, they were obliged to abandon the old philosophy, and confine themselves to morals and the understanding of the Creator.

Other and no less serious objections crowd upon us as we advance in the enquiry. The grand secret of the Freemasons, derived, as they pretend, from Solomon, if not from Adam, should make them wiser, or better, than their neighbours, or it is worth nothing. Has it done so? Experience replies that the fraternity, like any other association of human beings, contains both bad and good men,—the worst, no worse than may be found elsewhere, and the best no better. In regard to art or science, as a body, they have taught mankind nothing; and in regard to religion, they surely do not pretend to the knowledge of a purer faith than is in the scriptures, or to a more perfect interpretation of them than is given to us by our numerous and well-paid clergy. Here is a dilemma from which there is no escaping, even if they could get over the difficulty of their secret producing no effect upon themselves or others, and therefore being perfectly worthless.

And what does all their talk of emblems amount to? Emblems can express nothing that may not he told as well by words, since by words after all they must be explained, and what then is gained by their use ? mystery, nothing else,—inasmuch as they will bear any meaning you choose to attach to them, and their value as the representative of ideas must entirely depend upon the knowledge of the interpreter. Is a man likely to become more moral for wearing a white apron and white gloves, or for carrying about a white wand? will any one learn prudence from seeing that quality represented by "a blazing star, which is placed in the centre that every mason's eye may be upon it?"* or will “the level, the emblem of equality,”+ or “the plumb, the emblem of integrity,” inspire a deeper lore for these qualities than the eloquence of words. It is true we often avail ourselves of this principle in teaching children ; but then it is done to assist their memory, or to convey abstract truths to the mind through the medium of the eye. Thus the image of the archer may help out a child's recollection of A, as that of a bull may with more readiness call to its mind the letter B; this in fact is no more than a memoria technica, an artificial memory; but do grown-up men require such help to teach them morality ? Mr. Oliver assures us that “the mason in his full clothing is

* Oliver's Antiquities of Freemasonry, p. 177.

+ In the case of Frederick the Greek I am sorry to say it produced no effect whatever, though to be sure he was an awkward subject to try the experiment upon. In 1753, while he was yet only crown-prince, he was made by an especial deputation of Freemasons from Hamburg for that purpose, the first of these towns, where he then resided, not being fortunate enough to possess a lodge of its own. But the levelling system of the brotherhood would seem to have been ill-suited to the taste of the royal lion ; he could not tolerate an “imperium in imperio ; ” and when an upholsterer, who was occupied upon one of the palace-chambers, thought to recommend himself by giving the masonic sign of recognition, he turned his back upon the possessor of Solomon's

and walked off. Another claim of the same kind was not more graciously received. During the Bavarian war of inheritance some Freemasons, who had a petition to address to him, were simple enough to accompany it with their masonic rank and titles. Their petition was immediately handed over to the authorities, and they were given to understand that they must not presume to use such titles out of their lodges for the future.-See Murr.

a striking emblem of integrity, and a perfect model of wisdom, strength, and beauty." But is this walking emblem, wise, strong, and handsome, in reality, and are such wisdom, strength, and handsomeness, the result of his various amulets ? if not, where is the use of all his badges ? But the truth is that Freemasonry belongs not to our times. It was the fiction of a credulous age, when besides the vulgar religion, or popular mythology, the priests and philosophers had a secret system of their own, compelling the people under severe penalties to abide in ignorance while they kept all the light they could collect to themselves. It was not much to be sure, but what it was they retained and guarded with a barbarous and unrelenting jealousy. Such has been the case in all ages of which we have any record. The priests of Egypt had their hidden and undivulgable wisdom, an inner portion of their temple to which the multitude could never penetrate. The Jewish hierarchy had their Cabala, that knowledge, which, as they said, God had granted to them under a solemn command of secrecy, and denied to the rest of their fellow creatures. The Indian teachers, with Zoroaster at their head, had one code for the multitude, and another for the elect. The Greeks boasted of their Eleusinian mysteries. Even Pythagoras bound his fol. lowers to silence. But we repeat it, the day of mysticism has gone by; and though it is only the first dawn of real knowledge that is breaking upon us, yet even in this early twilight men for the most part can see too plainly to be the dupes of such absurd pretensions. The very attempt however to continue them is an effort to perpetuate ignorance and error, and upon this principle the sooner the Freemasons lay aside their aprons and talk like the rest of the world the better.

* Antiquities of Freemasonry, p. 175.

« ПредишнаНапред »