Графични страници
PDF файл

of letters, which perhaps they brought from the east with other arts.

7 Peter Gower.-This must be another mistake of the writer. I was puzzled at first to guess who Peter Gower should be, the name being perfectly English; or how a Greek should come by such a name; but as soon as I thought of Pythagoras, I could scarce forbear smiling to find that philosopher had undergone a metempsychosis he never dreamt of. We need only consider the French pronunciation of his name, Pythagore, that is, Petagore, to conceive how easily such a mistake might be made by an unlearned clerk. That Pythagoras travelled for knowledge into Egypt, &c. is known to all the learned, and that he was initiated into several different orders of priests,* who in those days kept all their learning secret from the vulgar, is as well known. Pythagoras also made every geometrical theorem a secret, and admitted only such to the knowledge of them as had first undergone a five years' silence. He is supposed to be the inventor of xlvii of the first book of Euclid, for which in the joy of his heart 'tis said he sacrificed a hecatomb. He also knew the true system of the world, lately revived by Copernicus; and was certainly a wonderful man. See his life by Dion. Hal.

8 Grecia Magna.-A part of Italy formerly so called, in which the Greeks had settled a large colony.


Wyseacre. This word at present signifies simpleton, but formerly had a quite contrary meaning. Weisager in the old Saxon is Philosopher, wiseman, or wizard; and, having been frequently used ironically, at length came to have a direct meaning in the ironical sense. Thus Duns Scotus, a man famed for the subtlety and acuteness of his understanding, has by the same method of irony given a general name to modern dunces.

10 Groton.-Groton is the name of a place in England. The place here meant is Crotona, a city of Grecia Magna, which in the time of Pythagoras was very populous.


Fyrste made. The word made, I suppose, has a particular meaning among the Masons; perhaps it signifies, initiated.

12 Maçonnes haveth communicatedde.-This paragraph hath * If this be true, Freemasonry must have been of all religions-in short, deism.

something remarkable in it. It contains a justification of the secresy so much boasted of by Masons, and so much blamed by others; asserting that they have in all ages discovered such things as might be useful, and that they conceal such only as would be hurtful either to the world or themselves. What these secrets are, we see afterwards.

13 The Arts; Agriculture, &c.—It seems a bold pretence this of the Masons, that they have taught mankind all these arts. They have their own authority for it, and I know not how we shall disprove them,* but what appears most odd is that they reckon religion among the arts.

14 Arte of ffynding new Artes. The art of inventing arts must certainly be a most useful art. My Lord Bacon's "Novum Organum" is an attempt towards somewhat of the same kind. But I much doubt that if ever the Masons had it, they have now lost it; since so few new arts have been lately invented, and so many are wanted. The idea I have of such an art is, that it must be something proper to be applied in all the sciences generally, as Algebra is in numbers, by the help of which new rules of arithmetic are and may be found.

15 Preise. It seems the Masons have a great regard to the reputation as well as profit of their order; since they make it one reason for not divulging an art in common that it may do honour to the possessors of it. I think in this particular they show too much regard for their own society, and too little for the rest of mankind.

16 Arte of kepynge secrettes. What kind of an art this is, I can by no means imagine. But certainly such an art the Masons must have; for though, as some people suppose, they should have no secret at all, even that must be a secret, which being discovered would expose them to the highest ridicule; and therefore it requires the

utmost care to conceal it.

17 The arte of chaunges. I know not what this means, unless it be the transmutation of metals.


Facultye of Abrac. Here I am utterly in the dark. 19 Universelle longage of Maçonnes. An universal language has been much desired by the learned of many

* Not very likely language this for the philosophic Locke to hold.

ages. "Tis a thing rather to be wished than hoped for. But it seems the Masons pretend to have such a thing among them. If it be true, I guess it must be something like the language of the pantomimes among the ancient Romans, who are said to be able by signs only to express and deliver any oration intelligibly to men of all nations and languages. A man, who has all these arts and advantages, is certainly in a condition to be envied; but we are told this is not the case with all Masons; for though these arts are among them, and all have a right and an opportunity to know them, yet some want capacity, and others industry to acquire them. However of all their arts and secrets, that which is most desired to know is "the skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte;" and I wish it were communicated to all mankind, since there is nothing more true than the beautiful sentence contained in the last answer,-"that the better men are, the more they love one another." Virtue having in itself something so amiable as to charm the hearts of all that behold it.

I know not what effect the sight of this old paper may have upon your lordship, but for my own part I can not deny that it has so much raised my curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the fraternity, which I am determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I go London; and that will be shortly.

I am, my Lord,

Your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servant, JOHN LOCKE.

The first thing, that must strike every one upon reading this paper is its want of all those clear and positive landmarks, which are usually supposed to confer authenticity. There is no name of the brother in whose desk it was discovered, no name of the nobleman to whom it is addressed, no name of the person by whose aid Locke is said to have found it, no explanation of the means by which it made its way into Germany, nor is any reference given that may enable us to trace out the original MS. in the Bodleian.

We are next startled by finding a Freemason, who ac

cording to his own account is perfect in all kinds of knowledge, yet so extremely ignorant as to blunder Pytagore, the French pronunciation of Pythagoras, into Peter Gower, and mistaking the Phoenicians for the Venetians, and Croton in Greece for Groton in England. The pseudo-Locke indeed observes in his notes that this might arise from the ignorance of a monkish clerk, deceived by similarity of sounds, but how could this be when the original MS. is stated to have been by Henry the Sixth, and the monk, if there were any monk in the case, must have been a transcriber?

Scarcely less surprising is it that so profound a master of the English language as Locke, and one of such multifarious learning, should be puzzled by the word, Abrac,* which any moderately-informed schoolboy could have told him was an abbreviation of abracadabra. But these are trifles. If this document be authentic the heathen Pythagoras, the believer in the metempsychosis, was a Freemason, and then what becomes of the Christianity of the order? surely they will not pretend that the doctrines of Christ were known from the time of Adam downwards by a set of men, who kept the secret to themselves. Allowing them to get over this stumbling-block -no easy matter-what will they say to the next difficulty arising out of this precious document? If it be true, the Freemasons received from God "the arte of finding neue artes"—" the arte of wonder werkynge”—the art “ of foresayinge thynges to comme," i.e. of prediction—“ the arte of chaunges," i.e. of transmuting metals-and "the wey of wynnynge the facultye of Abrac," i.e. of Abracadabrawill the Freemasons pretend that they still possess such secrets? or will they tell us that while they have so carefully preserved their trash of symbols-their plummets, their globes, and their death's-heads-with all their oral

* Or Abrax, i.e. Abraxis, another name for Abracadabra.

explanations, from the time of Solomon, they have lost the more valuable parts of their mystery since the reign of Henry the Sixth? nay will they affirm that they believe any human beings at any period could prophecy, and make gold? Yet one of these things they must do, or allow the paper to be spurious. If they give up its authenticity, then have they lost the only link that united them historically to the working guilds, and the consequences of that we have already seen; if they maintain it to be genuine, then they are manifest charlatans who pretend, or did pretend, to the possession of the philosopher's stone. They had therefore much better abandon this unlucky document, even though by so doing they at the same time resign all connection with the guilds.

Another thing, which must strike every reader of tolerable information, is the monstrous pretence to every sort of knowledge, which according to their own account, they derived from the Jews in the time of Solomon. The learned Thomas Burnet,* no very willing witness, admits that the Jews knew nothing of mathematics or philoso

*"Notum est vero," says the learned, but not very philosophic, Thomas, "in disciplinis Mathematicis aut Philosophicis nunquam præcelluisse hanc gentem, neque in cæterarum artium studiis, aut id genus ullo humani ingenii eximio fœtu... Quæ autem apud ipsos erant scholæ et academiæ pristinæ, non tam ad encyclopædia studia, ut solent hodie, formatæ et compositæ erant, quàm ad religionis instituta et dona prophetica imbibenda. Nulla enim gens per terrarum orbem, nullus populus, tantùm abundabat prophetis ac viris cælesti spiritu tactis, quantùm Judæi; ut ipsi solo et climati vis aliqua divina inhæsisse videretur."—Archæologiæ Philosophicæ, p. 59, 8vo. London, 1733. If Burnet had possessed only half as much common sense as he undoubtedly did learning, he would not have been surprised at the spiritual tendencies of the Jews, nor would he have sought for the cause of them in the soil or climate. When Moses placed the temporal rule over his people in the hands of the priesthood, he effectually provided for such a result.

« ПредишнаНапред »