Alchemy and Freemasonry: Is there a Connection?

alchemical pillars

 

Both Alchemy and Freemasonry are ancient arts that relay a certain philosophy and method of personal growth, but do the similarities end there? There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether or not, Freemasonry and Alchemy are formerly linked together. However, as a student of Freemasonry and other esoteric traditions, the similarities are striking.

Alchemy is thought to have originated in Hellenistic Egypt, especially in Alexandria. It’s very possible that it goes back even further, although there is no definitive proof of this. Hermes Trismegistus is thought to be the father of alchemy and translations of The Emerald Tablet that are attributed to Hermes Trismegistus describe the alchemical process in veiled language. Most historians believe that alchemy was simply an early version of chemistry and that the ultimate goal of the alchemical process was to change lead into gold. Despite the fact that this was a procedure in alchemy that is thought to have been possible, true alchemists had a much greater work that they would strive for. The true alchemical process was to help connect the alchemist both physically and spiritually with the universe in which they resided. The process itself was not only to achieve a physical transmutation, but to also produce a mental and spiritual transformation as well. With each step of the process, the alchemist was shedding the superfluidities of life and learning to temper emotions in a pursuit of the betterment of self. The end result of this “Great Work“, was not only to extract the physical Philosopher’s Stone from the materials with which they worked, but also to extract the spiritual Philosopher’s Stone that was within their own being. This “Stone” being the perfected self, or illuminated soul. This process, like all other mystery traditions, required deep introspection of the individual and the coming to terms with inner demons and vices that keep one from their true potential.

Freemasonry has some obvious similarities with Alchemy, but may have some much deeper, symbolic connections as well. Though there is nothing definitive that ties modern Freemasonry to ancient Egypt, most Masons believe that the connection is there. Freemasonry uses many of the same systems that can be found in other Western Mystery Traditions that have their origins in ancient Egypt, and it could be said that the builders of the temples and pyramids in Egypt, may have been the first Master Masons. Like Alchemy, Freemasonry uses a series of steps, or processes to get the initiate from one point to another. The ultimate goal in Masonic Philosophy is the betterment of self, through introspection and acknowledgement of  immortality. The masonic initiate is encouraged to temper their emotions and control their vices. In this regard, the philosophy of the two traditions are on equal footing. As I have mentioned in the past, there is a strong correspondence of the Hermetic Tradition with Freemasonry as well. The Hermetic tradition being derived directly from the writings of the original alchemist, Hermes Trismegistus. Both traditions are searching for that which is hidden or lost as well. In Alchemy, it is the search for the hidden stone, or Philosopher’s Stone. In Freemasonry, it is the search for the lost word, or the Divine Name. It seems logical, on the surface, that the two traditions are similar, but does the similarity go even deeper?

As with all ancient mystery traditions, there is an exoteric aspect, and an esoteric aspect. The exoteric aspects become obvious rather quickly to the observer, but the esoteric aspects may take decades, or even lifetimes to come to light for the initiate. Alchemist and Freemason, Timothy Hogan has written extensively on alchemical symbolism that is hidden within free-masonic ritual. In his work The Alchemical Keys to Masonic Ritual, Brother Hogan goes into great detail regarding these symbolic connections. One of the key connections between Freemasonry and Alchemy is the use of metals. Metal’s importance in Alchemy is easily understood within the context. The Alchemist is made aware of the correspondence between the Seven Planets (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, and the Sun and Moon), the human body, and the Seven Metals (lead, tin, iron, copper, quicksilver/mercury, silver, and gold). Each metal is thought to have intimate connection to the planet of it’s origin and is also said to have a connection to certain essential organs in the human body.

How does this figure into Freemasonry though? Isn’t masonry about building with stone? Mysteriously, metallurgy and metal substances factor heavily in Masonic ritual and literature. Right off the bat, prior to initiation, the new candidate for masonry is divested of all metals. This is not only to remind him of the impermanence of material wealth, but more importantly it is to teach the student the concept of superfluidities and that which is lost and can be gained through trial and spiritual growth. Even though Freemasonry primarily uses the allegory of stonework, metals and metallurgy continually pop up throughout the various Masonic degrees, as well as masonic-related works.

The most intriguing connection is that of the importance of the Sun and the Moon in both Alchemy and Freemasonry. The Sun and the Moon allegorically represent the masculine and feminine principle. The Sun being the masculine and the Moon being the feminine. In Alchemy, as previously stated, the Moon is equated to silver and the Sun is equated to gold. These are the two most powerful metals in the alchemical hierarchy.  It should be no big surprise then, that the Sun and Moon (silver and gold) feature prominently in Freemasonry as well. The two Deacons (junior and senior) in the lodge setting carry wooden rods that are topped with symbols. The Junior Deacon’s rod is topped with a Moon symbol and the Senior Deacon’s rod is topped with a Sun symbol. References to the sun and moon also figure prominently into the Masonic ritual and come up time and time again.

Since both Freemasonry and Alchemy are veiled traditions that are illustrated with symbols, it is up to the individual student of these varying disciplines to explore their connections further. If you would like to know more, take a look at some of the links that I have posted below. Best of luck on your own Magnum Opus!

 

Alchemy and the Transmutation of a Freemason

Is there any connection between Alchemy and Freemasonry?

Scottish Chemistry

Alchemy in the Entered Apprentice Degree

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The Philosophical Background for Masonic Symbolism

The best and most commonly used description of what Freemasonry is, is that it is  “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. The reason that this is the most popular descriptions, is because it is the most accurate description that can be given for it. What does this mean, exactly? There is no simple way to describe the degree system that the initiate goes through as part of the Masonic system. The reason for this is that the experience is meant to be trans-formative for the individual and no one person will find the same path to illumination. Freemasonry holds the keys in it’s ritual, but it is up to the individual to truly find the “light”. In the following lecture, distinguished Brother W. Kirk MacNulty discusses the philosophy in Masonic symbolism and it’s connection to other philosophical systems, such as Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism.

 

Jesus, the Essenes and Freemasonry-Is there a connection?

Who were the Essenes, how are they related to Jesus Christ and how does all of this relate to Freemasonry?

The Essenes are an enigmatic sect of Jews that lived in and around Palestine and according to Josephus, they had as many as four thousand adherents. They lived a holy, peaceful existence and held similar moral ground to the Pythagoreans.

Of the three sects of Jews that existed before the life of Christ, there were the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. It was said that Christ often denounced the Sadducess and the Pharisees, but never mentioned the Essenes. It is also striking to note that the virtues and morals by which the Essenes ascribed to, were much the same of the virtues of Christ himself. They believed in baptism, healing, and assisting the less-fortunate. They believed material wealth was a burden and that there was virtue in being poor and living in the most modest means possible. They abstained from eating meat and saw it as akin to slavery of the flesh.  They were strong adherents to keeping their wisdom secret, except to those of their order. Many of these concepts were attributed to the teachings of Christ as well and this idea of keeping the wisdom secret can be found in the fact that Jesus taught all of his word through parables, so that the commoner could not interpret their hidden meanings.

Masonic ciphers, or books of coded ritual work, have been available to Masons in America for some time. However, there was a time when this was forbidden, even if printed in coded cipher. There were some versions of the ritual that were released under different names so that they could be passed off without scrutiny. One of these “exposes” as many call them, has an Essene related name. It is called “Ecce Oriente; Or Rites and Ceremonies of the Essenes” by M. Wolcott Redding from 1870. It is my personal belief that Freemasonry teaches and promotes much of the original concepts that were embodied in early Christianity as well as other pre-Christian religions. Christianity was influenced by Gnosticism and Hermeticism, both of which are prevalent throughout the Masonic tradition. Check out the following articles for more on this fascinating topic:

 

The Jesus Connection

Jesus An Essene

Jesus and the Essenes

Freemasonry and the Essenes

 

 

 

 

The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 1

This is the moment you’ve all be waiting for, right? Many of you may already know which one I am going to choose as the number one post on this blog. I have linked to it multiple times as a kind of over-arching theme and though my studies have revealed some holes in my original ideas, I still stand by it. Hope you all enjoy this one and are enjoying your own journeys as much as I am enjoying mine. Thanks for reading and keep an eye open for new exciting articles coming soon to The Point of a Sharp Instrument!

The War on Human Consciousness

Helix_Nebula consciousness

The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 3

In this installment, I discuss the mysterious Philosophers Stone. Is the stone a real object, or is it purely symbolic. Check out the article to learn more about this enigmatic topic!

The Philosopher’s Stone-The Key to all of the Mysteries?

ashlar_and_compass

The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 5

In this installment, I discuss the sacred geometric structure of the vacuum of space and how these mysterious patterns and geometric configurations have been closely guarded through the teachings of the mystery schools of antiquity. Modern science is validating these ideas more and more each day. In what ways did ancient traditions choose to veil these mysterious symbols?

The Structure of the Vacuum-Is this what the Mystery Traditions were trying to teach us?