Alchemy and Freemasonry: Is there a Connection?

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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 Emerald Tablet-What is it?

The legend surrounding the Emerald Tablet is that it is a tablet that was made/created by Hermes thousands and thousands of years ago and were said to be made of a crystalline substance that was indestructible . It is said to have existed before the great deluge and is also said to have contained the keys to the great Alchemical tradition. It was kept protected in the Pillars of Hermes or some say the Pillars of Enoch which also contained sacred items and manuscripts. These ancient teachings were stored in these pillars to protect them against disaster and were said to survive the great flood because of this. These same pillars can be found throughout the ages in various traditions. The pillars of Freemasonry (the pillars on Solomon’s Temple), the pillars on the High Priestess tarot card, and the pillars on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, to name a few. The contents of the tablet and other sacred manuscripts made their way into various esoteric and mystical writings throughout the ages and have been kept alive by various mystery traditions to this very day.  In the linked article, the author delves into the contents and history of the Emerald Tablet. Hope you enjoy!

The Emerald Tablet

 

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Air Element and Sword Symbolism in the Ancient Mysteries

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Of all great symbols represented in the mystery traditions, one that really stands out is the image of the sword. It is said to uphold justice and to ward off tyranny. It is a symbol of power, but also of beauty. It is representative of a balance. In it’s sheath, it is symbolically representative of the union of masculine and feminine powers. Though it can inflict pain, it can also protect from the infliction of pain to others. It is a symbol of chivalry and knighthood. It is the chosen weapon to protect the mysteries.

The tarot has what is known as a major, and a minor arcana. These are two different groupings of cards that tell the story of the tarot. The minor arcana influenced what was to become our modern deck of playing cards. It is made up of four suits of ten cards apiece. The suits are swords, wands, cups, and pentacles. These later translated into spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds. The major arcana is a set of twenty one cards, all with different interpretations. We learn through the esoteric studies that each of the four suits is associated with one of the four elements. For example, the suit of cups represents water, the suit of pentacles represents the earth, the suit of swords represents the air, and the suit of wands represents fire.

The element of Air establishes itself in the intellect and is is thought to be the propagator of thinking and ideas. This concept ties right in with the mystery schools teachings. In all western mystery schools, you will find a focus put on the development of the intellect. An example of this is the Fellowcraft degree of Freemasonry. Through this degree, we are reminded of the liberal arts and sciences, which are the oldest and most tried and true method of intellectual discernment. We are also reminded to continue the search for truth by reading appropriate books and asking questions of our informed Brethren.

Nowhere is the sword more prevalent in the mystery traditions, than in the chivalric orders of Freemasonry. The Order of the Knights Templar is a perfect example. A sword is carried on the left side of each Sir Knight and is used in the rituals for various things. Each one of which has a deep and philosophic overtone. It is through these orders that we learn that the sword is never to be used in an unjust cause and that it is for protection of the feeble and less fortunate. It is also the protector of faith and stands as a reminder of the solemnity of our deep religious convictions. Being the pinnacle of the Masonic teachings, we can see that this use of sword symbolism is putting chivalry and the intellect on the highest of pedestals.

It was mentioned before, that swords in tarot symbolism are tied to the element of Air. When studying the symbolism of the Air element through astrology, we find that it is linked to the planet of Mercury. Mercury was named after the Roman God of the same name. In the imagery of Mercury found in Roman mythology, we see that he carries a caduceus. This is the same instrument that is associated with the Greek God Hermes. Mercury is said to have the same characteristics of Hermes and is thus thought to be a Romanized version of him. It is from the mythology of Hermes, that the tradition of Alchemy was born. This also accounts for Hermeticism, which is a foundation for many of the western mystery traditions. In addition to this (as a side thought), the caduceus is said to represent the awakened Kundalini energy that rises through the chakra system of an awakened individual. The Kundalini is often referred to as “serpent power” as is twists around the spinal column headed up the chakras. The rod of the caduceus is flanked by two serpents. This same concept permeates through eastern and western mystical systems.

As a Gemini, my zodiac is ruled by the element of Air. My desire to expand my intellect is never ending and I am on a search for Divine Truth. The sword that I carry as a Knight Templar rests at my side, ready to defend my faith and to protect the down-trodden. I will use it to cut through the lies and deception that society throws my way. I will always keep in mind the Hermetic Principles and the wisdom of these mystery schools that are conveyed through the element of Air and the image of the sword!

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