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 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?

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The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 8

In this installment, I presented the argument that modern science owes a lot to the Ancient Mystery schools and several esoteric schools of thought. The Royal Society was a group of thinkers/scientists/philosophers who joined together to research and present new concepts and inventions and was made up of individuals who were deeply connected with the ancient traditions of alchemy, Hermeticism, and Freemasonry.

Esoteric Wisdom and the Birth of Modern Science

 

V0013122 Royal Society, Crane Court, off Fleet Street, London: a meet

The Lord’s Prayer-Hidden Esoteric Truths?

The Lord’s Prayer, which is familiar to all Christians and people of various faiths and traditions may hold deeper wisdom than most would recognize. The version that most of us know is as follows:

Our Father

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be Thy Name

Thy Kingdom come

Thy will be done

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our Daily Bread

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever

Amen

This appears to be a shortened and watered down interpretation of the original. Below is the Aramaic translation (link to the article is below the blog entry), which is much more detailed and seems to be perfectly aligned with the Ancient Mysteries and Hermetic philosophy.

(Abwûn)
Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
(d’bwaschmâja)
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
(Nethkâdasch schmach)
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
(Têtê malkuthach.)
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.
(Nehwê tzevjânach aikâna d’bwaschmâja af b’arha.)
Let Your will come true – in the universe (all that vibrates)
just as on earth (that is material and dense).
(Hawvlân lachma d’sûnkanân jaomâna.)
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,
(Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l’chaijabên.)
detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma)
like we let go the guilt of others.
(Wela tachlân l’nesjuna)
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),
(ela patzân min bischa.)
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.
(Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l’ahlâm almîn.)
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.
(Amên.)
Sealed in trust, faith and truth

http://www.thenazareneway.com/lords_prayer.htm

 

As you can see, with this translation, there are many concepts that will be recognizable to students of The Mysteries. Here is some further analysis on the prayer:
-Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,

  • The Breath of Life or Spirit- this idea of breathing life into creation, or filling the material with the Spirit, is present in Eastern religion in the form or Prana and as exercised through the ritual breathing exercises  of Pranayama Yoga. In Western tradition, you can find it in Gnosticism as personified by the Pneumatics (Spirit). The Pneunmatics are the highest form of human, having elevated above the material aspect of being.

who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.

  • The Principle of Vibration in Hermetic Philosophy states that everything we experience, whether it be matter, or spirit is made up of varying levels of vibration. Sound and Light are also comprised of levels of vibration. Modern science knows this to be true of our material world, but has not yet completely embraced the idea that it makes up the entirety of the non-physical world as well.

May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.

  • This idea of the Divine Light within all of us is relevant to all Western Mystery traditions. We know that we are composed of the same base substance (atoms) as everything else in the Universe, but the profane and uninitiated have never been taught to understand, or connect with that aspect of the Creator within each and everyone of us. The Creator has endowed each of us with this divinity, but it is up to the individual to bring forth the divine from within. This is what the Mystery Schools and Esoteric traditions are trying to convey through the betterment of self and the overcoming of our animal-nature.

Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

  • One of the most predominant themes in all religious, and esoteric teachings is that of elevating our Spirit so that it overcomes the shackles of the material realm. Finding and activating the Divine Light within helps the soul to do just this and climb Jacob’s Ladder to the Heavens.

Let Your will come true – in the universe (all that vibrates)
just as on earth (that is material and dense).

  • “As Above, So Below.” The Hermetic Principle of Correspondence reminds us that what we have within us is a microcosm of the Universe. Our body is a universe within itself and is connected to the Universal Whole. We are made up of the same substance/vibrations that make up the whole of the material and spiritual universe and that which is above in the Heavens is in essence, the same as what we have on Earth. God’s will is within the universe and the earth and is within everyone of us.

Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,

  • In Freemasonry, Wisdom is one of the Three Pillars (Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty). These are said to be the attributes of the Great Creator and in His Omnipotent Wisdom, all things were created. In connecting with Divine Wisdom, we can bring forth the creative force within ourselves and bring it into manifestation to the betterment of the world.

detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma)
like we let go the guilt of others.

  • In finding true Spiritual Light, we must learn to forgive ourselves and others and find love for our fellow creatures. In forgiving those that have erred against us, we bring ourselves closer to spirit in that we have loosened the shackles of our lower, base-emotions.

Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),

  • We are taught in Freemasonry to “Subdue our Passions” (common temptations) and are Divested of all Metals (materialism). These concept has been carried on through the Mystery Schools for millennia. Overcoming our attachment to the material and superficial, and learning to control our base-emotions are two of the most important concepts to finding Spiritual Consciousness.

but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

  • Our true purpose is to bring forth the Divine Nature from within us that the Creator has invested us with. Our attachment to the material and emotional is what will keep us from bringing this forth.

From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

  • Here again, we find Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. The Wisdom to bring forth the divine within ourselves, the Strength to act upon this divine will, and the Beauty that which with we will adorn the temple of our world with by living by the tenets of the Ancient Mystery schools and esoteric traditions.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth

  • The closing of the prayer, like all good religious ceremonies and rituals, indicates that we must live with trust in our Creator, faith in the love of our Creator, and in doing so, we will discover the Divine Truth that our Creator has bestowed within each and every one of us.

 

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