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

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

Alchemy in Our Time

A nice discussion on the various aspects of Alchemy, from the spiritual to the physical. Alchemy is much more than turning base metals into gold.  It was revered by many of the greatest minds of the time until it was written off as superstition.  What it has to teach is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago…if you have eyes to see it.

Alchemy in Our Time

JosephWright-Alchemist-1

Squaring the Circle-deciphering the symbol

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The symbol that depicts the Philosopher’s Stone may just hold the answer to all of our questions. The fact that this simple symbol can contain such elaborate truth is quite astounding, but very real indeed.

The symbol consists of a large circle with a triangle inside it with the points of the triangle touching the circle on three different points. Within the triangle is a square that is flanked with a circle. The large circle represents the heavens or the universe. The triangle within that circle is representative of the ether or spirit world. It is the collective consciousness of everyone and everything. It is in balance with the universe. The square is representative of the earth and included within, it’s four corners represent the four elements. Within that square lies the answer that the symbol is leading us to. The arrangement of the shapes of the symbol naturally draw your eye into the center of the image. This is the point within the circle. As we have discussed in earlier blogs, the point within the circle is one of the most powerful symbols in the history of mankind. It represents the individual or the center. This is the balance point for everything and represents the answer. As we can see, the symbol is not only a mathematical depiction of the whole, but is a symbol of balance between all of the energies and planes of existence. The focus of the symbol is it’s center and that is us. We must strive to capture the balance between all of the energies in our lives. Finding this balance within is the seekers quest. As we look to free ourselves from the bondage of our mental prisons, we must look for this center of balance. It is the point of all love. The center within all of us is the key to finding peace. Not only peace with our selves, but peace for everyone.

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

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What is the Philosopher’s Stone? Is it a real object? Is it just a concept?

The exact historical date of the origin of the Philosopher’s Stone is not known. However, it is thought to date back as far as ancient Egypt. It is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament and is a key ingredient to many of the Western Mystery Traditions.

Despite what we do know about it, it still remains one of the great mysteries of all time. It is thought to be a white, powdery, flaky substance, similar to silica in texture and to have magical powers and properties. It is believed to be the key to turning base-metals into gold as referred to in the tradition of alchemy. It is also thought to have healing and even anti-gravitational properties! What it truly is, is still up to interpretation and conjecture, and may very-well remain that way for eternity.

It is referred to in the Bible as “manna“,”bread” or the “white stone”, and is one of the objects said to have been carried within the Ark of the Covenant. It is the food that was given to the Israelites by God during their travels and gave them the strength to endure. It may also be the substance that the Golden Calf that Moses burnt turned into. There are mentions of manna in Exodus, and Numbers from the Old Testament. The Philosopher’s Stone may also be what is referred to as “the stone the builders rejected” found in several of the Canonical Gospels (See Parable of Matthew for example), for it is said to look like a white powder and could easily be mistaken for rubbish by the unknowing.

The search for the Philosopher’s Stone is referred to as “The Great Work”. It is not only a physical substance, but a metaphorical idea as well. Like the tradition of Freemasonry, Alchemy teaches a system of self-improvement through a process. This process is as important as the end result in that works in a linear progression. The individual, or substance being transmuted goes through important changes through the entire process and arrives at perfection at the completion. In Freemasonry, this process is exemplified by two stones. The Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar. It is explained that the Rough Ashlar is a stone in it’s rudimentary state, before any work has been done on it. The Perfect Ashlar is the perfected stone, ready for use in the building process. It has been perfected by the workman’s tools, or through a process of learning. Just as the symbolic Philosopher’s Stone is said to be made in the Alchemical tradition.

The fact that the Stone finds it’s way into so many mystical traditions is really quite intriguing. In “The Shadow of Solomon” by Laurence Gardner, he discusses some of the Philosopher’s Stones mythological powers. He believes that the Philosopher’s Stone is what is known to modern science as “orbitally rearranged monatomic elements“. This would explain some of the magical properties that it was said to have had. In “The Shadow of Solomon” It is stated that the amount of gold used in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant would weigh so much (2,714 lbs) that it would have been physically impossible for several men to carry it. His hypothesis (p.378-379 of The Shadow of Solomon) is that the gold used in the construction of the Ark may have been used as a superconductor and created an electrical field around itself (a Meissner field) on which it could essentially levitate and be transported. Of course, the people chosen to be the care-takers, and transporters of the Ark, were the Levites (where the word levitate originated). There are some clues throughout the Bible about the electrical properties of the Ark. It is said to have emitted bolts of lightning and sparks. Perhaps the Manna held within the Ark, reacted in some way with the gold of the Ark, or was used in the gold-making process for the lid, and gave the Ark it’s special powers!

The search for the Philosopher’s Stone is the true goal of the Western Mystery traditions both physically and allegorically. As we strive toward personal perfection of morality, we too are becoming elevated. Just like the Philosopher’s Stone was thought to be able to heal and transform, so can we transform our consciousness as we go through life. Just as the Philosopher’s Stone was though to be able to aid levitation, so can we rise up above the mundane and the animal passions of this world through our own “Great Work”. This is the real key to enlightenment. The ancient cultures knew this and were constantly moving toward it. We must now do the same if we hope to get ourselves out of the predicament that we are in. We too can find the Philosopher’s Stone. It is within everyone of us!