Monday, July 16, 2007

George Washington Memorial

I visited the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA for the first time Saturday. It was very impressive and is a great tribute to our first president and most famous Freemason.

I arrived with a few brothers from my lodge before they opened and took the first tour at 10:00. The first stop on the tour was the Scottish Rite sponsored exhibit. It didn't really have anything to do with Scottish Rite Freemasonry but more with the accomplishments of George Washington as a Freemason, a soldier, and as president. It was a very good exhibit. The only Scottish Rite paraphernalia was two banners - one for the Southern Jurisdiction and one for the Northern Jurisdiction.

The next three floors were sponsored by and devoted to the York Rite of Freemasonry. The three floors corresponded to the three divisions of the York Rite: Chapter, Council, and Commandery. These exhibits had nothing to do with George Washington but gave an overview of the degrees of the York Rite. This was very interesting to me since I am not a York Rite Mason. In addition to being a Scottish Rite Mason, I may have to fill out the petitions I have at home and join the York Rite as well. It makes sense, since they meet in my Blue Lodge temple.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What is the Tetractys?

"Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all."

The Tetractys was very important to the Pythagoreans and considered sacred. So much so that they addressed some of their prayers to it and took oaths by it. What is the Tetractys and why is it so important?

According to Pythagoras, the numerical intelligence of the Universe was represented by the Tetractys - a triangular arrangements of ten dots, with one on top, two on the second row, three on the third and four on the fourth. Ten was considered the perfect number.

The Tetractys represented the four elements - earth, air, fire, and water. It was also used to represent the ratios that form the basic intervals of the Pythagorean musical scales.

The Tetractys is also closely associated with the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah Tetractys is usually displayed with the Tetragrammatton written right to left instead of the dots. Some say the ten dots of the Tetractys correspond to the ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life.

What does the Tetractys have to do with Freemasonry? In Morals and Dogma, Pike asserts that the Tetractys should be one of the symbols of the Master Mason degree. According to Bridge to Light by Rex Hutchens, a book that I received after becoming a 32° Scottish Rite Freemason,
"In the Scottish Rite workings of the Symbolic Degrees (1-3) the Pythagorean Tetractys is an important symbol. Since it is not to be found in the York Rite symbols of these degrees, it is not well known among Masons in America, virtually all of whom take the first three degrees in York Rite lodges."
This intrigued me and I wanted to learn more. In UGLE lodges, the Tetractys is represented by the Hebrew letter Yod, the first letter of the ineffable name of God - יהוה, suspended above the Master's throne - the same place as the 'G' in American lodges. It looks like I will have to dive into the Kabbalah and the teachings of Pythagoras to learn more. Albert Pike writes of the Tetractys numerous times. In the 29th chapter of Morals and Dogma he writes:

The peculiar and principal symbol of this Degree is the Tetractys of Pythagoras, suspended in the East, where ordinarily the sacred word or letter glitters, like it, representing the Deity. Its nine external points form the triangle, the chief symbol in Masonry, with many of the meanings of which you are familiar.

To us, its three sides represent the three principal attributes of the Deity, which created, and now, as ever, support, uphold, and guide the Universe in its eternal movement; the three supports of the Masonic Temple, itself an emblem of the Universe: — Wisdom, or the Infinite Divine Intelligence; Strength, or Power, the Infinite Divine Will; and Beauty, or the Infinite Divine Harmony, the Eternal Law, by virtue of which the infinite myriads of suns and worlds flash ever onward in their ceaseless revolutions, without clash or conflict, in the Infinite of space, and change and movement are the law of all created existences.

To us, as Masonic Judges, the triangle figures forth the Pyramids, which, planted firmly as the everlasting hills, and accurately adjusted to the four cardinal points, defiant of all assaults of men and time, teach us to stand firm and unshaken as they, when our feet are planted upon the solid truth.

It includes a multitude of geometrical figures, all having a deep significance to Masons. The triple triangle is peculiarly sacred, having ever been among all nations a symbol of the Deity. Prolonging all the external lines of the Hexagon, which also it includes, we have six smaller triangles, whose bases cut each other in the central point of the Tetractys, itself always the symbol of the generative power of the Universe, the Sun, Brahma, Osiris, Apollo, Bel, and the Deity Himself. Thus, too, we form twelve still smaller triangles, three times three of which compose the Tetractys itself.

I refrain from enumerating all the figures that you may trace within it: but one may not be passed unnoticed. The Hexagon itself faintly images to us a cube, not visible at the first glance, and therefore the fit emblem of that faith in things invisible, most essential to salvation. The first perfect solid, and reminding you of the cubical stone that sweated blood, and of that deposited by Enoch, it teaches justice, accuracy, and consistency.

The infinite divisibility of the triangle teaches the infinity of the Universe, of time, of space, and of the Deity, as do the lines that, diverging from the common centre, ever increase their distance from each other as they are infinitely prolonged. As they may be infinite in number, so are the attributes of Deity infinite; and as they emanate from one-centre and are projected into space, so the whole Universe has emanated from God.

Monday, June 11, 2007

When did lodges first appear in America?

The first mention of Ancient Craft Masonry Lodges existing in America was in 1730. Benjamin Franklin, before he himself was a Mason, printed 'there are several Lodges of FREE MASONS erected in this Province'... in the Pennsylvania Gazette. Most likely there were Lodges earlier than this.

The May 25, 1727 issue of The Weekly News Letter in Boston reports of a meeting of Freemasons in London to elect the new Grand Master. Why would the publisher of this newspaper include this information if there weren't any Boston area readers that were Freemasons? There is a similar news article in the Maryland Gazette of 1729. There must of been subscribers of this paper in the Annapolis, MD area that were interested in masonic proceedings. Newspapers in Colonial America were only a couple of pages long so printing real-estate was valuable. There was also a shortage of subscribers, so publishers printed only information that would be of interest to these subscribers.

It appears that Freemasonry spread rapidly to the "new world." Within 10 years of the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717, there were several Lodges spread across Colonial America.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sirius as the Masonic "Blazing Star"

The first degree of Freemasonry mentions the Blazing Star as one of the ornaments of the Lodge. In my jurisdiction, there is no explanation of what this star is. Several theories have been put forth as to what it may be: the sun, the Bethlehem star, or the dog star-Sirius.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and is located in the constellation Cannis Major, hence the name "Dog Star." Could this actually be the Blazing Star at the center of the Lodge?

This star was very important to the ancient Egyptians. They based their calendars on the rising of Sirius and positioned their temples so that the light of the star would reach the inner altar.

Albert Pike claimed that Sirius was the Blazing Star in Morals and Dogma:

To find in the BLAZING STAR of five points an allusion to the Divine Providence, is also fanciful; and to make it commemorative of the Star that is said to have guided the Magi, is to give it a meaning comparatively modern. Originally it represented SIRIUS, or the Dog-star, the forerunner of the inundation of the Nile; the God ANUBIS, companion of ISIS in her search for the body of OSIRIS, her brother and husband. Then it became the image of HORUS, the son of OSIRIS, himself symbolized also by the Sun, the author of the Seasons, and the God of Time; Son of ISIS, who was the universal nature, himself the primitive matter, inexhaustible source of Life, spark of uncreated fire, universal seed of all beings. It was HERMES, also, the Master of Learning, whose name in Greek is that of the God Mercury. It became the sacred and potent sign or character of the Magi, the PENTALPHA, and is the significant emblem of Liberty and Freedom, blazing with a steady radiance amid the weltering elements of good and evil of Revolutions, and promising serene skies and fertile seasons to the nations, after the storms of change and tumult. - Albert Pike from Morals and Dogma, page 14-15.

The Ancient Astronomers saw all the great Symbols of Masonry in the Stars. Sirius glitters in our lodges as the Blazing Star. - Albert Pike from Morals and Dogma, page 486

Monday, June 4, 2007

Did Christianity borrow from ancient religions?

While reading the 18th chapter of Morals and Dogma, I noticed that Pike mentioned several ancient cultures that used the symbol of the cross for religious purposes before the Christians did. It reminded me of something that I read a while back about the similarities of Jesus and other ancient "pagan" deities. These ancient deities shared the same birth stories, messages of salvation, death and resurrection as Jesus. Some examples of these gods include: Osiris, Attis, Dionysus, Mithras and Krishna. I decided to revisit the the subject and did some quick searching on the internet.

Most of the sites listed on Google greatly exaggerated the connections between Christianity and older religions. These sites made it look like Christianity directly "stole" from these earlier religions.

Some of the other sites completely dismiss any connection at all. They claim that Christianity is unique and deny that it borrows anything from ancient religions.

I finally found a site that was really good at explaining the connection: Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth. It lays out all of the facts in a straightforward manner and lets the readers decide for themselves.