There is little doubt that Freemasonry inherited a body of knowledge from remarkably early times. While masons used such knowledge for practical applications in building cathedrals and bridges, they understood a concept of “As above, so below,” that went far beyond the practical. They were not the only ones. From the most ancient times man believed the heavens ruled the earth. Going against the will of the stars was inviting trouble. As “aster” was the Greek word for star, a dis-aster was the result of such indiscretions.
In recent times we have begun to understand the extent of conformity to the heavens as practiced by both ancient and even surprisingly modern builders. The pyramids in Egypt were aligned to the three stars in Orion’s belt, monuments in pre-historic Scotland calculate solar and lunar phenomena, city streets in Washington D.C. and Detroit were laid out in accordance with the passage of certain stars. Even these are dwarfed by the massive pentagram on the land of southern France and the Maltese Cross that exists over Greece and Crete.
What we have not fully appreciated is the ability of the initiated to pass on such sciences concealed in poetry, in music and most visibly in architecture. Science was at all times guarded under the guise of religious myths, epic poems and the tales of kings and heroes. Such knowledge was passed through select groups of initiates. Individuals were selected for their ability to learn and their ability to keep the secret from the masses. Druid schools passed down volumes of information through memorization. At other times science had to be protected from religion as the Church regarded anything new as potentially heretical. Again the method of preserving science in times of intolerance required initiates that could be trusted.
Just how far the knowledge of the stars was married to practical arts is unknown. When the massive mound-tunnel complex of New Grange was built in Ireland circa 3300 B.C., it was created to serve as an astronomical calendar with stunning accuracy. There was no trial-and-error process, implying that even though it was older than the Sumerian and Egyptian monuments, an even earlier prototype must have existed. The “window” that allows the sunlight to light up the back wall of the tunnel is evidence of amazing precision. The fact that after five thousand years the roof does not leak is testament to practical ability.
The Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe, Clava Cairns and other Scottish monuments measure the winter solstice sunset. The first two are in the Orkney Islands near Skara Brae. Discovered recently after a storm literally blew the roof off, this prehistoric complex had crude plumbing, indoor kitchens, stone furniture and even hinged stone doors. It is believed the cells served as rooms for students practicing the ancient arts.
The Sumerians had understood the concept of measurement by determining the sun’s rise along the horizon. The prefix “hor” in our word for horizon is linked to the French “heure” and the Greek “hora” meaning hour. The horizon could be used to calculate time throughout the twelve-hour day. (The night was assigned a separate twelve hours.) Our word “survey” begins with the prefix “sur,” another Sumerian word for “delineate.” They used this word to mean “border” as well. Today we might hire a professional to survey our property and fix a line delineating our neighbor’s property from our own.
The Egyptians adopted the same principles in constructing the pyramids. What were once believed to be simply passageways are now being understood to provide focused views to certain constellations—a virtual stargate. The stargate of ancient Egypt, as we understand it, might actually be a dumbed-down version of the information such observatories once provided. The “air shaft” in the King’s Chamber was discovered in 1966 to point to Orion’s Belt as it crossed the southern meridian when the pyramid was built. Osiris was the most important god, the “opener of the ways.” His myth is an early example of death and resurrection. A pharaoh had to pass the test of showing he could inherit the title and have his soul become part of Osiris. Thus the Stargate allowed his soul access to achieving divinity.
Greek contact with the Near East brought to that civilization a multitude of ancient texts. The burning of the Alexandria library destroyed 150,000 texts. But as we have seen, many cultures never trusted writing to preserve their knowledge, rather the recitation of solar texts would be considered more likely to keep their science alive.
The author of the Greek epic the Argosy told a story that everyone could understand, yet within the text the movements of the heavenly bodies were preserved. Pegasus was from pegasai meaning “entrance” in the Greek language. The Argo, the ship of Jason, is derived from the constellation and first recorded by the Phoenicians. One who would take the sailing directions literally would have the good ship Argo somehow crossing the Alps. The Phoenicians also brought to Greece the tales of Hercules. As a sun god first worshipped along the Atlantic coast of Europe and Africa, Hercules defeated the dragon, as represented by the constellation Draco. Later Christian theology had the Son of God facing the ultimate dragon, Satan.
The tale of the Argosy was then a body of knowledge concealed in the text of a popular tale. The teller of the tale was a predecessor to the Irish bard. He was adept in keeping an audience enthralled while his true mission served a much greater purpose. The early bards understood that every story and every symbol had more than one level. The exoteric tale was invented to convey the esoteric, the truth.
Homer may have created the Odyssey to convey knowledge of Canis Major. Within that constellation one of the brightest stars is Cyon, the Dog. The nineteen stars of the constellation are said to be the nineteen years Argo (Ulysses’ dog) who waits for his master to return from the Odyssey. Within the Iliad, the shield of Achilles is depicted as the heart in the shaggy beast, a clue to the star Sirius in Canis Major. The seven most visible stars in the Ursa Major are called the “wain” which is the wagon that Priam used to carry home his son’s body. Homer’s Catalogue of Ships, possibly the dullest part of the Iliad, is believed to be a record of 45 constellations to the initiated.
In compiling the stories of the Old Testament, much was drawn from the stargazing Babylonians. The story of Samson killing a lion is believed to be similar to a tale of Orion and taking place in the Constellation of Leo. The story of his slaying hundreds with the jawbone of an ass is absurd, although it is mirrored in texts around the world. In one case the hero slays with the jawbone of a tapir. Psalm 18:2 in the Old Testament has a decidedly Masonic view saying “the skies proclaim God’s glory, the vault of heaven betrays his craftsmanship.”
Christianity, which had little use for astrology, also betrays some secrets even in the Gospels. John 3:30 has the Precursor (John the Baptist) say about Jesus “he must grow greater while I diminish.” John’s feast-day of June 24 is the longest day for the sun, then his time diminishes, Jesus’ birthday, Christmas, comes after the shortest day, then the day grows longer, the sun becoming greater. Christian days mimicked the Roman Sol Invictus cult which faded as Christianity grew. Aurelian who had established the cult as religion said “the sun appears as an infant at the Winter Solstice.”
This would be understood by “pagan” Celts who passed along such astrological tales mirrored in the practical craft of agriculture. John Barleycorn is a tale of the seasons with poor old John losing his head in Midsummer as St. John Baptist did.
Later in the fifth century when astrology and astronomy were forbidden sciences, Cassiodorus writing in a southern Italian monastery declared the law of the stars was created by God who put them in place.
The evidence of solar and lunar calendars and observatories has not been bound by time or distance. Medicine wheels in Wyoming, the Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis, temples of Uaxactun in Guatemala and Chichen Itza in Mexico, megaliths at Stonehenge, Carnac, and the furthest northern islands of Scotland all point to a secret transmission of science that has occurred through time and distance. As Scottish and Irish astronomers could construct the Ring of Brodgar and Newgrange to reflect the equinox and the solstice, the Mayan builders of the central pyramid of Chichen Itza could create a 365-step stairway, complete with the illusion of a writhing serpent on the Equinox. Ancient Greeks and more modern Algonquin Indians shared the same name for the Big Dipper, the Bear. A supernova outburst that occurred in A.D. 1054 is recorded in Sung Dynasty China and at two places in Arizona. Inheritors of the Mayan culture in Chiapas claim a god who is the Sun, and as such he dies and is resurrected.
It becomes clear that even in societies we regard as “primitive” a brotherhood of men and women kept alive, passed down, and spread knowledge of our universe. Such knowledge is exponentially greater than the uninitiated are aware.
Christian Europe served as a bushel over the lamp of learning until the Crusades woke Christendom from the Dark Ages. Greek texts that had been unknown, or thought to be lost or simply forgotten emerged from libraries in Constantinople and even from Islam. During the centuries of fighting there was more peace than war. At such intermissions in the hostilities, Arab scholars conveyed a great deal to Westerners. The Knights Templar helped bring such treasures back to the west and wealthy individuals, notably Cosimo Medici, paid for their translation.
But some knowledge was kept from widespread exposure. As the Templars gave way to the Masons, the craft guarded such secrets. Linked to Freemasonry were the members of the Royal Society, a gathering of England’s greatest minds. Even in Shakespearean times, Giordano Bruno was executed by the Church for his observations of the heavens. So it was important to keep science from the church. Isaac Newton, the society’s most well-known member, believed the constellations were a cryptogram set by the Almighty.
Shakespeare himself borrowed strongly from the ancient tales that guarded the ancient science. Hamlet was based on the Icelandic Amlodhi, a story of a son dedicated to vengeance for his father. In the pre-Shakespeare version Amlodhi owns a mill that grinds out peace and prosperity, but later only salt, bitterness and misery.
As symbols are used to conceal and reveal they are present in some surprising locations. One is the capital of the United States. Both the capital building and the city itself is set to the east-west axis of the sun. Remarkably this is mirrored in the Egyptian pyramid of Khufu which was built so the sun would trace the cross east-west axis on two key locations on Regulus day, the birth of Horus. From the earliest times, the Divine Child was a theme common to religion. That child is the product of the love between the male power, a sun god or a hero such as Baal, and a female power, a moon goddess, or female goddess like Isis, Aphrodite, etc. The child brought hope to the world. He could be named Horus or Jesus. The Federal triangle in Washington D.C. represents such a “trinity” concept. It is just one part of the Masonic philosophy.
Christopher Wren, the founder of the public Royal Society mapped moons and comets as an accomplished astronomer and turned to architecture to express nature of the heavens on earth. He publicly became a mason in a ceremony conducted in one of his greatest works, St. Paul’s Church of London.
The Mason, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, organized the street plan to be like the plan of Rome. He organized it around certain monuments and further incorporated the ideas of Masonic astronomer Joseph Lalande. Lalande believed the constellation of Virgo to represent the goddess, the virgin, and the Blessed Virgin of Christianity. The prime star of Virgo was Spica. The positions of Spica, Regulus and Arturus were all important as starting dates and dedication dates for the Washington monument, the Capitol and the White House. Even the date, July 4, has significance in Egypt, in America, and in the heavens as Spica enters Draco, the Dragon’s head. Twenty zodiacs and numerous other symbols can be found throughout the nation’s capital.
Henry Lincoln, co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, discovered more in the south of France than a priest who suddenly became extremely wealthy. He discovered that the odd geometry of the painter Poussin actually referred to a Pentagram built into the countryside. Three of the five geographic points hold a medieval castle. The remaining two, the high points of La Soulane and Serre de Lauzet, complete the massive pentagram. The circumference of this outline is fifteen miles. The pentagram is actually the symbol of Venus whose sacred number is five. In Christian theology she is the Magdalen. The pentagram is an earthy depiction of the travels of the planet Venus in the sky. As Above, So Below.
The Maltese Cross is another symbol taken from the skies, and its eight significant points are represented by eight significant temples and structures in Greece and Crete. The Greeks and their predecessors were not the only sky-watchers who had an interest in the symbol. The Lakota, who did not have an agricultural heritage, prized the Maltese cross as the yellow star. The single star was depicted as that cross and other images, stars, suns and comets were all depicted on the shirts of those who performed the Ghost Dance. Their war shields also carried representations of the Little Dipper, the Pole Star and the Pleiades.
Transmission of greater secrets and deeper mysteries is then evident across a great deal of time and distance. A learned handful, initiated into secretive societies, is taught to preserve and protect such knowledge from the masses while at the same time keeping such knowledge alive.