The Lost Legacy of Freemasonry

Do Forgotten Ancient Secrets Lie Buried in Misunderstood Rituals?

Dan Brown’s recent bestselling novel, The Lost Symbol, depicts Freemasonry as having a fundamental role in the founding of America. The “lost” symbol or final secret of Freemasonry as used by Brown in his fast-paced thriller, gives, along the way, very good information about Masonic lore and its role in the formation of our nation. (I speak as a Mason, myself.) Central to it all are images of light, and the answer—during Masonic initiations—which a candi­date gives to the question, “What do you desire most of all?” is “More light.”

Put plainly, light means knowledge or, more properly, wisdom. The purpose of proper Freemasonry is to “make good men better” by imparting ethical teachings and esoteric knowledge which, when deeply understood, impart wis­dom.

The tradition of Freemasonry speaks of the “Lost Word” which its legendary founder, Hiram Abiff, took with him to the grave as he was building the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem about 1,000 BC. Is there a secret knowledge em­bedded in Freemasonry which has become “lost” or “invisible” to Freemasonry itself? Various Masonic writers have indicated that is precisely the case. Freemasonry, they say, has lost touch with the deeper wisdom of its tradition. Some of its rituals seem to obliquely refer to that original-but-lost knowledge. For example, in “Royal Arch Masonry” by W. L. Tucker (Royal Arch Mason, Vol. 20, No. 5, Spring 2001, p. CT-5), we read:

“…we are told of the return of the sojourners [Jews in exile in Babylon] who wanted to assist in the rebuilding of the Temple and we are told of the Vault. This is pure history. After the candidate is lowered into the Vault [in the modern Scottish Rite ceremony reenacting the history] he feels around until he finds something like a scroll of vel­lum or parchment, part of the long-lost Sacred Law. What was found really was a way to return to the way of life founded on the principles of the Bible, symbolized by the scroll which was found.”

In the last decade or so, a growing number of Masonic scholars and historians have discussed a topic which may link directly to Tucker’s statement above. In brief: There is evidence suggesting that a secret vault beneath the floor of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, Scotland, may hold some long-lost scrolls once possessed by the Knights Templar. (Rosslyn Chapel’s floor plan replicates a section of the Temple of Solomon; Rosslyn Castle and environs, under the Earl of Sinclair, allegedly became the headquarters of the Knights Templar after they fled arrest in France in 1307 when King Philip IV violently suppressed the Templars.)

According to this emerging view of the Order of the Temple, or Templary, those scrolls, purportedly copper, were obtained by the very first Templars in the twelfth century when they were allowed by the King of Jerusalem to estab­lish their headquarters on the site of the Temple of Solomon. Working stealthily to excavate a secret vault beneath the Temple, they obtained a great hidden treasure which they knew to be there; that apparently was the true reason for their presence in Jerusalem. Part of the treasure may have been actual gold and jewels; that would help to account for the meteoric rise in wealth which the Templars are known to have achieved. But the greatest treasure, it is be­lieved, would have been the scrolls containing ancient esoteric knowledge about the secret of Jesus and the Bible.

What is that secret knowledge? In a word: enlightenment. I do not mean simply psychological transformation of the mind, but rather psychophysical transformation or transubstantiation of flesh, blood, and bone into a body of light—precisely the resurrection body which Jesus Christ demonstrated in his conquest of death. That is the “way to return to the way of life founded on the principles of the Bible” which Tucker mentions above. It would certainly qualify as “the rediscovery of the lost Master’s Word in the rubble of Solomon’s temple” noted by Thomas C. Berry in a letter to the editor of Royal Arch Mason (Summer 2001, p. 167).

On the basis of my reason, research, and personal experience, I have concluded that the real secret of pharaonic Egypt, from which so much in Freemasonry purportedly derives, is the attainment of the light body. That, I think, is the highest teaching which was conferred on initiates in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid. I also think that esoteric knowledge was brought by Moses from Egypt into Judaism and later was recorded on the copper scrolls pre­sumably hidden beneath the Temple in Jerusalem. (Moses, a Hebrew, was adopted as a baby by the Pharaoh’s daugh­ter and was raised as royalty, so he would have been schooled in the spiritual practices of Egypt.) So if the Templars recovered that hidden teaching, it would be the greatest treasure in the world, far more so than gold and jewels. It would be the secret of immortality and what Freemasonry calls “the lodge on high not made with human hands.” I can’t help but wonder if those scrolls are now buried beneath the floor of Rosslyn Chapel, as the recent book The Hir­am Key indicates. If this speculation is correct, the greatest and most valuable aspect of the Templar treasure would be a Codex of Enlightenment.

There is another aspect to the newly emerging story of the Knights Templar which also excites me. It is the possi­bility that America is the result of a Templar/Masonic experiment intended to create the New Israel or Promised Land in the New World—not a Jewish nation but a universally God-centered and moral society, as Israel was called to be by Jesus and, earlier, by the prophets. Here’s my thinking about it, which I admit is highly speculative.

Several recent books about the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail indicate that the African kingdom of Mali should be credited with two momentous facts bearing profoundly on Euro-American history. According to Michael Bradley in his 1988 book Holy Grail Across the Atlantic and, building on that, William F. Mann’s 1999 The Labyrinth of the Grail, by the fourteenth century the Emperor of Mali had ships going to the New World, and other Africans had crossed much earlier. Stone statues in Central America of men with Negroid features appear to be mute testimony to this extraordinary achievement. Transatlantic travel could not have been done without the development of a method to measure longitude. That means Africans solved the problem of determining longitude at sea long before Euro­peans did. However, the knowledge was lost and apparently had no influence on the solution developed by Europeans in the eighteenth century.

Why it was lost and why Malian seafaring culture declined are topics for research. The Bradley-Mann thesis con­tends that knowledge of longitude measurement was passed from Mali to Arabic culture, and thence to the Knights Templar, whose interactions with Arab Muslims in the Middle East were sometimes friendly rather than hostile. The Knights Templar, in turn, kept that knowledge secret, using it for their own purposes.

Those purposes may have included voyages to the New World a full century or more before Columbus, through Prince Henry Sinclair of Scotland and Orkney. In 1398 he sent a three-ship expedition which reached Nova Scotia and the East Coast of America, where the remains of a buried Scottish knight at Westford, Massachusetts, and the so-called Viking Tower at Newport, Rhode Island, indicate the presence of the Sinclair expedition. The Westford site has a knight carved into a rock ledge where the remnant of what appears to be a broken ancient sword was found. The knight’s shield bears the crest of Clan Gunn, who were subjects of Sinclair. The Viking Tower’s interior geometry, the researchers say, is reflective of Templar design and fourteenth century Scotland rather than Viking architecture.

Sinclair’s forebears had granted refuge in Scotland to fugitive Knights Templar when King Phillip of France dis­banded the Order of the Temple in 1307 and burned its Grand Master, Jacques deMolay, at the stake. The Templar fu­gitives’ fleet of ships left La Rochelle, France, and sailed around Ireland to Scotland. Those Knights Templar made Rosslyn Castle, the ancestral home of the Sinclairs, their center of operations. Rosslyn Chapel was begun in the mid­1400s and completed before the end of that century. It contains carvings of maize (Indian corn) and aloe, plants which are native to the New World. (Also see The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar by Steven Sora.)

How did the builders of Rosslyn Chapel get knowledge of New World plants a century before Columbus discovered America? As I mentioned above, the Templar contact with Mali-Arab culture during the crusades led to it.

Because of their experience with the political corruption of the Old World, the Templars apparently conceived a secret plan for creating a new and better society in the North American wilderness. That plan became the basis of Freemasonry and its influence over the founding of America. Francis Bacon, who was a driving force behind the crea­tion of the Royal Society for scientific research, was connected to the Templar remnant. He also wrote The New At­lantis about a mythical land to the west, and his account of that land shows remarkable parallels to later historical developments in the New World, as if his book were a kind of secret blueprint for Masonic endeavors in the vast and virgin continent.

Over several centuries, according to the new view, Templary was transformed into Freemasonry; and by the time of the American Revolution, many of the Founders of America—those who fought for the nation, those who signed the Declaration of Independence and those who created the Constitution—were Masons. Among them were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, and many others.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a secret history to America, much like what has been alleged by Manly Palmer Hall in America’s Secret Destiny and by others who claim there is an occult or esoteric foundation to America. Perhaps, just perhaps, America is in part a Templar/Masonic effort to advance human society on the basis of secret knowledge and secret activities, much as fables about the Illuminati claim. (Please note: I refer to the true Illuminati, better known as Ascended Masters, whose native state is the resurrection body, or light body, and who constitute the “lodge on high not made with human hands.” The Illuminati conspiracy launched in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt of Bavaria was a false and corrupt use of the term which was rightly denounced by true Masons.)

It’s all very far from being clear and certain to me, but if there is anything sacred about America, it is the idea that God is the author of our being and the source of our freedom, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice, and our hu­man dignity. Those are very Masonic ideas, injected into the social-political institutions of our nation by those great Masons who were among the creators of America. Was it purely chance, or has the hidden hand of God been guiding our affairs through the centuries and working through barely visible means which carry the symbols and substance of Freemasonry?

The author is a 32° Mason of the Scottish Rite and a Knight Templar of the York Rite. He has published 15 books, including The Meeting of Science and Spirit, What Is Enlightenment?, A Practical Guide to Death and Dying and, for children, The Christmas Mice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Saturday Review, Reader’s Digest, Science of Mind, Esquire, Omni, Woman’s Day, and other publications.


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