The Secret History of Freemasonry

297 Pages · 2006 · 1.61 MB · English

  • The Secret History of Freemasonry


    Preface vii

    Introduction 1

    Part 1: The Origins of Freemasonry from

    Ancient Times to the Middle Ages

    1 The Ancient Corporations:

    Colleges of Builders in Rome 4

    2 The Collegia and the Barbarian Invasions 18

    3 Ecclesiastical and Monastic Associations 34

    4 Secular Brotherhoods:

    The Germanic and Anglo-Saxon Guilds 51

    5 The Crusades and the Templars 62

    6 The Templars, the Francs Metiers, and Freemasonry 81

    7 The Templars and the Parisian Builders 102 Part 2. From the Art of Building

    to the Art of Thinking

    8 Mason Corporations in France 146

    9 Builders Corporations in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland 168

    10 The Corporative Masonry of Great Britain 180

    11 Universal Freemasonry 205

    12 Speculative Freemasonry 221

    13 The Grand Lodges and Modern Freemasonry 247

    Conclusion 270

    Notes 278

    Index 293 Preface

    I state with all modesty, and without presuming to underestimate

    the value of preceding works on the subject, that to date there has been

    no truly scientific history of the origins of Freemasonry and that such a

    study is totally justified.

    A number of valuable works on the history of Freemasonry have in

    fact been published since the appearance of the grand lodges at the

    beginning of the seventeenth century. Indeed, they have flourished in

    such number since the end of the Second World War that we can now

    hail the birth of a new discipline, which we might call masonology.

    Nevertheless, operative freemasonry, which preceded this modern

    Freemasonry* and which is its source, has not been the beneficiary of

    such extensive examination. Those who have dealt with the origins of

    * [The term operative freemasonry as used throughout this book refers to freemasonry

    in its original form, as represented by brotherhoods of builders. It is opposed in this

    study by the term speculative Freemasonry, having to do with those organizations that

    emerged in the seventeenth century divorced from the worker and the meaning of his tra-

    dition and made up of "accepted" Masons. Throughout this book and especially in part 2,

    the author strives to make a strong distinction between speculative Freemasonry and the

    operative freemasonry that is its origin and between more or less "accepted" Masons

    and those craftsmen—masons—who actually practiced the building crafts. To make

    these distinctions clearer, an upper case F and M are used to distinguish speculative and

    modern Freemasonry and Freemasons/Masons and a lower case f and m are used to refer

    to operative or original freemasonry/masonry and freemasons/masons. —Editor] viii PREFACE

    the order—for how can anyone claim to discuss this subject without

    touching upon this question?—have largely contributed insights only to

    the various fragmentary aspects their individual studies may have

    addressed. Far too often these studies have consisted of only an iso-

    lated, contemporary, and literal reading of documents with which most

    students of this subject are already familiar. Symbolism, which is the

    capital rule of Freemasonry, has often been either systematically over-

    looked or cursorily addressed on the broader historical plane. Some

    scholars have even believed Freemasonry's symbolism and history to be

    two separate domains, while others, conversely, have confused symbol-

    ism and history, boiling down both to a single reduction and seeking to

    deduce the meaning of one from the other. The veil formed by these

    symbols—words, figures, and signs— has concealed the structures and

    realities from them.

    We must hasten to pay a well-deserved homage to this research,

    however, specifically to the remarkable works published since 1886 by

    the London Study Lodge Quatuor Coronati no. 2076, which has

    brought to light a significant number of old, specifically British docu-

    ments. Myriad brilliant authors have applied themselves to the presen-

    tation and analysis of these texts, including R. F. Gould, D. Knoop, G.

    P. Jones, D. Hamer, Lionel Vibert, F. L. Pick, G. N. Knight. Harry Carr,

    and John Hamil. Their works are quite valuable for their probity, the

    precision of their notes, and their observations relevant to the factual

    study of the beginnings of Freemasonry in Great Britain.

    This intellectual harvest has encouraged me to intensify the search for

    a way to better situate the masonic institution and its origins in their gen-

    eral historical and structural context, especially given that the facts

    related to the institution are inseparable from the social context, mind-

    sets, and motivations surrounding it. Further, while modern Freemasonry

    has grown directly from an exclusively British framework, its origins and

    development extend far beyond Great Britain and that nation's history in

    both time and space, a fact that deserves some exploration.

    My investigations on this subject have been quite extensive. I have

    made a point of attending to findings made in earlier works, incorpo-

    rating those opinions whose premises were supported with proof.

    Research based on historical sources in all their complexity has been my Preface ix

    chief concern. Quite often this research has led me to subject areas that

    might seem quite foreign to the topic at hand, such as archaeology,

    ethnography, sociology, law, and political economics. History, however,

    is traced not only through documents, but also through reconstructing

    the institutions, mores, and lifestyles in the past. The historical method

    is, by necessity, multidisciplinary in its theories and hypotheses.

    Nothing can be examined in complete isolation, in abstracto. Life is

    unity within diversity. I have consistently sought to gather what was

    scattered in order to reconstruct a living past and, consequently, one

    that is as close as possible to reality and truth.

    Setting off on my journey objectively and without any preconceived

    notions, I have had to surrender to the evidence showing that certain

    opinions expressed in what are accepted as fundamental works on

    Freemasonry are actually lacking any basis of support.

    Conversely, the same rectitude of thought and judgment led me to

    the opposite conclusion: that certain legends whose credibility had been

    greatly shaken among positivist minds were, in truth, based on sound

    arguments. This is especially the case for the Templar origins of

    Freemasonry. It should be clearly stated, though, that this does not

    mean I believe modern "speculative" Freemasonry is a direct survival of

    this vanished Order.

    For their ceaseless understanding, kindness, and strong encourage-

    ment, I thank all those in the wide variety of fields I have explored in

    the undertaking of this book. I give my acknowledgment and thanks to

    all those who gave me their assistance or showed interest in the work I

    was doing. Certainly I am aware of the gaps that remain in this prod-

    uct. My ambition is to inspire further study in this fascinating subject

    that remains in large part unexplored. Introduction

    Behold the days come, oracle of the Eternal. . . I will set

    my law within them and write it on their hearts . . .

    Behold the days come that city shall be built.

    JEREMIAH 31:33-38

    To find the origins of Freemasonry, it is important first to iso-

    late its original characteristics, which can be found in the institutions

    from which it appears to have emerged:

    1. It was a professional builders—or, more precisely, construc-

    tion—organization; the long-ago vocation of mason does not

    correspond directly to the modern specialization, but included

    an extensive knowledge of architecture. The organization was

    represented hierarchically.

    2. The organization extended beyond a strictly professional frame-

    work. Its members considered themselves brothers and provided

    mutual assistance.

    3. The association, in both its operations and assistance, followed

    traditional rites. Members were accepted into it through an ini-

    tiation and the brothers were united by sacred practices that

    were illustrative of an asceticism, an indispensable condition for

    the realization of the work.

    4. The association accepted members who were not practitioners

    of the trade.

    5. The association displayed and highlighted its character of



    This study of Freemasonry looks at both its specific history and the

    influences and events that have left their imprint over time on its for-

    mation and evolution. As such, it includes an examination of various

    spheres—social, juridical, religious, and philosophical—that have con-

    ditioned these events.

    From a chronological perspective, the most certain sources of

    Freemasonry have emerged as the following:

    1. The Roman collegia, the remnants of which remained in the

    West following invasions and survived in the East as institutions

    discovered by the Crusaders at the end of the eleventh century.

    2. The ecclesiastical associations of builders formed by the bishops

    of the early Middle Ages, especially the Benedictines, the

    Cistercians, and the Templars.

    3. Trade-based freemasonry, which was born under the aegis of

    these associations and followed the form of lay brotherhoods or


    The history of Freemasonry and its origins will form the first part

    of this book. In the second part, we will study the evolution of the pro-

    fessional organization; its purposes, both operational and speculative;

    its initiatory and spiritualist nature; its gradual transformation from an

    organization of those who worked in the art of building to those who

    engaged in a stricto sensu art of thinking and living; and the creation of

    modern Freemasonry under the influences of and in circumstances con-

    nected to British history.

    The greatest common denominator that we can distinguish across

    the centuries, truly the millennia, is the coexistence and interdepend-

    ence of masonic objectives and a sense of the sacred. In fact, it is the

    sacred that is the effective and ultimate cause of these objectives, how-

    ever different from one another they may appear in the various stages

    of their evolution. This is an exemplary illustration of an important

    truth: Faith lives only through works and works are worth only the

    faith that moves them. PART 1

    The Origins of

    Freemasonry from

    Ancient Times to

    the Middle Ages


    The Ancient Corporations:

    Colleges of Builders in Rome

    The Religious Character of the

    Ancient Corporations

    The corporative organization of labor goes back to distant

    antiquity, and associations of builders are among the most ancient.

    When humans abandoned the nomadic lifestyle, they formed builders

    associations to erect durable shelters, protective ramparts, and temples

    in which to worship their gods. Architecture became an art—a difficult

    one demanding unique empirical knowledge prior to the development

    of the exact sciences. In some ways builders created the first aristocracy

    of jealous exclusivity whose services were indispensable to the gradu-

    ally forming states. The association proved necessary because isolated

    individuals were incapable of erecting large structures by themselves

    and because this work required extensive general, technical, and artis-

    tic knowledge. Here it is necessary to make an important, preliminary

    observation if we truly wish to understand the history of labor and

    trades: First and foremost, this association always had a religious basis.

    For the people of antiquity, every action of life was commingled with

    religion. Humans considered themselves the playthings of higher pow-

    ers without whose help it was impossible to succeed at anything. Work

    was notably invested with a sacred nature. Oswald Wirth, in Les Mysteres

    de l'Art Royal, translated this religious sentiment with great skill:

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