Masonic History Part 3
If we rely on Manetho for Egyptian history, he tells us that the founding of Egyptian history was in 3500 BC. Now the dilemma is that geological sounding on the stones of the Sphinx say it was around for the flood of 7500 BC. That would mean civilization was at least 4000 years older than we had previously thought. Good thing though, because a place like Jericho was a major thorn in the historian’s side, since it had been dated to 6000 BC and that didn’t coincide with our dating the agricultural revolution to only 5000 BC. If there’s a lesson to be learned from all this, it’s that history is still this great unknown that we have arranged into preconceived concepts and beliefs, usually derived from what we’ve been taught in school, often by teachers that were even less informed than some of their students (no offence intended to any of you teachers reading this), and we must learn to question everything if we truly want to learn.
In previous articles I've explained the Roman and Sumerian connections (http://hubpages.com/hub/Masonic-History-Part-2) to established customs and traditions. Though well aware of the traditional reliance on the Temple of Solomon for architecture, the use of Hebrew words, and our movements through the inner sanctum, there is still a basic refusal amongst Masons to accept that the ancient Jewish traditions are more than a fancy or coincidence. That perhaps they are the actual origins and we’ve only forgotten over time just exactly how they were arrived at. Similar to Manetho’s Egyptian history, Masons have somehow erased the early years and lost the connection to its origins.
Let me take a moment to recap exactly what was written by Mackey in his revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. Under Jewish Rites and Ceremonies; he writes that there was a popular resurgence of Judaism as a novelty in fourteenth century Europe. Sort of like our passion for Thai and Indian food, teak and wicker furniture, brass ornaments, statues of elephants, etc., that we have now. He records that it first began in Italy, spread to Constantinople and Germany and then on to France. Just as Madonna and so many others in America are studying the Jewish Kabbala, Jewish Mysticism was equally popular back then.
To quote, he states, “It was during this period that the legend of Hiram Abif first became known, according to Brother George H. Fort, and Jehovah’s name and mystic forms were transmitted from Byzantine workmen to Teutonic sodalities and German gilds.”
This is a very neat and tidy explanation of how so much of Jewish custom and traditions got incorporated into Freemasonry and why we as Masons should not look any further beyond the fourteenth century for our origins but it falls short of explaining the use of procedural rites that were the exclusive knowledge of Levites that would have not been part of the Kabalistic teachings of this time period. And as a descendant of priests, in particular from the 24 families of the high priesthood, as Kahana (http://hubpages.com/hub/Kahanas_Voice) , I should know when knowledge of priestly rites has exceeded the common knowledge that would have been available in the 14th century.
For these particular features to have appeared in modern Freemasonry would have meant that they came from original sources and to appreciate that, we must look at the Levite builders that were a gild until themselves amongst the priesthood. Unlike the general priesthood that would have a constant function and role to maintain within the temple, whether it be the sacrifices, the musicians, or even the guards to the inner portico, the builders were only required on an as needed basis, which meant they had to teach and maintain their skills over successive generations in order to be ready for an emergency. And as I’ll now explain, the time periods between their callings to service were quite long and irregular.
Assembled by King David, then finally put to work by King Solomon, only a handful of these priestly aritsan builders were required to maintain and repair the Temple over time. The questions we must answer are in regard to what this large group of master craftsmen did in the off-time. They were called upon roughly 33 years after the completion of Solomon’s Temple to conduct repairs after Shishak took Jerusalem. (See http://hubpages.com/hub/Masonic-History) Then we know that one hundred and thirteen years after that, repairs were necessary again, under King Joash. Then one hundred and twenty-eight years after that, Hezekiah had the Temple repaired, and restored those sections that his father Ahaz had taken down in order to appease his Assyrian master, King Tiglath-Pilezer. Then Babylon came and conquered Judah, and one hundred and four years later, Josiah repaired that damage, only to have the Temple entirely destroyed thirty-six years later. Fifty-two years later permission was granted by the Persians for the Jews to rebuild their Temple, which was a major undertaking taking some twenty-one years to complete do to the on-off nature of succeeding Persian Emperors. Co-incidentally, the Samaritans required Levite builders to build their own temple on Mount Gerzim, and another Temple was built on the island of Elephantine in Egypt a couple of hundred years later. Finally, following his ascent to the throne in 40 BC, Herod began a major refurbishing of the second Temple that took almost forty years to complete.
So as is evident from the long gaps between the building, repairs and rebuilding, there are several questions that require answering.
a) Whom were this brotherhood of Levite Priests that became master masons?
b) What did they do in their down time in order to keep their skills pristine?
c) Where did they go during the exile periods?
d) If they maintained their craft as families, passing down from generation to generation, then how were the surplus craftsmen employed if only a few were required in Jerusalem.
e) What were some of their signs and traditions that marked them as part of a brotherhood?
f) How far did they extend their gild across the globe?
g) Why is this early history so shrouded in mystery?
h) How can we prove that history actually transpired as described?
Being able to answer these questions will provide us with much of the evidence required to restructure the early origins of freemsonry.
Concealing the Inheritance
As will become overwhelmingly evident in future articles, the early Judean origins of freemasonry cannot be dismissed. But having a foundation so steeped in the Old Testament world only creates a moral dilemma when trying to comprehend why Freemasonry tries so hard to appear areligious. Because of Masonry’s constant attempt to be an ethical guide to its members without favouring any particular religion, it has been accused in the past of also being anti-Church, or anti-religious. A paradox when one thinks about how an organisation can be accused on one hand of being a religion unto itself, and on the other hand the enemy of religion. It is neither substitute nor replacement but essentially an enhancement for all men to better understand their own religious beliefs and to assess them in a framework of universal brotherhood.
If we are able to appreciate the irony of these facts, the essential reasons why the founding fathers of Freemasonry found it necessary to create a brotherhood outside and uncontrolled by religious dogma yet originating from one of the most intense religious structures ever developed, then we in turn will be better able to understand why it was deemed necessary to hide and conceal its early origins to such a great extent. In order to be a universal doctrine that unites the brotherhood of man, references to any particular religion had to be subjugated by a higher purpose. Even today one merely has to say, Islam, Judaism or Christianity and you will receive a response anywhere from adoration to persecution depending on your audience, yet the moral message of any of the great religions is not only identified with by those audiences but desired. The emotions to the reference point are allowed to overwhelm the message and this is exactly what the early freemasons comprehended. But no matter how much you try to conceal the reference point, the footprints from the past are clearly discernable.