Monday, September 21, 2009


The Delta of Enoch & Its Place in the Scottish Rite
Sublime Prince Conor Moran, 32°

Having recently performed in the Scottish Rite reunion of the 14th degree, I began to do a little more investigating into an interesting topic that is only briefly mentioned in the degree work. As I was explaining the symbolism of the apron, I mentioned the Golden Triangle or ‘Delta of Enoch.’ It is simply left at that – an explanation of the apron and nothing more concerning the history or symbolism intertwined behind. Further investigation is left in the hands of the initiate; a story which reveals much further symbolism in the 14th degree.

The use of the ‘delta’ in and of itself is very prevalent in the Scottish Rite. The ineffable delta is used on the VSL and in other degrees. What’s unique, however, about the Delta of Enoch is its ties to the very heart of the 14th degree.

In fact, we have to look to the previous degree in the Lodge of Perfection to gain a fundamental background on Enoch. The 13th degree, the Royal Arch of Enoch or the Master of the Ninth Arch, is closely related to the 14th degree of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

How the story of Enoch has filtered down into the 14th degree, as we now know it, is really quite amazing. The connections between the 5,000 year old story and the underlying themes of the degree are highly correlated.

To begin, who is Enoch? Enoch was a prophet. Enoch was the son of Jared, who in turn had descended from Adam. Enoch was filled with a love of God and he strove to lead men in the way of honor and duty. In a vision the deity appeared to him in the shape of a bright, golden triangle, which said to him, “Enoch, thou hast longed to know my true name. Arise and follow me, and thou shalt know it.” The golden triangle had bright rays of the sun coming from it and was thenceforth known as the Delta of Enoch.

The dream had inspired Enoch to take up a mission and so he journeyed in search of the mountain he had seen in his vision. He grew weary and stopped in the land of Canaan, which was already populous with the descendents of Adam. At this point he employed workmen and with the help of his son, Methuselah, he excavated 9 apartments. Each one of these was one below the other, roofed with an arch. Hence the name of the degree, Master of the Ninth Arch. In the crown of each arch, he left a narrow aperture, closed with a square stone. At the top of the 9th apartment, he built a modest temple. The temple had no roof and contained huge, unhewn (def. unfinished, not brought to a final state) stones.

Modeled upon the vision that he had, Enoch created a triangle made out of pure gold, inlaid with many precious gems, in which he inscribed the ineffable name of God. He then sank the plate into the face of a cube of agate. Agate is a microcrystalline variety of quartz (silica), chiefly chalcedony, characterized by its fineness of grain and brightness of color.

No one in the region knew of Enoch’s actions and to help preserve this treasure, he covered the aperture and the stone that enclosed it and the great ring of iron used to enclose the stone, with the granite pavement of his temple.

Enoch knew of the impending Great Flood, which would soon overwhelm the world. Enoch was afraid that all of the great arts & sciences would be lost forever; he built two great columns high on a hill. One was made out of granite, which would resist fire, and the other was made out of brass, which would resist water damage. On the granite column was written in hieroglyphics the description of the apartments. On the brass, the rudiments of the arts and sciences.

The granite column was washed away in the Great Flood, but the brass column stayed firm and was found by Noah. As the directions about the apartments were lost, the true name of God remained unknown until it was given to Moses in Egypt, when instructed to lead the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s Egypt.

Moses later also engraved the name of God upon a plate of Gold, which he deposited in the Ark of the Covenant. Moses relayed the real name to Aaron and Joshua, which in turn was relayed to the chief priests. The name was made up of consonants, which could not be pronounced.

Later, David wanted to build a temple to God, but left the actual construction to his son Solomon. Originally, Solomon chose the site of Enoch’s temple near Jerusalem. He found Enoch’s overthrown columns and decided that the site was formerly that of a ‘heathen’ temple and did not want to construct a new temple on a desecrated site. So he ultimately chose Mount Moriah for the site of his new temple and under this temple he built a secret vault, the approach to which was through eight other vaults.

The number nine throughout the bible and in many organized religions signifies a completeness or finality. It is the last of digits and thus marks the end.

In this ninth apartment or vault, a column of twisted, white marble was placed. On this column, the Ark was supposed to have been placed. In this apartment, which had a secret passageway leading from the King’s chambers, the King consulted with King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif, they being the only others to know the directions to the apartment.

Ultimately, Solomon decide to erect a Temple of Justice and chose Enoch’s original site. He had the columns removed and the temple constructed.

According to several publications, in academic biblical circles, there exists an entire tradition based on Enoch that lasted until the time of Christ. Some scholars believe that the Qumran community (who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls) was composed of two priestly schools, the Enochician and the Zadokite. According to the Book of Hiram, the Enochian school was based on astrology and astronomy, with particular reference to the Sun.

So what could have happened if Solomon found the golden triangle or Delta of Enoch in Enoch’s former subterranean vault? The latitude of the Jerusalem Temple is very interesting. If one places a sighting rod or deacon’s wand in the ground and mark the shadow of the first golden rays of the rising sun on the summer solstice (St. John the Baptist) and do the same on the winter solstice (St. John the Evangelist Day) it forms a perfect equilateral triangle.

Interestingly, the 14th Degree of the Scottish Rite, or the Grand Elect Mason, takes us to this subterranean vault of Solomon. The degree deals with several underlying themes: obedience to God, the true name of God, and the above mentioned vault that was constructed by Solomon.

An early tradition of the Ineffable Degrees provides for a “Sacred Word” in each degree from the Fourth to the Fourteenth inclusive. Each Sacred Word, a substitute name for God revealing one of his attributes, was intended to prepare the neophyte for the true Name of God symbolized in the 13° and revealed in the 14° as the Grand Ineffable Word of a Grand Elect Mason.

The room decorations should contain the Pillar of Enoch, with Enochian characters on it. Also, the room should have a Pillar of Beauty, as mentioned at the end of the 13th degree on which should be place the Ark. Finally, the room should have a burning bush. The symbolism behind both the Delta of Enoch and the Burning Bush are very similar. Both are representative of the physical manifestation of God as they appeared to both Enoch and Moses. You may have noticed, as well, that the senior officers bowed down in a way that might not be readily apparent. The bow being performed was one representative of the burning bush – our right hands blocking the powerful rays of light and shielding our faces. Both the delta and the burning bush appear as bursts of light bearing the ineffable name.

Taking this degree’s origins and the creation of the Delta of Enoch one step further, I quote liberally from Christopher Knight’s Solomon’s Power Brokers. “There is a Masonic degree called the Royal Arch of Enoch which dates back to 1740 and there is also a very ancient document called the Book of Enoch. This document was known to have been very popular among early Christians (It is quoted in the letter of Jude, in the New Testament), however, it fell from favor by AD 500 and most copies were destroyed. The work was lost from Western Christendom for over 1,000 years. However, it remained popular in isolated Ethiopia, where it remains part of the Ethiopian Bible to this day. It was to 18th century Ethiopia that a Scots Freemason, James Bruce, went in search of the long lost book. He discovered it in 1774 – nearly three decades after the Masonic ritual of the same name had come into existence.”


Knight, Christopher and Alan Butler Solomon’s Power Brokers: The Secrets of Freemasonry, the Church, and the Illuminati. 2007. Page 19.

13th Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. The Supreme Council of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Jurisdiction.

14th Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. The Supreme Council of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Jurisdiction.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Relationship Between Revolutionary Freemasonry & South Africa

The Relationship Between Revolutionary Freemasonry and South Africa

Parts IV through VIII

Written By

SP Isaiah Kirk, 32°
AASR Valley of Albany, New York

IV) Observations on Masonic Elements in the French and American Revolutions

Although brief, our quick overview indicates four primary factors regarding Freemasonry and the French and American Revolutions. The first, obvious factor is that many of the leading revolutionary figures were members of the Craft, and were influenced by Masonic Teachings. Even if we take a conservative approach, the mere fact that several primary leaders in both revolutions were Freemasons warrants us assuming direct channels of ideological influence. This should be countered balanced with an acknowledgement of the fact that in America “The Revolution created a multifaceted crisis within the American fraternity. It disrupted meetings and split lodges as brothers took differing positions. The break from Britain also raised questions about the ultimate legitimacy of the fraternity…”[1] Simply put there were many Masonic Loyalists especially among the Moderns[2], and the division of national loyalties split many lodges asunder.

The second factor that can be derived is that the nature of both the French and American Revolutions were such that they coincided with a shifting of societal structuring towards more republican equality. The Fraternity of Freemasonry embodied theses shifting societal demands, for through its measure of equality among the Brethren, the Lodge stood out as a republican institution with direct ties to the greater movements in the Enlightenment. Through increasing its membership, especially during the early years of the American Republic, the Fraternity increased an appreciation of more egalitarian societal structuring.

The third aspect is that Freemasonry became increasingly powerful because it offered a beacon of stability and order in an otherwise turbulent period of vast societal change. The Fraternity’s alleged ties to all of the Perennial Philosophy of illumination, acted as a cornerstone of immutable existence for the revolutionary movements looking to construct new human edifices. This was counterbalanced by the Fraternity’s inherent conservative nature that allowed it to embrace change but in a hybridized metamorphic manner. It was also marked by a division between Brothers of both a revolutionary and reactionary mindset, who adopted both revolutionary and royalist positions during the wars.

The final factor is the use of Masonic symbolism by the revolutionaries in both America and France. Although this is most prominent in the case of the United States, both revolutions drew from Masonic sources while constructing the icons of newly established nations. With the falling of traditional royal symbols of hieratical power, the new republican nations turned to the Fraternity for new more modern symbols through which they could frame their understanding of the events unfolding; thus the Scepter and Crown was replaced by the Square, Level and Plum-line.

V) A Concise Overview of South African History

Before discussing Freemasonry in South Africa it is important to cover the timeline of South African national development. Unlike the History of the French and American Revolutions, that of South Africa is not as prominent in the general public’s historical knowledge. For all intensive purposes this concise overview of South African history shall cover the period between the First Boer War (1880–1881), also known as the "Transvaal War, and the installation of Nelson Mandela as the President of South Africa in 1994. We will briefly introduce the historical setting first.

South Africa’s first established settlement was that of the Dutch East India Company in Cape Town in 1652. Other groups consisting of Germans and French Huguenots joined the Cape Colony shortly after the Dutch settlers. The English entered the scene in 1795, “motivated by their determination to cut Napoleon off from his Dutch overseas empire…”[3] The English outlawed the Slave Trade in 1807, and 20-30 years later the Dutch descendants (referred to by the Dutch word for farmer, the Boers) partook on the ‘Great Trek’. The ‘Great Trek’ consisted of the Boers moving out of English controlled areas of South Africa, so they could more directly control their affairs and keep the practice of slavery. During this time the native population of South Africa was never considered autonomous or even capable of autonomy.

The Boers (also called the voortrekkers) and the British eventually had two wars over control of South Africa. These wars were partially motivated by the recent discovery of diamonds and gold in the country. The first war was relatively short and lasted only from 1880 to 1881. The result was that the Boers successfully stopped the British from annexing the area that they established called the Transvaal (meaning beyond the Vaal River). The second Boer War was quite a different story. It lasted from 1899-1902 and consisted of a vast mobilization on the part of the British. At the end of the War with the Boer’s defeat, the Boer republic was assimilated into Britannia as a colony. However the cost of victory was terribly high, for the British loses were exceptional. The British were also reduced to using unethical warfare that directly led to high civilian causalities among the Boers. These extreme tactics forced the Boers to consolidate themselves as a separate entity, and although they lost the war they gained a collective identity that would latter influence their actions.

After the war, the Boers retained a degree of local control politically, however both they and the British faced an even bigger problem, namely, the population of South Africa was primarily black, and this threatened the posterity of the white European immigrants and decedents. In 1903 the South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC) was formed to deal with this problem. SANAC’s report on the problem proposed that a system of segregation be imposed. As the system spread among the ideology of the white population, the black population naturally began to form an opposition. However the resistance never consolidated significantly.

With a changing of the guard in Britain, new foreign policies came into play and full self-governance was granted to the Boer controlled areas of Transvaal and the Orange River in 1907. Three years later, the separate colonies of South Africa united and formed the South African Union, which remained loosely associated with England as a commonwealth, but was independently run. In an attempt to assure the prosperity of whites, the new united commonwealth instituted a regime characterized by segregation and industrialization. The first major act of this united commonwealth was to pass the Mines and Work Act, which restricted skilled labor in the mines and on the railroads to whites.

In 1913, the South African government passed the Natives’ Land Act that severely limited black African ownership of land to roughly 7% of the country. A year before this extreme law was passed the black South Africans formed the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in retaliation. This organization would stand as the primary form of resistance to the ever-increasing discriminatory legislation. According to Clark and Worger in South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, “The Congress was moderate in composition, tone and practice. Its founders were men who felt that British rule had brought considerable benefits, especially Christianity, education and the rule of law, but who also considered that their careers as teachers, lawyers and court translators were hindered by the racial discrimination…”[4] Their primary means of action was counter legislation.

In order to keep the details at a minimum, so not to bog down and distract from the overall aims of this short essay, we will only glance at several historical factors and ignore innumerable others. In 1914 J.B.M. Hertzog formed the National Party (NP), which dominated South African politics for the next 80 years. The National Party’s regime was characterized by ever increasing racist legislation. One primary example were the Pass Laws, which required black South Africans to carry passbooks on them at all times and travel only in restricted territories and for restricted reasons. While this was happening the Boers solidified their Afrikaner identity and even formed a secret society limited to Afrikaners. This organization was called the Afrikaner Broederbond (Afrikaner Brotherhood).

In 1923 the SANNC changed its name to the African National Congress (ANC), and remained the primary counter-power to the NP led government. Under the guidance of several leading characters the ANC used non-violent methodologies to protest the segregation policies. In 1944, frustrated with the lack of progress that the ANC was making, a new more militant branch of the ANC was created called the ANC Youth League. As both sides continued to confront one another, the legislation and racist policies increased and the resistance began to turn more violent. In 1959 another resistance organization called the Pan-African Congress (PAC) was formed that went even further in radical counter-philosophy and action. A year later Police opened fire on a funeral procession, killing 21 people. The ANC and PAC were officially banned the same year.

In 1961 South Africa became a republic and left the common wealth. During the next twenty years Apartheid developing more restrictive measures and the country edged ever closer to exploding. However in the 1980’s, influenced by the fact that the segregation system of Apartheid was simply not working, and the South African government received a lot of international criticism, things began to improve. Over the next 14 years the discriminatory legislation was removed and the system of Apartheid began dismantling itself. In 1990, several political prisoners were released from jail, including Nelson Mandela, a leader of the ANC. The next four years reverted once again to bloodshed over how to run the new South Africa, yet in 1994 Mandela was sworn in as the president. Although the racial situation has surely improved, the country of South Africa has continued to struggle with instability ever since.

VI) A Short History of Freemasonry in South Africa

In the first part of this discussion I will be primarily drawing my information from an address given in 1990 by the then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa, Most Worshipful George Groenewald.[5] He begins his historic rendering with the installation of the first Lodge in South Africa in 1772. Establish by the Grand East of the Netherlands, under the authority vested in Brother Abraham van der Weijde, Lodge De Goede Hoop (Lodge of the Good Hope) was the first Lodge in South Africa, which was a major rest-stop along the all important trade route from India. “The lodge depended for its existence on visitors, conferring numerous degrees but failing to attract local residents as members, particularity because of the ridged social and religious attitudes of the confined Cape society.”[6] Pressured by the religious opinion of the Cape society and the policies of the Dutch East India Company (which didn’t allow company members to trade or own land, or even to associate intimately with those whose contract had expired called Free Burghers) the Lodge De Goede Hoop went into recess in 1781.

In 1794, the Lodge began operating again, riding as it were, the increased interest in Freemasonry universally occurring across the globe. As South African Freemasonry developed it did so in a unique way for the Grand Lodge of the Netherlands, the Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland all established lodges in the South African colonies. The presence of numerous Grand Lodges is in of itself not unique, but what is unique is that these Grand Lodges were all mutually respected in South Africa and even shared jurisdictions and constitutional elements, at least for some time. With the British influx “of English-speaking members into the lodge (they) brought tension and an inevitable split, when English members broke away to form the first permanent English Lodge in the Cape.”[7]

The ‘Great Trek’ and other internal South African tensions greatly hurt the Craft, which was further aggravated by the problem of which language to embrace in Lodge. The period of Masonic unrest was short lived for the discovery of gold and diamonds improved the situation for most white South Africans, and thus for the Masons in the colony as well. This optimistic upturn led for the proposal to establish a Grand Lodge of South Africa, but many years would pass for this to occur. It wasn’t until “the emergence of the Afrikaner nationalism as a dominant political force in South Africa in 1948, (that) the movement among Freemasons for a South African Grand Lodge again gained momentum…when it did come, it is actually attributed to a combination of events enacted in the Masonic Grand Lodges of Europe, and not associated initially directly in any manner to local pressure.”[8] These reasons, which center on the chaos in Europe wrought by WWII, while being relevant to the discussion at hand exceed the limits of this endeavor. It is therefore significant only to note that the Grand Lodge of South Africa received its independence and Masonic authority form the Grand East of the Netherlands following WWII, and up until today the 4 Grand Lodges of South Africa, England, Scotland and Ireland still share the country of South Africa in a surprisingly beneficial mutual harmony.

It should be mentioned that all the Lodges discussed above only admitted white men into their establishments. Prince Hall Freemasonry was brought into South Africa and established by a Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from Philadelphia. Bishop Coppin established Ethopia Lodge No. 75 and Coppin Lodge No. 76 in 1902. However, because of the institution of Apartheid, black Africans were not allowed to be Freemasons, and the Prince Hall Lodges were restricted to ‘Coloreds’ only. In South Africa, Coloreds refer not to blacks, but only to non-white and non-black people, and people of mixed blood. In 1977 the two Prince Hall lodges of South Africa, gave up their Charter from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masonry in Philadelphia in order to join with and become adsorbed into the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of South Africa. A series of primary documents along with a short essay detailing this absorption can be found on-line.[9] In the late 1970’s this was a radical move that despite some opposition helped to begin breaking down the role of Apartheid in the country. On September 6th, 2007 Mr. Zolani Skithi became the first black South African to be initiated into a Masonic Lodge. The Lodge was St. Finbars Lodge, which is chartered by the Grand Lodge of Ireland.[10]

VII) The Relationship Between Revolutionary Freemasonry and the
History of the South African Nation

If we return to our derived revolutionary Masonic principles and apply them to South Africa we can better understand not only Freemasonry in the country but also the overall South African historical development. The first principle states that many of the leading French and American revolutionary figures were members of the Craft, and were influenced by Masonic Teachings. If we were to look into the role call of South African Freemasons, by far the most prominent and powerful members would be among the British Freemasons in South Africa. This is especially the case during the Boer Wars when such Englishmen as Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Winston Churchill were stationed in South Africa and fought under the command of their Masonic Brother Lord Kitchener.

Because blacks were excluded from the Craf,t the Revolutionary Masonic trend of influence would never play out in South Africa. There simply were no black Freemasons in South Africa, and the ‘colored’ Prince Hall Masonic population never really amounted to more than a handful prior to their integration into mainstream South African Freemasonry. This brings us to the second factor, which states that, the nature of both the French and American Revolutions were such that they coincided with a shifting of societal structuring towards more republican equality. In the extremely segregated and classified society of South Africa the overall Masonic emphasis on Brotherhood could never really take hold outside of the white population. This means the black plight for equality would fall outside of the sphere of direct relationship to the Brethren in South Africa. In the French and American situations there were numerous Masons among those calling out for equality, but in the South African situation those calling out were black and therefore not legally allowed to be Masons.

The third factor of a revolutionary manner in Freemasonry is that in France and America, Freemasonry became increasingly powerful because it offered a beacon of stability and order in an otherwise turbulent period of vast societal change. This is perhaps the only factor relevant to the South African situation, for despite the numerous points of potential demise, Freemasonry in South Africa has been growing and expanding consistently since 1794. The mere fact that 4 Grand Lodges jointly control and share jurisdictional influence with one another in a harmonious way is astounding, and represents the stability of the Craft in South Africa.

The final factor was the use of Masonic symbols and ideologies in the French and American Revolutions. Here too, the segregationist policies of Apartheid caused blacks to be barred from membership in the Craft, and therefore those most likely to have revolutionary impulses could not draw on the Craft and its teachings; the symbols and ideologies of Masonry were therefore obviously not used by members of the black South African communities. Perhaps the fact that unlike several other revolutionary situations, in South Africa no revolution (strictly speaking) happened, was influenced by the lack of Masonic connections. Perhaps Apartheid was too powerful to be overcome quickly and in a revolutionary manner. In order to answer these questions further study is needed, and other historians must take up this line of questioning.

VIII) Concluding Thoughts

In the late 1790’s and early 1800’s through “…invoking fraternity as a member of an international brotherhood, (Prince) Hall gained the moral authority necessary to challenge the inconsistencies of a white orthodoxy that praised equality, religion, and fraternity yet treated blacks as inferiors.”[11] Yet blacks remained to be excluded from the American Fraternity for years to come. Today most African American Masons are Prince Hall Masons, although an intermingling does occur, and fraternal connections have been and continue to be established. Blacks are no longer restricted to join the Fraternity, nor are whites excluded from Prince Hall Lodges. This being said, the races tend to this day to segregate among the various Free and Accepted Masonic Lodges and the Prince Hall Masonic Lodges.

Freemasonry has always worn the costume of the culture in which it arises. In South Africa, a regime of Apartheid literally made it impossible to bring the more oppressed populations (the black South Africans) into the Craft. This one fact alone eliminates any Masonic revolutionary influence in the struggles of South Africa. Freemasonry in South Africa was not always free from challenges from the government of the country, but it remained free from persecution because it did not directly interfere with the Apartheid system.

I will conclude by quoting Jaspar Ridley’s The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society at length. I believe it summarizes Freemasonry’s place in South African history nicely.

“Having Suppressed the Communist Party and the African National Congress, and arrested Nelson Mandela and his colleagues, the government, on 28 July 1964, appointed Mr. Justice D.H. Botha as the sole member of a commission of inquiry into secret organizations. The South African Freemasons had never taken part in the struggle against apartheid; they were as respectable and law-abiding as the British Freemasons. But they were accused by certain members of the Dutch Reformed Church of aiming at establishing ‘a world government and a world religion’ which would replace the authority of the government of an independent South Africa. Mr. Justice Botha reported that there was no evidence ‘that Freemasonry in South Africa actively interests itself in the establishment of a world state with a world government, or that through its conduct it in any way weakens the will of the South African nation to fight for its survival.”[12]

[1] Steven Bullock Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996) p109
[2] Early American Masonry was divided among the Moderns (the older more aristocratic form) and the Ancients (the newer more egalitarian form).
[3] Nancy Clark and William Worger South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Pearson/Longman Harlow UK 2004) p12
[4] Nancy Clark and William Worger South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Pearson/Longman Harlow UK 2004) p23
[5] M.’. W.’. George Groenewald “A History of South African Freemasonry”
[6] Ibid., p1
[7] Ibid., p2
[8] Ibid., p3-4
[11] Steven Bullock Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996) p160
[12] Jasper Ridley The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society (New York NY, Arcade Publishing 2001) p237

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Relationship Between Revolutionary Freemasonry and South Africa

The Relationship Between Revolutionary Freemasonry and South Africa:
Parts I, II & III

Written by

SP Isaiah Kirk 32º
AASR Valley of Albany, New York

I) Introduction

A historiographic interpretation of Freemasonry reveals several thematic trends of investigation. One of the most exciting and academically relevant is the relation between Freemasonry and modern revolutions. With such revolutionary leaders as Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy, Simón Bolívar in Cuba, Benito Pablo Juárez García in Mexico, and Kossuth Lajos of Hungary, belonging to the Craft, there is strong support for this type of historical analysis. Using the French and American Revolutions as case studies, we will attempt to extrapolate some of the Masonic influences and basic principles that hold relevancy in the French and American Revolutions. Following this, an investigation and historical rendering of Freemasonry in South Africa will be undergone which will highlight a parallel examination between the development of South African Freemasonry and the development of the South African Nation. The summit of this study will be the application of the derived principles from the French and American Revolutions to the historical development in South Africa.

Before undertaking this task, a few disclaimers are necessary. First, no work of this size can do justice to such a complex and complicated investigation. This essay, is not meant to be encompassing, but is rather set forth as a limited example for further and more thorough historical investigation. Secondly, the focus of this work is two-fold, namely the elucidation of the relationship between Freemasonry and Revolutions and the manifestations (or lack of) such tendencies in the history of the South African Nation. This means that a detailed historical discussion on the French and American Revolutions as well as the history South Africa will have to be truncated and dulled down, in order not to become too unwieldy. A general familiarity with the American and French Revolutions will be assumed on the part of the reader.

II) Freemasonry in the American Revolution

An investigation into the role of Freemasonry in the American Revolution is exceptionally fruitful, especially if a cultural historiographic analysis is utilized. The American revolt against British dominance was simultaneous with an American transformation of societal structuring. In Gordon Wood’s The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the transformations from the traditional social hierarchy to the more egalitarian structures of Republicanism are examined. In regards to Freemasonry’s relationship to both of these aspects of American revolutionary transformation, Wood has this to say; “It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of Masonry for the American Revolution. It not only created national icons that are still with us; it brought people together in new ways and helped fulfill the republican dream of reorganizing social relationships. For thousands of Americans, it was a major means by which they participated directly in the Enlightenment.”
[1] Masonry affected all stratum of American society during the revolution. Many of the American Revolutionary leaders were Masons. Men such as Ethan Allen, Edmund Burke, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Paul Johns, Paul Revere and George Washington, were Freemasons. Furthermore, at least 12 signers of the Declaration of Independence have been proven to be Masons.[2]

There are so many connections between the Fraternity and the revolution that it is hard to narrow down the historical data to a manageable size. For example, there was a vast Masonic influence on the Continental Army. In Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 Steven Bullock explains, “The impact of military Masonry…went beyond the officers’ individual situations. Fraternal Ties among the officers helped create and sustain the sense of common purpose necessary for the survival of the Continental Army-and thus of winning the war.”[3] According to the research of Baigent and Leigh, there were no less than 31 Masonic Field Lodges in regiments in America in 1775-1777, with the majority receiving their charters from the Grand Lodge of Ireland.[4]

Another connection lies between the philosophic ideologies and symbols of the American Revolution and those of Freemasonry. For example, as Bailyn pointed out, “the word ‘constitution’ and the concept behind it was of central importance to the colonists’ political thought; their entire understanding of the crisis in Anglo-American relations rested upon it.”[5] What Bailyn did not discuss is how Masonic the focus on a constitution is. The Masonic constitution had been written by Reverend James Anderson under the guidance and direction of the newly formulated Grand Lodge of England in 1723, and updated and expanded in 1738[6]. Consisting of more than merely the rules of the Fraternity it also compiled one of the first historical portrayals of the Craft. After the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, the role of constitutionality and distribution of legitimate Charters began to dominate the politics of Masonry. Brothers would naturally see a constitution as a necessary aspect of the revolution aims of the colonies.

In his work Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry, John Van Gordon states that “The Masonic tradition…constitutes an important part of American History. Nevertheless, many Masons make the mistake, understandable though it may be, of seeing the history of Masonry in America as identical with the history of the United States.”[7] This is a valid caution, especially if we consider that “In the American War for Independence, Freemasonry was ultimately apolitical, or only incidentally political. There were Freemasons on both sides…But in many people’s minds, Freemasonry had become so closely associated with American revolution and Independence that it began, increasingly, to acquire a radical image. That image, needless to say, was to be reinforced by the French Revolution.”[8]

III) Freemasonry in the French Revolution

The connections between Freemasonry and the French Revolution are almost as numerous as those between the Fraternity and the American Revolution. Much like their American predecessors, the French revolutionaries found several elements in Freemasonry applicable to their situation. The class conflict that ignited the revolution especially resonated with the egalitarian tendencies of Masonry. In A Short History of the French Revolution Jeremy Popkin explains, “The Masonic movement introduced from England in the 1730s and devoted to the moral improvement of its members, became an important form of urban sociability. Masonic lodges propagated an ideology of equality. Members addressed each other as ‘brothers’ regardless of their social rank, even though social barriers limited recruitment primarily to the nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie.”[9] This reflects to a high degree the transformation of the American social structure.

Many of the French revolutionaries were Masons and their relationship with the Craft is reflected in their ideologies. For example, Liberty, Fraternity and Equality echo Masonic sentiments, so much so that the anti-revolutionary Catholic theurgist Eliphas Lévi would later criticize such usage when he remarked that “The anarchist have resumed the (Masonic) rule, square and mallet, writing upon them the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- Liberty, that is to say, for all the lusts, Equality in degradation and Fraternity in the work of destruction.”[10] However, as Lynn Hunt points out in Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution, “Freemasonry spun a web of personal and sometimes even ideological ties that gave significant support to the revolutionary movement. But it would be a mistake to identify this elusive network with radical politics, because the influence of the Masons was least apparent during the Terror.”[11] Hunt follows her statement by citing Michael Taillefer’s work that presents data that claims that 38% of the Girondins were Masons, 32% of the Jacobins, and 30% of the royalists.[12] She further states that “The lodges as organizations did not make the Revolution, but membership in them facilitated the access to power of many revolutionary officials.”[13]

Much like the American Revolution the French Revolution had several important Masonic figures including Danton, Voltaire, Condorcet, Mirabeau, and Hébert. Through other Masons like Gilbert Lafayette, connections to the American Revolution can be drawn, although much like Lafayette’s position during the French Revolution, these connections are more conservative and less radical than what occurred during the Terror. Another analogous connection is found in both the American and French revolutionary use of Masonic symbols. Hunt points this out, first by describing the French revolutionary adoption of the Masonic Level of Equality and further by claiming that “From the beginning of the Revolution, much of the most abstract symbolism has been taken, consciously or not, from Masonic sources.”[14] In his opus Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Albert Pike puts it another way, “It (Freemasonry) aided in bringing about the French Revolution, disappeared with the Girondists, was born again with the restoration of order, and sustained Napoleon[15], because, though Emperor, he acknowledged the right of people to set rulers, and was at the head of a nation refusing to receive back its old kings.”[16]

[1] Gordon Wood The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, NY Vintage Books 1991) p223
[2] Philip Roth Masonry in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of Milwaukee Wisconsin, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin 1927) p154-164
[3] Steven Bullock Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996) p122
[4] Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh The Temple and the Lodge (New York NY Arcade Publishing, 1989) p269
[5] Bernard Bailyn The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution enlarged edition (Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press 1992) p67
[6] James Anderson The New Book of Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons 1739 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of London UK, Ward and Chandler 1738)
[7] John Van Gorden Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry (Bloomington Ill, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., N.M.J. 1985) p2
[8] Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh The Temple and the Lodge (New York NY Arcade Publishing, 1989) p263
[9] Jeremy Popkin A Short History of the French Revolution 4th edition (Upper Saddle River NJ, Pearson/Prentice Hill 2006) p19
[10] Eliphas Levi The History of Magic [Translated by A.E. Waite] (York Beach, Maine, Weiser Books 1991) p287
[11] Lynn Hunt Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley CA, University of California Press 2004) p201
[12] Michel Taillerfer La Franc-maconnerie toulousaine et la Revolution francaise p72 as found in Lynn Hunt’s Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley CA, University of California Press 2004) p201
[13] Ibid., p201
[14] Ibid., p113 footnote 58
[15] It should be mentioned that there is no recorded proof of Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal affiliation with Masonry. Although probably not a Mason himself, several of Napoleons brothers were masons.
[16] Albert Pike Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston NC, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., S.M.J. 1871) p24


Anderson, James The New Book of Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons 1739 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of London UK, Ward and Chandler 1738)

Baigent, Michael & Leigh, Richard The Temple and the Lodge
(New York, NY Arcade Publishing 1989)

Bailyn, Bernard The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution [enlarged edition](Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press 1992)

Bullock, Steven Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996)

Clark, Nancy and Worger, William South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Pearson/Longman Harlow UK 2004)

Hunt, Lynn Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution
(Berkeley Ca, University of California Press 2004)

Levi, Eliphas The History of Magic [Translated by A.E. Waite]
(York Beach, Maine, Weiser Books 1991)

Pike, Albert Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Charleston NC, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., S.M.J. 1871)

Popkin, Jeremy A Short History of the French Revolution 4th edition
(Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson/Prentice Hill 2006)

Ridley, Jasper The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society
(New York NY, Arcade Publishing 2001)

Roth, Philip Masonry in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799
(Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of Milwaukee Wisconsin, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin 1927)

Van Gorden, John Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry
(Bloomington, Ill., The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., N.M.J. 1985)

Wood, Gordon The Radicalism of the American Revolution
(New York, NY Vintage Books 1991)

Web Pages

Gershfield, Aaron “South African Freemasonry” ,

M.’. W.’. Groenewald, George “A History of South African Freemasonry”,

Bro. Lemmon-Warde, Desmond “Freemasonry-Uniting Men even During Apartheid”,

To Be Continued.....

Monday, August 17, 2009


Written by:
Dist. Piers A. Vaughan, 32°, PSP, PMWM, MSA
Valley of New York

The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction suffers a peculiar handicap to continuity, in that the Rose-Croix Degrees, like a Siamese twin in the hands of a doctor, have been summarily sliced into two. We have the Council of Princes and the Rose-Croix. The four Degrees, from the 15th to the 18th, are so joined together in teaching and spirit that it is almost unimaginable how they could have become separated.

These four degrees teach the life and works of Christian Rosenkreutz, the symbolic Master of the Rose-Croix movement of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Profoundly influential, the manifestos which covered the legendary life and teachings of this avatar drew upon the currents of the Renaissance and the increasing pull away from the ecclesiastical tyranny of the 15th and 16th Centuries, one might almost wonder if the 15th – 18th numbers assigned to these four Degrees reflect the centuries they represent in macrocosm.

The 15th Degree reflects the early life of the leader of the Rose-Croix ,who is described as being raised in poverty and servitude following the early demise of his parents, in a monastery, until he realizes his calling and agrees to accompany an elder Brother to Jerusalem. This is symbolized in the Degree by Zerubbabel receiving his calling at the mystical age of 40, and his setting forth to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. The 16th Degree sees the trials and tribulations undergone as the noble few seek to raise the edifice in the face of danger and vexation, just as Christian Rosenkreutz suffered the loss of his companion, and pushed forward to Jerusalem alone, to work on building his spiritual Temple. The 17th Degree – as was – followed the tradition of Rosenkreutz seeking knowledge form the East and the West, in Damcar (Damascus), Alexandria, and Fez, before retuning in the 18th Degree to found the Invisible College, or Chapter of Rose-Croix, in which the gentle and educated members practiced healing of the sick, and that gratis. This used to be seen in the beautiful and inspiring Knight of the East and West, which was a perfect prelude to the 18th Degree, in which the significance of the number 7 was revealed by Revelation. Sadly this Degree is no more – another victim of ‘progress’.

Today you will experience the 14th Degree, a profound starting point to this series of Degrees. I want to give you one or two things to look out for, because this is truly a story which functions on two levels.

You will learn how one among the Jews enduring captivity in Babylon for ‘three score years and ten’, or 70 years – a number fraught with symbolism in the Old Testament, a prince of the people by the name of Zerubbabel, or ‘Truth’, has a revelation or an epiphany at the age of 40 (another symbolic number – think of the 40 days of the Flood, or the 40 days of temptation of Jesus of Nazareth) came to realize his mission in life was to lead his people back to Jerusalem, there to rebuilt the Temple to God. He pleads his case before a most enlightened monarch, Cyrus, who realizes that all worship the One True Living God (a particularly poignant concept given the wars being fought over the ruins of Babylon in Iraq even now between rival factions who are nevertheless all ‘People of the Book’). To determine if Zerubbabel has the stamina and leadership qualities to bring his people across the desert, through the wild lands, and finally to retake their country from the brigands and ne’er-do-wells who now inhabit it, he tests Zerubbabel three times – by Air, Earth and Fire – or Word, Gold and Immolation. Zerubbabel passes the tests and is permitted to leave. Note that trials by Water is missing, as this will come later, but not in this story.

What do I mean by Air? The first trial is the simplest in appearance, but the most insidious of all. Zerubbabel simply has to breathe, to aspirate, if you will, the Master Masons’ word, and the other tests will not be applied. He only has to whisper it and he will be spared. But he does not, and he is exposed to the temptations of the flesh: not in terms of lust and avarice, but of pride, that most devious of sins. Nobody would ever know – he would be a hero to his people. And yet…he would be a whited sepulcher, noble without but corrupt within. Hardly a suitable stone for the edifice of the spiritual temple! He refuses, and now he faces purification by fire. Truth is purified, and now he is worthy to lead his people. Mysteriously, he is now offered the gold once more and this time he accepts it. What can this mean?

We have just witnessed spiritual alchemy. This is the essential point of this degree. Eugenius Philalethes, in his Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King, says: “Gold, then, is the one true principle of purification. But our gold is twofold; one kind is mature and fixed, the yellow Latten, and its heart or center is pure fire, whereby it is kept from destruction, and only purged in the fire.” We see that the gold must be subjected to fire to become purified. The gold referred to is the spiritual nature of man, which must undergo purification to become refined and acceptable to God. He says further, that: “We are told by the Sages that corporal gold is dead…”. So was the gold shown to Zerubbabel in the Treasure Apartments of the palace. “Remove the impurities, look upon the face of the King's Son; open your treasury, give to him gold”. So what was this gold which the would-be builder rejected, only to accept after facing fire?

“The Sages say that common gold is dead, while theirs is living”. Ah, now we begin to see! The gold that Zerubbabel beheld in the Treasury was dead. It was but lumps of gilded metal, tempting to the base seeker of wealth, but meaningless to him who seeks the spiritual. Once Zerubbabel, or ‘Truth’ is purified in elemental fire, he is now offered the ‘living gold’. This is not pieces of gold to enrich him, but living gold, fashioned to the service of God. He now perceives the true worth of this ‘living gold’ which has passed through the furnace of the athanor, and is now fit to be used in the service of God. Zerubbabel freely accept the gift of living, or transmuted gold, for through his own transmutation he now recognizes the truth of the gold he sees. For it has been transmuted with him into physical vessels for the service in the Temple, just as he is…

And finally, and interesting stage direction: “Daniel throws his arm about Zerubbabel’s shoulders and places his right hand on his head. then he raises it to Heaven and dropping it makes the sign of Delta.”

What is this Delta? It is a triangle. In the ritual reenactment we had Daniel trace an upward-pointing triangle over Zerubbabel’s head. Why? It is the ancient elemental sign of fire….

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the Mystery of Numbers

Numbers have always fascinated humans. Numbers seem to have a life of their own and they speak a unique language that if we can comprehend what the numbers are trying to say they may reveal untold mysteries to us.

We begin with zero (0) the great void a vast expanse of nothingness yet pregnant with the potential of everything than can and will be. It is the Ain that precedes the first emanation on the Tree of Life. It is the unknowable that gave birth to the knowable. It is the Fool of the Tarot walking along the edge of a cliff with no cares or concerns. It is unencumbered possibility. It is represented by the Ouroboros the serpent swallowing its own tail in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It is the Alpha that precedes alpha and it is the Omega beyond omega. It does not recognize the impossibility of things since it is the source of all things and all things are possible.

One (1) is the first emanation on the Tree of Life known as Kether. It embodies the all and gives birth to all of the Sephirot on the Tree. All is in the one and the one is in the all. As Dumas wrote; Omnia pro Unum, Unum pro Omnia. It is Aleph and alpha. And yes, sometimes it’s the loneliest of numbers.
One catches a glimpse of itself, perhaps in a reflection upon the surface of still water and suddenly it is awakened to the possibility of two (2) or duality. There are some who see in two conflict and strife as forces oppose one another. But there is harmony in duality as opposites engage in a dithyramb where neither partner is quite so strong save when they are entwined like dervishes in a whirl. Heat & cold, left & right, black & white, solution & dissolution, Boaz & Jachin, Adam & Eve, horizontals & perpendiculars, yin & yang, the yoni & the lingham, order & chaos, heaven & hell. The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Bet who became angry at God for being number 2. But God said to Bet, I have bigger plans for you. And we find that the first letter of the first word in the first sentence of the Torah is “Bereishit bara Elohim, In the beginning…”

Three (3) restores the stability rent by the duality of the two. It is Gimel the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, signifying camel. In ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ, the word for camel and rope was one and the same, gamal, relying on context for clarity. Translators not knowing the difference gave us "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God", Gimel, having been translated as camel instead of rope. Which, when corrected, would yield, "It is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Osiris, Isis, and Horus; Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. We find that Dante’s great work, The Divine Comedy is divided into three sections: The Inferno, The Purgatorio and The Paradisio. Masonically we learn of the three great orders of architecture, the Ionic, the Doric and the Corinthian, the three Great Lights and the three Lesser Lights. The entire system of the Royal Arch Degrees is rooted in the number three. In childhood many of our fairy tales and stories pay homage to the number three. We learn of those three visually impaired rodents whose appendages were severed by the wife of the farmer. And what of those three porcine architects whose homes were destroyed by the wolf save the last who built his home out of mortar and brick. Hmmm, perhaps he was a master builder. In the night sky three stars are to found in the belt of the constellation Orion which aligns themselves perfectly with the three pyramids on the plains of Giza in Egypt.

With four (4) we encounter the quaternary principle. The square a symbol representative of the order of the material world as three is representative of the spiritual. Here we are taught, by some traditions that the sacred name of deity is often comprised of four letters: in German = Gott, in Spanish = Dios, in French = Dieu, in Hebrew Yod Heh Vav Heh, INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum or esoterically – Ignis Natura Renovatur Integra (Through Fire Nature is reborn whole), in Greek=Theos, in Norse mythology = Odin and in Chaldean = Baal. It is the sacred Tetragrammaton the four letter name of God that is common to so many cultures.

Five (5) Here we arrive at the number of man symbolized by the five pointed star, each point of the star representing one of the four elements and the fifth point representing pneuma or spirit. It brings to mind DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man with his arms outstretched bound by a circle enclosed within a square. His passions have been circumscribed by the compasses and his actions squared by the square of virtue. Here too we move from the Tetragrammaton to the pentagrammaton where the letter shin is inserted in the middle of the Tetragrammaton yielding Yod-Heh-ShinVav-Heh or Ieheshua.

Six (6) The hexagram is referred to as the Star of David, Mogen David or the Seal of Solomon. It is a six pointed star that was in use thousands of years ago before it became the symbol of Israel. It is found on many Hindu Temples and is use to suggest the perfect balance between God and man which, if achieved, can lead to perfect happiness or Nirvana. Contained in this simple symbol are the symbols for the elements of earth, air, fire and water.

On the Tree of Life six is represented by the Sephira Tippareth which represents beauty. If we overlaid a Masonic Temple with the Tree of Life with Kether assigned to the East then the Great Light in Masonry would be sitting in the beauty of Tippareth, aligned with the Junior Warden’s Station whose duty is to observe the Sun at meridian, which is the glory and beauty of the day.

Seven (7) Considered by some to be a number of good fortune. Here the triad of the spiritual world meets the quaternary principle of the material world. Again we encounter one of the teachings of Freemasonry as it relates to the seven liberal arts. Seven, like three is a spiritual number but implies the knowledge and the mystery of magick of adeptship as exemplified by the degree that was conferred today that of Adeptus Exemptus. I see the number seven in the aprons worn by Master Masons. The basic apron is a square with a triangular flap that is attached to the upper edge; this gives us an apron with seven sides: three over four. It reminds me of the supernal triad of Kether, Chokmah and Binah that hovers above Chesed, Geburah, Netzach and Hod with Tippareth in the center of the square. The seven can be found everywhere in our culture: the Seven deadly sins, the seven dwarfs, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the seven year itch, and the House of Seven Gables which was associated with the witches of Salem Massachusetts. Among the Ismailis, a sect of Islam, there is the adherence to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Purity & cleanliness, Prayer, Guardianship of the faith, tithing, fasting during Ramadan, Hajj to Mecca and Struggle. When at prayer, our Moslem Brothers make seven points of contact with the earth: their feet, knees, hands and head touch the earth when offering up their devotions. It is also the time for reflection and rest to evaluate all that has been accomplished in the preceding numbers, for did not God rest and reflect on the seventh day?

Eight (8) All music from Bach to Bernstein stem from a musical notation system of eight notes. Every hymn, every symphony, every opera, fugue and concerto are rooted in eight simple tones whose infinite variations have given us a world of music. Eight is the number of judgment, material progress and success. When eight appears in our lives or in our cards it means that we are on the verge of completion.

Nine (9) Nine is the elevated and enlightened three. Divine wisdom in its fullest form. It reminds us of the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (painting), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry or hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy) and Urania (astronomy and science). In Norse mythology, Odin hangs from the tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to learn of the power and the wisdom of the earth mother. Here too he received the runes and became knowledgeable of their magical powers. The nine days that Odin hung from the Sacred Tree is symbolic of the nine months that are so sacred to women in childbirth.

Finally, a quote from Galileo:

“The Book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Its symbols are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is impossible to understand a single word; without which there is only a vain wandering through a dark labyrinth.”

Ill. Clifford Jacobs, 33°
Valley of New York

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The 29th Degree: Knight of Saint Andrew

A Historical Perspective of the 29th Degree
Mete Talimcioglu, 32°,MSA
Valley of New York City

The 29th Degree, Knight of St. Andrew, takes place in the interior of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Patras, Greece. The year is 1396 A.D., the age of the Crusades. The western crusader army, while advancing towards the east to Jerusalem (literally means “city of peace”), clashes with the mighty army of the 4th Ottoman Sultan, Beyazid I, also known to Turks as “Yildirim”, the thunderbolt. The theater is Nicopolis (Nigbolu) in present day Bulgaria.

The Battle of Nicopolis took place in 1396 between a French-Hungarian Alliance and the Ottoman Empire. This campaign, as recorded in history as the Crusade of Nicopolis, was the largest and the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages.

In 1394, Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new crusade against the Turks, which resulted in an alliance between France and Hungary to join forces. The 100,000-strong army of French-Hungary Alliance under the command of both King Sigismund of Hungary and John de Nevers of France faced the equally strong Ottoman army under the command of Sultan Yildirim Beyazid at Nicopolis on September 25, 1396. The French commanders, not being aware of ingenious Turkish war tactics, led the Alliance army to its ultimate defeat. Among those defeated, John de Vienne, Admiral of France, was killed in action, while John de Nevers, Enguerrand VII de Coucy (son-in-law of King Edward III of England) and Jean Le Maingre, Marshal of France, were captured.

The main theme of the 29th Degree Drama focuses on the fictionalized events, which take place after the capture of the chivalric Knights of the Alliance. Sultan Beyazid receives at his temporary court, set in the interior of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, several chivalric Knights who belong to the Order of St. Andrew. Quoting from the prophet Mohammed, “Thou shalt not degrade noble enemies!”, the Sultan immediately unchains the Knights and provides a respectful opportunity to eventually set them free. While the incidents portrayed in this degree are not historical in fact, the lesson taught in the drama – Toleration - is one of the great tenets of Freemasonry. This degree is unique in the sense that it is the only Scottish Rite degree where religious tolerance, particularly between Christianity and Islam, the second largest monotheistic religion in the world, is emphasized.

While witnessing this deeply touching drama, one might immediately ask the question: “What is the correlation of St. Andrew, an Apostle of Christ, with the romanticized Knights of the Crusaders as portrayed in this degree?” The author believes that the answer lies in the legends of St. Andrew: Very little is really known about St Andrew, except that he is the first Apostle, a fisherman by trade, brother of Simon Peter (St. Peter, the founder of the Christian Church). He was also a devout follower of St. John the Baptist, the Patron of Freemasons. Born in Bethsaida in Galilee (now part of Israel), St. Andrew traveled with Jesus, and preached his teachings both before and after Jesus’ death. St. Andrew is said to have been instrumental for spreading the tenets of the Christian religion through Asia Minor and Greece.

Today, St. Andrew is recognized as the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated by the Scots around the world on November 30 of each year. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew, which is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity in Scotland. How did St. Andrew become the Patron of Scotland? Tradition suggests that the Apostle was put to an agonizing death by the Romans in Patras, Greece, by being pinned to a diagonal shape (X-shaped) cross called a “Saltire” that appears on the Scottish Flag. The remains of this cross are currently on display in the St. Andrew Cathedral in Patras, Greece (picture was taken by the author during a visit there).

Upon crucifixion, the bones of the Apostle were entombed for about 300 years, and were later moved by Constantine the Great to his new Capital, Constantinople (renamed by Turks as Istanbul during the reign of Yildirim Beyazid, long before the capture of the city by Mehmet II, the Conqueror, on May 29, 1453). Legend tells that a Greek Monk, called St. Regulus (Rule), was directed in a dream by an Angel to move and spread the St. Andrew’s remains throughout the world for safe-keeping. St. Rule, dutifully following these directives, removes a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from St. Andrew’s tomb, and transports these relics as far away as he could. Legend also suggests that St. Rule shipwrecks on the East Coast of Scotland at a Pictish settlement, which later became the town of St. Andrews. Perhaps more likely than the Legend of St. Rule, the Bishop of Hexham, who was a renowned collector of relics, brought these precious body parts to St. Andrews in about 733 A.D. The relics were kept in a Chapel, which later became a Cathedral that was a pilgrimage center of religious focus in Scotland. There are other legends of how St. Andrew and his remains became associated with Scotland (which might potentially include the infamous San Greal or Sang Real legend of the Knights Templar, which recently became the center of attention in the media through Dan Brown’s bestseller: Da Vinci Code).
One of the legends tells us when the Pictish King Angus faced a large invading army, he prayed for guidance. A white cloud in the form of a Saltire floated across the blue sky above him; whereby Angus won a decisive victory. He then proclaimed Andrew would be the Saint of his country. The historical fact is that following Robert Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Declaration of Arbroath officially named St. Andrew the Patron Saint of Scotland, and the Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.

Masonic scholars have long sought and often correlated the origin of the Craft with the Knights Templar (a.k.a., Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon) who presumably found refuge at Scotland after the dissolution of the Order by Pope Clement V on Friday, October 13, 1307. The first Scottish King, Robert I (a.k.a., Robert the Bruce) accepted the Templar warrior-monks in the ranks of his own army during his quarrel with the English. Historical records point that the Templar's assistance was vital in the victory of Bruce over the King of England, Edward II. Legend tells us Bruce has created an Order called the Order of St. Andrew of Scotland, shortly thereafter his victory.

A more historically known and relatively recent Order of St. Andrew or the “Most Ancient Order of the Thistle” was established, reportedly on the ruins of an ancient Order, by James VII of Scotland in 1687. This Order was restricted to the King and Queen and sixteen others. The Order of the Thistle represents the highest honor in Scotland, and it is second only in precedence to the Order of the Garter. Order’s badge contains an engraving of the Patron Saint of Scotland. The breast plate consists of a silver Saltire with a pointed ray between each of the arms of the cross. At the centre is a gold medallion contained in an enameled representation of the thistle, surrounded by a green border on which the Order's motto is written in gold. The motto is 'Nemo me impune lacessit' (No one harms me with impunity).

The main character of the 29th Degree Drama among the chivalric Knights is Sire De Coucy, a French Knight who also held the title of the 1st Earl of Bedford due to his marriage to the English King Edward’s daughter Isabella Pantagenet. Upon his marriage, De Coucy was inducted into the Order of Garter. Sire De Coucy held various offices, such as Governor of Britanny, Grand Butler of France and Marshal of France. He was considered to be the most skilled and experienced of all the Knights of France. During his campaign in the Battle of Nicopolis, Sire De Coucy was taken prisoner by the Turks. He died of bubonic plague at age 56 on February 18, 1397 near Bursa (then Ottoman Capital) in Anatolia while participating in the last medieval crusade. His body was returned to France and buried at the Abbey of Villeneuve, near Soissons.

As for Sultan Yildirim Beyazid, he too could not escape his misfortune of being captured as a prisoner by Timur, the lame (a.k.a., Timurlenk), a Mongol warlord who galloped from the steppes of Asia with his Turkic Tatar army. In the Battle of Ankara on July 20, 1402, Beyazid was captured by Timur, and was subjected to constant degradation by being held in a cage, with which Timur carried as a trophy. History records that the Great Sultan died in that cage – some accounts claim he committed suicide – about a year after his capture.