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.