Tuesday, 1 March 2011

From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite: The Search for Lost Knowledge within Freemasonry - Part 4

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Freemason Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an avid researcher into the occult; he was interested in spiritualism and investigated the supernatural, an example being his work on the Cottingley Fairies. More famous now for his Sherlock Holmes Adventure - in which he frequently referred to Freemasonry and gentlemen's clubs (such as the enigmatic fictional Diogenes Club), his writings often reflected Masonic themes in a similar way to fellow Freemasons Rudyad Kipling and Henry Rider-Haggard. Haggard was also reputedly a member of The Golden Dawn - an Order founded by Freemasons. These Masonic Occultists are discussed in my second book The Transformation of Freemasonry, along with other prominent Freemasons from the period such as Arthur Edward Waite, searched for hidden knowledge in a similar ways to some of their predecessors like Elias Ashmole; they delved into more esoteric aspects of nature, Waite for example co-designing a Tarot Deck, some of the cards mirroring Masonic themes. Part 5 of the series will be published shortly and conclude the articles.

From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite: The Search for Lost Knowledge - Part 3

'...the Sun is always at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.'

Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers was the father of Modern Freemasonry, and in my first book The Genesis of Freemasonry, I put forward how he modernised the ritual of Freemasonry during the 1720s and created the 'three degrees'. Desaguliers was a natural philosopher, poet, Minister and Freemason, and he he was also a 'disciple' of Sir Isaac Newton. He was certainly interested in Newton's work - an aspect of which was Newton's search for the true dimensions of Solomon's Temple. Desaguliers was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, following the footsteps of other illustrious Freemasons such as Elias Ashmole, Sir Robert Moray and Sir Christopher Wren.
Along with Dr James Anderson, Desaguliers reconstructed the Masonic ritual, creating the three degrees which project the themes of the search for lost knowledge, and the moralistic and majestic story of Hiram Abiff. Part 4 of my posts will look at how Victorian Freemasons also searched for lost knowledge.

From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite: The Search for Lost Knowledge - Part 5

Arthur Edward Waite was a Freemason, Occultist and was the co-designer for the famous Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. He was a member of the Golden Dawn and wrote many works on Freemasonry and mysticism. My second book The Transformation of Freemasonry discusses his career; his desire to search for lost knowledge being similar to other Freemasons of the late Victorian period and mirroring the work by earlier Masons such as Elias Ashmole and Robert Moray. Waite's Tarot designs incorporated Masonic symbolism and Masonic themes - his Masonic interests being revealed on the High Priestess card for example, with the 'B' and 'J' on the two pillars standing for 'Boaz' and 'Jachin' - the two pillars of Solomon's Temple, and in the Wheel of Fortune card - which is described in the Fellowcraft degree in English Emulation ritual.
Esoteric Freemasons such as Waite wanted to explore all aspects of the Craft, they wanted to search for that what which was lost by looking deeper into the history, the symbolism and the philosophy of Masonry, and their search should be an example to us today.

From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite: The Search for Lost Knowledge within Freemasonry - Part 2

Sir Christopher Wren by Godfrey Kneller - Wren can be seen holding a compass over the plans for St. Paul's Cathedral

Sir Christopher Wren was an early Freemason who, like Elias Ashmole, searched constantly for lost knowledge, especially concentrating on the divinity of architecture. Like Sir Isaac Newton (who was also a Fellow of the Royal Society), Wren searched for the true measurement of Solomon's Temple, working on a design for the Temple. This search for the true dimensions of the Temple and his interest in classical architecture influenced his work on St Paul's Cathedral in London, the building of which attracted many renowned 'operative' Freemasons of the period such as the Stone and the Strong family. My first book The Genesis of Freemasonry discusses Wren's work and presents evidence of him being a Freemason, and also puts forward how the Cathedral became a symbolic representation of Solomon's Temple in London, which was seen as a new Jerusalem. The search for the divine cubit influenced one particular Freemason to re-design the Masonic ritual and create the 'three degree' ritual of Modern Freemasonry - he is discussed - along with the evidence presented in The Genesis of Freemasonry, and I will feature him in part 3 of the blog post.