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The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at

NOTE: I have supplied section breaks in Part V. These titles are in green type--JBH

p. 373



"Inscriptiones propter quas vadimonium deseri possit: at cum intraveris, Di Deaeque! quam nihil in medio invenies." (Plin. H. N. Praef.)

p. 374 p. 375



Masonic Origins

AT the first sight it is absolutely startling to recognise so many Gnostic (primarily Indian) symbols, figuring so conspicuously amongst the insignia and illustrated formulæ of our Freemasons, and that, too, apparently in their original sense as exponents of the deepest mysteries, human and divine--a circumstance of itself lending a specious colour to the pretensions of the Order to the most venerable antiquity. "Inscriptiones propter quas vadimonia deseri possint. Sed ubi intraveris, Dii Deæque! quam nihil in medio invenies," to quote old Pliny's words in speaking of the charlatans of his day. For the pleasing illusion vanishes when we come to investigate the line of their descent; and the Fraternity, though claiming them as its own legitimate inheritance, turns out at the end a mere daw in borrowed plumes.

To begin by stating these claims, as recently put forward by one of their most zealous and pugnacious defenders: "The mere title may be comparatively modern; for the society in antediluvian (!) and prehistorical times most undoubtedly was not called Freemasonry. But the thing was in existence, and has descended to our own day." "On the arrival of the Romans in Britain, we find Cæsar and several of the Roman generals who succeeded him in the government of the island becoming patrons and protectors of the craft; but there is no information to be found in regard to the usages and customs prevalent among them at that time. Their lodges and conventions were

p. 376

regularly held, but were open only to the initiated fellows. There is enough however to show that the same society which now flourishes everywhere was then in existence, holding lodges and conventions and having its initiated fellows. I may add, that a regular list of Grand Masters can be produced quite as genuine and reliable as that of the Archbishops of Canterbury, or of the Kings of England. If that in itself is not valid evidence enough of the continued existence of the same society in England from the earliest historical period down to the present date, I don't know what would be admitted as sufficient evidence." "Going back to A.D. 300 we find the Emperor Carausius supporting it, and appointing Albanus, his Steward, Grand Master. This was none other than the famous St. Alban, the first British martyr, who was born at Verulam, now St. Albans, in Hertfordshire." *

The above is an unusually brilliant specimen of the logic of the Brotherhood, that assumes in every notice of building and builders to be found in antiquity a recognition of the then existence of their own society exactly as at present constituted. The old guild of working-masons seems to have made pretensions of the same nature (if we allow the genuineness of the supposed Bodleian MS. copied by Locke); for their great patron Henry VI. informs his scholar that "the Mystery was first brought into England by Peter Gower" (Pythagoras)--a corruption of the name, by the way; plainly betraying that he had obtained this piece of information from a French mouth, probably from some one in the suite of his queen. It is not unlikely that this connexion of the Father of Mathematics with the building trade arose from the study of that science by the Greek and Roman architects: for upon the vital importance of a knowledge of Mathematics to his own profession Vitruvius repeatedly and strongly insists. But this very king, whom our Freemasons claim as their chief resuscitator, furnishes the most conclusive evidence against the reality of their modern pretensions. By the advice of the Bishop of Winchester, better known as Cardinal Beaufort, he passed an Act, in his third year, forbidding

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[paragraph continues] Masons to hold lodges or any meetings whatsoever, which protection is clearly directed against no higher things than mere "trade-union" proceedings. But at a later period he showed the Masons more favour, and even attended their meetings, as did his contemporary James I. of Scotland. But the question is set at rest by the language of the Act: * "First, Whereas by the assembling congregations and confederacies made by the Masons in their grand chapters and assemblies the good cause and effect of the Statute of Labourers be openly violated and broken, in subversion of the law and to the great damage of all the commons, our said Lord the King willing in this case to provide remedy by the advice and assent aforesaid, and at the special request of the said commons, hath ordered and established, that such chapiters and congregations shall not be hereafter made, they that cause such chapiters and congregations to be assembled and holden, if they thereof be convict, shall be judged for felons. And that all the other masons that come to such chapiters and congregations, be punished by imprisonment of their bodies, and make fine and ransom at the king's will."


376:* From a letter published in the 'Cork Constitution,' Jan. 15, 1866, by John Milner, B.A., Chaplain to H.M.S. Hector.

377:* 'Statutes at Large,' ed. Keble, 1695. 3 Hen. VI. cap. 1.

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