The Roots of the American Nation
Thomas Paine, as well as Franklin, Jefferson and Washington,*
belonged to the movement called Freemasonry which in its modern "speculative" form began in London on June 24, 1717 The influence of Freemasonry on the minds of educated men in Europe and the Colonies can hardly be overestimated. But to understand this influence on the collective mentality of a large proportion of the eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century intellectual and political classes, we have to take into consideration the fact, so often ignored or downgraded by historians, that throughout the development of the European culture, a series of usually ill-fated but oft-repeated attempts have been made to prolong and keep alive these aspects of the pre-Christian Near Eastern culture which the Fathers of the Church, in Alexandria and Syria, had sought ruthlessly to suppress.
We can lump the various movements against which the builders of Christian orthodoxy fought under the general term of Gnosticism; but there were many kinds of Gnostics, some linked with the Hermetic movement in Egypt, others with what, at a later period, was set down as the Hebrew Kabballah and no doubt was influenced by the old Chaldeans' wisdom of Babylon. Still other Gnostic groups sought to prolong the Orphic, Eleusian, neo-Pythagorean and neo-Platonic traditions, and even the teachings of the Buddhist missionaries who, in the time of the great Indian King Asoka, had settled on the shores of the Dead Sea.
The Catholic Church was successful in condensing, appropriating and transforming much of the complex esoteric material that had been poured out by the Gnostic "sects," center in what it was able to keep of all these highly intellectual ideas and of the great symbols of the ancient Mysteries around the personage of Jesus Christ, considered the one and only Son of God. After a series of councils in which dissident groups were anathematized, the Church triumphed and became the official religion of the disintegrating Roman Empire, then of the slowly settling down Germanic and Slavic tribes. It also absorbed the old Celtic traditions. But this success was never total. Gnostic movements sprang up here and there during the Middle Ages. The Crusades, by bringing French, English and German noblemen in contact with the still flourishing centers of Near Eastern culture and tradition — especially with the Sufi Movement, which had become the esoteric aspect of Islam(4
) — spurred the spread of mystical and occult movements. This was especially the case in southern France, where the influence of the Mozarabic culture of Islamic Spain, and of kabbalistic doctrines, had been strongly felt. There the Albigenses flourished along Gnostic lines; and in northern France the Order of the Templars also gained in importance and (unfortunately for its members) in wealth.(5
) This led the French monarch to savagely destroy the two movements, with the help of the Pope.
At the same time, and under the influence of similar ancient traditions, the masons who were building the magnificent Gothic cathedrals, under the leadership of architects whose names are mostly lost, incorporated in these cathedrals and their rose windows an immense amount of traditional occult and astrological symbolism. These lodges of "operative" masons were precursors of the lodges of "speculative" Masons which were formed in the early eighteenth century or a little earlier. On June, 24, 1717, a Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, was elected and for the first time given jurisdiction over several Masonic lodges, marking the effective beginning of modern speculative Freemasonry. (It is called "speculative" because it used basic philosophic concepts and symbolic rituals to bring to the intellectual classes of the Western world a free, nondogmatic, nonecclesiastic approach to man, God and the universe.)
A fast-growing network of Masonic lodges became the means whereby the rationalistic and humanistic ideals that for three centuries had been developing in Europe could effectively be propagated. Masonry had reached the American colonies during the seventeenth century, and according to the Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates
(a fascinating mine of information published by T. Y. Crowell Company), in — 1682 one John Skene became the "first Freemason to settle in Burlington, New Jersey. He belonged to the Lodge in Aberdeen, Scotland, and came to the colonies through arrangement with the Earl of Perth, chief 'proprietor' of New Jersey and an outstanding Freemason." Later, in 1730, "Daniel Coxe became the first appointed Grand Master of Masons of the Provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania."
The birth charts of Thomas Paine
, Benjamin Franklin
, Thomas Jefferson
and George Washington
are available for viewing. They may also be found in CyberWorld Khaldea's online Chart Gallery
. Editor. Return
Cf. Shah's book The Sufis
(Doubleday, New York, 1964) for a perhaps exaggerated report of the influence of Sufism over the unofficial aspect of European culture. Return
It was founded in 1118 by the French knights Hugh de Payens and Geoffrey de St. Omer who were taught by representatives of the very old St. John's sect in the Near East. Return
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