some stage during Freemasonry’s Second Degree, the candidate is advised that
there is now permitted, something like, the extension of their researches into
the hidden mysteries of nature and science.
Such is an excellent permission and one that each and every Freemason
should pursue with awe and passion.
is a discipline seeking to describe the universe in terms of prediction and
could be suggested that nature and science may be understood in terms of
“nature” being the subject of our study and “science” being the
methodology employed to undertake it. Nature can be understood as being the
material universe, from the sum of solar systems and perhaps larger, to the
smallest measurable particles, or perhaps smaller. Based on mathematical models,
science is a discipline seeking to describe the universe in terms of prediction
and control. Perhaps the logic of this is that, “a” is followed by “b”
where “a” is both necessary and sufficient for “b” (cause and effect, or
perhaps better - contiguity). Research
into “hidden mysteries” would provide understanding of the, as yet, unseen
powers or the, as yet, unmeasured forces that enable the regularities observed
the candidate to affirm a belief... that the earth orbits the sun."
rise of the English Royal Society and that of speculative Freemasonry are
contemporaneous. It would be churlish to deny contiguity; the apotheosis of
which being, the life and work of Dr. John Theosophilus Desaguliers,
Grand Master, Newtonian scholar, chief experimenter of the Royal Society
and involved in major capital
projects based around steam engines for both pumping water from mines and for
providing public water supplies. Also between 1710 – 1723, and perhaps beyond,
a chief mover and shaker in formative English Freemasonry. One of the questions
asked of candidates passing from the First to the Second degree pertains to the
meridian sun’s perpetual countenance of Freemasonry. The response to this
question requires the candidate to affirm a belief in that strange Copernican
claim that the earth orbits the sun.
who can date this ritual? In 1600, Giordano Bruno was murdered by the Church for
maintaining that the earth orbited the sun. Perhaps it was owing to
Freemasonry’s increasingly scientific understanding of nature that, to avoid
the censure of ecclesiastical authority, a culture of secrecy became further
entrenched. However, what could not
be kept secret, or contained, was the military and commercial potential being
unleashed by scientific descriptions of the universe, and the creation of
relationships between groups that would otherwise have been distant. Scientists
sought finance and influence; wealthy people needed the emerging technology to
increase their wealth – a new order in recognition!
gradual transmutation from alchemy to chemistry; astrology to astronomy and from
Providential power to natural forces was something that perhaps had to become an
entity woven into something like, a peculiar system of morality, veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbols. That
is to say, theological and supernatural accounts of natural phenomena were being
replaced by explanations that did not extend beyond space and time.
wealthy and the aristocratic being speculative scientists meeting with operative
Royal Society scientists?"
the Newtonians sought to replace the Church’s theological understanding of
nature and replace it with The Royal Society’s scientific understanding.
Perhaps they believed the scientific study of nature was a superior route to the
throne of God. Non-scientists were, by definition ineligible, for admission into
the Royal Society. Therefore, is it not possible that between the second and
third decades of the 18th Century an attempt was made to facilitate a
working relationship between people of science and technology with aristocrats,
landed gentry and those from the purple of commerce? And, that attempt was
Speculative Freemasonry with the wealthy and the aristocratic being speculative
scientists meeting with operative Royal Society scientists?
in the lives of people and institutions, the social and political role of the
Church was not, in the short or medium term, to be replaced by mathematical
formulae. The description of nature in terms of prediction and control is one
thing, but the political and economic challenge of realising internal peace and
prosperity through control, conformity and compliance is something else. Perhaps
during some time in the third decade of the 18th Century, the
scientists had lost interest in Freemasonry and it then developed into a nexus
to promote internal peace and prosperity. And, had no need to challenge
religious and theological conformance, compliance and control.
the time of the Copernican Revolution, most people believed that the sun orbited
the earth. Of course they did, that was how it looked! However, the challenge is
now to look at the sun and “see” the earth orbiting it. Presumably, this
will require a longer term reconditioning of our perception.
would a providential universe look like; how would an evolutionary universe
perhaps we could consider two universes; one designed by God and one that
evolved as described by Darwin. The question might be asked, would they look
different? What would a
providential universe look like; how would an evolutionary universe look?
In which direction were the influential scientific leaders of Freemasonry
circa 1710-1730 pointing? “Providence” is a power – a personalisation of
the mechanics that maintain matter in motion. Nature is understood to achieve
the same but in terms of a non-personalised energy; at best pantheism but in
reality, non-theism. Perhaps the pantheism and the Arianism of the early decades
of the 18thC are but veils covering non-theism and allegorically alluded to in
vague notions of great architects and supreme beings.
would a world created by Providence look different from a world seen through
Quantum eyes? Particles can be understood as being both mass and energy in
motion and waves being but energy. However,
it may well be the case that particles and waves are different manifestations of
the same entity. Perhaps the role of the observer is a significant issue for
understanding nature; now, and in the future. Will we ever progress beyond
symbols, and what might that look like?
Freemasonry of that time was a giant step for modernity as achieved through the
alchemic wedding of the Royal Society minds made for the universe and the souls
of the aristocracy seeking to gain increasing wealth from an application of the
description of nature in terms of prediction and control - technology.
for some short time, Freemasonry can be understood as beating a path to the
frontiers of scientific knowledge and its commercial application. This was
perhaps reinforced by Freemasonry beating a path to the frontiers of the art of
civil governance. However, we
remain variously charged and obligated to understand natural phenomena in
scientific due form. Before that though, as Freemasons, surely we are people
perceiving nature in awe and wonder: the night sky, an eruption of Etna, the
wings of a butterfly. As Freemasons,
signed up to heliocentric theory, we have learnt to understand what is the case
rather than appearances. We seek explanations that are other than explaining the
unexplained by postulating the inexplicable.
the geocentric and heliocentric theories must look different, so should the
lives of Freemasons."
there is a choice is to be made. Freemasons may choose to describe nature in
terms of Providence where there is a power that existed before space and time,
which currently exists outside of space, has the controlling hand over space
through time and will exist when time is no more. Or, there is an understanding
of nature within space and time that does not seek to extend beyond that
paradigm. Whichever choice is made,
as the geocentric and heliocentric theories must look different, so should the
lives of Freemasons. Many purport a belief in entities beyond space and time but
live for the moment, the here and now. And, seem to be devoid of an appreciation
of nature in terms of awe and passion.
is time for Freemasons to face up to the challenge of nature and science and its
application to human freedom that can be understood as enhancing wealth subject
to equitable distribution and a sustainable management of the environment. We
have to be perceived as being Freemasons, the appearances and the reality being
unified. We are what we do, and we cannot produce square work by cutting corners.