When I first went through the 2nd
degree and heard these words from the W. Master “..you are now permitted to
extend your researches into the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science” I was
struck by the absurdity of it. Here I am, a medical doctor, whose very
profession required the study of the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science
being told I am now permitted to do so. All of us, in our high school days, have
been exposed to the study of science and mathematics, and therefore have been
exposed to the study of the Hidden mysteries of Nature and Science. So why this
admonition? In addition to this encouragment to study the hidden mysteries of
nature and science, we were also urged to study the seven liberal Arts, which
consisted of Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and
Astronomy. Are these hidden calls to actually look at the rituals with a logical
mind? Is that possible?
As this call came in the Second Degree ritual, where better to start for one’s
search than the Second Degree.
There is this short little piece in the Second Degree that’s from the Bible. The
piece about Joshua stopping the sun. It is from Joshua 10:12-14, and I quote it
On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke
to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon
stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written
in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set
for about a whole day.
Prior to this, there is this odd series of questions and answers by the
candidate seeking to be passed to the 2nd degree.
WM- Where were you made a Mason?
Candidate – In the body of the Lodge, just, perfect and regular.
WM – And when?
Candidate – When the sun was at its meridian.
WM. – In this country Freemasons’ Lodges are usually held in the Evening; how do
you account for that which at first view appears a paradox?
Candidate – The earth constantly revolving on its axis in its orbit round the
sun and Freemasonry being universally spread over its surface, it necessarily
follows that the sun must always be at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.
Obviously, this little series of Qs and As serves to bring home to the candidate
that Freemasonry is spread all over the globe. But this point has already been
made to the candidate in the 1st degree in the North East Corner lecture, when
these words are said, “ … In a society so widely extended as Freemasonry, the
branches of which are spread over the four quarters of the globe…” So what’s the
point of that series of Qs and As regarding the Sun and the Meridian?
When one applies the knowledge as expressed in this series of questions and
answers, particularly that part which said, “ The earth constantly revolving on
its axis in it orbit around the sun” to the incident of Joshua stopping the sun.
The obvious answer is, if that had happened, it would have been the earth which
had stopped rotating to give the appearance of the sun and moon having stopped
in their passages across the heavens. What would have been the result of the
earth stopping its rotation about its axis? As we were urged to study logic,
geometry and astronomy, let us apply these knowledge to get at the answer.
The answer is quite interesting. The earth’s circumference at the equator is
about 25000 miles, or 40000 Km. Given that the earth rotates once in 24 hours,
this means that the surface of the earth at the equator is traveling at just
over 1000 mph or around 1670 kph. At Jericho, a city which is just south of 32
degree latitude, the speed would be 1000 mph times cosine of 32 degree, which
gives a speed of around 850 mph, or 1416 kph. I am sure you all know what happen
when a car traveling at 100 kph stops suddenly. Everything in the car that is
not held down will jerk forward suddenly. I need not dilate on what would have
happened should the earth stopped in its rotation suddenly from a speed of 1000
Let us now look at the Biblical passages which is the source from which the
Second Degree Tracing Board lecture regarding King Solomon’s Temple came.
In 1 Kings 7:13 we read this “Now King Solomon invited and received Hiram from
Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, whose father, a man of
Tyre, had been an artisan in bronze; he was full of skill, intelligence, and
knowledge in working bronze. He came to King Solomon, and did all his work.”
And in 1 Kings 7:21 we read this, “And he set up the pillars in the porch of the
temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and
he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.”
Then in 1 Kings 7:23, it says “And he made a molten sea, 10 cubits from the one
brim to the other: [it was] round all about, and his height [was] five cubits:
and a line of 30 cubits did compass it round about.” 2 Chronicles 4:2 “Also he
made a molten sea of 10 cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five
cubits the height thereof; and a line of 30 cubits did compass it round about.”
Clearly, in both Kings and Chronicles, the pillars were described as 10 cubits
in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference. But in our Second Degree Tracing
Board, there are the words, and I quote verbatim from it: ”…their circumference
12 (cubits), their diameter 4.” Why did the ritual writers changed what was
obvious in both Kings and Chronicles from a diameter of 10 cubits to 4 cubits,
and a circumference from 30 cubits to 10 cubits? Were the ritual writers trying
to draw our attention to these numbers by actually changing them but keeping the
ratio between them the same? Whether the circumference was 30 cubits or 12, and
the diameter was 10 or 4 respectively, they still gave a value of pi as 3, when
we know pi is 3.1416. The ancient Egyptians thought pi was 3.16045, and the
Babylonians thought it was 3.125. Both these civilizations had a much more
accurate value for pi in 2000 BC than that as recorded in the Bible in King
Solomon’s time, which was around 500 B.C.
The Second Degree also points us to another Biblical passage. The story of
Jephtha and the Ephraimites was recounted. That story came from Judges 12. In
the lecture in our ritual, it just touched on something called the Ammonitish
war. How many of you have wondered about the Ammonitish war and wanted to know
the events surrounding it? That war was recorded in Judges 11. Between the
description of why there was this Ammonitish war and the events associated with
the slaughter of the Ephraimites, our ritual left out something. Is the call to
use logic and science a call that we should look at the Bible and discover what
Judges11:1-28 described who was Jephtha. We were told that he was an outcast
because his mother was a prostitute. We were also told the reason for the war
and how the Children of Israel recalled Jephtha to help them fight the war.
Judges 12, the next chapter described how the Ephraimites had wanted to partake
of the spoils of the victory and how they were punished. But our ritual lecture
left out what happened between Judges Chapter 11 verse 29 and verse 40, which is
the end of Chapter 11, just before Chapter 12.
This is what’s recorded in Judges 11:29-40 “Then the Spirit of the LORD came
upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh
of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over [unto] the children of
Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without
fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that
whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in
peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer
it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon
to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote
them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, [even] twenty cities, and unto
the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of
Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh
unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and
with dances: and she [was his] only child; beside her he had neither son nor
daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and
said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them
that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
And she said unto him, My father, [if] thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD,
do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as
the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, [even] of the children
of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me
alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my
virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away [for] two
months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the
mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto
her father, who did with her [according] to his vow which he had vowed: and she
knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, [That] the daughters of Israel went
yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.”
In other words, Jephthah made a bargain with God, that should he win the war
against the Ammonites, he would offer up as a burnt sacrifice the first living
being that greets him on his return to his home. That living being happened to
be his daughter.
Are there any more stories in our rituals that came from the Bible?
In the Craft Lodge, there is at least one more, and it raises a moral question.
In the First Degree, there was a story which briefly mentioned David in these
words, and I quote, “the many pious prayers and ejaculations of King David,
which actually appeased the wrath of God, and stayed a pestilence which then
raged among his people, owing to his inadvertently having had them numbered.”
This came from 1 Chronicles 21. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked
David to number Israel….And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he
smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have
done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant;
for I have done very foolishly. And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer,
saying, Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three
[things]: choose thee one of them, that I may do [it] unto thee. So Gad came to
David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee Either three years'
famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of
thine enemies overtaketh [thee]; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even
the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all
the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again
to him that sent me And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall
now into the hand of the LORD; for very great [are] his mercies: but let me not
fall into the hand of man. So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there
fell of Israel seventy thousand men. And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to
destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of
the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine
hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the
Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand
between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out
over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders [of Israel, who were] clothed in
sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, [Is it] not I [that]
commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil
indeed; but [as for] these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray
thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people,
that they should be plagued. Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to
David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the
threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
That story was from 1 Chronicle 21:1-14.
In other words, this story was about David having ordered a census of his
people, and God was angry at it. 70000 Israelites were then killed in a
pestilence sent by God, and God was about to destroy Jerusalem as well when
David said to God, “It was I who had done wrong, why punish the innocents. It
is I and my family who should be punished, not those innocent people.” This
raises a fundamental question of who has a better grasp of the concept of moral
Incidentally, in Numbers 1:1-2, it is written “The Lord spoke to Moses in the
wilderness of Sinai…Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites, in
their clans, by ancestral houses…” So the taking of census was not in and of
By emphasizing the use of our intellect and coming up with those passages from
the Bible in our rituals, are our rituals trying to tell us something? Or am I
reading too much into it?
Nobody knows when Freemasonry began. The Grand Lodge of England was formed
officially in 1717. But our Craft has definitely existed before then. Various
manuscripts have documented the existence of our Craft definitely by the 1600’s.
Let us look at the intellectual climate of Europe around that time. Perhaps that
could help answer the question posed above, whether I am reading too much into
Martin Luther set off the Reformation with his 95 Thesis purportedly nailed to
the door of Castle Church in 1517. Galileo published his “Dialogue on the two
chief world systems” in 1632 where he argued for the Copernican heliocentric
world view, that the earth rotates on its axis and circles the sun at the same
time, for which later that year, he was summoned by the Holy Office and was
forced to recant from that thesis, or otherwise he would be tortured! At roughly
the same time, in central Europe, between the years 1618-1648, the religious
wars which started at first between the German Catholic princes against the
Protestants but which later engulfed a large part of Europe, came to be known as
The Thirty Years’ War.
Henry VIII separated the English Church from Rome. After his daughter Elizabeth
I came to the throne, from 1563 on, successive legislation, starting with the
(second) Act of Supremacy, required an oath from all subjects that the monarch
was the Supreme Governor of the Church and any refusal was punishable by death.
Catholics continued their religion in secret and the great houses were equipped
with secret rooms where Mass would still be celebrated by priests smuggled in
from the Continent and using false names. After her death, James I became king.
The situation of the Catholics became worse. A group of conspirators around Guy
Fawkes attempted to blow up the English Parliament on 5th November 1605.
King Charles I of England was beheaded by Parliament, partly because the
Protestant Parliament did not like the Catholic leaning King.
After Charles was beheaded, for a short period, England was ruled as a Puritan
commonwealth by Parliament under the control of Cromwell. Shortly after
Cromwell’s death, Charles’ son Charles II came back to the throne. Charles II
was succeeded by his brother, James II. James II converted to Catholicism and
was overthrown by the Protestant Parliament in 1688 in what was known as the
Glorious Revolution, when the protestant, William of Orange, the grandson of
Charles I by his daughter, was brought to England to become King William I.
In November 1660, after the restoration to the throne of Charles II, the Royal
Society, the first scientific society in the world was formed. Up to today, the
Royal Society still remains as the premier scientific society in the world.
Incidentally, most of the founding members of the Royal Society were Freemasons.
The motto of the Society is “Nulius in verba” which means “Nothing by mere
authority”. Thus began the Age of Enlightenment. John Locke, one of the founders
of the Royal Society, in his 1690 Letters Concerning Toleration argued for the
rule of law and the separation of Church and State. There was no hard evidence
that he was a mason, however there is on record a letter in which he wrote these
words: "Ö for my own part I cannot deny, that it has so much raised my
curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the fraternity, which I am
determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I am in London, and that
will be shortly." In any case, he was much influenced by Freemasonry, and he in
turn much influenced Voltaire, who was a Mason and was a member of the same
lodge as Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Prior to the formation of the Royal
Society, the eminent scientists of the day formed what has come to be known as
the Invisible College. It was invisible for fear of the Church.
With that brief summary of the history of the period, you can appreciate that in
the one hundred or more years before 1717, the official date of the formation of
the Grand Lodge of England, Europe was in turmoil. The Church was not too happy
with scientific pursuits. Religious wars were rife. The Catholics and the
Protestants were at each other’s throats.
In this intellectual, religious and political climate, there existed this group
known as the Freemasons. In the rituals of this group of men, they accepted all
men of faith, irrespective of them being Protestants or Catholics. This is quite
contrary to the teachings of the official Churches, be it Catholic or
Protestants. At that time, to be contrary to the Church ran the risk of being
put to death in the most unpleasant manner, that of being burnt death. The
Church had an absolute stranglehold on people’s minds and any attempt to free it
ran the risk of incurring the wrath of the Church. Were our forefathers trying
to say, “Use your rational mind, use your rational mind to study religion. If
you do so, your mind will be free.” But they couldn’t say it straight out like
that. Was that the reason for their having to go in their round about way of
I will now give one final example of what I think was our Craft’s circuitous way
of telling people to use their reasoning power to question religious dogma
without actually saying it and running the risk of offending the Powers that
I now draw your attention to the Royal Ark Mariner degree. Even though some of
you might not be in that degree, you might know that that degree was built
around the legend of Noah’s Ark, that’s why it is called the Royal Ark Mariner
degree. In that degree, we were told that Noah had a Porphyry Stone. Now whilst
in most degrees, all objects mentioned have some moral significance, whereas in
the Royal Ark Masonry degree, the mention of the Porphyry Stone has absolutely
no moral lessons attached to it. It was mentioned as a given, that according to
tradition, Noah had it. Using a search engine to search through the Bible, there
was no mention of any Porphyry Stone in Noah’s possession. In fact, the word
Porphyry does not exist in the Bible. The Porphyry stone was just added into the
degree without Biblical justification or moral significance. Why? From whence
has this tradition arisen? Then one day, by chance, while browsing through a
bookshop, I came across this passage in a book concerning an Edict issued by
Emperor Constantine in AD 333.
“Constantine, Victor, Greatest Augustus, to bishops and laity (The heretic)
Arius, having imitated wicked and impious men, deserves to suffer the same loss
of privileges as they. Therefore, just as Porphyry, that enemy of piety who put
together various illegal works against religion, got his just deserts, so that
he was made contemptible forever after and filled full of ill fame, and his
impious books have been obliterated, thus too, we now order that Arius and those
who agree with him shall be called Porphyrians…and besides this, if any book
written by Arius be found, it is to be consigned to the fire, so that not only
his corrupt teachings may vanish, but no memory of him at all may remain.”
Who was Porphyry? He was born in 233 AD in Tyre. In his youth he went to Rome
and studied under Plotinus. He was a famed Neoplatonist who argued we must use
our reasoning power to understand religion. He therefore wrote against the
Church’s anti-rational approach. Eusebius, an early bishop of the Church spoke
out against him and he was branded as a heretic. This led to Constantine Edict
concerning the burning of his books. Porphyry was also a mathematician, having
written books on Euclid’s geometry and Pythagorus.
Again, is this a coincidence or am I reading too much into it? Why does the
ritual mention something about Noah’s possession of the Porphyry Stone when
there was no proof that that was associated with him. The Porphyry Stone is like
an invitation to dig deeper into the matter, and digging deeper into the matter,
it revealed the same result. Porphyry was branded a heretic because he advocated
the use of reason in religion. Did the originator(s) of the Royal Ark Degree
chose the Porphyry Stone precisely because of its possible double meaning? To
those whose follow the precepts of the Craft Degree would ponder on its
significance and come to the correct conclusion. While at the same time, should
the Church come to know of it, it couldn’t be accused of heresy like the
original Porphyry. Is this possible?
Am I reading too much into our rituals? Are our rituals just meant to be
memorized and regurgitated like a parrot? Or,are they meant to be digested and
our minds should be at work deciphering its deeper meaning. Both Porphyry and
the admonition to learn the Seven Liberal Arts and to make the hidden mysteries
of Nature and of Science our studies point in the same direction.
I believe our Craft was at the background of the European Enlightenment that led
to the freeing of the European mind from the shackle of the feudal,
superstitious Church of the Middle Ages, and which ultimately led to the present
flowering of science and technology. It is no coincidence that most of the
founding members of the Royal Society were Freemasons.
But all this could just have been my own speculation, or have I hit upon
something real? Is this the real secret of Freemasonry?
In a paper written by W. Bro. Harry Carr entitled Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual,
he summarized the
development of our Craft Rituals. From the Old Charges, which began with the
Regius Manuscript c. 1390 and the Cooke Manuscript c. 1410, the ritual consisted
of only an Opening Prayer, History of the Craft then a recitation of the Charges
including rules of a purely moral character. That’s all. The documents do not
say there is only one degree, they simply indicate only one ceremony, never more
The first hint that there were two degrees came in the sixteenth century, in the
Harleian Manuscript. In that manuscript, there is one sentence which says,
“There is several words and signs of a free mason to be revealed to you…” That
was in 1550. A few years later, there are actual minutes that recorded two
Then in 1696, we have the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript, which is now in
the Public Record Office of Edinburgh. Here is recorded a candidate going for
two degrees, at the second degree of which he was entrusted with a Word and the
FPOF. There was no Hiram legend. He was made a fellow craft or mason.
The first time when there is unequivocal evidence of the Craft having three
degrees is in a document called the Trinity College, Dublin, Manuscript, date
1711. It clearly described the sign of the EA and the B… word, then the S of F
for the fellowscraft and the J… word, and finally the Master Word. The Hailing
Sign did not appear until about 50 years later. The phrase “Entered, Passed,
Raised and Conformed” first appeared in 1726 in the Graham Manuscript. By 1730,
with Samuel Prichard Masonry Dissected definitely the Three degrees have
become well established.
In the Graham Manuscript, the Third Degree instead of describing about Hiram
Abiff described how three sons went to their father’s grave. They opened the
grave and found the body, which they raised on the five points of fellowship and
one of the sons said, “There is yet marrow in his bone.” This story, in 1726, is
the earliest raising within a Masonic context, but the person raised was not
Hiram, but Noah. The Hiram legend did not come into the ritual until about a few
You can now see how the three degrees came about. It started with the division
of the original first degree into two parts, so that the original second degree
with its FPOF and a WORD moved up into third place, both the second and third
acquiring additional material during the period of change. That was sometime
between 1711 and 1725.
You can now see how the history of the evolution of our Craft supports my
argument that many of the Biblical passages in the ritual actually dates from
the time around the Enlightenment period to suggest in a subtle way the need to
intellectually break free from the stranglehold the Church has on the mind of
the time, thus freeing the minds and brought about the flourishing of science
and technology that we see today.
I therefore can re-instate what I said before. I believe our Craft was at the
background of the European Enlightenment that led to the freeing of the European
mind from the shackle of the feudal, superstitious Church of the Middle Ages,
and which ultimately led to the present flowering of science and technology. It
is no coincidence that most of the founding members of the Royal Society were