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What is Spiritual Freemasonry About?

In 1717, the Premier Grand Lodge was established. Fifteen years later it was renamed the Grand Lodge of England. What was its objective? That is the question the books in the "Spiritual Freemasonry" series answer.

 

England at the time was a God-fearing Christian society, everyone had to attend church on Sunday by law. So it is implausible that a new organization would be set up to promote "a peculiar system of morality," as most people, and especially the aristocracy, would be affronted by the idea.

 

When we look at the social history of the time, we see three major trends: first, a theological argument over immortality, secondly, the Catholic question and finally a fascination with China.

 

In Hogarth's etching (above) we see the Master of the Lodge at the Rummer and Grapes (later called the Horn) leaving a meeting. In 1724 the members of this Lodge included several members of the Royal Society, the Grand Master Lord Paisley, as well as several other Lords, Earls and Barons, together with the future king of Germany. This was not a stonemasons' Lodge. So why did such an elite membership meet in a room above a pub?

In another etching of the day, we can see the friction between Protestants in England and Scotland, and the Catholics of Europe. For nearly 200 years, England had been a Protestant country rules by Catholic kings, and surrounded by other Catholic nations; France, Spain, Ireland and Scotland. This may be the reason that the Tyler carries a sword, to keep off Jacobite spies or those of the Inquisition.

Starting in the 1660s, there was a craze for Chinese things in England, such as tea, chinaware, silk, and furniture. This fascination with China grew so much that, with aristocracy in the vanguard, people started to design Chinese gardens and houses. King George III refurbished Buckingham Palace with several Chinese rooms, and the queen asked that a pagoda be built in Royal Kew Gardens (image left - it is still standing). The Royal Society was studying Chinese, suggesting that its system of meritocracy had important lessons to be learned.

Meanwhile, several new degrees were being performed in London, and later in France, that incorporated Chinese words both as directions and passwords. The satirist, Jonathan Swift, wrote that he believed that modern Speculative Freemasonry was based on Chinese ritual, and the fifth Grand Master, Philip Duke of Wharton, set up his own organization to bring down the Premier Grand Lodge called the Chinese Order of the Gormogons. Again, I refer to an etching by Hogarth that shows that four Chinese mandarins are leading the founders of the Premier Grand Lodge, Anthony Sayer, George Payne and John Desaguliers.

 

What we discover is that Chinese Daoism has an exercise to prove the soul is immortal. This was at a time when people were challenging Church teachings, and even writing books that denied immortality. With the heightened interest in China, that would explain why the intelligentsia of Europe were willing to meet in a room above a pub to hear these new teachings.

 

Analyzing the three degrees of Speculative Freemasonry shows us over twenty correspondences with Daoism, that even China Hands 中國通 recognized but could not pin-point.

 

The four books in the Spiritual Freemasonry series analyze these themes in detail, and explain how the Third Degree teaches of a "life-changing" experience.

 

"A most interesting idea... The historical setting is particularly interesting and engaging, covering the political and religious context of the era."
Freemasonry Today, the journal of the Grand Lodge of England.  Issue 51 Autumn 2020
"The author presents strong evidence supporting the influence of Daoism within Masonic Ritual, specifically the First Degree, and a relationship between the Masonic Lodge and the Daoist Temple.....  He has brought together good research with plenty of references. I walked away from this book fulfilled. ....  After reading the book, I for one cannot underestimate the role oriental trade and the influence the Jesuits played in introducing Chinese philosophy to European society and the Craft."    Journal of the Masonic Society, Winter 2021
For details about the four books "Spiritual Freemasonry," please click here.

 



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