Saturday, August 27, 2016

Satan and Freemasonry

One of the most savage and continuous attacks against Freemasonry is the one that we're crypto-Satanists. I faced this accusation before I even became a Mason. On my way home to be initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason I was reading a book that had the Square and Compasses on the front cover when the lady sitting next to me saw it and proceeded to verbally accost me. Since joining I've surfed the web and on many different forums and social media sites I've come in contact with people making all sorts of accusations that we're a tool of the New World Order, that we are the New World Order, that we're a false religion or cult, that we're a bunch of old men playing dress up, and the list goes on and on. However, when debating Freemasonry the accusation and the accusers seem to ignore all of the facts and perpetuate lies to prop up this charge; ironically most of the accusers are supposedly good Christians who don't mind violating one of the 10 Commandments when it suits their anti-Masonic agenda.

Most often when asked why someone believes Freemasonry is Satanic or "luciferian", they never quote from our ritual or the proceedings of any Grand Lodge, they often cite Albert Pike or Manly P. Hall, but I've also seen them cite Albert Mackey, Eliphas Levi, A.E Waite, and Blavatsky. It should be noted here that most anti-Masons hold a misguided belief at what constitutes authority in Freemasonry. Since the 18th century, many Masons have published works concerning Freemasonry, writing on various theories and subjects within Freemasonry. Anti-Masons would have others believe that everything a Mason writes is inherently accepted by all of Freemasonry. The problem here is that not everything written by a Mason has been factual, but as Freemasonry is a society dedicated to knowledge and free thought, Grand Lodges have not interfered with what an individual Mason writes. A Grand Lodge is the only entity within Freemasonry that has authority to speak on the symbols, rituals, history, and so on. Without receiving an endorsement from a Grand Lodge, a Masonic author is merely giving his opinion, he does not speak for all Freemasonry. Freemasonry is much more than just the writings of a single Masonic author.

When the accusation of Satanism includes Pike there are two quotes commonly used. The first one is attributed to Pike, but stems from the hoax concocted by Leo Taxil:
"That which we must say to the world is that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him? "Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive. "Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil."
The second one comes from Morals & Dogma wherein Pike states:
LUCIFER, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable blinds feeble, sensual or selfish Souls? Doubt it not!
With the first quote a simple search will yield results showing how Leo Taxil admitted to fabricating information against Freemasonry, but even when faced with this anti-Masons will still cite it as evidence against the fraternity. I would also like to point out that this hoax and other accusations against Pike came out after his death in 1891.

With the second quote, it is clear to anyone who can read that Pike nowhere states that Freemasons worship Lucifer. This quote, in my opinion, is Pike merely pointing out the irony of the Devil, the prince of darkness, being equated to a being of light. Many, myself included, do argue against the belief that Lucifer and Satan being one and the same. Those who do equate Lucifer and Satan cite Isaiah 14:12 which says:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Now, from just looking at this one verse, it does seem like they are referring to those angels who rebelled against God and who were thrown from Heaven. However, when reading more than just one verse and reading the entire chapter you can see that Isaiah is referring to a disgraced Babylonian king (specifically mentioned in Isaiah 14:4). Lucifer was a mortal being, not a fallen angel. Even when faced with this information, some will say that Lucifer was the name of the Devil while in Heaven, but upon further research one can see that the Devil's name in Heaven was Samael. As monarchs were seen as divine, when one was overthrown he figuratively "fell from Heaven." In the original text, the verse speaks of "Helal bin Shahar" which translates as "day star, son of the morning." This most likely was not his real name, but a title as kings have often been referred to as "illustrious" or "shining" (think of King Louis, the Sun King). St. Jerome took this title as his literal name and the day star of Jerome's time was Lucifer, which was the body that precedes the rising sun and which we know today to be the planet Venus. It is also important to note that Lucifer is only ever mentioned once in the entire Bible and that is in reference to "oppressor," not a fallen angel. People should take into consideration the context of the words and the meaning they had then instead of taking it literally and applying modern concepts. You should also realize that ancient prophets and biblical authors did speak in metaphor as well as literal; even Jesus spoke in parables (Matthew 13:34). Most people it seems cannot discern between figurative language and literal language. It's important to note that there was a Bishop that lived at the time of St. Jerome whose name was Lucifer. Jesus is also referred to as a light-bearer or morning/day star (Revelations 22:16). The Bible also says to let the light of the day/morning star into your heart (2 Peter 1:19).

Pike remains the favorite "whipping boy" of the anti-Masonic movement who often exaggerate his importance and misquote Morals & Dogma. Anti-Masons go so far as to say that Pike was the leader of all Freemasonry and that Moral & Dogma carries the weight of Masonic canon or law. It seems to me that most anti-Masons gloss over most of the book to include the Preface of the book where Pike states "Everyone is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound." This doesn't seem like a way to start a book that is supposedly the standard of knowledge by which all Masons must believe. Brothers Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris state, in Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry, "Just because Albert Pike was a brilliant ritualist, an able administrator, and a well-respected Mason doesn't mean all of his opinions are right." This again falls in line with most anti-Masons lack of understanding or denial of what constitutes authority in Freemasonry. I have found that most quoting Pike have never actually read Morals & Dogma, but just copy and paste from some anti-Mason website. If one reads Morals & Dogma you'll see that Pike only refers to Lucifer four times in the entire tome, but nowhere does he glorify Lucifer or that Masons worship Lucifer. Frankly I find it sad that so many think that a few sentences can represent an entire fraternity that has existed for centuries.

Next to Albert Pike, Manly P. Hall is often cited to show Freemasonry as a Satanic organization. The quote most often used against Hall and Freemasonry is: 
The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands and before he may step onward and upward, he must prove his ability to properly apply energy.
I'd first like to note that Hall wrote "The Lost Keys of Freemasonry" 30-years before joining Freemasonry. Even once he joined he was never a Masonic leader nor had any influence on Freemasonry. Hall did note in later editions of his book that "At the time I wrote this slender volume, I had just passed my twenty-first birthday, and my only contact with Freemasonry was through a few books commonly available to the public." His importance is often exaggerated as he was honored with the 33°, but anti-Mason again fail to understand or deny the fact that the 33° does not equate to rank, authority, or a leadership position within Freemasonry. Again from Brothers De Hoyos and Morris:
The fact that he held the Thirty-third Degree and was respected by many Thirty-Third Degree Masons and even by the Supreme Councils 33┬║ is no more significant than the fact that various Baptist, Anglican, or Methodist authors also hold or held that honor. Anti-Masons regularly parade the writings of Masonic authorities before their audiences and dissect their words, looking for a sentence here or a phrase there to be used in their cause. They seek someone like a church authority who speaks dogmatically on teachings and doctrine; whose every word must be accepted by the faithful. Freemasonry has no such authorities. The Masonic authorities used by anti-Masons have been historical authorities who speak with the expertise that comes from long study, but who do not—indeed, cannot—speak for all Masons. It is like the difference between the authoritative teachings of the Episcopal Church and an authoritative history of the Kennedy assassination.
Eliphas Levi, who was an occultist, is often touted as a "top Mason" or "leading expert on Freemasonry." Many quotes are supposedly taken from "The Mysteries of Magic", but the issue is that Levi never penned any such work by that name. It should also be pointed out that, like Pike, Levi's importance in Freemasonry is greatly exaggerated as he was initiated on March 14th, 1861, and by August 1861 he had left Freemasonry. Most of Levi's works were published prior to joining Freemasonry and the few theories of Freemasonry he had were not widely accepted and most of his focus was on the occult. I find it interesting that the modern and best known drawing of Baphomet is attributed to Levi. Many anti-Masons use this fact to say that Baphomet (another of representation of Satan to them) is associated with Freemasonry.

While less used than the others, Arthur Edward Waite and The Book of Black Magic is often cited as an example of the evil within Freemasonry. The anti-Masons also claim that Waite was a 33°, but there are no records of him joining the Scottish Rite. Anti-Masons also false attribute this book to Waite when the author of this book was written by George Redway. The book was also published in 1898 which was 4-years prior to Waite joining Freemasonry.

Freemasonry will continue to be a target of the ignorant, the fanatical, and the tyrannical. As Freemasonry allows men of various religious, political, and social beliefs to come together, we will always be seen as a threat to intolerance, bigotry, militancy, and extremists who seek to divide men by their beliefs rather than unite them. When men like Hall speak of "luciferian" or Lucifer they are speaking of the pursuit of knowledge as light is an allegory for knowledge not any person or villain from the Christian Bible. When debating with anti-Masons on this subject, most will further stick their head in the sand rather than face the truth. Because of their misrepresentation and misquoting of Masonic authors most of the anti-Mason arguments come off as disingenuous and sanctimonious. The fact remains that neither Lucifer nor Satan play a role anywhere in Freemasonry, and when confronted anti-Masons cannot substantiate their claims using our rituals or anything official from any body of Freemasonry.

References

1. De Hoyos, A., & Morris, S. (1997). Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? Masonic Information Center.

2. King, E. (n.d.). Lucifer. Retrieved from Masonic Info: http://www.masonicinfo.com/lucifer.htm 

3. Lucifer and Satan. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/LuciferandSatan.html 

4. The Confession of Leo Taxil. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/taxil_confessed.html 

5. The Lie of Luciferianism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/luciferianism.html

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Knights of Saint Andrew

In 1993, Brothers in Oklahoma came together and established a Chapter of the Knights of Saint Andrew. Since then the Knights of Saint Andrew has spread around the United States. The Knights of Saint Andrew is a service organization composed of dedicated Scottish Rite Masons. The Chapter in Rochester said it best with "We serve because service is needed." From the beginning of one's journey in Freemasonry we are reminded to be serviceable to our fellow man, and the Knights of Saint Andrew continues that tradition.

This group takes its name from the 29° of the Scottish Rite. In this degree, the Mason learns that there is no contradiction between religion and science; that religion can be better understood through science and science can be better understood by religion. He who denies science is as fanatical as he who denies religion. Our lifetime is limited in time; thus we must see God within this limited period of our time. Yet, God transcends all time; he is an energy over and beyond time. There is no other energy that creates that energy. There is no end to that energy. Freemasonry is thus the continual effort to exalt the divine in man over the human so that we may come to better understand the nature of God in our time. The lessons of this degree teach Reverence and obey the Deity. Serve the truth. Protect virtue and innocence. Defend the people against tyranny. 

Duties of each Chapter varies, but many include aiding the Tyler, acting as greeters, serving as an honor guard for dignitaries or for special events, participating in parades, assisting the Scottish degree work, promote educational activities, and presenting the Colors. The flexibility of their duties makes them an invaluable tool for any Scottish Rite Valley. My Chapter holds fundraisers and donates the proceeds to the Idaho State's Veterans Home.

Membership is limited those who have attained the 32° of the Scottish Rite only. If or when a member of the Knights of Saint Andrew attained the title of Knight Commander of the Court of Honor or the 33°, he becomes an emeritus member.

The hierarchical structure of each chapter varies, but each Chapter is beholden to their respective Valley and to the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of each State.

Saint Andrew, the patron of this group and the 29°, was the first disciple of Jesus Christ and youngest brother of Saint Peter. Saint Andrew was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. He, like Saint Peter, was a fisherman. Saint Andrew had been a follower of Saint John the Baptist, but when John declared Jesus the Lamb of God, Andrew was the first to follow the Savior. After the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, Saint Andrew travelled through Asia Minor, Scythia, and Greece to spread the gospel. Saint Andrew was crucified at Patras in Achaea in Greece. Saint Andrew was not crucified on the same type of cross as Christ, but upon a "crux decussata" which is an X shaped cross which is why this type of cross is commonly known as Saint Andrew's Cross. Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, Russia and Greece as well as fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.

Relics of Saint Andrew were said to be taken, by a Greek monk known as Saint Regulus, to Fife, Scotland. In 832, King Angus received a vision of victory from Saint Andrew the night before the battle against the Northumbrians in East Lothian. During the battle, an X-shaped cross, or Saltire, appeared in the sky emboldening the Picts and Scots while causing the Northumbrians to flee the battlefield. The Saltire was adopted as a national emblem and Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. The colors of the Scottish flag are meant to represent the white clouds and azure color the sky. During the Protestant Reformation the relics of Saint Andrew were destroyed, but since that time relics have been donated to Catholic Churches in Scotland. 

One of the origin theories to the Knights of Saint Andrew dates back to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It is said that some Templars fleeing the persecution of the Pope and the French monarch are said to have joined the side of Robert the Bruce against the English invasion. To show his gratitude for their assistance, Robert the Bruce is said to have created the "Order of Saint Andrew of the Thistle of Scotland." It is said that Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, was the last Grand Master of the Order of Saint Andrew and took it with him during his exile in France. It is said that his was the roots of the Scottish Rite. The Battle of Bannockburn is a nexus of Templar continuation theory and is debated by scholars as to its accuracy due to the lack of extant records.

References

1. Council of Kadosh. (n.d.). Retrieved from Scottish Rite of California: http://www.scottishritecalifornia.org/council_of_kadosh.htm 

2. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Guthrie Knights of St. Andrew: http://ksaguthrie.org/?page_id=23 

3. Knights of St. Andrew. (2016). Retrieved from Valley of Cedar Rapids: http://crscottishrite.org/ksa.html 

4. Knights of St. Andrew (n.d.) Retrieved from Valley of Rochester: http://www.valleyofrochester.com/knights.cfm

5. MacRory, J. (1907, August 25). St. Andrew. Retrieved from Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01471a.htm 

6. Our Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from Knights of St. Andrew: http://knightsofstandrew.org/ 

7. Saint Andrew Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from St. Andrew's Life: http://www.saintandrew.us/ 

8. Scottish Rite Degrees: Council of Kadosh. (n.d.). Retrieved from Master Mason: http://www.mastermason.com/jjcrowder/scottish/scottish.html#ck 

9. Scottish Rite Council of Kadosh. (n.d.). Retrieved from MasonicDictionary.com: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/council.html

10. St. Andrew. (n.d.). Retrieved from Catholic Online: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=109 

11. Who was St Andrew? (n.d.). Retrieved from Scotland Official Page: http://www.scotland.org/features/who-was-st-andrew

Friday, August 19, 2016

Level 16 in Ingress

Last night I made it to Level 16, the current highest level, in the game Ingress. My first few years playing this game I played solo, but over the last year I've been playing more and more with other Enlightened agents. I took part on a recharging team on one anomaly and then was an active player in another. Now my attention will be focused more on finishing off the badges (the hexagons in bottom half of the picture below).


Monday, August 15, 2016

The Struggle For Freedom

By Albert Pike

The Ancient Wrong rules many a land, whose groans 
Rise swarming to the stars by day and night, 
Thronging with mournful clamour round the thrones 
Where the Archangels sit in God's great light, 
And, pitying, mourn to see that Wrong still reigns, 
And tortured Nations writhe in galling chains.

From Hungary and France fierce cries go up 
And beat against the portals of the skies; 
Lashed Italy still drinks the bitter cup, 
And Germany in abject stupor lies; 
The knout on Poland's bloody shoulders rings, 
And Time is all one jubilee of kings.

It will not be so always. Through the night 
The suffering multitudes with joy descry 
Beyond the ocean a great beacon-light, 
Flashing its rays into their starless sky, 
And teaching them to struggle and be free,-- 
The Light of Order, Law, and Liberty.

Take heart, ye bleeding Nations; and your chains 
Shall shiver like thin glass. The dawn is near, 
When Earth shall feel, through all her aged veins 
The new blood pouring; and her drowsy ear 
Hear Freedom's trumpet ringing in the sky, 
Calling her braves to conquer or to die.

Arm and revolt, and let the hunted stags 
Against the lordly lions stand at bay!-- 
Each pass, Thermopl├Ž, and all the crags, 
Young Freedom's fortresses! -- and soon the day 
Shall come when Right shall rule, and round the thrones 
that gird God's feet shall eddy no more groans.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Mithraic Mysteries, Part 2

In Part 1 I gave an introduction to the religion of ancient Rome. Part 2 is going to cover the Roman Cult of Mithras by looking at its history, mythos, symbolism, and what is known about its initiations. There is a great deal of misinformation out there concerning the Cult of Mithras by anti-Christians seeking to revise the history of Christianity and by fanatical Christians spreading an agenda against anything pagan. Due to its secretive nature and no existing documentation, the study of the Cult of Mithras is done primarily from archaeological research done on the surviving temples around Europe and Middle East. Some texts that mention the Cult of Mithras or the god Mithras were authored by Plutarch, Porphyry, Tertullian, and Origen.

The Cult of Mithras was one of several mystery cults practiced within the Roman Empire. Worshipers of the Cult of Mithras, or sometimes known as the Mithraic Mysteries, were all male and particularly popular among soldiers. It is not surprising to see why the Cult of Mithras was popular among soldiers. The religion of ancient Rome was pragmatic (practical) and more contractual than spiritual while mystery cults concerned themselves with establishing a personal relationship with a particular deity and on one's salvation. The Cult of Mithras, with its warlike imagery and promise of salvation, must have been a natural fit with an occupation where soldiers were sent to the far ends of the empire far from home and where death was almost a certainty. Initiates referred to themselves as "syndexioi" which means "united by the handshake." It was composed of 7 grades (or degrees) of initiation: Raven, Bride, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Sun Runner, and Father. The initiations and meetings often included meals which took place in their temples called "mithraeum." The Cult of Mithras was practiced in the Roman Empire from the 1st century AD to the 4th century AD.

The Mithraic mysteries center on the Persian god Mithra (Mithras being the Greco-Roman spelling), but scholars debate whether or not this Mithras was the same as the Mithra found in Zoroastrianism. Some argue that the Cult of Mithras was merely inspired by the Persians, but the Roman Mithras may be a different god from the Persian Mithra as the former was a sun god while the latter was not; the Persian Mithra was a judicial deity and guardian of cattle, the harvest, and the waters. However, I will go further into the god Mithras and let the reader decide for himself.

The Cult of Mithras was most likely introduced into Rome through the wars the Roman Republic had with the Parthian Empire (Arsacid Empire) starting in 92 BC and the Roman Empire had with the Sasanian Empire (successors of the Parthians). Some believe that it was through the conquest of Armenia where the Cult of Mithras was introduced to the Roman legions and it should be noted that Armenia was the last holdout of the cult during its decline. The cult was established in Rome around 75 AD and made it to the provinces around 150 AD. Due to its popularity with Roman soldiers, the Cult of Mithras spread to the frontiers of the Roman Empire, to the Iberian Peninsula, Britain and Scotland, Dacia (around modern day Romania), Gaul, and Germania. It is said that the Mithraic Mysteries reached the height of the popularity in the 3rd century AD leading into the 4th century AD. Along with the mithraea, there are also many altars and shrines that were dedicated by Roman Emperors. One such example would be with the Emperor Diocletian who, in 307/308 AD, dedicated an altar of Mithras as the "benefactor of the Empire." With the rise of Christianity and the conversion of Constantine, the Mithraic Mysteries declined, but with the ascension of Emperor Julian there was an attempt to keep the cult alive. However, during the reign of Theodosius I, all pagan worship was outlawed.

Mithras

The Mithraic Mysteries centers on the worship of the Proto-Indian, Persian god Mithras. Some sources believe that he was the son of Ormuzd, a god of light, and Anahita, a virgin fertility goddess. Mithras himself was a god over contracts ("contract" being the etymological root of his name). He's also said to be the protector over the harvest, cattle, and water.

Mithras is said to have been born out of a rock on the Winter Solstice. Some legends of the birth of Mithras state that the rock from which he came from contained both light and fire, making him a god of light and fire; although this may have been later changes to keep in sync with the newer adaptations of this god. Myth states that he was born wearing a Phrygian cap holding a dagger and a torch of light; Phrygia was a kingdom in what is modern Turkey, around the Sakarya River. Mithras is said to have remained celibate throughout his life and represented a system of ethics, temperance, and self-control.

The first mention of Mithras is in the Vedic (Hindu) Scriptures dating back to around 1400 BC, and over the years spread to Persia where the worship of Mithras spread. The Magus Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) reformed the Persian religion (now referred to as Zoroastrianism) which placed Mithras as a lesser deity beneath Ahura Mazda. According to the Avesta, Ahura Mazda created Mithras in order to guarantee the authority of contracts and promises. Some believe that it is the association with the Babylonian god Shamash, their god of justice and a sun god, that Mithras was later seen as a sun god. With the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, Persian religions spread into the Hellenistic world.

Mithraeum

The initiates of the Mithraic Mysteries met in temples called "mithraeum" (plural: mithraea). Mithraeum were often natural caves or small rooms beneath existing structures. They are typically found near sources of fresh water such as streams. One mithraeum was discovered beneath the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. At its height of popularity, it is said that there may have been around 680 mithraea just in Rome. It is not known exactly how many there were around the Roman Empire, but today there still exists one in Bosnia, five in France, seventeen in Germany, three in Hungary, two in Israel, two in Romania, two in Spain, one in Switzerland, one in Syria, four in England, one in Armenia, and eight in Rome.


Mithraea were typically 10-12m long and 4-6m wide with raised benches called klinai on the sides where the initiates would eat their meals with a narrow aisle in between. From this commonly used floor plan seen with existing mithraea, that each mithraeum could only hold 30-40 individuals. If the mithraeum was beneath a building, there would be holes in the ceiling to allow light in. The ceiling of the mithraeum was also often painted with a star-decked heaven. The mithraeum served as an area for initiation and where the ritualistic meals were held. Meals were particularly important to the initiates of the Mithraic Mysteries as it pertained to Mithras and the killing of the bull. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that a sacred fire was kept burning in the mithraea.

Mithraea were decorated with a variety of iconography. In every mithraeum there was a representation of Mithras killing a bull, often referred to as the "tauroctony." In some mithraeum there are still surviving images of each degree (see below). In some sculptures Mithras is depicted carrying a rock on his back. Others show him wearing a cape with the stars in the inside lining while others show him emerging from a zodiac ring as some myths of Mithras believe he helped create the physical world. Other representations show Mithras attended by two torch-bearers, Cautes and Cautopates, who were present at his birth. Symbolically, the mithraeum had several meanings: 1) it served as a microcosm of the universe, 2) represented the cave where Mithras is said to have killed a bull, and 3) the process of purification of the soul. Many mithraea were later converted to crypts and tombs after the rise of Christianity.

The Tauroctony

One of the central icons and legends of the Mithraic Mysteries is the "Tauroctony". The Tauroctony, from the Greek word "tauroktonos" meaning "bull killing," concerns the myth where the god Mithras sacrifices a sacred bull. Ahura Mazda is said to have sent a crow, an animal traditionally used a messenger of the gods, to Mithras and ordered him to kill the bull in a cave in order to create plants and animals. Sculptures and reliefs commonly show Mithras straddling the bull, grasping it by the nose with his left hand, and with his right hand stabbing the dagger into the bull's shoulder. It is also often show dogs beneath the bull drinking the blood, a scorpion attacks the bull's genitals, and a raven sits on the bull's back; other reliefs show a lion, a boar, or a snake. There are other differences seen on a variety reliefs still existing in uncovered mithraea around Europe and these differences are thought to be the result of the differing native cultures being fused with Roman religion and the Cult of Mithras.


As mentioned above, Cautes and Cautopates are sometimes shown in depictions of Mithras. In the Tauroctony, Cautes is to the right of Mithras and below the sun in his chariot while Cautopates is to the left of Mithras and below the moon. Both being torchbearers, Cautes' torch is held up while Cautopates' torch points downward (may be shown as extinguished). Some have interpreted that Mithras and his two attendants represent three phases of the sun during the day time: dawn (the rising sun), midday (the sun at meridian height), and dusk (the setting sun). Myth states that after Mithras killed the bull that he kneels before the sun god, Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun), and both then dine on the slain bull. They are said to have ate the bull on a table draped in the hide of the slain bull.

Initiates are said to eat a meal together in a mithraeum. It is speculated that in some instances to imitate and revere the gods Mithras and Sol Invictus in order to maintain a personal relationship. From paintings and reliefs, it is believed that initiates in lower grades, Raven through Lion, act as attendants of higher grades and serve food during the meal. While some believe that the killing of a bull was purely figurative and not actually killed by the cult members, archaeological evidence shows that bulls were killed and eaten, but when bulls were not available they would dine on other domesticated animals.

Some believe that the Tauroctony has an astrological meaning behind it. Some have speculated that the killing of the bull coincided with the end of the Age of Taurus and the beginning of the Age of Aries which occurred around 2000 BC when some think that the Mithraic Mysteries originated.

The Initiatic Grades

Initiates referred to themselves as "syndexioi" and while they were united in this sense they were still divided into seven grades: Corax (Raven), Nymphus (Bride), Miles (Soldier), Leo (Lion), Perses (Persian), Heliodromus (Sun Runner), and Pater (Father). Handshakes are seen as a commitment to a contract and as Mithras was a god of contracts the use of a handshake is very appropriate for those who worshiped him. Handshakes are also a gesture of friendship.

From the archaeological evidence, members were expected to progress through the first four grades, but few would go beyond to the last three grades. Neophytes were said to have gone through some kind of trial or preparation before going through the initiation. The severity of these trials vary depending on the sources, though the reliability of some is questionable. The purpose of these trials though would be to ensure that the individual would be prepared to go through the initiation and be worthy of the secrets of the mystery cult.

The initiations would include some kind of oath to never reveal any of the secrets of the Mithraic Mysteries, ablutions, purification rites, admonishments, and marking the initiate on the hand (from the frescoes it could be done by fire brand or tattooing). The initiation was conferred by one who had attained the grade of Pater, or Father.

Most initiates were said to not advance beyond the grade of Lion. These in the lower grades attended to those in the higher grades, but could still participate in the privileges of the cult such as the sacred meal. It is possible that lower initiates took turns serving and other times were served.

The grades of initiation for the Cult of Mithras are extremely fascinating though we have limited resources to study them. The existing symbolism though is rich and provides us with an insight into each grade. While there is no existing literature on the specificity of each of the seven grades, here is some information on each of them:

Corax or Raven

The Raven plays an important role in Mithraic Mysteries as the Raven was sent to Mithras as a messenger of Ahura Mazda who sent Mithras to kill the sacred bull. While Mercury is the messenger of the gods in Roman mythology, the raven has replaced him as a symbol, but Mercury is still associated with the Raven in this context. On a cup found in Ostia (near Rome) there is an inscription of "Nama Coracibus tutela Mercurii" meaning "Hail to the Ravens under the protection of Mercury".

Birds often serve that role in a variety of other mythologies. Huginn and Muninn, ravens in Norse mythology, served as messengers of Odin. In Hinduism, crows are messengers of the dead to living. In Christianity the dove is often used, as seen with the story of Noah's flood where God sent a dove to inform Noah that dry land had returned. In Roman mythology were associated with good luck. In Celtic mythology, ravens were associated with warfare and death. In several Native American mythoi, the raven is involved in the creation of the world, but is also considered a trickster god. In Japanese mythology, the raven is seen as a guide. In Christianity Ravens are used as description, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad.

Along with being messengers, birds are associated with knowledge and enlightenment. In Egyptian mythology, Thoth (represented by an Ibis) is the god of magic, writing, and numerous sciences. In Roman mythology, Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was accompanied by an owl. Birds were also used in various mythologies to bring life (the stork) and to represent the soul in the afterlife. It should be noted that pagan gods and goddesses would also take the form of birds for a variety of reasons.

The Raven would naturally be associated with the element of Air, but some have said that a water baptism is a part of this initiation to symbolize the purification of the soul. From frescoes and mosaics, initiates of this grade as said to wear a raven mask. Being the first degree and entrance into the Mithraic Mysteries, the Raven is meant to represent the death of neophyte and rebirth into mysteries, and his new spiritual life. Other symbols associated with this grade are the beaker and caduceus (staff of Mercury).

Nymphus or Bride

With this degree it is important to remember that mystery cults were about becoming closer with a particular deity. While this degree is named "Bride" it should be noted that it meant not a literal wedding, but establishing a bond with Mithras and does not preclude civil marriages. Some Christian fundamentalists have attempted to denigrate this degree as being homoerotic, but scholars, even Christians, agree that there was no evidence that sexual rites were involved with the Mithraic Mysteries.

A mural depicting this grade shows an initiate wearing a veil and is under the protection of the goddess Venus. From the text of Julius Firmicus Maternus there is a concerning this grade which states: "Behold, Nymphus, hail Nymphus, hail new light." Some have hypothesize that this statement would be made as the veil would be removed from the initiate. This ceremony would also involve the candidate offers a cup of water to a statue of Mithras where the cup symbolizes the candidates heart and the water his love for Mithras. This grade is associated with the element of Water.

Murals of Nymphus also contains a torch, a diadem, a mirror, and a lamp. Torches and lamps are obvious symbols of light, of knowledge, and guidance. Torches are often symbols of hope and enlightenment. When a torch points downward they are meant to symbolize death while the opposite is meant to symbolize life. One of the most famous torches in today’s world is the Olympic Torch which is meant to symbolize the fire given to mankind by Prometheus. It's interesting to note that lamps and torches are connected to marriage ceremonies, even in Christian text.

A diadem is simply a crown. Crowns, mitres, headdresses, hats, and so on have traditionally been symbols of authority or sovereignty. For Christians the crown (and those who wear it) is said to remind us of the Crown of Thorns Christ wore as well as Christ being the King of Kings. Symbolically we can see through its circular shape it denotes perfection, which Heaven is seen as, and eternal life, and while wearing it we unite the spiritual world with this material world where the sovereign can receive divine inspiration to justly rule.

Mirrors in the ancient world were considered a luxury and indicated social status to the owner. They were usually polished bronze or black stone. Mirrors are symbols of introspection and reflection, both physical and spiritual. As the physical mirror reflects our appearance so too does the spiritual mirror reflect soul. Mirrors were also considered gateways to other worlds and used in divination. To break a mirror is still considered bad luck.

Miles or Soldier

According to the Avesta (the Zoroastrian sacred text), Mithras was an invincible god who sought to secure victory for his followers on the battlefield against evil. All initiates who attained the grade of Miles were said to be enrolled in service to Mithras. In murals in Santa Prisca and Ostia displays initiates dressed as soldiers with kitbag, helmet, and lance. Being a grade centering on warfare, this grade was associated with the god Mars (the god of war) and while Mars is associated with fire this grade is associated with the element Earth. With this grade, it is presumed that the initiate is battling against his lower self.

According to Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus), the initiate is marked on the forehead (style unknown) and the candidate is offered a crown/wreath at the point of the sword. Once his hands are freed from bondage he takes off crown/wreath stating that being a follower of Mithras he needed no crown/wreath. This is said to be a test of the candidate’s courage and devotion to Mithras. Other symbols associated with this grade is a drum, belt, and armor.

Leo or Lion

The fourth grade is the Lion. The Lion is highly regarded in the legends of Mithras and is often depicted in the Tauroctony murals and reliefs. Murals depicting this grade show an initiate dressed in a long scarlet and with a fire-shovel. This grade is associated with the element Fire and the god Jupiter. Since water is the opposite of fire, honey was used as a purifying agent to cleanse the initiate. Baptism by fire for the candidate may also be symbolic of the destruction of evil by Mithras and the conflagration of the earth. Those purified by fire would be immune from the destructive power of the fire. Along with being an attendant at meals, those initiates who had received the grade of Leo also were said to attend the fire in the mithraeum.

Lions have been used as symbols of royalty, courage, and king of animals for thousands of years by cultures in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In Sumerian and Babylonian mythologies, the lion was a symbol of kingship. In Greek mythology, the Nemean Lion was a vicious monster whose mane was impervious to mortal weapons and who was killed by Hercules; the constellation Leo is said to represent the Nemean Lion. There are many uses of lions in Christianity including with the story of Daniel, St. Mark was symbolized by a lion, and the Tribe of Judah used the emblem of a lion. These are but a few examples of lion mythology.

Perses or Persian


This grade associates with the Persian origins and Zoroastrian Magi. Murals depict the Perses dressed in a grey tunic and under the protection of the moon. Like Leo, the candidate is purified with honey, but because the Perses was considered the guardian of fruit. According to ancient Persian lore, honey came from the moon which is why the moon is associated with this grade.


Other symbols associated with Perses is the sickle/scythe. These symbols are often symbolic of time and transition just as is the moon, but some say that Mithras was the divine reaper (being the protector of the harvest). The symbolic meaning associated with this instrument has always stood for the reaping, to include of humanity and the cutting off of life. The personification of death is often seen carrying a scythe or sickle. There are many legends, myths, and lore connected with this feared entity. Today it is known as the "Grim Reaper", but depending on the time and culture, it has gone by many other names. The Scythe was not always seen as the weapon of choice for the Reaper, with the agrarian cultures we see the attachment. One of my favorite mythologies was the Greek mythologies. In it there are three Fates or Moirai, named: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. While all of them were regarded as cruel due to their inexorable duty, it was Atropos who was feared as she was the one wielded the shears that would cut the thread of life, while her sisters spun and measured the thread of life. In the Book of Revelations there is a similar reference to the scythe and reaping:

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. (Revelations 14:14-28)

Heliodromus or Sun Runner

Sometimes known as Courier of the Sun or Sun Runner, Heliodromus is the sixth grade of the Mithraic Mysteries. The grade designates an initiate as a servant of Sol Invictus, the sun god. It is guessed that the initiation includes a re-enactment of the meal that Mithras and Sol Invictus share after the killing of the sacred bull.

In murals initiates are dressed in red garments with a yellow belt and holding a globe in his left hand. They are also depicted with a whip, a torch, and a halo. The whip is meant to symbolize implement needed to urge the horses onward that carried the sun through sky each day. Whips also symbolize domination, sovereignty, slavery, and penance. Halos are rings of light that surrounds a person in artwork and is used to indicate holiness, divinity, or sacredness.

Pater or Father

This is the final and highest grade in the Cult of Mithras. Initiates who reach this pinnacle are said to be Mithras' representative on earth and thus are depicted to be dressed like him. It is unclear whether or not a mithraeum had more than one Pater, but it is unlikely since the Pater was considered the teacher, mentor, and father to the initiates of that mithraeum. With the uncovering of mithraea throughout the old Roman Empire, there were inscriptions like "pater patrum" meaning "Father of Fathers" many have speculated that there was a central authority that all the mithraea reported to, but there is no evidence to suggest this.

The symbols associated with this grade are the staff, the Phrygian cap, and the curved sword. The use of staffs by officers is very symbolic and has been used in a variety of cultures. The most obvious use is by the god Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods, and who carried the caduceus, a type of staff. The caduceus was used to ward off evil and to ensure that he was unimpeded in his journey. Carrying a staff is a mark of authority and we see this with the king's scepter, the bishop's or verger's staff, the mace of Parliament, and, Biblically, with the staff of Moses.

The Phrygian Cap is a soft felt or wool conical headdress fitting closely around the head and characterized by a pointed crown that curls forward and is also known as the Cap of Liberty or Symbolizing Cap. The Phrygian Cap also carries some of the symbolic meaning as the diadem, but also stands as a symbol of enlightenment and freedom. Some have gone so far as to say that the Phrygian cap is the origin of the mitre worn by priests.

The Sword, an emblem of duality, not only symbolizes security, but also light, purification, righteousness, spiritual transition, and from its double-edged it shows us the defensiveness and destructiveness. The sword is like the mind and knowledge, without proper training and honing of skill, one can cause great damage and face many challenges. The scholar and the master swordsman alike must be well-trained and keep their metaphorical and physical sword sharp.

Very little knowledge on the Cult of Mithras exists today, but there seems to be a growing interest in recent years. I am curious to see what future discoveries reveal of this mystery cult. In Part 3, I will compare and contrast this initiatic tradition to Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and Christianity.

References

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22. Scheid, J. (2003). An Introduction to Roman Religion. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 

23. Scrivener, P. (2013). The 7 Mysteries of Mithras Revealed At Last!! Retrieved from Reformation Online: http://www.reformation.org/seven-mysteries-of-mithras.html 

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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Masonic Society

I came to the realization today that I have been a member of the Masonic Society for 5-years now (as of April). I joined while deployed in Iraq to have access to their forum and to their excellent journal. It wasn't until 2014 that I was able to attend their annual meeting and dinner at Masonic Week (called a First Circle gathering), but I look forward to it each year.

The Masonic Society was founded on May 1, 2008, by a group of Masons from around the United States to create what has become the fastest growing Masonic research organization. The purpose of the Masonic Society is to be a "center of union for Freemasons who desire to study and promote Freemasonry, its history, philosophy, rites, customs and practices while promoting the common good and general welfare of its mystic art." To accomplish this purpose, the Masonic Society holds conferences around the United States and also wishes to assist individual Research Lodges around the world. One of the way the Masonic Society wishes to assist Research Lodges is by giving their members the opportunity to publish their own research papers.

The Masonic Society is governed by a Board of Directors composed of the President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, Editor-in-Chief, Fellow Directors, and Member Directors. The President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Editor-in-Chief also constitute the Executive Committee of the Masonic Society. The first officers of the Executive Committee are elected while the Secretary-Treasurer and Editor-in-Chief are appointed.

The Masonic Society is open to any Master Mason in good standing of a recognized Lodge. For both those seeking membership in the Masonic Society or just a journal subscription (for non-Masons) the annual dues are $39 per year ($49 for those outside of the US). Members, upon joining, receive a commemorative pin, a patent of membership, an annual dues card, and quarterly issues of the Journal of the Masonic Society.


The Journal of the Masonic Society doesn't just include articles on the history of Freemasonry, but also includes articles that explore the challenges facing Freemasonry now and what is on the horizon. The article has included pieces by well known Brothers and was for a time edited by Bro. Chris Hodapp.

Members of the Masonic Society also have access to the online forum. Those who only have Journal Subscription-only do not have access to the online forum. The Masonic Society also has created the Masonic Society School which will start in October 2016 and this first course will be a video lecture series covering a wide range of topics.

In recognition for a member's intellectual and Masonic contributions to the fraternity in general and the Masonic Society specifically, they may be named a "Fellow of the Masonic Society." The Masonic Society also awards each year to a Masonic research an award called the Masonic Society Scholar. The recipient of this award receives "a $2,500 grant to conduct a Masonic research project during the following year." The Masonic Society Scholar is required to be available for presentation at various Masonic events. At the end of the year the The Masonic Society Scholar will present his research at an event set up by the Board of Directors.

The Annual First Circle gathering is held at Masonic Week each year, but other First Circle gatherings may be held in the form of symposiums or conferences. Masonic Society members may hold local, state, or regional meetings which are referred to as Second Circles. For those Master Masons who are desirous of furthering their Masonic education and wish to perform their own research should join the Masonic Society.