Monday, March 19, 2018

The Great Pythagoras

In Freemasonry, while being lectured on the 47th Problem of Euclid, we are introduced to the ancient philosopher, Pythagoras. According to Masonic tradition, he is said to have travelled through Asia, Africa, and Europe where he was initiated into several orders of priesthood and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. While it is impossible to say that he was a Freemason, as we know it today, Pythagoras and his teachings are seen as the root of Western occult tradition, and certainly, Freemasonry falls under the wide-ranged umbrella of Western occultism. It is hard to fully trace the life of Pythagoras as none of his own writings survives to this day. There is also a lot of false legends about him that was written "by later writers who accepted, uncritically, what they read by others, that all one can say with certainty is that there was a figure in ancient Greece named Pythagoras and that this man founded a philosophical/religious order known as the Pythagoreans."

Born on the island of Samos (just off of the coast of Turkey and north of the island of Patmos) circa 570 BC, Pythagoras is said to have left his homeland in search of knowledge. He studied under the philosophers Thales of Miletus (Greek city on the Ionian coast in what is today Turkey) and Pherecydes of Syros (a Greek island in the Aegean Sea). Both men are highly regarded philosophers, but Pythagoras left their tutelage in search of further knowledge.

Pythagoras travelled to Egypt where studied with the priests of Thebes. Some scholars claim that this was no easy feat as only Thales had been the only Greek admitted to the priesthood of Thebes. Once in Egypt, Pythagoras visited the court of Pharaoh Amasis/Ahmose II (5th ruler of Egypt during the 26th Dynasty) in Heliopolis who was an admirer of Greek culture and provided the means by which he was able to be admitted to the priestly school. After leaving Heliopolis, Pythagoras travelled to Memphis before going to Thebes. Seeing that Pythagoras had the support of the Pharaoh, the priests of Thebes initiated him into their order where he studied astronomy, geometry, and the Egyptian mysteries. The Thebian priests made life difficult for Pythagoras in hopes that he would quit and return to Greece; the Egyptian priesthoods were often reluctant to allow foreigners into their orders.

Around 525 BC, Cambyses II of Persia invaded Egypt and which resulted in the death of the Pharaoh and members of the priestly orders, including Pythagoras, were taken captive back to Babylon. The magi of the Zoroastrian religion recognized the intellect of Pythagoras and began to instruct them with their knowledge including astronomy and divination. After 12-years in Babylon, Pythagoras was allowed to return to Greece.

He returned to Greece where he was initiated into Grecian and Cretan mystery cults, and finally settled down in the colonial city of Crotona in southern Italy. Here he founded a brotherhood to pass on the knowledge he had amassed in this travels. It is said that the initiates lived under a vow of silence for the first 5-years and upon completion were then admitted into the inner teachers of the brotherhood. The brotherhood continued to exist until some time around 510 BC when the brotherhood got involved in local Crotona's politics and back a party that lost which resulted in a mob burning down their headquarters building. The surviving members of the brotherhood scattered throughout the Greek world and so the teachings of Pythagoras spread across the western world. It is not known if Pythagoras was killed during this conflict, but many think that he escaped to Metapontum, Lucanium (what is now Italy) where it is believed he died around 490 BC.

Pythagoras left a legacy that is both praised and controversial. He is seen as contributed to the development of mathematics as well as Western philosophy, especially in the writings of Aristocles of Athens (commonly known as Plato) and Aristotle, but there is much about his life that has been exaggerated to a point of near deification. Even among the scholars, there is debate as to the validity of some of the tales of his life, particularly those of his travel's to Egypt and Babylon, but there is no clear consensus. However, Pythagoras leaves a legacy that has influenced the establishment of initiatic and esoteric orders such as Freemasonry.

References

1. Greer, J. M. (2017). The Occult Book. New York: Sterling. 

2. Huffman, C. (2014, May 28). Pythagoras. Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pythagoras/ 

3. Mark, J. J. (2011, February 14). Pythagoras. Retrieved from Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/Pythagoras/ 

4. Pythagoras. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pythagoras 

5. Westbrook, P., & Strohmeier, J. (2009, July 3). Pythagoras in Egypt and Babylon. Retrieved from Esoteric Online: http://www.esotericonline.net/group/mysteryschool/forum/topics/pythagoras-in-egypt-and



Thursday, March 1, 2018

Grand College of Rites of the USA

Today I received the latest release of the Collectanea which is the official Transactions of the Grand College of Rites of the United States of America and which is privately printed for members of this organization. The Collectanea contains the rituals of various organizations lawfully deposited within the archives of the Grand College of Rites. Among the rituals overseen by the Grand College are those of the Rite of Strict Observance, the Ancient and Primitive Rite, the Primitive Scottish Rite, and many others. All dues current members (or Fellows as we are called) receive a copy of the current volume of Collectanea during the first quarter of each year. In addition to all his work for the Scottish Rite, Arturo de Hoyos, the Premier Knight Grand Cross, is the Grand Archivist for the Grand College of Rites who spearheads the effort that makes the Collectanea possible.

As a Masonic researcher, I love the Grand College of Rites. I first heard of the Grand College of Rites when I was researching the appendant bodies and research organizations of Freemasonry. I cannot speak any higher of this group. Any Master Mason that is slightly interested in Masonic history to the most hardcore Masonic scholars, I urge you to join.

For those unfamiliar with the Grand College of Rites, it is an organization dedicated to preserving the history and rituals of defunct and inactive Masonic orders. As one Brother puts it: “The GCR guides you through some odd and forgotten side streets in Masonic history.” It meets annually at the time and place of the Annual Meeting of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America during “Masonic Week.”

Membership is available for any Master Mason holding membership and in good standing in a regular symbolic Lodge recognized by a majority of the Grand Lodges of Freemasonry in the United States of America.

For any Master Mason interested in joining, you can now fill out a petition online: http://grandcollegeofrites.org/membership/petition-to-join/


The Light in the Temple

By Carl W. Mason


In the ancient days of story, 
When the fathers sought the light, 
And the temple's golden glory 
Blazed on old Moriah's height 
Deep within the sacred portals 
Of that holy house of prayer, 
Thrilling awed and trembling mortals, 
Burned a mystic brightness there.

Day and night its glow extended 
Thru the calm religious gloom, 
While the long-robed priests attended 
In the consecrated room. 
'Twas the pure Shekineh gleaming,- 
Symbol of the eternal God, 
As His light, 'mid darkness beaming, 
Dwells within the human clod.

Tell me, brother, as you travel 
On the rugged earthly way, 
Should the Master Builder's gavel 
Sound your final call today 
As your weary feet are turning 
At the summons to depart, 
Can you find the God-light burning 
In the temple of your heart?

Could you find the clear rays brightly 
Showing a record called Well done,- 
Telling good deeds wrought uprightly, 
Battles fought and victories won? 
Has the pure divine example 
Been for you the better part, 
Safely lodged within the temple 
Of a true Masonic heart?

Let your willing hands be doing 
Daily for a brother's needs, 
Thus the sacred flame renewing 
With the oil of kindly deeds. 
Keep your temple swept and garnished 
With your tenets' rule divine, 
And your light, its ray untarnished, 
Thru the night will ever shine.