Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Baphomet and Freemasonry

An enduring misconception and argument used by anti-Masons is the supposed worship of Baphomet within Freemasonry. While Baphomet is often associated with various occult practices and conspiracy theories, there is no credible evidence to support the claim that Baphomet is the god of Freemasonry or worshipped therein.

First and foremost, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor does it advocate the worship of any particular deity. Instead, Freemasonry encourages its members to believe in a higher power or Supreme Being, but does not prescribe a specific religious doctrine. This inclusivity is reflected in the diversity of its membership, which comprises individuals from various religious backgrounds.

The idea that Baphomet is the god of Freemasonry likely stems from misinterpretations or deliberate misrepresentations of Masonic symbolism and literature. Baphomet, often depicted as a horned deity with androgynous features, has been associated with occultism and esoteric traditions. However, there is no direct connection between Baphomet and Freemasonry within the context of Masonic teachings or rituals.

Moreover, Freemasonry promotes values such as charity, tolerance, and personal development, which are incompatible with the characteristics attributed to Baphomet in occult lore. Depending on the organization, Baphomet is seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge (enlightenment), dualism and balance, alchemical transformation, fertility, and occultism in general. It's important to note that interpretations of Baphomet can vary widely among different occult traditions and practitioners. While some may view Baphomet as a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual liberation, others may associate it with darker or more sinister aspects of the occult. As with many symbols in the occult, the meaning of Baphomet is complex and multifaceted, and it can hold different significance for different individuals and groups. The notion that Freemasonry venerates a dark or sinister deity contradicts its fundamental principles of moral and ethical conduct.

It's essential to distinguish between myth and reality when discussing the role of symbolism in Freemasonry. While symbols such as the Square and Compass hold significant meaning for Masons, they represent philosophical concepts related to morality, virtue, and self-improvement, not specific deities.


The Washington Statue and Baphomet

Often when confronted by anti-Masons about Masonic veneration of Baphomet, they use the picture of a statue of George Washington called the Enthroned Washington (seen here) as it bears a striking resemblance to the popular rendering of Baphomet.

The Enthroned Washington statue by Horatio Greenough, created in the mid-19th century, was indeed heavily influenced by classical Greco-Roman sculpture, particularly the statue of Olympian Zeus. This influence is evident in both the overall composition and the portrayal of Washington himself.

The statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was renowned for its grandeur and majesty. It depicted the Greek god Zeus seated on a throne, with a commanding presence and an aura of divine power. Greenough's Enthroned Washington similarly portrays the first President of the United States seated on a throne, evoking a sense of authority and dignity.

The influence of the statue of Zeus is evident in the classical style of Greenough's sculpture, characterized by idealized proportions, harmonious composition, and meticulous attention to detail. The drapery and pose of Washington in the Enthroned Washington statue echo the conventions of classical sculpture, emphasizing the figure's noble bearing and statesmanlike qualities.

While some have drawn parallels between the Enthroned Washington statue and the imagery of Baphomet due to its seated posture and raised hand, it is more accurate to attribute the statue's inspiration to the classical tradition rather than occult symbolism. The raised hand in Greenough's sculpture is a gesture of authority and command, a motif commonly found in classical depictions of rulers and gods.

Furthermore, Greenough's intention with the Enthroned Washington statue was to create a monumental representation of Washington as a symbol of American democracy and republican ideals. The statue was commissioned to commemorate the centennial of Washington's birth and to honor his legacy as the father of the nation.


Drawing Baphomet

The modern depiction of Baphomet, often associated with occultism, was indeed popularized by the French occultist, ceremonial magician, and writer Eliphas Levi in 1855 (14 years after Greenough completed his Enthroned Washington). Levi, whose real name was Alphonse Louis Constant, was a prominent figure in the occult revival of the 19th century and is renowned for his influential works on magic, mysticism, and symbolism.

In his book "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie" (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic), first published in 1855, Levi introduced his illustration of Baphomet, accompanied by a description that infused the figure with complex symbolism and esoteric meaning. Levi's depiction of Baphomet portrayed a seated figure with a goat's head, human torso, goat hooves, wings, and various other symbolic elements.

Levi's Baphomet amalgamated various occult and alchemical symbols, drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as Hermeticism, Kabbalah, and ancient mystery traditions. The figure's androgynous features symbolize the reconciliation of opposites, reflecting Levi's belief in the union of masculine and feminine energies within the individual.

Furthermore, the goat head, reminiscent of the ancient Greek god Pan, represented primal instincts, fertility, and the untamed forces of nature. The torch between Baphomet's horns symbolized enlightenment and the pursuit of knowledge, while the pentagram inscribed on its forehead signified the mastery of spiritual and material realms.

Levi's depiction of Baphomet became iconic within occult circles, influencing subsequent esoteric traditions and contributing to the figure's association with secret societies, magic, and mysticism. Despite Levi's intention to present Baphomet as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and inner transformation, the image became increasingly associated with darker interpretations, particularly in the context of Satanism and anti-establishment movements. Associating Baphomet with the devil was cemented in the 20th century when Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, adopted the Sigil of Baphomet as the official emblem of his church.

Over time, Baphomet evolved into a potent symbol within occultism, often invoked in rituals, magical practices, and occult literature. The image's ambiguity and rich symbolism have made it a subject of fascination, interpretation, and controversy, with its meaning varying depending on the perspective of the interpreter.

It is important to note that Levi was briefly associated with Freemasonry as he was initiated into Lodge Rose du Parfait Silence (Grand Orient of France) on March 14, 1861 (after he published his drawing of Baphomet), but was dropped from the rolls on August 21, 1861.


The Taxil Hoax

Looking back one can see where many conspiracy theories against Freemasonry have their roots. The Taxil Hoax is a notorious episode in the history of Freemasonry that played a significant role in perpetuating the rumors linking Freemasonry with Baphomet. The hoax was orchestrated by Léo Taxil, a French writer and anti-Catholic who sought to discredit both Freemasonry and the Catholic Church through a series of elaborate fabrications and sensational claims. 

In the late 19th century, Freemasonry was viewed with suspicion by certain segments of society, including some religious authorities who saw it as a threat to traditional values and religious institutions. Taxil, capitalizing on this climate of distrust, began publishing a series of books and articles purportedly exposing the secrets and rituals of Freemasonry.

One of Taxil's most infamous fabrications was the creation of a fictitious character named Diana Vaughan, whom he claimed had been initiated into a Satanic sect within Freemasonry. According to Taxil's elaborate hoax, Vaughan revealed shocking details about the alleged worship of Baphomet, a demonic deity, within Masonic Lodges.

Taxil's writings sensationalized these claims, portraying Freemasonry as a sinister organization engaged in occult practices and devil worship. The inclusion of Baphomet, often depicted as a symbol of the occult and Satanism, added a sensational element to his allegations, capturing the public's imagination and fueling fears about the secretive nature of Freemasonry.

The hoax reached its apex in 1897 when Taxil called a press conference to announce the conversion of Diana Vaughan to Catholicism and to expose the alleged Satanic rituals of Freemasonry. However, to the shock of the attendees, Taxil confessed that he had fabricated the entire story as a satire intended to mock both Freemasonry and the Catholic Church.

The revelation of the Taxil Hoax dealt a significant blow to the credibility of anti-Masonic propaganda, but the damage had been done to the Craft. The association between Freemasonry and Baphomet had already taken root in the public consciousness, perpetuating a myth that persists to this day in certain fringe circles and conspiracy theories.

Despite Taxil's admission of deception, the rumors linking Freemasonry with Baphomet continue to resurface periodically, fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding about the true nature of Freemasonry. The Taxil Hoax serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of sensationalism, manipulation, and the spread of false information.


Templars and Baphomet

Another argument is that Freemasonry originates or stems from the medieval Knights Templar and that the Knights Templar were believed to be guilty of venerating Baphomet. The Knights Templar were a powerful military and financial force in the Middle Ages. Their wealth, power, and prominence attracted jealousy, suspicion, and hostility from secular and ecclesiastical authorities. Following the 1307 suppression of the Templars by the French tyrant, King Philip IV, some knights, while being tortured, confessed to engaging in blasphemous rituals, including the worship of a mysterious entity known as Baphomet.

The precise origins and meaning of the term "Baphomet" remain uncertain, but it likely entered the Templar trials as part of the accusations brought forth by their adversaries. Some historians suggest that "Baphomet" could have been a corruption or misinterpretation of other terms or concepts, while others propose it may have been a symbolic representation used in Templar rituals, possibly related to the order's alleged connections to esoteric traditions or Eastern mysticism.

However, the idea that the Templars worshiped Baphomet as a deity remains speculative and lacks conclusive evidence. It is widely believed that the accusations of heresy and idolatry leveled against the Templars were politically motivated, and aimed at discrediting and eliminating a powerful rival to royal and papal authority.

Another theory that has circulated, particularly in the context of anti-Islamic arguments, is the notion that Baphomet was somehow associated with the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. This theory is largely based on linguistic speculation and historical misunderstandings, rather than credible evidence. The origin of this theory can be traced to the writings of 18th and 19th-century European authors who sought to demonize Islam and portray Muhammad as a false prophet or even a diabolical figure. Some of these authors attempted to equate Muhammad with Baphomet, suggesting that the two names were phonetically similar or derived from the same root. However, scholars and historians have thoroughly debunked this theory, highlighting the lack of linguistic or historical basis for such claims. The etymology and meaning of the term "Baphomet" are far removed from the Arabic name "Muhammad," and there is no evidence to support any connection between the two figures.

Another theory speculates that Baphomet was a code. The Atbash Cipher, an ancient substitution cipher that replaces each letter in the alphabet with its reverse counterpart, has been invoked by some within occult circles to decipher the meaning of the name "Baphomet" in connection with the Knights Templar. According to this interpretation, applying the Atbash Cipher to the name "Baphomet" results in "Sophia," a Greek word literally meaning “wisdom” and symbolically representing divine wisdom in various philosophical and mystical traditions.


Riding the Goat

When all else fails, I’ve seen anti-Masons post a picture like this which makes me cringe.

The myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry is a common misconception that has been perpetuated over the years, but it has no basis in actual Masonic ritual or tradition. The notion of riding a goat is often used in jest or as a humorous exaggeration, particularly by those unfamiliar with the inner workings of Freemasonry.

It's important to understand that Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with a rich history and a focus on moral and philosophical teachings. Its rituals and ceremonies are symbolic, emphasizing principles such as brotherhood, morality, and personal development. No ritual or practice within Freemasonry involves riding a goat or any other animal.

The origin of the myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry can be traced back to other fraternal organizations, particularly college fraternities and secret societies, where initiation rituals often include humorous or eccentric elements designed to test the resolve or endurance of new members. These rituals may involve absurd or outlandish tasks, including metaphorically "riding a goat," as a form of initiation or hazing.

Over time, these exaggerated initiation practices became associated with secret societies in general, including Freemasonry, leading to the misconception that Freemasons engage in similar rituals involving the riding of goats. However, it's essential to distinguish between the lighthearted traditions of some college fraternities and the solemn and dignified ceremonies of Freemasonry.

In reality, Freemasonry places a strong emphasis on dignity, respect, and moral values, and its rituals are intended to inspire reflection and personal growth rather than frivolity or hazing. The myth of riding a goat in Freemasonry is just that—a myth—and should not be taken seriously as an accurate representation of Masonic practice.


References

1. Éliphas Lévi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/esoterica/levi_e/levi_e.html 

2. George Washington (Greenough). (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_(Greenough) 

3. McIntosh, C. (2011). Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival. SUNY Press. 

4. Myth of Baphomet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/baphomet.html 

5. Newman, P. D. (2013, February). Masonic Templary II: The Name and Nature of Baphomet. Retrieved from Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA: https://www.knightstemplar.org/KnightTemplar/Magazine/2013/0213.pdf

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Masonic Week 2024

Another Masonic Week has come and gone. This year included some new chapters in my Masonic career. On Thursday I was appointed Assistant Grand Marshal during the Annual Meeting of the Grand Master’s Council for Ye Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon. After the Acon Festive Board, I attended the Provincial Grand Court of the USA for the Masonic Order of Athelstan. That night I presided over the High Council of the Masonic Order of the Bath USA where we initiated over 70 new members. After some fun and frivolity with my Brother Masons in the hospitality suite, it was definitely time for bed.

Friday morning started for me with the 58th Annual Meeting of the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the USA. In the afternoon, I attended the 90th Annual Grand Ingathering of the Grand College of America for the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests. I then attended the 93rd Annual Convocation of the Grand College of Rites of the USA. After a great dinner with friends, I spent the night conversing with Brothers until about 3:30 am.

I slept in on Saturday and then attended the 132nd Annual Convocation of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA. After the All Masonic Banquet, I packed and got some shut-eye before my early flight home.

It was great to see all of my Brothers!

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Thurman C. Pace

I'm saddened to learn of the death of Brother Thurman C. Pace, Jr. of New Jersey. He was 99 years old (next week he would have turned 100). While I had only met him a few times, I learned how dedicated he was to Freemasonry.

Thurman was a World War II Veteran who was present when the Dachau Death Camp was liberated. After the end of the war, he returned to the States and earned a Bachelors degree from Auburn University. He retired in 1987 as Financial Executive of the corporation and President of the United States Mutual Liability Insurance Company. In 1950 he married his wife Betty and they had three children: Donna, Arthur, and Susan. They were married for 74 years.

As another Mason said, "Sir Knight Thurman's Masonic record is an enviable one. He's presided over more than 30 Masonic organizations during his life. Again, space does not permit their listing. It would be far easier to list what Thurman hasn't done!"

Thurman was a 33° and former Deputy of New Jersey for the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the USA; Past Commander of the Legion of Honor Preceptory for New Jersey DeMolay; a Most Illustrious Past Grand Chancellor and Knight Grand Cross in the Grand College of Rites; Past Grand Commander and Past Grand Recorder of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of New Jersey, Past Department Commander of the Northeastern Department (1982-1985), recipient of the Knight Commander of the Temple, and an Honorary Most Eminent Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA; a Most Excellent Past Great Chief of the Grand Council of Knight Masons USA; an Honorary Most Venerable Past Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA; a Most Illustrious Past Grand Sovereign of the United Grand Imperial Council of the Red Cross of Constantine; the founder and first Grand Preceptor of the Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor (he served for over 25-years as Grand Preceptor); and a Most Worthy Past Supreme Magus and a Knight Grand Cross of the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis where, in 2002, he also chaired the proclamation ceremony for the formation of the Societas Rosicruciana in Lusitania (Portugal) and the investiture of the Supreme Magus for the newly formed High Council.

I'm sure I missed an accomplishment of this truly amazing Mason and his death will be felt around the world of Freemasonry. Requiesce in pace.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Anti-Mason Disinformation: Alta Vendita

Freemasonry has been under assault since its inception and accused of many conspiracies. While anti-Masonry is an equal opportunity employer, religious anti-Masonry often takes the form of Christian fanaticism and the opposition is general across the board, but some are unique to certain Christian denominations and churches. The relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry has been characterized by a complex and often contentious history. The Catholic Church's stance against Freemasonry can be traced back to the late 18th century when it formally condemned the secretive fraternal organization. The Church's opposition was rooted in a perceived conflict of principles and values, as well as suspicions regarding the Masonic rituals and secrecy.

In 1738, Pope Clement XII issued the papal bull "In Eminenti Apostolatus Specula," which marked the beginning of the Church's formal opposition to Freemasonry. The bull declared that Catholics who joined Masonic lodges faced excommunication, and subsequent popes reiterated and reinforced this stance. In 1859, during the reign of Pope Pius IX, the Vatican “exposed” and published Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita which the Vatican claims was written by a Jewish Freemason under the pseudonym of “Piccolo Tigre” (“Little Tiger”).

Through this document, the Vatican alleges the existence of a secret society within the Catholic Church known as the Alta Vendita, which purportedly seeks to infiltrate and manipulate the Church for its own agenda. This publication is a blueprint for the slow subversion of the Church. However, there is considerable skepticism about the authenticity of the document, and many scholars argue that the conspiracy theory is unfounded and lacks credible evidence.

According to “Architects of Deception” by Juri Lina, the Carbonari (Italian for "charcoal makers") was established in Naples in 1806 and was a guild that was supposedly infiltrated by the mafia, Freemasons, and the Illuminati. The governing body of the Carbonari was called “Alta Vendita.” This group was accused of participating in Italian insurrections in the 1830s and was supposedly presided over by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini (both of whom were influential in establishing an independent and unified Italian state), but that doesn’t hold that much muster as the group was suppressed by 1831. The Vatican makes claims that this group is a neo-Illuminati group and slanders them for their pro-republican stances (a common theme from that church). The Carbonari were divided into two degrees: Apprentice and Master. Supposedly, Masons could enter the Carbonari immediately as Masters. The Carbonari spread across Europe through the 1800s. It is claimed that the Carbonari worked behind the scenes to topple monarchies (particularly the Bourbon dynasty for some reason) and commit acts of terrorism. After failed uprisings, the Carbonari ceased to exist after government crackdowns, and many of their leaders were either put to death, imprisoned, or exiled, but conspiracy theorists claim that members just joined a new movement called Giovane Italia ("Young Italy") that was governed by Giuseppe Mazzini (who is also included in the World War conspiracy theory.

I’ve read several different works and no one can say how the Vatican got a hold of this document. They just say it fell into the hands of Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846), but they declare it is authentic because Pope Pus IX (1846-1878) said it was authentic. However, nothing in any of the published works concerning the Alta Vendita prove any link or affiliation with Freemasonry and whoever wrote it was unfamiliar with legitimate Freemasonry.

The Roman Catholics who reference the Alta Vendita as proof of the evil of Freemasonry are often “sedevacantists”. Sedevacantism is a traditionalist Catholic movement that believes that since the death of Pius XII in 1958 anyone sitting as Pope is illegitimate. Sedevacantism comes from the Latin phrase “sede vacante” which means “empty chair” meaning the Throne of St. Peter is empty. The movement originated after the Second Vatican Council which made some changes that they did not like. It is ironic that those who claim to uphold Catholicism which includes the doctrine of Papal infallibility, but then reject the Papacy of their own church. They however use it as they see it as the cause for all of the changes in the church in the post-Vatican II era. These sedevacantists even say that recent Popes have been Freemasons including the current one, Pope Francis, even though he has recently condemned Freemasonry and upheld the doctrine that prohibits Catholics from joining Freemasonry.


References

1. Carbonari. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonari 

2. Doesn't the Alta Vendita prove that Freemasonry is anti-Catholic? (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry01.html#alta 

3. Lina, J. (2004). Architects of Deception. Stockholm: Referent Publishing). 

4. Vennari, J. (n.d.). The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita. Retrieved from Catholic Family News: http://www.brizek.com/endtimes/altavend.htm