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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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