Freemasonry: The Theosophical Perspective

“The accusations against Masons have been mostly half guess-work, half-unquenchable malice and predetermined vilification. Nothing conclusive and certain of a criminal character has been directly proven against them,” writes H. P. Blavatsky in the lengthy chapter titled “Jesuitry and Masonry” in the second volume of her first book “Isis Unveiled” which bears the subtitle “A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology.”

She says on the same page (p. 372) regarding the writings of a French Catholic writer: “The fact alone that he traces the modern Mason to the Templars, and points them out as secret assassins, trained to political murder, shows how little he knew of them, but how ardently he desired, at the same time, to find in these societies convenient scape-goats for the crimes and sins of another secret society which, since its existence, has harbored more than one dangerous political assassin – the Society of Jesus.”

One might assume then that it is this latter society which is behind much of the popular “conspiracy theory” accusations which blame Masons for the world’s troubles, as this diverts people’s attention and suspicions away from the real culprits.

However – “Like Christianity, Freemasonry is a corpse from which the spirit long ago fled,” (p. 388) and “There are no longer any secrets left unpublished; the Order is degenerating into a convenience for selfish men to use, and bad men to debase.”

This is largely due, she maintains throughout her writings, to infiltration by the Jesuits, i.e. members of the “Society of Jesus” organisation founded by Ignatius Loyola and which is an inextricable part of the Roman Catholic Church. Such a prospect of Jesuit infiltration and destruction from within is a very real threat to all noble and potent spiritual movements and organisations, states HPB, and in fact many Theosophists see this as the cause behind certain unfoldments within the original “Theosophical Society” organisation in the first several decades after the passing of HPB and William Q. Judge.

In her posthumously published article “The Trial of the Sun Initiate” we find:

“The Jesuits . . . To give one instance of their success in throwing dust into the eyes of ordinary individuals to prevent their seeing the truths of Occultism, we will point out what they did in what is now called Freemasonry. This Brotherhood does possess a considerable portion of the symbolism, formulae, and ritual of Occultism, handed down from time immemorial from the primeval Initiations. To render this Brotherhood a mere harmless negation, the Jesuits sent some of their most able emissaries into the Order, who first made the simple brethren believe that the true secret was lost with Hiram Abiff; and then induced them to put this belief into their formularies. They then invented specious but spurious higher degrees, pretending to give further light upon this lost secret, to lead the candidate on and amuse him with forms borrowed from the real thing but containing no substance, and all artfully contrived to lead the aspiring Neophyte to nowhere. And yet men of good sense and abilities, in other respects, will meet at intervals, and with solemn face, zeal and earnestness, go through the mockery of revealing “substituted secrets” instead of the real thing.”

Further on in the chapter in “Isis Unveiled” she shows that today there prevails much that could be called “pseudo-masonry” and identifies some of the main groups of this nature and their various names –

Knights Templar

Knights of Malta

Knights of St John of Jerusalem (sometimes called the Knights Hospitallers)

Knights of the Red Cross

Order or Chapter of Rose Croix

Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

Rite of Avignon

Order of The Temple

Rite of Fessler

Grand Council of the Emperors of the East and West – Sovereign Prince Masons

– and leads to the conclusion that any Masonic group with “Knights,” “Templar,” or “Malta” in the name is highly suspect. These and others are “nearly all the offspring of the sons of Ignatius Loyola . . . under instructions from the General of the Jesuits . . . the Christianizing of Masonry . . . Templarism is Jesuitism,” (letter from high-ranking American Mason Charles Sotheran to HPB, quoted on p. 390).

Masonic organisations calling themselves “Knights Templar” are in no way the same as the original Templars of history. In this regard, HPB continues, “While the real “Brothers” died an ignominious death, the spurious Order which tried to step into their shoes became exclusively a branch of the Jesuits under the immediate tutelage of the latter. True-hearted, honest Masons, ought to reject with horror any connection, let alone descent from these,” (p. 383).

Towards the end of the “Jesuitry and Masonry” chapter she writes the following, no doubt alarmingly to many Masons of the time:

“That we may not be accused of vain boasting, we shall give the keys to several of the secret ciphers of the most exclusive and important of the so-called higher Masonic degrees. If we mistake not, these have never before been revealed to the outside world (except that of the Royal Arch Masons, in 1830), but have been most jealously guarded within the various Orders. We are under neither promise, obligation, nor oath, and therefore violate no confidence. Our purpose is not to gratify an idle curiosity; we wish merely to show Masons and the affiliates of all other Western societies – the Company of Jesus included – that it is impossible for them to be secure in the possession of any secrets that it is worth an Eastern Brotherhood’s while to discover. Inferentially, it may also show them that if the latter can lift the masks of European societies, they are nevertheless successful in wearing their own visors; for, if any one thing is universally acknowledged, it is that the real secrets of not a single surviving ancient brotherhood are in possession of the profane,” (p. 394).

The mention of “an Eastern Brotherhood” refers of course to that Brotherhood into which HPB had entered and been initiated under the tutelage of some who we call “Masters of Wisdom” and who were the real Founders and Inspirers, behind the scenes, of the modern Theosophical Movement, HPB being – as They put it – Their “Direct Agent.”

She then proceeds over the next few pages to do exactly that, revealing to the world the codes for deciphering the secret modes of writing used by several “Knights –,” “Sovereign Princes –,” and so-called “Rosicrucian” Masonic societies.

“Let this suffice,” she then says, on p. 398. “We might, if we chose, give the cipher alphabets with their keys, of another method of the Royal Arch Masons, strongly resembling a certain Hindu character; of the G ∴ El ∴ of the Mystic City; of a well-known form of the Devanagari script of the (French) Sages of the Pyramids; and of the Sublime Master of the Great Work, and others. But we refrain; only, be it understood, for the reason that some of these alone of all the side branches of the original Blue Lodge Freemasonry, contain the promise of a useful future. As for the rest, they may and will go to the ash-heap of time. High Masons will understand what we mean.”

HPB is sometimes incorrectly described as having herself been a 33° Mason or even – in a rabid fundamentalist Christian article rebutted here – a “Co-Mason.”

The facts are that in November 1877, shortly after “Isis Unveiled” was published, she was made an honorary Mason, in what she described as an “unsolicited and unexpected testimonial of their approval of my humble labors.” Her honorary Masonic Diploma, signed by John Yarker, did not confer upon her any particular degree, nor does it make any mention of such.

She never had any personal connection with Freemasonry, least of all with Co-Masonry, which only became connected with The Theosophical Society some years after her death, through the influence of such people as C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, whose version of Theosophy was profoundly different from the original. Although Co-Masonry, to its credit, admits women as well as men, it was nonetheless instituted within “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” by the same leaders directly responsible for the Society’s attempted Christianisation and even Catholicisation and who also put HPB’s original writings out of print and replaced them with their own proclamations of the imminent “Second Coming of Christ” and promotions of ritualism and church ceremonies!

Those interested in this aspect of Theosophical history, the ramifications of which are still very much present today, may find it of interest to read such articles as Theosophy, The Jesuits, & The Roman Catholic Church, The Case against C. W. Leadbeater, and Original Theosophy and Later Versions.

After her initial published acknowledgement of the Diploma, HPB made no further reference to it. She didn’t draw attention to it, never attended Masonic meetings or events, and was indeed continually critical of modern Masonry. Most of her students and colleagues would have been surprised to learn that she had been awarded such an honour, if indeed it was an honour.

What she wrote on the matter, in February 1878, is summarised in these words from her letter to the Editor of “The Franklin Register”:

“I am obliged to correct certain errors in your highly complimentary editorial in the REGISTER of the 18th January. You say that I have taken “the regular degrees in masonic lodges” and “attained high dignity in the order”; and further add: “upon Madam B. has recently been conferred the diploma of the 33d masonic degree from the oldest masonic body in the world.”

“If you will kindly refer to my Isis Unveiled (Vol. II, p. 324,) you will find me saying: “We are neither under promise, obligation, nor oath, and therefore violate no confidence,” reference being made to Western masonry, to the criticism of which the chapter is devoted; and full assurance is given that I have never taken “the regular degrees” in any Western masonic lodge. Of course, therefore, having taken no such degrees, I am not a 33d degree Mason.”

In a letter to a colleague, Robert Crosbie – who founded the United Lodge of Theosophists in 1909 in an endeavour to keep the original work and teachings of H. P. Blavatsky and her closest colleague William Q. Judge alive in the world – once wrote:

“W. Q. J. is the only one who has spoken specifically in regard to Masonry as “a great and important part of the Theosophical Movement.” And the context of his article, “The Theosophical Movement,” as well as the circumstances of its publication, will give a true idea as to the part Masonry has played in the past in the work of the Theosophical Movement. [Note: The term “the Theosophical Movement” is here used for the great and ongoing effort throughout the ages to liberate and enlighten mankind and not referring specifically to the modern Theosophical Movement founded in 1875.]

“The Theosophical Movement includes all efforts that lead to human freedom and enlightenment. Masonry has played and is still playing an important part in the world. For first, its main idea is the Brotherhood of Man, even though in a limited and restricted sense; second, Masonry debars from its lodges all considerations of politics or religions, recognizing those to be the greatest provocatives of dissensions; third, it is the implacable enemy of religious intolerance, and is at the present day engaged in a death struggle with the Catholic church of Mexico and South America. It was through Masonry and Masons that the United States of America was made possible.

“So Masonry was and is a great and important part of the Theosophical Movement. Yet there are more important things than Masonry. If it had been sufficient for the needs of humanity, there would have been no need for Theosophy.” (“The Friendly Philosopher” p. 36)

Readers may have noticed in this article a few dismissive mentions towards modern day groups which identify themselves as being Rosicrucians. There are now many self-proclaimed “Rosicrucians” but the Theosophical perspective on this can be obtained from the article Hidden Origins of Rosicrucianism, including the quotes which follow it.

If some of our readers have been under the impression until now that Theosophy teaches that “the three main channels through which the preparation for the new age is going on might be regarded as the Church, the Masonic Fraternity and the educational field,” we would like to give assurance that this is very far from the authentic Theosophical view of things and is instead derived from the writings of Alice Bailey. That Bailey’s work and teachings are the very opposite of those of H. P. Blavatsky has been demonstrated on this site in 14 Good Reasons To Question The Alice Bailey Teachings and the lengthy Tibetan Master or Christian Priest? (“Uncovering the real inspiration behind the Alice Bailey Books”).

“We, disciples of the Masters of the Orient, have naught to do with modern Masonry,” asserts HPB in her article “A Signal of Danger” but adds in “The Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry” that “ancient and modern Freemasonry are an obligatory study with every Eastern Occultist.”

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