If Jesus Were Indeed Married To Mary Magdalene, Does His Bloodline Still Exist?

First of all, let it be understood that there is no absolute proof that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, let alone that they produced offspring. However, there are indications that this might have been so and, until proof turns up one way or the other, one should keep an open mind. It is certainly more interesting to do so!

There are several sources that the interested reader can pursue, one of the most meticulous being the writings on the subject by Dr Barbara Thiering (see Jesus the Man) based on her careful studies of commentaries on the Old Testament books in the Dead Sea Scrolls. These old documents provide vital clues to understanding the procedures and rituals that would have been followed by Jesus and Mary had they gone through the complex ceremonies of marriage and the rules dictating the specific times at which pregnancy was allowed.

Laurence Gardner points out that Mary Magdalene’s royal heritage would have made her a fitting partner for the heir to the Davidic dynasty. He further interprets Acts 6:7 and the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Mark 4:8) to indicate that Jesus became the father of a son. Other sources suggest that as many as three children were born to Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

In terms of the marriage theory, a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene would have been the fusing of two royal Jewish bloodlines. Jesus was of the House of David and descended from King Solomon, king of the Jews. Mary Magdalene was of the royal House of Benjamin. The political potential of such a union is undeniable, since it contained the threat of future political upheaval were an attempt ever made to restore the line of Jewish kings. Such a threat would have been not only to Rome, but also to those Jewish groups – sometimes referred to as Herodians – who had accepted the rule of Rome and were materially benefiting from it. 

A continuing bloodline would clearly have represented a long term threat, which would explain why Mary Magdalene would have had to leave the Holy Land without delay after the Crucifixion.

Some sources give the name of Jesus’ son as Jesus Justus. He would, in turn, have been heir to the Davidic dynasty. He was called Alain in the Grail tradition. Some sources claim that he married a granddaughter of Nicodemus in 73 AD, but died childless, so that the younger son of Jesus, Josephes, became heir.

In terms of documentation in favour of this theory, the heritage, as described by Laurence Gardner in Bloodline of the Holy Grail, passed to Josephes’s son, Josue, from whom the Fisher kings were descended.

The so-called ‘Fisher Kings’ (priest-kings or ‘fishers of men’) were the descendants of the House of Judah, and it is said that the Merovingian line was descended from Jesus through the Fisher Kings. Gardner says that the Merovingian branches of the family became the Counts of Toulouse and Narbonne and the Princes of a territory between France and Spain.

According to genealogist Gardner, the 12-year-old Jesus Justus visited Britain in 49 AD with Joseph of Arimathea. He points out that this event is celebrated in old West Country ballads, as well as in William Blake’s beautiful poem, “Jerusalem”.

A stone was set in the south wall of St Mary’s Chapel in Glastonbury to commemorate Jesus Justus’s visit. It was inscribed “Jesus Maria” and was much visited by pilgrims in the Middle Ages. It is of interest that the original chapel on the site was begun in 63 AD which was immediately after the death of Mary Magdalene in Provence and is said to have been dedicated to his mother by Jesus Justus in the following year. At this time, her son Josephes was Bishop of Saraz, the present Gaza.

Fact or legend? Only time will tell… and only then if old manuscripts come to light that contain evidence sufficiently convincing to silence official opposition

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Published in: Uncategorized on May 30, 2006 at 9:05 pm  Comments (43)  

Did The Church Evolve From Pagan Religions?

In terms of the core of its teachings, the orthodox Church evolved principally from the teachings of Jesus Christ… but the dogma in which it has entrenched itself has strayed far from what Jesus intended in terms of his mission. And there is no doubt that much of this dogma was rooted in earlier pagan myths and rituals.

Political manipulations, sectional disagreements within the Church itself, and the interpretations and misinterpretations of scribes through the centuries have further widened the rift between the teachings of Christ and the Church’s expressed views.

For any institution to survive through the centuries, it needs to keep up with changes in society and take account of new information that throws light on the accuracy and relevance of its beliefs. The Church has been slow to do this. There is concern among many Catholics that even today the Church refuses to reconsider its position on crucial issues like contraception, celibacy and women priests.

At the same time, however, the influence of the pagan past is clearly to be seen in many aspects of Christianity, not only because the past cannot simply be thrown off entirely when new ideas begin to prevail, but because the Church deliberately imposed some of its rituals and days of celebration over major pagan ceremonies in order to obliterate earlier religious practices and beliefs that were unacceptable to it.

By the middle of the second century, the ‘Nazarenes’ – those who followed the teachings of Jesus and later of his brother James – were being persecuted by Pauline Christians who were well into the developing orthodoxy that was to be cemented by the Council at Nicaea in 325 AD. Christianity had become much more the religion of Paul’s view of Jesus than the religion of Jesus himself.

The Council of Nicaea is largely seen now as a calling together by Constantine of Christian representatives – both orthodox and sectarian – in order to create a unified Christianity to stabilise the weakening Empire. It was, in fact, attended also by leading figures from all the pagan religions in the Roman Empire because it was Constantine’s intention to create a universal (“catholic”) religion for the Empire, and he was not inclined to be too tolerant of any group who opposed this.

In order for pagan cults to be willing to be drawn into the ‘universal’ religion planned by Constantine, they had to feel assured that certain of their rituals would persist and some of their major feast days continue to be observed, even if under different names.

Pagan fertility ceremonies became blessings of the fields under the spiritual guidance of priests. The Eastern Orthodox Church had a tradition of sharing dyed and painted eggs as symbols of life renewed when Christ rose from the tomb, but the Easter tradition of eggs and rabbits had actually been taken over from fertility rites celebrated by pagan religions. ‘Virgin’ births were celebrated in pagan religions long before the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, and resurrections of fertility gods in nature religions were ritually observed long before the resurrection of Christ. There is nothing sacrilegious in saying that many Christian beliefs were in the long line of old and honoured religious tradition. 

Imposing new Christian traditions over older pagan ones was favoured as a way of drawing formerly pagan believers into the Church. Many of our rituals stem from pagan rites; for instance, confetti thrown during celebrations and rice thrown at bride and groom arose from the practice of throwing grains of wheat and barley during pagan processions.

The months of our Christian calendar are named after Roman gods and Roman Caesars. With the exception of the Roman origin of Saturday (Saturn’s Day), the days of the week are named after Germanic gods.

The Church realised that the most effective way of eventually eliminating pagan beliefs – or at least rendering them ineffective as threats – was to superimpose Christian celebrations over them. The assumption of many of the pagan rituals gradually became so embedded in the dogma and traditions of Christianity that their pagan origin was either unknown to later Christians or no longer mattered.

The Christian Church in the years following on Nicaea was therefore a mix of several shades of belief and by no means orthodox. Orthodoxy had been imposed by Constantine, but belief came about more slowly. The sign of the fish had been ousted in favour of the Cross, and the new focus was on the suffering of Christ for the sins of mankind. 

The Church of Antioch had been founded in Asia Minor about 36AD by James, Peter and Thomas. Church leaders were outraged by the goings-on at Nicaea and withdrew from the Council.

Even the earlier religion of the Israelites from which Christianity borrowed much had in turn borrowed many beliefs from contemporary and earlier pagan religions, including the story of Noah and the Flood. Orthodox Christianity’s way of presenting Mother and Child echoes the Egyptian goddess Isis and the child Horus from the powerful cult of Isis which also celebrated the resurrection of her husband, the god Osiris. The use of holy water is not confined to Christian blessings. In ancient Egypt, jars of water from the holy river, the Nile, were kept in jars in homes and public buildings to protect against evil influences.

Worship of the Madonna echoes the veneration given the goddess Diana by members of pre-Christian Roman cults.

There are echoes of paganism in countless Christian ceremonies and traditions, including in the exotic garments of the highest priestly class. The ringing of the church bells is found in earlier Buddhist Tibetan and Chinese monasteries, as were beads and rosaries, and the halo of Renaissance paintings was Babylonian in origin, used to depict not only holy figures but also to indicate great virtue in ordinary human beings. The practice of celibacy was common in pagan religions, particularly in Rome. Many pagan religions valued celibacy as an extreme of virtue, but it was not a practice followed by the Christian Church until some centuries after its founding, and then it seems to have been the result of practical considerations; that is, that the Church was losing land to the heirs of married priests and, secondly, that married men with families could not give undivided attention to the Church. 

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Published in: on May 30, 2006 at 9:00 pm  Comments (5)  

Why are three so many Mary’s in the bible

Men and women who held high positions in certain Jewish religious communities took on the names of particular ancestors according to their rank in the community. Wives of the Davidic male line took the name of Miriam (Mary). Jesus’s mother was therefore a Mary, and his wife would have been a Mary, too. There are several Biblical Marys, but we can now ask our questions about the two Marys involved in the two questions that follow.

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Published in: on May 27, 2006 at 5:35 am  Comments (2)  

The Last Supper and it’s clues!

It is claimed in the novel that Leonardo da Vinci included cryptic messages in his paintings and designs and that these included celebrations of the sacred feminine. last_supper.jpg 1. Is this evidence for Peter’s rivalry with Mary Magdalene? Peter’s hand is slicing through the air in what appears to be a menacing fashion. Metaphorically, Da Vinci might be intending to comment on the struggle that took place to control Jesus’s religious movement after his death. There is some evidence in the Nag Hammadi codices to suggest that Peter was jealous of Mary’s important role in the continuance of Jesus’s mission.  2. According to The Da Vinci Code, as well as some other sources, the letter ‘M’ represents either Mary Magdalene or ‘matrimony’ (from the Latin matrimonium), or both.  3. Is the figure on Jesus’s right really the apostle John… or is it a woman? Was placing this Mary Magdalene figure on Jesus’s right – the most important position in relation to the figure of Jesus – Leonardo’s vision of where she ought to have been? 4. Note the disembodied hand hanging in the air. Does this have a symbolic meaning? Is it an image, for instance, of Peter’s real feelings towards Mary Magdalene? 5. Note that the clothing worn by Jesus and Mary are mirror images in terms of the red and blue fabrics. 6. The 90-degree  angle that can be drawn between Jesus and Mary Magdalene suggests a ‘V’. In The Da Vinci Code, as well as in several non-fiction sources, this is the archetypal symbol for the vagina, chalice, womb and female sexuality.   7. Note that there is no central chalice at the table, although people often do not notice that the famous cup of the Grail story is missing. In the painting, each figure has a cup of his own. It is jokingly suggested in The Da Vinci Code is that Leonardo "forgot to include the Holy Grail".  8. In formal ritual and ceremony, red and blue are often seen as royal colors, and their use here could be suggesting a royal bloodline. There is some evidence to suggest that Mary was a descendant of the royal house of Benjamin, and it is known that Jesus was the direct heir to the royal line of David of the House of Judah. Blue is also considered to be representative of fidelity, spiritual love and truth.  In The Da Vinci Code, the painting under scrutiny is The Last Supper. It is claimed that the figure on Jesus’s right is not the apostle John, but Mary Magdalene, and that the two central figures, the postulated Mary Magdalene and the figure of Jesus, form the inner sides of a large ‘M’ for Mary. This enclosing ‘M’ shape is interpreted as confirming the importance of Mary Magdalene in Jesus’s life. She is the only woman present and, as first apostle, sits at his right hand.   It is pointed out that there is no chalice on the table, and this is interpreted to mean that the chalice was nonetheless there… in the person of Mary Magdalene, the chalice being her womb, the sacred Sangreal, in which she carried the bloodline of Jesus. It is suggested that the 90-degree ´V’ sign that can be drawn between her and Jesus is another cryptic Da Vinci device symbolising the chalice, the sangreal, the womb of Mary Magdalene. The ‘V’ and inverted ‘V’ signs were not uncommonly used symbolically to indicate the female and male principles.  If the figure in the painting is the apostle John, as has been generally accepted to this point, he is a curiously feminine figure, although young, unbearded men were often presented in somewhat androgynous terms in the style of the day. On the other hand, if the slender, narrow-shouldered, feminine figure had been designated Mary Magdalene in the first place, it is doubtful whether anyone would have queried her gender. That could leave us with a numerical difficulty, but we have to remember that the painting is Leonardo’s creation. If he intended the figure to be Mary Magdalene, then his placing of her next to Jesus indicates that he considered this to be her rightful place.  Further, in terms of this theory, it was Mary who was intended to be the founder of the Church that would carry forward the teachings of Jesus, not Peter. It seems doubtful whether Leonardo was anti-Christian as is sometimes suggested. He makes many references to God in his work. Sharan Newman describes him as being probably “a Christian in an absent-minded way”, although he was firmly against such against Church practices as the selling of indulgences.  It is difficult to see the erratic, free-spirited, independent Leonardo as Master of an organisation like the described Priory of Sion. One of Leonardo’s problems, made clear by his phenomenal range of sketches and notes, was that he was not a finisher. He was always too tempted by visions of his next project or the possibilities of some invention. It is doubtful whether any project would have held his interest for long. However, it is just possible that the mystery of a secret organisation like the Priory of Sion – if it ever existed in the way that Dan Brown describes – might have fascinated him for a time.    He left thousands of notebooks filled with drawings, designs and sketches. His ingenuity was endless, and his imagination so fertile that he designed many of the inventions that could only be manufactured centuries later when the technology was available. It is true, however, that many of the Renaissance painters incorporated cryptic elements into their paintings. It was fashionable to do so. It was also common for them to use Phi, the Divine Proportion (1.618) as it was called, and the Fibonacci sequences in spatial calculations. This kind of game would have delighted a man of Leonardo’s temperament, especially if he were introducing symbols that would have outraged many if interpreted.  The painter, Nicolas Poussin, a staunch admirer of Pythagoras, was one of those who enjoyed the ancient practice of preserving wisdom through the use of geometry, and he demonstrated this clearly in his most famous painting, Les Bergers d’Aracdie II. Apart from the use of geometry in the design of their paintings, many Renaissance artists used ‘sacred’ symbols freely in their work in such ways that they were unobtrusively part of the scene: a rose might have secret significance, usually in relationship to the Holy Grail or the Order of Rosicrucians; and fingers held in a certain way or touching some part of the body or face might indicate a secret greeting or have some other meaning to those able to recognise it for what it was. Leonardo da Vinci often wrote in mirror writing, but it is doubtful whether this was intended to be cryptic as is sometimes suggested. It was too obviously simple to read. It was far more likely that he was left-handed and found writing in this style easy. In fact, he made it clear that he intended to publish much of his writing at some time in the future, but – like many creative people whose minds overflow with more ideas than they can ever work through – he never reached the stage of compiling his written work into publishable books.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 27, 2006 at 5:23 am  Comments (44)  

How Many Gospels Were There?

There were many Gospels of Jesus in the early days of Christianity. In addition to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the New Testament and the four Nag Hammadi Gospels, many other documents have been referred to as ‘gospels’.

Although many of the early Christian sects did not agree with the orthodox view that the scriptures came directly from God, there was fairly general agreement at the time that they had been written by people who were God-inspired.

In 302 Bishop Damascus directed Jerome to write a Latin text to standardise the scriptures. This came to be called the Latin Vulgate Bible and was used throughout the Christian world as the standardised Church text for at least a thousand years.  Since it was in Latin, it was up to the Church to ‘interpret’ it to their congregations, which was very much part of their intention as it diminished the likelihood of heresies arising.  

Also in the fourth century, Augustine declared that every part of the text had been chosen by God, although written by various Christian writers. Although the Church fathers superficially went along with this, many of them did not agree, as is clear from some of their writings.

Somewhere around the middle of the fourth century the New Testament as we know it began to be collated, and in or about 367 AD Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria gathered together a selection of writings that were approved first by the Council of Hippo (393AD) and then by the Council of Carthage (397 AD).

Over the centuries, these texts were further ‘edited’ and many important sections – presumably those which the Church saw as undermining of its authority or likely to cause dissension – were excluded.

Ten centuries after the Vulgate had originally been accepted, the same old disagreements continued to raise questions and cause dissension. Only in1546 were the four Gospels of the New Testament approved by the Council of Trent… and that only because of the threat to the Roman Catholic Church of the Protestant Reformation

Relating to information about the ministry of Christ in the Nag Hammadi gospels, in an interview published in the US News & World Report, Collector’s edition: Secrets of the Da Vinci Code, James Robinson, general editor of The Nag Hammadi Library, says that of the four Nag Hammadi codices, only the Gospel of Thomas can really be regarded as a gospel because it is the only one that claims to quote the actual words of Jesus. Other sources would regard this as a splitting of hairs since the words of Jesus are reported in other Nag Hammadi gospels.

Nobody knows how many Gospels there originally were, and it might be that some are yet to be discovered. Hundreds of caves offer possible hiding-places.

Since we know that the Four Gospels of the New Testament were selectively chosen and subsequently much edited, adapted and reduced, and as we cannot know what ancient records will still come to light, the issue of the Gospels as contributing to the ‘real’ history of Jesus remains an open question.

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Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 2:25 pm  Comments (23)  

What Is The Quest Of The Grail?

The Quest of the Grail is a spiritual journey, a search for the ‘Self’, finding fulfilment in the generous giving of service.

The quests of the knights of Arthurian legend were, for instance, illustrations of the nobility of serving without thought of reward.

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Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 2:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Does The Priory Of Sion Really Exist?

Immediately prior to the Prologue in The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown makes a point of confirming the authenticity of the Priory of Sion.

It was, he says, a European secret society founded in 1099.  Another source gives the date as 1090, the place as the Holy Land, and the founder as Godfroy de Bouillion, who captured Jerusalem in 1099. After the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders, Godfroy ordered that an abbey, the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Mont de Sion, be built on the site of a ruined Byzantine church to house his personal canons (members of a cathedral chapter) who, according to Priory records, later became involved in helping to create the Knights Templar to “serve as the Order of Sion’s military and exterior administrative arm”. (Cracking the Da Vinci Code, p. 130)

In 1152, a number of monks from the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Mont de Sion travelled to France in the company of the French king, Louis VII, and were settled in Orleans, where some of them were accommodated at “the little priory of the Mount of Sion”. From this small body, according to (now dubious) Priory records, grew the secret order that became known as the Priory of Sion.

It is claimed that the Knights Templar co-operated with the Priory of Sion until 1188 when the two bodies were unable to resolve a major dispute and officially abandoned their alliance. While the Templars continued to operate publicly until their order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1307, the Priory of Sion apparently became an underground movement under the name of the Order of the Rose-Cross Veritas. By association of terms, it seems that the still-existing movement known as the Rosicrucians had its roots in this order.

Dan Brown records that in 1975 the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets which identified well-known personages as being among the members of the Priory of Sion. Included were the names of Sir Isaac Newton, Sandro Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci. Dates of this discovery vary.

It seems that the real purpose of the dossiers was to establish an illustrious background for one Pierre Plantard and attempted to show that he was the only living descendant of King Dagobert II and therefore the legitimate king of France. This also placed him in the bloodline claimed to have been that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. In fact, the Dossiers contain a wide variety of material that has not been substantiated by any other source. Moreover, some pieces of information have been definitively proved by experts to be false. 

With a special card issued on request to researchers, anyone can study any records in the entire library. Although frequently described as ‘secret’, they are in fact available for scrutiny. 

Leadership of the Priory of Sion is claimed to have originally passed on via a family bloodline, but the position was later said to be held by people of particular distinction. Author Simon Cox mentions a list dated 1956 which was contained in the Les Dossiers Secrets and which gives the names of all the “Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion”. According to this record, Jean Cocteau was “Navigator” (Grand Master) from 1918 to 1963. The name of his successor has apparently not been established, but leadership subsequently passed to Pierre Plantard, who held the title until his resignation in 1984.

Pierre Plantard was apparently a major source of information for the authors of the best-selling Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the book that first drew the attention of the reading public to the Priory of Sion.

The glossary item on the Priory of Sion in Secrets of the Code (see Further Reading at the end of this book) introduces a note of caution about the claims of Pierre Plantard, the spokesperson for most of the modern history of the Priory of Sion. Plantard died on 3 February 2000. The editor of Secrets of the Code points out that documentary evidence relating to the activities of the Priory of Sion is available only from 1956 and that anything before that is sketchy and confusing. He comments that many authors “have projected their speculations and theories regarding the Priory and its place in history”.

True, but ultimately The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction. What makes it so compelling a novel is the fact that its fictional elements play out against a well-researched background that seems persuasively real, whether it is in fact so or not. 

Truth, after all, depends largely on perspective. A novel writer wanting to present background material that can be accepted by readers as being as authentic as possible therefore has to make choices based on research that seems to him to offer him the best opportunity for creating a believable and coherent context for his story. 

The author of The Da Vinci Code states that all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in the novel are accurate. It is important that one temporarily accepts this credo if one is to participate fully in the events of the novel and take in a great deal of fascinating historical material that one might care to pursue further afterwards if one wishes.

The book therefore opens doors to much further exploration beyond the fiction which it presents. The avid interest raised by the background to The Da Vinci Code is a clear indication of the delight many readers take in digging beyond the telling of the story.     

The role played by the supposedly centuries-old Priory of Sion is a case in point. Jacques Saunière, Sophie Neveu’s grandfather in the novel, is found to be the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion and one of four people to hold the Priory’s grand secret that must at all costs be prevented from falling into the hands of the Opus Dei. The incorporation of complex historical detail – including detail about which there is much speculation and controversy – adds a dimension not usually found in thrillers.

An interesting note is that a Catholic Order called the Priory of Sion did exist in the Middle Ages, although it had nothing to do with the Merovingians or any alternative history of Jesus and Mary Magadalene. Nor does it appear to have had any relationship to the Priory of Sion of Dan Brown’s novel.

Many people joined the Priory of Sion after 1956, and more followed when the finding of Les Dossiers Secrets (not by library staff, but by members of Pierre Plantard’s group) was announced.

Today, despite Pierre Plantard’s documentary evidence being regarded as highly suspicious and probably fraudulent, the Priory of Sion continues to exist as a small occult group, focusing on themes and rituals which it has in common with several other older orders.

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Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 2:18 pm  Comments (4)  

Can you name the five major religions?

Or maybe who Moses was. What do you kids know?

Nationwide, worldwide there is a lack of basic general knowledge. When Jay Leno did a walk around segment he got back answers like De Generes was a book of the bible, Adam & Eve had no children and that Moby Dick was swallowed by the whale.

As we know the Da Vinci COde asserts that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered children, the Bible was doctored by church leaders in order to control the Roman Empire and oppress women, nobody believed Jesus was divine until it became politically expedient, and the Catholic Church has worked for centuries to keep all of this a deep, dark secret.

Great discussion topics for the family. Great way to improve your kids general knowledge. Even if they just learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction you ahve done a good job!

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Published in: Uncategorized on May 22, 2006 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Alex Tracey Spotted This!

Alex the Co-author of the book spottted these two links in South Africa where she is living at present.

Stop this Movie

Blessing in Heretical disguise

Happy Reading

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Published in: Uncategorized on May 21, 2006 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

What Was The Role Of The Freemasons?

It seems probable that leading members of the old masonic guilds had connections with the Knights Templar. What is not known is whether the Freemasons of today are in any real sense connected to the old guild of stone masons of the Middle Ages.

 

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was the work of a guild of masons under the leadership of the Cistercian Order. St Bernard of that order was said to have knowledge of the secret geometry of King Solomon’s masons. The master mason of this guild, and skilled in sacred geometry, was Hiram Abiff, who was to become a central symbolic figure in the Freemasonry movement of the early 18th century.

 

There were various masonic guilds or brotherhoods during the Middle Ages, and when King Philip IV of France began to persecute the Knights Templar in the early 14th century, the masonic guilds in France were also placed in danger. Like the Knights Templar, they were secretive and therefore suspect.

 

It was believed that the masons had knowledge of the sacred geometry of the ancients, and it was only one step from this to see them as possibly having maps that indicated the sites of ancient documents and treasures.

 

They had three degrees of membership, the highest being that of Master mason. The Master masons were the ones most likely to be privy to any secrets. It was those of the ‘third degree’ among the secret societies who were subjected to interrogation. This is the derivation of our modern term, subjecting someone to ‘the third degree’, meaning a ruthless interrogation to force the person to divulge information.

 

When an apprentice joined one of the old guilds, he had to swear not to reveal the secrets of the craft, and the masons might at that stage have introduced some form of secret communication by which they could recognise one another.

 

 

During the Middle Ages, masons worked on the building sites of the great cathedrals and other Gothic structures. The work required a high degree of skill, and a secret code, recognisable only to other masons, would have ensured that no one who was not properly qualified would be employed on such projects.

 

Masonic groups formed groups in towns, but lodges also provided meeting-places for masons who were working away from home. These lodges kept masons in constant touch with one another and with the society.

 

It was quite usual for noble European families of the day to invent mythical genealogical records for themselves so that they could claim bloodlines going back to some illustrious figure of the distant past. Some of the guilds did the same and claimed fascinating but highly unlikely origins for themselves.

 

The first English Freemason lodges were formed around the beginning of the 18th century. Although they adopted many of the rituals and symbols of the old masonic guilds of the Middle Ages and added more of their own devising, they were quite different organisations.

 

Within a decade or so, Freemasonry had spread to France and then to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Freemasons were not required to have practised the trade of masonry, but tended to be drawn from a wide range of occupations and included many of illustrious reputation.

 

From what has been written in the last decades about Freemasonry today, it seems that modern Freemasons know little or nothing about the need to protect ancient great secrets, although this might well be part of the ritualistic role of the higher echelons. Even then, however, sacerdotalism is no longer claimed.

 

Decisions about the advancement of ordinary members are taken by this rather shadowy higher echelon, and one assumes therefore, that some kind of ‘enlightenment’ takes place, but the role of Freemasonry today is largely one of service and mutual support. It seems, however, that rituals and symbols remain very much part of their ceremonies.

 

Freemasonry accepts members of all religion, or no religion at all. Some lodges now include women.

 

When a society operates in terms of secrecy and has initiation rites and esoteric levels of membership, it is inevitable that conspiracy theories will arise regarding its activities, including accusations of subversive finagling. There is little doubt that Freemasons do indeed look after one another’s interests where possible, but the impressive number of famous and justifiably renowned Freemasons over the past couple of centuries suggests that most of the accusations are somewhat flimsy.

 

 

The very fact that the society has endured through the centuries and has counted some of history’s most illustrious figures among its members suggests that it has a powerful pull on the imagination of those who belong to it and that they find their connection with it fulfilling. There are thousands of Freemason lodges throughout the world.

 

 

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