New Page 1
[ Several theories had been postulated from time to time
on the Origin of Freemasonry by numerous Masonic Scholars in the treatises
published by them. Freemasons claim that Freemasonry was there from time
immemorial. We are posting hereunder the article by Thomas Paine on the Origin
of Freemasonry. We do not entirely subscribe to his views, which at the same
time can not be easily brushed aside. The article certainly provokes the reader
to an analytical study and contemplation of the probable origin suggested by the
Thomas Paine was one of the Founding Fathers of United
States of America. He was a journalist par excellence, a fearless thinker, a
reformer and a patriot with vision. His writings stirred the intellectuals as
well as the common men. His pamphlets “The Crisis” inspired even the farmers
to think of an independent democratic State. George Washington had the first
pamphlet of “The Crisis” read to the troops in Valley Forge. “ The
Commonsense”, “The Rights of Man”, were his other noteworthy publications.
However, his “Age of Reason”, which contained his criticism of the religion
and Bible was very controversial and he had thereafter rapidly lost popularity
and following. “Origin of Freemasonry” was written by him in 1805, but
unfortunately not published during his life time. His Executrix Bonneville, who
was a stanch and devout Roman Catholic, published the article in 1810, after
removing several portions, which she considered were against Catholicism and
describing the article as the Third part of The Age of Reason. There was another
publication in 1818. Thomas Paine has developed and propounded the theory that
Freemasonry descended from the religion of Druids. Please read on . .
It is always understood, that
Free-Masons have a secret, which they carefully conceal. But, from every thing
that can be collected from their own accounts of Masonry, their real secret is
no other than their origin, which but few of them understand and those who do,
envelope it in mystery…
The Society of Masons are distinguished into three
classes or degrees. 1st. The Entered Apprentice. 2d. The Fellow Craft. 3d. The
Master Mason. The Entered Apprentice knows but little more of Masonry than the
use of signs and tokens and certain steps and words by which Masons can
recognize each other without being discovered by a person who is not a Mason.
The Fellow Craft is not much better instructed in Masonry, than the Entered
Apprentice. It is only in the Master Mason's Lodge, that whatever knowledge
remains of the origin of Masonry is preserved and concealed.
In 1730, Samuel Pritchard, member of a constituted
lodge in England, published a treatise entitled Masonry Dissected; and made oath
before the Lord Mayor of London that it was a true copy. "Samuel Pritchard
maketh oath that the copy hereunto annexed is a true and genuine copy in every
particular." In his work he has given the catechism or examination, in
question and answer, of the Apprentices, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason.
There was no difficulty in doing this, as it is mere form. In his introduction
he says, "the original institution of Masonry consisted in the foundation
of the liberal arts and sciences, but more especially in Geometry, for at the
building of the tower of Babel, the art and mystery of Masonry was first
introduced, and from thence handed down by Euclid, a worthy and excellent
mathematician of the Egyptians and he communicated it to Hiram, the Master Mason
concerned in building Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem."
Besides the absurdity of deriving Masonry from the
building of Babel, where, according to the story, the confusion of languages
prevented the builders understanding each other and consequently of
communicating any knowledge they had, there is a glaring contradiction in point
of chronology in the account he gives. Solomon's Temple was built and dedicated
1004 years before the Christian era and Euclid, as may be seen in the tables of
chronology, lived 277 years before the same era. It was therefore impossible
that Euclid could communicate any thing to Hiram, since Euclid did not live till
700 years after the time of Hiram.
In 1783, Captain George Smith, Inspector of the
Royal Artillery Academy at Woolwich, in England and Provincial Grand Master of
for the county of Kent, published a treatise entitled, The Use and Abuse of
Free-Masonry. In his chapter of the antiquity of Masonry, he makes it to be
coeval with creation, "when," says he, "the sovereign architect
raised on Masonic principles the beauteous globe and commanded the master
science, Geometry, to lay the planetary world and to regulate by its laws the
whole stupendous system in just unerring proportion, rolling round the central
sun.". "But," continues he, "I am not at liberty publicly to
undraw the curtain, and openly to descant on this head; it is sacred, and ever
will remain so; those who are honored with the trust will not reveal it, and
those who are ignorant of it cannot betray it." By this last part of the
phrase, Smith means the two inferior classes, the Fellow Craft and the Entered
Apprentice, for he says in the next page of his work, "It is not every one
that is barely initiated into Free-Masonry, that is entrusted with all the
mysteries thereto belonging; they are not attainable as things of course, nor by
The learned, Doctor Dodd, Grand Chaplain of
Masonry, in his oration at the dedication of Free-Mason's Hall, London, traces
Masonry through a variety of stages. Masons, says he, are well informed from
their own private and interior records that the building of Solomon's Temple is
an important era, from whence they derive many mysteries of their art. "Now
(says he,) be it remembered that this great event took place above 1000 years
before the Christian era, and consequently more than a century before Homer, the
first of the Grecian Poets, wrote; and above five centuries before Pythagoras
brought from the east his sublime system of truly masonic instruction to
illuminate. our western world. But, remote as this period is, we date not from
thence the commencement of our art. For though it might owe to the wise and
glorious King of Israel some of its many mystic forms and hieroglyphic
ceremonies, yet certainly the art itself is coeval with man, the great subject
of it. "We trace," continues he, "its footsteps in the most
distant, the most remote ages and nations of the world. We find it among the
first and most celebrated civilizers of the East. We deduce it regularly from
the first astronomers on the plains of Chaldea, to the wise and mystic kings and
priests of Egypt, the sages of Greece, and the philosophers of Rome."
From these reports and declarations of Masons of
the highest order in the institution, we see that Masonry, without publicly
declaring so, lays claim to some divine communication from the creator, in a
manner different from, and unconnected with, the book which the Christians call
the Bible and the natural result from this is, that Masonry is derived from some
very ancient religion, wholly independent of and unconnected with that book.
To come then at
once to the point, Masonry (as I shall show from the customs, ceremonies,
hieroglyphics, and chronology of Masonry) is derived and is the remains of the
religion of the ancient Druids; who, like the Magi of Persia and the Priests of
Heliopolis in Egypt, were Priests of the Sun. They paid worship to this great
luminary, as the great visible agent of a great invisible first cause whom they
styled " Time without limits."
Zarvan-Akarana. This personification of Boundless Time, though a part of Parsee
Theology, seems to be a later monotheistic dogma, based on perversions of the
Zendavesta. See Haug's "Religion of the Parsees." ]
religion and Masonry have one and the same common origin: both are derived from
the worship of the Sun. The difference between their origin is, that the
Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a
man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same
adoration, which was originally paid to the Sun, as I have shown in the chapter
on the origin of the Christian religion.
paragraph was omitted from the pamphlet copyrighted by Madame Bonneville in
1810, as also the last sentence of
the next paragraph. .]
In Masonry many of the ceremonies of the Druids
are preserved in their original state, at least without any parody. With them
the Sun is still the Sun; and his image, in the form of the sun is the great
emblematical ornament of Masonic Lodges and Masonic dresses. It is the central
figure on their aprons, and they wear it also pendant on the breast in their
lodges, and in their processions. It has the figure of a man, as at the head of
the sun, as Christ is always represented.
At what period of antiquity, or in what nation,
this religion was first established, is lost in the labyrinth of unrecorded
time. It is generally ascribed to the ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians and
Chaldeans and reduced afterwards to a system regulated by the apparent progress
of the Sun through the twelve signs of Zodiac by Zoroaster, the law giver of
Persia, from whence Pythagoras brought it into Greece. It is to these matters
Dr. Dodd refers in the passage already quoted from his oration.
The worship of the Sun as the great visible agent
of a great invisible first cause, "Time without limits," spread itself
over a considerable part of Asia and Africa, from thence to Greece and Rome,
through all ancient Gaul, and into Britain and Ireland.
Smith, in his chapter on the antiquity of Masonry
in Britain, says, that "notwithstanding the obscurity which envelopes
Masonic history in that country, various circumstances contribute to prove that
Free-Masonry was introduced into Britain about 1030 Years before Christ."
It cannot be Masonry in its present state that Smith here alludes to. The Druids
flourished in Britain at the period he speaks of and it is from them that
Masonry is descended. Smith has put the child in the place of the parent.
It sometimes happens, as well in writing as in
conversation, that a person lets slip an expression that serves to unravel what
he intends to conceal, and this is the case with Smith, for in the same chapter
he says, "The Druids, when they committed any thing to writing, used the
Greek alphabet, and I am bold to assert that the most perfect remains of the
Druids' rites and ceremonies are preserved in the customs and ceremonies of the
Masons that are to be found existing among mankind." "My
brethren" says he, "may be able to trace them with greater exactness
than I am at liberty to explain to the public."
This is a confession from a Master Mason, without
intending it to be so understood by the public, that Masonry is the remains of
the religion of the Druids; the reasons for the Masons keeping this a secret. I
shall explain in the course of this work.
As the study and contemplation of the Creator [is]
in the works of the creation, the Sun, as the great visible agent of that Being,
was the visible object of the adoration of Druids; all their religious rites and
ceremonies had reference to the apparent progress of the Sun through the twelve
signs of the Zodiac, and his influence upon the earth. The Masons adopt the same
practices. The roof of their Temples or Lodges is ornamented with a Sun, and the
floor is a representation of the variegated face of the earth either by
carpeting or Mosaic work.
Free Masons Hall, in Great Queen-street, Lincoln's
Inn Fields, London, is a magnificent building, and cost upwards of 12,000 pounds
sterling. Smith, in speaking of this building, says (page 152,) "The roof
of this magnificent Hall is in all probability the highest piece of finished
architecture in Europe. In the center of this roof, a most resplendent Sun is
represented in burnished gold, surrounded with the twelve signs of the Zodiac,
with their respective characters;
After giving this description,
he says, "The emblematical meaning of the Sun is well known to the
enlightened and inquisitive Free-Mason; and as the real Sun is situated in the
center of the universe, so the emblematical Sun is the center of real Masonry.
We all know (continues he) that the Sun is the fountain of light, the source of
the seasons, the cause of the vicissitudes of day and night, the parent of
vegetation, the friend of man; hence the scientific Free-Mason only knows the
reason why the Sun is placed in the center of this beautiful hall."
The Masons, in
order to protect themselves from the persecution of the Christian church, have
always spoken in a mystical manner of the figure of the Sun in their Lodges, or,
like the astronomer Lalande, who is a Mason, been silent upon the subject. It is
their secret, especially in Catholic countries, because the figure of the Sun is
the expressive criterion that denotes they are descended from the Druids, and
that wise, elegant, philosophical religion, was the faith opposite to the faith
of the gloomy Christian church.
This sentence is omitted in Madame Bonneville's publication. -- Editor.]
The Lodges of the Masons, if built for the
purpose, are constructed in a manner to correspond with the apparent motion of
the Sun. They are situated East and West. orthodoxy. The master's place is
always in the East. In the examination of an Entered Apprentice, the Master,
among many other questions, asks him,
Q: How is the
A: East and West.
Q: Why so?
A: Because all churches and chapels are, or ought to be
This answer, which is mere
catechismal form, is not an answer to the question. It does no more than remove
the question a point further, which is, why ought all churches and chapels to be
so? But as the Entered Apprentice is not initiated into the Druidical mysteries
of Masonry, he is not asked any questions a direct answer to which would lead
Q: Where stands
A: In the East.
Q: Why so?
A: As the Sun rises in the East and opens the day, so the
Master stands in the
to open the Lodge, and set his men at work.
Q: Where stand your Wardens?
A: In the West.
Q: What is their business?
A: As the Sun sets in the West to close the day, so the Wardens
stand in the West, to
close the Lodge, and dismiss the men from labor, paying them their wages.
Here the name of the Sun is
mentioned, but it is proper to observe that in this place it has reference only
to labourer to the time of labour and not to any religious Druidical rite or ceremony, as it would have with
respect to the situation of Lodges East and West. I have already observed in the
chapter on the origin of the Christian religion,
that the situation of churches East and West is taken from the worship of the
Sun, which rises in the east, and has not the least reference to the person
called Jesus Christ. The Christians never bury their dead on the North side of a
[Note ; In many parts of
Northern Europe the North was supposed to be the region of demons. Executed
criminals were buried on the north side of churches]
A Mason's Lodge always has, or
is supposed to have, three windows, which are called fixed lights, to
distinguish them from the moveable lights of the Sun and the Moon. The Master
asks the Entered Apprentice,
Q: How are they
(the fixed lights) situated?
A: East, West, and South.
Q: What are their uses?
A: To light the men to and from their work.
Q: Why are there no lights in the North?
A: Because the Sun darts no rays from thence."
This, among numerous other
instances, shows that the Christian religion and Masonry have one and the same
common origin, the ancient worship of the Sun.
The high festival of the Masons is on the day they
call St. John's day; but every enlightened Mason must know that holding their
festival on this day has no reference to the person called St. John, and that it
is only to disguise the true cause of holding it on this day, that they call the
day by that name. As there were Masons, or at least Druids, many centuries
before the time of St. John, if such person ever existed, the holding their
festival on this day must refer to some cause totally unconnected with John.
The case is, that the day called St. John's day,
is the 24th of June and is what is called Midsummer-day. The sun is then arrived
at the summer solstice; and with respect to his meridian altitude, or height at
high noon, appears for some days to be of the same height. The astronomical
longest day, like the shortest day, is not every year, on account of leap year,
on the same numerical day, and therefore the 24th of June is always taken for
Midsummer-day; and it is in honor of the sun, which has then arrived at his
greatest height in our hemisphere, and not any thing with respect to St. John,
that this annual festival of the Masons, taken from the Druids, is celebrated on
Customs will often outlive the remembrance of
their origin, and this is the case with respect to a custom still practiced in
Ireland, where the Druids flourished at the time they flourished in Britain. On
the eve of Saint John's day, that is, on the eve of Midsummer-day, the Irish
light fires on the tops of the hills. This can have no reference to St. John;
but it has emblematical reference to the sun, which on that day is at his
highest summer elevation, and might in common language be said to have arrived
at the top of the hill.
As to what Masons, and books of Masonry, tell us
of Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem, it is no wise improbable that some Masonic
ceremonies may have been derived from the building of that temple, for the
worship of the Sun was in practice many centuries before the Temple existed, or
before the Israelites came out of Egypt. And we learn from the history of the
Jewish Kings, 2 Kings xxii. xxiii. that the worship of the Sun was performed by
the Jews in that Temple. It is, however, much to be doubted if it was done with
the same scientific purity and religious morality with which it was performed by
the Druids, who, by all accounts that historically remain of them, were a wise,
learned, and moral class of men. The Jews, on the contrary, were ignorant of
astronomy, and of science in general, and if a religion founded upon astronomy
fell into their hands, it is almost certain it would be corrupted. We do not
read in the history of the Jews, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, that they
were the inventors or the improvers of any one art or science. Even in the
building of this temple, the Jews did not know how to square and frame the
timber for beginning and carrying on the work, and Solomon was obliged to send
to Hiram, King of Tyre (Zidon) to procure workmen; "for thou knowest, (says
Solomon to Hiram, i Kings v. 6.) that there is not among us any that can skill
to hew timber like unto the Zidonians." This temple was more properly
Hiram's Temple than Solomon's, and if the Masons derive any thing from the
building of it, they owe it to the Zidonians and not to the Jews.
But to return to the worship of the Sun in this Temple.
It is said, 2 Kings xxiii. 5, "And [king
Josiah] put down all the idolatrous priests ... that burned incense unto ... the
sun, the moon, the planets, and all the host of heaven." And it is said at
the 11th verse: "And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had
given to the Sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, ... and burned
the chariots of the Sun with fire"; verse 13, "And the high places
that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of
corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth, the
abomination of the Zidonians" (the very people that built the temple)
"did the king defile."
things, the description that Josephus gives of the decorations of this Temple,
resembles on a large scale those of a Mason's Lodge. He says that the
distribution of the several parts of the Temple of the Jews represented all
nature, particularly the parts most apparent of it, as the sun, the moon, the
planets, the zodiac, the earth, the elements; and that the system of the world
was retraced there by numerous ingenious emblems. These, in all probability,
are, what Josiah, in his ignorance, calls the abominations of the Zidonians.
by PAINE: Smith, in speaking of a Lodge, says, when the Lodge is revealed
to an entering Mason, it discovers to him a representation of the World; in
which, from the wonders of nature, we are led to contemplate her great original,
and worship him from his mighty works; and we are thereby also moved to exercise
those moral and social virtues which become mankind as the servants of the great
Architect of the world.]
thing, however, drawn from this Temple
by PAINE: It may not be improper here to observe, that the law called the law of
Moses could not have been in existence at the time of building this Temple. Here
is the likeness of things in heaven above and in earth beneath. And we read in I
Kings vi., vii., that Solomon made cherubs and cherubims, that he carved all the
walls of the house round about with cherubims, and palm-trees, and open flowers,
and that he made a molten sea, placed on twelve oxen, and the ledges of it were
ornamented with lions, oxen, and cherubims: all this is contrary to the law
called the law of Moses.]
and applied to
Masonry, still refers to the worship of the Sun, however corrupted or
misunderstood by the Jews, and consequently to the religion of the Druids.
circumstance, which shows that Masonry is derived from some ancient system,
prior to and unconnected with the Christian religion, is the chronology, or
method of counting time, used by the Masons in the records of their Lodges. They
make no use of what is called the Christian era; and they reckon their months
numerically, as the ancient Egyptians did, and as the Quakers do now. I have by
me, a record of a French Lodge, at the time the late Duke of Orleans, then Duke
de Chartres, was Grand Master of Masonry in France. It begins as follows:
"Le trentieme jour du sixieme mois de l'an de la V.L. cinq mille sept cent
soixante treize;" that is, the thirteenth day of the sixth month of the
year of the Venerable Lodge, five thousand seven hundred and seventy-three. By
what I observe in English books of Masonry, the English Masons use the initials
A.L. and not V.L. By A.L. they mean in the year of Light, as the
Christians by A.D. mean in the year of our Lord. But A.L. like V.L.
refers to the same chronological era, that is, to the supposed time of the
V.L. are the initials of Vraie Lumiere, true light; and A.L. of Anne Lucis, in
the year of light. This and the three preceding sentences (of the text) are
suppressed in Madame Bonneville's pamphlet, 1810]
In the chapter on the origin of the Christian
religion, I have shown that the Cosmogony, that is, the account of the creation
with which the book of Genesis opens, has been taken and mutilated from the
Zend-Avesta of Zoroaster, and was fixed as a preface to the Bible after the Jews
returned from captivity in Babylon, and that the Robbins of the Jews do not hold
their account in Genesis to be a fact, but mere allegory. The six thousand years
in the Zend-Avesta, is changed or interpolated into six days in the account of
Genesis. The Masons appear to have chosen the same period, and perhaps to avoid
the suspicion and persecution of the Church, have adopted the era of the world,
as the era of Masonry. The V.L. of the French, and A.L. of the English Mason,
answer to the A.M. Anno Mundi, or year of the world.
Though the Masons have taken many of their
ceremonies and hieroglyphics from the ancient Egyptians, it is certain they have
not taken their chronology from thence. If they had, the Church soon have sent
them to the stake; as the chronology of the Egyptians, like that of the Chinese,
goes many thousand years beyond the Bible chronology.
The religion of
the Druids, as before said, was the same as the religion of the ancient
Egyptians. The priests of Egypt were the professors and teachers of science, and
were styled priests of Heliopolis, that is, of the City of the Sun. The Druids
in Europe, who were the same order of men, have their name from the Teutonic or
ancient German language; the German being anciently called Teutones. The word
Druid signifies a wise man.
German drud, wizard. Cf. Milton's line: "The star-led wizards haste with
odours sweet." The word Druid has also been derived from Greek , an oak;
Celtic 'deru,' an oak and 'ndd,' lord; British 'deruidhon,' very wise men; Heb.
'derussim,' contemplators; etc.]
In Persia they
were called Magi, which signifies the same thing.
Egypt," says Smith, "from whence we
derive many of our mysteries, has always borne a distinguished rank in history,
and was once celebrated above all others for its antiquities, learning,
opulence, and fertility. In their system, their principal gods, Osiris and Isis,
theologically represented the Supreme Being and universal Nature; and physically
the two great celestial luminaries, the Sun and the Moon, by whose influence all
nature was actuated." "The experienced brethren of the society, [says
Smith in a note to this passage] are well informed what affinity these symbols
bear to Masonry, and why they are used in all Masonic Lodges." In speaking
of the apparel of the Masons in their Lodges, part of which, as we see in their
public processions, is a white leather apron, he says, "the Druids were
appareled in white at the time of their sacrifices and solemn offices. The
Egyptian priests of Osiris wore snow-white cotton. The Grecian and most other
priests wore white garments. As Masons, we regard the principles of those 'who
were the first worshipers of the true God,' imitate their apparel, and assume
the badge of innocence."
"The Egyptians," continues Smith,
"in the earliest ages constituted a great number of Lodges, but with
assiduous care kept their secrets of Masonry from all strangers. These secrets
have been imperfectly handed down to us by oral tradition only, and ought to be
kept undiscovered to the labourers, craftsmen, and apprentices, till by good
behavior and long study they become better acquainted in geometry and the
liberal arts and thereby qualified for Masters and Wardens, which is seldom or
never the case with English Masons."
Under the head of Free-Masonry, written by the
astronomer Lalande, in the French Encyclopedia, I expected from his great
knowledge in astronomy, to have found much information on the origin of Masonry;
for what connection can there be between any institution and the Sun and twelve
signs of the Zodiac, if there be not something in that institution, or in its
origin, that has reference to astronomy? Every thing used as an hieroglyphic has
reference to the subject and purpose for which it is used; and we are not to
suppose the Free-Masons, among whom are many very learned and scientific men, to
be such idiots as to make use of astronomical signs without some astronomical
purpose. But I was much disappointed in my expectation from Lalande. In speaking
of the origin of Masonry, he says, "L'orgine de la maconnerie se Perd,
comme tant d'autres, dans l'obscurite des termps;" That is, the origin of
Masonry, like many others, loses itself in the obscurity of time. When I came to
this expression, I supposed Lalande a Mason, and on enquiry found he was. This
passing over saved him from the embarrassment which Masons are under respecting
the disclosure of their origin, and which they are sworn to conceal. There is a
society of Masons in Dublin who take the name of Druids; these Masons must be
supposed to have a reason for taking that name.
I come now to speak of the cause of secrecy used
by the Masons.
The natural source of secrecy is fear. When any
new religion over-runs a former religion, the professors of the new become the
persecutors of the old. We see this in all instances that history brings before
us. When Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe, in the reign of King Josiah,
found, or pretended to find, the law, called the law of Moses, a thousand years
after the time of Moses, (and it does not appear from 2 Kings, xxii., xxiii.,
that such a law was ever practiced or known before the time of Josiah), he
established that law as a national religion, and put all the priests of the Sun
to death. When the Christian religion over-ran the Jewish religion, the Jews
were the continual subject of persecution in all Christian countries. When the
Protestant religion in England over-ran the Roman Catholic religion, it was made
death for a Catholic priest to be found in England. As this has been the case in
all the instances we have any knowledge of, we are obliged to admit it with
respect to the case in question, and that when the Christian religion over-ran
the religion of the Druids in Italy, ancient Gaul, Britain, and Ireland, the
Druids became the subject of persecution. This would naturally and necessarily
oblige such of them as remained attached to their original religion to meet in
secret, and under the strongest injunctions of secrecy. Their safety depended
upon it. A false brother might expose the lives of many of them to destruction;
and from the remains of the religion of the Druids, thus preserved, arose the
institution which, to avoid the name of Druid, took that of Mason, and practiced
under this new name the rites and ceremonies of Druids.