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It has long been my opinion that the most beneficial results would ensue to the Science of Freemasonry, were the Masters of Lodges to devote some portion of their time to the delivery of explanatory Lectures on subjects of general interest connected with the Institution. Such a practice might be the means of elucidating many points, on which our customary Lectures leave us entirely in the dark. About six years ago, a law, emanating from the M. W. G. M. passed the Grand Lodge,' empowering every Master to deliver his Lectures, "in a language suited to the character of the Lodge over which he presides," with this only proviso, that the established Landmarks be not removed.
This liberal regulation leaves the local discussions of our Lodges open to considerable improvement; and relieves us from the shackles of a constituted form, whose unvarying features, beautiful as they are, after a few years habitual repetition,, become, to a certain extent, uninteresting; for every human composition, how superior soever it may be, palls on the mind when the charm of novelty has faded away; and, at a still more distant period, its salutary impression ceases altogether. But a provision, like that I have just referred to, constitutes a Masonic Lodge into aLiterarySociety, where every member is at liberty to add to the general stock of knowledge,by promulgating the results of his own enquiries, and disseminating among the Brethren, the fruits of his researches in our ancient and scientific Institution.
* December 1st, 1810.
Masonry contains many points to which such enquiries may be usefully directed; I shall suggest a few, in the course of these Lectures, and state how far my own observations have extended.
One important question, which appears to hate been almost wholly neglected by Masonic writers, is; whether Free Masonry be a servile imitation of certain ceremonies in the ancient idolatrous Mysteries, as is asserted by some writers; or whether it be the great original from which the Mysteries themselves were derived. On this enquiry I have bestowed much deliberate consideration; for I found it impossible to be satisfied with practising a science derived from the polluted dregs of idolatry. To investigate this important point fully and impartially, I have consulted most of the principal mythological writers, both ancient and modern, whose works are accessible, and possess either interest or authority. I have examined, with the greatest attention, the mysterious establishments of all nations in the world; and have bestowed infinite pains in collecting, from the institutions of antiquity, the peculiar ceremonies of initiation; as well as the date of their origin, their doctrines, usages and customs, in the hope of elucidating this most abstruse point, and detecting the fallacy of those pretensions to originality, which were exhibited in the practice of idolatrous rites, in various heathen nations. The result of this investigation has introduced into my mind a firm persuasion that Free Masonry is not, as some authors seem to think,* a scion snatched with a violent hand from the ancient mysteries; but, in reality, the original institution from which all the mysteries were derived; because, from their agreement in certain essential points which could only be obtained from a system of purity and truth, we derive ample testimony to establish the fact, that the mysteries of all nations were originally the same, and diversified only by the accidental circumstances of local situation and political economy. I admit, without hesitation, that Masonry and the Mysteries bear many characteristics in common, which point out a common origination; but by tracing the latter to their source, separating the component parts with a careful hand, and minutely analyzing every occult rite and mystic ceremony, it will clearly appear that they owe their origin to the pure science which we now practice under the designation of Free Masonry. The true system of divine worship had its accompanying institution of mystery, which was coeval with religion, and essential to its support. This arrangement was copied by the idolators; whose newly established plans of worship were always accompanied by corresponding systems of mystery, formed on the same basis, and embracing the same principles as the pure system which was attached to the primitive religion. As therefore the true preceded the false religion, so the Institution now called Masonry was anterior to the establishment of the mysteries.
* Fab. Pag. Idol. b. v. c. 6.—Clinch, in Anthol. Hibern. 1794.— London Magazine, Jan. 1824.—Uobison's Proofs of a Conspiracy, p. iOi
It is true many impediments exist to prevent a clear and satisfactory elucidation of the institutions of antiquity. The greater portion of the ancient authors who mention them, appear to have been under the high restraint of that awful secrecy which the initiated were bound to observe," and consequently many of the secrets and usages remain undiscovered. Enough, however, may be collected to convince us of their common origination; and certain ceremonies and symbols, which bear a striking resemblance to the rites of Free Masonry, may be traced in these institutions, amidst the heterogeneous mass of profaneness and impiety, which rendered the celebration at once disgraceful and obscene.
* Diod. Sic. p. 32.—Horap. 1. 2. Andoc. de Myst. p. 7. Meurs. Eleus. c. 20. "The betrayers of the Mysteries, (says Warburton,) were punished capitally and with merciless severity. Diagoras the Melian had revealed the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries; on which account he passed with the people for an Atheist. He likewise dissuaded his friends from being initiated into these Rites; the consequence of which was, that the city of Athens proscribed him, and set a price upon his head. And the poet Eschylus had like to have been torn in pieces by the people on the mere suspicion, that, in one of his Scenes, he had given a hint of something in the Mysteries." Div. Leg. b. ii. s. 4.
The rites of that Science which is now received under the appellation of Free Masonry, were exercised in the antediluvian world; revived by Noah after the flood; practised by mankind at the building of Babel, conveniences for which were undoubtedly contrived in the interior of that celebrated edifice; and at the dispersion spread with every settlement, already deteriorated by the gradual innovations of the Cabiric Priests, and modelled into a form, the great outlines of which are distinctly to be traced in the mysteries of every heathen nation, exhibiting the shattered remains of one true System whence they were all derived.
The rites of idolatry were indeed strikingly similar, and generally deduced from parallel practices, previously used by the true Masons; for idolatry was an imitative system, and all its ceremonies and doctrines were founded on the general principles of the patriarchal religion. If the patriarch united in his own person the three offices of king, priest, and prophet; the secret assemblies of