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Impressed with a due sense of the high degree of responsibility which is incurred by an attempt to illustrate the Science of Masonry, I submit the following sheets to my Brethren in the confidence of hope, that I have succeeded in placing the Light in so luminous a point of view, that, like the glorious Pillar which conducted the children of Israel safely out of Egypt, it will enlighten the true Mason, without affording a single ray to assist the forbidden investigations of those who have a desire to penetrate the arcana of Masonry, without submitting to the legitimate process of initiation. With pure intentions I have used my utmost endeavours to conceal from the prying eyes of uninitiated curiosity, those essential points which have constituted Masonry into an exclusive system, and will remain an impenetrable barrier between its professors and the world to the end of time. Some passages may be found whose ultimate sense will even be unintelligible to the ordinary Mason, and known only to him who has been exalted to the Royal Arch. It is hoped that the assiduous Brother, by the perusal of these pages will be able to add considerably to his stock of knowledge on this comprehensive subject. He will find, in the high antiquity of those Emblems, where all the beauties of Masonry lie concealed, new reasons for admiring the judicious mechanism, and the refined morality of the Science; and will conduct his researches with renewed alacrity and spirit on discovering that the very same Symbols have been used for a similar purpose by every nation and people, and in all the secret institutions which have existed from the creation to the present time.
In tracing the antiquity of these significant Emblems, we are necessarily plunged deeply into the Mysteries of ancient nations, which though founded on the principles of primitive Masonry, and using the same symbolical imagery, were not productive of the same results; because there existed a radical defect in their formation, which blighted every genial principle, and counteracted the efficacy of emblematical instruction, which has an express tendency to soften the manners and humanize the heart. They were established for the purpose of placing a secret and uncontrollable power in the hands of the hierophants and mystagogues, and hence every means was restored to which might extend their influence or increase their popularity. These purposes being foreign to the primitive design, innovation followed innovation, each succeeding change being a retrograte movement from original purity, until, instead of a mild and benevolent religion, thus renounced by gradual steps to make room for superstitions more splendid and imposing, their rites of divine worship became fierce and bloody, implacable and severe; and this produced a corresponding change in the disposition of the heart. Instead of the cheering ray of Hope, from which comfort and consolation were derived by the ancient professors of pure Masonry, under the pressure of adversity; the degenerate race were bowed down with sadness and despair. The place of pure devotion was usurped by obscene rites and ceremonial observances. In a word, Light was rejected, and au unfathomable Darkness had taken possession of the Soul. Hence severe penances were instituted, which the wretched sufferers were taught to believe would propitiate the wrath of heaven; and hence arose also, united with the perverted meaning of an ancient prophecy, the horrid custom of sanguinary sacrifices, in which the polluted altars of the gods were stained with human gore.
The mysteries of Egypt contained all the secrets of their religion and politics; and inspired dread and terror throughout the world. By the uninitiated they were regarded as vehicles of knowledge more than human; and the dispensers of them were reputed to possess some high and peculiar attributes of the divinity. The initiated themselves were struck with a sacred horror, at the recollection of that awful solemnity which attended their own initiation; and dared not even to name, or refer to them in familiar conversation, lest their indiscretion should elicit the summary vengeance of the justly offended deities.''
When Grecian philosophy began to prevail, the mysteries were applied by wise men to the purpose of enquiring more particularly after the nature and attributes of the deity, which though a legitimate pursuit of primitive Masonry, had yielded to the introduction of popular innovations, until the
* Horap. I. ii. oil. S.—Liv. 1. xxxi.
truth was obscured under a mass of absurdity and fable. Their bold disquisitions varied from the monotony of ancient practice, and differed essentially from each other; whence many distinctive varieties were introduced into the Lodges or Schools, which never before existed; and the doctrines were diversified according to the speculative opinions of each Principal Superintendent. These Schools bore every character of Masonry, except that one grand and distinguishing characteristic, which confers life and vigour on all its proceedings, the true knowledge and worship of the deity. It is highly probable that these philosophers had some faint knowledge of the true God, but they did not worship him as God, preferring the creature to the Creator; and in the lesser mysteries they substituted a rabble of false deities to his total exclusion. In taking a brief view of this succedaneum for Masonry, as it existed in every nation of the world before the coming of Jesus Christ, we may see to what a skeleton of dry bones it was reduced when forsaken by the Spirit.
After Pythagoras had newly modelled the Mysteries; and different sects of Masons or Philosophers, (for Pythagoras gave the name of Philosophy as will as Mesouraneo to our science,') began to entertain new and irreconcilable opinions on the subject of research; their speculations were carried on in each Lodge with eager avidity, but without adopting a selfish system of exclusion. Each body was in the highest degree communicative; its members were ever ready to instruct others in their peculiar dogmas; and all united in the
* Cic. Tuscul. quest. 5.—Valer. Maxim.