From Elias Ashmole to Arthur Edward Waite: The Search for Lost Knowledge within Freemasonry
The photo reveals the memorial window at St. Mary’s church in Norfolk for Henry Rider-Haggard – showing various symbols from his works and beliefs. Rider Haggard was a Freemason who, like Arthur Conan Doyle and Arthur Edward Waite had an interest in the occult. His works included ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ which displayed Masonic themes, notably the search for lost knowledge in relation to King Solomon who features heavily in the Masonic ritual. Another work by Rider Haggard called ‘She’ displays themes of death and rebirth – similar themes found within Freemasonry. My second book The Transformation of Freemasonry discusses Rider Haggard and other occult Freemasons, exploring how they searched for hidden knowledge and found inspiration within Freemasonry.
“[William Backhouse] told me in Syllables the true matter of the philosophers stone…” – Elias Ashmole
The search for lost knowledge is a theme that resounds throughout Freemasonry, from its earliest moments – with the alchemist Elias Ashmole, who became a Freemason in Warrington in 1646, to the late Victorian period when ‘occultists’ and Freemasons such as Arthur Edward Waite, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Frederick Bligh Bond also explored spiritualism and the supernatural. In my first book The Genesis of Freemasonry the early influences on the foundation of Freemasonry are put forward, and the theme of the search for lost knowledge is discussed to create a new picture of the origins of Freemasonry. My second book The Transformation of Freemasonry completes the story, and continues to discuss this theme. I also discuss this in a new paper which appears in the latest edition of Philalethes: The Journal of Masonic Letters http://www.freemasonry.org/journal.php
Sir Christopher Wren by Godfrey Kneller – Wren can be seen holding a compass over the plans for St. Paul’s Cathedral
‘…the Sun is always at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.’
Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers was the leader of Modern Freemasonry, and in my first book The Genesis of Freemasonry http://www.lewismasonic.com/product_info.php?products_id=460 I put forward how he modernised the ritual of Freemasonry during the 1720s and created the ‘three degrees’. Desaguliers was a natural philosopher, poet, networker and Minister, and he he was also a ‘disciple’ of Sir Isaac Newton. He was certainly interested in Newton’s work – an aspect of which was Newton’s search for the true dimensions of Solomon’s Temple. Desaguliers was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, following the footsteps of other illustrious Freemasons such as Elias Ashmole, Sir Robert Moray and Sir Christopher Wren. Part 4 of my posts will look at how Victorian Freemasons also searched for lost knowledge.
The Freemason Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an avid researcher into the occult; he was interested in spiritualism and investigated the supernatural, an example being his work on the Cottingley Fairies. More famous now for his Sherlock Holmes Adventure – in which he frequently referred to Freemasonry and gentleman’s clubs (such as the enigmatic fictional Diogenes Club), his writings reflected Masonic themes in a similar way to fellow Freemasons Rudyad Kipling and Henry Rider-Haggard. Haggard was also reputedly a member of The Golden Dawn – an Order founded by Freemasons. These Masonic Occultists are discussed in my second book The Transformation of Freemasonry http://www.arimapublishing.co.uk/bookshopuk/bookinfo/book_184549437?bs=uk
Arthur Edward Waite was a Freemason, Occultist and was the co-designer for the famous Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. He was a member of the Golden Dawn and wrote many works on Freemasonry and mysticism. My second book The Transformation of Freemasonry http://www.arimapublishing.co.uk/bookshopuk/bookinfo/book_184549437?bs=uk discusses his career; his desire to search for lost knowledge being similar to other Freemasons of the late Victorian period and mirroring the work by earlier Masons such as Elias Ashmole and Robert Moray. Waite’s Tarot designs incorporated Masonic sumbolism and Masonic themes – his Masonic interests being revealed on the High Priestess card for example, with the ‘B’ and ‘J’ on the two pillars standing for ‘Boaz’ and ‘Jachin’ – the two pillars of Solomon’s Temple.