In my latest book, due out in the autumn, one of the many themes I discuss is how a Masonic story is displayed in the collection of Richard Carlile’s rituals in his Manual of Freemasonry, a work that emerged in England in the early nineteenth century. Carlile puts together a mix of high grades that originate from various sources, and though they are not in order, a Masonic story can be determined; from the building of the Temple in the Craft degrees, it’s destruction and rebuilding, which is featured in the Royal Arch, and even further with the resurrection and the rediscovery of the lost skills by the Masons in Carlile’s Rosicrucian degree. The sins of the Fall of Man are washed away and the Masons can rebuild Gods world on Earth.
The Fall of Man is a constant theme throughout Freemasonry, and the teachings a Mason receives all assist in perfecting his skills in a moralistic sense, and in a way, helps us, in a way, to find our way back to the Garden. Freemasonry can indeed be seen as a pathway to get back to the Garden, as a means to become better men and to rebuild God’s Temples in a metaphorical way, by gaining knowledge and contributing to society, perhaps giving to charity or supporting education as many lodges throughout the world do. These ideas of the Fall of Man and the journey of rediscovery are not new; the eighteenth century French philosopher Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, a member of the Rite de Elus Coens, put forward that man has fallen from his high estate, and matter is one of the consequences of his fall. But divine love, united to humanity in Christ, will work the final regeneration. Saint-Martin believed that man had been totally corrupted, in what he termed ‘the degradation of our species’, though there was hope:
‘Now, we have the prerogative of forming, after the similitude of the All-Wise, an indissoluble, eternal alliance between our minds (esprits) and our sacred hearts, by uniting them in the principle which formed them; and it is only on this indispensable condition that we can hope to become again the images of God; and in striving for this, our conviction is confirmed, as to the painful fact of our degradation, and, at the same time, of our superiority over the external order.’1
In a similar sense, Freemasonry teaches us that we can use education and morals to construct ourselves and make ourselves perfect, to become one with God again through the lessons learnt from the Masonic story. Sometimes it takes time, and as Saint-Martin said, we have to strive for this, and continually work to achieve that perfection.
1. Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, MAN: HIS TRUE NATURE & MINISTRY Translated from the French by Edward Burton Penny, (London: 1864), p.24.