Arch Angels have been mentioned over the centuries in various Masonic rites, and though they are more familiar to the magician who calls on them for protection, they have been summoned for similar use in certain Masonic rituals in the past, in an effort to commune with the Divine.
Freemason and writer Arthur Edward Waite discussed ‘Divination by the Word of Uriel’, the conjuring of Demons and divination through the Mirror of Solomon. The rather complicated ritual described by Waite led to the invocation of Uriel, with a child – working as a scryer – then being asked if he can see the image of the Arch Angel in a phial and await his communication. Uriel was said to appear in human form and was ‘to bring whatsoever is desired with all tranquillity and patience, without tumult, without detriment…’
The Craft Lectures of the Old Lancashire Rituals, compiled by John Yarker in 1865, alludes to many Biblical stories within its catechism structure. In Part I, Section I, the ‘Egyptian Bondwoman’ is mentioned, which is part of a reference to Hagar and her son Ishmael taken from The Book of Genesis, Hagar being guided by an Angel in her despair after being cast out by Abraham.244 Jacob’s Ladder, which is also taken from The Book of Genesis, is also discussed thoroughly in a question and answer exchange, ‘with the angels of God’ being described as ‘ascending and descending thereon’, the ladder symbolising the Divine ascent.
The Biblical references given in the Melissino Rite, which was practiced in the eighteenth century, discuss how Isaiah and Ezekiel had encounters with winged creatures or angels, who then presented the ‘burning coal’ to them. Isaiah had the burning coal ‘that he [the winged creature] had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs’ placed upon his lips, to rid Isaiah of guilt. Both Biblical references of the burning coals and the encounter with angels, suggests that the ritual could represent an allegorical communion with God, allowing the candidate to alchemically purify himself.
The Cagliostro ritual mentions how advice was sought from the Angel Aneal on whether a candidate had the merit and qualities to become a Master Mason. In their work on Cagliostro, Faulks and Cooper put forward in their book The Masonic Magician, how Cagliostro, who promoted his rite during the eighteenth century, commanded ‘the angels of the Divine to achieve the results according to the power of God’, something that Papus would have certainly recognised as being similar to the work of the Unknown Philosopher – Louis Claude de Saint-Martin. Cagliostro claimed to be an active and powerful clairvoyant, though as the Grand Copht of his rite, he used a medium in his work called a ‘dove’ to consult the angels and the spirits as part of the Masonic ritual.
Cagliostro’s clairvoyant work became entwined with his ritual, the communion with the angels and spirits being as essential a feature as the teachings of Pasqually to members of Elus Coens. Similarly in Melissino’s Rite, the archangels feature in the seventh and final degree during the explanation of the First Mystical Carpet, especially ‘the angel Metraton’ who is described as ‘the spirit of the Messiah, who holds sway over all the archangels, hosts and planetary spirits’. It is also stated that the ‘imperfect spirits…only have the power to appear in one place, whereas an angel can be in ten places at one and the same time.’
Today however, we have perhaps a remnant of the importance of Arch Angels in a Masonic context; the Rose Croix ritual in England, which reflects the allegorical alchemical changes of the candidate as he purifies himself while being guided by none other than the Arch Angel Raphael, the degree allowing the Mason to symbolically commune with God.
Extracts taken from The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry by David Harrison, published by Lewis Masonic in 2017.
A thankyou to Mevi for inspiring this piece.