Freemasonry: gnostic images

Authored by: Garry W. Trompf

The Gnostic World

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138673939
eBook ISBN: 9781315561608
Adobe ISBN:


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Speculations about the origins of Freemasonry will doubtless go on unabated. They have often connected Masonic teaching and practice to Gnostic filaments in Mediaeval and Renaissance sources – back to Sufi orders via the Crusader Templers on to operative masons’ “guild-assemblies” (e.g., Shah 1964: xix, 50, 178–88, 226), for instance, or to the later Rosicrucian manifestos (1607–1616), in which masonry and temple architecture are invoked to create a new covertly founded Christian order (Joann Andreae, Confessio Fraternitatis [1615], chs. 4, 6), and to the “initiatory ordeal” described in the (anonymous) Chymische Hochzeit (or “Chemical Wedding”) of 1616, which is set in 1459, the year the Constitutions of the Strasburg Masons were signed [1459] (Edighoffer 2001: 377–80; cf. Yates 1972: 209–19). The point of this article, however, is to recognize that a “Gnostic-associated” movement, namely Freemasonry, with its many branches but common enough features, became a worldwide movement in modern times. We are not to forget the ancient program of Mani to make his Gnosticizing religion “surpass” other churches that only worked in “particular places and cities,” and to spread the “message” (including that of the rescuing divine, Great Architect) “to reach every land” (Keph. 151.9–10) – even though Manichaeism faded into apparent extinction by the fourteenth century (Tardieu 2008: 91–102). But Freemasonry has usually been presented by its (traditionally all-male) members as a Craft or Art, and a philosophical, moral, and philanthropic fraternity that does not substitute for religion, albeit a society veiled by symbol and allegory, holding secrets so occult as to die for.

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