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The Not-At-All Misplaced Masonic Keys

From: yronwode 
Subject: Re: The Not-At-All Misplaced Masonic Keys
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 12:58:50 -0800

333 wrote:

> "Dan Schneider" :

> a younger nigris wrote:
> #>#>#> Masonry lost the Keys.  they were incapable of tapping the
> #>#>#> Current of universalism which the religious establishments
> #>#>#> have also sullied and destroyed.  OTO grows because it is
> #>#>#> a New Aeon organization,
> # Excuse my ignorance, but which keys are we talking about here?
> the concept of the Keys appears to me to be an historical remnant of
> authority (e.g. 'the keys to the city') projected into the spiritual
> realm (i.e. the keys to heaven or to an understanding of the
> mysteries as may be expressed in initiation rites -- see the Smith-
> Waite 'Hierophant' tarot card -- it may even be Biblical). 

Your ulitmate derivation (keys to a city or kingdom (e.g. of heaven)  is
correct, but dragging in Smith and Waite as "biblical" is 3rd generation
at best: they simply made a "heirophant" image conflated of Papal and
Lamaist iconography. The keys their heirophant has are those of Saint
Peter e.g. of the Papacy. See any Catholic holy card of Peter, in which
he holds the keys. Smith and Waite derive this from older tarot/tarocchi
cards in which the image is called "The Pope." 

In Masonry, keys themselves are not a common symbol, although the
"keystone" is, that being the shaped and fitted stone that holds
together an arch. A section of speculative Masonry, comprising its own
rites and symbolism is, in fact, called Royal Arch Masonry, and makes
extensive use of the keystone as a symbol. (In historical operative
Masonry, the making of arches was left to those with specialized
knowledge, for obvious reasons of safety.) However, the meaning of "key"
in the word "keystone" is "essential" (locking the other stones in place
and providing coherence and stability to the arch)-- it does not have
the connotation of "unlocking" in the sense of the keys to a door or to
a mystery.  

> as I have also remarked and have been learning subsequently, the
> presumption that any specific parallel or preceding society has
> 'lost the Keys' is a marginalizing and authoritative dispute as
> to the legitimacy or qualification of the alternatives.  it
> seems to be a common assertion in order to bolster the authority
> of one's OWN group or tradition in comparison.  it can be compared
> to the assertion that the Jews never understood their kabbalistic
> creations and it took patient Christians and Hermetics to interpret
> (really re-interpret, fabricate and falsify) it to the masses in
> order that it might have continuing relevance (as an esoteric
> Christian or Hermetic profession).

The light slowly dawns in the clouded nigrisian eyes!

> # Do you have evidence that Masonry ever *had* these keys you
> # so boldly claim they lost?
> I do not yet have evidence of historical esoteric comprehension,
> but I do have evidence of modern comprehension.  

I just showed 333 (offline, of course) two 18th century masonic monitors
and the lecture-course  given in William  Hutchinson's "Spirit of
Freemasonry" (1775), plus John Locke's annotated 1949 edition of the
circa 1430 catechism of Masonry presented to King Henry the 6th of
Englan as evidence of past historical knowledge of esoteric symbolism in
Freemasonry. He agrreed that this constituted evidence of historical
comprehesion of Masonry's esoteric symbolism. Hutchinson, in particular,
raves on at great length about the Gnostics (including their god
Abraxas) and Locke notes that as early as the 1430s, Masons were
teaching the esoteric and cultic secrets of Pythagoras. Hutchinson's
book, by the way, was a compilation of lectures he delived to Masonic
lodges in England in the early 1770s and well bears reading by any
modern Mason or non-Mason interested in the history of esoteric thought. 

> I have heretofore
> rather ignored Freemasonry based on my bad experiences with those
> who were part of their Orders. 

Funny, that describes *my* experiences with Crowleyian thelemites of the
O. T. O.  :-)

> [333] then followed this up with a chastened:
> #>#>I have been informed by my kin that Masonry has not, as some 
> #>#>would prefer to think, become as disconnected from the esoteric 
> #>#>aspects of their rites as I have been led to believe
> typically I have understood those in the occult community who
> made the claim that Freemasons have 'lost the Keys' to mean
> that, having retained their traditional rites which do in fact
> contain symbolic wisdom, have failed to retain the ability to
> understand what they mean, let alone apply them (i.e. #2).  I
> have found evidence which disproves this assertion and contend
> that the whole of the 'Key philosophy' was originally a
> propaganda designed to promote authoritative rivalry (more on
> Manly P. Hall's text in another post which I have been asked
> to pass on from my Freemasonic kindred will follow).

In usenet, i had earlier responded to 333 as follows, and i pass my post
along to the e-list for tjose who did not read it there. Regarding
Freemasoinry and "lost keys," i wrote:

----from usenet----

333 wrote:

> nigris (333) wrote: 
> #> Masonry lost the Keys.  they were incapable of tapping the
> #> Current of universalism which the religious establishments
> #> have also sullied and destroyed.  OTO grows because it is
> #> a New Aeon organization,
> note that I provide the transmasonic rigamorole here.  I have
> been informed by my kin that Masonry has not, as some would
> prefer to think, become as disconnected from the esoteric aspects
> of their rites as I have been led to believe. I leave the matter
> for later speculation and discussion.

I salute the author for correcting his own erroneous impression of

Masonry's essentially neo-Platonic esotericism is alive and well in
lodges throughout the world, much to the surprise of human sheep who
have been led by right-wing Christians to believe that "Freemasonry is a
Satanist cult" or, contrariwsie, have been told by an assortment of
self-promoting leaders of neo-religious-mystical-magical orders that
"Freemasonry is a mere social club that has 'lost the keys' of esorteric

(This oft-encountered phrase -- "Freemasonry has lost the keys" -- by
the way, derives from the title of a 1925 book by Manley P. Hall called
"The Lost Keys of Freemasonry."  Hall, who wrote it at the age of 23,
was not a Mason himself (although he became one 30 years later) and he
had never set foot in a Masonic lodge at that time. Under the influence
of Theosophical babblings about secret brotherhoods in ancient Egypt, he
concocted a bizarre but very readable tale about a mystical cult of
Egyptian Freemasonry that only the most naive would have swallowed
whole. {In fact, Masonry's myths and legends are not Egyptian but center
around the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament
of the Bible; their esoteric interpretation is based on Pythagorean
concepts, with the expected admixture of so-called Christian cabalism;
these myths and legends.} In his later years, after becomming a
Freemason, Manley Hall wrote a new foreword to the book in which he
frankly admitted that he had fabricated the whole of "The Lost Keys of
Freemasonry." Oddly enough, some Masons enjoy Hall's juvenile
fabrication, possibly because it shares common threads with other 19th
and 20th century hermetic legends and myths -- and thus the work stays
in print, marketed to Masons by Masonic publishing houses. Within
Masonry, it is, however, considered a fantasy of Masonic import rather
than a true account of the Craft.)

catherine yronwode

Freemasonry for Women:

---end of usenet post---

For further proof that esoterism and a deep understanding of occult
symbolism is thriving in all branches of Freemasonry, from the all-male
AF&AM/F&AM through the primarily African-American PHA, and on into
mixed-geneder lodges of the DH and AFHR, i recommend that the curious
take the time to subscribe to the freemasonry-list, a private e-list for
those who are Masons or who are not Masons but are genuinely interested
in the subject. It is an unmoderated but "administered" list  open to
Masons of all jurisdictions and non-Masons alike. (What "unmoderated but
'administered" means in this context is that the administrators (3 of
them) can -- and do on occasion -- temporarily or permanently remove the
posting privileges of abusive or inflammatory individuals, after 3
private warnings and a public warning). To subscribe, send a request to
Recent discussions have centered on the kabbalah, and on the esoteric
meaning of the numbers 3-5-7 in Masonry. Esoteric knowledge is alive and
well in the Craft. 

catherine yronwode

Lucky Mojo Curio Co:
The Lucky W Amulet Archive:
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The Sacred Landscape:
Freemasonry for Women:
Comics Warehouse:
check out news:alt.lucky.w for discussions on folk magic and luck

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