In this fifth installment of my series on Pike's views on Freemasonry, we are going to examine his understanding of the origins of the Craft. Keep in mind that Pike was always quick to point out that his views were his views alone, and were proffered for Masons to accept or reject. All Pike asked was that every Mason who read his works reflect on them, reason, and through his own diligent quest, draw his own conclusions.
Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, in his Preface to Pike's Esoterika, tells us that
Prior to the emergence of the "authentic school" Pike had, like many others, read the speculations and theories of earlier writers, sometimes accepting their fantastic claims of the Fraternity's supposedly ancient origins. [Pike] tells us that, for a time, he put faith in the "fancies about the Egyptian origin" of Freemasonry ... , but he ultimately rejected this and similarly unfounded "fancies."One of the early theories that Pike would have been exposed to was that of the Templar origins of Freemasonry. There is ample evidence in Pike's writings that he never completely eschewed this theory, believing that there was some kernel of truth in it. In his essay "The Order of the Temple," Pike juxtaposes a Templar theory of the "derivation of Masonry from the [Ancient] Mysteries" against the origins of the modern "Order of the Temple" (the Knights Templar of modern Masonry) in order to show that, while the Masonic Knights Templar, as an "order," were not direct descendants of the historic Knights Templar from the time of the Crusades, Freemasonry itself could possibly make that claim.
Pike believed that Freemasonry had inherited the Hermetic philosophy and Ancient Mysteries of the East, and that the truths of these Mysteries lay hidden in its symbols and rituals. The issue then becomes, just how did these Ancient Mysteries of the East find their way into the lodges of working stonemasons in Europe?
It is certain that the modern Initiation [ritual of Freemasonry] was borrowed from that of the Hebrews. Almost all the words of the degrees are Hebrew, the Ritual is borrowed from the Jewish Religion, and the doctrines of Masonry are in great measure those of the Essenian Mysteries. [Is it not] therefore probable that it was Jewish travelers that communicated Initiation to modern Nations? It is not: the separation between the Jews and other races, or rather the aversion of one for the other, was too great for any such communication to have taken place. Moreover, if we examine the formulas of Initiation, and its ceremonial, we shall see that they bear the impress of both religion and chivalry; and it must, therefore, have been a military and religious association that received the wrecks of the ancient initiation, and transmitted this institution to the moderns.In the chapter of Morals and Dogma on the 30th Degree (Knight Kadosh), Pike gives his clearest exposition of the connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar. (One must keep in mind that the bulk of this chapter, as in the rest of Morals and Dogma, is Pike quoting some unnamed source material, in this case an "enemy" of the Templars. Pike's own words throughout Morals and Dogma are always set off by brackets within larger sections where Pike is quoting other authors. I have not retained that punctuation in my quotes below, however. Any bracketed material in my quotes are my own words):
We adopt the opinion of those who think that this transmission was effected by the Knights of the order of the Temple: but how did it take place? As to epoch, it must be fixed at the time of the crusades, which retained the Templars for a long while in the Orient. Did they receive initiation from those among the Jews, who had preserved the Essenian Mysteries? Or was it not rather communicated to them by some Christian Sect? The latter is the most probable supposition.
A hundred years ago it had become known that the Kadosh were the Templars under a veil, and therefore the Degree was proscribed, and, ceasing to be worked, became a mere brief and formal ceremony, under another name.Pike believed the persecution of the Templars by the King of France and the Pope was predicated upon two things: First, their acceptance and assimilation of the Eastern Mysteries found embedded in the teachings of the Jewish sect known as the Essenes, as well as Kabbalistic Gnosticism (Johannism). And second, their avowed desire to rebuild the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem for the express purpose of reconsecrating it as a See for Eastern Orthodoxy:
This rebuilding, formally predicted by the Judaizing mystics of the earlier ages, had become the secret dream of the Patriarchs of the Orient. The Temple of Solomon, rebuilt and consecrated to the Catholic worship, would become, in effect, the Metropolis of the Universe; the East would prevail over the West, and the Patriarchs of Constantinople would possess themselves of the Papal power.
Thus the Order of Knights of the Temple was at its very origin devoted to the cause of opposition to the tiara of Rome and the crowns of Kings, and the Apostolate of Kabbalistic Gnosticism was invested in its chiefs.The ultimate demise of the Templars began, as is often the case with any movement or cause, from within:
The tendencies and tenets of the Order were enveloped in profound mystery, and it externally professed the most perfect orthodoxy. The Chiefs alone knew the aim of the Order: the Subalterns followed them without distrust.
The Templars, like all other Secret Orders and Associations, had two doctrines, one concealed and reserved for the Masters, which was Johannism, the other public, which was the Roman Catholic. Thus they deceived the adversaries whom they sought to supplant. Hence Freemasonry, vulgarly imagined to have begun with the Dionysian Architects or the German Stone-workers, adopted Saint John the Evangelist as one of its patrons, associating with him, in order not to arouse the suspicious of Rome, Saint John the Baptist, and thus covertly proclaiming itself the child of the Kabbalah and Essenism toghether.
The seeds of decay were sown in the Order of the Temple at its origin. Hypocrisy is a mortal disease, it had conceived a great work which it was incapable of executing, because it knew neither humility nor personal abnegation, because Rome was then invincible, and because the later Chiefs of the Order did not comprehend its mission. Moreover, the Templars were in general uneducated, and capble only of wielding the sword, with no qualifications for governing, and at need enchaining, that queen of the world called Opinion.What did unfold, however, was not the revelation of the truth behind the arrest and prosecution of the Templars, for
Their watchword was to become wealthy in order to buy the world. They became so, and in 1312 they possessed in Europe alone more than nine thousand seignories. Riches were the shoal on which they were wrecked. They became insolent, and unwisely showed their contempt for the religious and social institutions which they aimed to overthrow. Their ambition was fatal to them. Their projects were divined and prevented. Pope Clement V and King Philip IV, the Fair, gave the signal to Europe, and the Templars, taken as it were in an immense net, were arrested, disarmed, and cast into prison. Never was a Coup d'Etat accomplished with a more formidable concert of action. The whole world was struck with stupor and eagerly waited for the strange revelations of a process that was to echo through so many ages.
[i]t was impossible to unfold to the people the conspiracy of the Templars against the Thrones and the Tiara. It was impossible to expose to them the doctrines of the Chiefs of the Order. This would have been to initiate the multitude into the secrets of the Masters, and to have uplifted the veil of Isis. Recourse was therefore had to the charge of magic [and heresy], and denouncers and false witnesses were easily found. When the temporal and spiritual tyrannies unite to crush a victim they never want for serviceable instruments. The Templars were gravely accused of spitting upon Christ and denying God at their receptions, of gross obscenities, conversations with female devils, and the worship of a monstrous idol.The real crime of the Templars was their openness to religious teachings that emanated from outside the See of Rome:
The better to succeed and win partisans, the Templars sympathized with regrets for dethroned creeds, and encouraged the hopes of new worships, promising to all liberty of conscience and a new orthodoxy that should be the synthesis of all the persecuted creeds.As to what the Templars were openly accused of:
It is absurd to suppose that men of intellect adored a monstrous idol called Baphomet, or recognized Mohamed as an inspired prophet. Their symbolism, invented ages before, to conceal what it was dangerous to avow, was, of course, misunderstood by those who are not Adepts, and to their enemies seemed to be pantheistic. For the Johannism of the Adepts was the Kabbalah of the earlier Gnostics [which] degenerat[ed] afterwards into those heretical forms which Gnosticism developed.(One can't help but be struck by the similarities between this "history" of the Knights Templar and what would, nearly three centuries later, prompt the rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church that would become known as the Protestant Reformation.)
To all this the absurd reading of the established Church, taking literally the figurative, allegorical, and mythical language of a collection of Oriental books of different ages, directly and inevitably led. The symbols of the wise always become the idols of the ignorant multitude.
The end of the drama is well known, and how Jacques de Molay and his fellows perished in the flames. But before his execution, the Chief of the doomed Order organized and instituted what afterward came to be called the Occult, Hermetic, or Scottish Masonry. In the gloom of his prison, the Grand master created four Metropolitan Lodges, at Naples for the East, at Edinburgh for the West, at Stockholm for the North, and at Paris for the South. The initials of his name, J:.B:.M:., found in the same Order in the first three Degrees, are but one of the many internal and cogent proofs that such was the origin of modern Freemasonry. The legend of Osiris was revived and adopted, to symbolize the destruction of the Order, and the resurrection of Hiram, slain in the body of the Temple, of Hiram Abif the Master, as the martyr of fidelity to obligation, of Truth and Conscience, prophesied the restoration to life of the buried association.
Nevertheless [the Order] lived, under other names and governed by unknown Chiefs, revealing itself only to those who, in passing through a series of degrees, had proven themselves worthy to be entrusted with the dangerous Secret. What the Chiefs of the Order really believed and taught, is indicated to the Adepts by the hints contained in the High Degrees of Freemasonry, and by the symbols which only the Adepts understand.
Whether or not Pike, throughout his Masonic career, held to this outline of the origins of Freemasonry--or even whether or not he held to it at all and only believed it to be possible if not probable--remains the subject for further study. This is only what I've gathered from my readings of Pike to date, which are certainly not exhaustive by any means. But I can state, without question, that Pike rejected the notion that Freemasonry as a philosophical system evolved from the guilds of working stone masons of the Middle Ages.
Perhaps the closest we will come to a definitive look at what Pike believed concerning the origins of Freemasonry is revealed in a letter he wrote to Robert F. Gould (of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London) in 1888, just three years before his death:
I cannot conceive of anything that could have induced Ashmole, Mainwaring, and other men of their class to unite themselves with Lodges of working Masons, except this--that, as Alchemists, Hermeticists, and Rosicrucians had no association [of their] own in England or Scotland, they joined the Masonic Lodges in order to meet one another without being suspected; and I am convinced that it was the men who inherited their doctrines who brought their symbols into Masonry, but kept the Hermetic meanings of them to themselves.