Echoes Of The Architects

 

“… So far as I am acquainted with the principles and Doctrines of Free Masonry, I conceive them to be founded on benevolence and to be exercised for the good of mankind. If it has been a Cloak to promote improper or nefarious objects, it is a melancholy proof that in unworthy hands, the best institutions may be made use of to promote the worst designs.”
– George Washington

Freemasonry is as often misunderstood by its critics as by its supporters. Knowledge of its history sheds light upon the largest misconceptions – as well as important insight into our present…

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Origins Of Architecture

Though myths and legends attribute Masonry’s origins to the builders of Solomon’s Temple  – its widespread practice began in the Middle Ages.

For medieval Europeans, unskilled labor was in high supply and low demand. Even their professional trades were simple by modern standards – most requiring only a few months of apprenticeship. There wasn’t much scarcity for the services of average tradesmen – blacksmiths, thatchers, carpenters, and the like.

One profession became an important exception…

When the lords of the realm needed to build a castle, cathedral, or bridge, even they found that stonemasons were in short supply…

Construction of these required great precision and careful planning – to ensure that the design would hold its own weight, and stand the test of time.

This required knowledge of what we now call math, physics, geometry, and drafting techniques – skills that the nobles themselves were almost never proficient in.

Guarding The Secrets

Such knowledge was often seen as a kind of sorcery or magic by those who did not understand it…

Foremost among these – the Catholic church. At the time, they labeled the disciplines of math and geometry as occult practices – punishable by torture and death.

Masonic Lodges became sanctuaries from persecution – nodes of an intellectual network, bound by the common connections of shared wisdom…

Masonry became a secret society – a sort of underground railroad of forbidden ideas – to ensure the survival of this knowledge.

Of course, it was never the church’s only target…

Upon its invention in 1450, Gutenberg’s printing press was promptly dubbed an instrument of the devil by church authorities, who launched upon a crusade of confiscation…

To avoid seizure, many of these disappeared into the best available hiding place – the local masonic lodge. These became instrumental in bringing about the Reformation, by printing forbidden books and circulating them among the public.

The only weapon it took to win this war was the truth. One of history’s largest network vs. hierarchy fights was won simply by liberating the flow of information. (See: Niall Ferguson On Networks And Hierarchies)

This victory achieved one of history’s greatest power shifts – removing the first monopoly from the hands of the state and the church… (See: Breaking The Fourth Monopoly)

From Profession To Philosophy

Lodges became places for the like-minded to socialize, collaborate, and seek training in architecture and engineering. An impressive array of knowledge was kept, safeguarded through some of history’s darkest times…

By the end of the middle ages, societies had come to know lodge members as free masons. This was because demand for their skills allowed them – by royal decree, in many places – to travel wherever their services were needed. Other professions were still considered vassals of their lords – and were not free to come and go as they pleased.

They had created a revolution of a unique sort – earning their freedom through innovation and creation of economic value.

This spirit was to become their legacy

It set in motion a transformation, from operative masonry as a craft – to speculative masonry as a philosophy. The founding of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717 is often celebrated as a turning point between the two.

What drove this?

Lodges had furnished a melting pot for ideas. A culminating notion emerged that the same architectural principles could be used to “build grand ideas in the hearts of men,”  to cite an important passage…

Grand ideas, indeed…

A Brotherhood Of Revolution

As the British Empire grew into a world power, colonizing the New World, masonry spread along with it…

With most forts and outposts including their own local lodge, membership became an expected tradition among members of the British military. It served a similar social role to that of a gentlemen’s club – a place to meet off duty and discuss politics, philosophy, and intellectual pursuits.

Members of the lodge met, conversed and voted as equals – regardless of their rank or nobility in the outside world. From the forms and traditions of this fraternity, came many of the influential ideas and figures who would shape the American Revolution

Along with their belief in free elections, Masons believed strongly in personal education and personal responsibility, in the form of individual rights.

Spiritually, many believed in a form of Deism. Theirs was not a supernatural God, rather a natural one, a creator who is the laws of nature, rather than one who lives outside them. To them – math, science, and geometry were the language of “Nature’s God.” Their belief system found spirituality in structure, rather than substance

Of course, many also followed the classical western tradition, made possible by the influence of Christianity… (See: Western Civilization – Classically Liberal, Traditionally Conservative)

The greater part of its intellectual foundation was laid by two writers, both masons – John Locke and Thomas Paine. Their work is well-remembered for introducing such concepts as: “Natural Law,” “Natural Rights,” “the consent of the governed,” “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” private property rights, limited goverment, the social contract, among many others.

One need look no further than the first few sentences of the Declaration Of Independence, to see the foundational nature of their concepts acknowledged…

Few know that the original Boston Tea Party began as a meeting at the Green Dragon Tavern (whose upstairs happened to be the St. Andrew’s Lodge). The members of St. Andrew’s came to comprise the Sons Of Liberty, including such names as: Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock. Benjamin Franklin also attended meetings here on his travels to Boston.

The Founders’ cause drew the aid of masons from all over Europe – men who held the cause of freedom higher than their duty to their own countries. Perhaps the most notable of these was the young Marquis De Lafayette“The Hero Of Two Worlds”  who helped finance the war with part of his own personal fortune – becoming George Washington’s close friend and advisor.

An Architecture Of Government

Of course, it’s well-documented, though often misunderstood,  that many of the founding fathers themselves were masons. Many who were not formal members, such as Thomas Jefferson, held to similar (if not the same) ideals.

Through them, a story that had begun hundreds of years earlier in lodges scattered across Europe, ended in Masonry’s culminating achievement – The United States Constitution.

Using the principles outlined in the Declaration, these men crafted a form of government with an architecture intended to withstand the ages – as had the designs of masonry’s past…

Seven principles formed its foundation:

Separation Of Powers – Divided among three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial
Checks And Balances – Each branch holds measures of control over its counterparts.
Federalism – Non-Federal powers are left to the States or the people, per the 10th Amendment.
Republicanism – Elected officials are representatives, working for the people.
Popular Sovereignty – The legitimacy of government exists by the consent of the governed.
Limited Government – Powers are restrained by constitutional limits – see the Bill Of Rights.
Individual Rights – Certain rights are protected for every citizen –  see the Bill of Rights.

Of course, this model has inspired the design of almost every other modern world government…

The architecture of Washington, D.C. itself is abundant with masonic structure, symmetry, and symbolism. For some great historical research and a remarkable level of detail on this, read Solomon’s Builders by Christopher Hodapp (a Mason himself)…

Continuing A Legacy

Thanks to new forms of communication and cheap collaboration, the world is undergoing a widespread awakening process…

A new generation of thinkers has begun to embrace, not freemasonry as an institution (See: How Gangs Used Freemasons To Corrupt The Police), but the instrument on which it was founded…

A set of principles, that, despite all that has changed in the world, finds relevance in our present circumstances…

•Resisting corrupt institutions with the power of free information.
•Placing one’s loyalty in principles instead of authorities.
•Using scientific and social architecture to build better solutions.
•Embracing innovation and free exchange of ideas.
•Finding strength in distributed networks, rather than formal hierarchies.

Consider that modern examples of masonry – if we find meaning in that term – have grown beyond stone, paper, and printing presses…

Echoes of these principles can be found in many modern disciplines:

•Software
•Cryptography
•Systems Architecture
•Social Media
•Politics
•Journalism
•Music
•Privacy Protection Tools
•Charity
•Business
•Education

Regardless of the terms used for parallels between the past and the present – taken together, they reveal an important truth…

The power of ideas does not live or die in physical form – anymore than a song can be snuffed out off existence by burning its original sheet music.

Millions will continue to carry the tune – isomorphic to its original melody. (See: Anthem Of Equivalence)

Though the above may serve as a powerful example, the full implications of this reach far beyond the topic at hand…

Today marks 238 years since the Declaration Of Independence – but even these events originate from forces that are older still…

We have much yet to learn about ourselves…

In the meantime, Happy Independence Day.


 
 
  1. Ron Branch 02/01/2016, 11:06 AM Reply

    Beautifully put together. My brain is now sizzling “doing the math”. I have personal, private beliefs regarding all of these things, and you just walked me right up to my own deepest thoughts… ones I usually only have in the peak of “awakened” states, and ones I most certainly could never put into words the way you do. You are a scary good writer!

 
 

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