Note: This article presents the author's views which are not necessarily those of the Grand Encampment or any person representing the Grand Encampment.
by Sir Knight Jeffrey L. Kuntz, Sr. Warden, 32°
Many Bible scholars agree that the Scriptures are meant to be much more a collection of writings about life's moral lessons than a precise history. Some, also, believe there is much symbolism in the form of metaphor and allegory in the canonical books as well as in the Apocrypha. In fact, some will go so far as to say that real personages are sometimes used in allegory.
For those who have especially open and pondering minds and a love for allegory and hidden meaning in the Scriptures, one could take the reference of Jesus as a carpenter's son to have a cryptic meaning-with a Masonic tie-in at that! After all, don't Masons use carpenter tools as symbols to teach character building? Of course, the biblical literalists have a definite problem with such interpretations-as they would with the Nazarene claim-and even many casual Bible readers would consider that a stretch! At any rate, some contemplation of the idea might be good exercise for the mind, if nothing else.
It is interesting to note that in Arthur Edward Waite's A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry similarities between the Essenes and the Freemasons are stated: a) women were not admitted into the inner workings; b) they used certain signs of recognition; and c) their rituals were followed by a meal in common.
Perhaps more important, however, is the evidence in records, including the writings of such ancient authors as Plato, Josephus, Eusebius, and others, that some of the teachings and symbols we use in Freemasonry were also inculcated upon the members and candidates of the Essenes. Some of these symbols were also found in identical form in Egypt, China, and in all parts of the ancient world, including, strangely enough, Mexico and Central America.
Maybe here it is well to emphasize the importance of the use of symbols in spiritual and mental development. Symbols and ritual mean something, and their meanings have been ingrained into the subconsciousness of man for thousands of years. Careful contemplation of these symbols, according to occultists and students of mysticism, can aid in the development of wisdom, understanding, and even mental powers.
The development of spiritual and mental powers by the ancient esoteric societies such as the Essenes is, some believe, one of the main reasons such communities and sects met or even lived in secret. If their ceremonies and teachings had been freely given out, they not only would have set themselves up for ridicule, but they would have risked the dangerous misuse of their special knowledge by the unenlightened.
Some Christian mystic scholars believe this was what Christ was referring to when, according to Matthew 7: 6, He said: "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you."
Students of the occult believe that in remote periods of history there were civilizations that, after learning and developing the powers of the universe that are intertwined with the human mind, eventually lost touch with their spiritual nature and began using these powers for evil purposes, ultimately leading to their own destruction. This, they believe, is the main reason that an initiation system was created, placing candidates into levels or degrees of instruction and testing them as they advance to higher grades of knowledge and abilities.
If Jesus did live in seclusion with the Essenes until his thirtieth year, it was then time for him to begin his very special ministry in the outside world. He then formed His own band of followers. His innermost followers were the twelve disciples, who became known as the "apostles."
There are fairly strong indications in the four gospels that Jesus shared certain knowledge with His inner circle of these twelve specially chosen disciples that, at least for a time, was to be kept secret. After Jesus told the parable of the sower to a crowd, His disciples came to Him asking why He spoke in parables. He answered: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries (secrets) of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." (Matthew 13: 11) This incident is also recorded in the fourth chapter of Mark and in the eighth chapter of Luke, but in the account of Matthew, Jesus gives a fuller explanation of His parables.
Paul spoke of the secret teachings in several of his epistles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he wrote: "You should think of us as Christ's servants who have been put in charge of God's secret truths." In the third chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;...which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (verses 3 and 5)
Perhaps, Paul divulged the basis of the greatest truth in his letter to the Colossians, "...and the secret is that Christ is in you..." (Col. 1: 27) Was Paul telling us that the way to total inner peace while on earth, as well as to eternal salvation, is learning to be attuned to the Christ within?
When the time neared for Christ to be crucified, He spoke to the disciples about why He had to suffer such an end, but those things not even they were prepared to understand. "I have used figures of speech to tell you these things," He told them in John 16: 25, "but the time will come when I will not use figures of speech, but will speak to you plainly about the Father." As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, after Christ's Ascension, the apostles performed miracles and healed many sick people. Before the Crucifixion, they had finished their training under Jesus the Christ, learning to master the forces of God which enabled them to perform such works. In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus said: "Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that Ido shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (verses 12-14)
This is one passage where Jesus was speaking quite plainly. There really can be little doubt what He meant. Most Christians today, however, either misunderstand, misinterpret, or simply ignore the passage. Yes, Christ's message was one of love and faith, but as He also clearly taught, through strong and truly spiritual love and faith, we are able to do great and marvelous things! Perhaps, most Freemasons today would think it unthinkable that Jesus Christ would have been a member of a fraternal order similar to our present-day Masonic order. Maybe we should ask ourselves, however, what exactly Freemasonry is. From the study of ancient symbology and mysticism could we conclude that modern Freemasonry is a vestige of or a kind of diluted variant in the line of ancient esoteric mystery schools which go back thousands of years? From a perusal of certain passages of Scripture, can we conclude that the great prophets, Jesus Christ, and his apostles, and even some of the saints of the early Church were highly advanced initiates of ancient mystery schools?
The question here that would naturally come to the minds of some is why this higher knowledge was not passed on through the Christian Church. According to some scholars, some of these teachings were, indeed, held by the very early Church fathers. Dr. H. Spencer Lewis, who was Imperator for the Rosicrucian Order in America, in his book, The Mystical Life of Jesus, explained that there are records in the archives of the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican containing much of these teachings and unknown information about the life of Jesus, but that these records were suppressed by later Church leaders.
After the conversion of Constantine in the early fourth century, Christianity became the established official religion of the Roman empire. In his very interesting book, The Hidden Bible, William Leary explains how the Church leaders of that time modified the Christian religion to meet their political needs. This was done, for the most part, in order to appeal to the illiterate masses who could not comprehend the loftier teachings of Christianity. Leary wrote: "The deeper knowledge of the Christian teaching gradually disappeared, and became the Lost Word."
Freemasonry can certainly not take the place of the Church. It must, in fact, support the Church. Perhaps, we can see, however, that there is, to some extent at least, a connection, a kinship, between the more mystical teachings of Jesus and our beloved fraternal order of Freemasonry, even if it be an attenuated vessel of the higher knowledge. Can we as Freemasons, as Knights Templar, perhaps someday find the Lost Word? Masonic membership has declined in recent years, as has church attendance, but one thing for sure is that our work as Freemasons, as well as Christians, is of the utmost importance now at a time when it is, without any doubt, needed as much as ever.
Sir Knight Jeffrey Kuntzis Sr. Warden of Baldwin II Commandery No. 22, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He resides at: 179 OCR, A 15, Montoursville, PA 17754