Most conspiracy theories about Freemasonry tend to focus on its alleged connections to the Knights Templar and occult Christian secrets, but a century or more ago, it was Masonry’s alleged connection to ancient Egypt that offered grist for occult speculation. I came across an obscure but strange book called Freemasonry from the Great Pyramid of Ancient Times (1885) by Freemason Thomas Holland in which Holland outlines his belief that the Great Pyramid of Giza was actually a divine map to the mysteries of Freemasonry, crafted on orders from Yahweh by Israelites to show future generations the rituals and mysteries of the Craft. While this is silly on the face of it, derived from Charles Piazzi Smyth’s belief that the Pyramid contained a plan crafted by the God of Israel, and the frequent Masonic insistence that their Craft could be traced back to Egypt (and, specifically, the Great Pyramid), the expression of it is a bit bizarre.
In Victorian times, while Egypt was seen as a repository of ancient wisdom, this sat uneasily atop belief in the superiority of the Judeo-Christian tradition, to the point that people like Holland tried to reassign Egyptian wonders to Israel—a common enough claim in its day. But Holland went farther in trying to weave God’s plan into the history of both Israel and Freemasonry, which he saw therefore as the inheritor of the true divine legacy.
He explains his strange beliefs in a lecture given to his fellow Masons:
Most of you have heard explained the tracing-boards of the Lodge. The first tracing-board says our Lodge should be in length from east to west, and breadth from north to south; just so is the King's Chamber with its Ante-Chamber, from which, in stooping humility, we approach the King's Chamber or Grand Lodge, with every inch of its surface adorned with wisdom, strength, and beauty; and, furthermore, seven hold the Lodge, depicted by seven stars (Pleiades), which seven stars are the very centralization of construction, begun, carried out, and finished at the Pyramid in this Pleiades Year, astronomically so called, when Alpha Draconis was the visible polar star, looking up from the depths of the first Ascending Passage, which will not occur again, according to the slow orbit of the procession of the equinoxes, for 25,827 years; which number is built into fact by the diagonals of the base, and repeated by the perimeter of the 50th course of masonry; and it is by the science of astronomy that the figures and the dates are proved to be true or false. The Pyramid being thus before you, in this enlightened age, to criticise upon, so, Brethren, a starting-point in Freemasonry is gained. As far as comparison is concerned, the one might be symbolical of the other. As I said in my first lecture, a school, college, or lodge would be formed, and many symbolisms put in order, perhaps worked as we do at the present time, as the most impressive way to inculcate and work a lasting impression on the mind; and thus, in whole or in part, we traditionally keep pure and unsullied what has been entrusted to us to this our day.
Ah yes, the worst thing in the world would be to be mistaken for a Jew! It’s fascinating to see the attempt to throw together several strands of Victorian occult thought in service of the supposed specialness of the Freemasons, but also to see it all undermined by Anti-Semitism. He all but bent over backward to try to separate the Jews from Yahweh to claim the glory of the Bible for the Freemasons without the taint of Judaism.
You can’t scratch a fringe theory without finding hate lurking beneath the surface.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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