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Our celebreted annotator has taken no notice of the Masons having the art of working miracles, and foresaying things to come. But this was certainly not the least imporant of their doctrines; hence astrology was admitted as one of the arts · which they taught, and the study of it was warmly recommended in former times.
The ancient philosophers applied with unwearied diligence to discover the aspects, magnitude, distances, motions, and revolutions of the heavenly bodies ; and, according to the discoveries they made, pretended to foretell (uture events, and to determine concerning the secrets of Providence. This study afterwards became a regular science.
Astrology, however vain and delusive in itself, has certainly proved extremely useful to mankind, by promoting the excellent science of astronomy. The vain hope of reading the fates of
“ ABRAC, or ABRACAR, was a name which Basilides, a religious of the second century, gave to God; who, he said, was the author of three hundred and sixty-five.
The author of this superstition is said to have lived in the time of Adrian, and that it had its name after ABRASAN or Abraxas, the denomination which Basilides gave to the Deity. He called him the Supreme God, and ascribed to him seven subordinate powers of angels, who presided over the heavens : and also, according to the number of the days in the year, held, that three hundred and sixty-five virtues, powers, or intelligences, existed as the emanations of God; the value, or numerical distinction of the letters in the word, according to the ancient Greek numerals, made 365.
A B P A X A Z
Among antiquaries, ABRAXAS is an antique gem, or stone, with the word ABRAXAS engraved on it. There are a great many kinds of them, of various figures and sizes, mostly as old as the third century. Persons professing the religious principles of Basilides wore this gem with great veneration as an amulet, from whose virtues, and the protection of the Deity, to whom it was consecrated, and with whose name it was inscribed, the, wearer derived health, prosperity, and safety.
There is deposited in the British Museum such a gem, which is a besil stone of the form of an egg. The head is in cameo, the reverse in intaglio.
In church history, Abrax is noted as a mystical term, expressing the Supreme God; under whom the Basilidians supposed three hundred and sixty-five dependent deities : it was the principle of the Gnostic hierarchy, whence sprang their multitudes of Thæous. From ABRAXAS proceeded their PRIMOGENIAL MIND; from the primogenial mind, the Logos, or Word; from the Logos, the PHRONÆSIS, or Prudence; from the Phronæsis, Sopusa and Dynamis, or Wisdom and Strength ; from these two proceeded PRINCIPALITIES, Powers, and Angels; and from these, other angels, to the number of three hundred and sixty-five, who were supposed to have the government of so many celestial orbs committed to their
men, and the success of their designs, has been one of the strongest motives to induce them, in all countries, to an attentive observation of the celestial bodies; whence they have been taught to measure time, mark the duration of seasons, and regulate the operations of agriculture.
The science of astrology, which is nothing more than the study of nature, and the knowledge of the secret virtues of the heavens, is founded on scripture, and confirmed by reason and experience. Moses tells us, that the sun, moon, and stars, were placed in the firmament, to be for signs as well as for seasons. We find the Deity thus addressing Job, “ Canst thou bind the sueet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bonds of Orion ?" We are instructed in the book of Judges, that “ they fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera." The ancient philosophers were unanimous in the same opinion; and among the moderns, we may cite Lord Bacon, and several others, as giving it a sanction: Milton thus expresses himself on the subject:
Of planetary motions and aspects
It is well known, that inferior animals, and even birds and reptiles, have a foreknowledge of futurity; and surely Nature never intended to withhold from man those favours which she has so liberally bestowed on the raven, the cat, and the sow? No, the aches in our limbs, and the shootings of our corns, before a tempest or a shower, evince the contrary. Man, who is a microcosm, or world in minature, unites in himself all the powers and qualities which are scattered throughout nature, and discerns from certain sigo's the future contingencies of his being; finding his way through the palpable obscure to the visible diurnal and nocternal sphere, he marks the presages and predictions of his happiness or misery. The mysterious and recondite doctrine of sympathies in Nature, is admirably illustrated from the sympathy between the moon and the sea : by which the waters of the ocean are, in a certain, though inconceivable manner, drawn after that luminary. In these celestial and terrestrial sympathies, there is no doubt that the vegetative soul of the world transfers a specific virtue from the heavens to the elements, to animals, and to man. If the moon alone rules the world of waters, what effects must the combination of the solar, stellar, and lunar influences have upon the land? In short, it is universally confessed, that astrology is the mother of astronomy; and though the daughter may have rebelled against the mother, it has long been predicted and expected that the venerable authority of the parent would prevail in the end.
Page 111. Wylle he teche me thay same artes ?] By the answer to this question, we learn the necessary qualifications which are required in a candidate for Masonry--a good character, and an able capacity.
Page 11l. Dothe all Maçonnes kunne more then odher menne?] The answer only implies, that Masons have a better opportunity than the rest of mankind to improve in useful knowledge; though a want of capacity in some, and of application in others, obstructs the progress of many.
Page 111. Are Maçonnes gudder menne then odhers ? ] Masons are not understood to be, collectively. more virtuous in their lives and actions than other men; but it is an undoubted fact, that a strict conformity to the rules of the profession may make them better men than they otherwise would be.
Page 111. Dothe Maçonnes love eider odher myghtylye as beeth sayde?] The answer to this question is truly great, and is judiciously remarked upon by the learned annotator..
By the answers to the three last questions, the objection of cavillers against Masonry are amply refuted: the excellency of the institution is displayed ; and every censure against it, on account of the transgressions of its professors, entirely removed. A bad man, if his character be known, can never be inrolled in our records; and should we be unwarily led to receive an improper object, then our endeavours are exerted to reform him: so that, by being a Mason, it is probable he may become a better subject to his sovereign, and a more valuable member of society, than he would have done had he not been in the way of those advantages.
To conclude, Mr. Locke's observations on the whole of this curious manuscript deserve a serious and careful examination : and though he was not at the time one of the Brotherhood, he seems pretty clearly to have comprehended the value and importance of the system which he endeavoured to illustrate. We may, therefore, fairly conjecture, that the favourable opinion which he conceived of the Society of Masons before his admission, was sufficiently confirmed after his initiation. . .
This document would make it appear, that Masonry was originally something more than a meddling with stones and mortar, and that it was speculative or metaphorical, as well as operative. The document is certainly a curioas one, for it makes Masonry to be a philosophical institution, teaching and practising the whole of buman knowledge real and pretended, that then existed, or that could be discovered. If it ever did possess such a character, it has the
discredit to have lost it; for it has exhibited nothing of the kiod within the last century: and if Mr. Locke did enter the association, he must have met a wretched disappointment. But the document is evidently glossed, for it assumes too much. The lodge of Masons exbibits no emblems of agriculture, of music, of chemistry, or of poetry; for the ear of corp and fall of water, or the sprig of cassia, cannot be fairly considered, nor are they represented as emblematic of agriculture..
The document itself exhibits great ignorance of history and supports masonry upon one point, that masons vainly meddle with various matters wbich they do not understand, and of which they make no useful application. Mr. Locke excuses the errors of the document, by attributing them to an ignorant clerk ; but there is no evidence of a clerk in the matter. The document is professedly, in its original, the band writing of Henry the sixth, who, if not learned in himself, could command all the learning of the country for its explanation and correction. And John Leland, who was a learned man for his day, does not seem to have detected or corrected its errors. I cannot see a single reason why Venetians should be accounted an error for Phenici. ans; for, if the Phenicians brought the mystery of masonry to England, as some masons assume, this writer would have bad no need to have sought the aid of Peter Gower or Pythagoras for that purpose. The document is a mix. ture of conceit and ignorance, such as always detects itself.
The word kymistrye, in a description of the arts taught by Masons, arrests my attention, for I do not understand, that such a word was in use before the seventeenth century. Alchymistry, we know, was practised in this country, by Roger Bacon, in the thirteenth century. But Chemistry cannot be said to bave begun as a science until the eighteenth century, thought smattering of it was kuown in the seventeenth. This is a point which I will leave to the more learned in ancient lore. A knowledge of this kind forms po part of my ambitioa.
In the eighth answer, we are told, that Masons had an art to discover other arts that they had secrets to prevent any secrets from being kept from them; that they could work miracles and foretel things to come; that they had the art of changes, by which I understand the art of legerdemaio ; that they bad the way of winning the faculty of Abrac; by which I can define nothing but witchcraft or devil-dealing; and that they had a universal language.
I am surprised, that Mr. Locke should have been duped by a document of this kind; but he was not free from superstition, and when a man is not free from superstition, he is open to all sorts of imposition and credulity. Newton was also a man of this stamp, aud called Masonry the science of sciences; a description which is utterly false in fact.
It was in the reign of Henry the Sixth, that the Masonic combination formed a capital offence by statute, and we are here told, that this document so gained the esteem of Henry that he gave the masons his protection. If he did, it must have been a worshipping of the devil for fear; for we are told that the masons were masters of the then so much dreaded occult arts, or what was called the Black Art. Besides, such a document was enough to call down the thunders of the church upon these supposed sorcerors and we find, that they were persecuted by the Bishop of Wincbester, which is a matter of course, if such notions were entertained of masons, or such professions made by them, as this document imports.
Upon the whole, this document is far from being creditable to the masonic association, and proves nothing more .than that the secret combination bad raised all sorts of strange notions among the multitude, and had perhaps induced the masons themselves to make pretensions of knowing and performing such things as those of which they were utterly ignorant. Similar popular erroneous notions have been entertained to this day. One of my correspondents assures me, that be lost an agreeable partner by her discovery, that he was a mason, and from ber notion, that a masoa never used a woman well. The association is a practical mischief producing no kind of good and ought to cease. If the charitable part of it be good, it can be preserved and extended, by relinquishing the secret and more expensive parts. But the mysterious part of it is evidently mischevious and void of a particle of good. It is a cheat upon the multitude, which, I trust, will be rooted out by my exposure..
To set aside all notion that the masonic association was any thing more than a trade association before the eighteenth century, I will copy another document wbich I find in Preston's book. It relates to the ceremony of installing a master :
As the curious reader may wish to know the ancient charges