Lodges of that degree were rather few in number, but their importance, authority and popularity in Russia hardly can be overestimated. These texts reflect esoteric speculations developed by Russian Freemasons between the years , the latter date which was that of the official prohibition of masonic lodges in Russia. Some of them treaties, lectures, letters, speeches, and conversations have authors and are ascribed to the spiritual leaders of Russian Masons: I.
Schwartz, S. Gamaleya, I. Some of them are anonymous: extractions from different books, commentaries, speeches and conversations in the lodges and so on.
An Old Celtic Legend of Atlantis
All these sources are bound by their authors' membership of the one and the same masonic system and their personal acquaintances, common ideology, common textual tradition, common concepts, images and symbols. This ideology was a kind of mixture of different esoteric doctrines on the basis of the Christian Kabbalah, which attracted many spiritual followers from the Russian nobility. That's why these archives are so representative and of interest to the researchers.
During our study of masonic texts we found different definitions of Kabbalah "Cabala" in masonic spelling 3 : Jewish mystical tradition, perennial wisdom of humankind, exegetical technique, magical practice. But the one of utmost interest is the following definition of Kabbalah as symbolic philosophy:. Wisdom of humankind in general and of Jews particularly, mysterious by its profoundness and validity and symbolic by its form.
For just a symbol or hieroglyph can represent something supersensible through its interpretive connection with something visible and natural and by this way give deep observation of things, exhausting their essence 4. Rather similar definitions can be found in one of the masonic magazines: "Cabalists call their science True Metaphysics and Holy Teaching, which by some miraculous and divine art through some symbols, leaving all earthly things and separating from all matter, teach us to extract one form from another" 5.
One is not an Order Brother if he doesn't know Hieroglyphic Language. This language requires knowledge of correspondences. Hieroglyphic Masonry is training in this language" 6. Such equivalence between definitions of Kabbalah and Freemasonry leads to the unification and identification of these two traditions: "If we address ourselves to Solomon, Great Master of the Sciences we will see how he describes Wisdom and division of her talents. Let's think: what is the essence of Solomonic sciences?
Robert Christgau: CG: various
These are cabalistic sciences 7. Such a close connection between Kabbalah, Metaphysics and Freemasonry based on the concept of symbolic or hieroglyphic language obliges the researcher to ask a new question: What were the Kabbalistic interpretations of masonic symbols and what metaphysical concepts of such symbols denote?
In this article we are going to contribute into solving this problem by dealing with only two masonic symbols Columns Jachin and Boaz and Flaming Star and two aspects of masonic metaphysics namely, philosophy of nature and theosophy.
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The main principle of the philosophy of nature in Russian Freemasonry was the hermetic principle of the reflection of the divine world's reflection in the terrestrial one. In one of the sources this principle is related to the topic of Wisdom Sophia through a kind of midrashic exegetics:. All that is Divine Wisdom, with which God created and established all things.
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In the outward temporal nature, its formations and arrangements, Wisdom of God is staying at the gates and calling us, so that we may learn from temporal example how to conclude that something existed from eternity up to this moment. Thus Divine Wisdom teaches us to learn from outward Nature the way of being before creation 8.
So in the reconstruction of masonic philosophy of nature we should briefly describe their theosophy. Theosophy of Russian Freemasons is concentrated around the emanation theory, which combines some neoplatonic, alchemical, Kabbalistic and Christian concepts. There are four main phases of divine emanation. The first phase is Divine Nothingness which can be called also "Eternal Nature", "Prima Materia", "Foundation of all things" and "Ein-Soph", the latter obviously refers to the Kabbalistic notion of infinite and eternal essence of God 9.
So this nothingness is a kind of positive nothingness, which is an essence of God, from which all the world is created. Second phase of emanation - appearance of duality in God, described in Bohmean terms: "One light is dark, another bright, one cold and another warm, one who wishes and another who brings delight, the light of Father and the light of Son" This duality in God could be also expressed in Kabbalistic terms and correlated with masonic symbolism: "Charity and Justice of God can be compared to two semi-compasses In this fragment two properties of God refer to the two of ten sephiroth from Kabbalistic theosophy - Hesed Charity and Gebura Justice.
In turn these properties and their fundamental unity is symbolized by one of the main masonic symbols - compass. Finally the duality of God can be characterized in erotic terms, images and symbols. From the idea of creation of man in the image of god Russian Masons concluded that in God himself there were two aspects - male and female, active and passive, fire and water, Logos Verbo and Sophia Wisdom Schwartz in his lectures on the history of philosophy considered the idea of divine androgyny as the key Kabbalistic concept. In his exposition of Kabbalistic ideas the Fall of Adam and Eve symbolized divorce of male and female aspects of man and God, meanwhile salvation was understood as reunification of these two aspects and restoration of Gods image in human being, and namely this plot according to him was the main topic of Song of Songs.
The third stage of divine emanation was the appearance of Trinity in God. The third face of Trinity could be interpreted as the synthesis of divine duality: "God allowed creatures to comprehend Him, when he disclosed His properties through the Revelation in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or, in another words, in desire, delight and gladness" These three faces of God also got Kabbalistic connotations and were correlated with masonic symbolism.
First of all, each of the faces had a Hebrew name besides Christian name: "All the creation was illuminated firstly by Adonai, then by Elohim and after all by YHWH, who from his center illuminates all the things by his radiuses" Nevertheless in Kabbalah we can not find a direct correspondence of these names for sephiroth Hesed, Gebura and - hypothetically - Tipereth, that could correlate with three feces of Trinity in masonic texts. The principle of correlations between divine names and properties is quite Kabbalistic in itself. We can find this principle for example in classical Kabbalistic work of Joseph Gikatilla "The Gates of Light" that was translated by Russian Freemasons and constructed as exegetics of correspondences between divine names in the Bible and ten sephiroth.
Kabbalistic connotations of the third stage of emanation can be traced also through masonic symbolism. In one of the masonic texts Father is compared to the point, Son - to the radius and Spirit to the circle At the same time point in a circle is the basic masonic symbol designating Order on the whole. In another text we find new meanings of this symbol - it designates Gold as the pure metal, Sun as the perfect shine and Heart as the center of human being and source of its perfection. So we can compare all these facts: point in a circle as a symbol of Trinity, Order, Sun, Heart and Gold; Tiphereth as Heart and Gold and as possible correlation for the third face of Trinity if the first and second can be compared with Hesed and Gebura, for both Tiferet and Spirit are synthesis of dual properties ; a point in a circle as a Kabbalistic symbol in views of Russian Freemasons.
All these facts allow us to conclude, though not precisely, that there were some connections between Kabbalah and masonic doctrine of Trinity. The last stage of divine emanation was the appearance of fourth face of God -Divine Wisdom, Sophia. Divine Wisdom was understood by Masons as the manifestation of Trinity in natural, material world; as a kind of mediator, assistant or instrument in creation of the world; as the Law of Nature; as the substance of the creation and as the Eternal Nature.
All these characteristics were not originally invented by Russian Freemasons but adopted from doctrines of European theosophists such as Bohme, Pordege, Gichtel and Arnold. Kabbalah was another source for masonic doctrine of Wisdom, as we will see later on. For Russian Freemasons Nature was a reflection of God: "For as it is in heaven, so it is on earth and as on the earth below, so in the heavens above.
This is an ancient Hermetic and Solomonic rule" So, all the stages of divine emanation from divine monad to tetrad and all the aspects of divine world were reflected in nature and its alchemical structure: "All things take its natural origin from four elements, that give birth to the three principles, from which two central fires flow, and in their connection all of them are one, and for this reason number ten is named by magicians perfect number" Divine nothingness was reflected in primordial darkness and also in blackness of the earth: 'The best and the most appropriate for birth of different fruits is the black, rank and fertile Earth, as a Darkness is mother of Light.
In a word, Ensoph couldn't be understood well than by comparison with Darkness. This is a backing, from which all the colors appeared" As we can see, Kabbalistic term Ensoph in this text is applied to the terrestrial sphere as a reflection of heavenly area. These opposites were bonded together by the cosmic law of attraction: "All separated things thirst and strive for their second half according to their irresistible sympathetic attraction.
This is a unshakeable law in all the Nature for all times" Russian freemasons described these two principles of all being not only in metaphysical terms, but also in terms of science as, for example, powers of attraction and repulsion and theosophical myth Angelic powers and powers of Lucifer. Two main principles of Nature could be described also in Kabbalistic terms as manifestations of the two sephiroth:. In visible world the law of balance is the common physical law and derives from equilibrium of two powers that are seemingly opposites. This physical law reminds us of metaphysical balance, for in God.
These two properties of God are personified by some cabbalists by names Geburah and Hesed or Gedulah Natural duality gives birth to natural trinity: "These two central fires together with their moving power create in upper elementary world three spiritual principles They are components of all the substances and are called Salt, Sulphur andMercury" These three main alchemical principles are reflections of three faces of God: "Mercury, Salt and Sulphur, and these three are one, as John the Saint told, there is Trinity in Heaven and there is Trinity on the Earth, and this one on the Earth is likeness of that in Heaven" They were symbols designating some metaphysical and physical concepts, for example powers of generating, nutrition and conservation or electricity, galvanism and magnetism correspondingly.
Three aspects of Divine World were reflected also in three "kingdoms" of nature, namely mineral, vegetable and animal or angelic, heavenly and elemental worlds. These three worlds could be connected with some Kabbalistic ideas and interpretations. For example, in one of the anonymous masonic texts on Kabbalah three worlds were brought in correlation with letters of Hebrew alphabet Angelic world included ten letters from Aleph to Yud corresponding to ten orders of angels and ten sephiroth.
From Kaf to Ayn astral world was situated, which included seven planets and seven spirits.
Elemental world consisted of letters from Pay to Waw and included formed and unformed substances, both animated and unanimated. These conceptions derive not strictly from Jewish Kabbalah, but from its Christian interpretations, for example, by Afanasius Kircher. As it divine hexagon contains 4 essences, namely 3 of Trinity and 4 of Wisdom, so these 4 essences began to work.
The first active principle or desire expressed in spiritual fire; second one, food or suffering one - in spiritual water; third one, Spirit of comforting satisfaction, - in spiritual element of penetrating light air and fourth one, containing and coagulating essence of Wisdom, - in spiritual earth As in the case of divine tetrad, terrestrial one also was symbolized by hexagon that got in masonic interpretations had some Kabbalistic meanings.
Kabbalistic connotations of masonic symbols in relation to Philosophy of Nature. Columns Jachin and Boaz are the basic symbols of masonic ritual. Their place in the masonic Lodge is determined by the fact that the same columns made of copper with the same names stood on the parvis of the Temple of Solomon on the right and left side accordingly.
These columns symbolize in Freemasonry quite different things: 1 two pillars from Exodus story - fiery one, which illuminated way of Israel in the desert, and cloudy one, which concealed Israel from their enemies; 2 Strength and Power of the Order; 3 degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft, for the names of the columns are also passwords of these two degrees, and the first letters of these names usually are depicted on the images of columns portrayed on masonic carpets of proper degree. During his initiation neophyte had to pass between Jachin and Boaaz on his symbolic way from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from the state of viciousness to the state of virtue, from the state of outsider to the state of Brother.
So these columns were a kind of symbolic border, which both separated neophyte from secular world and introduced him to the sacred world of the Lodge. Russian Freemasons gave to this columns also some metaphysical meanings.
For example, they projected on them metaphysical principle of duality of God and Nature, for the Lodge itself was a symbol of the world in whole. We can see this projection in words of I. Pozdeev: "On the question about two columns in front of the altar, if they are columns of Fire and Water, it is answered: All things in this world are made of two powers, attracting one and expanding one. Light and Darkness" We remember that natural and divine duality was represented in masonic texts by Kabbalistic terms Hesed and Geburah.
If so, perhaps there was also some symbolic association between these two sephiroth and two columns of masonic temple?