Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians by Manly P Hall from the Philosophical Research Society:

Manly P Hall's Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians from the Philosophical Research Society

 

There are two sections to this volume, each of distinct significance. The first is Hall’s essay “Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians,” which is principally an analysis of the Osiris legend. Forgiving some references to Atlantean civilization, the analysis is sober and comprehensive, but the most worthwhile part is Hall’s own proposed interpretation, which constitutes the few final pages of the essay. The topic of Freemasonry only arises in this final passage, which uses Masonry as a more contemporary illustration of an initiatory institution, in order to clarify Hall’s remarks about the Egyptian priesthood. Interestingly, he fails to draw the obvious parallel between Osiris and H.A., and thus to re-integrate the allegory within Freemasonry proper.

The second part of the book is a publication of the “Crata Repoa,” an 18th Century manuscript purporting to detail the initiatory system of ancient Egypt. “Crata Repoa” first appeared anonymously in German in the late 18th century, drawing on a wide range of classical sources for its details. Some of those sources were sympathetic to the ancient mysteries, but others were certainly hostile. Given the strict laws of secrecy that surrounded the classical rites, we can only assume that the best-informed and most sympathetic accounts from antiquity were never disclosed. The English text published by Hall is based on John Yarker’s translation from the French of Anton Bailleul, who published his version in 1778.

“Crata Repoa” is presented as a rite divided into seven grades, plus an initial preparation, which suggests correspondences to the classical planets and/or the esoteric anatomy of the sat chakras. It was certainly first composed by someone with knowledge of Masonic initiation, and its sequence reflects features of certain Masonic rites, which it may have influenced in its turn. In addition to the text of “Crata Repoa,” Hall includes his own commentary in a grade-by-grade format, and he appends “The Initiation of Plato.” The latter piece is a scripted drama, clearly based on “Crata Repoa,” written by Charles and Auguste Beaumont, and translated by John Yarker.

The historical value of “Crata Repoa” with respect to the ancient schools of initiation is questionable at best. What it does present is a vivid, and perhaps influential, picture of initiatory ideals as contemplated during the period in which Masonic rituals were assuming their modern form in Europe. [via]

 

 

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