Tag Archives: secret

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Keightley is new over at Project Gutenberg.

“If we had the means of investigating historically the origin of Secret Societies, we should probably find that they began to be formed almost as soon as any knowledge had been accumulated by particular individuals beyond what constituted the common stock. The same thing has happened to knowledge that has happened to all other human possessions,—its actual holders have striven to keep it to themselves. It is true that in this case the possessor of the advantage does not seem to have the same reason for being averse to share it with others which naturally operates in regard to many good things of a different kind; he does not, by imparting it to those around him, diminish his own store. This is true, in so far as regards the possession of knowledge considered in its character of a real good; the owner of the treasure does not impoverish himself by giving it away, as he would by giving away his money, but remains as rich as ever, even after he has made ever so many others as rich as himself. But still there is one thing that he loses, and a thing upon which the human mind is apt to set a very high value; he loses the distinction which he derived from his knowledge. This distinction really serves, in many respects, the same purpose that money itself does. Like money, it brings observation and worship. Like money, it is the dearest of all things, power. Knowledge, however held, is indeed essentially power; to ken, that is, to know, is the same word and the same thing with to can, that is, to be able. But there is an additional and a different species of power conferred by knowledge when it exists as the distinction of a few individuals in the midst of general ignorance. Here it is power not only to do those things the methods of doing which it teaches; it is, besides, the power of governing other men through your comparative strength and their weakness.” [via]

“The present volume is devoted to the history of three celebrated societies which flourished during the middle ages, and of which, as far as we know, no full and satisfactory account is to be found in English literature. These are the Assassins, or Ismaïlites, of the East, whose name has become in all the languages of Europe synonymous with murderer, who were a secret society, and of whom we have in general such vague and indistinct conceptions; the military order of the Knights Templars, who were most barbarously persecuted under the pretext of their holding a secret doctrine, and against whom the charge has been renewed at the present day; and, finally, the Secret Tribunals of Westphalia, in Germany, concerning which all our information has hitherto been derived from the incorrect statements of dramatists and romancers.

It is the simplicity of truth, and not the excitement of romance, that the reader is to expect to find in the following pages,—pictures of manners and modes of thinking different from our own,—knowledge, not mere entertainment, yet as large an infusion of the latter as is consistent with truth and instruction.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“But in order to find the ‘perfect points of entrance’ to this secret (and we are told elsewhere that ‘straight is the way and narrow the gate, and few there be that find it’) emphasis again is laid in our teaching upon the necessity of complete moral rectitude, of utter exactness of thought, word and action, as exemplified by rigid observance of the symbolic principles of the square, level and plumb-rule.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“It is written that ‘to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’; and it remains with the Craft itself to determine by its own action whether it shall enter into its full heritage, or whether, by failing to realize and to safeguard the value of what it possesses, by suffering its own mysteries to be vulgarized and profaned, its organization will degenerate and pass into disrepute and deserved oblivion, as has been the fate of many secret orders in the past.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“From that source Christianity itself came into the world. From them originated the great school of Kabalism that marvellous system of secret, oral tradition of the Hebrews, a strong element of which has been introduced into our Masonic system. From them too, also issued many fraternities and orders, such for instance, as the great orders of Chivalry and of the Rosicrucians, and the school of spiritual alchemy. Lastly, from them too also issued, in the seventeen century, modern speculative Freemasonry.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“It is, of course, common knowledge that great secret systems of the Mysteries (referred to in, our lectures as ‘noble orders of architecture,’ i.e., of soul-building) existed in the East, in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, amongst the Hebrews, amongst Mahommedans and amongst Christians; even among uncivilized African races they are to be found. All the great teachers of humanity, Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Moses, Aristotle, Virgil, the author of the Homeric poems, and the great Greek tragedians, along with St. John, St. Paul and innumerable other great names—were initiates of the Sacred Mysteries.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“In all periods the world’s history, and in every part of the globe, the secret orders and societies have existed outside the limits of the official churches for the purpose of teaching what are called ‘the Mysteries’: for imparting to suitable and prepared minds certain truths of human life, certain instructions about divine things, about the things that belong to our peace, about human nature and human destiny, which it was undesirable to publish to the multitude who would but profane those teachings and apply the esoteric knowledge that was communicated to perverse and perhaps to disastrous ends.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“We know that even the elementary and superficial secrets of the Order must not be communicated to unqualified persons, and the reason for this injunction is not so much because those secrets have any special value, but because that silence is intended to be typical of that which applies to the greater, deeper secrets, some of which, for appropriate reasons, must not be communicated, and some of which indeed are not communicable at all, because they transcend the power of communication.” [via]

The Position and Possibilities of the Masonic Order from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“It means a turning away from the pursuit of the popular ideals of the outer world, in the conviction that those ideals are but shadows, images and temporal substitutions for the eternal Reality that underlies them, to the keen and undivertible quest of that Reality itself and the recovery of those genuine secrets of our being which lie buried and hidden at ‘the centre’ or innermost part of our souls.” [via]