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History of Magic

FRINGE FREEMASONS
ÉLIPHAS LÉVI
CHAPTER VII
THE MAGICAL ORIGINS OF FREEMASONRY
The History of Magic, by Éliphas Lévi, contains at least fifteen references to Freemasonry, not counting the handful of remarks by A. E. Waite in his footnotes. The greater majority allude to various fanciful origins or personal interpretations of Freemasonry or to the equally fanciful importance and precedence of so-called high grade Masonry.
Reprinted below are the first and last pages of a short chapter in which Lévi claims the Kabbalistic origins of Freemasonry. Like so many of his claims, he fails to provide any documentation or proof. Lévi exemplifies a school of nineteenth century writers who attempted to fit Freemasonry into their personal beliefs. His writings are presented here only as an example of that school, not as a guide for serious masonic study.
That great Kabalistical association known in Europe under the name of Masonry appeared suddenly in the world when revolt against the Church had just succeeded in dismembering Christian unity. The historians of the Order are one and all in a difficulty when seeking to explain its origin. According to some, it derived from a certain guild of Masons who were incorporated for the construction of the cathedral of Strasburg. Others refer its foundation to Cromwell, without pausing to consider whether the Rites of English Masonry in the days of the Protector were not more probably developed as a counterblast to this leader of Puritanical anarchy. In fine, some are so ignorant that they attribute to the Jesuits the maintenance and direction, if not indeed the invention, of a society long preserved in secret and always wrapped in mystery.1 Setting aside this last view, which refutes itself, we can reconcile the others by admitting that the Masonic Brethren borrowed their name and some emblems of their art from the builders of Strasburg cathedral, and that their first public manifestation took place in England, owing to radical institutions and in spite of Cromwell's despotism. It may be added that the Templars were their models, the Rosicrucians their immediate progenitors,2 and the Johannite sectarians their more remote ancestors. Their doctrine is that of Zoroaster and of Hermes, their law is progressive initiation, their principle is equality — regulated by the hierarchy and universal fraternity. They are successors of the school of Alexandria, as of all antique initiations, custodians of the secrets of the Apocalypse and the Zohar. Truth is the object of their worship and they represent truth as light; they tolerate all forms of faith, profess one philosophy, seek truth only, teach reality, and their plan is to lead all human intelligence by gradual steps into the domain of reason.
[pages 284 - 286 omitted.]
Moreover, at the present day, there are many who think that they are Masons and yet do not know the meaning of their Rites, having lost the Key of the Mysteries. They misconstrue even their symbolical pictures and those hieroglyphic signs which are emblazoned on the carpets of their Lodges. These pictures and signs are tbe pages of a book of absolute and universal science. They can be read by means of tbe Kabalistic keys and hold nothing in concealment for the initiate who already possesses those of Solomon.
Masonry has not merely been profaned but has served as the veil and pretext of anarchic conspiracies depending from the secret influence of the vindicators of Jacques de Molay, and of those who continued the schismatic work of the Temple. In place of avenging the death of Hiram they have avenged that of his assassins. The anarchies have resumed the rule, square and mallet, writing upon them the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—Liberty, that is to say, for all the lusts, Equality in degradation and Fraternity in the work of destruction. Such are the men whom the Church has condemned justly and will condemn for ever.
1. This remark, in which I concur unreservedly, may be noted by students of Masonic history as an offset against the pretentious nonsense which has been talked on the subject by French makers of fable and especially J.M. Ragon, the dullest and most imbecile of all.
2. This opinion is showing signs of recrudescence at the present day, and it is well to say that there is no evidence to support it.

Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant), The History of Magic. New York : Samuel Weiser, 1971. Translated, with a Preface and Notes, by Arthur Edward Waite. pp. 283 - 287.

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