Volume LVMay 2008Number 2

Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture
By Marsha Keith Schuchard Reviewed by Charles S. Canning, Academy of Masonic Knowledge

This text is a study of 17th century Scotland and the interaction of cultural, religious and political viewpoints that influenced the building trades in England and Scotland. One has to be impressed with the size of the volume and its academic standing. The author received her Ph.D. in 1975 with a dissertation on Freemasonry, Secret Societies and the Continuity of the Occult Traditions in British Literature.

The author's access to the Grand Lodge libraries of Britain, Europe and recently retrieved documents from Nazi-confiscated Masonic material, now in the Grand Lodge Library of Holland, provides a new viewpoint on Freemasons. She notes how Masonic history has been misled by an Anglo-centrism and anti-Stuart bias that ignored or minimized the Scottish, Irish and Catholic traditions of Freemasonry. Freemasonry of 1717, she notes, served the causes of "Modern" Hanoverian Masonry. It was, however, the "Ancient" Stuart system of Masonry that fascinated Swedenborg, and other literary figures, that was driven underground at the close of the 17th century.

The author emphasizes that the "great stumbling block" to research on pre-1717 British Freemasonry was Anderson's Constitutions of Freemasonry, which, she states, distorted history. Schuchard presents a very detailed history of Scottish Masonry. The text begins at the time of Solomon's Temple and traces esoteric Masonry from Jewish and Arab mysticism and the Neo-Pythagorean fraternities in Alexandria, providing an architectural background that consisted of mystical mathematics, magical letters and architectural visioning. This esoteric instruction gave stonemasons the ability to "see" the wisdom of God in their construction. Today, we find this symbolism of "living stones" in our own ritual.

The author traces the mystical schools of Jewish architecture and their influence through Spain and then southern Europe. By the 16th century, we find this influence in operative Scottish masonry, with a tradition in Egyptian-Hebraic antecedents. In the 17th century, Scotland's King James VI became the English King James I, who had a Masonic vision of a peaceful world with a rebuilt "Jerusalem" demonstrated through Scottish Masonic architecture. The text gives a detailed account of 17th century Scottish history as it relates to Freemasonry and national architecture in England and Scotland.

The text is an exceptional resource for reference by serious Masonic scholars. It is replete with references to occult scholars, famous contributors to the sciences and titles of esoteric texts and manuscripts. Each of the 12 chapters contains literally hundreds of footnotes and Schuchard's bibliography covers 30 pages and more than 900 listings. The text was fascinating in providing a well-documented addition to our perspective of Freemasonry. This was a text one could not "skim," for each detail needed to be read in the context of the developing thesis. While I enjoyed the laborious read, with reference to a plethora of esoteric elements, cabala, Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, "second sight," and art of memory, the text did not project a clarification of their practice and application in Freemasonry, nor examples of its presence in contemporary ritual. The text reviews the rebellions, conflicts, executions and expulsions in Stuart history and finally the Masonic "diaspora" at the opening of the 18th century. "Modern" Hanoverian Masonry was made public in 1717 and the "Ancient" Scottish oriented Masonry was established in 1751, which generated the "mystical elevation of ordinary men to brotherhood with kings," and was the origin of Pennsylvania Ancient York Rite Masonry in the 1760s.

Schuchard concludes, "when Mozart portrayed a chorus of Egyptian priests who escort the initiate into the Masonic Temple of Wisdom, and when Washington imported Scottish stonemasons to construct the American Capitol as a Temple of Liberty, they bore the fruits of a Masonic tree planted long ago in the stony soil of Israel and Scotland."

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