Hermeticism in early Freemasonry

Discussion in 'History and Research' started by hanzosbm, Mar 11, 2020.

  1. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    There's something that has been rubbing me wrong for a long time, and I kept planning to do more research on it independently, but it gets put off, so I figured I'd open it up to the Brethren.

    Supposedly, Hermeticism in the form of the Corpus Hermeticum came to Europe for the first time in 1471 via Marsilio Ficino. However, the Matthew Cooke Manuscript (dated 1450) talks about Hermes the philosopher finding one of the antediluvian pillars in its discussions on the history of Freemasonry.

    Now, whether or not Freemasonry can be traced directly back to Hermes is irrelevant for this conversation. What is important, is how a group of supposedly purely operative Masons knew about Hermes 21 years before the rest of Europe, and to such a degree that they included him in their writings in a very matter of fact way.

    There are 3 possibilities I've come up with:
    1) The Cooke Manuscript is dated incorrectly
    2) The details of Hermeticism were not known prior to 1471, but the knowledge of a philosopher named Hermes was common throughout Europe (I recently purchased a book that argues that Hermeticism was more widely known in Europe during the middle ages, but I haven't yet had time to read it)
    3) Somehow, this group of men held deep philosophic knowledge that ran counter to established church doctrine that was unknown to the rest of Europe

    Either way, the argument that Freemasonry as a philosophy only came about in the 17th century with the introduction of speculative Masons seems to pretty much go out the window. Operative Masons had knowledge of and held some level of respect for an esoteric and heretical philosopher.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    A more fundamental issue is whether the standard Scaligerian chronology is correct. Scaliger cut and pasted all he (thought he) knew about ancient civilizations into a single chronology and that has been the basis used by historians ever since.

    https://ajendu.blogspot.com/2014/11/scaligerian-chronology.html

    Thus there is another option in dealing with your problem: the chronology is incorrect.
    http://chronologia.org/en/

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwryfIqJC5R9GDRMt6iMzCf_-KQKpoeXg
     
  3. Luigi Visentin

    Luigi Visentin Registered User

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    Hermeticism was known in Europe since Roman's time and likely before. Later it seemed to be lost in western but survived in the Byzantine empire. In any case the presence of the name "Hermes" in the York's legend does not referr necessarily to the mytical philosopher.
     
  4. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    "And after this flood many years, as the chronicle telleth, these 2 pillars were found, and as the Pilicronicon saith, that a great clerk that [was] called Pythagoras found that one, and Hermes, the philosopher, found that other, and they taught forth the sciences that they found therein written."

    It's definitely refering to him as a philosopher. Regarding knowledge of Hermes prior to Ficino, that's something I've been trying to ascertain. I'd love to know more about how much knowledge their was in England in the mid 15th century.

    Regardless, I personally think that the more important take away is that these operative Masons had some level of interest in esoteric, heretical philosophies
     
  5. Elexir

    Elexir Registered User

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    The thing is that there might not have been any knowledge exept for amongst the freemasons. The thing is that freemasons was just that, free masons that traveld to where there where work. Considering that corpus hermeticum was written in the second century and was known by amongst other Augustine of Hippo. Wich meant that there is a strong probabilitt that it could have tricled down into certain ideas regarding how something in a church was to be designed wich would mean that atleast a short explanation was needed. This could then later have been passed on between free masons.
     
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  6. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    I hadn't considered that the free movement of Masons could have been behind the spreading of these philosophies. Thank you very much for that.
    So, assuming we were to follow this premise, could the exposure and/or teaching of different philosophies in private/secret have birthed the Freemasonic organization?
     
  7. Roy_

    Roy_ Registered User

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    What a strange idea that Hermeticism was unknown before the Corpus Hermeticum was translated by Ficino! Actually, Hermes has been known all long (partly because of Islamic texts) and Cosimo de Medici has had men looking for the Corpus Hermeticum for many years. They knew the text used to exist, but the 'book' just hadn't been found yet. Other texts had.
     
  8. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    That's very interesting to hear. Thank you for that. Do you have any sources for that? I'm trying to get a better understanding what the depth of knowledge was at that time.
     
  9. Elexir

    Elexir Registered User

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    No. The guilds had ranks and stages of the education. I think we are looking at a combination of diffrent things.
     
  10. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    Sorry, I should have phrased my post differently. I'm wondering if the travel and secrecy already in place in the guilds essentially incubated these "heretical" philosophies and allowed them to grow to become the allegorical morality and philosophical lessons that we now see in our rituals.

    Personally, I don't believe it was a one time injection of philosophy, but rather repeated infusings over the centuries. Here is one theory on how it may have played out (I'm not claiming that this is what happened, just one theory):

    Early operative masons are exposed to new ideas through their travels. Knowing that they would not be accepted "back home", they kept them secret. This started the early philosophical links within the guilds. As time went on, these freethinkers were more open to new ideas, so as members came across other philosophies, or even came up with new ideas on their own, they were discussed or possibly incorporated into the degrees or teachings, in whatever form that may have been at the time. As time went on, a benevolent infiltration began to take place. Other freethinkers and philosophers began to recognize these existing teaching within the masonic guilds, and in an attempt to learn from them and find a home where they could discuss these things, sought to join; hence the introduction of the speculatives. As the speculatives grew in number, they brought with them more esoteric philosophies. Gnosticism, Alchemy, Rosicrusianism, etc. Eventually, it grew into what we know today.
    In short, the early travels planted a seed. The secrecy allowed it to stay alive and brought it back to Europe. It attracted likeminded individuals, and it grew into what we see today. This is also why it is such a mash up of different traditions.

    Thoughts?
     
  11. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    >Early operative masons are exposed to new ideas through their travels.

    Another option is that esoteric groups concealed themselves within Freemasonry - hence some of the higher degrees.
     

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