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C.2.9 The Legend of Euclid

The Legend of the Craft deals also with its introduction in Egypt as described in the old manuscripts. It is found in the opening lines of the Halliwell poem that describes the beginning of the history of Masonry. It is also part of the Cooke M.S. and, in the same form, in the following manuscripts.

The legend tells us that Abraham, who was well informed in the seven Arts and Sciences, and his wife went to Egypt accompanied by Euclid, his disciple. The lords and rich men of Egypt of that time had many sons, and they could not find reasonable occupation for all of them. Euclid offered to teach them Geometry that should provide them with a mean of living. He wanted full control over these young men because he wanted to rule them according to the laws of the Craft. Euclid taught them the practical part of Geometry, how to erect churches, towers, castles, and all other types of buildings in stone. He also gave them a code of laws for their government. The science of Geometry has since then known as Masonry.

The Halliwell poem does not mention Abraham at all; it states that Euclid, alone, invented Geometry. The Cooke M.S. says that Abraham taught Geometry to the Egyptians, and that Euclid was his gifted pupil who improved the science. He also taught Geometry to the sons of the rich Egyptians. The following manuscripts give more or less the same version of the story as found in Cooke M.S. Abraham’s reputation, as a learned and wise man, is based on Josephus and St.Isidore’s writings. The Krause M.S. and the Anderson’s first Constitutions give a similar, but different and more modern, version of the legend.

Nevertheless it is known that Abraham lived two thousand years before Euclid. Euclid did not invent Masonry in Egypt either, and King Solomon could not know about it since Euclid lived six hundred and fifty years after the construction of the Temple. From a historical point of view the Legend of Euclid is worthless. However the Legend teaches us that Geometry is the background of Masonry, and that Euclid was a great geometrician. In addition, the esoteric method of teaching all the sciences, including Geometry, as done by the priests of Egypt is similar to that used by the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages with the geometric and architectural secrets constituting the Mystery of the Craft. The Legend also emphasises that in early Egypt there was a direct link between Geometry and religion; that religion included sciences; that their teaching was secret and reserved to the initiates. In that way there was a striking analogy between the Egyptian system and that of the Medieval Masons.