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C.3.4 The Oliverian Theory

Rev. Dr. Oliver was the first to show that Masonry was not only a social club based on the principle of brotherly love, but that it was above all a philosophy and a science of symbolism by which its ethics was taught to its initiates. In other words, Freemasonry was a school of inquirers after truth. Unfortunately, being first of all a clergyman of the Church of England, his interpretation of the symbols, myths, and allegories of Masonry were those of a theologian and not of a philosopher. He was also credule enough to accept the errors of tradition as truths of history.

Oliver’s theory is based on the Legend of the Craft and on obscure legends and traditions that he accepted as facts. Dr. Oliver claims that the Masonic science existed before the creation of the earth, and was diffused in all the systems existing in the space. In the Garden of Eden Adam was taught the science of Masonry, and he remembered it when he had to leave Eden as a result of his sins. His son, Seth, and his descendants preserved the Sciences whereas his brother, Cain, and his own descendants abandoned it. The children of Lamech, a descendant of Cain, had some distorted knowledge of Masonry. Cain’s descendants were Operative Masons whereas Seth’ were Speculative’ although they. Too, erected buildings, but this was their secondary activity. Seth, first, and then Enoch are remembered for being Grand Superintendent of the Craft. God revealed the sacred Word to Enoch as well as some other mysteries. Enoch also erected two pillars on which he engraved the known sciences of his days, including Masonry. Enoch was followed by Lamech and then by Noah. This Primitive, or Antediluvian Masonry, was organised into lodges and was governed by only five Grand Masters: Adam, Seth, Enoch, Lamech and Noah. At that time Masonry used only a few symbols and ceremonies, it was a system of morals or pure religion whose object was to preserve the promise of a Messiah.

After the deluge one of Enoch’s pillar, the stone one, was found and, in this way, the knowledge of sciences and Masonry was transmitted to posterity through Noah’s son, Shem. His other sons lost the knowledge and their descendants became idolaters. They even corrupted the principles of Masonry by creating another system of secret rites, known as “the Mysteries” or “Spurious Freemasonry”. They were more interested in the Operative Art by opposition to Shem’s “Pure Freemasonry”, that was involved in the Speculative science.

Shem taught the Pure Freemasonry to Abraham, and the science was transmitted from generation to generation to Moses who, before, had learned Spurious Freemasonry from the Egyptians. Moses revived the Masonry that had declined during the captivity of the Israelites and called a General Assembly where the construction of the Tabernacle was decided. From then on Masonry was confined to the Jewish nation. To build his Temple, Solomon asked the help of some artisans of Tyre who were adepts of the Spurious Masonry, which is Operative Masonry and Architecture. Solomon reunited the two Masonries in the form as we know it to day. After the construction the Masons journeyed to all the known countries, including England, to teach their art.

Dr. Oliver accept as true the legend according to which Prince Edwin organised a General Assembly in York, and that the Halliwell poem is the exact text of the Constitutions adopted in that occasion. Dr. Oliver agrees with Hutchinson that Freemasonry is a Christian organisation, and that all the myths and symbols have a Christian interpretation. However whereas Hutchinson says that the Craft became Christian after the birth of Jesus Christ, Oliver believes that it has always been Christian.