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C.4.4 Freemasonry and the Gnostics

These two systems have been linked together by many scholars; some even say that Freemasonry has its origin in Gnosticism. Already in 1725 Dr. Rawlinson mentioned this possible filiation, and Hutchinson repeated the theme. At the time when the High Degrees were introduced in continental Europe, many theories were suggested in relation to the origin of Freemasonry. Among them, the most popular was that Freemasonry was very similar to early Christianity and especially to its Ophite or Gnostic sect. The Leland M.S. also mentions the possible link between Freemasonry and Gnosticism.

In the early years of Christianity many dissident sects appeared, the more important being the Gnostic ones. Gnostic is a Greek word that means “wisdom or knowledge” and was used to imply that the Gnostics acquired a greater spiritual wisdom that those offered by all the other sects. Obviously the Christian Church rejected and condemned Gnosticism and accused its members of heresy. There were a true and a false Gnosis. The true, or Ancient Gnosis, was not an original system but a conglomeration of the old religions of Greece, Persia, and even the Cabala of the Jews. Some of the old Gnostics were converted to the Christian faith to which they tried to impose some of their mystical views. The result was that there soon were many “new Gnostic” schools, each with a different interpretation of the Christian faith, but all of them opposed to the pure Christian doctrine. They all pretended to possess a higher knowledge than the Christians do. These various heresies lasted until the fourth century. There cannot be any link between the true Gnosis and Freemasonry. If there is a link it is with the second Gnosis.

The most important of these “New” Gnostic Christian sects was created in the second century by Basilides, the chief of the Egyptian Gnostics. According to Basilides the Supreme God had seven attributes, or personal powers: Mind, Reason, Thought, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, and Peace. Seven and three hundred and sixty-five were sacred numbers that referred to the days of the week and the days of the year. Basilides invented the word “ABRAXAS” whose Greek letters have the numerical value, when added, of 365. Basilides called the Supreme God by this name. The symbols created by Basilides, many of which make some references to the sun, have probably influenced the choice of those used by the builders of the Middle Ages. This does not mean that these builders were Gnostics. They were more orthodox Christians than anything else.