THE HOLY GRAIL
In its material form the Holy Grail traditionally is the cup or chalice Christ used at the last supper. Grail is an Anglicized form of the Old French graal or greal meaning a dish, which came through the Latin gradalis from the Greek krater meaning a cup or bowl. In a spiritual sense the Holy Grail is the Sangréal, which in common usage is said to mean the real blood of Christ. However Sang Réal is French for Blood Royal, which in its accepted usage designates the royal bloodline of David descending through Jesus to the present day. At first sight there may seem to be little if any connection between the Holy Grail and freemasonry, because the popular conceptions of the Holy Grail have largely been fashioned by the search for the Holy Grail that is a key element in the romances of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
In fact, the first inkling we have of an association between freemasonry and the Holy Grail is a statement in I Chronicles 17:1, when King David said:
"I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within curtains."
Later, when King David had subdued the Philistines, the Moabites and the Syrians, he purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite as the site for the temple on Mount Moriah, collected building materials and gathered treasure to finance the work. In I Chronicles 22:6-8 however, we are told of King David:
"Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build an house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon, my son, as for me it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Thou hast shed blood abundantly and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight'."
The link between freemasonry and the Holy Grail became a reality in the fourth year of King Solomon's reign when he commenced construction of the temple at Jerusalem, about 480 years after the Exodus when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. The temple was in the area that is now called Haram esh-Sherif, which is on the east side of the Old City of Jerusalem, where the mosque known as the Dome of the Rock now stands. In I Kings 5:17-18 we read of King Solomon:
"And the king commanded and they brought great stones, costly stones and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house. And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house."
Notwithstanding the fictional overlay on the Arthurian romances, they do have a foundation in fact. The stories told are of direct relevance to the establishment of the Celtic Church and early freemasonry in Britain, as well as to the formation of the crusader Soldiers of Christ who became the Knights Templar and the guardians of the Holy Grail. The Arthurian romances place considerable emphasis on a physical search to find the Holy Grail, but they also reflect a spiritual quest of great importance. The spiritual aspect is derived from the sacrament of the Holy Communion, in which the chalice and the vine signify service and the blood and the wine signify the eternal spirit of fulfillment. The spiritual quest is a parable of the human condition called the Grail Code, which exemplifies a desire to serve and by serving to achieve. These are two of the most important of the fundamental tenets embodied in freemasonry.
Biblical scholars have identified Joseph of Arimathea as James Justus, the younger brother of Jesus. He is described in the Gospels as a rich man. One of the legends surrounding him is that he was imprisoned for twelve years after the crucifixion of Jesus, but kept alive miraculously by the Holy Grail until released by Vespasian in about 63 CE, when he carried the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, founded an abbey and commenced the conversion of Britain to Christianity. The actual location of the abbey founded by Joseph of Arimathea probably was not at the place now called Glastonbury. Another tradition says Joseph of Arimathea recovered part of Jesus's blood in the Holy Grail. That Joseph of Arimathea was imprisoned after the crucifixion of Jesus seems to be beyond doubt, but records held in the Vatican library confirm that he arrived in Marseilles in 35 CE, when he took a group of missionaries to Britain to spread the teachings of Jesus.
It is reputed that valuable manuscripts were salvaged after a fire destroyed Glastonbury Abbey in 1184, which describe Joseph of Arimathea as an overseer of mining estates. It is on record that Joseph of Arimathea was an established merchant in the tin trade that was being carried on between Cornwall and the Mediterranean countries during the first century. The renowned Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, records in Jewish Antiquities that Joseph of Arimathea was accused by the Sanhedrin of transgressing the Law, for which he was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 62 CE. The notorious Sadducee high priest, Ananas-Demas, ordered the execution of Joseph of Arimathea. The historian Josephus described Ananas-Demas as being "more heartless than any of the other Jews when sitting in judgment."
A medieval manuscript attributed to Maelgwyn of Llandaff, who was a brother of King Meurig and therefore an uncle of the sixth century King Arthur, records that King Gweirydd of Essylwg, or Glamorgan-Gwent, better known by his Roman name King Arviragus, made a generous grant of twelve hides of land to the first Christian mission to Britain. This manuscript also records that Saint Ilid, which is the Welsh name for Saint Joseph of Arimathea, led the mission. The grant was magnanimous, about 1,920 acres or 777 hectares. Another collection, a selection of ancient Welsh manuscripts known as the Iolo MSS, confirms that Saint Ilid traveled from Rome to Britain to introduce Christianity to the Welsh at the behest of their Princess Eurgain, because the princess had married a Roman chieftain and both of them had been converted to Christianity.
The Iolo MSS also record that as early as 36 CE Saint Ilid had established a small monastery, called Cor Eurgain after the princess, at a place that is now known as Llantwit Major to the west of Cardiff. The records say that Saint Ilid later went to Ynys Afallen, where he died and was buried. These records are at variance with the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea was granted land at the present Glastonbury, where the first church in Britain was commenced in 63 CE and dedicated in 64 CE. The reason given for this and other discrepancies in the legends is partly that Glastonbury has been confused with the ancient village of Glastunum or Glastennen and partly the result of a convenient adaptation of circumstances to suit desired outcomes. Further discussion on this subject is not necessary here, but those interested will find all the relevant aspects examined in some detail in a book by Adrian Gilbert, Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett entitled The Holy Kingdom and sub-titled The Quest for the Real King Arthur.
THE CELTIC CHURCH
The teachings of the Nazarene Party, formed and led by Jesus, included adherence to the laws of the Jewish Torah. These followers of Jesus regarded his birth as a natural event in the royal lineage of David, but not as a Virgin Birth from an Immaculate Conception as later taught in the Romanised form of Christianity. The early Jewish Christians considered Jesus to be the rightful King of the Jews and believed that his divine status was the result of his Ascension into heaven, not of divine birth. A great deal of light is shed on these beliefs by the long lost Gospel According to Peter, which describes the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in some detail. Written in simple everyday language, it confirms the story that in the other Gospels is hidden by the pesher technique. Serapion, the Bishop of Antioch in 190, made one of the earliest references to the Gospel According to Peter. Although Eusebius, in his capacity as Bishop of Cæsarea, also accepted and made reference to the Gospel in 300, it was one of the texts the Augustine council rejected in Hippo in 393 and the Jerome council rejected in Carthage in 397, when the Roman Church established its official canon. Dr Barbara Thiering explains the pesher technique in her book entitled Jesus the Man and also provides a detailed chronology of events from 9 BCE to 64 CE, many of which are relevant in the present context.
In modern times the text of the Gospel according to Peter was not available until 1886, when a French archaeological mission found a copy in the grave of a monk, when excavating in the town Akhmîn, in the upper valley of the Nile River and called Panopolis in ancient times. In particular, this Gospel reveals that it was King Herod, not Pontius Pilate, who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. It also states that Joseph of Arimathea was a friend of Pontius Pilate, with whom he had arranged before the crucifixion to recover the body of Jesus. Moreover, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus are not referred to as separate events forty days apart, but are recorded as occurring on the same day. As it was the younger brother of Jesus who introduced Christianity into Britain, it is not surprising that those early Christians followed the fundamental teachings of the Nazarene Party. The Nazarene teachings had a close affinity with Celtic beliefs, which held that soul-friendship was of vital importance. The early Christian church in Britain thus became strongly Celtic in character. Its discipline was especially concerned with ways of achieving Christian perfection by human activities, especially by seeking to overcome temptation and to cultivate the virtues. These aspirations, like those of the Grail Code, are in accord with the principles and tenets of freemasonry. A detailed examination of the scriptural records that relate to the crucifixion Jesus and subsequent events is given in an interesting treatise entitled The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty, sub-titled Was There No Historical Jesus?
Saint Ninian was a Celtic missionary from Wales who founded the Christian church in Scotland in 397. Continental stonemasons were brought to Scotland to teach the local stonemasons how to construct the walls of his first church built at Whithorn in Galloway using Roman methods. Excavations carried out in 1895 and again from 1948 to 1963, have revealed the Roman style walls of the ancient building. The Saxon invasions of Britain in the fifth century destroyed much of Christianity and also prevented the surviving communities from communicating with their continental allies, but the Celtic form of Christianity managed to survive and even to flourish in many areas, due in no small measure to the efforts of two Celtic missionaries from Ireland. One was Saint Mungo (or Kentigern), who founded a monastery at Cathures (now Glasgow) and was consecrated as bishop of Cumbria in 543. The other was Saint Columba, who established a monastery on the island of Iona in 563 and ordained Aedàn of Dalriada as the new king of Scots in 574. Long after the arrival of Saint Augustine from Rome in 596 and even after the date of Easter had been agreed at the Synod of Whitby in 664, the Celtic Christians in Britain continued in their resistance to the Roman practices. In their book entitled The Messianic Legacy, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln study the survival of the Nazarene teachings in Britain and Ireland and their influence on the development of Celtic Christianity in both countries. They also examine the relationship of the Celtic Church with Rome.
THE ARTHURIAN ROMANCES
Some aspects of the Arthurian romances and relevant historical facts are worth recounting. In fact there were two kings named Arthur who were related and ruled several generations apart, but whose activities were merged in the traditions of the Arthurian Romances. Tintagel was the traditional birthplace associated with the King Arthur of the Romances, although the available evidence does not support the legend. The historical records of Wales unequivocally reveal that the first King Arthur was Andragathius, the son of Magnus Maximus, who crossed the English Channel and conquered Gaul and Spain in 383, when he became Emperor of the West. Andragathius died in 388. The local traditions relating to this King Arthur are all concerned with his activities in northern Wales, the Midlands of England and as far north as Carlisle and the border areas of Scotland. His main centre seems to have been at Castle Ditches near Wall that has striking similarities to the hill fort known as Cadbury Castle, which is discussed in some detail later. Andragathius probably was buried at Artherstone, a few kilometres from Castle Ditches, on the northern outskirts of Birmingham.
The second King Arthur, who was known as Arthrwys, was a descendant of Andragathius and the eldest son of Aedàn, who was ordained as King of Scots by Saint Columba in 574. It is generally accepted that Arthrwys was born at Dunrevan Castle, west of Cardiff, in 559. He was a renowned soldier who led the combined forces of several British kingdoms in battles that ranged from the south of England to central Scotland. Arthrwys was killed in one of the fiercest battles in Celtic history, fought by the Scots against the Angles in 603. The battle began at an old Roman hill-fort near Hadrian's Wall known as Camlanna, but ended at Dawston-on-Solway. Because Arthrwys died before his father Aedàn, he did not become king of the Scots, which probably was fortuitous because he is reputed to have become obsessed with the Roman Church.
The Lancelot of the Arthurian romances also was a real person, the son of King Ban of Brittany. Vivien, who was known as the Lady of the Lake and was the mistress of Merlin, stole Lancelot in his infancy. Merlin is a title that signifies Seer to the King. Emrys of Powys, an elder cousin of King Aedàn, is said to have been the Merlin or bard and counselor in the Arthurian romances. When Lancelot had grown up, Vivien presented him to King Arthur as her protégé and he became a Knight of the Round Table. As Sir Lancelot he then went in search of the Holy Grail, which he is reputed to have caught sight of twice. It is of interest that Sir Lancelot is always represented in the Arthurian romances as a model of chivalry, bravery and fidelity, even though in fact he was the paramour of Queen Guinevere, ultimately disrupting of the Knights of the Round Table. There is a tradition that King Arthur and his wife, Queen Guinevere, were buried in the abbey at Glastonbury. However recent investigations that are described in The Holy Kingdom, referred to earlier, indicate that the second King Arthur is buried in the vicinity of the ancient Church of Saint Peter on Caer Caradoc, the Fortress Mountain near Ewenny in Glamorgan. King Arthur's body was moved there in antiquity from the nearby cave of his cousin Saint Iltyd, where he was buried after he died in the battle of Camlanna. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln study the Arthurian romances and the legends associated with the Holy Grail in their book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which establishes the continuation of the bloodline of Jesus as a Grail Dynasty. The subject is also examined in another interesting book, Bloodline of the Holy Grail by Laurence Gardner, Prior of the Celtic Church's Sacred Kindred of St Columba.
Camelot is the legendary location of King Arthur's court, the name probably being derived from the Celtic cant meaning a circle or an edge. There are no records of any place of that name, but several locations for Camelot have been suggested, especially one in the vicinity of Tintagel Castle at Camelford in Cornwall, another in Essex near Colchester that was Camulodunum in Roman times and the hill fort known as Cadbury Castle at South Cadbury in Somerset. It is beyond doubt that one of the main fortresses of the second King Arthur was on Lodge Hill at Caerleon in Gwent, but the fabled castle of Camelot almost certainly was the hill fort at Caer Melyn in the Cardiff area. The name means the Yellow Fortress, from the yellow sulphur pits nearby. Although the supporting evidence had always been traditional rather than factual, Cadbury Castle was regarded as the most likely site of Camelot until extensive archaeological investigations were carried out from 1966 to 1970. Those investigations did not produce any evidence that Cadbury Castle was one of King Arthur's courts, but they are of interest because they prove beyond doubt that the site was one of the greatest and longest established hill forts in Britain and that it was used in Arthurian times. The first field bank and ritual pits belong to the early Neolithic period, possibly dating from as early as 4000 BCE. It was occupied continuously throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages, until the Romans massacred the inhabitants and established it as a fortress of their own, soon after they invaded Britain and defeated Caractacus at Medway in 43 CE. The withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain began in 383, but more than fifty years passed before the last troops left in about 436.
The Britons reoccupied the hill fort of Cadbury Castle and refurbished the gate tower in Arthurian times, in about 500, when a large feasting hall and chamber were also constructed. The hill fort continued as a major centre of activity for a century or more, until the Saxons drove out the Britons in the middle of the seventh century. The site then lay abandoned for about three centuries, until Ethelred the Unready became King of England in 978, when he occupied and refurbished the hill fort to augment his defenses against the formidable Viking forces that were again raiding southern England. A new gate and masonry walls were constructed on top of the Arthurian structures and foundations were prepared for a Late Saxon church that was not constructed. When Canute became King of England in 1016 the buildings were demolished, but the fort was established again in medieval times. The last known occupation was during the reign of King John, when a sum of forty marks was paid in 1209 towards "building work at the castle." Throughout the centuries when the hill fort of Cadbury Castle was occupied, all of the buildings were timber framed. Only the defensive works incorporated stone, some dry packed and some set in mortar, the oldest dating from the Iron Age or earlier. The surrounding defenses comprised four banks and ditches of stonework reaching a total height of about 40 meters, with most of the exposed faces sloping at about 45 , which is very difficult to scale. The main entrance was a passage barely 2 meters wide, lined by massive rock walls incorporating timber beams that supported a heavy two-leaved gate. Leslie Alcock, who led the archaeological team, describes the investigations at Cadbury Castle and its history in his book By South Cadbury is that Camelot . .
THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
A popular conception of the Knights Templar is that they were formed to protect the pilgrims during their travels in the Holy Land, but they seldom if ever performed such a role. In fact the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem ministered to the pilgrims. They founded their pilgrims' hospital in Jerusalem in about 1050, before the first Crusade began in 1095 under the leadership of Baldwin of Boulogne, Count of Edessa. Baldwin recaptured Jerusalem from the Turks, established the Kingdom of Jerusalem and became its first King in 1100. His cousin Baldwin of Bourcq succeeded him as Count of Edessa and later was held captive by the Muslims for four years. When Baldwin I died in 1118, his cousin succeeded him immediately as Baldwin II, who died in 1131, although his grandson had succeeded him as Baldwin III in 1129. The Knights Templar began as a small group of Flemings who were selected by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, a Cistercian Abbot to whom they swore a particular oath of obedience.
One of the earliest known references to the Knights Templar was when the Bishop of Chartres called them the Milice du Christi or Soldiers of Christ in 1114. It is believed that eight or nine Knights were then in Jerusalem, camped on the site of King Herod's stables within the precincts of King Baldwin's palace, which occupied the grounds where King Solomon's temple had been. A little later the group of Knights in Jerusalem was increased to eleven. Their aim was to find the underground vaults constructed beneath the first temple and to recover the vast treasures that Saint Bernard believed were hidden there before Jerusalem was laid waste by Flavius Titus and the Roman army in 70 CE. Detailed lists of the temple treasures are included in the Copper Scroll discovered at Qumran in the late 1940s. The Knights also intended to recover the Ark of the Covenant that held the Ten Commandments, as well as the Tables of Testimony setting out the divine laws of number, measure and weight.
The recoveries were finished by 1127 and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux had begun the first translation of the sacred geometry of King Solomon's stonemasons by 1128. The interpretation of the sacred geometry is part of the mystical art in the cryptic system of the Cabbala. The Knights Templar came under monastic rule in 1128 when the Council of Troyes established them as a religious Order under the auspices of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who became their official patron. A loyal retainer of the Count of Champagne, Hugues de Payens, was appointed as the first Grand Master. In 1139 the Knights Templar were granted international independence by another Cistercian, Pope Innocent, from when they were answerable only to the Pope. Evidence from the twelfth century suggests that the treasure hidden under the temple was recovered, at least some of which the Knights Templar must have been retained. A contingent of Royal Engineers from Britain explored the vaults at the temple site in 1895, when they reported the discovery of many relics that had been left behind by the Knights Templar. Lieutenant Charles Wilson, the leader of the contingent of engineers, describes the explorations in his book entitled The Excavation of Jerusalem.
Operative freemasons were an essential element of the Knights Templar, responsible for designing and constructing the many strongholds and religious buildings the Crusaders erected throughout the Near East. Two of the oldest known Masonic graves are at the last Templar castle constructed in about 1217 near Athlit in the Holy Land. All of the Gothic cathedrals built by the Guild masons of France are Templar-Cistercian in concept and design. The name has nothing to do with the Goths, but is derived from the Greek goetik meaning magical action, which is comparable with the Celtic goatic signifying plant lore. The Templar freemasons and their counterparts in the Guilds were called the Children of Solomon or Sons of the Widow, in allusion to Hiram Abif the chief artificer when King Solomon's temple was built. The first widow in the bloodline of the Holy Grail was Ruth, the wife of Boaz the great-grandfather of David. Key objectives of the Knights Templar were to establish a sovereign Templar state and reconcile Christianity with Judaism and Islam. At least the upper echelon of the Knights Templar is reputed to have had secret knowledge, which the available evidence suggests were the Nazarene beliefs concerning the Messiah's origins and teachings. Even though the Knights Templar were known to hold Nazarene views concerning the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, they were regarded as holy men by the Cistercian Popes, who classified them as Warrior-Monks and granted them the right to wear white mantles as emblems of their purity.
The Knights Templar flourished for nearly two hundred years until persecuted by the enforcers of the brutal Inquisition, led by the Dominicans, when both the Knights Templar and the Guild masons liable to be tortured and put to death. In 1307 King Philippe IV of France, with the support of Pope Clement V, ordered all Knights Templar and their possessions to be seized. The reason was fear and revenge, because the strength and wealth of the Knights Templar had put them beyond the control of both the King and the Pope. The spurious excuse given was that the Knights Templar were blasphemers and practiced obscene magical rites. Many of the Knights Templar escaped with their ships to Scotland, taking much of their treasure, where they received strong support from Sir William St Clair, the first Laird of Roslin. The persecution of the Knights Templar culminated in 1314 with the brutal murder of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, who with others was publicly roasted to death over a slow fire.
Before the murder of their Grand Master, the Knights Templar had established their headquarters at Balantrodoch in Scotland. Then in 1314 they fought in support of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn, when he defeated the English decisively. In 1446 a later William St Clair laid the foundations of Rosslyn Chapel that was completed forty years later. In the St Clair Charters of 1601 and 1682, it is recorded that the Lairds of Roslin had for ages been the patrons and protectors of the Mason Craft in Scotland. It therefore was only to be expected that the assemblage would elect yet another William St Clair of Roslin as the first Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland when it was established in 1736. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh comprehensively examine the history of the Knights Templar, their persecution, their relocation in Scotland, the significance of the Holy Grail and other matters relevant to freemasonry in their book entitled The Temple and the Lodge.
SANG RÉAL AND FREEMASONRY
A central purpose of freemasonry is to establish moral codes of conduct, especially by means of allegorical teachings that reflect the appropriate use of physical things and the practical aspects of historical events. This element of freemasonry has, in no small measure, developed as a direct result of the close association that the operative freemasons had with the design and erection of sacred buildings over thousands of years. In fact, Masonic brotherhoods are known to have been in existence for at least five hundred years before the construction of King Solomon's temple at Jerusalem. One example is the brotherhood of scholars and philosophers that was established in Egypt by the great-great-grandfather of Moses, Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (c.1468-1436 BCE), to preserve the sacred mysteries. Masonic symbols from his time are carved on the Egyptian obelisk that now stands in Central Park in New York City.
Freemasons had been working on sacred buildings for more than a thousand years before the Pharaoh Tuthmosis III established the brotherhood. Imhotep, who was the Chief of Observers and the royal architect for the Pharaoh Zoser, designed the Step Pyramid at Saqqara in about 2650 BCE. He is usually credited with the invention of stone masonry. The oldest known masonry dam was constructed at Helwan, some 32 kilometers south of Cairo, in about 2600 BCE. It was called Sadd el-Kafara, the Dam of the Pagans, which was a fine engineering feat and a very advanced design for its time, intended to control the flash floods and reduce damage in the flood plains. The dam was 110 meters long, 98 meters wide at the base, 56 meters wide at the crest and 14 meters high. It had a rubble core encased by rock walls and faced with dressed stone. Unfortunately, an abnormally large flash flood washed away the mid-stream section of the dam before its closure could be completed. Subsequently over several millennia the Nile River changed its course, so that the remaining section of the wall now stands in the desert.
From the foregoing discussions it is evident that freemasonry has been intimately associated with the royal line of David from its very beginnings and long before King Solomon constructed the first temple at Jerusalem. This association continued through the building of the second temple by Zerubbabel and its later reconstruction by King Herod, who arranged for 1,000 priests to be trained as stonemasons to work in the sacred areas of the temple. Nor did the association cease when the Romans destroyed the temple at Jerusalem. The early churches in Britain were constructed by freemasons who followed the teachings of the Nazarene Party founded by the Messiah. Later a huge number of Gothic churches and cathedrals were constructed in Europe and Britain to a Templar-Cistercian design, of which the cathedral of Chartres probably is the most renowned.
It is clear from the Egyptian records and
from the biblical descriptions of the construction of the temples
at Jerusalem, as well as from the accounts given by Flavius Josephus
in The Jewish Antiquities, that the association of freemasonry
with buildings constructed for religious purposes has never been
superficial, but has always gone to the very heart of the design
and purpose of those buildings. The Council of Nicea confirmed
this intimate relationship in 787, when it ruled that "the
arrangement belongs to the clergy and the execution to the artist"
in relation to the design and construction of cathedrals. Finally
and of the utmost importance, it is evident that the fundamental
precepts of freemasonry and indeed its whole purpose reflect the
Grail Code, which is to serve and in serving to achieve. Laurence
Gardner gives a detailed history of the royal line of David, from
its origins to the present day, in Bloodline of the Holy Grail,
establishing beyond doubt the intimate relationship freemasonry
has had with the Holy Grail since the beginning of the bloodline.
It is logical and should come as no surprise that the rituals
in speculative craft freemasonry, derived from the earlier rituals
of the operative freemasons, are mostly based on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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