St. John the Evangelist - Revisit

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
W.B. James E. Frey

My Brethren, December 27th marks the hallowed feast day of St. John the Evangelist. St. John is an important and distinguished figure within the symbolism of the Craft. St. John was one of the main apostles of Jesus Christ and is renowned with receiving from the Christ, a secret mystical doctrine which would define the Johnannite tradition. The word evangelist means writer of the gospel and St. John is accredited with writing the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John, and the book of Revelation. Bro Mackey states that St. John is venerated in Masonry because “His constant admonition, in his Epistles, to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical nature of his Apocalyptic visions, have been perhaps, the principle reasons for the veneration paid to him by the Craft. “ (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)

St. John supposedly lived in Galilee and was the brother of St. James. They were considered “hired men” which most likely means they were craftsmen doing a variety of work and odd jobs. The brothers were said to have lived in poverty and renounced material possessions. This is in part due to the fact that both brothers were followers of John the Baptist when he preached in the wilderness of Jordan. Both were baptized and initiated into the Baptist’s religious order which was most likely connected to the sect known as the Essenes. John and James were both on the banks of the river Jordan and witnessed the baptism and initiation of Christ. Which means they beheld the descending of the Holy Shekinah, or Holy Spirit in the form of a dove when the Baptist exclaimed with prophetic perception, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

It is said of all those in attendance, that it was only John and James that stayed after the ceremony to talk with Jesus of his experience. John then invited his new Master to his home in Galilee. He traveled with Christ to attend marriage feast of Cana. At the feast, John witnessed the miracle of water being turned to wine. This miracle solidified John’s dedication as a disciple and follower of Christ through out his travels. It is said that he was within Christ’s innermost circle and was one of the first disciples to be invested with the power to heal the sick. John suffered with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and sat at his right hand during the last supper.

He is referred to as, "disciple whom Jesus loved.” John was the one whom Mary Magdalene went to with news of the Resurrection. And when John and Peter were on the Sea of Galilee they witnessed the Vision of the Resurrected Christ. He appeared as an astral figure on the shore in the first light of morning. Peter could not recognize him but John could. Possibly signifying that John had a greater understanding of the spiritual perception over the physical senses, or material world. St. John witnessed the Ascension and received the spiritual fire of the Holy Spirit at the Pentacost. This indicated that St. John was baptized both by fire and water.
Irenaeus states that after the death of Peter and Paul, St. John settled in Ephesus. From there, Saint Jerome says that John supervised and governed all the Churches of Asia. Around 97 A.D. John was exiled to the Aegean island of Pathmos where he received apocalyptic visions, which he recorded in the Book of Revelation. The date of his death cannot be determined but John was the only Apostle of the original twelve that did not die by martyrdom.

St. John’s connection to the craft is vague and shrouded in mystery. St. John the Baptist was the patron saint of the builders’ guilds and St. John the Evangelist was not adopted into the craft until after the sixteenth century. This would place the adoption of the Evangelist around the time of the shift from operative Masonry into the speculative craft. According to Masonic historian Kenneth Mckenzie “although it has been urged that the dedication to these saints did not arise out of the circumstances to the doctrine of Christianity… that the custom of dedicating lodges to these saints arose from astrological reasons.” (Mckennzie, Royal Masonic Cyclopedia).

These astrological reasons are to correlate the symbolism of the St. Johns for the summer and Winter Solstice. The Sun enters Cancer about the 21st day of June, which is correlated to the 24th and dedicated as a feast day to St. John the Baptist. In the winter, the Sun reaches Capricorn on the 23rd of December, which is correlated to the 27th of December and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist as a feast day. This placed the two feast days of the St. John’s when the sun is lowest and highest peaks of its yearly cycle showing both the astrological meridian height of the sun in the south and the lowest point of darkness in the north, the shortest and longest days of the year.

Within the speculative craft the Saints John are called the parallels of Masonry and between them we see the point within a circle. From the oldest times, the point within a circle was a symbol of the sun and has been adopted in various cultures as such. Mackey states “The two days are the limits of its circle, therefore the circle is shone set between the lines. The Point Within the Circle represents the year, a year of work, a year out of a man's life; at least it does if the history of its use is a true guide to its symbolic meaning.” (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)

It we look at the St. John the Evangelist symbolically within the context of the Masonic journey, John is every individual initiate. John is initiated by John the Baptist into the mysteries and purified, similarly how the entered apprentice is given a white apron to represent a new sense of purity. John travels with his Master and it indoctrinated in the parables of truth, similar to the Fellowcraft traveling the different compartments of the Temple being indoctrinated with the spiral staircase leading to truth, Similar to the Master Mason John is witness to the death and resurrection of his master.

Fitting in the mythos of the Masonic lost word John makes reference to Christ as “the Word.” With the death and resurrection of the Christ the true word of the gnosis is lost. But the word is found again within his own soul through the mystery of the spiritual fire of the Pentecost. The lost word is the individual soul of the initiate and the connection to the redemptive energy of the Christos. Elementally the Johns are the parallels that the Baptist represents the mystery of water and the natural or material world, the Evangelist representing the mystery of fire and the supernatural or spiritual world. With this interpretation the Master Mason dwells in the center balanced between his physical and spiritual, aware of his inner Christos in the spirit but bound to his obligation to his fellow man in the physical.

It is also important to note that the book of Revelation shows the revelation of a new name of God identified as Alpha Omega. I only mention this because there are old rituals, and some modern cryptic rites, that see the restored lost word being Iota Alpha Omega, IAO. Which correlates to the famous verse from Revelation 22 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.” (St. James Bible) In certain neo-Rosicrucian groups IAO is considered to represent the process of life, death, and resurrection.

This is often also attributed an Egyptian symbolism. I is for Isis, giver of life, A is for Apophis the destroyer, and Osiris risen which is also given solar meaning. From a psychological perspective this formula is important because our sense of identity is ever changing as we experience new things and grow as a person. Those who are afraid of destroying who they are in order to grow often become stagnate in psychological growth and develop neuroses around this painful transition.

Over all the dedication of lodges to the St. Johns dedicates the lodge itself as a solar temple representing the yearly course of the Sun. It places this subconscious symbolism on each initiate as they travel from the shortest to longest day on a search for both external light of the intellect and internal light of the spirit, or Word. On an exoteric level you have a representation of the Evangelist being a reminder of steadfast duty to one’s faith. Esoterically the Evangelist is the Initiate who becomes the master, and through astrological correlation is symbolic for the Masonic journey.


James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in Masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.

1 comment:

  1. This is a well-done essay, with one exception.
    There is no St. James Bible.
    It is, rather, the King James Bible.


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