PRISCA THEOLOGIA: The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Verse
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Bradley Rees
Philosophy, certainly, frames our Craft
By way of moral systems, allegorically veiled.
And through all its illustrations – and illusions –
The symbols, so simplistically, show not what is shared;
But, rather, something else,
To but a few that chose to knock on tyled doors.
Yet only 1000 or perhaps 500 or less
Seek what most do not:
Those inner meanings of Inherent Truths
Once guarded by sages and magi.
Contemporary Man – with his muddled mind –
Mingles mysteries by way of metered tones;
Bemoaning all the while
Everything that he has not.
Yet, for those that chose
And the others that still seek more -
More knowledge, More understanding –
They uncover hidden prospects purposely provided
By means of similitudes and speculation.
Thoth bore the fruit that Zarathustra ate.
And from that bounty Pythagoras and Euclid
Impressed geometry onto Man:
Juxtaposed and fully separated
- As he was –
And, too, the relation of
Whole number-forms was shown;
Helping to survey and plot
Our mosaic pavement while expounding
On solstitial lines.
Everything always being hidden
In plain view:
Light and shadow and even,
By some surprise,
Irrationality in its fullest equilibrium.
From this, the dyadic union that
Balanced tessellations made
New borders for a Blazing Star.
Henceforth, Sophocles was but one
That bridged the gap
Between the Pater’s precepts
And Platonic proposals:
Plato’s Republic – Number VII
Its irony, perhaps, intendin’.
So important - be the Trivium,
It being the Art of Words.
It served as dowry to the Four
With its grammar, logic,
And its rhetoric.
And from this, in time,
It found its match
In Quadrivium – so neatly so;
It, too, being an Art…
This time, in Numbered form with
Its arithmetic and geometry;
Its music and astronomy.
They all being like the Four Elements
And the Mother Letters-Three.
Even so, a millennia would need to pass
Before an invitation was received
To attend Capella’s Marriage:
The union of Philosophy and Mercury,
Bringing forth the Arts and Sciences both,
Finally cemented: a marriage for the Ages.
Yet still, within more contemplative fields
We found furrows dug, from which
The Thrice Great Hermes Trismegistus grew:
Ptolemy’s answer to Thoth’s equipoise of spirit.
As above, so below:
Esoteric, Exoterically so
Still being a conundrum to the many
Rather than the few.
Within due bounds, the tick of time tallied
As we watched the Temple fall:
Befalling us, Befalling all.
Our mortality. Our morality.
Our mind’s menagerie,
And still, upon the acrid smoke
From the first Temple-fallen,
Wafting up, we watched
As the Tetragrammaton pass on;
Our Lost Word becoming the first offering
Placed atop the funeral pyres
Of the ignorance of Man.
Scattered, too, our Prisca Theologia;
Now only discussed in depth by but a few
Through veils and illustrations:
Cicero, Lactantius, and Augustine being but a minority
Of those that chose to ponder, think, and grow.
Yet, both Palaces and Chariots finally formed
In certain books; such books being those of
Only Sages, Secret Scholars, and the Wise.
Ezekiel, as well as Enoch, pouring forth
The Light that penetrated ether,
Marked paths by way of celestial flickers:
Dimly, yet consistently, throughout
The Darkest of the Ages.
And from these beams a Tree of Life
Cultivated Man… in thought… and spirit,
Even if it was but a mere green sapling then.
In time, its leaves becoming a mix of K’s, and C’s, and Q’s
And, from its infant roots, anchored first in Provence,
Then later, stretching to Catalonia and beyond,
Rashbi’s thoughts, through a learned man
From Spain’s Leon were codified:
And the Splendorous Book of Radiance was born.
Bounding forward, perhaps 200 years or more,
William – perchance through Bacon –
Wrote of Fifth Henry’s charge:
“Once more unto the breach!”
Those words echoing from a future place,
In reflection of centuries-three
The fight for old Jerusalem.
Alas, from Acre closely held secrets,
Succumbed, eventually by treachery,
Drifted once more into near-obscurity.
Returning home, humble warrior-philosophers,
Held and nurtured sacred theosophies while serving
As ambassadors of tolerance, faith, and balance.
And, in shepherding the Mysteries to the Continent,
Honor and equality, once more,
Found fidelity in foreign lands.
Then, from Braga and near the banks
Of the Nabão,
Poor Fellows safeguarded treasure,
It being not of coin or gem,
But rather, twas the glistening
Of the gilded Word.
Our Greek brethren bestowing
Thesauros onto the world. A treasure:
A coveted vault with fortified chest,
A place of deposit
Brimming with sacred knowledge;
The truest Treasury safeguarding
Nature’s Greatest Book.
In Celtic Callaici, two knights
Atop a single mount:
Conjecture making it a selfless act.
But, in truth, a disguise in symbol,
Hidden in plain view;
Man, in balance, searching for the
Understanding of Deity and He – the goal.
And, with mind and soul
Off-balanced as they were,
Man delved deeply into scrolls of vellum
From those of Essenes and Sufis,
Yazidis and the Druze;
The Zohar and those of Sabeans:
The Mandaeans and their priestly Nasoreans
- Perhaps becoming later Nazarenes -
All refining Man… in spirt;
Even, all the while,
A budding kingdom blossomed and
A Capetian Branch reached west
Towards Newer Worlds across the seas.
From this and Gothic Constitutions,
Some even from as close as Oxfordshire,
We see cornerstones founded on ideals
From noble knights – those lovers of wisdom -
As they traveled throughout
Newly charted lands.
But, in time, near Besançon
A Prior from Montfaucon
In Toulouse forced flight
Because of the telling of his lies:
So unsoundly, so untrue….
Yet, he kindled the Order’s death
Of the Grandest of the Masters,
The brethren from beyond the seas,
And, too, the deaths of Preceptors from
Poitiers and those of Normandy.
To the East and South
From the City’s Isle and Pont-Neuf
They found refuge-first
At a Bavarian’s respite,
It being provided by the Fourth Louis:
A holy emperor of Rome he then had been.
While others sought the Farmer-King:
Back, once more, to where the
Near Portus de Calle.
And, lest we forget, farther west
They also fled.
With them, antediluvian paradigms precipitated:
On to Caledonia! On to Dai Riata
And, too, the House of Alpinid!
Once there, in Alba,
Writings written on the River Welland
Within the Burghley House,
As well as others too,
A great master of Scottish warks was given
Good and wholesome instruction.
Then, in Edinburgh, Schaw captured operatively,
First in No. 1 and later,
Following closely, with his Second:
It more Speculatively than the first;
The Second cementing
For Kilwinning, as Matriarch,
Her rightful place and charge.
Along with statutes, James the Sixth – and then the First –
United north and south.
And, in tow, as Schaw sojourned
In the Celestial Lodge,
The newest Stuart King
Brought forth a man from Robertland.
And, as it was, by mistake to None
That the Craft, incorporated as it was,
Brought with them
Concealed and cryptic lodges
As they migrated south
The Old Charges being the banners of new beginnings,
Brought forth the secrets as before.
From the Highlands and the Lowlands,
And from the Isles, too,
Scottish Clans whispered low
As they escorted in Ivory Boxes
Hushed tones of Hermetics and theosophy.
Such theurgic forays finally forming
New foundations for our beloved Craft:
Tethered and tyled by men of virtue
And guarded anonymity.
Puzzling, still, to this day,
One may ponder some.
Of what did the King of Stuart
And his Warks’ Master see of value,
In such tokens, signs, and gripes?
And, too, what had Elias sought
While in Shire Lane, 40 hence from then,
By declaring he had been the first in Albion
When, in fact, he was eleventh?
Apart from this and, too, combined
A palladium, three-score and ten would pass
Before separates-four merged into one;
Saint Paul looking on in silence
As geese were grilled
Throughout the solemn churchyard.
Since then ‘til now, secrets remain
And now, as then,
All but a few with noble cause
Seek and search for Light,
Farther on, Hapsburg fell in Spain and
A succession perpetuated -
While pensive politics,
Propagating Protestantism throughout Prydain,
Matched the Sun King’s forgoing
Of his oath to recalcitrant Jacobites.
And from this all, from such intrigues,
Our Craft-inspired, made three from two:
One making two and
The second making Masters of us all.
First, as seekers, we sought the Light.
And through the Darkness,
We Entered and broke the bonds of substance
While fixating on disregarded deficiencies.
Passing on beyond the winding stairs,
With our faults acknowledged,
The understanding of our undertakings
We cemented while
Our roughened edges,
Calling to be cleaved and cut away,
Eroded slowly by degree.
And what of that beneath?
Tis but Man in purest form,
Yearning for release.
Alas, from then, a Mason’s Master-piece
Was Raised: the ascension of our soul and more:
Loss and rebirth; A living resurrection
Of the mind… and of the spirit.
From this, First-Man began to see and know, immortal.
In time, this wellspring bore Scotch Masters and,
Leaping from London across the seas,
Sought out Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Paris
While in Königsberg and Hamburg, Bohemia and Berlin,
Our Craft explored – and then admired - the Cross Rosie.
A rebuilding of the Temple our goal
In life would be.
Such acts, combined with rhetoric back in France
From the Preceptor of the Bonnie Prince
- Enlightened as it was -
Merged faith and reason, which
Compelled compilations and
Awoke Chevaliers and Jesuits and, too,
Our jilted Jacobites to negotiate the nuptials
Of four new, four more
To the first of three.
Soon after still,
Saint Andrew’s Knights and Secret Masters
Took positions with Illustrious Templars and Sublimes.
In hands both, sword and trowel,
Like those of Zorobabel
They defended bastions ‘til the end.
And from this mystic coronation,
They took their rightful place:
Princes and Sovereigns
Standing, resolutely so,
As solemn Eastern Knights.
All the while,
Liberty of Thought and Passage
Echoed from their lips
As a tetractys frame was built
And an Emperors’ Council formed anew.
Then still, after Seven Years of global strife
A fledgling Rite-perfected grew from Clermont;
Blossoming degrees from fertile ground –
Seven or ten in all and,
Adding to those that came before,
We find the number of Prophets
Or that the captive-year
That Ezekiel dreamt:
Such glorious dimensions of a
Second Temple soaring.
In time, philosophies diverged
And, too, they coalesced;
Facilitating the Loge Française and
The furnishings of forays:
First forging patents for Etienne
As well as inspirations
For a Flemish merchant-scribe.
Royal Secrets soon grew more,
As it went, relying on the trade winds’ push,
We watched a Rite
Travail to what Vespucci claimed.
And later still the first makings of a lodge
Embarked, sailing north,
Maturing along the way
To Nouveau Française and La Louisanne;
Never forgetting that
Les Rites du Française found patronage
In Prussia, from the Greatest of the kings.
And, in keeping pace while back in France,
The Rite continued through Érasme
And an eloquent knight from de Bérage,
They both – channeling wisdom –
Shaped sequential suppositions
Of a chevalier from near the River Cher;
The number of degrees growing
Under Louis 16 to 17 or more.
Across the open water and
After Francken camped in Albany
Eighteen Articles framed
Constitutions of the Grandest style,
While Tiphaine near the gulf
And Delahouge with others, too,
Influenced a Perfected Lodge,
That finally formed
At a Shepheard's Tavern
Near where Ashley and the Cooper met.
And there, we consecrated
Our sacred Sedes;
Another Temple took its place
There, as esoteric alchemists,
A merchant-banker, Moses;
The second, a Sephardic bard,
Both took word and passed on wisdom
To a Quartermaster’s Second of the Charge.
And later still, an ordained
And genteel doctor
Dipped deeper in Sophia’s well,
And from this came
Brimming pails of faith and reason;
Eight plus five and twenty
Took their form:
A veneration of Morin once more.
Then raising, praising, defining, refining… all;
And influenced - to some Degree –
By Carlile as he stood
With British suffragists:
Holbrook and Yates, and Mackey moreover
So sublimely set in motion
A transmutation’s sojourn
As the low country Rite in 33
Slowly ripened into the Rite
So Ancient and Accepted…and Scottish
So mote it be.
But still, it would yet be another
Two-score and twelve before
A Cincinnatus absorbed les haut degrés;
Being tutored by
A prestigious, doctored Caroline.
And then, for seven hence, the man
From down near Craigie Bridge
Distilled – solemnly so – hundreds down
To just shy of sixty-three.
It was from this mind
And that of Eliphas and too
An Ashkenazi from Safed
– What a Lion to us all -
That Formulas and Rituals bubbled over;
Up and Out from the cauldron’s lip
Into supping cups and, magically so,
Into the minds….of Man.
Two more solar cycles
Came to pass while mixing
Moral myths with faith and reason,
And that of virtue too, that
A Magnum Opus bore – religiously so –
A philosophy in text;
Laying forth for all of us to muse.
Morally, and in dogmatic style,
A decade and a half would pass
Before the final tome took form.
Its underlying thesis:
Equilibrium of self-reflection, sacred
And the search for answers, All.
What is the betterment of Man?
How shall Man achieve such feats?
Or perhaps by thought or deed
From some renowned and learn’ed Master?
Or, could it be, that this rebuilding of
Our spiritual Temple can only
Be done from some system-sanctified?
Morality for Man.
By men. Can this be done?
Moral thoughts and actions
In balance with certain contraries:
Tis an equilibrium , a fulcrum balancing that
Of mettle and that of matter, too.