There has been much speculation on the links between Freemasonry and the occult, including witchcraft and Satanism. It should come as little surprise that Freemasonry has provided a significant influence on the modern New Age movement and occultism. One primary influence is via the Societas Rosicruciana, which ironically promotes itself as an esoteric Chrisitan organization, opening only to Master Masons.
The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) was founded in between 1865 and 1867, following the admission of Robert Wentworth Little and either William James Hughan or Kenneth Mackenzie (depending on sources) into the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia (SRIS). These two men were granted a warrant to form a Society in England, after they were rapidly advanced through the order in Scotland. Robert Wentworth Little was elected Supreme Magus of the SRIA.
The structure and grade system of the Societas Rosicruciana were derived from the 18th century German Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold und Rosenkreutz, also known as the Fraternity of the Golden and Rosy Cross), which itself was founded, in the 1750s, by Freemason and alchemist Hermann Fichtuld. Like the Societas Rosicruciana, candidates were required to be Master Masons in good standing. Alchemy was a central study for members of this society. The Societas Rosicruciana based its teachings on those described in the Fama and Confessio Fraternitas manuscripts, published in Germany in the early 17th century.
The Golden Dawn
In 1888, three senior members of the SRIA founded and developed the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a group that significantly influenced the modern occult revival of the 19th and 20th century. The Golden Dawn did not have the restrictions of the Societas Rosicruciana, as they allowed non-Freemasons, non-Christians, and women to become members. The three founders were William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. Many sources suggest that Westcott was the initial driving force behind the establishment of the Golden Dawn. Other known members of the SRIA include Kenneth Mackenzie, John Yarker, Arthur Edward Waite, and Robert Felkin (the last two also being members of the Golden Dawn).
The structure of the Societas Rosicruciana and Golden Dawn are very similar. The table below outlines their grade system:
|Societas Rosicruciana||Golden Dawn|
|Introduction – Neophyte 0=0|
|Grade I – Zelator||Zelator 1=10|
|Grade II – Theoricus||Theoricus 2=9|
|Grade III – Practicus||Practicus 3=8|
|Grade IV – Philosophus||Philosophus 4=7|
|Grade V – Adeptus Minor||Adeptus Minor 5=6|
|Grade VI – Adeptus Major||Adeptus Major 6=5|
|Grade VII – Adeptus Exemptus||Adeptus Exemptus 7=4|
|Grade VIII – Magister||Magister Templi 8=3|
|Grade IX – Magus||Magus 9=2|
As can be seen, the majority of titles for the grades remain the same, with the addition of Neophyte, Portal Grade, and Ipsissimus. Grade 8, Magister was renamed to Magister Templi.
The Golden Dawn teachings were derived from a vast number of occult sources, including Alchemy, Ancient Egyptian religion, Christian mysticism, Eliphas Levi, Enochian magic, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, Papus, Renaissance grimoires, Theosophy, and Theurgy.
Members of the Golden Dawn included: Allan Bennett, who introduced Buddhism to the West; Edward W. Berridge, a British homeopathic physician; Algernon Blackwood, English writer and radio broadcaster of supernatural stories; Aleister Crowley, occult writer and mountaineer; Frederick Leigh Gardner, British occultist; Evelyn Underhill, British Christian mystic; and Arthur Edward Waite, British-American occult author, and creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.
Aleister Crowley requires no introduction for people with an interest in the occult. The self-proclaimed “the wickedest man in the world” has been one of the most influencial occultists in modern times. Besides his own organizations, he has influenced modern witchcraft and Satanism. Crowley was both a member of the Golden Dawn and a Freemason (although many authorities claim he was not a member of a regular lodge). As a Freemason, Crowley was a 33° in the Scottish Rite , 3° in the Anglo-Saxon Lodge No. 343, 33° in the irregular Cerneau Scottish Rite, and 90°/95° of the Rite of Memphis/Misraim.
Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn on 18 November 1898 by S.L. MacGregor Mathers in a ceremony at Mark Masons Hall, London. Crowley adopted the magical name of Frater Perdurabo (Latin for “I shall endure to the end”.) Around this time, Crowley prepared two rooms in his house for the practice of magic. One room was specifically for White Magic and second for Black Magic. Allan Bennett, a member of the Golden Dawn, was Crowley’s personal tutor, and taught him the secrets of ceremonial magic and the ritual usage of drugs.
Crowley’s legacy to the occult and spiritual world is the religion of Thelema (Greek -θέλημα), a mystical cosmology that he announced in 1904 and continued to refine for the remainder of his life. He promoted this initially via founding the order A∴A∴ (Signifying Argentium Astrum [Latin], Άστρον Αργόν [Astron Argon – Greek] meaning Silver Star; and alternatively: Arcanum Arcanorum [Secret of Secrets – Latin]; אריך אנפין, [Arikh Anpin – vast countenance – Aramaic]; or English: Angel and Abyss), which he created in 1907. The main principle of Thelema is the sovereignty of Will, exemplified by the popular phrase, “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Crowley’s concept of will. The second principle of Thelema is “Love is the law, love under will”.
In 1912, Theodor Reuss made Crowley the Grand Master of the English-speaking section of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), known as the Mysteria Mystica Maxima. Crowley introduced the practice of male homosexual sex magick into O.T.O. as one of the highest degrees of the Order, claiming it to be the most powerful form of magic.
Wicca and Modern Witchcraft
Gerald Gardner, often considered the “Father of Wicca”, was initiated into the New Forest coven. He initiated a number of notable High Priestesses, including Doreen Valiente, Lois Bourne, Patricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone. His version of modern witchcraft became known as Gardnerian Wicca, and it combined teachings from the New Forest coven as well as Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, mediaeval grimoires, and Aleister Crowley (whom Gardner personally knew).
Gardner’s work was continued by the likes of Alex Sanders, the “King of the Witches”, whose focus was more on the ceremonial magic, deriving from Hermetic Qabalah and Enochian magic. Both Gardnerian and Alexandrian wicca have a three degree system, like that of Freemasonry, beginning with initiation.
While Satanism is diverse, and without a central authority, it is a fact that many Satanists and Satanic orders have been influenced by Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, incorporated the Enochian Keys (or Calls) into his Satanic Bible, without citing the source of the phonetic translations as Aleister Crowley. As with wicca and modern witchcraft, much of the ceremonial work and magical tools, employed by Satanists derives from the Golden Dawn, which, as already detailed, derives from the Societas Rosicruciana and Freemasonry.
The Temple of Set, an offshoot of the Church of Satan, founded by Michael Aquino, uses grade names for the higher degrees that are similar to those of the SRIA and Golden Dawn: Magister Templi (Fourth Degree), Magus (Fifth Degree), and Ipsissimus (Sixth Degree).
Even the British-based Satanic group, the Order of Nine Angles, who shy away from suggestions that they are influenced by more mainstream forms of occultism, have a degree sysytem similar to the SRIA and Golden Dawn: Initiation, Second Degree Initiation, External Adept, Internal Adept, Master/Mistress, Magus and Immortal.
So while Evangelical Christians and conspiracry theorists claims of Freemasonry is Satanism may be incorrect, there is very strong evidence to show that a number of Freemason, such as those involved with the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, have been a primary influence on the modern occult revival.