Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pyramids, Freemasonry, and
The Lost Symbol

[Photo by Nina Aldin Thune.]

In The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown repeatedly brings up pyramid symbolism in connection with Freemasonry. This would seem to be a mistake, because the pyramid is not a Masonic symbol -- right?

Well -- it's not quite so clear cut.

Oh, I can hear the groans from here. Yes, I know: the various authors in our day who connect Freemasonry with pyramids are considered more than a little out on the fringe, especially by the more responsible Masonic historians of the so-called realistic school of Masonic history. It certainly is the case that, in the year 2009, Masonic ritual, symbolism, and mythic stories all have nothing to do with pyramids.

However, what is true of the early 21st century was not true of earlier days of Masonry, centuries ago.

The fact of the matter is that, at least as early as the 14th century, Masonic literature explicitly connected the Fraternity with Egypt, and (no later than the 18th century) even with the pyramids themselves. Controversial offshoots of Freemasonry in the 19th century associated Masonry with Egyptian initiatory practices.

Finally, the literature of the wilder regions of the conspiracy theory community connects Freemasonry with a very famous pyramid, a reproduction of which exists in virtually every home in America, and this connection should also be addressed when discussing pyramids and Freemasonry.

So, let's have at it.

Freemasonry and Egypt in
the Regius Manuscript

The Grand Lodge style of Freemasonry was established in London in 1717, with the founding of the premier Grand Lodge of England. However, Freemasonry existed before that time, in individual lodges scattered across Scotland, England, and Ireland, at the least -- perhaps for centuries. One of the earliest Masonic manuscripts in existence, the Regius (or Halliwell) Manuscript, dates from about 1390, and specifically draws a connection between Masonry and Egypt when describing the mythic history of Masonry -- in verse, no less. Beginning at line 55, the manuscript states:

The Clerk [i.e., cleric] Euclid in this wise founded
This Craft of geometry in Egyptian land,
In Egypt he taught it full wide,
In diverse lands on every side.

(This excerpt is taken from p. 293 of Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, rev. ed., 1995. The entire poem is available in a modern translation in Christopher Hodapp's excellent book, Freemasons for Dummies, Appendix A.)

So, Masons of over 600 years ago thought that the Greek mathematician Euclid was an ancient member of their fraternity, and taught geometry in Egypt. Being a Mason, of course, Euclid would have been busy building things. I don't think these would have been shopping malls or amusement parks, either. Thus, at least by implication, the Regius Manuscript leaves open the possibility of Freemasons being involved with pyramids.

Freemasonry and Pyramids in
Anderson's Constitutions

The Grand Lodge era of Freemasonry begins in 1717. The most authoritative document we have of that era is James Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (original London edition 1723, republished in the United States by Benjamin Franklin himself in 1734). Anderson's Constitutions include a traditional history of Freemasonry, stretching back to Adam, the first man, as described in the Bible. In this traditional history, Anderson mentions the following, referring to biblical events after the Flood of Noah and the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (Ben Franklin's edition, pages 10-11, modernizing the text a bit, omitting a footnote):

And, no doubt, the Royal Art [i.e., Freemasonry] was brought down to Egypt by Mitzraim, the second son of Ham [i.e., Ham being Noah's second son], about six years after the Confusion at Babel, and after the Flood 160 years, when he led thither his colony (for "Egypt" is Mitzraim in Hebrew); because we find the River Nile's overflowing of its banks soon caused an improvement in geometry, which consequently brought Masonry to be much in demand. For the ancient noble cities, with the other magnificent edifices of that country, and particularly the famous pyramids, demonstrate the early taste and genius of that ancient kingdom. Nay, one of those ancient Egyptian pyramids is reckoned the first of the Seven Wonders of the World, the account of which, by historians and travellers, is almost incredible.

Anderson, of course, was drawing on other source material concerning the mythic background of Freemasonry -- the legendary and hypothetical "Anderson Manuscript" -- of unknown age, and that is now lost to us. All we can tell for sure is that at least as far back as nearly 300 years ago, and possibly much earlier, Freemasons mentioned Freemasonry and the ancient Egyptian pyramids in the same breath.

(Incidentally, what did Anderson mean when he said that "we find the River Nile's overflowing of its banks soon caused an improvement in geometry"? The annual flood of the Nile washed away landmarks, and the land on both sides of the banks, for many miles, had to be resurveyed -- through the use of geometry, of course.)

Freemasonry and Egypt in
the Forbidden Rite of Memphis

The basic form of Freemasonry is a system of three degrees, or rituals of initiation. However, over the last three centuries or so, several systems of 'high degrees' have emerged, which offer additional sequences of degrees. In Masonic parlance, a system of degrees is called a Rite (as opposed to the common meaning of a "rite" as a specific ceremony). There are several such Rites in existence today.

In the United States, the main such systems are the Scottish Rite (which offers a system of numbered degrees up to the 33rd) and the York Rite (which offers about 10 degrees in a specific but unnumbered sequence). The York and Scottish Rites and a few other invitational organizations are each accepted by the Grand Lodge authorities in almost all of the 52 sovereign Masonic jurisdictions in the United States (comprising one Grand Lodge in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico).

But there are other Rites in Masonry -- literally forbidden Rites.

(Cue the creepy trumpet or organ music: DAA-DA-Da-dahhhhhhhhh.)

Over the last three centuries, many different systems of degrees have been put forth to Freemasons, some for the sake of propounding some esoteric knowledge, some for the sake of gathering initiation fees from gullible Masons. At present, in the United States, many Rites have been banned by the various Grand Lodges, although several such Rites have continued to exist on the fringes of Freemasonry for centuries. One such is the Rite of Memphis, originally established in Paris in 1814, a system of up to 100 degrees that has undergone many changes of name and administration and many incarnations over the last two centuries. Although condemned by American Grand Lodges, the Rite of Memphis is active in several parts of the United States today. (No, I am not a member.)

Even the name, "Rite of Memphis," shows some affinity for Egypt. Beyond that, the literature of the Rite of Memphis explicitly connects Freemasonry to Egypt and its wisdom. For example, in a lecture for one incarnation of the Rite, known as the "Antient and Primitive Rite," we find the following in the instruction for members between the 27th and 30th degrees, as published in London in 1882:

Q. What relation does Masonry hold to Egypt?

A. Masonry, considered as a secret society with peculiar ceremonies, having for its aim the conservation of knowledge, truth, and their laws, was received and perpetuated in Egypt by the Sages, who concealed attainments from the vulgar by clothing them in ingenious emblems; from the banks of the Nile the system was carried to the Greeks, Romans, and other ancient nations, where it more or less lost its character and primitive [i.e., original] aim. All the old operative constitutions of the Freemasons trace their origin to Egypt .... The wisdom of Egypt became the proverb of all nations. (Collectanea, 2000, vol. 17, part 2, pp. 85-86; published by the Grand College of Rites of the United States of America.)

A different group derived from the Rite of Memphis, Calvin C. Burt's Egyptian Masonic Rite of Memphis, similarly celebrated the connection between ancient Freemasonry and Egyptian wisdom. This is shown in a handbook published in Chicago in 1867, a portion of which focused in detail on supposed ceremonies of initiation in ancient Egypt, which the author considered Masonic in origin; the author then claimed that his own Rite was founded in France in 1694. (See pp. ix-xiii in Collectanea, 2001, vol. 17, part 3.)

The point here is that traditions on the outskirts or fringes of Freemasonry have connected Masonic initiation with the wisdom of Egypt.

Freemasonry and
the Pyramid
in Your Pocket

Things are so much simpler for the wild-eyed, undisciplined sector of the conspiracy theory community.* There is no need to consult ancient manuscripts, or the handbooks of off-ramp, qwinky forms of Freemasonry: one just needs to look at the paper money in one's wallet or purse, and that settles the matter. In the Anything Goes region of the conspiracy theory community, it is an article of faith that the pyramid shown on the back of the $1 bill, one side of the Grand Seal of the United States, is a Masonic symbol.

The fact of the matter is that this is simply untrue; I state the facts in my comments regarding Clue #35. However, the fact that the conspiracy community believes that the pyramid is a Masonic symbol may simply be enough for Dan Brown.


It is not entirely off-base for Dan Brown to connect Freemasonry with pyramids. In the 21st century, Masonry is not connected with pyramids. However, most of the association between Masonry and pyramids that is portrayed in The Lost Symbol is associated with events supposedly occuring during the days of the American Founding Fathers, roughly the 1770s to the 1790s or so. This was an era only about 60 years separated from the days of Anderson's Constitutions, the original publication of which was still (barely) in living memory. In that era, a connection between Freemasonry and pyramids seemed a bit more plausible.

Of course, it is entirely possible that Dan Brown is merely following the lead of the wilder regions of the conspiracy theory community, in attributing a connection between Freemasonry and pyramids.

I shall have more to say about Freemasonry and its symbolism, as well as the whole issue of pyramids, in my forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: The Mind of Dan Brown, the Truth About the Freemasons, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. (Agents' and publishers' inquiries are welcome. Please contact me through the e-mail portal on my Web Page: see my Blogger profile.)

I remind you that comments are welcome. Feel free to become a Follower of this blog, to forward posts by e-mail, and to subscribe to the RSS feed.

My thanks to an Anonymous commentor on an earlier post, who raised this question.

[The image of the Great Pyramid is Copyright 2005 Nina Aldin Thune. The image was obtained from the Wikimedia Commons through Wikipedia, and appears under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]

*I recognize that there are rational, responsible, careful conspiracy theory researchers. I admire them greatly. However, I find it necessary to take their wild-eyed relatives to task at every turn.

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. Good article Mark. It is a pleasure to read your explanations. Though I may have additional insights beyond what Freemasonry espouses and encompasses, and its members openly discuss, I appreciate your insights. I hope you don't mind my pointed questions on other topics.

  2. The spirit of Masonry is a revival of the Jewish religion of the scribes, etc that attacked and killed Jesus. This religion is a revival of the religion of Babylon. A revival of the old religion of Tammuz and Hermes who started the Tower of Babel. Cush through initiation became the first God-man after the flood and received the name Hermes, God the Father of all future god-men. Nimrod, his son did the same and was called Tammuz, the Son of God. Both are parallels of the Bible God and Jesus.

    For serious blasphemy to the God of the Bible, Tammuz was executed and cut in pieces so no one could say, "here lies Tammuz" Then when God changed the languages, the Son of God Tammuz was called by different names in all the languages. His worshipers went underground and prophesy that one day this God-man would be born again, but in a different body. This God, less his human body was said to have gone to the Sun, to the sea, etc . where he became the Sun God, Osiris, Baal, etc. till he was born again in a human body. This same to be born again god-man was whom the Jews were expecting instead of the Christ known as Jesus.

    The image the old worshipers of Tammuz took with them was the Cross (letter T). When Jesus was crucified on this cross, it was as if Jesus was crucified on the image of Tammuz. This is where the cross comes in and millions of people claim the cross represents in some way,Jesus resurrection. The old religion that started in Eden when Satan told Adam and Eve they could become Gods is the same religion that escaped through the great flood because Ham taught it to his son Cush, and his grandson Nimrod. A man has to commit the un-pardonable sin to become a true Mason. When he does this he is a son of Satan.

    When Jesus rose from the dead, he threw Satan off the throne, forgave the sins of the whole world, thus the only sin thereafter that could destroy man, so to speak, was for any man to stomp under foot the Blood Covenant. This Blood Covenant is the target that has to be stomped and ripped out of mankind in this world to undo what Jesus did. This is really the Lost Key. How to undo what Jesus did. For this there is no forgiveness in this world.

    Conclusion, Masonry, the God-man religion resurfaced in 43 AD when the Association The Mysterious Force was founded. It was the opposition to what Jesus called the Holy Ghost. This name changed in 1717 to Freemasonry. The very Messiah the Jews and so many others are awaiting is the second return of Tammuz,the very son of Satan. This is what the NWO, etc is all about. When the real Tammuz return with a new body, every believer in the real Jesus is subject to be vanished from the earth. The Bible claimed Jesus would not return till this man, the Son of Perdition, the man of sin first come and sit in the seat of God doing everything that a God would do, etc.
    Go Figure.After this climax, the Bible claim

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Wow, "DaSpook,"

    There is much about the Bible and the meaning of the symbolism that you have missed. I am not a Freemason but I have done significant research of late and I can assure you that you are very far off-base with this rant. There is much that I disagree with about Masonic interpretations of symbology, but my research and analysis shows that Freemasonry, though not perfect, is much closer to the truth than rants like this will ever be. "Son of Perdition" is not a literal reference. Just like most of what is literally misinterpreted by many, the misuse of ancient symbolism leads to erroneous conclusions. Do some more research and try to think beyond what you have just said...

    Here are some clues -

    Peace and Wisdom...

  5. You know, I take ten days off to deal with a virus and some family business, and when I get back . . . .

    Some response is in order. I actually have very serious religious differences with both Seven Star Hand and DaSpook. However, I welcome Seven Star Hand's contributions, in a way that I do not welcome DaSpook's contribution, for a very simple reason. Seven Star Hand seems to be respectful of the beliefs of those who differ from him/her. DaSpook, on the other hand, is essentially an anti-Semite, in addition to being clearly anti-Masonic.

    Seven Star Hand: Comments made in the attitude you have shown are welcome.

    DaSpook: Please do not make comments like this again. The world is full of anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic nonsense. If you don't keep it off this site, I shall have to delete your comments.

  6. Your readers may be interested in this:


  7. Gary: Thank you for contributing to the discussion on this website.

    I attempted to respond to the points you raise about Freemasonry in your blog. My response was roughly twice as long as Blogger will accept in a comment. I am going to post my response on another blog that I author, "Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend," which you will find here: . My response should be in a blog entry dated October 9, 2009; it won't be hard to find.

  8. Thank you, Bro. Mark, for one of the most prolific, accurate and respectful blogs concerning Freemasonry I have seen. May the GAOTU continue to provide the Light upon your endeavor. So mote it be.

  9. I myself am an ex freemason I resigned from freemasonry ,as I discicerd that most of the freemasons who are of different trades do not live up to the tennents of the loge .

    I was also a member fo the royal arch chaptor
    , I only attended three meetings of that lodge .as the ceromany scard me as it seemed to be of devil worship .

    the way the office beares seemed to summoning up the devil to take part in the ceomany for the meeting , I must say that I got out of there very quick , yes I do say that freemasonary does devil worship .

    I will never re join any freemasons lodge and would advise any one who is conisidering of doing so not to do so .

    I was a past lodge master of the blue lodge .

  10. @Generic Viagra: Sorry, but you have been identified as a spammer. (No surprise: Look at the name you post under, right?) So I suspect you are automatically interrupted from reading or posting on the site.

  11. Excellent blog..

  12. I'm sorry but just subscribe to the Masonic magazine. Every second or third edition carries stories linking their tradition to the builders of the pyramids.

    It isn't just Dan Brown, it's the Masons themselves who link freemasonry to the pyramids, copiously.

    I'm sorry but I don't understand why you go off guess work instead of a tiny bit of research, they aren't grey aliens or the illuminatie, the masons exist, so just ask one about the pyramids.

  13. Anonymous: Actually, my extensive research on the issue will be published shortly in the forthcoming Transactions of the American Lodge of Research (N.Y.), the oldest functioning Masonic lodge of research in the United States.

    Not all Masons are that well informed about their fraternity. They may have their zeal for their fraternity lead them to make claims that are poorly based, and cannot be substantiated. Masons who claim that the pyramids are a Masonic symbol fall into this category.

    Incidentally, what is "the Masonic magazine" you are talking about? Right now, the largest-circulation Masonic magazines in the United States are probably the Scottish Rite Journal, the Empire State Mason, the California Freemason; the best-known Masonic research publications are the Philalethes, the Journal of the Masonic Society, and the Plumbline. None of these are making the kind of claim you are talking about. What is this "Masonic magazine"?

    I am unaware of any "copious" references written by Masons that link Freemasonry to the pyramids. I possess many of the standard references in my personal library, and none of them do. Again, I invite you to share with us some of these copious references.

    Incidentally, I am a Freemason myself, and the author of Freemasonry: An Introduction, which you can order through the box in the upper-right-hand corner.

    When my essay on pyramids and Freemasonry is published in the ALR Transactions, I shall mention this in another of my blogs, "Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend" (which you may access through my profile page).

    Thank you for your comment.

  14. I want to go there in Egypt In fact that is my one of biggest dream.

  15. Dan Brown's " The Lost Symbols" does an exception job of weaving fiction with truth in this novel. I am very interested in history of the Christian faith. By reading such books as The Gospel of Judas and The Nag Hamadi Scriptures, I can confirm Brown did his research prior to creating this thrilling and intriguing novel. Its well worth the time spent reading.


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