The Greek word apocalypsis means a revelation and thus is frequently applied to the last book of the New Testament. The adoption of Saint John the Evangelist as one of the patrons of our Lodges, has given rise, among the writers on Freemasonry, to a variety of theories as to the original cause of his being thus , connected with the Institution. Several traditions have been handed down from remote periods, which claim him as a brother, among which the Masonic student will be familiar with that which represents him as having assumed the government of the Craft, as Grand Master, after the demise of John the Baptist.
We confess that we are not willing to place implicit confidence in the correctness of this legend, and we candidly subscribe to the prudence of Dalcho's remark, that ''it is unwise to assert more than we can prove, and to argue against probability."
There must have been, however, in some way, a connection more or less direct between the Evangelist and the institution of Freemasonry, or he would not from the earliest times have been so universally claimed as one of its patrons. If it was simply a Christian feeling-a religious veneration-which gave rise to this general homage, we see no reason why Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, or Saint Luke might not as readily and appropriately have been selected as one , of the lines parallel.
But the fact is that there is something, both in the life and in the writings of Saint John the Evangelist, which closely connects him with our mystic Institution. He may not have been a Freemason in the sense in which we now use the term.
But it will be sufficient, if it can be shown that he was familiar with other mystical institutions, which are themselves generally admitted to have been more or less intimately connected with Freemasonry by deriving their existence from a common origin.
Such a society was the Essenian Fraternity-a mystical association of speculative philosophers among the Jews, whose organization very closely resembled that of the Freemasons, and who are even supposed by some to have derived their tenets and their discipline from the builders of the Temple. As Oliver observes, their institution "may be termed Freemasonry, retaining the same form but practised under another name." Now there is little doubt that Saint John the Evangelist was an Essene. Calmet positively asserts it; and the writings and life of Saint John seem to furnish sufficient internal evidence that he was originally of that brotherhood. Brother Dudley Wright has taken the position that Jesus was also an Essene and that the baptism of Jesus by John marked the formal admission of the former into the Essenic community at the end of a novitiate or, as it may be termed, an apprenticeship (see page 25, Was Jesus an Essene ? ). Brother Wright says further (page 29) that when Jesus pronounced John the Baptist to be Elijah there was evidently intended to be conveyed the information that he had already attained to that acquisition of spirit and degree of power which the Essenes strove to secure in their highest state of purity.
But it seemed to Doctor Mackey that Saint John the Evangelist was more particularly selected as a patron of Freemasonry in consequence of the mysterious and emblematic nature of the Apocalypse, which evidently assimilated the mode of teaching adopted by the Evangelist to that practised by the Fraternity. If anyone who has investigated the ceremonies performed in the Ancient Mysteries, the Spurious Freemasonry, as it has been called, of the Pagans, will compare them with the mystical machinery used in the Book of Revelations, he will find himself irresistibly led to the conclusion that Saint John the Evangelist was intimately acquainted with the whole process of initiation into these mystic associations, and that he has selected its imagery for the ground-work of his prophetic book.
George S. Faber, in his 0rigin of Pagan idolatry (volume ii, book vi, chapter 6), has, with great ability and deamess, shown that Saint John in the Apocalypse applies the ritual of the ancient initiations to a spiritual and prophetic purpose.
"The whole machinery of the Apocalypse," says Faber, "from beginning to end, seems to me very plainly to have been borrowed from the machinery of the Ancient Mysteries; and this, if we consider the nature of the subject, was done with the very strictest attention to poetical decorum. "Saint John himself is made to personate an aspirant about to be initiated; and, accordingly, the images presented to his mind's eye closely resemble the pageants of the Mysteries both in nature and in order of succession.
"The prophet first beholds a door opened in the magnificent temple of heaven; and into this he is invited to enter by the voice of one who plays the hierophant.
Here he Witnesses the unsealing of a sacred book, and forthwith he is appalled by a troop of ghastly apparitions, which flit in horrid succession before his eyes.
Among these are pre-eminently conspicuous a vast serpent, the well-known symbol of the great father; and two portentous wild beasts, which severally come up out of the sea and out of the earth.
Such hideous figures correspond with the canine phantoms of the Orgies, which seem to rise out of the ground, and With the polymorphic images of the hero god who was universally deemed the offspring of the sea.
"Passing these terafic monsters in safety, the prophet, constantly attended by his angel hierophant, who acts the part of an interpreter, is conducted into the presence of a female, who is described as closely resembling the great mother of pagan theology. Like Isis emerging from the sea and exhibiting herself to the aspirant Apuleius, this female divinity, up born upon the marine wild beast, appears to float upon the surface of many waters. She is said to be an open and systematical harlot, just as the great mother was the declared female principle of fecundity; and as she was always propitiated by literal fornication reduced to a religious system, and as the initiated were made to drink a prepared liquor out of a sacred goblet, so this harlot is represented as intoxicating the kings of the earth with the golden cup of her prostitution. On her forehead the very name of MYSTERY is inscribed; and the label teaches us that, in point, of character, she is the great universal mother of idolatry.
"The nature of this mystery the officiating hierophant undertakes to explain; and an important prophecy is most curiously and artfully veiled under the very language and imagery of the Orgies. To the sea-born great father was ascribed a threefold state---he lived, he died, and he revived; and these changes of condition were duly exhibited in the Mysteries. To the sea-born wild beast is similarly ascribed a threefold state---he lives, he dies, he revives.
While dead, he lies floating on the mighty ocean, just like Horus or Osiris, or Siva or Vishnu. When he revives again, like those kindred deities, he emerges from the waves; and, whether dead or alive, he bears seven heads and ten horns, corresponding in number with the seven ark-preserved Rishis and the ten aboriginal patriarchs. Nor is this all : as the worshipers of the great father bore his special mark or stigma, and were distinguished by his name, so the worshipers of the maritime beast equally bear his mark and are equally decorated by his appellation.
''At length, however, the first or doleful part of these Sacred Mysteries draws to a close, and the last or joyful part is rapidly approaching.
After the prophet has beheld the enemies of God plunged into a dreadful lake or inundation of liquid fire, which corresponds with the infernal lake or deluge of the Orgies, he is introduced into a splendidly-illuminated region, expressly adorned with the characteristics of that Paradise which was the ultimate scope of the ancient aspirants ; while without the holy gate of admission are the whole multitude of the profane, dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. "
Such was the imagery of the Apocalypse. The dose resemblance to the machinery of the Mysteries, and the intimate connection between their system and that of Freemasonry, very naturally induced our ancient brethren to daim the patronage of an apostle so pre-eminently mystical in his writings, and whose last and crowning work bore so much of the appearance, in an outward form, of a ritual of initiation.
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