Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John's Day: Going Back to the True Origins of Masonry


John the Evangelist, is identified as the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. The two brothers were often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and  Boanerges, the "sons of thunder." According to the usual explanation John became, with his brother, a disciple of John the Baptist, before following Jesus.

St. John is commemorated on 27 December, which he originally shared with St. James the Greater. At Rome the feast was reserved to St. John alone at an early date, though both names are found in the Carthage Calendar, the Hieronymian Martyrology, and the Gallican liturgical books. The "departure" or "assumption" of the Apostle is noted in the Menology of Constantinople and the Calendar of Naples (26 September), which seems to have been regarded as the date of his death. The feast of St. John before the Latin Gate, supposed to commemorate the dedication of the church near the Porta Latina, is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Adrian I (772-95).

By history, custom, tradition and ritualistic dictates, the Craft reveres the days of St. John the Baptist on June 24, and St. John the Evangelist on December 27. A lodge would do well to celebrate these dates as a renewal of allegiance to everything in Freemasonry symbolized by these Patron Saints.

St. John the Evangelist first appears in masonry somewhere around the end of the sixteenth century. The earliest reference to St. John the evangelist in Edinburgh occurs in 1599, although earlier mentions are made in connection, probably with John the Baptist. "The Fraternity of St. John" is noted in Cologne in 1430.  "St. John's Masonry" is a distinctive term for Scotch Lodges, many of the older of which took the name of the saint. It has been noted that the Lodge of Scoon and Perth was called the Lodge of St. John.

Masons today seem as puzzled by the presence of the two Saint Johns, John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, in their heritage as they are about most of the rest of what they do. This is obviously due to the decision to turn their back on the spiritual and metaphysical foundations of their craft. Tobias Churton, in his book "The Mysteries of John the Baptist: His Legacy in Gnosticism, Paganism, and Freemasonry," (Inner Traditions, 2012)  states without equivocation, "There are in the world two principle groups of people for whom John the Baptist has significant spiritual meaning, though in the case of Freemasons, I should say a group for whom John ought to have spiritual meaning; Masons have mostly forgotten why they were once "St. John's men." Of course, the rest of that tale will lead us to subjects such as the original Templars, the caput mortuum, the Sabians and the Mandaeans, which is enough to give most masons a permanent migraine.

Despite confusion in some circles, while the Masons celebrate both St. Johns, in what must be viewed as a truly Hermetic touch, the greater importance must rest with John the Baptist. John the Baptist, on many levels may be viewed as a devine Mercurial figure, and his role in masonry, as that of John the Evangelist, deserves much more attention.

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