The general historical narrative of so-called “speculative” freemasonry that gets tossed about goes something like this: In 1717, four masonic lodges got together and formed a Grand Lodge on June 24, ushering in the era of speculative freemasonry.
What is not reported by the more pedestrian historians about these Freemasons is that this kind of freemasonry opened up a bit of a rift between actual masons who actually built things, and the more cosmopolitan set who were more interested in the rites and rituals of the fraternal brotherhood – eventually dubbed the “Moderns.”
It’s not easy to pinpoint the central causes and impulses that drove those original 1717 “moderns” to create a kind of “masonry of the conscious,” as I like to call it, but we can see that the Enlightenment era was taking shape, and that there was a sense among the bourgeois and the proletariat that the excessive and wicked cruelties of religious wars, coupled with endless pogroms against perceived enemies of the religious state, that called for a new kind of humanism where men of all faiths could exist in more harmonious circumstances. The great triumph of speculative freemasonry was its inherent inclusiveness, coupled with ritualist exercises that sought to elevate men to higher moral platforms and causes.
The age of Enlightenment was, after all, also the product of the burgeoning age of scientific exploration and discovery, where chaps like Isaac Newton were seen as the real heroes of the day by the people who were in the business of being in business – artisans, merchants, and the emerging corporate class. Science and technology meant profits!
But, like any kind of reformation, a counter-reformation can be expected, and that is basically what happened in the years leading up to the creation of the “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England according to the Old Institutions,” or what became known as the “Ancients.”
Over the next decade or so, the Ancients became more revered in the Colonies than the Moderns, perhaps because the Ancients were comprised of Scots-Irish folks, whereas the Moderns were mostly English. And while the formation of the “United Kingdom” in 1707 as a consolidated political unit had brought together the interests of so many cultures within the Isles, there still remained a strong folk identity to the older ethnicities.
So, it is not surprising that a group of Irish masons banded together in 1751 to form a Grand Lodge of their own, even if it was a bit rag-tag and ad-hoc. The date for this Grand Lodge is known, and it is July 17, 1751, in the Old Style Julian calendar (still used by the English), which translates to July 28, 1751, in the Catholic Gregorian Calendar.
It is impossible (for me, at least) to deduce what time of day this Grand Lodge was formally consecrated, but we can see that this day presented some special astrology that would rival the astrology of the 1717 Grand Lodge. My proposition here is a sunset chart for the day, located at London, using only the seven classical planets, the lunar node, and the Pars Fortuna:
This wheel doesn’t look too spectacular, except for the mundo square of Sun on the descendant, Jupiter on the nadir, and Saturn on the midheaven. There is plenty of aspects in the “square family” as well, with every planet having some sort of hard aspect.
The situation is more interesting when we add certain fixed stars to the chart:
Now we can see these special alignments:
While it is well-known in astrological circles that the Sun makes a yearly eclipse of the fixed star Regulus, the alpha star of Leo, a less-recognized yearly eclipse of another fixed star – Asellus Australis, or the Southern Donkey, is not often discussed, perhaps because of the dimness of the stars in Cancer.
Yet, it is this star, which is straddled by the “other” major nebula along the ecliptic – the Praesepe, which is Greek for “The Manger,” but also known as the “Beehive Cluster” – that holds a special connection to the ancient astrological marker for the exaltation of Jupiter.
I know there is some dispute of this idea that the center of Cancer marked the exaltation of Jupiter – traditionally 15° of Cancer, as some scholarship has shown Jupiter’s special decan in the Egyptian scheme to be that of the star Sirius, however, in the northern hemisphere, when Sirius rises, it does so concurrent to the constellation of Cancer.
Furthermore, the constellation of Cancer marked the summer solstice from about 1000 BCE to about 600 BCE, which encapsulated the apex of the Assyrian Empire, and also the erection and and inhabitation of the famed Temple of Nabu in 787-786 BCE, which the astrological scholar Cyril Fagan showed to be connected to planetary exaltations, or at least the canonization of exaltations that have come down to us.
It would take a keen astrologer to notice that a particularly unique set of alignments would be happening on this day in 1751, but such an astrologer would have to be of a certain caliber, and perhaps also looking to tap into other traditional astrological precedents related to certain other major ruling institutions of the day … such as, maybe, a group connected to a rival of the Anglican Parliamentarians who insisted on granting Supremacy to the English Crown over that of the Papacy?
Well, who knows, but in order to rival the truly brilliant astrology of the 1717 Grand Lodge, which boasted a solar eclipse of Jupiter, something had to rival that astrological moment. A “high noon” chart for the 1717 lodge is as follows:
The features of this chart are quite amazing. Not only is the Sun/Jupiter eclipse – in Jupiter’s sign of exaltation – square to Saturn in its sign of exaltation (Libra), we have a Mercury/Venus conjunction, and the Moon is conjunct the Pleiades, it’s own starry point of “exaltation.” The expected fortunes of this moment would eventually come down to the Freemasons, as they basically supplanted the monarchial systems in the UK, France, and what eventually became the USA. Lodges of Freemasons were dispensed in every corner of the globe, in hundreds of foreign lands, and a truly “new world order” had come about, one could argue, finally, with the victory of the Allies in World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the establishment of the United Nations.
Yet, none of this could have been possible on such a global scale if not for the reconciliation of the Ancients and Moderns in the first decades of the 19th Century, and that is where we will explore next in this series. Sing it with me… International Feel…
For now, we should recognize that that both the Moderns and the Ancients chose to elect Jovian astrological influences, whether we think them symbolic or otherwise, as primary features of their own aims. The goal was to harmonize earthly efforts with the celestial. Such principles were held in high value in the Enlightenment. “The laws of nations must be analogous to the laws of nature which are established in the heavens….”