Life and Times
Christian and Pagan
||Aside from Christianity
and Judism, Joseph Campbell identified the Arthurian legend and the
mythology of Freemasonry as the two greatest influences on the rise of the
United States. I doubt seriously the brilliant non-Mason, Latin-Catholic
Cambell understood how closely related the two mythologies are. |
Officially, the Grand Lodge of New York which claims to be the oldest
Masonic Lodge in the United States makes no specific historic pretence to
antiquity. In a public promotion tape its Grand Secretary states that
historical assertions made on its behalf "make for interesting
speculation." Not all Masons are quite so circumspect.
In the Age of Revolution, the Masonic Order produced a series of
brilliant writers, thinkers, and musicans not only in England but also in
the United States, France, Italy, Greece, Germany and even in the Austrian
Holy Roman Empire. The Arthurian legend was the subject of much comment
including an impressive book by Arthur Waite, England's Chief Judge who
claimed for Arthur a place in the Masonic 'pantheon.'
Among the analogies between the legend and freemasonry posited were the
recurrence of the number 13: There are 12 knights of the Round Table and
the King. All members of the table are equal. Seated at a circle, no
knight has a better position than anyother.
All masons are equal or so they say. The Master stands in no greater
position than any other brother. They build a temple of the heart, with
all issues decided by majority vote.
Arthur's kingdom is a tolerant one. It must try to balance at least two
forms of Christianity and any number of local variances in the paganism of
the pantheistic Celts.
Masonry preaches tolerance and acceptance of religious differences
leaving such private matters to individual conscience.
If non-Mason Joseph Campbell said the United States is the largest
functionning Masonic lodge, the Victorian era Masons would have said that
Arthur's court was one of the historical examples of a Masonic Lodge in
Much of the iconography of the United States, Campbell says, was
inherited from the Masons. Campbell did not realize how much of Masonic
emblems had been in turn borrowed from the Legend. There were 13 original
states each represented by a five pointed star (pentagram) in a circle
with no better position than anyother. The seal is a silver eagle, the
token of Arthurs return. And when Mason Douglas MacArthur pledged in
defeat, "I will return," he was quickly corrected by his (Masonic) brother
President Franklin Roosevelt: "We will return."