The Curious Case of Hermetic Graffiti in Valladolid Cathedral ms. 40/8


Eric W. Vogt

Seattle Pacific University


Art historian John Rupert St. Martin wrote that seventeenth century art is best interpreted by imagining the people and works of the period as if they had lived and been produced between two mutually opposing looking glasses, as in an amusement park house of mirrors that creates the illusion of infinity in two directions. This perspective gives modern observers a view into an historical period whose thinking and creative members consciously reflected both forward and backward. St. Martin postulated that rather than seeking to discover the Baroque by examining and comparing its external aspects with those of other artists, countries and periods, it was best to look at the general spirit of the age. Artists, poets and scientists expressed new discoveries as well as expressed their speculations of the forward-looking, nascent sciences (in words or other media) in terms of allegorical models transmitted from, or rediscovered in their backward-looking studies of antiquity. [1] The essence of the Baroque therefore is not to be discovered in any one country, artist or style, but rather in the artistic manifestations of commonly held ideas about art, man, the universe, light, space, God, and so forth. The same approach, when applied to researching esoteric or hermetic symbols also yields many insights. The profusion of books of emblemata that abounded in that period can be taken as a reliable indicator of what St. Martin called the “allegorical tradition”.

In this article, we will examine the frontispiece of the manuscript of a hymn by the Spanish composer Cristóbal Galán (c.1620-1684), entitled Si del alma las alas veloces (Valladolid Cathedral ms. 40/8). It consists of three nested squares framing the title, and two ink-drawn symbols above and below the title (Figure A, p. 10). [2] Examined together with the lyrics, these elements reveal a syncretism of hermetic, alchemical images and words in an orthodox Roman Catholic devotional piece. The relationship of the two symbols within the frontispiece to each other, the three nested squares that frame them and the lyrics of the song becomes clear when the two symbols are reinvested with the meanings that their respective reveilings had occulted. Investigating them has produced many golden moments, not the least of which has been to discover that both symbols, particularly the one shown as Figure C, are related to the early development of the familiar Square & Compasses of the Freemasons.


Deciphering these figures has required caution as well as considerable flexibility of mind. At the same time, I refrained from allowing interpretative references to overtake the evidence while pursuing the labyrinthine paths of heuresis. Using standard interpretations of this images, I elucidate their relationships and suggest a plausible origin for the Square & Compasses. There never was an archeological dig that did not generate some dispute and even in this adventure in paper archeology, we cannot expect to be immune from controversy. If Renaissance and Baroque thinkers were overly credulous, ever grasping at mystic straws in their exhuberant spirit of plus ultra, some thinkers in our era may err, in their spirit of ne plus ultra, by prefering to avert their eyes from the exploration of a subject that deserves attention. [3]

The presence of these two symbols on this late-seventeenth Spanish manuscript is significant for several reasons. In the first place, they demonstrate the syncretism of the Sigil of Saturn within the bosom of seventeenth-century Roman Catholic orthodoxy. Furthermore, this emblem, now solely deemed occult, appears on the title page with the IHS emblem, whose kabbalistic origins, as shall be seen, also had been obscured by its having been appropriated into the Catholic iconography well before the seventeenth century. Secondly, the addition of the neatly depicted columns to the Sigil of Saturn is related to the development of Freemasonic symbolism. By the 1680s, all the symbolic, verbal and legendary elements (the tools, their configurations in depictions of various sorts) were present among devotees of esoterica throughout Europe. Two observations made by Alexander Piatigorski suggests how the emblems in Valladolid ms. 40/8 are relevant to the embryonic period of Freemasonry in Britain. He staunchly declares that “Freemasonry, as I see it here and now, is flesh and blood the very spirit of the seventeenth century. This is particularly true of Freemasonry in Britain […]”. [4] What is more, speaking of the role of symbolism in Freemasonry, he declares with equal solidity: “Symbol is and always was primary in Masonry, starting with its very name ‘Freemasonry’, and ending with such a complex symbol as the ‘Theological Ladder’” (281). Piatigorski does not imply that current Freemasonic rituals or configurations of symbolic depictions have been transmitted in pristine form since antiquity, certainly, or even from the so-called historical period (incipit 1717). Nor should the symbols of Freemasonry be confused with the various verbal configurations that present them in ritual, or with the myriad juxtapositions of its symbols in, for instance, the tracing boards that began to be made later. One could hardly claim, with so much proof to the contrary, that no evolution of ritual or symbolism has taken place. In this article, I argue that the origin of the current and familiar emblem of the Square & Compasses of the Freemasons is discernible in the Sigil of Saturn. I share Gould’s approach to the problems the study of Freemasonic history poses, and like Piatigorski see Freemasonry as “one of the very many secret or partly secret societies whose character was determined by factors and tendencies much older and far more general than their concrete historical manifestations” (211). The late seventeenth century


is the period in which to seek Freemasonry’s late embryonic forms – and these forms were not indigenous to Britain. However, in England and Scotland, these elements, in the following decades, would coalesce into a form easily recognized by Freemasons today. [5] Thus, the Sigil of Saturn is also found – with the columns added, carved on the tomb of a key figure in Scotland who is definitively associated with the incorporation of esoteric elements into Freemasonry beginning in the last two decades of the sixteenth century. This demonstrates that the particular configuration of the sigil on Valladolid ms. 40/8, with columns, was not a unique event and therefore was widespread. It was and is one of various emblems and symbols associated with a variety of hermetic interests.

Taken on its own, the totality of Valladolid ms. 40/8 as an artifact in its cultural and artistic context, is a rich field of hermetic interconnections. The lyrics mirror the Sigil of Saturn and the metaphysical ideas to which it refers; the winged disk above the sigil echo nothing less startling than the line following the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis (1614): “sub umbra alarum tuarum, Jehova”. [6] Valladolid ms. 40/8 emerges as a concise example of what many scholars have shown: it demonstrates that European intellectuals, artists and others of like mind, shared a common milieu that was neoplatonic, hermetic and esoteric. Moreover, this Spanish document contains such a fortuitous choice and conjunction of symbols, it supports a conservative opinion of Masonic history. Due to the absence of any subsequent Masonic trajectory of these symbols in Spain, it shows that it was only in the British Isles where the symbolism, iconography and allegorical aspects of these traditions found fertile enough social, religious and political ground to coalesce into a form that, admitting subsequent modifications and evolution, would endure to the present, officially emerging into public view in 1717 as Freemasonry. Considering the meaning these symbols had in their time has required me to acknowledge the syncretic, polyphonic and metaphysical – yet Christian – views of those who once used them – and those who preserve them today. The picture that emerges is one of greater divergence of views among Christian thinkers who, amid political and religious turmoil, were struggling to find common cause and unity with their fellow men through (partially) non-verbal means.

Golden moments occur for literary researchers using manuscript sources when they sense their authors were communicating in ways decipherable by reading between the lines. This colloquial expression succinctly summarizes the psychological phenomena that occur in the mind of a scholar when he or she encounters modes of discourse that depend on emblematic and allegorical casts of mind purporting to map metaphysical or supernatural realms. Most of the cultural keys to understanding even the canonical texts in Spanish Golden Age literature are no longer common cultural stock. Consequently, professors serve as extensions to footnotes. This is truer for the aspects of culture, past and present, which academia has tended to neglect or relegate to a ghetto of footnotes. Whether as teachers or researchers, professors’ hermeneutic skills encounter their greatest challenges when texts allude to esoterica.


There is yet another class of experiences with manuscripts, beyond the linguistic ones. Items of this class encompass the non-verbal: hermetic emblems, symbols, figures and devices. Welcome or not, they appear on manuscripts as a surprise to researchers expecting to find only words and their accompanying philological challenges. Since the images are enigmatic, their unfamiliarity can be disconcerting. These curious images were created long ago by people whose cosmology was, in psychological, aesthetic and philosophical terms, influenced by Ptolemaic models and neoplatonic philosophy. When syncretically fused with Christian orthodoxy, they exist in a symbiosis many modern Christians may find too paradoxical for comfort, particularly if they come from iconoclastic traditions. The strangeness of hermetic images can defy efforts to pry any sense from them, especially if researchers fear that investigating their intellectual geneologies might reveal skeletons in the sanitized closets of their fields or of their sectarian faiths.

Not one, but both symbols in Figure A are re-veilings of ancient symbols. One is of kabbalistic, the other of Pythagorean origin, which were appropriated into Christian thinking, or at least into the iconography of thinking Christians, in the Renaissance. The relationship between the Kabbala and Pythagoreanism, particularly with respect to which influenced which, is polemical. Fortunately, any solutions to those puzzles must be sought more than a millenium prior to the writing of the Valladolid manuscript. It is sufficient to the topic at hand to note that by the 1600s these traditions were existing in the European intellectual melting pot. [7]

Before explicating the forms, reveiled meanings and interrelationships of these symbols and the lyrics, it is necessary to understand the nature of hermetic symbols, and distinguish the approaches used to interpret them from those used to study exoteric ones, that is, the conventional objects with which scholars are generally concerned. In broadest terms, hermetic symbols stand in relation to conventional ones as poetry does to prose: they are charged with more layers of connotation. Paradoxically, these layers are only penetrable to those who already know them. This situation problematizes and often paralyzes attempts to engage in scholarly dialogue. The symbols that have been the most successful survivors, in terms of form and content, are not the familiar religious ones, but rather those associated with alchemy, hermetica and other esoteric traditions. Distinguishing between esoteric and exoteric symbolism, Adam McLean has observed:

Hermetic philosophy in all its manifestations has used symbolism as a means of conveying philosophical ideas. This symbolism is perhaps quite restricted, using a small core group of images in a particular way, but it has given a coherence to the use of symbolism in hermeticism. As hermetic symbolism has deep philosophical roots, it was not easily moulded by fashions and changes in artistic styles. Although one can see some evolution in its use of symbolism, it never departs radically from an essential core of meaning, and consequently hermeticists of different centuries often used the same symbols consistently. It is therefore possible to see the symbolism of the hermetic tradition as an integrated whole, rather than being fragmented by the social and cultural currents of its time, as is the case with the general use of symbolism in Western visual art. Hermetic symbolism in a strange way seems to stand outside time, and it is possible to grasp it as a whole. Even though two hermetic diagrams may have been created three centuries or more apart, their symbolism coheres and can be read consistently (italics added). [8]



Thus, while the forms and meanings of hermetic symbols may be continuous over time, their origins and influences are difficult to trace. They were, after all, designed to be understood only by those of an inner circle. They conceal as much, or more, than they reveal. [9] The pursuit of knowledge and secrecy have long had a close relationship, either to protect what is now known as intellectual property or to shield researchers from inquisitorial entanglements. Ross King, in his narrative history of the building of Florence’s Duomo, shows the role of cryptography in the guarding of knowledge, which is to say, keeping it hidden or occult. [10] Likewise, Giorgio di Santillana and Hertha von Deschend reminded modern scholars over thirty years ago, seemingly to little effect on the majority of the scholarly world, that

Living in our days, where nothing is hidden from the press and where every difficult science is “made easy,” we are not in the best condition to imagine the strict secrecy that surrounded archaic science. The condition is so bad, indeed, that the very fact is often regarded as a silly legend. It is not. The need for treating science as reserved knowledge is gravely stated by Copernicus himself in his immortal work, The Revolutions of Celestial Orbs (p. 310). [11]


Researchers faced dangers beyond the spying of potential rivals. The ignorant might be easily pursuaded by jealous orthodoxies that mysterious scribbles were diabolical, a situation that gave rise to what might today be called “double speak”. Some modern scholars of hermetica, esoterica and Kabbalah refer to these techniques of obfuscation as “green language”. [12]

Turning now to closely examine the frontispiece of Valladolid ms. 40/8 (Figure A), the investigator meets a wonderful confluence of related hermetic symbols. The total number of sides (twelve), the interpretation of the two symbols, the title and lyrics, form a complete whole. Reading from the outside inward, three nested squares frame the title and the hermetic symbols. The three squares allude to the marriage of ‘tertiary and the quaternary’. These concepts are familiar to students of number symbolism: the four elements distributed in groups of three among the twelve signs of the zodiac (four sides X three squares = twelve). The groupings of signs of like element are known as the triplicities; the lines connecting the conjunctions form four trigons, or equilateral triangles, around the zodiac. The conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter, to which we will return presently, describe these lines during their nearly 800-year cycle of conjunctions.

Exoteric examples of the use of the number twelve always have been familiar to members of Judeo-Christian traditions. They include the familiar twelve disciples and the twelve tribes of Israel, as well as the less familiar twelve oxen on the porch of  Solomon’s temple and the twelve stars surrounding the Virgin’s head in Rev. 12:1. However, the origin and esoteric importance of number symbolism, as hermetic elements in general, tend to be ignored by those members of orthodoxies who are inclined to literalism and who consequently are restrictive, authoritarian or, through successive purges of symbolic modes of instruction, simply unimaginative.





The first emblem (Figure B) is a re-veiling, through the kabbalistic technique known as temura (simple letter substitution), employing the atbash cipher, of the words God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. In his recent book Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fr. Michael Lewis, a Carmelite priest, referred to St. Bernardine of Siena’s conscious adaptation of the IHS emblem as a symbol alluding to the ineffable name of God. In his explanation of the tetragrammaton, he quotes from Los nombres de Cristo, by Fray Luis de León, a converso “influenced consciously or unconsciously by the thought and imagery of the kabbala.” In Lewis’s exegesis of the new name given to the redeemed (Rev. 3:12), he refers to the plate of gold on the forehead of the high priest (Exo. 28: 36-38) and the tov (tau) specifically named as a mark of redemption (Eze. 9:6). For all his obvious erudition, perhaps his Roman Catholic orthodoxy prevented him from continuing his quest for meaning by examining the atbash cipher used by kabbalists. The atbash cipher is used by kabbalists as a mode of encryption and interpretation. The cipher is rather simple. While it is not relevant to explicate its many applications, temura should be understood before proceeding. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are folded back on themselves so that each of the first 11 letters is paired with a letter in the second half of the alphabet. Thus paired, the atbash cipher derives the Triple Tau Cross from the three alephs in the holy utterance of God to Moses when he asked Him “Whom shall I say has sent me?”. [13]


Let us retrace the rest of the processes involved in the reveiling, or the occulting of this sacred utterance, without concern to the many possible motives, since motives surely differ depending on the tradition in which they are found. The first, or exoteric layer of meaning of the IHS symbol is familiar to most people as a Christian emblem. Today, with a few embellishments, it is recognized as the official seal of the Jesuits, whose society was organized over a century after the time of St. Bernardine. Theologians and classicists, among other specialists, might be expected to know it is derived from a mediæval Latinized transcription of a Greek abbreviation of Jesus’s name (Greek, into Latin, Ihesous). Until Fr. Lewis’ work, it is unlikely that even a few specialists would have known that the Latin cross surmounting the letter “H” was added by St. Bernardine of Siena in the early 1400s. Of those who might have known that, still fewer would have been aware of the importance of its being a Christianization, the Triple Tau Cross employed to allude to the sacred name God revealed to Moses and whose original pronunciation was lost due to the Jews’ prohibition against articulating it. It resided, and resides, in the shadow world of kabbalists (both Jewish and Christian), alchemists, and intellectuals falling under the rubric of what Frances Yates named the Rosicrucian Enlightenment. [14] Piatigorski, despite his ocassionally jaundiced statements about Freemasonry, raises the possibility that Freemasonic ritual, like rituals in other countries, could unknowingly preserve knowledge in the process of transmitting the lore that creates hermetic and fraternal identity (whether via ritual, verbal explications of symbolism or other means). [15]

As explained above, the encryption process by which it was re-veiled (obfuscated or occulted), was the atbash cipher. The Hebrew letter א, aleph, replaces the letter ת, tov (equal to the Greek τ, tau), hence there are three tovs (or taus) derived from the three alephs in the sacred utterance of God. Graphically, the three taus of the Triple Tau Cross produce a figure almost identical to that seen in IHS emblem, except that in a true Triple Tau Cross, the horizontal axis of the Latin cross surmounting the “H” is elevated to the top of its vertical axis, giving it the appearance of three capital Ts joined at their vertical axes. St. Bernardine, knowing the mystic allusion of the Triple Tau Cross, simply moved the horizontal bar down a bit to form a Latin cross, and in so doing, appropriated it into the Christian tradition.


      Figure B                                              

Figure C



The second hermetic emblem (Figure C), beneath the title of the song, is the most intriguing. It is a figure long known as the Sigil of Saturn. It turns out to be a re-veiling of the Seal of Solomon (commonly known as the Star of David) for two reasons. The link was first suggested because the Triple Tau, from which the IHS emblem is derived, is associated esoterically with the Seal of Solomon; secondly, because both symbols, regardless of whether or not the sigil was a re-veiling of the seal, involve the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter. This observation leads us to examine the esoteric details of both emblems, an exploration that brings them face to face with each other. They allude to the same body of astronomical and metaphysical data.

The Seal of Solomon was known among Pythagoreans as a symbol which concealed the five Platonic solids – the key, or base number being revealed only through the Triple Tau. The intriguing connection between them, with the Triple Tau Cross as a geometrical key to the Seal of Solomon, results from an esoteric interpretation of the geometric relationship between the two figures. The Triple Tau contains eight right angles, giving a total of 720°. This base number is used to derive a series of configurations from the seal, producing the five Platonic solids. The mysteries — or coincidences — do not end here, but lie beyond the scope of this article. [16] The sigil was well known in European hermetic circles even prior to 1531. It was published in the Libri Tres de Occulta Philosophia by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, well over a century and a half before the Valladolid frontispiece was penned. Yet Agrippa was not the source of this second emblem. His publication at so early a date relative to the Valladolid ms. merely shows that there would be plenty of time for such lore to spread not just to Spain, but elsewhere across Europe. Researchers seeking a terminus a quo for these arcana therefore cannot start with Agrippa. An example of Jupiter’s Magic Square can be seen in Dürer’s work Melencholia (1514), the state of mind associated with Saturn. This work should be regarded as an artistic rendition of the conjunction of these two planets. Dürer also depicts the fifth Platonic solid, the dodecahedron, a geomtric solid that represents spirit or quintessence. It is also the solid Kepler envisioned as dividing the orbits of Earth and Mars in his harmonic cosmology, the cube being the solid associated with Saturn’s orbit. [17] The Sigil of Saturn is traced by connecting the centers of the nine numbered squares (1-2-3; 7-8-9 and 4-5-6; Figure D). [18] Dürer’s square of Jupiter arranges the numbers of the square in a slightly different way from Agrippa. This demonstrates that these hermetic symbols and their geometrically based esoteric interpretations were widely known and codified, with slight variants, by Agrippa’s time.

               Figure D





















Ancient lore links Saturn and Jupiter by saying that “Jupiter removed Saturn”. This is an allusion to the fact that while Jupiter is the greater god, Saturn moves more slowly on account of being the most distant object from Earth below the immutable sphere of the fixed stars, beyond which the Empyræum was thought to be. This cosmology is at least as old as Plato’s Timæus, where it is mentioned. How this ancient lore from the Middle East entered Europe before the sixteenth century is not of great concern in this context, but some likely routes of transmission deserve mention. Given the long history of Arabs and Sephardic Jews in Toledo, Spain (the latter communicating with their coreligionists in Wörms). The route of transmission for much of this Middle Eastern arcana had flowed through Spain, just as many other now familiar ancient Greek and Arabic texts had done. Besides Lewis’s discussion of the influence of the Kabbalah on Fray Luis de León, other studies of the influence of Jewish mysticism and other contemporary mystical movements on St. Teresa de Ávila, for instance, by Swietlicki (see endnote 6) and Deirdre Green have shown just how much these traditions fused themselves into orthodoxy. [19] Just as Ficino’s Florentine Academy also enriched European thought with neoplatonic philosophy and cosmological speculations with manuscripts brought thence after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, so too the Jewish and Islamic philosophers (Averroës, Maimonaides, for instance) were famous for their labors in medicine, astronomy and other fields.

As for identifying the Sigil of Saturn with the Seal of Solomon, an ancient astronomical work by Sassanian (pre-Islamic Persian) astronomers provides the key mentioned above. The astronomical/astrological work Zij-i Shah (556 AD), which later informed some of the content of the thirteenth century sephardic Picatrix, contains a geocentric diagram representing the apparent movements and conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter which occur every twenty years. [20] As mentioned previously, the circuit of conjunctions passes through all twelve signs of the zodiac in just under 800 years. When passing through the triplicities (the four groups of three signs associated with the elements) the lines connecting the points of the conjunctions in the water-earth or air-fire signs, viewed from a geocentric perspective, trace the six-pointed Seal of Solomon within the circle of the zodiac. [21] As anyone with a compass and a straight rule can prove, connecting these points on a circle with straight lines reveals the Seal of Solomon with the Earth at its center. [22]


At one point in their exhaustive comparisons of morphologies and motifs of myths worldwide, Santillana and von Deschend examined the variants of the motif of the cubic stone, which, as noted earlier, is the platonic solid belonging to Saturn. Without the serendipitous emblematical juxtaposition this author was fortunate to discover in Valladolid ms. 40/8, they observed that “The cube was Saturn’s figure, as Kepler showed in his Mysterium Cosmographicum; this is the reason for the insistence on cubic stones and cubic arks (op cit., 222)”. In their next observation however, they seal the relationship between the IHS symbol and the Sigil of Saturn found in ms. 40/8:

Everywhere, the power who warns ‘Noah’ and urges him to build his ark is Saturn, as Jehovah, as Enki, as Tane, etc. [...] This leads to the conclusion that Noah’s ark originally had a definitive role in bringing the flood to an end. An interesting and unexpected conclusion for Bible experts (op cit., 223, italics added).  

“Saturn” is “Jehovah”? “Jehovah” is “Saturn”? The role Saturn played in the astrologically based proto-psychology of the Renaissance, further supports the view that the Sigil of Saturn was an immediate precursor to the Square & Compasses. [23] Indeed, the heuristic labyrinth becomes especially curious, a most irresistible one for Western Europeans, when we recognize that the only hermetic tradition of Europe in which both of these symbols have played a part is Freemasonry.

If scholars look for proof, it has been written in stone. Another instance of the Sigil of Saturn appears on the tomb of Robert Shaw, in Dumferline, Scotland (obit 1602). Shaw was master of works for his Catholic majesty James VI of Scotland. His role in the introduction of hermetic interests into existing ancient and medieval rituals of the craft guilds of Scottish stonemasons has been thoroughly documented by Scottish historian and professor emeritus of St. Andrew’s University, David Stevenson. [24] The appearance of the Sigil of Saturn on Shaw’s tomb plants the question of its significance for him, given his interests. It becomes strong evidence that the sigil is the direct antecedent of the now familiar Square & Compasses of modern Freemasonry, in part because of the overlapping angles, and also because of the discernibly esoteric meaning they share. In form similar, in meaning the same, the Sigil of Saturn alludes to the limit of the mutable universe, whose solid is the cube. Beyond the mutable universe of the planets lies the immutable expanse of the celestial sphere – hence the compasses. While some details Stevenson advances in connection with the development of Freemasonry are not agreed upon by all experts, Shaw’s, and Sir Robert Moray’s roles in the incorporation of elements of Renaissance


hermeticism into the lore and existing medieval guild rituals performed in lodges of the craft of operative stonemasons are beyond doubt (vide note 31). In summary, beginning in the late sixteenth century and continuing through the seventeenth, Shaw, Moray and their brethren had opportunity, in the social and intellectual milieu that employed elements from the corpus of esoteric symbols; motive, as Stevenson shows in their deliberate incorporation of such interests into the lodges, as more men were “accepted” into the fraternity; and means, as has been seen in the Sigil’s similar form and identical esoteric references to that of the Square & Compasses, i.e., moving beyond the “square” of the earthbound and aspiring to the contemplation of the Creator, dwelling beyond the fixed stars, who had created the orbs and their orbits.

The presence of these symbols in a musical score of a Roman Catholic hymn late in the seventeenth century Spain is evidence, not of a new twig for Masonic historians to add to the already over-luxuriant and largely untrimmed foliage of the history of their origins, but rather, compelling evidence that Freemasonry itself emerged from an eclectic, transcultural, transcredal, esoteric mélange described globally as Western European hermeticism, too often condemned or dismissed as occultism (see endnote 4).  Its raw materials are the common heritage of western intellectuals who speculate on the nature of the totality of creation, whether the researcher was or is Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (Russian or Greek), Protestant (of every stripe), Jewish, Muslim or of any other faith. Once established in any given nation, Freemasons have tended to interpret the symbols and allegories of their “Craft” individually, often idiosyncratically, but usually in ways fully consonant with the various cultural, political and religious milieux in which they live. In English-speaking nations more than in Latin countries, they have held at bay dogmatic and political differences (during lodge meetings at least), creating a temporary stasis or suspended judgement with regard to differences that otherwise divide the group. As Margaret C. Jacob has eloquently shown, the society of Freemasons may be viewed as an experiment in self-government, in the interest of creating a better society, one that is more peaceful, tolerant, supportive and cooperative in spite of differences: hence E pluribus unum. [25] One might compare the phenomenon of Freemasonry to a modern “think tank” in which people of diverse origins and faiths work, sworn to be united in their commitment to the free pursuit of truth, brotherhood and charity. While some archeological and textual curiosities support the origins of Freemasonry from more remote times than the Renaissance, and outside Britain, they lie on the periphery of this article, and the reader is urged to examine the notes for this intriguing tangential material. [26]


Finally, to complete the syncretisms, the language of the lyrics of the song found in Valladolid ms. 40/8 is itself alchemical or hermetic. It expresses concepts veiled by, but philosophically in consonance with, the emblems on the frontispiece. At the same time it is devoutly Roman Catholic. The images of ships that sail through archipelagos of stars and of a bird that plows the seas are not merely examples of Baroque antithesis, although Golden Age scholars unacquainted with hermetic traditions might end their investigations with that exoteric observation. The lyrics reveal a cosmology expressed by the hermetic motto found in the second article of the Emerald Tablet, or Tabula Smaragdina, attributed to Albertus Magnus by scholars, and by hermetic legend to the equally legendary Hermes Trismegistus: Quod est inferius, est sicut (id) quod est superius, etc. (“as above, so below”). [27] The lyrics to Si del alma las alas veloces are presented below:



Si del alma las alas veloces                              If the soul’s swift wings

que la fe le ha dado                                          that faith has given her

para el Pan que oculta,                                    for the Bread faith reserves,

para que volando con ellas                              so that by flying with them

hasta lo inmenso                                             she may ascend

de la gloria suba;                                              to the heights of glory;

si la gracia logra                                               if grace achieves

cielo y mar ocupan,                                         heaven and they occupy the sea,

como son tan grandes                                      since they are so great

que darán muy bellas,                                     that the wings will produce most beautiful,

que darán muy puras,                                     that they will produce most pure,

¡oh, bien hayan sus plumas                            oh, blessed be their feathers

que vuelan y surcan                                        that fly and plow

piélagos de estrellas,                                       through the vastness of stars,

montes de espumas!                                       mountains of foam!





1. Pájaro y bajel que a un tiempo                    At once bird and vessel

con blancas y negras plumas,                          with white and black feathers,

ya sean velas y sean alas;                                let them be sails and wings;

golfos vuelas, cielos surcas.                            you fly through gulfs, plow the heavens.


2. Vuela, pájaro, y del aire,                             Fly, bird, and of the air,

las vari[e]dades ocupas,                                  you dwell in multiplicity,

pues, sediento de esplendores,                       for, hungry for splendors,

a tanto sol haces punta.                                  you make the sun so great your goal.


3. Surca, bajel, pues que tienes                       Plough, vessel, for you possess

feliz norte que conduzca                                 the felicitous north star that may lead

al puerto de la esperanza,                               to the port of hope,

la fe generosa tuya.                                         that generous faith of yours.


4. Vuela, pues, gloriosamente,                        Fly, then, gloriously,

dilatando tu fortuna;                                       extending your fortune;

nido hará en las estrellas,                                a nest will it build among the stars,

añadiendo al cielo muchas.                              adding many more to heaven. [28]



The bird, representing the soul who has taken flight because God’s gift of faith has given it wings, is alluded to by the addition of the winged disk above the Sigil of Saturn. Among the other examples of the sigil I have seen, this is the only one surmounted by wings, and hence invites comparison and speculation about its affinity to the concluding line of the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis noted earlier: “sub umbra alarum tuarum, Jehova”. Likewise, the color symbolism of the black and white feathers of the bird alludes to a dualistic cosmology also said to be alluded to by the black and white battle flag of the Templars, with whom the Freemasons are connected by more than a few colorful but unsubstantiated legends. The chequered pavement associated with Freemasons can be regarded as representing, among other things, the admixture of good and evil. [29] In the flight of the bird, there are parallels with what Octavio Paz has cited in Sor Juana’s references to flights of anabasis, found in her complex cosmological and neo-mythological poem, Primero Sueño. [30] Such a voyage of the soul through the spheres of the universe toward the Empyræum is also found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, a text that once was  influential in some Freemasonic lore. [31]

The sigil mirrors, echoes and foreshadows the mystic application of the lyric’s playful baroque antitheses. The right-angled bars point up and down; the two verticals appear as two columns, about which some has been mentioned, but about which more should be explicated at this point. Whether in connection with Freemasonry’s consciously constructed allegorical traditions, Holy Writ or classical myths or histories connecting Spain’s Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) and Phoenician Tyre, the columns of Melkart and Astarte stood in Tyre appositive to these geographical features at the Western end of the known world, at 36°N latitude. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this number equals the number of degrees of the bisected angle at which the Masonic compasses are extended in many, but not all of their official depictions. [32] The historical Solomon, still a central figure in the universal lore of Freemasonry, also placed these columns on the porch of his Temple, built with materials from shipped from Cádiz (Tarshish), just beyond those straits. Just as Saturn was deemed to be the limit of the mutable universe and hence represented the limit of unaided human reason, so stood the straits as the limit to the safe navigation of the physical world. Finally, one hears echoes of the criss-crossing of up-and-down elements in the rhetorical play of lyrics of the song, in which the bird plows seas and the ship sails through the vastness of the starry sky.

There is yet more meaning to derive from the presence of the columns on Shaw’s tomb and on the title page of the song. Each of the two vertical bars supporting each side of the sigil clearly have a base and capitol and are part of the emblem as used by Shaw and on the manuscript. It might be tempting to suppose that these Spanish examples, occuring eighty years after Shaw’s death, are Masonic pillars. Nonetheless, from what is currently known of the evolution and spread of Freemasonry, the most responsible answer must be no; but only because there is no record of the use of these elements as associated with an organized group of men who actually called themselves Freemasons in Spain until about forty years later when Philip Wharton, the young Duke of Wharton, founded a short-lived lodge there. [33]


Until and unless other evidence, preferably textual, can link some lodge or member of a lodge in England or Scotland with an individual or group in Spain prior to about 1680, this emblem must be considered proto-Masonic, and its presence attributed to the widespread use of this emblem resulting from the diffusion of books such as Agrippa’s. In other words, it emerged on the manuscript from the same ambience in which Shaw found it and thence transmitted it to future generations of Freemasons. If such a person were found, it likely would be among the Catholic Freemasons who tended to be supporters of the Stuart cause during or just after Cromwell. Regardless of where it is found today, the origins of Freemasonry seem forever rooted in the British Isles, even if the elements that formed it came from the Continent or even the Middle East. [34]

Today, the Renaissance and Baroque thinkers are still admired and appreciated for their bold and often defiant inquiries into the nature of the physical world. Modernity is impoverished when the study of the fanciful depictions of their conjectures is neglected in favor of those verbal or mathematical expressions that we still understand with relative ease because we still possess the cultural, linguistic and other codes needed to decipher them. When scholars encounter esoteric texts that resist standard philological solutions, they must delve into hermetic traditions in order to find the keys to read them aright. This ability requires more than a passing familiarity with the inner, hermetic language often employed in explicating them. The study of their words and formulae to the neglect of their depictions can create the false impression that Renaissance, Baroque (or even Enlightenment) Europeans conceptualized or articulated their visions of the cosmos as most moderns do. Other symbols, such as alchemical ones, or others involving secret societies, have become almost unknown, or only superficially understood, except by those who are willing to delve into the labyrinth of esoteric bibliographies in journals of almost exclusive circulation. Due to their hermetic nature, the emblems and those that safeguard them simultaneously, enigmatically and paradoxically resist, repel, invite and resent investigation. [35]



[1] One of St. Martin’s main theses is that the art of the Baroque period was the last breath of Western culture’s emblemmatic cast of mind. It was a unique period of tension in which nascient sciences looked forward with optimism in their empirical, inductive modes of thinking while still adhering to allegorical, symbolic modes of representing their conjectures regarding the nature of reality. See St. Martin, Rupert. Baroque. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1977. See especially chapter four: The Transcendental View of Reality and the Allegorical Tradition.

[2] For biographical data on Galán, the Grove Encyclopedia may be conveniently consulted. For more scholarly details, consult Spanu, Gian Nicola. Cristóbal Galán Maestro della Capella Civica di Cagliari (1653-1656). Annuario Musicale 50 (1995), 46-59 or the critical, bilingual Obras completas de Cristóbal Galán 1. parte. Misa de Difuntos. Baron, John H. & Daniel Hieple, eds. Ottawa: Institute of Mediæval Music, Ltd., 1982. pp. ii-xi. The dating of the title frontispiece for the Misa de Difuntos (Requiem Mass) is important in three ways. First, the Requiem ms. is from the same archive (Valladolid Cathedral ms. 7/22) as ms. 40/8; secondly, their frontispieces are in the same hand. Thirdly, as Baron and Hieple state in their analysis of the Requiem ms., “[they] were written shortly after 1680 and [Galán’s] death in 1684” since the title page for the Requiem names him as “maestro que fue de la capilla real” (“formerly maestro of the Royal Chapel”), a post he left in 1680.

[3] While caution is always a good watchword, it is equally abusive to refuse to follow a path of investigation when a door opens to it as it is to overindulge by introducing personal interpretations. In the latest edition of the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC), a cautionary article appeared in which the author, quoting Hamill, John, AQC 101 (1988), p. 135, observed: “[...] there is a danger that ‘over-enthusiastic members will impose upon Freemasonry highly idiosyncratic interpretations not intended by the originators and achieved by taking similarities between masonic symbolism and symbolism in other fields to be actual correlations and evidence of actual links, interpretations that are alien to most members and at times distasteful [...]”. One must ask whether Hamill considers himself sure enough about what the originators intended or where they obtained their symbols as to pronounce such a categorical condemnation. Such statements cast a chill on what would be fruitful investigations by anathematizing them a priori. There can be no doubt but that Freemasonic symbolism did not originate in a vacuum, as so many capable researchers such as are cited herein have shown. The question is one of balance, and not imposing “idiosyncratic interpretations”, which this researcher has endeavored to avoid. See Washizu, Yoshio. Critical Reading of Masonic Literature. AQC 114 (2001), p. 208.

[4] Piatigorsky, Alexander. Freemasonry: The Study of a Phenomenon. London: The Harvill Press, 1997, pp. 348-349. Some of Piatigorsky’s conclusions about Freemasonry are flawed in this author’s view. He bases his judgements on statements of informants (emic responses) and outsider observations (etic responses) when in fact, no one person, regardless of his position, is the last word on the meaning of Freemasonry, least of all, an outsider.  Nevertheless, this work is still of tremendous value to researchers in any number of fields whose research may cross paths with Freemasonry.

[5] For a more extended treatment of this theory of the Renaissance origin of Freemasonry, see McNulty, W. Kirk. Freemasonry: A Journey through Ritual and Symbol. London: Thames & Hudson, 1993, pp. 5-15. His book refutes the objection one scholar had when consulted in connection with this article, specifically my statement (now nuanced in the body of this article to accomodate her strict constructionist view that eschews speculation in the absence of physical evidence or contemporary testimony) that “Masonic symbolism had nearly coalesced into its current form by the 1680s.” My view, and McNulty’s, are buttressed by at least one fact: The 17th century Freemasons in England were using chalk to draw their symbols, then mopping them up. This explains the lack of preserved evidence, and, it should be noted that the tracing boards that were developed later, within the lifetime of many pre-1717 Masons, is evidence that the tracing boards were simply better compositions than the chalk drawings of decades before, made on a more permanent medium, for use in fixed lodges. But the symbols used included those found at present, with the same meanings, as the quote from McLean supports (p. 5, supra). In addition, and in connection with this theory, and of equal relevance to this article, the definition of the word occult deserves to be elevated from the vulgar quagmire of ignorance, fear and superstition and reinvested by responsible scholars with its radical meaning. While scholars know it refers to any hidden knowledge — indeed St. Paul himself alludes to myteries and enigmas and employs verbal emblemata —, the word has accrued connotations of forbidden knowledge as a result of the persecutorial zeal of inquisitions, religious and political, past and present.


[6] The full text of the English translation of the Fama Fraternitatis may be found online at:

[7] For those interested in an argument in favor of the primary influence of the Pythagorean numerology over that of the Jews, see Kieren Barry. The Greek Qabalah. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1999. For a scholarly treatment of the Christian Kabbala in Spain, including an examination of its influence on St. Teresa of Ávila, see Swietlicki, Catherine. Spanish Christian Cabala. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1986. The various spellings of Kabbala reflect the spellings of the works cited.

[8] Adam McLean, ed., The R. J. Ritman Library’s Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica of Amsterdam, found online at:

[9] The first steps toward modern sciences were dangerous to those early researchers who might incur the wrath of the Church, a reality that often required them to work in secrecy, sharing knowledge only with a select few. The result of the combined secrecy of researchers of old, progress and changing modes of expression, is that depictions that were once represented the vanguards of science are now often regarded as superstitious diagrams, or worse, diabolical talismans. Perhaps even more prejudicial to a balanced view of the history of intellectual progress and its depictions is the smug response that considers them amusing artifacts reflecting pseudo-scientific guesswork instead of illustrations of painstaking efforts to understand and communicate knowledge of the cosmos or other features of the natural world. These depictions included (holistic, neoplatonic thinkers that they were), God and His angels as well as Satan, his demons, and graphic conceptualizations of the abodes of all these otherworldly beings. The worst fate such symbols suffer occurs when they are summarily ignored by academics or anathematized by the religious under the negative aura of the occult. This position is ironic for anyone professing to believe in visibilia omnia et invisibilia omnia, but it is an even less acceptable attitude for academics who profess to distinguish themselves from others by their intellectual curiosity.

[10] “Before patents or copyrights, scientists frequently resorted to ciphers in order to conceal their discoveries from jealous rivals. Two centuries earlier [than Brunelleschi] the Oxford philosopher Roger Bacon, known as ‘Doctor Mirabilis’ for his experiments with telescopes, flying machines, and robots, claimed that no scientist should ever write of his discoveries in plain language but must resort instead to ‘concealed writing’.” See King, Ross. Brunelleschi’s Dome. New York: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2000, p. 25.

[11] Di Santillana, Giorgio and Hertha von Deschend. Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and its Transmission Through Myth. Boston: David R. Godine, Publisher, 1969.

[12] The phenomemon of reveiling a sign, linguistic or otherwise, is a form of hermetic obfuscation decipherable by the application of an array of literary tropes and other techniques known as “green language”. We are not concerned here with heraldic images because they were created by conventional codes, not reveiled ones, that were the common stock of heraldic artists.

[13] Lewis, Fr. Michael. Hallowed be Thy Name. Oxford: Family Publications, 2001, p. 53, note 2 and p. 115, note 2.

[14] Yates, Frances Amelia. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. New York: Routledge, 1972. Thanks in great measure to her Works, esoteric subjects have become a part of legitimate scholarly discourse.

[15] Piatigorsky, op. cit., states: “The most interesting thing [is] that in those objectively observed abstract properties the observer may discover a meaning which may or not be known by the actual performers of the ritual: meaning which may or may not have its subjective aspect. In this connection it is instructive to turn to some well attested cases where the performers themselves do not know the meaning of their actions. The Mayan priests, for example, in the sixteenth century confessed quite candidly that the meanings of many of the rituals they performed, and of some symbols they used, had been irretreviably lost long before the coming of the Spaniards” (p. 296). He also notes that the priests may have been obfuscating.  It should come as no surprise that some Freemasons are more knowledgeable than others and that understanding ritual and ritual proficiency are quite different categories.


[16] Four of the Platonic solids refer respectively to the four elements of which the physical universe was thought to have been created. Their volumes encode the ratios of the mean orbits of the inner planets, true only when seen as circular, not elliptical, as Newton would later prove. These are Kepler’s famous shells, revealing the Harmoniae Mundi. The fifth Platonic solid, the dodecahedron, refers to the quintessence, or spirit. The dodecahedron is a twelve-sided figure, each side of which is a regular pentagon. Ample references to the Platonic solids, the four elements and the astrological lore connected with them may be found in Agrippa’s work (note 18). Various websites give the calculations and refer in detail to the influence of the Five Platonic Solids on Kepler, Newton and others. I am indebted particularly to Mr. Harold Meij, an Australian Freemason, for the linking of the Triple Tau Cross and the Seal of Solomon and their related roles in one aspect of Freemasonry. His site explicates speculative aspects of geometry embedded, or enshrined in the esoteric ritual of the the Royal Arch degree. The geometrical “mysteries” are discernible by anyone willing to repeat his calculations and observe the geometric  relationships linking the figures: Had it not been for that site, this author might never have perceived the relationship between the two symbols on the manuscript, although the relationship between the Square & Compasses and the Sigil of Saturn immediately was suspected. Other sites, by non Freemasons, give identical mathematical data about the Five Platonic Solids but, of course, contain no reference to the relationship between the two symbols found on the Valladolid manuscript. Consequently, they fail to perceive any relation the subject has with esoteric interpretations of what are now preserved as Masonic emblems. A few other sites which show the validity of Meij’s geometric analysis include:, an attractive as well as detailed academic site that includes a rich bibliography of works and articles. Another useful site may be found at:, in which sections of the Timaeus are quoted, and also:, a site which discusses archeological discoveries relevant to the mystery of the transmission of this knowledge from ancient times. Curiously, the use of the mason’s trowel is a Pythagorean element that seems to have been transmitted from ancient times via the hermetic soup into what became Freemasonry (as oppossed to being consciously reconstructed). The French scholar of antiquities, Jean Doresse reports that “[a] tomb was adorned with paintings of a somewhat unusual character – with scenes of initiation and funerals, which attracted the attention of archaeologists. One symbol in particular, the ascia, or masons’ trowel, which was an emblem much used by the Essenians and Pythagoreans, was represented here.” See Doresse, Jean. The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1986, p. 91.

[17] The engraving may be viewed online at:

[18] Agrippa of Nettesheim, Henricus Cornelius. The Three Books of Occult Philosophy. James Freak, tr., Donald Tyson, ed. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2000, p. 735.

[19] Green, Deirdre. Gold in the Crucible: Teresa of Ávila and the Western Mystical Tradition. Worcester: Element Books, Ltd., 1989.

[20] Translated from Arabic into Latin at the Escuela de traductores at the court of Alfonso el Sabio in 1256. A study of this work and further references may be found at:

[21] According to personal correspondence with John Martineau, author and publisher of Wooden Books, he redrew a diagram from the Zij-i Shah of 556 AD, which had been reproduced from the Persian book by Critchlow in Order in Space. On a related note, in the Middle Ages, the precessional constant — the time necessary for the zodiac’s retrograde motion to shift one degree relative to the spring equinox — was thought to be 66.6 years, making each Great Month about 2000 years long. Ignoring the decimal one see the familiar and misunderstood number of Rev. 13:18, the “number of the Beast”. However, since zodiac in Greek means the Circle of Beasts, the comforting esoteric interpretation of the passage in Revelations is that the number does not refer to a person or an anti-Christ, but rather to a period of time as calculated by the precession of the equinoxes. Ancient astronomers thought the precessional constant was 100 years; it is closer to 72 years, to the delight of esotericists. An explanation of the mathematics as well as the history of the calculations and lore about the precessional constant may be found at the following website:


[22] One modern rendition of the tracing of the Seal of Solomon may be viewed online at:

[23] The role of Saturn from Marsilio Ficino’s psycho-astrological perspective provides evidence for the assertion that the modern Square &Compasses may be derived from the Sigil of Saturn. While Saturn’s influences were believed to produce melancholy (see note 17), there was also “gold” there. “In Ficino’s theory of knowledge Saturnian conciousness is proper to Mens, the highest part of the soul, that function farthest removed from the material world. This is neither the spirituality of Sol nor the rationality of Mercury, but rather a function of deep contemplation, distant from the concrete, and it is an achievement in consciousness which Ficino celebrates highly.” Thomas Moore. The Planets Within: The Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino (Great Barrington, Maine: Associated University Presses, 1989), p. 172. It is worth noting in the context of the esoteric soup of Renaissance Europe from which Freemasonry would evolve that among kabbalists, Saturn was identified with Binah, or “understanding”, the third emanation of the sephiroth or Tree of Life.

[24] Stevenson, David. Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century – 1590-1710. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. University of Toronto professor emeritus of classics Wallace McLeod, a member of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge #2076 in London (the nearly 125-year-old “premier lodge of Masonic research”), for instance, has expressed general admiration for the book, but doubts the strength of the Scottish origins of Freemasonry, favoring the more English theories.

[25] Jacob, Margaret C. Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

[26] This fact will not rewrite the history of Freemasonry, nor is it our purpose here to explore that labyrinth. It is worth noting, in passing, that the presence of these symbols on this late 17th-century Spanish document and their coordinated, hermetic significance does highlight the incongruity of the hostile stance of Roman Catholic orthodoxy toward Freemasonry. It must be emphasized that Freemasonry both merged into and emerged from an esoteric soup that all hermetic philosophers were partaking of in the Renaisssance and Baroque periods. By examining the works of St. Bonaventure, Ramón Llull in Majorca, Marsilio Ficino in Italy, those of the Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher in Germany, Robert Shaw in Scotland or Robert Fludd and John Dee in England, one discovers quickly that many orthodox Catholics and Protestants were dedicated neoplatonists, alchemists and hermeticists as well as believing, pious, practicing Christians of every sect. In many cases, they were, as many Freemasons today are, distinguished members of the (mostly Protestant) clergy. Of greatest relevance to the appearance of these symbols in Valladolid ms. 40/8, the conditions in Spain in the twilight of its Golden Age were not the same as those in England during the same period. A couple of generations later, Freemasonry would begin to coalesce and diffuse throughout the world, radiating from London, as a symbolical and allegorical system that has since evolved within limits that make its current permutations recognizable to Freemasons the world over.

[27] Tabula Smaragdina. Julius Ruska, ed. Heidelberg, 1926, p. 2.

[28] Obras Completas de Cristóbal Galán, Vol. VII. Baron, John H. & Eric W. Vogt, eds. Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2002. At press. The notes to the lyrics in that edition have not been reproduced here, most being linguistic; some have been adapted to this topic and incorporated into both the notes and text of this article. The translation of the lyrics, by Vogt, has been reproduced here.

[29] If there is any truth to the legends connecting the Templars and the Freemasons, then the Templars would be another possible route of transmission of Eastern symbolism to Western Europe. Interestingly, the Templars, brutally suppressed in France in the early 1300s, escaped in Portugal by changing their name, in Spain, by merging into other orders; per the Papal Bull Ad Providum, issued May 2, 1312, the property of the Templars was ceded to the Hospitallers, except on the Iberian peninsula. One can only guess what influences they subsequently exerted on Iberian hermeticists.


[30] Octavio Paz. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz o las trampas de la fe. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1982. See chapter 6, El Primero Sueño.

[31] Albert Mackey. The History of Freemasonry. New York: Gramercy Books, 1996, Ch. XLI. The cited editon is a modern reprint of the nineteenth century one. Mackey dismisses the influence of the Enochian legend on the development of English (and hence too on American) Freemasonry.

[32] When opened to 60°, as they also are sometimes depicted, the compasses may be said to allude to the Seal of Solomon (the six points of which are formed from lines connecting the points at which the compasses, opened to the length of the radius, bisect the circumference of the circle). The six points multiplied by the twelve exterior sides equal seventy-two, an esoterically “sacred” number associated with the precession of the equinoxes. Indeed, Shaw’s use of the sigil, a figure reveiling the Seal of Solomon (formed by 60° angles, and Moray’s personal mark, the five pointed star (formed from five 72° angles), would readily account for the two most common angles used in depicting the open compasses. The significance of the number 72, in connection with precession, astronomy and astrologial symbolism was, and has been, of great interest to many Freemasons who have been involved in the design of Washington, DC. See Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C. New York: Harper Collins, 2000, pp. 289-290.

[33] Jasper Ridley. The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1999, p. 39.

[34] Nonetheless, much evidence, sometimes contradictory, exists in articles published by in the AQC to suggest whether or not, and if so, which continental elements contributed to the eventual emergence of Freemasonry. Using archeological data from an English Cathedral, William Kennedy postulated, in Freemasonry: A Possible Origin. AQC, 1994, Vol. 107, pp. 198-200, that the Collegia Fabrorum, or architecture colleges of ancient Rome, had a fraternal structure and taught many of the same things that modern Freemasonry does, using many of the same emblems and figures. A key premise of Masonic symbolism is that graphic symbols are durable and that languages are not. Kennedy did not mention the following item, which adds considerable force to his thesis: a second century AD Roman mosaic recovered from an area of Pompei that still remains to be excavated fully (R.I,5,2). This author is endebted to his colleague Owen Ewald, a classicist, for this Roman Masonic analogue, known as Death the Leveler; it may be found, at:




To wrap enigma in more mystery, this identical depiction of the level, called in ancient Egyptian a khekh,  was also the 55th amulet of Osiris, according to E. A. Wallis Budge’s Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973, Vol. II, p. 37, and Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1978, Vol, I, 563, a.

[35] That is, in exoteric, or widely circulating journals. As seen in note 34, above, there are esoteric journals, but they do not circulate far beyond the esoteric circles producing and consuming them. The best example is, ironically, the most conservative journal in the world dedicated to research on Freemasonry from the point of view of what the founders self-styled the “authentic school”: The Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, referred to several times in this article. It has been continually active in research and publication since its founding by Sir Christopher Warren in 1888. It should be pointed out that it has presented items of a more esoteric nature than Hamill and Washizu (vide note 3) would like. Contributors are almost without exception corresponding members of what is known as the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle (QCCC). Paradoxically, its limited circulation prevents more scholars from becoming familiar with their research.