In the earliest rules set out in the Book of Constitutions, a lodge that fell outside the governance of a Grand Lodge was deemed Clandestine. A Lodge that didn’t accept the existence of a Supreme Being (God) is now deemed irregular. A clandestine Lodge has no right to refer themselves as Freemasons as they fall outside of the original tenets and principles of Freemasonry, as association with a Grand Lodge is paramount. There is no telling just what occurs once a Clandestine Lodge closes it door for a meeting, where as in regular and irregular Freemasonry can be visited at anytime, and unannounced, by an officer of Grand Lodge.A Grand Lodge would also be deemed as clandestine if it is not recognised by either a regular nor an irregular Grand Lodge.
That’s quite a mixed title and subject for this short sketch on people’s views of Freemasonry, so where to begin? Quite simply at the beginning, with the guilds and companies of the craftsmen in Medieval/Middle aged Britain. During this time in the Europe and the Middle East, countries were strongly influenced, and in many cases governed, by religion, namely Islam and Christianity, with Judaism sprinkled amongst them. So we will acknowledge that the people of this world were deeply religious, in whatever faith they might choose (or mostly by whichever religion governed their region at this time.) As our subject once more is Freemasonry, we will begin in Britain, namely England and Scotland.
The term Freemasonry in itself has many differing views as to its origin, so for this article we will assume that it refers to the the joining of non operative masons into the guild of stone masons, and concentrate on this guild above the others. Guilds were like today’s trade unions but had more influence on the behaviour of their members than those of today, so in England and Scotland Christianity had a massive influence. As you may expect, the guilds main aim was to provide work for their members and protect the Masters or Architects from unskilled labour, and also train apprentices in their craft. It was a little like the closed shop once demanded by Trades Unionists but with laws and rules that governed the members behaviour in all life, not just the workplace. There was a strong influence of the laws of God.
But rather than discuss the guilds, we will jump to the time when non operative men became members (around the 16th/17th century); the beginning of Freemasonry. Like the guilds, each group or Lodge of Freemasons followed the ancient charges (rules) and regulations of their predecessors. One of the main aims of the guilds was charity and relief should their members be in need, another was in their good behaviour and respect for the laws God and the ordinances of the land they resided at all times. Remember to take into account and understand that this was the age of enlightenment; an intellectual and philosophical movement of these times, not to be confused with Illuminati (plural of the Latin word Illuminatus, literally meaning “revealed” or “Enlightened”).
Four of these Lodges in London came together in 1717 to form a Grand Lodge, or a governing body of Freemasonry, and soon after it attracted the eyes and ears of royalty who became members. This, of course, put Freemasonry into the news of the day. Many other Lodges joined this group and the ceremonies of initiation of Apprentices into the group and their graduation into Fellows of the craft were refined. All members came together as equals, although they were required to be freemen of the times and not tied to any Lord or landowner.
Without entering deeply into the history of Freemasonry, some Lodges rebelled against this “pure” form of Freemasonry and a schism formed within a few years with a group of Freemasons that wanted to believe that Freemasonry had been around since “time immemorial.’ They themselves formed a rival Grand Lodge but these two soon reunited and formed the United Grand Lodge of England. Other Grand lodges had formed throughout the world, mainly due to trade, wars and colonisation.
The belief in a supreme being, God, is a strict requirement for membership of Freemasonry, and in Freemasonry the monolithic religion members choose to follow wasn’t then, and isn’t now, relevant, just the belief that there is one God was and still is the requirement. However, this requirement was removed in France in the 19th century as they chose to give their Lodges a choice of belief or not, hence they moved away from the ancient tenets and principles written into the constitution of regular Freemasonry (but still follow the other basic tenets and principles); thus the Grand French Lodge was thereafter deemed ‘irregular;’ the brethren of the other Grand Lodges deemed ‘regular.’
Within the realms of Freemasonry, there is no other group than these, noting once again that any Lodge (or so called Grand Lodge) meeting outside the governance of a regular or irregular Grand Lodge is not considered to be Masonic in any way shape or form. These are classed as clandestine (See Opening Statement).
So, where does the ‘Illuminati, Gnostics and Kabbala fit in to our world of Freemasonry? The simple answer is they don’t!!
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Illuminati, the source of the “light” was viewed as being directly communicated from a higher source or due to a clarified and exalted condition of the human intelligence. The former class belong the Alumbrados (Spanish: “enlightened”) of Spain. A Spanish historian traces them back to a Gnostic origin. This article takes us on to France and then the Rosicrucians. Their teachings combined something of Egyptian Hermetism, Christian gnosticism, Jewish Kabbala, alchemy, and a variety of other occult beliefs and practices.
Perhaps the group most closely associated with the name illuminati was a short-lived movement of republican free thought founded on May Day 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law at Ingolstadt and a former Jesuit. The members of this secret society called themselves “Perfectibilists.” Their founder’s aim was to replace Christianity with a religion of reason. See more here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/illuminati-group-designation.
This brings us on the the Lexicon of Masonry (Albert Mackey) where it states that the ‘Illuminati’ was a secret society instituted in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt. It states that Weishaupt was a radical in politics, an infedal in religion and he formed this association to overturn Christianity and the institutions of society. With the view of carrying his objectives more completely into effect, he united himself with a Lodge of Freemasons in Munich and attempted to graft his system of Illuminism upon the stock of Freemasonry. Many Freemasons, mislead by the construction of his first degrees, were enticed into the order, but developments made in the higher degrees, so averse from all the loyal and virtuous principles of Masonry, soon taught them the error of their ways causing them to abandon Illuminism with greater rapidity than they had embraced it. Some who had abandoned the order went so far as to betray its secret principles. Consequently the authorities of Bavaria in completely removed this from their territories. However, it didn’t die here as it made rapid progress in other parts of Germany and also in France. It was an institution created at the period when the ‘locust plague’ of infidelity and atheism was blighting the peace and order of Europe, but upon the return of sense and virtue, it ceased to exist.
Illuminism belongs only to the past, although it may have had a fleeting association with a single Lodge in Freemasonry, it found no place in the hearts of any true freemason, regular or irregular, but could find its way even today, into the minds of members of a clandestine lodge.
‘Gnosticism, any of various related philosophical and religious movements prominent in the Greco-Roman world in the early Christian era, particularly the 2nd century. The designation gnosticism is a term of modern scholarship. It was first used by the English poet and philosopher of religion Henry More (1614–87), who applied it to the religious groups referred to in ancient sources as gnostikoi (Greek: “those who have gnosis, or ‘knowledge’ ”). A precise definition of gnosticism has proved difficult. The groups conventionally classified as gnostic did not constitute a single movement with relatively homogeneous organisation, teachings, and rituals. Even the self-designation gnostic is problematic, since it is attested for only some of the traditions conventionally treated as gnostic, and its connotations are ambiguous. Whereas some researchers argue that the term gnostic should be restricted to the sects or schools that called themselves by that name, others extend the category to include additional religious movements that allegedly shared various distinctive features. Still others treat gnosticism as a world religion that existed from antiquity to early modern times—surviving, for example, in the mythology and ritual of the Mandaeans (having knowledge) of Iraq and Iran.’ (https://www.britannica.com/topic/gnosticism )
So with respect to Freemasonry, it being a philosophical organisation but most definitely not a religious movement, using Gnosticism in association to Freemasonry may in itself be correct in some respects, but Freemasonry has no further connection to any organised form of Gnosticism, which, from the above definition, simply doesn’t exist as an organised group or body anyway.
Apart from having a variety of spellings (Kabala, Kabbalah, Cabala, Cabbala, or Cabbalah), this Jewish mysticism has nothing to do with Freemasonry, despite there being many books where the author is determined to prove that it is. It has also come to the ears of the writer that some even believe that followers of Kabbala “drink the blood of children,’ a statement in itself far to ridiculous to be believed by any sane person! This inane thinking has also spread into some of the ridiculous conspiracies surrounding Freemasonry – what utter nonsense!!!
The following definition is from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: ‘Kabbala has always been essentially an oral tradition in that initiation into its doctrines and practices is conducted by a personal guide to avoid the dangers inherent in mystical experiences. Kabbala is also “tradition” inasmuch as it lays claim to secret knowledge of the unwritten Torah (divine revelation) that was communicated by God to Moses and Adam. Though observance of the Law of Moses remained the basic tenet of Judaism, Kabbala provided a means of approaching God directly. It thus gave Judaism a religious dimension whose mystical approaches to God were viewed by some as dangerously pantheistic and heretical.’ See: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kabbala
The completion of the third degree in Freemasonry (Royal Arch – now considered a degree in its own right in most, if not all, constitutions) is where some make an association with Kabbala, the reasons why are a complete mystery. At the time of its beginning, somewhere around 1740 are the first records and, as with all the other preceding degrees, this degree in Freemasonry is the work of Christian men. The history of Freemasonry stems, as stated above, from the guild of stone masons, whose existence began when Britain was a strongly Catholic nation, and even after the reformation of the 16th century, Britain remained strictly Christian, with King Henry VIII and his successors replacing the Pope as head of the English (Anglican) Church. To associate this degree (and other degrees) in the belief of an origin or influence by this Jewish Mysticism can only stem from the rituals that revolve around the building of King Solomon’s Temple. This Temple was built for Solomon, King of the Hebrew tribe of Biblical times (Old Testament) and associated with the assistance provided to King Solomon by the skilled artificers of Hiram, King of Tyre’s people; the whole of the Bible is accepted as God’s Law by Freemasons.