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Freemasonry: The Witchcraft Connection
by William J. Schnoebelen
[William Schnoebelen was deeply involved in both Witchcraft as a Wiccan high priest and the Masonic order for many years. He was a Mason for nine years and a Witch for sixteen years. In the Lodge, he held offices of Junior Warden in the Blue Lodge, Prelate in the Commandery of the York Rite, Master of the Veil in the Royal Arch degree, and Associate Patron in the Order of the Eastern Star. Additionally, he was a 32° Mason and a Shriner. He is now a Born Again Christian and the author of 5 books, including Masonry: Beyond the Light.]
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…—1Samuel 15:23
In understanding the spiritual difficulties of a Born Again Christian being a Mason, it is necessary to realize that there are highly occult elements woven into the very warp and woof of Freemasonry. Thus, the Lodge is not just “another religion” like the Muslims or the Buddhists—although that alone should be enough to keep Christians from involving themselves in it. The nature and character of the Lodge’s deepest theological underpinnings are rooted in Witchcraft and Paganism.
Now that may be an astonishing assertion to some, especially to most Masons. However, it is very easily proven. Few people, within the Craft of Masonry or otherwise, perceive that just because a Bible lies open on the altar and Bible verses and characters play an important part in the ritual of the Lodge, that this does not prevent the Lodge from being of the nature of the occult or Witchcraft.
This can be illustrated by a very simple illustration. Back in the 1970’s, when I first became a Witch, a very popular how-to book on magic was Raymond Buckland’s Popular Candle-Burning.1 In this book were “recipes” for spells for everything from healing, to love spells, to protection spells. On one set of pages of the book would be a spell for healing, complete with instructions on the burning and movement of certain colored candles. The spell would be a full-blown Witchcraft ritual, Pagan to the core!
On the following pages would be the same ritual, with the same candles, the same instructions. However, the text of the “spell” would be drawn from the Psalms or other Bible verses. These were provided for readers who were a little too squeamish to actually do a Witchcraft incantation, but still wanted results.
Now the question becomes: Even though those rituals were full of Psalms, were they still Witchcraft? Of course, the answer would have to be yes. In like manner, even though Bible phrases and characters abound in the Masonic ritual work, the presence of those elements cannot somehow “sanctify” what is essentially a Pagan ritual full of Witchcraft overtones.
Perhaps it would be helpful to have a few terms defined before we go further. Witchcraft (or Wicca,2 the term for “white” or good Witchcraft) can be broadly defined as a mystery religion based on the ancient fertility cults of Pre-Christian Europe. Many Witches are polytheists—meaning that they believe in more than one god or goddess. Some are monotheists, believing in only one deity. Even most polytheistic Witches today, however, acknowledge that ultimately there is one supreme deity somewhere. The popular saying by 20th century master occultist Dion Fortune (Violet Firth) speaks to this: “All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess, and there is but one Initiator.” Pressed, you will find that most knowledgeable Witches will reveal that the “one Initiator” is Lucifer, who is the Light-Bringer, the Illuminator, and the sun-deity. He is not felt to be a devil-figure by Wiccans, but only the consort of the Great Mother Goddess.
Witchcraft, in its religious sense, involves the veneration of the forces of reproduction—both in plant, animal and human life. Thus, human and animal sexuality are revered, the cycle of the seasons celebrated; and rituals do frequently involve the use of ritual tools which symbolize the human reproductive organs (wands, daggers, goblets, cauldrons, etc.) Many Witchcraft groups even have ritual sex, believing that this is an important way to encounter the gods.
The term, “mystery religion” means that it is a religion in which elements are kept hidden from the “profane” (non-members). You can only learn these elements by going through a formal initiation in which you are ceremonially set apart from the masses and sworn formally to secrecy. Only then are you entrusted with the group’s secrets, and then in degrees. In other words, there are things a “third grade” or “third degree” Witch is allowed to know that a first degree Witch is not.
A secondary element in Witchcraft is the belief in magic. However, it is only secondary—contrary to popular belief. A good—though broad—definition of magic which many Witches would accept is that given by magician (and 33° Mason) Aleister Crowley: “the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with [your] will.” Though this definition is broad enough to include things normally not thought of as magic, like picking up a pencil (you caused a change in the pencil’s position to occur in conformity with your will); most Witches understand it to mainly apply to causing change to occur without a visible, tangible cause in the environment.
Many Witches do not attempt to “work magic” (in the sense of trying to cause change to occur in the forces of nature or human beings) but just enjoy worshipping their gods or goddesses. Thus it is not an absolute requirement that Witch practice magic, or that a magician be a Witch. In fact, the above-mentioned Aleister Crowley would never have called himself a Witch (or warlock).3
Finally, we need to define Paganism. This is basically a belief in the forces of nature as being sacred. Pagans are usually pantheists, in that they belief that a kind of god-force is in everything—trees, animals, rocks, etc. Essentially, a Pagan believes most everything the Witch believes, but is kind of a lay person, whereas a Witch is more of a Priestess or Shaman. The typical Pagan may not have access to some of the deeper “mysteries” of Witchcraft which are not available to the un-initiated.
Getting down to business: ritual resemblances
With these definitions in mind, we can begin to examine the similarities between the Masonic theology and ritual and the workings of a Witchcraft group. One point, however, must be clarified. Modern Wicca is just that—modern. Although it claims mythic descent to groups back in the Stone Age, it is actually a comparatively modern religion. As it is currently constituted, Wicca is barely a century old. This is not to say that it doesn’t draw on elements from the ancient mystery cults. To be certain, it does—to a high degree. However, it is a difficult task to ascertain whether contemporary Wicca so strongly resembles Freemasonry because two of its principle architects (Aleister Crowley and Gerald B. Gardner) were Masons; or whether that similarity is a derivation of more ancient practices.
As interesting an academic point as that might be, it is essentially irrelevant to the broader question. If Masonic rituals were engrafted into Witchcraft in the late 19th and early 20th century, and if that melding was so seamless and effortless—even to the point that in some cases, the Wiccan rites were less bizarre and blasphemous than there Masonic counterpart, then what message does that send about Masonry? As a preacher friend of mine, Jim Spencer, observed, “If the devil can preach my sermons without changing them much, what does that say about my sermons?”
With that point in mind, let us look first at the ritual similarities between contemporary Wicca and Freemasonry:
A) Both are built on a foundational system of three degrees; with a few forms of Wicca offering some higher degrees after the third degree has been achieved.
B) Both are secret societies; in that both membership rolls are secret, and secrets are kept from the general populace (to a greater or lesser degree) by both religions. Both generally meet in secret, except for rare open and public events.
C) Both have highly ceremonial initiations to pass from one degree to another, including sworn oaths.
D) Both have ceremonial purgings and purifications of their ritual space before commencing any ritual work.
E) The precise similarities between the two groups are: Both groups…
1. Cause candidates to strip off all secular clothing
2. Cause the candidate to be divested of all metal
3. Hoodwink (blindfold) the candidate and ceremonially tie ropes around him—though the form of the tying varies.
4. Cause the candidate to stand in the Northeast corner of the “temple”4 in the first degree
5. Challenge the candidate by piercing their naked chest with a sharp instrument (Witches use a sword, Masons, the point of a compass)
6. Challenge the candidate with secret passwords
7. Lead the candidate blindfolded in a circumambulation (walking around) of the temple.
8. Require the candidate to swear solemn oaths of secrecy before being given custody of the secrets of the group.
Interestingly enough, the oaths of a Witch are much milder and less gruesome than the oaths of a Freemason. Here is the text of a first grade oath from the Witchcraft Book of Shadows (ritual work-book):
I, [NAME], in the presence of the Mighty Ones, do of my own free will and accord, most solemnly swear that I will ever keep the secrets of the Arte [Magical Arts—author] and never reveal the secrets of the Arte, except it be to a proper person, properly prepared and within a magic circle such as I am now in.
All this I swear, by all my hopes of a future life, mindful that my measure has been taken; and may my weapons turn against me, if I should break this, my solemn oath.5
This sounds ridiculously mild in comparison to the 1° oath of an Entered Apprentice Mason, which is too long to quote in its entirety, but which ends like this:
All this I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steadfast resolution to keep and perform the same…binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly violate this my Entered Apprentice obligation, so help me God and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.6
As all students of Freemasonry know, that grisly oath is but the beginning in a series of ever more horrid oaths which the candidate is required to take. The oaths of the three degrees of Witchcraft are like a Sunday School lesson by comparison! But, let’s return to our list of similarities:
9. Both have a ceremonial un-hoodwinking of the candidate, following the oath, before lighted candles which is intended to bring “illumination.”
10. Both convey to the new initiate the “working tools” pertinent to that degree, and each of their uses are taught to them.
11. In both, the tools have correspondences both in the ceremonial realm, and in similarities to human reproduction.
12. Both, in the higher degrees, take the initiate through a ritual death-and-rebirth experience, in which the initiate acts the part of a hero (heroine) of the Craft.
13. Both cause the candidate to endure (while being blindfolded) being picked up, spun around, carried around, being jostled or struck from person to person. This is supposed to produce an “altered state of consciousness.”
14. Both Wicca and Freemasonry are, by co-incidence or design, both referred to as “The Craft.”
Having given almost two dozen precise similarities between the ritual work of Witchcraft and the Lodge, it should not surprise us to see that there is also some doctrinal or philosophical resemblance between the two:
A. Both Witches and Masons revere the powers of human reproduction (albeit most Masons do so unknowingly). The most obvious example of this is the use of the ceremonial Masonic apron, which covers the “Holy of Holies” of Freemasonry, the male groin area. This fact has been adequately documented in many places (elsewhere in this volume?).7
B. The authorities of Freemasonry, most notably Albert Pike, 33° and Manly P. Hall, 33° (both occultists par excellance) write that the essential, underlying philosophy of Freemasonry is Kabbalism and Gnosticism.8 Kabbalism is a system of Jewish mysticism and magic and is the foundational element in modern Witchcraft.
Virtually all of the great Witches and sorcerers of this century were Kabbalists. Gnosticism is an ancient, anti-Christian heresy best summarized by the statement: “One is saved by acquiring secret, unknown knowledge (Greek: gnosis).” Thus, all mystery religions, including Witchcraft and Masonry are, per force, Gnostic in character.
C. Both Witches and Freemasons seek salvation through “illumination” or receiving “The Light.” This is, in a way, a corollary to (B), but it is important, because of the centrality of this symbolism in both sects.
D. Both groups teach a kind of salvation by works, not grace.9 The occult doctrine of reincarnation is explicitly taught in Witchcraft and implicitly taught in the Lodge.
E. Finally, both groups deny the unique character and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.10 Both deny the resurrection of Christ.11 Most people would have no trouble believing that Witches deny these beliefs, but in this, the Wicca are identical to the theology of the Lodge.
Getting to the root
There are also significant historical antecedents which go a long way towards explaining this current “coziness” between Witchcraft and Masonry. It can be readily shown that Freemasonry is rooted in the medieval occult societies of Europe, such as the Templars and the Rosicrucians.12
Indeed, many Masonic writers boast about these connections. Additional associations pop up with the dangerously subversive Illuminati Ordnen of Adam Weishaupt in the 18th century.13
It is vital to understand that this past interchange between Masonry and these various occult groups did not stop in the 18th century. If anything, it has grown more prominent in the past century. There is something about the Lodge that has always attracted sorcerers. The historical list of occultists and Witches in the last century who were Freemasons reads like a Who’s Who of 20th century occultism:
•Arthur Edward Waite—occult writer and Masonic historian
•Dr. Wynn Westcott—member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia and founding member of the occult Order of the Golden Dawn—the most influential magical society of the 19th – early 20th century.
•S. L. MacGregor Mathers—co-founder of the Golden Dawn.
•Aleister Crowley—master Satanist of this century and founder of the anti-christ religion of Thelema—claimed to be “The Great Beast 666”.
•Dr. Gerard Encaussé—(Papus) masterful author, teacher of the Tarot and leader of the occult Martiniste society.
•Dr. Theodore Reuss—head of the O.T.O., a German occult/satanic society which made Crowley its head for the British Isles.
•George Pickingill—the Grand Master Witch of 19th century England, leader of the “Pickingill covens.”
•Annie Besant—leader of the occult Theosophical society and Co-Masonic hierarch (Yes, there are female Masons!)14
•Alice Bailey—founder of the proto-New Age organization, Lucis (formerly Lucifer) Trust.
•Bishop Charles W. Leadbetter—Theosophist, mentor to the failed New Age “Christ”, Krishnamurti, and prelate in the occult Liberal Catholic Church
•Manly P. Hall—Rosicrucian adept, author, founder of the Philosophical Research Society.
•Gerald B. Gardner—founder of the modern Wiccan (white Witchcraft) revival.
•Alex Sanders—self-styled “King of the Witches” in London and one of the most influential leaders of Wicca after Gardner.
Would you really wish to belong to an organization which welcomed these powerful sorcerers into its midst with open arms? This is not to mention the many minor occultists (as I was), who are in the lodge—drawn by its mysterious power. At least three or four of my male Witch friends were in the Masons, and all of my leaders were! There is a real reason for this strong affinity between Masonry and Witchcraft. It is because the Lodge is plugged into an international network of Witchcraft—a hierarchy of evil.
The “All-Seeing Eye” of the Masons is, of course, an occult symbol.15 Its use on the Great Seal of the United States is not without significance either (see the back of any dollar bill). You will note that the “Eye” is there perched atop an incomplete pyramid with the date (in Roman numerals) of 1776 A.D. at the bottom.
The year 1776 is also the year that Adam Weishaupt founded the Illuminati! Then realize that the trapezoid (what the unfinished pyramid really is) is a most significant symbol in Satanism.16 The symbol on that seal is actually a metaphor for the oppressive hierarchy which reigns over the Masonic lodge, and by extension, over much of U.S. government; and the “Eye” symbolizes Lucifer’s dominion over it.
Being a Mason (of whatever degree) is like going through your life with all that spiritual garbage weighing down on you. It is like having a King Kong-sized monkey on your back! While all levels of Masonry have their share of Witches; the Palladium, the Illuminati, the Ancient rites and the Supreme Council are especially likely to have them, in one form or another.
The Mason is “unequally yoked” together with all these unbelievers and Witches in rebellion to the word of God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) and that alone is enough to knock the spiritual stuffing out of any man, even supposedly “good, solid Christians”!
You see, in an occult sense, Freemasonry is much like the fabled “pyramid scheme.” It is a hierarchy in which the highest levels leech off the lower levels. Just as in the marketing schemes, the person at the top of the pyramid draws in most of the revenues because of the efforts of hundreds or thousands of people under him, so the same element works within the lodge, even as it does—to a much smaller degree—in a Witchcraft coven!
First of all, it is a financial pyramid. We have already mentioned that a Mason must spend hundreds of dollars, perhaps close to a thousand, to go through the degrees. Additionally, they must pay dues every year to each and every body they have joined. This could amount, depending on the level of involvement, to several hundred dollars a year.
While some of that money goes into necessities, and some of it goes into charity, some of it also ends up in places of which Lodge members have no knowledge. Of course, our local leaders were obviously not getting rich, but there was a lot of free-floating cash somewhere up in the ranks.
“Psychic Vampires” IN THE LEADERSHIP?
In the occult, we used to talk about psychic vampires—people who just seemed to suck the life out of a person. Of course, black magicians excel in this. They leave people feeling drained. What most people don’t realize is that an organization can function in much the same way.
The Lodge functions like a spiritual sponge in many ways. Think of all the millions of man hours Masons put into their lodge work: memorizing the degree material, attendance at meetings, extracurricular lodge activities (dinners, banquets, funerals, picnics). Those Masons who are Christians pour hours of time and energy into the lodge, and it just laps it up and begs for more.
I know, I used to be heavily involved in lodge work. I was out of the house at least two week nights! Then, because I was a lodge officer, I had to spend additional hours working on memorizing the ritual work. I had to be there before the lodge opened and after it closed. I had to attend all lodge functions and funerals.
Think of the lodge meeting itself—it is opened in solemn fashion, with a ritual which may take fifteen to twenty minutes. If there is an initiation, the meeting can run to hours, sometimes three or four hours for third degree. All that energy is going somewhere, friends, and it isn’t to God!
I can only speak from Witchcraft experience, but quite often our leaders would just suck the energy right out of us. They were accomplished psychic vampires, whether they realized it or not. Someone, somewhere, is getting an awful lot of energy out of these thousands of lodge meetings. Ultimately, of course, it is Lucifer, who is delighted to receive it as worship!
This is energy not being expended in Godly church activities. These men could be teaching Bible studies, running youth groups, visiting the sick or doing neighborhood witnessing. But no, they are sitting in a lodge room watching ancient and dusty mummery being performed while the light of the Holy Spirit within them flickers out.
Over and over, we see vital Christians who join the lodge, don’t see the trap, and then gradually it sucks all the life out of their walk with Jesus. It banks their fires of zeal and turns them, ultimately, into dead backsliders. Some stop going to church. Now this may not happen to all Christian Masons, but if it hasn’t, it is only because of God’s mercy. The Holy Spirit will not continue to bless a man who continually sups at the devil’s table. (1 Corinthians 10:21, Genesis 6:3) Sooner or later, something will give. Sadly, it is often the church activity.
The Image of Jealousy!
The Masonic temple is a temple of Witchcraft! There can be little doubt about that. Veiled within its symbols are the deities and even the working tools of Witchcraft! As has been shown, the square and compasses are representations of the generative organs—the “sacred altar” of Witchcraft! The blazing star at the center of the lodge is the Witch’s pentagram, symbol of the god of Satanism, Set! The Letter “G” stands for generativity, sexual potency.
The resemblances between Freemasonry and Witchcraft are manifold and striking and should chill the bones of any Mason. If Freemasonry is so Godly, how could it possibly be interchanged by both Witches and Satanists so freely?
Beyond that, the point needs to be made that virtually all of the above mentioned resemblances are part of the ancient practices of pagan antiquity as well. Witches 2,000 years ago were doing the same things that Masons are doing today. Masonic writers boast of this (although they don’t use the word “Witch,” they talk about “mystery religions,” but it is the same thing).
Let’s face it, the Masonic tie tacks and rings which so many Masons wear proudly to their churches on Sunday are sexual idols. The true God of the Bible is not a sex organ! That may seem a ridiculously obvious statement to make, but the Mason needs to be reminded of it. This is the very “image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy” (Ezekiel 8:3).
The gods of all the pagan nations around Israel like Ba’al were all sexual idols! This is precisely what God does not want in His church, and yet all these Masons are flaunting both their idols and their membership.
It is a testimony to the graciousness and loving-kindness of Father God that these churches are not flattened by the breath of His nostrils—that they are not “vomited out” of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). However, both they and their individual members may well be paying a horrible price for their continued winking at the sin of Freemasonry in their camp!
1 Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN. 1972.
2 For a complete examination of this religion from a Christian perspective, see WICCA: SATAN’S LITTLE WHITE LIE, by the author, Chick Publications, Chino, CA. 1990.
3 Contrary to popular belief, most male witches do not wish to be called warlocks. The term actually is a derivation of an old English word, meaning “traitor.” Today, the word warlock is mostly used by male Satanist witches in application to themselves. Few Wiccans would wish to use the term.
4 In Witchcraft, the “temple” is frequently not a building, but rather a sacred “Magic Circle” laid down on the floor of a room with great ceremony. It is the sacred space of the Wicca, and serves the same function as a temple does to the Mason.
5 Taken from a private copy of the Book of Shadows in the author’s possession. Copies of this oath, however, can be found in Stewart Farrar’s WHAT WITCHES DO, THE GRIMOIRE OF LADY SHEBA, and June Johns’ KING OF THE WITCHES, as well as other writings.
6 Malcolm C. Duncan, DUNCAN’S RITUAL MONITOR, David McKay Co., Inc., New York, n.d., p.34-35.
7 Schnoebelen, MASONRY: BEYOND THE LIGHT, Chick, Chino, CA. 1991, p.146, 155-160, 214-215.
8 See Albert Pike, MORALS AND DOGMA, p.839, 22, 744-45, etc.; Manly P. Hall, THE LOST KEYS OF FREEMASONRY, p. 48.
9 Duncan, op. cit., p.129, and TENNESSEE CRAFTSMEN OR MASONIC TEXTBOOK, Grand Lodge of Tennessee, 1983, p. 17.
10 R. S. Clymer, THE MYSTICISM OF MASONRY, 1900, p. 47; J.D. Buck, SYMBOLISM OR MYSTIC MASONRY, 1925, p. 57.
11 Pike, p.539, and Henry C. Clausen, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE FOR THE SCOTTISH RITE, Supreme Council, 33°, Washington, DC, 1981, pp. 75-77.
12 Schnoebelen, MASONRY, pp.161-178.
13 ibid., p.179-190.
14 The author and his wife were members of a Co-Masonic Lodge. These are more openly occult and are under the rite of L’Droit Humaine (Human Rights Lodge). They admit men and women as equals. Co-Masonry is affiliated with the Theosophical Society and today finds its headquarters in Larkspur, CO.
15 William Schnoebelen & James R. Spencer, WHITED SEPULCHERS, Triple J Publications, Boise, ID, 1990, p.20
16 ibid., p. 44-50, citing material found in master Satanist Anton LaVey’s newsletter, “The Cloven Hoof”, vol. VIII, #6.