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Primitive Freemasonry

The Primitive Freemasonry of the antediluvians, or people of before the Flood times, is a term for which we are indebted to Doctor Oliver, although the theory was broached by earlier writers, and among them by the Chevalier Ramsay. The theory is, that the principles and doctrines of Freemasonry existed in the earliest ages of the world, and were believed and practiced by a primitive people, or priesthood, under the name of Pure or Primitive Freemasonry; and that this Freemasonry, that is to say, the religious doctrine inculcated by it, was, after the flood, corrupted by the Pagan philosophers and priests, and, receiving the title of Spurious Freemasonry, was exhibited in the Ancient Mysteries. The Noachidae, however, preserved the principles of the Primitive Freemasonry, and transmitted them to succeeding ages, when at length they assumed the name of Speculative Freemasonry. The Primitive Freemasonry was probably without ritual or symbolism, and consisted only of a series of abstract propositions derived from antediluvian traditions. Its dogmas were the unity of God and the immortality of the soul.

Doctor Oliver, who gave this system its name, describes it (Historical Landmarks I, page 61) in the following language: "It included a code of simple morals. It assured men that they who did well would be approved of God; and if they followed evil courses, sin would be imputed to them, and they would thus become subject to punishment. It detailed the reasons why the seventh day was consecrated and set apart as a Sabbath, or day of rest; and showed why the bitter consequences of sin were visited upon our first parents, as a practical lesson that it ought to be avoided. But the great object of this Primitive Freemasonry was to preserve and cherish the promise of a Redeemer, who should provide a remedy for the evil that their transgressions had introduced into the world, when the appointed time should come."

In his History of Initiation Doctor Oliver makes the supposition that the ceremonies of this Primitive Freemasonry would be few and unostentatious, and consist, perhaps, like that of admission into Christianity, of a simple lustration, conferred alike on all, in the hope that they would practice the social duties of benevolence and good-will to man, and unsophisticated devotion to God.

He does not, however, admit that the system of Primitive Freemasonry consisted only of those tenets which are to be found in the first chapters of Genesis or that he intends, in his definition of this science, to embrace so general and indefinite a scope of all the principles of truth and light, as Preston has done in his declaration, that "from the commencement of the world, we may trace the foundation of Freemasonry." On the contrary, Doctor Oliver supposes that this Primitive Freemasonry included a particular and definite system, made up of legends and symbols, and confined to those who were initiated into its mysteries. The knowledge of these mysteries was of course communicated by God himself to Adam, and from him received by his descendants.

This view of Doctor Oliver is substantiated by the remarks of Rosenberg, a learned French Freemason, in an article in the Freemasons Quarterly Review, on the Book of Raziel, an ancient Cabalistic work, whose subject is these Divine mysteries. "This book," says Rosenberg, "informs us that Adam was the first to receive these mysteries. Afterward, when driven out of Paradise, he communicated them to his son Seth; Seth communicated them to Enoch; Enoeh to Methuselah; Methuselah to Lamech; Lamech to Noah; Noah to Shem; Shem to Abraham; Abraham to Isaac; Isaac to Jacob; Jacob to Levi; Levi to Kelhoth; Kelhoth to Amram; Amram to Moses; Moses to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; the Prophets to the Wise Men; and then from one to another down to Solomon." Such, then, was the Pure or Primitive Freemasonry, the first System of mysteries which, according to modern Masonic writers of the school of Oliver, has descended, of course with various modifications, from age to age, in a direct and uninterrupted line, to the Freemasons of the present day. The theory is an attractive one, and may be qualifiedly adopted, if we may accept what appears to have been the doctrine of Anderson, of Hutchinson, of Preston, and of Oliver, that the purer theosophic tenets of "the chosen people of Clod" were similar to those subsequently inculcated in Freemasonry, and distinguished from the corrupted teaching of the Pagan religions as developed in the Mysteries. But if we attempt to contend that there was among the Patriarchs any esoteric organization at all resembling the modern system of Freemasonry, we shall find no historical data on which we may rely for support.

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