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Francis Bacon and the Society of the Rose Baron of Verulam, commonly called Lord Bacon. Nicolai thinks that a great impulse was exercised upon the early history of Freemasonry by the New Atlantis of Lord Bacon. In this learned romance Bacon supposes that a vessel lands on an unknown island, called Bensalem, over which a certain King Solomon reigned in days of yore.
This king had a large establishment, which was called the House of Solomon, or the college of the workmen of six days, namely, the days of the creation. He afterward describes the immense apparatus which was there employed in physical researches. There were, says he, deep grottoes and towers for the successful observation of certain phenomena of nature; artificial mineral waters; large buildings, in which meteors, the wind, thunder, and rain were imitated; extensive botanic gardens; entire fields, in which all kinds of animals were collected, for the study of their instincts and habits; houses filled with all the wonders of nature and art; a great number of learned men, each of whom, in his own country, had the direction of these things; they made journeys and observations; they wrote, they collected, they determined results and deliberated together as to what was proper to be published and what concealed.
This romance became at once very popular, and everybody's attention was attracted by the allegory of the House of Solomon. But it also contributed to spread Bacon's views on experimental knowledge, and led afterward to the institution of the Royal Society, to which Nicolai attributes a common object with that of the Society of Freemasons, established, he says, about the same time, the difference being only that one was esoteric and the other exoteric in its instructions.
But the more immediate effect of the romance of Bacon was the institution of the Society of Astrologers, of which Elias Ashmole was a leading member.
Of this society Nicolai, in his work on the Origin and History of Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, says :
"Its object was to build the House of Solomon, of the New Atlantis, in the literal sense, but the establishment was to remain as secret as the island of Bensalem-that is to say, they were to be engaged in the study of nature---but the instruction of its principles was to remain in the society in an esoteric form. These philosophers presented their idea in a strictly allegorical method. First, there were the ancient columns of Hermes, by which Iamblichus pretended that he had enlightened all the doubts of Porphyry. You then mounted, by several steps, to a checkered floor, divided into four regions, to denote the four superior sciences; after which came the types of the six days' work, which expressed the object of the society, and which were the same as those found on an engraved stone in my possession. The sense of all which was this: God created the world, and preserves it by fixed principles, full of wisdom; he who seeks to know these principles---that is to say, the interior of nature---approximates to God, and he who thus approximates to God obtains from his grace the power of commanding nature." This society, he adds, met at Masons Hall in Basinghall Street, because many of its members were also members of the Masons Company, into which they all afterward entered and assumed the name of Free and Accepted Masons, and thus he traces the origin of the Order to the New Atlantis and the House of Solomon of Lord Bacon. That is only a theory, but it seems to throw some light on that long process of incubation which terminated at last, in 1717, in the production of the Grand Lodge of England. The connection of Ashmole with the Freemasons is a singular one, and has led to some controversy.
The views of Nicolai, if not altogether correct, may suggest the possibility of an explanation. Certain it is that the eminent astrologers of England, as we learn from Ashmole's Diary, were on terms of intimacy with the Freemasons in the seventeenth century, and that many Fellows of the Royal Society were also prominent members of the early Grand Lodge of England which was established in 1717.
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