Orders of the Quest – The Legacy of Our Time
By Manly P. Hall
The history books tell us that the colonists made the long and dangerous journey in small ships in order to find a place where they could worship God, each according to the dictates of his own conscience. There is however much more to the story than our historians have dared to suggest. Among the colonizers were some who belonged to the Order of the Quest, but it was not long before religious strife broke out in the colonies, for men do not change their natures merely by changing their place of habitation. Much of the intolerance of the old world came over to plague the beginnings of the new civilization. It was not easy to preserve high principles in pioneering a country. A lot had to be done before the philosophic empire could emerge out of the simple struggle for existence. And much has yet to be accomplished; we are still pioneering in the sphere of right thinking and right living.
Bacon’s Secret Society
Bacon’s secret society was set up in America before the middle of the 17th Century. Bacon himself had given up all hope of bringing his dream to fruition in his own country, and he concentrated his attention upon rooting it in the new world. He made sure that the American colonists were thoroughly indoctrinated with the principles of religious tolerance, political democracy, and social equality. Through carefully appointed representatives, the machinery of democracy was set up at least a hundred years before the period of the Revolutionary War.
The above cover to Sir Francis Bacon’s Instauratio Magna depicts a ship sailing through two classical columns into an open sea; it symbolizes moving beyond the limits of classical (i.e., ancient Greek) scholarship into a realm of potential unlimited natural knowledge. Francis Bacon challenged contemporary understanding of science as the contemplation of eternal truths long since discovered. In its place he proposed a conception of science as the active investigation of the unknown. At the heart of Bacon’s reasoning is the Instauratio magna (‘Great Renewing’). Its famous frontispiece, shown here, depicts a ship travelling between the metaphorical Pillars of Hercules which were thought to lie at the Strait of Gibraltar and which marked the limit of the known world for classical Greek civilization. It is therefore an allegory for the new world of knowledge beyond the traditional philosophy taught in universities. A Latin phrase below the Pillars is from the Book of Daniel and may be translated as “Many will pass through and knowledge will be increased”.
Bacon’s secret society membership was not limited to England; it was most powerful in Germany, in France, and in the Netherlands, and most of the leaders of European thought were involved in the vast pattern of his purpose. The mystic empire of the wise had no national boundaries and its citizenry was made up of men of good purpose in every land. The Alchemists, Cabalists, Mystics, and Rosicrucians were the incisive instruments of Bacon’s plan. Representatives of these groups migrated to the colonies at an early date and set up their organization in suitable places.
“Francis Bacon modelled his life’s work, The Great Instauration, on the Bible. The 6 Parts of the Instauration are structured exactly on the pattern of the 6 Days of Creation described in the Book of Genesis. This 6-fold norm is central to other parts of Bacon’s philosophy.” — J. North, 2009
One example will indicate the trend. About 1690, the German Pietist theologian, Magistar Johannes Kelpius, sailed for America with a group of followers, all of whom practiced mystical and esoteric rites. The Pietists settled in Pennsylvania and their descendents still flourish in Lancaster county. Kelpius for some years lived as an Anchorite in a cave located in what is now Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. The Pietists brought with them the writings of the German mystic, Jacob Boehme, books on magic, astrology, alchemy, and the cabala. They had curious manuscripts illuminated with strange designs, and their principal text was called “An ABC Book for Young Students Studying in the College of the Holy Ghost.“ The Pietists brought the order of the Mustard Seed, and the Order of the Woman in the Wilderness to the new world.
Kelpius was a man of feeble health and after a few years died from the hardships and exposures of his religious austerity. The inner circle of his order was composed entirely of celibates, and as these died there were none to take their places; and so far as the public knows, his secret society did not survive. Actually it did continue; but with the changing of the times it returned again to its secret foundations, disappearing entirely from the public view.
The early years of the 18th Century brought with them many changes in the social and political life of the American colonies. By this time most of the Atlantic seaboard was dominated by the English. Cities had sprung up, important trade flourished with the mother country, and the colonial atmosphere was in small counterpart that of the English countryside.
The first modern Freemasons’ Lodge was held at Twickenham Park and Gray’s Inn, London England. It consisted of Three Degrees and the Royal Arch. It’s first members were drawn from the Rosicrosse Literary Society: A Rosicrosse-Mason was a Brother who was privy to the Secrets of the Craft and the Rose.
Francis Bacon created the Higher Christian Degrees gradually through the years, the majority being tried out at Twickenham Lodge. In 1620 all the Degrees had been created with their traditional histories, feigned tales and rituals; and the Brotherhood was well established in Lodges, Chapters and Presbyteries dotted all over the Kingdom England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Continent. It had even spread through military and naval officers and gentlemen to the New World.
By this time most of the important secret societies of Europe were well represented in this country. The brotherhoods met in their rooms over inns and similar public buildings, practicing their ancient rituals exactly according to the fashion in Europe and England. These American organizations were branches under European sovereignty, with the members in the two hemispheres bound together with the strongest bonds of sympathy and understanding. The program that Bacon had outlined was working out according to schedule. Quietly and industriously, America was being conditioned for its destiny–leadership in a free world.
The Secret Destiny of America
The New World and Benjamin Franklin
Any account of secret societies in America would have to include tribute to the man who has been called the “First American Gentleman”–Benjamin Franklin. Although Dr. Franklin was never the country’s President, nor a military general, he stands out as one of the most important figures in the struggle for American independence. Quiet, dignified, scholarly and gentle, Franklin foresaw a new goal for an ever changing world through the square bifocal glasses of which he was the inventor.
Historians have never ceased to wonder at the enormous psychological influence which Franklin exercised in colonial politics. But up to the present day, few indeed are those who have realized that the source of his power lay in the secret societies to which he belonged and of which he was the appointed spokesman. Franklin was not a law maker, but his words became law. Beneath the homely wisdom which he circulated in his Almanac, under the pseudonym of Poor Richard, was a profundity of scientific and philosophic learning. He understood both the farmer and the philosopher, and could speak the languages of both. When Benjamin Franklin went to France to be honored by the State, he was received too by the Lodge of Perfection, the most famous of all the French secret orders; and his name, written in his own fine hand, is in their record ledger, close to that of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Lafayette was born to immense wealth in France, but at 19 years old he bought a ship and sailed to South Carolina to join the American Revolution, arriving on June 13th. He volunteered to serve in the Patriot army without pay, saying that, “the welfare of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind.” His intelligence and passion for the American cause were quickly appreciated, leading Congress to commission him a Major General. His famous friendship with George Washington led him to later give Washington a key to the Bastille (still displayed in the front hall at Mount Vernon) and name his own son after the man he saw as an honorary father.
Franklin spoke for the Order of the Quest, and most of the men who worked with him in the early days of the American Revolution were also members. The plan was working out, the New Atlantis was coming into being, in accordance with the program laid down by Francis Bacon a hundred and fifty years earlier. The rise of American democracy was necessary to a world program. At the appointed hour, the freedom of man was publicly declared.
The Origin of the Democratic Ideal
by Manly P. Hall
World democracy was the secret dream of the great classical philosophers. Thousands of years before Columbus they were aware of the existence of our western hemisphere and selected it to be the site of the philosophic empire. The brilliant plan of the Ancients has survived to our time, and it will continue to function until the great work is accomplished. The American nation desperately needs a vision of its own purpose.
“By preserved symbols we can know that it is from the remote past, from the deep shadows of the medieval world, as well as from the early struggles of more modern times that the power of American democracy has come.” — Manly P. Hall
America cannot refuse the challenge of leadership in the postwar world. Mere physical reconstruction of ravaged countries and the reorganization of political, economic, and social systems is the lesser task we will face. The larger problem and the great challenge is in how to set up a new order of world ethics firmly established on a foundation of democratic idealism.
Experts in various fields have already submitted programs designed to meet the needs of those nations whose way of life has been disrupted by war. But with the failing common to specially trained minds, these planners incline to think mostly in the terms of their own particular interests. As yet, no one has touched the fundamentals of international ethics. No one has advanced a working plan securely based upon a broad, deep, and sympathetic understanding of the human being and his problems. The thinking has been in the dual fields of power politics and material economics, with remedies expressed in terms of charts, blueprints, patterns, and industrial programs.
But, there is one new and encouraging element present in most of the recommendations of today’s experts. They are recognizing the necessity of conceiving the world as one interdependent structure. Yet, even as they recognize the need for a unity of human interests, their recommendations are for the perpetuation of highly competitive economic policies, which, if they are consistently applied, must lead in the end to war and discord.
It is not an easy task to unite the efforts of the human race toward the accomplishment of any common good. Mankind in the majority is selfish, provincial in attitude, and concerned primarily with personal success and acquiring creature comforts. It will not be possible to build an enduring peace until the average man has been convinced that personal selfishness is detrimental to personal happiness and personal success. It must be shown that self-seeking has gone out of fashion, and that the world is moving on to a larger conception of living.
The postwar planners have more of idealism in their programs than has ever before been expressed in the problem of the relationships of nations. But it still is not enough. A clear and complete statement of a world purpose is required — a world dream great enough to inspire unity of world effort.
These are the days of America’s opportunity to lead a still troubled mankind toward a better way of life. If we meet this challenge, we will insure not only survival of our nation for centuries to come, but we shall gain the enduring gratitude of our fellowmen and Americans will be remembered to the end of time as a great enlightened people.
It is not enough that we solve particular problems. We must solve the very cause of problem itself. Wars, depressions, crime, dictators and their oppressions, are the symptoms giving clear indication of a greater ailment. To examine each problem solely in terms of the problem itself, without recognition of its true relationship to a larger and more universal necessity, is to fail in the broader implications of an enduring peace and prosperity.
Experience should have taught us long ago that policies which have originated from material considerations and attitudes have proved inadequate. The whole story of civilization and the records of history tell us that all such adjustments hold no hope of lasting peace or security. But, here we are again preparing ourselves to be satisfied with temporary solutions for permanent problems.
The recognition is long overdue that we over simplify the problem of world peace when we think that process is one of breaking the task down for examination of its materialistic parts, and then hopefully devising an applicable remedy for each of these. The physical conditions of human existence are not the whole of the human problem. We could adjust all material considerations to the point of supreme equity, and yet accomplish virtually nothing solutional.
The greatest of known problems is the human problem. And not until all embracing examination is made into every phase of human needs can there be an adequate reconstruction policy for a postwar world. That man is physical is obvious; but he is also mental, and emotional; he is spiritual, and he has a soul. These latter factors are not so obvious.
What to do about them is not so easy; for they are difficult to understand, and even more difficult to classify and reduce to a working pattern. We as builders of a civilization will have to learn that only when equal consideration is given to each of these elements of man’s nature will we arrive at the solutions for the disasters into which men and nations precipitate themselves.
Our postwar reconstructors–ours, if not by our selection, at least with our consent–are not outstandingly qualified for this broader task. Few indeed are the statesmen and politicians who have any conception of man as a spiritual being. And as for military leaders, they are primarily disciplinarians, invaluable as such in times of war, but not at all emotionally geared to problems of individualistic peacetime character. And world planners recruited from among our industrial leaders, it must be admitted, are not generally informed on the workings of the human psyche. Those who have made the study of human conduct their life work, the sociologists, have little scientific knowledge of the hidden springs that animate that very conduct into its amazing diversity of manifestations. And if a word is to be said for bringing in the clergy, it might be that the theologian planner who will be truly useful will be one who acquires at least some knowledge of the science of biology.
We are displaying a woeful lack of vision in the way we fumble with the eternal laws of life. It is not enough that we now hopefully create a setup permitting men to give allegiance with their minds or to serve faithfully with their bodies. We must some day face the truth that man is inevitably and incurably an idealist; for this is the truth that will set us free. Man’s need is for the idealistic content of his nature to be properly nourished; then his whole consciousness will impel him to right action and then no more will our laws fail, treaties be broken, and the rights of man stand violated.
“The American nation desperately needs a vision of its own purpose. It must conceive it in a generous idealism, great and strong enough to bind thoughtless and selfish persons to something bigger than themselves. It must recognize that it is in the intangible ideal that the foundations are laid for all seeable good, must know that the truly practical course and the course of hard realism for America is the one that is laid basically in a generous idealism.
This is more than an indicated course. It is one that we inevitably must follow, guided by the hand of destiny. Believing this to be so, I dedicate this book to the proposition that American Democracy is part of a Universal Plan. “ — Manly P. Hall
Our world is ruled by inflexible laws which control not only the motions of the heavenly bodies, but the consequences of human conduct. These Universal motions, interpreted politically, are impelling human society out of a state of autocracy and tyranny to democracy and freedom. This motion is inevitable, for the growth of humans is a gradual development of mind over matter, and the motion itself represents the natural and reasonable unfoldment of the potentials within human character.
Those who attempt to resist this motion destroy themselves. To cooperate with this motion, and to assist Nature in every possible way to the accomplishment of its inevitable purpose, is to survive.
Thousands of years before the beginning of the Christian era many enlightened thinkers discovered the will of God as expressed through Nature in the affairs of men. They made known their discoveries in terms of religions, philosophies, sciences, arts, and political systems. These first statements are now the admired monuments of ancient learning. Available to men of today, they are generally ignored.
“My years of research among the records of olden peoples available in libraries, museums, and shrines of ancient cultures, has convinced me that there exists in the world today, and has existed for thousands of years, a body of enlightened humans united in what might be termed, an Order of the Quest. It is composed of those whose intellectual and spiritual perceptions have revealed to them that civilization has a Secret Destiny–secret, I say, because this high purpose is not realized by the many; the great masses of peoples still live along without any knowledge whatsoever that they are part of a Universal Motion in time and space.” — Manly P. Hall
“After returning from his wanderings, Pythagoras established a school, or as it has been sometimes called, a university, at Crotona, a Dorian colony in Southern Italy. Upon his arrival at Crotona he was regarded askance, but after a short time those holding important positions in the surrounding colonies sought his counsel in matters of great moment. He gathered around him a small group of sincere disciples whom he instructed in the secret wisdom which had been revealed to him, and also in the fundamentals of occult mathematics, music, and astronomy, which he considered to be the triangular foundation of all the arts and sciences.” — Manly P. Hall
Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed are among the greatest names recorded in history; but it is not customary to regard the men who bore these names as statesmen or sociologists. They are thought of as philosophers, sages, seers, and mystics, whose doctrines have no application to the political needs of an industrial civilization. Yet it is men like Plato and Buddha who still exercise the most powerful force in mortal affairs toward the perpetuation and preservation of a civilized state among all nations.
All of the great leaders of ancient times realized and taught that the establishment of a state of permanent peace among the nations depended upon the release of human ideals, but through properly trained and disciplined minds capable of interpreting these ideals in terms of the common good.
World democracy was the secret dream of the great classical philosophers. Toward the accomplishment of this greatest of all human ends they outlined programs of education, religion, and social conduct directed to the ultimate achievement of a practical and universal brotherhood. And in order to accomplish their purposes more effectively, these ancient scholars bound themselves with certain mystic ties into a broad confraternity. In Egypt, Greece, India, and China, the State Mysteries came into existence. Orders of initiated priestphilosophers were formed as a sovereign body to instruct, advise, and direct the rulers of the States.
Thousands of years ago, in Egypt, these mystical orders were aware of the existence of the western hemisphere and the great continent which we call America. The bold resolution was made that this western continent should become the site of the philosophic empire. Just when this was done it is impossible now to say, but certainly the decision was reached prior to the time of Plato, for a thinly veiled statement of this resolution is the substance of his treatise on the Atlantic Islands.
“One of the most ancient of man’s constructive ideals is the dream of a universal democracy and a cooperation of all nations in a commonwealth of States. The mechanism for the accomplishment of this ideal was set in motion in the ancient temples of Greece, Egypt, and India. So brilliant was the plan and so well was it administrated that it has survived to our time, and it will continue to function until the great work is accomplished.
Philosophy set up its house in the world to free men by freeing them of their own inordinate desires and ambitions. It saw selfishness as the greatest crime against the common good, for selfishness is natural to all who are untutored. It recognized that the mind has to be trained in the laws of thinking before men can be capable of self-rulership. And it knew that the democratic commonwealth can be a reality only when our world is a world of self-ruling men.
And so it is from the remote past, from the deep shadows of the medieval world as well as from the early struggles of more modern times, that the power of American democracy has come. But we are only on the threshold of the democratic state. Not only must we preserve that which we have gained through ages of striving, we must also perfect the plan of the ages, setting up here the machinery for a world brotherhood of nations and races. This is our duty, and our glorious opportunity.” — Manly P. Hall
It seems to me that the basic plan for the postwar world should be one solidly founded in this great dream of Universal Brotherhood. It is not enough to work on the problem solely in terms of politics and industry. The formula must express a broad idealism, one which appeals to the finest intuitions of man, and one universally understandable by all who have lived, dreamed, and suffered on this mortal sphere.
“If we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us.” — Francis Bacon
The End of the Quest
In America shall be erected a shrine to Universal Truth, as here arises the global democratic Commonwealth–the true wealth of all mankind, which is designed in the foundation that men shall abide together in peace and shall devote their energies to the common cause of discovery. … The power of man lies in his dreams, his visions, and his ideals. This has been the common vision of man’s necessity in the secret empire of the Brotherhood of the Quest, consecrated to fulfilling the destiny for which we in America were brought into being.
“Religion, science, and philosophy are the three parts of essential learning. A government based upon one or even two of these parts must ultimately degenerate into a tyranny, either of men or opinion. These three realize the unity of knowledge; they are the orders of the Quest ” — Manly P. Hall
PHILOSOPHY teaches that the completion of the great work of social regeneration must be accomplished not in society but in man himself.
“The democratic commonwealth can never be legislated into existence. Nor can it result from formal treaties or conferences. This is clearly indicated in the tragedy of the League of Nations. The League failed to prevent war because the nations which composed the League lacked the courage of high conviction; they failed the very institution which they themselves had established. ” — Manly P. Hall
Permanent progress results from education, and not from legislation. The true purpose of education is to inform the mind in basic truths concerning conduct and the consequences of conduct. Education is not merely the fitting of the individual for the problems of economic survival. This is only the lesser part of learning.
The greater part deals with the intangibles of right motivation and right use. No human being who is moved to action through wrong motivations, or misuses the privileges of his times, can be regarded as educated, regardless of the amount of formal schooling he has received.
The human mind is established in knowledge not alone by the reading of books or the study of arts and sciences, but by the examples set up by leaders and the personal experiences of living. According to the Baconian system, there are three sources of learning. The first is tradition, which may be derived from books. The second is observation, by which we learn from the actions of each other. And the third is by experimentation, which is a study of causes and consequences brought about by personal conduct.
“The supreme human purpose is the perfection of man. This must come first, and when this end has been achieved all good things will inevitably follow.
Only enlightened men can sustain enlightened leadership; only the wise can recognize and reward wisdom. ” — Manly P. Hall
In a democratic way of life the very survival of the State depends upon the intelligent cooperation of its people. Where men make their own laws, they must live according to the merits and demerits of the statutes which they have framed.
The Greek law giver, Solon, declared that in the ideal State laws are few and simple, because they have been derived from certainties. In the corrupt State, laws are many and confused, because they have been derived from uncertainties. These corrupt laws are like the web of a spider which catches small insects but permits the stronger creatures to break through and escape.
Where there are many laws there is much lawlessness, and men come to despise and ridicule the restraints that are imposed upon freedom of action. Corrupt laws, resulting from efforts to amend inadequate legislation by further inadequate legislation, reveal a general ignorance of right and wrong. Where such ignorance exists the ideal function of democracy is impossible, and liberty degenerates into license.
The half-truth is the most dangerous form of lie, because it can be defended in part by incontestable logic. Wherever the body of learning is broken up, the fragments become partial truths. We live in a day of partial truths; and until we remedy the condition we must suffer the inevitable consequences of division.
According to the Ancients, religion, philosophy, and science are the three parts of essential learning. Not one of these parts is capable if separated from the rest, of assuring the security of the human state. A government based upon one or even two of these parts must ultimately degenerate into a tyranny, either of men or of opinion.
Religion is the spiritual part of learning, philosophy the mental part, and the sciences, including the arts and crafts, the physical part. As man himself has a spiritual, mental, and physical nature, and all of these natures manifest in his daily living, he must become equally informed in all the parts of his nature if he is to be self-governing. “Unbalanced forces perish in the void,” declared a prophet of old; and this is true beyond possibility of dispute.
“When the human race learns to read the language of Symbolism, a great veil will fall from the eyes of men. They shall then know truth and, more than that, they shall realize that from the beginning truth has been in the world unrecognized, save by a small but gradually increasing number appointed by the Lords of the Dawn as ministers to the needs of human creatures struggling to regain their consciousness of Divinity.” — Manly P. Hall, Melchizedek and the Mystery of Fire
“The Platonic commonwealth had as its true foundation the unity of learning. In the midst of the philosophic empire stands the school of the three-fold truth.
1. Religion-Love is the quest of truth by means of the mystical powers latent in the consciousness of man.
2. Philosophy-Wisdom is the quest for truth by the extension of the intellectual powers toward the substance of reality.
3. Science-Power is the quest for truth by the study of the anatomy and the physiology of the body of truth, as it is revealed in the material creation.
These three, then, are the Orders of the Quest. Together they can bring about the perfection of man through the discovery of the Plan for man. ” — Manly P. Hall
One of the great secrets of antiquity was this realization of the unity of knowledge and the identity of the Quest in all the branches of learning. The great philosophers of the past were truly great because they approached the problem of life as priest-philosopher-scientist. The title “The Wise” is properly applied only to those in whose consciousness the unity of knowledge has been established as the pattern of the Quest.
“It was part of the ancient Plan that has descended to us to build again the ideal university–the college of the six days work. Here would be taught the same arts and sciences that we teach today, but from a different basic premise. Here men would learn that the sciences are as sacred as the theologies, and the philosophies are as practical as the crafts and trades. Those mystical extra-sensory perceptions viewed with suspicion by the materialist would then be developed according to the disciplines of the sciences, and all learning would be consecrated to the supreme end that men become as the gods, knowing good and evil.
This university is the beginning of democratic empire. No longer would it be a secret school–the House of the Unknown Philosophers. It would emerge from the clouds which have concealed it from the profane for thousands of years and take its rightful place as the center and fountain-head of the Ever Living Good.” — Manly P. Hall
When humanity willfully ignores the Universal laws which govern its destiny, Nature has devious ways of pressing home its lessons. Civilization after civilization has been built up by human courage and destroyed by human ignorance. We stand again on the threshold of a great decision. Once more the workings of time have revealed the weaknesses of our social structure. Once more we have come to a day of reckoning.
In the postwar world one of two courses lies before us. Either we will make the old mistakes again, and try to force our own concepts upon the Universe; or we will gather our strength for one heroic effort to put things right.
If we make the old mistakes we will be rewarded by the old pain. But if we make the new effort, we can set up imperishable footings and bestow as a heritage the beginnings of a better way of life. According to our choice the results will be inevitable, for Nature will never change her ways. Let us consider her ways and be wise.
“The Eternal Good reveals its will and pleasure through the body of Nature and the motions of Universal Law. Within the body of Nature and Law there is a soul which must be discovered by great thoughtfulness. And within that soul of Nature and Law there is a spirit which must be sought with great understanding; for verily I say unto you, my brothers, that it is this spirit concealed from the profane but revealed to the thoughtful, which giveth life.” — A secret master of the Quest
This, then, is the design of our foundations: that men shall abide together in peace and shall devote their energies to the common cause of discovery.
Man is greater than the animal, not in strength of body, nor in shrewdness, nor in the power of his senses, nor even in skill and patience; man is superior because he contains within himself the faculties and powers by which he can perceive his true place in a divine order of life.
His power lies in his dreams, his visions, and his ideals. If these intangibles are left uncultivated, man is at best but a superior kind of beast, subject to all the ills and vicissitudes of an unenlightened creation.
But, as man has locked within him, hidden from the public gaze, this diviner part, so it is true that human society has within itself concealed from our common view a nobler part composed of the idealists and dreamers of all ages and of all races who have been bound together by their common vision of man’s necessity. This is the secret empire of the poets, this is the order of the Unknown Philosophers, this is the Brotherhood of the Quest.
And never will these dreamers cease their silent working until that dream is perfected in our daily life. They are resolved that the Word which was made flesh shall become the Word made Soul.
“The great University of the Six Days Work must be built here in our Western world, to become a guide unto the nations. About this shrine to Universal Truth shall rise the democratic Commonwealth – the wealth of all mankind.
This is the destiny for which we were brought into being. The plan, which was devised in secrecy long ago, and in far places, shall be fulfilled openly … as the greatest wonder born out of time.” — Manly P. Hall
“The Man of the Mysteries dedicated to the TRUTH”
The Symbols of the Great Seal of the United States of America
Is the American eagle actually a Phoenix? Selection of the fabulous bird of the ancients seems to have been the intention of the designer of our nation’s Great Seal. The Phoenix is the symbol of the Reborn in wisdom. … The design on the reverse of the Great Seal is even more definitely related to the Order of the Quest. The pyramid and the all-seeing eye represent the Universal House surmounted by the radiant emblem of the Great Architect of the Universe …. These three symbols in combination is more than chance or coincidence.
On the reverse side of of America’s Great Seal is an unfinished pyramid to represent human society itself, imperfect and incomplete. Above floats the symbol of the esoteric orders, the radiant triangle with its all seeing eye. Was it the society of the unknown philosophers who earned the new nation with the ancient and eternal emblems?
When the time came to select an appropriate emblem for the great seal of the United States of America, several designs were submitted. These are described by Gaillard Hunt, in The History of the Seal of the United States, published in Washington, D.C., in 1909. Most of the designs originally submitted had the Phoenix bird on its nest of flames as the central motif. One of the designs now familiar to us was finally selected, and Benjamin Franklin was asked for his opinion of the choice.
Franklin gave his immediate approval, observing naively that it was very appropriate to select the wild turkey as the symbol of the new country: The turkey was a bird of admirable quality, hard working and industrious, and of good moral character, and a fowl also with a marked aversion for the color red, at that time unpopular among the colonists.
When it was explained to Franklin that the bird on the seal was intended to represent an eagle he was bitterly disappointed; and he insisted that the drawing did not look like an eagle to him, and furthermore, an eagle was a bird of prey with few of the respectable qualities of the wild turkey.
The Phoenix is a sacred, mystical female firebird with beautiful gold and red plumage. It has been said that the designer had drawn a Phoenix. Its selection would of course have been appropriate.
Among the ancients a fabulous bird called the Phoenix is described by early writers such as Clement, Herodotus, and Pliny; in size and shape it resembled the eagle, but with certain differences. The body of the Phoenix is one covered with glossy purple feathers, and the plumes in its tail are alternately blue and red. The head of the bird is light in color, and about its neck is a circlet of golden plumage. At the back of its head the Phoenix has a crest of feathers of brilliant color. Only one of these birds was supposed to live at a time, with its home in the distant parts of Arabia, in a nest of frankincense and myrrh. The Phoenix, it was said, lives for 500 years, and at its death its body opens and the new born Phoenix emerges. Because of this symbolism, the Phoenix is generally regarded as representing immortality and resurrection.
“All symbols have their origin in something tangible, and the Phoenix is one sign of the secret orders of the ancient world and of the initiate of those orders, for it was common to refer to one who had been accepted into the temples as a man twice-born, or re-born. Wisdom confers a new life, and those who become wise are born again.
The Phoenix symbol is important in another way, as an emblem among nearly all civilized nations of royalty, power, superiority, and immortality. The Phoenix of China is identical in meaning with the Phoenix of Egypt; and the Phoenix of the Greeks is the same as the Thunder Bird of the American Indians.” — Manly P. Hall
In the accompanying drawing, the head of the bird as it appeared on the great seal of 1782 is compared with the present form. It is immediately evident that the bird on the original seal is not an eagle, nor even a wild turkey as Franklin had hoped, but the Phoenix, the ancient symbol of human aspiration toward Universal good. The beak is of a different shape, the neck is much longer, and the small tuft of hair at the back of the head leaves no doubt as to the artist’s intention.
But if this design on the obverse side of the seal is stamped with the signature of the Order of the Quest, the design on the reverse is even more definitely related to the old Mysteries.
Here is represented the great pyramid of Giza, composed of 13 rows of masonry, showing 72 stones. The pyramid is without a cap stone, and above its upper platform floats a triangle containing the All-Seeing Eye surrounded by rays of light.
This design was not pleasing to Professor Charles Eliot Norton, of Harvard; he summed up his displeasure in the following words.
“The device adopted by Congress is practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly (however artistically treated by the designer) look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a Masonic Fraternity.” — Professor Charles Eliot Norton, Harvard, The History of the Seal of the United States
If incapable of artistic treatment, the great seal is susceptible of profound interpretation. The Pyramid of Giza was believed by the ancient Egyptians to be the shrine tomb of the god Hermes, or Thoth, the personification of Universal Wisdom. The Pyramid is the Universal house, and above its unfinished apex is the radiant emblem of the Great Architect of the Universe.
No trace has ever been found of the cap of the great pyramid. A flat platform about thirty feet square gives no indication that this part of the structure was ever otherwise finished; and this is appropriate, as the Pyramid represents human society itself, imperfect and incomplete. The structure’s ascending converging angles and faces represent the common aspiration of humankind; above floats the symbol of the esoteric orders, the radiant triangle with its all-seeing eye. The triangle itself is in the shape of the Greek letter D, the Delta, the first letter of the name of God–the divine part of nature completing the works of men.
There is a legend that in the lost Atlantis stood a great university in which originated most of the arts and sciences of the present race. The University was in the form of an immense pyramid with many galleries and corridors, and on the top was an observatory for the study of the stars. This temple to the sciences in the old Atlantis is shadowed forth in the seal of the new Atlantis. Was it the society of the unknown philosophers who scaled the new nation with the eternal emblems, that all the nations might know the purpose for which the new country had been founded ?
The obverse of the great seal has been used by the Department of State since 1782, but the reverse was not cut at that time because it was regarded as a symbol of a secret society and not the proper device for a sovereign State. Quite rare are discoveries of the use of this symbol in any important form until recent years. Most American citizens learned for the first time what was the design on the reverse of their seal when it appeared on the dollar bill, series of 1935A.
So far as anyone may know, the use of the seal in 1935 was probably without premeditation or special implication. But it is interesting that its appearance should coincide with great changes affecting democracy in all parts of the world. As early as 1935 the long shadows of a world tyranny had extended themselves across the surface of the globe. Democracy was on the threshold of its most severe testing. The rights of man, that Thomas Paine defended, were being assailed on every hand by selfishness, ambition, and tyranny. Then on the common medium of our currency appeared the eternal emblem of our purpose.
The combination of the Phoenix, the pyramid, and the all-seeing eye is more than chance or coincidence. There is nothing about the early struggles of the colonists to suggest such a selection to farmers, shopkeepers, and country gentlemen. There is only one possible origin for these symbols, and that is the secret societies which came to this country 150 years before the Revolutionary War. Most of the patriots who achieved American independence belonged to these societies, and derived their inspiration, courage, and high purpose from the ancient teaching. There can be no question that the great seal was directly inspired by these orders of the human Quest, and that it set forth the purpose far this nation as that purpose was seen and known to the Founding Fathers.
The monogram of the new Atlantis reveals this continent as set apart for the accomplishment of the great work–here is to arise the pyramid of human aspiration, the school of the secret sciences. Over this nation rules the supreme king, the Ever Living God. This nation is dedicated to the fulfillment of the Divine Will. To the degree that men realize this, and dedicate themselves and their works to this purpose, their land will flourish.
To depart from the symbol of this high destiny is to be false to the great trust given as a priceless inheritance.
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3 thoughts on “Quest of the Ages”
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