The GNOSIS interview with Christopher Knight
By Richard Smoley
Few areas of thought invite the same fascination and controversy as alternative history. In recent generations more and more such accounts have seen print: Immanuel Velikovsky claimed that the earth had collided with comets in recorded history; Erich wn Daniken insists that an- cient cultures encountered extraterrestrials; Graham Hancock says the pyramids of both the Old and New Worlds are relics of a civilization that thrived 10,000 years before Christ.
ln this tradition stand Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas whose new book The Hiram Key (published by Element Books) traces a long and elaborate thread between the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Freemasonry of today.
The story is an intricate one. According to Knight and Lomas, the fundamental principle of Egyptian religion was Ma'at a word connoting levelness order and symmetry; later it came to mean up-rightness in the moral sense—an ideal they say that was part of the Egyptian legacy to Freemasonry.
Moreover the Pharaohs of the Old and Middle Kingdoms were initiated using rites that were believed literally to transform the monarch into the embodiment of the god Horus. During a period of social breakdown between 1780 and 1560 B.C. some usurpers tried to steal this esoteric knowledge from the young Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II.
Seqenenre did not give up his knowledge so thc upstarts killed him. This claim Knight and Lomas is the source of the legend of Hiram Abfi. To back up their claim they point to Seqenenre's mummy which displays the same wounds to the head that Hiram suffered according to the Masonic rites.
Seqenenre carried his secrets to the grave with him but the Egyptian priests used the story of his martyrdom as part of a reformulated ritual. This knowledge say Knight and Lomas was handed down through the Essene community and the Jerusalem Church the earliest Christian organization.
Before the Jerusalem Church perished in the Jewish War of 66-73 A.D., it in turn managed to hide its knowledge in some scrolls buried under the site of the Temple. In 1118, the Knights Templars, digging there, found the scolls which provided them with the knowledge that underlay their own secret rites.
In 1307 the Catholic Church turned against the Templars. Templar refugees then catried their tradition and their scrolls with them to Scotland whose king Robert the Bruce was struggling to maintain in-dependence from England and who was also under excommunication from Rome. Here the Templars found a congenial home and helped Robert turn the tide against the English invasion. By the time the excommunication of Scotland was lifted in 1328 the Templars had managed to conceal themselves entirely from the prying eyes of ecclesiastics.
One strange building a few miles south of Edinburgh provides a key to the Templars' fate. This is Rosslyn Chapel built between 1441 and 1486. Knight and Lomas consider it to be the missing link between Templarism and Frcemasonry pointing to carvings that they say clearly depict Masonic initiations. (They also say that because some Templars fled across the Atlantic to the New World establishing a surreptirous trade with Scotland Rosslyn contains likenesses of the New World plants maize and aloes— carved a generation before Columbus's voyages.) Knight and Lomas believe the Templar scrolls may be buried under Rosslyn and they're trying to organize an archaeological dig to see if they are right.
Knight, an advertising executive in Sheffield England says he became curious about this alternative view of history after he underwent Masonic initiations and wondered what lay behind them. (One of the most interesting parts of The Hiram Key is in fact the authors first-hand descriptions of the first three degrees of thc Masonic initiations.) I interviewed him in February 1997 during his stopover in San Fransisco on a book tour.
Are Knight and Lomas right? Critics have stressed the specula-tive nature of much of their work and there is some truth to their charges. Personally I find the accounts of the link between the Templars and the Freemasons the most convincing parts of Knight's and Lomas's picture. But as with most works in this genre even if I don't entireIy accept its conclusions, The Hiram Key still serves to remind me that history is not always what the professors and the textbooks claim.
Richart Smoley: To begin with, how does your view of Masonic history differ from the official view?
Christopher Knight: The United Grand Lodge of England prefers to talk about the evolution from medieval stonemasons, from an operative Masonry into a speculative Masonry. But it sounds extremely improbable that a group of nobles, kings, and lords suddenly turned up at the masons building churches and said,"Hey, good fellows, do you mind if we use your tools and ceremonies for our own betterment?" It seems particularly odd if you start looking, because there were no organized stonemasons' guilds in England and Scotland, though there were plenty of them in France.
Smoley: And then there is Rosslyn Chapd in Scotland, which dates to the fifteenth century.You said in the book that it's not a Christian chapel; it comes between the Templars and the Freemasons.
Knight: It's the link between the two, which has been spotted archaeologically before, because the stonework has got obvious Templar and Masonic connections. Since we completed the book, we actually found in the building a carving of a person being initiated into the first degree of Freemasonry by a Templar, which we hadn't spotted before [see illustration on page 26].We were with an officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, who is also a scholar up in Cambridge. His jaw hit the deck when he saw it, because it categorically proved that in 1440 they were conducting the rituals that we know today, with the cable tow, the noose, and the blindfolded candidate holding the volume of sacred law in his left hand; his feet were exactly in the form they had to be. The noose was held by a man in a Templar tunic with a Templar beard.
Smoley: So that is a solid connecting link.
Knight: Absolutely, literally rock-solid. Freemasonry was a Scottish event, if you like. It was brought to England by James Vl of Scotland, when he became James I of England in 1603.There would have certainly been other connections earlier, but none that really brought it forcefully, because James was a Freemason.
Smoley: Is there any connection between Freemasonry and the other medieval orders, such as the Knights Hospitallers?
Knight: Definitely not.The Knights Hospitallers were the sworn enemy of the Knights Templars. From our research, we are quite clear that the Knights Templars found buried scrolls in Jerusalem that were put there prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. And they adopted the rituals and the teachings contained in those scrolls. And they kept the scrolls and took them to Scotland; therefore they alone had access to this knowledge. Possession of it would have been sufficient to have them destroyed as heretics, which of course ultimately they were. So they didn't share that with anybody. Just being a medieval
order doesn't mean that you are in any way connected to these pieces of ancient knowl-edge; you're not. There's only one source.
Smoley: How did an order of warriors become transformed into an order of builders?
Knight: The Knights Templar became famous as sponsors of builders throughout all of Europe, if that's what you're referring to: Chartres Cathedral, all of the most splen-did medieval buildings, were theirs. And they built their splendid round churches as well. They started a wave of building; the finest buildings of the last 2000 years are certainly Templar. That came about because after the First Crusade, the Templars camped on the ruins of Herod's Temple and spent nine years digging there. Miraculously those nine knights at the end of those nine years be-came phenomenally rich; they became a holy order that answered only to the pope.
It was said of them that they had secret rituals and did strange things. They very quickly became the first international bankers, lending money to kings; they got into a position of great power. And they took in people from all countries as members, and they had their Grand Masters in each European country. So they rapidly got into large-scale building. Their purpose was to reconstruct Ezekiel's vision of the new Jerusalem; the spires all across Christendom were Ezekiel's vision for Jerusalem.
Smoley: Do you see any connections between the Christian and the Muslim or Sufi orders of the time?
Knight: No. I can't count it out; it's something we looked at and we found we didn't need; we used an Occam's razor principle: "Don't invent complicated scenarios when simple ones will do." It seemed very unlikely to us that this very large body of knowledge that they acquired would have come verbally from anybody, because it would have been dangerous for some-one to walk up to these Christian knights and suggest these strange ideas to them. I think they were fairly self-contained. But the teachings they found were of what we would now call the Jerusalem Church, whose beliefs were rather different from what most people imagine.
Smoley: When you say the Jerusalem Church, do you mean the organization headed by James, the brother of Jesus?
Knight: Yes, latterly headed by him, formed initially by John the Baptist. And that was the first cast, if you like, as opposed to the people that wrote the New Testament, who were the second cast. Remember—though the New Testament somehow misses mentioning it—that between 66 and 72-73 A.D. virtually all of the Jerusalem Church were wiped out, along with most of the population of Judea. So there was no one left that knew the real story. But the real story was written down, because they were prolific writers. It's known that there was an original Gospel, from which these Romanized Jews that called them-selves Christians tried to interpret events.
Smoley: How does this in turn link back to the Egyptian mysteries? You trace these back to King Seqenenre Tao. How does one go from the Second Temple of Jerusalem back to these Egyptians?
Knight: The Dead Sea Scrolls, now that they are fully available, indicate, as we have been arguing, that the Jews of first-century Jerusalem owed a great deal of their theology to Thebes. This makes perfect sense, if you think about it, because a thousand years before, everything David and Solomon did was Egyptianesque. Their whole culture was taken, we are told, out of Egypt by Moses and the people that had lived there for generations. The Ark of the Covenant would have looked as though it had come out of a pyramid; the angels would have been Egyptian.
In the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Ezekiel berates the leaders of Jerusalem who have been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar. He says, "lt's no wonder Yahweh's letting all of this happen to us. We're just not worthy of it. Look at the Temple." He has visions of going back to the Temple and see-ing Egyptian things in it; every-thing's Egyptian. He's saying, "Let's have our own culture." And they tried to turn things around into their own culture, instead of being in the shadow of Thebes. That's where I think they started resetting the old legends into a Jewish con-text.
Smoley: Perhaps you could discuss a little bit about the earliest things you treat in your books—the esoteric knowledge that was available in Egypt up to 1700 B.C.
Knight: We started to look at Egypt originally in order to try and re-construct the mind-set of the Jews of first-century Jerusalem; we'd gone back as far as we could go to the first writ-ings in Sumer in southern Iraq so to re-construct things forward to get inside their heads. This led us to Egypt. The nation came into existence 5200 years ago or thereabouts, with the unifi-cation of the north and the south, Upper and Lower Egypt. Before that time we only have some general comments from Egyp-tian records, which talk of the time when the gods mixed with men. But the strange thing is the gods have their own grave-yards. The gods don't seem too much different from men, so what made them gods we don't know.
But as the Egyptian kingdom found its feet after some 700 years, we believe they built the Pyramids, which were obviously a tremendous feat of engineering. By that time they had crystallized their theology pretty well, this philosophy of Ma'at, doing good for good's sake, and likening it to the squareness and uprightness of the building of the temple, which is the same teaching that is found in Freemasonry. We tried to find out what their secret rituals were, particularly the making of a king. The rituals of the actual crowning were well known, but the actual event of making a man a god was missing. We tried to piece that together using our awareness of what happens in Masonic ritual, and with some new thinking that's going on with people like Robert Bauval in inter-preting the Pyramids.
The Egyptians clearly believed that the new king traveled to the Land of the Dead with Osiris his father, there to be crowned by the old gods of Egypt. He traveled all through the night, to the valley of the shad>ow of death, with all its dangers, but he was guarded by his own father. He was gen- uinely dead. And then he returned the next morning as the morning star, the light that shone in through the shaft of the Pyramid, which was aligned to the morning star.
Now we're not actually for a moment suggesting that that's what happened, but that's what they believed happened. Proba- bly with the aid of drugs, they would have a comatose king who was then brought round the morning afterwards. Obviously we know how very important the stars were to them, and these ceremonies could only be conducted at certain times.
The origins of these beliefs we cannot know, because they go past prehistory in Egypt, but they appear to be very ancient indeed. But in 1753 B.C., when Seqenenre Tao was killed, the details of those secrets were lost, and something had to be sub- stituted. And because this young king was so brave, they actually used his death as part of that ritual thereafter.
Smoley: I've seen a newspaper article that says King Tut was murdered; the back of his head was smashed in.* So what your book says about Seqenenre Tao is not in- nately implausible. But what meaning does this ritual have for us today? Does it have a symbolic importance for our own inner development?
Knight: I think not. The Egyptians had gone into decline at that point, and they had to have something to continue their principle of Ma'at, of doing good to all people. They succeeded; they burst into the New Kingdom, and things got pretty good again. But I think there is not a lot for us in that today, apart from its interest as an antiquity.
What is actually is important is how that myth was built up. Prior to starting this, I think it's fair to say that Robert and I were not esoterically orien- tated. A lot of things that we now firmly believe we wouldn't have be- lieved before, because we had a hard edge between those things that are pragmatic, scientific, and real, and things that are too feely and touchy. We've completely lost those edges now, because they don't exist. There are huge truths within these fuzzy edges.
In the end it's always about peo- ple, and what people make of things. The Jerusalem Church, with Jesus and James—they were not "beau- tiful people"; they were hard-nosed. Their attitudes and actions were not soft, but they are a massively im- portant part of human history that changed everything.
Smoley: Can you talk a little about the very intricate topic of the different lines of Masonry? Can you help someone sort out the Blue Lodge, the Scottish Rite, and so on?
Knight: Freemasonry is very big in the United States; there are over 2.5 million Freemasons, and naturally it has evolved, as Christianity has, into all sorts of forms, some recognized, some not recognized, by the United Grand Lodge of England.
What you call the Blue Lodges over here—which isn't a term that we use— is basic Freemasonry, which consists of the first three degrees, plus the Holy Royal Arch Degree, the fourth degree, if you like. So there is the Entered Apprentice, then the Fellow Craft degree, then the Master Mason. That third degree is the all-im- portant one that makes a man a Master Mason.The continuation of that is said to be the Holy Royal Arch degree, which is not historically accurate, I would claim. And that is all that is recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England.
The 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite are actually the originals. They are very important, but they have been so changed, replaced, muddled, that it's hard to recog- nize many of them. Many of those degrees are now given to people without the ben- efit of any ritual. And even if they read about the ritual, which they can do, they're not the original rituals; they were emend- ed. There are plenty of degrees, and then there are other split-offs, particularly in the Christian degrees whlch are also invented and don't have a lineage.
Now the Knights Templar degree is very popular, and there are two forms of Knights Templars. There are Masonic Knights Templars, and there is a modern organization of Knights Templars that is not connected with Freemasonry. Certainly the Masonic order was an invention to pick up on the Knights Templars. The non-Masonic Knights Tem- plars I think claim a lineage, but I would need a lot of persuasion personally to see how that could be.
Of course there are other fraternal or- gamzations like the Odd Fellows, who have their own heritage, but none of them, I think, predating Freemasonry.
Smoley: One criticism I've heard of your book is that it contains a lot of specula- tion, that it relies heavily on "could bes." How do you respond to such criticism?
Knight: Well, we said from the start that we would be shot down by people who would pick us off with small arrows. Be- cause we've covered so much ground, we're bound to have errors in there, as well as things that will subsequently turn out to be incorrect.
We started off on a personal note; we didn't do it for the benefit of anybody else. We started off with a blank piece of paper, and we put lots of speculation down. And each of those bits of speculation hardened up, as new evidence came into play.
The fact is that everything fits togeth- er. As one expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls said,"lt's all about joining up dots, but I haven't seen them joined up better. I can't say you're right, but you seem more right than anyone to date." Which we'll settle for.
You can take the odd brick out of our wall and argue about it, but the wall's still damn well there. There are some things in the book that remain speculative but don't affect the main thesis. They're in there be- cause they seem reasonably probable and are worth putting into people's minds. There are some things we kept out be- cause they didn't seem to get past that crit-ical point of probability, although we'd have liked to put them in.
Our next book is due out in the U.K. by April and in the U.S. hopefully by the end of the year. In that we have got con- crete proof for some of the things that were speculative in this book. Because we did- n't set off with any point of view, we're free to discard anything; we're not precious about any single part of it. We've thrown away lots of theories, and we'll continue to do so. But in the next book we come out with some evidence that supports some of the speculative bits.
Smoley: There seems to be a great thirst for material like your book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and Graham Hancock's books. One thing all of these have in common is the sense that the real history is something quite different from conventional views. Why are people so hungry for this kind of thing today?
Knight: Those books were not ones that I'd have read by choice before. But I've met Michael Baigent now and we've fre- quently talked with Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, because our work is over- lapping.There's no doubt that history such as we believe it to be from schoolbooks is hopelessly inadequate.
The thirst for this sort of alternative history comes from the fact that so much new information has become available in this latter half of the twentieth century. And the old ideas of the nineteenth cen- tury, which is really when history got so- lidified, are shown to be completely false. They were written by people who had a very egocentric view of the world, and they saw everything in little boxes, where- as in fact it's constantly in flux
There was also an idea that human his- tory is an upward slide, where everything we get tomorrow is going to be better than we've got today; next year's car is going to be better than last year's car.We have an arrogance of the moment, which is utter- ly false. Human history is up and down with peaks and troughs, and without the shadow of a doubt there have been parts of the past where we've been a lot smarter than we are now and lost it—perhaps not in terms of technology, that's only one mea- sure, but in other ways.
One critic wrote about this sort of book,"Why does everyone want to read this sort of esoteric history instead of the proper history?" But it's not esoteric, be- cause there isn't anything in the book that isn't more practical and more down-to- earth than the assumed histories. For ex- ample, why is America called America? It's got nothing to do with Amerigo Vespucci.That's a mlstake. The guy that made the mistake tried to retract it.
That's had a huge response from varlous aca-demics who say,"That's got to be right." It came from the Mandaeans in southern Iraq, who said they left Jerusalem around 33 A.D. when Saul was conducting his purges against the Jewish sect that we call the Jerusalem Church. They ran off to southern Iraq, and they still are there today, if Saddam Hussein hasn't wiped them out. They still conduct the same rituals and cer- emonies that they did then. They're sort of a living fossil, and they have stories of Jesus and John the Baptist, and speak of Jesus betraying secrets.
The Mandaeans also talk of the star called "Merika ‘ which was always known of. It sounds like an Egyptian word, Meri- ka, and this was actually Venus in its west- ern setting. They said this star across the great ocean to the west marks a land be- neath it where everything is wonderful and perfect.
It's possible—this is very speculative, but it's possible—that the Mandaeans be- came aware of this from the ancient Egyp- tians, who traded, it now seems, with the Americas. Cocaine and tobacco have been found in the mummies, so they did know about this continent; for sure people have always been coming to America. Maybe the idea was to head for Venus as the mark- er, to head west. And by the time the Jews had it, it was a mythical idea, though it may have been real once.
This was written down in the scrolls that were found by the Knights Templars. On the morning when they were arrest- ed on October 13,1307, a substantial Tem- plar fleet slipped away from La Rochelle harbor. Some, we believe, went to Scot- land, some slipped down to Portugal to re- plenish their stocks, and knowing Europe was no place for them anymore, they did the only thing they could do and sailed due west straight from the top of Portu- gal and landed in the New World in the early weeks of 1308. And Rosslyn Chapel, as many people are aware, contains exclu- sively American plants carved into it in 1440. And it's a Templar building, so it looks like they continued the trading. So that's where the name America came from. They were French, so they would have called it "La Merika."The "A" would have come in there.
Smoley: What impact has Freemasonry had on British history? How has it shaped the culture?
Knight: It's interesting, because Scotland has been a very different country from England. Scotland and northern England and Wales were Celtic.They had an inde- pendent church. They didn't believe that Jesus was a god; he was a prophet. And they kept that, even though they were com- pelled to give in to the power in Rome at the Synod of Whitby in 665. But they kept that culture alive, so there's always been a different outook in Scotland.
So Scottand was fertile ground for these ideas found in the Templar scrolls. And the Templars went to Scotland when Robert the Bruce was excommunicated. This is where we get this commonality between Celticness and the Templars and this Ma- sonic behavior, all wrapped into Rosslyn.
Now part of the teachings in the scrolls left by the Jerusalem Church was the idea of democracy, of everyone being responsi- ble. Jesus turned water into wine; he turned ordinary people into something special, which everyone said he couldn't do.
When the English Civil War came, it spilled over into Scotland, with Masons on both sides. Later on, the Jacobites, the house of Stuart, were driven out of England, and a Hanoverian king was brought in. There- after English Freemasonry hived itself off and denied its Scottish roots, because it was very unsafe to align yourself with Scot- tish origins at that time.
Smoley: Because the Stuarts had brought Freemasonry into England.
Knight: That's right.They reinvented their own history. So when the Grand Lodge of London—as it then was—started in 1717, they were denying anything before it, because it would have inevitably given them Stuart, Jacobite connections. From that point on English Freemasonry went its own stuffy way. It repeated a lie about its own past, changing its own history books, denying that Christopher Wren was a Freemason. Their own historian wrote in 1728 that he was Grand Master, but there- after he denied it, because they didn't want to discuss anything prior to 1717.
Smoley: One occasionally hears about the connection between the British royal fam- ily and Freemasonry. What has that con- nection been since 1717?
Knight: When the Grand Lodge estab- lished themselves, they wrote that a prince of royal blood should be the Grand Mas- ter of Freemasonry. It was 70 years or so before they actually achieved that.The first few were just humble misters. But they did achieve that, and the English royal family, the Hanoverians, became members. Now Scottish Freemasonry, Freemasonry in the form in which it created this country, was extremely republican. I think one of the main reasons that the British monarchy survived when the French and a lot of others didn't was that they embraced Freemasonry.
Smoley: That leads to the question of Continental Freemasonry. It's obvious that Freemasonry was as important in the uni- fication of Italy as it was in the creation of the United States; in France it was also quite important, especially in anticlerical republican movements. I'm wondering how this all fits in with Masonic history.
Knight: We started looking at all those and found they were not core to our the- sis, so l can't say we've delved into that in huge detail. The numbers of Freemasons on the Continent are very small compared to the U.K. and obviously the U.S.There are other Masonic-style people like the Carbonari, who explain their own histo- ry by saying they arrived in Italy from Scot- land. And there are linkages, where they use analogies to charcoal burners rather than builders.
As far as Freemasonry in France is con- cerned, it looks as though there was a Tem- plar survival in Paris after the arrests in 1307. According to one document, there was a line of Grand Masters that contin- ued in secret. Some people dispute the au- thenticity of this document, but from what I've read serious people have thrown out those arguments; it does appear to be gen- uine.The French Templar line detested the Templars that went to Scotland.They saw them as runaways, cowards.
But there was a reunification under a man called Chevalier Ramsay, who was teacher to Bonnie Prince Charlie when he was in exile. And he came up to England and brought more Templar information into Freemasonry and took Freemasonry into France. Being a Scot, he is often at- tributed with generating some of the high- er degrees of Freemasonry, but we know from Rosslyn that they were in existence back in 1440.
Smoley: This also leads to the U.S. How do you see the influence of Freemasonry in this country?
Knight: The Freemasonry in the U.S. is, to the best of my knowledge, far more part of the community. There's also the recog- nition of women in Freemasonry here, which has never existed in England. It has in Scotland to a greater extent, they're much more relaxed. But English Freema- sonry, particularly in London, is very stuffy and introverted. Until 1984, they would- n't even respond to any comments from the outside. They had a little ivory tower.
I think in the U.S. it's always been a bit more relaxed and out in the open, which has got to be healthy, because peo- ple are always very suspicious of something that's secret or widhdrawn or excludes them. That obviously happens to some extent in the U.S., but I think it's better over here.
The effect of Freemasonry has been huge. In England, virtually all of the men that formed the Royal Society were Freemasons, which was the beginning of the end of the Dark Ages, and that was built on in the U.S, which created a mer- itocracy:"You're as good as you're good." In England, it's still true in many ways that you're as good as your father was, or what school you went to; there's still too much of that. Which is completely against Freemasonry, because in any lodge your rank in life is unimportant, and your rank in Freemasonry counts.You can be a king or a shoeshine boy; it doesn't make any difference. Rudyard Kipling's Masonic poems are famous for making that point.
Smoley: Then there is the perennially pop- ular view of the Masonic conspiracy. What stimulates these ideas? Is there any grain of truth to them? Knight: There is possibly a grain of truth, it's hard to say, but it would be a grain. It's a big problem in England at the moment, with some people saying that police offi- cers should be required to admit to being Freemasons. Not anything else; you could belong to the British Nazi Party, and that would be OK. It's all a bit upside down.
Certainly in England, which is sort of a role model for others, there is very little chance for conspiracy, because there's no central list of members. The idea that it's all linked together in some sort of network is not true; it's more likely to be true in other areas of the community, where you get the Jewish community looking after themselves, or the Italian community— or if you really want to get on, you'll join a golf club. When you become a Freema- son, you certainly swear that you're not looking for any advantage of that kind, and you'll not use it for that purpose.
Now when you get a situation where a lot of persons in power are all Freemasons, inevitably you're going to get conspiracy theories. But again Freemasons swear that they will not do that, and there's no reason to suspect that they would. If you look at the Founding Fathers of the United States, most of them were Freemasons. So you could say that the whole of America is a Masonic conspiracy; it's not always unhealthy. I think that idea is overplayed.
Smoley: What role do you see for Masonry in the future?
Knight: Huge, potentially. Nonexistent, potentially, depending on how it's played. Which is one of the main reasons we felt we had to write this book in a readable format. When we got to a certain point we had to decide whether we were going to do a series of academic papers or publish it in a readable book, and we decided we'd get more people if we did it the second way.
The importance of Freemasonry is that, like the Egyptian Ma'at, it's a moral code, a good system to lead your life by. It acknowledges the good of goodness for its own sake, outside of a religious require-ment. Yes, you have to say you believe in a single God; that's the only requirement. So it provides an oasis of spirituality, if you like. And the requirement to learn all these strange rituals is a bit like meditation: it focuses your mind in a completely different direction from the way it is in the cut and thrust of daily life.
The difficult thing is that it requires a reasonable amount of time to do it well, and time is short these days, because people are working a lot harder, and there are a lot more calls on their leisure time; they can join sports clubs, watch any number of TV channels, go to the theater, go to restaurants, whereas a few hundred years ago, you'd sit by the fireside or risk your neck going to the local pub, perhaps. So it is difficult; fraternal organizations of all kinds are losing membership. But I think there is an opportunity for a renaissance.
Smoley: I found one of the more interesting sections of your book to be the descriptions of the initiations. What effect have they had on you personally?
Knight: The third degree particularly causes you to reflect on your own mortality and the transience of your life, and on the bigger picture. And instantly it makes you more thoughtful. That's quite an effect.
Smoley: Freemasonry is well-known for its ethical values. Do you feel that spiritu-ally it's a vital, living path? What can some-one get out of it today?
Knight: I think nothing like what they should get out of it, which is why I think our re-search is so important. I don't say that be-cause it's our research, but we genuinely feel that. I think it's of great importance to Freemasons and to Christians and to people with some spiritual outlook in general. Freemasonry as it's practiced today has lost its way to a large degree, pardy because of people's living patterns and the way timeshave changed, but also because it was delib-erately changed around 1717 and again in the next century. Christian degrees were invented, and old degrees were pushed back into the background. It's hard to understand, because it's been carved up so much.We are still continuing to piece it all back together again.
Gnosis Magazine / Summer 1997