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The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at

Origin of Modern Freemasonry

Having thus briefly noticed our Masonic Symbols, let us proceed to consider the society itself, and here a circumstance of the utmost importance to this inquiry must always be kept in view: the Freemasons, as at present organised into a mystic fraternity, derive their name from nothing but an accidental circumstance belonging to their first establishment. It was in the Common Hall of the Loudon Guild of the Freemasons (the trade) that their first meetings were held, under Christopher Wren for president, in the time of the Commonwealth. * Their real object was political--the restoration of Monarchy--hence the exclusion of the public, and the oath of secrecy enjoined upon the members. The pretence of promoting the study of architecture, and the choice of the place where to hold their meetings, suggested by the profession of their president, were no more than blinds to deceive the existing government. There is a curious analogy to all this in the history of another famous society, the Neapolitan Carbonari, which similarly derived its name, terminology and insignia from the accidental circumstances under which it was created. Like Wren's associates, the first Carbonari were defeated Royalists and fanatical Republicans joined in unnatural union by one common hatred of the powers that be--the old Bourbonists equally with the chimerical founders of the shortlived "Parthenopean Republic," equally forced to flee for their lives to the mountains, the former to escape the well-deserved vengeance of the French under Murat, the latter so fiercely persecuted by Cardinal

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[paragraph continues] Ruffo upon the first restoration of royalty at Naples. These desperate men, lurking about in the Abruzzi forests, were forced to assume the disguise of the only inhabitants of these wild regions, the carbonari, charcoal-burners, as the best means of eluding pursuit. After their forces had grown to a regular confederation, the disguise, so suggestive and terror inspiring, was retained for a uniform; a charcoal-sack was the badge of membership, a charcoal-measure the throne of the President, and their conclaves were held by rule in the midnight forest. When Ferdinand, "the Well-beloved," was firmly seated on his ancient throne, for the third and last time, his diligent eradication of his former friends, the Constitutionals, folks almost equally crazed with the original "Parthenopean" patriots, sent thousands of exiles to swell the ranks of the Carbonari. Soon the society was able to establish ramifications all over Italy, thanks to the paternal government of the Austrians and their protégés, the various restored princes of the Bourbon and Este lines; and thus in our own times Carbonaro and Liberal came to mean pretty nearly the same thing; and the Italian "Carbonaro" to know no more about charcoal-burning than the English "Mason" does about building.


391:* In April, 1616, when Ashmole was admitted member. Others named as present on that occasion were Lilly the astrologer, Dr. Pearson, the two Whartons, Hewitt, and Oughtred the mathematician.

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