And he brought him [Simon] to Jesus. And when Jesusbeheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt becalled Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. (John I. 42)
It is a strange fact that the Aramaic word cephas, when written inGreek (as it was in the Gospel of John), adds up, according to theGreek ‘cabala’ (a letter-number code known as gematria in Jewishcabala), to 729. (k=20; h=8; f=500; a=1; V=200). Just a co-incidence?729 happens to be 9-cubed. Where (according to the cosmologicalconceptions of late-antiquity) ‘9’ represents eternity (the realm ofthe aeons, beyond the seven planetary spheres of the cosmos), 9X9X9could represent (to the initiate of the symbolic art of building), thecorner of an infinite or cosmic cube. It happens that the Holy ofHolies of Solomon’s Temple was a cube (I Kings VI.20). In the book ofRevelation (late 1st or early 2nd cent. CE), the symbolic New Jerusalemis a cube also :
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is aslarge as the breadth: and he [an angel] measured the city with thereed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and theheight of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundredand forty-four [12X12] cubits, according to the measure of a man, thatis, of the angel. (Revelation XXI. 16-17)
But what of the Temple?
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation XXI. 22)
The Temple of the New Jerusalem is a spiritual Temple. (Cubic lodgesare of course not unknown to Masonry). Why a cube? According to NigelPennick, author of Sacred Geometry, Pythagoras expressed a traditionwhere building ratios were related directly to musical ratios: “thesymbolic cube..like the city of Revelation or the Jewish Holy ofHolies, contains the consonances of the universe.” Gordon Strachan,author of Christ and the Cosmos, explains:
Why should the cube be thought to contain theconsonances of the universe? Because the ratios of its sides and edgesare all equal and can therefore be said to be one to one, 1:1. But theratio 1:1 in music, represents the note of unison or full string-lengthand the full string-length contains within itself the vibrations of allthe other musical intervals.1
Very interesting no doubt, but what has this got to do with Jesus? Inthe next chapter of John, Jesus goes into the Temple in Jerusalem - amighty new structure built by Herod the Great - and caused a majorfracas. He made himself a whip resembling a cat o’ nine tails and droveout the sheep and oxen waiting to be sacrificed on the altar. Notcontent with that, he then overturned the tables of the money-changers(whose job it was to change non-Jewish money for special Temple coinsto pay for the sacrificial beasts) and told everyone in earshot thatthey had turned “my Father’s house” into “an house of merchandise”.While doubtless rendering unto God what was God’s, this was nonethelessdisorderly conduct on the grand scale. To top it all, he then suggestedthe Temple itself might be destroyed: “Destroy this temple, and inthree days [9X9X9?] I shall raise it up.” To which the author of Johnadds: “But he spake of the temple of his body.” Quite possibly, butwhich body?
Hit by the Stone
And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that iswritten, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become thehead of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall becrushed; but on whomsoever it shall fall, he shall be winnowed. (LukeXX. 17-18. My emphasis).
This fascinating text has gone largely unnoticed by orthodoxtheologians - a pity since it not only contains what could be describedas the quintessence of Jesus’ spiritual teaching, but it also revealshis peculiar - not to say ‘alchemical’ - conception of the new Temple.Jesus quotes from Psalm 118, verses 22 to 24:
The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in oureyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and beglad in it.2
Jesus, apparently re-interpreting a longstanding prophetic traditionregarding the Temple, refers to what is clearly a symbolic ‘stone’: thestone rejected by the “builders”. The inference is clear enough. Takingthe words of the psalm allegorically (as Jesus does), the ‘builders’(orwhoever may be meant by this term), have rejected the vital principleof the house of God - without which the true Temple will certainlyfall, as all earthly structures must. (The Temple of Jesus’ day wasdestroyed by the Romans as a result of Jewish resistance in AD 70 - andhas never been rebuilt). Following the psalmist and a prophecy ofIsaiah (XXVIII.16), Jesus looks to “the day which the LORD hath made”and clearly believes that that day has now come. The ‘Day of the Lord’(Yom Yahweh) has, he implies, been realised in his own appearance. Themissing stone would appear to be the ‘messiah’, whose (rejected) giftof himself or his knowledge of the Holy Spirit becomes the formativeprinciple of a new and spiritual Temple. (Speculative masons may seesymbolic resonance in the transformation of the perfect ashlar fromwithin the rough ashlar). Furthermore, the stone to which the saying attributed to Jesus refers(v.18) has supernatural powers. If ignored, that is to say if one‘falls upon it’, ignorance of the stone will crush the spirituallyblind. Jesus’ hearers may have enjoyed - but were more likely mystified- by the joke within the saying: that it is not the stone which fallsfrom the sky which crushes the ignorant (as one might naturallysuppose), but the stone they choose to ignore. Contrary to expectation then, it is the stone which falls from theheavens which produces the positive effect - that is, it winnows theone on whom it falls. Why ‘winnows’? To winnow is to separate the grainfrom the chaff (Greek: likmaw, likmao: an agricultural image for whatcan be interpreted as an alchemical process - the recovery of the grain- often identified in alchemy with gold, that is, the spirit). Thisseparating process is what Jesus on numerous occasions claimed to behis essential purpose. Jesus says he brings not peace but a sword: asword separates; he divides the ‘sheep from the goats’. In Mark XV. 37the veil of the Temple which separated the people from the ‘Holy ofHolies’ - the Divine Presence - is rent from top to bottom immediatelyafter Jesus exhales pneuma (Greek for spirit) at the climax of thecrucifixion (the Greek verb is exepneusen). There is I think the strongsuggestion of an ‘alchemical’ process here - an analogy not lost onlater alchemists who would write of the crucifixion of the mercuriusprinciple. The use of the winnowing metaphor is as precise as other poetic imagesJesus uses (such as the cleansing fire which [in basic alchemy]separates gold from its accreted impurities). When wheat is winnowed,the farmer thrusts it up into the air with a fork and lets the windblow away the useless chaff. Etymologically, the word for ‘spirit’ inHebrew (ruach - feminine) means breath, or wind: air3. While manyreaders will be familiar with the story of the coming of the HolySpirit upon the apostles at Pentecost, when the ‘upper room’ was filledwith the sound of wind (Acts II. 2-3), the Greek language preserves apossible root-link between ‘air’ and ‘gold’: a most suggestive parallelin the alchemical context. In Greek, air is he aura (feminine), while‘gold’ is to auron (neuter)4. So, the coming of the Stone initiates aspiritual apocalypse, that is to say, a revelation of what has beenformerly hidden, namely the Spirit or, in the winnowing metaphor, thegrain. Many will know of the parable of the Sower; it is the grainwhich is sown in the world. The grain is of course to make bread: “forthe bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth lifeto the cosmos.” (John VI.33).If Simon was a stone, and he (Jesus) was the stone which came fromabove to winnow the grain from the chaff, what kind of ‘body’, whatkind of ‘temple’ was Jesus proposing? Could it be something to do withthe “house of fire” described in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, in whichEnoch divined the figure of the Son of Man? The author of John may havethought so:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall seeheaven open, [spiritual vision], and the angels of God ascending anddescending upon the Son of man. (John I.31)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to becomethe sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which wereborn, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will ofman, but of God. (John I.12-13)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God... (John XVII.3)
The Jesus of John comes like the alchemical Stone todivide the image from the reality, and give birth to a child of God.Had it not all been prophesied before?There were Jews who had an idea of ‘what was coming’. They need onlyhave read their prophet Malachi (meaning my messenger) who declaredsome time, it is supposed, between 475 and 450 BC that the Lord wouldsend a:
messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: andthe Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even themessenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come,saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? Andwho shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, andlike fuller’s soap. And he shall purify the sons of Levi [thepriesthood], and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offerunto the LORD an offering in righteousness. (Malachi III.1.)
Impressive though this is - and one could speculate on whether the lifeof Christ does not have within it the presence of a myth descendinginto history with all the key events pre-written in prophecies5 - thedefining stroke is still missing, namely, that he, Jesus, is thecornerstone of the Temple which the builders threw away: the eternalstone and measure. The missing measure is the Son of Man: MAN. Not theearthy man, the average clod or stone in need of shaping, but the“house of fire”, the Hermetic man of nous: the spiritual man, he whomthe Gnostics called the Anthropos: the archetype beyond the image. So, when Jesus beholds Simon, he sees beyond the image presented to him(Simon the fisherman) and penetrates to what Simon has never beforeseen in himself. Jesus sees in him a spiritual block of the new Temple- and in that Temple, the righteous sacrifice is neither bird norbeast, neither man nor money, but ego-sacrifice (the death of the ‘oldAdam’ or false self). Surrender the image; return to the real. Thus toknow the archetypal Son of Man, is to know the true God: it is to knowthySelf. So was Jesus a Freemason? He was clearly not a member of the UnitedGrand Lodge of England! But I cannot resist asking the question,equally absurd and certainly not at all historical or scientific: whatis the United Grand Lodge of England, along with all the other Lodgesgrand or otherwise, separately or together, a part or parts of? Do theynot also speak of a spiritual temple that is Man, not as he is, but ashe should be? Or could be? Or will be?
© Tobias Churton. 1999. Some of the material in this article comesfrom the author’s forthcoming book, The Knights, the Cross and theGnostics.
- From The Temple of Solomon and the Cosmic Music, an article in the Occult Observer, Vol II. No.3 (1992)
- This(undated) psalm seems to refer to the building of Solomon’s Temple inJerusalem: a task apparently undertaken between 961 and 922 BCE . Thislegendary account, however, makes no reference to a special cornerstoneor head-stone. For that we must look to the collection of propheciesgathered under the name of the prophet Isaiah, a man thought to havelived in and around Jerusalem between circa 745 and 686 BCE (althoughsome of the prophecies bearing his name have been dated at least acentury after the prophet’s death). In one singular prophecy (IsaiahXXVIII.16), we have a reference to God’s laying a “precious cornerstone” in Zion - a strange thing perhaps since the Temple wasapparently still standing (the Temple did undergo repairs under thereign of King Josiah around the year 622 BCE). Nevertheless, the kindof stone suggested in the Isaiah prophecy seems to have been more ofthe nature of a visionary hope and supernatural symbol than a visibleobject: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for afoundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a surefoundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgement also willI lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet and the hail shallsweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hidingplace.” The idea behind the prophecy suggests a restoration of anideal, combined with an ethical judgement, (already prefigured in theDivine mind), and so the prophecy may have been made after thedestruction of the Solomonic Temple by the Babylonian kingNebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE, perhaps in order to encourage a (spiritual?)reconstruction after the Exile of Jews in Babylon. (An attempt torebuild the Temple was undertaken in an intermittently desultoryfashion between 520 and 515 BCE).
The important thing to bear in mind is that after the Exileof the Jews in Babylon, the idea of the Temple became embroiled withprophetic visions of a spiritually or supernaturally redeemed Jewry (oreven a visionary redemption of the world as a whole), while aspects ofthe Temple structure attained symbolic significance - in particular,the Temple cornerstone. The point is that the true stone is laid ‘bythe hand of God’ and almost certainly represents not so much a physicaland historical stone-laying but rather the controlling principle of anystructure - physical or spiritual- built through its agency.
- cf:Daniel II.34-35 where the impact of a supernatural stone destroys theBabylonian Empire which becomes “like the chaff of the summerthreshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place wasfound for them: and the stone which smote the image became a greatmountain, and filled the whole earth.”
- Thus in alchemy, themessenger-god HERMES (also identified with John the Baptist ininitiated circles) presides over the alchemical operation becauseHermes’ element is Air and his movement is like the invisible butnonetheless penetrating wind. The name Mercurius (Latin form of Hermes)is given to the penetrating spiritus in the alchemical operation -often symbolized as a regenerating and penetrating serpent who entersinto all substances and is the agent of division, transformation andpurification. (There is even a Jewish legend that Solomon used asupernatural worm to separate the building-stones required for theTemple).
- For example, Zechariah XI.10ff for a reference tothirty pieces of silver as the price of a prophet; Zech. XII.10 andXI.6 on the wounding of God’s chosen: “And I will pour upon the Houseof David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of graceand of supplication: and they shall look upon me whom they havepierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his onlyson.” “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thinehands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in thehouse of my friends.”
Issue 11, Winter 1999/2000
Omar Daniel ADARO RODRIGUEZ
MM Resp:. Logia "Gral. José de San Martín Nº 441"
Ciudad de San Martín - Partido de San Martín
Provincia de Buenos Aires - República Argentina