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Masonic Bios

Euclid


See also 47th Problem of Euclid

All the old manuscript Constitutions contain the well known legend of Euclid, whose name is presented to us as the Worthy Clerk Euclid in every conceivable variety of corrupted form. The legend as given in the Dowland Manuscript is in the following words:

Moreover, when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egypt, there he taught the Seven Sciences to the Egiptians and he had a worthy Scoller that height Ewelyde, and he learned right well, and was a master of all the vij Sciences liberal. And in his days it befell that the lord and the estates of the realms had so many sons that they had gotten some by their wives and some by other ladies of the realm, for that land is a hot land and a plenteous of generation. And they had not competent live lode to find with their children; wherefore they made much care. And then the King of the land made a great Counsel and aparllament to witt, how they might find their children honestly as gentlemen; And they could find no manner of good way And then they did cry through all the realms. if their were any man that could inform them, that he should come to them, and he should be so awarded for his travail that he hold him pleased.

After that this cry was made, then came this worthy Clarke Ewclyde and said to the King and to all his great lords: If yee will, take me your children to govern, and to teach them one of the Seven Scyences wherewith they may live honestly as gentlemen should, under a condicion, that yee will grant me and them a commission that I may have power to rule them after the manner that the science ought to be ruled. And that the King and all his counsel granted to him alone, and sealed their communion. And then this worthy Doctor took to him these lords' sons, and taught them the science of Geometric in practice, for to work in stones all manner of worthy works that belongeth to buildings churches temples, castles, towers, and manors. and all other manner of buildings; and he gave them a charge on this manner.

Here follow the usual "charges" of a Freemason as given in all the old Constitutions; and then the legend concludes with these words: "And thus was the science grounded there; and that worthy Mr. Ewelyde gave it the name of Geo7netrie. And now it is called through all this land Masonry" (see Brother Hughan's Old Charges, edition of 1872, page 26).

This legend, considered historically, is certainly absurd, and the anachronism which makes Euclid the contemporary of Abraham adds, if possible, to the absurdity. But interpreted as all Masonic legends should be interpreted, as merely intended to convey a Masonic truth in symbolic language, it loses its absurdity, and becomes invested with an importance that we should not otherwise attach to it.

Euclid is here very appropriately used as a type of geometry, that science of which he was so eminent a teacher; and the myth or legend then symbolizes the fact that there was in Egypt a close connection between that science and the great moral and religious system which was among the Egyptians, as well as other ancient nations, what Freemasonry is at the present day-a secret institution, established for the inculcation of the same principles, and inculcating them in the same symbolic manner. So interpreted this legend corresponds to all the developments of Egyptian history, which teach us how close a connection existed in that country between the religious and scientific systems. Thus Kenrick (Ancient egypt i, 383) tells us that "when we read of foreigners in Egypt being obliged to submit to painful and tedious ceremonies of initiation, it was not that they might learn the secret meaning of the rites of Osiris or Isis but that they might partake of the knowledge of astronomy, physic, geometry, and theology." The legend of Euclid belongs to that class of narrations which, in another work, Doctor Mackey calls The Mythical Symbols of Freemasonry.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

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