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Masonic Bios


It is strange that the old Freemasons, when inventing their legend, which gave so prominent a place to Pythagoras as "an ancient friend and brother," should have entirely forgotten his biographer, Jamblichas, whose claims to their esteem and veneration are much greater than those of the Samian sage. Jamblichus was a Neoplatonic philosopher, who was born at Chalcis, in Calo, Syria, and flourished in the fourth century. He was a pupil of Porphyry, and was deeply versed in the philosophic systems of Plato and Pythagoras, and, like the latter, had studied the mystical theology of the Egyptians and Chaldeans whose divine origin and truth he attempts to vindicate.

He maintained that man, through thermic rites and ceremonies, might commune with the Deity; and hence he attached great importance to initiation as the means of inculcating truth. He carried his superstitious veneration for numbers and numerical formula to a far greater extent than did the school of Pythagoras; so that all the principles of his philosophy can be represented by numbers. Thus, he taught that one, or the monad; was the principle of all unity as well as diversity, the duad, or two, was the intellect; three, the soul; four, the principle of universal harmony; eight, the source of motion; nine, perfection; and ten, the result of all the emanations of the to en. It will thus be seen that Jamblichus, while adopting the general theory of numbers that distinguished the Pythagorean school, differed very materially in his explanations. He wrote many philosophical works on the basis of these principles, and was the author of a Life of Pythagoras, and a Treatise of the Mysteries. Of all the ancient philosophers, his system assimilates him most if not in its details, at least in its spirits to the mystical and symbolic character of the Masonic philosophy.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

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