Christ and Cross-Bones

by Mike Restivo


Death symbols like skulls, cross-bones and skeletons are Masonic ritualistic props intended as a reminder of the Candidate's mortality and as a test of his courage. [1] Their use is an echo of Pagan rites, like certain Druidic rites referred to by Pike. Annotations enclosed in braces, }, are the author's:

<<...The candidate was immured in the representation of a tomb; and when released, goes in search of the body of Balder, and finds him, at length, restored to life, and seated upon a throne. He was obligated upon a naked sword (as is still the custom in the Rit Moderne), and sealed his obligation by drinking mead out of a human skull.>>- _Morals and Dogma_ by Albert Pike, p. 430 lower part., 1951 edition

The "Rit Moderne" alludes to the Degree of Knights Templar in the York Rite. [2] 24th Degree AASR(SJ) Excerpt

Consider what the Candidate undergoes *after* having made his solemn obligation in the 24th Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction): << In the mean time all the lights are extinguished, except a single lamp or candle: and as the reading concludes, three brethren, clothed in black and wearing black masks, rush in seize the candidate, in silence, tear the bandage from his eyes, and hurry him into the vestibule, where they force him into a coffin, placed on the floor in the middle of the room. They then throw a black cloth over his body, leaving the face uncovered, and withdraw. Both apartments are now entirely dark. All is silent for a time, and then mournful voices are heard in the second apartment, saying, from different quarters as follows:>> - _Magnum Opus_, by Albert Pike, page XXIV...6, middle part, originally published 1857.

What follows is reminiscent of the death and raising motif of the Master Mason Degree of Craft Masonry. It is remarkable for the absence of the mention of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, but enumerates the fables of such death/rebirth deities as Tammuz, Dionysus and Mithra. Cf. "Who Is the Anti-Christ", file essay by Mike Restivo.

For the adepts of the AASR(SJ), regeneration is effected not by the saving Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, but by the reception of enlightenment of Gnosis, doctrines of which are displayed to its members in their Rituals and reference books. The resurrection suggested by several of the Rituals of the AASR(SJ) refer not to the afterlife, but to the awakening within man, now, of his capacity to self-actualization. This is the doctrine of the Will to Power so well expressed by Nietzsche, but the faithful recall it stated in Genesis, Chapter Three, as a temptation to instigate man's willful rebellion against God:

(Gen 3:3 KJV) "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." (Gen 3:4 KJV) "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:" (Gen 3:5 KJV) "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

By the same token, Jesus Christ exhorts the faithful to exercise discernment: (Mat 24:23 KJV) "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not." (Mat 24:24 KJV) "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Mat 24:25 KJV) "Behold, I have told you before." (Mat 24:26 KJV) "Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not."

Speaking of Mithra:

Mithraism was similar to Christianity in many respects, for example, in the ideals of humility and brotherly love, baptism, the rite of communion, the use of holy water, the adoration of the shepherds at Mithra's birth, the adoption of Sundays and of December 25 (Mithra's birthday) as holy days, and the belief in the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, and the resurrection. Mithraism differed from Christianity in the exclusion of women from its ceremonies and in its willingness to compromise with polytheism. The similarities, however, made possible the easy conversion of its followers to Christian doctrine. - "Mithraism," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Is Freemasonry, given its admitted pattern after the ideals of Pagan Mystery Cults, merely an 18th Century sheep's fleece concealing a Mithraic-based wolf? For Pagans, this might be good news. For Bible-believing Christians, this is a form of crypto-Christianity, an eclectic amalgam of Pagan and Gnostic religions masquerading under close but not quite Christian terms.

[2] Knight Templar York Rite Initiation Excerpt

<<...Junior Warden leaves the room, and Candidate removes the bandage and discovers in addition to the Bible, bowl of water, etc., a human skull and cross-bones facing him on the table.>> _Richardson's Monitor of Freemasonry_ J.Richardson, Ezra Cook Publications, 1968 edition, p. 115 lower part.

The candidate had been told while blindfolded in this "Chamber of Reflection" of all the items on the table except the skull and cross-bones. Later, the Candidate, as a test of humility, carries a human skull and a lit candle about the room to simulate a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre. Afterwards:

<<Grand Commander - pilgrim, the fifth libation is taken in a very solemn way. It is emblematical of the bitter cup of death, of which we must all, sooner or later, taste;and even the Saviour of the world was not exempted, notwithstanding his repeated prayers and supplications. It is taken of pure wine and from this cup. (Exhibiting a human skull), he pours the wine into it and says, - To show you that we here practice no imposition, I give you this pledge. (drinks from the skull.) He then pours more wine into the skull, and presents it to the candidate, telling him that the fifth libation is called the sealed obligation, as it is to seal all his former engagements in Masonry. ...

Sometimes the candidate hesitates to drink out of the skull, in which case he is intimidated as follows: ...>> Ibid, p. 123, middle part.

The Knights draw their swords and surround the candidate, who is in a kneeling position. The tips of their blades are pointed at the Candidate's throat:

<<Grand Commander - Pilgrim, you here see the swords of your companions, all drawn, ready to defend you in the discharge of every duty we require of you. They are also drawn to avenge any violation of the rules of our order. You promised, when you entered the chamber of reflection, that you would conform to all the ceremonies, rules and regulations of this Encampment. We here have your promise in writing. [3] We expect you will proceed. All Sir Knights who have taken this degree, have participated in the fifth libation; and if there is anything in it that you do not perfectly understand, it will be qualified and explained to your satisfaction. Candidate takes the skull in his hand, and repeats after the Grand Commander as follows:

This pure wine, I take from this cup in testimony of my belief in the mortality of the body and the immortality of the soul; and as the sins of the whole world were laid upon the head of our Saviour, so may the sins of the person whose skull this once was, be heaped upon my head, in addition to my own; and may they appear in judgement against me, both here and hereafter, should I violate or transgress any obligation in Masonry, or the Orders of Knighthood which I have heretofore taken, take at this time, or may hereafter be instructed in. So help me God. (Drinks of the wine.)>>

[3] Candidate's solemn obligation excerpt

Additionally, the Candidate made a solemn obligation kneeling, upon two crossed swords, before the altar upon which is a Bible on top of which is another pair of crossed swords on which he lays his hands:

<<Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will support and maintain the by-laws of the Encampment of which I may hereafter become a member, the edicts and regulations of the Grand Encampment of the United States of America, so far as the same shall come to my knowledge.

To all this I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steady resolution to perform and keep the same, without any hesitation, equivocation, mental reservation or self-evasion of mind whatever; binding myself under no less penalty than to have my head struck off and placed on the highest spire in christendom, should I knowingly or willfully violate any part of this, my solemn obligation of a Knight Templar. So help me God, and keep me steadfast to perform and keep the same.>> - Ibid., p. 118, upper part, right column.

The definition of "occult" is "that which is hidden", from its Latin root meaning to hide. occultism/occult in contemporary terms refers to a field of study of supernatural subjects including evocatory and talismanic magic, psychic healing, psychic powers development and divination. A visit to a local occult book store will provide a checklist of what is "occult" as in " occultism". Secrecy per se, is not the source of an objection on *spiritual* grounds:

The covenant made by drinking wine from a human skull in the Knight Templar Degree of the York Rite is called a "sealed obligation":

<<Grand Commander (taking skull from candidate.) - This is called the sealed obligation, because any promise of secresy, (sic) made in reference to this obligation, is considered by Knights Templars (sic) to be more binding than any other obligation can be.>> - _Richardson's Monitor of Freemasonry_, by J. Richardson, Ezra A. Cook Publications, 1968 edition, p. 124, lower part.

The appeal to necromancy, i.e. the invocation of the influence of the dead spirit of the skull, and that the candidate stands at the base of the triangular (compare with the triangle of manifestation in evocatory magic) arrangement of Officers, *not* significantly, at the altar, adds the element of occult or supernatural involvement.

To the Bible-believing Christian, necromancy is forbidden both in the Old and New Testaments.

It is the supernatural attributions that are truly occult/hidden. It is a given that the Candidate views the skull drinking only as a macho test of courage, like college fraternity hazing. The inner or astral association with the thought form of which the skull is the focus, is completely unknown to those who subject themselves to this ceremony. If it were a matter of repulsion or disgust with the outer form of a given ceremony which may or may not be intrinsically benign if not salutary, that would not draw opprobrium from an informed esotericist. It is the binding on the astral level to an egregore or group thought form, of which the Candidate is unaware, that is objectionable. If the Candidate were informed and gave his consent, then even that astral influence would be acceptable with respect to the fact that he (assuming a non-Christian) makes his choice under his own free will. It is the *deception* that is perpetrated upon an Initiate, especially a Christian, who is not fully informed of all to which he subjects and binds himself either prior to, or after, the ceremony, that is objectionable.

Fifth Degree Excerpt AASR(SJ)

<<The Preparation-Room is hung in black. There is a small table, covered with black, on which are a skull and cross-bones; and on one side of the room is a coffin.>> - _Magnum Opus_, by Albert Pike, page V...4, middle part, originally published 1857. later:

<<[The Candidate is again conducted to the preparation room and placed in the coffin; which is then lifted up and carried into the Lodge, and set in the middle of the room; when the following ceremonies take place]:...>> Ibid., page V...6, lower part.

Eighteenth Degree Excerpt AASR(SJ)

<<The Master of Ceremonies finds him {i.e. the Candidate} in the reception room, which is the first apartment hung with black, with no furniture but a small table and a chair, and on the table a Bible and several human bones. The light is only from one candle set in a human skull.>> Ibid., page XVIII...5 middle part.

<<Our work has become corrupted and we find it no longer possible to labour. The Veil of the Temple is rent in twain; [at this moment the curtain is drawn aside from before the altar {Upon the altar are two large candles of yellow wax, between which is a human skull.}]; the stars have disappeared, the light of the sun and moon is obscured, and darkness has fallen upon the face of the whole earth.>> Ibid., page XVIII...6 lower part.

Twenty-Third Degree Excerpt AASR(SJ)

<<During a reception, there is a dark apartment, with an altar in the middle of it, near which are placed a light and three skulls. In front of the altar is a human skeleton.>> - Ibid., page XXIII...1, middle part.

<<The candidate is then conducted to the dark apartment, and seated upon the floor, in front of the altar and skeleton. The apartment must be entirely without light.>> - Ibid. page XXIII...3, upper part.

Twenty-Seventh Degree Excerpt AASR(SJ)

<<The Grand Prior then goes to him, and conducts him {i.e. the Candidate} to a small room [first bandaging his eyes], in which he places him in a chair in front of a table on which are a light, and a skull and cross-bones, with the Holy Scriptures, the square and the compasses..."Let what you see upon the table before you remind you that you will answer them in the hearing of the Deity, who knows your thoughts: let it teach you the evanescence of all earthly things, the obligations of rectitude and honour, the certainty of sickness and death, and after that of judgment; and that your answers must be true and sincere.">> - Ibid., page XXVII...3 middle part.



<<They are a symbol of mortality and death...As the means of inciting the mind to the contemplation of the most solemn of subjects, the skull and the cross-bones are used in the Chamber of Reflection in the French and Scottish Rites, and in all those degrees where that Chamber constitutes a part of the preliminary ceremonies of initiation.>> - _Encyclopedia of Freemasonry_ by Albert G. Mackey, reprint, no date of original, circa 1820-1859, p.820