Sir William Davidson worked closely with Robert Moray, Alexander Bruce, and other Scottish Freemasons. Moray, a Scottish supporter of the Stuarts, who would serve as Colonel in the Scots Guard, was a student of Rosicrucianism and an ardent Freemason. Moray was also well known to the cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. Moray was probably familiar with Abendana’s work on Halevi, for he praised the writings of medieval Jews on mathematics, astronomy, and cosmology in his letters to his Masonic protégé, Alexander Bruce. Moray further recommended the works of Christian Hebraists, such as Drusius, Joseph Scaliger, and Amama, who provided scholarly reinforcement for Scottish Masonic traditions. In 1572, Johannes van den Driesche, or Drusius (1550 – 1616), a student of Hebrew, became professor of Oriental languages at Oxford. Scaliger, a friend of Guillaume Postel, was associated, along with King James’ tutor George Buchanan, with Plantin Press, said to have operated as a front for a kind of “pre-Freemasonry.” Drusius and Scaliger utilized their extensive research in Hebrew and Kabbalistic literature to argue that the Hassidim and Essenes, descendants of the Maccabeans, were a guild of religious craftsmen who played a key role in developing the mystical traditions of the Temple. Drusius stressed the fraternal relationship between Solomon and Hiram, while Scaliger compared the Hasidim to contemporary craft guilds.
According to Thomas De Quincey’s Historico-Critical Inquiry into the Origin of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons (1886), the Rosicrucian Robert Fludd “it was, or whoever was the author of the ‘Summum Bonum,’ 1629, that must be considered as the immediate father of Freemasonry, as Andreä was its remote father.” According to a statement made by John Wallis (1616 – 1703), some meetings organized in London in 1645, during the civil wars for enquiry into natural philosophy were the origin of the Royal Society. Amongst those who took part in these meetings were Theodore Haak, who was Comenius’ agent in England, a German from the Palatinate, and John Wilkins (1614 – 1672) who was later prominent in the Royal Society as Henry Oldenburg’s co-secretary. Wilkins, chaplain to Frederick V of the Palatinate, was closely linked to Rosicrucianism in the Palatinate and tutored Frederick and Elizabeth’s son when he was sent to England.
An admirer of Fludd, Wilkins’ work is placed clearly in the Rosicrucian tradition. Wilkins quotes from the Rosicrucian Fama, and his Mathematicall Magick (1648) is largely based on the section on mechanics in Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi Historia, published at Oppenheim in the Palatinate in 1619. In the preface to Mathematical and Philosophical Works, Wilkins praised the scientific works of Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Agrippa, Dee, and Kircher, and denounced that “vulgar opinion attributes all such strange operations unto the power of Magick.” Wilkins frequently mentions the “Lord Verulam” (Francis Bacon) in the book, or “Francis Rosicrosse.” In 1648, meetings in Wilkins’ rooms at Wadham College at Oxford began which are stated by Thomas Sprat in his official to have been the origin of the Royal Society. Among the members of this Oxford group were the alchemist Robert Boyle, William Petty, and Christopher Wren, England’s most famous architect, the designer of St Paul’s Cathedral. William Petty (1623 – 1687) became the personal secretary to Thomas Hobbes, allowing him contact with Descartes, Gassendi and Mersenne. He befriended Samuel Hartlib and Boyle.
According to Laursen and Popkin, “The publication of Henry Oldenburg’s and Robert Boyle’s correspondence has made it clear that millenarianism was at the center of the concerns of the Royal Society in its founding years.” In 1647, Boyle had written to Samuel Hartlib mentioning his “Invisible College” and that he wished to support “so glorious a design.” In 1663, the Invisible College became the Royal Society and the charter of incorporation granted by Charles II named Boyle a member of the council. The first secretary of the Royal Society was Henry Oldenburg, who forged a strong relationship with John Milton and his lifelong patron, Robert Boyle. Dury was connected to Boyle by his marriage to Dorothy Moore, an Irish Puritan widow. Their daughter, Dora Katherina Dury, later became the second wife of Henry Oldenburg. When Menaseh ben Israel arrived in London in 1650, Cromwell appointed a committee of important millenarian clergymen and government officials to receive him. Lady Ranelegh, Robert Boyle’s sister, had dinner parties for Menasseh, and Oldenburg met with him as well. Menasseh also met with the Cambridge Platonists Ralph Cudworth (1617 – 1688) and Henry More (1614 – 1687). The Cambridge Platonists were a group of theologians and philosophers at the University of Cambridge in the middle of the seventeenth century. Frances Yates regarded the Cambridge Platonists as scholars who engaged with the Christian Kabbalah but rejected Hermeticism following Isaac Casaubon’s redating of the Hermetic corpus.
Among the first Freemasons on record were Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole (1617 – 1692) who became original members of the Royal Society. Ashmole supported the royalist side during the English Civil War, and at the restoration of Charles II he was rewarded with several lucrative offices. His diary entry for October 16, 1646, reads in part: “I was made a Free Mason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Coll: Henry Mainwaring of Karincham [Kermincham] in Cheshire.” In 1652, Ashmole befriended Solomon Franco, a Jewish convert to Anglicanism who combined his interest in Kabbalah and the architecture of the Temple with support for the English monarchy. While Franco instructed him in Hebrew and was probably the source for his manuscript “Of the Cabalistic Doctrine,” Ashmole carried out intelligence work for the Stuart cause. Also Stuart supporter, Franco believed in the Hebrew traditions of anointed kingship, and he looked for spiritual portents in the life of Charles II, with whose eventual restoration he was greatly pleased. After the Restoration, Franco converted to Christianity, persuaded by his belief that God had a divine plan for Charles II. He gave a copy of his book to Ashmole.
Ashmole was described by De Quincey as “one of the earliest Freemasons, [and] appears from his writings to have been a zealous Rosicrucian.” Ashmole copied in his own hand an English translation of the Fama and the Confessio, and added a letter in Latin addressed to the “most illuminated Brothers of the Rose Cross,” petitioning them to be allowed him to join their fraternity. Ashmole had a strong Baconian leaning towards the study of nature. He was an antiquary with a particular interest in the history of the Order of the Garter. Ashmole revered John Dee, whose writings he collected and whose alchemical and magical teachings he endeavoured to put into practice. In 1650, he published Fasciculus Chemicus under the anagrammatic pseudonym James Hasolle. This work was an English translation of two Latin alchemical works, one by Arthur Dee, the son of John Dee.
Ashmole’s works were avidly studied by other natural philosophers, such as Isaac Newton. Newton, a president of the Royal Society, was committed to interpretations of the “Restoration” of the Jews to their own land of Palestine and spent the remaining years of his intellectual life exploring the Book of Daniel. In his library, Newton kept a heavily annotated copy of The Fame and Confession of the Fraternity R.C., Thomas Vaughan’s English translation of The Rosicrucian Manifestos. Newton’s writings suggest that one of the main goals of his alchemy may have been the discovery of the philosopher’s stone, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the discovery of the highly coveted Elixir of Life. Newton also possessed copies of Themis Aurea and Symbola Aurea Mensae Duodecium by the alchemist Michael Maier. As a Bible scholar, Newton was initially interested in the sacred geometry of Solomon’s Temple, dedicating an entire chapter of The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. Found within book are several passages that directly mention the land of Atlantis. Newton believed that before its corruption, a scientific priesthood secretly maintained the original primordial religion. In particular, the priests knew that the sun and not the earth was the center of their universe, and therefore the ancient temples from Stonehenge to the Temple in Jerusalem were organized around perpetual fires that represented the sun.