After Me Cometh a Builder

Kipling’s Masonic Ludibrium in “The Palace”

Eric W. Vogt

[Dr Vogt is Associate Professor of Spanish and Golden Age Literature at Seattle Pacific University, Washington. Among his five books to date, he has treated mystical, hermetic and occult subjects in both a recent article published in Esoterica, an online journal under the auspices of Michigan State University as well as in his translation and edition of The Complete Poetry of St. Teresa of Avila (University Press of the South, New Orleans, 1996). His most absorbing research currently finds him working with Tulane musicologist, Dr. John Baron, producing a senes of volumes of sacred music written during the late 17th century. The recent article in Esoterica is an outgrowth of that research. It provides an example of how pervasive esoteric interests once were in the West and points to interesting thoughts on the origins of the Royal Art and its relation to other hermetic traditions.

He is, currently, the Junior Warden of Queen Anne Lodge No. 242, a 32° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, a VII° of the Masonic Societas Rosicruciana In Civitatibus Foederatis, and a corresponding member of Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle of the London research lodge of the same name. It is from this interest in Freemasonry that this paper derives.

Ludibrium: from the Latin meaning a jest, sport, plaything or trivial game. The word has been associated with Freemasonry since the early 17th Century. — Ed.]

Rudyard Kipling’s proud affiliation with Freemasonry is well documented and well known, but with the exception of one academic article and scattered references in books that this author is aware of, not much discussed outside Freemasonic circles, and in them mostly with biographical interest and in an encomiastic tone.[1] He is one of the Craft’s most ardent and famous supporters in the twentieth century, certainly, and one of the most famous where belles lettres are concerned. His famous story, “The Man who would be King”, a dark, comical view of Freemasonry dealing with the exploits of two vagabond-like Masons in India, was made into a movie in 1975, starring Sean Connery and real-life Freemason Michael Caine. In addition to toasts and other short pieces written for lodges, his best known, explicitly masonic works are: the light-hearted, cockney-versed “The Mother-Lodge” (1895) and the subject of this article, “The Palace” (1902).

In order to properly assess these particular works, there are two worlds in which Kipling lived that must be taken into account — his English Victorian one and the world inside that world, that of English-speaking Freemasons of that period. Although “The Man who would be King” has received regular treatment, not all critics have addressed the masonic apects despite the fact that they are ubiquitous and essential for a reader even to follow the plot with ease. Some have stressed character and plot without so much as a mention of the Masonic world which defines them.

The larger details of Kipling’s life (1865–1936) are well known[2] It has become popular to refer to the 1907 Nobel Poet Laureate as a famous imperialist or a champion of a benevolent form of white supremacy, a politically correct posture made possible either by wilfully excluding or misunderstanding such works as “The Mother-Lodge”, whose theme of universal brotherhood is stamped on every line.[3] This reputation, as undeserved as Twain’s, has resulted from ignorant readings of his works. Twain, incidentally also a Freemason, influenced Kipling[4] by his use of colloquialism. Like Kipling, anachronistic criticisms of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the author’s depiction of Jim have placed it on the lists of banned books from time to time in those unenlightened school districts in the U.S. that abuse thought and freedoms.[5]

Dismissing the errors that result from anachronistic judgments that do not account for Kipling’s idealistic expressions of universal brotherhood found in “The Mother Lodge” and “The Palace”, a few facts about his masonic life and his times are offered here in the interest of filling in some gaps. He was initiated into the three degrees at Hope and Perseverance Lodge No.782 at Lahore Punjab, India on April 5, 1886[6]

He was a friend, neighbour (in Sussex) and contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Edward Waite, C.W. Leadbeater, W. L. Wilmshurst and a score of other famous (and infamous) intellectuals, artists, mystics and eccentrics that made English society of the Victorian period so colourful. Its masonic subculture was exponentially so. Doyle, a spiritualist, and Waite, a student of the occult, for instance, were, along with Kipling, members of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 of London, primarily composed of professional intellectuals (professors), writers, artists, mystics, visionaries, members of the aristocracy, as well as others with scientific interests. Kipling joined in 1918. This premier lodge of masonic research is still very much in existence and was founded by General Sir Charles Warren, of Scotland Yard, in 1888. Today, Warren is often remembered for resigning his Scotland Yard position on Nov 8 of that year, after protracted political pressure about his supposedly militaristic management — curiously too (for illogical conspiracy theorists), late in the day Mary Kelly was killed by Jack the Ripper. Kipling was also a member of the Masonic Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.

On the surface, it would appear that Kipling’s masonic affiliation and the particular associations he enjoyed through it are nothing more than a quaint, and fading, sepia-toned backdrop for our passive, aesthetic enjoyment. In order to make any sense of these circumstances, it is important to note that one cultural phenomenon of Victorian society was the occult revival, and that code making and code breaking was much in vogue.[7] Doyle’s use of codes in the Sherlock Holmes’ series is famous, but its fame obscures the Victorians’ nearly universal interest in cryptography because Holmes’ adroitness in The Adventure oj the Dancing Men has been canonized, fossilized even, and thus appears unique. Add an infusion of long-standing preoccupation, indeed a characterizing one, with symbolic, allegorical and mystical subjects among educated Freemasons to the Victorian taste for codes, riddles and puzzles, and one can see how it would have been too tempting to a man of Kipling’s talent not to attempt to leave a masonic signature — a “Mason’s Mark” of his own craft as a writer, on some work of his own.[8]

The artistic function of repetition and patterns in Kipling’s works has been treated at some length by C.A. Bodelsen. This aspect is of importance in our examination of “The Palace”. Bodelsen observed that ‘[Kipling] may well have thought that the symbolism was obvious enough to be perceived by the attentive reader, and the chief motive of his elaborate pattern of allusions, hints and pointers, as well as the network of criss-cross references from one point of the story to another may have been to produce a pleasing artistic effect ... he invariably took care to insert so many clues that the full meaning can always be understood if the reader is patient enough to notice them all.’ [9] Given Kipling’s known predilection for erecting such meaningful architecture in his works, we may dispense with the astute, ironic observation Umberto Eco’s character Aglie makes in Eco’s own ludibria-filled work, Foucault’s Pendulum, namely that one can find number symbolism anywhere, particularly if one is inclined to round off. ‘I invite you to go and measure that kiosk,’ he begins, and ends his elaborate game and exemplum with the ‘formula for naphthalene.”[10]

In order to be effective, a meta-game, or ludibrium, would have to be utterly transparent but at the same time, hidden from those lacking curiosity or skill.[11] Its transparency means that it would lie open to talented brethren or sufficiently observant students of Western esoterica and hermetic studies. In other words, like Freemasonry itself claims to be, Kipling’s ludibrium would be an open secret. Rather like the obvious, yet sealed time capsule in a cornerstone, Kipling has left a mark for us to read in his poem, “The Palace”,[12] This poem draws attention to its own artifice. Its self-conscious playfulness, its very literalness, becomes the key itself, allowing a discerning mind to pry open the poem’s lid and discover its contents.

Members of the mystic tie may be assured that Kipling did not reveal any masonic “secrets”, beyond affinning the delight Freemasons have in their awareness of their tradition’s diachronic and synchronic connectivity, of its value as a transcultural mystery capable of uniting men of all faiths in a model of tolerance amid diversity, and of the sublimity of the enduring and intellectually playful nature of Freemasonry’s symbolism and allegories for those capable of engaging in them. Fortunately, this article is unconcerned with the origins of Freemasonry, since Kipling is a modern author. Fortunately, indeed, for as Dame Frances A. Yates declared, ‘The origin of Freemasonry is one of the most debated, and debatable, subjects in the whole realm of historical enquiry.’[13] It is necessary, however, to appreciate the roots the Craft has in, or influences it drew from, the Renaissance, particularly with regard to the various forms of ludibria encountered in the works of the Rosicrucian movement that Yates frequently finds herself obliged to associate with Freemasonry’s nearly modem period. The most common was that of its members being — literally — invisible, an obvious irony, whatever its motive.

The decrypted message per se is not profound, nor is it is even the point. The very existence of the encoded message and its playfulness, however, is. The resulting “message” in Kipling’s verbal cornerstone and time capsule simply restates the theme of the poem in a gnomic way: in one sense perceived by any attentive reader, the poem reports simply that talented people recognize each other in each other’s work, regardless of time or distance. In the masonic sense, the poem recalls the first sense and more; it reminds Freemasons that as men and Masons, they are bound to be and do their best to make the world and themselves better, and that they are able to recognize each other by means known only to them. The exacting nicety of the fit arrived at by applying the measures of sacred geometry, which are suggested in the poem’s architecture, proves the resultant message to be too cleverly embedded to be coincidental.[14] This precision in turn is allusive of the image of King Solomon’s temple whose construction was such that it more resembled the work of God than of man. In Kipling’s humble case, he, as a man, imago Dei, was merely imitating God, as man the builder.[15]

After presenting the text of “The Palace”, we shall dissect it, treating it (ironically, yet, as will be seen, appropriately) as two cubes. By taking Kipling at his word, and in accord with geometric principles, we shall treat the words and patterns as “bricks” with which as a writer he “built”, we shall discover the message he has left us, be we his fellow craftsmen as writers or readers, or his fellow Craftsmen of the Freemasons. The principles or formulae of sacred geometry we shall use are not masonic secrets, but they have been well known for centuries to informed Masons the world over.


When I was a King and a Mason—a Master proven and skilled—
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.

There was no worth in the fashion—there was no wit in the plan—
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran—
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.”

Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ash lars, and cut and reset them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.

Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder’s heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.

* * * * * * *

When I was a King and a Mason—in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.

They said—”The end is forbidden.” They said—”Thy use is fulfilled,
“Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s—the spoil of a King who shall build.”

I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber, only I carved on the stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!”

The first aspect of this poem that should particularly attract one’s attention is its metre. This poem is unusual in that each line is in “stress accentual hexameter” with a caesura between the first three, and second three, feet in each line.[17] This form is not frequently encountered in Victorian poetry. Hexameters were more common in the Baroque, eighteenth century English poetry and endured into the nineteenth, manifesting and distinguishing themselves as (usually frustrated) attempts to force modern languages into the prosodic moulds of Latin and ancient Greek, in which tongues it was used for, among other themes, gnomic ones.[18] Thus, the use of this form is an archaizing feature, evoking classical antiquity and erudition. Its use also calls to mind the cultural milieu of the periods associated with the early development of Freemasonry (late 1500s through 1600s), their tastes and concerns. These periods culminated, for Freemasonry, in the so-called Great Revival when it emerged into public view, officially held to be St. John’s Day, 24 June, 1717, when four London lodges joined to form the first Grand Lodge, inaugurating the modern period.

The second thing that one discovers is that there are six stanzas, of four lines each. Combined with the use of hexameters, this becomes very important symbolically and is ludibriously alluded to by one line in the poem: I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew. Once it is suspected that the poem may contain an embedded message of the very type explicitly stated in the poem (for reasons that will become clear), this line becomes an invitation to do with the verbal materials what the narrator does with the cut stones or bricks. The narrator discovers that a builder has left a message for him, cut on the stones he finds lying about, at first, as indecipherable rubble.[19]

At this point, one knows not, nor need know, whether Kipling has his narrator direct us to tumble, recut and reset either words, lines or both anew; yet precisely what and how we shall see presently. What is important at this stage is to perceive that the key, or basic geometry suggested by both the dimensions of the poem and verse just quoted, offer one of the universal symbols of Freemasonry: the perfect ashlar (or finished cube). This figure is suggested in the architecture of the poem and allows us to detennine what we are cutting and where to cut. After making this determination, whether arrived at or discovered by intuition, sudden insight or by hermetic knowledge gained by initiation and subsequently nourished by study, one will know how to tumble and reset the text.

The tumbling of the text is one of its features that, like its use of hexameters, harkens back to the past, specifically, to the cabbalistic studies and practices of the Renaissance mages. In the briefest description, suitable for our present purposes, the cabbalist rearranges sacred Hebrew texts to discover hidden meaning. Due to Freemasonry’s nature as an oral tradition, it is well known to even less educated Freemasons that the fraternity as it is now known emerged from a melange of Renaissance and Baroque studies of hermetic texts, cabbala, neoplatonism and Christianity, and became configured more or less what it is today (in terms of ritual and symbolism) during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.[20]

In quantifiable terms, the cube as a key to a verbal cipher is evinced by each stanza’s being composed of twenty-four stressed syllables for a total of 144 in the entire poem. In accord with the hermetic or neo- platonic principle of the correspondence or analogy of upper and lower worlds, the two half lines of three syllables each in each line reveal them to be microcosms of the whole. Thus, half of 144 (if that number did not already suggest the fact), or 72, emerges as a significant number, which in fact it is in esoteric traditions.[21]

At the simplest level, and the one that most matters for our decipherment, the number 72 alludes to a cube (6 sides by 12 edges = 72). This division reveals that the first three stanzas represent one cube and the second three another, stacked, just as the stanzas are. The words, like bricks, are laid in lines, corresponding, in the operative sense, to courses of bricks in a wall. The four lines per stanza allude to four walls, set perfectly square.

The row of dots dividing the stanzas in no way disturbs the geometry, quite the contrary. They are found between the fourth and fifth stanzas, dividing the numbers of stressed syllables into 96 above and 48 below. The relationships these numbers have with each other and the total number of syllables give us proportions of 2 and 3, and echo the sacred geometries we shall see presently in the square root ratios in the composition.[22]

Next, it is important to know how an operative mason ensures that the corners of brick or stone courses are set square. The Pythagorean Theorem, known to Freemasons as “the forty-seventh problem of Euclid” is the key. According to this theorem, known to any preparatory geometry student: a[2] + b[2] = c[2] wherein “c” is the hypoteneuse of a right triangle. Typically, so an operative friend and brother tells me, a “3-4-5” triangle is used in worksites to this day to ensure that a corner has been laid perfectly square.[23] Furthermore, a line drawn from corner to opposite corner (in the same plane as the square in which it is drawn) gives the measure of “x √2” (where “x” equals the length of one of the equal sides of the square). In three dimensions, a line drawn from one corner to its most opposite corner (crossing to the parallel plane, opposite), gives the measure of “x √3” (where “x” again is the length of one of the equal sides of the perfect cube). These ratios, √2 and √3, are essential to sacred geometry and the art of building. The two ratios of “x-to-v2” and “x-to-√3” are related to the Golden Mean Ratio (Phi) and were essential in the planning of the Gothic Cathedrals, whose connection with Freemasonry is more than legend, even if less than amply documented.[24] The various means of their encoding and transmission through pre-literate times into the modem age form the material of the deeper layers of Freemasonry’s esoteric work. Though the ratios themselves and their uses are now thoroughly familiar to engineers, architects and handfuls of art historians, seldom is there any conscious connection in the minds of these professionals of the transcendent meaning they may conveyor their place in Western cultural history, nor are they aware of how such ratios can function as signatures in stone — unless they are not merely card-carrying Freemasons, but studious and well-informed ones.

The application of these ratios in other contexts lies beyond the scope of this article. However, the lines dividing the squares and cubes reveal how to divide and where to tumble Kipling’s verbal ashlar. At the same time, the corners of the “verbal cube”, confirmed both by position as well as metre, all according to proportions significant to sacred geometry, tell us how far to tumble them with respect to each other, rather like the tumbler in a combination lock.

Be it remembered that each set of three stanzas has 72 stressed syllables, alluding to the mystic number associated with a cube. Before we retumble the verbal bricks, let us examine the technical (i.e., operative) sense of the word quoin. According to the O.E.D., a quoin can be ‘an external angle of a wall or building; also, one of the stones or bricks serving to form the angle of a cornerstone [or rarely a key-stone or anyone of the voussiers of an arch.’ To this, let us recognize the importance of a definition of proportion in architecture, ultimately of ancient origin (Vitruvius’ Ten Books on Architecture) but reasserted in the Renaissance by Giacomo da Vignola.[25] Much of his text found its way into one of the essential lectures of Freemasonry, and therefore would have been more than passingly familiar to Kipling: ‘ order in architecture is meant the members, ornaments and proportions of columns and pilasters, or it is the regular arrangement of the projecting parts of a building, which, united with a column...’ This brief passage is certainly no exclusive masonic secret, but it is part of a much longer text which Kipling would have in fact committed to memory. It is with the words that occupy these key positions, i.e. the cornerstones, that we are concerned.

Recalling that the first three stanzas form one cube and the last three another, we may next identify the top and bottom four corners of the stack, draw lines through them in ways that are meaningful in sacred geometry, particulary where cathedral building was concerned. We shall begin with the ashlars set in elevation view. This orientation of the cubes corresponds to the way the stanzas are printed on the page and require no tumbling of the metaphorical cubes to reveal the first set of interesting results. From this perspective, the top corners of the top cube have the words “When — skilled” and the bottom corners have “Taking — dead”; the bottom cube has “Yet — apart” on its top two comers and “After — known” on the bottom. Drawing one √2 line on the top cube connects “When — dead” and its parallel √2 on the bottom cube connects “Yet — known”, revealing the first gnomic reiteration of the poem’s themes of recognition and transmission of cultural and technical memory.

At last, we are ready to tumble the ashlar and see what words join when drawing two lines, this time √3 ones and instead of parallel, crossing. This may be imitated with a printed page on which all six stanzas appear by folding the bottom three over the top three, as if inverting a cube (imagine a pair of dice showing double sixes and turnone six onto the other so that the single dot appears on the top die and at the bottom of the lower die). The √3 lines now connect “After — dead” and “Yet — skilled”.

The curiosities do not end there. There is one more interesting connection, this time one that by drawing the proper lines, binds the two cubes together, as if with cement. This time, once again in elevation view (i.e., as the stanzas appear on the page), connect the words just connected by the √3 lines: “After — dead” and “Yet —skilled”, and add to them lines connecting other quoin-positioned words: “Taking — apart” and “Yet — dead”. Next, overlap “Taking — yet” and “dead — apart”, then recall the √2 lines drawn by the words they connected: “When — dead/apart”, “After — dead/apart”, “Taking/Yet — skilled” and “Taking/yet — known”.

These lines suggest three interesting ideas, anyone of which has masonic significance. First, the figure approximates, as nearly as geometry through words can, the familiar masonic Square & Compasses emblem. Second, the diamond-shaped figure in the center recalls the diamond formed by the lines connecting various points in the vesica piscis, or sacred mandala, which was so important in cathedral building, the various ratios of which reveal √3 and phi. Lastly, though, the idea of ‘taking the dead apart’ evokes the myth of Osiris, his dismemberment and resurrection, as well as ancient foundational sacrifices, all of which resonate with masonic symbolism and lore.[26]

Lest I be accused of committing an intentional fallacy by reading into Kipling’s work something he did not consciously construct, let the reader consider how unlikely it is to dismiss to coincidence the relationships and geometries we can measure while at the same timeobserving Kipling’s care and exactitude in the metre. The question parallels the positions for and against the intelligent design theory of Creation. Kipling could have written a five-stanza poem, for instance, or used a different metre altogether.


[Drawn by Dominic Williamson, a Londoner now based in Seattle —Ed.]

Second let it be remembered that ludibria of the type encountered in this poem have a time-honoured place among esoteric writings, all found in the Renaissance roots of Freemasonry. Third, the more prosaic practice of the Mason’s Mark on stonework suggests a point of inspiration even if Kipling had been unaware of the lengthy esoteric, Renaissance, cabbalistic shadow cast over his game. Lastly, it is hoped the reader will accept also the word of one who shares the delight of the game and who, like Kipling, views it as a poor human’s playfully mimetic way of evincing the admirable contrivance of the Creator in His works and in which the reverent will perceive a manifest appearance of design in their exacting and analogous proportions. When a Mason, Christian or not, reads this poem and discerns what “brother Kipling” has wrought, it brings a smile to his lips as he too ‘reads in the razed foundations’ (the “tumbled quoins” of his poem) the gnomic message in ‘the form of the dream [Kipling] had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.’


[1] Fussell, Paul, Jr. “Irony, freemasonry, and Humane Ethics in Kipling’s The Man who would be King“, English Literary History, Vol. xxv, No.1, 1958, pp. 216–233. Other articles about Kipling’s contribution to Freemasonry or mentions in articles about the influence of Freemasonry have appeared over the decades in the Kipling Journal, but they have been more in the biographical or encomiastic vein, not interpretive. In Kipling the Poet, Peter Keating addresses the frequently “Masonic implications” readily found in Kipling’s use of architectural imagery, not only in “The Palace”, but in other compositions, such as “The Pro-Consuls”, a tribute to Milner in 1905. Keating notes how in various poems and writings, Kipling extolls virtues such as endurance and perseverance as a literary response to criticism that he and his generation belong to the past, not to the present or future. While Keating is quick to see masonic references in the obvious use of architectural imagery, he misses the masonic implications, or rather allusions to masonic ritual and legend in “The Explorer”. Keating points out the motif “The Palace” and “The Explorer” share is the peculiar articulation of the exhortations to press on when an “everlasting word” is “whispered”. The Explorer is urged to continue because something is hidden and he must find it; the King and the Mason recalls how, in his (masonic) youth he had been encouraged to build and leaves that as his legacy to furure builders (brother masons). What Keating does not mention is that masonic lore essentially depends on the notion of an exhortation to continue a quest for the unknown or for that which was lost. See Keating, Peter, Kipling the Poet, Secker & Warburg, London, 1994, pp. 153–154.

[2] The most recent biographies of Kipling are: Lycett, Andrew, Rudyard Kipling, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1999; paperback, Orion Books, Ltd., London, 2000; and Gilmour, David, The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling, John Murray, London, 2002. A somewhat less recent one is, by Ricketts, Harry, Rudyard Kipling: A Life. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., New York. 1999. Freemasonry is mentioned in three or four paragraphs through Ricketts’ book — an odd disproportion when one considers the dimensions of Freemasonry in Kipling’s life, works, times, culture and travels. Lycett discusses Kipling’s involvement and the importance of Freemasonry in 22 pages of over 800 pages, certainly a reasonably long excursus.

[3] Regarding Kipling’s reputation, Louis L. Cornell in his critical anthology Rudyard Kipling: The Man who would be King and Other Stories, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987, has observed: ‘He stood, it can be argued, in a special relation to the age in which he lived. He was primarily an artist, with his individual vision and techniques, but his was also a profoundly representative consciousness. He seems to give expression to a whole phase of national experience, symbolizing in appropriate forms the “sense of the significance of life he [felt] acting as the unconscious metaphysic of the time”. He is in important ways a spokesman for his age, with its sense of imperial destiny, its fascinated contemplation of the unfamiliar world of soldiering, its confidence in engineering and technology, its respect for craftsmanship, and its dedication to Carlyle’s gospel of work. That is an age about which many Britons — and to a lesser extent Americans and West Europeans — now feel an exaggerated sense of guilt; and insofar as Kipling was its spokesman, he has become our scapegoat. Hence, in part at least, the tendency in recent decades to dismiss him so contemptuously. so unthinkingly, and so mistakenly. Whereas if we approach him more historically. less hysterically. we shall find in this very relation to his age a cultural phenomenon of absorbing interest’, p. vii. The internal quote is from E.M.W. Tillyard, The Epic Strain in the English Novel, London, 1958, p. 15.

[4] ‘Kipling developed his characteristic voice in the Plain Tales from the Hills of 1886 and 1887 ... The model was Mark Twain in his role of frontier journalist, the Mark Twain of Roughing It ... ‘. Cornell, Op. cit., p. xvii. Americans may take some pride in that literary influence flowing back across the Atlantic.

[5]Kipling’s favourable views about multiethnicity have been noted by Angus Wilson. Noting Kipling’s own words in his posthumous work Something of Myself (1937), in which Kipling takes the trouble to enumerate the racial diversity among the men with whom he associated in lodge, Wilson notes: ‘In these post-war Freemasonry stories, the emphasis is strongly upon the mixture of classes and trades. Here his fellowship with doctors is expressed strongly as in the other group of purely medical “healing” stories. But there is also a very lively and sympathetic concern with tradesmen ... an affectionate and admiring feeling ... The other feature of the stories is a pleasing delight in the ritual and furnishing (particularly eighteenth-century furnishing) of the Lodges.’ See Wilson, Angus, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works, Penguin Books, New York, 1977, pp. 314–3l5. Elliot L. Gilbert has also commented on the ill treatment Kipling has received — and properly identified it as a result of stupidity: ‘Critics have long equated certain brutal or violent attitudes on the part of characters in Kipling’s works with the author’s own attitudes.’ See Gilbert, E.L., Kipling and the Critics, New York University Press, New York, 1965, p. x. One is reminded of Don Quixote’s attack on Maese Pedro’s puppet show!

[6] See on the website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia.

[7] Singh, Simon. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography, Anchor Books, New York, 2000, p. 79. Singh reports: ‘As people became comfortable with encipherment, they began to express their cryptographic skills in a variety of ways. For example, young lovers in Victorian England were often forbidden from publicly expressing their affection, and could not even communicate by letter in case their parents intercepted and read the contents. This resulted in lovers sending encrypted messages to each other via the personal columns of newspapers. These “agony columns”, as they became known, provoked the curiosity of cryptoanalysts, who would scan the notes and try to decipher their titillating contents.’

[8] Two other famous masonic artists left such marks on their work. Mozart, in Die Zauberflötte (1791), used musical phrasings grouped in threes in the opening notes of the overrure and generally throughout in groupings of characters, set design and so forth. Tolstoy, in an essay The Lion and the Honeycomb, writing of temperance, used a whole array of building metaphors so familiar to Freemasons as to invite future generations of Masons to recognize him as a brother (it is unclear whether he ever joined). Non-masonic, personal signatures are found in Bach’s music as well. He employed a series of the musical notes “B-A-C”, then the “A” above - for the “H”; the repetition drawing attention to its own artifice.

[9] Bodelsen, C.A., Aspects of Kipling’s Art, Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York, 1964, pp. 105ff., especially p. 123.

[10] Eco, Umberto, Foucault’s Pendulum, trans. William Weaver, Ballantine Books, New York, 1997, p. 288.

[11] Yates, Frances A., The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. In order to understand Yates’ book, indeed most of her scholarly works, one must understand the ludibria carefully woven into the fabric of the whole, in the interstices between words and emblemata, on which the anonymous Fama Fraternitatis, known as the first of the Rosicrucian Manifestos (first printed edition, 1614), was based, as well as the sequela of writings that depend upon it, beginning in the early 1600s. These hermetic ludibria, in the midst of the mélange from which Freemasonry emerged, connect Kipling with his esoteric roots in the Renaissance.

[12] In addition to the robust, albeit tongue-in-cheek observation of Eco, another famous warning to researchers into masonic lore and symbolism in particular is the famous satirical piece by Ambrose Bierce in his work The Devil’s Dictionary. It reads: ‘Freemasons,n. An order with secret riles, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II, among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and the Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucius, Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids — always by a Freemason.’

Fortunately, in this article, we are dealing with a work by a known Freemason, moreover, one who is known to have enjoyed writing on masonic themes or using masonically inspired, self-consciously playful plots. Let us see how one might recognize another and then let the reader admit that such methods have held in examining some of the sites enumerated by the cynic, augmenting, rather than diminishing, the mystery of the origins of Freemasonry. See Bierce, Ambrose. The Devil’s Dictionary, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1993 (originally published in 1881 in serial form in a newspaper).

[13] Yates, Frances A., Op. cit., p. 266.

[14] For an intellectual feast, exploring the amazing world of sacred geometry, see Doczi, Gyorgy, The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art, and Architecture, Boston, Shambala, 1994.

[15] Yates, Frances A., The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, Routledge Classics, New York, 1979. In this book, the last of many in her career, she states, in reference to the “La Boderie” prefaces to their French translation of Francesco Giorgi’s Harmonia Mundi: ‘The importance of the Temple of Solomon as the great exemplar of architectural numerology is emphasized, and the preface ends with “Hermes Trismegistus” on the One.’ Elsewhere, in the same book, she asks rhetorically: ‘Was, therefore, the influence of Giorgi which we have traced in the Elizabethan age and called an influence of Christian Cabala really the same as an influence of Rosicrucianism, a movement possibly connected with secret societies and particularly with Freemasonry?’ (p. 197).

[16] Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition, Doubleday and Company, Inc., New York, 1940, pp. 383–384.

[17] Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. Preminger, Alex, and assoc. eds. Frank J. Warnke and O.B. Hardison, Jr., Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965, p. 127, b.

[18] Ibid., pp. 127–128 and 347–348.

[19] It must also be pointed out that much, if not most of Freemasonic ritual is often regarded as rubble, and will remain so if not pondered, even to the so-called initiated. As for what is meant by rubble and what rises from it, the reader is left to his own devices.

[20] For another exploration of the ways in which masonic symbolism was evolving from a late Baroque melange of esoteric skeins, see Vogt, Eric. “The Curious Case of Hermetic Grafitti in Valladolid ms. 40/8.”, Esoterica, Vol. V, Michigan State University, E.Lansing, 2003, pp. 73–94. Online journal at: In article, grafitti on a title page of a song is examined and it is shown how the IHS emblem and the monogram of Mary are respectively reveilings of the tetragramaton and the sigil of Saturn. the relationships of which are still preserved in masonic symbolism.

[21] Ovason, David, The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C., HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2000, p. 290. Ovason is not the source of the significance of the number 72, but gives a good summary. For a more remote source that played a decisive role in Western hermeticism, see Agrippa, Henry Cornelius, Three Books of Occult Philosophy. trans. James Freake, ed. Donald Tyson, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 2000. Originally published in 1531, this seminal work is itself derivative but offers a convenient terminus a quo, along with the Picatrix and the Zohar, for Western occult studies.

[22] Calculated as decimals, the relationships mean little or nothing. But examined proportionally, as geometric relationships, they are suggestive from a variety of numerological perspectives, none of which can be explored here, beyond noting the numbers 2 and 3, which will figure in the word relationships analogous to cornerstones. The 48 syllables of the last two stanzas, doubled (or times 2) equal the number of syllables above, or 96. The lower number tripled (or times 48) equals 144.

[23] I acknowledge Jon Sewell, past master of Queen Anne Lodge No.242 in Seattle, Washington, and operative stonemason, for an informative discussion comparing the actual practice of stone and bricklaying with the symbolism of the speculative craft.

[24] For example, the oldest extant written record connecting or suggesting the connection between the operative and speculative craft is the manuscript known as the Halliwell Poem, dated 1390. Its existence and contents suggest remoter origins, giving some credence to the loosely or anachronistically composed data in the legends, all inextricably confused by oral transmission in pre-literate ages, across language barriers and in slow-moving currents of the rivers of linguistic drift. Although the origins of Freemasonry - at least the elements that eventually came together to form it - are likely more remote than the Halliwell Poem, the questions of “how much credence to give the data” and “how far back to go” continually elude, tease or tempt researchers.

[25] From the Grand Lodge of British Colombia’s website (see note 6, above) we find succinct details about this connection: ‘Giacomo da Vignola, (b. 01/10/1507, d. 07/07/1573), a theoretical and practical architect of the Transition Period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, was the pupil and successor of Michelangelo. Born Giacomo Barozzi, in 1550 he was made papal architect by Pope Julius III. His The Five Orders of Architecture (1563; trans. 1889), became a standard work on the subject and was translated into many languages. Based upon the work of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (fl. 1st century C.E.), it undertook to formulate definite and minute rules for proportioning the classical orders appearing in the buildings of the Romans. This work, which has been in continuous use, has been scrupulously adhered to by many as an almost inviolable authority.’ To this we must add the theory of David Stevenson, who asserts that it was Robert Shaw, Master of the Works for James I, who began incorporating the hermetic, esoteric, Rosicrucian and cabbalistic features into stonemasons’ guilds in Scotland in the last decade of the sixteenth century. See Stevenson, David, The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century (1590-1710), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988.

[26] For Osiris, see Budge, E.A. Wallis, Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. I, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1973, pp. 5–6. For the theme of foundational sacrifice, see Brewster, Paul G, “The Foundation Sacrifice Motif in Legend, Folksong, Game, and Dance”, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, No.96, 1971, pp. 71–89.

Source: Kipling Journal September 2004