This picture, though, perpetuates a partial view of ourselves. We are also the product of hundreds of lineages, from the Iroquois elders who shaped a democratic Federation to Enlightenment scientists who broke intellectual gridlocks in Europe. Our melting pot has blended streams of art, culture, and philosophy from virtually every country in the world.
Most Americans never learn that our country was founded by many prominent Masons as well as members of other esoteric orders such as the Rosicrucians. Men like George Washington, Ben Franklin, and John Hancock were Masons, while men like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams may well have been. George Washington was sworn in as President by a Masonic Grand Master on the New York lodge 's Bible. Masonic lodges served as a hotbed for revolutionary activity such as the Boston tea party and had strong influence in the Continental Army. Masonic principles of design and sacred geometry heavily influenced Washington, D.C 's master plan. When we look at America 's revolutionary views on equality, democracy, and religious freedom, we also see the hand of Masonic tradition. Even the pyramid on our Great Seal harkens back to an ancient tradition of wisdom, epitomized by the radiant eye of awakened knowledge at its apex.
When we look at the European influences that shaped America, we see the strong influence of Sir Francis Bacon, who is considered by many to be the original founder of our country. Bacon was a brilliant man, learned in many languages and arts, a scientist, philosopher, and political adviser to England 's royalty. Bacon was also, by many accounts, the Masonic Grandmaster of his day and chief of the Rosicrucians. He encouraged a steady stream of followers to emigrate to America and shape America in alignment with their principles.
The impulse behind America was thus to create a political-religious-intellectual sanctuary away from the established aristocracies of Europe. Esoteric groups were a significant group of pilgrims seeking such freedom. So why is this relevant to us today?
Coming back to the Masons, there are two basic schools of understanding them. The first believes that they developed in the British Isles in the last five hundred years, largely as an outgrowth of working-class construction guilds, cemented together with an odd set of make-believe rituals and do-gooder ethics. The second believes that Masons are the inheritors of a very long lineage and that their strange rituals and initiation practices are attempts to memorialize ancient history and remain connected to principles, practices, and ideas that would otherwise have been lost in centuries of suppression.
In recent years, a number of popular and scholarly books have advanced the latter interpretation. In a simplified form, these books show that Masonic ancestors likely trace a history that began sometime in ancient Egypt, moved through pre-Christian Judaism, landed in southern France, came into prominence with the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages and went into a disguised form in Scotland after the Templars were decimated by Pope Clement V. This story makes for a fascinating tale, including Goddess-worship in the form of Black Madonnas, Medieval power struggles with the Vatican, as well as the search for the holy grail.
We are a long way from understanding the history of this lineage in its entirety. But the case is compelling that the "eccentric British builders " theory of Masonic history is likely incomplete and that the ancient lineage version is closer to the truth.
America 's 230-year view of ourselves may thus be profoundly ignorant of much deeper roots, roots that trace back thousands of years into Egypt. They are roots that pre-date Christianity and even ancient Greece. In this longer view, America becomes the political fulfillment of a lineage that has been working for millennia to advance and apply its understanding of philosophy, science, and spirituality.
If we are, indeed, the inheritors of that secretive lineage, we have an obligation to understand it, to teach our children about it, and to begin to embody its ideals in a more mature way than we have to date. This hidden lineage may hold important keys to unlock our future evolution.