Irish Druids And Old Irish
However orthodox the Irish of the present day may be esteemed, there must
have been a fair amount of mysticism in the past amongst so imaginative a race.
Perhaps this quality brought them into some disrepute with the Church, down to
the time when the Pope gave their country to the Norman King of England, in
order to bring the people into more consistent faith. Even St. Bernard, in his Life
of Malachy, referred to the Irish as "Pagans, while calling themselves
John Scotus Erigena, the learned Irishman of the ninth century, was certainly
mystical in his views. He spoke of God as the essence of all things; of the
Divine Dark and Supreme Nothing; of creation being only an eternal
self-unfolding of the Divine Nature; of all things resolved or self-drawn to
God; of time and space, of modes of conception of the present state, &c.
Gould's History of Freemasonry refers to the connection between the
Druids and Freemasons. The Papal Bull of 1751 against the latter might have been
applied to the former:--
"The strict bond of secrecy--the oath to keep secret--at variance with
civil and canon law--of ill repute amongst wise and good men." Clement XII.
was followed in his condemnation of Freemasons by Benedict XIV.
The Zohar of the Kabbala taught that the "narrative of the Doctrine was
its cloak--the simple look only at the garment." Clement of Alexandria wrote, "The mysteries of the
Faith are not to be divulged to all.--It is requisite to hide in a mystery the
wisdom spoken." Even Augustine admitted that what "is now called the
Christian religion really was known to the ancients." Druidism may,
therefore, have had its secrets.
It is well to recollect, as Professor Rhys points out, that "what may
seem to one generation of men a mere matter of mythology, is frequently found to
have belonged to the serious theology of a previous one;" and that
"early man is not beneath contempt, especially when he proves to have had
within him the makings of a great race, with its highest notions of duty and
No one can deny that Wales--somehow or other, at a certain period, assuredly
long after the establishment of Christianity in these Islands, and suspected by
many, from philological investigations, to have been about the twelfth
century--received a flood of mystical learning, conveyed in Welsh Triads
of great beauty, but great obscurity. This mystical learning, conveyed in a
Christian guise, is asserted to be a re-statement, in refined symbolism, of
those ancient creeds, and associated with ideas drawn from megalithic monuments,
as cromlechs and circles.
The Irish literature of the same period in the Middle Ages, though less
tinctured than the Welsh with the Medieval mysticism, is not without a trace of
it. England, judging from the sudden admixture of religious symbols, previously
unknown in the Churches of that same era, was likewise affected. French
literature shares the same suspicion, Brittany in particular, and especially in
connection with the myths of Arthur, and the Quest of the Holy Grail. Morien is
right in placing this French development of Pagan mysticism alongside that of
The Early Lives of St. Patrick, containing many foolish
stories of Druids, of raising the dead, and striking dead the opponents of
the Saint, have no reference to this Oriental mysticism; but the latter appears
in later Lives of the Irish and Welsh Saints.
Whence came this occultism into the Church?
The introduction of it may be largely attributed to the Templars. They were
accused of magic, and lost everything thereby. As students, not less than
fighting monks, they learned much of Oriental mysticism, and may have been a
prominent means of introducing ancient heresies into Britain and France. Their
destruction from the orthodox point of view was justified. No one can look at
that symbol in the roof of London Temple Church, and on English Church banners
elsewhere, without recognizing the heathenism so conspicuous in Welsh Druidism.
But why this Eastern philosophy should find a special retreat in the Triads
of mediæval Wales is by no means clear. It is, however, a singular fact that
the introduction of this mysticism appeared almost simultaneously in the Sufuism
of Persian Mahometanism, as exhibited in the poems of Hafiz, Sadi, &c., and
is still to be found in the sect of the Dancing Dervishes. Did it reach Wales
through Spain and France? There is little or no evidence of Gnosticism--so full
of more ancient and pagan symbolism--penetrating to the British Isles; though
the later development of the Middle Ages abounded in Gnostic ideas.
As this peculiarity would appear to have entered Wales in the early Norman
period, during the Crusades, why was it not evidenced in Ireland? Did the Norman
conquerors, who became more Irishy than the Irish, from their devotion to the
Irish Brehon law, which gave chiefs so much power and property, decline to
patronize therein the new learning?
The Irish King of Ulster, Mongân, recollected his first life as Find,
though two centuries before. Tuan was twice born as a man. "The
idea," says Jubainville, "that a soul
could in this world re-clothe successively several different physical forms, was
a natural consequence of a Celtic doctrine well known in antiquity. This
doctrine is that the deceased who have left in the tomb their body deprived of
life, find in exchange a living body in the mysterious country which they go to
inhabit, under the bewitching sceptre of the powerful King of the Dead."
That there has been an esoteric learning in the Past, which has come down to
us in the form of Christian and Masonic Symbolism, is now by many accepted as a
truth. The Mason's Tools must have been used once, though now merely badges of
the worthy Craft. We may, therefore, be excused citing a remarkable letter,
reproduced in Melville's costly work, Veritas, professedly dealing with
the esoteric laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot alter. The letter is
signed by Mr. Henry Melville, and by Mr. Frederick Tennyson, brother of the late
Lord Tennyson, and is addressed as follows:--
"TO THE MOST WORSHIPFUL THE GRAND MASTER OF IRELAND,
We were acquainted with Mr. Melville in Tasmania some fifty years ago, when
he had been long engaged in an investigation of ancient learning, and had even
then come to the conclusion that heathen mythology was but a disguise,
concealing scientific truths.
HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF LEINSTER:
"The Petition of the Undersigned,
"That we, Master Masons, are in possession of the knowledge of the 'Lost
Secrets of Masonry.' We can prove that the Mysteries were Masonic, inasmuch as
by the usage of the Symbols now unwittingly worn by Companions and Masters,
Celestial Laws are framed in accordance with the Sacred Writings, and by these
Laws are obtained the true interpretation of the Lost Mysteries.
"That in former ages the learned rulers retained the Masonic mysteries
for the use and benefit of the Craft, and these Mysteries were not to be
divulged under a lesser penalty than Death. Such mystic secresy might have been
advisable and requisite in ages past, but such retention of knowledge your
Petitioners verily believe to be no longer necessary, as the advancement of
truth is now the policy of the civilized world, more especially so of the
"Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray, Most Worshipful Sir,
that you will be pleased to order a Commission of learned and intelligent
Brethren to be appointed to inquire and decide--
"1st--Whether the knowledge we profess was in former times considered
"2nd--Whether the Lost Mysteries were, and consequently still are,
"3rd--Whether truth should be published to mankind under the sanction of
the Grand Lodge, provided always that these Lost truths interfere not with the
Mysteries and Ritual of Modern Masonry.
"And, lastly, whether, under all considerations, the Grand Lodge of
Ireland will assist, fraternally, the dissemination of the recovered truths,
which will enlighten the most enlightened Chiefs' of this present generation.
(Signed) HENRY MELVILLE,
Occultism, in these modern days, as in Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy,
or Morien's Light of Britannia, attempts to explain, even to the vulgar
many, the secret mysteries supposed to have been cherished by the IRISH DRUIDS.