The origins of Freemasonry – as would be expected of such a “venerable secret society” – are shrouded in myth, legend and almost impenetrable obscurity. Since at least the late 18th century Masonic writers have sought to establish a link between the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. Freemasonic lore and symbols have been traced to ancient Egypt and Phoenicia. Yet, despite all the books and articles exploring Freemasonry published over the last hundred years, there is one area that has not received attention. It concerns Freemasonry’s debt to Islamic mysticism and a shadowy tradition connecting the Masons with the Moors of North Africa.
The involvement of Freemasons in the establishment of the United States of America is well documented. In fact Masons featured so prominently in drafting the American Declaration of Independence that many people believed it a thoroughly ‘Masonic project’. Not only George Washington but also the US founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were high-degree Masons. Masonry had a profound influence on the formation of American society, but there was also another secret power which has gone completely unnoticed.
The Kingdom of Morocco under the leadership of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah, known as King Mohammed III, was the first country in the world to recognise the United States of America as an independent nation in 1777. This historic act by the North African Muslim kingdom highlights the relationship then existing between America’s Masonic leaders and the Moors. Before exploring this strange connection further we need to understand the part played by the Moors in the transmission of knowledge to Europe.
Moor is the classical name in Europe of the Muslim people of North Africa. In Spain, where Muslims ruled for over five hundred years, Arabs are still called Moros. The term “Moor” came to be synonymous with “Muslim” in many contexts, for example the Muslim communities in the Philippines are known to this day as Moros. The Supreme Wisdom of the Moors, much of it derived from ancient Egypt, has come to be known as “Moorish Science”.
The Moors provided the vital link between ancient and modern civilisation. The light of knowledge which illuminated the Moorish lands of Spain and Sicily was instrumental in dispelling the gloom of ignorance that enveloped mediaeval Europe.
“It was under the influence of Arabian and Moorish revival of culture,” writes Robert Briffault in The Making of Humanity, “and not in the 15th century, that the real renaissance took place. Spain and not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After sinking lower and lower in barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when the cities of the Saracenic world Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, Toledo, were growing centres of civilisation and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into a new phase of human evolution. From the time when the influence of their culture made itself felt, began the stirring of a new life.”
The Orientalist Stanley Lane-Poole acknowledged the great impact Moorish civilisation had on Europe when he wrote:
For nearly eight centuries under her Muslim rulers Spain set to all Europe a shining example of a civilized and enlightened state. Art, literature and science prospered as they then prospered nowhere else in Europe. Students flocked from France and Germany and England to drink from the fountains of learning which flowed only in the cities of the Moors. The surgeons and doctors of Andalusia were in the vanguard of science; women were encouraged to devote themselves to serious study, and a lady doctor was not unknown among the people of Cordova.1
The 19th century French writer on the esoteric sciences, Gerard Encausse, known as “Papus”, noted how “the Gnostic sects, the Arabs, Alchemists, Templars” form a chain transmitting ancient wisdom to the West. This explains why within the Ritual of Freemasonry there is the admission “we came from the East and proceeded to the West.” A Masonic author Bernard H. Springett says:
The plain fact that much of what we now look upon almost entirely as Freemasonry has been practised as part and parcel of the religions of the Middle East for many thousands of years, lies open for anyone who cares to stop and read, instead of running by. But it is frequently and scornfully rejected by the average Masonic student…2
So we find that just as Europe borrowed considerably from the learning of the Moors, European Freemasonry took its “secret wisdom” from the Muslim East.
With the end of Moorish rule in Spain, the Europeans began to colonise Africa, Asia and the Americas. In time European Christians conquered Muslim territories and the great debt Western civilisation owed to the Moors was quickly forgotten. By the 18th century European Christians saw themselves as the predestined rulers of the world with a divine mission to “civilise” the heathen. Western historians conveniently ignored the immense contribution of the brilliant and energetic Moorish civilisation in delivering Europe from mediaeval barbarism. We can only conclude this is a result of the pride and presumption of Westerners, which prevent them from recognising the truth or importance of their debts to the East.
Seekers of Truth
The founders of the American republic, as high-degree Freemasons, were aware of the importance of Moorish wisdom and culture to the birth of Western civilisation. This may explain why Morocco was the first nation in history to recognise the United States, and what’s really behind the story of George Washington being presented with a Moorish flag. Some researchers believe this flag consisted of a red background with a green five-pointed star in the centre of it. The star or pentagram, which the Moors called the Seal of Sulaiyman and coloured green to honour Islam, also figures prominently in Masonic art and architecture. The layout of the city of Washington D.C. – designed by Freemasons – incorporates the pentagram.
When Freemasons travelling in the Moorish lands encountered Sufis, the mystics of Islam, they soon recognised a common bond. “Sufi-ism,” said Sir Richard Burton, was “the Eastern parent of Freemasonry.” John Porter Brown, an American diplomat in Turkey in the mid 1800s, was a Freemason who wrote sympathetically of the Sufi path. In The Darvishes, he admits finding it “rather strange that the Dervishes of the Bektashi Order consider themselves quite the same as the Freemasons, and are disposed to fraternize with them.” Brown commented how in Turkey Freemasonry had come to be generally regarded as “atheism of the most condemnable character.” A position not unlike the one held by Papus, the celebrated French occultist and Gnostic bishop, who tried to counter the Masonic lodges which, he believed, were in the service of British imperialism and the international financial syndicates. Papus also viewed Freemasonry as a diabolical perversion of the ancient secret tradition and atheistic at heart.
When Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) set out in search of hidden wisdom it was to the Moorish land of Egypt that she journeyed. Blavatsky claimed to be a disciple of the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi. The researcher K. Paul Johnson convincingly shows her tales of the “Masters” to be modelled on real people, many genuine occult adepts. Prominent among them Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, a Sufi scholar, tireless political intriguer, and the leader of radical movements throughout the Muslim world, whose travels enigmatically paralleled those of Madame Blavatsky for more than thirty years. Best remembered for co-founding the Theosophical Society and helping to popularise Buddhism and Hinduism in the West, Blavatsky also proudly wrote of “living with the whirling dervishes, with the Druze of Mount Lebanon, with the Bedouin Arabs and the marabouts of Damascus.”
Madame Blavatsky’s “Masters” are very close to the Sufi tradition of Khwajagan (Persian: “Masters”). Ernest Scott states “the Khwajagan teachers are entirely corporeal and literal, having been physically located in the Hindu Kush area since the 10th century. The Hindu Kush range is in Afghanistan: geographically, it forms the Western extreme of the Himalayas.”3 Scott quotes from a paper by a Turkish writer who describes how members of the Khwajagan:
…intervene from time to time in human affairs. They do this, not as leaders or teachers of mankind, but unobtrusively by introducing certain ideas and techniques. This intervention works in such a way as to rectify deviations from the predestined course of human history. This inner circle, it is claimed, concentrates its activities in those areas and at those times when the situation is critical for mankind.”4
Certainly Madame Blavatsky’s teacher Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, who was raised in Afghanistan, fits the description of a Master Adept. His life is described as a mysterious odyssey that led through lands as far apart as India and America. Received by heads of state in Cairo and Istanbul, he moved in both underground radical circles and the highest centres of power in European and Oriental capitals.
The idea of living ‘spiritual guides’ or masters is central to Sufism. In the words of Sir John Glubb Pasha: “Sufism cannot be defined in words, nor can it be comprehended by the human intellect. It can only be imperceptibly ‘caught’ or imbibed by association with a Sufi master.” The Sufi master is revered by his disciples for being in contact with a level of higher consciousness, his mission on Earth directed by higher powers. Studying the lives of some of the greatest Sufi masters we often find them to be wandering holy men (& women) whose actions are usually misunderstood by orthodox believers. The shrines of Sufi masters are centres of trance dancing, exorcism, and miraculous healings.
The Sufi tradition is integral to Moorish Science.
Sufi masters are also renowned for communicating with their followers through dreams. There are numerous stories of Sufi saints appearing in a disciple’s dreams and using telepathy to direct followers to undertake a special mission.
Mission to America
A few years after Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875, the Master Adept Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani turned up in America around 1882. Two Americans of African descent, who are rumoured to have studied under al-Afghani, were the parents of the man who would one day establish Moorish Science in the United States.
Noble Drew Ali (born Timothy Drew) early in the 20th century took a job as a merchant seaman and found himself in Egypt. According to one legend, Noble Drew Ali made a pilgrimage to North Africa where he studied with Moorish scholars and received a mandate from the king of Morocco to instruct Americans of African descent in Islam. His association with the ruler of Morocco is significant when we recall the historic relationship between this Moorish country and the early United States.
At the Pyramid of Cheops his followers believe he received initiation and took the Muslim name Sharif [Noble] Abdul Ali; in America he would be known as Noble Drew Ali. On his return to the United States in 1913 he had a dream in which he was ordered to found a movement “to uplift fallen humanity by returning the nationality, divine creed and culture to persons of Moorish descent in the Western Hemisphere.” He organised the Moorish Science Temple along lines similar to Masonic lodges, with local temple branches and “Adept Chambers” teaching the esoteric wisdom derived from the secret circle of Eastern Sages, the Master Adepts of Moorish Science.
Noble Drew Ali is said to have made a historic visit to Washington, D.C. in order to reclaim the Moorish flag and obtain official recognition to call his people to their true faith, “Al Islam”. The US president, believing that African Americans would not embrace Islam, gave Noble Drew Ali full authority to teach Moorish Science in America.
By the end of the 1920s, membership in the Moorish Science Temple had grown substantially. With increasing numbers of African Americans rallying behind Noble Drew Ali the Moorish movement soon came under the scrutiny of the FBI. In 1929 several Moors, including Noble Drew Ali, where detained for questioning by the Chicago police. Released from custody, Noble Drew Ali fell ill and never recovered. Many Moors suspected his death the result of a severe police beating.
Following the inexplicable ‘death’ of Noble Drew Ali, the Moorish Science Temple continued and gave rise to unique Islamic groups among the African American community. Much of the known history of Moorish Science in North America is extremely complex and obscure.
By the 1950s some white American poets and jazz musicians came into contact with Moorish Science. The North African cities of Tangiers and Marrakech held a magic attraction for the leaders of America’s counterculture, with writers like William S. Burroughs spending years living in the Moorish lands. The Moorish Orthodox Church of America was formed by white Americans who held Moorish Science passports and had ties with certain “Wandering Bishops” of the Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Joseph Matheny, the American author and media theorist, first encountered Moorish Science when he was researching time travel and quantum consciousness. In his book Ong’s Hat The Beginning, the Moorish Orthodox Church is called “one of the most secretive and mysterious religious organisations ever known to man” and:
a revolutionary and heretical sect of Islam that carries on an ancient tradition which sought to counterbalance the forces of orthodox Islam. Despite the controversial and dubious nature of the MOC, part of their tradition has been to serve as the torch bearers of freedom against the tyrannical and repressive aspects of the Earth’s patriarchal power structure as our planetary consciousness shifts to the Age of Aquarius and sets its site on unlimited freedom and the expression of life in all of its true wonder and beauty.
Years before the “War on Terror” and Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, this writer attended a lecture organised by people associated with the Moorish Orthodox Church. The speaker, a Moorish Sheik returned from a long sojourn in the East, claimed Freemasonry is built on a twisting of the truth of Moorish Science. It is the secret power behind the West based on the Supreme Wisdom derived from esoteric Islam. The European colonisers usurped the knowledge of the Moors and created a nefarious system of control that blinds man to his true identity. Freemasonry was identified as a chief player in the world “Babylonian” system, the mastermind of the institutions of indoctrination that prevent the full knowledge of the True God to be known. Moorish Science is the effective counter to the Freemasonic imposters and a force for Truth, Love, Peace, Freedom and Justice. The Sheik also revealed how Afghanistan and Iraq figure in sacred geography and numerology, and mentioned a secret war between the Anglo-American and Asiatic powers.
Is there a struggle between occult brotherhoods to influence human destiny? Are the dramatic events taking place in the world, from the continuing strife in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, to the rivalry between the forces of Atlanticism (Britain and the USA) and Eurasia (Russia and China), just surface manifestations of a deeper conflict? Certainly the strange saga of Moorish Science and the Moorish Orthodox Church adds weight to the observation made by one of the 20th century’s most controversial mystics:
…There is a history behind our so-called history that you cannot even conceive of. History has a deeper base. The periphery that we know as history is not the reality. Behind our so-called history continues another history, a deeper one about which we know nothing.5
If you appreciate this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.
1. Stanley Lane-Poole, Studies in a Mosque
2. Bernard H. Springett, Secret Sects of Syria and the Lebanon
3. Ernest Scott, People of the Secret
5. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, I AM THE GATE: The Meaning of Initiation and Discipleship
MEHMET SAHEHEDDIN is a researcher, writer, spiritual teacher and global traveller. He is a longtime contributor to New Dawn magazine. A “spiritual swaggie”, his areas of interest are wide ranging and include Sufism, Islam and esoteric Christianity. He can be contacted c/- of New Dawn Magazine, GPO Box 3126FF, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia.
The above article appeared in New Dawn 86 (Sept-Oct 2004).
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
For our reproduction notice, click here.