Though the Scriptures furnish but a meager account of Enoch, the traditions of Freemasonry closely connect him, by numerous circumstances, with the early history of the Institution. All, indeed, that we learn from the Book of Genesis on the subject of his life is, that he was the seventh of the patriarchs; the son of Jared, and the great-grandfather of Noah; that he was born in the year of the world 622; that his life was one of eminent virtue, so much so, that he is described as "walking with God"; and that in the year 987 his earthly pilgrimage was terminated, as the commentators generally suppose, not by death, but by a bodily translation to heaven. In the very commencement of our inquiries, we shall find circumstances in the life of this great patriarch that shadow forth, as it were, something of that mysticism with which the traditions of Freemasonry have connected him.
His name, in the Hebrew language, Sol, Henoch, signifies to initiate and to instruct, and seems intended to express the fact that he was, as Oliver remarks, the first to give a decisive character to the rite of initiation and to add to the practice of Divine worship the study and application of human science. In confirmation of this view, a writer in the Freemasons Quarterly Review says, on this subject, that "it seems probable that Enoch introduced the speculative principles into the Masonic creed, and that he originated its exclusive character," which theory must be taken, if it is accepted at all, with very considerable reservations.
The years of his life may also be supposed to contain a mystic meaning, for they amounted to three hundred and sixty-five, being exactly equal to a solar revolution. In all the ancient rites this number has occupied a prominent place, because it was the representative of the annual course of that luminary which, as the great fructifier of the earth, was the peculiar object of divine worship.
Of the early history of Enoch, we know nothing. It is, however, probable that, like the other descendants of the pious Seth, he passed his pastoral life in the neighborhood of Mount Moriah. From the other patriarchs he differed only in this, that, enlightened by the Divine knowledge which has been imparted to him, he instructed his contemporaries in the practice of those rites, and in the study of those sciences, with which he had himself become acquainted.
The Oriental writers abound in traditionary evidence of the learning of the venerable patriarch. One tradition states that he received from God the gift of wisdom and knowledge, and that God sent him thirty volumes from heaven, filled with all the secrets of the most mysterious sciences. The Babylonians supposed him to have been intimately acquainted with the nature of the stars; and they attribute to him the invention of astrology. The Rabbis maintain that he was taught by God and Adam how to sacrifice, and how to worship the Deity aright. The Cabalistic book of Raziel says that he received the Divine mysteries from Adam, through the direct line of the preceding patriarchs.
The Greek Christians supposed him to have been identical with the first Egyptian Hermes, who dwelt at Sais. They say he was the first to give instruction on the celestial bodies; that he foretold the deluge that was to overwhelm his descendants; and that he built the Pyramids, engraving thereon figures of artificial instruments and the elements of the sciences, fearing lest the memory of man should perish in that general destruction. Eupolemus, a Grecian writer, makes him the same as Atlas, and attributes to him, as the Pagans did to that deity, the invention of astronomy. Wait (Oriental Antiquities) quotes a passage from Bar Hebraeus, a Jewish writer, which asserts that Enoch was the first who invented books and writing; that he taught men the art of building cities; that he discovered the knowledge of the Zodiac and the course of the planets; and that he inculcated the worship of God by fasting, prayer, alms, votive offering, and tithes. Bar Hebraeus adds, that he also appointed festivals for sacrifices to the sun at the periods when that luminary entered each of the zodiacal signs; but this statement, which would make him the author of idolatry, is entirely inconsistent with all that we know of his character, from both history and tradition, and arose, as Oliver supposes, most probably from a blending of the characters of Enos and Enoch.
In the study of the sciences, in teaching them to his children and his contemporaries, and in instituting the Titles of initiation, Enoch is supposed to have passed the years of his peaceful, his pious, and his useful life, until the crimes of mankind had increased to such a height that, in the expressive words of holy Writ, "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually." It was then, according to a Masonic tradition, that Enoch, disgusted with the wickedness that surrounded him, and appalled at the thought of its inevitable consequences, fled to the solitude and secrecy of Mount Moriah, and devoted himself to prayer and pious contemplation. It was on that spot then first consecrated by this patriarchal hermitage, and afterward to be made still more holy by the sacrifices of Abraham, of David, and of Solomon-that we are informed that the Shekinah, or sacred presence, appeared to him, and gave him those instructions which were to preserve the wisdom of the antediluvians to their posterity when the world, with the exception of but one family, should have been destroyed by the forthcoming flood. The circumstances which occurred at that time are recorded in a tradition which forms what has been called the great Masonic legend of Enoch, and which runs to this effect: Enoch, being inspired by the Most High, and in commemoration of a wonderful vision, built a temple underground, and dedicated it to God. His son, Methuselah, constructed the building; although he was not acquainted with his father's motives for the erection. This temple consisted of nine brick vaults, situated perpendicularly beneath each other and communicating by apertures left in the arch of each vault.
Enoch then caused a triangular plate of gold to be made, each side of which was a cubit long; he enriched it with the most precious stones, and encrusted the plate upon a stone of agate of the same form. On the grave he engraved, in ineffable characters, the true name of Deity, and, placing it on a cubical pedestal of white marble, he deposited the whole within the deepest arch. When this subterranean building was completed, he made a door of stone, and attaching to it a ring of iron, by which it might be occasionally raised, he placed it over the opening of the uppermost arch, and so covered it over that the aperture could not be discovered. Enoch himself was permitted to enter it but once a year; and on the death of Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech, and the destruction of the world by the deluge, all knowledge of this temple, and of the sacred treasure which it contained, was lost until, in after times, it was accidentally discovered by another worthy of Freemasonry, who, like Enoch, leas engaged in the erection of a temple on the same spot.
The legend goes on to inform us that after Enoch had completed the subterranean temple, fearing that the principles of those arts and sciences which he had cultivated with so much assiduity would be lost in that general destruction of which he had received a prophetic vision, he erected two pillars-the one of marble, to withstand the influence of fire, and the other of brass, to resist the action of water. On the pillar of brass he engraved the history of creation, the principles of the arts and sciences, and the doctrines of Speculative Freemasonry as they were practiced in his times; and on the one of marble he inscribed characters in hieroglyphics, importing that near the spot where they stood a precious treasure was deposited in a subterranean vault.
Josephus gives an account of these pillars in the first book of his Antiquities. He ascribes them to the children of Seth, which is by no means a contradiction of the Masonic tradition, since Enoch was one of these children. "That their inventions," says the historian, "might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars-the one of brick, the other of stone; they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain and exhibit those discoveries to mankind, and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day."
Enoch, having completed these labors, called his descendants around him on Mount Moriah, and having warned them in the most solemn manner of the consequences of their wickedness, exhorted them to forsake their idolatries and return once more to the worship of the true God. Masonic tradition informs us that he then delivered up the government of the Craft to his grandson, Lamech, and disappeared from earth.
Doctor Mackey refers above to the discoveries made at the attempt by Julian the Apostate to rebuild the Temple. These are of especial interest to Brethren of various Degrees and the two leading accounts of these legends may well be included here as a matter of information. First we have the one given by the Greek historian Nicephorus Calistus in the fourteenth century, in his Ecclesiastical Histories. He records the following remarkable details of an occurrence that happened at the attempt to rebuild the Temple:
When the foundations were being laid, as has been said one of the stones attached to the lowest part of the foundation was removed from its place and showed the mouth of a cavern which had been cut out of the rock. But as the cave could not be distinctly seen, those who had charge of the work, wishing to explore it that they might be better acquainted with the place, sent one of the workmen down tied to a long rope.
When he got to the bottom he found water up to his legs. Searching the cavern on every side, he found, by touching with his hands, that it was of a quadrangular form. When he was returning to the mouth, he discovered a certain pillar standing up scarcely above the water. Feeling with his hand. he found a little book placed upon it, and wrapped up in very fine and clean linen. Taking possession of it, he gave the signal with the rope that those who had sent him down, should draw him up. Being received above, as soon as the book was shown, all were struck with astonishment, especially as it appeared untouched and fresh notwithstanding that it had been found in so dismal and dark a place. But when the book was unfolded, not only the Jews but the Greeks were astounded. For even at the beginning it declared in large letters: " In the beginning was the Word with God, and the Word was God." To speak plainly, the writing embraced the whole Gospel which was announced in the divine tongue of the (beloved) disciple and the Virgin. This legend as here quoted is in the Ecclesiasticae Historicae, Nicephori Callisti, tome ii, lib. x, cap. xxxiii, and is also in the Patrologza Graeca, Migne, volume cxlvi, pages 542-3. Another description of the same occurrence is given in the Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, compiled by Photius in the ninth century and translated by Edward Walford; published by Henry G. Bohn at London, 1855, chapter xiv, page 482, and this reads:
The work of rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem by Julian was checked by many prodigies from Heaven; and especially during the preparation of the foundations, one of the stones which was placed at the lowest part of the base suddenly started from its place and opened the door of a certain cave hollowed out in the rock. Owing to its depth, it was difficult to see what was within this cave; so persons were appointed to investigate the matter, who, being anxious to find out the truth, let down one of their workmen by means of a rope.
On being lowered down he found stagnant water reaching to his knees; and having gone around the place and felt the walls on every side, he found the cave to be a perfect square.
Then, in his return, he stood near about the middle, and struck his foot against a column which stood rising slightly above the water. As soon as he touched this pillar, he found lying upon it a book wrapped up in a very fine and thin linen cloth; and as soon as he had lifted it up just as he had found it, he gave a signal to his companions to draw him up again. As soon as he regained the light, he showed them the book, which struck them all with astonishment, especially because it appeared so new and fresh, considering the place where it had been found.
This book, which appeared such a mighty prodigy in the eyes of both heathens and Jews, as soon as it was opened, showed the following words in large letters. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ' In fact the volume contained that entire Gospel which had been declared by the divine tongue of the (beloved) disciple and the Virgin.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry