While browsing the Internet for materials related to freemasonry, I came across “The morals and dogmas”, the monumental work of Albert Pike, a famous American Masonic writer of the 19th century. Surprisingly enough, this voluminous text is mostly advertised via anti-Masonic sites(e.g. here), who sometimes even post the whole text only for the sake of one quote, which is meant to illustrate poorly hidden satanic inclinations of A.Pike and, hence, the whole freemasonry (see). Here is the quote:
“Lucifer, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable, blinds feeble, sensual, or selfish souls? Doubt it not!”
Comments around the quote usually say that Lucifer is praised here as a Light-Bearer of Freemasonry. But most of the time the quote is considered to be so self-explanatory that it is given without comments. Apparently I started looking for what another party has to say. I was able to find only feeble and indirect defence. Masonic defenders say that Pike was an Episcopal Christian, that he was interested in all kinds of spiritual knowledge, that his leadership was limited with a only few states, that his books are not a dogma for freemasonry and are not in official use since 1974, etc. They also complain that A.Pike is a controversial figure who did damage to freemasonry and offer awkward explanations about how the word ‘Lucifer’ can be understood. This kind of defence seems only to confirm the fact itself that A.Pike was flirting with dark forces.
Having read all that, I almost accepted (as probably many other readers did) that A.Pike was at least occasionally looking at Satan as a source of inspiration to unleash man’s own spirit, in the style of today’s LaVeyan Satanism. However I was perplexed by the fact that a few other places where Lucifer is mentioned in Pike’s volume sounded quite in line with normal Christian theology, and also by the fact that in other Masonic texts I browsed I could not find any references to Lucifer at all. If Lucifer is of any importance to these guys, could they at least mention him somewhere? While double-checking this, I made accidentally one more time a word search in ‘Morals and dogmas’ and naturally stumbled again upon the infamous quote. But this time I bothered to read the text around it. The result was quite shocking: I could not even suggest that the meaning of this quote changes so much when you read the whole paragraph. Here is how it looks:
The Apocalypse is, to those who receive the nineteenth Degree, the Apothesis of that Sublime Faith which aspires to God alone, and despises all the pomps and works of Lucifer. LUCIFER, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable blinds feeble, for traditions are full of sensual or selfish Souls ? Doubt it not! Divine Revelations and Inspirations: and Inspiration is not of one Age nor of one Creed. Plato and Philo, also, were inspired. The Apocalypse, indeed, is a book as obscure as the Sohar. It is written hieroglyphically with numbers and images; and the Apostle often appeals to the intelligence of the Initiated. “Let him who hath knowledge, understand! let him who understands, calculate !” he often says, after an allegory or the mention of a number. Saint John, the favorite Apostle, and the Depositary of all the Secrets of the Saviour, therefore did not write to be understood by the multitude.
In the first sentence A.Pike directly says that mason-candidates of the 19th degree (to whom this chapter is addressed) must aspire to God alone despite the works of Lucifer. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Now having the context before my eyes I saw clearly why the name of Lucifer appears in all capitals in the next sentence – because the name itself puzzles A.Pike. He knows that ‘Lucifer’ means ‘Light-bearer’ in Latin and he is simply surprized why this sort of name is used for the Spirit of Darkness. He assumes that his reader knows Latin and understands the question. This naming of Satan as a ‘Light-bearer’ is indeed weird, but it was not invented by A.Pike. It was used by the Church for centuries since its first appearance in Vulgate, the Latin Bible. The next sentence says that Lucifer’s light can blind (seduce) the weak ones, which is again a fairly common idea. ‘Doubt it not!’ is making the statement yet stronger – yes, says A.Pike, indeed his false light can distract those who are sensual and selfish. His allusion to Lucifer is only natural in this place because he is talking here about the book of Revelation. Further A.Pike goes on with in his eclectic semi-mystical style mixing in one bowl the Apocalypse (i.e. the book of Revelation), apostles, Philo, Plato and God knows what else.
So the main meaning of the famous quote is a simple and natural question: why the spirit of darkness is called Lucifer = Light bearer? This question is hard for us to understand because we assume that the name ‘Lucifer’ is only one of the names of Satan. I don’t know Latin, but I studied Dutch, so I know that in Dutch ‘een lucifer’ means only ‘a match’. This inspired me to start looking at the ethymology, and eventually I found that ‘Lucifer’ in Latin means a ‘Light-bearer’ (lux = ‘light’, fero = ‘to bring’). But indeed why? Now that I understood Pike’s question, I wanted to know the answer.
The answer came through the Catholic Encyclopedia on-line, which I assume to be the ultimate source on the topic. It says that the word ‘lucifer’ was often used to mean Venus – the star that shines in the morning. It is used a few times in Vulgate to indicate “the light of the morning” (Job 11:17), “the signs of the zodiac” (Job 38:32), “the aurora” (Psalm 109:3), and even Jesus Christ himself (2 Peter 1:19; Apocalypse 22:16 ). The only reason why we use it as a devil’s name is an allegoric story retold in Isaiah 14:12 about one of the Babylonian kings falling from his throne as the morning star is falling from the sky. This passage was used by some interpretators as a Biblical proof of the popular legend of a fallen angel, which originated from other sources. St. Jerome, who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, apparently used the word ‘lucifer’ just as another word for ‘star’ or ‘light’ in a number of completely unrelated places. St. Jerome had no idea that one of these passages would give rise to another name of the Devil! The story of a fallen angel is sitting so deeply in our minds, that most of us do not realize that the Biblical evidence to support it is so shaky.
So the answer to Pike’s question is simple: the name ‘Lucifer’ = ‘Light Bearer’ is a result of misunderstanding, of misinterpretation mixed with somewhat unimaginative translation. I wonder if he would pose this question at all if he knew the modern answer. As a by-product of my little research I came to an interesting conclusion: the story of a fallen angel with a strange name, made so famous through a number of well-known artistic and poetic masterpieces, is based on misunderstanding! There is no direct Biblical evidence to support this story – the only passage on which it was based was originally meant to indicate something else.