Tagged: James H. Billington

Masonic Emblems on Coins and Medallions during the French Revolution


by Terry Melanson, April 24th, 2012 (Update/Introduction Aug 11, 2015)

The impetus for this compilation of numismatic Masonic symbolism during the French Revolution stems from a single paragraph (and accompanying end notes) in James H. Billington’s Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (pp. 93, 537-8):

In the early days of the revolution, Masonry provided much of the key symbolism and ritual—beginning with the Masonic welcome under a “vault of swords” of the king at the Hotel de Ville three days after the fall of the Bastille.[36] To be sure, most French Masons prior to the revolution had been “not revolutionaries, not even reformers, nor even discontent”;[37] and, even during the revolution, Masonry as such remained politically polymorphous: “Each social element and each political tendency could ‘go masonic’ as it wished.”[38] But Masonry provided a rich and relatively nontraditional foraging ground for new national symbols (coins, songs, banners, seals), new forms of address (tu, frère, vivat!), and new models for civic organizations, particularly outside Paris.[39]


36. On the use of the voûte d’acier on Jul 17, see J. Palou, La Franc-maçonnerie, 1972, 187.
37. D. Mornet, Les Origines intellectuelles de la révolution française (1715–1787), 1954, 375; discussion 357–87; bibliography, 523–5; and outside of France, Billington, Icon, 712–4. A. Mellor, Les Mythes maçonniques, (1974) also minimizes Masonic influence, though vaguely acknowledging the influence of the occultist revival on the revolutionary movement.
38. Ligou, “Source,” 46, also 49.
39. This subject has never been comprehensively studied. For the best discussions in general terms, see O. Karmin, “L’Influence du symbolisme maçonnique sur le symbolisme révolutionnaire,”Revue Historique de la Révolution Française, 1910, I, 183–8 (particularly on numismatics); J. Brengues, “La Franc-maçonnerie et la fête révolutionnaire,” Humanisme, 1974, Jul–Aug, 31– 7; Palou, 181–215; R. Cotte, “De la Musique des loges maçonniques à celles des fêtes révolutionnaires,” Les Fêtes de la révolution, 1977, 565–74; and the more qualified assessment of Ligou, “Structures et symbolisme maçonniques sous la révolution,” Annales Historiques, 1969, Jul Sep, 511–23. 
For the heavy reliance on Masonic structures in provincial civic rituals, see, for instance, F. Vermale, “La Franc maçonnerie savoisienne au début de la révolution et les dames de Bellegarde,” Annales Révolutionnaires, III, 1910, 375–94; and especially the monumental work for la Sarthe which lifts the level of research far above anything done for Paris: A. Bouton, Les Franc-maçons manceaux et la révolution française, 1741–1815, Le Mans, 1958. See also his successor volume Les Luttes ordentes des francs-maçons manceaux pour l’établissement de la république 1815–1914, Le Mans, 1966.

The Karmin article is the main source for what follows.

His methodology is simple: he mined a standard numismatic reference work and highlighted the examples of Masonic influence—minus illustrations, hence the need for my own treatment. The evidence is clear and seems deliberate, although one isn’t quite sure whether the artists involved were actually Masons themselves.



Psychologizing Subservience: The Era of Psuchikos Man


By Phillip D. Collins ©, Jan. 8th, 2014

I Corinthians 2: 14-15 establishes a binary opposition that defines the modern historical struggle in which man finds himself mortally locked. This passage of Scripture, as it is translated in the amplified version of the Bible, reads: “But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him].”

Verse 15 presents the reader with the “spiritual man.” The adjective “spiritual” is etymologically derived from the Greek word Pneumatikos, which relates to the human spirit or rational soul. Pneumatikos is that which was breathed into man by God in Genesis 2:7. In fact, the word pneumatikos also pertains to breath, as is evidenced by respiratory-related terms like “pneumonia.” The concept of Pneumatikos forms the basis for the Christian doctrine of imago viva Dei, which teaches that man occupies the unique position as a creature created in the image of God.

In contradistinction, verse 14 presents the reader with the “natural man.” The adjective “natural” is etymologically derived from the Greek word psuchikos. It denotes the principle of animal life, that which men have in common with the brutes. It also connotes the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.

Interestingly enough, the term “psychology” is etymologically derived from psuchikos. Through the interpretative lens of modern psychology, all those elements of man that initially fell under the descriptive category of pneumatikos are biologicized. With the soul divorced from metaphysics, every thought, feeling, and idea becomes biochemical in origin. Remaining consistent with its etymological root, psychology reduces man to little more than a brute whose behavior must be sculpted by those few conditioners who are accountable to no moral master.