Sir Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis in America.
There are philosophical and historical threads connecting the lives and work of the Elizabethan statesman Sir Francis Bacon, America’s mystical minded Founding Fathers and renowned spiritual seer Edgar Cayce. These threads weave their way through a metaphysical landscape reaching from the days of ancient Atlantis and mysterious Egypt to the present. The visionary Francis Bacon was a supporter of the Virginia colony of 1607, some of the men who declared America’s independence in 1776 were known Freemasons and met periodically in Williamsburg, Virginia, Edgar Cayce’s life work led to the establishing of the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach in 1931.
It is a multi-tiered landscape depicting mankind’s cyclical soul journey upward from the self-inflicted loss of paradise, the Biblical fall from a state of harmonious oneness with all creation, ascending through millennia to our own time and a prophesised new age of enlightenment based on the conscious realization and collective expression of our true identity as spiritual beings. It incorporates Hermetic principles dating back to the building of the pyramids, spiritual teachings originating in Persia and India, Cabalistic Judaism from the days of Melchizedek, as well as Masonic rites and symbolism associated with King Solomon’s Temple. All of these theosophical threads merged during the years of preparation by the reclusive Essenes in Palestine for the birth of a Promised One who was to fully manifest God consciousness in the earth. One who would show the way for mankind to regain his former state before the Fall.
The knowledge which Jesus possessed, demonstratd shared concerning the harmonious integration of divine and human consciousness, expressed by Him as ‘I and my Father are One’, was preserved in the Gnostic stream of Christianity and perpetuated by various secret groups through ensuing centuries. The synthesis of eastern and western esoteric traditions nurtured during the European Renaissance influenced the Cabalistic, Rosicrucian and pietist movements of the early to middle seventeenth century, which in turn found their way to the shores of the then ‘new world’ of North America. Such are the profound origins and influences behind the collective mindset that enshrined certain key principles in the American Constitution, principles related to freedom of conscious, worship and expression that drew from the spiritual and philosophical wellsprings of the past and were given political relevance. They set the stage for the heroic drama of developing and maintaining a free nation in which every American is still called upon to play his or her part, and about which Edgar Cayce had much to say.
Both Bacon and Cayce were dedicated to expanding knowledge of the spiritual and physical worlds through their respective abilities, and their individual and joint contributions continue to inform and enrich the spiritual, mental and material life of not only Americans, but of all of mankind. Although Bacon is most often referred to as the founder of material science, he actually held to a world view that saw all creation as part of a universal whole, originating in spirit. The same holistic philosophy, succinctly expressed as ‘spirit is the life, mind is the builder and the physical the result,’ runs through the 14,000 plus psychic readings that comprise the Edgar Cayce material. Both men
possessed an intimate knowledge of the Bible and were greatly influenced by it. Their work related the sacred to the secular, the profound to the practical. They both held to the belief that humanity had the ability and was destined not only to create a better world but also to regain conscious reunion with the divine.
In a number of readings Cayce drew attention to the country’s founding principles
enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, emphasising their deeply rooted spiritual nature and their aspirational aspect expressed on the Great Seal as Novus Ordo Seclorum’ ‘New Order of the Ages,’ A similar aspirational mindset lay behind the esoteric Rosicrucian manifestoes of the early seventeenth century and was embedded in the sacred symbolism and initiatory rituals of the Masonic Order, to which several of America’s Founding Fathers belonged. In a reading for a man who Cayce revealed had been President John Quincy Adams in a previous life, he was encouraged to continue to apply justice, mercy, peace and love as he had in the past. Cayce then added ‘These are the purposes upon which this land was founded, and they are those forces, those self-evident facts of man’s existence that are a part and parcel of every soul’s expression in the material plane; that freedom of speech, freedom of purpose for worshipfulness of Creative Forces according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, shall never perish from the earth’ (2167-1).
In another reading, this for a fifty year old engineer Cayce revealed he had been Benjamin Franklin in his previous life. One of the leading Founding Fathers, Freemasons and public figures of his day, his contributions to the creation of the new nation were highly praised. ‘In the one before this we find during that period when much was being attempted in this present land. The entity then among those who builded for the good of those to come, ministering in many ways and in many manners to the needs of the nation yet unborn…’(165-2)
Francis Bacon, who at an early age stated that he ‘had taken all knowledge to be his province’, outlined his plan for humanity’s progress in The Great Instauration, Novum Organum and other published works. Philosopher and seer Peter Dawkins, author of Francis Bacon, Herald of the New Age and founder of The Francis Bacon Research Trust says that Bacon equated truth with love and the resulting harmony and unity it brings. In The View Beyond he wrote that Bacon’s devotion to the advancement of knowledge in all fields was driven by his desire ‘that mankind might know and practise truth, and thereby create a paradise on earth, a golden age of wisdom and peace’.
Bacon, who served in the courts of Elizabeth I and James I at a time of religious turmoil, political intrigue and suppression, believed that the ‘new world’ of the early seventeenth century offered fertile ground and the freedom necessary for mankind’s spiritual and material development. In expressing the hope that the Virginia colony which he supported would set this process in motion he made this Hermetic comment “And certainly it is with the Kingdom of the Earth as it is in the Kingdom of Heaven, sometimes a grain of mustard seed proves a great tree.”
When he died in 1626 he left several unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. Rev.
William Rawley, Bacon’s secretary and close friend to whom he bequeathed his papers, attended to the publication of many of these previously unknown writings. One was the English translation from the Latin of New Atlantis, a utopian fable and Bacon’s most
spiritually infused literary work. In it he presented his vision of an idyllic civilization called Bensalem in which spiritual consciousness complimented advanced scientific knowledge and application. Aspects of the story with its Rosicrucian and Masonic symbolism, in particular those associated with an invisible benevolent brotherhood and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, from which Bensalem derives its name. The tale allegorically depicts Bacon’s life-long aspiration and pursuit; the acquisition and application of all knowledge for the future benefit of mankind. As if to emphasize this, an illustration on the title page of the first edition of New Atlantis has Father Time leading a female figure out of the darkness of a cave. A Latin inscription reads, ‘In time the secret truth will be revealed.’ This allegory is seen as representing the fulfillment of Bacon’s Great Instauration, a restoring of the golden age of earlier Atlantis, albeit in a new and even more enlightened way. The same can be said of the mystically influenced American Constitution with its associated spiritual symbolism and of the insights offered by the Edgar Cayce material that foster wholeness and transformation.
Rawley, who was also Bacon’s private chaplain, wrote of him, ‘I have been induced to think that if there were a beam of knowledge upon any man in these modern times, it was upon him. For though he was a great reader of books, yet he had not his knowledge from books but from some grounds and notions from within himself….for though the
world be apt to suspect and prejudge great wits and politicks to be somewhat of the
atheist, yet he was conversant with God, as appeareth by several passages throughout the whole current of his writings.’
Bacon’s connection to the Rosicrucian movement and the development of Masonry in
England at the time has been widely discussed by a number of authors. The late Frances Yates in her books The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment makes the case that Bacon was certainly involved in some of the esoteric groups of his day. The philosopher Manly P. Hall, who hailed from my home town of Peterborough, Ontario, in his monumental work The Secret Teachings of All Ages said that Bacon ‘was a link in that great chain of minds which has perpetuated the secret doctrine of the ages from the beginning.’ A.R.E. associate, elder and author Robert Krajenke, in The Psychic Side of the American Dream, wrote ‘As the man who saw through time, Bacon apparently envisioned the future growth of America…Thus, if George Washington, our mystical first president, is the father of the country, perhaps Sir Francis, a genius who with almost clairvoyant perception sensed the use and possibilities of the New World, should be considered the godfather to America.’ Such a claim is bolstered by the fact that prominent Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson, publicly acknowledged the influence of the Elizabethan visionary. He modeled his private library at Monticello along Baconian lines and would certainly have been impressed by the New Atlantis fable with its intimation of future possibilities for the new nation he was involved in creating.
While historical accounts of the activities in the Virginia colony’s first settlement of Jamestown deal mostly with matters of survival, conflict and expansion, it is very likely that some of the leading figures were interested in the move to religious freedom. Extant records show that there was an active Masonic lodge in Williamsburg by 1730, not long after it became the capital of the Virginia. However it is believed that Masonic
meetings took place in the colony much earlier. Williamsburg was also the site of the College of William and Mary, established in 1693 to teach divinity, philosophy and ‘other good arts and sciences,’ It was where Presidents Thomas Jefferson, who studied metaphysics as well as philosophy and mathematics, and James Monroe were educated and where George Washington received his surveyor’s licence. It also educated sixteen members of the Continental Congress and four signers of the Declaration of Independence. As a result it has been rightly called the ‘Alma Mater’ of the nation.’ The original college building is said to have followed a design by Sir Christopher Wren, a prominent Freemason more widely known as the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was in Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish church that several of the men, soon to become America’s Founding Fathers, came together for worship. Cayce referred to Williamsburg in a reading for a female student who he revealed had a previous life there during the days of America’s political awakening. “As had been indicated, through that experience the entity was associated or affiliated in the families of those around which many of those conditions developed, and with many of those who were educated in the Williamsburg area – and who were outspoken. For, through that period of the entity’s activity, Williamsburg was the center of the political as well as economic and social relations in the new land…..The entity grew in those closer relationships with those who became the acknowledged, and later the declared, leaders in the thoughts and tenets and purposes that eventually became the basic truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence first, and then the Constitution.” (308-9)
The Masonic influenced Constitution which championed freedoms of thought, worship
and expression fostered a political and social environment that allowed for religious and intellectual diversity. It was an environment in which pietist communities such as those of the followers of Rosicrucian Johannes Kelpius and Quaker William Penn could take root. It also facilitated the spread of spiritual teachings influenced by the esoteric traditions of both east and west, not only through Freemasonry, but later through such organizations as the Anthroposophical Society, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, the Philosophical Research Society, the Self-Realization Fellowship, the Theosophical
Society, Unity and others of more recent times.
It is not surprising that the principles behind Masonry’s symbolic rituals which acknowledge and promote the brotherhood and perfectibility of man, received favourable mention in several Cayce readings. The national spirit they engendered, the ‘ism’ in Americanism, would he said become the ‘basis upon which the new order of peace is to be established in ’44 or ’45’ (1152-11). In the years following World War II American diplomacy and generousity administered through the Marshall Plan led to recovery, prosperity and peace for millions in Europe and at home.
Much has been written about the life and work of Edgar Cayce, most recently in Edgar
Cayce, An American Prophet, the thoroughly researched biography by Sidney and Nancy Fitzpatrick. Those who knew Cayce well spoke of a man who had a close relationship with God, evident in his commitment to helping humanity through his psychic ability, his interactions with others and his lifelong interest in and understanding of sacred scripture. Some of those who were present during his more profound discourses given while in a trance-like state remarked how they felt they were in the presence of an all-knowing, benevolent power. The source of that power was identified as Cayce’s own higher self, his individual Christ Consciousness, part of the universal mind of God, described in one reading as ‘the Universal Forces that are acceptable and accessible to those who in earnestness open their minds, their souls, to the wonderful words of truth and light.’(254-83).
William Rawley’s first-hand knowledge and Peter Dawkins’ description of Francis Bacon’s nature paint much the same picture, a man attuned to a higher power and tirelessly dedicated to using his unique gifts for the benefit of mankind. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Association for Research and Enlightenment, established in Virginia Beach in 1931 to preserve and disseminate through programs and publications the profound and practical knowledge contained in the Edgar Cayce material, is only a short distance from the very spot known as ‘First Landing’ where members of the Virginia colony, in which Bacon placed such high hopes, first came ashore. Interesting also that the highly significant symbol of the pyramid and its association with ancient Egypt and higher knowledge has been referenced by Francis Bacon, the Founding Fathers and Edgar Cayce. Bacon wrote of building ‘a pyramid of knowledge’ for the advancement of mankind. A pyramid crowned by the all-seeing eye of God is featured on one side of America’s Great Seal. Cayce, in one of several readings about the great pyramid at Giza, referred to it as ‘the pyramid of understanding’ in which both Jesus and John the Baptist were initiated. He also described the Christ Consciousness as being the apex of its metaphysical counterpart which we are called on to manifest.
In a series of readings on world affairs given in 1939 Cayce was asked for guidance in
solving the many internal problems facing America at the time, problems that also exist today. His response seems as pertinent now as it was then. After referring to the ideals and purposes that called the nation into being he pointed to fact that many of the problems resulted from the activities of those in high places in political and economic affairs being at variance with those ideals. He pointed to the opportunities that had been created by those who contributed to the founding of the nation and emphasised the need for every man and woman to adhere to those principles if conflicts between capital and labour, racial and religious divides were to be harmoniously resolved. He called for a greater awareness of God’s presence within each and every individual, for more patience, tolerance and concern for the welfare of others, each one living in such a manner that there could be a reawakening to the purpose for which the American nation came into being. In answering a question about the spirit of America he replied ‘What is the spirit of America? Most individuals proudly boast “Freedom.” Freedom from what? When ye bind men’s hearts and minds through various ways and manners, does it given them freedom of speech? Freedom of worship? Freedom from want?…Then what is this that would be given ye today? Here is thy lesson: Hear ye all! Beware lest ye as an individual soul, a son, a daughter of God, fail in thy mission in the earth today; that those ye know, those ye contact shall know the truth of God, not by thy word, bombastic words, but in long-suffering, in patience, in harmony, that ye create in your own lives, for it must begin with thee.’(3976-29).
Mark W. Finnan