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A Tale of Two Cities: The Occult History of Philadelphia Part I


" As above, so below. As within, so without."

- Hermes Trismegistus (Thoth)


There are essentially two histories for the city of Philadelphia two tales if you will. Most are familiar with the more famous history of Philadelphia this is the one that attracts millions of tourist to the city each year on the ridiculous Duck Tours. This well known Philadelphia includes trips to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was once signed in 1776. One must then visit the famous Liberty Bell and go for a walk, or even take a ride on a horse drawn buggy down the old cobblestone streets in Old City. A visit to Philadelphia may draw a person to the fairly new Constitutional Center, and aromas from the Reading Terminal Market encourage everyone to partake in the age old ritual of clogging arteries, as they forgivably devour a cheesesteak, or a soft and warm Philly pretzel which will of course be washed down with a cold flavorful Italian water ice. There is however another history of Philadelphia. A history that is shrouded in darkness, and looms under the radar. A history eclipsed by the more popular history of the city, but yet still exist just the same, if you know what to look for. This Occult History of Philadelphia is equally as interesting as the one just mentioned, and one could argue even more so. For the most part it is a story untold, and if when told the narrative is very disconnected, and incohesive. A buried forgotten history known only to academics, secret societies, and a few versed in the occult history of the city.

Philadelphia in many ways is the heart of the United States not the more popular Washington D.C. or New York. Indeed Philadelphia at one time was the nations first capital ten years before Washington D.C. was built. Out of all the early 13 colonies it was Philadelphia with its early democratic principals that laid the basic groundwork for what would best represent the future direction of the United States. Much is made about the state of Massachusetts and its colonies of Pilgrims and Puritans at both Mayflower and Massachusetts Bay Colony, but in truth Massachusetts would become a state known for extremism and religious intolerance horribly displayed by the events of the Salem Witch Trial that left 20 innocent people killed.

Jamestown Virginia fairs no better when discussing our nations beginnings. The colonist at Jamestown were very undisciplined and due to insufficient farming and unpreparedness the colonist were soon starving and forced into cannibalism in order to survive. The treatment of Native Americans and the kidnapping of Pocahontas also gives Jamestown a poor reputation. William Penn's Pennsylvania stands out in contrast to these other colonies. Pennsylvania translated literally means "Penn's Woods" it was land that the king of England granted to him based on a debt he owed William's father. Penn's Quaker background made it so that he made treaties with the Native Americans instead of waging war. Penn's Pennsylvania was unique especially when compared to Puritan Massachusetts, as it offered religious freedom to those who settled there. Many believe that Penn's democratic outlook might have been because Penn was possibly a Freemason, and this would indeed make sense being that religious tolerance is one of the tenets of freemasonry. One need only believe in God to become a Freemason it matters not that he be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. There is some debate as to whether William Penn was an actual Freemason, yet it is interesting to note that the Grand Lodge of Texas believes William Penn to be a freemason, and there is a curious obelisk dedicated to Penn located at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.

Obelisk have a tendency to pop up over the graves of many prominent Freemasons of the past the most famous being the Washington Monument dedicated to George Washington, for it represents the smooth perfected man who came out of the rough ashlar, but who is now upright man resurrected to his living perpendicular. William Penn with his Quaker background that stressed equality along with his possibly freemasonic philosophy of religious tolerance would welcome all to his woods.

One of the groups that Penn welcomed was a group of Rosicrucian monks from Germany lead by their spiritual leader Johannes Kelpius. The Rosicrucians are very much like the Freemasons as they are both secret societies, and there seems to be a close connection between the two groups, as there is a masonic degree dedicated to them in Freemasonry as well, so it would not be a complete surprise at all for Penn to invite kindred spirits to his woods. Kelpius's society of religious monks settled in the wilderness of Fairmount Park near the Wissahickon Creek. There was much more to Kelpius clan than meets the eye. There were 40 monks in all and the number was chosen for a reason.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania resides on the 40th Parallel the same as the old church of Philadelphia in ancient Turkey that was mentioned in the Book of Revelations. The ancient church of Philadelphia is one of the churches that God favored in the Bible. We are taught that Penn chose the name for Philadelphia because at first glance when translated out of Greek it means "brotherly love," and that may very well be the case, but the fact that both of these Philadelphias the one in Turkey and the other in Pennsylvania are both located at the 40th parallel ,and the additional fact of Philadelphia also being mentioned in the Bible hint at a more occult and spiritual reason for choosing Philadelphia for the name of Penn's most important city.

Johannes Kelpuis and his society of Rosicrucion monks would build a structure along the Wissahickon that would be 40-by-40 feet and with the use of a telescope they would use the structure as an observatory to look for signs in the movement of the stars. These were not the average monks, but more like hermetic priest blending the spiritual world with science. The fact that it was 40 monks in all living in a 40-by-40 foot structure is no coincidental at all. All that is left today from Kelpius's groups existence in Fairmount Park is a strange contested cave known today as the Hermit's Cave where it is believed Kelpius would go to study, meditate, and pray for Gods return. In the 1960s a Rosicrucian order erected a monument dedicated to Johannes Kelpius outside of the cave that is oblivious to most passing joggers that run through the park never realizing the early history of secret societies and occult mysticism that was once practiced in Penn's woods.

While on the subject of Fairmount Park, in and of itself, it has its very own occult history being that it was home to the indigenous people known as the Lenape Native American tribe.

Some believe that the Lenape would hold ceremonies at the very top of the mound that is today the location of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made famous by Sylvester Stallone's famous jog in his Rocky movie. Mound building was a vast culture made famous by the Native Americans who lived along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers, but it also extended as far as the eastern part of the United States even reaching as far as Pennsylvania.

It is believed that the Native Americans considered mounds sacred, as they buried their ancestors there. Thomas Jefferson is famous for building his home at Monticello on top of a mound in Virginia, and he excavated the site being that mounds were also very sacred in European culture as well. It would be interesting if in the future archaeologist would excavate the site under the Philadelphia Museum of Art in order to see if there is definitive evidence that the Lenape used the site outside of folklore. In any event Swedish colonist also considered this Lenape Mound near the Delaware River sacred, as they would light fires atop the mound celebrating the solstices and equinoxes. The Swedes would call the mound Fire-Mount and today we call it Fair-Mount or Fairmount Park the most famous park in Philadelphia. Celebrations of solstices and equinoxes are ancient sun rituals practiced all around the ancient pagan world from groups as varied as the priest of Egypt to the Druids of the British Isles who built Stonehenge.

It is therefore interesting to mention that when Pope Francis came to the United States to visit this past year he made quick stops in New York and Washington D.C., but his most important visit was his Sunday services held in Philadelphia, as he sat on top of the old Fire-Mount. What makes the visit odd is the great respect the Pope showed the sixth largest city in the United States, for most people Philadelphia is dwarfed in importance by both the much larger New York and Washington D.C. which is the political center of the United States, but did Pope Francis know something about Philadelphia's spiritual and occult significance that most did not know? Or is this all coincidence?

What is even stranger is that an AMOR sign was placed at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just to greet the Pope. The official statement was that it was a way to welcome the Pope in his native language, amor translated out of Latin means love.

Students of the occult, as well as those members of secret societies probably laughed at the coincidence because AMOR, or AMORC is also the acronym for Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose Cross also known as Rosicrucian. Being that Pope Francis is a Jesuit he must surely be aware of the Rosicrucian monk Johannes Kelpius and his band of 40 men who settled in Penn's Woods on the 40th Parallel observing the stars waiting on the end of times.

Kelpius Cave and the Fire-Mount/Fairmount are not the only occult sites in Philadelphia, but the street layout of Philadelphia has an occult past as well. William Penn hired Thomas Holmes to be the surveyor of Philadelphia. Independent historian Robert Bauval has shown in his book Talisman co-authored by Graham Hancock that Holmes street design for Philadelphia was to be located between the two rivers of the Delaware and the Schuylkill in much the same way that ancient Babylon was located between the two rivers of the Tigris and Euphrates. Rivers are not the only thing Holmes design borrows from Babylon, but the way the streets intersect running from North-South and East-West are said to mirror the ancient street design of ancient Babylon as well.

In fact many of the streets from the pagan civilizations of Babylon as well as Egypt follow this exact street design with the axis being in the middle of the city. In the Bible Babylon has a negative connotation because they held the Hebrews captive; however, for many masonic historians Freemasonry often uses a symbolic language that is not always literal. For the mason Babylon was a place of the first great builders that predated the builders of King Solomon's Temple.

Babylon was founded by Nimrod and it was from this civilization that we are said to get the architectural wonder known as the Tower of Babel that attempted to reach the Heavens before god was said to have knocked it down. It is interesting because in much the same way that Freemason's have a degree and rituals based on the Rosicrucians there are also masonic rituals based on Nimrod and Babylon, so the question that begs is was Thomas Holmes like William Penn a possible Freemason?

I have not been able to ascertain that, but what can be established is a copy of his original map design where you see Philadelphia situated between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers much like ancient Babylon was lying between the Tigris and Euphrates, and if you look closely above the Thomas Holmes's street plan on the top left side you see the Fire-Mount/Fair-Mount sacred to the Lenape tribe as well as the Swedes, and on the top right side you see the compass. The compass instantly stood out to me, for it is a chief symbol that is well known in Freemasonry, yet another clue that Holmes and Penn were members of the secret society. In much the way William Penn is memorialized with the smooth ashlar at Penn Treaty Park Thomas Holmes grave displays an obelisk as well. Thomas Holmes name is still a prominent part of the city being both associated with Holmesburg, Philadelphia, and Holmesburg Prison. One can not talk about the street design of Philadelphia without mentioning the one thing that brings the whole layout together which is the axis at the center of town that links Market Street to Broad Street at Philadelphia's City Hall. City Hall is the world's tallest operational building of masonry. At one time it was the tallest building in the world until it was passed by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower ironically all three of these structures were designed by Freemasons.

City Hall is an amazing structure designed by the Freemasonic architect from Scotland John McArthur. When you look at the detail on this building a few things stand out, for one you first realize that modern architects seem lazy compared to this piece of architecture. Today no one builds like this anymore, yes the buildings are much taller and the price tag is much bigger, but the attention paid to the most minute detail and craftsmanship is what is missing today.

Secondly the building looks out of place it looks very foreign, as if it belongs in Scotland next to Rosslyn Chapel or maybe next to the Gothic cathedrals of France, and to further gild the lily the building is topped with a 37 foot statue of none other than William Penn. Penn's statue is still in the record books for being the tallest statue mounted on top of a building. But what is most fascinating about City Hall is that the building incorporates the Egyptian occult philosophy known as hermeticism. Hermeticism is a philosophy that gained popularity in Renaissance Europe. European Philosophers studied what became known as the Hermetica a collection of books that contained the wisdom of the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus also known as the Egyptian God-Man Thoth.

It was later discovered that the Hermetica is not as old as was once thought; however, scholars like Francis Yates and Robert Bauval believe that the wisdom found in the Hermetica goes as far back to the time of the Pharoahs. One of the chief beliefs found in the Hermetic philosophy is the saying "as above so below." It is the Egyptian belief that Heaven or the afterlife resided in the stars or Duat, but if the Pharoah governed with justice and harmony also known as maat he could bring Heaven down to the ground. Bauval proved that this was not mere theoretical, but literal, as he unveiled in his book The Orion Mystery. Bauval showed that the three pyramids at Giza that many thought were tombs were actually aligned to the three stars in the Orion constellations belt. The Egyptians were literally trying to mirror Heaven right here on Earth as the saying "as above so below" implies.

The Egyptians not only aligned their pyramids to the sun, but also their temples. They did this not only to illuminate the structure but also to energize their civilization by aligning their micro world to the much larger macro universe, for example the Temple of Karnak is aligned to the winter solstice on December 25th.

This secret occult astro-architectural knowledge was some how kept alive throughout the rise and fall of civilization. This ancient occult hermeticism is encoded into some of the most famous and important structures throughout the world from government buildings to the Vatican in hope of channeling the power of being in alignment with the universe. The Vatican's old St. Peters Basilica was aligned to the sun on the vernal equinox, and the Vatican's sister church in Turkey the Hagia Sophia like Karnak is also aligned to the sun on the winter solstice. Governmental buildings in Washington D.C. are aligned to the constellation Virgo, as a way to symbolically give birth to the virgin democracy. On June 24th the date of the summer solstice the sun shines down Frances most famous avenue the Champs-Elysees shooting its rays directly through the Arc de Triomphe.

It is of course no accident that the Arc de Triomphe is at the center of twelve connecting streets an obvious symbolism for the journey the sun makes through the twelve constellations during the twelve months of the year, as the hermetic saying goes"as above so below."

What I find most interesting is how the church seemingly had no problem encoding this pagan philosophy into their architecture. France's most famous Gothic cathedral the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres dedicated to the Virgin Mary is aligned to the sun during summer solstice. The sun shines its light right through a window strangely enough dedicated to Apollo who we all know was a Greek sun god. The Greek god Apollo would later be identified with the Egyptian sun god Horus.

This all seems rather sacrilegious to the average person unless the people with the occult knowledge to construct Chartres saw interconnections and universal truths in multiple faiths. It was something that they did not seem to find contradictory at all. It is well known that Chartes Black Madonna and child bears a strong resemblance to the Egyptian mother and child Isis and Horus. It seems as though these hermetic builders were blending old ideas with the new and with great success, and yet subtly through solar alignments still acknowledging the source of their wisdom.

It must be noted that recently the Black Madonna at Chartres has been whitened under the guise of restoration many in both the African-centered community, and occult community will only see this as another way to keep people cut off from our more ancient past.

At this point let me conclude by returning back to Philadelphia's City Hall. City Hall just like the Temple of Karnak, Washington D.C., St. Peter's Basillica, the Hagia Sophia, Chartres, and the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees was built using the same occult hermetic principals of "as above so below." City Hall is aligned to the sun on October 13th. If you are lucky enough to be on Market street on a clear cloudless day right before dawn you will witness a site that few are aware of, and that is the sun rising above the horizon its rays shining down Market Street through the arch that seemingly holds up Philadelphia's central seat of government.

Its a much better feeling than watching an eclipse that everyone knows is coming. The thrill is knowing that you are seeing something that the uninitiated were not meant to see reminding us once again of the old hermetic axiom "as above so below." The statue of William Penn stands atop City Hall looking over the axis of Broad and Market Street as to say William Penn's democratic vision is literally in tune with the universal laws. There is one other additional secret that John McArthur's City Hall building hides, and that is the reasoning for choosing October 13th as the date for City Hall's solar alignment. Out of all the possible dates what was it about October 13th that was so significant? Could it be that on October 13th in the year 1307 King Philip IV of France provoked by jealousy, and debt ordered all the Knights Templars to be rounded up, arrested, and later to be tortured and killed. The rounding up of the Templars is where we are said to get the origin for Friday the 13th being a day for "bad luck." It is believed; however, that many Knights Templars evaded the plot escaping to Scotland and Switzerland and eventually evolving into what we know as Freemasonry. Many Freemasons would later embark to the New World and would help to establish colonies in America. Much later through revolution against the king of England they would establish the nation known as the United States, which is the first democracy in the modern world not ruled by a monarch or religious authority. Philadelphia would be the young nations first capital. Hidden in the shadows by much bigger names like Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson. William Penn was far removed from the lime light. I was shocked to discover that he is not even buried in the United States, but in a small grave in England, as he died penniless, yet in still he was the precursor who first planted the seeds of democracy in America. Penn was a visionary at a time when the world was still ruled over by despotic monarchs, as well as men who practiced a form of self-righteous religious intolerance. The new democracy would struggle with its own contradictions of slavery and limited rights for women, but it was William Penn's experiment in Philadelphia that planted the seed for further improvement. Next time you travel to Philadelphia, or if you live in the city go for a hike along the Wissahickon to discover a humble Hermit's Cave. Ponder the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art a second time to see if its really an ancient mound, and if you happen to be in Philadelphia on a Friday on the 13th of October at dawn, head out to City Hall at the cross section of Broad and Market, and witness a site to behold.

Believe it or not there are many other lesser known occult sites in the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding area that would have exhausted a single blog post; therefore, I plan to highlight those lesser traveled sites in The Occult History of Philadelphia Part II. Finally I want to share one disclaimer about this article and particularly the word "occult." The mere mention of the word "occult" brings to mind images of the devil, or thoughts of movies like The Omen or The Exorcist; however, the fact of the matter is its a little less exciting. The word occult simply means hidden, as in hidden Philadelphia, so feel free to explore these sites without the fear of being possessed, but rather view it as an introduction to an obscured fascinating chapter in the history of Philadelphia.

Further Reading:

Allen M. Hornblum and George J. Holmes, Philadelphia City Hall, 2003, Arcadia Publishing.

Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, 1975, Avon Books.

Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, Talisman, 2004, Element.

Francis Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, 1964, University of Chicago Press.

Robert Bauval, The Orion Mystery, 1994, Three River Press.

Robert Bauval, Chiara Hohenzollern, and Sandro Zicari, The Vatican Heresy, 2014, Bear & Company.

David Ovason, The Secret Architecture of our Nations Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington D.C., 2002, Perennial.

Bob Brier, Cleopatra's Needles: The Lost Obelisk of Egypt, 2016, Bloomsbury Publishing.

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