Who had direct inside knowledge of the canon through the alleged secret oral tradition? Some possible examples that have been alluded to include Pythagoras, Plato, Euclid, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Leibniz and Newton. Grattan-Guinness mentions the oral tradition in The Norton History of the Mathematical Sciences but he gives no sources. Partial introduction to what is recorded in written history by Conifold Did geometric patterns in nature suggest the early notions of proportion and ratios?

  • $\begingroup$ I looked through chapter 2 of Grattan-Guinness, but not sure which mention you have in mind. What exactly does he say, what page? $\endgroup$ – Conifold Nov 6 '19 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ Try p.13 and chp. 17 review with keyword "covert". Also in the Companion Ency. section 12.5 by G-G, reference to the secrets of the masons. $\endgroup$ – Michael A. Sherbon Nov 6 '19 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ Aha, I think this was the kind of reference I was looking for: Isaac Newton's Freemasonry by Alain Bauer. $\endgroup$ – Michael A. Sherbon Nov 6 '19 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure that what he calls "covert mathematics" in "architecture, art and decoration" necessarily refers to secrets a la freemasons. There is a lot of interesting work on medieval Islamic geometry based on studying mosque decorations, for example. But you may want to look at Dudley's Numerology, Or, What Pythagoras Wrought and Livio's The Golden Ratio for that sort of thing. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Nov 7 '19 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ Dudley and Livio have little helpful content on the canon. More detail in Isaac Newton's Temple of Solomon and his Reconstruction of Sacred Architecture by Tessa Morrison. "The essence of the temple is its plan, which contains the key to forgotten knowledge, the blueprint by which the universe was made, and the lost canon that provided laws and standards." - John Michell $\endgroup$ – Michael A. Sherbon Nov 7 '19 at 13:08

The Canon: An Exposition of the Pagan Mystery Perpetuated in the Cabala As the Rule of All Arts by William Stirling (architect)

The Canon is the numerical interpretation of the Cosmic law and, since man is a microcosm of the universe, it is also the law of human nature. The history of all civilizations is the history of their interpretation of the Canon. Codified by ancient philosophers and guarded by priests in the temples, the Canon sanctified the society that possessed it, regulating its institutions in accordance with the laws of nature. Plato, writing in "The Laws of the Egyptian Canon, " claimed that by its use the high civilization of ancient Egypt had been preserved from deterioration for 10,000 years.

The Canon was instituted by the ancient theocracies as a standard in music, architecture and all other arts. Even after the decline of the old world order and of the canonical standard, knowledge of the Canon was preserved in the mystery schools of Greece and Alexandria, and in the tradition of masonic and other craft guilds.

One of the most revolutionary books of the late 19th century, The Canon owes its high reputation to the august literary style of its author, as well as to its remarkable contents.


The old Masonic writers declare that the true system of the universe, and the foundation of all geometrical proportion is to be found in the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, as expounded by Pythagoras, and communicated in writing by Plato, .... [p.56].

Stirling, William. The Canon: An Exposition of the Pagan Mystery Perpetuated in the Cabala as the Rule of All Arts. Weiser Books, 1999.

Knight, Christopher, and Robert Lomas. Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science. Random House, 2000.

Guénon, René. The Reign of Quantity & The Signs of the Times. Sophia Perennis, 2001. "Critique of modern Western civilization from the point of view of traditional metaphysics."

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