In the formidable lecture he penned for the Master Mason degree, Albert Pike wrote in Morals and Dogma that the acacia is
“the same tree which grew up around the body of Osiris. It was sacred among the Arabs, who made of it the idol Al-Uzza, which Mohammed destroyed. It is abundant as a bush in the Desert of Thur: and of it the ‘crown of thorns’ was composed, which was set on the forehead of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a fit type of immortality on account of its tenacity of life; for it has been known, when planted as a doorpost, to take root again and shoot out budding boughs over the threshold.”
In an unassuming footnote to the Master Mason degree in the recently issued book Masonic Formulas and Rituals, Pike added that the
“branch of Acacia [is] in memory of the true cross, which, it is said, was made of that wood. This branch of Acacia took the place of the branch of myrtle, which the initiates of Memphis bore. ...[T]he bough of gold, which Virgil gives Eneas, wherewith to descend to the infernal regions, has the same origin”
Finally, in the Perfect Elu degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, we learn in the Legenda that
“the acacia...is that genus of trees to which belong that which yields the gum arabic, the mezquite, and the locust. It is the satah or satam wood of the Hebrew writings, ...used in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple, and therefore a Symbol of Holiness and Divine Truth. ...It is...not the Symbol of Immortality alone, but of that life of innocence and purity for which the Faithful hope when they shall have been raised up to a new and spiritual existence.”
An important tree within the Hebrew tradition, the Ark of the Covenant is said to have been constructed using acacia wood. Acacia has even been proposed as the source of Moses’ various visions recounted in the Torah. In his paper Biblical Entheogens: A Speculative Hypothesis, Benny Shanon, the Professor of Psychology at Hebrew University in Israel, speculated that a local species of DMT-rich acacia (such as Acacia senegal) could have been combined with the native MAOI-containing Peganum harmala bush, known also as Syrian rue, to produce a psychedelic brew chemically indistinguishable from the Amazonian ayahuasca.
Remarkably, Peganum harmala is currently employed along with a psychedelic species of acacia by the Fatimiya Sufi order, where an ayahuasca-like beverage plays a central role in their techniques of ecstasy. According to N. Wahid Azal, the founder of the Fatimiya Sufi order,
“[ Peganum harmala ] has an old and central role in the Mazdean religion of ancient Iran and continues to do so to this very day amongst Iranian Shi’ites, be they Twelver, Isma’ili, or Sufi. The Zoroastrians properly consider it to be the most sacred of their herbs, and in Persian it is known as Esfand… Esfand is a shortened version of the Pahlavi form of the name Esfandmorz who is the Avestan Spendarmat or Spenta Armaiti, (trans. ‘Holy’ or ‘Beneficent Devition’) namely, the Zoroastrian Archangel of the Earth who is one of the six Amesha Spenta (trans. ‘Bounteous Immortals’) or archangelic hypostases of the Godhead Ahura Mazda/Ohrmazd.”
The six “Amesha Spenta” also play an important part in the degree of Master of the Royal Secret, the thirty-second degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
Espand has long played a role in Naqshbandi Sufism where the seeds are burned in order to banish the Evil Eye. It is even said in some traditions that Mohammed had ingested a concoction of the seeds prior to receiving the Quran. Moreover, the Grand Ayatollah in Iran himself has ruled that entheogens such as ayahuasca are Halal (meaning ‘permissible’) for Shi’i Muslims.
Attempts to align the origins of Freemasonry with Sufism have been made by a number of researchers, chief among them being Idris Shah and Gerard de Nerval. Hashish enthusiast and member of the cannabis club Le Club de Haschischinns, de Nerval, in his 1851 tome Voyage to the Orient, offered a prequel to the story of Masonic hero Hiram Abiff, claiming to have overheard the “folk-tale” while smoking hashish in a café in Constantinople. Sir Richard Frances Bacon, also an enthusiast of hashish, also wrote that “Sufi-ism [is] the Eastern parent of Freemasonry.”
Again, as Shanon makes clear in his paper, one can only speculate regarding such arcane territories.