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The Occult Symbolism of Sherlock Holmes



The latest Hollywood blockbuster Sherlock Holmes revolves around occult murders and world conspiracies. The movie is riddled with occult symbols and allusions to a “New Order”. We’ll look at the history of Sherlock Holmes, the origins of the symbols found in the movie and its meaning in today’s context.

Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, the movie Sherlock Holmes brings back to life the famous detective of the nineteen century. The plot revolves around murders that are apparently connected with occult rituals. This leads Sherlock into the mysterious world of secret societies and political conspiracies. Doyle’s works contained some vague references to occultism or Freemasonry; the movie, however, focuses solely around those themes and incorporates elements that are very relevant in today’s context: a New World Order lead by secret societies.

Although no real-life secret society is actually mentioned, numerous symbols and references are peppered throughout the movie taken directly from Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism or the Illuminati. Cleverly embedded into the scenes and never really explained, those symbols can almost be considered hints to insiders concerning the real inspirations of the movie. Let’s look at the Masonic background of the original author of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and how this influence has been taken to the “next level” in the movie.

Arthur Conan Doyle “Spiritualist and Freemason”

Doyle was born into an Irish Catholic family in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. At age eleven, he was sent to a Jesuit school, Stonyhurst College,  in which he was said to have spent “five unhappy and lonely years”. After obtaining his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery from Edinburgh University, Doyle developed a great interest in spiritualism. In an article appeared in MQ (the official Journal of the United Grand Lodge of England), Freemason Yasha Beresiner explains Conan Doyle’s interest in spiritualism and Masonry:

“He first set up a practice with a fellow student Dr Budd, but soon parted company having been accused of not pulling his weight, and moved, with his newly wedded wife Louise Hawkins, to Southsea near Portsmouth in Hampshire where he established himself as an eye specialist. It was here that between 1885 and 1888 he attended a number of table turning sittings at the home of General Drayson a teacher at Greenwich Naval College, who was one of his patients. These sessions were experimental and Doyle was critical both of the procedures and the ritual involved, which he called a farce. He also questioned the intellect of the sitters. But he was hooked. In 1887, the year he became a freemason, he joined the Society for Psychical Research, this was a public declaration, as it were, of his interest and belief in the occult.

It was in this state of mind, exceedingly curious and now seriously delving into the world of spiritualism, that on the 26th of January 1887 Arthur Conan Doyle was initiated into Freemasonry at the Phoenix Lodge No 257 in Southsea, Hampshire. He was 27 years old.”
-Yasha Beresiner, Arthur Conan Doyle Spiritualist and Freemason, MQ, July 2007

It was the Phoenix Lodge no. 257 where Doyle befriended a certain Dr. James Watson, who became the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’ trusty sidekick. Beresiner continues:

“It would be logical to presume that Doyle came into Freemasonry expecting, maybe hoping, to discover elements of the spiritualism that now occupied his mind. He was certainly well recommended. His proposer was W. D. King, later Sir William David King, Deputy-Lieutenant for Hampshire, a most prominent public man in Portsmouth who was elected Mayor of the borough on four separate occasions. His seconder was Sir John Brickwood an equally respected and successful Brewer in the city. Doyle rose rapidly through the degrees. On 23 February 1887 he was passed to the second degree and a month later, on 23 March he was made a full-fledged Master Mason.”
– Ibid

Doyle then resigned from Freemasonry only to rejoin several times during his life. Masonry was sometimes mentioned in Doyle’s writings, which were not all focused on Sherlock Holmes. In The Land of Mist, published in 1926, Doyle describes the character Weatherby:

… that is a pompous ass named Weatherby. He is one of those who wander about on the obscure edges of Masonry, talking with whispers and reverence on mysteries where no mystery is. Spiritualism, with its very real and awful mysteries, is, to him, a vulgar thing because it brought consolation to common folk, but he loves to read papers on the Palladian Cultus, ancient & accepted Scottish rites and baphometic figures. Eliphas Levi is his prophet.”

Throughout his adventures, Sherlock Holmes (who was not a Mason) has proved to be quite knowledgeable of Freemasonry, spotting Masonic rings and other clues with ease.

Symbols in the Movie

This analysis won’t focus on the actual storyline, but rather on the numerous symbols peppered throughout the film. There might be some spoilers in here, though.

Sherlock Holmes contains plenty of themes and symbols taken directly from today’s secret societies. They are very subtle and rarely explained in the movie, making them almost invisible to everyday viewers. To “educated” viewers, however, those symbols can easily be recognized and placed into context. Although some of them are not historically accurate or have been modified to make them “fictional”, the presence of those themes are in perfect accord with the unprecedented wave of occult symbolism in mass media today. So let’s take a look at some of them.

Black Magic Ritual

The movie starts off with Sherlock interrupting a Black Magic ritual. A hooded man (Lord Blackwood) is reciting incantations in front of a woman laid on a sacrificial altar. The occult theme of the movie is pretty much laid out, right from the start.

Order Out of Chaos

In a seemingly trivial scene, a slightly “altered on morphine” Sherlock plays violin notes to flies in a tube. He explains to Watson his discovery: when he plays atonal clusters to the flies, they synchronize and start flying in concentric circles. Thus, using musical theory, he has created order out of chaos.

“Ordo ab Chao” (which is translated to English to Order Out of Chaos) is probably the most famous Masonic maxim. Mackey’s encyclopedia documents the use of this phrase since 1395 as the official motto of the Ancient Craft Masonry. “Ordo ab Chao” is now the official motto of the highest and honorary degree of Scottish Rite Masonry, the 33rd degree.

Insignia of the 33rd Degree with the saying “Ordo Ab Chao” on top

Some occult researchers claim that the saying refers to the elite’s propensity to create crises which generate fear and confusion in the masses (chaos) in order to introduce new policies and laws that are favorable to them(order). The “pièce of résitance” would be the creation of a New World Order lead by the occult elite after a period of generalized chaos, which would be of their creation. In this context, can Sherlock’s insects fly in concentric circles represent the masses hypnotized by the New World Order’s atonal notes?

Blackwood’s Cell

When Sherlock visits Lord Blackwood at his prison cell, he notices strange engravings on the walls. One of them stands out:

This symbol of a crucified rose is considered to be the first symbol representing the Rosicrucian Order, a hermetic brotherhood dating from the Middle-Ages.

“The original symbol of the Rosicrucian Fraternity was a hieroglyphic rose crucified upon a cross. The cross was often raised upon a three-stepped Calvary.” – Manly P. Hall

Was Lord Blackwood a Rosicrucian?

“Rosicrucians, a name assumed by a sect or cabal of hermetical philosophers ; who arose, as it has been said, or at least became first taken notice of in Germany, in the beginning of the fourteenth century. They bound themselves together by a solemn secret, which they all swore inviolably to preserve : and obliged themselves, at their admission into the order, to a strict observance of certain established rules. They pretended to know all sciences, and chiefly medicine : whereof they published themselves the restorers. They pretended to be masters of abundance of important secrets, and, among others, that of the philosopher’s stone : all which they affirmed to have received by tradition from the ancient
Egyptians, Chaldeans, the Magi, and Gymnosophists.

They have been distinguished by several names, accommodated to the several branches of their doctrine. Because they pretend to protect the period of human life, by means of certain nostrums, and even to restore youth, they were called Immortals ; as they pretended to know all things, they have been called Illuminati; and because they have made no appearance for several years, unless the sect of Illuminated which lately started up on the continent derives its origin from them, they have been called the Invisible Brothers.”
– Enc. Brit., 3rd Edition, Vol. 16, 1797

Some researchers have claimed that the Rosicrucians had “taken over” Freemasonry during the beginning of the 18th century. It has played an important, yet secretive role in the shaping of today’s world.

The Lab

When Sherlock and Watson inspect “The Dwarf’s” lab for clues, some interesting symbols are engraved on the wall.

All-Seeing Eye inside a triangle

The detectives discover that the lab seems to mix advanced science with occultism. Another interesting symbol is found on a wall.

The Quabbalistic Tree of Life (Sephiroth)

“The Tree of the Sephiroth may be considered an invaluable compendium of the secret philosophy which originally was the spirit and soul of Chasidism. The Qabbalah is the priceless heritage of Israel, but each year those who comprehend its true principles become fewer in number. The Jew of today, if he lacks a realization of the profundity of his people’s doctrines, is usually permeated with that most dangerous form of ignorance, modernism, and is prone to regard the Qabbalah either as an evil to be shunned like the plague or as a ridiculous superstition which has survived the black magic of the Dark Ages. Yet without the key which the Qabbalah supplies, the spiritual mysteries of both the Old and the New Testament must remain unsolved by Jew and Gentile alike.

The Sephirothic Tree consists of ten globes of luminous splendor arranged in three vertical columns and connected by 22 channels or paths. The ten globes are called the Sephiroth and to them are assigned the numbers i to 10. The three columns are called Mercy (on the right), Severity (on the left), and, between them, Mildness, as the reconciling power. The columns may also be said to represent Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, which form the triune support of the universe, for it is written that the foundation of all things is the Three. The 22 channels are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and to them are assigned the major trumps of the Tarot deck of symbolic cards.”

– Manly P. Hall, Secret Teachings of All Ages

Blackwood’s Spellbook

After being summoned by “The Order”, Sherlock is told that Blackwood’s spell book is the key to stop him. This spellbook contains some symbols that might be recognizable to readers of this site.

The creature in the middle looks remarkably like Baphomet.

Eliphas Levi’s depiction of Baphomet

Here’s the next page of Lord Blackwood’s spellbook:

This image is heavily inspired by an engraving of French occultist Stanislas de Guaita, which can be found in the 1897 book La Clef de la Magie Noire (The Key to Black Magic):

De Gaita founded in 1888 the Cabalistic Order of the Rosicrucians, which is consistent with earlier references to Rosicrucianism in the movie.

The Order

In Sherlock Holmes, The Order is an occult brotherhood that can easily be compared to the “real world” Freemasonry. It is said in the movie that their “secret system has stirred the world towards the greater good for centuries, but it can also be used for more nefarious purposes … the Dark Arts or practical magic”. The Order has many members in government and police.

Blackwood, a practitioner of Black Magic, takes over The Order by force, claiming that he has a “magnificent purpose”: to create a new future, a future ruled by the Brotherhood. Later in the movie, Blackwood says “The new order … begins now”, which is a reference to the New World Order ushered in by the Illuminati that is said to be taking place today.

Blackwood taking a seat at the Throne of The Order. The pyramid in the background has an illuminated capstone, which is considered to be the ultimate “Illuminati symbol”. See the Great Seal of the USA:

Blackwood’s takeover of The Order probably refers to the take over of Freemasonry by German Illuminism and Rosicrucianism during the 18th century, which drastically changed some of its doctrines and lead to its worldwide spread.

So, here’s the major spoiler: All of this occult, magical stuff turned out to be trickery that Sherlock explained with logic and science. So, after the viewers are exposed to the symbols and the Brotherhood, they are told that these things are fiction, and even rather ridiculous. This is kind of surprising, considering that director Guy Richie was married to Qabbalah adept Madonna. Further, the occultism presented in the movie is rather dark, threatening and borderline satanic, which can encourage viewers to associate everything occult with evil, which is not the case.

In a rather ominous final scene, Sherlock describes a machine that could exist in 2010: “Imagine a device able to control anybody simply by saying a command using radio waves … it’s the future”.

HAARP anyone?

To Conclude

Although the occult elements of the movie are presented as being fictional products of director Guy Richie’s imagination, many of the symbols used are taken from actual occult works. There is no doubt that some research has been done in order to give the movie some “occult authenticity”, but it seems to go further than this. There is a certain cohesiveness in the symbols used, which makes them more than decorative additions, but rather a series of clues pointing towards actual Secret Societies. Were they placed for “those in the know” as a sort of cryptographic message or insider’s joke? Did the director want the viewers to play Sherlock Holmes? These symbols mean one thing for sure: We are witnessing a definite “occultization” of mass media.



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