The Chamber of Reflection

One of the greatest enigmas of contemporary Freemasonry, the Chamber of Reflection is a little-used aspect in the rituals of a newly made Mason. Yet, the symbolism of the Chamber has roots in Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism and other occult traditions.

More installments of Symbols & Symbolism are available here and on YouTube.

In the French and Scottish Rites, a small room adjoining the Lodge, in which, preparatory to initiation, the candidate is enclosed for the purpose of indulging in those serious meditations which its somber appearance and the gloomy emblems with which it is furnished are calculated to produce. It is also used in some of the advanced degrees for a similar purpose. Its employment is very appropriate, for, as Gädicke well observes,

It is only in solitude that we can deeply reflect upon our present or future undertakings, and blackness, darkness, or solitariness, is ever a symbol of death. A man who has undertaken a thing after mature reflection seldom turns back.

Manly P Hall, in his Secret Teachings of All Ages, writes of the use of V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – beginning with the word VISITA and reading clockwise, the seven initial letters of the seven words inscribed in the outer circle read: VITRIOL. This is a very simple alchemical enigma but is a reminder that those studying works on Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, alchemy, and Freemasonry should always be on the lookout for concealed meanings hidden either in Parables and allegories or in cryptic arrangements of numbers, letters, and words.

Maundy Thursday, Relighting of the Lights, mystical rose

Lux in Tenebris-Maundy Thursday in Freemasonry

Knight of the East and West Morals and Dogma

Knight of the East and West

This seems fitting giving the present state of things in Freemasonry. Lux in Tenebris – From Darkness Comes Light.

Maundy Thursday, or also known as Covenant Thursday or simply Holy Thursday, is the annual Christian holy day that occurs on the last Thursday before Easter. It is a remembrance day for the last supper that Jesus and his twelve apostles, as was described in the canonical gospels, it is also for remembering The Maundy, which was the washing of the feet, particularly the Maundy that Jesus performed.

The moment when the Word was recovered; when the Cubical Stone was changed to the Mystic Rose; when the Blazing Sun reappeared in its entire splendor; the Columns of the Temple were re-established; and the Working Tools of Masonry restored; when True Light dispelled the Darkness and the New Love began to rule upon the earth.

On this day, Christians all around the world take time out of their day to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ, leading up the point of the last supper where he sat down with his apostles and shared food and wine, proclaiming that it was his body and blood.

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper – Champaigne,Philippe de (1602-1674)

The actual date of Maundy Thursday is between the 19th of March and the 22nd of April, however, these dates can fall on specific days depending on if it was the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar that is used. Eastern churches are generally using the Julian calendar and thus, celebrate Maundy Thursday between the 21st of April and the 5th of May.

In Western Churches, Maundy Thursday is when the Chrism mass is celebrated in every diocese, usually held in each diocese’s cathedral. This mass involves a bishop blessing chrism oils, oil of catechumens and oil of the sick. The Oil of chrism and catechumens will be saved until Easter Saturday where they will be used to bless the attendees of the mass.

There is an ancient tradition that on Maundy Sunday, you should visit 7 different churches, this is called the seven churches visitation, and this practice originated in Rome and is now practiced in many countries around the world.

The term Maundy is said to be a corruption of the Latin word mandatum – meaning “command.”

In a Masonic parlance, the Maundy Thursday is envisioned as a ceremony to commemorate the Extinguishing of the Symbolic Light, more specifically the crucifixion of the Christ in the gospel telling. On the immediate Sunday, there is a follow-up observance aptly called the Relighting of the Symbolic Light which marks the resurrection. The key point of this observance is to remember those brethren who have passed on in the preceding year. Where once these events were mandatory attendance events for Knight Rose Croix, in most locations they serve as remembrance events open to all.

Knight Rose CroixWhile an observance event, the Maundy gathering in some respect serve to supplement the Rose Croix Chapter of the Scottish Rite in the 17th (Knight of the East and West) and 18th (Knight Rose Croix) degrees, both of which attempt to invest candidates with an understanding of Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, and History. While seemingly a religious (Christian) observance, it’s been written that the observance seeks to “to commemorate the death of our most wise and perfect Master – not as inspired or divine, but as at least the greatest of humanity.” In one description of the event, Arturo De Hoyos says,

The Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal, including the Mystic Banquet, is not a religious observance.  It is neither the Feast of Passover nor a Sacrament of Holy Communion, although it commemorates the spirit of both days. Annually, the observance is held near the vernal equinox.

From the Builder Magazine, April 1924, the observance is thus described,

solThe ceremonies of Maundy Thursday made obligatory on each Rose Croix Chapter of the Scottish Rite, is a festival almost as old as the world, for it has been observed in some form or other from time immemorial. It began with early man’s naive wonder at the coming of spring, an event to him of the very greatest importance since it represented the return of the sun god from the death of winter to the resurrection of the vernal equinox. “The years at the spring,” that was his feeling, and this feeling took a thousand forms of expression, some of them magical, some religious, some of them a joyous human merry-making. Whatever the form the kernel of feeling remained the same; the god of light, warmth, and life, whatever may have been his name Mithra, Attis, Cama, Osiris, Ormuzd, Dionysus had been dead through the winter time, and now he had come back to life again, and would bestow life on his people, therefore there were solemn rejoicings.

Of the ceremony itself, it says,

The Symbolic Lights are Re-lighted; it is a time of rebirth, rehabilitation, regeneration and renewal of life and energy. Death and darkness have departed and the earth sings its joy of Love and of Living. What before was desolation of spirit and of thought, has the crucible of Light and the revivification of those for whom life had lost its meaning.

Just as the dark ages in Europe were followed by the Renaissance of learning, so had the new light of Easter come, bringing with it the new life of Love and understanding.

The new Commandment has been fulfilled.

This is a time, then, for each of us to search our Souls and see if we truly and devotedly are living the Life of Love —Not just in mere outward similitude. But in our innermost, personal, private lives. Are we — in business, at home, in our pastimes — living the life of the New Commandment? If we weigh ourselves in its light and find ourselves wanting. Then it is time for us to do something sincerely and devotedly about it.

Let us at the Symbolic Relighting of the Lights, dedicate ourselves to duty, renew our vows, so often repeated in our Rite, and lead the Life of Love, one to another, that our light will shine among men in the world, that we may be known truly as men and as Masons who mean eternal truths learned in our Rituals and who, by our personal acts and conduct, portray those meanings to their ultimate fulfillment.

The Mystic Tie – Symbols and Symbolism

In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and from a piece from Joseph Fort Newton’s The Builder on the Mystic Tie. Defining this mysterious phrase is often troublesome as how does one define the ineffable or the unseen? Often times, to define the mysterious we resort to putting words to feelings, or expressions of a feeling, that still fall short of the what the meaning represents. Perhaps, in Mackey’s definition with help from Newton, we can find some help in putting feeling to this important symbol.

The Mystic Tie

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”

The expression was used by Brother Robert Burns in his farewell to the Brethren of Saint James Lodge, Tarbolton, Scotland in 1786.

RObert Burns and the Mystic Tie
Burns addressing Saint James Lodge

The full text of the poem/song reads:

Adieu! a heart-warm fond adieu;
Dear brothers of the mystic tie!
Ye favoured, enlighten’d few,
Companions of my social joy;
Tho’ I to foreign lands must hie,
Pursuing Fortune’s slidd’ry ba’;
With melting heart, and brimful eye,
I’ll mind you still, tho’ far awa.

Oft have I met your social band,
And spent the cheerful, festive night;
Oft, honour’d with supreme command,
Presided o’er the sons of light:
And by that hieroglyphic bright,
Which none but Craftsmen ever saw
Strong Mem’ry on my heart shall write
Those happy scenes, when far awa.

May Freedom, Harmony, and Love,
Unite you in the grand Design,
Beneath th’ Omniscient Eye above,
The glorious Architect Divine,
That you may keep th’ unerring line,
Still rising by the plummet’s law,
Till Order bright completely shine,
Shall be my pray’r when far awa.

And you, farewell! whose merits claim
Justly that highest badge to wear:
Heav’n bless your honour’d noble name,
To Masonry and Scotia dear!
A last request permit me here, –
When yearly ye assemble a’,
One round, I ask it with a tear,
To him, the Bard that’s far awa.


From The Builder

June, 1920
by Bro. Joseph Fort Newton

Joseph Fort Newton
Joseph Fort Newton

“The moral solidarity of mankind is dissolved. The danger is imminent that the end may be a war of all against all. Sects and parties are increasing; common estimates and ideals keep slipping away; we understand one another less and less; even voluntary associations, that form of unity peculiar to modern times, unite more in accomplishment than disposition, bring men together outwardly rather than in reality.”
These words, written by Rudolph Eucken in 1912, were like a star-shell over No Man’s Land, revealing the divided mind of the world, and they had a terrible fulfilment. The War, by its principle of violence, made no positive contribution to society, but only stirred up and brought to the surface what already existed. For both men and nations, it intensified tendencies already active, precipitated passions held in obscure solution, and brought into focus forces that had long been uneasily accumulating. It neither initiated nor changed the direction in which the world was moving, but it did quicken the pace, and, in quickening it, revealed it. That is why a haunting uneasiness possesses the minds of men today. Even when local disturbances subside and isolated disputes are settled, we still doubt whether a stable tranquility has returned or ever will return again. For these things are only symptoms of a profound and widespread mental ferment and moral restlessness.

The insight of Eucken goes further back and deeper down to the real root of the matter, divining the causes and logic of it all to be moral, spiritual, religious. For, if anything is made plain by history, it is that the mystic tie which holds humanity together in ordered and advancing life is moral and spiritual, and when that thread is cut anything may happen. From the beginning of the century the spiritual disintegration of the modern world, the breaking of the ties that bind together the fabric of civilization, had been observed and noted by many. Faith grew dim, moral sanctions were relaxed, and it was deemed clever and smart to talk lightly of those sanctities without which no society has long existed. Much of our literature has been intellectually Bolshevistic for thirty years, attacking the basis of marriage, of the home, of the church, of the state, as if the moral laws were only conventions, if not fictions. Verily we have our reward; we know now that when fools play with fire they get burned.

For a time, during the stress and strain and terror of the war, there seemed to be a re-knitting of the ties that bind men and nations together; but it was only seeming. It was the power of fear and force, not the power of faith. How unreal, how artificial it was is shown by the rapidity with which that amazing solidarity was demobilized, to be followed by a revival of class rancor, sectarian ardor, and a narrow, myopic nationalism. A world which, having sent young men to die by the thousands for magnanimous ideals, has already half forgotten them as it coolly and briskly resumes business at the old stand – such a world may be grieved, but it ought not to be astonished, at the revolt of both the minds and souls of men. Not that the immediate future will see a triumph of subversive schemes and radical ideas. If we follow an almost universal precedent we shall pass first through a period of luxury and extravagance, and there will he a momentary craving for the old social and religious orders, as in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. But this is not significant. It is merely the first reaction from the emotional strain and nervous tension of the war. This mood will soon spend itself, and then, at once, new forms, new forces, new demands will begin to arise which will sweep away much that has seemed precious and permanent in our lives.

Without a spiritual renewal, without a re-knitting of that “moral solidarity,” of which Eucken speaks so eloquently, – without the Mystic Tie – we may not hope for security and real progress. The truth is that we have been trying to build a human civilization on a materialistic foundation, and it cannot be done. No human community can long exist on such a basis. Russia has rendered incalculable service to humanity, by showing, with deadly consistency, how materialism issues into anarchy and animalism. Hear now a proof of this in the words of a spiritually-minded man who lived in the midst of it, watching the decay and destruction of his country. Eugene Troubetzkoy, Professor of Law in the University of Moscow, in the Hibbert Journal, for January 1920 (page 210), shows us what happens when the tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is broken. Here are words which he who runs may read:

Bolshevism is first and foremost the practical denial of the spiritual. They flatly refuse to admit the existence of any spiritual bond between man and man. For them economic and material interests constitute the only social nexus; they recognize no other. This is the source of their whole conception of human society. The love of country, for example, is a lying hypocritical pretense; for the national bond is a spiritual bond, and therefore wholly factitious. From their point of view the only real bond between men is the material – that is to say, the economic. Material interests divide men into classes, and they are the only divisions to be taken account of. Hence they recognize no Nations save the Rich and the Poor. As there is no other bond which can unite these two Nations into one social whole, their relations must be regulated exclusively by the zoological principle revealed in the struggle for existence.

The materialistic conception of society is the Bolshevist method of treating the family. Since there is no spiritual bond between the sexes, there can be no constant relation. The rule is therefore that men and women can change their partners as often as they wish. The authorities in certain districts have even proclaimed the ‘nationalization’ of women, that is, the abolition of any private and exclusive right to process a wife even for a limited period, on the ground that women are the property of all. The same children. A powerful current of opinion is urging that children must be taken from their parents in order that the State may give them an education on true materialistic lines. In certain communes some hundreds of children were ‘nationalized,’ that is, ‘taken from their parents and placed in public institutions.

There it is, showing us what the red logic of hell means when it works itself out in action, and what results follow when the Mystic Tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is cut. Political anarchy, social animalism, moral bedlam follow with mathematical certainty, and all the fine and holy things of life are thrown into the junk heap. Man has an animal inheritance – moods of ape and tiger mingle in him with divine dreams and thoughts that wander through eternity – and when the Divine is denied, he reverts to the law of the jungle, and the hard-won trophy of spiritual struggle and agony vanishes. What happens, happens again. The Bolsheviks are men of like passions as ourselves; they simply carry out with the fatal logic of fanaticism the dogma of materialism upon which we have been trying to base our modern civilization. If anyone thinks that what has taken place in Russia cannot happen in America, he knows little of history and less of human nature. The practical denial of the Divine dehumanizes humanity, and the rest follows as night follows day.

For that reason, if it should be a part of our religion to be patriotic, it must be a part of our patriotism to keep the light of spiritual faith aflame on the altars built by our fathers. Down in Wales, at a time when it seemed that revolution was inevitable, I asked a labor leader what bond held men together. He said:

All that holds these men back is the fact that they were trained in the Sunday-schools of these Welsh chapels years ago. That is all that keeps the spark from blowing up.

Within the last four years, ten thousand Sunday-schools have ceased to exist in America, and the end is not yet. Facts such as these, and others of like kind, make a thoughtful man wonder as to what the future will be. What confronts us is not specifically indifference to religion, but indifference to pretty well everything outside the circle of creature comfort and self-gratification. There are many exceptions, of course, but in the main it is true that society has as yet been able to persuade only a few of its members to be really interested in its higher concerns. By the same token, men who do care for what is finest in our national life must make use of every opportunity, every instrumentality, to keep alive the faith that makes men faithful, and the vision of the moral ideal that lights our human way toward the city of God.

There is no need to apply what has been said, least of all to men to whom the Mystic Tie is a reality, and who are bound together by it in a fraternity of spiritual Faith and Fellowship. In every degree of Freemasonry, we are taught – by art, drama and symbol – the moral basis of human society, its spiritual interpretation, and the necessity of a fraternal righteousness among men, without which manhood is rudimentary and intellectual culture is the slave of greed and passion. Of Lincoln it was said, that “his practical life was spiritual,” and by as much as Masonry builds men of like faith and fiber who, in private life and public service, keep a manhood neither bought nor sold, true of heart and unbefogged of mind, it is helping to weave that Mystic Tie that holds the republic together. The words of James Bryce, in The American Commonwealth (page 583), ought to be written and hung up in our hearts. If history teaches anything, it teaches us that hitherto civilized society has rested on religion.

It was religious zeal and religious conscience that led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago… Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American Commonwealth ever since…

And the more democratic republics become…

…the more the masses grow conscious of their power, the more do they need to live not only by patriotism, but by reverence and self-control, and the more essential to their well-being are those sources from which reverence and self-control flow.

The full quote reads:

America is no doubt the country in which intellectual movements work most swiftly upon the masses and the country in which the loss of faith in the invisible might produce the completest revolution because it is the country where men have been least wont to revere anything in the visible world. Yet America seems as unlikely to drift from her ancient moorings as any country of the Old World. It was religious zeal and the religious conscience which led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago those colonies whose spirit has in such a large measure passed into the whole nation. Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American commonwealth ever since not indeed strong enough to avert many moral and political evils yet at the worst times inspiring a minority with a courage and ardor by which moral and political evils have been held at bay and in the long run generally overcome.

It is an old saying that monarchies live by honor and republics by virtue. The more democratic republics become the more the masses grow conscious of their own power the more do they need to live not only by patriotism but by reverence and self control and the more essential to their well being are those sources whence reverence and self control flow.

More on Symbols and Symbolism.

Abracadabra – Symbols and Symbolism

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols and Symbolism, we look at the brief entry on the magical and mystical word know today as the word of prestidigitation. While over used in more modern times, the word itself is seen as a hex, an incantation or the lead up to the punch line of a parlor trick. Believed to be an Aramaic word, it’s suggested to have derived from the phrase “”I create as I speak.” Like so many words, it represents a vestigial memory cloaked in a syncretic mythology.

From Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

Abracadabra

A term of incantation which was formerly worn about the neck as an amulet against several diseases, especially the tertian ague (known today as tertian malaria).

It was to be written on a triangular piece of parchment in the following form:

ABRACADABRA
ABRACADABR
ABRACADAB
ABRACADA
ABRACAD
ABRACA
ABRAC
ABRA
ABR
AB
A

It is said that it first occurs in the Carmen de Morbis et Remediis (The full text being called De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima- Carmen de Morbis et Remediis) of Q . Serenus Sammonicus, a favorite of the Emperor Severus in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and is generally supposed to be derived from the word abraxas (ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ).

You can find the text of De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima- Carmen de Morbis et Remediis here.

Clandestine Masons and Clandestine Freemasonry

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols & Symbolism we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the meanings behind Clandestine, Clandestine Lodge and a Clandestine Freemason.

The video, deals with the first two subjects, the third is a subject of much contention creating clear vernacular delineation of what IS and what IS NOT considered by the various denominations of the fraternity.

You can find more installments of these educational pieces under Symbols & Symbolism, and on YouTube.

Clandestine

The ordinary meaning of this word is secret, hidden. The French word clandestin, from which it is derived, is defined by Boiste (Pierre-Claude-Victor BoisteDictionnaire universel de la langue française, first published in 1800) to be something:

fait en cachette et contre les lois.

Translated to mean – done in a hiding-place and against the laws (or, as translated by Google Translate – made secretly and against laws), which better suits the Masonic signification, which is illegal, not authorized. Irregular is often used for small departures from custom.

The Frontispiece to Noorthouck's 1784 Constitution.

The Frontispiece to Noorthouck’s 1784 Constitution.

Clandestine Lodge

A body of Masons uniting in a Lodge without the consent of a Grand Lodge, or, although originally legally constituted, continuing to work after its charter has been revoked, is styled a “Clandestine Lodge.” Neither Anderson nor Entick employ the word. It was first used in the Book of Constitutions in a note by Noortbouck, on page 239 of his edition (Constitutions, 1784). Irregular Lodge would be the better term.

Clandestine Mason

One made in or affiliated with a clandestine Lodge. With clandestine Lodges or Masons, regular Masons are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects.

In the Book of Constitutions, Noortbouck’s comments read, first under the Abstract of the Laws Relating to the General Fund of Charity

IV, page ii:

No person made a mason in a private or clandestine manner, for small or unworthy considerations, can act as a grand officer or as an officer of a private lodge, or can he partake of the general charity.

Interestingly, they tell us their reasons:

And then Under the Making of a Mason (page 394 and 395), ART V

A brother concerned in making masons clandestinely, shall not be allowed to visit any lodge till he has made due submission, even though the brothers so made may be allowed.

and, ART VIII, page 395:

Seeing that some brothers have been made lately in a clandestine manner, that is, in no regular lodge, nor by any authority or dispensation from the grand master, and for small and unworthy considerations, to the dishonor of the craft; the grand lodge decreed, that no person so made, nor any of those concerned in making him, shall be a grand officer, nor an officer of a particular lodge; nor shall partake of the general charity, should they ever be reduced to apply for it.

From a Short Talk Bulletin, Vol.XIII, No, 12, from 1935 says definitively (for that time) that,

Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or Grand Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without right, authority or legitimate descent; the other is a man “made a Mason” on such a clandestine body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosaic Pavement or the Checkered Flooring

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences on the symbolism behind the mosaic (or checkered) pavement, objects that, Mackey says, are “appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life”

You can read more installments of Mackey’s Encyclopedia under Symbols & Symbolism here on this site and video of these segments on YouTube.

Samuel Lee depiction of Solomons Temple

Samuel Lee depiction of Solomons Temple

Mosaic Pavement

Mosaic work consists properly of many little stones of different colors united together in patterns to imitate a painting. It was much practiced among the Romans who called it musivum opus whence the Italians get their musaico the French their mosaique and we our mosaic. The idea that the work is derived from the fact that Moses used a pavement of colored stones in the tabernacle has been long since exploded by etymologists. The Masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a Mosaic pavement of black and white stones. There is no historical evidence to substantiate this statement. Samuel Lee, however, in his diagram of the Temple, represents not only the floors of the building, but of all the outer courts, as covered with such a pavement (Lee’s Orbis miraculum; or, the Temple of Solomon Pourtrayed by Scripture-Light, London, 1659). The Masonic idea was perhaps first suggested by this passage in the Gospel of St. John, xix 13 “when Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat him down in the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” The word here translated Pavement is in the original Lithostroton, the very word used by Pliny to denote a Mosaic pavement. The Greek word, as well as its equivalent, is used to denote a pavement formed of ornamental stones various colors precisely what is by a Mosaic pavement.

A 19th century depiction of the assembly of the Sanhedrin.

A 19th century depiction of the assembly of the Sanhedrin.

There was, therefore, a part of Temple which was decorated with a Mosaic pavement. The Talmud informs us that there was such a pavement in the conclave where the Grand Sanhedrin held its sessions.

By a little torsion of historical accuracy, the Masons have asserted that the ground-floor of the Temple was a Mosaic pavement and hence, as the Lodge is a representation of the Temple, that the floor of the Lodge should also be of the same pattern.

The Mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met within the earliest rituals of the last century. It is classed among the ornaments of the Lodge in combination with the indented tessel and the blazing star. Its parti-colored (showing different colors or tints) stones of black and have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life.


 

References:

Samuel Lee (1625–1691)
An English Puritan academic and minister. Lee produced a “very English interpretation” for the design of Solomon’s Temple. Lee suggests that the “extremely elaborate Temple designs of earlier authors took their inspiration from the visionary temple of Ezekiel, which was never intended as a real temple to be built on earth.” The Illustration of Solomon’s Temple, as mentioned by Mackey, is from Orbis miraculum; or, the Temple of Solomon Pourtrayed by Scripture-LightLondon, 1659.

Lithostroton
A floor covering made from irregular variously colored small marble stones, not to be confused with the mosaic surface that was designed with the help of small, rectangular or almost square cubes (tessellae) made of terracotta, limestone or marble which were set into a bed of mortar and polished for foot traffic. 

John 19:13
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). (NIV)

The Christianization of Freemasonry

In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the Christening of Freemasonry, a sentiment that Mackey feels “… does not belong to the ancient system” of Freemasonry.

You can read more installments of Mackey’s Encyclopedia under Symbols & Symbolism here on this site and video of these segments on YouTube.

The interpretation of the symbols of Freemasonry from a Christian point of view is a theory adopted by some of the most distinguished Masonic writers of England and this country, but one which I think does not belong to the ancient system. [William] Hutchinson, and after him [George] Oliver – profoundly philosophical as are the Masonic speculations of both – have, I am constrained to believe, fallen into a great error in calling the Master Mason’s Degree a Christian institution. It is true that it embraces within its scheme the great truths of Christianity upon the subject of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body; but this was to be presumed, because Freemasonry is truths and all truth must be identical. But the origin of each is different; their histories are dissimilar. The principles of Freemasonry preceded the advent of Christianity. Its symbols and its legends are derived from the Solomonic Temple and from the people even anterior to that. Its religion comes from the ancient priesthood; its faith was that primitive one of Noah and his immediate descendants. If Masonry were simply a Christian institution, the Jew, the Muslim, the Brahman and the Buddhist could not conscientiously partake of its illumination. But its universality is its boast. In its language citizens of every nation may converse; at its altar men of all religions may kneel; to its creed disciples of every faith may subscribe.

oliver and hutchinson
George Oliver & William Hutchinson

Yet it cannot be denied that since the advent of Christianity a Christian element has been almost imperceptibly infused into the Masonic system, at least among Christian Masons. This has been a necessity; for it is the tendency of every predominant religion to pervade with its influence all that surrounds it or is about it, whether religious, political, or social. This arises from a need of the human heart. To the man deeply imbued with the spirit of his religion, there is an almost unconscious desire to accommodate and adapt all the business and the amusements of life – the labors and the employments of his everyday existence-to the indwelling faith of his soul.

The Christian Mason, therefore, while acknowledging and appreciating the great doctrines taught in Masonry, and also while grateful that these doctrines were preserved in the bosom of his ancient Order at a time when they were unknown to the multitudes of the surrounding nations, is still anxious to give to them a Christian character; to invest them, in some measure, with the peculiarities of his own creed, and to bring the interpretation of their symbolism more nearly home to his own religious sentiments.

The feeling is an instinctive one belonging to the noblest aspirations of our human nature; and hence we find Christian Masonic writers indulging in it to an almost unwarrantable excess, and, by the extent of their sectarian interpretations, materially affecting the cosmopolitan character of the Institution.

This tendency to Christianize has, in some instances, been so universal, and has prevailed for so long a period, that certain symbols and myths have been, in this way, so deeply and thoroughly imbued with the Christian element as to leave those who have not penetrated into the cause of this peculiarity, in doubt whether they should attribute to the symbol an ancient or a modern and Christian origin.

Baphomet – Symbols and Symbolism

In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, on the infamously nefarious figure of Baphomet – the alleged false idol of the Knights Templar and one of the key instruments of their undoing by Pope Clement.

More installments of Symbols & Symbolism are available here and on YouTube.

Pope Clement V
Pope Clement

The imaginary idol, or, rather, symbol which the Knights Templars were accused of employing in their mystic rights. The forty-second of the charges preferred against them by Pope Clement is in these words:

Item quod ipsi per singulas provincias habeant idola: videlicet capita quorum aliqua habebant tres facies, et alia unum: et aliqua cranium humanum habebant.

Also, that in all of the provinces they have idols,namely, heads, of which some had three faces, some one, and some had a human skull.

Von Hammer, a bitter enemy of the Templars, in his book entitled The Mystery of Baphomet Revealed, revived this old accusation, and attached to the Baphomet an impious signification. He derived the name from the Greek words, Baph (βάπτισμα) – baptism, and μhtis (σοφία) – wisdom, and thence supposed that it represented the admission of the initiated into the secret mysteries of the Order. From this gratuitous assumption he deduces his theory, set forth even m the very title of his work, that the Templars were convicted, by their own monuments, of being guilty as Gnostics and Ophites of apostasy, idolatry, and impurity. Of this statement he offers no other historical testimony than the Articles of Accusation, themselves devoid of proof, but through which the Templars were made the victims of the jealousy of the Pope and the avarice of the King of France.

Baphomet as imagines in the Taxil Hoax
Baphomet as imagines in the Taxil Hoax

Others again have thought that they could find in Baphomet a corruption of Mahomet (Mohammed), and hence they have asserted that the Templars had been perverted from their religious faith by the Saracens, with whom they had so much intercourse, sometimes as foes and sometimes as friends. Nicolai, who wrote an Essay on the Accusations brought against the Templars, published at Berlin, in 1782, supposes, but doubtingly, that the figure of the Baphomet, figura Baffometi, which was depicted on a bust representing the Creator, was nothing else but the Pythagorean pentagon, the symbol of health and prosperity, borrowed by the Templars from the Gnostics, who in turn had obtained it from the School of Pythagoras.

King, in his learned work on the Gnostics, thinks that the Baphomet may have been a symbol of the Manicheans, with whose wide spreading heresy in the Middle Ages he does not doubt that a large portion of the inquiring spirits of the Temple had been intoxicated.

Amid these conflicting views, all merely speculative, it will not be uncharitable or unreasonable to suggest that the Baphomet, or skull of the ancient Templars, was, like the relic of their modern Masonic representatives, simply an impressive symbol teaching the lesson of mortality, and that the latter has really been derived from the former.

The Ashlar

In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, on the Ashlar – a symbol familiar to every individual made a mason.

More installments are available here under Symbols & Symbolism, and on YouTube.

ashlar in freemasonry

“Freestone as it comes out of the of the quarry.” – Bailey. In Speculative Masonry we adopt the ashlar in two different states, in the Apprentice’s Degree.

The Rough Ashlar, or stone in its rude and unpolished condition, is emblematic of man in his natural state – ignorant, uncultivated, and vicious. But when education has exerted its wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions, and purifying his life, he then is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which, under the skillful hands of the workmen, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its place in the building. In the older lectures of the eighteenth century the Perfect Ashlar is not mentioned, but its place was supplied by the Broached Thurnel.

What Does Brotherhood Mean

From Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of what the term Brother and Brotherhood means.

Look for more installments on Symbols & Symbolism here, and on YouTube.

Brother

The term which Freemasons apply to each other. Freemasons are Brethren, not only by common participation of the human nature, but as professing the same faith; as being jointly engaged in the same labors, and as being united by a mutual covenant or tie, whence they are also emphatically called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”

Brotherhood

When our Savior designated his disciples as his brethren, he implied that there was a close bond of union existing between them, which idea was subsequently carried out by St . Peter in his direction to “love the brotherhood.” Hence the early Christians designated themselves as a brotherhood, a relationship unknown to the Gentile religions; and the ecclesiastical and other confraternities of the Middle Ages assumed the same title to designate any association of men engaged in the same common object, governed by the same rules, and united by an identical interest.

The association or Fraternity of Freemasons is, in this sense, called a brotherhood.