From Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of the All-Seeing Eye. Note, some links have been added as reference to the original quoted sources.
An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus, the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity. On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of Divine watchfulness and care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus, the Psalmist says
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (Palms 34:15),
which explains a subsequent passage (Psalms 121.4), in which it is said:
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Then Moses said to the Lord 0 Lord dost thou sleep or not? The Lord said unto Moses, I never sleep: but take a cup and fill it with water. Then Moses took a cup and filled it with water, as the Lord commanded him. Then the Lord cast into the heart of Moses the breath of slumber; so he slept, and the cup fell from his hand, and the water which was therein was spilled. Then Moses awoke from his sleep. Then said God to Moses, I declare by my power, and by my glory, that if I were to withdraw my providence from the heavens and the earth, for no longer a space of time than thou hast slept, they would at once fall to ruin and confusion, like as the cup fell from thy hand.
On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes what has been called a hatchet, but which may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square.
The All-Seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence-his guardian and preserving character – to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs, 15.3, when he says:
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding (or, as in the Revised Version, keeping watch upon) the evil and the good.
From Albert G. Mackey and his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of the Broken Column. Note, some links have been added as reference to the original quoted sources.
Among the Hebrews, columns, or pillars, were used metaphorically to signify princes or nobles, as if they were the pillars of a state . Thus, in Psalm 11:3, the passage, reading in our translation: If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? is, in the original, when the columns are overthrown, I.E..: when the firm supporters of what is right and good have perished.
So the passage in Isaiah 19:10 should read: her (Egypt’s) columns are broken down*, that is, the nobles of her state.
In Freemasonry, the broken column is, as Master Masons well know, the emblem of the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft. The use of the column or pillar as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom, and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person interred. It is accredited to Jeremy L. Cross (from the Masonic Chart) that he first introduced the Broken Column into the ritual, but this may not be true.
From Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of the mystical properties of the Acacia. Note, some links have been added as reference to the original quoted sources. Look for future installments on Symbols & Symbolism here, and on YouTube.
From the Encyclopedia:
An interesting and important symbol in Freemasonry. Botanically, it is the acacia vera of Tournefort, and the mimosa nilotica of Tinneus, called babul tree in India. It grew abundantly in the vicinity of Jerusalem, where it is still to be found, and is familiar in its modern use as the tree from which the gum arabic of commerce is derived.
Oliver, it is true, says that “there is not the smallest trace of any tree of the kind growing so far north as Jerusalem” (Landm.,ii.,149); but this statement is refuted by the authority of Lieutenant Lynch, who saw it growing in great abundance in Jericho, and still farther north . (Official Report of the United States of America to Explore the Dead Sea and the River Jordan by Lieutenant W. F. Lynch, U.S.N) The Rabbi Yehoseph Schwarz, who is excellent authority, says : “The Acacia (Shittim) tree, Al Bunt, is found in Palestine of different varieties ; it looks like the Mulberry tree, attains a great height, and has a hard wood . The gum which is obtained from it is the gum arabic .” (Descriptive Geography and Historical Sketch of Palestine, p308, Leeser’s translation. Phila., 1850) Schwarz was for sixteen years a resident of Palestine, and wrote from personal observation. The testimony of Lynch and Schwarz should, therefore, forever settle the question of the existence of the acacia in Palestine.
The acacia is called in the Bible Shittim, which is really the plural of Shittah, which last form occurs once only in Isaiah 41:19. It was esteemed a sacred wood among the Hebrews, and of it Moses was ordered to make the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the table for the shewbread, and the rest of the sacred furniture. (Exodus 25-27) Isaiah, in recounting the promises of God’s mercy to the Israelites on their return from the captivity, tells them that, among other things, he will plant in the wilderness, for their relief and refreshment, the cedar, the acacia (or, as it is rendered in our common version, the shittah), the fir, and other trees.
The first thing, then, that we notice in this symbol of the acacia, is that it had been always consecrated from among the other trees of the forest by the sacred purposes to which it was devoted. By the Jew, the tree from whose wood the sanctuary of the tabernacle and the Holy Ark had been constructed would ever be viewed as more sacred than ordinary trees. The early Masons, therefore, very naturally appropriated this hallowed plant to the equally sacred purpose of a symbol, which was to teach an important divine truth in all ages to come. Having thus briefly disposed of the natural history of this plant, we may now proceed to examine it in its symbolic relations.
First, the acacia, in the mythic system of Freemasonry, is preeminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL – that important doctrine which it is the great design of the Institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower, which “cometh forth and is cut down,” reminds us of the transitory nature of human life, so the perpetual renovation of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly presents the appearance of youth and vigor: is aptly compared to that spiritual life in which the soul, freed from the corruptible companionship of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth. Hence, in the impressive funeral service of our Order, it is said that “this evergreen is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul. By this we are reminded that we have an immortal part within us, which shall survive the grave, and which shall never, never, never die.” And again, in the closing sentences of the monitorial lecture of the Third Degree, the same sentiment is repeated, and we are told that by “the ever-green and ever-living sprig ” the Mason is strengthened” with confidence and composure to look forward to a blessed immortality.” Such an interpretation of the symbol is an easy and a natural one; it suggests itself at once to the least reflective mind; and consequently, in some one form or another, is to be found existing in all ages and nations. It was an ancient custom-which is not, even now, altogether disused-for mourners to carry in their hands at funerals a sprig of some evergreen, generally the cedar or the cypress, and to deposit it in the grave of the deceased. According to Dalcho,* the Hebrews always planted a sprig of the acacia at the head of the grave of a departed friend. [John] Potter tells us that the ancient Greeks “had a custom of bedecking tombs with herbs and flowers.”‡ All sorts of purple and white flowers were acceptable to the dead, but principally the amaranth and the myrtle. The very name of the former of these plants, which signifies “never fading,” would seem to indicate the true symbolic meaning of the usage, although archaeologists have generally supposed it to be simply an exhibition of love on the part of the survivors. Ragon says that the ancients substituted the acacia for all other plants because they believed it to be incorruptible, and not liable to injury from the attacks of any kind of insect or other animal-thus symbolizing the incorruptible nature of the soul.
Hence we see the propriety of placing the sprig of acacia, as an emblem of immortality, among the symbols of that degree, all of whose ceremonies are intended to teach us the great truth that “the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospect of Eternal Bliss.”≠ So, therefore, says Dr. Oliver, when the Master Mason exclaims “my name is Acacia,” it is equivalent to saying, “I have been in the grave – I have triumed over it by rising from the dead-and being regenerated in the process, I have a claim to life everlasting.” (See Landmarks, ii.,151, note 27)
The sprig of acacia, then, in its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its ever-green and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within us, which, as an emanation from the Great Architect of the Universe, can never die. And as this is the most ordinary, the most generally accepted signification, so also is it the most important; for thus, as the peculiar symbol of immortality, it becomes the most appropriate to an Order all of whose teachings are intended to inculcate the great lesson that “life rises out of the grave.” But incidental to this the acacia has two other interpretations which are well worthy of investigation.
Secondly, then, the acacia is a symbol of INNOCENCE. The symbolism here is of a peculiar and unusual character, depending not on any real analogy in the form or use of the symbol to the idea symbolized, but simply on a double or compound meaning of the word. For ακακία in the Greek language, signifies both the pant in question and the moral quality of innocence or purity of life. In this sense the symbol refers, primarily, to him over whose solitary grave the acacia was planted, and whose virtuous conduct, whose integrity of life and fidelity to his trusts have ever been presented as patterns to the craft, and consequently to all Master Masons, who, by this interpretation of the symbol, are invited to emulate his example.
Hutchinson, indulging in his favorite theory of Christianizing Masonry, when he comes to this signification of the symbol, thus enlarges on the interpretation:
We Masons, describing the deplorable estate of religion under the Jewish law, speak in figures: ‘Her tomb was in the rubbish and filth cast forth of the temple, and ACACIA wove its branches over her monument;’ ακακία being the Greek word for innocence, or being free from sin; implying that the sins and corruptions of the old law, and devotees of the Jewish altar, had hid religion from those who sought her, and she was only to be found where INNOCENCE survived, and under the banner of the divine Lamb ; and as to ourselves professing that we were to be distinguished by our ACACY, or as true ACACIANs in our religious faith and tenets.†
But, lastly, the acacia is to be considered as the symbol of INITIATION. This is by far the most interesting of its interpretations, and was, we have every reason to believe, the primary and original; the others being but incidental.
It leads us at once to the investigation of the significant fact that in all the ancient initiations and religious mysteries there was some plant peculiar to each, which was consecrated by its own esoteric meaning, and which occupied an important position in the celebration of the rites, so that the plant, whatever it might be, from its constant and prominent use in the ceremonies of initiation, came at length to be adopted as the symbol of that initiation.
Thus, the lettuce was the sacred plant which assumed the place of the acacia in the mysteries of Adonis. (See Lettuce) The lotus was that of the Brahmanical rites of India, and from them adopted by the Egyptians. (See Lotus) The Egyptians also revered the erica or heath; and the mistletoe was a mystical plant among the Druids. (See Erica and Mistletoe) And, lastly the myrtle performed the same office of symbolism in the mysteries of Greece that the lotus did in Egypt or the mistletoe among the Druids. (See Myrtle)
In all of these ancient mysteries, while the sacred plant was a symbol of initiation, the initiation itself was symbolic of the resurrection to a future life, and of the immortality of the soul . In this view, Freemasonry is to us now in the place of the ancient initiations, and the acacia is substituted for the lotus, the erica, the ivy, the mistletoe, and the myrtle. The lesson of wisdom is the same – the medium of imparting it is all that has been changed.
Returning, then, to the acacia, we find that it is capable of three explanations. It is a symbol of immortality, of innocence, and of initiation. But these three significations are closely connected, and that connection must be observed, if we desire to obtain a just interpretation of the symbol. Thus, in this one symbol, we are taught that in the initiation of life, of which the initiation in the Third Degree is simply emblematic, innocence must for a time lie in the grave, at length, however, to be called, by the word of the Great Master of the Universe, to a blissful immortality. Combine with this the recollection of the place where the sprig of acacia was planted – Mount Calvary – the place of sepulcher of him who “brought life and immortality to light,” and who, in Christian Masonry, is designated, as he is in Scripture, as “the lion of the tribe of Judah” ; and remember, too, that in the mystery of his death, the wood of the cross takes the place of the acacia, and in this little and apparently insignificant symbol, but which is really and truly the most important and significant one in Masonic science, we have a beautiful suggestion of all the mysteries of life and death, of time and eternity, of the present and of the future.
* “This custom among the Hebrews arose from this circumstance . Agreeably to their laws, no dead bodies were allowed to be interred within the walls of the City ; and as the Cohens, or Priests, were prohibited from crossing a grave, it was necessary to place marks thereon, that they might avoid them. For this purpose the Acasia was used.” (Dalcho, 2nd Oration, p . 23, note)
Another circumstance, my Brethren, I beg leave to recall to your recollection. It is the spring of Cassia, as it is generally termed in our Lodges, where we speak of its strong scent, &c. Cassia, my Brethren, did not grow about Jerusalem. It is an alteration of the word Acasia, the Mimosa Nilotica of Linnæus, belonging to the 23d class and 1sr order, Polygamia Monæcia, of his system. This shrub grew there in abundance, and from the habit arising from an indispensable custom among the Hebrews, a branch was broken off from a neighboring bush, and placed where the Fellow-Crafts fond it, who, perceiving it to be withered, when all around flourished in perfection, they were led to draw those conclusions which we teach in our Lodges.
*These customs among the Hebrews arouse from this circumstance. Agreeably to their laws, no dead bodies were allowed to be interred within the walls of the City; and as the Cohens, or Priests, were prohibited from crossing a grave, it is necessary to place marks thereon, that they might avoid them. For this purpose the Acasia was used.
It is further mentioned in the report of the Inspectors, that some knowledge of the Talmud is necessary to enable us to understand some of our ceremonies. It is so, my respectable Brethren, and to which they might have added, some knowledge, also, of the mysteries of the Cabala. That expressive mystic figure, of the Divinity, formed in the Fellow-Craft’s degree, constitutes, in the Hebrew language, the word Shaday, Omnipotent.
In the Sublime degrees, it is elegantly illustrated.* From these, and many other, errors which have unfortunately crept into the Blue degrees, it must be evident, that it is necessary, that a man of science should preside over a Lodge, that the true ceremonies and principles of the mystic Craft, may be taught in language, which will bear the test of criticism.
I object to the reason assigned by Dalcho, but of the existence of the custom there can be no question, notwithstanding the denial or doubt of Dr. Oliver . Blount (A Voyage into the Levant, p. 197) says, speaking of the Jewish burial customs, “those who bestow a marble stone over any [gravel have a hole a yard long and a foot broad, in which they plant an evergreen, which seems to grow from the body and is carefully watched.”
Hasselquist (Travels, p . 28) confirms his testimony. I borrow the citations from Brown (Antiquities of the Jews, vol . ii ., p. 356), but have verified the reference to Hasselquist. The work of Blount I have not been enabled to consult.
Aquila, better known in Masonic parlance as the Roman Eagle, was considered in ancient times to be a symbol of strength, courage, and immortality. The signa militaria[i] of the Roman military under Gaius Marius (104 BC), the war standard was made of silver or bronze and served more as a holy war relic than mere militaristic emblem of the Roman Legions.
Wells, in his Masonic short talk of 1915, says of the eagle that as it was adopted by the Romans upon their banners it
…signified magnanimity and fortitude, or as in the ancient Sacred Writings, swiftness and courage.
In antiquity, the Romans were not the first to make use of the eagle as an emblem of war, as, Wells cites, the Persians, under Cyrus the Younger[ii], had borne the Eagle upon their spears as a standard.[iii]
In a more modern parlance France, Russia, Prussia, Germany, and the United States have each in turn adopted the Eagle, variously, as a National symbol of identity adorning the U.S. dollar, today, in a style reminiscent of its depiction on similar Roman coinage from when it was adopted into western material culture.
Albert Mackey in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry says of the eagle that it is a symbol of great antiquity calling into reference Egyptian, Greek, and Persia symbolism where the bird was sacred to the sun.
Among the Pagans it was an emblem of Jupiter, and with the Druids it was a symbol of their supreme god. In the Scriptures, a distinguished reference is in many instances made to the eagle; especially do we find Moses (Exodus xix, 4) representing Jehovah as saying, in allusion to the belief that this bird assists its feeble young in their flight by bearing them upon its own pinions, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” Not less elevated was the symbolism of the eagle among the Pagans. Thus, Cicero, speaking of the myth of Ganymede carried up to Jove on an eagle’s back, says that it teaches us that the truly wise, irradiated by the shining light of virtue, become more and more like God, until by wisdom they are borne aloft and soar to Him.
While Mackey goes deep into the meanings behind the eagle, the suggestion that the Masonic Apron is more noble than the Roman Eagle implies that its receipt is an honor, greater than being a member of the famed Roman Legion which may lend itself to some pull to particular military association with Masonry today. An interesting consideration of the Roman Legion was their early and then later composition.
In the early period of the empire, the legion was composed of levied soldiers who supplied their own equipment that would form as needed disbanding when not. Essentially, to serve meant you were a citizen of the empire. When the Rome army began to experience inadequate staffing because of income or property qualifications of its citizenry, Consul Gaius Marius removed the prequalifications of service (wealth and social class) allowing all free people of the empire eligible for the army. This change created the first volunteer professional standing army. That openness to everyone regardless of class of social standing is a parallel we find amongst the ranks of Freemasonry today.
Some suggest that the Roman Eagle was a European Trade Symbol coming from the Hanseatic League. A confederation of merchant guilds that stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries), the Hanseatic league evolved to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges along trade routes, cities and countries where its members did business. . One Masonic source says of the Hanseatic League that,
…its members had their Headquarters at Lubeck, and adopted the Arms of Lubeck which at this time was the Roman Eagle and appears on the Seal of the Hanse. They also called themselves Knights of the Holy Roman Empire.[iv]
The Leagues coat of arms is of a double headed eagle, rather than an Aquila eagle, so this connection to the Apron seems less legitimate other than its being a pre-enlightenment trade guild, similar to the guild of the Golden Fleece.[v][vi]
An interesting parallel in the Hanseatic League connection is the guilds factory rules which one could find Masonic parallels including:
No man older than fifty years or younger than eighteen winters could be received.
Anyone who committed what had been forbidden was to be cast out, and driven from the community.
No one should have a woman within the burgh
be absent from it for three nights
These rules helped the league work in foreign countries as they “… formed among the alien populations in which they were placed semi-monastic establishments”[vii]
Yet, in this double headed eagle, we can still find some parallels to draw with the Roman Eagle.
Mackey says of the emblem,
The Eagle Displayed, that is, with extended wings, as if in the act of dying, has always, from the majestic character of the bird, been deemed an emblem of imperial power. Marius, the consul, first consecrated the eagle, about eight years before the Christian era, to be the sole Roman standard at the head of every legion, and hence it became the standard of the Roman Empire ever afterward.
As the single-headed Eagle was thus adopted as the symbol of imperial power, the double-headed Eagle naturally became the representative of a double empire; and on the division of the Roman dominions into the eastern and western empire, which were afterward consolidated by the Carlovingian race into what was ever after called the Holy Roman Empire, the double-headed Eagle was assumed as the emblem of this double empire; one head looking, as it were, to the West, or Rome, and the other to the East, or Byzantium.
He goes on to enumerate the orders of knighthoods that adopted the double headed eagle including, The Prussian Order of the Black Eagle and the Order of the Red Eagle, both, Mackey says, are “outgrowths of the original symbol of the Roman Eagle.”
Of the double headed eagle, Mackey goes on to say that its adoption was probably first introduced as a symbol into Freemasonry in 1758. He says,
In that year the Body calling itself the Council of Emperors of the East and West was established in Paris. The double-headed eagle as likely to have been assumed by this Council in reference to the double Jurisdiction which it claimed, and which is represented so distinctly in its title.
The most ornamental, not to say the most ostentatious feature of the insignia of the Supreme Council, 33 , of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, is the double-headed eagle, surmounted by an imperial crown. This device seems to have been adopted some time after 1755 by the grade known as the Emperors of the East and West; a sufficiently pretentious title. This seems to have been its first appearance in connection with Freemasonry, but history of the high grades has been subjected to such distortion that it is difficult to accept unreservedly any assertion put forward regarding them. From this imperial grade, the double-headed eagle came to the “Sovereign Prince Masons” of the Rite of Perfection. The Rite of Perfection with its twenty-five Degrees was amplified in 1801, at Charleston, United States of America, into the Ancient and Accepted Rite of 33, with the double-headed eagle for its most distinctive emblem. When this emblem was first adopted by the high grades it had been in use as a symbol of power for 5000 years, or so. No heraldic bearing, no emblematic device anywhere today can boast such antiquity. It was in use a thousand years before the Exodus from Egypt, and more than 2000 years before the building of King Solomon’s Temple.
The quote, which is quite extensive, gives a sort of psudo-parrallel to antiquity linking the Scottish-Rite double headed eagle to the Babylonian era through a pair of terra cotta cylinders[viii] that depicts a proto-eagle in the form of a lion headed bird.
The long quote reads:
The story of our Eagle has been told by the eminent Assyriologist, M. Thureau Dangin, in the volume of Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie (1904). Among the most important discoveries for which we are indebted to the late M. de Sarzec, were two large terra cotta cylinders covered with many hundred lines of archaic cuneiform characters These cylinders were found in the brick mounds of Tello, which has been identified with certainty as the City of Lagash, the dominant center of Southern Babylonian ere Babylon had imposed its name and rule on the country.
The cylinders are now in the Louvre (see below) and have been deciphered by M. Thureau Dangin, who displays to our wondering eyes the emblem of power that was already centuries old when Babylon gave its name to Babylonia. The cylinder in question is a foundation record deposited by one Gudea, Ruler of the City of Lagash, to mark the building of the temple, about the year 3000 B.C., as nearly as the date could be fixed. The foundation record was deposited just as our medals, coins and metallic plates are deposited today, when the corner stone is laid with Masonic honors. It must be born in mind that in this ease, the word cornerstone may be employed only in a conventional sense, for in Babylonia all edifices, temples, palaces, and towers alike, were built of brick. But the custom of laying foundation deposits was general, whatever the building material might be, and we shall presently see what functions are attributed, by another eminent scholar, to the foundation chamber of King Solomon’s Temple.
The contents of this inscription are of the utmost value to the oriental scholar, but may be briefly dismissed for our present purpose. Suffice it to say, that the King begins by reciting that a great drought had fallen upon the land. ” The waters of the Tigris,” he says, ” fell low and the store of provender ran short in this my city,” saying that he feared it was 3 visitation from the gods, to whom he determined to submit his evil ease and that of his people. The reader familiar with Babylonian methods that pervade the Books of the Captivity will not be surprised to learn that the King dreamed a dream, in which the will of the gods was revealed by direct personal intervention and interlocution. In the dream there came unto the King “a Divine Man, whose stature reached from earth to heaven, and whose head was crowned with the crown of a god, surmounted by the Storm Bird that extended its wings over Lagash, the land thereof.” This Storm Bird, no other than our double-headed eagle, was the totem as ethnologists and anthropologists are fain to call it, of the mighty Sumerian City of Lagash, and stood proudly forth the visible emblem of its power and domination. This double-headed eagle of Lagash is the oldest Royal Crest in the world.
As time rolled on, it passed from the Sumerians to the men of Akhad. From the men of Akhad to the Hittites, from the denizens of Asia Minor to the Seliukian Sultans, from whom it was brought by Crusaders to the Emperors of the East and West, whose successors today are the Hapsburgs and Romanoffs, as well as to the Masonic Emperors of the East and West, whose successors today are the Supreme Council, 33, that have inherited the insignia of the Site of Perfection.
Interesting in its attempt at drawing a parallel to antiquity, in a modern context, it is challenging to find the same level of depth to so abstract an emblem, especially one that is superior to the other. But, a final consideration to include would be a symbolic one, for which we turn to Cirlot, from his Dictionary of Symbols[ix].
In his work, he suggests the symbol of the eagle as a symbol of height “… of the Spirit, as the sun, and of the spiritual principals in general” suggesting it linked to the symbolism found in Egyptian hieroglyphics, where “the Eagle represents the letter A–the first—pertaining to the warmth of life, the origin, the day.”
Cirlot writes “…the eagle is also identified with the father figure” representing heroic nobility. And, in religious terms, In the Vedic tradition, the eagle as the Messenger or in other art forms as “the emblem of the Thunderbolt.”
According to St. Jerome the Eagle is the emblem of the Ascension and of prayer. Since it can fly higher than any other bird, it is regarded as an expression of Divine Majesty. It is said to dominate and destroy baser forces. Thus making it the symbol of Imperial power.
Truly, the Lambskin Apron is greater and more noble emblem of strength, courage and power than the imperial symbol of powers, Aquilla, the Roman Eagle.
Masonic tradition informs us that the lamb skin apron is more ancient than the Golden Fleece. Ancient being the operative word, just what exactly does that implication imply and how is the Golden Fleece remembered in more contemporary times as it may relate to the apron given to the newly raised entered apprentice?
In Greek tradition, the fleece of the Ram Chrysomallus, was the object of Jason and the Argonauts expedition.
The mythological story of the Golden Fleece begins in the telling of the story about Phrixus and Helle who were the children of the goddess Nephele (a cloud nymph) and Athamus. The two part ways allowing Athamas to remarry Ino, who, in turn, becomes jealous of her step children, Phrixus and Helle, hatching a plot to do them in. Ino destroys a seed crop and then sends messengers to consult with the oracle at Delphi on what to do. To put her plan into motion, Ino persuading the messengers to return from the Oracles with prophecy that to restore the fertility of the fields Phrixus would need to be sacrificed.
Nephele, seeing the ruse, sends a golden ram to rescue her children, losing daughter Helle in the process as she falls into the Hellespont (known today as Dardanelles, which is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara). Phrixus, makes the trip safely arriving at Colchis where he marries the daughter of King Aeetes. In celebration of the rescue and the marriage, Phrixus sacrificed the winged golden fleeced ram to Poseidon returning its soul to the deity in turn creating the constellation Aries.
In his appreciation, Phricus gives the pelt (the Golden Fleece) to Aeetes, the king of Colchis, who placed the in an oak tree defended by bulls with hoofs of brass and breath of fire. It was also guarded by a dragon with teeth which could become warriors when planted in the ground. Here it remained until Jason and his band of Argonauts arrived to claim it.
So goes the story of the Ancient Golden Fleece. Thought to be the oldest of Greek poems, Argonautica Orphica, and the telling of Jason’s quest to capture the Fleece appears to originate somewhere in the 5th or 6th century CE. The Hellenistic epic Argonautica dates to a period of the 3rd century BCE.
Wells, in his Builder article on the subject, mentions a knightly order called the Order of the Golden Fleece which was a celebrated Order of Knighthood in Austria and Spain, founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy and the Netherlands, at Bruges, on the tenth of January, 1429, on the occasion of his marriage with Isabella, daughter of King John I. of Portugal.
This Order was instituted for the protection of the Roman Catholic Church, and the fleece was assumed for its emblem, from being a staple commodity of the Low Countries. The founder made himself Grand Master of the Order, a dignity appointed to descend to his successors; and the number of knights, at first limited to twenty-four, was subsequently increased.
Contests arose between Spain and Austria as to the possession of this Order of Knighthood, which were finally adjusted by introducing the Order into both countries. In Austria the Emperor may now create any number of Knights of the Golden Fleece from the nobility. If Protestants, the consent of the Pope is required. In Spain, Princes, Grandees, and personages of peculiar merit are alone eligible to membership in this Order.
It’s said that the Duke’s stated reason for founding the Order was:
for the reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also …to do honor to old knights; …so that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day the deeds pertaining to chivalry shall have cause to continue from good to better; and .. so that those knights and gentlemen who shall see worn the order … should honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds…
An interesting biography exists on the Order through an association, La Confrérie Amicale de la Toison d’Or, dedicated to preserve its history. It says of the Order that the the meaning behind the use of the Fleece goes deeper than merely being a Hero’s Quest, saying,
It is clear from the icon of Jason on the early Golden Fleece insignia that the daring voyage of the Argo to bring back the sacred Golden Fleece from the edge of man’s known world touched Philipp deeply and helped inspire his dreams. The Argonauts were few in number, carefully selected for their nobility and talents and dedicated to the most noble of causes that also held religious and humanitarian importance. It is these values that we see in the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
Given the use in the degree as an ancient symbol, it seems unlikely that the knightly order is the point of reference within the Masonic degree. More likely is the mention of the fleece in the aspect of the Hero’s Quest, including allegories to jealousy, selfishness and sacrifice.
Wells goes on, saying,
The legend of the Golden Fleece, for which the Argonauts searched, is like the story of Masonry, a search for that which was lost. It is familiar to most readers of poetry and myths, and is interesting as being among the first known voyages of discovery.
Interestingly, Jason went on the quest for the Fleece in order to reclaim his kingdom from Pelias, an almost Biblical parallel to the story of Moses suggesting a deeper borrowing of Greek tradition in the writing of the Old Testament narrative.
Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences (1914), says of the Fleece that it is “…evidently not to the Argonautic expedition in search of the golden fleece, nor to the deluge…but to certain decorations of honor with which the apron is compared” suggesting instead that the “…Order of the Golden Fleece was of high repute as an Order of Knighthood. It was established in Flanders, in 1429, by the Duke of Burgundy, who selected the fleece for its badge because wool was the staple production of the country. It has ever been considered…one of the most illustrious Orders in Europe” making it the “the highest decoration that can be bestowed upon a subject by a sovereign of Great Britain. But the Masons may have been also influenced in their selection of a reference to the Golden Fleece, by the fact that in the Middle Ages it was one of the most important symbols of the Hermetic philosophers.”
Interesting here that Mackey traces the distinction of the Fleece to the chivalric order and not the more widespread mythology of the ancient world. One line of thought that deserves greater exploration is the importance of the Golden Fleece to the Hermetic philosophers and what, if any connections that bears to Freemasonry.
As an aside, there is some (Masonic) suggestion that the Golden Fleece story suggests the bringing of sheep husbandry, grain, or wisdom to Greece from the east or the panning for gold with sheep’s wool in the ancient world.
The Golden Fleece has made its way into the material culture such that it exists in several iterations in film and in video games. In the World of Warcraft MMORPG universe as a unique drop trinket that “May cause extra gold to drop whenever you kill a target that yields experience or honor and is a sign of wealth and status amongst the Saurok.” which perhaps supports the notion of it being a symbol of authority and kingship. It also made an appearance in the game God of War II where it can be seen hanging from the mouth of a cursed Cerberus that had devoured Jason.
The quest for the fleece was also the subject in the 2013 film Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. In the film, the teen Argonauts quest to find the Golden Fleece (with the power to heal anything) to rescue their diefic haven from oblivion.
In a more modern parlance for those wanting to undertake the quest for the ancient wool, artists Piotr Khrisanov and Jakov Matusovski have recreated the mythical Golden Fleece in Sochi, Russia. The monument aims to bring back the symbol of prosperity to the Black Sea town near where Jason and his crew went searching for the fleece in Caucasus. Made of bronze and covered in a layer of gold, it’s suggested that it weighs roughly 5 tons. A sister monument will be erected in the Greek city of Volos, which is believed to be where the Argonauts had set out for their campaign.
However you look at the Golden Fleece, in past or present telling, it still remains an emblem younger than the apron of a Mason.
 THE ORPHIC ARGONAUTICA – Pseudo-Orpheus 4th c. CE or laterm translated by Jason Colavito (2011)  Argonautica Orphica – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argonautica_Orphica  The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Argonautica, by Apollonius Rhodius  Excerpts of The Presentation of the Apron by Br. John W. Wells, from the Builder Magazine October, 1915
This short piece comes from Sanjay Mandaiker on the heels of recent editorials on the differences and disputes between Freemasonry and Catholicism. From those differences, he suggests another path of discovery and consideration from a far off tradition for most in Freemasonry.
I have noticed that some of our Brethren are not at ease with religion and Freemasonry, in my opinion this arises when one confuses religion with the religious institution that represents it, for all religions in their basis are much like Freemasonry sowing the path of spiritual development in the minds of the masses.
Suriya the Sun god of the Hindus (सूर्यSūrya, the Supreme Light) is depicted on a chariot drawn by seven horses; these steeds are interpreted as the seven days of the week.
To me it goes far beyond this shallow meaning, in most religions and for that matter Freemasonry, the Superior Being or God, is represented by light, so let’s say Suria or the Sun is that light.
Another common aspect between religions is that man was made in the image of God so what’s the difference? Let us say there is a prism in between us so on one side is light, “God”, on the other the rainbow, “Man”, represented by the seven horses that draw the chariot, and the seven colors of the rainbow.
Based on this presumption let us assume the different colors are also different religions or paths that lead to the “Light” or “God”. Say your path is green (chosen simply because as it is in the center) and you are far away from the prism, the color you will notice is blurred, this signifies one does not understand one’s own path because of its width. Even while looking at it from the horizon we see only green because of this we assume it is the only path that exists and can become fanatical about following this path. As we start progressing on our journey towards the Light the color gets clearer (better understanding) but also narrower and we start to perceive a tinge of blue on one horizon and yellow on the other, continuing we find that to stay on our path one foot is in the blue the other in the yellow, yet the colors become more and more distinct, till finally we tread on all seven now narrow to a point and keeping their clarity merge back through the prism to become Light.
Is this not the reason we should not tolerate but respect our differences, is this not what all religion and Freemasonry are based on and therefore brethren let us individually merge our personal beliefs. Sharing ones thoughts via freemasonry could be a better use of this truth, compared to simply wondering how our religious intuition will judge us. If it works for you it’s good, it’s as simple as that to me. Maybe truth is a more appropriate word to describe this convergence of spiritual paths.
Sanjay Mandaiker, (Master Mason Lodge Universal Charity 273, Royal Arch Mason, Mark Mason, Secret Monitor, and 18th degree India Rose Cross) has been a tour guide based in India for over 20 years. He combines his extensive knowledge of Hinduism with Masonry to bring a truly unique traveling experience for masons and non masons alike. For masons recognized by the UGLE visits to a Lodge will also be included. Esoteric Travels allows you to be led through India by a brother.
William J Morris, in his Pocket Lexicon of Freemasonry, defines the All Seeing Eye as “an emblem found in every well-furnished lodge, and which is unnecessary further to explain.”
Yet, further explanation is necessary to detail the Eye of Providence that is so much in the parlance of the Masonic Lodge. While most American Lodges make use of the letter G to stand in as a representation deity, the All Seeing Eye, has that same function, perhaps with a more artistic flare.
Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, writes this succinct observation on the meanings behind the eye in his entry for the All-Seeing Eye:
“An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus, the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity.
On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of Divine watchfulness and care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus, the Psalmist says:
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry, Psalms 34:15
which explains a subsequent passage in which it is said:
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. Psalms 121:4
In the Apocryphal Book of the Conversation of God with Moses on Mount Sinai, translated by the Rev. William T. Cureton from an Arabic manuscript of the fifteenth century, and published by the Philobiblon Society of London, the idea of the eternal watchfulness of God is thus beautifully allegorized (The full quote from Cureton’s work reads):
Then Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, what is thy meat and what is thy drink, and what thy clothing?
The most High God answered, My Meat is the tears of sinners when they weep over their sins; my drink is the repentance of those who repent of them; and my clothing is the praises of the angels, and the thanks givings of the souls of those who have escaped from their iniquities.
Then Moses said to the Lord, Oh Lord, doust thou sleep or not?
The Lord said unto Moses, I never sleep: but take a cup and fill it with water.
Then Moses took a cup and filled it with water, as the Lord commanded him.
Then the Lord cast into the heart of Moses the breath of slumber; so he slept, and the cup fell from his hand, and the water which was therein was spilled.
Then Moses awoke from his sleep. Then said to God to Moses, I declare by my power, and my glory, that if I were to withdraw my providence from the heavens and the earth for no longer a space of time than thou hast slept, thy would at once fall to ruin and confusion, like as the cup fell from thy hand.
On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open aye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their Temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, has represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes what has been called a hatchet, but which may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square.
The All-Seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence – his guardian and preserving character – to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs (xv, 3), where he says:
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding (or, as in the Revised Version, keeping watch upon) the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3
The subject was not, it seems, defined sufficiently by Mackey, and became the subject of a Short Talk Bulletin in 1932, aptly titled The All Seeing Eye, and published by the Masonic Service Association of North America.
That Short Talk reads:
In the modern Masonic ritual the All-Seeing Eye is combined with the Sword, pointed at a Naked Heart; which latter emblem apparently came to American Freemasonry through Webb. The quotation from his Monitor (1797) is as follows:
The Sword pointing to a Naked Heart demonstrates that justice will sooner or later overtake us, and although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the yes of man, yet the All Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the whole, and will reward us according to our merits.
The Sword and Naked Heart were probably adopted by Preston from early initiation ceremonies of the Continent, probably French, in which even today we find some degrees of some rites dressed with swords which are pointed at the candidate. But the essential part of this symbol, the All-Seeing eye, is hoary with antiquity, and, in one form or another, has been identified with early religions and mysteries from their beginnings.
It seems natural for men to personify his members in order to symbolize a virtue. The foot is universally a symbol of swiftness; the arm, of strength; the hand, of fidelity. The hand we extend to clasp that of a friend must be open, showing it contains no weapon; the knight of old removed his mailed gauntlet before offering his hand, to indicate that he greeted a friend from whom he feared no attack. From this we get our modern concept that it is good manners to remove a glove before shaking hands.
The eye was adopted early as a symbol of watchfulness, for reasons too obvious to set forth. By a natural transition, the watchful eye never slept, and which thus saw everything, speedily became the symbol of Deity.
Hear the Psalmist (XXXIV): “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.”
Again (CXXI), “He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
A Proverb reads: “The yes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
Egypt symbolized her God and King, Osiris, by a open eye; it was in all the Temples, and is frequently found sculptured in stone together with a throne and a square, symbolic of Osiris, power and rectitude. One of the great curiosities of the world is the similarity, often identity, of ideas, inventions, discoveries, conceptions of peoples far removed, the one from the other, both in time and geographical location. The primitive loom, for instance, is strikingly similar in Egypt, India, South America, and Africa and among the Esquimaux (Eskimo). The Swastika (symbol made of four joined squares), often termed the oldest of symbols, is to be found literally all over the world. So is the point within a circle and the square as an emblem is found in early Egypt, Rome and China, to mention only three.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find so obvious a symbol as a watchful eye typifying Deity in the uttermost ends of the earth. That it was called the “All-Seeing Eye” in Vedic hymns a thousand years older than Christianity, and in a land as far as India from that we are wont to consider the cradle of Masonry, is a fact to make any student think.
Forty years ago the Reverend J.P. Oliver Minos drew Masonic attention to one of the Rig-Veda Hymns especially addressed to “Surya,” or the Sun:
Behold, the rays of dawn, like heralds, lead on high.
The Sun, that men may see the great all knowing God.
The Stars slink off like thieves, in company with Night, Before the All-Seeing Eye, whose beams reveal his presence, Gleaming like brilliant flames, to nation after nation.
You can read the full text of the Hymn to Surya at Sacred-Texts. And, it would seem that this is a the Hymn as it is performed.
The short talk continues:
“In the religions of India the eye is of high importance and prominence. Suva; one of the most important of the Gods of India, is pictured with three eyes, one more brilliant than the other two. Drawings are for sale in the market places of Benares and other Indian cities which visiting Masons often think are Masonic, merely because they portray the All-Seeing Eye. Indian religious devotees consider the peacock a sacred bird because of the resemblance of the feathers to an eye.
As a symbol of Deity the eye is a natural hieroglyph.
The connotation of sleeplessness, vision, knowledge is easily grasped by even a child-like intellect. But it is also, and for the same reason, a symbol of the sun; indeed, sun worship antedated almost all, if not all, other forms of worship.
The sun was worshiped by too many peoples in too many lands and ages to attempt to catalog here. Shamash was sun God to Assyrians, Merodach to the Chaldees, Ormuzd to the Persians, Ra to the Egyptians, Tezzatlipoca to the Mexicans, Helios to the Greeks and Sol to the Romans to mention only a few.
The sun is the source of a hundred myths; familiar is that of Helios, who drove his chariot daily across the sky. The Scandinavian God Sunna was in constant dread of being devoured by the wolf Fenris (symbol of the eclipse); Phaeton was the son of Phoebus, the sun, and stole his fathers chariot to drive across the heavens. Unable to control the fiery steeds, he came to near the earth and parched Libya into a land of barren sands, blackening the inhabitants of Africa and so heating that continent that it never recovered normal temperature! Had not Zeus transfixed him with a thunderbolt, he would have destroyed the world.
Modern poets and ancient have sung of the sun as thee eye of day; we recall:
The night has a thousand eyes and the day but one But the light of the whole world dies When the day is done.
Diogenes Laeritus thought of the sun as an incorruptible heavenly being when he wrote:
The sun, too shines into cesspools and is not polluted.
Dryden translated Ovid to read:
The glorious lamp of heaven, the radiant sun, Is nature’s eye.
Thou sun! Of this great world both eye and soul!
Freemasonry does not make of the eye a symbol of the sun. Her All- Seeing Eye is one emblem, her sun another, each with a distinct meaning. One of the Lesser Lights represents the sun; the sun shines out from between the legs of the compasses, opens sixty degrees on a quadrant, in the Past Master’s Jewel, all symbolic of the Masonic light which must come from the East from which comes all truth. It has been written:
The sun is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty, it doth signify absolute authority,: By analogy, if the lodge is the symbol of the world, then the Master, who controls the time of opening and closing, may well have one of the Lesser Lights as his symbol. Mackey goes further to say that the Master is ‘himself’ a symbol of the rising sun , the Junior Warden of the sun at meridian, and the Senior Warden of the setting sun, just as the Mysteries of India the three chief priests symbolize Bramha, the rising sun, Siva, the meridian, and Vishnu the setting sun. In the Orphic mysteries the sun was thought to generate, as from an egg, and come forth with power to triplicate himself; triple power (such as is found in a Lodge under a Master, Senior and Junior Warden) is an idea as old as mythology, as may be seen in the trident of Neptune, the three-forked lightning of Jove, the three-headed Cerebus of Pluto.
See how fitly the sun, as a symbol of authority, the sun, as man’s earliest deity, and the sun, as origin of the eye as a symbol of God, can be united. In his Symbolic Language (1840) [Thomas] Wemyss wrote:
The sun may be considered to be an emblem of Divine truth because the sun, or the light of which it is the source, is not only manifest in itself, but makes other things manifest; so one truth detects, reveals and manifests another, as all truths are dependent on and connected with each other, more or less.
So does the Master make Masonic truth manifest to the brethren; so does the Great Architect manifest His Divine truth to all men. If it is further necessary to show a connection between eye and sun, sun and God, and thus eye and God; refer again to the passage from Webb, which couples the All-Seeing Eye with the sun, moon and stars. Sufficient has been said to make it evident that the All-Seeing Eye is not a modern symbol, or one lightly to be regarded or passed over in silence, merely because modern ritual makes comparatively little of it. Alas, many brethren are so ill-instructed in the ancient Craft that it is a matter of some wonder to them why officer’s aprons, when decorated with emblems so often have the All-Seeing Eye upon the flap; why that pregnant symbol is so frequently engraved upon working tools, or the square and compasses which lie upon the Altar.
Throughout the Craft emphasis is put upon the number three; three Light (greater and lesser); three steps on the Master’s carpet; three steps at the beginning of the Winding Stairs; three principal officers; three degrees; three due guards; etc. The number three is but another way of expressing the idea of a triangle, one of man’s earliest, if not the earliest symbol for Deity, inasmuch as it is the simplest closed figure (signifying endlessness) which can be formed with straight lines.
The emphasis upon three, then, is Freemasonry’s symbol of omneity of Deity — His being without beginning or ending.
The letter “G” as a symbol of Deity particularly speaks of the reverence we owe to the supreme architect; His Omni glory. Lodges are opened and closed with prayer, symbol of the loving omnipresence of the Great Architect; Freemasons believe that where two or three are gathered together in His name. There His is also, in the midst of them.
On our Altar lies His Holy Book, rule and guide of our faith, symbol of His Omnipotence, since in it are the prophecies and histories of the powers of the Most High.
The All-Seeing Eye is significant of His Omniscience; that the Supreme Architect sees all and knows all, even the hidden secrets of the human heart.
Here, indeed. is the kernel of the nut, the inner meaning of the symbol which has come down to us from so many diverse ages, so many religions, which has been interwoven with sun and pagan gods and myths, nature religion and many kinds of worship, which was old when Egypt was young and ancient when India was new.
The All-Seeing Eye is to Freemasons the cherished symbol not only of the power but of the mercy of God — since, as has been beautifully said to comfort us who cannot always do as we know we should, or even as we want — “to see all is to know all; to know all is to understand all; to understand all is to forgive all.”
Therefore the thinking Freemason has reverence for this symbol. He treats it not as one of many; rather as among those to be held in tenderest thought and most precious memory. The Sword pointing to the Naked Heart may thunder of justice, but the All-Seeing Eye whispers of justice tempered with complete understanding, which is man’s most lovely conception of Him who judges erring men.
That Osiris and Isis were the Sun and Moon, is attested by many ancient writers; by Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Lucian, Suidas, Macrobius, Martianus Capella, and others. His power was symbolized by an Eye over a Sceptre. The Sun was termed by the Greeks the Eye of Jupiter, and the Eye of the World; and his is the All-Seeing Eye in our Lodges. The oracle of Claros styled him King of the Stars and of the Eternal Fire, that en-genders the year and the seasons, dispenses rain and winds, and brings about daybreak and night. And Osiris was invoked as the God that resides in the Sun and is enveloped by his rays, the invisible and eternal force that modifies the sublunary world by means of the Sun.
Zeus was the Greek iteration of Jupiter, adopted later by the Romans.
Pike, elaborating further, says:
The Blazing Star in our Lodges, we have already said, represents Sirius, Anubis, or Mercury, Guardian and Guide of Souls. Our Ancient English brethren also considered it an emblem of the Sun. In the old Lectures they said: “The Blazing Star or Glory in the centre refers us to that Grand Luminary the Sun, which enlightens the Earth, and by its genial influence dispenses blessings to mankind.” It is also said in those lectures to be an emblem of Prudence. The word Prudentia means, in its original and fullest signification, Foresight: and accordingly the Blazing Star has been regarded as an emblem of Omniscience, or the All-Seeing Eye, which to the Ancients was the Sun.
And, lastly, for what it’s worth, the All Seeing Eye has worked it’s way into the material culture, at least with some humor.
The following is the introduction to The Apprentice, a book I’ve been working on for some time and I needed to let it see the light of day before it strangled me. It is not the complete work, rather the first paragraph of twenty pages that follow behind it which explore the ideas and claims made here-in. In a nut-shell the work is an exploration of Freemasonry to the Hermetic system of Kabbalah that, I believe, matured into the systems that practice it today. Those systems, I believe, would not of evolved into what they have were in not for Pike’s work in crafting the Scottish Rite in the the manner he did.
So, I respectfully submit this to you and would delight in hearing your thoughts.
To say there is a first degree of Scottish Rite masonry may come as a surprise. As most commonly practiced, the Scottish Rite is a system of degrees that begins following from the traditional Masonic system in most prevalent practice today of blue, or craft, lodge masonry. Specifically the Scottish rite craft lodge degrees parallel the first three degrees of the Webb Preston York Rite System which is the dominant system of lodge ritual adopted in American Masonry in the early 1800’s.
In an earlier era, and along a parallel development, there existed a similar series of degrees that lead seamlessly into what we know of today as the 4th through 32nd Scottish Rite system. Sadly, only a few lodges today still practice the Rite’s precursor degrees, most notably the blue lodge in Louisiana, as the degrees are said to retain much of their earlier European and French roots. Much of what is contained in those degrees mirror what is common practice in the York degrees, but there are differences and it is in those aspects of divergence that these earlier rituals hold some parlance for the Scottish Rite. To see this we must look to the earlier rituals so that we can find in them the fundamentals of the esoteric scholarship and taught in the Rite as applied by Brother Pike in the present day system. These differences become especially obvious in his degree analysis in Morals and Dogma giving us the opportunity to find out why. For those reading who are not already Scottish Rite masons the degrees, as they are taught in the multitude of valleys across America today, suggest a link between the Scottish Rite teachings by degree to the teachings of mystical Kabbalah, more precisely to the Kabalistic Tree of Life, something brought to the attention of the Scottish Rite candidates in the lecture of the fourth degree. In that fourth degree the connection is made loosely but in close analysis of the progressive degrees it becomes very clear to say that there is a distinct connection between the degrees, the 10 Sephirot and the 22 paths that compose the most universal representation of the esoteric Tree. As the fourth degree mention is a superficial reference it is our starting point to see the two as related and necessitates an extensive exploration of the following degrees within which we can find a multitude of parallels in the Rite’s construction.
As one begins to climb the allegorical Tree, very quickly it becomes obvious that veiled in its canopy are metaphorical links, ineffable symbols, and outright allegorical references to the connections between them — something that many writers, both Masonic and lay, have traced through a variety of esoteric systems of study. Was this system intended to mirror an ancient Jewish system of esoteric theology, or a device made use of by Pike to capture with such detail the similarities that he saw between them?
As you will begin to see it is the latter as the degrees lack the theology of Judaism, rather it takes on a parallel structure borrowing from this older tradition in a way that they become a natural compliment to one another, such that the two have become intricately linked — the Kabbalah of old intermingled with the Christian Mysticism of Cabbalah to become a syncretic blend of spiritual Qaballah unencumbered by strict religious dogma. Throughout his work Pike keeps the systems separate, acknowledging the idea of the one true God keeping the system in a predominately Christian worldview. With the skill of a master artisan, Pike weaves a tapestry of old and new thought together to knit the details of what he sees as the ideas that underlie all modern religions illustrating that importance into the system that is the inheritor of those combined faiths into the Scottish Rite. That choice to link the three degrees of Freemasonry, an old system at the time of his own contributions, revived as best he could the systems of the Hermetic esoteric tradition that we find in several modern magical systems today. But, before those traditions could build on that work Pike welding these disparate systems together into an amalgam of esoterica, such that I believe they have become inseparable from the deeper meaning of the degrees. The lesson with their Qabalistic teachings has been interlaced in a way that to change their composition would change the very nature of the Scottish Rite itself. To that end the degrees, both the lower three and the higher 29 are — in and out of themselves — a complete loop which are formed into a circuit of learning that is its own birth, baptism, and maturation, that ever climbs the Tree towards a pinnacle of completion ending at the 32 degree. But before we get to that zenith, we must first start in the beginning, in the very roots of the Tree of Life, at the point just before the degree system begins where we can start to construct this understanding. That starting point is outside in the space before the door of the lodge room as the aspirant makes his first fateful knocks, which is the essence of what the first degree represents. To enter that space we must start with an explanation of the Kabbalah and our entry point through the degrees of Masonry into the Tree of Life through chaos of Ain Soph becoming the Sephirot of Malkuth.
 No known catalog of ritual practice comparisons is believed to exist.
 Such traditions are likely, in the opinion of the author, outgrowths and parallel developments of the work of Pike in Morals and Dogma and the Scottish Rite. Such groups include the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelema, Theosophy, and other like Hermetic systems.
From the three steps to the five steps, we now stand at the landing of of the middle chamber. On this journey we have climbed much – traversing up Jacob’s ladder in the first degree, climbed the first series of three steps and introduced to their significance in our maturity with an introduction to the Kaballah. Then, we traversed upon the next five steps where we were illustrated the role of architecture and to our senses to take in the exoteric and esoteric undertaking of the degree. Now, before us we confront the next leg, the next seven steps that have such meaning that they can scarcely be fully understood as they are contained in their presentation.
The seven steps allude to the seven Sabbatical years, seven years of famine, seven years in building the Temple, seven golden candlesticks, Seven Wonders of the World, seven wise men of the east, seven planets; but, more especially, the seven liberal arts and sciences, which are: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy
Each of these arts, as they are defined come with a specific exoteric meaning, they are what they presume to be, and by that I mean that they are in fact what we consider comparable to be the Liberal Arts of study in university today.
At first blush, seven dissonant elements are mentioned first, but our concentration must first come to focus on the latter 7, the seven liberal arts and sciences. But why study a liberal arts course of study? Harvard, a school of some esteem and founded well before Masonry organized under its present day Grand Lodge system, says of a present day liberal arts education that “A liberal education is…a preparation for the rest of life.”
It goes on to say a liberal education…
“…is, an education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility. This kind of learning is not only one of the enrichments of existence; it is one of the achievements of civilization. It heightens students’ awareness of the human and natural worlds they inhabit. It makes them more reflective about their beliefs and choices, more self-conscious and critical of their presuppositions and motivations, more creative in their problem-solving, more perceptive of the world around them, and more able to inform themselves about the issues that arise in their lives, personally, professionally, and socially. College is an opportunity to learn and reflect in an environment free from most of the constraints on time and energy that operate in the rest of life.”
Though the idea of what a liberal study was at the time of their inclusion in Masonry, the principal of that study was the same. This is no subtle assertion; the creators of the Masonic degrees agreed and included in them the instruction to pursue the study of this program to better make the Mason. In short, to make the man a better man with a firm understanding of the Liberal Arts is a necessary foundation for his being.
But what exactly does that mean? To see that answer, we must look at what resides within the study of the liberal arts as instructed by Duncan’s Monitor. To do that, we need to break down what the study of the Liberal Arts would entail in its age of inclusion.
The body of rules describing the properties of the English language. A language is such that its elements must be combined according to certain patterns, its morphology, the building blocks of language; and syntax, the construction of meaningful phrases, clauses and sentences with the use of morphemes and words.
The first codex for English grammar, concisely called Pamphlet for Grammar was compiled/written by William Bullokar, and was written with the ostensible goal of demonstrating that English was just as worthy and rule-bound as was Latin, and was published in 1586. Bullokar’s grammar was faithfully modeled on William Lily’s Latin grammar, Rudimenta Grammatices (1534), which was a Latin text and was used in schools in England at that time, as it was “prescribed” for them in 1542 by Henry VIII.
From early on we can see that the use of language was seen as an important necessity and that the study of Grammar and the use of language in communication of ideas to others as an important aspect of transferring knowledge.
Like grammar, is the art of using language to communicate effectively and persuasively involving three audience appeals: logos which is the “reason or the rational principle expressed in words and things”, pathos which is the ” the quality or power, esp in literature or speech, of arousing feelings of pity, sorrow”, and ethos which is the ” the distinctive character, spirit, and attitudes of a people, culture, era,”, as well as the five canons of rhetoric: invention or discovery, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Along with grammar and logic or dialectic, rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse dating back to antiquity and the great works of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle of whose surviving texts we can read today. From ancient Greece to the late 19th Century, rhetoric was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments rather than coercion of force.
It is the use of language in persuasion of others, an interesting Masonic application, indeed.
With its origins from the Greek λογική logikē, is the study of arguments – Grammar and Rhetoric together. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, and computer science. Logic examines general forms which arguments may take comparing which forms are valid, and which are fallacies. It is a form of critical thinking. In philosophy, the study of logic figures into most major areas of focus: epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. In mathematics, it takes place in the study of valid inferences within some formal language.
Clearly, we can see that Logis is the application of Grammar and Rhetoric together.
These three areas of study composed what the medieval universities called the tritium, meaning the “three roads” or “three ways” which was necessary in preparation for the quadrivium which are the next four liberal arts of ancient study. The use and preparation of this work was principally for the deeper study of philosophy and theology both noble arts in this period of the middle ages and Renaissance. The four studies came from the curriculum as outlined by Plato in the Republic, as written in the seventh book. The same quadrivium was suggested to of come from the Pythagoreans, as Proclus wrote in A commentary on the first book of Euclid’s Elements:
The Pythagoreans considered all mathematical science to be divided into four parts: one half they marked off as concerned with quantity, the other half with magnitude; and each of these they posited as twofold. A quantity can be considered in regard to its character by itself or in its relation to another quantity, magnitudes as either stationary or in motion. Arithmetic, then, studies quantities as such, music the relations between quantities, geometry magnitude at rest, spherics [astronomy] magnitude inherently moving”
Arithmetic,then, is the simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations involving the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers. In day to day usage it refers to the simple properties of traditional operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with small number values.
The origins of Arithmetic are thought to date back to as early as 20,000 B.C.E. from ancient tally marks on bone, however earliest records date back to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians of 2000 B.C.E. with numeral systems and counting marks. Continuous historical development of modern Arithmetic begins in the Hellenistic period of Greece with a close relationship to philosophical and mystical beliefs such as in the works of Euclid and Pythagoras, both Masonic patriarchs.
From the Greek as earth-measurement, geometry is concerned with the determination of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space. Euclid, Archimedes, Descartes, Kepler, and Pythagoras are but a few who are a part of this 5000 year old art of lengths, angles, area, and volume, of which works can be found in ancient Egypt and Babylon too. A fantastic example of their prowess we look to still today in the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The advanced study of Geometry today looks not just into the dimension and space of number, but into its correlation to physics, algebra, and string theory just to name a few as it puts to measure both the physical and invisible universe.
The art of the muses, is an art form whose medium is found in the creation of sound. Common elements of music are to be found in pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts of tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture.
More than the study of melody and song, the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece were the first researchers believed to have investigated the expression of music in scale in terms of numerical ratios, particularly the ratios of small integers. Their central doctrine was that “all nature consists of harmony arising out of number”
On Pythagoreans scale, the Greek Pythagorean and Presocratic philosopher
Philolaus says in Carl Huffman’s “Philolaus,”
A musical scale presupposes an unlimited continuum of pitches, which must be limited in some way in order for a scale to arise. The crucial point is that not just any set of limiters will do. We cannot just pick pitches at random along the continuum and produce a scale that will be musically pleasing. The scale that Philolaus adopts is such that the ratio of the highest to the lowest pitch is 2 : 1, which produces the interval of an octave. That octave is in turn divided into a fifth and a fourth, which have the ratios of 3 : 2 and 4 : 3 respectively and which, when added, make an octave. If we go up a fifth from the lowest note in the octave and then up a fourth from there, we will reach the upper note of the octave. Finally the fifth can be divided into three whole tones, each corresponding to the ratio of 9 : 8 and a remainder with a ratio of 256 : 243 and the fourth into two whole tones with the same remainder. Thus, in Philolaus’ system the fitting together of limiters and unlimiteds involves their combination in accordance with ratios of numbers. Similarly the cosmos and the individual things in the cosmos do not arise by a chance combination of limiters and unlimiteds; the limiters and unlimiteds must be fitted together in a pleasing way in accordance with number for an order to arise. Fragment 6a suggests that Philolaus saw the cosmos as put together according to the diatonic scale. This would be very much in accord with the famous conception of the harmony of the spheres according to which the heavenly bodies make harmonious music as they move, but neither in Philolaus nor any other early source do we get an explicit account of how the musical scale corresponds to the astronomical system.
As you can see, the study of music, in its basic form of composition and in its deeper esoteric study, lends itself to the exploration of mathematics, logic, and geometry, which can lead to a better understanding of the universe itself, which brings us to the last element in this progression.
More precisely called astrology in its earliest Western study.
Astrology and astronomy were archaically one and the same discipline (Latin: astrologia), and were only gradually recognized as separate in Western 17th century philosophy during the “Age of Reason”. Since that time the two have come to be regarded as completely separate disciplines.
Astronomy, then, is the study of objects and phenomena from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere which is a science and widely studied in academic discipline discovering the expanse of the heavens in planets, stars, and other stellar phenomena. Astrology, which uses the positions of celestial objects as the foundation for predictions of future events, and other esoteric knowledge, which is not considered a science and is often seen as a form of divination.
The early astronomer/astrologer, despite its predictive application, would use the study of celestial bodies and chart the astrological movements in space which in turn were applied to correspondences in day to day life of those who he charted them for. Many renaissance scientists were astronomer/astrologers including Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler. The infamous John Dee, astrologer and Magus for the court of Elizabeth I in 1558. Its suggested that by his charts he selected Elizabeth’s coronation date. The practice was in keeping with their earlier study pattern of the liberal arts and not seen as abhorrent to their conclusions in their time.
Scoffed at in academic circles today, the realm of astrology is often the fodder for cheap periodicals and psychic infomercials. In its deeper recesses we can link it to the study of the Kabbalah and the Western mystery traditions and find parallels to our perceptions and ideas even in our Masonic symbolism. Just a quick look at the Holy Saints John again will remind us of our own pairing of earth bound ideas to the equatorial poles of our sun’s annual transition from summer to winter and back again. Perhaps this is coincidence, or by design, in either case it gives us a link to our past in the Liberal studies. This is, in some aspect of antiquity, the role of astrology and the cycle of mankind and our understanding of it.
Notwithstanding the work in Duncan’s or in more localized versions of the Work, the number seven has a deep and rich symbolic significance within many circles. Cirlot, in his A Dictionary of Symbols says of the number seven that it is “Symbolic of perfect order, a complete period or cycle…composed of the ternary and quaternary and … endowed with exceptional value.” He goes on to suggest that it corresponds to the seven directions of space and to the reconciliation of the square with the triangle – the sky over the earth. Seven is the number expressing the sum of heaven and earth.
Now, as we have looked at the seven liberal arts it is necessary to turn back to the dissonant collection at the beginning of this section of steps to look at some of the other connections mentioned in Duncan’s Ritual Monitor to bring them into resonance. In this degree, Duncan mentions the seven Sabbatical years, seven years of famine, seven years in building the Temple, seven golden candlesticks, Seven Wonders of the World, seven wise men of the east, and seven planets. Briefly we must touch on what each of those things mentioned in the 7’s allude to and see if we can find any deeper esoteric meaning behind them to get a glimpse of their significance or meaning to Masonry.
The Number Seven
The Seven Sabbatical years, known also as Shmita, is the seventh year of a seven-year agricultural cycle as mandated by the Torah for the use of the Land of Israel. During that 7th year the land is to lay fallow and all agricultural activity on it stops (excluding some maintenance) and comes from the Book of Leviticus which makes promise of bountiful harvests to those who are observant:
Leviticus 25:20-22 N.I.V. 20 You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” 21 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. 22 While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
The seven years of famine stems literally from Genesis 41:30 which reads “And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land” which follows a 7 year period of great abundance. Interestingly, there are other activities in the period of the Sabbatical year, in which debts are to be forgiven as it is considered a Godly act, which becomes a component of the focus in that seventh year.
The seven years in building the Temple is clearly the story of Solomon building the temple in which…King Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel – and the labor force was thirty thousand men . . . Solomon selected seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone in the mountains, and three thousand six hundred to oversee them. (1 Kings 5:13; 2 Chronicles 2:2). According to 1 Kings 6:38 The work of the temple took seven years saying:
“And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.”
The seven golden candlesticks, literally from Revelations 1:20 (NIV) which reads
“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.”
This could, interpretively, be seen as the Menorah which is a seven branched candelabrum used in the ancient Tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness (not to be confused with the nine branched Menorah used at Hanukkah. The Great architect himself instructing Moses on the construction of the lamp in Exodus 25:31-40 a depiction of which can be found on the Arch of Titus, which is a first century Roman honorific on the Via Sacra in Rome which shows the spoils from the sack of Jerusalem.
The Menorah, when lit, was said to represent the Shekhinah, which refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense as that of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable. Its lighting, or continual ignition, is variously representative of universal enlightenment and/or the burning bush as seen by Moses.
The temple menorah is a more likely source of Masonic inspiration as it fits with the appointments of King Solomon’s Temple, to whom Masonry holds its affinity and who’s role fits more in resonance with the purpose of the degrees.
The seven wonders of the world are very straight forward and are reflections on the impressive work of the Masons (literally stone cutters) who came before the present day lodge.
The Ancient Wonders were:
The Great Pyramid of Giza from 2584-2561 BC in Egypt.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon from around 600 BC in Iraq.
The statue of Zeus at Olympia from 466-456 BC (Temple) 435 BC (Statue) in Greece.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus circa 550 BC in Turkey.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus 351 BC (to which the modern AASR SJ HQ is modeled after) in Carians, Persians, Greeks
The Colossus of Rhodes from 292-280 BC in Greece.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria circa 280 BC in Hellenistic Egypt, Greece.
The seven wise men of the east were early 6th century BCE philosophers, statesmen and law-givers that were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom. The title of Seven Wise Men (or Seven Sages) was the title given by ancient Greek tradition.
Each of these Sages represents a worldly aspect of wisdom, though each has varied over time, these are the most common:
Cleobulus of Lindos: he would say that “Moderation is the best thing.” He governed as tyranos of Lindos, in the Greek island of Rhodes, circa 600 BC.
Solon of Athens: he said that “Keep everything with moderation”. Solon (640-559 BC) was a famous legislator and social reformer from Athens, enforcing the laws that shaped the Athenian democracy.
Chilon of Sparta: authored the aphorism “You should never desire the impossible”. Chilon was a Spartan politician from the 6th century BC, to whom the militarization of the Spartan society is attributed.
Bias of Priene: “Most men are simply bad.” Bias was a politician who became a famous legislator from the 6th century BC.
Thales of Miletus: Thales is the first known philosopher and mathematician. He famously said “Know thyself”, a sentence so famous it was engraved on the front façade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphos.
Pittacus of Mytilene (c. 650 BC), governed Mytilene (Lesbos) along with Myrsilus. He tried to reduce the power of nobility and was able to govern Mytilene with the support of popular classes, to whom he favored. He famously said “You should know which opportunities to choose”.
Periander of Corinth: he was the tyranos of Corinth circa 7th and 6th centuries BC. Under his rule, Corinth knew a golden age of unprecedented prosperity and stability. He was known for “Be farsighted with everything”.
Collectively, these wise men have been quoted and mentioned throughout antiquity and have been looked to as great men worthy of emulation if in their least for their thoughts.
Plato’s Protagoras is the oldest and most explicit mention of the 7 sages in which he says:
“…There are some, both at present and of old, who recognized that Spartanizing is much more a love of wisdom than a love of physical exercise, knowing that the ability to utter such [brief and terse] remarks belongs to a perfectly educated man. Among these were Thales of Miletus, and Pittacus of Mytilene, and Bias of Priene, and our own Solon, and Cleobulus of Lindus, and Myson of Chen, and the seventh of them was said to be Chilon of Sparta. They all emulated and admired and were students of Spartan education, and one could tell their wisdom was of this sort by the brief but memorable remarks they each uttered when they met and jointly dedicated the first fruits of their wisdom to Apollo in his shrine at Delphi, writing what is on every man’s lips: Know thyself, and Nothing too much. Why do I say this? Because this was the manner of philosophy among the ancients, a kind of laconic brevity.”
The seven planets from classical astronomy included the Sun and Moon and the five non-earth planets of our solar system closest to the sun each visible without a telescope including Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. At an early point they were considered asteres planetai or wandering stars, as they were seen as non fixed objects in the night sky.
The astute observer may notice the inclusion of the Sun and the Moon as these two objects relate to the leadership of the lodge, the pillars of wisdom, strength, and beauty, and the art of Kabbalah.
As a side note, the early seven planets were the derivatives of the names of the week; in alchemy the seven metals of the classical world: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, and lead which corresponded to the known planets.
How do we relate these 7’s to the degree is complex. Perhaps how Cirlot stated, each of these 7’s are elements of perfection: how to achieve perfection, how to live it, how to incorporate it, etc., giving us the map by which to seek it out.
With this, we have reached the top of the stair, and in having taken the journey we have learned what we can about the being of a Fellow of the Craft. As said earlier, this is a complex lot of knowledge and information to digest through the smallest of apertures as presented on a rolled out carpet as given in the degree lesson. It is assumed that the candidate would have knowledge of these esoteric things; in the sense that few would have studied them and even fewer committed them to memory, or that the candidate would seek out this information beyond their degree explanation to educate and enlighten himself as to what these various elements mean. This lesson in three parts is an offering of the latter in assumption that you, like the author, are in deficit of the former and not enlightened in the ways, means, and ideas of the deep and often obtuse ancient world that is so little a part of our modern one. Clearly, the second degree is a wealth of information, from the suggestion of the pillars of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty as a conduit to the study of the Kabbalah, to the understanding of our senses and their physical and spiritual meaning and to the study of alchemy in its assertion of the significance of the seven planets and what we can infer from them physically as their position in the heavens affects our life. Perhaps Thales of Miletus said it best saying “Know Thyself“ as this change is the fuel to discovering the universe, both within and without. There is much more to this statement than what rests at its surface, of both the degree and of our being and, it is with some hope that this has served to educate you to that end.
 logos. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved January 03, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/logos pathos. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Jan. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pathos>. ethos. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 03, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethos Jean, James, Science and Music, p154 retrieved 1/03/2011 Huffman, Carl, “Philolaus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/philolaus/>. Cirlot, J.E., A Dictionary of Symbols, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD 1962 page 283 : As the cross in three dimensions, 7 is a “Septenary number, composed of seven elements. “Ultimately, it is founded upon the seven directions of Space: two opposite directions for each dimension, plus the center. This spatial order of six dynamic elements, plus one which is static is projected into the week as a model of the septenary in the passage of time.” “Three is, in many cultures, the number pertaining to heaven (since it constitutes the vertical order of the three dimensional spatial cross) and four is associated with the earth (because of the four directions – comparable with the cardinal points of the two horizontal dimensions).” Protagoras 342e-343b, trans. R.E. Allen
The second degree lecture holds a wealth of esoteric study and contemplation. In the preceding examination we looked at the depth and meaning of the first three steps as the conductor in Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor ushers the candidate into the allegorical chamber of King Solomon’s temple. Now, the candidate is faced with a further rise of steps, Five to be exact, which is described in this text taken directly from Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor of Freemasonry:
Stepping forward to the five steps, he continues:
The five steps allude to the five orders of architecture and the five human senses.
The five orders of architecture are Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.
For any brother reading, it’s important to take a moment to look anew at your monitor, if supplied with one, to reacquaint the reference as it relates specifically to Masonry. From an exoteric point of view, we must look to the point of origin to the Orders of Architecture, which turns our attention to the grand father of modern architecture – Vitruvius.
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
Vitruvius(born c. 80–70 BC, died after c. 15 BC) is described on Wikipedia as having been a Roman writer, architect and engineer (possibly praefectus fabrum , the man in charge, during military service or praefect architectus armamentarius, the man in charge of architecture, of the apparitor status group), active in the 1st century BC. By his own description Vitruvius served as a Ballista (artilleryman), the third class of arms in the military offices. He likely served as chief of the ballista (senior officer of artillery) in charge of doctor’s ballistarum (artillery experts) and libratores who actually operated the machines.
The Vitruvian Man, as illustrated by Da Vinci, was based on Vitrivius’ proportions from his writings. Those writings can be found in his collected works, commonly called De Architectura Libri Decem or Vitruvius, the ten books on architecture. In the work, Vitruvius describes an assortment of things from town planning to aqueducts.
The rediscovery of his work in the Renaissance had a profound influence on architects of the age which started the rise of the Neo-Classical style. Period architects, such as Niccoli, Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, found in “De Architectura” reason for raising their branch of knowledge to a scientific discipline as well as emphasizing the skills of the artisan.
Further the English architect Inigo Jones, who crafted the Queens House at Greenwich in
1616 and the Banqueting house at Whitehall in 1619, and the French hydraulic engineer Salomon de Caus who designed the gardens at Somerset House and the Hortus Palatinus in Heidelberg Germany (known for its then wonders of “a statue that resounded when struck by the rays of the sun, a water-organ, and singing fountains”), and were among the first to rethink and implement the disciplines of Vitruvius which were considered a necessary element of architecture, essentially art and science based upon number and proportion, which was reinvigorating to architecture of the period. The 16th century architect Andrea Palladio who designed a number of villas, palaces, and churches in and around Venice, considered Vitrivius his master and guide, and made drawings based on Vitruvius’ work before evolving his own architectural precepts.
The idea of divine architecture came directly from Vitruvius’s work as divine proportions were very much a consideration in every design. In his book of Architecture, in Book IV the middle three pillars, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, are described in by their physical traits for use in the temples of their celestial counterparts:
“On finding that, in a man, the foot was one sixth of the height, they applied the same principle to the column, and reared the shaft, including the capital, to a height six times its thickness at the base. Thus the Doric column, as used in buildings, began to exhibit the proportion, strength, and beauty of a man.”
“Just so afterwards, when they desired to construct a temple to Diana in a new style of beauty [Ionic], they translated these footprints into terms characteristic of the slenderness of women, and thus first made a column the thickness of which was only one eighth of its height, so that it might have a taller look. At the foot, they substituted the base in place of a shoe; in the capital they placed the volutes, hanging down at the right and left like curly ringlets, and ornamented its front with cymatia and wide festoons of fruit arranged in place of hair, while they brought the flutes down the whole shaft, falling like the folds in the robes worn by matrons. Thus in the invention of the two different kinds of columns, they borrowed manly beauty, naked and unadorned, for the one, and for the other the delicacy, adornment, and proportions characteristic of women….”
“The third order, called Corinthian, is an imitation of the slenderness of a maiden; for the outlines and limbs of maidens, being more slender on account of their tender years, admit of prettier effects in the way of adornment.”
The story of the Corinthian column goes on to tell of its inspiration which was from the growth of an Acanthus through the basket of a young Corinth maiden’s possessions atop her tomb. The Athenian artist Callimachus passed it and took delight at its “novel style” and built columns after its form. Once he determined the dimensions and proportions it was established to the rule for the Corinthian order, thus setting, literally, into stone the symmetry of beauty.
In another instance in Vitruvius’s work he details the facing of temples so as they can be experienced in a manner in line with many of the great esoteric and religious traditions. He oriented them to be entered from the West to…
“…enable those who approach the altar with offerings or sacrifices to face the direction of the sunrise in facing the statue in the temple, and thus those who are undertaking vows look toward the quarter from which the sun comes forth, and likewise the statues themselves appear to be coming forth out of the east to look upon them as they pray and sacrifice.” – Book IV, Ch. 5
This certainly does not predate the idea of Solomon’s temple orientation, but its questionable if perhaps Vitrivius was influenced in any way by this Judaic Old Testament writing, or operating on an older principal of Temple building. In its simplest of thought, the older idea of knowledge, better thought of as wisdom, came from the East in the rising sun as it has symbolically represented the idea of a daily new beginning. The word used for one who undertakes the degrees in Masonry, an initiate, comes from the Latin initiare which means “to begin anew”. It would, no doubt, mesh with Renaissance architects as designers would see the parallels between the Old Testament Temple and the Classical temple styling to follow that same pattern.
From an esoteric stand point, we can start to infer much of how this translates to our work as a Freemason, building that unseen house . . . but this also has a practical application that would of been at the very forefront of our early forbearers thought, as with Inigo Jones, as they planned and built the neoclassical temples of the late Renaissance. Perhaps in some ways this is a vestige to our very being a Freemason, homage to the ancient practicing of our brothers in antiquity and a means to making being a Mason relevant to the teachings.
But as the degree then turns from the idea of architecture so must we to the aspect of our human senses, five in total, and their specific link to our ability to hear, see, and feel.
The degree says:
The five human senses are hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting, the first three of which have ever been highly esteemed among Masons: hearing, to hear the word; seeing, to see the sign; feeling, to feel the grip, whereby one Mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light.
Again, as the orders of architecture are of a specific physicality, so too is this treatise on the five senses of the physicality of man. It speaks much to our physically interpreting the activity around us. In many ways it is reminiscent of the motto “Aude, Vide, Tace” which from the Latin translates to say “Know, Dare, Be Silent” which goes further to suggest of the same three tactile senses said to be of greatest importance that they have a parallel union:
Hearing – knowing = to learn and understand what is being taught
Seeing – daring = to think on and consider its purpose and meaning
Feeling – touching = to be silent rather than attempting to stumble until fuller knowledge is attained
The longer Roman proverb reads – “Audi, vide, tace, si tu vis vivere” which means to “Hear, see, be silent, if you wish to live (in peace)” which can give us a cryptic undertone or a view to see the disharmony of not being silent.
This middle chamber, middle position, examination gives us much to reflect on especially as it relates to our physicality in the role of a Fellow of the Craft, but to get a broader feel we need to look more widely at the implications of the period understanding to what these five senses represented.
There be five senses in man, sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching: five powers in the soul…, five fingers of the hand, five wandering planets in the heavens…. It is also called the number of the cross, yea eminent with the principal wounds of Christ, whereof he vouchsafed to keep the scars in his glorified body. The heathen philosophers did dedicate it as sacred to Mercury, esteeming the virtue of it to be so much more excellent than the number four, by how much a living thing is more excellent than a thing without life…. Hence in time of grace the name of divine omnipotence is called upon with five letters…the ineffable name of God was [expressed] with five letters Ihesu…
Ihesu is the middle ages usage of the name of Jesus, often written in Catholicism as simply IHS which has run through both Greek and Latin translations. In Greek, it looks like Iota-eta-sigma-omicron-upsilon-sigma which becomes IESOUS in English. The H comes from the variance of eta which is epsilon, and rendered as H giving us Agrippa’s meaning.
Further in the work of Agrippa, he attributes the number Five beyond the senses touching on the planets, the animal kingdom, and five things as made by God: essence, the same (similarity), another (difference), sense, and motion. He called the number five the Pythagorean number of wedlock and justice (such we could interpret as Solomonic justice) because the number divides 10 in an even scale – Five represents the point of balance.
Clearly, we can see that Agrippa found some greater importance in the 5 senses, broadening their occult interpretations. What we can take from this is that the 5 senses can be as limited as we choose to see them or as broad as we can start to interpret them to be as most interpretations of the number 5 have similar or like meaning. In either case, they have a wide variance by which to perceive them than simply in the five points of perfection.
In these two discussions of physicality, Architecture and sense, we find two seemingly unrelated elements that in the second degree are intricately interwoven and presented by instruction as integral to the metaphorical building of Solomon’s temple, or more specifically, our own temple of inner Being. Like the great Greek and Roman pillars our senses are ever increasing importance giving our physicality a dimension to the degree. Yet, by digging deeper, through some of the more esoteric connections, we can get a sense of the power of this simple number that divides 10, a Solominc number, the number of perfection. So here, we have reached our second landing upon the staircase. We have surmounted our second series of steps in the middle chamber and come to a point of rest. Before us is the next ascent which will take us up a dizzying flight of seven steps. Though the number may seem small, its connections are many and varied and further round out the active role of our manhood which is our place of being as a Fellow of the Craft. Behind us rests the previous three and five steps – a monumental feat of climbing indeed, but before we can claim a victory over them, we must surmount the next seven and explore their potentiality in meaning.
 Vitrivius does give further instruction on temples when not able to orient them in an eastward facing saying “…if the nature of the site is such as to forbid this, then the principle of determining the quarter should be changed, so that the widest possible view of the city may be had from the sanctuaries of the gods. Furthermore, temples that are to be built beside rivers, as in Egypt on both sides of the Nile, ought, as it seems, to face the river banks. Similarly, houses of the gods on the sides of public roads should be arranged so that the passers-by can have a view of them and pay their devotions face to face.” So, what is the guide is not fixed in necessity.  What then are the five wounds of Original Sin? First, death to the soul through the loss of sanctifying grace, and consequently in due time to the body. Second, darkness in the intellect. Third, malice — an inclination to evil — in the will. Fourth, sensuality (disordered desires) in the concupiscible appetite. And fifth, irritability and aggression in the irascible appetite. their correlation follows: Death to the soul – Death of the body (heart) – Death occurs when the soul, the life principle of the body, is separated from the body, as the heart is the seat of the soul. Darkness in the intellect (and will) – the right hand, the hand of spirit – spiritual darkness, The will grasps at things by reaching out for them in desire. Malice and evil – the left hand, the sinister hand where our will is malice, a proclivity to real evil, to rebellion Sensuality of desire – the left foot, earth bound, it is the foot that sets off down the wrong path of pleasure and sin. Irritability and aggression – the right foot of strength where man’s irascible appetite is our aggressiveness and proclivity to anger.