In this episode, we explore the meaning of the Free and Accepted which first occurs in the Roberts Print of 1722, a term applied in the symbolic allegories to the builders of Solomon’s Temple.
Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, say:
The title “Free and Accepted” first occurs in the Roberts Print of 1722, which is headed The Old Constitutions belonging to the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, and was adopted by Dr. Anderson in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions, published in 1738, the title of which is The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. In the first edition of 1723 the title was, The Constitutions of the Freemasons. The newer title continued to be used by the Grand Lodge of England, in which it was followed by those of Scotland and Ireland; and a majority of the Grand Lodges in this country have adopted the same style, and call themselves Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons. The old lectures formerly used in England give the following account of the origin of the term:
“The Masons who were selected to build the Temple of Solomon were declared FREE and were exempted, together with their descendants, from imposts, duties, and taxes. They had also the privilege to bear arms. At the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the posterity of these Masons were carried into captivity with the ancient Jews. But the good-will of Cyrus gave them permission to erect a second Temple, having set them at liberty for that purpose. It is from this epoch that we bear the name of Free and Accepted Masons.”
On November 17, 2016 Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas F & AM Michael T. Anderson spoke at Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge No. 1283, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM upon the invitation of Worshipful David Bindel. Worshipful Bindel remarked that he thought this could be a historic moment being that this might be the first time a Prince Hall Grand Lodge Officer addressed a Lodge of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
The Lodge opened on the Third Degree at 7:15 PM with a procession of Lodge officers and visitors marching into the Lodge. The Lodge was promptly taken from Labor to Refreshment whereupon Worshipful Bindel announced that this Special Communication was one of a series labeled “Building The Temple,” whereby the Lodge focuses on engaging in dialogue to construct something useful and grow together in Masonic light and in our appreciation of each other.
Without further ado, Worshipful Bindel introduced DGM Anderson reciting his brief Masonic biography after which he gave him the floor.
DGM Anderson began his address by admitting that he had not prepared a formal presentation. He then proceeded to speak from the heart starting his remarks with the importance of the Altar in the Lodge. He went through the meaning and moral teachings of the Three Lessor Lights and the Three Great Lights. Anderson asked those assembled where else could they find an organization that taught such high moral standards.
Anderson spoke about how when he was young, he was a bit on the wild side, and that it was the lessons of Freemasonry that made him into the man he is today. He told us all that he rarely read the Bible when he was young and rarely went to church, but that Freemasonry and the study of its morality, not only made him a better man but led him to studying the Bible and a regular attendee at church.
Anderson stressed the importance of the Masonic philosophy that it is the internal not the external characteristics that recommend a man to be made a Mason. He was emphatic that this one tenet of Freemasonry was responsible for bringing together men of many different walks and stations in life. Can you not see how much more peace and harmony there would be in this world if this tenet was universally adopted, he asked?
He spoke briefly on Prince Hall Freemasonry saying if you want to know about us look at me. I am a product of what we are all about. In contrasting the number of years Masters and Grand Masters serve in each Grand Lodge, he said that he thought five years was the right number for the time of service. The first year, he said, the Master tip toes around not wanting to offend anyone. In the second year he begins to formulate his programs and the stamp he wants to put on his Lodge. Then he has three years to implement his vision. Anderson said he served ten years as Master of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135 but he only intended to serve five. But after five years, some of the Brethren of the Lodge came to him and implored him to continue otherwise many would become inactive.
Taking questions from the Brethren, he articulated the importance of the 24” Gauge. He remarked that eight hours in the service of God did not involve going to church, but rather was all about helping others, doing God’s work in the world. He further expounded that if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t eat. Anderson told us that he had taken a lot of jobs in his life he didn’t much care for but that it put food on the table.
Another question had Anderson expounding on the symbolism of the Point Within A Circle. Anderson said that the point was you and I and the circle was God, that which had no beginning and no end. In our journey through life, if we listen, if we have an open mind, if we are attentive, then we will touch God and God will touch us as we venture out to the outer edges of the noble life.
There were a couple of questions that followed about what can we do as Masons to promote peace and harmony in the world. It seems to many that we are becoming more and more divided and at odds with each other. Anderson went right back to the theme that it is the internal not the external that a Mason looks at in another. It was at this point that Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Elmer Murphy, rose and came out to Anderson and put his arm around him and related an old story in his family about a Black man who helped his father to pick up body parts after an explosion at a chemical factory. He was a big man, Murphy said and then something about his being in the Navy. I loved that man, I heard him say.
I don’t even know if I have that story right since I was concentrating on what I saw before me rather than what was being said. Here was a PGM of the Grand Lodge of Texas and the DGM of the most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas arm in arm reinforcing the concept that it is the internal not the external part of a man that is important. And when PGM Murphy completed his tale he hugged DGM Anderson, whereupon every Brother in the room rose to give them both a thunderous applause.
Back in 2006 both Grand Lodges did not recognize each other. In 2007 a Compact of Recognition was signed, but without intervisitation and Masonic intercourse. Just last year those last barriers were removed. And this evening witnessed further progress in Masonic closeness.
The speech being over introductions of all visiting Brethren were made. It was duly noted that we had a Brother from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland, and a Cuban Brother who was a member of a military Lodge in South Korea.
Worshipful Bindel then presented DGM Anderson with a gift of a gavel and a certificate that made him an honorary member of Jewel P. Lightfoot. Lodge was left to expire at midnight and we all took off for the Komali Mexican Restaurant.
At the restaurant, we satisfied ourselves with good food and libation. But most of all we experienced that Masonic tenet of Brotherly Love and Affection. There were many toasts offered and many new friends made. When we finally parted it was midnight and I returned home with the knowledge that this had truly been a historic occasion.
I sat in Mass last Sunday and listened to my Deacon give an excellent homily. His theme was- knowing your personal mission. One of the scriptures he drew upon was part of the first reading – Jeremiah 1: 4-5.
The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
He explained to us that the Father gave Christ a mission and then told us that we each had a mission. We need to stop and think about what God has placed us here to do, he said. If we just go to work and then come home and plunk ourselves down in front of the TV, if we never contemplate our higher calling, then we are leading superficial lives and ignoring God. What kind of life are we leading if there is no purpose to it, no point to it, no goals to strive for? Are we existing or are we really living? Think about these things and know that the Father has called each of us to live a life with a mission was the Deacon’s message for the day.
That really stuck with me all week because I have already done that. I know my mission. What was bugging me was how I came to think about what my mission was. What was the catalyst?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that I got a push, a shove from Freemasonry. Freemasons talk a lot about making good men better but often can’t explain how that is accomplished. But aren’t we encouraging a Mason to realize his mission when we pump into him all the symbolism, virtues and tenets of the craft? Isn’t a part of making good men better filling them full of a spiritual awareness? Does not Freemasonry show its members that there is a lot of purpose and meaning to living?
And is Freemasonry not structured for the here and now. It is not showing a way to salvation it is developing a plan for living, and living is done on this earth. As a matter of fact Freemasonry teaches lessons, lessons in living – here and now. This is what separates it from worship.
The fact is all of this is interconnected – the life here on earth, the further existence in the hereafter and all that we do to accomplish these ends as best as we can are interrelated. There is crossover here but there is also separation. The church paves a path to future life and the Lodge shows us a way of life here on earth. To get from one plane to the next we need to have a mission that is more earthly than praise and adoration. The mission and the plan is for us to be all we can be and all that God has seen in us that is possible.
So we give a man working tools, tools to live his life here with – a 24 inch gauge to divide his time between God and a distressed worthy Brother, his usual vocations and refreshment and sleep, the plumb square and level, a trowel to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, and many other tools to build his spiritual Temple.
We take our Entered Apprentices on a journey of 3,5 and 7 steps there to receive instruction on the wages of a Fellow Craft. Then we raise our Fellow Crafts from darkness into light and they are reborn into a new way of life. Now as Master Masons they have the opportunity to reflect on all that has transpired and to take those teachings from the Lodge room into the big outer world and live them. In the process those of us who are mentoring our newest Brothers are smart if we gently shove them into a contemplative or meditative state to ponder the meaning of it all and how this all fits into their individual paths of life.
If we are smart we encourage our newest Brethren to formulate a mission, even write their own personal mission statement. Then we can say that we have shown the Brethren a way to add purpose and meaning into their lives. Knowing and living your mission in life is having a joyful and fulfilling journey, this journey we call life.
On our way to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the newly made Mason undertakes a passage through what is commonly called the Middle Chamber. The reference into the middle way is through the temple of Solomon, and the pathway to the Holy of Holies, the adytum in which the Holy Ark of the covenant resides at the the Kodesh Hakodashim, or the place in which deity dwells. In that journey through the middle space, the Second degree brother is introduced to some of the more seemingly secular influenced aspects of the fraternity that begin to take on a double, or symbolic, meaning. On their surface, the basic notions of these things are obvious, but not until you start to look at them closely, at their deeper meanings, that we start to see their relationships to other more esoteric ideas. This is similar to religious traditions where withing one religious text there can be multiple layers of meaning, and multiple ways of interpretation which can lead to an allegorical, a moral, or a mystical meaning.
Indeed, as the degree is symbolically in King Solomon’s Temple, so to can it be seen as a symbolic metaphor to our own internal path, what Joseph Campbell calls the hero quest, and where you “leave the world that you you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height.”
This is not to assume that the Masonic degrees have a similar relevancy to sacred or spiritual texts, though some could argue that their significance is almost as powerful to some observants. It is a system of morality that strives to make good men better, which runs nearly in parallel with the many Volumes of the Sacred Law which seeks similar outcomes to achieve as it outlines and instructs its path to elevation. Whether its salvation or spiritual awakening the holy books seek to instruct its adherents to live better lives through their faith, the same that Freemasonry strives to through its practice – to make those good men better. In that process of making the good man a candidate for the degrees is made an entered apprentice, symbolically as he ascends Jacob’s ladder. Once at the top, he is presented a series of three groups of symbols which are set before him to become a Second Degree mason so as they may observe and contemplate them in their path of progression, their hero’s quest, to the third degree.
The story of the degree, from Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor*, picks up after the passage between the twin pillars of the degree with the conductor delivering this instruction:
Brother, we will pursue our journey. The next thing that attracts our attention is the winding stairs which lead to the Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, consisting of three, five, and seven steps.
The first three allude to the three principal stages of human life, namely, youth, manhood, and old age. In youth, as Entered Apprentices, we ought industriously to occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge; in manhood, as Fellow Crafts, we should apply our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbors, and ourselves; so that in old age, as Master Masons, we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality.
They also allude to the three principal supports in Masonry, namely, Wisdom, Strength. and Beauty; for it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings.
They further allude to the three principal officers of the Lodge, viz.: Master, and Senior and Junior Wardens.
Let’s pause here and consider what some of the deeper meanings of these first steps infer. The first segment is fairly straight forward; with narrative telling us that the three steps allude to the three stages of human life – Youth, Manhood, and Old Age.
Youth is defined as: Young persons, collectively. A young person; especially, a young man. The quality or state of being young; youthfulness; juvenility. The part of life that succeeds to childhood; the period of existence preceding maturity or age; the whole early part of life, from childhood, or, sometimes, from infancy, to manhood.
This is a pretty straight forward idea, especially as it says to us that “we ought industriously to occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge”, but how does this apply to an older initiate, someone who is no longer in his youth. Is it a wistful thought to what was achieved when younger and in still in school? Taken on a deeper level, it could allude to the idea of the degree itself, the First degree being synonymous to mean that in the first, the candidate comes to the lodge as a youth (despite his chronological or physical age) with a clean slate of perception and a clean pallet of interpretation. In a sense, he comes as blank slate to its teachings or to the ideas before him. The degree being his introduction from exterior life to interior life which ushers him both into the fraternity and into the concept of the undertaking. Pike, in the first degree lecture in Morals and Dogma, calls this the focusing of the aspirants “unregulated force” – the channel by which they constrain their previously raw, infantile state, into that of a focused and youthful aspirant no matter their age.
Next, the candidate enters into his Manhood, more literally the 2nd degree, of which the ceremony says of it “we should apply our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbors, and ourselves” which is a really active process to live by. We, in essence, are to achieve much by way of our doing, essentially, the work of our daily life towards our deity in worship and practice, our community in which we live and reside, but more specifically as we apply it to ourselves in continuing to apply what we’ve learned in our youth to this state of existence.
The Free Dictionary defines Manhood as: 1. The state or time of being an adult male human. 2. The composite of qualities, such as courage, determination, and vigor, often thought to be appropriate to a man. 3. Adult males considered as a group; men. 4. The state of being human.
In the third entry, we can take much from it beyond it simply being our middle state of being. It is in fact our ability to BE in the first place, our SELF in daily practice. Interesting as this is, the second degree in which our further education takes place is not only about the practice of our youth but also our ability to learn and apply that education to our life.
Campbell says of the age progression that “As a child, you are brought up in a world of discipline, of obedience, and you are dependant on others. All this has to be transcended when you come to maturity, so that you can live not in dependency but with self-responsible authority.” This is, in essence, the heart of the three degree progression and the fundamental of the three steps – he becoming a man (or woman, respecting your discipline)!
Old age is a bit more of a troubling and complex issue. So often in modern society we look at old age as a point of retirement where work and physical activity dramatically changes or diminishes. In this description, the idea of old age holds true in that the degree says of old age that in it “we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality”
There are several interesting meanings we can take from this especially that it is in the degrees that these physical changes are metaphorically said to take place which can become a literal interpretation, and that once attained the Master Mason can live through them – literally to reflect on the life well spent. What’s troubling here is that the major portion of the work of the lodge is spent in the third degree and a caution must be considered so as to not see the work of the Master Mason as just one of reflection and of casual rest lest no work, as described in Manhood, be completed.
Old Age is essentially defined as ones age nearing or passing the average life span of human beings, and thus at the end of the human life cycle. In the U.S. this is considered to be 78 years old giving a distinct impression as to when one should then become a True Master. It really is at a twilight of life period, one of great age and maturity where little change and much reflection takes place. This gives us an interesting perspective on the meaning as it implies a near end of physical life period of time which squares with the degrees lesson as the period of reflection of a life well spent. We become the Master of our all, ready to pass our knowledge on to the next generation.
With this vantage, we can take pause to deeply consider that our daily working of the degrees, intrinsically, could (or should) be conducted in the 2nd state, our manhood in which we conversely learn and grow.
Symbolism of the Second Degree
Cirlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, makes an interesting point in that the idea of progression in the stages of age is not unique to Masonry. Besides the stages themselves, the number three (3) is a representation of synthesis and unites the “solution of conflict posed by dualism.” In other words, the third object brings about balance for the first two opposing states. Think of the balance of three dots, one stacked above two.
From this point, the degree breaks off to correlate these first steps with the three principal pillars of the lodge as Wisdom, Strength and Beauty which also has an interesting Kabalistic point of reference in the three pillars that make up the structure of the tree of life. Keep in mind, the orientation assumes the viewer reverse the structure to mirror ones own standing rather than simply reflect the observer.
Wisdom, the left hand pillar of mercy, is an active pillar and representative of alchemical fire, which is the principal of spirituality, often called the pillar of Jachin. It is a masculine pillar, and relates to our mental energy, our loving kindness, and our creative inspiration as we traverse it up the Kabbalaistic tree through the Sephirot.
Strength is the right hand pillar and takes the form of severity, shaped into the alchemical symbol of water. It can represent darkness, but it is a passive symbol that is feminine in nature and called the pillar of Boaz. Upon it we find the points of our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and emotions, and the physicality of our physical experience, our sensations, each an aspect of its Cabalistic progression.
Beauty, then, takes on the role of synthesis of the two, the pillar of mildness; it is upon this pillar that the novitiate is transformed through his progressive states as he progresses. The central pillar of Beauty is representative of Jehovah, the Tetragrammaton which represents deity itself upon which our crown of being resides balanced through feeling and emotion from our foundation of justice and mercy, all of which springs from our link to the everyday world.
These aspects of the Kabbalah are not specific attributes of the study in the blue lodge, rather elements of deeper esoteric study, found more specifically in the degrees of the Scottish Rite. Because of the pillars, and their deeper symbolic meaning, it does, however, necessitate looking at them deeper to see the relationship between them as the blue lodge degrees seem to have parallels in the study of the Kabbalah – a happy accident at some time past or with purpose to link the ideas together. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are specific aspects of the lower three degrees and emphasized here in the first three steps into the middle chamber, necessitating their deeper esoteric study to fully grasp their broader importance.
As the degree instructs – Wisdom is to contrive, Strength is to support, and Beauty is to adorn all great and important undertakings – which are the fundamentals of the three pillars in the Kabbalaistic study.
Conversely, as the degree states, these three pillars “allude to the three principal officers of the Lodge, viz.: Master, and Senior and Junior Wardens.” and can be interpreted as such in both a micro (in lodge) fashion and in a broader macro tradition of Masonry itself – in this Kabbalaistic formulation. When the alchemical aspects of wisdom and strength are combined we can see the 6 pointed star appears, the symbol of transformation, often depicted in the conjoining of the square and compass in which Masons are instructed to square their actions and circumscribe their passions, which also corresponds to the link between the Saints Johns – the Baptist as the principal of alchemical water, and the Evangelist as the symbol of alchemical fire, both of whom have much deeper esoteric connections in Masonry. Also, the figures of the lodge leadership have a deeper connection as you begin to look at their alchemical connections too, when you look at their relationship to the Sun and moon, and the aspirant candidate as the solution of conflict, as Cirlot described, and as defined in the first degree – the three sphere aspect to balance the two of conflict.
From these short first few tentative steps, we can see that there is a wealth of Masonic symbols at hand, but we are only one third into our progression. Our next step takes us deeper into the middle chamber to its central position where we encounter an interesting juxtaposition of the physical world to our very human aspect of being through our senses.
For now, reflect a time on these first three steps and consider what comes next upon the path.
 Campbell, Joseph, “The Power of Myth”, p. 129 ibid*Duncan’s Ritual Monitor is the most universal aspect of the degrees and widely available in public circulation so as to get a glimpse of the Masonic degrees. Its publication, originating in 1866 and has been has been republished many times since. It includes the three blue lodge degrees of the Ancient York Rite, and four additional advanced degrees of the York Rite.
The masons are really going to take over the world! Oh there is no doubt for you see there are Masonic symbols everywhere, many in the strange artwork that adorns the airport walls. And underneath the airport there is a maze of underground corridors containing secret bunkers. Here in this remote airport shielded from nuclear attack and impervious to illegal entry is buried the archives and the offices of those few in the Masonic order that have risen to top security clearance and who make the plans to destroy nations and have ready made plans to pick up the pieces in a New World Order.
Formerly at – KWGN, Channel 2, Denver has the story behind the story:
Suspicion surrounds the airport’s remote location and massive size.
Many believe DIA’s underground tunnels are secret bunkers built for 2012 Apocalypse and they question the strange murals that seem to depict the end of the world, and the Masonic plaque in the terminal that appears to be dedicated to a new world order, with its inscription that says “New World Airport Commission.”
The strange signs and symbols are the topic of TV shows, including “Conspiracy Theory,” starring Jesse Ventura.
But now DIA is debunking the conspiracy theories, by allowing FOX31 News cameras into areas no TV crew has been before.
Deep inside DIA’s dark tunnels where conspiracy theories are born. DIA’s Jeff Green says the airport staff has heard the rumors about secret bunkers, underground concentration camps, even a hiding place for aliens.
But Green says the actual reason the tunnels were built, were to house miles and miles of underground tracks for an automated baggage system that was supposed to be “state-of-the-art” but never worked. That’s why the tunnels are now used by thousands of baggage handlers who speed through the underground maze delivering luggage from one place to another.
Green admits it is an underground city of sorts. But he says there are no secret bunkers. When asked if he had shown us everything underground, Green said, “I’m showing you…everything…that I can find…that I know is here.”
And as for the “strange” and sometimes “scary” art, DIA art director Matt Chasansky says one mural depicts the destruction of the environment, another: the horrors of war, but right next to them are murals depicting a peaceful future. He says the murals are not meant to be viewed separately, but as a continuing story.
Chasansky says the Masonic plaque marks the spot where a time capsule is buried. When asked why the Masons were allowed to bury artifacts in an international airport, Chasansky replied, “I wasn’t there for the discussion about why that happened, but that happens in a lot of buildings because the tradition of the Masons is –as people who make buildings.”
He also said, the “New World Airport Commission,” was an advisory committee made up of local businesses that was formed while DIA was being built.
But for many conspiracy theorists, DIA’s explanation will land on deaf ears. They will always believe DIA is part of a government cover up. And nothing DIA officials say –will change that.
by Br. Asahel W. Gage, from The Builder Magazine
October 1915 – Volume I – Number 10
Joseph Fort Newton
This jewel comes from The Builder Magazine, a masonic publication published between 1915 and 1930, edited by Joseph Fort Newton.
It was then (and likely still is) the best American Masonic periodical ever published. The work below is just one of many articles in the archives, and one that I thought would be of some interest to readers for its look at Masonic symbols. I’ve made some annotations where I thought they need be. Enjoy
In the beginning, the seeker for truth must be duly and truly prepared. In the usually accepted sense, this talk is unprepared. And yet, I spent five years in the “line” of the lodge observing, thinking about and studying Masonry. It is this study and my later contemplations that are my preparation to speak on the symbolism of the first degree.
It seems to me that the essence of every Masonic lesson is presented in the symbolism of the first degree. An entered apprentice is a Mason. The second, third, and so-called higher degrees are elaborations. All Masonic business was formerly transacted in a lodge opened only on the first degree.
The Masonic lessons are practical lessons. They have a dollar and cents value. The Senior Warden tells us that he became a Mason in order that he might receive master’s, or larger wages. That there may be no misunderstanding as to his meaning monetary wages, he further says, in order to “better support himself and family.” If we will look honestly into our own hearts, we will see that we paid the price for the Masonic degrees because we hoped to receive the equivalent or a greater return. If we have not received a return equal to our original and annual investment, it is because we have not applied ourselves to the study of Masonry with freedom, fervency and zeal.
But let us understand each other. There is little chance of our making much headway unless we agree on a clear and definite meaning of the terms we use. It is not only good and pleasant, but it is necessary for us to dwell together in unity of thought, if we would arrive at a harmonious conclusion. We should therefore endeavor to clearly define our subject.
The word “symbol” is derived from the Greek, meaning “to compare.” From σύμβολον (sýmbolon) from the root words συν- (syn-), meaning “together,” and βολή (bolē), “a throw”, having the approximate meaning of “to throw together”, literally a “co-incidence”, also “sign, ticket, or contract”. The earliest attestation of the term is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where Hermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims σύμβολον ἤδη μοι μέγ᾽ ὀνήσιμον “symbolon [symbol/sign/portent/encounter/chance find?] of joy to me!” before turning it into a lyre. A symbol is the expression of an idea by comparison. Often, an abstract idea may be best conveyed by a comparison with a concrete object. A dictionary definition of a symbol would be, a sign or representation which suggests something else.
Symbolism, therefore, is the science of symbols or signs, the philosophy or art of representing abstract truths and ideas by concrete things. Symbolism is suggestion; in sculpture and painting by form and color, in language by words, in music by sounds. What allegory and parable are in literature; what figurative speaking is in language; the same is symbolism.
The symbolism of the first degree is for the apprentice. An apprentice Mason is one who has begun the study of Masonry. Certain qualifications are necessary for every apprentice. The qualifications of a Masonic apprentice are a belief in a God, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be of service to his fellow creatures.
Possessing these qualifications, the candidate must follow a course of ancient hieroglyphic moral instruction, taught agreeably to ancient usages, by types, emblems and allegorical figures. This is symbolism, and symbolism is universal language. It is the language in which God reveals himself to man. The manifestations of nature are only symbolic expressions of God.
Children learn best from symbols. Blocks and toys are crude symbolic representations of the more complicated things of life. Most of us learned our alphabet and almost everything else by the relationship or correspondence to things with which we were familiar. We are only children after all. Older children call themselves scientists and make their experiments in their laboratories. Each experiment is a symbol of what is taking place in the real world outside.
The apprentice in the moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offense and defense, in order that he may realize his dependence upon moral forces only. He should be clad in a garment signifying that he comes with pure intentions to learn the noble art and profit by its lessons, not to proselyte among others, but to develop and improve himself. He is carefully examined to ascertain whether he is worthy and well qualified to receive and use the rights and benefits of Masonry. Being satisfied that he is worthy and well qualified, he is admitted and is immediately impressed with the fact that he must undergo sacrifice and suffering if he would attain the end he seeks. Realizing that the good intentions of the candidate, his own righteousness or even the lodge organization, are not sufficient, we invoke the blessing and aid of God upon our search for knowledge and truth.
We follow the system of symbolism. When we would know the truth in regard to things too great for our minds to comprehend, we take as a symbol that which is within our mental grasp. We know that the truth about the things we cannot comprehend, is identical with the truth in relation to the symbol which we do comprehend.
The apprentice in his search for Light must start from the North with the Easter Sun in the East, and travel by way of the South to the West, and back into darkness. He again comes out of the North in the East and passes through the same course again and again in his development. Obstacles are met by the apprentice in his progress, so similar that they seem identical. The little occurrences-of life may seem unimportant but they determine whether we will be permitted to advance. The apprentice must ever be worthy and well qualified.
The apprentice must advance on the square by regular upright steps. The symbolism is so common and universal that it is used in the slang of the street. Obligations are duties assumed. We must assume them if we would advance and having assumed them we are bound by them whether we will or not. Then the light breaks and we begin to see. We find that others, even the most learned, stand like the beginners. The Master is on a level with the apprentice, and extends a hand which is grasped fraternally, and the candidate is raised. There is the key to the Masters Word–an open book, but he may never find the word itself.
Then, as before, the apprentice must follow the course of the Sun. As is the greatest, so is the smallest. In the drop of water are all the laws of the universe. If we study carefully, we will find in the dew drop the particles revolving and whirling in their little circles the same as we find the heavenly bodies revolving and turning in their great orbits, circle within circle and circle upon circle. The seeker after Light always emerges from the North in the East and passes by way of the South to the West and again into darkness, with full faith and perfect confidence that day will follow night. He is continually subjected to tests and trials and always held responsible for what he has learned and for that which has gone before. God’s Holy Book, His revelation to us, is the guide in our search for light. To the Jew this Holy Book is the history of Israel, substantially the Old Testament. To the Christian, it is the Old and New Testament. To the Mohammedan (Islam), it is the Koran; to the Hindu, the Vedas.
But whatever book it is, it is the Holy Book of the seeker for Light and that which he believes to be the word of God. The Holy Book together with the square and the compasses are the great lights of Masonry.
The lesser lights are the Sun, Moon and Master of the Lodge. The Sun symbolizes the great active principle, the Moon the great passive principle. This symbolism is so commonly accepted that even the uninitiated refer to the Sun as masculine and the Moon as feminine. The Master is symbolical of the offspring of the great Active and Passive Principles. He is the mediator, the child of the two great forces. He sets the craft to work upon their symbolic studies, which is no light responsibility to be assumed by the uninformed. Only chaos and disaster can overtake him who attempts the work he is not qualified to perform. When the apprentice has received his degree he is given his working tools and the primary or elementary instructions as to how to go to work.
The working tools of an apprentice are the 24 inch gauge and the common gavel. The gavel symbolizes strength or force. Force undirected is the flood devastating all in its path or the idle puff of the unconfined powder which accomplishes nothing. Undirected force is the gavel without the rule. But intelligently controlled, and directed along a proper line by the rule of intellect, the force of the torrent grinds the grain and does the work of many men.
The force of the exploding powder prys the rock loose so that the work of months is accomplished in a moment. The operation of universal laws in the moral world is just as ascertainable and understandable as in the physical world. Morals are as susceptible of scientific study as physics.
The lamb skin apron, a most ancient symbol, signifies that it is only by honest conscientious toil that the moral laws can be learned and applied, and that this toil must be done in purity and innocence.
The Lamb of God was a popular symbol in the Middle Ages, which was familiar to both craftsmen of Guilds and the population in general. The admission of apprentices to guilds required an understanding and acceptance of important mutual duties and obligations, before the names were entered on the records of the guild. The issuing of approporate protective clothing in the form of a lambskin apron was necessary before training commenced.
Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced the Agnus Dei, based on John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world”, where John the Baptist refers to Jesus. The text in Latin is:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
which may be translated as:
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
It is currently sung or recited in the Roman Rite, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Orthodox Church.
In the lectures which follow the ceremony of the first degree, the apprentice is given preliminary information. It would be too tedious to analyze these lectures at this time. Suffice it to say they are very superficial and of little worth in themselves. They must be understood and felt, if they are to be of any value. Briefly we may describe a Lodge as a place to work, a place to study, analyze, and master the moral science so that we may make use of the moral laws and principles in our every-day life. Symbolically, it is representative of the world, our daily working place.
The foundation of the Lodge and its teaching is squareness. It is, however, supported by three pillars; Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. From which we may learn that in every undertaking, when intelligence or wisdom directs, and strength or power works, then beauty and harmony result.
The Lodge is covered with the blue vault of Heaven. Blue is the symbol of equality, it is a proper mingling of all colors, it is perfect concord. It is also symbolical of the universality of that charity, which should be as expansive as the blue vault of Heaven itself. Charity is not the giving of money alone. It is also necessary to have charity toward the weaknesses and mistakes of others.
This life is a checkered pavement of good and evil, but in the center is the blazing star which is the seed and the source of all life and eternal life.
The parallel lines have a symbolism analogous to that of the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which is more fully developed in other degrees. The point in the center of the circle between the parallels is sometimes compared to the individual member and sometimes to God who is the center of all things.
The circumference may suggest the boundary of man’s conduct, or God’s creatures, all equally distant and all equally near to Him. Sometimes the circumference is used to depict the endless course of God’s power, and His existence without end. This is all speculation, it is symbolism, the contemplation of which will develop the individual.
If the apprentice pursues his studies in the moral art with freedom, fervency and zeal, he will receive Master’s, or larger wages, and be thereby the better enabled to support himself and family and to contribute the relief of the distressed.
The reason to approach the review in 2 parts is that in the aftermath of National Treasure, Freemasons were well versed to talk about the founding fathers and the Knights Templar. With the lost symbol, lodges and individual Masons need to be just as prepared to talk about Hermetica, Gnosticism, and symbolism, especially as the book speaks to the wide tolerance of the fraternity to all faiths.
Key points brought up in the book start at the very prologue in the Quote from Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ageswhen he quoted “To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.” Brown circumvented the patriotic picture of Washington (the man) and went directly to the post war enlightenment that tapped into the ideas of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Hermetica’s deism (all faiths beginning at one source).
In The Lost Symbol, Pike gets a quick mention, but the Scottish Rite’s deep resonance with the ancient mystery schools was very clear and it is my supposition that those who are attracted to the fraternity following this book will come with those things in mind, and in coming, they will want to talk about and find resonance with the fraternity.
So, to the question, is the symbolism right, did Brown get the symbolic connections remotely correct, or did he tap into the wide field of myths and supposition that exists at the foot of the “Masonic pyramid?” Often, that answer is an individual one, that many tend to think totally out of line with what the modern fraternity represents. It is more social than esoteric, the symbols are just that symbolic, and no further reading need be made into them. Or even harsher, that the symbols were important in the past, but today they are meaningless. I think the answer lies in the school of Masonic thought that you find yourself in.
Some of the Key texts that Brown refers to are the Kybalion, written by br. Paul Foster Case under the pseudonym the Three Mystics, The New Atlantis, mentioned above, by Francis Bacon , a mere 6 years following the founding of the “new world” and the landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620. He also references Albrecht Durer, the prolific artist of the Renaissance who created many images, including Melencolia I, often seen as the height of the Christian Mysticism in art, as it depicts the confounded and pondering mystic and the materials of his practice. Each of these are bits and pieces outside the sphere of the three degrees, but still factor large (or should) in the study of Freemasonry.
One element that Brown focuses on is the alchemical symbol of gold, something in Masonic circles is referenced to as the point within the circle, what Brown calls the circumpunct, that all Masons recognize as being flanked by the Holy Saint John’s and crowned with the Volume of the Sacred Law.
The individual symbols are not so much the concern from the book, but the level of readiness over the ease of disregarding them and the discussion of their meaning. Is the lodge room ready to talk symbolism and its speculative nature? Are you, reading this now, ready to dialog with an interested party on the symbolism even on a surface level?
I think all will agree that the book is a work of fiction, but even a work of fiction unless wholly constructed with imaginary creatures and alien landscapes will still speak to and communicate a message, and Freemasonry needs to be ready to speak to that message even if it includes flights of fancy and imagination.
Central in Brown’s fiction is Freemasonry’s connection to the ancient mystery schools, and like it or not, that will be the message that those who have read the book will come to the lodge seeking. Few will likely come away with the greater subtext of the fraternity and the its more visceral purpose, the unification of like minded men, the sincerity of the belief that Masonry teaches something deeper than an inexpensive spaghetti dinner and some handshakes between strangers.
The Lost Symbol will ultimately be a good opportunity for Freemasonry to shine and inspire those new to its doors to seek out more. But it will definitely require us to be on point and be able to answer the questions put forth by those newcomers. Brown mentioned it at the end of his book, the words on the back of the tylers chair at the House of the Temple, “Know Thy Self”, but I would add, in knowing our self, we will know the divine.
When I first started expressing myself in Freemasonry the medium that I used was the one which all the great old Masters of Masonic scholarship used – the word, the printed word. So I wrote many words, words of explaining, of informing, of changing, of reform – so many words. Isn’t that what every Masonic author does – conveying his or her messages in many words?
Then along came Stephen Dafoe who, within Freemasonry, decided words are nice, they are the very bread and butter of every author, but they are not the totality of an integrated work of scholarship. What an author’s work needs, proposed Dafoe, was proper illustration and artwork. So Dafoe was meticulous about the covers to his books and the magazines he published. He hired Steve McKim to produce some beautiful artwork for his covers and some for the inside pages. Dafoe would always add many illustrations and pictures to his work and if you take a look at Nobly Born and The Compasses and the Cross you can see the development of this style to its utmost perfection. You can’t read a Dafoe work today with just words, or let’s say not very often anyway.
Then along came Greg Stewart. He wasn’t writing books but he was still in the profession of Masonic scholarship. Stewart is very good with words but he is also an excellent graphic designer and an originator of some of his own Masonic artwork. Stewart immediately saw the need in online Masonic websites for a marriage of the printed word and the visual. Right from the start on his websites you could actually visualize what he was also writing, culminating in his remake of Freemason Information into a consortium of Masonic writers where with the expertise of Dean Kennedy he crafted a website using word, pictures & artwork and video.
Words without pictures leaves little to the imagination and often allows no room for personalization of the message. The author is leading the reader in a direction he wants to take him/her only utilizing the printed word. The journey is well structured but if the reader becomes claustrophobic or fails to connect with the intent of the author the two will part company.
Pictures without words allows the observer’s imagination to wander off in a hundred different directions at once. There is not enough structure for the artist to be sure that the receiver understands the message that he wishes to convey.
When words and pictures are used together the mind can be brought back into a narrower focus on what the author is trying to convey, yet there is room for the reader to personalize the message and through the powers of imagination carry it into his or her own life experiences.
Which leads us to symbols. Symbols are a representation of a concept. They are drawings with a definite purpose in mind. Whether it is the Cross, the Golden Arches or the Square and Compasses, they are a picture with unspoken words attached. That is why they are so powerful; they can do double duty simultaneously. And that is why multi talented creators like Dafoe & Stewart who can turn a good word while at the same time provide great visual effects that enhance their work are so successful at what they do. Now put them in a setting where the use of symbols runs strong and you provide them with the ultimate opportunity to unleash their creativity. Add to that the fact that both men are excellent speakers and have produced Masonic radio shows to compliment the rest of their work and you have two artists who have the ability to present their work using many different avenues of perception.
Nobody knows this better than David Naughton-Shires. He may be the newcomer to the scene but he is following in the footsteps of Dafoe and Stewart. He understands, as they do, how important the use of all the human senses is in the creation of the work of an artist. He realizes that in order to get one’s work recognized, a creator has to appeal to the observer in many different ways. It is my humble opinion that Naughton-Shires is no newcomer to the knowledge of these facts nor is he new to the ability to produce such integrated work but that it has been his involvement with Freemasonry that is new to him and that has unleashed his creativity and ability into actual great creations and enabled his work to be noticed. And that is because, in my opinion, the power of the symbolism of Freemasonry is so great, so strong and so conducive to the creative artist being able to express himself that it just opens an artist’s creative juices to full flow. Freemasonry is the best platform from which to create great works because of its great symbolism, its long history spanning centuries, and its message of passion for nobleness, righteousness and equality. There are very few other settings that are as conducive to opening up the greatness of an artist.
Nauthton-Shires is carrying the New Age Of Masonic Expression into its next phase. He has a little twist on the applications of Dafoe and Stewart. Rather than producing words with enhancing visual effects, he is producing the visual, artwork, enhanced by words. This removes Masonic scholarship even further away from the bookshelves. Soon applications such as Power Point presentations which can be shown almost like movies will be a Masonic creative specialty and I have no doubt that a man like Naughton-Shires will be leading the pack in taking Masonic expression into deeper and unexplored waters.
That being said Naughton-Shires is proving he is no flash in the pan, no fluke, no 90-day wonder. Rather what I see is continued growth and depth of presentation in his work as demonstrated by his latest Issue 3 of The Masonic Art Exchange Newsletter. He has adopted a Knights Templar theme for the next four or five issues and this Newsletter is sort of an introduction to Templar art. Naughton-Shires asserts:
“Most of the ‘standard’ Templar art is seen in almost every book, magazine and article on the warriors who wore the red cross, and I will attempt to include this in my article but I hope to show art by lesser known modern day artists in the issues that will cover this subject.”
The cover page of this issue is a compelling picture of a Knight Templar called “Fear” and painted by the brilliant Argentinean artist Ignacio Bazan.
And Naughton-Shires outstanding feature article in issue #3 is titled, The Art of The Knight Templars: Artistic Representations of The Crusader Knights of God. In it he features the story and work of Benedictine Monk Mathew Paris and a plethora of early Templar art. Later issues will feature more modern Templar paintings and drawings.
The Knights Templar have been as Naughton-Shires says, “an enigma for many years.” Yet they hold an amazing attraction for modern day society that just can’t seem to get enough of the “lore of the Knights.” Like many of us Naughton-Shires has the “Templar bug” and I asked him what first intrigued him about this society?
“I have had a keen interest in the Templar since watching the movie Ivanhoe many many years ago in which they are depicted as the ‘bad guys’; of course after research I discovered that as with any group there were bad guys indeed but also many good guys.”
There is one picture in the article that really caught my eye. It looks like a tapestry and features green and orange colors. I couldn’t quite make out what was going on in what looked like a story of some kind in pictures.
Naughton-Shires explains what he knows about this work of art:
“The image is of a twelve century map of Jerusalem which depicts a crusader knight in a white mantle assisting the other knights. It is believed to actually be a depiction of St George but this is based on the Latin inscription behind his head that reads Scs Georgius”
There is also an Apron article in this issue and some other tidbits not available for viewing at the time this article was written. But then again, I wouldn’t want to tell you all the good things in Issue #3 of The Masonic Art Exchange’s Newsletter. Better you should go find out for yourself.
And as you do that note where Masonic scholarship seems to be going. We are entering a new age of Masonic Expression, one where the visual arts vault into first place ahead of the word. And leading the charge is Naughton-Shires carrying the torch from Dafoe and Stewart who are shoo-ins for the 21st Century Masonic Hall of Fame. Sometimes the pupil surpasses the Master but that remains to be seen.
Naughton-Shires is still climbing the wall of stardom. It might behoove us all to grab onto his cable tow and let him pull us into greater heights of Light and once in awhile in the rough places, the precipices that do not hold, for some of us to pull him up and out. The journey together, the journey shared is very rewarding. Naughton-Shires is beckoning for you to come along for the ride. My advice is do it and don’t look back.
By Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º
The Chamber of Reflection… After being told a few words of warning calling for the reconsideration on the steps he is about to take, mysterious words bearing a contrasting and intimidating message of discouragement, the young candidate, compelled by either Conviction or Curiosity, decides to ignore such “warnings”, and valiantly enters that “cavern-like” room on the day of his initiation into the Craft. He immediately finds himself in the middle of a gloomy and obscure scenario – a small table with a skull and crossed tibia, a lit candle, a sand clock about to stop, and a few suggestive wall inscriptions complementary of everything he was forewarned prior to stepping into such a perturbing enclosure. Truly, this is a chamber of reflection.
He cannot help feeling like an unfortunate detainee of ancient times, locked in a dungeon awaiting his sentence. On the small table there are also a cup of water, a small piece of bread, and some salt, which seem to be the only food that he is entitled to ingest for being imprisoned. He instinctively asks himself “Am I a Prisoner?”; “I have not done anything wrong”; “I came here of my own free will and they throw me in here”; “How long will they keep me?”; “I have no idea, but, I want to get out, I want to throw down the towel and surrender in the second round”; “I give up”; I can’t stand it any longer”; “What is this about?”; “Why did they lock me up?”; “Is this how they make Good Men better?”; “Is this what they mean by Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth?”; “They are probably just having fun with me!”; “They have me in such a ridiculous and hopeless state!”; “One of my hands is tied, I’m barefooted, almost naked, without my belongings, and partially blind-folded!”; “My God, what’s next?”; “A ransom?”; “Am I being kidnapped?”; “Are all those sinister rumors about the Masons true?”…
… The young neophyte then recovers his briefly lost sanity, and focus his attention on some of the fluorescent phrases posted on the dark walls: “IF YOU ARE AFRAID, LEAVE”; “IF YOU ARE NOT CERTAIN, WITHDRAW”; “IF YOU CANNOT COPE, RENOUNCE”; All of the sudden, however, these intimidating and daring clauses give him the encouragement to continue on, to test himself, to confront and overcome his own fears, to subdue his vices, and to begin to truly know himself.
Suddenly, a man wearing a black robe hands him a paper with four (4) questions that he must answer in sixty (60) seconds. At that moment, the novice thinks – “Who, in my present state and condition, is going to answer this questionnaire correctly in one (1) minute?” – While reading the questions, he feels like a bucket of cold water has fallen upon him, slightly refreshing his already warm and confused mind. There are four (4) questions he must reflect upon: What is Man’s duty to God? Again, he thinks – “What, didn’t they say that, here, Religion is never discussed?” – He thinks for a moment and answers what he thinks is right. What is Man’s duty to Himself? “Dignity”, he replies. But, again, he cannot help to think – “What type of Dignity can I have or talk about, after being treated like a dirty rag?”. What is Man’s duty to his Fellow Beings? Without hesitation he replies – “Respect”. If your last hour arrived, what would be your Testament? This time, the young man’s face frowns and he thinks aloud – “A last will? “What are they going to do to me now?”; “I’m locked away in a room, I know nobody in this place, and I’m in the presence of human remains”; “Now, I truly feel uncomfortable!” – He stops, thinks again for a few seconds, and replies – “I’d give half of my holdings to my loved-ones, and the other half to people in need”.
He was given sixty (60) seconds, but, he feels as twenty (20) minutes have gone by; his anxiety begins to feel like asphyxia with an unmistakable sensation of claustrophobia. Suddenly, there is a distinct knock at the door, two or three different voices from without order him not to turn around, and, once more, he is completely blind-folded.
As he is taken away, he remembers reading a particular word with three points between each letter: V:.I:.T:.R:.I:.O:.L:. At that time, our young Initiate did not know its meaning, he probably even assumed that it was an unknown reference to God; But, in due time, he will encounter the latin phrase: “VISITA INTERIORA TERRAE RECTIFICANDO INVENIES OCCULTUM LAPIDEM”, which, semi-translated into English means: “VISIT THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH, THROUGH RECTIFICATION YOU SHALL FIND THE HIDDEN STONE”, and, then, he will realize that such word went hand in hand with everything he saw and read in that “cavern-like” chamber. Studying and analyzing further, he will find its significance, that of visiting and knowing his Inner Side/Nature, and submitting to a Self-Examination of Conscience with which he must reflect over his actions and deeds, and, thus, discover his Internal Self or Hidden Stone, the Philosophers Stone of the Alchemists, the Rough Ashlar of the Free-Mason.
The ancient Egyptian, Persian and Greek Sages adopted the custom of surrounding their teachings with enigmas that could only be contemplated in silence, and which expressed invariable and uniform principles that formed a perfect and harmonious ensemble that, at the same time, defined a ceremony of religious and secret nature needed for the Initiation and Training of all Priests and Priestesses who desired to unravel these enigmas. These enigmas comprise all that relates to the developing possibilities of the human state that culminate with that which has been called “Restoration of Primeval State”, and these are nothing more than a preparation for The Great Mysteries which appertain to the realization of the super-human states, and conduct the Initiate toward states of spiritual order until reaching the Supreme Identity. Thus, the new adept is brought closer to the hidden truths of the divine.
All the Philosophers of antiquity were disciples of an Initiation, being Progress and the Foundation of the Mysteries what enabled them to liberate themselves from the chaos of superstition. In those times, only the Mysteries could liberate Men from barbarousness. From these mysteries were derived the doctrines of Confucius, Zoroaster and Hermes Trismegistus. Such were the timeless characteristics of the Ancient Mysteries, that fragments of these teachings have reached Modern Freemasonry. These influences are found in the various different Rites of the Order. In all these mysteries we find a common factor indicating a same origin, the ceremonies of initiation were all funereal in character featuring a mystical death and resurrection, and the trials were conducted in the darkness of the night – the aspirant had to be examined, tried and purified in order to attain Wisdom and Light.
In the Mithraic-Zoroastrian mysteries, the neophyte was subject to a rigorous fasting and to a series of tests and trials, where the methods of exciting awe and fear varied ingeniously; all types of sounds and noises were simulated, the roaring of ferocious animals, the explosion of thunder, lightning, lashings with sticks, lamentations, screams of horror or pain, and the sensations of heat or cold were also implemented, by having him/her swim in rivers of strong current and walk through blazing areas. All these tests and trials lasted between twenty-four and eighty days, at the end of which the candidate was introduced in an real cavern. These initiation caverns were small in size, their walls and ceilings were painted with astral signs, and represented the world, the dual movement of the planets, and the passage of the souls through the celestial spheres. Once inside, the candidate was caused to walk through a ladder or bridge along which there were seven doors, each made of a different metal symbolizing the respective attributes of every planet. This Ladder was posteriorly adopted by the Jews and featured in the mythical dream of Jacob, and, presently, it is an indispensable symbol in a number of our Masonic Degrees. As the climax of the ceremony was nearing, the new adept was conducted to a larger room where he/she underwent some type of Baptism, and was finally prepared to receive the Seven Lessons that would constitute the completion of his/her Initiation. In due time, this particular ceremony began to be implemented by almost every Mystery School, until it made its way into Masonic Rituals in the form of “The Ante-Room” or “Chamber of Reflections”.
In the Higher Mysteries, celebrated in Elleusis during the month of September, these ceremonies lasted nine days, and were held in honor of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone. The Temple was divided in three parts: the “Megaron” or Sanctuary (corresponding to the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple of Solomon), the “Anactoron” or Main Hall (equivalent to the place of collective prayer), and the Underground Chamber located right below the temple. The Infernal Regions and/or Punishment for the uninitiated impious one was symbolically represented by this Underground Chamber, and it was reminiscent of an episode in the drama of Demeter, Persephone and Pluto. Within the walls of this temple, the beliefs and teachings of a celestial life after death were earnestly imparted to their “Adoptae” or Accepted, and thus expanded to the more profound studies of Cosmogony and Anthropogenesis.
In the Druid Mysteries, almost entirely native to the regions of Britain and Gaul, their rituals, brought from Greece by Scandinavian route, required the Initiate to undergo much physical purification and mental preparation; their First Degree was conferred by inflicting a symbolical death on the aspirant, which, culminated in his/her attainment of the Third Degree or regeneration, at which point he/she was placed on a boat symbolizing his/her readiness to sail-off on life’s journey.
The formidable Egyptians, Mayans and Incas used to leave the Initiate alone, locked inside the actual funereal chamber of a pyramid, lying inside a coffin and surrounded by mummies and other lugubrious emblems, so that he/she could reflect on the steps about to be taken – that unless emerging triumphant, such failure could cost him/her the permanent loss of his/her freedom.
Following these ancient initiatic customs and traditions, divesting the candidate of all personal clothing and removing all minerals and metals from him, the Profane is caused to find himself alone with his own values before a first symbolical approximation that invites him to meditate over the vanities of existence, and warns him of mere curiosity as he seeks membership in our Order.
In modern Free-Masonry, the chamber of reflections is equivalent to the alchemical siphon, where the Recipient shall experience transmutation by means of the conjugation and regulating of his/her recondite energies. The Profane “descends to the Infernos”, he must die first, in order to “resuscitate” and attain the light of Initiation. There he shall leave the dealings of the exterior world, there will be an interior abstraction, like the original matrix, so that he can emerge from the depths of the earth (the chaotic dense matter) to the subtleness of the spirit.
This place is also representative of both Macrocosm and Microcosm, in other words, of the Universe and Man. In it, there are manifested four levels or superposed planes where the basic elements of Alchemy are found – earth, fire, water and air. The first level belongs to that of Fire, the primordial element for the work of transmutation; the second and third levels belong to those of Water and Earth – the transforming substances, and the fourth level belongs to the element of Air, the subtlety of gases related with transcendence.
It is particularly important to underline the use of certain phrases inscribed upon this chamber’s walls; these phrases bore messages such as: “IF MERE CURIOSITY HAS BROUGHT YOU HERE, LEAVE!”; “KNOW THYSELF!”; “DUST YOU ARE AND, AGAIN, DUST YOU SHALL BECOME!”; “TO DIE, YOU WERE BORN!”; “TO BETTER EMPLOY YOUR LIFE, THINK OF DEATH!”; “IF AVARICE GUIDES YOU, GO AWAY!”; IF YOU PAY HOMAGE TO HUMAN DISTINCTIONS, LEAVE, FOR HERE WE KNOW THEM NOT!”; “IF YOU FEAR TO BE REPRIMENDED OVER YOUR DEFECTS, DO NOT PROCEED!”; “IF YOU LIE, YOU SHALL BE EXPOSED!”; “IF YOU ARE AFRAID, WITHDRAW!”. These inscriptions are precisely inviting us to “visit the entrails of the earth”, in other words, to effectuate an introspection of our personalities, by being capable to “rectify”, to separate the dense from the subtle, and, thus, to find the “hidden stone” of the Philosophers, the True Philosophers Stone where the Profane’s real capacity for transmutation resides. For the Free-Mason, the transformation of Led or Rough Ashlar into Gold or Cubical Stone; the manner by which Man and Woman become the object of “The Great Work”.
The disorder and obscurity that prevail in the Chamber of Reflections, giving the appearance of a sepulchral cave, furnished with symbols of death and destruction – a skull and bones, is equivalent to being submerged in the center of the earth, from whence we came and ultimately shall return. Of all four elements that reign in Nature (Earth, Water, Air and Fire), Earth is the first that we must “overcome” during our Masonic Initiation. Our momentary stay in the Chamber of Reflections makes us remember the State of Ignorance in which we humans find ourselves, before knowing one fundamental principle of the Masonic Order: “YOU MUST DIE IN VICES, TO BE BORN IN VIRTUES!”; Or, like Joshua Ben Joseph, alias: “The Christ”, allegedly stated: “HE/SHE WHO IS NOT REBORN, WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!”.
Just before stepping into the Ante-Room, we deposit our material valuables with our Bro:. Exp:. , in order to symbolically enter in a State of Original Purity, making effectual solely our True Values – Moral and Spiritual, glimpsing a new path-way, and disappearing our exterior bonds and considerations to be indefectibly open for a New State of Conscience. This, is the place where two worlds separate, the Profane and the Sacred; This is the critical point where Palingeness (Rebirth and/or Transformation) begins; The return to Life, by finding ourselves and self-divesting of our old personalities (egos and masks), recuperating our authentic being, which, in turn, shall conduct us to the True Initiation, to the Progressive Realization of our being, subjecting to examination our Will and Purpose of Advancement.
Being within that confinement, isolated between those dark walls, the Free-Mason-To-Be completes the strengthening and maturity of his soul, aided by the reflection upon that which surrounds him – the first symbols open to a Candidate’s view.
The ability to “reflect” is most necessary in a Free-Mason’s life! Reflection, per Philosophical Tenets, is the faculty of the human spirit through which the individual retreats and concentrates on him/herself to examine the phenomena subjected to his/her observation. Reflection is so important, that everyone who lacks the capacity of it, is totally incapable of comprehending the mission entrusted to him/her; he/she becomes toy and/or victim of his/her errors and/or passions – giving, instead, to the one who has developed it, an extraordinary superiority in intellectual and moral concepts. Reflection is a complex faculty, by which the active conscience illustrates and completes the Knowledge that the state of spontaneity had left in darkness and confusion.
The Man or Woman who reflects, bothers him/herself solely with matters that take place in the interior of his thoughts, finding him/herself forced to self-isolate from all exterior occurrences that besiege him/her, and to impede their access by suspending the function of the organs which perceive them. The Free-Mason who reflects, needs the retreat, the quietude, the darkness and the silence – to comprehend the phenomena of the spirit, and to clearly distinguish those invisible and impalpable objects concealed by light, and, which, only the silence of the night can reveal.
By proper use of Reflection, the Free-Mason is capable of perfectly distinguishing his thoughts, his ideas of Liberty, of Merit or Demerit. By aide of Reflection, the Free-Mason examines and judges his own actions, weights the consequences of the same, appreciates his moral character, and rejoices in discovering those noble qualities of the soul which, place him above all other creatures. Reflection teaches the Free-Mason the objective for which his glorious attributes call for, and lifts up the veil that concealed his destiny.
While in the Chamber of Reflections, the neophyte symbolically descends to the utmost dense and inferior; he finds himself in the darkness; he is in conflict with the duality of personalities – on one side, the material, composed of a physical body, and, on the other, the ethereal body, mind and emotions that he has constructed with his birth and with his particular circumstances; and, at a higher level, he faces the Elevated Personality, the Superior Individuality where he finds his true being, and shining right above it, is The Great Architect Of The Universe – so that before leaving the Ante Room, on his way to the Lodge Room, he can finally attain the Perfect Expression of the Spirit in the Physical Body.
Through the Ages, the Chamber of Reflection has represented the Initiate’s descend to the Infernos, the apparent death which precedes reincarnation, the re-encounter with a new life, and the Sun defeating the Autumnal Equinox, and rising victorious from its battle against darkness in the Equinox of Spring.
Brothers, a revision and additional embellishment of our Over-Simplified ritual, is most necessary, and way over-due. Our new Brethren must experience what some of us, unfortunately, did not. Our more philosophically and esoterically-inclined “New Breed” of members will cherish the experience of reflecting before seeing the Light. They will treasure the instant when called upon to reflect on their duties to God, to their fellow beings, and to themselves, just like our fore-brothers did, ages before there was even any grouping of four “Non-Operative Masonic Lodges” and their controversial merger into another “Grand Lodge” in England.
The ritualistic lessons of our Craft must be as vivid as possible. Our neophytes must go through the experience of being locked in that room, so that they may confront their own fears and demons. Fears and Demons that, perhaps, they are not aware of. The appreciation, skill, and habit of Reflection must be inculcated in the New Free-Mason beginning on the day of his Initiation. He must be taught to know himself better, to pay more attention to his vices and virtues, and to know the “true secret” on how to successfully polish his “rough ashlar”.
Now is the time for us to pause and “reflect”! … Many times, man fails to use the virtue of Reflection, and even goes through life without ever using it, until his final moment arrives; and, finally, he remembers that he has conscience, and meditates on what has been of his life up to that instant. We, as Free-Masons, should not make that mistake with the same frequency. Unlike the uncultivated, the Profane and Indiffferent Mason alike, we must look into ourselves, see through our Third Eyes, and think before acting.
Thanks to this “catacomb”, feeblemindedly omitted from our present rituals, we, Free-Masons, are what we are, and will be what we will be. In the Chamber of Reflection we are all reborn, and thus we learn to apply to our lives that wise adage that exhorts: “NEVER SAY WHAT YOU THINK, ALWAYS THINK WHAT YOU SAY!”