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Freemasonry - Its Hidden Meaning
by George H. Steinmetz
A spiritual interpretation of the esoteric work of the Masonic lodge, analyzes the lectures and symbols of the three degrees. (1948)
Chapter 12 - Master Mason Lecture
"Only those are truly Masons who enter their Temple in reverence, who seek not the ephemeral things of life but the treasures which are eternal, whose sole desire is to know the true mystery of the Craft that they may join as honest workmen those who have gone before as builders of the Universal Temple." -Manly P. Hall
The Bible relates that the Temple was seven years in building. Its chief supports were three columns denominated "WISDOM, STRENGTH and BEAUTY." Further data is given regarding the number of columns and pilasters, the number of Grand Masters, Masters, Fellow-craft and Apprentices employed in the work.
These data refer to the human body, of which the Temple of Solomon is symbolical. Some authorities are of the opinion that the numerology of the Temple refers to the number of bones, nerves, muscles and organs of the body according to some ancient theory of anatomy. Others believe the numerology is Kabalistic. The latter would be impossible of modern application. There is no translation of the Kaballah in English which accounts for its numerical values and, due to the nature of the Hebrew method of comb ining letters and numbers, such translation would be an impossibility. The first mentioned theory is not in agreement with modern anatomy, Either or both may be correct.
The fact that the Grand Masters so obviously represent the three planes of existence, Physical, Psychical and Spiritual, together with the last portion of the lecture, strongly supports the anatomical theory. The lecture states: "All these were so classified and arranged by the wisdom of Solomon that neither envy, discord nor confusion was suffered to disturb the peace and good-fellowship which prevailed among the workmen." The affirmation of Mental Science that the subjective mind is the controller of bodi ly functions affords a logical and consistent interpretation. When subjective mind, or "Solomon," is in charge of the planning and arranging it so organizes the various organs of the body (the workmen on the Temple), that there is "neither discord nor confusion," and perfect harmony prevails, resulting in health and well-being for the physical man.
Of the emblems of this degree some are ancient and have occult meaning. Others appear to be modern additions, made by those who had little understanding of the symbology of the ancients. These modern additions bave no spiritual meaning; in fact, in some instances, they distort the truth the other emblems are intended to convey. These "modern additions" are: "The book of constitutions - "the hour glass" - "the scythe" - "the coffin" - "the anchor."
Books of constitutions were unknown to the ancients. The hour glass is obviously "modern." If this were an "ancient" emblem it would be a sun-dial and not an hour glass. The Scythe, as an emblem of "time and the grim reaper," is of recent adoption, as the ancients made no such use of the symbol. The coffin is such a "modern" touch that it scarcely is worthy of comment. The anchor in connection with the ark is an absurd contradiction of the very meaning of the ark, as will be seen when the symbolism of th e ark is later explained.
It is true that most of these additions have been made to teach some material lesson to the candidate, but they detract from the spiritual meanings of the truly ancient emblems. They merely suggest the brevity of material life and, as the lecture states, "close the explanation upon the solemn thought of death." The object of Freemasonry, however, is not to "dwell upon the solemn thought of death." Its whole teaching is the joyous thought of LIFE! These emblems serve to remind the candidate of the necessit y of experiencing physical death before he can know spiritual life. The secret the Master Mason is striving to learn is to ATTAIN SPIRITUAL LIFE before experiencing physical death.
Of the truly ancient emblems the first is the "pot of incense." The pot is emblematic of the human body, the material. The incense typifies the psychical within" the body. The flaming spark is the spiritual. The spark refines the psychical man, just as the common gavel "divests the heart and conscience of all the vices and superfluities of life." The "pot of incense" is another method of illustrating that "preparing the mind" to be a "living stone in that house not made with hands." With the gavel the "r ough corners" are broken off; with the "spark" of the incense pot, the dross and impurities are "burned," leaving the psychical nature the brighter for its purification by fire. It is not strange that a philosophy which originates in the dim past from Solar Religious teaching should borrow the analogy of purification by fire. More difficult of understanding is the fact that more of the ancient analogies have not been introduced.
In Morals and Dogma, Pike states: "To understand literally the symbols and allegories of oriental books as to ante-historical matters, is willfully to close our eyes against the light. To translate the symbols into the trivial and commonplace, is the blundering of mediocrity."
In the lecture, explanation of the "bee hive" approaches dangerously near the "blundering of mediocrity." This is a most complex symbol which may be used as a complete analogy of every aspect of life, yet only a material lesson of industry is drawn therefrom. Attention is directed to the helplessness of man in his infancy and the fact that "he who will not endeavor to add to the common stock of knowledge may be deemed a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society and unworthy of our protection as Freemasons."
It is true that the bee hive is an excellent example of industry. The analogy of dependence of the individual on society is patent, also the admonition that each must do his part for the benefit of the whole. These, however, are material lessons which might be conveyed by dozens of other symbols. What are the spiritual, the deeper lessons taught, peculiar to this particular emblem?
The Queen Bee lays but one kind of egg. Whether the egg shall eventually produce a worker, a drone or a queen is determined by the type of cell in which the egg is laid and the food furnished the larvae. This symbolizes that all come from the same primordial substance, that ALL are POTENTIALLY EQUAL. It directs attention to the role played by environment in the development of the latent potentialities of each individual. It admonishes that one exercise the greatest care in the choice of environment for h imself and others. This environment is not only the physical conditions with which the individual surrounds himself but is likewise his associations, and above all his mode of thought. Thus the bee hive is illustrative of that great truth: "As a man thinketh - SO IS HE."
The impression that the queen rules the hive is erroneous. She, as a fully developed female, lays the eggs. Apiarists, writing on bee culture, refer to the "spirit of the hive." It is this "spirit of the hive" which rules the bees. And this "spirit" is instinctive knowledge of Universal Law. The bee obeys the law, therefore "peace and harmony prevail" within the hive. When man as unerringly conforms to that same Universal Law he too finds that "peace and harmony prevail" in his life.
In that marvelous chemical laboratory, the bee, the law of "like producing like" also rules. Honey made from the nectar of the orange blossom has the aroma and flavor of that blossom; when made of nectar of the clover blossom it is clover honey. Nothing can change this law. Nature has given man the analogy that he may apply it to the action of his thoughts. Just as surely will his constructive thinking produce beneficial results, of like "aroma and flavor" as the source from which he obtains those thoug hts.
In search of nectar the bee flies far afield, yet instinctively returns to the hive. Similarly knowledge which, in man, we name intuition has impelled him throughout the ages to seek his proper place in the universe.
Man is a triune being, physical, psychical and spiritual. The bee hive is also a "one" composed of three component parts: the queen, the workers and the drones. Man, while operating on the physical plane, has need of all three of his component parts. At that transition which we call death he lays aside his physical body and continues in the psychical and spiritual. During the summer the drones are needed to fertilize the new queen bee. When they have fulfilled their purpose they are discarded. Through out the winter the hive functions with "two parts," the queen and the workers.
The Masonic symbols repeatedly reiterate the verity of Universal Law and the absolute necessity of conforming to that Law. To develop the body man must adhere to nature's physical laws. The development of his mentality depends upon obedience to the law of mind. So, too, spiritual progress may be attained only through compliance with spiritual law. This profound lesson is especially conveyed by the "sword pointing to a naked heart." Although too frequently interpreted as a symbol of revenge, "it demonstr ates that justice will sooner or later overtake us." It implies neither PUNISHMENT nor REVENGE. These are negative qualities of the human mind. The "heart and sword" is an exposition of the law of karma, of the absolute justice in the laws of the universe - the symbol of CAUSE AND EFFECT, that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
The ancient teaching is unity and causation, and the symbols used typify that all phenomena spring from a single "First Cause," hence the ancient philosophers believed in a "one living and true God." The mind of man, ever evolving, has not changed fundamentally, and the ancients had the same difficulty as we have in conceiving an Omnipresent Deity. Therefore, to convey the idea of omnipresence more palpably, they typified that abstract idea by a human eye. An eye which sees all is ever conscious of the en tire universe. Thus the Universal Intelligence, of which the eye is the manifest presence, is omnipresent. The "all seeing-eye" is emblematic of God's ever-presence. The use of the emblem in the Lodge is sometimes misconstrued as a symbol for God, rather than His attribute, omnipresence.
An ark has for ages been used as a symbol of a vehicle for the transmission of the life principle from an old order to a new order. This symbology was not exclusive with the Jew but was employed by other nations of antiquity - notably the Egyptians, from whom, doubtless, the Jew obtained it, as used in the Bible. The ark of Noah was such a vehicle of transmission. It carried the patriarch and his family from the antediluvian world of wickedness to that new world into which they disembarked after the floo d. The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of the "passing over" of the children of Israel from the life of bondage in Egypt to that new order of life in the Promised Land. The lecture of this degree implies the same symbology when it states: "It (the ark) is emblematic of that Divine Ark which safely wafts us over this tempestuous sea of troubles * * *" However, this analogy makes use of but one portion of the symbology, and chooses the weakest lesson which can be drawn therefrom. It deals only with the destructive principle, life's "tempestuous sea of troubles." The Masonic philosophy never intended to dilate on troubles, death and disease. Our present understanding of Mas onry is inept when we embody in our prayer to God such sentiment as: "And support us under the trials and afflictions we are destined to endure while traveling through this vale of tears." By what authority may it be claimed man is DESTINED to endure "trials and afflictions"? Who but a misanthrope would call this life a "vale of tears"?
The purpose of Masonry is to impart to its initiates knowledge of Universal Law; to teach of its action and reaction throughout nature as two Great Principles - the Constructive and the Destructive. Only when man learns of these two principles of law and lives in conformity with the Constructive does he avoid these IMAGINARY calamities, for these are not God's visitations, but rather the effects of man's own misdoings. We should therefore seek a more beneficial analogy from the symbology of the ark.
The Ark is that "vehicle" which "safely wafts us" from an old order to a new order of life. It is appropriately an emblem of the third degree. It is emblematic of the Candidate being "raised" - "wafted over" from the degree of Fellow-craft, the psychical plane, to that of Master Mason, the spiritual plane. Therein, indeed, is he in a "NEW ORDER OF LIFE."
The "Forty-seventh problem of Euclid" is the key to Masonic symbology. It opens the door to the truth for which we are in search. If we must use a modern analogy, perhaps it had best be likened to a "combination" known only to a few; a "key" is too obvious. The horizontal line represents the physical body, the perpendicular line, the psyche. joining at a right angle they form a perfect square (the intellectual man, composed of mind and body). The hypotenuse typifies the spiritual, and its addition compl etes the figure. The "three" sides form "one" figure - the complete man.
The sum of the squares of the perpendicular and horizontal lines equals the square of the hypotenuse. The sum of the three angles is constant. When applied to man - irrespective of the length of the horizontal, the material; regardless of the height of the perpendicular, the psychical "the sum of their squares equals the square of the hypotenuse," the spiritual. In other words, as taught in the Mysteries, Man's spiritual evolution is effected by, and dependent upon, his physical and mental development an d attainment, but the spiritual always predominates in the complete man.
When one begins a quest which ends in the acquisition of a substitute for that of which he is in search, it cannot be claimed he has reached his goal. Logically the search was foredoomed to failure. The warning is constantly present, and repeatedly given, that such will be the case. The Entered Apprentice is told: "Ask, and it shall be given you; Seek, and ye shall find; Knock and it shall be opened unto you." Later he is informed: "you there stand AS A JUST AND UPRIGHT, etc."; but he is not told: "you t here stand A, etc." He is "AS" or "LIKE" - no definite statement that HE IS.
In the second degree he is advised he has received light BUT PARTIALLY, which is the negative statement that HE HAS RECEIVED PARTIAL LIGHT. It is assumed to apply at the specific time, but could as truthfully be said upon completion of the third degree.
The third degree is replete with these veiled hints. The Candidate is told that the practice of OPERATING in Masonry has become "obsolete," and "we now wear our aprons as Fellow-craft." An outright admission that we do not "OPERATE" on the spiritual plane of a Master Mason. Again he is informed he is "about to receive ALL THE LIGHT WHICH CAN BE CONFERRED UPON HIM IN A LODGE." Later the statement is made that, no matter what he PRESUMES, he has not reached his goal; and in the ritual of many of the older j urisdictions, which have not suffered the changes to which some of the younger jurisdictions have subjected their rituals (in spite of obligations to respect ancient landmarks), the frank admission is added that "IT IS NOT KNOWN IF HE WILL EVER ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSE." Finally he is told the Lodge will no longer pray for him, and that he must perform that duty for himself.
Modern Masons, in fact, are only Fellow-craft. THEY ARE NOT MASTER MASONS! The "True Word," reputedly, was introduced into the Royal Arch in the late eighteenth century by Dunckerley. At approximately that time he is said to have, either personally or associated with others, revised the "Blue" Lodge ritual, and to have taken the "True Word" therefrom. Technically, this would confine the Master Mason grade to those who have been exalted to the Royal Arch. In reality, the Royal Arch does not possess the "W ord." It is intellectually, logically provable that the "word," so claimed to be by the Royal Arch, CANNOT BE THE LOST WORD OF A MASTER MASON.
No degree of Freemasonry can GIVE the candidate the "True Word," for none possess it, and if they did they could not communicate it. THAT IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY! The "True Word," by its inherent nature, an only be DISCOVERED by the individual, himself. PREVIOUSLY THE LODGE PRAYED FOR HIM, BUT NOW HE MUST PRAY FOR HIMSELF.
There have been a few exceptions, forerunners of that Great Human Race which is to come, who have possessed the "True Word"; but humanity in general has not advanced to that stage in evolution where it can comply with the necessary requirements. As with the "substitute," it can only be acquired when one has "placed himself in proper position to receive it"; and that "proper position" is no posture of the physical body - IT IS AN ATTITUDE OF SOUL!
Previously, a psychical exposition of "traveling in foreign countries" was advanced. The "Foreign Country" therein discussed was the mental realm - "foreign," it is true, to him who has previously confined his thinking to the material world of everyday affairs. Yet this is but a SUBSTITUTE "foreign country," and is all that one can hope to enter, being possessed of but a "SUBSTITUTE PASS."
To him who in actuality has "PASSED" to the degree of Fellow-craft - who, within himself, has been RAISED TO THE SUBLIME DEGREE OF A MASTER MASON - comes that wisdom and ability to recognize the true meaning of "traveling." He discovers that the country in which he seeks to travel is but a "foreign country" to the "MATERIAL" man; that it is the TRUE HOME-LAND of the SPIRITUAL MAN - that it is THE SPIRITUAL REALM!
- By Way of Introduction
- Masonry - Religion
- Mental Science
- The Secret Doctrine
- Entered Apprentice
- Entered Apprentice Lecture
- Fellow Craft
- Middle Chamber Lecture
- Master Mason
- The Great Moral Lesson
- Master Mason Lecture
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