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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 10 - Master Mason
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel brok en at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
-Ecclesiastes XII: 1, 7
The Entered Apprentice degree, dealing with the material, is preparatory; that of Fellowcraft is psychical, away FROM the material, toward the spiritual. The degree of Master Mason (if the assumption that Masonry stems from the Mysteries is correct) is the summit, wholly spiritual. Interrogation as to personal desire, preparation and worthiness is repeated. For a second time the necessity for proficiency in the preceding degree is emphasized: Patience is still a virtue. The spiritual is not forced upon any individual. One must reach a level where he is cognizant of it and, of his own volition, seek it. In the third degree the Candidate approaches the spiritual. He is to MAKE OF HIMSELF the complete man, the MASTER. He includes the physical, the psychical and the spiritual. The process is symbolized by the preparation which includes that of both preceding degrees.
Demanding proficiency in the preceding degrees is not an arbitrary ruling of the Lodge. It is for the Candidate's personal benefit. He who has not learned the lessons of the physical and psychical degrees has not attained a level where he can hope to achieve understanding of the spiritual. Knowing the true symbology of the compasses, a "more noble and glorious" explication than the "rational explanation" given in the Lodge is apparent. The compasses are emblematic of the spiritual; therefore on his first admission into a Lodge of Master Masons the Candidate is confronted with the fact that he has entered upon the spiritual degree of Freemasonry.
The Rite of Circumambulation is most ancient. It is the "Rite of purification" of him who is about to be initiated. The direction taken is to comply with the ancient saying: "if you would do reverence to the gods, you must turn on the right hand." Masonically, there is additional significance: the "right is the stronger side of man"; it symbolizes the psychical side of his nature, also Universal Law - Jachin. Thus in reverencing the gods, the right hand and the right side are kept toward the altar. This custom in turn has its origin in ancient Solar Worship, and exemplifies: "As the sun in his course moves round the world by way of the south, so do I follow that luminary, to obtain the benefit arising from a journey round the earth by way of the south."
Rabbinical commentaries on the Scripture quoted (Ecclesiastes 12: 1-7) during the perambulation are of interest to all Masons. A literal translation from the Hebrew by Isaac Leeser better lends itself to this explanation; it is therefore quoted in full: "But remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youthful vigour, while the evil days are not yet come, nor those years draw nigh of which thou wilt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars are not yet darkened, and the clouds not return again after the rain. On the day when the watchmen of the house will tremble, and the men of might will bend themselves, and the grinders stand idle because they are become few, and those be darkened that look through the windows. And when the two doors on the streets will be locked, while the sound of the mill becometh dull, and man riseth up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low. Also when men will be afraid of every elevation, and are terrified on every way, and the almond tree will flourish and the locust will drag itself slowly along, and the desire will gainsay compli ance. Because ma n goeth to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. While the silver cord is not yet torn loose, and the golden bowl is not crushed, and the pitcher is not broken at the fountain, and the wheel is not crushed at the cistern. When the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."
"Remember thy Creator" turn to God in thy "youthful vigour" before the calamities enumerated overtake thee - "while the evil days are not yet come." Wait not until those years "draw nigh" when, having no more pleasure in life, one waits for but death; when failing sight makes all the luminaries of heaven appear "darkened." The "watchman who tremble" are likened to the shaking hands of an old man, the "men of might who bend themselves," the legs weakened by age. The "grinders," the teeth, and those "who loo k through the windows," the dimming eyes. The "two doors" are the lips; the "mill" by some is interpreted to be the mouth, but Rashi attributes the reference to the stomach. "And man riseth up at the voice of the bird" - the voice of the old man rises to shrillness like the voice of a bird. The "daughters of song," Rashi interprets to mean "when the song of the singers appears dull in the ears." Philippson prefers: "when the several notes become unintel ligible." "Afraid of every elevation, and terrified on every way" - the terrors and forebodings of the aged. "And the almond tree will flourish - "will blossom" man's head will turn white like the almond tree covered with blossoms. "The Locust" is emblematic of the ease with which the strong man labours; whereas in age activity becomes less and less, as though the locust, otherwise so nimble, had to drag its light weight as a burden. By some Hebrew scholars the "loosening of the silver cord, crushing of the bowl etc." is a description of the general disso lution of the body. Others suppose the silver cord to be the spinal marrow. The latter has support in occult teaching, where the "silver cord" is described as the connection between the spiritual and material bodies which is severed at death.
It was discovered the "approach" of the Entered Apprentice was material. The "approach" of the Fellow-craft, being psychical, was necessarily different. Herein it is reiterated that the spiritual combines the other two, for the "approach" of the Master Mason includes them both. Likewise does that "due form" in this degree partake of elements of the previous degrees. A study herein of the obligation would be Masonically improper. However, it pertains strictly to those duties assumed toward the Order, and because of them, to a brother.
"What is the length of a cable-tow?" The answer to the oft-voiced query is contained in the remarks of the Master. The cable-tow is symbolic of the ties to the Fraternity. How "far" the individual Mason is "bound" by his obligation (beyond the recognized minimum) rest solely WITH HIS OWN CONSCIENCE; that alone is the determining factor of its length. Some cable-tows will scarcely reach out of the Lodge room; some, belonging to those Masons truly imbued with brotherly love, seemingly reach around the worl d. Attention is directed to the "three Great Lights" and the "representatives" of the "three Lesser Lights." These latter are the "Sun, Moon, and Worshipful Master, * * * and are thus explained: as the Sun rules the day and the Moon governs the night, so should the Worshipful Master rule and govern his Lodge with equal regularity and justice." This is an extremely poor analogy. The only thing "regular" about the Sun and Moon is their "irregularity," for they rise and set at a different time each day. Neither do they, in the sense used here, "rule" or "govern" with "justice." "For He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." The three Lesser Lights are a group of symbols of two distinct meanings. In the ritual, however, these two meanings are confusingly combined into one explanation which lends itself to misinterpretation. The error is caused by comparing the Worshipful Master to the Sun and Moon.
Pythagoras was previously quoted as saying: "God formed two things in his own image; first the universe itself, and second man." We conceive of a macrocosm and a microcosm. The underlying idea is a "Great Lodge" - the Universe, and a "Lesser Lodge" - the human institution.
The Lesser Lights are the Master, Senior and Junior Wardens. This is clearly exemplified in the English Lodge, where one light is placed at each officer's station, rather than grouping them as in most American Lodges.
The Candidate is informed that three inanimate objects, giving no material light, are the "Great Lights." Reference is made to "representatives" of the Lesser Lights, but there are no "representatives" of the Great Lights. These are categorically stated to be the "Holy Bible, Square and Compasses." The search for light is a search for knowledge. It is not light but enLIGHTenment that is desired. This great illumination that the Candidate may obtain by aid of "representatives of the three Lesser Lights" (the Master and Wardens) is that ENLIGHTENMENT to which these three officers may assist him, when they themselves are informed in Masonry.
Of the two meanings which have been combined, the deeper spiritual lesson intends to teach of the unity of the universe and God. In the "Great Lodge," the universe, the Lesser Lights are the Sun, Moon and Stars. By their aid we are enabled to behold the "Three Great Lights of the Universe." With the physical eye we behold the earth. In the seeing thereof we view God manifested, as He, the Great Light, materialized Himself in the world by means of the second Great Light, the "Word" or Universal Law. Thus , in viewing the world, we see also God and Law by which He created it, and actually behold the "THREE GREAT LIGHTS OF THE UNIVERSE."
In the second degree the Candidate is informed that certain symbology teaches that "ours is a progressive science." The progression continues in this degree, and he now observes a further change in these symbols. Accepting the material explanation, AND PROVIDED that was "but partial light," he has every right to assume that he has now received ALL the light, but is informed that such is not the case. He has received ONLY SUCH LIGHT as can be conferred IN A LODGE.
In seeking the spiritual explanation illustrated by the square and compasses, the latter, emblematic of the spiritual, are observed elevated above the square, (typical of the material), which now serves only as a background for the spiritual. The true significance of the changing positions of these two Great Lights is thereby revealed. First the square dominated the compasses, progress was made, and they were next seen to be intertwined. Finally in the great exposition of the spiritual the compasses have c ome to the fore, they now predominate. Thus is symbolized "THE SUBJUGATION OF THE HUMAN THAT IS IN MAN BY THE DIVINE."
By the process of deductive reasoning it is evident that the position of the square and compasses, as now viewed, is not the logical conclusion of their progression, and that "something" is missing. Lost, in the sense that it has not yet been found. This reasoning is correct. There is another position of the square and compasses, but it will not be found on the altar. It is on the floor of the Lodge. At some time in the past the blazing star was shorn of one of its points and changed into a five-pointed star. Apparently some ritualists, not familiar with the ancient significance of the six-pointed star, associated it with the "five points of fellowship" (with which it has no connection) and decided it should have five points. In my own studies I have failed to discover a place in Masonic Symbology for a five-pointed star, and while some few authorities place it among the Masonic symbols, by so doing t hey deny its Masonic implication, for in its use they attribute a Christian reference, which immediately detracts from both the antiquity and universality of Freemasonry.
The compasses are always open to sixty degrees, and if a cross piece be placed from one to the same distance from the apex, on the other, an equilateral triangle is formed. All that can be produced by the same procedure with the square is a right-angle triangle, which is the symbol of the complete man.
Envisage the square on a quadrant. If it is progressed thirty degrees (which is one twelfth of a circle and a complete sign of the zodiac) to sixty degrees, then joined by a cross piece, an equilateral triangle is formed. The ancient symbol of Deity is an equilateral triangle with an angle pointing downward toward His creation. The perfect man is symbolized by an equilateral triangle with an angle pointing upward toward his Creator. Here is the SYMBOL of man, "in the image and likeness" of the SYMBOL of his Creator. When these two triangles are intertwined they form a six-pointed star, the shield of David, or seal of Solomon, as it is likewise known, which for ages has been the Grand Symbol of the perfect union of the Supreme Being with the Divine Man.
This is logically depicted by the blazing star in the centre of the floor. It is properly placed in the floor rather than on the altar, for the Candidate, having assumed all his obligations, will not again kneel at the altar.
In ancient times the Hebrew Priest appeared before the congregation with the tallith (praying shawl) over his head, which he held uplifted from his face with both raised hands. His index fingers touched each other and the thumbs, extended below, likewise touched each other, thereby forming a triangle. The fingers of each hand divided into two by two, forming the Hebrew letter "Shin," initial letter of "Shaddai, meaning "hovering over"; and carrying the inference that it was "Divine Presence" which was "ho vering over." In this manner the Priest uttered the "three-fold benediction," repeating three times:
"May the Lord bless thee and keep thee. May the Lord let His countenance shine Upon thee and be gracious unto thee. May the Lord lift up His countenance Upon thee and give thee peace."
This beautiful benediction suffers through translation; the English word "peace" does not convey the fullness of meaning of the Hebrew word "Shalom," which means "completeness of being."
A certain sign is given the candidate, who is told to what it alludes. This explanation is entirely consistent with the meanings attributed to signs given him on two former occasions, under similar circumstances. However, in addition to the "rational explanation" given, the other two signs, as has been recounted, had definitely more recondite applications. The sign in question can have no other interpretation, IF IT IS CORRECTLY GIVEN in the ritual. Further it is inconsistent with a statement made later , when a certain word is declared lost, and it is inferred the sign likewise is lost. Later in the ceremony it is stated that in a certain manner both the substitute word and sign would be indicated. Subsequently the allegory narrates that the hands were placed in a described position, and offers a logical and quite natural reason for such a position being assumed. This then should logically be the sign, having a double "rational" meaning, a nd susceptible of an esoteric explanation as well. It is the wr iter's understanding that the G.H.S., as used in most American jurisdictions, is unknown in English Masonry where the sign lust discussed answers the purpose.
It is highly possible that long usage and carelessness on the part of those using these signs throughout the centuries have corrupted them. Originally both signs were probably one, that is the hands were held in the same relationship to each other, but in the two different positions related to the body. They obviously bore some relationship (which the informed Mason will immediately discern) to the manner in which the Hebrew Priest conferred the benediction. Assuming a connection exists, what symbolism i s conveyed by the position? The triangle, formed by the thumbs and fingers, symbolizes the spiritual. The letter "Shin," formed by the fingers, typifies "Divine Presence hovering over." The position of the hands has immemorially been associated with the three-fold benediction, bespeaking "completeness of being." Therefore we have "illustrated by symbols" the TRUTH that the SPIRITUAL is COMPLETENESS OF BEING, which is attained through recognition of Divine Pres ence which is constantly hovering over.
Further evidence of the spirituality of this degree is amply at hand. The Biblical character Tubalcain is mentioned, but in some rituals proper emphasis on the esoteric meaning of this name is lacking. Therein it is merely stated that he was a "brother of Jubal, the eighth man from Adam, and the first known artificer in metals." The Bible, however, is more specific. Genesis 4:22. "And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron." This may seem to raise a sharp distinction but, if we are to understand the meaning of ancient symbols, sharp distinctions must be the rule rather than the exception. It is not sufficiently enlightening to know he worked "in metals," the specific metals must be known. Later on is discussed the meaning of Hiram Abiff as "cunning in all works of brass." The exact symbology applies in this instance in addition to which we are informed Tubalcain was likewise proficient in iron.
The reference to iron is better understood by referring to The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, by Max Heindel. - "Iron is in reality the basis of separate existence. Without iron the red, heat-giving blood would be an impossibility, and the Ego could have no hold in the body. When red blood developed - in the latter part of the Lemurian Epoch - the body became upright and the time had come when the Ego could begin to dwell within the body and control it." Hence it is apparent that "iron" symbolizes the phys ical.
That Tubalcain was an "instructor" of every artificer implies greater skill and knowledge than that of a mere artificer." Recognizing this emphatic distinction, we discern that Tubalcain was a highly skilled worker on both the spiritual and the material plane, CAPABLE OF INSTRUCTING OTHERS. The lofty aim of the Master Mason is to attain like proficiency, hence Tubalcain may well be held up as a fitting reminder to the Master Mason of his own goal.
The manner of wearing the apron in the preceding degrees is recapitulated. A certain manner is both described and demonstrated, and the Candidate is then informed that it is "obsolete" because of certain reasons, and that the apron should be worn as a Fellow-craft.
An apron folded diagonally not only DOES NOT FORM A SQUARE (as stated in several jurisdictions in America) but loses all resemblance thereto - it becomes a triangle. It is the emblem of the spiritual, and concurs in the symbology of the compasses elevated above the square. For the sake of consistency, in view of the fact that the apron and the square and compasses have repeated the same progressing symbology thus far, it may be asked if a further change in the apron is indicated. It is impossible to fold an apron, evenly, into an equilateral triangle; it therefore will not change to concur with the symbology of the six-pointed star. The apron is worn by the evolving man, up to and including his attainment of "completeness." But the apron is a material thing, regardless of what it may symbolize; obviously it cannot be worn by the perfected man, who is a spiritual being, hence logically the progression of the apron ceases.
The working tools of a Master Mason are "all the implements of Masonry indiscriminately, ESPECIALLY THE TROWEL." A survey of "All the implements" reveals but six. This is inconsistent with the numerology of the Lodge. It is symbolically necessary they total seven, and if the setting-maul is included the total is seven. Masonically it is regarded as an instrument of violent death. For that reason it possibly was removed from the working tools by some early ritualists who did not realize its symbolical si gnificance. It should be reinstated for the same logical reasons which suggest it was originally included. Anyone who has watched a brickmason at work has noticed how he uses the handle of his trowel to tap the brick into proper position. A stone-mason performs the same task with a setting maul, as a stone is too massive to respond to the taps of a trowel handle. Thus the setting-maul is an essential tool of the operative mason.
The tools of the Apprentice are preparatory tools; those of the Fellow-craft, strictly speaking, are not "tools." They are "instruments" with which to measure, to bring into manifestation in the material building those concepts, formed in the mind of the architect, of "plumb" uprights, "level" footings and "square" joinings. Again it is repeated and emphasized that the spiritual encompasses the other two planes of existence; they are necessary to it, yet it extends away and beyond the material and psychica l, for in addition to employing the "tools" of the other planes it has "tools" peculiar to its own plane. True "brotherly love" is a spiritual attribute, and it is only the trowel which can spread the "cement of brotherly love and affection."
The other implements of Masonry are all right angles, horizontals, and perpendiculars. The trowel cannot be so described, for its point forms an acute angle. While operative trowels are varied in shape to adapt them to different purposes, the symbolic trowel of Masonry should be made with an angle of sixty degrees, wherein is discovered an equilateral triangle. Thus it is discovered the "working tool" peculiar to the Master Mason is the emblem of the spiritual. This is to demonstrate that, as an "oversee r of the work, he must be proficient in the use of all the implements indiscriminately," else he could not supervise others; but he must progress beyond the ability of those under his direction. He must also, and ESPECIALLY , work spiritually. The symbology of the trowel points to further evidence favouring the inclusion of the setting-maul. With its rounded base and sides tapering up to the handle, it discloses sixty degree angles and, coinciding with the trowel, diverges from those tools described as right-angles, horizontals and perpendiculars. Ready at hand, too, is an ethical lesson. A setting-maul is an instrument made use of by operative masons to coerce the unwieldy stone into its proper position in the building; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of impelling ourselves into our proper positions in that building of which we are to form a part. A more recondite exposition is seen in the Constructive and Destructive actions of Universal Law. In the hands of the ignorant and unskilled workman it becomes an instrumen t of death and destruction, but in the hands of the enlightened and skilful craftsman it becomes a Constructive instrument with which the recalcitrant stone is forced into its proper position.
The proficiency examination of this degree is practically a recapitulation of the ceremony of initiation, and only two questions and answers shed any further light on the esoteric doctrine. Of all the material creation man alone can declare "I AM." But those words are far more than a declaration of a material fact. To so declare is recognition of consciousness - a statement of recognized individuality. AN AFFIRMATION OF DIVINITY - for ONLY God, and man, made in His image, can declare "I AM." Not in the m ere statement, but rather in the complete realization of its implications, is the power we seek, for it is an affirmation of immortality. There is more than one kind of foreign country. To reach those shown on the map, one must transport the physical body, but those foreign countries of the mental realm may be instantaneously reached by the mind. Those foreign countries are fields of thought "foreign" to our present mode of thinking, and when we travel in them we receive Master's wages in the bountiful rewards such thinking brings into our lives. The entire object of Freemasonry is to inculcate such thinking, for when followed to its logic al conclusion it is discovered that FREEMASONRY IS NOT A LODGE, NOT A RITUAL, BUT A PLAN FOR THE LIVING OF A LIFE.
- 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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