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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 5 - The Secret Doctrine
"FREEMASONRY is a beautiful system of morals veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Its tenets are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Its Cardinal Virtues are TEMPERANCE, FORTITUDE, PRUDENCE, and JUSTICE.
"Its religion, if religion it may be called, is an unfeigned belief in the one living and true GOD."
- Masonic Manual of Missouri
IN ADDITION to the definition of Freemasonry on the opposite page we repeat Pike's definition: "Freemasonry is the subjugation of the human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the appetites and the passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle, and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory, when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear his well-earned laurels, is the true HOLY EMPIRE."
These two definitions of Freemasonry are apparently similar, yet there is a difference. The latter informs us what Freemasonry is, and to a limited extent advises how to become a Master Mason through "the conquest of the appetites and the passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason." However, it contains thoughts different from those in the former definition and is more definite as to the "morals."
The definition from the Blue Lodge Manual very distinctly states that "this system of morals" is "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." This statement will bear further investigation. If it is correct, it may be assumed there is something underlying the explanations given in the various lectures of the degrees. "Something" which is "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." This can be considered as an instruction where to look for further meaning. It is obvious that the "veil" must be pa rted and the hidden meaning of the "allegory" discovered. It is equally obvious that the usually accepted meaning of the symbols is not enough for our purpose, for then their meaning would be immediately apparent and such is not the case. This "system" which they "illustrate" then must be "illustrated" by a more recondite interpretation of their meaning than is apparent on the surface to the casual observer.
Analysis of the actual words in the quotation reveal a subtle significance not ordinarily attributed to them. MORALS - The common use is: "discrimination between right and wrong, chaste, just, ethical." This word of Latin origin literally means "custom," but a shaded meaning states: "verified by reason, logic or probability."
ALLEGORY - "Description of one thing under the image of another. A narrative in which a teaching is conveyed symbolically. Presents a truth under the guise of fictitious narrative or description."
SYMBOL - "Something that stands for, represents, or recalls something else, not by exact resemblance, but by suggestion or associations in thought; especially an object that represents something abstract, as an idea, quality or condition."
If the definition of Freemasonry is reconstructed in the light of the words used in the previous definition it will read: "Freemasonry is a beautiful system of customs, or method of living, which, if followed, results in one's discriminating between right and wrong, being chaste, just and ethical. This custom is verified by reason and logic. However, it presents a truth under the guise of fictitious narrative, and is in reality describing one thing under the image of another, using actual objects to repre sent abstract ideas - "NOT BY EXACT RESEMBLANCE - BUT BY SUGGESTIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS IN THOUGHT!" There is the answer. The symbols are not used in the commonly accepted meaning. It is "NOT BY EXACT RESEMBLANCE"; there IS a more recondite interpretation, as we suspected; it is one of "SUGGESTIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS IN THOUGHT.))
There is a SECRET DOCTRINE in Freemasonry. That secret doctrine is concealed, rather than revealed, by the very lectures which, we are told, offer a "rational explanation" of the ceremonies of initiation. If we were to accept these "rational explanations" as final, and seek no further, Freemasonry would be a farce. We should find ourselves on a "dead-end" street from which it would be impossible to make any progress.
Here it is necessary to digress that we may lay the foundation for our super-structure (as any Operative Mason would do) by inquiring into some of the actual history of Freemasonry, to discover its beginning and evolution.
Historically, we trace Freemasonry to a number of Operative Lodges in England. Extant records indicate that in the year 1717 four lodges in London established themselves under the denomination of a Grand Lodge which they constituted at that time. One of the oldest documents containing a written record of Operative Masonry is the Regius or Halliwell MS., circa 1390.
Many books have been written proposing various theories as to the origin of Freemasonry. The generally accepted theory is that our present lodges are the outgrowth of the Operative Lodges, or Guilds, of the Middle Ages. There is no inclination to question the fact that our modern lodge AS AN ORGANIZATION, owes its origin to these Operative Lodges, but what of its esoteric teaching?
Are we to believe that these craftsmen of the medieval guilds, most of whom were actually illiterate, conceived an entire philosophy such as Freemasonry, and then, with consummate cunning, concealed it beneath a complicated system of symbolism and allegory? For the rank and file, the symbols were used, if at all, for ethical analogies, and they were as ignorant of the underlying meanings, as are most Freemasons of today. They but served the purpose of being the preservers of its mysteries. As the reincarn ating soul is said to choose the body and environment best suited for its growth and evolution, so may it be that these Operative Lodges were chosen to form the "body" for the spiritual teachings of the secret doctrine.
Let us investigate the term "free" as used in relation with "Mason." Some authorities advance the theory that in ancient times "bonds-men" could not join the Operative Guilds, hence a Mason was a "free man" and, perforce, a "Free Mason." Others attach significance to the word "free" in connection with the request for admission, it being of the applicant's "free" will and accord. Both theories find some support in the rituals of various Grand jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions the candidate recites his q ualifications, at the door of the lodge room, as being of "lawful age, FREE-BORN etc." Here is predicated the theory of being a "free" man. All ritual supports the theory of its being of the candidate's "FREE-WILL" and accord. Enough theories have been advanced to fill volumes on the specific subject. Herein it is not possible to even comment on all of them. One of the more interesting is cited for the benefit of the reader, as it also co ntains the thought of the antiquity of Masonry.
Robert Hewitt Brown writes: "Long before the building of the Temple of King Solomon, masons were known as 'sons of light.' Masonry was practised by the ancients under the name of Lux (light) or its equivalent, in various languages of antiquity. * * * We are informed by several distinguished writers that it (the word masonry) is a corruption of the Greek word 'MESOURANEO' which signifies 'I am in the midst of heaven,' alluding to the sun, which, 'being in the midst of heaven,' is the great source of light. Others derive it directly from the ancient Egyptian 'PHRE,' the sun, and 'MAS, a child: 'PHRE MASSEN'- the children of the sun, or Sons of Light."
Regardless of the origin of the modern lodge, or of the name "Freemasons" we can, after freeing the symbolism of modern adaptations, discern in Freemasonry the outline of the teachings of the ancient mysteries of Egypt. ONE SUPREME BEING - IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL - THE THREEFOLD COMPOSITION OF MAN, that is: body, soul, and spirit (more correctly expressed as physical, psychical, and spiritual). Three planes of being dealt with in three "grades" or levels of instruction.
Pythagoras said: "God formed two things in his own image: first the Universe itself, and second, man." The Bible informs: "and God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness." The ancients postulated the complete man as the triune man composed of body, soul, and spirit. He was symbolized by the right angle triangle. The horizontal represents the physical or material, the perpendicular represents the psychical or mental, and the hypotenuse the spiritual. (The complete man symbolized by the right angle triangle should not be confused with the perfect or spiritual man, whose emblem is the equilateral triangle.)
The purpose of the mysteries was to teach the candidate the secret of making of himself the perfect man. Symbolically, it is the secret of progressing the right angle triangle to an equilateral triangle. As no "whole" can be complete and perfect except its parts be complete and perfect, their instructions were divided into three parts, or grades. The first dealt with the physical, the second with the psychical, and the third with the spiritual.
The body is the vehicle of the mind and the spirit; and to make it a fit habitation for them the Mysteries began their instruction with the purely physical aspect of man and his material relation to the Universe. This teaching was that a strong and obedient body was requisite for the development of a strong mind and, mind being the instrument of spirit, a strong and well developed mind was essential to spiritual development. Theirs was a rigorous and dangerous initiation, and a strong body was indispensab le to the candidate if he were to survive the physical ordeals entailed by the actual initiation as well as the arduous studies necessary for his mental development. This occurred before he was even introduced to the spiritual. Also, it was necessary to understand the operation of material laws, for they subscribed to the ancient theory that the material laws are but the extension into the manifest universe of the spiritual laws. "As above, so below ."
The candidate was obliged to spend years, if necessary, in each of the grades preceding, before he was permitted to proceed in spiritual instruction. Under such a system it is obvious that it was highly essential to "make the necessary proficiency in the preceding (degrees) grades," before he could be admitted to the next higher.
If Freemasonry is the actual descendant or, if one prefers the term, reincarnation of the Mysteries, back of its "veil of allegory," then must be concealed a deeper truth than expounded in the various lectures of the degrees. Therefore, we should be able to discover a similarity in its degrees with these ancient grades. The first degree should concern itself with the physical or material; the second should deal with the psychical or mental; the third degree wholly with the spiritual. The ceremony of initi ation in each degree should reveal a more recondite teaching than that which appears on the surface. It should be discovered that its symbology and allegory is as useful to CONCEAL that teaching from those who do not seek it out as to REVEAL it to him who, "of his own free will and accord," earnestly and prayerfully attempts to pierce the veil of mystery.
If the symbols can be consistently interpreted in this manner, throughout the three degrees, we have confirmed Freemasonry to be the reincarnation of the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt; we have rediscovered some part of the ancient teaching and have removed the veil of allegory from the Great Truth of the Universe.
- 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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