by George H. Steinmetz
"There is no special law for anybody, but anybody can specialize the law by using it with a fuller understanding of how much can be got out of it."
The third section of the first degree treats of a Lodge, its Form, Supports, Covering, Furniture, Ornaments, Lights and jewels: How situated and to whom dedicated." These are the introductory words of the Lecturer to the Candidate, following the explanation of the rite of initiation whereby he has just been inducted into the Lodge. As this lecture is usually printed in full in manuals of almost all jurisdictions the writer considers that fact sufficient criterion for him to quote as freely there from as seems desirable.
"A Lodge is a certain number of Freemasons, duly assembled, with the Holy Bible, Square and Compasses, and a Charter from a Grand Lodge authorizing them to meet and work."
To "meet and work" means to assemble and "OPERATE" in Masonry. But as we are informed that the Holy Bible is the "Great Light" of Masonry and is given us "as the rule and guide of our faith and practice," it is apparent that it is a necessity in any regular lodge. The "Square and Compasses" are emblematic of the dominion of the spiritual over the material, the achievement of which is the only true purpose of "meeting and working." While comparatively of modern origin, the "Charter from a Grand Lodge" is essential for the "material" subordinate Lodge to operate "LAWFULLY." A Lodge can be formed without a charter from a Grand Lodge, but it would be clandestine and not "recognized" by "regular Masons," and it will not prosper because it operates "illegally." From this we learn a lesson in the spiritual operation of Universal Law. Just as a "clandestine lodge" can be formed, having all the outward appearances of a "regular Lodge," so certain spiritual and psychic forces may be invoked, having the appearance of the genuine, but not being in conformity with the Constructive Principle in nature, will react to the detriment of the individual. One need but turn to some of the more recent findings of modern psychology to verify this lesson.
"The form of a Lodge is * * * from east to west, between north and south, from the centre to the circumference, and from earth to heaven." This is "said to denote the universality of Freemasonry and that a Freemason's charity should know no bounds." This is only the "rational explanation." This description of a Lodge is not that of the material Lodge but of the Universe itself. It extends from east to west, from north to south, from the centre to the circumference and from earth to heaven. Figuratively, it extends from "earth to heaven." Scientifically, it extends or encompasses earth (material) and heaven (spiritual).
The spiritual man is a member of this "Lodge , meeting and working in that Great Lodge, the Universe. There he is to practice "those great moral virtues" which are inculcated in the (material) Lodge, and which will assist the Great Architect in the building of "that Temple" which He has planned and over which He presides as Master.
"The supports of a Lodge are three, denominated, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty; because there should be Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support and Beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings." This allegory, like many another, has two distinct meanings which may be more readily appreciated in the statement of Pythagoras that "God made two things in His image - the Universe itself, and man." It is a mathematical axiom "that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other." If both the Universe and Man are made in the image of God, Man is also in the image of the Universe; he is the Universe in miniature.
As symbolical of the Universe, these three columns represent the Wisdom of Universal Mind, the Strength of that Great Power, and the resultant Beauty and harmony which Infinite Wisdom, working through Infinite Power, has produced. As emblematic of man, we find the three sides of the triangle: the Wisdom of the psychical, supported by the Strength of the physical, resulting in the Beauty of the spiritual. Again in a different form, under different allegorical treatment, we are taught the same lesson of Masonry: Man is triune, and no man is perfect, nor can he attain to perfection without giving due consideration to each plane of being; all three must be blended in the perfect harmony, which is the Perfect Man.
"The covering of a Lodge is no less than the clouded canopy or star-decked heavens * * *" The "heavens" typifies the spiritual as "above the material" and is so used here. "Heaven" is not a place but a state of being. "We hope to at last arrive by the aid of that theological ladder which Jacob, in his vision, saw extending from earth to heaven * * *" The statement that this ladder had "three principal rounds" is not in conformity with ancient teaching, which attributes seven rounds to the ladder. The explanation of the seven rounds is occult and, as the lecture refers to three rounds, our explanation will attempt to cover the lecture rather than raise the question as to the correctness of its statements. If the reader will refer to page 120 where the "seven liberal arts and sciences" are discussed, further light on the "seven" is revealed, and it is directly in connection with these rounds of the ladder, although the ritual does not call attention to the connection.
That theological ladder which Jacob saw in his vision had "three principal rounds which are denominated Faith, Hope and Charity; which admonishes us to have Faith in God, Hope in Immortality and Charity to all mankind." "The greatest of these is Charity; for Faith may be lost in sight; Hope end in fruition; but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity." It is no coincidence that it is possible to substitute for "Faith, Hope and Charity," IN THE SAME SEQUENCE: Physical, Psychical and Spiritual. This passage will then read: "THE GREATEST OF THESE IS SPIRITUAL; for the Physical may be lost in sight (death of the body); the Psychical end in fruition (the intellect may perceive the ultimate and have no more to learn); but the SPIRITUAL EXTENDS BEYOND THE GRAVE, through the boundless realms of eternity." Thus the means of attaining "heaven" or perfection is pointed out to us. Again, the candidate bas been told of man's trinity of being, and another symbol is made use of to light the way.
"The ornaments of a Lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel and the Blazing Star. The Mosaic Pavement is emblematic of human life, checkered with good and evil." That is the least that it typifies. Its real purpose is to furnish an insight into the working of the Great Universal Law of compensation. It is a repeated reminder that there is "darkness)) as well as "light," an "ebb tide" as well as "flow." It also contains a more subtle lesson. The "Mosaic Pavement" of Solomon's Temple was the floor across which the ancient Jew walked toward the Holy of Holies; thus, to arrive at that sacred place he must use the black squares as well as the white to walk upon. He learned that, as he progressed through life toward perfection, he should profit from the so-called "evil experiences," the ills and misfortunes, encountered along the way, equally with the "good." From this the ancient Jew was to formulate that philosophy which grew to be the dominant factor in his life, and which no doubt is largely responsible for his preservation to this day. He discovered that, while one may not be able to change conditions and has little control over them, he can control HIS OWN ATTITUDE TOWARD THOSE CONDITIONS. He might not be able to escape stepping upon the black squares in the pavement, but he could use them as stepping stones to further his progress toward his desired goal!
Mackey gives a lengthy description in his Masonic Encyclopedia of the Indented Tessel, recites the varied names by which it has been called and supplies an exoteric explanation of its symbology. He neither gives, nor does he infer, any esoteric significance. The writer has been unable to discover any ancient symbology with which it may be connected. Pike disposes of it as having no symbolical meaning, "and if any is attached to it, it is fanciful and arbitrary."
The "Blazing Star" consists of two equilateral triangles - the shield of David, also sometimes known as the Seal of Solomon. The equilateral triangle with an apex pointing downward is emblematical of the Creator, the apex pointing toward the Universe, the Created. The equilateral triangle with an apex pointing upward is the symbol of the perfect man, made in His image, the apex pointing to God, the Creator. When intertwined as a six-pointed star they form a SINGLE FIGURE, symbol of the final unity of God and the perfect Divine Man. This is the symbol of AT-ONE-MENT. Likewise it is the symbol of the Buddhist's Nirvana, the misunderstood and, therefore, much maligned "absorption into the Universal" of the individual. Here within the symbol itself is the refutation that this "absorption" is annihilation, as ineptly interpreted by the Western Religionist. Study the six-pointed star produced by combining these two triangles. Note carefully that thus intertwined they form a SINGLE figure, yet each retains i ts own identity and the outline is clearly discernible. The star is emblematic of the complete harmonic relation between the positive and receptive forces of nature. It depicts the "action and reaction" of Oriental religions. To the Mason it may well demonstrate the Perfect Ashlar, placed in "that proper position," in "that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
The "Rough Ashlar" is a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state. "The Perfect Ashlar" is a stone made ready by the hands of the workmen, to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow-craft. * * * By the Rough Ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the Perfect Ashlar of the state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavours, and the blessing of God."
The first thing that occurs to one in contemplating the Ashlars is the incorrect symbology in most of our modern Lodge rooms, where a Rough Ashlar and a Perfect Ashlar are exhibited, consisting of a rough stone and a polished stone. These stones are invariably oblong in shape. To carry out, properly, the intended symbology they should be perfect cubes.
"By the Rough Ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature." This statement is a direct contradiction to the claim made by the Apprentice in answer to the first question asked him in his proficiency examination. Therein he claimed his "state by nature" was "one favored of God, in Completeness of being," far from being "rude and imperfect." It is also at variance with Sacred Scripture, which informs us that man's ORIGINAL STATE "by nature" was PERFECT, prior to man's fall from that high estate as depicted in the story of the Garden of Eden. As encountered in our daily lives, man's state is admittedly "rude and imperfect." By erroneous thinking, man applies the Universal Destructive Principle and brings himself to a state which may be correctly so described.
It is a universal truth that the negative is but the absence of the positive, and man's present state is evidence of this fact. It is also illuminating proof of the creative power of mind. Man's tendency to think limitations, illness, war and poverty, has created for him the things he visualizes, in STRICT ACCORDANCE WITH LAW, and brought him to his PRESENT "rude and imperfect state."
The Perfect Ashlar is the same stone, "AFTER it has been made ready for the builder by the hands of the workmen." The meaning is thinly veiled in allegory. Apparently the design was not to make this lesson too difficult of discernment. The "workman" is the subjective mind, breaking off the "rough corners)l at the prompting of the objective mind, "the better to fit us for the builder's use." According to the quotation, three things are essential. First, acquire a "virtuous education"; second, it is "only by our own endeavours" and lastly, "by the blessing of God." Again the "Ask, Seek, and Knock" is evident. We alone must do the "educating." WE must do the "striving." We cannot expect Universal Law to DO FOR US that which, by its very nature, it can only DO THROUGH US. Only after we have done our part, and of our own volition have helped ourselves, may we expect the "blessing of God" - the working of Universal Law. IT MUST BE OF OUR OWN FREE WILL AND ACCORD!
"A Lodge is situated due East and West * * *. " Peoples who worshipped the Sun faced the East, where the physical light first appeared each morning. This is the "rational explanation" of the Master rising in the East. However, the esoteric significance of this custom has its origin in occult philosophy. This philosophy is of the Great Masters of India, who are said to have first discerned and promulgated it. It teaches the essential truth of man's being, and this knowledge of the East travelled westward with man's migration to the West. Therefore the ancients "looked to the East" as the source of INTELLECTUAL and SPIRITUAL LIGHT, just as we look to the East or to the Master of the Lodge for Masonic enLIGHTenment. In passing, the writer cannot resist the opportunity to remark what glorious progress Freemasonry could enjoy if the Masters of our Lodges understood Masonic symbology, and fitted themselves to be IN FACT one of the "lesser lights" of the Lodge over which each presides. The Craft might not the n look to them in vain for enlightenment.
"Freemasons of the present day dedicate theirs [Lodges] to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the two eminent patrons of Masonry; and since their time there is represented in every regular and well governed Lodge a certain point within a circle embordered by two perpendicular lines, representing these two saints; and upon the vertex of the circle rests the Holy Bible. The point represents the individual brother; the circle the boundary line of his duty, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, prejudices, or interests to betray him. In going around this circle we necessarily touch upon these two lines, as well as upon the Holy Bible; and while a Freemason keeps himself circumscribed within their precepts, it is impossible that he should materially err."
The point within a circle is an ancient Egyptian sign for the sun and Osiris. It originally had no connection with the two perpendicular lines, and most certainly not with the Holy Bible upon the vertex. Neither was the point in anyway connected with an "individual." On some ancient monuments a point within a circle is shown between two upright serpents, which were at times conventionalized into two straight lines; however, the ascribing of these lines to the Saints John is too far-fetched to be tenable. The sign is astrological; possibly the three points which are encountered in "going around the circle" have reference to the three positions of the sun described in the opening of a Lodge by the three principal officers. This is purely speculation on the part of the writer and I have no data to substantiate it.
Pike, commenting upon the symbology in Morals and Dogma, states: "It is said by some, with a nearer approach to interpretation, that the point within the circle represents God in the centre of the Universe. * * * In the Kaballah the point is Yod, the creative energy, of God, irradiating with light the circular space which God, the universal light, left vacant, wherein to create the worlds, by withdrawing His substance of light back on all sides from one point."
As the point is interpreted in some instances to represent Deity in the midst of His Universe, so may it symbolize His "image and likeness," man, in the centre of his universe, the vast expanse of which is the only "boundary" or "limitation" placed upon him. From this man may learn that the possibilities of human evolution are as boundless as infinity, the Universe itself. If we must account for the two parallel lines on either side of the circle, let them remind us that man's evolution must be between th e two columns, Boaz and Jachin. This evolution, this progress, must be of PERSONAL CHOICE and it must conform to UNIVERSAL LAW.
This explanation purposely excludes the Holy Bible and the Saints John, separating them from a symbolism of which they have no part. The original introduction of the Saints John into Masonic symbology was astrological. Exactly how interpreted and how used has been obscured by time, lack of written records and ignorance of astrology on the part of those who have handed down the symbology. St. John's Day, celebrated December 27th, is near the winter solstice (December 22nd). Undoubtedly this has some connection with the material phenomenon of the sun at the furthermost southern point, and the shortest day of the year.
A peculiar feature of Saint John's the Baptist Day is that it is claimed to be his actual birthday. Usually the "Saint's Day" of other saints is the day of their death, looked upon as the "day of birth" into a better life. It is most unlikely that any evidence exists for this date, and it appears as arbitrary. Such being the case, it cannot be termed coincidence that it is named as June 24th, or within two days of the summer solstice June 22nd. Attention is also directed to the fact that from that date ( in the northern hemisphere) the length of the day decreases. In John 3:30, John the Baptist is quoted as saying: "He must increase but I must decrease." Again the reader is reminded of the three positions of the sun described by the officers of the Lodge in the opening ceremonies. If taken in conjunction with the four (apparent) orbital positions of the sun a vast field of speculation is opened up. This, however, is beyond the province of the present work, and must be left to such further thought as the reader cares to devote to it.
Prior to the sixteenth century Saint John the Baptist was the only patron saint of Freemasonry, Saint John the Evangelist being introduced subsequent to that time. Dr. Dalcho says: "The stern integrity of Saint John the Baptist, which induced him to forego every minor consideration in discharging the obligations he owed to God; the unshaken firmness with which he met martyrdom rather than betray his duty to his Master; his steady reproval of vice, and continued preaching of repentance; and virtue, make him a fit patron of the Masonic institution." Mackey says of Saint John the Evangelist: "His constant admonition, in his epistles, to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical nature of his Apocalyptic visions, have been, perhaps, the principal reasons for the veneration paid him by the craft."
The closing paragraphs of this lecture: "Mother Earth alone of all the elements having never proved unfriendly to man," deals with the material man and material conditions. It is appropriate that in the lecture of the MATERIAL DEGREE of Freemasonry the MOST MATERIAL OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS is stressed. The earth is spoken of as the "kindly provider" and "sustainer" and finally, "when at last he is called to pass through the 'dark valley of the shadow of death,' she once more receives him, and piously covers his remains within her bosom. This admonishes us that from Earth we came, and to Earth we must shortly return."
This is a dissonant note, contributed by some "inexpert player" in the great orchestra which is Masonic Philosophy. It is entirely out of harmony with the profound teaching of the Mysteries, the true parent of Freemasonry. The Mysteries and, correctly interpreted, Freemasonry, teach the candidate concerning the physical and material, not with the view of impressing upon him "that from Earth he came and to Earth he must shortly return." The object in teaching him of the material is that he shall make his body into a fitting habitation for the soul, that the material may serve as a solid foundation for his psychical and spiritual development.
According to the teaching of the Mysteries, insofar as we know them, physical death was but an incident in man's experience, no more important than any other physical incident. Alan's present attitude toward death is but further evidence of how far he has shayed bona the truth regarding himself. The Mysteries' only interest in death of the physical body was to teach man that it was inevitable, and NOT TO BE FEARED. The profound lesson of the Mysteries was how man might live his IMMORTAL LIFE, of which this life IS A DEFINITE PART, in conformity with the Constructive Principle OF HIS OWN BEING.