A BRIEF SKETCH OF FREEMASONRY
AND THE SYMBOLS OF THE FIRST DEGREE
WBro Ernest H. Shackleton
"The Initiated must not be informed but they must receive
impressions, and they must be put into a certain attitude of mind, provided it
be evident that they are prepared for it."
"Though Athens brought forth numerous divine things, yet she
never carried on anything nobler than those sublime Mysteries through which we
have become gentler, and have advanced from a barbarous and rustic life to a
civilized one, so that we not only live more joyfully but also die with a better
"Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries;
but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good
things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom."
From HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
Brethren-It is with diffidence and humbleness that I read this paper to
you-by stringing together as pearls upon a thread or beads upon a rosary, many
things, said of our Ancient Fraternity, culled from many sources I hope that
this paper may help you to see, perhaps even more deeply than you have hitherto
done, the marvellous symbolism of our Ritual-for symbols are means of leaving
truths behind-to be found by those qualified to find-Truths which will live for
ages in the sands of Time.
It has been well said that we must despair of ever being able to reach the
fountain head of streams which have been running and increasing from the
beginning of time.
Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded
from our Order, provided he believes in the glorious Architect of Heaven and
Earth and practises the sacred duties of morality.
Freemasonry is definitely religious in its faith and in its spirit and
purpose, though not a religion or a church, but Lodge Meetings when proficiently
conducted are occasions when true worship is possible, forming as it does in its
secrets the keys to the problems of life and death.
The late Rt W.Bro. Sir Kynaston Studd said recently: It is the only religion
that many men know."
Freemasonry is an Order which has captured the thought and devotion of
multitudes of men. It has come down to us through the ages and binds men of
varied types, races and professions in all circles of life by the use of simple
symbols to enshrine and promulgate its great truths, which received with
sincerity and translated into daily practice are so invaluable in refining and
In these symbols lie concealed the real secrets of our Order, constituting as
they do a PICTURE LANGUAGE or ART SPEECH, made to carry a complete philisophy of
the existence and relation of Deity-Nature-and Man.
Many creeds have arisen, have had their day and have passed completely away
but Masonry remains as fresh as ever, built on the rock of truth.
"It is because to-day seeks wisdom from yesterday that it can transmit wisdom
Masonry is of remote antiquity, so it is, as may reasonably be imagined of
boudless extent. We trace its footsteps in the most distant, most remote ages,
and nations of the world.
We find it among the first and most celebrated civilizers of the East; we
deduce it regularly from the first Astronomers on the plains of Chaldea, to the
Wise and Mystic Kings and Priests of Egypt; the Sages of Greece and the
philosophers of Rome; even to the rude Gothic Builders of a dark and degenerate
age, whose vast Temples still remain amongst us as monuments of their attachment
to the Masonic Arts.
All words as spoken are built up from sounds, and in writing these sounds are
represented by Symbols called "letters," in the first ages of the world mutual
converse was upheld by a mixed discourse of words and actions (actions being
"Signs") and we can recall the Eastern phrase of the "Voice of the Sign."
The Wisdom of all the Ancients that is come to our hands is symbolic. The
Pigmy races of Western Africa have a sign of a Triangle with a Eye of the "One"
in its centre. They have a ceremony where the Initiate has cut on his black six
Triangles. In the Ceremony they have perambulations and a solemn promise to keep
the secrets of their rite and a sign similar to our E.A. The Aborigines of
Australia have the Triangular Sign cut on their Boomerangs. The earliest known
race of Mexico have these signs and they talk of the Seven Glorious Ones and the
"One," said to be represented by the eight corners of the Cube-seven make a
perfect Lodge and the Initiate.
The Art of Building-the formation of an effectual protection against weather
and enemies, is likely to have been the one line of skill first worked out by
any Aboriginal people and considered by them the most important-as knowledge
increased and early civilization grow-beauty and skilled work held this Art in
the foremost place. The first a physical necessity and the second a spiritual
Builders were looked upon as magicians and the discovery of the First Sq. was
a great step in geometry and all such ideas were regarded as divine revelations,
as indeed they were, it is not strange, therefore, that they became emblems of
Truth, of justice and uprightness-and so have remained to this day though
countless ages have passed.
Ages before our era, even from the remote times of the cliff dweller the
Cross seems to have been a Symbol of Life, the Circle, which ends not nor
begins-Eternity-an image of the disc of the Sun. With a point within its Centre
it became-as naturally-the emblem of the Eye of the World-that all seeing Eye of
the Eternal Watcher of the Human Scene.
In the oldest of the Brahmah beliefs the point is called "Purm" the "Inner
Essence," from which all emanates and around which all revolves.
All stones spoke to man in the sunrise of Time and a Cube was a venerated
symbol of Truth-being ever true to itself.
In a great many places in England stones-buried for centuries under the soil,
many feet down, have been unearthed with the marking of a Circle with a
Centre-they were in the rough shape of a Double Cube, the ground around them-was
hardened as by much perambulating round them and they are said to be symbols of
a religion whose basis was a system of Astrological theology-these are from the
East and on the coming of the Phoenicians there seems to have been an increase
in their use. Archeologists estimate that these stones must have been erected on
their sites at some time over 500 thousand years ago. They have been found in
Northumberland, in Cumberland and in the West Country.
So it is in our Grand Lodge to-day-a large effigy of the Sun in Splendour
over the Throne of the G. M.-the disc of the Life-giving Sun symbolising the
Sublime and Incomprehensible Infinite.
PILLARS-more eloquent still-reach up to the Heavens and speak of Strength and
Buildings from the remotest times have been found with Pillars at their
entrances-among the very old races of the Mayas and Incas there were three
Pillars placed at the entrances to their Temples-signifying Wisdom, Strength and
Beauty-built 11,500 years ago.
Amidst the ruins of Copan in Mexico is a Temple with three rooms and a
separate entrance to each the - first for Initiations, the second for Passings,
and the third for Raisings, built by a race of unknown people, yet these
buildings exhibit a knowledge of the sciences unsurpassed even to this day.
Pillars were erected to mark Holy Places-always they were signs of
"Stability" of what the Egyptians described as "The Place of Establishing for
Where the Ark rested on Mount Ararat, Noah erected a pillar to commemorate
his deliverance, and the wandering tribes after their migration from Sinai built
Pillars in imitation of this prototype in every country.
After the deliverance from Egypt, B. erected two Pillars on his estate, one
he called by his own name and the other J. after the son of Simeon - one of the
twelve tribes of Israel.
Even to this day the erection of Pillars to mark historical events persists,
for in 1943 a Pillar was built in Ireland to commemorate for all time the
landing of the first American troops on that shore.
It is to be noted that in the remotest ages the races - wherever they were
placed on the earth - all believed that the earth was a great flat Sq - that the
Heavens were a huge arc reaching to the edges of the Sq. and that the earth was
supported on Great Columns.
The purpose of evolution is to raise every human being to the sublime degree
of a Master.
Modern investigation of the world-religion shows us that these beliefs were
world-wide, and held by all the nations of antiquity before the Jewish nation
was built or Abraham had left the valley of the Euphrates.
Down the centuries we find enrolled the names of philosophic teachers who
veiled their doctrines in figures similar to those in use to-day and only by the
study of Eastern Mysticism and rituals can our symbolism be understood.
From the remotest times Initiates have gone forth from a world Fraternity or
Brotherhood as Ambassadors of an invisible world Government-of inspired teachers
-the ancient ones of the earth-ancient even in King Solomon's day-and they are
still amongst us-and Great Adepts of an Holy Empire beyond our comprehension.
During the wars of the Crusades the Crusaders were initiated-through the
Coptic Priests in Egypt (these Coptic Priests were the early native Christians
from Coptos (in lower Egypt the Copts are the "Scribes") into the Mysteries of
the "Children of the Widow" and the Cult of the G.A.O.T.U. which represented in
the Mysteries of the "Eternal."
Mysteries of India were celebrated in Temples carved out of solid rock-the
Temple of Elephanta is perhaps the most ancient in the world, 135 feet sq., 18
feet high. The first investiture of a C. is with the Zennar-or sacred cord-of
three threads-our C.T. of to-day. He was placed in the Centre of the Assembly-on
the E. was Brahma, on the W. Vishnu, and on the S. Shiva.
Oath administered, he was sprinkled with water-divested of his shoes, then
made to circumambulate the Temple three times-saying as he approached the E.-"I
copy the example of the Sun and follow his benevolent course." He took three S.s
at Right Angles. The Tau was marked on his forehead. He was entrusted with the
These ancient mysteries were the sources of moral life-the foundations of
Theology, Philosophy, Ethics and Science-in a word, the mother of civilisation-cherished
by the enlightened-illustrated in their mystic circle, growing and expanding,
and gaining influence and at length blending with the life of the people,
elevating the notion of man's relations with his fellow man. The rites of
Initiation were sacred dramas, extremely fascinating and intended to shadow
forth the profoundest mysteries of the Universe, of God, the Soul, and human
destiny and the progress of man toward the supreme perfection, whether in time
I rather tend to think that the lessons of all these most ancient Mysteries
teach that this Life is a definite part of that Immortal Life to which he, the
Candidate, hopes to attain by attention to the principles taught him by the
Masters and that by becoming one of the accepted he is on that path which will
ultimately lead him to that end.
So it is that the Sq., Triangle, the L. and the Rule, the Cross and Circle
are the oldest symbols of humanity - each pointing beyond itself - symbols
always do - showing us hints of the highest faith and philosophy and of the
unity of the human mind. These symbols are called "Constant Symbols" proper to
all races, all societies and to all countries.
Ruskin argues that the Laws of Architecture are Moral Laws - as applicable to
building of character as to construction of Cathedrals. He finds those laws to
be Sacrifice, Truth, Power, Beauty, Life, Memory and as the crowning grace of
all, that principle to which polity owes its stability, life its happiness,
Faith its acceptance and creation its continuance - OBEDIENCE. He holds there is
no such thing as Liberty and never can be - the stars have it not - the earth
has it not - the sea has it not - architecture and Life are governed by
So, Brethren, we find our Great Fraternity spread over the four corners of
the globe - searching for Moral Truth - illustrating its lessons by dramatic
ceremonial, allegory and symbols. Its members communicate by signs and tokens
which are passports to attention of the initiated in all parts of the world.
Our knowledge began in the E. and spread to the W. In the oldest Chinese
Classics - The Book of History 20th Century before Christ - we find these words:
"Ye Officers of the Government apply the Compasses," and in the Book of Changes
are many of our symbols handed down from an earlier people known as the Pandus,
these symbols were associated with Architecture - the Great Lodge of Adepts was
followed by the Vedas. The Primitive Indian Manu used characters of geometrical
Geometrical Symbols have been used for many centuries before Pythagoras and
his times by the oldest of the mystics and was almost a complete sign language
which was used to convey the great truths which are eternal. The Speculative
symbols - or Mystic symbols are of the most important and do light the path of
real understanding for those who are able to interpret them aright.
In Tibet has been discovered a system of Operative and Speculaive Masonry -
of which the Kings were the G.M.s. The Monarch Ruler's emblem was a Hammer -
which had to be returned on his death. The Deity was designated as the "First
Builder" and the Magistrates as "Level Men."
In Crete have been unearthed very ancient Minoan Temples devoted to the
Creton Mysteries. Three Columns figure in their construction and in the Temple
there are three thrones, situated in the E., S. and W. Clay figures have been
found and by their attitudes they can be recognised as making our signs, their
bowls have engraven on them the Sq. and Triangle and are about 4,000 years old.
In a work called the "Great Learning," five Centuries B.C., we find the
words: "A man be adjured to do not to others what he would not them do to him
and to act on the Sq."
In the writings of Mencius it is taught that "Men should apply the Sq. and
Comps. morally to their lives and the Level and Marking Line besides, if they
would walk in the straight and even paths of wisdom and keep themselves within
the bounds of honour and virtue."
Also a M.M. in teaching Apprentices, makes use of Sq. and Comps.
Behind Modern Masonry and all that has developed therefrom, lie the ancient
mysteries - they date from about 1400 B.C. and include:-
The Orphic, Bacchic, Dionysian, Ellusinian, Samothracian, Cabiric, and
They had three Degrees-
1st. Lustration or purification.
In the Ellusinian rites the C. at Initiation was called a "Child of the Moon"
and was told that a new life followed, this, his second Birth.
It would take too long to go fully into these Degrees as each has a history.
A period of seven years in each case, had to elapse between Initiation and
Perfection during which time a C. had to study to render himself a fit and
proper person for the higher Degree.
The Dionysian Artificers do, I believe, form a strong link with the Mediaeval
The earliest historic records of the E. give evidence of a faith expressed in
allegoric form and illustrated by the symbols of Building Tools. Secrets were
orally transmitted, the leaders only had full knowledge, they gathered in a
Temple in the desert, the Officers being distinguished by symbolic jewels and
they wore leather aprons.
Mecca has had for many generations a Masonic Society derived from the Koreish
- called Guardians of the Kaaba - the Koran has many old legends on which the
Society was founded. The words of the rituals were communicated orally and have
been passed down from one to the other in an unbroken chain from time
immemorial. In Mecca is the Temple of the Black Cube. The Priests in charge of
this Temple have a ritual of Initiation and their ceremony has much that is
similar to ours and they receive many thousands of pilgrims who come from all
parts of the world to gaze at this huge Black Polished perfect Cube - a symbol
of the "ONE" - absolute Truth - as they have it.
Dr. Newton in his book the "Builders," says that when Cleopatra's Needle was
taken down for removal all the emblems of the Builders were found in the
foundation. The rough cube, the polished cube in pure white lime-stone, the Sq.
cut in Syenite, an iron trowel, a lead plummet, the Arc of a circle, the Serpent
symbol of Wisdom and a Stone Trestle Board, a stone bearing the Masters Mark and
a heiroglyphic word meaning "Temple." All so placed and preserved as to show
they had a high symbolic meaning.
It is of interest to note that our Pillar on the Embankment is one of two
Pillars which stood as the entrance to PIT-UM-the City of the Setting Sun - one
was given to us in 1878 and the other to the U.S.A. in 1880 and is erected at
the Central Park, New York. They are about 4,000 years old.
In Africa there still exist the Kaverondo Blacksmiths, whom it is said,
possess the old Secrets - one of their Kings was named - the 1st Artificer in M.
In the Book of the Dead - a book of great antiquity are records of Building
Symbolism - of the Ritual of Birth - of Life and of Death and the further Heaven
to be ultimately reached after a perfect life and good conduct proved by many
trials and tests.
The signs are to be seen engraven on many buildings 6,000 years old found at
Thebes, Luxor, Abu Simbal and Carnac. In the dark recesses of the Great Pyramid
are to be seen our signs - the Sphinx holds in its colossal paws a lovely small
Temple, which has Masons marks indented on the solid walls, roof and monolithic
columns. There was discovered three pedestals about a double cube in size placed
in the E., S. and W., and it is recorded that on the top of the one in the E. is
engraven a Circle, on that in the S. a Triangle and on that in the W. a Sq. What
rites or ceremonies were worked here no one can know but it is certainly
significant that these particular symbols are so placed. There is nothing in the
The Druces of Mount Lebanon, who supplied the timber have to this day a
secret system of their own with signs familiar to us.
The Essenes appeared in Asia in the time of the Persian Empire. Their Order
was founded upon an Initiation where the C. had to be penniless and after one
year of preparation he was initiated and invested with an Apron. This Degree was
founded on three principles - firstly "Love of God," secondly - "Merciful
Justice to all Men," and thirdly "Purity of Character." One line of their ritual
says "O Brother, Sq. Thyself for use, a stone that may fit in the wall is not
left in the ways."
So the great gathering of Masons came to inhabit the Lebanon District and to
build the Great Temple of King Solomon. They did their work well and truly as we
The Old Charges state that 80,000 Masons were engaged in the work.
After the Building of the Temple the Masons travelled towards the West and
some authorities call them "Sons of Solomon," they used the interlaced Triangle
seal as their emblem, crossing Asia Minor they entered Europe by way of
Constantinople and thence through Greece to Rome. Here we find them bound
together in Corporations called Collegia. Their influence on the history of this
part of the world was far reaching. Throughout these lands beautiful buildings
grew and 'tis said their Lodges flourished.
They followed the Roman armies to remote places building Cities, Bridges and
Temples. On the death of any member of their Order his tomb was marked with a
Sq. Comps. and L. These small Tombstones are found in many places, even in the
heights of the Alps, the Northern snows of the Siberian Desert, and on the North
coast of Scandinavia.
The Comacine Masters, founded on the ruins of the Roman College of
Architects, were a little known group of Architects who worked on the Island of
Comacina, on Lake Como and who seem to have held rigidly to the old rules and
science, they spread to the West - they were Masons who, because they were
builders of a privileged class, were absolved from Taxes and Servitude, free to
travel about in times of feudal bondage. That is to say-they were
"Free-Builders." Free to fix their own prices, not bound by the many Statutes of
Wages and not tied to any Feudal Lord. One of their symbols was the Endless
"Cord of Eternity." In Scotland is to be found this Endless Cord which formed
part of the stone work of the Roof of Melrose Abbey which rather points to the
fact that some centuries ago some of these Masters came to Melrose and worked in
the building of the Abbey.
They built their Lodges in Northern Italy and over the door of each is found
engraven in the Stone the Compasses.
They were Masters - not mere workmen - but working Architects capable of
planning and executing the most difficult and ornate portions of work.
Throughout the Middle Ages they wandered over Europe building Castles,
Monastries, Palaces and Cathedrals. Holding permanent Lodges at their quarries
and forming temporary Lodges at the site of the building.
Let us imagine the Company, Brethren, a band of builders bound together by
solemn vows and mutual interests, journeying over rough roads, through alien
peoples, to a site selected for, say, a Cathedral. Well armed to protect
themselves and their tools. The Company consisting of a Master Mason, Fellows of
the Craft, Apprentices and Labourers, and Setters who were not Masons. One man
in every ten was named a Warden and was responsible for the other nine.
To build a Cathedral took a long time and we find that sometimes they made a
special contract with the inhabitants of a Town that each Mason should be
provided with a pair of gloves and a white leather apron and that a Lodge,
properly tyled, should be erected at the expense of the Town. So they had a
place of Labour, of Study and of Devotion. The Lodge was guarded by a Tyler and
only Masons were allowed in. The M. Ms. studying the plans, marking the Tracing
Boards and giving instructions to the Brethren. The little community living in
rude huts around the walls of the growing Cathedral. Most, if not all, of our
symbols were used by them. Their only remains are their wonderful buildings in
stone. There are records of a Lodge built at Westminster Abbey for the Masons in
1364. Another, called the New Lodge in 1413, and later both were repaired. From
the Fabric Rolls of York Minster of 1355 - in speaking of the Masons' Lodge
there built - is the direction:- " . . . then one of the Maistres shall knock at
the Door in a peculiar manner and they shall all return to work." Even to-day in
Scotland the foreman has a peculiar knock on the door of the Shed with a
Straight Edge to summon the men back to work after mid-day break.
Masons were sent for from England in A.D. 298 which really marks the
beginning of English Masonry for with the conquest of Britain by the Romans, the
Masons of their Building College came with them and it is said the Britons
attained great skill as builders under their direction so that when the cities
of Gaul were destroyed Chlorus sent here for Architects to build and repair
After the Romans left, the College was probably suppressed - for in A.D. 598
we find Bishop Wilfred of York sending to France and Italy to induce Masons to
return and build in stone, as he put it "in the Roman manner."
In 604 there were further applications.
In the Old Charges, the earliest written account of Masonry in England is
recorded that King Athelstan caused "a general assembly of all Masons in the
realme at York, and there made many Masons, and gave them a deepe charge for
observation of such articles as belong to Masonry, and delivered them a Charter
to keep, and when his assembly was gathered together he caused a cry to be made,
that if any Mason of them had a writing that did concern Masonry, or could
inform the King in anything or matter that wanting in the said Science already
delivered, that they or hee should deliver them to the King or write them to
him, and there were some in French, some in Greeke, some in English, and other
languages whereupon the King caused a Book to be made, which declared how the
Science was first invented, and the utility thereof, which Book he commanded to
be read and plainly declared when a man was to be made a Mason, that he might
fully understand what Articles, Rules and Orders, he was obliged to observe."
It is from this ancient Manuscript dated 940 A.D. that we find for the first
time in writing the words T.G.A.O.T.U. 1,000 years ago.
In the year 1830 the Architect (Bro. Payne) in rebuilding a Bridge near
Limerick in Ireland found under the foundations an old Brass Sq., much corroded,
containing on its surfaces the inscription "I will strive to live with love and
care upon the Level by the Sq." with the date 1517. The Brethren of a N.E.
Yorkshire Lodge have this curious relic.
It was the Order of Masons who made it possible for men "to sing their souls
in stone" leaving for the admiration of after times what has been called "the
frozen music" of the Middle Ages, monuments of faith and gratitude.
There is a report of a happening in Holland which is interesting. In the year
1735 the Government passed a Statute abolishing Freemasonry - An Amsterdam Lodge
defied the Order, and continued to meet secretly. They were discovered and
arrested in their Lodge. Acknowledging that they were Masons they swore that
their Society taught nothing repugnant to the laws of God or man, they submitted
a proposition that the Court before which they were brought should select some
man in whom it had implicit confidence, for Initiation, and they would abide by
his judgment. This was done, the Town Clerk became a Mason and so strongly
approved the teachings of our Fraternity that the Magistrate applied for
admission and was accepted. Afterwards the Statute was repealed.
Masonry was at its full tide and in its full splendour, Strength, Beauty and
Wisdom its ideals, the Triangle and the Circle forming the keystone of the
ornamental tracery of every Temple. It became too powerful, and in 1356 a
Statute was enacted prohibiting their assemblies under severe penalties - but it
seems that our ancient Brethren carried on secretly - and in 1485 Masonry
revived and at a later date did splendid work in the rebuilding of London after
the Great Fire in 1666.
It sometimes happened that when the Masons were engaged upon the building of
a Castle or a Palace, the Lord or Prince desired to see and consider the plans
of the Master Mason. This was difficult as the plans were locked and guarded in
the Lodge but with the approval of the Brethren on some occasions the Lord or
Prince - or as we should call him to-day - the Building Owner - was initiated
and given the signs and passwords to allow him to be admitted to the Lodge to
discuss the plans and drawings, so there started among the large number of
Operative Masons, a few who knew the secrets, but were not Masons or builders.
The Masons were careful to take every precaution to prevent their secrets
becoming known to outsiders, if anyone was caught listening, he was punished by
being held under the eaves of the Lodge in rainy weather, while the rain went in
at his shoulders and out at his feet, from his punishment of the Old Masons,
listeners have long been called "Eaves-droppers."
Edward Ill revived the Constitution in 1300.
Henry VI in 1690.
Elias Ashmole, who was a Solicitor, was initiated in 1646 at Warrington.
In Westminster Abbey, in the East Aisle of the South Transept, there is a
slab of pavement inscribed with the name of "Sir Robert Morey," Chemist,
Mathematician and Rosicrucian, Initiated at Newcastle on 20th May, 1641. He is
the first Bro. of whose Initiation in England a definite minute remains. Sir
Robert seems to have been Quarter Master General of the Scottish Army and was
made a Mason by members of the Lodge of Edinburgh as recorded in their Minute
Book. They apparently held a travelling Warrant and made Masons wherever they
stopped and held a Meeting.
In 1874 at the excavation of the ruins of Pompeii was found a Masonic Table
of square shape engraved with the Masonic Symbols - it had remained buried for
1,800 years. Also was discovered a Tracing Board made of Marble and Inlaid. On a
ground of Grey Stone is a human skull, inlaid in grey, black and white, above it
is a plumb line in coloured wood, the points being made of brass. From the Top
is suspended a plumb line-beneath the skull is a six-spoked wheel, on the rim of
which is a moth with red wings edged with yellow, while its eyes are blue. On
the left there is an upright spear from which hangs a scarlet and purple robe.
The spear is surrounded by a white braid of black and white squares. On the
right is a thorn stick from which hangs a coarse piece of cloth in grey brown
and yellow tied with cord and over it a leather knapsack. Here we have the Sq.
and the plumb-line, the skull, emblem of Mortality, the Butterfly - Moth -
symbol of the Greeks to designate the Soul - the wheel emblemic of the circle of
life - the spokes are placed to represent the six points of intersection and
form the triangles - the Hub - the Point in the Centre - the right side - the
rugged Staff, the robe and wallet of the Wanderer, denote the passing transitory
life of the world - the left - the spear, purple robe and golden cord of the
conqueror - the reward of an upright and honourable life well spent. The Skull
has one ear placed on the side nearest the pilgrim's Staff and is interpreted as
"Listening to the wants of a distressed Brother." The whole a symbol of Life -
Death and Immortality. Probably the oldest Tracing Board in the world to-day.
Much has been done to bring to light more Masonic allegory and symbolism
evidenced in the oldest Temples and buildings of bygone ages and civilisations
and it has been found that men far removed from each other - having no
possibility of contact - with each other - have trodden the same paths and
arrived at the same conclusions - taught by teachers in much the same manner -
inspired as it were by some unseen force.
In the year 1600 the rise of Speculative Masons came about - the faithful to
the ideals of the Order turning more and more to the moral and spiritual
teaching, and in the year 1717 Grand Lodge of England, the Mother Grand Lodge of
the world, was formed.
From the Primitive Rites, Customs and Beliefs of the most ancient races of
the world, from peoples who used these same signs and symbols, and honoured them
as Holy things, it may be that the claim of Masonry to be the oldest system in
the world is not far wrong.
In these ever-recurring effigies the past and present touch each other, the
ancient and modern beat together in one great unison of sympathy and we see a
vast chain of union starting from the shadowy gloom of the antique world and
pursuing its winding course till grasped in the living hand of to-day. The
history of this chain is the history of Freemasonry. From TIME IMMEMORIAL
We are therefore primarily Masons because our Creator is Himself the Great
Master Mason and we as "Creatures of the Creator" inherit our Master's
qualities. Moreover, the history of the human race demonstrates that when man
has laboriously built up his civilisation and social system, put up his houses
and Temples and finally exhausted his capacity for material Masonry, he at last
turns to Speculative or Spiritual Masonry and the contemplation of Building that
House not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens, of which he is one of the
Thus it is that the constant observance of the ritual never permits the great
teaching to be forgotten, and the faithful reiteration of the teaching maintains
the spirit of life in every act and phrase of the ritual. Words may enlighten
the understanding but acts, ceremonies and images address the profoundest
sentiments to the heart - not a man lives but feels at times that language, in
its happiest combinations is all too weak to express those burning thoughts
which often stir the deepest emotions - hence Masonry with a ritual imposing,
sublime and beautiful so efficiently imparts the Truth to a Brother's Centre.
All kinds and conditions of men have been initiated into Freemasonry, what
has attracted them? - not association, not curiosity, but a desire to partake of
a deep deposit of simple wisdom, preserved by tradition, proved by the emblems
that remain to us cut in imperishable stone, which, across the piled-up dust of
ages, whisper the old familiar truths and bear witness to the unity of the human
mind and to the existence of a common system of Truth veiled in allegory and
taught by symbols.
SOME OF THE SYMBOLS OF THE FIRST DEGREE
Symbols being outward signs of an inward and spiritual concept representing
to us the world of reality and forming a link with the unseen world, presenting
truth in concrete form, awakening in us a more developed state of consciousness,
made by creative thought - ritual symbolism - the whole idea of the Lodge is a
symbol - its plan - its proportions - its furniture - the Officers - their
vestments - when it is working the whole action symbolic, and within the Ritual
are verbal, pictorial and action symbols.
Verbal:--The allegories and legendary history, the words, the catechisms and
Pictorial:-Jewels, Mark glyphs, symbolical figures and Tracing Boards,
Geometrical figures and Pavement.
Enated Symbols:-Initiation, Passings and Raisings. Processions and Signs.
It has been well said "Let there be no mechanical performance of duties. Work
with precision in words and actions and breathe into the Ceremony a living
spirit intensifying the meaning with a clarity of Vision so that almost
consciously each Officer is re-experiencing himself all the trials through which
his Candidate is now passing - so that the C. is made to feel that it is a great
privilege to take part in the Ceremony."
So I am going to ask each one of you to recall with me for a moment the
experiences you passed through on your first entrance into a Lodge and see how
symbols play so important a part in the Ceremony of I.
Thomas Carlyle said, and truly said in Sartor Resartus that:-
"By symbols is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched. He
everywhere finds himself encompassed with symbols recognised as such or not
recognised; the Universe is but one vast symbol of God, nay, if thou wilt have
it, what is man but a symbol of God; is not all that he does symbolical; a
revelation of sense of the Mystic God given force that is in him, a Gospel of
Freedom, which he, the Messiah of nature, preaches, as he can by word and act.
Not a hut he builds but is the visible embodiment of a thought, but bears record
of invisible things, but is, in the transcendental sense symbolic as well as
real. What a man believes, lays to heart, and acts upon, concerning this
mysterious universe and his duty and destiny in it, that, determines all the
rest and is his religion."
Our C. is about to forge a link with the "INFINITE" and join in the ideals of
the Brotherhood of human dignity and freedom - with one limit to liberty - that
is the liberty of the other man - and the happiness of all.
In the Ancient Mysteries he is called "lnitia" because he is beginning a life
of reason and virtue and is about to receive a superior Degree of Happiness here
below. Thus the moment is come when a man realises the futility of his illusion
of separateness and is about to offer the powers he has developed on the altar
of service to his fellow-men - in the secrecy of his heart - he is prepared.
I wonder how many of you can tell me the words that lead to the 1st D. It is
a question that some Irish Lodges use as a test of merit of a M.M. The words are
said to be "B. t.. h... o. G.." and in some Districts " G... R........"
Brethren - the Ceremony of Initiation is really divided into two parts - the
First - State of D.
1. Admission to the Lodge.
2. The Prayer of Dedication.
3. The Mystical Journeying or Perambulation.
4. The Declaration of Freedom, Motive and Perseverance.
5. The Advance from W. to E.
6. The Ob.
7. The Restoration to L.
These seven episodes forming the Old Rite of Illumination.
Seven episodes with a large range of ideas all within a short half of the
Ceremony, each one calling for reflection. In the oldest days "The Hall of
Ignorance" or The Hall of Truth in D.......... s."
The Ceremony is a series of Three, of Trinities, Three Ks., Steps, Lights,
Greater and Lesser, Columns, Parts of Time, Tools, Secrets, Staves, Rungs,
Principle Officers, Assistant Officers, Dangers, 3 sides of the Strongest
Structural form - a Triangle of Force in each case.
The C. comes to our Lodge and outside the Door he meets the T., the Mason who
by his presence covers the sacred precincts from all intrusion - there he is
prepared - in the classical sense the word "C" means "One clothed in a white
While this is being done the W. M. opens our Lodge with the assistance of the
Officers and Brethren - the unified wills of all acting the opening in due form.
The principal object of Freemasonry is the collection and distribution of
Spiritual Force for others - and we in Lodge secure that idea of ascending to
higher levels by progressively "Opening Up" from one Degree to another and
exposing in each a T.... B .... d.
After the Outer G. has confirmed that all is secure it is the I.P.M. who
finally seals the Opening by the placing of the S. and C.
The W.M. represents the Rising Sun, and intellectual or spiritual power and
knowledge which come from the E. He calls the L. into being from nothing - sits
in the E.- but he does not close it. In the 1st D. he represents: Knowledge and
Wisdom - Spirit.
The S.W. represents the Setting Sun. His caste mark is a Horizontal Line. In
this D. Clear Conscience and Beauty - Man's Survival after death.
The J.W. represents the Sun at the Meridian - the Sunny side - Strength
through life - the balance between Birth and Death -, Caste Mark - a
Perpendicular Line. Body and Mind.
The cooperation of these three Officers in all Ds. being noted - must act
together - if any form of progress is to take place.
The S.D. and the J.D. being messengers and conductors form the contact
between Body (E.A.) with the Spirit.
S.D. link between E. and W.
J.D. link between W. and S.
The I.G. (under the immediate control of the J.W.) connects with the Outer
Guard (The World of the Spirit) the Lodge with the Outer and material world.
The going to and from implied in the words "Carry all messages" is a relic of
the former division of the Lodge into the Three Temples. It is probable that the
JD. acted as I.G. to the FC Lodge presided over by the S.W., and the S.D. in a
similar capacity to the M.M.'s Lodge in charge of the W.M. Thus the S.D. had "to
bear all messages and commands from the W.M. to the S.W." who was in the chair
of a F.C. Lodge, and if the message had to be transmitted to the J.W. in the E.A.
Lodge it was the duty of the J.D. to take it on "from the S.W. to the J.W. and
to see the same punctually obeyed." The J.D. would then return to the F.C. Lodge
with his report that the W.M.'s Orders had been carried out and the S.D. having
had "to await the return of the J.D." takes the message back to the W.M.
So you have built up a Two-Dimensional world -
The Inner (peopled by the Brethren)
S.W. Soul MAN
J.W. Mind & Body
Man being his own Perfect Lodge.
The S.D. link between Spirit and Soul.
J.D. link between Soul and Mind.
I.G. The Inner world contacting the Outer.
O.G. the Outer (busy world outside).
These seven Officers - with a C. form the Perfect Cube.
Seven - you remember the seven glorious ones and the ONE. Seven equals three
plus four The Triangle or Trinity added to the Sq. of Earth. the E.A.
Man, consisting, as he does of material, psychical and spiritual nature, it
is in Freemasonry that the Spiritual Strength in him is developed and the
betterment of the world is possible through his individual effort.
He comes well and worthily recommended. He is brought forward as a C. having
sponsors for him, because Masonry has an object in view respecting his
personality, something that can be accomplished in him as a result of his
fellowship in the Brotherhood.
All enveloping d........ is his state to make him realize that he is coming
out from his old condition and entering into another and new order, in which a
different quality of I.... is communicated - another life entered - entailing a
larger self knowledge and a deepened understanding "So that his eyes shall not
perceive before his mind can conceive." A state of Birth.
Over the entrances to the old Temples were the words Know Thyself."
Various parts of his body were made b... to indicate the mental stripping
that is necessary. His L. K. is made b. as being the pont on which he will k...
in the form of a Sq. and is a token of Humility.
The R. A. was b... to show that he had neither offensive or defensive weapons
about him and this is the h... and a a..which he will lay on the V. of the S.L.
and it is this a.. that he will use to extend in the first S. This Right H....
He is divested of all M. and M.Ss. - denoting a poor and penniless state of
"Birth" and also because we read in the 22nd Ch. of Exodus that when God
directed Moses to build an Altar, God said, "If thou suffer a metal tool to pass
thereon thou has polluted it," and King Solomon considered this a Divine law and
forebade the sound of any metallic tools at the construction of the Holy T.
There are many directions in the V.O.T.S.L. prohibiting the use of metal in any
act of a sacrificial nature - where only flint knives are permitted and the
custom of using flint axes is still followed by primitive races to-day in
killing animals although the use of metal tools is well known to them.
His L.B...... is b... as a living symbol that his heart shall ever be the
sacred repository of our secrets and a token of Sincerity - it is touched with a
P.... on entering to prove to the I.G. that the C. is a man (according to the
Scottish Ritual) and to remind him of the nearness of death. (The first link
with the coming event.)
His R.H. was s..... s..... symbolically to remind us of the duty of constancy
and fidelity in his engagement, for by a very ancient formality of the East to
confirm any agreement a man drew off his shoe and gave it to his neighbour and
this was a testimony in Israel. Deutronomy Ch. 25 v. 5-10.
The shoe as a Masonic symbol reminds a C. that his solemn compact cannot be
resiled from, but must be faithfully implemented, it is further to remind him
that the ground upon which he now stands is Holy Ground. Exodus Ch.Ill. v. V.
This is called the "Rite of Discalceation" - that is giving testimony of
sincerity of intention. In Scotland in the 1st D. the V.O.T.S.L. is open at Ruth
IV v. 7-8, and when the Candidate is standifig in the N.E. Corner, he is asked
to take off his shoe and hand it to the W.M. - verses 7 and 8 are then read to
him, and the Brethren are called to witness that he has entered Freemasonry and
is ratifying the bargain with the Lodge - his shoe is then returned to him.
There is a C... T.. to typify that the C. ha on his own responsibilty come so
far and that now there is no turning back, neither can he be impetuous else the
P. will be held firmly. The C.T. is the Masonic symbol of the Bond of Affection
which unites the Brethren.
A C.T. encloses the T.B. of the E.A. Degree at the four corners of which are
four knots or tassels symbolic of the four Cardinal Virtues, Temperance,
Fortitude, Prudence and justice. Here in this complete preparation you find
Humility, Fidelity, Sincerity, Constancy and Affection being the necessary
qualifications of an E.A. In the old days it was the duty of the Stewards to go
out and not only prepare a C. but to explain to him these meanings as they
proceeded with that part of the Ceremony.
It is of interest to hear that in the Dutch Lodge in South Africa a C. enters
a chamber of Preparation, signs his Declaration and is left for a considerable
time, to rest his mind.
Then he is led to another chamber of Meditation where he sits in a Chair and
before him is a dimly lighted transparency "Man know Thyself."
Then on to a Third Chamber, of Silence. He acknowledges the Fatherhood of God
and the Brotherhood of Man. Is taught that silence is symbolical of the great
Secrecy which every F. must observe as regards what he sees and hears within the
His attention is drawn to the figure of an OWL, emblematic of watchfulness.
He is handed Bread dipped in salt to eat, and water to drink. He then enters
the Lodge for the Ceremony.
The Ks. are given and he stands ready to enter the unknown - the vibrations
are answered - the barrier is removed and he stands before the Lodge.
In an old phraseology the three Ks. of the C. (the T. should hold the C.'s
hand in such a position that it is he the C., who ks. for himself) were said to
The three Masonic
Seek-and ye shall find.
Ask-and ye shall have.
Knock-and it shall be opened
Luke XI, v. 9-13.
In an old ritual the C. is asked how he applies this test. He should answer:
"I sought in my mind, I asked a friend; I knocked and the door was opened unto
me by a Brother."
The I.G. admits on the P. in due form and holds the P. in the air for all to
He confirms that he is Free, and the Blessing is invoked and the Prayer of
Dedication is spoken.
The Ks. of the 1st D. have a moral significance - indicating that the C. has
three planes in front of him to conquer - the physical body with its impulses
coming from the past, the Astral with its strong desires and emotions, and the
Mental with its curiosity and waywardness. The fact that, he is well recommended
is proof that he has conquered the physical body - though he has still to
develop it - he will commence the special work of this D. which is to gain
control of his Astral nature.
He is told he is of "Good Report," he has been found to ring true, in the old
Egyptian rituals the Initiate must be "True of Voice." This is described as the
Masonic Key - not made with mortal hands, he will meet it again in the last of
his lessons. In the olden days a C. was asked of what is this key composed, and
he answered "Of no metal W.M., it is the tongue of G.R."
He places his trust in G. He takes his first S... called "The Preparatory
S..." off with the L.F. It is particularly appropriate at the commencement of a
solemn ceremony for it means "Trample all evil beneath you." In the Hindu
mythology Krishna is said to have so stepped on the serpent of evil and crushed
it with his L.F. and throughout their rituals all good acions - all progress
must be commenced with this S.
He now commemes on the "Rite of Circumambulation" part of a very old ceremony
carrying on the mystic sodalities of the ancient civilisations - in the course
of the Sun - if you would do reverence you must turn towards your right hand. In
the old days the Rite of Circumambulation was rather different to ours - a clear
space is left round the outside of the Lodge - this space being the outer path
and he was conducted to each gate and after reception he was allowed on to the
inner floor of the Lodge and passed round the inner path to show that he is
properly prepared - thus was emphasised the gates of entry guarded by the S. and
J. Ws. and that only when he has passed these points was he admitted to the
presence of the W.M. He will trace this course again and again throughout his
Masonic career - following the Ritual of the neophytes of the Druids on
Stonehenge or the Prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
In Primitive Times this was known as the Rite of the Mystic Journey.
Described thus:- " The C. begins to approach the E. by way of the N. the place
of Darkness and Fear - on to the opposite - the S. the place of the Sun - of
High Twelve - the scene of the labours, thence to the W. being the place of
Closing - standing for Rest - the place for finishing and for presentations. The
E. being the Glorious Centre - with the Star - lighting the E., the Great Dawn
of Joy." In some of these old Initiations they speak of 27 circumambulations,
each round of which contained on its path a "Test" for the Initiate.
The J.D. takes him round the Lodge and he ks. at the W's. gate and he is
found "F. and of G.R." and receives the GRIP of FELLOWSHIP - which should be
strong and reassuring - it is the first actual physical contact with the Lodge -
via the J.W. - The S.W. presents him to the W.M.
He makes his Solemn Declarations.
The J.D. instructs him in the Ad..... - the Ss. of EVOLUTION, each of which
carry him forward further than the previous one - something has been gained and
nothing has been lost - symbolically his WILL to go on has increased - his Trust
is so well placed.
In the old rituals the Ss. are said to be 9, 12 and 15 inches - so a yard
away from the K. S........ I Bro. J.D.
His R. H. is on the V.O.T.S.L. while his L. is employed in
supporting................... in the form of a Sq. (which is the correct
position of the points) that the love of virtue may be centred in his heart.
He is obligated beneath the Crossed Wds. of the S. and J.D.s representing
thereby the Triangular Door of the Ancient Egyptian Lodge, and the second of the
symbolical Portals through which he has to pass (the first was at the Prayer and
the third is the Portal through which he will pass out as a Bro.) and he sees L.
- which is restored to him - his eyes being fixed on the V.O.T.S.L. - the
Greatest and Truest guide of our Fraternity with the S. and Cs. Symbols of
Revelation and Creation.
Some Lodges have the V. open at Psalms 133, but if it be open at any of its
pages it is perfectly in order.
The V.O.T.S.L. was in use in 1600 from an old Obligation "So Help me G. and
the Holy contents of this BOOK."
Brethren, to Freemasons the V.O.T.S.L., be it the Bible of the Christian, the
Koran of the Mohammaden, the Zend Avesta of the Parsee, the Veda of the Hindu or
the Tripitaka of the Buddhists, is the symbol of the Word of God, the Universal
Father of all Mankind, who speaks to His children through many prophets in many
It may be of interest to quote the experiences of a Bro. who visited a Lodge
in Bombay - he relates that when he attended an Initiation Ceremony there were
five Bibles on the Altar, the M. was a Mohammaden, one of the Cs. who received
the 1st D. was a Parsee, and the other a Hindu. The work was done in English in
a "Dignified and impressive manner."
From the whole ethical system as taught by St. Paul and from the Gospel of
St. John and then in the Book of Revelations we find a wonderful picture of the
prevailing Mysteries, winding like a golden thread throughout these beautiful
Books. The spirit and aim of these writings is the story of our Craft to-day and
must lead to a belief that our system is so much older than this, coming to the
world in its earliest ages and retaining the power to impress upon the world of
the present, as it has unswervingly done in the past, the fact of God the
Creator and the call to obedience made to all Mankind.
Here Brethren is the commencement of the Second Part of the Ceremony called
the "State of Light " - seven more episodes:-
1. Revelation of the Greater and L. Lts.
2. The Entrustment with the Ss.
3. The Testing by the Ws.
4. The Investiture with the Clothing.
5. The Instruction in the N.E.
6. The Instruction in the W. T .... Is.
7. The Instruction in the T. B.
He has entered the "Hall of Truth in Lt." or the Hall of Learning" and has
become a "Son of Lux."
He sees for the first time the S. and Cs.
The Sq. the symbol of Morality and the Cs. the emblem of Virtue, the true and
only measure of the Bro's. conduct
It is then that the W.M. says "Rise D. Ob. Bro. a.....g Ms." This is the
moment that he is a Bro. The M. has said the words - which in the old
phraseology "Have Made Him."
He is placed on the R. of the W.M. and informed of the L. Ls.
He now stands Perfectly erect, his F. in the F. of a Sq. Symbolising
UNDERSTANDING by the Sq. and in the Ancient days the upright body symbolises
He sees the "G" denoting the Universal Spirit of G. unifying all things, it
is found in the C. of the L.-the L. is grouped around it.
He now comes to the most important S., the 1st R.S. in F. According to the
Ancient Masons - the first S. towards the Light - with the WILL to UNDERSTAND.
He should bring the H. of the R. F. into the H. of the L. at an angle of 90
degrees, thus forming the correct regular S. - the Tau, signifying LIFE the 3
R.Ss. together forming the Union of the Taus - symbolic of the Deity.
The P. is the age old one of the Assyrians for Traitors, one of the original
Forms of which there are four, Gutteral (1st Degree), Pectoral, Manual and
Pedal. It was the most terrible P. to the oldest races to be cast into the
waves, and not decently buried with proper rites and is symbolical of SPIRITUAL
It is to be noted that the Old Operative 1st Degree P. was worded.
"Of having my t....... cut out under my c..n and of being
buried within the flood mark where no man shall know."
In the curious ordinances which were observed in the Reign of Henry VI for
the conduct of the Court of Admiralty for the Humber, are enumerated various
offences of a maritime connection, and their punishments. In view of the
character of the Court, the punishment was generally to be inflicted at
low-water mark, so as to be within the proper jurisdiction of the Admiralty, the
chief officer of which, the Admiral of the Humber, being from the year 1451, the
Mayor of Hull. The Court being met and consisting of "Masters Merchants and
Mariners" with all others that do enjoy the King's stream with hook, net, or any
engine, were addressed thus:-
"You Masters of the quest, if you, or any of you, discover or disclose
anything of the King's secret counsel, or of the counsel of your fellows (for
the present you are admitted to be King's Counsellors), you are to be, and shall
be, had down to the low-water mark, where must be made three times, O Yes! for
the King, and then and there this punishment, by the law prescribed shall be
executed upon them; that is, their hands and feet bound, their throats cut,
their tongues pulled out and their bodies thrown into the sea."
The S. is the outward S. of an inner concept - a word - an image - a gesture
- which tells - to one who is of the inner circle the whole story of a secret -
a revelation Instantaneous. In the oldest times known as the Humbling S.
In the old Operating working - The G. was to be "concealed" and the S. to be
"heled" and the word never to be "revealed."
In the Cooke MSS. of 1490 the word "Hele" appears and is interpreted as "Must
The wisdom of the old times records:- "Offer not your right hand easily to
everyone - do not draw up - nor endeavour to raise by extending your R. hand to
the unadopted and unitiated."
Among the Ancient peoples the Hand was the symbol of the Builders and in
their very early art the Supreme Being was frequently depicted by a Hand
extending from a Cloud in the act of Benediction - the R. hand is said to be the
emblem of FIDELITY - the L. symbolical of EQUITY.
St. Paul speaks of "giving the R. hand of Fellowship."
It is the accepted symbol of sincerity and a pledge of fidelity wherever
Masons may meet over the surface of the world. The story we find in the
V.O.T.S.L. at 11 Kings C. X. describes how one day King Jehu was driving his
chariot along an Eastern road and on approaching Jehonadab the Son of Rechab,
who was walking towards him, he stepped down and greeted him thus: "Is thy heart
right, as my heart is with thy heart?" Jehonadab answered "It is." Then said the
King: "If it be, give me thine hand," and he gave him his hand and he took him
up into the chariot. That, I believe, is the first instance on record of a
hand-grip used to cement a bond of brotherhood and friendship and the sign of
mutual heart sympathy.
The s..., the g.... the w ... s, by which we greet each other, should not be
the whole of Masonry, but, the overflowing passion for that, for which Masonry
exists, the building of Man. The formal acts they represent may still be
important to us, as revelations of the Ancient Law, but, there is something,
which they represent, that is far greater, something, they do not express, that
far transcends, in importance, word and sign perfection - the use of heat and
hand in the gathering of the great stones, the powers of Society and Mankind, of
which we build again the Temple that has crumbled by the neglect of man, and,
yet more the Temple that is in the heavens, higher still than the wildest
concept of those who have toiled, day and night, in all ages of Masonry, in
order to ensure the accurate submission of Man to the Divine Law, to try to
live, and by that life to fill the world with an atmosphere, which is a
conscience, an influence not seen but felt, that does not rival, but fills all,
pervades all, and leads to eternal Brotherhood.
In the N. the C. is now presented with a new name which is Bro. Caution.
The newly made Bro. now goes round the L. and what does he see -
The W.M.'s Pedestal - a double cube - the earliest Altar was a rough unhewn
stone set up like the stone Jacob set up at Bethel when he dreamed of the Ladder
to Heaven - to be approached by walking in the course of the sun - from the E.
by way of the S. It is first of all an Altar of Faith - the deep eternal Faith
which underlies all creeds and overarches all beliefs - Faith in T.G.A.O.T.U.,
the Moral Law and Life Everlasting.
The Altar of Masonry is an Altar of Freedom - the Freedom of Faith - beyond
the fact of the reality of G. it does not go - allowing every man to think of G.
according to his experience of life and his vision of truth - and - it is an
Altar of Fellowship as if to teach us that no man can learn the truth for
another and no man can learn it alone. Masonry brings men together in united
respect, sympathy and goodwill.
He sees the L. a double cube - stands on the Mosaic Pavement in size a double
cube - symbolically representing the various incidents of Life - symbol of Joy
and Sorrow, prosperity and adversity - Rest and Peace - Life and Death - a
Symbol of EARTH. In the old days bordered by the Signs of the Zodiac.
He sees the Blazing Star.
The Immovable jewels he will now meet are the Rough Ashlar - the Brute Stone
- a symbol of man immature of mind and still rough and unpolished - the E.A.
The Perfect Ashlar - man educated, virtuous and rendered a fit member of well
organised society - ready to be tried and approved by the Sq. of God's Word, and
the Cs of his own self convinving conscience.
They are called the - Silent Reminders" or "Silent Witnesses" of the design
of Masonry for us.
In the old Lodges the T.B. was drawn in chalk each time the L. was opened,
and obliterated at the close of the day. I read in an old book that in some
Lodges, so careful were they "that no trace should be left" they used tape and
little nails to form the T.B., thus preventing any marks or stains being
discernable after the L. is closed.
The T.B. you know so well, Brethren, with Jacob's Ladder blending Earth with
Heaven - comprising the whole teaching of Freemasonry surmounted by the
beautiful Cup of Charity (the Biblical meaning of Charity is Love) of which our
Bro. is about to learn.
The two Columns, the S.W.'s of the Doric Order, surmounted by a Terrestrial
Globe, typifying Strength of the Sun - and whose outlook is toward the Horizon.
The J.W.'s of the Corinthian Order surmounted by a Celestial Globe typifying
Beauty of the Moon - sometimes said to mark the Sun at the Meridian. The Column
of the S.W. erect at Labour - the Sun shining and the work proceeding. The
Column of the J.W. is Horizontal at Labour - when the labours cease the sun goes
down and the Column of the Moon is then erect.
The W.M.'s column of Wisdom combines the Strength and Beauty of these two.
The M's. L. is never out, he is called to shine as a L. in the world, deriving
his L. from above and his duty is to impart knowledge and instruction to the
In the oldest religious ceremonies, the Flre, the Candle or the Torch is a
symbol of the Presence of the Divine.
The C. is invested by the S.W.
The Masonic E.A. Apron is made of lamb skin, symbol of innocence (meaning "to
do no harm or hurt") and purity - the condition required of Cs. in all
initiations. The shape of the Apron is that of a Perfect Sq. and Brethren when
each one of you wore it for the first time it was with the flap raised - it
being thus a Perfect Sq. (quarternery) surmounted by a Triangle (a Triad)
indicating the five senses by its five corners, by means of which we enter into
relations with the material world around us. Then we have the three - sided
emblem at the top added to the four - sided emblem beneath making seven, the
Perfect Number - Man the seven-fold Being - himself the Perfect Lodge. The
triangle symbolises the Spirit and the Strength of the G.A.O.T.U. - the Sq.
representing Matter - the Man - the Triangle the three-fold attributes of the
ONE and the Sq. the four elements. The E.A. starts his career with the triangle
surmounting the Sq. (Spirit has not yet descended into matter) you remember the
first Investiture of the Badge of an E.A., as he progresses in the Science, the
descent takes place.
The Apron of an E.A., Triangle uppermost, symbolises the Spirit of God upon
Another age - old symbol is to be found on each of you M.Ms., it is the
Ancient Serpent of Wisdom and is placed on the bands of your respective aprons,
so nothing seems to have been forgotten - the Badge of Innocence with the Circle
of Wisdom strengthening and encircling the Bro.
Wisdom, Strength and Beauty together signifying HARMONY which "Spiritual
Peace" and you all remember the admonition that the "Atmosphere of the Lodge
must not be disturbed."
Under the Canadian Constitution the E.A. is provided with his own E.A. Apron
at the time of Initiation - this Apron is then placed in a sealed packet and is
not worn again until his death. The Tyler keeps a box of aprons for the use of
all the Brethren.
In America the Apron Charge ends:-
It is yours to wear throughout an honourable life and at your death deposited
upon the coffin which shall enclose your lifeless remains and with them laid
beneath the clods of the Valley.
In America when the S.W. says "It will never disgrace you," the L. lead by
the S.W. give what they call the "Great Shock" with their L. Hands, just as we
do, accompanied simultaneously with a stamp with their L. feet - to impress upon
the C. that he must for ever keep the King of Terrors beneath control. It is the
first Salute we give him as a Bro., and he will not receive another until he is
invested as an Off. in the L.
For Every Mason an Apron - for every Apron a Life - our symbolic gift to him
- and his acceptance of it is his act of faith - and faith is the Certainty of
the unknown - and in an old Ritual it is the "Gift of Brotherhood."
The C. should now wear white gloves for without a pure heart and clean hands
- no one can stand in a Holy place. A gloved hand in the Middle ages was
considered the Symbol of Peace. In the N.E. corner he now stands in the position
of Rectitude. In the Authors L. and in the Midlands the C. has placed in the Sq.
of his F. the Rough Ashlar.
The questions of certain m. and m.s. now arise - the absence of which has
played so important a part in the Ceremony. It has become the C.'s business to
learn that he is now amidst a different standard of values and when he comes
again into possession of the old tokens he has to realise that their most
important use is in causes not his own - this little episode so deeply and
sincerely impressed by the W.M. assisted by the J.D. is called the "Rite of
In the Ancient days the C. was told that he is to tread sure in the N.E.
Corner - as he stands on the foundation corner of the building and that when the
ravages of time or violence may have destroyed every vestige of the
superstructure, that stone, when it is discovered, will prove that such a
building did exist and that when he stands amidst depravity of manners, and the
dangers of infection he will preserve his mind and memory uncontaminated -
setting an example of the life he starts from the moment he departs from that
An E.A. should serve his M. with Freedom, Fervency and Zeal - the three
"Qualifications of Servitude."
Freedom - Chalk. Fervency - Charcoal, and Zeal - Clay (Earth) and are known
as the " Excellent Qualities."
A Lewis in the L. denotes Strength and is found in the Perfect Ashlar - which
should be suspended - the line suspending it is the symbol of the Thread of Life
- Perfect Man and T.G.A.O.T.U.
The Gavel - the symbol of Order - and in the hands of the W.M. in the old
days called "Hiram" - in the words of a ritual "As K. S. controlled the workman
by the assistance of Hiram the Builder" to the E.A. it symbolises "Obedience."
The Rule (24" Gauge) is the symbol to measure our work in the world - the
G.A.O.T.U. has assigned hours for labour and hours for refreshment beyond the
possibility of mistake and this is the "ETERNAL RULE."
He must be aided by the Chisel of Education - and the Common Gavel - the
force of conscience - these together remind us that persistent endeavour is
necessary to the attainment of the True Sq. and polish of the Perfect Ashlar. It
has been beautifully expressed by a famous sculptor who, when asked how he
carved rough masses of stone into lovely statues, said - "I merely knock away
with gavel and chisel the stone I do not need and the statue is there - it was
there all the time - I only found it." In the V.O.T.S.L. "The Kingdom of Heaven
is within you" - the perfection is there in him just as the Perfect Ashlar is
within the Rough Ashlar.
So you see by taking just the Key Symbols, Morality and Virtue, in walking
the Earth clothed in the White Apron throughout the Eternal Rule (which is
Life), by persistent endeavour he reaches Perfection.
In the Bristol working when the C. returns to the L., having restored his
personal comforts, he is told to sit at a table and to write the word - if he
attempts to do so a gong is sounded and discord from the organ makes a din - his
fingers are rapped and he is shown a man with his T. cut acc. His proper answer
should be "I was told to be C..s"
He will hear of Jacob's Ladder - which has been handed down for our
instruction - the foot of which is placed on the earth and with the foundation
of the V.O.T.S.L. denoting the Stability of Providence - the top reaching to the
Heaven, to show us that the designs of the G.A. are without limit - He will be
told of F. H. and C. three of the Great Rungs past which he will have, to climb
proving himself possessed of these virtues - that he has the first, he has
The Spiritual Ladder of Ascent from Earth to Heaven with the Threefold way -
through Active Life - the way a of Purification, the first. Through Inner Life,
way of Illumination, the second. Through Contemplative Life, the Unitive way to
attain true Friendship with the G.A. - the third.
Bro. L., R., and T., the Three Staves, the foundation and copestone - the
cement and gloryof this Antient Fraternity, and Brethren you remember the words
"not derogatory to exchange the sceptre for the trowel," in early workings the
Trowel was the emblem of Circumspection" and was called the "Jewel of the E.A."
He was extolled "Emblematically to stop up all interstices in the L. so that not
a sound shall escape from within nor an eye pry from without, whereby our
secrets and mysteries may become known to the popular world. This is from a
Ritual of 1735 but is not included in our modern workings.
Our Ancient Charge depicting the duties of the Bros. of the Mystic Tie - the
Threefold Tie - uniting Man with God, his Fellowmen and with himself - linking
his life with the eternal enterprise - breaking the loneliness and organising us
in spiritual faith and a common high endeavour - whose golden rule is:-
"Help me to need no aid from men
That I may aid such men as need."
- From: My New Cut Ashlar.
Songs from Books by Bro. Rudyard Kipling.
Bro. Rudyard Kipling's advice is " To know the ritual is not to know all - it
is the inside meaning, not the words, that count - learn the words but get the
Ritual into your spirit." Except he serve, no man may rule.
Bro. Kipling was initiated in the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No. 782 in
1885 at the age of 19 at Lahore. This L. works its secrets, its lessons and its
ceremonies through a stately ritual unwritten and handed down through the ages.
His "The Mother L." is a wonderful picture of the Brethren.
So, Brethren, the Ceremony of our First Degree is a swift and comprehensive
portrayal of the entrance of all men - into, firstly Physical Life, and
secondly, into Spiritual Life, who have undertaken to acquire the Symbolical and
spiritualised art of building the house of another life which starts at the
moment of Initiation and the dawn of a new understanding. He will be a Mason as
long as memory lasts.
I would suggest that our ceremonies are parts of an orderly tradition,
unfolding through the centuries and emanating from the ancient secret
Fraternities perpetuating the esoteric doctrines of antiquity - for I believe
civilisation is unfolding to a predetermined plan, part of which, and an
essential part is the discipline of each of us so that we can contribute to the
final perfection of the whole by our influence in act and deed - by that
spiritual communion of our great Brotherhood.
Brethren, we will leave our Bro. E.A. on the first of those steps in his
Craft Journey - having learnt of the L.H. Pillar, which symbolises Space and
Creation - he will climb further and progress to the 2nd Degree in which he will
learn of the R.H. Pillar which symbolises Time and Regeneration and Pass between
them on to the Path of Life, the Path that leads from the physical realm to the
Spiritual realm along which he will travel to the 3rd Degree, which will bring
him to the "Great Light" as the old Masters have it "To the Light of the Higher
Understanding" unto the "Halls of Wisdom."
Thus we extend our congratulations and always receive with acclamation every
newly - made Bro. and we trust that the tesselated pavement will ever remain to
him as bright as when it first came from the quarries of Truth - the jewels ever
brighten at his touch and the Great Lights remain undimmed and undecayed to
Our Fratemity admits of no innovation or variation - as it was in the
beginning - it is now - and ever shall be - into the ages of ages.
And Brethren, as a final word may I say that we cannot all be rich or famous,
but we can each be loyal and true of heart, undefiled by evil and undaunted by
error, faithful and helpful to our Fellowmen, no voice of distress ever reaching
our ears in vain and no hand seeking our assistance without response. We shall
then know how to pray, how to love, and how to hope, and only then shall we be
glad to live and not afraid to die.
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