Often the question is asked: "Where and when did Freemasonry originate?"
In dealing with this question one must consider the stand-point from which it is to be answered. If one has in mind Freemasonry in its modern sense - that is, an organisation divided into subordinate
Lodges and operating under the authority of a Grand Lodge of a given jurisdiction and practising the Rites of Symbolic Masonry such as, for instance, the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons. If this is what is meant, then it came into existence in London, England, in A.D.1717. (Our present United Grand Lodge of New South Wales came into existence in 1888,when the four Grand Lodges then operating as separate entities within this State, viz., the English, the Irish, the Scottish and the Grand Lodge of New South Wales, of their own free will and accord, amalgamated and assumed the title of THE UNITED GRAND LODGE OF NEW SOUTH WALES OF ANCIENT, FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS)
But Masonry, in organised Lodges, existed long before that time. The present-day Craft is in historical continuity with Lodges or Guilds of Masons who, centuries ago, engaged in the task of actual building and held meetings where the speculative feature of Masonry was also practised at least to some extent. We may say that such Masonry came into existence in about the twelfth century A.D. It is true, however, that Masonry may be traced back even further than this period. If we refer to Masonry as applied to any secret society that makes use of, or has made use of, some of the signs which we use (or symbols) then Masonry goes back several thousand years until it is lost in antiquity.
THE RITE OF INVESTITURE
In the days of antiquity all systems of religions true and false, as well as the ancient mysteries and philosophies possessed and practised rites and ceremonies. The novice was initiated by being required to pass through specially devised ceremonies. Connected with all the ancient mysteries, the "Rite of Investiture" was quite common and in all the systems of ancient philosophies appears to have existed from the inauguration of those systems.
"There is no one of the symbols”, says Dr.Mackey in his Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry,Vol.1, p.72., of Speculative Masonry more important in its teachings, or more interesting in its history than the Lambskin, or White Leather Apron. Commencing its lessons at an early period in the Mason's progress it is impressed upon his memory as the first gift that he receives, the first symbol which is explained to him, and the first tangible evidence that he possesses of his admission into the Fraternity. Whatever may be his future advancement in the "Royal Art", into whatsoever deeper arcana his devotion to the Mystic Institution or his thirst for knowledge may subsequently lead him, with the Lambskin Apron -his first investiture- he never parts. Changing, perhaps its form and decorations, and conveying at each step, some new but beautiful allusion, its substance is still there and it continues to claim the honoured title by which it was first made known to him on the night of his Initiation, as "THE BADGE OF A MASON."
The use of the Apron, or some equivalent mode of Investiture, as a mystic symbol, was common to all the nations of the earth from the earliest periods. THE LAMBSKIN is an emblem of innocence and purity, and a most exalted badge of distinction. The Lambskin Apron is pure white. As a characteristic sign of PURITY, White exhibits a promise of Hope after Death.
The Lambskin is then, in Freemasonry, symbolic of that perfection of body, and purity of mind, which are essential qualifications in all who participate in our secret mysteries.
Investiture with the Lambskin Apron, symbolises to the Initiate that he is admitted to participation in our Mysteries as a BUILDER, and that the Lambskin is not merely a decoration, but an emblem of LABOUR.
An applicant for admission into Masonry is called a Candidate. The Latin "Candidatus" means clothed in white, "Candidus vestibus indutus". In ancient Rome, he who sought office from the people wore a white robe of a peculiar construction, flowing open in front, so as to exhibit the wounds he had received in his breast. From the colour of his robe or Toga Candida, he was called "Candidatus", whence the word Candidate. The derivation will serve to remind the Mason of the purity of conduct and character that should distinguish all those who are candidates for admission into the Order. The qualifications of a candidate in Masonry are somewhat peculiar. He must be free-born, under no bondage, of at least twenty-one years of age, (a Lewis excepted) in the possession of sound senses, free from any physical defect of dismemberment, (except by special dispensation of the Grand Master issued under exceptional circumstances) and of irreproachable manners, or, as it is technically termed, "Under the tongue of good report". No atheist, eunuch, or woman can be admitted. The requisites as to age, sex, and soundness of body have reference to the Operative character of the Institution. WE CAN ONLY EXPECT ABLE WORKMEN IN ABLE-BODIED MEN. The mental and religious qualifications refer to the duties and obligations which a Mason contracts. An idiot could not understand them, and an atheist would not respect them. Even those who possess all these necessary qualifications can be admitted only under certain Regulations that differ under different Masonic Constitutions.
The First Degree of Freemasonry in all the Rites, is that of Entered Apprentice. The radical meaning of the word is a LEARNER. Like the Lesser Mysteries of the ancient initiations, it is, in Masonry, a preliminary degree, intended to prepare a Candidate for the higher and fuller instructions of the succeeding Degrees. It is replete, in its Lecture, with instruction on the internal structure of the Order.
APPRENTICE is a very old term, and was used in London and elsewhere hundreds of years ago to indicate the lads who were placed by their parents or guardians under indentures, or binding contracts, of the period, to serve a Master, generally for seven years, in order to learn the trade. In like manner, the novice in Freemasonry who is under an obligation to learn and use its is described as an ENTERED APPRENTICE.
In former days, applicants for apprenticeship were entered on a list, and had to wait their turn, for the law limited their number to any particular Master; they were then described as ENTERED APPRENTICES.
Reference to "Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible," by Robert Young, L1D, l2th impression of seventh Edition, page 905, states, “SOLOMON. The tenth son of David and second by Bath-Sheba and the third King of Israel, born B. C. 1033, crowned B. C. 1015, died B. C. 975 was buried in the city of David after a reign of forty (40) years”.
SOLOMON, according to the above, was eighteen (18) years old when crowned Solomon King of Israel. On different occasions when addressing Masonic Brethren, I have suggested this as being a possible reason for the admission of a LEWIS at the age of 18 years.
Gadicke says that “According to the ancient Laws of Freemasonry, every brother must attend his Lodge if he is within the length of his Cable tow”. The old writers define the length of a cable tow, which they sometimes called “a cable's length”, to be three miles for an Entered Apprentice. But the expression is really SYMBOLIC and means the scope of a man’s reasonable ability.
The Old Constitutions declare that the Candidate for Freemasonry must be "a perfect youths having no maim or defect in his body”. The Masonic law of physical qualifications is derived from the
Mosaic, which excludes from the Priesthood a man having any blemishes or deformities. The Regulation in Masonry constitutes one of the LANDMARKS, and is illustrative of the symbolism of the Institution. The earliest of the Old Constitutions that of the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript, has this language on the subject:
"To the Craft it were a great shame
To make a halt man and a lame,
For an imperfect man of such blood
Should do the Craft but little good.'' ……………(Lines 153-156).
This word is not to be found in our English Dictionaries.
It is an old English word derived from the ancient Saxon word HELAN, from which is derived the words “Hell” and “Inter-alia”. It means to hide, to cover up, to conceal, to disguise, to secrete, and the word is still used colloquially in Cornwall, the West of England, and other districts of Celtic dialect.
The word is pronounced as "HEEL". The Masonic Record tells us that in its original sense it meant to heal, and in the building trade, to which it most particularly referred, it is still in use in various parts of England, and refers to the putting on of a roof, by tiles, slabs, etc., which is called “HEALING” and the operative workman is known as a “Healer” or “Hillifer”. In all cases the word is pronounced phonetically.
THE MOSA.IC PAVEMENT
The Mosaic Pavement, justly deemed the beautiful flooring of a Masonic Lodges remind us of the bounteous liberality of The Great Architect of the Universe, who has spread the earth with a beauteous carpet, and wrought it, as it were, in Mosaic work. The BLACK AND WHITE chequers symbolise the evil and good of human life, and the shades of DEATH and LIFE. It also represents the world chequered over with Good and Evil; Pain and Pleasure; Grief and Joy; to-day we walk in prosperity, to-morrow we totter in adversity; but, united in the bond of Brotherhoods and walking justly and uprightly before God and man, we may not stumble.
The Mosaic Pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met with in the earliest Rituals of the XVIIIth. Century. It is classed among the ornaments of the Lodge in combination with the Indented Border and the Blazing Star.
THE VOLUME OF THE SACRED LAW
To Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law - be it the Bible of the Christian, the Koran of the Moslem, the Zenda-vesta of the Parsee - is the symbol of the Word of God, the Universal Father of all mankind, who speaks to His children through many Prophets, in many tongues. Hence it is that the great Masonic powers of the worlds while insisting that the presence of the Volume of the Sacred Law is one of the several requirements for recognition and regularity, do not insist upon this Volume being the particular Book of Faith of any of the religions of the World. Whatever, to any people, expresses the Will of God is a valid substitute.
Whether it be the Gospels to the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Mussulmans or the Vedas to the Brahmin, it everywhere conveys the same idea - that of the symbolism of the Divine Will revealed to man.
The SACRED WRITINGS are a direct inspiration from the Great Architect of the Universe, and therefore the conceded guide for all our conduct. As FREEMASONS we receive the V. O. T. S. Law as the ultimate standard of our morality, and by it, we must inevitably be tried, and be acquitted or condemned. The Sacred Writings are the foundation upon which every moral principle in Freemasonry stands; just as we are governed by the Constitutions, Rules, Regulations and Edicts which are acknowledged as of human authority only, and do govern us in our common jurisprudence throughout the entire world of Freemasons, so do the Sacred Writings rule and govern our ethics and moral conduct, whether they be human only, or of Divine origin. These moral principles, clearly set forth in the V. O. T. Sacred Law, appeal to the moral consciousness of mankind in general; and are the most perfect expression of the law of human duty.
In the Volume of the Sacred Law we find all that is necessary for man to do in his progress towards re-instatement to his original sinless condition, and it's influence has tended, continually, to change the fierceness of the natural man, to those milder or heavenly virtues of LOVE, COMPASSI0N and CHARITY.
In the Middle Ages the Operative Masons wore gloves to protect their hands, much as carpenters and other workmen wore aprons to protect their clothing; the smith an apron of leather.
In law, we learn that a man must “Come into Court with clean hands”. This is, without fault or falsehood.
In the services of the Roman Church in the Middle Ages, the members of the Priesthood wore gloves to denote that human hands should not handle sacred things.
White gloves were often worn in European courts to denote innocence. Thus, while one may know something of a crime, by wearing white gloves, he showed that he had no part in the actual crime, and was willing to aid in capturing the offenders.
In services for the dead, white gloves, as a symbol of purity, have been worn for many ages by those who took an active part in the service.
T'hus, he who is clad in white gloves confesses his past offences, and by that symbol ask, that those offences be forgiven.
THE MIDDLE AGES
This period is generally understood to extend from the time Theodoric liberated Rome, 493, to the end of the XVth Century.
The important events that occurred during this period were the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the discovery of America in 1492, and the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497.
This period of ten centuries is of the greatest importance from a Masonic standpoint, because it embraces in its scope events intimately connected with the history of the Order, such as the diffusion throughout Europe of the Roman College of Artificers; the establishment of the Architectural School of Como; the rise of the Guilds; the organisation of the Building Corporations of Germany, and the Company of Freemasons of England, as well as many customs and usages which have descended with more or less modification to the modern Institution.
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE HAND
Among some savage races the usual greeting between friends and kin is given by rubbing noses or foreheads together, and many other unusual forms are known and practised in different countries of the world; but among most civilised races to-day, the GRIP or HANDSHAKE is the most customary form of greeting. The HAND has been a symbolic emblem in all races and times, and even in its crudest and most rudimentary form, the hand-shake implies a truce between foes; hand clasping each other cannot hold or conceal a weapon, either of offence or defence.
Among, the ancient Egyptians, the hand was the symbol of the BUILDER, signifying that all construction, all labour of any kind, was dependent on the hand, and the clasped hands adopted as a badge by some modern Trade Unions embodies the same teaching. In early art the Supreme Being was frequently depicted by a hand extending from a cloud in the act of benediction; and the symbolic form used to express benediction in modern churches, and in many Masonic Degrees, is still essentially the same used in ancient days by Phrygian and Eleusinian priests, as well as in the early pictures already referred to.
A different symbolism was applied to the RIGHT and the LEFT hands, the right naturally being of greater importance. The right hand was universally acknowledged as the emblem of FIDELITY, while the left hand symbolised EQUITY, - “being more adapted to administering equity (justice) than the right from the natural inertness and its being endowed, with no craft and no subtlety”.
The V, O. T. S. L. contains an injunction cautioning us against permitting the right hand to know all the deeds and actions of the left hand.
Among the ancient Hebrews the giving of the right hand was the token of fealty or friendship, and the raising of the right hand was from the earliest times accepted as rendering an oath or promise, binding. Among the Romans, the giving of a handclasp with the right hand was accepted as a pledge of mutual faith, and in the V.O.T.S.L. St. Paul speaks of "Giving the Right Hand of Fellowship” to seal a compact.
The few instances cited above serve to indicate the importance attaching to the right hand throughout all times and nearly all countries. It has been universally accepted as a symbol of SINCERITY, a pledge of FIDELITY, as a token of FRIENDSHIP. It is now universally accepted in a similar sense by all Freemasons of all Rites and Degrees over the surface of the Earth.
THE LEFT SIDE
In the symbolism of Freemasonry, the Entered Apprentice Degree is represented by the LEFT SIDE,
which indicates that as the Left is the weaker part of the body, so is the Entered Apprentice Degree the weakest part of freemasonry. This doctrine that the left is the weaker side of the body is very ancient, and arises from the fact that the right is more used, and that the organs of the right side are by nature more powerful than those of the left.
The Candidate commences his perambulations by stepping off with the left foot. This is symbolical of commencing the journey through life by putting all evil thoughts and actions under and away from him; the great evils which beset him through life should be trodden down. By placing his left foot first, the Candidate exposes his n…l…b… to the East and thus progresses towards Light and Knowledge which is ever the object of attainment in our Mysteries.
THE MASONIC ALTAR
The Altar, whilst being most conspicuous on the floor of the Lodge, is also the most Holy spot in the Lodge. In ancient times it was “the feature both in heathen and Jewish systems of worship”. It is frequently mentioned in the incidents of Patriarchal life, and we first see it mentioned in the Bible when “Noah left the Ark, he built an Altar”. Centuries later we find in the same Holy Book mention of the fact that after the giving of the”Law”, the Israelites were commanded to erect an Altar of earth.
The definition is quite simple. An altar is a structure elevated above the ground and appropriated to some service connected with worship such as the offering of Oblations, Sacrifices, or Prayers. Among the ancients, (both Jew and Gentile) Altars were of two kinds - for incense and for sacrifice. The latter were always erected in the open air, outside, and in front of the Temple. The Altar inside the Temple was only to be used for incense and bloodless sacrifices to the Deity. The Masonic Altar, like all else in Masonry, is SYMBOLIC, combining the character and uses of both Altars, being an Altar of sacrifice, because on it, the Candidate is directed to lay his passions and vices as an Oblation to the Deity, whilst he offers up the thoughts of a pure heart as a fitting incense to the Great Architect of the Universe. The Altar is thus proved to be the most Holy place in the Lodge.
In ancient times Alters were places of refuge, and people fled to them for safety. Even slaves and criminals could not be dragged away from the Altar. To attempt to do so would be regarded as an act of violence and a sacrilegious crime. Marriage covenants were also solemnized at the Altar by the ancients. A vow made or an oath taken at the Altar was considered the most binding, and most solemn, and all contracts and treaties were made firm and binding by taking the oath at the Altar. From all this, it is quite plain that the Altar in Masonry is not merely an article of furniture intended, like a table, to carry a Bible. It is a Sacred Utensil intended, like the Altars of the ancient Temples, for religious uses. Its presence should lead the contemplative Mason to view the ceremonies with solemn reverence.
Our Masonic altar is in the form of a Double Cube. Originally, the Altar was a cube about three feet high, and corresponding proportions as to height and width. The Cube has ever been considered a symbol of equality, purity, and Justice, and that was the reason our forefathers selected a double cube as a
shape of the Altar, being a type, in a superlative degree, of the Purity, Excellence and durability of the Divine Power.
PASSING BETWEEN THE ALTAR AND THE MASTER
It is a distinct breach of Masonic custom to pass between altar and the Worshipful Master. Our Three Great Lights of Masonry - The V. O. T. S. L., the Square, and the Compasses, are the particular responsibility of the Worshipful Master, since they are dedicated to God, the Master, and the Craft. To the Master is confided all the furniture of especially the Three Great Lights which are the most important of all. Therefore, to insure that the Master may have this all-important charge constantly in sight, it has been established as a Masonic precedent that no one should ever obscure his view of the Altar after the Lodge is open.
THE FELLOW-CRAFT FREEMASON
In the pursuit of knowledge, the intellectual faculties are employed in promoting the Glory of God, and the good of man. In this Degree the young Mason is represented as having attained the age of MANHOOD, and labouring to overcome the difficulties which beset him in the attainment of the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science, to which he is introduced and enjoined to study, so that he may see knowledge rising out of its first elements, and be led, step by step, through all the windings and labyrinths of TRUTH, to the most exalted discoveries of the human intellect.
Masonic symbolism shows the Candidate as always rising towards a higher state of perfection.
In the First Degree we have the Theological Ladder, with its three steps of Faith, Hope, and Charity, impressing this idea; in the Second Degree we have the Winding Stair, symbolising the laborious ascent to eminence in the attainment of the hidden mysteries of learning and science.
Freemasonry, like all other Institutions in this progressive age, is in danger of being caught in the trend of modern times. Due to our great increase in membership in the last few years, we have in our midst men who are disappointed in freemasonry. Possibly we have to some extent been at fault. Too much haste in making members, not enough care in selection, and too little attention paid to qualifications before advancement, have not been in the best interests of the Fraternity. Craftsmen have a tendency to forget that our Fraternity was founded and built in the past, and has been carried down through succeeding generations by certain well-defined usages, customs, regulations, and landmarks. Its principles and tenets so wisely perfected in the dim past, are just as applicable today as in the years gone by, and any attempt to modernise our Institution, to allow it to take an active part in the community work, or in the affairs of religion or State, must necessarily weaken our whole structure. We are training men, men of character and intelligence, who must of necessity influence public and private affairs. If our Craftsmen carried our tenets and principles into their daily lives, there would be no difficulty in determining our stand in any matters or problems confronting us. As an Institution, Freemasonry is judged by the outside world by the character of its individual members, by their conduct as men, as members of a community, and as citizens of the State. The danger we have to guard against is that of lowering the bars of our fraternal standard and allowing a large penetration of individuals with neither the training nor inclination along the lines of our ancient landmarks - men who are not first “made Masons in their hearts”. Our duty today is to perpetuate the traditions and ideals of the Craft and hand on our Institution to succeeding generations with a greater conception of Brotherhood.
LIGHT First Chapter of Genesis,Verse 3, V.O.T.S.Law.
This particular part of the ceremony symbolises victory of KNOWLEDGE over IGNORANCE, and the impression intended to be made on the mind of the Candidate on first beholding the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry, is to make him recollect that the LIGHT OF WISDOM is beautiful, and that all her paths are PEACE.
THE MASTER MASON
In all the Rites of Masonry, no matter how variant may be their organisation in the higher degrees, the Master Mason constitutes the Third Degree. In form this degree is also everywhere substantially the same, because its legend is an essential part of it; and, as on that legend the Degree must be founded, there can nowhere be any important variation, because the tradition has at all times been the same.
The Master Mason's Degree was originally the summit of Ancient Craft Masonry, and so it must have been before the disseverance from it of the Holy Royal Arch, by which is meant not the ritual, but the symbolism of Arch Masonry. But, under its present organisation, the Degree is actually incomplete, because it needs a complement that is only to be supplied in a higher one.
Hence its symbolism is necessarily restricted, in its mutilated form, to the first Temple and the present life, although it gives the assurance of a future one.
As the whole system of Craft Masonry is intended to present the symbolic idea of man passing through the pilgrimage of life, each degree is appropriated to a certain portion of that pilgrimage. If, then, the First Degree is a representation of YOUTH, the time to learn, and the Second Degree of MANHOOD, or the time to work, the THIRD DEGREE IS SYMBOLIC OF OLD AGE, with its trials, its sufferings, and its final termination in DEATH. The time for toiling is now over - the opportunity to learn has passed away - the Spiritual Temple that we all have been striving to erect in our hearts, is now nearly completed, and the weary workman awaits only the word of the G.A.O.T.U. to call him from the labours of earth to the eternal refreshments of Heaven. Hence, this is, by far,
THE MOST SOLEMN AND SACRED OF THE DEGREES OF FREEMASONRY; and it has, in consequence of the profound truths which it inculcates, been distinguished by the Craft, as
THE SUBLIME DEGREE. As an Entered Apprentice, the Mason was taught those elementary instructions which were to fit him for further advancement in his profession, just as the youth is supplied with that rudimentary education which is to prepare him for entering on the active duties of life; as a Fellow-Craft, he is directed to continue his investigations in the science of the Institution, and to labour diligently in the tasks it prescribes, just as the man is required to enlarge his mind by the acquisition of new ideas, and to extend his usefulness to his fellow-creatures; but, as a Master Mason he is taught the last, the most important, and the most necessary of truths, that having been faithful to all his trusts, he is at last to die, and to receive the reward of his fidelity.
It was the single object of all the ancient rites and mysteries practised in the very bosom of pagan darkness, shining as a solitary beacon on all that surrounding gloom, and cheering the philosopher in his weary pilgrimage of life, TO TEACH THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. THIS IS STILL THE GREAT DESIGN OF THE THIRD DEGREE OF' MASONRY. THIS IS THE SCOPE AND AIM OF ITS RITUAL. The Master Mason represents man, when youth, manhood, old age, and life itself, have passed away as fleeting shadows, yet raised from the grave of iniquity, and quickened into another and better existence. By its legend and all its ritual, it is implied that we have been redeemed from the death of sin and the sepulchre of pollution. “The ceremonies and the lecture”, says Dr. Crucefix, “beautifully illustrate this all-engrossing subject, and the conclusion we arrive at is, that youth, properly directed, leads us to honourable and virtuous maturity, and that the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour, by the prospect of eternal bliss”.
THE EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE
But few Brethren have any definite idea as to why the Compasses are opened upon the V. O. T. S. L., at an angle of 60 Degrees. The explanation may be found in the fact that the Equilateral Triangle has always been sacred. The sum of all the angles of any triangle is equal to two right angles, or 180 Degrees. Each of the equal angles of any equilateral triangle is equal to one third of two right angles (180 divided by 3) that is 60. The Compasses thus set at 60 degrees allude to the Equilateral Triangle, and if the two points were united by a straight line, would form one. Our ancient Brethren placed the Equilateral Triangle itself on the Altar. The Compasses opened at an angle of 600 have been substituted. Furthermore, if a circle of any size be drawn, a chord of 60 of that circle will be equal to its radius and the compasses so set will divide the circle into 6 equal parts. The points thus made, with the one in the centre, constitute the mystic seven (Numeral 7). The external six points, if joined by six straight lines, will form a HEXAGON within the circle, one of the perfect figures. Or, if we unite these six points in another way, we have the double equilateral triangle in union with the point within the circle. This was the most sacred symbol of Pythagoras, known in all ages as THE SEAL OF SOLOMON, by which he bound fast the genii that rebelled against God. If the whole seven points be joined by straight lines, we get a perfect cube within a perfect sphere. The CUBE was sacred in all ages.
There is no symbol more important in its signification or more generally diffused throughout the whole system of Freemasonry than the Triangle. An examination of it, therefore, cannot fail to be interesting to the Masonic student.
ALL OBLIGATIONS IN MASONRY ARE GIVEN WITHIN THE EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE,
THIS BEING THE UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED SYMBOL OF THE DEITY.
The equilateral triangle appears to have been adopted by nearly all nations of antiquity as a symbol of the Deity, in some of His forms or emanations, and hence, probably, the prevailing influence of this symbol was carried into the Jewish system, where the Yod within the Triangle was made to represent the Tetragrammaton, or Sacred and Incommunicable Name of God.
To Freemasons, the Equilateral Triangle is a symbol of Divine Union, and an emblem of the mysterious Triune God, equally representing the attributes of Deity, and His Triune Essence, namely, Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. As the three equal angles or sides form but one triangle, so these three attributes constitute one God.
The disciples of Pythagoras administered the Obligation to a Candidate on the Tetractys, which was expressed by ten Yods arranged in the form of a Triangle.
9 9 9
9 9 9 9
This design was adopted by them as a symbol of Deity, who embraced in Himself the three stages of time, PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE, in other words, HE WAS; HE IS; HE SHALL BE.
During an Obligation, the Wands of the Deacons are crossed over the head of the kneeling Candidate. With the Candidate as the bases they thus form an Equilateral Triangle.
WHY VALUABLE MASONIC MANUSCRIPTS ARE MISSING
Many legendary writings called apocryphal, as well as those more authentic, are said to have
been destroyed after they were collated into a volume variously called “The Masonic Constitutions”, “The Legend of the Guild”, “The History of Freemasonry”, “The Constitutions of the Craft”, etc., etc., all of which were designated by Dr. Anderson in his preface to the “Charges of a Freemason”.
There is something not written in history below the surface of all statements made as to the “Old Charges”, and this is evident from what has been read into these manuscripts between the lines, so to speak. Not to mention the manuscripts destroyed by over-cautious Brethren, there was a constant destruction by dampness and other auxiliaries. There was an immense consumption of them following the art of printing. Vast numbers of manuscript volumes and rolls beautiful and ancient in their times, were ruthlessly used by book-binders for backs and bands, even for fly-leaves. Whole libraries were destroyed or made waste paper of, or consumed for the vilest of uses. The splendid Abbey of Malmsbury was ransacked and its treasures either sold or buried to conserve the commonest purposes of life. Even broken windows were patched up with the remnants of the most valuable manuscripts, on vellum, and, even in later years, the bakers had not consumed the stores they had accumulated in heating their ovens. In the light of these facts, the wonder is not so much that we have few Masonic manuscripts remaining, but that any escaped the printers, book-binders and bakers of the first century of printing. Had it not been for the wholesale destruction of old manuscripts, it is exceedingly probable that some satisfactory explanation could be found for the origin of Freemasonry.
An example of wanton destruction is that the Royal Palace in Alexandria, Egypt. In it was the famous “LIBRARY” of over 700,000 volumes, the largest in the world, collected by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his successors. It was wantonly destroyed by fire by the Saracens, at the order of Calif Omar III, in
A.D.642, when the numerous works furnished all the public baths with fuel for over six months. The records of Manetho, the Father of History, the major portions of the works of Euclid and contemporaneous writers and scholars were lost to the world in this orgy of destruction.
Dr. Anderson tells us, in the second edition of his Constitutions, that in the year 1717 Grand Master Payne “desired my Brethren to bring to the Grand Lodge any old writings and records concerning Masons and Masonry, in order to show the usages of ancient times, and several old copies of the Gothic Constitutions were produced and collated” (Constitutions,1738, p.110). But in consequence of a jealous supposition that it would be wrong to commit anything to print which related to Masonry, an act of Masonic vandalism was perpetrated. For Anderson further informs us that in 1720, “at some private lodges, several valuable manuscripts (for they had nothing yet in print) concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets, and Usages (particularly one written by Nicholas Stone, the Warden of Inigo Jones) were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers, that these papers might not fall into strange hands”(Ibid. p.111).
In recent years the archaeologists of Masonry have laboured very diligently and successfully to disinter from the Old Lodges, libraries, and museums, many ancient manuscripts that have escaped destruction, and much light has been thrown upon the early history of Freemasonry. A list of these may be perused in any standard Masonic Encyclopaedia.
Every Mason who desires to know the true condition of the Fraternity during the last three or four centuries, and who would learn the connection between the Stone-masons of the Middle Ages and the Free and Accepted Masons of the present day, so as perfectly to understand the process by which the Institution became changed from an operative art to a speculative science, should attentively read and thoroughly digest these ancient records of the Brotherhood.
SYMBOLISM OF MASONIC COLOURS OF WHITE AND BLUE
Wemyss, in his “Clavis Symbolica”, says: “Colour, which is outwardly seen on the habit of the body,
is symbolically used to denote the true state of the person, or subject, to which it is applied according to its nature”. This definition may appropriately be borrowed on the present occasion and applied to the system of Masonic colours. The colour of a vestment or of a decoration is never arbitrarily adopted in Freemasonry. Every colour is selected with a view to its power in the symbolic alphabet, and it teaches the Initiate some instructive moral lesson, or refers to some important historical fact in the system.
Frederick Portal, a French Archaeologist, has written a valuable treatise on the symbolism of colours, under the title of “Des Couleurs Symboliques dans L’Antiquite, Le Moyen age et le temps modernes”, which is well worth the attention of Masonic students. Portal says, (and I quote from the book referred to above) on page 35: “WHITE is the colour of ABSOLUTE TRUTH, of HIM WHO IS; it alone reflects all the luminous rays; it is the unity whence all the primitive colours emanate”.
In all ages the colour of WHITE has symbolised PURITY. When Aaron entered the Holy of Holies, he was clothed in white linen; the ancient Egyptians decorated the head of their principal deity, Osiris, with a white tiara, and their priests wore robes of the whitest linen. In the school of Pythagoras the Sacred Hymns were chanted by disciples clothed in white. The Druids clothed their Initiates who had arrived at the ultimate degree, or that of perfection, in white vestments. White was, in general, the garments of the Gentile, as well as of the Hebrew priests in the performance of their Sacred Rites. As the Divine Power was supposed to be represented on earth by the Priesthood, in all nations the sovereign pontiff was clad in white.
In Speculative Masonry, White is the symbol of Purity and Innocence. This symbolism commences at the earliest point of preparation for Initiation, and when the Candidate is invested with the White Lambskin as a symbol of purity of life and rectitude of conduct. This symbolism of purity was most probably derived from that of the primitive church, where a white garment was placed on the catechumen who was about to be baptised, as a token that he had put off the lusts of the flesh, and, being cleansed from his former sins had obliged himself to maintain an unspotted life.
Portal, in his treatise referred to, says “White, the symbol of the Divinity and the Priesthood, represents DIVINE WISDOM; applied to a young girl, it denotes VIRGINITY; to an accused person, INNOCENCE; to a Judge, JUSTICE. As a characteristic sign of PURITY, it exhibits a promise of hope after death. White is, therefore, the only colour, except BLUE, which should be used in a Master Mason's Lodge. Decorations of any other colour would be highly inappropriate.
The three degrees of symbolic Masonry are clothed in, or ornamented with, Blue, whence they are commonly known as “Blue Degrees”. BLUE is the colour of TRUTH or FIDELITY, and it is a remarkable fact that the Brethren have ever remained true to the Craft, or three Blue Degrees, while the authenticity of the other degrees have often been disputed, and in many places altogether denied. Under the reign of William III of England, Blue was adopted as the favourite colour of the Craft. This beautiful and durable colour was adopted by our ancient Brethren as a peculiar characteristic of an Institution which has stood the test of ages, and which is as much distinguished by the durability of its materials or principles, as by the beauty of its superstructure. BLUE is an emblem of universal friendship and benevolence, and instructs us that, in the breast of a Mason, those virtues should be as expansive as the blue vault of Heaven itself. It is, therefore, the only colour, except WHITE, which should be used in a Master Masons Lodge. BLUE, the colour of the sky, is, traditionally, associated with devotion to spiritual concerns.
SECRECY AND SILENCE
These virtues constitute the very essence of all Masonic character. They are the safeguard of the Institution giving to it all its security and perpetuity, and are enforced by frequent admonitions in all the Degrees, from the lowest to the highest. The Entered Apprentice begins his Masonic career by learning the duty of secrecy and silence. Hence it is appropriate that in that degree which is the consummation of Initiation, in which the whole cycle of Masonic science is completed, the abstruse machinery of symbolism should be employed to impress the same important virtues on the mind of the neophyte.
The same principles of secrecy and silence existed in all the ancient mysteries and systems of worship.
When Aristotle was asked what thing appeared to him to be most difficult of performance, he replied, “TO BE SECRET AND SILENT”.
The VEIL OF SECRECY which shrouds Freemasonry has attracted the attention of the uninitiated more than anything else, and by their conjectures, have attributed to it many erroneous notions, some of which none but the most ignorant could believe. But some may naturally reason in their own mind:
“If the objects and pretensions of Freemasonry be honest and praiseworthy, what need is there for an Obligation of secrecy? If it be really a system of morality, and have a tendency to elevate the mind, or be a benefit to mankind, why not make it free to all? And charity being boasted as one of its characteristic features, is it not Mason's bounden duty, as charitable men, to make it known without fee or price, instead of binding the members by fearful oaths of secrecy?”
The only answer which we can give to these questions is, THAT NATURE IS SHROUDED IN MYSTERY, and mystery has charms for all men. Whatever is familiar to us, however novel, beautiful, or elevating, is often disregarded, un-noticed, or despised, whilst novelty, however trifling or devoid of intrinsic value, will charm and captivate the imagination, and become the fuel of curiosity, which cannot bear to be ignorant of what others know. And so FREEMASONRY, taking the example of Nature, veils its beauties in mystery, and illustrates them by symbols. In support of this, I quote two distinguished writers:
“Thoughts will not work except in silence; neither will virtue work, except in secrecy. Like other plants, virtue will not grow unless its roots be hidden, buried from the light of the sun. Let the sun shine on it – nay, do but look at it privily thyself - the roots wither, and no flowers will glad thee”. Thomas Carlyle “Sartor Resartus”
By RW Bro Eric A. Peisley, PJGW