Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Symbolism of the Blue Lodge: Entered Apprentice

This will be the first in a three part series concerning the lectures and tracing board of each of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge. For the Entered Apprentice degree I will be pulling from the third section of the Lecture (Idaho work) and from the tracing board (trestleboard) of this degree. In this paper I will specifically be looking form, supports, covering, furniture, ornaments, lights, jewels, situation, and dedication of the Lodge.

The Form of the Lodge is oblong and is said to represent the universality of Freemasonry. This taken with tenet Brotherly Love which states that Freemasonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, the Lodge should be seen as a microcosm of the world.

Every Masonic Lodge is said to be supported by three great pillars known as Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. Pillars have been used throughout history for commemorative, symbolic, and architectural reasons. One of the most notable examples of commemoration is with the ancient Egyptians who are famous for recording their history and legends upon their structures to include their pillars of stone. The kings of ancient Egypt were known for recording their conquests, accomplishments, and their magnificence on pillars and/or obelisks. They did this to follow the example of Osiris who was said to do this practice There are also several references within the Bible to use of pillars: 
According to 19th century sources, Hiram King of Tyre, upon the forming of his grand junction between Eurichorus and Tyre, dedicated a pillar to Jupiter in commemoration of the event.

Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, erected two pillars, one of brass to resist water and the other of stone to resist fire upon which he inscribed information calculated to preserve his knowledge to posterity in the case of the destruction of the world. Jacob erected a Pillar at Galeed to commemorate his treaty with his uncle, Laban. Joshua raised a pillar at Gilgal to perpetuate the fact of the miraculous passage of the River Jordan. Absalom, the third son of King David, erected a pillar in honor of himself. 

These three pillars are also just one example of the use of the number three throughout Freemasonry: three degrees of Craft Masonry three lesser lights, three great lights, three principle officers, three principle tenets, three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity). It is curious to note that the use of three is used in a variety of religions and ancient mysteries. In ancient Egypt, the triad consisted of Osiris, Isis, and Horus. For the Hindus, practitioners revere Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as their divine triad. In the Grecian Mysteries the triad was Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Vikings considered Odin, Frigga, and Thor to be their Trinity. And the list goes on with Central and South American, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Phoenicians religions.

The story of Jacob and his ladder is taken from the 28th chapter of the Book of Genesis. How and when it was introduced to speculative Freemasonry is not exactly known; find some records at the end of the 18th century referring to it. Some in Freemasonry have argued that the ladder was composed of seven rungs representing the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. In the Zohar, a founding piece of literature of the Kabbalistic tradition, states that the ladder was composed of 72 rungs to represent the 72 angels involved with the Sephiroth and the hidden name of God. In Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, there are said to be hidden names of God, or Shemhamphorasch, that were past from high priest to high priest, starting with Moses. It should be noted that the Shemhamphorasch is used to describe various numbered sequences of Hebrew letters to describe the hidden name of God. The Shemhamphorasch can be composed of either 4, 12, 22, 42, or 72 letters; the latter version being the most common as well as the four letter (known as the Tetragrammaton). These hidden names were not names like Brian, James, or Josh but rather 72 sequences composed of Hebrew letters that have the extraordinary power to overcome the laws of nature in all forms, including human nature. Kabbalist and occultist legends state that the 72-fold name was used by Moses to cross the Red Sea, and that it can grant later holy men the power to control demons, heal the sick, prevent natural disasters, and even kill enemies. 

Kabbalistic teaching informs us that there are 72 angels who are inhabitants of ten sephiroth, with twenty-two paths interconnecting them; this is the Tree of Life. These Angels are what is often refer to as the Guardians Angels, or Teaching Angels, who we can invoke, pray or appeal to, and who will carry our messages and pleas to God. 72 is significant in a variety of beliefs. There were 72 warriors on the Muslim side at the Battle of Badr, an important battle during Mohammed’s conquest of the Arabian peninsula. There were 72 people martyred along with Imam Hussain, grandson of Mohammed, at the Battle of Karbala. There were 72 disciples of Confucius. The Egyptian god Osiris was enclosed in a sarcophagus by 72 evil disciples and accomplices of Set. 

The Great Lights are the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses. The Volume of the Sacred Law is the will of one’s God communicated to man through inspired or divine writings, and serves as a symbol of man’s acknowledgment of his relation to his Creator. The Grand Lodges of the United States use the Holy Bible as the Volume of the Sacred Law on their Altars (as with anything there are exceptions with some Lodges). In other countries, Lodges use other sacred texts are placed on the Altar in place of the Holy Bible. The Square is a symbol of morality, truthfulness and honesty. To “act on the square” is to act honestly. The Square signifies the physical and material life. It is an instrument of architecture that has been used throughout the ages, and our ancient Brethren who wrought in Operative Masonry could not have erected the edifices such as King Solomon's Temple without the use of this instrument. The Compasses signifies the duty which we owe to ourselves. We might also properly regard the Compasses as excluding beyond its circle that which is harmful. The Compasses were employed in operative Masonry for the accurate measurement of the architect’s plans and to enable him to give just proportions which would ensure stability and beauty. The Compasses signify the intellectual, moral, and spiritual life. These symbols taken together demonstrate that human nature is divided into three parts: body, mind, and soul, the Square to the body, the Compasses to the mind, and the Volume of Sacred Law for the soul. I also believe this is also represented by the three degrees of Freemasonry.

The Ornaments of the Lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, Indented Tessel, and Blazing Star. Mosaic work consists properly of many little stones of different colors united together in patterns to imitate a painting. The Masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a mosaic pavement of black and white stones. There is no historical evidence to substantiate this statement. It is thought that our Masonic forefathers chose black and white tiles because of a passage from the Gospel of St. John which states: "When Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha." The word here “Pavement” is translated from the original Lithostroton, the very word used by Pliny, a Roman author and philosopher, to denote a mosaic pavement. The reason that it is called “Mosaic pavement” comes from the idea that the work is derived from the fact that Moses used a pavement of colored stones in the tabernacle The mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met with in the earliest Rituals of the eighteenth century. To symbolize duality through the colors of black and white is quite ancient as most cultures see white and black as symbolic of good and evil. It has also been used as a comparison between the physical and spiritual world, male and female, and the sky and the earth. 

With the Indented Tessel is a historical inaccuracy. In reality it is not known whether or not if there was a “tessellated border” that surrounded the pavement in King Solomon’s Temple. Our use of this comes from early Lodges where many symbols and diagrams were drawn upon the floor and then were surrounded by a cord with four tassels, one at each angle; this was the original tracing boards. Eventually the tracing board was changed from a temporary drawing upon the floor to a permanent fixture on a tracing board. These four cords are described as referring to the four perfect points of entry. The belief that there was a tessellated border surrounding the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple came to the US by Thomas Smith-Webb who reformed the American ritual. Early French ritual the cords and indented tessel were intended "to teach the Mason that the society of which he constitutes a part surrounds the earth, and that distance, so far from relaxing the bonds which unite the members to each other, ought to draw them closer." 

The Masonic Blazing Star is an important symbol in Freemasonry and makes an appearance in several degrees. Historically, this symbol wasn’t found in the monitors from around 1717, but by 1735 it is considered a part of the lexicon of Freemasonry. In the lectures credited to Thomas Dunckerley, an 18th century British Mason, and adopted by the Premier Grand Lodge the Blazing Star was said to represent:
“the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem, proclaiming to mankind the nativity of the Son of God, and here conducting our spiritual progress to the Author of our redemption.”
William Preston, another 18th century British Mason belonging to the Antient Grand Lodge, stated that: 
“The Masonic Blazing Star, or glory in the center, reminds us of that awful period when the Almighty delivered the two tables of stone, containing the 10 commandments to His faithful servant, Moses on Mount Sinai, when the rays of His divine glory shone so bright that none could behold it without fear and trembling. It also reminds us of the omnipresence of the Almighty, overshadowing us with His divine love, and dispensing His blessings amongst us; and by its being placed in the center, it further reminds us, that wherever we may be assembled together, God is in the midst of us, seeing our actions, and observing the secret intents and movements of our hearts.” 
From the monitors created by Thomas Smith-Webb, the Blazing Star was said to be commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Saviour’s nativity. While it seems to hold a very Christian character in these early lectures, this symbol was revised in 1843 by the Baltimore Convention where the symbol retained only the allusion to Divine Providence thereby being applicable to all faiths. 

The Blazing star is not only a Masonic symbol, but an ancient and historic one. From early days, man has always looked to the heavens for guidance. The worship of sun and stars were some of the earliest religious systems used in ancient days. To these early religions, stars was in fact the soul of a hero or god that had once dwelt upon the earth. With this symbol, many draw comparisons to the Dog Star, Sirius. The Dog Star is actually 2 stars called Sirius A and Sirius B. Due to the fact that the Dog Star is 8.6 light years away, without a telescope of the magnitudinal category of the Hubble Telescope, using the naked eye, we see it as one star. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky because it is approximately twice the size of our sun, and as such has caught the attention of man. The Dog Star has a heliacal rising. Heliacal means relating to the sun. A heliacal rising is when the star becomes visible upon the Eastern horizon at dawn, travels through the sky and "sets" in the West, much like our sun. Stars with heliacal rising were important to the ancients as they used them for the timing of agricultural activities. Travelers upon the sea used the stars as a guide, much as we use a map, today. The stars even played a part in the establishing the borders and layout of the District of Columbia

The Lesser Lights are said to represent the sun, the moon and the Master of the Lodge. The sun is a symbol of the masculine, the active, the aggressive; the moon, of the feminine, the receptive, the passive. These two symbols continue the pattern of duality in Freemasonry During the course of initiation, the new Mason is taught the North is a place of darkness. This is explained in the ritual by describing the orientation of King Solomon's Temple and stating the location prevented the rays of the sun at meridian height from entering a north window. This explanation is based upon natural phenomena. However, it is known that diffused light will enter a northerly oriented window. It is curious to note that no other reference is made to the North being a place of darkness in Craft Masonry. It is interesting to see negativity with the north as those in the northern hemisphere seen the polar star by which early navigation was dependent upon. However, there are several mythological accounts on the north being a place of darkness. Even Biblical accounts state the following of the north. Job 37: 9 reads, "Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; and cold, out of the north." Among the people of England there existed a desire not to be buried on the north side of a church indicating an aversion to the north. The Graham Manuscript, published in 1726, provides some additional insight. It contains the following questions and answers: 
Q: How stood your lodge at your entering 
A: East west and south 
Q: Why not north also 
A: In regard we dwell at the north part of the world we burie no dead at the north side of our churches so we carry a Vacancey at the north side of our Lodges 
There is another, and perhaps more practical, reason for the north to be considered a place of darkness. Early religious buildings were built in an east-west fashion with the east being the predominant direction. This orientation was desired as the east was considered the source of light and power, related to the sun rising in the east. In creating their work area, the medieval guilds would erect a lodge building erected along side the church under construction. This building was invariably placed on the southern side of the construction to avoid the inclemency of the cold northern winds. As a result, the lodge acquired an east to west orientation and the openings were in the east, south, and west. This exposed the hut or lodge and the workmen to as much east, south, and west light as possible, providing the necessary light to work by for as long as possible. The light was blocked from the north by the adjacent building. As Masonry moved from the operative to the speculative, it was natural that the north would continue to symbolically represent the darkness of the working structures.

The Movable Jewels are the Rough Ashlar, the Perfect Ashlar, and the Trestle-Board. The word ashlar originates with the Latin word “assis” meaning “board or plank”. In early English this became “asheler” and was used to denote a stone in the rough as it came from the quarries. The ashlars are stones which symbolize man's moral and spiritual life and demonstrate the process of initiation. While a rough ashlar is that stone taken from the quarry in an unfinished state, the stone still must be of good quality, without defects or cracks, with the potential to be worked into a perfect ashlar. That is why Masonry accepts only those who come under the tongue of good report without scandalous or immoral backgrounds. An imperfect stone may be made perfect, however major flaws are difficult to overcome and when assembled into a structure, the entire structure can be weakened from its improper use. As he proceeds through his Masonic initiation, he is exposed to many lessons and symbols to expand his intellect and encourage his personal development. In Mark Masonry, we learn that it was by the chisel and mallet that the Rough Ahslars was transformed into the Perfect Ashlar. The chisel demonstrates the advantages of discipline and education. The mind, like the diamond in its original state, is rude and unpolished; but as the effect of the chisel on the external code soon per present’s to view the latent beauties of the diamond, so education discovers the latent virtues of the mind, and draws them forth to range large field of matter in space, to display the summit of human knowledge, our duty to God and to man. The importance of stones is pervasive in religious thought. With Christianity, Christ said "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” In Isaiah 28:16 we read: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.” In Psalm 118:22 we find: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Also, in Revelation 2:17 we read: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” References connecting stones with the gods reach back to the earliest times. It has been considered by some religious historians as being an archetypal image representing absolute reality. Many of the old gods, such as Mithras, were thought to be born from stones. Stones possess the qualities of stability, solidity, and everlastingness, which are also qualities attributed to the gods. In Scottish lore, the Stone of Scone, sometimes called the stone of destiny or coronation stone, was used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, and later the monarchs of England and the Kingdom of Great Britain. There are many myths as to the origins of this stone, but the one that interested me most was that this stone is the Stone of Jacob which is the stone he used as a pillow when he had his vision of the ladder ascending to heaven. One of the most famous stones is the Philosopher’s Stone which is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning metals into gold. It is also said to be able to extend one's life and was also called the elixir of life, used for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality; for many centuries, it was the most sought-after goal in alchemy. In operative masonry, the trestleboard was as an instrument upon which the ancient masters laid out the plans for building and worked out the problems of architecture. As a symbol it represents the Volume of the Sacred Law, it also denotes perfection.

We are told in the first degree lecture that Moses erected a tabernacle to commemorate the mighty east wind. The tabernacle was not a permanent building, but a tent that was dismantled and erected each time the Jews moved through the Wilderness. Prior to dawn the attendants would go to the chosen site and one of them would place the staff or asherah on the spot. When the sun rose, it would send a shadow towards the western horizon. The second attendant would then place his staff at the other end of the shadow. This line would designate the center line of the tabernacle.

An east wind is a wind that originates in the east and blows west. The east wind is also considered a bad omen and if personified, is considered devious or sinister. Several other references exist in the Bible, most associating the east wind with destruction. Often this destruction is of the wicked by God. In Greek mythology, Eurus, the east wind, was the only wind not associated with any of the three Greek seasons, and is the only one of these four Anemoi not mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns. In Native American Iroquois culture, the east wind is said to be brought by the Moose, whose breath blows the grey mist and sends down cold rains upon the earth. Much in the same way, the East Wind symbolizes change in Mary Poppins series. Poppins arrives at the Banks' house carried by the East Wind, but warns the children that she will only stay until the wind changes. At the end of the book, the West Wind carries her away. In "His Last Bow", a book of the Sherlock Holmes series written by Arthur Conan Doyle (a fellow Mason), the book ends with Holmes' addressing his assistant Doctor Watson on the eve of the First World War: 
"There's an east wind coming, Watson."
"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm."
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared." 
In The Lord of the Rings, the East Wind, like most other things dealing with the east, is viewed as a thing of evil.

In Freemasonry it is strange that that the Holy Saints John were selected as the Patron Saints of Freemasonry rather than St. Thomas who is considered the Patron Saint of Masonry. Masonic scholars state that these two were selected as St. John the Baptist represented the faith and zeal that should actuate every Mason while the Evangelist represent how our passions and actions should be tempered through reason and knowledge. Take together they represent the path towards enlightenment. In the Ahiman Rezon, the Constitution of the Antients it states, "the stern integrity of Saint John the Baptist, which induced him to forego every minor consideration in discharging the obligations he owed to God; the unshaken firmness with which he met martyrdom rather than betray his duty to his Master; his steady reproval of vice, and continued preaching of repentance and virtue. make him a fit patron of the Masonic institution.“ Bro. Gregory Stewart argued that St. John the Baptist was alchemically represented by the inverted pyramid, the symbol for the Element of Water, which he states represents spiritual and emotional love, as well as reminds us of the Baptism of Jesus Christ which St. John the Baptist presided over. This day and the Holy Saints John also remind us of the Masonic symbol the Point Within the Circle which represents the two saints on either side of a circle representing their place at each of the sun's orbit; two milestones in the astronomical year. This symbol is powerful and much more will be explained in a future article. For the present, it is necessary that this symbol is introduced in the Entered Apprentice degree and Masons are reminded to study astronomy (one of the 7 liberal arts and science) in the Fellow Craft degree. It was through the study of the movement of the heavenly bodies that man was capable of understanding the habits of animals, best farming and harvest practices, even opportune times for warfare, and, finally, the creation of a calendar system.

It is always good to back to the beginning and always honing ones understanding of all degrees of Freemasonry. The First Degree and its symbolism represents entry into Freemasonry, the beginning of ones transformation through the initiatic traditions, and the foundation upon which ones Masonic and moral edifice is erected. Next month I will be analyzing the symbolism of the Fellowcraft degree.

1 comment:

  1. A well written explanation of the First Degree containing both a vocabulary and of a tenure that pronounce the calm confidence of the author's understanding of the symbolism of the Degree. I wish to add to the words of the said Author and say that the charges and their obligatory responsibilities not being mentioned is a lapse that I would suggest warrant a re-writing of this paper to include for instance the duality of symbolism of our Badge or Apron. One cannot appreciate the Fist Degree in its entirety without a holistic view of all its symbols. I do thank you despite the oversight as the paper was a joy to read and one that I will recommend to my junior Brothers to read. KFR and LVX