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Freemasonry - Its Hidden Meaning
by George H. Steinmetz
A spiritual interpretation of the esoteric work of the Masonic lodge, analyzes the lectures and symbols of the three degrees. (1948)
Chapter 1 - By Way of Introduction
"Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same door wherein I went."
This quotation from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is "veiled in allegory," as is Freemasonry, and is an excellent description of my mental state, when first I started meditating upon the deeper aspects of life.
The quotation appealed to me, for, as the Poet, I too had eagerly frequented both "Doctor and Saint." Doctor, learned in things material; Saint, supposedly learned in spiritual matters. Like Khayyam, I "came out by the same door wherein I went" - not satisfied nor enlightened by the answers given me.
It is inherent in man to seek a religious belief to which he can subscribe with wholehearted faith. I was seeking such faith and was sincere in my desire to find a religious belief. But intellect demanded it be consistent with such knowledge as I possessed of natural history and material science.
In this search I studied every religion with which I came in contact. As a singer in various churches, I was afforded opportunities to hear the creeds of the principal faiths expounded. I did not exclude Roman Catholicism or Buddhism. Both contain much to commend, particularly the latter in its esoteric form. The study was far from time wasted.
None of these creeds provided a satisfying meaning of life; the answer to "WHY AM I HERE?" which, at some time, every individual asks from the depth of his being. The answer, to my entire satisfaction, finally came with a fuller understanding of Freemasonry.
Most of the truly great Masonic writers have deplored the lack of esoteric Masonic knowledge among the craft in general. Mackey speaks of the "Parrot Mason," describing him as: "One who commits to memory questions and answers of the catechetical lectures, and the formulas of the ritual, but pays no attention to the history and philosophy of the institution; called a Parrot Mason because he repeats what he has learned without any conception of its true meaning." He also ironically describes as "Bright Mason s" those who are letter-perfect in the ritual and continues: "but the progress of Masonry as a science now requires something more than a mere knowledge of the lectures to constitute a Masonic Scholar."
Long ago J. D. Buck stated: "In its ritualism and monitorial lessons Masonry teaches nothing in morals, in science, in religion, or in any other department of human knowledge or human interest, not taught elsewhere in current forms of thought, or by the sages of the past. In these directions it has no secrets of any kind. It is in the ancient symbols of Freemasonry that its real secrets lie concealed, and these are as densely veiled to the Mason as to any other, unless he has studied the science of symbol ism in general, and Masonic symbols in particular. * * * THE MOST PROFOUND SECRETS OF MASONRY ARE NOT REVEALED IN THE LODGE AT ALL. THEY BELONG ONLY TO THE FEW."
Buck also made the statement, which is as true today as when he first uttered it, years ago: "There was never a greater need than at the present time; never so great an opportunity as now for Masonry to assume its true place among the institutions of man and force recognition by the simple power of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, based upon philosophy, as nowhere else exists outside of its ancient symbols. If the majority of Masons do not realize the true significance and value of their possessions ther e is all the more need for those who do to speak out, in the face of discouragement and detraction, and do their utmost to demonstrate the truth."
Albert Pike writes in Morals and Dogma: "A few rudimentary lessons in architecture; a few universally admitted maxims of morality; a few unimportant traditions whose real meaning is unknown or misunderstood, will no longer satisfy the earnest inquirer after Masonic truth."
In Pike's Legend 4° to 14° Scottish Rite, he states: "In the United States, the Blue Degrees teach morality only, refuse to intermeddle with questions political or religious, and require only a belief in God, and, faintly, in the immortality of the soul; except so far as they declare the Holy Bible to be the rule and guide of man's conduct, and the inspired word of God; which, if it were not evaded in practice, by the admission of Hebrews, would make the Masonry of the United States a strictly Christian association. In the early part of the 18th century, Freemasonry was, for many of its initiates, the teaching of the Hermetic philosophy."
In one of his most vehement bursts of sarcasm, of which Pike was a master when he deemed the occasion demanded, he refers to the Blue Lodge lectures in these words: "It has been objected to us, that in our lectures we undervalue that which is absurdly called 'Symbolic Masonry,' as if any Masonry could be not symbolic. It is quite true that we should not value it, if we saw nothing in the symbols of the Blue Lodge beyond the imbecile pretences of interpretation of them contained in the ordinary sterile instr uction which we owe to Webb and his predecessors."
There is truth in all these charges. The average Mason is lamentably ignorant of the real meaning of Masonic Symbology and knows as little of its esoteric teaching. On the other hand one must admit the existence of mitigating circumstances. This is a busy world and few are blessed with the time, even though they have the inclination, to acquire such knowledge. There is no one source where a general knowledge may be acquired, as most writers deal with specific phases of Masonry. Frankly speaking, Pike, M ackey and even Waite, are too recondite for the average Mason to gain much enlightenment from their writing. Unless he approaches their work with a considerable background of metaphysical and philosophical knowledge, they will profit him little.
It is to place as much of this teaching AS IS SEEMINGLY ADVISABLE in a more accessible form that this book has been undertaken. The writer has earnestly endeavoured to write as simply as the profundity of the subject itself permits. The reader is asked to be mindful of the fact that in a work of this nature there is included the no small handicap of being forced to allude but vaguely, at times, to those things which cannot be committed to writing. I have taken the various printed manuals as my precederic assuring no objection can be offered for printing herein such ritual as the Grand Lodges have authorized to be printed in these manuals. Where it seems advantageous I have therefore taken the liberty of quoting freely therefrom.
The only motive for this book is the fulfilment of the writer's obligations, both moral and Masonic, to assist others to such light as he has been so generously allowed to attain. The reader is asked to approach the subject matter with the words of Herbert Spencer as his guide: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is condemnation before investigation."
When I petitioned the Masonic Order I believed in a Supreme Being, therefore my application was not a misrepresentation insofar as claiming a belief in a "one living and true God." My principal reason for seeking admission was that many of my associates were members of the Order; observation satisfied me that most of the better class of business men I contacted were Masons, and my superior in the organization with which I was connected, and whom I greatly admitted, was "high in the Order."
These, I confess, are not the most worthy of motives, but are probably on a level with those of most persons seeking membership in the Masonic Lodge.
In retrospection I realize that at first I obtained very little benefit from Freemasonry; nor does one become a swimmer after the first few times in the water. It takes constant practice to attain proficiency in either art. Later I was requested to organize a lodge quartet and as a member thereof I was called upon to attend and assist in initiations. Hearing the degrees repeatedly conferred, many of the beautiful phrases of the ritual impressed themselves on my mind. It was but natural that I should pon der over their meaning.
Because of an inquisitive disposition I attained whatever progress I have made in Masonry. The first serious thinking I recall devoting to Masonry was stimulated by the instructions to the candidate at a certain time to pray for himself, coupled with the reminder that previously the Lodge had prayed for him. This appeared to be significant, as it was the first time the candidate was not prompted to give a specific reply, or told precisely what to do.
The obvious answer occurring to one is that if prayer is to be most effective one should pray for oneself, but that seemed too apparent and not entirely satisfying. The answer to this question is the raison d'etre of Masonry. However, like all of Masonry's secret lessons the reason is so concealed that only he who sincerely seeks will ever discover it.
When the truth of this lesson has been realized one discovers the most important facts of existence itself; then, too, he learns that Masonry is religion as well.
- By Way of Introduction
- Masonry - Religion
- Mental Science
- The Secret Doctrine
- Entered Apprentice
- Entered Apprentice Lecture
- Fellow Craft
- Middle Chamber Lecture
- Master Mason
- The Great Moral Lesson
- Master Mason Lecture
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