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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 11 - The Great Moral Lesson
"In that deep force, the last fact behind which analyst cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceeds. * * * We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth, and organs of its activity." -Emerson
Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." The "illustration by symbols" is that portion of the ceremony which has preceded. The definition of allegory which reads: "presents a truth under the guise of fictitious narrative or description" is an exact description of what is done in this portion of this degree.
A story, is told, complete in itself, and if one desires to seek no further he has received a valuable lesson portraying the life and action of a man of high morality and integrity. This lesson, however, is incomparable to the spiritual truth presented. It is to prepare the Candidate for the acceptance of this truth that he is initiated and instructed in the preceding degrees.
The first time one takes a particular journey he instinctively notes certain landmarks along the way - a tree, a hill, or a stream. On a second occasion he judges his progress toward his journey's end by these landmarks. If necessity takes him that way again, for a third time, the landmarks have become old friends, beckoning him on with assurances that he is nearing his destination. Presuming he has completed his journey, his surprise and possible consternation may well be imagined when he is informed th at such is not the case. If under these circumstances he is told that further journeying is necessary ere his goal is reached, and that the journey may be rough and rugged and even beset with perils, the devout man will pray for Divine protection and assistance. He will turn to no earthly power, nor will he beseech others to pray for him. Every man, except he is an atheist, has some image of God before his mind's eye. To some the image is dim and indistinct of outline, a mere philosophical necessity. To others it is a clear concept, an abiding faith. Placed in a position of dire peril, where material assistance is of no avail, each man's trust in his God is put to the supreme test.
Before the Lodge prayed for the Candidate. The Lodge initiated him, held before him the symbols, gave him instruction and brought him to the same place as all who had gone that way before him. Its work was accomplished. Evolution raises the race to the level where the individual recognizes THERE IS A LAW and, learning to cooperate with it, he works out his further destiny. Here the Candidate is in that exact position. Further progress depends on his own efforts, hence he is informed that his goal has n ot been reached, and correct ritual will add that IT IS NOT KNOWN IF HE WILL EVER ACHIEVE IT.
It has been suggested that Masonry is Mental Science, the science of controlling one's life and destiny through the creative power of thought. In this connection the thesis of the objective and subjective mind proves helpful. The process of creative thought is to visualize with the objective mind the desired condition, and implant this picture in the subjective mind. The latter then creates that which the objective mind desires. This process is continuous, therefore negative, destructive thoughts transm itted to the subjective have the same effect as positive, constructive thoughts. Even though the individual be ignorant of this law it is still the law. Job illustrates the negative action when he laments: "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me." Both the positive and the negative action is suggested in the statement: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." It is the creative power of thought that accounts for life's every condition. It is the purpose of Masonry to so inform its initiates that they may actively use the Constructive principle for good and, knowing of the Destructive principle, refrain from those mental attitudes which are causations of evil.
The requisite of constructive creative thought is faith. "Therefore I say unto you, what things whatsoever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye receive, and ye shall receive." Particularly note the two tenses. First: "believe ye receive," present tense, "and ye SHALL receive," future tense.
This portion of the degree allegorically depicts this power of thought. The narrator, breaking into the middle of a story, informs the Candidate he represents a certain person. Of what has gone before the Candidate is not told; if he is curious he may turn to the Bible and been the tale. A Temple is under construction and partially completed. Three Grand Masters are in charge of the construction. Who are these three, and what is their symbolical significance? We too, may turn to the Bible for our answe r.
Relative to Hiram King of Tyre: "And Hiram sent to Solomon saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for; and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir." Here related is the agreement to furnish the material for the Temple, and it is indicative of the importance attached to the material or physical. Symbolically Hiram of Tyre is the "Material."
"In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said * * * I am but a child; I know not how to go out or come in. * * * Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad." Solomon symbolizes the psychical. It was the acquisition of wisdom which enabled Solomon to visualize or create the Temple in his mind, that it might be materialized on the chosen building site. A further less on in Mental Science is to be gained from this scriptural passage. Solomon asked for wisdom, not from selfish motives but that he might guide his people. This so pleased God, we are told, that He added riches and long life. This is the operation of Universal Law. With wisdom one need not ask for riches or health, for wisdom dictates that the Constructive Principle in nature be followed and when that Great Law is obeyed "all these things shall be added unto you."
"And King Solomon went and fetched Hiram out of Tyre, he was a widow's son * * * and he was filled with wisdom and understanding, and cunning to work all works of brass. And he came to King Solomon and he wrought all his works."
To understand the foregoing passage we must know the symbology employed in the Bible. The masses of the ancients regarded the sun as a god, the more enlightened as a symbol of God. Gold, because of its color, was the symbol of the sun. Likewise brass, being more plentiful and of similar color, was often substituted for gold. In the process of mental evolution the sun, because of its position in the "above," assumed an ethical aspect of the spiritual, and likewise those materials which symbolized the sun . In this sense the Biblical statement that "Hiram was filled with wisdom and understanding, and cunning to work all works of brass" actually informs us that he was cunning, or skilled, to "work all works" spiritual. Thus he clearly symbolizes the spiritual. Together with the other two we have the Spiritual, Psychical and Physical. Man alone is composed of these three components, thus the symbolical meaning of the Temple is clear.
The "Sanctum Sanctorum" of each individual is the secret chamber of the soul into which one should "habitually" retire. This individual Holy of Holies is UNFINISHED, for few have attained those spiritual heights which are the FINISHED WORK. The Grand Master is typical of the objective mind which retires to the secret closet of its own innermost being - withdrawing from the material world, there to "draw designs upon the trestle-board" - the receptive subjective mind, which but waits for the imprint of tho se "designs for living." The "craft" is Universal Mind which develops the plans drawn. The process of building the Temple is the development of character, the evolving of the real individual.
After the process of drawing designs upon the trestle-board the Grand Master offered up devotion to Deity. True devotion to Deity is obedience to Universal Law. Man's ideal of God forms his character, and his life work is the individual's contribution to the attainment of God's plans.
The Grand Master also "meditated upon the wonders of the Universe." Such meditation brings a realization of the Infinite Wisdom which planned this world whereon we abide. Through that meditation the Infinite Power of creation is dimly realized. Thus it dawns upon our consciousness that we were created by that same Universal Wisdom and Power. When we contemplate the physical body of man we realize it is as wonderful as the universe itself. Continued meditation brings the further realization that, wonderf ul as the body may be, the mind is even more marvelous. Thus we arrive at the true meaning of being in the image and likeness of our Creator. The mind, the likeness of God, is endowed with the power to create the microcosm, as God manifested in the creation of the macrocosm.
It should be remembered that this retirement into the Sanctum Sanctorum was a "custom." We have only to make the comparison between the material Temple and the Human Temple, to realize the need of habitual retirement to the Holy of Holies. Had the Grand Master's retirement been irregular, had he drawn plans for several days and then neglected to do so for a period, the "craft" could not have maintained their labors. There would have been times when "no plans were on the trestle-board," and the craft idle. So with the individual; unless he daily "draws designs upon HIS trestle-board," makes thereof a "custom," his craft will remain idle and his Temple unfinished.
Upon one occasion the Grand Master encountered opposition, and it is his conduct under the circumstances which is the basis for the Great Moral Lesson. We rightly emphasize his devotion to duty, his integrity, but in so doing the equally important lesson illustrated by the "opposition" should not be lost.
Names are given "things" for the purpose of identification. They are also given individuals for the same reason. Names originally were descriptive. Any attempt to an understanding of the Bible or Freemasonry is useless without a knowledge of the nomenclature. Similar names obviously derive from the same country or tribe. Identical names usually denote family relationship.
Each of the cities of Canaan had some one god it revered above all other gods. Baal was the local nature god of Tyre, thus "Baal" or "Bal" appearing in a name identifies the bearer as a "man of Tyre." An identical prefix would indicate family connection, while the dissimilar suffixes denote the individuals. Incidentally, such ritual as refers to the "peculiarity" of these names is incorrect. They were not "peculiar" and may well have been as common as the English "Smith." "Similarity" is the correct expr ession.
Depicting them as "brethren" and "men of Tyre" is for definite symbolic purpose. As brothers they spring from the same parentage (source). As "men of Tyre" they are shown to be worshipers of Baal, the nature or MATERIAL god, which establishes a distinction between them and "men of Israel," who are worshipers of Jehovah, the SPIRITUAL God. It is inoperative to the consistency of the allegory that these Tyrians perpetrate the deed. A symbolic impossibility for "men of Israel." This is emphasized by the "r oll-call"; all Hebrew names answering present, while the only Tyrians called are the absent ones under discussion. (It is hoped the reader gathers the subtle distinction - it is impossible to be more explicite.)
The "First" typifies material desires, greed, avarice and covetousness, which prompt the attempt to gain selfish benefits regardless of the rights of others. True to Masonic symbology he strikes with the one working tool which above all others symbolizes the material or physical, and it is likewise noteworthy that it is a working tool of the degree we have discovered to be the material degree.
The "Second" symbolizes the psychical. He incites those attitudes of mind rather than material desires. He it is who is responsible for intolerance, bigotry, hatred and envy. It is he who is conquered when we "keep our passions within due bounds." Again the symbology of the weapon used is in conformity. It is the emblem of the psychical and the principal working tool of the psychical degree.
Vicious and malevolent as are the first two, it is the "Third" who is deadly, and he strikes with a SETTING-MAUL! Here is yet another outstanding example of the beautiful consistency of our symbology. This is the instrument which by all logic must have at some time been numbered among the working tools of the Craft. Its deeply significant symbology in this instance strengthens that presumption, and adds conviction that it was a working tool of the third degree - the spiritual degree of Masonry.
The individual retires to his Holy of Holies and plans his life in thoughtful solitude. Primarily man realizes intuitively a first cause. Then his intellect formulates for him a Supreme Being, thus intuition and intellect form a basis for faith. That faith embodies the realization that he is as his Creator. But in order to attain this lofty vision he must wait, patiently, until his Temple is completed. Only then, if found worthy, shall he receive that which he seeks. However, on his return to the "mat erial world" of every day affairs, he is accosted by "DOUBT" - "IF I am like my Creator, why cannot I create conditions in accordance with my desires?" He does not recognize the fact that the Temple is not yet completed, that he has not proven his worthiness, that his wisdom is not commensurate with the power he seeks; "DOUBT" strikes down "FAITH," which alone can give him his desire. Then indeed is there confusion in the Temple of that individual.
According to Mental Science there is sound reason for the Biblical admonition that we shall be held accountable for "every idle word." We indulge in many thoughts, in themselves not necessarily detrimental to our spiritual welfare, but useless, wasting mental power which might be put to better purpose. This thought is conveyed by the action of other craftsmen. These, when properly directed by King Solomon, proved their worth. Three of these who "repented" accomplished their mission. Thus is illustrated the truth that, changing the process of thought from the destructive to the constructive, the negative can be mastered and we build where formerly we destroyed.
This portion of the allegory is taken from the Solar Myth of the murder of the sun by three of the signs of the zodiac, and the search for him by the other nine signs. It is quite obvious that no search would be undertaken in the "north," for that was the region of darkness. (Masonic ritual reveals full knowledge of this fact in the arrangement of the three principal officers' stations.) Therefore the ritual is in error in reciting: "we twelve with three others, etc." It would be more consistent with both the facts in the case and other portions of the ceremonies if it stated: "we nine with three others, etc." Later the instructions are given to "divide into bands of three, travel, etc." These instructions should exclude the "north."
In the attempt of the fugitives to leave the country is contained a further allegorical lesson. Only in one way can the human mind leave its present plane of existence, the "country" in which it now abides. That way is in conformity with Universal Law. The inability to "leave the country without Solomon's passport" which in this case is authority, or law, is analogous.
Lacking that authority and unable to depart they turn back into the country (i.e., continue on the same plane) and hide in a cave. A "cave" being definitely a material place, we are allegorically informed they took refuge in the material. Recalling what then transpired we see in its enactment the continued repetition of the lesson reiterated throughout the degrees of Masonry. Not mere punishment of crime but the inevitable results of invoking the Destructive principle, the law of cause and effect.
The remaining Grand Masters express the fear that the "word" is lost. If the word is lost to the extent that it cannot be given, inferentially, the sign intended to symbolize the word is likewise lost. This being the case it is apparent that the true and loyal workmen cannot be rewarded as promised. This is consistent with Universal Law, but it is beyond the intent of this book to develop minute detail. This inference, like others which have been made, must be left to the inclination of the individual r eader to develop if he is so minded. Suffice it to state there is an inference that future generations will discover the right.
How is this to be accomplished? By all the veiled hints which may be discovered in the ritual it is clear that it must be through PERSONAL, INDIVIDUAL EFFORT. Reasonable presumption indicates it was thus acquited, originally, by the Grand Masters. There is a difference, however; the workman is to be given a substitute which we may correctly assume contains a clue to the right. The method of choosing a substitute was announced, and should be kept in ntnd, as it has a bearing on what is later brought out i n connection with the meaning of the substitute.
In the effort to raise the body, the first means tried was ineffectual, because in conformity with scientific truth no effect can be greater than its cause. The grip of an Entered Apprentice is of the material, and the material cannot "cause" itself.
A second effort was likewise impotent. Mind alone cannot cause life, hence the use of psychical means, symbolized by the grip of the Fellow-craft, cannot bring back life. In this extremity it was natural to ask Divine guidance. Being inspired to use means which we have seen to be emblematic of the spiritual, a natural law is invoked - that "like attracts like" spirit responds to spiritual means.
In Mackey's Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry he comments on "Marrow of the Bone" as follows: "An absurd corruption of a Jewish word, and still more absurdly said to be its translation. It has no appropriate signification in the place to which it is applied, but was once religiously believed in by many Masons who, being ignorant of the Hebrew language, accepted it as a true interpretation. It is now universally rejected by the intelligent portion of the craft."
The word in question is incorrectly pronounced, which is quite understandable under the circumstances surrounding its transmission to us. Fortunately the pronunciation has not been so badly mutilated as to be no longer recognizable. Therefore the meaning is not lost to us. This is actually two Hebrew words. The first is the Hebrew interrogative pronoun "what." Dependent on its use it might also signify "why" or "how." Coupled as it is in this instance, "how" is preferable. It can correctly be interpret ed: "what a great master" - "what, a great master" or "how great a master." As uttered by King Solomon, if the circumstances are brought to mind, it is apparently addressed to The Supreme Being, and can therefore as easily be construed to mean; "How great is Thy might."
On mention of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Christian immediately traces the lineage of Jesus, and interprets such reference as pertaining to him. No criticism is intended of these views, no particular interpretation is ever forced upon the Mason, nor is Masonry dogmatic in the sense that any specific interpretation of its mysteries is insisted upon as being the one and only true meaning of its allegories and symbology. No Mason should ever be intolerant of the views of others, and he should conside r any intelligent interpretation offered by another, for it is through diversity that the harmony of unity is eventually attained, be it in the Universe or in the Lodge.
According to tradition, Jesus was a widow's son when he began his ministration. He was subjected to three temptations, which he withstood. Some maintain the Masonic allegory re-enacts the temptations and death of Jesus. There are indeed parallels present but, upon the theory that Masonry had its origin at the building of King Solomon's Temple, a date is established approximately one thousand years prior to the lifetime of Jesus.
Some two thousand years before the building of Solomon's Temple, history reveals a similar event. We refer to the Egyptian legend of Osiris. How much further into prehistoric time it extends we have no means of knowing. There are extant paintings on the walls of Egyptian tombs of a priest with the head and claws of a lion covering his own head and hands, raising an individual clothed in white robes, presumably the candidate of the Mysteries, from a reclining position in an open sarcophagus.
The essential substance of all these allegories is that there is one Infinite Power, an Omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the Universe - that man is created in the image and likeness of that Creator. He is not material but spiritual, hence man in His likeness partakes of that spirituality. Man, through the misuse of his freedom of choice, lost the knowledge of the use of his spiritual power. He misused that freedom of choice to choose the material rather than the spiritual. The intent of all these all egories is to bring man to the realization of his spiritual nature, that he may "find that which is lost." Only as man thinks of himself in terms of a spiritual being can he regain his lost estate, for: "AS A MAN THINKETH IN HIS HEART, SO IS HE."
Freemasonry is taught by degrees only. Just as surely can it be said it is only learned "by degrees" gradually - as the result of sincere desire and effort on the part of the seeker after its light. There is no "substitute" for these two requirements, "SINCERE DESIRE and EFFORT," but there is guidance in the search. A clue is found - in the closing prayer of the Lodge. "Wilt Thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may, each one of us, PRACTICE OUT OF THE LODGE those great moral duti es which are inculcated in it, and with reverence STUDY AND OBEY the laws which Thou hast given us in thy Holy Word."
- 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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