En:The scope of masonic symbolism

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The scope of masonic symbolism

Courtesy of Masonic vibes

Freemasonry encompasses all of the symbolism deriving from the ancient mysteries and the great religions of the world. This does not suggest that every such symbol is used, or that the usages are identical, but that all important aspects of symbolism have been incorporated in the teachings and rituals of freemasonry. In particular, preparation in a personal sense is used to establish an appropriate receptiveness for moral instruction; masonic implements and other appropriate subjects are used as symbols to illustrate and teach specific moral principles; parables provide ethical instruction in some of the shorter rituals; the exoteric stories in some of the more expansive rituals are woven round elaborate allegories, establishing a basis for the communication of fundamental precepts; and the esoteric interpretations of several of these allegories are concealed in a manner analogous to the pesher technique used in sacred writings of the early Christian era.

The first symbol encountered in freemasonry is preparation, as in the ancient mysteries. It combines mental disposition, meditation and symbolic purification, coupled with the wearing of appropriate apparel and accoutrements. Darkness is an essential precursor of light, which light is attained by trial through a symbolic journey. All of these aspects are involved when initiating an apprentice into a lodge of operative free masons, but the traditional degrees of speculative freemasonry do not include any symbolic ablution except in one of the installation ceremonies in the Royal Arch. Baptism by immersion was the final step in admission to the early Christian church, as it still is in some sects.

But in most modern Christian sects, babies clothed in white are baptised by sprinkling with water, under the guardianship of an adult, their symbolic journey being completed later when they are taught the seven bitter agonies of Christ, learn the creed and are admitted into communion. Muslims perform a ritual ablution before entering their mosque for prayer, as well as completing their symbolic journey perambulating round the Kaaba when performing their pilgrimage to Mecca. All other important religions also include some form of symbolic preparation, journey and acquisition of light, this procedure having been regarded from time immemorial as a spiritual rebirth.

The various modes of recognition entrusted to candidates are symbols of importance, most being of ancient origin when trade secrets were "mysteries" and the knowledge of them had to be guarded jealously. A wide range of the mason's working tools, materials, gauges and methods are used symbolically to provide moral instruction, often, though not necessarily referring to work on King Solomon's temple. The temple is a pre-eminent symbol in freemasonry.

It is an emblem of a glorious futurity, as was Ezekiel's mystical temple for the Jews held captive in Babylon. Many aspects of the temple's construction and dedication about 950BC, its final destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC and the construction of the second temple by Zerubbabel between 537BC and 515BC after the return from captivity in Babylon, are incorporated in dramatic detail in parables in the traditional degrees. Features of the temple, such as the two great pillars at the entrance, also are used as symbols. Many of the symbolic interpretations are so well known as to have become a part of everyday usage, some early enough to have been recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.


Brother Don Falconer, Australia


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