Symbolism in Craft Freemasonry
Adapted from “Symbolism in Craft Freemasonry” by Colin Dyer
We may go outside the Lodge, and gazing on nature, perceive that all around us God teaches us by Symbol and by Allegory.
The Sun which rises in the heavens is but a faint image of His glory. It shadows forth His creative power, and in its rising and setting is an allegory of mortal life and death, and even more of resurrection.
The corn planted in the ground has for us the selfsame message, and the humble beasts of the field can teach us many a lesson.
The great laws of nature are His laws, and the more we study them the more we realize that they are not the outcome of blind chance, but the proof of a profound and all-embracing intellect, beside which the intellect of the wisest man is as the foolishness of a little child.
Assuredly one of the chief objects of our life on Earth is that we may endeavour to understand, albeit dimly, the meaning of His great symbols.
Thus, there is a deep significance in the injunction laid on every Mason “to make a daily advance in Masonic knowledge“. This means it is our duty to study and learn to interpret the meaning of our Symbols and Allegories, for thereby we shall be better fitted to interpret he great allegory of nature.
We must not forget that, in the making of Masonry, many different traditions and lines of teaching have blended into the course of ages, and so it is quite possible for one man to expound one line of interpretation and another a somewhat different one. What is more, both may be right, and all that has happened is that, for the sake of clarity, is the one has concentrated on one aspect, and the other on a second.
To make my meaning clear, it is possible to give a Christian interpretation on the whole of Craft Freemasonry, including all its Symbols, and in view of the long period of time Masonry was avowedly Christian, no one can deny the general correctness of that interpretation.
But, before Christianity existed, systems similar to our own were known and venerated, and some of their symbolism and teaching has undoubtedly linked up with Freemasonry.
It is therefore natural that a Non-Christian interpretation should also exist and be just as correct.
There is one fact which must always be borne in mind when studying the meaning and origin of all customs, ritual practices and symbols and that is that, as time passes, men are apt to forget the true origin and meaning and invent new and ingenious explanations.
They weave new legends around old customs, or import them from another school of belief. This tendency can be traced in Masonry in many ways.
More than one meaning lies hidden in our silent emblems, and the ostensible explanation given in the ceremony is usually neither the original nor the most profound meaning attached to it.
I find myself saying over and over again “There is nothing NEW in Masonic Education” as virtually all that could be said has already been said over the last approximate 300 Years.
In the above presentation we have an author (Colin Dyer) in 1976 referring to the work of another author (JSM Ward) in 1925 and here we are in 2008 having the benefit of their views.
How little appears to have changed in the Philosophy of Freemasonry and the challenge to its Brethren in the journey from the Rough to the Smooth Ashlar.
The Symbolism and Allegorical material is all there for us to study and contemplate on and all we need to do now is take the time to “Make a daily advancement in Masonic Education”
Hopefully this presentation will smooth your way just a little.