During the past month I have been introduced to a book titled “Freemasonry and its Hidden Meaning” written by George H. Steinmetz and available through Macoy Publishing, Richmond Virginia. This is a relatively small book of only 213 pages and very easy type to read.
This is an incredibly interesting publication in that it deals with our beginnings, ritual and symbolism in a short and concise fashion.
Of interest to me, and I hope to you readers, is a presentation on “The Secret Doctrine” which I have found quite thought provoking and, although, due to length, it will force the use of an additional page, I have decided to share it with you. Please excuse this, hopefully, a once only lapse in format.
The Secret Doctrine
“Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morals veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Its tenets are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Its Cardinal Virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.”
“Its religion, if religion it may be called, is an unfeigned belief in the one living and true God”
Quoted from the Masonic Manual of Missouri
In addition to the definition of Freemasonry given above we repeat Pike’s definition:
“Freemasonry is the subjugation of the human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the appetites and the passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle, and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory, when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest on his shield and wear his well earned laurels, is the true HOLY EMPIRE”
These two definitions of Freemasonry are apparently similar, yet there is a difference. The Latter informs us as to what Freemasonry is, and to a limited extent advises how to become a Master Mason through
“the conquest of the appetites and the passions by the Moral Sense & Reason”.
However, it contains thoughts, different from those in the former definition, as it is more definite as to the “Morals.
The definition from the Craft Lodge Manual very distinctly states “this system of morals” is “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” This statement will bear further investigation. If it is correct, it may be assumed there is something underlying the explanations given in the various lectures of the degrees.
“Something” which is “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” This can be considered as an instruction where to look for the meaning. It is obvious that the “Veil” must be parted and the hidden meaning of the “allegory” discovered. It is equally obvious that the usually accepted meaning of the symbols is not enough for our purpose, for then their meaning would be immediately apparent and such is not the case. This “system” which they “illustrate” then must be “illustrated” by a clearer interpretation of their meaning than is apparent on the surface to the casual observer.
Analysis of the actual words in the quotation reveal a subtle significance not ordinarily attributed to them.
MORALS —The common use is: “discriminating between right and wrong, chaste, just, ethical.” This word of Latin origin literally means “custom” but a shaded meaning states “verified by reason, logic or probability”
ALLEGORY—“Description of one thing under the image of another. A narrative in which a teaching is conveyed symbolically. Presents a truth under the guise of fictitious narrative or description”
SYMBOL— “Something that stands for, represents, or recalls something else, not by exact resemblance, but by suggestion or associations of thought; especially an object that represents something abstract, as an idea, quality or condition.”
If the definition of Freemasonry is reconstructed in the light of the words used in the previous definitions it would read:
“Freemasonry is a beautiful system of customs, or method of living, which, if followed, results in one’s discriminating between right and wrong, being chaste, just and ethical. This custom is verified by reason and logic. However, it presents a truth under the guise of fictitious narrative, and is in reality describing one thing under the image of another, using actual objects to represent abstract ideas.
“NOT BY EXACT RESEMBLANCE—BUT BY SUGGESTIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS IN THOUGHT”
There is the answer. The symbols are not used in the commonly accepted meaning. It is
“NOT BY EXACT RESEMBLANCE;” there IS a clearer interpretation, as we suspected; it is one of
“SUGGESTIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS IN THOUGHT.”
There is a SECRET DOCTRINE in Freemasonry. That secret doctrine is concealed, rather than revealed, by the very lectures which, we are told, offer a “rational explanation” of the ceremonies of initiation. If we were to accept these “rational explanations” as final and seek no further, Freemasonry would be a farce.
We should find ourselves on a “dead end” street from which it would be impossible to make any progress.
Here is it necessary to digress that we may lay the foundation of our super-structure (as any operative mason would do) by inquiring into some of the actual history of Freemasonry, to discover its beginning and evolution.
Historically, we trace Freemasonry to a number of Operative Lodges in England. Extant records indicate that in the year 1717 four Lodges in London established themselves under the denomination of a Grand Lodge which they constituted at that time. One of the oldest documents containing a written record of Operative Masonry is the Regis or Halliwell MS. Circa 1390.
Many books have been written proposing various theories as to the origin of Freemasonry. The generally accepted theory is that our present Lodges are the outgrowth of the Operative Lodges of Guilds, of the Middle Ages. There is no inclination to question the fact that our Modern Lodge,
AS AN ORGANIZATION, owes its origin to those Operative Lodges, but what of its esoteric teaching??
Are we to believe that these craftsmen of the medieval guilds, most of whom were actually illiterate, conceived an entire philosophy such as Freemasonry, and then, with consummate cunning, concealed it beneath a complicated system of symbolism and allegory?
For the rank and file, the symbols were used, if at all, for ethical analogies, and they were as ignorant of the underlying meanings, as are most Freemasons of today. They but served the purpose of being the preservers of its mysteries. As the reincarnated soul is said to choose the body and the environment best suited for its growth and evolution, so may if be that these Operative Lodges were chosen to form the “body” for the spiritual teachings of the secret doctrine.
Let us investigate the term “Free” as used in relation with “Mason.” Some authorities advance the theory that in ancient times “Bonds Men” could not join the Operative Guilds. Hence a Mason was a “freeman” and perforce a “Free Mason.” Others attach significance to the word “Free” in connection with the request for admission, It being of the applicant’s “free” will and accord. Both theories find some support in the rituals of various Grand Jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions the candidate recites his qualifications, at the door of the Lodge Room, as being of “lawful age, FREE BORN etc.” Here is predicated the theory of being a “free” man. All ritual supports the theory of the candidates “FREE WILL” and accord. Enough theories have been advanced to fill volumes on this specific subject. Herein it is not possible to comment on all of them. One of the more interesting is cited for the benefit of the reader, and it also contains the thought of the antiquity of Masonry.
Robert Hewitt Brown writes” Long before the building of King Solomon’s Temple masons were know as “sons of light.” Masonry was practiced by the ancients under the name of Lux (light) or its equivalent, in various languages of antiquity***”
We are informed by several distinguished writers that it (the word masonry) is a corruption of the Greek word ‘MESOURANEO’ which signifies ‘ I am in the midst of heaven’ alluding to the sun, which ‘being in the midst of heaven’ is the great source of light.
Others derive it directly from the Egyptian ‘PHRE’ the sun and ‘MAS’ a child: ‘PHRE-MASSEN’ —Children of the Sun, or Sons of Light”
Regardless of the origin of the modern Lodge, or of the name “Freemason,” we can, after freeing the symbolism of modern adaptations, discern in Freemasonry the outlines of the teachings of the ancient mysteries of Egypt.
ONE SUPREME BEING–IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL–THE THREE-FOLD COMPOSITION OF MAN,
that is: body, soul & spirit (more correctly expressed as physical, psychical and spiritual). Three planes of being dealt with in three “grades” or levels of instruction.
Pythagoras said; “God formed TWO things in his own image; first the Universe itself, and second, Man”
The Bible informs; “AND God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness”.
The ancients postulated the complete man as the triune man composed of the body, soul and spirit. He was symbolized by the right angle triangle. The horizontal represents the physical or material, the perpendicular represents the Physical or mental and the hypotenuse the spiritual.
(The complete man symbolized by the right angle triangle should not be confused with the perfect or spiritual man, whose emblem is the equilateral triangle.)
The purpose of the mysteries was to teach the candidate the secret of making of himself the perfect man. Symbolically, it is the secret of progressing the right angle triangle to the equilateral triangle. As no “whole” can be complete and perfect except its parts be complete and perfect, their instructions were divided into three parts, or grades. The first dealt with the physical, the second the psychical and the third the spiritual.
The body is the vehicle of the mind and the spirit; and to male it a fit habitation for them the Mysteries began their instruction with the purely physical aspect of man and his material relation to the Universe.
This teaching was that a strong and obedient body was requisite for the development of a strong mind and, mind being the instrument of spirit, a strong and well developed mind was essential to spiritual development. Theirs was a rigorous and dangerous initiation, and a strong body was indispensable to the candidate if he were to survive the physical ordeals entailed by the actual initiation as well as the arduous studies necessary for his mental development. This occurred before he was even introduced to the spiritual. Also, it was necessary to understand the operation of the material laws, for they subscribed to the ancient theory that the material laws are but the extension into the manifest universe of the spiritual laws. ‘As above, so below.”
The candidate was obliged to spend years, if necessary, in each of the grades preceding, before he was permitted to proceed in spiritual instruction. Under such as system it is obvious that it was highly essential to “make the necessary proficiency in the preceding (degrees) grades” before he could be admitted to the next higher
If Freemasonry is the actual descendant or, if one prefers the term, reincarnation of the Mysteries, back of its “veil of allegory” then must be concealed a deeper truth than expounded in the various lectures of the degrees. Therefore, we should be able to discover a similarity in its degrees with these ancient grades.
The first degree should concern itself with the physical or material; the second should deal with the psychical or mental; the third degree wholly with the spiritual.
The ceremony of initiation in each degree should reveal a more recondite teaching that what appears on the surface. It should be discovered that its symbology and allegory is as useful to CONCEAL that teaching from those who do not seek it out as to REVEAL it to him who “of his own free will and accord” earnestly and prayerfully attempts to pierce the veil of mystery.
If the symbols can be consistently interpreted in this manner, throughout the three degrees, we have confirmed Freemasonry to be the reincarnation of the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt; we have rediscovered some part of the ancient teaching and have removed the veil of allegory from the Great Truth of the Universe.
Now that you have read this presentation, I sincerely hope you will understand WHY I felt it impossible to share it with you in TWO parts.
Personally I have found this author’s views to be very thought provoking, and in that this is what I have always intended “The Educator” to be, hopefully it will catch your attention and create thought & discussion.
One of the wonderful things about Freemasonry is that “as Brothers” we are encouraged to make that “Daily advancement in Masonic Education” and share that knowledge with others from our own personal perspective. What a blessing.
In July 2009, The Educator, dealt with the Saint’s John and I alluded to a further St John named “St John the Almoner” and promised more info on that subject. The following quotation should fill that promise.
St John The Almoner (from Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry 1917)
The son of the King of Cyprus, and born in that country in the sixth century. He was elected Patriarch of Alexandria, and has been canonized by both the Greek and the Roman Churches, his festival among the former occurring on the 11th of November and among the latter on the 23rd of January.
Bazot (Man. du Franc-Mac., p 144) thinks that it is this saint, and not St John the Evangelist or St John the Baptist, who is meant as the true patron of our Order. “He quitted his country and the hope of a Throne” says this author, “to go to Jerusalem, that he might generously aid and assist the knights and pilgrims. He founded a hospital, and organized a fraternity to attend upon the sick and wounded Christians, and to bestow pecuniary aid upon the pilgrims who visited the Holy Sepulchre. St John, who was worthy to become a patron of a society whose only object is charity, exposed his life a thousand times in the cause of virtue. Neither war, nor pestilence, not the fury of the infidels, could deter him from pursuits of benevolence. But death, at length, arrested him in the midst of his labours. Yet he left and example of his virtues to the brethren, who have made it their duty to endeavour to imitate them.
Rome canonized under the name of St John the Almoner, or St John of Jerusalem; and the Masons— whose Temples, overthrown by the barbarians, he had caused to have rebuilt—selected him with one accord as their patron
Oliver, however, (Mirror for the Johannite Masons p.39) very properly shows the error of appropriating the patronage of Masonry to this Saint, since the festivals of the Order are June 24th and December 27th, while those of St John the Almoner are Jan 23rd and November 11th. He has, however, been selected as the patron of the Masonic Order of the Templars, and their Commanderies are dedicated to his honour on account of his charity to the poor, whom he called his “Masters,” because hoe owed them all service, and on account of his establishment of hospitals for the succor of pilgrims in the East.