MASONRY AND ITS SYMBOLS
Harold W. Percival
Summary of the teachings of Masonry. They center around “Light.” The symbols, acts and words of the ritual. Ritualists and their workings. The permanent forms of Masonry and twisted teachings. Scriptural passages. Geometrical symbols. Their value. Masonry has in trust certain geometrical symbols which, coordinated in a system for the Masonic work, are thus preserved.
The teachings of Masonry are few and definite. They are of the Supreme Intelligence, of the Light of the original state of the Triune Self, of the first body when the Doer was without sin and the body lived in the Light, of the death of the body, which is called the destruction of the temple, of the duty to rebuild the temple, of the training of the Doer of feeling-and-desire, as the candidate, to be conscious of itself in the body and to come into conscious relation with the Thinker and the Knower, which training is symbolized by the degrees of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, that is, the three parts of the Triune Self, of the sex power, called Hiram Abiff, by which the temple is rebuilt or the body made immortal, and of the Light filling the temple. The Masonic teachings center around the Light, the Conscious Light the Doer had, the Light it had lost and the Light it must regain. “More light” is the true Masonic prayer. Getting light is the phrase used in Masonry for becoming conscious in higher degrees. Masons take their obligations of virtue and holiness to get more light, to become children of Light.
The symbols, the symbolic acts and the words of the ritual do not always present these teachings. In the course of time and with the popularization of Masonry, some of these teachings have become obscured because of twisting, substituting and adding symbols and work. Various ritualists have been active, not always within the bounds or along the lines of the Masonic landmarks. Nevertheless, the fundamental forms remain, and show the misfits. The Doer, Thinker, and Knower parts are symbolized by the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master, by Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum, by the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, by Hiram Abiff, Hiram, King of Tyre, and King Solomon, by the Pillars of Beauty, Strength, and Wisdom. Where the same three parts are symbolized and there is an omission, it is clear that the later ritualists worked without understanding the relation of the three parts of the Triune Self. So the sun and the moon stand for the body and the feeling, but there is nothing for the desire in this imagery unless it be the stars, and in their place the ritual for the Entered Apprentice degree mentions the Master of the Lodge. Desire should be the Master of the Lodge in that degree. Boaz symbolizes the Thinker and Jachin the Knower, but there is nothing in the ritual to stand for the balancer, the Doer, which makes the arch below, corresponding to the Royal Arch above. However, notwithstanding twists, missing links and the use of the same symbol to indicate different subjects, the general forms of Masonry remain as guides, to which the growth of rites, orders and symbology is reduced from time to time.
Among the permanent forms of Masonry are the point in the circle, the oblong square or the form of the lodge, the right-angled triangle or the square, the equilateral triangle which is the symbol of the Supreme Intelligence, the compass as the symbol of the light coming down, the interlaced triangles, the two columns, the three Great Lights, the arch, the keystone with the two crosses, the white lambskin or apron, the cable-tow, the four degrees and the Master Builder. At such times much stress is laid on some of these symbols, at other times symbols like the trestle-board, the G or point in the circle, the All-seeing Eye as the symbol of the Supreme Intelligence, the source of all Light, and the Blazing Star, symbol of the teacher of the Messianic cycle, are made less important according to the understanding and fancy of the ritualists. Notwithstanding the warning against any change or removal of the ancient landmarks, Masons vary the ritual. Thus many of the teachings have become twisted. For instance, the fire which is a symbol of Jehovah is identified with the Light, which is representative of the Supreme Intelligence; the cardinal point, the North, through which the Light comes, has disappeared from the ritual and the North is dark; the Word is confounded with the Name; the explanation why the three officers act as three ruffians has disappeared. Much of this deterioration is due to the fact that Scriptural passages which are parts of the ritual, are interpreted according to the religious sentiment of the times, and so color, distort or hide the Masonic teachings which the symbols preserve.
Masons have long been in a time of darkness. They are perhaps to be excused for the loss of the light in a time of general darkness. In the present age, however, if they are traveling in search of light, if light is the object of their search, they can find it by searching for it through their symbols. They will get more light if they try to hold the Conscious Light in thinking steadily on the meaning of their symbols.
A geometrical symbol expresses an idea and is a prototype for thinking. It is the original pattern after which other things are modeled, by which they are prefigured, predetermined and given identity, to which they correspond and to which they respond. All things can be epitomized and placed under a few prototypes from which they have originated and by which they are predetermined. Therefore, physical things can be summarized under abstractions which are symbolic. Symbols show a unity in diversity.
Many things can be used as symbols, but geometrical symbols are the highest, because they are best adapted to convey the idea that is expressed in them. The reason is that the body-mind, feeling-mind, and desire-mind work with points, lines, angles and curves, that geometrical forms are the simplest, the most direct and freest from irregularities and complications, and that, therefore, the functions of the three minds are at home with geometrical symbols and get from them without color, form, prejudice, variations and coverings, the essence in the idea or thought which the symbols convey. Points and lines are not seen on the physical plane. Matter on the physical plane appears in forms. These forms have outlines, that is, they end. Lines are conceptions, due to the functions of the feeling-mind and have no physical, tangible existence. They exist on the life plane of the physical world. Points and lines are the matter on the life plane, that is, if the matter on this plane could be seen or conceived, it would be to the average human understanding as points, lines, angles and curves. With this kind of matter, that is, points, lines, angles and curves, the body-mind can work. In order to get the meaning of anything that is not physical the body-mind thinks in points and lines.
A geometrical symbol is not colored, but everything in the world that is seen is colored and therefore does not show the truth, which is without color. True form is without color. Geometrical symbols are true forms. They show the actual character of the things they represent. The reason people cannot use geometrical symbols is that they are looking at the colored forms of nature and have to grow accustomed to geometrical symbols before they can use them and see through them. They first suggest and then reveal the idea they express. When a human thinks intentionally through geometrical symbols he can get the truth which the symbols contain.
All geometrical symbols have their origin in points, lines, angles and curves which receive their value as symbols from positions they hold in the circle. The Zodiac is the best symbol of the circle with the twelve points on the circumference which give a value to geometrical symbols. The value which the symbols so receive is given them by their position relative to the twelve points. Masonry has its symbols from the Zodiac.
The chief reason Masonry exists, and has been preserved when other secret bodies have perished, is that it has in trust certain symbols and that these are coordinated and vitalized in a system for Masonic work. These symbols are geometrical. If Masonic symbols are tools, emblems or buildings, they are valuable because of the geometrical lines they embody.
Masons who have read the foregoing approved it, and it is now published with the hope that all readers will see its application to “The Great Way” described in Thinking and Destiny, and which preceded this work in the original manuscript. It is addressed to all human beings, and the author, though not a member of the Masonic Fraternity, wishes especially to remind all Masons, of whatever Lodge or Rite, that entrusted to their care were the plans for the rebuilding of their second temple which will be greater than the first temple that they destroyed in the long-ago-at-the-beginning of time.
The information for the building of an immortal physical body has been a closely guarded secret preserved through all the ages by the Masonic Fraternity. The works of the author are for the purpose of showing every human being, regardless of race, creed, or color, who really desires to return to and re-establish his Father’s house in The Realm of Permanence may begin the Great Work without being crushed by the weight of the world’s thought. That is to say, without having to leave his active work and retire from the world to do it in secret.
It is possible, but not probable, that human beings can rebuild their temples in the present life. However, anyone may prepare himself and become an entered apprentice and take as many degrees as he can in the present life and continue the work in the next life on earth.
This article also is to remind all Masons that it is their work. Let those, who will, see.
H. W. P.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.