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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ritual And Symbols Of Freemasons

Ritual And Symbols Of Freemasons Cover The Freemasons rely heavily on the architectural symbolism of the Medieval "operative" Masons who actually worked in Rock stone. One of their principal symbols is the "square and compasses", tools of the trade, so arranged as to form a quadrilateral. The square is sometimes said to represent matter, and the compasses spirit or mind. Alternatively, the square might be said to represent the world of the concrete, or the measure of objective reality, while the compasses represent abstraction, or subjective judgment, and so forth (Freemasonry being non-dogmatic, there is no written-in-stone interpretation for any of these symbols). The compasses straddle the square, representing the interdependence between the two. In the space between the two, there is optionally placed a symbol of metaphysical significance. Sometimes, this is a blazing star or other symbol of Light, representing Truth or knowledge. Alternatively, there is often a letter "G" placed there, usually said to represent "God and/or Geometry".

The square and compasses are displayed at all Masonic meetings, along with the open "Volume of the Sacred Law (or Lore)" (VSL). In English-speaking countries, this is usually a Bible, but it can be whatever book of inspiration or scripture that the members of a particular Lodge or jurisdiction feel they draw on--whether the Bible, the Koran, or other Volumes. In many French Lodges, the Masonic Constitutions are used. In a few cases, a blank book has been used, where the religious makeup of a Lodge was too diverse to permit an easy choice of VSL. In addition to its role as a symbol of written wisdom, inspiration, and sometimes as the revealed will of the Deity, the VSL is what Masonic obligations are taken upon.

Much of Masonic symbolism is mathematical in nature, and in particular geometrical, which is probably a reason Freemasonry has attracted so many rationalists (such as Voltaire, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and many others). No particular metaphysical theory is advanced by Freemasonry, however, although there seems to be some influence from the Pythagoreans, from Neo-Platonism, and from early modern Rationalism.

In keeping with the geometrical and architectural theme of Freemasonry, the Supreme Being (or God, or Creative Principle) is sometimes also referred to in Masonic ritual as "the Grand Geometrician", or the "Great Architect of the Universe". Freemasons use a variety of labels for this concept, often abbreviated "G.A.O.T.U.", in order to avoid the idea that they are talking about any one religion's particular God or God-like concept.

There are three initial "degrees" of Freemasonry: (1) Entered Apprentice, (2) Fellow Craft and (3) Master Mason. One works through each degree by taking part in a ritual, essentially a medieval mortality Play, in which one plays a role, along with members of the Lodge that one is joining. The setting is Biblical--the building of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem--although the stories themselves are not directly from the Bible, and not intended to be necessarily Jewish or Christian in nature. Nothing supernatural happens in these stories. The Temple can be taken to represent the "temple" of the individual human being, that of the human community, or of the entire universe.

As one works through the degrees, one studies the lessons and interprets them for oneself. There are as many ways to interpret the rituals as there are Masons, and no Mason may dictate to any other Mason how he is to interpret them. No particular truths are espoused, but a common structure--speaking symbolically to universal human archetypes--provides for each Mason a means to come to his own answers to life's important questions. Freemasons working through the degrees are often (especially in Continental Europe) asked to prepare papers on related philosophical topics, and present lectures.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a Freemason, and his opera, The magic Flute, makes extensive use of Masonic symbolism. Two books that give a general feel for the symbolism and its interpretation are:

1. "Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol" by W.K. MacNulty, Thames & Hudson, London, 1991.
2. "Symbols of Freemasonry" by D. Beresniak and L. Hamani, Assouline, Paris, 2000.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Phil Hine - Aspects Of Evocation
Anonymous - The Mysticism Of Masonry
Ralph Blum - The New Book Of Runes
Castells - The Apocalypse Of Freemasonry
James Anderson - The Constitutions Of The Freemasons 1734