MORALS AND DOGMA.
THE TWELVE-INCH RULE AND THE COMMON GAVEL.
FORCE, unregulated or ill-regulated, is not only wasted in the void, like that of gunpowder burned in the open air, and steam unconfined by science; but, striking in the dark, and its blows meeting only the air, they recoil and bruise itself. It is destruction and ruin. It is the volcano, the earthquake, the cyclone;–not growth and progress. It is Polyphemus blinded, striking at random, and falling headlong among the sharp rocks by the impetus of his own blows.
The blind Force of the people is a Force that must be economized, and also managed, as the blind Force of steam, lifting the ponderous iron arms and turning the large wheels, is made to bore and rifle the cannon and to weave the most delicate lace. It must be regulated by Intellect. Intellect is to the people and the people’s Force, what the slender needle of the compass is to the ship–its soul, always counselling the huge mass of wood and iron, and always pointing to the north. To attack the citadels built up on all sides against the human race by superstitions, despotisms, and prejudices, the Force must have a brain and a law. Then its deeds of daring produce permanent results, and there is real progress. Then there are sublime conquests. Thought is a force, and philosophy should be an energy, finding its aim and its effects in the amelioration of mankind. The two great motors are Truth and Love. When all these Forces are combined, and guided by the Intellect, and regulated by the RULE of Right, and Justice, and of combined and systematic movement and effort, the great revolution prepared for by the ages will begin to march. The POWER of the Deity Himself is in equilibrium with His WISDOM. Hence the only results are HARMONY.
It is because Force is ill regulated, that revolutions prove fail-tires. Therefore it is that so often insurrections, coming from those high mountains that domineer over the moral horizon, Justice, Wisdom, Reason, Right, built of the purest snow of the ideal after a long fall from rock to rock, after having reflected the sky in their transparency, and been swollen by a hundred affluents, in the majestic path of triumph, suddenly lose themselves in quagmires, like a California river in the sands.
The onward march of the human race requires that the heights around it should blaze with noble and enduring lessons of courage. Deeds of daring dazzle history, and form one class of the guiding lights of man. They are the stars and coruscations from that great sea of electricity, the Force inherent in the people. To strive, to brave all risks, to perish, to persevere, to be true to one’s self, to grapple body to body with destiny, to surprise defeat by the little terror it inspires, now to confront unrighteous power, now to defy intoxicated triumph–these are the examples that the nations need and the light that electrifies them.
There are immense Forces in the great caverns of evil beneath society; in the hideous degradation, squalor, wretchedness and destitution, vices and crimes that reek and simmer in the darkness in that populace below the people, of great cities. There disinterestedness vanishes, every one howls, searches, gropes, and gnaws for himself. Ideas are ignored, and of progress there is no thought. This populace has two mothers, both of them stepmothers–Ignorance and Misery. Want is their only guide–for the appetite alone they crave satisfaction. Yet even these may be employed. The lowly sand we trample upon, cast into the furnace, melted, purified by fire, may become resplendent crystal. They have the brute force of the HAMMER, but their blows help on the great cause, when struck within the lines traced by the RULE held by wisdom and discretion.
Yet it is this very Force of the people, this Titanic power of the giants, that builds the fortifications of tyrants, and is embodied in their armies. Hence the possibility of such tyrannies as those of which it has been said, that “Rome smells worse under Vitellius than under Sulla. Under Claudius and under Domitian there is a deformity of baseness corresponding to the ugliness of the tyranny. The foulness of the slaves is a direct result of the atrocious baseness of the despot. A miasma exhales from these crouching consciences that reflect the master; the public authorities are unclean, hearts are collapsed, consciences shrunken, souls puny. This is so under Caracalla, it is so under Commodus, it is so under Heliogabalus, while from the Roman senate, under Cæsar, there comes only the rank odor peculiar to the eagle’s eyrie.”
It is the force of the people that sustains all these despotisms, the basest as well as the best. That force acts through armies; and these oftener enslave than liberate. Despotism there applies the RULE. Force is the MACE of steel at the saddle-bow of the knight or of the bishop in armor. Passive obedience by force supports thrones and oligarchies, Spanish kings, and Venetian senates. Might, in an army wielded by tyranny, is the enormous sum total of utter weakness; and so Humanity wages war against Humanity, in despite of Humanity. So a people willingly submits to despot-ism, and its workmen submit to be despised, and its soldiers to be whipped; therefore it is that battles lost by a nation are often progress attained. Less glory is more liberty. When the drum is silent, reason sometimes speaks.
Tyrants use the force of the people to chain and subjugate–that is, enyoke the people. Then they plough with them as men do with oxen yoked. Thus the spirit of liberty and innovation is reduced by bayonets, and principles are struck dumb by cannon-shot; while the monks mingle with the troopers, and the Church militant and jubilant, Catholic or Puritan, sings Te Deums for victories over rebellion.
The military power, not subordinate to the civil power, again the HAMMER or MACE of FORCE, independent of the RULE, is an armed tyranny, born full-grown, as Athenè sprung from the brain of Zeus. It spawns a dynasty, and begins with Cæsar to rot into Vitellius and Commodus. At the present day it inclines to begin where formerly dynasties ended.
Constantly the people put forth immense strength, only to end in immense weakness. The force of the people is exhausted in indefinitely prolonging things long since dead; in governing mankind by embalming old dead tyrannies of Faith; restoring dilapidated dogmas; regilding faded, worm-eaten shrines; whitening and rouging ancient and barren superstitions; saving society by multiplying parasites; perpetuating superannuated institutions; enforcing the worship of symbols as the actual means of salvation; and tying the dead corpse of the Past, mouth to mouth, with the living Present. Therefore it is that it is one of the fatalities of Humanity to be condemned to eternal struggles with phantoms, with superstitions, bigotries, hypocrisies, prejudices, the formulas of error, and the pleas of tyranny. Despotisms, seen in the past, become respectable, as the mountain, bristling with volcanic rock, rugged and horrid, seen through the haze of distance is blue and smooth and beautiful. The sight of a single dungeon of tyranny is worth more, to dispel illusions, and create a holy hatred of despotism, and to direct FORCE aright, than the most eloquent volumes. The French should have preserved the Bastile as a perpetual lesson; Italy should not destroy the dungeons of the Inquisition. The Force of the people maintained the Power that built its gloomy cells, and placed the living in their granite sepulchres.
The FORCE of the people cannot, by its unrestrained and fitful action, maintain and continue in action and existence a free Government once created. That Force must be limited, restrained, conveyed by distribution into different channels, and by roundabout courses, to outlets, whence it is to issue as the law, action, and decision of the State; as the wise old Egyptian kings conveyed in different canals, by sub-division, the swelling waters of the Nile, and compelled them to fertilize and not devastate the land. There must be the jus et norma, the law and Rule, or Gauge, of constitution and law, within which the public force must act. Make a breach in either, and the great steam-hammer, with its swift and ponderous blows, crushes all the machinery to atoms, and, at last, wrenching itself away, lies inert and dead amid the ruin it has wrought.
The FORCE of the people, or the popular will, in action and exerted, symbolized by the GAVEL, regulated and guided by and acting within the limits of LAW and ORDER, symbolized by the TWENTY-FOUR-INCH RULE, has for its fruit LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY,–liberty regulated by law; equality of rights in the eye of the law; brotherhood with its duties and obligations as well as its benefits.
You will hear shortly of the Rough ASHLAR and the Perfect ASHLAR, as part of the jewels of the Lodge. The rough Ashlar is said to be “a stone, as taken from the quarry, in its rude and natural state.” The perfect Ashlar is said to be “a stone made ready by the hands of the workmen, to be adjusted by the working-tools of the Fellow-Craft.” We shall not repeat the explanations of these symbols given by the York Rite. You may read them in its printed monitors. They are declared to allude to the self-improvement of the individual craftsman,–a continuation of the same superficial interpretation.
The rough Ashlar is the PEOPLE, as a mass, rude and unorganized. The perfect Ashlar, or cubical stone, symbol of perfection, is the STATE, the rulers deriving their powers from the con-sent of the governed; the constitution and laws speaking the will of the people; the government harmonious, symmetrical, efficient,–its powers properly distributed and duly adjusted in equilibrium.
If we delineate a cube on a plane surface thus:
we have visible three faces, and nine external lines, drawn between seven points. The complete cube has three more faces, making six; three more lines, making twelve; and one more point, making eight. As the number 12 includes the sacred numbers, 3, 5, 7, and 3 times 3, or 9, and is produced by adding the sacred number 3 to 9; while its own two figures, 1, 2, the unit or monad, and duad, added together, make the same sacred number 3; it was called the perfect number; and the cube became the symbol of perfection.
Produced by FORCE, acting by RULE; hammered in accordance with lines measured by the Gauge, out of the rough Ashlar, it is an appropriate symbol of the Force of the people, expressed as the constitution and law of the State; and of the State itself the three visible faces represent the three departments,–the Executive, which executes the laws; the Legislative, which makes the laws; the Judiciary, which interprets the laws, applies and enforces them, between man and man, between the State and the citizens. The three invisible faces, are Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,–the threefold soul of the State–its vitality, spirit, and intellect.
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Though Masonry neither usurps the place of, nor apes religion, prayer is an essential part of our ceremonies. It is the aspiration of the soul toward the Absolute and Infinite Intelligence, which is the One Supreme Deity, most feebly and misunderstandingly characterized as an “ARCHITECT.” Certain faculties of man are directed toward the Unknown–thought, meditation, prayer. The unknown is an ocean, of which conscience is the compass. Thought, meditation, prayer, are the great mysterious pointings of the needle. It is a spiritual magnetism that thus connects the human soul with the Deity. These majestic irradiations of the soul pierce through the shadow toward the light.
It is but a shallow scoff to say that prayer is absurd, because it is not possible for us, by means of it, to persuade God to change His plans. He produces foreknown and foreintended effects, by the instrumentality of the forces of nature, all of which are His forces. Our own are part of these. Our free agency and our will are forces. We do not absurdly cease to make efforts to attain wealth or happiness, prolong life, and continue health, because we cannot by any effort change what is predestined. If the effort also is predestined, it is not the less our effort, made of our free will. So, likewise, we pray. Will is a force. Thought is a force. Prayer is a force. Why should it not be of the law of God, that prayer, like Faith and Love, should have its effects? Man is not to be comprehended as a starting-point, or progress as a goal, without those two great forces, Faith and Love. Prayer is sublime. Orisons that beg and clamor are pitiful. To deny the efficacy of prayer, is to deny that of Faith, Love, and Effort. Yet the effects produced, when our hand, moved by our will, launches a pebble into the ocean, never cease; and every uttered word is registered for eternity upon the invisible air.
Every Lodge is a Temple, and as a whole, and in its details symbolic. The Universe itself supplied man with the model for the first temples reared to the Divinity. The arrangement of the Temple of Solomon, the symbolic ornaments which formed its chief decorations, and the dress of the High-Priest, all had reference to the order of the Universe, as then understood. The Temple contained many emblems of the seasons–the sun, the moon, the planets, the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, the zodiac, the elements, and the other parts of the world. It is the Master of this Lodge, of the Universe, Hermes, of whom Khu_ru_m is the representative, that is one of the lights of the Lodge.
For further instruction as to the symbolism of the heavenly bodies, and of the sacred numbers, and of the temple and its details, you must wait patiently until you advance in Masonry, in the mean time exercising your intellect in studying them for yourself. To study and seek to interpret correctly the symbols of the Universe, is the work of the sage and philosopher. It is to de-cipher the writing of God, and penetrate into His thoughts.
This is what is asked and answered in our catechism, in regard to the Lodge.
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A “Lodge” is defined to be “an assemblage of Freemasons, duly congregated, having the sacred writings, square, and compass, and a charter, or warrant of constitution, authorizing them to work.” The room or place in which they meet, representing some part of King Solomon’s Temple, is also called the Lodge; and it is that we are now considering.
It is said to be supported by three great columns, WISDOM, FORCE or STRENGTH, and BEAUTY, represented by the Master, the Senior Warden, and the Junior Warden; and these are said to be the columns that support the Lodge, “because Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, are the perfections of everything, and nothing can endure without them.” “Because,” the York Rite says, “it is necessary that there should be Wisdom to conceive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn, all great and important undertakings.” “Know ye not,” says the Apostle Paul, “that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man desecrate the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
The Wisdom and Power of the Deity are in equilibrium. The laws of nature and the moral laws are not the mere despotic man-dates of His Omnipotent will; for, then they might be changed by Him, and order become disorder, and good and right become evil and wrong; honesty and loyalty, vices; and fraud, ingratitude, and vice, virtues. Omnipotent power, infinite, and existing alone, would necessarily not be constrained to consistency. Its decrees and laws could not be immutable. The laws of God are not obligatory on us because they are the enactments of His POWER, or the expression of His WILL; but because they express His infinite WISDOM. They are not right because they are His laws, but His laws because they are right. From the equilibrium of infinite wisdom and infinite force, results perfect harmony, in physics and in the moral universe. Wisdom, Power, and Harmony constitute one Masonic triad. They have other and profounder meanings, that may at some time be unveiled to you.
As to the ordinary and commonplace explanation, it may be added, that the wisdom of the Architect is displayed in combining, as only a skillful Architect can do, and as God has done everywhere,–for example, in the tree, the human frame, the egg, the cells of the honeycomb–strength, with grace, beauty, symmetry, proportion, lightness, ornamentation. That, too, is the perfection of the orator and poet–to combine force, strength, energy, with grace of style, musical cadences, the beauty of figures, the play and irradiation of imagination and fancy; and so, in a State, the warlike and industrial force of the people, and their Titanic strength, must be combined with the beauty of the arts, the sciences, and the intellect, if the State would scale the heights of excellence, and the people be really free. Harmony in this, as in all the Divine, the material, and the human, is the result of equilibrium, of the sympathy and opposite action of contraries; a single Wisdom above them holding the beam of the scales. To reconcile the moral law, human responsibility, free-will, with the absolute power of God; and the existence of evil with His absolute wisdom, and goodness, and mercy,–these are the great enigmas of the Sphynx.
You entered the Lodge between two columns. They represent the two which stood in the porch of the Temple, on each side of the great eastern gateway. These pillars, of bronze, four fingers breadth in thickness, were, according to the most authentic account–that in the First and that in the Second Book of Kings, confirmed in Jeremiah–eighteen cubits high, with a capital five cubits high. The shaft of each was four cubits in diameter. A cubit is one foot and 707/1000. That is, the shaft of each was a little over thirty feet eight inches in height, the capital of each a little over eight feet six inches in height, and the diameter of the shaft six feet ten inches. The capitals were enriched by pomegranates of bronze, covered by bronze net-work, and ornamented with wreaths of bronze; and appear to have imitated the shape of the seed-vessel of the lotus or Egyptian lily, a sacred symbol to the Hindus and Egyptians. The pillar or column on the right, or in the south, was named, as the Hebrew word is rendered in our translation of the Bible, JACHIN: and that on the left BOAZ. Our translators say that the first word means, “He shall establish;” and the second, “in it is strength.”
These columns were imitations, by Khu_ru_m, the Tyrian artist, of the great columns consecrated to the Winds and Fire, at the entrance to the famous Temple of Malkarth, in the city of Tyre. It is customary, in Lodges of the York Rite, to see a celestial globe on one, and a terrestrial globe on the other; but these are not warranted, if the object be to imitate the original two columns of the Temple. The symbolic meaning of these columns we shall leave for the present unexplained, only adding that Entered Apprentices keep their working-tools in the column JACHIN; and giving you the etymology and literal meaning of the two names.
The word Jachin, in Hebrew, is ו ?Yך?Yנ, It was probably pronounced Ya-kayan, and meant, as a verbal noun, He that strengthens; and thence, firm, stable, upright.
The word Boaz is ו ?B?O?Z, Baaz. ו ?O?Z means Strong, Strength, Power, Might, Refuge, Source of Strength, a Fort. The ו ?B prefixed means “with” or “in,” and gives the word the force of the Latin gerund, roborando—Strengthening.
The former word also means he will establish, or plant in an erect position–from the verb ו ך?Wנ, Ku_n, he stood erect. It probably meant Active and Vivifying Energy and Force; and Boaz, Stability, Permanence, in the passive sense.
The Dimensions of the Lodge, our Brethren of the York Rite say, “are unlimited, and its covering no less than the canopy of Heaven.” “To this object,” they say, “the mason’s mind is continually directed, and thither he hopes at last to arrive by the aid of the theological ladder which Jacob in his vision saw ascending from earth to Heaven; the three principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope, and Charity; and which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in Immortality, and Charity to all mankind.” Accordingly a ladder, sometimes with nine rounds, is seen on the chart, resting at the bottom on the earth, its top in the clouds, the stars shining above it; and this is deemed to represent that mystic ladder, which Jacob saw in his dream, set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to Heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The addition of the three principal rounds to the symbolism, is wholly modern and incongruous.
The ancients counted seven planets, thus arranged: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. There were seven heavens and seven spheres of these planets; on all the monuments of Mithras are seven altars or pyres, consecrated to the seven planets, as were the seven lamps of the golden candelabrum in the Temple. That these represented the planets, we are assured by Clemens of Alexandria, in his Stromata, and by Philo Judæus.
To return to its source in the Infinite, the human soul, the ancients held, had to ascend, as it had descended, through the seven spheres. The Ladder by which it reascends, has, according to Marsilius Ficinus, in his Commentary on the Ennead of Plotinus, seven degrees or steps; and in the Mysteries of Mithras, carried to Rome under the Emperors, the ladder, with its seven rounds, was a symbol referring to this ascent through the spheres of the seven planets. Jacob saw the Spirits of God ascending and descending on it; and above it the Deity Himself. The Mithraic Mysteries were celebrated in caves, where gates were marked at the four equinoctial and solstitial points of the zodiac; and the seven planetary spheres were represented, which souls needs must traverse in descending from the heaven of the fixed stars to the elements that envelop the earth; and seven gates were marked, one for each planet, through which they pass, in descending or returning.
We learn this from Celsus, in Origen, who says that the symbolic image of this passage among the stars, used in the Mithraic Mysteries, was a ladder reaching from earth to Heaven, divided into seven steps or stages, to each of which was a gate, and at the summit an eighth one, that of the fixed stars. The symbol was the same as that of the seven stages of Borsippa, the Pyramid of vitrified brick, near Babylon, built of seven stages, and each of a different color. In the Mithraic ceremonies, the candidate went through seven stages of initiation, passing through many fearful trials–and of these the high ladder with seven rounds or steps was the symbol.
You see the Lodge, its details and ornaments, by its Lights. You have already heard what these Lights, the greater and lesser, are said to be, and how they are spoken of by our Brethren of the York Rite.
The Holy Bible, Square, and Compasses, are not only styled the Great Lights in Masonry, but they are also technically called the Furniture of the Lodge; and, as you have seen, it is held that there is no Lodge without them. This has sometimes been made a pretext for excluding Jews from our Lodges, because they cannot regard the New Testament as a holy book. The Bible is an indispensable part of the furniture of a Christian Lodge, only because it is the sacred book of the Christian religion. The Hebrew Pentateuch in a Hebrew Lodge, and the Koran in a Mohammedan one, belong on the Altar; and one of these, and the Square and Compass, properly understood, are the Great Lights by which a Mason must walk and work.
The obligation of the candidate is always to be taken on the sacred book or books of his religion, that he may deem it more solemn and binding; and therefore it was that you were asked of what religion you were. We have no other concern with your religious creed.
The Square is a right angle, formed by two right lines. It is adapted only to a plane surface, and belongs only to geometry, earth-measurement, that trigonometry which deals only with planes, and with the earth, which the ancients supposed to be a plane. The Compass describes circles, and deals with spherical trigonometry, the science of the spheres and heavens. The former, therefore, is an emblem of what concerns the earth and the body; the latter of what concerns the heavens and the soul. Yet the Compass is also used in plane trigonometry, as in erecting perpendiculars; and, therefore, you are reminded that, although in this Degree both points of the Compass are under the Square, and you are now dealing only with the moral and political meaning of the symbols, and not with their philosophical and spiritual meanings, still the divine ever mingles with the human; with the earthly the spiritual intermixes; and there is something spiritual in the commonest duties of life. The nations are not bodies-politic alone, but also souls-politic; and woe to that people which, seeking the material only, forgets that it has a soul. Then we have a race, petrified in dogma, which presupposes the absence of a soul and the presence only of memory and instinct, or demoralized by lucre. Such a nature can never lead civilization. Genuflexion before the idol or the dollar atrophies the muscle which walks and the will which moves. Hieratic or mercantile absorption diminishes the radiance of a people, lowers its horizon by lowering its level, and deprives it of that understanding of the universal aim, at the same time human and divine, which makes the missionary nations. A free people, forgetting that it has a soul to be cared for, devotes all its energies to its material advancement. If it makes war, it is to subserve its commercial interests. The citizens copy after the State, and regard wealth, pomp, and luxury as the great goods of life. Such a nation creates wealth rapidly, and distributes it badly. Thence the two extremes, of monstrous opulence and monstrous misery; all the enjoyment to a few, all the privations to the rest, that is to say, to the people; Privilege, Exception, Monopoly, Feudality, springing up from Labor itself: a false and dangerous situation, which, making Labor a blinded and chained Cyclops, in the mine, at the forge, in the workshop, at the loom, in the field, over poisonous fumes, in miasmatic cells, in unventilated factories, founds public power upon private misery, and plants the greatness of the State in the suffering of the individual. It is a greatness ill constituted, in which all the material elements are combined, and into which no moral element enters. If a people, like a star, has the right of eclipse, the light ought to return. The eclipse should not degenerate into night.
The three lesser, or the Sublime Lights, you have heard, are the Sun, the Moon, and the Master of the Lodge; and you have heard what our Brethren of the York Rite say in regard to them, and why they hold them to be Lights of the Lodge. But the Sun and Moon do in no sense light the Lodge, unless it be symbolically, and then the lights are not they, but those things of which they are the symbols. Of what they are the symbols the Mason in that Rite is not told. Nor does the Moon in any sense rule the night with regularity.
The Sun is the ancient symbol of the life-giving and generative power of the Deity. To the ancients, light was the cause of life; and God was the source from which all light flowed; the essence of Light, the Invisible Fire, developed as flame manifested as light and splendor. The Sun was His manifestation and visible image; and the Sabæans worshipping the Light–God, seemed to worship the Sun, in whom they saw the manifestation of the Deity.
The Moon was the symbol of the passive capacity of nature to produce, the female, of which the life-giving power and energy was the male. It was the symbol of Isis, Astarte, and Artemis, or Diana. The “Master of Life” was the Supreme Deity, above both, and manifested through both; Zeus, the Son of Saturn, become King of the Gods; Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, become the Master of Life; Dionusos or Bacchus, like Mithras, become the author of Light and Life and Truth.
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The Master of Light and Life, the Sun and the Moon, are symbolized in every Lodge by the Master and Wardens: and this makes it the duty of the Master to dispense light to the Brethren, by himself, and through the Wardens, who are his ministers.
“Thy sun,” says ISAIAH to Jerusalem, “shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.” Such is the type of a free people.
Our northern ancestors worshipped this tri-une Deity; ODIN, the Almighty FATHER; FREA, his wife, emblem of universal matter; and THOR, his son, the mediator. But above all these was the Supreme God, “the author of everything that existeth, the Eternal, the Ancient, the Living and Awful Being, the Searcher into concealed things, the Being that never changeth.” In the Temple of Eleusis (a sanctuary lighted only by a window in the roof, and representing the Universe), the images of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, were represented.
“The Sun and Moon,” says the learned Bro∴ DELAUNAY, “represent the two grand principles of all generations, the active and passive, the male and the female. The Sun represents the actual light. He pours upon the Moon his fecundating rays; both shed their light upon their offspring, the Blazing Star, or HORUS, and the three form the great Equilateral Triangle, in the centre of which is the omnific letter of the Kabalah, by which creation is said to have been effected.”
The ORNAMENTS of a Lodge are said to be “the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star.” The Mosaic Pavement, chequered in squares or lozenges, is said to represent the ground-floor of King Solomon’s Temple; and the Indented Tessel “that beautiful tesselated border which surrounded it.” The Blazing Star in the centre is said to be “an emblem of Divine Providence, and commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Saviour’s nativity.” But “there was no stone seen” within the Temple. The walls were covered with planks of cedar, and the floor was covered with planks of fir. There is no evidence that there was such a pavement or floor in the Temple, or such a bordering. In England, anciently, the Tracing-Board was surrounded with an indented border; and it is only in America that such a border is put around the Mosaic pavement. The tesseræ, indeed, are the squares or lozenges of the pavement. In England, also, “the indented or denticulated border” is called “tesselated,” because it has four “tassels,” said to represent Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. It was termed the Indented Trassel; but this is a misuse of words. It is a tesserated pavement, with an indented border round it.
The pavement, alternately black and white, symbolizes, whether so intended or not, the Good and Evil Principles of the Egyptian and Persian creed. It is the warfare of Michael and Satan, of the Gods and Titans, of Balder and Lok; between light and shadow, which is darkness; Day and Night; Freedom and Despotism; Religious Liberty and the Arbitrary Dogmas of a Church that thinks for its votaries, and whose Pontiff claims to be infallible, and the decretals of its Councils to constitute a gospel.
The edges of this pavement, if in lozenges, will necessarily be indented or denticulated, toothed like a saw; and to complete and finish it a bordering is necessary. It is completed by tassels as ornaments at the corners. If these and the bordering have any symbolic meaning, it is fanciful and arbitrary.
To find in the BLAZING STAR of five points an allusion to the Divine Providence, is also fanciful; and to make it commemorative of the Star that is said to have guided the Magi, is to give it a meaning comparatively modern. Originally it represented SIRIUS, or the Dog-star, the forerunner of the inundation of the Nile; the God ANUBIS, companion of Isis in her search for the body of OSIRIS, her brother and husband. Then it became the image of HORUS, the son of OSIRIS, himself symbolized also by the Sun, the author of the Seasons, and the God of Time; Son of Isis, who was the universal nature, himself the primitive matter, inexhaustible source of Life, spark of uncreated fire, universal seed of all beings. It was HERMES, also, the Master of Learning, whose name in Greek is that of the God Mercury. It became the sacred and potent sign or character of the Magi, the PENTALPHA, and is the significant emblem of Liberty and Freedom, blazing with a steady radiance amid the weltering elements of good and evil of Revolutions, and promising serene skies and fertile seasons to the nations, after the storms of change and tumult.
In the East of the Lodge, over the Master, inclosed in a triangle, is the Hebrew letter YO_D [ו ?Y or ]. In the English and American Lodges the Letter G∴ is substituted for this, as the initial of the word GOD, with as little reason as if the letter D., initial of DIEU, were used in French Lodges instead of the proper letter. YO_D is, in the Kabalah, the symbol of Unity, of the Supreme Deity, the first letter of the Holy Name; and also a symbol of the Great Kabalistic Triads. To understand its mystic meanings, you must open the pages of the Sohar and Siphra de Zeniutha, and other kabalistic books, and ponder deeply on their meaning. It must suffice to say, that it is the Creative Energy of the Deity, is represented as a point, and that point in the centre of the Circle of immensity. It is to us in this Degree, the symbol of that unmanifested Deity, the Absolute, who has no name.
Our French Brethren place this letter YO_D in the centre of the Blazing Star. And in the old Lectures, our ancient English Brethren said, “The Blazing Star or Glory in the centre refers us to that grand luminary, the Sun, which enlightens the earth, and by its genial influence dispenses blessings to mankind.” They called it also in the same lectures, an emblem of PRUDENCE. The word Prudentia means, in its original and fullest signification, Foresight; and, accordingly, the Blazing Star has been regarded as an emblem of Omniscience, or the All-seeing Eye, which to the Egyptian Initiates was the emblem of Osiris, the Creator. With the YO_D in the centre, it has the kabalistic meaning of the Divine Energy, manifested as Light, creating the Universe.
The Jewels of the Lodge are said to be six in number. Three are called “Movable,” and three “Immovable.” The SQUARE, the LEVEL, and the PLUMB were anciently and properly called the Movable Jewels, because they pass from one Brother to another. It is a modern innovation to call them immovable, because they must always be present in the Lodge. The immovable jewels are the ROUGH ASHLAR, the PERFECT ASHLAR or CUBICAL STONE, or, in some Rituals, the DOUBLE CUBE, and the TRACING-BOARD, or TRESTLE-BOARD.
Of these jewels our Brethren of the York Rite say: “The Square inculcates Morality; the Level, Equality; and the Plumb, Rectitude of Conduct.” Their explanation of the immovable Jewels may be read in their monitors.
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Our Brethren of the York Rite say that “there is represented in every well-governed Lodge, a certain point, within a circle; the point representing an individual Brother; the Circle, the boundary line of his conduct, beyond which he is never to suffer his prejudices or passions to betray him.”
This is not to interpret the symbols of Masonry. It is said by some, with a nearer approach to interpretation, that the point within the circle represents God in the centre of the Universe. It is a common Egyptian sign for the Sun and Osiris, and is still used as the astronomical sign of the great luminary. In the Kabalah the point is YO_D, the Creative Energy of God, irradiating with light the circular space which God, the universal Light, left vacant, wherein to create the worlds, by withdrawing His substance of Light back on all sides from one point.
Our Brethren add that, “this circle is embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, and upon the top rest the Holy Scriptures” (an open book). “In going round this circle,” they say, “we necessarily touch upon these two lines as well as upon the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself circumscribed within their precepts, it is impossible that he should materially err.” It would be a waste of time to comment upon this. Some writers have imagined that the parallel lines represent the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which the Sun alternately touches upon at the Summer and Winter solstices. But the tropics are not perpendicular lines, and the idea is merely fanciful. If the parallel lines ever belonged to the ancient symbol, they had some more recondite and more fruitful meaning. They probably had the same meaning as the twin columns Jachin and Boaz. That meaning is not for the Apprentice. The adept may find it in the Kabalah. The JUSTICE and MERCY of God are in equilibrium, and the result is HARMONY, because a Single and Perfect Wisdom presides over both.
The Holy Scriptures are an entirely modern addition to the symbol, like the terrestrial and celestial globes on the columns of the portico. Thus the ancient symbol has been denaturalized by incongruous additions, like that of Isis weeping over the broken column containing the remains of Osiris at Byblos.
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Masonry has its decalogue, which is a law to its Initiates. These are its Ten Commandments:
|I.||⊕∴ God is the Eternal, Omnipotent, Immutable WISDOM and Supreme INTELLIGENCE and Exhaustless LOVE.
Thou shalt adore, revere, and love Him!
Thou shalt honor Him by practising the virtues!
|II.||○∴ Thy religion shall be, to do good because it is a pleasure to thee, and not merely because it is a duty.
That thou mayest become the friend of the wise man, thou shalt obey his precepts!
Thy soul is immortal! Thou shalt do nothing to degrade it!
|III.||⊕∴ Thou shalt unceasingly war against vice!
Thou shalt not do unto others that which thou wouldst not wish them to do unto thee!
Thou shalt be submissive to thy fortunes, and keep burning the light of wisdom!
|IV.||○∴ Thou shalt honor thy parents!
Thou shalt pay respect and homage to the aged!
Thou shalt instruct the young!
Thou shalt protect and defend infancy and innocence!
|V.||⊕∴ Thou shalt cherish thy wife and thy children!
Thou shalt love thy country, and obey its laws!
|VI.||○∴ Thy friend shall be to thee a second self!
Misfortune shall not estrange thee from him!
Thou shalt do for his memory whatever thou wouldst do for him, if he were living!
|VII.||⊕∴ Thou shalt avoid and flee from insincere friendships!
Thou shalt in everything refrain from excess.
Thou shalt fear to be the cause of a stain on thy memory!
|VIII.||○∴ Thou shalt allow no passions to become thy master!
Thou shalt make the passions of others profitable lessons to thyself!
Thou shalt be indulgent to error!
|IX.||⊕∴ Thou shalt hear much: Thou shalt speak little: Thou shalt act well!
Thou shalt forget injuries!
Thou shalt render good for evil!
Thou shalt not misuse either thy strength or thy superiority!
|X.||○∴ Thou shalt study to know men; that thereby thou mayest learn to know thyself!
Thou shalt ever seek after virtue!
Thou shalt be just!
Thou shalt avoid idleness!
But the great commandment of Masonry is this: “A new commandment give I unto you: that ye love one another! He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, remaineth still in the darkness.”
Such are the moral duties of a Mason. But it is also the duty of Masonry to assist in elevating the moral and intellectual level of society; in coining knowledge, bringing ideas into circulation, and causing the mind of youth to grow; and in putting, gradually, by the teachings of axioms and the promulgation of positive laws, the human race in harmony with its destinies.
To this duty and work the Initiate is apprenticed. He must not imagine that he can effect nothing, and, therefore, despairing, become inert. It is in this, as in a man’s daily life. Many great deeds are done in the small struggles of life. There is, we are told, a determined though unseen bravery, which defends itself, foot to foot, in the darkness, against the fatal invasion of necessity and of baseness. There are noble and mysterious triumphs, which no eye sees, which no renown rewards, which no flourish of trumpets salutes. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battle-fields, which have their heroes,–heroes obscure, but sometimes greater than those who become illustrious. The Mason should struggle in the same manner, and with the same bravery, against those invasions of necessity and baseness, which come to nations as well as to men. He should meet them, too, foot to foot, even in the darkness, and protest against the national wrongs and follies; against usurpation and the first inroads of that hydra, Tyranny. There is no more sovereign eloquence than the truth in indignation. It is more difficult for a people to keep than to gain their freedom. The Protests of Truth are always needed. Continually, the right must protest against the fact. There is, in fact, Eternity in the Right. The Mason should be the Priest and Soldier of that Right. If his country should be robbed of her liberties, he should still not despair. The protest of the Right against the Fact persists forever. The robbery of a people never becomes prescriptive. Reclamation of its rights is barred by no length of time. Warsaw can no more be Tartar than Venice can be Teutonic. A people may endure military usurpation, and subjugated States kneel to States and wear the yoke, while under the stress of necessity; but when the necessity disappears, if the people is fit to be free, the submerged country will float to the surface and reappear, and Tyranny be adjudged by History to have murdered its victims.
Whatever occurs, we should have Faith in the Justice and over-ruling Wisdom of God, and Hope for the Future, and Loving-kindness for those who are in error. God makes visible to men His will in events; an obscure text, written in a mysterious language. Men make their translations of it forthwith, hasty, incorrect, full of faults, omissions, and misreadings. We see so short a way along the arc of the great circle! Few minds comprehend the Divine tongue. The most sagacious, the most calm, the most profound, decipher the hieroglyphs slowly; and when they arrive with their text, perhaps the need has long gone by; there are already twenty translations in the public square–the most incorrect being, as of course, the most accepted and popular. From each translation, a party is born; and from each misreading, a faction. Each party believes or pretends that it has the only true text, and each faction believes or pretends that it alone possesses the light. Moreover, factions are blind men, who aim straight, errors are excellent projectiles, striking skillfully, and with all the violence that springs from false reasoning, wherever a want of logic in those who defend the right, like a defect in a cuirass, makes them vulnerable.
Therefore it is that we shall often be discomfited in combating error before the people. Antæus long resisted Hercules; and the heads of the Hydra grew as fast as they were cut off. It is absurd to say that Error, wounded, writhes in pain, and dies amid her worshippers. Truth conquers slowly. There is a wondrous vitality in Error. Truth, indeed, for the most part, shoots over the heads of the masses; or if an error is prostrated for a moment, it is up again in a moment, and as vigorous as ever. It will not die when the brains are out, and the most stupid and irrational errors are the longest-lived.
Nevertheless, Masonry, which is Morality and Philosophy, must not cease to do its duty. We never know at what moment success awaits our efforts–generally when most unexpected–nor with what effect our efforts are or are not to be attended. Succeed or fail, Masonry must not bow to error, or succumb under discouragement. There were at Rome a few Carthaginian soldiers, taken prisoners, who refused to bow to Flaminius, and had a little of Hannibal’s magnanimity. Masons should possess an equal greatness of soul. Masonry should be an energy; finding its aim and effect in the amelioration of mankind. Socrates should enter into Adam, and produce Marcus Aurelius, in other words, bring forth from the man of enjoyments, the man of wisdom. Masonry should not be a mere watch-tower, built upon mystery, from which to gaze at ease upon the world, with no other result than to be a convenience for the curious. To hold the full cup of thought to the thirsty lips of men; to give to all the true ideas of Deity; to harmonize conscience and science, are the province of Philosophy. Morality is Faith in full bloom. Contemplation should lead to action, and the absolute be practical; the ideal be made air and food and drink to the human mind. Wisdom is a sacred communion. It is only on that condition that it ceases to be a sterile love of Science, and becomes the one and supreme method by which to unite Humanity and arouse it to concerted action. Then Philosophy becomes Religion.
And Masonry, like History and Philosophy, has eternal duties–eternal, and, at the same time, simple–to oppose Caiaphas as Bishop, Draco or Jefferies as Judge, Trimalcion as Legislator, and Tiberius as Emperor. These are the symbols of the tyranny that degrades and crushes, and the corruption that defiles and infests. in the works published for the use of the Craft we are told that the three great tenets of a Mason’s profession, are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. And it is true that a Brotherly affection and kindness should govern us in all our intercourse and relations with our brethren; and a generous and liberal philanthropy actuate us in regard to all men. To relieve the distressed is peculiarly the duty of Masons–a sacred duty, not to be omitted, neglected, or coldly or inefficiently complied with. It is also most true, that Truth is a Divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be true, and to seek to find and learn the Truth, are the great objects of every good Mason.
As the Ancients did, Masonry styles Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, the four cardinal virtues. They are as necessary to nations as to individuals. The people that would be Free and Independent, must possess Sagacity, Forethought, Fore-sight, and careful Circumspection, all which are included in the meaning of the word Prudence. It must be temperate in asserting its rights, temperate in its councils, economical in its expenses; it must be bold, brave, courageous, patient under reverses, undismayed by disasters, hopeful amid calamities, like Rome when she sold the field at which Hannibal had his camp. No Cannæ or Pharsalia or Pavia or Agincourt or Waterloo must discourage her. Let her Senate sit in their seats until the Gauls pluck them by the beard. She must, above all things, be just, not truckling to the strong and warring on or plundering the weak; she must act on the square with all nations, and the feeblest tribes; always keeping her faith, honest in her legislation, upright in all her dealings. Whenever such a Republic exists, it will be immortal: for rashness, injustice, intemperance and luxury in prosperity, and despair and disorder in adversity, are the causes of the decay and dilapidation of nations.