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The 3 architectural orders, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, are the pillars of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty “because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings”.
The Shaking Hands represent the brotherly love that unites the members of the Order around the world. No-body knows where or when the word ‘brother’ originated. In Greek it was phrater, in the Latin frater, whence our “fraternal” and “fraternalism.” It has always meant men from the same parents, or men knit by very close blood ties. When associated with initiation, which has the general meaning of “being born into” one can see how appropriate its use is in Freemasonry.
The ladder that rises from The Book of Holy Law indicates that the divine instructions from one’s own faith are the only basis for the work of the Freemason. A ladder, sometimes with nine rounds, resting at the bottom on the earth, its top in the clouds, the stars shining above it, 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 level and plumb line are respectively the jewels of the first and second Overseers. The level, an instrument by which a balance is proved, or by which may be detected the horizontal plane. It is closely associated in use with the plumb, by which a line perpendicular to the horizontal is proved. The level is that on which there are no in-equalities, hence in Masonry it is correctly used as a symbol of equality. “We meet upon the level” because Masonic rights, duties, and privileges are the same for all members with-out distinction.
The word tow signifies, properly, a line wherewith to draw. In its first inception, the cable tow seems to have been used only as a physical means of controlling the candidate, and such an interpretation is still given in the Entered Apprentice’s Degree. But in the Second and Third Degrees a more modern symbolism has been introduced, and the cable tow is in these grades supposed to symbolize the covenant by which all Freemasons are tied.
Masonic thinkers often point out that the three degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry, the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason Degrees, can be associated with man’s passage through life: youth, manhood, and age. In such a view, the Fellow Craft represents adulthood, where it will be made evident whether a man has discovered for himself that “pass” which will admit him into the Middle Chamber where dwells the source of wisdom and universal meaning and there he will receive the wages of joy and fulfillment.
The grade of the journeyman is the second of the blue degrees. The companion works at the level of the soul: the Winding Staircase defines seven ‘levels of consciousness’, from consciousness of the physical body at the bottom to consciousness of the Spirit and Divinity at the top. In common with other trades or mysteries, medieval masonry guilds recognised three grades of craftsman;— the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master.
The temple is the purpose and result of the construction work of the operative freemasonry. A temple is a building set apart because it is holy, dedicated to religious uses. It has its place in Masonry largely because of the prominence of Solomon’s Temple in the Ritual. It is interesting to note that in Masonic nomenclature the ideal life, here and hereafter, is described metaphorically as a temple, one of a thousand examples of the extent to which Freemasonry is composed with religious language and emotions.
The mason’s gavel, the chisel and the folding rule are the tools of the apprentice. With this he can edit the rough stone he is. The chisel and the gavel symbolize the effects of education on the human mind. For as the artist, by the aid of his instrument, gives form and regularity to the shapeless mass of stone, so education, by cultivating the ideas and by polishing the rude thoughts, transforms the ignorant savage into the civilized being.
The principal use of Globes in Freemasonry, besides serving as maps to distinguish the outward parts of the earth and the situation of the fixed stars, is to illustrate and explain the phenomena arising from the annual revolution of the earth around the sun and its diurnal rotation upon its own axis. They are valuable instruments for improving the mind and giving it the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition, as well as for enabling it to solve the same.
the 47th problem of Euclid is a geometric principle from antiquity. It provides insight into the right angle and is one of the basic principles for the bricklayer’s profession. Euclid (300 BC) was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the “founder of geometry”, and always been associated with the history of Freemasonry. His Elements is one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics The well-known forty-seventh (47th) problem in this book, although not discovered by him, but long credited to Pythagoras, has been adopted as a symbol in Masonic instruction.
The Mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. Its root was the Greek mousa, a muse, through Latin it came into modern languages and during the Middle Ages it narrowed down to mean a pattern formed by small pieces of inlay, a form of decorative work much in vogue during the time of the Operative Masons. The Masonic mosaic pavement consists of small black and white squares alternating to suggest light and darkness, the perpetual forces of good and evil, etc...
In freemasonry, man is seen as a rough stone, in which, however, the cubic stone is present or ‘hidden’. It is his task to bring to light that cubic stone, that is to say, to strive for perfection. In freemasonry, the symbolism of building, the legacy of medieval craftsmanship, occupies a very important place. The freemason sees the world and life as a building to be completed. He builds on the temple of mankind, on a better world, where he sees himself as a building block.
The keystone, symbol of the Holy Vault. It is The stone placed in the center of an arch which preserves the others in their places, and secures firmness and stability to the arch. As it was formerly the custom of Operative Masons to place a peculiar mark on each stone of a building to designate the workman by whom it had been adjusted, so the Keystone was most likely to receive the most prominent mark, that of the Superintendent of the structure.
An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity, is the All Seeing Eye. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus, the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity. On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness.
The map of the master lodge gives an overview of the role that the third degree plays in mystical elevation. The ritual of this degree is much more than a metaphor for the process of death. The footprints describe the steps taken by the candidate to ascend the level of the psyche, symbolized by the square, through the death of the self, symbolized by the grave, to the level of the mind, symbolized by the compass.
The tools of the master are the pencil, the guideline and the compass. These are ‘design tools’. The pencil is the active tool with which the drawing is made; it refers to creativity. The guideline keeps the pencil in check. It refers to the understanding of the fundamental laws that help us to control our creativity. The mutual relationships can be determined with the compass, which brings the other two into balance.
The accacia branch stands for the never-declining hope of divine guidance and protection. The acacia arabica grew abundantly in the vicinity of Jerusalem, where it is still to be found, and is familiar in its modern use at the tree from which the gum arabic of commerce is derived. The branch of acacia presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him of that better and spiritual part within us which can never die.