Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why Symbols Were Used

—As Masonry is a study of symbols, let us now get a clearer conception of their
nature. A symbol is that which stands for something. Material objects cannot be
present in our minds, therefore when we think of them we substitute our impressions
concerning them. Such impressions as enable us to distinguish one thing from
another become symbols by which we recognize them. Thus if we think of a dog, or
of a star, the image of a dog or a star may present itself to our minds. This image is a
But it is only when we give the dog or star a name that we are able really to think about
it; for complex thinking is impossible apart from language. Language is composed of
a special class of symbols. These symbols are usually arbitrary, that is, they require
special education to recognize them. They are thus in a different group—although
there is no hard and fast line of demarcation—from universal symbols. Universal
symbols, such as those employed in Ancient Masonry, are those that so conform to
man’s customary experience with nature that their import may be recognized by any
studious mind.
Thus, according to the philologists, when primitive man felt an emotion he
accompanied it with a gesture or a sound. Then through repetition of the emotion and
its accompanying expression, the sound or gesture came to be associated in the mind
as representing a distinct emotion. A cry became the symbol of pain, laughter the
symbol of mirth; and because of the wide application of these symbols—everywhere
in our experience finding laughter representing mirth and a cry representing
suffering—we may consider these typical universal symbols. But the terms
commonly used in the arts and sciences, having been coined merely as conveniences,
and adopted through usage, are much more arbitrary.
As ideas can only be communicated from one mind to another by means of symbols,
these are employed to an extent even by creatures lower in life’s scale than man. Thus
in the animal kingdom, a mother may not see danger to her young, but if she hears it
cry she recognizes the symbol as one of distress, and rushes to its rescue. Birds, such
as the raven and the jay, post sentinels, and when a lookout sees an intruder
approaching a warning call is recognized by the whole flock, and conduces to their
safety. So also the barnyard aristocrat, proud chanticleer, announces the approach of
day with a warning call; or on other occasions imparts the information to his
admiring harem, by affectionate clucks, that he has found a choice morsel; nor is one
of these symbols apt to be mistaken for the other. In the human species a smile
certainly is a symbol of amity and a frown a symbol of displeasure. And while there
are places where people do not kiss, I aminclined to believe that the ebony maiden of
darkest Africa would recognize the kiss as a symbol of love quite as readily as would
the latest debutante whose polished manners grace the most exclusive circles of
effete society.
As thought is impossible without the use of symbols, it will be seen that the study of
symbolism is the study of the counters of thought. The study of Masonic Symbolism,
then, becomes the study of the thoughts and ideas of the ancient Master Minds as
expressed by them in the language of universal symbolism. Well knowing the
transitory nature of arbitrary language, the words of one generation often having an
opposite meaning in the next, these sages spoke and wrote in a language the words of
which never change their import, thus preserving their thoughts in their original
purity for all time. They discerned truly that so long as human minds abide upon this
terrestrial globe there will be some, from time to time, who will discard arbitrary
methods of interpretation and turn to nature for the clew. These, and these only, are
able to read the message of the Ancient Masons as it was first taught in the secret
schools of long, long ago.
The Entered Apprentice Lodge
—In reading this message, then, let us commence at the beginning, at the Entered
Apprentice degree. An apprentice is one whose services are rendered that he may
gain knowledge through experience. As the object of all ancient mysteries was to
impart information about the origin, proper culture, and final destiny of the human
soul, it will be seen that an Entered Apprentice is a candidate for soul knowledge. He
typifies any man or woman who resolutely sets his foot upon the path leading to the
spiritual height of complete initiation.
Now in opening a lodge of Entered Apprentices there must be present one Past
Master and at least six apprentices. What, then, does this mean?
The room in which these seven assemble is said to represent a ground plan of King
Solomon’s Temple. King Sol, as we have noticed, is the sun, and his temple is in the
arching sky. The ground plan, of course, refers to the earth, with the walls of heaven
coming down on all sides to meet it at the horizon. And those who gather here, the
various apprentices on the lodge of life, occupy physical bodies and are subject to
material laws.
In the Grand Lodge above, the sun, as Past Master, together with the six lower-octave
planets, form the seven types of celestial power, all of which must be present that life
on earth may find complete expression; for each exerts an influence peculiar to itself
and necessary for the fullness of life’s expression. Sunlight is not complete unless it
contains the seven rays of the solar spectrum, nor is the musical gamut as it should be
unless there are seven tones within the octave. Thus also, a little study of astrology
will demonstrate, there are seven lower-octave planets the influences from which are
felt by every living being. Together they tend to mould the course of each human life,
and so, after a manner, constitute the initiators of all.
In the heavens, then, the seven Masons required to open an Entered Apprentice lodge
are the seven lower-octave planets. And according to the laws by which the Ancient
Masons worked—which are also the famed laws of the Medes and Persians—that
which is above has an exact correspondence to that which is below, and Solomon’s
Temple was actually constructed to serve as a model after the design of which each
apprentice should strive to erect his own physical tenement. Consequently, as there
are seven chief planets in the heavens above, there must be, and are, exact
correspondences to these in man’s domain. These embrace man’s seven-fold
We have before us, then, the problem, though not a difficult one, of ascertaining the
office in the lodgeroom corresponding to each of man’s seven chief components.
Such a problem is most easily approached by first studying the correspondence
between the sections of man’s constitution and celestial influences, and the
correspondences between the officers of the lodge and celestial influences; and then,
from this knowledge, arriving at the correspondences and their meaning between the
officers and the sections of man’s domain. This method of approach may best be
started by gaining some knowledge of the influences of the various planets.
The sun is symbolized by its disc, in which appears, like a nucleus, a dot. It is the
source of all life, even as the simple cell in which appears a nucleus is the source, or
parent, of all organic life. This solar disc containing a nucleus typifies the vital,
creative, positive, controlling attributes in nature. The vibrations of the sun are
electric, and they rule the vital force in man. It may be considered the father of all
within the solar system.
The moon is symbolized by its familiar crescent. It is the power that fructifies,
nourishes, and rules the magnetic life currents. It represents the moulding, formative
attributes of the astral world. The moon gives form to all life, her vibrations are
magnetic, and she may be considered as the mother of all manifestation within the
solar system.
The earth is symbolized by a cross. It is the place where active forces meet and cross
one another. Negative and mediumistic, it has no power of its own, being but the
matrix in which other forces develop. Electric and magnetic forces often meet here at
cross purposes; therefore, in a sense, it signifies by its abrupt angles, discord, as well
as stagnation and inertia.
In natal astrology we find that the sun actually rules the individuality, the moon the
mentality, and the ascendant the personality. That is, in actual astrological practice
the sun is considered as ruling the ego, or spirit, the moon as ruling the mind, or soul,
and the ascendant, or cross, as ruling the body. Thus the disc becomes symbol of the
spirit, the crescent the symbol of the soul, and the cross the symbol of the body. And
the symbols of all the other planets are formed from these three, joined in such
combinations as accurately to portray the observed influence of these planets in the
manner in which they express physical, mental, and spiritual qualities.

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