Category Archives: The Veiled Allegory of Freemasonry

The Master Degree

Life’s brief moments, swiftly flying,

Speed us near and nearer Death;

Earth and Time are quickly dying,

Passing like a vapour breath.

 

Earth and all its passions perish,

Time and all its duties cease;

Wealth and power, that mankind cherish,

Bring us here no joy and peace.

 

Swift, swifter still ar every breath,

Near, and more near, steals silent Death;

Help! help us now, O Thou Most High!

In this dread hour of mystery.

Fellowcraft Degree

Onward moves the whole Creation,

Working out the eternal plan;

Sun and planet, stream and ocean,

Flower and forest, beast and man,

Never resting, ever going

Forward on their destined way;

Spring to Summer-glory growing,

Morn merging into Day.

 

Forward, Brother, then be going,

To the might of manhood move;

And thy going be ‘t in growing,

And thy growing be ‘t in love.

Apprentice Degree

Through midnight dark I feebly grope my way

Oppressed with fear;

I dread to go, and yet I dare not stay

With danger near;

Eternal Father! guide my feet aright,

And lead me, step by step, up to the Light.

 

I do not know the secret path I tread

Thro’ scenes unknown,

I humbly wander whither I am led—

Thy power I own;

Eternal Father! guide me through this night,

And lead me, step by step, up to the Light.

 

The World, its pride and passions, wealth and power,

All, all are gone;

Blind, poor, and weak I trust, in this dread hour,

On Thee alone;

Eternal Father! guide me in Thy Might,

And lead me, step by step, up to the Light.

The Royal Arch

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Royal Arch: Its Hidden Meaning by George Harold Steinmetz, with an additional paper by George S Faison.

George H Steinmetz The Royal Arch

Steinmetz provides a metaphysical interpretation of the rituals of Royal Arch Freemasonry as worked in the 20th-century United States. His book stands as a representative instance of mid-century Anglophone occultism, including the ERRATIC use of ALL CAPS. Authorities cited include H.P. Blavatsky, A.E. Waite, and Max Heindel, but he largely sticks to the features of the rituals themselves. There’s nothing innovative among occultists about his basic ideas, which include reincarnation as an esoteric Masonic doctrine, as well as the relevance of astrological symbolism to the Royal Arch degree. He does, however, find new ways to confuse the ritual hermeneutic.

For example, when discussing the misapplied persistence of the Biblical span of “470 years” in the ritual, he suggests that “we follow the procedure of the Kabalist, and take away from this number the zero (0),” and proceeds to interpret the resulting forty-seven in relation to Euclid’s 47th problem. (72) Had he been genuinely familiar with qabalistic “procedure,” Steinmetz might have noticed that the gematria of the Hebrew OTh (“time” or “period of time”) and DVR DVRIM (“eternity,” lit. “age of ages”) is 470, and thus “470 years” in both the Bible and the Royal Arch ceremony is simply the passage of a generic eon.

An even richer example arises in his insistence that “in the original Hebrew God is quoted as saying: ‘And God said unto Moses IHVH and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, IHVH hath sent me unto you.'” (78) Of course, anyone with a Tanakh handy can quickly debunk this nonsense. In Exodus 3:14—the verse cited by Steinmetz—the theophany utters “AHIH AShR AHIH,” and names itself AHIH (Eheieh). Half the letters of a Tetragrammaton isn’t nearly close enough. An error like this one, seeming to firm up his thesis, just throws Steinmetz’s aptitude into question.

Finally, he contends that the traditional discovered name of the Royal Arch is the product of “late eighteenth century attempts at mysticism which result in the ridiculous.” (125) Whether Steinmetz’s chosen experts Mackey and Breasted are correct that ON was only and always a place-name and not a name or title of a deity (or whether on the contrary, Forlong is correct in identifying the rising sun with the hare-god Un), the reader must be unimpressed by his “considerable research” that failed to find Jah among Hebrew names of God. Ultimately, his attempts to render meaningless the complex mystery of the Royal Arch Word seem ironic indeed, considering the fanciful and fatuous etymology he provides for the exoteric name Israel: IS from the goddess Isis, RA the Egyptian god, and EL the Semitic “lord.” (103)

The appended paper on “Freemasonry and Astrology” by George S. Faison is inoffensive, but has little to recommend it. Faison unhistorically presents astrology as essentially concerned with psychological character. His efforts to tie its symbolism to Masonry, where credible, depend on its genuine presence in Hebrew scripture. For that, the reader is better off consulting a text which directly addresses the topic, like Drummond’s Oedipus Judaicus. [via]

Try The Square

Is a Brother off the track?

Try the Square;

Try it well on every side.

Nothing draws a craftsman back

Like the Square when well applied.

Try the Square.

 

Is he crooked, is he frail?

Try the Square.

Try it early, try it late;

When all other efforts fail,

Try the Square to make him straight—

Try the Square.

 

Does he still persist in wrong?

Try the Square.

Loves he darkness more than light?

Try it thorough, try it long.

Try the Square to make him right—

Try the Square.

 

Fails the Square to bring him in?

Try the Square.

Be not sparing of the pains;

While there’s any work to do,

While a crook or knot remains—

Try the Square.

David Barker, 1916

I Sat In Lodge With You

There is a saying filled with cheer,

Which calls a man to fellowship.

It means as much to him to hear

As lies within the brother-grip.

Nay, more! It opens wide the way

To friendliness sincere and true;

There are no strangers when you say

To me: “I sat in lodge with you.”

 

When that is said, then I am known;

There s not questioning or doubt;

I need not walk my path alone

Nor from my fellows be shut out.

Those words hold all of brotherhood

And help me face the world anew—

There’s something deep and rich and good

In this: “I sat in lodge with you.”

 

Though in far lands one needs must roam,

By sea and shore and hill and plain,

Those words bring him a touch of home

And lighten tasks that seem in vain.

Men’s faces are no longer strange

But seem as those he always knew

When some one rings the joyous change

With his: “I sat in lodge with you.”

 

So you, my brother, now and then

Have often put me in your debt

By showing forth to other men

That you your friends do not forget.

When all the world seems gray and cold

And I am weary, worn and blue,

Then comes this golden thought I hold—

You said: “I sat in lodge with you.”

 

When to the last great lodge you fare

My prayer is that I may be

One of your friends who wait you there,

Intent your smiling face to see.

We, with the warder at the gate,

Will have a pleasant task to do;

We’ll call, though you come soon or late:

“Come in! We sat in lodge with you!”

Wilbur D Nesbit

Committed to the Flames

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Committed to the Flames: The History and Rituals of a Secret Masonic Rite by Arturo de Hoyos and S Brent Morris.

Arturo de Hoyos S Brent Morris Committed to the Flames

Committed to the Flames is essentially a study of a set of Masonic cipher manuscripts from the 19th century. Roughly the last two-thirds of the book consists of decrypted versions of the manuscript texts. In the first third, de Hoyos and Morris provide the history of the manuscripts’ decryption and the context of their origins. These chapters have some real value to those interested in old-fashioned cryptology and cryptanalysis. They also set forth a pretty fascinating story of the early development and difficulties of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the New York area. The cipher scribe, Robert Folger, was a chief exponent of the Cerneauist faction of Scottish Rite organizing during a particularly contentious period. The historical chapters of the book suffer from some redundancy in their details, and they look as though they might have been composed in parallel by the two authors, without much editorial attention given to reconciling them into a single whole.

The greater part of the actual manuscript contents is given over to Craft rituals drawn from the Rectified Scottish Rite, a Continental derivative of the Rite of Strict Observance. Folger had evidently intended these for the use of symbolic lodges working under the direct authorization of a Supreme Council of the 33° (in contrast to the typical arrangement in Anglophone Masonry, where A&A “Scottish” Rite jurisdictions charter bodies only to work their 4° and above). There are also some rituals for the Knight Templar degree, which is not part of the 33° system. The three Folger MSS provide among them multiple copies and versions of the rituals.

The other principal ingredient of the manuscript texts is a version of Crata Repoa, which differs in few but sometimes signficant respects from the English translation first published by John Yarker in The Kneph, and more recently available in Manly Hall’s Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians. Crata Repoa, originally in French or German (depending on which sources one trusts) is an attempt to reconstruct the ancient mysteries in their original Egyptian form, on the basis of a fundmental analogy to Freemasonry, and with recourse to classical documentation regarding Greek mystery-cults.

The plaintexts of the Folger MSS are reproduced here as extensively as possible, to the point where they will provide a virtually primary source for research. But the repetitions within the manuscripts are fairly extensive, and even a technically-informed Masonic reader who prods himself to read all of Committed to the Flames may agree with me that the real substance of the volume could have been presented in half the page count. [via]

Let There Be Light!

Brother, kneel before the altar,

In silence grave.

Show no weakness. Do not falter

Like cowan knave.

Honest brethren stand around you,

With heart and hand,

Ready to encourage, aid you,

A noble band.

Here you need not fear deception—

All are true—

Every brother here assembled

Knelt like you.

With throbbing hearts they silent listen

To your voice,

As you tell in earnest whisper,

Your free choice.

Gently loose the new made brother

From his cord,

He is bound by stronger fetters,

On God’s Word.

Hearken to the Master’s language:

“Pray for Light,”

Responsive voices chant the echo:

“Let there be Light.”

Welcome, brother, to our household,

You are Free;

May it ever prove a blessing

Unto thee.

Cummings, 1894

A Pilgrim’s Path

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Pilgrim’s Path: Freemasonry and the Religious Right by John J Robinson.

John J Robinson A Pilgrim's Path

Robinson uses simple, clear language to provide a view of both American Masonry and contemporary anti-Masonry. A Pilgrim’s Progress grew out of his experiences with the popular responses to his earlier book on Masonic origins, Born in Blood. Robinson is convinced that religious freedom and toleration are at the core of the Masonic ethic, and that today’s anti-Masons—whatever their superficial arguments—are principally motivated by hostility to religious freedom. In addition, he provides a discussion of ways that Masonry might adapt to confront the challenges posed by its foes.

A Pilgrim’s Progress is not a profound work of scholarship, though. For example, Robinson provides a summary and criticism of the Jack Chick comic tract Curse of the Baphomet, in which he provides the description of the “winged creature with the body of a man, the breasts of a woman, and the head of a horned goat.” If you just read Robinson, you would tend to think that this “devil-figure” was the sole invention of Jack Chick, rather than a traditional occult image first published in the works of Eliphas Levi.

Besides the Chick tract, Robinson summarizes and rebuts the work of the Southern Baptist anti-Masonic organizer James Holly and televangelical media magnate Pat Robertson. He includes a discussion of the Leo Taxil hoax, and points out the forged “Albert Pike” Luciferian quote as a staple of more than a century of anti-Masonic discourse. Inevitably, he cites the Bible against the “Christian” foes of Masonry. In assessing the motives of anti-Masons, Robinson emphasizes religious power and controlling followers through fear. As a primer on the role of Masonry in American society, and a counter to common paranoid tropes on the topic, the book holds up pretty well. [via]

The Five Points Symbolism

Foot to foot that we may go,

Where our help we can bestow;

Pointing out the better way,

Lest our brothers go astray.

Thus our steps should always lead

To the souls that are in need.

 

Knee to knee, that we may share

Every brother’s needs in prayer:

Giving all his wants a place,

When we seek the throne of grace.

In our thoughts from day to day

For each other we should pray.

 

Breast to breast, to there conceal,

What our lips must not reveal;

When a brother does confide,

We must by his will abide.

Mason’s secrets to us known,

We must cherish as our own.

 

Hand to hand, our love to show

To the brother, bending low:

Underneath a load of care,

Which we may and ought to share.

That the weak may always stand,

Let us lend a helping hand.

 

Cheek to cheek, or mouth to ear,

That our lips may whisper cheer,

To our brother in distress:

Whom our words can aid and bless.

Warn him if he fails to see,

Dangers that are known to thee.

 

Foot to foot, and knee to knee,

Breast to breast, as brothers we:

Hand to back and mouth to ear,

Then what mystic word we hear,

Which we otherwise conceal,

But on these five points reveal.

N A McAulay, 1916