Tag Archives: freemasonry

The Cradle and the Charge

So long as our Masonic Temples stand,

So long as lives the Ancient Order grand,

So long will float the Flag of Freedom’s right

Which was, by them, in time past, brought to Light,


This potent power stands now behind the Flag,

And if so be a hand shall dare to drag

It from its place on Freedom’s starry sky

The Craftsman will demand the “reason why.”


The Flag speaks for the Spirit of the Free,-

The old-time thought of true Fraternity;

And it will live beneath it in the “West”

Forever for that which is noblest, best.


And so we’ll trust in Masonry to be

Four-square for aye to righteous Liberty.

Its Cradle was by them rocked in the past

And they will guard their Charge while time shall last.

—L. B. Mitchell, 1920

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters Mitchell the Cradle and the Charge


Three thousand years have rolled away upon the tide of time

Since Masonry began her march of noble deeds sublime;

And though the angry showers of war have swept the earth with fire,

Her temple stands unscathed, unhurt, with sunlight on its spire.

Ten thousand widows in their words have blessed her advent here,

And many a homeless orphan’s heart has owned her tender care,

Full many a frail and erring son to dissipation given

Has heard her warning voice and turned his wayward thoughts to heaven.

Long may her beauteous temple stand to light this darkened sphere,

To gild the gloom of error’s night and dry the falling tear.

And when the final winds of time shall sweep this reeling ball,

Oh, may its glittering spires be the last on earth to fall!

—James Alston Cabell, 1922

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters Cabell Masonry

The Lodge Room Over Simpkin’s Store

The plainest lodge room in the land was over Simpkin’s store,

Where Friendship Lodge had met each month for fifty years or more.

When o’er the earth the moon, full-orbed, had cast her brightest beam

The brethren came from miles around on horseback and in team,

And ah! what hearty grasp of hand, what welcome met them there,

As mingling with the waiting groups they slowly mount the stair

Exchanging fragmentary news or prophecies of crop,

Until they reach the Tiler’s room and current topics drop,

To turn their thoughts to nobler themes they cherish and adore,

And which were heard on meeting night up over Simpkin’s store.


To city eyes, a cheerless room, long usage had defaced

The tell-tale line of lath and beam on wall and ceiling traced,

The light from oil-fed lamps was dim and yellow in its hue,

The carpet once could pattern boast, though now ’twas lost to view;

The altar and the pedestals that marked the stations three,

The gate-post pillars topped with balls, the rude-carved letter G,

Where village joiner’s clumsy work, with many things beside,

Where beauty’s lines were all effaced and ornament denied.

There could be left no lingering doubt, if doubt there was before,

The plainest lodge room in the land was over Simpkin’s store.


While musing thus on outward form the mecting time drew near,

And we had a glimpse of inner life through watchful eye and car.

When lodge convened at gavel’s sound with officers in place,

We looked for strange, conglomerate work, but could no errors trace.

The more we saw, the more we heard, the greater our amaze,

To find those country brethren there so skilled in Mason’s ways.

But greater marvels were to come before the night was through,

Where unity was not mere name, but fell on earth like dew,

Where tenets had the mind imbued, and truths rich fruitage bore,

In the plainest lodge room in the land, up over Simpkin’s store.


To hear the record of their acts was music to the ear,

We sing of deeds unwritten which on angel’s scroll appear,

A widow’s case -four helpless ones – lodge funds were running low –

A dozen brethren sprang to feet and offers were not slow.

Food, raiment, things of needful sort, while one gave loads of wood,

Another, shoes for little ones, for each gave what he could.

Then spake the last: “I haven’t things like these to give – but then,

Some ready money may help out” — and he laid down a ten.

Were brother cast on darkest square upon life’s checkered floor,

A beacon light to reach the white — was over Simpkin’s store.


Like scoffer who remained to pray, impressed by sight and sound,

The faded carpet ‘neath our feet was now like holy ground.

The walls that had such dingy look were turned celestial blue,

The ceiling changed to canopy where stars were shining through.

Bright tongues of flame from altar leaped, the G was vivid blaze,

All common things seemed glorified by heaven’s reflected rays.

O! wondrous transformation wrought through ministry of love-

Behold the Lodge Room Beautiful! — fair type of that above.

The vision fades — the lesson lives — while taught as ne’er before,

In the plainest lodge room in the land — up over Simpkin’s store.

—Lawrence N Greenleaf, 1916

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters the Lodge Room Over Simpkins Store Greenleaf

The Plumb

Build up your life like the temple of old

With stones that are polished and true;

Cement it with love, and adorn it with gold

As all Master builders should do:

Upon a foundation, well chosen and strong,

Build now for the ages to come:

Make use of the good, while rejecting the wrong—

And test all your work with the plumb.

—Neal A McAuley, 1915

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters the Plumb Mcauley

The Apron

Guard thou this Apron even as thy soul!

High Badge it is of an undaunted band,

Which, from the dawn of dim forgotten time,

Has struggled upward in a quest of light; –

Light that is found in reverence of Self,

Unselfish Brother-love, and love of God.

This light now on thine Apron shines undimmed;

Let ne’er a shadow intercept its beams.

Thine eyes late saw the Sun burst from the East,

Marking the Morn of thy Masonic day,

Calling thee forth to labor with thy peers,

Gird then thy lambskin on; nor fail to find

In it a thought of brooks and sweet clean fields,

Haunts of this lamb through many a sunny hour.

Find in it, too, a nobler thought of Him

The Light ineffable, that Lamb of God,

Immaculate, unstained by shame or sin,

Who, dying, left ensample to all men

Who would build lives in purity and truth.

In Wisdom plan thy Apprentice task; divide

Thy time with care, thy moments spend as though

Each day were lifelong, life but as a day.

In purity of heart and sheer integrity

Use thou the gavel on each stubborn edge,

Divesting thought of aught perchance might stain,

Or scar, or tear this badge of shining white.

At Midday in the Craft’s high fellowship,

Gird round thy life these bands of loyal blue,

Uniting with thee all to thee akin.

Strong in a deepening knowledge, bend thy skill

To leveling false pride in place attained,

To squaring thy foundations with the truth,

To setting each new stone in rectitude.

When in the West the Evening turns to gold

And beautifies what Strength and Wisdom reared,

Pause not, but search thy trestle-board, God’s plan;

And ply with solemn joy thy master tools,

Earth’s many cementing into heaven’s one.

Full soon an unseen Hand shall gently stay

Thine arm; and on thine Apron, scutcheon bright,

Shall rest the Allseeing Eye, adjudging there

The blazoned record of thy workmanship.

Anon, thy Sun goes out and brothers lay,

With thee, thine Apron in the breast of earth,

Among the forgetful archives of the dust.

*   *   *

Wear worthily this thy Masonic badge,

While still thy body toils to build thy soul

A mansion bright, beyond the gates of death,

No edifice that crumbles back to clay,

But a glorious house eternal in the skies.

These, now, be Mason’s wages; when from his hands

Forever fall the working tools of life,

Arising, to ascend to loftier work; –

From out the lowly quarries to be called

To labor in the City of the King;-

Glad in the light of one long endless day,

To serve anew the Celestial Architect

And Sovereign Master of the Lodge Above.

*   *   *

Thy portion, Brother, may it be to hear

These welcome words, when the great Judge shall scan

Thy work, “Well done! Thou good and faithful servant,

Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

—J Hubert Scott, 1915

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters the Apron Scott

The Three Great Lights

The Three Great Lights will guide our steps

Through life’s uncertain way,

And bring us safe at length to see

The bright, eternal day.


The Holy Book our fathers read

With undimmed faith, today

Make clear our sight that we may know

Its precepts to obey.


With square of virtue, try our acts

And make them meet the test;

There is no other cause that leads

To Islands of the Blest.


Between the lines that represent

The longest, shortest day,

Keep circumscribed by compasses

That we go not astray.


The Three Great Lights will guide our steps

Through life’s uncertain way,

And bring us safe at length to see

The bright, eternal day.


Hermetic Library Arts and Letters The Three Great Lights

The Level and the Square

A Ode to an Ode

“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square, –

What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are,”

And they still are ringing, ringing as the Craft today doth know

As they did when Morris sang them more than fifty years ago.


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square,”

Did the Bard who caught the meaning and who flung it out so fair,

Did the vision of the REAL that the years so soon should see

Give the Poet the perspective of what IS and is to be?


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square,”

In its true symbolic meaning was unfolded with such care,

That it carried with its rhythm and its setting into song

The true spirit that will ever to the Mystic Art belong.


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square;”

With the Plumb in the triangle ‘mong the symbols gleaming there,

All their meanings were embellished for the Craft for coming time

Through the Art and through the Poet of the Art that is sublime.


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square”

Carries with it the momentum that the Bard transcribed so fair,

Carries with it, upright ever by the true, unerring Plumb

All that lies in mortal vision of the Masonry to come.


We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square”

In its meaning has been finding hearts responsive everywhere;

It has met a nature longing in the hungry human heart

Undiscovered till ’twas written into real Masonic Art.


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square,”

On the Level as it finds us; on the Square as we repair

To our stations in the Temple; to our stations in the world,

Upright in the light of heaven flashing in the gems impearled.


“We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square”

Is the answer of the ages to its longing and its prayer.

The solution of the problem of the world’s unrest today

Must be solved by this same token for there is no other way.


Let us then be forging, forging stronger still the Mystic chain,

For the glory of the meeting and the work that doth remain.

In the spirit of the Poet let us do our work with care

“As we meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square.”

—L B Mitchell, 1917

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters the Level and the Square L B Mitchell

The Level and the Square

We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square;

What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are!

Come, let us contemplate them! they are worthy of a thought;

In the very walls of Masonry the sentiment is wrought.


We meet upon the Level, though from every station come,

The rich man from his palace and the poor man from his home;

For the rich must leave his wealth and state outside the Mason’s door,

And the poor man finds his best respect upon the Checkered Floor.


We act upon the Plumb—’tis the orders of our Guide—

We walk upright in virtue’s way and lean to neither side;

Th’ All-Seeing Eye that reads our hearts doth bear us witness true,

That we still try to honor God and give each man his due.


We part upon the Square, for the world must have its due;

We mingle with the multitude, a faithful band and true;

But the influence of our gatherings in memory is green,

And we long upon the Level to renew the happy scene.


There’s a world where all are equal—we are hurrying towards it fast,

We shall meet upon the Level there, when the gates of Death are passed;

We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there,

To try the blocks we offer with His own unerring Square.


We shall meet upon the Level there, but never thence depart;

There’s a Mansion—’tis all ready for each trusting, faithful heart—

There’s a Mansion, and a Welcome, and a multitude is there

Who have met upon the Level, and been tried upon the Square.


Let us meet upon the Level, then, while laboring patient here;

Let us meet and let us labor, though the labor be severe;

Already in the western sky the signs bid us prepare

To gather up our Working fools and part upon the Square.


Hands round, ye faithful Brotherhood, the bright fraternal chain,

We part upon the Square below, to meet in heaven again!

What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are—

We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square.

— Bro. Rob. Morris, August, 1854

Hermetic Library Arts and Letters the Level and the Square Rob Morris

Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges: Esoteric Secrets of the Art of Memory [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles B Jameux, trans Jon E Graham.

Jameux Graham Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges

This short volume contains texts from disparate sources, and has been assembled mostly in a sort of reverse chronological order. I think most readers will more easily follow its arguments and be better served by reading it from back to front, and this review will treat it in that sequence.

Appendix B is a 1995 article by the book’s author Charles B. Jameux, originally published in the French periodical Points de Vue Initiatiques with the title “The Ancient Sources of Initiatic Transmission in Freemasonry: The Royal Art and the Classical Art of Memory.” It presents Jameux’s first published development of a thesis grounded in the prior work of two profane historians: Frances Yates (The Art of Memory) and David Stevenson (The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590-1710), each of whom had suggested that the early modern developments of mnemotechny could have determined the form of early Freemasonry. Stevenson had bolstered Yate’s tenuous hypothesis by citing the explicit requirement of memory training from the Schaw Statutes of 1599 governing Scottish Masonry. Jameux quotes at length from each of the two prior authors and uses his own initiated perspective to amend some of their details, as well as to reinforce and extend the basic concept. Reading Yates and Stevenson myself some few years after Jameux had published his article far from my ken, I came to similar conclusions. While this appendix offered little new for me personally, I thought that it was a solid presentation of the history and its relevance for modern initiates.

Appendix A makes no direct mention of Freemasonry or initiation. It reproduces in English translation a 1988 paper by scholar Claudie Balavoine, “Hieroglyphs of Memory: Emergence and Transformation of a Hieroglyphic Script in the arts of Memory during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” This brief study discusses the changing appreciation of Egyptian hieroglyphs in early modernity, along with the emergence of figural alphabets, and relates these to the transformation and decline of the art of memory. Although composed and published earlier than Jameux’s “Ancient Sources of Initiatic Transmission,” it came to his attention later, and it then became an important source for the development of his understanding of the relevant Masonic history, reflected in the five brief chapters of the body of Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges.

The body text orients to 1637 as a point of historical discontinuity (of the sort proposed by Michel Foucault in Les mots et les choses) signaled by both the appearance of the Master’s Word in Masonry and Descartes’ publication of his Discourse on Method. Jameux presents Masonic initiation as a compensation and potential remedy for the modern fracturing of “the original unity of thought into conceptual, rational, and quantified thought on the one hand and analogical thought as a storehouse for the ancient traditions on the other” (38).

I am a little mistrustful of the Jon E. Graham translation of Jameux’s text, which tends to feature rambling sentence structures, of which the following is a gruesome specimen: “Far from an elsewhere and nowhere of utopia according to Campanella, wouldn’t the future operative and non-operative Freemasons of 1600-era Scotland, engaged in an outside of work quest for method but remaining immersed nevertheless in the here and now of spiritually conflictive societies, be in the process of discovering the Masonic symbol beneath the memorized image?” (16-17) I know that French intellectual exposition often uses this sort of monster pile of clauses and phrases, but preserving that form is not particularly helpful to English readers.

Also, on page 15 I encountered a defective passage, in which “the conversation he recounts” should have been attributed to Plato in the Phaedrus (as Yates does, in the citation given by Jameux), but some elided wording here makes it seem as if “he” is Alexander Dicson, who is then confusingly said to have “reproduced” the conversation with his own characters. Whether the error in this case is that of author, translator, or editor, it undermined my confidence in what I was reading.

The book is equipped with two short laudatory forewords by Francis Bardot and Patrice Corbin, and they are worth reading if only to demonstrate that Jameux’s ideas in this book have a sympathetic audience among eminent French Freemasons.

Solomon’s Memory Palace

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Solomon’s Memory Palace: A Freemason’s Guide to the Ancient Art of Memoria Verborum [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Bob W Lingerfelt.

Lingerfelt Solomon's Memory Palace

In my book A Bishop’s Advice there is a chapter on memorization for purposes of religious ceremony. There, as in other presentations I have made on memorization of O.T.O. ritual, I avoided discussions of the classical and renaissance “arts of memory,” although I have made extensive study of them elsewhere. I don’t see those techniques as essential for our ritualists, and they seemed perhaps sufficiently exotic to distract from the other points I was making with respect to ritual memorization. I was, however, very interested to read the recent book by Bob W. Lingerfelt, Solomon’s Memory Palace, which is a brief instructional volume for Freemasons on the very subject of applying traditional techniques of locative memory to the memorization of ritual.

While Lingerfelt is clearly well read in the traditional sources and modern scholarship for ars memoriae, his tone is not at all academic. The approach is colloquial and practical, and often at pains to clarify the sort of dated English diction that pervades Masonic ritual texts. He is a Nebraska Mason, and his book makes it implicitly clear that his jurisdiction places a greater emphasis on ritual secrecy (and consequently memorization) than many do, including today’s United Grand Lodge of England. While the introduction of the book seeks to offer it to other readers in addition to Masons, the text was quite evidently written for the benefit of Lingerfelt’s Masonic brethren throughout. That said, anyone engaged in the memorization of liturgy, scripture, or other texts should be able to apply his advice on the memorization method sometimes called “memory palaces.”

Specific instructions on the technique are amplified with a fair amount of other useful and valid advice regarding memorization, and the author’s “Closing Thoughts” speculate productively on the potential thaumaturgy involved in the development of memory, and its role in traditions of fraternal initiation. Three appendices are more illustrative than procedural, and very much grounded in the details of Masonic ritual.

I feel I can earnestly recommend Solomon’s Memory Palace to my Thelemic coreligionists in MMM and EGC.