THE MM'S BOOK
by J.S.M. Ward
THE third degree in Freemasonry is termed the Sublime Degree and the
title is truly justified. Even in its exoteric aspect its simple, yet
dramatic, power must leave a lasting impression on the mind of every
Cand.. But its esoteric meaning contains some of the most profound
spiritual instruction which it is possible to obain to-day.
Even the average man, who entered The Craft with little realisation of
its real antiquity and with the solemnity of this, its greatest degree.
In its directness and apparent simplicity rests its tremendous power.
The exoteric and esoteric are interwoven in such a wonderful way that it
is almost imopssible to separate the one from the other, and the longer
it is studied the more we realise the profound and ancient wisdom
concealed therein. Indeed, it is probable that we shall never master all
that lies hidde n in this degree till we in very truth pass through that
reality of which it is a allegory.
The two degrees which have gone before, great and beautiful though they
be are but the training and preparation for the message which the third
degree holds in almost every line of the ritual. Here at length we learn
the true purpose of Freemasonry. It is not merely a system of morality
veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, but a great adventure, a
search after that which was lost; in other words, the Mystic Quest, the
craving of the Soul to comprehend the nature of God and to achieve union
with Hi m.
Diffirent men vary greatly; to some the most profound teachings appeal,
while to others simpler and more direct instruction is all they crave.
But there is hardly a man who has not, at some time or other, amid the
turmoil and distraction of this material world, felt a strange and
unaccountable longing for knowledge as to why he was ever sent here,
whence he came, and whither he is wending. At such times he feels Iike a
wanderer in a strange land, who has almost forgotten his native country,
because he left it so long ago, but yet vaguely realises that he is an
exile, and dimly craves for some message from that home which he knew of
This is the voice of the Divine Spark in man calling out for union with
the Source of its being, and at such times the third degree carries with
it a message which till then, perhaps, the brother had not realized. The
true s...ts are lost, but we are told how and where we shall find them.
The gateway of d. opens the way to the p. within the c., where the
longing spirit will find peace in the arms of the Father of All.
Thus it will be seen that the third degree strikes a more solemn note
thane even that of d. itself, and I have endeavoured in this little book
to convey in outline form some part at least of this sublime message.
As in my previous books, I freely confess that I have not covered the
whole ground. Not only would it be impossible to do so in a book of this
size, but in so doing I should have defeated one of my principal objects
in writing namely, to inspire others to study for themselves and
endeavour to find in our ceremonies further and deeper meanings.
The success of the earlier books shows clearly that my efforts have not
been in vain, and that the brethren are more than anxious to fathom the
inner meaning of the ceremonies we all love so well. This book
completes the series dealing with the meaning of the three craft
degrees, but their popularity has convinced me that the experiment of
producing a small and inexpensive handbook has been completely
justified. I have therefore been encouraged to write further volumes,
and the next of the series will be an outline history of Freemasonry "
from time Immemorial."
PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION
The success of the fust edition of this book has necessitated a second
wherein I have corrected a few printing errors and added a few points
which may help my brother students.
From the number of letters I have received from all parts of the world,
thanking me for the light these books throw on the meaning of our
ceremonies, it is clear that the new members who are entering our Order
are tending to take an increasing interest in the meaning of our Rites
and are no longer content to regard the Ceremonies merely as a pastime
for an idle hour.
Introduction by The Hon. Sir John Cockburn, M.D., K.C.M.G., P.G.D.Eng., P.D.G.M. S.Australia
Chapter 1 Questions and P.W.
Chapter 2 The Opening
Chapter 3 The Symbolical Journeys, etc.
Chapter 4 The Exhortation
Chapter 5 The S..s
Chapter 6 The Badge
Chapter 7 The Legend
Chapter 8 The Tracing Board, etc.
Chapter 9 Closing
Chapter 10 Conclusion
By Sir John A. Cockburn,
W.Bro. Ward has lost no time in supplying his large circle of readers
with this little book on the 3 degree. With becoming reverence he
touches on the last great lesson which Masonry presents to the mind of
the Craftsman. Among the manifold blessings that Freemasonry has
conferred on mankind none is greater than that of taking the sting from
death and robbing the grave of victory. No man can be called Free who
lives in dread of the only event that is certain in his life. Until
emancipated from the fear of d eath, he is all his life long subject to
bondage. Yet how miserably weak is this phantom king of Terrors who
enslaves so many of the uninitiated. As Francis Bacon remarked, there is
no passion in the mind of man that does not master the dread of death.
Revenge triumphs over it; love slights it; honour aspireth to it; grief
flieth to it. Death has always been regarded as the elucidation of the
Great Mystery. It was only at the promise of dissolution that the seeker
after the El ixir of Life exclaimed Eureka. Masonry regards death but as
the gate of life, and the Master Mason learns to look forward with firm
but humble confidence to the moment when he will receive his summons to
ascend to the Grand Lodge above.
Brother Ward very properly attaches much significance to the Pass Word
leading to the 2 degree and 3 degree. In the Eleusinian Mysteries an ear
of corn was presented to the Epoptai. This, as an emblem of Ceres,
represented by the S.W., is appropriate to the F.C.'s, who are under the
guidance of that officer, while the name of the first artificier in
metals, which is reminiscent of Vulcan, the Celestial Blacksmith, seems
specially befitting to the attributes of the J.W., as it was in the days
before 1740. The author sees in the lozenge formed by two of the great
lights a representation of the Vesica Piscis. This symbol, whose literal
meaning is "the bladder of the fish,' is of deep significance. Some see
in it the essential scheme of ecclesiastical archi tecture. But as the
spiritually blind are unable to discern similitudes, so those who are
gifted with deep insight are apt to over estimate analogies. The Vesica
Piscis being, as Brother Ward rightly states, a feminine emblem, and
therefore one sided, can hardly represent the equilibrium attained by
the conjunction of the square and compasses. These respectively stand
for the contrasted correlatives which pervade Creation, and, like the
pillars, are typical when conjoined of new stability resulting from
their due proportion in the various stages of Evolution. The pr
ogressive disclosures of the points of the compasses seems to indicate
the ultimate realisation of the spirituality of matter; the at-one-ment
and reconciliation at which Freemasonry and all true religions aim.
Brother Ward repeatedly points out the similarity that exists between
the lessons of Christianity and of Freemasonry. It is indeed difficult
to distinguish between them, The Ancient Mysteries undoubtedly possessed
in secret many of the t ruths proclaimed in the gospel. St. Augustine
affirms that Chris tianity, although not previously known by that name,
had always existed. But whereas the hope of immortality was formerly in
the Mysteries confined to a favoured few, the new Convenant opened the
Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. Incidentally this little volume
clears up many passages which are obscure in the Ritual. For example,
there could be no object in directing that the F.C's, who, on account of
their trust-worthiness, were selected by the King to search for the
Master, should be clothed in white to prove their innocence. That was
already beyond question. The order was evidently meant for the repentant
twelve who took no actual part in the crime. This and similar
inconsistencies in the Ritual may be accepted as evidence of its
antiquity. Had it been a modern compilation such contradictions would
have been studiously avoided.
It is probable that many earnest Masons may not agree with all Brother
Ward's interpretations. Nor can such unanimity reasonably be expected.
Freemasonry, as a gradual accretion of the Wisdom of Ages Immemorial,
bears traces of many successive schools of thought. But all its messages
are fraught with hope for the regeneration of humanity. The author
intimated his desire in this series of handbooks to lead others to
prosecute the study of Masonry for themselves; and indeed he has
abundantly proved that in it s unfathomable depths there are many gems
of priceless ray serene which will well repay the search. Brother Ward
is heartily to be congratulated on having attained the object he had in
John A. Cockburn.
QUESTIONS AND P.W.
Those of our Brethren who have read the previous two books of this
series will not need much help in understanding the significance of the
questions which are put to the Cand. before being raised. Practically
every question has been dealt with in detail in the previous books; the
majority of them are taken from incidents in the Lectures and Tracing
Board, and since the latter was explained at some length we shall not
now detain our readers long.
The manner of preparation for the second degree stressed the masculine
side, which is characteristic of it. The admission on a S. indicated
that the Cand. had profited by the moral training rcceived in the First
degree, and that his conduct had always been on the S.. There is,
however a deep esoteric meaning in the apparent platitude that it is the
fourth part of a circle. Among all the ancient nations the circle is a
symbol of God the Infinite, Whose name we discovered in the second
degree in the M.Ch., wh ere we leamt that it consisted of four letters.
Thus the Cand. was admitted on one letter of the Mystic Name, and if the
four Sq.s are united with the circle in a peculiar way they form the
cosmic cross, emblem of matter, within the circle of the Infinite.
We have in the last book considered at such length what is implied by
the words "Hidden mysteries of nature and science," that we need here
only refer our readers to that section, wherein we saw that in former
times these hidden mysteries undoubtedly referred to certain occult
powers, which would be dangerous if acquired by a man who had not proved
himself to be of the highest moral character.
The "wages" we receive consist of the power to comprehend the nature of
God, Who resides in the M.Ch. of the Soul of every Mason. The F.C.
receives his wages without scruple or diffidence because the Spiritual
benefit he receives from Freemasonry is in exact proportion to his
desire, and ability, to comprehend its inner meaning.
He cannot receive either more or less than he has earned, for if he has
not understood the profound lesson of the Divinity within him, naturally
he cannot benefit therefrom.
His employers are the Divine Trinity, of Whom Justice is one of the
outstanding attributes. God could not be unjust and remain God. This
conception is almost a platitude, but the average man, while realising
that God will not withhold any reward earned, is at times apt to assume
that because God is love He will reward us more than we deserve. This is
clearly a mistake, for God could not be partial without ceasing to be
God, therefore the F.C. receives exactly the Spiritual wages he has
earned, and neither m ore nor less, but some F.C.'s will nevertheless
obtain a greater reward than others, because spiritually they have
The significance of the names of the P....rs was explained in the last
book, but in view of the nature of the third degree it seems advisable
to point out once more that their secret Kabalistic meaning is (1) Being
fortified by every moral virtue, (2) you are now properly prepared, (3)
to undergo that last and greatest trial which fits you to become a M M..
Thus we see that even the w..ds of the preceding degrees lead up to
this, the last and greatest.
As in the former case, the remark of the W.M. that he will put other
questions if desired indicates the possibility of members of the Lodge
asking qucstions based on the Lectures of the Second Degree, or even on
the Tracing Board. It is, indeed, a pity that this right is practically
never exercised. For example, a particularly appropriate question would
be "What was the name of the man who cast the two great p....rs ? " As
it is, the Cand. in a dramatic way represents the closing incidents in
the life of th is great man, whose importance till then he has hardly
had any opportunity of realising.
Having answered these test questions, the cand. is again entrusted with
a P.W., etc., to enable him to enter the Lodge after it has been raised
to the Third degree during this temporary absence. We have in the
previous book explained that the raising of a Lodge should alter the
vibrations of those present by a process well recognised in the
ceremonies of Magic, and, to enable the Cand. quickly to become in ttme
with these higher spiritual vibrations, a word of "power" is given him,
which in a moment places him on the same plane as the other members of
the Lodge. This word he has to give, not only outside the d....r of the
Lodge, but also immediately before his presentation by the S.W. as
"Properly prepared to be raised to the Third Degree." It is only after
this has been done that the real ceremony of the Third Degree, so far as
the c. is concerned, begins, and therefore that the full force of the
vibrations of the M.M.'s come into play.
The P.W. itself is of the greatest significance, more especially when
combined with the P.W. leading from the First to the Second degree. At
one time the P.W.'s were reversed. T.C. being the W. leading to the
Second, and Sh... . the W. leading to the Third. This is still the case
in those foreign Grand Lodges, such as the Dutch and the French, which
derive from us before 1740, when the W.s were altered owing to certain
un-authorised revelations. This alteration was one of the just
grievances which brought a bout the secession of the so-called
"Ancients," who charged Grand Lodge with altering the Ancient Landmarks.
When the Irish followed our example they continued the prohibition of
the introduction of m..ls until the Third degree, which is a logical
procedure, for clearly you have no right to bring them into Lodge until
you have been symbolically introduced to the first artificer in that
material. As the W.s now stand they convey the following spiritual
lesson:- the F.C. is one who finds the simple necessitie s of life, such
as C. and W., sufficient for his requirements. They are plenty to the
spiritually minded man, whose soul becomes clogged and hampered by the
acquistion of worldly possessions and since it is hard for a rich man to
enter the Kingdom of Heaven, immediatdy the Cand. has symbolically
received W.P. he is Sl....n.
T.C. conveys the lesson that W.P. in themselves bring death to the soul
and prevent its upward progress. To-day, the river of death connected
with the P.W. leading to the Second degree has largely lost its
significance, whereas when it was a P.W. leading to the Third, it was in
itself a fine allegory.
We must remember that Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was well known and
widely read at the beginning of the 18th Century, and those who were
re-organising our rituals at that time could not have been blind to the
similarity of the allegory hidden in the w. Sh. and the account by
Bunyan of Christian's fording the river of death on the way to the Holy
City. The change of about 1740 destroyed this allegory, and its survival
in the Tracing Board is now merely one of those numerous footnotes
which, to the careful s tudent, are invaluable indications of the
various transformations though which our ritual has passed during the
course of years. Nevertheless, I do not regret the change, as I think
the present spiritual lesson is even finer than the former one, but the
other arrangement was more logical. Firstly, from the practical point of
view the F.C. required the use of m..1 tools to perform his operative
tasks, and in the process of his work acquired W.P., in contradiction to
the E.A., who did only rough work and rece ived only maintenance: i.e.,
corn, wine , and oil. Secondly, from the symbolical standpoint the
sequence was also more logical, for the F.C., having acquired wealth by
means of his skill, was brought to the river of d., and passed through
it in the Third Degree.
According to Bro. Sanderson, in his "Examination of the Masonic Ritual,"
the actual translation of the Hebrew w. Sh. is an " e. of c., or a f. of
w."- hence the manner in which it is depicted in a F.C.'s Lodge-while
the w. T.C. in Hebrew means only a blacksmith, though another w.
similarly pronounced means acquisition. Hence, as he points out, " an
allegorical title has, in translating the Old Testament, been mistaken
for the name of an actual person, for the name itself means `A worker in
M...t...ls'" Therefore the connection with H.A.B. is obvious. Bro.
Sanderson, quoting from the "Secret Discipline," by S. L. Knapp, says,
"In a work on ancient ecclesiastical history the following occurs, 'By a
singular plasus lingua e the moderns have substituted T.C. in the Third
Degree for tymboxein-to be entombed.' " While I am unable to say whether
Knapp is justified in this statement, it is quitee probable that this
P.W., and indeed all the P.W.s are comparatively modern substitutes,
taken from the Bible to replace ancient W.s of power whose full meaning
was lost and whose form in consequence had become corrupt and
unintelligible. The Greek word tymboxein would be peculiariy suitable
for a P.W. leading to t he Third Degree, in view of its meaning, and
mediaeval magi cal ceremonies are full of corrupt Greek words
indiscriminately mingled with equally corrupt Hebrew and Arabic. There
is, therefore, nothing intrinsically improbable in the suggestion that
this ancient Greek word was the original from which T.C. has been
evolved. We know as a fact that large pieces of Biblical history were
imported wholesale into our rituals in the 18th Century, and what is
more likely than that an unintelligible work, already so corrupt as not
even to be recognisable as Gree k, should be am ended into a well known
Biblical character? However, the word as it stands, because of its
Hebrew meaning of acquisition, can correctly be translated as W.P.,
while as meaning an artificer in M. it clearly refers to H.A.B., who
made the two p.....rs, and whom the Cand. is to represent. Thus,
following this line of interpretation, we perceive that the Cand. really
represents H.A.B. when he enters the Lodge, although under the disguised
title conveyed by the P.W ..
In dealing with these P.W.s I have endeavoured to show that there are
meanings within meanings, and the same is true of practically every
important incident in the whole ceremony. In a book of thissize it is
obviously impossible to attempt to give all of these meanings, and even
if one did the result would be to befog the young reader and so prevent
him from getting a clear and connected interpretation of the ceremony.
It is for this reason that, in the main, I am concentrating on one line
of interpretation, but I have thought it desirable in this section to
give a hint to more advanced students, so that they can follow up
similar lines of investigation for themselves.
In English and Scotch workings there is no c.t. around the Cand. in
preparation for the Third Degree, but in the Irish working it is wound
once around his n., in the Second degree twice, and the First three
times. If we regard the c.t. as symbolising those things which hamper a
man's spiritual progress, the gradual unwinding of it as used in Irish
workings becomes of great significance. This interpretation implies that
the Cand. is hampered in Body, Soul and Spirit in the First Degree,
whereas by the time h e has reached this point in the Third Degree the
Body and Soul have triumphed over the sins which peculiarly assail them,
and in that stage symbolised by the Degree itself the Spirit has only to
triumph over Spiritual sins, such as Spiritual Pride. With this
exception the manner of preparation is the same in all these British
workings, and indicates that the Cand. is now about to consecrate both
sides of his nature, active and passive, creative and preservative,
etc., to the service of the Most High.
The explanation already given in the previous books of the various
details, such as being s.s., holds here, and a brief glance at the other
volumes will render it unnecessary for me to take up valuable space
therewith in this third book. The Can. is then brought to the Lodge door
and gives the Kn.s of a F.C. These Kn's indicate that Soul and Body are
in union, but the Spirit is still out of contact whereas the proper Kn's
of a M.M. (2/1) indicates that the Spirit dominates the Soul and is in
union with it, the body having fallen away into significance. It will be
remembered that in the first book of this series I pointed out that the
three separate kn's of an E.A. symbolise that in the uninitiated man,
Body, Soul and Spirit are all at variance. Meanwhile the Lodge has been
raised to a Third Degree by a ceremony whose profound significance
demands consideration in a separate chapter.
Having satisfied himself that all present are symbolically upright and
moral men, the W.M. asks the J.W. if his spiritual nature has evolved
sufficiently to control both soul and body. The J.W. suggests that he
should be tested, not only by the emblem of upright conduct, but also by
the Compasses. Now these combined with the Square form a lozenge, which
is itself a symbol for the Vesica Piscis, emblem of the female
principle. The Compasses, moreover, are the instruments with which
geometrical figures are cr eated, and more especially the Circle. By
means of two circles the triangle, emblem of the triune nature of God,.
is produced, while the Cirde itself is the emblem of Eternity and
therefore of Spirit. A point within the cirle forms the symbol for the
Hindu conception of the Supreme Being, Paramatma, whence we have come
and whither we shall all ultimately return. At the centre of the circle
rests all knowledge; there shall we find every lost secret. Now such a
figure can only be dr awn with the help of the Co mpasses, and in
drawing it the following significant symbolical act takes place.
One point of the Compass rests at the centre, and the other makes the
circle of the Infinite. No matter how far the legs of the Compass be
extended, or how large the Circle, the fact remains that one leg is
always at the centre. Thus the Compasses, while they travel through
infinity, are at the same time never separated from the centre, and from
that point cannot err.
This instrument may therefore be considered as standing for the Divine
Spark in Man, in all its manifestations. One of these is conscience; but
the Divine Spark has many attributes and names.
So the J.W.'s reply indicates that he is prepared to be tested both by
the moral code and by the spiritual laws of our being.
But after these preliminaries the proceedings become of an even more
exalted nature. All that has gone before has been but preparation for
the Great Quest on which we must now set forth. It is the quest of the
Soul for realisation of God, and at-one-ment with Him. This is the
Mystic Quest of all ages, and, true to the ancient symbolism, it starts
from the East, the place of Light, and goes towards the West, the place
of darkness and death.
The East represents God, Who is our home. It indicates that each soul
comes out from the place of Light, from Light itself, that is, from the
very substance of God, descends through the Gateway of the Dawn and
becomes incarnate in Matter. But it brings with it a sense of loss and
separation, for it has come out from God, and the Divine Spark within it
longs return whence it came. Having lost the secret of its true nature
and the way of return, it wanders in darkness, seeking and for most men
the way of retu rn is through the Western portal, the gateway of Death,
for so long as we are finite beings we cannot hope to comprehend the
Yet there are some few exceptions to the general rule, who, while still
in the flesh, have a vision of the Divine splendour, are caught up in
it, and became one with God. To such men the return to ordinary mundane
existence seems unreal and shadowy. Where others believe in God they
Know Him, but it is almost impossible for them to convey to others the
experience through which they have gone. Yet that such experiences are
real, as real as any other fact in life, is attested by a long line of
witnesses right throughout the ages.
To the average man, however, the first real step towards the realisation
of what constitutes God is through the portal of physical death; - but
even then the end is still far off.
Hence the answer explaining how the true secrets came to be lost
indicates, not the cause of the loss, but the first step towards the
recovery, and this fact is borne out by the subsequent events in the
Note, it is the body only that dies, and by its death enables the Soul
and Spirit to re-discover in part the secrets which were last. Yet this
death of the Body effectually debars the communication of these secrets
to the sorrowing F.C.'s left behind. It is the passing through that veil
which separates life and death which stars us on the road which ends
It must never be forgotten, however, that the genuine secrets are never
recovered in the Craft, although symbolically we rise from the grave,
for that secret can only be discovered at or with the C.-i.e., with God.
To that exalted position we can only attain after long journeys through
the planes of existence beyond the grave. In our symbolism there is
nothing which indicates that immediately after death man is fit to pass
into the presence of the King of Kings.
But the Divine Spark within us is never really separated from the Great
and All-Pervading Spirit. It is still part of it, though its glory is
dimmed by the veil of flesh. Therefore, just as one arm of the compasses
ever rests on the centre, no matter how far the other leg travels; so
however far we may travel from God, and however long and hard may be the
journey, the Divine Spark within us can never be truly separated from
Him, or err from that Centre. Thus the point of the Compasses at the
centre of the c ircle may be considered to be the Spirit, the head of
the Compasses the Soul, and the point on the circumference the body.
So the task is set and the brethren go forth on the quest, that quest
which must lead through the darkness of death, as the ceremony that
follows tells in allegory. It is not correct to say that the search
hinted at in the Opening ceremony is suddenly abandoned, and those who
think this misinterpret the whole meaning of the legend. Never in
earthly life shall we find the answer we seek, nay, even death itself
will not give it; but, having passed beyond the grave, through the four
veils of the Scottish rite, and so into the H.R.A., we find an
excellent answer in allegorical and symbolical language, whilst the
jewel of the degree emphasises what the end of the quest is.
Nor must it be forgotten that the body alone cannot realise the nature
of God, and that is why without the help of the other two, H.A.B.
neither could, nor would, disclose the S........t.
The W.M.'s promise to help indicates that the Spirit will render
assistance, but though the Spirit subsequently raises man from the grave
it is not sufficiently evolved to give him the true secret. This can
only come about when the Spirit has raised the Soul to a far higher
stage of spirituality.
Though this is the degree of Destruction, that form of the Trinity is
not invoked, and the title used corresponds more closely to the Hindu
name for the All-Embracing than to their form of the Destroyer. This no
doubt is deliberate, for the symbol of this degree is the same emblem
which among the Hindus denotes the Most High, namely the Circle with a
Point within it.
In some Scotch rituals, after the Lodge has been opened in the first
degree the I.P.M., or the D.C., opens the V.S.L., and, strange to say,
does so with the words, "In the beginning was the Word." Similarly, when
the Lodge is closed in the first degree the book is closed with the
words, "And the word was with God." Here then we get two striking
features: 1) the use of words from the first chapter of the Gospel
according to St. John, and 2) their correlation with the phrase in the
Third Degree, "At, or with the C." This procedure suggests that the lost
W. is the Logos, or Christ, and remembering what we have previously
pointed out in the earlier books, i.e., that there is a perfectly
logical Christian interpretation of the whole of the Craft ceremonies,
this fact becomes of increasing significance.
Before closing this chapter, I would like to add that the Third Degree
lends itself to a Christian interpretation even more markedly than the
former ones, and several of the higher degrees in Freemasonry adopt and
expand this line of teaching.
In view of the fact that in the Middle Ages Freemasonry was undoubtedly
Christian, we cannot lightly reject this view of the inner meaning of
the ceremonies, but as the frame work of our ceremonies apparently goes
back before Christian times, a non-Christian interpretation is equally
THE SYMBOLICAL JOURNEYS, ETC.
The Can. is admitted on he C....... s, and this fact is of far greater
significance than most brethren probably realise. Firstly, as has been
noted, one arm of the C.s is always at the C., no matter how far the
other may travel, and from the point of view of the Can., though he
knows it not, this act in a sense indicates that his heart, and
therefore he himself, is at or on the C........e. Secondly, the C....s
in this degree link up with the Sq. used in the former degree on a
similar occasion. We have seen in the previous books that the Sq. and
C........s are united on the Ped. in such a way as to form the vesica
piscis, the emblem of the female principle, and the symbol of birth and
rebirth. Hence symbolically thc Can. passes through the vesica piscis.
Also after entering the Lodge in this, as in the previous degrees, he
kn....s while the blessing of Heaven is invoked, and as he does so the
wands of the deacons are crossed above his head. He thus kn........s in
a triangle, the emblem of Spirit, and itself co nnected with the
lozenge. Two equilateral triangles make a lozenge, which is produced
from the vesica piscis-formed by two circles, as shown by the first
proposition in Euclid. In view of the great stress laid upon Geometry
throughout the whole of our rituals these facts cannot be ignored. Our
Operative Brn. must have realised that the whole science of Geometry
arises out of this first proposition, which shows how to make a triangle
(the emblem of the Trinity and the Spirit) by means of two circles whose
ci rcumferences pass through the centre of each other. In doing so they
form the vesica piscis, which gives birth first of all to the triangle,
and secondly, to the double triangle, in the form of a lozenge. This
last emblem is symbolised by the sq., denoting matter, and the c...s,
denoting spirit. The above facts throw a flood of light upon the
interplay between these Masonic emblems.
Before leaving this subject it is worth while pointing out that the Can.
likewise takes every Ob. in Craft masonry within this triangle, and that
the same method is employed in other ancient rites, including those of
the Society of Heaven and Earth in China, where the Can. kn...s on one
sword, while two others are held over his head so as to form a triangle
The Can. now starts on his three symbolical journeys. He first satisfies
the J.W., representing the Body, that he is an E.A., i.e., a man of good
moral character. He next satisfies the S.W., representing the Soul, that
he has benefited by the lessons of life and acquired intellectual
knowledge. Then comes the third journey, when he is once more challenged
by the Soul, who demands the P.W., the full significance of which has
already been explained. Let us combine these meanings! He comes laden
with worldly p ossessions, which in themselves carry the seeds of death,
unconsciously representing in his person the worker in metals who made
the twin colunms, and is about to be entombed. (tymboxein).
Therefore the Soul presents him to the Spirit as one properly prepared
to carry out the part of his great predecessor. There is a point here
which we need to realise, for it is one which is often overlooked. In
the previous degrees only one Deacon was instructed to lead the Can. by
the proper S...ps to the E., but here both are needed. From the
practical point of view there is no obvious reason why the help of the
J.D. should be invoked at all, and as the ceremony is usually carried
out he does nothing but look on. I believe, however, the S.D. should
first go through the S...ps and the J.D., should assist the Can. to copy
his example. If thus were so we should get an almost exact repetition of
the analogous ceremony in the R.A. where the p.s., corresponding to the
S.D., is helped by an assistant. Thus, with the Can., in both cases we
get a Trinity, only one of whom actually descends into the g., or, in
the other case, into the v. As Major Sanderson has pointed out in An
Examination of the Masonic Ritual, among the primitive, races usually, a
man who stepped over an o.g. would be considered to have committed
sacrilege, and almost certainly would be slain, but, on the other hand,
we do know that in many Initiatory Rites either the Can., or someone
else for him, steps down into a gr., and is subsequently symbolically
sl...n therein. If this be the true interpretation of this part of the
ceremony, the reason for the presence of the two deacons in addition to
the Can. becomes clear. It is only the Body that descends into the clear
the Soul and the Spirit have no part therein. Thus, for the moment,
though only temporarily, these three represene the triune nature of man,
while the three principal officers represent the triune nature of God.
The fact that this is undoubtedly true in the case of the R.A., makes it
almost certain that the same idea underlies this apparently unimportant
diffirence between the arrangements in the third degree, an d those
followed in the first and second.
Again and again when one comes to study carefully the details of our
ritual, one finds little points, such as these, which would certainly
not have survived the drastic revision of 1816 if there had not been
present some men who really did understand the inner meaning of our
ceremonies, and refused to allow important lessons to be lost by the
removal of what, at first sight, appear to be unnecessary details.
Therefore, those of us who value the inner meaning of our ceremonies owe
a deep debt of gratitude to these men, even though their actual names be
unknown to us, and on our part a duty is imposed on us that we shall not
hastily tamper with the rituals, merely because we do not ourselves see
the full significance of a phrase or think that by revising it we can
make the wording run more smoothly.
The next factor we must consider most carefuUy is the actual sp...s
themselves. These make the Latin cross of suffuring and sacrifice.
Sometimes the sp..s are not done quite correctly, for the Can. should be
careful to face due North, due South, and due East respectively. This
procedure undoubtedly refers to the three entrances of the Temple
through which H.A.B. endeavoured to escape. Hence it is we see that the
Master himself trod out the cross of Calvary during the tragedy, and in
a sense made the Consecration Cross of the Temple.
In a mediaeval church, and even to-day at the consecration of a church
according to the Anglican ordinance, there should be a dedication cross
marked on the building. In the Middle Ages these were usually marked on
the pillars, and apparently corresponded to the mark made by an
illiterate person when witnessing a deed. The Consecrating Bishop
sometimes drew this cross on the pillar or wall, or sometimes merely
traced over a cross already painted there for the purpose. Any new
piece of work in a church, even if only a new fresco, had its
dedication cross. For example :-At Chaldon Church, Surrey, the
dedication cross is marked on the margin of a fresco depicting The Brig
of Dread, described at length in Freemasonry and the Ancient Gods.
Bearing these facts in mind, we shall perceive that, even from the
Operative point of view, the manner of advancing in this degree, and the
manner in which H.A.B. met his end, had a peculiar significance. The
Great Architect of the Temple must have traced the dedication cross the
whole length and breadth of the Temple in his own blood. Moreover, such
dedication crosses as have actually survived are nearly always found to
be painted in red. Thus, H.A.B.'s last work was, as it were, to commence
the consecrati on of the Temple which was completed by K.S., for until
that cross had been marked either on the wail or pavement, according to
mediaeval Operative ideas the building could not be consecrated.
Therefore, the Can., who is reenacting the same drama, must obviously do
likewise, and in so doing dedicates the Temple of his body.
But there is still more hidden within this ceremonial act. The ancient
Knights Templar were accused of trampling on the cr., and a careful
examination of the evidence taken at the trial shows that in reality
they took a ritual sp., somewhat similar to those taken by the Can. in
One of the esoteric meanings indicated is the Way of the Cross which
leads to Calvary. Furhermore, having thus traced out a cr. he is
subsequendy laid on it, and this fact is emphasised by the position in
which his legs or feet are placed. The foot of this cr. reaches to the
Ped., on which rests the O.T. If, therefore, this symbolical cr. were
raised as it was on Calvary it would rest on the O.T., and the Can.
would face the E., and would be, as it were, on a mountain. This fact
should be borne in mind by t hose who seek a Christian interpretation of
our Craft ceremonies. Mystically interpreted, it indicates that every
aspirant for union with the Divine must tread the Way of the Cross, and
suffer and die thereon, in order that he may rise to a new life, a
realisation of his union with the Infinite.
Even those who are disinclined to admit the possibility of a Christian
interpretatior, of the Craft degrees, must recognise the fact that this
cr. is the cr. of sacrifice and means that the true aspirant must be
prepared to sacrifice everything in his search after Truth.
The number of the sp...s is the combination of the Trinity and of the
four elements, representing matter. It is the same number as forms the
perfect lodge, and also the seven elements which form man, whether we
interpret it according to the ancient Egyptian system, or in the more
modern form of the five physical senses, the Soul and the Spirit. In the
latter case it indicates that the man must be prepared to sacrifice, or
shall we say dedicate to God, Body, Soul and Spirit.
There are yet other profound meanings in this one ritual act, but enough
has been written to set my readers pondering for themselves, and we will
therefore proceed to consider the next point in the ceremony.
The Ob. itself contains one or two interesting points. Thus it indicates
that a M.M.'s Lodge must always be open on the C.. This shows us at once
that we are dealing with a ceremony with a mystical meaning, for the C.
means the same as the middle ch. in the second degree-the secret chamber
of the heart, where dwells the Divine Spark-and so tells us in veiled
language that all that happens thereafter is a spiritual experience,
which sooner or later comes to every mystic. The special moral
obligations which t he Can. undertakes should be noted, but require no
explanation. It is, however, difficult to understand why they should be
deferred until this stage. In the ancient charges similar obligations
are imposed apparently on the E.A., and this seems more logical.
The Py. varies even in different parts of England, but in essentials is
always the same. You are s. at the c., and the manner of disposal is
very reminiscent of the way in which the dead are cremated in India in
honour of Shiva. There the corpse is burnt near running water,
preferably near the Ganges, and the ashes are thrown into the air over
the river to the four cardinal points, that the winds may scatter them.
It must be remembered that Shiva represents the destructive attribute of
the Diety and he make s the P.S. of a M.M. on his statues. His is the
element of fire, and all these facts must be born in mind when
considering our own Py.
The position of the Sq. and Cs., in addition to the explanation given,
indicates that the spirit, represented by the Cs., now dominates the
body, typified by the Sq..
The opening part of the exhortation gives a convenient summary of the
previous degress and quite clearly indicates that the first inner
meaning of the series is Birth, Life which is of course educational and
preparatory for its sequel, and Death. The phrase relating to the second
degree "And to trace it, from its devlopment through the paths of
Heavenly Science even to the throne of God Himself," shows plainly its
real significance. As pointed out in the F.C. Handbook, in the Mid. Ch.
the F.C. discovers no t only the name of God, but that he himself is the
fifth letter Shin which transforms the name Jehovah into the name
Jeheshue, or Messias, the King.
But according to the old Kabala Jeheshue must be raised on the cross of
Tipareth, and the significance of this fact is impressed on our Can. by
the incidents now to take place. The average Christian need not trouble
about the subtleties of the Kabala, for the story in the New Testament
supplies him with a very similar interpretation.
The W.M. having, almost casually, given him this key to the inner
meaning of what is about to follow, proceeds at once to the most
dramatic part of the ceremony. Up to this point almost all forms of our
ritual are practically the same, but henceforward there are many marked
differences. "Emulation" ritual may be regarded as containing the bare
minimum, but the additional details found in many Provincial workings in
England, and in Scotland, Ireland, America, and many of the Continental
Lodges, are too impor tant to be ignored. There is no reason to assume
that they are innovations; on the contrary all the evidence points to
the fact that they are integral parts of the ceremony which, for various
reasons, were omitted by the revisers of our ritual who met in the Lodge
of Reconciliation. I shall therefore proceed to note and explain them
Whereas in Emulation working as soon as the Ws. are called on the
deacons retire, in most others, in the Provinces, etc., they fall back
to the head of the g.. Thus with the W.M. the W.s form the triangle of
Spirit, and with the D.s the Sq. of matter, on which the triangle rests,
for the M. descends from his chair and stands in front of the Ped.. As a
practical piece of advice I would recommend that the J.W. should not
direct the Can. to c. his f. until after the S.W. has dealt with him,
for it is impossibl e for him to drop on his respective k...s if his f.
are c., whereas by carrying out these instructions before the last
attack he will fall the more readily.
In most of the old Scotch rituals the Can. journeys round the Lodge, is
attacked by the J.W. in the S., by the S.W. in the W. (note that), and
returns to the M. in the E., where the final incident takes place. I
think, however, our English system of having the attack in the N.
instead of in the W. is preferable, and is probably the correct form. In
the Scotch ritual the three villains have names, and the same is the
case in America. They are Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum. The word itself
clearly comes from th e Latin word meaning "To command," and refers to
the fact that they commanded him to give up the S....s. But the
terminations of the three names appear to have a curious esoteric
reference to India. It can hardly be by accident that these three names
form the mystic word AUM. The U in India in this case is pronounced
almost like O, and when this word is disguised, as it usually is, it is
written OMN. If this be so we have the Creative Preservative, and
Annihilative aspects of the Deity emphasised in the Thi rd Degree, and
it is the Destructive aspect, symbolised by the letter M, which deals
the final stroke.
This variation is therefore of importance, but I must warn my readers
that not all Scotch workings have it, some of them being much more akin
to our own, even having the attack in the N.. Practically all of them,
however, have the perambulations, during which solemn music is played.
The usual procedure is for the brethren to pass round the gr. once
making the P. S. of an E.A.. When this is done the J.W. makes his
abortive attempt. The second round is made with the H. S. of an F.C.,
after which the S.W. trie s and fails. The third round is made with the
S. of G. and D. of a M.M., on the conclusion of which the Can. is r...
by the lion's g.... It is a great pity that the use of this name for
the M. M.'s g. is falling into disuse in London, for it has in itself
important symbolical references, to which we shall refer later in the
In many parts of England it is still customary to place the Can., either
in a c----n or in a g. made in the floor, and the same method is found
in most other parts of tke world. Indeed, in the Dutch ritual the Can.
is first of all shown a c..n in which is a human skeleton. This is
subsequently removed, though he does not know it and he thinks when he
is laid therein he will find himself in its bony clutches. Even as near
London as Windsor there is a Masonic Temple which has a special chamber
of d. with a g. actually in the floor and until recently it was still
used although whether it is to-day I cannot say.
Let us now turn to consider the meanings of the main incidents. The
first meaning of the degree is obvious; it prepares a man for his final
end and hints of a possibility of life beyond the grave but it must be
admitted that the lesson is not driven home with the same force as it is
in most of the ancient mysteries. Osiris Himself rose from the dead and
became the Judge of all who followed after Him, and because of this fact
His worshippers believed that they too would rise. In our legend,
however, it is on ly the dead body of H.A.B. which is lifted out ofthe
g. in a peculiar manner, and in the legend there is not even a hint as
to what befell his Soul. The question is often asked why they should
have raised a c..s and placed it on its feet. (1)
(1) See Ward, Who Was Hiram Abiff?
One explanation probably is, by analogy with the Greek story of the
manner in which Hercules recovered Alcestis and ransomed her from the
bondage of Thanatos-Death himself. We are told that Hercules wrestled
with Thanatos and would nor let him go until he had agreed to allow
Hercules to bring her back from the realm of the Shades to the land of
living men. It may be that the corpse here represents Death. It is also
worth noting that Isis joined together the fragments of the body of
Osiris, and the "Setting up" of the backbone of the God was a ceremony
carried out every year by the ancient Egyptian Priests. The body of
Osiris apparently was raised from the bier by Anubis in precisely the
same way as the M.M. is r.. When it was set on its feet life returned to
it. One fact is certain, that in every Rite which has as its central
theme symbolic d. the Can. is r. by the same g., and in precisely the
same manner, and this manner becomes a method of greeting and of
recognition among all who have passed through this type of ceremony. For
example :-it is known and used in the Dervish Rite, among West African
Negroes, among the Red Indians of Central America, and was apparently
known to the ancient Druids, for it is carved on a stone found at Iona.
In the ancient rites of Mithra it also appears to have been the method
used upon a similar occasion. These facts show that it is an ancient
landmark and one to be most carefully guarded.
The use of the phrase The Lion Grip is peculiarly significant, as Major
Sanderson shows in his work, An Examination of the Masonic Ritual.
Therein he points out that in the Book of the Dead the Supreme God,
whether Ra or Osiris, is appealed to as the " God in the Lion form," and
in all such cases the prayer of the Soul is that he may be permitted to
" Come forth " in the East, rising with the sun from the d..s of the g..
In Egypt the lion was the `personification of strength and power, but it
is usually ass ociated with the idea of the regeneration of the Sun, and
therefore with the resurrection. Major Anderson goes on to point out as
follows. "Shu (Anheru, `the Lifter') who as the light of the Dawn was
said to lift up the sky-goddess from the arms of the sleeping Earth, is
often represented as a lion, for only through him was the rebirth of the
Sun made possible. Osiris is called the lion of yesterday, and Ra the
Lion of tomorrow : the bier of Osiris is always represented as having
the head and legs of a lion ." Thus as Major Sanderson indicates, the
expression "the lion grip" is a survival from, the Solar cult, and
therefore a landmark which should be carefully preserved.
The Bright Morning Star whose rising brings peace and Salvation, almost
certainly was originally Sirius, but to Englishmen it must seem strange
that Sirius should be said to bring peace and Salvation. The association
of these ideas with the Dog Star is undoubtedly a fragment which has
come down from Ancient Egypt, for the rising of Sirius marked the
beginning of the inundation of the Nite, which literally brought
salvation to the people of Egypt by irrigating the land and enabling it
to produce food. That S irius was an object of veneration to the
philosophers of the ancient world is well known to all archaeologists,
and many of the Temples in Egypt have been proved to have been oriented
on Sirius. There is also a good deal of evidence showing that some of
the stone circles in Great Britain were similarly oriented on Sirius by
the Druids. It is therefore not surprising that this star is still
remembered in our rituals. Naturally it has acquired a deeper spiritual
meaning in the course o f years, and may be rega rded as representing
the First Fruits of the Resurrection, the sure hope of our Redemption.
This aspect is set forth in the lectures drawn up by Dunckerley, who
regarded it as the star of Bethlehem, and as typifying Christ. See Rev.
At this point the Can.. who has been carefully put in the N., the place
of darkness, is moved round by the right to the South. From the
practical point of view this is to enable the M. to re-enter his chair
from the proper side, but there is also an inner meaning. Immediately
after death the Soul is said to find itself on the earth plane amid murk
and darkness. Lacking mortal eyes, it cannot perceive the sun, and, on
the other hand, is still so immersed in matter that it cannot yet see
clearly with its spir it eyes; but this stage rapidly passes away, and
the Soul is received into a higher plane of existence, being brought
thither by messengers of Light. The position in the North represents
this period of darkness on the earth plane, and that this is not
accidental is shown by the fact that in most rituals the lights are not
turned up until the phrase "That bright morning star, etc." has been
uttered. Then the M., representing one of these spirit messengers, leads
the Can. gently round to the South, thereby sy mboling his entry into
the place of light. And who is this messenger? Every installed master
who has received the P.W. leading to the Chair should realise that, no
matter how unworthy, he represents the risen Christ. Thus we see the
peculiarly appropriate nature of the act coming after the reference to
the bright morning star, which also in another sense represents the
Having thus been brought into the place of light the Can. is given not
the Gen. Ss, but only substitued ones. This fact must often have puzzled
the Can.. The pratical reason given in the ritual, though perfecdy
inteligible to a R.A. mason, cannot be the real one. In view of the
unexpected calamity no-one could have thought K.S. was breaking his ob.
by nominating a successor to H.A.B. and giving him the full ss..ts.
Actually according to the R.A. story he did something much worse, for he
wrote them down and placed them somewhere, in the hopes that they would
be subsequently rediscovered, and he had no assurance that their
discoverers would even be masons, much less that they would keep their
discovery secret. Of course this is also an allegory, and from this
stand-point perfectly correct. The lost s...ts are the nature and
attributes of God, which must be realised by each man for himself, and
no other man can really communicate them. Moreover, this complete
realisation of the nature of God, and the union of th e Divine Spark
within us with the Source of All, can never be achieved during mortal
life. Even after death we shall need to leave the world long behind and
travel far, before we can hope to attain that state of spiritual
evolution which will enable us to approach the Holy of Holies, and gaze
with unveiled eyes upon Him, Who is the beginning and the end of all.
With regard to these substituted s..ts. let us note that they grow out
of those used by the F.C.. Having already shown in the last book that
the sn.s of the F.C., and in fact the real s..t of that degree, is the
transformation of Jehovah into Jeheshue,
we see that this is most appropriate. To use modern language, the second
degree teaches of the birth of the Christ Spirit within us, while the
third indicates that mystically we, like the great Master, must die and
rise again. As St. Paul says, " Die daily in Christ."
The sn.s given are probably all of great antiquity. Of some we have
evidence which shows that they were venerated in ancient Egypt and
Mexico, are still employed in the primitive Initiatory Rites of the
savages, and are associated with the Gods in India. For example, the
P.S. is used by Shiva, the Great Destroyer, Who when He makes it, holds
in His hand the lariet of death. The sn. of G. and D. is found all round
the world, as I have shown in full detail in Sign Language of the
Ancient Mysteries. Ancient Me xico, where Quetzacoatl makes it, can be
matched with Easter Island in the far Pacific, Peru, West Africa, East
Africa, New Guinea, Malaya and many other places.
Major Sanderson points out that the second Cas. Sn. is depicted in
Egyptian pictures as being used by those who are saluting Osiris in his
coffin. Those who desire will find it in Papyrus 9,908 in the British
The English sn. of g. and d. (for up till now we have been speaking of
the Scotch form) is almost certainly not the correct one. Its general
appearance would incline one to believe that it is a penal sn., though
whence derived it is difficult to say. A little thought will indicate
the nature of the penalty as being somewhat similar to that of one of
the higher degrees. So far as I can find it is not recognised as a sn.
of g. and d. to-day, except among masons who are descended masonically
from the Grand Lod ge of England, but in a picture by Guercino of Christ
cleansing the Temple, in the Palazzo Rosso, Crenoa, both this and the
Scotch form are shown, while the G. of H. constantly appears in
mediaeval paintings, e.g., in the Raising of Lazarus. (1)
The so-called Continental form undoubtedly comes from a well known high
degree, where it is much more appropriate: it is apparently restricted
to the Latin countries, whereas even in Germany it is the Scotch form
that is employed.
The sn. of Exul. is a form used to this day in of Asia to indicate
worship, and was similarly employed in Ancient Egypt. Major Sanderson
suggests that it was copied from the position in which Shu upheld the
Thus we see that six out of the so-called seven sn.s can be shown to be
of ancient origin, and it is quite probable that further research will
enable us to prove that the other one is equally old. Such sn.s as these
originally had a magical significance, and the explanation given in the
ritual as to their
(1) see The Sign Language of the Mysteries by Ward.
origin is no doubt of a much later date than the sn.s themselves.
Indeed, a careful study of certain of the sn.s will show that they are
not the natural sn.s which would have been used to indicate the feeling
they are said to express. For example, in the sn. of h...r the left hand
would not naturally be placed in the position in which we are taught to
put it, if this sn. had originated as related in. the story. So obvious
is this that some modern preceptors of Lodges of Instruction have to my
knowledge alte red the position of the left hand in order to make it
conform to the story, but I venture to think that in so doing they are
committing a very serious mistake, nothing less than the removal of an
Some day we shall probably discover the real origin of this sn., but if
it is altered that will of course become impossible.
The lion's grip and the actual position of r..s...g are equally old,
and, so far as we can find, this manner of r..s...g is employed in every
rite, whether ancient or primitive, which deals with the dramatic
representation of d.. As a manner of greeting it is employed by the
initiated men in many Red Indian Trihes, in West Africa, among the
Senussi in North Africa, and in the Dervish Rites. (1)
The parts of the b. brought in contact with each other are all parts
presided over by some sign of the Zodiac, and there would appear to be
some old astrological meaning which has now become lost. It may possibly
have been connected with Gemini, the Twins, and this fact is made the
more probable by the survival of the name "The Ln's Gr." The explanation
given, although possibly of a fairly recent origin, nevertheless
contains a valuable inner meaning, for it shows that we cannot hope to
advance towards God unless we do our duty to our fellow men. Thus in
dramatic form is shown that the brotherhood of man necessitates the
Fatherhood of God.
It hardly seems necessary in this book to point out again that the
regular st. forms a tau cross and teaches us that we must trample under
foot our animal passions, if we desire to approach near to God. We note,
however, that the Can., in advancing to obtain the s..ts, has perforce
to make three tau crosses, and the Christian Mystic will
(1) For further explanation see Ward, Who Was Hiram Abiff?
doubtless perceive in this a hidden reference to the three crosses on
Finally, as has already been pointed out, the penalties of the first and
second degrees draw attention to two important occult centres, and so
also in this degree the Solar Plexus, the most important occult centre
of all, is indicated, and since the object of every Mystic is to achieve
the Beatific vision, the fact that the monks of Mt. Athos, near
Salonica, do so by fixing their eye on this part, shows that there is a
very special reason for the special form of the p.s of the third degree.
On his re-entering the Lodge the Can. is presented, and in due course
invested by the S.W., as in the previous degrees, thereby indicating
that even after death man's spiritual advancement is registered by the
Soul. The Badge itself, however, is full of symbolic meaning, and though
in its present form it is of comparatively recent date, it is evident
that those who designed it had a much deeper knowledge of symbolism than
some modern critits are apt to believe.
Firstly, the colour, which is that of Cambridge University, and likewise
that used by Parliament when fighting King Charles, has a much deeper
significance than is generally known. It is closely related to the
colour of the Virgin Mary, which itself had been brought forward from
Isis and the other Mother Goddesses of the ancient world. It is possible
that the designers were also influenced by the existence of certain
Orders of Knighthood which had their appropriate colours, for the aprons
of Grand Lodge Off icers have Garter blue, but this blue is also the
colour of Oxford, and the colour associated with the Royalist cause at
the time of the Civil War. At any rate, it is appropriate that our
aprons should thus employ the colours of the two great Universities of
England. There is, of course, an exception in the case of the red aprons
allocated to Grand Stewarts, for which there are historical reasons into
which we need not now enter. We may, however point out that the dark
blue aprons of Gran d Lodge are often, though erroneously, spoken of as
the Purple, indicating a Royal colour, and thereby implying no doubt
that Brn. entitled to wear this colour are rulers in the Craft, and
represent the masculine element. Light blue, on the other hand,
represents the feminine or passive aspect, and is most appropriate for
the ordinary M.M., whose duty it is to obey, and not to command. Indeed,
the M.M.'s apron contain: other emblems which indicate this feminine
aspect. These are the thre e rosettes, which symbolise the rose, i tself
a substitute for the Vesica Piscis, and they are arranged so as to form
a triangle with the point upwards, interpenetrating the triangle formed
by the flap of the apron. The two triangles only interpenetrate half
way, therein differing from the double triangles seen on the jewels worn
by R. A. Masons, which completely overlap. These two triangles deserve a
little careful study. The lower triangle with its point upwards is the
triangle of fire, the emblem of Shiva, and the symbol of the Divine
Spark. T he triangle made by the flap of the apron, which has its point
directed downwards, is the triangle of water, and is thus to some extent
representative of the Soul. These two triangles are within a sq., the
emblem of matter, and therefore of the body, and so we see that the
M.M.'s apron symbolically represents the triune nature of man, whereas
the R.A. jewel, (the only high degree jewel which may be worn in a Craft
Lodge) has these two triangles within a circle, which is the emblem of
the Infinite. In this c ase the triangle of water presents the
preservative aspect, the triangle of fire, the destructive aspect, the
point or eye at the centre, the creative aspect, and the circle, the
everlasting nature of the Supreme Being. There is therefore a curious
correspondence, and also a marked difference, between the jewel of the
R.A. Mason, and the apron of the M.M..
Viewed from another standpoint the apron has another set of meanings.
The triangle represents Spirit, and the Sq., matter. The flap forms a
triangle entering into the sq., and so depicts the entry of Spirit into
matter, and therefore, man. The E.A.'s apron should have the flap
pointing upward, indicating that the Divine Wisdom has not yet truly
penetrated the gross matter of our bodies. This custom is unfortunately
going out of use in modern Masonry, which is a great pity, as
undoubtedly a valuable lesson i s thus lost. The F.C. has the flap
pointing downward for several reasons. Firstly, to indicate that wisdom
has begun to enter and therefore to control matter; secondly, to
represent the triangle of water and thus indicate that Soul and Body are
acting in unison; thirdly, because this triangle is the emblem of Vishnu
the Preserver, and so emphasises - the fact that the aspect of God
taught in this degree is the preservative aspect, whereas the addition
of the three rosettes in the third degree shows, not onl y the union of
Body, Soul and Spirit, but also that the great lesson of this degree is
the importance of the Destructive side of the Diety, or as we may prefer
to tall it, the Transformative side.
What, however, of the two rosettes worn by the F.C.? Firstly, they
stress the dual nature of man, and have a very clear reference to the
two p...rs. Similarly, no doubt, they indicate that the F.C. is not yet
a complete and united being ; Body and Soul are in union, but unlike
the M.M., these two are not in complete accord with the Spirit. Thus we
obtain a correspondence between the knocks of the F.C. and the two
rosettes. Furthermore, the triangle is incomplete, showring that the
F.C. is not yet a complete F.M., and this correlates with the position
of the C.s when taking the ob. in the F. C. degree.
Two other features of the apron must also be considered. Firstly, the
tassels, which appear originally to have been the ends of the string
with which the apron was bound round the waist. There is little doubt
that in the 18th century the aprons had not the present symbolic
tassels, but were fastened round the body in a very similar way to that
in which the E.A. and F.C. aprons are to this day. It is interesting to
note in this connection that the actual aprons worn by the officers of
Grand Lodge for the yea r, as distinct from the Past Grand Officers'
aprons, have no tassels at all.
In the course of years, no doubt, the ends of the strings were
ornamented by tassels, and to this day the aprons of the Royal Order of
Scotland are bounmd round the body by an ornamental cord with tassels,
which are tied in front in such a way that the two tassels stick out
from underneath the flap. These tassels, when the final form of our
aprons was fixed, were separated from the bands which fasten the apron,
and attached to the apron itself, becoming as we now see simply strips
of ribbon on which are fas tened seven chains. When this change took
place it is clear that those who made the alteration deliberately chose
the number 7, and intended thereby to convey a symbolic meaning. We have
already explained the numerous symbolic meanings of the number 7; for
example, it represents God and Man, Spirit and Matter, etc.
Naturally they had to have two tassels to balance, and it would have
been very inartistic to have had four chains on one tassel and three on
the other, and so it would be unwise to lay too much stress on the
number 14, which is the sum total. We may regard it merely as a curious
and interesting coincidence that the body of Osiris was stated to have
been divided by Set into 14 pieces. But in addition to these details as
to the historical development of the tassels, we must not forget that
in many of the 18th century aprons the two p....rs are depicted. These
aprons were usually decorated by paintings on the leather, and varied
considerably from Lodge to Lodge, but one of the most usual kinds of
decoration included the two p..rs, and the remembrance of these may
very probably have influenced those who designed our present apron.
The modern arrangement by which the apron is fastened, namely, a piece
of webbing with a hook and eye attachment, gave a fine opportunity for
some really profound symbolism, and I feel certain that it was not an
accident which led to the universal adoption of the snake to serve this
There are two kinds of symbolism attached to the snake in all ancient
religions. Firstly, the snake as the enemy of man, and therefore as the
representative of the powers of evil; and secondly the snake as emblem
of the Divine Wisdom. " Be ye wise as serpents" does not refer to the
craftiness of the Devil, but to the Divine Wisdom itself.
In Ancient Egypt the Soul as he passed through the Underworld met with
serpents of evil, and also with serpents of good. In India, legend
tells us of a whole order of beings, the Serpent Folk, who are of a
Spiritual nature different from man, possessed their own rulers, and
were endowed with superhuman wisdom. Some of these are considered to be
friendly to man, while others are hostile. The Sacred Cobra is well
known to every student of Hindu religions, and is essentially good.
Actual worship is paid to the Serpent throughout the whole of India,
and in many other parts of the world, and in the Kapala we get clear
traces of the fact that under certain circumstances the serpent is
regarded as "The Shining One" -the Holy Wisdom Itself. Thus we see that
the serpent on our apron denotes that we are encircled by the Holy
Finally, the serpent biting its tail, and thus forming a circle, has
always been regarded as the emblem of eternity, and more especially of
the Eternal Wisdom of God. Nor must we forget that the snake is
peculiarly associated with Shiva, whose close symbolic association with
the third degree has already been clearly shown.
Much more might be written on the meaning of the apron, but we cannot
devote any more space to this subject, interesting though it may be,
although before considering our next point it will perhaps be well to
recall what has already been mentioned in the E.A. handbook, viz., that
aprons, in addition to their Operative significance, have right through
the ages been employed in connection with religious ceremonial. On the
monuments of Egypt a garment, which can best be described as a
triangular apron with the point upward, is depicted in circumstances
indicating that the wearer is taking part in some kind of ceremony of
initiation. In ancient Mexico the Gods are depicted wearing aprons, and
it is not without interest to note that the modern Anglican bishop
wears an apron, although it appears to have developed from a long
flowing robe somewhat the shape of a cassock.
After the ceremonial investiture of the Cand. the W.M. continues the
narrative of the traditional history. At least this is the case in most
English workings, but in some Scotch workings the whole story is told
first, and subsequently the Cand. and the other Brn. act the chief
parts. Perhaps one of the most important points to realise is the
correct meaning of the name H.A.B. . Major Sanderson in An Examination
of the Masonic Ritual gives the following interesting interpretations,
which we will proceed to e xpand further.-" The title H.A.B. is taken
direct from the Hebrew of 2 Chron., Chapter 4, verse 16., and means, `
H. His father.' H. means 'Exaltation of light, their liberty or
whiteness, he that destroys'; It is of interest to note that abib in
Hebrew means `Ears of corn,' or `Green fruits,' and there is just a
possibility that this is the correct title of H."
Bearing these translations in mind we at once perceive a whole series of
inner meanings hidden in the name of the principal Architect. Taking the
Christian interpretation of our rituals :-firstly, we shall remember
that Christ said " If I am raised up (or exalted) I shall draw all men
unto me." Secondly, Christ died to make us free, that is, to give us
liberty from the bonds of death and hell. Thirdly, mediaeval divines
were never tired of referring to Christ's whiteness and purity, and
relate many beautifu l legends and allegories to drive home this lesson.
One phrase alone will suffice to bring this aspect of the Christ to our
minds, i.e. , that He is constantly spoken of as " the lily of the
valley." Fourthly, He came to destroy the bonds of death and hell, nor
must we forget the old prophecy spoken concerning the coming Christ and
the serpent, representing Satan, " It (Christ) shall bruise thy head,
and thou shalt bruise His heel," Gen. 3. v. 15. It is of interest to
note that Quetzaco atl, the Mexican Pres erver, who fought and overthrew
the great giant of evil, was himself smitten in the foot, near to a fall
of water, subsequently died from the wound, and ultimately rose again
from the grave. In India Krishna similarly died from an arrow wound in
the heel. Moreover, in mediaeval frescoes Christ is constantly
represented as crushing the head of the great dragon under His left
foot, while in His right hand He upraises a staff on which is a cross.
Such scenes are usually described as " The Harrowing of Hell."
Fifthly, if the word abib is the correct rendering for the second half
of the name in question, we get a clear reference to the Sacramental
bread. The ears of corn are obviously synonymous with the wafer or
consecrated bread, which in mediaeval days alone was given to the laity:
while the alternative translation, "Green Fruits," brings to our mind
the Biblical saying that Christ is "the first fruits of them that slept"
(1 Corin, 15. 20). Bearing this possible Christian interpretation in
mind, installed mast ers will perceive the deep significance of the P.W.
which leads from the degree of M.M. to that of I.M.
But in addition to these Christian interpretations of H.A.B. there was
yet another, which in some senses may be regarded as older, and the key
to which is supplied by India. In this sense H.A.B. takes on the
characteristics of Shiva, the Destroyer.
Firstly, "Exaltation of life" reminds us of the legend that Shiva on a
certain day increased in stature until He overtopped the universe, and,
as a result, overthrew Brahma, the Creator, and was ackowledged by
Vishnu as His superior. On that great day He gathered unto Himself the
beginning and the end of all things, Alpha and Omega, and henceforth
birth and death alike were in His hands.
Secondly, "Their liberty" refers to the fact that, to the pious Hindu,
Shiva by death grants liberty from the toil and anguish of this world,
and sets the soul free to mount to greater heights of spiriruality.
Thirdly, Shiva is always spoken of as the "Great White God, white with
the ashes of the dead who are ever burned in His honour." Nor must we
forget that these ashes are always scattered to the four cardinal points
Fourthly, He is in His very essence " The Great Destroyer."
The "Ears of corn" are symbols of Vishnu the Preserver, Who Himself,
according to numerous Hindu legends, was slain and rose from the dead,
thereby paying allegiance to the Lord of Death ; and so:
Fifthly, we obtain the idea of the Resurrection as symbolised by the
ears of corn, which are planted in the earth and bring forth an abundant
harvest, the "Green fruits" of the fields. In this connection it is as
well to remember that the central theme of the Eleusinian Mysteries was
the ear of corn which was shown to the Cand. at the most solemn point of
the whole ceremony, and similarly taught the doctrine of the
resurrection from the dead.
The next point that strikes us in the legend is the number of craftsmen
who "went in search." The Irish version is of peculiar interest, for it
relates that it was the twelve who relented who afterwards "went in
search," and not a new company of ffiteen. In many ways this is more
logical, and certainly has a deep symbolic meaning. It is logical in
that it shows that the penitent twelve did their best to make amends for
ever having allowed themselves to listen to the wicked schemes of the
other three, and the subsequent decree of K.S., ordering them to wear
white gloves and white aprons as a mark of their innocence, is most
appropriate. It was a public announcement that K.S. forgave them their
indiscretion and acquitted them of responsibility for the crime.
On the other hand, in our version there seems no logical reason why K.S.
should order an entirely new batch of F.C.'s to wear these emblems of
their innocence, since they clearly had nothing to do with the crime,
and moreover, all the others, except the penitent twelve, were equally
innocent, and should therefore likewise have been instructed to wear
white gloves and aprons. It must be remembered that these white gloves,
etc., were not bestowed as a reward for having taken part in the search,
but are specif ically stated to have been ordered to be worn to denote
The Irish account goes on to state that the twelve set out from the
Temple and went together in one company until they came to a place where
four roads met, and formed a cross; then they divided into four
companies, and three went North, three East, three South, and three
West. Thus they trod the Way of the Cross. In some old Irish workings we
are told that the three who went North never returned. This symbolically
implies that they went into the Place of Darkness. As the tendency in
modern Irish masonry ap pears to be to adjust its ritual in main
essentials to our English workings, it is but fair that I should say
that I have a tangible proof of this form of legend, in the shape of an
old Irish apron dated 1790, which, unlike modern Irish aprons, has a
number of paintings on it depicting incidents in the ritual. One of the
paintings shows the twelve F.C.'s separating at the four cross roads.
It is clear from all accounts, whether English, Irish, Scotch or
American, that the scoundrels, the agents of death, were found by those
who went in the direction of Joppa, that is in the W., but we are left
in considerable doubt as to whether the b. was found in the E. or in the
S.. Symbolically, however, it would clearly be in the S., for H.A.B.,
like the Christ, was struck down at High Twelve, when the sun is in the
S.. From a practical point of view it is fairly obvious that the
scoundrels who were carrying away the b. could never have reached Joppa
if they had once gone E., for they would have had to fetch half a circle
round Jerusalem, a procedure which would have rendered their chance of
escape almost hopeless. By going S. they might hope to throw their
pursuers off the track, and then turn back at an angle, reach Joppa, and
escape by boat. That this was their intention is clear from many old
forms of the legend, and especially in those worked in America. King S.,
however, foresaw this possibility and prevented their escape by
forbidding any ships to sail. In the American working one of the
officers of the Lodge enacts the part of a sea captain, and even wears a
yachtman's cap. The villains come t o him and beg him to take them
aboard, but he refused because of the embargo ordered by K.S.. That the
same incident was known in the old Irish working is shown by the little
picture on the same Irish apron depicting the arrest of the villains on
the sea shore, for in the back ground there is a ship.
Let us interpret the meaning of the Irish working first. From the
Christian standpoint the twelve F.C's represent the twelve apostles,
Mathias replacing the traitor Judas. But in the non-Christian, and
possibly earlier interpretation, these twelve would of course be the
twelve signs of the Zodiac, searching for the sun which had been
eclipsed. We must never forget that in addition to the deep spiritual
meaning hidden in our ritual there is also a Solar Myth embedded, which
has in the course of years become allegorized and filled with deeper
But being English masons we must be prepared to find an explanation of
the fifteen. In ancient Egyptian times the month consisted of 30 days,
and the year of twelve such months, plus five extra days. Now the first
fifteen, of whom twelve recanted, presumably represent the first half of
that month, while the second half of the month is represented by the
fifteen who went in search. But spiritually the meaning of the fifteen
is fairly clear. Man has five senses and is triune in nature, and thus
implies that B ody, Soul and Spirit must cooperate in trying to find
God, and employ on that quest their five senses.
Lest there be any misapprehension here I would explain that man is
considered to have not only the five physical senses, but also
corresponding senses of Soul and Spirit. The phrase "To see with the
eyes of the Spirit" is perfectly well known, and similarly we can speak
of the eyes of the Soul. To give concrete examples :-Students of
psychic science constantly speak of clairaudience and clairvoyance.
While it is not necessary to accept this type of phenomena, it is
clearly obvious that if man survives death at all his Soul must have a
means of communicating with other Souls and that these correspond in
some way to our physical senses. In like manner how are we to describe
the visions of the great seers and prophets, related in the Bible,
except by the possession of spiritual sight ?
Bearing this in mind, we obtain the following interpretation of the fate
which befell the three F.C. Lodges into which the fifteen formed
themselves. Those who found nothing represent the physical senses of
man, which are useless beyond the grave : the next company must
therefore represent the Soul, for despite the logic of the physical
world, it is the Soul which realises that death does not end all, and so
it was one of these who r...d the M But the power which tells us what is
right and wrong, and which ultimately punishes us for our offences, is
what we call conscience, and thus assuredly is the Divine Spark within
Let us now turn to consider the details connected with the dlscovery of
the body. The incident of the shrub is such a striking analogy with a
similar one found in AEneid, wherein AEneas finds the body of the
murdered Polydorus by plucking up a shrub which is near him on the side
of a hill, that some students suggest that in the revision of our ritual
this incident was copied from Virgil. But, in Who was Hiram Abiff, I
show that both refer back to an ancient source and have an allegorical
meaning. One proof supporting this view; is that this particular tree,
the Acacia, has from time immemorial been more or less sacred in the
near East. In ancient Egypt the earliest forms of the legend of Osiris
relate that it was an acacia which grew up round the coffin of Osiris,
and not a tamarisk as in the later versions. (See An Examination of the
Masonic Ritual, by Major Sanderson). In like manner this tree is sacred
in Arabia, India, and many parts of Africa, while it is the Shittim wood
of the Old Te stament, from which the ark was made. No doubt in this
reverence for the acacia we have a survival of the primitive veneration
for trees, usually spoken of as "tree and serpent worship." In India the
assouata tree is stated to be a symbol of Trimurti, The Three in One.
Its roots represent Brahma, its trunk Vishnu, and its branches Shiva,
At any rate we can regard the acacia tree as in itself an emblem of the
resurrection, for the tiny seed which is buried brings forth a mighty
tree, covered with fragrant blossoms.
The account of the manner in which the Cas. S...s came into existence,
though ingenious, can hardly be taken as historic. As we have already
dealt with this point previously, we shall only say that every folk-lore
student is well aware that, in the vast majority of cases, legends
purporting to explain the origin of a certain custom do not give the
real origin at all, but merely indicate that the origin of the custom
has been lost, owing to its great antiquity. The very manner in which
some of the S..s are g iven is sufficient to indicate that they did not
originate in the way suggested, while, on the other hand, we find these
same S...s all round the world, with entirely different explanations as
to their origin. They are indeed ancient landmarks, and the utmost care
should be taken not to alter them in any way.
The next incident in the legend is the capture of the scoundrels. In
some rituals it is given with much interesting detail of a picturesque
nature. All agree that they were apprehended in a tavern, and many say
explicidy that it was near the sea shore. Some of the rituals state that
the fugitives were overheard lamenting as follows:- "One said, 'Oh, that
my t. had been c.a. rather than I should have done it;' while another
more sorrowfully exclaimed, `Oh, that my h...t had been t.o. rather than
that I shoul d have struck him;' and a third voice brokenly said, `Oh,
that my b. had been s. in t. rather than that I should have smitten
him,' " This last version is of interest as explaining the legendary
origin of the py. of the three degrees, and incidentally it shows how
legend incorporates facts into a story, in order to explain something
whose original meaning is lost. It would also appear from this version
as if the scoundrels had not intended to actually kill their victim but
merely to terrorise h im, and in th e excitement of the moment lost
their heads. Symbolically this contains a valuable piece of teaching.
According to one interpretation the three scoundrels represent "The lust
of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John,
2. 16). In other words, the sins of the flesh, the sins of the Soul,
such as covetousness, and spiritual pride, the most deadly of all.
These sins assuredly destroy man both physically and spiritually, yet it
can truly be said that in giving way to them no man intends to destroy
himself. From the more strictly Christian standpoint the three
scoundrels are Herod, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate, and it is perfectly
clear that Pilate and Herod, at any rate, did not wish to kill our Lord;
but were caught in a position from which they found it impossible to
Returning to the deeper mystical interpretation we notice that the
scoundrels were found in the West, the region of Death, which teaches
us that the just retribution for all our sins, whether of body, soul,
or spirit, will overtake us after death, and that though in one sense
it is God, here shadowed forth by K.S., who punishes, yet in another
sense it is our five spiritual faculties which themselves rise up in
judgment against us. We ourselves, doom ourselves, and therefore we can
obtain nothing but strict justice.
Without pretending that we have exhausted this subject, this brief
explanation of the true character of the scoundrels and their captors
must suffice, and we will only mention in passing that here also there
appears to be a half forgotten astrological reference to the three
winter months which oppress the sun.
THE TRACING BOARD, ETC.
The next part of the narrative is incorporated in most English workings
with the Tracing Board. The most interesting feature is the description
of the g.. It is obvious that peculiar stress is laid on the centre,
even in the present form of our ritual, because of the way in which the
measurements are given. Why should it not have been said that it was six
feet long? In some old rituals the g.. or rather the monument, is
described as a dome, which made a complete circle at its base, and was
three feet from t he centre every way. If so it must have been like a
small replica of the earliest form of the Buddhist Pagoda, and the
Master was thus buried at the centre. In that case the top of the dome
would have been five feet from the surface of the ground, and we should
thus get the correct symbolic use of 5 as representing the body, and 3
as representing the spirit, while enabling the human body to be
decorously interred. It seems probably that when the g.. was made to
conform to the type familiar in England, a des perate effort was made to
retain the 3 and 5. It is worth noting that there is no mention of the
use of any c...f...n, despite the picture on the tracing board, and if a
c...f....n had been used at the supposed date of the incident it
certainly would not have been of the European shape depicted, but much
more like an Egyptian Sarcophagus. Nevertheless, though the ritual does
not justify the existence of any c..f....n on the tracing board, it was
an integral par t of the ancient mysteries of Osiris, and its r etention
in other ritual is almost certainly an ancient landmark. On the same
tracing board may be seen certain letters in the Masonic cypher, which
are practically never explained. Very often when transliterated, among
other things, they will be found to give the P.W. leading to the three
degree. This fact is of interest, for the true meaning of that W., as
already explained, is a w...k...r in m...ls, the correct description of
H.A.B. The fact that he was buried as near the Sanctum Sanctortum as
possible, symbolically denotes that he had reached the centre, and was
in union with the Source of All.
The Dormer window historically is the hypostyle, the method by which
Egyptian and classical temples obtained light. The pillars of the
central nave of such temples rose considerably higher than the roofs of
the aisles, thus leaving openings through which the light could enter
the building. These, however, were many in number, and it is difficult
to justify the apparent statement that there was only one such opening.
Symbolically it is intended to represent the means by which the Divine
Light penetrates into the deepest recesses of every man's nature.
The squared pavement has already been explained under the section
dealing with the mosaic pavement, in the first degree, and our readers
are therefore referred to it. Briefly, it indicates that man's progress
towards the centre is through alternate experiences of good and evil,
darkness and light, mercy and severity, life and death.
The Porch which is the entrance to the Sanctum Sanctorum is the gateway
The working tools, "as in other cases, contain much sound moral teaching
of typical 18th Century work, but there is one implement which deserves
rather more than passing attention. For what follows I must express my
indedtedness to W. Bro. Sir John Cockburn, P.G.D. The s..k...t does not
appear to be much in use among Operative masons. It is used by
gardeners, but the Operative mason has other means for marking out the
ground for the foundations. This implement has more than a superficial
resemblance to the Caduceus of Mercury, and Sir John Cockburn suggests
that it has been employed to replace this "Heathen" emblem. For my part,
I think this is most probable, for it is clear that at the beginning of
the 19th century a deliberate attempt was made to eliminate this emblem
from our ceremonies. The jewel of the Deacons in the 18th century was
not a dove, but a figure of Mercury, bearing the Caduceus. A number of
these old jewels can be seen in the library of Grand Lodge, and there
are still a f ew old Lodges which continue to use them, instead of the
modern jewel. Now this jewel is far more appropriate to the Deacons than
is a dove. A dove is the emblem of peace and a carrier pigeon bears
messages, but neither of these birds do all the work of the Deacons.
Mercury, however, was the Messenger of the Gods, and carried the
instructions of Jupiter, thus fulfilling one set of the duties of a
deacon. He was also the conductor of souls through the underworld;
taking the dead by one hand, a nd uplifting the Caduceus in the o ther,
he led the Shade from the grave, through the perils of the underworld,
to the Elysian Fields; before his Caduceus the powers of evil fled. In
mediaeval escatology it is Christ who leads the Souls on a similar
journey, uplifting in His Hand the Cross of Salvation. Even to-day the
jewels of the Deacons in a Mark Lodge bear the Caduceus, a mute but
convincing witness to the use of this emblem in Freemasonry.
We can thus see that on the one hand a deliberate effort was made to
delete from our ceremonies the Caduceus, probably because it was
considered to be Pagan, while on the other hand it was clearly quite
easy for ignorant masonic furnishers, in the course of years, to make
the Caduceus approximate more and more to a masonic tool, so as to fit
it in with other avowedly masonic implemens. As a masonic tool it has
very little significance, even to a Speculative, and is of no practical
value to an Operative, but the Caduceus would be peculiarly appropriate
to the third degree. In short, it is an ancient landmark, an emblem of
the dead and forgotten Mysteries, and symbolical of Him who leads the
soul from the darkness of the grave to the light of the resurrection.
Before leaving the M.M. degree let me say to all installed masters that
if they have received the P.W., not the W. of an Installed master, but
the P.W. leading from the M.M. to that further degree, they will find in
it evidence not of a mere hint of the resurrection, but of the
Resurrection itself, and a close association with the version of that
doctrine set forth in the life of the Perfect Master.
Here we are reminded that we are working in symbolism, for we come back
from the West, i.e., the grave, to this material world. But we have only
obtained substitutes, and we offer them as some consolation to the
spirit, i.e., the W.M. The advance to the centre of the room is an
obvious reference to the other centre. The s...s are communicated by the
body to the soul, which passes them on to the spirit. The meaning of
these s....s is dealt with in the ceremony, but it is worth noting that
the word shows clea rly that the s....t is to be found only through the
death of the body. The actual Hebrew word whose corrupt form we use
really means " My son is slain." It is also well to remember that the
p.s. and the s. of G.& D. (Scottish form) are, old signs which come down
from the ancient mysteries, and are still found throughout the world. A
brief summary of that has already been said may be helpful. The p.s. is
often associated with Shiva, the Destroyer, and is also found
appropriately used at B urobudor in Java; it refers to that occult
centre, the solar plexus. In view of what the lost s...t is, this sign
is therefore most significant. In other words, it is a hint to those who
deserve to know while it conceals from those who do not.
The Scottish sign of G. & D. is found all round the world, and always
has the same meaning of an appeal for heIp. It is used in the most
primitive initiatory rites of a boy into manhood, and in Kenya the boy
takes it to indicate that he is ready for the operation of circumcision
to begin. In Nyasaland, among the Yaos, it is associated with a grave,
and in Mexico the Preserver is shown making it. He was slain and rose
from the dead, and it is constantly found in Mexico in the form of a
carving, consisting of a skeleton cut in half at the centre and making
this sign, as, for example, at the Temple of Uxmal.
The manner of communicating the s..s and the gr. are equally old.
Indeed, the lion's grip appears to be the grip of all the Mysteries. It
was the Grip of Mithra, and by this grip Osiris was raised. Among the
Druids it was also known, as is shown by a carving at Iona. I have,
however, gone into the evidence for the antiquity of our signs so fully
that I will not take up further space here.
We may as well add, however, that the number "5" no doubt refers to the
five senses of man, just as the seven steps remind us of the Egyptian
sub-division of every mortal.
Having received the sub. s...s the W.M., or Spirit, confirms their use
till the true ones are discovered. This last remark indicates that the
quest is not ended or abandoned, in reality it has just begun; the first
stage only has been passed, which stage is death. It also tells every
Craft Mason that he a good craftsman till he has at least taken the
Thus the spirit acknowledges that death is a step forward. It has freed
the soul of the trammels imposed on it by the body, and so our life's
work on earth, as symbolised in the Lodge, is closed. The knocks
indicate that the spirit now dominates the soul and body and before we
leave these heights it is well to point out that almost all the great
religious teachers have taught that in some mysterious way this physical
body will be transformed, and still be used after death. In short, that
matter, as well as spirit, is part of God. Science has shown that matter
is indestructable, though its form may be changed completely, and so
even after the symbolical death and resurrection, three knocks are still
This then concludes the third degree. More than any other degree in
Craft Masonry it has embedded in it ancient landmarks, brought down from
a long distant past. Under the surface lie hidden, meanings within
meanings, which I make no pretence to have exhausted. Already this book
has exceeded in length either of the two previous ones, but to do full
justice to the sublime degree one would require a volume four times as
large as this. I trust, however, that I have given some help, more
especially to younger b rethren, which will aid them to glimpse the
deeper side of Freemasonry. If they too will strive to discover further
alternative meanings, I shall feel this labour of mine has been well
Let me again warn them that just because Masonry is so old, its rituals,
in the course of years, have been again and again revised, and newer
meanings have continually been grafted on to the old stock. We are not
entitled to say one meaning is right and another wrong. Both may be
right. Christianity itself has taken over a vast mass of pre-Christian
ceremonies and symbols, and the student is perfectly entitled to
consider that both the Christian and the pre-Christian interpretations
of these symbols are equ ally deserving of respect.
There is also another point which should be borne in mind. Again and
again we find that incidents and phrases which appear to have come from
the Bible, on closer investigation are found not to correspond exactly
with the Biblical narrative. At one time there was a tendency to say
that in these cases it was our duty to substitute the Biblical version
for the "Inaccurate" traditional form. With all due respect I venture to
say that such action is totally unjustifiable. Masonry is not the Bible.
It is a tradit ional ritual into which 18th century revisers inserted
fragments from the Bible, because that was the only book dealing with
the period of the masonic incidents which was then available to them.
To-day, we know a great deal more about this period than did our 18th
century predecessors, and the modern investigator has just cause to
lament the well meaning, but misdirected, zeal of these worthy masons,
who thereby have probably destroyed for ever valuable landmarks, which
would have helped us t o discover the historical growth and the symbolic
meaning of many parts of our ceremonies.
Such apparent contraditions, and even mistakes, as appear to exist,
should be carefully retained, for they are sure indications to the
conscientous student of a connection with a long distant past, which
modern methods of research may enable us finally to trace to its origin.
If, however, they are revised out of existence, future generations will
have nothing to help them in the task of unravelling the true history
and meaning of Freemasonry.
If a Sn. does not correspond with the explanation of the manner in which
it is said to have originated, don't alter the way of giving the Sn.,
for it is an ancient landmark. Rather try to discover if anywhere in the
world that Sn. is still used in some old ceremony which may throw light
on its true origin. If H.A.B. was not buried in a c...f...n, don't
eliminate the c...f...n from the tracing board, but rather bear in mind
that his great prototype, Osiris, was so buried and that the c...f...n
played a pecul iarly important part in the legend which recounts his
death : which legend was hoary with antiquity before K.S. was born.
Finally, let me say that even if a man can never fathom the full meaning
of the third degree, yet there is no man worthy of the name who has
passed through that third degree but will certainly have learnt one
important lesson, namely, how to d., and thereby will be the better man.