“Give me the secrets of a Master Mason!”
A case for Sacred Geometry and the evolution of the Soul
Many in the fraternity have heard the almost universal complaint that, “there must be something more” to masonry than the repetition of the Blue Lodge ritual degree work and the reading of the minutes at a stated meeting. Some of us have even had the feeling that the “Work” is being parroted and performed in almost drone-like fashion. Rather than a criticism of the sincere efforts made by brethren to instill and to inculcate the spirit of masonry and its revered degrees to new men, it is more of an observation that I have made on many occasions.
The speed with which we move a candidate, and or, a new brother through to the next step is often done at a dizzying pace. It confuses and frustrates the men whom we are attempting to educate. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that we are often missing the mark when we move candidates and brothers along so quickly.
Inevitably the questions come from new brothers and initiates.
“What does our “Work” really represent and what it does it all really mean?”
“What are the secrets of Masonry?”
You can feel the angst and confusion from our new brothers when they ask the questions. The uncomfortable and often weak answer I find myself giving is what many of you have heard over and over.
“The symbolism in the degrees is for every man to discover and interpret for himself.”
Now, this answer may serve to put off the questioner for a time, but it in no way answers the queries. It only serves to instill a greater sense of frustration and confusion for the new brother asking. It also serves to illustrate that I haven’t studied enough myself to feel confident to answer their questions.
Much of the symbolism is, on the surface, quite plain and clear. But very few of us are so comfortable as to be able to answer some of the most basic questions and not, at the same time, get the feeling that we need to learn more ourselves.
Our ritual is a deep and complex tapestry of some of the most ancient spiritual truths and lore. It is layered with some of the most sublime and secret wisdom that the ancient sages have been able to glean from the GATOU, and from the observation of his most profound work, which is nothing less than nature and life itself.
The most readily recognized symbol used in modern masonry is the representation of the lodge room as Solomon’s Temple. It is quite likely that this form was chosen for the convenient and obvious reasons that it is so easily recognized from the teachings and practices of Christianity, as illustrated and described in the Holy Bible.
But the very design of the lodge room itself, and temples and cathedrals the world over, are so intricately laced with secrets and sacred designs that there is just not enough time in this paper to explore them. That subject alone is a paper all unto itself.
Suffice it to say that the very subject we seek to learn and understand is the very foundation of masonry itself, “Sacred Geometry”. The 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences is after all the foundation on which masonry’s divine edifice is constructed, the very Trivium and Quadrivium.
Regarding the other symbols most commonly associated with masonry we have the tessellated floor of the temple and the placement of the furniture, The Greater and Lesser Lights, the various working tools, the positions of the officers and whom they represent temporally and symbolically, the direction and purpose of the many perambulations, the timing and choice of the prayers, admonitions and charges, which in reality are just the tip of the iceberg when we begin to look at the multifaceted, symbolically and spiritually layered degree work we practice and teach. Yet for all of that, our ancient landmarks go mostly under explained and misunderstood.
Many may consider the phrase, “masonic tradition informs us”, merely to be a literary device and an admission that the parables and symbolism used in our degrees are purely fiction. I would counsel each of you to look beyond this allusion and peer deeply into the antiquity and ancient traditions from which our symbolism arises to discern their verity.
Many will argue that masonry is a modern composite organization, deriving its basic form from the old stone mason’s lodges of the middle ages, and in some part of this explanation there is a kernel of truth. However, I believe these medieval guilds and their “operative” nature were nurtured and birthed in the remnants of the earlier Roman Collegia and later influenced by the craftsmen and builders who filtered into Europe through Byzantium and into Iberia after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The eventual rise and influence of the early Islamic empire, which eventually supplanted both the eastern and western Roman empires, with its advanced mathematics and sciences, certainly permeated the ruins of Romulus and Remus former strongholds. But the ancient secrets of stone architecture and building were not born in Rome and did not die in her smoldering ashes. Neither were they the invention of the followers of Islam, who inherited their knowledge from their ancient forebears.
With respect to the historical records related to the Crusades, it is easily demonstrated that much valuable knowledge and revived skills were imported from the Near East as a result of the conflict and contact between Islam and Christianity.
It can be demonstrated, with little effort, that later builders and masons in the region of Europe and the Middle East were influenced by more ancient traditions of builders, as in the case of the Dionysian Artificers, the Ionian builders of sacred temples and buildings, who were in existence before the construction of Solomon’s temple.
In Rev. Haskett Smith’s paper prepared for Ars Quator Coronatum in 1891, he states that the Druze of Lebanon asserted that they were the builders of Solomon’s Temple. The extant record is silent on this point, but if we are to believe the Old Testament in 1st Kings 5, 6 and 7 we find that Solomon made a pact with Hiram of Tyre to provide lumber and stone and craftsman to build his temple. In particular we read of our own Hiram Abiff, of the tribe of Napthali, a widows son, who was a master craftsman in many fine arts including metallurgy.
Hiram of Tyre’s builders were highly prized and highly skilled in the arts, sciences and crafts of building and Solomon obviously was aware of their skills. Being situated at the cross roads of the world’s greatest religions, empires and builders, it takes little imagination to complete the logic that indicates that these men learned their respective trades, crafts and skills at the feet of the ancient master builders of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Phoenicia.
These ancient craftsmen were instructed in the most holy and ancient sciences of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and architecture by the venerated priests and wise men of the various religions and sects of the ancient world. These “Secrets” constitute the very “Sacred Geometry” that we espouse and esteem in our degrees, yet rarely discuss and teach after their brief introduction in the 2nd Degree.
The archeological record clearly shows that the sciences and skills necessary to build Nineveh and Cheops existed long before the age of Solomon. More ancient evidence across the Steppes of Russia and into Europe shows Neolithic building and stone work unparalleled and unmatched even in the modern era. Mastery of megalithic stone building that dwarfed even the masters of the Egypt and the Fertile Crescent.
So, by inference and actual evidence it can be deduced that the science, engineering and mathematics also existed in the medieval period in Europe that led to the famous builder’s guilds that gave birth to “operative” and “speculative” masonry.
I will even go so far as to state that “speculative” masonry existed before the “operative” craft was practiced. The evidence is scratched into the very stones of every continent on the planet, and painted on the walls of caves more than 20 millennium before the first Gothic cathedrals were erected in Europe.
The ancient speculative and craft masonry that I allude to was the very study of nature and the sky. By the careful recording of the movement of the heavens and the observations of the cycles of nature the elect of our ancient ancestors were able to deduce and derive the “magic” that makes the world an understandable place to live. That “magic” is the mathematics and measurement of the heavens and the earth itself. It was the most hallowed and sacred of all knowledge and protected and venerated by the ancient priests of every civilization, and purposefully and jealously guarded from the profane. It is none other than the Divine’s own “Sacred Geometry”.
In their sacred stories, myths and allegories, these priests recorded the cycles and movements of the heavens and measured out the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years, and every mundane activity that could be observed. The “magic” they used were the formulas derived through the practice of geometry.
“Contemplating these bodies, we are inspired with a due reverence for the Deity and His works, and are induced to encourage the studies of astronomy, geography, navigation, and the arts dependent upon them, by which society has been so much benefitted.”
The very heavens are the repository of the secrets of our craft, and it is there where they were given birth by the Great Architect of the Universe, and this is where those sacred secrets still reside.
“The number 7 eludes to the 7 liberal arts and sciences.”
“The most important of these is Geometry.”
“In fine, Geometry is the foundation of architecture and the root of mathematics.”
But even more deeply veiled is the understanding that the study and contemplation of the GAOTU’s work and the formulas expressed in the sacred symbols, is that it is the road to perfecting the soul.
My intent is to present my perspective of what I consider to be our most sacred duty in the restoration of the “Work”, and that is the resurrection of the teaching of “Sacred Geometry”.
Masonic Presentations: 6-28-2017 mwd aka Tom O’Bedlam