Part 2 out of 6
edifice which is now the subject of our contemplation. The mosque of the
Mohammedan and the church or the chapel of the Christian are but
embodiments of the same idea of temple worship in a simpler form.
The adaptation, therefore, of the material temple to a science of
symbolism would be an easy, and by no means a novel task, to both the
Jewish and the Tyrian mind. Doubtless, at its original conception, the
idea was rude and unembellished, to be perfected and polished only by
future aggregations of succeeding intellects. And yet no biblical scholar
will venture to deny that there was, in the mode of building, and in all
the circumstances connected with the construction of King Solomon's
temple, an apparent design to establish a foundation for symbolism.
I propose now to illustrate, by a few examples, the method in which the
speculative Masons have appropriated this design of King Solomon to their
To construct his earthly temple, the operative mason followed the
architectural designs laid down on the _trestle-board_, or tracing-board,
or book of plans of the architect. By these he hewed and squared his
materials; by these he raised his walls; by these he constructed his
arches; and by these strength and durability, combined with grace and
beauty, were bestowed upon the edifice which he was constructing.
The trestle-board becomes, therefore, one of our elementary symbols. For
in the masonic ritual the speculative Mason is reminded that, as the
operative artist erects his temporal building, in accordance with the
rules and designs laid down on the trestle-board of the master-workman, so
should he erect that spiritual building, of which the material is a type,
in obedience to the rules and designs, the precepts and commands, laid
down by the grand Architect of the universe, in those great books of
nature and revelation, which constitute the spiritual trestle-board of
The trestle-board is, then, the symbol of the natural and moral law. Like
every other symbol of the order, it is universal and tolerant in its
application; and while, as Christian Masons, we cling with unfaltering
integrity to that explanation which makes the Scriptures of both
dispensations our trestle-board, we permit our Jewish and Mohammedan
brethren to content themselves with the books of the Old Testament, or the
Koran. Masonry does not interfere with the peculiar form or development of
any one's religious faith. All that it asks is, that the interpretation
of the symbol shall be according to what each one supposes to be the
revealed will of his Creator. But so rigidly exacting is it that the
symbol shall be preserved, and, in some rational way, interpreted, that it
peremptorily excludes the Atheist from its communion, because, believing
in no Supreme Being, no divine Architect, he must necessarily be without a
spiritual trestle-board on which the designs of that Being may be
inscribed for his direction.
But the operative mason required materials wherewith to construct his
temple. There was, for instance, the _rough ashlar_--the stone in its rude
and natural state--unformed and unpolished, as it had been lying in the
quarries of Tyre from the foundation of the earth. This stone was to be
hewed and squared, to be fitted and adjusted, by simple, but appropriate
implements, until it became a _perfect ashlar_, or well-finished stone,
ready to take its destined place in the building.
Here, then, again, in these materials do we find other elementary symbols.
The rough and unpolished stone is a symbol of man's natural
state--ignorant, uncultivated, and, as the Roman historian expresses it,
"grovelling to the earth, like the beasts of the field, and obedient to
every sordid appetite;"  but when education has exerted its salutary
influences in expanding his intellect, in restraining his hitherto unruly
passions, and purifying his life, he is then represented by the perfect
ashlar, or finished stone, which, under the skilful hands of the workman,
has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its appropriate place in
Here an interesting circumstance in the history of the preparation of
these materials has been seized and beautifully appropriated by our
symbolic science. We learn from the account of the temple, contained in
the First Book of Kings, that "The house, when it was in building, was
built of stone, made ready before it was brought thither, so that there
was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house while
it was in building." 
Now, this mode of construction, undoubtedly adopted to avoid confusion and
discord among so many thousand workmen, has been selected as an
elementary symbol of concord and harmony--virtues which are not more
essential to the preservation and perpetuity of our own society than they
are to that of every human association.
The perfect ashlar, therefore,--the stone thus fitted for its appropriate
position in the temple,--becomes not only a symbol of human perfection (in
itself, of course, only a comparative term), but also, when we refer to
the mode in which it was prepared, of that species of perfection which
results from the concord and union of men in society. It is, in fact, a
symbol of the social character of the institution.
There are other elementary symbols, to which I may hereafter have occasion
to revert; the three, however, already described,--the rough ashlar, the
perfect ashlar, and the trestle-board,--and which, from their importance,
have received the name of "jewels," will be sufficient to give some idea
of the nature of what may be called the "symbolic alphabet" of Masonry.
Let us now proceed to a brief consideration of the method in which this
alphabet of the science is applied to the more elevated and abstruser
portions of the system, and which, as the temple constitutes its most
important type, I have chosen to call the "Temple Symbolism of Masonry."
Both Scripture and tradition inform us that, at the building of King
Solomon's temple, the masons were divided into different classes, each
engaged in different tasks. We learn, from the Second Book of Chronicles,
that these classes were the bearers of burdens, the hewers of stones, and
the overseers, called by the old masonic writers the _Ish sabal_, the _Ish
chotzeb_, and the _Menatzchim_. Now, without pretending to say that the
modern institution has preserved precisely the same system of regulations
as that which was observed at the temple, we shall certainly find a
similarity in these divisions to the Apprentices, Fellow Crafts and Master
Masons of our own day. At all events, the three divisions made by King
Solomon, in the workmen at Jerusalem, have been adopted as the types of
the three degrees now practised in speculative Masonry; and as such we
are, therefore, to consider them. The mode in which these three divisions
of workmen labored in constructing the temple, has been beautifully
symbolized in speculative Masonry, and constitutes an important and
interesting part of temple symbolism.
Thus we know, from our own experience among modern workmen, who still
pursue the same method, as well as from the traditions of the order, that
the implements used in the quarries were few and simple, the work there
requiring necessarily, indeed, but two tools, namely, the _twenty-four
inch gauge_, or two foot rule, and the _common gavel_, or stone-cutter's
hammer. With the former implement, the operative mason took the necessary
dimensions of the stone he was about to prepare, and with the latter, by
repeated blows, skilfully applied, he broke off every unnecessary
protuberance, and rendered it smooth and square, and fit to take its place
in the building.
And thus, in the first degree of speculative Masonry, the Entered
Apprentice receives these simple implements, as the emblematic working
tools of his profession, with their appropriate symbolical instruction. To
the operative mason their mechanical and practical use alone is signified,
and nothing more of value does their presence convey to his mind. To the
speculative Mason the sight of them is suggestive of far nobler and
sublimer thoughts; they teach him to measure, not stones, but time; not to
smooth and polish the marble for the builder's use, but to purify and
cleanse his heart from every vice and imperfection that would render it
unfit for a place in the spiritual temple of his body.
In the symbolic alphabet of Freemasonry, therefore, the twenty-four inch
gauge is a symbol of time well employed; the common gavel, of the
purification of the heart.
Here we may pause for a moment to refer to one of the coincidences between
Freemasonry and those _Mysteries_ which formed so important a part of
the ancient religions, and which coincidences have led the writers on this
subject to the formation of a well-supported theory that there was a
common connection between them. The coincidence to which I at present
allude is this: in all these Mysteries--the incipient ceremony of
initiation--the first step taken by the candidate was a lustration or
purification. The aspirant was not permitted to enter the sacred
vestibule, or take any part in the secret formula of initiation, until, by
water or by fire, he was emblematically purified from the corruptions of
the world which he was about to leave behind. I need not, after this, do
more than suggest the similarity of this formula, in principle, to a
corresponding one in Freemasonry, where the first symbols presented to the
apprentice are those which inculcate a purification of the heart, of which
the purification of the body in the ancient Mysteries was symbolic.
We no longer use the bath or the fountain, because in our philosophical
system the symbolization is more abstract, if I may use the term; but we
present the aspirant with the _lamb-skin apron_, the _gauge_, and the
_gavel_, as symbols of a spiritual purification. The design is the same,
but the mode in which it is accomplished is different.
Let us now resume the connected series of temple symbolism.
At the building of the temple, the stones having been thus prepared by the
workmen of the lowest degree (the Apprentices, as we now call them, the
aspirants of the ancient Mysteries), we are informed that they were
transported to the site of the edifice on Mount Moriah, and were there
placed in the hands of another class of workmen, who are now technically
called the Fellow Crafts, and who correspond to the Mystes, or those who
had received the second degree of the ancient Mysteries. At this stage of
the operative work more extensive and important labors were to be
performed, and accordingly a greater amount of skill and knowledge was
required of those to whom these labors were intrusted. The stones, having
been prepared by the Apprentices (for hereafter, in speaking of the
workmen of the temple, I shall use the equivalent appellations of the more
modern Masons), were now to be deposited in their destined places in the
building, and the massive walls were to be erected. For these purposes
implements of a higher and more complicated character than the gauge and
gavel were necessary. The _square_ was required to fit the joints with
sufficient accuracy, the _level_ to run the courses in a horizontal line,
and the _plumb_ to erect the whole with due regard to perfect
perpendicularity. This portion of the labor finds its symbolism in the
second degree of the speculative science, and in applying this symbolism
we still continue to refer to the idea of erecting a spiritual temple in
The necessary preparations, then, having been made in the first degree,
the lessons having been received by which the aspirant is taught to
commence the labor of life with the purification of the heart, as a Fellow
Craft he continues the task by cultivating those virtues which give form
and impression to the character, as well adapted stones give shape and
stability to the building. And hence the "working tools" of the Fellow
Craft are referred, in their symbolic application, to those virtues. In
the alphabet of symbolism, we find the square, the level, and the plumb
appropriated to this second degree. The square is a symbol denoting
morality. It teaches us to apply the unerring principles of moral science
to every action of our lives, to see that all the motives and results of
our conduct shall coincide with the dictates of divine justice, and that
all our thoughts, words, and deeds shall harmoniously conspire, like the
well-adjusted and rightly-squared joints of an edifice, to produce a
smooth, unbroken life of virtue.
The plumb is a symbol of rectitude of conduct, and inculcates that
integrity of life and undeviating course of moral uprightness which can
alone distinguish the good and just man. As the operative workman erects
his temporal building with strict observance of that plumb-line, which
will not permit him to deviate a hair's breadth to the right or to the
left, so the speculative Mason, guided by the unerring principles of right
and truth inculcated in the symbolic teachings of the same implement, is
steadfast in the pursuit of truth, neither bending beneath the frowns of
adversity nor yielding to the seductions of prosperity.
The level, the last of the three working tools of the operative craftsman,
is a symbol of equality of station. Not that equality of civil or social
position which is to be found only in the vain dreams of the anarchist or
the Utopian, but that great moral and physical equality which affects the
whole human race as the children of one common Father, who causes his sun
to shine and his rain to fall on all alike, and who has so appointed the
universal lot of humanity, that death, the leveller of all human
greatness, is made to visit with equal pace the prince's palace and the
Here, then, we have three more signs or hieroglyphics added to our
alphabet of symbolism. Others there are in this degree, but they belong
to a higher grade of interpretation, and cannot be appropriately discussed
in an essay on temple symbolism only.
We now reach the third degree, the Master Masons of the modern science,
and the Epopts, or beholders of the sacred things in the ancient
In the third degree the symbolic allusions to the temple of Solomon, and
the implements of Masonry employed in its construction, are extended and
fully completed. At the building of that edifice, we have already seen
that one class of the workmen was employed in the preparation of the
materials, while another was engaged in placing those materials in their
proper position. But there was a third and higher class,--the master
workmen,--whose duty it was to superintend the two other classes, and to
see that the stones were not only duly prepared, but that the most exact
accuracy had been observed in giving to them their true juxtaposition in
the edifice. It was then only that the last and finishing labor was
performed, and the cement was applied by these skilful workmen, to secure
the materials in their appropriate places, and to unite the building in
one enduring and connected mass. Hence the _trowel_, we are informed, was
the most important, though of course not the only, implement in use among
the master builders. They did not permit this last, indelible operation to
be performed by any hands less skilful than their own. They required that
the craftsmen should prove the correctness of their work by the square,
level, and plumb, and test, by these unerring instruments, the accuracy of
their joints; and, when satisfied of the just arrangement of every part,
the cement, which was to give an unchangeable union to the whole, was then
applied by themselves.
Hence, in speculative Masonry, the trowel has been assigned to the third
degree as its proper implement, and the symbolic meaning which accompanies
it has a strict and beautiful reference to the purposes for which it was
used in the ancient temple; for as it was there employed "to spread the
cement which united the building in one common mass," so is it selected as
the symbol of brotherly love--that cement whose object is to unite our
mystic association in one sacred and harmonious band of brethren.
Here, then, we perceive the first, or, as I have already called it, the
elementary form of our symbolism--the adaptation of the terms, and
implements, and processes of an operative art to a speculative science.
The temple is now completed. The stones having been hewed, squared, and
numbered in the quarries by the apprentices,--having been properly
adjusted by the craftsmen, and finally secured in their appropriate
places, with the strongest and purest cement, by the master builders,--the
temple of King Solomon presented, in its finished condition, so noble an
appearance of sublimity and grandeur as to well deserve to be selected, as
it has been, for the type or symbol of that immortal temple of the body,
to which Christ significantly and symbolically alluded when he said,
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
This idea of representing the interior and spiritual man by a material
temple is so apposite in all its parts as to have occurred on more than
one occasion to the first teachers of Christianity. Christ himself
repeatedly alludes to it in other passages, and the eloquent and
figurative St. Paul beautifully extends the idea in one of his Epistles to
the Corinthians, in the following language: "Know ye not that ye are the
temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?" And again, in
a subsequent passage of the same Epistle, he reiterates the idea in a more
positive form: "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy
Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" And
Dr. Adam Clarke, while commenting on this latter passage, makes the very
allusions which have been the topic of discussion in the present essay.
"As truly," says he, "as the living God dwelt in the Mosaic tabernacle and
in the temple of Solomon, so truly does the Holy Ghost dwell in the souls
of genuine Christians; and as the temple and all its _utensils_ were holy,
separated from all common and profane uses, and dedicated alone to the
service of God, so the bodies of genuine Christians are holy, and should
be employed in the service of God alone."
The idea, therefore, of making the temple a symbol of the body, is not
exclusively masonic; but the mode of treating the symbolism by a reference
to the particular temple of Solomon, and to the operative art engaged in
its construction, is peculiar to Freemasonry. It is this which isolates it
from all other similar associations. Having many things in common with the
secret societies and religious Mysteries of antiquity, in this "temple
symbolism" it differs from them all.
The Form of the Lodge.
In the last essay, I treated of that symbolism of the masonic system which
makes the temple of Jerusalem the archetype of a lodge, and in which, in
consequence, all the symbols are referred to the connection of a
speculative science with an operative art. I propose in the present to
discourse of a higher and abstruser mode of symbolism; and it may be
observed that, in coming to this topic, we arrive, for the first time, at
that chain of resemblances which unites Freemasonry with the ancient
systems of religion, and which has given rise, among masonic writers, to
the names of Pure and Spurious Freemasonry--the pure Freemasonry being
that system of philosophical religion which, coming through the line of
the patriarchs, was eventually modified by influences exerted at the
building of King Solomon's temple, and the spurious being the same system
as it was altered and corrupted by the polytheism of the nations of
As this abstruser mode of symbolism, if less peculiar to the masonic
system, is, however, far more interesting than the one which was treated
in the previous essay,--because it is more philosophical,--I propose to
give an extended investigation of its character. And, in the first place,
there is what may be called an elementary view of this abstruser
symbolism, which seems almost to be a corollary from what has already been
described in the preceding article.
As each individual mason has been supposed to be the symbol of a spiritual
temple,--"a temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,"--the
lodge or collected assemblage of these masons, is adopted as a symbol of
It is in the first degree of Masonry, more particularly, that this
species of symbolism is developed. In its detail it derives the
characteristics of resemblance upon which it is founded, from the form,
the supports, the ornaments, and general construction and internal
organization of a lodge, in all of which the symbolic reference to the
world is beautifully and consistently sustained.
The form of a masonic lodge is said to be a parallelogram, or oblong
square; its greatest length being from east to west, its breadth from
north to south. A square, a circle, a triangle, or any other form but that
of an _oblong square_, would be eminently incorrect and unmasonic, because
such a figure would not be an expression of the symbolic idea which is
intended to be conveyed.
Now, as the world is a globe, or, to speak more accurately, an oblate
spheroid, the attempt to make an oblong square its symbol would seem, at
first view, to present insuperable difficulties. But the system of masonic
symbolism has stood the test of too long an experience to be easily found
at fault; and therefore this very symbol furnishes a striking evidence of
the antiquity of the order. At the Solomonic era--the era of the building
of the temple at Jerusalem--the world, it must be remembered, was supposed
to have that very oblong form, which has been here symbolized. If, for
instance, on a map of the world we should inscribe an oblong figure whose
boundary lines would circumscribe and include just that portion which was
known to be inhabited in the clays of Solomon, these lines, running a
short distance north and south of the Mediterranean Sea, and extending
from Spain in the west to Asia Minor in the east, would form an oblong
square, including the southern shore of Europe, the northern shore of
Africa, and the western district of Asia, the length of the parallelogram
being about sixty degrees from east to west, and its breadth being about
twenty degrees from north to south. This oblong square, thus enclosing the
whole of what was then supposed to be the habitable globe, would
precisely represent what is symbolically said to be _the form of the
lodge_, while the Pillars of Hercules in the west, on each side of the
straits of Gades or Gibraltar, might appropriately be referred to the two
pillars that stood at the porch of the temple.
[Illustration: Map of Mediterranean Sea and surrounding area.]
A masonic lodge is, therefore, a symbol of the world.
This symbol is sometimes, by a very usual figure of speech, extended, in
its application, and the world and the universe are made synonymous, when
the lodge becomes, of course, a symbol of the universe. But in this case
the definition of the symbol is extended, and to the ideas of length and
breadth are added those of height and depth, and the lodge is said to
assume the form of a double cube. The solid contents of the earth
below and the expanse of the heavens above will then give the outlines of
the cube, and the whole created universe will be included within the
symbolic limits of a mason's lodge.
By always remembering that the lodge is the symbol, in its form and
extent, of the world, we are enabled, readily and rationally, to explain
many other symbols, attached principally to the first degree; and we are
enabled to collate and compare them with similar symbols of other kindred
institutions of antiquity, for it should be observed that this symbolism
of the world, represented by a place of initiation, widely pervaded all
the ancient rites and mysteries.
It will, no doubt, be interesting to extend our investigations on this
subject, with a particular view to the method in which this symbolism of
the world or the universe was developed, in some of its most prominent
details; and for this purpose I shall select the mystical explanation of
the _officers_ of a lodge, its _covering_, and a portion of its
The Officers of a Lodge.
The Three Principal Officers of a lodge are, it is needless to say,
situated in the east, the west, and the south. Now, bearing in mind that
the lodge is a symbol of the world, or the universe, the reference of
these three officers to the sun at its rising, its setting, and its
meridian height, must at once suggest itself.
This is the first development of the symbol, and a very brief inquiry will
furnish ample evidence of its antiquity and its universality.
In the Brahminical initiations of Hindostan, which are among the earliest
that have been transmitted to us, and may almost be considered as the
cradle of all the others of subsequent ages and various countries, the
ceremonies were performed in vast caverns, the remains of some of which,
at Salsette, Elephanta, and a few other places, will give the spectator
but a very inadequate idea of the extent and splendor of these ancient
Indian lodges. More imperfect remains than these are still to be found
in great numbers throughout Hindostan and Cashmere. Their form was
sometimes that of a cross, emblematic of the four elements of which the
earth is composed,--fire, water, air, and earth,--but more generally an
oval, as a representation of the mundane egg, which, in the ancient
systems, was a symbol of the world.
The interior of the cavern of initiation was lighted by innumerable lamps,
and there sat in the east, the west, and the south the principal
Hierophants, or explainers of the Mysteries, as the representatives of
Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Now, Brahma was the supreme deity of the
Hindoos, borrowed or derived from the Sun-god of their Sabean ancestors,
and Vishnu and Siva were but manifestations of his attributes. We learn
from the Indian Pantheon that "when the sun rises in the east, he is
Brahma; when he gains his meridian in the south, he is Siva; and when he
sets in the west, he is Vishnu."
Again, in the Zoroasteric mysteries of Persia, the temple of initiation
was circular, being made so to represent the universe; and the sun in the
east, with the surrounding zodiac, formed an indispensable part of the
ceremony of reception.
In the Egyptian mysteries of Osiris, the same reference to the sun is
contained, and Herodotus, who was himself an initiate, intimates that the
ceremonies consisted in the representation of a Sun-god, who had been
incarnate, that is, had appeared upon earth, or rose, and who was at
length put to death by Typhon, the symbol of darkness, typical of the
In the great mysteries of Eleusis, which were celebrated at Athens, we
learn from St. Chrysostom, as well as other authorities, that the temple
of initiation was symbolic of the universe, and we know that one of the
officers represented the sun.
In the Celtic mysteries of the Druids, the temple of initiation was either
oval, to represent the mundane egg--a symbol, as has already been said, of
the world; or circular, because the circle was a symbol of the universe;
or cruciform, in allusion to the four elements, or constituents of the
universe. In the Island of Lewis, in Scotland, there is one combining the
cruciform and circular form. There is a circle, consisting of twelve
stones, while three more are placed in the east, and as many in the west
and south, and thirty-eight, in two parallel lines, in the north, forming
an avenue to the circular temple. In the centre of the circle is the image
of the god. In the initiations into these rites, the solar deity performed
an important part, and the celebrations commenced at daybreak, when the
sun was hailed on his appearance above the horizon as "the god of victory,
the king who rises in light and ascends the sky."
But I need not multiply these instances of sun-worship. Every country and
religion of the ancient world would afford one. Sufficient has been
cited to show the complete coincidence, in reference to the sun, between
the symbolism of Freemasonry and that of the ancient rites and Mysteries,
and to suggest for them a common origin, the sun being always in the
former system, from the earliest times of the primitive or patriarchal
Masonry, considered simply as a manifestation of the Wisdom, Strength, and
Beauty of the Divine Architect, visibly represented by the position of the
three principal officers of a lodge, while by the latter, in their
degeneration from, and corruption of the true Noachic faith, it was
adopted as the special object of adoration.
The Point Within a Circle.
The point within a Circle is another symbol of great importance in
Freemasonry, and commands peculiar attention in this connection with the
ancient symbolism of the universe and the solar orb. Everybody who has
read a masonic "Monitor" is well acquainted with the usual explanation of
this symbol. We are told that the point represents an individual brother,
the circle the boundary line of his duty to God and man, and the two
perpendicular parallel lines the patron saints of the order--St. John the
Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
Now, this explanation, trite and meagre as it is, may do very well for the
exoteric teaching of the order; but the question at this time is, not how
it has been explained by modern lecturers and masonic system-makers, but
what was the ancient interpretation of the symbol, and how should it be
read as a sacred hieroglyphic in reference to the true philosophic system
which constitutes the real essence and character of Freemasonry?
Perfectly to understand this symbol, I must refer, as a preliminary
matter, to the worship of the _Phallus_, a peculiar modification of
sun-worship, which prevailed to a great extent among the nations of
The Phallus was a sculptured representation of the _membrum virile_, or
male organ of generation, and the worship of it is said to have
originated in Egypt, where, after the murder of Osiris by Typhon, which is
symbolically to be explained as the destruction or deprivation of the
sun's light by night, Isis, his wife, or the symbol of nature, in the
search for his mutilated body, is said to have found all the parts except
the organs of generation, which myth is simply symbolic of the fact, that
the sun having set, its fecundating and invigorating power had ceased. The
Phallus, therefore, as the symbol of the male generative principle, was
very universally venerated among the ancients, and that too as a
religious rite, without the slightest reference to any impure or
lascivious application. He is supposed, by some commentators, to be
the god mentioned under the name of Baal-peor, in the Book of Numbers,
as having been worshipped by the idolatrous Moabites. Among the eastern
nations of India the same symbol was prevalent, under the name of
"Lingam." But the Phallus or Lingam was a representation of the male
principle only. To perfect the circle of generation it is necessary to
advance one step farther. Accordingly we find in the _Cteis_ of the
Greeks, and the _Yoni_ of the Indians, a symbol of the female generative
principle, of co-extensive prevalence with the Phallus. The _Cteis_ was a
circular and concave pedestal, or receptacle, on which the Phallus or
column rested, and from the centre of which it sprang.
The union of the Phallus and Cteis, or the Lingam and Yoni, in one
compound figure, as an object of adoration, was the most usual mode of
representation. This was in strict accordance with the whole system of
ancient mythology, which was founded upon a worship of the prolific powers
of nature. All the deities of pagan antiquity, however numerous they may
be, can always be reduced to the two different forms of the generative
principle--the active, or male, and the passive, or female. Hence the gods
were always arranged in pairs, as Jupiter and Juno, Bacchus and Venus,
Osiris and Isis. But the ancients went farther. Believing that the
procreative and productive powers of nature might be conceived to exist in
the same individual, they made the older of their deities hermaphrodite,
and used the term ἀῤῥενοθέλυς, or _man-virgin_, to denote the union of the
two sexes in the same divine person.
Thus, in one of the Orphic Hymns, we find this line:--
"Ζεὺς ἄρσην γένετο, Ζεὺς ἄμβροτος ἔπλετο νύμφη."
Jove was created a male and an unspotted virgin.
And Plutarch, in his tract "On Isis and Osiris," says, "God, who is a male
and female intelligence, being both life and light, brought forth another
intelligence, the Creator of the World."
Now, this hermaphrodism of the Supreme Divinity was again supposed to be
represented by the sun, which was the male generative energy, and by
nature, or the universe, which was the female prolific principle. And
this union was symbolized in different ways, but principally by _the
point within the circle_, the point indicating the sun, and the circle the
universe, invigorated and fertilized by his generative rays. And in some
of the Indian cave-temples, this allusion was made more manifest by the
inscription of the signs of the zodiac on the circle.
So far, then, we arrive at the true interpretation of the masonic
symbolism of the point within the circle. It is the same thing, but under
a different form, as the Master and Wardens of a lodge. The Master and
Wardens are symbols of the sun, the lodge of the universe, or world, just
as the point is the symbol of the same sun, and the surrounding circle of
But the two perpendicular parallel lines remain to be explained. Every one
is familiar with the very recent interpretation, that they represent the
two Saints John, the Baptist and the Evangelist. But this modern
exposition must be abandoned, if we desire to obtain the true ancient
In the first place, we must call to mind the fact that, at two particular
points of his course, the sun is found in the zodiacal signs of Cancer and
Capricorn. These points are astronomically distinguished as the summer and
winter solstice. When the sun is in these points, he has reached his
greatest northern and southern declination, and produces the most evident
effects on the temperature of the seasons, and on the length of the days
and nights. These points, if we suppose the circle to represent the sun's
apparent course, will be indicated by the points where the parallel lines
touch the circle, or, in other words, the parallels will indicate the
limits of the sun's extreme northern and southern declination, when he
arrives at the solstitial points of Cancer and Capricorn.
But the days when the sun reaches these points are, respectively, the 21st
of June and the 22d of December, and this will account for their
subsequent application to the two Saints John, whose anniversaries have
been placed by the church near those days.
The Covering of the Lodge.
The Covering of the lodge is another, and must be our last reference to
this symbolism of the world or the universe. The mere mention of the fact
that this covering is figuratively supposed to be "a clouded canopy," or
the firmament, on which the host of stars is represented, will be enough
to indicate the continued allusion to the symbolism of the world. The
lodge, as a representative of the world, is of course supposed to have no
other roof than the heavens; and it would scarcely be necessary to
enter into any discussion on the subject, were it not that another
symbol--the theological ladder--is so intimately connected with it, that
the one naturally suggests the other. Now, this mystic ladder, which
connects the ground floor of the lodge with its roof or covering, is
another important and interesting link, which binds, with one common
chain, the symbolism and ceremonies of Freemasonry, and the symbolism and
rites of the ancient initiations.
This mystical ladder, which in Masonry is referred to "the theological
ladder, which Jacob in his vision saw, reaching from earth to heaven," was
widely dispersed among the religions of antiquity, where it was always
supposed to consist of seven rounds or steps.
For instance, in the Mysteries of Mithras, in Persia, where there were
seven stages or degrees of initiation, there was erected in the temples,
or rather caves,--for it was in them that the initiation was
conducted,--a high ladder, of seven steps or gates, each of which was
dedicated to one of the planets, which was typified by one of the metals,
the topmost step representing the sun, so that, beginning at the bottom,
we have Saturn represented by lead, Venus by tin, Jupiter by brass,
Mercury by iron, Mars by a mixed metal, the Moon by silver, and the Sun by
gold, the whole being a symbol of the sidereal progress of the solar orb
through the universe.
In the Mysteries of Brahma we find the same reference to the ladder of
seven steps; but here the names were different, although there was the
same allusion to the symbol of the universe. The seven steps were
emblematical of the seven worlds which constituted the Indian universe.
The lowest was the Earth; the second, the World of Reexistence; the third,
Heaven; the fourth, the Middle World, or intermediate region between the
lower and upper worlds; the fifth, the World of Births, in which souls are
again born; the sixth, the Mansion of the Blessed; and the seventh, or
topmost round, the Sphere of Truth, the abode of Brahma, he himself being
but a symbol of the sun, and hence we arrive once more at the masonic
symbolism of the universe and the solar orb.
Dr. Oliver thinks that in the Scandinavian Mysteries he has found the
mystic ladder in the sacred tree _Ydrasil;_ but here the reference to
the septenary division is so imperfect, or at least abstruse, that I am
unwilling to press it into our catalogue of coincidences, although there
is no doubt that we shall find in this sacred tree the same allusion as in
the ladder of Jacob, to an ascent from earth, where its roots were
planted, to heaven, where its branches expanded, which ascent being but a
change from mortality to immortality, from time to eternity, was the
doctrine taught in all the initiations. The ascent of the ladder or of the
tree was the ascent from life here to life hereafter--from earth to
It is unnecessary to carry these parallelisms any farther. Any one can,
however, see in them an undoubted reference to that septenary division
which so universally prevailed throughout the ancient world, and the
influence of which is still felt even in the common day life and
observances of our time. Seven was, among the Hebrews, their perfect
number; and hence we see it continually recurring in all their sacred
rites. The creation was perfected in seven days; seven priests, with
seven trumpets, encompassed the walls of Jericho for seven days; Noah
received seven days' notice of the commencement of the deluge, and seven
persons accompanied him into the ark, which rested on Mount Ararat on the
seventh month; Solomon was seven years in building the temple: and there
are hundreds of other instances of the prominence of this talismanic
number, if there were either time or necessity to cite them.
Among the Gentiles the same number was equally sacred. Pythagoras called
it a "venerable number." The septenary division of time into weeks of
seven days, although not universal, as has been generally supposed, was
sufficiently so to indicate the influence of the number. And it is
remarkable, as perhaps in some way referring to the seven-stepped ladder
which we have been considering, that in the ancient Mysteries, as Apuleius
informs us, the candidate was seven times washed in the consecrated waters
There is, then, an anomaly in giving to the mystical ladder of Masonry
only _three_ rounds. It is an anomaly, however, with which Masonry has had
nothing to do. The error arose from the ignorance of those inventors who
first engraved the masonic symbols for our monitors. The ladder of
Masonry, like the equipollent ladders of its kindred institutions, always
had seven steps, although in modern times the three principal or upper
ones are alone alluded to. These rounds, beginning at the lowest, are
_Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Faith, Hope_, and _Charity_.
Charity, therefore, takes the same place in the ladder of masonic virtues
as the sun does in the ladder of planets. In the ladder of metals we find
gold, and in that of colors yellow, occupying the same elevated position.
Now, St. Paul explains Charity as signifying, not alms-giving, which is
the modern popular meaning, but love--that love which "suffereth long and
is kind;" and when, in our lectures on this subject, we speak of it as the
greatest of virtues, because, when Faith is lost and Hope has ceased, it
extends "beyond the grave to realms of endless bliss," we there refer it
to the Divine Love of our Creator. But Portal, in his Essay on Symbolic
Colors, informs us that the sun represents Divine Love, and gold indicates
the goodness of God.
So that if Charity is equivalent to Divine Love, and Divine Love is
represented by the sun, and lastly, if Charity be the topmost round of the
masonic ladder, then again we arrive, as the result of our researches, at
the symbol so often already repeated of the solar orb. The natural sun or
the spiritual sun--the sun, either as the vivifying principle of animated
nature, and therefore the special object of adoration, or as the most
prominent instrument of the Creator's benevolence--was ever a leading idea
in the symbolism of antiquity.
Its prevalence, therefore, in the masonic institution, is a pregnant
evidence of the close analogy existing between it and all these systems.
How that analogy was first introduced, and how it is to be explained,
without detriment to the purity and truthfulness of our own religious
character, would involve a long inquiry into the origin of Freemasonry,
and the history of its connection with the ancient systems.
These researches might have been extended still farther; enough, however,
has been said to establish the following leading principles:--
1. That Freemasonry is, strictly speaking, a science of symbolism.
2. That in this symbolism it bears a striking analogy to the same science,
as seen in the mystic rites of the ancient religions.
3. That as in these ancient religions the universe was symbolized to the
candidate, and the sun, as its vivifying principle, made the object of his
adoration, or at least of his veneration, so, in Masonry, the lodge is
made the representative of the world or the universe, and the sun is
presented as its most prominent symbol.
4. That this identity of symbolism proves an identity of origin, which
identity of origin can be shown to be strictly compatible with the true
religious sentiment of Masonry.
5. And fifthly and lastly, that the whole symbolism of Freemasonry has an
exclusive reference to what the Kabalists have called the ALGABIL--the
_Master Builder_--him whom Freemasons have designated as the Grand
Architect of the Universe.
We have hitherto been engaged in the consideration of these simple
symbols, which appear to express one single and independent idea. They
have sometimes been called the "alphabet of Freemasonry," but improperly,
I think, since the letters of the alphabet have, in themselves, unlike
these masonic symbols, no significance, but are simply the component parts
of words, themselves the representatives of ideas.
These masonic symbols rather may be compared to the elementary characters
of the Chinese language, each of which denotes an idea; or, still better,
to the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians, in which one object was
represented in full by another which bore some subjective relation to it,
as the wind was represented by the wings of a bird, or courage by the head
and shoulders of a lion.
It is in the same way that in Masonry the plumb represents rectitude, the
level, human equality, and the trowel, concord or harmony. Each is, in
itself, independent, each expresses a single elementary idea.
But we now arrive at a higher division of masonic symbolism, which,
passing beyond these tangible symbols, brings us to those which are of a
more abstruse nature, and which, as being developed in a ceremonial form,
controlled and directed by the ritual of the order, may be designated as
the _ritualistic symbolism_ of Freemasonry.
It is to this higher division that I now invite attention; and for the
purpose of exemplifying the definition that I have given, I shall select a
few of the most prominent and interesting ceremonies of the ritual.
Our first researches were into the symbolism of objects; our next will be
into the symbolism of ceremonies.
In the explanations which I shall venture to give of this ritualistic
symbolism, or the symbolism of ceremonies, a reference will constantly be
made to what has so often already been alluded to, namely, to the analogy
existing between the system of Freemasonry and the ancient rites and
Mysteries, and hence we will again develop the identity of their origin.
Each of the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry contains some of these
ritualistic symbols: the lessons of the whole order are, indeed, veiled in
their allegoric clothing; but it is only to the most important that I can
find opportunity to refer. Such, among others, are the rites of
discalceation, of investiture, of circumambulation, and of intrusting.
Each of these will furnish an appropriate subject for consideration.
The Rite of Discalceation.
The _rite of discalceation_, or uncovering the feet on approaching holy
ground, is derived from the Latin word _discalceare_, to pluck off one's
shoes. The usage has the prestige of antiquity and universality in its
That it not only very generally prevailed, but that its symbolic
signification was well understood in the days of Moses, we learn from that
passage of Exodus where the angel of the Lord, at the burning bush,
exclaims to the patriarch, "Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from
off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." 
Clarke thinks it is from this command that the Eastern nations have
derived the custom of performing all their acts of religious worship with
bare feet. But it is much more probable that the ceremony was in use long
anterior to the circumstance of the burning bush, and that the Jewish
lawgiver at once recognized it as a well-known sign of reverence.
Bishop Patrick entertains this opinion, and thinks that the custom
was derived from the ancient patriarchs, and was transmitted by a general
tradition to succeeding times.
Abundant evidence might be furnished from ancient authors of the existence
of the custom among all nations, both Jewish and Gentile. A few of them,
principally collected by Dr. Mede, must be curious and interesting.
The direction of Pythagoras to his disciples was in these words:
"Ανυπόδητος θύε ϗαι πρόσϗυνει;" that is, Offer sacrifice and worship with
thy shoes off.
Justin Martyr says that those who came to worship in the sanctuaries and
temples of the Gentiles were commanded by their priests to put off their
Drusius, in his Notes on the Book of Joshua, says that among most of the
Eastern nations it was a pious duty to tread the pavement of the temple
with unshod feet.
Maimonides, the great expounder of the Jewish law, asserts that "it was
not lawful for a man to come into the mountain of God's house with his
shoes on his feet, or with his staff, or in his working garments, or with
dust on his feet." 
Rabbi Solomon, commenting on the command in Leviticus xix. 30, "Ye shall
reverence my sanctuary," makes the same remark in relation to this custom.
On this subject Dr. Oliver observes, "Now, the act of going with naked
feet was always considered a token of humility and reverence; and the
priests, in the temple worship, always officiated with feet uncovered,
although it was frequently injurious to their health." 
Mede quotes Zago Zaba, an Ethiopian bishop, who was ambassador from David,
King of Abyssinia, to John III., of Portugal, as saying, "We are not
permitted to enter the church, except barefooted." 
The Mohammedans, when about to perform their devotions, always leave their
slippers at the door of the mosque. The Druids practised the same custom
whenever they celebrated their sacred rites; and the ancient Peruvians are
said always to have left their shoes at the porch when they entered the
magnificent temple consecrated to the worship of the sun.
Adam Clarke thinks that the custom of worshipping the Deity barefooted was
so general among all nations of antiquity, that he assigns it as one of
his thirteen proofs that the whole human race have been derived from one
A theory might be advanced as follows: The shoes, or sandals, were worn on
ordinary occasions as a protection from the defilement of the ground. To
continue to wear them, then, in a consecrated place, would be a tacit
insinuation that the ground there was equally polluted and capable of
producing defilement. But, as the very character of a holy and consecrated
spot precludes the idea of any sort of defilement or impurity, the
acknowledgment that such was the case was conveyed, symbolically, by
divesting the feet of all that protection from pollution and uncleanness
which would be necessary in unconsecrated places.
So, in modern times, we uncover the head to express the sentiment of
esteem and respect. Now, in former days, when there was more violence to
be apprehended than now, the casque, or helmet, afforded an ample
protection from any sudden blow of an unexpected adversary. But we can
fear no violence from one whom we esteem and respect; and, therefore, to
deprive the head of its accustomed protection, is to give an evidence of
our unlimited confidence in the person to whom the gesture is made.
The rite of discalceation is, therefore, a symbol of reverence. It
signifies, in the language of symbolism, that the spot which is about to
be approached in this humble and reverential manner is consecrated to some
Now, as to all that has been said, the intelligent mason will at once see
its application to the third degree. Of all the degrees of Masonry, this
is by far the most important and sublime. The solemn lessons which it
teaches, the sacred scene which it represents, and the impressive
ceremonies with which it is conducted, are all calculated to inspire the
mind with feelings of awe and reverence. Into the holy of holies of the
temple, when the ark of the covenant had been deposited in its appropriate
place, and the Shekinah was hovering over it, the high priest alone, and
on one day only in the whole year, was permitted, after the most careful
purification, to enter with bare feet, and to pronounce, with fearful
veneration, the tetragrammaton or omnific word.
And into the Master Mason's lodge--this holy of holies of the masonic
temple, where the solemn truths of death and immortality are
inculcated--the aspirant, on entering, should purify his heart from every
contamination, and remember, with a due sense of their symbolic
application, those words that once broke upon the astonished ears of the
old patriarch, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon
thou standest is holy ground."
The Rite of Investiture.
Another ritualistic symbolism, of still more importance and interest, is
the _rite of investiture_.
The rite of investiture, called, in the colloquially technical language of
the order, the _ceremony of clothing_, brings us at once to the
consideration of that well-known symbol of Freemasonry, the LAMB-SKIN
This rite of investiture, or the placing upon the aspirant some garment,
as an indication of his appropriate preparation for the ceremonies in
which he was about to engage, prevailed in all the ancient initiations. A
few of them only it will be requisite to consider.
Thus in the Levitical economy of the Israelites the priests always wore
the abnet, or linen apron, or girdle, as a part of the investiture of the
priesthood. This, with the other garments, was to be worn, as the text
expresses it, "for glory and for beauty," or, as it has been explained by
a learned commentator, "as emblematical of that holiness and purity which
ever characterize the divine nature, and the worship which is worthy of
In the Persian Mysteries of Mithras, the candidate, having first received
light, was invested with a girdle, a crown or mitre, a purple tunic, and,
lastly, a white apron.
In the initiations practised in Hindostan, in the ceremony of investiture
was substituted the sash, or sacred zennaar, consisting of a cord,
composed of nine threads twisted into a knot at the end, and hanging from
the left shoulder to the right hip. This was, perhaps, the type of the
masonic scarf, which is, or ought to be, always worn in the same position.
The Jewish sect of the Essenes, who approached nearer than any other
secret institution of antiquity to Freemasonry in their organization,
always invested their novices with a white robe.
And, lastly, in the Scandinavian rites, where the military genius of the
people had introduced a warlike species of initiation, instead of the
apron we find the candidate receiving a white shield, which was, however,
always presented with the accompaniment of some symbolic instruction, not
very dissimilar to that which is connected with the masonic apron.
In all these modes of investiture, no matter what was the material or the
form, the symbolic signification intended to be conveyed was that of
And hence, in Freemasonry, the same symbolism is communicated by the
apron, which, because it is the first gift which the aspirant
receives,--the first symbol in which he is instructed,--has been called
the "badge of a mason." And most appropriately has it been so called; for,
whatever may be the future advancement of the candidate in the "Royal
Art," into whatever deeper arcana his devotion to the mystic institution
or his thirst for knowledge may carry him, with the apron--his first
investiture--he never parts. Changing, perhaps, its form and its
decorations, and conveying at each step some new and beautiful allusion,
its substance is still there, and it continues to claim the honorable
title by which it was first made known to him on the night of his
The apron derives its significance, as the symbol of purity, from two
sources--from its color and from its material. In each of these points of
view it is, then, to be considered, before its symbolism can be properly
And, first, the color of the apron must be an unspotted white. This color
has, in all ages, been esteemed an emblem of innocence and purity. It was
with reference to this symbolism that a portion of the vestments of the
Jewish priesthood was directed to be made white. And hence Aaron was
commanded, when he entered into the holy of holies to make an expiation
for the sins of the people, to appear clothed in white linen, with his
linen apron, or girdle, about his loins. It is worthy of remark that the
Hebrew word LABAN, which signifies _to make white_, denotes also _to
purify_; and hence we find, throughout the Scriptures, many allusions to
that color as an emblem of purity. "Though thy sins be as scarlet," says
Isaiah, "they shall be _white_ as snow;" and Jeremiah, in describing the
once innocent condition of Zion, says, "Her Nazarites were purer than
snow; they were _whiter_ than milk."
In the Apocalypse a _white stone_ was the reward promised by the Spirit to
those who overcame; and in the same mystical book the apostle is
instructed to say, that fine linen, clean and _white_, is the
righteousness of the saints.
In the early ages of the Christian church a _white garment_ was always
placed upon the catechumen who had been recently baptized, to denote that
he had been cleansed from his former sins, and was thenceforth to lead a
life of innocence and purity. Hence it was presented to him with this
appropriate charge: "Receive the white and undefiled garment, and produce
it unspotted before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may
obtain immortal life."
The _white alb_ still constitutes a part of the vestments of the Roman
church, and its color is said by Bishop England "to excite to piety by
teaching us the purity of heart and body which we should possess in being
present at the holy mysteries."
The heathens paid the same attention to the symbolic signification of this
color. The Egyptians, for instance, decorated the head of their principal
deity, Osiris, with a white tiara, and the priests wore robes of the
In the school of Pythagoras, the sacred hymns were chanted by the
disciples clothed in garments of white. The Druids gave white vestments to
those of their initiates who had arrived at the ultimate degree, or that
of perfection. And this was intended, according to their ritual, to teach
the aspirant that none were admitted to that honor but such as were
cleansed from all impurities, both of body and mind.
In all the Mysteries and religions rites of the other nations of
antiquity the same use of white garments was observed.
Portal, in his "Treatise on Symbolic Colors," says that "white, the symbol
of the divinity and of the priesthood, represents divine wisdom; applied
to a young girl, it denotes virginity; to an accused person, innocence; to
a judge, justice;" and he adds--what in reference to its use in Masonry
will be peculiarly appropriate--that, "as a characteristic sign of purity,
it exhibits a promise of hope after death." We see, therefore, the
propriety of adopting this color in the masonic system as a symbol of
purity. This symbolism pervades the whole of the ritual, from the lowest
to the highest degree, wherever white vestments or white decorations are
As to the material of the apron, this is imperatively required to be of
lamb-skin. No other substance, such as linen, silk, or satin, could be
substituted without entirely destroying the symbolism of the vestment.
Now, the lamb has, as the ritual expresses it, "been, in all ages, deemed
an emblem of innocence;" but more particularly in the Jewish and Christian
churches has this symbolism been observed. Instances of this need hardly
be cited. They abound throughout the Old Testament, where we learn that a
lamb was selected by the Israelites for their sin and burnt offerings, and
in the New, where the word _lamb_ is almost constantly employed as
synonymous with innocence. "The paschal lamb," says Didron, "which was
eaten by the Israelites on the night preceding their departure, is the
type of that other divine Lamb, of whom Christians are to partake at
Easter, in order thereby to free themselves from the bondage in which they
are held by vice." The paschal lamb, a lamb bearing a cross, was,
therefore, from an early period, depicted by the Christians as referring
to Christ crucified, "that spotless Lamb of God, who was slain from the
foundation of the world."
The material, then, of the apron, unites with its color to give to the
investiture of a mason the symbolic signification of purity. This, then,
together with the fact which I have already shown, that the ceremony of
investiture was common to all the ancient religious rites, will form
another proof of the identity of origin between these and the masonic
This symbolism also indicates the sacred and religious character which its
founders sought to impose upon Freemasonry, and to which both the moral
and physical qualifications of our candidates undoubtedly have a
reference, since it is with the masonic lodge as it was with the Jewish
church, where it was declared that "no man that had a blemish should come
nigh unto the altar;" and with the heathen priesthood, among whom we are
told that it was thought to be a dishonor to the gods to be served by any
one that was maimed, lame, or in any other way imperfect; and with both,
also, in requiring that no one should approach the sacred things who was
not pure and uncorrupt.
The pure, unspotted lamb-skin apron is, then, in Masonry, symbolic of that
perfection of body and purity of mind which are essential qualifications
in all who would participate in its sacred mysteries.
The Symbolism of the Gloves.
The investiture with the gloves is very closely connected with the
investiture with the apron, and the consideration of the symbolism of the
one naturally follows the consideration of the symbolism of the other.
In the continental rites of Masonry, as practised in France, in Germany,
and in other countries of Europe, it is an invariable custom to present
the newly-initiated candidate not only, as we do, with a white leather
apron, but also with two pairs of white kid gloves, one a man's pair for
himself, and the other a woman's, to be presented by him in turn to his
wife or his betrothed, according to the custom of the German masons, or,
according to the French, to the female whom he most esteems, which,
indeed, amounts, or should amount, to the same thing.
There is in this, of course, as there is in everything else which pertains
to Freemasonry, a symbolism. The gloves given to the candidate for himself
are intended to teach him that the acts of a mason should be as pure and
spotless as the gloves now given to him. In the German lodges, the word
used for _acts_ is of course _handlungen_, or _handlings_, "the works of
his hands," which makes the symbolic idea more impressive.
Dr. Robert Plott--no friend of Masonry, but still an historian of much
research--says, in his "Natural History of Staffordshire," that the
Society of Freemasons, in his time (and he wrote in 1660), presented their
candidates with gloves for themselves and their wives. This shows that the
custom still preserved on the continent of Europe was formerly practised
in England, although there as well as in America, it is discontinued,
which is, perhaps, to be regretted.
But although the presentation of the gloves to the candidate is no longer
practised as a ceremony in England or America, yet the use of them as a
part of the proper professional clothing of a mason in the duties of the
lodge, or in processions, is still retained, and in many well-regulated
lodges the members are almost as regularly clothed in their white gloves
as in their white aprons.
The symbolism of the gloves, it will be admitted, is, in fact, but a
modification of that of the apron. They both signify the same thing; both
are allusive to a purification of life. "Who shall ascend," says the
Psalmist, "into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy
place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." The apron may be said
to refer to the "pure heart," the gloves to the "clean hands." Both are
significant of purification--of that purification which was always
symbolized by the ablution which preceded the ancient initiations into the
sacred Mysteries. But while our American and English masons have adhered
only to the apron, and rejected the gloves as a Masonic symbol, the
latter appear to be far more important in symbolic science, because the
allusions to pure or clean hands are abundant in all the ancient writers.
"Hands," says Wemyss, in his "Clavis Symbolica," "are the symbols of human
actions; pure hands are pure actions; unjust hands are deeds of
injustice." There are numerous references in sacred and profane writers to
this symbolism. The washing of the hands has the outward sign of an
internal purification. Hence the Psalmist says, "I will wash my hands in
innocence, and I will encompass thine altar, Jehovah."
In the ancient Mysteries the washing of the hands was always an
introductory ceremony to the initiation, and, of course, it was used
symbolically to indicate the necessity of purity from crime as a
qualification of those who sought admission into the sacred rites; and
hence on a temple in the Island of Crete this inscription was placed:
"Cleanse your feet, wash your hands, and then enter."
Indeed, the washing of hands, as symbolic of purity, was among the
ancients a peculiarly religious rite. No one dared to pray to the gods
until he had cleansed his hands. Thus Homer makes Hector say,--
"Χερσὶ δ' ἀνίπτοισιν Διῒλείβειν Ἃζομαι."--_Iliad_, vi. 266.
"I dread with unwashed hands to bring
My incensed wine to Jove an offering."
In a similar spirit of religion, Æneas, when leaving burning Troy, refuses
to enter the temple of Ceres until his hands, polluted by recent strife,
had been washed in the living stream.
"Me bello e tanto digressum et cæde recenti,
Attrectare nefas, donec me flumine vivo
Abluero."--_Æn._ ii. 718.
"In me, now fresh from war and recent strife,
'Tis impious the sacred things to touch
Till in the living stream myself I bathe."
The same practice prevailed among the Jews, and a striking instance of the
symbolism is exhibited in that well-known action of Pilate, who, when the
Jews clamored for Jesus, that they might crucify him, appeared before the
people, and, having taken water, washed his hands, saying at the same
time, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man. See ye to it." In the
Christian church of the middle ages, gloves were always worn by bishops or
priests when in the performance of ecclesiastical functions. They were
made of linen, and were white; and Durandus, a celebrated ritualist, says
that "by the white gloves were denoted chastity and purity, because the
hands were thus kept clean and free from all impurity."
There is no necessity to extend examples any further. There is no doubt
that the use of the gloves in Masonry is a symbolic idea borrowed from the
ancient and universal language of symbolism, and was intended, like the
apron, to denote the necessity of purity of life.
We have thus traced the gloves and the apron to the same symbolic source.
Let us see if we cannot also derive them from the same historic origin.
The apron evidently owes its adoption in Freemasonry to the use of that
necessary garment by the operative masons of the middle ages. It is one of
the most positive evidences--indeed we may say, absolutely, the most
tangible evidence--of the derivation of our speculative science from an
operative art. The builders, who associated in companies, who traversed
Europe, and were engaged in the construction of palaces and cathedrals,
have left to us, as their descendants, their name, their technical
language, and that distinctive piece of clothing by which they protected
their garments from the pollutions of their laborious employment. Did they
also bequeath to us their gloves? This is a question which some modern
discoveries will at last enable us to solve.
M. Didron, in his "Annales Archeologiques," presents us with an engraving,
copied from the painted glass of a window in the cathedral of Chartres, in
France. The painting was executed in the thirteenth century, and
represents a number of operative masons at work. _Three_ of them are
adorned with laurel crowns. May not these be intended to represent the
three officers of a lodge? All of the Masons wear gloves. M. Didron
remarks that in the old documents which he has examined, mention is often
made of gloves which are intended to be presented to masons and
stone-cutters. In a subsequent number of the "Annales," he gives the
following three examples of this fact:--
In the year 1331, the Chatelan of Villaines, in Duemois, bought a
considerable quantity of gloves, to be given to the workmen, in order, as
it is said, "to shield their hands from the stone and lime."
In October, 1383, as he learns from a document of that period, three dozen
pairs of gloves were bought and distributed to the masons when they
commenced the buildings at the Chartreuse of Dijon.
And, lastly, in 1486 or 1487, twenty-two pair of gloves were given to the
masons and stone-cutters who were engaged in work at the city of Amiens.
It is thus evident that the builders--the operative masons--of the middle
ages wore gloves to protect their hands from the effects of their work.
It is equally evident that the speculative masons have received from their
operative predecessors the gloves as well as the apron, both of which,
being used by the latter for practical uses, have been, in the spirit of
symbolism, appropriated by the former to "a more noble and glorious
The Rite of Circumambulation.
The _rite of circumambulation_ will supply us with another ritualistic
symbol, in which we may again trace the identity of the origin of
Freemasonry with that of the religious and mystical ceremonies of the
"Circumambulation" is the name given by sacred archaeologists to that
religious rite in the ancient initiations which consisted in a formal
procession around the altar, or other holy and consecrated object.
The prevalence of this rite among the ancients appears to have been
universal, and it originally (as I shall have occasion to show) alluded to
the apparent course of the sun in the firmament, which is from east to
west by the way of the south.
In ancient Greece, when the priests were engaged in the rites of
sacrifice, they and the people always walked three times around the altar
while chanting a sacred hymn or ode. Sometimes, while the people stood
around the altar, the rite of circumambulation was performed by the
priest alone, who, turning towards the right hand, went around it, and
sprinkled it with meal and holy water. In making this circumambulation, it
was considered absolutely necessary that the right side should always be
next to the altar, and consequently, that the procession should move from
the east to the south, then to the west, next to the north, and afterwards
to the east again. It was in this way that the apparent revolution was
This ceremony the Greeks called moving εϗ δεξια εν δεξια, _from the right
to the right_, which was the direction of the motion, and the Romans
applied to it the term _dextrovorsum_, or _dextrorsum_, which signifies
the same thing. Thus Plautus makes Palinurus, a character in his comedy of
"Curculio," say, "If you would do reverence to the gods, you must turn to
the right hand." Gronovius, in commenting on this passage of Plautus,
says, "In worshipping and praying to the gods they were accustomed to
_turn to the right hand_."
A hymn of Callimachus has been preserved, which is said to have been
chanted by the priests of Apollo at Delos, while performing this ceremony
of circumambulation, the substance of which is, "We imitate the example of
the sun, and follow his benevolent course."
It will be observed that this circumambulation around the altar was
accompanied by the singing or chanting of a sacred ode. Of the three parts
of the ode, the _strophe_, the _antistrophe_, and the _epode_, each was to
be sung at a particular part of the procession. The analogy between this
chanting of an ode by the ancients and the recitation of a passage of
Scripture in the masonic circumambulation, will be at once apparent.
Among the Romans, the ceremony of circumambulation was always used in the
rites of sacrifice, of expiation or purification. Thus Virgil describes
Corynasus as purifying his companions, at the funeral of Misenus, by
passing three times around them while aspersing them with the lustral
waters; and to do so conveniently, it was necessary that he should have
moved with his right hand towards them.
"Idem ter socios pura circumtulit unda,
Spargens rore levi et ramo felicis olivæ."
_Æn._ vi. 229.
"Thrice with pure water compassed he the crew,
Sprinkling, with olive branch, the gentle dew."
In fact, so common was it to unite the ceremony of circumambulation with
that of expiation or purification, or, in other words, to make a
circuitous procession, in performing the latter rite, that the term
_lustrare_, whose primitive meaning is "to purify," came at last to be
synonymous with _circuire_, to walk round anything; and hence a
purification and a circumambulation were often expressed by the same word.
Among the Hindoos, the same rite of circumambulation has always been
practised. As an instance, we may cite the ceremonies which are to be
performed by a Brahmin upon first rising from bed in the morning, an
accurate account of which has been given by Mr. Colebrooke in the "Asiatic
Researches." The priest, having first adored the sun while directing his
face to the east, then walks towards the west by the way of the south,
saying, at the same time, "I follow the course of the sun," which he thus
explains: "As the sun in his course moves round the world by the way of
the south, so do I follow that luminary, to obtain the benefit arising
from a journey round the earth by the way of the south." 
Lastly, I may refer to the preservation of this rite among the Druids,
whose "mystical dance" around the _cairn_, or sacred stones, was nothing
more nor less than the rite of circumambulation. On these occasions the
priest always made three circuits, from east to west, by the right hand,
around the altar or cairn, accompanied by all the worshippers. And so
sacred was the rite once considered, that we learn from Toland that in
the Scottish Isles, once a principal seat of the Druidical religion, the
people "never come to the ancient sacrificing and fire-hallowing _cairns_,
but they walk three times around them, from east to west, according to the
course of the sun." This sanctified tour, or round by the south, he
observes, is called _Deiseal_, as the contrary, or unhallowed one by the
north, is called _Tuapholl_. And he further remarks, that this word
_Deiseal_ was derived "from _Deas_, the _right_ (understanding _hand_) and
_soil_, one of the ancient names of the sun, the right hand in this round
being ever next the heap."
I might pursue these researches still further, and trace this rite of
circumambulation to other nations of antiquity; but I conceive that enough
has been said to show its universality, as well as the tenacity with which
the essential ceremony of performing the motion a mystical number of
times, and always by the right hand, from the east, through the south, to
the west, was preserved. And I think that this singular analogy to the
same rite in Freemasonry must lead us to the legitimate conclusion, that
the common source of all these rites is to be found in the identical
origin of the Spurious Freemasonry or pagan mysteries, and the pure,
Primitive Freemasonry, from which the former seceded only to be
In reviewing what has been said on this subject, it will at once be
perceived that the essence of the ancient rite consisted in making the
circumambulation around the altar, from the east to the south, from the
south to the west, thence to the north, and to the east again.
Now, in this the masonic rite of circumambulation strictly agrees with the
But this circuit by the right hand, it is admitted, was done as a
representation of the sun's motion. It was a symbol of the sun's apparent
course around the earth.
And so, then, here again we have in Masonry that old and often-repeated
allusion to sun-worship, which has already been seen in the officers of a
lodge, and in the point within a circle. And as the circumambulation is
made around the lodge, just as the sun was supposed to move around the
earth, we are brought back to the original symbolism with which we
commenced--that the lodge is a symbol of the world.
The Rite of Intrusting, and the Symbolism of Light.
The _rite of intrusting_, to which we are now to direct our attention,
will supply us with many important and interesting symbols.
There is an important period in the ceremony of masonic initiation, when
the candidate is about to receive a full communication of the mysteries
through which he has passed, and to which the trials and labors which he
has undergone can only entitle him. This ceremony is technically called
the "_rite of intrusting_," because it is then that the aspirant begins to
be intrusted with that for the possession of which he was seeking.
It is equivalent to what, in the ancient Mysteries, was called the
"autopsy,"  or the seeing of what only the initiated were permitted to
This _rite of intrusting_ is, of course, divided into several parts or
periods; for the _aporreta_, or secret things of Masonry, are not to be
given at once, but in gradual progression. It begins, however, with the
communication of LIGHT, which, although but a preparation for the
development of the mysteries which are to follow, must be considered as
one of the most important symbols in the whole science of masonic
symbolism. So important, indeed, is it, and so much does it pervade with
its influence and its relations the whole masonic system, that Freemasonry
itself anciently received, among other appellations, that of Lux, or
Light, to signify that it is to be regarded as that sublime doctrine of
Divine Truth by which the path of him who has attained it is to be
illuminated in his pilgrimage of life.
The Hebrew cosmogonist commences his description of the creation by the
declaration that "God said, Let there be light, and there was light"--a
phrase which, in the more emphatic form that it has received in the
original language of "Be light, and light was,"  is said to have won
the praise, for its sublimity, of the greatest of Grecian critics. "The
singularly emphatic summons," says a profound modern writer, "by which
light is called into existence, is probably owing to the preëminent
utility and glory of that element, together with its mysterious nature,
which made it seem as
'The God of this new world,'
and won for it the earliest adoration of mankind."
Light was, in accordance with this old religious sentiment, the great
object of attainment in all the ancient religious Mysteries. It was there,
as it is now, in Masonry, made the symbol of _truth_ and _knowledge_. This
was always its ancient symbolism, and we must never lose sight of this
emblematic meaning, when we are considering the nature and signification
of masonic light. When the candidate makes a demand for light, it is not
merely for that material light which is to remove a physical darkness;
that is only the outward form, which conceals the inward symbolism. He
craves an intellectual illumination which will dispel the darkness of
mental and moral ignorance, and bring to his view, as an eye-witness, the
sublime truths of religion, philosophy, and science, which it is the great
design of Freemasonry to teach.
In all the ancient systems this reverence for light, as the symbol of
truth, was predominant. In the Mysteries of every nation, the candidate
was made to pass, during his initiation, through scenes of utter darkness,
and at length terminated his trials by an admission to the
splendidly-illuminated sacellum, or sanctuary, where he was said to have
attained pure and perfect light, and where he received the necessary
instructions which were to invest him with that knowledge of the divine
truth which it had been the object of all his labors to gain, and the
design of the institution, into which he had been initiated, to bestow.
_Light_, therefore, became synonymous with truth and knowledge, and
_darkness_ with falsehood and ignorance. We shall find this symbolism
pervading not only the institutions, but the very languages, of antiquity.
Thus, among the Hebrews, the word AUR, in the singular, signified
_light_, but in the plural, AURIM, it denoted the revelation of the divine
will; and the _aurim _ and _thummim_, literally the _lights_ and _truths_,
constituted a part of the breastplate whence the high priest obtained
oracular responses to the questions which he proposed.
There is a peculiarity about the word "light," in the old Egyptian
language, which is well worth consideration in this connection. Among the
Egyptians, the _hare_ was the hieroglyphic of _eyes that are open_; and it
was adopted because that timid animal was supposed never to close his
organs of vision, being always on the watch for his enemies. The hare was
afterwards adopted by the priests as a symbol of the mental illumination
or mystic light which was revealed to the neophytes, in the contemplation
of divine truth, during the progress of their initiation; and hence,
according to Champollion, the hare was also the symbol of Osiris, their
chief god; thus showing the intimate connection which they believed to
exist between the process of initiation into their sacred rites and the
contemplation of the divine nature. But the Hebrew word for hare is
ARNaBeT. Now, this is compounded of the two words AUR, _light_, and NaBaT,
_to behold_, and therefore the word which in the Egyptian denoted
_initiation_, in the Hebrew signified _to behold the light_. In two
nations so intimately connected in history as the Hebrew and the Egyptian,
such a coincidence could not have been accidental. It shows the prevalence
of the sentiment, at that period, that the communication of light was the
prominent design of the Mysteries--so prominent that the one was made the
synonyme of the other.
The worship of light, either in its pure essence or in the forms of
sun-worship and fire-worship, because the sun and the fire were causes of
light, was among the earliest and most universal superstitions of the
world. Light was considered as the primordial source of all that was holy
and intelligent; and darkness, as its opposite, was viewed as but another
name for evil and ignorance. Dr. Beard, in an article on this subject, in
Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, attributes this view of the
divine nature of light, which was entertained by the nations of the East,
to the fact that, in that part of the world, light "has a clearness and
brilliancy, is accompanied by an intensity of heat, and is followed in its
influence by a largeness of good, of which the inhabitants of less genial
climates have no conception. Light easily and naturally became, in
consequence, with Orientals, a representative of the highest human good.
All the more joyous emotions of the mind, all the pleasing sensations of
the frame, all the happy hours of domestic intercourse, were described
under imagery derived from light. The transition was natural--from earthly
to heavenly, from corporeal to spiritual things; and so light came to
typify true religion and the felicity which it imparts. But as light not
only came from God, but also makes man's way clear before him, so it was
employed to signify moral truth, and preëminently that divine system of
truth which is set forth in the Bible, from its earliest gleamings onward
to the perfect day of the Great Sun of Righteousness."
I am inclined to believe that in this passage the learned author has
erred, not in the definition of the symbol, but in his deduction of its
origin. Light became the object of religious veneration, not because of
the brilliancy and clearness of a particular sky, nor the warmth and
genial influence of a particular climate,--for the worship was universal,
in Scandinavia as in India,--but because it was the natural and inevitable
result of the worship of the sun, the chief deity of Sabianism--a faith
which pervaded to an extraordinary extent the whole religious sentiment of
Light was venerated because it was an emanation from the sun, and, in the
materialism of the ancient faith, _light_ and _darkness_ were both
personified as positive existences, the one being the enemy of the other.
Two principles were thus supposed to reign over the world, antagonistic to
each other, and each alternately presiding over the destinies of
The contests between the good and evil principle, symbolized by light and
darkness, composed a very large part of the ancient mythology in all
Among the Egyptians, Osiris was light, or the sun; and his arch-enemy,
Typhon, who ultimately destroyed him, was the representative of darkness.
Zoroaster, the father of the ancient Persian religion, taught the same
doctrine, and called the principle of light, or good, Ormuzd, and the
principle of darkness, or evil, Ahriman. The former, born of the purest
light, and the latter, sprung from utter darkness, are, in this mythology,
continually making war on each other.
Manes, or Manichaeus, the founder of the sect of Manichees, in the third
century, taught that there are two principles from which all things
proceed; the one is a pure and subtile matter, called Light, and the other
a gross and corrupt substance, called Darkness. Each of these is subject
to the dominion of a superintending being, whose existence is from all
eternity. The being who presides over the light is called _God_; he that
rules over the darkness is called _Hyle_, or _Demon_. The ruler of the
light is supremely happy, good, and benevolent, while the ruler over
darkness is unhappy, evil, and malignant.
Pythagoras also maintained this doctrine of two antagonistic principles.
He called the one, unity, _light_, the right hand, equality, stability,
and a straight line; the other he named binary, _darkness_, the left hand,
inequality, instability, and a curved line. Of the colors, he attributed
white to the good principle, and black to the evil one.
The Cabalists gave a prominent place to light in their system of
cosmogony. They taught that, before the creation of the world, all space
was filled with what they called _Aur en soph_, or the _Eternal Light_,
and that when the Divine Mind determined or willed the production of
Nature, the Eternal Light withdrew to a central point, leaving around it
an empty space, in which the process of creation went on by means of
emanations from the central mass of light. It is unnecessary to enter into
the Cabalistic account of creation; it is sufficient here to remark that
all was done through the mediate influence of the _Aur en soph_, or
eternal light, which produces coarse matter, but one degree above
nonentity, only when it becomes so attenuated as to be lost in darkness.
The Brahminical doctrine was, that "light and darkness are esteemed the
world's eternal ways; he who walketh in the former returneth not; that is
to say, he goeth to eternal bliss; whilst he who walketh in the latter
cometh back again upon earth," and is thus destined to pass through
further transmigrations, until his soul is perfectly purified by
In all the ancient systems of initiation the candidate was shrouded in
darkness, as a preparation for the reception of light. The duration varied
in the different rites. In the Celtic Mysteries of Druidism, the period in
which the aspirant was immersed in darkness was nine days and nights;
among the Greeks, at Eleusis, it was three times as long; and in the still
severer rites of Mithras, in Persia, fifty days of darkness, solitude, and
fasting were imposed upon the adventurous neophyte, who, by these
excessive trials, was at length entitled to the full communication of the
light of knowledge.
Thus it will be perceived that the religious sentiment of a good and an
evil principle gave to darkness, in the ancient symbolism, a place equally
as prominent as that of light.
The same religious sentiment of the ancients, modified, however, in its
details, by our better knowledge of divine things, has supplied
Freemasonry with a double symbolism--that of _Light_ and _Darkness_.
Darkness is the symbol of initiation. It is intended to remind the
candidate of his ignorance, which Masonry is to enlighten; of his evil
nature, which Masonry is to purify; of the world, in whose obscurity he
has been wandering, and from which Masonry is to rescue him.
Light, on the other hand, is the symbol of the autopsy, the sight of the
mysteries, the intrusting, the full fruition of masonic truth and
Initiation precedes the communication of knowledge in Masonry, as darkness
preceded light in the old cosmogonies. Thus, in Genesis, we see that in
the beginning "the world was without form, and void, and darkness was on
the face of the deep." The Chaldean cosmogony taught that in the beginning
"all was darkness and water." The Phoenicians supposed that "the beginning
of all things was a wind of black air, and a chaos dark as Erebus." 
But out of all this darkness sprang forth light, at the divine command,
and the sublime phrase, "Let there be light," is repeated, in some
substantially identical form, in all the ancient histories of creation.
So, too, out of the mysterious darkness of Masonry comes the full blaze of
masonic light. One must precede the other, as the evening preceded the
morning. "So the evening and the morning were the first day."
This thought is preserved in the great motto of the Order, "_Lux e
tenebris_"--Light out of darkness. It is equivalent to this other
sentence: Truth out of initiation. _Lux_, or light, is truth; _tenebrae_,
or darkness, is initiation.
It is a beautiful and instructive portion of our symbolism, this
connection of darkness and light, and well deserves a further
"Genesis and the cosmogonies," says Portal, "mention the antagonism of
light and darkness. The form of this fable varies according to each
nation, but the foundation is everywhere the same. Under the symbol of the
creation of the world it presents the picture of regeneration and
Plutarch says that to die is to be initiated into the greater Mysteries;
and the Greek word τελευτᾷν, which signifies _to die_, means also _to be
initiated_. But black, which is the symbolic color of darkness, is also
the symbol of death. And hence, again, darkness, like death, is the symbol
of initiation. It was for this reason that all the ancient initiations
were performed at night. The celebration of the Mysteries was always
nocturnal. The same custom prevails in Freemasonry, and the explanation is
the same. Death and the resurrection were taught in the Mysteries, as
they are in Freemasonry. The initiation was the lesson of death. The full
fruition or autopsy, the reception of light, was the lesson of
regeneration or resurrection.
Light is, therefore, a fundamental symbol in Freemasonry. It is, in fact,
the first important symbol that is presented to the neophyte in his
instructions, and contains within itself the very essence of Speculative
Masonry, which is nothing more than the contemplation of intellectual
light or truth.
Symbolism of the Corner-Stone.
We come next, in a due order of precedence, to the consideration of the
symbolism connected with an important ceremony in the ritual of the first
degree of Masonry, which refers to the north-east corner of the lodge. In
this ceremony the candidate becomes the representative of a spiritual
corner-stone. And hence, to thoroughly comprehend the true meaning of the
emblematic ceremony, it is essential that we should investigate the
symbolism of the _corner-stone_.
The corner-stone, as the foundation on which the entire building is
supposed to rest, is, of course, the most important stone in the whole
edifice. It is, at least, so considered by operative masons. It is laid
with impressive ceremonies; the assistance of speculative masons is often,
and always ought to be, invited, to give dignity to the occasion; and the
event is viewed by the workmen as an important era in the construction of
In the rich imagery of Orientalism, the corner-stone is frequently
referred to as the appropriate symbol of a chief or prince who is the
defence and bulwark of his people, and more particularly in Scripture, as
denoting that promised Messiah who was to be the sure prop and support of
all who should put their trust in his divine mission.
To the various properties that are necessary to constitute a true
corner-stone,--its firmness and durability, its perfect form, and its
peculiar position as the connecting link between the walls,--we must
attribute the important character that it has assumed in the language of
symbolism. Freemasonry, which alone, of all existing institutions, has
preserved this ancient and universal language, could not, as it may well
be supposed, have neglected to adopt the corner-stone among its most
cherished and impressive symbols; and hence it has referred to it many of
its most significant lessons of morality and truth.
I have already alluded to that peculiar mode of masonic symbolism by which
the speculative mason is supposed to be engaged in the construction of a
spiritual temple, in imitation of, or, rather, in reference to, that
material one which was erected by his operative predecessors at Jerusalem.
Let us again, for a few moments, direct our attention to this important
fact, and revert to the connection which originally existed between the
operative and speculative divisions of Freemasonry. This is an essential
introduction to any inquiry into the symbolism of the corner-stone.
The difference between operative and speculative Masonry is simply
this--that while the former was engaged in the construction of a material
temple, formed, it is true, of the most magnificent materials which the
quarries of Palestine, the mountains of Lebanon, and the golden shores of
Ophir could contribute, the latter occupies itself in the erection of a
spiritual house,--a house not made with hands,--in which, for stones and
cedar, and gold and precious stones, are substituted the virtues of the
heart, the pure emotions of the soul, the warm affections gushing forth
from the hidden fountains of the spirit, so that the very presence of
Jehovah, our Father and our God, shall be enshrined within us as his
Shekinah was in the holy of holies of the material temple at Jerusalem.
The Speculative Mason, then, if he rightly comprehends the scope and
design of his profession, is occupied, from his very first admission into
the order until the close of his labors and his life,--and the true
mason's labor ends only with his life,--in the construction, the
adornment, and the completion of this spiritual temple of his body. He
lays its foundation in a firm belief and an unshaken confidence in the
wisdom, power, and goodness of God. This is his first step. Unless his
trust is in God, and in him only, he can advance no further than the
threshold of initiation. And then he prepares his materials with the gauge
and gavel of Truth, raises the walls by the plumb-line of Rectitude,
squares his work with the square of Virtue, connects the whole with the
cement of Brotherly Love, and thus skilfullv erects the living edifice of
thoughts, and words, and deeds, in accordance with the designs laid down
by the Master Architect of the universe in the great Book of Revelation.
The aspirant for masonic light--the Neophyte--on his first entrance within
our sacred porch, prepares himself for this consecrated labor of erecting
within his own bosom a fit dwelling-place for the Divine Spirit, and thus
commences the noble work by becoming himself the corner-stone on which
this spiritual edifice is to be erected.
Here, then, is the beginning of the symbolism of the corner-stone; and it
is singularly curious to observe how every portion of the archetype has
been made to perform its appropriate duty in thoroughly carrying out the
As, for example, this symbolic reference of the corner-stone of a material
edifice to a mason, when, at his first initiation, he commences the
intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his heart, is
beautifully sustained in the allusions to all the various parts and
qualities which are to be found in a "well-formed, true and trusty"
corner-stone. Its form and substance are both seized by the
comprehensive grasp of the symbolic science.
Let us trace this symbolism in its minute details. And, first, as to the
form of the corner-stone.
The corner-stone of an edifice must be perfectly square on its surfaces,
lest, by a violation of this true geometric figure, the walls to be
erected upon it should deviate from the required line of perpendicularity
which can alone give strength and proportion to the building.
Perfectly square on its surfaces, it is, in its form and solid contents, a
cube. Now, the square and the cube are both important and significant
The square is an emblem of morality, or the strict performance of every
duty. Among the Greeks, who were a highly poetical and imaginative
people, the square was deemed a figure of perfection, and the ἀνὴρ
τετράγωνος--"the square or cubical man," as the words may be
translated--was a term used to designate a man of unsullied integrity.
Hence one of their most eminent metaphysicians has said that "he who
valiantly sustains the shocks of adverse fortune, demeaning himself
uprightly, is truly good and of a square posture, without reproof; and he
who would assume such a square posture should often subject himself to the
perfectly square test of justice and integrity."
The cube, in the language of symbolism, denotes truth. Among the
pagan mythologists, Mercury, or Hermes, was always represented by a
cubical stone, because he was the type of truth, and the same form
was adopted by the Israelites in the construction of the tabernacle, which
was to be the dwelling-place of divine truth.
And, then, as to its material: This, too, is an essential element of all
symbolism. Constructed of a material finer and more polished than that
which constitutes the remainder of the edifice, often carved with
appropriate devices and fitted for its distinguished purpose by the utmost
skill of the sculptor's art, it becomes the symbol of that beauty of
holiness with which the Hebrew Psalmist has said that we are to worship
The ceremony, then, of the north-east corner of the lodge, since it
derives all its typical value from this symbolism of the corner-stone, was
undoubtedly intended to portray, in this consecrated language, the
necessity of integrity and stability of conduct, of truthfulness and
uprightness of character, and of purity and holiness of life, which, just
at that time and in that place, the candidate is most impressively charged
But there is also a symbolism about the position of the corner-stone,
which is well worthy of attention. It is familiar to every one,--even to
those who are without the pale of initiation,--that the custom of laying
the corner-stones of public buildings has always been performed by the
masonic order with peculiar and impressive ceremonies, and that this stone
is invariably deposited in the north-east corner of the foundation of the
intended structure. Now, the question naturally suggests itself, Whence
does this ancient and invariable usage derive its origin? Why may not the
stone be deposited in any other corner or portion of the edifice, as
convenience or necessity may dictate? The custom of placing the
foundation-stone in the north-east corner must have been originally
adopted for some good and sufficient reason; for we have a right to
suppose that it was not an arbitrary selection. Was it in reference
to the ceremony which takes place in the lodge? Or is that in reference
to the position of the material stone? No matter which has the precedence
in point of time, the principle is the same. The position of the stone in
the north-east corner of the building is altogether symbolic, and the
symbolism exclusively alludes to certain doctrines which are taught in the
speculative science of Masonry.
The interpretation, I conceive, is briefly this: Every Speculative Mason
is familiar with the fact that the east, as the source of material light,
is a symbol of his own order, which professes to contain within its bosom
the pure light of truth. As, in the physical world, the morning of each
day is ushered into existence by the reddening dawn of the eastern sky,
whence the rising sun dispenses his illuminating and prolific rays to
every portion of the visible horizon, warming the whole earth with his
embrace of light, and giving new-born life and energy to flower and tree,
and beast and man, who, at the magic touch, awake from the sleep of
darkness, so in the moral world, when intellectual night was, in the
earliest days, brooding over the world, it was from the ancient priesthood
living in the east that those lessons of God, of nature, and of humanity
first emanated, which, travelling westward, revealed to man his future
destiny, and his dependence on a superior power. Thus every new and true
doctrine, coming from these "wise men of the east," was, as it were, a new
day arising, and dissipating the clouds of intellectual darkness and
error. It was a universal opinion among the ancients that the first
learning came from the east; and the often-quoted line of Bishop
"Westward the course of empire takes its way"--
is but the modern utterance of an ancient thought, for it was always
believed that the empire of truth and knowledge was advancing from the
east to the west.
Again: the north, as the point in the horizon which is most remote from
the vivifying rays of the sun when at his meridian height, has, with equal
metaphorical propriety, been called the place of darkness, and is,
therefore, symbolic of the profane world, which has not yet been
penetrated and illumined by the intellectual rays of masonic light. All
history concurs in recording the fact that, in the early ages of the
world, its northern portion was enveloped in the most profound moral and
mental darkness. It was from the remotest regions of Northern Europe that
those barbarian hordes "came down like the wolf on the fold," and
devastated the fair plains of the south, bringing with them a dark curtain
of ignorance, beneath whose heavy folds the nations of the world lay for
centuries overwhelmed. The extreme north has ever been, physically and
intellectually, cold, and dark, and dreary. Hence, in Masonry, the north
has ever been esteemed the place of darkness; and, in obedience to this
principle, no symbolic light is allowed to illumine the northern part of
The east, then, is, in Masonry, the symbol of the order, and the north the
symbol of the profane world.
Now, the spiritual corner-stone is deposited in the north-east corner of
the lodge, because it is symbolic of the position of the neophyte, or
candidate, who represents it in his relation to the order and to the
world. From the profane world he has just emerged. Some of its
imperfections are still upon him; some of its darkness is still about him;
he as yet belongs in part to the north. But he is striving for light and
truth; the pathway upon which he has entered is directed towards the east.
His allegiance, if I may use the word, is divided. He is not altogether a
profane, nor altogether a mason. If he were wholly in the world, the north
would be the place to find him--the north, which is the reign of darkness.
If he were wholly in the order,--a Master Mason,--the east would have
received him--the east, which is the place of light. But he is neither; he
is an Apprentice, with some of the ignorance of the world cleaving to him,
and some of the light of the order beaming upon him. And hence this
divided allegiance--this double character--this mingling of the departing
darkness of the north with the approaching brightness of the east--is well
expressed, in our symbolism, by the appropriate position of the spiritual
corner-stone in the north-east corner of the lodge. One surface of the
stone faces the north, and the other surface faces the east. It is neither
wholly in the one part nor wholly in the other, and in so far it is a
symbol of initiation not fully developed--that which is incomplete and
imperfect, and is, therefore, fitly represented by the recipient of the
first degree, at the very moment of his initiation.
But the strength and durability of the corner-stone are also eminently
suggestive of symbolic ideas. To fulfil its design as the foundation and
support of the massive building whose erection it precedes, it should be
constructed of a material which may outlast all other parts of the
edifice, so that when that "eternal ocean whose waves are years" shall
have ingulfed all who were present at the construction of the building in
the vast vortex of its ever-flowing current; and when generation after
generation shall have passed away, and the crumbling stones of the ruined
edifice shall begin to attest the power of time and the evanescent nature
of all human undertakings, the corner-stone will still remain to tell, by
its inscriptions, and its form, and its beauty, to every passer-by, that
there once existed in that, perhaps then desolate, spot, a building
consecrated to some noble or some sacred purpose by the zeal and
liberality of men who now no longer live.
So, too, do this permanence and durability of the corner-stone, in
contrast with the decay and ruin of the building in whose foundations it
was placed, remind the mason that when this earthly house of his
tabernacle shall have passed away, he has within him a sure foundation of
eternal life--a corner-stone of immortality--an emanation from that Divine
Spirit which pervades all nature, and which, therefore, must survive the
tomb, and rise, triumphant and eternal, above the decaying dust of death
and the grave.
It is in this way that the student of masonic symbolism is reminded by the
corner-stone--by its form, its position, and its permanence--of
significant doctrines of duty, and virtue, and religious truth, which it
is the great object of Masonry to teach.
But I have said that the material corner-stone is deposited in its
appropriate place with solemn rites and ceremonies, for which the order
has established a peculiar ritual. These, too, have a beautiful and
significant symbolism, the investigation of which will next attract our
And here it may be observed, in passing, that the accompaniment of such an
act of consecration to a particular purpose, with solemn rites and
ceremonies, claims our respect, from the prestige that it has of all
antiquity. A learned writer on symbolism makes, on this subject, the
following judicious remarks, which may be quoted as a sufficient defence
of our masonic ceremonies:--
"It has been an opinion, entertained in all past ages, that by the
performance of certain acts, things, places, and persons acquire a
character which they would not have had without such performances. The
reason is plain: certain acts signify firmness of purpose, which, by
consigning the object to the intended use, gives it, in the public
opinion, an accordant character. This is most especially true of things,
places, and persons connected with religion and religious worship. After
the performance of certain acts or rites, they are held to be altogether
different from what they were before; they acquire a sacred character, and
in some instances a character absolutely divine. Such are the effects
imagined to be produced by religious dedication." 
The stone, therefore, thus properly constructed, is, when it is to be
deposited by the constituted authorities of our order, carefully examined
with the necessary implements of operative masonry,--the square, the
level, and the plumb,--and declared to be "well-formed, true, and trusty."
This is not a vain nor unmeaning ceremony. It teaches the mason that his
virtues are to be tested by temptation and trial, by suffering and
adversity, before they can be pronounced by the Master Builder of souls to
be materials worthy of the spiritual building of eternal life, fitted "as
living stones, for that house not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens." But if he be faithful, and withstand these trials,--if he shall
come forth from these temptations and sufferings like pure gold from the
refiner's fire,--then, indeed, shall he be deemed "well-formed, true, and
trusty," and worthy to offer "unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
In the ceremony of depositing the corner-stone, the sacred elements of
masonic consecration are then produced, and the stone is solemnly set
apart by pouring corn, wine, and oil upon its surface. Each of these
elements has a beautiful significance in our symbolism.
Collectively, they allude to the Corn of Nourishment, the Wine of
Refreshment, and the Oil of Joy, which are the promised rewards of a
faithful and diligent performance of duty, and often specifically refer to
the anticipated success of the undertaking whose incipiency they have
consecrated. They are, in fact, types and symbols of all those abundant
gifts of Divine Providence for which we are daily called upon to make an
offering of our thanks, and which are enumerated by King David, in his
catalogue of blessings, as "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and
oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."
"Wherefore, my brethren," says Harris, "do you carry _corn, wine, and oil_
in your processions, but to remind you that in the pilgrimage of human
life you are to impart a portion of your bread to feed the hungry, to send
a cup of your wine to cheer the sorrowful, and to pour the healing oil of
your consolation into the wounds which sickness hath made in the bodies,
or affliction rent in the hearts, of your fellow-travellers?" 
But, individually, each of these elements of consecration has also an
appropriate significance, which is well worth investigation.
Corn, in the language of Scripture, is an emblem of the resurrection, and
St. Paul, in that eloquent discourse which is so familiar to all, as a
beautiful argument for the great Christian doctrine of a future life,
adduces the seed of grain, which, being sown, first dieth, and then
quickeneth, as the appropriate type of that corruptible which must put on
incorruption, and of that mortal which must assume immortality. But, in
Masonry, the sprig of acacia, for reasons purely masonic, has been always
adopted as the symbol of immortality, and the ear of corn is appropriated
as the symbol of plenty. This is in accordance with the Hebrew derivation
of the word, as well as with the usage of all ancient nations. The word
_dagan_, ונד which signifies _corn_, is derived from the verb
_dagah_, הנד, _to increase, to multiply_, and in all the ancient
religions the horn or vase, filled with fruits and with grain, was the
recognized symbol of plenty. Hence, as an element of consecration, corn is
intended to remind us of those temporal blessings of life and health, and
comfortable support, which we derive from the Giver of all good, and to
merit which we should strive, with "clean hands and a pure heart," to
erect on the corner-stone of our initiation a spiritual temple, which
shall be adorned with the "beauty of holiness."
Wine is a symbol of that inward and abiding comfort with which the heart
of the man who faithfully performs his part on the great stage of life is
to be refreshed; and as, in the figurative language of the East, Jacob
prophetically promises to Judah, as his reward, that he shall wash his
garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of the grape, it seems
intended, morally, to remind us of those immortal refreshments which, when
the labors of this earthly lodge are forever closed, we shall receive in
the celestial lodge above, where the G.A.O.T.U. forever presides.