Freemasonry started in the 16th century as an organization for spiritual and personal development for free thinkers. At a time when whole new conceptions of the world were opening up, some people wanted to explore new realms of personal evolution. Freemasonry provided a place for such people to gather and discuss their ideas in absolute secrecy and privacy, safe from the control of the government or the church. Freemasonry was open to anyone who worshiped some form of deity, Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, and so on, though much of the basic myth and symbolism of Freemasonry relates to the construction of the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as reported in Hebrew Scripture, later incorporated in the Christian Bible as the Old Testament.
Freemasons developed a series of degrees of Freemasonry that represented the development of the individual on a spiritual or personal level. They also developed symbols and codes that represented this development to the initiated. The symbols were painted on floor cloths or tracing boards that could be laid when a Freemason was initiated into each degree.
[...] The tracing boards or floor cloths for this degree include the symbolism of the earlier degrees: the Checkered Pavement, the two pillars in the porch of the Temple, and the winding staircase. These symbolizes that the candidate is now able to walk in the world in equilibrium and to ascend to the chamber of his inner nature. There is often a dormer window, symbolizing the light of inner knowledge to which the candidate now has access. Tracing boards for the Master degree show the outline of a coffin that contains most of the other symbols on the board. [...]
[...] In English Freemasonry these represent Moses the prophet and Solomon the lawgiver. In the American system, they represent the two patron saints of Freemasonry: John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. The tools of the First degree are the Gavel and 24-inch Gauge or Rule, and sometimes the chisel. These may or may not be pictured with other Masonic tools on the tracing board. The gavel or hammer is an active force, and the chisel directs that force to the appropriate place. [...]
[...] Conclusion Freemasonry is an association originally dedicated to spiritual growth in a time of a new religious freedom. Today, when there is much more opportunity for religious and spiritual experimentation, Freemasonry is no longer a secret society of free thinkers solely dedicated to spiritual and personal growth. It has become a fraternal organization and a charitable organization as well, but the dedication to personal improvement has endured in the symbolism and degrees of Freemasonry. Bibliography Demott, Bobby J. Freemasonry in American Culture and Society. [...]
[...] In the ancient mystery schools an apprentice would prepare for seven years and undergo initiation for that period of time. In modern Freemasonry this initiation process has been replaced by a symbolic test of the candidate conducted by assigned members of the Lodge. The symbolism of the lessons of the Apprentice degree is reflected in the floor cloths or tracing boards used as teaching aids for the candidates and as part of the ceremony. For example, the Rough and Perfect Ashlars are often pictured in the charts for this degree, to symbolize the polishing of the candidate. [...]
[...] Keith, Marsha and Manatt Schuchard, Freemasonry, Secret Societies, and the Continuity of the Occult Traditions in English Literature. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Steiner, Rudolf. The Temple Legend: Freemasonry & Related Occult Movements. London: R. Steiner Press Stevens, James. The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry: An Introductory Study. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle. Majwah, NJ: Paulist Press John Hamill, The Craft: A History of English Freemasonry (Wellingborough, UK: Crucible, 1986). Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry: Or, the Secret of Hiram Abiff (Richmond, VA: Macoy and Masonic Supply Co., 1976). [...]
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