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Religious and personal development in freemasonry

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  1. Introduction
  2. The degrees
    1. Entered apprentice degree
    2. Fellowcraft degree
    3. Advanced degrees
  3. Conclusion
  4. Bibliography

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. [...]

[...] In the chamber the Fellow receives the wages of the builders of the Temple: corn, wine, and oil. The corn symbolizes nourishment and sustenance of life. At a more spiritual level it can symbolize resurrection. The wine symbolizes refreshment, health, and spiritual health. It can also symbolize mystical attainment. The oil stands for joy, gladness, and happiness. It also stands for consecration. The tools of the second degree are the Square, the Level, and the Plumb. The Square symbolizes morality, truthfulness, and honesty. [...]

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