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.
[...] 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). [...]
[...] 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. [...]
[...] 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 In modern Freemasonry this initiation process has been replaced by a symbolic test of the candidate conducted by assigned members of the Lodge.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. [...]
[...] 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 Exodus 13:21 it says that when the Israelites escaped from Egypt and traveled in the desert, Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.” The two pillars at the entrance to the second level also symbolize Wisdom and Strength. The candidate acts as the third pillar, or the pillar of Beauty or Balance. [...]
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