| Friday, December 08, 2006
| THE FREEMASONS
|SHROUDED IN MYSTERY
Speculative Freemasonry went public in 1717 but had been pursued in secret for many years before. There is even a disagreement as to the original term Freemason. It could describe a mason who worked with freestone, which is a fine-grained limestone or sandstone, easily sawn through, but it could also refer to his status as a member of the guild, or the freedom to ply his trade in a municipality.
Most crafts were organized as local guilds, which set standard, fixed prices, controlled the numbers of new craftsmen entering the trade and set limits on production so that supply did not outstrip demand. As stonemason might oftern work on cathedrals, abbeys and castles in remote parts of the country, they would operate outside the remit of a town guild and would thereby affiliate themselves to a lodge connected the construction site.
Even in this arena of research however there is disagreement as to how mobile the population of stonemasons was. One point of view paints a picture of a largely itinerant population, moving from building to building, while another asserts that the larger building projects lasted sometimes for several generatins and therefore would not have been much movement.
What can be confidently stated however is that the use of secret words and signs which is so inherent in modern Freemasonry can be traced back to the operative stonemasons of medieval England.
Once a candidate has been invited to enter the Masonic Order, he is initiated into the First Degree as an Entered Apprentice Mason, which is also referred to as the ground floot of Solomon's Temple in the early days after Freemasonry declared itself to the world, the ceremony would have been held in rooms for hire, perhaps above a tavern, and all the accoutrements would have been temporary.
The symbols on the floor for example, such as the Circle, the Compass and Square would have been drawn in chalk and the entered apprentice given a mop and bucket wipe away all the traces when the ceremony was finished.
Nowadays, with the need for secrecy gone, Masonic symbolism can be intricately and lavishly wrought as the permanent fixtures of an establoshed lodge.
Before the ceremony can proceed, a final interrogation takes place, in which the motives of the canddiate for seeking membership are drawn out. A desire to exploit the connections of the Freemasons disqualifies a candidate for membership. Rather he must express a wish to perfect himself through the acquisition of knowledge and charitable acts towards his fellow men.
If all goes well, the next stage is for the candidate to strip the left side of his body. Nowadays, a special costume is supplied, with a shoe for the right foot but orginally the candidate would have rolled the left trouser leg above the knee and removed the left shoe, and he would slipped his left arm out of his shirt, baring the chest and shoulder.
He is then diversed of all metal objects "hoodwinked", which means blindfolded and a rope called a cable-tow is draped around the neck so that the ends trail on the floor.
The Worshipful Master will ask the Junior Deacon the firct care of a Mason and he will reply:
"To see the Lodge tyled, Worshipful".
"Attend to that part of your duty", the Master tells him,
"and inform the Tyler that we are about to open a Lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons, and direct him to the tyle accordingly".
When the Junior Deacon reports that the door is tyled, the Master asks:
"By whom?" and the reply is,
"By a Master Mason outside the door, armed with the proper implement of his office".
The proper implement is always a ceremonial sword.
"His duty there?" is the next question.
"To keep off all cowans and eavesdroppers, and to see that none pass or repass without permission from the Chair".
A COWAN is a Scottish word which in this instance means a working but unqualified stonemason and hence is used to describe the intruder in a Masonic Lodge.
The each officer is identified along with his role, and the master gives the signs of the degree to which the initiate is to be entered. Everyone present except for the candidate must give the sign to show that they have a right to be there. The lodge is now open and the candidate is led blindfolded by the Junior Deacon the Second Deacon, waiting with the ceremonial compass in his hand. He presses the tip of the compass into his chest with the words:
"Mr____________ upon your entering this lodge for the first time I receive you on the point of a sharp instrument pressing into your naked left breast, which is to teach you that as it is a torture to your flesh, so should the recollection of it ever be to your mind and conscience, should you attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully".
As they are about to pass around the room, the Mster stops the Senior Deacon to remind him that a journey of such import must first partake of the blessings of God. A prayer is then offered, in which the candidate dedicates himself to the service of God and the brotherhood.
The question is then asked,
"In whom do you put your trust?" and the reply, "In God" is given.
Now the journey around the room may begin. When they come to the Junior Warden, he demands to know who has come to him.
"Mr_______" is the reply, "who has long been in darkness and now seeks to be brought to Light and to receive the rights and benefits of this Worshipful Lodge, erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saint John, as all brothers gave done before"
There follow questions to ascertain his firmness and reasons for wanting initiation. Then he is led to the station of the Senior Deacon, where he is questioned along the same lines, prior to being taken before the Senior Deacon. The questions and answers exchanged here are essentially the same, only when the Master asks,
"From whence come you, and whither are your travelling?"
the Senior Deacon answers for him,
"From the West, and travelling towards the East ".
"Why leave you the West and travel towards the East?"
"In search of Light".
At this point, the Master asks that the initiate be taken to the Senior Warden in the east so that he may instruct him how to approach. When they both arrive at the altar, the Senior Warden positions the heel of the canddiate's right foot so that it rests against the hollow left foot at a right angle.
The Master now leaves his station in the east and proceeds to the altar where he tells the candidate he can go no further until he has taken a "solemn oath and obligation" which though binding will not interfere with his duties to God, his country, his family or his friends. He must then assume the position to take the oath, which is kneeling with his right leg out and his weight supported in his bare left knee. His left palm goes under the book of his chosen faith, which is open on the altar before him, with the compass and square resring on top (the square above the compass). His right palm rests on top of the compass and square and he repeats the oath of the Entered Apprentice.
"I______, ofmy own free will and accord, in the presence of Almighty God, and this Worshipful Lodge erected to Him, and dedicated to the Holy Saint John, do hereby and hereon most sincerely promise and swear that I will always hail, ever conceal and never reveal, any of the arts or points of the hidden mysteries of ancient Freemasonry which may have been, or hereafter shall be, at this time, or any future period, communicated tome as such, to any person or persons whomever, except it be to a true and lawful brother Mason, or in a regularly constituted lodge of Masons, norunto him or them until by srict trial, due examination, or lawful information I shall have found him, or them, as lawfully entitled to the same as I am myself. I furthermore promise and swear that I will not print, paint, stamp, stain, cut, carve, mark or engrave them, to cause the same to be done on anything movable or immovable, capable of receiving theleast impression of a word, syllable, letter, or character, whereby the samemay become legible or intelligible to any person or person under the canopy of heaven, and the secrets of Masonry unlawfully obtained through my unworthiness."
"All this I most solemnly, sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steadfast resolution toperform the same, without any mental reservation or secret evasion of mind whatever, binding myself under noless penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots,and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-fourhours, should I ever knowingly violate this my Entered Apprentice obligation. So help me God,a nd keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same".
To seal the oath, thecandidate kisses thebook of his faith and is thena sked whatitis that he seeks above all else, to which he answers, "Light".
At his, his blindfold is removed to signify his leaving the world of spiritual darkness and entering the realm of enlightenment. He is taughtthe handgrip and two hand signs of the Entered Apprentice, the "penal sign" and the "due-guard". The former recalls the punishiment for revealing the secrets of Freemasonry, as the hand, thumb inward, is drawn across the throat in a slicing motion and then dropped to the side. The latter adopts the same postion as when the book was held, the hands a couple of inches apart, witht he right palm down and the left palm up.
Then follows the presentation of the apron, which was once a white lambskin, but is now usually white cloth or felt, either plain or decorated with Masonic symbols, according to the tradition of the individual lodge. This apron, he is told, is a symbol of innocence "more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle" and he is shown the manner in which it was first worn by the Entered Apprentice at the building of the Temple of Solomon.
Just when the initiate thinks the ceremony might finally be over, the Master asks him to contribute to something metallic, no matter how small to the lodge. Remembering that he was divested of all metal objects at the beginning of the ceremony, he is naturally confused and incapnable of acceding to the request. The Master dispels his confusion by telling him that he is nothing of value about his person, he is utterly destitute, and he mist be heedful of this memory if the ever comes across a friend or brother Mason in a like condition. Should he do so he is to give as generously as he can, he does not risk material injury to himself or to his family. This the charitable side of Freemasonry is impressed upon him.
To end the ceremony, the initiate is presented with the "working tools of an Entered Apprentice"; the twenty-four-inch gauge, which symbolizes the division to allow for periods of work, refreshment, sellep and acts of charity, and the gavel used symbolically to chip away vice and triviality from the Mason's character, so that hemay shape himself into a perfect ashlar stone, suitable to take his place in the temple of God.
(Source: FREEMASONRY: Illustrated History of the Once Secret Order by: Jack M. Driver)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 12:09 PM