It is now generally acknowledged that
the ‘secrets’ of Masonry are only the modes
of recognition without which you cannot
witness our ceremonies – the grips, tokens
and words of the three Degrees. They have
been exposed on numerous occasions, but
all Masons promise not to reveal them to
the uninitiated, in part to keep cowans and
intruders out of our ceremonies, but also to
show that we can be trusted to keep a promise.
The ‘mysteries’, which we also promise
not to disclose, are something completely
different. Any member of the public can
buy a copy of the Emulation ritual book
and tens of thousands of lady Masons have
done so over many years. The vast majority
of the ceremonies are there in full for all to
read, the main exception being those words
which relate to the modes of recognition
and the preparation of the candidate. So, if
anyone wants to know what we get up to in
our ceremonies, why not suggest they buy
the ritual book and read it for themselves?
Before anyone accuses me of betraying
the brotherhood, let me stress that you
cannot discover the mysteries of Freemasonry
by reading the ritual book. You have to go
through the process of initiation to realise
and unlock the mystery, because it is a felt
experience. You can not understand it in
any other way than by doing it – just as you
cannot learn to swim by reading a manual
of how to do it.
We are the inheritors of an important
initiatic system containing universal truths,
some form of which has probably been in
existence for thousands of years. During
that time it has been a beneficial guiding
influence on the evolution of humanity
and our present day Freemasonry is no
exception. The three Degrees of Masonry
are like symbolic rehearsals for those major
initiations that we must all take on our
journey of self-discovery. Thus Freemasonry
is a system which guides man in his search
for the sacred.
The three Degrees equate to body, mind
and spirit, the three essential parts of man.
In the First Degree the emphasis is on the
physical and its objective is ‘from darkness
to light’. It is symbolised by the rought ashlar
and the working tools are those implements
needed to work on the unshapen stones
brought to light from the darkness of the
quarries. The consciousness of the First
Degree is at the level of instinct and its pillar
represents physical strength and is therefore
crowned with the terrestrial globe.
In the Second Degree the emphasis is
on the powers of the mind and its objective
is ‘from ignorance to knowledge.’ It is
symbolised by the smooth ashlar and the
working tools are designed to perfect and
prove the stone after rude matter has been
brought into due form. The consciousness
of this Degree is at the level of intellect and
its pillar represents wisdom and is therefore
crowned with the celestial globe.
In the Third Degree the emphasis is on
spirit, and the objective is to build the temple,
not made with human hands, eternal in the
heavens. Its symbol is the blazing star, its
consciousness is at the level of intuition, the
voice of nature, and its pillar is that of beauty,
which depends on balance and harmony.
The objectives of the three Degrees –
illumination through the search for light,
wisdom through the increase in knowledge,
and transformation through the process of
death and renewal – portray the story of the
evolution of human consciousness leading
ultimately to enlightenment.
For most people enlightenment is a
process of imparting or acquiring information
or knowledge about something, like ‘That
was an enlightening speech you made’.
Historians call the ‘Enlightenment’ that
period in 18th century Europe when a
group of philosophers promoted a rational
and non-theological approach to the
problems of philosophy and society.
This is not, however, the meaning of
enlightenment in the Eastern and Western
mystery traditions, where light is not an
abstract symbol but a living experience that
is felt in the heart, the mind and the body.
Enlightenment is not just a metaphor
but rather an experience of one’s own inner
essence, and the realisation of the Self with
a capital ‘S’. When defined as the rational
acquisition of knowledge, it deals with a very
limited aspect of human transformation.
The enlightenment we are dealing with
in Freemasonry is that of ancient teachings.
It is a process of seeing more clearly and
having a more lucid awareness. This
aspect of transformation, through which
Freemasonry guides us, is a gradual process
of moving from a state of unknowing to
an ever increasing knowledge of one’s Self
and one’s true potential.
Enlightenment plays a central role in the
sacred literature and art of most religious
and spiritual traditions. God’s invocation
for creation was ‘Let there be light’, and
science believes that the beginning of the
universe was an explosion of inconceivable
force and radiance.
Christ is seen as the ‘light of the world’,
and the vision of the Lord in the Bhagavad
Gita is of a cosmic being ‘brighter than a
thousand suns’. Solar deities of light and
fire, like the Indian Agni, the Iranian Ahura
Mazda, the Egyptian Ra, and the Greek
Apollo play key roles in all the sacred
mythologies. Jung called light ‘the central
mystery of philosophical alchemy’.
Web site created by Mark Griffin