Fraternal Societies - Sororities


The moral improvement of Man

Masonic Initiation
- Masonic Initiation, Paris, 1745 -

Man is not dust, man is not dust, I say!
A lightning substance through his being runs;
A flame he knows not of illumes his clay -
The cosmic fire that feeds the swarming suns.
As giant worlds, sent spinning into space,
Hold in their center still the parent flame.
So man, within that undiscovered place -
His center - stores the light from which he came.
- Part of of the poem God's Man by Angela Morgan (1875-1957 CE) -

By means of ritual drama and meditative pursuits a member of freemasonry pursues self-knowledge and self-development. Freemasonry uses a stepwise path of self-development according to the principle 'omnia gradatim'. The view of freemasonry on self-development and the moral improvement of man is part of its view on the structure of the universe, and the individual's place within it. These principles are contained in the rituals of the first, second and third degrees. Self-development includes a broadening of the mind, intellect and talents in general, through education and learning, not only for individual benefit but for the greater benefit of society in general (e.g. the temple of humanity of which the individual is a building block). Personal development is achieved by means of a scheme of symbolic instructions, which gradually shed light on the inner nature of man and make him aware of his potential as a human being. Paths towards improvement are present is several philosophical traditions; The concept of the perfectibility of man we find for the first time in the Timaeus of Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE). The myth of the perfectible soul we find at the end of the Timaeus: "But he who has been earnest in the love of knowledge and of true wisdom, and has exercised his intellect more than any other part of him, must have thoughts immortal and divine, if he attain truth, and in so far as human nature is capable of sharing in immortality, he must altogether be immortal; and since he is ever cherishing the divine power, and has the divinity within him in perfect order, he will be perfectly happy." and "These each man should follow, and correct the courses of the head which were corrupted at our birth, and by learning the harmonies and revolutions of the universe, should assimilate the thinking being to the thought, renewing his original nature, and having assimilated them should attain to that perfect life which the gods have set before mankind, both for the present and the future." Aristotle (384-322 BCE) in his ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια (Ethica Nicomachea) wrote about the moral development of man and how men should live a virtuous life. His virtue ethics is based upon three concepts: ἀρετή (arete, excellence or virtue), φρόνησις (phronesis, practical or moral wisdom) and εὐδαιμονία (eudaimonia, human flourishing). The guiding principle is φρόνησις (practical wisdom), which requires experience and therefore personal development. The φρόνιμος (phronimos, practically wise, sensible) must not only know the conclusions that follow from his first principles, but also have a true conception of those principles themselves. Hence Wisdom must be a combination of Intelligence and Scientific Knowledge: it must be a consummated knowledge of the most exalted objects (Ethica Nicomachea, Book VI 7). Eudaimonia was used by Aristotle as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved. For Plato, knowledge of good an evil was sufficient do do the right thing (Socratic intellectualism). For Aristotle moral character not only involved knowledge of good an evil, but also an emotive component which resulted from training the passions. Personal development required ἄσκησις (áskēsis, exercise or training). In his Ethica Nicomachea he develops his theory of the golden mean, which represents a balance between extremes. In ancient Greece, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription μηδὲν ἄγαν (Meden Agan), meaning 'Nothing in excess'. For example, courage is the middle between one extreme of deficiency (cowardness) and the other extreme of excess (recklessness). A coward would be a warrior who flees from the battlefield and a reckless warrior would charge at fifty enemy soldiers. Because of the difficulty the balance in certain situations can represent, constant moral improvement of the character is crucial for recognizing it. In his Ἠθικὰ Εὐδήμεια (Ethica Eudemia, Book VIII, chapter 3 (1248b)) Aristotle discusses the concept of καλοκαγαθία (kalokagathia, nobility, goodness) which is derived from καλός και ἀγαθός (kalós kai agathós, beautiful and good). Aristotle is his ethics deals with how a καλὸς κἀγαθός (Kalos kagathos,gentleman) should live a virtuous life, beautiful and good. Moral development is also part of Stoic ethics which also reaches toward Eudaimonia, meaning living a life in agreement with nature, which is the entire cosmos (naturalistic ethics). They developed the theory of οἰκείωσις (oikeiôsis, appropriation, familiarization) meaning the recognition of something as one's own, as belonging to oneself. According to the Stoic theory of appropriation, there are two different developmental stages. In the first stage, the innate, initial impulse of a living organism, plant, or animal is self-love and oriented toward one's self (inward, body). In the second stage, the self develops the love for his rationality and becomes capable to connect with cosmic reason, Nature, that guides the universe (outward, reason). This state of the rational soul is what virtue is for the Stoic. Through (universal) reason, man not only identifies himself with his own immediate family, but with all members of the human race as they are all members of the rational community (universalism). The Greek myth of Sisyphus symbolizes the idealization of human excellence as a perpetual process of becoming, over the impossibility of absolute achievement. Sisyphus is the archetypal model of human perfectibility (see also The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought, Harold G. Coward, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 40-41 and Global Ethics: An Introduction, Heather Widdows, Routledge, 2014, p. 60 and Dictionary of World Philosophy, A. Pablo Iannone, Routledge, 2013, p. 405 and Aristotleés Moral Expert: The phronimos, Carrie-Ann Biondi Khan, Ethics Expertise, Volume 87 of the series Philosophy and Medicine, Springer, 2005, pp 39-53 and The Myth of Sisyphus: Renaissance Theories of Human Perfectibility, Elliott M. Simon, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2007 and The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition, John Sellars, Routledge, 2016, p. 273 and Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life, A. A. Long, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 185 and The Perfectibility of Man, John Passmore, Scribner's, 2000)

Freemasonry uses an allegorical method for self-development to illustrate a path towards a life guided by morality. The allegorical method can readily illustrate complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to the participant of the ritual. The rituals of freemasonry can be seen as spiritual exercises for self-development like the Meditations of the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) or the Exercitia spiritualia of Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556 CE). René Descartes (1596-1650 CE) wrote the Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animæ immortalitas demonstratur (1614 CE) in the form of spiritual exercises. Descartes was raised in the Jesuit tradition, and the Meditations in many ways resemble Ignatius of Loyola's Exercitia spiritualia. The Meditationes are framed in a meditational form meant to span six days of meditation. Descartes uses the three traditional stages of purgation (skeptical doubt), illumination (proof of the existence of the self, of God), and union (linking this knowledge to the material world). Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1670-1713 CE) wrote a pair of notebooks, containing a series of Askêmata or spiritual exercises, inspired by the ancient Stoics, Epictetus (ca. 55-135 CE) and Marcus Aurelius. Freemasonry like ancient philosophy is a 'way of life' in particular one which provides its members with 'spiritual exercises' to enable them to make progress towards wisdom. A freemason can be seen as a Stoic prokoptôn (Stoic student) learning and mastering the Stoic principles and cultivating the self. These spirtual exercises are meant to transform the self of the individual to ascend to a superior level, providing it with a universal perspective, both logical, physical and ethical. Stoicism also provides the inspiration for the concept of universal brotherhood and living and acting for the benefit of mankind (see also Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Marcus Aurelius, 161 to 180 and Exercitia spiritualia), Ignatius of Loyola, 1548 and The Power and the Wisdom: An Interpretation of the New Testament, John L. McKenzie, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2009, p. 15 and Descartes's Exercises, Zeno Vendler, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 193-224 and Descartes's Geometry as Spiritual Exercise, Matthew L. Jones, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 1, Things (Autumn, 2001), pp. 40-71 and The Life, Unpublished Letters, and Philosophical Regimen of Antony, Earl of Shaftesbury, Benjamin Rand, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001 and The Weaker Argument: Shaftesbury's Theory of the Comic Imagination, Alex Gold, Department of English, Stanford University, 1972, p. 95 and Enchiridion, Epictetus and La Citadelle intérieure, Pierre Hadot, Fayard, 1992 and The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution: Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the Cultivation of Virtue, Matthew L. Jones, University of Chicago Press, 2008, p. 6 and Hinterlands and Horizons: Excursions in Search of Amity, Margaret Chatterjee, Lexington Books, 2002, p. 17-18 and The Word, Volume 17, Theosophical Publishing Company, 1913, p. 151).

In freemasonry the symbolic path consists of enactments of dramas which unfold the meaning of the mystery (the doctrine) by means of imitative ceremonies arranged in a way that the freemason is gradually instructed in the truths concealed under the nature of the characters, their movements and the events of the play, as well as the form and situation of the symbolic lodge. Self-development is to be achieved by the expansion of the intellect through the study of nature and science, and the application of reason to the experiences of life. The human mind, modelled by virtue, science and the study of nature then presents one great and useful lesson and it prepares man by contemplation not only for a productive and fulfilling life, but also for the closing hour of one's existence. The same principle can be found in Marcus Tullius Cicero's (106-43 BCE) Tusculanæ Disputationes (Liber I, XXX): "Tota enim philosophorum vita, ut ait idem, commentatio mortis est". Self-development as a goal in life, runs through the ages and many cultures and religions contain rituals and symbolic paths toward moral perfection. The first step on the path is to rediscover the inner spiritual core or otherwise stated: know thy (true) self from γνῶθι σεαυτόν or nosce te ipsum. The method for self-development used by freemasonry is part of the Western Greco-Roman tradition, which is aimed at an active role in society rather than the Eastern tradition which is characterized by a tendency to withdraw from society. The path towards self-development is also a path of spiritual evolution leading to spiritual rebirth (see also Proceedings of the London Conference on Malcolm Lowry, 1984, Gordon Bowker, Paul Tiessen, Goldsmiths- College, University of London, 1985, p. 81 and Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 2014, p. 508 and Spiritual Rebirth: Its Source, Mystery and Meaning, Carlton Press, 1970 and Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique, Pierre Hadot, Arnold I. Davidson, Albin Michel, 2014).

Many people stumble through life, unaware of the world inside them and never reaching a more lucid state of mind. The task ahead is to become aware of this hidden part of one's self and put it to good use in daily life. The path toward moral perfection in freemasonry is symbolized by a spiritual journey from 'West' to 'East'. Freemasonry perceives the universe to be composed of two dimensions, material (West) and spiritual (East). In masonic tradition man is considered to originate as a spiritual being in the East and then has to live his mortal life in the (temporary or material) 'West' (e.g. 'Ex Oriente Lux'). In freemasonry "every man finds himself in a state of Darkness, in the 'Temporary West'", but "after many tribulations and adversities incident to human life, he may at length ascend purified and chastened by experience, to larger life in the 'Eternal East'" (see also The Meaning Of Masonry, W. L. Wilmshurst, Kessinger Publishing, 2007, p 29-30 and The Magic Flute, M. F. M. Van Den Berk, BRILL, 2004, p. 506 and The Karma of Untruthfulness: Secret Societies, the Media, and Preparations for the Great War, Volume 2, Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005, p. 157 and The Freemason's Repository, Volume 14, E. L. Freeman & Son, 1885, p. 335 and The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life. The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy: Human Immortality, William James, Dover Publications, 1956, p. 185 and The Moral Life. An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature, Ed. Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn, Oxford University Press, 2013 and The Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind, Thomas Dick, Key & Biddle, 1836 and The Philosophy of Masonry in Five Parts (Foundations of Freemasonry Series), Roscoe Pound,, 2013, p. 47 and Ex Oriente Lux: Lecture Outlines for Those Seeking Initiation Into the Hidden House of Masonry - 1924, Alfred H. Henry, Kessinger Publishing, 1995 and Neoplatonism, Pauliina Remes, Routledge, 2014, p. 112 and The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, B. Franklin, Jared Sparks, Henry G. Bohn, 1850, p. 75).

Self-development systems like freemasonry involve leaving behind the mental burdens which hinder personal growth and development. One can look upon this process as a way towards individuation which was put forward by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE) in his analytical psychology. Individuation can be defined as a stepwise achievement of self-actualization, through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. The process involves turning one's attention inward and observing one's self in order to know one's (true) self or γνῶθι σεαυτόν. Freemasonry uses the symbolism of spiritual death and a second birth in different steps to symbolize leaving behind one's old self and the rebirth into a better version of the self. A spiritual death and second birth as spiritual symbols have a long tradition. Death in this context is often split in a first death and a second death. The concept of a first and second death mostly refers to physical and spiritual death, the first being the separation of the soul from the body, while the second means death of the soul. Upon dying the first death, the liberated soul returns to the 'Eternal East' where it came from, when capable to avoid the second death of the soul. Death in this view is seen as a separation between a temporary body and an eternal soul. Traditionally the liberation of the soul (second birth) happens at the moment of one's physical death, but in mystical traditions the second birth happens during one's (earthly) life. The concept of the second birth is totally spiritual, as it cannot be detected with the five senses and only the result can be experienced. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951 CE) wrote on mystical experiences: "Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches. Dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische" (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein, 1989, 6.522). The result of the second birth is often described as being able to see with an inner eye the essence of things or in other words Baruch Spinoza's (1632-1677 CE) 'sub specie aeternitatis' (from the perspective of the eternal) or 'sub oculo aeternitatis' (Ethica, ordine geometrico demonstrata, Spinoza, 1677, Part V, Prop. XXIII, Scholium). The concepts of first and second death and second birth or rebirth are widespread in Indo-European religious traditions. The second birth can also be seen as spiritual enlightenment. Plutarch (46-120 CE) in his Ἠθικά (Moralia) book 5 (Πῶς ἄν τις αἴσθοιτο ἑαυτοῦ προκόπτοντος ἐπ᾿ ἀρετῇ) wrote about the first and second death: "Of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three, and the other, one out of two". By dividing man into spirit, soul, and body: the first death is the dropping of the body, making two out of three; the second death is the withdrawal of the spiritual from the soul, making one out of two. The Holy Scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all deal with the first and second death. We find references to the physical (first) death (Eccl 12:7) and the second death (Rev 20:4; 21:8; 22:14-15) in the Bible. On the second birth we find in the Bible John 3:3: "Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Amen, amen dico tibi, nisi quis renatus fuerit denuo, non potest videre regnum Dei." and John 3:5-8. The Holy Qur'an talks about two deaths; the first death took place when man failed to make a stand with God's absolute authority. That first death lasts until man is born into this world. The second death terminates the life of man in this world (the Holy Qur'an 2:28, 22:66, 40:11). In the Holy Qur'an we also find references to the first death in surah 44:54-56 Al Dukkan (The Smoke) and surah 37:57-59 Al Saffat, (Those Ranged in Ranks). In Hinduism the second death is called 'punar mrtyu', which is the death in the afterlife which precedes 'punar avrtti', or return to life on earth. Man is born again and again and again in an endless cycle. In the Srimad Bhagavatam we find references to the liberated souls in Canto 2, Ch. 2 Text 25-6. In Buddhism the second birth can be seen as reaching enlightenment or awakening (bodhi). (see also Srimad Bhagavatam, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1987, p. 108 and The Kingdom Of God, Shri Adi Shakti, pp. 2322-2323 and Doctrine and Covenants Guidebook, Conrad H. Knudson, Cedar Fort, 1996, p. 126 and Lectures on Christian Doctrine. Second edition, with an introductory lecture on the Scriptures, Andrew Preston Peabody,1844, p. 150 and Beyond the Grave: Love and Immortality, Floyd Vernon Chandler, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2009, p. 123 and Plutarch's Morals, Volume 5, Plutarch, Matthew Morgan, Printed for W. Taylor, 1718, p. 266 and The last of the Romans and European culture, Viktoriia Ivanovna Ukolova, Progress Publishers, 1989, p. 137 and Ludwig Wittgenstein: eine existenzielle Deutung, Leo Adler, Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers, 1976, p. 67 and Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Michael Martin, Temple University Press, 1992, p. 20 and Silence Unheard: Deathly Otherness in Patanjala-Yoga, Yohanan Grinshpon, SUNY Press, 2002, p. 45).

The symbolic path of freemasonry can be seen as a way to convert man's life towards a path moral improvement leading to moral 'perfection'. Conversion is derived from the Latin 'conversio', meaning the act of turning round or revolving or also meaning alteration or change. The Latin word 'conversio' corresponds to two Greek words, epistrophe (ἐπιστροφή) and metanoia (μετάνοια), meaning return and rebirth. Epistrophe signifies a change of orientation and implies the idea of a return (return to the origin, return to the self), while on the other hand metanoia signifies change of mind, repentance (which is actually a mistranslation), and implies the idea of a mutation and a rebirth. For Plato (428/427 or 424/423-348/347 BCE) epistrophe was the goal of philosophical education. The initiation into freemasonry can be seen as 'metanoia', while the third degree can be seen as 'epistrophe' thereby completing the 'conversio'. The path of a freemason leads to a transformation of moral life through symbolic actions which are essentially spiritual exercises. During the entire process man recovers his original nature (epistrophe) moving away from the perversion in which ordinary mortals live, leading to a reorientation of his whole being (metanoia). (see Conversion Hadot, Pierre, Encyclopaedia Universalis, vol. 4, 1968, pp. 979-981 and The Varieties of Religious Experience, W. James, Gifford Lectures, 1902 and Transformations of the Inner Self in Ancient Religions, Jan Assmann, Guy G. Stroumsa, BRILL, 1999, p. 172 and Foucault's Askesis: An Introduction to the Philosophical Life, Edward F. McGushin, Northwestern University Press, 2007, p. 111 and "Return" in Post-colonial Writing: A Cultural Labyrinth, Vera Mihailovich-Dickman, Rodopi, 1994, p. 51 and Poetry and Identity in Quattrocento Naples, Dr Matteo Soranzo, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2014, p. 120).

In freemasonry the path towards moral perfection is related to building a universal and spiritual temple of humanity. Freemasons are considered to be "stones" (ashlars) which are the building blocks of a universal temple of humanity. They are put to work on themselves, a rough stone or rough ashlar, in order to become a perfect ashlar, which can make a contribution to the temple of humanity. Three virtues are to be developed during the process: wisdom, strength and beauty. Wisdom ('Sagesse', Sapientia, Prudentia) and Strength ('Force', Fortitudo, Virtus) must work together and unite in order to create Beauty ('Beauté', Pulchritudo). Wisdom contains the intellectual virtue of understanding and the virtue of understanding consists in knowing the first principles in practical (synderesis) as well as speculative (intellectus principiorum) matters. Strength is needed as 'Non est ad astra mollis e terris via' or there is no easy way from the earth to the stars. 'In imo animo stat pulchritudo' or beauty lies in the depths of ones soul. The "pierre cubique" (ashlar) of French freemasonry can also be considered to resemble one of the Platonic solids, the Hexahedron or Cube of the Platonic Timaeus. The Platonic hexahedron represents earth, one of the four classical elements. Starting with a cube we can construct a regular dodecahedron by putting appropriate "roofs" on each face of the cube, which is the method used by Euclid of Alexandria (fl. 300 BCE) in his Elements (book XIII proposition 17). The Hexahedron can be transformed into the Dodecahedron, the symbol of the Universe (which is associated with ether, spirit, quintessence), which brings us back to the Classical Greek or Hermetic Axiom which is found on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes: 'As it is above, so it is below', meaning the macrocosmos (Universe) relates to the microcosmos (man) (Se non è vero, è ben trovato) (see also The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Signs & Symbols, Mark O'Connell, Raje Airey, Anness Publishing, 2005, p. 113 and The Lost Key: An Explanation and Application of the Masonic Symbols, Prentiss Tucker, Book Tree, 1999, p. 143 and The Ethics of Aquinas, Stephen J. Pope, Georgetown University Press, 2002, p. 185).

Every initiation in freemasonry follows the same basic pattern, which can be found in several disclosures of all kinds of rituals which were published over the years:

  1. Opening of the Lodge during which the candidate is usually not present.
  2. Admission into the Lodge at which the candidate answers a number of questions.
  3. Circumbalations around the Lodge, often symbolic of an ordeal.
  4. Obligation never to divulge the secrets of the degree (often the sign, grip, and word) but often also certain ethical rules, which the candidate swears an oath to observe.
  5. Formal admission into the degree.
  6. Instruction in the secrets of the degree, the sign, the grip, and the word, but also in the Order's particular teaching.
  7. The giving of one or more visible tokens, such as gloves or apron, sometimes also a new name or motto.
  8. Closing of the Lodge, during which the candidate is present.
(see also Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, Henrik Bogdan, SUNY Press, 2007, p. 51-52 and Masonry Dissected, Samuel Prichard, T. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-Noster-Row., 1737 and Masonic rituals and Entered Apprentice Ritual - Emulation and Fellow Craft Ritual - Emulation and Master Mason Ritual - Emulation and Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) and Cérémonie d'Initiation - Rite Français and Cérémonie de Passage - Rite Français and Cérémonie d'Elévation - Rite Français).

The lifecycle of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar to pupa and butterfly
- The lifecycle of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar to pupa and butterfly -

To end this section a comparison can be made between the three degrees of freemasonry and the life-cycle of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar to pupa and butterfly. The egg stage symbolizes the initiation and the first degree which is the start of the path (wisdom). The second degree is symbolized by the caterpillar (larva) working towards the third stage (strength). The third stage can be seen as the pupa (chrysalis) stage (from χρυσαλλίς and the Hiram legend) undergoing metamorphosis and emerging as a mature butterfly (beauty). Of course the lifecycle of a butterfly can also be applied on any other system of spiritual development (see also The Promise and Premise of Creativity: Why Comparative Literature Matters, Eugene Eoyang, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2012, p. 132).

Threefold Path

The three degrees, the three pillars and the three lesser lights in the temple may refer to the threefold path to follow in life which is a universal symbol used in many philosophical and religious traditions. The systematic tripartition of the universe into stratified levels of reality and the tripartition of the process by which one comes to know this universe is widespread in Eastern and Western philosophy and religion. There are both esoteric and exoteric paths. Greek philosophy describes threefold paths or approaches towards wisdom. In the Dharmic and Abrahamic religions we find references to a threefold path towards perfection. In Buddhism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah (Judaism), Sufism (Islam), and Christian mysticism the human soul descended into physical manifestation and must find its way back to spiritual perfection through a threefold path (e.g. the perfectibility of man) (see also The Path to Attainment, Elizabeth Clare, Summit University Press, 2008, p. 238 and Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, Martha Himmelfarb, Oxford University Press, USA, 1993 and Ascent to Heaven in Islamic and Jewish Mysticism, Algis Uzdavinys, The Matheson Trust, 2011, p. 1 and and The Truth: About the Five Primary Religions and the Seven Rules of Any Good Religion, Laurel, Oracle Institute Press, LLC, 2005, p. 171 and Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, Richard T. Wallis, Jay Bregman, SUNY Press, 1992, p. 285 and Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way: A Series of Papers on the True Secrets of the Lost Word, 1923, Arthur Ward, Kessinger Publishing, 1998 and The Dark Side of the Enlightenment: Wizards, Alchemists, and Spiritual Seekers in the Age of Reason, John V. Fleming, W. W. Norton & Company, 2013, p. 150 and The Theosophist, Volume 48, Nr. 1, Theosophical Publishing House, 1927, p. 615).

Traditionally, Hinduism is divided into the socalled trimarga (threefold path): the way of action or ritual (karma marga), the way of knowledge or wisdom (jnana marga), and of devotion (bhakti marga). The day and night should also be understood as threefold. Threefold is sacrifice that flows. Threefold are the worlds; threefold the deities; threefold is knowledge; and threefold the path or end (see also A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Klaus K. Klostermaier, Oneworld Publications, 2014 and Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Heinrich Robert Zimmer, Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 27).

In Buddhism we have the Threefold Way or Threefold Training of ethics, meditation, and wisdom. This is a progressive path, as ethics and a clear conscience provides an indispensable basis for meditation, and meditation is the ground on which wisdom can develop. The Buddhist Threefold Lotus Sutra deals with the threefold path to enlightenment (see also A Guide to the Threefold Lotus Sutra, Nikkyo Niwano, 佼成出版社, 1981 and Buddhism Briefly Explained, J. Lindsay Falvey, Siladasa, lindsay falvey, 2004, p. 16).

Buddhism refers to Threefold Training: higher virtue, higher mind, and higher wisdom. Sikhism refers to the Golden Threefold Path as the Sikh way of life, which can be summarised as Nam Japna (remember God), Kirat Karna (work honestly) and Vand Chhakna (share with others). In Jainism there is the Path of Jainism or the three-fold path of Salvation, which is constituted by the Three Jewels: Right Belief, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (see also The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, Junjiro Takakusu, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2002, p. 21).

The Ascent to 'The One' (Anagôgê) is also one of the central spiritual practices in the Pythagorean Tradition. There are three Paths of Ascent in the Pythagorean Tradition, each correlated with one of the three principle Attributes of 'The One': Its Beauty, Wisdom, and Goodness, and the corresponding connecting properties, Love, Truth, and Trust, which are the Chaldaean Virtues. The Chaldaean Virtues can be found in the Chaldaean Oracles of Zoroaster and the Chaldean Oracles, which are a combination of Neoplatonic elements with Persian or Babylonian elements (see also In Search of Divine Reality, Lothar Schaefer, University of Arkansas Press, 1997, p. 124-125).

We find a threefold path in Stoicism. Epictetus (ca. 55-135 CE) wrote about the three topoi of stoicism in his Discourses (Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί) and the Enchiridion (Ἐγχειρίδιον Ἐπικτήτου). In the Enchiridion Epictetus put forward: "To avoid unhappiness, frustration, and disappointment, we, therefore, need to do two things: control those things that are within our power (namely our beliefs, judgments, desires , and attitudes) and be indifferent or apathetic to those things which are not in our power (namely, things external to us"). As a Stoic teacher Epictetus put forward three topoi (fields of study) in which the prokoptôn (Stoic student) applies the Stoic principles; they are practical exercises or disciplines that when successfully followed are constitutive of the eudaimôn state of life (see Discourses 3.2.1-2):

  1. Desires (orexeis) and aversions (ekkliseis)
  2. Impulse to act (hormas) and not to act (aphormas)
  3. Freedom from deception, hasty judgement, and anything else related to assents (sunkatatheseis).
The first topos, concerning desire (orexis), is devoted to physics. The second topos, concerning impulse (hormê), is devoted to ethics. The third topos, concerning assent (sunkatathesis), is devoted to logic. The three topoi correspond with the three fundamental faculties of the human soul which are desire (orexis), will (hormè) and representation (phantasia). The three topoi define the three fundamental aspects of askesis or spiritual excercise. The first would put man in accordance with the universe (ataraxia), the second deals with the relation with other people (justice and love) and the last one puts man in accordance with himself (love of truth). The Stoic disciple must not only study the three types of philosophical discourse, but also engage in these three types of philosophical training or exercise in order to translate that theory into actions in daily life (see also Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique, Pierre Hadot, Etudes augustiniennes, 1981 and Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot, Blackwell Publishing , 1995, p. 84 and Prosochē: Illuminating the Path of the Prokoptōn, Christopher Fisher, on-line and Meditatio - Refashioning the Self: Theory and Practice in Late Medieval and Early Modern Intellectual Culture, Karl A. E.. Enenkel, Walter Melion, BRILL, 2010, p. 2).

With the Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus (ca. 204/5-270 CE), we find the concept of the "Great Chain of Being", in which behind the material universe are a series of transcendental realities, called hypostases:

Each higher higher hypostasis gives rise by a process of emanation to the next, with the lowest one generating the material world. While everything emanates or descends from 'The One', man tries to ascend from the material world towards union with 'The One'. For Plotinus knowledge had three degrees-Opinion, Science and Illumination: "The means or instrument of the first is sense; of the second, dialectic; of the third, intuition. To the last I subordinate reason. It is absolute knowledge founded on the identity of the mind knowing with the object known." Iamblichus (ca. 245-ca. 325 CE) and Proclus (412-485 CE) would develop a series of progressively transcendent strata, which create a path towards 'The One'. The Neoplatonic concept of the "Great Chain of Being" is related to the concept of the 'scala naturae' of Aristotle (384-322 BCE) (see also The Philosophy of Plotinus, Emile Brehier, University of Chicago Press, 1958 and Plotinus; or, The Simplicity of Vision, Pierre Hadot, Pierre, University of Chicago Press, 1993 and Plotinus: The Road to Reality J.M. Rist, Cambridge University Press, 1967 and Proclus: An Introduction, Radek Chlup, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 163 and Cosmic Consciousness, Richard Maurice Bucke, Martino Publishing, 2010, p. 102 and Christian Mysticism: An Introduction to Contemporary Theoretical Approaches, Dr Kevin Magill, Dr Louise Nelstrop, Mr Bradley B Onishi, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013, p. 30 and The philosophical and mathematical commentaries of Proclus on the first book of Euclid's Elements: To which are added a History of the restoration of Platonic theology by the latter Platonists, and a translation from the Greek of Proclus's Theological elements, Volume 1 Proclus, Marinus, Printed for the author, 1792, p. cxxvi).

In Gnosticism there is the Threefold Path to Enlightenment. Since Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) the systematic tripartition of the universe into stratified levels of reality and the tripartition of the process by which one comes to know this universe (gnosis) became part of Western philosophy and mysticism. Gnosticism developed a three-level ontology: a level beyond being occupied by the Unknown God or Invisible Spirit; a level of pure being occupied by the First Thought of the Unknown God and a perceptible level consisting of the material world. The achievement of gnosis in three stages of enlightenment, whether conveyed by a descent or an ascent was part of Gnostic teachings. This feature is found also in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature (see also The Gnostic Threefold Path to Enlightenment: The Ascent of Mind and the Descent of Wisdom, John Turner, NovT 22 (1980): pp. 324-351 and Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, John Douglas Turner, Presses Université Laval, 2001, p. 80 and Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, Richard T. Wallis, Jay Bregman, SUNY Press, 1992).

In Jewish Kabbalah the three pillars of the Sephirot represent the threefold path. Jewish mysticism goes back to Merkabah mysticism and Hekhalot literature. Merkavah (Throne) and Hekhalot (Palaces) writings contain instructions for obtaining the ecstatic vision of the celestial regions of the Merkabah, Heavenly Throne or "Ma'aseh Merkabah" (see also What We Jews Believe and A Guide to Jewish Practice, Samuel Solomon Cohon, Van Gorcum, 1971, p. 41 Origins of the Kabbalah, Scholem, 1.3 and Victory of light: a Chasidic discourse, Menahem Mendel Schneersohn, Yosef Marcus, Ari Sollish, Avraham Vaisfiche, Kehot Publication Society, 2005, p. 48 and Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Howard Schwartz, Oxford University Press, 2004, Ch. 205 and Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature, Vita Daphna Arbel, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 53).

Junayd of Baghdad (died 909 CE), a representative of the Baghdad school of Sufism, formulated the doctrine oifana-the mystical absorption of a Sufi into the divinity, leading to "superbeing" (baqa), or eternity in the absolute. According to Junayd the Sufi's mystical journey is marked by three stages: the sharia (exoteric path), or universal Muslim religious law; the tariqa (esoteric path), or the Sufi path of purification; and the haqiqa (mystical truth), divine reality, or the mystical comprehension of truth in God. Finally haqiqa leads to marifa (final mystical knowledge, unio mystica) (see also Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volumes 11-12, James Hastings, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928, p. 449 and The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 4, Richard Nelson Frye, Cambridge University Press, 1975, p. 453 and Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society, Akbar S. Ahmed, Psychology Press, 2002, p. 91 and Encyclopedia of Islam, Juan Eduardo Campo, Infobase Publishing, 2009, p. 289).

Christian theology would develop a concept of a threefold path towards God. Their theology would be inspired by the Epicurean and Stoic concepts of the vita activa and vita contemplativa. In addition the Neoplatonism of Plotinus (ca. 204/5-270 CE) would play an important role through Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century). Christian theologians would come up with the division of human life into two aspects. The active life (bios practicos or vita activa), consisted in the exercise of the moral virtues for the purification and ordering of the soul. The contemplative life (bios theoreticos or vita contemplativa) was the highest human activity, the contemplation of God, and hence the exercise of the theological virtues. Origen (184/185-253/254 CE) would be the first Christian theologian to distinguish praktiké theoria, as a struggle for purity and charity by observing the commandments, then 'physike theoria', which is the proper use of all things, and finally theologia or the contemplation of the divine. Going back to Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 CE), Christian mystics have been described as pursuing a threefold path corresponding to body, mind, and soul (or spirit), which developed into the purgative, illuminative, and unitive path. Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 CE) developed the concepts of the vita activa and the vita contemplativa into a 'Triplex Via'. The first step of the vita activa became aimed at moral perfection, or apatheia. The contemplative way of gnosis was subdivided into a lower form of contemplation called praktiké theoria and a higher form called theologia. Praktika theoria and theologia would become to represent the 'via iluminativa' and the 'via unitiva'. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century) in his De Divinis Nominibus would speak of the via negativa, via affirmativa, and the triplex via (threefold path). According to Pseudo-Dionysius the threefold path is a hierarchic (i.e., ordered) way to mystical union with the divine. The three stages represent successive activities, which correspond to the three stages of mystical and spiritual growth. The beginners, or initiates, are those who endeavor to purify themselves of sin and its effects (via purgativa), proficients seek illumination, i.e., growth in virtue (via iluminativa) and the perfect exercise union with the divine (via unitiva). The via purgativa is related to the 'dark night of the spirit', which purpose is ultimate purification of the traces of sin in the human spirit. San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591 CE) in La noche oscura del alma would describe the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582 CE) would write about the transforming union or 'spiritual marriage' of the 'via unitiva' in El Castillo Interior. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) mentions the threefold path in his De Potentia and his commentary on De Divinis Nominibus. For Thomas Aquinas the Threefold Way to God was primarily a human method of arriving at the knowledge of God: the way of causality, the way of preeminence and the way of negation. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (ca. 1217-1274 CE) would write on the threefold path in The Soul's Journey into God, The Triple Way and The Tree of Life. Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374 CE) would write De vita solitaria, a philosophical treatise on the contemplative life (see also Christianity: History, Belief, and Practice, Matt Stefon, Britannica Educational Pub., 2011, p. 185 and Speaking the Incomprehensible God (2004) by Gregory P. Rocca, p.49 and Active Life and Contemplative Life: A Study of the Concepts from Plato to the Present, M. Elizabeth Mason, Marquette Univ Press, 1961 and The Three Spiritual Ways, Ernest E. Larkin and Nachleben des antiken Geistes im Abendland bis zum Beginn des Humanismus: eine Überschau, Richard Newald, Walter de Gruyter, 1960, p. 102 and Consilia Sapientis Amici: Saint Thomas Aquinas on the foundation of the evangelical antropopogy, Deák Viktória Hedvig, Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 2014, p. 286-287 and Petrarch and St. Augustine: Classical Scholarship, Christian Theology and the Origins of the Renaissance in Italy, Alexander Lee, BRILL, 2012, p. 178 and The Life of Solitude, Francesco Petrarca, University of Illinois Press, 1924 and Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure, Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, Les éditions du cerf, 1938 and The Theology of the Spiritual Life, Joseph de Guibert, Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1953)

Early Christianity knew three stages of initiation into the mysteries or disciplina arcani (The Discipline of the Secret). The disciplina arcani were believed to be knowledge of the more intimate mysteries of the Christian religion was carefully kept from non-Christians and even from those who were undergoing instruction in the faith. Converts were permitted to obtain a knowledge of all the doctrines, and participate in the sacraments of the church, only after a long and experimental probation. Conversion and adoption into the ranks of the Christians involved several steps which the convert had to go through. The first step was the stage of the Catechumens. They were occupied in the study of the elementary principles of the Christian religion. The next degree was that of the Competentes, or seekers. The Fideles or Faithful, constituted the third degree or order. They were also called Illuminati, or Illuminated, because they had been enlightened as to those secrets which were concealed from the inferior orders. I wonder if the author of the hymn Adeste fideles knew he was summoning the "Illuminati" to Bethlehem? The Fideles were also called Initiati, or Initiated, because they were admitted to a knowledge of the sacred mysteries. A distinction was also being made between the "Missa Catechumenorum" or the Mass of the Catechumens, and the "Missa Fidelium" or the Mass of the Faithful. Those not yet initiated in the faith were asked to leave before the "Missa Catechumenorum" started by the deacon proclaiming "Ne quis avdientium, ne quis infidelium" (Let none who are simply hearers, and let no infidels be present). After the part for the cathechumens they were als asked to leave by thee deacon with the words "Catechumens depart in peace" and only the Competentes and the Fideles stayed behind. Finally also the When the "Missa Fidelium" started the Competentes were also ordered to leave by the deacon proclaiming "Sancta, sanctis, foris canes" (Holy things for the holy, let the dogs depart) which refers to Matthew 7:6 ("nolite dare sanctum canibus neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis et conversi disrumpant vos"). The final part of the mass was only meant for the Fideles who were initiated in the 'disciplina arcani' (see also The ecclesiastical history of the second and third centuries, illustrated from the writings of Tertullian, John Kaye, Deighton, 1826, p. 247 and Between Pagan and Christian, Christopher P. Jones, Harvard University Press, 2014, p. 6 and The Catholic encyclopedia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic church, Volume 5, Charles George Herbermann, et al, Robert Appleton company, 1913, p. 769 and An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences, Albert Gallatin Mackey, Charles Thompson McClenachan, L.H. Everts, 1905, p. 225 and Vorlesungen über die Christlichen Alterthümer nach Anleitung S. J. Baumgartens Breviar. Antiq. Christianarum: mit einer Vorrede, Lebensbeschreibung des Verfassers und einigen Anmerkungen von S. Mursinna, Johann Simonis, Samuel Mursinna, 1769, p. 27 and Religionis Naturalis Et Revelatae Principia: In Usum Academicae Juventutis. Theologiam Naturalem Atque Ethices AC Jurisprudentiae Elementa Continens, Volume 1, Luke J Hooke, Nabu Press, 2012, p. 6 and Bouwkundige bijdragen, Volume 3, Warnsinck et al, L. Van Bakkenes, 1849, p. 88 and Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism, G.G. Stroumsa, BRILL, 2005 and De disciplina arcani quae in vetere ecclesia Christiana obtinuisse fertur, Georg Carl Ludwig Th Frommann, Schreiberi, 1833 and Compendium of the History of Doctrines, Volume 1, Karl Rudolf Hagenbach, T. & T. Clark, 1846, p. 86 and The secret societies of all ages and countries, Charles William Heckethorn, New Amsterdam Book, 1897, p. 105 and Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity, Jonathan Malesic, Brazos Press, 2009, p. 133 and Contra Celsum, Origenes, 1,1 and De Spiritu Sancto, Basil of Caesarea, 66).


Freemasonry degrees
- Degrees of freemasonry, Scottish Rite (left) and York Rite (right) -

Pour les Anciens, on est philosophe non pas en fonction de l'originalité
ou de l'abondance du discours philosophique que l'on a inventé ou développé,
mais en fonction de la manière dont on vit. Il s'agit avant tout de devenir meilleur.
Et le discours n'est philosophique que s'il se transforme en mode de vie.
- Pierre Hadot, La Philosophie comme manière de vivre -

ἢν δ' ἀπολείψας σῶμα ἐς αἰθέρ' ἐλεύθερον ἔλθηις,
ἔσσεαι ἀθάνατος, θεός ἄμβροτος, οὐκέτι θνητός
- Verse 70 and 71 from the Χρύσεα Ἔπη of Pythagoras -

Freemasonry works with a system of degrees, which represent stages of personal development. There are different systems in use in the various rites of freemasonry, such as the York Rite, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Rectified Scottish Rite, Modern French Rite, and Mexican Rite, etc. ... . The number of degrees ranges from 7 degrees in the York Rite and the Modern French Rite, 33 in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and even 100 degrees in the Rite of Memphis-Misraim. The concept of 33 degrees or a 33-fold classification system seems widespread in Indo-European culture. The 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite are equal to the years of life of Jesus of Nazareth (7-2 BCE to 30-33 CE) in the Bible of Christianity and Jesus performed 33 recorded miracles. This came to represent the highest meaning of the number '33', which is that it represents the highest spiritual consciousness to which man can attain. In the Old Testament in 1 Chronicles 29:26-27 we find "Now David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. The period which he reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned in Hebron seven years and in Jerusalem thirty-three years". The Kabalistic Tree of Life (עץ החיים) contains 33 permutations of consciousness - 22 paths, 10 known/drawn sephiroth (סְפִירוֹת), and an 11th hidden sephiroth left undrawn in most renditions. Da'ath, the 11th, is the hidden secret of the void, or the abyss. Da'ath as such is not a sephirah, but rather is all ten sephirot united as one. Da'ath relates to the Divine Light which is always shining, but not all humans can see it. Without Da'ath there are only 10 sephiroth drawn and only 32 permutations of consciousness. The number 33 also plays a role in Greek mathematical philosophy such as with Pythagoras (ca. 570-ca. 490 BCE) and Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE). The Pythagoreans evolved their philosophy from the science of numbers. For Pythagoras 33 was the most important of the master numbers (11, 22, 33, 44) Some sources say that there were 33 Egyptian mysteries (see Churchward, 1913). Christian Gnostics taught that the emanations from the Deity were all summed up in one absolute Unity, 33 in all (see G.R.S. Mead, 1908). According to the Persian Muslim scholar Al-Ghazali (ca. 1058-1111 CE) the dwellers of Heaven will exist eternally in a state of being age 33. Islamic misbaḥah (prayer beads) are generally arranged in sets of 33 in order to keep track in Tasbih, which involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences glorifying Allah. In the Vedic Religion there are thirty-three gods or Tridasha. Tridasha generally includes a set of 31 deities consisting of 12 Ādityas, 11 Rudras, and 8 Vasus. The identity of the other two deities that fill out the 33 varies. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it speaks of the thirty-three heavens ruled over by Indra and the thirty-three ruled over by Mara. There is also the legend of the meaning of the 33rd Parallel, which is popular in conspiracy theories on freemasonry. Another set of myths connects the human vertebral column and freemasonry with the Tree of Life and the Biblical Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (עֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע) and the serpent in the Biblical Garden of Eden. A normal human spine has 33 vertebrae when the bones that form the coccyx are counted individually. The 33 vertebrae and the 33 degrees of freemasonry can be linked to the symbol of the serpent in the Biblical Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-20) and the fall of man as follows (FWIW). In ancient Kundalini Yoga, the Kundalini serpent-energy is said to rise from the root chakra, coiling up and around the spine until illuminating the crown chakra of spiritual enlightenment. Inside the Kabalistic Tree of Life in some myths there resides a sacred serpent which somehow connects Kabbalah to Kundalini Yoga. A Tree of Life is often related to physical life and the serpent to the added meaning of spiritual life. In Greek mythology we also find some serpents entwining a rod or tree. The winged messenger (nuntium volucrem) Hermes, the Greek god of transitions and boundaries, carries the caduceus (κηρύκειον). The caduceus is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. Hermes is related to the myth of Hermes Trismegistus and Hermeticism. There is also the Staff of Asclepius a (single) serpent-entwined rod wielded by the god Asklēpiós, a Greek associated with healing and medicine. The story of the (ascending) serpent is sometimes linked to the myth of the garden of Atlas, who had seven (or 4) daughters called the Hesperides (seven daughters linked to the 7 chakras) who guard the Tree of Life (cfr. spinal column) and its golden apples of immortality. They were assisted by a serpent-like dragon called Ladon entwined around the three. The myth of the Garden of the Hesperides is then linked to the myth of Atlantis which links freemasonry to the myths and secrets of Atlantis and the Atlantean conspiracy. This serpentine labyrinth of myths and an example of syncretism is believed to link the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) to the 33 (vertebral) degrees of freemasonry. Logic is powerless when the 'principia neutra' or first principles are wrong from the start, because 'Contra principia negantem non est disputandum' (see also The Lost Language of Symbolism, Harold Bayley, Dover Publications, 2006, p. 364 The Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man, Albert Churchward, G. Allen & Company, 1913, p. 117, 177 and The Wedding-song of Wisdom, George Robert Stow Mead, Theosophical Publishing Society, 1908, p. 36 and The Kabbalah Tree: A Journey of Balance & Growth, Rachel Pollack, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2004, p. 8 and The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or The After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. xxxvii and The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Volume 1, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Theosophical University Press, 1963, p. 93 and The Green Serpent and the Tree: Kabbala and Kundalini Yoga, James N. Judd, MS.D.,D.D., Xlibris Corporation, 1999, p. 107 and An Essay on the mythological significance of Tree and Serpent Worship, etc., Thomas Scott, 1870, p. 19 and The Nature of the Archons: A Study in the Soteriology of a Gnostic Treatise from Nag Hammadi (CGII, 4), Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1985, p. 66 and Atlantis in Wisconsin: New Revelations about the Lost Sunken City, Frank Joseph, Galde Press, Inc., 1995, p. 52 and The Atlantean Conspiracy (Final Edition), Eric Dubay,, 2013, p. 195 and Masonic rituals and degrees and Entered Apprentice Ritual - Emulation and Fellow Craft Ritual - Emulation and Master Mason Ritual - Emulation and Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) and Cérémonie d'Initiation - Rite Français and Cérémonie de Passage - Rite Français and Cérémonie d'Elévation - Rite Français)

In the field of Numerology, many systems hold 33 as the highest of the "Master Numbers." It symbolizes "Christ Consciousness", or the ultimate attainment of consciousness or perfection (see also the Allegory of the Platonic Cave). Numerology reduces all multi-digit numbers to the single-digit numbers 1 through 9 with the exception of the three Master numbers 11, 22 and 33. Master Numbers are digits that are not "reduced" in some numerological traditions, such as 11, 22 and 33 (33 is not reduced to a "6", as is 42, for example). The number 11 represents the vision, while the number 22 combines vision with action and the number 33 offers guidance to the world. The essence of 33 in numerology is the final word in spiritual evolution; the 'Master Teacher'. Numerological 33 is characterized by a highly developed internal ethics and life should be marked by working for humanity. The Master Numbers 11, 22, and 33 are also believed to represent a triangle, a triangle of Enlightenment. The number 33 is the largest positive integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of different triangular numbers. The others are 2, 5, 8, 12, and 23. The number 33is also the smallest odd repdigit (natural number composed of repeated instances of the same digit) that is not a prime number (see also Numerology: The Power in Numbers, Ruth Drayer, Square One Publishers, Inc., 2003, p. 92).

Reaching the highest degree in freemasonry, means reaching "excellentia" or "perfectio", thereby comprising the paradox of perfection-that imperfection is perfect. The oldest definition of what is "perfection", goes back to Aristotle (384 BC-322 BCE) (Book Delta of the Metaphysics). Also in Aristotle's astronomy, presented in his Metaphysics, Physics and De Caelo (On the Heavens), there were 33 celestial spheres and he thereby followed Callippus (ca. 370-ca. 300 BCE) who had postulated 33 celestial spheres in all, 4 each for Saturn and Jupiter, 5 each for Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun and the Moon (see also Cosmology: The Science of the Universe, Edward Harrison, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 31).

Each symbolic degree is enacted within a masonic temple and a specific ritual which reminds of the classical Ars Memorativa (E: Art of Memory) (see also "Enactment theory" in Sensemaking in organizations, K. E. Weick, Sage, 1995). The "Ars Memorativa" was a specific technique for memorizing things, which has its origins in Greece. Originally, the intent of the art of memory was to greatly increase the natural capacity of the human memory. The practitioners of the art of memory tried to find ways of retaining, retrieving and using vast amounts of information. In late Medieval and Renaissance times, the art of memory gradually became highly symbolic. Neoplatonists and Hermeticists gradually adapted it to develop it into a special way of knowing, a special way of relating to the universe. Renaissance Hermeticists reasoned that if human memory could be reorganized in the image of the universe, memory became a reflection of the entire realm of Platonic Ideas, and therefore the key to universal knowledge. The microcosm of the memory would reflect the macrocosm of the universe. Images placed in a building need not be used to associate and recall arbitrary external ideas. The images might themselves be used to remind the observer of certain ideas. The emphasis shifted from the expansion of memory to the search for a universal language of symbols. The memory temple for them not only was a method for remembering speeches, but a tool for teaching. A masonic temple can be seen as a building specifically to be used for the art of memory, to embody all human knowledge. In this view each Lodge is, in fact, a Memory Temple, designed to elicit specific effects through the recollection of its images and symbols and physical motions as freemasons proceed through the Lodge (see also Ars Memorativa: An Introduction to the Hermetic Art of Memory, John Michael Greer, Caduceus and The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates, University Of Chicago Press, 2001 and The art of memory and masonry, Clarence A. Anderson).

- The Pythagorean Tetractys -
Top row: The One
Second row: Sun and moon
Third row: Sulphur, salt, mercury
Bottom row: Fire, air, earth, water

These 33 degrees are divided to seven classes (Scottish Rite). The first class (Blue Lodges) comprises the three traditional symbolic or craft degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and Master Mason. Both the first and the third degree use the concept of spiritual death and resurrection. The first degree of 'Entered Apprentice' can be seen as the transition from the bottom row of the Pythagorean Tetractys to the second level, where man has to liberate hiself from his material or wordly chains. The second degree of 'Fellow-Craft' symbolizes the transition from the second level to the third level and the third degree of 'Master Mason' symbolizes the final step towards union with the Seelenfünklein or 'scintilla animae' within man. The concept of developing higher consciousness (e.g. Fichte's 'höhere Bewusstsein') can also be found in German Idealism and is "the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts" (see also Scintilla animae, Hans Hof, Gleerup, 1952 and Scintilla Animae: Eine Studie zu einem Grundbegriff in Meister Eckharts Philosophie mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Verhältnisses der Eckhartschen Philosophie zur neuplatonischen und thomistischen Anschauung by Hans Hof, Kurt F. Reinhardt, Speculum, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jul., 1955), pp. 474-476 and The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, Karl Ameriks, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 263).

The ascent of a Freemason through the various degrees can be considered a spiritual or mystical journey. In mystical traditions a distinction is being made between theistic experiences, which are purportedly of God, and non-theistic ones. Theistic experience can be found in Hinduism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Christian mysticism and Pantheism, etc. ... . Non-theistic mysticism can be found in Taoism, Buddhism and secular or atheist mysticism. A few liberal Christian theologians, define a "nontheistic God" as "the ground of all being" rather than as a personal divine being. Non-theistic experiences can be allegedly of an ultimate reality other than God or of no reality at all. Spiritual Atheists believe that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale (see also Mysticism in the World's Religions, Geoffrey Parrinder, Oneworld Publications, 1995 and Atheïstische spiritualiteit, Leo Apostel, VUBPress, 1998 and The Book of Atheist Spirituality, Andre Comte-Sponville, Random House, 2010 and Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe, Joseph Cambray, Texas A&M University Press, 2009, p. 24 and Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making: Understanding Jungian Synchronicity Through Physics, Buddhism, and Philosophy, Victor Mansfield, Open Court Publishing, 1995, p. 77 and A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born, John Shelby Spong, HarperOne, 2002).

Theistic mystical traditions speak about the 'journey in God' - of the intense longing for God and devotion of the soul to God - of surrender and purification, of renunciation and abandonment resolved through the union in Love. It has been said that all mystics recognize one another because they come from the same country. Yet behind the multiplicity of religious forms, ideas and expressions of that journey, there is but one 'God' and but one 'journey in God'. In Vedic-Hindu metaphysics this stage would symbolize the mystical union between Atman ~ being the "Self" ~ and Brahman ~ being the "World Soul". Some Buddhist traditions refer to Nirvana, while other refer to an experience of "unconstructed awareness" involving an awareness of the world on an absolutely or relatively non- conceptual level. The Mystical Union is also prevalent in Sufism, the mystical strain in Islam. Sufism developed religious practices focusing on strict self-control that enable both psychological and mystical insights as well as a loss of self, with the ultimate goal of mystical union with God. In the Sufi book Nawadir, a compilation of stories and religious thoughts attributed to Ahmad al-Qalyubi, there are seven castles, each one inside the other. In this text, the soul which aspires to contemplation is conceived as moving or evolving through seven degrees of perfection, which are like concentric castles of mansions, and in the seventh and innermost lives God where ecstatic union is achieved. The ecstatic tradition of Jewish Kabbalah strives to achieve a mystical union with God. In Kabbalah the mystic goes through seven heavenly halls act as a kind of bridge between the forces of emanation and the material cosmos. The ideal condition sought by the Jewish mystic is a loving union or communion with the Deity, a blending into a harmonious whole of the human and Divine wills, issuing in ecstasy and symbolized by the 'Kiss of Love'. This 'Kiss', which unites the soul to God, is usually ascribed to the seventh palace and is said to be of such intensity that it may draw the soul out of the body to God, even causing physical death. In European Alchemy, after nigredo follow the stages of albedo (Purgative Way, Moon), citrinitas (Illuminative Way, Sun) and finally rubedo (Unitive Way). The ultimate goal of the alchemists was transmutation into spiritual 'Gold' or the 'lapis philosophorum', which was achieved through seven operations or stages (Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation and Coagulation). These seven sequential steps created a pathway to union with the Divine self or higher consciousness. Finding the 'lapis philosophorum' meant finding one's true Self, the divine spark or 'scintilla animae' within (see also The Truth Within: A History of Inwardness in Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, Gavin Flood, Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 95 and Oriental Thought: An Introduction to the Philosophical and Religious Thought of Asia, Yong Choon Kim, David H. Freeman, Rowman & Littlefield, 1981, p. 16 and Islamic Mysticism: A Short History, Alexander Knysh, BRILL, 2010, Chapter Ten and Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam, Eric Geoffroy, Roger Gaetani, World Wisdom, Inc, 2010, p. 14 and Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, Byron L. Sherwin, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, p. 86 and Commentarium in Ezechielem, Hieronymus, I 7 in Patrologia Latina, vol. 25, col. 22 b and The Great German Mystics: Eckhart, Tauler and Suso, James M. Clark, Courier Corporation, 2013, p. 19 and The Collected Works of C. G. Jung: Mysterium coniunctionis, an inquiry into the separation and synthesis of psychic opposites in alchemy, Carl Gustav Jung, Herbert Read, Michael Scott Montague Fordham, Gerhard Adler, Pantheon Books, 1970, p. 493 and The Role of Revelation in the World's Religions, Beverly Moon, McFarland, 2010, p. 156 and Spring, Analytical Psychology Club of New York., 1975, p. 191).

The threefold path of mystical ascent has a parallel in the Hindu Triple Path to Liberation of Karma Marga ("path of ritual action" or "path of duties"), Jnana Marga ("path of knowledge") and Bhakti Marga ("path of devotion") of oriental mysticism. Hindu's can chose to follow one or more of these paths according to their talents. The paths form the mukti marga or the Way of Liberation which is the triple path of purification, illumination, and union. In Hinduism, the ultimate goal for human beings is Moksha or Mukti, meaning liberation. In Hinduism liberation means liberation of the individual soul from Saṃsāra or the cycle of births and deaths, from the sense of duality and separation, and union with Brahman, the Supreme Soul or 'unio mystica'. Liberation means when a soul is released from its involvement with Prakriti or nature, which uses its instruments of delusion, attachment and egoism to subject the souls to their physical existence and the cycle of births and deaths. When the individual souls become aware of their true nature and transcend their limitations, they gain freedom and become one with the divine. In the Chandogya Upanishad (6.8.7) we find the concept of "तत्त्वमसि" (Tat Tvam Asi) as one of four Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements), which according to Advaita means absolute equality of 'tat', the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, and 'tvam', the Self, Atman. The Self in its original, pure, primordial state is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena (see also the Bhagavad Gita, ca. 100 CE and Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita, Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1997, p. 466 and Gandhian Alternative (vol. 3 : Socio-Political Thoughts), Anil Dutt Misra And Sushma Yadav, Concept Publishing Company, 2005, p. 117 and A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Klaus K. Klostermaier, Oneworld Publications, 2014 and Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Heinrich Robert Zimmer, Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 27 and New Perspectives on Advaita Vedānta: Essays in Commemoration of Professor Richard De Smet, S.J., Richard V. De Smet, Bradley J. Malkovsky, BRILL, 2000, p. 55).

The ascent through the three degrees of Freemasonry also has a similar structure as the spiritual ascent in Jewish Kabbalah, where the ascent is an opportunity given from Above to man to create in himself the desire necessary for spiritual growth, demonstrating through spiritual ascents and declines that the spiritual Light is pleasure and its absence is suffering. This path is known as "the path of the Kabbalah", or the path of the Light. The most characteristic and recognizable symbol of the Kabbalah is that of the ten sephirot. The sephirot contain many elements derived directly from Neoplatonic theologies and cosmologies, such as the metaphor of radiating light emanating from a blinding Godhead (see also Sefer Yetzirah and The Path of Kabbalah, Michael Laitman, Ph.D., Rav Michael Laitman, Laitman Kabbalah Publishers, 2005, p. 47 and Basic Concepts in Kabbalah, Michael Laitman, Laitman Kabbalah Publishers, 2006, p. 17 and Neoplatonism and Jewish Thought, Lenn E. Goodman, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 331 and Judaism and Enlightenment, Adam Sutcliffe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 148).

The initiation and ascent from 'Entered Apprentice' to 'Master Mason' can also be compared to the scala amoris of the priestess Diotima of Mantinea in Plato's Symposium. The scala amoris describes the journey from the stage in life at which man can appreciate only particular or singular, deficient instances of beauty up to the point where man can view a plethora of beautiful objects, and finally divine Beauty itself. The ladder of love teaches man that the spiritual ranks higher than the physical, and the universal ranks above the particular. The ascent develops into a deepening and widening experience of beauty. He uses the metaphor of a staircase (ἐπαναβαθμοῖς) or ladder of ascent (Symp. 211c). Diotima explains the journey in Symp. 211c and 211d : "Beginning from obvious beauties he must for the sake of that highest beauty be ever climbing aloft, as on the rungs of a ladder, from one to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies; from personal beauty he proceeds to beautiful observances, from observance to beautiful learning, and from learning at last to that particular study which is concerned with the beautiful itself and that alone; so that in the end he comes to know the very essence of beauty. In that state of life above all others, my dear Socrates,' said the Mantinean woman, 'a man finds it truly worth while to live, as he contemplates essential beauty.". According to Diotima the true meaning of Love (Eros) is an aspiration for self-immortalization and for everlasting ownership of the Good and Beautiful. At the top of the ladder one is capable to see the Beautiful itself, absolute, untainted, genuine, untouched by any nonsense of humanity. In general four phases are being distinguished in the spiritual ascent alon the 'scala amoris'. At the first stage man learns to love the beauty of one body as a necessary stage to begin the ascent. In the Ode an die Freude we find the words 'Wem der große Wurf gelungen, Eines Freundes Freund zu sein, Wer ein holdes Weib errungen, Mische seinen Jubel ein!', which can for the sake of simplicity be considered as the prerequisite for the entry point of the ascent. This stage is the stage before the initiation as 'Entered Apprentice'. The second stage brings man to love of the beauty of the soul as part of the introspection of the 'Entered Apprentice'. The third stage brings man to the love of the beauty of the sciences or artes liberales which is the stage of the 'Fellow-Craft' degree. The fourth stage is the vision of Beauty itself at the stage of the 'Master Mason'. This stage involves the ascent form observance to beautiful learning to the science of nothing other than beauty itself or 'αὐτοῦ ἐκείνου τοῦ καλοῦ μάθημα' (autou ekeinou tou kalou mathêma) 'or science of beauty' (Symp. 211d). The true final stage of the journey, the vision of 'The Good' happens suddenly, which in Greek is called ἐξαίφνης (exaiphnés), meaning a radical conversion of mind or 'sudden seeing'. This final stage is being prepared for by the previous stages, but it does not follow automatically. In Christian theology this stage would be the 'visio beatifica'. The Symposium also inspired Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499 CE) to the De Amore and the Neoplatonic concept of amor platonicus as a kind of love which Ficino defines as a personal ability to guides one's soul towards cosmic processes and lofty spiritual goals and heavenly ideas (see also Plato on Love, Plato, C. D. C. Reeve, Hackett Publishing, 2006, p. xxxii and Eros en de filosofie: Plato's symposium : analyse en interpretatie, Rudi A. te Velde, Damon, 2006, p. 124 and Die Renaissance als erste Aufklärung, Volume 2, Mohr Siebeck, 1998, p. 50 and Studies on Plato, Aristotle and Proclus: The Collected Essays on Ancient Philosophy of John Cleary, John J. Cleary, BRILL, 2013, p. 65).

Another way of looking at the stages of personal development is by using the Platonic Analogy of the Divided Line (γραμμὴ δίχα τετμημένη) at the end of Book 6 of The Republic, with additional remarks in Book 7 (Rep 6.509d-6.511e; 7.533c-7.534b). Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) in the 'Analogy of the Divided Line' divides human knowledge into four grades or levels, differing in their degree of clarity and truth. First, he divides the line into two sections of unequal length according to the golden ratio (phi, Φ) or sectio divina. The upper level of the divided line corresponds to knowledge which is the realm of intellect. The lower level of the divided line corresponds to opinion or doxa (δόξα), and concerns the world of sensory experience. He then bisects each of these sections according to the same ratio, which produces four line segments. Each of these four segments corresponds to four cognitive states and/or modes of thinking and from the lowest to the highest we have:

The first degree of freemasonry deals with the transition from eikasia to pistis. The second degree deals with developing dianoia through the study of science, mathematics and geometry (artes liberales, The Republic, book 7, 526c8-527c11). The study of science, mathematics and geometry is not an end in itself, but only a prerequisite meant to test and develop the power of abstraction, in order be capable of reaching beyond the level of sensible experience. Finally, the third degree deals with noesis and episteme (ἐπιστήμη), which refers to true knowledge as opposed to opinion or doxa (δόξα). It is important to understand the subtle difference between dianoia and noesis. Reasoning by means of dianoia begins by taking as true unproven assumptions (first principles, principia neutra) and presupposes a model of reality before we begin our reasoning. The selection of assumptions or first principles is part of a paradigm and paradigm shifts occur, which result in a fundamental change in the basic concepts of thought. Noesis means a soul has turned away from particularities in order to seek "The Form of the Good" (Beauty) itself. Plato describes "The Form of the Good", or more literally "the idea of the good" (ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα), in The Republic (508e2–3). Here the soul only makes use of Ideas, which are all given existence and truth by the Good itself (τὸ αὐτὸ ἀγαθόν). Achieving noesis means a change in mental orientation and one starts to see things more truly, and in their proper relation to one another or as Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677 CE) would put forward: 'sub specie aeternitatis'. As a consequence man will be more harmonized with the external world as well as within himself as he will 'know thyself' as he really is. He will intuitively 'understand' both the macrocosm and microcosm and also the relation between them (logos). The four states of the 'Analogy of the Divided Line' correspond to the stages of prisoners' ascent in the Platonic Allegory of the Cave of The Republic (Rep. 7.514a-7.521d) (see also Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the Republic, Nickolas Pappas, Psychology Press, 2003, p. 152 and Plato's Stepping Stones: Degrees of Moral Virtue, Michael Cormack, A&C Black, 2006, pp. 92-93 and Psychology, Philosophy, and Plato's Divided Line, John Uebersax, rev. 20 Nov 2014).

When we take a look at Aristotelian philosophy in his τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά (Metaphysics) and his ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια (Ethica Nicomachea) we also find some interesting information on personal development. The Metaphysics begins with "πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει" (All men by nature desire to know) and in his Ethica Nicomachea we read 'Therefore if, as they say, men become gods by excess of virtue, of this kind must evidently be the state opposed to the brutish state; for as a brute has no vice or virtue, so neither has a god; his state is higher than virtue, and that of a brute is a different kind of state from vice' (Book VII, 1145a.20). In the Ethica Nicomachea, Aristotle provides an ethical model as to how humans should live and they ought to aspire to leading a contemplative life (θεωρητικού βίου, vita contemplativa). Aristotle views the human being as a kind of hybrid between an animal and a god. The purpose of Aristotelian ethics is to become good and outgrow the brutish state, not merely to know and he defines eudaimonia (εὐδαιμονία) as the highest human good and the excellent exercise of the intellect. Aristotle discusses in his Metaphysics and his Ethica Nicomachea a path of personal development from the brutish state to the highest state of virtue and contemplation or theoretical wisdom. For Aristotle, virtues comprise both moral and intellectual virtues and in Book 6 of the Ethica Nicomachea he distinguished between theoretical (σοφία) and practical wisdom (φρόνησις). Intellectual virtue consists of having knowledge of both kinds, theoretical wisdom about what is true and practical wisdom about what is good. Intellectual virtue is also the capacity to have knowledge about the god-like aspect of human beings. Moral virtue consists of conducting one's life well, of doing what practical wisdom (φρόνησις) requires. People with moral virtue not only live exemplary individual lives, but also assist in dealing with the problems of the communities in which they live. Practical wisdom consists of knowing what ought to be done, of knowing what makes life good. The aim of Aristotelian ethics is to do the right thing for its own sake. It is an ongoing process of personal development, integrated into the psyche by the process of inquiry, deliberation, and right actions in the everyday lived experience. Theoretical wisdom or sophia is 'scientific knowledge, combined with intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature' (Ethica Nicomachea, VI, 1141b). Sophia (σοφία) is a combination of nous, the ability to discern reality (metaphysics), and epistēmē (ἐπιστήμη) which is sometimes equated with science or knowledge of what the world of nature is like (natural philosophy). Sophia involves reasoning concerning universal truths and combines scientific knowledge (epistēmē) with intuitive reason (nous). Part of the human mind is also identical with the divine intellect, or nous or god-like aspect of human beings. In his view on θεωρία (theoria, contemplation) Aristotle put forward that the intellect (intellection) becomes identical with whatever it contemplates when that object possesses no matter. Intellection, which is itself immaterial, assumes the form of whatever it contemplates and the human intellect can become identical with Aristotle's conception of the divine when it contemplates the divine (Metaphysics, Book XII, ch.7-10). The contemplative life can be seen as Aristotle's answer to the question of what is the best life for a human being to lead: "A life of unbroken contemplation is something divine: no man can hope to live it for more than a portion of his time, and many men cannot aspire to it at all". We also find a reference to this point of view in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) in: "But when any created intellect sees the essence of God, the essence of God itself becomes the intelligible form of the intellect" (ST 1a 12 5). The journey of man in life is to develop one's moral and intellectual virtues in order to achieve the life of the philosopher or the contemplative life changing one's relation with reality. The life according to intellect is the life of a person who is transformed in identity. The Aristotelian program works towards development of one's personality and inner self. In the Ethica Nicomachea Aristotle also considered the role of human relationships in general and friendship (φιλια, philia) in particular as a vital element in the good life. He distinguished three kinds of friendships (Ethica Nicomachea, VIII 3): a friendship for pleasure, a friendship grounded on utility and finally a friendship for the good. A friendship for the good comes into being when two people engage in common activities solely for the sake of developing the overall goodness of the other. Here, neither pleasure nor utility are relevant, but the good is (Ethica Nicomachea VIII 4). This type of friendship resembles the principle of brotherhood in freemasonry. In the Ethica Eudemia and Ethica Nicomachea Aristotle also identifies magnanimity or μεγαλοψυχία, (megalopsychia) as greatness and 'the crowning virtue' (Ethica Nicomachea, IV 7, 1123a34-10, 1125b25 and Ethica Eudemia, III 5, 1232a19ff). In the Ethica Eudemia (Book VIII) Aristotle also deals with kalokagathia (καλοκαγαθία), the beautiful and good nobility of a gentleman, a virtue which implies all the moral virtues as well as good fortune (see also Theoria, Praxis, and the Contemplative Life After Plato and Aristotle, Thomas Bénatouïl, Mauro Bonazzi, BRILL, 2012, p. 10 and Aristotle and Other Platonists, Lloyd P. Gerson, Cornell University Press, 2006, p. 259 and The Hermeneutical Self and an Ethical Difference: Intercivilizational Engagement, Paul S. Chung, James Clarke & Co, 2012, p. 80 and Handbook of self-actualization, Volume 6,Nummers 4-5, Alvin Jones, Rick Crandall, Select Press, 1991, p. 127 and Magnanimity, μεγαλοψυχία, and the System of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Eckart Schütrumpf, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 71(1), 1989, pp. 10-22 and The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, Jazzybee Verlag, 1885, p. 62).

The sequence of initiations in freemasonry resembles the Neoplatonic process of theiosis or divinization through intimate union of the soul with God. Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that man participates in the divine nature (see also Life of Plotinus II, Porphyry on Plotinus' last words: 'Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the God in the All'). The idea of ascent goes back to ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians who believed in the ascent of the soul to heaven in the afterlife, and some have suggested that they practiced rituals by which they believed the soul could ascend in this life also. The Western concept of ascent of the human soul can be traced back to Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE), who expounds his doctrine of love and ascent most fully in his Symposium. From Plato the doctrine passed to Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) who put it into the tripartite Neoplatonic form. Spiritual ascent in Neoplatonism involves moving from the senses to contemplation of one's own soul, to the World Soul or ψυχὴ κόσμου, and Divine Intelligence, which symbolizes an upward flow towards the One. The ultimate cause of everything in Neoplatonism is 'the One' or 'the Good'. Everything comes from 'the One' through emanation and has to return to 'the One' through the process of divine ascent (exitus-reditus scheme). Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) describes the three stage of the ascent as Purgation, Illumination and Union. Porphyry (ca. 234-ca. 305 CE) developed the doctrine of ascent to the Intellect by way of the exercise of virtue (aretê). Iamblichus (ca. 245-ca. 325 CE) in his Περὶ τῶν Αἰγυπτίων μυστηρίων ( De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum) wrote on theurgy meant to invoke the action or the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself (see also Platos Stepping Stones: Degrees of Moral Virtue, Michael Cormack, A&C Black, 2006, p. 98 and The Purification of Love: Heavenly Ascent from Plato to Dante, Travis Patten, Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 4, Number 1, 2013, pp. 1-45 and Transformations in the Coffin Texts: a New Approach, Walter Federn, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 19, no. 4,1960, pp. 241-257 and Mysticism in Pharaonic Egypt?, Edward F. Wente, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 41, no. 3, 1982, pp. 161-179 and Aspetti simbolici dei templi e luoghi di culto del Vicino Oriente Antico, Geo Widengren, Numen 7,1960, pp. 1-25 and The Enneads, Plotinus and the Scala (The Ladder of Divine Ascent), John Climacus, 600 CE and Reading Plotinus: A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism, Kevin Corrigan, Purdue University Press, 2005, p. 229 and Return to the One: Plotinus's Guide to God-realization: a Modern Exposition of an Ancient Classic, the Enneads, Brian Hines, Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2004).

The Neoplatonic concept of the ascent of the soul would influence Christian mysticism through Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century) and Maximus the Confessor (ca. 580-662 CE), who developed and transmitted the doctrine. Maximus served as a bridge for introducing Pseudo-Dionysius into Christian mysticism and at the same time he avoided the dangers to Christianity that were implied within Pseudo-Dionysios' Neoplatonism. These dangers were a rationalistic downplaying of God's transcendence, and a loss of historical connectedness with the Christ-event. The "Christ Event" is the incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth. In Neoplatonism humans, through their own efforts can achieve salvation. This view is incompatible with the doctrine of original sin and the belief that the Christ event is necessary for human salvation. Maximus adhered to the Neoplatonic concept of the soul's gradual working toward salvation, and that the redeemed soul merges with the godhead and ceases all motion, no longer existing as a distinct person. John Scotus Eriugena (ca. 815-ca. 877 CE) would translate the writings of both into Latin and thereby introduce the concepts of Neoplatonism in Latin Western Europe and Latin theology, such as with Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 CE). Christian mysticism, both in theory and in practice, developed a path for the human soul towards a state where the soul becomes directly aware of God in a 'Unio Mystica'. Christian mystics, such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena (ca. 815-ca. 877 CE), Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179 CE), Mechthild von Magdeburg (ca. 1207-ca. 1282/1294 CE), Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (ca. 1217-1274 CE), Marguerite Porete (died 1310 CE), Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-ca. 1328 CE), Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464 CE), Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499 CE), John of the Cross (1542-1591 CE), Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582 CE), Jakob Böhme (1575-1624 CE), and others, developed within Christian mysticism the concept of the Threefold Path (triplex via) based upon the Neoplatonism and apophatic theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century). In his Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (596A) Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite uses the same metaphor of the staircase (ἐπαναβαθμοῖς) or ladder as Plato in his Symposium: "Α οίμαι πάνΤως ἐλλάμι.μει ΤηλαυγἐσΤερα κάλλη καὶ θειόΤερα Τοῖς εἰρη μενοις ἐπαναβαθμοῖς χρωμένῳ προς ὐπερΤἐραν άκΤῖνα." The goal of Christian mysticism was to find the divine spark or 'scintilla animae' within and unite with God. Neoplatonic mysticism would run into trouble when it left the confines of the monasteries and started causing confusion and heretical thoughts in the minds of laypeople. It would mainly survive in (esoteric) monastic theology, while (exoteric) scholastic (Thomistic) theology would become the official theology at least of Roman Catholicism. Interestingly, the 'Prima Pars' and 'Secunda Pars' of the Summa Theologiæ of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) can be regarded as an exitus-reditus scheme in the Neoplatonic sense. Thomas Aquinas also referred quite extensively to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. The problem with the mystical ascent is that it bypasses official institutions and hierarchy, which of course we cannot tolerate in the case of laypeople. In the XVIIIth century various Masonic Lodges were erected in Benedictine monasteries, which makes clear that there is some spiritual link between monastic and masonic spirituality. For instance the Benedictine Abbey of Melk had its own lodge. Two successive abbots of Melk, who held the office between 1746 and 1785, belonged to a lodge; and, 'following the tradition of the house', their aprons were buried with them in the abbey cloister (see also The Purification of Love: Heavenly Ascent from Plato to Dante, Travis Patten, Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 4, Number 1, 2013, pp. 1-45 and The Christian Neoplatonism of St. Maximus the Confessor, Edward Moore, Quodlibet Journal: Volume 6 Number 3, July - September 2004 and The Fullness of God: Frithjof Schuon on Christianity Frithjof Schuon, edited by Dr. James S. Cutsinger, World Wisdom, 2004 and A Brief History of Spirituality, Philip Sheldrake, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, p. 35 and Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul, Caroline M. Myss, Ken Wilber, Simon and Schuster, 2007, p. 57 and A History of Western Thought: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century, Nils Gilje, Gunnar Skirbekk, Routledge, 2013, p. 23 and The Mirror of the Simple Souls Who Are Annihilated and Remain Only in Will and Desire of Love Sells, Marguerite Porete, 14th-century and Monastic Theology and Scholastic Theology, Benedict XVI, General audience, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 and Saint Thomas Aquinas: the person and his work, Volume 1, Jean-Pierre Torrell, CUA Press, 2005, p. 151 and Thomas Aquinas: Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives, Brian Davies, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 30 and Les archives secrètes du Vatican et de la Franc-Maçonnerie; Histoire d'une condamnation pontificale, Ferrer-Benimeli s.j., R.P. José A, trad. d'Espagnol par G. Brossard c.c.; Dervy Livres, Paris 1989 and Loges et chapitres de la Grande loge et du Grand orient de France: (2e moitié du XVIIIe siècle), Alain Le Bihan, Bibliothèque nationale, 1967 and La iglesia española en la crisis del antiguo régimen, Sepúlveda Muñoz Isidro, Buldaín Jaca Blanca, Editorial UNED, 2015, p. 184 and A Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe, Ulrich L. Lehner, Michael O'Neill Printy, BRILL, 2010, p. 41 and The Enlightenment: Knowledge, Ryan Patrick Hanley, Darrin M. McMahon, Routledge, 2010, p. 308).

The spiritual ascent can also be regarded as an Imitatio Dei which can be achieved by purification (katharsis) and illumination (theoria), the highest point in illumination is the union with God. Rising within oneself or the 'Introrsum ascendere' is the formula for the mystic's self-direction: 'Ascendere enim ad Deum, est intrare ad se ipsum: et non solum ad se intrare, sed ineffabili quodam modo in intimis, se ipsum transire.' The possibility of this inward ascent, even to the dazzling height of union with God is made possible by the indwelling spirit of the Deity, which in Christianity is Christ or the 'scintilla animae'. Theiosis is being described by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης, late 5th to early 6th century) in his Mystical Theology and by Aurelius Augustinus (354-430 CE) in his Neoplatonic De vera religione (39:72). In the Mystical Theology, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite puts forward a Triple Mystic Path, which consists of the Purgative, the Illuminative and the Unitive (Via purgativa, via iluminativa and via unitiva). Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς οὐρανίου ἱεραρχίας) and his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἱεραρχίας) puts forward a Neoplatonic model of mystical ascent. The ecclesiastical hierarchy consisted of deacons, priests and Bishops. The function of purification was given to the deacons, the priests provided illumination and the bishops were perfecting the work. In Roman Catholic mysticism the via purgativa is the equivalent to katharsis, and theoria is subdivided between illumination and full mystical union. In Freemasonry the via purgativa is the equivalent to katharsis of the first degree, and theoria is subdivided between the illumination of the second degree and full mystical union of the third degree. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582 CE) in her Camino de Perfección and in El Castillo Interior describes the journey of the soul through seven stages, ending with the mystical union (henôsis) with God. The experience of mystical union is beyond words or rational explanation. John of the Cross (1542-1591 CE) in his poem La noche oscura del alma narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its mystical union with God. He also wrote two commentaries on the poem, the Subida del Monte Carmelo, and Noche Oscura. He distinguishes between the beginners (principiantes), the proficients (aprovechados or aprovechantes) up to the ones which accomplish the mystical union with God (divino). The concept of the dark night of the soul in La noche oscura del alma refers to the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable, a concept which goes back to apophatic theology. It also refers to the darkness the soul has to go thorough before reaching the stage of illumination at the moment of the mystical union with God. John of the Cross intended his treatises primarily for beginners and proficients (asi a los principiantes como a los aprovechados) in the spiritual life. The mystical ascent also refers to the fact that it is absolutely impossible for the finite reason to receive a pure knowledge of the divine save through processes which divide and limit his infinite nature (e.g. Aristotelian categories), the mystic at last with absolute faith must plunge into the Darkness of Unknowing, which he can only do when he has reached the loftiest point to which the highest human faculty will raise him. The themes of the Mystical Theology can also be found in the (anonymous) medieval The Cloud of Unknowing, late medieval Rhineland mysticism and the poem Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667) (see also Denys the Areopagite, Andrew Louth, Continuum, 2001, p.105 and Mystical Theology and the Celestial Hierarchies 1949, Dionysius the Areopagite, Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 11 and Cracking the Freemason's Code: The Truth About Solomon's Key and the Brotherhood, Robert Cooper, Random House, 2011, p. 44 and One Kind of Religion, Helen Wodehouse, Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 88-89 and Die Gestalt des Unsichtbaren: Narrative Konzeptionen des Inneren in der höfischen Erzählliteratur, Katharina Silke Philipowski Walter de Gruyter, 2013, p. 57 and The Beauty of the Unity and the Harmony of the Whole: The Concept of Theosis in the Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Vladimir Kharlamov, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009 and The Bhagavadgītā and St. John of the Cross: A Comparative Study of the Dynamism of Spiritual Growth in the Process of God-realisation, Rudolf V. D'Souza, Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 1996, p. 13 and Everyday Philosophy: Practical Applications, Gene Bammel, Author House, 2005, p. 231 and St John Of The Cross, Kevin G. Culligan, Ch.3, 138-150 and From Athens to Chartres: Neoplatonism and Medieval Thought : Studies in Honour of Edouard Jeauneau, Édouard Jeauneau, Haijo Jan Westra, BRILL, 1992, p. 335 The Mysterious Darkness of Unknowing, Paradise Lost and the God Beyond Names, Michael Bryson in Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books, Essays on the 1667 First Edition, Michael Lieb and John Shawcross (Eds), Duquesne UP, 2007, pp. 183-212).

Besides its Neoplatonic origin there are several sources in the Bible and in patrology which refer to the concept of divinization. Deification in the (Greek) patristic tradition was the fulfilment of the destiny for which humanity was created, which meant not merely salvation from sin but entry into the fullness of the divine life of the Trinity. In the second epistle of Peter (2 Peter 1:4) we read: "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust". Other references to theosis can be found in Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 4:24, Psalm 82:6 (81:6) (ego dixi dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes vos), Habbakuk 2:14, Isaiah 23:17, Matthew 5:48, John 3:2, John 3:6, John 10:34 (Respondit eis Jesus: Nonne scriptum est in lege vestra, Quia ego dixi: Dii estis?), John 14:12, Romans 8:16, Romans 12:2, Romans 29, Philippians 3:21, Corinthians 3:18, Corinthians 15:28 and 2 Corinthians 13:5 (Do you not realize that Christ is in you?). The Christian ascent to God is achieved by grace rather than solely through one's own effort, which differs from other spiritual traditions. The Christian ascent starts with recognizing one's state of darkness, then striving towards self-cleaning (via purgativa), improving one's understanding by a twofold process which comprises increasing knowledge (head, mind) combined with wisdom (heart) which is the second stage or the 'via illuminativa'. The end of the process results in the presence of God which reunites man with God, resulting in the unio mystica or 'via unitiva'. In Christianity it is the descent of God into a human body as the Logos who was God and became flesh (John 1:1,14), which enables man to do the reverse. Christ (logos) coupled man in the flesh to the divine. The Church Fathers believed that the Logos became flesh, which means that the nature of God and the nature of man are united in one Person. This concept distinguishes Christianity from the other Abrahamic religions which only have a completely transcendent God. Through Christ, Christians created a mystical stepping stone towards the divine which enabled the Neoplatonic return to The One. This means man can be divinized (cf. 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:1-3). This does not mean that man's nature changes into the nature of God, but it means that man can partake in the divine nature of God or achieve henosis or the mystical union. There are several references to divinization in the writings of the church fathers. Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215 CE) in his Protrepticus (Προτρεπτικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας), wrote that "the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God". Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 296-373 CE), in De Incarnatione Verbi Dei wrote "For he was made man that we might be made God" (54:3, PG 25:192B). Basil of Caesarea (330-379 CE) in On the Holy Spirit, wrote the man is not just "being made like to God", but "highest of all, the being made God". Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) in his Summa Theologiae (ST), wrote "man is perfected in wisdom (which is his proper perfection, as he is rational) by participating [in] the Word of God" (ST III, q. 3. a. 8) and that the reason for the Incarnation is for "the full participation of the Divinity, which is the true bliss of man and end of human life; and this is bestowed upon us by Christ's humanity; for Augustine says in a sermon (xiii de Temp): 'God was made man, that man might be made God' " (ST III, q. 1 a. 2). Thomas Aquinas also used the example of an iron poker heated in a fire as a symbol of divination. Though the red-hot poker (man) never itself becomes fire, yet it participates in every characteristic of the fire (God). This divine potential in man contrasts with the depravity of humankind and the immense distance between Creator and creature which developed in Western Christianity. In Eastern Orthodoxy the concept of henosis is still present today. Theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy is brought about by the effects of katharsis (purification of mind and body) and theoria. These patristic views have influenced mystics throughout Christian history and most probably have influenced the construction of the threefold structure of the first three degrees of freemasonry in order to reflect the Neoplatonic or Pseudo-Dionysian triplex via (see also The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, Norman Russell, Oxford University Press, 2006 and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, Roberts and Donaldson, Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 526 and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II, Roberts and Donaldson, Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 174 and A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 2nd series, Vol. 8, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Eerdmans, 1994, 16 and The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity, Roger E. Olson, InterVarsity Press, 2002, p. 230 and The Reformation: Faith and Flames, Andrew Atherstone, Lion Book, 2011, p. 69 and The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights for Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity, Philip LeMasters, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013, p. 17).

An interesting inspiration can be found in the classical pedagogical triad of Greece and in Aristotelian virtue ethics. Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) in his Meno divides learning into instruction (mathēsis, μάθησις), nature, (phusis, φύσις) and practice (askēsis, ἄσκησις). Asceticism (ἄσκησις), askēsis originally referred in classical Greek to training, practice, exercise, or discipline. Philosophers like Plato would apply askēsis to moral perfection,meaning the exercise and art of refraining from vice and practicing virtue. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) developed the basic concept of virtues, phronesis (φρόνησις, practical wisdom), and the idea of an ultimate moral good, which is the goal to live for: eudaimonia (εὐδαιμονία). In his major work on virtue ethics, the Ethica Nicomachea, Aristotle distinguished between the 'bios apolaustikos', 'bios praktikos' or 'politikos' (vita activa) and 'bios theoretikos' (vita contemplativa) (Ethica Nicomachea, I.5, 1095b 17-19). The 'bios apolaustikos' is the (lowest) life devoted to enjoyment (Ethica Nicomachea, I.3, 1095b 17). The next stages are worthwhile for a free man of which the highest stage is the 'bios theoretikos' of the philosopher. The ethical ascent required askēsis, meaning disciplined exercise and deliberate repetitive practice. For Aristotle the goal of askēsis was the golden middle way or keeping a balance with regard to human impulses or drives (Ethica Nicomachea II.15, 1107a). Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 BCE-40 CE) would apply the classical pedagogical triad in his discourse of noetic ascent, thereby combining Greek and Jewish strains of thought. In his Allegorical Commentary he deals with Moses' twofold way of ascending to the divine. The Mosaic ascent requires at times the enhancement of human reason and at other times the eviction of human reason. In the discussion of Genesis 2.7 in his Exposition of the Law, Philo deals with Platonic and Stoic notions of human transformation and well-being. In the 'patriarchs' section he portrays the three great Abrahamic patriarchs as exemplars of the virtues of 'instruction' (Abraham), 'nature' (Isaac), and 'practice' (Jacob, Genesis 32:24 ff.) relating them to the classical Greek models of education: mathēsis (μάθησις), phusis (φύσις), and askēsis (ἄσκησις). Philo developed a bridge between the educational principles of ancient Greece and Judaism, which would in its turn develop into a Christian synthesis. From these educational principles, Christianity developed the 'bios praktikos' or 'vita activa' as a necessary preparation for contemplation, the 'bios theoretikos' or 'vita contemplativa'. Christianity would apply 'praktikos' for the active life to Martha and 'theoretikos' for the contemplative life of Mary (Bible, NT, Luke 10:38-42, At the Home of Martha and Mary). The Christian spiritual ascent would no longer lead to eudaimonia, but to knowledge of God. Spiritual development itself became a tripartite ascent, beginning with ascetical practice (praktikē) and natural contemplation (physikē) to achieve contemplation of the divine nature (theologikē). Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 CE) developed the Platonic and Aristotelian system into a Christian model in his Praktikos, Gnostikos, and Kephalaia Gnostica. The Praktikos (Κεφάλαια Πρακτικά) explains his ascetical doctrine, while the Gnostikos (Γνωστικός) is a series of counsels addressed to the 'gnostic' or spiritual Master (which is not the same as the gnostic heresy). The Kephalaia Gnostica (Chapters of Knowledge, Γνωστικὰ Κεφάλαια) deals with all the theses he took from Origen of Alexandria (184/185-253/254 CE) and this text is frequently considered to be behind the condemnations of Origen at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 CE. Evagrius takes his inspiration mainly from Origen, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215 CE), Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-ca. 395 CE), and Neoplatonism. In his works Evagrius distinguished between praktikos (πρακτικος), theoretikos (θεωρητικος), and gnosticos (γνωστικος) as the stages of the spiritual ascent. Asceticism, the praktikē, leads to knowledge, gnōsis and for Evagrius knowledge goes together with goodness/virtue and cannot be separated from it. In his Praktikos (Praktikos I) Evagrius stated: “Christianity is the doctrine of Jesus Christ our Savior, consisting in ethics (πρακτική), philosophy of nature (φυσική), and theology (θεολογική)”. Praktike is the spiritual method for purifying the affective part of the soul as with askēsis, meaning the battle against the passions (Praktikos, Prol VIII, ch. 1-3, 84-89). Praktike can be related to the via purgativa or purgation from sin. The ascent begins with simple praxis (meaning simple obedience to the moral commandments) leading to apatheia (freedom from destructive passions), which of course reminds of Stoicism. From the state of apatheia develops the 'bios theoretikos' (a life based on the vision of God) and 'gnosis' (actual experience of God). Evagrius devided the 'gnostic life' into two parts: contemplation of nature (phusike) and contemplation of God which is theology (theologike). These three stages of the spiritual ascent developed into the doctrine of three ways of purgation, illumination, and union (unio mystica) with Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582 CE) and John of the Cross (1542-1591 CE) during the Contrareformatio. An interesting idea would be to find out if the initial two degrees of freemasonry, related to the classical division between the 'vita activa' and the 'vita contemplativa' (combining 'theoretikos' and 'gnosticos'), while the three degree system relates to 'praktikos' (πρακτικος), 'theoretikos' (θεωρητικος) and 'gnosticos' (γνωστικος). (see also Plato's Meno in Focus, Jane Mary Day, Psychology Press, 1994, p. 22 and Isocrates and Civic Education, Takis Poulakos, David Depew, University of Texas Press, 2013, p. 165 and Knowledge of God in Philo of Alexandria, Jang Ryu, Mohr Siebeck, 2015, p. 148 and Evagrius, Kephalaia Gnostika, Ilaria L. E. Ramelli (intro), Series: Writings from the Greco-Roman world, Number 38, SBL Press, 2015 and The praktikos: Chapters on prayer, Evagrius (Ponticus), John Eudes Bamberger, Cistercian Publications, 1970, p. xiv and Evigarius Essentials, Evagrius (Ponticus),, 2009, pp 11-12 and Evagrius Ponticus on Being Good in God and Christ, Julia Konstantinovsky, Studies in Christian Ethics, 2013, 26(3) pp. 317-332 and The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality, Carl McColman, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2010, p. 168).

The first degrees of Freemasonry can also be regarded as the stages of the Magnum opus in alchemy and the quest for the lapis philosophorum.

  1. Nigredo, a blackening or melanosis - Chamber of Reflection (CHOR)
  2. Albedo, a whitening or leucosis - Entered Apprentice
  3. Citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis - Fellow-Craft
  4. Rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosis - Master Mason
The first degree symbolizes the journey out of Nigredo (black, darkness) into the Albedo (Entered Apprentice, Moon, white). The second degree becomes Citrinitas (Fellow-Craft, Sun, yellow) and the third degree becomes Rubedo (Master Mason, Flaming Star, Delta, stars) (see also Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, Henrik Bogdan, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 107 and History of Religious Ideas, Volume 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity, Volume 2, Mircea Eliade, University of Chicago Press, 2011, p. 303 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008, p. 67 and Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung's Life and Teachings, Gary Lachman, Penguin, 2010 and Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.12), C. G. Jung (Author), Gerhard Adler (Translator), R. F.C. Hull (Translator), Princeton University Press; 2nd Edition edition, 1980 and The Magic Flute, M. F. M. Van Den Berk, BRILL, 2004, pp. 219-299).

Continental freemasonry would develop elaborate initiation rituals, which were inspired by ancient myths and legends. In Séthos, histoire, ou Vie tirée des monumens anecdotes de l'ancienne Egypte, published in 1731 by Jean Terrasson (1670-1750 CE), the hero of the story endures his trials in the Great Pyramid in the Dark Light Chamber or Death Pit, a chamber located in the lower part of the pyramid. In Metamorphosis sive De asino aureo (The Golden Ass), Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (ca. 125-ca. 180 CE) mentions the purfication by the elements as part of Lucius' initiation into the mysteries of Isis. These ancient rituals inspired both Jean Terrasson and the French freemasons in their eleaborate initiation rituals (see also Over occulte vrijmetselarij en de hermetische inwijding, Jean Marie Ragon, Oswald Wirth, Theosofische Uitgeverszaak "Gnosis", 1931, p. 18-19 and The Colossian Syncretism, Clinton E. Arnold, Mohr Siebeck, 1995, p. 175 and Myth, Emblem, and Music in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Peggy Munoz Simonds, University of Delaware Press, 1992, p. 99 and Egyptian Religion and Mysteries, Earle de Motte, Xlibris Corporation, p. 116).

Degrees 1 - 3
Entered Apprentice

Tracing board
- Tracing board of the first degree -
- Emulation Ritual -
Entered Apprentice Mason Working Tools
- Entered Apprentice working tools -

The first step in the ascent of man towards moral growth and perfection is the Purgative Way (Via purgativa), which in freemasonry is the path of the Entered Apprentice. This is a stage in integration with the Self which happens through experiences of struggle and temptation. The initiation into freemasonry seeks to bring about a maturing spiritual awareness through the experience of trials. The initiate passes through places of growing peace and declining anxiety. There is a growing awareness of the spiritual life within. In this stage of purgation or purification, one's trust is tried through experiences of external trauma and internal conflicts. When we look at this stage as the first step of three of the traditional mystic ascent it is the stage of the 'Dark Night of Senses' while the third stage is the 'Dark Night of the Soul'. The 'Dark Night of Senses' is the crisis in which in the Christian tradition 'God' purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. The Entered Apprentice begins his journey in the Chamber of Reflection and is being blindfolded. The essential lessons of the 'Dark Night of Senses' during this stage are learned only when one takes the first halting steps toward hope and trust. The core insight to be gained is that the spiritual spark (scintilla animae) of 'Christ' (logos-principle) within man is sovereign. The initiate learns this in the 'Dark Night of Senses' where he comes to realize of his absolute insufficiency in the face of Christ's (logos) utter sufficiency. The most important experience of the 'Dark Night of the Soul', will be the rescuing by the 'Christ-principle' (logos-principle), which marks the end of the darkness. It resembles the Christian resurrection into the divine light on Easter morning. The first step is the step of Wisdom (φρόνησις) and in the first degree there are three circumbalations during the initiation (the first number of the Pythagorean triangle). The Western concept of the mystical ascent goes back to Neoplatonism with Plotinus (204/5-270 CE), who characterized mystical union with 'The One' as the consequence of a preparatory stage consisting of knowledge and purgation meaning becoming free of the world of appearances ("unknowing") (see also Dictionary of World Philosophy, A. Pablo Iannone, Routledge, 2013, p. 356 and Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development, Benedict Groeschel, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1984 and Purgation and Purgatory: The Spiritual Dialogue, Caterina (de Gènova, Paulist Press, 1979, p. 31 and Unlikely Companions: C.G. Jung on the Spritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola : an Exposition and Critique Based on Jung's Lectures and Writings, Kenneth L. Becker Gracewing Publishing, 2001, p. 338 and Unity of the Heart: Transforming Consciousness to an Enlightened Humanity, Peter N. Borys, Jr., Hillcrest Publishing Group, 2008, p. 172 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcom C. Duncan, 1866, Ch. First Degree).

For an individual to attain the title of 'Entered Apprentice', a person must have a rational mind. The initiation of the candidate into Freemasonry starts in the Chamber of Reflection (CHOR) in the 'earth' and continues with three symbolic journeys and purification by air, water and fire. When relating the initiation to the 'magnum opus' of alchemy, the first step in the Chamber of Reflection resembles Nigredo. Nigredo, or blackness, in the alchemical sense, means putrefaction, decomposition. By the penetration of the external fire, the inner fire is activated and the matter starts to putrefy. In the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE), the term (Nigredo) became a metaphor 'for the dark night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within' (see also A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Roberte H. Hopeke, Boston 1989, p. 165). The path towards self-knowledge is an adventure that carries man unexpectedly far and deep. Even a moderately comprehensive knowledge of the shadow can cause a good deal of confusion and mental darkness, since it gives rise to personality problems which one had never remotely imagined before. For this reason alone we can understand why the alchemists called their nigredo melancholia, "a black blacker than black", night, an affliction of the soul, confusion, etc., or, more pointedly, the "black raven". For us the raven seems only a funny allegory, but for the medieval adept it was ... a well-known allegory of the devil. (see also The Conjunction, Collected Works, vol 14, C. G. Jung, par. 741).

Before the candidate enters the Lodge, he is divested of all his apparel (shirt excepted) and furnished with a pair of drawers kept in the lodge for the use of candidates. The candidate is then blindfolded, his left foot bare, his right in a slipper, his left breast and arm naked, and a rope called a Cable-tow round his neck and left arm. The divestment of his apparel refers to removing one's χιτών (khitṓn, “tunic”), which refers to the Neoplatonic χιτών as a symbol of the senses and emotions. In his Commentary on Alcibiades and De malorum subsistentia Proclus (412-485 CE) refers to the χιτών. When the χιτών is abandoned mind, and not the sense is in command of the soul. Porphyry (ca. 234-305 CE) in On abstinence from animal food (I:43) would write: "Let us go stripped, without tunics, to the stadium, to compete in the Olympics of the soul." The rite of taking off one's shoe is called the 'Rite of Discalceation'. It refers to the Book of Ruth (Boaz Marries Ruth) 4:7-8. Taking off one shoe, and handing it to him with whom a covenant was made, was a symbol of sincerity. It may also refer to Exodus 3:5 or Joshua 5:15, where it refers to removing one's shoes when entering holy ground. Masonic literature also refers to Maimonides (1135 or 1138-1204 CE) for "It was not lawful for a man to come into the mountain of God's home with his shoes on his feet, or with his staff, or in his working garments, or with dust on his feet". In the Pythagorean tradition it was also proper to take off one's shoes on entering into a temple. Regardless of the tradition from which the symbol is being drawn, the initiate is to enter on a journey where he has to be sincere and respectful. First of all to himself, but also to his brothers and humanity, regardless of the differences which may separate them. The initiate is also to be aware of the nature of the gathering in the Temple. The Cable-tow is representative of the bond to the fraternity. In early Freemasonry it was used as a symbol representing the candidates submission to the authority of Freemasonry, humility, servitude and even a possible penalty should the candidate betray the trust placed upon him. The Cable-tow also refers to hanging as a biblical symbol. To be hung on a tree is described as a curse because those killed in this fashion were cursed by God as in Deuteronomy 21:22&23 (see also The Symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert Gallatin Mackey, 1869, p. 125 and Plotinus: Road to Reality, John M. Rist, CUP Archive, 1967, p. 190 and Platonism at the Origins of Modernity: Studies on Platonism and Early Modern Philosophy, Douglas Hedley, Sarah Hutton, Springer Science & Business Media, 2007, p. 48 and The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings Which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy, David R. Fideler, Red Wheel/Weiser, 1987, p. 78 and The Lost Key: An Explanation and Application of the Masonic Symbols, Prentiss Tucker, Book Tree, 1999, p. 103 and Dress symbolism).

The center of the initiation of an 'Entered Apprentice' are three circumambulations. The three symbolic journeys or circumambulations and purification by air, water and fire refer to the classical elements. The classical theory of the four elements is part of the Indo-European philosophical tradition, which stretches from Western Europe to the Himalayas. The four elements of Freemasonry refer to the classical elements of ancient Greece. The earth is being symbolized by the Chamber of Reflection (CHOR) and the other elements are being used during the three circumambulations. Empedocles (ca. 495-435 BCE) is considered to be the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four Classical elements. Classical medical theory also believed that man consisted of the four elements each representing one of four humors derived from earth (melancholic, black bile, µέλαινα χολή), water (phlegmatic, phlegm, φλέγμα), air (sanguine, blood, αἷμα), fire (yellow bile, choleric, χολή). In a healthy person the four elements or humors were believed to be in balance. Interestingly the four elements also refer to the physical theory of the Stoics and their theory of mind. The Stoics identify two of the elements as active (fire and air) and two as passive principles (water and earth). For the Stoics the active elements (fire and air) combine to form breath or pneuma (πνεῦμα), which is the 'sustaining cause' (synektikon aition) of all existing bodies and guides the growth and development of animate bodies. The soul was believed to be a hot,fiery breath (pneuma) that infused the physical body. The symbol of the fiery breath maybe clarifies why freemasons use lycopodium powder (spores of clubmosses, e;g. Lycopodium clavatum) to create a flash (fire) and a bellows (air) during the initiation ceremony. In Christianity we find a reference to a baptism by water (aqua) and by fire (igni) as in Matthew 3:11: "ego quidem vos baptizo in aqua in paenitentiam qui autem post me venturus est fortior me est cuius non sum dignus calciamenta portare ipse vos baptizabit in Spiritu Sancto et igni". The second baptism by fire, is a symbol of a trial and testing of disciples. Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/1182-1226 CE) in his Laudes Creaturarum (Praise of the Creatures) refers to the four elements as his brothers and sisters. Hinduism and Buddhism refer to the elements as mahābhūta (great element). In Buddhism, the "four great elements" (Pali: cattāro mahābhūtāni) are earth, water, fire and air. Buddhism sometimes adds elements of space and consciousness, in Hinduism the fifth element is ether which relates directly to the 'Spiritual Sky' or Akash. In the Hindu Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad God is identified as the source of the great elements and also "When earth, water fire, air and akasa arise, when the five attributes of the elements, mentioned in the books on yoga, become manifest then the yogi's body becomes purified by the fire of yoga and he is free from illness, old age and death." (Verse 2.12). Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE) saw the Four Elements as archetypes existing in the collective unconscious and thus present in everyone. Jung considered Fire and Air the active, masculine elements and Water and Earth the passive, feminine elements. In Jungian psychology, it is the degree of development of each of the Four Elements in our conscious mind balanced with the unconscious retention of the remaining elements that determines our personality and attitude. In other words, this indwelling fourfold structure of our personality originates from the creation of ego out of the chaos of the unconscious, just as the fourfold structure of the universe was created by the action of the One Mind on the First Matter (see also The Elements: A Very Short Introduction, Philip Ball, Oxford University Press, 2004 and Stoicism, John Sellars, Routledge, 2014, p. 98 and What Is the Baptism of Fire?, Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier, Christian Courier Publications and A Theology of the New Testament, George Eldon Ladd, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1993, p. 33 and The Esoteric Codex: Alchemy I, Mark Rogers, First Edition,, p. 77 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008, p. 218).

All spiritual traditions have used Dark Room techniques in the pursuit of enlightenment as endarkment has to precede enlightenment. Until man has encountered his own darkness, he cannot find his own light, before that moment he is not really living but merely existing. The path towards enlightenment is to explore the mysteries of life in order to gain knowledge, wisdom, and an enlightened understanding of this world. In Europe, the dark room often appeared in underground form as a network of tunnels, in Egypt as the Pyramids, in Rome as the catacombs, and by the Essenes, near the Dead Sea in Israel, as caves. In the Taoist tradition caves have been used throughout the ages for higher level practices. The dark retreat refers to advanced practices in the Taoism, Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo, other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In the Tao, the cave, the Immortal Mountain, the Wu San, represents the Perfect Inner Alchemy Chamber. Meditating and fasting in the cave is the final journey of spiritual work. The caves are the Earth Mother and its energy lines. Like the hollowing bones, caves contain the earliest information of life stored inside the Earth. Caves contain the vital essence of the Earth Power. The Tao says: "When you go into the dark and this becomes total, the darkness soon turns into light" (see also Darkness Technology: Darkness Techniques for Enlightenment, Mantak Chia, Universal Tao Center, 2002 and Dawning of Clear Light: A Western Approach to Tibetan Dark Retreat Meditation, Martin Lowenthal Hampton Roads Publishing, 2003).

We find journeys into darkness in ancient Greece, such as with Parmenides (fl. late sixth or early fifth century BCE). Parmenides in his poem On Nature describes a journey in which the narrator travels "beyond the beaten paths of mortal men" to receive a revelation from an unnamed goddess. In short, the Daughters of the Sun have come along to fetch him from the world of the living and take him right back to where they belong. This is no journey from confusion to clarity; from darkness to light. On the contrary, the journey Parmenides is describing is exactly the opposite. He is travelling straight into the ultimate night that no human being could possibly survive without divine protection. He is being taken to the heart of the underworld, the world of the dead ... . There was a specific and established technique among various groups of people for making the journey to the world of the dead, for dying before you died. It involved isolating yourself in a dark place, lying down in complete stillness, staying motionless for hours or days. First the body would go silent, then eventually the mind. And this stillness is what gave access to another world, a world of utter paradox, to a totally different state of awareness.... And there was a name that the Greeks, and then the Romans, gave to this technique. They called it incubation (see Reality, Peter Kingsley, The Golden Sufi Center, 2003).

Endarkment is not necessarily darkness; and enlightenment is the light of the "light that darkness could not overcome" (Prologue of St John's Gospel). It is in the process of being darkened that man finds his inner light. John of the Cross (1542-1591 CE) in his poem (1578 or 1579 CE) and treatise (1584-1585 CE) La noche oscura del alma (Dark Night of the Soul) narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to its union with God. The journey is called "The Dark Night", because darkness represents the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. In Psalm 23:4 we find the encouraging words for the journey through darkness: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (see King James Bible "Authorized Version", Cambridge Edition and The Poems of Saint John of the Cross, Saint John of the Cross, New Directions Publishing, 1972, p. 38).

Suffering first in darkness before being able to find light can be found in several traditions. Reaching enlightenment is no free ride. The Buddhist statement, "suffering is the path to enlightenment" inherently assumes that suffering is in some way a necessary precursor to enlightenment; that it is in some way needed to attain enlightenment. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677 CE) in his Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order) stated: "Affectus, qui passio est, desinit esse passio simalutaque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam" (Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it). In L'être et le néant: Essai d'ontologie phénoménologique (Being and Nothingness) Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980 CE) raises a discussion, which revolves around a concept that he coined, "bad faith". The discussion has little, if nothing at all to do with any religious connotations of faith, but rather, it is used to elucidate, in his own language, how living in bad faith, which can be loosely translated as living in suffering, is how one can be guided toward a more whole and contented existence. For Sartre man is a creature haunted by a vision of "completion", what he calls the 'ens causa sui', literally 'a being that causes itself', which many religions and philosophers identify as God. Born into the material reality of one's body, in a material universe, one finds oneself inserted into being. Sartre states that "existence precedes essence". This forms the basis for his assertion that since one cannot explain one's own actions and behaviour by referencing any specific human nature, they are necessarily fully responsible for those actions. Man who lives his (entire) life in darkness his himself reponsible for this state of being (see also Existentialism Is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Lecture, 1945 and Existentialism is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Yale University Press, 2007 and Is Suffering the Path to Enlightenment?, 2012).

Initiation is a spiritual odyssey from endarkment to enlightenment. Religious systems state that God or Gods are required for man to reach enlightnement, either already in this life or only in the afterlife. Secular systems of thought make man himself wholly responsible for his personal enlightenment. Enlightenment is reached while going through a state of "death" before being "reborn" as an enlightened being. During the transition the old self has to die in order for the new person to be born. Endarkment is the journey into one's own night, into formlessness and into the Great mystery from which everything arises, darkness then passes away, and holds the promise of rebirth or spiritual enlightenment. The focus during the journey through darkness is increasingly on the light within and what constrains its recognition. The initation is about emptying yourself of personality aspects and ego-attachments, and finding the spark of the soul (Seelenfunklein) or divine spark within. "Noli foras ire, in teipsum redi; in interiore homine habitat veritas" (Do not go out, return to yourself, for the truth dwells in the interior of man) of Aurelius Augustinus (354-430 CE) in De vera religione (39:72). The state of mind to be achieved is also reflected in "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (see King James Bible "Authorized Version", Cambridge Edition, Matthew 18:3).

Before the ceremony starts the neophyte is asked to deposit his metals (money). The symbolism of the act of deposit is called the 'Rite of Destitution'. The 'Rite of Destitutio'n symbolizes that the candidate is not to bring his passions or prejudices into the Lodge room, lest harmony, one of the chief concerns of Masonry, be destroyed. During the ceremony the new mason is unable to donate his contribution for solidarity and another brother has to step in to donate in his place. For masons, this has the added significance of reinforcing the principle that one mason helps another and that those in need can count on their Brethren for needed assistance. The first degree symbolizes birth, and the lodge is a symbol of the world, therefore the candidate is (as at birth) entirely destitute. As man makes his progress and acquires some worldly goods, it is natural for a person to think that he is self sufficient. However no thought of brotherly love can exist without charity or agape (ἀγάπη). In teaching a moral principle it is easy to state a general rule of conduct, but to make it most effective an actual incident is necessary. When the candidate is asked that pertinent question to make a donation he finds himself destitute, he is most embarrassed for a moment. It is immediately explained to the initiate that the incident was for a purpose, and this is explained to him: the lodge was not trifling with his feelings but teaching him that as far as he is able, he must be charitable. One myth to which the 'Rite of Destitution' may refer to is the legend of Solomon's shamir. The building of the Temple promoted peace, so it was inappropriate to use tools made of metal that could also cause war and bloodshed. Therefore Solomon used the shamir (Hebrew: שמיר‎), which is a worm or a substance that had the power to cut through or disintegrate stone, iron and diamond. As no metal may be used to build the Temple, the neophyte has to leave all metal outside (FWIW) (see also The Masonic Rite of Destitution, Joseph Fort Newton, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and The Rite of Destitution, Alphonse Cerza, Masonic Light, (Quebec), December, 1951 and Grand Lodge Bulletin, Volume 43, Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M., 1942, p. 138 and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin, Folio 68a and The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook, Robert Hayward, Routledge, 2002, p. 69).

In the Chamber of Reflection the 'Entered Apprentice' begins his 'magnum opus' or 'Great Work'. The body is reduced to its primal matter from which it originally arose. The symbol of the first degree once initiated is the (silver light of the) moon which symbolizes the stage of Albedo in alchemy. ...Following the chaos or massa confusa of the nigredo stage, the alchemist undertakes a purification in albedo, which is literally referred to as ablutio - the washing away of impurities. In this process, the subject is divided into two opposing principles to be later coagulated to form a unity of opposites or coincidentia oppositorum during rubedo. (see also The Alchemical Process of Transformation, Nigel Hamilton, 1985). Albedo happens when the Sun rises at midnight. It is a symbolic expression for the rising of the light at the depth of darkness. It is the birth of Christ in the middle of the winter. In the depth of a psychological crises, a positive change happens. "The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will" (see also Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, Éliphas Lévi, Baillière, 1861). We even find references to the Nigredo process in Edgar Allan Poe's (1809-1849 CE) work The Fall of the House of Usher where Roderick Usher states "I shall perish... I must perish in this deplorable folly" (III, 280), the folly to which he refers can be considered as the "Great Folly" of alchemy, as viewed by its most skeptical critics, while unconsciously the words are prophetic, in that the old life of the alchemist had to die, the old material self had to perish, if the experiment was to be fully a spiritual success. Just as the Mystery rites of the ancient world involved a descent into the infernal regions and the symbolic death of the self, so did alchemy require a killing of the old and a putting on of the new" (see Usher Unveiled: Poe and the Metaphysic of Gnosticism Barton Levi St. Armand, Poe Studies, vol. V, no. 1, June 1972, pp. 1-8 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcom C. Duncan, 1866, Ch. First Degree).

Freemasonry, as every spiritual tradition, is a quest for moral improvement and of obtaining higher states of consciousness. The light given to the new freemason by the Worshipful Master, at the end of the initiation ritual, is the light of spiritual enlightenment. The initation ritual is an allegorical experience of detachment from physical turmoil, of entering the void of the 'cloud of unknowing', or in other words "Summa Scientia, nihil scire. Nihil scire, omnia posse". The key understanding that results from this experience of pure nothing is that one still exists as a persona even when everything is gone. One realizes that one's existence does not depend on anything except one's own inner core. One realizes that awareness of this state of mind is the primal reality, the permanent core of ourselves: 'γνωθι σεατον' (gnothi seauton) and 'Cogito ergo sum' (I think, therefore I am). This experience of the void will balance life through a state of freedom which solves every problem by eliminating it, and provides a completely unburdened peace as a sort of 'inner retreat'. The journey however does not end here, as there is a (practical) need for learning to balance between void (intuitive enlightened understanding) and consequential experience (dialectic sequential knowledge). The path towards enlightenment of freemasonry can be seen as standing in the Western mystical tradition, resembling but not equal to the Eastern path towards enlightenment. Freemasons do not abandon their place in the world, they do not retreat from worldly life, but stand in life inspired by a spiritual source. However different the inspiration may be, this is similar to the life of lay members of Opus Dei and other similar organisations throughout time and space (see also Enlightenment Clearly Explained, Sufi George and The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590-1710, David Stevenson, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 99 and Enlightenment Lessons for Higher Awareness, Delorise Flowers, Xlibris Corporation, 2010 and Buddhist Philosophy from 100 to 350 A.D., Karl H. Potter, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999, p. 416).

At the end of the initiation ceremony the neophyte is being placed in the northeast corner of the lodge. The northeast corner is traditionally the place where the cornerstone or first stone of a building is laid. The Entered Apprentice is placed there to symbolize his first steps into Freemasonry and the hope that by keeping true to the moral principles of Freemasonry he will be enabled to erect his own spiritual moral temple. The north in masonry is attributed to darkness (ignorance) and the east to light (enlightenment). Therefore, the northeast is a place midway between darkness and light as he travels from being a candidate to becoming a Master Mason. Being midway, it is also symbolic of equilibrium. This spot can also represent the Spring Equinox, where the length of the nighttime is equal to the length of the daytime (see also Turning the Solomon Key, Robert Lomas, Random House, 2010, p. 81 and The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols, Robert Lomas, Fair Winds Press, 2011, p. 150).

Freemasonry uses tracing boards as visual aids to illustrate the principles taught in each degree. The tracing board of the first degree represents the human being and his place in the four worlds, which are the earth, the psyche, the spirit and the divinity or 'World Without End'. The picture represents the metaphysical structure of the four worlds of the universe. The pavement represents the physical world, the central part of the board including the columns and most of the symbols, represents the psychological world, the heavens represent the spiritual world, and the blazing star or glory, represents Divinity or the Monad. The tracing board symbolizes the duality of reality by means of the chequered pavement and sun (masculine) and moon (feminine). Going from the blazing star or glory it symbolizes the divine unity (monad) in the heavens which radiates into duality on earth. As the Monad emanates from unity into plurality, the journey back creates unity from plurality. The three pillars symbolize three different Greek styles of architecture. The Corinthian pillar of beauty is on the right, and in the classical world the Corinthian order was used for buildings dedicated to vigorous, expansive activities. The Doric pillar of strength is on the left, and the Doric order was used for buildings where discipline, restraint and stability were important. The Ionic pillar of wisdom is in the middle. The Ionic order was used for Temples to the rulers of the gods who coordinated the activities of the pantheon. The three pillars speak of a universe in which expansive and constraining forces are held in balance by a coordinating agency. The three pillars may refer to the Aristotelian concept of the golden mean, which is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Living one's life in harmony and without excess acoording to ancient ethical theory lead to happiness (eudaimonia). The tripartite structure can also be found in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. One could look at this tripartite structure as the Freudian id, ego and super-ego. Jacob's Ladder (Genesis 28:10-19) as a symbol refers to the spiritual ascent of man. The ladder with its 'three principal rounds', Faith, Hope, and Charity, rises to the heavens between the two parallels. The two parallel lines of the ladder, like the Doric and Corinthian columns and the two lines beside the circumpunct, represent paired opposites, active and passive qualities. These paired opposites are similar to the principle of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy. Through the union of the pervading principles it reaches harmony. (Laozi in the Tao Te Ching). The circumpunct at the basis of the ladder bounded by two parallel lines symbolizes man (microcosm) at the centre bounded by the universe (macrocosm) around him. The book above the circumpunct symbolizes the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL) which is the highest moral guide to man. The circle is the boundary line beyond which man is not to suffer his passions, prejudices, or interests to betray him. In going round the circle, while he stays circumscribed within these due bounds, it is impossible to materially err. The two vertical lines are his guides, symbolizing in the Christian tradition John the Baptist and John the Evangelist or the summer (left side) and winter (right side) solstices. They are the guardians during the journey. In the Neoplatonic tradition the circumpunct represents the soul in the spiritual world and in relation to the One, beauty, right and truth. As with most symbols being used in freemasonry, the deeper meaning of tracing boards touches symbols of Judaism and Christianity, the Indo-European symbols of Greek and Indian philosophy and even to a certain extent the symbolism of Chinese philosophy. As with most symbols used in practice they bring hidden principles of life to the surface where they can be grasped by the human person (see also Tracing Boards: Their Development and Designers Haunch, T.O., Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076), 1962 75: p. 24 and Tracing Boards of Three Degrees in Craft Freemasonry Explained, Julian Rees, Lewis Masonic Publishers, Limited, 2009 and Tracing Boards, Their Development and Their Designers, Terence O. Haunch, QC Correspondence Circle Limited, 2004 and Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol, W. Kirk MacNulty, Thames & Hudson, Limited, 1991, p. 20-22). To the 'World Without End' we find references in eschatology (see also A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume 2, Arthur Edward Waite, Cosimo, 2013, p. 372 and World Without End: Christian Eschatology from a Process Perspective, Joseph A. Bracken, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 and Eschatology, the doctrine of a future life in Israel, Judaism, and Christianity, Robert Henry Charles, Schocken Books, 1970 and Renaissance Philosophy in Jewish Garb: Foundations and Challenges in Judaism on the Eve of Modernity, Giuseppe Veltri, BRILL, 2009, p. 133 and From Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers: The Mysteries of the Hooked X, Scott F. Wolter, North Star Press Of St. Cloud, Inc., 2013, p. 65 and Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy, David B. Ruderman, NYU Press, 1992, p. 146).

The working tools of the first degree represent the psychological capacities which the Entered Apprentice must identify, gain control of and apply in his daily life. The working tools of the first degree are the gavel of passion, the chisel of analysis and the 24 inch gauge of measured choice. These tools are suitable for work in the physical world (first world) (see also The Working Tools of Freemasonry, Joseph Fort Newton, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and Illustration of Masonry, William Preston, Twelfth Edition, London. 1812).

Chamber of Reflection

Chamber of Reflection
- Chamber of Reflection (CHOR) -

The initiation of the candidates into Freemasonry starts in the Chamber of Reflection (CHOR) symbolizing earth and continues with three symbolic journeys and purification by air, water, and fire.

The masonic intiation starts in the Chamber of Reflection (CHOR), which prepares the candidate in darkness and deprives him form sensory information, which opens the gates of inner perception. The CHOR contains the following: a simple rough wooden table on which we find: a human skull, usually on two crossbones, a chunk of bread, a pitcher with water, a cup with salt, a cup with sulphur, a lighted candle or lantern, an hourglass, paper, ink and pen, a wooden stool or chair painted on the wall: a rooster, a sickle, the acronym V.IT.R.I.O.L. and various sayings (see also Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 46 and Chamber of Reflection, Helio L. Da Costa Jr., Vancouver Grand Masonic Day, 16 October 1999).

Once brought into the Chamber of Reflection, the candidate is asked to write his philosophical and moral testament. The answers to the questions asked of the candidate become the initial point towards the elaboration of his philosophical and moral testament. The philosophical testament provides a glimpse of the attitude and character of the future initiate and is unique to each individual. The candidate's true nature will be shown in his answers to the proposed questions as well as in his philosophical testament. The testament marks the end of the old profane life of the candidate and the symbolical death of his ego before the awakening of the self. In analytical psychology this is the beginning of the process of individuation (see also Chamber of Reflection, Helio L. Da Costa Jr., Vancouver Grand Masonic Day, 16 October 1999 and Spiritual Pilgrims: Carl Jung and Teresa of Avila, John Welch, Paulist Press, 1982, p. 108 and Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche, Bill Plotkin, New World Library, 2010, p. 268)

The objects which are placed in the Chamber of Reflection convey a symbolic meaning. The skull refers to mortality and is linked to the alchemical symbols also present in the Chamber of Reflection. The profane is to transmute his nature, through a symbolical burial in the chamber, into a new transformed man or spiritual rebirth in the form of an initiate. The profane has to go through the Dark Night of the Soul before finding the (inner) light. The hourglass is a reminder of the mortality of man and the fleeting nature of time. The chunk of bread and the pitch of water are symbols of simplicity, pointing to the future initiate how he should conduct his life. Blind materialism has no place in the human soul which strives for moral perfection. Relevant or essential in human life is only what money can't buy.

The alchemical motto "VITRIOL" present in the Chamber of Reflection and meaning 'Visita Interiora Terrae Beatificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem' refers to several sources in history. VITRIOL refers to a hidden treasure within man, such as in Matthew 13:44: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field". It is also inspired by the Greek words γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know thyself) at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. Know thyself is also being used by Socrates (469-399 BCE) in the Platonic dialogues Phaedrus, Protagoras and Philebus.

The goal of Christian mysticism is also the quest for the divine element in the human being, the spark, center or ground of the soul, the divine image and "inner light". The Socratic γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know thyself) also refers to "Noli foras ire, in teipsum redi; in interiore homine habitat veritas" (Do not go out, return to yourself, for the truth dwells in the interior of man) of Aurelius Augustinus (354-430 CE) in De vera religione (39:72). These principles of mystical theology, stand in the Neoplatonic tradition of Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) with his work the Enneads and De mystica theologia of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century). It also refers to Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-ca. 1327 CE). In his work Von unsagbaren Dingen and other writings and sermons, Meister Eckhart identified the being and intellect of a unified deity that could be apprehended only through mystical apprehension of the divine through an inner spark of the soul: Seelenfünklein or 'scintilla animae'. This refers to the Neoplatonic concept of the ascent of the soul to the One, which becomes possible by cultivating the divine potentialities that exist in the deepest center of the human soul (see also Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture, Marsha Keith Schuchard, BRILL, 2002, p. 728 and Reading Ancient Texts: Aristotle and Neoplatonism,Suzanne Stern-Gillet, Kevin Corrigan, BRILL, 2007, p. 238 and Neoplatonism and Indian Philosophy, Paulos Gregorios, SUNY Press, 2002, p. 196 and Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages, Ursula King, Paulist Press, 1998, p. 176).

The concept of the inner light is also being used by the Quakers as a metaphors for Christ's light shining on or in them. Christ is seen as the Light of the World. In The Gospel of John 8:12 Jesus applies the title 'Light of the World' to himself while debating with the Jews and states: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life". Searching for the light of 'Christ within' in this view is the goal of freemasonry (see also Handbook of Freemasonry, BRILL, 2014, p. 298 and Searching for Spiritual Unity...can There be Common Ground?: A Basic Internet Guide to Forty World Religions & Spiritual Practices, Robyn E. Lebron, CrossBooks, 2012, p. 230 and 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity, Eddie L. Hyatt, Charisma Media, 2002, p. 90).

In Jewish Kabbalah, "the heavens" symbolize the soul and "the earth" symbolizes the body. In Jewish Kabbalah all human beings possess a Divine spark. The inner light is derived from the Ein Sof. The difference between one human and another lies in the extent to which the spark has entered and plays an active role in his or her psyche. The Divine spark (or soul) of a Jew is considered an inner light ('Ohr Pnimi'), meaning that it is directly experienced and makes for part of his or her psychological makeup. Jewish tradition puts forward that for gentiles this light is akin to a "distantly surrounding light" (or makif rachok), meaning, that it plays no conscious role in that person's experience as a human being. In Islam, the Ayat an-Nur (Verse of Light, 35th verse of the 24th sura of the Qur'an, Sura an-Nur) deals with the Sign of Light. For Sufis and Muslim Philosophers, the Light Verse testifies of God as the "Light of the heavens and the earth", which can be grasped by man. In the Upanishads, a mantra in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.2; 5.6.1) urges God to 'from darkness, lead us unto Light' and 'purusha'. In (Tibetan) Buddhism the quest for the inner light is about awakening the Buddha Within. In east-Asian (Chinese) Mahayana Buddhism all sentient beings possess the potential to become Buddhas or achieve Buddha-nature or the Buddha Principle (see also Inner Faces of God, Kabbalah, Volume 1, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Summit University Press, 1995, p. 35 and Kabbalistic Metaphors: Jewish Mystical Themes in Ancient and Modern Thought, Sanford L. Drob, J. Aronson, 2000, p. 101 and The religion of Islam, Joseph Hell, Walter Otto, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1994, p.105 and Islam and the Destiny of Man, Gai Eaton, SUNY Press, 1985, p. 61 and The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo, Lotus Press, 1990, p. 430 and Interpreting the Upanishads, Ananda E. Wood, Islamic Books, 1996, p. 103 and Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment; Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World, Lama Surya Das, Broadway Books, 1997)

The mercury (cockerel), sulphur and salt present at the Chamber of Reflection (CHOR) are also traditional alchemical symbols. Alchemical symbols were used to disguise heretical philosophical principles. The alchemist's quest was one of self-development, attempting to integrate the many facets of personality to attain psychic wholeness (see also Alchemy: The Medieval Alchemists and Their Royal Art, Johannes Fabricius, Texas Bookman, 1996 and The Royal Art of Alchemy, Reinhard Federmann, Chilton Book Company, 1964). For Paracelsus (1493-1541 CE) all materials comprised the three elements of salt, sulpur and mercury which also symbolized the Neoplatonic trinity of body (salt), soul (sulphur) and spirit (mercury). According to Paracelsus (1493-1591 CE), the three primes or 'tria prima', which defined the human identity, are: Salt (base matter), Sulfur (fluid connection between the High and the Low) and Mercury (omnipresent spirit of life). (see also God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science, James Hannam, Icon Books Ltd, 2010, Ch. 16 and Paracelsus, Walter Pagel, Karger AG, 1982, p.129). The mercury, sulphur and salt also refer to the triune structure of the Platonic soul which is put forward in Plato's Republic (see also The Republic's Theory of Soul and Deciphering the Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Myths and the Mysteries of Washington, Vol. 3, Christopher Hodapp, Ulysses Press, 2010, p. 73 and The Tower of Alchemy: An Advanced Guide to the Great Work, David Goddard, Weiser Books, 1999 and Chinese alchemy: the Taoist quest for immortality, Jean C. Cooper, Sterling Pub., 1990, p. 107).

The initiation and the personal development towards moral perfection of a freemason also refers to the Neoplatonic and Hermetic philosophy of the Renaissance, where human beings enjoy unlimited potential as the creature in search of a place, uneasily poised between heaven and earth, as was put forward in the Oratio de hominis dignitate of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494 CE): "Poteris in inferiora quae sunt brutav degenerare; poteris in superiora quae sunt divina ex tui animi sententia regenerari" (see also The Link with Nature and Divine Mediations in Asia, Formoso, Berghahn Books, 1997, p. 129 and Teachers of the Eternal Doctrine: From Tsong-Ka-Pa to Nostradamus, Elton A. Hall, iUniverse, 2006, p. 16 and Performances of the Sacred in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, Susanne Rupp, Tobias Döring Rodopi, 2005, p. 109).

Circumambulations around the Lodge

The rite of circumambulation refers to the tradition which consist in a formal procession around the altar, or other holy and consecrated object. Circumambulation originally seems to allude to the apparent course of the sun in the skies, which in the northern hemisphere is from left to right. Ancient peoples supposedly believe that imitating the sun's journey through the skies was an act of worship. In ancient Greece, when the priests were engaged in the rites of sacrifice, they and the people always walked three times around the altar while chanting a sacred hymn or ode. In making this circumambulation, it was considered absolutely necessary that the right side should always be next to the altar, and consequently, that the procession should move from the east to the south, then to the west, next to the north, and afterwards to the east again. The Romans considered counter-clockwise circumambulation to be sinister. Among the Romans, the ceremony of circumambulation was always used in the rites of sacrifice, of expiation or purification. Judaism uses circumambulation during Hoshanah Rabbah at the end of the Festival of Sukkot, and a Jewish bride circumambulates the groom during the wedding ceremony. We also find a reference to circumambulation in Joshua 6:1-20. In many Roman Catholic countries, statues of saints are taken around the plaza on the saint's festal day. In the Islamic and Sufi view, they circumambulate from right to left 'around their heart' anti-clockwise. A muslim pilgrim circumambulates the Kaaba as if he or she is a celestial body orbiting another greater body. Muslims perform Tawaf or circling the Kaaba (most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counterclockwise direction. Sufi dancers revolve around their left foot with their head tilted as the earth's axis is tilted. The Sufi dancer is imitating the orbiting earth, rather than the sun. In Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism Parikrama refers to circumambulation of sacred places and it is also known as Pradakshina ("to the right"), representing circumambulation. Circumambulation can also take the form of a solitary pilgrimage, such as the circumambulation of Mount Kailash in Tibet. This is a multiday journey and involves not only the physical travail of a difficult and long hike, but becomes a focal period of reflection and meditation. Narmadāparikramā (Narmada Parikrama) is a Hindu pilgrimage which comprises the complete circumambulation of the Central Indian Narmadā river (2,600-kilometre walk). To Hindus the Narmadā is one of the seven holy rivers of India; the other six being Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswathi, Sindhu, and Kaveri (see also The Symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey, 1882, Ch. XXI, The Rite of Circumambulation and Judaism: History, Belief, and Practice, Britannica Educational Publishing, 2011, p. 177 and The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms, George Michell, University of Chicago Press, 1977, p. 66 and Sacred architecture in the traditions of India, China, Judaism and Islam, Emily B. Lyle, Edinburgh University Press, 1992, p. 62 and Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion: L-Z, David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden, Stanton Marlan, Springer Science & Business Media, 2009, p. 153 and Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, Paul Larson, Springer Science & Business Media, 2014, p 336 and A Reader on Classical Islam, F. E. Peters, Princeton University Press, 27 dec. 1993 and Narmadāparikramā - Circumambulation of the Narmadā River: On the Tradition of a Unique Hindu Pilgrimage, Jürgen Neuß, BRILL, 2012 and Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland : an Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Linda Kay Davidson, David Martin Gitlitz, ABC-CLIO, 2002, p. 6).

In Freemasonry the number of times which candidates ambulate around the altar depends on which degree is being presented. In the first degree three circumambulations are being made around the altar with the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL), the Square and the Compass (Three Great Lights). The clockwise circumambulation around the lodge, just as the sun was supposed to move around the earth, also refers to the original symbolism for the lodge as a symbol of the world. The three circumambulations of the first degree interconnect with the symbol of the classical elements which symbolize the meaning of each circumambulation. The Chamber of Reflection symbolizes earth and the elements of the three journeys, air, water, and fire, all refer to the classical elements of Greek philosophy as put forward by Empedocles (ca. 495-435 BCE) in his work On Nature. Plato in his Timaeus (ca. 360 BCE) refers to the Platonic Solids, and how these solids make up the four elements, thereby linking geometry with physics. Earth was associated with the cube, air with the octahedron, water with the icosahedron, and fire with the tetrahedron. A freemason is compared with a cubic stone (earth) or rough ashlar, which is to be transformed into the more spiritual Platonic elements by working on one's stone (see also The Magic Flute, M. F. M. Van Den Berk, BRILL, 2004, p. 288-289 and The Alchemical Keys to Masonic Ritual, Timothy Hogan,, 2007, p.41 and New Dimensions for the Cube of Space, David Allen Hulse, Weiser Books, 2000, p. 125).

During the three circumambulations around the Lodge, the neophyte (newcomer) is purified by water, air and fire. The purification by fire resembles calcination in alchemy. Psychologically, calcination is the destruction of the ego and our attachments to material possessions. Calcination is usually a natural humbling process as man is gradually assaulted and overcome by the trials and tribulations of life, though it can be a deliberate surrender of his inherent hubris gained through a variety of spiritual disciplines that ignite the fire of introspection and self-evaluation (see also Alchemy Course, Marcus Katz,, 2008, p.31 and The occult, André Nataf, Houghton Mifflin, 1991, p. 27 and The Symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey, 1882, Ch. XXI, The Rite of Circumambulation).

The three circumambulations symbolize increasing tranquillity and mastery of the tribulations of life. During all three circumambulations the blindfolded initiate is guided by a mason who guides and assists him. At the first circumambulation in the frist degree a lot of frightening noise is made, which evolves into complete silence during the third circumambulation. The three stages symbolize man who increasingly masters himself and becomes less vulnerable to the misfortunes and tribulations of life. This is the task given to the initiate to work on his personal moral development and which will bring him from the first to the third degree. The three circumambulations are similar to the stages of personal growth in classical philosophy such as in Stoicism or the stages of human life in general from childhood over boyhood up to adult life. Stoicism aims to take control of man's inner natures, to know one's true self, and to root out destructive emotions in the pursuit of virtue, using a process of introspection or spiritual exercises loosely referred to as Stoic reflective practice. Stoicism regarded man as a part of a larger whole and to reach true enlightenment people must surrender themselves to the same natural law which governs the universe. Stoicism was not only a set of philosophical beliefs, but a way of life involving constant practice and introspective training. A stoic tries to live happily and gratefully, regardless of external fortune or the noise of the first circumambulation. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) in his Meditations (5.19) put forward: "Things themselves touch not the soul, not in the least degree; nor have they admission to the soul, nor can they turn or move the soul: but the soul turns and moves itself alone, and whatever judgements it may think proper to make, such it makes for itself the things which present themselves to it". In the Enchiridon by Epictetus (ca. 55-ca. 135 CE) we read "Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well" (8) and "With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them" (10). The Stoic state of mind resulted in 'apatheia', "not suffering", or "pain" in Greek, which meant indifference to pain and pleasure, a state of mind resulting from the emotional detachment for the everyday world. For a Stoic not much matters, nothing at all, except living a virtuous life and developing a moral character. For the Stoics virtue alone is good, vice alone bad. Everything else traditionally assigned a positive or negative value, such as health or illness, wealth or poverty, sight or blindness, even life or death, is 'indifferent' as it is a result of providence or fate. In Stoicism happiness is the result or byproduct of living a life of virtue and personal integrity. Stoic ethics starts from oikeisis, our natural 'appropriation' first of ourselves and later of those around us, which makes other-concern integral to human nature. Man increasingly identifying himself with his fellow man and even the universe, means 'oikeiosis' or identification with humanity, the larger circle of the world, and ultimately, the largest circle of all intelligent beings. When the distinction between people or man and the universe vanishes, the curse of individuality and egoism disappears. One looks at one's own situation and life from a distance seeing the broader perspective and the interrelatedness of all beings which is the message of the third circumambulation. Stoic ethics presupposed physics, which supplied an understanding of the world's rational structure and goodness and of the individual's place in it. In Stoicism the world is an ideally good organism, whose own rational soul governs it for the best. Any impression of imperfection arises from misleadingly viewing its parts (including ourselves) in isolation. The three circumambulations can also be compared with the Hindu parable of Become a Lake where it says "The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in." Circumambulation allows man to walk in harmony with a greater power and the laws of nature, for to fight nature is suicide, to harmonize with it is true power. Interestingly in Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE) put forward "I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, at the beginning; later, everything points toward the centre. This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned." ("Es gibt keine lineare Entwicklung, es gibt nur eine Circumambulation des Selbst"). Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987 CE) in his Essays on Moral Development distinguished three levels of moral development, each divided into two stages. Kohlberg put forward that these three stages are common to all cultures and that to reach the highest stage man must pass through the earlier ones (as with the three circumambulations or three blue degrees of freemasonry). The three levels characterize moral growth in terms of progress from a conception of right action as self-rewarding (preconventional), to the view that right action is a matter of loyalty and conformity to social rules (conventional), and finally to the idea that right acts are those permitted by principles that are autonomously adopted (postconventional) (see also The Stoic Art of Living: Inner Resilience and Outer Results, Thomas V. Morris, Open Court Publishing, 2004, p. 2 and Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique, Pierre Hadot, Arnold I. Davidson, Albin Michel, 2014 and The Stoic Theory of Oikeiosis: Moral Development and Social Interaction in Early Stoic Philosophy, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Aarhus University Press, 1990 and Ἀνθολόγιον, Johannes Stobaeus, 4.671-673 and Finibus, Marcus Tullius Cicero, III.62 and Meeting the Mystery: Exploring the Aware Presence at the Heart of All Life, Nirmala, Endless Satsang Foundation, 2012, p. 34 and Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C. G. Jung, Pantheon Books, 1963, p. 222 and Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy, Robert Cavalier, Carnegie Mellon, Section 1).

Masonic apron and gloves

Masonic Apron
- Masonic Apron -

At the moment of his initiation, the freemason is dressed with a white masonic apron, which is a perfect square with an equilateral triangular flap and white gloves. In addition the new mason is taught the signs (gestures), grips or tokens (handshakes), and words which he needs to gain admission to meetings and identify legitimate visitors. The white gloves given to the candidate at the moment of his initiation are intended to teach him that the acts of a mason should be as pure and spotless as the gloves now given to him (see also The History of Freemasonry and Masonic Digest, Volume 2, J. W. S. Mitchell, 1859, p. 513 and The Symbolism of Freemasonry, A.G. Mackey, Clay and Maynard, 1869, p. 136).

The operative masons used an apron as a protection of clothing and body against tools and stones, but also as a badge of distinction. The triangle of the flap represents the triad of the spiritual will, intuitional love and higher intelligence in man. The square symbolizes the lower quaternary or the human body with the visible, the emotional nature of man and his lower mind. The triangle stands for the individuality or soul of man, while the square stands for personality. Together they constitute the septenary man (see also Septenary Man, Jerome A. Anderson, Lotus Publishing Company, 1895 and The Key to Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, 1889, pp. 90-93). The triangle and square we also find in the square and compass as part of the Three Great Lights of Masonry. The Entered Apprentice Apron has the triangular flap pointing upwards (sometimes also inwards), indicating that Divine Wisdom has not yet truly penetrated the gross matter of the mason's body. The Fellowcraft Apron has the flap pointing down and indicates that wisdom has begun to enter and therefore control matter, and that the Soul and body are acting in unison. The apron also has two rosettes is some traditions, which stress the dual nature of man and also refer to the two Pillars Jakin and Boaz. The Master Mason's Apron in addition has a third rosette and the rosettes now form a triangle pointing upwards. This triangle, pointing upwards, represents Fire or the Divine Spark. The three rosettes may refer to the rule of three that rule the Lodge the three stages a Freemason takes from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason. The apron of the Entered Apprentice has no rosettes symbolizing the first step, while the two rosettes of the Fellowcraft Apron symbolize the second step taken in the journey. Finally the three rosettes on the Master Mason's Apron create a triangle, symbolizing the Divine Triangle or the symbol of the Trinity and the triune nature of life and nature (see also The Doctrine of the 'Divine Spark' in Man in Jewish Sources, Louis Jacobs, Studies in Rationalism, Judaism and Universalism, ed. Raphael Loewe, Humanities, 1966, pp. 870-114 and Meister Eckhart on Divine Knowledge, C.F. Kelley, Yale University, pp. 132-133 and Doctrines of Meister Eckhart and The Cambridge Platonists and Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, Glenn Alexander Magee, Cornell University Press, 2008, p. 104 and The Symbol of Glory: Shewing the Object and End of Free Masonry, George Oliver, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, 1870, p. 131).

The triangle of the flap of the Master Mason's Apron, pointing downwards, and the triangle of the rosettes, pointing upwards, form a square where they overlap. This square represents matter or the four classical elements. In the Master Mason's Apron we now have the union of Body (square), Soul (top triangle) and Spirit (lower triangle) or the three parts of the Platonic soul. The upward and downward triangle can also be seen as the unification of the alchemical symbols of water (feminine) and fire (masculine). According to Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE), when two opposing elements encounter each other in the personality or are brought to the surface in a situation, there are three possibilities: 1) they may generate psychic energy; 2) they may neutralize each other; or 3) they may combine or unite. In alchemy and psychology, the third case is the most profound, for the union of opposite elements is the Conjunction of Opposites (Coniunctio Oppositorum), the creation of a higher unity and transcendence of conflicting polarities (see also The Republic, Book 4, Plato, 380 BCE). In Christianity, man is also considered to be a triune being because he is created in the image of God (see also The Bible, Genesis 1:26 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 and The Triune Man: Body, Soul, and Spirit, Dr. Dave Lueloff, Amazon Digital Services, Inc, 2011). The apron is also decorated with two tassels, which reminds of the fact that the apron was at first fastened by strings passed around the back and brought to the front, with the ends hanging down. The tassels have seven strings which symbolize the number seven, which brings us back to the symbolic meaning of the number seven as symbolizing the septenary man (see also The Apron: Its Traditions, History and Secret Significances - 1914, Frank C. Higgins, Kessinger Publishing, 1993 and Tied to Masonic Apron Strings, Stewart M. Pollard, Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Company, Incorporated, 1991 and The Masonic Ladder, John Sherer, 1866, p. 16 and Encyclopedia of Religions, Volume 2, John G. R. Forlong, Cosimo, Inc., 2008, p. 114 and Septenary Man, Jerome A. Anderson, Lotus Publishing Company, 1895).

As the Master Mason advances and becomes Master of his Lodge, the rosettes of his apron give way to three Taus (Τ) or levels as they are generally called. The Τ symbol can be viewed from a Semitic of Indo-European (Greek) point of view. Taw (ת) is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the Greek letter Tau (Τ) is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. The inverted Τ combines the horizontal line of the level which symbolizes justice and the vertical plumb rule which symbolizes mercy. In ancient times, Tau was used as a symbol for life and/or resurrection, whereas the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, theta (Θ), was considered the symbol of death. The Tau cross is also an ancient symbol of the ongoing of Eternal Life and is related to the the Crux Ansata, better known as the Ankh. The Τ is also associated with death in physical life, and the eternity of spiritual life. The golden ratio was represented by Τ (tau, the first letter of the ancient Greek root τομή-meaning cut) before it became represented by the Greek letter Φ in the 20th century. A triple Τ is the symbol of Royal Arch Masonry (also known as "Capitular Masonry"), which is the first part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947 CE) used an inverted Tau on the cover of an edition of his book Magick and he refers to the Tau in Book 4, Part 2, Chapter II: The Circle. The Gnostics interpreted the Tau cross as the symbol of spirit submerged in matter. The inverted Tau cross, represented spirit associated with, but above, matter, and is considered the "mark or sign of Life". The Tau Cross or Crux Commissa is also a form of the Christian cross symbol. The Tau is an ancient symbol and also known as the Crux Commissa, the Franciscan Cross, the Anticipatory Cross, the Advent Cross, the Crutch Cross, and the St. Anthony's Cross. ת is the final letter of the Hebrew aleph bet (alphabet) and is significant as it represents the fulfillment of the revealed word of God. The Hebrews used ת as a sign of Salvation and when Moses anointed Aaron as the High Priest, he marked his forehead with this sign (Exodus 28:38, תו tâv, mark, or sign). The ת was put on men to distinguish those who lamented sin, although newer versions of the Bible have replaced the ancient term "Taw" with "mark" (Ezekiel 9:4) or "signature" (Job 31:35). The summit of Mount Nebo in Jordan is the location of the Brazen Serpent Monument, featuring a snake wrapped around a Tau cross (Numbers 21:5-9) and commemorating the Nehushtan. Mt. Nebo is where Moses saw the promised land of Israel (but wasn't allowed to go there himself) (see also Symbolism of the Masonic Apron and Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1), Margaret Barker, A&C Black, 2 nov. 2000, p. 162 and Signs, Science and Symbols of the Prophecy: Andrew the Prophet, Aspen Christian College, iUniverse, 2008, p. 76 and The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World's Most Astonishing Number, Mario Livio, Crown/Archetype, 2008, p. 5 and African Origin Found in Religion and Freemasonry, Kedar Griffo, Michael Berkley,, 2010, p. 37 and The Secret Societies of All Ages & Countries - Volume 2, Charles William Heckethorn, Cosimo, Inc., 2005, p. 32 and The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, H. P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 151).


Fellow-Craft Tracing Board
- Tracing board of the second degree -
- Emulation Ritual -
Fellow-Craft Working Tools
- Fellow-Craft working tools -

My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
'Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul
- A Dialogue of Self and Soul by William Butler Yeats -

The second step in the ascent of man towards moral growth and perfection is the Illuminative Way (Via iluminativa) of the Fellow-Craft. In this stage, the Fellow-Craft may find himself drawn to contemplation that is more quiet, reflective, even contemplative. Illumination may come as zeal borne of the light and joy of the presence on the inner light. This presence brings an even deeper peace. This, the central stage of the three paths, was titled by Augustine himself in his Confessiones, and evidently the title stuck. The transition from 'purgation' to 'illumination' is also a movement from an awareness of a transcendant 'Divine presence out there' toward a more intimate awareness of a divine spark within man. This is a movement from a relationship with the Divine that moves from being mostly about 'Divinity out there' towards an understanding that it is 'Christ in me'. The concept of Christ in Christianity as the son of God, also provides man of a way or step stone to find the Divine spark within. Roman Catholic and certainly protestant theology has not tended to deal much with the implications of the indwelling Divine when it comes to man's spiritual formation and a life of spiritual awareness within. The concept of the 'Divine spark within' was being developed in Neoplatonism, Eastern mysticism and Abrahamic mysticism. This second stage moves from a spiritual insight towards a lived experience out into the world. This is also the stage where opposites (or paradoxes) are reconciled within the same life. Polarities are reconciled within man, leading towards the spiritual Rebus or Androgyne. The second step is the step of Strength and there are four circumbalations during the initiation (the second number of the Pythagorean triangle) (see also Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development, Benedict Groeschel, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1984 and De Imitatione Christi, Thomas à Kempis, ca. 1418-1427 CE and Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus, Caitlín Matthews, John Matthews, Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2004, p. 335 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcom C. Duncan, 1866, Ch. Second Degree).

For a man to attain the title of a 'Fellow-Craft', he must learn to balance his intellect (conscious) with his emotions (unconscious). Before the Apprentice is passed to the 'Fellow-Craft' Degree, he must have learned the self-knowledge of the Apprentice, and become proficient enough to make an active contribution to the building of the symbolic Temple of Freemasonry in general, and his Lodge in particular. The trust based in the Freemason is reflected in the poignant "Mirror Charge", where the candidate stands before is own reflection in a mirror, and is told: "There stands your highest judge". Here man is ready to take up responsibility for himself after he has contemplated on himself and his true nature as an Entered Apprentice. The "γνῶθι σεαυτόν" (Know thyself) of the "Mirror Charge" has far reaching consequences. In Delphi "γνῶθι σεαυτόν" was inscribed at the entry to its sacred oracle. Self-knowledge is all-encompassing. What is learned on one scale of experience can be applied to all scales. It is the highest form of knowledge, surpassing all other knowledge. 'Know Thyself' is the foundation of knowledge, the corner stone on which all philosophy should be erected. In the Hindu Katha Upanishads we already find that enquiry into the truth of the Self is knowledge as in 'The Self lies beyond the senses and can only be understood by him who knows It is '. The Katha Upanishad is a discussion of the nature of man, knowledge, Atman (Soul, Self) and moksha (liberation). The Greek philosopher Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) stated "The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge". In the Phaedrus Socrates says "I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous.". The Socratic "γνῶθι σεαυτόν" (Know thyself) relates to the "Mirror Charge" as it refers to one's true image or True Self (αληθινό εαυτό). In the Alcibiades [Alc. a 127-129] Plato describes the theoretical gaze inward as the gaze in which the divine is revealed as a mirror where the Good within man is reflected. In the Timaeus [Tim. 46] and the Sophist [Soph. 266] Plato explains the way a mirror works. Mirrors and smooth objects were supposed to contain a luminous principle which met on the smooth surface with the light coming from the object reflected. In the act of vision the fire within the eye united with the external fire. For Plato the image in the mirror has real existence on the surface of the mirror. The mirror metaphor then means that the part of the soul that is reflected in the divine is the intellectual part of the soul that can gaze directly at the divine and enter into a partnership. The first and last step of 'Know thyself' is 'to know the state of your own mind' according to the Stoic Epictetus (ca. 5-135 CE) in his Enchiridion, meaning to know whether you think you are wise when you are not, to know whether you think you know what you don't know. (The man who doesn't know himself is a stranger to himself). Man has to know himself as he really is, without illusions or false pretense to live a moral life. As in the Biblical 1 Corinthians 3:18: "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." The Neoplatonist Plotinus (ca. 204/5-270 CE) viewed ethics according to the criterion of what contributes to our identification with our higher or true selves and what contributes to our separation from that identification. What the freemason looks at in the mirror is a glimpse of his higher self. A reference to the importance of one's conscience we also find with Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), who was heavily influenced by Platonism. Augustine believed that when we listened to our conscience we were really hearing the voice of God whispering to us about what is right and wrong. As in the Biblical 1 Corinthians 3:16: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Augustine's views were to make the conscience the most important element of moral decision making. We may also refer to the Ethica seu scito te ipsum of Peter Abelard (1079-1142 CE) on ethics, with its primacy of consent (or intention) over action. Abelard puts an emphasis on the interior life, and the importance of the very quality of thoughts themselves underlying actions. 'Know thyself' also refers to the Kantian principle of morality, where moral applies to a rational being which acts morally autonomous and free from restraint, guided only by the categorical imperative (see also Correct Key to the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft & Master Mason Degrees 1894, Kessinger Publishing, 2003 and Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 55). The symbol of the second degree is the yellow sun, which refers to the Citrinitas stage in alchemy. It is the "transmutation of silver into gold" or "yellowing of the lunar consciousness." In alchemical philosophy, citrinitas stood for the dawning of the "solar light" inherent in one's being, and that the reflective "lunar or soul light" was no longer necessary (see also The Alchemical Process of Transformation, Nigel Hamilton, 1985 and The Psychology of the Transference, C.G. Jung, Routledge, 2013 and The Perspective of Morality: Philosophical Foundations of Thomistic Virtue Ethics, Martin Rhonheimer, CUA Press, 2011, p. 317 and Action and Person: Conscience in the Late Scholasticism and the Young Luther, Michael G. Baylor, Brill Archive, 1977, p. 27).

The Entered Apprentice Degree as a whole is symbolic of infancy and youth, a period of learning fundamentals, a beginning, and the 'Fellow-Craft' Degree is emblematic of manhood. The candidate for the second degree of Masonry, represents a man starting forth on the journey of (adult) life, with the great task before him of self-improvement. For the faithful performance of this task, a reward is promised, which reward consists in the development of all his intellectual faculties, the moral and spiritual elevation of his character, and the acquisition of truth and knowledge. Now, the attainment of this moral and intellectual condition supposes an elevation of character, an ascent from a lower to a higher life, and a passage of toil and difficulty, through rudimentary instruction, to the full fruition of wisdom. This is therefore beautifully symbolized by the symbol of the Winding Stairs; at whose foot the aspirant stands ready to climb the toilsome steep, while at its top is placed "that hieroglyphic bright which none but Craftsmen ever saw", as the emblem of divine truth. And hence a distinguished writer has said that "these steps, like all the masonic symbols, are illustrative of discipline and doctrine, as well as of natural, mathematical, and metaphysical science, and open to us an extensive range of moral and speculative inquiry". The ascent of the Winding Stairs will lead the 'Fellow-Craft' to the entrance of the Middle Chamber, where in the next stage the reward for his work will be given. The reward of the inquiring Mason is the experience of the Middle Chamber; in this consist the wages of a Fellow Craft; he is directed to the truth, but must travel farther and ascend still higher to attain it (see also The Symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey, 1882, Chapter 26 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcom C. Duncan, 1866, Ch. Second Degree).

The symbols of the second degree are the brazen Pillars; the Flight of Winding Stairs as a means of reaching the Middle Chamber by the teachings of the three, the five, and the seven steps; and the Letter "G". The teachings of the degree comprise explanations of the Five Orders of Architecture, the Five Senses and the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. The predominating number of this degree is five, and so the candidate advances from the worldly West to the spiritual East by five steps, as though ascending a winding staircase. The number five, the predominating number of this Degree, leads towards geometry, which is established as the basis of freemasonry. Geometry, the science of harmony in space, presides over everything. The 'Fellow-Craft' has to undertake five journeys which symbolize the exploration of the visible world or 'Mundus Visibilis' after the exploration of the inner world or 'Mundus Invisibilis' of the first degree. He is now ready to take responsibility for himself in the world and leave the safe environment of the Lodge which provided him with a safe place to work on himself. When being sent away on his five journeys, the 'Fellow-Craft' mason passes through the two pillars of the temple which are surmounted by globes, relating to the tradition concerning the Great brazen Pillars of Solomon's Temple, Jachin and Boaz. The pillars were cast in one piece by Hiram Abiff (1 Kings 7:15-22). They were "pillars of witness," as was the pillar that witnessed the contract between Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:52). Boaz stood on the left when entering Solomon's Temple, while Jachin stood on the right (II Chronicles 3:15-17) and together they represent the equilibrium between two opposite forces. These two pillars symbolize the active and the passive expressions of Divine Energy, the sun and the moon, sulphur and salt, good and bad, light and darkness. In II Chronicles 13 & 17 pomegranates cover the two pommels of the pillars, while in freemasonry two globes are on top of the pillars (depending on the tradition). The globe surmounting Jachin (יָכִין), the Wisdom pillar, is that of the 'Mundus Intellectualis', the Intellectual World associated with the moon and night, whilst the globe surmounting Boaz (בֹּעַז), the pillar of Strength or Intelligence, is that of the 'Mundus Visibilis', the Visible World associated with the sun and day. The Great Pillars of Solomon's Temple were said to be inspired by the Enochian pillars and refer to the two antediluvian pillars in the Book of Enoch. Enoch built two pillars to preserve the knowledge of the arts and sciences, which resembles the seven liberal arts (artes liberales). He constructed the pillars, one of marble, to withstand the influence of fire, and the other made of brass, to resist the action of water. On the pillar of brass he engraved the history of creation, the principles of the arts and sciences, and the general doctrines of the speculative mysteries, as practiced in his times. The one of marble, he inscribed characters in hieroglyphics; that stated that near the spot where the pillars stood, a precious and sacred treasure was deposited in a great subterranean vault. Passing the two pillars also reminds of passing beyond the Pillars of Hercules and the motto of the Novum Organum Scientiarum by Francis Bacon's (1561-1626 CE) in 1620, which stated 'Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia' ("Many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater"). The frontispiece of his New Atlantis featured the "Pillars of Hercules" as a gateway to a new world referring to the lost realm of Atlantis, which according to Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) was situated beyond the Pillars of Hercules. The "Pillars of Hercules" in Ancient Greece stood at the gateway to the sphere of the enlightened. Symbolically, going beyond the "Pillars of Hercules" means leaving the material world to reach a higher realm of enlightenment. Before being sent away on his journey into the world, the 'Fellow-Craft' is given his wages for the journey in the form of wine, corn and olive oil. Corn symbolizes abundance and represents Ceres goddess of abundance, whine is refreshment after a hard day's work and oil is joy and happiness in life. The five journeys of the 'Fellow-Craft' also resemble the ancient system of the compagnonnage of the trade guilds (see also Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature, and Law of Perfection, Chalmers Izett Paton, Reeves and Turner, 1873, p. 121 and Masonic Eclectic, Volume 1, Robert Macoy, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Co, 1860, p. 385 and De Augmentis Scientiarum, Frontispiece, Francis Bacon, 1640 and Musée du Compagnonnage and Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 224 and The Shakespeare Enigma, Peter Dawkins, Polair Publishing, 2004, p. 349 and Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 31:5 and Exodus 27:20).

The Ladder of Divine Ascent
- The Ladder of Divine Ascent, John Climacus -
Flight of Winding Stairs
- Flight of Winding Stairs, with 3, 5 and 7 steps -

The symbol of the Flight of Winding Stairs as a means of reaching the Middle Chamber goes back to the symbol of the staircase or ladder of spiritual or mystic ascent. Spiritual progress is less a straight line between two points than an ascending centripetal movement, a spiraling ever higher and inward toward infinity within. The ascent is like climbing a mountain, not straight up but obliquely, going upwards in a spiral so that the changing landscape of life keeps reappearing, each time seen from a higher perspective. The Winding Stairs in freemasonry refer to the Biblical 1 Kings 6, verse 8 (KJV, Solomon Builds the Temple): "The entrance to the lowest[h] floor was on the south side of the temple; a stairway led up to the middle level and from there to the third." The Flight of Winding Stairs in freemasonry is part of a tradition of ladders or staircases which symbolize some kind of spiritual or mystical ascent. In the European tradition the metaphor goes back to the "ladder of love" or scala amoris in The Symposium of Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE). The initiation and ascent from 'Entered Apprentice' to 'Master Mason' as 'Fellow-Craft' can be compared to the scala amoris of the priestess Diotima of Mantinea in Plato's Symposium. The 'scala amoris' describes the journey from the stage in life at which man can appreciate only particular or singular, deficient instances of beauty up to the point where man can view a plethora of beautiful objects, and finally divine Beauty itself. The ascent develops into a deepening and widening experience of beauty. Plato uses the metaphor of a staircase (ἐπαναβαθμοῖς) or ladder of ascent (Symp. 211c). Diotima explains the journey in Symp. 211c and 211d : "Beginning from obvious beauties he must for the sake of that highest beauty be ever climbing aloft, as on the rungs of a ladder, from one to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies; from personal beauty he proceeds to beautiful observances, from observance to beautiful learning, and from learning at last to that particular study which is concerned with the beautiful itself and that alone; so that in the end he comes to know the very essence of beauty. In that state of life above all others, my dear Socrates,' said the Mantinean woman, 'a man finds it truly worth while to live, as he contemplates essential beauty.". The metaphor of the ladder is also present in the Semitic tradition with Jacob's Ladder (סולם יעקב) in Genesis (28:10-19), a connection between the earth and heaven. The Christian monk and ascetic Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 CE), would write about the ladder of spiritual ascent in his Kephalaia Gnostica (Problemata Gnostica, IV, 43). The hierarchical conception of the Neoplatonic ascent entered Christianity. At the time of Maximus the Confessor (ca. 580-662 CE) the Semitic Biblical Jacob's Ladder and the Indo-European Platonic 'scala amoris' would become the 'scala paradisi' or 'scala claustralium' (The Ladder of Monks). Guigo II (died possibly in 1188 or 1193 CE) wrote the Scala Claustralium (The Ladder of Monks) or Scala paradisi (The Ladder of Paradise) as the first description of methodical prayer in the western mystical tradition. The basis of the spiritual ascent is the Neoplatonic idea that one has to become like the One. Therefore, in order to know the Neoplatonic One, a person needs to become like it, that is, to acquire the characteristics of the One through Awakening, Purification and Illumination in order to achieve Union. The Neoplatonic ascent was described by Plotinus (204-270 CE) and became the model for the mystical ascent of Christianity. John Climacus (7th-century CE) wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent about the means by which the highest degree of religious perfection may be attained. The tradition of Christian perfection describes the process of achieving spiritual maturity or perfection. The symbol of the winding staircase or spiraling ascent towards spiritual maturity or perfection appears throughout European history. Dante Alighieri (ca. 1265-1321 CE) in his Divina Commedia takes a winding path from hell to purgatory and heaven as in Purgatorio, Canto VI:70: "Tra erto e piano era un sentiero schembo, che ne condusse in fianco de la lacca, là dove più ch'a mezzo muore il lembo". Francis Bacon (1561-1626 CE) in his Essays (1625) wrote in Of Great Place: "All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man's self, whilst he is in the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed." Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772 CE) in his Arcana Caelestia (8945) refers to an ascent by steps in : "It is said "go up on steps," for the reason that elevation to interior things appears in the world of spirits, where celestial and spiritual things are presented in forms like those of the world, as an ascent by steps." Thomas Merton (1915-1968 CE) in The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) deals with life as pilgrimage modeled on the spiraling ascent in Dante's Purgatorio. The spiraling ascent of a mountain or building is also present in Asian culture, such as with the Mahayana Buddhist temple Borobudur. The purpose of the spiraling ascent of Borobudur is to release a spiritual process in the pilgrim during his ascent. The winding staircase also inspired poets like W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939 CE) wrote the poem A Dialogue of Self and Soul, inspired by the Neoplatonic ascent of the soul. For Yeats the antinomy between aspirations of Self and Soul can be reconciled only beyond the realm of this world. Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965 CE) wrote the poem Ash-Wednesday, inspired by Jacob's Ladder (see also Descartes, Andre Gombay, Wiley, 2007, p. 14 and Plato's Symposium, Plato, Focus, 1998, p.10 and Northrop Frye on Religion: Excluding The Great Code and Words with Power, Northrop Frye, Alvin A. Lee, Jean O'Grady, University of Toronto Press, 2000, p. 99 and Archetypes of Conversion: The Autobiographies of Augustine, Bunyan, and Merton, Anne Hunsaker Hawkins, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014, p. 17 and The Sacred Mountains of Asia, John Einarsen, Shambhala, 1993, p. 106 and Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation, Peter Levenda, A&C Black, 1 jun. 2008, p. 117 and The Relationship of Philosophy to Religion Today, Paolo Diego Bubbio, Philip Andrew Quadrio, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011, p. 85 and The Winding Stair and Other Poems: A Facsimile Edition, William Butler Yeats, Simon and Schuster, 2012, p. 131 and Biblical Echo and Allusion in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats: Poetics and the Art of God, Dwight Hilliard Purdy, Bucknell University Press, 1994, p. 96 and Modernisierung und Literatur: Festschrift für Hans Ulrich Seeber zum 60. Geburtstag, Walter Göbel, Gunter Narr Verlag, 2000, p. 51).

Artes liberales
- Septem Artes Liberales by Dietrich Meyer (1590-1658 CE) -

In the beginning of the eighteenth century the Liberal Arts and Sciences were embedded in the First Degree, but after the revision of the ritual and the addition of the new Third Degree they were moved to the Second Degree, which made this degree a short course of instruction. When we look at the scala amoris of the priestess Diotima of Mantinea in Plato's Symposium, we now arrive at the third stage of the ladder which brings man to the love of the beauty of the sciences or seven artes liberales. In the stage of the 'Fellow-Craft' the seven liberal arts (artes liberales) play an important role, which consist of the trivium and the the quadrivium. Their role in education goes back to Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) and his dialog The Republic, where he sets out his ideas about education. The seven liberal arts consist of two groups. The trivium is the lower division of the seven liberal arts, and comprises grammar, logic, and rhetoric (input, process, and output). In his dialog Gorgias Plato distinguishes between true and false rhetoric as it was being used by the Sophists. The quadrivium consists of arithmetic, (plane and solid) geometry, music and astronomy, which compose the secondary part of the curriculum outlined by Plato in the seventh book of The Republic. In The Republic he proposes a course of education which appears to be based on the Pythagorean course and which consisted of akousmatikoi or hearers and mathematikoi or learners occupied with the mathemata, the "science of learning". The Pythagorean program lead to the hieros logos, i.e. the sacred teaching which was dealt with by the sebastikoi. For Plato one has to study the mathematical disciplines and only after mastering mathematics, then one can proceed to the study of philosophy or dialectic. The lowest level of knowledge in the platonic system is doxa or opinion, the second level is mathematics and the highest level is true Knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) or dialectic. In The Republic true Knowledge (ἐπιστήμη), which is the highest stage of our cognition, is explained as dialectic (VII 533c-e; VII 534e-535a). The progress to dialectic (dialektike poreia) is the work of our highest cognitive faculty, the intuitive intellect (nous). In ancient Greece paideia (παιδεία) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis, which included studying the seven liberal arts. Liberal arts education leads to the Greek ideal of 'kalos kagathos' (καλὸς κἀγαθός), "beautiful and good." or with Plato of being 'agathos kai sophos' (ἀγαθὸς καὶ σοφὸς) meaning "wise and good". Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius (ca. 480-524 CE) would introduce the concept of the Quadrivium in Latin Europe. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) would put forward: “The liberal arts are divided into the trivium and quadrivium, since by these, as by certain paths [or viae], the lively mind enters in to the secrets of philosophy.” The educators of the European Middle Ages taught seven branches of learning in their school and these were divided into two groups, the first of which was called the "trivium" (meaning "where three roads meet"), and the second, "quadrivium" ("where four roads meet"). Grammar, rhetoric, and logic, comprised the former group usually, and it was these subjects that the young student in college first studied: the latter group included arithmetic, music, astronomy, and geometry. When all of these subjects were mastered the man was said to have a "liberal education" and the school in which they were taught was called (as it still is) a "college of liberal arts". The seven liberal arts were supposed to include universal knowledge. He who was master of these was thought to have no need of a preceptor to explain any books or to solve any questions which lay within the compass of human reason, the knowledge of the trivium having furnished him with the key to all language, and that of the quadrivium having opened to him the secret laws of nature. Nowadays the division between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) and Master of Arts (M.A.) somewhat resembles the distinction between trivium and quadrivium. Modern philosophers like Martha Nussbaum (born 1947 CE) stress the importance of the humanities or liberal arts for education and society. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970 CE) in The Triumph of Stupidity (1933) would write "The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." The man who has captured even a little vision of the wide world of knowledge can never be bigoted or vainglorious because he has learned how little he himself really knows. (see also Symbolical Masonry, H.L. Haywood, 1923, Chapter 39 and The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, Sister Miriam Joseph, Marguerite McGlinn, Paul Dry Books, 2002, p. 225 and Greek Political Theory (Routledge Library Editions: Political Science Volume 18), Sir Ernest Barker, Routledge, 2013, Ch. IX and Album philologum für Prof. Dr. Th. Baader, Redaction Album Baader, 1939, p. 205 and Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond, Gregory Nagy, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 179 and Ancient Mystery Cults, Walter Burkert, Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 70 and The Liberal Arts in St. Thomas Aquinas, Number 4, Pierre Hyacinth Conway, Benedict M. Ashley, Thomist Press, 1959, p. 8 and Principles of Education, a Thomistic Approach, Pierre Hyacinth Conway, Thomist Press, 1960, p. 28 and Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Martha C. Nussbaum, Princeton University Press, 2016).

Flaming Star
Flaming Star or Blazing Star of Freemasonry

In the 'Fellow-Craft' degree it seems the red Flaming Star or Blazing Star is lit in the East and replaces or covers the Delta. The symbol of the Blazing Star has three layers, first the fire in the back, then the pentagram and the letter G within the pentagram. One possible explanation for this combined symbol in this context is that out of the fire (behind the star) the pentenary man, symbolized by the pentagram, is being born and the fifth element, spirit or Quintessence, now dominates the other four. The Quintessence is beyond the other four elements in both form and function. It is seen as something new that transcends the limitations imposed by the four elements. According to Isaac Newton (1642-1726 CE) "The Quintessence is a thing that is spiritual, penetrating, tingeing, and incorruptible, which emerges anew from the four elements when they are bound together.". The Quintessence is considered to be the force of life itself and as such the Quintessence is not a product of the four elements, but a separate principle altogether though which all the lower elements can be tamed or controlled. It symbolizes the dominance of spirit and intellect over matter. Quintessence as a symbol can also be related to Chi, Prana, "life force" or vital principle. The Blazing Star can be seen to connect both Heaven (Quintessence) and Earth (Four Elements) and thereby the awakening of the divine spark (scintilla animae) in man. In this view it connects the microcosm to the macrocosm or in other words Atman to Brahman. It can also be read as Gnosis or 'knowing'. The letter 'G' in the square and compasses emblem of Masonry and in the flaming star has multiple meanings for the 'Fellow-Craft' degree. Its meaning can be derived from Semitic and Indo-European traditions. As the meaning of the letter 'G' can be found both in the Semitic and the Indo-European tradition, it also unites both faith and reason into one symbol. The first and most obvious meaning in Western culture is as an emblem of God in the Semitic tradition. It can mean Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU) or the creator in Heaven. As Fellowcrafts, the workmen on King Solomon's temple were entitled to take their wages in money ("specie") rather than content themselves with payment in the form of the daily necessities of life, as Apprentices were. In order to receive these wages, the Craftsmen had to present themselves at the Middle Chamber of the Temple, which could be found at the top of the winding staircase, and the password to which the 'Fellow-Craft' has been taught. At the entrance to the Middle Chamber, above the door, are Hebrew characters which are pointed out to all Craftsmen and which can be seen in the Tracing Board for this degree. This first of these characters is "Yod" (י) and is the first letter of the Hebrew name for God, which Jews are not to pronounce aloud. The second signification of the letter 'G' comes from the Indo-European tradition where it represents the Greek letter gamma (γαµµα), the first letter in the Greek words "geos" (γεοσ), meaning "the world" and "geometrikos" (γεοµετρικοσ), meaning "geometry" one of the Seven Liberal Arts And Sciences. Geometry is the application of Arithmetic to sensible quantities, and of all sciences it is the most important, since by it man is enabled to measure and survey the globe that man inhabits. Its principles extend to other spheres; and, occupied in the contemplation and measurement of the sun, moon, and heavenly bodies, constitutes the science of Astronomy. The third signification of the letter 'G' becomes clear when we view the capital form of the letter gamma ("Γ") which is in the form of an upside-down "L" or a square. The letter "G" is therefore a symbol for the square or even a Pythagorean right angled triangle (see also Freemasons For Dummies, Christopher Hodapp, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, p. 147 and Freemasonry: An Introduction, Mark E. Kolko-Rivera Ph.D., Penguin, 2011, Figure 4-10 and Entering the Chain of Union, Timothy Hogan,, 2012, p. 18 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008 , p. 89 and Isaac Newton and the Transmutation of Alchemy, Philip Ashley Fanning, North Atlantic Books, 2009, p. 160 and Atman and Brahman in Vedic Religion, Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar (Maharaja of Mysore), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1971, p. 31).

The tracing board of the second degree shows the individual with a winding staircase as a symbolic interior staircase which the individual must climb as he turns his attention away from the physical world in order to examine the nature of his soul (second world) and the workings of his own physiological processes (his nature) (see also Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol, W. Kirk MacNulty, Thames & Hudson, Limited, 1991, p. 22-28).

The working tools of the second degree deal with morality, which is the fundamental issue of the Fellow-Craft degree. The working tools which the Fellow-Craft mason must identify and put to use whithin himself, test his actions against the standards of justice and mercy. The level symbolizes justice and the plumb rule mercy. The third tool, the square of truth, defines the relation between the other two tools. These are the three 'Immovable Jewels' of the lodge and they adorn the the principal officers of the lodge: the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden and the Junior Warden, respectively. The 'Fellow-Craft' uses the Plumb, the Square, and the Level. With the Square he tests the work of the Apprentice; with the Level he lays the courses of the wall he builds; with the Plumb he raises perpendicular columns. If he use his tools aright he demonstrates that he is worthy to be a Fellow of the Craft and no Apprentice; that he can lay a wall and build a tower which will stand (see also Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 223).

Master Mason

Tracing board
- Tracing board of the third degree -
- Emulation Ritual -
Woodcut - Death of the Alchemist
- Azoth, Basilius Valentinus, Paris, 1659 -
Master Mason Working Tools
- Master Mason working tools -

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
- William Blake, "To See a World..." -

Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi!
et ecce intus eras et ego foris, et ibi te quaerebam.
Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, Confessiones (X, 27)

The third step in the ascent of man towards moral growth and perfection is the Unitive Way (Via unitiva) of the Master Mason. The third step is the step of (Platonic) Beauty and there are five circumbalations during this initiation (the third number of the Pythagorean triangle). After the 'Purgative Way' of the Entered Apprentice, the 'Illuminative Way' of the Fellow-Craft, the Freemason now reaches the third stage or 'Unitive Way'. Here, the Freemason enters more deeply into the reality that his live really is hidden within the Divine 'logos-principle'. Experiences of dark nights ('La noche oscura del alma') bring focus and simplicity to this reality. There may be moments of sensed union which bring about quiet ecstasy. The Master Mason may also experience times of the profoundly felt absence of the Divine principle. All of this is part of the path of the Divine principle making real man's union with de Divine element. In this stage, during the second dark night of the senses, full union and ecstasy, dark night of the spirit happens the transforming union or "spiritual marriage" or "unio mystica" or also the Classical and Alchemical "hieros gamos". Here man reaches full union and ecstasy. This as a spiritual place of burning zeal, total detachment from the self, and the perfect obedience of the individual which results in a totally new being. There is a sense of deep spiritual purification and a powerful psychological awareness of the absolute certainty of the presence of the Divine Spark within. Another description of this stage is that there is no longer the need for human reinforcement and approval, so there is a gentleness, quietness and simplicity about persons here. In this final unitive stage, there is an increasing transition from 'activity' to 'passivity', or from 'human' initiative of the Ego to 'divine' initiative of the Self as primary in man's interactive relationship with the world, the Divine or The One (see also Transforming Heart and Mind: Learning from the Mystics, Peter N. Borys, Paulist Press, 2005, p. 20 and Handbook of Freemasonry, Henrik Bogdan and Jan Snoek Ed., BRILL, 2014, p. 301-302 and Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development, Benedict Groeschel, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1984 and Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul, Caroline M. Myss, Ken Wilber, Simon and Schuster, 2007 and Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way: A Series of Papers on the True Secrets of the Lost Word, 1923, Arthur Ward, Kessinger Publishing, 1 feb. 1998 and Mystic Masonry: Or the Symbols of Freemasonry and the Greater Mysteries of Antiquity, J. D. Buck, Literary Licensing LLC, 2014 and An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences, Albert Gallatin Mackey, Moss, 1874, p. 517 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcom C. Duncan, 1866, Ch. Third Degree and A Short History of Western Philosophy, Johannes Hirschberger, Westview Press, 1977, p. 49).

The third degree of Freemasonry is titled 'Master Mason' and to reach this status, an individual must let go of his rational mind and ego and allow them to die to reach the inner microcosm of the human psyche. The symbolic rebirth of this degree is a means of regaining one's purity or rediscovering one's true self. This resembles the Neoplatonic union of the soul with intelligence (mind, nous, spirit) and the experience of beauty (see also Enneads, Plotinus and Plotinus on the Good or the One (Enneads VI, 9), P. A. Meijer, Plotinus, J.C. Gieben, 1992). Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) identifies the human good, the goal of life, as divinization, as 'assimilation to the One' or henosis (Theatetus, Plato, 176b, quoted by Plotinus). Here man is ready to take responsibility for his fellow man after he has taken responsibility for himself in the second degree (see also Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marsilio Ficino, Marsilio Ficino, Inner Traditions International, Limited, 1996, p. 35 and The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge University Press, 1967, p. 250-251 and Return To The One: Plotinus's Guide To God-Realization, Brian Hines, Adrasteia Publishing, 2009). The third degree was also part of the discussion between the Moderns and Antients as the latter accused the Moderns of making changes to the third degree. The degree of the Holy Royal Arch can be seen as the completion of the third degree in dealing with the 'Lost Word' (see also A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume 1, Arthur Edward Waite, Cosimo, Inc., 2013, p. 315 and The Lost Word of Freemasonry, Hilton Hotema, Health Research Books, 1996, p. 41).

The third degree is a story of death and resurrection and symbolic necromancy. With the third degree the biblical legend of Hiram Abiff enters freemasonry. In all major rites and religions there is a symbolic story of resurrection of a martyred leader or a dying-and-rising god and the same goes for freemasonry. The legend also refers to the theme of a lost 'secret doctrine', which was known to only a few initiated in ancient secrets. A (divine) secret which is lost due to human misbehaviour is also a constant theme in religious and philosophical systems. According to Masonic legends, Hiram Abiff was the chief architect at the building of King Solomon's Temple. Hiram knew some sort of secret, which by its mere possession, would allow a person to pass himself off as a master mason thereby allowing him to receive a higher rate of pay (see also Readings in Western Religious Thought: The ancient world, Patrick V. Reid, Paulist Press, 1987, p. 110 and Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 106 and The Lost Keys of Masonry: The Legend of Hiram Abiff, Manly Hall, Kessinger Publishing, 2003).

The masonic legend goes as follows. When King Solomon undertook the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem, he sent to King Hiram I of Tyre, for materials and assistance. In exchange for agricultural products like corn and wine and oil, King Hiram sent Solomon cedar trees (Cedrus libani var. libani) cut from the forests of Lebanon and a skilled and cunning worker in metals. These facts may be found in the Old Testament, especially in Chapter 7 of I Kings and Chapter 2 of 11 Chronicles, where the skilled artisan, named Hiram, is referred to as the "son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali" whose husband was "a man of Tyre". The rest of the story on Hiram Abiff is a masonic legend which serves a symbolic purpose. Freemasons often refer to themselves as the children of the widow, which may refer to their position in the ritual of the the third degree. A large numbe of workmen were employed in the building of Solomon's Temple. To those workmen who laboured faithfully on the project was promised the status of Master Workman, or Mason, upon its completion. But some time before the Temple's completion, some of the fellowcrafts became dissatisfied and demanded the promotion which they had been promised. They sought the higher wages and fringe benefits of a Master Workman by conspiring to extort them from Hiram Abiff. Hiram refused to yield to their demands and is a symbol of morality and integrity. Three of them conspired to attack Hiram Abiff to force the concessions they were demanding; but he refused to reveal the secret and they murder him in the unfinished Temple. Each one of them hits Hiram and the final blow is fatal. The first fellowcraft (Jubela) hits Hiram with a twenty-four inch gauge across the throat, the second one (Jubelo) hits him with a square across his breast and the last one (Jubelum) hits him him with the common gavel on the forehead which kills Hiram. The twenty-four inch gauge and the common gavel were the working tools of the Entered Apprentice degree. The workmen were after the secret master word, which would allow them to identify as Master Workman and receive the benefits which came with the status. The three murderers, Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum, known collectively as 'The Juwes', symbolize ignorance, superstition, and fear, while Hiram Abiff symbolizes the higher nature of man. This symbolizes that are no short-cuts possible to reach the higher conscience and violence certainly will not help. Their greed also lead to the loss of the sacred word, which would require a special procedure to create a new code. They buried Hiram and put a sprig of Acacia (or Cassia) on his grave. Later in the ritual Hiram (the initiate) is found by a search party, emerges from death and becomes a reborn spiritual being. (see also Illustrations of Masonry, William Morgan, 1827, Ch. 12 and Three Distinct Knocks, H. Serjeant, 1760, p. 53)

Raising Hiram Abiff includes the 'Five Points of Fellowship' between the worshipful master and the raised initiate, which serve a double purpose in instructing in fraternal duties, as well as forming a mode of recognition. Masonic ritual describes the 'Five Points of Fellowship' as: inside of right foot by the side of right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear or cheek to cheek. They are a method of explaining and emphasizing the need for brotherly love, co-operation and unity. We find a description of the symbolism Illustrations of Masonry by William Morgan. Foot to foot, means a freemason should go out of his way, and not permit his steps to halt in extending mercy and benevolence. Knee to knee means that the knee should be bent in intercessory prayer for others, and in pleading for forgiveness for his own sins. Breast to breast means that the man of honour should guard all just and lawful secrets inviolate within his breast. Hand to back means that it is a freemason's duty to support his Brother, to lift him up, and to speak well of him before the world. This may also hold some symbolism of being "raised up" in other ways. Mouth to ear or cheek tot cheek means he should whisper good counsel into the ear of a brother, instruct him, and warn him of coming danger. When standing mouth to ear the worshipful master whispers the word "Mahabone" or "Macbenach", the first meaning "the death of a brother", and the second "the flesh is off the bones" or "the brother is smitten". Both refer to the word uttered when they find the dead body of Hiram. The 'Five Points of Fellowship' symbol is not only being used in freemasonry. The 'Five Points of Fellowship' was also part of Mormon liturgy up until about 1990. It was an important emblematic ritual, a sacred embrace which preceded entering into the presence of the Lord. The Rosicrucian 'Order of Chylena an Ethiopia' which was founded by Albert Staley, in Philadelphia (USA) in 1879 also had 'Five Points of Fellowship'. Robert Morris (1818-1888 CE) wrote a poem The Five Points of Fellowship. The raising of a death body in the third degree through (five) points of contact may also refer to the raising of the son of the woman of Shunem by the prophet Elisha in the Thora and the Christian Bible, 2 Kings 4:34. The Thora and the Christian Bible like any religion has several stories of raising spirits from death, such as as the story of the Witch of Endor, who summoned the prophet Samuel's spirit, at the demand of King Saul in the First Book of Samuel 28:3-25;. Raising people from the dead is a well-known symbolic act. All through the Christian Bible there are examples of people who were raised from the dead. Prophets in the Old Testament like Elijah and Elisah, apostles in the New testament like Peter and Paul raised people the dead. According to the Christian Bible Jesus of Nazareth also raised several people from the dead, and of course he rose from the grave himself as a symbol of His victory over sins, sickness and death all over the world. (see also Illustrations of Masonry, William Morgan, 1827, Ch. 12 and The Freemasons' magazine and masonic mirror 1870, Volume 22, No. 548, p. 6 and The American Tyler-keystone: Devoted to Freemasonry and Its Concerdant Others, Volume 13, John. H. Brownell, Arthur Maurice Smith, Joseph E. Morcombe, Richard Pride, George T. Campbell, J. H. Brownell, 1898, p. 407 and The Mormon Delusion. Volume 3. Discarded Doctrines and Nonsense Revelations, Jim Whitefield,, 2012, p. 162 and Christianity and American Freemasonry, William Joseph Whalen, Ignatius Press, 1998, p. 72 and Rosicrucian Brotherhood, S. C. Gould., Volumes 1-3, 1907, p. 121).

In the Cérémonie d'Elévation - Rite Français the raising of the freemason goes as follows: "Il s’approche du Récipiendaire, pose le pied droit contre le sien, genoux contre genoux ; de la main droite il lui enserre le poi..., de façon que les pau... des deux mains soient l’une contre l’autre, et lui passe le bras gauche sous l’omoplate droite, ayant par ce moyen, est... contre est... ; puis à l’aide des deux Surveillants, il le relève et lui dit à l’oreille, en lui donnant l’accolade par trois, les trois syllables du mot. Machaben." Another way to look at the symbolism of the ascent through 'Five Points of Fellowship' is to see them as a symbol of five stages to wisdom for the soul as it makes its pilgrimage in the world of its body as did Isaac of Stella (ca. 1100-1170 CE): sense knowledge (sensus), imagination (imaginatio), reason (ratio), discernment or intelligence (intellectus) and understanding (intelligentia). Bonaventure (1221-1274 CE) in his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (Cap. 1, 6) and the Flemish mystic Jan van Ruusbroec (1293 or 1294-1381 CE) put forth the highest affective power as the highest element in this five stage hierarchical scheme, which leads to the final (sixth) stage 'apex mentis seu synderesis scintilla'. In general rationality is led to wisdom by five steps and the power of desire is led to charity by four. Together they make nine stages or nine steps. The method of advancing to the East of the master mason is by nine steps: five as in the Fellow Craft Degree as if ascending a winding staircase; and four as in the Entered Apprentice Degree (see Master Mason Ritual - Emulation). Nine refers to the 'Ennead' which in the Hebrew tradition was a symbol of immutable Truth. They believed 9 was the number of immutable truth, since it always produced itself and returned to itself while encompassing all numbers within it. Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941 CE) also identified five stages in the mystical ascent: awakening, purgation, illumination, the 'Dark Night of the Soul' and finally the union with the object of love, the one Reality, the Logos or in Christianity God. In Christianity it is Christ who awakens, chides, illumines, and feeds the contemplative in the stages of awakening, purgation, illumination, and union. Freemasonry in a Christian context seems to use the concept of an 'imitatio Christi' which of course means trouble with religious authorities, although the ideal of the imitation of Christ has been an important element of Christian theology, ethics and spirituality. The ascent of the soul and the mystical union can also be related to three kisses in the Biblical Song of Songs (1.1) as did Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 CE) in his third and fourth Sermons on the Song of Songs. These three kisses are the kiss of the feet in penance, the kiss of the hands in virtuous action and the kiss of the mouth of mystical union. These three kisses may also refer to the three degrees of freemasonry as the 'via purgativa', the 'via illuminatival' and the 'via unitiva' The raising of the freemason can also be regarded as the Neoplatonic ascent of the soul, which is a return to the One according to Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) in his exitus-reditus scheme. The Plotinian ascent goes through five stages: awakening which comprises understanding the 'little value' of the material world and reminding the soul of her origin and worth (stage 1 and 2), Purification, Illumination which is ascent with the Intelligence, and finally Union or 'homoiosis theoi' (becoming like God). The Platonic concept of the 'homoiosis theoi' we find with Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) in his Theaetetus (176b1-2) as an effort at “becoming like divinity. We also find it in his Symposium ( Συμπόσιον) which deals with friendship and eros and where the character Diotima of Mantinea describes the Ascent to Beauty through the Ladder of Love or 'scala amoris' (207e-209e). The 'scala amoris' represents the ascent a lover (soul) might make from purely physical attraction to a beautiful body, the lowest rung, to contemplation of the Form of Beauty itself: the love for a particular beautiful body (stage 1), all beautiful bodies (stage 2), beautiful souls (stage 3), beautiful laws and institutions (stage 4), the beauty of knowledge (stage 5) and finally Beauty itself (stage 6), which is the Platonic Form of the Beautiful. Everyone can reach the fifth stage, but the final stage is only for the few. Diotima even warns Socrates that he may not be able to be initiated into "the final and highest mystery" (210a) of love. The Neoplatonic concept of henosis (ἕνωσις) is the union with what is fundamental in reality: the One (Τὸ Ἕν), the Source, or Monad. Henosis is the restoration of the primordial unity when the individual is absorbed back into the primordial substance which is the substance (ousia) of all things, the uncaused cause from which emanated our reality at the moment of creation ('creatio ex deo' out of the very substance of 'God'). We also find the concept of the 'homoiosis theoi' in the works of Christian theologians such as Origen 184/185-253/254 CE) (De principiis III 6.1) and Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-ca. 395 CE) (On the Making of Man) where they put forward that the purpose of human life is to achieve nothing less than likeness to God. Paul the Apostle (ca. 5-ca. 67 CE) put it this way: "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:33-24, and also 1 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; James 3:9). In Jewish sacred literature the ultimate religious or 'unio mystica' experience is described as Devekuth. The ultimate goal of Kabbalah spirituality is 'Unio Mystica', to be present within the Divine. In Islam the concept of 'unio mystica' can be found in Sufism as 'Sair min Allah' (سير من الله). The principle of a 'unio mystica' between man and God we also find in the Hindu Upanishads in the identification of the individual soul (Ātman) with the absolute (Brahman) as a fundamental doctrine. Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE), the founder of Sikhism, also thought that there are five stages in a person's progress toward union with God. The last of these is Sach Khaṇḍ (The Realm of Truth), the final union of the spirit with God. Buddhism follows another tradition, such as in Theravada Buddhism where there can be no 'unio mystica', for the simple reason that in Nirvāṇa there is nothing to be united with. The object of union is always beyond comprehension, a 'Formless One' or nothingness, which cannot be grasped by the rational human mind, but only above reason and without reason. The final stage is also the stage of divine darkness where one falls into a solitude and an ignorance (cloud of unknowing) which are fathomless and where all light is turned into a state of darkness devoid of particular form. Our sense of distinction gives way to a profound sense of unity where the philosophical relation between subject and object becomes meaningless. The 'unio mystica' is to contemplate the Absolute without intermediary. As such the mystical ascent of freemasonry is related to traditional spiritual exercises which prepare the human mind for this 'unio mystica'. In modern Western philosophy both Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860 CE) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900 CE) dealt with the concept of the 'unio mystica'. The concept of the 'unio mystica' can be considered to be a Indo-European tradition which has its roots in early traditions such as Hinduism and Platonism, from which it developed into several mystical traditions such as in the Abrahamic religions. From the Atlantic ocean to the Himalaya, we seem to have a shared tradition of religious experience and philosophical development. The underlying Indo-European concept is the need for salvation (soteriology) from an existence of suffering and death, a negation of terrestrial life as it is through a 'unio mystica', return to the One in Neoplatonism, reunification with Brahman, attaining heaven through Christ or attaining Nirvāṇa, etc. A fundamental pessimism is at the core of most Indo-European religious and spiritual traditions, and freemasonry is part of this tradition. In this view freemasonry is part of this tradition of a Indo-European 'philosophia perennis' with its allegories and symbols. (see also Handbook of Freemasonry, BRILL, 2014, p. 300 and Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, Henrik Bogdan, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 91 and The Occult World, Christopher Partridge, Routledge, 2014, p. 267 and Adhering to God: The Message of Evelyn Underhill for Our Times, Dana Greene, Spirituality Today, Spring 1987, Vol. 39, pp. 22-38 and The Selected Works of Isaac of Stella: A Cistercian Voice from the Twelfth Century, Isaac (of Stella), Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007, p. 146 and 179 and The Growth of Mysticism, Bernard McGinn, SCM Press, 1995, p. 289 and Mandala symbolism and use in the mysticism of hugh of St. Victor, Grover A. Zinn, Jr., History of Religions, 1973, v. 12 and The Vernacular, Mystical Theology of Jan Van Ruusbroec: Exploring Sources, Contexts and Theological Practices, ProQuest, 2008, pp. 301-302 and A History of Christian Spirituality: An Analytical Introduction, Urban Tigner Holmes, Church Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 79 and The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages, Mary Carruthers, OUP Oxford, 2013, p. 12 and The Cambridge Companion to the Cistercian Order, Mette Birkedal Bruun, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 227 and The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times, David W. Kling, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 109 and Gateway to the Heavens: How Geometric Shapes, Patterns and Symbols Form Our Reality, Karen L. French, Duncan Baird Publishers, 2014, p. 77 and Western Sufism: From the Abbasids to the New Age, Mark Sedgwick, Oxford University Press, 2016 and Activity and Participation in Late Antique and Early Christian Thought, Torstein Theodor Tollefsen, OUP Oxford, 2012, p. 33 and Traditions of Theology: Studies in Hellenistic Theology, Its Background and Aftermath, Dorothea Frede, André Laks, BRILL, 2002, p. 163 and Platonic Philosophy of Religion, A: A Process Perspective, Daniel A. Dombrowski, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 95 and Paul's Anthropology in Context: The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity, Geurt Hendrik van Kooten, Mohr Siebeck, 2008, p. 124 and The Unity of Reality: God, God-experience and Meditation in the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, Michael von Brück, Paulist Press, 1991, p. 85 and Mystical Union in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: An Ecumenical Dialogue, Moshe Idel, Bernard McGinn, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016, pp. 3, 6-7 and Going Against the Flow: An Exercise in Ethical Syncretism, Alan M. Laibelman, Peter Lang, 2004, p. 173 and And Man Created God, Shlomo Giora Shoham, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011, p. 69 and Hinduism: Past and Present, Axel Michaels, Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 261 and Ninian Smart on World Religions: Traditions and the challenges of modernity. I. Individual traditions. Buddhism. 'Mysticism and scripture in Theravāda Buddhism', Ninian Smart, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009 and Wayless Abyss: Mysticism, Mediation, and Divine Nothingness, Eugene Thacker, Postmedieval, Issue 3, Volume 1 ("Becoming-Media") Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy, Antoine Panaïoti, Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 75 and World Religions, Warren Matthews, Cengage Learning, 2008, p. 160).

The so-called secret word is lost due to the murder on Hiram Abiff. However before the three ruffians murder Hiram he is capable of throwing the golden delta, which he wears around his neck, into a pit according to masonic legend. The golden delta contains the word, or key to the word, of a Master Mason. The higher degrees of freemasonry will start with the search for the lost word such as with the Mystery Royal Arch Word in the Holy Royal Arch. In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (AASR) it becomes the Golden Light of the "Enochian delta" (hexagram with inscribed Tetragrammaton). The "Enochian delta" refers to the 13th degree of the AASR (Royal Arch of Enoch, or Master of the Ninth Arch), where it refers to the antediluvian Temple of Enoch on Mount Moriah. The majority view in Judaism and Christianity is that Mount Moriah is identical with the Temple Mount of Jerusalem. The legend of the search for the 'Lost Word' in freemasonry may refer to the prelapsarian 'Adamic' language spoken in the Garden of Eden. Mankind lost it because of to the fall of man, but it can be recovered when living an ethical life. Ethical living can be defined as an attempt by people to live a more principled life in accordance with moral law. In freemasonry the moral law is symbolized by the The Holy Bible or Volume of Sacred Law (V.S.L.). This theme of a (divine) secret lost by mankind and its recovery through ethical living can be found in many ethical and religious systems. First there is always some sort of secret knowledge, that was revealed when mankind was granted understanding and which became sacred wisdom, the foundation of human civilizations and advancement. Due to the depravity of man this knowledge is always lost and can only be recovered by being initiated into "mystery schools" or becoming a priest in one religion or another. Freemasonry is just one type of organisation which deals with the unending search for "that which is hidden", based on a form of mysticism (see also Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, Guy L. Beck, Univ of South Carolina Press, 1993 and The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine, Volume 1, James Joseph Bono, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1995 and The Politics of Enlightenment: Constitutionalism, Republicanism, and the Rights of Man in Gaetano Filangieri, Vincenzo Ferrone, Anthem Press, 2014, p. 83 and Proceedings of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of New Hampshire at the Annual Assembly, Royal and Select Masters (Masonic Order), Grand Council of the State of New Hampshire, 1883, p. 62 and The Temple of Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future, John M. Lundquist, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, p. 97 and From the temple of God to God as the temple: a biblical theological study of the temple in the book of Revelation, Andrea Spatafora, Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 1997, p. 72).

The legend of Hiram Abiff also seems to resemble the Egyptian mythological story of the death and resurrection of Osiris and the story of Isis and Horus. Horus was born to the goddess-widow Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris (killed by Seth). The theory behind this is that it came about from the cultural exchange between the Egyptians and the Jews, with Jews being the inheritors of the Egyptian mysteries and attention subsequently shifted from North Africa to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Another possible explanation is that the Third Degree was changed by Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743 CE), or some other fabricator of Degrees, to give it a reference to James II of England (1633-1701 CE) as 'the son of the widow' of Charles I of England, Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669 CE). Christian tradition also represents Mary as the widow of Saint Joseph during the adult ministry of her son Jesus of Nazareth.

Hiram may also refer to 'Huramen' ('I have found it'-Greek) and it implies that masons have discovered the knowledge of God and his salvation, and have been redeemed from the death of sin and the sepulchre of pollution and unrighteousness (See also The Symbolism of Freemasonry, Ch.XXVII, Albert G. Mackey, 1882 and The Meaning of Masonry, Lynn Perkins, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, p. 95).

Hiram is also being read as the anagram 'Homo Iesus Redemptor Animarum' (Jesus a man, redeemer of souls) or 'Homo Iesus Rex Altissimus Mundi' (Jesus a man, king of the highest world). Some also added a C to the name (CHiram) so the anagram became 'Christus Iesus' etc. (see also The London Magazine, Volume 9, John Scott, John Taylor, Taylor and Hessey, 1824, p. 259 and Secret teachings of all ages, Ch. The Hiramic Legend, Manly P. Hall, 1928 and The Rosicrucians, Past and Present, at Home and Abroad Complete Edition, W. Wynn Westcott, Health Research Books, 1996, p. 424).

The third degree may also symbolize the finding of the stone of the philosophers. In alchemy, the stone of the philosophers was the "orphan"; the term "son of the widow", may be of Manichaean origin. Paracelsus (1493-1541 CE) in his The Aurora of the philosophers mentions "That wisest of the philosophers, Mercurius, making the same statement, called the Stone an orphan". Mercurius here stands for Hermes Trismegistus. The stone of the philosophers is born out of the union of the moon and the sun in the alchemical fire (see also Mysterium Coniunctionis, C. G. Jung, H. Read, G. Adler, Princeton University Press, 1970, p. 17-41 and Alchemy, Marie-Luise von Franz, Inner City Books, 1980, p. 50 and The Aurora of the philosophers, Paracelsus, Ch. XVI). We also find references to the stone of the philosophers in a verse of the Emerald Tablet, which states: "The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse" (see also Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Vol. 2, Albert Pike, Publishing, 2007 , p. 774).

There is also a possible Hermetic connection, which resembles the Neoplatonic henosis. Book 13 of the Corpus Hermeticum is entitled 'On Rebirth'. The text is in the form of a dialogue between Hermes Trismegistus and his son Tat. Tat begins by asking his father to reveal the teaching on rebirth, by saying that he is now "ready to become a stranger to the world", as this was the condition that Hermes had previously set forth. Hermes then explains that all things come from God, and are one with God, and it is His will only that determines who shall achieve rebirth. The dialogue continues with Hermes teaching Tat that it is only through mastery of self and transcending of the senses that the Divine intellect, or Nous, can be discovered (see also The Corpus Hermeticum, G. R. S. Mead, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 61 and Ancient Pathways and Hidden Pursuits, G. Luck, University of Michigan Press, 2000, p.189-199).

The Sprig of Acacia which is placed on the grave of Hiram Abiff also has a symbolic meaning. In Greek αϗαϗια signifies both the plant in question and the moral quality of innocence or purity of life. In The Spirit of Masonry (1775) of William Hutchinson (1732-1814 CE) wrote "We Masons, describing the deplorable estate of religion under the Jewish law, speak in figures. Her tomb was in the rubbish and filth cast forth of the temple, and Acacia wove its branches over her monument;" aKasta being the Greek word for innocence, or being free from sin; implying that the sins and corruptions of the old law and devotees of the Jewish altar, had hid religion from those who sought her, and she was only to be found where innocence survived, and under the banner of the divine Lamb, and as to ourselves professing that we were to be distinguished by our Acacy, or as true Acacians in our religious faith and tenets." Here he refers to the corruption of the original religion by the established churches and the resulting religious conflict and war. The Jewish law stands for the established churches as opposed to the church of the Apostolic age. The official Jewish and Christian theology was based on Aristotle, with the The Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides (1135-1204 CE) and the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE). The renewal of faith was based on Christian mysticism, which during the Renaissance had incorporated Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Jewish Kabbalah. Both Hermeticism and Christian Kabbalah had been failed attempts to liberate faith from its Aristotelian framework. Freemasonry is seen as another attempt to return to the original faith of the apostles. In The Symbolism of Freemasonry (Ch. XXVIII, 1882) Albert G. Mackey also deals with the symbolic meaning of the Sprig of Acacia. The Acacia is seen as a symbol of immortality of the soul, of innocence, and of initiation. We also find a reference to the spiritual symbolism of the "When he who was weary, plucked at a sprig of acacia, he had evidence of things not seen" (see also The Sprig of Acacia and Its Masonic Meaning, Albert G. MacKey, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and Freemasonry, secret societies, and the continuity of the occult traditions in English literature, Vol. 1, M. K. Manatt Schuchard, Ph.D Dissertation, University of Texas, Austin, 1975, p. 189-199 and The Acacia, Short Talk Bulletin Vol. X No. 11, p. 8). The Acacians were also an Arian sect and followers of Acacius of Caesarea (died 366 CE).

In ancient Egypt the acacia was conceived of as a symbol of the birth-and-death mother-goddess Neith who dwells in acacia (see also Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, Charles Russell Coulter, Patricia Turner, Routledge, 2013, p. 371)

In the Old Testament, the Acacia is said to have been used in the building of the Jewish Tabernacle (Exodus : 26) and of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus : 37). According to some sources, the crown that Jesus of Nazareth (6-4 BCE-30-33 CE) wore on his crucifixion was made of acacia thorns (see also Made According to Pattern: The Tabernacle of Ancient Israel, C W Slemming, CLC Publications, 2007, p. 6 and The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry, Frederick T. Zugibe, Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, p. 32).

The acacia tree, or a cluster of acacia trees, is also the symbol of the Arabic goddess Al-'Uzzá, who is mentioned in the Qur'an Sura 53:19. It is also under an acacia tree in al-Hudaybiyyah that the companions of the prophet Muhammad (ca. 570-632 CE) took a pledge of fidelity (known as 'Ba'ait al-Ridwan' or ' Pledge of Pleasure') to him the day before the signing of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a treaty which brought about the political victory of Islam throughout Arabia (see also Qur'an, Sura Fatah 48: 18 and The sealed nectar, Safiur-Rahman Mubarakpuri, ideas4islam, 2002, p. 256).

Modern freemasonry tells the story of Hiram Abiff and the legend of a lost secret or lost word. An earlier account of a attempt to recover a lost (antediluvian) secret can be found in the Graham MS (1726 CE). The Graham MS, which was brought to light in 1936, has the earliest known description of a Masonic raising. The first reference to Hiram Abiff being raised occurs in Pritchard's Masonry Dissected of 1730, which is four years after the Graham MS was written. The body raised in the Graham MS is not that of Hiram Abiff, but the body of Noah. The persons doing the raising are not three craftsmen, but the three sons of Noah - Ham, Shem and Japheth. According to the manuscript Shem, Ham and Japheth went to Noah's grave to try to find his valuable (antediluvian) secret. His sons had previously agreed that if they could not find his secret, the first thing they found would serve instead, for they firmly believed that God would make this thing as valuable as the secret itself. So they came to the grave, finding nothing but a dead body almost rotted away. They took a grip on a finger, but it came away, as did the hand at the wrist and the arm at the elbow. So they reared up the dead body and supported it, foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek and hand to back and cried out "Help, 0 Father" meaning "0 Father of heaven, help us now, for our earthly father cannot".” So they laid the body down again, not knowing what to do. One said "Here is yet marrow in this bone" and the second said "But a dry bone" and the third said "It stinketh". So they agreed to give it a name, which is known to Freemasonry to this day. Yet it is believed that the virtue did not proceed from what they found, but from faith and prayer (Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, Henrik Bogdan, SUNY Press, 2012, p. 83 and Grand Lodge Bulletin, Volumes 42-43, Freemasons, Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1941, p. 356 and Franc-maçonnerie : Ésotérisme et Théâtralité: Ouvrage de référence sur la présence de l'ésotérisme dans le théâtre, Olivier Santamaria, Anna Maria Vileno, EME éditions, 2015, Ch. 5).

Alchemical fermentation
- Viridium Chymicum, Stolcius de Stolcenberg, 1624 -

Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi
- Gerhard Dorn -

Solemn strikes the funeral chime,
Notes of our departing time;
As we journey here below,
Through a pilgrimage of woe!

It is interesting to look at the third degree ritual from an alchemical point of view (as good as any other point of view). A description of several types of third degree rituals can be found on-line. The death and rebirth of the Freemason in the third degree ritual closely resembles the alchemical process of making (spiritual) 'Gold' as the final stage of the Magnum opus:

  1. Calcination
  2. Dissolution
  3. Separation
  4. Conjunction
  5. Fermentation
  6. Distillation
  7. Coagulation

The key to alchemy is found in the word transmutation, a word that in its original Latin meaning refers to total change. Spiritual alchemy is concerned with the transmutation of the personality and its structures, so as to allow for the light of unobstructed consciousness and pure Being to be directly known. The process of physical death and spiritual resurrection is also being described in Bible, Corinthians 15:36-44 ("So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."). The journey of the Freemason is also summarized in the word VITRIOL which means "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem" and refers to a process of internal, spiritual purification. In the plate from the Viridium Chymicum we see the dead man lying on a field like a seed. A dead seed in the earth will bring forth new life, as something that will happen to it rather than its birthing itself by its own efforts. The black crows are symbols of the initial Black Phase (the Nigredo) of alchemy, during which the subject of transformation is purified by breaking it down (Calcination or first stage). The angel with a trumpet and a sword, symbolizes the revelation angel with its resurrection trumpet (see also Revelation 8:1-2). The figure also symbolizes Zephirus blowing wind to dry or calcine Mercurius. In other engravings the angel depicts Hermes (Messenger), who summons to the final stage of transformation. The alchemist is called to rise and submit his nearly integrated psyche to "judgement" (examination). The masonic temple is also covered in black and all master masons now wear their garments with the black side turned outward (Nigredo). The cross in the foreground symbolizes the conjunction or "Marriage of the Sun and Moon" (Conjunction or third stage). The cross in the foreground and the grave also form the sign for 'sal tartari' (potassium carbonate). Salt is an element of substance and physicality. Salt starts out as coarse and impure. Through alchemical processes, the salt is broken down through dissolving, purified and eventually reformed into pure salt, the result of the correct interactions between mercury and sulphur. One version of the third degree ritual says in the second section: "My mind is now clear and the body shall be raised... .Yea; my brethren, I have a word, and though the skin may slip from the flesh and the flesh cleave from the bone, there is strength in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and He shall prevail." (see also The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual, Timothy Hogan,, 2007 and Traveling East, Ronald E. Young, iUniverse, 2005, p. 182 and Philosophia reformata, Johannes Daniel Mylius, Frankfurt, 1622 and Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Francesco Colonna, Venice, 1499 and The Reenchantment of the World, Morris Berman, Cornell University Press, 1981, p. 87 and Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 13, Alchemical Studies, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1968).

The journey starts with "Visita Interiora Terrae". The candidate enters the temple, divested of all wearing apparel, except his shirt and drawers. This step signifies calcination. Psychologically, calcination is a destruction of ego and man's attachment to material possessions. Calcination represents the beginning of the Black Stage of the alchemical process. During the ceremony the dead body of Hiram plays an important role, first by confronting the candidate with the crime which killed Hiram and next by placing him in the position of Hiram. During the ceremony, the candidate steps over the grave of Hiram with seven steps. These seven steps are also the method of advancing from West to East in this Degree, where the first three as if stepping over a grave. Seven signifies the seven gates which one has to pass from darkness into light, the seven stage of the Magnum opus and the seven chambers of El Castillo Interior or the Subida del Monte Carmelo. The candidate takes the place of Hiram and descends into the grave. This starts the second stage of Dissolution. Psychologically, dissolution represents a further breaking down of the artificial structures of the Psyche by total immersion in the unconscious, non-rational rejected part of our minds. Here the candidate becomes the widow's son (Hiram), but this also refers to the Lapis Philosophorum in the end. The alchemical gold was esoterically referred to as the Lapis Philosophorum (literally Philosopher's Stone) or Orphan. The Philosopher's Stone is born from the union and death of both his parents as the old dual nature of man disappears to make way for the spiritual hermaphrodite or Rebus (see also The Widow's Son, Robert Anton Wilson, Penguin Group USA, 1991, p. 96 and Spring, Volumes 77-78, Spring Publications, 2007, p. 300 and Individuation and the Orphan Archetype: A Phenomenological Study, Judy Louise Isaac, ProQuest, 2008, p. 21 and The Interior Castle, Saint Teresa (of Avila), Riverhead Books, 2003).

When the masonic search party finds the dead body of Hiram (place taken by the candidate) during the ritual, King Solomon, played by the Worshipful Master (WM), says the word "Makbenac", meaning that the flesh is separating from the bones (due to Separation, third stage). This now becomes the substitute for the so-called lost 'Word'. The lost 'Word' is not only a lost word as such, but a hidden meaning which cannot be grasped by mere words. The substitute 'Word' is only a symbol for a mystery which cannot be pronounced (verbum vocis), but only experienced by those who raise to the spiritual level where they see with their 'inner eye' (verbum cordis). Psychologically, separation is the rediscovery of man's essence and the reclaiming of dream and visionary "gold" previously rejected by the rational part of our minds. It is for the most part, a conscious process (that has become conscious through the process of Dissolution), in which the alchemist reviews formerly hidden material (bones) and decide what to discard (flesh) and what to reintegrate into his refined personality. The next stage after separation is Conjuction which resembles "Rectificando" or setting things right. The goal of the Conjunction operation (step four) is to recombine the saved elements of the spiritual and the physical into a whole new combination. With this unification comes the potential for direct nonlinear knowing that is more than intuition. In Conjunction, the alchemist brings together the work done in Calcination, where the ego was burned to ashes, in Dissolution, where the emotions became more fully integrated and accepted without the ego's interference, and in Separation, where man discovered what was of value in his life and let go of anything that wasn't. Conjunction is an alchemical crucifixion in which the substance at hand (or the alchemist) is nailed (or fixed) on a cross between the Vertical Axis of reality (spirit) and the Horizontal Axis of reality (matter). In the vertical orientation, Conjunction is the attempted union of the forces of spirit Above and matter Below. Alchemical fermentation (fifth stage) is a two-stepped process that begins with the putrefaction of the Hermaphroditic "Child" from the Conjunction (hieros gamos) resulting in the death and resurrection to a new level of being.

After Conjunction comes Fermentation (step five), which symbolizes "Invenies", which means 'You Will Discover'. The Fermentation phase begins with the introduction of new life into the product of Conjunction to strengthen it and inure its survival. Psychologically, The Fermentation Process starts with the inspiration of spiritual power from 'Above' that reanimates, energizes, and enlightens the alchemist. Out of the blackness of his Putrefaction comes the yellow Ferment. This decomposition of fermentation is the rotting of the dead self or ego. To look into the dark shadows of one's self is to look at what most deny. C. G. Jung spoke of the importance of embracing one's shadow so that the darkness of it could be illuminated. When the shadow is embraced it can be healed with the introspection and understanding of what gave it birth (see also Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 13, Alchemical Studies, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1968 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008, p. 144 and 152).

The next step is Distillation. The dead man rises from the grave in the plate from the Viridium Chymicum as a spiritual being which bears fruit as is shown by the wheat growing out of the grave. This stage is Distillation or the sixth stage of alchemy. Distillation is the agitation and sublimation of psychic forces necessary to ensure that no impurities from the inflated ego or deeply submerged id are incorporated into the next and final stage. Personal Distillation consists of a variety of introspective techniques that raise the content of the psyche to the highest level possible, free from sentimentality and emotions, cut off even from one's personal identity. Distillation is the purification of the unborn Self, all that man truly is and can be. The murdered body of Hiram Abiff is raised from his resting place beneath an acacia sprig which marked the spot to those who would be sent by King Solomon to search. After the interred corpse of Hiram was found, King Solomon (Worshipful Master) himself goes to the site to recover the body. Feeling beneath the ground at the site of the acacia, he feels Hirams hand. In the process of recovering his corpse, he first uses the grip of the Entered Apprentice, then that of the Fellow-craft, but twice he feels the skin slipping off Hirams hand. Finally King Solomon uses the grip of the Master Mason to raise the corpse. King Solomon (Worshipful Master), raises Hiram Abiff from "a dead level to a living perpendicular" using the real grip of a Master Mason, also known as the Lion's Paw. The Worshipful Master then embraces Hiram on the five points of fellowship, standing foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back and mouth to ear. King Solomon, played by the Worshipful Master, then whispers the substitute for the lost word in Hiram's ear: "Makbenac, Mahabone or Mac Benah". The five points of fellowship are symbolized by the 'Five Pointed Star', which in some rituals is presented in the Master Mason's Degree. Each point of the star represents a point of fellowship and reminds Freemasons of their obligations to each other. As a group of equals, the Five Pointed Star should guide their actions toward one another (see also Das verlorene Meisterwort: Bausteine zu einer Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte des Freimaurertums, Hans Biedermann, Böhlau Verlag Wien, 1999, p. 203 and L'illumisme en France: 1767-1774, Gérard Encausse, Chamuel, 1902, p. 227 and Freemasonry and the Lions Paw, H. L. Haywood, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008, p. 157 and The Alchemy in Spiritual Progress - Distillation, Nancy Shandera PhD., Alchemy Journal Volume 3 no.1 January-February 2002 and Cracking the Freemason's Code: The Truth About Solomon's Key and the Brotherhood, Robert Cooper, Random House, 2011, p. 120).

The crosses behind the grave refer to the fermentation of mercury with its own sulphur. The pairing of alchemical sulphur and mercury corresponds to the male-female dichotomy. Sulphur is the active male principle, possessing the ability to create change. It bears the qualities of hot and dry, the same as the element of fire, and is associated with the sun (Sol). Mercury is the passive female principle. While sulphur causes change, it needs something to actually shape and change in order to accomplish anything. The relationship is also commonly compared to the planting of a seed: the plant springs from the seed, but only if there is earth to nourish it. The earth equates to the passive female principle. Mercury is also known as quicksilver because it is one of very few metals to be liquid at room temperature. Thus, it can easily be shaped by outside forces. Mercury is silver in colour, and silver is associated with womanhood and the moon (Luna) (see also Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 13, Alchemical Studies, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1968 and The Doctrines of Alchemy, Alexander Henry, Undying Publishing, 2012, p. 273 and The Hermetic Museum, Restored and Enlarged, Arthur Edward Waite, NuVision Publications, LLC, 1953, p. 292).

- Circumpunct -

Finally man becomes the illuminated and regenerated alchemical philosopher or Lapis Philosophorum (Lapidem). Coagulation is the last stage of the alchemical process and it provides the key to unlocking the true goal of the Magnum Opus. The balance of the opposites or 'coincidentia oppositorum' creates a balance and harmony necessary to easily move between the two realms of matter and spirit. The person that has successfully accomplished this stage has completed unification within themselves on all levels. Man has been able to join spirit and soul with the body, separating them from everything that would hinder them ascension into the union with the Divine. This is symbolized by the apron of the Master Mason which shows a downward triangle and three upward dots, creating two interlocking triangles. Together they create the union of the masculine (reason) and feminine (heart)or soul and body. In the plate from the Viridium Chymicum, the archer on the right shoots his arrow in the target, which symbolizes 'Gold' meaning that the goal of the magnum opus has been reached. The point in the circle or circumpunct represents the Sun and philosophic 'Gold' ("A point within a circle, from which every part of the circumference is equidistant."). The point and the circle can also be expressed as the same substance as potential (the point or monad) and as fully manifest (the circle). The circumpunct may also refer to the phrase "Deus est sphaera infinita cuius centrum est ubique, circumferentia nusquam" from the Liber XXIV philosophorum (nr. II). The circumpunct symbolizes coagulation or the seventh step of the alchemical process, which incarnates and releases the "Ultima Materia" of the soul; the transformation from "Prima Materia" (rough ashlar) into "Ultima Materia" (perfect ashlar) is completed. Stated otherwise, the journey "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem" has reached its goal (see also Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 13, Alchemical Studies, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1968 and The Alchemy in Spiritual Progress, Part 5: Putrefaction, Nanci Shanderá, Alchemy Journal, Vol. 2 No.5, Sept./Oct.2001 and The Many Roots of Medieval Logic: The Aristotelian and the Non-Aristotelian Traditions, John Marenbon, BRILL, 2007, p. 255 and The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters: Gender, Secrecy, and Fraternity in Italian Masonic Lodges, Lilith Mahmud, University of Chicago Press, 2014, p. 56 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, Dennis Hauck, Penguin, 2008, p. 158).

Philosopher Stone
Christ, as the stone of the philosophers, holding aloft a banner rises from a sepulchre.
- Woodcut 20, Rosarium philosophorum sive pretiosissimum donum Dei, 1550 -

The alchemical Rosarium philosophorum sive pretiosissimum donum Dei (1550) deals with the magnum opus of the philosopher-alchemist and the creation of the lapis philosophorum. Christ rising from his grave is depicted in Alchemical treatises such as the Rosarium Philosophorum as the 'lapis philosophorum'. The alchemical-biblical death and recovery of Hiram in the masonic ritual resembles the death and resurrection of Christ as the 'lapis philosophorum'. Freemasonry with the Third Degree ritual is substituting imitation (imitatio Christi) for faith and Hiram for Jesus as the means to gaining entry into heaven, following death (see also De Imitatione Christi, Thomas à Kempis, 1427). The Franciscan Johannes de Rupescissa (ca. 1310-1366 CE) in his Liber lucis quotes Arnaldus de Villa Nova (ca. 1235-1311 CE) who associated Christ with the 'lapis philosophorum' ( see also Goethe, the Alchemist, Ronald D. Gray, CUP Archive, 1952, p. 20 and Erlösungsvorstellungen in der Alchemie in Grundwerk C. G. Jung, C. G. Jung, 1999, pp. 84-104 and Alchemical studies, C. G. Jung, Pantheon Books, 1967, p.294). The association of Christ with the 'lapis (philosophorum)' in alchemy was based on texts in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible. Christ is referred to as a cornerstone in: Psalm 118:22, Acts 4:11, Luke 20:17, Matthew 21:42, 1 Peter 2:4-8, Mark 12:10-11, Ephesians 2:20-22 and Zechariah 4:7. In Isaiah 8:14, Christ is referred to as as "stone of stumbling" for those who do not sanctify him (see also Prophecy, Alchemy, and the End of Time, Leah DeVun, Columbia University Press, 2013, Ch. 'Images of Christ').

The third degree can also be viewed as the hieros gamos between the white moon of the first degree (unconscious, Pythagorean number value two, alchemical Albedo) and the yellow sun of the second degree (conscious, number value three, alchemical Citrinitas) through the red alchemical fire (behind the flaming star) to the pentagram which is the marriage (gamos) of the numbers two and three into the coincidentia oppositorum (number five, alchemical Rubedo). (see also Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction, Simon Cox, Simon and Schuster, 2009, p. 11 and The Geometry of Art and Life, Matila Costiescu Ghyka, Courier Dover Publications, 1946, p. 118-119). The search for moral perfection in freemasonry is shared with alchemy as alchemists "sought not only to make gold, but to perfect eveything in its own nature" (see also The Alchemists, F. Sherwood Taylor, Heinemann, 1951, p. 3). Rubedo is a Latin word meaning "redness" that was adopted by alchemists to define the fourth and final major stage in the Magnum Opus. Both gold, and the philosopher's stone were associated with the color red, as rubedo signalled alchemical success, and the end of the great work. Rubedo can be interpreted as achieving enlightened consciousness and the total fusion of spirit and matter... In the framework of psychological development (especially followers of Jungian psychology) these four alchemical steps are to be taken as analogous to the process of attaining individuation: In an archetypal schema, rubedo would represent the Self archetype, and would be the culmination of the four stages. The Self manifests itself in "wholeness," a point in which a person discovers his or her true nature.

In the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961 CE) he describes the process of individuation. The central concept of analytical psychology is individuation-the psychological process of integrating the opposites (coincidentia oppositorum), including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy. Within every individual there is a striving toward unity in which divisions would be replaced by consistency, opposites equally balanced, consiousness in reciprocal relation with the unconscious. For C. G. Jung personality was manifested by "definiteness, wholeness and ripeness" (see Collected Works, Vol. 17, C. G. Jung, par. 288). Or also "If the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining factor along with consciousness, and if we can live in such a way that conscious and unconscious demands are taken into account as far as possible, then the centre of gravity of the total personality shits its position. It is then no longer in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, but in the hypothetical point between conscious and unconscious. This new centre migh be called the self" (see Collected Works, Vol. 13, C. G. Jung, par. 67). Stated otherwise "Only the man who can consciously assent to the power of the inner voice becomes a personality" (see Collected Works, Vol. 17, C. G. Jung, par. 308). The self is the God within; and the individual, in seeking self-realization and unity, becomes the means through which "God seeks his goal" (see Collected Works, Vol. 10, C. G. Jung, par. 588). This resembles the maxim of the γνωθι σεατον of the Oracle of Delphi at the Temple of Apollo.

Another way of looking at the ritual of the third degree and its symbolism of death and rebirth is based on the Biblical verses in John 3:3, 3:5 and 3:7: Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." and Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." and You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' John 3:5 in Greek reads "ἀπεκρίθη (ὁ) Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος, οὐ δύναται εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ.". Water is 'ὕδατος' and spirit is 'Πνεύματος' which refers to the Stoic concept of pneuma for "breath of life". In John 3:7 'γεννηθῆναι' means being born or created and 'ἄνωθεν' means 'from above'. The French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943 CE) in La connaissance surnaturelle refers to the rebirth from above as the birth of eternal life within man. She refers to pneuma as to the holy spirit which as a seed enters in each human soul (Bible, Luke 8:11). The seed in the soul has to die in order to allow for a spiritual birth. Being born out of water and spirit in this context refers to the divine seed in man which has to be born. The soul has to be liquefied or dissolve in order to be reborn: "La semence est un souffle igné, pneuma. La semence qui est entrée dans la Vierge était le Saint-Esprit, pneuma hagion. Le Saint-Esprit est aussi la semence qui tombe sur toute âme. Pour le recevoir, il faut que l’âme soit devenue simplement une matrice, un réceptacle ; quelque chose de fluide, de passif, de l’eau. Alors la semence devient embryon, puis enfant : le Christ est engendré dans l’âme. Ce que je nommais «je», «moi», est détruit, liquéfié ; à la place de cela, il y a un être nouveau, grandi à partir de la semence tombée de Dieu dans l’âme. C’est là être engendré de nouveau à partir de l’eau et de l’esprit, être engendré à partir de Dieu et non pas de la volonté de l’homme, ou de la volonté de la chair. Au terme de ce processus «je ne vis plus, mais le Christ vit en moi». C’est un autre être qui est engendré par Dieu, un autre «je», qui est à peine «je», parce que c’est le fils de Dieu." (see also La connaissance surnaturelle, Simone Weil, Gallimard, 1950, p. 253 and Spirituele filosofie en de ziel. Mystieke teksten met Simone Weil als gids., Jacques Graste, Klement, 1952, pp. 162-163 and Mystique et discernement, Pierre Miquel, Editions Beauchesne, 1997, p. 100).

François de Sales (1567-1622 CE) in his Traite' de 1' Amour de Dieu describes the spiritual journey of the soul, which begins with Meditation; from it, it passes to Contemplation which, becoming deeper and deeper, ascends through Amorous Contemplation, Rest of the Soul in the Beloved, Liquefaction of the Soul in God, Amorous Languor, the Sovereign Degree of Union in Suspension of the senses and of the will and finally reaches Ecstasy. Here also the human soul has to liquefy in order to achieve the mystical union. Putrefaction leads to the liquefaction of the organs as in the death of Hiram, where in a high state of decomposition, the skin slips from the flesh. The soul melts, dissolves and liquefies before being reborn and leaving its old self behind (see also Traite' de 1' Amour de Dieu,François de Sales, Ch. XII and Trance and suggestion in the Christian religion in Hypnotism And Hypnotic Suggestion V5: A Scientific Treatise On The Uses And Possibilities Of Hypnotism, Suggestion And Allied Phenomena, James H. Leuba, Kessinger Publishing, 2006 and Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Śrī Vedānta Deśika on Loving Surrender to God, Francis Xavier Clooney, Georgetown University Press, 2008, po. 94-95).

At the end of this journey and with regard to the so-called secret of freemasonry it is interesting to take a look at the end of the journey in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951 CE):
"6.52 Wir fühlen, dass selbst, wenn alle möglichen wissenschaftlichen Fragen beantwortet sind, unsere Lebensprobleme noch gar nicht berührt sind. Freilich bleibt dann eben keine Frage mehr; und eben dies ist die Antwort.
6.521 Die Lösung des Problems des Lebens merkt man am Verschwinden dieses Problems. (Ist nicht dies der Grund, warum Menschen, denen der Sinn des Lebens nach langen Zweifeln klar wurde, warum diese dann nicht sagen konnten, worin dieser Sinn bestand.)
6.522 Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches. Dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische.
6.53 Die richtige Methode der Philosophie wäre eigentlich die: Nichts zu sagen, als was sich sagen lässt, also Sätze der Naturwissenschaft—also etwas, was mit Philosophie nichts zu tun hat—, und dann immer, wenn ein anderer etwas Metaphysisches sagen wollte, ihm nachzuweisen, dass er gewissen Zeichen in seinen Sätzen keine Bedeutung gegeben hat. Diese Methode wäre für den anderen unbefriedigend—er hätte nicht das Gefühl, dass wir ihn Philosophie lehrten—aber sie wäre die einzig streng richtige.
6.54 Meine Sätze erläutern dadurch, dass sie der, welcher mich versteht, am Ende als unsinnig erkennt, wenn er durch sie—auf ihnen—über sie hinausgestiegen ist. (Er muss sozusagen die Leiter wegwerfen, nachdem er auf ihr hinaufgestiegen ist.) Er muss diese Sätze überwinden, dann sieht er die Welt richtig.
7 Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

The tracing board of the third degree has a double meaning. Like the tracing boards of the first and second degree it symbolizes the individual where the common concept of human life is as death comared with the potential human capacity. Secondly, the vision of the interior of the temple, symbolizes that through dying to one's concept of one's self one can realize one's true potential (see also Turning the Hiram Key: Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed, Robert Lomas, Fair Winds, 2006, p. 167 and Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol, W. Kirk MacNulty, Thames & Hudson, Limited, 1991, p. 28-32).

The working tools of the third degree relate ot the spirit or the third world. These are the tools for desing, planning and laying out the work. The pencil of the third degree refers to the capacity of creativity, the skirret symbolizes the application of fundamental principles (principia neutra) which put bounds on creativity and the compass symbolizes the sense of proportion which keeps creativity and principles in balance.

Degrees 4 - 33

While the first three degrees of freemasonry show their rationalist and Newtonian heritage, the higher degrees were influenced by esotheric and chivalric currents from the Stuart diaspora. The Ecossais degrees of freemasonry deal with the construction of a the third Temple of Solomon and the Templar degrees deal with the legend that freemasonry derived from the medieval Knights Templar or 'Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon'. Chevalier Andrew M. Ramsay (1686-1743 CE), Grand Orator of the Stuart freemasonry, in his Oration of 21 March 1737 put forward that Crusader Masons had revived the craft with secrets recovered in the Holy Land, under the patronage of the Knights Templar (see also The Newtonian system of the world, the best model of government, John Theophilus Desaguliers, A. Campbell, for J. Roberts, 1728 and The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Charles Thompson McClenachan, Masonic Pub. & Manufacturing, 1868, p. 13 and Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture, Marsha Keith Schuchard, BRILL, 2002).

There are several appendant masonic bodies which confer degrees in addition to the first three degrees. The Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch confers the single degree of Royal Arch Mason. The Order of Mark Master Masons confers the degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master. Several other systems of the higher degrees would be developed. The most well-known is the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR). Another system is the Rectified Scottish Rite (Rite écossais rectifié), a rite founded in Lyon (France) in 1778 and mainly developed by Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (1730-1824 CE). The Swedish Rite was inspired by the work of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772 CE). The occultist Cagliostro (1743-1795 CE) would develop a rite with alchemical, occult and Egyptian elements, which would develop into the Rite of Memphis-Misraim.

Several attempts would be made to bring some order into the proliferation of high degrees during the 18th century. At the Convent des Gaules in 1778, the basic structure of the Rectified Scottish Rite and rituals were settled. The Congress of Wilhelmsbad (also known as the Convent of Wilhelmsbad) was opened on 16 July 1782 at Wilhemsbad in Germany and it was convoked by Duke of Brunswick (1735-1806 CE). It would lead to the Rectified Scottish Rite to replace the Rite of Strict Observance (see also Le Corbusier and the Occult, Jan Birksted, MIT Press, 2009, p. 228 and A Rosicrucian Utopia in Eighteenth-Century Russia, Raffaella Faggionato, Springer, 2006, p. 249).

The proliferation in France of occultist and esotheric high degrees in the 18th century made Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (1747-1793 CE), Grand Master of French Freemasonry (GOdF), to call for the Convent of Paris in 1784. The Martinist and Swedenborgian lodge of Amis Réunis was responsible for the invitations and the organization of the convention. The, mainly continental, higher degrees were based on Martinist and Swedenborgian principles. The Duke of Brunswick (1735-1806 CE), Grand Master of German Freemasonry, led the German delegation and Charles Rainsford (1728-1809 CE) the English one. Cagliostro (1743-1795 CE), Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803 CE), and Franz Mesmer (1734-1815 CE) were the leading occultists of the day attending the Convention. The result of the convention would lead to a more uniform landscape in the higher degrees (see also A Library of Freemasonry, Robert Freke Gould, John C. Yorston, 1906, p. 375 and Freemasonry, secret societies, and the continuity of the occult traditions in English literature, Vol. 1, M. K. Manatt Schuchard, Ph.D Dissertation, University of Texas, Austin, 1975, p. 265 and Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven, Marsha Keith Schuchard, BRILL, 2011, p. 5 and Theosophical Enlightenment, Joscelyn Godwin, SUNY Press, 1994, p. 105).

The Lausanne Congress of Supreme Councils of 1875 for the reform of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) of 1786, the discussion on the Deistic approach (natural religion, Nominalism, Empricism) of a belief in a Creative Principle on the one hand and the Theistic approach (revealed religion, Rationalism, Universals) of a belief in a Supreme Being on the other hand would lead to a conlict between the continental and Anglo-Saxon higer degrees. The schism between continental and Anglo-Saxon freemasonry was now complete from the 1st up to the 33rd degree (see also Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle, William L. Fox, University of Arkansas Press, 1997, pp. 97-98).

Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

I will only take the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) as an example to discuss some aspects of higher degrees (as far as I could find information in literature). Most of the information on the AASR can be found in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1872) written by Albert Pike (1809-1891 CE).

In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) the second class of degrees comprise the Fourth to Eigth degree. These are the first degrees in the Lodge of Perfection, and they share a common thread in their legendary stories, related to the punishment of Hiram's murderers, the reward given for services rendered, the search for a replacement for Hiram, and the completion of the Temple of Solomon, including the building of a secret vault. The third class comprises the Ninth to Eleventh Degrees. These are the so-called degrees of vengeance or of the Elect (Elus). Their main themes are vengeance for the terrible crime of the evil companions and the punishment they suffered thereafter. The fourth class, Twelfth through Fourteenth Degrees, which also have reference to the Seventh and Eighth Degrees, are connected with construction and architecture, particularly the sacred vault below the Holy of Holies. The fifth class comprises the so-called "Chapter" or Rose-Croix degrees, from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth. The sixth class comprises the degrees 19 to 27 and these are called the philosophic degrees. The seventh class comprises the degrees 28 to 33. These six degrees are the culmination of the "Scottish" system. The first three are related to the Kadosh degree (Knight Kadosh), one of the fundamental Scottish degrees which served for a time as the highest degree of the canon preceding the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR). Elements of the degree of Knight of the Rose Croix (18) and Knight Kadosh (30) will be discussed as they are milestones in the Scottish Rite (see also Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, L.H. Jenkins, 1871 and Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Albert Pike, Kessinger Publishing, 2004 and Scotch Rite Masonry Illustrated Part 1 The Complete Ritual of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, John Blanchard, Kessinger Publishing, 2002 and Legenda and Readings of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Albert Pike, Kessinger Publishing, 1993).

The Lodge of Perfection

These degrees, the 4th through 14th, are called Ineffable Degrees because their principal purpose is the investigation and contemplation of the ineffable name of Deity.

  1. Secret Master
  2. Perfect Master
  3. Confidential Secretary
  4. Provost and Judge
  5. Intendant of the Building
  6. Elu of the Nine
  7. Elu of the Fifteen
  8. Elu of the Twelve
  9. Master Architect
  10. Royal Arch of Solomon
  11. Perfect Elu

(see also Book of the AASR)

Chapter of Rose Croix

The 15th through 18th are the degrees of the Chapter of Rose Croix. They attempt to invest the candidate with a deeper understanding of Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, and History.

  1. Knight of the East
  2. Prince of Jerusalem
  3. Knight of the East and West
  4. Knight Rose Croix

(see also Book of the AASR)

Knight of the Rose Croix - 18

Knight Rese Crox
- Knight Rose Crox -

The degree of Knight of the Rose Croix or 'Knights of the Pelican and Eagle, and Sovereign Prince Rose Croix of Heredom' is the 18th degree of the Scottish Rite. This degree refers to the pelican, the Rosy Cross and Rosicrucianism. The degree deals with the reformation of the spirit as a prerequisite and a first step for the reformation of the world. The degree is to make the Freemason aware about the light burning within himself and identifying with it in order to make the transmutation from course matter to luminous essence. The main theme of the degree deals with finding the so-called lost word ('verbus perdo') of the third degree. The lost word of freemasonry refers to the loss of the 'prelapsarian' Lingua Adamica. According to Genesis 2:20, Adam named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field. The words which Adam used reflected the true nature of all the animals, birds and plants. The conveyed a true understanding of the secrets of nature. The inner representation of nature by words was a true representation of the external reality. We find references to the Adamic language or universal language of creation in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. The loss of the original Adamic language was the actual sign of the fall, since in the Garden of Eden speech was the outward manifestation of the inner Paradise. Through the loss of the Adamic language all efforts of man to read the Book of Nature would suffer (see also Johannis Miltoni Paradisus amissus Latini redditus, John Milton, Impensis L. Gilliver, 1741, p. 306 and Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, Stanley Eugene Fish, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 118 and The Linguistic Construction of Reality, George William Grace, George Grace, 1987, p. 14 and A Deconstructive Reading of Milton's Paradise Lost, Wei-min Sun, National Cheng Kung University Department of Foreign Languages & Literature, 2009 and Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, Bernard J. F. Lonergan, Frederick E. Crowe, Robert M. Doran, Lonergan Research Institute, University of Toronto Press, 1997, p. 15).

The quest for the key to the lost language would inspire many theologians and philosophers over the years. One of the most notorious was the one by John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609 CE). He attempted to commune with angels in order to learn the universal language of creation and restore the unity of mankind (see also Diary, John Dee, Chetham Society, 1842 and John Dee's Conversations with Angels, Deborah E. Harkness, Cambridge University Press, 1999 and Quest for the Lost Language of the Initiates, David Reigle, American Theosophist 69.1, January 1981, 11-6)

The lost word which is found in the 18th degree of the Scottish Rite is 'INRI'. Depending on the Anglo-Saxon or continental tradition of the system of freemasonry, it means either Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus, King of the Jews) or Ignis Natura Renovatur Integram (fire renews nature incessantly). The first meaning refers to Christ as the logos or 'The Word of God' (see also the Gospel of John 1:1). Christ as the logos is the cosmic Mediator between God and the world, who is the personification of God's Truth and Wisdom. Christ descended from God into the finite creation and thereby became part of God's creation. The Logos of John is the real, personal God, the Word, who was originally before the creation with God, and was God, one in essence and nature, yet personally distinct; the revealer and interpreter of the hidden being of God; the reflection and visible image of God, and the organ of all His manifestations to the world. Christ provides the link between the temporal and eternal and is the Light of the World (see also John 8:12 and Christ the light of the world, Charles John Vaughan, Alexander Strahan Pub., 1866 and Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, L.H. Jenkins, 1871, p. 291).

Other references to the importance of Christ for Christians we find in the Solus Christus motto as one of the five solae that summarize the Protestant Reformers' basic belief that salvation is through Christ alone and that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. According to the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Cruci on the Sarcophagus in the centre of the Crypt of Christian Rosenkreuz were written, among other inscriptions the words The degrees of the Council of Kadosh are chivalric and philosophical, but also contain mystical material. The word "Kadosh" is a Hebrew word meaning "Holy". Jesus mihi omnia' (Jesus is everything to me). The symbolism of Christ has a rich tradition in Christianity which also finds it reflection in freemasonry.

The second meaning, 'Ignis Natura Renovatur Integram', refers to the alchemical fire which results in the coincidentia oppositorum (man/sun with woman/moon) as the completion of the magnum opus. The alchemical intepretation of the coincidentia oppositorum refers to the Neoplatonism of Nicholas of Cusa in his essay, De Docta Ignorantia (1440). When the higher degrees of freemasonry developed during the 18th century, alchemical and hermetic philosophy were very popular (see also Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 155 and Alchemy Tried in the Fire, William R. Newman, Lawrence M. Principe, University of Chicago Press, 2005 and Isaac Newton's Freemasonry, Alain Bauer, Inner Traditions/Bear, 2007).

INRI may also refer to the Jesuit motto 'Iustum Necar Reges Impios', meaning 'It is just to exterminate or annihilate impious or heretical kings, governments, or rulers' (see also The Mammoth Book of Conspiracies, Jon E. Lewis, Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012). It may also refer to 'Igne Nitrum Roris Inventur' ('the nitre of dew is found by fire') referring to the Alchemical elements of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury (see also Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, N. H. Webster, Book Tree, 2000, p. 89). In the Hebrew Kabbalistic tradition INRI refers to the four elements of Empedocles (ca. 495-435 BCE): Iam, water; Nour, fire; Ruach, spirit or vital air; and Iabeshah, earth (see also Masonry Defined, Volume 2, E. R. Johnston, Kessinger Publishing, 2002, p. 637).

Council of Kadosh

The degrees of the Council of Kadosh are chivalric and philosophical, but also contain mystical material. The word "Kadosh" is a Hebrew word meaning "Holy".

  1. Pontiff
  2. Master of the Symbolic Lodge
  3. Noachite or Prussian Knight
  4. Knight of the Royal Axe
  5. Chief of the Tabernacle
  6. Prince of the Tabernacle
  7. Knight of the Brazen Serpent
  8. Prince of Mercy
  9. Knight of the Sun, Prince Adept
  10. Knight Commander of the Temple
  11. Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
  12. Knight Kadosh

(see also Book of the AASR)

Knight Kadosh - 30

Ladder of Kadosh
Ladder of Kadosh.

The degree of Knight Kadosh is the 30th degree of the AASR. The freemasons in Lyons (1743), under the name of the Petit Elu, or the Lesser Elect, probably invented the Degree of Kadosh, which is believed to represent the revenge of the Templars. Kadosh may also refer to the Hebrew word "Kadosh" (holy), Hakkadosh (Holy One or YHVH) or 'Hakkadosh Barukh Hu' meaning "The Holy One blessed be He" (see also Turning the Templar Key, Robert Lomas, Fair Winds, 2009, p. 112).

The degree shows the Ladder of Kadosh which has two supports and seven steps. The Hebrew words "Oheb Eloah" (Latin: deus amans, Greek: philotheia) meaning Love of God and "Oheb Karobo" (Latin: propinquam ei amans, Greek: philanthropia), meaning Love of our Neighbor, are the names of the two supports of the Ladder of Kadosh. Collectively, they allude to the Great Commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-28). "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is an example of the Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity, which can be found in almost all philosophical and religious traditions (see also Bible, Leviticus 19:18 and The Republic, Plato, 1.135d). The Great Commandment and the Golden Rule are also related to the New Commandment (Bible, John 13:33-35). The seven word expression, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself", appears seven times in the Bible (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). The Greek word Φιλαδελφία (philadelphia) for brotherly love symbolizes the fraternal love of one freemason for another. The word Φιλαδελφία (philadelpia) is related to ἀγάπη (agape), which refers to "selfless love". Philia (φιλία) entails a fondness and appreciation of the other, which is summarized in "things that cause friendship are: doing kindnesses; doing them unasked; and not proclaiming the fact when they are done" (see also Philosophy of Love and Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Aristotle and Rhetoric, II. 4, Aristotle). The fact that the Greeks had four different words for love, may be confusing to understand the use of the word in freemasonry: eros (ἔρως) refers to "intimate love" or romantic love; storge (στοργή) to familial love; philia (φιλία) to friendship as a kind of love; and agape (ἀγάπη) refers to "selfless love". Agape in the Christian tradition is being translated as "charity" (see also Freemasonry: The Three Masonic Graces, Faith, Hope, Charity 1878, Chalmers I. Paton, Kessinger Publishing, 2003). The Aristotelian concept of philia is related to the Platonic concept of "amor platonicus" The "amor platonicus" or Platonic love is described in the Symposium of Plato and in the Commentarium in convivium Platonis de amore (1484) by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499 CE). Platonic love refers to divine love, which in turn refers to love as a means of ascent to contemplation of the divine. (see also Plato on Friendship and Eros and Reason and Eros in the Ascent Passage of the Symposium, J. M. E. Moravcsik, In Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, John P. Anton and G. L. Kustas (Ed.), State University of New York Press, I: pp. 285-302. 1972 and Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle, A. Price, Clarendon Press, 1989 and Eros and Necessity in the Ascent from the Cave, Rachel Barney, Ancient Philosophy, 28(2), pp. 357-372, 2008 and The nature of love: Plato to Luther, Irving Singer, University of Chicago Press, 2009, p.179). In the General Ahiman Rezon (p. 93, 1868), Daniel Sickels stated on brotherly love: "By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family-the high, the low, the rich, the poor-who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance".

The Ladder of Kadosh is being supported by "Oheb Eloah" and "Oheb Karobo" as two ethical commandments. The Hebrew word "Tsedaka" (Latin: justitia), is the first step of the Ladder of Kadosh, known to the Kadosh, Thirtieth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted, Scottish Rite (AASR). Maimonides (1135-1204 CE) wrote on the Ladder of Tzedakah in his Mishneh Torah (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7-14). The Ladder of Kadosh is the synthesis of the Greek and Hebrew philosophical traditions, both reason and faith unite. The ladder resembles the path towards human perfection of classic Greek philosophy and Christianity, although during the Middle Ages, faith or revelation was considered to be superior to reason. The one side "Oheb Eloah" of the Ladder of Kadosh by means of the (logos as reason) brings man towards the divine (Latin: deus amans), while the other side "Oheb Karobo" by means of faith (logos as word) leads man back through the "amor platonicus" towards one's brother (Latin: propinquam ei amans) (see also The Secret Societies of All Ages & Countries-Volume 2, Charles William Heckethorn, Cosimo Inc., 2005, p. 37-38).

The ascending steps on the left "Oheb Eloah" or Greek part of the ladder are the seven liberal arts, combining the Pythagorean quadrivium with the trivium. The quadrivium consists of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The Pythagoreans considered all mathematical science to be divided into four parts: one half they marked off as concerned with quantity, the other half with magnitude; and each of these they posited as twofold. A quantity can be considered in regard to its character by itself or in its relation to another quantity; magnitudes as either stationary or in motion. Arithmetic, then, studies quantity as such; music the relations between quantities; geometry studies magnitude at rest, astronomy studies magnitude inherently moving (Proclus: A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements - Prologue I ch. 7). The Quadrivium follows the preparatory work of the trivium made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Basically, by studying the Trivium, it gives one the tools to express oneself in a logical and coherent manner (words), and by studying the Quadrivium, it gives the contents to the above (number and calculation). In other words, the Trivium is concerned with form, and the Quadrivium with substance. By studying all seven, that gives man the tools to unravel the hidden mystery of nature and of science. The Matthew Cooke Manuscript (ca 1450 CE) mentions the Seven Liberal Arts (see also Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, Volume 15, S.C. & L.M. Gould, 1897, p. 42 and 84).

The Ladder of Kadosh also shows the relation between faith and reason similar to the relation between Euclidean and Cartesian geometry, which both lead to the same result, but by a different path. Some steps can be taken more easily through faith, other through reason. Man can step back and forth between the two thought systems and in the process resolving the perceived contradictions between them. The synthesis requires one to go beyond the path of Aristotelian categorical logic and take the Neoplatonic and mystical path of Plotinus (204/5-270 CE) and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century) (see also Mystical Theology, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and The Categorical Impulse: Essays in the Anthropology of Classifying Behaviour, R. Ellen, Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 43 and Teaching Mysticism, William B. Parsons, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 230).

The ascending steps on the left "Oheb Eloah" or Greek part of the ladder are from bottom to top:

  1. Astronomy
  2. Music
  3. Geometry
  4. Arithmetic
  5. Logic
  6. Rhetoric
  7. Grammar
The descending steps on the right "Oheb Karobo" or Hebrew part are, from bottom to top:
  1. Tzedakah (justitia, justice)
  2. Schor-Laban (innocentia, purity)
  3. Mathoc (dulcus, kindness)
  4. Emounah (fides, firmitas, force)
  5. Amal Sagghi (labor magnus, work)
  6. Sabal (onus, burden)
  7. Ghemoul Nah Thebounah (in medio vicissitudine, prudentia, prudence)

Mystical ladders

Mystical ladder
Tracing board of the first degree

Besides the Ladder of Kadosh, freemasonry also uses the symbol of the ladder in the tracing board of the first degree. The tracing board of the first degree shows Faith, Hope, and Charity as female figures on the ladder. The highest step of the ladder in the first degree is charity or agape, which actually means brotherly love (see also Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). As a symbol of 'Agape', freemasons celebrate the Agape feast. In the second degree the tracing board shows seven steps of a winding staircase towards the temple, which consist of seven rounds: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Faith, Hope, and Charity. They refer to the four cardinal virtues of antiquity, combined with the three theological virtues of Christianity. The mystical ladder, which in Masonry is referred to "the theological ladder, which Jacob in his vision saw, reaching from earth to heaven", was widely dispersed among the religions of antiquity, where it was always supposed to consist of seven rounds or steps. In alchemy the seven steps of the magnum opus leading towards the creation of the lapis philosophorum are also displayed as a staircase with seven steps (see also Agape, Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, John McBrewster, Alphascript Publishing, 2009 and The Seven Steps of the Ladder of Spiritual Love, Jan Van Ruysbroeck, Literary Licensing LLC, 2014 and The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth, and Resurrection, Joseph Lewis Henderson, Maud Oakes, Princeton University Press, 1963, p. 71 and Alchemists Through the Ages, Arthur E. Waite, Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 159).

A ladder or climbing upwards as a symbol of mystical ascent has been used since antiquity. The symbol of the ladder and the spiritual ascent can be found in the entire Indo-European philosophical and theological space. The symbol is strongly related to a hierarchical view on reality. The ascent and descent were illustrated by ladders or also by intersecting pyramids. Either way, a journey from darkness toward light symbolized the spiritual awakening or illumination of man. Platonism and Neoplatonism put forward the concept of the great chain of being, a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life. John Climacus (7th-century CE) in his work The Ladder of Divine Ascent presents a ladder, divided into thirty parts, or "steps", in memory of the thirty years of the life of Christ. Ramon Llull (ca. 1232-ca. 1315 CE) in De nova Logica illustrates the ascent of the intellect towards the divine by means of the 'ars gneralis'. The Neoplatonist Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464 CE) in his work De coniecturis (ca. 1440 CE), presented the Figura Paradigmatica and the Figura Universi to illustrate the levels of knowledge in which man participates. In the Figura Paradigmatica unitas (unity) and alteritas (otherness, diversity) symbolize unity and diversity and all opposites of life. The Figura Paradigmata also symbolizes the ascent form darkness (basis pyramis tenebrae) towards (divine) light (basis pyramis lucis). Athanasius Kircher S.J. 1602-1680 CE) in his Musurgia Universalis refers to ascending towards God by means of Jacob's ladder, through the threefold classification of Angels of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century CE). The paracelsian Robert Fludd (1574-1637 CE) in his Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atqve technica historia : in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam diuisa (1619 CE) presents a ladder which symbolizes the inner hierarchy of the human microcosm related to the hierarchical organization of the macrocosm and the ascent towards the divine. Robert Fludd discusses the world of the Microcosm of human life on earth and the Macrocosm of the universe (which included the spiritual realm of the Divine). The same theme is being dealt with in his Philosophia sacra et vere Christiana, seu meteorologia cosmica. Fludd also used the principles of light and darkness being represented by two intersecting cones, or pyramids (pyramidis formalis and pyramidis materialis). Antonius Sucquet S.J.(1574-1626 CE) in his Via vitae aeternae (1625 CE) presents the ascent towards the divine. He refers to doing works in accordance to measure and weight and shows instruments such as a square, compass and gauge. Among the symbols of the Rosicrucians is a ladder of seven steps standing on a globe of the earth, with an open Bible, Square, and Compasses resting on the top. In Hinduism the symbolic ladder was used in the mysteries of Brahma. It had seven steps, symbolic of the seven worlds of the Indian universe. The lowest was the Earth; the second, the World of Re-existence; the third, Heaven; the fourth, the Middle World, or intermediate region between the lower and the upper worlds; the fifth, the World of Births, in which souls are born again; the sixth, the Mansion of the Blessed; and the seventh, or topmost round, the Sphere of Truth, the abode of Brahma, who was himself a symbol of the sun. (see also Symbols and Allegories in Art, Matilde Battistini, Getty Publications, 2005, p. 375 and John Climacus (CWS), Saint John (Climacus), Paulist Press, 1982 and Logica nova: Logicalia parva. De quinque praedicabilibus et decem praedicamentis Raymundus Lullus, Minerva GmbH, 1971 and Renaissance Minds and Their Fictions: Cusanus, Sidney, Shakespeare, Ronald Levao, University of California Press, 1985, p. 51 and Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), Jesuit Scholar: An Exhibition of His Works in the Harold B. Lee Library Collections at Brigham Young University, Brian L. Merrill, Martino Publishing, 2003 and Via vitae aeternae, Antonius Sucquet (S.J.), Hendrick Aertssens, 1622 and An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences: Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected with the Institution, Albert Gallatin Mackey, Moss, 1874, p. 439).

In the Thora and Bible (Genesis 28:10-12), we find a reference to a mystical ladder in Jacob's Dream at Bethel. The dream deals with the transformation of Jacob, due to God's intrusion into the course of his life. The De mystica theologia of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century) uses the image of a ladder by which the aspiring soul mounts from finitude into infinitude. Other Christian references to a mystical ladder are found in The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (ca. 1614-1691 CE), the Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila (1515-1582 CE) and Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross (1542-1591 CE). (see also Mystical Paths to God: Three Journeys: The Practice of the Presence of God, Interior Castle, Dark Night of the Soul, Brother Lawrence, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Wilder Publications, 2008, p.265 and Jacob's Vision: The Founding of Bethel, Allen P. Ross, Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (1985), p. 224-237).


- Ne plus ultra -
- Spes mea in Deo est -

The Consistory Degrees (31-32) are very different from all the preceding degrees. They attempt to illustrate the creation of the ideal balance between the spiritual and the temporal.

  1. Inspector Inquisitor
  2. Master of the Royal Secret

(see also Book of the AASR)

Court of Honour

At the biennial session of the Supreme Council certain Masters of the Royal Secret, having held that degree for at least forty-six months prior to the session, are chosen to receive the Rank and Decoration of Knights Commander of the Court of Honour (KCCH). The Thirty-third Degree is conferred by the Supreme Council upon members of the Rite in recognition of outstanding work in the Rite or in public life. The Grand Cross of the Court of Honour is the highest individual honour that The Supreme Council bestows. It is voted very rarely to Thirty-third Degree Masons only for the most exceptional and extraordinary services.

  1. Thirty-Third Degree (33°), Inspector General Honorary

(see also Book of the AASR)

Degree 33 - Inspector General

Double Headed Eagle of the 33rd degree
- Double Headed Eagle of the 33rd degree -

- Ordo ab chao -

Qual è ‘l geomètra che tutto s’affige
per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova,
pensando, quel principio ond’elli indige,
- Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, 133-135 -

The 33rd degree is the highest degree of the Scottisch Rite of Freemasonry (AASR). The degree follows upon the 32nd degree of the 'Master of Royal Secret'. Depending on the type of AASR, it seems membership to the 33rd degree is restricted to a small group. The Body in which the members of this Degree assemble is called a Supreme Council. The symbolic colour of the Degree is white, denoting purity. The distinctive insignia are a sash, collar, jewel, Teutonic cross, decoration, and ring. According to Albert Pike (1809-1891 CE), the symbol of the double headed eagle was derived from alchemy. Double headed eagle symbols are being used for several degrees in freemasonry, each with its own motto. The symbol of the double headed eagle can be traced back to the late Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) as dynastic emblem of the Byzantine dynasty of the Palaiologoi. The double headed eagle symbolized the unity between the Byzantine Orthodox Church and State, which was governed by the principle of Symphonia or Synallelia, that is, a "symphony" between the civil and the ecclesiastical functions of Christian society. The eagle also represented the dual sovereignty of the Byzantine Emperor, with the left head representing Rome (the West) and the right head representing Constantinople (the East). The claws of the eagle hold a cross and an orb symbolizing religious and worldly power united in the Byzantine emperor. The image of the double headed eagle also appears in heraldry of the 'Sacrum Romanum Imperium' (Holy Roman Empire) as the Reichsadler. Countries like Germany, Austria, Russia, Armenia, Albania, Serbia and many others also use(d) it as a symbol. It also appears as a symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church. (see also Ordo ab Chao: The Original and Complete Rituals, 4th-33rd Degrees of the first Supreme Council, 33rd Degree at Charleston, South Carolina (Original and Complete Rituals of the First Supreme Council), Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 1996)

The Latin motto of the 33rd degree is 'Ordo ab chao' means 'Order out of Chaos'. The invention of this motto is to be attributed to the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish petite at Charleston, and it is first met with in the Patent of Count Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse (1765-1845 CE), dated February 1, 1802. In the Biblical verse Genesis 1 we read "... the earth was formless and empty..." and in Wisdom 11:21 we find "Thou has ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight". In Hinduism the act of creation is the process of developing order out of chaos, ordered life emerges out of lifeless chaos. Creation is the process by which a God permanently creates order out of chaos or higher order out of lower or it is a spontaneous process. In Greek mythology, chaos refers to primordial chaos (Χάος) out of which all else came forth. In the creation myth in Plato's Timaeus a divine Craftsman (dêmiourgos, Tim. 28a6), imitating an unchanging and eternal model, imposes mathematical order on a preexistent chaos to generate the ordered universe (kosmos). Interestingly the concept of chaos can also be related to Anaximander (ca. 610-546 BCE) and his theory on the apeiron (ἄπειρον), the beginning or ultimate reality (arche, ἀρχή) which is eternal and infinite, or boundless (apeiron), subject to neither old age nor decay, which perpetually yields fresh materials from which everything we can perceive is derived. The Pythagoreans developed Anaximander's ideas about the apeiron and the peiron, the unlimited and limited. The ordered world (peiron) develops spontaneously out of the chaotic or unlimited world (apeiron) or order develops out of chaos. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804 CE) in his Kritik der reinen Vernunft introduced the concept of self-organization in modern philosophy. For Immanuel Kant, the concept of self-organization liberated living creatures from the necessity for a designer. No external force, no divine architect, was responsible for the organization of nature, only the internal dynamics of the being itself. The physicist Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003 CE) (1977 Nobel Prize) developed the thermodynamic concept of self-organization which lead to Order out of Chaos (1984) and The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos and the New Laws of Nature (1997) on the end of determinism. The order which develops out of chaos is not (no longer) deterministic. The concept of ''Arrow of Time' is related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The concept of order developing spontaneously out of chaos has far reaching philosophical and theological consequences (See also Hindu Myths, O' Flaherty, Wendy Doniger, Penguin Books India, 1994, p. 13 and Buddhism, Christianity and the Question of Creation: Karmic Or Divine?, Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006, p. 67 and Radical Nature: The Soul of Matter, Christian de Quincey, Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2010, p. 274 and Analysis of Evolutionary Processes: The Adaptive Dynamics Approach and Its Applications, Fabio Dercole, Sergio Rinaldi, Princeton University Press, 2008, p. 1 and Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, N. Katherine Hayles, University of Chicago Press, 2014, p. 13 and Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature, Ilya Prigogine, Isabelle Stengers, Bantam Books, 1984 and Ecosystems, Organisms, and Machines, Evelyn Fox Keller, BioScience (2005) 55 (12), pp. 1069-1074).

The Latin motto 'Deus meumque jus' meaning God and my right or also God and my moral rightness. The French translation of the phrase 'Dieu et mon droit' is the royal motto of the monarch of the United Kingdom, and it appears on a scroll under the shield of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom. It means the king is "Rex Angliae Dei gratia" or 'King of England by the grace of God' (see also Grand manuel de franc-maçonnerie, Editions Initiatis, 2007, p. 461).

Summary of the path of personal development and spiritual ascent

The degrees of freemasonry symbolize a path of personal development or spiritual ascent, which are symbolized both by the Ladder of Kadosh and the Mystical Ladder. Freemasonry postulates that the human spirit originated in the Eternal East, where the Worshipful Masters sits, which in Freemasonry signifies the world of the spiritual, rather than any geographical direction, and that from there it has directed its course towards the Rational West (the temporal material world), which is the opposite of the spiritual. The spirit of the uninitiated has lost the essence of man's own being. The spirit of man has ceased to be aware of its place in the cosmos, and has degenerated into a limited terrestrial consciousness and fear of its own death. The path from Entered Apprentice up to the 3rd degree symbolizes the journey back to the spiritual essence and destiny of human life. The symbol of the square and compass symbolize the square of finite material existence and the circular infinity of spiritual existence. Square and circle indicate that when man's outward temporal self attains balance with man's inward immortal spirit, when the square of the former becomes equal to, and in equilibrium with, the circle of the latter, man's evolution is complete. The goal of course is to square the circle. A freemason who dies returns to the Eternal East as a spiritual being (see also the Platonic Myth of Er) (see also Freemasonry: An Introduction, Mark E. Kolko-Rivera, Penguin, 2011).

Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est

Raft over the river
- Parable of the raft in the Buddhist Alagaddupama Sutta -

- The raft is not the essence of the journey, the other shore is. -
- Peter -

At the end of the journey we can look back with the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951 CE) in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "(6.522) Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches. Dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische" and "(6.54) "Meine Sätze erläutern dadurch, dass sie der, welcher mich versteht, am Ende als unsinnig erkennt, wenn er durch sie – auf ihnen – über sie hinausgestiegen ist. (Er muss sozusagen die Leiter wegwerfen, nachdem er auf ihr hinaufgestiegen ist.) Er muss diese Sätze überwinden, dann sieht er die Welt richtig. (7) Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen." Also in his letter to Ludwig von Ficker (1885-1919 CE), Ludwig Wittgenstein stated about his Tractatus: "Ich wollte einmal in das Vorwort einen Satz geben, der nun tatsächlich nicht darin steht, den ich Ihnen aber jetzt schreibe, weil er Ihnen vielleicht ein Schlüssel sein wird: Ich wollte nämlich schreiben, mein Werk bestehe aus zwei Teilen: aus dem, der hier vorliegt, und aus alledem, was ich nicht geschrieben habe. Und gerade dieser zweite Teil ist der Wichtige. Es wird nämlich das Ethische durch mein Buch gleichsam von Innen her begrenzt; und ich bin überzeugt, dass es, streng, nur so zu begrenzen ist". or 'Ethics as the Unspeakable Limit of the World' (see also Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Complete and Unabridged, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wilder Publications, 2011 and Briefe an Ludwig von Ficker, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Otto Müller, 1969, p. 35 and On the (Im)Possibility of Business Ethics: Critical Complexity, Deconstruction, and Implications for Understanding the Ethics of Business, Minka Woermann, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, p. 65).

At the end of the section on the degrees of Freemasonry it is also interesting to conclude with two parables from Buddhism. Several parables are attributed to the Buddha, such as the parable of the watersnake and the parable of the raft. The raft parable appears in the Alagaddupama Sutta (Water Snake Simile) of the Sutta Pitaka (Majjhima Nikaya 22). The Majjhima Nikaya, or "Middle-length Discourses" of the Buddha, is the second of the five nikayas (collections) of the Sutta Pitaka. In this sutta, the Buddha discusses the importance of learning the Dhamma (Dhamma (Pali) or Dharma (Sanskrit)) properly and the danger of clinging to views. The Sutta begins with an account of the monk Arittha, who was clinging to flawed views based on misunderstanding of the Dharma. The other monks argued with him, but Arittha would not budge from his position. Eventually the Buddha was called upon to arbitrate. After correcting Arittha's misunderstanding, the Buddha followed up with two parables. The first parable is about a water snake, and the second is the parable of the raft. The simile of the snake, is about a man who grasps to a snake unwisely and finds that the snake has opportunity and cause to attack and injure (or kill) the man. But a man who wisely grasps the snake find that he is safe from harm. This is true of the Dhamma as it is with the snake. It takes right skill and right understanding to wisely grasp either. The raft parable is one of the best known of the Buddha's many parables and similes: A man travelling along a path came to a great expanse of water. As he stood on the shore, he realized there were dangers and discomforts all about. But the other shore appeared safe and inviting. The man looked for a boat or a bridge and found neither. But with great effort he gathered grass, twigs and branches and tied them all together to make a simple raft. Relying on the raft to keep himself afloat, the man paddled with his hands and feet and reached the safety of the other shore. He could continue his journey on dry land. Now, what would he do with his makeshift raft? Would he drag it along with him or leave it behind? He would leave it, the Buddha said. Then the Buddha explained that the Dhamma is like a raft. It is useful for crossing over but not for holding onto, he said. The raft parable reminds us that the Noble Eightfold Path is here to help us, to carry us across the water. Once man has passed the troubled waters and arrived at its destiny the tools are no longer needed. But it is only when man has completed his journey does he leave the raft behind (see also Early Buddhist Discourses, John J. Holder, Hackett Publishing, 2006, p. 101 and Skilful Means: A Concept in Mahayana Buddhism, Michael Pye, Routledge, 2004, p. 131).

In every spiritual system the rituals and symbols serve their purpose as companions and guides throughout the spiritual journey. Although they have value during the journey, once the spiritual transformation is completed, they lose their value just as a raft is no longer needed when the journey has reached the other side of the river. At that point the differences between the various paths disappear. In the end the paths of the Freemason, the Sufi, the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian mystic, Jewish mystic, Secular mystic and Neoplatonist all come together although their paths towards the final destiny may have been different. In Buddhism it would mean 'Bodhi', which is the light inside, enlightenment, or awakening. You see it and the vision of reality liberates you. Looking back makes one shake his head and turn one's back on the quarrels at the other shore on the construction of raft. The raft is not the essence of the journey, the other shore is. As in the Heart Sutra: "Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhisvaha, Bodhi Svaha" (Gone, gone, gone all the way over, everyone gone to the other shore, enlightenment, svaha!) (see also A Manual of Buddhism: For Advanced Students, Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids, Asian Educational Services, 1932, p. 226 and Early Buddhist Discourses, John J. Holder, Hackett Publishing, 2006, p. 102 and Dimensions of Mystical Experiences: Empirical Studies and Psychological Links, Ralph W. Hood, Rodopi, 2001, p. 32) and Mysticism and Alchemy through the Ages: The Quest for Transformation, Gary Edson, McFarland, 2012 and Meditation Symbols in Eastern & Western Mysticism: Mysteries of the Mandala, Manly Palmer Hall, Philosophical Research Society, 1988).

The 47<sup>th</sup> proposition of the first book of Euclid
The 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid or The Pythagorean Theorem

...the number 3, the number of the Triangle, represents the Deity and the Divine; the perpendicular,
measured by the number 4, the number of the Square, represents the Earth, the Material, and the Human; and
the hypothenuse, measured by 5, represents that nature which is produced by the union of the Divine and Human,
the Soul and the Body ...
- Morals and Dogma, XXXII Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, Albert Pike -

And as in each Triangle of Perfection, one is three and
three are one, so man is one, though of a double
nature; and he attains the purposes of his being only
when the two natures that are in him are in just
equilibrium; and his life is a success only when it too
is a harmony, and beautiful, like the great Harmonies
of God and the Universe.
- Morals and Dogma, XXXII Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, Albert Pike -

A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist
nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the
religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to
that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves: that is,
to be Good men and True, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denomination or Persuasion
they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union and the Means of
conciliating true Friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.
Of God and Religion, Constitution of Anderson, 1723

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psalms 133

Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
Amos Chapter 7; Verses 7 and 8

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
Ecclesiastes Chapter 12; Verses 1-7

*The Symbolism of Freemasonry - 1882
*The Symbols of Freemasonry
*The Symbolism of Freemasonry - Albert G. Mackey, M.D.
*Geometry and freemasonry
*Euclid's Elements
*The letter G
*Logos - Wikipedia
*Gospel of John 1 - Logos
*Enoch - The Pillars of Enoch
*The Seven Liberal Arts
*The Seven Liberal Arts - Seven Pillars
*The Socratic Method
*Die Zauberflöte - W.A. Mozart & E. Schikaneder (1791)


A Rite in Freemasonry is a collection of grades or degrees, always founded on the First three, the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason. Nowadays several types of rites are in use in freemasonry and the most popular are the English Emulation Ritual, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (AASR) and French Rite (Rite Français or Rite Moderne) (see also Masonic Ritual, J. Walter Hobbs, Kessinger Publishing, 2003 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcolm C. Duncan, Dick and Fitzgerald, 3rd Edition, 1866 and Freemasonry and Its Ancient Mystic Rites, C. W. Leadbeater, Gramercy Books, 1998 and Masonic rituals and Entered Apprentice Ritual - Emulation and Fellow Craft Ritual - Emulation and Master Mason Ritual - Emulation and Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) and Cérémonie d'Initiation - Rite Français and Cérémonie de Passage - Rite Français and Cérémonie d'Elévation - Rite Français

The Emulation Ritual took its name from the "Emulation Lodge of Improvement", founded for the preparation of the unifaction of riuals after the union of Antients and Moderns into the United Grand Lodge of England (see also Emulation Ritual, Lewis Masonic, Lewis Masonic Publishers, Limited, 2012 and Emulation Working Today, G. F. Redman, Lewis Masonic Publishers, Limited, 2007).

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) is officially recognized by most Grand Lodges as an extension of the degrees of Freemasonry. The Scottish Rite builds upon the ethical teachings and philosophy offered in the craft lodge, or Blue Lodge, through dramatic presentation of the individual degrees. The AASR has 33 degrees, but most Blue Lodge lodges do not confer the Scottish Rite versions of the first three degrees. The symbolic meaning of the Byzantine Double Headed Eagle in the Scottish Rite is that of duality contained in or resolving itself in unity. Thus, among many other things, it reminds freemasons that man, while only one being, is composed of both body and spirit, that he is both temporary and eternal; that both good and evil exist in the world and that they must ever foster good while opposing evil. It reminds them also that knowledge comes both from study and from insight; that they have obligations both to themselves and to others, and that both faith and reason are necessary (see also The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Charles Thompson McClenachan, Masonic Pub. & Manufacturing, 1868 and Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Albert Pike, 1871 and Liturgies of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Albert Pike, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and Deciphering the Lost Symbol, Vol. 3, Christopher Hodapp, Ulysses Press, 2010, p. 82).

The Modern French Rite or Rite Moderne, founded in 1786 by the Grand Orient of France, has seven degrees, 4d Elect, 5d Scotch Master, 6d Knight of the East, 7d Rose Croix. After the Great Schism of 1877 between the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the Grand Orient de France (GOdF), the GOdF removed from the French Rite any formulas with religious connotations such as the reference to the Great Architect of the Universe. The French Rite (Rite Moderne) is the dominant rite in the Grand Orient de France (GOdF). It is being practiced in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the French colonies, as well as Portugal, Spain and several other countries, including Brazil (see also Le Tuilleur-Expert Des Sept Grades Du Rite Français Ou Rite Moderne, Etienne-François Bazot, BiblioLife, 2013 and La Renaissance du Rite Français traditionnel, Hervé Vigier, Editions Télètes, 2002 and Moral Education for a Secular Society: The Development of Moral Laique in Nineteenth Century France, Phyllis Stock-Morton, SUNY Press, 1988, p. 68).

The American Rite or York Rite as it is commonly though erroneously called, is a popular rite in the United States of America (USA). It confers under the Royal Arch Chapter the Mark Master 4d, Past Master 5d, Most Excellent Master 6d, Holy Royal Arch 7d. The Council takes care of Royal Master 8d, Select Master 9d, Super Excellent Master 10d, while the Knight Red Cross 11d, Knight Templar 12d, and Knight of Malta 13d are taken care of by the Commandery (see also The York Rite of Freemasonry: a History and Handbook, Frederick G. Speidel, Mitchell-Fleming Printing, Incorporated, 1989 and Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcolm C. Duncan, Dick and Fitzgerald, 3rd Edition, 1866)

The Rite of Memphis-Misraim is a masonic rite which was formed by the merging of the two rites of Memphis and Misraïm in 1881. The rite refers to alchemical, occult and Egyptian traditions. The Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry was influenced by the Hermetic Brotherhood of Egypt in Cagliostro's 18th century Order, and influenced the 19th century Rites of Memphis and Misraim (see also The Compleat Rite of Memphis, Allen H Greenfield, CreateSpace, 2014 and Temple Legend, Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997, p. 343 and History of the Rite of Memphis, John Yarker, Kessinger Publishing, 2005).

Double Headed Eagle
Double Headed Eagle of the Byzantine Empire
Holding the cross on one side and the sword on the other

*Secret Masonic Handshakes, Passwords, Grips
*York rite
*Scottish rite
*What is the Scottish rite
*Grand College of Rites
*Canonbury Maconic Research Centre
*...A page about Freemasonry


The allegories, symbols and moral structure of Freemasonry are the vital fundamental components, uniquely characterizing it. George Payne's General Regulations of a Freemason of St. John Baptist's Day, 1721, mention the necessity of maintaining the old Land-Marks of the order, but it was much later that anybody attempted to define them. According to the General Regulations published by the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1723 "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and Authority to make new Regulations or to alter these, for the real benefits of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Land-Marks be carefully preserved." However, these landmarks were not defined in any manner in the original Constitution of Anderson. It was not until 1858 and after the union of Antients and Moderns that Albert Mackey (1807-1881 CE) published a list of 25 landmarks, which while not universally accepted, formed the basis of some American jurisdictions (see also Constructing Tradition: Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism, Andreas Kilcher, BRILL, 2010, p. 223-224).

In 1952 the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America as part of the standards of Recognition upheld three "ancient Landmarks":

  1. Monotheism - An unalterable and continuing belief in God.
  2. The Volume of The Sacred Law - an essential part of the furniture of the Lodge.
  3. Prohibition of the discussion of Religion and Politics (within the lodge).

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has never enumerated a list of the Landmarks and because it is fundamental, the only Landmark specified by the UGLE is: A belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Because there is no defined list, all which can be determined is that a professed belief in the Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU) is an Ancient Landmark of the Order and the only one specifically defined as such by the United Grand Lodge of England .

On 14 September 1877, the Grand Orient de France voted to eliminate from its constitution the following article: "Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind." It adopted in lieu thereof, the following:"Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the Constitution (above quoted) shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted:1. Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account of his belief, and its motto is 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity'." A Protestant minister, Frédéric Desmons (1832-1910 CE), drew the report in support of the resolution in which he argued that the disappearance of the original article of belief would not imply a profession of atheism, but merely an admission into the Craft of men of all opinions, and that Masonry should welcome men of all doctrines and every shade of thought. This move was inspired by the Constitutions of Anderson which state "Ye shall cultivate brotherly love, which is the foundation and the master stone, the cement and the glory of this ancient confraternity, for we as Masons are of all races, nations and languages."

The declaration of the Grand Orient de France resulted in the excommunication of the Grand Orient of France by the Masonic Grand Lodges. As a result Grand Lodges, especially in English-speaking countries, lost no time in condemning in bitterest terms the action of the Grand Orient and in severing fraternal relations.

Volume of Sacred Law, the Square and the Compass
The Three Great Lights of Regular Freemasonry:
Volume of Sacred Law, the Square and the Compass

Nowadays Lodges are considered to be "regular", when recognised by the Anglo-Saxon United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), which excludes most Continental-style Lodges in European Roman Catholic countries which, from an UGLE point of view, are "irregular" because they do not adhere to the landmarks of UGLE-style freemasonry. The Grand Orient de France (GOdF) is the model of the "irregular" continental style of freemasonry. The GOdF considers itself to be adogmatic because it does not require the belief in a personal God or the use of the Bible as the Volume of Sacred Law. In continental lodges, sometimes a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or another Book is being used. Even a book with blank pages, in order not to offend anyone's belief or philosophy is being used. The Square and the Compass are present in both Anglo-Saxon and continental lodges. The Anglo-Saxon lodges dominate the Protestant world, while the continental lodges dominate the Roman-Catholic regions of the globe. The various Grand Lodges and Grand Orients subscribe to a system of mutual recognition, whereby they each consider the other "Regular" or "Irregular", or in amity with each other. Schisms, like those in freemasonry, have more to do with politics and power struggles than with principles (see also Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800-1914: A-K, Carl Cavanagh Hodge, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, p. 239).

Co-Freemasonry admits both men an women. It began in France in the 1890s with the forming of Le Droit Humain. Most Anglo-Saxon male-only Masonic Lodges do not recognise Co-Freemasonry, holding it to be irregular, even nowadays in the 21st century. Well known women who were freemasons are Maria Deraismes (1828-1894 CE) a French author and major pioneering force for women's rights and Annie Besant (1847-1933 CE) a prominent British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule. Women who were freemasons played an important role in the struggle for women's rights (see also Le Droit Humain: Order of International Co-Freemasonry, Order Of International Co-Freemasonry, Kessinger Publishing, 2010 and Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society, Mark Stavish, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007, p. 183 and Glimpses of Masonic History, C. W. Leadbeater, Health Research Books, 1996, p. 326).

*Desaguliers and The March of Militant Masonry
*The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The Illuminati
*Antients and Moderns - conflict
*The great schism of 1877 - schism
*Modern Freemasonry
*Masonic recognition issues
*Masonic biographies


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