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GUEST,josepp BS: A concise history of Freemasonry (18) RE: BS: A concise history of Freemasonry 04 Jul 12

Masonic Metaphysics

Basic Freemasonry depends on three primary degrees of initiation, called the Symbolic Degrees, which appears to be an idea taken from the Druids althought the names of the degrees are obviously different:

1.        Entered Apprentice
2.        Fellowcraft
3.        Master Mason

They are often called the Blue Lodge Degrees and the ordeal suffered by the initiate are symbolic rather than physical. These degrees are also often called the Blue Degrees.
The term "Blue Lodge" is taken from another Masonic emblem explained to the initiate during the Entered Apprentice rite and called the cloudy canopy or the starry-decked heavens which depicts a ladder, often three-runged, going from the ground to the clouds and then a break in the clouds above the ladder reveals seven stars. The three rungs are labeled from top to bottom as "C," "H," and "F." It is called the canopy that hangs over the lodge and is generally blue in color and hence the term "Blue Lodge." We'll cover the meaning of the blue canopy shortly.

I am not interested in going through each degree meticulously revealing the grips and passwords as this is a largely boring exercise in futility. We are, however, interested in the third degree or Master Mason initiation. When one first enters into Masonry as an Entered Apprentice, one is given a lambskin apron which one wears in funny ways until attaining the third degree. This lets other Masons in the lodge know who the novices are and how far along they are to becoming Master Masons. One must pass through the first two degrees. To be a full-fledged Mason, one must be a Master Mason. After attaining the third degree, one is not required to attain any higher ones, those are purely voluntary. One can, in fact, become Master of a lodge without having attained more than the third degree while ordinary lodge members could be of any higher degree.

In America, there are two basic rites practiced: Scottish Rite and York Rite.

The Scottish Rite

The most popular is Scottish Rite, which was made popular in America by Albert Pike. Ironically, the Scottish Rite did not originate in Scotland nor was ever practiced there. It started in France by an 18th century Scotsman, the Chevalier Andrew Ramsay—as is generally believed. The French called it Rite Ecossais or "Scottish Rite." Its emblem is the double-headed eagle. The Scottish Rite uses a 32-degree system:

1.        Entered Apprentice
2.        Fellowcraft
3.        Master Mason

These first three are the Symbolic degrees conferred by the Symbolic lodges and constituted by the Grand Lodge.

4.        Secret Master
5.        Perfect Master
6.        Intimate Secretary
7.        Provost and Judge
8.        Intendant of the Building
9.        Master Elect of Nine
10.        Master Elect of Fifteen
11.        Sublime Master Elected
12.        Grand Master Architect
13.        Master of the Ninth Arch
14.        Grand Elect Mason

4-14 are called the Ineffable Grades and are conferred in a 14° Lodge of Perfection, and constituted by a 33° Supreme Council.

15.        Knight of the East or Sword
16.        Prince of Jerusalem

15 and 16 are called the Ancient and Traditional Grades and are conferred in a council of Princes of Jerusalem.

17.        Knight of the East and West
18.        Knight of the Rose Croix de H-R-D-M

17 and 18 are the Ancient Historical and Traditional Grades conferred in a chapter of Rose Croix de H-R-D-M.

19.        Grand Pontiff
20.        Master ad Vitam
21.        Patriarch Noachite
22.        Prince of Libanus
23.        Chief of the Tabernacle
24.        Prince of Tabernacle
25.        Knight of the Brazen Serpent
26.        Prince of Mercy
27.        Commander of the Temple
28.        Knight of the Sun
29.        Knight of St. Andrew
30.        Grand Elect Kadosh or Knight of the White and Black Eagle
31.        Grand Inspector Inquisitor Cammander
32.        Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret

19-32 are called the Modern Historical, Chivalric, and Philosophical Grades and are conferred in a Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret.

33.        Sovereign Grand Inspector General

This last grade is called, oddly, the Official Grades (I don't know why it is plural for a single grade). The one who receives the 33rd degree becames a member of The Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, better known as a Shriner. The degree, founded in New York in 1870, is conferred in the 33° Supreme Council upon those whom the Supreme Council elects.

The York Rite

Far less known, is the York Rite. The York Rite should really be called the American Rite. The pre-eminent Masonic historian, Albert Mackey, explains that what is called the York Rite in America is really a misnomer. He writes: "…the York Rite properly consists of only the degrees Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, including in the last degree the Holy Royal Arch. This was the Masonry that existed in England at the time of the revival of the Grand Lodge in 1717." The American Rite, by contrast, consists of nine degrees:

1.        Entered Apprentice
2.        Fellow Craft
3.        Master Mason
4.        Mark Master
5.        Past Master
6.        Most Excellent Master
7.        Holy Royal Arch
8.        Royal Master
9.        Select Master

The first three are conferred in the Symbolic lodges and are constituted by the Grand Lodge. The next four are conferred in the chapters and constituted by the Grand Chapters. The last two are conferred in the councils and constituted by the Grand Councils.

10.        Super-Excellent Master

This degree is conferred as an honorary degree in some councils and ignored by Grand Councils of some states. Some councils confer it as a regular degree.

11.        Knight of the Red Cross
12.        Knight Templar
13.        Knight of Malta

These last three, called the degrees of Chivalry, are conferred in the commanderies (assemblies of Knights-Templars) and constituted by the Grand Commandery (three or more commanderies in a single state) but are not strictly speaking a part of the American Rite because one does not even have to complete the initial nine degrees to receive any of the degrees of Chivalry.

Upon receiving the Knight Templar degree, a Mason of the York Rite is eligible to be elected a Shriner. Shriners are considered to have reached the pinnacle of American Masonry but the degree is not recognized outside of America.

The other form of Masonry we must cover is Royal Arch Masonry.

Royal Arch Masonry

Royal Arch Masonry is believed to have started in France approximately 1750 by Chevalier de Ramsay once again. But some Masonic historians have traced its origins to Ireland. In 1813, the two main schools of Masonry: Ancient and Modern were united and the Holy Royal Arch Degree was declared an official part of Ancient Craft Masonry and so it is to this day. In America, Royal Arch Masonry was worked into the degree system of both the Scottish and York Rites. One attains the Royal Arch at the seventh degree of the York Rite and at the thirteenth degree of the Scottish Rite.

Upon attaining the Royal Arch, the initiate receives the name of the Great Architect: Jahbulon. This is a composite name. "Jah" comes from Jehovah, "Bul" comes from Baal, and "On" is derived from Osiris. The conspiracists and anti-Masons seize on the Royal Arch as proof of their accusations that Freemasonry is anti-Christian. After all, Baal was described in the Hebrew bible as evil. For worshiping the wicked Baal, Moses ordered all the Midianites to be slain by the Hebrew army. The army slaughtered the men but spared the women and children. Moses became infuriated at their sentimentality and orders that all male children be killed and only female virgins spared and distributed among the soldiery as concubines. The army does as Moses orders. The secret is only that the Royal Arch Masons are opposed to the horrible behavior of Moses and showing their sympathy to his Midianite victims by incorporating the name of their god, Baal. It is extremely unlikely that Ramsay, a staunch Catholic, thought up the name Jahbulon.

As mentioned earlier, to facilitate the initiation process, the lodges resorted to the use of tracing board diagrams, which could then be explained to the initiate quickly. The tracing board diagram of the Entered Apprentice depicts many emblems such as Jacob's Ladder, the Tessellated Border, the Chequered Floor, the Level, the Square, the Hammer, the Cross, the Key, the Anchor, the Three Pillars of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the Rough Ashlar, the Altar, etc. The tracing board diagram of the Fellowcraft depicts such emblems as the Two Pillars of Jachin and Boaz, and the 15-Step Winding Staircase. The tracing board diagram of the Master Mason depicts a coffin with a skull & crossbones on the lid along with the number 555 and other emblems and above the coffin is a sprig of acacia. Each of the Blue Lodge Degrees is accompanied by a ritual that explains the tracing board diagram for that specific degree.

The third degree ritual is of great interest to us. It is more or less a mystery play called The Murder of Hiram Abiff. Briefly, Hiram Abiff is a master builder who is in charge of building King Solomon's temple. As a master builder, Hiram possess what is called "The Master's Word" which is secret. One day, three of Hiram's craftsmen—Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum—decide to extort the Master's Word from Hiram. They get 12 other craftsmen to assist them but they eventually back out and the three errant craftsmen—the Three Ruffians, as they are called—decide to go ahead on their own with their plan. As Hiram prepares to leave the temple, still unfinished, during the workman's break at high twelve he heads toward the unfinished sanctum sanctorum by the south gate and runs into Jubela who demands the Master's Word, which Hiram refuses to give him. Jubela cuts Hiram across the neck with a 24-inch ruler. Stunned and bleeding, Hiram staggers to the west gate and is met by Jubelo who demands the Master's Word, which Hiram refuses to divulge. Jubelo strikes Hiram with a square upon his left breast. Hiram now stumbles towards the east gate where he is met by Jubelum who once more demands the Master's Word and once more Hiram refuses to divulge it. Jubelum strikes Hiram a blow to the forehead with a setting maul and Hiram falls to the floor a corpse.

The Three Ruffians then hide Hiram's body under some rubble and then at low twelve remove Hiram's body westward and take it to a hill west of Mount Moriah and bury him in a grave six feet perpendicular with his head to the west and his feet to the east. Then they plant a spring of acacia over the head of the grave. Eventually, the grave is discovered and Hiram's corpse is pulled from its grave by using the "Lion's Paw" or "Lion's Grip" (this grip is also the third degree handshake). With this grip, he is brought to his feet and, through the Five Points of Fellowship, is then resurrected with the secret word whispered in his ear, which in the ritual is given as "Mah-Hah-Bone."

There is more to the story but that is as far as we need to cover of it. It explains the meaning of the tracing board diagram for this degree. We can now begin exploring some of the more esoteric and occult aspects of Freemasonry.

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