I’ll call this chapter one..
If you don't get it...climb.......
“The ordinary natural consciousness is directed outwards; perceives only outward objects; thinks only of an outward Deity separate and away from us. It can accordingly cognize only shadows, images and illusions. The science of the Mysteries directs that that process must be reversed. It says: "Just as you have symbolically shut and close-tyled the door of your Lodge against all outsiders, so you must shut out all perception of outward images, all desire for external things and material welfare, and turn your consciousness and aspirations wholly inward. For the Vital and Immortal Principle—the Kingdom of Heaven—is within you; it is not to be found outside you. Like the prodigal son in the parable you have wandered away from it into a far country and lost all consciousness of it. You have come down and down, as by a spiral motion or a winding staircase, into this lower world and imperfect form of existence; coiling around you as you came increasingly thickening vestures, culminating in your outermost dense body of flesh; whilst your mentality has woven about you veil after veil of illusory notions.” ...Walter Leslie Wilmshurst; The Meaning of Masonry
“Only with a complete study of consciousness will the initiate in Freemasonry understand the symbolism, meaning, philosophy, and purpose of Freemasonry.”...Arthur L. Hendrickson, 32°, KT
No truer aphorism was ever spoken than “Know Thyself”, a common maxim found in many Masonic Temples worldwide.
What is this “Thyself”, which was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi referring to?
To simply define the “self”; we are talking about the”I” as experienced by an individual. In modern psychology the notion of the self has replaced earlier conceptions of the soul. The “I” we are talking about is not necessarily the reflection one sees in the mirror, the self we are talking about is person's nature, character: his better self, or sometimes worse.
In the philosophical sense we are examining the ego; that which knows, remembers, desires, etc, and in the esoteric sense we are examining the uniting principle, as a soul, underlying all subjective experience.
As one can clearly see, “Knowing Thyself” is no easy task, examining our essence our inner being is the mystical aspect of the two-sided coin we call Freemasonry, one side the moral aspect heavily put forth and embraced by the majority of Freemasons, and the other side the highly symbolic esoteric philosophy that explores self and it's many levels of consciousness, a side unfamiliar with the majority of the Tradition.
In my travels I have been very fortunate to be exposed a variety of traditions of symbolic thought, Catholicism with its highly ritualistic transmission, Buddhism and it's in depth of examination of mind, and Freemasonry and its sacred geometry, alchemy, and stellar theology. Many would consider each of the traditions named philosophically different with each other; I think not, I only see complementary symbolic thought. I also see traditions, dogma aside, that seek levels of consciousness above the accepted mundane level of materialism that has trapped those that have not examined “Thyself”.
Before we delve into the ancient teachings and its highly symbolic language allow me to explain consciousness and its many levels from a modern perspective.
In the book Power v. Force by David R. Hawkins, Dr. Hawkins puts forth a hierarchy of levels of human consciousness, something you will discover is not foreign to Freemasonry, according to Hawkins from low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment, and although at various times we move from one level to another there usually is a predominant state we reside in. Hawkins defines this as a logarithmic scale, where there are far fewer people at the higher levels than at the lower ones.
Before we explore the different levels of consciousness from the Masonic perspective let's take a look at Dr. Hawkins and his levels starting from the bottom, it will serve as a good primer for what is to follow.
Symbolically it would help too envision a ladder, each and every rung symbolizing a different level of consciousness, and our goal, to reach the top.
according to Hawkins is one step above death. At this level, the primary emotion one feels is humiliation. It’s not surprising that this level, being so close to death, is where most thoughts of suicide are found. Those who suffer from sexual abuse are often found here, and without therapy they tend to remain here. Think of this level as self-directed hatred, his or her view of life at this state is.
Not too far from shame is the level of Guilt, our second rung. When one is stuck in this level, feelings of worthlessness and an inability to forgive oneself are common. On this level you may think of yourself as a sinner, unable to forgive yourself for past transgressions.
The level of hopelessness and despair; this is the common consciousness found among those who are homeless or living in poverty. At this level, one has abdicated themselves to their current situation and feels numb to life around them. Think of this level as a state of learned helplessness.
One level above apathy is that of state of perpetual sadness and loss. You might drop down here after losing a loved one. Depression. Still higher than apathy, since you’re beginning to escape the numbness.
Desire is a major motivator for much of our society. Although desire can be an impetus for change, the downside is that it leads to enslavement to ones appetites. This is the level of addiction to such things as sex, money, prestige, or power. I also consider this the level of Materialism, and Greed.
As one rises above the rung of Apathy to Grief and then out of Fear, they begin to want. Desire which is not fulfilled leads to frustration which brings us to the rung or level of Anger. Anger is the level of frustration, often from not having your desires met at the lower levels. This level can spur you to action at higher levels, or it can keep you stuck in Hatred. In an abusive relationship, you’ll often see an anger person coupled with a fear person.
Our next rung heading up our imaginary ladder is that of Pride. According to Hawkins, since the majority of people are below this point, this is the level that most people aspire to. In comparison to Shame and Guilt, one begins to feel positive here. However, it’s a false positive. It’s dependent upon external conditions such as wealth, position or power. It is also the source of racism, nationalism, and religious fanaticism. Religious fundamentalism is also stuck at this level. You become so closely enmeshed in your beliefs that you see an attack on your beliefs as an attack on you.
Before we continue on with our journey upward allow me to share an observation, a comparison of sort.
In Buddhism we find what is called the three poisons, Ignorance, Hatred, and Greed, the three symbolic fires that burn within us, levels of consciousness that prohibit us from progressing to higher levels of consciousness.
Up to now I have presented you with eight different levels of consciousness, yet if you look closely you will see the three poisons of Ignorance, Hatred, and Greed are within these first eight rungs, levels we must ascend.
Here we come to a crossroad so to speak, a “Know Thyself” moment; only when and if we recognize the three poisons within us can we step up to the next rung of the ladder assisted by Courage, the level of empowerment. Courage is where you see that you don’t need to be tossed to and fro by your external conditions. This empowerment leads you to the realization that you are a steward unto yourself, and that you alone are in charge of your own growth and success. This is what makes you inherently human: the realization that there is a gap between stimulus and response and that you have the potential to choose how to respond. The first level of true strength, Courage is the Gateway. On this rung you start to see your future as an improvement upon your past, rather than a continuation of the same.
Those that have a firm footing on the rung of Courage and still advancing upon the ladder will next discover the rung of Neutrality, the level of flexibility. To be neutral, you are, for the most part, unattached to outcomes. At this level, you are satisfied with your current life situation and tend not to have a lot of motivation towards self improvement or excellence in your career, realizing that inflating the ego is no longer necessary, in fact may be be a hindrance in advancement to the next rung,
Those people around you that are perpetual optimists – this is their level of consciousness. Seeing life as one big possibility is the cornerstone of those operating here. No longer are you satisfied with complacency – you strive to do your best at whatever task you’ve undertaken. You begin to develop self-discipline and willpower and learn the importance of sticking to a task till the end. Think of this level as the development of willpower and self-discipline. These people are the “troopers” of society; they get things done well and don’t complain much. This is the point where your consciousness becomes more organized and disciplined.
If Courage is the realization that you are the source of your life’s experiences, then it is here where you become the creator of them. Combined with the skills learned in the Willingness phase, you begin to awaken your potential through action. Here’s where you begin to set and achieve goals and to actively push yourself beyond your previous limitations. Up to this point you’ve been generally reactive to what life throws at you. Here’s where you turn that around, take control, and become proactive.
The next rung of the ladder should resonate deeply with those of the Masonic Tradition, Reason. This is the level of science, medicine, and a desire for knowledge, I would consider this the level comparable to that of the Fellowcraft, the 2nd degree of Freemasonry. At this level your thirst for knowledge becomes insatiable. You don’t waste time in activities that do not provide educational value. You begin to categorize all of life and its experiences into proofs, postulates, and theories.
Only if, in the level of Reason you start to see yourself as a potential for the greater good of mankind, will you have enough power to ascend to the next level, Love. Here is where you start applying what was learned in your reasoning and you let the heart take over rather than the mind, you live by intuition (symbolized in Freemasonry by the Moon). This is the level of Charity, an all too familiar concept in Freemasonry, a selfless love that has no desire except for the welfare of those around them. Gandhi and Mother Theresa are examples of people who were living at this level. At this level you also begin to be guided by a force greater than yourself. It’s a feeling of letting go. Your intuition becomes extremely strong. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by 1 in 250 people during their entire lifetimes.
the level of saints and advanced spiritual people. As Love becomes more unconditional, there follows a constant accompaniment of true happiness. No personal tragedy or world event could ever shake someone living at this level of consciousness. They seem to inspire and lift all those who come in contact with them. Your life is now in complete harmony with the Will of Divinity and the fruits of that Harmony are expressed in your Joy.
For many the next rung is an unfamiliar concept, yet I assure you this level is found in the teachings of the Buddha, Krishna, and Esoteric Christianity. It is also a level I believe many of the symbols in Freemasonry point to, Peace.
Peace is achieved after a life of complete surrender to the Creator. It is where you have transcended all and have entered that place that Hawkins calls illumination, or transcendence. Here, a stillness and silence of mind is achieved, allowing for constant revelation. Only 1 in 10 million (that’s .00001 percent) people will arrive at this level.
the highest level of human consciousness where one has become like God. Many see this as Christ, Buddha, or Krishna. These are those who have influenced all of mankind.
Although the levels of consciousness as discussed by Dr. Hawkins vary compared to those as eluded to in the esoteric aspect of Freemasonry, of which will shortly be revealed, they should provide a little light to those that have never explored “Know Thyself” and the different levels of consciousness one may encounter when exploring “self”. Exploring “Thyself” was never about the reflection in the mirror, it’s about mind, its various levels, its origin, reason, and destination.
One of the reasons I used an imaginary ladder to illustrate Dr. Hawkins hierarchy of consciousness is because the ladder itself is a common symbol of assent, as is the mountain, and the all so familiar pyramid. Freemasons love to speak in a language unfamiliar to most, not necessarily for reasons you may assume, a beautiful language that is meant to resonate at a level above the mundane.
Each and every Freemason, Christian, and student of biblical studies has read the story of Jacob and his ladder to heaven. According to the bible Jacob left Bathsheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. With reason, logic, and intuition we can pretty much figure out the story of Jacob and his imaginary ladder is symbolic in nature, after all, no disrespect intended, would you lay your head on a rock to sleep? And why are the angels ascending and descending?
The answer has to do with levels of consciousness, something that was only spoken of in symbolism in a time before the actual use of the word “conscious” and consciousness which was not spoken until the 1500's. Each and every rung in which the symbolic angels (us) ascended and descended represented levels of consciousness, symbolic of our precarious path up and down the various levels.
“The seven steps—the Ladder of Jacob—denote the evolution of man. He gradually ascends from the physical plane, where he only perceives Divine Truth "as in a glass dimly," unto the higher planes of consciousness, on which he enjoys clear perception of Deity.”...
is the symbol of the Master of Compassion.
"They did drink of the spiritual rock that followed them (the level of compassion) and the rock was Christ (the Master of Compassion)." I Cor. 10.
Here we see even the stone is representative of a level of consciousness, compassion. Jacob lies down with his head upon a stone, he rests in a state of compassion with his head resting, or reflecting, upon the possibilities of his becoming a Master, for that, he knows, is the purpose of his special instruction, and he has a vision. He sees what seems to be a long ladder reaching up to heaven, and angels ascending and descending upon it. He was evidently given a view of the evolution of man, the descent of the ego into incarnation, and its evolution back to God.
"At its base this ladder touches the earth, and the angels on it denote Souls descending into incarnation, even as the Kabbalah says, to the lowest degree of the Universe, or matter at its nethermost point—and ascending again to heaven. At the foot of the ladder at night Jacob (the pilgrim Soul), lies asleep, having for pillow a stone, symbol of matter at the lowest point. As the place of the greatest darkness and division from God the spot is called Luza, or separation. When Jacob awakes, however, the Soul knows that even in the lowest abyss of matter there is no real separation from the Divine presence and life, hence his exclamation on awaking, 'Indeed the Lord is in this place.' And he called its name Bethel (House of God), which before was Luza (separation)." —From a Lecture by Dr. A. Kingsford, President of the Hermetic Society.
One final note before we delve into the ladder of consciousness and its symbolic levels as alluded to in Freemasonry, allow me to share a fact, words such as ego, unconscious, collective unconscious, id, and the many various labels we use to describe mind and consciousness when discussed today did not exist in the vocabulary of many of the teachers of the past, symbolism was actually their mode of instruction. Most historians trace the beginnings of psychology as a discipline to the work of Wilhelm Wundt, a German psychologist, who began his research in psychology in December of 1879 at the University of Leipzig. At the same time, here in America, we had William James writing influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, all subjects that were receiving a new vocabulary to explain it’s often hard to verbalize philosophies.
Symbols, allegories, parables, and myth were for many centuries the means of transmission of such abstract ideas. Freemasonry itself makes no bones about it; the teachings of Freemasonry are purposely veiled with the symbols and rituals. Purposely because it requires the initiate to delve into the veil and allow you to see what rung of the ladder you are on. Then it becomes your choice if you want to advance or not.
If you have never visited a Masonic Temple, allow me to share a symbol you will find in clear view but often overlooked, the seven steps that rise above the Lodge Room floor to the seat of the Master of the Lodge.
Esoterically each and every step is symbolic of a different level of consciousness, often symbolized by a planet.
In Freemasonry a common phrase contained within one of the rituals is “We upon the and we upon the , we are told the meaning of this phrase is a type of conduct where all masons treat each other on the level, kings and serfs become equal. Allow me to share an observation; Freemasons love labels, ranks, degrees, and all sort of other titles that make meeting on the level nearly impossible. As far as departing on the square, when we leave the Temple we are taught to square our actions in the affairs of men.
All that sounds nice, but when we delve into the history of the ritual and its origins we find that the original ritual in the Prestonian lectures it was said that Masons “met on the square and hoped to part on the level”. In the American system of Thomas Smith Webb a change was made, and we were instructed that they meet on the level and part on the square.
Now you may not think this little shift in symbols means much, but in my opinion it’s a huge change. If we look closely at the square we find a symbol that is emblematic of Matter. In the original ritual we meet on Matter, the square. Now when look at the seven stairs to the Master as being symbolic of levels of consciousness, it is hoped we depart on the same Level of Consciousness. As you can plainly see just a little misunderstanding of the symbols can change the meaning totally.
A little note: The Square in Freemasonry is symbolic of Matter. “The Square, therefore, is a natural and appropriate Symbol of this Earth and the things that belong to it, are of it, or concern it.”...Albert Pike
No if's about it Freemasonry is an old tradition, arriving on the scene during the Age of Enlightenment. According to Kant, The Enlightenment was "Mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error."
No longer allowing the ignorance of the church to suppress knowledge philosophers, theologians, scientists, and alchemists were beginning explore consciousness and the many traditions that had blazed the trails before them.
The 18th century would be different than the 17th, which was torn by witch-hunts and wars of religion and imperial conquest. Protestants and Catholics denounced each other as followers of Satan, and people could be imprisoned for attending the wrong church, or for not attending any. The Age of Reason would begin the journey away from ignorance towards enlightenment. During a time when all publications, whether pamphlets or scholarly volumes, were subject to prior censorship by both church and state, often working hand in hand the Age of the Enlightenment would bring the welcome exchange of knowledge. The organizations which tried to challenge the twin authorities of church and state that were banned still met in secrecy but soon would out themselves purposely, Freemasonry being one of these organizations.
Although I am not a Masonic Historian, I do not buy into most of the fanciful histories that have written about the origins of the Order. Although enjoyable to read most I fear are just fictions, sensational histories that can lead back to Solomon, Egypt, or even Seth. Take your pick, what I can tell you absolutely is that Freemasonry outs itself and arrives on the scene in the early seventeen hundreds. A few entries in a few manuscripts before 1717 may show that Freemasonry may have existed before its outing, but that doesn't necessarily mean it’s the highly symbolic and ritualistic Freemasonry we have today. We adopted the tools and some of the vocabulary of the operative masons as symbolic representations of esoteric teachings, that's all.
As for the original Freemasons that outed themselves in the early seventeen hundreds, a little research into the names will quickly eliminate “the purpose of Freemasonry is to make good men better men”, many of the names you will encounter were men of standing, some geniuses of their time, these gentlemen didn't need a men's club to make them better men, they were already giants, many participants in Isaac Newton's inner circle, many original members of the Invisible College, the Royal Academy, and the elusive Rosicrucian’s. Almost all had advanced educations, studying natural philosophy, theology, alchemy, and sciences of every type.
I believe we could rightly call the original outed Freemasons of 1717 Christian, but I'm pretty sure their form of Christianity differs remarkably from the way most interpret Christianity today. These highly educated individuals knew the words of Christ, and the bible itself could be interpreted on many different levels. The Sacred Volume of Law, the bible, contained allegories, parables, and symbolism that many would find confusing and sadly taken literally would demean the message. Yet many of these original Freemasons explored the depth of the symbolism, and found a beautiful philosophy that if understood, integrated, and followed would allow the individual to experience Union with the Divine.
In review we have seen the hierarchy of consciousness according to Dr. Hawkins, shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace and enlightenment, seventeen different levels of rungs of a ladder.
Now allow me to share the seven rungs of the Masonic ladder, the seven levels of consciousness as symbolized by the seven ancient planets. In the Lodge Room of the Masonic Temple these seven levels are the seven steps from the floor of the Lodge Room floor to the seat of the Master.
Although I respect Dr. Hawkins levels, I personally find the seven levels found in Freemasonry a bit more concise and not so emotion based.
The seat of the Master is representative of the symbolic Sun, the goal of the journey. Where Hawkins uses the word Enlightenment the Freemason may substitute Union with the Divine, other traditions may use the Self Realization, Samadhi, or even Nirvana to describe this level of consciousness. In the esoteric world of alchemy this is the level of “Gold”, symbolized by the point within the circle.
One step down from the symbolic Sun is that of the level of spiritual intuition, symbolized by the Moon. In the world of alchemy, which deeply influenced early Freemasonry, its symbols and rituals, the Moon is symbolic of silver.
The next step down from the Moon, or Intuition, is that of Mercury, symbolic of Wisdom, not to be confused by knowledge which can often be an impediment to those that must harmonize Intuition and Wisdom to advance to Divine Union.
A note to readers: Freemasons love triads or triangles for reasons that will soon become apparent.
Some would call the Sun, Moon, and Mercury the highest triad for due reasons, as you shall see as we continue on. For now picture a triangle with the apex up, the apex symbolic of the Sun, the two bottom angles representative of the Moon and Mercury respectively. Assent to the apex can only be by harmonizing Wisdom and Intuition.
If your an Entered Apprentice and you happen to be reading this, the triangular flap of your apron is up, symbolic of your level of consciousness or understanding, Spirit (the triangle) and Matter (the square) are separate, you are not yet Spiritualized Matter. If this seems confusing give it time you'll get it. For now the points of the triangle are the Sun, Moon, and Mercury...Spirit.
“The three lights represent the Sun, the' Moon, and Mercury; Osiris, Isis, and Horus; the Father, the Mother, and the Child; Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty” ...Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma
The Sun. Moon and Mercury represent the three highest levels of consciousness. Enlightenment consciousness is symbolized by the Sun, Intuition consciousness is symbolized by the Moon, and Wisdom consciousness is symbolized by Mercury, as we step down from this triad of Spirit to the world of Matter we find the step of Venus, symbolic Love consciousness.
Before we continue down the levels from the seat of the Master to the Lodge Room floor, allow me to assist you in understanding the symbolic signs attributed to the seven ancient or classic planets. There seems to be about three factors in the signs that make up the planets. There is a circle which means Spirit, and the half circle which we may take as a symbol of the Soul, and the cross which we take as a symbol of Matter. If we apply that key, we have in the Sun symbol a circle which stands as a symbol of Spirit. If we look at Mars, which is composed of the circle and the cross above the Spirit is under the cross, which we may take to mean that the Spirit is in bondage to Matter and to the body; thus we find individuals at this level of consciousness very materialist, they usually do not believe in anything supernatural as they call it, nothing but what they can see, and might is right with them, the higher, finer and nobler feelings are held in abeyance; there is mainly the physical side expressed, everything is for self. Mars always asks: what can I get for myself and how much pleasure can I get, what is the best I can do for myself and how can I oust everybody else.
Venus is just the reverse, Mars will fight, but Venus doesn't fight for there the Spirit is above the cross of Matter, the Spirit has got the balance of power and therefore she is the planet of love; she says, how much can I do for somebody else, I want to help somebody, I want to attract everybody to myself that I may do them some good.
Although we haven't discussed the lowest level of consciousness symbolized by the planet Saturn if one looks carefully at its symbol you can pretty much see why Saturn is considered the lowest state of mind. We have the Soul, or instinctual mind, symbolized by the half circle, under the dominance of Matter, represented by a cross, and therefore the Saturn people are materialistic in the extreme; they are very selfish also in every way, they are grasping everything for self, the heart and better nature are put underneath. One level up from Saturn consciousness you find the opposite combination, the symbol of Jupiter has the Soul above the cross of Matter. The Jupiter level of consciousness is much more likely to assist others, and exhibit a philanthropic side.
As we can see, at the level of Venus Spirit is above Matter, in fact above Venus is the higher triad of Spirit, consisting of Mercury, Moon, and Sun, and below Venus we have the lower triad of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
As stated Venus consciousness is Love, not the type of simplistic love usually bantered about, love of country, love of nature, etc… This type of Love, with a capital “L', is an all consuming compassion that drives an individual such as the late Mother Theresa to spent most her life living with the poorest of the poor, often suffering various deadly disease that would stop most, only to continue to serve. And with all due respect to the story of the Christ, a teacher of compassion that gives his life for the benefit of humankind.
If you broke down the teachings of the Buddha you would find “Know your mind!” and “Practice compassion!”
Symbolically we find in Western esoteric traditions three distinct baptisms, Water, Blood, and Fire (or Spirit). Venus consciousness is related to “blood”, it’s at this level we give of our-self totally.
The triad of Sun, Moon, and Mercury, the triangle with the apex pointing up, also the symbol of Fire, is the level involved in the baptism of fire. At these levels the Ego is consumed, as some mystics would say, by the fire within.
The next triad we will look at, below Venus, is the triad of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Symbolized by the triangle with the apex pointing down, also the symbol of Water. Its at these levels we begin the purification, and eventual eradication of our Ego, our symbolic baptism of Water.
The level below Mars, two steps above Saturn the lowest level of consciousness, and fifth step from the seat or level of the Master.
Symbolically Mars represents drive, inner drive, physical energy, self-manifestation and initiative, as well as issues connected with sexuality, power and aggression. The planet is named for the God of War, but Mars energy only becomes a negative force when it serves the Ego, and not a higher cause.
On a social level, it is a consciousness of primal force that can become destructive when its collective power is harnessed for questionable purposes. It's pretty easy to see how the feminine Venus consciousness harmonizes well the masculine energy of Mars.
On the next level down, six down from the Master, one above Saturn the base, we find Jupiter, the level of optimism consciousness. At this level we begin to see optimistically that change is possible, materialism no longer works and we begin to look closely at the illusionary Ego and begin the journey.
On the lowest level from the Master, we find the step symbolized by Saturn, the world and consciousness of Materialism, the consciousness we find in most before the journey is begun.
Here's a question for those initiates in Freemasonry that have had the pleasure to step up to the seat of the Master and receive instruction, the Entered Apprentice, only to back-down the steps after you were taught the moral symbolism of the working tools, have you ever wondered why you back down?
If you contemplate the levels of consciousness, where each and every step brings you closer to “Light”, by symbolically backing down you acknowledge you are about to begin the “Great Work” and must start at the bottom.
Do not think for a minute that those that sit in the seat of the Master are “enlightened”, there may have been a few here or there, but the odds on reaching the type of level of consciousness we are discussing is astronomical.
In essence the ascending of the levels is our path from egocentric consciousness to that which could be called “Unity” consciousness.
In reverse of what I just shared, I would like to take you from the floor of the Lodge Room to the seat of the Master.
When enter Freemasonry we come from the level of Materialism, this is the world of islands where each one us believe ourselves to be an island, the subject and all else outside ourselves to be objects. You identify yourself as your body and your mind, As the Buddha says; “We are all that our minds create.” But what if this consciousness, ego centered, is actually an illusion created by the illusionary self that keeps us cut off from what is real?
Here's are a few byproducts of ego consciousness, arrogance, selfishness, greed, and a sense of entitlement to whatever one wants. Individuals on this level may suffer from what we could call intellectual arrogance, being too sure that one is right in what one believes. This tends to lead one to feel justified in doing whatever it takes to achieve one's goals. It elbows out any humility that might lead one to ask whether it was right to harm people for one's goals. Watch the news channels at any given time you'll see stories of egotistical individuals run amok, people stuck in this level of consciousness.
Stepping up one level from Materialism, we find a level that provides a push toward social integration; here the initiate enters something bigger then themselves, the tradition. Certainly your ego is still intact but now we can begin a period of introspection concerning educational, philosophical, cultural and religious interests, mystical thought in religion and philosophy. A time to gain wisdom and knowledge. We hear this alluded to in the lecture of second degree of Freemasonry, the Fellowcraft, where the initiate is introduced to the importance of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, which were formulated hundreds of years ago in order to develop and perfect the mental nature. The intention was to prepare the mind for spiritual truths.
Our next step up in consciousness, previously identified as Mars, is usually associated with maleness the Mars symbol embodies the yang principle.
On this level one has the ability to confront life-and-death issues. This level of consciousness is incredibly influential in illuminating our vision as to what is no longer serving us. Here we begin to seriously look at all our held beliefs, hidden secrets, and all the assorted illusions that helped us create the illusionary ego. This is the level of New Beginnings, Birth and Initiation, all components of the ritual of the third degree, Master Mason.
This makes the Mars level relevant to cycles, and the natural rhythms of life and death. On the one hand we have the driving force of new beginnings followed by a period of thoughtful retreat and a symbolic death to the things which no longer serve.
These first three levels from the floor of the Lodge Room floor compose the triad of Matter. Although our next level, symbolic of Venus, or love, is usually associated with the level of Matter, I tend to see it as a level on its own, one that draws Matter towards the Spiritual, and pulls the Spiritual down to Matter.
We could dedicate a whole book to the symbolic uses of Venus, the “Light-bearer”, but for now let us focus on the level of consciousness this step represents.
As stated before this is the level of Love, a love and compassion beyond the normal egotistical emotional attachment that has the ability to turn from “love” to hate, jealousy, or despair, your normal everyday love. This is the Love and Compassion taught of by the Christ and the Buddha, a love and compassion that can only manifest after the ego is acknowledged and no longer binds us to the illusion of separateness. Self-referential motives, self-centeredness, attachment, expectation of something in return, grasping, setting of conditions, none of these have any place in love and, in practice, completely block the action of love. Placing ourselves first and at the center forecloses the possibility of love.
We have just completed a walk up four out of seven steps. In the western esoteric tradition these four steps or levels of consciousness exist within the world of Matter. Symbolized in Freemasonry by the Square, and of course on the planetary symbols themselves as the cross. In Freemasonry we as Masons meet on the Square, Matter. Our apron is composed of two distinct shapes, the Triangle flap, and the Square base, the Square symbolic of Matter. The Square consists of four angles, four points, each of these points symbolic of the first four levels of consciousness from the floor of the Lodge Room, Matter.
Remember how I told you earlier that the ritual had been changed from “met on the square and hoped to part on the level”, to “meet on the level and part on the square,”, hopefully now you can see how that little change turns out to be a big one. We meet here on Matter and hopefully depart on the same level of consciousness.
Now we have seen that the upper triad, made up of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury represents Spiritual levels of consciousness, the lower triad made up of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn represents levels of consciousness available to those still locked in the levels of Matter, or ego, with Venus sitting in the middle attracting and harmonizing the often aggressive Matter triad, and because of it's ego-less love it draws the Spiritual towards it.