There is an old occult maxim which declares that—" Nothing is concealed from him who knows." No Mason is bound to conceal that which he has never learned in the Lodge. All else he receives as he learns any thing, places his own estimate upon its value, and becomes individually responsible for its use. It must be a matter of conscience, and be weighed in the balance of duty, and every one must abide by the result. If Masonry has lost the Royal Secret, or if it never possessed it, or if it was wrenched away in the very name of Religion little more than a century ago, all the same, it belongs to the Craft as the Heir-apparent of the Old Wisdom. But the time has come when no cable-tow can bind it. It now belongs to Humanity equally with the Mason. To this end has it been preserved throughout the centuries.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Floor We Walk Upon - Masonic Immortality

The separation of Spirit from Matter was a mystery and the union of Spirit with Matter was a mystery also.”...Brother Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

More than once I have visited Masonic Temples and found many symbols of our tradition either missing or altered, the lodge room of my own temple is no exception.
Not long ago I was approached by the youngest brother in the lodge and asked why our temple was missing the black and white checkered floor he had seen pictured in various Masonic Temples online.

Was it coincidence or synchronicity, either way I found myself at one time asking the very same question when I first entered the lodge room of the temple years before?
Never given a satisfactory answer I personally gave up asking, and now years later I found myself in the odd predicament of being asked the very same question.
Instead of sharing what I had learnt, nothing, I decided play Perry Mason and seek out the answer to my brother's inquiry.
Before proceeding it should be noted that the author, myself, sees the symbols of Freemasonry as a language that contains an outer, inner, and secret meaning, triadic in structure, a common language found in most mystery schools. What will be presented here will be all three levels, some familiar, others not.
According to the Masonic Encyclopedia, Brother Mackey informs us; "By a little torsion of historical accuracy, the Masons have asserted that the ground floor of the Temple was a mosaic pavement, and hence, as the Lodge is a representation of the Temple, that the floor of the Lodge should also be of the same pattern (black and white)."
Even though Brother Mackey makes the case that the lodge room is a symbolic representation of the ground floor of the Temple (of Solomon) and should be designed as such, I can see why this is not always practical. In many cases Masonic Lodges rent space in buildings often occupied by other non-Masonic tenants, and in these situations it's understandable why many find the need to allude to the mosaic floor on the trestle board during the lecture of the Entered Apprentice Degree, I'm not sure a landlord would appreciate a black and white floor with a huge blazing star in the middle.
With that said I do believe if the Lodge owns the building, or rents it from a Masonic Building Association, as does mine, they should seriously consider the placement of the highly symbolic black and white checkered floor. The more you display a symbol to the initiate, and brothers, the more the symbol itself will slowly unlock its many levels of interpretation.

Entry (Outer) Level Teaching
Q. What are the ornaments of a Lodge?
A. The mosaic pavement, the indented tessel, and the blazing star.
Q. What are they?
A. The mosaic pavement is a representation of the Ground Floor of King Solomon's Temple, with a blazing star in the centre; the indented tessel, that beautiful tessellated border which surrounds it.
Q. Of what are they emblematical?
A. The mosaic pavement represents this world, which, though checkered over with good and evil, yet brethren may walk to-ether thereon, and not stumble.

In fact with a little research we find "(Solomon) lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper."...1 Kings 6:15
If we look back to the time when the degrees were created we find many of the brothers were actually theologians, brothers that would have surely been familiar with the verse above, so why create a mystery?
Maybe the answer can be found on a different level.

Time to enter the rabbit hole brother. What follows is a level of interpretation that may shed light as to why I believe we should actually be walking on the black and white checkered floor and not a rug.
First a little myth, a subject that plays prominently in the esoteric aspects of Freemasonry.
The myth begins with a Primordial Unity, the Monad, often symbolized as the "point within the circle", which is sometimes called Aiôn, eternity.
According to Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher all brothers are introduced to at the beginning of their journey, this ineffable deity Aiôn is outside of time and transcends all dualities even that of being and non-being, Aiôn is unity, male and female.

 Aiôn gives birth by dividing into two Gods, the First Polarity. These Gods, known as Kronos and Rhea, govern the primary dualities, unity/multiplicity, father/mother, male/female, etc. Among these dualities, Kronos and Rhea rule the Light and the Dark (black and white), and by their cyclic alternation create time as we know it, Kronos is the abiding, but Rhea is the proceeding, who by her power to change causes Kronos to become Khronos, time.

Kronos and Rhea
Now if we return briefly to the black and white checkered floor, and its hidden symbolism, we can easily make the case Kronos and Rhea, and time, is symbolized by the dualistic floor, with the Monad symbolized by the Volume of Sacred Law. It's upon this floor of "time" we find ourselves "traveling".
There is no doubt that even on the most basic level Freemasonry is designed around the triad, with the placement of the Volume of Sacred Law (Monad) minus the black and white floor (the Dyad of Pythagoras) we have an incomplete symbol, the rug doesn't cut it.
Often times when researching a certain symbol in Freemasonry I am given clues into unlocking another. Such was the case here, while researching the Rhea and Kronos I couldn't help but see the similarities with the illustration of the "weeping virgin".

Weeping Virgin
During the history portion of the third degree we are shown an illustration of the "weeping virgin" and at the same time given a very exoteric and allegorical story created around our fictional brother Hiram Abiff. Yet when one really digs into the illustration it’s easy to see the correlation between the weeping virgin and Father Time to that of Rhea and Kronos. As for the broken pillar, let’s go deeper into the rabbit hole of Masonic symbolism, to a tradition that certainly influenced the structure of Freemasonry, the Kabbalah.
As alluded to previously most Masonic symbolism can be interpreted three ways, outer, inner, and secret. Up to this point we have briefly explored the outer, where the black and white floor symbolized good and evil, and the inner, where we were introduced to myth, Pythagoras, Rhea, and Kronos, unity and duality. Now we will touch on the secret, the Kabbalah (oh yes brothers we are going there).
In the tradition of the Kabbalah, and similar to the Aiôn, we find the Kether, timelessness.
The Kether is symbolic of pure consciousness, beyond all categories, a point that crystallizes out of the Ein Soph, the divine origin of all created existence. The Kether is the first manifestation, the original unity from which all else unfolds.
Known as the "crown" the Kether is the first and highest of the Sephiroth, the ten divine emanations from God, of the Kabbalah Tree of Life and the highest Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar.
For those unfamiliar the Sephiroth, and the Kabbalah Tree of Life, think of the ladder of the Jacob where the angels (us) travel from the physical reality to the spiritual, the Kether is at the top, the spiritual.
Similar to the Aiôn the Kether divides into Chokmah (the male principle) and Binah (the feminine principle) symbolic of Wisdom and Understanding.
Each one of these three Sephiroth sit upon the head of a pillar, the Kether atop the middle Pillar of Mildness, or Equilibrium (consciousness), the Chokmah atop the Pillar of Mercy (force) to the right, and Binah atop the Pillar of Severity (form) to the left, forming a triangle.
The Right-hand Pillar of Mercy is symbolic of active male, where the Left-hand Pillar of Judgment is symbolic of the passive, female, or receptive pillar.

Q. "What, then, are the stages of manifestation?"
A. "The first stage is the appearance of the potential point in the circle —the un-manifested Logos. The second stage is the shooting forth of the Ray from the potential white point, producing the first point, which is' called, in the Zohar, Kether or Sephira. The third stage is the production from Kether of Chokmah, and Binah, thus constituting the first triangle, which is the Third or manifested Logos—in other words, the subjective and objective Universe.".. Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine

When looked at closely the similarity between the myth of Aiôn, Kronos and Rhea and that of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah is easily seen.
I would not be the first to put forth that the pillars of Freemasonry, Boaz and Jachin actually represent the left and right Pillars of Mercy and Severity (judgment). During the ritual of the second degree the candidate is directed between the two pillars, it's at this time, physically, the candidate himself symbolizes the third pillar, the Pillar of Mildness (Equilibrium).
In many lodges the pillar Boaz is black and pillar Jachin is white, symbolic of duality.
Remember that illustration discussed earlier, that of the weeping virgin, the broken pillar may just be symbolic of you and your woeful condition upon entering Freemasonry, separated from the "one", unity.
And what does this have to do with the black and white checkered floor you may be asking?
Simplified the black and white floor symbolizes our present condition, black symbolizes Matter, while white symbolizes Spirit, it's in these two seemingly opposite dualities our present consciousness finds itself.
At the present moment we are bodies (Matter) that have the ability to realize its divinity (Spirit), and at various times we may find ourselves walking in either Spirit consciousness, or that of Matter.
It's also walking on this floor we learn of Masonic immortality:
"There is a conflict between Spirit and Matter. The Matter absorbs the Spirit in order to exist, and the Spirit assimilates Matter, for it is its own property. The whole of manifestation may thus be regarded as continual conflict between Spirit and Matter; the Spirit developing into Matter on the one hand and Spirit assimilating Matter on the other; the former being called activity and the latter silence, or construction and destruction, or life and death. When one realizes that the source of both Spirit and Matter is life, then one will see that there is no such thing as death; but this one can only recognize when knows the distinction between the life which may be called the source and the life which is momentary, the life which Matter shows by absorbing Spirit."...Hazrat Inayat Khan