What I want to address in this paper is 'similarities', something occasionally discussed in context with Freemasonry.
For many some of these similarities will seem strange and foreign, and for others they may seem basic, either way I hope you find something that peaks your interest.
What we are going to look at is the triad, a very important symbol associated with Freemasonry, one you could say is the basic esoteric symbol in which the whole esoteric system revolves around.
Early on in our journey through the three degrees of craft masonry we were introduced to an old philosopher named Pythagoras, a symbolic brother. His triad was any three numbers a, b, c which satisfy the Pythagorean equation A2 + B2 = C2. In Freemasonry we see this equation illustrated with Euclid's 47th theorem 3, 4, 5.
The question then becomes what does the symbolize?
To Pythagoras numbers had to values, one numerical the other symbolic. The symbolic idea here, is that the vertical side represents one aspect (3), often symbolized by the triangle, the horizontal side (4), often represented as the square, and another aspect, the hypotenuse (5) the offspring of the combining sides. The combination of one and another produces a new form of being altogether, a progeny.
In the Pythagorean symbolic system the 3 is the first true male number, the number of harmony (emphasize on harmony).
In the Pythagorean symbolic system the Pythagoreans called the number 4 the "Key-bearer of Nature."
Masons of old believed that vertical upright 3 squared symbolized Osiris, the horizontal position, 4 squared symbolized Isis, and the hypotenuse, 5 squared, symbolized Horus.
Much of what I have presented to this point has been written about extensively by many brothers of old, and a few modern writers. I recommend any new brother seeking Masonic light research the symbolic number system of Pythagoras, it will explain many of the questions you may have about the design of the lodge room.
Returning now to the triad, and some similarities.
A triad, in simplest terms, is defined as a "group of three". In Freemasonry your going to see this alluded to over and over, three major seats, three degrees, three burning tapers, I promise you the more you look the more you'll find, some are cleverly hidden awaiting your discovery.
Now let's look towards other traditions and see if we can find similarities, some of them may have actually found their way in Freemasonry.
First stop, the Jewish alphabet.
For those who have read my previous articles they understand my fascination with the Kabbalah and Freemasonry, believing that much of the underlying symbolism in Freemasonry is actually drawn from the Kabbalah itself.
Without going to deep let is start with the very basics, the Hebrew alphabet.
The alphabet itself is made up of twenty two letters, three of which are called the 'mother letters', Mem, Aleph, and Shin.
Just like the number system of Pythagoras the Hebrew alphabet has numbers associated with the letters and a symbolic allusion.
Mem is the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and has numerical value of 40 and is symbolic of water.
The letter Aleph is considered the "father" of the Aleph-Bet, whose original pictograph represents an ox, meaning strength and leader. It's numerical value is one (and also 1,000) and it is a silent letter. Aleph therefore is preeminent in its order and alludes to the ineffable mysteries of the oneness of God.
In his book "Mind into Matter", Fred Alan Wolf writes: "Aleph represents the supreme energy - subtle, alive, but not existing as itself in the space-time world we know, because it is imaginal. It is the primal energy in all; and all that we know is in aleph.
Aleph is beyond definition, incapable of being defined or limited. It
moves at infinite speed and thus evades time. It is primal consciousness unknown to its self."
In the Kabbalah the letter aleph is king over breath, formed air in the universe, temperate in the year, and the chest in the soul. Simplified, symbolic of element air.
To this point we have learned that the letter Mem symbolized water and the letter Aleph symbolizes air. Can you guess what's next?
Of course, Shin symbolic of fire.
The letter Shin is the dynamic movement of the element fire, the active, expansive and vivifying forces in the universe. It is also the symbol of the vivifying spirit.
If you want to know where these elements are hidden, look towards your penalties, look in the penalty of the E.A. and see if you can find water alluded to, look to the penalty of the F.C. and see if you can find air alluded to, and finally look at the penalty of the M.M. and see if you can find fire alluded to.
Before we move on here's something of interest. The body part associated with Shin is the throat, Aleph the chest, and Mem the bowels, now think of your penal signs.
It should be noted the penal signs appear opposite of the of the degree, except for Aleph, this has a deeper allusion. Example, in the E.A. degree, water, we find the penal alluding to Shin, spirit, and the M.M. degree, fire, we find the penal sign referring to Mem, water. When we put the three signs together we find the penal signs are actually alluding to spirit descending into matter. On the other hand our Masonic journey itself is symbolic of matter ascending into spirit. When we put together the penal signs of spirit descending into matter, and then matter ascending in spirit we see a continuous cycle, transmigration of the soul.
Now let's move on to another triad commonly associated with Freemasonry, one that is resurfacing after many years exclusion, the triad of Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur.
Although its been years since Freemasonry has been associated with alchemy at the present time various writings have looked carefully into the possible connection, and they're finding it.
For those unfamiliar with alchemy allow me to share a few points, if you would like to learn more the web now has many good modern interpretations of this often arcane science.
Alchemy, very much like Freemasonry, has an exoteric practical application, the precursor to chemistry, and an esoteric inner application, psychological transformation. It should come at know surprise that Freemasonry seems to borrow heavily from esoteric alchemy, Kabbalah and alchemy have a lot in common.
Not surprisingly Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur have almost the same allusions as Mem, Aleph, and Shin.
When one pursues an understanding of alchemy often times the student will come upon conflicting opinion, Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury are alluded to differently by different authors. I believe the proper sequence would be:
Salt Mercury Sulfur
Mem Aleph Shin
Water Air Fire
Body Mind Spirit
E.A. F.C. M.M.
I make note of this because I have read a lot of authors that actually attribute sulfur to air, and mercury to spirit. I know that some will find this far fetched but upon reflection if we look to the god Mercury we find a god that has the ability to travel from the heavenly realms spirit to the world of matter. Remember that F.C. penalty, beasts of the field, fouls of the air? Beasts of the field symbolize the world of matter, fouls of the air symbolize spirit, hence Mercury.
Right about now observant brothers should be asking about the element earth, where does it play out in the elements considering most are familiar with four, earth, air, water and fire?
Most esoteric symbolists combine water and earth to create one category, matter.
The reader should be reminded that Freemasonry is very old, at a minimum of three centuries, two centuries ago we find a phrase rarely heard today 'spiritualized matter'. The Neo-Platonists taught that there were two principles at play in man, his soul, and the material which enveloped it. According to the prevailing dogma of the church before the fall, man’s- soul was enclosed in an ethereal body, i. e. was surrounded by matter which was, as it were spiritualized. After the fall, the soul and the ethereal body were, limited and constrained in their activities. Instead of spiritualized matter, the soul was now imprisoned in a body gross and earthly. It was dominated by the basest inclinations, especially by the concupiscence of the flesh. It's here we find the purpose of many esoteric sciences, to re-spiritualize matter, ourselves.
Few realize that before the 'New Age' writers and enthusiasts borrowed the triad of Freemasonry other esoteric sciences were already discussing the triad of Body, Soul, and Spirit, which would eventually morph into Body, Mind, and Spirit. In fact in the early nineteen hundreds the Scottish Rite published a magazine named 'New Age'.
While researching this paper I found this interesting paragraph in an old Masonic text, talk about insight into three of the most important symbols in Freemasonry, the triangle, square, and circle.
Q. What signifies the triangle with its three points; the circle and square?
A. The triangle represents the triplicity of nature; the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and the animal kingdom; past, present, future; birth, life, death; body, soul, spirit. The square symbolises Nature and the four elements. The circle the eternal succession of life.
As you can see in the above answer to the question we see three different triads. As for the square and circle, I agree with the writer on the square, Nature (or matter), but on the circle I tend to interpret it as the boundless endless spirit, and least we forget the sequence of the penal signs and the sequence of the penalties, a succession.
Now let's look at another Masonic writer, J.M. Ward, a see how he ties in the Body, Soul, Spirit;
"In the Craft Lodge the W.M. represents the Spirit, the S.W. the Soul, and the J .W. the Body. Hence the significance of the fact that one and the same person invests the brother in each degree by command of the W.M. The Soul must raise itself from its crude and material condition to greater heights of spirituality. It will be encouraged and guided by the Spirit, but it is the Soul, not the Spirit, that needs to progress towards God. Each upward step in mortal life is made by the struggling Soul, which drags with it its Body, and is guided by the glimmering light in the east, which is the emblem of the Spirit."
Some would say we are physical beings (Body) embodied with consciousness (Mind) and divine (Spiritual), others may disagree, I don't.
Returning to alchemy, a different kind of alchemy, we find in China a very old alchemy named Neidan, or internal alchemy.
In the Chinese tradition the human body becomes a cauldron of sorts in which the triad known as the 'Three Treasures' Jing ("Essence"), Qi ("Breath") and Shen ("Spirit") are cultivated for the purpose of improving physical, emotional and mental health, and ultimately returning to the primordial unity of the Tao, i.e., becoming an Immortal.
Although Taoist is rarely spoken of in the more Western tradition of Freemasonry I find some of the esoteric similarities uncanny. Take for instance the black and white floor of the lodge room.
The first time I was exposed to the mosaic pavement of the lodge room my mind instantly thought of the 'yin and yang', the Taoist symbol light and dark circling in a never ending harmony, remember the penal signs spirit descending into matter followed by the path of the rituals matter as ascending into spirit.Here we see
If we compare the Three Treasures of Chinese internal alchemy, Jing, Chi (or Qi), and Shen, to the Body Soul Spirit triad the similarities become easily apparent.
Internal alchemy focuses on the body and how you are able to use the Three Treasures, Jing, Chi, and Shen, to bring this balance to your life.
Jing Chi Shen
Body Soul Spirit
Salt Sulfur Mercury
According to Chinese alchemy Jing is the energy of the body, without it you will simply die. The conserving of Jing in the body is heavily focused on internal alchemy. Taoists believed that preserving Jing allowed people to live longer, if not to achieve immortality. The idea of immortality came about because Taoists believed that if Jing in the body could be preserved the energies in the body could be saved, which allowed you to live. In order improve the possibility immortality the Taoists proposed an immortal formula: first, use the Chi to nourish the Jing, and then transform the Jing into refined Chi. Afterward, use this refined Chi to build up the Shen. Then reunite the Shen with the Tao, the whole.
As to what this Chi is, it is defined as the "natural energy of the universe" and can be found in everything, including each individual person. The intent of the alchemist is to obtain a positive flow of Chi which flows through the body moving to each individual organ. Taoists map out the body according to these paths. If a path is blocked, the Chi does not flow properly; this blockage disrupts the balance of yin and yang. Taoists developed methods to help get rid of these harmful blockages so that the body's balance can be restored.
As for Shen, this is said to be the 'original' spirit of the body. Taoists try to become conscious of Shen through meditation. Shen is the energy that each organ in the body possesses.
When the "three treasures" are maintained in the body along with a balance of yin and yang it is possible to achieve a healthy body, and longevity; which are the main goals of internal alchemy.
Allow me to share a secret you probably already know. Although most only see the two pillars of Freemasonry, Boaz and Jachin, in the lodge room there are actually three, the third being you. You were symbolically told this when you walked between them in the F.C. degree.
Just as when you walked between the pillars of Freemasonry you symbolized harmony the same holds true when you walk on the black and white mosaic pavement you, you once again becomes the tie that binds.
'' But in my heart, alas! two souls reside.
Each from the other tries to separate.
One clings to earth with passions and desires
And fond embrace; the other breaks his bonds,
And rising upward, spurns the dust of earth."...Brother Goethe
"There are three intelligible worlds which correspond one with another by hierarchic analogy; the natural or physical, the spiritual or metaphysical, and the divine or religious worlds. Prom this principle follows the hierarchy of spirits, divided into three orders, and again subdivided by the triad in each of these three orders."...
Reuben Swinburne Clymer, Alchemy and the Alchemists: Giving the Secret of the Philosopher's
If we return to alchemy we'll find another triad that just may have its place in the layout of the lodge room, the triad of salt, sulphur, and quicksilver, also known as the triad of Sun, Moon, and Mercury.
Moon Mercury Sun
Salt Quicksilver Sulfur
Would you be surprised if I told you that they just may be symbolized on the steps up to the Master of the lodge?
Remember the 47th theorem, 3 squared plus 4 squared equals 5 squared? In a properly symbolized lodge room we find seven stairs leading to the Master. Divide that seven into two geometrical shapes and you get a triangle and a square, seven points. In the Pythagorean number system seven is the number of perfection.
If we once again consider the 47th theorem and the steps up to the Master, we find the four in the first four steps, symbolizing earth, the last three representing heavenly, and the Master symbolic of five the number of what the Pythagoreans called “hieros gamos”, the marriage between heaven and earth.
To this point I have hopefully explained the basic esoteric symbolism of the triad and how it may relate to Freemasonry, now I shall attempt to go a little deeper down the rabbit hole.
The triad of Body, Mind, and Spirit has become a reference for just about every alternative health practice, New Age topic, or psycho-pomp but sadly the message has been sorely watered down.
First of all although the triad Body, Mind, and Spirit appear to be three separate subjects they are intact one, seen from three different perspectives. In fact in sacred geometry the triangle is the first complete geometrical figure, harmony, the symbol of unity, one.
I find it interesting that the majority of writers call the Pythagorean Monad (the number one) god when the truth may be its actually the triad.
"The number three is the first number, because one and two are creators of numbers and not numbers themselves. Therefore the number one is potentially both an odd and even number, and called "hermaphroditic", or male-female by Pythagoreans."..Clifford A. Pickover,The Loom of God: Tapestries of Mathematics and Mysticism
We see this symbolized in the Kabbalah where the triad of Binah, Chokmah and Kether are a Kabbalistic representation of the manifest God. This 'Supernal Triad' is symbolic of the “3 mothers” discussed earlier, Shin (spirit/fire), Aleph (air), and Mem (water).
For those unfamiliar with the Kabbalah I highly recommend you research its symbolism it will certainly provide any seeking brother 'light'.
As for the triad of the Kether, Chokmah, and Binah, Kether is known as the 'crown', the sheer of pure spiritual being, the point of absolute unity. The Kether is said to be the dwelling place of the Divine, the source of all, it's Divine name is Eheieh, I am.
The Chokmah, meaning wisdom, is an extension of Kether. It is the overflowing of the Divine, a reflection of the first. Chokmah is the first male expression, where the Kether was androgynous.
Chokmah's Divine name is Yah, meaning Lord.
Binah, understanding, is the female counterpart to Chokmah. Just like Chokmah receiving overflow from Kether, Binah receives an overflow of energy from Chokmah. The Divine name being Elohim, The Lord God.
Binah Kether Chokmah
Body Mind Spirit
Water Air Fire
"To-day there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality. The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter" . . .Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (p. 137)
The reason I included the quote above is because it is my belief that Freemasonry on a very deep level is meant to cause the brother to challenge his philosophical beliefs, a level few will travel.
If we take the basic Body, Mind, Spirit triad many would assume that we are talking about three separate entities, the Body, and then a Mind, and separate Spirit, when in fact we just may be talking about one and its three aspects.
With all that I have provided for you it becomes your quest to unlock why this triad is so prominently displayed within Freemasonry.
I found this paragraph online that may off a little insight.
"Physical reality becomes psychic and psyche becomes real. It "matters." The difference between soul and external things no longer matters. Inner and Outer worlds are real. They are One World. Image, metaphor and symbol bridge the abyss between matter and spirit. They are integrated with feeling, mind, and imagination. We can see soul in all natural objects. We can notice our fantasies constantly conditioning our experience of reality.
We need to learn how to be in our souls, just as we had to learn to reinhabit the body. Being-in-soul implies that you are being suffused with spirit. Knowledge of spirit doesn't come from ideas, even revelations, but through a reflective process. Their conjunction, or marriage, means spirit is reborn whenever you are in touch with soul. They are opposites, so the interplay is eternal. Just observe without attachment the interaction of soul and spirit, distinct yet conjoined. Hold the tension of the opposites.
When spirit as energy and matter as form are in balance, the body becomes the living "Temple of the Spirit." The notion of a soul's immortality comes to mean direct experience of non-spatial, non-temporal, four-dimensional reality--the realm of relativity."...The Relativity of Body and Soul
For those interested in the Kabbalah I have posted Chapter three of THE SEPHER YETZIRAH, THE BOOK OF FORMATION, it should be of immense to those seeking more light in Freemasonry.
1. The first three elements (the Mother letters, א מ ש) resemble a balance, in one scale virtue and in the other vice, placed in equilibrium by the tongue.
2. The three Mothers, א מ ש, enclose a great, wonderful, and unknown mystery, and are sealed by six wings (or elementary circles), namely, air, water, fire--each divided into an active and a passive power. The Mothers, א מ ש, gave birth to the Fathers (the progenitors), and these gave birth to the generations.
3. God appointed and established three Mothers, א מ ש, combined, weighed, and exchanged them, forming by them three Mothers, in the universe, in the year, and in man (male and female).
4. The three Mothers, א מ ש, in the universe are: air, water, and fire. Heaven was created from the elementary fire (or ether) ש, the earth, comprising sea and land, from the elementary water, מ, and the atmospheric air from the elementary air, or spirit, א, which establishes the balance among them. Thus were all things produced.
5. The three Mothers, א מ ש, produce in the year heat, coldness, and the temperate state. Heat was created from fire, coldness from water, and the temperate state from air, which equilibrates them.
6. The three Mothers, א מ ש, produce in man (male and female) breast, abdomen, and head. The head was formed from the fire, ש; the abdomen from the water, מ; and the breast (thorax) from air, א, which places them in equilibrium.
7. God let the letter א (A) predominate in primordial air, crowned it, combined it with the other two, and sealed the air in the universe, the temperate state in the year, and the breast in man (male and female).
8. He let the letter מ (M) predominate in primordial water, crowned it, combined it with the other two, and sealed the earth in the universe (including land and sea), coldness in the year, and the abdomen in man (male and female).
9. He let the letter ש (Sh) predominate in primordial fire, crowned it, combined it with the other two, and sealed heaven in the universe, heat in the year, and the head of man (male and female).