An Interpretation of the Symbolism
Bro. L. S. Weatherstone
The use of an emblem or crest as the insignia of a particular Institution or Society is a custom of great antiquity, and upon examination it will be found that such a crest is of a deeply symbolic nature, the style of the symbolism being indicative of the characteristics of the society with which the emblem is connected.
The crest of a Masonic Lodge or Study circle, together with the appropriate inscription, is an excellent example of this form of heraldic art, and although there are many who regard such emblems from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, there are hose who look a little deeper and are able to understand the esoteric meaning contained therein. With this in mind therefore, the following pages have been written, in the hope that the Members of the dormer Masonic Study Circle will the better be enabled to interpret the symbolism portrayed in the Crest of the Circle.
The description of the allegory which follows, as shown by this emblem, will, it is hoed, evince to the Brethren, the importance of being able to interpret the meaning of symbols portrayed to the mind by means of ideographic pictures. Our ancient Brethren were masters of this art, and the perfection established by the ancient Egyptians may be gathered from the records of their hieroglyphics, but today it is understood by the comparatively few. A single hieroglyph or a symbolical picture can convey to the mind, in one instantaneous moment, a whole train of thoughts that would need pages of written words to describe, if description be possible, for an ideograph is capable of bringing to the consciousness a vision which no words could adequately express. When the significance of this is realized, it is not difficult to see why every Freemason should endeavour to make a study of this most interesting subject, for we are informed that Freemasonry is "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols", and since these symbols are expressed geometrically, we should make every effort to become conversant with "the basis of our Art."
What finer and more beautiful examples of ideographic pictures can there be, than those of the three Craft T.Bs., especially that of the First Degree, which conveys to the mind in a single picture the whole foundation and system of the science of Initiation. The importance and significance of the T.Bs. in the Craft ceremonies can be judged by the manner in which they are displayed throughout the whole of the Lodge proceedings. They are not merely ornaments, or an indication of the Degree in which the Lodge is opened, but are for the express purpose of portraying to the minds of the Brethren assembled, a complete picture showing the "plan of the work" in which they are at the moment engaged. Thus by keeping this constantly before them they may be enabled to carry out the Work with the greatest efficiency and advantage, not only to themselves, but more particularly to every Candidate who comes "humbly soliciting to be admitted" to a knowledge of "the Mysteries", with which he presumes, quite naturally, his more enlightened Brethren to be fully acquainted. This unfortunately is quite often far from being the case, for although the "draft or plan" is there for the "instruction and guidance of the workmen," the beneficial effects of any Power that may be generated is negligible as those present are unable fully to interpret its meaning.
From what has been said on this subject of ideographs, it will be realized that a little time and labour spent in the study of the interpretation of symbolism will bring its own reward, for it can so illuminate the mind as to bring it to a clearer understanding, and a realization in consciousness of those more hidden truths of the Mysteries of Life and Being. Let us now return to the object of this Paper, an interpretation of the symbolism of the Dormer emblem.
From the casual glance at the crest, one is perhaps struck by the simplicity and symmetrical beauty of the design; the two Great Pillars, linked by the banner which bears the motto "Ex Orinete Lux," gives to the whole an air of solidarity, for they form together a perfect archway and a natural frame or setting for the V. of the S.L., and through this arch we look towards the far distance horizon, where, rising in all its splendour, is "That grand Luminary, the Sun."
This the, one may say is its general aspect, but let us contemplate awhile upon its symbolism, for the composition of the symbols when taken as a whole form an allegory, which, when interpreted, gives a message of inspiration, - a message of hope and encouragement - to every Brother who comes within the Circle, seeking the Way of Initiation and that Light which we have all vowed to be "the predominant wish of our hearts." First, therefore, let us examine the symbols so that we may become conversant with them.
It would be well to mention At this stage that the scrolls or ribbons which carry the motto "ex Oriente Lux" and the title of the Study Circle do not in any way form part of the symbolism, but are purely ornamental and therefore can be ignored for the purpose of this paper.
The Latin quotation "Ex Oriente Lux" being translated means "Out of the East Light, " and is an aphorism which is true, not only in this world of physical phenomena, but also in that other world - the World of Spirit, for as the sun, that "grand Luminary of Nature," the physical aspect of the Spiritual Light, - "which, rising in the East, regularly diffuses light and lustre to all within its circle," so does the Spiritual Light - that Light "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" - emanate from the Mystical East, the source from which Man has ever derived inspiration and enlightenment in this world of darkness, it is that East which is his eternal home, whence he has come, and to which he is returning.
The two Pillars which are a prominent figure of the design, symbolism that immutable cosmic law - the Law of Opposites, for everything in the manifested Universe is subject to the law of duality, - the negative and positive forces or male and female aspect of Nature. These two pillars are those of B. and J., and a clear understanding of their significance is of the greatest importance, for it unveils the mystery of creative energy, And it is not surprising therefore that so much turns upon them in the Craft Ceremonies.
It would appear that there is much confusion in the minds of some Brethren as to the true nature of these pillars; whether, for instance, B. is negative and J. positive, or vice versa, and also whether the former is situated on the left or right. The root of the trouble is however, one that arises from the idea of separateness, always a difficulty to the clear understanding of Spiritual verities. Although always depicted as two separate pillars, in order to indicate and emphasize the dual and opposing nature of the force, - this being its particular characteristic form in manifestation, - it is most important to realize that what appears to be two forces, having opposite natures, is actually one and the same force. Those two pillars must, therefore, always be considered as a unity, i.e. conjoined; they cannot under any circumstances be separated. To destroy one, would be to destroy the other.
The amount of knowledge contained within the ritual of our Masonic System, and the profound wisdom of those who were responsible for its compilation, is remarkable, for the ceremonies abound in words that give these vital clues which are the keys that interpret the Mysteries.
There is not a thing that is wholly negative or wholly positive although a predominance for either one or the other polarity may be manifest. If, for example, a bar magnet in which the force appears strongly as a duality is taken, and an endeavour is made to separate the North from South poles by cutting it in two, it is found that the result produced is not to have one half wholly North and the other South, but two complete magnets, each having the same polarity as the original. This provides proof that the dual aspect of this force or power cannot be separated, in spite of the fact that it manifests itself in the world of phenomena as a duality.
What then is the secret of this unity? It lies in the curious manner of the flow of the force, which, although it is cyclic, flows not as in a circle, but in the form of a figure eight - 8 - which is known technically as a Lemniscate; it is this twisting in the flow of the force which is directly responsible, not only for the interlocking nature of its negative and positive counterparts; but also for the alternation in polarity which in turn gives rise to amplitude, or strength of the force, for it will be noted that the energy must start first from its own centre, flow out to maximum amplitude on the first half-cycle, then return upon its centre before flowing outward again on the second half- cycle, after which it returns to the centre again to repeat the process.
A little reflection upon what has just been said should enable Brethren to perceive why it is, that any attempt to separate or sever in two a physic force or power, is followed by A return to the centre. I regret that I cannot enlarge on this point, but it is hoped that due contemplation will enlighten Brethren upon what, to some, may appear somewhat obscure, for the particular part of the p.s. of the Third Degree enshrines an immutable law of profound cosmic significance, which is yet another instance of the great truths to be found within the structure of Freemasonry.
This lemniscatic flow of the total energy of the vital energy was well known to the ancient Sages and Masters of the Wisdom. We find it in the Chinese Yin and Yang of the philosophy of Fuh Hi, in the Hindoo system of Yoga as the force of Kundalini, depicted as flowing in the channels of Ida and Pingala which are its negative and positive aspects respectively, while the linking together of the centres of each lemniscate produced by the interlacing of these two channels form the central channel Sushumna. The Caduceus of Hermes is perhaps the best known form of this symbolism, showing two snakes in the form of a lemniscate entwined around a central rod, it is this central rod or column which is the most important part of the symbol, for it indicates the path of perfect equipoise and the way of true Initiation.
The two Pillars which were placed at the Porchway or Entrance of the Temple are usually depicted as standing upon a plain base, for they must not be confused with those that are associated with the Orders of Architecture, the Pillars of which always stand upon a base of Pedestal form, that is to say a double cube; but in our Emblem the are shown standing upon a base of three steps for a special reason, namely to emphasize that although they portray duality they form, "when conjoined," a third aspect, one which is a state of equilibrium or balance between the two, - a condition of stability, - wherein everything is in perfect peace and harmony, for its is only in this condition that the Initiate can receive Divine Illumination. Thus we learn in the V. of the S.L. that a Stable was the place or condition wherein a certain "Child" was born, there being "no room in the Inn," - that hostelry, open at all times to every stranger and wayfarer who may chance to call, is like the mind - that ever open door - through which pass all the thoughts that give rise to those feelings and emotions, those desires, passions and prejudices "the excess of which deforms and disorders the very soul." It is therefore not in a place that permits and entertains such company that the Mystical Birth is experienced; but one in which the perfect peace, equilibrium and harmony is obtained, a condition that must be specially prepared, for like that "upper room" it must be made ready, and "furnished." One is not, therefore, surprised to find that the word used to denote this state of equilibrium by the conjoining of the Pillars, is derived from that same word Stable, for it was chosen, without doubt, by those who compiled our ritual to conform to the established Hieratic terminology, as it is obvious that other words could easily have been used with the same intent and purpose.
With regard to the disposition of the Pillars, there should be no doubt upon this point, for we are distinctly informed that B. is on the left and J. on the right, but it must always be remembered that such orientation is based upon the direction of advancement, that is to say, following the way of progression, in the same manner that the port side of a boat is the left side facing forward and not aft, so in a like manner is the Masonic Candidate deemed to be returning "whence he came," to be proceeding towards the Mystical East, "that Country from which he derived his birth and infant nature," and so as he stands facing the source of all "Light," with his back to the West, B.and J. are on his left and right respectively.
Mention has already been made of the Lemniscate and its symbol 8 - the sign of equilibrium, - and its significance was well understood by the Initiates of the Ancient Mysteries; we have an instance of this in the mystic symbol "888" which the Christian Gnostics assigned to "The Master," for to them it meant more than just the numerical value of a name; to them it symbolised the triple lemniscaste - the Thrice Equilibrated - He who has so balanced the emotional, mental and spiritual natures as to have become at one with T.G.A.O.T.U. - a divine and perfected Man; and so in Freemasonry, which is a lineal descendent of the Arcane Mysteries, we might expect its symbol to be still with us to-day. That this is so, may be of interest to many Brethren, for the lemniscate is to be found within the Centenary Lodge Jewel, enclosed by a serpent with its tail in its mouth, - the symbol of Eternity; that it should be depicted on this jewel is fitting testimony to the great truth which it enshrines, for whereas the molecular construction of all matter has a tendency to break up and disintegrate through violent agitation and inharmonious vibrations, so, in like manner, no Lodge could be lasting or enduring unless its foundations were based upon the principles of balance, concord and harmony.
The subject of the Pillars cannot be left without a few remarks concerning the two spheres which surmount them, it should be realised that the placing of the Celestial and Terrestrial globes upon the two columns is a form of symbolism particular to Freemasonry,and in this respect they do not conform to that description of them as recorded in the V.of the S.L. The explanation of their signification as mentioned in the Craft Lectures is, that they indicate "Masonry Universal," in which we may perceive a veiled reference to that ancient axiom "As above, so below," for that which is conceived in the Archetypal Mind on the plane of the Heavenly, is reflected, and has its direct correspondence on the plane of the Earthly, so that the two spheres, when taken together form the Universe of this our solar system, and as the sun which is at its centre, "diffuses light and lustre to all within its circle," so does Freemasonry, like that "sun at the meridian," dispense the Light of Truth and wisdom to all who come within its provence.
To sum up, therefore, we may perceive that each Pillar is of a threefold aspect, the base, the column and the globe, and as each is the corresponding antithesis of the other, it can be said that, between them, they represent in all six symbols.
We now come to the seventh symbol, the Squared Pavement; this again illustrates the law of opposites, but in a particular sense, as it refers to the soul's journey on the highway of Life, and the trials and tribulations that must be overcome in its progress towards the Light. The black and white squares symbolise the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments and all those other conflicting feelings and emotions which delude the mind, and lull it into a sense of false reality. It is these desires and emotions which must be overcome, which figurately speaking we must tread underfoot, in our Masonic imagery "the squared pavement is for the High Priest to walk on", - that High Priest who is the symbol of the Higher Self.
The next three symbols in our Emblem, the eighth, ninth and tenth, are the V. of the S.L., the Square and the Compasses respectively; Brethren are too well acquainted with their symbolic meaning in Freemasonry to need any further explanation, but with regard to the Square and Compasses it may be noted that when these are placed in conjunction as depicted in the Emblem, we have once again another example of the balancing of the Law of Opposites, for the Square, - Matter - and the Compasses, - Spirit - when conjoined symbolise the perfect union of Spirit and Matter, and from the formation of their six points can be discerned the interlaced triangles, which, in the Ancient Mysteries, was one of the most sacred and venerated of symbols, and in some religions, this still obtains, even to the present day.
The Sun, the eleventh symbol, is perhaps the oldest known to man, for he has ever realised that without its health giving and generative rays, life for him and all other living creatures, in fact all life on this planet, would cease to exist;it has, therefore, always been considered a symbol of profound significance, for the Solar Mythos can be traced throughout all the Mystery Systems, from remote antiquity to the present time, this is not surprising, since there is nothing in the manifested universe that can surpass the magnificent splendour and mighty power of the Sun, from which all things derive their growth and sustenance. It was, therefore, always deemed to be a physical expression of the Deity, and we should not forget that the three Principal Officers, - the trinity who "rule the Lodge" - mark the Sun inits complete cycle from rising to setting, and thus it is that "Light" was always used as a synonym for spiritual knowledge since, to the seer, the spirit or Solar Principle of man is at certain times actually visible as a light. The spirit of ordinary man exists, as it were, in a state of embryo, and appears as "but a glimmering ray" some distance above the head. In the Master, this light is fully developed, and is visible as an elongated cleft flame, extending upward from the centre of the forehead. This flame is the distinctive mark of all highly evolved beings who have attained to that degree of Initiation which qualifies them to the rank of Master. Such were the flames, these "cloven tongues like as of fire", (Acts, II., 3) which descend at Pentecost upon the heads of the twelve Apostles.
The Masters or Adpets, in whom the Divine Principle has evolved to the supreme point manifestable on earth, are able to make visible to their disciples the spiritual or Solar Body, and to appear when they so desire "clothed with the sun." The words in the V. of the S.L. "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire," (Deuteronomy, IV., 24) and "who maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire," (Psalms, CIV., 4) are in a sense, literally true.
The eleven symbols already described are clearly delineated in the emblem and we have no difficulty in observing them; but what of the twelfth symbol? It is symbolised in the picture by that which lies "Beyond the Horizon" and refers to what must ever remain hidden and concealed from the uninitiated. It is that which no symbol can properly depict, nor any words adequately describe, as it is a state of consciousness which must be realised in the mind of every individual for himself, it is in fact a mystical experience whereby the mind is raised in consciousness to a level far above that at which it normally functions. This raising of the consciousness is portrayed under many forms of allegory, the most common of all being the ascending of a mountain or the climbing of a hill, and in our Craft system we have the ascending of the winding stairs, there is also the ancient Egyptian symbol of the "Hidden Horizon" which lies beyond the most elevated and distant point that our worldly eyes are capable of observing. These allegories indicate a raising of the consciousness to a high degree of spirituality whereby it becomes aware of the presence of the Indwelling Spirit, and it may be noted that whenever it is desired to indicate this state of consciousness by any form of symbolism, it is always the method of approach - the way of the attainment - which is symbolised, and never the state of condition itself. Our T.B. of the Second Degree is an excellent example, for the winding stairs, - which is the way by which this state of consciousness is reached - are clearly shown, but the interior of the Middle Chamber which is the Sanctum Sanctorum, is not revealed for reasons that are obvious, when it is realised that it is the very centre of one's own being, and constitutes for each and every one of us his own secret and his own mystery, and so according to the work that he has performed upon himself as the Craftsman, in the perfecting of his organism as a fitting vehicle for the Indwelling Spirit, so shall he receive his wages in direct proportion to that work, "without scruple or diffidence, well knowing that he is justly entitled to them."
In connection with the receiving of the symbolic wages, or to the realisation of this state of consciousness, testimony is given in the writings of nearly all the great mystics: - Jacob Boehme, Karl von Eckartshousen, Thomas Vaughan, and many others have all made reference to it. The late Wor. Bro. Walter Leslie Wilmshurst in his excellent work on Christian Mysticism entitled "Contemplations," devotes a complete chapter to the subject in a very beautifully worded description entitled "The Vision Splendid."
It is this ecstatic vision which the hidden horizon of our Emblem is intended to portray, for the sun is not shown at tis meridian splendour, but as being half concealed by the horizon. This implies that there is something hidden from view, which, - could we but see beyond, - would enable us to behold the "Light" in the fullness of its splendour. It may be said, that to those who have realised this mystical experience, it literally constitutes a "seeing beyond," whereby all these barriers, which are the limitations of our ordinary physical senses, are swept aside "and a glorious eternity bursts open to the View."
This last symbol has been dealt with at some length as it forms the climax tot he message intended to be conveyed by our Emblem, for if a clear understanding of its meaning and true significance is not obtained, the import of the last part of this paper may not be realised.
What, therefore, is the message to be read from a correlation of all these symbols? Clearly it indicates that Man, born into this world "in a helpless state of indigence," is at once subject to the Law of Opposites. He begins life with faltering steps, not knowing whither he is going, and since all things in manifestation are threefold in nature, he must pass through those three stages on the path of evolution, like the three steps of the Pillars, he can take those of the left-hand Pillar which symbolise the way of the natural uninitiated man, whose evolutionary progress is by the stages of birth, life and death, or he can take those of the right-hand, which is that of the Initiated, whose progress is by way of Three Degrees, - Purification, Illumination and Unification. It is only after due meditation and contemplation on the mystery of life that he realises the answer to the question is provided in the knowledge of himself, and so, starting on the Mystical Quest "to seek for that which is lost," he sets foot on the square pavement, - the trials and tribulations incidental to this life, - and, after faltering steps and diverse experiences, he learns that to balance the mighty cosmic forces portrayed by the Pillars, he must follow the middle way between them. Proceeding onward along the Path, he is led eventually toward that, which after will be his guide and inspiration, the V. of the S.L., that G.L. sent to "rule and govern our faith," upon which rest the Square and Compasses, the symbols of the Craft, and when in due course he has moralised, contemplated and meditated upon their spiritual significance, he is encouraged to proceed on his way; but since the three G.L.s. lie directly across his path, he must of necessity take them with him as his constant companions on his journey towards the goal which lies ahead; and when after "winding steps," he is able to march boldly onward upon the "Square pavement" as the "High Priest" of his own Temple, he at last reaches that far distant point on the horizon where, standing on the very brink of the threshold, he is raised in an ecstasy of "joy and exaltation" and beholds in awe and wonderment the majestic beauty and brilliance of the "Light", whose radiance, flooding through "the Dormer" of the intellectual mind, illuminates in a blaze of glory "the Sanctum Sanctorum" of his Inner Self.
Such is the message conveyed by the symbolism of the Emblem of the Dormer Masonic Study Circle. It is hoped that every Brother who has found sanctuary within its portals will, by devotion to his studies, and by the guidance received therein, be led towards the "Light of the East," and that "Bright Morning Star, whose rising brings peace and salvation to the faithful and obedient of the human race."
SO MOTE IT BE
Reference has been made to the particular manner by which the vital energy or Solar Force flows in its cycle, and that in so doing it forms the Lemniscate or the figure 8. It was stated that this lemniscate is responsible for the interlocking and inseparable character of its dual and opposing nature. Brethren may be interested to know that there is a simple experiment whereby the truth of this fact can be ascertained. It should, however, not be considered as a perfect example, and is, at best, only an analogy, but helps to demonstrate that the purpose of twisting a circle or cycle into a lemniscate, prevents the separation of the circle when an attempt is made to bisect it.
The experiment is as follows....
Obtain two strips of paper about 3/4 X 12 inches long, with the first strip which we will call (a), form into a circle and gum the ends together so that a circular band is the result. With strip (b) gum the two ends together as before; but in so doing give one end of the strip of paper a complete twist through 360 degrees before bringing the ends together for sticking, so that the band is in the form of a figure 8. Now take a pair of scissors and with the point make an incision in the middle of the band (a) and cut along the band through its whole length, it will be found when the cutting has been finished that it has been bisected and two separate bands are the result. Now cut band (b), the lemniscate, in exactly the same manner as with band (a), and it will be found that instead of obtaining two lemniscates that in fact they are interlaced one within the other which thus prevents their separation. It will therefore be seen that the twisting of the circle into a lemniscate, not only forms two alternating cycles about its own centre, but is the means by which they are conjoined and held together as a unity.