True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Middle Chamber

Warning: The following discusses non-ritual symbolic issues related to the second degree of masonry.
Brethren, friends all;

The second degree of Freemasonry speaks of the Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, how a Mason gets there, and what is done with him when he arrives. Allegorically, this is on the second floor of King Solomon’s Temple, where a brother arrives after ascending flights of stairs. The surface symbolism of these stairs is explained to the candidate… at length.

The symbols of the second degree, especially the description of the symbolism of the stair, is highly allegorical, bearing only a very surface resemblance to what the candidate is told. In this short article, the author is not going to dissect the symbols and explanations given to the candidate on his journey. Instead, we will focus our attention on the destination.

The Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple

The candidate is told that the middle chamber is on the second floor of the temple, and is a place where the Fellows of the Craft met and held their lodges. He is told that is where they had their names recorded, and received their wages. This is the first time a candidate is told about receiving wages, and it is an important step for him.

What is the Middle Chamber though? To understand, we need to look at what King Solomon’s Temple Symbolizes. In the Entered Apprentice Degree, that candidate is told that

“…on your return to the temple, you are placed in the north-east corner thereof, that you might be near the worshipful master, to receive instruction from him, whereby you may be able to erect your future, moral Masonic superstructure.”
The candidate is also told that by the use of the common gavel, he is to work on perfecting his imperfect ashlar, himself, that he might remove all the rough and superfluous parts of the stone, thereby fitting our minds (spirits) as LIVING STONES, in that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

The symbolic temple we are building, perfecting, is ourselves. WE are King Solomon’s Temple, that perfect structure ready to house the spirit of g-d. The middle chamber is therefore within US.

Why do we make an ascent from the outer portico, though a long aisle or porch, up a set of stairs to the middle chamber? Lets look at the symbology of the degrees again.

The Entered Apprentice symbolizes youth, infancy, entry. This degree is also the material, the base, the foundation of Freemasonry. It is the doorway… the portico INTO the temple.

As we enter the temple, we begin to learn. We expand the mind by experience and study. The first two flights of stairs introduce us to fundamental concepts, expanding on what we received in the first degree. Note that there are THREE flights of stairs, and the first concept we are introduced to on our way UP the stairs is the number three.

When we arrive at the third set of stairs, we are faced with the Quadrivium: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic and Arithmetic; and the Trivium: Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. These are intellectual pursuits, the pursuits of the maturing mind. This makes sense, as the Fellowcraft degree is the degree of maturing, of developing skill.

Where the Entered Apprentice is the material, the foundation, the Fellowcraft is the mind, rising above the material, between the material and the spiritual. The fellowcraft IS the middle chamber, between the ethereal and the material.

As we ascend the stairs, we ascend, symbolically, Jacobs Ladder, the three principle rounds of which are faith, hope and charity. As an aside, we speak of charity in the first degree, but the more correct translation of the Aramaic is actually LOVE, as in Agape Love. Charity is, more accurately, disinterested fellowship, or the spiritual love of one’s fellows.

As we consider the THREE principle rounds of the staircase in the fellowcraft degree, we should also consider that as Jacobs ladder is a symbol of this staircase, a more accurate translation of the Aramaic story of Jacob’s Ladder is that of a STAIR. The angels were ascending and descending a stairway whose foot was on the earth, and whose head was in the heavens.

In ancient times, the heart was seen as the seat of the mind, the soul or spirit, not the brain. When the ritual speaks of the middle chamber, it speaks of the mind, of the soul of the man.

When we start off at the foot of the stairs, we are reminded of the significance of three, and on the second landing, the symbolism of the second degree is emphasized, and on the third landing, we are shown the importance of learning, maturity, cogent thought. Then, after the symbolism is well set in our minds, we are admitted to the middle chamber of King Solomon’s (OUR) Temple.

Upon our first admission (!!) to the middle chamber, we are presented two very important new symbols: Wages of a Fellowcraft Mason and the three precious Jewels of a Fellowcraft Mason. Again, this paper is not the place for a lengthy dissertation on those symbols, suffice it to say that they emphasize and expand on what we have already been presented.

As Fellowcrafts, we have ascended Jacob’s Ladder, from the material level to the middle, or mental level of our lives, and more importantly, our way of thinking and viewing the world. We are yet one material step away from opening our minds to the true secrets of a Master Mason, and after due contemplation of the lessons of this degree, we will be considered as candidates for the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

2 comments: said...

The second degree urges us to study the seven liberal arts. In the Middle Ages they were a compendium of all profane knowledge.
Hence two considerations: 1) esotericism is rational or at least it is ground on rationality. Man cannot attain metaphysics if he has not previously run out rational knowledge. 2) "knowledge" is progressive. We must internalize the teaching of each degree before advancing. No hurry, gentlemen!

luke bruhns said...

the trivium and quadrivium are misrepresented in this post. the trivium is grammar logic and rhetoric. the quadrivium is arithmetic geometry music and astronomy. the correct composition and order of these is important to their true understanding.

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