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

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Sanctum Sanctorum

Warning: The following discusses non-ritual symbolic issues related to the third degree of masonry.

Sanctum Sanctorum: The
Latin phrase sanctum sanctorum means literally "Holy of Holies." It was originally applied in a religious context to the most sacred place within a sacred building (such as a temple). However, in common usage can also be applied to mean any reserved, private, or much-valued place. The term is used in other religions to refer to a most sacred religious shrine.[1]

In Freemasonry, this refers to the sanctuary within King Solomon’s Temple where the Ark of the Covenant, and it was said, the very presence of g-d resided. This was a very dread place, where only one priest per year could go, and then only after strict preparations.

The "Holy of Holies' or inner sanctuary was a curtained inner chamber. A perfect cube, the ‘Holy of Holies' measured thirty feet long, wide and high and was raised 10 ft. above the temple floor. A double door which spanned 10 ft. 8 in. led to this inner sanctuary; it was made of olive wood and gilded with gold, carved with figures of gourds, flowers, palm trees, and cherubim. These doors occupied 1/4 of the wall. The top of the doorway was formed into a pointed arch. The curtains or veils were of the finest silk cloth brightly colored in hyacinth blue, purple and scarlet. The Phoenicians were famous for their colored dyes, especially purple . They obtained the purple ink from a marine snail (murex) found on their coast. Other shades of ink were obtained from other species of marine snails common throughout the Mediterranean. The silk for the veils came from their trading with tribes to the East, possibly India. They were embroidered with figures of cherubim. The floor, four walls and ceiling were completely lined with pure gold. Herein was kept the Ark of the Covenant which sat in a recessed area just large enough to contain the Ark. Above the Ark, King Solomon had caused two cherubim of gigantic size to be made. They stood over 20 ft. high and were made of olive wood ; both were of the same size and shape. They were placed side by side, so that 2 of their outstretched wings touched each other in the middle of the room, and the other 2 wings touched the walls. The two winged creatures were covered with gold and faced the doorway to the ‘Holy of Holies'. Herein, also, were kept other tokens of the Israelites' deliverance from Egypt and their sojourn in the Sinai wilderness.

Into this windowless chapel, the High Priest, who had undergone many washings, was allowed to enter once a year on the Day of Atonement that he might make propitiation for the sins of the people. His garment had been sown with bells around the rim and a rope was tied about his waist. The people could hear the bells as he moved about in his prayers, and should he collapse or die, he could be pulled out of the sanctum sanctorum by priests who were allowed entry into the sanctuary.[2]
As masons, we are to perfect the ashlars which represent our spirit, divesting it of all the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting it for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. That spiritual building is our symbolic King Solomon’s Temple, erected to g-d and dedicated to the Holy Saints John.

In the Fellowcraft degree, we are taught to ascend to manhood, to the intellect, honing our minds on the perfections of g-d. We symbolically ascend Jacob’s ladder to the middle chamber, our heart, which was thought in ancient times to be the seat of the mind, and become mature men, skilled in the material world.

As masters, we are taught that we meet in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Obviously this is symbolic, as the sanctum sanctorum IS the Holy of Holies, where dwelt the living spirit of g-d. It seems that the third degree is the degree of the perfection of the spirit, or more accurately, of raising the candidate the final step, from the focus on the mind, to working on the perfection of the spirit. We are in this degree, finally ascending from the material, where we started, to the spiritual plane, that of the master Mason.

A lodge of masters is said to be no less than three, which returns our attention to the number three. Why three masters? To represent the first three, most excellent Grand Masters, Solomon, King of Israel, Hyram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff, the widow’s son, who represent Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, which are also representative of the three stages of a Mason.

In the master, we have the three, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master, Flesh, Intellect and Spirit, unified into one, and the temple complete. At that point, the master’s job is to perfect the temple by study, contemplation, and application of the lessons of Freemasonry.

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

[1] Wikipedia,
[2] KING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE, W. Bro. Garnet Holmes,


Walter said...

Wonderful! Sanctum Sanctorum. "The Heart has it's own Wisdom that the world will never know!" Our quest as Freemasons is to continually strive for Truth and Wisdom. Is that not what this allegory alludes to?

ICHermes said...

Well stated. I do believe that Masonry is a system of psychological self awareness and the Holy of Holies is that place that indwelleth the Divine Spark....good job Brother Theron.

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