Masonic Articles and Essays
Freemasonry: Home of the Mysteries
Very Illus..... Bro. Pamela McDown 33o
Freemasonry is often proclaimed to be a "system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbol." But could it be more than this? Can its ancient origins and deep mystical roots reveal to us a far grander vision of Masonry than we normally conceive of?
“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realized what’s changed is you.”- Eric Roth
Have you ever wondered what the true meaning of “home” is? The easy interpretation would be to equate home with the physical space we live in. But does “home” suggest something different than the four walls of the building? What elements, might we ask, do in fact constitute a “home?” My sense here is that our homes serve as vessels of a remarkable history that tie us to our ancestors through profound and ancient threads of meaning. We may not know where these customs and symbols come from or what they mean but their presence enriches the tapestry of our lives. Similarly, Freemasonry is often hailed as the “Home of the Mysteries.” What, then, makes the Temple a “home” and what are the mystic ties that bind freemasons to the Mystery Traditions?
To answer these all-important questions, a brief journey into the story of the craft’s evolution is in order.
Where does Freemasonry come from?
The probe into masonic origins and evolution remains among the most perplexing of subjects. Historical accounts state that on June 24, 1717, A.D., Freemasonry emerged in London as a visibly organized entity, seemingly out of nowhere. Though all scenarios are possible, certain discerning historians question whether this event unfolded exactly that way.
To pick up the threads of the origin of the craft, many scholars agree that you have to start with exceedingly ancient origins. Freemason Brother Manly Palmer Hall goes so far as to say that the masonic order is believed to have originated “in the infancy of mankind,” a date that remains a subject of debate within scientific circles but is positioned by esotericism at approximately 18.5 million years ago. According to his viewpoint, Himalayan Esotericism played a crucial role in bestowing Egypt with its legendary wisdom that later found its way into Freemasonry. In his writings, he cites classical Greek historians who reported explicitly that certain mystical concepts were brought to Egypt from India. These mystical concepts refer to a body of knowledge about the cosmos, the divine, and the human being. They deal with the visible aspects but, more predominantly, the invisible, metaphysical, or spiritual dimensions.
Considering “the infancy of mankind” as the potential birth period of the masonic edifice, we are dealing with a very senior citizen, an ancient sage who has traversed vast distances far and wide through the passage of time.
This ancient path begins with the concealed Esoteric Wisdom of the Himalayan Brotherhood, where is found the origin of the Vedas and Upanishads, writes Brother H.P. Blavatsky. It then unfolds to Egypt, progressing through the Greek and Roman Mysteries and Pythagoras, culminating in the later Gnostics. The transmission of occult knowledge in the Western tradition then continues through the Gnostic sects and the Arabs, evolving into alchemy, and eventually reaching the Templars. From there, it was passed on to groups such as the Rosicrucians and their contemporaries, including the Freemasons.
All of this suggests an intricate legacy bequeathed by the mysteries to future generations via a chain of interconnected metaphysical doctrines. The uneducated with no interest in mystical traditions and the esoteric may regard the mystery schools, like those in Egypt, merely as sites of pagan rituals, adorned with weird hieroglyphics and huge structures built by countless laborers. However, individuals with a deeper understanding, particularly those who have undergone the masonic initiation rituals will recognize a connection between these metaphysical traditions and modern mystery schools, of which Freemasonry is one.
We are given an astounding statement in the book “Rays & Initiations” that the ancient Mysteries, including Freemasonry, “contain the clue to the evolutionary process, hidden in numbers and in words; they veil the secret of man’s origin and destiny, picturing for him in rite and ritual the long, long path which he must tread.”
What signs does the masonic teaching have to warrant such a crucial responsibility as an agent for the advancement of world evolution? Where do we stand today?
Brother C.W. Leadbeater’s seminal book “Glimpses of Masonic History” describes four main schools that exist in current times that have acted as “homes” of masonic thought. Each has its own unique approach towards the Mysteries.
The Four Schools of Masonic Thought
Authentic School – Views Freemasonry as an aspect of research, scholarship, and philanthropy.
Anthropological School – Applies the discoveries of anthropology to the study of masonic history such as signs and symbols in ancient wall-paintings, carvings, sculptures, and buildings of the principal races of the world.
The Mystical School – Declares that the degrees of the Order are symbolic of certain states of consciousness which must be awakened in the individual initiate if he aspires to win the treasures of the spirit.
The Occult School – Trains the whole nature, physical, emotional, and mental, until it becomes a perfect expression of the divine spirit within and can be employed as an efficient service instrument for the evolution of mankind.
These four schools (and others) seek to uncover elements of the mystery traditions and restore them to their original beauty, intent, and pristine nature. In the Theosophical Literature, we are told there is envisioned a three-fold process for this restoration. The first phase encompasses a widespread elevation of consciousness and awareness across all aspects of human existence. Following this, a comprehensive economic reorientation will unfold as the second phase. The third phase, intimately linked to the Mysteries, will involve the public presentation of the Third Initiation as a significant rite.
Why is it so hard to imagine a world where the ancient mysteries carry us far beyond the borders of the everyday grind? Perhaps it is because many masonic groups are impervious to spirituality in general. But, we are told, when the wrong emphasis is set aside, the symbolism, rituals, and lessons of masonry will hold great instructive value to mankind. Spiritual awakening is the ultimate homecoming. It is the discovery of a home that you can never leave and the realization that you have never been anywhere but home all along.
“That which is a mystery shall no longer be so, and that which has been veiled will now be revealed; that which has been withdrawn will emerge into the light, and all men shall see and together they shall rejoice.” – Ancient Aphorism
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